It's become commonplace for pundits to remark that while Washington is tremendously unpopular, voters keep reelecting their members of Congress. That's only true up to a point: From GOP incumbents' dismal performances in primaries, to veteran politicians belatedly trying to proclaim their independence, to sitting members running away from their own résumés, it's clear that Americans are registering significant frustration with their representatives.
That's an important lesson in assessing the midterm landscape with less than one month to go. Candidates who come across as wheeling-and-dealing political insiders are underperforming, regardless of their partisan identification. Those who successfully portray themselves as problem-solving outsiders have a chance to ride the wave.
It explains the furious Democratic outrage last week when Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado contrasted his youth with Sen. Mark Udall's decades-long political experience. (Democrats claimed Gardner was attacking his father, a former presidential candidate. Republicans argued their outrage was phony.) Thom Tillis's double-dealing as a Senate candidate and state legislative leader has been damaging to his North Carolina Senate hopes. It explains why Sen. Pat Roberts, who won more than 62 percent of the vote in every one of his congressional races dating back to 1980, is trailing an independent businessman in ruby-red Kansas. And it underscores that the time-tested personal likability and experience boasted by the Democrats' lineup of red-state senators is unlikely to counteract the punishing environment in their states.