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PoliticsNation, Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Guests: Erin Mcpike; Bob Francine; James Grimaldi; Dick Harpootlian, Karen Bass, Joe Neal, Gilda Cobb-Hunter

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m Al
Sharpton.

It`s been a wild day in campaign 2012. And that`s our lead tonight. The
showdown in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich has some momentum there. But
today his ex-wife, Marianne, did an interview with ABC, and she dropped
this bombshell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE GINGRICH, NEWT GINGRICH`S SECOND EX-WIFE: I said to him, Newt,
we`ve been married a long time. And he said, yes, but you want me all to
yourself. Callista doesn`t care what I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What was he saying, do you think?

MARIANNE GINGRICH: He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: He wanted an open marriage?

MARIANNE GINGRICH: Yes, that I accept the fact that he has somebody else
in his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: And you said?

MARIANNE GINGRICH: No. No. That is not a marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: "The Washington Post" also interviewed Marianne Gingrich today
revealing even more secrets about Newt. Later, Gingrich appeared at an
event in South Carolina with his wife, Callista, standing by his side. And
he even brought his grandson out on the campaign trail today.

There were other major events of the campaign today. We learned the
surprising news that Mitt Romney did not win the Iowa caucus. Rick
Santorum did. That news shattered Romney`s claim of inevitability. A few
hours later, Rick Perry dropped out of the race and threw his support
behind Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have come to the conclusion that
there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign. Therefore,
today, I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for
president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And two polls released today show Newt surging ahead of Willard
in South Carolina by as much as six points. But on what should have been a
banner day, Newt was forced to address his past yet again. The question
is, will it stop what is clearly a Newt surge in South Carolina?

Joining me from South Carolina is Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the
Democratic party of South Carolina and in Washington, James Grimaldi, staff
writer for "the Washington Post." He interviewed Marianne Gingrich and for
that interview, it ran today in "the Washington Post." And he spoke with
her this morning. Thank you both for joining me.

DICK HARPOOTLIAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: You`re
welcome.

JAMES GRIMALDI, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you, Al.

SHARPTON: James, what stuck out most in your interview with Marianne?

GRIMALDI: Well, the thing that jumped out at me was the fact that he asked
her for a divorce a day before flying to a conference entitled "the demise
of the American culture" in which he was extolling family values and
criticizing liberal politicians for their family values and their lack of
religious values. So that was one striking contradiction.

The other was, I think, the deep pain that Mrs. Gingrich felt as any spouse
might feel when she learned that her husband had been having an affair
while he was in office and unknown to her at the time.

SHARPTON: Now, so this is not just a story of just a marriage. This is a
story of hypocrisy because you are saying that she said he actually was on
his way to a family values forum preaching family values and preaching
conservative values while, in fact, he was asking his wife for an open
marriage?

GRIMALDI: Right. You can watch that speech on c-span. We`ve got a link
on it off of our story. And he uses God 11 times, family 11 times. He
talks about the creator and values all throughout that speech. And yet he
had just the day before had asked his wife for divorce.

And then over the course of the next month as he continued to give those
kinds of speeches, he brought up this idea of keeping his outside
relationship, his relationship outside of his marriage while he kept his
marriage going. Something that Mrs. Marianne Gingrich did not want to do.
In fact, the phrase was essentially what she also told ABC news. What she
said was that`s not a marriage. You know, you can`t have more than one
wife in a marriage.

SHARPTON: Why does she come forward now? Some are questioning the timing
of this.

GRIMALDI: Well, it`s an interesting question. You know, a source tells me
that she thought this is -- the interview may have actually run after the
South Carolina primary, not before. You know, she had been, sources tell
me in discussions with two networks, CBS "60 minutes" and ABC`s Brian
Rothstein. She ended up choosing the Brian Rothstein to do the interview.
She sat down for two hours earlier this week, and she had been under the
belief that it was going to run after the primary. But when drudge report
got a hold of it last night, ABC decided they couldn`t hold it and they are
putting it on TV this evening.

