Obama wins electoral vote in Nebraska
In the process, he made history and shone the spotlight on Nebraska's unusual electoral college system.
Obama won 8,434 of 15,039 mail-in ballots counted Friday by Douglas County election officials. These early ballots arrived in the election commissioner's office too late to be included in Tuesday's election results.
The additional votes gave Obama a 1,260-vote lead over Republican John McCain in unofficial returns. McCain won the popular vote statewide and four electoral votes.
About 5,000 provisional ballots in Douglas County remain to be counted next week, but they are unlikely to change the 2nd District outcome. About half of such ballots typically are disqualified.
"We always knew we could do it, but it would be an uphill climb. It's great to see a little corner of Nebraska turn blue," said John Berge, state director for the Obama campaign.
Berge said the victory was a tribute to all the work done by staffers and the hundreds of Obama volunteers that manned telephones and walked neighborhoods in the Omaha metropolitan area.
Republican Hal Daub, McCain's state director, congratulated Obama on his win. He praised the candidate for coming to Omaha in February, saying it made for a "fun election."
"My hat's off to the leadership of the Obama campaign in the 2nd District. It was well-fought," Daub said. "By and large, in the 2nd District, it was a clean campaign. We stayed away from the extreme rhetoric."
The Nebraska results give Obama his 365th electoral vote. McCain's tally stands at 162. Only Missouri's 11 electoral votes remain undecided.
Obama's win will assuredly spark interest in the split electoral system, which only Nebraska and Maine use. All other states are winner-take-all on electoral votes.
It was the first time since 1964 that Nebraska has awarded an electoral vote to a Democrat. The state has been reliably Republican since it voted for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson that year.
Obama ignored Nebraska's history this year, sending 16 paid staffers into the 2nd District and opening three offices in Omaha.
It was part of his strategy to expand the electoral map and to fight for votes in traditional GOP strongholds.
A 1991 state law allowed Obama to concentrate his efforts on the Omaha area, where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
Nebraska is the first state in the modern era to have a split electoral decision.
Nebraska and Maine are not, however, the first states to try a split-electoral system, said Randy Adkins, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
"This is an old, recycled idea," Adkins said.
Several states flirted with similar systems in the early 1800s, including Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina.
One of the last to use it was Michigan, which split its electoral votes in the 1892 presidential election between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland.
States began abandoning the split system in the late 19th century. Political parties, especially those dominating in particular states, led the effort for a winner-take-all system.
"It's political greed," said George Edwards, chairman of presidential studies at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service and editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly.
"The dominant political parties want all of the votes," Edwards said.
He hopes that Obama's win in Nebraska will spark interest in the split system around the nation, saying it does a better job of representing the will of the people. Edwards said that in the past, groups in California and Colorado have tried to get a split-electoral system passed with no success.
"I think it would be very healthy if this sparked some discussion . . . and I suspect that it will," he said.