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PoliticsNation, Monday, January 23, 2012

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Guests: Rob Smith; Erin McPike; Bob Franken; Bob Shrum, Donna Edwards, Ed Rendell, Joe Madison

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

Tonight`s lead. The big fight in Florida. The Romney/Gingrich showdown is
on. And we`ll cover it. And what it means for President Obama, for the
hour, we begin with a picture. You want to see an image of panic? Take a
look at this picture of Mitt Romney doing his own laundry on Saturday, the
day of the South Carolina primary. Romney`s son sent it out with the
caption, nothing like the glamorous life on the road. Does team Romney
really think people will consider him a regular, authentic, relatable kind
of guy, the multimillion-dollar man doing a load of whites before the big
night? Of course not.

Yet again, Willard trying to appear likes the every man also, showing that
he`s getting desperate. He`s attacking Newt Gingrich with everything he
can think of.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think that the people of
this country are going to choose as the next presidents of the United
States a person who spent 40 years in Washington as a congressman and a
lobbyist.

He talks about great bold movements and ideas. What`s he been doing for 15
years? He`s been working as a lobbyist. And selling influence around
Washington.

Speaker Gingrich has really had only one experience as a leader. And he
failed at it. And then he had to resign in disgrace. That`s not the kind
of leadership I think our party needs.

Let`s see the records from the ethics investigation. Let`s see what they
show. Let`s see the -- who his clients were.

He`s gone from pillar to post, almost like a pinball machine, from item to
item in a way which is highly erratic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Wow. Highly erratic! But careful, Willard, w e know Newt loves
to fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the number one thing
people look for in difficult times is authenticity. They want somebody who
is what he seems to be, somebody who is comfortable with himself.

I think he`s been dancing on eggs trying to figure out how to find a
version of Romney that will work.

If people want somebody who is going to shake up Washington, I think I can
do it. If they want somebody who going to be timid and manage the decay,
they ought to vote for Romney.

If you`ve been campaigning for six years and you begin to see it slip away,
you get desperate. And when you get desperate, you say almost anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: There`s that word again, desperate. And while Mitt and Newt
trade insults, President Obama talked over the weekend about where the real
focus should be fairness. President Obama`s campaign released this video
giving Americans a preview of his state of the union speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a lot of ways, my address
on Tuesday will be a book end to what I said in Kansas last month. About
the central mission we have as a country and my central focus as president.
And that`s rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off. And
responsibility is rewarded. And an America where everybody gets a fair
shot, everyone does their fair share and everybody plays by the same set of
rules.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Meantime, Republicans have to decide between a candidate
struggling with authenticity or one saddled with ethical questions. So who
is likely to take the heat?

Joining me now from Tampa is Rod Smith, chairman of the Florida Democratic
Party and in L.A., Bob Shrum, democratic strategist and a professor at NYU.

Great to have both of you with us tonight.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Glad to be here.

ROD SMITH, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN, FLORIDA: Thank you, rev. Glad to be
here.

SHARPTON: Now Bob, is Romney doing the right thing here by going on the
offense and being more aggressive than we`ve seen him so far?

SHRUM: think he`s doing the only thing he thinks he can. Look. There
have been three polls in Florida so far since South Carolina. And two of
them Gingrich is leading by eight or nine points. One he`s tied. In the
national Gallup poll he`s all but tied with Romney who used to be 23 points
ahead. And they run about the same kind of race, although I don`t believe
this against President Obama. So the electability argument doesn`t hold
much water. Romney is not getting much traction. In fact it may be
hurting him with this argument that he`s going to be the CEO of America.

So, what he`s doing and what he`s going to do in this debate tonight which
I think is going to be watched by a lot of people is he`s throwing the
kitchen sink at Gingrich. That`s what people do when their campaigns are
in trouble, when they are coming apart. He`ll be a side heave from Rick
Santorum.

And whether this works, I don`t know. I mean, look. It`s recycled Iowa
strategy. They are going to spend millions of dollars on television. But
it may be that this race has at least, in Florida, already to some extent
bypassed Romney. That he doesn`t speak to Republican hearts, certainly,
and he isn`t speaking to their heads either.

