updated 1/23/2012 10:21:49 AM ET 2012-01-23T15:21:49

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Gail Collins, Joel Sawyer

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Have I only told you that once, Ed?

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Yes, you have. I was telling secrets.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks, man. I`m really looking forward to tomorrow
night.

SCHULTZ: Yes, it is going to be fun and who knows, you never know what`s
going to happen.

MADDOW: The unpredictability at this stage of the race was itself
unpredictable and that makes this all the more fun. Thanks, man.

SCHULTZ: That`s right. You bet.

MADDOW: Thanks at home for staying with us for the next hour.

There have been two Republican presidential candidate debates this week,
right?

The moment that Newt Gingrich and his supporters are most excited about is
the very start of last night`s debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN: Mr. Speaker, I want to start with that this evening. As
you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC news, another interview
with "The Washington Post" and the story has gone viral on the Internet.
In it, she says that you came to her in 1999. At a time when you were
having an affair, she says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open
marriage.

Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, but I will.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: I think -- I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of
much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to
attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you
would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Presidential debates are stressful events. They are quasi-high
wire acts, right? For all of the candidates, even in the best of times.

But on the Republican side, attacking the media is like the net under the
high wire. If you ever don`t want to answer the question, just step off
the high wire and fall, happily and lazily in the safe bouncy net that will
always hold you. Yelling at the media, blaming the media, never fails
before a Republican audience.

Even before anybody was taking his candidacy seriously, even before his ex-
wife said on the day of the debate sponsored in part by the National
Organization for Marriage, that Newt Gingrich had asked her for an open
marriage while he was already cheating on her, even before all that happens
-- attacking the media was already Newt Gingrich`s best trick at the
debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GINGRICH: I`m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans
fighting each other.

It`s sad that the news media doesn`t report accurately how the economy
works.

I just want to raise a point about the news media bias.

Everybody in the media.

None of it gets covered by the news media.

I for one and I hope all my friends up here are going to repudiate every
effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: Having him seen -- having seen him fall into that net in all the
previous debates, given that history in all the other debates, the only
thing I don`t understand about what happened last night in this moment of
the Newt Gingrich people are so excited about, the only part of that I
don`t understand is this part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s the question. Would you care to talk about this now?

The reason Mr. Gingrich`s response sounded so awesome is because, for one
thing, yelling at the media is innately satisfying, right? But also, it`s
true there is nothing inherently newsworthy about anybody`s sex life,
marriages, formal relationships, or private sexual behavior. It`s not
inherently newsworthy.

So, to not just seem like you`re trying to make clear the newsworthiness of
why you`re asking somebody about their private sexual morality, you have to
say why it is newsworthy and why it is that you`re not just prying.

So, how about this, how about -- was it hypocritical of you to lead the
impeachment of President Clinton because of his affair with somebody who
worked for him, while you, too, were having an affair with somebody who
worked for you.

Or you can say -- you have admitted to numerous adulterous affairs
including one to the woman to whom you are now married. Your ex-wife
pointed out while you were cheating on her, you were also giving political
speeches accusing Democrats of undermining the institution of marriage.
How do you explain that hypocrisy, sir?

Or you could say, in this campaign, you`ve said you would fight for a
federal ban on same sex couples being allowed to get married. How can you
justify passing government judgment on other people`s marriages when your
own marriages are the kind of ethical mess that was described by your
second wife on ABC news today?

I mean, there is a lot -- you could go on, right? I mean, the point is you
could ask the question a different way, instead of just saying, would you
like to take some time to talk about this?

I mean, nobody`s sex live is anybody else`s business unless they are a
hypocrite, unless they are demagoguing other people`s sex lives to benefit
themselves, proclaiming the comparative moral superiority of their own
sexual mores.

Newt Gingrich bad husband, who cares? But Newt Gingrich hypocritical
family values politician? I care, everybody cares. He`s running for
president, he`s not asking us to share him with Callista, too.

But, you know, even if -- even if CNN inexplicably gave him this out and
put a huge target on their own forehead by not explaining that his
hypocrisy is the issue here, even without raising it, it still a little bit
weird that Newt Gingrich believes he should not have to answer this
question. Because frankly, even people who aren`t hypocrites on issues
like this, in a presidential campaign, get asked stuff like this. Really,
really rude, prurient, provocative questions come up all the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Gennifer Flowers? You know her?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you know her? How would you describe your
relationship? She is a legend and is described in some detail in the
supermarket tabloid, what she calls a 12 year affair with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In recent days, we have learned that four different
women have accused you of inappropriate behaviors. You know that
shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues,
why should the American people hire a president if there are character
issues?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first question goes to Governor Dukakis. Governor,
if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable
death penalty for the killer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you would say if your daughter was ever in a
position where she might need an abortion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: In presidential campaigns, questions like this get asked. They
even sometimes get asked in a competent way.

