updated 9/8/2011 12:39:47 PM ET 2011-09-08T16:39:47

POST-DEBATE ANALYSIS: 9:45-11PM ET
Hosts: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O`Donnell
Guests: Eugene Robinson, Ed Rollins, Rick Santorum, Robert Gibbs, Ron Kaufman, Rep. Mick
Mulvaney


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. I`m Rachel Maddow here at
MSNBC`s home studios in New York City where the presidential debate tonight
has just wrapped up. You`re looking at live footage there of the
candidates on stage as the debate winds down.

Chris Matthews will be joining us from Simi Valley, California, the
site of tonight`s debate. Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O`Donnell,
Gene Robinson all here with me in New York City.

We`ll also be hearing tonight from the campaign manager for the last
successful campaign for the Republican nomination successful campaign for
president, Steve Schmidt, who managed the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008.
Also, the immediate past chairman of the National Republican Party, Michael
Steele. The Obama White House`s former press secretary, Robert Gibbs.

Also, Howard Fineman, Melissa Harris-Perry will join us. Alex Wagner
will be honing our department of corrections, our fact check desk tonight.

Plus, representatives from the campaign in the spin room, that`s all
ahead.

In tonight`s debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry, the front-runner in
the latest polls, and therefore a target of most of the other candidates at
one point or another throughout the night. Governor Perry had initially a
hard time handling questions about his state having the highest proportion
of people without health insurance, but that was a challenge he bubbled
from the moderators, not from his fellow candidates. In a response to a
challenge directly Mitt Romney and indirectly from Karl Rove and Dick
Cheney, Governor Perry stuck to his insistence that Social Security is a
Ponzi scheme, a fraud in other words.

Mr. Romney`s campaign already pouncing on that remark in a press
release tonight. Governor Perry also said tonight that President Obama
either bad intel or was an abject liar when he represented El Paso, Texas,
as a safe American city on the border with Mexico.

Mitt Romney himself squaring off with Governor Perry over jobs created
in his time as Massachusetts governor and Perry in question on his record
at jobs at Bain Capital. That`s what was described as a buyout specialist.

Michele Bachmann who`s standing in the polls has sunk as Governor
Perry has risen repeatedly revoking Obamacare tonight.

Newt Gingrich taking a shot at the debate itself, denouncing the media
as being in support of President Obama.

Texas Governor Ron Paul running in his third presidential campaign,
doing something different in this one for the first time. He came loaded
for a bear for one of his fellow candidates tonight, going after Rick Perry
repeatedly on issues including Perry`s support in the 1990s for Clinton era
health reform and Perry`s executive order on cervical cancer vaccination
for Texas school kids.

Jon Huntsman given the opportunity to confront by the name in face to
face opponents he has described in the aggregate as cranks and anti-
science. Governor Huntsman declined to do so.

But there`s much more to say tonight about this debate. We`ll begin
with our friend Chris Matthews, who is live from Simi Valley.

Chris, what`s the headline for you here tonight?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL": Well, you know, I thought about
halfway through, Rachel, that it was and still may be the Ponzi scheme
reference you pointed you. The fact that Governor Perry backed up an
earlier charge on his list of attacks on the establishment, the fact that
he did so strongly, calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, using other
words -- I think that`s the lead in "The New York Times" tomorrow, I would
bet.

I think he`s no doubt the leader of the discussion tomorrow morning.
He will be the lightning rod for the Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party,
the core liberals. They`ll go after him on that, it`s an easy one. It`s
about constituency politics. They`ll simply defend Social Security, it`s
basically 101 politics.

And I think the more dangerous thing he said, and the thing I am
concerned about, because it`s not tonal, it`s real -- this man`s absolute
opposition to scientific information. The thought that this country would
elect or seriously consider electing someone who stands out there and says,
I don`t accept science on climate change and clearly doesn`t want to study
it any further, I think that`s the hard bad news for the Republican Party -
- their front-runner seemed to be tonight anti-science.

And this country has to win the battle of science in the world against
China and India and the other brick countries. If we give up on science,
if we get the image of being a yahoo country, a monkey business country, we
got a real problem in terms of our national identity.

And this man that we`re looking at right now is leading the charge,
the Luddite charge against modern technology and modern information. So, I
think that`s the hard bad news tonight for the Republican Party.

MADDOW: Chris Matthews, joining us from Simi Valley. Chris, we`ll be
back with you in just a moment.

I want to bring in Republican strategist Steve Schmidt who, of course,
ran the McCain/Palin presidential campaign in 2008.

Steve, thank you very much for being with us tonight. We feel lucky
to have you.

The broad question tonight, the big headline out of the debate, and
how other candidates coped tonight with the rise of Rick Perry into an
apparent front-runner?

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, look, I thought
you saw all of the Republican candidates tonight trying to focus as best
they can on the economy, and I think this is going to be the major issue in
the general election against President Obama.

And I thought that Mitt Romney did a very good job tonight. I thought
he was poised. You could tell he`s been through a lot of these debates.
He made no mistakes. He was fluent on the economy.

I think that Rick Perry, you know, for his first debate, I think he
did a decent job of front talking about the economy, talking about jobs,
talking about his Texas --

(VIDEO INTERRUPTION)

SCHMIDT: -- and I think as this campaign progresses, you`re going to
see an increasing focus between the two of them. I think it`s going to be
a very robust competition between the two of them as we move forward.

MADDOW: Steve, as you said, Governor Perry made no major mistakes.
That`s probably the single most important thing that he needed to do. Are
you seeing signs of a concrete shift in strategy by any of the other
candidates to respond to his presence in the race? Is anyone doing
anything differently now in order to account for him?

SCHMIDT: I think at the end of the day, the calendar drives part of
the strategy because even Rick Perry has surged to the front of the race,
he doesn`t change this dynamic. The fact was that Mitt Romney wasn`t
competing in Iowa, and is unlikely to be the victor in Iowa. And Perry`s
entrance to the race while he`s not dislodged Romney from the top of the
national polls has not dislodged Romney in New Hampshire.

So, if Rick Perry proceeds and everything were to play out on that
time line, Rick Perry were to proceed to win the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney
wins New Hampshire, you have a two person race going-forward, going into
South Carolina.

You know, I think it`s clear, when you watch the race tonight that
this is ultimately going to be a contest that devolves down between Mitt
Romney and Governor Perry. You know, obviously, Jon Huntsman is
communicating today to an audience in New Hampshire, hoping that if there`s
a political murder/suicide between Romney and Perry, that it gets very
negative in New Hampshire, he may have some room to move with an electorate
that`s comprised of independents.

