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.

If only the rest of the nation were like Illinois, the past few months would have been much less stressful for Mitt Romney.

Illinois delivered a healing balm in the form of a resounding victory for the Republican presidential front-runner in Tuesday night's GOP primary, with Republicans there giving him about half of their votes.

It wasn't a surprise that Romney won. Polls in the run-up to primary day indicated he had a significant lead over his closest rival, Rick Santorum.

Still, the size of his win was impressive — about 12 percentage points.

Maybe Robert De Niro didn't know. Or maybe he forgot.

But when the superstar actor joked at a New York Obama campaign fundraiser Monday evening which Michelle Obama attended about the country not being ready for a white first lady, he got into dangerous territory for President Obama.

According to an Obama campaign pool report, De Niro deadpanned:

"Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?"

New Jersey isn't normally the first state that springs to mind when you're searching for an example of good government. Not even close. In fact, just the opposite.

But the Garden State can now boast that, compared to most other states, it is a democratic (small "d") oasis.

It seems like only yesterday when House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin introduced a federal budget that would change Medicare as we know it.

Mitt Romney won Puerto Rico's Republican presidential primary Sunday, adding the commonwealth's 20 delegates to his commanding lead over the other candidates as they compete to reach the 1,144 needed for the nomination. Rick Santorum hurt himself with the island's voters by saying English had to become its official language before it could achieve statehood.

Poor Rutherford B. Hayes. It wasn't bad enough that the 19th president, a Republican, was called "His Fraudulency" by Democrats during his one term in office (1877-1881) because of the unusual circumstances of how he "won."

Now, the current occupant of the White House, President Obama, was spreading a most assuredly inaccurate story, according to experts, about Hayes' reaction to an early telephone.

What happens if the target of a recall election decides to call it quits before the actual election?

If it's Wisconsin, the recall election apparently happens anyway.

Vice President Biden took on the traditional role that has been reserved to those who have previously served in his position as the political wing man for a president seeking re-election: he went on the attack.

What does it mean that in 2012 Mitt Romney has, during the Republican presidential primaries, done well in some of the same Ohio and Michigan urban-suburban counties that President Obama won in 2008 — a pattern likely to be repeated in some upcoming primaries?

In the wake of the alleged killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he wants all NATO troops moved onto existing large bases and a faster handover of security responsibilities to his nation's forces. This dovetails with growing opinion in the U.S. that the withdrawal of American troops happen sooner than scheduled.

Time for a few unconventional thoughts:

  • Newt Gingrich is still in good enough shape to win the Republican presidential nomination at a brokered convention in Tampa.
  • By staying in the race, Gingrich actually helps, not hurts, his rival Rick Santorum.
  • Gingrich's situation resembles Abraham Lincoln's in 1860.

The cacophony of hoots being directed at Mitt Romney Wednesday for his poor performances in Alabama and Mississippi primaries is somewhat curious, especially since it was the conventional wisdom as recently as last week that the Deep South was likely to be very tough going for him.

Alabama and Mississippi will play unaccustomed high-profile roles Tuesday as each candidate for the Republican presidential nomination looks to voters in those states to give his candidacy a boost — toward inevitability, if you're Mitt Romney, or just one more week if you're Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.

So voters and analysts alike will be watching the two states closely Tuesday to see whether Republicans there chose to go with the most electable candidate, who many say is Romney, or the most conservative, a label Santorum and Gingrich say fits them.

When presidents give major set-piece speeches, they're mainly engaged in exercises in futility since a commander-in-chief's high-flown rhetoric rarely shifts voter attitudes for long.

Indeed, the exercise could even be more negative than neutral since speeches by presidents advocating specific policy not only leave citizen unswayed but can fire up political opponents in the other party, according to Ezra Klein in an essay in the New Yorker.

Rising gas prices have many voters looking for someone to blame and President Obama appears to be as good a target as anyone, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests, with the president's approval rating falling from 50 percent last month to 46 percent recently.

