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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, December 5, 2011

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Guests: Chuck Todd, Jonathan Capehart, Maggie Haberman, Steve Schmidt, Kathie Obradovich


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: You had to know it was only a matter of
time before the pretend historian met the pretend billionaire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How can you turn down the
Donald?

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Climbing the tower to kiss his ring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich is the candidate of the moment.

MATTHEWS: A man with a tab at Tiffany`s.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA ADVISOR: You`re talking about the godfather of
gridlock.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I just found his leadership lacking.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s as
establishment as you get.

COBURN: I`m not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Con artist.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: The latest Republican hopeful to meet with
businessman Donald Trump.

GINGRICH: I would want to go just for the entertainment value

WAGNER: The rise of the super ego.

MATTHEWS: The ring master of the Republican clown show.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: He wants to engage in this circus.

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: I think we have incompetent leadership.

MATTHEWS: To call this Barnum & Bailey is to raise it in status.

TRUMP: Because I have big following of people.

TODD: He`ll moderate a Republican debate.

TRUMP: I think most candidates are going to join.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d say don`t do it, I`d say boycott it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t you think this is harmful overall to the
Republican brand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ruins the brand of the Republican Party.

TODD: Mr. Trump joins me now by phone.

Those poll numbers which I think that you wanted to respond to --

TRUMP: You said Donald Trump wanted to respond to a poll. Well, I
didn`t even know what poll you`re talking about, number one, Chuck. Number
two, I didn`t call you, you called me.

TODD: Yes, I did.

WAGNER: Endorsement from Donald Trump could actually hurt a
Republican candidate.

TODD: Republicans say they`ll be less likely to vote for a candidate
endorsed by Trump.

TRUMP: I know a lot about polls.

TODD: Karl Rove, this is what he said this morning before your
appearance on FOX --

TRUMP: No, after my appearance.

TODD: Let me -- he was on -- OK. It was my understanding he was on
before. My apologies.

TRUMP: Let`s get the facts straight. He was on after my appearance.
Not before my appearance.

TODD: Donald Trump, I`ll leave it there, Mr. Trump, always a
pleasure.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Chuck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: The Obama re-election campaign watched gleefully today as
the Republican Party continued careening toward disaster. With the
Republican presidential debate scheduled that will be immoderately
moderated by reality show judge, Donald Trump. And while the latest
misguided Republican front-runner, Newt Gingrich, debased himself by
meeting with Trump in New York.

Now, it is not easy for Newt Gingrich to debase himself these days.
In the Republican presidential primary, he`s been surrounded by people of
demonstrably more dignity and rectified. And, yes, that includes Herman
Cain.

It must have been a relief for Gingrich today to finally be hanging
with a guy who is tied with him on marriages at three each. Gingrich
explained the visit with Trump this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Sometimes, we have to get a certain sense of humor in
politics. The Donald has had the number one show in the country, OK? He
is a genuine American icon in his own right. Why wouldn`t you want to come
and hang out with him?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK, Newt, first of all, Donald does not have and has never
had the number one show in the country. In fact, last year, he had the
113th show in the country. Then, in the next season after spending months
lying to the country about the possibility that he would run for president,
Trump managed to push his TV show up to 42nd in the ratings.

The number one rated show in the country is, of course, as everyone
except Newt Gingrich knows, "American Idol." There is no word tonight on
when Newt Gingrich is meeting with Steven Tyler.

Conservatives who know something about winning elections are panicked
by the Trump effect in Republican politics. George Will saw the
announcement of a Trump-moderated debate as the perfect, perfect
opportunity for the Republican candidates to finally do something
presidential.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Now we have a December 27th
debate proposed that would be moderated by Donald Trump. Surely it`s time
for the candidates to do something presidential, stand up and say, we`re
not going to be hijacked and participate in this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Karl Rove, the mastermind of President George W. Bush`s
election and re-election, simply cannot believe that Republican candidates
would enter a Republican debate moderated by someone who continues to make
noises about running for president as an independent if he doesn`t like the
Republican nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, FORMER SR. ADVISOR TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: What the heck
are the Republican candidates doing shows up at a debate with a guy who
says I may run for president next year as an independent? I mean, I think
the Republican national chairman ought to step in and say we strongly
discourage every candidate for appears in a debate moderated by somebody
who`s going to run for president. It`s going to be a giant ego trip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Of course, viewers of this program know Rove`s worries are
misplaced. Trump will never run for president, for many reasons, including
the two most important. One, he knows he would lose. And two, he simply
does not have enough money to finance a presidential campaign.