SHARPTON: Rod. Let me ask you. I do a lot of traveling. I know people
in Florida. There seems to be a lot of anger among the electorate. And it
seems as though Mr. Newt Gingrich has tapped into that anger and Willard,
despite him trying to act like the everyday guy just doesn`t seem to know
how to tap into the anger. Am I reading this right?

SMITH: Well, sure. I think you are reading it right. Reverend, I think
that -- I think I spoke earlier today about -- I think Romney comes into
Florida. First of all, he comes without much momentum. And more
importantly, I think as he gets to Florida, there are certain parts of the
state. You know Florida. You know the north part of Florida is the south
and the south part of - south part of Florida is the north. And in north
Florida, I don`t think Romney connects very well in north Florida. I think
there are issues he won`t do well. And I think when he gets to south
Florida, particularly in southeast Florida, where issues of immigration are
seeing quite differently than he sees.

So, I think that Romney`s message is one that just doesn`t really fit the
Florida electorate right now. And I think that that`s going to cause him a
lot of problems. And I think in the end, almost everywhere where they are
showing problems is where the president is doing well. I think on the
issues of immigration. I think south Florida is much more wide open to the
dream act and I think in Florida, the economy that there`s a feeling we`ve
got an enormously unpopular governor. Most people in Florida believe that
the problem with the economy in this state is the reason we`re lagging
behind the recovery of the rest of the country is decision being made by
our governor, a Republican in Tallahassee. But I think they recognize
we`re moving in the right direction. Romney has been somewhat of a one-
trick pony. If he can`t talk about the economy, he hasn`t had much to say.
And I think in Florida there`s a sense that we`re rounding the corner and
starting to come forward. And I think there is a lot of frustration and
particularly in a closed primary which this is the first real closed
primary they have. I think that it will be a horse race. But in the end,
I told someone the other day. If I had more money from our party I would
simply sponsor more Republican debates because the more we get these guys
talking, the better we look.

SHARPTON: No question about it. Let me ask you, Bob. I think that you`ve
run a lot of campaigns. When you see the electorate angry, I think that
Willard is misreading. This is not about showing how you can clean your
white underwear. This is showing how you can get your hands dirty and
fight for the American people. He is sending the wrong picture out. What
would you be telling him tonight, and what would you be telling Newt
tonight, bob?

SHRUM: Well, listen. It would be hard to give Romney advice because what
you`d have to say to him is you need to be different than you are. There`s
nothing wrong with being rich in American politics. The Kennedy`s were
rich, the Roosevelt`s were rich. But people had this sense that they
fought for them. That they cared about them. That they were standing up
for the middle class.

Romney who is very tightly scripted has a kind of teleprompter in his head.
When he gets off that teleprompter and gets spontaneous, he always gets in
danger. He tells us that $370,000 isn`t much money. He tells us that he
has been unemployed -- or is unemployed. He says he afraid he might get a
pink slip. And I think people hear that and they say he`s so distant from
them and he seems so stiff, so awkward and so artificial, that to use an
old word, he doesn`t connect. And as a result of that, I think at least in
Florida, and it`s at least remotely possible in the Republican primaries
generally, the voters may actually give him a pink slip.

SHARPTON: Now Rod, let me ask you. When you look at the fact now that Mr.
Romney is coming out blasting, he can`t redo himself so he`s got to tear
down Newton. And he put out this ad today, released a new ad blaming
Newton Gingrich for the housing crisis and slamming him on ethics. Look at
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: While Florida families lost everything in the
housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in. Gingrich was paid over $1.6
million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis. If
Newt wins, this guy would be very happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Will that work, you think, Rod, with Florida voters?

SMITH: No, I don`t think that`s going to be very effective particularly
given the voters that they are trying to talk to in the Republican primary.
I`m not sure that that`s going to be effective.

And remember this. When Governor Romney now finds himself attacking
Gingrich, when he`s now playing if you will, what he`s been playing for the
last two weeks which has been pure defense, two things are true. Number
one, Gingrich is doing well. Number two, the president is doing better.

