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PoliticsNation, Thursday, February 23, 2012

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Guests: Bob Shrum; Nia-Malika Henderson; Louise Lucas; Diana DeGette, Tad Devine, Chip Saltsman, Judith Browne-Dianis, Debra Crawford

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

Our lead story, there`s two conversations going on in this country.
For months now, the president has been talking from coast to coast about
the thing Americans care most about -- jobs.

But funny enough, that word doesn`t seem to be in the GOP vocabulary.
The four candidates in last night`s debate only said the word ten times
between them. Willard only said it twice. Rick Santorum didn`t utter the
word at all.

But let`s face it. The Republican candidates and their crowds seem to
get more riled up by other things. They booed a question on birth control.
That`s right. In months past, GOP debate crowds had booed a gay soldier,
applauded the death penalty apparently and now made it clear they don`t
really like birth control. Good thing for their candidates, it fits right
in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not once did anybody in
the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing and
fantasize.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Children being raised by
children. Children being raised out of wedlock.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most recently requiring the
catholic church to provide for its employees and various enterprises health
care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the
morning after pill. Unbelievable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Wow, Willard. No wonder the president leads you by 35
points among unmarried women. And your attacks on women are about as tone
deaf as your attacks on the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I don`t think we`ve seen in the history of this country the
kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious
tolerance that we`ve seen in Barack Obama.

SANTORUM: He was willing to jump into bed with the Muslim brotherhood
in Libya and Egypt.

GINGRICH: This is an administration which as long as you are
America`s enemy, you`re safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Really? Keep going extreme, fellows. Just know that the
more you do, the more it hurts you in those swing states. Fifty three
percent of the people in those states, including 44 percent of your own
party, say this process is weakening the field. These Republican
candidates are talking to the right, but it`s the wrong conversation for
America.

Joining me now is Bob Shrum, a democratic strategist and professor at
NYU and Nia-Malika Henderson, national reporter for "the Washington Post."

Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s
great to be here, rev.

SHARPTON: Now Bob, let me start with you. You write in a column out
later today that Romney may have stopped his bleeding in the primaries, but
has opened his veins for November. What do you mean by that?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he engaged in a panderthon
(ph) last night. It was as though he felt he had to satisfy every right
wing instinct inside the Republican party. So not only did he do what he
did on birth control and, and I think, jump into that after Rick Santorum
delivered himself a Jeremiah. He`s created with that by the way an almost
impassable gender gap between himself and the White House.

He then went on and cited Arizona`s anti-Hispanic, Hispanic baiting,
immigration law as a model for the nation. You know, Karl Rove said that a
Republican can`t get elected president without getting about 40 percent of
the Hispanic vote. John McCain got 31 percent last time.

SHARPTON: Right.

SHRUM: Right now, Mitt Romney is polling at about 25 percent, and
that was before last night. This process is dooming the Republicans,
especially as and if the economy continues to recover.

SHARPTON: Now, Nia, when you look at the fact that the economy, look
at the polling. The economy is 56 percent of what people are concerned
about whereas the deficit is 15, health care 14, immigration five, abortion
three. Clearly in the economy, they are concerned about jobs, as I said.
It was mentioned ten times collectively last night.

Do these candidates feel the polling is wrong or do they feel that we
are off or they don`t care or there`s no game plan? I mean, you are
covering these candidates. It seems to me they are in another world or
maybe they have some data that we just are not privy to.

HENDERSON: Well, they are in the world of the Republican primary, and
I think for now, they are trying to get an engine among those base
reporters. To win that Republican primary. You saw a resurgent Rick
Santorum over the last week and that surge was powered in many ways by his
talking about contraception. By him talking about this catholic church
controversy. And so then you have Romney trying to make some inroads with
that as well.

But I do think overwhelmingly this will hurt them in the general. In
some ways it was fitting it was in Arizona. Arizona is going to be a state
that`s going to be about 16 percent of the voting population will be Latino
come this fall. And they are going to have 11 electoral votes. That`s up
one from last time. And you have a White House I think it`s very much
concentrating on this western collection of states, including Arizona, New
Mexico and Colorado.

