Mike Murphy Interview: Political Hack turns Media Pundit
Diana Landau | March 08, 2022
This month Carl interviews the entirely engaging Mike Murphy, co-host of the political perspective podcast "Hacks on Tap" with David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs. On the show, the hosts, (and friends in real life), really pull back the curtain on what's happening on the political scene. Mike has had a very successful career as a top Republican strategist for more than 40 state and national races, including John McCain, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and a particularly long-shot win—Arnold Schwarzenegger. After decades on the campaign trail, Mike has flourished in a new career as a media pundit, writer, producer and professional speaker. (Carl says he is "The Don Rickles of Politics" for pretty much stirring it up with both parties.)
Mike grew up in Detroit in a "classic, Irish Catholic family" that eventually moved to the suburbs. Always a political family, his grandfather was a lawyer elected as a local probate judge, his father was a labor lawyer and his mom was a trailblazer in local Democratic precincts. As a teen, Mike was deeply interested in politics and performance theater—two main themes throughout his careers. He says he wanted to focus on international policy and went to the Foreign Service School in Georgetown for college, even learning to speak Russian.
While in college, he was recruited to help a losing candidate craft radio ads. They worked, the candidate surprisingly won and Mike's phone started ringing while still a student! "I was always entrepreneurial," Mike adds. After graduation he went to work in campaign politics. "It was so much fun. They gave a lot of responsibility to idiots like me. I joined the circus and have been there ever since!"
His big break on a national scale came in 1987, working for Dole as a media consultant. He worked on Senate races but specialized in governor races. "I had a good run in the campaign business," he says. Carl asks him how he decided on his second act. "I liked film and TV, I like creative stuff, so I thought hopefully that eventually I'd have a fun run." He certainly has—as a co-host on a very popular national politics podcast, as well working as a writer and producer. You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear Mike's best guess on the 2024 elections. He's unabashedly an anti-Trump Republican, since an initial meeting with him in the early 1980's—back when Trump was a Democrat.
Mike also got married and now lives in L.A. where he is developing a TV mini-series called "the Drop" about 1980's Atlantic City, the mob, the gaming biz and Trump. On his professional speaking engagements he says, "Half of it is stand-up (comedy) for me. It's fun to have people laugh and to be entertaining." Seriously, Mike is one smart, funny guy.
Mike Murphy's (Un)retirement Advice:
"If you want to keep busy professionally, get outta the house!" Keep an office somewhere, too. Have somewhere to go, do stuff, volunteer—something!"
"Be smart about your money, so it can give you some financial freedom to develop your second act—Who knows? You might find out you are really good at it."
"If you are happy 3 out of 5 days while working, that's pretty good, (and realistic.) If you are 5 out of 5 on the happiness schedule, well that's fantastic!"
"I did used to be somebody. Maybe I'll be somebody again!"
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.