And so I think that when you see -- you are absolutely right. When he
talks about people being envious or a politics of envy, we`ve had lots of
successful and wealthy candidates and presidents. People aren`t jealous in
this country of success. People want to make sure you understand their
experience and what`s going on with their house and driving the decisions
they are making for their family. And if you don`t make that connection,
and I think so far he`s failed to do that. If you don`t make it at some
visceral level, I believe you`ll have a hard time in Florida where --
remember, a lot of the voters in Florida will go with one or two or three
issues. On many of the issues where he is, doesn`t really fit Florida as
well as others.

And frankly, I think gives us an enormous opportunity to do better in the
general election. I think this president takes Florida again because I
think the more these guys come to Florida and begin to talk about what they
are doing and beat up on one another, they are both upside down on the
negatives right now. And the public is concerned about them. They are
concerned about issues involving Gingrich and they are concerned about a
man who is using the Cayman Islands as his depository. In Florida if you
were putting your money in the Cayman Island, there`s only a couple of
things you are there for and none of them are very good.

SHARPTON: No, it`s very interesting, Rod. We have a campaign of a guy who
seems to be crookedly awkward and another one awkwardly crooked. But let
me ask you this, Bob. Mr. Santorum is also in this race. Now let me show
you something very quickly that really bothered me today. A woman at one
of his events stood up and said that the president -- President Obama was a
Muslim. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never refer to Obama as President Obama because
legally, he is not. He is an avowed Muslim and my question is, why isn`t
something being done to get him out of our government.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m doing my best to try to get
him out of the government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, this is outrageous to me. He doesn`t stop to correct this
woman that the president of the United States is not a Muslim. Though
there would be nothing wrong if he was. And that he is not legally -- he
is not holding office illegally. He doesn`t correct any of that. He just
ignores all of that and goes for "I`m trying to get him out" while the
audience is cheering this misinformation. This is the kind of ugliness
that I think will hurt the Republican Party and should be denounced by
everybody in this country.

SHRUM: Well, first of all, Santorum himself constantly appears -- appeals
to the darker impulses of the elector rate. It`s exactly the opposite of
what John McCain did when asked a similar question in a town meeting in the
fall of 2008. Someone stood up and said at that -- in that instance, he`s
an Arab. He`s not an American. He shouldn`t be -- even be running. And
McCain put his hand out and he said stop. You`re wrong. He`s a good
American. He and I just disagree on the issues.

You know, this might not be a bad question, and I`m not in the business of
recommending questions. This might not be a bad question to ask all those
Republicans tonight. To see if they`ll distance themselves from this kind
of paranoia and this kind of infection in American politics which I think
tries to paint the president as other. Uses the fact, without admitting
it, that he`s African-American, to make him somehow or other seem alien to
the American experience when in fact, he`s a fulfillment of our best
ideals.

SHARPTON: And when reporters question Santorum later, he said it wasn`t
his job to correct people in a town hall meeting. Well, then whose job is
it, Mr. Santorum? Maybe that`s why you shouldn`t be running for the
biggest job in the country.

Rod Smith and Bob Shrum, thank you both for joining us tonight.

SHRUM: Thank you.

SHARPTON: More on the big debate tonight. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: As mitt and Newt prepare for a slugfest tonight, President
Obama`s preparing a major speech on the central issue of this race,
fairness. Big news on the strategy for re-election tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to "Politics Nation." The eyes of the political
world are on Tampa, Florida, tonight. In just a few hours, Willard and
Newton will go head-to-head in what`s expected to be an absolute slugfest.
The stakes couldn`t be higher. Willard`s camp is in panic mode, on the
offensive against Newton. But Newton is at his best attacking on the big
stage. And nights like this play a major role. The drama is building. So
how will it all play out?

Joining me from Tampa, Erin McPike from "Real Clear Politics" and Bob
Franken a kings feature syndicated columnist. Bob`s covered Newt Gingrich
for years.

Thank you both for being here tonight.

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Erin, let me start with you. What are you expecting to see from
both Mitt and Newt tonight?

MCPIKE: I think it`s going to be a fight about character. At least that`s
what both of the campaigns are telling me. As you know, Mitt Romney`s been
saying that Newt Gingrich needs to release his contract from his consulting
fees with Freddie Mac. Earlier this decade and -- or I guess six, seven
years ago and Newt Gingrich`s campaign, his lawyers are releasing that
contract tonight which we talked about that last week, Al, as you remember.
Newt released his tax returns going into that debate. He`s doing the same
thing again as a preemptive strike at Mitt Romney.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, Bob, you learn from lawyers. I`ve never been a
lawyer, but a lot of my friends are. You never --

BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: More power to you, Al.