And then for Mitt Romney who looks like he`s a stronger candidate at
this point. And I think the White House views him as the presumptive
nominee. You have a candidate who in some ways you saw him sort of
softening his rhetoric on the Latino issues and in terms of immigration.

But then again you heard him pandering, calling Arizona a model for
immigration. I think it is a model in some ways. It`s a model for
alienating the Hispanic vote. Republicans have to figure out how they`re
going to move to the center come the general election in November.

SHARPTON: Well, when you talk about him moving further to the right
or immigration, look at exactly what he said about that last night, Bob.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You talked, governor,
about self-deportation. But what about arresting. Should there be
aggressive seek them out, find them and arrest them as chair for file
advocates, you know?

ROMNEY: I think you see a model here in Arizona. The right course is
to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to
do the job Barack Obama isn`t doing.

I`ll also complete the fence. I`ll make sure we have enough border
patrol agents to secure the fence. Just as Arizona is finding out you can
stop illegal immigration. It`s time we finally did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, Bob. When you see him going not only to the extreme
right on immigration and you raised the point about the Latino vote, you
also showed they showed sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who is the subject of a
lawsuit on discrimination.

So, not only does it seem like they don`t regard the president as the
president. They don`t take seriously justice department lawsuits that they
should at least wait until we see whether or not they are proven to be
discrimination or not. It just -- a total, total, in my opinion, ignore
something very serious charges about discrimination that is tied to these
discrimination laws when we have Joe Arpaio there. This insult has got to
cost them Latino votes and other votes.

SHRUM: Look. Romney`s rhetoric may not be as hot. For example, I
haven`t heard him recently talk about Satan. But basically, the message
he`s sending out on social issues and immigration is if you want someone at
the extreme, then I`m your guy. He`s doing it to try and Malika is right
about this, he is doing it because he thinks he has to, to get the
Republican nomination. I think it`s going to be very hard for him to build
a bridge back. Maybe he`s hoping that his saving grace will be that people
believe he`s actually lying about his real beliefs, doesn`t mean any of
this. I think it would be very hard to persuade folks of that come
November.

And at the same time as he does this, he`s creating a character
problem for himself. He looks like somebody who will do anything or say
anything. I think it`s a real problem.

SHARPTON: Now when you look at the fact that even the Republican
leadership, let me show you what some of the members that are distinguished
members of the GOP. They seem disgusted at the direction the race has
gone.

John Huntsman says the GOP risks finding itself in the dust bin of
history. Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal says demonizing the president
won`t work. Karl Rove warning about how all this is -- all this intramural
warfare is coming across.

Nia-Malika, even in the party, they are being kind of critiqued kind
of harshly. What happens when they get out of the primary process and has
a party that, at best is demoralized?

HENDERSON: Well, you know, I think the Republican party in 2009 in
electing Steele, Michael Steele, to head the RNC was trying to have a more
big tent philosophy in terms of their party. Diversify the ranks in terms
of adding blacks and attracting Latinos to the party. I think that`s where
they`ll have to go back to. And even George Bush. He was able to get
something like 44 percent of the Latino vote. Meaning he was able to win
by about 3 million. He had a base strategy but also a Latino strategy.
And I think that`s what you`ll have to see from Republicans if they have a
hope of having some sort of broad coalition that looks like America.

Suburban women, Latinos are going to be very important to that. And
we`ll just have to see how this candidate or this nominee is going to have
to shift to the middle more so, so they can get some of those Latino votes
and those key swing states.

I think the president is, obviously, trying to do that. He`s said in
some ways, all he would have to do in terms of strategizing against whoever
the Republican nominee is, is to play clips from these debates. Of course,
he`s probably going to have to do more than that. But I think it goes to
show how damaging Democrats think this rhetoric is.

SHARPTON: Well, Bob. You brought a lot of national campaigns.
You`ve been involved in the last few. Certainly alienated a lot of women.
They`ve certainly alienated Latinos. They certainly alienated African-
Americans.

I mean, can they get back from this far right position? How do they
get back to the center where they can appeal with some level of credibility
to independents and to key constituent groups or is it too late?

SHRUM: I think it is too late unless the economy goes south again.
Because if they try to make themselves look like America, they`re going to
look like a 19th century America. What they have done is taken themselves
out of the mainstream on a whole set of these issues. I mean, the very
notion of these guys running around campaigning against birth control is
ridiculous. It alienates women. And they`ve alienated Hispanics. You put
that all together and they are headed for demographic doom in this
election.

All right. Bob Shrum and Nia-Malika Henderson. Thank you both for
joining me tonight.

SHRUM: Thank you.

HENDERSON: Thank you, rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, a major Republican retreat and their assault on
women`s health. Can their radical agenda be pushed back across the
country?

Plus, Republicans say President Obama is to blame for high gas prices.
Today, he struck back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARAK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people
aren`t stupid. They know that`s not a plan. Especially since we`re
already drilling. That`s a bumper sticker. It`s not a strategy to solve
our energy challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And conservatives take aim at Dr. Seuss. Watch out,
America. Apparently the Lorax is the latest threat to democracy.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: A major retreat today in the GOP in Virginia. It`s a big
development in the fight to stop the GOP war on women`s rights. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The full retreat is on in Virginia. Yesterday, Republican
governor Bob McDonnell backed down on a radical bill to force women to
undergo intrusive ultrasounds before an abortion. Before that controversy,
Virginia was poised to be the first state to pass a personhood bill that
says life begins at conception. Meaning a fertilized egg is legally a
person. It could have banned all abortions no matter what. And even ban
hormonal birth control.

But today, in a completely unexpected move, Virginia`s Republican-led
state senate killed the personhood bill, tabling it until next year. The
retreat comes after protesters took to the statehouse for the second time
this week. They let the bill sponsors hear it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel? How do you feel, bob Marshall?
Doesn`t it feel great?

CROWD: Shame! Shame! Shame on you. Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Shame is right. The progressive pushback is working, and
now is the time to keep going.

Joining me now is congresswoman Diana DeGette, democrat from Colorado.
She`s the co-chair of the congressional pro-choice caucus and in Richmond,
Virginia, democratic state senator Louise Lucas.

Thank you both for joining me tonight.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: It`s good to be with you.

LOUISE LUCAS (D), STATE SENATOR, VIRGINIA: Thank you for having us.

SHARPTON: State senator Lucas, let me start with you. You were there
for all the action in Virginia. Today it was a big surprise when the
senate withdrew the bill. What happened?

LUCAS: Well, we actually went through the entire hearing during the
committee and, of course, there were so many people inside of the committee
room. There were an equal number of people outside the committee room that
fire marshals wouldn`t let anybody else in.

But if you could just hear the screams and the cries of the women
standing out in the halls and in the corridor. They`re saying, we will not
be silenced. That we don`t know what Virginia is coming to. We can`t
believe we`re being subjected to this kind of legislation coming out of
Richmond. What is Virginia going to? Where are we going -- where are we
headed?

I mean, I could -- I could barely contain myself. The emotions were
high and the tension in the room was so tight and the committee chairman
even threatened to have the people removed from the committee room because
they were forced into unhappiness with the bill.

But ultimately, the big surprise came when we got all on the senate
floor. One of the difficult -- my democratic colleagues moved to have the
bill carried over until next year. We were able to get six Republicans
from the other side to vote for us so the bill is carried over for right
now. The bill is down. But I can tell you it`s going to come back with a
vengeance next year.

SHARPTON: Now it may come back with a vengeance next year, but this
year, clearly the protesters and the progressive pushback clearly made them
at least retreat for now, wouldn`t you say?

LUCAS: Absolutely. And let me tell you, three days ago, when those
women came to the captain capitol and they were lined up from ninth street
to bank street all the way to bar street. And they were standing outside
the gate.

So, I kept asking, why are these visitors outside the gate. And they
were being told they couldn`t come on to the capitol grounds. I asked
capitol police, I asked state police. I asked everybody. Where are these
people outside the gate? Nobody could give me a clear answer.

