updated 10/12/2010 3:05:24 PM ET 2010-10-12T19:05:24

Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Booth

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now to discuss why the Democrats are missing an opportunity to run on their issue—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you for that.  Have a great weekend.

OLBERMANN:  You, too.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Particularly, I want to thank those of you who are back tonight after sitting with us through this last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  One of the things that happens in satellite interviews there‘s a 1 ½-second delay between me asking a question and you hearing it.  So, you can interpret that as sarcasm or interruption, but it‘s the way the medium works.  I‘m sorry that‘s been so awkward for you.

ART ROBINSON ®, OREGON CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  No, no.  Your interruption is not caused by delay.  That‘s just the speed of light, madam.  It‘s much faster than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It has been distracting today to the whole staff I would have to say.  The amount of feedback we‘re still getting about that interview from last night‘s show.  That was me attempting to interview the Republican congressional candidate from Oregon‘s fourth district, a gentleman named Art Robinson.

I think most of the reason we are getting the feedback we‘re getting about this is because that clip we just showed you was probably the sanest moment of the entire interview.  And, of course, even that part ended with me banging my head on the desk.

But I think the other part of it has to do with the fact that Mr.  Robinson is an unusual candidate.  I think some of this got lost in the screaming and shuffle last night.  But in case you are wondering who this guy is who I—with whom I had an 18-minute trip down the rabbit hole, he‘s a man who runs something he calls the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.  I say it is something he calls that because despite the rather lofty name of the eight people listed as faculty of this institute, two are dead and two are Mr. Robinson‘s sons.  Plus there‘s him.

Also, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine has no classrooms and no student body.

As part of his scientific work, Mr. Robinson claims he‘s personally—personally disproven global warming.  He also says that his petition against global warming being true is itself proof, the signatures themselves on that petition are proof that global warming isn‘t real.

When I raise that issue and described it as his belief last night, Mr.  Robinson shouted at me and insisted that I describe his belief as a scientifically proven fact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You‘re well known for your belief that global warming is made

up, that that is not true.  That‘s sort of a source of your national

reputation to the extent you have one.  Your opponent, Mr. DeFazio, is also

--

           

ROBINSON:  That‘s not a belief.  That‘s a conclusion I reached as a physical scientist.  You like it as a political issue.  It‘s a dead scientific issue, madam.

MADDOW:  Do you mind if I ask you a question about your beliefs?

ROBINSON:  It‘s not a belief.  It‘s a scientific—

MADDOW:  Right.  Your scientifically proven fact that it‘s not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  OK, OK, if I say you proved it, will I be allowed to ask you a question?

Aside from declaring he has proven global warm to be false, Art Robinson promotes an idea called hormesis.  I tried to get at this last night.  It also did not go well.

Basically, the idea is that low-level doses of radiation are good for you.  “The American Spectator” did an interview with Art Robinson about a decade ago, that was in part an explanation of his hormesis idea.  Quoting from “The Spectator,” “Low background levels of radiation seem to be good for you.  Art Robinson ruefully points out the hormesis data show that Oregon is not a particularly good place to live.  Its background radiation levels are below the national average.  There‘s less cancer risk in Denver, where the background radiation levels are much higher.”

OK.  If he believes that radiation is good for you, I tried to ask Art Robinson last night whether that is connect to his past statements that the proper way to dispose of nuclear waste is to sprinkle it in the oceans and over America.  Also, his position that there should be more nuclear weapons testing in America.

Does he hold those positions because he thinks it would be a helpful idea to raise radiation levels in America or in Oregon because he thinks that that is good for us?  I tried to ask him that.  He really did not want to answer that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I realize that you‘re also an advocate for expanded nuclear weapons testing in the United States.  Is that because you think it would be beneficial—

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  -- to up the background radiation levels in the United States because that radiation would be good for us?  When “The American Spectator” wrote an article on you in 2001 --

ROBINSON:  That‘s an outright lie.  That‘s an outright lie.

MADDOW:  I‘m asking you a question.  Is that true?

ROBINSON:  You can‘t even find an out-of-context quote to support that one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You can‘t find an—except for all your quotes on the record about low level radiation being good for us and you wanting to sprinkle nuclear waste over the country.

Mr. Robinson is on the record about a lot of this stuff because he publishes a newsletter called “Access to Energy.”  It is essentially a contrarian, don‘t believe a word of what you hear science-ish publication.  In every edition of the newsletter, there‘s a section called “Stark Raving Mad.”  His words, not mine.

