updated 3/19/2012 12:57:50 PM ET 2012-03-19T16:57:50

Guests: Krystal Ball, Terry O`Neill, Richard Wolffe, Krystal Ball, Karen Finney, Howard
Fineman, John Nichols


ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good evening, Americans. And welcome to THE ED
SHOW from New York.

Breaking news: the White House has just released new contraception
guidelines as the Republican war on women rages on. We`ll bring you live
coverage of the president`s remarks in Atlanta, Georgia.

It`s a huge night for news. It`s THE ED SHOW -- let`s get to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: We don`t think that whether it`s Planned
Parenthood or one of their affiliates that they should be getting our
dollars to be used in their programs.

SCHULTZ (voice-over): Texas picks a fight with the White House over
women`s health. And the White House is fighting back. In :Pennsylvania,
the governor keeps on talking, and in Arizona, things are getting ugly.

DEBBIE LESKO (R), ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: It will go on to the
full Senate and I think this law will be signed by the governor.

SCHULTZ: Tonight, the Obama administration makes a major announcement
on contraception. Sandra Fluke is responding. We`ll have the latest.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we`re in a
recovery mode, finally. I think it`s likely things will get better.

SCHULTZ: Mitt Romney slips up and tells the truth to Republicans.
And Rick Santorum is campaigning against porn. Howard Fineman has the
latest on the Republican circus.

And major news out of Wisconsin: Democrats score a major victory.
John Nichols of "The Nation" has the latest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

In February, President Obama announced a compromise on contraception
and women`s health care. Today, the president stood his ground and righties
aren`t going to like it. According to the new rule from the Department of
Health and Human Services, religious universities will not have to offer
contraception directly, but both students and employees of those
institutions will be able to get birth control from insurance companies
without a co-pay.

HHS is also considering three options to implement the president`s
birth control for no co-pay policy with religiously affiliated self-insured
employers. Third party administrators would provide contraception in cases
where employers act as insurers.

Now, the department wants feedback from the public on those ideas.

The college student, who became the center of the contraception
controversy after Rush Limbaugh`s vicious attacks, says she has a few
concerns about the new plan but overall Sandra Fluke says she likes what
HHS has done.

Meanwhile, states are continuing their efforts to strip women`s rights
and roll back services in health care options. In Pennsylvania, for
instance, Republican Governor Tom Corbett is getting more heat for his
defense of a state-mandated ultrasound for women considering an abortion.

(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, hi. Can you tell me why you
supported the ultrasound bill?

GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It`s a position I took a while
ago. It`s just on the outside, it`s not invasive. That`s why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: The bill does not contain the language transvaginal
ultrasound. A woman still could be forced into having one if the embryo is
too small.

Meanwhile, the Texas Republicans are so hell-bent on defunding Planned
Parenthood, they are willing to put thousands of lives at risk. The Texas
women`s health program which provides cancer screenings, contraceptions,
and basic health care to low income women will lose federal funding because
of Governor Rick Perry`s decision to block Planned Parenthood from the
state`s Medicaid program.

By excluding family planning providers, Texas broke federal Medicaid
rules. As "The Washington Post" reports, the program served about 130,000
women in Texas with the federal government footing 90 percent of the bill.

Governor Rick Perry says the state will pick up the tab for the
program. But he is yet to say where he`ll get the money.

Perry went on FOX News to accuse President Obama of playing politics,
even though the federal law Perry is fighting was in place during the Bush
administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: We`re not going to let the program die. We`re going to find
the money somewhere. It`s just sad you have an administration more
interested in paying off and rewarding their political supporters and using
this as a political issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Make no mistake -- these Republican lawmakers are playing
politics with both women`s bodies. Rush Limbaugh woke up a sleeping giant
whether he went after Sandra Fluke and America`s eyes are wide open to what
is going on state-by-state. Even Republican lawmakers in Congress are
starting to get it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I think that my party is in an
unfortunate place right now, as viewed by many, many women in this country,
who are feeling very anxious about what they believe to be attacks on
women`s health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Bottom line, politicians who use women as political pawns
will lose every time. And the polls are showing it.

Get your cell phones out. I want to know what you tonight. Tonight`s
question: do you trust Republicans with women`s health issues? Text A for
yes, text B for no to 622639. You can always go to our blog at
Ed.MSNBC.com. We`ll have results later on in the show.

I`m joined tonight by MSNBC contributor and Democratic strategist
Krystal Ball, and Terry O`Neill, president of the National Organization for
Women.

