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Obama wins 1 of Nebraska's electoral votes

Obama wins 1 of Nebraska's electoral votes

President-elect Barack Obama won the electoral vote tied to Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District on Friday, making history in a state that has never split its electoral votes.

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Barack Obama

OMAHA — President-elect Barack Obama won the electoral vote tied to Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District on Friday, making history in a state that has never split its electoral votes.

After remaining ballots were counted Friday, Democrat Obama emerged with a 3,325-vote lead over Republican John McCain in unofficial results.

The 2nd District covers Douglas County, which includes Omaha, and portions of adjacent Sarpy County.

“I’m pleased as hell,’’ said John Berge, Obama’s state campaign director. “It’s a wonderful validation of what we were doing.’’

It’s also a validation that Obama’s message resonated even in places like Nebraska, giving further proof that a Democrat can win if the message is the right one, Berge said, alluding to the state’s Republican leanings.

The win brings Obama’s electoral vote total to 365, nearly 100 more than necessary to win the White House. McCain has 162.

Missouri, with 11 electoral votes, is still too close to call. Election officials there have until Tuesday to finish counting.

Nebraska is just one of two states that can split its electoral vote — with Maine being the other.

Not since 1964 has the state awarded an electoral vote to a Democrat. Lyndon Johnson carried Nebraska that year.

A 1991 state law allows for dividing Nebraska’s five electoral votes. Two go to the statewide winner. One is awarded from each of the state’s three congressional districts.

McCain comfortably won the electoral votes tied to the 1st and 3rd Congressional districts. He also won the statewide race with 57 percent of the vote.

It was a well-waged battle, on both sides, said Hal Daub, chairman of McCain’s Nebraska campaign.

“What we did here, we did with the enthusiasm and organization of volunteers, knowing we were up against a very serious, well-funded Obama campaign,’’ he said. “But always I must say congratulations to the winner — the victor — and all those who contributed to that effort. It was impressive.’’

Obama aggressively sought the 2nd District vote. He opened three campaign offices and poured 16 paid staff and likely millions of dollars into the district during his campaign.

That put unusual attention on Nebraska, which is largely taken for granted as a “red state,’’ Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said.

Statewide, Republicans have more than 558,000 registered voters; Democrats have nearly 393,000.

In the 2nd District it’s much closer: Republicans have more than 156,000; Democrats have about 149,000.

“When the law was passed in 1991, I don’t think probably anyone anticipated that Nebraska would be a focus of a national election the way we have been with all the speculation of a possibility of a tie of electoral votes between Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama,’’ he said.

But Gale pointed to Obama’s aggressive efforts, calling it “good hard groundwork, good hard grass-roots campaigning’’ for pushing him out ahead in unofficial results.

Douglas County counted some 5,300 provisional ballots Friday to give Obama a 10,474-vote lead in unofficial county results.

After Sarpy County’s count on Friday, McCain had a 7,149-vote county lead in portions of Sarpy County that are within Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.

An automatic re-count could be ordered if the margin of victory were less than 1 percent of the total ballots cast for the top vote-getter.

As of Friday’s unofficial results for the district, Obama has a total of 138,892 votes and McCain has a total of 135,567 votes. The Obama lead of 3,325 is far higher than the re-count threshold of about 1,389, or 1 percent of Obama’s total.

The race was much closer earlier this month. On Nov. 5, McCain led by just 569 votes.

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