Among the many things that Trump lies about day in and day out is his
modest wealth. He is, of course, not a billionaire. He simply plays one
on TV.

An NBC News poll released yesterday shows the value of the Republican
candidates` poison handshakes with Donald Trump. Thirty-two percent of
likely Iowa caucus-goers say Trump`s endorsement will make them less likely
to vote for a candidate, 21 percent say it will make them more likely to
vote for a candidate, 44 percent simply don`t care who Donald Trump meets.

The numbers are a bit worse for Trump`s endorsement in New Hampshire,
37 percent say Trump`s endorsement would hurt the candidate, 19 percent
said it would help the candidate, and 42 percent don`t care what Donald
Trump does or who he meets.

Trump appeared on MSNBC`s "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" with Chuck Todd. Chuck
asked Trump to respond to the polls showing the harm his endorsement would
do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It depends on how the question`s asked, because I know about
polls. I know a lot of about polls. I studied polls at the Wharton School
of Finance.

You can ask a question, do you mean to tell me somebody is going to be
worse off if I endorse them? I don`t think so. I have a huge following of
people that are tired of seeing our country ripped off by China and OPEC
and virtually every other nation. I don`t really think you believe
somebody`s worse off if I give them -- because I have a big following of
people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Donald, I do really believe that somebody will be worse
off if you endorse a Republican candidate for president. And I don`t
believe you studied polls at Wharton. And I don`t believe you know a lot
about polls.

You`re an undergraduate at Wharton for two years in the mid 1960s.
That`s practically before polls were invented. And Wharton teaches
business, not political science.

But that`s just Donald being Donald -- a reflexive liar in everything
he says about everything.

Joining me now, NBC News political director and chief White House
correspondent and host of MSNBC`s "DAILY RUNDOWN," Chuck Todd.

Chuck, that was a great way to begin your day, getting in a little
discussion with the Donald this morning.

Republicans must now be very worried. We`ve heard from Karl Rove and
others about the Trump effect in their politics cannot be helpful,
especially with these polls we now show in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Is there any way, or any Republican force that can do an intervention
here and keep these candidates away from Donald Trump?

TODD: Well, you heard -- what Karl Rove is pushing for is to get the
RNC to officially get involved. And they`ve got to figure out how to do
it. It`s not clear that they`ve made the decision yet to try to get
involved.

You know, they`ve kind of had one foot into the debates. They tried
to help organize this process, because a lot of the campaigns have been
complaining about it, particularly the front running campaign, Mitt Romney,
feels it`s hard for a candidate individually to get into a shouting match
with Donald Trump. None of them want to do that.

And so, there may be an effort, for instance, to come up and say,
well, if you pledge not to -- say you`ll not run for president at all under
any circumstances and that you will not endorse anybody, then maybe you can
moderate. They`re hoping to come up with some sort of -- if he agrees to
those terms and you create a set of terms that he won`t agree to, thus
nixing the debate.

But, you know, I can tell you that with every -- it seems like with
every hour another candidate agrees to the debate. I think our lone
holdouts are Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

O`DONNELL: The -- it`s run by, sponsored by Newsmax, which is a right
wing website, and it`s going to be on a TV network channel I truly to this
moment have never heard of. I heard about it today for the very first
time.

TODD: Yes.

O`DONNELL: I don`t know where to find it. I`m told it`s on my system
somewhere. December 27th, two days after Christmas -- not a likely high
viewer debate.

TODD: That`s right. If you remember, ION Network is part of, if you
remember the PAX and Communications Company, sort of a Christian
conservative media conglomerate at some one point, used to be referred to
as PAX TV. This is what they changed their name to is my understanding
about this.

But in fact, it`s funny you bring up December 27th. Originally there
was going to be an Iowa Republican Party debate sanctioned for the week
between Christmas and New Year`s. And the Iowa Republican Party decided
not to do that because they thought it would offend and upset Iowans.
That, you know, yes, they know they`re already jamming up New Year`s a
little bit. But they thought, well, we better at least give Iowans, give
folks there that are following this, a break between Christmas and New
Year`s.

