updated 1/20/2010 11:55:25 AM ET 2010-01-20T16:55:25

Guests: Kelly O‘Donnell, Bob Shrum, Michele Bond, Mike Allen, Joan Walsh, Ron Christie, Paul Helmke, Roy Sekoff, Jeff Santos

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans, and welcome to THE ED SHOW tonight from New York.

Two hours to go before the polls close in Massachusetts, and the stakes couldn‘t be any higher for President Obama and his agenda.  National health care reform, I‘d have to say, is on the line. 

The latest polls shows that Republican Dick Cheney-like Scott Brown pulling ahead of Democratic candidate Martha Coakley. 

A Daily Kos Research 2000 poll has them tied.  The latest Suffolk 7 News poll has Brown up by four points.  American Research Group puts him at seven ahead of the candidate from the Democratic Party.  And a new poll, Politico poll, shows Brown up by nine points.

What does it all mean?  Well, remember, this state is a state that President Obama won by 26 points in 2008.  So what‘s going on? 

Independents have abandoned the Democratic Party in Massachusetts.  A recent poll shows Brown with a 69 percent to 28 percent lead among Independent voters. 

President Obama got 57 percent of the Independent vote in 2008.  And I am stunned that the Independent middle class voters in one year would turn around and trust somebody like Scott Brown, who is just a protege of Dick Cheney. 

This is a guy who walks, talks and acts like the former vice president.  There‘s nothing genuine about this guy at all. 

Democrats, there‘s still time.  Still time.  It ain‘t over until it‘s over. 

Now, this guy has hired, which I think is unbelievable, a temporary service to do boots on the ground operation for his campaign in the state, paying people to create the impression that he‘s just got a lot of support out there?  That‘s the first red flag. 

And the folks stumping for Brown are a reflection, I think, of him. 

Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, how much success have they had? 

And I think it‘s very appropriate that Curt Schilling is out supporting this guy.  Now, do Major League Baseball pitchers, do they make any money?  Would they benefit, like, from tax cuts for the wealthy, which, of course, Brown supports? 

What do middle class voters think Scott Brown is going to be doing for them if he gets in the United States Senate?  He has no plan when it comes to health care.  He wants to be like the rest of the jokers in the Republican Party and just be an obstructionist, say no to everything, start all over, of course.  He wants to be the 41st vote against health care. 

Now, that‘s not what this election should be about.  Ted Kennedy‘s wife, Vicki, put it perfectly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICKI KENNEDY, WIDOW OF SENATOR TED KENNEDY:  Ted always said, elections are about the future.  They‘re about moving forward.  They‘re about taking action.  They‘re not about saying no. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  You know, that is so to the point.  Would you go out and vote because I just don‘t like the way things are, or would you go out and vote because you know what direction your candidate is going to take and what the agenda is going to be? 

Saying no—saying no is what the Republicans have done all year, it‘s what Scott Brown is going to do, be right in lockstep with the Mitch McConnells of this world.  That‘s all they‘ve got.  They‘re all about destroying Barack Obama and change in Washington. 

Massachusetts, we‘re headed in the right direction with President Obama‘s agenda.  It‘s a heavy lift.  He has admitted that.  But that doesn‘t mean we quit now. 

Would Ted Kennedy—would he quit?  So we can do this.  But all Scott Brown will do is take this country in the wrong direction again. 

You want to go back to Bush-Cheney?  I am amazed.  I can‘t believe the Independent voters.

I‘m asking myself, and I have been all day, for the last several days, on the radio show as well, what has this candidate done to garnish all of this good will in the polls from Independent voters when he is a top two percent kind of guy?  He‘s not a Wall Street regulator.  He‘s an anti-labor guy. 

Middle-classers in Massachusetts, what has Barack Obama done to have you turn against him in the 11th hour when we‘re trying to get something revolutionary done in Washington? 

Tell me what you think in our telephone survey tonight.  The number to dial is 1-877-ED-MSNBC.  And my question tonight is, do you think today‘s special election in Massachusetts is a referendum on President Obama? 

Press “1” for yes, and press “2” for no, and I‘ll bring you the results later on in the show. 

All right.  For more on latest in the election and what is happening in Massachusetts, let‘s go to NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell tonight, who is in Boston. 

Kelly, the Independent numbers, what are you hearing on the ground?  First of all, the turnout, has this been a good day for turnout?  Have voters been awakened at this moment? 

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  On turnout, yes.  There are bigger-than-expected crowds in many places across the state.  And it‘s being judged by the special election numbers. 

Typically—and in this case it‘s just one race—it happens to be an enormous race here.  But usually voters don‘t turn out in great numbers.  So now it‘s being compared to a midterm election.  What kind of numbers would that pull?  And this seems to be exceeding even that, but not yet rising to the level of a presidential race in terms of turnout. 