SHARPTON: Let me go to you, Dick. Will this stop Newt`s surge? Let me
show you why I`m asking. Today, two very well known far right Republicans
are conservatives, I should say, say this won`t matter at all. Rush
Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. Let me show you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: I got a great note from a friend
of mine. So Newt wanted an open marriage. BFD, at least he asked his wife
for permission instead of just cheating on her. That`s a mark of character
in my book. Newt is a victim.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They, thinking that by
trotting out this old Gingrich divorce interview that`s old news and it
does feature a disgruntled ex, claiming that it would destroy a campaign,
all this does, Sean is incentivize conservatives and independents who are
so sick of the politics of personal destruction. Their target in this
case, Newt, he is now going to soar even more because we know the game now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: He`s going to soar even more. What do you think, Dick.

HARPOOTLIAN: You know, Al, it pains me to do this, and I want you to
destroy this tape after I say this. But I have to agree with Rush Limbaugh
and Sarah Palin. I don`t think this is going to hurt him here. And let`s
remember here. Let`s look at recent history.

Last year, when our governor, Nikki Hailey was running in a very contested,
very tough Republican primary, two guys came forward and said they had an
extra marital affair with her recently. Not only did it not hurt her, she
went up ten points in the poll and some people credit those attacks and
those revelations with her winning the primary.

This is not new news. And while people may wonder or criticize Newt for
cheating on his wife, Mitt Romney won`t reveal his income taxes so, we
don`t know whether he`s been cheating on us. I think those issues, the
personal issues, are going to get deflected this year. Ever since Jennifer
Flowers in 1992 with Bill Clinton, they become less and less important. I
think Newt is on a trajectory to win here. I talked to a number of
Republicans today with Perry getting out and --

SHARPTON: That`s what I want to ask you. How important, because I agree
with you. Those are the real issues. How important is Perry getting out?
Let me show our viewers some of what Perry said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our
country. We`ve had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have.
And Newt is not perfect, but who among us is? The fact is, there is
forgiveness for those who seek God. And I believe in the power of
redemption, for it is a central tenet of my Christian faith.

I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative
reformer. The ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement.
The courage to tell those Washington interests to take a hike if that`s
what`s in the best interest of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Dick, is that going to have impact on Republican voters? Will
that help Newt win Saturday?

HARPOOTLIAN: Absolutely. Not because so much that he`ll get Perry
supporters because there isn`t that many of them. But, it is the
culmination of a series of events since the debate on Monday night when
Romney refused to -- he flubbed the question on income taxes. He then said
that his $400,000 in speaking fees was inconsequential income in a
statement where people -- the average wage is $32,000. He now -- yesterday
revealed he had money in the Caymans. This is sort of Richie rich image of
him that`s just gotten him in big trouble. Not one of us.

And this endorsement by Perry, there are a lot of people out there, many
Republicans I talked to at a coffee shop or I see in a restaurant. I say
who your voting for on Saturday. Most of them are sort of earlier -- last
week we`re saying, well, probably Romney. They are moving over to Newt.

And they are moving over to him because they see fire in his belly and
somebody that will fight for what they believe in. Now he`s got a lot of
baggage, but they are looking at Romney and saying, this guy, he doesn`t
have a fire in his belly. And they see somebody that will fight for what
they believe in. Now, he`s got a lot of baggage. But there, they are
looking at Romney and saying this guy, he has not a fire in his belly.
He`s not comfortable in his own skin. He`s got all the awkwardness of
somebody who is trying to proclaim he`s one of us but really just a rich
guy.

SHARPTON: Now Dick, let me show you this poll to really support what you
are saying. Pre-debate, Romney was at 37 percent and Gingrich was at 22
percent. This is prior to Monday night`s debate. Post debate, Romney went
down to 31 percent and Gingrich went up to 26 percent. Does that mean a
lot is rising on tonight`s debate?

HARPOOTLIAN: Absolutely. I think this is going to be the political
equivalent of the thrill in Manila. I mean, I think if Romney doesn`t --
he`s got to do more than just rope a dope to follow the metaphor. He`s got
to get out there. He`s got to score points on Newt. Or if he comes across
as the stumbling, bumbling guy he was on Monday, he`s out of this race, out
of South Carolina.

