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McCain, Obama Tied in Rural Voter Survey

October 24, 2008

Minneapolis, MN – John McCain's double-digit lead over Barack Obama of just five weeks ago is gone in Minnesota and 12 other key states. The latest poll gives Obama a slight edge, and the shift is being attributed to recent economic turmoil.

Niel Ritchie, executive director of the League of Rural Voters, says the poll tested non-urban voters in so-called battleground states.

"Among rural voters, what we saw in the last five weeks was a shift of 11 points. John McCain was up by 10, and Barack Obama is now up by one point."

Obama's biggest gains are pegged to economic issues, according to Ritchie.

"The meltdown in the stock market and the financial crisis that has come with it have had a lot to do with the shifting loyalties."

Republicans nationally count on strong rural support to win the Presidency, says Ritchie. George Bush won the rural vote by a 19-percent margin in 2004, but this year could be different.

"It's clear that, if Democrats even come close - and at the moment they're slightly ahead - it could be a very, very difficult time for the Republican ticket."

The poll rated McCain higher on questions of handling the Iraq war. The McCain campaign is downplaying the overall results, saying it's normal for polls to tighten in the final days before an election.

Rural Minnesota voters make up about one third of the electorate, and traditionally favor Republicans. The pollsters believe a close rural vote bodes well for Obama, who polls better in urban areas.

The survey of 841 likely voters was commissioned by the nonpartisan Center for Rural Strategies and was taken between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21. Margin of error is 3.38%. The states polled include Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Nebraska. More information is available at /www.ruralstrategies.com.

Jim Wishner/Elizabeth Grattan, Public News Service - MN