Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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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Obama Campaign Now Employing Jedi Mind Tricks

| Wed Oct. 10, 2012 2:44 PM EDT

I wrote a long piece for the current issue of the magazine (on newstands now!) about the Obama re-election team's efforts at constructing the "smart campaign." The tl;dr version is that Chicago is using data-mining, analytics, and behavioral science to a degree that hasn't been attempted before—all with the goals of squeezing their supporters for cash and volunteer hours and coaxing sympathetic voters to the polls.

One of the easiest ways to see this in action is through the fundraising emails the Obama campaign sends out, which vary substantially depending on the audience. ProPublica, which set out to track these emails last spring, found that a single pitch comes in no fewer than 11 different flavors. Any interaction you have with that an email—whether you responded with a donation, or whether you just clicked through at all—can be tracked by the campaign. That helps them learn a little bit about you, but it also helps them learn a little bit about themselves; they can send out blasts to randomized samples to determine what works and what doesn't.

And now, with four weeks to go until election day, here's the latest pitch I received in my inbox, nominally from the campaign's COO, Ann Marie Habershaw:

Supporter ID number? Passive-aggressive receipt? Sounds like a Jedi mind trick.

Or maybe it's just behavioral science—something Democratic groups have been experimenting with increasingly through the work of the electioneering think-tank, the Analyst Institute. As Sasha Issenberg chronicles in his new book, Victory Lab, in 2010 Democrats sent out mailers to Colorado Democrats in advance of the midterm election, thanking them personally for voting in 2008—and then thanking them in advance for voting in 2010. The passive-aggressive mailers boosted turnout among recipients by 2.5 percent. As Issenberg puts it, they were "designed to push buttons that many voters didn't even know they had."

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Democratic Groups: Hey, Remember the 47 Percent Video?

| Tue Oct. 9, 2012 1:40 PM EDT

There's been something missing from the presidential campaign since last Wednesday's debate in Denver: the 47 percent. Since President Obama's underwhelming performance, his campaign has hammered Mitt Romney repeatedly, in stump speeches and television spot, on the sanctity of Big Bird. But the talking point that helped turn Obama's post-convention bounce into what became an eight-point cushion has been AWOL. (That was the case during the debate, too.)

But in a new radio ad, AFSCME and the super-PAC Priorities USA, two leading Democratic outside groups, are trying to reprise the narrative, this time comparing Romney's decidedly warmer debate rhetoric to his closed-doors ruminations on the makers and takers:

Paul Ryan: Obama Won't Take Away Your Guns

| Tue Oct. 9, 2012 11:26 AM EDT

Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski flagged this video on Monday afternoon, in which an agitated Rep. Paul Ryan chides a Michigan television reporter for a particularly loaded line of questioning. But I was more interested in what Ryan actually said.

Pressed on whether he supported new restrictions on gun ownership, Ryan responded: "If you take a look at the gun laws we have, I don't even think President Obama's proposing more gun laws. We have good strong guns laws—we have to make sure we enforce our laws, we have lots of laws that aren't properly enforced. We need to make sure we enforce these laws."

By contrast, take a look at this new ad from the National Rifle Association:

And here's Paul Ryan himself, in an interview with Outdoor Life magazine in September: "What I worry about as a hunter, as a person who believes in the Second Amendment, as a gun owner, is knowing that President Obama—in his earlier career, prior to his presidency—was an advocate for gun control. I worry about what his attitude will be once he never has to face voters again."

President Obama isn't proposing new gun laws. In fact, the only gun-related pieces of legislation he's signed into law have actually expanded gun rights. Caught in a defensive moment in a local news interview, even Ryan seems to admit it.

Rep. Allen West: Jobs Report Is an Obama Plot!

| Fri Oct. 5, 2012 10:27 AM EDT

The monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was released on Friday, and it had good news for President Obama: Non-farm unemployment numbers dropped below 8 percent—to 7.8—for the first time since January 2009.

Allegedly.

As soon as the report hit, conservative commentators seized on the unexpectedly low figure as evidence of a sinister plot by the Obama presidential campaign to cook the books four weeks before Election Day. Within an hour, the conspiracy had reached the ranks of Republican members of Congress. Here's Florida Rep. Allen West, locked in a tight re-election fight, calling the Obama administration "Orwellian" in a post on his Facebook page:

We all want the suffering of the American people from this rampant scourge of unemployment to end. However, today's jobs report is confusing to say the least. Previous months numbers have been revised and yet the workforce participation rate remains at a 30 year low. The unemployment rate drops to 7.8 percent, that is where it was in January 2009 when the President took office. But the U6 computation of unemployed, underemployed, and discouraged Americans remains the same at 14.7 percent. I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here. Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the Presidential election. This is Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book "Rules for Radicals"- a must read for all who want to know how the left strategize . Trust the Obama administration? Sure, and the spontaneous reaction to a video caused the death of our Ambassador......and pigs fly.

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