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:
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.
When MSNBC's Brian Williams asked Rick Perry during a recent GOP debate if he ever worried that his state had executed an innocent man on Perry's watch, the three-term Texas governor didn't hesitate: "No sir, I've never struggled with that at all." Maybe he should have: As Steve Mims and Joe Bailey detail in their new documentary, Incendiary, the state's 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his two children was based in large part on arson science that had been thoroughly rejected by the scientific community—something that Perry had been informed of before the "ultimate justice" was served.
Inspired by David Grann's masterful 2009 New Yorker story about the case, the Austin filmmakers set out to chronicle the flawed forensics behind the execution. They soon found themselves in the middle of a pitched political battle involving Perry's apparent maneuvering to put a thumb on the scales with the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Mims and Bailey spoke recently with Mother Jones about the Willingham case, arson science, and how they navigated the politics of capital punishment.
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: