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Television ads aside, Omahans might be feeling a little neglected these days as the presidential campaigns bear down with a laser focus on the remaining handful of swing states.
Just across the river, Iowans have been awash in campaign rallies with the candidates themselves and top-level surrogates such as former President Bill Clinton.
Ohio, seen as ground zero, has gotten special attention. Even Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., flew to the Buckeye State to stump for Republican Mitt Romney last month.
But eastern Nebraska has not seen the same level of interest from the campaigns despite at least some scenarios in which the election could be decided by Omaha-area voters.
Okay, it's an outcome only somewhat more likely than being crushed by a voting booth.
One analysis by the New York Times' political prognostication blog FiveThirtyEight pegged the odds at roughly 1,000-to-1 against the Omaha-centric 2nd Congressional District being the tipping point in a close election. That's roughly the same odds that you or someone you know will be struck by lightning over the course of your lifetime.
Cue Jim Carrey's line from the movie “Dumber and Dumber.”
“So you're telling me there's a chance ... ”
John Hibbing, political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, would advise against betting on Omaha determining the election's outcome.
“Extremely slim but bigger than zero,” Hibbing said of the chances. “Still, it could happen.”
It's a fun parlor game — moving around pieces of the electoral college jigsaw puzzle to see how Omahans could determine the ultimate result.
The scenario hinges on Nebraska's unusual method of dividing its electoral votes — granting one vote to the winner of each congressional district and two additional votes to the winner statewide.
There's only one other state that splits its electoral votes the same way — Maine.
Republican Mitt Romney is a lock to win statewide in Nebraska, just as Republican John McCain did in 2008, when Obama snagged the 2nd District. It came to be known as the “blue dot” on an otherwise deeply Republican-red landscape.
The most likely scenario in which the 2nd District could swing the election is if Obama wins three of the current battleground states, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin, and Romney takes the rest, including Iowa, as well as all of Nebraska's votes. That would result in a 269-269 tie.
Moving Nebraska's 2nd from Romney's column to Obama's would then give Obama the election.
There are plenty of reasons to think that won't happen.
Democrats haven't worked the district as hard as they did in 2008. There's not the same national Democratic surge. The boundaries of the 2nd District have been redrawn, resulting in a slightly more Republican lean, and World-Herald polling shows Romney pulling ahead there. Republicans also are leaving little to chance, with a number of mailings targeting the district.
Even if Obama wins the 2nd District again, that would most likely indicate that he's doing well enough overall to win many other swing states and sail to an easy victory.
Nebraskans are more accustomed to their state's five electoral votes being a foregone conclusion for Republicans, said Paul Landow, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“There's some excitement and some just plain fun in thinking that Omaha could have an impact,” he said. “But in many ways it's kind of a fantasy.”
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