'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, January 9, 2012
Read the transcript to the Monday show
Guests: Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, John Heilemann, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rick Tyler, Joe Klein, Jon Heilemann, Steve Kornacki
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Rachel, it`s too long a story to explain
how I got stuck here today. I was headed back to New York, had to come
back and buy a tie tonight. I went to the Gap sale at the New Hampshire
mall, $10.97. My proudest price tag ever. You`re missing the big sales,
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: Will you bring me back something, please?
O`DONNELL: I`ll find something. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Exactly two hours from right now, the first votes will be
cast in New Hampshire, which is not a minute too soon for Mitt Romney.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You know, the something may go
down tonight, but it ain`t going to be jobs, sweetheart.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to get the
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Politics ain`t beanbags.
ROMNEY: This ain`t the beanbag.
If you don`t like what they do, you could fire them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Romney declared he likes firing people.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Mitt Romney likes being able to fire people
who work for him.
ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s a gaffe, a real gaffe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives the impression that he simply does not
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it`s a Gordon Gekko-like narrative.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Today, "The Wall Street Journal" reports
on Romney`s time at Bain.
ROMNEY: The two enterprises I led were quite successful.
HALL: Twenty-two percent of those businesses filed for bankruptcy
TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did some of the
companies not making it and have a hard time? Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re going to attack him on what Bain did.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Over the last few days, Mitt Romney has
been strongly attacked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich opened up on
ROMNEY: I got broad shoulders.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can we drop a little of
the pious baloney?
MATTHEWS: Newt Gingrich is going after him for the kill right now.
GINGRICH: Governor Romney is, in fact, legitimately and authentically
a Massachusetts moderate.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Can anyone stop Mitt Romney at this point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jon Huntsman is clearly on the move here.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Jon Huntsman is clearly on the move in New
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will always put my
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe we`re talking about a little Jon Huntsman
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Jon Huntsman with some momentum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without any money, I won`t matter.
JANSING: New Hampshire can produce some surprises.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope you`ll be enjoy awe future that is
littered with death panels, re-education camps and leaving you all to ask
yourself what if?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michele Bachmann, everybody.
O`DONNELL: Good evening from New Hampshire, where like Michael
Dukakis and Paul Tsongas before him, the Massachusetts candidate, Willard
M. Romney, has the commanding lead in the first in the nation presidential
primary. With no candidate within striking distance of Romney, Romney was
his own worst enemy today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.
HUNTSMAN: Governor Romney enjoys firing people. It may be that he`s
slightly out of touch with the economic reality we have in America right
now. And that`s a dangerous place for somebody to be.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: The Rick Perry campaign has a new ring tone for the over
70 percent of Republicans who support a presidential candidate other than
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people. I like being able to fire
people. I like being able to fire people.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Romney tried to provide context to his comment later in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Oh, you saw I was talking about insurance companies. Yes, we
like to be able to get rid of insurance companies that don`t give us the
service that we need. I believe in setting, as described this morning,
where people are able to choose their own doctor and insurance company. If
they don`t like their insurance company or provider, they can get rid of
them. That`s the way America works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And there was this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I know what it`s like to worry about whether you`re going to
get fired. There are a couple times I was wondering whether I was getting
a pink slip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s Romney trying to explain that awful feeling of job
insecurity you get after graduating from Harvard Business School.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I came out of school and I got an entry level position like
the other people that were freshly minted MBAs. And like anybody that
starts at the bottom of an enterprise, you wonder when you don`t do so
well, whether you`re going to be able to hang on to your job. And you
wonder if the enterprise gets in trouble, you know, will you be one of
those laid off.
That`s what`s happening around the country to a lot of people today.
It breaks your heart to see people lose their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In response to attacks on Romney`s tenure at Bain Capital,
Romney`s chief campaign strategist, Stuart Stevens, told reporters Sunday,
"It`s surprising that it`s coming in the Republican primary, but that`s
fine. We`re happy to discuss it any time. We want to discuss it."
Disclaimer here, NBC Universal and Bain Capital are each a part owner
of the Weather Channel, which is why I think Bain Capital is the greatest
private equity firm in the country ever. No conflict of interest there for
Joining me in New Hampshire: host of MSNBC`s "HARDBALL," Chris
Matthews; NBC News political director and host of MSNBC`s "THE DAILY
RUNDOWN," Chuck Todd; and the chair of the Democratic National Committee,
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Thank you all for joining me.
Anyone who has taken the oath of office goes first on this panel, OK?
We all agree on that.
Congresswoman Schultz, the best campaign day Barack Obama`s had yet?
The most powerful front-runner on the Democratic side -- Republican side
finally getting hit by Republicans.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, if there wasn`t
already a dramatic contrast between Barack Obama and any of the Republican
field, today it was made as clear as day that there will be a very stark
choice between the direction President Obama`s taken this country and the
direction that any of the Republicans but particularly a shockingly out of
touch with mainstream America and working families Mitt Romney is.
O`DONNELL: Chris, you`ve watched a lot of frontrunners take incoming.
Finally, at some point in the process, this seems to be Romney`s moment.
