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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A Brief History of Chris Christie Not Running for President

| Tue Oct. 4, 2011 1:40 PM EDT

Chris Christie is not running for president. Despite months of breathless speculation, the Republican New Jersey governor made it official on Tuesday with a press conference in Trenton. As he put it, "New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me." There were plenty of obstacles to a successful Christie candidacy—among other things, he's a conservative apostate on global warming, immigration, and the imminent takeover of American courts by Islamic extremists. He had no campaign organization, save for a few strategists who were holdovers from the hapless Rudy Giulliani campaign of 2008, and very little time to build one, what with the first primaries scheduled for January (if not earlier).

Christie's decision was ultimately the same one he's been trumpeting for more than a year: He's not ready. Too bad no one listened. Here's a quick recap of the will-he-or-won't-he speculation, 14 months in the making:

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How a Rick Perry Ally Kept an Innocent Man Locked Up

| Tue Oct. 4, 2011 10:25 AM EDT
John Bradley was appointed by Rick Perry in 2009 to chair the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

After 25 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, Michael Morton will leave a Texas prison a free man on Tuesday afternoon. Morton was sentenced to life without parole in 1987 for the murder of his wife, Christine. But he maintained his innocence, and with the support of the New York-based Innocence Project, pushed for a court to consider DNA evidence found at the scene. For six years, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley—a longtime Rick Perry ally who served as the governor's chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC)—blocked efforts to perform new DNA tests, but last summer forensic experts were finally given access to a bandana that was found at the scene. The result? Tests linked the murder not to Morton, but to another unsolved crime involving a California man.

Coming just two weeks after Troy Davis was executed in Georgia, Morton's release is both sobering and encouraging; the system corrected itself, but only after a quarter-century. As the Texas Tribune noted in August, it wasn't just the DNA evidence that seemed to absolve Morton; there were plenty of unexplained loose ends that seemed to undermine the prosecution's theory. The victim's credit card turned up stolen in a different city when Morton was already in custody, for instance, and neighbors reported a suspicious van on the block at around the time of the murder. Bradley, who inherited the case when he became DA in 2001, also held back police records in which Morton's three-year-old daughter suggested the killer was someone else.

(Bradley has stated that he had "good faith reasons" to oppose turning the evidence, but could not discuss them because the investigation of the murder of Christine Bradley was ongoing; the Innocence Project argued in court that Bradley held a grudge against the group, for reasons I'll explain below.)

Bradley, who was first appointed to his post as district attorney by Gov. Perry, has drawn criticism for his opposition to the use of DNA evidence and, more generally, his support for destroying evidence after a plea agreement has been reached. (He's previously argued that prosecutors should ensure the destruction of evidence is a prerequisite for such deals.) Part of Bradley's justification for refusing to turn over evidence in the Morton case was that the inmate was untrustworthy because he had refused to "accept responsibility"—never mind that the whole point was that Morton might not actually be responsible.

Bachmann, Plunging in Polls, Touts Iowa Momentum

| Thu Sep. 29, 2011 5:48 PM EDT

Rep. Michele Bachmann has plunged in the polls since Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the GOP presidential race in July. Prior to that, polls had consistently shown the Minnesota congresswoman in the lead in the critical early primary state of Iowa. More recently she received just 40 votes in the Florida straw poll, earning her dead last. All of which made her fundraising pitch this morning all the more off-key:

Our campaign's rising poll numbers have not gone unnoticed. The latest Iowa poll has our campaign in second place, just behind Mitt Romney and ahead of Rick Perry.

As you saw yesterday in our campaign's strategy video- Iowa is what it all comes down to. Iowa is where our campaign began, and it is where we will win next year. We have our boots on the ground in Iowa, and I know we are in a position to win, but Tim, we cannot do so without your support.

OK, so it's not as big a deal as repeating dangerous and debunked claims about vaccines, but it's worth noting that this is sort of the opposite of the current state of play. Bachmann is in second place in Iowa according to one poll released this week. But the overall trend lines are pretty bad. For instance, here's a (somewhat difficult to read) chart from Real Clear Politics averaging the national tracking polls. The black line is Michele Bachmann, and, as you can see, it's plummeting faster than [insert Red Sox joke here]. Rick Perry is in blue; Mitt Romney's purple:

12-month polling average of GOP field: Courtesy of Real Clear Politics12-month polling average of GOP field: Courtesy of Real Clear Politics

Maybe Bachmann was referring to Romney?

Chart of the Day #2: Child Poverty in the Great Recession

| Thu Sep. 29, 2011 3:38 PM EDT

Pew Research has a good report up this week on child poverty during the great recession, based on data from the 2010 Census we wrote about previously. The takeaway is that, as you'd expect, poverty rates are increasing among all ethnic groups—but no group's numbers are moving in the wrong direction at a greater clip than Latinos'. Here's a chart:

Latino child poverty has skyrocketed during the recession.: Courtesy of Pew ResearchLatino child poverty has skyrocketed during the recession: Courtesy of Pew ResearchThere are a couple things going on here. One is that Latinos are making up an ever-increasing share of the population, especially among younger generations, so these numbers are bound to rise in the short-term. Another is that the Latino unemployment rate is significantly higher than the natonal average (it's 11.3 percent as of August), and that number correlates to less income.

It's worth noting that poverty rates are still higher overall among black children, at 39.1 percent (compared to 35 percent for Latinos and 12.4 percent for whites). That's about on par with the poverty rate for Latino children with immigrant parents (39 percent).  The full report is here.

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