updated 1/20/2010 11:53:55 AM ET 2010-01-20T16:53:55

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Howard Fineman, Chris Matthews, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Richard Wolffe

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  The polls have, just this moment, closed in Massachusetts—and closing with them, the prospect of health care reform.

From a Massachusetts Democratic congressman, within the last 20 minutes, quote, “It doesn‘t look good,” unquote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

           

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Heavy on the turnout—not so heavy on the intelligible sound bites from the candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA COAKLEY (D), MA. SENATE CANDIDATE:  We don‘t pay attention—despite what everybody thinks—to all the media, to all the polls.  We pay attention to the ground game and what people are telling us.

SCOTT BROWN ®, MA. SENATE CANDIDATE:  I would be the 41st senator, but it would make everybody the 41st senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Senate will have to get more chairs.

This is COUNTDOWN special coverage of the Massachusetts senatorial election with Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews in Boston, Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe in Washington.  And Congressman Anthony Weiner after, asked what a Republican victory would do to health care reform, he said this, this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  I think you can make a pretty good argument that health care might be dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He said that.  But the speaker of the House said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  In spite of all the activity that I know you‘re aware in Massachusetts and the rest, we‘re still on course.  We will have a health care reform bill, and it will be soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Haiti, night eight, another urgent reason for aid.  From the State Department: 4,500 Americans evacuated, 5,500 Americans missing or just not accounted for.

“Worsts”: He points out her financial discrepancies, Politico.com points out his tax discrepancies.

And tonight‘s “Quick Comment”: my apology to Scott Brown.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

It is one of the epic stories of American political history, a solid, if somewhat stolid Democrat inheriting the moment of her beloved late predecessor‘s 46 years in the office in the middle of a debate over the political issue of his life breaks to a 17-point lead in the poll in the newspaper in the state two weeks before the election.  And on the morning of election day itself, she is behind by as much as nine.

It is epic, it is historic, and it is all the other guy‘s fault.  Before the polls even closed tonight, the Martha Coakley campaign blaming the National Democratic Party for putting what was Ted Kennedy‘s seat at risk.  The White House in turn blaming both the Coakley campaign and the Democratic Party.

Tonight, a scenario that few would have imagined possible only a few short weeks ago: the Democrat poised to lose the special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The GOP candidate, Mr. Brown, having vowed to be the critical 41st Republican vote blocking President Obama‘s health care reform bill in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN:  I would be the 41st senator, but it would make everybody the 41st senator, and it would bring fairness and discussion back to the equation.  And that‘s good for America.  That‘s good for this democracy to have good government and have people just, you know, talking about—you know, instead of backroom deals, we‘ll talk about transparency and doing it the right way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It would make everybody the 41st senator, except, of course, those in the majority who want the health care reform.

A libertarian running as an independent candidate is also on the ballot, his name Joe Kennedy, not that Joe Kennedy, no relation to the late senator, as if that was not confusing to voters today.

In snow that turned at times to rain, voters in Boston and Cambridge flooding polls this morning to cast their ballots.  The “Boston Globe” is reporting the turnout there double what it was for last month‘s primary.  As we mentioned the final polls giving the Republican Scott Brown the edge.

Insider Advantage for “Politico” showing Mr. Brown with a nine-point advantage, 52-43.  Independents breaking overwhelming Republican, 60-28 -- these are pre-vote polls.  As well as a quarter of Democrats, 24-71.

Insider Advantage CEO Matt Towery is describing Mrs. Coakley as a candidate in free fall.

Meanwhile, the Republican pollster, American Research Group, is putting Mr. Brown‘s lead at seven points at 52-45.

The forecasting model from our friend, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com, which correctly predicted the outcome of all 35 Senate races in 2008, regarded Mr. Brown as a 74 percent favorite to win.

Coakley herself is saying she does not believe the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COAKLEY:  We‘ve been working every day.  We don‘t pay attention—despite what everybody thinks—to all the media, to all the polls.  We pay attention to the ground game and what people are telling us.  We‘re talking to folks on the phone, on the streets.  We‘ve been out campaigning.  Every campaign has its own dynamic and surprises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  An adviser to the Coakley campaign providing a memo to Politico.com titled “National Dems Failed to Aid Coakley Until Too Late.”  In turn, Hill sources telling Politico.com that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has blamed Coakley—rather, has blamed—Rahm Emanuel has blamed Coakley, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake for failing to see Brown‘s surging in time to stop it.

Other leakage focused on national Democrats saying when they canvassed in Boston today, they were told they were the first people from the Coakley campaign anybody had seen there yet.

As for whether the president himself should have done more, or could have done more to help the Democratic candidate, senior adviser David Axelrod telling reporters, “The White House did everything we were asked to do to help Coakley win.”  Adding, quote, “I think, if we had been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier.”

You notice the absence of numbers, of course.  There is nothing yet available to us, because the amount of exit polling done here was minimal.  There were some done by the “Associated Press.”  It has done no reporting yet so far.

