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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Mitt Romney, Defender of Spanking?

| Tue Oct. 23, 2012 5:08 AM EDT

Mitt Romney is a man of many pledges. He's pledged to sign a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He's pledged to appoint a presidential commission to investigate the intimidation of gay marriage foes. He's pledged to "look at every government program and ask this question: Is this so critical that it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?" But over the last few weeks, as he's tried to move to the center and reneged on many of his most contentious past promises, there is one pledge he hasn't backed away from. It involves spanking.

In July, the GOP presidential nominee wrote a letter to Virginia conservative activist Michael Farris, an evangelical power broker in the critical swing state, outlining his opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which commits ratifying nations to protect children from discrimination. "My position on that convention is unequivocal: I would oppose Senate approval of the convention, and would not sign the convention for final ratification," Romney wrote. "I believe that the best safeguard for the well-being and protection of children is the family, and that the primary safeguards for the legal rights of children in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the states."

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Poll: Voter Fraud Paranoia Officially Bipartisan

| Wed Oct. 17, 2012 9:26 AM EDT

When it comes to passing laws that make it harder for specific constituencies to vote, Republicans have a near-monopoly. As we've detailed extensively, the last 12 months has seen a flood of voter I.D. legislation, almost all of it geared at combatting the non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud (you have a greater chance of seeing a UFO).

But paranoia about voter fraud, it turns out, is a truly bipartisan affliction. Public Policy Polling, which apart from being a reliable pollster in its own right has a knack for asking large samples of voters totally random questions we were always curious about, asked voters in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio whether they were concerned about voter fraud this November. Here's Florida:

Public Policy PollingPublic Policy Polling

And here's what happens when you ask about Republicans. The roles are mostly reversed, except interestingly self-identified moderates seem less worried about Democratic voting fraud than actual liberals:

Public Policy PollingPublic Policy Polling

Those trends hold for Ohio and North Carolina too. The takeaway from all of this, as ever, is that we're all slowly going insane.

WATCH: Tim Murphy Talks Political Data-Mining on Democracy Now!

| Mon Oct. 15, 2012 9:57 AM EDT

I was on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman on Monday morning talking about the Obama and Romney campaign's use of online and offline data-mining to learn more about you (and then ask you for money). Watch:

You can read my profile of Harper Reed, Obama for America's Chief Technology Officer, here. And here's the how-to guide on how the Obama campaign learns more (and more, and more) about you.

On Sunday, the New York Times covered a lot of familiar ground in a big piece on campaigns' use of consumer data—they've been using these databases since at least 2002—but one interesting nugget in there is the discussion of online shaming. Advocacy groups and campaigns have already experimented in sending out passive-aggressive mailers to voters (citing things like voting history) in order to coerce them into showing up at the polls or volunteering. Now they're branching out into the Internet as well, and using your own circles of friends to do it. (Here's a good example of this kind of pitch, from the Obama campaign, providing an online tracking number and gently asking you to correct the record if it's really true that you haven't given any money.)

Is This the Most Lukewarm Romney Endorsement Ever?

| Fri Oct. 12, 2012 9:37 AM EDT

One of the hallmarks of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been the long trail of less-than-enthusiastic endorsements he's received from important (mostly social conservative) leaders. Rick Santorum said Romney was "the better" candidate and, when pressed on whether it was an endorsement, countered, "If that's what you want to call it, you can call it whatever you want." Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist endorsed Romney by noting that conservatives didn't need a hero; just "a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen." Former President George W. Bush offered his blessing just before getting on an elevator. But this open letter, posted by Evangelical powerbroker and homeschool advocate Michael Farris on his Facebook page, has to win some sort of prize for least-enthusiastic endorsement.

Farris, founder of Virginia's Patrick Henry College (billed as the "Evangelical Ivy") threw his support to Santorum during the Republican primary, but met with Romney at the candidate's request on his campaign bus last month. He wasn't bullish on Romney going in. As he told CNN in April, "Some of us just have a hard time supporting a person who said he was going to be more liberal on gay rights than Ted Kennedy."

He's had a change of heart now. Sort of. "This election has caused me to understand that there is a difference between 'endorsing' a candidate and voting for a candidate," Farris writes. "Because of my leadership position, I have come to understand that there should be a very high standard that I should employ before I endorse a candidate." Mitt Romney doesn't reach that standard.

On only one issue (out of five) does Farris conclude that Romney is "one of us"—he's a good family man. Otherwise, it's a litany of not-quites and could-be-worse.

On abortion: "Mitt Romney has a checkered past on the issue. He claims that he has been converted to the pro-life position. I don't feel convinced that he has fully converted. However, it is clear that he is talking pro-life talk and taking pro-life positions. I think he does this, at least in part, because he realizes that being perceived as pro-life is necessary for his political success...at a minimum, I think we can count on him to keep up this pragmatic approach until November of 2016."

On marriage: "He now says that he is against same-sex marriage. But his rhetoric and record is so mixed on homosexual rights issues that it is hard to know what to expect."

On the role of government: "Mitt Romney will spend way too much money and will promote programs at the federal level that properly belong to the states. But, unlike Barack Obama he does not believe in the redistribution of wealth as a moral imperative... He is indifferent to small government conservative views on spending, but he is not an enemy of private property that is inherent in those who believe in the redistribution of wealth."

When I caught up with Farris at his Purcellville, Virginia office on Wednesday he emphasized that his essay was not an endorsement. He wasn't encouraging conservatives to volunteer for Romney, or even vote for him; it's entirely up to them. This matters because Farris isn't just a advocate for the legal rights of homeschoolers—he's the founder of Generation Joshua, an activist organization that sends homeschoolers to swing states in the final weeks before big elections to knock on doors and make phone calls for likeminded politicians. In previous years, those kids (about 2,000 of them) have chipped in for GOP presidential candidates like George W. Bush. But this time around, Farris says, they'll be focusing solely on House and Senate races. "We've previously done it for presidential campaigns, but frankly we haven't been asked."

Still, even if the love isn't there for Romney, he's confident homeschoolers will have enough of an incentive to get out the vote: "The difference this time," Farris says, "is that the fear of a Barack Obama second term is greater than anything I've ever seen."

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