Why Hillary Clinton campaigned with Warren Buffett in red Nebraska

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton hopes to win an Electoral College vote in Nebraska
  • It's one of two states that splits their votes

Omaha, Nebraska (CNN)Leave no electoral vote behind.

Hillary Clinton's rally Monday in rock-ribbed Republican Nebraska was an event with three goals: Winning the state's split electoral college vote, reaching next door into swing-state Iowa and using a well-known billionaire to question Republican nominee Donald Trump.
    In an effort to do that, Clinton cast Trump as an outsourcer who wants to "put America first" but who actually makes his products in other countries and stiffs American small businesses.
    Billionaire Warren Buffett, known as the "oracle of Omaha," introduced Clinton at the event, focusing much of his speech on questioning why Donald Trump has so far refused to release his tax returns.
    "How many of you would be afraid to have your tax return made public? No, no, you're only afraid if you have something to be afraid about," Buffett said, noting that Trump has said he won't release them because he is under audit. "He is not afraid because of the IRS, he is afraid because of you."
    Buffett also challenged Trump, telling the audience that he would meet him "any place, any time between now and the election" and both could release their income tax returns at the same time.
    "You will learn a whole lot more about Donald Trump if he produces his income tax returns," Buffett said. "That is why I would like to make him an offer, an offer I hope he can't refuse."
    Trump told Fox Business Tuesday he would not "counterpunch" against Buffett, "There's no counterpunch. I'm not listening to what ... look Warren Buffett has been a fan of, he's a Democrat, he's been a Hillary fan for a long time."
    Trump also defended his bankruptcies, which Buffett and other businessmen have mocked.
    "If you look at Atlantic city -- Atlantic city was run down the tubes. And you look at everything that's happened at Atlantic City, what happened, they're all dead," Trump said. "I've been out of there for seven years, I had great timing. I got out and I made a lot of money in Atlantic City over the years."
    Clinton has recently turned to a number of uber-wealthy businessmen to campaign for her, resulting in them questioning Trump's business acumen, presidential campaign and -- in some cases -- his sanity.
    Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York City mayor, slammed Trump at the July Democratic National Convention, calling him a "dangerous demagogue" and a "con."
    "Let's elect a sane, competent person with international experience," he said at the DNC.
    Days later, in Pittsburgh, billionaire Mark Cuban called Trump "bats--- crazy" in an interview with CNN.
    On Monday, Buffett noted that when Trump put his company on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995 "for the next 10 years, the company (lost) money every year, every single year."
    In 1995, Buffett said, "(if) a monkey had thrown a dart at the stock page, the monkey on average would have made 150%. But the people that believed in (Trump), that listened to his siren song, came away losing well over 90 cents on the dollar."

    Electoral College play

    But Monday's trip to Nebraska was an acknowledgment that with Trump atop the Republican ticket, every electoral college vote in November could matter.
    Nebraska holds a unique status in American politics: It is one of two states in the United States that apportions Electoral College votes by congressional district (the other is Maine). That fact has the Clinton campaign believing they could pick up one vote in the state's 2nd congressional district, made up primarily by more Democratic-leaning Omaha.
    Then-Sen. Barack Obama won Nebraska's second district in 2008, the first time a Democrat had split Nebraska. While Obama lost the district in 2012, the city has grown more diverse and more educated since then, both demographics that Clinton does well with.
    What's more, Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford won the district in 2014, defeating GOP Rep. Lee Terry, who had held the seat for 16 years.
    Buffett acknowledged this special status on Monday when he said he is launching a campaign to help people get to the polls. He told the audience that he was renting a trolley on November 8 with the goal of making Nebraska's second district the place with the "highest percentage of potential voters of any district in the county."
    Clinton endorsed the idea, too, promising that if that happened she would come back as president and "Warren and I will dance in the streets of Omaha together."

    Eying Iowa

    A trip to Omaha also offers Clinton a chance to blanket the news in Western Iowa.
    Clinton has yet to visit Iowa since she secured the delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination, but the Omaha media market stretches deep into the Hawkeye State. The Clinton campaign went up with ads in the media market in June, as signal that they would both compete for the Nebraska Electoral College vote, and that they were acknowledging Republican nominee Donald Trump's appeal in Iowa.
    Even as the the Clinton campaign has currently stopped airing local ads in Colorado -- a state they feel is solidly Democratic in 2016 -- the Omaha ad buy remains in effect, Clinton aides said Monday.
    Monday is not the first time Clinton has campaigned with Buffett in the Cornhusker State. The two headlined an event in Omaha in December 2015, days after Clinton backed the billionaire's tax plan.
    During that trip, though, the stop was as more about pushing an economic message -- and getting coverage ahead of the Iowa caucuses -- than winning the state's possibly Democratic electoral college vote.
    "I think America is great and it is up to us to make sure we make it greater," Clinton said with Buffett, pledging that she will "fight hard to try and implement the Buffett Rule."
    The Buffett rule, also known as the Fair Share Tax, is popular among Democrats, especially within the populist strain of the party who believe wealthy Americans get far too many benefits for the tax they pay. The tax would impose a 30% rate in federal taxes on anyone making more than $1 million dollars a year, after charitable donations.