LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The conservative Democrat won in the more liberal, urban counties, while the challenger from the left was buoyed by rural and conservative voters.
Despite all the Tea Party talk of anti-incumbency, Republicans went for the establishment pick and one in eight Democrats supported a little-known candidate who believes President Barack Obama is a socialist.
This wasn't just the one of the most bitter and expensive primary in Arkansas' history. It was also one of the most perplexing.
"It's counterintuitive," said Hal Bass, political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University. "How in the world does someone under assault from the left do best in the urban districts and worst in the rural districts? It's a conundrum."
The fight between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for the Democratic nomination — now headed toward a June 8 runoff — broke about every single rule of politics in Arkansas. It also solidified Arkansas' position as a state that confounds observers.
Despite Lincoln's attempts to distance herself from the national Democratic Party and the Obama administration, she fared well in counties traditionally viewed as the more liberal bastions of the state. She won 52 percent of the vote in Pulaski County and in Washington County.
Halter, meanwhile, dominated much of southwest Arkansas — a district represented by Rep. Mike Ross, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. His best counties included Little River, where he won 61 percent of the vote, and neighboring Miller County with 60 percent of the vote.
"She was strongest where he should have been and he was strongest where she should have been," said Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Rural voters would have been expected to vote for Lincoln, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Parry said.
"They didn't get the memo that he's the candidate presumably on the left. Instead his anti-Washington, anti-beltway message spoke to them," Parry said.
For Republicans, the race showed that the anti-establishment voter anger that's led to the rise of the Tea Party movement couldn't compete with a known quantity in a state where Democrats control statewide offices. Congressman John Boozman won decisively, despite a crowded eight-man field and criticism from his rivals that he was part of a broken system in Washington.
The race may have created a new political folk hero with D.C. Morrison, the cash-strapped yet charismatic candidate who managed to win 13 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary.
With a campaign fueled by word-of-mouth, oddly shaped yard signs, newspaper ads and the best lines from two debates, Morrison managed to outperform expectations.
Both Halter and Lincoln's campaigns are now scrambling to capture the voters that were drawn to Morrison, but they face a delicate balance. Both argue that they think they can appeal to those voters, but neither is eagerly embracing Morrison's views — which include calling for a repeal of the federal health care overhaul and opposition to judicial nominees who support abortion.
"I think the guy has a great folksy manner, his participation provided some lightening and levity in the race in a good way," said Halter, who added that he wasn't necessarily seeking Morrison's endorsement.
Lincoln said that Morrison's supporters may have been voters who lumped her and Halter together as establishment politicians, a perception that she's hoping to change.
"In some instances, many of those voters were those who just didn't want anybody that was involved in politics ... but we'll still encourage them," Lincoln said.
Don't expect Morrison to give his followers a clue on who to support in the runoff. When asked whether he'd endorse Lincoln or Halter, he responded: "Why would I? I wanted them both to lose."
The bigger question than Morrison's support is how Halter and Lincoln will spend the final days of their fight.
Halter wasted no time rallying voter support the day after the primary election, waving at commuters and touting the 55 percent combined vote for himself and Morrison as a knock against Lincoln and Washington. He also released his first television ad portraying himself as an agent of change.