Democrat Rick Weiland's only chance to win in South Dakota's Senate race rests on the state's Indian reservations. This cycle, however, Weiland is not the only one competing for the Native American vote.
"Obviously I need to get every vote I can get. There are no votes to waste," Weiland says.
Nearly 10 percent of the state's population is Native American, and Weiland's campaign is optimistic it can make great gains with Native American voters this year. After bitter legal showdowns, early voting is available on a majority of the state's nine Indian reservations, cutting down on some of the arduous travel times that once kept Native Americans from the polls. Key tribal elections at the state's Pine Ridge Reservation and a controversial ballot initiative to change the name of Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County is also expected to boost turnout this cycle.
All of that is good news for Democrats, who have traditionally relied on tribes to win statewide elections. In 2002, the Native American vote helped Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson eke out a victory over his Republican challenger, John Thune.
But in 2014 there is a wild card in the race that could keep Weiland from reaching his full potential with Native American voters. And in a race this tight, which already appears to be slipping away from the Democrat, that could make the difference and hand a pivotal Senate seat to Republicans.