In 2008, Barack Obama put Nebraska on his campaign's strategic map, making a play for a historic electoral vote in the state's Omaha-based congressional district.
The strategy paid off. Obama became the first Democrat to win an electoral vote in Nebraska since Lyndon B. Johnson's sweep in 1964.
This year, it's anybody's guess whether Obama will make a similar play in his re-election bid.
Obama has opened an office in Omaha and has hired a state director. But, so far, his efforts pale in comparison with to 2008, when he had three offices in Omaha and 15 full-time staff members.
If the president decides to compete again in Omaha, it's likely he won't reveal his hand until much later in the election, when his campaign has a better grasp on how the electoral map is shaping up across the nation, said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
If Obama is flush with cash and Republican Mitt Romney is running short, the president could open several offices in Omaha in a bid to force Romney to compete and spend cash in the state, Sabato said.
“They can wait until the end, and it can be a surprise move,” he said.
Nebraska and Maine are the only states that split their electoral votes by congressional district and statewide popular vote. The other 48 have a winner-take-all system.
In Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, Obama edged Republican John McCain by 3,325 votes, putting a circle of blue on Nebraska's traditionally bright red political map. McCain won the state's four other electoral votes.
One key Republican believes Obama will definitely fight again in Nebraska.
Gov. Dave Heineman said he fully anticipates Obama competing in what has become the state's only swing congressional district.
Heineman, a critic of the law that allows Nebraska to split its electoral votes, said if the election is close, Obama will want to compete for every electoral vote. He also noted that Omaha is next door to Iowa, a swing state on the electoral map.
Television advertising in the Omaha market also is seen in southwest Iowa. So far, Obama has aired two commercials in the Omaha area.
In a tight election, even a single electoral vote could make a difference, Heineman said.
“We could put Obama over the top. We could put Romney over the top,” he said.
Obama clearly has time to get his Omaha operation up and running. In 2008, he did not hire a state director until July. He did not have a full staff on board until August.
The Obama campaign declined to discuss whether it plans to hire additional staff in Omaha.
Contact the writer: