updated 11/4/2009 11:31:38 AM ET 2009-11-04T16:31:38

Guests: Dave Weigel, Jesse Connolly, Cleve Jones, Jane Hamsher

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  That was fascinating about the World Series stuff.  I‘m very glad you did that.  Thank you.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Thank you.  You‘re welcome.

MADDOW:  It is election night, of course, in America—which even in an off-year election still feels like New Year‘s Eve, the Fourth of July and your own birthday all wrapped into one, if you have the great fortune to love politics.  And if you do, you are in the right place.

We begin tonight with the latest results in today‘s elections and with what may be my final opportunity to do this.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW:  Polls have just closed tonight in the state of New York, where a pair of local races have drawn national attention.  NBC News is not yet ready to call the race for mayor of New York City.  Incumbent New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is attempting to win a third term as the city‘s mayor.  Mr. Bloomberg has reportedly pumped over $100 million of his own money into his race this time against Democrat Bill Thompson.

The other major race happening tonight in New York state is happening in the 23rd congressional district, in the area near Fort Drum that‘s known the “Northern Country.”  It‘s a race that‘s received lots of national attention after a number of major figures on the conservative movement stepped in to support a third-party challenger who effectively ousted the locally chosen Republican candidate in that race.  We‘re going to have a live report on that race in just a moment.

But first, a few other results to get to.  Polls have now closed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and NBC News is ready to project that Republican Bob McDonnell will be the new governor of the state of Virginia.  Mr. McDonnell defeated Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds.  Bob McDonnell‘s win tonight continues a remarkable streak in Virginia.  The party controlling the White House, whichever party it is, has lost every other gubernatorial race in Virginia since 1977.

Polls have also closed in the state of New Jersey, the other state holding a big governor‘s race tonight.  NBC News is describing that race as too close to call at this hour.  Democratic Governor Jon Corzine is trying to hold off a pair of challengers, Republican Chris Christie, a former U.S.  attorney from that state, and an independent candidate, Chris Daggett.

In addition to seats up for grabs tonight, there are also a number of big statewide issues on ballots.  Perhaps the most intensely watch among them is a measure known as Question 1 in the state of Maine.  A year after voters in California struck down same-sex marriage rights, Maine voters will decide tonight if their state will become the first in the nation to endorse same-sex marriage through a popular referendum.

But the big race to watch at this hour is the congressional race in New York‘s 23rd district.  The race, despite the fact that the district has had Republican representation in Congress since roughly the time of the Civil War, this year, there is no Republican in the running.  Conservative activists from across the country who believed the locally chosen Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava was too liberal ran hard against her.  They threw their support instead to a conservative party candidate named Doug Hoffman, and Scozzafava dropped out.

Never wise to try to extrapolate too far from individual off-year elections to broad national politics, but more than any other single race, what has unfolded in the “North Country” of New York state has been a fascinating window into the internal struggle that will define what the post-Bush, post-McCain Republican Party really is.

Joining us now on the phone from New York‘s 23rd district is Dave Weigel.  He‘s a reporter for “The Washington Independent” who‘s been covering this race closely.

Mr. Weigel, thanks for taking some time to talk to us on this very busy night.

DAVE WEIGEL, WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT (via telephone):  Thank you for calling me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  You have been on the ground there, I know, all day today.  What is your best sense of where this race is heading tonight?

WEIGEL:  My sense from looking at the polls, the polling places and talking to people inside the Hoffman and Owens campaigns is a lot of optimism for Doug Hoffman.  And one factor that‘s not been talked about is that there are local elections in a lot of these—the places in this district.  And this is—most of these local authorities (ph) are Republicans.

So, people are coming out, voting for their local Republicans, and they are aware the Republicans dropped out awhile ago, and Doug Hoffman is the new kind of anointed by local party‘s candidate.  So, the big worry is that those people are not following the Republican candidate‘s lead and voting for Bill Owens, the Democrat.  Some worries that they‘re voting for Hoffman.

MADDOW:  Scozzafava—as you alluded to there—was the Republican candidate.  She dropped out of the race.  When she dropped out of the race, she did endorse the Democrat.  Has Ms. Scozzafava been a presence up there, today?  Has she been a big factor?  Has she been visible on the campaign trail leading up to the polling times today?

WEIGEL:  She hasn‘t.  She‘s been almost completely absent, except for a robocall that she recorded for Bill Owens campaign.

And the Hoffman campaign, including the candidate himself has taken to kind of dismissing her and saying they‘re going to win without her.  Hoffman—who I talked yesterday and today said he didn‘t real call her.  For all the work the Democrats did to get her onboard, the Republicans didn‘t.

And they‘re kind of using that—the shoe corning meant that their message that they are an anti-establishment campaign and the Democrats are more of the same stuff that you hate in Washington.

MADDOW:  This race, Dave, is obviously received a ton of national attention.  Does it seem like that intense focus has affected the turn out?  I know that it was a rainy day in New York 23 today.  Can you—can you—can you generalize, I guess, about just the overall—how much the overall level of interest translated into people getting into the polling booth?

