Obama Could Put 1-2 Nebraska Electoral Votes in Play
by Jonathan Singer, Mon May 19, 2008 at 01:50:11 PM EDT
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?