SHARPTON: You never ask a question you don`t know the answer. And it
seems to me that Mr. Romney in asking this, is he shooting in the dark or
does he know there`s something in these contracts. What I`m going at here,
Bob, is if Mr. Gingrich releases the contracts and nothing in them or even
worse, they do in effect make him look like a historian. Won`t this blow
up in Willard`s face?

FRANKEN: Well, it`s possible. It`s also possible that what Gingrich is
going to do is what he did with his tax returns. Yes, he released them,
but really he released them in very general form. And if that what he does
with these contracts then they`re not going to really shed any light.

What we have with Mitt Romney is somebody who is suddenly flailing around.
I mean, he`s just punching wildly. But he`s never really been in a fight
before because he`s always been around his amen chorus of fellow rich guys
and now he is in a fight. And he just doesn`t really know how to land any
punches. And Newt Gingrich in the meantime is somebody who absolutely
knows how to land punches. And if he`s called for a low blow, then he
turns on the referee, the referee being media of course. And if I were
Brian Williams, I`d really be on my toes tonight.

SHARPTON: Well Erin, you know, the problem, I think, is that he is in a
fight, he being Willard with a street fighter, Newt Gingrich, and there`s
different rules. In a professional fight, you have a referee. You have
gloves. You have the cut man, all that in the corner. In a street fight
you break a bottle. You take garbage top. He`s coming in with his gloves
and his trunks and his cut man and Newt is coming in with whatever it
takes.

Let me show you when he tried to rumble with John McCain who was not even a
street fighter what happened with Mr. Willard Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: That was quoted in AP and happened to be wrong. Let me --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, could I --

ROMNEY: It was misquoted. That does happen from time to time. But let me
-- it does actually.

MCCAIN: When you change positions on issues from time to time, you will
get misquoted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: He doesn`t do well in the aggressive kind of street fight. And
Newton has a way of making street fighting almost appear scholarly when
it`s really street fighting that he just puts a nice little polish to it,
but it is street fighting.

MCPIKE: Sure. You know, tonight we`re going to hear from Newt Gingrich
that Mitt Romney is desperate. But you know, Al, this looks like its Mitt
Romney`s last chance to run for president. And he wants to be president
badly. I don`t know that I would use the word desperate, but Newt Gingrich
is the thing standing in his way right now to the White House. Obviously
then he`d have to get through a general election if he becomes the nominee.

But I think we are going to see more fight out of Mitt Romney. And this
may at the end of the day make him a much better candidate for it. He`s
just in a really tough time right now. But for each president there`s
always a big test.

SHARPTON: Now, Bob, Newton on the other side has used the media as his
target. He has almost, throughout every debate, his main target and the
one that has gotten the crowds really energized is when he goes after the
media.

And in many ways because he`s tapping into a lot of conservatives in the
Republican Party that feel the media looks down on them, that they are
marginalized. They have real anger. Do you think that this is going to be
effective all the way through and how will Newton deal with attacking
Willard and the media in your opinion tonight?

FRANKEN: Well, first of all, with Brian Williams, he`s going to get
somebody who really does keep his cool. I mean, I think what happened the
other night with John King who is a consummate professional reporter,
longtime colleague of mine, he was blindsided and, quite frankly, he sort
of enabled Newt Gingrich. And, in terms of debate history, he temporarily
became Newt Gingrich`s Dan Quayle. You know that famous moment. He was a
straight man.

But it`s going to be interesting. Brian Williams will have had the benefit
of seeing that. And as I said, this is the guy who epitomizes cool. So,
it may not work the same.

However, there is a real grudge among Republicans, particularly the
conservative Republicans that Newt Gingrich is appealing to, that the
media, the elite media, that`s one of those Frank Luntz words. The elite
media are out to get conservatives and Republicans. And it works. I mean,
we have a whole network. FOX News network has been smashingly successful
on that premise.

