Domenico Montanaro | KERA News

Domenico Montanaro

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's lead editor for politics and digital audience. Based in Washington, D.C., he directs political coverage across the network's broadcast and digital platforms.

Before joining NPR in 2015, Montanaro served as political director and senior producer for politics and law at PBS NewsHour. There, he led domestic political and legal coverage, which included the 2014 midterm elections, the Supreme Court, and the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

Prior to PBS NewsHour, Montanaro was deputy political editor at NBC News, where he covered two presidential elections and reported and edited for the network's political blog, "First Read." He has also worked at CBS News, ABC News, The Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, and taught high school English.

Montanaro earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Delaware and a master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University.

A native of Queens, NY, Montanaro is a die-hard Mets fan and college basketball junkie.

Assad must go.

That's been the Obama administration hard line since the U.S. charged the Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, used chemical weapons against his own people.

But Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, might not exactly agree.

"There is no alternative to a political transition that allows Syrians to end Assad's rule," Clinton said in her national-security address before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday.

Seem plain enough, right? Not exactly.

This post was updated at 9:23 p.m. ET

The next president will have to make some very big decisions about how to combat terrorism.

Paris, Beirut and the bombing of a Russian jetliner make that abundantly clear, 14 years after Sept. 11, the worst terrorist attacks on American soil. To listen to the presidential candidates, however, is to listen to two very distinctly different worldviews.

Updated at 1:22 a.m. ET

In the wake of controversy of any kind, even terrorist attacks, U.S. politics is never far behind. The American political response — from President Obama to the candidates vying to replace him — in the hours following the Paris attacks has been unsurprisingly split along party lines.

What is interesting, however, is that Democrats, who are set to debate Saturday night, have kept their responses generally to thoughts and prayers — with little in the way of policy prescriptions.

"Front-runner" can be a tenuous word. But when it comes to at least one group, Hillary Clinton is far and away the leader — the Democratic Party establishment.

There's no better measure of that establishment than unpledged party leaders and elected official delegates, better known as "superdelegates."

Among this group, Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 359 to 8, according to an AP survey of the group that will help elect the nominee at the Democratic National Convention in July. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has two people supporting him from this group.

Voters in Louisiana get to start their weekend off seeing this ad:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

After a Sunday night meeting, in which the Republican campaigns largely agreed on a framework to negotiate as a group with TV networks for upcoming debates, the Trump campaign has decided it will negotiate independently.

"Just like the CNBC debate, we will negotiate with the media," Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NPR. "We're going to make sure we're going to work with the networks to make sure the candidate's interest is at the forefront to negotiate the best deal."

West Virginia isn't exactly Obama Country.

And that was made quite obvious hours before the president was set to speak there on efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and heroin use. Protesters lined up with signs.

Here are a couple, courtesy of NPR's Don Gonyea.

Sign 1, which is a little hard to read because of a shadow, reads:

"OBAMA YOU'RE NO Martin Luther King get your AL SHARPTON BEHIND OUT OF West Virginia."

Sign 2 reads:

After thinking about it for months, Vice President Joe Biden concluded Wednesday that his window "has closed" on a potential run for president.

Biden has had a long and colorful life and career. Here are five things to know about him, some of which might have complicated a run for president:

1. Biden is no stranger to tragedy

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush were at it again.

Trump upped the ante in criticizing Jeb Bush by slamming his brother George W.'s presidency and at least partially blaming the elder Bush brother for Sept. 11.

"When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time," he told Bloomberg. When the questioner said he couldn't blame Bush for terrorist attacks, Trump responded this way: "He was president, OK? ... Blame him, or don't blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign."

Let's not bury the lede. Here's Bernie Sanders dancing:

The Vermont senator taped a segment on the Ellen show Wednesday that will air Thursday. There was some seriousness early on, but it was mostly light fare. He joked about his hair and played along in a lightning round when he was asked:

Chaos ensued in the halls of Congress Thursday when Rep. Kevin McCarthy unexpectedly took himself out of the running to replace John Boehner as speaker of the House.

The reason for the pandemonium and, yes, even tears: No one knows where this goes from here.

Here are the four likely ways it gets resolved:

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says there isn't much time. Congress and the White House face two big deadlines to fund the government. It will be an intricate maneuver to meet both deadlines even as congressional leadership changes. And in an interview with NPR, Lew described behind-the-scenes negotiations meant to avert a last-minute crisis.

