WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is spending precious time in the final days of the campaign in places with just a single Electoral College vote at stake — a sign of how close an election his campaign is expecting.
With nine days to go, Trump traveled Sunday to Maine, and he planned to go to Nebraska on Tuesday. Unlike most states, which tend to use a winner-takes-all system, Maine and Nebraska divide their Electoral College votes, giving two to the winner of the statewide vote and one to the winner of each congressional district.
While most of the attention this year has been on traditional battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania, both campaigns have included Maine and Nebraska — places typically off the beaten path — in their last-minute pushes, with the Trump team citing scenarios under which the election could come down to one or two electoral votes.
For instance, should Trump manage to hold on to states he won in 2016 other than Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, there could be an Electoral College tie. In that scenario, a tie would be broken by the state delegations in the House of Representatives, each with one vote; they are currently majority Republican. Should Trump fail to win that trio of states, along with one of Maine or Nebraska’s congressional districts, he could lose the race by just one Electoral College vote.
In Maine, Joe Biden leads by double digits in recent statewide surveys, according to the NBC News poll tracker, and he is expected to win Maine’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Portland and Augusta. But the state’s more rural 2nd Congressional District could come into play — while Trump won it in 2016, it was carried by Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.
The district “could be pivotal in this election cycle,” Trump campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Trump has spent months trying to win over Maine voters by advocating for the state’s lobster industry. He visited the state in June to hold a roundtable event about the lobster industry and invited a Maine lobsterman to speak at the Republican National Convention, and he directed his administration this summer to provide lobstermen with bailout money to make up for lost income from his trade war with China.
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In Nebraska, Trump is expected to win the popular vote, but Biden has a chance to win a single vote from Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. A New York/Siena College poll this month showed Biden leading in the district, which includes Omaha and its suburbs, by 7 percentage points.
The district has about the same number of registered Republicans as it does Democrats, and the results could be determined by just a few thousand votes. Trump won the district in 2016 by 6,500 votes, and it went to Obama in 2012 by just under 3,500 votes.
The Biden campaign has also been eyeing Maine: Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, will visit the state Tuesday, and Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, was in the state Saturday. The spouses visited Nebraska last month.