And, you know -- and I thought the other big headline of the debate
tonight is -- you know, I think the Michele Bachmann, you know, adventure
in the primary is coming to an end. You just see Rick Perry as totally
taking the wind out of her sails. I think for a lot of the spring, you saw
a dynamic where the field was constituted -- was driving demand for other
candidates. I think that Rick Perry has stated that demand. I think you
have a Republican field now I think that Republican voters are going to be
somewhat satisfied with or at least, you know, not have that clamoring
you`ve seen for much of the spring and summer for other candidates to get
in the race.

MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, who managed the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008
-- Schmidt, thank you. We`ll be talking to you again shortly. Appreciate
it.

SCHMIDT: You bet.

MADDOW: Let`s bring in now, Lawrence O`Donnell, the host of "THE LAST
WORD," Al Sharpton, host of "POLITICS NATION," the host of "THE ED SHOW,"
Ed Schultz, and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post,"
Eugene Robinson, who of course, is also an MSNBC political analyst, all
four joining me here in New York.

Gentlemen, simple question -- who helped their campaign the most
tonight and who hurt their campaign the most? In brief.

Ed, let me start with you.

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": Well, I think Governor Perry did
exactly what his supporters wanted him to do, he didn`t back down. He was
aggressive on Mitt Romney on jobs. He was aggressive on his positions on
Social Security. He actually said that Karl Rove is over the top.

Now, have any of us heard a Republican say that Karl Rove was over the
top?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHULTZ: And he also countered the position of the former vice
president.

I mean, this guy is solid in his philosophy, and that`s the draw, when
it comes to the hard right wing. And with the money he`s got, he`s going
to be tough to beat.

MADDOW: In terms of who did themselves the most harm tonight? What
do you think?

SCHULTZ: Well, I don`t think Michele Bachmann was as smooth as she
was in past debates. So, I think that Steve Schmidt`s analysis of that is
true.

I thought Newt Gingrich took it up a notch tonight, and I thought Mr.
Huntsman also had his best performance tonight. He seemed like more of a
moderator than anything else. But a very affable man, and certainly up on
his facts. And I thought that he was very presentable tonight.

MADDOW: Ed, you are in a generous spirit about this tonight. It`s
good to hear it. It`s good to hear it.

SCHULTZ: Well, it is a Republican debate.

MADDOW: Reverend Al?

AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": I think I agree, Governor Perry
fed red meat to his base. I think he hurt himself with the general public,
when you go to the fact checks, when they check out his claims about jobs
and minimum wage in Texas. I think he`s going to get a little -- hit hard
on that, the Ponzi scheme, science. I mean, this whole thing of Galileo
was outvoted. I mean, he really got out there.

But for his followers, I think he played to those seats, whether
they`re the majority of the seats or not, we`ll see.

I don`t think Romney made any major mistake. I was surprised that
Romney was not more rattled and deflated as I thought he would be. He did
not seem intimidated by Perry, and I thought he may be.

I think Bachmann left the race tonight. I think she was totally
considered second tier, came off that way. I think Gingrich did a better
performance.

The big loser tonight was Ronald Reagan, though. They were in his
place, Reagan who raised taxes over and over again, and tripled the deficit
-- he couldn`t have won this nomination with that crew up there. I think
Ronald Reagan looked like the Democrat in the room.

And I think the DNC should take the Social Security line of Mr. Perry
and the attack on Social Security and the Ponzi scheme and put out bumper
stickers saying, it`s not about Obama it`s about your momma and we`ll win.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: Lawrence O`Donnell?

O`DONNELL: Al`s point is very important, I think the real headline
tonight is Romney lives, because Perry failed. He came into this campaign
and steam rolled everyone in the polls. He did not steam role Romney
tonight.

They can use Ronald Reagan against Rick Perry and they can use them on
everything, including the Social Security bit. This Ponzi thing he got
himself in a deeper hole tonight, he said in the Ronald Reagan Library.

1983, Ronald Reagan, "Today, we reaffirm Franklin Roosevelt`s
commitment that Social Security must always provide a secure and stable
base so that older Americans may live in dignity." Ronald Reagan would
have been the wild lefty in the room getting less than 1 percent of the
polling vote in this crowd with huntsman polling above them.

MADDOW: Who did themselves the most harm tonight?

O`DONNELL: Rick Perry. He had to come in here and perform according
to his polls, as a very strong front-runner. He could have created a
bigger distance between him and Romney tonight. He failed to do that,
Romney, much more debate experience, performed better than any of the rest
of them. And I think helped remind Republicans, don`t rush to Perry.

MADDOW: So, Perry loses on the opportunity cost because he could have
nailed it down tonight?

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MADDOW: Gene?

ROBINSON: Romney, clearly did himself the most good as far as I`m
concerned. I think Romney managed to take very solid conservative
positions. But he also managed to separate himself from Perry on Social
Security.

O`DONNELL: Committed to saving Social Security.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

O`DONNELL: A guy actually said that in the Republican debate.

ROBINSON: And talked about the value that Social Security has, and
you can`t call it a Ponzi scheme. I think that was excellent for Romney.

O`DONNELL: Romney knows Florida is coming.

ROBINSON: They have to go through Florida.

In terms of who hurt themselves the most, I have to go with Bachmann.
I mean, she really did drop down, out in the first tier, into the second
tier in this debate. She kind of faded away into the background.

And we`re not talking about what she said, you know? When`s the last
time there was a debate we weren`t talking about what Michele Bachmann
said?

MADDOW: Let me take one moment and we`ll go to you, Ed, right when we
come back. But I got to tell you that this is MSNBC`s continuing coverage
of tonight`s debate. And I need to ask you to stay with us.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW: Good evening. I`m Rachel Maddow. It just after 10:00 p.m.
here on the East Coast and 7:00 p.m. on the West Coast, where the NBC
News/"Politico" Republican presidential debate has just ended at the Reagan
Library in Simi Valley, California. This was the fourth Republican debate
of this campaign season, and the first to include Rick Perry, who polls say
is the field`s current frontrunner.

Governor Perry joined seven other candidates on stage tonight, Mitt
Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Newt
Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Not on stage tonight, many other declared candidates, including Gary
Johnson, Buddy Roemer, Fred Karger, Thaddeus McCotter and the candidate who
nobody knows whether or not she`s a candidate, Sarah Palin.

"HARDBALL`s" Chris Matthews is in Simi Valley. Ed Schultz, Lawrence
O`Donnell, Al Sharpton and Gene Robinson are here with me on set in New
York.

We will have Steve Schmidt, Robert Gibbs, Michael Steele, Melissa
Harris-Perry, Howard Fineman, Alex Wagner and many more weighing in.

Let`s listen to what was perhaps the most contentious moment in
tonight`s debate about Social Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a Ponzi scheme
to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you`re paying into a
program that`s going to be there. Anybody that`s for the status quo with
Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and
it`s not right.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our nominee has to be
someone who isn`t committed to abolishing Social Security, but is committed
to saving Social Security. We have always had, at the heart of our party,
a recognition that we want to care for those in need. And our seniors have
the need of Social Security.

