updated 1/31/2012 11:16:43 AM ET 2012-01-31T16:16:43

Guests: Jon Ralston, Frank Rich

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks.

I`m finally looking forward to Florida coverage with you tomorrow
night.

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Florida tomorrow night. Although you
and I have been up here in the cold country, roughing up, while, you know -
- that`s OK.

We want to go to Florida when the Democrats are going at it, don`t we?

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

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

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

MADDOW: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

I got to tell you, Florida is tomorrow night, Florida is Tuesday. But
in my mind, honestly in politics, it`s Nevada week. I mean, it is Florida
week, too, right?

But really, it`s sort of Nevada week. We`re getting blanket political
coverage this week about what`s happening in the Florida primary.

But there is a good argument to be made that Nevada ought to be seen
as just as important as Florida is. This is a week with sort of two tent
poles, Florida and Nevada both.

Even though Florida is going to have as many Republicans voting in
their primary as the number who voted in Iowa and New Hampshire and South
Carolina combined and then some, a win in Florida this year is worth
precisely half as much as a win in Florida has been worth in previous
years, because Florida wanted to be seen as really, really important in
this year`s presidential race, they intentionally broke the Republican
Party`s rules, when they moved up their primary date to make it really
early, to make it happen in January. Florida moved the primary so early
they lost half of their delegates.

So tomorrow, in Florida, instead of there being 99 delegates up for
grabs, it`s only going to be 50. In their rush to get toward the head of
the line in terms of the order of the nominating contest, Florida made
itself half as important as it should have been.

Florida has roughly seven times the population of Nevada, they got 19
million people. But they`ve got less than two times the number of Nevada`s
delegates. Florida has got 50 delegates, and Nevada has got 28.

Also, it also should be noted that we at least sort of thing we know
what is going happen in Florida. If you believe the polls, right? If you
TiVo a big football game and then you make the mistake of looking at the
final score before you actually watch the game, sort of takes away a little
of the oomph, even if you still enjoy watching people play.

I mean, anything could happen -- anything could happen tomorrow in
Florida. Volatility is the only constant in this year`s Republican
nominating race.

But when you look at the latest polls out of Florida, the day before
the primary, Mitt Romney is ahead by 20 points in the latest Suffolk
University poll. He leads Newt Gingrich by 15 points in the latest NBC
News/Marist poll. And he`s ahead by 14 points in the latest Quinnipiac
poll.

Why is Mitt Romney leading by these huge numbers in Florida? Well,
it`s in part because he has been running for president for six years. He
has been running in Florida for essentially all of those six years.

It`s about 2 million bucks a week to advertise in Florida`s major
media markets. Mitt Romney and his campaign, who are after all made of
money, they have been campaigning there for a very long time, for months
before anyone else had ads on in the state in this election season.

Look at the number of ads that Newt Gingrich and the PACs supporting
Newt Gingrich have run in Florida in a span of two weeks ahead of primary
day, 210 ads total.

Now, look at the number that Mitt Romney and the PAC supporting him
have run. Not to scale, right? We even bother making a graph, I`m sorry.

It looks like that`s like what, a third of 12,000? Yes, not to scale.
Mitt Romney at 12,768. So, yes, he`s winning.

The Democratic -- the worst bar graph in the history of cable news.
That`s astonishing.

Anyway, the Democratic Party actually circulated this comparative
figure today without the worst graph ever, to give their spin on how Mitt
Romney has put together this win in Florida.

Florida also has early voting, so that also takes away a little of the
drama for Florida because any bump that Mr. Gingrich might have gotten out
of his win in South Carolina was muted by the fact so many Floridians had
already cast their ballots in the race.

So, reasons this week to be even more excited for Nevada than you
might be for Florida.

In terms of delegates, on the line, Florida had half of their
delegates stripped by the Republican Party. Mitt Romney appears to also
have Florida in the bag, if you believe the polls. It`s not a foregone
conclusion, but it sort of is starting to look like a foregone conclusion.
And Nevada looks to be up for grabs.

The third reason why it is possible to be more excited about Nevada
today than it is about Florida is Nevada`s columnists. Yes, Florida has
Carl Hiaasen. He wrote the funniest column last think I think about five
years. It was about pythons, but specifically it was about the enthusiasm
with which pythons fall in love with each other and reproduce in the
Everglades.

But with the exception of the wonderful Carl Hiaasen, who ought to be
on Rushmore, Nevada`s columnists are, I mean, A, they`ve got Jon Ralston.
But the whole state is amazing in terms of its political coverage. How can
you beat this?

This is Jane Ann Morrison in "The Las Vegas Review Journal." Here`s
the start of her column today. This is just how it starts. I`m quoting.
"Doesn`t that guy sticking a needle in that cat`s butt look familiar? It`s
former Senator John Ensign who has gone back to work as a veterinarian."

