Palin to Defend Traditional Red States

McCain camp adjusts strategy and deploys Sarah Palin to key states.

Oct. 5, 2008— -- Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin will visit Omaha, Neb., on Sunday, an official from the McCain-Palin campaign has confirmed, signaling an attempt to shore up a traditionally reliable red state from efforts by the Obama campaign to capture one of the state's key electoral votes.

After a fundraising event in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday, Palin will travel to Omaha to hold a rally Sunday evening at the Omaha Civic Auditorium, in the heart of Nebraska's second congressional district. Palin was originally scheduled to fly directly from California to Florida on Sunday, but the Omaha rally was added late on Saturday, according to the McCain campaign.

The decision for Palin to travel to Nebraska for the last-minute rally signals an effort by the McCain campaign to keep the state red in this year's election, while also allowing Palin's visit to reach the neighboring battleground state of Iowa. Sen. John McCain and Palin visited the state for a joint rally in Cedar Rapids on Sept. 18.

While Nebraska's five electoral votes have been reliably conservative in recent presidential elections – the last time the state went Democratic was in 1964 – Nebraska is one of two states whose electoral votes can be split. Two electoral votes go to the state's overall winner, while separate electoral votes are given to the highest vote-getter for each of the state's three congressional districts.

In a sign of the close nature of the presidential contest, the Obama campaign has recently been targeting the state's 2nd congressional district, comprised almost solely of the Omaha metropolitan area, near the border of Iowa. The Obama campaign sent fifteen paid staffers into the state in September, and is opening its second office in Omaha this week, according to the Associated Press, in order to try to win the district on Election Day.

Every Electoral Vote Counts

Picking up a single electoral vote in Nebraska could be critical in a close election. According to the Obama campaign, there are at least 19 plausible scenarios in which Obama and McCain could each have only 269 electoral votes after Election Day -- one short of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

The McCain campaign is pursuing a similar strategy in Maine, the only other state that splits its electoral votes. While the campaign ended its efforts in the traditional battleground state of Michigan last week, the McCain campaign says they are sending resources to Maine to try pick up one electoral vote from the state's northern 2nd congressional district.

Palin has questioned the McCain campaign's decision to scale back efforts in Michigan, where polls have the Obama-Biden ticket pulling away. Palin has already visited the state twice, including a rally in Sterling Heights on Sept. 5, the day after her acceptance of the vice presidential nomination, and for a town hall meeting with McCain in Grand Rapids on Sept. 17.

"Well, as I said the other day I would sure love to get to run to Michigan and make sure that Michigan knows that we haven't given up there," Palin said outside of a diner in Greenwood Village, Colo., on Saturday. "We care much about Michigan and every other state. I wish there were more hours in the day so that we could travel all over this great country and start speaking to more Americans. I am not worried about it but just desiring more time, and you know to put more effort in each one of these states."

Can Palin Keep Tar Heel State From Turning Blue?

While Palin's visit to Omaha on Sunday seeks to shore up the state of Nebraska for the McCain campaign, Palin will find herself also defending the state of North Carolina from a push by the Obama campaign to turn that state blue for the first time since 1976.

On Tuesday evening, Palin will hold a rally at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., according to the McCain campaign's Web site, and will watch the second presidential debate from the Tar heel State.

Obama traveled to North Carolina on Saturday, and will hold a rally on Sunday in Asheville, where he will remain secluded for two days of debate preparation before his second debate showdown with McCain. Last night Obama told the North Carolina Democratic State Party dinner that he has high hopes for flipping the state blue.

"Despite the pundits, despite the prognosticators, despite the cynicism, turns out 30 days left we are right here in the hunt in North Carolina," Obama said at the dinner.

Polls show a tight race in the traditionally red state, which hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The state's 15 electoral votes were won easily by 13 percent by President George W. Bush in 2004, despite North Carolina native and former Sen. John Edwards' place on the Democratic ticket.

The state's 22 percent African-American population helped Obama easily defeat Sen. Hillary Clinton in the state's Democratic primary in May, and would be key to an Obama victory there on Nov. 4. Obama has spent seven days in the state since the beginning of the general election.

"We had a few bumps in the road during the primary season -- turns out that people in North Carolina decided they were going to lift up the Obama campaign," Obama said last night. "So I said to myself, maybe we should just keep on coming to North Carolina and see what happens."

Palin's Tuesday trip to Greenville, about 85 miles east of Raleigh, will be her first visit to the hotly contested battleground state. She is scheduled to return to North Carolina for a private fundraiser on Oct. 16. McCain has not visited the state since a trip there on June 29 for a private meeting with evangelist Billy Graham at his mountain home in western North Carolina.

ABC News' Sunlen Miller and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.