So, I went to the gate and marshal for those 1100 people to come
inside the gate. Otherwise their protest may not have been accurately
reported. And so, they came in very silently and quietly and in a
dignified way stood and stared at these legislators as they walked back and
forth from the capitol over to the general assembly building.

And I got tell you. It was just awesome to see that silent protest.
It was very impactful. And I`m sure that coupled with all of the
protesters who came here today made the difference. Because I think the
legislators started to count the votes and they knew they were in trouble.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman, this personhood bill started in Colorado
where you`re from. You`re with the pro-choice caucus. The people around
this country have clearly said that they are against these reactionary
anti-woman types of legislative proposals. Why do we keep seeing them pop
up and what do we do to resist them nationally?

DEGETTE: There`s really a war on women`s health going on. It`s
everything from its personhood amendment which we`ve defeated now twice in
Colorado. They even defeated it in Mississippi this year. It`s so
extreme. Not only would it ban abortions. It would ban most forms of
birth control and in vitro fertilization and even probably stem cell
research.

And so you see this. You see restrictions on women`s access to birth
control. I`m so proud of my colleagues in Virginia today for making them
postpone the personhood bill.

But you know. We still have a bill in Virginia and many other states
that requires women to get unnecessary medical procedures before they can
exercise their legal rights to women`s health.

So, we`re seeing unprecedented assaults on women`s health at every
level. At the state level, that federal level. And I hope the women of
America hear what happened with the women in Virginia and they start acting
the same way around the country because it is very, very dangerous when
women`s health is put so much at risk as it is in this election year.

SHARPTON: No doubt about it. When you look at the fact that 13
states around the country are looking at these personhood bills and what is
being proposed from all the way from Colorado to Virginia. Virginia, at
least postponing it and killing it today. I hope that they are all looking
and knowing that protests and outrage being expressed works.

And you, senator, certainly, Senator Lucas, have been instrumental in
that as an elected activist or legislator who understands activism as part
of the process.

LUCAS: Absolutely. I knew something like this is going to happen.

DEGETTE: And let me tell you something.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman?

SHARPTON: Rev, let me tell you every single Republican presidential
candidate, including Mitt Romney has endorsed these personhood amendments.
It is very, very extreme. Like I say, it would ban even birth control
pills and IUDs and most commonly known forms of birth control. And it`s so
extreme it was even defeated in Mississippi.

So, people need to wake up. The women and men of America need to wake
up and realize this is a very extreme assault. And I think one of our last
panelists said, you know, we`re in the 21st century now. We`re not in the
middle ages. We need to make sure women have access to health care.

SHARPTON: And that`s why it`s so amazing to me that all four
Republican candidates endorsed what Senator Lucas and others were able to
stop in Virginia today.

Let me show you something else, congresswoman. The previously
rejected witness woman who was going to testify at Darrell Issa`s hearing
returned today to give her testimony on the importance of the president`s
birth control mandate. So Democrats in the house, Democrats around the
country, women, activists, are standing up and fighting back. I think that
you can turn back the clock but you can`t turn back time. Some of us are
not going back.

DEGETTE: That`s right. We`re not going back.

LUCAS: That is exactly right.

DEGETTE: I can tell you that -- this is -- this is the young woman,
the young woman who testified today is the young woman who, Darrell Issa,
Chairman Issa said was unqualified to testify about her need for birth
control at the same time he had a panel of five men talking about women`s
access to contraception.

So, we were very happy she was able to come to the hill today.

SHARPTON: I`ll give you the last word, Senator Lucas. It`s your day.

LUCAS: Yes, sir. Reverend Sharpton, all minority leaders saying on
the floor yesterday that these right wing Republicans if they could, they
would turn back the 20th century.

Congresswoman DeGette and state Senator Lucas, thank you both for your
time tonight. And good luck.

DEGETTE: Thank you. We need it.

LUCAS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Republicans are blaming President Obama for high gas
prices. But he fired back today in a major way.

And how about this one? A Republican lawmaker in Wisconsin who is
worried about voter fraud is caught on tape committing voter fraud.
Unbelievable! Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: As the Republican candidates continue slamming the auto
bailout, President Obama`s campaign is driving home its message on Detroit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Made in America. For generations of Michigan auto
workers, it`s more than a slogan. It`s a way of life. But when a million
jobs were on the line, every Republican candidate turned their back. Even
said let Detroit go bankrupt. Not him.

