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's Secret Weapon: The Duggars

| Mon Jan. 2, 2012 2:22 PM EST

I have no idea what Rick Santorum told the crowd at Reising Sun Cafe in Polk City, Iowa, this morning. My guess is the former Pennsylvania senator's message was a lot like the one he's brought to Iowa's other 98 counties—he's a consistent social conservative, architect of the partial-birth abortion ban, Iran's worst nightmare, and a culture war veteran with the scars to prove it. But the diner was impossibly small, and so I was left standing outside in the Arctic chill with about 50 supporters and undecided voters, and maybe half as many press. Santorum was just a side-show in Polk City, though. That's because the Duggars showed up.

That would be the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting fame, a conservative Christian family from Arkansas. Twelve of the 19 Duggar children are with their dad Jim Bob in Iowa campaigning for Santorum, all dressed in their Sunday best—the girls in ankle-length skirts and the boys with shirts-and-ties. Everyone knows who Jim Bob Duggar is, but he introduces himself to everyone who walks up to him nonetheless: "I'm Jim Bob Duggar, and we have a show called 19 Kids and Counting." The Duggars duck into a boutique shop next door to the Santorum event and the whole gang takes turns posing for photos with Santorum volunteers and fans. "There's Josiah, he's got a gray jacket!" a woman says, pointing at one of the older Duggar boys. "I watch that show all the time. They're really strong Christians. I love them," says another.

"Everyone say 'Pick Rick!'": Tim Murphy"Everyone say 'Pick Rick!'": Tim MurphyMeanwhile, Jim Bob holds court. "Rick Santorum is someone with a proven track record to stand up for what's right, for lower taxes, less government intervention in our lives. He's always been an advocate for the unborn. He's somebody that he authored the bill that banned partial birth abortion. That's something that nobody else can say. Whereas Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, he set up a Romneycare program, and included a program where any girl could go in and get an abortion for $50." (Full context here.)

In 2008, he and the family (there were only 17 kids then) traveled to Iowa ito volunteer for Mike Huckabee and, truth be told, Jim Bob would have preferred the Arkansas Governor run again. "We begged Huckabee to run this time, but he felt that this was not the time for him to run," he says. "So we've been looking for a candidate that has our values, and somebody that's articulate, that has energy, that has a proven track record to do what's right—and Rick Santorum's the man." They plan on checking out a few more events, and then hitting the phone lines on Santorum's behalf. Jim Bob's oldest son, Josh, a car dealer, came up with the idea to rechristen the family bus the "Santourin' Express," and the thing looks so official—the candidate's website is splashed in big letters on both sides—that a few voters walked up to it expecting to meet the candidate.

In finail days before the Iowa caucuses, campaigns have dispatched their surrogates to Iowa in droves. Chris Christie parachuted in for Mitt Romney. Rand Paul's stumping for his dad. Rick Perry's campaign dispatched Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. They're effective in their own way, but the Duggars represent a unique form of micro-targeting that's perfect in Iowa. Like Santorums—and a disproportionately high number of Iowa conservatives—the Duggars home-school their kids in order to provide them with an education based on Christian principles. (Of the Santorum supporters I spoke with in Polk City, Michele Bachmann, another home-schooler, was the overwhelming second choice.) Home-schoolers helped push Huckabee over the top in 2008; if Santorum pulls an the upset on Tuesday, he'll have folks like Jim Bob to thank.

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Your Daily Newt: A Terrorist Attack Now And Then...

| Mon Jan. 2, 2012 12:31 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.

Asked in 2008 about the Bush administration's efforts in the war in terror, Gingrich expressed his frustration that the public wasn't sufficiently concerned about terrorists on a day to day basis. As he explained: "The better they've done at making sure there isn't going to be an attack, the easier it is to say there was never going to be an attack anyway. It's almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to go through just to remind us":

Gingrich was joking—sort of. He really did think serious changes needed to be made to the nation's law enforcement framework at the expense of civil liberties. That's why he'd create a new agency, separate from the traditional domestic crime-fighting FBI (which would still be forced to comply with the Bill of Rights). "I would have a small, but very aggressive anti-terrorist agency. And I would give them extraordinary ability to eavesdrop. And my first advice to civil libertarians would be simple: Don't plot with terrorists." To quote Jefferson. Or was it Jay?

