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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Wednesday night's presidential debate debacle left many Republicans wondering if Rick Perry had totally lost his marbles. As one top donor told Aaron Blake, "Perry campaign is over. Time for him to go home and refocus on being Governor of Texas." Perry thinks, at least publicly, that he can make things better by going on a media blitz. But this promotion that just landed in our inbox, from Marbles, "the brain store," can't be a good sign:

Courtesy of MarblesCourtesy of Marbles

Brain Games, the site helpfully notes, is "a great choice for those who want a mental workout that's fun and challenging at the same time." The cost? You guessed it: $9.99.

Rove's Crossroads GPS Takes On Elizabeth Warren

Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren (D) is taking on Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

On Tuesday, iWatch's Peter Stone reported that the GOP groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which are affilaited with Karl Rove, expected to raise and spend $150 million to recapture the Senate for Republicans in 2012. Crossroads GPS has been on the air in Montana for a while now, and on Tusesday it began what is likely to be an extended and very expensive campaign to take Massachusetts Senate candidate and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau architect Elizabeth Warren down a notch.

Noah Bierman reports that Crossroads GPS is targeting Warren with a $560,000 ad buy, attempting to define her as the candidate of the increasingly unpopular Occupy Wall Street:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

A few weeks back, Rick Perry's presidential campaign floated a daring idea: acknowledging that debates aren't really his thing, the Texas governor would consider skipping any future GOP candidate confabs. It seemed like an act of desperation, but given his performance on stage in Michigan on Wednesday, it might have been a good idea.

Perry's shining moment, the one that will likely live on long past Perry's candidacy, came when he was asked to provide specifics on how he would fix Washington's business climate. He started strong: "When I get there there’ll be three agencies I'll end: commerce, education..."

So far, so good. Except Perry's answer ended there. He grasped, visibly struggling, for the third agency on his list and couldn't come up with it. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) jumped in, helpfully, to offer that there were actually five agencies that should be abolished, and mentioned the EPA. Perry thought that sounded right, but then reconsidered, noting that he was pretty sure he thought the EPA should be rebuilt, not abolished.

CNBC's John Harwood asked Perry to clarify. Could he name the third agency he'd abolish?

"No," Perry said. Long pause. "Oops."

The answer, it turns out, is "Energy." Leave your jokes in the comments.

Newt's Freddie Mac Lobbying Whopper

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (bottom right) and the elephant in the room.

At Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate in Michigan, Newt Gingrich was asked by the mostly on-the-ball CNBC panel about his work on behalf of housing giant Freddie Mac. For the former Speaker of the House, it was a bit of a welcome-back moment; for the last few months, he's been so much of an afterthought that moderators haven't even bothered with his own personal history and resume.

But Gingrich had an answer ready. He denied the lobbying charge, and then, via Benjy Sarlin, offered this spirited defense:

I offered advice. My advice as an historian when they walked in and said we are now making loans to people that have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything but that’s what the government wants us to do. I said at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible. It turned out unfortunately I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong.

It's pretty self-evident, though, that Gingrich wasn't hired as a consultant because he was an untenured history professor at North Georgia College in the late 1970s. He was hired because, as a former Speaker of the House, he had a lot of influence with a lot of imporant people. An AP investigative report from 2008 framed Gingrich's role as that of a political operator, greasing the wheels on Capitol Hill. Key section:

GOP Frontrunners to Italy: Drop Dead

The most pressing economic issue currently facing the world, as my colleague Kevin Drum pointed out on Wednesday morning, is the ongoing collapse of the Italian economy. With CNBC's presidential debate set to focus on jobs, it was an obvious question—and it came immediately after the candidate introductions.

So were the GOP candidates ready for it? Well, not exactly. Asked point-blank what he would do as president during such a crisis, Herman Cain's first answer was a bizarre non sequitur. His response, he said, would be to...create jobs. Pressed by the host, Maria Bartiromo, as to how specifically he would react as president to the Italian crisis, he punted. "There's not a lot the US can do for Italy right now," he said. "They've gone beyond the point where we can help them." (That's news to Europe.)

It's an odd answer not just because Cain has had three weeks to prepare for the debate, but because his biggest liability—other than that whole harassment thing—is that he never offers any specifics about anything. Italy would have been a good chance to demonstrate that, if nothing else, he read the newspaper this morning.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn't get much more specific in his answer to the question, stating that America's best choice was to let Italy fail.

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