United States presidential election in Nebraska, 2008

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United States presidential election in Nebraska, 2008
← 2004 November 4, 2008 2012 →
  John McCain official portrait with alternative background.jpg Obama portrait crop.jpg
Nominee John McCain Barack Obama
Party Republican Democratic
Home state Arizona Illinois
Running mate Sarah Palin Joe Biden
Electoral vote 4 1
Popular vote 452,979 333,319
Percentage 56.5% 41.6%

Nebraska presidential election results 2008.svg
County Results

President before election

George W. Bush

Elected President

Barack Obama

The 2008 United States presidential election in Nebraska took place on November 4, 2008 as part of the 2008 United States presidential election. Voters chose 5 electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President. However, this state is one of the two states of the U.S. that, instead of giving all of its electors to the winner based on its statewide results, just 2 of them vote based on the statewide results, and the others vote based on their individual congressional district results.

Nebraska, statewide, was not a swing state in 2008. Located in the Great Plains of the United States, it is one of the most staunchly Republican states in the country. While some hypothetical general election match-up polls between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama showed the race to be seemingly close, they were largely regarded as outliers as more polls released showed McCain leading in double digits. McCain wound up carrying the popular vote in Nebraska by 14.93 points, taking in 56.53% of the total statewide vote. However, Obama narrowly defeated McCain in Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, which contains Omaha and the surrounding areas. Due to Nebraska's system of allocating electoral votes to winners of Congressional Districts, Obama was able to win one electoral vote while John McCain received the state's other four electoral votes.

Primaries & caucuses[edit]

Campaign statewide[edit]


McCain led in every single pre-election poll. Since May, he led in each poll by a double digit margin of victory and each with at least 52% of the vote.[1]


John McCain raised a total of $678,059 in the state, while Barack Obama raised $864,393.[2]

Advertising and visits[edit]

Obama spent $55,807 while McCain and the Republican Trust PAC spent a total of just $1,225.[3] Both Obama and McCain visited the state once. Obama held a downtown rally at Omaha[4] and McCain traveled to both Omaha and Ashland. Palin also visited Omaha once.[5]

Campaign in Omaha[edit]

Nebraska has two electoral votes that go to the winner of the popular vote in the state, while the other three are split based on whichever candidate wins the popular vote in each of Nebraska's three congressional districts, all of which have trended Republican in the past elections. However Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, based in the city of Omaha, is significantly less conservative.

The second CD of Nebraska was actually considered as a battleground area by some, leading the Obama campaign to open a single campaign office in Omaha with 15 staff members to cover the congressional district in September 2008.[6] More than 900 people attended the opening of those offices. Democratic Mayor Mike Fahey of Omaha said that he would do whatever it takes to deliver the electoral vote tied to the 2nd Congressional District to Obama, and the Obama Campaign considered Nebraska's 2nd congressional district "in play".[7] Former Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey and then senior U.S. Senator Ben Nelson campaigned in the city for Obama.[8]


Nebraska, part of the conservative Great Plains region, is one of the most Republican states in the nation. It has only gone Democratic in a presidential election seven times since statehood. Continuing on that trend, McCain won the Cornhusker State by nearly 15 points. Obama was only able to win four counties: Douglas County, which contains Omaha; Lancaster County, which contains the state capital of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska; Saline County; and Thurston County, which contains a Native American reservation and was the only county to be won by John Kerry in 2004. No Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide 1964 victory has ever won more than four counties in Nebraska.[9] In 2008, McCain won Nebraska's 1st Congressional District and Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District by fairly safe margins,[10] along with the state as a whole, but Obama managed to carry Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, based in Omaha, by a slim margin of 1,260 votes, resulting in one of Nebraska's five electoral votes being awarded to Obama.[11] This was a particularly notable win, because with Nebraska's split electoral vote system Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win an electoral vote from Nebraska since 1964.[12]

Obama did particularly well in the state's two most populated counties, Douglas and Lancaster. While John Kerry had lost these counties by double-digits, Obama was able to carve out small victories in a state he lost by a landslide.[13]

During the same election, Republicans held the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Chuck Hagel who retired. Former Republican Governor Mike Johanns easily defeated Democrat Scott Kleeb, a rancher, by 17.46 points. Johanns received 57.52% of the total vote while Kleeb took in 40.06%. At the state level, a candidate known to be a Republican picked up a seat in the nonpartisan and unicameral Nebraska Legislature in 2008.



