Danielle Kurtzleben | KUOW News and Information

Danielle Kurtzleben

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. In her current role, she writes for npr.org's It's All Politics blog, focusing on data visualizations. In the run-up to the 2016 election, she used numbers to tell stories that went far beyond polling, putting policies into context and illustrating how they affected voters.

Before joining NPR in 2015, Kurtzleben spent a year as a correspondent for Vox.com. As part of the site's original reporting team, she covered economics and business news.

Prior to Vox.com, Kurtzleben was with U.S. News & World Report for nearly four years, where she covered the economy, campaign finance and demographic issues. As associate editor, she launched Data Mine, a data visualization blog on usnews.com.

A native of Titonka, Iowa, Kurtzleben has a bachelor's degree in English from Carleton College. She also holds a master's degree in Global Communication from George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.

Here's one topic Americans can bank on hearing about in next week's State of the Union address: gun control. The reaction to President Obama's announced gun-control measures this week was swift and entirely as expected. Gun-control advocates and many Democrats applauded his efforts; gun-rights groups and many Republicans loudly denounced the orders as executive overreach.

Submitting to interviews is usually a big part of the presidential job description. Conducting interviews, on the other hand, falls pretty far down on the list.

Here's what we've heard about evangelical voters lately: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and now Ted Cruz are fighting for them. Cruz says that a bunch of them are "missing" (and that he's the man to find them). And anyone will tell you that they play a decisive role in Iowa GOP caucuses.

Ted Cruz is introducing some voters to what he says is a new term in the fight over immigration: "undocumented Democrats." Speaking in Las Vegas on Thursday, the Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate portrayed the idea of a path to citizenship as a ploy to beef up Democratic voter rolls.

There are a lot of surprising things about Donald Trump's campaign. He has been atop polls almost constantly for nearly five months. Contrast that to GOP primaries of recent past, in which a series of "front-runners" have come and gone before a nominee was chosen.

Likewise, he seems not only immune to fact checks but is helped when he is perceived to be a victim of media targeting — even when he has made blatantly untrue claims and refused to back down.

TV ads are unavoidable during a presidential election campaign — just ask the Iowans and New Hampshirites being bombarded with advertisements right now. So why aren't those TV spots seeming to do much good for some Republican candidates?

It has become de rigueur to write about the woes of Thanksgiving-table political arguments. If you are unlucky enough to actually experience these, you may have noticed that the fights at the Thanksgiving table have grown more heated in recent years. That would make sense — after all, we keep hearing that Capitol Hill is growing more polarized (and, relatedly, paralyzed).

Tuesday night's Republican debate focused on economic issues. NPR reporters look at candidate claims about business creation, the minimum wage, trade and the length of the tax code.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley on the health of the economy:

Republican candidates painted a fairly bleak picture of the U.S. economy during the debate, offering a litany of discouraged workers, sluggish economic growth and children living on food stamps.

Immigration is shaping up to be one of the most contentious and emotional topics in the 2016 presidential race. It's also one on which candidates' views aren't yet fully formed.

If you've paid attention to Donald Trump's speeches, you probably don't have to read his new book.

That's because Crippled America doesn't exactly break new ground. It reads like one of his teleprompter-free campaign speeches: loose, casual, disjointed and full of grandiose adjectives. You can almost hear him dictating it as you read his greatest-hits lines about "real Americans" and the economic threats that China poses to the U.S., mishmashed with a rundown of his main policy ideas and a few anecdotes from his past.

If you've paid attention to Donald Trump's speeches, you probably don't have to read his new book.

That's because Crippled America doesn't exactly break new ground. It reads like one of his teleprompter-free campaign speeches: loose, casual, disjointed and full of grandiose adjectives. You can almost hear him dictating it as you read his greatest-hits lines about "real Americans" and the economic threats that China poses to the U.S., mishmashed with a rundown of his policy ideas.

In Wednesday night's GOP debate, moderators pressed GOP candidates on their massive tax reform pans. Moderator John Harwood asked Donald Trump about the idea that his massive tax cuts would make the economy take off "like a rocket ship" (an idea that Trump staunchly defended).

This post was updated at 5:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

The House has passed a budget proposal that funds the government for two years and raises the debt ceiling, preventing a default on the nation's debt. The proposal will now move to the Senate, where a vote is expected as early as Monday.

Right now, Americans have a front-row seat to one of the highest-profile job negotiations they will ever see.

Paul Ryan's list of demands before becoming speaker of the House includes a couple of things that few job applicants ever have to think about: party unity and a congressional rule change. But he has one demand that many workers can sympathize with: He wants time to see his kids.

In a Wednesday statement from the White House's Rose Garden, Vice President Joe Biden ended months of speculation, informing the country that he will not be seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

The decision likely leaves plenty of Biden supporters disappointed, but when you look at the numbers — polling, fundraising and endorsement data — they show he would have had to clear some pretty big hurdles to win the nomination.

Here's a rundown:

1. He still lags far behind Clinton and Sanders in the polls

This post was updated at 12:28 p.m. ET.

