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

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 3:35 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.

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Every Single Political Game-Changer of the 2012 Election

| Sun Nov. 4, 2012 5:08 AM EDT

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. 

Romney Weighs in on FEMA, Finally, Sort Of

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 1:08 PM EDT

In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Mitt Romney has spent much of the last few days dodging questions about his 2011 comment that he'd like to see some of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's services privatized. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said at the time. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

On Thursday, the GOP presidential nominee broke his silence, releasing this statement to the press:

I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.

That's all well and good, but it doesn't really answer the relevant question: What would happen to FEMA in a Romney administration? As MoJo alum  Suzy Khimm notes at the WonkBlog, under Romney's proposed budget, the agency could see its funding fall by about 40 percent. But we don't know for sure, because with the exception of a handful of appropriations like public broadcasting and Planned Parenthood, Romney hasn't specified how his cuts would be made and which programs might be exempted.

Montana Dems: Denny Rehberg Is Such a Drunk

| Wed Oct. 31, 2012 4:09 PM EDT

The all-important Montana Senate race has gotten pretty nasty. How nasty? The Montana Democratic party is now attacking Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg as a drunk. Here's the video, which was tweeted out by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester's communications director, Aaron Murphy, and the MDP ("@DennyRehberg trick or treats early—for vodka") on Wednesday:

The context here is important: Democrats have made a concerted effort to paint Rehberg as, well, a bit of a boozer. As evidence, they cite the Rehberg's 2004 congressional delegation to Kazakhstan, where he fell off a horse after downing six shots of vodka. (Allegations that he had consumed an additional 14 shots, and mocked his hosts by making "meep meep" noises a la Coneheads were unsubstantiated.) And in 2009, Rehberg broke his ankle in a boat crash on Montana's Flathead Lake. (Both he and his the boat's pilot had been drinking.) Tester, who won his seat by less than 3,000 votes in 2006, trails Rehberg by 0.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics average, in a race Republicans desperately need to win if they have any hope of recapturing the Senate.

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