POLITICS
11/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Promises Competition, Coattails In Omaha

Omaha, Nebraska is a district that leans Republican in a state that hasn't gone Democratic since 1964. It has one electoral vote -- but that could very well push Barack Obama over the top if the race comes down to an Electoral College tie. How serious is the Senator about competing in the state?

A new fundraising memo from Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Steve Hildebrand reaffirms the notion that the senator is, in fact, committed to pulling that one electoral vote from the state's proportional system. Moreover, he could very well help flip a congressional seat from Republican to Democratic in the process.

In a letter sent to supporters, Hildebrand acknowledges that the race for the President "could come down to how well Senator Obama does in [Nebraska's] 2nd."

"With this in mind," he writes, "we've made a serious investment in the Omaha-based district. Last month, we opened a campaign office and hired John Berge to be our state director. We've been out canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and reaching out to voters.

"We're also waging an aggressive air war here, too. The Omaha media market stretches across the Missouri River and into the homes of voters in Council Bluffs, IA, where we've been reaching out to these voters for some time."

To this point, the Obama campaign has spent at least $350,000 on television advertisements in Omaha to the McCain campaign's zero. The district is of enough concern for the Republican Party that this past Sunday, McCain dispatched Sarah Palin to campaign there.

Even if Obama is unable to pull off the feat -- keep in mind, no Democrat since Bobby Kennedy has even campaigned in Nebraska -- his efforts there could have significant ripples.

There is a fierce congressional race currently being waged in Omaha, the state's largest city. Jim Esch, who ran for the House seat and lost in 2006, is making another go at Republican incumbent Lee Terry. This time he's aided by a strong political environment and an economic downturn that voters are blaming, by and large, on the GOP. National Democrats are pouring resources into the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has invested six-figures into television in the district.

Certainly, having Obama at the head of the ticket helps. Omaha has a growing African-American population. And Hildebrand's letter implicitly suggests that the money the presidential campaign raises will be flushed back into the city in the form of political ads that help the entire Democratic ticket.

"Be a part of history by helping Barack Obama and Jim Esch win the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska. Please contribute $250, $100, or $50 today!" he writes. "This race is so close that one more TV ad or one more phone call can make all the difference. Both Jim Esch and Barack Obama are counting on your support to help them both win this district."

In private, there is a debate among Obama aides as to how likely it is the Senator will score Omaha's electoral college vote. But party officials are by and large bullish about the chances of Esch's riding to victory on the Senator's coattails.

"If we keep doing what we are doing in the next couple weeks," Matt Connealy, the executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party, told the Huffington Post last week, "we may even flip the congressional district in Omaha."