A few people are pushing the notion that Hackett's strong performance in small-town Ohio was central to his near-win -- after all, he did carry the three rural counties at the eastern end of the 2nd District. (And therefore Democrats should target Main Street and not suburbia). After a few hours of eye-glazing work, I can say that I have debunked this, but the results are too boring and pedantic to post in full.
Suffice to say:
(1) 85 percent of the vote was cast in counties within the Cincinnati metropolitan area, primarily in the suburbs, although the district does include an affluent, white, Republican slice of the city itself. 68 percent was cast in either Hamilton or Clermont Counties. The rural counties just didn't count for much.
(2) Commentators usually assume that “suburban” means “swing area” and “rural” means “Republican stronghold.” That’s the case in much of the country. But in the 2nd District, the opposite is true. Hackett ran about the same percentage (14-20) ahead of Kerry in both rural and suburban areas. The one exception was Schmidt's home territory of Clermont County; but even there Hackett ran 13 points ahead of Kerry. It's just that the Cincinnati suburbs are very, very Republican, e.g., Kerry got only 29 percent in Clermont and 36 percent in Brown and about 27 percent in the district's portion of Warren. (I had to approximate the Kerry performance in the district's sections of Warren and Hamilton Counties).
The rural counties are more marginal, although they still voted for Bush. (Actually, Kerry’s vote probably underestimates the Democratic support in Scioto and Pike Counties, which both have a Southern Democratic tradition strong enough to deliver them to Bill Clinton twice; Pike voted twice for Jimmy Carter, Scioto once. Presumably this could especially help a pro-gun Iraq War vet).
Given how close the race was, had Hackett campaigned a little harder in the last 48 hours, he might have won. But, as The New Republic reports:
In the last two days of the election, Hackett skipped several opportunities to battle for a few last votes. Instead of nonstop stumping on Election Day, he took an unscheduled rest at home. And, the night before the election, as Schmidt raced around to diners and ihops, Hackett took in a Bruce Springsteen concert.