Don Gonyea

Although Don Gonyea is a NPR National Political Correspondent based in Washington, D.C., he spends much of his time traveling throughout the United States covering campaigns, elections, and the political climate throughout the country. His reports can be heard on all NPR programs and at NPR.org.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Gonyea chronicled the controversial election and the ensuing legal recount battles in the courts. At the same time George W. Bush moved into the White House in 2001, Gonyea started as NPR's White House Correspondent. He was at the White House on the morning of September 11, 2001, providing live reports following the evacuation of the building.

As White House correspondent, Gonyea covered the Bush administration's prosecution of wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq and during the 2004 campaign he traveled with President Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry. In November 2006, Gonyea co-anchored NPR's coverage of historic elections when Democrats captured control of both houses of the US Congress. In 2008, Gonyea was the lead reporter covering the entire Obama presidential campaign for NPR, from the Iowa caucuses to victory night in Chicago. He was also there when candidate Obama visited the Middle East and Europe. He continued covering the White House and President Barack Obama until spring 2010, when he moved into his current position.

Gonyea has filed stories from around the globe, including Moscow, Beijing, London, Islamabad, Doha, Budapest, Seoul, San Salvador, and Hanoi. He attended President Bush's first ever meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Slovenia in 2001, and subsequent, at times testy meetings between the two leaders in St. Petersburg, Shanghai and Bratislava. He also covered Mr.Obama's first trip overseas as president.

In 1986, Gonyea got his start at NPR reporting from Detroit on labor unions and the automobile industry. He spent countless hours on picket lines and in union halls covering strikes, including numerous lengthy work stoppages at GM in the late 1990s. Gonyea also reported on the development of alternative fuel and hybrid-powered automobiles, Dr. Jack Kevorkian's assisted-suicide crusade, and the 1999 closing of Detroit's classic Tiger Stadium — the ballpark of his youth.

Over the years Gonyea has contributed to PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the BBC, CBC, AP Radio, and the Columbia Journalism Review. He periodically teaches college journalism courses.

Gonyea has won numerous national and state awards for his reporting. He was part of the team that earned NPR a 2000 George Foster Peabody Award for the All Things Considered series "Lost & Found Sound."

A native of Monroe, Michigan, Gonyea is an honors graduate of Michigan State University.

This election cycle, one factor stands above all others in driving the dynamics of the race for the Republican presidential nomination: televised debates.

NPR's Don Gonyea reports on the also-rans in Saturday's South Carolina primary.

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This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

We're waking up on a morning before a key Republican primary in South Carolina, and after a day when the field of Republican candidates went up, down, and up again. Rick Perry went down and bowed out of the race. Newt Gingrich rode a surge in the polls. And Rick Santorum went up, when it was revealed that he got the most votes in the Iowa caucuses, not Mitt Romney.

A candidate forum was held in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday night, sponsored by the anti-abortion rights group Personhood USA. Participating in the event were Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Rick Perry. Front-runner Mitt Romney did not attend. South Carolina holds its primary on Saturday.

The Republican presidential candidates gathered last night In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a debate. Myrtle Beach is also the site for the first convention of the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

While Mitt Romney celebrates, his rivals face a harsh reality. For all the Republican anxiety about Romney - conservatives saying he's not really conservative, columnists worrying that he doesn't seem authentic; fear that the whole GOP field just isn't very strong - Romney has won both Iowa and New Hampshire.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep in Manchester, New Hampshire.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in Washington.

It's not easy for a presidential candidate to win both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Barack Obama didn't do it four years ago, nor did John McCain. But this year, Mitt Romney is getting closer to pulling it off.

In recent weeks a lot of polls and pundits said the Iowa caucuses might be too close to call. But nobody imagined just how close things would turn out Tuesday night in the first voting of the 2012 presidential nominating season. Mitt Romney was declared the winner by just eight votes. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum came in second.

Iowa's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is a fierce advocate for the Iowa caucuses. At times over the past four months, he has seemed frustrated that candidates have not been in the state as much as in past years.

Branstad's message over and over to the candidates was not to ignore the voters of Iowa, because they take it personally.

"They want to see the candidates, and they take their responsibility very seriously," Branstad says.

Concluding that he can win the Iowa caucuses, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney spent the weekend campaigning in western Iowa, a mostly conservative region. After months of making only periodic visits to the state, Romney is making an aggressive final push through Iowa.

A little over three hours outside Des Moines, Iowa, in the northwest corner of the state, is the city of Le Mars. A sign proclaims this is the Ice Cream Capital of the World.

Saturday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke in Le Mars at the Family Table restaurant. His speech, like all Romney campaign speeches, was about President Obama.

"This is an election to decide whether we're going to go further and further down the path of becoming more and more similar to a European welfare state, or whether instead we're going to remain an exceptional nation," he said.

At 7 p.m. central time on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the first contest of the 2012 presidential nominating process takes place in Iowa.

As you've heard countless times, Iowans vote in caucuses, which are small political meetings held in 1,774 locations scattered around the state.

NPR political correspondent Don Gonyea has prepared this basic guide to next week's contest.

How It Works

The Iowa caucuses — the first contest of the 2012 presidential nominating season — take place in three weeks. That means there's precious little time for candidates to make their case and close the deal with Hawkeye State Republicans.

