updated 11/1/2010 12:31:09 PM ET 2010-11-01T16:31:09

Guests: Kent Jones, Eugene Robinson, Jon Ralston, Howard Fineman, Carolyn Wolff

(MUSIC)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Yes, I know it‘s Halloween, and, yes, I know it‘s Sunday.  But you are watching and that‘s all I need.  That‘s the only excuse I need because we are 48 hours from Election Day and it is impossible for me not to tell you what is going on in politics right now.

We have a ton of stuff coming up on the show this hour.  Jon Ralston, the dean of Nevada political reporting has made an astonishing prediction about what is going to happen in the most hotly anticipated, most watched race of all the elections this year.

The latest polling on who is likely to vote is the single most illuminating set of numbers yet about this election.  Gene Robinson is here to talk about that.

And we have a strange—strange even for us—report from the Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert rally that happened this weekend in D.C.

Now, mostly, what you need to know is that politics does not stop for the weekend or the holiday, and the latest headlines are amazing.  We were like, we should figure out one big headline and do it as a major story with the food and narrative—there is too much going on.  We can‘t narrow it down.  I just have to tell you everything, OK?

Here‘s what‘s going on: ABC‘s Jonathan Karl reported today that in the Alaska Senate race, the Republican Party is now counting on not the official Republican Party candidate, Joe Miller, but the write-in candidate, Lisa Murkowski.  Quote, “Party leaders have essentially given up on Republican Senate candidate Joe Miler and are now banking on a victory by write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski.  It‘s all because they think Democrat Scott McAdams might win, so they are putting all their eggs in Murkowski‘s basket to try to keep that seat.”

The honchos in the Republican Party are vehemently denying ABC‘s reporting.  Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS:  We are supporting the nominee of our party, which is Mr. Miller and but our concerns—

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS:  Do you think he can win?

CORNYN:  Well, I think that polls are very close now between Senator Murkowski and Joe Miller.  And what we want to make sure of is that the Democrat doesn‘t win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Do you believe that?  In other words, do you support your own candidate?  Yes, I support our own candidate.  Do you think he can win?  Can we change the subject?

Also, there‘s this one.  Do you remember that ad by that Republican-led group urging Latinos not to vote this year?  The head of the group that created that ad, the “don‘t vote” guy just voted.  Do as I say Latinos, not as I do.  The “don‘t vote” guy voted early by absentee ballot in Virginia on Wednesday.

In Kansas, an alleged case of zombie voting appears itself to be slightly undead.  The very, very conservative Republican candidate for secretary of state in Kansas is a guy named Kris Kobach.  Kris Kobach has run a campaign based almost entirely around alleging voter fraud.  At a press conference last week, Kris Kobach claimed nearly 2,000 dead people are registered to vote in Kansas, like he said, for example, a dead man named Alfred Brewer.

The problem?  Alfred Brewer not dead.

“The Wichita Eagle,” in fact, tracked him down without having to exhume anything.  Quote, “Reached Thursday at his home where he was raking leaves, Mr. Brewer, age 78, was surprised some people thought he was dead.”

In the great state of California, a ballot initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana is very close right now.

Another really controversial ballot measure would overturn the state‘s climate change law.  The campaign to defeat that initiative, in other words, to keep the climate change law as is is out with a very, very clever ad.

As you can see, they are going with a World Series theme.  See at the top there?  Beat Texas?  Because the proposition to overturn California‘s climate change law is funded substantially by Texas oil companies.  Nice timing.  Also, orange and black.

In Colorado, remember that political ad that said vote for our proposition because President Obama is secretly the angel of death.  That proposition is not doing very well in the polls.  It is an anti-abortion measure that essentially declares that fertilized eggs are people.  The proponents of that measure say that they hope it might ban certain forms of birth control.

In Oklahoma, there is a great deal of worry about Sharia law replacing the Constitution.  A ballot question, I kid you not, forbidding courts in Oklahoma from considering Sharia law is enjoying a healthy lead in the polls right now.  Wow.

Voters in Washington state are voting on whether to impose a state level income tax on the wealthy.  This, interestingly, in part, it is being pushed by Bill Gates‘ dad.  That measure is fairly close in the polls right now.

In Missouri, a ballot measure would impose new rules on dog breeders, limiting them to only 50 breeding dogs and requiring minimal standards of care, like making sure the breeding dogs have access to fresh air and they are allowed to rest between litters.  “The New York Times” highlighted this today.  It is spearheaded by animal rights group which, of course, is a target of one of our old friends.

