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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5:19pm

Mon April 14, 2014
It's All Politics

John Boehner Foe Targets 'Electile' Dysfunction

An erectile dysfunction ad isn't the kind of thing most politicians would typically gravitate toward.

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5:46pm

Fri April 11, 2014
It's All Politics

5 Takeaways From The Equal Pay Debate

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 7:44 pm

President Obama, pictured here with Lilly Ledbetter, and congressional Democrats are working the equal pay issue hard in a midterm election year when they will need as many women to vote as possible.
Carolyn Kaster AP

This was the week that included Equal Pay Day, the point on the 2014 calendar to which the average female worker must work to match the average man's 2013 pay.

To mark the occasion, President Obama held a White House event Tuesday to sign executive orders aimed at providing more transparency about what federal contractors pay their workers. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats held a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed in a vote that largely fell along partisan lines — the third time that's happened.

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7:38pm

Thu April 10, 2014
It's All Politics

Obama And Al Sharpton: An Odd Couple Who Make Political Sense

President Obama and the Rev. Al Sharpton together at the 2011 National Action Network conference.
Frank Franklin II AP

President Obama and Rev. Al Sharpton might at first seem like one of the odder couples in U.S. politics.

The president is by nature a super-cautious politician, measured in his rhetoric. He has generally stayed away from overt discussions of race for much of his presidency, though he has spoken more openly and emotionally about issues of race during his second term.

Sharpton, on the other hand, built a career as an incendiary racial avenger who for decades was drawn to interracial controversies as if they had some irresistible gravitational force.

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3:56pm

Tue April 8, 2014
It's All Politics

Holder Plays Asparagus Card Against GOP Antagonist

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 4:18 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder played the asparagus card against one of his House Republican tormenters.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

3:56pm

Tue April 8, 2014
It's All Politics

The Politics Of Equal Pay: It's More Than A Women's Issue

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 4:18 pm

A crowd lines up in Atlanta for a recent women's forum on pay equity and other issues featuring Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
David Tulis AP

The pay equity issue, which President Obama and Democrats are making a central theme of the 2014 midterm election campaign, is often framed as a women's issue. But Democrats are expecting it will also have crossover appeal to men.

For many men, it's a matter of self-interest: Two-income families are part of a long-term trend, as many families find two paychecks essential to cover the bills in an era of rising prices and stagnant, if not falling, wages.

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5:34pm

Fri April 4, 2014
It's All Politics

You Could Be A 'New Republican' If You Agree With This Ad

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 6:39 pm

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is part of an effort to redefine the Republican Party.
Wilfredo Lee AP

3:23pm

Thu April 3, 2014
It's All Politics

NPR Poll: GOP's Older Voter Advantage Slips From 4 Years Ago

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 5:04 pm

A strong majority of young voters support the Affordable Care Act, according to a new NPR poll. In March 2014, models handed out juice shots to encourage individuals — and especially young people — to sign up for health insurance.
Brennan Linsley AP

The new NPR poll had good news for Republicans and Democrats. As NPR correspondent Mara Liasson reported for Morning Edition, likely voters were nearly split evenly between support and opposition to the Affordable Care Act, with 51 percent against and 47 percent for.

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6:36pm

Wed April 2, 2014
It's All Politics

Campaign Finance Ruling Winners: The Political Pros

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 2:10 pm

The Supreme Court victory for Republican activist Shaun McCutcheon (center) was also a win for those in the political campaign business.
Susan Walsh AP

The Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision has been described both as a victory for the First Amendment and as another damaging blow to campaign finance laws.

One thing seems certain: The decision, which overturned limits on the aggregate amounts individual donors can give to candidates and campaigns, will mean more money sloshing around political campaigns.

In practical terms, that means more business for the political consultants who orchestrate most serious federal political campaigns.

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4:17pm

Tue April 1, 2014
It's All Politics

Chicago Mayor Could Face Tough Re-Election Challenge

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 5:00 pm

Frustration with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fueled speculation about a challenge from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
M. Spencer Green AP

Will Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served at President Obama's side during his first White House term, find himself facing a challenge from another politician who was once close to Obama?

Maybe, if the woman who is president of the Cook County Board, Toni Preckwinkle, decides to run to against the mayor next year.

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7:18pm

Mon March 31, 2014
It's All Politics

When Politics Is Really Hardball — Baseball's Opening Day

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 7:57 pm

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio throws the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday. Even though he was flanked by children, the Mets home crowd booed de Blasio — an unabashed Red Sox fan.
John Minchillo AP

Opening day of the 2014 Major League Baseball season started without the world's most famous southpaw, President Obama, throwing out the first pitch at Washington Nationals Park.

The Nationals were in New York City, where they began their season against the New York Mets with a 9-7 win.

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7:01pm

Thu March 27, 2014
It's All Politics

The Pope And The President: Common Ground But A Clear Divide

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 1:04 pm

Despite some differences, President Obama and Pope Francis shared a laugh during their Thursday meeting at the Vatican. Obama called himself a "great admirer" of the pope.
Gabriel Bouys AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's Vatican meeting with Pope Francis wasn't without a dose of irony.