So, all of the buzz, all of the attention has certainly got Massachusetts voters wanting to follow through and go to the polls and actually vote.  So that has been an interesting part of watching this day unfold. 

So many things about this race, Ed, are remarkable.  And when you talk about Independent voters, nothing scientific here, but we‘ve been talking to people, conversations on the street, trying to get a sense of what is motivating them. 

And again and again, we hear an anger and dissatisfaction for the way things are right now, not happy with Washington in sort of a generalized way, and feeling—many people even using the words, they could send a message if they voted against Martha Coakley, the Democrat, who is still popular in Massachusetts in her role as attorney general.  So, there is a sense that people are using their vote, at least on some level, to send a message, in addition to it being a citizen of Massachusetts electing one of their senators to go to Washington. 

So, people seem very aware of the larger ramifications here.  And those that we talked to—and again, these are people who would be willing to talk to a reporter and interested in the race, so factor that in—they are saying that they want this to be an opportunity to send a message and a wake-up call for Democrats. 

Those are the kind of sentiments we‘ve been hearing from ordinary voters we‘ve been talking to throughout the day.  I guess that may give you a little sense, a snapshot of the moment here politically—Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  It does. 

NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell with us tonight, here on THE ED SHOW.

Thanks so much, Kelly. 

Joining me now is Bob Shrum, veteran Democratic strategist and professor at New York University. 

Is this a classic just throw the bums out?  Of course the proverbial thinking right now is that Martha Coakley is behind and Scott Brown is going to win this thing.  But judging from the reports all day long, Bob, it seems like it‘s a throw the bums out mentality, what we‘re hearing. 

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes.  And that‘s what everybody‘s going to interpret this, as some kind of referendum on the president or referendum on health care. 

You know, there‘s famous book written about Massachusetts political campaigns.  It‘s called “The Last Hurrah.”  This book could be called “The Worst Hurrah.”

I mean, you have a candidate who took the election for granted, who waited too long to make a real argument, who said that Curt Schilling was a Yankees fan, Catholics shouldn‘t work in emergency rooms.  I‘m for her, and I hope in these last two hours people will go out and vote for her, because she‘s going to stand with Barack Obama to pass a jobs bill.  Scott Brown‘s going to vote against it. 

But that‘s the reality.  The president is very popular here, nearly 60 percent approval.  John Kerry is even more popular here.  Vicki Kennedy is stratospherically popular.

I think a different Democratic candidate and a different Democratic campaign would not have put us in the position that we‘re probably in tonight. 

SCHULTZ:  Bob, how much to you put at the altar of the Obama administration when it comes to shouldering responsibility for not getting health care done, for trying to work with Republicans when they said last July that they wanted it to be his Waterloo and trying to drag this thing down instead of getting it done and focusing down and nailing this health care bill down?  Every legislative agenda has got a shelf life, and maybe people are just tired about waiting for health care reform to the point where they think nothing‘s going to get done. 

Do you sense any of that with the voters today in Massachusetts? 

SHRUM:  Well, you‘re certainly right about the shelf life.  And one of the problems with health care here in Massachusetts was that Scott Brown kept going around saying, look, we all have health care—we have a state health care plan which, by the way, is quite similar to the one that‘s before the Congress—so we‘re just going to pay for other people to have one. 

And Martha Coakley never got up and said, wait a minute, there are provisions in that bill that give Massachusetts more Medicaid money, so under that bill we are not only held harmless, we may come out ahead.  The health care might have been the elephant in the room.  You had to talk about it.  You couldn‘t run away from it. 

You had to talk about jobs.  You couldn‘t spend all your time talking about abortion and choice. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s the economy, it‘s health care, it‘s the state of the country.  All of that. 

Bob Shrum, does Martha Coakley have a shot at this?  Do you believe all the polls?  And I guess this big turnout, would this mean Democrats are just coming out in droves to support Obama? 

SHRUM:  I think she has a shot.  I worry about the—saying that the turnout helps her. 

The mayor, Mayor Menino of Boston, just told me that there is a 70 percent turnout in the town of Carlisle, which is heavily Republican.  I think you may see a lot of Republicans coming out. 

He said he was going to be the 41st vote against health care to get his Republican base, and then he ran a stylistic campaign to get Independents and other people.  And when he‘s out there shaking hands in the cold in front of Fenway Park, ,and his opponent says why would you do that, I spend my time talking to politicians, you‘re going to get into a difficult race. 

Teddy Kennedy, who was the most popular politician in the history of this state, never took anything for granted.  We‘d be riding along in a car, he‘d see a car with a “Kennedy” bumper sticker.  He‘d say pull up next to the guy, I want to talk to him. 

