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.

With the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the election of Donald Trump, Democrats may feel they have hit bottom.

The new power structure in Washington will combine a Republican president and a Republican Congress for the first time since 2006. Throw in pending and prospective vacancies on the Supreme Court, and you can see why many progressives consider this the worst-case scenario.

But it is not.

When American voters must choose a new president, reaction tends to rule. Given a choice between continuity and contrast, we favor contrast — even when the retiring incumbent leaves office with relatively high public approval.

This sometimes is called the pendulum effect: The farther the pendulum swings in one direction, the farther it is likely to swing back. In physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction; in politics, the pushback sometimes can be disproportionate.

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.

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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?

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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."

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