This Rolling Stone piece about the election is worth reading. It contains the observations of Ruy Teixeira, Peter Hart and David Gergen. Gergen, whose comments often seem hackneyed these days, is the most insightful, I think. For example:
The Republican Party is discovering that you can reach out to lower-income working people, whose lives are in huge flux. As Peter was pointing out, those voters are looking for something beyond an economic boost. They don’t have much faith in government producing for them anymore, and they’re looking for security. And they find it in a wartime president, and in their cultural beliefs. They’re looking for anchors. The Republicans have learned how to reach out to those people and offer them some anchors — while Democrats find it harder to talk to them in those terms than they did in the past. There are some big shifts going on. The Republicans are not picking up the majority of working people, but they’re picking up significant chunks in rural America who would have voted Democratic twenty years ago. And that, for Democrats, has to be worrisome.
There is also this from Peter Hart:
Since 1912, whoever has won a plurality of states along the Mississippi has won the presidency. This year, a sense of Republicanism crept up the river. The president won Missouri — which was always a toss-up state — by more than seven percent. Iowa flipped in his direction, and in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we waited all night to find out that Kerry had just barely carried each of those states. In state legislatures, the story is even more dramatic: going from huge Democratic majorities in the Seventies to watching the GOP dominate in Missouri and Wisconsin. Only Illinois remains solidly in Democratic hands.