Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes in Play

Yesterday Rasmussen Reports released polling out of Nebraska, a state that the Democrats have not carried in a presidential election since 1964 and which even Franklin Delano Roosevelt lost twice, showing Barack Obama a net 22 points stronger against John McCain than John Kerry did against George W. Bush in 2004, trailing only by a 50 percent to 39 percent margin. Lest one think that this spread means that it would be worthless for Obama to campaign and expend resources in Nebraska, Poblano says think again.

Nebraska is one of two states (Maine is the other) to split some of its electoral votes by Congressional District. In 2004, John Kerry ran 11 points better in NE-2 (Omaha) than he did in the state as a whole, and 6 points better in NE-1 (Eastern Nebraska) than in the state as a whole. Meanwhile, he ran 18 points worse in NE-3 (Western Nebraska).

What this implies is that if Obama is about 10 points down in Nebraska overall, NE-2 in Omaha should be considered a toss-up, whereas NE-1 may be competitive. There are definitely scenarios where this is relevant. For example, if Obama wins Kerry states + Iowa + Colorado -- one of his more plausible electoral combinations -- he would be sitting on 268 electoral votes. Winning NE-2 in Omaha would get him to 269 electoral votes, at which point the tie would probably be broken in his favor by the incoming House of Representatives. We account for any and all such scenarios in our simulations.

It would obviously be preferable if Obama didn't need to win one or two electoral votes out of the Cornhusker state, as could be the situation (Poblano puts forward one permutation of the electoral vote map in which Nebraska would really matter, for instance). That said, putting the McCain campaign on its heels in a corner of the country that Republicans haven't seriously played defense in for decades (the highest mark any Democrat has received in the state since Lyndon Johnson's 53 percent in 1964 was Michael Dukakis' 39 percent in 1988 [better than Bill Clinton's best of 35 percent in 1996 and Jimmy Carter's 38 percent in 1976]*) can't be a bad thing.

* - Off hand anyone know why Dukakis did better in Nebraska than Clinton or Carter?

Tags: 2008, Barack Obama, Nebraska (all tags)

Comments

33 Comments

Re: Hmm

I read somewhere that Dukakis ran well in the Great Plains as a result of the decade's long recession in the 80s under Reagan which affected farmers most heavily.

by Zeitgeist9000 2008-05-19 02:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Hmm

Thanks.

by Jonathan Singer 2008-05-19 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Hmm

You're welcome!

by Zeitgeist9000 2008-05-19 02:30PM | 0 recs
i did

old timer here - 42.

Reagan and mortgage companies raped family farmers in 80s (on behalf of Big Argra.

That's why Dukakis beat Bush by 1O pts in Iowa.

there's even a good movie on the subject - "The River"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088007/

by Al Rodgers 2008-05-19 02:08PM | 0 recs
so who gets screwed by high gas prices?

Dems could win big this year.

by Carl Nyberg 2008-05-19 02:11PM | 0 recs
They're going crazy for him in Dakota & Mont

► He was mobbed by a standing room only crowd in Watertown SD on Friday.

by Al Rodgers 2008-05-19 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

Buffett's endorsement certainly can't hurt.

by haystax calhoun 2008-05-19 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

I'd bet Dukakis did better than Clinton and Carter did in Nebraska because they probably had low turnout in 1988. Also, the Clinton 35 percent in 1996 is better than Carter's 38 percent because Clinton had two opponents, Carter had one. While Clinton would have won both elections if Perot had stayed out, he still would have lost Nebraska, but when you look at the Nebraska 1996 exit poll, they question which asks "Vote if Perot were not running," it becomes 55/38 Dole with 6 not voting, and when you factor out the 6 percent not voting, 38 divided by the new denominator 93 equals 41ish, which is what Clinton would have done in Nebraska if Perot had not been if, according to that exit poll. In fact, if you look at the Perot vertical column, you'll see more of Perot's support in that state came from would've been Clinton voters, but still, Dole's strong showing in Nebraska shows Republicans strength in the heartland, even tho he got killed in the election. This also assumes the Clinton mo had slowed down at the end of 1996 like it did, due in no small part to Ross Perot's negative campaigning against Clinton with his 30 minute infomercials about how he was going to get impeached.

