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Republicans eye an electoral vote in Nebraska that could be decisive in Trump-Biden contest

Republicans eye an electoral vote in Nebraska that could be decisive in Trump-Biden contest
A lone electoral vote in Nebraska could have a decisive impact on the 2024 presidential election

And that reality is now being seized upon by prominent Republicans. 

Nebraska is a reliably red state in presidential races. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win statewide was Lyndon B. Johnson over half a century ago. 

But Nebraska is one of only two states — Maine is the other — that  awards a portion of its respective electoral votes to the candidate who wins individual congressional districts. Its most closely watched electoral vote typically comes from an area that includes the major metro city of Omaha and is far more competitive than the rest of the state. The district’s electoral vote has swung back and forth in recent cycles. 

Republican Donald Trump won the district’s electoral vote in 2016, but he lost it to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. Democratic President Barack Obama lost it to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, but had won it in his first run for the White House in 2008

The 2024 rematch between Mr. Biden and Trump is expected to be a close race nationally, and in at least one scenario, the presidency could come down to who wins the Omaha-based district. The path is far from a sure thing, but in an unusual election cycle like 2024, the unlikely can quickly become increasingly possible. 

If Trump wins all the electoral votes he carried in 2020, and wins Arizona, Georgia and Nevada — all states that he lost in the first matchup against Mr. Biden — he would have 268 electoral votes, two shy of winning back the White House. 

If Mr. Biden carries the remaining electoral votes he won in 2020, including those in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, he would be one vote short of winning a second term. 

In this situation Mr. Biden would have to win the Omaha congressional district in Nebraska to become president outright. 

If Trump were to win all of Nebraska’s electoral votes, including the Omaha swing district, the electoral college would be tied at 269 to 269, sending the outcome of the election to the U.S. House to be decided. 

Earlier this week, one prominent right wing commentator seemed to take note of Nebraska’s potentially decisive role in the election. 

Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, posted on social media about the situation on Tuesday afternoon, writing that “Nebraskans should call their legislators and their governor to demand their state stop pointlessly giving strength to their political enemies.” 

He also called attention to a bill in the Nebraska Legislature that would shift the state to a winner-take-all system and end the practice of giving each congressional district its own electoral vote. He ended his message with an encouragement for people to reach out to the state’s GOP Gov. Jim Pillen and “let him know you want this fixed.” 

Hours later, Pillen’s office posted a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, emphasizing his support for the bill and calling for the change to pass. And later that night, Trump himself posted on social media applauding the governor’s statement. 

CBS News has reached out to the Biden campaign and Republican Congressman Don Bacon, who represents Omaha’s congressional district, for comment. 

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said in a statement that “Nebraskans want to keep our fair electoral system in place which is why previous attempts by some Republicans over the last thirty years have failed to undo our split electoral votes.” 

All that talk doesn’t mean that the Nebraska Legislature is ready to plow ahead and upend the state’s electoral system, despite the strong GOP nature of the state. But the surge in attention points to how close the 2024 election could turn out to be. 

“It’s pathetic,” Nebraska State Sen. Megan Hunt, who is not a Biden supporter and represents part of Omaha, said in a text message to CBS News when asked about the GOP push. “And if [Trump] wants to win Omaha’s vote, he should come earn it.” 

Aaron Navarro and Olivia Rinaldi contributed to this report. 

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