SHARPTON: Now, Erin, tonight when we see this debate and we see them all
taking whatever position they can, this really is going to be extremely
important because if Gingrich is successful in Florida, he really has
turned the whole party totally upside down and may not be able to get it
front side up. And if Willard can`t succeed tonight, it may be over. And
if Santorum can`t put himself in the mix it may be over. So everyone has
got to go in there with some level of desperation.

MCPIKE: Right. You know, I think that we`re going to hear both from Rick
Santorum and Romney that Gingrich is an erratic. That`s what they both
been saying over the last couple of days. But, it`s really going to be a
debate about character. And again, desperation is one thing and erratic is
another word we`re going to hear. We are not going to hear a lot about
issues as what the campaign is keeps telling me. So, they`re going to draw
this fight out and do each other`s character.

SHARPTON: So you have one guy that was at Bain and was supposed to have
closed a lot of companies after they bought them, causing jobs and doing a
lot of things in the private sector that`s questionable. Another guy hit
with ethics in Congress and they want to talk about character. This ought
to be amazing.

Erin McPike and Bob Franken, thank you for your time tonight.

SHARPTON: And don`t forget to tune in to the debate tonight on a special
edition of "Rock Center." That`s tonight at 9:00 on NBC.

Coming up. President Obama`s re-election announcement. It`s all about
fairness. Big news ahead on the state of the union.

Plus, Newton said he`d be glad to talk to me, but will it happen? My
comments coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: As the country prepares to hear President Obama`s state of the
union tomorrow, at least one GOP congressman refuses to be there. Colorado
Republican Doug Lamborn won`t attend the speech because a spokesman says,
quote, "the president will be in full campaign mode and will use the
address as an opportunity to bash his political opponents."

So because the congressman doesn`t like President Obama`s policies, he`s
willing to disrespect the president and the office of the president. But
maybe we shouldn`t be surprised considering what else Lamborn is known for.
The last time we heard from him, he was apologizing for saying associating
with President Obama was like touching a tar baby. Unfortunately, this
behavior is affecting people outside of Washington, too.

Today, President Obama honored the Boston bruins for winning the Stanley
cup championship. The team`s star goalie Tim Thomas refused to go because
he opposes President Obama`s policies. Thomas was on the U.S. hockey team
in the 2010 Vancouver, Olympics. So he represented this country in the
Olympics but he wouldn`t accept congratulations from the President of the
United States for his team. Pathetic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. This election will boil down
to two separate visions for this country. And in his State of the Union
Address tomorrow night, President Obama will lay out his vision. It`s
based on fairness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: This is a make or break moment for
the middle class. And folks trying to work their way into the middle class
because we can go in two directions. One is towards less opportunity and
less fairness or we can fight for where I think we need to go. Building an
economy that works for everyone. Not just a wealthy few.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: An economy that works for everyone because right now that`s not
the case. Sixty six percent of Americans thinks it`s harder to move up in
this country, and it is. We live in a nation where the income for the top
one percent has grown 275 percent. Yet the poor has barely seen progress
at all. This dynamic is what this election should be about and will be
about. And it`s why you see Mr. one percent Romney selling himself as Mr.
Every man. As someone who does his own laundry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you doing your laundry on primary day?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do our laundry at least once a
week because we`ll be on the road for 30 straight days. Who else do you
think is going to do our laundry?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s why Romney insists he can connect with real people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I don`t think that I have any challenge whatsoever connecting with
people on an emotional level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Except it is a challenge, Willard, because if you did connect
with real people you wouldn`t shout down questions about real inequality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Corporations are not people! Corporations are not people! We are
the people! We are the people!

ROMNEY: I love these guys, by the way, who don`t like America and our free
enterprise system and they have something else in mind. Take a look at
Cuba. Take a look at North Korea. Take a look at the former Soviet Union.
Our system works. What they`re fighting for does not work. I believe in
America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I believe in America, too. But my vision is different than
yours. Joining me now is Congresswoman Donna Edwards, democrat from
Maryland. And Ed Rendell, NBC News political analyst and former DNC
chairman. Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.

ED RENDELL, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Our pleasure.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Edwards, let me start with you. You`ll be at the
State of the Union tomorrow night. What do you make of your republican
colleagues who are already slamming the President`s speech. Let me show
you Mitt Romney admitted in an interview on Friday that the economy is
getting better. Let me let you hear that first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, TALK SHOW HOST: How do you answer the President`s argument
that the economy is getting better in a general election campaign if you
yourself are saying that it`s getting better?

