David Welna

From now until November, President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will emphasize their differences. But the two men's lives actually coincide in a striking number of ways. That includes struggling with their respective legislatures. Earlier, NPR's David Welna explored Romney's time as governor of Massachusetts. In this installment of "Parallel Lives," a look at Obama and Congress.

Whether President Obama or Republican Mitt Romney comes out on top in November, the man who occupies the Oval Office next year will bring exactly four years of experience as a top political executive.

Obama has gotten his experience in the White House; Romney got his as governor of Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2007.

President Obama's re-election campaign is training some of its heaviest guns on a new target — the four years that GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney served as governor of Massachusetts.

In Boston Thursday, David Axelrod, a top Obama campaign adviser, joined Democratic state legislators and mayors on the steps of the State House to lampoon Romney's record there as governor between 2003 and 2007.

There are growing warnings on Capitol Hill that the nation could be rolling toward an end-of-the-year fiscal train wreck.

"The looming tax hike will be absolutely devastating," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

"You can call this a fiscal cliff. You can call it 'Taxmageddon' as others have done. Whatever you call it, it will be a disaster for the middle class," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, added.

And Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said: "It's a tsunami; there's no question about it, and it's coming."

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And I'm Audie Cornish. After several days off the campaign trail, Mitt Romney was back today, speaking just a block from the White House he hopes to occupy in January.

European stock markets have rallied in anticipation of an informal summit of European Union leaders Wednesday in Brussels. A major policy pivot is expected to address the eurozone's debts and deficits crisis.

Up to now, European leaders have emphasized austerity, and that has cost some of them their jobs. The new approach is likely to focus on the same kind of growth President Obama has pursued in the United States — where Democrats and Republicans are drawing opposite conclusions from the euro crisis.

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If you thought the two political parties had moved past their differences over the debt ceiling, think again.

President Obama is giving a speech about the economy Friday in Reno, Nev. It's his third trip to Nevada this year. In 2008, he won the state by 12 percentage points — in large part by getting more than three-quarters of the Latino vote.

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The general election campaign for president is springing to life, now that Mitt Romney is all but certain to be President Obama's Republican opponent next fall. On Capitol Hill, though, the battle over who will sign or veto Congress' bills next year is already blazing.

In two key votes this past week, many Republicans fell in step with candidate Romney and his quest for more support from younger voters and women.

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The U.S. Postal Service is so much a part of this country, it's in the Constitution. And yet with so much written communication now delivered via email, text messages and the Internet, the Postal Service is steadily losing business and operating in the red.

Now that he's all but certain to be the Republican challenging President Obama in November, Mitt Romney has begun to expand his operations. In the past week, he's named a top aide to head his vice presidential selection team, and his paid staff is expected to soon quadruple in size.

With the president's campaign well-staffed and spread across the map, it's become a game of catch-up for Romney.

There are Republican primary contests in five important states next Tuesday, but with Rick Santorum's departure from the race, they've gotten little attention.

For many following the Republican presidential contest, the big question is who's winning.

That's not easily answered if you go only by who has won each state's primary or caucus. But if you measure who's won the most pledged convention delegates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is clearly in the lead.

So much so, in fact, that Romney's campaign insists there's no way his rivals can catch up or keep him from getting the 1,144 delegates needed for securing the nomination in Tampa this summer during the Republican National Convention.

Super Tuesday isn't only about 10 states voting for the four GOP presidential contenders. Every seat in the 435-member House of Representatives is up for grabs next fall, and some of that chamber's longtime incumbents are facing off with members of their own party at the polls Tuesday.

In the battleground state of Ohio, Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt is facing more GOP challengers for her job on Tuesday than any other House member.

Mitt Romney's decisive victory in Arizona on Tuesday won him every one of that state's 29 delegates in what was a winner-take-all election. But it was quite a different story in Michigan.

Even though Rick Santorum finished 3 percentage points behind Romney, Santorum ended up with the same amount of delegates: 15. That's because Michigan awards most of its delegates according to congressional districts.

Every one of the 10 states voting next week on Super Tuesday will also award delegates on a proportional basis.

Picking Up Delegates

The U.S. Senate wrapped up a tumultuous year of divided government with votes that keep the federal government funded through September and extend expiring unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut another two months.

In a rare Saturday year-end session, the Senate's action averted a shutdown but was not the last word on the payroll tax cut extension.

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