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.

This is going to be an unthinkably expensive election. Case in point: estimates of spending on the presidential race stretch as high as $10 billion.

In the crowded GOP presidential field, it can pay to be loud — just ask Donald Trump. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, even the quietest conversation by an undeclared candidate can grab headlines. Just ask Joe Biden, whose private meeting with Elizabeth Warren this weekend has Washington buzzing.

You can't say we didn't try.

Joke "candidate" Deez Nuts has captivated Washington's attention this week, and we wanted to make sure we had some hot content on the freshest face in the 2016 field. But thoughtful takes don't write themselves. For what it's worth, here's a complete listing of our attempts:

1. Welcome to silly season

GOP presidential candidates are falling over themselves to get on record with tough immigration plans. A string of them — Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum — have spoken out in some form against birthright citizenship. That's the idea that being born on U.S. soil, regardless of your parents' legal status, automatically makes you a U.S. citizen.

Ben Carson went even further, saying he wants to secure the border — where he claims there are caves in which immigrants can hide — by using drones.

The 2016 election is already providing a lot of eye-popping statistics about the ballooning spending candidates will do in the 2016 election. Among them:

  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's superPAC has already raised more — in the first half of a non-election year — than Obama's main superPAC did in all of the 2012 cycle.
  • The latest big TV ad buy in the 2016 presidential election — on Ohio Gov. John Kasich's behalf, totaling $375,000 — is worth more than seven times the annual median U.S. household income.

Jeb Bush is fond of pointing out that the number of people in poverty has gone up by 6 million since President Obama took office. He brought up the figure in the GOP debate, and he repeats it often on the campaign trail. It's not a new criticism — Mitt Romney hurled similar criticisms at Obama in the 2012 campaign.

Everyone knows student debt is growing. College costs are growing. Student debt delinquencies are rising. And now Hillary Clinton has her own plan for how to stem that tide of financial problems for college graduates.

On Monday, Clinton released a package of ideas aimed at helping Americans handle their college debt, which currently totals around $1.2 trillion. The package's splashiest proposal promises future students a debt-free four-year degree from a public school.

The early 2016 presidential polls are flying, which means the complaining about polls is in full swing, too.

"You guys should know by now that the Monmouth University poll was created just to aggravate me," Chris Christie told The Washington Post recently about a New Jersey-based poll that showed him with 2 percent support. "There couldn't be a less objective pollster about Chris Christie in America."

Jeb Bush is again in damage-control mode, this time over an offhand remark he made about Planned Parenthood. He said at an event hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention that Planned Parenthood should be defunded, and he highlighted that he did so as governor of Florida.

He then added as an aside, "I'm not sure we need half-a-billion dollars for women's health issues" — a statement Hillary Clinton and other Democrats pounced on, portraying it as a gaffe that reveals that Bush doesn't care about women's health. He has since said he "misspoke."

Update: This post was updated at 6:55 p.m. ET to reflect Fox's announcement of debate participants.

The Republican presidential field has just had the most exciting fight for 10th place America has ever seen.

It also just might have been a meaningless fight.

Independent-expenditure-only committees, also known as superPACs, released their latest funding numbers on Friday, and already it's clear that the committees' roles in 2016 will be gargantuan.

The numbers already are far higher than those of the three election cycles since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which paved the way for the outside spending surge.

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The State Department's latest dump of Hillary Clinton's emails may dominate the news cycle in the coming days, but her campaign also released another crucial document on Friday — a clean bill of health for the Democratic front-runner.

The confirmation comes from Lisa Bardack, a New York-based doctor who has been Clinton's physician since 2001. In a letter, she declares Clinton "a healthy-appearing female," saying that Clinton exercises regularly, eats plenty of vegetables and fruits, doesn't smoke, and "drinks alcohol only occasionally."

"Well, if I ever ran for office, I'd do better as a Democrat than as a Republican," Donald Trump told Playboy in 1990. "And that's not because I'd be more liberal, because I'm conservative. But the working guy would elect me. He likes me."

Hillary Clinton laid out some lofty goals for her presidency in a speech on Friday.

"My mission from my first day as president to the last will be to raise the incomes of hardworking Americans so they can once again afford a middle-class life," she said. "This is the defining economic challenge not only of this election but our time."

