The 2014 midterm elections could be marked by low turnout and high frustration among voters, says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
Americans are already dismayed by the partisanship, polarization and pettiness in Washington that has stymied action on many issues, especially the budget, Garin says, and the sour public mood will get worse if the deadlock in the capital continues.
This could be particularly damaging to Republicans in congressional elections because of what Garin calls an "enthusiasm gap." Only 50 percent of Republicans approve of their party's leadership in Congress, compared with 70 percent of Democrats who approve of the Democratic leadership in Congress, Garin says.
This could substantially depress Republican turnout in 2014.
Voters are increasingly impatient with gridlock in Washington, especially over cutting the deficit, setting budget priorities, and creating jobs, Garin tells me. "What they really want is for people in Washington to keep their eye on the ball, and they believe that all the partisan infighting is hurting the economy," he says.
Garin adds that many Americans believe that "special interests are ruling the roost in a way that's putting working people at a disadvantage."
Americans want their leaders to get the deficit "under control" but at the same time they oppose specific cuts in big programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which could help reduce deficit spending.
Garin, a senior Democratic strategist who advised Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign, says the public would be more inclined to accept bitter medicine to strengthen the economy if both major parties could agree on a prescription.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.