That`s the way her column starts today. Remember John Ensign? John
Ensign is part of the reason that nobody has any idea what`s going do
happen with Nevada`s caucuses, and that state`s 28 delegates.

John Ensign and his sex and ethics scandal is part of the reason the
Nevada Republican Party has basically disintegrated over the past few
years. Mr. Ensign admitted to his extramarital affair in 2009, and it
unspooled from an adultery scandal into a sex and ethics scandal, into a
lobbying scandal for solid two years before Ensign finally resigned in
2011. And it`s not like Nevada`s Republican Party at that point was
evolving from a previous position of strength.

In 2008, before the John Ensign scandal even broke, the Nevada
Republican Party was forced to cancel their annual state convention. They
decided to cancel the convention and hold a conference call instead, Nevada
Republicans at the time citing a lack of interest. So they didn`t hold it.

A year later, the John Ensign scandal started unfolding. He was the
most prominent Republican in the state except for maybe the state`s
Republican governor, who was at the time, also having his own scandal.
Nevada`s Republican Governor Jim Gibbons left office also in 2011, in the
wake of allegations that among other things he too was engaged in an
extramarital affair.

Then in the midst of all that, in the midst of the Gibbons scandal and
Ensign scandal, and nobody wanting to come to their convention, the Nevada
Republican Party decided that their anointed establishment candidate to run
against Harry Reid, the best chance the Republicans are ever going have to
unseat the Senate majority leader, they decided their establishment
candidate would be Sue Lowden. Remember Sue Lowden?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUE LOWDEN (R-NV), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, before we all
started having health care in the olden days, our grandparents would bring
a chicken to the doctor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Not the John Ensign, different kind of doctor. She meant to
the human doctor, you`d bring a chicken to pay for your checkup -- chickens
for checkups lady. She was the establishment choice for Senate in Nevada.
This choice of the Republican establishment in the state of Nevada.

She lost to this person.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Sharron, will you answer some questions really quickly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, we have to go. I`m sorry.

REPORTER: Sharron, you don`t have any --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re running behind. I`m sorry.

REPORTER: You`re not willing to answer what Second Amendment remedies
means?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Sharron Angle ultimately lost to Harry Reid in that Senate
race, obviously. Nevada Republicans are a mess. They have been a mess for
quite a few years now.

And Nevada Republicans` inability to get it together, to get out the
vote for Sharron Angle, who was ahead of the polls when she lost to Harry
Reid, the fact that the most famous Republican in the states is now
castrating cats in Las Vegas and talking to local columnists about it, the
Nevada`s Republican Party`s pure fecklessness is what makes the Nevada race
this week so interesting.

In a presidential year that`s defined by an anti-establishment
candidate, Mitt Romney, and the countervailing anti-establishment feeling
in the party, in Nevada, we`ve got something unique going on because in
Nevada, there sort of is no establishment.

The Ron Paul campaign has been saying for weeks now that their
strategy is to do well in Nevada and in other states that have caucuses.
Their strategy is to take advantage of their organizational strength and
try to rack up as many delegates as possible.

Ron Paul is not bothering wasting money or time in Florida. When I
came in work on Friday, we get a political note at the start of the day
everyday that tells us where all the candidates are going to be that day.
And the note on Friday said that Ron Paul was in Maine. In Maine? Really?

The results of Maine`s caucuses will be announced on February 11th but
Ron Paul was there putting in some shoe leather.

Today, my where are the politicians note said Ron Paul was home in
Texas with no public events scheduled. He`s apparently resting up. I
guess for Nevada, despite the fact that tonight is Florida eve.

So, Ron Paul, long haul, caucus states, delegate strategy.

But now, it is also starting to sound like Newt Gingrich may also
pursue a delegate strategy long haul strategy as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The conservatives clearly
are rejecting Romney. He is nowhere near getting a majority. And so, this
is going to go all the way to the convention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: All the way to the convention, that was Newt Gingrich
yesterday on ABC.

Later in the day, Mr. Gingrich told some reporters in Florida, quote,
"When you take all of the non-Romney votes, it`s very likely at the
convention, there will be a non-Romney majority, and maybe a very
substantial one. My job is to convert that in a pro-Gingrich majority."

Now, I know that may sound crazy, like Gingrich is going to stay in
all way to the convention, and consolidate all the anti-Romney vote under
him, it may sound crazy. The Republican establishment definitely wants you
to think that that`s crazy.

But one final thought here, there are 2,288 delegates that are up for
grabs in the Republican presidential nominating process. Let`s see how we
do with this graph.

