Frank James, NPR

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.

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?

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.

Sure, you can still hear congressional Republicans talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act.

But there's clearly something different about the current climate, and the GOP approach to Obamacare. The thrill of repeal may not be gone for Republicans, but much of the urgency of repeal is.

For starters, the House GOP doesn't have more repeal votes lined up for these weeks after the spring recess.

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.

The essence of the budget deal reached by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is better understood by looking at what's missing, rather than what's included in it.

After successfully staring down congressional Republicans in the shutdown-debt ceiling fight, President Obama pivoted to immigration in a move with almost no downside.

That makes it perfect as the next vehicle for him to use to cause the GOP major indigestion.

Before being re-elected last year, President Obama said he hoped the Republican "fever" of opposition to him would break during his second term. But if the just-completed standoff is any indication, that temperature is still spiking.

The latest House GOP gambit in the fiscal fight is ... wait for it ... a supercommittee.

But Republicans aren't calling it a supercommittee since that's the term for the failed panel that brought us the the sequester.

Just a week before the federal government could shut down if no agreement is reached to fund it past the end of September, it's anyone's guess whether Democrats and Republicans will avoid plunging over this particular cliff.

More certain, however, is that if a shutdown happens over Obamacare and Republicans wind up taking the heat, many GOP fingers of blame will point squarely at Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Texas Republican will likely become the face of the 2013 shutdown, just as Newt Gingrich became the poster boy of two government shutdowns of the mid-1990s.

In the war over the right to vote in the U.S., the Justice Department's choice of Texas as the battleground for its first legal action following the Supreme Court's weakening of the Voting Rights Act has a feeling of inevitability.

The Senate's rejection of more robust gun purchase background checks was a stinging blow to President Obama that raised questions about his second-term agenda.

Expanding background checks had become a key part of Obama's post-Newtown push for tougher federal gun control laws. And in recent weeks, the president had campaigned for overall gun control legislation — especially the bipartisan background-check compromise — with a sense of urgency.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

If Republicans hope to recapture the White House in the foreseeable future, they basically need to sound and campaign more like Democrats.

The controversy over President Obama's targeted-killings-by-drone policy is a reminder that the default position of presidents in times of crisis is generally to side with national security over civil liberties.

If President Obama takes the lead in a movement for more effective gun control now that he's been stirred to action by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, it would mark a significant break from his pattern so far as chief executive.

For while Obama has dutifully served as the nation's consoler in chief in localities where the all-too-frequent mass shootings have occurred, that has seemed the extent of the official response observable to White House outsiders.

Now that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from secretary of state consideration, the conspiracy theory that Republicans targeted her to force President Obama to name Sen. John Kerry instead, to open up a Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat for the recently defeated Sen. Scott Brown, is alive and well and ricocheting across the Internet.

(Revised @ 12 p.m. ET)

The final monthly jobs report before Tuesday's general election contained something for both President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney to work into their closing arguments to voters.

For Obama, it was the news that the economy in October created significantly more jobs — 171,000 — than many economists had forecast. And the Labor Department revised upward the job numbers for September and August, suggesting even more underlying strength in the economy than earlier appeared to be the case.

Just five days before Election Day, President Obama returned to the campaign trail after spending several days preoccupied with overseeing the federal response to the devastation in the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Obama began his campaign re-emergence Thursday with a rally in Green Bay, Wis., a state where his once-substantial lead in polls over Republican Mitt Romney has narrowed to only a few points in a majority of the polls.

A day after their second presidential debate, President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney were in different swing states, reprising some of their greatest hits from Tuesday night.

And "hits" is the exactly the right word because each man energetically repeated attacks he made on his rival.

In its attempt to turn the tables on Mitt Romney following the Republican presidential nominee's big win in the first presidential debate, President Obama's campaign has sought to enlist Big Bird.

The president has repeatedly reminded supporters at rallies that Romney, during the debate, specifically cited Big Bird when he promised to defund the Public Broadcasting Service to reduce federal deficits.

An oddity of U.S. presidential politics is that candidates and their campaigns spend nearly all their time telling voters how superior they are to their rivals in virtually every area: the wisdom of their policy proposals; the soundness of their characters and judgments — everything, really.

Except for debating.

It's the old game of setting the bar high for your opponent and lower for your candidate, of course. That way, anything short of a disastrous debate performance can be claimed as a knockout victory.

Mitt Romney's Friday release of his 2011 tax return puts that issue back in the headlines just when it had slipped largely off many people's radar screens.

With less than seven weeks to go before the presidential election, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is leaving his job as co-chairman of the Mitt Romney campaign to take a top Washington lobbying job.

Pawlenty, 51, will become the next CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, whose 100 members include many of the nation's largest banks and insurance and securities companies.

(Revised and updated @ 5:55 pm ET)

In an attack likely to conjure up for many President Reagan's successful use of Cadillac-driving welfare queens as an issue in presidential politics, Mitt Romney's campaign accused President Obama of using his power to weaken work requirements for welfare recipients.

The first stop — Britain — in Mitt Romney's foreign tour certainly is starting out rockier than nearly anyone expected.

First there was the kerfuffle over remarks, attributed by a British newspaper to an anonymous campaign adviser, that Romney understood the shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage" between the U.S. and Britain in a way President Obama didn't. Those comments were viewed as racist by some and were disowned by the Romney campaign.

Early indications suggest President Obama has a majority of voters on his side with his decision to defer deportation proceedings for young illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions.

President Obama's announcement Friday that he is using his executive authority to defer deportation proceedings for young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally but meet certain requirements was just the latest example of the president's use of his power to act without Congress on policy issues.

We haven't even yet reached the summer before the general election and already the cowpie is hitting the fan.

Actually, it was President Obama who on Thursday rhetorically hit Mitt Romney, the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee. Obama went all barnyard on Romney, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of not only lying about his presidential record but Romney's as well. It was, according to those following the president's re-election campaign, his toughest attack yet on Romney.

Incumbent presidents generally try to cast their re-election contest as a choice between the imperfect but well-meaning and effective occupant of the White House and the far worse alternative offered by the rival party.

Challengers, on the other hand, try to frame a presidential race as a referendum on the sitting president whose record nearly always contains missteps, or who can be blamed for trouble in the economy or elsewhere.

In short, whether it's the president or the challenger, the way the game is played requires each to define the opposition as well as himself.

No matter how many times he said it Wednesday, the White House press corps just didn't seem to be buying deputy press secretary Josh Earnest's assertion that Obama administration officials weren't working on contingency plans just in case the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.

They also weren't taking at face value Earnest's defense of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's performance on behalf of the administration Tuesday which has been widely criticized as nervous, halting and all-around less-than-inspiring.

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