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 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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

This was starting to look like a bad year for the Tea Party, with primary election losses to Republican establishment candidates beginning to pile up. Then came Texas.

In yet another example of the distinctiveness of Lone Star State politics, Tea Party candidates had a field day Tuesday in primary runoff elections, knocking off several Republican incumbents.

In the highest-profile race, state senator and conservative radio host Dan Patrick, with energetic Tea Party backing, defeated Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, ending his 16 years in statewide office.

A federal court threw Rep. John Conyers a lifeline Friday with a decision that stops Michigan election officials from throwing the veteran lawmaker off the primary ballot.

The possibility of the 25-term Democratic congressman — who would become the longest-serving member in the House if he wins another term — fell into doubt when election officials said Conyers failed to secure enough legitimately collected signatures on his petitions for a spot on the ballot.

The United States Senate ratcheted up the pressure on owner Daniel Snyder on Thursday after a letter — signed by half the Senate — was sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, asking him to use his authority to get the Washington Redskins to change a team name that many consider racist.

If the polls are correct, the Pennsylvania governor's race is poised to see the usual political script flipped.

The Republican incumbent, Gov. Tom Corbett, is using a populist attack against the challenger who is leading the Democratic primary field — accusing Tom Wolf of being an opportunistic businessman who profited at the expense of taxpayers and workers.

Let's stipulate that Speaker John Boehner doesn't really have to worry about his Republican primary challengers Tuesday.

Youth is a time of idealism and energy, except, perhaps, when it comes to voting in the midterm elections.

A new Harvard Institute of Politics poll finds that interest in voting in the November 2014 elections among 18- to 29-year-old voters is lower now than just several months ago — and even lower than it was at a similar point in 2010.

Here's a measure of Maryland's Democratic tilt: Even an epic failure in launching the state's health care website isn't enough to derail the political fortunes of the official responsible for it. The Affordable Care Act is that popular.

On Earth Day 2014, it wasn't easy being green in the Republican Party. Just ask Rob Sisson, president of ConservAmerica.

ConservAmerica is a membership organization created in 1995 to keep the environmental spirit of GOP President Theodore Roosevelt alive in his party. Back then, the group was known as Republicans for Environmental Protection.

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.

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.

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.

One candidate talks fondly about castrating hogs in her youth and suggests that could be a useful skill in Washington.

Another fires semi-automatic weapons at a 2-foot-high stack of paper representing the Affordable Care Act before feeding it through a wood chipper.

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.

Now that the smoke has cleared from Debo Adegbile's failed nomination Wednesday to head the Justice Department's civil rights division, there are some lessons to draw from that Democratic debacle.

Why was it a disaster? Seven Democrats defected from their party to vote against Obama's nominee. The nomination had been opposed by police groups because of Adegbile's indirect role in the appeals process for Mumia Abu Jamal, a death-row inmate convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

Here are three things we learned from the vote.

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?

Judging from an attack by one of his Republican opponents, you could easily draw the conclusion that Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska opposes a road that would serve as a lifeline to the remote Aleutian village of King Cove. But you would be wrong.

That President Obama could openly speculate about marijuana being less dangerous than alcohol — and embrace the state-level legalization of the drug — is a measure of just how far the nation has moved since the 1980s.

Back then, the Reagan administration's approach was absolute: "Just Say No." It's more complicated today.

Regular order. That phrase refers to Congress conducting business in a methodical way, like it used to back before "dysfunctional" came to seem an official and permanent part of Congress' name.

When the House and Senate appropriations committee chairs announced late Monday evening that they had agreed on how to allocate the $1.012 trillion in federal spending, it was yet another step on the path to regular order that Congress forced itself to return to after years of regular disorder, best symbolized by last year's partial government shutdown.

By most accounts, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie passed the leadership challenge posed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

But the political storm created by the George Washington Bridge scandal is testing him in different ways, fueled by a combination of factors that make it difficult even for a politician as manifestly self-assured as Christie.

Christie will have a promising opportunity Tuesday to move beyond the mess caused by the politically inspired closing of toll lanes on the nation's busiest bridge in his State of the State speech.

Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, ended her Wyoming Senate primary challenge Monday, saying in a statement that a family health situation is responsible for her decision. (ABC News reports that sources close to Cheney said one of her daughters has diabetes.)

Even before family health issues arose, Cheney's apparently dimming prospects against GOP Sen. Mike Enzi would have been enough to give pause to many candidates.

In any conversation about vulnerable Senate Democrats, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana rises straight to the top of the list.

If nothing else, the Republican National Committee has gotten people thinking about Rosa Parks.

Of course, the RNC also gave its political opponents a chance to mock the GOP with its poorly worded tweet Saturday marking the 58th anniversary of the African-American civil rights activist's refusal to give up her bus seat to a white person, an event that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott.

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

Well, the Obama administration warned us that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act would be low and (surprise!) they were.

Still, it's one thing to get an abstract, data-free warning, another to see actual numbers, 27,000 people enrolling for private insurance through the federal portal, 106,185 overall if you throw in the states.

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