Two other things to mention—as we said at the start of the program

Congressman Stephen Lynch tells our Luke Russert, the congressman, the Democrat from Brockton in south Boston, “It doesn‘t look good in my district.  I saw a lot of homemade signs for Brown, that wasn‘t a good sign for Coakley.  The people of Massachusetts are sending us a message that they want us to listen.”

           

To a Democratic Party official speaking to Norah O‘Donnell in Boston, “Let‘s be clear.  The only thing that changed between the December 19th poll were the Coakley had a 20-point lead and the January 5th poll where their lead had been halved, is that the Brown  campaign went on air and aggressively defined their candidate as well as the Democratic candidate, while the Democratic candidate was literally on vacation.”

Joining us now from Boston, Rachel Maddow, Massachusetts resident, host of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”

Rachel, good evening.

RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST:  Good evening, Keith. 

Thanks very much for having me.

OLBERMANN:  It certainly does look like the main issue for Democrats tonight is blaming another Democrat.  Has this one been conceded before a vote has been counted?

MADDOW:  It is remarkable to see the blaming underway hours before the polls closed.  Obviously, there‘s blame to go around here, this is Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat—which looks like it is going Republican.  This will be the first time there‘s been—if Scott Brown wins—this will be the first time there‘s been a Republican senator from the state of Massachusetts since 1978, and that was a black liberal Republican at that time.

Obviously, something went wrong in Democratic strategy, but it doesn‘t seem to me at this point that it‘s able to be narrowed down.  The White House, the Democratic Party at large, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the candidate‘s campaign itself—Democrats tried to skate through this one, and it didn‘t work.

OLBERMANN:  We heard a lot about turnout, heavy even in Boston, heavy outside of Boston.  Conventional wisdom: high turnout in Massachusetts favors the Democrat.  Do we have any clue or any indication, any measure whatsoever as to who turned out?  Who that heavy turnout was at those polls today?

MADDOW:  We will know more about that when we start getting in the precinct-by-precinct reporting.  Anecdotally, what we‘ve been able to tell today is that it seems like, again, bad news for Coakley.  It seems like there were long lines in the suburbs, the places where there was some softness in the turnout.

And, again—I mean, this is a special election.  Nobody ever turns out for special elections.  This was going—this is going to be a high turnout number for a special.  But in terms of the specifics of who will turn out and where, the numbers aren‘t good—the anecdotes aren‘t good for Coakley.  It looks like urban areas—heavily urban areas and, again, anecdotally, African-American districts have lighter turnout than the suburbs where you‘d expect more conservative voters to be enthusiastic about that Republican.

OLBERMANN:  The White House adviser, Mr. Axelrod, saying today, “I think if we had been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier.”  There seems to have been a disconnect here.  Somebody was waiting for an engraved invitation, either the White House was waiting for an engraved invitation or Ms. Coakley was waiting to send an engraved invitation—how was that ball dropped between these two people?  And why the two people, metaphorically speaking, these two groups and why are they concentrating on blame, rather than saying, “We screwed this up, now, let‘s move on and make sure we don‘t screw anything else up”?

MADDOW:  Yes.  Again, Keith, you would expect with a Democratic president, the entire Democratic White House political operation, the Democratic Party, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, this particular Democratic candidate, you would expect that they could get an idea together among them, about how to—how to hold on to this race.

It doesn‘t seem like they did come up with a strategy for holding on to this seat.  You‘ll recall that, early on, the Democrats were taunting the Republicans for apparently not thinking this was winnable enough to put money into it.  They were taunting the Republicans for how much they were going to lap them in this.  And so, it seems like they were so confident that they were going to win, that they really just didn‘t come up with a strategy at all.

OLBERMANN:  Rachel Maddow in Boston tonight, oddly enough, in front of the bar, not behind it serving and mixing drinks.  She‘ll be back with “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” at the top of the hour.

Perhaps, some of the Democrats who might be in that bar with you would use some of those drinks if you‘d like to make about 3,000 of them.  Thanks, Rach.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith.  Appreciate it.

OLBERMANN:  Now, a national view, let‘s turn to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As we just discussed, the Coakley campaign blames the National Democratic Party.  The White House blames the Coakley campaign and the National Democratic Party.  Something else from Norah O‘Donnell in Boston—I‘d already quoted this one part about saying Coakley was literally on vacation over the Christmas holidays while the Brown people were working aggressively.

Why the rush to, you know, get a bus, throw the other person under it immediately?

FINEMAN:  Well, at this point, everybody is under the bus—more than you just mentioned.  Democrats on the Hill that I talked to are unhappy with both the White House and the party apparatus.  You got the Democratic National Committee, which is sort of the same, but also separate from the senatorial committee.  They‘re arguing with each other.  Consultants wailed, people inside the White House wailed, they‘re all doing it because of the fact that it seemed like such a slam dunk.

