Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

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Rep. Paulette Jordan meets with a Northern Idaho constituent. (Facebook photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

We’re two weeks away from an election and most of us have the same question: Who’s winning? We look at the latest polls, check our favorite web sites often, and try to read between the lines.

But there is one tell that’s worth watching: Where are they? The candidate location shows where the candidates need to be to round up that last important tranche of votes. Are they looking for a win, campaigning for a mandate, or resigned to a loss? Hmm. So Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both in Florida. Clinton wins there and it’s over while Trump needs Florida, period.

Speaking of favorite web sites, here are a few. Travel tracker maps where the candidates are that day. And, for the latest polls, Real Clear Politics. The most useful number is the average of polls because it’s a good way to increase the size of the pool and add a perspective over time. The current average shows Clinton with support at 48.3 percent, Trump at 43.2 percent. (Also reporting the “live betting odds of 84 percent for Clinton, 16 percent for Trump.) Other places to peek: FiveThirtyEight, the Upshot, Daily Kos, The Fix, and Talking Points Memo.

A story in Talking Points Memo is particularly worth watching. “It is only one poll, as they say,” writes Josh Marshall. “But this ABC poll may be a big deal. See this not as something that is happening but a sign of a possible trend which, if backed up by other polls over the next two weeks, could be the story of the 2016 election.” He cites an ABC that shows: “The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.”

That would be huge.

Of course no election is a sure thing. Trump has been saying this will be a Brexit election, one where the anger of British voters about the European Union did not show in polls. But there are differences. However, as The Guardian notes, America’s voting system makes this less likely. “A simple majority of the national popular vote was enough to rewrite Britain’s relationship with Europe, but US presidents are required to win a majority of electoral college votes, which can be decisively achieved with a series of wins at the state level. In 1984, for example, Ronald Reagan secured 97.6% of the electoral college votes with 58.8% of the popular vote, because Walter Mondale lost every state except Minnesota.”

And Democrats have the edge (even before Trump) in the Electoral College because so many large states, such as California or New York, are not competitive.

One challenge for any candidate is the last minute pitch by opponents who distort the record. A Facebook campaign is attacking Idaho’s Rep. Paulette Jordan as anti-Second Amendment. Her sins? She didn’t fill out a survey from a gun-rights organization and she voted against a “constitutional carry” bill that would have ended restrictions on concealed weapons. But, and this ought to be huge, she voted for a measure that did just that. Only in cooperation with the local sheriff. That bill became law and Jordan was one of only two Democrats to vote yes.

But the very idea that the Idaho legislature is anti-gun? Right. But a promotion from AmmoLand for Jordan’s opponent, Carl Berglund, says he has answered the “survey with 100% pro-2nd Amendment answers and has long been a proponent of constitutional carry.”

On Facebook, Jordan said “representing the people means listening to the people, which is why I always maintain an open door policy for all the great folks in our district.” She and her team have been knocking on thousands of doors hearing what people are saying.

Two weeks to go and it’s the end of newspaper endorsement season.

Laurel Deegan-Fricke, who’s running for the state Senate in North Carolina, earned an endorsement from the Raleigh News and Observer. This is good. The paper said it could endorse the incumbent but he “has drawn an exceptionally appealing candidate in Democrat Laurel Deegan Fricke. A native of North Dakota and the daughter of a Native American mother, Deegan-Fricke will make fairness in taxation and budgeting a priority. We offer her our endorsement. Deegan-Fricke, who has lived in Wake County for 14 years, is founder and CEO of the National Coalition of Native American College Placement Services.”

And Denise Juneau picked up another newspaper endorsement. The Montana Standard said: “Juneau is aiming for a place in history. She is trying to become the first woman Congressman from Montana since Jeannette Rankin, and the first Native American woman ever to claim a seat in the U.S. Capitol. Usually, as a freshman congressman, very probably with the minority party, she would be utterly invisible. But her pioneer status would give Juneau far more visibility than most. We believe she has earned that chance, and that she would make Montanans proud with her service.”

Far more visibility. That’s exactly what’s needed across Indian Country.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

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