It is this newsletter where Art Robinson has propounded his theories that AIDS is a myth and government plot.  He wrote that back in 1995.  Last night, he would not answer about whether or not he still believes that to be true.  He wouldn‘t even confirm that those were his words even though they were written purportedly by him in his own newsletter.  Now, that would be a heck of a conspiracy if someone were rewriting things secretly under Art Robinson‘s name.  We‘ll never know.  File it under “Stark Raving Mad” in the next edition.

It is also Mr. Robinson‘s newsletter where he has propounded one of his other beliefs that public schools should all be abolished.  I don‘t know if he still thinks that AIDS is a myth and a government conspiracy, but abolishing public schools, he definitely still believes that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBINSON:  Some guy, I don‘t know why, he says, “What do you think of the public schools?”  And then I was dead.  My credibility was going to be gone.  I looked him and I said, “I think the public schools should be abolished.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Instead of public schools, Mr. Robinson promotes home schooling.  He says he has home schooled all of his own kids.  Although he says he does not teach them.  He lets them teach themselves.  That‘s part of the home schooling curriculum that he sells.

Mr. Robinson has acquired the rights to and has reprinted the life‘s work of a child‘s adventure book author, a spectacularly racist British writer named, G.A. Henty.  Art Robinson recommends that you teach your kids based on the historic novels of G.A. Henty.

May I read you a passage from one of those?  This is from a chapter titled “The Negro Character.”  “They are just like children.  They are always either laughing or quarrelling.  They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond.

The intelligence of the average Negro is about equal to that of a European child of 10 years old.  They are fluent talkers but their ideas are borrowed.  They‘re absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive power.

Living among white men, their imitated faculties enable them to attain a considerable amount of civilization.  Left alone to their own devices, they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.”

A meditation on the Negro character, that is what Art Robinson has kept in print for the homeschoolers, for you to teach to your kids, or, rather, for your kids to teach themselves.

Again, quoting from a pro-Art Robinson article in “The American Spectator,” a conservative magazine, back in 2001, “Art has managed to convert the education of his children from a financial drain into a thriving business.  Among them, the family members have developed a home school curriculum.  With typical single-mindedness, Robinson tracked down all 99 historical novels by G.A. Henty, and they in turn were optically scanned.  Three thousand Henty sets (six CDs) were shipped in the first year.  They retail for $99.”

This is Art Robinson.  OK?

Now, here‘s a thing—there was a guy like Art Robinson I‘m guessing in your town somewhere, maybe on the outskirts of town.  I mean, Americans are like this.  There are a lot of unusual people in this country and a lot of them who hold very extreme beliefs and who propound interesting theories.

It is—it is not even that weird for people like this to run for political office.  It‘s one of the things that folks like this like to do in my experience actually.  It is a little bit weird that Art Robinson won the Republican primary in Oregon‘s fourth district.  But we put that aside for a moment.

What is really important about Art Robinson is not just how unusual he is as an American or as a candidate.  What is important about Art Robinson is that he is potentially viable this year as a congressional candidate.  Not because of anything about him and his life‘s work, but because of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  Politicians Nancy Pelosi and Peter DeFazio made a mess of our economy.  Their policies aren‘t working.  It‘s time for change.

Art Robinson is a research scientist, not a politician.  His plan to improve our economy: stop reckless spending, lower taxes, promote private sector job growth.

Art Robinson, a new voice, a smarter choice.  The independent leader we need.

Concerned Taxpayers of America is responsible for the content of this advertising.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Concerned Taxpayers of America—that group is running $150,000 worth of that ad in this rural district in southern Oregon, to make Art Robinson seem totally mainstream, totally electable.  The $150,000 from Lord knows where.

Concerned Taxpayers of America doesn‘t have to tell anybody where the money is from, that that is running that ad.  The only thing we know about where the money is coming from to try to promote this man‘s candidacy, to try to make him not just the guy who lives in self-declared scientific institute distributing racist children‘s books on the edge of town, but rather a viable congressional candidate, the only thing we know about Concerned Taxpayers of America is this—this piece of paper filed with the Federal Elections Commission.  This is it.  This is the sum total of Concerned Taxpayers of America‘s existence.

In this filing, the Concerned Taxpayers of America helpfully notes nothing about their donors, nothing about where they intend to raise money from.  They only note that they intend to, quote, “raise funds in unlimited amounts”—which they can, of course, spend in unlimited amounts.

And so, it is $150,000 in this race on behalf of Mr. Hormesis, sprinkle the nuclear waste to the Negro character, $150,000.

Is Art Robinson likely to win this race?  No.  What if it were $500,000?  What if it were $1 million?  What if it were $150 million?