It was a constant effort to communicate with and touch people, ,and to show people that progressive values mattered in their lives, whether it was the minimum wage, children‘s health care, or helping kids to go to college.  That hasn‘t happened in this campaign. 

SCHULTZ:  Bob Shrum, on a lighter note tonight, I‘m sure you‘re aware I‘m number four on the GOP most wanted list.  And I was just wondering, with your experience, do I get a plaque with this, or is there a wall hanger or anything that goes along with this?  Is there something about this award that I don‘t know, or this poll? 

(LAUGHTER)

SHRUM:  Well, I think you should either get yourself a medal or some kind of button.  I was in the book “100 People who are Destroying America,” and I took it as a badge of honor. 

SCHULTZ:  Bob Shrum, always a pleasure.  Thanks for joining us tonight. 

SHRUM:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.

Coming up, “Huffington Post” founding editor Roy Sekoff will explain how President Obama should fight off the Waterloo crowd for the next three years. 

Plus, a major gun group gives President Obama and the administration an F on all fronts.  Background checks, gun trafficking, guns in public, assault weapons and, of course, well, you name it, he gets an F from the gun group. 

All that, plus “Psycho Talk,” a real primer tonight.  The centerfold guy from Massachusetts, I think he‘s going to give us a lot of material if he gets elected. 

That‘s all coming up on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Now to the latest on Haiti. 

One week after the powerful earthquake that left Haiti‘s capital city in ruins, the United States‘ military presence there continues to escalate.  Helicopters carrying dozens of American soldiers landed on the lawn of Haiti‘s destroyed presidential palace today.  Hundreds of Haitians watched and cheered from outside the palace gates as troops unloaded food and water to distribute among the folks. 

There are around 4,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Haiti right now, and thousands more are expected to arrive in the next few days.  Also, the U.S. State Department estimates that several thousand Americans are still missing following the quake.  Twenty-eight Americans have been confirmed dead and 4,500 have been evacuated from Haiti. 

But I want to turn now to a more positive story and a positive note involving relief efforts.  The children affected by the quake are the smallest and most vulnerable victims.  And saving them obviously is a high priority. 

This morning, 53 Haitian orphans left homeless by the quake were brought to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the help of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.  The U.S. State Department has announced that it is easing the requirements for orphaned children to enter the states and be adopted.  They have set up an operation center that is solely devoted to granting adoption visas. 

For more on this, let‘s turn to Michele Bond.  She works for the United States State Department as deputy assistant secretary for Overseas Citizen Services. 

Well, this has been quite a story.  You know, it tears your heart apart when you see these kids wandering the street, the videotape that is coming out constantly.  And they have such a look of bewilderment on their face. 

Michele, are we on the fast track when it comes to adoption?  Tell us about it.

MICHELE BOND, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OVERSEAS CITIZEN SERVICES,

STATE DEPARTMENT:  I‘d be happy to, Ed.  Thanks.

The children that Governor Rendell helped to come to the United States are not children who were orphaned by the quake.  They are children who were already on track to be adopted, and they are coming to the United States to join the families that they had been matched to long before the quake. 

So—and the program that you have described which was announced last night by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, she announced a program which is going to enable us to assist families who are on track to adopt children from Haiti.  We already have a lot of information, we‘re well along in the adoption process, and that‘s what‘s being fast-tracked with the cooperation and agreement of the Haitian government. 

The program is not designed to move children who may have been orphaned by the quake immediately to the states, because many of those children may have parents who they‘ve been separated from, and the parents are looking for them, or they may have lost their parents but there are other family members who are looking for them.  So the...

SCHULTZ:  Tell us about your adoption operation center there. 

BOND:  All right.  We have opened up an e-mail address and telephone lines that people who are in the process of adopting can get in touch with the State Department or with the Department of Homeland Security in order to make sure that we have all the information about their case. 

And in the case of children who are already matched, so that we know that the government of Haiti has already said, this is an orphan, this is definitely an orphan, we‘ve checked out the background of this child, and the U.S. government and the government of Haiti have also checked out the background of the adopting parents.  They‘ve been fingerprinted, they‘ve been checked out by the FBI.  They‘ve had a home study. 

Their backgrounds have been carefully looked at, and they‘ve had time to think seriously about the responsibility of adopting a child.  They‘re ready to complete the process, and that‘s what the task force is working on, to make arrangements for those children to move as quickly as possible to the states. 

SCHULTZ:  And how many total orphans do you estimate will end up here in the United States?  Do you have a number or an idea in any way? 

BOND:  We don‘t have an accurate idea.  We know that there are hundreds of them, and we‘ve been hearing from those parents.  And this is a very high priority. 

