Frank James

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.

"The Two-Way" is the place where NPR.org gives readers breaking news and analysis — and engages users in conversations ("two-ways") about the most compelling stories being reported by NPR News and other news media.

James came to NPR from the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for 20 years. In 2006, James created "The Swamp," the paper's successful politics and policy news blog whose readership climbed to a peak of 3 million page-views a month.

Before that, James covered homeland security, technology and privacy and economics in the Tribune's Washington Bureau. He also reported for the Tribune from South Africa and covered politics and higher education.

James also reported for The Wall Street Journal for nearly 10 years.

James received a bachelor of arts degree in English from Dickinson College and now serves on its board of trustees.

As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, he does it against a backdrop of some of the lowest voter-approval ratings of his presidency, with a divided Congress that has largely stalled his second-term agenda and with Washington's collective focus starting to shift toward the midterm elections and beyond.

Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:

If ever a speech seemed to be President Obama's last, best chance to win public and congressional support for his plan to launch military strikes against Syria, it's his prime-time talk to the nation Tuesday.

With polls indicating that 60 percent of Americans oppose action against Syria for using sarin gas and congressional approval looking ever more like a long shot, Obama's speech is a high-stakes endeavor.

Now that President Obama has turned to Congress for authorization to launch punitive military strikes against the Syrian government for using chemical weapons, can he get it?

As a former Defense secretary might have said, the answer to that question is a known unknown. That's especially true in a GOP-led House that's typically opposed to the president. The chances are better in the Senate with its Democratic majority.

Vice President Joe Biden told All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block in an interview Wednesday that he and the Obama administration plan to continue to fight for a ban on assault weapons to be included in a larger bill in Congress.

That despite signs that such a ban doesn't have enough support, even from members of Biden's own party, to make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

President Obama's second inaugural address was widely perceived as a throwing down of the gauntlet in how it framed his progressive faith in government and challenged his Republican political opponents in any number of ways.

Given that, expect to see more glove-throwing Tuesday as the president delivers the first State of the Union speech of his second term.

By the time Republican primary season got around to Illinois in past election cycles, the Land of Lincoln was pretty much an afterthought since the party's nominee had already been decided. Not this time.

Mitt Romney has what seems like an insurmountable lead in delegates. But there are questions as to whether he can reach the 1,144 needed for the nomination by the party's August convention. And with his rivals, especially Rick Santorum, refusing to exit the race, the GOP primaries have entered the grind-it-out-for-every-delegate phase.