Frank James

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.

"The Two-Way" is the place where NPR.org gives readers breaking news and analysis — and engages users in conversations ("two-ways") about the most compelling stories being reported by NPR News and other news media.

James came to NPR from the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for 20 years. In 2006, James created "The Swamp," the paper's successful politics and policy news blog whose readership climbed to a peak of 3 million page-views a month.

Before that, James covered homeland security, technology and privacy and economics in the Tribune's Washington Bureau. He also reported for the Tribune from South Africa and covered politics and higher education.

James also reported for The Wall Street Journal for nearly 10 years.

James received a bachelor of arts degree in English from Dickinson College and now serves on its board of trustees.

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It's All Politics
11:29 am
Mon December 17, 2012

Open-Government Watchdogs OK With Closed-Door Fiscal Cliff Talks

House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the White House on Thursday for a meeting with President Obama. The two men met again in private on Monday in an effort to reach a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 11:48 am

If President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner's closed-door meetings aimed at solving the fiscal cliff crisis trouble anyone, you'd expect it to be the open-government watchdogs who routinely bark their outrage at public officials who work overtime to avoid public scrutiny.

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It's All Politics
5:10 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

Obama Remembers 'Beautiful Little Kids,' Calls For 'Meaningful Action'

President Obama pauses as he speaks at the White House about Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 6:22 pm

Horrible acts of violence have forced President Obama to speak to a shocked nation after several mass shootings — at a shopping center in Arizona, a Colorado movie theater, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and, on Friday, a Connecticut elementary school.

Each time his sadness has been readily visible, mirroring the feelings of millions of Americans.

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It's All Politics
1:55 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

When It Comes To Entitlements, Obama Feels Heat From Left And Right

A protester at a fiscal cliff rally on Monday in Doral, Fla.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 2:12 pm

Despite his re-election and more Democratic seats in Congress, President Obama has far from a free hand to make the kind of comprehensive deal House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans are demanding — one that includes cuts to entitlement programs.

Strong resistance to that notion is coming from the political left, including warnings that while Obama won't have another re-election, most of his allies on Capitol Hill will be facing voters again.

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It's All Politics
4:27 am
Sat December 8, 2012

Once Boxed-In, Boehner May Finally Be Master Of The House

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 11:42 am

Not long ago, it seemed to many observers that the House of Representatives was a case of the tail wagging the dog, with Speaker John Boehner unable to keep in line many of his fellow Republicans, especially freshmen who came to Congress riding the 2010 Tea Party wave.

Now, however, the big dog seems back in control.

Some of the signs are subtle, some not. But as he faces off with President Obama during fiscal cliff negotiations, Boehner enjoys a stronger position with House Republicans than he had during earlier showdowns with the White House.

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It's All Politics
4:25 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

DeMint's Exit Creates Political Ripples, Raises Questions For Tea Party

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., speaks to the media after a Republican caucus luncheon last year. He's joined by (from left): Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 7:51 am

When Thursday dawned in Washington, some things seemed certain: The fiscal cliff fight would continue; the National Christmas Tree would be aglow by evening, and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina would continue to be the Senate's most important Tea Party voice.

So much for Washington certainties.

With his surprise announcement that he was exiting the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation think tank, a job that paid his predecessor $1 million annually, DeMint brought to an end his role as the Tea Party's godfather in the Senate.

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It's All Politics
11:39 am
Sat December 1, 2012

Think Congressional Gridlock Is Bad? If Reid Changes Filibuster Rules, Look Out

Jimmy Stewart in a scene from the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
AP

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 11:44 am

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, was clearly frustrated with the tactics some of his colleagues were using to gum up the legislative process.

The mere threat of a filibuster of a procedural motion to allow the defense authorization bill to be considered on the floor caused the Senate's leadership to balk at scheduling the legislation at all.

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It's All Politics
4:20 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

In Fiscal Cliff PR War, Obama Seeks Help From A Public Already Leaning His Way

President Obama speaks Wednesday while meeting with citizens at the White House. Obama called on Republicans to halt an automatic tax hike for middle-class Americans.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 6:18 pm

In Washington's latest game of chicken, President Obama is counting on voters who see things his way to give him the edge in his quest to get congressional Republicans to accept tax increases on the nation's wealthiest as part of any fiscal cliff deal.

