updated 12/29/2011 11:51:28 AM ET 2011-12-29T16:51:28

Guests: Dave Weigel, Ezra Klein, Sam Youngman, Sam Stein, Joan Walsh, Lena Taylor, John Nichols

ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good evening, Americans. And welcome to THE ED
SHOW tonight live from Minneapolis.

One week until the Iowa caucuses and it`s still a pretty much a free
for all. Ron Paul has a slight edge in the polls, but still has questions
coming up about his racist news letters. Newt Gingrich backed off his
pledge to stay positive. And Mitt Romney`s team, they think they got it in
the bag. They think he`s going to be the nominee.

This is THE ED SHOW -- let`s get to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A couple of weeks ago, I was
a distant third in Iowa. And you just don`t know what`s going to happen in
this process.

SCHULTZ (voice-over): The first vote in the 2012 presidential
election is just seven days away in Iowa. Ron Paul still holds the lead.
But Romney is making a last-minute push. And the undecideds loom large.

Sam Youngman of "Reuters" and MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel join me
with the latest of what to expect in the homestretch.

The Mitt Romney campaign disinformation continues. This time it`s on
jobs. We`ll fact-check the governor with Ezra Klein.

Again --

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Simply put, it`s time to move on.

SCHULTZ: Conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is
stepping down. I`ll tell you why this could be a win for the middle class.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I can`t go back in time. So, now
all I can do is move forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you on track, Governor?

WALKER: Well, yes and no.

SCHULTZ: The effort to recall Scott Walker is going strong. But the
governor is worried that Mickey Mouse is signing the recall petitions.

Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor is here to tell us why Walker is
in fantasyland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHULTZ: Good to have you with us tonight, folks.

Let`s start with Iowa where all the political action is taking place.
And basically Iowa is up in the air. The first caucus in the 2012
presidential race happen one week from tonight, and the Republican Party
still has no clear direction. The latest average of multiple polls in Iowa
show Ron Paul with a slim lead.

The real story is Mitt Romney mounting a comeback in Iowa while Newt
Gingrich has really taken a tumble. Romney`s plan to focus on New
Hampshire has been put aside. Romney is spending more time and money in
the state of Iowa. The Romney campaign thinks the nomination for him is in
the bag.

An unnamed Romney strategist told a New York magazine, "The dynamics
couldn`t be better for us. I don`t see any scenario where we`re not the
nominee." That`s confident.

Romney supporters, you know, they might feel the same way. Here`s how
a Romney campaign volunteer addressed the candidate during a breakfast in
New Hampshire today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Anyone have -- yes, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President.

ROMNEY: A little premature, but I appreciate the sentiment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Romney is feeling loose enough to have some fun at Newt
Gingrich`s expense. Today, he mocked the former speaker for not getting on
the ballot in the state of Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think he compared that to Pearl Harbor. I think it`s more
like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory. You know, you`ve got to get it
organized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Gingrich isn`t having it. He had some tough guy talk for
Mitt Romney during an interview with CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All I`d say Mitt, is, if
you want to run a negative campaign and you want to attack people, at least
be man enough to own it. That`s your staff and your organization. Those
are your millionaire friends paying for it.

You are a moderate Massachusetts Republican who, in fact, is timid
about job creation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Now, just minutes before attacking Mitt Romney for being a
Massachusetts moderate, Gingrich played the role of Mr. Nice Guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I`m going to stay totally positive. The ads we put up are
on jobs and economic growth. We`re going to talk about leadership in jobs
and economic growth.

And I think the people in Iowa have a great opportunity in the caucus
to send a signal to the country that negative ads written by dishonest
consultants on behalf of irresponsible candidates do not deserve getting
votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: So which is it, Newt? Are you an attack dog or are you
going to stay positive through all of this?

One of the reasons for Gingrich`s mixed messages could be his total
inability to mount a real campaign in Iowa even when he was leading in the
polls. Gingrich, what has he done? Well, he`s cut his bus tour in half.
And he doesn`t have the money to spend on television advertising like the
rest of the candidates. Gingrich`s campaign and related super PACs,
they`ve spent less than $700,000 in Iowa compared to the millions spent by
other campaigns and PACs.

And the most surprising thing of it all might be Rick Perry, who leads
all candidates in Iowa, spending $6 million. Perry`s campaign is using an
all-or-nothing approach in Iowa. And his poll numbers, you`ve got to
admit, have moved back into double digits.

He was out in Iowa making a sales pitch today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we replace a
Democratic insider with a Republican insider, you think we`re really going
to change Washington, D.C.? No way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: The other candidate competing for the outsider vote is Ron
Paul. He`s getting dogged by racial and homophobic statements appearing in
his newsletters from the 1990s. Paul spent the week saying that he didn`t
know anything about the newsletters` content but reports from Texas
newspapers in the mid-90s paint a very different picture.