Now, it was actually a little more complicated than that, which is all the more reason why everybody on o the Democratic side deserves blame for leaving this to the last person they should have left it to, which was Martha Coakley.

OLBERMANN:  The White House is saying, and a Democratic Party official again talking to Norah, Scott Brown himself conceded this race wasn‘t defined by feelings about the president, this race was defined by the lack of defining done by the Coakley campaign.  That is the major strategy at this point, to get the effectiveness out from the White House to shield the president and his agenda from this?  Is that what you‘re sensing as well?

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s part of it.  I mean, it‘s much better for the White House to talk about technical failures and management failures and a lack of money here and a lack of strategy there.  David Axelrod is saying that as a practitioner—Axelrod described himself as a practitioner—as though political consulting was like a profession, you know, he admired as a practitioner the skill of the Brown campaign.

Obviously, they‘d rather talk about that than some other things that were involved here, which were the economy, which was resentment of the elites, which was mixed messages about health care, both in Massachusetts and the national level.  I mean, those things were involved, too.  In addition to the fact that Brown was a better candidate with a better run campaign.

OLBERMANN:  The right wing rallying cry here as we look ahead here from what we assumed is going to happen, of course, now, if Coakley were to win, we‘d now have the greatest upset in political history as opposed to having the greatest upset in political history.  If Brown wins, he needs to be seated immediately, like swear him in at sunrise tomorrow, the insinuation being anything less amounts to tampering by the Democrats.

FINEMAN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Massachusetts state law, the election could not be certified until, at the earliest, January 29th.  So, what‘s going on here?  Is this spinning?  Or is there—is there any complaint to this at all?

FINEMAN:  Well, it is true that the Democrats rushed through the swearing-in of a member of the House back in 2007, Niki Tsongas, because they needed a vote down in Washington.

But the Republicans don‘t come into court with clean hands here, so to speak.  They‘ve become the kings of the filibuster.  They‘ve become the slow walkers of all time.  They don‘t really have a lot of leg to stand on here if the secretary of state in Massachusetts decides to follow the law, which—depending on what happens—well, either way, he‘s going to do.

OLBERMANN:  One last aspect and this is not necessarily pretty.  1964-1965, the greatest years of civil rights change in this country since emancipation, and in the 1966 midterms, the Republicans took 47 seats in the House from the Democrats and most of those elections had clear racial undertones, many had overtones, the Republicans and the tea partiers will tell you what happens with Scott Brown tonight, whether he wins or comes close, is a repudiation of Obama policies.  And surely, one of Obama‘s policies from the viewpoint of his opponents is, it‘s OK to have this sea change in American history, to have an African-American president.

Is this vote, to any degree, just another euphemism, the way states rights was in the ‘60s?

FINEMAN:  Well, that is a good question.  I would look first at the polls.  If you look at polling, all the new polls, including the NBC poll and the CBS poll, Barack Obama is overwhelmingly liked personally by the American people.  I think for most of the American people, race is in no respect a part of the equation.

Maybe not in Massachusetts, but maybe in some places, there are codes, there are images, you know, there are pickup trucks.  You can say there‘s a racial aspect to it one way or another.  But.

OLBERMANN:  What were the Scott Brown ads, though?  Every one of the Scott Brown ads had him in a pickup truck?

FINEMAN:  That‘s why I mentioned pickup trucks.  I mean, my mind goes back to—my mind goes back to Fred Thompson down in Tennessee.  But I really don‘t think—in having covered some of the tea party events down in Kentucky, which is where I used to be a reporter, and knowing the history of this—I don‘t think it‘s so much a matter of race or even very, very much a matter of race at all, Keith.

I think it‘s a matter of people in the suburbs and people outside of the cities feeling themselves not paid attention to by the, quote, “elites.”  This is a problem that the Democratic Party has had year-in and year-out for decades.  It‘s a code that Bill Clinton cracked.

It‘s a code that, to some extent, Barack Obama cracked during the campaign.  He won Virginia.  He won other places where rural votes were exurb and votes really mattered.  And I think race really in the end wasn‘t a factor for him overall.

I don‘t see it as a—he asked the question—I don‘t see it as a big factor yet in the tea party movement.  I don‘t know that it will be.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, we‘ll see you back here again on our live 10:00 edition of COUNTDOWN.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The numbers you are seeing are through seven precincts, as you see them there, a margin of about 733 votes and a 54.6 to 44.5-pointBrown lead over Coakley.  The first numbers so far in seven precincts.

Sooner than we‘ll see Howard at 10:00, Congressman Anthony Weiner on this statement this morning that the Democratic loss tonight could indeed kill the current health care reform bill.

First, I need to apologize for comments made here last night about the Republican candidate, and I‘ll do so in a “Quick Comment” next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Anthony Weiner on his statement earlier that a Republican victory in Massachusetts tonight means health care might be dead.  He joins me next.

We stay in Massachusetts for the first of tonight‘s “Quick Comments.”