WEIGEL:  It really didn‘t have an affect.  I mean, everybody I talked, every Hoffman activists (ph) that I talked basically, everyone who works for the conservative, they‘ve been to a tea party or with affiliate which is the 9-12 Project, Glenn Beck‘s project, and they were all politically aware.  I mean, aware of if they won this election, then there‘s a narrative tonight that Democrats—specifically Barack Obama—were getting what was coming to them.

And it did.  I mean, this is a district that Barack Obama won last year, you know, fairly narrowly, but a district—one of those districts who went blue.  But these are Republicans who weren‘t really that active.  They didn‘t have anything to vote for apart from Sarah Palin.

I should say to you—I see a few “Palin for President” stickers in the parking lot here.  They have all been fired up.  As the president likes to say for candidates who are not doing right, very well right now, they‘ve all been fired out.  They‘ve all come out.  And to the very turnout, I haven‘t seen quite the same thing on the Democratic side.

MADDOW:  Dave, I know you spoke briefly with Doug Hoffman earlier today, I saw your reporting about it at the “Washington Independent.”  And at the time, your reporting was that he was accusing Democrats of stealing the election.  I saw also some other reports today that there had been police called to a few different polling places in the district.

WEIGEL:  Well, the charge went out earlier today.  A Hoffman worker‘s tires were slashed by one of these Democrats.  But the word passed through (INAUDIBLE) Hoffman was ACORN.  Actually, he (INAUDIBLE) a lot but not for this.  For the record, they‘re not actually in a district, according to ACORN.

So, Hoffman, the candidate, which is sort of unusual, was telling reporters that they put a police report in.  It might have been that the Democrats who did this.  It turned out according to police, the guy just ran over a battle.

So, it was a—a fairly sympathetic conservative reporter who figured this out.  So, it was a—it was a—I guess you‘d call it gaffe.  I don‘t think it mattered on election day.  If it was representative of anything, it‘s just that this is a—this is a real grassroots tea party kind of campaign.  And it‘s got people at the top who won big elections before.  I mean, the spokesman‘s word for George Pataki, the campaign spokesman.

But the candidate is just—if you are being mean to him, he is in over his head.  If you‘re being—and if you‘re being honest and being kind to him, he‘s just easy.  He‘s an every man who doesn‘t know how this stuff works and has watched the nation and Republican Party descends on him and lifts him up as a savior.

So, you know, him getting—going over board about this, (INAUDIBLE) reporting less sleazy and more just of a—of a first timers in state.

MADDOW:  It is—it is striking to know that be able to say that he doesn‘t—he‘s in over his head.  He may not know exactly what to do but he knows enough to blame ACORN before the facts are in, which sort of sounds like a specific kind of professional.

WEIGEL:  There‘s a lot of worry about ACORN here.  There‘s a lot of worry about people—I mean, this is the conservative—the conservative base taking over the party.  That there are some complaints elsewhere but the narrative, it‘s not unpopular narrative in the district.  People here love the idea that they‘re kicking both parties down.

I mean, I‘ve talked to Hoffman volunteers who are at the precincts who despise George Bush.  And they don‘t the word this is a great Republican victory.  This is a great victory for listeners of Michael Savage and Glenn Beck and they‘re not ashamed to say so.

MADDOW:  Dave Weigel of the “Washington Independent” joining us from Doug Hoffman campaign headquarters in New York‘s 23rd district—Dave, thanks for your reporting.  Thanks for joining us.

WEIGEL:  Thank you very much for having me.

MADDOW:  One point of interest in the New York 23 race has been the involvement of the ostensibly grassroots, but corporate-funded organization FreedomWorks, one of the many outside organizations that came in and sort of big-footed this local Republican Party race there.  Now, FreedomWorks has been bragging today about having made 30,000 phone calls in the district on behalf of the conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman.

In fact, FreedomWorks has been so intimately involved in this third-party challenge that FreedomWorks chairman and former Republican House majority leader, Dick Armey, sat next to Doug Hoffman at a meeting between the candidate and a local newspaper‘s editorial board, a meeting that went horribly wrong after Mr. Hoffman was able to—excuse me—after Mr.  Hoffman was unable to answer even basic questions about important local issues.  It was Dick Armey, who the editorial board says jumped in at that meeting and intervened to tell the board that local issues didn‘t matter in this election, dismissing them as just parochial issues.

Mr. Armey is now apparently planning to apply this very hands-on approach that he took in this New York race to lots of upcoming 2010 races around the country.  Mr. Armey told Politico.com today that the New York 23 race is, quote, “the tip of the spear.  What you‘re going to see is moderates and conservatives across the country in primaries.”

FreedomWorks has been a major player in the tea party uprising that has convulsed the Republican Party over the past year.  But despite the close-knit relationship that it‘s had with the tea party movement, FreedomWorks has, at times, made a point of distancing itself from some of the more extreme tactical approaches the movement has taken—approaches that have resulted in stuff like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  President Obama has said that he will not sign a bill which adds to the deficit.  And I will not.

(BOOS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have never seen members of Congress work harder.  It is unacceptable for me for somebody.