You mentioned that thousands of American citizens have been evacuated from Haiti in the wake of the quake.  It‘s actually—the latest number I have is over 5,200 who have been evacuated, and I‘m sure it is higher by now.  But assistance to these orphans who are going to be the adopted children of American citizens is an equally high priority as our assistance to American citizens who are being caught up, affected by the quake. 

SCHULTZ:  Sure.

Michele Bond, thank you very much. 

BOND:  It‘s a pleasure.

SCHULTZ:  Appreciate your time tonight.

From the U.S. State Department, Michele Bond. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, the man who could fill Ted Kennedy‘s seat is a fan of waterboarding?  Interesting.  I‘ll show you the other side of Scott Brown next in “Psycho Talk.”  

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, always good to get new people in the club. 

Massachusetts needs to know what it‘s going to be getting if this guy Brown becomes the next senator from that state.  So I‘ve got a “Psycho Talk” primer for you tonight. 

All right.  Let‘s look at this guy.

Back in October, 2001, when Brown was a state representative, he voted against a bill to fund Red Cross workers who volunteered at Ground Zero after the September 11th terror attacks? 

This past weekend, Think Progress asked him about it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In 2001, you voted against 9/11 recovery workers, giving them aid.  Do you have any comment on that story? 

SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS SENATE CANDIDATE:  Yes.  It was a time when our budget was down.  We had a lot of cuts, unfortunately, and we needed to take care of our own priorities first. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Oh, those priorities. 

You know what Scott Brown prioritized that particular fall?  Well, while he was voting against 9/11 rescue workers, he was pushing a bill to build a tax-subsidized golf course.  He prioritized a golf course over 9/11 volunteers. 

And, well, “Psycho Talk”  just keeps coming with this guy.  You see, before the 2008 election, he pushed a wingnut theory that President Obama was born out of wedlock. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN:  Barack‘s mom had him when she was 18 years old. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And married. 

BROWN:  Well, I don‘t know about that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Folks, that man has no business being in the United States Senate, let alone in Ted Kennedy‘s old Senate seat.  If Scott Brown wins tonight, you can surely expect a lot more of that kind of “Psycho Talk.”  

Attention, Massachusetts voters.  You‘ve got 90 minutes left to vote.  Now is not the time to stay home.  You have to just get it together and go do what you‘ve got to do to fill this Senate seat with somebody who‘s going to move the country forward. 

We‘ll have an update on the turnout.

And this race has the Democrats on Capitol Hill scrambling to finish the health care bill.  I‘ll lay out their battle plan next. 

All that, plus a shocking grade for the president‘s first year in office will be dished out in the “Playbook” dealing with firearms in this country. 

You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Thanks for watching tonight.  The people of Massachusetts may be the only ones voting today.  But make no mistake about it, this race will have national repercussions.  If the Republican Scott Brown wins, it is another victory for obstructionist Republicans who have done nothing but stall health care reform all the way back to August. 

You can look at it this way: back in August, we heard that health care would pas by mid-October.  Then we get to October, we‘re told, well, really we‘re going to have it on the president‘s desk by Christmas.  That‘s what we‘re going do.  In November that deadline got pushed back even further.  We were told it might happen around the State of the Union. 

Well, Obama‘s State of the Union, the president slated to address the nation January 27th.  It doesn‘t look like we‘re going to have a bill by then either.  Especially if Scott Brown wins tonight, he‘ll be the stall mechanism, unless the Democrats get on the fast track. 

For more on what the Massachusetts special election means for health care reform, let me bring in Mike Allen of “Politico” tonight.  Mike, great to have you back with us.  It‘s been a while. 

MIKE ALLEN, “POLITICO”:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  This is political juice at the max, is it not?  Who would have ever thought this scenario would be playing out like this?  I want to ask you, is the Obama administration paying the price for dragging their feet on health care reform and letting this long process draw out over eight or nine months, instead of getting right to it after the Republicans said we‘re going to make it your Waterloo? 

ALLEN:  Ed, you can‘t overstate the consequences for health care, but you definitely can overstate health care as a cause.  Everybody‘s going to point to the Massachusetts result and say, oh, this is because of the environment, this is because of the president.  Proof that that‘s not the case, proof that this is at least in large part because of the candidate and the campaign is the fact that just nine days ago the front page of the Sunday “Boston Globe” had her up 15 points.  That wouldn‘t be the case if it was all external factors. 

So you had a Republican who took advantage of a very terrible environment and you had a candidate that did not to protect themselves against tough times. 

SCHULTZ:  I think you make a very interesting point.  Because those last few weeks is now affecting the attitude of Democrats.  Listen to Congressman Weiner this morning on “MORNING JOE.”  This is amazing to me. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC ANCHOR:  What‘s the next move if you only have 59 senators? 

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

GEIST:  Really. 

