updated 1/31/2012 11:07:30 AM ET 2012-01-31T16:07:30

Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, E.J. Dionne, James Peterson, Krystal Ball, Joan Walsh, Bill Burton, Robert Reich

ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good morning, Americans. And welcome to THE ED
SHOW tonight.

President Obama has the entire Republican Party one the ropes. The
Republican surge has taken one cheap shot after another trying to get back
into the fight.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: What did you call President Obama?

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I called him Captain Schettino. You
know, the captain that fled the ship in Italy.

SCHULTZ (voice-over): The Obama derangement syndrome is being taken
to a whole new level.

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: Get the hell out of the United States
of America.

SCHULTZ: Melissa Harris-Perry and Dr. James Peterson are here with
reaction.

The fight for Florida is ending with a flurry.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Conservatives are going to
come together and decide they don`t want a Massachusetts liberal to be the
Republican nominee.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The speaker has been
attacking me all over the state in ways that are really extraordinary.

SCHULTZ: The latest with E.J. Dionne and Krystal Ball.

A desperate housewife is knocking a desperate candidate.

ROMNEY: I would not sign a DREAM Act as it currently exists.

SCHULTZ: Bill Burton and Joan Walsh of the Republican problem with
the Latino vote.

And the fight for fairness is headed to the floor of the Senate.
Robert Reich on today`s big news for the Buffett Rule.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Newt Gingrich is taking a pounding in Florida. He`s been outspent by
Mitt Romney 5-to-1, and his poll numbers, well, they have taken a dive.
But even Gingrich knows what kind of red meat the conservative Republican
audience really wants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: It says something very, very important, and it`s something
I want to take a minute to talk about. The Obama administration is engaged
in a war against religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Gingrich has absolutely no proof that President Obama is
waging a war against religion. But proof with these guys is really not
necessary.

The top two Republican candidates have been saying all kind of extreme
things about the president for the past two months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: He wants to turn America into a European-style social welfare
state.

GINGRICH: President Obama has been historically the most effective
food stamp president in American history.

ROMNEY: President Obama has reversed John Kennedy`s call for
sacrifice. He would have Americans now ask, what can the country do for
you?

GINGRICH: Told you everything you need to know about Barack Obama and
five of us, but we actually think work is good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: This extreme rhetoric is at the heart of the GOP. Now, it`s
the head of the Republican Party. He goes on television this weekend and
compared President Obama to a man accused of manslaughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: In a few months, this is all going to be ancient history and
we`re going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is
President Obama who is abandoning the ship here in the United States. He`s
more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president.

SCHIEFFER: What did you just say, what did you call President Obama?

PRIEBUS: I called him Captain Schettino, you know, the captain that
fled the ship in Italy. That`s our own president who is fleeing the
American people and not doing his job and running around the country and
campaigning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: The captain of the Italian cruise ship faces criminal
charges in the deaths of at least 17 people. He is accused of abandoning
the ship -- even people within the Republican Party said Reince Priebus was
out of line with his comments.

But he defended himself on FOX News today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: This is ridiculous, Megyn. Analogy was made and it was an
analogy of leadership that in a time of crisis, in a time of crisis, this
president is leaving the White House and campaigning non-stop all the time.
I think it`s pretty clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Actually, it was paralleling the alleged criminal act of a
ship captain. And that`s what the head of the Grand Old Party thinks of
the president of the United States? They have no boundaries, they`ll go as
low as they have to go.

Obama derangement syndrome is at the top of the Republican Party and
it`s trickling all the way down. Remember this photo from last week with
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer shoving her finger in the president`s face?
Well, she said she felt threatened, but now Brewer, you know what she is
doing? She`s fundraising off the picture. Her PAC Web site proclaims, "I
was telling him one more year."

That`s not what she was telling the media. She was telling the media
that she felt threatened do people talk like that in an aggressive manner
if they feel threatened?

The Republican Party is creating an alternative reality to bash the
president. They say untrue things about the president in a very tasteless
manner, tasteless analogies to do what? Fire up the base?

But you see, there is one thing about all this. It`s not working on
the majority of the American people. President Obama`s approval rating,
holy smokes, look at that -- it`s going up. A recent "Washington Post"/ABC
News poll shows that President Obama is now at a 53 percent approval
rating. It`s his highest approval rating since April of 2010.

Even right wing pollster Rasmussen has President Obama at 51 percent
approval rating.

These extreme attacks by Republicans are happening because the
president was effective in the State of the Union address last week, and
this is the only way they know how to combat it. He was effective because
he had the facts on his side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the six months
before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost another 4
million before our policies were in full effect. Those are the facts. But
so are these -- in the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3
million jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Ahh, but some Republicans out there, they want you to leave
the country if you support him. The Republicans will attack this president
from now, all the way to Election Day. They won`t back off, but their
strategies need to be based in reality, facts. The American people will
not respond well to these extreme attacks and the polls are showing it
early on.