"There are conversations going on at a staff level," Lew told NPR's Steve Inskeep, "and I think the key is for Democrats and Republicans [in Congress] to talk to each other."

It's hard to deny that the NRA has won the gun debate over the past 20 years.

Despite mass shootings — and despite some 80 to 90 percent of Americans saying they are in favor of background checks — no legislation expanding on the 1993 Brady Bill has passed Congress.

What's going on? Well, the debate over guns is hardly ever solely about background checks or other seemingly popular measures intended to curb gun violence.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Arne Duncan will step down as President Obama's education secretary in December, a White House official confirms to NPR.

Obama has selected Deputy Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to replace Duncan. King is a former New York State education commissioner. (President Obama is making a personnel announcement at 3:30 p.m. ET.)

It's a new day, and it might not be the same again.

"My, oh my, what a wonderful day..." House Speaker John Boehner sang as he took to the podium in the Capitol Friday to announce his intention to resign as speaker of the House at the end of October.

But he isn't the only one reacting gleefully — conservatives are, too.

Boehner's resignation happens to coincide with the Values Voter Summit taking place in Washington Friday. Many at the conservative confab of religious voters were overjoyed.

Pope Francis speaks his mind, and he did that again in his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday morning. But, in the vein of the best Jesuit teachers, Francis praised America, its rich political history and its ideals before delicately delivering some things its political leaders might, well, want to consider working on.

There were political messages that challenged the orthodoxy of both American political parties, but, in this 51-minute address, there were a lot more points of emphasis Democrats are happy about — and that put some pressure on Republicans.

Donald Trump went and gave a speech Tuesday night on the deck of a battleship, the appropriately named USS Iowa. Reporters were expecting a policy speech. What followed was not that at all.

But that's really not the point.

Toward the end of the 13-minute speech, Trump said 178 words that might explain his appeal to conservatives better than almost anything else. (More on that below.)

First, to the policy ...

Gentlemen, start your spending.

Jeb Bush and the superPAC supporting him have raised the most money of any campaign so far. And now, post-Labor Day, the superPAC is about to put that money to use.

Howard Dean didn't just go away in 2004. And it wasn't "The Scream" that did him in. Remember, that came in his speech after losing the Iowa caucuses.

It took Democratic candidates attacking him on the campaign trail and in debates to bring concerns about his record — and whether he could win — to the forefront for Democratic voters.

Five months have passed since we first fact checked Hillary Clinton's arguments defending her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. The controversy has not gone away, and the Clinton campaign, hoping for a post-Labor Day reset, is ramping up its defense.

Che faccia brutta!

Between catcalls and "Ciao, Bellas," it's a refrain heard in Italian piazzas in hushed, and sometimes not so hushed, side conversations between men scoping out women.

It's usually coupled with Shakespearean dramatization with one guy putting his hand to his stomach while he's bending over like he's going to vomit.

Che faccia brutta!

Rough translation: What an ugly face.

Everyone should be on notice to look out for the unexpected this year in politics.

What usually happens might not be the case this time around.

The rise of anti-establishment candidates, non-prototypical politicians, like Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ben Carson is evidence of a clear anti-establishment sentiment. As the Washington Post's Dan Balz concluded in his most recent column:

Hillary Clinton has spent much of the summer fending off questions about her private email account during her time as secretary of state. Bernie Sanders is gaining on her in the polls. And there's a looming possible challenge from sitting Vice President Joe Biden.

That's a far cry from the beginning of this campaign when she was seen as an almost inevitable Democratic nominee.

Now, she's trying to regroup and make the case before the very people who will choose that nominee — not voters, but her base: the party establishment.

Alaska is on the "bucket lists" for a lot of people, but for President Obama it's on his famous list of things that rhyme with bucket.

When a wispy-haired, septuagenarian senator from Vermont with a Larry David-style and a life-long passion for talking about income inequality decided to run for president, not many took him seriously.

That's especially true, considering that senator, Bernie Sanders, was going up against the New York Yankees of Democratic politics — the Clintons.

But now Sanders is gaining in the polls, including in the gold-standard poll in Iowa — out Saturday night.

Donald Trump's been having a lot of fun at the expense of others lately.

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