The Tipping Point in the Presidential Election is…Omaha?

An electric electoral conundrum in Omaha

It’s a tight race. President Obama has maintained the lead but surprisingly, for an incumbent, not by very much. Conservatives have wistfully hoped that there would be some watermark that would propel Mitt Romney into the lead but it has never materialized. In fact, it seems that every time Romney opens his mouth he does more damage to his campaign than any external criticism.

But most pollsters and our own Godparent site Five Thirty Eight at the New York Times list several states as swing states that Mitt Romney has to win in order to get to 270 electoral votes. Nate has calculated the ‘tipping point’ state or the state Romney must win in order to have a chance at victory. We here at 538Refugees have called Virginia as the tipping point state but as the race tightens before November that state could be Ohio.

Of course there are a number of potential outcomes that could play out including an electoral tie. For example if Mitt Romney wins Ohio and Michigan but not Iowa the electoral count would be 269 to 269. In the event of a tie the House of Representatives would call the winner as Aaron Burr found out in 1800 when the outgoing House voted Thomas Jefferson into office. For the sake of argument we’ll consider a tie a Romney victory based upon the make-up of the House of Representatives.

Underlying such a scenario is an oft overlooked electoral vote. Nebraska and Maine both allocate their electoral votes by district rather than by winner-take-all. In 2008 Nebraska’s 2nd district (essentially Omaha) went for President Obama while the rest of the state went for John McCain. The President got one electoral vote from Nebraska. It’s not out of the question that he could get that vote again. That one vote would be just enough to break an electoral vote tie in the aforementioned scenario.

And why not? In a country that is pretty evenly divided along political lines, Omaha sits in pretty much the geographical center of the country. Perhaps they represent the political center as well.

There are other states that could break an electoral tie. The previously mentioned state of Maine could be a tie breaker although most polls indicate that Obama will take Maine easily. There are other areas that Republicans could exploit on the margins. Oregon has been mentioned as a sleeper red state for example. And no one ever really knows what’s on New Hampshire’s mind.

A cascading cacophony of circumstances is likely needed to fall into place for Mitt Romney to win but it has happened before as in Bush v. Gore in 2000. And Republicans seem cognizant of this as they continue to implement voter registration regulations in fourteen states that are designed to impede voters who typically vote democratic. But it’s unlikely that Ohio, Michigan, or Iowa will turn red. Still, anything can happen in four months and if history is any indicator, stuff often happens.

Several sites offer interactive electoral maps where data can be manipulated to experiment with different outcomes. We’ve used 270towin.com in our examples. 538Refugees still predicts a 303 electoral vote win for the President but if Omaha votes the same way again, it’ll be 304.


About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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