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘d like to say that I fully support everything that President Obama is trying to do, especially where health care is concerned.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The reason that sort of thing happened in so many different town hall meetings during the month of August all around the country is in part because those things were not spontaneous.  Organizing memos were circulated ahead of the health care town hall events.  One of them was authored by a Connecticut man named Bob MacGuffie.

His memo which was called “Rocking the Town Halls Best Practices” called on the town hall attendees to, quote, “rock-the-boat early in the representative‘s presentation.  Watch for an opportunity to yell out.  Just short, intermittent shout outs.  The goal is to rattle him.  Stand up and shout out and sit right down.  Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

In our reporting over the summer, we described the author of that disrupt the town halls memo as a FreedomWorks volunteer, because of the extreme behavior at some town halls and the amount of attention they got, FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey tried to disassociate himself and his organization from that memo specifically on “Meet the Press” while at the same time attacking me for us reporting on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK ARMEY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  We have a situation with somebody in Connecticut that we did not know and who did not know us.  Put out something that was mischaracterized and then attributed to us by somebody who obviously didn‘t have enough diligence in their ability to do their research to get their facts straight.  These things happened.  People get blamed for what other people.

The fact is that discusses further aggravation—especially when you start talking about elected officials.  People have the privilege of having new shows under the license granted by the federal government.  They should at least have the adult discipline to get their facts correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  People get blamed for what other people do.  That guy in Connecticut had nothing to do with FreedomWorks.

Well, today, the “Hartford Current” dispensed with that myth once for all when they reported that Dick Armey and his primary, old Republican strategy is heading to Connecticut next Wednesday for a strategy session with the author of the rattle them, disrupt them, shout them down, tea party town hall memo—just a few weeks ago, Dick Armey was saying had nothing to do with Dick Armey or FreedomWorks.

Mr. Armey said, “People attacking me should at least have the adult discipline to get their facts correct,” I couldn‘t agree more, Mr. Armey.  Enjoy your meeting next week with the guy you denied knowing.  The guy you denied any connection with.  The guy you attacked me for saying you had any connection to.

If you want to come on the show afterwards to talk adult discipline or anything else, you would be most welcomed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  One of the most hotly contested issues being voted on tonight and watched around the country is Question 1 in Maine.  Like Proposition 8 last year in California, it would repeal same-sex marriage rights that were signed into law.  In just a moment, we will get the latest results.  We‘ll be going live to the No on 1 headquarters in Maine.  We‘ll here from activist Cleve Jones, plus lots more results ahead, including a belated, awaited announcement on the governor‘s race in New Jersey.

Lots to come, stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  From the great state of Maine, we are waiting results on a ballot initiative which, if it were to pass, would repeal the rights of same-sex couples in Maine to be able to get married.  As of now, the polls in Maine are closed, but the result is too early to call.

If Maine‘s Question 1 fails, Maine would be the first state in the Union to uphold same-sex marriage rights by the power of the ballot.  Earlier this year, Maine‘s state legislature passed and the governor signed the state‘s Marriage Equality Act.

But even before the law went into effect, veterans of the California‘s Proposition 8 campaign against gay rights helped put together petitions to force tonight‘s referendum on the issue.  Prop 8‘s passing a year ago in California seemed to galvanize gay rights supporters nationwide.  And indeed, the pro-gay marriage side in Maine, the No on 1 side, has out-raised the other side financially and has mounted a big, ambitious field campaign to try to turn out their voters for today‘s race.

We go now to the election night headquarters for the No on 1 campaign in Maine.  And we‘re joined by the campaign manager, Jesse Connolly for the No on 1 campaign.

Mr. Connolly, thanks very much for your time tonight.

JESSE CONNOLLY, NO ON 1/PROTECT MAINE EQUALITY:  Hi, Rachel.  Thanks very much for having me on, again.

MADDOW:  So, clearly, it‘s at least noisy there.  I have to ask about your degree of optimism for tonight‘s results.

CONNOLLY:  You know, Rachel, we feel really proud of what‘s going on in our state over the course of this campaign.  I think we‘re going to have a great result tonight.  But I just can‘t speak volumes about the effort we‘ve done to push the turn out for this campaign.  We‘ve had folks going door-to-door for literally months making sure that we get every voter that supports our issue out to the polls today.

MADDOW:  Give some—give me a sense about the scale of your get-out-the-vote effort today.  I know Maine secretary of state says that turnout was higher than expected in the state today.  I know that you view that as a good indicator.  But tell me something about the scale of your get-out-the-vote campaign and what you actually did to get people into the polls?

CONNOLLY:  You know, Rachel, we had over 3,000 volunteers that were on the streets today.  These folks made phone calls.  They went door-to-door.  We had, you know, phone banks that were filled to the brim.  We made over 150,000 calls just from volunteers.

So, it was great to see the secretary of state come on at noontime today and his projection of turnout from 35 percent to 50 percent.  And we feel with the larger turnout, we‘re going to do really well tonight, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Jesse, I know that you faced many of the same players who organized the anti-gay marriage Prop 8 campaign in California.  You and I talked about that once before.  Looking back now on the campaign, leading right up to election day, what did you do differently in Maine from the people who lost the Prop 8 battle in California?