So they forced the -- it`s the FOX News debate, I believe it is. They
forced that debate up to 12 days, to the 15th, to avoid the week between
Christmas and New Year`s.

O`DONNELL: The only thing they`re going to produce here, I don`t see
them getting a big audience, but they will produce stuff for us to use the
next day and I just don`t see in this debate, with Donald Trump involved,
how there`s going to be anything in there that can be counted as some great
score by a candidate. It looks like it`s a situation where all you can do
is end up with some sort of varying degrees of levels of embarrassment that
the candidates can experience.

TODD: That`s what I`ve heard from the two people I`ve heard from in
sort of what I would call the establishment world. I`ll leave it at that.
But they`re concerned that with Trump saying he`s going to endorse after
the debate that it really is a de facto episode of "The Apprentice." That
there he is up there making his decision, and based on how they do, and
then he`s going to declare the winner after by who he endorses.

And that`s the -- like I said, all these campaigns is what I would
call the professional campaign handlers, hate this debate process. They
feel like it`s gotten out of hand and it looks too much like a reality
show. Too many voices involved.

Frankly, as somebody -- and, Lawrence, you know, on one hand we want
debates, too. Every news organization wants to do a debate. But how some
of our friends at other news organizations have gone about this, they have
sort of made the process kind of ugly.

O`DONNELL: The Democratic National Committee must be trying to offer
any kind of help they can in putting on this debate. If you need
logistical support, anything they need.

Chuck Todd, thanks for joining me.

And, Chuck, tomorrow on "DAILY RUNDOWN," you`re going to have Simon
Cowell or Bruno Tonioli or any other reality show judge to start your day
tomorrow?

TODD: Maybe. Why not? Everybody`s got to -- maybe I`ll do the
"Survivor" guy.

O`DONNELL: You know, Donald won`t admit it, but Bruno and Simon are
much, much higher rated shows than Donald`s. So, you know, you could get a
little spike in your ratings.

TODD: Isn`t he a summer insert? I`m just saying.

O`DONNELL: That`s correct.

TODD: OK.

O`DONNELL: NBC`s Chuck Todd, thank you very much for joining me.

TODD: You got it, brother.

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, senior political writer for "Politico,"
Maggie Haberman.

Thanks for joining me, Maggie.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO.COM: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: I want to read to you -- I just love the way serious
Republican world is going crazy about Donald Trump. And I want to read to
you what the editorial board of the "National Review" wrote this morning
about Trump and Gingrich.

"As a serious contender running a campaign with maximal pride in its
own seriousness, Gingrich lowers himself by association with this
consummately unserious man. Romney should refuse to follow suit. The
nominating process must be about which candidate can lead the country back
to fiscal and economic reality, not about which candidate can best truckle
with a reality TV star."

Maggie, is there any chance that Mitt Romney would be smart enough to
read that guidance from "The National Review" and actually score some
points with old line conservatives by shunning the Donald Trump debate?

HABERMAN: No, I think it is virtually impossible that Mitt Romney
doesn`t do this debate. Remember, Mitt Romney is the candidate whose
campaign said debates matter and they put out a whole memo about this right
after Rick Perry stumbled and bumbled in his first outings.

So, I think he`s in a real box. And I think Chuck hit on a very
important point. These candidates are afraid of the soap box that Donald
Trump has and that he is going to criticize them and say bad things about
them. Donald Trump in his new book has a section where Herman Cain said
something to that effect, after his meeting with Trump, which was, you
know, I don`t want him to say bad things about me.

I don`t think Mitt Romney is going to want to take a risk. Mitt
Romney is already dealing with what is a momentum candidate in Newt
Gingrich. Newt Gingrich, you played the clip of him today. You know, he
was very clear. He loved hanging out in New York. He loved meeting with
Trump.

There are a lot of Republican hardliners, a lot of
establishment/conservative elites who are upset with it. But I don`t think
it`s going to keep Mitt Romney away. I really don`t.

O`DONNELL: Why wouldn`t a Republican candidate want to take on Donald
Trump to show their strengths and show they`re presidential timber?

