Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Elizabeth Warren Takes Down Scott Brown

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:44 PM EST
Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (right) with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Two years ago, Elizabeth Warren told David Corn that she'd rather stab herself in the eye than go back to Washington. On Tuesday, the Harvard Law professor and creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ate her words, knocking off Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) in one of the most closely watched—and at times nastiest—races of the 2012 cycle. Warren's win isn't just a case of a Democrat winning in Massachusetts; perhaps no candidate, President Obama included, inspired as much enthusiasm from progressives across the country. (She raised more money than any other Senate challenger in the country, much of it from out of state.) NBC News called the race shortly after polls closed in Boston.

Warren did it largely by sticking with what made her a political star in the first place—a fierce defense of the social contract, which led Republican to dub her "Matriarch of Mayhem" for her support of Occupy Wall Street:

For Republicans, a what-might-have-been remains the campaign finance truce Warren and Brown agreed to, which barred outside groups from buying TV ad time in the Bay State (per the agreement, any independent expenditure would have to be offset with a chartiable donation from the campaign). Given the extent to which Republican outside groups outspent Democratic groups in 2012, that bargain almost certainly ended up working in Warren's favor. It also meant that the fiercest attacks on Warren's character—hitting her, for example, for identifying as Cherokee at Harvard—came from Brown himself, eroding his largely positive image in Massachusetts.

For the 53-year-old Brown, this is likely not the end of his political career. With Sen. John Kerry rumored to be a top choice to replace retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there's a possibility a new seat could open up as early as December. In that case, Brown would be a heavy favorite for the Republican nomination, and with a comparably weak Democratic bench in the state, stand a decent shot at getting his old job back. Alternatively, with Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick term-limited after 2014, he might just opt to try his luck closer to home.

This post was originally published based on inaccurate reports that the race had been called for Warren. The race has since been called by CBS and NBC.

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Paranoid Right-Wing Email of the Day (Maybe)

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 2:02 PM EST
President Barack Obama (D) laughs after reading the latest insane conspiracy email about him.

Wondering how the far-right might handle an Obama victory on election night? Here's a clue, in the form of a fundraising pitch from something called the American Conservative PAC. It features "busloads" of Somalis and Facebook postings from North Carolinians, so you know it's legit:

From Ohio to Nevada (and who knows where else), voting machines are selecting "Obama" when early voters cast their vote for Romney -- and it happens repeatedly when voters catch the error before submitting their ballot and try again only to wind up with Obama, again.
A North Carolina Democrat bragged on Facebook about voting four times already and planning to vote a fifth time tomorrow.

Early voting Somalis -- with their TRANSLATORS -- are arriving at polling stations by the busloads courtesy of Obama supporters. (Now, we don't know about you, but we don't know any U.S. CITIZENS that do not either speak or read English well-enough to vote...)
In Florida, conservative voters are receiving bogus letters falsely informing them that he or she will be unable to vote in this election due to miscellaneous (and non-existent) voter registration issues.

And if all that wasn't bad enough, the Obama-bots even have the help of an international body condemning our states trying to stand up to the infiltration of our polling booths!

Of course, giving a PAC money on election day wouldn't really accomplish very much. And American Conservative PAC hasn't really raised very much money—according to FEC filings, it has raised just $8,100 this cycle. But these conspiracies have gained traction on the far right. The Somali voter concern—notwithstanding that Somali-Americans are obviously allowed to vote—was parroted most notably by prominent anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller, who notably helped jumpstart the career of Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.). The Facebook post in question was a joke, but that hasn't prevented the man who posted it from receiving death threats. People are terrible.

Linda McMahon Pulls Out Dirty Tricks on Election Day

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 1:14 PM EST

Trailing in the polls going into election day, Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon is trying something new: Pretending she's a Democrat. The Connecticut Mirror reports that McMahon, the former World Wrestling Federation executive, has dressed supporters hanging out at the polls today in "I Support Obama and McMahon" t-shirts designed to resemble those worn by Democrat-backing Services Employees International Union organizers:

"It clearly is a rip off of our shirts," said Paul Filson, the political director of SEIU, which represents many minority health care workers. "It definitely is confusing."

The shirts are part of an effort by McMahon to blunt the urban vote Murphy needs in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, where her workers also have left literature urging a vote for Obama and McMahon.

Here's a photo of said literature, which identifies McMahon not as a Republican, but as the nominee of the Independent party. It may be too late to make a difference. The New York Times' Nate Silver gives Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy a 95.5 percent chance of winning the seat being vacated by retiring Independent Joe Lieberman.

This wouldn't be the first time a blue-state Republican has mimicked a Democrat. In 2006, then-Maryland Senate candidate Michael Steele depicted himself as a Democrat at campaign events and in sample ballots handed out in Prince George's county.

If McMahon really does support Obama, she should call her bank. According to FEC filings, she and her husband have given $150,000 to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super-PAC.