This is where we`re at right now, out of the 2,288. So far, Ron Paul
has four delegates. Rick Santorum has 14. Newt Gingrich has 26. And Mitt
Romney has 37. That is where we`re at. That teeny, tiny sliver of
delegates is all that`s been divvied up so far.

And Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are both pledging to take this thing
all the way to the convention.

If you think this is over just because Mitt Romney is likely to win
Florida tomorrow? It doesn`t seem like it will be over. It seems like
maybe these guys have not yet begun to fight.

Joining us now is a man who is the most fun person to talk to about
politics in the state of Nevada, which is full of fun people to talk to
about politics.

Jon Ralston is a columnist for "The Las Vegas Sun" and he`s the host
of "Face to Face with Jon Ralston."

Jon, it`s good to see you. Thanks for being here.

JON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN: Good to see you, Rachel. Two years
later, it`s still John Ensign you`re talking about.

MADDOW: I`m sorry. The fact is John Ensign is back and like taking
care of cats. I just, I feel like we had to check in.

The reason that John Ensign was so relevant even in 2010 when he was
on his way out the door is because he was sort of a symbol and maybe the
symptom and maybe the cause of Nevada`s Republican Party really falling
apart. Since 2010, have they gotten their act together at all?

RALSTON: Well, they tried to. They`ve actually hired some
professionals. They have a good executive director. They`ve hired a
professional firm to run this caucus.

But they`ve still gone through all kinds of chaos. They had a chance
to really increase registration rolls, Rachel, and with same day
registration as the Democrats, you may remember in 2008, got 116,000 people
to come out, they registered 30,000 new voters. But kind of the crazy
conspiracy theorists said, no, we can`t do that. Harry Reid is going to
infiltrate our caucus.

So, they still got those factions. They were forcing out the current
chairwoman essentially, Amy Tarkanian. So, they still have a lot of
problems.

And you`re right. John Ensign, of course, our former governor, Jim
Gibbons, went a long way in hurting the Republican brand here in Nevada.

MADDOW: Last time around in the Nevada caucuses in 2008, if I
remember correctly, it was Mitt Romney and then Ron Paul. We didn`t really
see much of John McCain at all in Nevada.

What are you seeing so far in terms of what kind of investments the
candidates are making there? How do you think they`re going to pay off?

RALSTON: Well, Mitt Romney, as you mentioned, has been running for
president for six years. He`s been here essentially all that time. He
didn`t leave in 2008. He still got the infrastructure set up.

He won the caucus easily in 2008, 51 percent. You mentioned the John
McCain didn`t even campaign here. Ron Paul finished in second with 14
percent. So, I think Romney is the favorite.

But the Paul folks are more organized than they were in 2008, Rachel.
I wouldn`t discount them. Paul actually is really invested fairly heavily
here on television, also mostly positive ads.

So, I wouldn`t completely count him out. Gingrich is just getting
started here, as is Santorum, very difficult to organize from the ground up
for a caucus that quickly.

MADDOW: Sheldon Adelson, of course, the billionaire Vegas casino
mogul who`s injected $10 million in the Gingrich campaign. He`s -- there`s
been some controversy around a special caucus that`s going to be held late
on Saturday, at a school named after him in the county in which he lives.
Mr. Adelson is being credited with sustaining Gingrich`s campaign through
South Carolina and in part in Florida.

How should we see him as a factor in his home caucuses in Nevada?

RALSTON: Yes, I think this is kind of ironic, Rachel, because I think
Sheldon Adelson is going to have more influence on Newt Gingrich`s campaign
outside of Nevada than he actually has inside Nevada. You know, he saved
Newt Gingrich by that money he infused in the super PAC aligned with Newt
in South Carolina, and then his wife invested $5 million more. You put up
those ads, the comparison, though, I mean, obviously, it hasn`t really
worked there.

Now, what is he doing there? You mentioned a special caucus. That`s
going to be a night caucus for observant Jews. He and others protested
that this was going on. Of course, his spokesman is distancing Adelson
from all this.

But it`s too late for that because it`s at his school, he called the
Clark County chairman, the county chairman told me to inquire about the
caucus. Clearly he wanted it, that is only going to be a few hundred
voters. So, he`s not going to be able to influence the outcome of that.

It sounds like all of the employees of the Venetian and Palazzo are
going to show up at the Adelson school to vote on Saturday night.

So, he really has had more influence on the race outside Nevada than I
think he has inside Nevada.

MADDOW: His influence outside Nevada, globally I think cannot be
overstated. I don`t think there would be a Gingrich candidacy at this
point without him. But this is going to be a fascinating week to watch.

Jon Ralston, columnist to "The Las Vegas Sun," the host of "Face to
Face with Jon Ralston" -- Jon, it is great to see you. I have a feeling
we`ll be talking before this weekend. Thank you.

