Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O`Donnell, Ed Schultz, Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: Thank you again, Rachel.
OLBERMANN: And good evening once again from New York. The last
primary night to get this much attention? March 4, 2008; Barack Obama and
Hilary Clinton faced each other on the ballots of Ohio and Texas among
other states for the democratic presidential nomination.
Tonight, in our fifth story on this special edition of COUNTDOWN, in
Kentucky, a Tea Party favorite has defeated the candidate picked by the
Senate Minority Leader for that state‘s republican Senate nomination.
While in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, two veteran senators not facing
career-ending challenges from the left. We begin tonight in Kentucky,
where republicans will have the largest turnout ever in one of their
Political novice Rand Paul, the eye surgeon, the son of Congressman
Ron Paul riding support from Tea Party activists to victory in the
republican Senate primary. He has defeated Trey Grayson who was recruited
to run for Senator Jim Bunning‘s seat by that state‘s other senator, the
senior senator, Mitch McConnell.
Earlier tonight, Dr. Paul making clear exactly for whom his victory
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAND PAUL: I have a message. A message from the Tea Party; a message
that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We‘ve come to take our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Never mind the government back, get a new PA system back.
Minority leader McConnell appearing to hear that message. He‘s issued a
statement tonight which reads in part, “Dr. Paul ran an outstanding
campaign which clearly struck a chord with Kentucky voters and I
congratulate him on his impressive victory.
Now Kentucky republicans will unite in standing against the
overreaching policies of the Obama Administration. Kentucky needs Rand
Paul in the U.S. Senate because he will work every day to stop this
crippling agenda.” Boy, it didn‘t take him long to get on that bandwagon.
Among the democrats in the Kentucky Senate race, with a very a large
turnout which is not that atypical in Kentucky, it is Jack Conway by the
slimmest of margins, and 3 percent of polls yet to report.
Conway, the attorney general Mongiardo, the lieutenant governor of
that state in a knock-down, drag-out, Tom-and-Jerry-style battle here
throughout the evening, and no projection yet made.
Meanwhile in Arkansas in the primary for the democratic Senate
nomination there, in the three-way race which initially looked like
Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter‘s, it is now Blanche Lincoln comfortably in
the lead, but with only 5 percent of the vote still scored. Of course the
key number here is not 46 percent, nor 41 percent, but 50 percent.
That is how much the winner would need to avoid a runoff primary, and
there you see it. It does not look like that is developing for Senator
Lincoln. And this morning, in a development that also might not develop
well for Senator Lincoln and her fight to hold on to her seat, the democrat
filling out a provisional ballot because her campaign had already requested
an absentee ballot for her, which she did not send back.
It was sent to her home in Virginia. Officials telling
talkingpointsmemo.com that they will count that provisional tonight,
assuming they can independently confirm that Senator Lincoln did not
already vote by mail. The three-way race making it sure she‘s likely to
want her own vote.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey has now won the republican
Senate nomination—no surprise there—where he will face the winner of
the big one of the evening, former republican Arlen Specter, the incumbent
senator from a different party versus Congressman Joe Sestak.
And at this hour, with the Philadelphia vote primarily counted already
and the outskirts of that area, and of course the western part of the state
just beginning to come in, Joe Sestak with a four percent lead. Andrea
Mitchell is now reporting, I‘m being told at this hour, two top Specter
supporters are telling NBC News Specter can not overcome this margin—
this Sestak margin.
That‘s an Andrea Mitchell report that two of Specter‘s big supporters
are saying their man can not overcome the big lead that Sestak has in
Allegheny County, which is of course Western Pennsylvania, broadly
Senator Specter, who in recent days, seems to have forgotten for which
party he was running mentioned it a couple of times the wrong way, today
warning that if he loses, the Tea Party will take the country back 200
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARLEN SPECTER: If you don‘t field the strongest candidate, frankly
like Arlen Specter, they‘re going to take over and they‘ll want to
eliminate EPN. They want to go back to the Gold Standard. We‘d be in 18th
OLBERMANN: And the Montreal Canadians will beat the Philadelphia
Flyers. Joining me now from Philadelphia, Howard Fineman of Newsweek and
MSNBC. Great thanks for you time tonight, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We have to ask you about what Andrea Mitchell has just
reported here. There were some hints earlier this evening, even in the
afternoon, based on what Ed Rendell had said, that perhaps Senator
Specter‘s supporters were looking at this with great, great anxiety about
Does it in fact look like they believe they‘re not going to win this
FINEMAN: It feels like that, and I think Andrea‘s reporting is right
on target. I talked to Representative Bob Brady earlier today from
Philadelphia, who‘s basically the head of the machine here; very upset
about the turnout; very upset he didn‘t think the White House did enough.
That was interesting body language in and of itself.
I just talked to friends of mine in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Don‘t
forgot, Arlen Specter got the endorsement of the local AFLCIO in Allegheny
County. He got the endorsement of County Executive Dan Onorato, who is
about to win the democratic nomination for governor.