Get your cell phones out. We want to know what you think.

Tonight`s question: will Republican lies about President Obama work?
Text A for yes, text B for no to 622639. Our blog is there at
Ed.MSNBC.com. We love it when you make a comment. We`ll bring you results
later in the show.

Joining me tonight is Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC host, and Tulane
University professor. And also Dr. James Peterson with us tonight, director
of Africana studies at Lehigh University.

Melissa, this is -- for the head of the Republican Party to compare
the president of the United States to an alleged criminal, possibly facing,
you know, manslaughter. I mean, how low will they go?

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: What I really appreciated about the
introduction here, Ed, was the point that, you know, on the one hand, we
have the rhetoric of GOP candidates and now of the party itself. On the
other hand, we have the choices being made by the American people. I think
we have to be really careful about getting too anxious --

SCHULTZ: Should he apologize?

HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t think so.

SCHULTZ: You don`t?

HARRIS-PERRY: No, from two perspectives. From a pure political
perspective, if you`re President Obama, right now, these attacks are
working to make President Obama seem more reasonable in the light of most,
sort of, swing voters, people who will actually be important for winning
the election.

But even beyond the politics, for the kind of fact base piece, part of
what this allows the president to do is to consistently look like the
grown-up in the room compared to people who are just saying kind of
appalling things.

SCHULTZ: OK.

James, your thoughts, do you think that Reince Priebus should
apologize for that unwarranted attack?

JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: Well, no. But let me congratulate
Melissa on her new show. We`re all really, really excited about it.

In terms of Reince Priebus, I mean -- no, there is no need for an
apology unless he wants to have more media time to come out and talk to the
media about these things.

Melissa is absolutely right. The American people understand what the
choices are that we have to make going forward. And, look, I`m a literary
guy. I love navigation analogies.

But this one just doesn`t stick. The president is on a so-called
campaign trail. What is he talking about? New energy policies, new job
policies. He`s talking about the things -- the urgent things that this
country needs.

SCHULTZ: But what about the respect of the office? The head of the
GOP is comparing this president to an alleged criminal. And you don`t
think that deserves any kind of response that, well, maybe I went a little
too far on that?

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, so, James, you`ll appreciate the fact that
I`m reading right now in the Jeffersonian era, because I`m teaching a class
on American --

SCHULTZ: Sure.

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m reading about Jefferson. Man, you want to talk
about people who said insanely over-the-top things about the president,
now, some of them were true. But some of them were just completely over
the top.

I just want to point out, this has been part of American rhetoric, and
I think what we have to remain focused on isn`t the damage that it does to
the president`s ego or even to the office, but rather what it does in a
kind of divisiveness of the American people. How does this kind of
language suggest to some Americans, you get to be part of this, sort of
political process and others you don`t get to be part?

SCHULTZ: Go ahead.

PETERSON: At this point, Ed, you know, the American people are
unfortunately getting used to this kind of rhetoric coming from the right.
There have so many instances where we`ve been on the show and talked about
so many different disrespectful things directed at President Obama and we
can talk about the office and all that.

But the American people know, we understand that, look, politics has
become a pretty dirty business, and yes, we want to raise the level of the
discourse, but it seems like that`s a long way down the path, a long way
going for us in the future.

SCHULTZ: Well, it is permeating through the Congress on the right
ring as well.

Congressman Allen West used very heated language against the president
this weekend. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEST: We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and
my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to
let them know that Florida ain`t on the table. You can take it to Europe.
You can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North
Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: So if you don`t agree with Republicans, go ahead and leave
the country, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that`s right. I mean, this is -- this is the
oldest, nastiest way of throwing some people out of the American story, not
a country of people who disagree and disagree without becoming
disagreeable, not a country always built on the free exchange of ideas, not
that the First Amendment is powerful and that elections are how we choose
leaders, but just -- if I don`t agree with you, then you are no longer
American. And that`s very base level, that notion that if we don`t agree,
then you`re not even part of the story, that I think is a thing most
dangerous, much more dangerous than any mean words we call the president.

PETERSON: Exactly.

SCHULTZ: So, James, does all this rhetoric being thrown out help
President Obama and Democrats win the House back?

PETERSON: Well, certainly some of it does. But, I mean, who is Allen
West? I mean, who is this guy?

I mean, I would, again, we talked earlier about, let`s debate this
guy, let`s talk to him and see what`s going on in his mind. He seems to be
really off the charts here.