RALSTON: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. The interview tonight is Frank Rich, the Frank
Rich, very excited about that.

Plus, we got the best new thing in the world on tap and a debunktion
junction. That`s all ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If you add up the net worth of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford
and Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton
and George W. Bush and Barack Obama, if you add up the peak lifetime wealth
of all of those presidents, and then double it, you double that combined
amount, that is the "Associated Press`" estimate today of the ballpark
wealth of Mitt Romney.

Interestingly though, even though Mitt Romney is worth double the peak
lifetime wealth of all those presidents combined, he`s only worth about two
Rick Scotts.

Rick Scott is the governor of Florida. He was elected in 2010. Rick
Scott is also zillionaire. He spent $73 million of his own money on
pursuing the governorship in Florida. He outspent his democratic opponent
nearly 5-1, and then he narrowly won the election. Since then, Governor
Scott`s approval ratings have slumped through the floor.

Notice, there have been all these politic stories about how about
weird and interesting it is that Jeb Bush hasn`t endorsed anybody and that
Marco Rubio hasn`t endorsed anybody.

Nobody really wonders about Rick Scott not endorsing anybody. It`s
not exactly a coveted endorsement. But the guy does have a ton of money.
And a ton of money can buy a lot in Florida politics, whether it`s your
personal money or your campaign money.

Mitt Romney and his supporters are reportedly outspending Newt
Gingrich and his supporters 5-to-1 in Florida.

So, despite Mr. Gingrich`s post-South Carolina surge, if the polls in
Florida hold through tomorrow, Mr. Gingrich looks like he`s going to be
buried tomorrow under an avalanche of Romney bucks.

Part of the reason that Mitt Romney is so personally wealthy has to do
with Florida. In 1994, Bain Capital, which he was running at the time,
bought a medical company that had roots in Florida. In 1996 and 1997, Bain
helped that company take over two more medical companies.

They also started, as they say, cutting costs. They closed a plant in
Puerto Rico, which eliminated between 300 and 400 jobs there. They also
shut down operations in Miami. That move eliminated 850 Miami jobs, cut
out $30 million in payroll that those 850 employees used to receive as
salary. That was all taken out of the Miami economy when Bain shut that
plant down.

Then two years later, Bain made sure that Bain got paid. They had
that same company where they fired all the workers, take on a huge amount
of debt, for the purpose of paying Bain Capital. After the layoffs in
Puerto Rico and the layoffs in Miami and the debt, Bain walked away with
$242 million for themselves and their investors.

In 2002, just a few years later, the medical company filed for
bankruptcy. It was buried under all the debt and it was bankrupt for five
years, before it finally came out and was bought by another company.

This is one of those deals Mitt Romney worked on while he was running
the show at Bain. But then the deal continued paying off for him after he
left the company. His arrangement with Bain Capital is that he still gets
paid now. So part of why Mitt Romney is worth more money than Richard
Nixon, and Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, and George
H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and Barack Obama combined,
times two, is because 850 people lost their jobs in Miami in 1997.

Making money is one thing. Making money is one thing. Having money
is another.

This is something that has received sort of here and there attention
in the last week since Mr. Romney released his tax returns, and since we
learned he only pays a special mini tax rate that`s reserved for people who
don`t work, but who just live off long term investments on their giant
piles of money.

But making money and having money are a different thing. If you would
like to choose between which one of those ways is a nicer way to make a
living, just having money and living off the interest it makes in its big
piles is a much easier way to do it, and a much more lucrative way to do
it.

The mini tax rate that Mitt Romney pays, he pays less than 15 percent,
13.9 percent, in the one year that he`s given full tax returns, that mini
tax rate has not been around forever. So, relatively modern tax loophole
that says if you`re income is earned on investments that you had more than
a year. So, if your income is earned on giant piles of money instead of
wages, you only have to pay 15 percent.

Mr. Romney left Bain in 1998 but he still every year gets paid a huge
amount of money from Bain. Still, now -- on the deals he did while he was
there. And he pays taxes at that tiny little mini tax rate on that money
that he still gets from Bain.

Why does that little mini tax rate exist?

It exists because a company called Bain lobbied for it. On this I
must defer to the master, Jon Stewart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: In 2007, there was a bipartisan bill to make
private equity investors, like Romney, pay the ordinary income tax rate of
35 percent on their carried interested earnings, instead of 15 percent
they`ve been paying since 1987. Well, funny story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you suspect the tax treatment for carried
interest will be changed?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Listen, if I could tell you about the
number of lobbyists hired in the last two months to work this issue, you
would know that it would be very risky for me to predict what would happen
on this.