In another sign that the economic recovery is deepening, the U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs in February, according to the Labor Department, more than what many economists had expected. Meanwhile, the jobless rate of 8.3 percent remained unchanged from the prior month even as more workers entered the workforce. The news kept alive a trend helpful to President Obama re-election chances.

President Obama's campaign on Thursday issued the trailer for a documentary about his time in the White House. Call it "President Obama: The Movie."

Just as they promised they would on Super Tuesday evening, Mitt Romney's campaign aides spent Wednesday explaining why their boss' rivals can't possibly win the Republican presidential nomination and how they're only helping President Obama by not accepting the inevitable and leaving the race.

There was nothing subtle about the title on Romney political director Rich Beeson's memo: "Our Opponents' Last Stand: A Postmortem."

The race between two veteran Ohio Democrats, Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Rep. Dennis Kucinich who were redistricted into the same congressional district ended badly for Kucinich who lost to his fellow House Democrat.

Meanwhile, the House Republican Conference will lose Rep. Jean Schmidt, who was defeated by Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist and Iraq War veteran, in an upset.

Super Tuesday 2012 is finally here, with Republican presidential preference contests — a mix of primaries and caucuses — occurring in 10 states from sea to shining sea.

While the 2012 race for the GOP nomination likely won't be over by Wednesday morning, it could seem far closer to being so, especially if Mitt Romney sweeps contests everywhere but, say, Georgia, where the former congressman from the Peach State, Newt Gingrich, is expected to have a good night.

Robert Staake, the cover artist for the New Yorker's March 12 cover took a story that's an oldie but goodie — Mitt Romney strapping the kennel containing Seamus the family dog atop the family car during a vacation road trip — and gave it a new spin with Rick Santorum filling in for the dog.

Suffolk University has a new poll out of Ohio that reminds us that in politics as in life, timing is everything; Rick Santorum would have been much better off if Super Tuesday had been two weeks ago.

President Obama told AIPAC, the influential Israel lobbying group, Sunday that his policy on a potential Iranian nuclear weapon was one of prevention, not containment. And in a warning seemingly aimed at Israeli and U.S.

In a move certain to bring even more attention to one of the latest media tempests, President Obama on Friday got on the phone to encourage the Georgetown University law student disparaged by conservative radio superstar Rush Limbaugh with misogynistic epithets.

Sandra Fluke, who is also an activist, was about to appear on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports when she took a phone call from the White House. It was the president. As an emotional Fluke explained once she was in front of the cameras with Mitchell:

If Rick Santorum has a lead on Mitt Romney in Ohio, it looks like it's not much of one. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Santorum leading Romney by four percentage points, 35 percent to 31 percent.

With the margin of error at +/-4.3 points, the two top rivals for the Republican presidential nomination are essentially tied just days before Super Tuesday when voters in Ohio and nine other states take part in the presidential primary process.

President Obama tells both Israel and Iran through an interview with The Atlantic that "as president of the United States, I don't bluff," when he leaves open the possibility of a U.S. military strike against Iran's nuclear program.

In life, Andrew Breitbart was the conservative blogger and provocateur whose sometimes controversial efforts against his ideological adversaries, both real and imagined, made him one of the most polarizing figures on the contemporary political scene.

In death, however, it was clear Breitbart had earned the respect not just of conservatives but of some progressives, too, who may have disagreed with his political views and tactics, but admired his energy and the entrepreneurial spirit with which he waged his campaign.

With Republicans blaming his energy policies for higher gas prices and rising fears that U.S. gas prices could hit an average of $5 a gallon, President Obama on Thursday will renew a call Democrats make whenever oil prices rise that Congress repeal tax breaks for oil companies.

(Updated at 5:57 pm ET)

A day after Senate Democrats' chances of keeping control of the chamber seemed to improve with the news that Maine Republican Olympia Snowe was retiring from a seat Democrats seem likely to gain, they got apparently more good news — Bob Kerrey finally decided to run for the soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat from Nebraska.

Mitt Romney's campaign isn't about to stop citing Rick Santorum's robocalls to Michigan Democrats, as the former Massachusetts governor continues to try to stoke a backlash against his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination.

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