And I wanted to apologize for calling Republican Senate candidate, Scott Brown, an irresponsible homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.  I‘m sorry—I left out the word “sexist.”  And I left out the story of the day, Brown upset by online criticism from some student, went to that school and swore at the entire student body.  I‘m very sorry.

For all the blowback from the right on this, from people who regularly mutter worse things about Barack Obama in their sleep, when it came to the facts I cited to paint this picture of this horrifically unqualified would-be senator, we have heard nothing.  No contrary evidence, no reputation, not even a plausible excuse.

To the last point, it can be argued that Brown should have been given the benefit of the doubt after a supporter shouted at him that they should shove a curling iron up Martha Coakley‘s butt, that he did not hear that, perhaps.  That when Brown then said, “We can do this,” he was not responding to the lunatic in the crowd.

The “Boston Globe,” though, makes an unanswerable point about that.  Even if Brown really didn‘t hear it, where was his statement later, decrying the obscenity and of violence his supporters suggested?  Not only did Mr. Brown not offer even the mildest reproach, but when pressed for one by Senator Kerry, Brown replied only that people are tired of John Kerry‘s partisan politics.

In Scott Brown, we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, sexist, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.

And if he or you don‘t like that characterization, my answer to you is simple: disprove it, because he hasn‘t.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Slightly updated numbers from Massachusetts.  The “A.P” count at this point, 52.1 percent Brown, 47 percent Coakley.  We‘ll follow the numbers but they‘re still in the quadruple digit range at this point, very early numbers indeed from Massachusetts.

If that state sends State Senator Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate tonight, the state will potentially cripple efforts to give the U.S. a health care system that would still not be as progressive as the one in Massachusetts.  Before the first votes were cast there today, top Democrats in Washington were both offering assurances they could find other ways to pass health care without their 60 votes supermajority in the Senate, also, writing it‘s obituary.

We‘re joined presently by the Democrat who said a Brown victory means you can make a pretty good argument that health care might be dead.

First, the restorative attempts underway.  The White House reportedly pushing for Congress to bypass the Senate by having the House of Representatives simply vote on the exact bill that already passed the Senate, instead of the compromise now being worked on by congressional negotiators and then send back to the president for his signature.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has previously poured cold water on that option, and this afternoon, suggested it will not be necessary, without explaining why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  Our eye is on the ball of passing legislation.  In order to do that, we have to dissolve some differences, establish some priorities, make some decisions, and that‘s what we‘re doing.  Whatever happens in Massachusetts, we have to do that.  And whatever happens in Massachusetts, we will pass quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and it will be soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But earlier, a Democratic House leader, Steny Hoyer, had given momentum to speculation that the House might simply send the president the Senate‘s bill when he said, it‘s, quote, “better than nothing.”

One scenario still floating around that Democrats pick up the pace and

beat Brown to the Senate, getting a compromise bill finish in time, to hold

a Senate vote, killing a filibuster on the new bill before Brown is sworn

in, which could—in the absence of a close result necessitating a recount

could come as the early as the 29th or 30th of this month.

           

But with me now, as promised, Anthony Weiner, the Democratic congressman from New York City who joins us from the Capitol.

Congressman, good evening.

WEINER:  Keith, how are you?

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, you said earlier that you could make a pretty good argument that health care might be dead if the Republicans win this one tonight.  Could you make that argument in some sort of crises?

WEINER:  Well, look, I don‘t quite understand how we tie ourselves in knots trying to desperately to get a 60th vote and then we hope we wake up perhaps with only 59 votes and it gets any easier.  I just don‘t think that if you believe what a lot of folks in the Senate believe, which is, we‘re not a country that believes in majority rule, you got to have 60 votes to do anything, if we wake up tomorrow and there‘s only 59 Democratic votes, I don‘t see how we get this done.

Now, I think we‘ve made some crucial mistakes along the way by making this more complicated than it needs to be.  We‘ve abandoned some of the principles like expanding Medicare, maybe paying for it with TARP money and instead have gone to this plan that, whatever the results are tonight, is pretty clear that a lot of voters don‘t like the direction we‘re going on health care.  But if we don‘t have 60 votes—I keep hearing that senators say, without 60, they can‘t pass anything.  Well, it looks like we might not have 60.

OLBERMANN:  So, what is the speaker talking about?  Do you know, when she said that it‘s going to happen one way or the other?

WEINER:  Well, I just left the caucus with the speaker and my colleagues.  And they‘re talking about the negotiations at the White House, it seems to have a flavor of whistling past the graveyard.  I mean, I don‘t think that negotiating around the 60-vote Senate majority really makes a lot of sense, if late tonight—however this works out and I hope that Martha Coakley wins, but if we don‘t, it dramatically changes the environment.

Look, the Republicans have said that if they get this 41st vote, they‘re going to use it to kill health care.  I think we should take them at their word.

OLBERMANN:  So, presuming that 41st vote.  What do you do?  Do

progressive members agree to pass the Senate bill?  Or if they—do they

hope to get—to fine-tune something and use reconciliation?  Do you just

do you punt?  What do you do?