STEWART: Oh, may I make a prediction because I`m in the future? Yes,
they killed it. By the way, who were those lobbyists? Who had so much
influence over our government that Charlie Grassley, the Republican Senate
Financial Committee`s ranking guy, he co-sponsored the bill to adjust the
tax rate. Who were the lobbyists so powerful this guy (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
like he`s talking about Baltimore when he brings them up.

Well, it was the Private Equity Council, a lobbying group formed,
surprise, surprise, that very year, by the country`s biggest private equity
firms, including Mitt Romney`s Bain Capital.

Now, to be fair, Bain is not Romney, Romney is not necessarily Bain.
This whole issue could be an issue they part ways on and roll tape from
2007.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you come out on the proposals coming out of
the Democratic Congress to raise taxes on hedge funds, private equity
funds, venture capital funds so forth?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I don`t think it`s a
good idea to raise taxes.

STEWART: Yes! Because they are your taxes!

Not to say Mitt Romney doesn`t believe -- not to say Mitt Romney
doesn`t believe the tax system need not be reformed. There are certain
taxes he feels should be raised.

ROMNEY: Forty-seven percent of Americans paying no income tax, that`s
a heck of a big number.

STEWART: Yes. The tax code is so unfair to you.

So, to clarify, the millions of dollars that Mitt Romney saves because
of the aggressively lobbied 15 percent tax rate is legal and fair, and he`s
entitled to that from the government, no strings attached.

But where does Romney stand on other such government largesse?

ROMNEY: I also like the idea that people who are receiving
assistance, welfare assistance, have a responsibility of working.

I think he wants us to become entitlement society, where the people in
this country feel they are entitled to something from government.

STEWART: Poor people have (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lobbyists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: The great Jon Stewart of Comedy Central.

He did that segment last week and that was a sort of a rip off of Jon
Stewart by showing you that. But B, I don`t really think anybody showed it
better or more clearly. So, that was an homage to Mr. Stewart. Well done.

"Mother Jones" also posted a little piece about this issue today. But
other than that overlooked piece on "The Daily Show" last week, which was
genius and "Mother Jones" doing this today, this otherwise is not sinking
in. The reason Mitt Romney pays only a mini tax on the money he made
closing factories at Bain is because Bain uses some of its share of that
money that it made closing factories to lobby for its executives to keep
paying that mini tax rate.

So, yes, poor people do have sucky lobbyists.

On the eve of the Florida primary, Mitt Romney is still getting paid
for laying people off in Florida. But money from his campaign and from his
super PAC has bought a whole lot of TV ads that make it look like he`d be
great for Florida.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: One of the reasons that you might want to be president one
day is because presidents get to do a weekly address on anything they want.
And good radio stations all over the country air that address and you can
watch it online and the opposing party runs a rebuttal. It`s like a mini
State of the Union every weekend, except with less clapping -- and because
I guess only politics dorks and people like me who love a.m. radio pay
attention to it. But, still, it happens every weekend.

This weekend, the Republican response to the president`s weekly radio
address was delivered by Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The bottom line is this president
inherited a country with serious problems. He asked the Congress to give
him the stimulus and Obamacare to fix it. The Democrats in Congress gave
to it him. And not only didn`t it work, it made everything worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Worse. You keep using that word. I don`t think it means
what you think it means.

Here -- the red bars are private sector job growth during the Bush
administration. The blue bars are private sector job growth during the
Obama administration.

So when Marco Rubio says, yes, he inherited something bad but made it
worse, when Rubio says things are getting worse under Obama, you must mean
the opposite of that, right?

Well, here is another, here is economic growth -- red equals Bush,
blue is Obama. So, again, when Marco Rubio says the president inherited a
bad situation but he made it worse, the president`s policies made
everything worse, when Marco Rubio says that, he doesn`t mean it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: It made everything worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He can`t mean that. He can`t mean that.

When Marco Rubio says that, he can`t mean it. He either doesn`t mean
it because he doesn`t know the truth or he doesn`t mean it because he
doesn`t know what the word "worse" means, or he doesn`t mean it because
he`s a freshman and he thinks nobody takes him seriously or maybe he
doesn`t even bother to try to get stuff right because he doesn`t care.

But for the record, Marco Rubio is wrong on this and he should correct
what he said.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: My partner Susan has a theory that your dog tends to obey its
name. So, if you have a dog named Ranger or Rover -- that might be a great
name but your dog will not like to come home when you call it. I propose
naming a new dog we were getting Chewie, she said no, the dog will fulfill
that destiny. I got shot down for Houdini because obviously he would slip
his collar.

The name Dewey, though -- Dewey -- I didn`t expect her to shoot down
the name Dewey. Dewey, what could be wrong with the name Dewey? But, no,
she said, Dewey -- famous for losing. Every third person our dog meets
will be thinking Dewey defeats Truman. Except Dewey didn`t.