According to the "Houston Chronicle," in 1996, "Paul said that his
comments on blacks contained in the newsletters should be viewed in the
context of current events and statistical reports of the time."

Newt Gingrich, the guy who says he`s running a positive campaign, is
ready to pounce on a wounded Ron Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: He`s attacking me for serial hypocrisy, and he spent 10
years earning money out of a newsletter that had his name that he didn`t
notice. All I`m saying is, I think he`s got to come up with some very
straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: So with one week to go, this is where the Republican Party
finds itself. The inability of the party to get behind one or even two
candidates has left them with an uncertain situation heading into the final
stretch before the first vote is cast. They better hope 2012 doesn`t turn
out the way 2011 ended.

Get your cell phones out. Want to know what you think. Tonight`s
question: who will win in Iowa next week? One week out, that`s our
question tonight.

Text "A" for Mitt Romney, text "B" for Newt Gingrich, text "C" for Ron
Paul to 622639. You can always write your comment at our blog at
Ed.MSNBC.com. I`ve got results coming up later on in the program.

Joining me tonight is Sam Youngman, the election 2012 correspondent
for "Reuters."

Sam, good to have you with us tonight.

I want to address this mood, this attitude, coming out of the Romney
camp right now, so confident they would be overheard by a reporter saying
that they think they got it in the bag.

What do you sense on the ground in Iowa? Is Romney making a comeback?

SAM YOUNGMAN, REUTERS: I think that is the sense that they have right
now. I think -- I just came from an event with Governor Romney, his first
in this bus tour. And it looks like he`s going for a knockout punch here.
I think they really believe that with all the disarray the other campaigns
are going to right now, that they can take advantage, they can capitalize,
win here, move on New Hampshire, win there, and maybe wrap this thing up
sooner than they thought they`d be able to.

SCHULTZ: Well, Reince Priebus, the Republican RNC chair, he said they
think they`ll have a candidate faster than what most people think --
paraphrasing there.

But is the Romney camp really out saying to people -- and do you get
this confidence coming off of them that they really think they have this in
the bag before the first vote is cast?

YOUNGMAN: Well, certainly not officially. They are lowering
expectations.

But, I`ll tell you, you know, you do this long enough and you learn to
read between the lines. This event that I just came from, there was no
mention of Speaker Gingrich. There was no mention of Ron Paul. There was
no mention of any of the other candidates.

The only person that Mitt Romney had his sights on tonight was Barack
Obama. He`s back to running sort of a general election campaign. Maybe a
little heavier on the red meat than a general, but he`s back to running the
campaign he was a couple of months ago before we saw surge candidate after
surge candidate.

And, you know, I heard Reince Priebus say that, but I also heard Mitt
Romney`s people say that about a month ago. They said, we`re preparing to
go all 15 rounds.

Well, I think that`s before Newt`s star started to be tarnished a
little bit. Now, they think they can knock this out quickly.

SCHULTZ: Well, let`s talk about that. Gingrich`s star is dropping in
Iowa. Polls are dropping for him. He`s canceling campaign stops.

Is he finished? What do you think?

YOUNGMAN: Well, some of the recent developments certainly don`t bode
well for him, beginning and really ending with not being able to get on the
ballot in Virginia. I mean, that`s obviously a real problem, especially as
voters here start thinking who can beat Barack Obama?

And when they`re looking around at the options and they see one
candidate who can`t get on the ballot in his home state, then my guess is
they tend to cross that person off. That being said, we`ve counted out
Speaker Gingrich before and he`s come back to surprise us. So, I`m letting
Iowans have the final say on this one.

SCHULTZ: Well, he said not long ago that he was going to be the
nominee. Now, it`s a whole different ball game.

Sam Youngman, good to have you with us tonight. Appreciate your time
here on THE ED SHOW.

YOUNGMAN: Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Let`s turn now to Dave Weigel, MSNBC contributor and
political reporter for "Slate" magazine.

Dave, great to have you on.

Has the newsletter controversy hurt Ron Paul? If you average out all
the polls, he still has a slight advantage. What is all this controversy
doing to his campaign right now?

DAVE WEIGEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, things like this take awhile to
percolate and take a while to show up. And I think it was helpful to Paul
that this story was resurrected right in the Christmas period when people
were writing about politics but people weren`t paying as much attention
about it.

That`s not to say Paul handled it particularly well. I mean, I think
there is an expectation that Ron Paul could give what Newt Gingrich was
referring to. Obviously, probably not in good faith what he was referring
to.

There`s an explanation he could give which is probably like the one he
gave in the `90s. Instead of doing that, he`s kind of hoping we stop
asking questions.

I think that`s harmful to people who generally like Ron Paul because
he has lots of independent support, lots of not unusual caucus support.
And one of the reasons they like him is they don`t think he`s a politician
who slips and slides and makes things up.