And the bottom line here, when we think about the ways in which the
political discourse has been contaminated by this kind of language, I do
think we need to be concerned about it and we need to address it in some
kind of direct way. But, I mean, also, this is -- I mean, can we get
beyond the kind of isolationist, negative rhetoric that`s dominated the
discourse, especially on the right.

But, you know, we just -- we just need to be better than this. We
need to be better than this.

SCHULTZ: Well, I don`t hear Democrats talking the way Jan Brewer
talks. I don`t hear Democrats talk in the way Congressman West talks. Or
I haven`t heard any chairman of the Democratic Party speak that way about
the president of the United States.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

SCHULTZ: So, I mean, I never heard Bob Dole talk like that. I never
heard George H.W. Bush talk like that.

PETERSON: There`s different kinds of Republicans.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it always feels to me like desperation, like this
is a Republican Party that sees itself and its base slipping away, that has
narrowed, kind of painted itself into a corner with this anti-immigration,
anti-woman, anti-reproductive right, now anti-young people having jobs. I
mean, they are against so many people that the small slice of the
electorate to whom they are trying to appeal right now is not sustainable
over the long term. You feel this kind of panic coming up.

SCHULTZ: But Allen West has taken America, love it or leave it, that
there is no room for debate. If you don`t think the way we think, then you
should leave the country and we want you to leave the country.

James, what is the next step? A confrontation?

PETERSON: The next step for Allen West is to do what history lesson,
understand there are people in this country that are saying that about
people that look like him. He`s really got to get a better grip on
reality. I think that that kind of rhetoric is dangerous to the Republican
Party.

Melissa is right. They are shrinking. They need to be thinking about
ways in which they can expand their base instead of pandering to the small
minority within their base.

SCHULTZ: Melissa Harris-Perry, whose new show will air on Saturday
and Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m., starting on February 18th, and Dr. James
Peterson, thank to both of you for joining us here tonight here on THE ED
SHOW.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Remember to answer tonight`s question there at the bottom of
the screen, share thoughts on Twitter @EdShow. We want to know what you
think.

Coming up: a preview of tomorrow`s Florida primary. It could get
embarrassing for Newt Gingrich. What will it mean going forward? Krystal
Ball and E.J. Dionne will join me for the discussion.

And later, Romney may be ahead of the polls, but his favorability
ratings -- they are in the dumps. Bill Burton and Joan Walsh are here for
the discussion on that tonight.

Stay with us. We`re right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Coming up, it`s down to the wire in Florida. We`ll have the
latest from the campaign trial next with E.J. Dionne and Krystal Ball.

Actress Eva Longoria calls out Mitt Romney for opposing the DREAM Act.
I`ll talk to Bill Burton and Joan Walsh about how the GOP`s immigration
stance could hurt them in the swing states.

And when the president spoke about economic fairness at the State of
the Union, Republicans said it was all talk. Now, Democrats are proposing
the Buffett Rule in the Senate. I`ll ask Robert Reich if it`s a good idea
and will it happen.

Share your thoughts on Twitter using #EdShow.

We`re right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: In the long run, the Republican Party is not going to
nominate the founder of Romneycare, a liberal Republican who is pro-
abortion, pro-gun control and pro-tax increase. It ain`t going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

That was Newt Gingrich earlier, throwing the kitchen sink at Mitt
Romney.

Despite Gingrich`s last-minute attempt to go nuclear on Mitt, it looks
like tomorrow`s Florida primary is Romney`s to lose. The latest Suffolk
University poll shows Romney ahead by 20 points. The latest from
Quinnipiac shows Romney ahead by double digits as well. Pollster.com
compiled all the Florida polling data showing Gingrich`s dramatic rise and
fall.

And major factor in tomorrow`s outcome, it`s one thing, money.

As "Politico" reports, Gingrich has been outspent in the Florida
airwaves by nearly $12 million. But it`s not all bad news for old Newt.
Over the weekend, Gingrich nabbed the key endorsement. Today, Gingrich and
his new surrogate hit the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMA CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Awww, shucky ducky!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: How can you lose with that kind of support?

After endorsing the people a few weeks ago, Herman Cain got a little
more specific by backing Gingrich. Cain says Gingrich is seriously
considering his 9-9-9 tax platform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: He has embraced the idea of replacing the tax code and one of
the major considerations now in his mind is my 9-9-9 plan, which was a very
important issue for me, as you know. He hasn`t said that he`s definitely
going to do it, but he is giving it serious consideration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Serious consideration? Enough to get an endorsement.

Let`s go to E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at Brookings Institution and
columnist for "The Washington Post." And also with us tonight, Democratic
strategist Krystal Ball.

Krystal, I understand you were at the rally today, Cain-Gingrich
rally. What can you tell us?

KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I was. It was a lot of fun for
me anyway. Actually, I think the rally pretty well encapsulated where
Newt`s campaign is at the moment. To say there were 200 people in the
crowd I think would be pretty generous. It was an airplane hangar, about
two thirds of the hangar was (INAUDIBLE) so you can get to it. And still
the crowd was only about four rows deep.

The people who there were very enthusiastic. They were very strongly
anti-establishment. One of the biggest applause lines in the intro was
that Newt would be the candidate to take on the RNC as well as the DNC.

And Newt came out and threw a lot of red meat to the crowd, said Mitt
Romney was engaging in a similar war on religion as President Obama. It
was all very well-received but again, small crowd.

SCHULTZ: Well, that`s what happens when you don`t have a lot of
money.

E.J. Dionne is with us. Florida is shaping up to be the first
Citizens United primary, according to "Politico." The outside group
spending on political ads is up 1,600 percent in the Republican primary,
compared to this point in 2008 in that race.

How are Democrats going to compete with this?

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Well, they are going to try to raise a
lot of money. And I suspect Barack Obama can raise a lot of money
indirectly through his super PAC.

But what this tells us is this is going to be a very, very, very ugly
campaign, because the real problem among other things with the super PAC is
not only that the money is unaccountable, that the money is unlimited, but
there`s no accountability for what`s in the ad, as we`ve already seen.
They can say that`s not me, that`s the super PAC.

So, they can say practically anything and they will. But I think
there is another interesting thing that`s happening in Florida as well,
which is Newt Gingrich now has no reason to drop out and be nice to Mitt
Romney. He has no reason to make a Romney road easier at all. You know,
this happened first in Iowa, and then on gargantuan scale in Florida, Newt
Gingrich in a bad mood is not really somebody you want to have as your
enemy.

SCHULTZ: Well, Romney is getting more aggressive out on the campaign
trail. This morning, he talked about his new strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We were getting just wailed on by Speaker Gingrich, really
didn`t respond very well back in South Carolina. So, we decided, we`re
going to respond. I think both the change in tactic as well as the message
have had a real impact here in Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Krystal, is that going to work for him going forward?

BALL: Well, it`s going to work for him in Florida. It certainly
looks like between the nasty debate performances and nasty ads on TV.

But I think this is going to be a big problem for him in the general
election. Romney already trails with independents very badly, trails
President Obama right now in Florida, which is obviously a very key state.
The president leads 50-36 in the latest NBC/Marist poll.

So, all these negative ads maybe dragging Gingrich down and may lead
to Florida win now. But I think it`s going to do real damage to Romney if
he is the nominee in November.

SCHULTZ: Romney was asked about his Mexican roots by FOX News this
morning. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re talking about how your father was born in
Mexico. It`s first time I heard you say that. Is that helping you with
the Latino community in Florida?

ROMNEY: You know, I wish I could claim that I`m Hispanic, that would
help me in the Latino community here in Florida and around the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: You know, when I first saw that this afternoon, I thought he
was dissing the Latino community. I mean, he`s against the DREAM Act. How
does he get Latino votes beyond Florida? What do you think, E.J.?

DIONNE: I think he`s got a real problem. I think he`s created a real
problem for himself. He prepared himself very well by picking up a hot of
early support from the kind of Cuban Republican establishment. But I think
it`s going to be a problem for him for the whole campaign.

But as Krystal was saying about the tone of this campaign, I have been
thinking about this in relation to 2008. In 2008, there were a lot of
Democrats who liked both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There were a
lot of Republicans who liked John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

And now, you`ve got Republicans thinking more of better of two evils
and that is the result of all this negativity.

SCHULTZ: Well, it should be no surprise where Newt Gingrich is. I
mean, who is going to be leading being outspent 5-to-1? The infrastructure
of Romney is just overwhelming to him right now. But he has closed in a
few conservative polls. Maybe he`ll pull the rabbit out of the hat. Who
knows?

E.J. Dionne and Krystal Ball, great to have you with us tonight.
Thank you.

Up next, Steve Doocy claims FOX is the most unbiased news network?
Even the muppets aren`t buying his "Psycho Talk."

Later, actress Eva Longoria slams Mitt Romney for his opposition to
the DREAM Act. And she`s not the only one, Republicans could be in big
trouble this November.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: And in "Psycho Talk" tonight, Steve Doocy insists FOX News
is the most unbiased network around. As proof, Doocy proudly pointed to a
study from the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason
University on press coverage of the 2012 presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS: Interestingly enough, the most negative press
comes from NBC. They have 73 percent negative to 27 percent positive
stories about the race. Meanwhile, the most balanced coverage? FOX -- 52
percent positive, 48 percent negative. So fair and balance not only a
slogan, we actually live by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: I have shown you how fair and unbalanced FOX is, like when
Eric Bolling accused of muppets movie of trying to brainwash kids with an
anti-capitalistic, liberal agenda.