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

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, he says himself, the economy is getting better, but then
Speaker Boehner says the economy isn`t improving. Listen to this,
Congresswoman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know, I`ve read a lot
about what the President is going to talk about Tuesday night. And it
sounds to me like the same old policies that we`ve seen. More spending.
Higher taxes. More regulations. The same policies that haven`t helped our
economy. They`ve made it worse. And if that`s what the President is going
to talk about Tuesday night, I think it`s pathetic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, you have the Speaker saying that the President has made the
economy worse. You have Willard saying, yes it is getting better. I mean,
some -- one of your colleagues, the Republicans already said, he`s not even
going to go. What`s happening here, Congresswoman Edwards?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, the facts are the facts. The
economy is getting better. Unemployment has come down. We know that under
the President`s leadership, we`ve added 334,000 new manufacturing jobs in
this country over the last two years. That`s the first time that`s
happened since my son who is an adult was in grade school. We know that
1.4 million people are employed now in the auto industry, an industry that
Speaker Boehner and Mr. Romney actually wanted to see in bankruptcy this
year. And instead, people are working and we have the most robust American
auto industry that we`ve seen in years. I mean, the fact is the fact that
the economy is improving. It`s improving because of policies pushed by the
President and by Democrats in Congress. Definitely not by the policies.
We haven`t had any policies, frankly, from the Republicans under their
leadership in the House and we wouldn`t get that in the presidency.

SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Governor Rendell, you headed the DNC. You
also have been the Governor of Pennsylvania. Isn`t it strange, maybe it`s
me. Isn`t it strange if a man has been governor of Massachusetts that he`s
not running on how he governed. He`s running on how he ran a private
business. I mean, isn`t that a little awkward that if you`re trying to
convince people, you can govern, you don`t even want to mention what you
did as someone governed. Let`s talk about how you got rich and what you
did with those riches. Isn`t that little weird?

RENDELL: Well, it is strange, Al. And Mitt Romney should be talking about
all of his experiences. His experience in the private sector, but also his
experience as governor because he did some good things as governor. He
cooperated and got the cooperation of an 85 percent democratic legislature
and he shouldn`t run from things. I mean, Romney-care or whatever they
call the health plan in Massachusetts, that`s a fundamentally sound plan
and it worked for Massachusetts. But he runs from it because he`s trying
to appeal to this conservative base. And he has moved so far to the right
that I believe even if he`s successful in winning the nomination, and I
think he still will be, he comes in as damaged goods. He has endorsed the
Ryan plan 100 percent. A plan that dismembers Medicare and he`s going to
have to sell that in Florida but he`s also going to have to sell it in
Pennsylvania, the third oldest State in the Union. And it`s not going to
wash.

SHARPTON: Now Congresswoman, Willard Romney in October says, foreclosures
should run their course. But today he was singing a different tune. Watch
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Don`t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course
and hit the bottom.

Look, I`m going to do my very best to help. It just, it breaks my heart to
hear your stories, your experiences. Some of the institutions aren`t
willing to write it off and say they made a mistake. They loaned too much.
We`re overextended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, Congresswoman, in October he said let it run its course.
You know, let the foreclosures run its course. Today it breaks his heart
to see what`s going on with the foreclosures in Florida.

EDWARDS: Well, in typical fashion, Mitt Romney can`t decide which side of
an issue he`s on. The fact is that in my congressional district and across
this country, people have suffered under the abusive practices of a
financial industry that ran amok, that the president has tried to fix. He
put somebody in charge of a consumer protection bureau in order to make
sure that didn`t happen again. And you cannot have it both ways again, you
cannot say, Republicans in Congress that you won`t do anything that holds
these institutions accountable, that makes sure that people actually get
value out of their homes and that keeps people from losing their homes.
That`s what we need to do. That`s what the President has been focused on.
And if Mitt Romney wants to join the President`s actions in doing that,
then you know, let him do it, but you cannot be on both sides of the issue,
which he`s been even within months.