And then if you pointed out a moment ago, he lost Iowa. We now know. He
loses South Carolina and then goes into Florida. He could -- this thing is
going to go the distance. And I`m not sure he`s got -- again, he doesn`t
relate well. People don`t -- George W. Bush, people said they voted for
him because he`s a guy they`d like to have a beer with. I mean, Mitt
Romney is a guy when they see him is someone that they`d like to have pate
and champagne with.

SHARPTON: Well, just to stream out -- Yes, go ahead.

GRIMALDI: I want to add something if I could, Al. You know, the
resurgence of Mr. Gingrich here in this race may actually be the reason
that Marianne Gingrich wanted to come forward. She was not trying to
target him or torpedo his campaign. I think she basically told me this
idea -- the inevitability that he probably is going to survive South
Carolina, whether it will be first or second, and the fact he`s going to go
into Florida means he`s going to continue to be a candidate. The idea that
his second marriage is going to be out there without any discussion
happening and her concern and there`s some legitimacy, I think, to this
that she was being tarnished by supporters of Newt that somehow she was at
fault for the failure of this marriage. She felt it was inevitable and
unavoidable that she`d have to do an interview. She wanted to do it sooner
rather than later and get it out there and be over with and then not talk
about it again.

SHARPTON: In fact, she did say in all fairness some nice things to you
about Newt.

GRIMALDI: She did. Yes, no. She was a supporter of Newt. She was a
strong backer of I think, you know, his ideas, his policies. She felt that
she was a true partner with him when he was speaker of the house. And
that`s why I think that Mr. Limbaugh is mistaken when he says that he asked
for permission. She had no idea that he had decided to take up with this
young staffer in the United States capitol.

SHARPTON: Alright. Dick and James, both, thank you. And Dick, just for
note, the thrill in Manila was where they did not do the rope a dope. Rope
a dope was rumble in the jungle, but -- I`m an Ali fan.

HARPOOTLIAN: Damn it. I screwed up my sports metaphors, Al, and you had
to correct me. You could just let it go.

SHARPTON: Yes, I could have done that.

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: Ahead. The president was on the road fighting for fairness
today. As Willard Romney was in South Carolina fighting off questions from
the 99 percent. It didn`t go well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what? America is right
and you`re wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Wow! And Newt wasn`t talking about food stamps presidents with
me a few years ago. We`re live in South Carolina on how race is playing
out with two days to go.

And I mentioned the big voting mess in Iowa. Willard`s no longer the
winner. He`s very quiet. I don`t hear anything. I want to know where all
the right wing outrage is.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: As the Republicans go at it, President Obama`s gearing up for
re-election. Big news on his strategy out today. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The number one thing we now
know is when this becomes a two-person race that Romney has a huge problem
because he`s too liberal for most Republican members.

ROMNEY: I see the president is in Florida today speaking. Guess where
he`s going to be giving the speech. Fantasy land. Yes. He may speak into
speaker Gingrich down there in fantasy land.

NEWT GINGRICH: The only reason that Governor Romney is ahead right this
minute is because the conservatives are split three ways.

ROMNEY: The speaker was talking about all the jobs that he helped create
in the Reagan years. The idea that people in Washington somehow think they
are responsible after they`ve been there for two years for creating
millions of jobs, it`s the kind of fantasy that happens. If you`ve been
there too long --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Get the idea these guys don`t like each other? Newt and Willard
have battled on taxes. They`ve battled on social issues. They`ve battled
on character. This is personal. And tonight, they`ll go face to face for
the last time until the primary on Saturday. What may hang in the balance
is who wins the South Carolina primary. What can we expect to see? Let`s
find out from our next guest.

Joining me now live from South Carolina is Erin Mcpike from the "Real Clear
Politics." And Bob Francine, the king`s feature syndicated columnist who
has covered Newt Gingrich for years. Thank you both for joining me.

BOB FRANKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Good evening.

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Erin, you are down there. What do you expect to see tonight?