How`s he doing?
MATTHEWS: Well, Romney`s getting hit where he was strongest. This is
Karl Rove strategy. Go after him where he`s strongest.
And he and I get blurbs for a book when you come out with it, he`s
giving Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of them, and now, Rick
Perry, are giving blurbs to the Democratic campaign in the fall. You know,
all these quotes are going to come back in video form. They`re all going
to be incisive. They`re all going to be credible because they`re coming
And they`re going after this guy like a Gordon Gekko. They nailed
him. They have taken away his greatest bragging point. I created jobs,
they said, oh, no, oh, no, you`re a chop shop runner. You run a chop shop.
And you`re the enemy.
And so it`s all in the record now. All they have to do in Chicago,
piece together the real. They get it done.
O`DONNELL: Chuck, it is surprising to be coming from Republicans.
And I want you to listen to Rick Santorum because I think he shows you what
a difficult dilemma this is for Republicans. Rick Santorum talking to Sean
Hannity about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: What do you think of that criticism of Bain?
Do you think legitimate that Mitt Romney was saying, you know what? I
would expect this from Democrats, not Republicans.
MITT SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I tend to sort of agree
with him. You know, this is capitalism. I just don`t think as a
conservative and someone who believes in business that we should be out
there playing the game that Democrats play, saying somehow capitalism is
bad. If you get a bad deal, that`s one thing. Let the press handle that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: There`s the dilemma. Santorum clearly feels, wait a
minute, there is quick sand here.
TODD: A little bit. But I also think that Santorum is realizing Newt
is going to do the dirty work. And in South Carolina, remember when two
people start to attack the third candidate might benefit. So, I think
there`s a little bit of that.
But, remember, who was the first person who attack Michael Dukakis and
Willie Horton? It was Al Gore. This is what primaries do sometimes. You
know, Al Gore introduces that and eventually, it make its way into a
Republican act. There`s a little bit of that field.
But I want to go to what Chris brought up, which is the idea that your
greatest strength becomes this weakness to the point of you don`t know how
to deal with it. John Kerry saw this the hard way with the swift boats and
his veterans. It turned in the whole rational for his candidacy in a year
that was going to be a national security year started to wither away. He
suddenly couldn`t talk about his Vietnam experience because it just gives
ammo to the swift boats.
All of a sudden, the most important phrase that Mitt Romney has been
saying is private sector experience. He said it in every stump speech
leading up to Iowa. They clearly focus grouped it. It responds well.
This is what voters want to hear, probably independent.
You take this away from him, you take Bain away from him, he`s
suddenly -- it undermines the rational for the entire candidacy. It`s a
very dangerous moment for Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: And look at the people he appeals to potentially. He
hasn`t gotten them yet -- white working class, non-college people who are
vulnerable to every accordion industry that hires and fires in the business
There is a wonderful story about this older woman who voted against
Barry Goldwater. She said, I`m going against Barry Goldwater who ran for
the Republicans in `64 because he`s going to take away my TV. And the
commentator explained to her, no, he`s going to privatize the TVA. And she
said, well, I`m not taking any chances.
f the word gets out that this guy is a job killer, he then has to
defend it in every conversation half of which he`ll lose. Half of the
government he`ll lose once you start playing defense. You know that`s --
TODD: I got to tell you this -- I have had Obama campaign people tell
me, I sit there and say Romney expands the map. He expands the map. He`s
going to put Michigan in place. He`s going to do well in the Midwest and
the president very much has a tunnel weakness in the industrial Midwest in
TODD: And they keep saying to me, you don`t understand. You just
wait until we get to run against Romney. It`s harder to run against
somebody else other than Mitt Romney in the Midwest in some of their minds.
And this is what they believe.
O`DONNELL: Do you have any doubt that Mitt Romney is the one they
don`t want to run against -- if they have the choice?
TODD: They don`t feel about it that way.
TODD: I don`t feel -- I think they just -- they`ll be shocked if
they`re running against anybody other than Mitt Romney.
O`DONNELL: All right. It`s time to listen to Rush Limbaugh because
he has you all figured out.
O`DONNELL: He has the Democrats all figured out. Let`s listen to
what Rush had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The line that`s supposed to come
out of the Democratic Party is they`re scared of Romney. The line is, "Oh,
no, they don`t want to face. Romney is the toughest guy." That`s all --
that`s the line.
The Democrats are afraid of any candidate they have sought to destroy.
And you can start with Sarah Palin. You can move on to Santorum. Any
conservative who has shown any interest, the Democrats set out to destroy.
That`s who they`re genuinely afraid of. They are not hammering Mitt Romney
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You are not hammering Mitt Romney at all. You`re afraid
of Santorum. Admit it.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think all of these candidates, the whole
selection of them, are doing a really good job destroying themselves. I
mean, Mitt Romney said today he likes firing people. He also tried to say
that he somehow empathizes with people who have been fired because he
worried about a pink slip at some point.