Newt Gingrich's War on the War on Dust

| Mon Jan. 2, 2012 7:00 AM EST

Newt Gingrich's biggest applause in Atlantic, Iowa, on Saturday wasn't his condemnation of President Barack Obama as a "Saul Alinsky radical." It wasn't his pledge to destroy Obamacare. It certainly wasn't his name-drop of consulting pioneers Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker. It was his promise to bring the troops home, declare defeat, and end major combat operations in the War on Dust.

Referring to the Environmental Protection Agency as a "job-killing dictatorial bureaucracy," Gingrich invoked the name of one of the state's leading Republicans to make his case. "Many of you have probably followed Sen. Grassley’s fight for the dust regulations," Gingrich says. "The EPA technically has the ability to regulate 'particulate matter,' as part of the Clean Air Bill, which I don’t think any congressman thought of as 'dust.' But of course it’s now interpreted to include dust. If you were to plow on a windy day, and some of the dirt was carried by the wind into your neighbor’s field, you would be polluting your neighbor's field with your dirt. Now, since your neighbor's field is exactly the same geologic dirt as your field, it’s implausible that you would actually be hurting it."

On Global Warming, Gingrich Cites His Own Expertise on Dinosaurs

| Sun Jan. 1, 2012 7:14 AM EST
Then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich plays with a dinosaur puppet in Bozeman, Montana in 1998

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was challenged by supporters at an event at a Coca Cola bottling plant in Atlantic, Iowa on Saturday, on issues ranging from faith to his consulting work for Freddie Mac to his brief support for cap-and-trade. Gingrich, flanked by his wife, Callista, his daughter Jackie, and a 20-foot-high stack of Mello Yello, told voters that anyone who accuses him of taxing carbon as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is "dishonest" (evidence to the contrary notwithstanding), and then issued a curious explanation for why he doesn't trust the science on global warming: He's a scientist himself, and he knows better.

The carbon-tax question came from a senior citizen who had signed up to give a speech on Gingrich's behalf on caucus night. The man had taken a look at campaign talking points, but his son had additional questions about Gingrich's global warming positions, and so the father came to Gingrich seeking clarity. The former speaker had, after all, cut an ad with Nancy Pelosi calling for the federal government to take action on climate change. After first explaining that "first of all, it hasn't been proven" that global warming is really happening, he rounded out his answer by citing his own analysis.

"I'm an amateur paleontologist, so I've spent a lot of time looking at the earth's temperature over a very long time," Gingrich said. "I'm a lot harder to convince than just by looking at a computer model."

We've chronicled Gingrich's passion for dinosaurs. In addition to keeping a T-Rex skull in his congressional office (loaned from the Smithsonian), he twice debated famed Montana State paleontologist Jack Horner on the feeding habits of the T-Rex, with Gingrich arguing that the king of dinosaurs could not have been a scavenger because "I saw Jurassic Park and he ate a lawyer and it wasn't a dead lawyer." So while not professionally trained, his paleontological analysis clearly does carry a lot of weight.

Rick Perry's Iowa Pitch: I'm Not Rick Santorum

| Sun Jan. 1, 2012 7:09 AM EST
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

Rick Perry gave a polite nod to history when he took the podium at Doughy Joey's Peetza Joynt in Waterloo on Friday. It would've been weird not too. Crowded into the second floor party room, a big old Iowa flag just behind him, Risque gentlemen's club ("cold drinks, hot ladies") across the street and out of sight, the Texas governor took the microphone from his wife, Anita, thanked everyone for stopping by, and put the event, and perhaps his entire campaign, in proper context.

"This is where it all began," Perry said. This being Waterloo, where Perry made his first visit to Iowa as a candidate on the Sunday after the August Ames Straw Poll. He was the guest of honor at the Black Hawk County GOP fundraiser, and when it was over he'd jumped to the top of the field as a cocky, angry, government-slashing, Texas miracle worker, out to make Washington, DC "as inconsequential in your life as possible." He was the anti-Obama. This time around in Waterloo, he's pitching himself as the anti-Santorum.

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