Remember Rick Berman?  Remember the guy who says tanning beds are good for you and trans fats are good for you, secondhand smoke is good for you?  We talked on the show before about Rick Berman‘s latest project attacking the Humane Society.  Mr. Berman appears to be closely following the Prop B fight in Missouri right now as well, because naturally, in Rick Berman‘s world, puppy mills are good for puppies.

You can tell what the White House is prioritizing in these elections by where the president is campaigning in these final days.  Today, it was Cleveland, Ohio.  Yesterday, it was Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Illinois.

On the Republican side, who is Michael Steele campaigning for? 

Michael Steele is campaigning for Michael Steele.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you plan to run for chairman of the RNC?

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  I haven‘t decided yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think you could win again?

STEELE:  Well, if I run, I‘m going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You say that with great confidence.

STEELE:  Yes.  Well, yes.  I mean, my job description is very simple: raise money, win elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In Connecticut this weekend, there was a World Wrestling Entertainment fan appreciation rally, which, of course, had nothing at all to do with the Connecticut Senate campaign of former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, according to her husband, the WWE‘s Vince McMahon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE MCMAHON, WWE:  Some people may think that I‘m out here to talk about politics today—nothing could be further from the truth.  Although I do encourage you to vote this Tuesday and while you are voting, feel free to wear a WWE -shirt.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  In fact you can wear all your favorite wrestling gear to the polls on Tuesday in Connecticut after an initial ruling by the Connecticut secretary of state against wrestling paraphernalia at polling places, WWE and Vince McMahon sued.  And now, the anti-wrestling clothing ruling has been blocked.

For analysis on this development, we turn to our sober legal analysis correspondent, Kent Jones.

Kent Jones, can you please put this news in context for us?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Sure, Rachel.  This is a great victory for free speech.  The First Amendment was designed to provide protection for a broad spectrum of expression, and this case clearly falls under its purview.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Thank you, Kent.

New York voters were treated to a very special mailer from the Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino.  A campaign mailer disguised as important tax information.  You stay classy, Carl.

Meanwhile, a third party candidate in the same race, the same New York governor‘s race, a candidate who can‘t really afford to send out giant glossy mailers is nevertheless sending out giant glossy mailers attacking Andrew Cuomo, who, of course, is the Democrat in the race.  Oddly, the treasurer of the group responsible for these mailers attacking the Democrats happens to be a guy who was paid $17,000 this year to advise Carl Paladino, the Republican in the race.  I wonder how that all came together.

In Delaware, Republican Christine O‘Donnell has announced today that she is launching a 30-minute closing argument TV special that will be airing locally tonight and tomorrow.

As for everybody‘s second favorite fringe candidate in a non-fringe race this year, Sharron Angle, she is—she is still running away from the media.  But get this: There are brand new developments tonight in her retreat technique.  It used to be that Sharron Angle would just run away with no explanation, right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REPORTER:  What do you mean?  What do you mean Second Amendment remedies?

SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Thank you.

REPORTER:  Why won‘t you answer what Second Amendment remedy means? 

You‘re not willing to answer what Second Amendment remedy means?

We‘ve tried to ask you earlier.  We‘ve actually tried with your campaign for days.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  Then, last week, Sharron Angle explaining that she was only running away from the press because she wants to be a senator first.  She wants to be a senator before she talks to reporters.  She does not want to answer questions about why she should or shouldn‘t be a senator until she is a senator.

OK.  Cue the running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ANGLE:  I will answer those questions when I‘m the senator.

REPORTER:  So, you have no answer for them now.  Why?

REPORTER:  We have many Air Force people at Nellis Air Force Base.  We have two wars that we‘re prosecuting right now.  You haven‘t talked about how you would prosecute those wars?

No answer at all?  You were literally silent about the two wars that we are in right now?

ANGLE:  You know, two wars that we‘re in right now is exactly what we‘re in.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  After that tribute to surrealism, the new line from Sharron Angle‘s campaign is that she will not answer questions that are posed to her in airports because, you know, airport security.  Quote, “You know, airport security is pretty tight.  It‘s not really a good place to have an interview.”

No snow globes, no liquids or jells over three ounces and no interviews.  Questions for the candidate?  I‘m sorry, not in the airport.  Amazing.

You know, we keep trying to take time off.  We keep trying to get like weekends and holidays—holiday sneakers.  But at this point, it is a full on sprint to Election Day.

Did you hear the other thing that just happened in the Nevada Senate race?  Did you hear what Jon Ralston just said about this race?  There is so much going on this hour.