He`s claimed that he has 100,000 -- that he`s created 100,000 jobs as
head of Bain Capital. But, really, what he did is outsource jobs to other
countries, fired people, bankrupted companies deliberately. I mean this is
the record that he`s surmounted and we should put in the White House to get
the economy turn around? I don`t think that`s what people are looking for.
O`DONNELL: Chris, talk to us about rich guys running for president in
the age of television starting with John Kennedy forward -- I don`t
remember any of them -- trying to claim they experienced some kind of
MATTHEWS: Well, back before the age of television in 1946, Jack was
running in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts, in the old eleventh, in
Cambridge, in Summerville, at towns like that. And he went to a
candidates` night. And one, these local guys, the (INAUDIBLE) said, you
know, I was born poor.
And after Kennedy listed about five of these guys. It was his turn.
It turns out that Harvard kid, it`s his turn. So, he stands up and says,
"I guess I`m the only one here that didn`t come up the hard way." And
they loved it.
He also had a great telegram he manufactured from his father going
into the gridiron dinner in about 1959, and his father said, only spend
what you have to for this campaign. Damn if I`m going to pay for a
And so, he just constantly threw back at the reporters who loved this
-- the simple acknowledgment that he was rich. You know?
And great Jay Rockefeller once did this wonderfully at one of these --
O`DONNELL: Senator from West Virginia.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) spend, you know, I don`t know how much money he
gave to Hank Morris, 12 million bucks each time. The guys lived off it.
He went into the thing and he said all people, one of the congressional
dinners, you know, the congressional dinner, at the old Women`s Press Club,
Washington Press Club it`s now called, gives. And he said, you know, don`t
feel bad those of who you paid 75 bucks to come here tonight, it cost me
$12 million. The press loved Jay for saying that.
Just be honest about your wealth and you`re forgiven. Don`t pretend
you`re Joe Schmoe.
TODD: And this is what`s stunning, is that this shouldn`t be, I mean,
Stuart Stevens was showing that was a moment of truancy (ph). They did not
I want to borrow something from my good friend over at ABC, Amy
Walters (ph). I ran into her this morning. She goes, a year ago, would
you have believed that in the day before the New Hampshire primary, we`d be
debating Mitt Romney`s Bain Capital experience or his health care plan? We
all would have bet that Romneycare would be the thing that will be tearing
him down and it`s Bain in a Republican primary. It`s oddly shopping.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Lawrence, there are countless examples of Mitt
Romney sticking his silver spoon back in his mouth. In Florida, he
actually said that he understand what`s it is like to be without a job
because he`s currently unemployed.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It`s just unbelievable.
O`DONNELL: All right. Well, that`s going to be the LAST WORD on this
segment. Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
-- thank you all very much for joining me.
Coming up, why finishing third and fourth place tomorrow just might be
the biggest news of the day. Andrea Mitchell and John Heilemann will join
me on that one.
And later, a leadership change in the White House as the Obama
reelection campaign gears up.
O`DONNELL: President Obama is not running unopposed on the Democratic
side of the New Hampshire primary. To win New Hampshire, the president is
going to have to beat Ed O`Donnell.
L. O`DONNELL: You`re actually on the ballot as a Democrat with
President Obama challenging him in the New Hampshire primary?
ED O`DONNELL: That`s right. But my goal is to run third party in the
L. O`DONNEL: So a setback. It`s nothing to write O`Donnell.
E. O`DONNELL: Right. There`s $800 billion in the bank account for
our nation`s charities. There`s not tax money left. You take 20 percent
of that, I --
L. O`DONNELL: Who takes it?
E. O`DONNELL: I -- the president --
L. O`DONNELL: Goes in to the charity and taking it?
E. O`DONNELL: No. Persuades them to voluntarily.
L. O`DONNELL: So it`s a bully pulpit?
E. O`DONNELL: I`m very persuasive. I`ve run a charity for 36 years.
I persuaded them to do things. I`ve persuaded.
You take 20 percent of that and hire every unemployed person, every
homeless person, prostitute, prisoner, former prisoner, pick up litter,
pass literature for small businesses, and that`s the only solution to
unemployment. And the unemployment rate is three times what the government
is telling us.
L. O`DONNELL: I don`t know. The litter in Manchester, there is no
litter. There is none.
E. O`DONNELL: But in Philly.
L. O`DONNELL: Oh, OK. Yes.
E. O`DONNELL: There will be some sometime.
L. O`DONNELL: Do you have any bumper stickers?
E. O`DONNELL: Yes.
L. O`DONNELL: Ed O`Donnell for president.
E. O`DONNELL: No.
L. O`DONNELL: How much will it cost you to make some?
E. O`DONNELL: I don`t know. I`ll work on it. If you loan the money
L. O`DONNELL: I`ll make a campaign contribution for buttons, just
O`Donnell for president bumper stickers.
E. O`DONNELL: Let`s do it.
L. O`DONNELL: I mean, we don`t need a lot. Enough for your family
and my family.
