50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 37. Nebraska

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

37. Nebraska

Capital: Lincoln

Nickname: Cornhusker State

Motto: Equality Before The Law

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Nebraska was home to Native Americans from various tribes including the Omaha, Missouria and Pawnee.  The French were the first from the Old World to assert control over the region, as it was included in the Louisiana Territory that Robert de La Salle claimed for his home land.  All of the colony was ceded to Spain in the Treaty of Fontianebleau in 1762, following France’s defeat to Britain in the Seven Years’ War, but Napoleon reclaimed it in 1800, then sold the entire claim to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

In 1812, Nebraska was organised as part of the Missouri Territory and for the next 40 years, trading posts and towns were established there, until the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established the Nebraska Territory, which was initially much bigger and included parts of what are now the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas.  The law also overturned the north/south boundary above which slavery was not permissible, instead allowing the two territories to determine for themselves whether or not they would be free.  According to the 1860 census, there were 81 African-Americans in Nebraska, 10 of whom were enslaved and, the following year, the territorial legislature passed a bill to outlaw slavery, which Governor Samuel Black vetoed, but that was overridden by the Territory Council and Territory House.

On March 1st 1867, despite a Presidential veto by Andrew Johnson – who had concerns about the population of the Territory and changes that had been made to its constitution, which had originally restricted suffrage to whites – a Congressional override ensured that Nebraska became the 37th state of the Union.  The population in the state increased as the transcontinental railroad was built, allowing for the transportation of cattle and agricultural goods that had been produced in Nebraska to be sold to other parts of the nation.  Agriculture remains the largest sector in Nebraska’s economy – with beef, pork, corn and soybeans being its main products – with the manufacturing, transportation and telecommunications industries also having a big presence.  Omaha is the home of billionaire, Warren Buffet and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, while Kool-Aid was also founded in the state and has its headquarters in Hastings.

Nebraska is the 16th largest state of the Union, its 1.8 million residents places it 36th in terms of population and it is the only one of the fifty that has a unicameral legislature.  Like Kansas, much of Nebraska was at the bottom of the Western Interior Seaway between 60 and 100 million years ago – with fossils of sharks and other sea creatures having been discovered in the state.  There are no “Big Four” sports teams located in Nebraska, but Omaha is the home of the College World Series of baseball held in June of each year.  Gerald Ford is the only President to have been born in the state, but he left Nebraska at just sixteen days old.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes:5

2008 Result: McCain 56.8% 4 ECVs; Obama 41.7% 1ECV

Latest Poll: Romney +9%

Nebraska is one of only two states (along with Maine) that splits its Electoral College Votes according to the winner of the popular vote in each Congressional District.  President Obama’s victory in the 2nd District earned him 1 of the state’s 5 ECVs, which marked the first time Nebraska had split its vote since it had moved to the allocated system in 1992.  A poll at the end of September showed that this time around Romney and Obama are level in the polls in the 2nd District (which is around Omaha, the biggest city in the state) so it is possible that the Republican candidate will once again with the state, but only take four of its five votes in the Electoral College.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Nebraska this year, with the incumbent  Sen. Ben Nelson not seeking a third term.  The fight to win his seat is between Republican State Senator, Deb Fischer, and the man who Nelson replaced as Senator in 2001, Bob Kerrey (D).  Fischer has a double-digit lead in the polls and is expected to win the seat comfortably, which could tip overall control of the Senate to the GOP in the next Congress.

Nebraska has three Representatives in the House and the current delegation is composed entirely of Republicans.  It is expected to remain that way following November’s ballot, as all the incumbents look likely to win re-election.

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