Terry targeted Independents

Published Thursday, November 4, 2010: By Paul Goodsell, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD

Republican Lee Terry's runaway re-election victory might have been helped somewhat by low turnout in Democratic parts of the 2nd Congressional District.

Turnout was down in Republican precincts in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, as well. Still, Democratic strongholds — generally east of 72nd Street — wound up providing a smaller share of the total vote than in 2008, when Terry won by only 4 percentage points.

But turnout wasn't the whole story. Terry also won his seventh term over Democrat Tom White partly because of an aggressive effort to target independent voters in the eastern part of Omaha.

“We wanted to keep it close in these targeted precincts and run up the numbers in west Omaha,” said Terry campaign manager David Boomer. “That's what we did.”

This year was expected to be Terry's toughest challenge.

White, a state senator and trial attorney, raised $1 million and was relentless in his attacks on Terry. He blamed Terry for the nation's budget woes and repeatedly said Terry was “too cozy” with Washington, D.C., lobbyists.

White acknowledged late in the campaign, however, that he was running against a Republican headwind that appeared to be sweeping the nation.

In addition, White never received any financial help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a clear sign his race was not viewed as likely to succeed.

In the end, Terry waltzed away with the race. He won more than 70 percent of the Douglas County precincts, won or tied everywhere in Sarpy County and made strong inroads into Democratic areas.

Election-night totals show that Terry nearly tied White in northeast Omaha's Ward 1 and beat him narrowly in southeast Omaha's Ward 4. In 2008, Democrat Jim Esch won those areas handily — helped by the surge of support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who won an electoral vote by taking the 2nd District.

This year, Boomer said, the 25,000 targeted independent voters received seven to nine contacts from the Terry campaign: phone calls, a visit at home from a campaign worker, a handwritten note to follow up, numerous mailings. He said the campaign also took a pro-life message to Democrats in South Omaha, figuring it would strike a chord with Latino voters.

Meanwhile, Boomer said, the campaign paid a lot of attention to 22,600 Republican voters who typically vote only in presidential elections. Since turnout was going to be far below the 2008 race, he said, locking up those Republicans and getting them to vote early was a priority.

As a result, Terry received 61 percent of the vote and his biggest victory margin in six years.


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