There are some interesting post-mortems about the Big Picture that are worth preserving and reviewing so that we begin to understand what happened. Sure, we have an idea, but it's important to learn the right lessons. For example, from Gallup (free today):
An analysis of Gallup's final pre-election poll data shows that the Democratic victory in Tuesday's House elections was because of a rising Democratic tide that lifted support in almost all key subgroups. In addition to solid support from their core constituent groups such as liberals, nonwhites, women, urban residents, and older Americans, Democrats also owe a significant debt to independent voters, who tilted strongly in their direction. Whites and those who are married -- groups that usually favor the Republican Party -- were evenly divided in their vote. Democrats did better among rural voters, a change from previous voting patterns.
Opposition to the Iraq war appears to have helped the Democratic cause. Although supporters and opponents of the war voted about equally for the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively, the fact that opponents outnumbered supporters made Iraq a net-plus for Democrats. In general, it appears that Democratic efforts to get out the vote played a significant part in the win, because those who were contacted by Democrats and urged to vote for Democratic candidates strongly supported Democrats, even if they were also contacted by Republicans.
Why Gallup? It's not the rich body of exit poll data you can see below, but they came closest to predicting the turnout and final generic vote.
VOTE BY PARTY ID
TOTAL Democrat Republican
Democrat (38%) 93% 7%
Republican (36%) 8% 91%
Independent (26%) 57% 39%
R 34 D 34 other 27 was predicted by Pew, who suggested 47-43 final generic vote (actual was 52-45).
R 34 D 37 other 28 was predicted by Gallup, who suggested 51-44 (actual was 52-45).
As to the exit polls
Schneider said as he interviewed voters across the country, "a lot of voters said, 'I'm going to vote Democratic.' They didn't even know the name of the Democrat, but they said, 'I'm going to vote Democratic because I don't like Bush, I don't like the war, I want to make a statement'."
1. Democrats finally took out a number of GOP incumbents they had been trying to defeat for years -- but were unable to until now. Those casualties include Reps. Clay Shaw of Florida, Anne Northup of Kentucky, Jim Leach of Iowa, and Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, and Rob Simmons of Connecticut (who is trailing, per the AP results).
2. The Republicans actually held their own in the top-tier races targeted by the Democratic and GOP House campaign committees. Their survivors include Reps. Heather Wilson of New Mexico, Deborah Pryce and Steve Chabot of Ohio, Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania (who is leading per the AP results), and Tom Reynolds of New York -- who actually chairs the GOP House campaign committee.
3. Democrats won many of the once-longshot races they didn't target until the very end. Those include their victories over GOP Reps. Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania, Jim Ryun of Kansas, Richard Pombo of California, and Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota.
In the House, some well-prepared incumbents won, but barely (Shays in CT, Pryce and Schmidt in Ohio) and some did not (Johnson in CT). In the Senate, no preparation was enough for the swing states. Corker had other factors in his favor in his TN squeaker, predominantly the battleground itself.
Finally, for those who are numbers oriented, the United States Elections Project has turnout data here. it looks like turnout is up for D's compared to 2002, and down for Rs. Other quick calculations from emptypockets:
US: turnout up 4.8%
CT: turnout up 7.5%
MO: turnout up 13.2%
MT: turnout up 14.7%
OH: turnout up 17.7%
PA: turnout up 12.8%
RI: turnout up 20.5%
VA: turnout up 59.5%
And also from Gallup:
Vote by Party ID
A major factor in the Democratic Party's strength this election was the solid support for its candidates among political independents. According to Gallup's final pre-election poll, a 55% majority of independents (who comprise 27% of the "likely voter" pool) planned to vote for the Democratic candidate in their district, while only 38% planned to support the Republican. This represents a change from the last midterm election four years ago, when independents were more closely divided in their preferences: 46% voted Democratic and 43% voted Republican.
Republicans and Democrats were nearly unanimous this year in saying they would vote for their own party's candidate for president. The rate was 95% among Democrats and 93% among Republicans, similar to the pattern seen in 2002.
Back to the future. Convince an indie to vote (or a D); it's better time spent than convincing an R or those that don't usually vote at all.