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Senate Democrat: Party's message to rural voters is 'really flawed'

Senate Democrat: Party's message to rural voters is 'really flawed'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants Democrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits MORE (D-Mont.) warned that Democrats must improve their message to rural voters noting that party members need to give the demographic a reason to vote for them. 

During an interview with The New York Times, Tester called the Democrats' strategy with rural voters “really, really flawed."

“I think showing up is a fundamental rule of politics, and I don’t know that we showed up. Because of Covid, we didn’t show up on the campaign trail,” Tester said in reference to down-ballot 2020 races, including Montana’s Senate race, where Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOvernight Health Care: CDC calls for schools to reopen with precautions | Cuomo faces rising scrutiny over COVID-19 nursing home deaths | Biden officials move to begin rescinding Medicaid work requirements Montana governor lifts state mask mandate Lobbying world MORE (D) lost to Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSusan Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland MORE (R).

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“And in a state like Montana, you have to give people a reason to vote for you or they’ll vote Republican — they’ll default to Republican. And I think that hurt us greatly in 2020,” Tester added.

Tester argued the party could strengthen its performance in rural areas by emphasizing its infrastructure policies, particularly in relation to broadband expansion.

“And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education,” he said. "That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana.”

Tester conceded Trump “has an appeal in rural America,” but added that there are deeper issues with the Democrats’ messaging there.

“[T]he truth is that rural people connect more with a millionaire from New York City than they do with the Democrats that are in national positions,” he said. “So that tells me our message is really, really flawed, because I certainly don’t see it that way.”

The newspaper noted that former President Obama won some rural areas by more than 20 points in comparison to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE this year. Tester responded by pointing to Obama spending the Fourth of July in 2008 in Butte, Mont.

“He showed up. Now, he didn’t win much in it, but he did a hell of a lot better than people thought he was going to do because he showed up,” Tester said.