Opening pitch of a new blog

Image copyright Getty Images

Politics, wrote Texas satirist Molly Ivins, is "the finest form of free entertainment ever invented".

And in keeping with that spirit, I'm going to be covering politics - and how it interacts with culture and everyday life - with an eye toward the interesting, informative and, yes, entertaining on this new BBC reporter's blog.

The page will be a companion to Campaignspotting, the recently launched BBC feature on the 2016 presidential election. Anything I write here on the race for the White House will be linked there - along with shorter snippets of election news. It's a quick and dirty way to keep abreast of the players and key developments without getting bogged down in day-to-day effluvium.

I'll also cover stories that may not be getting much attention, but should. Along the way I'll take a few detours, including a decidedly American viewpoint on this year's British and Canadian elections.

With the start of this blog, my previous effort - Echo Chambers - is officially retiring. You can find an archive of all the previous posts here - and a sampling of some of my work below.

Politics is more than just entertainment, of course. As novelist Robert Heinlein wrote: "It's rough, and sometimes it's dirty, and it's always hard work and tedious details."

He added, however, that "it's the only sport for grown-ups".

The game is on - and so is this blog.

No 'Plan B' for Democrats

At this point a consensus is developing that Hillary Clinton's private email use likely was legal and similar in manner, if not extent, to what some previous government officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, used.

It was also a questionable decision, however - both ethically and politically - particularly given her position in an administration that campaigned on its openness. And if it turns out the security of her privately constructed system was compromised, or that she deleted requested emails, the outlook for Mrs Clinton could darken considerably.

As previously noted, the most consequential outcome of this story, besides further grist for the anti-Clinton mill, could end up being the heartburn it causes Democrats considering the outcome were Mrs Clinton to falter.

(read the full story)

Money in politics: more than a game

Imagine the US map as a giant board game. Electoral Risk, let's call it.

Scattered across the country are key territories to control - Georgia, Colorado, Iowa, Oregon. Instead of armies, players move stacks of money from state to state.

The objective is to help chosen political candidates tally wins when voters head to the polls on election day next Tuesday.

The prize is power - control of Congress and the ability to shape the agenda in Washington for years to come.

(read the full story)

As goes Colorado, so goes the nation?

For 10 years Colorado has tilted steadily to the political left, as Democrats have claimed victory after victory. Now Republicans are pinning their hopes on a campaign that could ensure they gain control of the US Senate - and prove that their party has a future in an increasingly urban, socially liberal nation.

Driving east from Denver, the Rocky Mountains disappear into the haze. The land flattens into rolling plains, dotted by farms, ranches and the occasional expansive cattle or pig feed lot, which can be smelled before they're seen.

Although this is still Colorado, it seems a different state from the capital city metropolis. And, politically, it might as well be.

(read the full story)

Politics, spouses and scandal

Wendy Davis announces her candidacy for governor of Texas on October 3, 2013. Image copyright Getty Images

One was a leader in the Republican Party, reported to be on the short list for a vice-presidential nomination in 2012. The other is a rising star among Democrats, who in less than a year has gone from a little-known state senator to a high-profile campaign for governor.

Now, former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell is under indictment for corruption, his reputation in shambles. And Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has found that her rise to fame has brought harsh scrutiny, as she is forced to explain discrepancies in details of her past.

The two politicians' stories may seem quite different, but they have a common thread in the role of spouses in politics and life.

(read the full story)