In political science, urban politics is a well-established subfield. And more recently, suburban political behavior has received a fair amount of attention (Gainsborough 2001; 2005; McKee and Shaw 2003; Oliver 2001). But with a few exceptions (see Francia and Baumgartner 2005–2006; Gimpel and Karnes 2006), the political behavior of rural residents has been conspicuously absent thus far in a growing literature on the political role of place. This is quite surprising given the clamoring in the popular press about “red states” versus “blue states” in the most recent presidential contests. All of the post-presidential election maps that highlight red Republican counties and blue Democratic counties display a sea of red covering the vast swaths of rural, middle America. The ocean of Republican red is enough to make one ask: What's the Matter with Kansas? (Frank 2004)—one of those thinly populated plains states with hardly a glimmer of blue on a county-level map of the 2004 presidential election.
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