HABERMAN: Well, you know, you saw Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul do that.
Jon Huntsman has had an ongoing war with Donald Trump that was playing out
on Twitter and elsewhere for a while. Ron Paul also had an ongoing thing
with Donald Trump, back to the conservative political action event where
Donald Trump first appeared back in February and took aim at Ron Paul to
never win the nomination.

But Ron Paul has played it to pretty good effect. I think Jon
Huntsman is having a harder time getting traction on it because Jon
Huntsman is not doing particularly well in the New Hampshire polls. But
Ron Paul is in second place in "The Des Moines Register" poll this weekend.

So, Ron Paul is using it in that way. But, you know, Ron Paul tends
not to be the candidate who the other candidates like to be like. And I
don`t think you`re going to see many of them decide not to go along with
this.

O`DONNELL: Profiles and courage. Maggie Haberman of "Politico,"
thanks. You`re going to stay with us for the next segment. We`re going to
talk about this more and talk about Herman Cain.

In the next segment, we will talk about the end of the Cain train.
Jonathan Capehart and I miss him already. So Jonathan`s going to join
Maggie and me.

And Mitt Romney continues, continues to hide from every reported
question that he can hide from, but Twitter is jumping in there to make
life easier for Mitt. With questions that Mitt likes. That`s in the
"Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is that Ginger White and I are friends.
And, yes, I gave her money because that`s what friends do. Seth, you and I
are friends, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take some money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, well thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you know that money ain`t free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`ll just give it back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With a lot of prayer and
soul-searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign. Becoming
president was plan A. And before you get to discouraged, today I want to
describe plan B. Plan B is that I will continue to be a voice for the
people. I will be making an endorsement in the near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Oh, Herman, we hardly knew you.

With his wife, Gloria, standing as far behind him as possible, Herman
Cain ended his presidential campaign this weekend, a month before a single
vote will be cast. Most of the diluted voters who had been supporting Cain
in the polls had abandoned him long before he surrendered.

An NBC News/Marist poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers released Sunday
showed Newt Gingrich leading with 26 percent, Mitt Romney in second with 18
percent, Ron Paul in third with 17 percent, and Rick Perry and Herman Cain
tied at 9 percent.

Here`s what happens when Cain supporters are reallocated to their
second choice candidate in the NBC/Marist poll. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul
each move up two points. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry each move up one
point.

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart for the "Washington Post" and an
MSNBC contributor. And still with us, Maggie Haberman of "Politico."

You know, when I was watching Herman Cain do that statement coming in,
I realized way too late that we should be doing this segment in sunglasses
just as an homage to the late candidacy of Herman Cain.

Jonathan, I know you`re going to miss him. Your closing words here on
THE LAST WORD about the Herman Cain campaign.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I want those 45 minutes of my
life back on Saturday waiting for him to come out there and make that very
tortured statement and concluding it by quoting Pokemon.

He might as well -- you know, he should have quoted my favorite line
from the movie "Mahogany" which comes from the theme song, which is, "Do
you know where you`re going to, do you know the things life is showing you,
do you know?" Because clearly, Herman Cain doesn`t exactly know.

O`DONNELL: Maggie, it is my theory, which I`m just going to assert as
what will now be historical fact here on THE LAST WORD, that this was
really the lawyer, that Herman Cain`s criminal lawyer controlled the
outcome here. In that on Thursday last week, we saw him in New Hampshire
at the editorial board meeting. There was exactly one question that he
could not answer on advice of counsel which was, how much money did you
give her?

And then later that night, I had Ginger White on the show and asked
her that same question, how much money? And her lawyer said, don`t answer
that question. She did tell me that all, all of the money was in cash.
Which raises very interesting IRS questions in terms of gift tax liability
for Herman Cain, in terms of income tax liabilities for Ginger White. And
just exactly how much cash was moving there.

That`s the question that I think Herman Cain`s lawyer told him, you
cannot go out there and expose yourself to that question ever again.

HABERMAN: Yes. I think that`s exactly right. I mean, I think that
this was becoming -- forget about the drip, drip, drip of information which
had been going on for, you know, a month essentially since "Politico" first
reported on the sexual harassment allegations against him at the National
Restaurant Association.

But, as you say, there were serious implications going forward that
were not going to go away, that were going to get worse in terms of focus
and attention on him. And so, I was not at all surprised he suspended him
campaign. I think I was surprised it took as long as it did.