MCPIKE: Just as you said, a big fight between Newt Gingrich and Mitt
Romney. They`ve been going at each other. Mitt Romney`s finally starting
to talk about Newt Gingrich in his stump speech which he hadn`t done in
about a month. And I think we`re also going to see a little bit about Newt
Gingrich`s three marriages come up tonight. As you know, another network
had an interview with his second wife, Marianne, in which she bashes him
for essentially asking her if she would be open to an open marriage with
him while he was carrying on an affair with his now wife, Callista.

But, you know, I think, Al, that we`re seeing a lot of overconfidence from
the Gingrich campaign. He was talking today at an event in Walterboro,
South Carolina, and saying that if he wins here In South Carolina on
Saturday, that he thinks he`ll be the Republican nominee. It`s the kind of
language that we heard from him in early December when he was rising in the
polls, expecting to be the Republican nominee. And when he gets
overconfident like that, he runs into some trouble. But, you know, when
Newt - excuse me -- Mitt Romney is under fire, he also has some
difficulties. So I think we`ll see a lot of sparks flying between the two
of them tonight.

SHARPTON: Now Bob, what about Mr. Willard Romney? How will he be handled
by Newt and Rick Santorum who we found out today looks like he won the Iowa
caucus.

FRANKEN: Well, he was probably talking to his consultants in the Cayman
islands to find out more about that. But I suspect that he is going to be
prepared, as prepared as his staff can make him, be prepared to answer
questions about that. It would not surprise me, and you have to know that
I have not had any discussions with the candidates about their strategies.
It would not surprise me in this debate if Mitt Romney makes a promise to
release his tax forms. And it would not surprise me if Newt Gingrich is
the one who initiated a discussion about the interview with his second
wife.

In other words, that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. It
would not surprise me to see that at all. It would also not surprise me to
have Rick Santorum spend an awful lot of time talking about his family and
his approach toward family values and this kind of thing. As for Ron Paul,
he`ll probably just take on the federal reserve like usual.

SHARPTON: Now what about Rick Santorum, Erin? He`s got a big -- he lost a
big opportunity to have momentum had he been declared the winner that
night. It is arguable from his supporters that New Hampshire might have
been a little different. South Carolina might have been different. Can he
get back into play tonight?

MCPIKE: We`ll have to see what his strategy is in tonight`s debate. But
as you know, he`s starting to get some endorsements from social
conservatives, from family values conservatives who are saying he is the
best one in the race on those issues. I think he might talk about Newt
Gingrich`s marriage himself by saying he`s been married to the same woman
on his life and try to bring up Newt Gingrich`s personal life to make some
contrast with himself.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you this, Bob. You mentioned taxes. And I think
that`s going to be a -- clearly an issue that has already been raised.
National review came out today, the national review board, came out urging
Romney to release his taxes.

In a statement today we know that should Romney become the nominee, he will
be criticized over the sources of his wealth and will have to effectively
respond. And they go on to say he should release his taxes. We heard a
commitment from Newt Gingrich that he would release his taxes. Has he done
that, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, not that I`m aware of, but Newt Gingrich apparently is
making the point that he paid 31 percent rate for his income. Strikes me
as a little high, actually, unless he`s counting everything, Social
Security, state taxes, property taxes, et cetera, et cetera.

But Mitt Romney is the one who sort of is tarnished, if I can use that
word, with his wealth. It`s kind of hard to really think of that as a
concept, but here is a man who apparently approaches politics as some sort
of no bless oblige and now he`s being dragged into the real world and the
release of his tax forms, I could see him wanting to do it now so it isn`t
an issue later.

SHARPTON: Well, he had said, I believe at one point on Thursday, it would
be dramatic if he released them during the debate tonight and challenged
Romney to do it. Unlike you, I haven`t talked to anybody, but it would be
something interesting.

But, Erin, let me go back to you. You keep bringing up the interview with
the second wife. In the segment before you, I talked to people there who
say they don`t think it`s a big issue. Nikki Haley was charged with having
affairs and she won. And that today, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin came
out and said it was going to backfire and help Newt.

