As I wrote down below, the special election in Denny Hastert's House district -- as the first hotly contested down-ticket race of the year -- provided some harbingers of what's to come when the House and Senate races heat up in the fall. It showed that if Obama's the nominee, we can look forward to the imminent total ubiquity of his trademark themes, as Democrats and even Republicans turn his effort into a neat prefab template for their own campaigns. Take a short tour through the rhetoric in the Hastert race:

"There's a ripe opportunity here. People are upset, they really do want change." (John Laesch, Democratic primary candidate) ... "[My backers] understand that someone with a background like mine is what's needed to bring change to Washington" (Foster) ... "People are demanding change" (the National Republican Congressional Committee) ... "You may think you have to wait until November to vote for change, but here in Illinois you can start March 8" (Obama, endorsing Foster) ... "Tonight our voices are echoing across the country and Washington will hear us loud and clear, it's time for a change. ... Tonight, we told America that change is on the way. ... I will be your voice in Congress to make change happen. ... I’m happy to say tonight that “Yes we did!” and “Yes we will again!” until the voters of this country have the change they deserve ... Thank you to the people of the 14th who voted your hopes, not your fears!" (Foster, upon victory)

Here's the question: If Obama's signature lines and tropes filter down throughout the '08 campaigns, does that dilute the specialness of his message? Or would it mirror the Kleenex effect -- whereby, when one particular brand (Obama) becomes synonymous with a whole generic product (Democrats), it strengthens the original brand?

--Eve Fairbanks