During the race, when you heard that Bush was gaining ground on Kerry with women and with Catholics, didn't you have the impression that these were startling new developments, unprecedented in recent history?
Well, I looked at this chart, which accompanies this New York Times Week in Review article, and I learned a couple of things: First, even if George W. Bush had outpolled Kerry among female voters (he didn't), it wouldn't have been all that unusual -- not only did Reagan win the female vote twice, but (at least according to the Times exit poll) so did Bush's father in 1988. And Bush the Younger did win the Catholic vote, but so did Reagan (twice) and Bush the Elder.
And no, it's not particularly surprising that Bush won more Catholic votes than the Catholic Kerry -- Reagan-Bush had a nine-point advantage in 1984 among Catholics over a Democratic ticket that had a (pro-choice) Catholic, Geraldine Ferraro, in the #2 slot.
The Reagan numbers don't surprise me, but I didn't know about those Bush successes in 1988. Please note that they weren't the start of a trend -- Clinron and Gore both won the Catholic and female vote in '92, '96, and '00.