Nebraska Independents Could Have Made A Difference

by Amée LaTour

Nebraska holds its Republican primary on May 10, with Donald Trump as the only candidate on the ballot who's still actively running in the race. The Democratic caucuses in the state took place on March 5. But is the Republican contest open or closed? Can independents vote in the Nebraska primary?

CBS News reported that Nebraska's Republican primary is closed, meaning that only voters who are registered Republicans can vote on Tuesday. The state does not offer same-day registration, so if unaffiliated or third-party-affiliated voters didn't update their registrations by the deadline of May 2, they won't be able to participate in the primary.

Interestingly, Nebraska's closed primary system could have been advantageous to Sen. Ted Cruz, who unexpectedly dropped out a week before, following a disappointing loss in Indiana. Ballotpedia reported that eight out of the 10 races Cruz won were closed contests. It makes sense that Cruz would perform best among people with tighter allegiance to the Republican Party; Cruz wasn't exactly an establishment candidate, with his Tea Party/Christian conservative bent, but he's arguably more of an established Republican than Trump, some of whose positions lean left and others seem to come from an undiscovered planet (oh, and he's not a politician).

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But Cruz didn't win a majority of closed contests; Trump won 13 closed races — more than the number of open contests he won: 11. However, other factors were in place to make Nebraska favorable territory for Cruz. As The Wall Street Journal reported, Republican leaders in the state have been hostile toward Trump, and Cruz won several states surrounding Nebraska. Had he stayed in the race, he might have seen a little boost on Tuesday.

But a Nebraska win would not really have helped Cruz much anyway. If he won the state's 36 winner-take-all delegates, it would have remained mathematically impossible for him to secure enough pledged delegates in the primaries to clinch the nomination. Of course, that's not what Cruz's game plan was about toward the end; he was trying to make sure Trump didn't get enough delegates for an automatic nomination. That became more and more unlikely as the primaries progressed, and Trump's Indiana win was a real blow to Cruz, along with the rest of the "Stop Trump" movement.

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Cruz could still technically win the Nebraska primary, since he's still on the ballot. As the first primary in which Donald Trump traverses the campaign trail alone, it will be interesting to see how many voters turn up, and whether some still cast ballots for Cruz. One thing is sure: Independents won't be among them.