What if somebody decided for whatever reason, either because they hate Peter DeFazio that much, or because they‘re super into hormesis or because they‘re somebody who thinks that Negroes really are childlike and they want someone in Congress who promotes that concept—what if that person decided they wanted to spend $1 billion to get Art Robinson elected to Congress?  And they did that by funneling money into a group like Concerned Taxpayers of America.

If that happened, there‘s nothing to stop it from happening.  You and I wouldn‘t get to know that that‘s who‘s behind those ads, as we see them on the air.

We called Concerned Taxpayers of America again today to find out who‘s behind their ads.  They did not return our calls, nor do they have to, nor do we expect them do.  Nor are we able to deduce from their filing with the FEC what might be their donors‘ motivation for supporting this candidate.

Right now, as their ads are running in Oregon, we are not allowed to know who they are, we are not allowed to know who supports Art Robinson for Congress to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in a small rural district.  That‘s just how it works now.

There‘s probably a direct relationship between the kookiness of any given candidate and the amount of money you need to make that candidate seem viable in a congressional election.  As the kookiness of the candidate goes up, the amount of money you need to keep that candidate viable goes up, too.

The idea that a candidate is too kooky to be elected is only true in an environment in which there is not unlimited money to be spent to make that person seem less than kooky.  But when the money is quite literally—

I mean, look at the FEC filing again, quite literally unlimited—unlimited either by actual dollar ceilings or by the shame associated with being seen to donate that money.

When the money is actually unlimited, there is no ceiling on how kooky a candidate can be and still seem electable.  As long as the money can go to infinity, so can the kook factor.  The chart goes on to infinity and beyond.

This is the new reality of American politics.  Democrats are now trying to make a campaign issue of it.  Will they succeed?  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Today, two things about the United States Chamber of Commerce made big news.  One, they are now spending $10 million a week on conservative campaign ads, $10 million a week.  And number two: they hosted a big reception for the Bahrain Banks Association today at Chamber of Commerce headquarters.

Why those two facts together may cause you a talking to Art Robinson pounding head on desk moment.

That‘s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When the Supreme Court first ruled back in January to essentially destroy all of the important rules about campaign donations in our country, President Obama warned about the consequences that very day.  He then raised the Citizens United decision again just a few days later in his State of the Union address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests, including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our election.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Famously, that statement from the president prompted Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to angrily mutter “that‘s not true” at the president.

It turns out it is true.  I‘m sorry, Mr. Associate Supreme Court Justice.  It turns out it is very true.

And President Obama is now making shady and potentially foreign funding of conservative candidates a major campaign issue for Democrats in this year‘s elections.  The president raised the issue yesterday at a rally to get out the vote for Maryland Governor Martin O‘Malley.  He raised it at a Chicago fundraiser for Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat who is running to fill President Obama‘s former senator seat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  And they don‘t disclose who‘s behind the ads.  It could be an oil company, could be an insurance company, could be Wall Street—you don‘t know.  Almost every one of them is run by Republican operatives.  They‘re posing as not profits, not political groups.  They‘ve got these innocuous sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, the Committee for Truth in Politics, or you know, Moms for Motherhood.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  I made that last one up.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  But you wouldn‘t know.

Are you going to let special interests from Wall Street and Washington and places beyond our shores come to this state and tell us who our senators should be?

AUDIENCE:  No.

OBAMA:  That‘s not just a threat to Democrats.  That‘s a threat to our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  May be from beyond our shores.  When he says beyond our shores, what the president is talking about there is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which pledged this week to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat almost all Democratic candidates in this year‘s elections.  They spend a few dollars on some conservative Democratic races, but essentially it‘s almost all anti-Democratic ads.  They are spending $10 million this week, alone.

As part of its fundraising operation, the chamber takes donations from foreign sources of funding.  That‘s something the group does not deny.  They just want us to be assured that they have internal systems of some sort to keep that foreign money separate from their campaign funds.  They say they have a system, an internal system that we can‘t see but we should trust them about it.

As part of its excellent reporting on this, “Think Progress” revealed that at least $300,000 has been channeled into the Chamber of Commerce‘s coffers from foreign companies in India and in Bahrain.  They got money from all over the world.  But even just looking at those two countries, India and Bahrain, it‘s 300 grand to the chamber at least.

And then today, lo and behold, the Chamber of Commerce welcomed members of Bahrain Banks Association to chamber headquarters in Washington.  The reception advertised right there on the Chamber of Commerce‘s Web site.  Quote, “Bahrain minister of finance, central bank and Bahrain ambassador will be attending.”

Maybe the delegation is here for a kick the tires tour of the new American Congress they‘re purchasing.  Can‘t let you take her out for a drive just yet, but she‘s a beauty, isn‘t she?

Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst and senior political editor at “The Huffington Post,” Howard Fineman.

Howard, great to see you.  Thanks for your time.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, are there signs that this is a full-scale Democratic messaging effort?  Are they going to try to make this a big deal?

FINEMAN:  Well, Barack Obama typically did it in a gingerly fashion today.  But yes, it could be.

Now, just talking about the lack of spending limits or money in campaigns per se is not a primary sales tool for Democrats, or really for anybody because people are so cynical about the political process, it actually kind of protects everybody who‘s in it in an odd way.

But if you tie it to loss of jobs and especially to loss of jobs overseas, I think it could be, and I think the Democrats in the White House think it may be a good issue for them, because polling—and I‘ve talked to top Democratic pollsters.  They say the number one issue clearly at the top of the list for polling is loss of jobs to overseas sources and the role of foreign corporation in pulling jobs out of America and overseas.

You know, out in a place like South Dakota, for example, where they have call centers, that‘s a big business.  Where‘s that business going?  India.  Duh!  I mean, it matters.

So, yes.  If they to it that way, it could be a winner.

MADDOW:  So that means that if we—if Democrats really are going to push this, we should expect the sort of next shoe to drop to be efforts to make it clear that foreign interests are getting what they want from these Republican candidates that they are supporting, and also that the chamber, itself, supports outsourcing?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Now, it‘s very interesting about the chamber because I was talking to them last week about all this.

By the way, I‘m sure you know this, but maybe all the viewers don‘t.  The Chamber of Commerce is a gigantic massive building directly across Lafayette Square from the White House.  It‘s like they‘re glowering at each other.  And so, it‘s very symbolic of what‘s going on right now.

The chamber people I talked to last week were saying, well, we‘ve always taken some foreign money.  Well, they changed their tune about that because under the law, as amended during the Cold War, it doesn‘t go back to 1907 as far as foreign corporations and individuals.  It‘s after World War II when the United States was concerned about, you know, Soviet front operations and communist infiltration.  That‘s the source of these bans on individuals, corporations and foreign governments pouring money directly into American elections.

And Alito was wrong because he didn‘t realize—maybe—what the chamber would do .

MADDOW:  In terms of the political impact, I think that the reason—

I‘m guessing that the reason that the outsourcing issue, losing jobs to overseas polls so well is that it‘s a very, very nonpartisan issue.  That‘s a sort of thing that resonates with voters left, right and center.

Similarly, when that Citizens United ruling first came out, the polling showed that voters left, right and centers were at least initially horrified by this decision.

Is the new rules about this—is that a potential crossover issue for Democrats?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it could be.  And if the Democrats wanted to start talking about evil influences from abroad, they could maybe do it.  The problem is that Barack Obama is such a “we are the world” president, and likes to pride himself on not pointing fingers around the globe.

But I‘ll tell you, for voters and working people out in the country, especially for working men, many of whom have lost their jobs of one kind or another, not just in construction but manufacturing and now service industries, an appeal that says foreign money is coming in and it‘s taking your jobs abroad through a place like the chamber, I think, could be a very effective one and for people on left and the right.

MADDOW:  MSNBC political analyst and senior “Huffington Post” political editor—Howard, I don‘t think I publicly congratulated you on the new gig yet.  But congratulations and thanks.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Rachel.  I appreciate it.

MADDOW:  Howard Fineman now with the “Huffington Post.”

OK, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck in Colorado.  That is coming up.

And we‘re going to get all forensic on who killed a quarter million American jobs on purpose and why.  That‘s ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY:  Everything they‘re doing is killing jobs.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  It‘s time this administration and this Capitol Hill allies stopped its job-killing agenda.

SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX ®, FLORIDA:  Where‘s the initiative to try to put Americans back to work?  Where are the offerings from my friends on the other side to get Americans back to work?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Republicans would like this year‘s elections to hinge on jobs

jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.  That said, they have a mass killing of jobs to answer for themselves.  We visit the scene of the crime—next.

           

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D-OR):  Here, we have a program.  The CBO has scored as making the treasury $1 billion dollars over the next 10 years.  And yet, it could create credit equal to about $300 billion of credit to small this business. 

But Republicans are opposing it, and why is that?  There‘s no national reason unless the goal is to drive the American economy into a double-dip recession. 

MADDOW:  You feel like, honestly, that Republicans are opposing the policies they‘re opposing and promoting policies they‘re promoting because they want a bad economic outcome? 

MERKLEY:  Well, you know, I didn‘t come to D.C. as cynical as I feel here a year and a half later as a senator.  What I have seen is everything politicized by the primary elections and the general election plan for this year.