Please stay with us.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Pity the poor space alien who chose this weekend as the occasion to visit earth for the first time.  What‘s the richest, most powerful country on this planet doing this weekend?  We‘re looking in the streets dressed like the undead and banging on each other‘s doors demanding candy, you know?

What did we do yesterday?  Over 200,000 Americans rallied in our nation‘s capital for calmness and for not overreacting to everything and for being nice.  All of this is taking place on the precipice of a ginormous political event that is not supposed to have anything to do with comedy or with the supernatural.  But, frankly, this year, none of that is al that clear.

More on the inherent sanity of the Rally for Sanity in D.C.  featuring our very, very, very special RACHEL MADDOW SHOW correspondent.  That is still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What‘s the Sharron Angle turnout infrastructure?  If the Republican Party isn‘t all that, what is she relying on for turning out votes?

JON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN:  Karl Rove.

MADDOW:  What?

RALSON:  American Crossroads announced a few weeks ago that they were going dump a bunch of money into Nevada to help them with get-out-the-vote.  And so, they afford money, my understanding, into the Nevada Republican Party, which is essentially a shill corporation, there is nothing there.  And that they are then using that to mail to people negative read mailers and probably for phone banking.

And so, how much they have actually come through?  I don‘t—you know, we don‘t know on the report yet.

MADDOW:  How—can we really fly in and get out the vote infrastructure?  Doesn‘t it have to be based here?  Doesn‘t it have to be organic?

RALSON:  I think not only that it has to be organic to be effective, but it can‘t be done in just a few weeks, you know?  Reid has taken a couple of years and millions of dollars to erect the infrastructure that he has now.

But, listen, in a race that could be close, Rachel, every little bit they do could help.

MADDOW:  Yes.

RALSON:  And so, it certainly can‘t hurt that they‘re doing it.  But they waited way too long.  And the fact that the Republican Party in the Nevada has been a joke for a long time is one of those things that could end up hurting Angle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You know, one of the old things every keep saying about elections, that doesn‘t really apply anymore.  But we all keep saying it anyway.  It‘s the things the always can break in the last few days of a race.  And those late-breaking things really could turn elections one way or the other.

You can have the greatest get-out-the-vote structure in political history, but your campaign, you know, they say, can be overtaken by some last minute gaffe, some outside event that fundamentally changes the race, maybe even the weather on Election Day.  We always say that.  That is part of the way we understand politics in this country.

But it is becoming less and less true in more and more states with each passing year.  And that‘s because we‘re moving toward a system where people don‘t vote on Election Day anymore.  People vote on any number of days leading up to Election Day.  Not just because of absentee voting, but because of early voting.

And in Nevada, for example, that is a big deal.  Nevada is home to the most high profile, most closely watched race out of all the races around the country this year, Harry Reid versus Sharron Angle for Senate.

As Jon Ralston, you saw there, explained on my trip to Vegas a few days ago, Harry Reid has as finally tuned the get-out-the-vote machine as you can get.  And Sharron Angle has Karl Rove.  But by the time polls open on Tuesday morning, 65 percent of people who are going to vote in that election will have already voted, 65 percent, thanks to early voting.

Now, that means two things.  Number one, it means that late breaking news in that race can‘t really affect the final result as much as it used to, as much as it could be before people early voted in such big numbers.  Secondly, it means that we are able to get a sense of how the race is going based on who‘s already voting, who‘s already banked their votes.

Early voting in Nevada ended on Friday night, the total number of early votes cast, just under 380,000.  Among those voting, there were actually more registered Democrats than registered Republican, 42.9 percent of early voters were registered Democrats compared to 41.1 percent registered Republicans.  Now, that does not mean that all of those people voted Democrat who are registered Democrat, or voted Republican who are registered Republican.  But broadly speaking, people do tend to vote with their party registration, extrapolate at will.

Today, in “The Las Vegas Sun,” the same Jon Ralston who showed us around Vegas to get us the lay of the land there a couple of days ago had a bombshell column that was essentially his prediction for how this race is going to turn out.

Jon Ralston joins us now live from Nevada.

Jon, it‘s good to see you again.  Thanks again for all your hospitality last week.

RALSTON:  Hi, Rachel.  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  So, the latest polls in this race do show Sharron Angle ahead slightly.  But you wrote today that you think Harry Reid is going to win.

RALSTON:  Can I take a page out of Sharron Angle‘s book and decline to answer any questions until after the elections.

