In these Sept. 26, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney both campaign in the battleground state of Ohio. Fierce and determined competitors, Obama and Romney each have a specific mission for the string of three debates that starts Wednesday night, Oct. 3, 2012. Obama, no longer the fresh face of 2008, must convince skeptical Americans that he can accomplish in a second term what he couldn't in his first: restore the U.S. economy to full health. Romney, anxious to keep the race from slipping away, needs to instill confidence that he is a credible and trusted alternative to the president, with a better plan for strengthening the fragile economy.

Elections 2012: Wordles, Words, and Who’s Watching?

Mark Trahant

Do you see what the politicians said? What do their words look like? It turns out that’s easily done with a graphic representation in a wordle (also called a word clouds). This works by weighting the words that are used more often, so that they become denser and more pronounced.

I was curious what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s words looked like generated from their Q&As with Indian Country Today Media Network.

Obama Wordle

What’s striking to me is how similar their word clouds are – except for a couple of key differences. President Obama’s cloud has more words because he was more specific and lengthy in his response. Romney’s cloud has a lot of energy. Energy words, that is, such as “Keystone,” “XL,” and “Development.” It’s clear just from this picture that Romney would, indeed, approve the Keystone XL Pipeline on day one. The only thing missing is Romney’s love of coal.

Speaking of words: Paul Ryan and Joe Biden square off in a few hours for the single Vice Presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky. All of the debates start at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Romney WordleRomney Wordle

Paraphrasing Biden, it’s a Big (add your own euphemism here) Deal. Team Obama is hoping a strong performance by the Vice President could stop the improving trends for Team Romney. Nate Silver, who crunches numbers and tracks polls for The New York Times, says Biden “will probably not be able to erase all of Mitt Romney’s gains in the polls ... gains that appear to have flattened President Obama’s post convention bounce.”

But in 2004 that’s exactly what happened. Then President George W. Bush appeared to have debated badly and was sliding in the polls until Vice President Dick Cheney debated John Edwards. Real Clear Politics’ Tom Bevan wrote at the time: “Cheney dominated. Actually, I thought John Edwards acquitted himself pretty well last night – and he still got killed. Cheney was in total command during the first half of the debate – which was really the only part that mattered – and he pounded on John Kerry’s record from every possible angle.”

And Team Obama is eager for a change-up because the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows that for the first time Romney is ahead, 47.4 by 46.3, or more than a single point. Obama still leads in Ohio by a point, close enough that it’s considered a toss up state by Real Clear Politics. The New York Times’ Silver still says Obama has an advantage in the Electoral College but even that gap is narrowing.

How many people will watch tonight’s debate? Probably far less than the 67 million people who viewed the Obama-Romney contest. That was even higher than four years ago when more than 54 million people saw Obama debate Sen. John McCain. What about tonight? Well, four years ago, the Vice Presidential debate set a record with nearly 70 million people tuned in. On the presidential side, the record was set in 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter with nearly 81 million viewers.

Stay tuned. I’ll be live tweeting tonight, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. I’ll follow-up shortly after the debate with my take on what was said and what it means to the election and to the policies that impact Indian country.

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:

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