E. O`DONNELL: My nieces.
L. O`DONNELL: Yes. Your nieces, my nieces.
E. O`DONNELL: It`s a winner.
O`DONNELL: Like Christine O`Donnell, Ed O`Donnell is no relation to
me. And like Christine O`Donnell, Ed O`Donnell is from Delaware. And I
got so caught up in my policy discussion with O`Donnell that I forgot to
ask if he`s related to Christine O`Donnell.
Talk about blowing the interview.
We`ll have more from New Hampshire, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got from one end of this
state to the other today and every stop along the way, I heard the same
thing. Something is happening out there. Something is happening.
I have no idea what it is it going to mean tomorrow night. But I do
know this -- we`re going to surprise a whole lot of people in this country
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: With a local candidate in a big lead in New Hampshire and
with second place in the polls going to the 76-year-old libertarian
candidate who has been running for president even longer than front-runner
Mitt Romney, with no possibility of winning the nomination, where will that
leave the third and fourth place finishers tomorrow? What will the also-
runs need to do to keep the credible campaigns after New Hampshire?
Joining me now are Andrea Mitchell, host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS"
right here on MSNBC, and John Heilemann, national affairs editor for "New
York Magazine" and MSNBC political analyst.
Let`s take a look at the latest Suffolk University poll in New
Hampshire. Romney at 33 percent. Paul at 20 percent. And then it gets
interesting -- Huntsman 13 percent, Gingrich 11 percent, Santorum 10
percent. Really bunched up tightly there.
And Buddy Roemer way out in front of Perry. Buddy Roemer at 2
percent, Rick Perry at 1 percent. And the 12 percent undecided in that
Andrea, it`s all about third and fourth. That`s where the suspense
is. Is Jon Huntsman right? Is something happening out there?
MITCHELL: Something is happening out there. You know, it could be
anecdotally. It feels that way. He had a very big crowd tonight. I`m not
persuaded that Ron Paul has a lot go on second. I think it`s so volatile.
And, you know, John and I have been crossing around and going a lot of
these campaign events. And we see a lot of movement, a lot of undecideds.
O`DONNELL: All right. John, talk to me about Ron Paul. Is there --
is there softness there?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Look -- besides the poll that you
cited, Lawrence, the Public Policy Polling poll that came out this morning
which is an important poll that`s been very accurate on New Hampshire in
years past, it actually had the race much tighter, has Huntsman moving up,
more Paul falling.
There are other internal tracking polls that find the same trend,
which is to say a virtual tie between Huntsman and Paul for second place.
And Huntsman having gradual upward momentum, Paul softening somewhat.
There`s no doubt that there`s going to be a surprise, it won`t be much
of a surprise because we`re talking about it now. But the big surprise
tomorrow night, that`s predictable surprise would be Huntsman leaping past
Paul in the second place. I`m not predicting that, but that is the most
likely, quote, "surprise scenario".
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Andrea.
MITCHELL: I was going to say, that the Paul supporters, though, are
much more dedicated, much more passionate than any of the others.
O`DONNELL: I think the fair word for Paul supporters?
HEILEMANN: I mean, look, he has a high floor. I mean, he`s not going
to drop below 16 percent, 17 percent. But he`s not going to go above 21,
22 percent. I think that is true across the country. And it`s true here.
Huntsman, you know, could end up 12 percent or 13 percent. But he
could also end up at 22 percent or 23 percent tomorrow. And that would --
you know, gives him more range because there are a lot more people who are
soft supporting Huntsman than they are soft-supporting --
O`DONNELL: I have spent the day around here complaining about what
happens to the Massachusetts discount. It used to be that when you had a
Massachusetts candidate in New Hampshire, everybody kind of ignored the
outcome. You know, Michael Dukakis is going to win it. You know, no
surprise. And, you know, here we have -- and Paul Tsongas. Paul Tsongas,
about 33, Bill Clinton got 24, and no one thought Paul Tsongas was a
And now, we`re treating the Massachusetts guy being in the lead in New
Hampshire as if it`s some kind of a big win.
MITCHELL: First of all, I think Bill Clinton so cleverly all we`re
hearing that night when he declared himself the winner.
MITCHELL: He declared himself a winner and he just had more magnetism
about it. And the fact that he had been in so much trouble for all of the
other personal issues that he had come up during the primary, the win was
surprising. And so, that`s what he then carried out in Florida.
O`DONNELL: Yes, he got drown in scandal the week before, and we
thought he was going to be left in the snow banks.
O`DONNELL: It`s kind of a miracle.
HEILEMANN: Let`s give Romney credit for this. Only he won by only
eight votes in Iowa, if he wins Iowa and wins New Hampshire, he will be the
first Republican ever to win both of those contests, that should be the
lead on Wednesday morning story if he wins, to give him his due.
HEILEMANN: Winning those two in a row is a hard thing to do.
O`DONNELL: Andrea, what has to happen in two, three, or four to
change that lead as the story?
MITCHELL: Well, first of all, I think -- there is one other piece of
volatility. There is going to be reaction to this language about I`m happy
I fired people, the pink slip controversy. It`s happening at a perfect
time for other challengers.
O`DONNELL: At an unpollable time. We won`t know the effect until the
voters tell us the effect.
