Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, we report on how a potential rule change around Nebraska’s electoral votes could have a major effect on the 2024 presidential race. Plus, chief political analyst Chuck Todd explains why late-breaking voters will decide the election.

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How Nebraska could shake up the presidential map

By Ben Kamisar, Bridget Bowman and Allan Smith

Nebraska is far from anyone’s idea of a battleground state, but a potential rule change there could have major ramifications on the outcome of this year’s presidential election. 

Donald Trump and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen have called on the state’s Legislature to change the way Nebraska awards its Electoral College votes. While most states dole out all their Electoral College votes to the statewide winner of the presidential vote, Nebraska and Maine give out one electoral vote to the candidate who wins each congressional district.

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Despite the sudden rush of pressure from top Republicans, it’s unclear if Nebraska’s nonpartisan, unicameral Legislature would be able to make the change before its session ends in two weeks. One GOP state senator filed a previously introduced bill on the topic as an amendment to legislation further along in the process in the hopes of forcing a faster vote on it. But the measure could still face a possible filibuster.

If the change did occur, though, it would have far greater repercussions than it may initially seem.

Joe Biden won an electoral vote from the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District in 2020, meaning Trump’s 58% support statewide got him four of the five Nebraska electoral votes. Biden went on to win 306 Electoral College votes in 2020 to Trump’s 232, but the landscape has shifted significantly since then. 

Battleground state polling shows states like Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin — states Trump lost in 2020 — are well within the presumptive Republican nominee’s reach this fall. 

And if Trump is able to win back the key Sun Belt states he lost in 2020 — Arizona, Georgia and Nevada — then Nebraska’s split electoral vote becomes of paramount importance.

In that scenario and with the current rules in Nebraska, Biden would win the presidency with 270 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 268. But if Nebraska awarded all its votes to the statewide winner, that would leave both candidates with 269 votes, an outcome that would send the presidential election to the House of Representatives. 

Jim Messina, who served as then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, criticized the potential move during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said that “changing the rules 200 days before the election is ridiculous.”

“There are real simulation problems when you look at the map, that one electoral vote really matters in the combination of other things. Then you need another state. The easiest pathway to victory has always been the Midwestern three states combined with Nebraska,” Messina added.

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Why the 2024 election is shaping up for a late break

Analysis by Chuck Todd

For the next six months, a week won’t go by without three to five poll releases both nationally and in the battleground states. And yet, as much of a numbers junkie as I am, as much of a data nerd I proclaim to be, I’m going to do my best to take every result with a grain of salt. And if I pay attention to anything in these polls, it will be trends that continue for more than two straight polls.

Here’s why: Ultimately, this election is going to be decided by the “double-haters” — those who are sour on both Biden and Trump — and the unenthusiastic partisans. And if history is any guide — shoot, if all of our own lives are any guide — it’s likely we aren’t going to see any significant movement in the polls until the very last minute.

Why do I believe this? It’s basic human nature. When you don’t like doing something that you have to do, you wait until the last possible minute to do it.

We all remember the long paper from high school or college, when we hated some combination of the assignment or the class or the book we had to read but knew we had to focus on it at some point if we wanted to pass the class. Typically, those papers didn’t get done too far in advance.

Double-haters have plenty of incentive to wait if they truly are undecided. Maybe they want to see how Trump’s trials play out. Maybe they want to see how Biden holds up on the trail. Maybe they are waiting to see whom Trump picks as his running mate.

For the double-haters in this election, there is no compelling reason to make a decision early. And figuring out which way these voters lean will be one of the most difficult polling challenges of 2024, as they sit in pollsters’ undecided column until at least October.

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🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 🇺🇦 A new ‘litmus test’? Ukraine aid has not only divided Republicans on Capitol Hill, but also emerged as a divisive issue in GOP primaries and a potential “litmus test” for being aligned with Trump. Read more →
  • ⚖️ Judicial review: Some Democratic senators have been careful not to join calls for liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire, but they are for the first time voicing concerns that a Supreme Court vacancy during a GOP administration could lead to a “full MAGA court.” Read more →
  • 🚪Tense meeting: Displeasure with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war was on display at a closed-door White House meeting with six Muslim American leaders. Read more →
  • 🚫 Denying Trump’s claim: Trump said at a campaign event in Michigan on Tuesday that he had spoken to the family of Ruby Garcia, a 25-year-old woman who was allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant. But Garcia’s sister said Trump didn’t speak with anyone from the family. Read more →
  • 🦡 On Wisconsin: Trump also returned to Wisconsin on Tuesday for the first time in nearly two years, falsely claiming that he won the state in 2020. Meanwhile, voters approved two GOP-backed ballot measures changing election administration in the state. Read more →
  • 👀 A Washington return? Several candidates running for office this year were involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol or attended Trump’s White House rally that preceded it. Read more →
  • 💲 [Insert corporate jargon here]: The New York Times explores Biden’s “alternatively cozy and combative relationship” with corporate leaders. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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