And it certainly appears that all since has lost all sorts of partnership to make American economy work for working Americans is gone. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was Sen. Jeff Merkley speaking on this show back in

July.  That case that he made - you can almost see it pained him to make it

has stuck with me now for months.  I think about what he said then in that segment back in July a lot. 

The prospect that some of what Congress is doing that is blowing it on the economy is happening on purpose.  I think about that a lot.  Case in point - there is a program that is part of a stimulus that is credited with creating almost 250,000 American jobs.  One program, that many jobs. 

The overall stimulus on total on track to create 3.5 million jobs.  This one $5 billion program alone is responsible for 250,000 of those jobs.  What do you get when you demonstrably create a lot of jobs in an otherwise horrendous economy for relatively little spending? 

You get a totally not-at-all-controversial program.  When CNN did a report recently on this program, they called it “the stimulus program even a Republican could love.”  Republican governors who saw this program working in their states became some of the most vocal advocates for this program. 

Republican governors like Haley Barbour of Mississippi, former head of the Republican Party, current head of the Republican Governor‘s Association.  Even he, arguably the most partisan governor in the country, has talked about how much he loves this program.  He credits it with creating 5,300 jobs in his state alone. 

This is not a controversial program.  It works.  It essentially subsidizes companies and organizations to hire people or to keep jobs they would otherwise eliminate.  It‘s very simple.  It has very little overhead.  It is efficient.  It does exactly what it is designed to do. 

Republicans and Democrats alike, when they‘ve seen how many people it has kept employed in the private sector, they like it very much.  Nobody is arguing against it on its merits either in the states or in Washington. 

And yet - and yet, the Republicans blocked it.  In the House, where there is no filibuster and the Democrats have a large majority, an extension of this thing was passed twice. 

But in the Senate - well, in March, New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg blocked it.  Last month, again, Democrats tried to reboot the program and keep funding it.  Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch blocked it. 

Then last week, two days before the program that created almost 250,000 jobs was set to expire, it got blocked again.  You can thank Wyoming Republican Senator Mike Enzi for it this time. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE ENZI (R-WY):  The majority has known this program is going to expire at the end of this month all year and have taken no steps to reauthorize this important social safety net program. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Not true.  Democrats tried to reauthorize it in March.  You blocked it.  Democrats try to reauthorize it in September.  You blocked it.  Democrats tried to reauthorize it last month.  You, sir, personally blocked it.  Even as you called it an important safety net, that you were blocking. 

Republicans have never made a substantive argument against this program.  But they have blocked it not once, not twice, but three times.  And so a totally successful bipartisan-endorsed, non-controversial program, credited with putting 250,000 Americans back to work in 37 states, that program is now dead. 

So all the people employed in that program are now going to join the ranks of the unemployed, which is going to be horrendous for the economy. 

It is not only a bad situation and an individual tragedy for each of those Americans, now out of the workforce again.  It is also bad for the economy as a whole because these people are no longer earning money which means they‘re no longer going to be spending any money which means we are all dragged down as a nation. 

But that personal and collective economic disaster does have a silver lining.  As the jobs numbers get pushed into even worse territory than they‘re already in, that might be great news for Republicans in the elections. 

The last major jobs report before the election came out today, “Some private sector job gains, but otherwise not good for the unemployed, not good for the employed but still struggling in a lousy economy, not good for the economy, itself, not good for the country.” 

If only we had some sort of non-controversial effective efficient bipartisan-endorsed jobs program.  Of course, that wouldn‘t be good for the Republicans.  They‘d probably block it.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Hey, Ken Buck in Colorado, that limb didn‘t look so far out there when you went out on it, did it Mr. Buck?  Welcome back to earth.  Sorry, the trip down was a little abrupt.  What it looks like when Democrats play to win in this year‘s elections against Republicans who are super vulnerable because they‘re super-extreme.  That‘s coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The anti-common wisdom but still totally true thing about this year‘s elections is that when Republicans hold politically-indefensible positions on stuff like, say, social security, and Democrats hit those Republicans on those politically-indefensible positions, they hit a soft target.  It hurts the Republican candidate.  It helps Democratic chances. 

Republicans get hit where they are vulnerable, and they fall apart.  They stop, squirm and then run from their own positions.  Stop, squirm and run.  Stop, squirm and run.  Want to see what that looked like last night in Colorado? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN BUCK (R-CO), SENATE NOMINEE:  I was outside a church in Greeley the other day and a senior came up to me and she said, “Ken, I‘m voting for you, but please don‘t take my social security right.  I need it to live.” 

That just cuts you to the quick.  It‘s an absolute lie that you put on the commercials and you have frightened so many seniors. 