Terry, you first tonight. Clearly, the White House is standing its
ground after listening to all the criticism. But this is also the
compromise that the Catholic health organizations wanted.

How is this going to play out?

TERRY O`NEILL, PRESIDENT, N.O.W.: Well, this an advance notice of
proposed rule making. This is really another small step in a process
through which we will eventually learn how all employers -- religiously
affiliated employers, non-religiously affiliated employers, churches, and
so forth, will comply with the requirement and it`s a very simple
requirement, that health insurance companies must cover a list of services,
including a list of preventive services. And birth control is simply on
that list.

Now, what the White House said today is that they are looking at
options for house self-insured religiously affiliated colleges and
hospitals and non-profits will comply with the requirement that birth
control be included.

SCHULTZ: But this -- since the religious organizations free, they
have no responsibility whatsoever, but they can`t be denied from a third
party. I mean, how could this be impeding on religious freedom?

O`NEILL: You know, it`s really fascinating. What the White House has
said is that -- is that the religious organizations should not be forced to
pay for birth control, if they think birth control is against their
religious principles. But at the same time, says the White House, women
who do not believe that birth control is against their religious principals
must have access to birth control on the same basis as all other women.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

O`NEILL: So what the White House is saying is: to the religious
organizations, OK, you don`t have to pay, but the women have access to it.

The religious organizations are therefore in a really tight spot,
because what they actually want and what they are demanding is that the
government step over the line of establishing a religion in violation of
the First Amendment, and force a law that says a woman can be deprived of
birth control.

And the religious institutions keep claiming their own religious
liberty. The White House is giving them that.

SCHULTZ: Sure they are. Sure they are.

O`NEILL: Yes.

SCHULTZ: Krystal, where does the battle go from here?

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, interestingly, I
think what this has shown is that the Republicans put their foot in their
mouth, drew a line in the sand and the president on the other hand has been
reasonable. He offered up an initial rule from HHS. It was received push
back, and he was willing to make accommodation.

And so, I think the American people have said, OK, the president is
being reasonable. The Republicans are still stuck in this mindset.

And if you remember the Blunt Amendment that they tried to push
through, that Senator Murkowski who have the clip from said she voted for
and deeply regretted, would have gone so far not just in undermining
women`s health but in undermining health care bill altogether and allowing
employers broad ability to deny coverage for anything they found
objectionable.

SCHULTZ: This has spiraled out of control as far as being a big
campaign issue. Democrats are attacking Mitt Romney on women`s health
issues.

Here is the latest ad, let`s look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Romney says he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood,
ending federal support for critical health care services like cancer
screenings for thousands of women here in Illinois.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Planned Parenthood, we`re
going to get rid of that.

NARRATOR: He supports legislation to allow employers to deny women
affordable access to health care services like contraception. He supports
extreme policies that would take away a woman`s right to choose and ban
many forms of birth control including the pill.

And despite Mitt Romney`s attacks on women`s health care, he`s being
supported by prominent local politicians. What are they thinking?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: The Democrats couldn`t be asking for a better ad right now.
What do you think?

BALL: Yes, that`s absolutely right. I mean, this is not a partisan
issue. Access to contraception, access to birth control is something that
was settled decades ago. And you know what? This goes to the core of
women having control of their lives. If you ask economists, a big part of
the reason that women have been able t make the gains they can in the
workplace because they can plan their families and take control over their
lives, and that`s actually where the term "birth control" comes from.

So, this reaches across the spectrum, you`re going to have a lot of
Republican women who are very disturbed at this attack on Planned
Parenthood, which most of what it does is provide cancer screenings,
preventative health care and access to contraception.

SCHULTZ: And, Terry, do you see the Republicans retreating on this at
all? We played the sound byte from Murkowski from Alaska. She voted for
the Blunt Amendment, went home and got a rash of comment on it and is now
saying that if she had a chance to vote over again, it would be different.

Do you think there will be more of that in the Republican Party? I
mean, it is a real image issue right now for them.

O`NEILL: It`s -- I don`t know if there will be more of it. Olympia
Snowe decided she wouldn`t run for the Senate again in part because of this
atmosphere in which Republicans who support birth control really are not
being permitted vote their consciences.

So, good for Lisa Murkowski to recognize it.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

O`NEILL: But look at Rick Perry, you look at the governor of
Pennsylvania, look at what`s going on in Arizona.

SCHULTZ: Absolutely. These governors are just running an
unbelievable radical agenda and women in every state in America need to pay
attention. Krystal Ball and Terry O`Neill, thanks for joining us tonight.