           

WEINER:  Well, I think we may need to, first, take a step back and say, we get the message.  And we know that some way that we‘re going here is not resonating, when you have two out of three independent voters in Massachusetts saying one of the reasons that they‘re trending towards Brown is that they don‘t like health care.  That‘s a sign we should say, look, we get the message.

Now, my view is, what you do is say, as part of a jobs bill, you have a much simpler approach to health care, you take something that we know and understand like Medicare and grow it.  I‘ve been saying it on your show for months now that simplicity is getting lost here.

But I also think that we have to be careful not to compound getting it wrong with a sense of arrogance that we‘re going to push through no matter what any of the voters say.  I think what‘s coming out of Massachusetts is a lesson that we should hear.  And whether Coakley wins or Brown wins, I think it‘s pretty clear we‘re not doing a good enough job selling this.

OLBERMANN:  Is Massachusetts unique because of the nature of the health care there, that essentially, whatever was going to be passed through this, the last version of the Senate bill would be a step-down for Massachusetts residents, only they‘d have to pay more for it?  Is that really the contributing factor to this?

WEINER:  Well, perhaps.  I mean, they‘ve been through this debate and conversation a lot more than most citizens have.  They understand the idea of exchange.  They understand how difficult it is to contain costs.

But I think it‘s too simple just to say that.  I mean, there are a lot of elements to this.  You know, I don‘t think that our candidate did a terrific job, hopefully she wins.

But I think that we need to start hearing the message here, that this idea of whatever comes out of the Senate that gets 60 votes, automatically makes it a good bill.  I‘m not sure I buy that.  At a certain point, this debate has to be about something and the president needs to stand up and say, “Here‘s what this is about.”

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Democrat of New York, stepping out of the caucuses for a moment with us—great thanks for your time, again, sir.

WEINER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  More on Massachusetts, including the kind of deep political insight that can be provided only by a man who won nine baseball games with the Boston Red Sox as recently as 2007.

First, Haiti, and what this disturbing number means -- 5,500 Americans there as yet unaccounted for.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One hundred and forty three precincts counted thus far in Massachusetts; brown by three percent.  Total number of votes is about 135,000.  For a point of reference, Boston had 82,000 voters who cast their votes by 3:00 pm this afternoon.  The numbers are beginning to pile up.  Brown up by three percent.  We‘ll focus again on Massachusetts later in this hour.

Another horrifying number, 45,000.  That‘s the number of American citizens who are believed to have been in Haiti as of a week ago tonight, missionaries and aid workers, tourists, professionals.  While many anguished families keep vigil, waiting for word from loved ones, the State Department is trying to count the missing. 

Today, US troops landing on the lawn of a flattened presidential palace, bringing in more food, water and gear, greeted by hundreds of Haitians nearby.  But as relief and support continues to come in, this startling figure out of the US State Department, 5,500 Americans still unaccounted for, feared trapped or buried in the rubble or just unaccounted for. 

At this hour, unbelievably, there are still rescue operations going on.  The State Department telling NBC News that those with whereabouts unknown are still considered active cases, with any information gathered on the missing Americans is passed along to the search and rescue team.  Since last Tuesday‘s quake, 28 Americans have been confirmed dead, including one US diplomat, 5,200 evacuated. 

Joining us now NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.  Thanks for your time, Andrea? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  You bet, Keith.  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  What is meant by missing?  How do they define that?  Are they fearing that as many as 5,500 people are trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings?  No?  What does the number mean?

MITCHELL:  No, it‘s important to give it the context.  What they don‘t know is whether these are people who are missing because they are among the dead, who have been taken away, the unidentified dead taken away.  We‘ve seen those horrific pictures of the bulldozers and the big trucks taking off bodies.  Or people who have just not checked in, people who do not know that everyone is concerned about them. 

These are the cases that are part of—more than 10,000 now—that have been filed, open because their friends or family have called the State Department and said we have not yet heard from our friend.  They open a case.  Once that file is open, they then pursue it.  They give that name to the rescue workers.  They check with other networks. 

So they are going to keep these cases open until they account for every single one.  They do not think that all these people are dead.  Hardly.  But they do think that they want to make sure that they have accounted for everyone.  Some, sadly, they will not be able to account for.  They hope the number is far lower.  You mentioned 5,200 were airlifted already.  Another 500 were waiting to get on a big C-130 cargo planes a couple hours ago.  And another 500 more waiting to be cleared. 

So there were 1,000 at the airport tonight, the last I checked, 1,400 more being processed at the embassy.  Long lines there.  It‘s obviously mayhem, but the diplomats are doing everything they possibly can to keep it going. 

So you have more and more people coming out.  And as people come out, they‘re going to be accounted for and cut from that list.  It‘s, obviously, of enormous concern. 

