Some Republicans say that, despite winning a bigger mandate than he did in 2000, Bush now needs to try to reach out to the middle in his second term.
"Bush needs to start thinking about his place in history as a united not a divider," says Republican strategist Scott Reed. "It can't be a go-it-alone-and-we'll-follow strategy anymore."
But the challenge for the Democrats looms even larger. Analysts note that the party has effectively been shut out of an entire region - the South - and among rural voters in general, largely because of cultural issues. Although Kerry made some attempts to bridge this divide, going on hunting trips, for example, he made no obvious headway in culturally conservative states like West Virginia and Arkansas, which were once considered battlegrounds, losing there by a sizable margin.
"Democrats need to think about their message, and what they can do to broaden the appeal of that message," says Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University.
Both candidates performed well among their respective bases, with Bush carrying white men and regular churchgoers, and Kerry winning strong support among African-Americans, as well as winning women.
Similarly, the ground game seemed to come out as a near-draw, with the relatively high turnout not giving either side a clear edge - though Kerry was expected to hold an advantage in that respect. Turnout was estimated at 112 million, higher than in 2000, but not quite as high as some earlier predictions had held. Notably, Kerry failed to generate a discernible surge in turnout among young voters, who were once seen as a possible hidden source of support: Only 10 percent of voters were age 18 to 24, roughly the same as in other recent elections, though they backed Kerry by roughly 10 points. [Editor's note: The original version incorrectly stated the percentage of voters who fell into the 18-24 age range.]