Ken Rudin

Ken Rudin is NPR's Political Junkie. For most of the past 20 years, Rudin has been the eyes and ears of political coverage as political editor. Rudin focuses on all aspects of politics, from presidential elections with the primaries, national conventions, debates and general election, to the races for the House, Senate and state governors. He has analyzed every congressional race in the nation since 1984.

In 2011, Rudin added to his duties by becoming part of the network's StateImpact project. This local-national journalism initiative will add editorial resources and reporters to NPR member stations in all 50 states, to better inform the public about the impact that the actions of state governments has on citizens and communities. Rudin mentors and advises these reporters on covering the effects politics and politicians have on people.

In addition to his role with StateImpact, Rudin continues to contribute NPR's political coverage. Every Wednesday, he can be heard on Talk of the Nation in the "Political Junkie" segment. In his "Political Junkie" weekly column on NPR.org, Rudin previews the politics of the week, and delves into campaign history, strategy and trivia, including the popular ScuttleButton contest.

Rudin was a key player on the NPR team that won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton award for excellence in broadcast journalism in 2002 for coverage of campaign finance.

From 1983 through 1991, Rudin worked at ABC News, serving first as deputy political director and later as the off-air Capitol Hill reporter covering the House. He first joined NPR in 1991, as its first political editor. Rudin returned to NPR in 1998, after a three-year absence during which he was the managing editor of the Hotline, a daily political newsletter. He also wrote the "Political Graffiti" column for The Hill, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill.

A political junkie for many decades, Rudin has one of the most extensive collections of campaign buttons in the country, a collection that now surpasses 70,000 items. Rudin is a graduate of Pace University in New York.

Ken Rudin for NHPR

July 1, 1995 – In the race for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole holds a 39-point lead over Sen. Phil Gramm in an average of national polls.

Horace Greeley may have suggested at one point that going west might be a good idea, but he probably wouldn't be happy to see what's going on with Los Angeles as of late. The Dodgers are in last place in the National League West, the Angels are hovering near the bottom of the American League West, and the Lakers' appearance in the playoffs was brutally short. Even Jimmy Fallon and NBC are bringing The Tonight Show back to Manhattan, deserting some place called Burbank after 40 years.

In political terms, 2012 was not the greatest of years. We witnessed an ugly, personal, petty, and often childish presidential election. Living in a "battleground" or "swing" state often meant being bombarded 24/7 by an incessant barrage of negative campaign commercials. And just as we were finally emerging from the campaign, we ended the year with an unfathomable tragedy, the gunning down of 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut.

It is always sad to watch a once-highly regarded public official, with seemingly unlimited potential, self-destruct. It's even sadder when that person offering so much hope represented a congressional district that has long been suffering economically, that desperately needed advocates on its behalf, and where the two previous incumbents left a trail of shame.

The election was over. As President Obama faced the press in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, the anger and bitterness of his long battle with Mitt Romney seemed to have faded. Unlike President George W. Bush after his 2004 re-election — and his comments about having political capital and intending to spend it — Obama seemed a bit more humble victor, talking more about compromise and saying he was willing to hear other points of view to solve the nation's problems.

It was an election that, once upon a time, many thought was stacked in Mitt Romney's favor.

Tuesday, as those who follow politics probably know, is Election Day. The battle between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been contentious, expensive, personal, illuminating, ugly, frustrating, petty, enlightening and, above all, long. And it is expected to be close.

This week's Political Junkie column is an attempt to guide you to what's at stake on Tuesday, both in the contest for the White House as well as the 33 Senate and 435 House seats on the ballot.

The 2010 elections, in which Republicans had a net gain of 63 seats in the House, was one for the record books. It was the most impressive showing by the GOP since 1938, when their net House pick up was 80 seats, and the best showing by any party in the House since 1948, when the Democrats added 75 seats. The sweep of two years ago more than wiped out the gains made by the Democrats in the House of 2006 (31 seats) and 2008 (20 more).

The reviews are in and, agree with them or not, most people thought Mitt Romney bested Barack Obama in Wednesday's presidential debate. The two don't meet again until Oct. 16, but in the meantime, there will be the vice-presidential face-off this Thursday.

How much pressure is riding on Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan?

The candidates have gone through the primaries and caucuses, the delegate counts and the conventions. At this point, they're traveling the country, trying to make their case. Now comes the most widely anticipated event in the race for the White House: the presidential debates.

The election is not over, we are told time and time again, and it's not. There are still some 40-plus days to go, there are still debates to be had. It's true that Mitt Romney trails President Obama in most key battleground states, but the margins are in single digits. And, lest we forget, it's not that presidential candidates down in the polls haven't come from behind to win in the past.

Two years ago, I asked Texas Sen. John Cornyn, then (and still) the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), if the GOP was going to win enough seats to take back the majority it lost in 2006.

The Democrats were no sooner out of Charlotte when the bad economic news came.

