Suburbs may not have cooked up the mortgage crisis, but they absorbed much of initial damage. Now that Wall Street and the big cities are also taking the fall, suburbanites might feel a bit better — but there’s still lots of room for anger out in the land of picket fences, decent schools and shopping malls.
Widely demeaned in the media and academe, suburbs still exercise their power at election time. Home to roughly half the country’s population, and likely a greater share of its voters, suburbs seem destined to remain — to borrow from that great wordsmith George W. Bush — “the decider” in this election.
[At the same time, after seeming unsettled, the rural and small-town electorate appears to be returning to the GOP fold. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket and, perhaps even more, the mainstream media’s snooty reaction to her, may have sealed the GOP deal in the countryside, at least at the presidential level. One sure sign: The small Obama strike team sent to reliably red North Dakota this summer has departed for more competitive terrain in nearby Minnesota and Wisconsin.
So now it’s really up to the suburbanites...]
[As of now, polls suggest McCain, who lagged in the suburbs into the summer, has pushed back some of the Democratic momentum. He now enjoys, according to the latest Wall Street Journal poll, a 10-point edge among suburban voters, not far from what Bush garnered in those parts of the swing states. If McCain can combine this suburban group with his rural and small-town base, he could be in striking distance of staging an upset.]
[McCain, who appeals more to independents than Bush did, should be able to erode some of this advantage in such communities. But Palin’s social conservatism could turn off many generally well-educated, middle-of-the-road voters who are so prominent in many of the most upscale suburban communities.]
[At the same time, Palin — herself a former mayor of an Anchorage exurb — could help McCain consolidate Bush’s gains in the fast-growing exurbs, which tend to be more heavily composed of traditional families and generally less ethnically diverse. In his 2004 victory, Bush won 97 of the nation’s 100 fastest-growing counties with roughly 63 percent of the vote. If McCain can duplicate that feat, he will be well-positioned.]
[McCain also has an opportunity to win in the Detroit suburbs, where Obama’s ties to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick could hurt him. Bush won those areas in 2000 and 2004, but not by enough to capture the state’s electoral votes. As in Pennsylvania, McCain needs to forge a rural-suburban coalition to capture this traditionally blue-tinged state.]
[For Obama, suburbs in wobbly red states such as Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and Missouri offer similarly critical opportunities...]
["If so, McCain’s rural and small town base will not be enough to win the critical swing states and the election. If the Republicans can hold their 2004 suburban base, though, McCain could yet triumph. Whatever the result, one thing is clear: Suburban voters will be the deciders."]
Joel Kotkin is a presidential fellow at Chapman University and executive editor of www.newgeography.com. Mark Schill is a principal at Praxis Strategy Group and the site’s managing editor. Excerpts from: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/14082.html