Update: Here's the a McMahon "sample ballot," via Murphy communications director Ben Marter:

@ChrisMarter/Twitter@BenMarter/Twitter

8 Candidates We Can't Believe Are Actually Going to Win

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 4:35 AM EST

Certain things are generally to be considered to be deal-breakers in electoral politics—reading a letter in defense of a radical who murdered two FBI agents, for instance, or sleeping with your patients and then asking them to get an abortion. Or going AWOL for almost one-third of an entire congressional term. Except for these guys:

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) Michael Grimm/FlickrMichael Grimm/FlickrStaten Island could really use an effective congressman right now. Instead, New York's 13th congressional district is poised to reelect Grimm, an embattled freshman whose 2010 campaign is now the subject of an FBI investigation into whether Grimm knowingly allowed a fundraiser and an Israeli rabbi to solicit illegal cash donations from foreign nationals. That's not the only stain on his short record: In 2011, Grimm went on a privately funded trip to Cyprus, which he neglected to report in his congressional disclosures until 2012, when his host was arrested on corruption charges. And per the New York Times, Grimm's business partner, Bennett Orfaly, with whom he started a restaurant, allegedly "has ties to a member of the Gambino organized crime family, Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for racketeering and extortion in an elaborate tax fraud." 

As you'd expect from a congressman who is just two degrees of separation from someone named "Fat Tony," Grimm's campaign has, at times, been somewhat nasty. Grimm attacked his opponent, Democrat Mark Murphy, for "liv[ing] in his father's basement" (true), and for being a failed actor. See below:

And again:

Grimm's ethics woes were enough to get him booted from his role as a Romney surrogate, but he's held steady in the polls in New York City's most conservative district.

 

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)

Jason Moore/ZumaPress.comJason Moore/ZumaPress.com That a well-connected Democrat in a safe-blue South Side district would cruise to reelection virtually unopposed isn't especially surprising. But Jackson has been AWOL from Congress for much of the last year. He went missing for a month last summer and hasn't held a constituent event or a campaign rally since winning the Democratic primary in March—an absence friends and advisers attribute to a severe case of depression. (In October, he announced he was returning to the Mayo Clinic for a second bout of rehab.) He's under FBI investigation for possibly using campaign funds to renovate his Chicago home, and by the House Ethics Committee for possibly attempting to purchase Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in 2008. He voted by absentee ballot and isn't holding a rally on election night. But after beating back a Campaign for Primary Accountability-backed challenge in the primary, Jackson doesn't have much incentive to show up: He's all but clinched a victory.

 

Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.)

John Barrow/FlickrJohn Barrow/FlickrThis was supposed to be the year white Democrats from the Deep South officially went extinct. After redistricting, Barrow, a 57-year-old Georgia Blue Dog, found himself in a district that gave 56 percent of the vote to John McCain in 2008—despite record African American turnout that year. But Barrow outspent his Republican challenger, state Rep. Lee Anderson, by a more than 2-1 margin, and managed to put together a patchwork coalition of black voters and white gun-owners (he's a rare Democrat with NRA backing). Ads like this one probably didn't hurt:

 

Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.)

Kerry Bentivolio/FacebookKerry Bentivolio/FacebookWhen Rep. Thaddeus McCotter resigned abruptly last summer after he failed to make it on the ballot (because his campaign apparently forged most of the signatures), it created an opening. Unfortunately for Michigan Republicans, the only GOPer who appeared on to the primary ballot was Bentivolio, a former high school teacher (more on that in a second), reindeer farmer, Santa impersonator, and co-star of a low-budget 9/11 truther film. He raised virtually no money, but got a boost from $500,000 in spending from a Texas-based super-PAC, and easily beat the establishment-backed write-in candidate. In August, the Detroit Free-Press reported that Bentivolio had been reprimanded at his Michigan high school for, among other things, telling students that they were "just a paycheck to me" and pledging to make them cry. In October, Bentivolio's brother told the Michigan Information and Research Service, "I believe that if he gets elected, he'll eventually serve time in prison." With national Democrats making little effort to back Bentivolio's challenger, Syed Taj, Bentivolio will likely get the chance.

 

Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.)

Raul Ruiz/FacebookRaul Ruiz/FacebookGOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack is the incumbent. Her southeastern California district has an R+3 partisan voting index. And Ruiz, her Democratic opponent, is basically the Matt Drudge version of Barack Obama. Per the Palm Desert Desert Sun: "Officials with Rep. Mary Bono Mack's campaign, at a press conference Thursday, released an audiotape in which her Democratic opponent, Raul Ruiz, can be heard reading a letter of support for Leonard Peltier, a Native American convicted in 1977 of murdering two FBI agents on an Indian reservation in South Dakota…Ruiz can be heard reading a letter to Peltier written by 'Subcomandante Marcos,' a Marxist leader of the Zapatista liberation movement for indigenous people centered in the rural Mexican state of Chiapas." But through it all, polls show Ruiz to be a slim favorite to pull off the victory on election day.

 

Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-Tenn.)