PERRY: You cannot keep the status quo in place, and not call it
anything other than a Ponzi scheme. It is. That is what it is, Americans
know that. And regardless of what anyone says, oh, it`s not, and that`s
provocative language -- maybe it`s time to have some provocative language
in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Rick Perry making perhaps the line of the night, but not a
new point for him to make. Rick Perry, of course, was asked about calling
Social Security a Ponzi scheme, because that`s what`s in his book. If he
was trying to take that back right now, we would be calling that a great
gaffe.

Mitt Romney taking a rather bold move tonight, I wouldn`t say he did
it artfully, but he certainly did it aggressively, to make that the main
issue of Rick Perry`s candidacy I think makes Mitt Romney mostly the winner
tonight.

I would say the big loser tonight was Jon Huntsman, mostly because
this was Huntsman`s opportunity to be seen as something other than a second
tier or even third tier candidate. And I don`t think he moved at all. I
do think he and Michele Bachmann are now consigned to the bleachers, while
Romney and Perry seem to be sitting in the box seats.

But I want to bring in Ed Schultz here.

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": Well, I think Perry hit it out of
the park on Social Security and his base. Look, Wall Street wants to
privatize Social Security. They want to save Social Security. Wall Street
wants all that money going right down the street and they want the American
people being held to that stock price.

And I believe that one of the reasons why he talked about young people
and kids, he`s selling the next generation, that what we did for the last
70 years isn`t where we have to go for the next 70 years. And that`s what
corporations want to hear. That`s exactly what Wall Street wants to hear,
and that`s what his base wants to hear.

He talked about the status quo. He says, we`re lying to our kids. But
most of all, he didn`t back down.

And in the liberal left in this country, this is where President Obama
has had some trouble. A lot of people think that he`s backed down when he
didn`t need to.

We saw somebody tonight in the heat of the battle, first time out, he
wasn`t going to back down on what he was on record with, and that was in
his book.

So, viewing how conservatives view the totality of it, I think that
Rick Perry is going to get a lot of accolades tonight.

MADDOW: So, we simultaneously end up with him hurting himself for the
general election, helping Mitt Romney with the electability factor in terms
of his -- as a general election candidate, but helping himself get the
nomination by impressing the base?

SCHULTZ: But what about young people. Are the 20-somethings and the
30-somethings he talked about tonight, are they going to go with President
Obama? I mean, Rick Perry was talking about transforming Social Security.
Reforming it, not getting rid of it.

He`s -- you could have some kind of a program that would be privatized
that would not be a Ponzi scheme. And I think that`s where he`s trying to
take the next generation. But he`s talking to young people --

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, "THE LAST WORD": He`s saying it`s a
criminal enterprise, OK? That demographic doesn`t know what Ponzi is,
Charles Ponzi was a Boston criminal who defrauded people -- who, by the
way, when he got out of jail for the last time, he said, I went looking for
trouble and I found it. That`s who Ponzi was. You`re going to hear a lot
more about it.

SCHULTZ: The point he was making Lawrence is that the money is not
going to be there.

O`DONNELL: Rick Perry sunk his candidacy tonight by embracing the
Ponzi idea. He destroyed his candidacy and he showed that Romney could be
tough. Romney stood in there, in that clip on Social Security and fought
him and said that he`s committed to saving Social Security, exactly like
Ronald Reagan. Romney`s going to use Ronald Reagan`s words against Perry
on this. Perry cannot survive on his Ponzi scheme campaign about Social
Security.

SCHULTZ: It`s one facet of his campaign, he talks about job creation
--

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: The fact is he`s talking about the Ponzi scheme because he`s
trying to tell people, you`re not going to get the money.

(CROSTALK)

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: -- that becomes a very
narrow appeal, I think, Ed. I mean, a lot of your analysis is absolutely
spot on. But I think that`s -- you talk about the young people. Those
young people have a different view of our climate change.

SCHULTZ: Sure they do.

ROBINSON: Those young people -- many of them have a different view --

SCHULTZ: But what`s the corporations` view of climate change?
They`re going to eat Romney eat -- they`re going to eat Perry up, they love
that --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: The question is, can he go beyond the conservative base?

AL SHARPTON, HOST, "POLITICS NATION": I don`t think Perry`s going to
get to where he wants to get to. The fact of the matter is, I`ve been in
these debates, Romney had to make the decision that he was going to go
after Perry.

This was not something spontaneous. You sit up in those green rooms
and say, this is probably what`s going to be brought up. I know what you
think about going on that stage. Romney made a calculated decision, and
the reason I think he made that decision is Ed is correct that Perry was
playing to the young voters. But the young voters don`t vote in Republican
primaries. He`s playing to a general electorate. It`s seniors that are
voting in those Republican primaries. He just told them Bernie Madoff is
who gave them their Social Security.

And I think he`s going to lose a lot of the Republican primary prime
voters by coming out of this with the headline about the Ponzi scheme. I
think it was, you`re right, Ed, playing to the base. But I think that base
is too young, and they`re not voting in the Republican primary. And I
think it`s not going to help them in the long run.

O`DONNELL: I think your point about Romney making a decision to say
he`s committed to saving Social Security is very important, and obviously
they knew it was coming. They knew the Ponzi scheme thing was coming.

MADDOW: Let`s go back to the Reagan Library and Chris Matthews.

Chris, a fierce debate on set as to the electoral political impact,
the primary versus general impact of Rick Perry`s stance on Social Security
tonight.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL: Yes, I guess it`s a question of which
Republican Party we`re talking about because I looked at this campaign, as
a lot of us have looked at it, a two conference battle. There`s a western
conference, the Tea Party-led part of the party, the very abolitionist
anti-government part, secessionist even, and the other wing of the party
which still hugs to the idea of the traditional party`s commitment to some
role for government, a positive role for government.

Now, clearly, Romney made a decision tonight to say he was not a Tea
Partier, he agreed with some of his principles. When he was given a chance
to say, are you a member? He said, "No." I thought that was interesting.

The fact that everybody tonight on our panel and our colleagues here
agree that Bachmann is fading if not falling, tells you that the battle for
the west is over, and that Rick Perry has won it.

What I think you`re going to see is something that I think Ed Schultz
-- Ed and I don`t always agree on tone and other things. But I think what
you heard tonight was a solid confirmation of a point of view that may be
wrong. I mean, the old argument in politics is, I don`t need you when I`m
wrong.