All right. Republican Thomas Dewey was favored to beat Democrat Harry
Truman for president in 1948. He did not. That`s President Truman two
days after Election Day in 1948, looking ecstatic, holding a copy of the
"Chicago Tribune."

That newspaper, like practically every newspaper and every political
hack in the country that year, had written Truman off. They picked Dewey
to defeat him. But Dewey didn`t. Truman won.

That`s Dewey there with the amazing mustache. Dewey was essentially,
in his day, seen as the inevitable candidate. He had been the Republican
presidential nominee in 1944, when he lost to FDR, then was the Republican
nominee for president again in 1948, when he lost to Truman, even though
everybody thought he would win.

This year, when I look in the eyes of Mitt Romney, I will admit that I
have been seeing Bob Dole.

But Frank Rich at "New York Magazine," when he looks into the eyes of
Mitt Romney, he sees he has been seeing Thomas Dewey. Thomas Dewey who was
once called the little man on the wedding cake.

And Frank Rich, as the most astute political observer of our time
tends to see these things earlier than most of us do. And it`s probably
true the name Dewey would make for a defeatist little dog.

Joining us tonight for the interview is "New York Magazine`s" writer
at large, Frank Rich. His piece is in the most recent issue of "New York
Magazine" is called, "Who in God`s Name is Mitt Romney?"

Frank, thank you for being here.

FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Delighted to be here, Rachel, as
always.

MADDOW: The comparison to Thomas Dewey is not the central point of
your column. But you made it at the end, and I found it exercising, and I
found myself reading a lot and thinking a lot about Thomas Dewey. Why do
you see him in Romney?

RICH: Well, Dewey was a very complacent campaigner and very cautious.
And in 1948, he felt the less he said, the more he avoided the controversy,
the better.

So, for instance, as we have now Romney saying things like "I believe
in America" and all this kind of boilerplate, Dewey did the same thing.
You know, the future is just ahead of us -- that was his idea of a
political platform. And in the end, of course, he was surprised.

And there were a couple other parallels, biggest is that we know that
Barack Obama is planning to go run against a do-nothing Congress, which was
exactly Truman`s campaign in `48. Truman had very low popularity ratings
going in that election, and triumphed over Dewey.

Dewey was also like Romney, a Northeastern governor, New York, and a
moderate Republican. However, he had more spine than Romney, because he
actually remained a moderate Republican at the end of his career was on the
other side of Joe McCarthy, of Goldwater. So, he -- and also he had more
accomplishments before he became governor of New York. He was a mob
buster. He was prosecutors, went after Dutch Schultz and so on.

So, compare to Romney, he`s almost exciting, charismatic.

MADDOW: Well, he`s handsome, right? And he sort of ran as this, ran
as like an upstanding guy who you`d like to live next door to, sort of ran
as like a solid character, in a way.

RICH: Right.

MADDOW: And you essentially are describing that as the same thing
that Romney is going at in the vaguest possible sense. But in a way that
still leaves his core beliefs and the core things about it, even his
personality illusive, sort of running almost in a ghosty fashion.

RICH: Yes, and one thing I have been grappling with, is I think a lot
of people have been is why does this guy not connect? Why does he seem
plastic, basically?

And the standard answer is he`s stiff, he`s rich, he needs better
performance skills, he needs to learn how to speak better before crowds.

But I think part of it is also one thing that he feels really
passionate about is his religion. He`s had a long history in the Mormon
Church as a leader. And because he feels, it would be sad it`s true,
people are bigoted about it, he doesn`t want to talk about it. And yet
that`s something I think he probably cares about more than Bain and all the
money and all the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts.

But I think you feel that there -- you`re not getting the true Romney,
I don`t think we are.

MADDOW: So, you feel like because -- maybe that is the thing that he
could tell stories about that he could talk about in a personal way, that
would -- for lack of a better term -- animate him, that would make us sense
more of who he is?

RICH: I agree. I think that`s exactly it, and I think the Mormon
religion is an interesting kind of great American story. That a lot of
things about it have been good for the country, and helped built the
country, particularly in the West, but he just doesn`t go there. So, it`s
almost as if he`s closeted about his religion, and I think that makes him
seem fake.

MADDOW: I have always said my advice to gay people has always been
that gay people should come out of the closet, if they can, if only because
closeted people are boring.

RICH: Well, that`s exactly it. So, just like sexual orientation,
religious orientation, it is a part of your being. And so, if he can`t --
if he has to as it were, stay in the closet about being a Mormon, even when
he gives a big speech about being a Mormon last time around, he used the
word exactly once.

So, he`s frightened about talking about the things he cares about,
devoted his life and a lot of fortune to as well.

