Post-election analysis: overview
Nevertheless, it is safe to say the crystal ball blew this one big time. It had foreseen that John Kerry would win the 2004 election handily, both nationally and in Missouri. It didn't work out that way.
But it wasn't because of any failure of get-out-the-vote efforts. Voter turnout in St. Louis City and County and Kansas City rose 12% over 2000, improving Kerry’s urban victory margin by nearly 50,000 votes over Al Gore’s. In St. Louis City and County, Kerry’s share of the vote exceeded the combined percentages of Gore and Ralph Nader in 2000. Bush got less than 20% in the City.
But the rest of the state was a whole another world, and that's where Bush won. The gory details are in the Arch City Chronicle article.
Why didn’t we see this coming? Myopia. We saw what was going on in our own surroundings without taking into account that other world in the rest of the state.
A universally large turnout often signifies what the late Harvard political scientist V. O. Key called a "critical realignment." Lieutenant Governor-elect Peter Kinder was on the tube claiming that this election was exactly that, but I don't think so. This election simply reaffirmed what happened in 2000 (albeit with an exclamation point). Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia went for the same party as in 2000, and all three states that switched were states that would have gone in 2000 the way they went this year if it hadn't been for third-party candidates. (In 2000 Ralph Nader won more votes in New Hampshire than the margin by which George W. Bush beat Al Gore there; this year, Nader's vote was much smaller and New Hampshire went for Kerry. Less obvious, Al Gore had won both Iowa and New Mexico by fewer votes than Pat Buchanan had polled in those states; this year, Buchanan wasn't on the ballot and both states went for Bush.) Democratic constituencies got more Democratic this year (e.g., Kerry won 97% of the vote in the six purely black wards in the City of St. Louis, a new high), and Republican constituencies voted even more Republican (e.g., Bush ran 3 percentage points better in outstate Missouri this year than four years ago).