updated 11/7/2006 11:09:54 AM ET 2006-11-07T16:09:54

Guests: Chuck Todd, Pat Buchanan, Peter Fenn, Steve Adubato, Frank Donatelli

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to our continuing coverage of “Decision 2006”.

Tomorrow is a day that could literally change this country for generations.  And MSNBC has it covered from every possible angle.  Voters will be deciding all 435 seats in the House of Representatives.  Democratic House candidates need 15 victories to gain control for the first time since Newt Gingrich swept to power in 1994, 12 years ago. 

In the Senate, meanwhile, 33 seats go before voters.  Democrats need only six to win control there. 

One of the Republican incumbents fighting to hold on to the Senate seat, George Allen of Virginia.  He and Democratic challenger Jim Webb have been looked in one of the country‘s tightest and most bitterly fought campaigns, complete with charges of racism and woman-hating, and that‘s just the beginning. 

The latest MSNBC-McClatchy poll shows Webb leading Allen by a single percentage point.  With the margin of error, that means the race is completely up for grabs, at least on paper. 

With the very latest on the final hours of that campaign, we turn now to MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who joins us live from Richmond, Virginia. 

David, what‘s the latest?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Tucker, the election hasn‘t even started and the lawyers are already involved.  The Webb campaign says that they are considering filing a complaint with the Department of Justice for what the Webb campaign is calling widespread and deliberate voter suppression efforts by the Republicans. 

The Webb campaign, as well as state officials here in Virginia, have documented widespread calls in which people call voters claiming to be a Webb volunteer and saying that their polling location has changed.  Enough of the people who are on the receiving end of these calls, including one who was a poll worker, noticed that these calls were coming in from out of state, so the Webb campaign says that they‘re concerned that this is an effort to try and confuse people about the election. 

In addition, there are a series of flyers that have now been circulated in various counties around the state urging voters to skip the election.  And other voters, according to the Webb campaign, have been receiving calls saying that if they were ever registered in another state, if they show up tomorrow in Virginia to vote, they will be arrested.  As a result all of this, the Webb campaign says that they are preparing a possible complaint to the Department of Justice. 

The Allen campaign is denying that they are involved in any of this, although one of the flyers said it was from the Republican National Committee. 

I any case, Tucker, you can appreciate that every vote obviously is going to matter in the state of Virginia, where the polls show the race neck and neck.  The Webb campaign had been very confident that with George Allen below 50 percent—they‘re fairly confident that—that the undecideds at the end are going to break the way of Jim Webb, especially given the anger here in the Commonwealth of Virginia over the Iraq war.

That is the number one issue that has been dominating the race.  Jim Webb has been saying that “If you want a change, if you want the troops out of Iraq, vote for me, Jim Webb.”

The Allen campaign has been saying, no, we have to defeat the terrorists in Iraq, we need to keep the troops there.  That is the defining issue.

But again, with tensions running so high now leading into Election Day, already the lawyers are involved, already the charges are mounting of voter suppression efforts and dirty tricks—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  The old “Be certain to vote in next Tuesday‘s election.” 

I‘ve seen it before.

What exactly does the flyer say, the one that says it‘s from the Republican National Committee? 

SHUSTER:  The flyer says to skip this election in large print, and in small print it has a reference to liberals—tax and spend liberals.  But if you look at the flyer from a distance, unless you go right up close to it, you think that it‘s a notice that the election has either been called off—the complaint from the Democrats has been that this flyer in African-American and some poorer districts is causing confusion and at least causing people to call their local officials and say, “What‘s going on with this election?  Has my polling location changed?  Has this election now been called off?”

CARLSON:  And just to be clear, David, is it from the RNC or not?

SHUSTER:  Yes, that flyer is from the Republican National Committee. 

It says “Paid for by the Republican National Committee” at the bottom.

CARLSON:  Interesting.

David Shuster in Richmond.

Thanks a lot, David.

Virginia is but one of many places Republicans find themselves on the ropes.  Just how close are the Democrats to seizing control of both houses of Congress?  Are they really doing as well as they‘re perceived to be doing?

We welcome now Chuck Todd.  He‘s a contributing editor at “National Journal Online,” the editor in chief of “Hotline,” and a very wise man in all things political.

Chuck, there has never been insofar as I know in American history a case where one party took the House but failed to take the Senate. 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  It never happened. 

CARLSON:  At least—it‘s never happened.

TODD:  It‘s never happened...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And yet, it looks like it‘s—it could happen now.  Or is that an illusion? 

TODD:  I‘m wondering if we‘re going to look back on here and say, well, of course the Democrats won both the House and the Senate.

CARLSON:  Yes.

TODD:  That‘s the way it always works.  And in some ways, I think the way Republicans have played—or whether they‘ve played the expectation game or not, I mean, if they hold the Senate, I think it‘s a moral victory for them. 

CARLSON:  If they hold the Senate...

TODD:  I think it‘s a victory for them tomorrow night.

CARLSON:  If they keep their—I was talking to someone I know who‘s in Democratic—high up in Democratic politics who said that he believed personally that if the Democrats took fewer than 25 seats in the House this would be, from his point of view, a failure.  I mean, they really...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  I would judge them on 30.

CARLSON:  Really?

TODD:  But, you know, 25, whatever.

CARLSON:  So you think—they should pick up six Senate seats. 

Forget the individual races.

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  We could go and play this game, oh, jeez, Jim Talent, you know, a guy who just doesn‘t get in trouble and doesn‘t...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  You know, we can sit here and play these games.  The macro environment says this should be a blowout.  I mean, it really shouldn‘t be that close. 