MADDOW: You raised some important political questions that could be
asked about the Mormon Church during his times as a leader there.
Important questions about women in the church, about African Americans in
the church, of course, very difficult history in the Mormon Church, being
barred from the priesthood on the basis of race, until later than you think
that could be possible at a time when Mitt Romney was already a leader in
his church.

Is it not just a fear of religious bigotry that people may find his
religion objection or strange in some way, by that there are hard political
questions that there may be difficult political answer to about his time?

RICH: I think there are. I think the theological questions don`t
matter, every religious is entitled to its own theology. And they all have
their idiosyncrasies, God knows, only God knows.

But the truth is the Mormon Church has been a player in various
things, campaigned against equal rights amendment for women,
institutionally, very slow in civil rights. In 1978, that`s how long it
took for blacks to get full equality in the Mormon Church.

MADDOW: Wow.

RICH: And then there`s the gay part of it, because we know that the
Mormon Church drummed up more than $20 million to put over Proposition 8 in
California two years ago. We know -- a few years ago. We know also that
80, 90 percent of the volunteers who organized that juggernaut were
Mormons.

So, that`s a big player in an important political issue that affected
the law in the state of California. Where was he as a contributor and
leader?

MADDOW: Yes, those are issues that can not only be personally
animating. I mean, I heard Mr. Romney talk about the issue of civil right
and the church and I`ve not seen him become emotional about it, but heard
him describe himself becoming emotional about it, which is as close as I
think we`ve ever had to an emotional sighting of Mitt Romney on the
campaign trail.

(CROSSTALK)

RICH: Well, he talked emotionally about it. But also, in the last
campaign, you may recall, he said on "Meet the Press" that he had seen his
father march with Martin Luther King, which turned out to be complete and
utter fiction. There was no such march -- his father had not marched with
King. And maybe we can be sympathetic he felt he had to overcompensate for
his church`s behavior in those years and the way it treated African
Americans.

But still that is weird to talk movingly about something that never
happened.

MADDOW: Yes. You obviously are not going to be a personal who the
Romney campaign or any other Republican campaign seeks out for advice. But
it seems to me that your piece in the "New York Magazine" this week and
what you are saying here is essentially advice that the campaign could
reasonably take, that this might be a way to make people connect with your
candidate.

Do you think that the campaign would ever consider that? I mean, it
seems like the way they are addressing any issues about the candidates
religion right now is to label anybody who raises them in a respectful way
as a bigot.

RICH: So yes, they are going to try to pave it over. But they`re not
going to succeed because as we know, presidential campaigns really strip
people bare. And assuming Romney may well get the nomination, at least
he`s going to be there through the whole process, it`s going to be
relentless, and that people look at everything.

So, they are sort of kidding themselves and I think it would humanize
him to talk about his faith, given his importance to it and its importance
to him, and to be candid about where he agrees, disagrees, not about
theology, not about their view with the Bible, not about Joseph Smith, but
about 20th and 21st century politics in America.

MADDOW: And his role in them. Absolutely.

RICH: Exactly.

MADDOW: "New York Magazine" writer at larger, Frank Rich -- it`s
great to see you, thanks for being here.

RICH: Great to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. After this show, on "THE LAST WORD," you expect
the Republican National Committee chairman to go after the president, he
does so on a daily basis. But the way he did it yesterday has a certain
boomerang quality to it. It is making a lot more headlines for that
certain chairman than it is about the president. Lawrence O`Donnell has
those details next.

And here, it`s time for another debunktion junction special campaign
edition. That`s next. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Debunktion junction, what`s my function.

All right. True or false? Has he has been widely reported,
tomorrow`s Republican primary in Florida is a winner-take-all contests.
You heard this, right? The candidate who wins the most votes gets all of
Florida`s delegates.

Florida, unlike South Carolina is a winner-take-all state in terms of
delegates for the Republican nomination. Is that true or is that false?

False. False, sort of.

The Republican Party tried to make states go later this year. Only
Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada were allowed to go before
Super Tuesday in March. Any other state that decided to go earlier than
that would get docked half their delegates.

So Florida got docked from its 99 delegates down to 50. Then the
Republican Party came up with another punishment for any state that wants
to go before April. Those states would not be allowed to give all of their
delegates to the winner. They couldn`t be winner-take-all. They would
have to give out their delegates proportionally.

So, Florida broke both of those rules, but ultimately, they`ve decided
just to blow off that last one. They decided they`d been punished enough
by losing half their delegates and they`re going to award their delegates,
winner-take-all no matter what the Republican Party said about that big
dumb rule that they broke.

That`s why everybody`s been saying that Florida is winner-take-all.
They are planning on that. They would like it to be so.

However, there are rules and as reported in "Tampa Bay Times" and
elsewhere, nobody really knows how Florida is going to allot its delegates
in the end. Quote, "All it takes is a registered Florida Republican to
file a protest with the RNC and the party`s contest committee would have to
consider the issue when it meets in August just before the convention."