Specter got the endorsement of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl of Pittsburgh.
Despite all of that, based on the results I‘ve seen so far we‘re looking at
on the web, and talking to people in the state officials offices, Joe
Sestak is ahead about 53-47 in Allegheny County despite all of the support
of the establishment there.
And you put that together with a very moderate turnout here in
Philadelphia, the fact that it looks like Joe Sestak is winning 38-39
percent of the vote here in Philadelphia without a big push in the western
part of the state, and a good showing in the western part of the state, the
numbers that you see on the screen now, 52-48 Sestak look like they‘re
going to hold up. And I think Andrea‘s right on target.
OLBERMANN: And Andrea‘s right there with you, and we‘ll get to her in
second. I just wanted to report that the AP has just called the Kentucky
democratic nomination for Jack Conway. But let‘s—we‘ll deal with that in
a second. Andrea Mitchell, who we‘ve invoked now four times without giving
her the chance to speak. Good evening, Andrea.
FINEMAN: She‘s sitting right next to me. I think I should.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: We‘re about two inches apart.
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What do they think happened? Is this just the classic
case of it‘s a bad year for an incumbent, and essentially Senator Specter
is a double incumbent?
MITCHELL: Yes, and the party switch clearly. Allegheny County just
went for Sestak. That is what they‘re telling me. That is what the numbers
are coming in to the democratic party leaders who are Specter supporters.
So they, two top officials who are Specter supporters, just told me
that they don‘t see any way that he can overcome this, and that by 11
o‘clock it really will be declared.
You know, they‘re still obviously counting the votes, but the numbers
that are coming in to the big Specter supporters are that the Philadelphia
margin, which is about a 20 percent margin, is just not enough to overcome
what he is facing throughout the rest of the state.
And so there‘s tremendous disappointment. They do think that it was
that party switch. They were trying to sell a new democrat who did not
resonate with democratic voters and it is the anti-incumbent pitch.
Joe Sestak presented himself very cleverly in all of his commercials
as an agent of change and a new face, even though he is already an elected
official and is a member of Congress, but certainly not a 30-year veteran
and an established figure in Washington—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Andrea, what on earth does Senator Specter do now? Does
he close ranks behind democrats who just turned him out in his first
attempt to get their nomination? Does he sit this one out? Does he go
independent? Does he wind up back with the republicans? What does he do?
MITCHELL: Well when I asked him about that very question today, he
said he‘s going to support Joe Sestak. This has been a bitter race, but he
says that he is a democrat and that he will be, I don‘t know how hard he‘ll
be working for Joe Sestak, but you can hear all the—Chris Matthews‘
FINEMAN: The patented laugh
MITCHELL: The patented laugh of Chris Matthews. I don‘t think this
is going to be an excessively hard campaigner but I think he‘ll be a
trooper on this; that he did join the Democratic Party; he felt that the
Republican Party rejected him and had changed and had become captured by
the Tea Party, and I think you‘re going to see Pat Toomey, who‘s won the
nomination on the republican side here certainly move to the center.
FINEMAN: On the other hand, Keith, the White House pulled the plug on
Arlen Specter about 5 o‘clock this afternoon on “Hardball” when—another
patented laugh—when Chuck Todd reported that the White House people were
saying you know what, Arlen came to us. We didn‘t go to him.
And you know, Sestak is probably a better general election candidate.
They said that at 5 o‘clock with three hours in voting here in Philadelphia
and in Pennsylvania on a show that a lot of people watch here in Philly if
for no other reason than their favorite son is the host of the show.
OLBERMANN: Well, Chris, what are you numbers like in Pittsburgh?
MITCHELL: And it‘s exactly the time when the lunch bucket—
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, they‘re dynamite in Philly, brother.
Every Sunday, every night, they‘re dynamite. All I can tell you, Keith, is
let me be cruel tonight. Let me be very cruel. Neil Oxman‘s ad for
Sestak, which began running about two weeks ago turned this election
It showed Arlen Specter admitting his opportunism. Now it‘s one thing
to be opportunistic; everybody is to some extent. But to admit it to the
camera that you switched parties to save your keyster is unacceptable.
People care about how they—you care about your politics.
Everybody who votes cares about their politics. To be so casual about
it to say, oh, yes, I switched parties because I didn‘t want to lose—It
reminds me of the guy who puts on the woman‘s dress to get in the lifeboat
on the Titanic.
You don‘t look too good down in that boat wearing the dress. Now they
may let you leave just because they‘re embarrassed for you, but they don‘t
like you anymore. And so unfortunately, Neil Oxman did that to this guy.
He put him in the lifeboat and put the dress on him and it didn‘t look
good. And that‘s the story of this election. I think.
OLBERMANN: Yes, Howard?
FINEMAN: As long as we‘re talking about personal stuff, I got to tell
you this, and I didn‘t clear it with her before I went on the air to say
this, but my family is from Pittsburgh. My mom is 86. She lives in
Pittsburgh; retired teacher, democrat straight down the line.