WEINER:  Yeah.  Look, I think it is going to be very hard to ask us in the House to take this Senate bill, when everyone acknowledges it was the worse bill. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Now why wasn‘t he saying that a few weeks ago?  They found the panic button late here.  Didn‘t they? 

ALLEN:  Well, yeah.  There is a little bit of shadow boxing going on here.  We‘re having today, for the first time, leaders indicating that, yes, they maybe could accept the Senate bill, if they are promised changes in reconciliation.  But I think that that may be more laying the groundwork for some concessions to Republicans, scaling back the bill a bit.  I think there is a lot of posturing going on today.  These lines in the sand, definitive statements like that, I wouldn‘t take them as the final answer. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I would take this as a final answer from this guy.  Michael Moore, who was on this program some time ago, saying that the progressive Democrats in this country are going to come together and go after those Democrats that stood in the way of health care reform.  Here he is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Michael, you have gone so far as to put Democrats on notice, saying that you will work against them, you will go into their districts and target them to take them out if they don‘t represent the people. 

MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR:  I will personally help to organize in any Congressional district or in any state, in the case of a senator, people to find the right candidate in the Democratic primary to run against these individuals and remove them from office. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So the question now, Mike Allen, is in the wake of this Senate race up in Massachusetts tonight, if it doesn‘t go right, what‘s the next move for progressives? 

ALLEN:  I would remind you that when Republicans started to eat each other up, we talked about how it wasn‘t very smart.  I think a lot of people will make that point about Democrats as well.  But that sound bite was an indication of the incredible blame game that we‘re going to see.  These are sort of pre-mortems, you might call them, of what‘s likely to go on.  You have DC blaming Boston.  You have Boston blaming DC.  You have liberals blaming progressives.  You have the more conservative Democrats blaming each other.  And you have the Hill blaming the White House and visa versa. 

So everybody‘s going to talk about why the alarm was not sounded sooner, why this race was allowed to get out of hand, and why Republicans quietly—Washington Republicans quietly put 500,000 dollars into this race, and got a lot better bang for their buck than the national Democrats, who put in 2.5 million after the barn door was open. 

SCHULTZ:  Mike Allen, always a pleasure.  Great to have you with us. 

ALLEN:  Great treat.  Thank you for your coverage. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Chief white house correspondent for “Politico” Mike Allen with us on THE ED SHOW.

Joining me now, let‘s go to our panel, Joan Walsh, editor in chief Salon.com, and Ron Christie, former advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

Joan, I want to look at it this way, if I can, for just a moment tonight: I think that Democrats are going to pay a severe price for dragging this health care thing out.  I think it is going to fall on the shoulders of the conservative Democrats, who crossed every T and dotted every I and really just had cold feet when it came to the public option.  I‘m talking about Kent Conrad.  You‘re looking at Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and, of course, Joe Lieberman.  Is the White House going to pay a price for the foot dragging by the conservative Democrats?  What do you think?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Yes, but.  Just a couple of starting points, Ed.  First of all, the race is not over.  I do worry about sitting here doing postmortems when people still have to vote in Massachusetts.  You‘ve already said that.  I want to say that again. 

Second, this is not a race—this is not any kind of referendum on president Obama.  It is a referendum on Martha Coakley.  President Obama did not tell her to go on vacation.  President Obama did not tell her to mock going to Fenway Park, which is a landmark, a holy place in Massachusetts. 

She ran a terrible campaign.  OK, got that out of the way. 

Having said that, there will be national implications.  And I‘m not sure what they are.  I do agree with you.  The president made a terrible mistake turning health care reform over to the Senate Finance Committee, which meant over to Chuck Grassley really.  He courted Republicans.  He courted Olympia Snowe.  He didn‘t get one damn vote.  That will prove to be a mistake.  We can say that now. 

However, people who are talking about blocking health care reform—and Michael Moore is going to go out and campaign against conservative Blue Dog Democrats—I‘m sorry, Ed, we don‘t like it, but we don‘t have a majority without some Blue Dog Democrats.  That‘s where we are. 

Michael Moore makes great movies.  He doesn‘t organize.  A lot of the people who are the shrill people on the left.  I love them.  Sometimes I‘m one of them.  They don‘t organize.  That‘s why we‘re here. 

So I want to see a health care reform bill passed.  That‘s going to make me very unpopular among progressives.  But I think they‘ve got to do.  If they have to take the Senate bill, they have to take the Senate bill.  That‘s what is going to happen, I hope.  Otherwise, all hell is going to break loose for Barack Obama. 

SCHULTZ:  Ron Christie, is this a referendum on President Obama?  What do you think?

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Of course this is a referendum on President Obama.  But it goes beyond President Obama.  It is the Congressional leadership.  I think the American people—we take one year ago, we had a very exciting inauguration for a brand-new president, hope and change.  They were going to change the tone in Washington. 