CONNOLLY:  Look, Rachel, I think we understood the play book coming into this campaign.  We understood the issues that Schubert Flint was going to put on our plate.  And we feel we responded both on a positive track and a pushback track, Rachel.  But I think, at the end of the day, this election is going to be about turn-out.  And I‘ll put our field organizers and volunteers up against the other side any day of the week.

MADDOW:  What—what happens if things don‘t go your way tonight?  What if—what if Question 1 does pass?  Is there a back up plan to try to win back marriage rights in the state of Maine?

CONNOLLY:  You know, Rachel, I haven‘t even thought about what I‘m doing tomorrow.  So, I think, today, we‘re really excited about the turn outgoing that‘s going on.  We think the state legislature passing this, the governor, John Baldacci, signing this bill into law.  It bodes really well for our chances tonight.  So, we‘re full-speed ahead waiting on the results for tonight.

MADDOW:  Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for the No on 1 campaign in Maine, thanks for your time tonight.  I‘ll let you get back to your party and to your anticipated results.  Good luck.

CONNOLLY:  Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Here for analysis is activist Cleve Jones whose career in politics began as a friend and colleague of San Francisco‘s first openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk.  Mr. Jones now works with the labor organization, Unite Here.

Cleve, thanks very much for joining us.

CLEVE JONES, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  My pleasure.  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  Talking to Jesse up in Maine, it‘s hard not to think about what—how long the odds are.  States are 0 and 30 on voting for marriage equality, which is why these ballot initiatives are much more often put on the ballot by the anti-gay marriage forces not those supporting it.  Why it‘s this been such a hard to win with voters?

JONES:  Well, I think we‘re up against a lot of deeply-rooted prejudice and considerable ignorance about what the real issues are.  As much as the opposition attempts to phrases this constantly as a debate about sexuality or about religion, in our opinion, the debate is about the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and its guarantee of equal protection under the law.

MADDOW:  So much of the fight on Prop 8 in California was funded and organized by the Mormon Church.  One of the prime movers in favor of Question 1, the anti-gay marriage side in Maine has been the—particularly the Portland diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.  I know that you say it‘s not an issue of religion.  But will progress on this issue ultimately happen because of change that happens within communities of faith, progressive Catholics, progressive Mormons moving their churches on these issues?

JONES:  Yes.  You know, 30 years ago when Harvey Milk was leading us

in the fight against the Briggs Initiative, he kept pointing out the

importance of coming out of the closet and the role that that plays,

because so many of these people who are manipulated into voting against us

by tapping into these kinds of fears don‘t really know us.

           

As angry as I get with some of the religious leaders who continue to exploit this issue, I continue to believe firmly that people of faith, regardless of their faith, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, whatever, I think all people of faith are potential allies in this struggle for equality under the law.  This the pluralistic society.  We have one Constitution.  We have one Bill of Rights and we have only one class of citizenship.

So, it‘s still early to see what‘s happened here.  I‘m encouraged by what apparently has been a real uptick in youth turnout.  We see a real shift in opinion based on generation.  But, I also think it‘s important for everybody to understand that regardless of the outcome tonight in Maine, or in Washington or Kalamazoo, gay people remains second class citizens in this country and will continue to remain second class citizens until we get action from the president, from the Congress and the United States Supreme Court.

And I deeply regret that President Obama did not seize the opportunity to speak out against the initiative in Maine and for the initiative in Washington.  This is a far cry from the fierce advocacy that he had promised us in his campaign.

MADDOW:  As you say, Cleve, President Obama did not weigh in on Question 1.  I‘m—without getting too into the weeds here for people who probably don‘t have as big a history as both you and I do on gay rights issues, just as people who are openly gay, and in your case, as a lifelong activist on gay rights issues—is it true that we should expect more pressure on the president from activists even as the gay rights establishment professes to be so happy with them for what he‘s done thus far?

JONES:  I think it‘s pressure on the president, but equality important on the Congress and Supreme Court.  True equality can only come from the federal government.  Even if we win in Maine tonight, same-sex couples still are denied the most important rights that are granted to heterosexual couples through marriage.  Those are the rights determined by the federal government, of course.

So, those of us who marched in Washington on October 11th, for some time now, have been trying to shift the conversation.  And I think we‘re re doing that bit by bit, making clear to people that—just as the great heroes of the civil rights movement in 1963 understood that they would have to continue to fight in places like Birmingham and Selma and Montgomery, that they set their sights on Washington, D.C., and succeed in passing the Civil Rights Act and then the Voting Rights Act.

I think we are at a similar place in our history today.

MADDOW:  Activist Cleve Jones, thank you very much for your time tonight.  It‘s great to have your insight.