President Obama is speaking at this moment. We will join the
president when we come back. He is addressing supporters in Atlanta,
Georgia.

You`re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. We`re right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: When we return here on THE ED SHOW, we`ll bring you the
presidents live remarks in Atlanta, Georgia.

Stay tuned. We`re right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

We still have a lot to get in tonight. But let`s join President Obama
speaking live in Atlanta, Georgia, at a fundraiser.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact that first
time in history, you don`t have to hide who you love to serve the country
you love. We ended "don`t ask, don`t tell".

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: Change is keeping the promise I made in 2008. For the first
time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: We decided to refocus on the folks who actually attacked us on
9/11 and thanks to the brave men and women in uniform, al Qaeda is weaker
than it`s ever been and Osama bin Laden is not walking this face -- the
face of this earth.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: None of this has been easy. We still have a lot of work to
do, because there are a lot of folks who are still hurting out there. A
lot of folks still pounding the pavement and looking for work. A lot of
people whose homes values have dropped. A lot of people who are still
struggling to make the rent.

There are still too many families who can barely pay their bills. Too
many young people still living in poverty.

You know, I was reading a statistic the other day -- fewer than half
of African Americans believe we`ll reach the dream Dr. King left for us.

So, we`ve still got so much work to do. And I know when we look at
what is, it can be heartbreaking and frustrating. But I ran for resident
and you joined this cause, because we don`t settle just for what is, we
strive for what might be.

We want to help more Americans reach that dream. I ran for president
to give every child a chance. Whether he`s born in Atlanta or comes from
rural town in the delta. I ran for president not just to get us back to
where we were, but to take us forward where we need to be.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: And I`m telling you Atlanta we are going to get there.

Step-by-step, we are going to get there.

Already over the past two years, our businesses have added almost 4
million new jobs. Manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since
the 1990s. The recovery is accelerating, the economy is getting stronger -
- we`re moving on the right track.

What we can`t do is go back to the same politics that got us in this
mess in the first place. Of course, that`s exactly what the other folks
want to do -- the folks who are running for president.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: And they make no secret about it. They want to roll back the
laws that we put in place, so that now, Wall Street can play by their own
rules again. They want to go back to the day when insurance companies
could deny you coverage or jack up your premiums any time they want to
without reason. They want to spend trillions more on tax breaks for the
very wealthiest of individuals.

Even if it means adding to the deficit, even if it means gutting
things likes education or our investment in clean energy or making sure
Medicare is stable.

Their philosophy is simple. Everybody is just left to fend for
themselves, if those in power could make their own rules, then some how it
will trickle down to you.

And they`re wrong. They`re wrong. They were wrong when they tried
it. And they`re wrong now.

And the United States of America, we are always greater together than
we are on our own. We`re always better off whether we keep the basic
American promise. And if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a
family, and own a home, and send your kids to college, and put away a
little away for retirement. And that`s the choice in this election.

We`ve got different visions being presented.

This is not another political debate. This is the defining issue of
our time.

What are we going to do to make sure that middle class families are
secure and that we continue to build ladders for people trying to get in
the middle class?

We don`t need -- we don`t need an economy built on outsourcing and bad
debt and phony financial profits. We need an economy that`s built to last
-- an economy that`s built on American manufacturing, American energy and
giving skills to American workers, and holding up those values that we
cherish -- hard work, fair play, shared responsibility.

You know, when we think about the next generation of manufacturing, I
don`t want to take a route in Asia. I want it to take a route in Atlanta.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: I don`t want this nation to be known for buying and consuming
things from other countries. I want to build and sell to other countries
products made in the United States of America. I want to stop rewarding
businesses that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to reward companies
like this one that are creating jobs right here in the United States of
America.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: I want to make sure that our schools are the envy of the
world.

And that means investing in the men and women who stand in front of
the classroom -- you know, a good teacher increases the income of a
classroom by over $2,500. A great teacher can help a child move beyond
their immediate circumstances and reach out for their dreams.

I don`t want Washington to defend the status quo. But I don`t want
them to be just bashing teachers. I want to give schools the resources
they need to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best teachers,
grant schools flexibility to teach with creativity and passion, stop
teaching to the test, replace teachers that aren`t helping kids learn.

I want us to create in this country the kind of passion and reverence
for education. That is not just by the way a job of government but a job
of each of us as parents, as community leaders. And when kids do graduate,
I want them to be able to afford to go to college.

