Half the respondents in a recent internal Bush campaign poll said they can “imagine George Bush filling up his own car at the gas station,” explained Mark McKinnon, a media strategist with the Bush campaign.
When the same query was raised of John Kerry, McKinnon told the Austin American -Statesman June 28, “Not a single person thought they could see John Kerry filling up his car.”
What that means, the staffer explained in the arcane, complicated language of American politics, is that “people think (Kerry) is elite, aloof and arrogant, and George W. Bush is more like Bubba.”
“Rural likes Bubba,” he added.
Elite vs. redneck. While neither the poll nor its respondents specifically cited “elite,” “aloof” or “arrogant,” the words the Bush staffer cleverly used to explain both carry specific meanings.
According to my 1997 American Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the three are interchangeable with aristocratic, privileged, conceited, cold, egotistical, overbearing and pompous. And all that just because people can’t picture John Kerry gassing up the family El Camino.
At least, says the Bush image maker, when compared to “Bubba,” a person rural America likes.
Be more specific. So what’s a Bubba? My Oxford English Dictionary does not list the word. Even worse, an Internet inquiry at www.AskOxford.com results in an apology: “Sorry, there were no results for your search.”
A wider Web search is more helpful; it turns up hundreds of Bubba sites. One, wwwbubbanews.com, (“You can buy access to our news server and still have enough money left over for a six pack and a box of 3 inch magnums.”) equates Bubba with “redneck.”
Luckily, the site offers a self-administered test to determine if you are redneck. You might be a redneck (a.k.a. Bubba), it suggests, if “fifth grade was the best three years of your life,” the “taillight covers of your car are made of red tape” or “you stare at an orange juice container because it says, ‘CONCENTRATE.’ “
By those narrow measures, I’m not a Bush-targeted rural voter because I spent only one year in Mrs. Stellhorn’s fifth grade class, my taillight covers are red plastic and my orange juice container proudly proclaims “PRODUCT OF BRAZIL.”
It could also mean that I know nothing about rural voters.
Another poll. It could, but it doesn’t because I know for a fact that a mid-June, first-of-its-kind poll conducted by the Center for Rural Strategies shows George Bush’s January 2004 lead over John Kerry among rural voters – be they Bubbas or not – slipping from 15 points to 9 points.
I know that “(r)ural voters, especially rural voters in critical battleground states,” according Republican analyst Bill Greener, one of the pollsters who conducted the survey, “will determine the outcome of the presidential election in 2004″ – as they did in 2002, when Bush beat Gore by 3.2 million votes in rural America and still lost the national popular vote by 543,895 votes.
Real world. I know that 55 million Americans live in the 80 percent of the country that is rural; that median family income in rural areas is 25 percent less than in metropolitan areas; and that the poverty rate for rural communities is 28 percent higher than that of metro America.
I know that the League of Rural Votes knows rural America “lags behind the rest of the nation in employment, access to healthcare and per capita income,” and, according to Rural Strategies, “48 percent of rural voters believe the nation is on the wrong track.”
I know too that if only 179,970 voters in five states (Florida, Missouri, Nevada New Hampshire, and Ohio) had voted for Gore rather than Bush or Nader in 2000 that Gore would have rolled to an epic, undisputed 333-to-204 electoral vote victory instead of squeaking, highly disputed 271-to-266 electoral loss.
I admit, however, that I do not know how many orange-juice-can-challenged, three-years-in-fifth-grade Bubbas there are in rural America nor do I know if they even vote.
Then again, it can’t hurt to liken all rural Americans to Bubba if you see yourself as one and are witnessing the critical Bubba and Bubbette vote slipping away.
(The author is a freelance ag journalist who lives in Delavan, Ill. He can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his columns online at www.farmanddairy.com.)
© 2004 ag comm