So that‘s what—I feel like we have conflicting things here.  Individually, you go into these states and you‘re like, boy, the Democrats have to run the table.  Yet, that‘s how this stuff happens...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  ... is one part...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  It breaks at the end.  I think that‘s exactly right.  Except...

TODD:  Except when it doesn‘t.

CARLSON:  ... except when it doesn‘t.  Right.

One state that‘s not going to break for Republicans looks like Pennsylvania. 

What‘s going on there?

TODD:  I think this is one—Rick Santorum dug himself a huge hole really early.  Remember the book tour?  The book tour when he went out and basically, you know, reminded everybody of his conservative views?

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  Reminded everybody in Pennsylvania that he was not in line with their views, that he was really not a Pennsylvania conservative?

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  You know, he was a southwestern conservative—or western—whatever.  He just didn‘t belong. 

CARLSON:  And also an intellectual.  Also, a bit of an egghead. 

TODD:  No question.  I don‘t think that was the issue.  It was more of the—his brand of conservatism was not the brand that they like in Pennsylvania. 

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  And then I think he tried to—I‘ll be honest.  I think the last three weeks he‘s really been on his game. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

TODD:  Where was that guy six months ago? 

CARLSON:  Yes.  And so it‘s just—it‘s absolutely impossible.

TODD:  Right.  And Bob Casey, he‘s vanilla ice cream.  He doesn‘t offend anyone. 

CARLSON:  Yes, that‘s right.

What about New Jersey?

TODD:  I think any other cycle I think Republicans would have a shot here.  But Democrats seem to be coming home.

Democrats will tell you the—of all their incumbents, nobody‘s got softer support than Bob Menendez.  You know, it‘s sort of a—Charlie Cook likes to say Democrats are going to hold their nose one more time...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  ... and pull the lever for the Democrat.  But, you know, some day their arm is going to get tired. 

And Tom Kean, you know, I wonder, does he look too young?  And I don‘t know, has he just not—does he look—you know, you and I shouldn‘t be criticizing people how they look. 

CARLSON:  He does to me.  He‘s a year older than I am and he looks too young to me. 

TODD:  Does he look too young to be a U.S. senator, and has that been a problem?  I don‘t know. 

CARLSON:  Montana, Conrad Burns, three-term senator there.  It looks like he might lose to Jon Tester, the Democrat, who‘s running a pretty conservative campaign. 

Montana, you think of it as a very conservative state.  They haven‘t had a lot of Republicans in the Senate, though.  It is—it has deep labor roots, that state. 

TODD:  Right.  It‘s a populist state. 

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.

TODD:  It really—you know, this is—and I can‘t—you‘re going to have Pat Buchanan on, who really is a tried and true conservative populist.

CARLSON:  Yes.

TODD:  But this election could tell us if the Republican Party has completely lost its libertarian and populist roots of the West.  The Goldwater, Reagan conservative who first came to the party, they‘re secularists, they‘re not big with the religion.  You know, they really are not the social conservative stuff that is huge in the South.  We might see clues of it in a Montana, in an Idaho...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  ... in a Colorado, in a Wyoming, where you have some races that are in play, and it‘s because the libertarian wing of the Republican coalition is starting to break away. 

CARLSON:  If there is a Democratic—the Democratic tidal wave that you were alluding to a minute ago, where it all breaks at the end and it becomes a 1994 -- that suggests that Harold Ford is going to win. 

Is he within striking distance?

TODD:  But I don‘t think it‘s—here‘s why.  That race is not part of the national conversation. 

CARLSON:  Because it‘s southern?

TODD:  That—no, that race is about Harold Ford.  It‘s because it‘s been about an individual.  Tennessee is not a state that‘s a competitive state. 

Look at every other state we‘re talking about, and there‘s some reasons why they‘re potentially competitive.  Tennessee is a state that‘s been very—trending very hard core to the Republicans.

CARLSON:  Yes.

TODD:  And it‘s about Harold Ford.  This is about an individual.  It‘s not about Iraq, it‘s not about stem cell research, not about terrorism or immigration.  It‘s about Harold Ford or Harold Ford Jr., whichever one you prefer to think of him as.  And I think if you think of him as Jr., actually, you might actually vote for him.  If you just think of him as Harold Ford, probably not. 

CARLSON:  Barack Obama said the other day—Barack Obama came to Tennessee I think more than once to campaign for Harold Ford, and he said in a black church, I believe yesterday, he said, “I‘m lonely as the only black member of the United States Senate.  Elect Harold Ford.”

I wonder if appeals like that, explicitly racial appeals, is that counterproductive in a state like Tennessee?

TODD:  I thought—look, I think that the minute this race—I always thought the Democrats potentially overreacted to the RNC ad.  Be upset about the RNC ad.

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  Be—you know, clearly a lot of people saw race in that ad...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  ... particularly southerners did.  But by bringing race as your closing issue...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  ... it was—never should have been Harold‘s closer.  Harold‘s closer was going to be about new generation...

CARLSON:  Totally right.  Totally right.  He should have been the man beyond race. 

TODD:  And you just wonder...

CARLSON:  And in fact he was.

TODD:  He was.

CARLSON:  If you talk to him about it...

TODD:  Up until October—it felt like up until like October 12, he was that.

CARLSON:  I know.

TODD:  And he had played that—played that campaign as well as anybody. 

CARLSON:  I thought he ran a brilliant campaign.  And, in fact, if you talk to him directly about that ad... 

TODD:  Let‘s not talk about him in past tense just yet. 

