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Inside Politics
Inside Politics

Courting small-town America

Tight presidential race in rural areas

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Forget red states and blue states. We want to talk about a different two Americas. One of which gets this week's political Play of the Week.

There really are two Americas in this campaign. There's favored America -- 17 hotly contested states.

And forgotten America -- the 33 states where politicians think they know the likely outcome.

No reason to campaign in those states. Forget 'em.

A lot of the favored states are in the Midwestern heartland -- the part of America snotty types from New York and California call "flyover'' country.

But nobody's flying over those places this year.

"Twenty-two states in 15 days in 17 buses and some trains," Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, said on Friday.

They're stopping over in a lot of places that usually don't get much attention.

"Yes, I'm traveling our country -- coming to Ohio a lot, by the way," President Bush pointed out on a recent stop in Columbus, Ohio.

Why is rural and small-town America getting so much attention? Look at the numbers.

In 2000, Bush carried the rural vote by more than 20 points across the country.

This year, the race looks a lot closer. If Kerry can hold down Bush's margin in rural areas, where Democrats usually do poorly, swing states like Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa could all go Democratic.

Hence, you'll find Kerry talking about Iowa and "heaven," and Bush extolling corn and soybean crops.

Pity the poor voters in New York, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles. They're the forgotten Americans.

It's the voters in favored America who get front-row center seats in this campaign -- as well as the political Play of the Week.

Imagine living in forgotten America. It's a place where you won't see wall-to-wall campaign ads on TV, or get a mailbox full of fliers every day, or get endless telephone calls from campaigns and poll takers.

How sad for us.


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