Nebraska 2nd Congressional District Preview

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October 6, 2020 - 2:54pm

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which represents all of Douglas County and parts of Sarpy County, is a highly sought after political prize for both Republicans and Democrats. The district is notable for a few reasons, perhaps none more so than the fact that, politically, it represents a splotch of purple in a mostly ruby-red state.


Another reason the district is so important is because of the way Nebraska awards its electoral college votes during presidential elections. 

"Everybody except Nebraska and Maine has a system in which whichever candidate gets the most votes is going to get all of the electoral college votes from that state,”  according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Political Science Professor John Hibbing.“Nebraska and Main, however, break it down district by district...you could potentially win one district and get that single electoral college vote, but lose the other districts and not get those votes. “ 

That’s exactly what happened in 2008 when then-Senator Barack Obama barely secured the District, while his challenger, the late Senator John McCain, won Nebraska’s other congressional districts and electoral votes. The district got more attention as reports circulated that winning the district may have been part of an Obama campaign strategy to buffer the candidate in case of an even 269 vote split among the rest of the electoral college. In the case of a tie, that single electoral one vote could make all the difference.

“Well, there’s always that chance,” said Hibbing. “It really is a fairly slim chance, but it’s there.”

Since Obama’s win in 08, the district has swung for Democrat’s only once, when Democrat Brad Ashford was elected to the House in 2014. It’s a less than stellar record that Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb chalks up to a number of factors.

“It’s been a combination of the national Democratic Party not investing enough resources into the state party and the candidates, it’s been us not doing a good enough job really reaching communities of color… and then we’ve continually fallen short in the suburbs and in parts of Sarpy County that are in the 2nd congressional district,” said Kleb.

A redistricting effort nearly a decade ago, widely believed to have helped Republicans, probably didn’t help matters either. Still, the last few elections were close, only being decided by a few thousand votes. Kleeb believes that in 2020 Nebraska Democrats national investment and a winning message.

“When we go door-to-door, when we are talking to voters on the phone, or via Zoom these days, we mostly hear about healthcare,” said Kleeb. “That continues to be the number one issue.”

Kleeb believes Democrat’s focus on lowering the cost of and increasing access to healthcare will resonate most with voters in a year where over 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.

The Nebraska GOP, on the other hand, is optimistic about keeping the District Red. Executive Director Ryan Hamilton says the Democrats are pushing a message, but it’s not healthcare.

“From where I sit, the only thing they have to offer is hate of the president, “ said Hamilton. “Every time you talk to them and mention Trump’s name they froth at the mouth.” 

Hamilton said the Nebraska GOP is running on a  message of positivity by reminding voters of the victories of the Trump and Don Bacon administrations.

“We’re talking about immigration which the president has been great on. We’re talking about renegotiation of the United States Mexico Canada Trade Agreement which is a big help to our agricultural producers and the financiers in Omaha. We’re talking about education in the terms of the president offering the 1776 project to offer a patriotic curriculum.”

Instead of offering proactive policies, Hamilton believes Democrats have been little more than obstructionists over the last four years. 

“That's, I think, a huge contrast that shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Hamilton. We’ve got a positive vision going forward and all they (Democrats) have is a strident rejection of the man at the top.” 

Even with their message and a record of wins, Hamilton acknowledges the Nebraska GOP still has work to do if it wants a win to secure the district again come November.

“We are working as hard as we can to bring this thing home for President Trump here in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District and we’re going to leave everything out in the field.”

The FiveThirtyEight election forecast currently shows Biden favored to win the district.

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