Democratic insiders are giving much of the credit for the party's three high-profile victories in conservative congressional districts this year to Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Dean's decision to implement a 50-state strategy, invest staff and money across the country, and compete with the Republicans even in GOP strongholds now looks much smarter than it did a couple of years ago. "He was scorned inside Washington, but he was right," says a party veteran with close ties to the DNC.
Travis Childers's victory Tuesday in Mississippi's 1st District followed victories in special elections in Louisiana's 6th District and Illinois's 14th. The successes have stoked Democrats' confidence that they will make big gains in November.
"The Republican brand has become fundamentally flawed—it's been destroyed by George Bush," whose job-approval ratings are at historic lows, says the Democratic strategist.
—Kenneth T. Walsh