Elections 2012: Short Takes Following Denver Debate; What You Say, What They Say, and Why Native America Could Pick the Next Senate

Mark Trahant
10/4/12

There is a real problem polling American Indians and Alaska Natives because it’s so hard to get enough people to make the information statistically accurate (something I wrote about last week).

But that doesn’t mean your voice shouldn’t be heard. So I am going to try a little experiment, a national poll, conducted online, asking what you thought about the debate and the two candidates. We’ll call it a survey, not a poll. It’s basic. Unofficial. And I’m interested in what you have to say. So click and report: Who won, did the debate change your mind, and who’s the better candidate for Indian country? Here is the link.

Speaking of polls, Nate Silver whose FiveThirtyEight column in The New York Times is a must read. He looked at several instant polls after the debate and most declared Republican Mitt Romney the winner. CNN’s poll was the strongest with 67 percent support for Romney. Silver said polls this year are not changing much by events. “Still, it seems likely that Mr. Romney will make at least some gains in head-to-head polls after the debate, and entirely plausible that they will be toward the high end of the historical range, in which polls moved by about three percentage points toward the candidate who was thought to have the stronger debate,” Silver wrote. That said Silver’s model continues to show an 86.1 percent chance of Barack Obama winning re-election.

But many of the post-debate commentators don’t see it that way. Howard Kurtz, writing in The Daily Beast, summed it up this way: “Obama scored a slew of substantive points, but that is being swept away in the torrent of post-debate commentary. The gang at MSNBC savaged the president with a sense of despair mixed with anger that their man had let them down. If Obama has lost Chris Matthews, he's lost liberal America.”

Meanwhile, The Nation magazine – the oldest continually published periodical in the U.S. – said today that Native American votes “could win the Senate for the Democrats.”

David Sarasohn writes from Portland, “this year, with a tightly divided Senate hanging in the balance, four closely contested races—North Dakota, Montana, Arizona and New Mexico—are in states with enough tribal population to have an impact, from 5.2 percent in Arizona to 10.1 percent in New Mexico. Three of the four are outside the Obama campaign’s electoral vote hopes, but all are vital to Democratic chances of holding the Senate.”

Sarasohn said the Senate is particularly important to Indian country this cycle because the chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Daniel Akaka, a Democrat from Hawaii, is retiring this year.

“In a battle for Senate control likely to be decided by a few seats, the elections in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona and New Mexico could prove decisive,” he writes. “Heinrich has built a small lead in New Mexico; Carmona is considered trailing but within range in Arizona; Tester is in a dead heat in Montana; and Heitkamp has surprised observers by running neck-and-neck for a seat that Democrats had largely conceded in North Dakota. And the campaigns, against three hardline conservative Republican House members and one former House member, are about the basic nature of the federal government’s responsibilities, an issue in which the tribes have a particular stake.”

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: marktrahant@thecedarsgroup.org.

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