The New York Times ventures to Ouachita County to explore how one state could produce two smooth-talking presidential contenders from Hope.

Other states produce their own folksy populists. But few have subjected them to such relentless reality checks and constant tests as this state-sized village of 2.7 million people, geographically compact, ethnically homogeneous and politically heterogenous. Arkansas is twice as rural as the national norm and poor, ranking 47th in per-capita income — and for much of its history was outside the American mainstream. To win election in this state is to study at a deeply challenging school of tactile politics.