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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When moderator George Stephanopolous asked Mitt Romney about his views on contraception at Saturday's debate, the GOP front-runner acted as if he'd just been asked about chupacabras or spaceships—ignoring his own stated positions on the state efforts to limit access to (and ban outright) some forms of contraception.

Stephanopolous' question was simple: "Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?" Here was Mitt's answer:

George, this is an unusual topic that you're raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can't imagine a state banning contraception. I can't imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so., and if I were a governor of a state or...or a—or a legislature of a state—I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception. So you're asking—given the fact that there's no state that wants to do so, and I don't know of any candidate that wants to do so, you're asking could it constitutionally be done? We can ask our constitutionalist here.

At this point, Romney turned to Rep. Ron Paul, a self-described "constitutionalist," and the crowd laughed. But it was a serious question, given that in 2007 Romney supported a federal personhood amendment that would have defined life as beginning at fertilization, and in 2011, he did his best to avoid saying definitively whether he opposed Mississippi's "personhood amendment," which would have made all forms of hormonal contraception illegal. (My colleague Kate Sheppard has explained the issue quite clearly.) In other words, state and federal lawmakers are very much trying to ban contraception.

After some crosstalk, Romney started up his answer again, and was insistent. "George, I—I don't know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no—no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think." When Santorum again pressed him, Romney was incredulous, "Has the Supreme Court—has the Supreme Court decided that states do not have the right to provide contraception?"

No—they decided the opposite in Griswold v. Connecticut, ruling that the right to privacy prohibited states from banning contraception. But it's a sore point with conservatives, like Rick Santorum, who believe the right to privacy is a load of a baloney. And in light of the nationwide Personhood movement, it's hardly a dead issue.

Romney's Whopper on Job Creation at Bain

At Saturday's GOP presidential debate, Mitt Romney, questioned about his record at Bain Capital, doubled-down on the claim that the firm created 100,000 net jobs. "In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs," he told George Stephanopolous. It's an impressive figure, but one that turns out to have little basis in reality. Factcheck.org considered the evidence on Thursday:

When we asked the Romney camp for support, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom sent us a list of jobs added at three companies in which Bain had invested, saying that these three examples alone created over 100,000 jobs: Staples, which had 89,000 employees as of Dec. 31, 2010; The Sports Authority, which had 15,000 employees as of July 2011; and Domino’s, which has added 7,900 jobs since 1999.

That’s hardly a rigorous analysis of jobs gained and lost at companies Bain backed. And does Romney deserve credit for all of those jobs? Bain was but one of several investors in The Sports Authority, which was launched with the monetary help of William Blair Venture Partners, Phillips-Smith and Marquette Venture Partners. Not to mention the work of founding executives at the company, such as CEO Jack A. Smith.

Plus, Kmart owned the company for about five years starting in 1990. Does Kmart get credit for whatever job growth occurred then? In 2006, the private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners acquired Sports Authority. Does Bain, and Romney, still get credit for jobs created after the company is bought or sold years later?

And so on. The bottom line is that the 100,000 figure was not actually calculated; it was just a composite of a couple of data points, and there's no evidence that it's actually a "net" figure, according to Romney's own campaign. When challenged on the accuracy of his figures by Stephanopolous, Romney told the audience they should just trust him: "I'm a good enough numbers guy to make sure I got both sides of that."

Your Daily Newt: Space Sex

GOP presidential Newt Gingrich at a campaign stop in Ottumwa, Iowa.

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.

It is a matter of public record that Newt Gingrich is really, really into space. He proposed a "Northwest Ordinance for Space" in 1984 to establish a path to statehood for colonies in space; he proposed putting a system of giant mirrors in the atmosphere to light city streets at night and reduce crime; and he suggested that with enough government investment and/or private initiative, we might someday have colonies on the moon devoted to mining high-value minerals. For these ideas (and a few more), he earned the nickname "Newt Skywalker" from his colleagues.

And in his 1984 book, Window of Opportunity (and again in his 1994 book, To Renew America), he suggested that private space flight would open up business opportunities for space tourism—specifically for honeymooning couples. As he put it: "Imagine weightlessness and its effects and you will understand some of the attraction." Oh?

If Gingrich thought sex was improved, that wasn't the only thing. He wrote in Window of Opportunity that "In medicine alone, we may find that the effect of weightlessness on certain manufacturing processes carried on in the relatively sterile and pure environment of space will result in a multibillion-dollar industry."

How Rick Santorum Saved Wrestling

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum (artist's rendering).

Rick Santorum's effort in Iowa received a late boost from Jim Gibbons, the much-revered former wrestling coach at Iowa State University, who endorsed the GOP presidential candidate at a Pizza Ranch in Boone on Monday. In a caucus, where voters can be pressured by their peers right up to the minute they cast their votes, these kinds of endorsements tend to carry a lot of weight. But there's another sub-plot to it all: Rick Santorum has sort of a weird fixation with wrestling.

As Mike Newall reported in his excellent 2005 Philadelphia City Paper profile, prior to getting involved in politics, Santorum worked at a law firm, where he once argued in court—successfully—that pro wrestling should be exempt from steroid regulations because it's staged (and therefore not a sport). Jake Tapper flags a 2010 quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Santorum spins his wrestling work in small-government terms: "Pennsylvania was the most pernicious of states when it came to regulation. They made you pay all this money to the boxing [athletic] commission. They used to just rape these guys. You’d have to pay a certain percentage of the gate receipts to have these officials just stand around and watch the match. It was ridiculous." (Emphasis mine.)

And—because three makes a trend—here's a Rick Santorum campaign ad from 2006, which has been making the rounds today. It stars Rick Santorum (obviously), using the spectacle of mostly-naked men wrestling as a metaphor for what's wrong with Washington. (If nothing else, he seems to have anticipated the Chris Lee/Anthony Weiner scandals):

What would Rick Santorum's wrestling name be? We're going with "The Vest."

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