Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Bernie Sanders Is Now Leading in New Hampshire

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 9:46 AM EDT

Mark it down. August 11, 2015: the day Bernie Sanders led Hillary Clinton in an early primary state for the first time.

It's just one poll—the polling average still favors Clinton by a lot in the Granite State and nationally. But it's another indication that the enthusiasm that greeted the Vermont senator's candidacy out of the gate has only grown as he's taken his campaign on the road (nearly 28,000 people came to see him in Los Angeles on Monday).

Sanders, for his part, has taken steps to improve on a set of issues that dogged him early in the campaign. In response to feedback from Black Lives Matter activists, who have disrupted two of his events, he recently unveiled a "racial justice" platform. He also hired a Symone Sanders, a young black activist who had criticized his rhetoric on race and inequality, as a national press secretary. It's looking like a campaign that thinks on its feet. And after Tuesday, Team Clinton is officially on notice.

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Meet the (Potential) Democratic Candidate Who Thinks Bernie Sanders Isn't Liberal Enough

| Tue Aug. 11, 2015 10:23 AM EDT

An outspoken Cantabrigian is launching an exploratory committee for president on a platform of breaking a "rigged system" that's fueling runaway inequality. Unfortunately for progressive activists, it's Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, not Elizabeth Warren.

Lessig, who says he'll jump into the race if he can raise $1 million by Labor Day, has spent much of the last four years fighting what he considers the pernicious influence of money in politics ushered in by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, have both promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose Citizens United. But Lessig thinks Sanders et al. aren't going far enough. His platform consists of one item—the "Citizens Equality Act of 2017," which is sort of an omnibus bill of progressive wish-list items. It would make election day a national holiday, protect the right to vote, abolish political gerrymandering, and limit campaign contributions to small-dollar "vouchers" and public financing. After Congress passes his bill, Lessig says he'll resign.

Lessig has to hope his newest political venture will be more successful then his 2014 gambit, in which the Harvard professor started a super-PAC for the purpose of electing politicians who supported campaign finance reform. The aptly named Mayday PAC raised and spent $10 million, but only backed a single winner—Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) who was virtually assured of re-election in a deep-red district.

Here's Lessig's announcement video:

Fox News Asks GOP Also-Rans What We Were All Wondering: Why Are You Running?

| Thu Aug. 6, 2015 6:06 PM EDT
Squad goals.

The undercard to the first Republican presidential primary debate featured a motley crew of long-retired politicians (Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Rick Santorum); fallen stars (Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal); former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Participants qualified for the B-team debate by default; all candidates were in the low-single digits in national polls.

But if the Fox News moderators ever considered taking it easy on the Republican also-rans, they didn't show it. Instead, Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum appeared focused on whittling down the weak links in the 17-person field by asking them—over and over and over again—why no one seemed to like them.

Here were the first seven questions of the debate:

Perry: "Welcome, governor. You were in charge of the fourth-largest economy in the world. And you recently said that four years ago you weren't ready for this job. Why should someone vote for you now?"

Fiorina: "You were CEO of Hewlett Packard. You ran for Senate and lost in California in 2010. This week you said, 'Margaret Thatcher was not content to manage a great nation in decline, and neither am I.' Given your current standings in the polls, was the Iron Lady comparison incorrect?"

Santorum: "Sen. Santorum, you won the Iowa caucus four years ago and 10 other states, but you failed to beat Mitt Romney for the nomination. And no one here tonight is going to question your conviction or love for country, but has your moment passed, senator?"

Jindal: "Gov. Jindal, you're one of two sitting governors on the stage tonight. But your approval numbers at home are in the mid-30s. In a recent poll in which you were head-to-head with Hillary Clinton in Louisiana, she beat you by seven points. So if the people of Louisiana are not satisfied, what makes you think the people of this nation would be?"

Graham: "Sen. Lindsey Graham. You worked with Democrats and President Obama when it came to climate change, something that you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans. How can they trust you based on that record?"

Pataki: "Gov. Pataki. Four years ago this month, you called it quits in a race for the presidency in 2012; but now you're back. Mitt Romney declined to run this time because he believed that the party needed new blood. Does he have a point?"

