Liz Halloran

Liz Halloran joined NPR in December 2008 as Washington correspondent for Digital News, taking her print journalism career into the online news world.

Halloran came to NPR from US News & World Report, where she followed politics and the 2008 presidential election. Before the political follies, Halloran covered the Supreme Court during its historic transition — from Chief Justice William Rehnquist's death, to the John Roberts and Samuel Alito confirmation battles. She also tracked the media and wrote special reports on topics ranging from the death penalty and illegal immigration, to abortion rights and the aftermath of the Amish schoolgirl murders.

Before joining the magazine, Halloran was a senior reporter in the Hartford Courant's Washington bureau. She followed Sen. Joe Lieberman on his ground-breaking vice presidential run in 2000, as the first Jewish American on a national ticket, wrote about the media and the environment and covered post-9/11 Washington. Previously, Halloran, a Minnesota native, worked for The Courant in Hartford. There, she was a member of Pulitzer Prize-winning team for spot news in 1999, and was honored by the New England Associated Press for her stories on the Kosovo refugee crisis.

She also worked for the Republican-American newspaper in Waterbury, Conn., and as a cub reporter and paper delivery girl for her hometown weekly, the Jackson County Pilot.

The 9th Circuit Court's 2-1 decision Tuesday to strike down California's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional could propel the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It also promises to inject marriage politics into an election year during which states from New Jersey to Minnesota to Washington will grapple with the issue of gay citizens' right to legally marry.

Republican voters in Colorado and Minnesota Tuesday will engage in the truly American political invention called the caw-cawaasough.

Make that the "caucus," the oft-maligned system in which party members gather to discuss and declare their preferences for a candidate by scribbling a name on a piece of paper for hand-count by party officials.

Why maligned?

The brutal recession has wracked Nevada, where soaring unemployment and foreclosure numbers tell the story of the state's misery. But its importance as a swing state in the 2012 presidential contest has only been enhanced in the four years since it went for Democrat Barack Obama.

It's not that the panicked Republican establishment needed more fodder for its attack on GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich as the wrong man to take on President Obama this fall.

They've managed quite nicely themselves over the past few days, piling on the pugnacious former House speaker, circa mid-1990s, in direct proportion to Gingrich's rise in the polls in Florida and nationwide.

Rick Santorum may be running an anemic third in Republican presidential primary polls in Florida, but his influence in Tuesday's crucial Sunshine State contest – and perhaps beyond – continues to outpace his survey numbers.

His performance during Thursday's GOP debate in Jacksonville provided perhaps the best view yet of the former Pennsylvania senator's increasing potential to play spoiler (see: Mitt Romney) or savior (see: Mitt Romney), and to take his unlikely quest for the White House deeper into the primary season than anyone every predicted.

As the president delivered the final State of the Union address of his term before a looming re-election battle, he looked out at a sea of angry and skeptical Republicans who had fought him on budgets, government shutdowns, and whether or not to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

And what did President Bill Clinton do in 1996?

He delivered his "the era of big government is over" speech, which The Washington Post summed up this way: "Clinton Embraced GOP Themes in Setting Agenda."

Mitt Romney is reeling. Newt Gingrich is surging. Rick Santorum is hanging on. And Ron Paul continues to zig while others zag.

So goes the rollicking but inconclusive — so far — Republican presidential contest, as it moves from small ball to big time in Florida for a Jan. 31 primary in which some 4 million state Republicans are eligible to vote.

Perspective? More Florida Republicans have already cast early ballots than all New Hampshire votes tallied for the top three finishers in that state's Jan. 10 GOP primary, about 197,000.

More than 150 leaders in the conservative evangelical Christian community are getting together Friday and Saturday at a private ranch west of Houston in a last-ditch effort to derail Mitt Romney's march to the Republican nomination.

The meeting, which will feature state and regional leaders as well as prominent pastors and national-profile evangelical stars, is not intended as a Romney-bashing event, says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a big voice among conservative evangelicals.

The theme of the 2012 GOP presidential contest has been dissatisfaction with the candidates, and a rollicking battle for the honor of being the anti-Mitt Romney alternative.

We were curious about what young conservatives have been thinking about the race, which moved to New Hampshire Wednesday after Iowa's decidedly non-decisive caucuses.

So NPR photographer John Poole and I, after a night at former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's headquarters in Bedford, N.H., decided to head west to Dartmouth College in Hanover.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday that she is suspending her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The conservative provocateur finished a disappointing sixth in Tuesday's caucuses in Iowa, with just 5 percent of the vote.

"Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice," Bachmann said at a mid-morning news conference in West Des Moines. "So I have decided to stand aside."

Rick Santorum's stunning finish in Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses Tuesday breathed life into his dogged campaign and had his New Hampshire supporters dreaming of a top-three spot for him in next week's Granite State primary.

But the path to a good finish in New Hampshire is not an easy one. Santorum's evangelical bona fides are bound to matter much less than in Iowa. And Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, has consistently held wide leads in preference polls.

On the last day he'll have New Hampshire to himself, GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who bypassed the Iowa caucuses, plans to travel from Pembroke to Peterborough in search of enough votes to break into the top three in next week's Granite State primary.

With his presidential opponents scrambling for last-minute support in advance of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, Huntsman has been methodically wooing New Hampshire voters in nearly 150 events over the past few weeks.

In a cavernous Des Moines meeting hall just west of the state Capitol, progressive activist and writer John Nichols had a simple message for those involved in Iowa's iteration of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"Learn to get cool with losing," Nichols told about 50 people who had come to hear advice from longtime activists, including veterans of the civil rights battle.

"Get comfortable that you absolutely will be told you can't succeed," he said, and with the notion of a long-term struggle "that may last beyond your lifetime."

A claim by Ron Paul's presidential campaign, and confirmed by the fact-check website PolitiFact, asserts that the Texas congressman has received more donations from active military personnel than the other GOP candidates combined.

That's intriguing, given that Paul is the only candidate calling for significant cuts in military (not defense, he says) funding, the closing of overseas bases, and the use of military force "very sparingly."

As we continued our Iowa travels in the days leading up to next week's presidential caucuses here, NPR photographer Becky Lettenberger and I have been struck by the utter seriousness of the state's Republican voters.

Presidential caucus seasons past have often been marked by fun and some frivolity at campaign events: Funny T-shirts and hats, jokes and punch lines offered up by candidates, a sense of hope and anticipation.

Will the Iowa Republican caucuses next Tuesday be flooded with the state's version of Occupy Wall Street activists?

The rumor has been out there for weeks, and the state's voting laws suggest it could be possible: though only registered Republicans may participate, anyone can register for the party on caucus night and vote.

As NPR's Becky Lettenberger and I take to the road in Iowa this week, we are collecting the words and images of Iowa Republicans still uncertain who they will vote for in next Tuesday's state GOP presidential caucuses.

Here's the first look at what we saw and heard Tuesday in two cities that hug the Mississippi River on the state's eastern border, Dubuque and Davenport.

We spoke with voters after a Newt Gingrich appearance in Dubuque during a Rotary Club meeting at a local country club.

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