The U.S. president, once the world leader whose vow of "hope" and "change" excited millions, seemed eclipsed Thursday in that department by the pope.

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6:50pm

Tue March 25, 2014
It's All Politics

The Political Winner From The Proposed NSA Changes? Rand Paul

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 8:17 pm

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul could catch a political updraft from President Obama's decision to restrict NSA telephone data collection efforts.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

It's too early to gauge the political impact of President Obama's plans to tame the NSA's data-gathering effort. The full details of the proposal haven't been made public yet.

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7:09pm

Mon March 24, 2014
It's All Politics

Why The Democrats' Koch Brothers Fixation?

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 7:32 pm

Democrats say they're focused on the Koch brothers because, they allege, Republican candidates are doing the billionaires' bidding. Republicans say Democrats are desperate. David Koch (above) is chairman of Americans for Prosperity.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Another day, another wave of Democratic attacks on the Koch brothers and their Republican allies.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, took to the Senate floor Monday to bash the Koch brothers and the GOP, as has become his habit in recent weeks.

In his latest criticism, he accused Republicans of stalling aid to beleaguered Ukraine until Democrats agreed to delay new Internal Revenue Service rules that would affect the political activities of nonprofit groups.

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7:01pm

Thu March 20, 2014
It's All Politics

With Wind At Its Back, GOP Expands 2014 Senate Map

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 8:49 am

Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner officially announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at Denver Lumber Co. on March 1. Gardner will run against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
Chris Schneider AP

Republicans seem to have all the momentum lately when it comes to the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

GOP chances were already looking brighter because of the drag on Democrats from the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's low approval ratings. Then came two developments that suddenly expanded the playing field: Former GOP Sen. Scott Brown recently announced his intent to run against New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in against Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

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6:47pm

Tue March 18, 2014
It's All Politics

Obama's Foreign Policy: More Second-Term Misses Than Hits

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 7:43 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions are beyond President Obama's control, something that holds true for most of the foreign policy issues vexing the U.S. president's second term.
Sergei Ilnitsky AP

Second-term presidents who find their ability to shape domestic affairs limited by congressional constraints often view foreign policy as the arena in which they can post some successes.

Ronald Reagan had his second-term breakthrough with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's general secretary. Bill Clinton had the U.S. lead its NATO allies into taking military action against the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic. Much further back in time, Woodrow Wilson successfully negotiated the League of Nations Treaty (though he couldn't win Senate passage for it).

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4:46pm

Thu March 13, 2014
It's All Politics

Will Democrats Change Their Health Law Message After Florida Loss?

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 10:35 am

Democrats may have lost the battle in a Florida special election, which Republican Rep. David Jolly (right) won and in which the Affordable Care Act figured prominently. But they don't think they have lost the health-law messaging war.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Congressional Democrats' messaging on the Affordable Care Act obviously didn't work as they had hoped in the Florida special election for a vacant House seat, since Republican David Jolly won the Tuesday vote.

But does that mean Democrats should abandon the "fix it, don't nix" it message delivered by Democrat Alex Sink, who narrowly lost a race that Republicans sought to nationalize and turn into a referendum on the health law?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., certainly isn't saying so.

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7:41pm

Tue March 11, 2014
It's All Politics

Feinstein's CIA Outrage Splits Senate

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 1:07 am

Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA publicly and at length of hacking Senate computers to spy on Senate aides and remove documents.
Uncredited AP

The Senate was a chamber divided in reaction to Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's diatribe against the CIA for allegedly hacking into Senate computers.

A no-nonsense Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to speak at length and publicly for the first time about a dispute with the agency.

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6:08pm

Mon March 10, 2014
It's All Politics

Gas Exports Debate Makes Better Domestic Politics Than Geopolitics

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:35 pm

Lawmakers and others are calling on the Obama administration to increase natural gas exports to Europe in an attempt to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his Ukraine incursion.
Alexei Nikolsky AP

Russia's intervention in Ukraine has sparked another debate over the Obama administration's energy policy.

Russia is a major provider of natural gas to Western Europe. That's caused some U.S. policymakers — largely but not exclusively congressional Republicans — to call on the Obama administration to clear the way for increased exports of U.S. natural gas to Europe. That's a two-fer, they argue: It would diminish Russia while helping the domestic energy industry.

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6:03pm

Fri March 7, 2014
It's All Politics

CPAC's Conservative-Libertarian Split Could Be Hard To Bridge

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

If any two issues illustrate how difficult it could be for the part of the Republican Party represented by the social and national security conservatives to bridge their differences with libertarians, same-sex marriage and National Security Agency intelligence are good candidates

Discussions at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference got testy Friday, when libertarians defended positions out of synch with the more traditional stances that have defined the Republican Party for decades.

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11:30am

Thu March 6, 2014
It's All Politics

CPAC 2014: Reading The Tea (Party) Leaves

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 2:00 pm

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is likely to be popular at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, but the Tea Party might not be getting all of the attention.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of conservatives which is part pep rally, part trade show, part revival meeting and part political cattle call, rolls into Washington this week.