I called her earlier today out in Allegheny County and I said whom did
you vote for? And she said Joe Sestak. And she called him “shestak”.
MATTHEWS: Oh my goodness.
FINEMAN: She had no idea. She called him “shestak” but she said
Arlen Specter voted for the war in Iraq and voted for the Bush tax cuts.
In other words, he was still too much of a republican in her mind—
MATTHEWS: Good for her.
FINEMAN: -- to support in the democratic primary. That‘s what Andrea
MATTHEWS: Mrs. Fineman still has a clear head.
FINEMAN: Well, no, it‘s—
MATTHEWS: She‘s voting—those are issues that matter.
FINEMAN: Well, no. That was a big lift for a lot of democrats, and
especially with the Barack Obama not coming in here and going knocking
door-to-door and saying look, I know Mrs. Fineman, you know, he‘s a
republican but he‘s my guy, you got to vote for him.
And when Obama didn‘t do that, even though he‘s got the TV ad, when he
didn‘t come in here again and again and again, I think that hurt with those
kinds of voters.
MITCHELL: The ad that Chris just talked about, also of course showed
George W. Bush saying that he, you know, he praised him and loved—
FINEMAN: Right. I love Arlen.
MITCHELL: He loved Arlen‘s—
FINEMAN: They showed that George Bush ad time and time and time
again, and if Arlen ends up in the final count losing, that will be the
reason why. Too many voters in the democratic primary are not going to
vote for a guy who was a republican ten minutes ago and who‘s praised by
George W. Bush.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘ve got to be careful, Keith. I think in terms
of sensibility, he is to the left of Arlen. Certainly his history is that,
but he‘s not dove, and I think it‘s very careful, he was a military man; an
admiral—three-star at one point—I think it‘s very important for him
going in to the general election to be honest about it.
He‘s not a man of the left. He‘s a man of the center-left I think
it‘s fair to say like Arlen has become—
OLBERMANN: Chris, I‘m going to interrupt you—Give me—I‘m going
to take my life in my hands.
MATTHEWS: But in terms of voters—
MATTHEWS: In terms of voters, they thought he was to the left.
OLBERMANN: Give me one second. The Associated Press has just called
this race for Joe Sestak. That‘s the only reason I would attempt to
interrupt you on that.
FINEMAN: Wow. There you go.
OLBERMANN: The Associated Press saying simply Joe Sestak, Democrat,
nominated U.S. Senate, Pennsylvania. All right so that‘s out of the way.
Let me go back again—and Chris—
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s going to the center, and I think—OK.
OLBERMANN: What is it—I asked you this question two hours ago, and
it‘s much more relevant now that the thing has happened. Is this just a set
of unique circumstances in Pennsylvania given you have a man switching
parties, as Howard has so acutely pointed out, given that you have the
White House kind of bailing out on this both with the president not
stopping by, and the vice president being in Pennsylvania yesterday and
doing no campaigning for him, and a somewhat strong across-the-board, anti-
incumbent theory going on throughout the nation?
Is it self-explanatory, or does it mean anything else, and does this
outcome mean anything else anywhere in the country except in the
Pennsylvania Democratic Party?
MATTHEWS: I think there‘s a pattern in all the races. People say
this is not as good as it can get. They‘re not willing to accept Blanche
Lincoln‘s sort of mediocre, somewhere-in-the-middle voting pattern. She
went too far to the right.
I don‘t think they‘re willing to accept Trey Grayson‘s dictation from
Mitch McConnell. I think people say I demand better government, left or
right. I demand something better than this. They‘re not listening to the
leaders on either side.
There‘s a real pattern here. I said to you the term screw you. Maybe
that‘s strong language, but they‘re basically saying to the big shots,
including the president, don‘t tell us who to vote for. The president, the
vice president, the governor, the head of the party here, the mayor—
everybody said vote for Arlen Specter.
They gave them a sample ballot that only had the name of Arlen Specter
on it. As Howard pointed out, 38 percent of this city, which is still an
old machine town, voted against the machine candidate. That is
rejectionism, and I think that‘s what the pattern is tonight. Don‘t tell
us who to vote for. We‘re still a democracy. I think.
MITCHELL: And I think it does foretell some problems that Sestak is
going to experience, because there are people in this party here, and they
go all the way up to the governor who were ignored by the voters—by the
democratic voters—but they will in turn blame some people on Washington
for what happened, because they do think that President Obama could have
pulled this out in the last couple of days.
The other outcome of this, Keith, is also that Howard Fineman outed
FINEMAN: By the way, I hope I don‘t get in trouble for that, by the
MATTHEWS: You know, but there has never been a more loyal son, Mrs.
Fineman. He speaks about you all the time. I mean a day doesn‘t pass he
doesn‘t bless you. And your love.
FINEMAN: Any more questions?
OLBERMANN: No, just something from you as opposed to from mom, as
appreciative we have of her being the fourth analyst in our equation here.
