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 was previously the political editor for USA Today and for Congressional Quarterly. He has been a Distinguished Visiting Professional in Residence at American University, where he is now an adjunct professor. In this role, Elving received American University's 2016 University Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in an Adjunct Appointment. He has also taught at George Mason and Georgetown University.

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 the manager of NPR's Washington coverage, NPR 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.

We are all in transition these days. Washington is getting used to the idea of a new and very different president, who is getting used to the idea of Washington.

One thing we are learning about the mind of President-elect Donald Trump is that his train of thought rarely runs on a single track.

Consider the Cabinet announcements this week, dramatically at odds with those of the previous week. Trump named South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

With the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the election of Donald Trump, Democrats may feel they have hit bottom.

The new power structure in Washington will combine a Republican president and a Republican Congress for the first time since 2006. Throw in pending and prospective vacancies on the Supreme Court, and you can see why many progressives consider this the worst-case scenario.

But it is not.

When American voters must choose a new president, reaction tends to rule. Given a choice between continuity and contrast, we favor contrast — even when the retiring incumbent leaves office with relatively high public approval.

This sometimes is called the pendulum effect: The farther the pendulum swings in one direction, the farther it is likely to swing back. In physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction; in politics, the pushback sometimes can be disproportionate.

When Donald Trump came down the escalator in June of 2015 in the tower he named for himself in Manhattan, few of us who do politics for a living took his off-the-cuff announcement for president seriously.

But the past 17 months have been a lesson to all of us who flattered ourselves — as campaign pros, polling pros and media pros — that we knew more about politics than he did.

What have we learned? That Trump was being taken very seriously, indeed, by the people who ultimately mattered: voters.

Polls are not the only place people look to for guidance to Election Day outcomes. Lots of people believe in bellwethers.

The first two things to know about bellwethers is that there's no letter "a" in the word, and bellwethers don't have anything to do with predicting the weather. The name refers to the neutered rams that shepherds use to guide flocks in the right direction. The wether trots along when the shepherd calls, the bell at his neck jangles, and the other sheep come ambling after him.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Let's go back to NPR's Ron Elving, still with us in studio here in Washington, D.C. Ron, briefly, what is the biggest issue for the campaigns now?

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Here's a little information that Americans have usually been able to ignore.

It's about the Electoral College, a uniquely American institution that's been with us from the beginning and that's occasionally given us fits.

Typically, the Electoral College meets and does its thing a month or so after the election, and few people even notice or care. Once in a while, though, people do notice and do care — a lot.

Will 2016 be one of those years?

It's not something reasonable people would hope for, but it cannot be ruled out.

First, the basics.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had one job in his third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton: break out.

He needed to break out from the narrative that is fast enveloping his campaign — the way evening overtakes the late afternoon.

He needed a breakout performance showing himself to be disciplined and knowledgeable enough to be president.

Traditionally, candidates do not complain about an election being rigged until they have actually lost. But 2016 is not a traditional year, and Donald Trump is no traditional candidate.

Allegations of media conspiracy, partisan collusion and Election Day shenanigans have become a staple of Trump's rally speeches and Twitter blasts. In his widely quoted tweet on Sunday, he was characteristically blunt: "The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary — but also at many polling places — SAD."

The second debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton promised a great deal and managed to deliver on much of it. But those expecting either to see Trump knocked out of the race or to see him dramatically reverse the current campaign momentum went away disappointed.

It could be said this meeting had the highest stakes ever for any single debate, even as it set new lows for the level of personal attacks.

As Republican notables denounce or distance themselves from Donald Trump in the wake of his latest controversy, the world watches and asks, "Why now?"

Put another way: Why is this incident different? What is it about this latest evidence of Trump's nature and views that's truly more unacceptable than all the preceding information on the subject? How can the Republican nominee, who has been his party's front-runner for nearly a year, suddenly be regarded as utterly beyond the pale?

Little has gone as expected in this extraordinary presidential cycle, so we should have known Tuesday's vice presidential debate would have a twist or two in it, too.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence each represented three clients in their 90-minute debate from Farmville, Va. The two former attorneys pleaded the case for their respective principals (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), to be sure, but also for their respective parties and for themselves.

