Democrats won big in Omaha & Lincoln, but losses in rural Nebraska led to losses statewide

November 25, 2018

LINCOLN - A political science professor says Democrats didn’t fare better in Nebraska on Election Day, because they failed to attract enough votes in the central and western part of the state.

University of Nebraska-Omaha political science professor Paul Landow says there’s a reason Democrats cannot translate strong showings in Omaha and Lincoln into statewide victories.

“Because Republican registration statewide is so overwhelming as it relates to Democratic registration even a solid victory in Douglas and Lancaster (Counties) won’t get you a win (statewide) most of the time,” Landow tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Landow says the mid-term elections didn’t offer many surprises for Nebraskans or even nationally with the results mostly tracking along expectations. In Nebraska, Republicans retained all three Congressional seats while Republican incumbents, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and Gov. Pete Ricketts, easily won re-election.

Voters did turn out on November 6th. Turnout statewide hit 57% as nearly 700,000 of the 1.2 million registered voters cast ballots. Douglas, the state’s most populous county, saw a 56% turnout while Lancaster, the second most populous county, saw a turnout of 60%.

Landow suggests Democrats turned out for one reason.

“Democrats were highly motivated this year I think primarily because of Donald Trump and their feelings about him,” Landow says.

Voters in the greater Omaha and Lincoln areas also gave overwhelming support to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. But while the issue might have driven some Democrats to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered voting, Landow doesn’t believe it had much of an impact on the election.

Landow says the one bright spot for Nebraska Democrats might have been the legislative races. He says a number of more liberal candidates won legislative seats, which will re-shape the Unicameral and could make for an interesting legislative session next year.

Democrats continue to struggle in rural Nebraska, particularly central and western Nebraska where some voting splits favored Republican candidates by as much as 90% or better. Landow says Democrats won’t win statewide in Nebraska until they can relate to rural Nebraska.

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