Put this into a perspective. Did the White House—to what degree did the
White House give up? And to what degree did the White House undercut Arlen
Specter in the last two days?
FINEMAN: I think the White House right now is hunkering down. I
think they‘re in a crouch looking for the tsunami to come. That‘s my take
on it. I think this is going to be big, and I think it‘s going to be
mostly against the democrats for the plain and simple reason that the
democrats control the White House and have big majorities in the House and
If you look at the basic tabulations of toss-up races in leaning
republicans and strong republican, there‘re 58 democratic seats that are
exposed in the House, and only four or five republican seats.
If the democrats lose 40, 42, 41-42 of those 58 seats, they lose the
House. On the Senate side, especially with problems in Connecticut, with
the weakness of Barbara Boxer in California, this is going to be a close
run thing by the fall.
If this mood continues, Keith, it‘s going to be a close run thing as
to whether the democrats keep control of either the House or the Senate
OLBERMANN: A little invocation of Mr. Wellington at Waterloo from
Howard Fineman, along with Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell. We‘ll go
back to them after a quick break, along with Lawrence O‘Donnell, but the
big news, the Associated Press has now called the democratic primary for
Senate in Pennsylvania for Congressman Joe Sestak over the incumbent-but-
switched-party senator, the veteran Arlen Specter, whose career in public
service may have come to an end in the last 15 minutes.
MSNBC‘s coverage of this big primary night continues next.
OLBERMANN: This doesn‘t sum up everything that has faced Senator
Arlen Specter, who is as of tonight, the lame duck senator from
Pennsylvania. The audio on that speech has just kicked in after about
three or four minutes.
Going to talk to Lawrence O‘Donnell about the defeat of Senator
Specter. Also going to talk to Chris Matthews, Andrew Mitchell, and Howard
Fineman again, a little bit from Arlen Specter, who has tonight lost
according to the AP, and is trailing on the count of 53-47 in the race for
the democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania.
SPECTER: I thank the President for his support, and Vice President
Biden, and Governor Rendell, and Senator Casey, and an extraordinary staff
helping me to run the Senate office—Scott Hoeflich the Chief of Staff.
I don‘t know why he got more applause than I did, but he deserves it.
And Mike Oscar in Philadelphia and Adrian Baker Green, Andy Wallace in
Scranton, and Stan in Pittsburgh, and Mary in Eerie, and Melissa in
Harrisburg; tremendous, tremendous office operation. And I thank my
campaign workers who did an extraordinary job; Chris Mickelas (ph) and
Chris Mattola (ph) and really a case of thousands behind us in the
campaign. It‘s been a great privilege to serve the people of Pennsylvania.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Arlen.
SPECTER: And it‘s been a great privilege to be in the United States
Senate, and I‘ll be working very, very hard for the people of the
commonwealth in the coming months. Thank you all.
OLBERMANN: So Arlen Specter, who was elected to the U.S. Senate the
same year that Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States,
who has survived all the races since then, who survived in some sense
switching parties, who survived Stage-4 B Hodgkin‘s Lymphoma, the brain
tumor, never missed a Senate session.
Underwent chemotherapy in 2005, chemotherapy in 2008, does not survive
the primary nomination process for the democratic nomination for Senate
from the state he has served since 1980.
As we promised, continuing coverage here at MSNBC of the defeat, an
epic moment certainly in Pennsylvania, state history—Chris Matthews—
but certainly on a bigger scale, perhaps an influential moment in the
history of current American politics with that point you were making before
we took the break; that you can‘t just don different clothing and get into
the lifeboat, especially at a time when incumbents are not particularly
favored around the country.
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s the reality of the campaign, and it took
until, you know a lot of times voters don‘t really say they‘re for the
other guy until they know who the other guy or the other woman is.
And it wasn‘t really until the series of ads came on the air in
Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago that introduced Joe Sestak to people,
that according to his TV consultant, Neil Oxman, 65 percent of the people
of Pennsylvania, the voters had no idea who Joe Sestak was a couple of
They ran the positive ads that introduced him as a former military
man, 31-year veteran. And then Arlen went on the air with the negative ads
saying yes, he was a 31-year veteran, but he was relieved of duty, but that
sort of reconfirmed the fact that he was a military man, which is a big
plus in Pennsylvania which had a split impact—a positive impact fifty
percent of it.
So the overall impact of the ads on both sides was positive for
Sestak, introducing an alternative. It‘s very much about the shift to the
right after Jimmy Carter. When the public perceived Jimmy Carter as a
failed president politically, they were simply looking for an alternative.
And when Reagan proved he was competent enough to debate Carter, they
said OK. All Sestak had to do was introduce himself as a competent
democratic alternative to a guy who had switched parties, and that seems to
have been enough to win a comfortable victory without a lot of other
He‘s not a warm personality, Joe Sestak. He‘s not more charming than
Arlen. It‘s just that he‘s a democrat with a record that seems credible
against a guy who has a 45-year record as a republican. I think that‘s it.
I think that‘s the facts.