He essentially had a week of publicly denying Ginger White`s
allegation in one form or another while acknowledging he had given her
money, while acknowledging he hadn`t told his wife about it, all things
that raise more questions. I think what will be interesting now is a
couple of things. As you showed, where his vote goes, who he endorses --
you know, the assumption in he`s going to endorse Newt Gingrich. I
certainly think Newt Gingrich is making the most overt play for his
endorsement.

Others are hoping for his votes, but I think that Newt Gingrich
actually wants his backing. And they`ve known each other a while, they`re
both from Georgia.

But I also think that what`s going to be interesting to see going
forward is now that the Herman Cain train wreck essentially is gone in
terms of news coverage, what does the race look like? Who gets focused on?
Do Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich come under renewed scrutiny? Are we
entering truly a different phase of this race?

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart, if you`re a Republican candidate for
president, do you really want Herman Cain`s endorsement? Do you want to go
up there in front of the microphone with your arm around Herman Cain now?

CAPEHART: Yes, that`s a tainted endorsement unless you`re Newt
Gingrich and you are filled -- brimming with self-confidence and can figure
that the one or two votes that you might get from getting Herman Cain`s
endorsement are well worth whatever knocks you might get from folks like us
who think that it`s not worth having.

I think that, you know, Maggie`s analysis is exactly right. I think
what we`re seeing is Newt Gingrich riding -- he`s now the flavor of the
month. Because he`s peaking less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, he
could ride his front-runner status all the way to January 3rd. Whether he
wins Iowa is a whole other question.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Capehart of "Washington Post" and Maggie Haberman
of "Politico" -- thank you both for joining me tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: We`re really going to miss the guy. We`re going to miss
him.

And so, with one less candidate in the race this week, are the
Republicans any closer to finding their nominee for president? Is the
Gingrich surge the final surge? Or is Ron Paul going to be the next surge?
Is he going to have a turn as the front-runner?

And how long will Donald Trump use the Republican presidential
campaign as his own self-promotional tool? Republican strategist Steve
Schmidt is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you considering the possibility of still
running for the White House? How can you do that and host a debate in Iowa
later this year?

DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE": The debate is December 27th. I`m
looking to endorse somebody after that debate. I`m not looking at
anything. If the wrong person gets in, that`s different. But I`m not
looking for the wrong person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Spotlight, who`s got what it takes to win the
Republican presidential nomination? The clock is ticking down to Iowa and
the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, but you`d never know that
from the candidates` travel schedules.

Newt Gingrich was wasting his time in New York today with Donald
Trump. As "politico" reports tonight, "virtually no one is in Iowa, New
Hampshire, South Carolina or even Florida. If you`re looking for a GOP
hopeful, try New York or Arizona or Washington, D.C.

"And other than Rick Santorum in Iowa and Buddy Roemer in New
Hampshire, they`re not heading there for days. For states that are used to
seeing their presidential candidates up close and repeatedly, seeing
candidates opt for fund-raisers and televised debates instead of chicken
dinners and town halls is a big change."

Joining me now is MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt. Steve is the former
senior adviser to the McCain/Palin `08 presidential campaign and was a
senior strategist in the Bush/Cheney `04 presidential campaign. He also
managed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger`s 2006 re-election campaign.

Steve, with Herman Cain out of the race, how long do you think it will
take for polls to stabilize in the migration of voters from Cain`s support
to wherever they`re going? They seem to be heading possibly to Gingrich
more so than Romney.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I suspect what you`re going
to see, Lawrence, is a consolidation of support to Newt Gingrich. He will
continue to rise in the polls, but he`ll level off at a point.

One of the things in some of the surveys out of Iowa today is that
there`s no awareness, for example, that he took millions of dollars from
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It`s a story that just hasn`t penetrated into
the electorate yet.

So what I think will happen is that there`s going to be a very
rigorous period of discussion between the reality of Newt Gingrich`s record
and his rhetoric out on the campaign trail. Then I think you`ll start to
see his numbers come down a little bit. And we`re going to have a sock em,
crash em, bash em, you know, real tough campaign in the weeks ahead.

