A new poll from the non-partisan Center for Rural Strategies has John McCain up ten points in rural counties in 13 battleground states. The 742 respondents favored McCain 51% to 41% for Democrat Barack Obama.
But that's not necessarily good news for the McCain camp. President Bush won rural counties by twice that margin and rural voters were considered key to the president's two elections.
Analysis of election results from 2004 show a 4.1 million vote margin in rural counties for President Bush. That gave the president the edge he needed to overcome John Kerry's margin of 3.7 million votes in urban areas.
McCain's 10 point lead in the new poll isn't believed to be enough to make up for Barack Obama's expected 2008 margin in cities.
A series of rural polls since 2004 indicates a decline in the Republican dominance of rural areas.
McCain can take solace in the fact that rural voters indicated they have more faith now in how he'd handle key issues, including the economy and taxes. That's compared to the responses in a similar rural poll in May.
Still, those responding to the poll rate McCain and Obama even or nearly even on how they each would handle the economy and energy and gas prices, the two biggest issues they cited.
President Bush had a similar share of support (nine per cent) in a rural battleground poll taken in September 2004. But he doubled that support on election day.
The new and earlier rural surveys were conducted and analyzed by a bi-partisan team consisting of the Democratic polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Republican political consulting firm of Greener and Hook.
I'll have more on the rural vote tonight on All Things Considered -- and later today on the web.