So, listen, maybe CNN face-planted on the way they asked the question.
Remember the specific question put to Mr. Gingrich was, "Would you like to
respond to that?" The answer was no, duh, right? Seriously, that`s how
you put it to him?

But, eventually, someone will competently ask Newt Gingrich this question
about his arch, arch moralistic hypocrisy. And the question will have to
be answered, which is I hope this campaign never ends. It just finds a way
to disrupt the space-time continuum and go on forever and ever and ever.

Joining us now fresh off the plane from the power and the glory of South
Carolina is "New York Times" columnist Gail Collins.

Gail, it`s good to see you.

GAIL COLLINS, NEW YORK TIMES: It`s good to be here. You want this to go
on forever? Not really, forever, really?

MADDOW: I sort of want this moment in the South Carolina contest to go on
forever. I feel like somebody were either in hyper speed or time has
stopped, because so much is happening all at once and each thing feels like
it`s epic, each thing tells a major story about these candidates, and our
politics and where we`re at.

COLLINS: OK, Rachel, if you really want it to last forever. OK by me.

MADDOW: You disagree, you`re ready for it to be over?

COLLINS: I`m ready for it to move along a little bit.

MADDOW: Really? What do you feel we are stalled on?

COLLINS: We`re not stalled in the South Carolina primary. We`re stalled
on will we have Mitt Romney or not -- that is the sort of basic question,
but I`m always good for a good sex scandal, you know, that`s my point in
life, really.

MADDOW: Do you feel like the inevitability is becoming more inevitable?
Do you feel like it`s the same question?

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: I sort of actually don`t still. I don`t. I truly don`t, because
it`s like at the end it`s like the Idaho caucus will happen, all these
things out there that you have to plan for and they are not popular votes,
and they will happen and Newt Gingrich doesn`t have a clue.

MADDOW: I feel like the reason that Mr. Romney still feels like he`s
gotten the nomination is his to lose because it does not seem plausible for
any of his rivals to actually win.

COLLINS: True that.

MADDOW: So, I mean, does that - if that is the con straining factor on
what we can imagine about the future of this primary, does that mean we
should start thinking outside the box, that we should start thinking that
there will be a third party person, there will be somebody joining late,
there will be some -- I mean, Mitt Romney seems like a bad nominee.

COLLINS: Getting worse and worse.

I find it sort of touching this vision that the Republican wise men are
going to get together in somebody`s basement or something and bring Jeb
Bush into the race and that will save the day! There is nobody out there.
And there is no way, and no.

MADDOW: It`s just done.

COLLINS: I think it`s pretty done but certainly is hanging on longer than
I thought it would be. Who would have thought the Iowa caucus, that Rick
Santorum won the Iowa caucus? That was pretty good, really.

MADDOW: Although at this point, maybe in another two weeks, maybe Mitt
Romney will have won.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: The Iowa Republicans don`t know who won.

COLLINS: No.

MADDOW: They`ve decided that it doesn`t really matter to them, that they
don`t know who won. And so, they said nobody won or cannot be determined
who won. And then the Iowa state Republican Party chairman went on the
radio that day and said actually Rick Santorum won. And then he did a
press conference later in the day and said, no, nobody won.

COLLINS: And then these guys are going to come back in four years and say,
oh, the Iowa caucus must be first even if it`s in December, because we are
such a great proving ground for democracy in Iowa. That`s pretty
wonderful.

MADDOW: Speaker Gingrich`s ex-wife doing an interview about him cheating
on her, lying to her, asking for an open marriage, all the while he was
giving speeches on the sanctity of marriage,. That comes out on the day of
the debate sponsored by the national organization of marriage.

COLLINS: Irony of irony.

MADDOW: And this turned out to be a good thing for him?

COLLINS: Yes, you would almost think looking at the beginning as if he had
hid all those affairs and all those ruined marriages just so that moment
could happen, that it was some great cosmic plan on his part, you know,
that he has been cheating on all these wives, just so at that moment on CNN
he could do. That`s my thought.

MADDOW: He has done it.

Gail Collins, "New York Times" columnist -- when the South Carolina primary
sadly does end, time and the gods of politics will have you to thank for
it. If they had me to thank for it, it would go on forever. Gail, thank
you.

All right. There was a book about how to campaign for president against
Mitt Romney. It was a book written for John McCain in 2008. The man who
is the only person to have ever beaten Mitt Romney in a presidential
campaign is the man who ran the John McCain campaign against him. And beat
McCain -- and, of course, John McCain beat Mitt Romney.

The man who beat Mitt Romney in 2008 is going to join us for the interview
tonight. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Today, of course, is Friday. Tomorrow is Saturday. The South
Carolina Republican primary is tomorrow.

