Susan Davis

Producer, The State of Things
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Updated at 6:30 p.m.

The Republican National Committee is sticking with embattled GOP nominee Donald Trump even as House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday he would no longer defend his party's presidential nominee.

Former House Speaker John Boehner has parlayed one of his favorite pastimes into a lucrative new gig. The avid smoker is joining the board of tobacco giant, Reynolds American Inc.

The Ohio Republican was the nation's highest-ranking smoker before he left office last October. Boehner currently smokes Camel brand cigarettes and has never indicated a desire to quit the cancer-causing habit.

That's good news for Reynolds, where Boehner will now serve as a Class 2 director and serve on the board's corporate governance committee.

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Lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday for what GOP party leaders are hoping will be an uneventful September for their party's most vulnerable members.

"We want a clean entry and a clean exit," says one Senate GOP aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about internal deliberations.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET.

A softer-edged Donald Trump huddled with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a hastily arranged meeting in Mexico City on Wednesday. Both men pledged a commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

Trump said he had a "very substantive" conversation with Peña Nieto during which he reaffirmed the right of the U.S. to protect its borders and build a wall, but that his pledge to make Mexico pay for it didn't come up.

"We didn't discuss that," Trump said.

Three big-name political insiders have been targets of the activist, outsider wings of their parties.

And yet all three — Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat — appear safe in their primary battles for re-election Tuesday.

At a recent campaign stop in Philadelphia, Senate Democratic candidate Katie McGinty faced a tough crowd: 4-year olds.

"Hi! How's everybody doin'?" McGinty said, as she entered the Western Learning Center, an early childhood program for local families.

McGinty stopped here Tuesday to tout her economic agenda with a small group of local parents, but first, it was story time.

Hillary Clinton's increasingly dominant lead in the presidential race is solidifying many Republicans' worst 2016 fears that Donald Trump will cost the party not only the White House but also control of the Senate.

"The bottom is starting to fall out a little earlier than expected," says a top Senate GOP campaign aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the race. "We started off with a very difficult map. No matter what, this was going to be a very difficult year."

NPR was invited to observe two focus groups of swing voters from Ohio and Arizona on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. "Wal-Mart Moms" are identified by pollsters as women predominantly between the ages of 18 and 44, who have kids under 18 living at home and who shop at Wal-Mart stores at least once a month. In these groups, the women were identified only by their first names.

President Obama dismissed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's comment this week that the election may be "rigged" this year.

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While many pundits and political observers were quick to praise Hillary Clinton's pick of Tim Kaine as her running mate on Friday, the choice wasn't met with universal acclaim.

One important group — progressives and backers of Clinton's former rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — were not as pleased with the selection of the Virginia senator who has cultivated a reputation of working across the aisle over the course of his political career.

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Reports of Marco Rubio's eagerness to leave the Senate may be greatly exaggerated.

After weeks of private lobbying, the Florida Republican senator now says he is considering running again. He has until June 24, his state's filing deadline, to make up his mind.

Rubio announced in April 2015 that he would not run for re-election to pursue his presidential bid. But his campaign never caught fire and he bowed out of the primaries after a disappointing finish in the Florida presidential primary.

One of the most famous magic tricks of all time would never have been possible without a certain Washington connection.

House Republicans kick off Tuesday a three-week roll out of a policy agenda that Speaker Paul Ryan says will outline what the party will do if they win the White House this November.

The agenda, dubbed "A Better Way," is Ryan's brainchild, a project that he negotiated as part of the deal that elevated him to House speaker last fall.

Lawmakers: They're just like us!

"Everyone's favorite parlor game right now in D.C. is who will be the vice presidential pick," Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said at a briefing with reporters.

Every four years, the guessing game around the "veepstakes" reaches fever pitch right around now, when the nominating conventions are just weeks away. Democratic lawmakers are rich in opinions on whom Hillary Clinton should tap as her running mate.

House Speaker Paul Ryan shot down reports Wednesday that he was on the verge of endorsing Donald Trump for president.

Donald Trump arrived in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to meet with his party's congressional leaders to hash out their differences and talk GOP unity ahead of what is likely to be a pitched general-election battle against Hillary Clinton.

First up was a private meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan. The two arrived around 9 a.m. ET at the Republican National Committee in a session orchestrated by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

If Republican Party delegates are looking for an alternative to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich, it won't be Paul Ryan.

"I want to put this to rest once and for all," Ryan said of speculation that he could be chosen as the Republican presidential nominee this summer in a multiballot convention.

Like so many Americans approaching retirement, Virginia Republican Rep. Scott Rigell dreams about spending a little more time on the water.

"I have a little rowboat called Miss Nelly. She's 13 feet long, and there's not a motor on it. There's no radio on it. And I'm so looking forward to being on that rowboat," says Rigell.

Rigell is retiring after just six years in Congress. He was one of the 87 Republicans who rode the Tea Party wave to a pivotal GOP takeover of the House.

The top House Republican took aim at the nature of American politics in remarks viewed as a rebuke of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump and the tone of his campaign.

"This has always been a tough business, and when passions flare, ugliness is sometimes inevitable. But we shouldn't accept ugliness as the norm," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a speech Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

"Personalities come and go. But principles? Principles endure," Ryan added.

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Republican Sen. Marco Rubio says Donald Trump is a "con artist" who ripped off ordinary people and now wants to steal "our country."

The Florida senator also said, in a debate Thursday night, along with all of his rivals, that he will support Trump if the businessman wins the Republican nomination.

How could both statements possibly be true? As an answer, we have Rubio's somber explanation, and also an example from history.