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McCain in the home stretch

WASHINGTON – The national economic crisis has punished GOP presidential contender John McCain in the polls, to the extent that he recently withdrew his campaign from Michigan. But many commentators believe his emphasis on other states reflects not weakness necessarily, but simply the slender margin of the projected Electoral College vote. Whatever the outcome of the popular vote, the next president will be crowned by 270 of 538 electoral votes.

The going analysis is that with many states solidly committed to McCain or Democratic rival Barack Obama, McCain must win one of five toss-up states to reach the magic 270: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota. The Michigan resources will go into the other four ... or perhaps into Maine or Nebraska.

A visit by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s vice presidential running mate, to Omaha, Neb., highlighted the narrow spread in the Electoral College. Uniquely, Nebraska allocates electoral votes according to districts, and McCain will win the state and four of its five electoral votes hands-down. But Obama is running strong in the second congressional district of Omaha. For McCain now, no electoral vote is too out of the way to campaign for.

Given the trend away from McCain in nationwide polls, others saw the move out of Michigan and into Omaha as desperate. But after almost 30 years of representing Arizona tribes in Congress, and pushing many pan-tribal measures through the legislative process, McCain remains a widely admired figure in Indian country.

Two who still expect to see him there are former colleagues – former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne, for years the only Indian in Congress, now an official spokesman for McCain; and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. and Chickasaw, now the only enrolled tribal citizen in Congress.

Cole summed up a deep reservoir of feeling for McCain in Indian country: “They have high regard and respect for John McCain,” he said of tribes, adding that McCain would enter the White House as the best-prepared president ever on Indian and Native affairs.

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