A map from “270 to Win,” a projection model aggregator.


In the ever shifting and Oz-behind-the-curtain sorcery of political projections, there’s a new space to watch that could decide the 2020 election.

Nebraska’s Second Congressional District.

The district that makes up all of Douglas County and parts of Sarpy got some recognition yesterday when Nate Silver, founder and editor of FiveThirtyEight, tweeted that 2020 could come down to the district.

Politically inclined Nebraskans’ blood pressures rose as some around the country, at least the portion that follows this kind of stuff closely, turned its attention toward the state. 

Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that split their electoral votes. The decision narrowly passed the legislature in 1992 by a vote of 25 to 23 before then Gov. Ben Nelson signed it into law.

The thought was the change would bring more attention to presidential elections, though any district in Nebraska has hardly come close to a deciding factor. In fact the only time NE-2 has split from the rest of the state on a presidential election was in 2008 when Barack Obama targeted the area in his race against John McCain. It’s gone reliably Republican every other time.

Some used certain expletives to describe where Silver was pulling this scenario out of. And it wouldn’t be wrong to doubt. The stakes in Nebraska are relatively low.

The prize of winning NE-2 is one electoral vote out of five in the state and 538 across the nation. Bigger trophy swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida, with 60 electoral votes between them, which Silver pointed out, will undoubtedly play a much larger role.

But tides are changing in NE-2. Kara Eastman, a progressive Democratic candidate running on healthcare reform, continues beating centrists in primaries and narrowly lost to Rep. Don Bacon in 2016.

Right now, many projection models are leaning strongly toward Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. However, the latter defied projections in 2016 to win the election—Silver’s own site took a credibility hit as it had projected a Clinton victory. Both campaigns have presences in the community and candidates for Congressional representative have tied the race closely to national movements in progressive politics.

But if it comes down to the wire, who knows, NE-2 and its measly one vote, could play a huge part in tipping the scales one way or the other for this election. 

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Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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