It could be that by saying he was right about the Ponzi scheme may
hurt him with the media, will hurt him with "The New York Times" today,
will hurt him with -- a lot of people. But it will confirm a kind of iron
anger, a kind of anti-establishment Tea Party mentality that doesn`t trust
the establishment, doesn`t trust Social Security, federal institutions at
all. Believes they are, in fact, corrupt and a Ponzi scheme in a form.
Not like the old Boston one.

And I think what you`re looking at is a very interesting fight here,
it`s for the heart of the right, not the Republican Party, but the hard of
the right that will vote in the Iowa caucus that show up there and vote
publicly, which is a weird way to vote. Not the Australian ballot
publicly, vote with the Baptists in South Carolina and across the Bible
belt that doesn`t like Mormons.

And so, in the end, all you have to do in this race is reach a minimal
level of I.Q. to be OK to run against a Mormon in the Deep South. Just be
good enough. And I think he did that tonight. He was good enough. He
didn`t make a fool of himself, and that`s all they want.

MADDOW: Chris, I would say --

MATTHEWS: My thought --

MADDOW: -- that the White House tonight has to be looking at Mitt
Romney`s move here, contra Perry to say, I`m the one that`s going to stand
up for Social Security, and they have to be worried about that -- because
when Romney put out his 59-point jobs plan this week, one of the things
that was involved in that jobs plan is that he said that while he would not
do exactly what Paul Ryan did about Medicare, voucherizing Medicare,
essentially killing Medicare by privatizing it, he said he would do largely
the same thing.

And the White House has to look at that and say, great -- the idea
that the Republicans are going to kill Medicare and Social Security is the
best thing that they could possibly do for the Democrats` chances in the
general election and Romney is vulnerable on that on Medicare.

But for Romney to have step out today and say, you know what? I`m not
vulnerable on Social Security, I`m a defender on Social Security, that is
something where he`s actually taken the greatest arrow that Democrats might
have against the Republican nominee away from them.

MATTHEWS: Right. If he`s the nominee?

MADDOW: If he`s the nominee.

MATTHEWS: If he`s the nominee -- and that is the hard -- the old
battle, every sport as you know, Rachel, is you don`t look ahead to the
next game. The game between now and certainly early next spring is can you
win the Republican base? Can you win the Deep South where all the votes
are? Can you win South Carolina, Iowa and the rest against, again, a
Mormon Republican candidate who has all kinds of cultural problems down
there?

And all you have to be is an OK good ole boy with enough brains to
play to the right.

Now, we`ll see. Any one of us could be right tonight. It`s a hard
one to call at this point. But I think Bachmann`s falling out of the race.
I think Romney saying he`s not a Tea Partier has reshaped the race now
between a Tea Party favorite, in fact, hero, Romney, against a non-Tea
Party establishment candidate. And if that`s the nature of this fight, I`m
betting on the Tea Party in 2012.

MADDOW: We`re now going to the spin room in Simi Valley to be joined
by Ed Rollins was Michele Bachmann`s campaign manager until stepping into a
senior advisory role just this week. Mr. Rollins, we`re happy, happy to
have you with us tonight, thanks for joining us.

ED ROLLINS, BACHMANN CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR: My pleasure. Thank you.
How are you tonight?

MADDOW: I`m great.

There`s` consensus among those who we have spoken to thus far, that
the person who was until very recently -- the person`s campaign you`re
managing, Michele Bachmann, faded a bit tonight. That she did not seem
like a top tier candidate. That we did not hear as much from her or and as
pointed terms her that she would have needed to stay in the top tier.

What do you think about that?

ROLLINS: I thought she had a great night. You know, she can`t answer
questions that aren`t asked. And there`s clearly the show tonight was
trying to make it a Romney/Perry show. I thought every one of her answers
was superb. I thought she came off as very smart, very articulate.

That`s one of the problems when you have eight or nine people on the
stage. You know, at the end of the day, some get featured, some don`t.
But I thought from my perspective, she had a great night.

This is about sustainability. This is about a long haul here and my
sense is, she was excellent. I thought it was her best debate.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Ed Rollins, Chris Matthews, your friend,
here -- do you like to see Michele Bachmann president of the United
States?

ROLLINS: Absolutely. I`m going to work very hard. I worked very
hard the last three months, and I`m going to continue to work very hard --
you know, I`m an old man, I can`t do what I once could do. But, at the end
of the day here, I`m going to do everything I can to help her.

MATTHEWS: You want her calling U.S. foreign policy?

ROLLINS: Do I want her calling -- I thought she was great on foreign
policy tonight. I thought she was -- I thought she had good answers.

Listen, anybody on that stage today I`d prefer to President Obama. My
sense is, my candidate did very, very well tonight.

SHARPTON: I think, you know, Ed obviously has to spin for his
candidate. But I think when you look at the fact that she really didn`t
say anything that we could quote, not one thing that may be the opinion of
the Bachmann people is because she didn`t say something that would put her
foot in her mouth, she`s been saying, it`s a great night.

ROLLINS: N, no, no, no, no.

SHARPTON: Tell me, what is the takeaway here, Ed, that we can
remember that Bachmann said. What`s the takeaway quote that I can say this
is what Bachmann drove home through the debate tonight?

ROLLINS: Well, tell me the takeaway on any of them tonight? At the
end of the day --

SHARPTON: Ponzi scheme with Perry. I`m not a Tea Partier with
Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: My sense is what she did is, she gave a very solid
performance, and anyone watching who wasn`t looking only for sound bytes,
but was looking for substance saw a substantive woman on the stage with
three governors, more than holding her own. I thought it was one of her
better debates.

You guys want her to do what she did to Pawlenty. You want her to
knock off somebody off the stage. You know, that wasn`t our game plan
tonight. Our game plan tonight was to basically be smart, answer the
questions and move forward. We have another debate next week and another
debate after that and another debate after.

You know, at the end of the day, it`s about coming off as smart,
coming off as articulate. And she did only both.

SHARPTON: That explains it.

ROBINSON: Does she, Ed -- in the future, does she have to be tougher
on Perry in order to -- they`re kind of competing for the same voters, does
she have to go after him in a more active, aggressive way?

ROLLINS: The bottom line is, the only one that`s knocked out a
governor so far is Michele Bachmann. And when Pawlenty went after her, she
went back after him, more than adequately responded. Tonight, the debate
was Romney, you know, Paul -- the Texans sort of beating up on each other.
My sense is my candidate answered the questions as best she could, and I
think articulated a good image.

MADDOW: Ed Rollins, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I
really appreciate you spending the time with us. Appreciate it.

ROLLINS: My pleasure. Any time. Take care. Thank you.

MADDOW: We will have much more with our panel. What he was saying
about the Texans going after each other tonight -- I think that was key. I
think it was fascinating tonight. We`ll have plenty more reaction of
tonight`s debate from the spin room and elsewhere at the Reagan Library,
including Rick Santorum will be joining us in a few moments.

