Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Rick Santorum: "The Militant" Candidate

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 11:46 PM EST

They've tallied up the results at Johnston, Iowa's precinct 481 and the big winner is...well, that's not totally clear. But here are the basics: Out of 335 votes cast, Mitt Romney claimed 76; Rick Santorum had 75—and further down, Michele Bachmann had 15; Jon Huntsman trailed former Alabama supreme court judge Roy Moore, by a 2 to 1 margin (Moore had 2, Huntsman had 1). Huntsmentum, feel it.

Over at Santorum headquarters at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston, the mood is fairly jubilant. There's a sizable crowd around the television, chanting "Rick! Rick! Rick!" (and the occasional ear-piercing whistle) whenever Fox News returns from commercial and updates its results. Steven Wagner's monitoring the television, as the results begin to show, for the first time, Santorum, creeping into first place. He's actually from DC—he flew to Iowa this weekend because Santorum's a family friend. And as much as it might pain him to say it, he wasn't quite sure Santorum was ever going to catch fire. "I was really waiting for Rick to make a move and was kind of perplexed as to why he hadn't caught on," he says. "I didn't think that it was his year, in a structural sense. There was somehow this environment in Iowa that was preventing him from catching on."

But now that he's caught on, Wagner thinks there's no stopping him. "I think Rick's the kind of militant candidate that'll give the president a run for his money. He means what he says to his bones."

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Undecided in Iowa

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 9:44 PM EST

Through some stroke of luck*, I've made it to a caucus location at an evangelical church in Johnson, Iowa—just down the street from Rick Santorum's caucus night party at the Stoney Creek Inn. The stage is still set for Christmas services—there are five Christmas trees on stage, and a baby grand piano; the place is about three-quarters full. Santorum's wife, Karen, is here and, by all accounts, she gave voters the hard sell (although it was Santorum's Florida campaign chair who gave the official endorsement speech). 

One quirk of the caucus system is that, at each location, each candidate has an official endorser. An endorsers' pitch can have a big impact on how voters come down. None of the voters I spoke with were 100 percent sure who they were going to vote for. Here are four snapshots from the crowd:

  • Tara Helwig: "I'm not completely sure. I'm swayed a little, but it's possible I'd switch." Her candidate for now? "Mitt Romney. I just kinda feel like"—she motions to her friend sitting next to her—"we were discussing this. He's the one with the most experience in the area I'm most concerned about." That's the economy. "I'm not saying for sure; I'm not saying definitely. I chatted with [Ann Romney] and she answered some of my questions very well." But not her questions on Santorum's experience on the economy. That's key. She voted for Romney in 2008, too.
  • Lee Sellneyer: "I guess for me, maybe Romney and Santorum." He'd met Karen Santorum a few moments earlier, and it's part of the reason he's thinking of voting for him. "She basically just talked about his issues, the economy, right to life. I mentioned being NRA and she said she was. I'm impressed that she's doing it. It's a lot of effort." He voted for Huckabee in 2007.
  • Alan and Barbara Morton: "I think we're getting close," says Alan, wearing a Packers hat. They're leaning toward Rick Santorum "because we talked to his wife," Alan says. "We've been flipping back and forth between Herman Cain and Rick Perry and Rick Santorum." Their one concern about Perry: He's not on the ballot on Virginia—and just as important is how he responded to that. They docked points from Perry when he filed suit in federal court to reverse the state GOP's decision, pointing out that it contradicted his 10th Amendment arguments. They voted for Fred Thompson in 2008, "and then he dropped out." 
  • Liz Smith: "I'm not 100 percent," but she's leaning toward Ron Paul. "I just think he's different—he's way different from what we have." What could sway her away from Paul? "Possibly hearing more of the candidates' stances on education." (As it happens, that's pretty much all Bachmann's endorser talks about.) Smith voted for Obama in 2008, but says she won't make that mistake again.

As I write this, they're voting. It's mostly quiet, although one guy is concerned that the press will be allowed to vote (we won't be). The endorsements were fairly low-key, the highlight probably coming when Ron Paul's endorser bragged that Paul had voted to authorize the use of force to go after "Obama." It was a slip-up, and he apologized for it, but he was greeted with laughs and a round of applause.

*By which I mean "no traffic"; these events are open to the public and press—they even allow you to register to vote right before you go in. Voter fraud, it turns out, only becomes a serious issue when you allow Democrats in.

Your Daily Newt: Legalize It

| Tue Jan. 3, 2012 3:00 PM EST

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich occasionally smoked marijuana as a graduate student at Tulane. As he explained later, "that was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era." Hey, it was the '60s. So it made a certain amount of sense that as a back-bench congressman, he penned a letter to the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association calling for the drug to be legalized for medicinal purposes:

We believe licensed physicians are competent to employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source. The medical prohibition does not prevent seriously ill patients from employing marijuana; it simply deprives them of medical supervision and denies them access to a regulated medical substance. Physicians are often forced to choose between their ethical responsibilities to the patient and their legal liabilities to federal bureaucrats.

Fast-forward to the present:

Wed Mar. 30, 2016 9:57 PM EDT
Thu Mar. 24, 2016 4:32 PM EDT
Fri Mar. 18, 2016 4:28 PM EDT
Wed Feb. 17, 2016 5:12 PM EST