ICYMI: Politico: Governor Kelly’s Middle-of-the-Road Approach Resonates with Rural Kansans

“When you go out to rural Kansas, they are not talking about all of the divisive social issues,” [Governor Laura] Kelly said. “What’s on their mind is ‘are you going to fund my schools?’ Or ‘are you going to build my roads, fix my roads?’” 

Kansas might have an answer to Democrats’ rural voter problem
Zach Montellaro, Politico

November 3, 2023 

  • Support for Democrats in rural areas fell off a cliff in recent cycles. Then, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly did something improbable. The Democrat got rural voters to say yes. And then, when she ran for reelection, she got them to say yes again. 
  • Kelly’s playbook is in some ways the antithesis of the national political moment: Avoid culture war fights, focus on local economic issues, and spend a lot of time talking to the wheat and soybean farmers you know mostly won’t vote for you. 
  • Kelly focused on projecting an image of a moderate governor focused on economic issues. Supporters and opponents alike mentioned the effectiveness of her “Middle of the Road” ad, the campaign’s most-played television spot
  • In [the ad], she describes herself as “like most Kansans: I’m not too far right, or too far left.” The spot touts a budget surplus and fully funding schools — a central plank of her campaign that she said resonates with rural voters. 
  • [National pollster Margie] Omero said the key [to the governor’s success] was authenticity, not a specific personality or set of policies. “That’s how people feel connected to a candidate that’s different from whatever the national debate is,” she said.