Politics

Saul Loeb/Jim Watson / Getty Images, via NPR

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton go head-to-head in the first presidential debate Monday night.

NPR's politics team, with help from reporters and editors who cover national security, immigration, business, foreign policy and more, is live annotating the debate. Portions of the debate with added analysis are highlighted, followed by context and fact check from NPR reporters and editors.

Follow highlights of the debate in NPR's updating news story at npr.org.

Until Sept. 19, if diners had wanted to see Yelp reviews for Elizabeth, N.J., restaurant First American Fried Chicken, they would have found just two of them, praising the food, wide selection and late hours. Now, the majority of reviews give the restaurant one star, refer to the owners as "terrorists," talk about "72 virgin bucket specials" and mention — repeatedly — that their chicken is "the bomb."

Matt Rourke / AP

After a long summer break, the state House is back in session—for now. But lawmakers aren’t expecting to tackle anything too divisive before Election Day.

The House will have just 12 voting days before lawmakers retire to their districts for the election. The Senate, which returns next week, will have nine.

Major items on the docket include decisions on expanded gambling and a state pension overhaul. Governor Tom Wolf is also seeking a joint session to address the opioid crisis.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Under a tent in a Canonsburg parking lot Wednesday, the free hamburgers and chips flowed like shale gas through Washington County.

The food was there to feed a few hundred supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at his new volunteer center, located in an office building.  

Many of them held hand-made signs reading, “Deplorables for Trump.”

Katie Meyer / WITF

Recent polls are showing Hillary Clinton leading by 8 points in Pennsylvania, and by even wider margins in and around big cities.

Clinton has focused much of her Pennsylvania ground time on those liberal urban areas. But on Tuesday, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine ventured out to Lancaster to make an appeal to voters there.

Kaine gave a pointed speech at the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster, making several overtures to small business owners, and pledging support for people struggling in the still-sluggish economy.

Rich Schultz / AP

It’s been a bumpy few weeks for leadership in the state Attorney General’s office.

Kathleen Kane resigned, and her first deputy Bruce Castor has taken over. But Governor Tom Wolf has nominated his inspector general to the position.

The candidates for the November AG election are taking pains to distance themselves from the tumult.

Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty both independently called the Kane scandal a “sad chapter” for the state.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

On Wednesday, a court will decide whether a referendum to change Pittsburgh's home rule charter will remain on the November ballot. The city argues the proposed amendment unduly hampers city government.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

On a Friday night in Altoona, the Blair County Convention Center was packed to the rafters with supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. There was an overflow room downstairs and a crowd waiting outside that couldn't get in. Trump discussed everything from ISIS to Supreme Court justices. 

Divided America: Diverse Millennials Are No Voting Monolith

Aug 23, 2016
Brennan Linsley / AP

 

The oldest millennials — nearing 20 when airplanes slammed into New York City's Twin Towers — are old enough to remember the relative economic prosperity of the 1990s, and when a different Clinton was running for president. 

AP

Pennsylvania has a long history as an important swing state in presidential elections. But over the last decade, approximately, political shifts have kept the state swinging left again and again—Republicans haven’t won Pennsylvania since 1988.

Nevertheless, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are fighting hard for Keystone State votes this year.

According to Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania has been like “fool’s gold” for Republicans in recent years: tantalizing, but just out of reach.

Clinton, Trump Battle In The Field

Aug 18, 2016
Bastiaan Slabbers / NewsWorks

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a voter registration rally Tuesday, packing several hundred supporters into the gym at West Philadelphia High School.

Looking ahead 85 days, Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are beginning to focus on the field effort they hope will help them win Pennsylvania on Nov. 8.

Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool

With Kathleen Kane stepping down as state attorney general after her felony conviction, the focus is now turning to how to restore public confidence in the scandal-ridden office.

Kane’s former first deputy Bruce Castor is taking over the AG duties for the time-being.

He said his first priority is to move the office forward.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to address since I got here, and that’s restore confidence in the public in the work that the Office of the Attorney General does,” Castor said.

Misty Johnson / Flickr

Pennsylvania plans to use a $250,000 federal grant to spend more than a year studying options for paid family leave programs.

The grant comes from money the federal Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau awarded to several states and cities to look into how paid family leave impacts workers and businesses.

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary, Kathy Manderino, said the state doesn’t yet have concrete plans for what it will do with the data. 

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s credit rating has improved, though only slightly, with Moody’s Investor Service upgrading the commonwealth’s financial outlook from negative to stable.

Since 2014, Moody’s rating of Pennsylvania’s credit has been a relatively mediocre AA3.

Dan Seymour, Moody’s lead analyst for Pennsylvania, said that’s relatively low for a state.

Hillary Clinton's recent surge in the polls is being fueled in part by a demographic that President Obama lost handily four years ago — white, college-educated voters.

"In over a half-century, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried white voters with a college degree," said Michelle Diggles, a senior political analyst with the center-left think tank Third Way, who described the split between the white working class and whites with a college degree as "the most underreported story of this year."

Polls show that the idea of building a wall across the southern border remains unpopular with the general public and especially in the U.S. borderlands.

But not everyone living near the international divide opposes a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Donald Trump has a small, zealous following along the southern frontier.

