ANALYSIS: Shutdown Helping Build a 2014 Wave

The wave is building. How it crests - and who it winds up washing away - will determine who controls Congress after next year.

That's the unmistakable takeaway in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll. The government shutdown made everyone look bad, but particularly Republicans, whose efforts to starve the new health care law of funding amounted to an all-in bet that went bust.

It's created an opening for Democrats where no one thought one would exist in 2014. More than a year before the midterm congressional elections, the shutdown fallout is creating an environment - and a messaging opportunity - for Democrats to take advantage of.

The defining characteristic of the coming wave, like others before it, is anger. A third of those polled describe themselves as "angry," and they're among nearly eight in 10 who say they're dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working.

The new poll is filled with record-low superlatives. In the decades since such questions have been asked, Congress has never been less popular. Neither has "your own representative in Congress," nor the Republican Party itself.

Here's a statistic that should send all incumbents running for cover: Only 25 percent of those polled said they're inclined to send their congressional representatives back for additional terms. Two-thirds said they're inclined to look around for challengers.

Republicans are taking the worst of the blame for the government shutdown. And the Tea Party is now viewed favorably by only 26 percent of those polled, with Tea Party support also at a new low in the three-plus years since the movement emerged.

The math remains difficult for Democrats, who will be challenged just to put enough seats in play to have a plausible shot at regaining the House majority. Anger could cut against all incumbents, and the Democratic lead in the so-called generic ballot for congressional races is only 8 points in this poll.

We live in an era of "wave" elections: 2006, 2008 and 2010 all fit the categorization.

The year 2014 wasn't supposed to be in that conversation. But the pieces are starting to fall into place.