As the 2014 version gets underway, one of the major questions hanging over the event is this: how much juice does the Tea Party still have?

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5:59pm

Wed March 5, 2014
It's All Politics

Bill Clinton, Party-Builder In Chief

Former President Clinton was the one modern Democratic president who focused on building up his party, an effort he continues today.
Luke Sharrett Getty Images

President Obama may be the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, but his unpopularity in some parts of the country means there are certain places on the campaign trail where it's best for him to stay away.

Enter former President Clinton, who can go where Obama fears to tread.

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3:54pm

Mon March 3, 2014
It's All Politics

Ukraine Is The Latest Overseas Crisis To Blur DC's Partisan Lines

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 4:03 pm

Though some conservatives said President Obama's alleged weakness led to Russian President Vladimir Putin's Ukraine invasion, reaction didn't follow the usual partisan lines.
Mikhail Klimentyev AP

To the list of political issues with which we began this mid-term election year, which had the Affordable Care Act and the economy at the top, we can now add Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

But while the domestic issues divide along fairly clear blue and red lines, the political question of what the U.S. should do about Russian President Vladimir Putin's deployment of the Russian military into Ukraine's Crimea is scrambling Washington's normal partisan lines.

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5:56pm

Fri February 28, 2014
It's All Politics

Hillary Clinton's Political Acumen And Other Tidbits From New Docs

Newly released documents by the Clinton Presidential Library shed light on Hillary Clinton's time as first lady.
Mark Wilson Associated Press

Did we learn anything new about Hillary Clinton from the documents released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library? Was there anything that could matter if she decides to run for president?

The answer so far appears to be no. That said, there were still aspects of the documents that were singled out as interesting flashbacks to Clinton's time as first lady.

Against Individual Mandate Before She Was For It

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6:54pm

Thu February 27, 2014
It's All Politics

Clintons Provide Firepower Behind DNC 'Voter Expansion Project'

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Clinton huddle under an umbrella during inaugural ceremonies for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Richmond on Jan. 11.
Patrick Semansky AP

Democrats believe they've discovered a way to play more offense against Republican efforts that have had the effect of making it harder for many voters — especially young, senior and minority citizens — to cast their ballots.

Their answer: a new initiative, announced by the Democratic National Committee at its winter meeting in Washington, aimed at countering voter ID and other laws and practices that can dampen voting.

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1:18pm

Thu February 27, 2014
It's All Politics

Pentagon Cuts Promise Political Pain

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 2:17 pm

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. Hagel and President Obama will need to fight through a wall of resistance to their proposed defense budget cuts, say former members of a defense base closing commission.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Cutting defense spending in Washington is about as popular as proposing Social Security cuts. In other words, not very.

Which explains why, following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement Monday that the Obama administration's new budget would propose shrinking the Army, closing bases and ditching weapons systems, the responses from Capitol Hill lawmakers have been some version of "over my dead body."

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6:36pm

Mon February 24, 2014
It's All Politics

The Lessons Of John Dingell's Departure

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 7:23 pm

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., whose House career stretches nearly 60 years, will retire at the end of his term as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Nearly every news account Monday of Rep. John Dingell's retirement announcement made mention of his amazing longevity — the Michigan Democrat is the longest-serving member in the history of Congress.

While his durability is the stuff of legend, it's also remarkable that an accomplished, heavyweight legislator like Dingell stayed so long into an era of congressional dysfunction.

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6:04pm

Tue February 18, 2014
It's All Politics

Democrats Seek Cure For GOP Obamacare Attacks

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the House Democrats' recent retreat where much of the discussion was about countering the GOP's messaging against the Affordable Care Act.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP/Getty Images

House Democrats know they can run but can't hide from Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

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4:46pm

Thu February 13, 2014
It's All Politics

Debt Ceiling Vote Relied On GOP's 'Tough Vote' Caucus

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 3:08 pm

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (left), and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) were among the 28 Republicans whose votes made it possible for most other Republicans to vote against the debt ceiling hike.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Within the House Republican Conference, an unofficial "tough vote" caucus is taking shape.

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5:10pm

Fri February 7, 2014
It's All Politics

House Republicans May Get To Immigration, Just Not Now

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 8:31 pm

House Speaker John Boehner isn't necessarily walking away from an immigration law overhaul this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

In politics, it always comes down to timing. And right now, it appears the timing just isn't right for congressional Republicans to take up an immigration overhaul.

If you read between the lines, that's what Speaker John Boehner was saying when he talked earlier in the week about how "difficult" the immigration issue is. And it's what GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell was saying when he indicated earlier in the week that he didn't see immigration overhaul happening this year at all.

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11:48am

Fri February 7, 2014
It's All Politics

What If Hillary Clinton Doesn't Run?

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 3:13 pm

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks to the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans on Jan. 27.
Gerald Herbert AP

The groundwork being laid for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 overlooks a single, almost unthinkable scenario: What if she doesn't run?

After all, while that might sound like heresy to the various Democratic groups now raising money, locking down political talent and generally acting as a campaign-in-waiting on her behalf, it's not certain she will run.

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