Art Gentile / Bucks County Courier Times via AP, Pool

  A political consultant for Attorney General Kathleen Kane says her security agents took him to a parking garage, seized his phone, wallet and keys and searched him for a recording device before he had lunch with Kane at a luxury hotel.

Consultant Josh Morrow is testifying Thursday at Kane's perjury and obstruction trial. The first-term Democrat is accused of leaking grand jury files to the press to embarrass a rival.

Matt Rourke / AP

Donald Trump’s poll numbers are down in Pennsylvania—he currently trails opponent Hillary Clinton by nearly nine points in a recent state average.

But that’s not just bad news for Trump.

In election years, down-ballot races are always affected by the presidential contest. This year’s Senate contest between Democrat Katie McGinty and Republican incumbent Pat Toomey is no exception.

Wes Leckrone, who teaches political science at Widener University, said he is predicting Trump won’t win Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to save $150 million in state money by this fiscal year has exceeded its goal, netting a total of $156 million in efficiencies.

Now the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management and Efficiency has a new, more ambitious plan for the next three years. GO-TIME is aiming to increase those efficiencies to $500 million by fiscal year 2020.

GO-TIME Director Sharon Ward said much of the money saved will come from 154 programs that were already part of the initial initiative.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

When the state budget passed earlier this month, a lot attention focused on whether there was enough revenue to pay for it.

But one part was largely overlooked—the more than $100 million it included in tax credits.

They are basically a tax refund given to certain taxpayers chosen by the state.

Marc Stier, director of the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said the allocation is significant: the industries and companies that receive the breaks are the ones the state’s trying to bolster.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Hillary Clinton's top surrogates are taking aim at rival Donald Trump for criticizing the bereaved mother of a Muslim Army captain, a comment that sparked outrage across the political spectrum on Saturday.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine expressed shock that the GOP nominee would attack Ghazala Khan for not speaking during her husband's address to the Democratic convention.

Barbara Hafer, Former PA Treasurer, Indicted

Jul 22, 2016
Paul Vathis / AP

  Former Pennsylvania Treasurer Barbara Hafer was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury.

This makes her the third state treasurer to face federal charges in three decades.

Hafer is accused on two counts of making false statements to FBI and IRS agents during a corruption investigation in May.

She was allegedly concealing $500,000 in consulting fees paid to her by companies that did business with the Treasury Department while Hafer was in office. 

Tobacco Opponents Tout Cigarette Tax Benefits

Jul 11, 2016
fried dough / flickr

Anti-tobacco advocates from the American Cancer Society are calling on state lawmakers to levy an increased cigarette tax as part of the 2017 budget.

Medill DC / Flickr

Pennsylvania's junior U.S. senator watched his anti-sanctuary city legislation come up short on Wednesday.

Republican Pat Toomey’s proposal is seen by some as largely a byproduct of running for office in an election year dominated by partisan issues. 

The measure would have cut off certain federal funding to cities, like Philadelphia, where jails and police don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

In the past, Toomey was best known for his fiscal conservatism.

Plan To Pay For $31.6 Bil Budget Still Unclear

Jun 30, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

In this year’s budget negotiations, state legislators seem eager to show their constituents that last year’s nine-month deadlock is behind them.

After receiving the House’s nearly $31.6 billion spending plan Wednesday, the Senate quickly passed its general appropriations in a bipartisan vote, just a day before the Thursday deadline.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Republican Patrick Browne, said the Senate proposal contains only minor changes, notably adding money for higher education.

Trump Takes On Trade Deals In Pennsylvania Speech

Jun 28, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Republican Donald Trump took aim at U.S. free trade deals in a speech delivered in Western Pennsylvania Tuesday that painted his likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as a champion of the kind of globalization that has pushed manufacturing jobs overseas.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  After a nine-month-long standoff over last year’s state budget, Pennsylvania lawmakers seem committed to getting a verdict out quickly this year. But there is still little information from the Capitol on what exactly the budget contains, and advocates from across the commonwealth are concerned the speed will come at the expense of quality.

Ralliers with the campaign Pennsylvania’s Choice congregated in the Capitol rotunda Monday to push for more spending in education, human services, and the environment.

pahouse.gov

The mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. earlier this month spurred the national discussion on gun control yet again.

U.S. Senate Democrats led a successful filibuster and in Allegheny County, two of the nine state representatives are pushing legislation on the issue, Democrats Jake Wheatly and Ed Gainey.

Bill Maher / Facebook

Bill Maher, who has been hosting “Real Time with Bill Maher" for 13 years on HBO, joins us by phone. Maher started his career as a standup comedian and still performs at least fifty dates a year. He’ll be in Pittsburgh on Friday, July 8 at Heinz Hall. We'll ask him about politics, religion and all of the things people aren't supposed to discuss.  

Michael Lopreste imagines it would be easier if he had the sort of job that allowed him to simply walk away from a co-worker's political diatribe. But as sales manager of a high-end furniture chain, he often can't afford to.

"Being in sales, we're kind of this captive audience," Lopreste says. "You know, you want to make the client feel at ease, you want to make them feel important, you want to be able to have a good rapport with them. And a lot of times that manifests itself by being able to mirror back what they're saying, or perfecting the nod and smile."

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