Donald Trump’s super-spreader campaign rallies generally don’t matter in the big picture of things. But there’s one happening this evening that’s a little different.
Trump will be taking over a ramp at 7:30 p.m. at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield. It is being billed as an outdoor event with “strong precautions” in place to prevent the spread of a pandemic disease that the main speaker will be telling his audience is fake news. And they’re hoping to draw 10,000 potential pandemic patients.
The reason Trump is in Omaha is the same one that President Barack Obama was there in 2008: a recognition that the Nebraska 2nd congressional district’s one electoral vote could literally decide the fate of the free world. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that portion delegates in part by congressional districts.
Polling consistently shows that Maine’s stray congressional vote is far more likely to land in Trump’s column than Nebraska’s 2nd district dominated by Omaha and the suburbs. Even though Nebraska is heavily red and Maine heavily blue, the two, key one-vote districts are the opposite.
In 2008, Obama turned out not to need the lone electoral vote, as he beat the late Senator John McCain by a landslide. But 2020 is an entirely different matter.
Despite all the confusion about several hundred purported paths to victory for Biden and Trump, the math this time is quite simple. Biden needs to get to 270 electoral votes to win. Trump likely would win with a 269-269 tally, as the House of Representatives would break the tie by vote of Congressional delegations, of which they presently have a slim majority.
It will not matter next week what anyone thinks of the Electoral College system, by the way. It’s the scoring system in place for the most important American presidential election since the Civil War.
Biden comes into the race with the 232 electoral votes won by Hillary Clinton in the bank. They’re not going anywhere. The two most likely electoral hauls for Biden to flip back to blue from Trump’s stash are Michigan’s 16 votes and Wisconsin’s 10. That brings Biden up to 258.
The next most likely Biden flip is Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, which would represent game, set, match and put him up to 278 if he can restore the old Blue Wall in the Rust Belt. But while Biden seems to have a solid lead in the state, Trump is throwing everything at winning the state, including a full-fledged plan of cheating to win by tying up results in court and hoping that the state’s Republican legislature will do his dirty work in the end.
So, let’s say that happens, and Trump and the Republican steal Pennsylvania like it was some seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. In that event, guess what’s the next most likely red state for Biden to flip, pretty much by consensus opinion of pollsters and experts?
Why, it’s Arizona, where Biden is leading in the race for its 11 electoral votes. And guess what? Those 11 votes added to Clinton’s map plus Michigan plus Wisconsin equals 269.
At that point, Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district would matter a great deal, to put it mildly, which is why Trump is there tonight. In the most recent non-partisan poll available, the Siena College/New York Times Upshot had Biden leading by a margin of 48-to-41 percent with a 5.3 percent margin of error, but that was way back on data collected September 25-27.
So, the district is totally up for grabs. And the scenario is not just possible, but perhaps the most likely, if Trump were to get his itty-bitty hands on Pennsylvania.
On a darkly bright note there’s this, from today’s Omaha World-Herald:
“Trump’s visit comes after Douglas County posted a record number of new coronavirus cases for the fourth week in a row. The county added 1,661 cases last week, which was up from 1,598 the week before.
“Public health experts have advised that even people who are outdoors should wear a mask if they are going to be in sustained contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus.”
So, there is a real possibility that Trump’s will enhance pain-and-suffering, and even the death toll, in Omaha and environs. That, of course, could not matter less to the Narcissist-In-Chief, especially since that might not be obvious until after next Tuesday.
But it also represents a messaging opportunity for Democrats: Trump is willing to risk your lives for his election. Trump’s recklessness might not play so well in Omaha’s suburbs.
There was this irony, after all, as is the custom for attending a Trump rally.
“Those who register ‘acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present’ and that attendees ‘assume all risks related to exposure’ to the virus,” the World Herald reported. So much for this being a virus whose lethality has been exaggerated.
In 2016, Trump won the district by 6,534 votes. In 2008, Obama won it by 3,376 votes.
David Plouffe, one of Obama’s top mastermind’s, described the district as “my personal favorite target” in his book, “The Audacity to Win,” about Obama’s historic election.
Biden and Harris would be well to make it one of theirs, as well.