I think the reason Obama doesn't look too bad in Nebraska is because no one knows either candidate, or low GOP turnout is likely

by DiamondJay 2008-05-19 02:29PM | 0 recs
Dukakis did very well in farmer's areas that

year due to something that pissed off farmers (I don't know what it was).

by bobdoleisevil 2008-05-19 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

I think this is great, partially because I'm sick of the thinking that each side gets certain states, and then certain states are in play, and all the campaigning is in those states.  

And I think Obama jiggles up the map more than Clinton (in some ways helpful to us, in some ways harmful to us).  

by bosdcla14 2008-05-19 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

Would it not be the outgoing House of Representatives that would break a 269-269 EV tie rather than the incoming one?

by Max Fletcher 2008-05-19 02:52PM | 0 recs
No

The new Congress is sworn in before the new President.

by Angry White Democrat 2008-05-19 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Huh?

Somebody's been smokin' the good stuff.

Nebraska has been one of the five most Republican states in the past 8, maybe 10, presidential elections.  Unless one is able to show something more convincing than a single poll (in which Obama is still 11 points down), I remain highly skeptical.  Don't forget, also, that Obama won the caucuses by a huge margin, but only won the beauty-contest primary by a few points.

I suspect that Obama has some highly dedicated, core supporters in Nebraska.  I also believe that Nebraskans are dismayed with Republican leadership.  Plus, there's McCain's lack of support for ethanol.  Still, I don't believe it's nearly enough.

It don't matter how many margaritas Warren Buffet drinks.  (Oh, that's Jimmy.)

PS - I stand corrected, Nebraska was 7th most Republican in 1988 - giving Bush, Sr. only 20% more than Dukakis.  Also, in 1972, even though it gave Nixon more than 70%, Nebraska was bested by about 10 states.  In all other years - top 5 GOP - sometimes numero uno.

by johnnygunn 2008-05-19 03:19PM | 0 recs
We've already had quite a few NE polls

I think the last SUSA NE poll showed Obama winning 2 of the state's congressional districts.

by MILiberal 2008-05-19 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: We've already had quite a few NE polls

I'll bet a dollar a district.

by johnnygunn 2008-05-19 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Huh?

I have family in Nebraska. It's far from homogeneous. Omaha is a surprisingly cosmopolitan medium-sized city, with a young population, a lot of culture, and a fairly strong local Democratic party. Lincoln, the second-largest city in the state, is a college town with a vibrant progressive tradition. After that comes six hours of unrelieved flat Midwestern farmland before you hit Colorado.

It's because of Nebraska's nearly-unique division of electoral votes (by congressional district, not statewide winner-take-all) that Obama has a shot at an EV or two from the Cornhusker State.

There are other states, and other EVs, that would likewise be in serious play if they awarded their EVs that way. On the one hand, you'd see some GOP EVs out of California's Central Valley and Orange County; on the flip side, you'd have almost guaranteed splits in Colorado, Arizona, and a few other swing states, not to mention some guaranteed Democratic EVs out of Texas.

So, yeah, I agree that there's at least a shot for some map-changing EV action out of Nebraska this year.

by ipsos 2008-05-19 06:51PM | 0 recs
The GOP strength is mostly in the 3rd District

You are correct that Obama has no chance statewide, but remember, NE awards its electoral votes by congressional district.  Of the three, only the 3rd is unapproachably Republican (it even supported Goldwater in 1964).  Obama does have a chance, however remote, in the other two.

That said, I really can't imagine any scenario in which case those two EVs make the difference.  If Obama gets even one vote from Nebraska, odds are he's winning in a landslide and doesn't need them.  Just off the top of my head, Indiana comes to mind as a red state where Obama has an outside-but-not-as-outside-as-here chance.

by RamblinDave 2008-05-20 01:49AM | 0 recs
Nebraska

It would obviously be preferable if Obama didn't need to win one or two electoral votes out of the Cornhusker state

If Obama is in such a position to do this in November, we're in for a big night.

by RandyMI 2008-05-19 03:27PM | 0 recs
Question

What is it about voters in the Great Plains that would make them more likely to consider Obama than voters in Appalachia. Conversly, what is it about Clinton that attracks Appalachia but gives give Plains voters the hives?

by RandyMI 2008-05-19 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Question

Clinton won the Oklahoma primary and come within a few points in the Nebraska beauty contest. She can do well in the plain states with Democratic voters but really, neither will win there in the fall.

by gomer 2008-05-19 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Question

Populism was actually founded in the great plains and used to be quite progressive.  May be making a resurgence.

