Some Minn. voters chose Obama, but not Franken

Al Franken
Al Franken greeted supporters at DFL victory party Tuesday night in downtown St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman continues to lead Democratic challenger Al Franken by a few hundred votes this morning. A recount in the race takes place later this month.

Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain by almost 10 percentage points in Minnesota, but that wave of support didn't propel Franken to a decisive victory.

Coleman's news conference
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman speaks at his campaign headquarters this morning with daughter Sarah, left, and wife Laurie in St. Paul, Minn.
Cory Ryan/Getty Images

Mary Reed, a Democrat from Eagan, said she voted for Barack Obama because she thinks he's smart. She feels the same way about Al Franken.

"If I was in government, I think it would be really fun to have Al Franken in there too," Reed said. "He seems really smart."

But in the end, Reed voted for Coleman. She said the incumbent Republican senator helped her family untangle a mess of government benefits after her daughter left the Air Force, and she thinks Coleman is more qualified.

"For my money at this point, I think Norm Coleman really earned our vote," she said.

Kris Henderson, from Edina, also split her vote between the Democratic candidate for president and the Republican candidate for Senate.

Vote for McCain
Exit polling data shows that many voters who voted for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, didn't vote for his Minnesota counterpart Al Franken, or didn't vote at all in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

"I spent a long time thinking I was going to vote for Dean Barkley," Henderson said. "There was a period of time where I thought I was going to vote for Franken, but what it came down to in the final days was that Norm Coleman was a little bit closer to center."

That's what Nyagatare Valens, of Woodbury, also concluded. Valens was looking for candidates who were willing to work with both parties. He decided that was Obama, and Coleman.

"He's a guy who could listen and get compromise and get to the result," Valens said. "To me, he looked like a compromising guy."

But the negative campaign between Franken and Coleman pushed the hand of some voters.

Still waiting
Elisabeth Kranz of Eagan was among of about 20 Al Franken supporters still waiting at 3:30 a.m., watching election results. She was in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza hotel in St. Paul, location of DFL Victory Celebration.
MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

Larry Loyer, of Stillwater, found the rhetoric by Coleman and Franken so nasty, that he bypassed both of them, and cast his vote for Dean Barkley.

"It was just ridiculous the ads, and misleading ads on both sides, and I frankly thought that both the Republican and Democratic parties should have been embarrassed by what was going on here," Loyer said.

Exit polling data shows that Dean Barkley's campaign probably didn't keep either of the major party candidates from victory. The data shows that Barkley took votes from both candidates.

That same polling data shows that 60 percent of Minnesota voters thought both candidates attacked each other unfairly.

Political science professor Paula O'Loughlin, from the University of Minnesota-Morris, cites the negative tone of the campaign as the reason Franken didn't follow Obama to victory. But she said that's also why Coleman didn't come away a clear winner.

"I don't think either one of them was winning a love fest," O'Loughlin said. "Whoever wins, it's a weak win in my opinion."

Another factor to keep in mind: The Minnesota Secretary of State's office says more than 25,000 people under voted. Meaning they voted for a presidential candidate but didn't vote for a Senate candidate.

While that could be chalked up to voter error, O'Loughlin said it also might have been a protest.

"The negativity really turned people off," O'Loughlin said. "I think that's why we saw the under vote."

The under vote in the Senate election only makes up a small part of the 2.9 million votes cast, around 1 percent. But that's more than significant in a race that's yet to be decided, and one that's only separated by a few hundred votes.