We`ve got more tuition debt than credit card debt today. And, by the
way, right now, interest rates are scheduled to go up on student loans in
July if Congress does not act, so you guys need to get on congress about
that. And I`ve said to college and universities, you`ve got to stop
tuition from just going up and up and up. Higher education cannot be a
luxury, it is an economic imperative that every family should be able to
afford.

I want an economy that`s supporting the scientist and researchers that
will make sure we discover the next breakthrough in biotechnology, in clean
energy. You know, we have subsidized oil companies for 100 years. Give
them $4 billion worth of tax breaks when they are making near record
profits.

It is time to stop giving tax giveaways to an industry that`s never
been more profitable and start investing in clean energy that can create
jobs here in the United States and solar power and wind power, biofuels.

We need to give our businesses the best infrastructure in the world --
newer roads and airports and faster railroads and Internet access. You
take half the money we have been spending on the wars in Iraq, as we phase
down the war in Afghanistan, let`s pay down half -- use half of it to pay
down our debt, let`s us the other half to do some nation-building here at
home. Let`s put people to work -- rebuilding schools, rebuilding our
bridges, rebuilding our ports.

And to pay for this, we`ve got to have a tax system that is fair. I
was with Warren Buffett a couple days ago. He says thanks for naming a
rule after me.

It`s a very simple principle, the Buffett rule. It says: if you make
more than a million dollars a year, you should not pay a lower tax rate
than your secretary.

We`ve said if you make less than $250,000 a year, which is 98 percent
of Americans -- your taxes shouldn`t go up.

But folks like me, we can afford to do a little more. Tyler can
afford to do a little more. Tyler -- he knows -- he knows that.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: You know, when we say that, this is not class warfare. This
is not envy. This is just basic math.

Because if Tyler or I or others get tax breaks we don`t need, weren`t
asking for the country can`t afford, then one of two things are going to
happen. Either the deficit goes up, all these other folks they say they
want to do something about the deficit, every single one of their plans
actually increases the deficit.

Or alternatively, they got to make up for it by taking it away from
somebody who really needs it -- the student who suddenly sees their
interest on their loans going up. The senior who suddenly has to pay more
for Medicare, the veteran who`s not getting help after having protected us,
the family that`s trying to get by.

It`s not right. It`s not who we are. I hear a lot of politicians
talk about values during election year.

You know what? I`m happy to have a values debate.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: I`m happy to have a debate about values. I think about the
values my mother and grandparents taught me -- hard work, that`s a value.
Looking out for one another, that`s a value. I am my brother`s keeper, I
am my sister`s keeper, that is a value.

You know, each of us is only here because somebody somewhere was
looking out for us.

It started in the family, but it wasn`t just the immediate family.
There was somebody in church, there was somebody in the neighborhood, there
was the coach of the Little League. There was somebody who made an
investment in our country`s future.

Our story has never been about what we can do alone, it`s what we can
do together. We don`t win the race for new jobs and middle class security
and new businesses with the same old: "you are on your own" economics. I`m
telling you, it does not work. It did not work in the decade before the
Great Depression. It did not work in the decade before I took office. It
won`t work now.

This is about who we are as a country. The opportunities we`ve
always, always passed on to future generations. When I think about
Michelle and me and where we come from --

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: You know -- I know you love Michelle.

(CHEERS)

OBAMA: I know. I love her too.

But I think about sometimes, you know, we`ll be in the White House and
we think about my mother-in-law who lives upstairs, was a secretary,
Michelle`s dad had multiple sclerosis, and still went to work every day,
blue collar job. My mom raising me a single mom.

You know, I think about, you know, what they did for us, and the
sacrifices they made, and so then I think, well, the sacrifices that I have
to make, given all the blessings I`ve received, they can`t just extend to
Malia and Sasha. I`ve got to think about somebody else`s kids. I`ve got
to make sure that somebody else gets a student loan who is maybe a single
mom going back-to-school just like my mom was able to get a student loan,
so to get an education.

I`m thinking we`ve got to make sure that jobs are out there for folks
who are willing to work and overcoming barriers. I`m willing to make
sacrifices for that. That makes my life better, right?

And most of you understand that. You understand if you invest in a
teacher, and then she teaches somebody who is the next Steve Jobs or
invents some cure for a major disease, that makes us all better.

SCHULTZ: President Obama speaking to supporters in Atlanta, Georgia
tonight, live here on MSNBC.

Krystal Ball is still with me. And up next, we`re joined Karen Finney
and Richard Wolffe, to wrap the president`s address.

