OK... Now What??
FutureWire is about looking forward, not back, so I'll leave it to other bloggers to speculate on what went right as well as what went wrong for both candidates. Instead, let us focus more on where we go from here...
The cutural divide in the U.S. appears to be widening. Liberals and conservatives seem to have less in common than ever -- a fact that provides opportunities and difficulties for both parties. The differences between the "red" and "blue" states are growing into outright hostilities... causing some pundits to compare the current political landscape to that of the U.S. in the years before the Civil War.
The Democrats are hurting, for sure, having lost not only the Presidency but also key seats in Congress. What does the future hold for them?
When considering Kerry's campaign, the old saying "when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody" comes to mind. Kerry was trying to play to the left and center (even to the right) at the same time, opening himself up to those "flip-flop" charges that proved in part to be his undoing. In light of this, some suggest that the Democrats embrace the Howard Dean wing of the party and become America's liberal (albeit minority) voice, shoring up those solidly "blue" states and perhaps energizing younger voters (who did not turn out for Kerry as expected, by the way).
And though the Republicans won big this time around, they have concerns as well. Exit polls suggest that the GOP capitalized on "moral values," and that newly-registered Evangelical Christian voters played a big role in pushing Bush over the top. However, many of these voters are at odds with the more libertarian wing of the party. With high-profile, moderate Republicans such as Rudy Guiliani and mavericks like John McCain eyeing higher office in the near future, the GOP could be headed for a split. If that were to happen, who would benefit? The Democrats, or a third party?
The future of all those newly registered voters is also of interest to both parties. Young voters did turn out in higher numbers (though not in higher proportions), but broke from conventional wisdom in splitting their vote. Hispanic voters, as a rapidly growing bloc, will also continue to be of interest. Again, conventional wisdom expected them to vote heavily Democratic, but large numbers voted Republican.
Of course, we know that Election Night 2004 was the start of Campaign 2008 (at this point, you have my permission to run from the room screaming). Four years is a long time politically, but if the second Bush term ends on a high note, the options for the GOP are many. They have several well-known personalities who could run for President, including alumni from the Bush administration. The Democrats, however, will have fewer choices. Their number of nationally known candidates is much fewer: Hillary Clinton or Bill Richardson, plus stalwarts such as Joe Biden or Dick Gephart. Their best bet might be someone who comes from nowhere to wow the voters (think Jimmy Carter in '76 or Bill Clinton in '92).
Of course, this all hinges on how well things go for the second Bush administration. If things go badly, or if the national mood changes drastically, both parties will be thrown into crisis mode, perhaps sooner than they are prepared to be. The Wharton School has some interesting thoughts on what the next four years will hold for George W. Bush.