CARLSON:  I like him.  I‘m not in any way denigrating him.  I just—but he, I thought, had the right line.  He was saying, it‘s not about the race issue.

TODD:  Right.

CARLSON:  He didn‘t bring up the race issue, but his surrogates did. 

TODD:  Right.  No—I mean, and you look at Deval Patrick, he‘s gotten past it in Massachusetts.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  Exactly right.

TODD:  And Harold got stuck in it.

CARLSON:  Deval Patrick is a lot more liberal than Harold Ford ever thought to be.

TODD:  A ton more.  And yet, in Massachusetts, a lot more racially intolerant...

CARLSON:  Right.

TODD:  ... than some southern states.  And they‘ve bought into it.

CARLSON:  Very wise.  Thank you.  Chuck Todd, I appreciate it.  I hope you will come back often.

TODD:  Keep complimenting me like that, I will.

CARLSON:  Thank you.

Well, you just heard us discuss it.  The numbers don‘t look that good for Rick Santorum, to put it mildly.  Does he regret playing up his ties to President Bush?  Is it too late for a comeback? 

A live report from Pennsylvania in just a moment.

Plus, shocking new numbers about the damage John Kerry may have done to his own party.  Could a botched joke sway the balance of power in this country?

We‘ll discuss that when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I‘m Rick Santorum, and I approved this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  North Korea close to a nuclear missile to reach America, yet Casey opposes deploying a missile defense system now. 

Iran also close, yet case Casey opposes creating the bunker-busting bombs that may be needed to stop them.

China drilling oil just 50 miles off our coast, yet Casey opposes us doing the same, putting our energy at risk. 

Terrorists trying to enter our country, yet Casey comes out for amnesty for illegals.

We just can‘t take a chance on Bob Casey. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  It turns out showing Bob Casey‘s face next to a mushroom cloud and pointing out his affection for terrorists doesn‘t appear to be working for Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania.  The latest MSNBC-McClatchy News poll shows Santorum trailing by about 13 percentage points, pretty much where it‘s been for a long time.

For more on this race, we go now live to Pittsburgh, where NBC‘s Alison Kartevold is stationed.

Alison, what‘s the latest? 

ALISON KARTEVOLD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, as you can tell, Rick Santorum is not backing off the issues of national security.  The ad that you just showed is—displays that. 

He is continuing a bus tour.  He‘s been on this bus tour for five days.  He‘s crisscrossed the state to 22 counties with his family, and he will end up back here in Pittsburgh this evening. 

In response to ads like the one that you showed and to the stumping that he has done on the campaign trail, Bob Casey has called Santorum‘s allegations lies, and he says that his campaign is based on fear and smear.  At this point he said it‘s much more important to concentrate on getting out the vote.

And that‘s what he did today here in Pittsburgh.  He appeared with Ed Rendell at a rally where they were saying that they want to get out the vote as much as they can. 

And right here in Allegheny County they are expecting a turnout, Tucker, of 52 percent, which is quite large.  That‘s something they expect in that—this particular event, where back in the primary they only had 22 percent turnout.  And they say that‘s quite important.

On another note, the Casey campaign, in showing that they are rather comfortable with those polls and how steady they have been, on his Web site, Tucker, he has said that he is not asking for donations for his own campaign at this point.  Rather, he is asking people to make last-minute donations to five congressional races where the Democrats feel that they have a chance of upsetting Republican incumbents in this state.

CARLSON:  Alison Kartevold for us in Pennsylvania.

Thanks a lot, Alison.

Well, for more on the Santorum-Casey battle, we welcome now NBC military political analyst and former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan.  And from Washington, D.C., Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

Welcome to you both.

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  How are you doing, Tucker?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Thanks.

CARLSON:  Pat, how painful is this for Republicans?  Here‘s one of the

in my view, one of the very few conservative men of principle left in the Senate, Republicans, and he is getting beaten because of his ideas. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, he is.  There‘s no question about it.  You saw that ad, though.  I‘m surprised at that ad.

You know, people want a missile defense and want nuclear bunker-busting bombs are already for Rick Santorum, I think.  I don‘t know why he‘d be arguing that right now. 

CARLSON:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  I think Pennsylvania is going to be a killing field of the

GOP.

CARLSON:  Peter Fenn, is it—is it a little bittersweet to have this impending Senate seat picked up by a Democrat who‘s opposed to abortion? 

FENN:  I don‘t think we are too worried about that, Tucker, right now. 

We‘re trying to get control of the Senate.

Also, as the report indicated, there are five House seats in Pennsylvania that could go Democratic.  We‘re working in one of them, Jason Altmire against Melissa Hart, a very close race.  You‘ve got a governor who‘s going to get reelected.

But, you know, this ad, my guess is that, you know, when in doubt, try the mushroom cloud.  I don‘t think it‘s going to work for him.  And, you know, he‘s been in a hole for the last year and a half.  And I don‘t think he‘s going to be able to crawl out of it. 

CARLSON:  No, it doesn‘t look that way.

Pat, if you were doing ads for him, what—you make a really, I think, smart point.  Who is this ad designed to win over?  People he should already have.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

CARLSON:  What kind of ads should he be running?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think he should be running ads that appeal to Independents, frankly, and moderates in Pennsylvania, rather than to the hard-core, you know, national security vote, because he‘s already got that.  I don‘t know exactly—I‘ll tell you what.  Of course, I‘m on a different scheme than he is, but Democrats who are winning and beating a lot of Republicans are hammering this trade issue, trade and jobs and how they are being sent abroad. 