SCHULTZ: What about the undecided number of people? That`s in double
digits as well. What do you make of that? And how this might play out for
the front runner Ron Paul in the polls?

WEIGEL: That`s been true all year. The caucus -- anyone watching
this network needs to have it explain how different the caucus than the
primary, especially if the weather holds up and you have a fairly balmy day
on January 3rd.

It`s a very self-selected audience. People -- there are a lot of late
deciders. But I`m kind of flashing back to 2004. You had undecided people
who wanted to vote. It was pretty easy to go out and vote and stay out
that night and they broke heavily for John Edwards and John Kerry at the
end because there was nothing negative they heard about Edwards, nothing
negative they heard about Kerry.

Romney has been pretty good at avoiding attacks recently. I mean,
Gingrich swinging I think with reason. I think Gingrich -- some of the
super PAC ads on Romney`s behalf have been dissembled, have been dishonest.
But you`re only hearing negative things and attacks about from Ron Paul,
from Gingrich.

And you`re kind of seeing this wild swinging at the cocktail party
from Rick Perry. He tightened up a bit. But he`s kind of attack everyone,
especially Romney, but not in the really focused way.

SCHULTZ: Dave Weigel, great to have you on. Thanks so much for being
with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW.
Remember to answer tonight`s question there at the bottom of the
screen. And share your thoughts on Twitter @EdShow. We want to know what
you think.

Coming up: Mitt Romney has come up with a clever strategy. Just lie
about President Obama`s record on jobs. There needs to be some serious
pushback on that, I think.

And just one week away from the Iowa caucuses, Republicans are still
crying for an electable Republican to jump into the race.

Stay with us. We`re right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Coming up, Mitt Romney claims the president hasn`t created
any new jobs. He`s wrong. We`ll show you the facts next.

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson says it`s time to move on. Amen to that,
Ben. He says he`s not going to run for re-election next year. I`ll tell
you exactly why that`s good for the Democrats.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tries to discredit the recall effort
on FOX News. State Senator Lena Taylor and "The Nation`s" John Nichols
will join me on that subject later on in the hour.

And you can tweet your thoughts throughout the show using the #EdShow.

We`re right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Mitt Romney has come up with a hard-hitting way to talk about
President Obama`s jobs record: Just lie about it. He does it all the time,
doesn`t he?

Romney whined to "Time" magazine about Democrats going after him. "I
know the Democrats will try and make this a campaign about Bain Capital,"
he said, "25 million people are out of work because of Barack Obama. So
I`ll compare my experience to the private sector where net-net we created
over 100,000 jobs. I`ll compare that record with his record where he has
not created any jobs."

Can we hold the phone right there, folks? Twenty-five million people
are out of work because of recession that started under George W. Bush.

President Obama has been on the mop-out mode. And he spent nearly
four years trying to dig us out of that ditch. But Romney pushes this
flat-out lie about President Obama not creating any new jobs at all.

Well, here`s the jobs chart. Obama`s policies have created 2.3
million new jobs since March of 2010. Jobless claims have been dropping
ever since the stimulus started taking effect.

This is about Romney`s lies versus Obama`s record. I don`t understand
why there isn`t more of a pushback coming from the Democrats on this. Lies
have a way of taking hold, do they not?

Let`s turn to MSNBC policy analyst Ezra Klein, also a columnist for
"The Washington Post."

Ezra, let`s go right to it. Has President Obama seen job creation
since he`s been in the Oval Office?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: So, let`s go to the record. So, in
2009, he comes in, we lost 5 million jobs that year. But it`s a little bit
hard to say that in Obama`s first year of office in a massive recession
that begun before he came in, that he deserves all the blame for that.
Most of his policies hadn`t even begun.

In 2010, which I think is the first year you can fairly only partial
attribute to him, by the way, because, obviously, the president isn`t the
only thing in the happening. We gained about a million jobs. In 2011, it
looks like we`re on chuck to gain more 1.5 million.

I don`t think anybody would say the job creation is going at the pace
we`d want it to, although I think I and others would argue and many
economists would argue that because in part, we have not had the
cooperation from Congress and moving forward on job creation legislation,
like the American Jobs Act.

But to say that Obama caused this recession, much less 25 million
jobs, which we haven`t even lost in this recession in total is beyond a
stretch. It simply is not true.

SCHULTZ: Now, the candidate Romney says he wants to go out and make
the case that President Obama hasn`t created jobs. And he has -- a net of
100,000 when he was at Bain. Is that accurate? He doesn`t offer up any
evidence whatsoever that that is the case.

KLEIN: I don`t know where that`s coming from. Bain is going to be a
tough issue for Romney. So, we should see if Bain is right. So, Bain is a
private equity firm.