OLBERMANN: By the way, we are putting up the—suddenly switching
topics here to show you as you see on the screen, the 12th District Special
Election, we don‘t have our checkmark yet on that one, but Mark Critz, the
aide to the former—the late congressman from that district, Jack Murtha,
this is the actual election of the night.
This is not for nomination. Winner here goes to Washington to advance
to the semi-finals. Mark Critz has been, according to the Associated
Press, nominated in the 12th District with a sizeable lead over his
republican challenger, Tim Burns.
So that seat will hold for the Democrats, and the larger picture in
Pennsylvania and the instructive picture in Pennsylvania continues to be
this question of what the Specter defeat means, both in terms of the
upcoming senatorial race there, and also what the entire picture means in
terms of the incumbents and party-changing and the re-definition of
And for a little bit on that, Lawrence O‘Donnell of our staff, with
Huffington Post and other places here and there joins me now. Put this in
context. I thought it was ironic that the thing that we joined—the
speech from Senator Specter in progress, he began by thanking President
Obama for his support, which was pretty tepid.
It seemed like Senator Specter didn‘t have a lot to say other than to
thank the people who supported him there, and there weren‘t enough of them
to keep him going passed this. What does this all mean, Lawrence?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC ANALYST: Well one thing I‘d like to get if
we have the resources on site in Pennsylvania is did Specter congratulate
Joe Sestak? Did Specter say in the portions that we didn‘t hear that he is
endorsing Sestak and he‘s going to work for Sestak?
We didn‘t hear that in the portions that we got on air, but that‘s
something we‘re going to have to find out, and if he specifically left that
out, then there could be something interesting developing beyond tonight
But one of the big messages of tonight, Keith, obviously, and it‘s not
just tonight, is that a White House endorsement, so far in 2010, is proving
to be worthless. We had one in Massachusetts and we saw the White House
endorsement mean nothing there.
We‘ve just seen it get rolled over in Pennsylvania, and the White
House political operation, which worked so very hard to eliminate any
democrat from challenging Arlen Specter—they used every method they
could to talk people out of running for this—they couldn‘t—it didn‘t
work with Sestak.
They‘ve done the same thing in New York with Senator Gillibrand. They
worked very hard to clear the field for her. That has worked so far. But
the question within the party is, is the White House political operation
making the right decisions about these races or have they made mistakes on
who they have decided at the outset, should go in to the general election
And the voters of Pennsylvania tonight certainly said that the White
House made a mistake and that Sestak is the one that democrats in
Pennsylvania want to see in the general election this fall. And so, you
see this, the White House political operation is reeling from this result,
and they should be.
OLBERMANN: To that first question you raised, obviously we don‘t know
what was said before the—unfortunately before the audio switched on;
part of the Senator‘s problem tonight and throughout the campaign, we don‘t
know what he said, but as Andrea Mitchell had reported earlier, when they
discussed this this afternoon during an interview with Andrea, he had said
he was going to work for Congressman Sestak if indeed he lost the
So presumably, that promise holds true. Lawrence O‘Donnell in Los
Angeles for you tonight. We‘re going to go back to Philadelphia after a
quick break here, because we have so much to talk about, both in
Pennsylvania, and also in Kentucky, where the tea party candidate has
blistered the main-line Republican sent out by Mitch McConnell.
And Mitch McConnell has himself joined that bandwagon of the tea party
candidate, Rand Paul, as fast as you can get on it. If he hopped on one
leap off the ground to a seated position on top that bandwagon, I wouldn‘t
be surprised if there‘s a video of it.
All right. I know I sounded a little like Dan Rather right there.
We‘ll be right back.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s recap the busy night so far in our primary specials,
particularly focusing on Pennsylvania and Kentucky. The numbers in
Arkansas are a little too early to say anything about, but not so in
The Democratic senatorial primarily has been decided, mostly in votes
in Allegheny County, the western part of the state. Pittsburgh—and
Pittsburgh delivers Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary nomination to
Congressman Joe Sestak, in what is developing as a very large victory over
the incumbent—though not the incumbent Democratic Senator Arlen Specter.
To look briefly at Kentucky where the tea party candidate, Rand Paul,
has roundly defeated his opponent from the traditional mainstream
Republican side of things, Trey Grayson, by a margin of less than two to
one, this has held pretty much throughout the night at about 59-35.
Ninety-nine percent of that vote in, 205,000 votes for Dr. Paul, the eye
Relevant to this number, though there had been traditionally high
numbers in the Democratic primaries of Kentucky, that would subject some
disparity or some decrease in disparity in the general elections. You will
notice, as we look at the Democratic Senate primary numbers out of there,
with Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo apparently losing to the attorney
general, Conway, huge numbers for both of these candidates. Perhaps that‘s
above the average. We‘ll try to check that for you before the hour is out.
Generally speaking, primaries in Kentucky runs statistically, votes
totals turnout, about three to two the numbers. And then at election time,
the Senate seats go to the Republicans and much of the House does as well.