But candidates were tough to find in Iowa on Tuesday. Only former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — a big underdog in the race — was there. In fact, many Iowans note that this year candidates have spent fewer hours in the state than before recent presidential caucuses.

With three weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses kick off the Republican nominating contest, the candidates are not registering much of a presence in Iowa.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And as the president does that, the race for the Republican presidential nomination continues. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the leaders in the race for that nomination. They faced each other in a debate in Des Moines, Iowa Saturday night.

Six GOP presidential hopefuls met in a two-hour-long debate in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday night, and this time the gloves came off.

This was the first such event since former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich moved into the front-runner spot. It had been anticipated that Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — the top two in most polls — would square off as each hopes to win the Iowa caucuses, now just over three weeks away. They did, and the jabs got personal at times.

'Let's Be Candid'

Back in June, the news out of the Newt Gingrich presidential campaign was dire.

Top staffers quit over differences about strategy, with some citing doubts about the candidate's seriousness — especially when he and his wife went on a cruise to the Greek Islands while his rivals stumped through New Hampshire and Iowa.

But now it's December, and Gingrich suddenly sits atop the polls. As a result, his organization is growing — as is the campaign brain trust. But Gingrich's most important adviser remains himself.

A Front-Runner's Staffing Needs

Occupy Wall Street protesters have been removed by police from public spaces in Los Angeles and Philadelphia this week. Some cities still have active 24-hour protests in place, though earlier this month the original Occupy encampment — on Wall Street — was also shut down.

Now activists in New York and elsewhere are talking about the movement's next phase, including the degree to which Occupy activists should get involved in the 2012 election.

Six Republican presidential hopefuls gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, and each made a pitch for the state's very important Christian conservative vote.

The event was not a debate, but a roundtable discussion. The candidates sat side-by-side at what was described as a Thanksgiving table, complete with pumpkins and autumn leaves. Not present at the table was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who chose not to attend.

NPR's Don Gonyea normally reports on politics, but he finds other stories along the way, like this one about a touring bluegrass band from the Czech Republic.

The first time I heard Druha Trava play was April 2009. I was covering President Obama's trip to the Europe. There was a big outdoor speech in Prague, and the band was playing Czech versions of Bob Dylan songs.

I did a short radio postcard story back then, figuring it was the kind of experience that every music fan knows: You stumble upon a great band somewhere and never see them again.

Presidential hopefuls and voters alike sometimes get upset about so-called gotcha questions from reporters that seem designed to embarrass contenders. But Wednesday night's Republican debate outside Detroit demonstrated how some candidates have done a perfectly good job of "getting" themselves.

The debate had some dramatic moments — including one excruciating moment that Texas Gov. Rick Perry would probably like to forget. The comments focused on the economy and jobs, but there were also questions about the sexual harassment allegations against front-runner Herman Cain.

It was one year ago that the Tea Party movement helped Republicans take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. With the presidential election a year away, the movement finds itself searching for ways to have the same kind of impact this time around.

The Tea Party celebrated on election night last year with candidates like Rand Paul, who captured a Senate seat in Kentucky.

"Tonight there's a Tea Party tidal wave, and we're sending a message to them," Paul said in his victory speech.

The baby boomers were born in the two decades after World War II and known for their anti-establishment liberalism in the 1960s. But their beginnings have not made them a predictable Democratic voting block. In 2008, boomers narrowly backed Barack Obama, but they swung over to Republicans in 2010.

It's been a week of mixed messaging from two of the campaigns on the presidential trail: that of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Romney revived accusations that he's a flip-flopper when he waded into a battle over a ballot proposal in Ohio. Perry created his own distraction by revisiting questions about President Obama's place of birth.

Four years ago in the Iowa caucuses, evangelical voters rallied behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won an upset victory and shook up the Republican field in the process.

With the 2012 Iowa caucuses just over 10 weeks away, conservative Christian Republican voters in Iowa are still searching for a presidential candidate. Saturday night they sized up six GOP hopefuls at a banquet in Des Moines, sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Mitt Romney's current run for the White House has not included a big presence in the first state that will actually vote: Iowa, which holds its caucuses on Jan. 3.

He failed to meet expectations at the Iowa caucuses in 2008. So for 2012, his campaign has focused instead on New Hampshire as the key to a series of primary victories that, they believe, will result in the former Massachusetts governor winning the GOP nomination.

Social conservatives have wrapped up a two-day Values Voter Summit in Washington. Their goal is to keep the focus on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, even as the economy tops the list of concerns for most voters.

Five presidential candidates appeared at the opening day of the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Friday, but the speech getting the most attention was one by a pastor from Dallas who introduced Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Every year in Washington, social conservatives from across the country gather for the summit, an event sponsored by the Family Research Council. In presidential years, the summit is a must-stop for GOP candidates.

Second in a series

Rick Perry first won public office in 1984, when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In that and in every campaign since, he has run as a man shaped by his time working a dryland farm.

Progressive activists played a big role in helping President Obama get elected. But in the years since, the big story of political activism has been the conservative Tea Party movement.

Hoping to reverse that trend, 2,000 people have registered for the annual "Take Back the American Dream Conference" this week in Washington, D.C. That's more than double the number at the 2010 event.

Shamako Noble, 31, of San Jose, Calif., comes every year and says he has learned that work can't stop, even after the election is over.

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