And so, even though you may not be accustomed to turning on MSNBC at 6:00
p.m. Eastern Time on a Saturday, tomorrow you must. Chris Matthews will be
down South with Howard Fineman, and Michael Steele. Gene Robinson who`s
from South Carolina is going to be in Charleston for us. And here in New
York, I`m going to be anchoring, along with Ed Schultz and the Reverend Al
Sharpton and Steve Schmidt, and Lawrence O`Donnell.

Now, Lawrence made a point on the night of the New Hampshire coverage,
which I think is really important and which I think has been unduly
overlooked in the whole 2012 process.

And the point is this: Mitt Romney winning New Hampshire actually needs an
asterisk on it, because Mitt Romney winning New Hampshire was a foregone
conclusion. Not because Mitt Romney is the front-runner, because Mitt
Romney was out ahead or because Mitt Romney had a good campaign, Mitt
Romney winning New Hampshire was a foregone conclusion because historically
speaking, New Hampshire couldn`t have been won by anybody other than him,
because he`s the guy from Massachusetts. The guy from Massachusetts --
whether a Republican or Democrat -- always wins New Hampshire.

In 2004, John Kerry. In 1992, Paul Tsongas. In 1988, Michael Dukakis.
1964, Henry Cabot Lodge. 1960, John F. Kennedy.

When a Massachusetts politician is running for president in New Hampshire,
it is a safe bet that they are going to win in New Hampshire.

There are two only exemptions to this rule. Only two exceptions to the
Massachusetts guy winning in New Hampshire in modern political history.
1980, when incumbent President Jimmy Carter got a primary challenge from
the left, from inside the Democratic Party, from Ted Kennedy, although Ted
Kennedy was from Massachusetts, he did not beat the incumbent president in
that New Hampshire primary. So, that`s kind of an exception, but it was an
incumbent president, so not really.

The only other exception to the Massachusetts guy not winning in New
Hampshire, the Massachusetts guy being surprisingly weak, defying history
to lose New Hampshire, the only other example? Mitt Romney. When he lost
New Hampshire in 2008 to John McCain of Arizona. John McCain cleaned Mitt
Romney`s clock in 2008.

McCain surged from a horrible fourth place finish in Iowa to win in New
Hampshire, beating even the guy from Massachusetts, who always wins New
Hampshire.

Then John McCain went to South Carolina, which is not exactly a John McCain
state and what happened in South Carolina? Not only did John McCain win
there, but his purported big serious, establishment challenger, the
Massachusetts guy, got killed in South Carolina.

Mitt Romney came in fourth place in South Carolina in 2008. He only got 15
percent of the vote. Not only did John McCain beat him but Mike Huckabee
beat him, too. Fred Thompson beat him there. Who? Yes, that Fred
Thompson.

So, put aside all of the coronation stuff, put aside all of the Mitt Romney
inevitability storyline. Say you`ve been in a hyperbaric chamber for the
last year. You have no idea what`s going on. If you just took a snapshot,
look at the presidential race right now, Iowa, first contest appears to
have been won by Rick Santorum. New Hampshire won by the Massachusetts
guy. Whatever, Paul Tsongas, Mitt Romney.

Heading into South Carolina, yes, the Massachusetts, Paul Tsongas, Mitt
Romney guy has the big campaign, and the all the establishment credit, but
last time around, last time South Carolina had the chance to vote on him,
they gave him a buck 50.

He only got 15 percent. He lost to who? He lost to Fred Thompsom.

It`s true that Mitt Romney is the default nominee, that everybody assumes
he has it wrapped up. But we opened the show last night by saying
yesterday was a disastrous day for Mitt Romney, and frankly, today was
worse.

Today, Mitt Romney actually did something on tape if he is the nominee is
going to haunt him all the way through November. This is one of those
issues for him that started small.

Back in June, in the really early days of the full-time seven days a week
campaign, you may remember the Romney campaign making its opening argument,
unveiling what they wanted to be the defining message of the Romney
campaign. They put Mr. Romney in front of shuttered factories, remember,
and in depressed economic locations. They had him talk about how awful the
economy was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he took office, the economy
was in recession, he made it worse. And he made it last longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama did not cause the recession, but he made it worse.

The trouble that Mitt Romney got into this -- into over this was two-fold.
First problem was some of the places he went to as photo-ops to demonstrate
the impact of the economic recession, those places did not want to be
character iced that way and did not appreciate Mitt Romney talking smack
about their towns.

The other part, though, was this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: When he took office, the economy was in recession. And he made it
worse.

He didn`t create the recession, but he made it worse. And longer.

He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.

REPORTER: How can you continue to say that things are worse when we really
they aren`t worse?

ROMNEY: I didn`t say that things are worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was the other problem with the launch. Mitt Romney kept
saying, it was central to his message, that the economy was made worse by
President Obama. And, of course, the economy has not gotten worse under
President Obama. The economy has essentially been thrown out of a 30 story
building and was lying dead on the ground when Barack Obama started his
presidency. The economy has since sort of pulled itself back together and
started to sit up.

Nobody would call this a great economy, but compared how it was, it is
definitely not worse.