To energize those voters, the president is ramping up a series of campaign-style events meant to educate the public about the stakes, as he sees them, of letting the Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class Americans expire if no agreement is reached by year's end.

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It's All Politics
2:57 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

New 'War On Christmas' Takes A Fiscal-Cliff Twist

The Christmas shopping season could be harmed if the fiscal cliff fight depresses consumer confidence, according to a new report from Obama administration economists.
Andrew Kelly Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 6:19 pm

In past years, conservatives have used the phrase "war on Christmas" to liberally accuse liberals of trying to ruin the holiday through political correctness and anti-religiousness.

This year, it's the Obama White House warning that Republicans are a threat to Christmas or, more precisely, the part of the economy that relies on the holiday shopping season — retail sales.

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It's All Politics
5:36 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Bad End Is Just The Latest For A Snake-Bit District

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, seen here in October 2011, resigned from Congress on Wednesday.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 6:20 pm

Talk about your snake-bitten congressional districts.

The Thanksgiving-eve news that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was resigning from Congress after reports that he has bipolar disorder and is the subject of a criminal probe of his spending of campaign funds, is just the latest in a series of bad endings for those who have represented Illinois' 2nd Congressional District in Washington.

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It's All Politics
5:02 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Obama Campaign Machine May Be Turned Loose On Fiscal Cliff Climbing Congress

Jim Messina, President Obama's 2012 campaign manager
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Originally published on Tue November 20, 2012 5:19 pm

The 2012 general election may be slipping into the past, but elements of President Obama's successful campaign aren't likely to go away anytime soon.

Just as it did after the president's 2008 election, the Obama campaign appears very likely to keep alive parts of the grass-roots effort that contributed to victory. And, just like four years ago, the idea would be to use the corps of Obama organizers and volunteers to push for the president's second-term agenda.

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It's All Politics
2:38 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Rubio Dodges Question On Earth's Age

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in Iowa on Saturday.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 6:25 pm

According to scientists, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Most of the people who vote in presidential primaries aren't scientists, however.

Indeed, a Gallup poll this year reported that 46 percent of Americans (58 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents) held a nonscientific belief in creationism, the religious-based view that humans were divinely created within the past 10,000 years.

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It's All Politics
4:28 am
Sat November 17, 2012

Obama And Lawmakers' Confidence About Avoiding Cliff Isn't Universal

Congressional leaders after their meeting with President Obama Friday. From left: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), House Speaker John Boehner (R) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
Jacquelyn Martin AP

As President Obama and congressional leaders started negotiations Friday to find a way to avoid the nation's going over the fiscal cliff, it was fairly plain that even some of those who are wisest in the ways of Washington couldn't agree on whether policymakers would actually be able to prevent the federal government from becoming a cliff diver.

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It's All Politics
5:10 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Geography, Not Gerrymandering, May Explain GOP's Hold On House

A man votes on Nov. 6 in Chicago.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Some Democrats complain that Republicans in recent decades have had the edge in House races because GOP state legislatures have been better at the gerrymandering game. Except that may not be true.

Some political experts believe there's an easier explanation, and perhaps a tougher one for Democrats to overcome: Voters supporting Republican House candidates, they say, are spread over more congressional districts than those who support Democrats. It's that simple. It's merely a matter of geography.

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It's All Politics
5:04 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

Obama Says He Has One Mandate: To Help The Middle Class

President Obama acknowledges reporters after his White House news conference on Wednesday.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 5:49 pm

A president just re-elected has arguably the most political capital he's likely to have during his entire second term.

And President Obama clearly has some capital, though he didn't overtly refer to it or vow to "spend it," as his predecessor George W. Bush famously said upon his 2004 re-election.

