Basically I see this as a short term win for Democrats: They were going to lose the procedural vote implementing the nuclear option; consequently, all seven of the feudalists judges would likely have been confirmed. Now that number is down to three.
The long term image is different. Forcing the nuclear option now would have opened Republicans up to charges of overreach and recklessness and at the same time, ensured that any Democratically controlled government in the future will not be inclined to give minority Republicans any leeway. If, however, the Republicans forestall the use of the nuclear option for a later date, say when a controversial supreme court pick is made, it may appear to be a more reasoned, one time only decision. Democrats could respond as they have already that Republicans filibustered an LBJ judical pick in 68, but the Republicans may ultimately get the better of the argument when the dispute is over one supreme court nomination.
Ultimately, the Democrats are in a tough position because they keep losing elections. While the reelection of W was not surprising, the changes in the House are partly from redistricting, which in itself is a reflection of declining power at the state level, and the 2004 Senate losses were near catastrophic.
Which leads us back to the prospects for a Democratic realignment. I may be overly pessimistic, but I don't think strategies such as "reframing" (associated with George Lakoff) or emphasizing a new "reform" agenda (associated with Ruy Teixeira at Donkey Rising) are likely going to sway many folk. While I prefer a libertarian appeal, aimed at the abuses and civil liberties violating ambitions of the religious fundamentalists, I'm afraid the next Democratic realignment will come in the aftermath of a large economic or political shock, as it did during the depression. Then the party will be left with the need to pick up the pieces. And if the next crisis is a religious one, where dominionists attempt to implement or in fact are successful in passing at least a portion of their reconstructionist agenda than the scale of the crisis will make a democratic realignment tough indeed. At least an economic collapse would provide an incentive for new policies. A religious crisis may not as easily lend itself to an outright collapse of government, making political and policy change more difficult to achieve.
More about this in further posts.