But when called out on that, Mitt Romney weirdly denied that he ever said
what he plainly had said over and over and over again. I never said it was
worse. Except all the times I said it was worse. I never said it was
worse.

So, the launch did not go smoothly. But we knew anyway with all the flubs
and the messing it up, that that was his basic message. The economy is
bad, President Obama is bad on the economy and I`m Mitt Romney, will be
better.

That is the basis for his campaign. That is what it boils down to, that`s
why he`s running. Bad economy, President Obama, bad on the economy, Mitt
Romney will be good on the economy.

Since then, that assertion, that justification for his campaign has been
really tested.

Mitt Romney is not campaigning on the basis of his times as Massachusetts
governor. In fact he talks about himself as if that time never even
happened in his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: You have to choose someone who is not been a life-long politician.
For me, politics is not a career. For me, my career was being in business
and starting a business and making it successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Pay no attention to my times as governor and all the other times I
ran for office and failed.

The basis for Mitt Romney`s central claim that he would be better at
dealing with the economy is his private sector experience, right in, his
time in business. Well, Mitt Romney`s time in business was his time at
Bain Capital. And however much the Republican establishment wants to
protect him on that issue, wants to shield his time at Bain Capital from
any criticism, they want to make it an asset only, nothing bad could ever
be said about it.

No matter how much they want to do that, the criticism of his time at Bain
isn`t made up. It`s real, and it`s been around for a long time. And even
though the establishment succeeded in shutting down other Republican
candidates from talking about it, the Republican Party establishment cannot
shut up everybody and the problems with Bain are on mainstream journalistic
journal. I mean, there`s something there. It`s in "The Wall Street
Journal," it`s in "Reuters," it`s in the "Washington Post," it`s in "Tampa
Bay Times." There is stuff to be reported on.

So, since launching his campaign, which is about how great he`ll be on the
economy because of his business experience, real, serious widespread
questions have been raised about that business experience, and whether or
not it`s an asset, whether it makes people more or less likely to vote for
him.

Mr. Romney has also been clumsy to the point of pitiful on addressing the
inevitable questions about how rich that work at Bain made him -- questions
about all of his wealth and what he has done with all his wealth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

Corporations are people, my friend.

Rick, I`ll tell you what? Ten thousand bucks, $10,000 bet?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I`m not in the betting business.

ROMNEY: Oh, OK.

KING: Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking, what was then a
groundbreaking standard in American politics. He released his tax returns.
He released them for not one year, but for 12 years.

And when he did that, he said this, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps
done for show."

When you release yours, will you follow your father`s example?

ROMNEY: Maybe. You know, I don`t know how many years I`ll release. I`ll
look at what our documents are.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: This campaign has been a real test for Mitt Romney. After all of
that, what is the state of Mitt Romney`s core argument? His core argument
why he`s running, economy is bad, President Barack Obama is bad on the
economy, Mitt Romney will be good on the economy.

Where are we on that central justification for why Mitt Romney is running
for president?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM: You`ve also noted that there are signs of improvement on
the horizon in the economy. How do you answer the president`s argument
that the economy is getting better in a general election campaign if you
yourself are saying it`s getting better?

ROMNEY: Well, of course it`s getting better. The economy always gets
better after a recession, there is always a recovery.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Of course, the economy is getting better. This is Mitt Romney
speaking today on the conservative radio host -- radio show that`s hosted
by Laura Ingraham.

Listen to this next part.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

INGRAHAM: Isn`t it a hard argument to make if you`re saying, like, OK, he
inherited this recession, he took a bunch of steps to try to turn the
economy around, and now, we`re seeing more jobs, but vote against him
anyway? Isn`t that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough
contrast?

ROMNEY: Have you got a better one, Laura? It just happens to be the
truth.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: If Mitt Romney does get to be the Republican nominee for president
this year, do you want to know what the ads in the general election are
going to sound like?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

INGRAHAM: He inherited this recession, and he took a bunch of steps to try
to turn the economy around and now we`re seeing more jobs, but vote against
him anyway? Isn`t that a hard argument to make?

ROMNEY: Have you got a better one, Laura? It just happens to be the
truth.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: This is a ready-made campaign ad. Even Mitt Romney agrees
President Obama is turning the economy around and things are getting
better. So vote for Mitt Romney despite that?

What happened to the core justification for why Mitt Romney is running for
president? It and his campaign appear to be collapsing. Collapsing is the
word that the editor in chief of Gallup used today to describe Mr. Romney`s
poll numbers.

Here`s the latest polling out of South Carolina just hours before voting is
due to begin. Newt has opened up six point lead over Mr. Romney in the
Clemson Palmetto poll.

This is what it looks like on the national level. Mitt Romney beginning to
see his poll numbers -- what was that word -- collapse, while Newt Gingrich
is on the rise.

