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It looks like two and done for Nebraska's Democratic presidential caucus.

The party's state central committee is expected to vote to abandon the caucus system that was launched in 2008 when it meets in Ord on Saturday.

That decision would return to the process of determining Nebraska's Democratic presidential preferential vote at the May primary election. 

Democratic State Chair Jane Kleeb said Thursday that she is determined to let the members of the party's governing body make that call after an opportunity for full debate this weekend.

But, she noted, about 80 percent of the 1,500 people who have responded to an online survey have signaled that they prefer to return to the presidential primary system, and a year of intra-party discussions appear to show a 60-40 inclination to abandon the caucus system. 

Caucuses "tend to be a great organizing tool," Kleeb said, but they also are costly and they engage far fewer people in the decision-making process than the number that participates in a primary election.

The best estimate is that a 2020 presidential caucus would cost the party at least $250,000, she said. 

And that could divert resources and focus from electing Democrats in Nebraska, some critics of the caucus already have argued. 

"A huge benefit of the primary system, from my perspective, is that it would significantly help our down-ballot candidates," Kleeb said, including those who are seeking seats in the nonpartisan Legislature.

Caucuses, on the other hand, have been valuable in organizing people in rural communities, Kleeb said, and in fueling voter registration efforts.

And they have lured presidential candidates into Nebraska to personally campaign.

"If we change, I will do everything I can to bring candidates to Nebraska," Kleeb said. Discussions already are underway with Democrats in Kansas and Wyoming "to cluster" with events that might attract candidates to make regional visits or appearances, especially at a time when they are engaged in the early Iowa Democratic caucus. 

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Nebraska's Democratic presidential caucus was spawned in 2008 with arguments to get Nebraska involved before the nominee essentially has been selected and be strategically positioned in order to attract candidates to campaign in the state.

And it succeeded in doing that.

Sen. Barack Obama traveled to Omaha two days before the initial event in 2008 and won the caucus. He subsequently won one of Nebraska's five presidential electoral votes. 

In 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders won the caucus, campaigning in Lincoln two days before the event. Hillary Clinton made an early appearance in Omaha three months before the caucus and former President Bill Clinton came to the state on the eve of the event, campaigning in Lincoln and Omaha.

With Obama seeking re-election, there was no competitive caucus in 2012.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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