Here's another person's thoughts--via the Rapid City Journal blog--on a potentially interesting factor in the race:
Add this to the list: the “jump shot factor.” Indians have historically supported Thune at a greater margin than other Republicans running for office in Indian country. In large part, that’s because they’ve seen him. He’s not an Indian, doesn’t pretend to be an Indian, but was born and bred in that shortgrass country that had him shooting jump shots in every Indian gym in the State. And well.
That counts for something. Republicans all too visibly shudder sometimes around Indians, as Diedrich so often did. A fish out of water. Not Thune. The “jump shot factor” peeled enough Indian country votes, maybe a difference of a typical Republican (10 per cent), up to twenty-two, twenty-three percent in places that’ve seen him play. That’s the “jump shot factor,” I think. You connect with Indians, they’ll vote for you. More often than not, Thune’s jump shot connected and he became a star. Thune’s kind of connection counts for something in Indian Country, maybe a little more than in some other places. In any event, his shortgrass connections served him well in Indian Country, if only to the tune of peeling back the percentage normally enjoyed by Democrats.
See this on the basketball game that Thune hosted and played in on Cheyenne River Indian Reservation -- I took lots of pictures.