National polls continue to report a steady lead for President Barack Obama in an election that closes six weeks from today. (I write it that way because I’ve already voted – and half of the electorate will cast their ballots before the official Election Day.) The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows an Obama lead of 48.6 to 44.9 percent for GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
But in three distinct demographic groups – middle-class voters, veterans and rural residents – it’s Romney that’s widening the gap.
Let’s take them one by one. First, according to a Politico-George Washington University Battleground Poll, Romney has a huge lead among middle-class families. “Romney holds a 14-point advantage (55 percent to 41 percent). Middle-class families are more inclined to believe the country is on the wrong track (34 percent right direction, 62 percent wrong track), are more likely to hold an unfavorable view of Obama (48 percent favorable, 51 percent unfavorable), and hold a more favorable view of Romney (51 percent favorable, 44 percent unfavorable) and Paul Ryan (46 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable) than the overall electorate.”
Politico says: “All of this data make clear that Romney has won the strong support of middle-class families and is leading the president on an overwhelming majority of key measurements beyond just the ballot.”
How big a deal are those poll numbers? Consider how often both candidates refer to the middle-class as their key voter.
Another demographic group the president was counting on for their support are veterans. Politico says Romney has a 20-point lead over Obama from veterans and their families in key swing states. A Romney spokesperson said that looming defense cuts, part of the Budget Control Act, as well as foreign policy missteps are the primary reasons for that gap. Four years ago the conventional wisdom was that Republican John McCain was the natural choice of veterans. But as ABC pointed out after the election. “While veterans clearly favored John McCain, it was by less of a margin than you might suppose for a candidate with a celebrated war record: McCain won veterans by 10 points, compared with George W. Bush’s 16-point margin in 2004.” Politicians are eager for veterans’ support because they are more likely to show up on Election Day than other demographic groups.
Rural voters have traditionally voted Republican. But, as Bill Bishop writes in The Daily Yonder, “In 2008, Barack Obama narrowed what had become a wide Republican advantage in rural America. But four years later, the Democrat has lost his edge among rural voters.” Glen Bolger, one of the pollsters, said the Obama’s challenge was “just not to get beat too badly in rural areas.”
But this rural poll is a good example of how Indian country is absent (a subject I plan to write about soon). The poll was conducted between September 15 and 18 with 600 likely voters in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. The survey was done by the Center for Rural Strategies, a Kentucky-based group trying to attract attention to rural issues by a bipartisan polling team.
No survey of 600 people can include American Indians or Alaska Natives; the pool is too small to work. And in this poll only one of those polled identified as a Native American.
Yet in several of those states the rural vote from Native American communities could do what Bolder described, allowing Obama not to get beat too badly.
My favorite way to look at this is The New York Times county-by-county bubble map from 2008. Look across the country at the red states. The bubbles are weighted for population. So when you see small bubbles, red, red, red, then suddenly blue. Click on it. That blue dot is often Indian country. To be fair: The current list of swing states don’t match that hypothesis. At least they didn’t in 2008. But look at Montana’s Big Horn County or Roosevelt County and that at least shows what’s a possible impact from Native American voters.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.