Vilsack: Democrats can gain with rural voters

Story highlights

  • Tom Vilsack said Democrats can win more support with rural voters
  • The agriculture secretary has served in the Obama administration from the start

The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the institute.

(CNN)Democrats have a "unique opportunity" to make inroads in rural America this fall thanks to deep concerns about Republican nominee Donald Trump, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack, a former Iowa governor who was rumored to be a finalist for vice president on Hillary Clinton's ticket, says misgivings among rural voters about Trump, the Republican nominee, has created an opening in areas generally dominated by the GOP. But it will require Clinton and her party to seize on it.
    "[Trump's] notion of this country is not what I hear in rural areas. His notion of division is not what I hear from a lot of good people in these towns," Vilsack told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
    "With [Trump], people are saying, 'I'm really uncomfortable with him, so what's my option?' Well, if we don't speak to them, there is no option."
    Vilsack, who has served as agriculture secretary from the start of President Obama's administration, suggested that Democrats, as a mainly urban party, are sometimes oblivious to the value of rural communities.
    "The food we eat, the water we drink, the energy we use, and a significant percentage military we rely on comes from rural America. And those folks in those rural communities do not believe that there is a recognition or appreciation on the part of Democrats for that contribution to our country."
    Clinton, Vilsack says, now has an opening to make a push for rural voters.

    "We're in a position to say she listens. [Trump] doesn't listen, he listens to himself."
    During the hour-long conversation taped at the Democratic National Convention, Axelrod asked Vilsack about Clinton's shortcomings as a campaigner.
    "You can't have a perfect everything," Vilsack replied, before noting that if elected, "There will be no one -- I mean no one -- who's ever had that job who will work harder."

    For more from the conversation, click on To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at