Former Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, who both lost their 2018 re-election races in North Dakota and Indiana, respectively, are launching the One Country Project to help their party win back rural voters ahead of the 2020 cycle. Their team looked at rural votes by county and state from 2000 to 2018 and found that if Democrats don't break their performance with rural voters, they're projected to once again win the popular vote but lose the electoral college in 2020.
Details: Their focus is primarily on Democratic Senate races and the presidential election, but they eventually want to work with races up and down the ballot in these rural areas.
Heitkamp and Donnelly will work with campaigns before the election, giving them messaging, data, polling, and a strategy to break through with these voters who "didn’t feel that we shared their beliefs" in past elections, Donnelly told Axios in an interview.
"Culturally, they’re focused on faith and family and country, and Donald Trump tells them all the time that we’re not, even though we are."
What they're saying: "What we heard on the ground is that the Democratic Party no longer speaks for the entire country," Heitkamp said. "They’ve forgotten the middle of the country and forgot to even show up. Even past Democratic voters didn’t recognize the Democratic Party of 2018."
By the numbers: Their data, shared exclusively with Axios, projects that Democrats' popular vote would increase from +2.1% in 2016 to +3.6% in 2020.
But, using a similar margin that Obama won by in 2012, One Country Project estimates Democrats would end up with just 232 electoral college votes in the upcoming presidential cycle. (Hillary Clinton won 227 in 2016.)
They also project Democrats would be poised to have a better performance in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia.
Assuming these trends among rural voters continue, the team predicts Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire will become even more competitive in 2020.
The reason why Republicans are doing better in those states is massive voter suppression efforts of black and Hispanic voters, not because of "rural white voter trends".
We can do both, but getting rid of the voter suppression is far more important than making Trump voters comfortable enough to maybe not vote for Trump.