MADDOW:  Do you want to get in to an airport you can—

(CROSSTALK)

RALSTON:  That‘s exactly right.  Yes, going down, going out in that little moving walkway, stay away from me.

Anyhow, listen, I don‘t believe most of those public polls, Rachel, and I never have.  I think it‘s in the worse year for public polls ever.  The samples have been way off.

Listen, I‘ve been privy to a lot of private data, both Republican polling and Democratic poling, that indicates that Harry Reid is doing better than those polls show.  So, I trust that data.  I trust that he is the most resilient guy in the history of Nevada politics who finds a way to win and that turnout machine that you mentioned did manage to hold off whatever Republican wave there was going to be to about two-thirds of the votes being cast.

So, putting that altogether, I went out on that limb.

MADDOW:  Well, tell me what‘s going on with those early votes.  As we said, that we‘ve got about a two point lead of Democratic registered early voters versus Republican registered early voters.  How does that translate into the final result?  What does that tell you about, I guess in terms of comparing that to the expectations of the final campaigns?

RALSTON:  Yes, I don‘t want to give a blizzard of numbers.  But let me just be clear on this.  The Democrats, as you point out, have about a 2 percent lead in the early vote.  They actually have 5 percent or so registration lead statewide.  So, the Republicans have about a 3 percent lead relative to their turnout.

But in the last midterm election, they had twice that when all was said and done.  They had 6 percent in the state.  And even two years ago when the huge Democratic wave election, here, the Republicans still had a 3 percent edge relative to their turnout.  But, the Democrats had way more voters in this state.  They have 60,000 more voters, which is why they think they can hold up the wave.

The key is what‘s going to happen Tuesday.  And even more so, what mentioned earlier, is it going to have that big an impact if it‘s not going to be a significant portion of the vote, only a third of the vote.

When we see those early voting and absentee numbers, Rachel, come up, Rachel, on Tuesday night, between 7:00 and 8:00 here, we‘re going to have a very, very good idea of who‘s going to win in this race.

MADDOW:  So, when you see those early voting numbers come up.  The polls, obviously, we won‘t have those until the polls closed.  The polls will close, we‘ll get those numbers relatively soon.  What sort of a spread are you going to be looking for in terms of forecasting how Harry Reid and Sharron Angle have done for the night?

RALSTON:  Harry Reid better be ahead when those first early voting numbers come up, because they have really touted how well they‘ve done in early voting and they expect the Republicans to do pretty well on Election Day.  Now, that‘s based on history.  They typically have outperformed the Democrats on Election Day.

Again, this is a strange year.  Did they spend all of their enthusiasm early in early voting when they were doing well?  Well, we don‘t know the answer to that that.  But if Harry Reid is not ahead and, Rachel, has a significant lead here in Clark Country, probably close to double digits, if he has much less than a 10 percent lead here in Clark County, if it‘s 7 percent or 6 percent, we are going have a very long night.

MADDOW:  Jon Ralston, columnist for the “Las Vegas Sun,” the host of “Face to Face With John Ralston” and an excellent tour guide—Jon, thanks very much for your time tonight.

RALSTON:  You are welcome.  Good to see you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Yes, we know it‘s Halloween.  Yes, we know it‘s Sunday.  Yes, we‘re doing a show anyway.  Sue me.

There is too much going on not to.  Did you hear who which governor‘s race had been like this and now it‘s like this?  Outside of Nevada, do you know what the closest races are in the country right?  Did you hear who we sent to the Rally for Sanity thing in D.C. this weekend?  Our very, very, very, very special correspondent.  All of that is still to come.  Tricks, treats, et cetera.

Please stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Generically, not asking about a specific candidate, but generically, Republican or Democrat, who do you prefer?  In the new “Washington Post”/ABC poll, registered voters prefer Democrats by five percentage points.

Which party would do better coping with the nation‘s problems over the next few years?  Again, Democrats by five.

How about—who is more trustworthy on the economy?  One more time, Democrats by five points.

How about—which party better represents your personal values? 

Democrats lead Republicans on that question by six points.

Steve Benen at “Washington Monthly” wrote about this this weekend and he totally nailed it.  Here‘s the question, look at this—look at what‘s on the screen right now.  If this is how registered voters feel about Democrats versus Republicans, if Democrats are doing so much better than Republicans on these fundamental questions right now, why are Republicans slated to pick up seats in these elections?

Because those poll results I just gave you, those are for registered voters, people who could conceivably vote if they wanted to this year.  But if you don‘t just look at registered voters, people who could conceivably vote if they wanted to, if you look instead at people who say they are likely to vote, look at how this turns around.  Look, totally opposite.  Isn‘t that amazing?

