WHY THE ELECTION IS SO TENSE: Here's a passage from John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge's The Right Nation that sums things up:
[I]t is noticeable how much more the 2004 contest matters to the Democrats. The presidency represents their best chance of seizing meaningful power. The Republicans control both houses of Congress, most of the governorships (including those in America's four biggest states), and the majority of state legislatures. . . . Another Bush victory would cement their lock on power.
I think this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I don't think there's much doubt that Democrats feel this way.