MCPIKE: That may be, but the fact of the matter is, as far as Newt
Gingrich is concerned, he has admitted to those affairs whereas Nikki
Haley, those affairs were likely not true and she said as much.

Now, I`ve talked to some voters who said it`s all in the past. Everyone
deserves some forgiveness. But, there are a lot of social conservatives
who really vote on their religion and don`t like these issues. I think the
big test is now that he`s surging in the polls, how it plays out in South
Carolina on Saturday. And honestly, we don`t know until we see the vote on
Saturday.

SHARPTON: Bob, what does Newt have to do on Saturday to stay in this? You
know him well. You have covered him for years. Does he have to win? Does
he have to come close? If so, how close?

FRANKEN: Well, I think that he has to make a credible showing. I really
don`t have a numerical figure here. But probably fairly close. But he`s
already saying he`s going on to Florida which has its own variation of
wackiness.

So, first he`s going to go to North Carolina. Apparently it would be
phenomenally important for him if he were able to knock off Mitt Romney.
But, assuming he comes in a close second and he gets most of that
conservative vote, then he can make the argument that he is the clear
alternative for all those people who really desperately in the Republican
party want ABM, which "Anybody But Mitt."

SHARPTON: Erin Mcpike and Bob Francine, thank you for your time tonight.

MCPIKE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead. The Obama re-election is off and running. He`s hitting
the road with a message of fairness. Big news tonight.

Plus, just how is Newt`s racial politics playing out? We`re live in South
Carolina. And occupy anger. Willard loses his cool. It was telling.
Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: You never really know a person until you see them under
pressure. And it looks like Willard Mitt Romney can`t handle the heat. He
was responding to a question on what he`d do for the 99 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is a great nation because
we`re a united nation. And those who try and divide the nation as you are
trying to do here and as our president is doing are hurting this country
seriously. The right course for America is not to divide America. You
know what? You know what? America`s right and you`re wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Willard just couldn`t keep his cool when someone disagreed with
him. Makes me think back to this moment in August.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When you`re talking about civility, how is your vice
president calling us terrorist?

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Sir, look, I`ll explain right now.
He did not call you guys terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He said we were acting like terrorists.

OBAMA: No, what he said was for us to be willing to take the economy to
the brink was irresponsible. And it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, the President certainly didn`t agree with those people, but
he listened to what they had to say, didn`t raise his voice. That`s what
leaders do. They stay cool under pressure. More tales from the trail.
That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Helping those businesses compete and win. Ultimately, that`s how
we`re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where
responsibility is rewarded and where anybody can make it if they try.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Make no mistake about it. The
presidential race is on. Today, President Obama unveiled the job
initiative in the key state of Florida. Days before GOP candidates turn
their attention to that state. His campaign is also out with this first ad
of this campaign. Hitting the air waves in six states. And that`s not
all. Following his state of the union next Tuesday, the President will
take his message to five key battlegrounds. And as he pushes this notion
of fairness, at least one republican is selling his own message. Except
it`s, well, unbalanced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What will you do to support the 99 percent seeing as you
are part of the one percent.

ROMNEY: Let me tell you something. America is a great nation because
we`re a united nation. And those who try and divide the nation as you are
trying to do here and as our President is doing are hurting this country
seriously. The right course for America is not to divide America. You
know what? America is right and you`re wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: No, Willard, you`re wrong. And if it were enough that you pay a
lower rate of taxes than a secretary, today we`re learning more about all
the money you have stashed offshore. "The Wall Street Journal" reports
that you may be parking those millions in the Cayman Islands to avoid
paying, I`m quoting them, an obscure but hefty tax as much as 35 percent.
Interesting. But what`s more interesting is your campaign`s response that
you, quote, "Do not control the investment of these assets," end of quote.
All right. Then you should show your tax returns. I`d love to understand
those investments.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Karen Bass, democrat from California.
Congresswoman, thanks for coming on the show tonight. I want to show you
something that I find pretty surprising.

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Sure.

SHARPTON: Despite the poster child for unfairness, Willard Mitt Romney is
tied with President Obama in the latest "New York Times" poll, I am
confused. Why is that?