SHARPTON: Now, Governor Rendell, on that stage tonight and the next debate
and into next Tuesday`s Florida primary, he`s on the stage. Willard
Romney, who you say, you said a minute ago you still feel will be the
nominee. He`s on there with Newt Gingrich, he`s on there with Santorum,
he`s on there with Paul who are going all the way to the right. Will they
be able to pull him so far over to where he will never be able to get back
to the center and in effect, they will make it almost improbable for the
Republicans to defeat Barack Obama as president of the United States?

RENDELL: I think that`s very true. Your analysis is dead on. I think
this is, first of all, the clown aspect of this republican primary season
with Herman Cain and with Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. It`s got
independent voters shaking their heads and saying, this is the best they`ve
got? So, that`s strike number one. But strike number two is they`ve
already forced Mitt Romney to go so far to the right on so many issues.
Issues like immigration. Issues like the Ryan budget, Sanders` Medicare
that I think it`s going to be very difficult if not impossible, for him to
recover. So the only one who has benefited by this republican primary
season so far is Barack Obama. No ifs, ands and buts about it.

SHARPTON: What does he need to do tomorrow night in the state of the union
speech, Governor, and is it dangerous for him tomorrow night?

RENDELL: Yes, it`s dangerous. I don`t think he should be too partisan.
And if I were advising the President, I would say, don`t use it as a
campaign speech. Talk about, you know, he has this great speech that he
gives about we can`t wait, meaning we can`t put the problems of this
country on hold until next January. He should talk about we can`t wait.
He should talk about the things he wants to do with the economy. He should
talk about his balanced approach to getting rid of the deficit and he
should issue Congress an invitation and maybe a challenge. Come along with
me. Let`s put our political differences aside. Let`s do something to
straighten out this country right now. Let`s not wait until after the
election. I think that message would be a message the American people
would really like to hear.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Governor Ed Rendell, thank you
both for joining me tonight.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

RENDELL: Thanks, Al. Have a good night.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, Newton says, he`d be glad to meet with me and
defend his racially charged talk on the campaign trail. We`ll talk about
that.

Also, my debate tips for tonight`s pivotal GOP showdown in Florida. We`ll
be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: This weekend in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich told a voter he`d
be glad to meet with me to talk about his racially charged comments on the
campaign trail. Well, on live TV Saturday night, I told Newt to name the
time and place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I would welcome it because.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, "THE LAST WORD": Al, are you available Monday at
6:00 p.m.?

SHARPTON: I`m available Monday at 6:00 p.m. in this studio. And I`ll make
it better. I will go where Mr. Gingrich is. I`ll meet him in Florida,
I`ll meet him in South Carolina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s been two days, Newt, and I still haven`t heard from you.
Maybe because you know talk like this is indefensible.

GINGRICH: If the NAACP invites me, I`ll go to their convention and talk
about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be
satisfied with food stamps.

The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama
than any President in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s just not true, Newt. These are the facts. Under
President Bush, there were 14.7 million new food stamp recipients. That`s
nearly 500,000 more than under President Obama, Newt. And now 40 Catholic
leaders have sent a letter to Newt demanding he recant these statements.
They say, quote, "Labeling our nation`s first African-American president
with a title that evokes the past myths of "welfare queens" and inflaming
other racist caricatures is irresponsible, immoral and unworthy of
political leaders."

Joining me now is Joe Madison, host of "Mornings with Madison" on Sirius XM
radio. Thanks for being here, Joe.

JOE MADISON, HOST, "MORNING WITH MADISON": Why do you have all the fun,
man? You get to have all the fun with Newt, but you are telling the truth.
I have got -- it`s right here. It`s right here in black and white. Guess
what? From George Bush`s Department of Agriculture.

SHARPTON: That`s right.

MADISON: It`s right there.

SHARPTON: And which is where the program comes from.

