From the NY Times (all emphasis added):
Democrats See Dream of '06 Victory Taking FormNowhere in the article is election reform mentioned.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 - Suddenly, Democrats see a possibility in 2006 they have long dreamed of: a sweeping midterm election framed around what they describe as the simple choice of change with the Democrats or more of an unpopular status quo with the Republican majority.
That sense of political opportunity has Democratic operatives scrambling to recruit more candidates in Congressional districts that look newly favorable for Democratic gains, to overcome internal divisions and produce an agenda they can carry into 2006, and to raise the money to compete across a broader field. In short, the Democrats are trying to be ready if, in fact, an anti-incumbent, 1994-style political wave hits.
Already, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and soaring gasoline prices have taken a toll on the popularity of President Bush and Congressional Republicans; new polling by the Pew Research Center shows the approval rating for Congressional Republican leaders at 32 percent, with 52 percent disapproving, a sharp deterioration since March. (The ratings of Democratic leaders stood at 32 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval.)
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released Wednesday night, showed that 13 months before the midterm election, 48 percent said they wanted a Democratic-led Congress, compared to 39 percent who preferred Republican control.
For all the Democratic optimism, important structural obstacles stand in the way of major Democratic gains, outside analysts and Republican campaign officials say.
Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said of the Democrats: "Look, we've heard this talk before. It was always talk then, and it's talk now. If you look at the competitive races, you'll find a playing field that is either relatively even or favors Republicans. They have a huge uphill fight, and there's no evidence they're climbing that hill."
To recapture the House, Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats. That is a difficult feat if - as some predict - the number of competitive seats is fewer than three dozen, thanks largely to redistrictings. To recapture the Senate, Democrats need to pick up six seats, also an extremely high bar given the seats up this year. And while the current political climate is bleak for Republicans, no one knows what it will be a year from now.
Moreover, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had an edge over its Republican counterpart in the last fund-raising reports, Republicans as a whole had a substantial financial advantage. And, Mr. Mehlman said, they will use it.
Also, you can throw out the polls that say that most people would prefer a Democratic congress. People don't get to vote on that; they only get to vote on their particular representative or senator, and hardly anyone votes with the overall partisan makeup of the House and Senate in mind. They may prefer a Democratic-led government, but these local races tend to be just that, and those voting with a "big-picture" perspective seem to be the more strongly partisan or ideological ones, whose votes aren't really up for grabs anyway.
The Dems have a chance, of course, of regaining control, but they show no indication that they are willing to adopt the means necessary to do so.