That‘s a—to me, that is a populist conservative issue.  But the president is against us on that.  So, I mean, it‘s helping the gal up in Alaska who‘s a Republican.

But this—this seat in Iowa I just read about in “The Wall Street Journal,” it‘s going down the tubes because our guy—the Republican guy is a free trader and this fellow Brailey (ph) is hard as nails on the trade issue.

CARLSON:  Is there—Peter, is there—is there a race Democrats will be happier to win than this one?  I mean, Santorum really is one of the most despised figures on the left.

FENN:  Well, I think in a lot of cases, you know, he is extreme right.  And also, you know, he ran for office by accusing his opponent of—in Congress of not living there, and now it turns out that that thing has been turned right back on him.  And he takes these tax deductions in Pennsylvania when he schools his kid in Virginia. 

And, you know, there‘s a lot of hypocrisy with that.  And I think a lot of folks said, you know, enough is enough.  This guy‘s luck just ran out. 

And, you know, this has been all along one of the top races in the country.  I mean, long before there was any talk of the Democrats talking over the Senate, the folks said, you know, if we can win one or two of these, Santorum would be the one that would be at the top of our list. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  OK.  Will you both—I hope you‘ll both stay right where you are. 

We‘ll be back in just a minute. 

Still to come, can Senate candidate Harold Ford make up what is now a double-digit deficit in his race against Republican Bob Corker?  We‘ve got a live report from Tennessee right after the break.

Plus, another Senate candidate, Maryland‘s Michael Steele, has backed away from any ties to the Republican Party.  Will it be enough to win his race against Ben Cardin in an overwhelmingly Democratic state?  We‘ll tell you about that in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Luxurious five-star hotels, $32,000; fancy designer Armani suit, $2,549; fine Davidoff cigars, $674; living it up on campaign cash, but pushing higher taxes for Tennessee families, priceless. 

Tell Harold Ford you can‘t afford higher taxes. 

The Free Enterprise Fund Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  $674 on cigars.  More details, please.

You‘re joining our continuing coverage of “Decision 2006”.  We‘re just hours away from Election Day. 

The ad you just saw could be resonating with Tennessee voters.  The latest Mason Dixon poll shows Democratic congressman Harold Ford Jr. is now lagging behind Republican candidate Bob Corker by 12 points, 38 to 50. 

Joining me now with the latest on that race, NBC‘s Ron Blome in Memphis, Tennessee.

Ron, what‘s the latest?

Can you hear me? 

Yes.

NBC‘s Ron Blome in Memphis.

Tom Kean Jr.—oh, now, again, NBC‘s Ron Blome in Memphis. 

RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you.  A little IFB difficulty there.

Well, you know, it is an interesting race down here.  The airwaves are just full of these negative ads.  And Bob Corker has been outspending Mr. Ford in these last few days.

The poll numbers are confusing, because Mason Dixon has Corker way ahead.  There‘s another poll out in “USA Today” that has Harold Ford Jr.  within three points.  All of those, you have to remember, are just snapshots.

Here‘s what we‘re seeing right now across the state, though.

Both candidates are barnstorming from east Tennessee, back to west Tennessee, entering into some of this bad weather.  At the call centers here in the Memphis area, we‘re seeing the get-out-the-vote effort.  In the Corker center there is one room of people who are working the phones. 

The Harold Ford Jr. center, as you might expect here in Memphis, much bigger.  About four times that size here, and they are engaged not only in get-out-the-vote phone calls, but also in sending teams out to canvass through the area.

This race coming down to the wire.  No matter how you count it it‘s going to be close, because here‘s one important factor.  The early votes cast right now amount to 23 percent of the registered voters in this state.  Now, that‘s all of the registered voters.  If you look at the predicted turnout here, which might be about 60 percent, that means that close to 40 percent of the ballots have already been cast in this race, Tucker, and those are ballots that were cast before these latest poll numbers came in, which may push some people toward one candidate or the other. 

CARLSON:  That is—that is actually a remarkable statistic, and it will be interesting to know maybe another time why that is. 

What about the weather, Ron?  Is that—do you think that could actually be a factor in this race?  And how bad is it going to be? 

BLOME:  We‘ve often seen that as a factor in suppressing voter turnout, but here‘s what happened.  The worst of the weather in west Tennessee, Harold Ford territory, came through today.  The rain has finally stopped. 

It‘s moving into central Tennessee and over into east Tennessee overnight and tomorrow.  They‘re saying 100 percent chance of rain in east Tennessee.  That‘s Bob Corker territory.

If that suppresses some of his vote out there, then it could draw this margin even closer together and we may not see the pull-away race that the Republicans are now predicting.  I think it‘s going to be tight.

CARLSON:  NBC‘s Ron Blome in Memphis.

Thanks a lot, Ron. 

Well, Tom Kean Jr. accuses incumbent Bob Menendez of having ties to the Mafia.  He apparently didn‘t realize that can be a compliment in some parts of New Jersey.

We‘ll discuss that red-hot race for the Senate when we come right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, accusations of ties to the mafia in New Jersey, gay porn on a website that just so happens to include the name of a Republican candidate in Missouri.  How can you not love politics?  We‘ll discuss both of those stories in just a minute, but right now, here‘s a look at your headlines.  

(NEWSBREAK)

CARLSON:  Well between the accusations and the political ads, some of which are pretty mean, the Senate race in the garden state is getting zestier by the day.  The latest MSNBC/McClatchy poll shows the incumbent, an early favorite Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, still ahead of Republican challenger Tom Kean, Jr., but not by much.  Menendez leads 48 percent to 41 percent, joining me now to break down the New Jersey Senate race, Steve Adubato, columnist with “The New Jersey Star Ledger,” and former New Jersey state legislator.   