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (R-CO):  You‘re right, seniors are scared, but it‘s not because of what I‘m saying about what you said.  It‘s because of what you said.  You may have changed your mind, which is OK.  But I‘m reading - you know, President Bush has tried to do - some call it privatization, some call it personalization of social security. 

How did you feel about that plan?  Is that something you‘d be willing to entertain?  But I‘d certainly be willing to entertain.  But - and we‘re going to have to reshape the entitlement programs and privatize or at least give free-market incentives programs to be able to cut down on a large part of the budget deficit. 

Look, look, people know what you‘re saying when you say this.  It‘s important that we say the same things in red parts of state and blue parts of state, in primaries and general elections, at the beginning of the campaign and the end of the campaign. 

People are sick and tired of politicians in Washington and politicians in Colorado that think we‘re not paying attention. 

BUCK:  I have never said we should privatize the social security system.  No words that Sen. Bennet has indicate that. 

BENNET:  March 9th, 2010, quote, “I don‘t know that the federal government should be involved in the retirement plan.”  Quote, “The idea that the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe.”  He said that.  I didn‘t say that. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Democratic senator Michael Bennet of Colorado hitting Republican Ken Buck with multiple on-the-record times that Mr. Buck said he wants to privatize social security. 

Ken Buck first trying to deny his own position on the issue, then trying to parse what he‘d said about it, then just reduced to taking it as Bennet hits Buck with Buck‘s unavoidable on-the-record position like he is unloading a burp gun full of ping-pong balls at him. 

Joining us now is Michael Booth, political reporter for “The Denver Post.”  Mr. Booth, thanks very for your time.  Appreciate it. 

MICHAEL BOOTH, POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE DENVER POST”:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Ken Buck saying that he never held this as his position.  Michael Bennet continuing to hit him on it.  It seems like both the candidates believe that privatizing social security is an unpopular thing to be advocating for in Colorado in the general election. 

As a political reporter in Colorado, do you think they‘re both right in that assessment? 

BOOTH:  I think it‘s a good reason that the Democrats are going through all their videotapes, spending a lot of time in the editing room talking about - looking at the footage of their trackers and put together for them. 

There‘s a very good reason that Ken Buck is trying to figure out exactly how to explain what he meant when he was talk about privatization or turning some of this over to the private sector. 

So yes, obviously, both sides agree that a lot of people care about social security.  It‘s not clear that it‘s perfect for Michael Bennet on this one, though, because after a night like last night, I think the response from Coloradans at some point is, “Well, Sen. Bennet, you‘ve shredded Ken Buck on that particular issue but what is your plan?  What is your proposal?  We know there‘s a problem coming up.” 

And the problem for Michael Bennet is that Ken Buck can point out that he‘s punted to the Deficit Commission on this and had said there‘s a commission for that in most part.  In large part, his answer amounts to that. 

And I think Coloradans, especially from Sen. Bennet, have wanted more definitive answers than that. 

MADDOW:  In terms of - if they believe that social security is heading toward off some cliff, if they accept that which is probably an argument being made by Buck, not Bennet, though? 

BOOTH:  Well, I think Bennet - his other points has acknowledged that something will - some tweaks will have to be made to social security to bring it in line in the future.  He has talked about looking at different levels of the program for different ages of people. 

It‘s similar at least in introducing it in a way, the same way that Ken Buck has done.  But Ken Buck has been more specific, and he has tried to take credit for saying, “At least, I put a plan out there on the table.  And yes, everybody‘s attacking me for it, but I have a plan.” 

Now, I think he‘s in trouble for some of that.  But I also think that whole opinion, that at least I‘m standing up for something, does resonate in a race against Michael Bennet. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Would be standing up for something would make more sense if he would admit for what he‘s standing up for, which is awkward for all of this.  What‘s interesting in this one is to see Bennet going at him so hard on this. 

I mean, that‘s anti-common wisdom right now for how Democrats are supposedly running across the country.  We‘ve also seen this from Bennet on reproductive rights.  Mr. Buck has changed his previous position on this Personhood Amendment that‘s on the ballot in Colorado. 

Mr. Buck changed has changed his position on that a couple times.  Did supporting that legislation actually help him in the Republican primary? 

BOOTH:  I think people think that it did.  He was definitely trying to be aggressive in going after the base voters that would come out for the primary.  And since then, he has tied himself in knots a couple times trying to explain exactly where he feels about it.

And now, finally, he‘s come to the conclusion that he‘s not going to talk about that amendment.  And his final conclusion is that he won‘t give his opinions about statewide amendments in Colorado. 