A statement to read to you, getting back to the subject of
Pennsylvania, from Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO.
“America‘s workers,” he writes, “tonight, give their heartfelt thanks to
Senator Specter for his distinguished career, fighting for working
families. I,” he said, “have known and worked with him for all my years in
the labor movement and it is an honor and privilege to call him a friend.
We also congratulate Congressman Sestak on his victory. He ran a
strong campaign that probably emphasized his support for the workers of
We mention all this—as we go back to Philadelphia and our panel
consisting of Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Andrea Mitchell, and now, Ed
Schultz from MSNBC‘s “ED SHOW”—we mention this because, Ed Schultz, the
labor endorsement here did not turn out to be decisive as nice a picture
Mr. Trumka might be putting on it this hour.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: No, it didn‘t, Keith. But labor was
really caught between a rock and hard spot in this situation because
actually, both these candidates have been strong for labor for 30 years.
Arlen Specter has done a nice job for working families. Joe Sestak has
probably been more of a staunch supporter of the Employee Free Act which
may not happen this year for the Democrats, and may not happen even after
the midterms. It‘s still a heavy lift.
So, labor was caught in a position where you don‘t want to damage
yourself. Whether it had been Sestak tonight or whether it had been
Specter tonight, both those candidates would have come away with resounding
support in election against Toomey, who they see as just the devil when it
comes to workers in this country.
So, labor was very politically calculated in this race. They didn‘t
want to overstep their boundary. They didn‘t want to create an enemy.
They knew in the big picture they were going to be OK.
But I think also, Keith, I think that Joe Sestak did President Obama a
huge favor tonight. He was certainly more the progressive candidate. Mr.
President, it‘s OK to go left. It‘s OK to move forward with progressives.
Republicans haven‘t done anything with the Democrats. They‘ve tried
to block everything Obama wants to do action.
And I think Joe Sestak has come up in favor of workers, in favor of a
stronger health care bill. He‘s ready to hold Wall Street accountable, and
he connected with small towns. He‘s winning in every county tonight in
Pennsylvania except three. Now, that‘s a statement for change.
And so—I also think, I‘d even go further to say that Joe Sestak may
not stop at the United States Senate. This guy is the highest ranking
military officer ever elected to the Congress, a three star. He‘s a
brilliant man. He can talk to you about oil spills. He can talk to you
about strategy in Afghanistan. He‘s been critical of the strategy of
Afghanistan, so far. I think he‘s a diamond in the rough for the
OLBERMANN: All right. I‘m going to interrupt our reporting from
Philadelphia to go to Washington in Chuck Todd, to follow up on Ed‘s point
about President Obama. But I also want to answer one that Lawrence
O‘Donnell had mentioned because that audio failure at the Specter
statement, he did in fact—and felt compelled to tweet against that he is
going to support Joe Sestak in the senatorial race in Pennsylvania.
Let me read the tweet, it‘s not going to take too long, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: OK.
OLBERMANN: “Congratulations, Congressman Sestak. You have my support
for the general election.”
It may not be effusive at this point, but then again, you‘re limited
to 140 characters.
To Ed‘s point, Chuck, this idea that perhaps some Democratic voters
here and there, and some Republican voters not doing it intentionally, but
perhaps doing it incidentally, might be giving the White House a message
to, you know, bring out heavy well-defined characters and support the
people that actually perhaps would sit better with the more fervent part of
your base, which I guess is a polite way of saying, get the liberals out
Is that your read? Or is that going to be their read after what‘s
happened in Pennsylvania tonight?
TODD: Well, I think they‘re going to look at this, in their read—
the White House is going to obsess over one race and one race only.
They‘re going to ignore all the others. They‘re going to look at
Pennsylvania 12 and the House special election, say, aha, see?
Now, they won‘t mention the fact that the Democratic candidate ran
against health care, ran against a couple of the other Obama legislative
victories. But overall, they‘ll say, hey, we‘ve been told that the
national environment is an albatross. Here‘s the only congressional
district in the country that voted for John Kerry in ‘04, and went to John
McCain in ‘08, and the special election goes in a fairly decisive fashion
to the Democrats.
Now, Republicans will say, hey, Democrats had a turnout and this and
that. But I think the overall point tonight is, you know, the closer you
were to Washington, the more national you tried to run your race, the more
you got penalized. I‘ll go to the special election. Republicans ran a
very nationalized race. They tried to run against Obama and Pelosi.
The Democrats—the Democratic candidate there ran a much more
localized race, to talk about what he did, what Murtha did for the district
and that‘s a sort of unofficial son of John Murtha, what he was going to
Look at the Rand Paul thing. You know, the more Mitch McConnell got
involved, the worse it was for Trey Grayson.
And then we got to Pennsylvania, and we can even say to a lesser
extent what we‘re seeing in Arkansas, because clearly, Blanche Lincoln is,
you know, probably going to get held under 50 percent, and that‘s gong to
go into an overtime.