STEVE ADUBATO, FMR. NJ STATE LEGISLATOR:  That‘s close enough, you got it.  

CARLSON:  Come on.

ADUBATO:  Come on, it‘s Italian, we‘re doing mafia spots in New Jersey. Listen, I understand why you asked me to come -- 

CARLSON:  Is everybody in the state or at least connected to Bob Menendez in the mafia? That‘s really the sense you get from these ads, it‘s unbelievable.

ADUBATO:  What I‘m doing John Stewart here?

CARLSON:  No, no, I‘m actually kind of serious.  I‘ve seen all these -

we‘ve played every single ad that Tom Kean has run, I‘m not attacking Tom Kean, but you really get the sense from looking at these ads that Menendez is actually a member of organized crime.  

ADUBATO:  Well here‘s the deal, come on Tucker, put some perspective on this.  This is one of those 527‘s the independent group. The same group that went after, you know John Kerry on the swift vote stuff.  That‘s the group that has gone after, you know Bob Menendez.  What they‘re saying is, you have the guy in the hallways, the bad Soprano guy who never actually made it onto the cast, he‘s sitting there saying, hey, our guy—of course I know you have the spot.

CARLSON:  Of course we do.

ADUBATO:  Hey listen, our friend Bob Menendez is in trouble, what are we going to do if this guy Kean gets elected, he might actually cut taxes.  Now here‘s the problem, you have millions of New Jerseyans, Italian Americans, and others who either want to be Italian American or are sympathetic, let me just say that Tucker.  Who are saying to the (INAUDIBLE), you have to be kidding me.  How could you put this ad on the air?  And Tom Kean, Jr., when I asked him about this said, listen, I told them I thought it was terrible.  He should have demanded that this group take that spot off the air, because I‘ll tell you what he‘s lost.  Menendez is in trouble with Italian Americans, why, because of a terrible vote that many people feel that he cast on Sam Alito.  A terrific guy, a jurist, right, totally qualified.  He disagreed with him on abortion, didn‘t vote for him in the Senate confirmation on the Supreme Court.  He lost ground with Italian Americans, Kean gave it all back right here.  Why, because he should have come out and said take this ad off the air.  Let me tell you—

CARLSON:  Do you think it‘s a slur against Italian Americans?

ADUBATO:  Of course it is.  Listen, when you do a spot like this, when I first saw this Tucker, I thought, wait a minute. 

CARLSON:  I love the Sopranos and I love Italian Americans. 

ADUBATO:  So do I, but I know the difference between a television program that‘s supposed to be entertaining and a race for the U.S. Senate that may in fact decide the balance of power in Washington and what happens in Iraq.  It‘s too serious to play games like this.  You can‘t let ads like this go on and frankly, they have every right to put it on, but Tom Kean, Jr. made a mistake by not saying take this off the air now.  

CARLSON:  Wait a second, and I lived in New Jersey.  For one, I love the state and I‘m not attacking the state.  But New Jersey has a terrible problem with corruption, everybody knows it, and nobody does anything about it.  Is it that the people in New Jersey actually don‘t care that there‘s corruption, because if they do care, why do they keep reelecting people with ties to organized crime?  Which, they do.

ADUBATO:  It‘s too simplistic.  Number one, we do have a problem with organized crime, we do have a problem with corruption, so does Ohio and so do a lot of other states.  We have U.S. Attorney Chris Christi, Republican, cornered by George Bush going after a lot of whit collar crime.  Let me say this, our problem in New Jersey with corruption is real.  It‘s not a question of who is connected to the mob, it‘s a question of pay to play in the state House.  It‘s a question of influence over contracts.  This is a complicated problem and you don‘t get at it by a disgusting ad like this that ties Menendez to organized crime.  Let me tell you, Menendez actually does have some problems, he is under federal criminal investigation, having nothing to do this and something to do with a land deal.  And let me tell you something, I believe that Menendez made a mistake by not saying yes, I am under criminal investigation --  

CARLSON:  Let me just back up for—very quickly, is he, I mean the Justice Department hasn‘t said that he is, do we know that he is? 

ADUBATO:  Here‘s what we know, that the U.S. attorney‘s office has subpoenaed the records for a location, a housing project, a location that he was the landlord of, were it not for profit, right.  They paid him.  If not illegal, who knows that, but I do know this.  The U.S. attorney has subpoenaed the records of what he got and when.  All I‘m saying is, you‘re splitting hairs as to whether he‘s under criminal federal investigation or whether the deal is.  Either way, it doesn‘t look good and frankly, last thing from my point of view, New Jersey never should been in play Tucker.  This is a blue state, should have been democratic—

CARLSON:  That‘s a good point.

ADUBATO:  And a stronger democratic candidate would‘ve blown Tom Kean away, who has a great name, not his, but his father.  Tom Kean, Sr., a great name.  

CARLSON:  No I think that‘s totally right, and you can thank if you‘re a democrat in New Jersey, you can thank your new Governor John Corzine who put this guy in the Senate seat, when there are a lot of presumably people who aren‘t under federal criminal investigation who he could have given it to. 

ADUBATO:  And if Menendez wins this race, it is very big for Corzine, if he does not win this race, the governor gets hurt.  

CARLSON:  Steve Adubato, thanks.

ADUBATO:  Good to be with you.

