Ari Shapiro

Wednesday marks the 16th anniversary of President Clinton's welfare overhaul. That law has become a major issue in this year's presidential campaign.

From the window of my room at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Pittsburgh, I can see a sliver of the hotel fitness center. This morning I looked down there and saw a guy with an earpiece. Secret Service.

So I wasn't entirely surprised to walk into the tiny exercise room a little after 7 a.m. and find the Republican vice presidential candidate working out. There was a row of about half a dozen elliptical machines and treadmills, one workout bench, a small rack of dumbbells, an inflatable exercise ball, and a folding workout mat.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Mitt Romney waded into the debate over his tax returns today. At a news conference in South Carolina, he insisted that over the last decade he has never paid less than 13 percent on his federal taxes. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Romney released two years' worth of tax documents and said no more. Then the rumors started that he paid little or no taxes. Chief propagator? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid citing an anonymous source.

Since Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., came on the scene Saturday, Mitt Romney's rallies have felt different. The crowds are bigger. The audience is more raucous. Lines that used to be a routine part of the Republican presidential candidate's stump speech have become rousing battle cries.

At the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C., 1,600 people crowded into the room and thousands more swarmed outside.

"I feel like I'm in Woodstock," gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory exclaimed. "There's a parking jam!"

This week, the presidential campaign has been dominated by debate over the welfare law from the 1990s. It's just the latest example of how both sides are trying to use the Clinton years to their advantage — portraying them as a halcyon golden age.

While President Obama and Mitt Romney offer competing visions every day on the campaign trail, there's also a more superficial aspect to their campaigns.

And on the surface, Obama and Romney events feel completely different.

Take a recent summer night in Leesburg, Va. Dorothy Fontaine had been standing outside of a local high school since the sun was high in the sky.

When asked why she would spend that much time waiting, Fontaine replied: "It's the president of the United States! I mean, isn't it cool to go see the president of the United States?"

Republican Mitt Romney campaigned this weekend in a state that has not seen much of either presidential candidate. Nobody considers Indiana a toss-up in the presidential race.

But the Senate contest there is a different story. It's a very close race, and the result could determine which party controls the Senate next year. So Romney showed up at a barbecue shack in Evansville to give the conservative Republican candidate a boost.

'Help Me Elect This Guy'

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President Obama's national security adviser visited China this week, just as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was attacking the administration's approach to that country.

"The cheating must finally be brought to a stop," Romney said Tuesday in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev. "The president hasn't done it and won't do it, and I will."

China is the world's largest economy after the United States. It is one of the most important — and complicated — foreign relationships the U.S. has.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., on Tuesday. It's a sort of launching pad for a foreign trip that will take Romney to three countries over the next week: the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland.

Romney, a man with a lot of domestic policy experience, is now trying to demonstrate his proficiency with international affairs.

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In politics, money talks. And money from gay and lesbian donors is talking louder than ever in this election cycle.

That's partly a result of President Obama endorsing same-sex marriage, and it's partly because Republicans are starting to see contributions as well.

That's a huge change from just a few decades ago.

It's a bit less likely now than a week ago that you'll hear people accuse the Supreme Court of being politicized.

That's because this week, the court ended its session with two controversial decisions — neither one of which was decided on the usual and predictable split between the five justices appointed by Republican presidents and the four appointed by Democrats.

But that doesn't make the court any less of a political animal.

In the days following President Obama's announcement that he supports same-sex marriage, anecdotal evidence suggested that the political position had a financial payoff.

The Obama administration's use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries may be President Obama's biggest legacy in the fight against terrorism.

One privilege — or burden — of the Oval Office is that each inhabitant gets to decide how dirty to get his hands in wartime. President Truman made the ultimate decision to use the atomic bomb, while President Kennedy chose not to use a nuclear weapon in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in New Hampshire on Friday, back at the farm where he launched his presidential campaign one year ago.

"In the days ahead, we'll be traveling on what are often called the backroads of America," he said. "But I think our tour is going to take us along what I'll call the backbone of America."

It was the first stop on a five-day bus tour that will take him to small towns. The former Massachusetts governor's campaign is calling it the "Every Town Counts" tour.

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And the Senate votes today on legislation aimed at shrinking the pay gap between men and women. It's called the Paycheck Fairness Act.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports President Obama is using the bill as a tool in the 2012 campaign.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked up two big endorsements this week from GOP foreign policy luminaries: former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz.

At this point in the presidential race, endorsements are pretty routine. But these particular endorsements are important, since Romney has encountered some skepticism from foreign policy experts in his party.

Some Republicans expected the long, bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to alter their party's traditional interventionist view. Those Republicans are disappointed in Romney.

NPR is exploring what the American dream means to our culture, our economy and our politics. On All Things Considered, we explored what President Obama and Democrats think of the American dream. In this installment, the Republican perspective.

President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney agree that the American dream is out of reach for too many people today. They disagree on how to fix the problem.

The American Dream is a crucial thread in this country's tapestry, woven through politics, music and culture.

Though the phrase has different meanings to different people, it suggests an underlying belief that hard work pays off and that the next generation will have a better life than the previous generation.

But three years after the worst recession in almost a century, the American Dream now feels in jeopardy to many.

The town of Lorain, Ohio, used to embody this dream. It was a place where you could get a good job, raise a family and comfortably retire.

A Quinnipiac University poll out this week found Mitt Romney with a 6-point lead over President Obama in Florida. That would seem to be very good news for the presumptive Republican nominee in what may be the biggest swing state this fall.

From now until November, President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will emphasize their differences. But the two men's lives actually coincide in a striking number of ways. In this installment of NPR's "Parallel Lives" series, a look at Obama's time at their shared alma mater.

Harvard professor Laurence Tribe is a sort of legal rock star, particularly among liberals. First-year law students he has never met don't just show up at his door saying, "I want to work for you." At least they didn't until March 31, 1989.

From now until November, President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will emphasize their differences. But the two men's lives actually coincide in a striking number of ways. In this installment of NPR's "Parallel Lives" series, a look at Romney's time at their shared alma mater.

When Mitt Romney attacks his Democratic opponent on the campaign trail, he often derides President Obama's Ivy League credentials.

Mitt Romney is disavowing a plan by some wealthy Republicans to attack President Obama for ties to his controversial former pastor. Even the people behind that proposal said they are abandoning it after their idea was plastered on the front page of The New York Times.

The proposal centered on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was a mentor to Obama before the two parted ways during the last presidential campaign.

Republicans unaffiliated with Romney were considering spending $10 million on a racially tinged advertising campaign tying Wright to the president.

In a hastily arranged radio interview, Mitt Romney apologized Thursday for pranks he played in high school that "might have gone too far."

The interview came a few hours after The Washington Post published a detailed story recounting incidents from Romney's years at Michigan's prestigious Cranbrook prep school in the 1960s.

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