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 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.

Updated and revised at 4:26 pm ET:

The death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at the hands of extremists there became the latest fodder in the 2012 presidential race early Wednesday.

Republican Mitt Romney used the incident to continue his campaign's attacks on President Obama's approach to foreign policy.

Getting caught in a fight between two important allies is not where a president locked in a tight re-election race would willingly choose to be.

But that's where President Obama is today as he attempts for now to stay above the fray pitting the striking Chicago teachers against Mayor Rahm Emanuel who, in an earlier incarnation, was Obama's White House chief of staff.

Blindsided is what North Carolina Republicans felt four years ago when President Obama won the state, though by the slightest of margins — a mere 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.

Republicans admit they had taken as a given a 2008 North Carolina victory by Sen. John McCain. And who could blame them? No Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

But as McCain learned to his grief, history isn't always destiny. Obama's campaign had an effective strategy to win the state, and did.

If you want to understand how the White House race will play out in North Carolina as we enter the convention phase, talking to Carter Wrenn, a Republican, and Gary Pearce, a Democrat, is a good start.

The two veteran political strategists have, over decades, been involved in many a Tar Heel campaign.

One of Wrenn's best known clients was Jesse Helms, the late North Carolina senator renowned for both his surliness and race baiting.

After Republican Rep. Todd Akin's inflammatory comments over the weekend in which he blithely minimized rape-induced pregnancies, there are at least two inescapable questions:

1) What impact will his remark have on his U.S. Senate race in Missouri against Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill?

2) And how much will the shockwaves buffet the presidential contest or other races elsewhere?

The Friday offer from President Obama's campaign to Mitt Romney — that if the GOP presidential candidate releases his tax returns for the past five years, it won't attack him for not releasing more — was immediately rejected by the Romney campaign.

But the give-and-take keeps Romney on the defensive, and promises to keep the issue of Romney's taxes going for weeks to come.

The man some Republicans once hoped would be their party's 2012 presidential nominee, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, will instead deliver the keynote speech at the national convention that will make Mitt Romney the GOP's official standard-bearer.

Christie has won plaudits from Republicans for an everyman style, for taking on the New Jersey teachers unions, and for generally not suffering lightly those he considers fools — whether they're voters, members of the media or even some members of his own party.

With Rep. Paul Ryan officially in the mix as Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, the 2012 race for the White House was fully engaged Monday, as all four members of the two major-party presidential tickets campaigned in swing states.

Both President Obama and Ryan were in Iowa, while Romney, the all-but-official Republican nominee, campaigned in Florida. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden was in North Carolina, hitting a state the Republican ticket visited over the weekend.

Some of those who know Mitt Romney best or have studied his political and business careers say the Republican presidential candidate tends toward caution and deep analysis in making decisions.

That helps explain why his choice of Rep. Paul Ryan surprised more than a few: Among the candidates reportedly on Romney's short list, Ryan was widely perceived as one of the less-safe choices.

The economy and jobs may be what voters say they're most concerned about.

How many votes can President Obama gain or Mitt Romney lose because of the Republican's opposition to renewing federal tax credits to wind energy producers? The answer, with apologies to Bob Dylan, is blowin' in the wind.

Obama hopes to influence the answer by relentlessly pounding the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee's opposition to the renewal.

About half of those surveyed in a new poll of voters in three swing states thought presidential candidates should release multiple years of their tax returns.

The only sure thing for Sen. Claire McCaskill, the embattled Missouri Democrat trying to remain in the Senate, is that she now knows who her challenger will be this fall: U.S. Rep. Todd Akin.

Former President Jimmy Carter may be the epitome of failed presidents in the eyes of many Republicans.

But the Democrats announced Tuesday that the one-term president will have a prime-time speaking role at their national convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September. Carter won't be there live, however; he'll speak by video.

A news release from the Democratic National Convention Committee quoted the former president:

(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.

Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney may be skipping the Republican National Convention later this month, where Mitt Romney is set to officially become his party's 2012 presidential nominee.

But Condoleezza Rice, the former Bush secretary of state and national security adviser, and the first African-American woman to hold both roles, is scheduled to speak from the main podium, according to the Republican National Committee, which announced Monday the names of several speakers lined up for the event.

(Revised @ 1:48 pm ET)

With only three monthly jobs reports left before Nov. 6, President Obama needs every piece of good economic news he can get to add to his argument for re-election.

Friday's employment report certainly provided some. The Labor Department reported that the economy added an unexpectedly strong 163,000 jobs in July. Forecasters had predicted that the economy would add as many as 100,000 jobs, so the report took most everyone by surprise.

What does President Obama have in common with his immediate White House predecessor?

Both men spent a disproportionate amount of their first terms making appearances in battleground states, Brendan Doherty, a political scientist at the U.S. Naval Academy, writes in a post on The Monkey Cage political-science blog.

Get used to hearing the name Julian Castro. You're likely to be coming across it a lot in coming days and perhaps beyond.

President Obama chose Castro, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, to be the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September.

As Mitt Romney nears the end of his seven-day trip abroad, it's safe to call the results mixed at best.

The trip to Great Britain, Israel and Poland had several goals. It was meant to show that Romney has the gravitas and acumen to be this country's top foreign affairs policymaker; to remind U.S. voters of his success running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics; to appeal to certain voters in battleground states, especially Jewish and Catholic voters of Polish heritage, and to raise campaign cash.

Nearly every major poll indicates that the top issues for voters are jobs and the economy. Making the wealthy pay more in income taxes? Not so much, at least according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

An excerpt from Gallup:

It may have just been a coincidence that on the eve of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's visit to Israel, President Obama signed legislation that increases U.S. military and security aid to the Jewish state.

But the timing was nonetheless fortuitous for the president, and showed once again the benefits of incumbency in an election year.

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.

Rebecca Smith owns a Tampa, Fla., construction-management firm that does a lot of work overseeing the building of schools and jails, and other projects for state and local governments.

But even though much of her firm's $80 million in annual revenue comes from contracts with government agencies, she says she was "disgusted" by President Obama's thesis that government had a significant role in her business achievements.

Obama's actual words, from a July 13 speech in Virginia, were:

Mitt Romney and other Republicans have pounded President Obama for weeks for an awkwardly phrased remark that, taken out of context, made it sound as though the president believed the federal government should get all the credit for every business ever created.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, appeared to have second thoughts Tuesday about joining the chorus of Republicans accusing the Obama White House of leaking classified national security information.

(Revised @ 3:19 pm ET)

In a result few predicted before he became commander in chief, President Obama exhibits surprising strength with voters on national security issues.

As occurs after seemingly every mass killing that involves firearms, the shootings in a suburban Denver movie theater last week have renewed calls for tougher gun control laws.

Just as predictably, those calls have led to pushback by gun-rights advocates who accuse those calling for stricter legislation of trying to exploit the tragedy to restrict Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Worth noting is that neither of the two major-party candidates running for the White House has engaged in any current gun control debate.

(Updated @ 1:11 pm ET)

As deeply as the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., shocked the national conscience, they also quickly affected the U.S. political scene, with both major party presidential campaigns ripping up their scripts for Friday, and the mayor of the nation's largest city using the issue to put the candidates on the spot on gun control.

Take one guy with an abiding interest in politics, another guy with website-building skills and throw in the shared desire to get people more engaged in the political process, and you have the ingredients for an interactive site called

The site's purpose is to show you which presidential candidate's views most align with yours by running you through a short quiz that asks your stance on various policy issues, then determines which candidate most agrees with you.