CARLSON:  I appreciate it.  Well it‘s not just getting dirty in New Jersey, Missouri is hopping on the bandwagon with the latest nasty turn comes in the battle for Senate.  Where if you head to a website with Jim Talent‘s name in it, you‘ll be greeted by a picture of a man having sex with another man.  We checked with the senator‘s campaign, was told this is not a case of someone hacking into their website.  They never owned that domain name in the first place.  Silly, silly, silly.  Who knows how or if this will even affect voters.  The most recent MSNBC McClatchy poll shows Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill leading Republican Jim Talent by a single point.  

Joining us for the latest on this race, is NBC‘s Michelle Hofland, she‘s in St. Louis.  Michelle, what‘s going on?

MICHELLE HOFLAND, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘ll tell you one word—

yikes.  If you‘ve taken a look at that website, we spoke with the people at

Jim Talent‘s office, they‘re actually forwarding all their phone calls to

their PR person.  We tried to get a hold of him just a minute ago, but he

is on the plane and we‘re not able to reach him.  Specifically we talked to

the people at Claire McCaskill‘s office and they say that they are

offended, they are horrified by this website.  They hope that we don‘t give

out the address or children don‘t take a look at that website.  And they

hope that whoever did this is caught, and is prosecuted to the fullest

extent. And Tucker I tried calling the number of the company that is

registered to the domain name, they‘re up Canada.  I called them up, the

phone rang for a long period of time and then there were some clicks and

then I was disconnected.  So, right now, the question is what can be done

about this website?  And both sides are saying that they‘re just horrified

by it and they want the website to come back down. 

In the meantime, as you can imagine, both candidates are sprinting to the finish line with the election just less than 24 hours away, Claire McCaskill is sticking to the big cities.  The democratic strong holds here in Missouri, both St. Louis, now she‘s in Kansas City, Missouri.  And then on the other side Republican Jim Talent, Senator Talent, he is in, started in the center part of the state and then he was going to the outskirts of Kansas City, to the rural areas.  And then he‘s going to the southern part of the state down near Springfield, Missouri where he is going to be pushing out the get out the vote.  The people in McCaskill‘s office say that she is energized, relaxed and looking forward to tomorrow‘s election and Jim Talent‘s office says that he is also energized, that he is looking forward to the big election tomorrow.  And both sides Tucker say that they are accustomed to close races like this.  Jim Talent, this is the third close statewide race for him in six years.  And they say that both sides are poised to have a strong get out the vote tomorrow.  And one more thing Tucker, ok, so, I‘m here downtown St. Louis.  There‘s a famous street just a couple of blocks away from here, Tucker Boulevard.  Thought you needed to know that.   

CARLSON:  I drive slowly down it each time I‘m in St. Louis. Michelle thanks a lot.  Well for more insight on what may happen tomorrow, we welcome back MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, Democratic Strategist Peter Fenn. Welcome to you both.  Peter, the other day Harold Ford in Tennessee said, I‘m quoting now, “I love Jesus.”  And then we had Democratic Senate candidate in Maryland, Ben Cardin who is Jewish, in a black Protestant church the other day and he said this.  I want to thank the lord, quote, “for waking me up.”  When did everyone in the Democratic side get to be such an unapologetic bible thumper?  And is it a good thing? 

FENN:  Well I guess it is a good thing Tucker that finally Democrats are talking about their faith. A number of them have started their campaigns with the discussion of how they grew up, how they were raised. 

I love the line from Ford actually, it said, you know, I learned my religion the old fashioned way.  I was forced to go to church.  

CARLSON:  That was a great line, I love that line too, but I agree with you and it‘s a good point actually.  But what about I love Jesus?  Do you like that?  Think more Democrats ought to say that, I love Jesus?

FENN:  Well you know I—there‘s a context to all this.  I‘m not an evangelical preacher myself.  But, you know, I mean, there is—I wish more people behaved like Jesus especially during these campaigns Tucker. 

CARLSON:  What about that, Pat?  I mean after years, you know of course the right is always being criticized for being a bunch of Jesus wheezers and all of a sudden you have an I love Jesus candidate on the other side.

BUCHANAN:  I doubt seriously that Ben Cardin grew up in a Baptist church. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think so?  The church of the living God is the name of the church he was in.

BUCHANAN:  It‘s Prince George‘s County which is a very, very black community and Steele is doing very well there.  The preachers out there have endorsed him.  And so Cardin went in and said he‘s going to one up the guy.

CARLSON:  He‘s going to thank the Lord.  Is Steele going to win? 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s awful hard to see how he wins.  He‘s run a fine campaign as we‘ve all said, but he‘s behind by a number of points.  And as we talked about, there‘s probably been some absentee voting already when Cardin was much further ahead.  That will really be the upset of the night.  And Steele will be a national candidate overnight if he wins.  I just don‘t think he‘s going to be able to make it, Tucker.  

CARLSON:  Peter Fenn, there was a fascinating poll, part of the Pew poll that came out recently.  Showed that 18 percent of independents say that John Kerry‘s line the other day about our troops being poorly educated.  Did that raise serious doubts about whether they would vote for Democrats?  In other words, that quote “botched joke,” the line he explained away as a botched joke, Peter, may affect this election. Are you surprised?

FENN:  Well I‘ll tell you, I don‘t think it will Tucker.  Of course you had 78 percent of people who said it was going to affect it.   

CARLSON:  Yeah, but this is going to be a very tight series of races. 

FENN:  Well the question is, who those 18 percent are.  You had 24 percent of the people who said that they were less inclined to vote for the Republicans because George Bush said he was going to keep on Donald Rumsfeld.  So, you know it‘s a tricky thing.  Right now, I think that any discussion about Iraq and our policy or lack of it in this country towards Iraq benefits the Democrats.  And I think that a lot of folks said oh, you know Kerry blew it, he made a mistake and there may have been some folks that switched on that.  But I don‘t see any tidal wave of change across the country because of it.  