The people who could conceivably vote but don‘t necessarily know that they will, they prefer Democrats on all of those key questions.  People who say they are likely to vote like Republicans.  The country likes Democrats better but the people who don‘t are the ones who are planning to vote.

The distance between Democrats winning versus Democrats losing on Tuesday is the distance between your tookus on the couch if you‘re going to vote for Democrats and your tookus actually making it to the voting booth on Tuesday if you‘re going to vote for Democrats.   That‘s the distance.  Common wisdom, schmamin-wisdom (ph).

When you are figuring out what this means for the House and the Senate and the governor‘s races and what-have-you, that‘s essentially the important difference.  The Democrats have the voters, it is only the question of whether or not Democrats get the votes.  That‘s what remains to be seen.

Joining us now is “Washington Post‘s” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and MSNBC contributor, and the author of the new book, “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America,” Eugene Robinson.

Gene, it‘s good to see you.  Happy Halloween.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST:  Great to see you, Rachael.  Happy Halloween.  And I love the little kitty cat ears that—

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Oh, I can put them on again.  I can send you some over, if you want.

ROBINSON:  It‘s so you, Rachel.  It‘s just so you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Gene, is the die cast here?  Or is there still more work to be done by Democrats?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, yes and no.  I mean, Democrats can‘t get a bright idea on Sunday night and have it really make a difference by Tuesday.  I mean, it‘s so—in that sense, the die is cast.  But we don‘t quite know what‘s going to happen, because of the difficulty of figuring out who‘s just a registered voter and who‘s actually a likely voter.  And if you look at the polls, the honest pollsters will tell you that it is devilishly difficult to sort that out with any real accuracy, especially in a midterm election when you don‘t have that one overriding question that everybody is focused on: who‘s going be the next president?

This election has, to a certain extent—to a greater extent been nationalized, but not totally.  So, a local issue, a ballot issue—marijuana in California, other issues in other states, can drive turn-out on one side or the other.  Or, you know, it could be a nice day, it could be a lousy day in terms of the weather.  There are a lot of variables that really can make a—have an impact.

MADDOW:  In terms of Democrats identifying those variables—clearly, I mean, Republican messages have been the same from the beginning.  It‘s a referendum on Obama.  It‘s a referendum on Obama.  It‘s a right track/wrong track referendum on whether or not you like how the country is going right now or whether you don‘t.  And if you don‘t, you vote against Democrats.

They‘ve been—they have a very simple message all along.  But at this point, do you think Democrats have to find those motivating factors race-by-race and state-by-state?

ROBINSON:  I do.  I think the more localized, especially the House races are, probably the better for Democrats and that‘s why so many Democratic candidates have been pointing to their Republican opponents.  Now, the Republicans have been cooperating and saying, look at this crazy person I‘m running against.  You don‘t want this person to represent you in the House of Representative.  You may not be really happy with or altogether happy with what Democrats have done, but we‘re trying to put the country on the right track.

And, again, Rachel, the polls have consistently shown that the Republican party‘s approval rating is below that of the Democratic party.  It‘s just convincing people not to make a protest vote because they are anxious, impatient, unhappy and, thus, perhaps do something that may actually not be in their self-interest or even in their self-perceived self-interest. 

MADDOW:  Are there are bellwether races for Tuesday night, Eugene, or is essentially the only important result on Tuesday night the overall number of which seats swing either direction?

ROBINSON:  There are some bellwether races.  In general, I think on Tuesday night we‘re going to be looking at the early results from the House races in New York and Pennsylvania for example.  And if we see Democrats, you know, holding more seats than have been predicted, we are going to think Democrats are going to have a good evening. 

If we see large Democratic losses in those early states, we are going think that that is probably going to continue.  It is probably a wave election.  So, those are the kinds of things we are going to be looking at. 

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and MSNBC. I think the cat ears are on their way to you.  I think I have arranged for some cat ears to find their way to you.  So, if they do, they come with my compliments, Gene. 

ROBINSON:  OK, thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  After broadcasting from Alaska last week, we did not think the Senate donnybrook between write-in Republican candidate, Lisa Murkowski, and Tea Partier, Joe Miller, could possibly get any kookier.  We were so, so wrong. 

The latest including the inevitable, inexplicable appearance of Sarah Palin in this race. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)   

MADDOW:  The single, biggest, political headline of the big political day today two days before the elections was reported by ABC‘s Jonathan Karl.  He reported this morning that the Republican Party nationally had “essentially given up on Republican Senate candidate, Joe Miller.” 

