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Ron Elving

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.

He is also a professorial lecturer and Executive in Residence in the School of Public Affairs at American University, where he has also taught in the School of Communication. In 2016, he was honored with the University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in an Adjunct Appointment. He has also taught at George Mason and Georgetown.

He was previously the political editor for USA Today and for Congressional Quarterly. He has been published by the Brookings Institution and the American Political Science Association. He has contributed chapters on Obama and the media and on the media role in Congress to the academic studies Obama in Office 2011, and Rivals for Power, 2013. Ron's earlier book, Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law, was published by Simon & Schuster and is also a Touchstone paperback.

During his tenure as manager of NPR's Washington desk from 1999 to 2014, the desk's reporters were awarded every major recognition available in radio journalism, including the Dirksen Award for Congressional Reporting and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In 2008, the American Political Science Association awarded NPR the Carey McWilliams Award "in recognition of a major contribution to the understanding of political science."

Ron came to Washington in 1984 as a Congressional Fellow with the American Political Science Association and worked for two years as a staff member in the House and Senate. Previously, he had been state capital bureau chief for The Milwaukee Journal.

He received his bachelor's degree from Stanford University and master's degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of California – Berkeley.

Back before the conflagration that was World War II, some of Europe's great powers engaged in a surrogate struggle by arming the warring factions in the Spanish Civil War. It was a great way to test their latest weapons and tactics.

Here in our country and in our time, the role of Spain is being played by the state of Wisconsin, where a political civil war has raged for nearly 18 months — presaging the fierce national politics of this presidential year.

Watch Wisconsin over the next four weeks, and you will see where we are headed as a nation in the months ahead.

Rick Santorum came surprisingly close to an upset in Wisconsin this week, losing to Mitt Romney by less than 5 percentage points. It was not as heartbreakingly close as his previous losses in Michigan and Ohio, but it was one more reminder of what might have been.

With a win in Wisconsin, Santorum would have confounded the ruling media narrative of the moment, which wants to turn from the primary season of spring to the autumnal matchup of Romney and President Obama.

We probably won't know until June what the Supreme Court justices will decide regarding the health overhaul law known as Obamacare. The questions this week from the conservative majority seemed skeptical of the "individual mandate" at the center of the law, yet dubious of the law's survival without it.

(A line of questioning may not be a perfect guide to a justice's thinking, but right now it appears to be the way to bet.)

So let's say it's June and the high court has laid low the whole law. That's terrible news for President Obama and the Democrats, right?

Rick Santorum's underdog campaign limped out of Illinois to fight another day, but his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination goes forward under a long shadow.

It's not really the shadow of Mount Mitt, even though front-runner Romney's big win in Illinois heightened his pile of delegates. Romney creeps ever closer to inevitability, yet he too is caught in the same shadow of a man who left the stage two decades ago but dominates it to this day.

It is time for the much-winnowed field of Republican presidential contenders to shrink a little further. It is time for Newt Gingrich to bid adieu and wrap up his bid for the nomination.

Rick Santorum, who won the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday, has proven himself the conservatives' favored alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney. He did this by winning the voters who mattered most in the deep-dyed red states of Alabama and Mississippi, the white evangelical "born again" voters who cast more than two-thirds of the vote in each state.

As they counted up the votes on Super Tuesday, you could almost hear Celine Dion singing that theme song from Titanic — the one about how her heart and the whole tragic tale would go on.

And on.

So it is with this year's Republican presidential contest.

Usually by this time in the picture, the GOP has given its heart to its hero, and it's lights out for the rest of the cast. But once again this week, the GOP of 2012 refused to read the usual script.

Rick Santorum and his campaign will likely look back on Michigan's 2012 primary not only as a heartbreaking loss in the battle against Mitt Romney but also as a historic lost opportunity.

The upstart former senator from Pennsylvania was within a few percentage points of toppling the wobbly frontrunner in a state that really mattered.

Unlike his earlier wins in caucus states (Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota) and a nonbinding "beauty contest" (Missouri), a win in Michigan meant a real cache of committed delegates.

Ten months and a score of debates ago, the Republican Party and a slew of news organizations brought forth on our TV screens a new definition of a presidential nominating process — conceived in targeted marketing and dedicated to the proposition that no number of debates was too many for hardcore conservatives.

As February began, Rick Santorum's presidential bid was polling in the mid-teens among Republicans. Now, we find ourselves two weeks deep in the Santorum Era. His national polling number has doubled since he won the Trifecta Tuesday events in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

Those were small contests with few participants and zero delegates at stake. But Santorum threatens to win far larger and more meaningful tests in Michigan and Arizona a week from now, and in Ohio a week after that.

Pity the poor news junkie, waiting bleary-eyed at the witching hour, wondering how to feel about the latest events in the Republican nominating contest.

One news source — let's say it's a cable news operation — says the latest round of GOP presidential preference contests is a huge boost to the flagging fortunes of Rick Santorum, the winner of the night's trifecta. The cable outlets all air tape of Santorum's triumphant victory speech again and again. He surely looks like a winner.

Imagine this: You're the Super Bowl host city, and you've gone to a lot of trouble to get the big game in your town. Now everyone's watching as the game comes to an end, and you can't get the scoreboard to work. Suddenly no one's sure who's ahead or how much time is left to play.

That nightmare scenario probably could not happen. But we have seen some highly improbable events lately that embarrassed the host states in the presidential nominating process.

It was a great night for Mitt Romney, restoring the former Massachusetts governor's lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Storming from behind after his crashing fall in South Carolina 10 days earlier, Romney overtook rival Newt Gingrich and passed him in the course of a week. In the end, he won the far larger and more pivotal state of Florida by the same margin he had lost by in South Carolina.

He did it in two ways, both depending on the power of TV in a state too large for retail campaigning.

Over the weekend, we heard Newt Gingrich assuring Floridians that his campaign was going all the way to the GOP's August convention.

Once the delegates got to Tampa, he said, all those who opposed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would unite to deny him the nomination.

"My job is to convert that [anti-Romney majority] into a pro-Gingrich majority," the former House speaker said Sunday.

We still don't know who'll win the Florida primary Tuesday, but after the past two debates it seems far likelier to be Mitt Romney.

Why? Because Newt Gingrich had vaulted from the margins to the forefront of the Republican presidential race in South Carolina on the strength of two debate performances. And that weapon has ceased to work in his favor.

The NBC and CNN debates this week in Tampa and Jacksonville went a long way toward neutralizing the impression created by debates the previous week in Myrtle Beach and Charleston.

This year's State of the Union address may have set a record for fewest surprises.

The usual elements were all in place, starting with the sergeant at arms shouting across the din of the chamber, quieting the crowd of worthies from both House and Senate, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court.

Then the president made his way down the center aisle, shaking hands with the members who had sent staff members to reserve these favored seats for hours for just this moment.

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