"The Republicans are coming," concedes one Midwestern Democratic chieftain glumly. Indeed, the Republicans do seem to be on the upsurge. Party chairman Bill Brock even sees a possibility that the GOP will take over Congress. Mr. Brock told reporters over breakfast in Washington recently what he expects for the fall: a Republican president, a "good shot" at taking over the House of Representatives, and a "possibility" of winning the Senate, too.
A Monitor survey of GOP leaders across the country reflects this optimism.
Moreover, a new poll by Robert Teeter's Market Opinion Research organization, commissioned by the GOP, indicates that Ronald Reagan not only is well ahead of Jimmy Carter in the presidential race but also that Republicans are running almost even with the Democrats in the contests for congressional seats.
The poll shows Republican congressional candidates as strong nationally as they were in 1966 when they captured 47 seats. It finds Democrats preferring Democrats for Congress only slightly, 52 to 48 percent.
The Teeter poll follows a recent Gallup poll that also showed Republican congressional prospects looking good -- only five percentage points behind the Democrats.
Rep. Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan, chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, says of the Teeter survey: "For the first time since the 1930s, the Republican label is not baggage" for the party's candidates.
A highly regarded nonpartisan expert, Richard Scammon, told a group of reporters July 7 that a Republican takeover in the House in November now was "possible" -- and that while a GOP takeover of both houses was unlikely, he could not rule it out altogether.
The essence of GOP optimism, and Democratic fears, for the fall:
* Inflation and joblessness now are biting so deeply that it seems inevitable that Democratic officeholders will have to take the blame -- even if they are at low levels where they could not have had anything to do with the economic decline. Some observers are forecasting sizable gains for the Republicans in state legislative contests all across the nation.
* Many people are unhappy with what they see as a US decline in global affairs, for which the President -- and hence the Democrats generally -- is responsible.
"There's no logic in this," one Democratic leader explains. "But even if you are a Democratic officeholder at the garbage-collector level, you somehow suffer from this voter grievance against the President."
* There is a widespread feeling that the Democrats in the White House and Congress have had their chance at improving conditions and that, as many voters express it, it is time for a change.
"When people want a change, they probably mean a change in a lot of things," one Washington political analyst says. "They may not be able to articulate their complaints. But one thing they have come to believe: that someone else, another group of politicians, couldn't do any worse and they just might do better."
* The very mood of optimism that is surging through the Republican Party today. Even independents are getting aboard the GOP bandwagon.
"People like to be a part of success," one analyst says. "So when a party starts to climb upward, many people like the idea of being with a winner."
* The work of party leaders seems to have helped to give the GOP a new lease on political life.
Mr. Brock, as national chairman, has presided over what now seems to be a very successful effort to broaden the party base. But Ronald Reagan, as the probable banner-bearer this fall, himself has done much to pull many Democrats -- particularly blue-collar workers -- in the Republican direction. George Bush pulled even better with workers -- and he is giving Mr. Reagan and the party his full support.