OBAMA: Don`t die again, the American auto industry,

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now a retooled, restructured industry is back
because of the grit and sacrifice of Michigan workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This ad`s airing only in Michigan where it should get a
welcome reception. A new NBC poll finds 63 percent of all Michigan voters
thought the bailout was a good idea, 42 percent of Republicans did, too.
And the bailouts aren`t just popular in Michigan. Fifty six percent of
people nationwide said the bailouts helped the economy. The president`s
decision to rescue the auto industry saved more than one million jobs. The
Republican answer?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: That was my view. Go through bankruptcy.

SANTORUM: I haven`t been for bailouts. I wasn`t for the bailout of
wall street. I wasn`t for the bailout in Detroit.

GINGRICH: I think they would have been much better off to go through
a managed bankruptcy.

ROMNEY: I said don`t write the check. They need to go through
managed bankruptcy first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s true. They`d rather lose jobs than let the government
do the right thing. Does the GOP really think they can fool anyone into
thinking the Obama bailout of Detroit was not a good thing for working
people? Nice try, guys. But we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Welcome back. With the economy getting better, Republicans
are desperately looking around for a new talking point to use against the
President. They think they found one. Gas prices.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: His policy has been outrageously anti-American energy. The
high price of gasoline is a direct result of Obama.

ROMNEY: If he`s re-elected, he will continue to put the hold on
natural gas and oil and coal.

SANTORUM: The President of the United States, when he ran for office,
talked about -- talked about how we need higher prices for gasoline.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But today the President hit back in a big way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: They are already dusting off
their three-point plan for $2 gas. And I`ll save you the suspense. Step
one is to drill and step two is to drill. And then step three is to keep
drilling. The American people aren`t stupid. They know that`s not a plan.
Especially since we`re already drilling. That`s a bumper sticker. It`s
not a strategy to solve our energy challenge.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The President is right. We can`t drill our way to lower
prices. We`re already producing at historic levels. U.S. oil production
is at an eight-year high. Drilling rigs have quadrupled since the
President took office. And we now actually export more oil than we import.
Today the President went after oil companies who are making billions while
taking $4 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It`s outrageous. It`s inexcusable.

(APPLAUSE)

And every politician who has been fighting to keep those subsidies in
place should explain to the American people why the oil industry needs more
of their money. Especially at a time like this.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Last year, the top five oil companies earned $137 billion
in profits. An all-time high. These guys need subsidies? Good luck
running on that one, GOP.

Joining me now is democratic strategist Tad Devine, senior adviser for
the Kerry and Gore campaigns and Chip Saltsman, a republican strategist who
was Mike Huckabee`s campaign manager in 2008. Thank you both for coming on
the show. Tad, is high gas prices a threat to the President`s re-election
campaign?

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, high gas prices are always a
concern because it`s something that affects people immediately and affects
their pocketbooks. But I think the President`s case on this is going to be
very strong. That he has done everything possible with an all of the above
energy strategy. It`s included domestic gas exploration, oil exploration,
biofuels, wind, solar. And I think the President`s case to the American
people is going to be, listen, these guys can just tell you they can fix
this problem overnight. You know that it can`t be done. We need a
strategy, an aggressive strategy to get America off foreign oil. And the
foreign oil in this country, our dependence on foreign oil today is at a
16-year low. And that is directly because of the policies of President
Obama.

SHARPTON: Now, Chip, isn`t it perceived that maybe the Republicans
are just desperately looking for some issue they think in the economy was
going to be worse than it is? They cannot run on that so now they look
like they are just grabbing at something. Or is this a real threat. And
if so, why? What are the indications that this could really politically
turn into something that will bear fruit for them?