Also, coming up, Howard Fineman on Mitt Romney`s foot in mouth disease
about how he says the economy is getting better.

And big news out of Wisconsin today: one of the Republican senators up
for recall resigns, what does this mean for the recall race in the Senate?

John Nichols with me on that. We`re right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to The ED SHOW. We just heard President
Obama`s speech before supporters in Atlanta, Georgia. He`s wrapping it up
now.

I`m joined tonight by MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe and MSNBC
political and former communications director for the DNC, Karen Finney, and
MSNBC contributor Krystal Ball. Great to have all of you with us tonight.

Richard, the president working the room, four stops today. Our
Twitter @EdShow is blowing up. They like the idea of a values debate.
What about that?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, a lot of people
have said the president is in campaign mode, but that really only scratches
the surface of what he`s doing here. You`re seeing a president who is
doing what the Republican candidates said he could never do. He`s running
on his record.

And he`s trying to weave a story about why he`s done what he has done.
So the values story, that personal moment that he just told about his
mother, about his wife`s parents, that puts some connected tissue in there
about the choices he has made and the choices voters have.

Are they going to be voting for a go it alone economy or one where you
are making investments and building for the future? And that is what he`s
trying to do here with this stump speech and with his fund-raisers.

SCHULTZ: Karen Finney, we are seeing the president again show his
emotions on his sleeve. He`s very real when he talks. Whereas you look at
Mitt Romney, he`s mechanical. Is this the void for the Republicans right
now? What do you think?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Absolutely. Look,
the president is not -- in talking about his story, and his life, he`s
talking about the American story, an American story, a mom who goes back to
school to be able to help provide for her family, a kid who is raised in
part by his grandparents.

I mean, there are a lot of Americans -- I don`t care what color you
are, what gender you, what religion you are -- who can relate to some of
these story, to some of these struggles, to the challenge of wanting to get
in to college and wanting to do better and wanting to do well by your
children.

So sure, he`s talking about his values. On the other hand, Mitt
Romney is talking about Cadillacs and tree heights and Nascar team owners
and football team owners. I don`t think most of us can relate to that.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And getting rid of Planned
Parenthood.

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ: That is a great point. The president again tonight says
look, the wealthy have to pay a little bit more. He`s still on the theme,
Krystal, of shared sacrifice. He just doesn`t get off that. And he talks
about, you know, if you make a million or 250,000, below that, you are not
going to get hit.

BALL: It`s because it`s something that resonates with Americans. I
mean, it resonates with American values. His whole speech is centered
around a very optimistic message, a can-do message of we won`t accept what
is.

And the other thing that struck me about this is this was a speech at
a fund-raiser. It was in front of his base. That was who was there. And
yet you could play that speech anywhere in America and it`s a message that
resonates with Americans across the country.

And that is something that, in contrast to the Republicans, is quite
striking, because their message has been so limit and so far to the right,
you know, talking about contraception. And now Rick Santorum wants to ban
porn, that it just doesn`t connect with most American people.

SCHULTZ: Richard Wolffe, I want to talk about the story that came out
today, that the treasure trove -- part of the treasure trove that was found
by Seal Team 6 revealed that Osama bin Laden wanted to take out President
Obama and General Petraeus.

And the president obviously didn`t know that. He made this call to go
after Osama bin Laden not knowing that he was being targeted. The dynamics
of all this, does this strengthen his case when it comes to decision making
and leadership?

WOLFFE: Anything that reminds the American people of that
extraordinary moment, that decision to take out bin Laden -- anything that
does that is going to help the resident, because it`s just unchallengeable.
There is nothing that the other candidates can do that come close to it.

And it reminds -- it reminds voters that look, this hunt went on for a
very long time. President Bush invested a lot personally and in terms of
resources. It was President Obama who got it done. And it was a very
gutsy decision.

The intelligence around it is fascinating. Al Qaeda was a threat. It
has reshaped our strategic thinking about al Qaeda, about Afghanistan. And
it has opened up new areas that any president going forward can look at.

So that is a moment of leadership. It`s an incredible story. What
you saw in 2004 was President Bush running because -- on an ad where he
hugs a kid after a natural disaster. This is a president who can go and
say look, I secured the country.

SCHULTZ: Karen Finney, what about the fact that Osama bin Laden was
bothered by the fact that President Obama was not using the term "war on
terror" anymore. He turned in to "War on al Qaeda."

If I remember the news correctly, the righties in this town on TV were
giving the president all kinds of heck about not using the term "war on
terror." In reverse, it really got into bin Laden`s head.