If you ask me, I mean, I think you can`t discount the fact that Newt
Gingrich spent millions of dollars against Mitt Romney in South Carolina
and that matters. But it is also the collapse of the basic justification
for Mitt Romney.

I mean, Newt Gingrich is killing mitt knit in the debates. There have been
two this week. There`s supposed to be another one in Florida on Monday.
Mr. Romney today making sounds about potentially not showing up for the
Monday debate in Florida, the Romney campaign kicking a whole contingent of
press off their campaign plane today. The Romney campaign warning
supporters they expect to lose tomorrow.

In 2008, John McCain kicked Mitt Romney`s butt. This year, none of these
other Republican candidates is John McCain. But could Mitt Romney still be
beaten the same way he was beaten the last time? On a day like today, it
feels more possible than ever.

Joining us next is the man who ran John McCain`s 2008 campaign.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: His involvement in Washington is in my view a perfect example of
why we need to send to Washington someone who has not lived in Washington,
but someone who`s lived in the real streets of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Mitt Romney living in the real streets of America.

Joining us now for the interview is the only person who have ever run a
successful presidential campaign against Mitt Romney, MSNBC analyst Steve
Schmidt. He`s the former senior strategist for the McCain-Palin campaign.

Hi, Steve.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: How are you?

MADDOW: I`m great. I`ve never been happier in my life.

SCHMIDT: You seem ebullient.

MADDOW: The Newt Gingrich returns thing is very exciting to liberals
everywhere.

SCHMIDT: Yes.

MADDOW: Do you think this is a flash in the pan thing and it doesn`t
matter in Florida, it`s all over/

SCHMIDT: George Bush in 2000 was the inevitable Republican nominee despite
the loss in New Hampshire as a function of his strength as a candidate. In
2012, Mitt Romney, I still think is the inevitable nominee but it`s a
function of the other weakness of the candidates and their implausibility
to see them taking the oath of office or standing against President Obama
in the general election on a debate stage.

MADDOW: So when you think about the strength of Mitt Romney as a
candidate, it`s purely relative strength. I feel like he is melting down a
little bit and not handling the stress very well. Do you see it that way?

SCHMIDT: I think that all campaigns that go on to win survive some degree
of near-death experience. They get tested.

New Hampshire was a terrible period, obviously, for President Bush in 2000.
It made him stronger as a candidate. John Kerry went through this in 2004.
President Obama went through this in 2008 during the primaries.

So, I think these experiences will forge a stronger candidate but there is
no doubt this is not the type of week you want to have. A week ago, the
consensus conventional wisdom among every political reporter, you know,
person that works in Republican politics, Mitt Romney was going to win the
South Carolina primary and the race would be effectively over.

And this has entirely changed over the course of the week and it is hard to
imagine scenario where seven days ago you could have pictured like having a
worse week than the one he`s having.

MADDOW: Seven days ago Mitt Romney won Iowa. He had won Iowa. Now, I
mean -- he may be one for three at the end of this weekend, we thought he
would be three-for-three.

What was your McCain`s campaign main strategy against Mitt Romney in 2008?
What did you see as his biggest strength and how did you try to neutralize
it?

SCHMIDT: Well, biggest strength is money, was organization, was resources.
And if you remember that John McCain campaign in the summer of 2007, the
campaign collapsed. John McCain was flying on the middle seat of Southwest
Airlines from BWI up to New Hampshire.

So, the entire campaign for John McCain was based on we have to win New
Hampshire primary. Patience is an under-valued strategic virtue in the
campaigns. And we took advantage of the fight between Mike Huckabee and
Mitt Romney in Iowa, Mike Huckabee knocked out Mitt Romney in Iowa, that
really slowed his momentum in New Hampshire. John McCain was able to win
in New Hampshire, and because Fred Thompson stayed in the race in South
Carolina, we were able to close out the race.

But it`s a very different race in 2012, although Romney still has a
hangover of the problems from the 2008 race. In 2008, he entered the race
as the conservative candidate. He tried to position himself completely and
plausibly as the most conservative person in the race and that gave birth,
I think, to the in-authenticity problem he carries today.

So, that was a major part of the architecture of our campaign against
Governor Romney. But at the end of the day, you know, John McCain won that
race because the issue of the hour was the withdrawal debate about taking
our troops out of Iraq in the middle of the chaos, in the middle of the
surge -- and John McCain, in a move you don`t see very often in American
politics, staked his entire campaign on an unpopular issue, and said I
believe in this to the degree I would rather lose the election than see
this country lose a war in his view.

And I think that had enormous currency in the Republican primary.

MADDOW: The in-authenticity problem that you say carries forward to 2012 -
- I feel like the attacks on Mitt Romney are partly in that same vein,
partly like you saw in 2008, he was a flip-flopper. He`s taking both sides
in every issue. The perfectly lubricated weather vane was the nice phrase
from the Jon Huntsman campaign.

But is there something else that has emerged as a weakness for him? Or do
you think that is still sort of his Achilles heel?