What Romney would do when he ran it is he would borrow money against
the assets of a company he thought was undervalued and then take them over
or at least heavily invest them and try to turn them around, try to make
them better.

But what he did at Bain, what Bain does, a private equity firm to do
is they try to kind of profit for investors. Sometimes, that means you get
a company to help. Sometimes it means it doesn`t.

Of the 10 companies or so that Bain fully took over, four of five of
them went bankruptcy. But in eight of those cases, Romney and his
investors made a profit. So, in the three or four cases, depending on the
numbers you believe in which Romney took over company, the company went
bankrupt and had to shed most -- all of its workers. Romney and his team
made a profit.

So, he might have a net job creation record. I`m not going to rule
that out until I`ve seen the numbers he`s dealing with there. But his
point was not job creation and at many times he made decisions that cost
significant numbers of jobs while enriching him and his team. So, that`s
going to be a bit of a tough to defend in the campaign in this kind of
economic circumstance I think.

SCHULTZ: I`d like to see the Obama team come out and compare how many
jobs and say it if he`s got a net increase of 100,000 jobs, go ahead and
admit it. But also show how many jobs he`s actually shipped overseas.
That is the number that can be tracked. And also, this is tracked pretty,
that in the state of Massachusetts, they were ranked 47th out of 50th when
he was governor.

Now, is this just red meat to the Democrats?

KLEIN: Yes. That`s not going to be the easiest one for Romney to
defend. But it should be said, Massachusetts does not have a very high
unemployment rate. Part of the reason they`re not ranked so high in job
creation is that they`re actually a pretty advanced economy. They have a
low unemployment rate, so far as the states go.

You prefer to be in Massachusetts than Texas, even though Texas had
more job creation. Massachusetts nevertheless has a lower total
unemployment level. That`s part of why they`re not as quick on job
creation.

Look, I think Romney did a competent technocratic job when he was
governor of Massachusetts, when he wasn`t dealing with the massive
recession. But the problem is, his record in Massachusetts is not
appealing to his party and, frankly, Barack Obama stole the main parts of
it.

His main accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts, of the single
signature achievement that vaulted him into national competition was his
health care bill, a health care that frankly Barack Obama raided and then
passed nationally.

And now, Mitt Romney can`t run on it. He`s trying to run away from
it. He can`t explain why it`s not his anymore. So, he`s going to have a
tough time with that record, much more so that he would explain in his ads.

SCHULTZ: I mean, I have heard President Obama talk about creating
jobs in the energy sector. I mean, this is where our big -- our job growth
can be. I`ve never heard Mitt Romney talk about how he`s going to create
these jobs. I mean, basically he comes from a paper shuffling, financial
services kind of industry.

But where -- what is his plan? Has he stated where he`s going to
create these jobs?

KLEIN: I think Mitt Romney would say it`s not for the government to
pick winners and losers. It`s for the government to create an overall
ecosystem in which jobs can be created. So, he`s got this 59-point jobs
plan which makes it sound more impressive than it is. A lot of the points
are pretty minor.

But it`s a normal stuff. It`s a lot of energy drilling, it`s lower
taxes -- although not as low as Gingrich and Perry and Cain proposed. It`s
fewer regulations.

It`s the sort of consensus conventional Republican wisdom on how to
move forward on the economy. And I think that folks looking back to the
Bush years where we try a lot of that, where we did lower taxes by quite a
bit, where we did go on a deregulatory tear are going to have trouble
looking at that and saying, man, that was a great time in the American
economy.

SCHULTZ: Well, we should also point out that since the payroll tax
holiday has taken effect, we have added over a million and a half jobs.
And it seems that Mr. Romney has been coy about saying whether he would
support that or not.

Any sense from the Romney camp what exactly -- I mean, it would seem
to me if something is working, they would come out and support it. But
because President Obama is on his watch, they seem to be very coy about it.

Do you sense that?

KLEIN: I think Mitt Romney has been very clear. He both does and
does not support the extension of the payroll tax.

SCHULTZ: Yes, that`s right.

KLEIN: I think that`s been the general point. You know, he`s a
Republican. He`s a tax cutter in theory. But this is Barack Obama`s tax
cut and so, he doesn`t want to support it. But he doesn`t want to oppose
it.

And again, it`s the same thing on his health care plan, that`s his
plan. He supports it in theory, but it`s Barack Obama`s now and so, he
doesn`t want to support it.

One I think, another problem for the Republican Party going into next
year and particularly if they win the election, if they actually have to
govern, is that they have a lot of solutions in the 2005, 2006, 2007 era
that the Democrats then in attempt to get compromise with them took on
things themselves, things like the health care bill and the payroll tax
cut.