JONES:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  The race for Virginia governor was lopsided enough today that it was long ago called for the Republican candidate Bob McDonnell—continuing the commonwealth‘s pattern of electing governors from the party that is out of power in the White House.  Coming up: The meeting of Bob McDonnell‘s big win over Democrat Creigh Deeds with our friend Melissa Harris-Lacewell.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The next governor of Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell, is expected to give his acceptance speech from Alexandria, Virginia at any moment now.  Mr. McDonnell beat out Democratic challenger Creigh Deeds, with 90 percent reporting - Mr. McDonnell with 60 percent of the vote, Mr.  Deeds with 40 percent of the votes. 

A big victory, at least, with 90 percent of the precincts in tonight in Virginia for the Republican candidate.  Republicans won the races for lieutenant governor and for attorney general in Virginia tonight.  What was on voters‘ minds as they went to the polls in the commonwealth of Virginia? 

Well, Melissa Rehberger is tracking the exit polls.  She joins us now with details.  Hi, Melissa.  What can you tell us? 

MELISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Rachel.  We are learning more from our MSNBC exit polls about what was behind Bob McDonnell‘s victory in Virginia and what it may or may not say about how voters there feel about President Obama. 

We asked voters whether they cast their ballot in part to show support for or opposition to the president.  Nearly one in five said they wanted to show support for the president while nearly a quarter wanted to demonstrate their opposition. 

However, the majority - 56 percent said the president was not a factor at all in their votes tonight.  And while the president may not have been a factor today, neither, it seems, were some of his core supporters.

Our MSNBC exit poll shows today‘s electorate is very, very different from the one that gave President Obama a surprise victory in Virginia a year ago.  For one thing, they‘re older.  The percentage of senior citizens jumped to 18 percent up from only 11 percent last year. 

In contrast, voters under 30, a key Obama constituency, dropped by more than half - 10 percent this year compared to 22 percent back in 2008.  All of that seems to have worked to McDonnell‘s advantage.  He did better among older voters while Democrat Creigh Deeds held a slight advantage among the younger voters. 

And while black voters were an important part of President Obama‘s coalition, they made a much smaller percentage of the electorate today.  Only 16 percent of Virginia voters were African-American, down sharply from 20 percent in 2008. 

So while many are looking for national trends, today‘s election in Virginia was a state election decided by a traditional Virginia electorate, very different from the one we saw last year. 

MADDOW:  Melissa Rehberger, monitoring the exit poll data, thanks for your report.  I really appreciate it. 

REHBERGER:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Melissa Harris Lacewell in our segment only purely based on Melissa‘s.  Melissa Harris Lacewell is an associate professor of Politics and African-American Studies at Princeton.  Thanks for being here. 

MELISSA HARRIS LACEWELL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: 

Absolutely.  It‘s good to be here. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you to respond first to some that exit poll information.  The majority in Virginia saying that their vote today was not based on Obama, sort of contrary to the common political wisdom that this governor‘s race is going to be a referendum on the president. 

Also an electorate older and whiter, frankly, than that which voted for President Obama because he won Virginia in November 2008.  What do you think the implications of that is? 

LACEWELL:  A couple things.  One is not - remember, exit polls are only getting people who actually went and voted and came home.  Part of the question about whether or not Obama affected your vote were those people who didn‘t turn out, who weren‘t excited enough by this candidacy of the Democrat and also didn‘t see this connection between having a Democratic governor. 

At the same time you had a Democratic president as being sufficiently important to get them out to the polls.  So despite what we have seen where Republican governors are turning back stimulus package money and that sort of thing, you know, Virginia voters just didn‘t feel it was important enough to send Barack Obama a Democratic governor in Virginia. 

On the other hand, you know, I grew up in Virginia.  And one of the things about that state is that it‘s really a bunch of micro-localities.  Northern Virginia really quite different than central Virginia quite different that southern Virginia. 

And my bet is if we look even more closely at this exit poll data, we‘d see that the surge of voters that showed up for Obama in ‘08 are more likely to think of themselves not exclusively as Virginians.  And this is a group of people who think of themselves as Virginians voting for Virginia issues. 

MADDOW:  Democrat Creigh deeds has been characterized throughout much of this campaign as a weak candidate.  Among his strategic choices were rejecting the label of being an Obama Democrat and campaigning quite heavily in Virginia‘s rural areas. 

Obama‘s approval ratings in Virginia are actually still quite high, over 50 percent.  Do you think that shirking the Obama Democrat label was a bad move? 

LACEWELL:  Yes.  I suspect that part of the reason that Barack Obama carried Virginia in 2008 was because he kept showing up.  You know, Virginia felt very well-loved in the 2008 election.  He showed up.  He went to different parts of the state.  He met with lots of different kinds of folks, really energized the college base there, that‘s why you had the under 30 voters so strongly engaged in 2008 and not in this one. 

So yes, rejecting that and saying that, “Well, I may be a Democrat, but I don‘t really have anything to do with Obama,” or very little to do with Obama also made him look desperate at the end when he finally did ask for the president‘s help.  But it also kept him from being able to ride whatever coattail still existed. 

MADDOW:  On the other side, Bob McDonnell‘s big moment of vulnerability in this campaign came when his grad school thesis came to light.  Of course, it freaked me out because I thought at some point people will realize how boring I am when my grad school thesis comes out. 

