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Why Did Minnesota Buck The Republican-Leaning National Trend?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The day after the election was a great day for Republicans, except in Minnesota.

Nationally, Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate and boosted their majority in the U.S. House.

For the first time since President Obama took office, he will face a Congress with Republicans in control of both houses.

The president has invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday to start talking about some of the challenges that lie ahead.

Both sides are facing questions about whether they can end the gridlock.

"To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you too," the President said in recent press conference.

"American people have spoken. They have given us divided government. [The] question for both the president, and the speaker and myself is what are we going to do with it," Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell said.

Here in Minnesota, not only did Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken cruise to a big win over Mike McFadden, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton won comfortably, too.

In the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts, Republicans failed to beat Democratic Representatives Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan. Democrats won every statewide office including Attorney General, State Auditor and Secretary of State.

"We are getting some hard news across the country, but we are getting some great news in Minnesota," Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday night.

The Republican statewide strategy was the same in Minnesota as it was everywhere else, to tie incumbent senators and members of Congress to an unpopular President, to hit Democratic governors hard on Obamacare and to focus on a slow growing economy.

The day after cruising to a decisive win over businessman Mike McFadden Senator Al Franken acknowledged he is going back to a very different Congress.

"Believe me, there is going to be a lot of work across party lines. There has to be," Franken said.

The review of exit polls shows several key reasons why Democrats, including Franken, did better here. Franken's opponent emphasized throughout the campaign that he voted with the president 97 percent of the time.

Similar attacks worked in other states, but exit polls of voters Tuesday found President Obama is more popular here.

"They really weren't as down on President Obama as they were nationally here in Minnesota," Humphrey School professor Larry Jacobs said.

Republicans were also counting on anti-Obamacare vote to bring down Gov. Dayton.

"MNsure, which was a real albatross around Gov. Dayton's neck, it didn't really play that well for Republicans. The exit polls showed that Minnesotan's are basically split," Jacobs said.

Exit polls also showed Minnesotans felt the economy was in good shape, another boost to incumbents who voters clearly felt deserved to keep their jobs.

"Some Minnesotans didn't know what to think when I first got into the Senate and I think most of them saw that I worked, that we worked very hard," Franken said.

There is one very big exception to a very bad night for Minnesota Republicans. They won the Minnesota House. And that shows at the local level there are concerns about Democratic policies. But at a statewide level, the Republican strategy came up empty.

Minnesota State GOP Party Chair Keith Downey acknowledged some of the differences exit polls turned up. But Downey says the real reason Democrats did better here is that Sen. Franken and Gov. Dayton had more money to get their message across.


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