Rural issue talk rare in presidential campaignST. PAUL, Minn. — As they campaign, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney pretty much ignore rural-specific issues.
By: DON DAVIS, Forum Communications
ST. PAUL, Minn. — As they campaign, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney pretty much ignore rural-specific issues.
It is not that they lack a chance to talk about such issues. Some of the major swing states are heavy on agriculture and candidates often stop there, with Iowa and Wisconsin two Midwestern cases in point.
For example, Romney announced his candidacy in June 2011 on a picturesque New Hampshire farm, but said nothing about rural issues during his 21-minute speech. Obama this summer stood in an Iowa farm museum, but only mentioned a nearby antique tractor and bales of hay stacked around him, fitting a couple of sentences about renewable fuels into his standard campaign speech.
“Neither really mentions rural policy in any meaningful way,” said David Flynn, University of North Dakota Economics Department chairman. “Both candidates clearly miss an opportunity to score some points by showing they understand.”
It is a trend that U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has seen for many years.
Still, Peterson said, it may not matter what they say.
“I think it is going to bring problems to us no matter who wins,” said Peterson, the top-ranking House Agriculture Committee Democrat. “We will just have to deal with it.”
For Peterson, the short of it is that former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, a Republican, wants to reduce regulations, something many rural residents strongly favor. But the congressman’s fellow Democrat, President Obama, does a better job of supporting the farm bill, which includes farmer disaster protection and a variety of rural development provisions.
Added Flynn: “You probably are not going to get everything you want from either candidate.”
With divisions like that, presidential campaign observers say that issues may be less important than party affiliation.
Rural voters are “forced” to back the candidate of their favorite parties, Flynn said, because neither delivers enough information for them to make good decisions.
“Neither candidate is laying out any specifics regarding rural-specific policies, even the consequences of other policy ideas such as energy on rural economies,” Flynn said. “There is no attention being paid to it. At some level, it is a disservice.”
A member of Romney’s Agriculture Advisory Team is not happy that rural America seldom receives the candidates’ notice.
“Agriculture is not a huge piece of the policy portfolio for either candidate,” said Ed Schafer, former North Dakota governor and U.S. agriculture secretary. “I think it is bad.”
In not discussing farming, he added, the candidates ignore facts such as the country has the largest, safest and most affordable food supply available and the only major part of the economy in which the United States exports more than it imports.