John, that is interesting. In a small way, those results might be construed as evidence for an argument I’ve been making for a long time around here about the difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives tend to make heros out of believers, liberals out of doers. This split between thinkers and activists is pretty obvious once you look for it. E. J. Dionne noticed it a while back. In Stand Up and Fight, he writes, “Liberals and Democrats tend not to view themselves as the inheritors of a grand tradition. Almost on principle, they are suspicious of such traditions, of too much theorizing, of linking themselves too much to the past.” Liberalism has its thinkers but, Dionne concedes, “not one of them is routinely celebrated by today’s liberals.” I would — and do — argue that this has to do with the fact that liberalism is far more dogmatic than conservatism. With its dogma settled, the only argument left is how best to seize and hold onto power. For more on that argument see here, here, here, or here.
Anyway, reading the snippets on why Democrats and Republicans admire Durbin and Thune respectively, I think you can see some of what I’m getting at. The Democrats like Durbin because of what he gets done, how effective he is. He can corral 60 votes, he must be awesome! Bonus: He may run the show if Reid loses, and power is always cool. Meanwhile, Thune is admired not because he has power, but because he represents core convictions. The Democrat is a hero for what he does, the Republican for what he is.
I’m probably over-thinking it, but it’s interesting.