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Even before the final balloons fell on the Republican and Democratic conventions, pundits were talking up the next big American political viewing experience — the presidential debates.

These match-ups, in which candidates actually share a stage after months of bruising one another from far range, can lead to moments of rhetorical brilliance, or the opposite — getting caught off-guard and making a gaffe.

Campaigns today are collecting information that goes way beyond demographics. Data points as disparate as the catalogs you peruse or the car you drive all make up a picture that campaigns use to find common ground with their candidates — and get you to the voting booth.

Journalist Sasha Issenberg describes this data-driven world in his new book, The Victory Lab. There were two "major innovations" that spurred the modern approach to voter outreach, he tells Weekend Edition guest host Linda Wertheimer.

Quite a few Texas voters are seeing dead people in the mirror these days when they go to brush their teeth in the morning.

In Houston, high school nurse Terry Collins got a letter informing her that after 34 years of voting she was off the Harris County rolls. Sorry.

"Friday of last week, I got a letter saying that my voting registration would be revoked because I'm deceased, I'm dead. I was like, 'Oh, no I'm not!' " Collins says.

Congress roared into town last week after a five-week break. Lawmakers will be heading back home just as quickly this week. They're expected to complete exactly one big item before pulling the plug on this briefest of sessions: a stopgap spending measure that keeps the government from shutting down during the next six months.

Members of both parties prefer tackling the mountain of unfinished business they leave behind only after the November election.

The White House released the official brew recipe earlier this month.
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There's an old shorthand for likeability in pol

Foreign Policy Pulls Political Focus

Sep 15, 2012

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Joined now by Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor in our studios. Ron, thanks very much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

The Obama administration often talks about its strong bonds with Israel, but relations between the two leaders don't look that way at all.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration openly clashed over Iran this week. The White House also announced that President Obama would not have time to meet Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister is in the U.S. later this month.

The two men did have a lengthy phone conversation, but some say what they really need is a marriage counselor.

As we approach the presidential election in November, Weekend Edition is seeking your questions about issues and candidates in a new segment called Reporter Hotline. This week, we answer inquiries about foreign policy and U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

In this election, Christian conservatives seem to be more against President Obama than they are for Mitt Romney. But they do like GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who used a speech Friday to vouch for Romney.

At the annual gathering of religious conservatives in Washington, D.C., there was also talk of this week's violence in the Middle East.

The Values Voter Summit got under way first thing Friday morning, with a speech from Tony Perkins, whose Family Research Council organizes this event.

The White House Friday released a report detailing, in part, what life would look like on the other side of the fiscal cliff, which could occur at the end of the year.

Under orders from Congress, the administration detailed exactly how it would administer painful cuts to both defense and domestic programs that were ordered under last year's budget deal.

Paul Ryan Headlines Values Voter Summit

Sep 14, 2012

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Along with political agendas and visions for the future, every once in a while along the campaign trail there are potential TMI moments.

Arguably, one occurred Friday when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, were taping ABC's Live! With Kelly and Michael in New York.

The interview is scheduled to air Tuesday. But notes from a pool reporter traveling with Romney show what happens when an invited White House guest — in this case Ann Romney — decides to do some poking around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Mitt Romney has sought to distinguish his views on foreign policy and the world from positions held by President Obama. So far, it hasn't gained him much traction.

The Republican presidential nominee has insisted that Obama has not done enough to promote America's values and interests, instead "apologizing" and appeasing the nation's enemies.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan used an appearance at an annual gathering of his party's social conservatives Friday to pointedly criticize President Obama's foreign policy record and to testify to his own Catholic faith and opposition to abortion.

"We're all in this together," said Ryan, a representative from Wisconsin, echoing a theme of Obama's convention speech. "It has a nice ring."

Detecting the 'Artful Dodge'

Sep 14, 2012

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It's All Politics, Sept. 13, 2012

Sep 14, 2012

In an election that's supposed to be about the economy, tragic deaths overseas push foreign policy onto the political stage in the race between Mitt Romney and President Obama. While Romney seems to have lost the initial battle, questions remain about the administration's Middle East goals.

Join NPR's Ron Elving and Ken Rudin for the latest "It's All Politics" roundup.

Where Political Ads Go To Be Mocked

Sep 14, 2012

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Appearing in Virginia on Thursday, Republican Mitt Romney tried to bring his campaign back to the issues he has focused on before in the swing state: the nation's economy and strengthening the military.

A day after Romney ignited a debate over his criticism of President Obama's handling of events in Libya and Egypt, the Republican presidential nominee largely steered clear of discussing unrest in Egypt and the attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.

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Two decisions this week could make voting easier in the crucial swing state of Florida. One involves early voting, the other deals with the state's controversial effort to purge non-citizens from its voter registration rolls.

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Republican hopes of capturing the Senate in November rest on a handful of tossup races in states like Montana, Missouri and Virginia.

Surprisingly, some analysts also are putting Hawaii in the tossup column.

Hawaii is the bluest of blue states; it hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1970. But with the retirement of 22-year incumbent Daniel Akaka, Republicans believe they have a chance.

And regardless of who wins, the state will have its first female senator come January.

In Hawaii, the language of politics is a little different.

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