If I could make one appeal on behalf of all the people at the State Department working so hard: if you‘ve called the State Department, and contacted them, opened a file, and then you hear from your relative, please, get back in touch with the embassy of the State Department, because that file is going to remain open.  You may not think it‘s important to get back in touch.  But people are going to waste time, energy and money trying to find your relative.  If they have checked back in, let the US government know. 

OLBERMANN:  Briefly, Andrea, Brian Williams made this point tonight on NBC, that the Haiti earthquake could wind up killing more Americans than 9/11 did.  Is that plausible?  Do they have any idea what percentage they‘re expecting of those 5,500 may not make it back? 

MITCHELL:  They don‘t, because of the 45,000, a lot of these are people who never registered.  That‘s itself a notional number.  It‘s an estimate.  These are people who are married, live, have families in Haiti, or aid workers, and are single.  You don‘t know how many there are.  That is is the real tragedy here for Americans. 

OLBERMANN:  Andrea Mitchell, great thanks. 

MITCHELL:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  Quick programming note; tomorrow at 1:00 pm Eastern on MSNBC, among Andrea‘s guests White House senior adviser David Axelrod. 

The rationalizations of the man who did not cover Haiti so he could instead interview the musical genius behind Guitar Zan (ph) and the Streak;

Worst persons.

And back to the count and the amount in Massachusetts next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The latest from the Massachusetts Senate race next. 

First, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Sean Hannity, analyzing the Massachusetts Senate race with Curt Schilling, whose expertise is based on spending nearly four entire years pitching for the Boston Red Sox.  Schilling, “just another reinforcing comment for us to understand just how out of touch she is with the constituents of the state.” 

Hannity, “well, she manages to say that all the terrorists are gone from Afghanistan.  She says Catholics shouldn‘t be working in emergency rooms.”

A, Martha Coakley never said Catholics shouldn‘t be working in emergency rooms.  She said medical personnel whose religious beliefs are so strong they would refuse to treat people should probably stay out of emergency rooms.  B, she never said there was no Taliban in Afghanistan.  She said al Qaeda wasn‘t based there anymore.  And C, you‘re interviewing Curt Schilling, the most disliked man in baseball and probably no worse than the third dumbest. 

The runner up is Bill-O the Clown, attacking the “LA Times” for how he ignored Haiti last week to instead cover the Sarah Palin breaking news.  Instead by answering, “I personally donated a lot of money to the Haitian Health Foundation over the years.  Just today, I made another significant donation.” 

Friday night, instead of Haiti, O‘Reilly interviewed the author of the “Ahab the Arab” song, Ray Stevens, who has a new racist diddy out.  And he asked Stevens, “48 years ago in this country, we could make fun of Arabs.  We could make fun of people in a general way, and certainly Ahab the Arab was a general parody.  Now we can‘t.  What has changed in America?” 

What has changed?  Good people realized racism and ethnic jokes were bad things, which is why we no longer laugh at jokes like, so, this Irish man walks into a sex show in Thailand and asks the bartender for a falafel.

But our winner, Beck, Lonesome Rhodes Beck.  Today‘s operative word is oopsie.  Describes Martha Coakley as, quote, “yet another politician who has also made a financial discrepancy on some of her paperwork.  She claimed to have no personal assets.  Wow.  It turns out she was only off by about 200,000 dollars.  Oopsie.”

Eleven days ago, Politico.com reported that the company owned by a prominent conservative commentator had been fined nearly 20,000 dollars for overdue taxes and tax filings in the states of New York and Texas and the city of New York.  I didn‘t mention it at the time because, you know what, with the intricacies of each states corporate tax laws, almost no company, big or small, does not hear from at least one city, county or state saying, uh uh, we want more.  You better pay us by yesterday or you‘ll be fined.  Ooops, it‘s today.  You‘re fined. 

It‘s happened to me.  And even after it got resolved, the “New York Post” tried to make me out to be a tax cheat.  The thing is, the guy whose company was fined 20 grand in this equation was Glenn Beck.  Instead of that serving as some kind of reminder that he lives in the proverbial glass house, Beck keeps throwing stones at what he calls 50 tax cheats in the White House, who each average out to owing far less than Beck did, or at Martha Coakley. 

So if Coakley had a financial discrepancy, and Beck had a financial discrepancy, and Beck mocks her for it, what does that make Glenn Beck?  Right, a moron, hypocritical moron.  Oopsie, Lonesome Roads Beck, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The update of the vote in Massachusetts.  Twenty one percent Of precincts reporting, 53-46 Brown.  The second of tonight‘s quick comments now.

The Tea Baggers may have elected their first guy tonight.  Thus, they will be expecting legislation by tomorrow morning making a death penalty offense to call them Tea Baggers.  It‘s, thus, useful to remind them anew how the term originated and with whom. 

A TV news report aired last March 14th in which a correspondent described the original protest act, quote, “take a tea bag, put it in an envelope, and mail it to the White House.”  He added, “read TeaParty.com as a headline.  Tea bag the fools in DC on tax day.” 

Thus the verb to tea bag was invented by the Tea Baggers themselves. 