MITCHELL: And I think people may react to that. So that -- Romney
was already sliding. He had gone down 10 points since Iowa, 10 points in
just those few days. So, the trend lines are not in his favor. That said,
as you point out, he is going to be the winner here most likely. And what
others have to do is come in close behind.
O`DONNELL: John, the Romney slip up on firing people came at the
exactly roughly the same time that Hillary Clinton shed a tear four years
ago here and people believe that that helped change the dynamic in her
HEILEMANN: Yes, although I will say that it obviously worked in the
opposite direction. I mean, Hillary Clinton, it helped here. This could
HEILEMANN: And the problem is, that unlike in that race where Barack
O`DONNELL: A lot of people in the first hour thought that hurt
Hillary Clinton badly.
HEILEMANN: Yes, they did.
MITCHELL: Because of gender.
O`DONNELL: Yes, exactly.
MITCHELL: One other little point about that, there was a Saturday
night ABC debate where Obama said, I like you. And that line, as you know
from "Game Changer," your book, that line let a lot of women had sort of a
gasp of recognition. That was so patronizing and followed by the tear and
the combination and the timing.
HEILEMANN: Lawrence, the problem in this case, though, is that there
is no clear beneficiary. There`s not a Republican running as the tribune
of the working class. Blue collar voters in New Hampshire who might react
badly to that and there maybe many who do. Who do they go to?
Should they go to Rick Santorum? Do they go to Jon Huntsman? There
is not a Pat Buchanan in this field where an economically distress, anxious
voters says Mitt Romney is not for me, I`m going to X. They could end up
anywhere and they might not hurt Romney as badly for that reason.
O`DONNELL: We have got to go and move on. I`m very sorry. I think
those voters will go to Barack Obama in November.
Andrea Mitchell and John Heilemann, thank you very much both of you
for joining me. We`ll see you a little later, John. You`re going to hang
around. I got more stuff for you.
Coming up, the super PAC invasion of South Carolina. Mitt Romney`s
super PAC may have finally met its match.
And next, a few words about my friend Tony Blankley.
O`DONNELL: In 1995, Newt Gingrich became the first Republican Speaker
of the House in 40 years, which meant that his unflappable and dapper press
secretary, Tony Blankley, became the first Republican press secretary for a
Speaker of the House in 40 years. Tony was born in London, where his
father was Winston Churchill`s accountant.
But when Tony was three, the Blankley family moved to Los Angeles,
where Tony began to develop his poise in front of the camera as a child
actor. Growing up in an accented family left him with a lifetime trace of
an English accent.
I got to know Tony well when he held the Republican chair across from
me on "the McLaughlin Group." No matter how loud our debates became, with
Tony, it was never personal. Off stage, we never had an even slightly
Tony`s dignity, conviviality and wit never failed him. I had the
pleasure of recommending Tony for the right position on the public radio
show "Left, Right and Center," which originates from Santa Monica`s KCRW.
If you go to KCRW`s podcast archive, you can hear a sampling of the most
civilized left-right discussions I have ever had, each made more compelling
by Tony`s voice and thoughts.
On the eve of the first in the nation Republican presidential primary,
with Tony`s former boss in the running, Tony Blankley would be my first
choice of guests on tonight`s show. But this weekend in Washington, at
Sibley Memorial Hospital, cancer took Tony.
He leaves his wife Linda Davis and his three children, Spencer
Blankley, Trevor Blankley and Anna Blankley. Tony Blankley was only 63
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to draw a very
sharp, very clear contrast between a Reagan conservative and a
We`re going to straight out contrast campaign. And I think in South
Carolina, people are going to decisively repudiate the culture that
produced Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: On Wednesday, the action moves to South Carolina, where
Super PACs are poised to overwhelm the Republican presidential primary
campaign. The pro Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has made a 2.3
million dollar ad buy in South Carolina, which has already been outdone by
the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, which is pouring in 3.4
million dollar into Gingrich advertising in South Carolina.
This weekend, the Gingrich super PAC announced it raked in the high
dollar chips from Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adleson. The
conservative billionaire gave five million dollars to the pro Gingrich
super PAC. And some reports say he is willing to spend as much as 20
million dollars over the course of the campaign.
The latest "Time Magazine"/CNN poll of South Carolina, taken after the
Iowa caucuses, shows Mitt Romney currently in the lead. Romney has 37
percent. Rick Santorum has 19 percent. Newt Gingrich has 18 percent. And
Ron Paul is at 12 percent. Six percent had no opinion. Rick Perry is down
at five. And Jon Huntsman has exactly one percent in that poll.
Joining me now are "Time" columnist Joe Klein and Rick Tyler, a senior
adviser for the pro Gingrich PAC Winning Our Future.
Rick, first of all, we go from Newt Gingrich saying this negative
campaigning is awful to enter the super PAC. I just want to get a
perspective on the size of this buy, why I am wowing about this, in
campaigns in this country, where hundreds of millions of dollars change
In South Carolina, in 2008, the winning Obama campaign spent 1.5
million dollars. The second place Clinton campaign spent 1.5 million
dollars. You`re going to spend more than both of those put together for
RICK TYLER, ADVISER, WINNING OUR FUTURE SUPER PAC: That`s right. We
are rising to the occasion. Newt is down. He was hurt in Iowa. And we
intend to bring him back up to even and win South Carolina.