I think Obama does well out West as it is a bit less partisan, more independent, more libertarian, less established in "tradition", more open minded.
Hillary's head to heads against McCain mirror John Kerry's.  She generally isn't respected out west by many non-Democrats and since most people are non-Democrats, it would have made November quite a challenge.
I'll let someone else address the Appalachia/Ozark alley success by Clinton.  I would just get myself in way too much trouble speculating.

If you enjoy reading, check out "Take this job and ship it" by Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.  A great read and I learned quite a bit about the political attitudes of his constituency.

by Rick in Eugene 2008-05-19 04:01PM | 0 recs
Political Heritage

He can win over Plains voters due to the practice he's had running for Senate in Illinois.  Central and parts of Northern Illinois have many things in common with that region so he's been able to hone into the desires of those voters within his home state.  Southern Illinois remained a sticking point for him but I can tell you being black handicapped him big time: it's so divided down there even the drug dealers are racial partisans.    

Keep in mind primary is the first time Obama has been on the national scene and has campaigned for Appalachian voters.  He's going to do his 2nd take after the primary is wrapped up, to win over Ohio voters and hopefully put VA/NC/SC into play.

by Homebrewer 2008-05-19 04:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

It is too early to put any of the Western states in the Obama column.

The Obama hype will end soon enough and then let's see what the numbers will be in September.

by stefystef 2008-05-19 03:36PM | 0 recs
Mark Penn, is that you?

I've been hearing this "The Obama hype will end soon enough " since the spring of 2007.  It's not a microtrend.  

by Homebrewer 2008-05-19 04:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Mark Penn, is that you?

I remember hearing it in October.

In Iowa.

They never knew what hit them. Most days, I think they still don't.

by DeskHack 2008-05-19 04:44PM | 0 recs
Nebraska Electoral Votes in Play

And we have a great progressive Dem running for the Senate in Nebraska. He ran in the reddest of the red districts last time in Nebraska and came within 10 pts I think.  Any Dem running for any office would be doing very well to only lose by 10 in that district.

by Rick in Eugene 2008-05-19 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Nebraska Electoral Votes

For a more local breakdown of what these presidential numbers in Nebraska mean, especially since the earlier SurveyUSA polling put Obama within the margin of error, I recommend the following post from New Nebraska Network.

Enjoy!

by Skylewalker 2008-05-19 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

Jonathan, would you ever -- ever -- once write something besides a self-serving pro-Obama piece?  i doubt it.

by susanhu 2008-05-19 07:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes i

Presumably he's just trying to balance Jerome's pro-Clinton bias and stop MyDD being a laughing stock. When the nomination process is over and Obama is the nominee there will be a lot more self-serving pro-0bama pieces, and presumably even Jerome will have to grit his teeth and write a few. That's what a partisan site is about, it does its best to get Democrats elected and advocates for them. If you want to advocate against the Democrat nominee then why not go over and join a Republican blog?

by al1 2008-05-20 02:41AM | 0 recs
Yeah!

Why can't he constantly put down the presumptive nominee for whatever reason pops into his head? That's the kind of level-headed and substantive post we need to see more of round here.

by Englishlefty 2008-05-20 05:12AM | 0 recs
Take it from a Nebraskan ...

Obama can't win the State, but he could very well win the First and Second Districts.  Two electoral votes would be awesome.  

by redstater 2008-05-19 08:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Take it from a Nebraskan ...

It could turn out to be critical.  I keep playing around with the EC map, and there are so many not only possible, but quite likely scenarios that get Obama to 269 Electoral votes.

Yes, I know 269 means it goes to the house and all that, but it's more complicated than a straight up and down vote - the house delegations as a whole from each state have to vote, and they can vote for anyone they want.  If no one gets 26 of them, it moves to the Senate which is currently tied.

by Jess81 2008-05-20 12:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Take it from a Nebraskan ...

I don't think it moves to the Senate for the president. They vote for the Veep.  The House votes for Pres. in state blocks for as many rounds as it takes until someone gets 26, you know like how the Dem convention delegates vote until someone gets 50%+1 of the total delegates.

by goodleh 2008-05-25 03:51PM | 0 recs

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