KUNM

Don Gonyea

Back in June, the news out of the Newt Gingrich presidential campaign was dire.

Top staffers quit over differences about strategy, with some citing doubts about the candidate's seriousness — especially when he and his wife went on a cruise to the Greek Islands while his rivals stumped through New Hampshire and Iowa.

But now it's December, and Gingrich suddenly sits atop the polls. As a result, his organization is growing — as is the campaign brain trust. But Gingrich's most important adviser remains himself.

A Front-Runner's Staffing Needs

Occupy Wall Street protesters have been removed by police from public spaces in Los Angeles and Philadelphia this week. Some cities still have active 24-hour protests in place, though earlier this month the original Occupy encampment — on Wall Street — was also shut down.

Now activists in New York and elsewhere are talking about the movement's next phase, including the degree to which Occupy activists should get involved in the 2012 election.

Six Republican presidential hopefuls gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, and each made a pitch for the state's very important Christian conservative vote.

The event was not a debate, but a roundtable discussion. The candidates sat side-by-side at what was described as a Thanksgiving table, complete with pumpkins and autumn leaves. Not present at the table was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who chose not to attend.

NPR's Don Gonyea normally reports on politics, but he finds other stories along the way, like this one about a touring bluegrass band from the Czech Republic.

The first time I heard Druha Trava play was April 2009. I was covering President Obama's trip to the Europe. There was a big outdoor speech in Prague, and the band was playing Czech versions of Bob Dylan songs.

I did a short radio postcard story back then, figuring it was the kind of experience that every music fan knows: You stumble upon a great band somewhere and never see them again.

Michigan is expected to be a battleground in next year's presidential election. The state has a double-digit jobless rate but also has an auto industry that's being revived after getting federal help in 2009. President Obama points to that as a success story. But Republican candidates maintain the bailout was a bad idea. Among them, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney — a Michigan native whose father once ran a car company.

Presidential hopefuls and voters alike sometimes get upset about so-called gotcha questions from reporters that seem designed to embarrass contenders. But Wednesday night's Republican debate outside Detroit demonstrated how some candidates have done a perfectly good job of "getting" themselves.

The debate had some dramatic moments — including one excruciating moment that Texas Gov. Rick Perry would probably like to forget. The comments focused on the economy and jobs, but there were also questions about the sexual harassment allegations against front-runner Herman Cain.

It was one year ago that the Tea Party movement helped Republicans take control of the U.S. House of Representatives. With the presidential election a year away, the movement finds itself searching for ways to have the same kind of impact this time around.

The Tea Party celebrated on election night last year with candidates like Rand Paul, who captured a Senate seat in Kentucky.

"Tonight there's a Tea Party tidal wave, and we're sending a message to them," Paul said in his victory speech.

The baby boomers were born in the two decades after World War II and known for their anti-establishment liberalism in the 1960s. But their beginnings have not made them a predictable Democratic voting block. In 2008, boomers narrowly backed Barack Obama, but they swung over to Republicans in 2010.

It's been a week of mixed messaging from two of the campaigns on the presidential trail: that of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Romney revived accusations that he's a flip-flopper when he waded into a battle over a ballot proposal in Ohio. Perry created his own distraction by revisiting questions about President Obama's place of birth.

Four years ago in the Iowa caucuses, evangelical voters rallied behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won an upset victory and shook up the Republican field in the process.

With the 2012 Iowa caucuses just over 10 weeks away, conservative Christian Republican voters in Iowa are still searching for a presidential candidate. Saturday night they sized up six GOP hopefuls at a banquet in Des Moines, sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Mitt Romney's current run for the White House has not included a big presence in the first state that will actually vote: Iowa, which holds its caucuses on Jan. 3.

He failed to meet expectations at the Iowa caucuses in 2008. So for 2012, his campaign has focused instead on New Hampshire as the key to a series of primary victories that, they believe, will result in the former Massachusetts governor winning the GOP nomination.

Social conservatives have wrapped up a two-day Values Voter Summit in Washington. Their goal is to keep the focus on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, even as the economy tops the list of concerns for most voters.

Second in a series

Rick Perry first won public office in 1984, when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In that and in every campaign since, he has run as a man shaped by his time working a dryland farm.

Progressive activists played a big role in helping President Obama get elected. But in the years since, the big story of political activism has been the conservative Tea Party movement.

Hoping to reverse that trend, 2,000 people have registered for the annual "Take Back the American Dream Conference" this week in Washington, D.C. That's more than double the number at the 2010 event.

Shamako Noble, 31, of San Jose, Calif., comes every year and says he has learned that work can't stop, even after the election is over.

Wherever he goes, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry proudly waves the flag of conservatism, often introducing himself with, "I simply want to get America working again and make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can."

But the Texas governor, a favorite of conservatives overall, is taking criticism for being too moderate when it comes to immigration. The reason: In 2001, his first full year in office, he signed legislation that grants in-state tuition rates at Texas colleges and universities to some illegal immigrants.

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