A lot of people got carried away with the (mis)interpretation of this map.

Voting shift 2004 x 2008

Voting shift 2004 x 2008

It only shows the growth/reduction of each party’s participation, not the actual final share.

Given that, it is clear the same trend of previous elections persists: urban areas are predominately Democrat, even in red states such as Texas or Utah; Republican’s strongholds are the farmlands and thinly populated areas, even in blue states like Oregon or Washington.

Elections 2008 by county

Elections 2008 by county

In 2000 and 2004 Republicans famously grabbed a larger share of the exurbs, the smaller up-and-coming towns on the fringes of the big cities. But still, it’s a party limited to rural areas. With the urbanization trend, this pattern is an obvious problem for Republican officials.

Another interesting point comes out of the comparison between 2008 and 2004:

Elections 2004 by county

Elections 2004 by county

Here it becomes very clear that saying “Obama captured nine states carried by Bush in 2004” is inaccurate: it leads into thinking that Obama actually reversed the results in many counties. But the comparison shows very little county-flipping (with the honorable exception of good old Michigan). And the numbers reflected what the maps described.

The main advantage of the Obama campaign in 2008 was not switching minds, but a mixture of increased turnout among Democrats and reduced turnout among Republicans. As a rule of thumb, Obama got Kerry voters and those who would have voted for Kerry but didn’t.

In fact, an analysis of turnout has revealed the overall numbers were not record-breaking as advertised, another evidence that for every blue voter out of the closet there was a red voter that just gave up and stayed home.

BTW: purple maps created by Mark Newman, Univ. of Michigan.

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