And now, they`ve sort of abandoned those and made big theoretical
arguments about why in any and all cases, those types of solutions
shouldn`t be implemented. That`s left them without a lot of credible
solutions. It`s left them -- George W. Bush had a stimulus bill in 2008.
Now, Mitt Romney can`t quite say you do anything in particular for an
economy in 8.6 percent unemployment. That`s a tough spot to be in.

SCHULTZ: So there`s no question that Mitt Romney is way off the mark
when he says that the Obama administration is not creating jobs.

Ezra Klein, good to have you on. Thanks so much.

KLEIN: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Another red state Democrat is riding off into the sunset.
Gosh, they`re almost getting to the double figures, aren`t they? I`ll show
you why Ben Nelson departing is a good thing and he won`t be missed.

Members of Congress are getting richer. That`s right. Their net
wealth is going up while their constituents are struggling to make ends
meet.

My commentary on the income inequality coming from the House. That`s
coming up later.

Stay with us. You`re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Let me do this segment tonight from the very liberal persuasion, if I
may, because that`s what I am.

Two-term Nebraska Senator Ben nelson, he`s calling it quits. I`ve
always known him as the backstabbing Democrat. He put out this video today
and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NELSON: It`s time for me to step away from elective office, spend
more time with my family, and look for new ways to serve our state and
nation. Simply put, it`s time to move on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Can I wave the pom-poms on that one? Nelson is the seventh
Senate Democrat to retire before the 2012 election. Harry Reid, he might
have trouble finding a good Democrat in Nebraska. I`ll talk about that in
a moment.

But it would be hard -- it would be really hard to find a worse
Democrat.

These are the facts. In Nelson`s 12 years in the Senate, he voted for
the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and big pharma. In 2003, Nelson was the
deciding vote on the second round of the Bush tax cuts. How`d they work
out?

In return, what did Nebraska get? Nebraska got millions of dollars in
homeland security money. Was it a sellout? You be the judge.

Nelson is one of the only Democrats to sign on to Grover Norquist
anti-tax pledge. Who does he caucus with? The Democrats?

The bottom line is here is that Ben Nelson has done everything in his
power to water down financial reform. He voted against the president`s
jobs bill time and time again. And Nelson was really a road block to the
public option in health care.

I used to call him and I still do, "Senator Mutual of Omaha" because
he always protected his buddies in the insurance industry and voted the way
they wanted him to.

Nelson`s retirement will make it harder for the Democrats to hold on
to the Senate, but the real Democrats will never miss this guy.

But here`s the thing. I believe that Democrats can win anywhere, even
in Nebraska.

Nebraska folks, maybe you should ask yourself the question since
you`re so down according to the Republicans in Nebraska, that this health
care bill was so bad.

Are you really against young people being on their parents` policy?
Are you against the advantages that it gives to seniors? Are you in favor
of people losing their health care when they get sick? And how about when
people are denied? Are you for or against that?

No, I think Democrats can win in the middle of the country. I think
it is a good thing as far as a generational change to see Ben Nelson go.
Because he caved in time and time again to the Republicans, and was in
Washington, in my opinion, to just knock down the Obama agenda, which
definitely has helped a lot of people in this country.

See ya, Ben.

A major voice in the conservative movement wants Republicans to toss
out the 2012 field and just start all over. Sam Stein and Joan Walsh will
join me.

Also Scott Walker won`t apologize for waging war on unions. But he is
sorry he didn`t just sell it better. John Nichols and Wisconsin State
Senator Lena Taylor will visit with me later tonight to recall all of that.
Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. One week from the Iowa
caucuses and Republicans, they`re just still not happy with their choices.
You know, this was supposed to be the year for Republicans, that they would
put up the best that they had to offer. But those candidates, they`re
nowhere to be found in the Republican field, are they?

This isn`t me saying it, folks. It`s the Republicans. A prominent
Republican office holder told Rich Lowry "we don`t have our A-team on the
field."

He`s not alone. Today, Bill Kristol encouraged other Republicans to
jump into the race. "It is a moment for others to reflect on whether they
don`t owe it to their country to step forward."

This is the guy who used to think Sarah Palin would be a good
candidate for president. If the current Republican field doesn`t meet a
low bar like that, you know that there`s a problem. But where is Chris
Christie? Where is Jeb Bush? Where`s Mitch Daniels? Where are all these
big time Republicans that have money and name recognition?

If Obama is such a bad guy and easy to beat, and he`s a socialist,
Marxist, communist pinko that they`ve been calling him for all these years,
you would think that all the good candidates would just be jumping at this
thing because it would be easy to unseat President Obama. Don`t you find
it interesting? I do.

They`ve spent so much time hating this man, they haven`t come up with
a real solid candidate that has conviction of his or her principles.
They`re always waffling, aren`t they?

Let`s bring in "Huffington Post" political reporter Sam Stein and
editor at large at Salon.com, with us tonight, Joan Walsh. Always a
pleasure to have both of you with us.