And people say, “Well, this was on the ballot in 2008 as well, almost the exact same proposed legislation, and what did you think about it then?”  And his response is “I don‘t talk about what I did in 2008 or how I felt about the amendments in 2008 either.” 

So he‘s kind of stuck now in that position of not commenting.  And so there have been a couple different positions on that.  And Bennet is hitting hard on that, not so much in person yet but in the ads that he is running and outside groups are running. 

That question has come up in a very tough way.  I think what you saw last night in the debate, instead of Michael Bennet trying to explain his way out of an argument, he decided to punch his way out of an argument, and that made for a lively debate. 

MADDOW:  Michael booth, political reporter for “The Denver Post,” thanks very much for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate your insight and your time. 

BOOTH:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  OK.  Our closing segment tonight is on election magic.  I‘m not a witch.  I‘m also not you.  But I do know how to do basic statistical analysis and basic statistical analysis enough to reveal the closest thing that Democrats have to making magical electoral outcomes come true. 

I admit to a frog how Democrats win in places like Missouri, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In 2006 and in 2008, Democrats thumped the Republicans in the elections.  Massive Democratic gains and then Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, which was great for Democrats in 2006 and in 2008.  But it has made things really tough for Democrats now in 2010. 

One of the beltway common wisdom things that‘s actually true this year is that Democrats are holding seats in both the House and Senate right now that, demographically, when you look at the political makeup of those districts or those states, they really have no business holding those seats. 

Democrats, right now, are representing seats that really don‘t look like Democratic seats.  How did those people win those seats?  Well, in some cases, it was the result of national trends.  Democrats were just going to win a lot of races in those years. 

But in some cases, something very specific happened.  One of the Democrats who won in ‘06 was Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  Sen.  McCaskill scored a huge upset victory that year over incumbent Republican Jim Talent. 

Jim Talent is a conservative guy.  Missouri is conservative state.  By right, Jim Talent probably should have won that race, but he did not.  He lost.  And it wasn‘t because of national trends in the country at that time.  Something else was going on in Missouri in 2006. 

That year, there was an initiative on the state ballot that asked voters if they wanted to raise the state‘s minimum wage.  It was called Proposition B.  That minimum wage ballot initiative became a big campaign issue in the race between Claire McCaskill and Jim Talent.

McCaskill was for raising the minimum wage.  Mr. Talent didn‘t like to talk about it.  During the two Senate debates held that year, each candidate was given a chance to ask their opponent one question. 

And both times, in both debates, Claire McCaskill used her one question, used that one opportunity to hammer Jim Talent over his lack of support for raising the minimum wage. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIR MCCASKILL (D-MO):  Tell Missourians, yes or no, how will you vote on the minimum wage proposal that will be on the ballot that you will be voting on in two weeks.  Yes or no.

You‘re going to have to cast a ballot in two weeks on whether or not we‘ll raise the minimum wage in Missouri.  Will you vote yes, or will you vote no? 

FMR. SEN. JIM TALENT (R-MO):  I have not taken a position on the minimum wage ballot issue. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I‘m not - is it OK if I just say I don‘t know?  A few weeks later, Election Day rolled around.  What happened?  The minimum wage initiative was approved 76 percent to 24 percent.  Raising the minimum wage passed by 52 points in Missouri. 

The other big result that day, Claire McCaskill defeated Jim Talent by a hair - 49.6 percent, 47.3 percent.  A Democrat ousting an incumbent Republican senator in the State of Missouri. 

Months later, when the postmortems of that race were written, guess what the deciding factor was?  According to an analysis by “The American Prospect,” quote, “The minimum wage proposition passed in every county, winning 76 percent of the statewide vote, the grassroots get-out-the-vote effort mounted by ACORN and labor unions on behalf of the minimum wage initiative helped put McCaskill over the top.” 

“Congressional Quarterly,” quote, “Research showed that Democrats in Missouri were twice as likely to vote for Senate challenger, Claire McCaskill, who upset Republican incumbent Jim Talent because of on an initiative to increase the state‘s minimum wage.” 

If you had a secret decoder ring for Democratic electoral success, the minimum wage is what your ring decodes to.  The minimum wage issue is Democratic electoral magic. 

Whenever minimum wage is on the ballot, it blows up.  In 2006, minimum wage initiative passed in Nevada by 38 points.  A minimum wage measure in Arizona passed by 32 points.  Two years earlier, one passed in Florida by 44 points. 

Voters in Montana approved the minimum wage initiative by 46 points.  Montana - Montana.  Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, elected in 2006.  When was that minimum wage ballot initiative on the ballot in Montana?  2006. 

