DENVER -- Texas delegates to the Democratic National Convention were preparing to return home today after a weeklong roller-coaster ride that started with internal sniping and ended on a raucous note of unity that fueled optimism for their party's chances in the fall.
Few would predict that the newly stamped ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden would break the Republicans' 28-year run in Texas on the presidential level, but many Democrats said they like their chances farther down the ballot.
"Now, we focus our attention on where we can best compete in Texas and start the process that will put us on a glide path to turning Texas Democratic in 2012 and increase our competitiveness in the down-ballot races," said Democratic strategist Matt Angle, who was in Denver all week to assist several elected officials who were serving as delegates.
Angle's remarks came after a sermonlike speech to the Texas delegation by Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who exhorted the party's most committed members to put in the effort to pick up the five seats needed to take over the state House.
"This is an election like we've never seen before," said Jackson Lee, referring to the enthusiasm among Democrats and the likely counterattack by Texas Republicans.
For their part, Republican operatives have long predicted that the Democratic wave crested after the March 4 primary and that the GOP's conservative leanings would re-emerge in force as voters begin focusing on November.
Not true, said one of the longest-serving state House members.
"I believe we're going to carry this excitement back home with us," said Houston Democrat Senfronia Thompson, the most senior African-American state lawmaker in the nation. "People want to see significant change in the way this country and this state are moving. They want action on issues like health care, the economy and education."
The Texans spent their last night in Denver among the crowd crammed inside Invesco Field to watch Obama deliver a thunderous acceptance speech that was punctuated by the boom of fireworks.
"I haven't seen a crowd this electric since The Who played the Cotton Bowl in '82," Fort Worth's Jason Smith said.