The Bush drag on Republican candidates nationwide cannot be overestimated. The continued war in Iraq, his increase of government spending, his poor performance during Hurricane Katrina, his lazy and cynical attempt to nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, his attempts to give amnesty to illegal aliens- all these issues contributed to a frustration of and alienation from Bush's conservative base.
More important however, is the fact that after the 2006 midterm elections, Bush lost his 6 year streak of being able to paint his own image. After the losses of 2006, Democrats were increasingly able to define the image of Bush in their terms. Rule #1 of politics-define your image or your opponent will define it for you.
In spite of this, John McCain still ran a close race and Obama barely closed the deal nationwide. The difference in this race? Obama's campaign was more disciplined, more organized, more energized, and it stayed on message.
Obama's ground game was superlative in its organization and the use of new technology. For instance, you could sign on to his web site and download a walking list or a phone list of your neighbors, complete with a script, without having to contact a real person at some campaign office. His web site instructed people to immediately report the results of their talks/phone calls with their neighbors, which you could report on the same web site. Obama's campaign had the ability to get instant feedback on the results of contacts with individual households nationwide. Obama's campaign reduced the distance between candidate and voter to the space between two neighbor's homes.
Obama completely co-opted the Republican message of lower taxes. Voters believed Obama was more likely to lower their taxes than McCain. And voters believed this because Obama said it hundreds, of times. He had message discipline. It was pathetic, in the last month of the campaign, to watch McCain scramble to find a message that would give him some traction.
The Republican noise machine continually played up Ayers, Wright, etc after the October economic meltdown. The voters in the center didn't care. Voters in the center don't care about ideology. (As a matter of fact, they move away from ideologues, which is something Oregon Republican activists haven't figured out yet. Voters act in their own self interests, not what someone tells them their self interests should be. But that's a topic for another time.)The issue in the 2008 Presidential election became the economy, the economy, the economy. The McCain camp didn't have a coherent financial message.
Post-election polls show the U.S. is still center-right in disposition. But in this election, more voters though Obama could be trusted at the nation's helm. I voted for John McCain. But the will of the voters must be respected. So my hat is off to Obama for winning this election. He is President-elect. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. None of the partisan "he's not my President" will be seen on this blog. I may disagree with his politics, but I respect the office.