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It's All Politics
11:38 am
Wed November 14, 2012

Obama's Political Moneyball Could Be The Shape Of Campaigns To Come

Democratic party volunteer Matt Lattanzi worked door to door for the Obama campaign while canvassing in a Youngstown, Ohio, apartment building on Oct. 28.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 1:36 pm

A good deal of credit for President Obama's re-election has gone to his campaign's sophistication at interpreting data about potential voters and its use of behavioral research to get supporters to actually vote.

And because success in politics spawns imitators, the approach could well shape how future campaigns are run.

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It's All Politics
4:23 pm
Fri November 9, 2012

Deja Vu All Over Again: Obama And Boehner Clash On Fiscal Cliff And Taxes

President Obama speaks about the economy and the deficit Friday in the East Room of the White House.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 4:52 pm

If you fell asleep Rip Van Winkle-like earlier in the year only to wake up Friday, you might be forgiven for thinking no time had passed.

Because on Friday, President Obama called for higher taxes on the wealthy to be part of any agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, while House Speaker John Boehner strongly indicated that proposal was a non-starter with House Republicans.

But, of course, we just had an election in which the president won a second term and, through that, some political capital. Exactly how much remains to be seen.

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It's All Politics
3:27 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Senate Democrats Add To Majority: Caucus Now 54 Plus One

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., receives a kiss from his grandson Wednesday in Great Falls, Mont. Tester won re-election in a tight contest with Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Michael Albans AP

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 4:33 pm

A very good general election for Democrats got even better on Wednesday when they retained U.S. Senate seats in Montana and North Dakota, both of which had looked ripe for Republicans throughout much of the campaign.

Victories by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, in contests so close that concessions from the losing Republican candidates didn't occur until Wednesday, helped Senate Democrats reach 54 seats in the next Congress. That was a net increase of one seat from their current majority.

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It's All Politics
4:20 am
Wed November 7, 2012

Republican Response Likely To Be Tactical, Not Transformative

Mitt Romney concedes the presidency early Wednesday in Boston.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 4:41 am

With President Obama's defeat of Mitt Romney, the Republican Party finds itself in the same place it was four years ago — once again coming up short in its attempt to win the most powerful office in American democracy.

It faces the inevitable soul-searching the losing party undergoes, to greater or lesser degrees, after every contest for the one office whose occupant represents the entire nation.

And how the GOP reacts could help determine its fortunes in 2016.

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It's All Politics
12:19 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

On Election Eve, Obama And Romney Try Blazing A Path To 270

A citizen votes on a paper ballot during the final day of early voting Monday in Lancaster, Ohio.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 8:44 pm

(Revised at 5:46 pm ET)

On the final day of the 2012 campaign for the White House, President Obama and Mitt Romney are making the last push for votes in states each believes critical to achieving the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory.

Obama was scheduled to campaign in three swing states, while Romney had events planned in four. The only overlap was in Ohio, considered the linchpin of the election.

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It's All Politics
10:04 am
Fri November 2, 2012

Final Pre-Election Jobs Report Can Be Spun By Both Obama And Romney

President Obama gives a girl a high five at a campaign rally in Hilliard, Ohio, on Nov. 2.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 12:20 pm

(Revised @ 12 p.m. ET)

The final monthly jobs report before Tuesday's general election contained something for both President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney to work into their closing arguments to voters.

For Obama, it was the news that the economy in October created significantly more jobs — 171,000 — than many economists had forecast. And the Labor Department revised upward the job numbers for September and August, suggesting even more underlying strength in the economy than earlier appeared to be the case.

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It's All Politics
12:31 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Obama Returns To The Post-Sandy Campaign Trail

President Obama campaigns Thursday in Green Bay, Wis.
Tom Lynn AP

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 1:49 pm

Just five days before Election Day, President Obama returned to the campaign trail after spending several days preoccupied with overseeing the federal response to the devastation in the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Obama began his campaign re-emergence Thursday with a rally in Green Bay, Wis., a state where his once-substantial lead in polls over Republican Mitt Romney has narrowed to only a few points in a majority of the polls.