BASS: Well, we`ll see. And I don`t believe that that`s going to last very
long. When people understand that Mitt Romney or Willard as you like to
call him, Reverend, he believes that he should function by a different set
of rules. He doesn`t feel that the rules that the average middle class or
working family has to abide by when they pay for taxes applies to him. So,
investments in the Cayman Islands? Everybody knows what the Cayman Islands
is about. He even makes fun of people that are unemployed. He thinks it`s
funny to say that he`s been unemployed or that he has a pink slip. I think
he is completely insensitive and to me, as soon as people understand that,
and I do believe more and more are getting to understand that every day,
we`re going to watch the president soar.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, not only his own personal, but let`s look at his
tax plan which really gives to the rich and hurts the poor. His plan, this
is Willard Mitt Romney`s tax plan. Hundred and forty six thousand average
tax cut for millionaires. Sixty percent tax increase for households with
income below $20,000. So, his plan is absolutely for the top one percent
as those that confronted him today in South Carolina was raising to him.

BASS: You know, when we are going to elect a president, we want to elect
somebody that is going to fight for the middle class. That is going to
fight for working families. How could Mitt Romney do that when he has no
clue how the middle class lives. If he did understand that, he certainly
wouldn`t make comments like, well, I made a little bit of money on my
speaking fees. Three hundred and seventy five thousand dollars is what he
made on his speaking fees? He talks about the unemployed. He has no idea
how the unemployed have to live from paycheck to paycheck.

SHARPTON: Now, Congresswoman Bass, you are in the Congress. And I want
you to help me with two polls that seem to be contradictory, but understand
the politics of the Congress. It may make more sense if you explain it.
One poll says that two-thirds of independents say, President Obama hasn`t
done enough on the economy. Sixty three percent of independents say,
President Obama hasn`t made real progress in fixing the economy. Yet
despite this, another poll says that more Americans blame the Bush
administration for the situation we`re currently in. Forty three percent
say they blame the Bush administration. Only 14 percent. Could it be that
most Americans or most independents feel enough has not been done? Most
Americans understand that the President has inherited a bad hand and has
had a Congress that has really been more obstructionist than anything else?

BASS: Well, I think that`s absolutely the case, which is why I think it`s
going to be great the day after the state of the union that the president
is going to hit the road. Because I think the accomplishments of his
presidency have really been amazing. Now, it`s true the jobless rate
certainly needs to continue to go down, but you know that it`s the lowest
that it`s been in four years, and that we were down 50,000 people in terms
of the number of folks that applied for unemployment this time around.
First time unemployed. So, the economy is getting better. But it`s not
getting better fast enough. There are still four job seekers for every
job. So things do need to get better. But could you imagine what it would
be if we had been continued in the free-fall that the President inherited
where we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs every month in `09?

SHARPTON: Now he has to make that case on the road. He has to tell people
of these accomplishments. How contentious is it in the Congress between
the Tea Party crowd and the right wing of the republican parties and those
-- you remember the progressive caucus. How contentious is to really try
to make something happen. Or can we hope there can be some bipartisan
unity around some of the issues that Americans really care about?

BASS: Well, first of all, the unemployment insurance is going to run out.
The deal that was made at the end of last year is going to run out at the
end of February. So, we absolutely have to come to an agreement. Now it`s
interesting you asked about the Tea Party because, you know, the
Republicans are in their caucus this weekend. And it`s going to be
interesting to see if whether or not the Tea Party members continue to have
a bloc within the Republican Party. But to talk about a party that hasn`t
a clue about the unemployed, you know, 84 percent of people that are
unemployed have at least a high school diploma.

And one of the requirements that they want to put on an individual seeking
unemployment is that they go and receive courses for GEDs. And what we`re
really trying to do, in my office and in Congress, is to put the true face
of the unemployed out for the public because I think that the Republicans
are painting a picture as though an unemployment check is a disincentive
for somebody to go out and find a job when an unemployment check can barely
feed you and pay your rent. So I think that we have to come to a
conclusion at the end of February. And I`m certainly hoping that my
republican colleagues would have learned from the mistakes that they made
in December and not repeat them.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you for coming on the show
tonight. Good to see you.