But Mr. McDonnell was - it was a lot of things.  It was not boring.  He went to Pat Robertson‘s Regent University.  He wrote that working women and feminists were detrimental to families.  Government policies should favor married couples over, and I quote, “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” 

Fornicators.  Creigh Deeds used the thesis a lot against McDonnell, but it didn‘t seem to stick. 

LACEWELL:  You know, I have to say that if we didn‘t want Michelle Obama‘s undergraduate thesis to be important, we‘ve got to not want McDonnell‘s graduate thesis to be important.  I think it‘s a really tough way to make claims. 

It‘s easier in New Jersey where Corzine was really making a claim about the contemporary policies that Chris Christie wanted around issues of mammograms and childbirth.  It‘s pretty tough to say that what someone thought was deeply important in their early 20s continues to be their central defining understanding about gender, family relationships. 

But you know, the other thing is it‘s a conservative state.  And there probably are more than a few Virginia voters who do think working women and fornicators are the big problem. 

MADDOW:  We are looking at pictures right now of the man who will be the next governor of Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell.  He‘s about to give his acceptance speech in Alexandria.  We‘ll join him for just the first couple minutes, at least, of that. 

Here is Bob McDonnell, who has been projected to be the winner of tonight‘s race in Virginia over Democrat Creigh Deeds with at least 90 percent of vote precincts are reporting.  The split was big - 60-40.  Here is Bob McDonnell. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

BOB MCDONNELL (R-VA), PROJECTED WINNER OF THE VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL

RACE:  Thank you. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, friends in Virginia. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Eight months ago, I applied for the job of governor of Virginia.  Tonight, you have hired me.  Thank you.  To my fellow Virginians, I say, I am humbled and honored with the privilege you have given me tonight.  I thank God for his grace and for his divine providence in my life. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I am ready to go to work to serve you and to help lead Virginia for the next four years. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And I want to start by thanking you for giving me an incredibly great lieutenant governor, a man of character, a principled leader, Lt.  Gov. Bill Bolling.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCDONNELL:  And I am so glad to be going to work with someone that every governor needs - that‘s a good lawyer.  Thank you for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Republican Bob McDonnell, recognizing his lieutenant governor and attorney general, candidates also on the Republican slate, all three statewide Republicans winning tonight in Virginia. 

Melissa Harris Lacewell, associate professor of Politics and African-American Studies at Princeton University.  We‘ll be bringing you back later tonight.  Hope we are keeping you well-fed and warm in the green room. 

LACEWELL:  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  I can also mention that NBC News can now project that Michael Bloomberg has been reelected mayor of New York City.  This will be Mayor Bloomberg‘s third term.  He‘s now the projected winner in the New York City mayor‘s race, having spent in excess of $100 million to win himself a third term over Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate. 

Right now, only seven percent of precincts reporting, but we are able to project a Michael Bloomberg win tonight in New York City.  Election Night 2008 still hasn‘t gotten that Health reform, you might have noticed.  And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now says we may not get a health reform bill until next year.  Is that a promise or threat, Sen. Reid? 

Jane Hamsher from “FireDogLake.com” joins us with the latest on that in just a few minutes.  Much more to come tonight on election night.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Today is Election Day.  It‘s Decision 2009 and we are continuing our very special, demonstrably over-excited off-year Election Day coverage here on this show.  But even as we wait for the last results to come in, the single biggest political issue in the country tonight remains health reform. 

And there was big news in the health reform fight today.  In the spring and summer, you might recall that President Obama said he wanted and expected to get health reform bills through both houses of Congress before the August recess. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I‘m confident that both the House and Senate are going to produce a bill before the August recess.  But I really want to get it done by the August recess.  The urgency by the House and Senate to finish their critical health reform before the August recess. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That did not happen.  That, in fact, did not come anywhere close to happening.  At the time, the political diagnosis was that the delay was essentially a Republican victory when that put health reform at risk. 

But today, just moments after acknowledging that the Republican opposition strategy to health reform is to delay action on it, the top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, announced to reporters further delays.  He‘s not even promising to get anything passed this year. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  They are only trying to delay and stall things. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Are you going to pass health care reform this year? 

REID:  We are going to - here is what we are going to do with health care.  First of all, we are not going to be bound by any timelines. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  First of all, we‘re not going to be bound by timelines, like there‘s some urgency about not being bound any timeline.  That sound you hear in the distance is Republican cheering. 

Beyond the so far very successful delay, delay, delay strategy, the best hope for the opposition to health reform remains the United States Senate where Senate rules allow a filibuster where Republicans block a vote on health reform as long as they can get one Democrat to cross the aisle and join them. 

So far, Joe Lieberman is the only member of the Democratic caucus who has signed up for that job, publicly announcing his plans to filibuster if the Senate bill includes a public option.  Can Joe Lieberman be stopped from his one-man plan to kill health reform? 

The answer to that probably depends on how much leverage the Democratic leadership is willing to use against him.  And how much leverage they have to use against him may depend on whether Joe Lieberman stands alone. 