O`DONNELL: Joe? First of all, I want to congratulate both of you
guys for looking the most New Hampshire on tonight`s show.
JOE KLEIN, "TIME MAGAZINE": I planned it. I went to the --
KLEIN: I wouldn`t call this rising to the occasion, by the way.
O`DONNELL: But we have -- people have talked in the past about
there`s a way in which advertising can overwhelm the voter, and you can
overdo it. Does it sound like it may be one of those situations?
KLEIN: Well, the two interesting numbers in that poll are the six
percent who have no opinion. That`s not going to last very long, number
one. And the guy at the bottom, Huntsman, if he does well enough tomorrow
to stay in -- and who knows -- he could -- and if he goes directly to
Florida, and if the stays out of this negative blood bath -- this is going
to be an unprecedented bloodbath. Then he may come out seeming a little
clean compared to these other guys.
O`DONNELL: Rick, I know legally you can`t talk to Newt in the
TYLER: I talk to him right through that camera.
O`DONNELL: You talk to him right through that camera. OK. Ask him
through that camera what does he really want? Is it -- did Romney incur
Gingrich hatred to the point where the number one thing that Newt wants to
do is stop Romney? Or is Newt still in the winning business?
TYLER: I think Newt is one of the only candidates, because of his
name ID -- you mentioned Huntsman going to Florida, Joe. They don`t know
who Huntsman is in Florida. He`s been in New Hampshire and they know him
because it`s a small state and he wondered around a little bit.
KLEIN: They will know that he doesn`t like firing people.
TYLER: He doesn`t like firing people.
KLEIN: And that he didn`t work for Freddie Mac. Everybody else is
going to know those two facts.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. You`re going up against another Super PAC that is
going to be delivering a pretty strong message against Newt.
TYLER: Right. But this time, we`re going to fire back.
O`DONNELL: Are you going to be writing new spots during the about 10
days you have before South Carolina?
O`DONNELL: On a day by day basis, you will fire back.
TYLER: We had to -- in fact, I think we had to Rewrite one of our
scripts today because there was something about, you know, I like to fire
people. I don`t know anybody that likes to fire people. It`s just an odd
thing to say. Sometimes it`s necessary to fire people, but who likes to
O`DONNELL: Joe, what about the old notion that negative campaigning
hurts the negative campaigner?
It hurts your target, but it hurts you too.
KLEIN: Well, that`s one of the really insidious part of super PACs
because you don`t have to put your name on it. We always used to make fun
of "I`m Mitt Romney and I approve prove this message." You know, there
were skits on "Saturday Night Live" about that. But it was a valuable
And I noticed that Ron Paul is still doing it on his negative adds
which has been pretty brutal.
O`DONNELL: He has the courage of his negativity.
KLEIN: Boy, the Ron Paul campaign against Rick Santorum has been
brutal in this state and kind of hilarious. Rick Santorum, I mean, OK.
O`DONNELL: Rick, where do you -- by the way, do you have information
about how much Mr. Adleson is prepared to pour into the super PAC?
TYLER: I don`t.
O`DONNELL: What do you make of these reports that say he could put 20
TYLER: I read the same thing that others did.
O`DONNELL: And you hope it`s true.
O`DONNELL: And if it is, or even half that is true, some fraction of
that is true, that mean that the Gingrich candidacy can stay alive beyond
South Carolina, no matter what the results are.
TYLER: I think we have made a substantial buy. I think this maybe
the single largest buy in South Carolina political history. You just went
through it. I assume it is.
O`DONNELL: It`s astronomically high.
TYLER: Off the charts. Let me just say, I think these super PACS are
ridiculous. I think we should return all the funding to the candidates and
let the candidates raise the money and put their name on it, just like you
said. I`m in agreement with that.
O`DONNELL: This is as good as it gets. A guy running a super PAC
comes on television to tell America I think super PACs are ridiculous.
TYLER: These are the rules, though.
O`DONNELL: So you got a gun because that guy coming into your store
has a gun.
TYLER: That`s the way it works.
KLEIN: You know, Rick Perry, who has not done a single interesting or
intelligent thing during this whole campaign, finally has done something
smart by making fun of this whole thing, with his ring tone, you know,
Romney saying I love firing people. That may play. Southerners have a
sense of humor.
O`DONNELL: It`s the best joke of this show tonight, his ring tone.
Rick Tyler and Joe Klein, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
TYLER: Good to be here.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, big changes in the White House and a new book
about life inside the White House, with a special focus on the Obama
marriage. And later, the very LAST WORD before voters go to the polls here
in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank, once
again, Bill for his extraordinary service, but also his extraordinary
friendship and loyalty to me. It`s meant a lot. I want to congratulate
Jack on his new role. I know he`s going to do an outstanding job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Bill Daley is out and Jack Lew is in as President Obama`s
third chief of staff in three years, and his first chief of staff not from
Chicago. Jack Lew, who currently serves as budget director, will
officially take over at the end of the month.