SCHMIDT: If you analogize this to a football game, he`s a quarterback this
week who has shown a propensity to throw a lot of interceptions somewhat
inexplicably. And Mitt Romney`s strongest argument is the inevitability
argument, that I`m the strongest candidate against President Obama, I`m the
mostly likely candidate to win. And some of the mistakes he`s making are
obviously giving people pause around the notion that fact he is the
strongest candidate in November, on the strength of who he is, as opposed
to deficiencies of the other candidates.

MADDOW: How would you go after the inevitability thing specifically, not
just I`d be best against President Obama, but I am the one who is going to
wrap this up so just get out of the way?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think you have to right now you`re going to have to
absorb potentially a loss in South Carolina, Florida will become very
important. Will Florida validate a Gingrich victory if that happens, or
will Florida throw cold water on Gingrich momentum?

You know, I think it will be an interesting -- it will be an interesting 10
days as we move forward to Florida. And we essentially have a long break
as we get ready for what it`s essentially a de facto national primary day.

I think the erratic nature of the Gingrich campaign, I think you saw it
last night. It was an acting performance worthy of Meryl Streep. It`s
just incredible as you`re watching it.

But the melodrama around this, how will that impact the race over the next
30 days, and I think it`s an open question.

But, you know, for my part, I think the notion of a Gingrich nomination is
just totally implausible, in that sense that he`s 100 percent known by the
American people, and he has a staggering unfavorable to favorable ratio in
a wrong direction.

MADDOW: And can still beat Mitt Romney in South Carolina.

SCHMIDT: Perhaps.

MADDOW: Amazing.

Steve Schmidt, MSNBC political analyst, the former senior strategist from
McCain-Palin, I`m really looking forward to being on this V-shaped set with
you tomorrow.

SCHMIDT: It`s going to be an interesting night and I think it`s going to
be a long night. I think they`re going to be counting pretty late
tomorrow.

MADDOW: I think so. And then we get to all watch Florida fill up with
Romney bucks.

SCHMIDT: It will. It`s going to be an intense 10 days in Florida.

MADDOW: Yes. It`s great. So good.

Just a reminder, the coverage of the South Carolina primary here on MSNBC
starts at 6:00 Eastern tomorrow night.

Speaking of South Carolina, did you see the crowds in South Carolina today?
In a week when lots of top tier candidates couldn`t fill a room, this is
the crowd that turned out to see apparently the most popular pseudo-
politicians in the state of South Carolina. Neither of them named Mitt or
Newt or Rick or the other Rick.

That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has
sometimes talked about your presidential campaign as a kind of satire, that
it`s not quite an actual, that it wasn`t quite an actual campaign. That it
was more like the image of what a campaign might be.

And I have to say that in joining together with Colbert, it feels like you
are in fact reinforcing Rachel`s idea that that`s what`s up.

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, I could care
less about Rachel Maddow`s opinion of me and my campaign. That just simply
means she does not know me. And all the people who wanted to criticize and
make fun of my campaign, they don`t know me and I`m -- in my grandfather`s
words, I does not care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He is the former CEO of a mafia-themed pizza chain. He is a
former presidential frontrunner. I really do think he`s an art project and
he does not care what I think! All very admirable qualities.

And I would like to get to know you, sir. You would not think the biggest
crowds in South Carolina politics today would turn out for Herman Cain but
the biggest crowd in South Carolina politics turned out for Herman Cain.
That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Happy, happy birthday Citizens United. You are turning two years
old tomorrow. On January 21st, 2010 the Supreme Court decided in Citizens
United that money is the same as speech and therefore cannot be restricted
in the political process.

Now, in this first presidential election since then, we`re all waiting to
find out what the next ideologically motivated eccentric billionaire
decides, because that as much as anything decides who gets to be the front-
runner for the Republican Party`s presidential nomination. And so happy
freaking birthday, Citizens United.

The birthday of Citizens United was today celebrated with an "Occupy the
Courts` protest across country.

Little Portland, Maine, where it was 26 degrees today, you can see -- there
were one, two, three, I think you can see we figured out, I think it`s 20
people here, maybe more.

I`m starting to think the crowds over Citizens United today actually
rivaled some of the crowds for the South Carolina primary. This, for
example is the crowd that turned out to hear Newt Gingrich today, 25 people
-- so few the Gingrich campaign cancelled the speech.

Here is Rick Santorum packing them in on the USS Yorktown.

Mitt Romney looks like he got a whopper of a crowd, oh my, until you see
the picture BuzzFeed posted, camera angle makes a difference.

Ron Paul faced a giant hangar of empty today in South Carolina.

Because we have also seen sizeable crowds in South Carolina today, Mitt
Romney drew several hundred people at one stop, so did Newt Gingrich in
Orangeburg. We can conclude that the South Carolina primary is sort of a
late bloomer?