CHIP SALTSMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it`s not only an Achilles
heel for Obama, it`s an Achilles heel for the recovery of our economy. And
Reverend, you know, I`ve been on the show giving credit when we do have
good economic news. But high energy prices can derail that quickly. When
the, you know, if you are going to take credit for the good, you got to
take a little blame for the bad. The bottom-line is when Obama took
office, gas was about $1.85 a gallon. And it`s more than doubled since
then he`s taken. So, he`s got to take a little blame for that. And I know
Tad is talking about all this domestic energy and growth. Most of those
were leases and agreements and contracts that the Bush administration left
over and this President has time and time again tried to stop domestic
energy drilling. He`s tried to stop the keystone pipeline. He`s tried to
stop energy exploration in Alaska and he`s put just an absolute halt on any
kind of drilling in the gulf. And we`ve had to fight that time and time
again. You know, drill, baby, drill. I know, he says that`s not a policy.
It may be a place to start because last time I checked, to get more oil you
need to drill.

SHARPTON: You know, but, Tad, isn`t it true that a lot of the things
the President has stopped was because of environmental concerns and
American people are also concerned about things like environmental
protection, things that would potentially poison certain of the natural
things that we want to enjoy in this country? So, it`s not just like out of
thin air he`s blocking some of these things that the Republicans have
proposed.

DEVINE: That`s absolutely true. The President has made the
environment an important concern. But he`s also opened up 75 percent of
the gulf and of arctic areas to exploration. He`s opened up more area to
exploration than has ever been opened before. The truth is, the President
has been very aggressive in developing domestic sources of oil and gas and
that fact is something the Republicans can`t seem to come to grips with.

SALTSMAN: Yes. The bottom-line on that Reverend is actually there`s
been 50 percent less in exploration space. And we`re now up to only three
percent of the land that we could actually explore for oil is what the
administration has allowed us to do right now today.

SHARPTON: But the question becomes a line of the environmental
concerns. But let me ask you, though, about the politics of this, Chip.
When you look at the polls, today`s polls. Just came out today. Forty
eight percent of people approve of the President`s handling of the economy.
That`s up nine percent since December. Then the economy, is it starting to
recover? Fifty four percent say, yes. That`s up 26 points since
September. So clearly, what you`re saying may be what the Republicans are
going to come with, but the American public seems to be growing in their
support of the President around economic concerns.

SALTSMAN: Well, you`ve heard me say this before. I hope the economy
gets better every day. There`s no question. And when you re-elect a
president, a lot of that is based on his job performance over the last four
years. We know -- everybody asks the questions. Are you doing better than
you were four years ago? And that`s going to be the question all the way
until November. Look, I hope the economy does better because that`s not
good for Republicans or Democrats. That`s good for all of us. You`ve
heard me say that, I know you agree with that.

SHARPTON: Right, I do.

SALTSMAN: But I think -- the polls for President Obama are going to
rise and fall based on every kind of economic news that comes out. There`s
no question. And what I`m saying is the energy prices, especially the
gasoline prices are going to be the Achilles heel to our recovery as a
country but it`s also going to have a political impact every day on Barack
Obama. And I think that`s why he was out there talking about it today in
Florida.

SHARPTON: Well, you may be right, but the polls right now showing
that his talk is working. Right now. But, Tad, let`s look at some of the
key states for the President. There some are obstacles. Some of the key
states, Nevada has a 12.6 percent unemployment rate. Michigan, 9.3 percent
unemployment. Florida, 9.9, with the unemployment rates in these states
high, these can be problematic if we do not see improvement in those
states.

DEVINE: Absolutely. But the truth is that in each one of those
states, the unemployment rate in the last year has dropped over two
percent. So people on the ground there are feeling it. And I think in
places like Michigan, people are going to have a strong contrast. Do you
want someone to be your president who did what the president did to step in
and save the auto industry or do you want someone like Romney or even
Santorum who refused to do it? Romney who said, let Detroit go bankrupt.
I think choice is so stark and so clear for people who live in those states
on issues like that and other issues that they`ll going to not just look at
what the President has done, which if think is remarkable to help turn
this thing around but also what his opponent would have done which would
have been disastrous.

SHARPTON: Well, Tad Devine and Chip Saltsman, thank you both for your
time tonight.

DEVINE: Good to be with you.

