Local factors played a role, but the election this time was to an unusual degree a national event, driven by national trends. The national Republican turnout effort was a great success, and the Republican message was clear; conversely. Democrats were divided on whether they supported or opposed Bush’s tax policy and the war in Iraq. National security was the decisive factor in the vote. Gallup polls had shown national security leading the economy for most of 2002, except for a brief moment in July at the height of the corporate scandals.
The Gallup postelection poll showed that, by a 57-34 percent margin, Americans thought Democrats were “too weak” on terrorism, while a 64-27 percent verdict Republicans to be “tough enough. ” At least two Democratic senators – Carnahan and Cleland – went down to defeat due to the homeland security issue. Democrats were particularly bitter at the defeat of Cleland, a Vietnam triple amputee whom Republicans in Georgia tagged as soft on defense.
Pre- and post election surveys also shed some light on who voted for whom. The “gender gap” seemed to narrow, as women voters began to see national security as a domestic, and even a family, issue in the light of September 11. Regionally, Republicans made their biggest gains in the Midwest. Notably, the number of House districts voting for congressman of one party after having voted for presidential candidate of the other party fell to its lowest level in the fifty years for which such data is available.
The increasing partisanship of the electorate, a signal feature of the “system of 2004,” was on full display (Busch & Ceaser, 2005). It may take a couple of years to know whether the 2004 election triggered the start of a new era of the Republican domination of American politics or was simply a typical election in an era of profound competition for the encouragement of a closely divided electorate.
However, data available in the documents convey that Republican assertions that 2004 was a vestige election are overstated and raise grim questions about notion that Republicans won the election on the power of a massive turnout of social conservatives (Kerbel, 2006).
Busch, A. E. , & Ceaser, J. W. (2005). Red Over Blue: The 2004 Elections And American Politics. Lanham. Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield. Kerbel, M. R. (2006). Get This Party Started: How Progressives Can Fight Back And Win. Lanham. Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield.