Democrat Joe Biden painted Omaha blue on Tuesday, winning the single electoral vote in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.
In the end, an Omaha airport rally by President Donald Trump last week wasn’t enough to deliver the 2nd District to the Republican incumbent.
The local win came as the outcome of the race nationally remained unclear. If the final outcome is nearly a tie in the Electoral College, the Omaha area’s single vote could be critical for Biden to reach the 270 electoral votes to win the White House.
Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, celebrated the results as a “transformative moment for our party, state and nation.”
“Biden earned the trust of voters across party lines, and it is now our job to keep doing the work on the ground,” she said.
By Wednesday morning, Biden’s margin of victory over Trump was more than 6 percentage points.
Trump won the district’s electoral vote in 2016 by about 2 percentage points. The Omaha-based district last went to a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, when then-Sen. Barack Obama won it and the presidency.
Paul Landow, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Trump ran into the same problems connecting with Omaha’s urban and suburban voters that he has nationally.
Larger numbers of Nebraska Republicans than Democrats waited until Election Day to vote, Landow said, but the Omaha rally did not excite enough Trump supporters to follow through and vote.
“Biden’s been leading this thing for a long time,” Landow said of the 2nd District, home to the state’s most Democrats. “He held his lead. The enthusiasm for Trump just wasn’t there.”
Nebraska and Maine are the only two states to split their electoral votes by awarding a single vote to the winner of each congressional district instead of awarding them all to the winner of the statewide popular vote.
Nebraska awards another two electoral votes to the winner statewide.
Trump won the two electoral votes set aside for Nebraska’s statewide winner and the vote from the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
The president also appeared to be pulling away late Tuesday to pick up a fourth electoral vote in the 1st District, which includes Lincoln.
In 2016, Trump won all five of Nebraska’s electoral votes.
In neighboring Iowa, Trump appeared to have secured the Hawkeye State’s six electoral votes.
Leaders of the Nebraska Republican Party and the Douglas County GOP had argued for weeks that Trump voters were more enthusiastic and that there were more of them than opinion polls found.
“I am disappointed to learn that our hardest efforts were not enough to persuade Omaha voters that a future under the leadership of President Trump was the better option for the future of our community,” said Dan Welch, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, in a statement provided by Ryan Hamilton, executive director of the state GOP Party.
Polls in the 2nd District showed Biden with a lead for most of the race, with Trump trailing among nonpartisans and shedding some centrist Republicans over his handling of the federal coronavirus response.
Trump’s campaign showered the district with attention, sending the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. three times; Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, once; and second lady Karen Pence once.
Biden didn’t visit Omaha, but his wife, Jill Biden, and Doug Emhoff, the husband of his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, visited the Omaha area. Emhoff came back a second time.
Biden’s 2nd District win, like that of his former boss in 2008, will likely revive GOP efforts to award all five of Nebraska’s electoral votes to the statewide winner, Landow said.
“They vowed to change it last time around and never got the job done,” he said.
Counting will continue overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning, and any early voting ballots returned on Election Day will not be counted until Friday in Douglas County.
Provisional ballots will be counted next week.