“The nightmare for Romney is that Republicans win it all, because he has no excuses at that point,” said Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “He has favored their agenda.”
In the long run, with their negative assaults and entrenched positions, the parties are turning voters off. The largest group of voters today is independents, who make up 38 percent of the electorate, followed by Democrats at 32 percent and Republicans at 24 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
Those numbers may provide an opportunity if the next president seeks middle ground. Indeed, it is a tradition nearly as old as the nation: a freshly inaugurated president seizes the moment to call for an end to partisan wrangling.