BUCHANAN:  I think Kerry blew it and I think he made a mistake Peter.  I think this is one of the reasons why you had a bit of closure toward the Republicans toward the end of the week.  Tucker those were the three days and the most crucial week of the year and they were all dominated by Kerry and this thing and I think it probably really hurt him.  And a lot of folks probably who were sort of against Iraq are saying, look, the Democrats are the same old crowd they were in the McGovern years.  They‘re not just anti-war, they‘re anti-military.  So I think it hurt the Democrats, but I don‘t know if it can overcome what something I think which we‘re seeing as maybe a tsunami. 

CARLSON:  Yeah, I tend to—Peter, very, very quickly, we‘re out of time, I‘m just interested.  If the Democrats don‘t take the Senate and take the House, let‘s say they gain 20 seats, but they don‘t take back the Senate.  Is Howard Dean going to get canned? 

FENN:  No, I don‘t think so.

CARLSON:  Oh, come on.

FENN:  No, no, no.  I mean, look, he‘s going to be here through the 2008 elections I think.  One of the things, if you start looking at some of these Rocky Mountain States, look what‘s happening in Idaho, look what‘s happening in Wyoming, look what‘s happening in Montana.  You know some of the effort that he‘s put into these states has worked out.  Now, you know, I mean he‘s made some mistakes too, everybody makes mistakes when they‘re in that job.  But, you know, I think—and he‘s kept his mouth shut on a lot of things too that some of us should probably do more. 

CARLSON:  Well, no, actually, he‘s good.  I like him when he‘s silent.

BUCHANAN:  Always helpful.

CARLSON : Yes.  Thank you, both very much.  Pat Buchanan and Peter Fenn.

Still to come, it may be the toughest race in the country to call.  Less than 18 hours from where voting begins, who will win the contentious showdown between George Allen and Jim Webb in the state of Virginia?  More analysis on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  We‘ve sifted through the most outrageous ads of this election season and chosen our three top favorites.  Yes, the spot that reveals one candidate‘s support for Vietnamese prostitutes, it‘s on the list.  We‘ll count them down for you when we come back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Our continuing coverage does what continuing coverage does.  It continues.   One of the most closely watched races, the Senate race in Virginia where Republican Senator George Allen and Democratic hopeful Jim Webb are virtually tied in the polls.  Webb at this point is leading, depending which one you look at, by about a point.  Joining me now is George Allen‘s campaign advisor, Frank Donatelli.  Frank, welcome.  Here‘s a quote.  Tell me if you can determine who this comes from?  Affirmative action is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.  I can‘t imagine more conservative, the even right wing sentiment that comes from Jim Webb.  What do you make of that? 

FRANK DONATELLI, GEORGE ALLEN CAMPAIGN ADVISOR:  Well, there‘s a lot of Jim Webbs Tucker.  By the way, I like your tie, you ought to wear that long tie more often. 

CARLSON:  I think I‘m gonna, thanks.   

DONATELLI:  It looks really good.  I think the difficulty in trying to get a handle on a Jim Webb senatorial bid is that the guy has changed his mind so many times going back to his days in the Reagan administration and then he gets fired from that and he spends 10 years criticizing Reagan.  And then he called Bill Clinton the most corrupt president ever and now he‘s campaigning with him today.  He endorsed Allen, he didn‘t endorse Allen.  So, I would just suggest to you that this is not someone with very strong principles, that he sort of bends and depends on who he wants to associate himself with based on what‘s opportunistic for him.  

CARLSON:  Can you see though, here you have a Republican Party that has begun this utopian, this Wolfsonian war in Iraq that‘s expanded domestic spending faster than Democrats have and it was until very recently pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens.  Can you see why conservatives might sort of stop for a second and say, I don‘t know, maybe Jim Webb is the more conservative candidate here?

DONATELLI:  Well I could see why Republicans would want to take a deep breath and say where is our party going?  I think that‘s a legitimate question to ask and I can tell you that whether Republicans do well or not so well after this election, that question is going to be asked.  What I don‘t understand is why conservatives would take that out on George Allen.  This is someone that‘s been a stalwart conservative during a very successful as governor.  He has a strong record, six years in the Senate, he has voted libertarian conservative down the line.  So I think the first question is legitimate, I don‘t think the second question is.

CARLSON:  What about the claims that have risen in the past couple of hours, the web campaign charging that Republicans are behind voter suppression efforts, trying to keep people from voting.  What do you know about that?

DONATELLI:  I don‘t know anything specific about that, but that‘s part of the standard leading up to election complaints.  Any time anyone challenges anyone‘s voter‘s credentials any where, look we are for everyone voting.  Everyone should have the right to vote, people have died for that right.  On the other hand, there is substantial evidence based on the acorn suit that I think you talked about earlier, there are a few individuals that want to gain the system. And so voter fraud is a problem and we have to watch out for that. 

CARLSON:  It‘s a huge problem and it goes unreported.  But what about the specific, there apparently are fliers out there that have at the bottom, paid for by the Republican National Committee.  Is it possible that those were in fact put out by the RNC or that they are—it‘s kind of a ricochet, a political rim shot where they are offensive and posing as RNC fliers.  Do you know anything about it? 

DONATELLI:  No I don‘t, I‘m sorry.  It‘s more likely that that‘s not the case.  You do have these things in a desire to stir up turnout in certain areas that sometimes people will put these things out.  But I‘m very confident, I know the Allen campaign, I‘m very confident that the RNC would not do anything that smacks of voter suppression. 

