Several years ago, the Democratic party made what seems to have been a conscious decision to let go of, or ignore, the usual "Christian Values" voters. They weren't vocal back then, and didn't matter in a national political sense. However, in a seeming stroke of genious (genious no longer residing in that party), they saw opportunity, and the Republicans picked up that group. "Hey, let's get on board with these people. They're passionate, and we can throw them a bone or two on their issues, like abortion, etc., and we can get some major mileage out of the relationship." As we now know, that has been a very symbiotic relationship.
Since that time, through the increasingly loud talk of this group, the US political landscape has grown to include the platform planks of this group - even though one may argue that they are a relative minority, in it's structure. They tend to vote party-line republican, and that suits them fine.
While this has developed in favor of the Republicans over the last decades, it has been equally damaging to the Left. It has been proven time and again that when you are a group that DEFINES the debate, you WIN the debate. The republican party has beaten the Values-Voter drum for a long time now, very effectively. The Democrats, as a result, have looked for a long time like the group that eschews this religious group in favor of "the rest". Now, there are factions of this group that don't really like what the current administration has done for them lately, mostly because of Bush's casual stroll through major hot-button issues important to these passionate and noisy few.
As both parties now attempt to appeal to groups more in the center of the political spectrum, groups like these "values-voters", the Democratic party is beginning to see some traction with issues normally seen as being in the wheel-house of the Republican party.
As the steam builds in a positive way for the Democrats, the Republicans seem to be losing steam in the same arena, because of lackluster performance on key issues.
Even here in the west, and in Utah specifically, the atmosphere is beginning to give Democrats hope for the near future. A few weeks ago, the LDS church made a statement that pointed out, in part, that both political parties contain values that are identified with general LDS principles. This put a lot of wind in the sails of the group of people who have felt like black sheep for decades: the religious democrat. Couple that sentiment with less-then-average performance from long-time repubs representing the state, and you have yourself a race.
It will be interesting to see how the state races turn out, and equally interesting will be the national races. Utah is no longer the US's most ardent Bush supporter - that now falls to Idaho. Is there really a tangible shift coming down the Beltway?
As democrats continue to find their sea legs with regard to the religious voter, the republicans are having a hard time finding a cohesive identity within their own house. While there are many names still bandied about for a Republican presidential nominee, there are no standouts, and none of them seem to be looked at as being able to carry the water for the team.
It also remains to be seen who will float to the top of the Democratic ticket as well. Usually, two years out, the cream of both parties starts to show visibly, and although neither party is showing front-runners yet, I think the Republicans are going to have a harder time putting someone forward that will have enough traction.
Consider, from both parties:
Hilary Clinton - Too divisive
John McCain - Too ugly, from the west
Colin Powell - Too smart to run
Al Gore - Too charisma challenged (he's got enough to do managing his invention, the internet.)
Jeb Bush - Too soon, wrong surname, wrong given name
Joseph Lieberman - Too whiney sounding
Wesley Clark - Too tiny looking on TV
Howard Dean - Too crazy
John Edwards - Too goofy
Mitt Romney - Too Mormon
So, now it's your turn. Who do you think might float to the top of the dog-pile that is a national presidential campaign?
Joseph Biden - an angry democrat. He appears genuinely pissed off, and that might just be a bit idiot-savant of him, but he does seem genuinely torqued right now. Maybe he will stir the anger of enough people to get out and vote AGAINST something, rather than FOR something. Then if he can ALSO come up with something to FOR, he'll be in good shape.