A new bipartisan survey shows a surge for Romney in a key voter group following their first debate Oct. 3.
The random cellphone and land line poll of 600 likely rural voters in nine battleground states Oct. 9-11 has Romney at 59 percent among the survey's respondents. Obama's support is now down to 37 percent among rural battleground voters, a plunge of 10 points from the actual rural vote in those states four years ago.
"What Republican candidates need to do is to rack up big margins in rural areas in order to offset smaller [Republican] margins in urban and suburban areas," says Dan Judy of North Star Opinion Research, the Republican polling firm that participated in the survey.
"Mitt Romney really needs to be at 60 percent or above in [rural] areas to offset some of those [urban and suburban] margins," Judy adds. The new survey shows "he has surged into a huge lead, and I think it is fair to say that his increased lead among rural voters is what is helping him in these swing states overall."
The nine battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin have a collective rural population of 13.6 million, according to the Census Bureau.
"It's a boon to Romney," says pollster Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the Democrat partner in the survey. "It will help him...because, of course, he will lose urban areas by a similar margin. And the suburban areas are still pretty competitive."
Last month, a similar rural survey in the same battleground states had a smaller 54-to-40 percent margin for Romney. Greenberg and Judy say the first presidential debate made the difference...
"The [first] debate went a long way to making rural voters more comfortable with him in the way they were comfortable with George Bush," Greenberg says.
Judy notes that "these really are Republican base voters...coming home. They're 85 percent white, 50 percent conservative, and two-thirds of them attend church at least a couple of times a month"...
The rural voters responding to the survey overwhelmingly believe Romney will do a better job with the economy, with representing their views on taxes, with sharing their values, with saving Medicare and Social Security, with addressing the needs and concerns of the middle class and with reducing the federal deficit.
On the president's Affordable Care Act, 60 percent said they disapproved.
This is an educated voter group, by and large, with more than 60 percent saying they attended college, earned college degrees or studied in post-graduate school. Close to one-third collect Social Security and/or Medicare benefits. More than half are older than 50.
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