Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses last night. That’s what they have in common. They differed in the support they found in rural Iowa.
Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher and governor of Arkansas, did considerably better in rural Iowa than in urban parts of the state.
Obama, the young Illinois senator from Chicago, won rural Iowa, but he did considerably better in the cities.
Huckabee won the state with 34 percent of the vote. But, geogrpahically, his success was uneven. Huckabee won 38% of the rural vote. In urban counties, however, he won just 30 percent of the Republican caucus vote.
Huckabee won urban Iowa by just 954 votes over former Massachusetts governor Romney. In rural Iowa, however, the Arkansan beat Romney by 9,284 votes.
Obama’s victory was exactly the reverse. He won 38 percent of the vote across Iowa. In the cities, however, Obama took 41 percent of the vote. In rural Iowa, Obama won 34 percent of the vote, barely edging out John Edwards, who had 32 percent of the rural vote, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, with 31 percent.
Both Edwards and Clinton won more votes in rural Iowa than in urban Iowa.
(The Yonder counts nine Iowa counties as being urban, under definitions found here . The urban counties are Black Hawk, Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, Polk, Potwtmie, Scott, Story and Woodbury. These counties have a little less than half of the state’s total population.)
The Iowa vote was jagged across both age groups and geography. Young people voted overwhelmingly Democratic: 22 percent of the Democratic participation came from voters under 30 years of age; only 11 percent of Republican voters were under 30. Sixty percent of those voting in the Republican primary described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. (Nearly half of these voters sided with Huckabee ; Romney won those who said they weren’t born-again Christians.)
Eighty-eight percent of those voting in the Republican caucus described themselves as very or somewhat conservative. Forty-four percent of those voting in the Democratic caucus described themselves as very or somewhat liberal.
Democrat John Edwards spent much of his time in rural Iowa spreading a populist message. That paid off, to an extent. The former North Carolina senator won 32 percent of the rural vote and only 27 percent of the urban vote.
Edwards also won among those Democratic voters who described themselves as conservative. He picked up 42 percent of these voters, according to entrance polls. Obama won only 21 percent of this small group of Democratic voters.
In much of rural Iowa, the evening was a celebration of democracy. In tiny New Haven, Iowa, near the Minnesota border, supporters of the three top Democrats converged on the few undecided caucus goers, like Don Sweeney.
Melissa Bailey reported on the jockeying at Riceville Public Library Thursday night: an Edwards backer passed out peanut butter bars and a young representative of Emily’s list (which funds women candidates) made a case for Hillary Clinton, based on Clinton’s experience in the White House and the Senate.
“That’s too many years in Washington,” Sweeney replied. Finally choosing Barak Obama, Sweeney said, “He’s the guy for change” ““ which just happened to be the Obama campaign slogan. Sweeney expressed one reservation about the Illinois Senator, “He’s black. I’m worried that people might not like him because of that, and he won’t be electable.”
Bailey reported that candidates Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich had both asked their supporters to make Obama their second-choice, and in New Haven, several caucus goers complied as the evening wore on. At the end of the New Haven caucus, with 3 supporters for Clinton, 7 for Edwards, 7 for Obama, each of the top candidates got one of the precinct’s three delegates.
“‘This is phenomenal — I’m usually sitting here alone!’ precinct chair Margaret Jordan remarked of the turnout.” More than 90 people participated in New Haven’s Democratic and Republican caucuses.