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

SHARPTON: Ahead, breaking news out of Iowa. The integrity of the vote
there compromised. But silence from the right. And a tough day for the
late night comedians. Rick Perry is finally calling it quits. We`ll look
back on all the gaffes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: With his victory last night in New Hampshire, Mitt
Romney becomes the first non-incumbent republican to win both the primary
there and also at the Iowa caucuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He won Iowa and he won New Hampshire. First time anyone
has ever done that.

ROMNEY: With a slim victory in Iowa and now compounded with a big victory
in New Hampshire, I`ve got a good start.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: We have breaking news. Breaking election news from Iowa.
Willard Mitt Romney is no longer the only republican in history to win Iowa
and New Hampshire. Because it turns out, he didn`t really win Iowa. The
final count came out today and shows Rick Santorum actually won by 34
votes. It turns out the votes from eight precincts are missing. A GOP
party spokesman says, and I`m quoting, "We never got them. We tried to
track them down and for whatever reason, we don`t have them." There`s no
way to really know who won the race. Wow. That sounds serious. Votes not
counted. The integrity of an election in question. The whole Republican
Party must be screaming in outrage. Wait. What`s that? No screaming? No
outrage? Hundreds of votes out the window but no one is complaining? But
I thought they cared about election integrity.

That`s how republicans justified their voter I.D. laws they are pushing in
34 states across the country. Even Iowa Republicans pushed a voter I.D.
law this year which would have had an effect on these caucus results. As
we said all along, there`s no perfect way to run an election. Iowa proves
that beyond any reasonable doubt. In fact, the Iowa results show what a
joke, a wicked joke, are the Republicans attacks on Democrats and voting.

Joining me now live from South Carolina where Republicans are fighting for
voter I.D. laws, even after being blocked by the Justice Department is
South Carolina`s state representative Joe Neal, democrat from Hopkins and
fellow South Carolina State Representative Gilda Hunter of Orangeburg.
Thank both of you -- thanks to both of you for joining me tonight.

STATE REP. GILDA COBB-HUNTER (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thanks for having us,
Reverend.

STATE REP. JOE NEAL (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Joe, do you believe Republicans really want to ensure election
integrity with these voter I.D. laws they are fighting for in your state?

NEAL: Absolutely not. This is about voter suppression. This is about
making sure that what happened in 2008 does not repeat in 2012 where people
of color and independents and the elderly and students turned out in record
numbers. This is about making sure that never happens again.

SHARPTON: Now it`s strange they`re not up in arms about Iowa and really
reversing history. So, it really is suspicious to me when they talk all
this voter integrity. Yet, Gilda, your Governor Nikki Haley has vowed to
fight the Justice Department for blocking her voter I.D. and when we look
at who it impacts. Let`s take a look at the voter either suppression
threat to South Carolina. There are an estimated 217,000 voters without
voter I.D. in your state. Now, when you compare the 217,000 voters with
I.D. to the fraud in the state in the last decade, the last ten years,
there`s been only one convicted case of voter fraud. So, what is this all
about?

HUNTER: Well, Reverend, as my colleague Joe Neal said, it`s all about
making sure that in November of 2012, we don`t have the same results as we
had in November of 2008. I find it very interesting that our governor
would waste precious resources that the state does not have in fighting a
lawsuit against -- about voting -- voter suppression. Quite frankly, as
the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, I can think of a
lot more things we ought to be spending state dollars on as opposed to
fighting a lawsuit. We don`t have that kind of money, and it makes no
sense. I think a part of it is our governor making sure that she maintains
the national profile.

SHARPTON: Now, Joe, The Associated Press using state data found that the
law will hit black precincts hardest. Is that your belief?

NEAL: That`s right. I think that`s the strategy that the Republican
Party has taken nationally. With this particular approach of voter I.D.
because what it does is to target people of color who tend not to have
state-issued I.D.s. The elderly who also would tend to have a lower
quotient of state-issued I.D.s and students. That`s the rationale behind
this. It`s diabolical. But it is well thought out. It`s simply evil. It
simply robs people of their constitutional right to vote.

