Mara Liasson

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Donald Trump and his party are gearing up for a hard-fought midterm election. But the president loves to campaign and has already started to raise lots of money and hold lots of big rallies for Republicans.

It's part of a larger playbook that his advisers think can keep the GOP in power this fall, and they think so far it's on track despite the president's tendency to go off script on Twitter or during political speeches.

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Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after last night's primaries. Here's President Trump at the White House this morning.

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After the demise of yet another Trump administration nomination, it's worth taking a look at lessons learned. So far, the president has tried to blame Democrats as "obstructionists" for White House physician Ronny Jackson's downfall and described Jackson on Friday as an "American hero."

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Also listening to this conversation NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey there, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there, Audie.

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The 2018 election cycle has officially begun, with the first primaries being held in Texas on Tuesday.

In every campaign cycle, analysts look at the fundamentals — the political laws of gravity that, in the past, have influenced elections. In 2016, Donald Trump seemed to defy a lot of these laws, and Republicans are hoping they can do the same this year to prevent the hit that the party in power usually takes in a president's first midterm elections.

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Lawmakers in Washington and Tallahassee have discussed a lot of ideas to reduce school shootings, but on the hardest questions — like what to do about guns — there is just no clear consensus.

There are few signs of clarity from President Trump, who has taken a leading role in the debate without providing strong direction to solve the problem.

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It has been more than a week since the first reports emerged about alleged domestic abuse by White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Porter denied the allegations but resigned a day later, last Wednesday. Yet, the scandal over his departure has not waned.

He was consistently at President Trump's side, charged with handling the flow of paper to the president, including sensitive information, while holding an interim security clearance. It's still not clear exactly which top White House officials knew what and when about the allegations against Porter.

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When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, he'll be giving his assessment of the economy and national security. But occasions like these are also a good time to take a look at the state of our politics.

The state of our politics is...tribal (and mistrustful)

More than ever before voters and politicians seem to be taking sides not according to issues or principles or ideology but according to their political tribe.

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In a surprise meeting with reporters tonight, President Trump said this about the prospect of being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation.

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Well, one unknown in the path forward on immigration is President Trump. What kind of a deal will he agree to? And how actively will Trump, who prizes himself as a great dealmaker, be flexing his negotiating muscles?

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