And the correspondent who put it on TV was a Griff Jenkins from Fox News. 

Send your complaints to him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We talked earlier about the implications for health care if Republican Scott Brown indeed replaces Ted Kennedy in the Senate with a victory tonight in Massachusetts.  A quarter of the vote now in, and Brown leads by five percent.  Democrats are currently considering ways they can pass health care reform without Brown‘s vote, hurry up and finish before he‘s seated or just tell the House to rubber stamp that Senate bill that already passed. 

Both quick fixes ignores just one thing: what the heck are Democrats going to do about every single other vote on every single other issue on every single other day for the rest of the year.  A Brown victory tonight will transform one of the largest Democratic majorities the Senate has seen in decades into merely one of the largest Democratic majorities the Senate has seen in decades. 

Nevertheless, just the fact that Brown ran this race close in Massachusetts led to this report from “Politico” today.  Quote, “Democratic operatives on Capitol Hill have made clear that enthusiasm is cooling for tackling controversial cap-and-trade legislation to curb carbon emissions and immigration reform.”  “Politico,” however, also quoting an unnamed presidential adviser saying, quote, “the response will not be to do incremental things and try to salvage a few seats in the fall.  The best route happens to be the boldest rhetorical route, go out and fight and let the chips fall where they may.” 

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also, of course, author of “Renegade, the Making of a President.”  Richard, good evening. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, “RENEGADE”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let me finish that gung ho quote from the presidential adviser.  Quote, We can say at least we fought for these things and the Republicans said no.”  Was it Ed Koch who said, I‘m going to win a second term as mayor of New York because I‘m going to govern like I‘m not going to win a second term?  Where was this fighting spirit say a year ago? 

WOLFFE:  I think what the White House has done for the last year—and they‘re acknowledging it now when you speak privately to them.  They are speaking frankly, which they are in a mood to do now.  They have really focused on an inside the Beltway gain.  They wanted to get this legislation through in their first year.  They wanted to be presidential.  They wanted to get their big achievements on the board and then pivot. 

And this pivoting process has been forced upon them.  The timing hasn‘t been in their control.  But frankly, they are sounding much more comfortable now as they adopt a much more robust, aggressive tone about drawing these contrasts.  I‘m told by White House officials, you‘re going to be seeing more of it in the State of the Union next week, because this is election year.  This election, obviously, is not going well in Massachusetts.  And it focuses their minds as much as it focuses Democrats. 

There is a choice out there between the different parties.  It‘s not a debate that Democrats are anymore having with themselves. 

OLBERMANN:  Explain the point that gave Jon Stewart, seemingly, a coronary here.  Republicans passed whatever they wanted with only 50 Republicans in the Senate.  But Democrats need at least 60.  Why?  Why?  Why? 

WOLFFE:  It comes to something when Jon Stewart is a speaker of truth than the common wisdom of our political commentators and media.  If you listen to the reporting, you read the analysis, everyone has said the president‘s agenda is in peril.  Again, this is a bad night.  It looks like it‘s a bad night for Democrats.  No question about it. 

On the other hand with, an 18-seat majority in the Senate, there is every reason to think they can still get plenty done.  And by the way, enforcing votes on Republicans, rather than just saying, can we get everything we want, that‘s a dynamic that we‘ve been used to for the last eight years and more.  Again, politics is about debate.  Republicans have to stake out a position, not just force Democrats to try to reach the super majority. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there some perception in the White House today, or in the last few days, as this has been coming, this storm has been brewing, that ultimately there are problems of the last year have originated from this flaw, that when they got that 60 votes in the Senate, and when the president was elected, despite the odds against him being elected, there seemed to be some sense that, all right, we got this, and the Republicans are going to have to respect what we have.  We have the political capital.  We can be bipartisan and sort of offer them a hand to cooperate with us. 

There was some idea that there would be some change in how the Republicans were going to approach this.  In other words, bipartisanship was possible in these contemporary times in which everything is a fight and a drill.  Is that notion—have the scales dropped from in front of their eyes on that notion? 

WOLFFE:  Well, they have.  And I don‘t think this was just because of 60 votes going away.  This is a president who was elected on the idea that he could unite red and blue America, and he believed that.  They have been surprised by the kind of discipline, the kind of aggressive response from Republicans. 

But there‘s another dynamic.  Again, talking to White House officials, they really see this as a moment when Democrats can say, we never really had 60 votes in the first place.  This wasn‘t a situation where we could just pass anything we wanted to do.  So maybe for the base, this is an important moment, just as it is for the president and how he approaches Congress. 

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC, the author of “Renegade,” we‘ll see you at 10:00 on our live late edition of COUNTDOWN. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you kindly.  To Boston and Chris Matthews next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Nearly 54 minutes after the polls closed in Massachusetts, let‘s try to put what we think we see happening in a national and historical perspective.  First the numbers—and I‘m always tempted to say Turned 85, Mitchell 23.  But, in fact, now with 40 percent of precincts reporting, the number is Brown 52.6 percent and Martha Coakley at 46.4 percent, with 875 out of 2,168 precincts reporting, 52.6-46.6 Brown over Coakley. 