SALTSMAN: Good to be with you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Ahead -- caught on tape. A Wisconsin lawmaker worried
about voter fraud is caught red-handed. Incredible story. We`re live in
Wisconsin.

And you caught the conservative conspiracy theory against the Muppets.
You thought that was bad. Now they`re at it again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with some breaking news. The state of Maryland
took another huge steps toward becoming the eighth state in the country to
allow gay marriage. The Maryland State Senate passed the bill just moments
ago. It now goes to Governor Martin O`Malley who is expected to sign it
into law. The fight for marriage equality goes on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: News flash. It happened again. There is new voter fraud
to report tonight. And again, it`s being committed by a republican. Meet
Wisconsin State Representative Joel Kleefisch. This YouTube video clearly
shows him voting for an absent member. But there he is voting for someone
else. The rule clearly states, quote, "only the members present in the
assembly chamber may vote." So, what`s his excuse?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOEL KLEEFISCH (R), WISCONSIN: It depends how you interpret the
rule. The bathroom counts as the chamber and the parlor counts as the
chamber if you`re grabbing something to eat. We`re targets. My wife is
under recall. I`m her husband. We`re targets. They yell lies at us.
They shoot specific video of me when he could have had video of 24 to 50
other people at that time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The bathroom counts as the chamber? Well, now to be fair,
this happened with Democrats in Wisconsin as well. But what Democrats
haven`t done is signed the harshest voter I.D. bill in the country. That`s
what State Representative Kleefisch signed on to. But he`s not the only
republican coughing about voter fraud while committing it. Last month,
there was the undercover team in New Hampshire trying to get ballots with
the names of dead people. Last week the Maine Republican Party chair
blamed e-mail spam for votes not tallied. And now we have Wisconsin
Representative Joe Kleefisch joining the party. This whole effort to prove
voter fraud would be funny, if it wasn`t so sad. I`m in Atlanta tonight
fighting back against this effort to suppress the vote. They`ll keep
trying games, but we won`t let them get away with it.

Joining me now is Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement
Project, a civil rights group focused on the issue of democracy and race.
Today, they filed a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin charging that
the state`s voter I.D. act is discriminatory against minorities. And in
Milwaukee, we have Debra Crawford whose 77-year-old mother Betty Jones is
one of the lead plaintiffs in that case. Betty`s voted in every election
since 1956. Today she can`t get voter I.D. in Wisconsin. Great to have
both of you with us.

Judith? Judith, let me start with you. I want to talk about this
lawsuit. But first, what do you make of this lawmaker who got caught red-
handed in Wisconsin voting for his absent colleague?

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CO-DIR., ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: You know,
Reverend Sharpton, you have done a great job over the last month -- few
months showing the Republican Party getting caught with their hand in the
cookie jar. The hypocrisy of this, the folks who talk about election
integrity and talk about trying to stop voter fraud caught red-handed doing
it themselves time and time again. Just like the case in Maryland with the
conviction around misinformation to voters. I mean, it just shows that
they are not about preventing fraud. They are about preventing voting.

SHARPTON: Now you filed a lawsuit today. Many of us up in arms about
this as you know. And your lawsuit says that minorities suffer
disproportionately in Wisconsin. Fifty five percent of black males, 49
percent of black females don`t have state-issued I.D. Forty six percent of
Hispanic males, 59 percent of Latinas don`t have state-issued I.D. This is
your lawsuit. This is -- explain to us why this is something of great
importance.

DIANIS: Sure. This case is important because this is the first case
that challenges one of these voter I.D. restrictions under the voting
rights act of 1965. We believe that the Wisconsin statute takes us back to
a time when people of color were not given full rights to citizenship in
this country. Second class citizens, we were treated. And again under
this law, this is what Wisconsin is doing. And Miss Crawford will explain
her mother`s situation which shows that there are people who want to
participate in this election process who fought for the right to vote and
who are being disenfranchised by laws like the one in Wisconsin.