United States presidential election in Nebraska, 2008
Party Candidate Running mate Votes Percentage Electoral votes
Republican John McCain Sarah Palin 452,979 56.53% 4
Democratic Barack Obama Joe Biden 333,319 41.60% 1
Independent Ralph Nader Matt Gonzalez 5,406 0.67% 0
Constitution Chuck Baldwin Darrell Castle 2,972 0.37% 0
Write-ins Write-in candidates 2,837 0.35% 0
Libertarian Bob Barr Wayne Allyn Root 2,740 0.34% 0
Green Cynthia McKinney Rosa Clemente 1,028 0.13% 0
Totals 801,281 100.00% 5
Voter turnout n/a

Congressional District[edit]

John McCain carried two of the state’s three congressional districts, while Barack Obama carried one congressional district held by a Republican.

District McCain Obama Representative
1st 54.10% 44.33% Jeff Fortenberry
2nd 48.75% 49.97% Lee Terry
3rd 68.64% 29.63% Adrian Smith


Technically the voters of Nebraska cast their ballots for electors: representatives to the Electoral College. Nebraska is allocated 5 electors because it has 3 congressional districts and 2 senators. All candidates who appear on the ballot or qualify to receive write-in votes must submit a list of 5 electors, who pledge to vote for their candidate and his or her running mate. Whoever wins the majority of votes in the state is awarded 2 electoral votes, and the other 3 are allocated via the individual results of the congressional districts. Their chosen electors then vote for President and Vice President. Although electors are pledged to their candidate and running mate, they are not obligated to vote for them.[14] An elector who votes for someone other than his or her candidate is known as a faithless elector.

The electors of each state and the District of Columbia met on December 15, 2008 to cast their votes for President and Vice President. The Electoral College itself never meets as one body. Instead the electors from each state and the District of Columbia met in their respective capitols.

The following were the 5 members of the Electoral College from the state. 4 of the electors were pledged to John McCain and Sarah Palin; 2 at large, 1 for each of the 1st and 3rd Congressional districts. 1 was pledged to Barack Obama and Joe Biden:


  1. ^ Election 2008 Polls – Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections
  2. ^ Presidential Campaign Finance
  3. ^ "Map: Campaign Ad Spending - Election Center 2008 from CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ YouTube – Barack Obama Omaha Rally
  5. ^ "Map: Campaign Candidate Visits - Election Center 2008 from CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Obama Camp Targets Omaha: Obama Makes A Play In Nebraska, One Of Only Two States That Can Split It's Electoral Votes", CBS. Retrieved 9/27/08.
  7. ^ Bratton, A.J. "Hundreds visit Obama's Omaha headquarters", Associated Press. September 10, 2008. Retrieved 9/27/08.
  8. ^ "Senators To Campaign In Omaha For Obama", KETV. September 12, 2008. Retrieved 9/27/08.
  9. ^ Leip, David. "Presidential General Election Map Comparison Nebraska". Retrieved April 19, 2009. 
  10. ^ "CNN Election Center 2008 – Nebraska Results". Retrieved November 23, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Omaha.com Elections Section". Archived from the original on November 10, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Obama wins electoral votes in Omaha", Omaha World-Herald. November 8, 2008. Retrieved 11/11/08.
  13. ^ "Election Results 2008". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 3, 2004. Retrieved April 19, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Electoral College". California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on October 30, 2008. Retrieved November 1, 2008. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Nebraska Certificate of Ascertainment, page 1 of 3.. National Archives and Record Administration.
  16. ^ Elector casts first Nebraska Democratic vote in 44 years, Omaha World-Herald.

See also[edit]