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.

Pages

It's All Politics
5:09 am
Thu July 17, 2014

The GOP Now Likes Community Organizing (If It Wins Elections)

Republican officials Rob Collins, Phil Cox and Matt Walter all seemed pleased at a briefing for journalists about the GOP's midterm election prospects, as did former first lady Mamie Eisenhower.
Frank James NPR

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 6:56 am

Both parties are sounding confident right now about their midterm election prospects, but only one can be right. As it stands now, Republicans clearly have more reason for optimism.

On their side, Republicans have history and a current political environment in which the Republican base looks to be more excited about the coming election than Democrats.

Meanwhile, voters are consistently telling pollsters that they're dissatisfied with the nation's direction, which usually portends bad news for the party holding the White House.

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It's All Politics
4:54 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Temporary Fix For Highway Money Is Well-Traveled Road

The I-75 highway modernization project in Dayton, Ohio, in April 2014.
Skip Peterson AP

If kicking the can down the road were a competitive sport, the championship trophy would never leave Washington.

When the need to make a difficult choice collides with an unyielding deadline, the tendency in a city where partisan gridlock is the norm is to put the tough decisions off for another day.

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It's All Politics
4:15 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Florida Ruling Is A Primer On Redistricting Chicanery

Florida Republican state Sen. Rene Garcia examines a map of proposed changes in congressional districts in January 2012.
Chris O'Meara AP

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 4:25 pm

If you have some time over the weekend or need a break from the endless LeBron James coverage, you could peruse the highly readable opinion by a Florida judge who invalidated some of the redistricting efforts by the state's Republican Legislature.

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It's All Politics
7:17 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

In Texas, Obama Sets Stage To Answer 'Do-Nothing' Congress

Speaking about the need for congressional action on immigration, President Obama told a crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, on Thursday that he would "love it if the Republicans did stuff too."
Jack Plunkett AP

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 9:06 am

Six years into his administration, President Obama has apparently not given up on the "hope" that was a major theme of his first run for president.

What else but undying optimism could explain the president's hope for the Texas congressional delegation expressed in his visit to their state this week?

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It's All Politics
4:07 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Should President Obama Visit The Texas Border?

Immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally stand in line for bus tickets after their release in June from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in McAllen, Texas.
Eric Gay AP

Much of President Obama's presidency currently falls into the category of damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

That certainly is true on the question of whether he should visit the U.S.-Mexico border during his two-day visit to Texas.

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It's All Politics
5:03 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

A Senator Turns His Bible Into A Political Tool

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., walks with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Capitol Hill on June 4.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 5:10 pm

Here are two rules of American politics: Never let an opponent's attacks go unanswered, and if you're running in the South and have a good reason to be pictured holding a Bible, go for it.

The first is a long-standing rule. The second is hard to argue with.

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It's All Politics
6:23 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

In Mississippi, The GOP's Not-So-Civil War Continues

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (center) may have scored the equivalent of a winning political touchdown in the Republican primary last month, but Chris McDaniel, who lost, still wants to see the replay.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

It's been 13 days since Sen. Thad Cochran, by most accounts, won Mississippi's Republican primary over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, with African-American Democrats largely providing the 6,800-vote margin of victory out of some 375,000 votes cast.

But as of Monday, McDaniel still hadn't conceded, and your guess is as good as anyone's as to when — or even if — he ever will.

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It's All Politics
2:48 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Red State Democrats Tread Lightly On Hobby Lobby Ruling

When it comes to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn must navigate between her state's conservative electorate and her national party.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Fri July 4, 2014 9:28 am

For the typical Democrat running in 2014, frequent condemnation of the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision is a no-brainer as a rallying cry to raise money and energize voters — especially women.

Monday's ruling allows family-owned and other closely held companies to opt out of the federal health law's contraception mandate if they have religious objections.

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It's All Politics
5:02 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Another Day, Another Reason For Voters To Loathe Congress

The House Ethics Committee dismayed government watchdogs by reducing disclosure requirements for privately paid trips taken by members of Congress.
Matthias Schrader AP

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 5:25 pm

Congressional approval ratings are at rock bottom. Why would members pull a stunt likely to make them even more unpopular than they already are?

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It's All Politics
5:41 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Obama's No-Win Immigration Predicament

President Obama, accompanied by Vice President Biden in the White House Rose Garden, lashed out at House Republicans for stalling immigration legislation.
Charles Dharapak AP

President Obama's tough predicament on immigration is only getting worse.

He certainly didn't want to be dealing with an influx of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the U.S. across the Southern border, overwhelming the Homeland Security Department's ability to deal with them during a critical midterm election year.

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It's All Politics
6:35 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

New House Leadership Puts Export Bank On Shakier Ground

The U.S. government-backed loans that help Boeing and other U.S. manufacturers sell abroad has opponents of renewing the Export-Import Bank's charter accusing it of crony capitalism.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 4:36 pm

The Export-Import Bank, created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 to boost U.S. exports during the Great Depression, needs its charter to be reauthorized by September's end if it is to continue providing loans to U.S. exporters and overseas companies.