Just -- where`s all the beef, so to speak? Joan, why is it that there
are so many, I guess you could say, good Republicans in the eyes of
Republicans that did not jump into this? Here we are a week out and they
still really haven`t decided. No one can point their finger on who`s going
to be the winner in Iowa or the winner of the nomination. What do you
think?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, I just think, Ed, that you`re right.
This is a party that has one thing in common. It`s that they hate Barack
Obama. You know, the people that you talked about, mainly Christie and
Daniels and the former governor, Jeb Bush, have governing records. And
it`s kind of hard to get elected. It`s kind of hard to build a real
primary base for people who are actually out there doing things.

I mean, Christie`s really new. That`s -- you know, he would have had
a lot of problems. But they`ve created a party -- and Bill Kristol has
created a party, frankly, that`s all about -- you know, they`re Fox News
commentators and they go on book tours. They`re a bunch of hucksters. And
he`s got himself to blame. So I enjoyed that piece today. I`m glad he`s
suffering.

SCHULTZ: What do you think, Sam?

SAM STEIN, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": I think part of the problem is that
you`d have to be clinically insane to run for president these days. Your
record is just scrubbed over. Your personal life is scrubbed over.
Everything about you becomes open to the public. For these people -- you
know, with Mitch Daniels specifically, it was a case of I don`t want to put
my family through that. And that`s a totally reasonable thing to say.

On the other hand, you know, I think there is a lot of Republicans who
are looking at the field right now or who are looking at the possibility of
unseating President Obama right now and saying, wow, we have a really good
opportunity. Economy`s in the tank. This president -- his approval rating
is improving, but it hasn`t been that great.

Why couldn`t we get someone who is more of an ideologue or someone who
fits our dreams more? And they look at the field and they see flaws in
every one of these candidates. I think there`s buyer`s remorse, in some
respects.

SCHULTZ: Well, the economy is getting better. We are adding jobs; 21
months of private sector job growth. The unemployment rate is now at 8.6
percent. Some economists are saying it`s going to be even better than
that. Joan, is it possible that the Republicans just don`t want to give
President Obama any credit? But he`s going to be a tough guy to beat.

WALSH: Well, he may be. I mean, I think it`s early to say that the
economy is really on the mend in a way that we`re going to feel next
November, Ed. But it does seem to be going in the right direction now. As
you and I have talked about, the president also really seems to have given
up on that idea of compromising with people who don`t want to compromise
and is really depicting himself and is fighting for middle class and
working class people in a way that not only the base but even independents
seem to be really responding to.

So that`s a very positive trend in itself.

STEIN: Can I add one thing on that, Ed?

SCHULTZ: You sure can.

STEIN: One thing that`s going to make Obama really tough to beat, and
I think has sort of been illuminated this week, is that he has an
organization that is far and away better than any of the Republican
candidates in the field. When you have Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry
missing the Virginia ballot deadlines, when you have -- what I was told
today -- I have to confirm this. But Obama has more offices in Iowa than
any of the Republican presidential candidates. And they`re actually
competing for the nomination. He`s not.

So you have a president who is organized, who can get out the vote,
and who knows how to actually wage a national campaign. I think we tend to
understate that. But that could be a huge factor in the months ahead, I
think.

SCHULTZ: Well, when these Republican candidates go out in Iowa -- I`m
going to be in Newton, Iowa, tomorrow, following Ron Paul`s campaign.
People show up in the hundreds. They don`t show up in the thousands. When
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were going through Iowa,
people were out in the thousands.

And so now we`ve seen the Romney campaign make a shift here in the
last 48 hours. Last week, they were not advertising plans that they were
going to be in Iowa. Now they`ve shifted some advertising. What do you
make of this? They smell blood in the water with the sharks? What do you
think, Joan?

WALSH: Well, yeah. I actually think that Romney sees himself as
being competitive now and can even show that he thinks that and that he`s
got the best campaign organization.

But Sam is absolutely right. We really underestimate this president
and his organization and his campaign team at our peril. And he`s also got
a formidable ability to raise money as well. So all these things do line
up for the president very well.

SCHULTZ: I think what I`m hearing from both of you tonight is that
man, the president, has been focused all along trying to get the economy
turned around. It is better. They`ve spent so much time hating this guy,
they haven`t put together what they need to put together to even get on the
ballot in some of the states they want to be president of. It`s just
amazing.

STEIN: For Gingrich -- Gingrich is trying to sell books, Ed. Come
on. He doesn`t have times for ballot signatures and stuff like that, truth
of the matter.

One other important point to make is for the past three months,
Obama`s been very fixated on one message, which is jobs. He`s been saying
pass my jobs bill. He didn`t get a lot of it. Obviously the message was
there. What you`ve heard from the Republican party is OK, how do we defeat
the jobs bill? Or how do we continue to reduce the deficit?