O`DONNELL: The bashing hasn`t started yet. Let`s listen to Mitt
Romney on Michael Medved`s radio show today talking about Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You would both be supporting
one another if the other guy won, wouldn`t you?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, absolutely. Look,
anybody on that stage that`s debating would be a better president than
President Obama. And Speaker Gingrich I respect. I like him. He and Ann
and Calista and I have come to know each other pretty well.

We enjoy each other`s company. He`s a fine person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Steve, is this a pro-Gingrich trend already out of control
from a Romney campaign perspective? And do they have to start making
different kinds of sounds about Newt Gingrich in those opportunities?

SCHMIDT: Look, I think that this race could ultimately come down to a
long contest through the fall -- through the winter into the early spring,
between Romney and Gingrich. It`s not there yet. I think Mitt Romney`s
being smart not to take the bait, not to get in a dynamic where Newt
Gingrich is out there attacking the president and Mitt Romney is attacking
Newt Gingrich. And then Gingrich can come back and get him on the counter-
punch.

I think at the end of the day, Mitt Romney needs to be patient here.
We`re now in the stage of the campaign where you have to see where the
ball`s going to be. And for sure, there`s going to be intense discussion
between the two Newts. There is the Newt Gingrich that can stand up on a
stage and say that the politicians in Washington who abetted Fannie and
Freddie should go to jail. And then there`s the Newt Gingrich who took a
couple million dollars from them.

There`s going to be a robust discussion of this in the weeks ahead. I
think Mitt Romney is well served to be patient about it. I think panicking
-- I think getting pushed like he`s getting pushed by a lot of people in
Washington to attack him now would be a fatal mistake for him. So I think
he`s doing the smart thing.

O`DONNELL: Do you think there`s a possibility of another candidate
surge here? Have we seen the last of the Republican surges?

SCHMIDT: I`m interested to see if Rick Santorum makes a run in Iowa.
There`s rumblings he may receive the endorsement of Governor Sarah Palin.
For example, they both have special needs children. That`s a bond between
them. She`s said glowing things about him.

He appeared today on the radio program of one of her biggest fans.
She could certainly weigh in in a way that would have some effect among
some of the core Iowa caucus-goers.

But I think it`s too early to -- I think it`s too early to rule out
that both Huntsman and Santorum here might get a second look. People are
so upset right now. When you look at the circus playing out, the Donald
Trump reality series that a couple of days before the Iowa caucuses, we`re
going to essentially have an "Apprentice" episode, and then the Donald will
render his judgment for all us.

I think people are wringing their hands about it and upset about it,
as they rightfully should be. So I think it`s a fluid situation right now,
Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: As we know, the Gingrich campaign lost a lot of staff over
the summer. It was down to bare bones. Now they`re starting to try to
gear up again, especially going into Iowa where they need organization or
so says everyone. I`ve never run one of those campaigns. So I`ve never
been sure about exactly how much of this organization matters.

I just want to read you this, what was reported in "the New York
Times" about the organization issue for Gingrich, trying to get the
organization to catch up with the polls. It says "he`s scrambling madly to
build the kind of organization that Mitt Romney has methodically put in
place for a year. But as an adviser to his skeletal Iowa operation
admitted, the reality is we`re flying by the seat of the pants."

Can Gingrich win Iowa flying by the seat of the pants?

SCHMIDT: Absolutely, he can. My former colleague, Matthew Dowd, I
think had the most succinct explanation of what matters going into Iowa.
And it`s no momentum. Newt Gingrich has Momentum, but Iowa is still 30
days out. It`s an eternity in politics.

If this was a football game, we`re about six minutes into the third
quarter. We`ll be at the two-minute warning on Christmas Day. It will be
flat-out and a close race all the way through Iowa, through New Hampshire.

O`DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt, thank you very much
for joining me tonight.

SCHMIDT: You bet, thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, it isn`t just the Newt surge in Iowa. Ron Paul
is holding his own. We`ll show you why he`s appealing to Iowa caucus-
goers.

But first, Mitt Romney doesn`t like being asked questions. He doesn`t
really like a lot of questions. So we`ll ask him the questions he does
like. That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, Bret, your list is just not accurate. So, one, we`re
going to have to be better informed about my views on issues.

Bret, I don`t know how many hundred times I`ve said this, too. This
is an unusual interview.