Why?  Great question.  Answer, murky.  The reporting is that even though everyone has been focused on the Republican civil war between Tea Party Republican, Joe Miller, and Republican Republican, Lisa Murkowski, national party leaders think that actually Democrat, Scott McAdams, has a chance in this race which makes them way less interested in stoking the Miller versus Murkowski fight and way more interested in trying to keep the seat Republican.  Somehow.  Anyhow.

The man in charge of Republican Senate campaigning this year, John Cornyn is denying ABC‘s reporting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, ® TEXAS:  That‘s not the case.  What we have done, we are supporting the nominee of our party which is Mr. Miller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  But do you care to give Mr. Miller a vote of confidence here on national TV.  Do you think Mr. Miller is going to win?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORNYN:  I think that polls are very close now between Senator Murkowski and Joe Miller.  And what we want to make sure of is that the Democrat doesn‘t win.

MADDOW:  Oh, yeah.  The Democrats.  The big unanswerable in this most excellent of all Senate races is how big a logistical hurdle it would be for Lisa Murkowski to win as a write-in candidate.  Nobody‘s won a U.S.  Senate seat as a write-in since 1954.  Nobody has ever won a statewide write-in campaign in Alaska. 

Her running as a write-candidate, both obscures the polling results—how do you poll voters on whether or not they‘re going to write in a name without mentioning that name.  It also makes it difficult to churn up any gut predictions about the race.  Are people going to vote for her?  Is it going to be difficult for people to vote for her.  Is it going to be logistically hard for enough people to write her name in on the ballot that even those who intend to do so will not be able to pull it off?

Well, on Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court made all that slightly less difficult by ruling that a list of write-in candidates could be provided to Alaska voters who need the extra help.  That would probably give Lisa Murkowski a better chance at winning. 

So, naturally, both the Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams, and the Republican candidate, Joe Miller, are up in arms about that ruling.  But it took conservative talk radio and conservative Web sites to take it a giant step further.  They have been encouraging any and all Alaskans to sign up as write-in candidates as if they are running for Senate. 

So, instead of getting a list of two or three potential write-in candidate names to take into the ballot box, voters would get a whole sheaf of papers.  With Lisa Murkowski‘s name just one among say hundreds.  She‘s be somewhere in the middle of the L to N section.

When an Anchorage conservative radio host offered prizes to people signing up as write-in candidates, his station took his show off the air.  Randomly, Sarah Palin called that a shocking indictment of Lisa Murkowski. 

Huh?  Honestly, that‘s what she called it on the Facebook.  What is Sarah Palin talking about?  Who knows?  Sarah Palin is so wound up about this Senate race, I think she sees the fact that it is Sunday today as a shocking indictment of Lisa Murkowski. 

Brett Favre injured?  Shocking indictment of Lisa Murkowski.

So, Alaska, in a year of off-the-wall really strange candidates and really strange campaigns, Alaska, you are still king.  King, I say.  Alaska‘s Senate race, you are still the weirdest of them all and we love you for it.

I‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Hey, hey, hey. 

How are you?  Good to see you, Harry Potter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In the one day and change before election day, a day we look forward to around here so very much. 

In this final stretch, there is new polling in some of closest and most interesting races in the country.  On the Senate side, the latest poll in Nevada has Sharron Angle leading by two points.  Nate Silver (ph) of the 538 (INAUDIBLE) New York Times giving Sharron Angle an 82 percent chance overall of winning this race.

The latest poll in Pennsylvania showing Pat Toomey up over Democrat, Joe Sestak, also by two.  Nate giving the Republican in Pennsylvania a 92 percent chance of winning that one.

In Illinois, the latest poll putting the Democrat, Alexi Giannoulias,  ahead by between two and three points but Nate tipping the possibility of a Republican winning that seat in Illinois at 68 percent. 

In Washington, the Democratic incumbent, Patty Murray, is leading by between two and three points in the latest poll.  Nate predicting that the chance of a Democratic, Patty Murray, holding on at 81 percent. 

State by state we are also seeing interesting results in New Hampshire.  The Republican, Kelly Ayotte,  is favored in the Senate race, but the Democratic incumbent, John Lynch, is favored in the Governor‘s race. 

Similarly, in Connecticut where the Democrat is way ahead for Senate, the Republican for Governor, Tom Foley, in a very tight race—only two points ahead of Democrat, Dan Malloy, in the latest poll.  Nate Silver tipping that race to the Democrat with an 84 percent chance.

