Donald Trump may have helped seal a key electoral vote from Nebraska last night: For Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
In a disastrous turn of events that’s a metaphor for the Trump Administration, Trump’s rally at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield in freezing temperatures resulted in multiple people hospitalized and thousands stranded on highways. Many among those waiting in the cold were elderly.
“Following President Donald Trump's rally Tuesday night at Eppley Airfield, many attendees struggled to leave the area and multiple people were taken to the hospital,” KETV-7, Omaha’s ABC-TV affiliate, reported. “More details are expected to be released later Wednesday.”
As one of Trump’s super-spreader events, the rally had been widely panned by Democrats and others as a health risk to Omaha residents, where COVID-19 numbers have spiked in recent weeks. Apparently, frostbite needs to get added to the risk factors.
Wind-chill levels fell to the 20s, the station reported. That apparently didn’t dampen supporters’ enthusiasm for Trump, nor Trump’s enthusiasm for misstating simple facts.
“The president was greeted by a large crowd which was chanting ‘four more years,” KETV reported. ‘Is there any place you would rather be than a Trump rally on about a 10-degree evening?” the president asked on the 31-degree night.
The one-hour rally ended at 9:00, but it took until well after midnight to clear the area.
“Thousands who had gathered to hear him speak were stuck in traffic, many left without a way to get back to their vehicles on the other side of the airport.” It was reported.
Attendees told KETV NewsWatch 7 that there weren't enough buses for all of the people. A reporter tweeted that he heard an Omaha officer say, “We need at least 30 more buses."
The Washington Post was there, as well.
“As long lines of MAGA-clad attendees queued up for buses to take them to distant parking lots, it quickly became clear something was wrong” the Post reported.
“The buses, the huge crowd soon learned, couldn’t navigate the jammed airport roads. For hours, attendees — including many elderly Trump supporters — stood in the cold, as police scrambled to help those most at-risk get to warmth.
Democrats didn’t waste time seizing on the disaster. The Omaha World-Herald interviewed Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party.
“Leaving thousands of Nebraskans stranded in the cold captures the entire Trump administration,’ she told the newspaper. “I hope those responsible for the poor planning to feed Trump’s ego will be held accountable and that fellow Nebraskans turn out to vote to end this chaos.”
And there was this: “Supporters of the President were brought in, but buses weren’t able to get back to transport people out. It’s freezing and snowy in Omaha tonight,” tweeted Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt (D). “He truly does not care about you.”
For their part, Trump supporters, who had been willing to expose themselves to COVID-19 for an hour of presidential assurance that “we’ve turned the corner” on the pandemic, were at least openly fine with the chaotic scene.
Kris Beckenbach of Lincoln, who volunteered to help at the rally, said she didn't blame organizers.
"How do you practice for that?" she told the World Herald, noting the thousands of people who attended. (The crowd was estimated at more than 6,000). The newspaper quoted the Trump supporter as saying she would do it all again:
"I would go up early and stand there all those hours. It was an adventure," she said. "It was absolutely an adventure."
Trump went to Omaha because Nebraska is just one of two states (Maine being the other) that portions its vote by congressional district. Polls have shown Biden leading in the 2nd district anchored by Omaha and suburbs.
Were Biden to hold Hilary Clinton’s 232 votes and flip Wisconsin (where new Washington Post polling shows him up a whopping 17 points today) and Michigan (where he’s consistently maintained 7-to-10 point leads), he would need only 12 electoral votes to win the presidency by beating the 270 mark.
The one scenario that would bring Nebraska’s one electoral vote into play is Trump winning Pennsylvania and holding Ohio and the battleground southern states of North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
In that event, Arizona’s 11 electoral votes--for which Biden is still leading--would only put the former vice president over the top only if he also holds his lead for the single vote of Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.
Trump probably didn’t lose any of his base voters by literally freezing them. But with local news coverage and chatter among neighbors dominated by tales of the rally fiasco, if there are many fence-leaners in Omaha, they probably weren’t too impressed.
The president may have just left himself out in the cold again.