Obviously you look at any public opinion poll, one message resonates
much better than the other. And that`s jobs. I think that`s what`s
contributing to the president`s turn around. That`s why you see some of
these Republicans stagnant in the polls, too.

SCHULTZ: Sam Stein, Joan Walsh, always a pleasure. Great to have you
with us tonight.

Republicans have all these hecklers out there. They`ve got these
hecklers from the stands, but nobody wants to jump in of any significance.

Members of Congress, you know what they`re doing? They`re getting
richer. But their constituents, they are not. That story and my
commentary is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Congress has the lowest approval ratings in generations.
They can`t seem to get anything done, can`t seem to agree on anything. And
the frustration of the American people, I think, could bring a sea change
and a face change in 2012.

First, Citizens United, this has become the big thorn in the side of
the little guy across America, along with all the voter suppression laws
that have been put in place in so many states. Now there is a report
saying that the net worth of Congressional members is widening from the
people they actually represent.

The income gap in America is real. This is the chart we use often
here on THE ED SHOW. I think it tells a very distinct story. Congress is
getting closer to the red line, not down there with the workers with the
blue line.

In fact, over a 25 year period between 1984 and 2009, median net worth
for members of Congress has gone up from 280,000 dollars to 725,000
dollars. That`s excluding any real estate. Is it fair at this point to
say that Congress is disconnected and really has no clue how average
Americans actually live and what`s facing them on their kitchen table?

The economic experience of America, who is suffering -- the economic
experience in this country is so different and the money in politics has
delivered really a country that has a society now -- a society of the
voiceless. There are many Americans out there who don`t feel like they
have a piece of the rock anymore.

In fact, American families have actually lost financial ground in the
last 25 years. You know, with all these charts we put up and all the
stories that are out there about income inequality, I find it really
interesting that the Obama team is saying that their small donations are
up.

It seems to me that the folks out there who feel they don`t have a
voice, they certainly want to exercise their right in having a voice. And
maybe this guy named Obama, who everybody vilifies from the right, is
actually still their hero. It`s going to be interesting.

Next up, Scott Walker knows he`s going to have a tough time surviving
a recall. So he goes on Fox News and, of course, he`s begging for help.
John Nichols of "the Nation Magazine" and Wisconsin State Senator Lena
Taylor will join me for the discussion. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: After waging war on unions and killing jobs in Wisconsin,
Scott Walker can`t run on his record. Instead, he`s attacking the recall
effort. And once again, he`s turned to Fox News for some help. Earlier
today, Walker tried to discredit the recall petition drive by claiming
fraud.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Well, the whole process is pretty
unusual. I mean, we had one of the local affiliates here do a story about
someone signing it, proudly saying they signed 80 different recall
petitions. The law, as we see it, says you should be able to sign it once
and only once. And it should be for a legal citizen.

And to me, if you`re going to protect the integrity of the process, it
should be not only for people who have every right to sign it, but also for
those who don`t want to sign it. Their voice should count just as much as
anybody else`s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Did you catch the beginning of that sound bite, folks? He
says the whole process. You mean, there isn`t anybody with any honesty or
any credibility or any passion or desire that is going to sign these
petitions? Actually, you have to be crooked to sign these petitions.
That`s basically what he`s saying.

Walker makes no apologies for killing collective bargaining for the
middle class workers, either. He just wishes he`d done a better job
selling it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: I looked at it kind of like a small business owner. I said
here`s a problem, here`s a solution. Now just go out and fix it. And what
I probably should have done is spend more time laying the ground, work
making the case over and over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: While he`s raised millions to save his own job, Wisconsin
has lost thousands of jobs over the past five months. In fact, the state
leads the nation in job losses. Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs
over four years, but admitted today that the state is not on track to reach
that goal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: We had 16,000 net new jobs versus 150,000 lost. We said if
you break that down every month, no, it`s not on track. But if you look
forward, we figured it would compound. Go back to that sports analogy at
the beginning. If you take over a one and 16 team -- or one and -15 team,
they`re not going to go to the Super Bowl the next year. But if you have a
four year plan, they are. Same thing`s true with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: There`s another sports analogy. You`ve got nothing left in
the playbook. Joining me now is Wisconsin State Senate Lena Taylor and
Washington correspondent for "The Nation" magazine, Joe Nichols. Great to
have both of you with us tonight.

Senator Taylor, Scott Walker has had a failure in communication. He`s
had a failure in political strategy. And now, of course, he`s using Fox
News and any other favorable media he can find, to turn it around. And
he`s vilifying the recall effort, saying that the whole process is
fraudulent.

What`s your response to all of that?

LENA TAYLOR (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: I find that hypocritical.
Scott Walker came in to the county executive position through a recall. He
loves recalls. At least that`s what he said then, until they`re being used
for him.

