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Voters' Answers: 7. Hillary Beats McCain

Question #7: Who will do better against Barack Obama in rural Virginia, Hillary Clinton or John McCain?

When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton faced off in the Virginia Democratic primary in February, Obama won handily, by 64 percent to 35 percent. But Sen. Clinton demolished Sen. Obama in rural areas of the commonwealth, especially in the southwest and Southside, where unemployment, deindustrialization, the decline of tobacco and a legacy of racial conflict made the terrain especially friendly to a white populist running against a black guy from Chicago and Harvard. Clinton racked up extraordinary margins in some rural counties. So the question last night was whether Obama's repeat visits to the region all fall long made much of a difference.

They seem to have helped quite a bit.

Obama didn't win in the rural counties where Hillary Clinton trounced him back in February (careful--huge PDF file), but he came much closer against John McCain than he had done against Clinton.

In Lee County in the southwest corner of the state, Clinton beat Obama, 86-13. Last night, McCain won there by a 63-35 margin.

In Bedford County, between Roanoke and Lynchburg, McCain actually outdrew Clinton. McCain won 68-31, while Clinton beat Obama in the home of Holy Land USA (a 190-acre representation of the story of Jesus and the lands of BIblical tales) by only 54-45.

But the more typical pattern was that seen in rural spots such as Smyth and Wise counties, which Clinton won with 75 and 82 percent, respectively, whereas McCain won 64 percent in Smyth and 63 percent in Wise.

Democratic strategists who sent Obama into rural Virginia again and again will argue, with considerable merit, that it was the candidate's tripling of his support in a good number of those rural counties between February and November that put him over the top in the state. Given the overall closeness of the Virginia contest, those visits to rural areas--message: I care--even if they didn't produce majorities there, may indeed have provided Obama's winning edge.

By Marc Fisher |  November 5, 2008; 1:37 PM ET
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