Poor weather in Massachusetts did little to deter voters.  Turnout, by all accounts, high in Boston, all around the Bay State.  Secretary of State William Galvin expects 40 to 55 percent of the state‘s registered voters cast ballots today. 

As for the candidates, the Democrat Coakley voted this morning in Medford, telling reporters, quote, “every campaign has its own dynamic and surprises and we‘ll see tonight what the results are.”  This is a recording. 

The Republican Brown cast his ballot in Wrentham this morning, where he told the assembled media that his election would be, quote, “good for America and good for democracy.” 

Joining me now from the heartland of Democracy, Boston, the host of “HARDBALL,” Chris Matthews.  Chris, good evening. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So the practicalities of this; would a livelier candidate have fended off Brown, if not easily, than at least comfortably? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s very hard to say.  Mike Barnicle, a while ago tonight, said that he thought a really strong policy achieving senator—congressman like Eddie Markey, the congressman up here who did so much on cap and trade and on the environment all these years, would have been a stronger candidate and would have beaten the Republican Scott Brown by 10 points.  It‘s very hard to predict these things.

I thought there was tremendous support in this state for a woman candidate to be the next senator, after Hillary Clinton had a strong showing up here in the last election.  I thought there was a backlog of feeling for a woman—I spoke at—in fact, I MCed  the women‘s political caucus up here, the Massachusetts Women‘s Caucus, before the campaign began.  I felt this strong support for Martha Coakley.  And she just didn‘t campaign effectively, I guess. 

You know, everybody will have their small lessons.  Here are my two small lessons out of this race.  The old politics is the real politics.  You have to make contact.  You have to get to know people.  You have to listen to them, and them a sense you‘re asking for their votes.  The Kennedys did that.  That‘s how Jack Kennedy beat Henry Cabot Lodge, the estimable great Yankee hero up here, who fought in the war and been so courageous—I mean, combative and wonderful.  And he beat them because he went out and campaigned with his sisters, and they had tea parties and they went door to door and they really asked.  They got the sweat equity.  I think they don‘t think Martha Coakley did that.  She didn‘t ask. 

The second thing is I think politics has become too much 24-7 media types.  Robert Gibbs says something, Axelrod said something, some clown on Fox said something, it‘s a back and forth.  The reality seems to be missing.  I think in this campaign there wasn‘t reality there, so people just voted no. 

I think Democrats, if they want to win, have to go back to giving people real public enterprise, real tangible product of public action.  And can you laugh about the Big Dig up here.  But everybody uses it, and they like it.  And they like public education if it‘s good.  They like things that work.  They like mass transit when it works. 

We don‘t build things at the public level any more that people say, great, we did that together.  We built that big highway.  We built that big museum.  We built that educational system.  I sense that people want a tangible product from public enterprise.  And this campaign got too illusive for health care, too much out there, and not enough positive reality to it. 

OLBERMANN:  The Democratic take-away from this vote is what?  They were too cautious in the last year?  They were too broad minded in the last year?  They were too liberal in the last year?  Or the most important thing when you lose is to make sure if you‘re if the local group, you blame the national group, and if you‘re in the national group you blame the local group? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the small answer is he ran the outside versus the inside.  They ran the Democratic versus the Republican.  And the smart move this cycle was the outsider versus the insider.  It was just tactical.  He had a better tactical approach. 

In the long run, those who believe in stronger government and those who believe in more activist public life in this country, who believe there‘s a role to equalize the opportunities for health care and education and all the good things that we have to do together, are going to have to have better candidates and a stronger case, and they‘re going to have to convince people that they‘re on their side, and that they can get the job done. 

I think this performance of this country in Haiti has inspired me again.  I get thrilled at the fact we‘re doing this together.  There‘s no complaint from anybody reasonable about it.  The president‘s been a great executive.  We‘re together on this and we‘re doing good.  We feel a lot better about helping Haiti than fighting these wars. 

I think the American service people feel better about it.  So I think there‘s an opportunity here to be positive and prove again what public action can do.  And it‘s doing it in Haiti.  Boy, do they lack in government.  Wouldn‘t they like to have an activist government?  They don‘t have anything, and we do.  We‘re once again proving we can do good things.  But we have to do it at home.  We have to do it at home.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Matthews, who will join us again from Boston in the live edition of COUNTDOWN at 10:00 Eastern, and then has his own live edition of “HARDBALL” at midnight tonight from the heart of the Massachusetts special senatorial election.  Chris, thanks and give our regards to the six people behind you who are fascinated by the images of themselves on the screen.  Thanks.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  As we mentioned, we‘ll see you again live at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.

Now, to continue our coverage of that special Senate election in Massachusetts, for the next hour, ladies and gentlemen, from Boston, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel. 

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

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