Congress is one tiny step closer to funding America's highways, as the Senate decided Wednesday night to open debate on their transportation bill as the July 31 deadline looms. The Highway Trust Fund has been in dire straits the last few years, spending more than it's taking in. Because it gets its money from the federal gas tax, the trust fund has suffered as cars have grown more fuel-efficient and some Americans have cut back on their driving.

Barack Obama said before the New Hampshire primary during his contentious primary with Hillary Clinton in 2008 that she was "likable enough." The quip got him in trouble with Clinton supporters, but Clinton's likability is at the heart of her candidacy in 2016.

Clinton has a massive lead among Democratic candidates, but polls out in key swing states Wednesday raise warning signs for her candidacy.

Donald Trump held a kickoff event for his South Carolina campaign on Tuesday, and his speech was, to put it mildly, a doozy. Speaking in Sun City, S.C., without the aid of a TelePrompTer — because "Maybe when you run for president you shouldn't be allowed to use a TelePrompTer, because you find out what you're getting" — he was defensive, brash, angry, funny and self-aggrandizing.

To promote his economic ideas and tout his blue collar credentials, Scott Walker has been using a unique tactic: talking about his shopping habits. In his presidential campaign kick-off, the Wisconsin governor talked about how much he and his wife, Tonette, love a certain Wisconsin-based discount retailer.

"Some of you know that Tonette and I like to shop at Kohl's. Over the years, I've learned that if I'm going to buy a new shirt, I go to the rack that says that the shirt was $29.99 but now is $19.99," he said.

The first major campaign finance data dump of the 2016 presidential race is in, offering a look into how the candidates are raising and spending money. With second-quarter disclosures due at midnight July 15, most campaigns released their figures late Wednesday and into the evening.

If you've been paying attention to the political news in the past couple of years, you know that the U.S. stands virtually alone in not mandating paid leave of any type for its workers.

In a Monday speech, Hillary Clinton focused on a trend that millions of Americans know all too intimately: declining incomes.

The Clinton campaign is calling the phenomenon of stagnant wages "the defining economic challenge of our time," and as debates and primaries draw ever closer, it's becoming clear that jump-starting Americans' wages is going to be the defining challenge of the election. Candidates are furiously trying to differentiate themselves on how to deal with unstoppable phenomena.

A Recent, Scary Problem

Jeb Bush released more tax returns than any other presidential candidate in history. Over 33 years, the former Florida governor's campaign said he paid an average effective tax rate of 36 percent.

... depending on how you calculate it.

That's a confusing number, and it obscures three decades in which Bush's income climbed slowly, then explosively.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag — and on Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you five reads.

From Ina Jaffe, NPR's Los Angeles-based correspondent:

States may continue using a popular but controversial drug in lethal injection executions, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-4 decision.

The Supreme Court has decided that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

In a set of cases grouped under Obergefell v. Hodges, the high court ruled, 5-4, that states have to license same-sex marriages, as well as recognize same-sex marriages from other states. All four dissenting justices wrote dissents.

As soon as Thursday, the Supreme Court could decide the fate of millions of same-sex couples nationwide. In a ruling covering four cases, the court will determine whether states can prohibit same-sex marriage, as 13 states currently do.

It's always tough to predict how the court will rule but, broadly speaking, there are three main possibilities: the simplest is that the court declares state marriage bans unconstitutional, meaning states will all perform and recognize same-sex marriage. That's a pretty simple outcome, but things get much trickier in the other two cases.

This post was updated at 12:15 p.m. ET to reflect the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that state-based subsidies under the Affordable Care Act are legal. A different decision could have affected the health care of millions of Americans. In King v. Burwell, the court chose to allow the exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, to many) to continue operating as-is. It could have ended the subsidies in most states allowing many lower-income Americans to afford the insurance offered through those sites.

Jeb Bush's presidential candidacy announcement this week, after months of campaigning, came as no surprise. One small surprise that did pop up in his remarks, however, was a lofty goal he has set for himself as president — to grow the economy at a 4 percent rate if he's elected.

He expounded on the claim Wednesday in Iowa.

The Obama administration finds itself in the rare position of fighting alongside House Republicans this week as it tries to overcome Friday's stinging defeat to its massive trade package, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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