But if you wanted to see a big crowd in South Carolina today, you have to
look to a fake campaign. This is the rally today for comedian Stephen
Colbert and the performance artist formerly known as the candidate Herman
Cain.

I long maintained that Herman Cain was an art project. And I maintain it
still even though he denies it.

Herman Cain, if you believe you have been falsely accused of that, if you
were trying to prove you weren`t an art project, this event today, not
helping your case!

Joining us from the middle of the circus in South Carolina is Joel Sawyer.
Joel used to direct Governor Jon Huntsman`s campaign in the state. He
served as former Governor Mark Sanford`s spokesman, and he`s a former
executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party.

Mr. Sawyer, good to have you with us tonight.

JOEL SAWYER, FORMER HUNTSMAN SOUTH CAROLINA STATE DIRECTOR: Hey. Thank
you, Rachel, very much.

MADDOW: I am not there. I am not in South Carolina.

But what I`m seeing from here is a mix of unexpectedly low turnout for
candidate events and also occasionally a giant crowd somewhere.

SAWYER: Right.

MADDOW: Can you give us a sense of the level of enthusiasm here? Is South
Carolina just kind of late blooming in terms of interest in this primary?

SAWYER: Yes, and overall I think it`s kind of high. One thing I would
differentiate. There was a particular conference being held where
organizers told all the campaigns, and I know because I was one of them at
the time, they were expecting between 800-1,000 attendees. I mean, all
week, there`s been 50, 60 people in that particular audience. So, I don`t
know if that`s the best judge.

You know, the candidate forums and candidate events that they held
themselves I think, by and large, have been pretty well-attended. But, you
know, building a political event is an art form, because we know how the
media likes to talk about it. So, it`s always good to have standing room
only. If I think there will be 100 people, I`ll get a room for 80. If I
think there`s going to be 200 people, I`ll get a room for 150.

MADDOW: When you compare how people in the state are turning out to events
and how they are feeling about the campaign, just people you know talking
about how enthusiastic they are to both participate in the campaign and get
out there and to vote tomorrow, how would you measure this year versus
other years?

SAWYER: You know, I think you have to go candidate by candidate. I think
there is right at this point this time, there is a lot of energy behind
Gingrich. I think that there is a considerable amount of energy behind
Santorum actually. You know, Ron Paul always has his pocket of -- we`ll
call them -- very fervent supporters.

Romney, you know, I think you`re going to struggle to find somebody who is
really, really fired up about Romney. I think he`s a candidate that talks
to your head rather than your heart.

But, you know, he`s drawing big crowds at his events, too. I mean, I think
their campaign has done a good job turning people out for the events
they`ve had.

MADDOW: Joel, I know that you watched the debate last night. It`s the
second one this week that was scored heavily in favor of Newt Gingrich,
both of them were this week.

SAWYER: Right.

MADDOW: Today, the Romney campaign started casting doubt on whether or not
they are going to go to the next debate. Monday, in Florida.

You have been a campaign strategist, having seen what happened at the
debates, would you be advising your candidate to not go to the next one?
What`s the risk and benefit there?

SAWYER: Yes, not on a nationally televised debate. I mean, I don`t really
see the upside. If it`s something other candidates committed to, for a
while now, on a nationally televised debate, I really don`t know that I
would do that. I don`t know internally what is going on with the Romney
campaign, but I have a hard time believing on the first debate in Florida,
something that`s going to be nationally broadcast, that they would end up
turning that down.

MADDOW: One of the things that we talked about last night, Joel, was South
Carolina`s reputation for dirty tricks. Today, a new one, e-mails
purporting to be from CNN, that weren`t from CNN, with a nasty abortion
allegation a nasty abortion allegation about Newt Gingrich.

Do we ever get to find out who is doing this kind of thing? I mean, next
year, in some bar somewhere, does some political consultant start bragging
about having to pull that one off so that they get hired by whoever they
want in 2016? Do people ever figure this out?

SAWYER: Well, if the political consultant is smart, they won`t, because
you know, that CNN thing that was pulled up by one that purported to be
from the Gingrich campaign, just about an hour ago, the state attorney
general announced that is he going to launch an investigation of this
particular e-mail. I think it takes it to a little different level because
they are purported to be from groups, you know, misrepresented the identity
of the person sending the email. That`s something that could, I don`t know
about that attorney, but I think that`s something that could potentially
bring some prosecution.

MADDOW: In terms of what you are expecting tomorrow, Joel, the Romney
campaign is essentially telling people they are expecting to lose now. It
sounds like you think that`s warranted, it sounds like Mitt Romney is not
going to come in first now.

SAWYER: Yes, you know, in the political consulting game, we call that
managing expectations. You know, I think it`s going to be an exceedingly
close race. But I think, at this point, my prediction is probably it`s
going to be that Gingrich squeaks it out, just barely.