But the only good news for Washington, Keith, is that somehow the
wizards won the lottery tonight in the NBA. So, we got John Wall coming, I
OLBERMANN: Or Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan.
TODD: Well, don‘t even go there.
OLBERMANN: One quick question, reflecting back on the Scott Brown
special election in Massachusetts—did that paradigm not shift somewhat?
Did not Scott Brown run nationally rather than locally in Massachusetts?
TODD: Actually, if you look at his race, and I remember his
consultants would fervently sit there and say, you know what, he was
running against the governor there, the unpopular governor, Deval Patrick.
He wouldn‘t mention that he was a Republican in many of his TV ads. He
wasn‘t running against Obama.
The national party wanted to turn it into a referendum.
So, I think what we‘re learning here is that, look, this is an angry
and frustrated electoral. Some of the folks are angry. Some are
frustrated. It‘s all has to do in some form with the economy.
Some people—whether they‘re liberals or conservatives—feel like
they don‘t have control of their own life, let‘s say, because of job
issues, or because of there. Whatever it is the reason, and they‘re
lashing out at big institutions. Sometimes it‘s Wall Street, and sometimes
it‘s the federal government.
And I think that there is a thread here that is not—you don‘t force
yourself to look for it. It‘s there and we‘re seeing it on both sides.
OLBERMANN: Angry elections are the best elections. Chuck Todd with
us from Washington—thank you, Chuck. Appreciate it.
TODD: All right.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ll take a break, but I‘ll leave it with you this.
I‘ll read it directly from Salon.com. “Some old habits diehard. So the TV
in corner of the hotel ballroom in Center city, Philadelphia, where Arlen
Specter supporters were gathering Tuesday night to watch election returns
lingered on FOX News Channel for a while, until someone finally remembered
that at Democratic events, you‘re supposed to watch something else.”
That might tell you that story.
We‘ll continue with the latest from Arkansas after this.
OLBERMANN: The second part of the Pennsylvania special election, the
12th district there to succeed the late Jack Murtha, has now been
completed. Earlier, the “Associated Press” nominated—said that both Mr.
Critz and Mr. Burns, the Democrat and the Republican, had gotten the
nomination for the regular election in November. They‘re going to do this
But for the special election to fill this seat right now, Republican
Tim Burns has now conceded to the Democrat Mark Critz in the special
election in Jack Murtha‘s old district, the 12th district. Mr. Critz was
formerly an aide to the late Congressman Murtha.
And for what that means and what the seven to nothing run of special
elections for House seats since 2008, what that means auguring for the
fall, let‘s go back to Philadelphia, Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell.
Chris, is there, in fact, anything to a winning streak of special
elections? Or is all that—is all the past that is prolog—meaningless
prolog because of the change of the political landscape in the last year?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Well, this is good news for the
Democrats. But, you know, what doesn‘t kill me makes me stronger, to quote
Nietzsche. And I think the White House will be quoting Nietzsche for the
next couple of days because if they had lost this race with a guy with a
nice ethnic name like Critz, a former aide to Jack Murtha, with a support
of Murtha‘s widow, Joyce—if all that had been right and they‘d still
lost, they would be really in trouble. I would have thought, especially
given the fact that the campaign attacked Nancy Pelosi with his big cartoon
pictures of her. If that hadn‘t worked, that would have been a template
for future campaigns.
The fact they‘re able to hold their base in a working class
Pennsylvania district that does like pork, that does earmarking, that does
like the federal government is a good sign. It would have been much more
important, however, if they had lost. If they had lost out there, they
would have been in big trouble.
You know, the latest generic poll looks OK for the Democrats, 45-40.
It‘s not bad news. It‘s not the end of the world. If they hold together
and run on positive things like we can get more jobs than the other guy
can, they can win this thing. They can hold on and lose only 20 or so
OLBERMANN: Andrea, give us—give us your feel for what this implies
for the fall.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: I think that the fact that they have held
that—the 12th district in Pennsylvania is a huge relief for the White
House, because if the Republicans have won, they could have argued very
effectively that it is a Republican move. This blunts somewhat the
But the White House has to be concerned—pardon my voice, but it‘s
been a long day of reporting here—the White House has to be concerned,
though, that the White House support for Arlen Specter, even though in the
last 48 hours, there was not hands-on support, there was plenty of
commercials. They did have the one big fundraiser here that they did for
Arlen Specter some time back. And hat endorsement, the governor, the
mayor, the whole organization, was basically ignored by the voters, the
Democratic Party voters.
And in this primary that tells you that people are angry, they‘re
concerned, they‘re worried about unemployment, that the so-called recession
being over, even though unemployment is, quote, “only 10 percent here,”
real effective unemployment is a lot higher, particularly here in
Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh, in the areas where there are large minority
communities. And there just wasn‘t that deep affection for Arlen Specter
that he never had in either political party, because he always was a bit
cantankerous and somewhat independent, and certainly a lot more independent
of the Republican (INAUDIBLE) portrayed in those very clever Joe Sestak
It is a defiant electorate. It‘s an angry, frustrated, scared
electorate. And they‘re going to go their own way and they‘re not going to
take orders from party bosses or the president of the United States.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And, Keith, I think that
Chuck has the right point here, which is what the Pennsylvania 12th race
shows is that the only route for the Democrats to survive what‘s coming is
a combination of what Ed Schultz is talking about and what Critz did in
Johnstown—which is local, we‘re helping you get jobs, this is not about
philosophy, this is about meat and potatoes.
