I have lived in Nebraska off and on since the early 70s when I was a little kid. And though I wasn't exactly engaged in politics as a toddler, records show that Nebraska's electoral college votes have gone to the Republican candidate for president every year since 1964. LBJ. He was the last Democrat to get Nebraska's electoral votes. But something is changing here and both the McCain and Obama campaigns are aware of it.
Nebraska is one of two states that allows for the splitting of its electoral college votes based on the results in each Congressional district. It is starting to look like at least one of Nebraska's five electoral college votes could go Democratic this year. Our 2nd district (which mostly consists of Omaha) is being seriously contested by Barack Obama, and that fact has scared the McCain campaign. It is so scared, in fact, that it sent Sarah Palin to Omaha last night for a last minute rally.
The idea that a Republican candidate for president needs to campaign in Nebraska with less than 30 days to go before the election is shocking. There is no other way to describe it. And though Sarah Palin drew a decent crowd, her speech was delivered in the Omaha Civic Auditorium's smaller Music Hall -- not the main arena. By contrast, when Barack Obama came to Nebraska during the primaries (not as the nominee) he filled the larger arena, and had more than 3,000 people left outside. His audience was more than double that of Palin's, and that was eight months ago! There are rumors that he will be returning to Omaha again before the election, and I bet he will have to go to the much larger Qwest Center (capacity 20,000) to accomidate the crowd.
Barack recently opened a second campaign office in Omaha, and brought in more paid staffers. I don't think Kerry or Gore even had one office here, and Nebraska was the only state that Bill Clinton did not visit as president.
All this for one electoral vote? Yep. And because the extra attention should help down ballot Democrats like Jim Esch for Congress and Scott Kleeb for Senate. I am usually sick to my stomach thinking how my neighbors are all Republicans and that they look at Sarah Palin and see a potential Vice President (or thought George W. Bush should be re-elected). But this year the folks are wising up. When I drive around Omaha, I see tons of Obama yard signs and only a handful of McCain ones. Every time I go to the grocery store or Walgreens or the bank and people see my Obama pin, I get a thumbs up -- not an angry scowl like my Kerry button got in '04.
And I will be prouder than proud if that one electoral vote makes the difference in an Obama victory.