COURTING NASCAR NATION
Remember Soccer Mom? So 2000. In the coming election year the demographic most coveted by politicians is the rural, male, middle-to lower-middle-class fiercely independent swing voter—and he ain't drivin' no minivan. Meet NASCAR Dad. "These are voters who largely went for Bush in 2000," says Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, "but if Democrats focus on economic rather than social issues, they bring them back into the fold."
In 2001 Virginia gubernatorial candidate Mark Warner sponsored a NASCAR car at Martinsville and won the election, becoming the first Democrat in a generation to carry the rural parts of the state. Now Senator Bob Graham (D., Fla.) is sponsoring the GRAHAM FOR PRESIDENT truck in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series. With some 75 million NASCAR fans in the U.S., there's likely to be more candidates trading paint with Graham in '04—though if Hillary Clinton ever tried it, says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, "she'd be booed, no question about it."