Plus, the view from the Obama camp and former White House press
secretary Robert Gibbs.

You are watching MSNBC`s coverage of the Republican presidential
candidates debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did,
Mitt.

ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor
created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.

PERRY: That`s not correct. That`s not correct.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MODERATOR: Nice to see everybody came prepared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Welcome back to MSNBC`s coverage of tonight`s Republican
presidential candidate`s debate. Let`s go back to the Reagan Library in
Simi Valley, California, and HARDBALL`s Chris Matthews -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thanks, Rachel.

Let`s bring in one of the participants tonight, Rick Santorum of
Pennsylvania. Senator Santorum, thank you so much for joining us. And I
was thinking -- I`m always been a big fan of yours in this sense. I really
believe --

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really needed to get
some hot air somewhere tonight. Sorry about that.

MATTHEWS: No, you`ll get it here you -- you`ll be welcomed back on
our shows many times, because I think you`re a very honest man. I disagree
with you on a number of state policies which you know. But I think you`re
very honest. I don`t think you play any games.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And tonight, I want you to tell me about the debate
tonight. Has it become a battle between the cultural right -- well, the
Tea Party right, exclusively the Tea Party, but certainly that point of
view of very skeptical about government versus the establishment candidate?
I think right now, it`s beginning to look like the front-runner is that
Perry, as the anti-establishment right candidate against Romney, who still
hugs the establishment, who still won`t say he`s a Tea Partier?

SANTORUM: Yes. Well, I guess you would say that was the focus of the
debate tonight, was, you know, the discussion between those two candidates.
But, obviously, there are a lot of other candidates in this race, and this
race is a long way from being over.

And, you know, I think you have a candidate in Rick Santorum who
actually brings something to the table that is someone who has established
in the sense that I`ve gotten things done, I`ve been willing to make the
compromises necessary, but never compromises on principle as you talked
about, but get compromises to get things done, like welfare reform and
several foreign policy bills and pro-life measures.

As you know, Chris, we`ve had some prolife bills that got some
bipartisan support that I authored. So, establishment in that sense, but I
also understand there are big problems in Washington, D.C., that need a
little more of a dramatic change. And I think what I tried to bring to the
table is someone who understands the need for dramatic change, for getting
back to our constitutional roots. At the same time can find that
compromise and get things done and make things work in Washington.

MATTHEWS: OK.

You know, Senator, candidates know how to take a question and give the
answer they want. The smart politician gives a quick answer to the
question and then says what they want it said. Nobody used that technique
today to bring up "don`t ask, don`t tell" or to oppose it, supported
rather. Nobody came up against same sex marriage tonight. No one talked
about the life issue which is so dear to you.

Why did no Republican on that stage really including you want to focus
on those hard social moral issues you might argue in this debate tonight.
Why in the Reagan library weren`t these issues at least discussed?

SANTORUM: Well, as you know, Chris, I think I only got four or five
questions. And so I --

MATTHEWS: Nobody turned the question to same sex. You never turned
it to same sex, you never turned it to "don`t ask, don`t tell"?

SANTORUM: Well, I did turn on one social issue when I had the chance.
And, you know, obviously, the issues that were asked of me, I had things I
wanted to talk about -- I wanted to talk about my economic policy, the work
I did on welfare reform. And so, I mean --

MATTHEWS: But not the social issues?

SANTORUM: Well, but they weren`t asked of me those questions. You
only have one minute. And I have something to say about other issues, too.

MATTHEWS: You didn`t bring them up, Senator. It seems like your
party believes that you can`t win this general election if you talk about
same sex marriage.

SANTORUM: Wait a minute, whoa!

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SANTORUM: Your station didn`t ask any. I mean, in the previous
debates, they were all asked.

MATTHEWS: But you could bring up anything you want.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: -- the opportunity to answer them. And, Chris

MATTHEWS: We disagree. I know politicians say what they want to say,
and none of you guys wanted to bring it up.

SANTORUM: Well, hold on, hold on. If you look at -- go look at the
past debates. You`ve seen one instance where I didn`t answer the question
and wanted to talk about -- one of the things I pride myself on, Chris,
when I went around and did 50 town hall meetings right before the straw
poll, and before the debate, and as I have gone around South Carolina,
doing the same things in N New Hampshire, is I get up there and I answer
the question. I let people know what`s on my mind and how I`m going to do
things.

And, you know, maybe that`s not a good debate strategy, I think what
people are looking for is someone who`s authentic, someone who doesn`t
dodge issues they don`t want to talk about -- to talk about issues they do
want to talk about. I`ll talk about all the issues, I`ll engage them, and,
you know, I was hopeful they would get to national security more than they
did. That they would get to the more cultural issues.

But, obviously, they wanted to talk about Mitt Romney and Rick Perry
more than anything else.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Well, I was hoping they get to evolution because that always opens up
a can of worms for your party. Anyway, thank you very much, Senator Rick
Santorum.

SANTORUM: I would have been happy to discuss that issue.

MATTHEWS: I know you would. Because you`re the only guy that really
wants to talk about that stuff. Thank you, I will.

By the way, do you believe in evolution?

SANTORUM: I talk about all that stuff. That`s the point, Chris, this
is the difference between some of these candidates and what I bring to the
issues.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in evolution?

SANTORUM: I believe that we are created by a living, loving God. Is
there some proof of some amount of evolution with respect to certain
species in a micro sense? Yes. For evolution to explain the creation of
human species from nothing -- human beings --- absolutely not, I don`t
believe in that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well said. Thank you very much, Senator Rick
Santorum. And now back to New York and you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Chris.

So, you know, they may not have talked about evolution on stage, but I
think that was quite an eloquent discussion of it in the post game.

Let`s find out what the Obama camp is saying tonight about tonight`s
Republican debate. Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is
outside the Reagan Library. He, of course, now is with the Obama campaign.

Mr. Gibbs, thank you very much for joining us. We`re going to give Ed
Schultz here in New York the first chance to ask you a question, sir.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Gibbs, good to have you with us tonight. Did you hear
anything --

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMAPIGN: Hey, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Did you hear anything tonight that gave you any confidence
at all that the Republicans really do have something up their sleeve when
it comes to creating jobs in this country other than reducing taxes,
reducing regulations and freedom? Because that was what Rick Perry`s first
answer was all about.

What was on the table tonight as far as job creation from what you can
see?

GIBBS: Look, Ed, I think you hit the nail on the head right here. If
you`re a family, a middle class family that`s watched your paycheck get
smaller and smaller over the past eight to 10 years, you didn`t hear one
idea, you didn`t see one leader on that stage that`s proposed anything
other than the same old warmed over ideas that got us into this mess.