MADDOW: Joel Sawyer, the former director of Jon Huntsman`s campaign in
South Carolina, former executive director of the state Republican Party --
Joel, thanks for being with us again. It`s nice to have you back.

SAWYER: Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate it.

MADDOW: All right. It is Friday. It has been an amazing week in politics.
The South Carolina primary is tomorrow.

So, naturally, next is a cocktail moment and a useful one, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking, what was then a
groundbreaking standard in American politics. He released his tax returns.
He released them for not one year, but for 12 years. And when he did that,
he said this, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps for show."

When you release your tax returns, will you follow your father`s example?

ROMNEY: Maybe. You know, I don`t know how many years, I`ll release. I`ll
take a look at what our documents are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Tomorrow, South Carolina voters will vote in the Republican
primary. Tonight, it`s Friday. Has there ever been a more appropriate
time for a cocktail moment?

In the week that Mitt Romney showed himself totally unable to handle
questions about his millions, about how he made his millions and where his
millions currently reside and what kind of view they have from their Cayman
Islands home, I thought it would be appropriate to have a cocktail that`s
called the millionaire. OK?

It`s called the millionaire. It is a prohibition era drink. This
particular tweak of the Millionaire Cocktail recipe comes from Employees
Only, which is a bar in New York City I like very much. The Employees Only
bartenders have written a book called "Speak Easy" -- very good cocktail
book -- which has this recipe.

So, the Millionaire Cocktail has one trick in it but it otherwise is pretty
straightforward. The first thing I have to tell you is that I`m going to
do something that I don`t normally do. I`m going to make two drinks
instead of one because of something that I`m going to explain in a minute.
So, to make two drinks, we`re going to need four ounces of bourbon. One --
and I apologize ahead of time that I`m going to make a mess because I have
to go fast. Two drinks, four ounces of bourbon. OK.

Also, 1 1/2 ounces of Gran Marnier. There`s a lot of orange liquors.
We`re supposed to use this one for this one. I don`t know why. Cointreau
has a clear base spirit, and Gran Marnier is brown. That`s how you can
tell if somebody is lying, when they tell you they`re serving you Gran
Marnier and they`re not really.

An ounce of grenadine. You can -- if you can`t get the good stuff, if you
can`t get the kind of, like it doesn`t have preservatives in it, you can
make yourself with pomegranate juice and sugar. It`s not very hard. You
can Google it. It`s safe. It`s not like Rick Santorum.

You need an ounce of lemon juice. And, again, if you get lemon juice from
something other than a piece of fruit that`s commonly known as a lemon, I
will hide under your bed at night and grab your ankles when you wake up in
the morning and terrify you forever. In my other life, I`m a goblin.

All right. An ounce of lemon juice. It`s not that hard.

Now, here`s the thing that freaks everybody out. Pastis, which has a
little licorice flavor, but I don`t like licorice. You have the put the
pastis in it. It`s delicious and it won`t taste the same if you don`t do
it.

And even if you don`t think you like licorice, you should try it. Really.
Grow up. All right. Half an ounce of pastis.

Now, here`s the trick. If you think you were freaked out by the pastis, I
mentioned it`s prohibition era cocktail. What that means is there is in
it, there`s an egg white in it.

OK. I know. So, this is why we have to make two drinks, because it`s
really hard to make half an egg white. And one egg white is enough for two
drinks.

So -- did you see that? That was the yoke. What do I do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get a spoon.

MADDOW: Get a spoon? I could -- you know what I`m going to have to do?

I`m going to have to tell you what to do and not make it because if I shake
it up with the yoke in it, I`m going to be making the millionaire flip.
And you know what that is? That`s a nightmare.

You think I can get it out with a spoon? I don`t think so.

Oh, my God. Wait. Do you have the jerk cam on me? I`m doing the most
difficult thing that ever been done live on television and that isn`t
sneezing.

Uh-huh. That`s exactly what I meant. Uh-huh. Thank you.

I actually quit my job now. You can find me working at the parking lot
down the corner.

You want to shake without ice first to make sure you get adequately
aspirated, whenever you use an egg white, because if you don`t do that, you
won`t have enough froth to make it really frothy, which is the point of the
egg white.

I can`t believe I rescued the egg yolk out of there. If I was a genius, I
would have done it over the top of the cocktail strainer so that wouldn`t
be a risk.

At any case, shake it up with the ice after shaking it -- without the ice,
a lot.

But I think you will see, even though I screwed it up but then rescued it,
that you get a nice egg white foam on the top. You garnish it with a
little bit of nutmeg and you have a Millionaire Cocktail on the eve of
South Carolina`s primary, the biggest test yet of millionaire Romney`s
presidential prospect -- the most difficult cocktail I`ve ever made in a
cocktail moment and a complete failure.

We`ll see you again tomorrow night, 6:00 Eastern. We`ll join you for a
special coverage of the South Carolina primary.

Now, of course, though, you have to go to prison.


END

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BE UPDATED.
END

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