Gilmore: "You were the last person on stage to declare your candidacy. You ran for the White House once and lost. You ran for the Senate once and lost. You haven't held public office in 13 years. Is it time for new blood?"

The hits kept coming after the opening round. When the subject turned to Donald Trump, the Fox News moderators took a few more opportunities to twist the knife. "So Carly Fiorina, is he getting the better of you?" the former California Senate candidate was asked. Perry came in for the same Trump treatment—"Given the large disparity in your poll numbers, he seems to be getting the better of you."

Bobby Jindal Really Wants You to Know He's Been Working Out

| Wed Aug. 5, 2015 12:04 PM EDT

One of the most underrated storylines of the 2016 election has been Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's ongoing effort to re-brand himself as a bodybuilder.

Last October, "a source close to Louisiana's Bobby Jindal" leaked to National Review that the governor had gained 13 pounds over just a few months, an indication that he considered "being skinny" to be a weakness in the early Republican primary. In March, an MSNBC reporter tagged along with Jindal during a workout at a Manhattan gym. "Today's legs, but every day I try to rotate it," the governor explained before, presumably, flexing in front of the mirror and downing some brotein. And on Wednesday, BuzzFeed published a video it shot with Jindal in which he does push-ups for two minutes. It's some real Rocky IV stuff:

But there's something else going on here. On Tuesday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cooked and consumed "machine gun bacon" in a video produced by the website IJ Review. (Technically, it was more like semi-automatic-rifle bacon, and you shouldn't try it at home.) Two weeks earlier, the same publication got Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to destroy his cell phone for its cameras, in response to Donald Trump publicly revealing his cell phone number. Jindal's workout tape is part of a new genre of campaign journalism, in which media organizations are producing viral videos that the campaigns might otherwise have filmed themselves.

IJ Review, although only three years old, has forced itself to be taken seriously in Washington media. It will co-host a Republican primary debate with ABC News next year. BuzzFeed, an investigative reporting powerhouse in its own right, has delivered strong reporting on Jindal's candidacy. But these videos are something different—a weird new form of native advertising.

What's that Clickhole mantra? "Because all content deserves to go viral"? In 2016, the same can apparently be said of candidates. Even Bobby Jindal.

Donald Trump's Top Iowa Staffer Made This Amazing Infomercial for Bedazzler

| Tue Aug. 4, 2015 11:59 AM EDT

With the first Republican presidential debate two days away, Donald Trump is leading his nearest competitor in the national polls by as much as 12 points. In Iowa, the Real Clear Politics poll average puts him in second behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but in the most recent poll of the race, Trump took a commanding 30.9 percent of the vote in a 16-candidate field. As GQ's Drew Magary notes, Trump's comments about Mexicans, China, and many of his opponents have fueled his rise in the state.

So what kind of crack campaign operation does Trump have in the first-in-the-nation caucus state? Who is the dark-arts practitioner responsible for helping a New York City billionaire win the hearts and minds of America's heartland?

Actually, the linchpin of Trump's Iowa strategy isn't a politico at all—she's a former reality TV star who not so long ago starred in infomercials for Bedazzler. Meet Tana Goertz, Iowa co-chair of Trump for President:

On her website, Goertz also hawks a children's book based on her own "inspirational tale" called I'm Bigger Than This; a gray t-shirt, with "ENTREPRENEUR 24/7 365" inscribed on it; an audio CD of business advice she recorded called "Fake it til you make it!"; and information about an Apprentice-like program she runs for kids called "Kids Apprentice Program." The program is "designed to serve children who are self-motivated future leaders" by offering them boardroom experience and forcing them to do "Apprentice-like tasks." For $50, you too could raise the next Donald Trump.

Goertz, who bills herself as the candidate's "hype girl" who "fires up the crowd and educates Iowans on how great he is," was hired by Trump in July. But their relationship wasn't always so strong. After Trump fired her from The Apprentice in 2005, Goertz condemned the show's process. "It was all bullshit," she told a local news station.

Evidently they made amends. Goertz's site boasts multiple testimonials from Trump ("Tana is truly a star!"), and you can even watch her audition tape, in which she tries to sell Mary Kay cosmetics products to middle-aged men:

Now if only she'd bedazzle this hat:

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