Are We a Nation of Wasillas or Chicagos?

George W. Bush won Ohio in 2004 by running up the vote in the rural parts of the state. He dominated towns of under 10,000 people from the Miami Valley to the Ohio River Valley, trumping John Kerry’s GOTV operations in a handful of urban Democratic cities like Cleveland, Akron and Toledo.

Could 2008 look like 2004?

Peggy Noonan seemed to hint at that prospect in a Sept. 3 column titled “Bubbleheads, Christians and Small Town Mayors.” “There are 262 cities in this country with a population of 100,000 or more,” she wrote. “But there are close to a hundred thousand small towns with ten thousand people or less.”

To sum it up, Noonan went with a quote from conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway: “You do the math. We’re a nation of a Wasillas, not Chicagos.”

I don’t really agree with it, but it’s a nice soundbite.

The truth is that we’re a suburban nation, a nation of places like Kane County, Ill., somewhere between downtown Chicago and the Illinois prairie. My aunt and uncle live out there in a house in a new subdivision surrounded by cornfields.

Kane is also a political bellwether. Robert David Sullivan at Beyond Red & Blue looked at the thousands of counties in America and identified the 50 counties that came the closest to “matching the nationwide swing for or against the winning party.” Kane was the sixth most consistent bellwether in the nation.

Winning places like Kane County will be key in 2008. Obama will drive up the vote in the urban core of Cleveland and McCain will win the Miami County, hamlet of Convington. The question is who wins the suburbs of Columbus?

4 Responses to “Are We a Nation of Wasillas or Chicagos?”

  1. michael

    8 September 2008 at 8:53 AM

    Interesting perspective on the discussion.
    It will be intriguing to see if “places like Kane County will be key in 2008″?

    I don’t know know whether they will be but i found a way to follow the progression of the polls!

    I use a widget that shows the election polls by strength of states.
    In addition to other different graphical visualizations of data, this one displays the progression of votes over time.

    It gives a great overview and it is updated as the polls come in!


    … and its easy to put on your blog!

    Make a difference, keep on voting!

  2. Citizen Grim

    8 September 2008 at 4:24 PM

    Illinois counties reminds me of this map:


    Not sure if you’ve seen it before or not. Essentially, it’s a list of the counties that are refusing to enforce (more or less) Illinois’ state gun laws.

  3. Rick

    8 September 2008 at 6:14 PM

    Agreed. Now that this election has devolved back into just one big culture war like in 2004 and 2000, Dems sweep the cities, Reps lay claim to small towns and the back woods, it is all about the battle for the hearts and minds (or should I just say votes) of the burbanites.


  1. [...] many ways, we are a “nation of Wasillas, not Chicagos” – or, at least, we tell ourselves we are. But the real picture is significantly more complex, and referring to small towns as the only [...]