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Mother Jones: Obama's play for Indian Country
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Filed Under: Politics

"If Barack Obama wins New Mexico on November 4, he may want to thank Wizipan Garriott, the vote director of what the Obama campaign calls its "First Americans" voter outreach program. The effort targets the politically neglected but heavily Democratic Native American vote, which Obama strategists believe could be critical to putting some historically red states into play for Obama.

The Obama campaign is reluctant to discuss the details of its ground game, but it's clear the campaign's Native American outreach strategy is extensive. The campaign has two Chicago-based staffers devoted to coordinating the nationwide effort, and Garriott has recruited locals on reservations around the country to serve as paid organizers. Montana, Alaska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Mexico have all been targeted at points in the campaign.

"If you're going to compete in traditionally red states as a Democrat, if you're going to expand the electoral map, then you're going to have to compete in places where native voices are of some considerable significance," says Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation who serves as the chair of Obama's Native American Policy Committee. "From time to time has a Democratic candidate opened an office on a reservation? Yes. But we have native outreach directors in numerous states. Before, it was hit or miss, little bit here, little bit there. Right now it's a comprehensive effort."

One of Obama's signature promises during the primary was that he could expand the electoral map for Democrats. And the Obama campaign sees an opening to do so in several reliably red states in the American West that have sizable Native American populations. Native Americans make up only about 1 percent of the population in the crucial swing states of Nevada and Colorado. But they're a significant presence in North Dakota (4.8 percent) and Montana (6.4 percent). And Indian country comprises nearly 10 percent of the population of New Mexico, which George W. Bush won by only a few thousand votes in 2004."

Get the Story:
Obama's Play for Indian Country (Mother Jones 10/27)

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