If I had any doubt about the current state of Ohio’s Democrats – thinking even for a minute that they aren’t fired up, motivated and looking forward to killing SB5 in November and kicking ass in 2012 – tonight’s ODP State Dinner removed them.

Early in his speech Vice President Joe Biden clearly articulated the important take-away from tonight’s event: 2012 WILL NOT be like 2010.

Biden started his speech praising Governor Strickland, calling him “one of the finest men or women I have ever met” and noting that Ted’s loss was the one that personally disappointed him the most last year. It was the start of a very moving monologue that included a number of stories where Biden recounted some very personal and emotional childhood memories.

We’ve heard many of these stories in speeches from Biden before: little Joey growing up in a working-class home Scranton, PA and his father having to move to Delaware to find work. But the stories seemed to take on a new-found importance and meaning placed in the context of Senate Bill 5 and the GOP’s attempts to use budget-balancing fear to blame and punish middle class workers while giving big tax breaks to the obscenely wealthy.

I typically don’t go in for the rah-rah-go-team stuff and as I scanned the schedule for tonight’s events I was, I admit, less that thrilled at the idea of sitting through Vice President Biden’s speech.

But I was wrong.

I’ve been to enough of these things to know how they work. I know the pattern. I know what the goals are and what I am supposed to get out of it: Leadership preps the message and they try it out on us. We’re supposed to get motivated and take it back home and motivate the rest of the team.

I didn’t expect to be motivated from Biden’s speech, but it turned out to be good. Really good.

But you know what? It wouldn’t have mattered either way.

It wouldn’t have mattered if the food sucked (it didn’t!) or the speeches were lame (they weren’t) or if Sherrod Brown’s taped message had gotten lost in the mail (for the record, I’m glad it didn’t!)

Even if everything else went wrong tonight, it wouldn’t have mattered.

If the sole occupant of the stage was the bus boy from the catering service who got up on stage and quietly whispered “Senate Bill 5 sucks” into the microphone, the crowd would still have jumped up from their seats and clapped and whistled and cheered and exploded with excitement.

Don’t get me wrong, Joe Biden and Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown moved the crowd with their speeches, but this crowd showed up with bells on, they showed up ready to win in 2011, they showed up ready to kick some serious ass in 2012, they showed up in the mood for a fight.

And their primary motivator wasn’t even in the room.

When Biden said 2012 WILL NOT be like 2010, he was right. And while Biden and Obama and Brown are all great candidates who deserve to retain their seats, the people most responsible for the huge Republican defeats we can expect in the next two elections are the Republicans themselves.

It would have been very easy for Kasich and the rest of Ohio’s GOP office holders to sit on their hands and quietly wait for the economy to improve and then take credit for the amazingly turnaround. But instead they decided to wage a full-on war against Ohio’s workers that will ultimately lead to big losses for their party in 2011 and 2012 and possibly for years to come.

Republicans swept into office last year based solely on the fact that the economy was suffering and people were voting against the incumbents. Republicans took hold of every statewide office in Ohio doing and saying as little as was legally possible. But when they see the keystone of their legislative agenda overturned by referendum in November, when they see their national candidates get their asses whooped in 2012, the fault will be entirely their own.

Tonight Joe Biden said 2012 WILL NOT be like 2010.

And I can almost guarantee this will be true.