I think Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, probably the two central figures in this, arrogantly tried to jam through an agenda that the American people weren‘t ready for.  The president would have been well wise to have taken not only the global climate change issue off the table, but to sit down very constructively with Republicans and Democrats and said, let‘s craft something for the American people. 

President Obama inherited, there‘s no question, a recession when he came into office.  More than two million Americans lost their jobs over this past year. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, OK.  But, Ron, this is the political wild card here.  What has Scott Brown or the Republicans done to garnish all this polling goodwill from independent voters in Massachusetts?  Are they gaining ground by default?  What‘s happening? 

CHRISTIE:  No.  I think they‘re gaining traction—Scott Brown has gone out and said that he does not want to vote for this health care bill in its current fashion.  He does not want to vote for global climate change.  He does not believe in one-party rule in Washington.  And that he wants to roll up his sleeves and reach across the aisle very constructively to work with Republicans and Democrats. 

SCHULTZ:  He would be the first one to do that.

WALSH:  That‘s not going to happen. 

CHRISTIE:  I tell you what, this is why I think the Democrats have a very god opportunity.  If you look at Bill Clinton, when he lost control of the House back in the mid 1990s, he was able to craft a very successful second term.  I think President Obama and Congressional Democrats would be wise right now to read the mood of the American people, not to over-reach in their agenda, reach out constructively in a bipartisan manner.  And I think they can get health care and other issues the president wants—

WALSH:  But, you know, Ron, the—Obama did reach out to Republicans to craft the stimulus bill and he still didn‘t get any votes.  He started this year very much in the spirit of “I did campaign on setting a new tone in Washington.”  He invited them to the White House.  He took their ideas on the stimulus.  And he didn‘t get any votes. 

He did the Same thing with health care reform.  They ran through all these amendments, voted for their amendments, and then they didn‘t vote for the bill.  There‘s been plenty of bipartisan conversation about both the economy and health care reform.  But, when push comes to shove, Republicans won‘t vote for anything Barack Obama wants.  So why should he compromise?

SCHULTZ:  Ron, how are you supposed to work with the other party, when long-time Senator Jim DeMint says he wants to break the president?  He wants it to be his Waterloo?  Is that a starting point for bipartisanship?  Then this party is garnishing the goodwill of independent voters in Massachusetts.  I don‘t get what the up side is.  I don‘t get what they‘ve done other than stand in the way. 

CHRISTIE:  I think Jim Demint was absolutely right that health care would be President Obama‘s Waterloo.  Listen, if you look at the way—the demonization that took place with President Bush over the last eight years, about how people were saying they wanted the president to fail, saying far worse things about the war in Iraq—

WALSH:  Who said that?  Who said that?  Rush Limbaugh said that about president Obama. 

CHRISTIE:  Yet, still, in the first year, nine years ago, he was able to work with Ted Kennedy.  He was able to work with George Miller from California. 

WALSH:  Thanks to Ted Kennedy. 

CHRISTIE:  Excuse me.  He had had very significant bipartisan support.  I think the difference is rather than saying let‘s come to a couple meetings, President Bush sat down very constructively with Democrats in his first term in office.  President Obama made a few token gestures of having a meeting.  I think the American people tonight, Ed, are sending a very clear message.  They want people in Washington to meet.  They want the bickering to stop.  And they want the jobs to start coming.  That has to be done on both sides of the aisle. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s interesting how you‘re spinning that, Ron.  I don‘t know.  I mean, the economy is the number one issue up in Massachusetts, with an eight percent unemployment. 

CHRISTIE:  The Democrats are talking about health care, Ed.  That‘s why we‘re here. 

SCHULTZ:  The democrats are talking about health care.  But they‘re also talking about jobs and freeing up money through the community banks, to break out lending for small businesses ,to create jobs.  It takes time to do that.  When Obama came in, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month.  Now that number has been cut down to less than 100,000. 

Let me ask you about the economy.  Joan Walsh, are the American people

are we just impatient?  We want jobs and we want them now.  No matter who‘s in there, we pay the price. 

WALSH:  Yes, we are impatient.  I go back to your point about Obama having taken too long to get this through.  I completely disagree with Ron, obviously.  I almost always do.  He should have pushed this through harder, left the Republicans alone once they told him they didn‘t want to work with him.  Then we‘d be on to jobs.  Then we‘d be on to either a second stimulus or other kinds of job creation and tax credits, et cetera. 

He‘s wound up kind of standing in cement of his own pouring by letting the Republicans dictate his agenda and the timing of his agenda.  We need to get on to jobs.  And we are impatient.  But, you know, people who are out of work are impatient for a reason. 

SCHULTZ:  Joan Walsh, Ron Christie, great to have you with us tonight. 