If Vice President Biden had announced his presidential candidacy today, he would have entered the race with 384 days until Election Day. But he said it was too late for him to be competitive.

Here's the thing: 384 days is an absurdly long time.

At least, it is when you compare American campaigns to those in other countries. The U.S. doesn't have an official campaign season, but the first candidate to jump into the presidential race, Ted Cruz, announced his candidacy on March 23 — 596 days before Election Day.

Lance Mercier knows his job gets harder when a co-worker goes out on leave. But he recently also learned that raising a newborn involves, as he puts it, an "insurmountable" amount of work.

The 39-year-old bank manager from Silver Spring, Md., is currently on leave from work taking care of his newborn son with his wife, Luz.

"As a manager who has had a lot of people go out on leave of absence, it absolutely sucks when they go out on leave," he said. "This puts everything back into perspective for me."

The campaign fundraising race got a lot tighter last quarter. More specifically, Hillary Clinton's massive campaign fundraising lead over the rest of the field shrank. The fuel that helped other candidates catch her: small donors.

She's still in the lead — in the quarter ending Sept. 30, Clinton raised nearly $30 million. But she's trailed closely by Bernie Sanders' $26.2 million and Ben Carson's $20.8 million. Compare that to the prior quarter, when Clinton raised a huge $47.5 million, more than three times second-place Sanders' $15.2 million.

Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail call for an Obamacare repeal all the time. Plans to replace it are rarer, though. Obamacare is a fantastically complicated policy, and overhauling the health care system would likewise be a complicated business, affecting not only government spending and the economy, but people's very lives on an intensely personal level.

No one knows who will lead House Republicans next, but for now, chaos reigns among the House GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy shocked Washington on Thursday when he dropped out of the race for speaker of the House.

If you aren't watching Capitol Hill closely, you might not know what the big deal is, or why the GOP is having such a hard time picking a speaker. Here's a quick rundown of what's going on.

We want to cut through the spin with a new feature we're calling "Break It Down."

Break It Down is going to be a regular part of our campaign coverage. We're going to try some new things. It might read a little differently from time to time. But our goal is to zoom in on what the candidates are saying, and give you the factual breakdown you need to make a sound judgment.

Amazing, simple, easy, fair.

Those are just four of the words Donald Trump used on Monday to describe his new tax plan. It sounds like a standard GOP tax plan, with cuts and limits on deductions. But when you look closer, it takes those ideas much further than his GOP rivals do — to the extent that it could cost the federal government trillions of dollars.

So what is he proposing? Here's what you need to know about it:

What does it do?

There's something almost Name That Tune-ish about the way the GOP candidates are talking about tax brackets these days. Currently, there are seven. Donald Trump wants four. Jeb Bush says he can get them down to three. Chris Christie and Marco Rubio want two. Ben Carson does them one better — one 10 percent rate, inspired by the Bible.

There's a great irony to John Boehner's resignation — once upon a time, he was involved in an attempt to oust a speaker himself. The official bio on the speaker's website puts it this way: he was, back in the day, "a reformer who took on the establishment."

But when one becomes speaker, one becomes, by definition, part of the establishment. And these days, the conservative base just doesn't like the establishment.

When Pope Francis addresses Congress on Thursday, watch in the background on the C-SPAN feed for some uncomfortable fidgeting. That's because he has plenty of material to make both Democrats and Republicans squirm.

It's been a big week for abortion news.

Carly Fiorina's passionate (if inaccurate) depiction of a Planned Parenthood sting video was one of the most memorable moments of last week's GOP debate. And the House of Representatives on Friday passed two abortion-related bills — one aimed at cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood, the other at punishing doctors who fail to provide medical care to infants that survive abortion attempts.

Given all this, you could be forgiven for thinking there's been a public-opinion shift against abortion rights in the U.S.

Carly Fiorina will make it into CNN's main debate next week, thanks to poll numbers that improved after her strong performance in Fox News' Aug. 6 "happy hour" debate.

Of course, in a field of 17, improving in the polls means moving from 1 or 2 percent to the 5 percent neighborhood.

This story was updated on Wednesday, September 9, at 5:30 PM with an estimate of the plan's revenue effects and a table of its tax brackets.

Jeb Bush's tax plan tries to do a lot. The plan aims to lower the highest tax rate, offer some relief to low earners, reform corporate taxes, stick it to hedge-fund managers and also, by the way, "unleash 4 percent growth" in the economy, as the former Florida governor puts it.

Carly Fiorina was relegated to the JV squad in the Fox News GOP presidential debate in August, but her strong performance that night helped her race past several of her peers in recent polls.

That surge in polling wasn't enough to get her into the next big debate — but it might be now.

That's because CNN Tuesday afternoon changed its criteria for who will get into its main Sept. 16 debate in such a way that Fiorina is much more likely to be included.

Jeb Bush is getting all the millionaires, and Bernie Sanders is getting the small donors — those have been two prominent storylines in the 2016 money race for the presidency.

But what about everyone in between? The Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Finance Institute released data on campaign fundraising, and it paints a fascinating picture — which we decided to make into a literal picture. Here's how the different candidates' donation patterns stack up to each other:

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