The bank has the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, so it sounds like an easy vote.

But Cantor was recently defeated in his primary by David Brat, the libertarian college professor who portrayed the soon-to-be-ex-majority leader as a shameless tool of big business.

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It's All Politics
6:30 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Will Mississippi's Black Democrats Save A Republican?

Polls give Chris McDaniel the advantage going into Tuesday's runoff for Mississippi's GOP Senate nomination. His 2-year-old son helped rally supporters in Madison, Miss., on Thursday.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

It's a rich irony that on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders risking life and limb in Mississippi to help African-Americans register to vote, black Democrats may decide which Republican wins Tuesday's runoff for the GOP Senate nomination.

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It's All Politics
2:57 am
Sun June 22, 2014

Hillary Clinton, The Inevitable? Sure Seems Like It

Sometimes, you just have to accept the inevitable. But there are a couple years left until the Democratic presidential nominee is officially chosen.
Steven Senne AP

The jockeying for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is already shaping up to be nothing like the 2008 contest. Indeed, it doesn't even resemble a contest. It's not going too far out on a limb to say that, unlike six years ago, the nomination is Hillary Clinton's for the taking, if she wants it.

This will inevitably lead to the idea of her inevitability — and there are few words in politics more despised than that one.

Presidential aspirants have a love-hate relationship with that word when it's attached to them.

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It's All Politics
3:58 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

House Republicans' Top Leadership Gets A Red-State Member

Newly elected House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana (left) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California speak to the media following the House Republican leadership elections on Thursday.
Kevin Dietsch UPI/Landov

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 6:09 pm

House Republicans, whose voter strength can be disproportionately found in the red states of the South and Mountain West, have once again elected a majority leader from a state that voted twice for President Obama. But the race for majority whip was won by a red-state representative who made the case for regional diversity in Republican leadership.

Hailing from California, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy replaces Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, whose surprising primary loss to a political newcomer set the stage for Thursday's leadership elections.

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It's All Politics
4:44 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Iraq's Meltdown Troubles U.S. Political Waters

Before talking about the situation in Iraq, President Obama bantered with (from left to right) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 5:25 pm

Iraq has a long history of roiling American politics. And that doesn't appear about to change anytime soon.

With the Shiite-led Iraqi government losing control of large parts of its country to the Sunni extremist group known as ISIS, the question of who lost Iraq is starting to reverberate through Washington the way "who lost Vietnam" and "who lost China" did in earlier eras.

That all of this is happening during a midterm election stirs even more politics into the mix than if the current violence and ISIS inroads had occurred last year.

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It's All Politics
3:06 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Suspect's Capture Doesn't Arrest Benghazi Suspicions

During a visit to Pittsburgh Tuesday, President Obama comments on the capture of a Libyan militant suspected of the 2012 killings of four Americans in Benghazi.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 3:33 pm

Does the capture of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a key suspect in the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks, alter the political polarity of the episode?

If so, the change wasn't immediately apparent.

While Republicans said Tuesday they welcomed the news, they also made clear that their suspicions toward President Obama on all things Benghazi were far from assuaged.

Indeed, what appeared to happen was that Khatallah's apprehension added to — rather than subtracted from — the GOP points of contention with the Obama administration.

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It's All Politics
2:58 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

4 Takeaways From Hillary Clinton's 'Fresh Air' Interview

Hillary Clinton promotes her new book, Hard Choices, in Chicago on Wednesday. The former senator and secretary of state had a lively and much-talked-about chat this week with Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
Stacy Thacker AP

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 8:28 pm

So when exactly did Hillary Clinton change her mind on same-sex marriage? That question was left unanswered in the former secretary of state's lively exchange with Fresh Air host Terry Gross.

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It's All Politics
7:03 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Pew Poll: More Americans Are Political Purists

Voters cast ballots Tuesday at a Mount Pleasant, S.C., polling place for the state's primary election.
Bruce Smith AP

Maybe there's something in humans that pushes them apart the way plate tectonics moves continents. Whatever the reason, the ideological divide between conservatives and progressives in the U.S. has grown over the past decade, and not by a little, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

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It's All Politics
6:58 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Cantor's Loss In Va. Is Immigration Issue's Death Knell. Or Not.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's loss in his district's primary is seen by many as the end of a chance at immigration overhaul any time soon.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 9:04 am

As the smoke clears from the wreckage of the Republican establishment's monumental loss in the Virginia congressional primary, it appears that hopes of immigration overhaul have been snuffed out.

Economic professor Dave Brat, who beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday, made immigration policy a major part of his argument against Cantor.

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It's All Politics
3:05 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Meet David Brat, The Giant-Killer Who Knocked Off Eric Cantor

David Brat, who upset Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor in Tuesday's 7th Congressional District GOP primary, at a May 28 news conference at the Capitol in Richmond.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:33 am

Who is David Brat, the slayer of a goliath of congressional politics, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor?