All right. Let`s do it again.

You`re wrong, Bret.

Bret, Bret -- the tape out there, continue to read the tape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It`s time to Rewrite all those tough questions that Mitt
Romney doesn`t like into questions Mitt likes. A topic that popped up on
Twitter after Romney`s disastrous Fox News interview. Bret Baier gave Bill
O`Reilly the inside scoop on Romney`s reaction immediately after that
interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He said he thought it was overly
aggressive.

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He did. He said that to you? He
said it was overly aggressive?

BAIER: He did.

O`REILLY: Wow.

BAIER: As we were walking in the walk and talk. Then, after we
finished, he went to his holding room and then came back and said he didn`t
like the interview and thought it was uncalled for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Since then, the robot mechanics who run Romney and his
campaign have become even more phobic about reporters. On Saturday night
at a Fox News candidates forum, "New York Times" reporter Jim Rutenburg was
allowed access backstage at the event just to do one of those harmless, you
know, what it feels like backstage stories.

But Rutenburg ended up filing a story mostly about how Romney`s
mechanics refused to allow any reporters to talk to him. "Mr. Romney`s
aides sprang into action, asking where this reporter worked and what he was
doing there, and then insisting that he not physically approach Mr. Romney
before or after he was questioned on television."

As questions Mitt likes continue to pile up unanswered an Twitter,
"THE LAST WORD staff dug into our video archives and came up with the best
Romney answers they could find.

Democratic party communications director Brad Woodhouse asked, "is the
location of your Pacific Ocean mansion pronounced LaHoya or LaJoeLA?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, before I could make a decision of that nature, I`d have
to have a very thorough, top secret briefing by our military to understand
exactly what our options are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Oliver Griswold offered this question Mitt likes: "how rad
was Joseph Smith?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Good man, but a very different person than I am based on our
life experiences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Democratic Party Press Secretary Melanie DNC asks,
"parlez-vous Francais?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: (FRENCH)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Scott Cooper wants to know Mitt`s favorite ice cream:
vanilla or French vanilla?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Le Francais.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here`s a question Mitt really likes from Don Drennon.
Who has greater experience at getting divorced? You or Newt Gingrich?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Speaker Gingrich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Mark Abanto Tweets, "a new Raz poll reveals voters want a
candidate whose views are best described as pliable." Your reaction?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`m absolutely firm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And another question from Brad Woodhouse. "OK to wear
white after Labor Day?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I will preserve and protect a woman`s right to choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The pro choice group Emily`s List says, "so we hear you
want more right wing judges. Most women won`t mind overturning Roe. I
mean, privacy is so passe, right?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Julie just wants to know, "is that you, Mitt, on the Hair
Color for Men box?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Pilot Josh Martin has a question Mitt likes about private
jets. Gulfstream IV or V?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Five.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: From Frank and "no relation to me" O`Donnell -- Frank
O`Donnell, "was Reagan a good president?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush.
I`m not trying to return to Reagan/Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And Frank asked Mitt`s favorite question. "Should Obama
be re-elected?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Of course. Absolutely. No question about it. Absolutely.
His thoughtfulness and his deliberation and his intelligence shone through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s up with these sorry politicians? Lots of
bark. When it`s show time, whimpering like Shiatsu.

You want big cuts? Ron Paul has been screaming it for years. Budget
crisis? No problem. Cut a trillion bucks year one. That`s trillion with a
T.

Department of Education, gone. Interior, Energy, HUD, Commerce, gone.
Later, bureaucrats. That`s how Ron Paul rolls.

Want to drain the swamp, Ron Paul, do it.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Ron Paul. And I approve
this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul`s
latest TV ad in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Ron
Paul is one of the few Republican candidates who has not had his turn as
front-runner. But he`s now polling in second in Iowa and third in New
Hampshire.

Ron Paul, the only anti-war and anti-torture Republican candidate, is
now the most eloquent anti-Trump candidate. He issued this statement in
response to the announcement that Donald Trump would moderate a Republican
presidential candidates` debate. "The selection of a reality television
personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be
watching is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of
that office`s history and dignity. To be sure, Mr. Trump`s participation
will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere."