Secret decoder ring.  And this is the code for Democrats.  When minimum wage is an issue, not only does it win, Democrats win alongside the issue, too. 

Quoting “Congressional Quarterly, “In 2006, voter motivation and reported interest in the election was disproportionately high among Democratic-based voters especially where minimum wage initiatives were in play.” 

The minimum wage issue is not something that gets talked about politically on the federal level very much, very often.  It does not get all that much national attention.  But it is a very, very potent issue for Democrats. 

Raising the minimum wage is very popular with voters, and Republicans know it, a fact that is evidenced in Jim Talent trying desperately not to say anything about it in 2006. 

Business interests, the backbone of the Republican Party have fought minimum wage initiatives tooth and nail over the years.  Business interests like the Chamber of Commerce which brags that it continues to oppose increases in the minimum wage. 

Business and enterprises like PR Spinster, Rick Berman‘s Employment Policies Institute which peddles all sorts of junk, fake facts about how awful it is to raise the minimum wage. 

This issue is really awkward for Republicans, because on the one hand, they‘re so reliant on the support of business interests.  They represent business interests.  But on the other hand, they recognize that opposing minimum wage increases is really bad for them electorally, even in conservative states. 

So Republicans have been against the minimum wage, but very quietly.  I‘m convinced that the Republican jihad against ACORN last year was not because there‘s some made-up voter fraud thing that was never proven.  It‘s not about some fake expose about people who said they were dressed up like a pimp, when he actually wasn‘t. 

It wasn‘t about that.  It was because what ACORN did was organize people around minimum wage initiatives that always passed, initiatives that also turned out Democratic-based voters. 

I repeat, quote, “The grassroots get-out-the-vote effort mounted by ACORN and labor unions on behalf of the minimum wage initiative helped put Claire McCaskill over the top in Missouri.” 

And so - and so we have to make up something horrible about them that doesn‘t sound like it‘s about the minimum wage, because ACORN has to be destroyed.  And why does ACORN have to be destroyed?  Because of the minimum wage. 

Republicans and business interests know how potent the minimum wage is for Democrats.  They know how important it is to take this tool away from Democrats.  And before this year, they have therefore known that they need to keep quiet about their position on it.

Say ACORN was about the fake pimp thing.  Hire Rick Berman‘s PR firm to lobby against it, but keep your name out of it. 

Jim Talent, when you get asked about it, just hem and haw and look at your shoes.  Try not to get on the wrong side of this issue.  Try to avoid being associated with your position on it, because this is a Democratic and a liberal juggernaut of an issue. 

Republicans always kept their heads down on this issue over the years, until this year.  This year, Republicans got really super-confident about their chances of winning in this year‘s elections.  And so the position they have always had, which is that they hate the minimum wage, they are now putting their cards right on the table about it. 

Instead of keeping quiet like they have in years past, now, this year, they‘re so confident they are saying it in public. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON KARL, ABC REPORTER:  Should the federal government be requiring a minimum wage? 

JOE MILLER (R-AK), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  That is clearly up to the states. 

KARL:  So there should not be a federal minimum wage? 

MILLER:  There should not be.  That is not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government. 

TED MANN, “DAY OF NEW LONDON” REPORTER:  Since businesses are struggling as you all described, would you argue for reducing the minimum wage?

LINDA MCMAHON (R-CT), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  We have got minimum wages in states, we have got minimum wages in the government, and I think we ought to look at all of those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Should there be minimum wage? 

JOHN RAESE (R-WV), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Absolutely not, because minimum wage is something that Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in during the Depression.  It didn‘t work during the Depression and certainly hasn‘t worked now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That you‘re hearing in the distance is the sound of Democratic antenna going up all across the country.  This is the most potent political issue Democrats have.  It has been proven to energize Democratic voters over and over and over again everywhere in the country. 

Republican John Raese running for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia - you just saw there.  Republican Senate candidates Linda McMahon of Connecticut, Joe Miller of Alaska, all on record arguing against the minimum wage. 

In Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal has already hit Linda McMahon on it.  Now, she says she misunderstood the question.  She misspoke.  She didn‘t mean it at all.  John Raese and Joe Miller are still out there on this.  God bless them and good luck on that one, gentlemen. 

The principle that anybody working a full time job in this country shouldn‘t be poor, that it‘s the richest, most powerful country on earth, you ought to be table to live on what you earn if you work full time in America, that principle leaks out of our veins when we bleed as Americans and Republicans are against it. 

That has always been an incredibly potent political issue for Democrats.  And this year, the Republicans made the mistake of admitting in public where they always quietly stood on it before.  It is the softest target there is in this entire election. 

Have a great weekend.

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