So, I got to tell you, I think if you`re one of those middle class
voters watching this debate, you have left it scratching your head,
wondering, what on earth are these people going to do to help me? How are
they going to create jobs? How are they going to get this economy moving
again?

I thought one of the sort of quintessential moments in this is, you
know, they turned to Rick Perry and they say, your state is last in
education, it`s last in making sure that the uninsured are taken care of.
You lead the nation in low wage jobs, why do you want to do for us what
you`ve done for Texas? He seemed woefully unprepared for that answer.

Just like Mitt Romney who, you know, if you listen to his campaign,
he`s is an economic whiz, yet still doesn`t have an answer for the fact
that he`s 47th out of 50 in job creation when he led the state of
Massachusetts. So, I think if you`re a middle class family, a middle class
voter sitting at home, you didn`t hear one thing tonight that`s going to
help you out.

SCHULTZ: After nearly two hours of debating, the words middle class
were spoken only twice tonight. And that was both times by Mitt Romney.

I do want to ask you, in the first hour of the debate, health care
took up a big discussion. Every one of the Republicans said that they were
going to repeal it if they were in the White House. Is President Obama
prepared to go out on the campaign trail and make this a focal point, that
we must keep this health care reform bill? And do you think the country is
with him?

GIBBS: Well, I think it`s going to be a big focus of the campaign. I
think it`s going to be a big focus of the general election. Look, again, I
think Texas is a great example. You have a state that leads the nation --
a quarter of its population doesn`t have insurance.

Those are the kind of people that need to get help. Those are the
kind of people we don`t need to pay for out of our own pockets and out of
rising insurance costs. So I think the president`s happy to have this
debate. We had it for the first two years of the administration. And
we`re happy to have it for the second two years.

But, again, I, like you, Ed, was somewhat stunned there just were
absolutely no new ideas. There was no leadership on that stage to get this
economy moving again.

O`DONNELL: Robert, it`s Lawrence O`Donnell here in New York. I know
you guys at the Obama campaign had an isolated camera on Rick Perry the
entire night. He`s the new debater. You`ve never seen him debate at the
presidential level before. He`s the front-runner, by a wide margin.

GIBBS: Right.

MADDOW: If you had to start a general election campaign against him
tomorrow, would you be leading it on Social Security or would you be
leading it on jobs? He said tonight -- he said tonight that government
will not create a single job, not one job. In his ten years in Texas, of
the million jobs created, 300,000 of them are government jobs. Which way
do you go at him on day one?

GIBBS: Well, look I think if you`re -- let`s talk about Social
Security, because I think it`s prettier fertile ground if you`re an
opponent of either Rick Perry, who clearly has a lot of explaining to do.
But let`s not leave Mitt Romney out of this discussion on Social Security.

I think Rachel said it earlier. And that is Mitt Romney doesn`t
believe in Social Security as it exists either. He wants -- he thinks it
would be a great idea to take your money, put it to the whims of Wall
Street, put it in the stock market, and then have people like Eric Cantor
hold our economy hostage, watch our debt and deficits get downgraded, and
have you lose 500 or 600 points in your retirement fund by watching the
stock market go up and down.

That`s just as crazy as anything Rick Perry said on Social Security.
Neither one of those two has any sort of plan for how to strengthen Social
Security. They have plenty of plans on how to get rid of what has worked
pretty well for keeping seniors out of poverty in this country.

MADDOW: Robert Gibbs, it`s Rachel Maddow here. Thank you again for
joining us.

GIBBS: Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW: In terms of the relationship between the governing White
House and the campaigning White House at this point, looking ahead to
President Obama`s speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow, to what
extent does the president believe that he needs to rebut the assertions by
the Republicans now about how economic growth is created, and the best way
forward for creating more jobs?

Does he feel like they actually are functioning as a political player
yet? Or is that still for the future?

GIBBS: I think, quite honestly, that`s more for the future, Rachel, I
think what you`ll hear from the president tomorrow night -- he`s going to
talk about the mess that we`re in, the economic mess. And again, this is -
- this all didn`t start when a bank collapsed on Wall Street in 2008. This
has happened for years and years with middle class families, who have
watched themselves get further and further behind.

He`s going to have some very concrete ideas for how to get our economy
moving, how to create economic growth. We know economic growth leads to
job creation.

Most importantly, Rachel, he`s going to challenge the Congress to get
something done, to put their party allegiance aside, to go for their
country first. And I think that`s what the American people want to see out
of Washington. And that is the ability to get something done.

The president will offer ideas tomorrow that Republicans have
supported in the past. The question is -- and the challenge that he`ll
have for them is, will they have the courage to stand up now, support
moving their country and their economy forward by simply supporting the
ideas that they have supported in the past?

MADDOW: Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary. Thank you
for your time tonight, Robert. It`s nice to see you.

GIBBS: Thanks, guys.

MADDOW: Up next, we will get reaction to what we have just heard from
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who was a senior strategist on the
McCain/Palin campaign in 2008. We`ll also rejoin our panel when we return.

This is MSNBC`s coverage of the Republican presidential candidates`
debate tonight at the Reagan Library and Simi Valley, California. We`ll be
right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: This president`s got to go. This president`s a nice guy. He
doesn`t have a clue how to get this country working again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I hate cancer. We passed a three billion dollar cancer
initiative that same legislative session, of which we`re trying to find
over the next ten years cures to cancers.

Cervical cancer is caused by HPV. We wanted to bring that to the
attention of these thousands of -- tens of thousands of young people in our
state. We allowed for an opt out. I don`t know what`s more strong for
parental rights than having that opt out.

There`s a long list of diseases that cost our state and cost our
country. It was on that list.

Now, did we handle it right? Should we have talked to the legislature
first before we did it? Probably so. But at the end of the day, I will
always err on the side of saving lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Texas Governor Rick Perry responding to a strong challenge
tonight from Congressman Ron Paul of Texas on the fact that as governor of
Texas, Governor Perry had used an executive order to pass vaccinations for
Texas school kids against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Governor Paul challenging him on that. As you saw there --
Congressman Paul challenging him on that. Governor Perry defending it in
the substance, but saying he wished he had handled the issue a little bit
differently, by doing it through the legislature, instead of by executive
order.

Gene Robinson?

ROBINSON: That was an interesting moment, because it was the one
moment when I kind of wondered, well, maybe there`s more than hat and
cowboy boots here. Here is a guy -- he doesn`t -- he claims not to believe
in evolution or climate change or any of that stuff. But he believed in
science on the HPV vaccine. He saw that this was a public health issue.

He looked at it in a very modern way. He took an action you can agree
with or disagree with. But it wasn`t the sort of good old boy, we don`t
want none of that government Rick Perry that`s being portrayed in the book,
and now in the campaign.

