As Goes Omaha, So Goes the White House?

As Goes Omaha, So Goes the White House?

By Ryan Long, BGR Group Principal

Former Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) once proposed moving the American capital to Nebraska. While that is not likely to happen anytime soon, Omaha may be the most consequential city in the 2024 election. Most people would shrug that off because it is not in one of the so-called swing states. However, the voters of Omaha may very well determine the next President.

A candidate must secure 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency. Using the Cook Political Report Presidential Ratings, President Biden currently projects to have 226 electoral votes from states ranked as likely or safe Democrat. Former President Trump currently has 219 electoral votes that are currently ranked safe or likely Republican.  Add in North Carolina that is currently rated as lean Republican and the number for President Trump jumps up to 235.

That leaves six states currently rated as toss up, totaling 79 electoral votes. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average Trump has a lead of 4.6% or higher in three of them; Georgia with a total of 16 electoral votes, Arizona with 11 and Nevada with 6. If all of those are put in the Trump column, he is now up to 268 electoral votes. Close but still shy of the needed 270.

Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are considered the Democrats’ historical blue wall. Despite quite a few close races before 2016, Wisconsin hadn’t voted for a Republican since 1984 while Michigan and Pennsylvania hadn’t voted for a Republican nominee since 1988. Trump beat Hilary Clinton in 2016 in all three states with margins under one percent. In 2020 those states swung back to the Democrats with Biden winning Michigan by less than three percent, Pennsylvania by less than two percent and Wisconsin by less than one percent.

On the Real Clear Politics average Trump is currently ahead in all three states but with thin margins of two percent or less in all three. A victory in any of three likely leads to a second Trump Administration.  For the sake of argument only let’s say the historical blue wall holds and votes with President Biden.  That would net him 270 electoral votes and the presidency…maybe.

Maine and Nebraska award two electoral votes to the state-wide winner and one electoral vote for the winner of each congressional seat in the state.  Cook Political Report currently rates Maine’s Second Congressional District as likely Republican.  Given that Trump won the district in 2020 by almost 7.5%, he is the prohibitive favorite to win that district again in 2024.

This is where Omaha comes in. Popular former Air Force General, four term Republican Congressman Don Bacon won renomination easily on Tuesday but the district has voted for the Democrat nominee two times in the last four presidential elections. President Obama carried the district in 2008 but it reverted back to the GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. In 2016 the district went for Trump but it switched to Biden in 2020. For this exercise let’s say Nebraska reverts back to Trump in 2024. Instead of a 270 to 268 Biden electoral college victory, there would be a 269-269 tie. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives would determine the next President based on a vote of state congressional delegations. Currently, the GOP controls 27 delegations and the Democrats control 22 with Minnesota being tied. Any vote would be taken in the new Congress, which will be sworn in in January of 2025.

The nation’s eyes turn to Omaha every June for the College Baseball World Series. Come November, all eyes could be on Omaha again if the presidential vote falls a certain way