Monday, December 08, 2008

The Twin Cities' Suburbs and Obama's (Lack of) Coattails

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

1 comment:

Minnesota Central said...

Everything is local.
Obama's was a national election and Minnesota's was his once McCain came in third in the MN-GOP caucus. (Obama did not visit the state after the last primary while McCain (and Palin) were made frequent campaign events ... notably in Lakeville when a woman told McCain that she could trust Obama because he was an Arab).
To have coattails, shouldn't the candidate actually campaign on behalf of the down-ballot ticket ? Palin probably did help Michele Bachmann retain her seat as well as help elect Erik Paulsen ... but Obama and Biden were never here. Coleman avoid McCain and Palin ... while Franken brought in the Clintons.

The Senate and House races were local.
The Senate race was between two candidates that many people did not like. MN-GOP supporters openly advocated throwing Coleman under the bus while Franken's writings and tax payments caused problems. For the voters there was a viable third candidate, so the people who wanted to vote for "none of the above" could vote for Dean Barkley. (In Minnesota, the Independence Party has not had viable Congressional candidate unlike the party's efforts in the MN-Governor races where they have remained strong.)
I would suggest that you compare the 2008 Senate race to the 2006 Governor race as that should tell you if Franken performed better than Mike Hatch the Democrat candidate ... as well as how Coleman compared to Tim Pawlenty and Barkley and Peter Hutchinson.

In the House seat, the Democrats did not offer an experienced candidate. Ashwin Madia beat a sitting State Senator at the nominating convention. Madia then took the brunt of the NRCC TV-ad assault. The DCCC ran some ads (and mailed some flyers) that were openly exposed by Twin Cities TV stations as factual inaccurate on Paulsen's record. There was an Independence Party candidate also, but he was not the factor that Barkley was (because voters did not need a "none of the above" candidate. I listen to a number of debates and Madia was the clear winner, but he lost the election on advertising from the national parties ... and no help from Obama. The other thing that helped Paulsen was the idea that the Democrats couldn't be trusted to hold the White House and Congress.