You know, and the other thing that I think is really an important
factor is he suggests that this is outside, you know, efforts, making the
recall happen. No. A half -- more than half a million signatures came
from individuals in Wisconsin. And although he wants to use one example
where someone said that they may have signed a number of times, he knows as
well as we know only one signature will count for an individual.

And we will have more than the 500-plus thousand that we need. I`m
certain we`ll be around that 750,000 number figure of signatures to help to
get him recalled.

SCHULTZ: John Nichols, Walker is out there talking about fraud. He
is broad brushing the entire process. Is this a myth or have there been
some problems? Take us down that road.

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": There really have not been problems, Ed.
This process has been organized from the start. Remember, Wisconsin
requires a one-year wait before a recall can go forward. And so the people
who have wanted to recall Scott Walker has been preparing for this for
months. They did trainings. They set up an elaborate system to ensure
there are not double signatures, to ensure that there are no fraudulent
signatures.

The petition gatherers have been trained meticulously. I have to
point out, Governor Walker is being just extremely dishonest in this
statement. Because he knows that a week ago, a full week ago, the
Government Accountability Board issued a statement in which they said they
would not count fraudulent signatures and that they would review the
petitions carefully. They would work with the campaigns to cull out any
illegal signatures.

And finally that they would aggressively prosecute or organize the
prosecution of anyone who put in a fraudulent signature. So the governor
knows the fail safes have been put in place.

TAYLOR: Ed, one other thing.

SCHULTZ: Go ahead, Lena.

TAYLOR: One other thing. I wanted to say this: when the individuals
came and started stealing petitions and, you know, going up and saying they
were collecting signatures and then they were throwing those petitions
away, the government was completely silent. Now that was fraudulent. That
was taking individuals` right to want to see him recalled and really
throwing it in the garbage can.

Those were individuals who supported him. The governor was completely
silent on that discussion.

And when it comes to voter fraud, they`re constantly overreaching,
suggesting that there`s voter fraud, when there`s only been seven cases in
Wisconsin. None of them have been situations where the type of
overreaching voter ID bill he`s done, that`s one of the most restrictive in
the nation, would even address. So the governor is really not honest, as
Mr. Nichols has stated.

SCHULTZ: Yeah. He says he just wishes that he had communicated it
better, this attack on workers and collective bargaining. Walker also
spoke about the money spent on this summer`s recall elections. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: Those sorts of successes and abuses are things that we tried
to fix. But we didn`t lay the groundwork for it. So when we did it, the
national big government union bosses came out and spent literally millions
of dollars attacking us. They did again in the Supreme Court race. They
spent tens of millions of dollars throughout the summer attacking state
senators` recall elections.

This is our first chance to tell the other side of that story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: He didn`t mention Koch Brother money or any other outside
money that`s absolutely pouring into the state right now. John, what about
that? Have the unions really had more influence and more money in the
state of Wisconsin that the outside money from the right wing?

NICHOLS: Well, the governor`s statement is a complete false
construct. He talks about not having tried to explain himself early on.
The first advertisements that went up with regard to this controversy were
put up in February by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers` funded
group. They blanketed the airwaves with advertisements supporting the
governor`s agenda.

And notably, in this interview with Fox, he talked about how the other
side had ads up now, suggesting that somehow there`s an equal level of
spending. The fact of the matter is the governor has been flooding the
airwaves with ads supporting his agenda, whereas the Democratic party, the
unions, United Wisconsin, these groups do not have big ad buys up now.

In fact, pretty much it`s the governor and his allies that own the
airwaves at this point. So for him to suggest that he`s somehow having a
hard time telling his story is -- it`s a fantasy. The reality is he`s told
his story. The Wisconsinites just aren`t buying it.

SCHULTZ: Senator Taylor, what do you make of these constant media
appearances? This guy is getting more attention than any other governor in
the state -- I mean, he constantly -- in the country, should I say. He
constantly goes on Fox any time a negative story comes out and what I say
is just the truth that`s being reported about the numbers.

What do you make of him fighting back the way he is?

TAYLOR: Well, this is exactly what he normally does. When he was the
county executive, he made it a point to start ahead of time running his
race for the gubernatorial seat. He`s trying to get ahead of any candidate
that`s going to be out there in the recall election, and trying to fix it.
He and his wife are on the air saying, you know, let`s just put our
differences behind us.

No, you`ve gone too far, governor. And the people of Wisconsin are
like angry badgers and they`re coming for you. And I think the bigger
thing that I want to say to you, Ed, is this: Walker is not going to be
honest with the people. He hasn`t been honest with the people. And we`ll
show him in the election time.

SCHULTZ: OK. Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor and John Nichols,
Washington correspondent of "The Nation," thanks for joining us.

That`s THE ED SHOW. I`m Ed Schultz. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts
right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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

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