O`DONNELL: That`s the problem. He embraced a health care mandate.
He attacks Romney for a health care mandate in Massachusetts. He mandated
something for 12-year-old girls.

MADDOW: With an opt out.

O`DONNELL: Now, As a parent of a daughter, as others are, I`ve seen
parents approach this particular question very carefully, liberals,
conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. They don`t want the government to
tell them what to do on this one. No one does.

And the people who really don`t like this are conservative Evangelical
Christians, because it`s seen as a license to promiscuity. What Perry was
actually saying was you get this through premarital sex. This licenses
girls safely to have premarital sex and not get cervical cancer. So this
is a very anti-Republican position.

SHARPTON: I think Gene is right. That`s the one time I started
wondering whether or not Perry was the chameleon that some have projected
him to be. And I think it goes back to Ed`s point, that he`s playing to a
base that could give him a lot of traction all the way through, whether he
really believes a lot of that or not.

Because to make such an intelligent answer, whether one agrees with it
or not, and then run right back into whether you believe in evolution and
Galileo and states rights -- I mean, states rights in the -- at one stage
in American history, three of the five of us couldn`t even vote on this
platform.

So to go all the way there after making such an assessment, I`ve got
to agree with, Ed. Maybe he knows what he`s doing politically, and maybe
he knows where the Republican base is, that a lot of us don`t want to
believe --

O`DONNELL: There`s no Republican support for Perry`s position on that
answer, none.

SCHULTZ: Well, this is his soft underbelly, because it`s an admission
that he does believe in government where he thinks it`s going to help.

O`DONNELL: He has no philosophy. Right. Right.

SCHULTZ: But he did -- he did talk about, in a state that has got a
low number of people when it could to real good health care coverage -- and
he has some issues there. He tried to do something about it in a very
round about way. He mentioned other diseases that are also coming into
play other than cancer.

O`DONNELL: The pharmaceutical companies, that`s who the lobby was.
That`s who he was doing business for.

SCHULTZ: Lawrence, that goes right to his position on science.
Because the corporations don`t want it. Hell, they want to go out and muck
up the environment. They don`t want any regulation whatsoever. In a round
about way, with the corporations, he is their guy.

MADDOW: Joining us now from the spin room is Romney campaign senior
adviser, Ron Kaufman. Mr. Kaufman, we feel lucky to have some time with
you tonight. Thanks very much for joining us.

RON KAUFMAN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: Glad to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW: How do you feel overall that your candidate, Mr. Romney, did
tonight? This was a debut performance from Texas Governor Rick Perry, who
has taken over as front-runner status in the polls from your guy.

KAUFMAN: He`s welcome to it, Rachel. It was a good night for Mitt.
I think he did a good job talking about the issues that he believes
separates him from the rest of the field. I think he was concise.

This has been like the fourth debate now. He`s done really well in
each one of them. I think it was a good night for Mitt. And I think the
first of four debates in the next three or four weeks. We`re looking
forward to the next one.

MADDOW: Mr. Kaufman, I have to ask you to respond to something we
heard moments ago from Robert Gibbs, formerly White House communications
director, now with the Obama campaign. He characterized Mr. Romney`s
position on Social Security as essentially favoring privatization of Social
Security, favoring private accounts, essentially letting people manage
their Social Security benefits on Wall Street.

Is that Romney`s position on Social Security?

KAUFMAN: I think everyone knows, Rachel, that Social Security is in
trouble. If our kids and grand kids are going to enjoy the same benefits
guys like I have done, and Chris Matthews has -- us old guys -- then, in
fact, we have to fix it and change it.

It`s going to take a lot of different kind of things. One of the
things you`re going to look at is perhaps letting some folks opt out if
they so choose. It`s only one part of a whole big fix to make sure that
Social Security is safe for our kids and our grand kids.

MADDOW: To be clear, sir, does that mean that Mitt Romney supports
privatization of Social Security, that it would no longer be a public
trust?

KAUFMAN: No. What I said, Rachel, is that Social Security is about
to go bust. We all know that. We have to fix that. And there are lots of
things that go into fixing it. Some things are easy, like perhaps raising
the ages. And some things are a little bit more difficult. You have to
look at all of them.

The bottom line is you have to fix it, so it can be there for our kids
and grand kids. If you don`t do that, then they won`t have it. So I think
everyone on that stage tonight agrees with that, Rachel. I think, quite
frankly, the voters do too.

MADDOW: Mr. Kaufman, because you just called Chris Matthews an old
guy, I`m now contractually obligated to let Chris respond by asking you a
question. Chris, get in here.

MATTHEWS: Thanks both of you, regardless of your views. Thanks a
lot, Ron and, of course, Rachel.

Let`s go back -- let`s bring in Mick Mulvaney, who is a U.S.
congressman from South Carolina. He`s a big supporter -- in fact, a key
supporter of Rick Perry. Rick Perry tonight, the assumption of going
through the consensus here -- it`s a bit milled. I think the general
agreement was, although his performance wasn`t as even or as professional,
if you will, as was Romney`s, he did throw out enough red meat for the
people on the right to know he was one of them.

How would you assess his statement tonight, if you will?

REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I thought he did real well,
because, as you and I talked off the air, I think he had the most to lose.
He comes into the race as the front-runner, gets beat on pretty good by the
moderators and by some of the other candidates, and still comes out I think
as the front runner.

So if you measure it by who had the most to lose and does well, I
think he did well extraordinarily well on that. I thought he was solid on
the conservative principles, didn`t shy away from a lot of the difficult
issues. You could tell in the sense of the question about the death
penalty that moderators were trying to get to a certain angle. He didn`t
back down from that. And I thought that will -- I think that will serve
him well.

MATTHEWS: This was like the Roman Coliseum here when they brought up
the issue of the death penalty. I tell you, Rachel and everybody else back
there, if you want to know the difference between the Republican and the
Democratic party, the Democrats do not see it as a call to festivity when
you start talking about killing people. It was incredible. It was
instantaneous, congressman, the enthusiasm of this crowd for killing
people.

MULVANEY: But it`s one of those things that conservatives have been
beat up on for so long. To see somebody actually stand up and articulate
coherently why we believe what we believe --

MATTHEWS: So you`re victims on the issue of capital punishment?

MULVANEY: It`s a whipping post for us.

MADDOW: Let`s go to the key issue, what I think is the headline. I
think all of us agree it`s probably going to be the headline of the major
papers tomorrow, and of today`s show, morning show and everybody, this
issue of calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Also, if you listen to Lawrence O`Donnell, who really knows the
derivation of this, it goes back to calling it a criminal active. Do you
think that`s what he meant? Do you think that it going to hurt him?

