Elitist Republicans, rube Democrats
Over the past few decades, Democratic presidential candidates have done increasingly well in urban areas and Republicans have strengthened their hold over rural areas. The map below shows the major exceptions to this trend in 2004, showing which counties were both significantly more urban and more Republican than the national average, or more rural and more Democratic.Most of the rural Democratic counties in the South are majority African-American, while a good number of the rural Democratic counties in the West are mostly Hispanic or American Indian (but there are also several resort areas in California, Colorado, and Idaho). White rural Democrats are concentrated in New England and the upper Midwest. In order for the Democrats to win in November, they probably need to carry at least a few more heavily rural counties. Barack Obama may be able to do this in the West and in states like Iowa; he probably can’t do much to stop the withering away of white rural Democratic counties in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Conversely, Republican candidate John McCain can’t afford to lose more urban Republican counties. They still exist in Florida and Texas, but they are few and far between in the Northeast and Midwest.