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Sarah Barracuda Visits Nebraska

October 13, 2008

Omaha, Nebraska - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee, was here, of all places, last Sunday to breathe some much-needed life into her running mate's lackluster candidacy. It may simultaneously indicate a rational strategy and a sense of panic on the part of the McCain campaign.

The state of Nebraska is about as reliably red as any state in the country. In both the 2000 and 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush carried all 93 of the state's counties, and a higher percentage of the popular vote than he received in his native Texas. In fact, the last time a Democrat carried Nebraska in a presidential race was 1964, the year Republican Barry Goldwater was swamped by Lyndon Johnson.

With the news that McCain is suspending campaign activity in the heretofore contested state of Michigan, one has to ask, why Omaha? The answer lies in the unique manner in which the Cornhusker State allocates its electoral votes. Only Nebraska and Maine apportion their votes according to who wins a particular congressional district.

Nebraska has five electoral votes, two at-large and one for each of its three congressional districts. If McCain wins the state as a whole, which he is expected to do easily, he will be awarded the state's two at-large electoral votes. The other three will be awarded based on who wins a given congressional district. The problem during this razor-close election is that Nebraska's Second Congressional District, comprised mainly of the city of Omaha, could go either way.

This possibility has not been lost on the left-wing blogosphere, either. The Daily Kos recently posted Omaha voter registration information on their web site. It reads as follows:

"According to the Douglas County Election Commission, as of October 1, 2008, there are 119,858 registered Democrats and 121,664 Republicans, a difference of only 1806. Douglas County makes up approximately 90 percent of the 2nd Congressional District in Nebraska...The Douglas County Democratic Party took full advantage of the 2008 Nebraska Democratic Caucus and from May 2007 through the Caucuses, 8,494 Democrats were added to the Democratic Party rolls. DCDP's Vote Omaha Project reached its 10,000th Democrat on March 13, 2008. In total, DCDP has added 17,721 voters to the Democratic Party since May 2007."

The Omaha appearance gave Gov. Palin a dual opportunity to reach out to Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, but also to Western Iowa, which tends to be the most conservative part of that purple state.

Truth be told, Nebraska and Maine probably have it right. The Left would likely be shocked to see how purple their blue states really are. The fact that 55 to 60 percent of a state like California has tilted blue for lo these many decades is a very undemocratic way of letting the voice of the people be heard. But perhaps that is the point. The Democrats have relied on the fact that two or three big cities can drown out the voices of 50 little ones. Maybe it is time the little cities had a chance to speak.

If McCain is smart, he himself will make an appearance in Omaha before the election. The aforementioned breakdown of Democrat versus Republican voter registration in Douglas County is not truly reflective of the ideological divide between the two parties. A Nebraska Democrat is not the same animal as a Massachusetts, New York or California Democrat. He or she may be fiscally conservative, in support of the Second Amendment and of the war on terror and may very well even be pro-life. This is exactly the type of Democrat to whom John McCain can appeal. There are also a lot of independent votes he can win here.

John McCain and Sarah Palin can still win this election. In the same way that Democrat primary voters spent the latter races handing victory after victory to Hillary Clinton, the voters of Omaha, Nebraska, and the rest of the nation will spend the next month soul searching as to whether they can really vote to put a radical like Barack Obama in the White House.

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Copyright ©2008 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.