MADISON: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Bush brought on far more new food stamp recipients than
President Obama. Yet Mr. Gingrich never called him a food stamp president.
Almost a half million more. Newt. We`re not talking totals. Newt. Now
let me ask you this, Joe. When you deal with all of this. Now the
Catholic leaders are coming out. You deal with the fact that when you can
tell some misinformation, it becomes a chorus on the right. Look at all of
them that chimed in on this food stamp stuff. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Here`s the food stamp president. Look at
the numbers. They speak for themselves. Thirty two million to 46 million.
Twelve million increase. Obama`s policies have resulted in a lot more
people being on food stamps. What`s the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He is the food stamp president.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: More people have joined the food stamp program under
Obama than any other president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, just totally wrong. We just gave the facts. According
to the government data. Totally wrong. Totally using this to try as the
Catholics leaders said and you and I have been saying, to try and use some
racial reference because mind you what he said. That`s why we played the
tape. He said that he would tell blacks to demand jobs and not continue to
be satisfied with food stamps. Like blacks are satisfied with getting food
stamps.

SHARPTON: When your mother, my mother, my grandmother, the reality is they
did everything that they possibly could to avoid it. But let`s go back to
this. We`re talking about a point in time at the end of the Bush
administration, actually throughout that period. We saw that this massive
unemployment and underemployment was going to take place. It was under the
Bush administration. And we knew that by the time that Barack Obama was
sworn in, there would be this need. Now who is in need? Now this is what
the American people should hear. Who is in need of -- to be fed in
America? Mostly women and children are recipients. And so if you don`t
have this program, what happens? These people do not eat. And that`s what
is going on in the United States of America.

So I hope he does come on your show. I hope he comes on everybody`s show.
I hope that the other candidates have the decency to tell the American
people the truth. But finally, this is not new. This goes back to Ronald
Reagan`s era when everybody saw the same welfare queen. You remember her.
She had a Cadillac, she had food stamps, she bought Cognac and potato chips
and wafer cold. And she showed up in every conservative neighborhood in
America.

SHARPTON: Now, when you -- let me show you the breakdown of what you said.
Forty seven percent children. These are people on food stamps.

MADISON: Right.

SHARPTON: Eight percent seniors. Forty one percent working families.
These people at work. And just can`t make ends meet. Now when you look at
the breakdown of food stamp recipients by race, 36 percent white. Twenty
two percent African-American. Ten percent Hispanic. African-Americans and
Hispanics are also disproportionately unemployed and disproportionately
below the poverty line which means they would need services more. But Mr.
Gingrich and Santorum didn`t say, I`m going to tell everybody that they
should want a job and not be satisfied. They singled out blacks. But when
you and I raise a response, we`re playing the race card. We`re reacting to
a raise deck.

MADISON: Absolutely. And we know that the reason this proportion
unemployment hit our community is because the manufacturing base was
destroyed in our communities. We know this for a fact. A favorable tax
credit for companies that took these jobs and sent them offshore, overseas.
We know that in South Carolina. We know it for a fact. And the reality is
that we need to keep saying this.

SHARPTON: Joe, I have to leave it there. I`m running out of time. Joe
Madison, thanks for your time tonight. We`re going to stay on it. We`ll
be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I`ve been memorizing old phrases like there you go again.

There you go again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Newt Gingrich doesn`t need to go all the way back to Ronald
Reagan for help in tonight`s debate. He could just watch POLITICS NATION
for the latest edition of Reverend Al`s debate tips. First tip, expect the
obvious. In 1984, Reagan was criticized for being, quote, "Too old to be
President." So, when that came up in the debate, he was ready for it. And
turned the tables on his opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. PRES. RONALD REAGAN, UNITED STATES: I will not make age an issue of
this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my
opponent`s youth and inexperience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Next tip, attack with a smile. Joe Biden had such a smart,
funny line about Rudy Giuliani that he uncorked it during a democratic
debate in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There`s only three things he mentioned in a sentence. A
nine, a verb and 9/11. I mean, there`s nothing else. There`s nothing
else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: If Mitt or Newt can`t find a line like that tonight, the other
guy is toast. And our last debate tip, never, ever admit there`s a
possibility that you could lose. That`s what I did in 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All of you are pledged to support the winner of this.

SHARPTON: And work for.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You will work.

SHARPTON: I will travel all over this country to make Al Sharpton
president.

(APPLAUSE)

SHARPTON: So Mitt, be authentic. Be -- well, forget it. Newt, tell the
truth -- well, Santorum, trying to be inclu -- well, Ron Paul, try to be
coherent. You know what? You guys just do the best you can. It`s
impossible to recreate you with only an hour or two to go.

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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