MULVANEY: No, I don`t think it`s going to hurt him. Because, again,
what it means to me and what it means to a lot of folks who are my
generation is that a Ponzi scheme is where we take money from people who
come into a system, any system, and promise that we`ll give it back --

(CROSS TALK)

MULVANEY: It`s not an investment. We`re paying the current
recipients with the folks who are buying into the system right now. The
only plan for the people who are my age is to hope there is somebody around
20 years from now to pay for it. That`s the Ponzi scheme aspect of it.
And I think --

MATTHEWS: But that`s always been the heart of Social Security. It`s
a currently funded program based upon worker bees paying for retiree bees.
What`s wrong with that if it works, if the formula`s right?

MULVANEY: Go back and ask people if that`s what they think Social
Security is. You never hear that. When you`re out on the campaign trail,
you go down today and ask the question. People think it`s their money.

MATTHEWS: Who`s right?

MULVANEY: The folks -- we`ve lied to people for a long time about
what Social Security is.

MATTHEWS: Lied to people? You don`t think the average person knows
that you pay a payroll tax, while you work from the age of say when you
have your first paper route until you`re 65. Then from then on, if you
survive, and your spouse, you get -- or if you have a disability, you get
benefits. That`s the connection. It isn`t the same money.

MULVANEY: You go talk to people back home. You go talk to people in
South Carolina, in Florida, where all these early races are, and what
they`re going to tell you is it`s their money. We have been lying to them
--

MATTHEWS: You think Ponzi scheme is a fair phrase. You will not
advise your candidate to drop it?

MULVANEY: I think it serves him well.

MATTHEWS: Get in there, Lawrence.

MADDOW: Chris, if you don`t mind, let me just ask -- Mr. Kaufman from
the Romney campaigns is still with us. I`d like to ask him to respond
there. Obviously that line about the Ponzi scheme, Rick Perry calling
Social Security a Ponzi scheme, came up in a confrontational moment between
Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry tonight.

Mr. Kaufman, why do you think it`s so important that Rick Perry is
calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme?

KAUFMAN: Listen, there`s two processes, Rachel. One is the funding
for Social Security, which we all agree -- everyone on stage tonight agreed
is in trouble. We have to fix it.

That`s different, however, than saying Social Security is a menace to
society, and that it`s wrong. Listen, go to Florida. Go to New Hampshire.
Go to Iowa. Talk to people who have been retired and are depending upon
Social Security.

The system is right. The funding is wrong. Everyone agrees the
funding is wrong. That`s not what the question is. The question is, do
you believe Social Security is good for this country and has done good
things? The answer is, of course, yes, it is. That`s the difference.

I think the people in Chicago would -- go ahead.

MADDOW: Just to press you on this, this seems like such an important
turn in the nominating process tonight, to have your candidate, Mr. Romney,
confronting Mr. Perry on endangering Social Security. But isn`t there a
real problem for Mr. Romney in this case, because he does -- as you said,
he is floating ideas like changing the eligibility age and reducing
benefits and potentially partial privatization, and people opting out?

Those are all things that go right at the heart of Social Security,
what Social Security is. So how can he be a champion of a program that he
wants to attack in that many different ways?

KAUFMAN: Because the only way you can save the program, Rachel, is to
fix the funding. Without that, you can`t have the program continue. When
the program first started, we had like 15 or 20 people paying in for every
person taking benefits.

Now, that triangle, if you will, is inversed. So the only way you can
continue it is to fix it. Of course, it`s important to fix if. It`s
important for us and our kids and grand kids to have that program on the
books. But do it in a way that makes sense fiscally.

That`s what Mitt believes. And I think that`s what most Americans
believe.

MADDOW: Congressman Mick Mulvaney, Perry supporter with Chris
Matthews, you guys want to jump in and respond there?

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS: Explain it.

MULVANEY: Here`s what Mr. Kaufman just said, which is the system
works for folks who are already in the system. No one here tonight, Chris,
was suggesting we change the system for current recipients. What they`re
talking about is the system works now for folks who are there.

But it`s for folks who are younger, folks of my generation, for whom
it won`t work. If we don`t change the system, then this Ponzi scheme type
of funding won`t be there.

MATTHEWS: Is there something essentially wrong with the fundamental
of Social Security, which is you pay for it when you work, out of your
payroll tax; you get it when you retire? Is there something wrong with
that?

MULVANEY: No. And you didn`t hear a single candidate tonight talk
about changing that part of the system. What you heard was trying to fix
so that it works long term.

MATTHEWS: Back to you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Congressman Mick Mulvaney.
Thank you, Ron Kaufman with the Romney campaign.

This is getting very fun. We`ll get back to our panel in just a
moment. You`re watching MSNBC`s coverage of the Republican presidential
candidates` debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Back to our continuing coverage of the Republican
presidential candidates debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley,
California, tonight. We have identified at least what we believe is the
key moment in tonight`s debate, Rick Perry insisting that Social Security
is a Ponzi scheme, and Mitt Romney staking out a position in opposition to
Mitt Romney -- to Rick Perry on that, saying essentially that he would
protect Social Security, while Rick Perry would take it apart.

Was Mitt Romney making a distinction without a difference, though? Do
they have a real substantive difference between them in what they`d do
about Social Security?

SCHULTZ: Robert Gibbs said tonight that they want to privatize it,
the Romney camp. And then Mr. Kaufman wouldn`t go along with that. He
would not give you a substantive answer about exactly what they want to do
when it comes to changing the funding. He mentioned changing the funding
three times.

Look, let`s go back to 2005. When Bush went on the road after re-
election, he wanted to privatize Social Security. Where was Mitt Romney on
it then? Simple question, for it or against it?

O`DONNELL: There were no Republicans for it. Bush did not get a
single hearing in the Congress on that idea. There was one Republican for
it, which is why in the Ryan Plan, the words Social Security never appear.
Congressional Republicans, Washington Republicans, experienced national
campaigners do not call it a Ponzi scheme.

SCHULTZ: Does that mean they don`t want to privatize it?

O`DONNELL: It means they`re not going to touch. They`re not going to
go near it. They can have ambitions to privatize it, but they`ve never
actually brought a bill to do that, to even have a hearing in the Ways and
Means Committee.

SHARPTON: It`s also why it`s interesting that the congressman
representing Perry even started distorting what Perry was saying.

O`DONNELL: Exactly right. He got away from it.

SHARPTON: -- that Perry wanted to correct it. Perry said it was a
Ponzi scheme. It was sinister. It was a lie.

O`DONNELL: A failure.

SHARPTON: It just came out 10 months ago. So they`re already doing
the Michael Jackson Moonwalk and they haven`t even gotten out of the Reagan
Library.

MADDOW: The great news is that we have another hour to go to fight
about this, and fact check everybody. Stay with us. MSNBC`s coverage of
the Republican debate at the Reagan library continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

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