The battle of Omaha has begun: analysis

The battle of Omaha has begun: analysis
Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with supporters at a community event at Sun City MacDonald Ranch in Henderson, Nevada. Credit: Gage Skidmore

Way back in April, which is like 237 years ago in COVID time, I wrote about the importance of Omaha, Nebraska, this presidential season. I came up with four plausible 269-269 Electoral College maps, making this rare single-electoral vote district critically important to Democratic efforts this fall. Now, it’s official.


This isn’t the only Democratic spending in the state, given a competitive House race in the district. The House Majority PAC, the official super PAC of House Democrats, has reserved $900,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official party committee of those same House Democrats, has reserved another $520,000. That $1.4 million is a lot of money for Nebraska TV. Cash-poor House Republicans have reserved $650,000 themselves.

This year, we’re currently seeing a dramatic national shift toward Democratic nominee Joe Biden, leading the polling aggregate 53.9 to 46.1%, or 7.8 points. Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2.1 in 2016, meaning a net Democratic shift of around 5.7 points. Looking at the aggregate polling in the core battlegrounds, we can see how relatively uniform that shift is:

STATE2016 MARGIN2020 POLL AGGREGATESHIFT
NATIONALClinton +2.1Biden 7.8Biden +5.7
MICHIGANTrump +0.2Biden +7.2Biden +7.4
PENNSYLVANIATrump +0.7Biden +5.2Biden +5.9
WISCONSINTrump +0.8Biden +6.2Biden +7.0
FLORIDATrump +1.2Biden +3.4Biden +4.6
ARIZONATrump +3.5Biden +2.8Biden +6.3
NORTH CAROLINATrump +3.7Biden +1.0Biden +4.7
GEORGIATrump +5.1Trump +0.8Biden +5.9
OHIOTrump +8.1Trump +2.6Biden +5.5
IOWATrump +9.4Trump +2.6Biden +6.8

There is correlation between national and state polls, which makes sense considering how stable voting demographics have been. No one has shifted in any significant fashion other than college-educated suburban white women. As such, it’s not surprising that every one of those battleground states has stayed within 1.4 points of the national shift.

Donald Trump won this Omaha-based district, Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, 48.2 to 46 in 2016, which would make it the fifth closest state if it was a state, nestled between Florida and Arizona. If it has shifted like the rest of the states, it should be a roughly three-point Biden lead.

A July poll by the campaign of House Democratic challenger Kara Eastman found Biden leading 51-44. A May poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had Biden leading 52-41. And yes, Biden could totally be outrunning his national shift in this district given that it is all urban-suburban—the very kind of territory in which Democrats have made virtually all their gains since Trump took office. (Remember, of the 41 House districts picked up in 2018, 38 of them were in suburban districts. And Democrats only lost this seat by two points.)

Of course, both those are Democratic internal polls. But Republicans haven’t answered in kind, meaning that they don’t have the data to refute what Democrats are seeing.

And now we have Biden’s campaign take to the airwaves, not just hitting Omaha proper, but also getting a little Iowa side-benefits, as the Omaha market extends into southwestern Iowa.

Omaha, Nebraska media market map (WHO13 TV)

I’ve outlined in red the boundaries of that Omaha media market. Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district is entirely inside Douglas and Sarpy counties, which I've also highlighted. Both those Nebraska counties are on the western bank of the Missouri River, which marks the border with Iowa on the eastern bank.

Trump is barely hanging on to Iowa, as you can see in the poll aggregates above.

This is a critically important piece of Biden’s electoral effort, protecting against those nightmare 269-269 maps that would throw the election to the House of Representatives, where byzantine rules would likely give Republicans the advantage, despite being in the deep minority. American “democracy” once again in action.

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