"It may have been an epiphany," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) said with a grin when I asked if his party planned to take Republicans' gambit at face value. "There's [something called] the James Lange theory, that if you talk about something long enough, it may change your behavior."
Nelson added that Democrats are closely watching to see how many Republicans actually vote for the stimulus after making such loud noise about cooperation. "Only time will tell. With two or three more pieces of legislation, we'll probably begin to know whether it's talk ... or changed behavior."
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a close ally of the president's, sounded a similarly sanguine note. "Hope springs eternal, even in this place," he told me. "We're not giving up on them ... I think it's very positive [that Obama is meeting with Republicans]."
Neither Casey nor Nelson is known as a particularly liberal member of the Senate Democratic caucus. But one who is, Barbara Boxer (CA), offered a similar reaction when pressed on the GOP maneuvering by MSNBC this afternoon:
[T]he one thing Barack Obama wants more than to have bipartisanship -- and he wants it -- the one thing he wants more is to solve the problem. And at the end of the day, we're going to do it with the Republicans or without them. We must act; these are serious crisis times. ...
[T]he Republican Party is turning into the Dr. No party: No, no, no. And there's always a reason: First, it's family planning, then we won't do that, and it'll be some other little thing. ... So if the Republicans want to nitpick, God bless them, I love them, but, you know, we'll do it without them if we have to.
The media machine is churning, but Democrats are staying unruffled.