By the way, an expert recently weighed in on Bolling`s accusation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MISS PIGGY: Almost as laughable as accusing FOX News of, you know,
being news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: I mean, even Miss Piggy is talking about how biased FOX is.
So, obviously, there`s something fishy going on with the study that Doocy
is talking about. First of all, the president of the organization
conducting the study was once a paid contributor for FOX News. How about
that?

Plus, the study only takes into account the first half hour of FOX
News Channel special report because according to the study, it is most like
the network news shows.

So this study used at least FOX News like half hour of programming to
represent the entire network? Kids on "FOX and Friends," they, of course,
were not included. So, for Steve Doocy to say his show is unbiased, I
guess we could call that pig-headed "Psycho Talk."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVA LONGORIA, ACTRESS: People want it to frame it as an immigrant
issue. But it really is an economic issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Actress Eva Longoria is targeting Mitt Romney for his
position on the Dream Act. Coming up, Bill Burton and Joan Walsh on
Latinos and the Republican candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If you make more than a million dollars a year, you should not
pay less than 30 percent in taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Big news on the Buffett Rule in the Senate, even though Paul
Ryan said it couldn`t happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: He`s going to put some kind of poll
tested line in the State of the Union Address, and then have no follow-up
whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is here with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think reelecting Obama
is a disaster, but I -- and I certainly endorse the Republican nominee.
But I think that Mitt Romney will have a very, very hard time trying to
differentiate himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Well, Newt Gingrich says he will take it all the way to the
convention, if he has to. He believe he`s the candidate true conservatives
will rally around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Conservatives clearly are rejecting Romney. He`s no where
near getting a majority. And the fact is, once you get beyond Florida,
these are proportional representation states. This is going to go on all
the way to the convention.

The conservatives are going to come together and decide they do not
want a Massachusetts liberal to be the Republican nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: One right winger who sure seems to be in Newt`s corner,
former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: So, if for no other reason,
rage against the machine, vote for Newt. Annoy a liberal, vote Newt. Keep
this vetting process going. Keep the debate going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Keep the vetting process going. I`m joined tonight by Bill
Burton, former White House deputy secretary under President Obama, and co-
founder of Priorities USA Action, and Joan Walsh, editor at large,
Salon.com.

Joan, you first tonight; do the Republicans really believe that a
long, drawn out ride to the convention will be the best way to beat
President Obama?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: No, I don`t think they do. I think it`s great
for President Obama and it`s great fun for us. But this is serious blood-
letting, you know, Ed. I mean, these two guys, Mitt and Newt, they hate
each other. This is a hate-off.

So the more -- the longer this goes on, I think the weaker Romney
becomes. And there is also -- I have no love for Sarah Palin, but people
who are really trying to sort of blacken the eye of the Republican
establishment, whatever that is, are really trying to say we will not
accept this guy.

So you have got Newt saying I`m going to fight on to the convention.
You`ve got Ron Paul saying I`m doing it through the caucus states. This
could stay very interesting, even though I really don`t have any doubt -- I
never have -- that Mitt is going to be the nominee.

SCHULTZ: Bill, what does it do for the Democrats, a long drawn out
fight by the Republicans?

BILL BURTON, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Well, the longer it lasts, the
more Mitt Romney has to take positions that are just even further outside
of the main stream. He has already doubled down on his support for the
Ryan Budget, which is a killer for him. He`s already doing irreparable
harm for himself with Hispanic voters, the fastest growing demographic,
most important in this election, probably.

And then, you know, today he`s answering questions about Medicare
fraud down in Florida. So the longer that Mitt Romney has to talk about
these issues that are putting him outside the main stream, I think the
better it is for Democrats.

SCHULTZ: What do you make of Newt Gingrich saying he is going to go
all the way to the convention?

BURTON: I think that`s great. That is what democracy is all about.

SCHULTZ: But could he do it? Do you really think he could do it?
Does he have the resources to do that?

BURTON: He is right in the sense that there is a majority of
Republicans who are against Mitt Romney. Regardless of the fact that he
has been running for president for the last six years, he has not been able
to put together a coalition of voters that can put him over the top.

Now he may well win in Florida. He started with a big advantage on
absentee ballots, even before South Carolina results came in. But Newt
could certainly go all the way to the convention, if he can hold his
campaign together.

SCHULTZ: Joan Walsh, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were the only ones
campaigning in Florida today. Ron Paul is already focusing on Nevada. His
infrastructure there is very strong. Can Paul stop Romney`s momentum after
Florida? What do you think?

WALSH: You know, I don`t think he can fully stop the momentum. But I
think he can be another bump in the road. There can be a bumpy road on the
way to the coronation. And there is going to be one in these caucus
states.

