independent– Mary McGaw grew up in a Republican home on the rural prairie of south central Minnesota. But as she moved from her tiny town of Amboy to the nearest city of Mankato to study nursing, her politics migrated too.
McGaw was moved by the plight of underinsured and became concerned about the viability of safety programs. She cast her vote for Democrat Joe Biden in November, and nearly 3 months later, she is pleased with how hard the new president is fighting for his priorities.
“He’s trying to get something done, even though there’s pushback from all sides,” said the 37-year-old registered nurse, who now works at a Mankato branch of the Mayo Clinic.
McGaw’s transformation is driving Democrats hopes as they charge into what the party considers its new frontier: small-city America.
As Democrats continue to lose votes in small towns, they’ve seen clear gains in regional hubs that dot stretches of rural America. Biden carried roughly 60 counties President Donald Trump won in 2016, many were places anchored by a mid-sized or small city that is trending Democratic. They include places like Grand Rapids, Michigan; Wilmington, North Carolina; Dayton, Ohio and Mankato’s Blue Earth County.
Their similarities are striking: Most include universities or, like Mankato, large medical centers that draw educated and racially diverse newcomers. Their economies are better than average. And in 2020, their voters showed a bipartisan streak — voting for Biden for president and Republicans down-ballot in large numbers.