Lee Bullied, a retired nurse and registered Democrat, leaned on her cane here and offered a lament.
“There’s nothing left in this area,” she said. “There’s no industry. There’s nowhere to work for men or families.”
Ms. Bullied’s emotional fatigue is a shared condition, with Americans crawling back from the Great Recession, conflicted about new military involvement in the Middle East, and blaming their elected leaders for their fate.
Her southwest corner of Pennsylvania was the birthplace of the Big Mac in 1967, a time when the local economy hummed and the middle class prospered. Now, some of the houses on the tranquil, tree-lined streets here seem to sag forward slightly — a metaphor for the collective sentiment that better days may not lie ahead.
A 1,100-mile, five-day road trip through seven states, following the general contours of the National Road — built in the first half of the 19th century and nicknamed “The Main Street of America” — offered snapshots of disquiet and faded aspirations.
Interviews with more than five dozen voters from Maryland to Missouri revealed a weary electorate, and one with a shaky grip on the American ethos of a brighter future just around the corner.
Many were angry with President Obama, whom they described as a failed leader. They said they had seen very little change and were fast losing hope. And even those who supported the president spoke of his unrealized potential — though they placed the blame with the world of partisan politics he inherited, saying he was doing the “best he can” (Springfield, Ill.) or “as good as can be expected” (Terre Haute, Ind.).
Their sentiments about Congress, with the midterm elections less than a month away, were unambiguous and harshly negative.