You know, it does make me think about how Hillary Clinton stayed in
the race, for good reasons -- it wasn`t as bitter as this is. But you
know, he can actually rack up some delegates. I don`t know what he is
going to use them for. And make it hard for Mitt to reach that magic
number, where everybody breathes a sigh of relief and just says, OK, now
we`re looking forward to November.

That might not happen for a long time.

SCHULTZ: Yes. According to a recent ABC News/"Washington Post" poll,
49 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Mitt Romney; 51 percent
view Gingrich unfavorably. Those are high numbers for a non-incumbent
candidates. Bill, what does this mean when it comes to the general
election?

BURTON: Rarely has major party`s nominee gone into the general
election with such high unfavorables. So for Mitt Romney to have already
taken on so much water for his stewardship at Bain, for his stewardship of
the state of Massachusetts, for the decisions that he made all along the
campaign trail, to alienate Hispanic voters with his nativist language -- I
think all of that is baggage that he carries.

And it`s going to be very hard for him to get out from under.

SCHULTZ: David Axelrod got in a dig at Mitt Romney today, sending out
this Tweet, how loving owners transport their dogs, with a picture of
President Obama and his dog Bo inside a car. Joan, your thoughts of this?

WALSH: Well, Ed, you know I`m a dog lover. And my dog Sadie is
actually a member of Dogs Against Romney. There is a group on Facebook
that protests his treatment. I love that picture. I sent it around to all
my friends.

So, you know, we`re definitely going to win if it`s on the grounds of
dog treatment. Absolutely.

SCHULTZ: I want to -- quickly, Bill, all the verbal attacks, all the
in-coming on President Obama just in the last week, you know, the head of
the RNC, Congressman West in Florida -- and you have Jan Brewer of Arizona
-- I mean, is this what it is going to be like going -- and all the things
that Mitt and Newt have been saying -- is this just the way it is going to
be?

BURTON: I think it is going to be blisteringly negative. And if you
look at how tough Mitt Romney`s super PAC has been against Newt Gingrich
over the course of this primary, just , imagine what they are going to do
to try to take the paint off the side of President Obama`s barn come the
general election.

So I think that you`re looking at what is going to be hundreds of
millions of dollars in attacks. And that is just beside what all the
Republican surrogates are going to be out there --

SCHULTZ: I want to talk to you about money, because it is about the
money. No question about it. Bill Burton and Joan Walsh, stay with us.

Mitt Romney said that he wished he could claim he was Hispanic because
it would help him with Latino voters. But it`s his policies, not his
heritage, that are costing him support. Stay tuned. Lots more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: The Dream Act has been front and center for the Republican
candidates down in Florida. The legislation provides a path to citizenship
for undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children.
It`s a hot button issue in a state where 22.5 percent of the population is
Latino. In December, Mitt Romney said he would veto the Dream Act, which
was viewed as a hand-out. Latino voters don`t agree.

This weekend, Dream Act supporter actress Eva Longoria slammed Mitt
Romney on Twitter, writing, "85 percent of Latino voters support the Dream
Act; 100 percent of @MittRomney doesn`t."

In fact, Ms. Longoria may actually be low balling support for the
legislation. A recent Pew Survey shows that 91 percent of Latinos support
the Dream Act. Those number could explain why Mitt Romney is softening his
position. Here is Romney last week in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I would not sign the Dream Act as it currently exists. But I
would sign the Dream Act if it were focused on military service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Newt Gingrich has a similar position, but so far telling
undocumented kids they can only become citizens if they put their lives on
the line isn`t working. Mitt Romney has a 28 percent favorability rating
among Hispanic voters; Newt Gingrich is in at 24 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama is at 72 percent favorability rating with
Latino voters. Those numbers could make a huge difference in the general
election.

I`m joined again tonight by Bill Burton of Priorities USA Action, and
also Joan Walsh of Salon.com.

How in the world is Mitt Romney going to continue to massage, Joan,
his position on Latino voters in the Dream Act and get away with it? I
mean, can he win the presidency if he gets the nomination with such a low
number of Latino voters viewing him favorably?

WALSH: I think it`s very hard, because Bill knows better than I do,
in the key swing states, the Latino vote is of growing importance. The
thing that is so tragic to me, Ed, is that the Dream Act used to be the
kind of no-brainer, everyone could agree. Maybe people weren`t sure about
other pathways to citizenship and what to do about adults who came here
illegally.

But everybody, for a while, seemed to agree that we should educate
people who have lived here. The children who came here really, it was no
fault of their own, and that we want the best and brightest, and kids who
have really become American, to have a way to stay here that wasn`t just
about military service. That is one way.

