To get a sense of why they're still counting votes in the Minnesota Senate race, the above maps might be instructive. Obviously, Obama's support was more widespread than Al Franken's. Initially, I thought the reason Franken wasn't able to capitalize on Obama's big win was due to underperformance in Ramsey County (St. Paul). Being Norm Coleman's home--he was Mayor of St. Paul prior to running for the Senate--this wouldn't be surprising.
When one compares the candidates' performance in both Ramsey and neighboring Hennepin County, however, another explanation seems more plausible. In looking at the countywide vote, Franken actually did better in Ramsey than Hennepin. The third party candidate in the race, Dean Barkley, performed about equally well in each county, receiving 15.5% in Ramsey and 14.7% in Hennepin. Franken, while winning both counties quite handily received 51.1%in Ramsey compared to 49.3% in Hennepin. Coleman thus took 33.3% in Ramsey and 35.7% in Hennepin.
In comparing the maps one sees a noticeable strength for Coleman in the western and southern Minneapolis suburbs, still part of Hennepin County. Whereas Obama was able to win in a number of these outer precincts, Franken fell short.
This split ticket voting was evident not only in the Senate race. Going into November 4th, Democrats were hoping to pick up the open House seat being vacated by moderate Republican incumbent Jim Ramstad in the 3rd District. On election day, however, Republicans were able to hold the seat with the election of state legislator Erik Paulsen. Whereas Obama won the 3rd district with 53% of the vote, Paulsen scored an 8 point victory over Democratic nominee Ashwin Madia.
This dynamic was not confined to the Twin Cities. In a number of suburban areas, sizable Obama wins did not necessarily translate into Democratic congressional pickups. For example, in a similar type of race, moderate Republican Rep. Mark Kirk was able to hold onto his suburban Chicago seat despite the fact that it went for Obama.
**Maps courtesy of Minnesota Secretary of State