Great discussion, thanks so much. 

Coming up, ammunition is flying off the store shelves and people are bringing loaded guns to public events?  Like presidential rallies?  That‘s what happened this year.  Now one of America‘s largest gun control groups is calling on the president to do something about it.  That‘s next in my playbook.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in my playbook tonight, President Obama just received a failing grade on his first year in office from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  The group has blasted the president who they endorsed in the 2008 campaign for not having taken significant steps to advance gun control laws in this country. 

Joining me now for more on this is Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  Mr. Helmke is also the former mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, so he can speak with experience on what it‘s like from a law enforcement perspective. 

Mr. Helmke, an F for—President Obama gets an F on gun control laws? 

PAUL HELMKE, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE:  It was a very disappointing year, Ed.  Candidate Obama said a lot of the right things.  Candidate Obama talked about how hunters can have their guns, but we don‘t need assault weapons on the streets in Cleveland.  He talked about that in his convention speech.  He talked about trying to find middle ground to protect gun rights, but also make it harder for dangerous people to get guns. 

Since he‘s been in office, it is like they don‘t even know what the word gun is anymore.  He not only didn‘t push good legislation that he said he supported, he actually signed into law two things that helped more guns get to more places, which is bad.  And most disappointing, after we had some of the tragedies in this country, the shootings of police officers in Pittsburgh and Oakland and in Washington State, the shooting of people in Binghamton, New York, at the health club outside of Pittsburgh, Ft. Hood, he never talked about guns. 

Four hundred students shot in his hometown of Chicago last year and they don‘t even talk about school violence until somebody‘s killed with a two by four.  They try to run away from the word gun and the issue all together. 

SCHULTZ:  What did you expect in his first year?  I mean, this is always a political hot potato, especially for a Democratic president. 

HELMKE:  It‘s a hot potato.  But he handled it perfectly during the campaign.  In fact, I think the NRA ran ads against him in 13 states He carried 11 of those.  His message on common sense gun control in the middle worked with the public, worked with the electorate. 

I‘d like him to do what he said he was going to do.  I‘d like him to support efforts to close the gun show loophole, to require background checks for those who are buying guns. 

SCHULTZ:  Don‘t we have that now? 

HELMKE:  Only if you buy from a federally license dealer.  If you go to almost any gun show in almost any state, and find the right table, you can buy as many guns as you want. 

SCHULTZ:  The last time I bought a deer rifle, I couldn‘t take it off the shelf.  I had to wait a few days. 

HELMKE:  Most places, Ed, no waiting period.  If you go to the right table at the right gun show, no background check at all. 

SCHULTZ:  You want him to do the background check.  You also made

reference to his hometown of Chicago having more gun violence this year. 

Is that a fact? 

HELMKE:  They‘ve been seeing more gun violence in Chicago, yes. 

SCHULTZ:  So a failing grade—have you had any response from the White House?  Have you tried to meet with the president on gun violence? 

HELMKE:  Yes, we‘ve been trying to talk to the president.  I think they‘re taking the political position that they don‘t want to talk about this, even though they campaigned on it, even though most of the American people support it, even though most NRA members and gun owners support these kind of common sense things. 

I think they are learning avoiding these types of issues doesn‘t work. 

Thirty thousand people continue to die each year in this country from guns;

80,000 people are injured each year in this country from guns.  Something needs to be done and keeping silent isn‘t making the country any safer. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, the proponents of gun usage, so to speak, sports and whatever—ammunition is flying off the shelves in this country, because they thought that President Obama was going to be a gun grabber.  And it turns out that you‘re going give a grade of F on the other side of the ledger.  Mr. Helmke, appreciate your time tonight.  Thanks so much. 

HELMKE:  We‘re hopeful he‘ll do better in the future. 

SCHULTZ:  No one can fill Ted Kennedy‘s shoes.  But by the end of this night, the Bay State will have chosen someone to fill his seat.  The founding editor of “The Huffington Post” will explain what this means to each and every American.  That‘s next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to  ED SHOW.  We‘re getting closer to finding out if the Democrats will hold on to the seat that Ted Kennedy held for 40 some odd years, 46 years, if Massachusetts will elect its first Republican senator since 1972.  The polls close in just over an hour.  Let me bring in founding editor of “The Huffington Post” Roy Sekoff.  Roy, apparently heavy turnout.  What do you make of it? 

ROY SEKOFF, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Ed, either way this goes, if it is a close win for Coakley or if she loses, this is the political equivalent of a mild heart attack for the Democrats and for Obama.  It is not fatal, but it is enough to send them to the ER and have the doctor say, listen, you got to change your ways. 

So the real question is what message does the White House take away from this?  We‘re already hearing some talk from the likes of Joe Lieberman that well, it‘s a message that he has to move to the center, and go back to the bipartisanship and go back to courting Olympia Snowe and all that, which I think would be a very big mistake for the Democrats, playing right into the hands of the GOP. 

