The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Election Day

Make That 365: Obama on Track to Pick Up Nebraska Electoral Vote

Updated 7:36 p.m.
By Garance Franke-Ruta
President-elect Barack Obama appears likely to add one more electoral vote to his already decisive total, thanks to a passel of outstanding ballots that were counted today in Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District.

The Omaha World-Herald called the race in the heavily metropolitan district in Obama's favor after election officials began counting early and provisional ballots in Douglas County.

Official results won't be available until next week, but Nebraska Democratic Party communications director Eric Van Horn said the party is "very confident in the World-Herald projection."

Obama won 8,434 out of the 15,039 early votes not yet included in Tuesday's totals, the World-Herald reported. That turned a 569-vote lead for McCain into a 1,260-vote lead for Obama.

Nebraska is one of only two states, along with Maine, that splits its electoral votes by congressional district.

A win for Obama in the 2nd District would represent the first time that a Democrat would have picked up an electoral vote in Nebraska since Lyndon Johnson did so in 1964. It would also give the president-elect 365 electoral votes, to McCain's 162.

"We've been working toward this kind of thing for a long time and it would never have happened without the volunteers who worked so hard and without out a candidate like Barack Obama," said Van Horn. "It was just kind of the perfect storm here in Nebraska, and we look forward to building on it for years to come."

Obama built up a strong base in the 2nd District over a period of three years. He campaigned in the state for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in 2006 and headlined the state Democrats' annual fundraising dinner, the Morrison-Exon Dinner, in May of that year.

The 2nd District includes Omaha, which sits right across the river from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and was visited by Obama during the long lead-up to the Iowa caucuses as well as last February.

A strong Omaha for Obama volunteer corp poured across state lines in 2007 and early 2008 to help organize conservative Western Iowa, and later helped Obama win the Democratic caucuses in Nebraska in February 2008. Obama's primary win over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton relied partly on delegates racked up in lopsided wins in such caucus states.

Ultimately, Obama opened three offices in Omaha and deployed 16 staffers against an effort run by the Nebraska GOP, rather than the McCain campaign, the World-Herald reports.

Douglas County, which includes Omaha, is also among the most urban and diverse counties in the otherwise rural plains state. While Nebraska overall is only 4.4 percent African American, Douglas County is 11.9 percent black, and in 2000 its population concentration per square mile was 1,400 -- compared to just 22 for the state overall.

The city includes a number of universities and, in recent years, has become an operations hub for Internet businesses, including such giants as PayPal and LinkedIn.

Omaha also is the long-standing home of Berkshire Hathaway, whose legendary founder, Warren Buffet, is a close Obama adviser and now sits on his Transition Economic Advisory Board.

Nebraska's other senator, Republican Chuck Hagel, helped Obama out, as well. He is close to the senator from Illinois and traveled with him to Europe and the Middle East over the summer, and Hagel's wife, Lilibet Hagel, endorsed Obama in October.

Posted at 7:02 PM ET on Nov 7, 2008  | Category:  Election Day
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"I don't "hate" Obama -- I am just looking at the total numbers and seeing not that many more people voted this time -- didn't Bush get over 62 million votes in 2004?" -JakeD

Yes, you're right, but Obama got over 65 million votes this year, while McCain received around 57 million votes. In 2004, Kerry had 59 million and Bush had 62 million so the increase wasn't that much. However, turnout remained really high and some places exceeded 2004 levels.

Posted by: profyle424 | November 9, 2008 6:13 PM

I live in Nebraska's 3rd district. Here in out state Nebraska if Jesus Christ and the Devil were running for the same public office and the Devil was Republican and Christ was Democrat the Devil would win.

Posted by: OldCoot1 | November 9, 2008 8:53 AM

Daniel Hancock, you might want to check out the 1892 Presidential election and others. Electoral votes have been split by exactly this method in the past. "Faithless electors" is not what I was referencing.
I am not sure what you are referencing. There was a third party in 1892. The Populist Party and it's candidate, James B. Weaver, actually won some electoral votes in Western states because of the issue of the gold vs. silver standard.

My main point is that to be fair the same system should be used for all states. If the congressional district method were used in California for example, McCain would have gotten at least eighteen out of the state's fifty four electoral votes.

