Mara Liasson

Mara Liasson is the national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition. 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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At every turn, this year's presidential campaign has proved conventional wisdom wrong. The aftermath of the Paris attacks might be another example.

As soon as the attacks were over, a chorus of (establishment) Republican voices predicted that the new focus on national security and terrorism would change the dynamic of the Republican race. This was the tipping point, they declared, that would finally usher out the outsiders leading the polls — Donald Trump and Ben Carson — in favor of more serious, experienced candidates.

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It's now within a year of Election Day 2016. The Republican race for the nomination is still completely unsettled, the Democratic race a little less. But hardly anything has worked out according to conventional wisdom.

With that caveat, here are five big things that (we think!) will help determine the outcome of next year's election.

1. Voter mood

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And we'll hear more about the debate and the presidential race from NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi Robert.

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It was easy to sense some movement in the presidential campaign last night. Some candidates are tired of being down in the race. Some of the leaders in the race can't be sure if they'll stay on top.

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The first Democratic presidential debate is set for Tuesday, even as Vice President Joe Biden is considering whether to join the White House race. NPR's Mara Liasson sets up the showdown, and explains how the field is preparing for Biden's decision days before the event.

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Since 1960, the Democrats were the party that nominated new generation candidates. Three of them — Kennedy, Clinton and Obama — won the White House. Republicans nominated old guys, whether they lost — think Dole, McCain and Romney — or won, like Ronald Reagan. But this year, the geezers are on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton is 67, Bernie Sanders is 74 and, if he gets in, Joe Biden is 72. On the Republican side, for a change, it's a completely different story.

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Reading the tea leaves about Vice President Biden's intentions has become a consuming parlor game in Washington.

Political junkies and journalists have been breathlessly speculating about whether Biden will get into the Democratic presidential race. Every phone call from a Biden aide is examined for hidden meaning.

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Ever since the Tea Party began in 2009, various Republicans have been auditioning to lead this populist revolt. Rand Paul took a chainsaw to the federal budget. Ted Cruz almost shut down the government. Chris Christie and Scott Walker have been bashing Washington elites.

But it wasn't until Donald Trump came along that the populist base of the Republican Party found the right mouthpiece for all its grievances.

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Here's a test of just how President Obama can take an issue when majorities in Congress differ with it.

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The issue is climate change, and the president's view, no long-term issue is more vital to address.

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Republicans have been talking about reforming their party since President Obama's re-election in 2012. The recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage and Obamacare and the reversal of several Southern Republican governors on the Confederate battle flag gave the GOP a new chance. But change can be hard.

In presidential years, the party has a math problem, according to GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. He points out that while Democrats are attracting growing segments of the population, like Latinos and Asians, Republicans are relying on their traditional base of white voters.

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