Two years after President Obama was swept into office on a message of hope, he faces what may be a historic rebuke from midterm voters, including millions of independents who supported him last time. Four years after California liberal Nancy Pelosi triumphantly claimed the House speaker's gavel for the Democrats, Ohio conservative John Boehner is poised to take it away for the Republicans.
Those reversals reflect continuing dissatisfaction with the country's course and its politics, especially as the nation struggles to recover from a deep recession. In this election, as in the past two, voters have moved toward whichever party promised to shake things up: Democrats in 2006 and 2008, Republicans in 2010.
This time, if Republicans win control of the House and shave the Democratic majority in the Senate, Obama will be forced to forge new working relationships with the GOP.
MIDTERMS: Jobs, economic security top issues
In Congress, a freshman class of Tea Party members is likely to clash not only with Democrats but also with the establishment Republicans who tried to defeat them in GOP primaries. And the capital's agenda increasingly will focus on what political scientist John Pitney calls "the politics of subtraction" — reducing federal spending.