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.

Mitt Romney's assertion Friday that the message of last week's success by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in fending off a recall was that voters want no more teachers, firefighters and police officers had a chance to ferment a bit over the weekend.

-- Updated at 4:20 pm ET. See end of post --

President Obama opened himself up to withering Republican attacks Friday via an off-hand statement he made in a brief White House news conference.

Obama seemed to suggest that matters were going swimmingly for the private-sector part of the economy and that it was the reduction of government jobs that was the real problem.

Asked to respond to Republican charges that he was blaming Europe's economic policies for the alleged failure of his own domestic economic policies, Obama said:

-- Updated at 4:33 pm ET --

No question Republicans supporting Mitt Romney's White House bid should and will be pleased that his campaign raised more money in May than President Obama's effort.

If the Supreme Court follows the election returns, its members also no doubt pay attention to opinion polls.

Not that public opinion is the sole driver in the high court's decisions. But the justices certainly are aware of, say, the fact that Americans keep expressing their unhappiness with the Affordable Care Act.

Tuesday was, unquestionably, a very bad day for public-employee unions and not just for the reason that got most of the attention, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's success in fending off an attempt to oust him through a recall election.

With many conservatives already suspecting that he is a conservative of convenience, Mitt Romney apparently hasn't done himself any favors in their eyes with the man he chose to lead his presidential transition.

Politico broke the story Sunday that Romney has chosen Michael Leavitt to oversee the creation of an executive branch in waiting.

How to convince voters that while the economy isn't roaring, the situation is still improving?

That's President Obama's challenge, made more difficult with every passing month where the jobs report disappoints, as on Friday. The latest Labor Department report informed us that only 69,000 jobs were created in May, less than half what analysts had forecast. Meanwhile, the jobless rate ticked up a tenth of a percentage point to 8.2 percent.

With a not guilty verdict on one count and the jury deadlocked on five others, it appears John Edwards' federal trial on campaign-finance charges ended with a whimper, certainly from the Justice Department's point of view.

At first blush, it can be argued that how the trial of the former U.S. senator from North Carolina ended may do little to deter politicians. They'll still be able to go forward and rake in money from supporters and, with some sleight of hand, spend that cash on practically anything.

If nothing else, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has apparently done President Obama a favor.

His Honor's proposed ban on the sale of supersized sugary fountain drinks in his city made the mayor, at least for some, the epitome of Big Government excess, a place many critics, particularly conservatives, typically reserve for the Obama.

Some of us missed the Jeff Barth video when it first hit the Internet last week, which is like a year ago in web time.

In the annals of incumbents failing to get on the ballot, Rep. Thad McCotter's epic fail has some company. Maybe not lots of it since incumbents tend to know, if nothing else, how to work the levers in their favor.

But there have been other incumbents derailed by the requirement to obtain voter signatures to get on ballots even if you sometimes have to go back quite a ways to find them. If it's a wing in the political hall of shame for incumbents, it would be a small room compared, say, to the much larger one for convicted politicos.

The first sneak peak a few weeks back inside journalist David Maraniss' highly anticipated biography of President Obama served up glimpses of the president as a young man in romantic relationships, with information gleaned from early girlfriends.

Do state capitals relatively distant from the major population centers have more corruption than those in more densely populated areas?

Researchers report that they have found an intriguing correlation between political corruption in state capitals and population density.

If you had hoped to bid on the medical-lab vial that purportedly contains the dried remains of a blood sample from President Ronald Reagan taken on the day he was nearly assassinated in March 1981, you're out of luck.

It's safe to say that when it comes to recent presidents, Ronald Reagan is the most venerated, especially among Republicans but not exclusively so. Some even accuse conservatives of beatifying the 40th president as though he were on the road to sainthood.

So it's not surprising there would be a Reagan relic out there, specifically a medical-lab vial purportedly containing the dried remains of a blood sample taken from the president on the day he was nearly assassinated in March 1981.

(Updated on 5/23/12 @ 11:55 am. See end of post for Romney campaign response.)

Challenging an incumbent president means finding ways to narrow the stature gap between the Oval Office occupant and would-be president.

Battleground states like North Carolina are where the action is when it comes to presidential contests. Thus, they are where political tactics like, say, the anti-Obama ad campaign featuring the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, first reported by The New York Times Thursday (and now disowned by virtually everyone the Times linked to it), are most likely to be rolled out.

President Obama and congressional leaders lunched at the White House Wednesday on sandwiches the leader of the free world purchased during a visit to a Washington, D.C., eatery where he met earlier in the morning with a group of small-business people.

Descriptions of the White House lunch meeting from those on the opposing red and blue teams aware of the details of the discussion made it sound like yet another meeting featuring the nation's top policymakers that you could have accurately described beforehand.

As close as the general election is expected to be, virtually everything the presidential candidates do from here until November is about maximizing the turnout of voters in their respective bases without repelling independents or moderates.

Let others get distracted by the news the day before that President Obama now personally supports gay marriage. Mitt Romney and Speaker John Boehner said Thursday they intended to stay on message and keep hitting the president in what they view as his Achilles heel — the economy.

Being that it's also the issue voters have in repeated polls said is most important to them, it was hard to argue with their decision.

The 2012 presidential election was supposed to be about the economy, and even with President Obama's historic decision to make it known Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage, that is still likely to be true.

But the president's decision to announce in an ABC News interview that he personally backs gay marriage could mean that at least one social issue may take a more prominent role in the election-year spotlight.

As if further proof were needed that the Republican primaries are essentially dead and buried, here's another piece of firm evidence: Mitt Romney praised former President Bill Clinton in a speech in Michigan Tuesday, and not once but twice.

In an age when presidential campaigns are typically heavily scripted, town-hall style meetings are anything but.

The upside is that you get the informality of the candidate interacting with regular voters as he or she fields their questions and seems accessible. The downside is you never know what a voter handed the microphone will say.

Mitt Romney, who appears well on his way to becoming the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, got a taste of that risk at a Monday event at a Euclid, OH manufacturing company.

Justin Wolfers, an economist known for, among other things, his sardonic wit, may have made the best comment of the day on the heels of the April jobs report out Friday. He tweeted:

"The worst part of today's jobs report? It provides just enough inane talking points for both sides of politics."

President Obama's voter-approval ratings certainly have been far from spectacular for much of his presidency, remaining mostly below 50 percent since November of 2009.

But on that dimension he may actually be doing better than it appears, at least based on some statistical modeling of presidential approval ratings conducted by George Washington University political scientist John Sides.

Democrats keep getting dinged by media fact checkers for attacking Republicans for allegedly wanting to strip money from preventive health programs to pay for to keep the interest rates on some student loans from doubling this summer.

But that hasn't stopped progressives from continuing to make the claim. The latest comes in a new full-page MoveOn.org ad in Politico. The ad reads in part:

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith provided the sure-to-go-viral moment of the day with some commentary he made after he read aloud a statement issued by the Mitt Romney campaign after Newt Gingrich officially ended his campaign Wednesday for the GOP nomination.

Smith said:

On the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs, there were two contrasting scenes to consider.

One was of President Obama in Afghanistan on a surprise visit, speaking to U.S. troops as their commander in chief in the nation whence the SEALs departed for their successful raid into Abbottabad in neighboring Pakistan.

A video released Monday by President Obama's re-election campaign looks a whole lot like an abridged version of something you might expect to see in a prime-time slot at the Democratic National Convention.

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