Joining me now are national affairs editor for "New York Magazine" and
MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann and political columnist for
Salon.com Steve Kornacki.
Gentlemen, what do we make of the White House switching to a chief of
staff during an election year who has no presidential campaign experience?
Daley does. Daley has been in real presidential operations on the
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: I think the campaign that Daley has
experience with -- or the one campaigns that he has experience with would
be 1996. I think what this is a lagging indicator of is that the White
House has sort of learned that the model to follow to get re-elected for
Obama in 2012 is not the same model to follow that Bill Clinton used in
That`s why Daley was brought in. It was going to be triangulation.
It was going to be we`re going to do olive branches and work with Congress.
And I think you saw that shift at the time of the debt ceiling, where now
it`s going to be confrontation with Congress. It`s going to be a
recognition that the Republicans are both unwilling and incapable of
working with the Democratic White House right now.
I think this is sort of a lagging indicator of that.
O`DONNELL: John, the Clinton model in `96 was, first of all, pray
that Colin Powell doesn`t run, and then do everything can you to help Bob
Dole get the nomination. Is that going to work this time?
JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Clearly not. I actually think
that the `96 -- Bill Daley`s experience in presidential campaigns was not
primarily in 1996. It was in 2000, when he was Al Gore`s campaign chairman
and worked very closely with Bob Shrum to run a very populist campaign in
the latter part of Al Gore`s campaign.
So he was secretary of Commerce in 1996, and had a much more direct
role in running a presidential campaign in 2000. I think Steve is right
about the kind of politics that the White House thought it was going to
practice going forward with Daley as chief of staff.
I do think that what this signals is the fact that there was a lot of
disenchantment on both sides of that relationship, and that it didn`t work.
From the beginning of the time that Bill Daley came in until now, he never
established I think a very close relationship with the president. I think
there was tension between the people on the president`s re-election
Not that Bill Daley did not get along well personally with David
Axelrod, David Plouffe. But I think they had different ideas about how the
politics should proceed. I think that it was an ill -- a star-crossed
relationship from day one. I do think that what Jack Lew looks like to me,
is like -- to go back to 1996 again, Bill Clinton bringing Leon Panetta,
someone who is primarily going to be there to run the White House while
leaving the politics out to others on the campaign trail, and have Jack
Lew, more or less, stay out of the picture.
O`DONNELL: Leon Panetta, one of the best White House chiefs of staff
ever, came from Jack Lew`s current job, came from budget director.
KORNACKI: And a very similar character.
O`DONNELL: He had also been an elected official himself as a member
of the House of Representatives. He had a really wide range of experience
for a budget director.
Clearly, this was done today as a -- as kind of a dump, knowing that
it would be drowned out. It would be -- we couldn`t get to it until, what,
45 minutes into the show, because it`s New Hampshire primary eve, right?
That`s why you picked to day, right, Steve?
KORNACKI: No, sure. Like I said, I think it`s something that just
sort of confirms what we`ve already known and what we`ve known for a few
months now about the direction this White House is going for 2012.
It is kind of fitting I guess, because we`re at the starting line of
the Republican primary season now. This is what the White House is going
to sort of be putting out for the -- for the general election campaign.
But yes, I don`t think it`s actually that significant because we already
knew the direction they`re going.
O`DONNELL: I will say this about actual governing, which, by the way,
still will occur during this election year. A White House chief of staff
who has been the budget director understands what every single supplicant
is saying who comes to him or her saying, we need this, we need that. They
can actually have a real discussion, which saves everybody else in the
White House an enormous amount of time, which could be a valuable thing in
the re-election year.
Jack Lew will cover governing issues in the staff, in the White House,
and let the campaign people do their thing.
HEILEMANN: I think this makes very clear that there`s a distinction
between Chicago and Washington for the president. And there was -- you
know, there was some kind of pretend thing going on for a while where they
were going to try to run the campaign from Chicago, but there was also
going to be a lot of stuff going on inside the White House.
I think now you have a White House that David Plouffe accepted is
largely focused on what little governing there is going to be in 2012, and
a Chicago operation that is going to be focused like a laser beam on
getting him reelected. That`s where the energy is going to come.
O`DONNELL: That`s it for Chicago and Washington. We`re going to get
back to New Hampshire after this break. Steve and John, just hang in
Coming up, predictions. How long will the Republican campaign go on?
We hope it goes on for a long time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I love this country and we`re going to do our very best to do
everything we can to keep America strong and free together. You`re going
to make a big statement tomorrow. Let`s take it to the next state after
New Hampshire, giving the boost I need, I hope. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We`re back with Steve Kornacki of "Salon" and John
Heilemann of "New York Magazine." John, quickly, Jodi Kantor`s book -- the
latest inside the White House book, talking about the Obama marriage,
tensions with Rahm Emanuel, any political affect from that kind of book
HEILEMANN: Well, I think the timing of it is unfortunate for her.