SHARPTON: Now Gilda, Newt Gingrich who is surging now in your state`s
republican primary has used a lot of racial language in this particular
state primary. You know, talking about food stamps and the food stamp
president. And I was a little taken aback because on Martin Luther King
Day, Monday night, he made a big thing about food stamp president and
blacks and got a standing ovation. But in 2009, he came to my Martin
Luther King Day celebration in Washington, D.C., the day before President
Obama was inaugurated. And this is how he talked about then incoming
president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am thrilled to be here, and I
am thrilled that on this historic week that each of you is here. Tomorrow
we will inaugurate a historic first African-American president of the
United States. It is -- it will be great for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now that was him about 1200 people in the audience. Mostly of
color. He forgot to tell us about food stamps. He forgot to tell us about
how we were not role models to our kids. He praised me for fighting for
education. Is Newt Gingrich playing a cynical race card in South Carolina,
Gilda?

HUNTER: Well, Reverend, I don`t know how cynical it is. I certainly think
it`s a race card. Without question, the language, Speaker Gingrich having
represented Georgia for a number of years knows the language of the south.
He knows the buzz words. And quite frankly, I don`t see how one can come
to any conclusion other than he is playing to a certain element that,
unfortunately, seems to be in the Republican Party. And across this
country.

SHARPTON: Joe Neal, I know from my visits to South Carolina that flying
over the state capitol has been the confederate flag. Is that flag still
there?

NEAL: It is still there.

SHARPTON: And that flag represents the confederacy and represents really
those that were traitors to this country. Gilda, had to your knowledge,
any of the republican candidates denounced the flying of that flag which is
un-American? Have they denounced it to your knowledge?

NEAL: If they have denounced it, Reverend, I have not heard it, and I`ve
been paying pretty close attention to it. If they`ve denounced it, it
certainly has not been denounced here in the state of South Carolina during
the process of this presidential primary.

SHARPTON: So, they haven`t said it during this period if they did it
before. Well, maybe, we`ll see what they say later in the debate. Let me
thank you.

HUNTER: Well, let`s keep hope alive.

NEAL: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Let`s keep the faith, baby.

HUNTER: Right.

SHARPTON: Joe Neal, Gilda Cobb-Hunter, thank you for your both -- both of
you for your time tonight. Ahead.

NEAL: Thank you.

HUNTER: Thank you, Reverend for having us.

SHARPTON: The run is over for Governor Perry. But don`t worry, Governor.
You`ll leave us laughing. And we`re grateful. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Adios, mofo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And with that unique sign-off, let us bid farewell to Texas
Governor Rick Perry`s Texas-sized flop of a presidential campaign.
Remember back in August, Perry swaggered on to the field with the Texas-
sized ego? It turns out he just couldn`t back it up. Today, he suspended
his presidential bid, leaving the stage without making one of his trademark
gaffes. But he cannot escape the tape. Here`s a look at Perry`s long,
strange trip.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: It`s time to get America working again. In one word, tell us what
your campaign is all about. Oops. And I stepped in it. He was far race
to the top. He`s for Obama-care and now he`s against it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nailed it.

BRIT HUME, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Perry really did throw up all over
himself in the debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Rick Perry`s campaign has hit a rock, as in rock bottom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Live free or die, victory or death, bring it or -- that.

Good speech. Those bureaucrats at the Department of Commerce and energy
and education that we`re going to do away with.

I never quit a day in my life. I have never quit in the face of adversity.
And I`m not just about to quit on the future of America. I am going to
stay in this race and stay in this fight.

I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich. Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now in all fairness, Governor, we all particularly those of us
that have run for president, we`ve all made our gaffes and all of us have
done things that we wish we hadn`t done. But we learn to do a little more
than that. But you did leave us with a joke. You actually said today that
Newt Gingrich could transform the country. If you believe that, do me a
favor. Become his spokesperson. Thanks for watching.

I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.

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

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