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Mara Liasson

Mara Liasson is the national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.

Each election year, Liasson provides key coverage of the candidates and issues in both presidential and congressional races. During her tenure she has covered six presidential elections — in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Prior to her current assignment, Liasson was NPR's White House correspondent for all eight years of the Clinton administration. She has won the White House Correspondents Association's Merriman Smith Award for daily news coverage in 1994, 1995, and again in 1997. From 1989-1992 Liasson was NPR's congressional correspondent.

Liasson joined NPR in 1985 as a general assignment reporter and newscaster. From September 1988 to June 1989 she took a leave of absence from NPR to attend Columbia University in New York as a recipient of a Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism.

Prior to joining NPR, Liasson was a freelance radio and television reporter in San Francisco. She was also managing editor and anchor of California Edition, a California Public Radio nightly news program, and a print journalist for The Vineyard Gazette in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

Liasson is a graduate of Brown University where she earned a bachelor's degree in American history.

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Congressional elections do not come for months, but in many districts the real action is now. Its primary season and yesterday voters went to the polls around the country. In North Carolina's Republican Senate primary, Thom Tillis, the State House speaker, won a big enough margin to avoid a runoff.

In a high-rise office in Rosslyn, Va., Adam Parkhomenko is selling campaign paraphernalia for a campaign that may or may not happen.

"Bumper stickers, magnets, and then we have everything from T-shirts, we have baby onesies that we're almost out of now," says Parkhomenko.

Parkhomenko runs a group called Ready for Hillary. It's more than a Clinton fan club: It's a superPAC, a list-building superPAC.

A new bipartisan NPR poll shows approval numbers rising for Obamacare — which is now slightly more popular than its namesake.

Our survey of likely voters, conducted for Morning Edition by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic, shows the president's health care law is still unpopular, but it might not be as heavy a millstone for Democrats as expected.

Democrats have had great success in recent presidential elections registering, targeting and turning out their core voters. Now they're hoping to use that sophisticated field operation to to stave off defeat in this year's midterm elections.

Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is visiting the White House Wednesday. The meeting comes days before a vote in Crimea over whether to secede from Ukraine.

Facing a deadline, the Obama administration is desperate to boost enrollment in health care exchanges. Still millions from their goal, they're stepping up outreach and forgetting politics — for now.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists, routinely attracts big names in the Republican party — and this year's no different. It starts Thursday.

With the House of Representatives expected to remain in Republican hands, the Senate will be the focus of midterm elections in 2014. The political landscape there appears unfavorable for Democrats.

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Democrats and Republicans have exhausted themselves politically after failing to reach a grand bargain to reduce the debt. Now there's a new economic debate in Washington over economic growth, mobility and income inequality.

But without dealing with the debt, Republicans and Democrats might not be able to navigate even the issues they agree on.

Moving Away From The Deficit

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The new Congressional Budget Office report gives ammunition to Republicans and puts Democrats on the defensive. It said the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of full-time workers by more than 2 million by the year 2024. But as usual, the truth is more complicated than the headlines and press releases suggest.

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President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech with enthusiasm last night. Facing a Congress that has often frustrated him, as well as sagging poll numbers, the president offered a list of proposals Congress could pass, and a series of plans he could enact alone if they don't.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, for more on the president's speech, we're joined by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hello, Audie.

CORNISH: So listening to Jay Carney just now, what do you think is the president's overriding goal tonight?

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. President Obama prepares to hit the proverbial reset button on his second term tomorrow night. The president will lay out his agenda in the State of the Union address. After a rough and tumble 2013 sparing with Congress over the budget and Obamacare, the president is expected to make some adjustments.

Tuesday night is the State of the Union Address — the biggest opportunity President Obama gets all year to speak to the American people about his priorities. There's also another speech that night — the GOP response. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner announced Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington State would deliver the official rebuttal.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And even before Edward Snowden and his leaks made NSA surveillance the subject of dinner table conversations all over American, President Obama said he wanted a debate about the right balance between security and civil liberties. The Snowden revelations made sure that Mr. Obama got one. NPR's Mara Liasson reports on how the political calculus is working at the White House.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The president's new senior advisor, John Podesta, describes what Mr. Obama wants Americans to understand.

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This week, and in the coming year, we're marking the anniversary of a famous declaration. It's been 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson called for an unconditional war on poverty in his first State of the Union Address after the assassination of President Kennedy.

It's been a long year since Republicans vowed to rebrand their party as friendlier to women, minorities and younger voters. Even if its longer term problems remain, the party finds itself in surprisingly good shape going into the 2014 midterms.

It's not big enough to be called a shakeup, but the new hire announced this week at the White House is important: John Podesta will come on board in January as a counselor to the president.

Podesta is a Democratic wise man, the founder of the Center for American Progress, a policy and personnel incubator for Democratic administrations, and he just started a new think tank on income inequality — the problem President Obama says will animate his second term.

American politics is having a populist moment, with voters angry and frustrated with all big institutions in American life.

The backlash against big government found its expression on the right with the Tea Party. The tensions between that movement and the Republican establishment have been on full display.

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As we all know, Obamacare is struggling with how to make the government online insurance exchanges work, which has diverted attention from another part of the Affordable Care Act which is being successfully implemented.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The troubled rollout of the ACA has also shaken relations between the White House and congressional Democrats. For more on that we're joined by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson at the White House.

Hey there, Mara.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Americans are utterly fed up with Washington. That's the takeaway from the latest round of public opinion polls. Approval ratings for just about every leader and political institution from the president to Congress are now at record lows. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports on why and what the consequences might be.

Several states are trying to do something about so-called hyperpartisanship by changing the way congressional districts are drawn and the way elections are held.

Their goal: force members of Congress to pay more attention to general election voters than to their base voters on the right or left.

John Fortier, the director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which is working on ways to make politics less dysfunctional, says U.S. political parties have become more polarized.

The administration is expected to report on the number of Americans who have signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange this week.

Here's an email that caught my eye Thursday. It's from Republican Bill McInturff, one of the best pollsters around and not someone known to hyperbolize. He was discussing the results of this month's NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, which he conducts with Democrat Peter Hart.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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And I'm Steve Inskeep. More hearings come today on the messy rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will face questions from the House, Energy and Commerce Committee. Now, yesterday, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid testified before a different committee. Marilyn Tavenner offered consumers an apology for the problems at the health care.gov website.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today's hearing may not have cleared up many questions about exactly what's wrong with the health care website, but it does represent a new chapter in the political fight over the Affordable Care Act.

Joining us now is NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. And, Mara, just after Republicans failed in their efforts to defund or delay the health care law through budget fights, the program's right back in the spotlight. Where does the political debate stand?

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