She looks like she has some real news in this book. And some of the stuff
that`s been published in the "Times" could have made a huge impact, were
not coming out right at this moment when all politics is Republican.
O`DONNELL: Yes, she`s getting drowned out by the New Hampshire
Steve, give me predictions. What are you thinking about? What is
going to it look like, especially, second, third, fourth tomorrow.
KORNACKI: You mentioned earlier the Michael Dukakis 1988 example.
This I think is the least consequential presidential primary in New
Hampshire, at least since 1988.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
KORNACKI: But here`s where I think there could be a consequence, and
it doesn`t really have anything to do with who is going to rocket out of
here and suddenly be a contender. It has to do with this: at some point I
think in the next decade, there is going to be a reckoning, where the
national Republican and the conservatives -- the Tea Party Christian
conservative activist, who now hold sway in it, look at New Hampshire and
realize this state plays an outsized roll in winnowing our presidential
field every four years. And this state is far too secular. It is far too
independent friendly. And it is far too friendly to moderates.
And for that matter, it is far too friendly to the paleo-conservative,
Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan wing of the party, forces that all of the national
conservatives want to marginalize. New Hampshire accentuates their impact.
And it marginalizes people like Mike Huckabee.
So if Jon Huntsman comes out of here tomorrow -- let`s say he takes
second. That`s totally plausible. I don`t think the story is that Jon
Huntsman suddenly surges and becomes a contender. I think the story is
national conservatives look at it and say, you know what? New Hampshire,
your time has passed.
O`DONNELL: Jon, is there a better laboratory for Republicans to use?
HEILEMANN: I don`t know. You know, I think if you take collectively
Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, that gives you a pretty good split on
the different forces within the Republican party, and regionally speaking.
I`ll just go -- Steve went way up here into the high brow. I`ll go
down to the low brow.
O`DONNELL: Please. That`s why you`re here.
HEILEMANN: Look, if Jon Huntsman does come in second -- to me, there
is an audience of one for this primary. That is Jon Huntsman senior, a guy
who the Huntsman campaign counted on to write a big, big check, tens of
millions of dollars to their super PAC that would keep him -- make him a
He has not done that over the course of the last six months. Many
people speculate about why.
O`DONNELL: What kind of father -- come on. You have casino guys
dumping the chips on Newt and here`s this father.
HEILEMANN: Here`s the question: if Jon Huntsman comes in second place
tomorrow and stages a big surprise, does Jon Huntsman senior write a 10
million dollar check to the Huntsman super PAC so that Jon Huntsman can
become a big player on he air in South Carolina and Florida?
It doesn`t make him the nominee, but it makes life very difficult for
Mitt Romney if 10 million dollars of negative adds get dropped on t his
head in South Carolina and Florida. Now he`s getting hit not just from the
right, but from his left, and getting hammered on the air by that kind of
That would be a potential game changer going forward, because Romney
has not had that -- had to take that kind of --
KORNACKI: -- a better use for the 10 million dollars from Jon
KORNACKI: Pay every single Republican voter to forgot that Jon
Huntsman worked for President Obama. Then maybe he has a chance in the
2012 Republican party.
O`DONNELL: What about Florida? How available is Florida to any
challengers against Romney?
HEILEMANN: Look, you must have money in Florida to compete, as you
know. This is the first big state. And there are big media markets,
multiple media markets, expensive media markets. If -- there has got to --
someone has to be beat Mitt Romney in South Carolina. If a conservative or
Jon Huntsman -- I don`t think that is that likely. If a conservative
emerges in South Carolina and beats Mitt Romney, there`s going to have to
be a flood of money into his coffers.
Rick Santorum doesn`t have that money. Newt Gingrich doesn`t have
that money right now. If they get a bunch of money between -- they have
about 12 days or so between South Carolina and Florida. If a bunch of
money flow in, that`s the only way that they can be viable against Mitt
Romney there, because Romney has a lot of money and a lot of forces on the
ground in Florida.
O`DONNELL: Steve, Romney has a big lead in the latest South Carolina
poll. So how do we define beating Mitt Romney? Can you beat him in South
Carolina the way Bill Clinton beat Paul Tsongas here, come in a very --
KORNACKI: No, because this was the first contest in 1992. This is
the third --
O`DONNELL: By South Carolina, you actually have to beat someone by
KORNACKI: Romney will already put together the one-two punch that`s
alluded every Republican candidate before this. If he can go down to South
Carolina, where it`s 60 percent Evangelical Christian, where he only got 15
percent in 2008, that is like John McCain in 2008. A win is a win is a
HEILEMANN: If Mitt Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina,
the race will be --
O`DONNELL: I`m not going to let you finish that sentence. We have to
keep this race alive. You`re done. I don`t want to have to --
HEILEMANN: I won`t say over. It just will be very, very hard for
O`DONNELL: Don`t even say -- Steve Kornacki of "Salon" and MSNBC
political analyst Jon Heilemann, we`ve got to keep this race going. Thank
you both for joining me tonight.
A reminder, our prime time coverage of the New Hampshire primary
begins at 6:00 p.m. eastern.
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.
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