CARLSON:  Frank Donatelli, in 20 seconds, what are the final numbers in this race going to be?

DONATELLI:  Very, very close.  I expect Senator Allen to win by a couple of percent, primarily because he has a strong record and his opponent is very unknown.  

CARLSON:  Frank I appreciate it very much.  Frank Donatelli.

DONATELLI:  Ok, thanks.

CARLSON:  Coming up, the votes are in and we have our list of the three most entertaining ads of this season.  It was hard to find one.  Did one that accuses a candidate of supporting Asian hookers make the cut?  I suspect it does.  We‘ll show it to you when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Over the last couple of weeks, we have been showing you some of the endless supply of entertaining political ads that have come out this season.  Today, we narrow the list to our three favorites.  Willie Geist is here to unveil them.  

WILLIE GEIST:  Thanks Tucker.  I like your necktie, too although there‘s a certain level of inconsistency with your neck wear that we should probably address later.

CARLSON:  Yes, I know.  It‘s a midlife crisis as I explained earlier. 

GEIST:  That‘s ok. We‘ll get through it together.  But before we get to the list Tucker, we want to give honorable mention to Vernon Robinson, you know him.  He‘s the Republican challenger in North Carolina‘s 13th district.  The thrust of his ad campaign was that if you vote for the incumbent Brad Miller, gay illegal aliens will stream across the border and start marrying each other with impunity.  So we offer a special tip of the cap to you Mr. Robinson, good luck tomorrow.  Now onto the top three, independent candidate Christy Mihos probably isn‘t going to be elected governor of Massachusetts tomorrow, but hopefully his inclusion on our list will offer some consolation.  He takes the number three spot with this cartoon. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Engineer, why is the big dig $12 billion over budget?

Well, you see -- 

Hey, how did the big dig get $12 billion over budget?

Simply put --  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Put an end to politics as usual in Massachusetts.  

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST: Tucker, to me, that is why we need candidates with no chance of winning because you can afford to, put a show on with guys with their heads in their rears.  I love it, so great, a good one.  Well for our number two ad, we looked to Ohio‘s first congressional district.  Now before you go and vote for Democratic challenger John Cranley, the National Republican Congressional   Committee thinks there‘s something you ought to know about him and the things he does to little girls.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ohio deserves ethical leaders with good judgment, but John Cranley‘s judgment ranges from bad to bizarre.  On at least four occasions Councilman Cranley took thousand dollar contributions from people within weeks of voting for business they had before the city council.  And Cranley voted to allow children as young as seven to be tased.  Seven year olds tased with 50,000 volts of electricity.  John Cranley‘s judgment, bad to bizarre.  The National Republican Congressional Committee paid for and is responsible for the content of this message.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Pretty simple, Ohio.  If you like electrocuting little girls, pull the lever for John Cranley.  It‘s a decision only you can make.  Are you for the electrocution of children or not?

That‘s really what you‘re voting on.

CARLSON:  Fifty thousand volts Willie. 

GEIST:  Yeah, not just any electrocution.  Also, I was looking around, I would like to know the circumstances under which those children were tased. 

CARLSON:  Well that is actually—because all negative ads have to be rooted in truth or the police will come.  So, what is the core truth? 

GEIST:  I don‘t know, I‘m going to dig around a little bit.  We‘ll have that for you at 6:00 p.m.

CARLSON:  Would you mind?

GEIST:  Trust me, we‘ll have that.  Finally Tucker, if you have been watching the show lately, our favorite ad of the season will come as no surprise, two words, Ron Kind.  Watch this ad, voters of Wisconsin‘s third district and decide for yourself if Ron is really your kind of congressman. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  With our servicemen and women facing death every day, what kind of congressman would try to gut military spending?  The wrong kind, Ron Kind. That‘s right, Congressman Ron Kind has repeatedly voted to deprive our troops of the funding they need to fight for us.  But Ron Kind has no trouble spending your money but he would just rather spend it on sex.  That‘s right, instead of spending money on cancer research Ron Kind voted to spend your money to study the sex lives of Vietnamese prostitutes.  Instead of spending money to study heart disease, Ron Kind spent your money to study the masturbation habits of old men.  Ron Kind spent your tax dollars to study something called the bi-sexual transgendered and two spirited illusion Eskimos, whoever they are.  Ron Kind even spent your tax dollars to pay teenage girls to watch pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia.  Ron Kind pays for sex, but not for soldiers.  If Ron Kind had better priorities, you wouldn‘t be having to hear this.  Ron Kind is out of touch and soon he will be out of congress. 

PAUL NELSON:  I‘m Paul R. Nelson and I approve of this message. 

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Even as I sit here today watching that, I cannot believe

that‘s true.  But it is true.  And it just keeps getting—you can‘t

believe, and then the thing with the bi-sexual illusions.  I mean it just -

it keeps getting better.  And every time you watch, it‘s like watching “Citizen Kane.” It‘s just a masterpiece, you know.  Just sit back and enjoy.  Words only spoil it.

CARLSON:  Giving pornography to little girls with electrodes attached to—it just gets --  

GEIST:  Ron Kind should stop doing that.  

CARLSON:  I agree.  Willie Geist, thank you Willie.  That‘s our show.  Thanks for watching, please join us again at 6:00 p.m. eastern for a live edition of this program.  MSNBC‘s nonstop coverage of “Decision 2006” continues right now with Chris Matthews and “Hardball.” 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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