So the idea that this has become a divisive issue and that they are
demonizing these kids and saying they can`t -- they can`t stay and go to
college -- it`s just so ridiculous to me. It really is a measure of how
far they have fallen and how much they`ve written off the Latino vote.

They represent a shrinking demographic. It`s sad for them.

SCHULTZ: Well, right now, President Obama is destroying Republicans
among Latino voters. He leads Romney, 67 to 25. He leads Gingrich, 70 to
22. Bill, how big a problem is this going to be for Republicans?

BURTON: Well, it`s a huge problem. Mitt Romney is already behind
where John McCain was on election day in 2008, when President Obama
trounced him with Hispanic voters. This is an issue we`re advertising on
in Florida right now, paring up with SEIUS to talk about Mitt RoMney`s
record with -- on the Dream Act, what he wants to do on immigration.

He`s the kind of guy who says most immigrants just come here for a
free ride. And then he turns around and says, I wish could say that I was
Hispanic.

SCHULTZ: What about that? Earlier, I played a clip of Mitt Romney
saying that he wished he could claim he was Hispanic. Joan, what does that
tell you about Romney?

WALSH: He will say anything. We`ve talked about this before. He
will literally -- almost literally say anything to pander and get elected.
And it`s just a -- it`s a sad thing to watch. And his family did have
freedom of access from one country to the other.

It`s just a real measure of the kind of meanness right now of the
Republican party.

SCHULTZ: Meanness is the right word. But under the umbrella of say
anything, I don`t know, has self deportation in the United States gone up
as of late, since his comment on that, bill? What do you make of that?
That is just a dartboard mentality. Let`s just see where it lands.

BURTON: Well, I just think Mitt Romney is scrambling anywhere that he
can get to try to get as far to the right of Newt Gingrich and the rest of
the Republican party, to try to get -- curry favor and actually build that
coalition that has been so illusive to him over the course of this year.

SCHULTZ: Newt Gingrich even does worse among Latino voters than
Romney does. What kind of opportunities does this open up for President
Obama in the general election? I mean, this president has always fared
well with minorities and done very strong with Latinos, which in -- many
people think is an untapped market.

I mean, that whole demographic is only going to grow. And early on
here, you have the both Republican candidates who are pretty much
alienating the entire community.

BURTON: Right. Well, as Joan was saying, in the swing states, the
Hispanic community is growing much faster than the rate of other sectors of
the population. That is obvious in the southwest, places like Colorado,
Nevada, New Mexico, but also in North Carolina, Virginia, in states like
that, where the Hispanic population has grown 14, 15, 16 percent just since
2008.

SCHULTZ: Eva Longoria, would she have an impact?

BURTON: Absolutely.

SCHULTZ: How about you, Joan? , Do you think she will?

WALSH: I think so. You know, people love her. So I`m glad that she
lent her name to this cause.

SCHULTZ: Bill Burton, Joan Walsh, great to have bot of you with us
tonight. Thanks so much.

President Obama scores on the big issue of fairness. He will push the
Buffett Rule right through the election, while every Republican votes
against it. The Big Finish is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. Big Finish tonight, Democrats
push a simple concept that I think every American can relate to: fairness.
This week, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will introduce a version
of the Buffett Rule requiring people making more than a million dollars a
year to pay at least 30 percent income tax.

White House has two co-sponsors so far and says the bill is in much
better position after President Obama highlighted the Buffett Rule in the
State of the Union Address. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan predicted
exactly the opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: What we have learned with the president, time and again, is he
is going to put some kind of poll-tested line in the State of the Union
Address and then have no follow-up whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: But the president left no doubt of his intentions when he
spoke to the Democrats last week at a retreat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So we`re going to push hard for the Buffett Rule. We`re going
to push hard to make sure the millionaires -- somebody making over a
million dollars a year isn`t getting tax breaks and subsidies that they
don`t need.

Not out of envy, but out of a sense of fairness and sense of mutual
responsibility and a sense of commitment to this country`s future. That is
what we`re fighting for. And The American people understand that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Newt Gingrich called the idea stupid. Of course, he and the
other candidates would cut taxes for the wealthy even further than where
they are right now.

Let`s turn to Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under the Bill
Clinton administration,, currently professor of public policy at UC
Berkeley and author of the book "After Shock."

Mr. Reich, great to have you with us tonight. Is this a good idea?
What kind of revenue could it generate? Would it close the gap? What do
you think?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it is a good idea. It`s
a minimum tax. In other words, it doesn`t -- it`s the least that somebody
who is a millionaire would be paying. And the estimates are really
somewhere in the range of 40-80 billion dollars.

This is not chicken feed we`re talking about. It`s fair. I mean,
most Americans support this. I think Republicans are going to be in a very
difficult place and a very difficult position saying no to this.

