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.

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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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?

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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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.

Steve Helber/AP

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 pled the case for their respective principals (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), to be sure, but also for their respective parties and for themselves.

It may be said that both succeeded in all three pursuits, with perhaps the clearest success on behalf of their own cases. One of the two will soon be vice president, placing him the proverbial heartbeat away. The other will automatically enter the conversation the next time his party needs a presidential nominee.

It is not entirely clear which of these prospects might be the most desirable at this moment in history.

In this regard, Pence, whose job of defending Trump on Tuesday night was both complex and thankless, may have benefited most. He was unable to defend much of what Trump has done or said, but he was earnest and artful in turning the multiple challenges aside.

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.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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.

Yet a general and clear consensus formed quickly among the snap pollsters, focus groups, reporters, commentators and TV panelists. And it did not favor Trump.

In sum: Clinton projected more of what she wanted than Trump, who did not strike the contrast or meet the expectations set up by his own campaign.

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.

Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

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.

In the daylight hours, Trump struck his most presidential pose to date with a solemn (if somewhat grumpy) reading of prepared remarks at a news conference alongside Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto. That somber event, inside the Mexican presidential residence, epitomized the more moderate image Trump has pursued on immigration issues over the past ten days.

But as night fell in Phoenix, back in the U.S.A., Trump mounted the stage in prime time and quickly caught fire. He poured forth an hour-long harangue against all things alien, highlighting the lurid crimes of a handful of illegal immigrants as if to define the character of millions. He also promised to build "a beautiful wall" across the entire U.S.-Mexico border and create a "deportation task force" that would eventually guarantee that "the bad ones are gone."

Read: NPR Fact Checks Donald Trump's Speech on Immigration

On the subject of the wall, Trump departed from his script to assure his listeners that Mexico would indeed pay for it – adding, "They may not know it yet, but they will." In so doing, he as much as acknowledged that Peña Nieto had told him something different earlier in the day.

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