A more disappointing job report than had been forecast. Economic numbers weaker than expected. Just 96,000 jobs were created in August, far fewer than what economists were anticipating. And even a lower unemployment rate — down to 8.1 percent from 8.3 — was explained as that more people had simply stopped looking for work. The hope of four years ago is quickly becoming a fading memory, especially for those whose lives have not seen the change Barack Obama once promised.

Perhaps, when they think back to the Republican convention of 2012, it will be Clint Eastwood and his friend, the chair, that people will remember most.

The Republicans hold their national convention in Tampa this week, Tropical Storm Isaac permitting, and it will culminate in the nominations of Mitt Romney for president and Paul Ryan for vice president.

Next week it will be the Democrats' turn, in Charlotte, N.C., and the renomination of President Obama and Vice President Biden.

It was almost as if everyone dared Mitt Romney to make a bold move.

He couldn't possibly pick Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his running mate, could he? Too boring, the critics said! Too white bread! Too uninspiring! The cover of Newsweek talked about Romney's "wimp factor." Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert — not that he played a leading role here — described a Romney-Portman ticket as "like the bland leading the bland."

It will be a while before we know if presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan to join the Republican ticket will be a plus or minus for his campaign.

In my view, not since Jack Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson has the choice of a running mate truly affected the outcome in November. LBJ did, after all, help bring Texas to the Democratic fold in 1960. But the record for subsequent No. 2s is a bit mixed. Here's my scorecard:

1964

There have been a number of instances in recent history where the choice of a vice presidential running mate was an important stepping stone toward winning in the fall.

Of course, it's much too early to know how much of a difference GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will make. In the meantime, here is my subjective list of the top five instances in the past half-century or so where a selection of a running mate was crucial to victory:

1. 1960: John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson (D)

In 92 days, we will either re-elect President Obama or replace him with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. On paper, at least, voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will make that decision.

But if you look at the travel schedules and campaign budgets of Obama and Romney, it's clear that the 2012 election will be decided in only ten or fewer states.

One question heard over and over again this year: Is the Tea Party still relevant?

Forget the widespread rumor going around in recent weeks that Mitt Romney was going to announce his running mate this month. Perhaps, if the persistent attacks on Romney's taxes, investments and stewardship of Bain Capital started to show sharp erosion in his numbers, he would have moved up a V.P. announcement. But that hasn't happened. With polls indicating a continuous dead heat with President Obama, Romney is about to embark Tuesday on a week-long trip to Britain, Israel and Poland without first naming someone to his ticket.

Pretty soon we'll be obsessing full time over Mitt Romney's running mate selection, but until then I thought I'd weigh in one on Veepstakes story that's been making the rounds in recent days.

Last week's Political Junkie column ("Still Waiting For That Declaration of Independents") talked about the lack of ballot alternatives to President Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R). If there is such dissatisfaction with the two major parties, I wondered, shouldn't there be greater support for a third party or independent presidential candidate?

The nation celebrates its 236th year of independence this week, a holiday that reminds us of the freedoms America's early patriots fought for and which we continue to enjoy to this day.

Back in 1970, the word on Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was that, after a quarter-century in the House, it was time for him to go.

At 61 years of age and enmeshed in ethics controversies, Powell was long known for his flamboyance. He was also known for his chronic absenteeism, and a young state assemblyman by the name of Charles Rangel promised if elected he would be a full-time congressman.

Rangel went on to defeat Powell in a five-candidate Democratic primary by just over 200 votes (32.6-31.8 percent).

If Republicans had their way, there would not have been a gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin. An unnecessary waste of time, many of them said.

Democrats, for the most part, disagree. Scott Walker's policies, they argued, mandated the recall election.

As for today's special election in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, both Democrats and Republicans agree that it shouldn't be taking place at all.

Lots at stake tomorrow, June 5, with primaries in five states, in addition to what would be only the third recall of a sitting governor in U.S. history. Here's the lineup:

Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. Even Ron Paul knows it. His acknowledgement that Mitt Romney will be the nominee is just stating the obvious.

But what exactly did he mean when he said last week that he will "no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not voted"? Was he telling us that he was dropping out of the race?

Not quite.

The issue of same-sex marriage will long continue to fascinate and infuriate politics watchers everywhere, but this past week was especially impossible to ignore, starting last Sunday, with Vice President Biden's candid statement on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he is "absolutely comfortable" with it, through the Administration's torturous couple of days of attempting to "clarify" Biden's remarks, and culminating on Wednesday's interview for ABC's "Good Morning America, where President Obama "evolved" into embracing gay marriage once and for

When Richard Lugar, the mayor of Indianapolis, first ran for the Senate, against Democratic incumbent Birch Bayh in 1974, a big part of his problem was that he was a partisan Republican.

In fairness, there was nothing wrong with being a partisan Republican in good GOP years ... in, say, 1972, when President Richard Nixon was on his way to a landslide re-election and Lugar was the keynote speaker at the GOP national convention.

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