OMAHA (CN) — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton touted proposals of infrastructure construction and economic expansion for underserved communities in front of a packed gym at Omaha North Magnet High School on Monday afternoon, on a visit of solidly red Nebraska that signals her campaign’s intention to expand their electoral map into traditionally Republican strongholds.
Both the former Secretary of State and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who introduced Clinton, challenged Omaha’s Second Congressional District to have the highest percentage turnout of any district in the nation.
“Warren and I will dance in the streets of Omaha,” Clinton said — if that happens and she wins.
Her speech focused largely on economic development policy, solidified by the introduction from Buffett, an Omaha native. While Buffett spent much of his time mocking fellow billionaire Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, the event overall had a more hopeful tone.
The campaign billed the event as a discussion of Clinton’s “commitment to building an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”
“That’s what we do in America,” Clinton said during her speech. “We see a problem and we say we’ll fix it together, and that’s what we’re going to do when we get the White House.”
Proposals discussed by Clinton included those on the development of rural communities, expansion of clean energy sources — in particular the wind turbines that are ubiquitous in nearby Iowa but dot Nebraska much less frequently — and expanding computer science education.
Omaha North Magnet High School was an apt location for Clinton, as the school is located in a historically depressed area that is frequently talked about as a target of development programs. The school itself has a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, commonly referred to as STEM.
“We’re going to invest in STEM education, which is part of the mission here. I want us to provide to every student in America the chance to learn computer science like you’re doing here at Omaha North High School,” Clinton said.
Nebraska is one of only two states along with Maine that allows for its Electoral College votes to be split, with President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in the Omaha district being the lone instance when this actually occurred. The approach began with the 1992 election.
Although Nebraska last pledged its full support to a Democrat in 1964, progressives have taken to calling Omaha’s district “the blue dot on the prairie.”
Clinton clearly would like to repeat this strategy.
Finding themselves the object of desire of national politicians is something new for Nebraska voters. In January, Obama made Omaha his first stop after delivering his State of the Union address, and Clinton visited the city just four days after becoming the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party.
“Nebraska is on the map for this electoral season,” Jane Kleeb, chair-elect of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said. “Sec. Clinton is visiting key battleground states and districts so having her visit Omaha in the last 100 days of the campaign is a great sign for down-ballot candidates as well. Her visit to Omaha shines a light on the little blue dot on the prairie.”
This optimism was echoed by the current chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Vince Powers.
“President Obama winning the Second Congressional District demonstrated that it is very winnable for a Democrat. Hillary campaigning in Omaha is proof that the blue dot is here to stay,” Powers said.
The visit occurred just as Clinton received a positive bump in the polls from last week’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia. After losing ground to her Republican opponent over the last two weeks, Public Policy Polling showed that Clinton regained a 5-point lead over Donald Trump nationally, 46 percent to 41 percent.
“It looks like the Republican and Democratic convention bounces have canceled each other out and basically left the race where it was a month ago,” Dean Debnam, the president of Public Policy Polling, said. “And that’s perfectly good news for Hillary Clinton.”
While this year is beginning to resemble the closely contested 2012 election more than the Democrat wave year of 2008 — which many liberals had hoped for — at least in Omaha there’s strong enthusiasm for Clinton.
With an estimated 7,000 people on site and those who couldn’t fit inside the gym listening to the speech on loudspeakers in the cafeteria, hundreds more waited outside in the parking lot in hopes of getting inside — no small feat on a sunny August day with temperatures rising into the low 90s.
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