Remember this map. It’s the results of the 2004 presidential vote, by county. It looked so red, with thin veins of blue only at the margins. At the time I wrote:

The counties map might tell of dwindling influence, but it also shows a clear advantage. Those blue spots produced almost as many votes as all that red. They are cities and their regions. It might be useful for the Democratic Party to concentrate on its urban politics (economic development, safety and policing, anti-terrorism) as a means of attacking many places at once. Furthermore, they should not limit planning to the cities themselves, but to their suburbs as well. Get people to realize that they have a stake in the health of their nearby metropolis.

USA Today has another county-by-county map for Tuesday’s results. It’s bluer than 2004, as if all the Democratic areas had jumped their banks and inundated the surrounding areas. But these are the House results, which, if you click over to the 2004 county-by-county House results, look similar (again, bluer). DNC gains occurred in areas adjacent to other Democrat leaners. I still think that Democrats might build their support by convincing voters of their stake in municipal-regional development.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time is that big swath of blue along the Canadian border. Sure, Minnesota and Wisconsin looked blue, but not North Dakota and South Dakota. Of course, I am comparing 2004 Presidential results to 2006 House results, which is a jump. And I’m sure someone will have an explanation that will seemingly negate its importance (maybe the counties are sparsely populated with Native American majorities). Nonetheless, it shows that Democrats have some appeal in rural areas.

In North Dakota, the Democratic senator and representative were both long-time incumbents, and they were probably going nowhere, but Democrats made gains in state elections, reversing recent trends to the right. Similar small gains were made in South Dakota state offices; commentators disagree whether mood drove voters at the polls, or a little Rovian strategy helped. Whichever is true, there is reason to believe that Democrats can reestablish themselves in rural America.