Mara Liasson

Republicans are increasingly confident that when this year's midterm elections are over, they will control both houses of Congress. But in this period of polarization and gridlock, what difference would it make?

This midterm election doesn't seem to be about anything in particular other than whether you like President Obama or not. There's no overarching issue, no clashing national agendas. Instead, it's just a series of very expensive, brutally negative races for Congress.

President Obama is considering widening military strikes against the extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley. The U.S. has been bombing the Islamic State's positions in Iraq, and may decide to extend those strikes to Syria.

Three years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a year after President Obama tried to turn the page on the open-ended war on terror, the U.S. is facing a threat from a group even more extreme than al-Qaida.

Several new surveys show voter interest is low, anti-incumbent sentiment is high, and voters from both parties are questioning whether their elected leaders should return to Congress next year.

In short, the electorate is disengaged and disgusted with politics.

Voter turnout in the 2010 primaries was only about 18 percent, and now it's even lower. Less than 15 percent of eligible citizens cast ballots in the 25 states that have held statewide primaries this year, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.

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Let's talk now about policy ramifications and political reactions to today's court ruling. For that, we're joined by NPR national correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey there, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi Audie.

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The Obama administration's request for more funds on immigration could get a congressional vote soon. Meanwhile, the crisis at the border is complicating Obama's plan to take unilateral action to ease deportations. The politics of immigration are shifting quickly.

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In the key battleground states that will decide control of the Senate this November, President Obama's approval numbers are lower than they are nationally — but not much lower.

That's the key finding in a new poll, conducted by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic, that sampled likely voters for NPR.

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It's only April, but it looks and sounds like October. More than $80 million has been spent on political advertising in only about a dozen Senate battleground states.

In a high-rise office in Rosslyn, Va., Adam Parkhomenko is selling campaign paraphernalia for a campaign that may or may not happen.

"Bumper stickers, magnets, and then we have everything from T-shirts, we have baby onesies that we're almost out of now," says Parkhomenko.

Parkhomenko runs a group called Ready for Hillary. It's more than a Clinton fan club: It's a superPAC, a list-building superPAC.

A new bipartisan NPR poll shows approval numbers rising for Obamacare — which is now slightly more popular than its namesake.

Our survey of likely voters, conducted for Morning Edition by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic, shows the president's health care law is still unpopular, but it might not be as heavy a millstone for Democrats as expected.

Democrats have had great success in recent presidential elections registering, targeting and turning out their core voters. Now they're hoping to use that sophisticated field operation to to stave off defeat in this year's midterm elections.

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Democrats and Republicans have exhausted themselves politically after failing to reach a grand bargain to reduce the debt. Now there's a new economic debate in Washington over economic growth, mobility and income inequality.

But without dealing with the debt, Republicans and Democrats might not be able to navigate even the issues they agree on.

Moving Away From The Deficit

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It's not big enough to be called a shakeup, but the new hire announced this week at the White House is important: John Podesta will come on board in January as a counselor to the president.

Podesta is a Democratic wise man, the founder of the Center for American Progress, a policy and personnel incubator for Democratic administrations, and he just started a new think tank on income inequality — the problem President Obama says will animate his second term.

American politics is having a populist moment, with voters angry and frustrated with all big institutions in American life.

The backlash against big government found its expression on the right with the Tea Party. The tensions between that movement and the Republican establishment have been on full display.

Several states are trying to do something about so-called hyperpartisanship by changing the way congressional districts are drawn and the way elections are held.

Their goal: force members of Congress to pay more attention to general election voters than to their base voters on the right or left.

John Fortier, the director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which is working on ways to make politics less dysfunctional, says U.S. political parties have become more polarized.

Here's an email that caught my eye Thursday. It's from Republican Bill McInturff, one of the best pollsters around and not someone known to hyperbolize. He was discussing the results of this month's NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, which he conducts with Democrat Peter Hart.

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