There are two races for Governor in which an Independent candidate is making a strong and interesting showing. 

In Minnesota, the Independent polling at 15 percent which, in all likelihood, will give the Democrat, former Senator Mark Dayton, the win.  That‘s according to Nate Silver.

In Maine, the Independent polling at 28 percent.  Twenty-eight.  A close race that still makes the Republican, Paul LaPage, the favorite in Maine. 

In Ohio, the race for Governor, which includes Republican Congressman, John Kasich, that race is now incredibly close—one or two points depending on which poll you happen to consult.  One of the most hotly watched races in the country there in terms of the Governors.

If you want to see not close in any way whatsoever.  This is amazing.  Check out the top of the ticket races in New York State.  Both Senate seats and the Governor‘s race are up in New York.  Look at these margins.  Andrew Cuomo now leading Carl Paladino by 25 points. 

Kirsten Gillibrand up by 20 in the race for Hillary Clinton‘s old Senate seat.

And Chuck Schumer favored to win reelection by 32 points. 

Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst and senior political editor at the Huffington Post, my friend, Howard Fineman.  Howard, thanks very much for being here. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: 

Hi Rachel.

MADDOW:  I asked Gene earlier if there are bellwether races.  Are there races that explain what‘s going on in the country right now better than others?  Or is the important thing here the aggregate number of seats won and lost?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think the aggregate number is probably going to be important because it‘s going to be big.  In talking to some Democratic consultants over the last 12 hours, I think they are privately gloomier than they are in public. On the House number for sure.  That means it might carry some of the Senate races that the even Nate Silver‘s fine mathematics don‘t account for.  So, that‘s important.  But you always have to look at Ohio, Rachel. I think the whole world of politics still spins around Ohio.  Florida, yes, but it was Richard Nixon who first said it is all about Ohio and it still is. 

And that‘s why President Barack Obama was in Ohio today.  Because if the Democrats can somehow hold on to the governor‘s seat in Ohio, it will break up what otherwise is going be an uninterrupted chain probably of Republican Governors stretching all the way from new jersey on the Atlantic all the way up through the industrial Midwest through Pennsylvania.  Indiana is already in Republican hands. 

Perhaps Illinois.  Michigan it looks like for sure.  Probably Wisconsin.  Not Minnesota as you said but also Iowa.  The entire big ten if you will.  And that‘s a tremendous blow for the Democrats not only this time around but in 2012 after redistricting in those states. 

MADDOW:  The Ohio race, as you mentioned, not only is important but  it is recognized as important.  President Obama there today.  I think he has made at least 12 trips to Ohio since taking office.  Is that Governor‘s race so close? Is that the kind of battle that shows the strength of the two parties more than it does the individual candidates?

FINEMAN:  i think sit about the parties there.  Although if the Republicans win, the John Kasich the candidate who was a former member of Congress who‘s going to be a formidable political player.  He will be one of the few Republican governors who won‘t run for president, but he is a very active politician.  He is close to national Republicans.  He‘s very close to money people.  He worked on Wall Street as you know.  And as the Democrats have been pointing out, he‘s got the money and he‘s got the moves and he will make life miserable for Democrats in Ohio if he gets the chance.

HOWARD:  Looking ahead to potential governorship from Kasich if he wins that race, people like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, people like Dan Coats in Indiana.  Some of these people who are not just old establishment Republicans but old establishment really corporate Republicans.  Are there going be ongoing fights between those type of Republicans and the Tea Party folks that led this sort of insurgency this year? 

FINEMAN:  Oh, I think without question.  A couple of things.  These Republicans who are going win a lot of governorships better enjoy election night because it‘s going to be miserable after that because they will not get any more federal money out of the stimulus program, etc.  They are going have to be cutting budgets ferociously in their states which is going to be very unpopular.  They‘re going to try.

Meanwhile, in the Congress, the new Tea Party Senators are going to come up against the reality that there‘s going to have to be a vote in the spring, for example, to raise the debt limit again.  Do they vote against and thereby threaten, if not, create a government shut down?  Don‘t forget, Rachel, it was the government shut down drama back in the ‘90s that turned a Republic victory—a sweeping Republican victory in 1994 against Bill Clinton and the Democrats into the nightmare that helped get Bill Clinton reelected in 1996.

MADDOW: Thanks, Howard. 

Maybe some of you went to the rally of restore sanity and/or fear in Washington yesterday.  If you were there, you may have met our extra special correspondent.  And, to this moment, you may not know that you did.  Our exclusive spooky reporting on that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Does the beard count as a Halloween costume?         

