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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At VP Debate, Biden Goes All in on 47 Percent

| Thu Oct. 11, 2012 10:24 PM EDT

Conspicuously absent from the first Presidential debate in Denver last week: Any mention, by President Obama, of the most damaging quote of his opponent's political career—Mitt Romney's dismissal of the 47 percent of Americans as "entitled" moochers. At Thursday's vice presidential debate, Joe Biden didn't make that mistake.

The veep lit into Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, seizing on the congressman's own assertion that America was increasingly becoming a nation of takers:

We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that — when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, “No, let Detroit go bankrupt.” We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, “No, let foreclosures hit the bottom.”

But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently in a speech in Washington said “30 percent of the American people are takers.”

These people are my mom and dad — the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, "not paying any tax."

I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field; we’re going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy.

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The Most Important Moment in Last Night's Mass. Senate Debate

| Thu Oct. 11, 2012 1:25 PM EDT

The quickest way to understand the dynamic of the Massachusetts Senate race was to tune into Wednesday night's debate and listen for the proper nouns.

Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, with the exception of a couple ultra-local references—Westover Air Reserve Base's new C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft—kept it national. She mentioned Mitt Romney and the Republican party four times apiece, Grover Norquist three times, President Obama twice, and New Gingrich once. Sen. Scott Brown (R), desperate to convince Massachusetts' largely moderate electorate he's super-independent, never once mentioned either of the two major parties, nor did he identify either of the major presidential candidates by name. Instead, he did everything but pull out a copy of the Springfield Yellow Pages and start reading from it. He mentioned Milano's (a local restaurant), Friendly's (a local chain), the Big E (the local state fair), Mass. Mutual (the local insurance giant), former Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan, and Celtics legend Bob Cousy—all two times apiece. He talked up Boston College, Tufts University, Wakefield High School, and Bristol Community College.

Brown, trailing in 9 of the 11 most recent polls, is trying to disassociate himself from the Republican party. But it's looking like a losing battle. Here's what I thought was the most illuminating moment of the debate. It was Warren taking Brown to task on equal pay and reproductive rights—and then, after Brown responds, hammering him again almost verbatim a few minutes later:

This is a side of Warren—righteous anger—we really hadn't seen in either of the first two debates. And it's especially damaging because it frames Brown as squarely in the embrace of the national GOP. As Warren put it, "These issues were decided until the Republicans brought them back."

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."

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.

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