A handful of other conservative Democrats still theoretically could decide to join Mr. Lieberman and the Republicans in blocking the vote.  One potential Lieberman ally is Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. 

Sen. Lincoln was reportedly at the White House tonight meeting one-on-one with President Obama, that meeting taking place against the backdrop of new Research 2000 polling which shows broad support for a public option in Arkansas and political risk for Sen. Lincoln if she opposes it, particularly if she goes so far as to a Republican filibuster. 

Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman‘s own resolve to kill health reform was the subject of the biggest, strangest, winding-est, most suspicious non-election news story of the day.  First, “The Hill” newspaper reported that Sen. Lieberman wasn‘t going to filibuster after all. 

They cited two sources in reporting that Lieberman had reached a, quote, “private understanding with Harry Reid that he would not block a final vote on health reform.” 

Given the fact that Mr. Lieberman spent the last couple weeks talking about how awesome it would be to block a final vote on health reform, single-handedly destroying the public option by way of joining Republican filibuster. 

“The Hill” is reporting that he didn‘t mean any of it.  It was regarded as big news early in the day.  Then, drama.  Both senators‘ offices - both Sen. Reid‘s office and Lieberman‘s office denied the story. 

Harry Reid‘s spokesman held onto a touch of optimism, telling the “Plum Line‘s” Greg Sargent, quote, “There is no such understanding.”  But then, going on to say that he hoped they would have Lieberman‘s vote anyway. 

Joe Lieberman‘s press spokesman went for sarcasm in his denial telling anyone who would listen, quote, “If you believe this story, you will also believe that I am replacing A-Rod in game six of the Series.  There‘s no private understanding.” 

Whether or not Joe Lieberman‘s press guy also has a painting of himself as a centaur hanging over his bed, I do not know.  But he is making clear that Joe Lieberman‘s near-constant threats to kill health reform are still in force. 

Adding to the drama is this.  I had the chance to interview former Vice President Al Gore today.  The entire interview will air on tomorrow night‘s show.  There‘s some good stuff.  He makes some news.  Please be sure to tune in.  I‘m looking forward to you seeing it. 

But since Sen. Lieberman was Mr. Gore‘s running mate in 2000, I asked Al Gore today about Lieberman‘s role in the health reform debate.  Not only did Mr. Gore say that he is still in touch with Sen. Lieberman these days.  Check out what he said about where he thinks this is all going. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(on camera):  One other contentious person in today‘s politics who you had a very close association with is Sen. Joe Lieberman, your running mate in 2000.  His politics have changed a lot since then. 

He‘s now an Independent.  He‘s now personally threatening to be the guy who kills health reform to stand with Republicans and filibuster health reform because he‘s against the public option.  Do you have any continuing relationship with him at all? 

AL GORE, UNITED STATES FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  Sure.  Sure. 

MADDOW:  Do you - I guess I‘ll just ask this in a pointed way.  Do you regret the sort of turbo boost you gave to his career by picking him as your running mate, given how he has changed in his politics in the eight or nine years since? 

GORE:  Well, short answer is no.  We were very close friends in the Senate.  We‘re still friends.  And he was right and forceful on many of the issues that I felt were central, including global warming.  He‘s been one of the leaders on that issue on women‘s rights, on a whole range of issues. 

I disagree with him on a lot of the issues that have become more prominent since then.  But, I would urge people to wait until they know more on the health care debate to see where it falls out.  Because I do believe that Harry Reid is going to be successful in passing it fairly soon. 

MADDOW:  Wait until the denouement.  Wait until the denouement of this health care debate to see where it falls out.  What explains this faith that Joe Lieberman won‘t kill health reform even as he promises over and over and over again on the record he will. 

Joining us now is Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of “FireDogLake.com.”  As an activist, Jane has pushed aggressively for Democrats to be held in line in favor of health reform.  Jane, thanks very much for being here tonight. 

JANE HAMSHER, FOUNDER AND PUBLISHER, “FIREDOGLAKE.COM”:  Good to be here. 

MADDOW:  What do you think explains the faith, by anonymous sources to “The Hill,” by Vice President Gore speaking with me today, that Joe Lieberman doesn‘t mean it when he says he‘ll kill health reform? 

HAMSHER:  Well, on Election Day, we‘re watching turnout among Democrats in Virginia, you know, the sub-zero.  Democrats in Virginia decided that they would stay home and wash their hair tonight rather than turn out for Creigh Deeds who said that he, as a governor, would opt out of the public option. 

So Joe Lieberman tanking the public option, something that the Democratic base is very attached to, could take down not only, you know, Harry Reid for his poor leadership skills and keeping Joe in check, but actually the entire Democratic party in 2010. 

Midterm elections, as many have commented, are driven by the base showing up.  And the Republicans are doing a great job.  We saw it tonight.  Those teabaggers were willing to, you know, grit their teeth and drive through hail to get there.  And the Democrats didn‘t show up. 

So, you know, if they can‘t deliver on health care in a way the base finds meaningful, they may be looking at a really bad situation in 2010 created by Joe Lieberman. 