Scott Desjarlais/FlickrScott Desjarlais/FlickrWho among us hasn't had extramarital affairs with multiple female patients at our medical practice and then pushed one of them to get an abortion before later advancing policies that would curtail women's reproductive rights? Oh, hmm, seeing a lot of hands raised. This is awkward. Despite being guilty of that exact scenario, Desjarlais is still the favorite to hold onto his Middle Tennessee seat. A poll commissioned after the ethical lapses/insane hypocrisy was exposed put the freshman up by 4 points.

 

Paul Broun (R-Ga.)

Jackie Ricciardi/Augusta Chronicle/ZumaPress.comJackie Ricciardi/Augusta Chronicle/ZumaPress.comThis man is running unopposed:

 

Roy Moore (R-Ala.)

Roy Moore/FacebookRoy Moore/FacebookYou may know Moore as the man who, after being removed from his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to take down a granite monument of the Ten Commandments, proceeded to travel around the country in a flat-bed pickup truck with the slab in the back. Now, after two failed runs for governor—and a very brief flirtation with running for president—he wants his job back. Moore hasn't mellowed much with age—he said as recently as October that same-sex marriage could bring about the end of the United States—but has benefited from the near-total collapse of the Alabama Democratic party. His original general election opponent, Harry Lyon, had called for illegal immigrants to be hanged and, per ThinkProgress, was "once shot in the neck after a neighbor caught him pouring Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup on the neighbor's car." (He was replaced by the party in August.) Per the Montgomery Advertiser, Moore leads in the polls going into Election Day. Also: Chuck Norris endorsed him.

Every Single Political Game-Changer of the 2012 Election

| Sun Nov. 4, 2012 6:08 AM EST

A few months back, the New York Times' statistics guru Nate Silver made an observation: "The phrase 'game changer' has been used 2,870 times in news outlets over the past 30 days." That was in July, before the debates, 47 percent, and about three dozen-over-caffeinated Drudge Report headlines. When I did the same search on Thursday, I found 19,600 results, which, all things considered, seems a bit low. Since the phrase entered the Pantheon of Political Cliches™ four years ago, the term has become so ubiquitous a crutch for political pundits that it officially entered the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary earlier this year.

Here is a list of every event in the last 10 months that has been labeled a game-changer in the presidential race:

CarsSandy's arrival. Chris Christie. President Obama's divorce papers. Donald Trump's challenge to Obama. The first debate. Fox News report on CIA's request for military backup in Benghazi. Pennsylvania. Romney's tax plan. Arizona's birther law. The revelation that President Obama is not very good at basketball. Lindsay Lohan's Romney endorsement. The second debate. Paul Ryan. Those Sarah Silverman GOTV videos. Jobs. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. That Daily Caller video. DHS immigration directive. A hypothetical Romney pledge to only serve one term. Romney's VMI speech. Dreams From My Real Father. A hypothetical joint US–Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. A hypothetical debate question about why Obama didn't dispatch F-16s to Benghazi. The youth vote. Conservative turnout in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Ohio. The entire election. The Osama Bin Laden raid. A book about the Osama Bin Laden raid. A hypothetical McCain vice presidency. The Benghazi cover-up. A new book from WorldNetDaily. A hypothetical question about Simpson–Bowles. First-time Puerto Rican voters. Latinos. Asian-Americans. The 47 percent tape. Paul Ryan's "makers and takers" riff. Suburban women. October jobs report. September jobs report. Democrats' ground game. Obama's tech operation. James O'Keefe's voter fraud sting. Gallup early voting poll. October 27 Gallup tracking poll. Gloria Allred. The Walker recall. Paul Ryan's interview with WJRT-TV, Flint. January jobs report. The Des Moines Register endorsement. Ann Romney's RNC speech. Paul Ryan's VP speech. Mitt Romney's RNC speech. Dick Morris' television ad (as reported by Dick Morris). Middle East chaos. Todd Akin. Bill Clinton's DNC speech. Obama's gay marriage endorsement. Ladies. Virgil Goode. Obama's voter registration figures. Dinesh D'Souza's movie. 1998 video of Obama making case for progressivism. Boston Globe's Bain story. Hypothetical release of Romney tax returns from hackers who demanded ransom payment in Bitcoins. The status quo.

Not everything can be a game-changer, though. In some cases, pundits have concluded that an event that might have become a game-changer was not, in fact, a game-changer. Note that some events appear in both categories:

The first debate. The second debate. The third debate. The vice presidential debate. Fisher v. University of Texas. Yawning. October jobs report. Richard Mourdock's rape comment. Colorado's marijuana initiative. Celebrity endorsers. Colin Powell. Ann Romney's RNC speech. Benghazi. Ross Perot. Paul Ryan. The Osama Bin Laden raid. Roseanne Barr's television ad. Obama's DNC speech. Michael Bloomberg. Dinesh D'Souza's movie. That Daily Caller video.

The moral of the story is that we're still really bad at predicting the future. 

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