To the extent that the Democrats can ironically keep this a local
election, as opposed to a nationalized election, the Democrats have a hope
of surviving this wave to come. To the extent that it‘s a nationalized
election, that it‘s about Barack Obama, that it‘s about philosophy, that
it‘s about the national debt and the deficit and the global economics and
all that stuff, the Democrats are going to have their hats handed to them.
It‘s a total reversal of 2008, where Obama is the one who made it
national and philosophical. The only way the Democrats can survive is by
creeping along—creeping along the ground.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman, stand by. Andrea Mitchell, stand by.
Chris Matthews, stand by. We quoted Nietzsche, Wellington and Howard
And we‘ll be back with final thoughts after this.
OLBERMANN: The nominee for the Senate from the Democratic Party for
the state of Pennsylvania has just taken the podium in Pennsylvania. Here
is Joe Sestak.
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE NOMINEE: And thank you to
everyone who is here tonight.
SESTAK: This election is about you. It‘s about you and everyone in
this great commonwealth who stood up and wanted their voices heard. This
is what democracy looks like.
SESTAK: A win for the people over the establishment, over the status
quo, even over Washington, D.C.
I will never forget that it was the people of Pennsylvania that made
it happen tonight.
SESTAK: And I will work so heart to earn their trust and their
confidence. But it should come as no surprise to anyone that people want a
When I went to Congress just a few years ago, after 31 years in the
wonderful United States Navy, I found too many career politicians are a bit
too concerned about keeping their jobs rather than serving the public,
rather than helping people.
In the Navy, we‘re held accountable for our actions, and we should
expect no less—no less from a politicians in Washington, D.C.
SESTAK: That accountability has been missing for far too long, and I
want to help bring it backs. And that‘s why I‘m running for the United
OLBERMANN: Joe Sestak, after three year and four months in the U.S.
House, now nominated to be the senator for Pennsylvania on the Democratic
ticket in the fall.
I guess, Chris Matthews, it is instructive that a man who has been
elected and reelected to the U.S. Congress would celebrate his nomination
over a sitting U.S. senator by saying this was a victory over the
establishment, a victory over Washington, D.C. You step away from that
role of the incumbent as quickly as you can, I guess, this year.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I also think, you know, he‘s smart and become a really
Pennsylvanian; he‘s got a nice Slovak background. He‘s a guy sort of with
a somewhat ethnic name. He‘s a Navy guy, a military guy.
I think he‘s going to be—and also he‘s not from Philly, which is
very important in that state. Don‘t be from Philly if you‘re going from
statewide. The fact that he‘s from Delaware County—you know the whole
story about that. You‘re always better from not being from Philly if
you‘re running statewide. I think it‘s going to help him being from
Delaware County, having that nice ethnic name.
And look at him—I think he‘s going to be a populist, as Ed Schultz
pointed out. And by the way, he will have 100 percent cope (ph) rating
because it‘s the one way to survive in the Senate. He will have 100
percent NRA rating, which is a way to survive as a Pennsylvania senator.
It‘s a John Wayne state. That may be an old way to describe it, but it‘s
OLBERMANN: And it‘s fascinating for him to describe the career
politicians that he has defeated now, again, two terms in the House. Does
that not a career make?
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s still fresh off the bench. I think beating
what‘s his name, Weldon, was not that hard. Weldon was kind of out of
shape. Arlen was somewhat out of shape.
But it is impressive. I mean, you were—Ed was talking about this
guy having a future—there‘s nothing better than to start off by beating
incumbents. When you beat incumbents in politics, you‘re a heavyweight
FINEMAN: Keith, the key here is anybody who wants to be anybody this
year has to somehow lay claim to not being a traditional politician. Even
Critz, the candidate in Pennsylvania 12th, even though he‘s chief of staff
to John Murtha, had the advantage of not being an elected member of
Congress. I know that sounds silly, but I think that‘s true. I think
that‘s true everywhere, all the way up and down the line, having anything
to do with the way business is conducted as usual is what you don‘t want
FINEMAN: All right. However Fineman, great thanks.
OLBERMANN: Ed, I‘m sorry, we got to cut you off. We‘re at the end of
For Ed Schultz and for Chris Matthews and for Andrea Mitchell, and for
Howard Fineman, and for Howard Fineman‘s mother that‘s COUNTDOWN for this,
the 2,574th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished
in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann at MSNBC in New York. Good night and good
And our extended primary night coverage continues, of course. And
with that, ladies and gentlemen, here again is Rachel Maddow. Good
evening, again, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
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