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Brown: Illinois GOP ready for victory in November: ‘We can feel it’

Updated: October 3, 2012 6:21AM



CLEARWATER, Fla. — Republican activists returning home from their national convention here this week really and truly believe the American people are going to evict Barack Obama from the White House this November in favor of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

That may seem obvious. After all, these are the true believers of the GOP who have been brushing shoulders for a week with the reddest of the red staters. What else would they think?

The truth, veteran party leaders say, is that sometimes the energy and excitement is there coming out of a convention, and sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes, as in 2008 with John McCain leading the ticket against a momentum-gathering fresh face in Obama, they know they have a problem.

This year, they see all of those types of problems on the Democratic side, with a stagnant economy and disenchanted voters fueling the same thirst for change that elected Obama in the first place.

“God and the angels are on our side. We can feel it. The people are fed up,” gushed Bobbie Peterson, 78, longtime Republican Central committeewoman from Will County, who said that wasn’t her opinion four years ago.

Observed former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, a font of institutional memory on Republican conventions: “In Minneapolis [site of that 2008 GOP convention that nominated McCain], I think people were just going through the motions.”

“It was just a little bit like President [George H.W.] Bush, the elder, at the convention in Houston,” he added. “You just kind of sensed: we’re not going to make it.”

“This is not going to be 2008,” Edgar told me just hours before Romney accepted his party’s nomination. “This is a whole different atmosphere.”

For Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, who fell just short of winning the GOP nomination for governor in 2010, that feeling came in 1996 in San Diego with the nomination of Robert Dole, who like Bush, couldn’t get past Bill Clinton.

Conversely, Dillard said, Republicans absolutely “knew” they were going to win coming out of their conventions with Ronald Reagan.

Feel free to dismiss this as 20/20 hindsight from party leaders who obviously never made public such misgivings at the time.

My own sense is that they’re being truthful, and that Republicans see a path to victory in 2012 — by capitalizing on the anger within their own base and the disappointment within Obama’s.

I say this not as a prediction but as a wake-up call to unenthused Obama-leaning Democrats and independent voters who may have been lulled by early public opinion polls or their own indifference.

Somebody might want to hitch up the horse and grab a lantern to spread the word to the Dems convening in Charlotte this week:

The Republicans are coming. The Republicans are coming.

I’ll be the first to admit that for me, covering my first national party convention in more than three decades of political reporting, there is a danger, too.

I’ve been trapped within this bubble of Republicanism for a week now, literally so at the Tampa convention hall itself which was located within a broad security perimeter that kept out not only terrorist threats but most dissenting thought (also on tap for Charlotte). Not having been through this previously, there’s undoubtedly a Stockholm syndrome effect causing me to adopt my captors’ point of view.

Still, I’m not quite that weak-minded. In this case, it’s not so much agreeing with their point of view as seeing the potential potency of their message with the American public.

This angle of exploiting the disappointment expressed by so many Obama voters from 2008 could be particularly effective with those independents who swing back and forth from election to election.

There’s also a real opening for Romney with what we used to call Reagan Democrats, the white blue collar voters long aligned with the Democratic Party because of their union heritage but also prone to wander.

Troubling to me is that the path forward for Romney and the Republicans in 2012 is almost entirely dependent on attracting white voters.

At a briefing I attended early in the week, a leading Republican pollster explained the math he expects will make Romney a winner.

While John McCain got 54 percent of the white vote in 2008, Romney could push that past 60 percent in 2012, said Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research.

“If he does, he stands a very good chance of getting elected,” Ayres said.

With demographic trends favoring Democrats in future presidential elections, Republicans will not be pulling any punches in these next two months.



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