SCHULTZ: Here is Republican Senator John Kyl on the floor today.
Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON KYL (R)), ARIZONA: President Obama`s campaigning for
reelection on a soak the rich kind of platform. He argues that income
inequality and economic fairness are two of the defining issues of our
time. In his narrative, a more prosperous and fair society requires more
balance or redistribution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Mr. Reich, if we go back to the old rates, which they were
when you were in the Clinton administration, were you soaking the rich back
then? Did it work?

REICH: Not only were we not soaking the rich -- I mean, the rates
were higher than they are now. But Ed, we had massive growth, 22 million
net new jobs during that period. But you don`t have to even go back to the
Clinton administration. Go back to a prior Republican administration,
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican president in the 1950`s whom nobody
accused of being a socialist.

The actual marginal tax rate on people whose money -- whose income was
the equivalent of a million dollars today was, even when you took all the
deductions, all the tax credits -- was 52 percent. The official rate was
91 percent, marginal tax rate. But even after all the deductions, they
were paying 52 percent.

This is a Republican administration in the early 1950`s. So for
Republicans now to say that this is outrageous or kind of confiscatory is
absurd. I might also add, Ed, that in the 1950`s, the top one percent were
taking home only about 10 percent of total income in this country. Today,
they`re taking home twice that much.

SCHULTZ: Yes. Well, this I think is a great campaign effort. But
it`s also morally the right thing to do. Wealthy people in this country
can pay more. If we are going to fix our treasury, there is going to have
to be some shared sacrifice. They have had all the breaks in the last 10
en years.

Republicans, of course, will vote against it, but polls show Americans
favor raising taxes on the wealthy. Even Republicans favor it. Even
millionaires are in favor of it.

REICH: Absolutely.

SCHULTZ: So how hard should the Democrats push this one?

REICH: I think this could be one of the defining issues in the
campaign. Congressional Republicans will obviously vote against it. I
think every Democrat should vote for this. The president should talk about
it all the time, because it is fairness. It`s patriotism It`s the
question of whether we`re all in this together.

And if the rich don`t pay more, the rest of us are either going to
have to pay more or have fewer and less public services.

SCHULTZ: It also sets up the Republicans to vote against the middle
class, doesn`t it?

REICH: Exactly. It kind of smokes them out, Ed. I think that the
Democrats have got to do that finally. I mean, we`ve had years of allowing
the Republicans to say one thing and vote something else. We need to smoke
them out and see whether they are, in fact, on the side of average working
people.

SCHULTZ: A new poll also shows that Americans believe President Obama
understands average Americans; Romney and Gingrich not so much. These are
pretty compelling numbers. And you think that this could be a defining
issue.

Does that mean that possibly the Democrats could take back the House
on this issue?

REICH: I think so, Ed. I`m not sure about the Senate. The Senate
is going to be much harder. But I think the Democrats, if they make this a
defining issue, have a very good chance of taking back the House.

SCHULTZ: Senator Whitehouse says that there are huge exceptions to
our progressive tax system. Do you think this is going to fix it?

REICH: Well, it depends. If this is designed to be air-tight -- I
mean, nothing is air-tight, obviously. But look at -- you`re talking about
a minimum tax here, and no deductions, no tax credits, nobody can actually
-- who is earning a million dollars or over can get away with being in that
top tax bracket and not paying under 30 percent.

I mean, if this can be pulled off -- I believe it can. We do have --
we do have precedents historically -- then I think this would make a big,
big difference. And it would be very important to the country.

SCHULTZ: Going to be awfully important to get Republicans on the
record before the election, Early and often, I would say.

Robert Reich, great to have you with us tonight.

The main thing I think Americans need to realize is that would help
close the gap. Do we matter as citizens anymore? Do what we think in the
majority -- does that matter to these lawmakers? We`ll find out.

That is the ED SHOW, I`M Ed Schultz. You can listen to me on Sirius
XM, channel 127, Monday through Friday, from noon to 3:00 PM.

You can follow me on Twitter @EdShow and like THE ED SHOW on Facebook.
We appreciate that.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend.
I`m looking forward to Florida coverage with you tonight.

SCHULTZ: Florida tomorrow night, although you and I have been up here
in the cold country roughing it while -- that is OK. We want to go to
Florida when the Democrats are going at it, don`t we?

MADDOW: I feel like at this point, at this time in the year, the main
thing I accomplished this weekend was slipping on the ice and cracking my
head, So I just thought I got -- I was laying on the ground. It was
Saturday night. I`m outside on my back porch with the dog, laying on the
ice, looking at the stars going why aren`t I in Florida?

So on Tuesday, we`re going to make up for it.

SCHULTZ: I know the feeling. Have a great one. Thank you.

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

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