I do think the Dems benefitted somewhat from the Schiavo freak show (Congress and the protesters), but they never run with these things. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocated they run with "Schiavo" - let the poor woman be in peace - but they should have used that moment to actually stand for something instead of mostly scurrying away. Whatever people thought about the specifics of her case, which legal side they were on, once it went to the floor of Congress it was instantly obvious that most people were going to recoil because they got the horror of what was happening. Before that, as much of a publicity zoo as it was, it still was a family dispute being resolved in the courts as was supposed to happen.
Speaking of death panels, as everyone is, I remember Chucky Krauthammer's great 'moral' policy prescription from the Schiavo case which was that as long as someone somewhere is willing to pay to keep you alive, then the feeding tube should stay in. Otherwise, well, Texas futile care law death panel for you!