So, bottom line: Florida wants to be winner-take-all in terms of its
delegates. They want to be seen that way. They want you to say that about
them. They`re sort of not supposed to be able to say that. And it maybe
won`t be decided until August how Florida allocates its delegates.

So, anybody who tells you that it is a settled issue has not had as
much as time as I have to sprain their blessed eyeballs reading Republican
National Committee arcane delegate rules. There you have it.

Next up, true or false, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
says Catholic hospitals should be exempt from a law requiring them to
dispense contraception? Is that true or is that false?

True. That is true. Now that Mitt Romney is running for president.

There is a no co-payments for birth control policy that`s part of
women`s health and preventive health care in the Affordable Care Act.
Those health regulations have an exemption for religious employers like
churches. But there is not an exemption for those regulations for large
institution that is serve the general public even if they may be religious
in nature, places like Catholic hospitals. The Romney campaign is calling
that lack of an exemption for Catholic hospitals a, quote, "direct attack
on religious liberty that will not stand in a Romney presidency."

So, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says Catholic
hospitals should be exempt from that law requiring them to cover
contraception as part of health care. That is true.

Also -- that is false, or at least it was false when Mitt Romney was
the governor of Massachusetts in one specific instance. In 2005, there was
a proposal in Massachusetts to exempt Catholic hospitals from a law
requiring them to dispense emergency contraception specifically to a woman
who had been raped. Governor Romney says Catholic hospitals should not be
exempt from that.

He said at the time, quote, "I think it is in my personal view, it`s
the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access emergency
contraception of anyone who is the victim of a rape." He may have said
that was his personal view, but he also made it policy for the state.

So, that`s President Mitt Romney and that`s Governor Mitt Romney.

Mr. Romney should probably be asked now about 2005 Mitt Romney`s
gubernatorial position and whether or not he agrees with his old self on
that part of it.

And finally, true or false -- everybody who lives in the wonderful
state of South Dakota has 46 early voting days in the primary and general
elections this year? Forty-six days, is that true or false?

False.

South Dakotans do have 46 days to cast their ballots this year which
you can imagine is rather helpful in such a rural state where getting to a
polling place could take more than a hop, skip and a jump.

But as the new investigative journalism venture 100 Reporters writes
today, not everybody in South Dakota gets this deal. Not everybody in
South Dakota is being allowed to avail themselves of that 46-day early
voting window. Instead of 46 days, members of at least one Native American
tribe in South Dakota get only six days. So, they get six days to vote
instead of 46 days to vote for everybody else in the state.

The Oglala Sioux tribe is suing the state of South Dakota and local
officials, saying the 40 days` difference between their voting window and
everybody else`s voting window in the state is akin to a poll tax. It`s
also akin to ridiculous.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today, this happens. It happens.
Our nation`s first ever -- look at that -- first ever parade for troops
coming home from the war in Iraq. It happened, totally happened Saturday
in St. Louis, Missouri.

The welcome home parade, of course, was the brainchild of just two
guys from St. Louis with a Facebook page who had never done anything like
this before. But they pulled it off with the help of some generous local
companies and a city with the will to do it. Tens of thousands of people
lined the streets, cheering the troops, and shaking hands. This is a
"thank you" big enough to make the nation notice and also personal enough
to grab your heart and rattle it a little.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twice, Army National Guard Major Rick Ranford has
flown home after serving in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can drop me in any city in the United
States, because daggumit, I was home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was touched by the outpouring of his hometown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely overwhelmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was from "Nightly News" this weekend.

Our nation has been debating whether now is a good time to celebrate
veterans coming home from Iraq, especially since so many of them are being
redeployed to Afghanistan, which is a war, of course, that is ongoing.

Still, though, on Sunday, the New York giants will be playing the New
England Patriots in a football game known as the Super Bowl. By tradition,
the winning team in the Super Bowl gets a big parade downtown. The New
York Giants got one in 2008, the last year they were champions. The
Patriots got one in 2005 when they were champs.

There`s nothing wrong with celebrating football. I myself am a
celebrant. I wonder, though, if it won`t be a little weird for our country
to go crazy over a sports team while still saying not yet to the veterans.

My friend Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
of America asked that flat-out online tonight, challenging the mayors of
New York and Boston, are you really OK with your football team getting a
ticker tape parade and not your Iraq vets?

For now, today, St. Louis, Missouri, pulling off its welcome home the
heroes parade. I got to say, they did it first in the country and it is
the best new thing in the world today. For St. Louis, man, well done.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night at
6:00 Eastern for our special coverage of the Florida primary.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
great night. We`ll see you tomorrow.

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

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