MAINLY IT WAS IRAQ . IRAQ and IRAQ -- but also:
Dumb politicians. The R's have often showed how poor they are at explaining their policies and this was no exception. How come R's are so dumb about political strategy and painting their positions so they can be understood and D's are so good at creating positve perceptions for the muddled middle?
A. The Deficit was headed that way from the last half of Clinton's presidency when the 'bubble burst' but Dems continued to make hay out of it even after 9/11 which required 'super spending' by the govt. to jump start a dead patient (the economy). The corresponding tax cuts generated huge tax REVENUES to the government that eventually began to cut into the deficit. This has never been explained well by R's. Pictures - cartoons - editorials ... nothing really addressed very well how the economy was booming but would be DEAD without the tax cuts. Now you can expect tax increases with the D's and very likely a stalled economy - and LOWER tax revenues -- but under a Bush Presidency. Hello Hillary in 2008.
B. IRAQ - and Rumsfeld. HE became a lightning rod for the war protestors and I think he enjoyed it. Bush allowed the circuits to break (this election) before he would make any move to replace Rummy. A replacement for Rummy 3 to 6 months ago was all he needed to show he was listening and he wanted a new perspective. Bush is too loyal to a performing staff member even though the staff member is crushing the party from an undeserved but nevertheless effective rant from the left.
C. Chaney has been painted effectively as "the devil" by Dems and unfortunately his photographic persona plays well to the left who see him that way. Is he effective? Yes. Is he now irrelevant? Yes. He is a placeholder at the VP spot where someone else could be making strides toward the 2008 race. He should not have been on the ticket in 2004, but he could still find a graceful "out" for health reasons if he cared about the country ... and the R's chances in 2008.
D. Immigration was not on the front burner for the voters that made the difference here. If it had been, R's would still hold congress. InVitro fertilized eggs and blastomeres research was not on the front burner for those who chose to vote Dem. Gay marriage was not on the front burner for those who voted Dem. But these topics were manipulated by Dems to land in wedge positions to be argued by R's and thus took steam away from the R successes. R's are just really bad at making their case and are easily felled by wedge issues.