Here's an interesting bit of electoral navel gazing...
I was born in Nebraska, one of the more conservative states in the country. (Only Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson have ever won the state.) We're not particularly ultra-conservative, practicing a more traditional brand of pragmatic conservatism. We had a Populist strain back in the early 20th Century, creating a one-house legislature which cut costs and scores high among state legislatures for efficiency.
So, yes, I was quite thrilled to hear that Barack Obama might win the electoral vote attached to the Second Congressional District in Nebraska. (Nebraska splits its five EVs, giving two EVs to the statewide winner, and one each to the winner of each Congressional district. The Second, comprised of Douglas County and the populous areas of Sarpy County, was an attractive possibility to the Obama campaign when they contemplated a tied electoral vote.)
So, when I read the New York Times on the subway, I analyzed the voting maps featured in the weblink above. I was quite surprised to see the radical shift shown on the map, as McCain only won the state by 17% points. (Yes, "only" as Bush '04 won Nebraska by 33%. Two-to-one.) Only one county voted more Republican than 2004, with a small 1% decrease among the Democratic vote. (Actually, there was in increase of voters for both parties, (2008/2004) 331/301 for Republicans, 51/38 for Democrats, 8/0 for Other. And yes, western Nebraska is sparsely populated, with less than two people per square mile in many areas.)
However, looking at the national map for voting shifts, I noticed the red swath across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and parts of Appalachia. These areas voted much more Republican this year (10 - 15%), on a map which is predominately blue. These counties are already predominately Republican (Obama's percentage in some was single digit) and voted even more Republican this election. Some of these counties, such as those in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, were won by Kerry. (Select the "County Leaders" map on the left. Toggle between `08 and `04 to compare which counties flipped and which stayed the same. Those which stayed Republican both years AND which showed a percentage increase in Republican votes in 2008 could be argued as being, well, what's the nice way of putting this...less likely to vote for a person of color.)
Of course, if one were to investigate this hypothesis in depth, one should pull Census data for each county, showing the ethnic diversity of each. One should also create a more nuanced map showing margin of votes cast for each winning candidate. (Some sites have done this when discussing the "Red/Blue/Purple" nature of voters.) I would suggest using tints and shades, with 50/50 converging on white, and extremes approaching darker hues. Or perhaps keep the colors consistent, but add a third dimension to the map, showing the percentage as elevation. (Although difficult, it would be very interesting if the data could be mapped by voting ward or district, to see how influence spreads from urban centers.)
This is all conjecture. I'm not accusing anyone of being racist or close-minded or stupid. This is just something that got me wondering. As Alexander Pope said, "A little learning is a dangerous thing..." As Mark Twain said, ""There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."