In Oregon, Harry Lonsdale (D) said he's running for the Senate because "the rich and powerful are robbing us blind and the politicians in Washington aren't doing a thing to stop them."

In Massachusetts, James Rappaport (R) said he's running for the Senate because he's fed up with the "one-party arrogance" of his state's Democratic political establishment. "Last year, Eastern Europe," he exhorts. "This year, Massachusetts!"

In Colorado, Josie Heath (D) said she's running for the Senate because too many politicians "kind of snuggle down on the banks of the Potomac and forget what's on the minds of real people back here. . . . They're not gettin' it in Washington."

In Texas, Dick Waterfield (R) is running for Congress so he can limit congressional terms. "Let's make those suckers in Washington come back and live under the laws they passed," he says in one of his television ads.

Across the country, politicians of all stripes are running for office this fall on platforms built of anger. What they're angry about varies, but the tone of voice is near universal: With the economy on the brink of recession and Washington seemingly in terminal gridlock, candidates -- like voters -- are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

"I have a thesis that each election produces a different kind of ideal candidate and this year my role model would be Jim Hightower {the populist agriculture commissioner in Texas}," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. "It's not a year for politicians who try to split the difference and get the nuances just right. It's a year for politicians who say, 'Hey, this is good, that's bad, I'm here and this is what you get.' "

The fall election season already has been good to blunt-talking establishment-bashers. In economically strapped Massachusetts, maverick Democrat John Silber was an upset winner in last month's primary because, as he explained in a post-mortem, "I understood the outrage." In Louisiana, former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon David Duke didn't win his bid for the Senate two weeks ago, but he did capture enough votes (44 percent) to credibly claim that his "political odyssey has just begun."

It may seem anomalous that Hart would choose incumbent Hightower as his role model for a campaign season that seems so ripe with opportunity for challengers, but the type of candidate who is working hardest to wear the robe of the outsider in this environment is none other than the insider. Given the massive fund-raising advantages that incumbents enjoy, political experts expect the great majority of them to pull it off.

"The coin of the realm if you're an incumbent this year is to criticize Washington yourself, and to turn your challenger into a politician," said Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman. "For a throw-the-bums-out mentality to take hold, people have to feel they have better bums to replace them with. My sense is that the mood is more anti-politician than anti-incumbent."

One irony of this campaign is that Republicans appear to be paying a price for their success at recruiting seven House members to run for the Senate. Several of these House-based challengers for whom they had high hopes -- especially Rep. Lynn Martin in Illinois and Rep. Bill Schuette in Michigan -- remain far behind in the polls. "If you can turn a challenger into a politician, you've got the ace hand, and in these races, the very identity of the challenger does it for us," said Larry Harrington, political director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

On the other hand, two Senate races that had not been expected to be competitive -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D) against Rappaport in Massachusetts and Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R) against Lonsdale in Oregon -- have tightened this month to within a few points. Rappaport and Lonsdale share three traits -- both are businessmen, political novices and wealthy enough to finance their own campaigns.

So far, the theme of most outsider advertising this fall has been the familiar nexus of complaints about incumbents' missed votes, pay raises, honoraria abuse, franking abuse, special interest money and complicity in the savings and loan debacle.

Two of the most creative presentations of these issues have been in Minnesota, where challenger Paul Wellstone, a college professor and 1988 state campaign chairman for Jesse L. Jackson, did a two-minute takeoff of the movie "Roger and Me" to mock Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz's 10 to 1 funding advantage, and in Indiana, where state Rep. Baron Hill (D) parodied Republican Sen. Dan Coats's heavy use of the frank.

But both Wellstone and Hill remain far behind in the polls. "The only flaw in our advertising strategy is that we've been off the air since Labor Day," said Hill's media consultant, Joe Slade White. "We don't have the money."

Nor do most other challengers. According to a Common Cause survey, half of the 32 senators up for reelection and 382 of the 405 House members are in races in which their opponents are "financially uncompetitive." Overall, congressional incumbents have received 30 times more in PAC contributions than congressional challengers.

This lack of competitiveness has created a shortage of outlets for the voters' anger and generated a grass-roots political movement -- ballot initiatives to limit legislative terms. The first in the nation's history passed last month in Oklahoma and two more are on the ballot next month, in California and Colorado.

Meanwhile, the big question that looms between now and Nov. 6 is whether this as yet undifferentiated voter anger at politics as usual will take on a partisan or ideological cast.

So far, it hasn't. "Look at what happened in Massachusetts and Louisiana," said Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. "In both states, you had, just before the election, one candidate dropping out {Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy in Massachusetts; GOP nominee Ben Bagert in Louisiana} to keep the so-called angry candidate from winning. But in both cases, it came off as a deal made over the heads of the voters, and that's absolutely what they don't want. Both deals backfired.

"The same thing happened when Bush and Congress worked out a deal on the budget and tried to sell it to the American public," Schoen continued. "The voters called up their congressmen and said, 'No way.' "

The breakdown in the budget deal has assured that partisan bickering between President Bush and Congress will dominate the national news agenda for the next few weeks, creating new opportunities for both parties to capture the "angry vote" with sharply partisan appeals.

In the wake of the deal's collapse, Democrats have embraced economic populism and are rushing a soak-the-rich, spare-the-elderly deficit-reduction package through the House. Bush, after a week of public vacillation, seems determined to beat it back -- perhaps to the point of closing down the government once again.

"For the first time in quite a while, we have the potential to turn a midterm campaign into a national referendum, with real ideological content," said Paul Tully, political director of the Democratic National Committee. "Our message is going to be, 'Pull the Democratic lever and make sure the burden is on the rich, not on you.' " He said the party already is preparing generic television ads on that theme.

Republican campaign operatives said they will portray the Democrats as taxers and spenders, and they tout poll numbers that show Congress is falling to new lows of public disrepute.

It will be a battle of the political message in which, perhaps, the angriest will win.