Yesterday, Congressman Paul added this observation about the constant
stream of desperate Republican candidates going to New York to meet Donald
Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Yeah, I don`t quite understand it. I don`t understand the
marching to his office. I mean, I didn`t know that he had an ability to
lay on hands and anoint people. But, you know, I have to just do my thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And today Ron Paul`s campaign e-mailed this statement to
"Politico." "We are sure two average Americans like Speaker Gingrich and
Donald Trump will have a wonderful time picking out gifts for their wives.
We suggest a place called Tiffany`s. We hear it is quite nice this time of
year, and given their celebrity status, they can probably get special deals
and 500,000 dollar lines of credit."

Joining me now is a reporter who thinks Ron Paul has a real chance of
winning in Iowa, at least, Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for "the
Des Moines Register." Kathie, how will Ron Paul pull it off in Iowa if he
does?

KATHY OBRADOVICH, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": Well, Ron Paul has a
serious campaign organization in Iowa. He never really disbanded his
campaign in Iowa after he ran in the 2008 caucuses and came in fifth. He
actually has members of the Republican State Central Committee who are
supporting him. He`s been working for the last couple of years developing
a campaign organization in Iowa.

And he has continued to come to the states. So he has been slowly
inching up in the polls. And he is bringing new people into the caucus
process. That combination means that he`s a real threat to win the
caucuses.

O`DONNELL: Kathie, I just want to explain to our viewers, if they
think they`re hearing a phone call, it`s because they are. We couldn`t get
our audio working correctly out of your studio. Thanks to your personal
cellular device, we are hearing every word you say loud and clear.

Now, Ron Paul`s appeal in Iowa, is it to young voters -- he certainly
has that appeal, since he`s kind of a libertarian type on drugs and on --
the debt issue is one that appeals to young conservative voters. But
what`s the young turnout in Iowa caucuses?

OBRADOVICH: The young turnout is unpredictable, and so is the turnout
of people who have not been to the caucuses before. It`s different than
just going into a voting booth and pulling a lever. You really do have to
have a weighty campaign organization to really work on these people, get
them to understand what the process is and get them out on caucus night.

So, yes, it is not a tried and true type of group that Ron Paul is
attracting. but it is a group that doesn`t really have the same kind of
ceiling Republicans have kept saying Ron Paul is bound to bump up against.
He can keep trying to bring more and more new people into the process.

O`DONNELL: And did Ron Paul do the right thing or make a mistake, do
you think, in his boycotting of the Trump debate?

OBRADOVICH: I`m not hearing it.

O`DONNELL: I`m asking, can you hear me now, Kathie?

Kathie cannot hear me now. We`ve lost the phone. Do we know if
Kathie can hear me? Anyone in our control room know if Kathie can hear me.

OBRADOVICH: I can here you now. I lost you on the phone. I can hear
you.

O`DONNELL: Kathie, you`re back.

OBRADOVICH: Sorry about that. I lost you on the phone. I can hear
you on my ear.

O`DONNELL: So what about the boycotting of the Trump debate? Was
that a good move for Paul at this point, do you think?

OBRADOVICH: I think it`s a missed opportunity. Donald Trump is a guy
who attracts a big audience. And what Ron Paul needs going to the caucuses
is a big audience. He needs to have a lot of people interested in him and
interested in his candidacy. And I think that Donald Trump brings in a lot
of interest from people who are looking for something completely different
in politics.

O`DONNELL: But do Iowans give -- will they give Ron Paul credit for
standing up to this New Yorker who doesn`t know anything about Iowa and
just saying, no, I`m not going to do what everybody else is doing and kow-
tow to you? I`m my own man. Does he get any of those kinds of points with
Iowa caucus-goers?

OBRADOVICH: I think so. Ron Paul has been very consistent over the
years. He has not curried favor. He gets credit from people for actually
really standing up to his views, even when he is really the only person who
votes the way he does a lot of times. And so, yeah, I don`t think it
necessarily hurts him for not wanting to be in Donald Trump`s debate.

But I still think it`s a missed opportunity for him to be seen by a
lot of people who might be tuning into the first Republican debate they`ll
watch.

O`DONNELL: Kathie Obradovich with "the Des Moines Register." thanks
for joining us tonight. Thanks. Sorry about that audio, Kathie.

You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.
You can follow my Tweets @Lawrence. "THE ED SHOW" is up next.

END

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