SHARPTON: Miss Crawford, tell us why your mother is one of the lead
plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

DEBRA CRAWFORD, DAUGHTER OF PLAINTIFF IN ID CASE: Well, thank you for
having me. My mother relocated at the end of last year to live with me so
that I could provide care. And as we went to change her current photo
I.D., which we just had issued in the state of Ohio late last year. So it
was current. As we went to convert that to a Wisconsin I.D., we were told
she had to have a birth certificate. I went home to retrieve a letter that
she`s had all these years because she had conducted a very thorough search
in her original state of birth and they indicated there was none of record.
She was born at a time when it wasn`t uncommon that the -- they didn`t
register people of color when they were born. And until she moved to
Wisconsin, that letter had served fine for her to indicate who she was, but
the issue here is that beginning December 23rd is when I found out that she
could not get the I.D. at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I began the
search process then for our upcoming April 3rd election. And I have here.

SHARPTON: Now, wait a minute. Miss Crawford, your mother voted -- I
want people around the country to understand it. She voted in every
election since 1956. We`re not talking about someone who is not a voter.
We`re not talking about someone who hasn`t voted for half a century. And
she`s denied the right to vote even with a record of voting every election
in a half a century because she moved to a state that had these laws that
required her to have a birth certificate that she didn`t get because of the
color of her skin. They were not giving birth certificates at the time of
her birth.

CRAWFORD: She`s voted regularly since 1956. And I don`t think she`s
ever missed a major general election. And that`s the case. And not only
that, she helped as part of the civil rights movement when they were
electing the first black mayor in Cleveland, Carl Stokes. So, this is
something that`s very important to her. And, yes, and right now, right
now, she is not able to produce that birth certificate, even though she has
a photo I.D. from another state and that she has a record of voting with
regularity in another state. She cannot vote in this state, in this
upcoming election unless I can get the documents. And I`ve been working on
it since December. And I`ve invested almost $100.

SHARPTON: Judith, let me go back to you quickly. There are out of 11
million votes cast in that state since 2004 in the state of Wisconsin, only
23 cases of voter fraud, 0.0002 percent. So there`s no widespread voter
fraud. They have this law for.

DIANIS: That`s right.

SHARPTON: This is a problem -- this is a solution looking for a
problem, and we suspect maybe something even more insidious.

DIANIS: That`s right. This really is not about preventing fraud.
It`s about preventing voting. And at the heart of it is that we can`t
disenfranchise people. We need to open up participation.

SHARPTON: Thank you Judith Browne.

DIANIS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: .and Debra Crawford. Thanks for your time tonight. I
mentioned I`m in Atlanta tonight. I`m here in preparation for the voting
rights march from March 4th through March 9th. We`ll retrace the route of
the historic 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
We`re marching to make sure our voting rights are protected for now and
generations to come. Martin Luther King III, John Lewis, congressman and
others will be joining us as we march against these draconian laws all over
the country. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Finally tonight. With the economy healing, Republicans are
ramping up the culture wars. Their target now? Animated characters. They
just love to blame real world problems on fictional characters. Dan Quayle
started the trend 20 years ago by attacking TV`s Murphy Brown for being a
single mom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: It doesn`t help matters when
primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes
today`s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance
of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle
choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But these days, Republicans are turning against talking
sponges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: SpongeBob is talking a lot about global warming.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Clearly Nickelodeon is pushing a global warming
agenda.

SHARPTON: Oh, yes. That sponge clearly has an agenda. And they are
worried about those Muppets brainwashing our kids with a liberal agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Liberal Hollywood depicting a successful
businessman as evil. That`s not new. Is liberal Hollywood using class
warfare to kind of brainwash our kids?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Oh, yes, those Muppets are dangerous. But trends come and
go so quickly with kids. Fortunately, FOX Business host Lou Dobbs is up on
the latest fads. He`s bashing the new Dr. Seuss movie "Lorax" for being
too pro-environment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR: The President`s liberal friends in
Hollywood targeting a younger demographic using animated movies to sell
their agenda to children. The movie set to be released nationwide next
month is about a woodland creature who speaks for the trees and fights
rampant industrialism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And Lou, you do know why Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble
have to pedal with their feet their vehicles because gas is too high under
President Obama.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.

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

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