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It's All Politics
6:12 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

The Destructive Storm That Built An Unlikely Political Bridge

President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the Brigantine Beach Community Center in Brigantine, N.J., where they met with local residents displaced by Sandy.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Though Superstorm Sandy destroyed much in its path, it did apparently build at least one bridge, that of bipartisanship between President Obama and New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie, a strong ally of Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, and a key critic of the president before the storm, has had little but praise for Obama for the assistance provided to New Jersey leading into the epic storm, which hit this week.

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It's All Politics
4:23 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Sandy Could Dent The Vote, But It's Unclear If It Hurts Obama Or Romney More

First responders rescue flood-stranded people in Little Ferry, N.J., on Tuesday.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Tue October 30, 2012 10:36 pm

With the death, destruction, flooding, power outages and transportation disruptions caused by Sandy the Superstorm, it may seem crass to ask about the impact on next week's election.

But here's a question: Could the trail of devastation left by the storm in a part of the nation whose states are generally colored blue in presidential races depress turnout in those states, especially among Democrats?

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It's All Politics
2:48 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Obama And Romney Respond To Sandy With Election (And Katrina) In Mind

President Obama walks toward the White House on Monday after returning to Washington to monitor the government response to Hurricane Sandy.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the week before Election Day is certainly not turning out the way anyone expected, especially the presidential candidates.

President Obama and Mitt Romney found themselves ditching their schedules for the start of the week as they responded to exigencies created by the massive hurricane raking the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

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It's All Politics
5:11 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

Obama May Not Need To Repeat 2008 Support From White Voters To Win

The erosion of President Obama's support among white voters means he must rely even more on nonwhites.
Tony Dejak AP

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 6:28 pm

While much of what will happen on Election Day is now unknowable, we can predict with certainty that President Obama won't win a majority of the white vote.

No news there. No Democratic presidential candidate, after all, has received the support of most white voters since President Lyndon Johnson's 1964 historic rout of Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

Still, four years ago, Obama did manage to get a very respectable 43 percent of white voters to choose him over Goldwater's Senate successor from Arizona, Sen. John McCain.

That was then.

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It's All Politics
6:08 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Obama, Romney Tweak Each Other In Swing States

President Obama at a campaign rally at City Park in Denver Wednesday.
Ed Andrieski AP

With 13 days left until the Nov. 6 election, President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, both included trips to Iowa and Nevada on their schedules. Each tried to fire up his supporters and cast doubts about the other to gain an advantage in a race that appears essentially tied.

At rallies in Davenport, Iowa, and Denver, both swing states where the election is fluid, Obama trotted out attack lines he's used in recent days against the former Massachusetts governor.

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It's All Politics
3:24 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

The Race To 270: A Swing State Scorecard

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 9:11 am

From now until Election Day, the U.S. might as well consist of just eight or so states, not 50.

Those are the battleground states where President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, their running mates and spouses will be spending much of their time in what remains of the 2012 race for the White House.

It's all about amassing the 270 electoral votes required to be elected president. NPR's analysis of the race at this point suggests the eight states that are most in play are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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It's All Politics
6:02 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

Obama, Romney Reprise Their Greatest Debate Hits On Campaign Trail

President Obama campaigned at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, on Wednesday.
Carolyn Kaster AP

A day after their second presidential debate, President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney were in different swing states, reprising some of their greatest hits from Tuesday night.

And "hits" is the exactly the right word because each man energetically repeated attacks he made on his rival.

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It's All Politics
4:07 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Romney's Business Skills Evident In His Strong Debating Style

Mitt Romney at the first presidential debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3.
Charlie Neibergall AP

If there was any surprise in the first 90-minute presidential debate, it was President Obama's apathetic performance, not Mitt Romney's energetic and assertive pounding of the commander in chief.

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It's All Politics
4:09 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

'I Was Just Too Polite,' Says Obama, Vowing To Hit Hard At Next Debate

President Obama promised to take it to Mitt Romney in future debates.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 4:44 pm

No more Mr. Nice Guy. That was essentially what President Obama told Tom Joyner, the black-radio megahost, to expect at upcoming presidential debates.

On Wednesday, the president explained that his main mistake at last week's debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney was an excess of gentility.

Obama's self-critique, such as it was, came in response to a Joyner question:

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