Democratic incumbents in a Democratic-trending area during an election that might be a national blowout favoring the Democratic Party.
Welcome to Arizona Legislative District 17 in Tempe and south Scottsdale. If the political shift to the left forecast by some experts does happen, then on Nov. 4 the party will have successfully defended an East Valley district's three seats for the first time in decades.
"I've always said the state of Arizona is changing," said Rep. Ed Ableser, who joins David Schapira in seeking a second term.
Change definitely has come to District 17.
Until this election cycle, never before have the Democrats played from being ahead here. According to the latest registration figures released by the Secretary of State's Office, the Democratic Party leads the GOP by 2,100 voters in the district, an advantage of 2.4 percentage points.
So what are Republicans to do?
According to Senate challenger Jesse Hernandez, he and his Republican colleagues must stay true to their beliefs while keeping quiet as to which party holds these values.
"Quite frankly, at this point in time, being a Republican is not a beautiful thing - it's an ugly thing," said Hernandez, who is attempting to unseat Democrat Meg Burton Cahill. "Unfortunately, because of what's happening at the national level, when (voters) see GOP they assume everybody is guilty."
However, the two Republican candidates for the House seemed more optimistic.
Mark Thompson noted that the district's voters have a history of taking incumbents out of office, a fact he knows personally. In 2002, he won the District 17 House seat when a fellow Republican was bounced out of office - and two years later, Thompson himself was voted out.
And Wes Waddle found a good omen in the presidential primary campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain. The GOP nominee was left for dead in mid-2007, only to emerge on top last spring to win his party's nomination.
McCain's presence on the ballot has Schapira concerned, as he now anticipates a higher-than-usual turnout by Republican voters.
"And, of course, the Republicans were successful in putting a variety of wedge issues on the ballot, trying to drive out Republicans once again," Schapira said.
Yet those issues preferred by conservatives - the anti-gay marriage Proposition 102, for one - might not find much traction in a time when Arizona's economic recession has voters fearful for their jobs.
Burton Cahill affirmed that theory, stating she never heard traditional social issues brought up during the candidates' forums.
Added Hernandez: "Those are no longer winning issues; in fact, you bring it up and you'll get viciously attacked."
But Schapira said these are still a factor, although one would think voters would be preoccupied with pocketbook issues.
"Walking a neighborhood, I'll see more signs for ballot initiatives than I will for candidates," Schapira said.
Thompson declared one of these so-called wedge issues - illegal immigration - is becoming inseparable from the weak economy in voters' minds.
Ableser has come under fire for what his detractors believe is a too-friendly approach to illegal immigration. As evidence, they raise his participation in last year's "Migrant Trail," a 75-mile walk through the Sonoran Desert to raise awareness of the perils immigrants face.
Yet he wasn't going to sit still for the accusation that empathy for immigrants meant he didn't care for his constituents.
Replied Ableser: "That's (the) most circular and fuzzy logic I've ever heard in my life. I don't know how the average person can attribute this economy to immigration."
The local issue dominating much of the candidates' back-and-forth is Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano's economic stimulus plan, which is centered on infrastructure improvements at the state's three public universities.
As District 17 takes in Arizona State University, this hits close to home.
The Democratic incumbents, as could be expected, back the stimulus package, even in an economy staggering more than first thought.
"The No. 1 thing that the smartest business people in the world will tell you is, if your business is sagging, invest," Ableser said.
But Thompson and Hernandez are adamant that the state, running a deficit that could top $1 billion, should save its money.
Democrats "are spending money they don't have instead of controlling growth," Thompson said.
Hernandez said better solutions would be to offer tax incentives for small businesses and tax breaks for health insurance. Waddle declined to comment on the matter.