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MADDOW:  You look tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Old. 

MADDOW:  No.  You look hairy. 

BILL WOLFF: That‘s because—I‘m hairy every day in places you can‘t see. 

MADDOW:  I mean going down to the D.C. rally though with the road beard and everything.  It must have been fun?

BILL WOLFF: It‘s more would have been fun.  I didn‘t go.  Well, you were out Friday with a day off because we had been so far and we had a Halloween show to you.  So, I got sick as a dog, could  not get out of bed.  It felt like people with ball peen hammers were behind my eyes for 22 hours. 

But, it‘s OK, because I have a two-year-old.  He‘s very sensitive to these things.  He doesn‘t care.  I used all my considerable pull in the business.  How important I am, people will find out right now.  I used all of my pull to get who I think is the appropriate correspondent. 

MADDOW: So, you couldn‘t go, but you got somebody else to cover for you?    

BILL WOLFF: That‘s exactly right.  I think the best way to tell you is show you the tape. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLYN WOLFF:  Hello Rachel, this is Carolyn  Wolff.  I‘m Bill‘s mother.  Bill couldn‘t come today.  He‘s not feeling well.  So, I came from St. Louis, Missouri, to fill in for Bill and this is the rally to restore sanity.

We‘ve entered the gate and now there are a throng of people.  We‘d like to be able to get over where the action is.  But it‘s difficult.  And we also have trouble staying together as a group since—it‘s been a long time since we were in kindergarten. 

This is a bit of an anti-climax, because we—we‘re almost out of the mob, i think.  We‘ve lost some of our party, but we are on our way to 7th street and we‘re hoping for the best.  What brings you here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Free hot dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘re here with my children and my mother and we‘re all here for voice for sanity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I see a lot of young people.  I hope they‘re ready to get out there and do some voting. 

CAROLYN WOLFF:  how long did it take you to do this costume?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just about an hour.  It was totally worth it. 

People are really getting a kick out of it.

CAROLYN WOLFF: Do you know who‘s talking now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jon Stewart.   

CAROLYN WOLFF:  We‘re hearing Jon Stewart, ladies and gentlemen. 

Who is singing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kid Rock. 

CAROLYN WOLFF:  Is he important?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not to you and me. 

CAROLYN WOLFF:  Kid Rock is singing now.  He sounds like bob dylan. 

This must be Roots.  I dig it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People from Baltimore. 

CAROLYN WOLFF:  I guess that‘s it.  Unfortunately we never got inside the rally, but we got the flavor of it, as it were.  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The mom of our secure producer, Bill Wolff, Carolyn Wolff.  Thank you, doing a great job filling in for her son as correspondent at yesterday‘s Rally in D.C..  A nonpartisan ironic, but not cynical, improbable only in America, small l liberal reset button for politics and for news about our politics. 

JON STEWART:  We live now in hard times not end times.  And we can have animates and not be enemies.  Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. 

The country‘s 24-hour Politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems.  But its existence makes solving them that much harder.  The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems.  Bringing them into focus.  Illuminating issues heretofore unseen.  Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then, perhaps, host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic. 

Most Americans don‘t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives.  Look.  Look on the screen.  This is where we are.  This is who we are, these cars.  That‘s a schoolteacher, probably thinks his taxes are too high.  He‘s going to work.  There‘s another car.  A woman with two small kids.  Can‘t really think about anything else right now.  There‘s another car swinging.  I don‘t even know if you can see it.  The lady‘s in the NRA and loves Orah.  There‘s another car, an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. 

Another car‘s a Latino carpenter.  Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman.  Atheist obstetrician.  Mormon Jay-z fan. 

But this is us.  Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear.  Often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.  And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30-foot wide tunnel and they do it, concession by concession. 

You go, then I‘ll go.  You go then I‘ll go.  You go then I‘ll go.  Oh, my gosh, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car?  That‘s okay, you go and then I‘ll go. 

Sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute.  That individual is rare, scorned and not hired as an analyst.  We know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together.  And the truth is there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn‘t the promised land.  Sometimes it‘s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.

MADDOW:  I have two things to say about Jon Stewart‘s speech.  One, bravo and two, bravo.  I know this wasn‘t a political event, but I am a liberal, a capital L liberal and a small l liberal and that you go, i go principle, I believe it and I am really happy that in my country over 200,000 people turned out to cheer that.  No joke.

Happy Halloween.

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

END   

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