Do you really want a bunch of battles in the various state legislatures when the Democrats or the Republicans try to change the method of the allocation of electoral votes in their respective states prior to a presidential election to give their own party an advantage?

Plus the issue of gerrymandering becomes part of the presidential election as well as part of congressional elections.

To be fair, the same system should be used for all states whether it is winner take all, distribution by congressional district and statewide vote, or eliminating the electoral college altogether.

Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: danielhancock | November 8, 2008 9:14 PM

Daniel Hancock, you might want to check out the 1892 Presidential election and others. Electoral votes have been split by exactly this method in the past. "Faithless electors" is not what I was referencing.

As far as your "equal protection" argument, that's a far better reason to give Washington, D.C. two U.S. Senators and one Congressman than it is to forbid Nebraska and Maine from divying up their electoral votes in the same way they have been doing for many decades. Just because you just noticed it now doesn't mean that it hasn't been this way for a very long time.

Posted by: BlueVA | November 8, 2008 12:24 PM

Maine and one other State are not winner-take-all as well. This is not un-Constitutional. Not being a "natural born" citizen OTOH ; )

Posted by: JakeD | November 8, 2008 11:04 AM

Posted by: BlueVA | November 8, 2008 9:37 AM

Daniel Hancock, you might want to read the Constitution before you talk about challenging votes on "constitutional grounds". There's nothing in it about allocating electoral votes.

Actually an equal protection argument could be made in this situation. But again it is a moot point because the Nebraska elector is meaningless because the electoral vote was not that close.

But lets go through the motions anyway. Under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution a law can be considered unconstitutional if people who are "simularly situated" are treated differently. It could be argued that voters who are "simularly situated" in different states are having their votes used in different ways to allocate electoral votes. Thus it could diminish or strengthen the vote of the voter in the state using winner take all or congressional district allocation of electoral votes.

The method of allocating electoral votes by congressional district is not inherently unfair but just having some states use it and others not use it is unfair.

Most of the time split electoral votes occurred when an elector went against the vote of his or her state. I think a West Virginia voter cast his vote for Kerry in the 2004 election even though Bush won the state. In 1960 some electors from some states voted for Harry Byrd of Virginia. Just for the record, Nixon would have won in 1960 had electoral votes been apportioned by congressional district.

It may not be a bad method but whatever method we use it should be the same for all states to be fair.

Posted by: danielhancock | November 8, 2008 10:51 AM

I don't "hate" Obama -- I am just looking at the total numbers and seeing not that many more people voted this time -- didn't Bush get over 62 million votes in 2004?

Posted by: JakeD | November 8, 2008 10:37 AM

Daniel Hancock, you might want to read the Constitution before you talk about challenging votes on "constitutional grounds". There's nothing in it about allocating electoral votes.

Not to mention the fact that the exact same situation (some states allocating electoral votes differently than others) has occurred numerous times in our history, setting a precedent for split electoral votes that is well over 100 years old.

Posted by: BlueVA | November 8, 2008 9:37 AM

It does not matter because the electoral vote count is not that close.

But if the election hinged upon the one Nebraska electoral vote that Obama may win it could be challenged in the courts on a number of constitutional grounds.

At any rate, Nebraska Republicans were asleep at the switch when they permitted the change in the law that allowed electoral votes to be allocated by congressional districts because they gave the Democrats a chance at getting an electoral vote from a state where they would have had virtually no chance under the winner take all system.

To be fair, all states should use the same method of allocating electoral votes.

Posted by: danielhancock | November 8, 2008 1:33 AM

This must be so hard for you Obama haters.

You pushed Caps Lock psychosis through your keyboards for months. Now your only hope is a "gaffe" or "overreach".

McSameBushCheneyRumsfeldPalin people need to eat dirt.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 7, 2008 8:43 PM

Obama 365. Great news. Nebraska is no longer a Red state, it's striped. Both Michelle Obama and Clinton campaigned in Omaha to get this vote. Both Lincoln and Omaha went for Obama. Go Big Striped.

Posted by: dahusker | November 7, 2008 8:40 PM

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