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This is the third part of an ongoing series about the political landscape in Nebraska. Part I is here, and Part II is here.

Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District, represented by do-nothing freshman Adrian Smith, is about as Republican as you can get. Covering the vast majority of the state geographically, it's an area where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1 and sometimes even 3 to 1. It is territory that prior to 2006 Democrats would have written off as completely hopeless - except in 2006, Scott Kleeb proved a Democrat could reach these voters.

NE-03 District Profile (CQ)
White 92%
Hispanic 6%
Over 65: 17.2%
Bachelor's Degree: 17%

Election Results:

  1. Bush 75% Kerry 24%
  1. Nelson 60% Ricketts 40%
  1. Smith 55% Kleeb 45%

Caucus Results:
Barack Obama 3,833 52.5%
Hillary Clinton 3,448 47.3%

Tri-Cities
The population center of the 3rd Congressional District is in the "tri-cities" of Kearney, Hastings, and Grand Island.

Adams County (Hastings)
Republicans: 10,941 54.8%
Democrats: 6,027 30.2%
Nonpartisan: 2,916 14.6%

  1. Nelson 50% Stenberg 50%
  1. Bush 70% Kerry 29%
  1. Nelson 67% Ricketts 33%
  1. Kleeb 53% Smith 47%

Buffalo County (Kearney)
Republicans: 15,836 59.1%
Democrats: 6,699 25.0%
Nonpartisan: 4,062 15.2%

  1. Stenberg 53% Nelson 47%
  1. Bush 77% Kerry 22%
  1. Nelson 56% Ricketts 44%
  1. Smith 57% Kleeb 43%

Hall County (Grand Island)
Republicans: 16,516 51.6%
Democrats: 9,859 30.8%
Nonpartisan: 5,471 17.1%

  1. Nelson 53% Stenberg 47%
  1. Bush 69% Kerry 30%
  1. Nelson 62% Ricketts 38%
  1. Smith 50% Kleeb 50%

Hall County is the largest county in the third district, and Grand Island is the largest city. Kleeb's performance in this area of the state helped him keep the race close. Any Democratic victory in the 3rd District would need a win in the tri-cities area at its base.

Lincoln County (North Platte)
Republicans: 13,203 52.9%
Democrats: 8,126 32.5%
Nonpartisan: 3,555 14.2%

  1. Nelson 50% Stenberg 50%
  1. Bush 69% Kerry 30%
  1. Nelson 61% Ricketts 39%
  1. Smith 52% Kleeb 48%

See a pattern emerging, yet? It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Kleeb vastly outperformed the partisan breakdowns of the district by drawing in Republicans and independents. It's how he did it that's more astounding. I mentioned above just how large a district this is - it covers basically the entire state west of Lincoln. And Kleeb traveled throughout the district, day in and day out - running a retail campaign in a vast district.

Because as much as I'll point to these registration numbers above as a realistic expectation, the reality is that Nebraska has an independent streak. And they're more than willing to elect Senators that exercise that independent-mindedness.

The voter registration numbers aren't as important here as in other districts, because up until 2006, a Democrat had never really put up a challenge in this district. Ryan Anderson at the New Nebraska Network has laid out the numbers for Kleeb versus the numbers for Nelson in 2000. The potential for growth in the third district is there, but it's going to take a great effort.

I could run through every county in the district, but the general pattern is clear - winning in the third district is an incredibly difficult task. And yet, without a last-minute visit by the President of the United States in 2006, Scott Kleeb is the Democratic Congressman from Nebraska's 3rd District. So it's not impossible. And we can make sure that the 3rd District helps make him the next United States Senator from the great state of Nebraska.

Originally posted to Dave Sund on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:13 PM PDT.

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