Amateur Hour

Congressional candidate Mike Murphy feels the strong arm of the GOP

After hearing the tapes, the Observer called Forti back. He said he hadn't fibbed; the talks between Murphy and the party honchos had been incorrectly "characterized," which led to a "misunderstanding." "Look, that's the reality of the race," Forti said. "That's the bottom line. The NRCC needs to help as many Republicans as possible."

Maybe. But according to the NRCC, which says it often contacts challengers on behalf of vulnerable incumbents, no other calls of that kind were made to any challenger in Texas. Oddly, the NRCC failed to contact Mike Mosher, the other Republican candidate in District 4. Mosher could be seen as a bigger threat to Hall than Murphy because he's been running radio ads and plans to continue doing so until the March 9 primary, not to mention that he was recently endorsed by The Dallas Morning News. (Forti said that the NRCC was unaware of Mosher's candidacy until after the filing deadline.)

"I just want to run a strong race, you know, fight the fight, and if I lose, at least I tried," Murphy says. "Texas would be the Republic of Mexico if we'd just given up at the Alamo. I thought it was a little odd that they'd called me. And when they were going on about the White House and ruining my career, all I could think was, 'I don't have a career.'"

"You know, I've heard of a lot of ways to handle situations in politics, but that's one of the best--it's like a Saturday Night Live skit," says Bill Miller, an Austin-based political consultant for HillCo Partners. "On the NRCC's part, that's what you call ham-handed amateur hour. Do people have bad days? Yeah. Are people stupid? Absolutely. And I think this is more of latter than the former.

"The fact that people get threatened in politics is nothing new. But using Karl Rove's name and saying that he would be an enemy of the president for life if he didn't get out--that's a different situation because of the context. I mean, here's a kid, Murphy, who is an amateur, but he acts like a pro. And the party, they're pros, but they act like amateurs. It speaks to how capable, or incapable, they are. We should all tip our hat to him because he caught them on tape and let them talk themselves into a disaster."

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