On the other hand, what I think he needs to do is use it as a wake up call and say, I need to get back to what I ran on.  I need to get back to trying to push through real reform, the things people voted for me to do, and not this being in bed so cozy with Wall Street and the big banks. 

SCHULTZ:  Speaking of heart attacks, this is what the political EKG machine says tonight a number of polls.  You‘ve got Brown leading.  Daily Kos has got them tied.  Suffolk 7 News/American Research Group and “Politico” have got him up four, seven and nine.  Also Political Insider Advantage/”Politico,” Brown up by nine, 52-43.  Then the Suffolk 7 poll, as I said, 50-46.  Only poll they are tied is Daily Kos Research 2000.  They are tied there 48. 

Now polling today is pretty close.  I‘m interested in your opinion as to where in the polling—why have the independents swung so strongly to Brown?  What‘s happening out there to garnish that favor?  I‘m puzzled by that. 

SEKOFF:  Really?  I think, Ed, Coakley‘s pollster gave an interview to the “Huffington Post” today.  And I think she spoke truth when she said that the White House has not been strong enough on the way they stand with Wall Street and the way they stand with the banks.  And the independents are angry.  Because they‘ve been tone-deaf about the foreclosures, and they‘ve been tone-deaf about the unemployment I think in the way they‘ve responded to it, I think the independent voters are angry.  And they have allowed this vacuum.  And the populous anger has now been able to turn on Democrats.

And they‘ve become the status quo, Ed.  That‘s the problem.  They‘re giving a lot of rhetoric about fighting for the middle class, all that stuff, Main Street.  That‘s not what we‘re seeing.  What we‘re seeing time and time again is a retrenchment and playing into the hands of the Wall Street and right into the hands of the big banks. 

That‘s not where you want to be heading into 2010, cozying up with the bankers and with Wall Street. 

SCHULTZ:  Roy Sekoff, great to have you with us again tonight.  thanks for your insight.  For an update on voter turnout, let me bring in someone who is boots on ground in Massachusetts, radio talk show host Jeff Santos at WWZN in Boston.  Jeff, is there populist anger out there that‘s showing up out there in the polls? 

JEFF SANTOS, WWZN TALK SHOW HOST:  Yeah, there is.  That‘s the difference.  It‘s not that—the fact is there is change is in the air.  And they want to have change.  They look at Scott Brown as phony change.  The fact is that Martha Coakley is the continuation of change.  It started in 2006 here in Massachusetts with Deval Patrick, 2008 with Barack Obama.  It needs to continue tonight.  If we can get out the vote, it will. 

That‘s the difference.  People want change.  They are suffering in unemployment, 10 percent unemployment.  They are suffering because they want more health care.  The reasonable it is only 36 percent pro health care in this state is because they want the public option, which reduces the cost.  That‘s the only way you‘re going to do it.  You have been fighting for it all the time on radio and TV.  You get it.  That‘s why we need to bring it up. 

SCHULTZ:  You think the Democrats giving up on the public option has dwindled their numbers. 

SANTOS:  No doubt about it.  There is obviously some folks that don‘t want to do it, but that‘s the loony right.  But there are a lot of progressives who really want the public option.  Look, everybody has to have health care in this state.  When you look at your bill, and it is 500, 700 for a 50-year-old single woman with a preexisting condition, 800 bucks a month.  That‘s what they want. 

SCHULTZ:  Jeff, why would that issue, in your opinion, turn that to a Republican who says he wants to be the 41st vote?  Are they that upset about the bill that they don‘t want any reform at all? 

SANTOS:  No, I think there are two separate things.  I think there are jobs.  I think that‘s where a lot of independents are.  They‘re unemployed.  They are looking to try to find out where they can go for change.  They feel any change they can find—a lot of people think Coakley was the incumbent.  She was the favorite.  She was the attorney general.  They don‘t know the difference between attorney general, Senate, governor.  They just look at her as she‘s been in office.  So Brown‘s the outsider.  He‘s running a good campaign. 

SCHULTZ:  Who is going to win this thing? 

SANTOS:  I think Coakley by one. 

SCHULTZ:  You think Coakley by one.  All right.  That wouldn‘t be Curt Schilling‘s vote, would it? 

SANTOS:  No.  We‘re Pedro Martinez guys on this side.  He‘s a Democrat.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you.  Tonight in our tele-vote survey I asked, do you think today‘s election in Massachusetts is a referendum on President Obama?  Sixty five percent of you said yes; 35 percent said no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or our radio website, WeGotEd.Com.

Chris Matthews is next with “HARDBALL,” right here on MSNBC.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night. 

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

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