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It's All Politics
5:39 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Hillary Clinton Refines Her Benghazi Response

Hillary Clinton at a book signing in New York. The former secretary of state has said that Benghazi joins a long list of tragedies during administrations of both parties.
Bebeto Matthews AP

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 6:13 pm

As Hillary Clinton contemplates a 2016 presidential run, it's clear she'll need to answer Benghazi questions in a way that neutralizes conservative attacks and avoids politicizing the issue.

In her interview with NPR Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, the former secretary of state unveiled a Benghazi answer that might be a road test of a message to parry GOP accusations.

Speaking of the four Americans killed in the 2012 attack, Clinton said:

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It's All Politics
1:54 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Clinton Position On Cuba Signals New Political Era

Hillary Clinton poses for a family photo with former President Bill Clinton, daughter Chelsea, and son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky, after attending Chelsea's Oxford University graduation ceremony last month.
Matt Dunham AP

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 3:12 pm

One of the few revelations in Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's new book about her time in the Obama administration, is that she urged President Obama to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

"Since 1960, the United States had maintained an embargo against the island in hopes of squeezing Castro from power, but it only succeeded in giving him a foil to blame for Cuba's economic woes," Clinton writes. "It wasn't achieving its goals and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America."

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It's All Politics
3:53 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Hillary Clinton: I Helped Restore U.S. Leadership In The World

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington in May 2014.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 7:26 am

To hear Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and once and maybe future Democratic presidential candidate tell it, her new book, Hard Choices, isn't the kickoff to a 2016 campaign.

She still hasn't made up her mind about another run for the presidency, she told Renee Montagne, co-host of NPR's Morning Edition. It's more a review of the decisions she made as the nation's top diplomat.

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It's All Politics
4:58 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

State Senator's Resignation Roils Virginia Politics

Virginia state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat, in February 2010. Puckett resigned his seat on Monday.
Steve Helber AP

A single legislator in Virginia's statehouse normally doesn't rate much attention beyond, say, his or her district or Richmond, the state capital.

But then again, the resignation of a single Democratic state senator doesn't normally shift control of Virginia's Senate from Democrats to Republicans — a move that possibly stops dead in its tracks Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's plans to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

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It's All Politics
6:26 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Explaining The Bergdahl Swap Hasn't Been Obama's Finest Hour

President Obama at the news conference in Brussels at which he was asked if he had second thoughts about how he and his aides handled the Bergdahl deal announcement. British Prime Minister David Cameron is in the background.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 1:35 pm

While White House officials are keeping a brave face, President Obama and his top aides obviously have a political firestorm on their hands, owing not only to the particular details of the prisoner exchange involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and five senior Taliban officials but how they informed Congress and the public.

Not that the president is yet willing to admit that publicly.

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It's All Politics
4:56 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Is Clinton Distancing Herself From Obama? Maybe Not

Hillary Clinton works a rope line at Intertech Plastics in Denver on Monday.
Brennan Linsley AP

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 6:05 pm

Is Hillary Clinton distancing herself from the Obama administration in preparation for a 2016 presidential run?

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It's All Politics
4:57 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Move Over Benghazi; Here Comes Bergdahl

Bob and Jani Bergdahl, the parents of freed American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, with President Obama at the White House on Saturday. The controversy over Bergdahl's release could cast a long shadow over the administration.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 5:42 pm

Just when it seemed like the outrage on the political right over Benghazi had subsided to the point where only the announcement of House hearings put it back in the headlines, the exchange of captive U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban fighters at Guantanamo Bay came along.

Now President Obama finds himself amid another foreign policy and national security controversy with fresh legs that even features Susan Rice — the White House official who played a prominent early role in the Benghazi controversy — making an encore.

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It's All Politics
4:32 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

New EPA Rules Burn Red State Democrats

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy during her announcement Monday of a plan to limit power plant greenhouse gases.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 5:48 pm

While many on the left embraced the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules to reduce coal-burning power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, some red state Democrats couldn't put enough distance between themselves and the Obama administration.

You would have had a tough time, for instance, distinguishing the reaction of Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes from that of the man she hopes to replace, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican.

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It's All Politics
3:54 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Shinseki Couldn't Outflank Election Year Politics

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pauses while speaking at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans on Friday.
Charles Dharapak AP

By President Obama's own admission, politics had a lot to do with why he decided to accept Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation Friday.

In saying that he accepted Shinseki's judgment that there was a real downside to him remaining in the Cabinet, Obama said: "Well, the distractions that Ric refers to in part are political."

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It's All Politics
10:03 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Democrats Plan Ad Buys In Some Rather Blue Places

Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney, shown with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton during a June 2013 hearing, is a blue-state Democrat who could be in a tight re-election race.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 2:06 pm

A list of the House races for which Democrats have asked broadcasters and cable companies to reserve $44 million in ad time provides a revealing look at the shape of the midterm election landscape this fall.

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to spend money in some of the bluest states on the map — places like Massachusetts, Illinois and California.
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