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Many of the voters in Rust Belt states who cast ballots for President Barack Obama in 2012 flipped parties and paved the way for a Donald Trump victory in 2016 because they felt “betrayed” by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At least, that's the takeaway from Chris Clayton, agricultural policy reporter for DTN.
“I was a little surprised,” Clayton tells NBC News’ Chuck Todd in the latest edition of “1947: The Meet the Press podcast.” “It wasn’t so much that she lost the rural counties – that was expected, but it was by how much she lost the rural counties.”
Hillary Clinton failed to earn enough votes to rack up an Electoral College victory in states like Iowa and Wisconsin that Obama won. According to Clayton, that's because many rural voters felt threatened by the increased prominence of organizations like Black Lives Matter; a fear that was reinforced by conservative news sources on cable television and talk radio.
“Some of the negative [news] about Trump that may have been coming from other places [in the media] – they didn’t see it,” Clayton says. “They were really focusing on the negativity on Hillary Clinton.”
Clinton struggled with rural women in particular who felt a “great disdain” for the former First Lady – and they felt disrespected by D.C.-based media organizations that might have perceived them as being uneducated.
“A lot of farmers – they might not have college degrees, but they are very astute business people,” Clayton says. “They have to understand so many things to run the business that they do. To be continually portrayed as not that smart became very offensive to a lot of people.”
Clayton says people he’s spoken to “believe that the country lost God” and that Clinton’s ascendance to the presidency might have signified the end of the United States “as we know it.”
“There was so much distrust for Hillary Clinton” in some religious communities, Clayton says. Even though Clinton is a practicing Methodist, they identified more closely with Trump’s populist message, speaking style and his now-famous “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“They believe the president elect will negotiate better deals. There are a lot of great expectations for Trump from rural America right now.”
Is there any way for left-leaning candidates to rebound in rural America in future elections?
Those politicians have work to do, Clayton says. “Democrats really need to find a way to reconnect.”