Amid the clamor of the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two much lower-key fellows who are also nominees for national office will take the stage Tuesday night in rural Virginia and try to be heard.

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will talk about policy and their competing visions for America. They will almost surely offer more substance on issues than we heard in the first debate between the presidential nominees a week earlier.

You could see the contrast in the eyes of the respective candidates' spokespersons, surrogates and family members after the first presidential debate of 2016 had wrapped.

As always, earnest efforts were made on both sides to claim victory — even insist on it — after the nationally televised clash between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

"Trump was especially strong on the issues in the first 45 minutes," said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on CNN.

Donald Trump has provided the political world with many moving moments over the past year, but none quite like the whiplash mood swing between his daytime and nighttime performances in Mexico City and Phoenix on Wednesday.

The current presidential campaign may seem unlike any in recent memory, but most of the techniques and strategies we have seen so far hearken back to the politics of the past.

For example, few would dispute that the past week has been dominated by "mudslinging," the practice of tossing accusations and epithets at one's opponent. Mudslinging is always regretted and decried, yet it invariably returns with each election cycle.

When Donald Trump started a national conversation about his regrets the other day, he notably neglected to say just what he regretted.

"Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it — and I do regret it — particularly where it may have caused personal pain."

A Pivotal For Week For Donald Trump

Aug 6, 2016
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Let's take a step back from the news of the past few days and ask a fundamental question: Why does everything suddenly seem different?

Donald Trump, the unsinkable candidate who seemed immune to political consequences while winning Republican presidential primaries month after month, now finds himself with an ailing campaign and a bad case of personal toxicity.

When all was said and done, Team Hillary had to be pretty happy. Their four nights in Philadelphia turned out better than almost anyone expected.

Thursday night featured an orchestrated symphony of praise for Hillary Clinton and a precision-bombing of her opponent, Donald Trump.

The third night of the 2016 Democratic convention scaled several major peaks: President Obama gave, perhaps, the best-written oration of his career. Vice President Joe Biden gave, perhaps, his last national convention address, and his prospective successor, Tim Kaine, gave his first.

The Tuesday night session of the Democratic convention was really three events, each with its own atmosphere and impact, but all contributing to a single theme: The Clintons are back.

Democrats have become accustomed to having the best speech at their quadrennial convention given by someone named Obama. This year, that person might also be named Michelle.

Hers was not the keynote, nor the most anticipated, nor the longest speech of the night. But it mesmerized and subdued the raucous and rebellious crowd, focusing the enormous energy of Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Arena just where convention organizers had hoped — on Hillary Clinton.

There is a well-worn piece of advice among political campaign professionals: When your opponent is committing suicide, don't get in the way.

In this age of Twitter and Facebook, we should add a quick corollary: Do not make news that interrupts the reporting of your opponent's problems — even momentarily.

This would be a time when these wisdoms, old and new, might be retweeted to the leaders of the Democratic Party.

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It has been said that "to cleave" is the only verb in English that connotes one specific action and its direct opposite. To cleave sometimes means to hold together, and it can also mean to split apart.

That's why Cleveland was the perfect city to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. Because this week, in this town, the GOP demonstrated both its persistent divisions and its instinct for overcoming them.

For all those who view the nominating conventions of the major parties as overly scripted, predictable and boring, Wednesday night's session of the Republican National Convention came as a jolt.

The third night of this extravaganza had all the usual hoopla — plus a blackout on the jumbo screens, delegates screaming at each other, and a major presidential candidate getting booed off the stage.

Tuesday night's session of the Republican National Convention departed dramatically from the previous night's events, proving far less devoted to dread and more consumed with celebration.

But the theme of the session — "Make American Work Again" — was far from dominant or even evident in the evening's program.

On a bright note: It was the night of the official roll call, when each state gets a moment in the spotlight. As is expected, all of the delegation chairs got to toss off some happy horsefeathers about their home state before announcing their delegate count.

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