MADDOW:  But in trying to understand this drama and trying to report on how this is going to play out, I really don‘t understand the distance between what Lieberman is saying in public and what people are saying to trust about him in private. 

Is it wishful thinking?  Is it insight into how Sen. Lieberman approaches these things?  I mean, I know that you were a big part of the Ned Lamont campaign against Joe Lieberman that caused him to lose the Democratic primary in 2006.  What do you think explains this? 

HAMSHER:  Well, Joe likes to be in the situation.  He‘s the Carrie Prejean of the Senate.  You know, he revels in this.  And the Democrats, if they had to go to reconciliation to pass health care and they‘re committed to passing health care, you know, it wouldn‘t break my heart.

But you know, they‘ve got a problem here with Joe.  If they have to do that, it‘s not going to be good.  They don‘t want to do that.  They would rather just have the members of the caucus show up. 

But I will agree with Harry Reid on one thing.  I don‘t actually think more time hurts us.  There are a lot of bad parts of this bill, you know, in addition to the Senate‘s not very good, you know, public option. 

There‘s also Anna Eshoo, you know, the congresswoman from pharma, bill on life-saving biologic drugs that was the only part of the Republican health care plan released today that was taken over from Democratic bill. 

And the more time that we have to tell people about things like that, you know, breast cancer survivors like myself, you know, get to learn that how these will protect in monopolies the drugs that could save our lives that cost $50,000, $100,000 a year to have. 

You know, that‘s good for us.  I think that the more time we got into the public option has been good as more people have found out about it.  So I‘m not opposed to it taking more time. 

MADDOW:   I think the arbiter of whether a person feels optimistic or pessimistic about whether more time means a greater likelihood of health reform has to do with whether or not you think the momentum is with pro-health reform forces right now or with the antis. 

You obviously think it‘s with the pro-health reform forces - that‘s why you‘re an optimist.  But let me ask you about one other aspect of this - Sen. Lincoln meeting with President Obama today. 

You‘ve said in the past in this show that if she joins a filibuster, she will get a primary challenger.  Where do you put the odds right now on her going there, her joining Lieberman?  And how are you feeling about Ben Nelson as well? 

HAMSHER:  Blanche Lincoln is just not going to go there.  I just don‘t think she‘ll do it.  She‘s up for election in 2010.  In a dodgy year, when Democratic turnaround is going to be suppressed, she needs the help of the White House and the DSCC. 

Ben Nelson - he‘s not up for election.  He‘s is in a red state. 

And they always let him run off the reservation.  And having Joe out there

·         you know, as I said, they like to do these things in pairs.  Nobody wants to be out there by themselves.

Joe acts as a lightning rod for this kind of stuff.  So you know, we need to know where Ben Nelson stands and he hasn‘t said anything yet. 

MADDOW:  Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of “Fire Dog Lake,” thanks very much for joining us tonight.  You know the opposition takes notes when you are on this show. 

HAMSHER:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Much more on this big day in politics.  Coming up, our election ‘09 coverage continues.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We are here live tonight monitoring election returns as they come in.  A bit of an update for you on the New York City mayor‘s race.  Democrat Bill Thompson has reportedly called Mayor Mike Bloomberg to concede the race. 

However, there has been an update in the call tonight.  NBC News relying on a local election monitoring service called EMR to call tonight‘s race.  The local election monitoring service, EMR - that call has been retracted.  We are able to give you these raw numbers with 32 percent reporting. 

Mayor Bloomberg ahead 49 percent to 48 percent.  Again, only 32 percent in.  We can report that Mr. Thompson has called Mr. Bloomberg to concede the race.  But the initial call of the race which we passed on earlier this hour has technically been withdrawn.  It has been called back.  It doesn‘t mean it‘s been reversed.  It‘s just been withdrawn.  We will keep you posted on those details as the night unfolds. 

We will be back with another live edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW one hour from now at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  That‘s when polls close in California where a special election is currently underway for Ellen Tauscher‘s old seat in District 10.  That‘s the district that stretches from east of San Francisco, where I grew up, all the way to Sacramento.

Ms. Tauscher left her post earlier this year to accept the job as an undersecretary in President Obama‘s State Department, leaving the current Lieutenant Governor of California, Democrat John Garamendi, to battle a Republican named David Harmer for Tauscher‘s former seat. 

Mr. Garamendi is the favorite even though District 10 was a Republican seat until Ellen Tauscher won it in 1996.  And I mean it was really a Republican seat.  Before Ellen Tauscher won that seat in 1996, the last time the race - that place had not been held by a Republican was two years after California joined the union. 

Also at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, polls in Washington will be closing.  Residents there are considering several initiatives and referendums including Referendum 71 which asks voters to approve or reject a bill passed earlier this year which gives same-sex couples expanded legal protections, a measure nicknamed everything but marriage, a similar vote already over in Maine tonight. 

We don‘t yet have the results of that vote, but we hope to when the governor of Maine, John Baldacci, join us live right here at 11:00 p.m.  Eastern.  It will be a special live edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW in just over an hour with continuing coverage of this election night. 

“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Stay with us.

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