Traveled from Chicago to Indiana this past weekend to visit family -- in particular, driving through the rural stretches between LaPorte and into South Bend (IN-02).
On US 20 - the main road between the 2 - I counted 9 Donnelly signs - and did not see one single Chocola sign. In fact - the only disappointment was that I didn't see a lot in South Bend itself, which would be where Donnelly needs to run well.
This is hardly Chocola stronghold territory, but this rural swath would probably best be called moderately conservative. These are the Reagan democrats.
Yet - if the yard signs can tell any kind of story, I'm no longer doubting the polls showing Donnelly up 10 points.
I guess someone has to speak for the optimists ;-)
I was in college in 1994 - I voted, but certainly was no activist, just what you'd call a reliable democratic voter (though -- '94 was the last Republican I voted for any office --- Dick Lugar). I clearly remember a Chicago Tribune headline near election eve "Dems Nervous; Republicans Confidant" as voters headed to the polls. I remember talking with a friend at the student union - scoffing at the notion that the Republicans could win the House.... but in my gut, feeling a bit nervous.
I understand the power of incumbency. I understand that we've had a decade of ferocious gerrymandering. I understand the will and ability of the Republicans to leave no dirty trick unused, leave no underhanded tactic behind.
I really don't want to come off as a Pollyanna -- but ultimately, I do have faith in the American people. You can fool them for a while - but you simply cannot keep fooling them forever. The inexorable march of American society has been leftward. From slavery to universal suffrage, from worker safety to environmental concerns, from Jim Crow to Title IX -- over the broad canvas of the development of American society, we've trended towards increased liberalization of our policies and culture. Occasionally - we've moved too fast for society, and seen temporary backlashes... but always - there comes a breaking point.
I honestly do believe we've hit that point again. In Illinois - a recent Trib poll showed the widest gap between self-identified "Democrats" and "Republicans" (IL has no party registration) in the 16 years they've conducted the poll - and the best Dem number in a decade. In Kansas - we've seen an exodus of Republican leaders to the other side of the aisle as the Republican state party becomes increasingly shrill and extremist. I think we're seeing the seeds of a "blue West" being sown in places like Montana, Colorado, and elsewhere. The national tide signs are everywhere, I believe. That great, amorphous middle is unwilling to keep following Norquist, Rove, Reed, and Dobson any further right.
It's the main reason why I believe so strongly in the 50 state strategy - and will argue till I'm hoarse with any Democrat that scoffs at setting up shop in the reddest of red areas. Those investment may not all pay off this cycle - in fact, few of them will so soon.
Gay bashing is loosing steam - just like Asian bashing in the late 19th century, the Southern strategy generations later, etc. The Thousand Year Reic... err... Right that Delay and company dreamed of is about to be revealed as a decade long blip - and a blip that ran on fumes for longer than it should have for two big reasons: 1)Democratic inability to recognize the Republicans were no longer playing the same game and 2)the uncertainty of a devastating terrorist attack and Republican politicization of it.
I'd like to think the "blogosphere" had a big role in reversing the first; I think time and Republican incompetence has whittled away #2.
Two months out -- I'm certainly not sitting here just waiting for the tide to come and I, like many others, are committed to pounding pavement, manning the phones, and fighting every lie and distortion, etc... but that doesn't change my opinion that I firmly believe I can see the tide coming.