FINNEY: Absolutely. I had the exact same reaction when I was
listening to that part of the intelligence, that he did come under a lot of
fire for changing the terminology. And again, part of him wanting to
change the terminology was to say we`re moving forward. We`re -- the
mission is shifting, which is the right thing to do.

That is part of this can-do, we`re going to keep going forward, not
backward. And I love the fact that Osama bin Laden was just apparently
incensed by this.

I want to go back to one quick thing, though, Ed, that you said about
the president talking about values. One of the things I think Democrats
haven`t always done as well is to frame this conversation about values on
our terms.

And I love hearing the president out there saying if you want to talk
about values, bring it on. We`re going to talk about our values, one of
which being we`re going to go get Osama bin Laden as part of our values and
keep this country safe.

SCHULTZ: Another one is income inequality, where we have seen on our
Vulture Chart where the top two percent has gone over 30 years and where
the middle class and the blue liners have been. No doubt the Democrats are
winning that as a moral argument as well.

Krystal Ball, Richard Wolffe, Karen Finney, always great to have you
with us. Thanks so much.

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ: Next up, Mitt Romney uses his enormous knowledge of business
to figure out that the economy is getting better. And he admits to Sean
Hannity, yes, it`s turning around. Howard Fineman joins us on that and
more from Wisconsin. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW and" thanks for watching
tonight. Figuring out Mitt Romney is not an easy thing to do. Now he says
the economy is getting better. Here`s Romney last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This recovery -- and I
believe we`re in a recovery mode, finally.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You really think so?

ROMNEY: Well, it`s hard to know. No one can predict precisely what
is going to happen in the economy. But -- but I think it`s likely things
will get better. Look, no recession has gone on forever. They get better.

This has just taken much longer to recover from, in part because of
the policies of this president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Romney just does not want to give any credit to President
Obama because it would undercut Romney`s entire reason for running for
office. Romney has screwed this issue up from the very start.

These three sound bytes are from June of 2011, the month he declared
his candidacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

I didn`t say that things are worse. What I said was that the economy
hasn`t turned around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: It only got worse when Laura Ingraham, radio talker,
actually challenged him in January of this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, of course it`s getting better. The economy always gets
better after a recession. There is always a recovery. The question is has
it recovered by virtue of something the president has done or has he
delayed the recovery and made it for painful? The latter is, of course,
the truth.

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: But isn`t it a hard argument to
make if you`re saying like, OK, he inherited this recession; he took a
bunch of steps to try to turn the economy around; and now seeing some more
jobs; but vote against him anyway?

Isn`t that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Here are the facts: 24 months of private sector job growth.
The turn around began with the stimulus package that the Republicans were
against. Job loss slowed, then jobs were added for 24 consecutive months.

Let`s turn to Howard Fineman, NBC News political analyst and editorial
director of the Huffington Post Media Group. Howard, good do have you with
us tonight.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP: Hi, Ed.

SCHULTZ: It seems to me that Mitt Romney is serving up some pretty
good sound bytes for the Obama team to put in a commercial. When you have
your opponent saying your economic plan is working, that is a pretty good
place to be, isn`t it?

FINEMAN: I happened to be meeting today with a very prominent
Republican strategist who is just shaking his head about Mitt Romney. He
keeps screwing up one aspect or another of the campaign. And this is a big
problem for him. In his interview with Fox in which he made that
statement, he gave a litany of things that he said had not worked well for
the president and so forth, even though the economy was recovering.

One thing he didn`t mention, and I thought it was a significant
omission, was the auto industry bailouts. I think, and the economists I`ve
talked to think, that in addition to the actual jobs it saved and maybe
jobs it created, the fact that they turned around the auto industry had a
tremendous psychological effect on the -- on consumers and on the economy
in general.

SCHULTZ: No doubt.

FINEMAN: I think when the history of this is written, that very
tangible thing is going to be key. And it`s no accident that the president
was in Toledo yesterday talking to the United Auto Workers for precisely
that reason.

SCHULTZ: Yes, no question. Joe Biden was a real hit with the UAW
yesterday. But this really -- what Romney is saying, this undercuts his
entire campaign. He is supposed to be the economy guy. He`s supposed to
be the fix-it guy. And he`s running around saying, well, you know, things
are getting better.

He`s not giving anybody any reason why he should be the choice of
Americans. It just seems so fundamentally tough. What do you think?

FINEMAN: Well, first of all, sorry for mixing up Joe Biden and Barack
Obama, but I`m sure both of them will take the -- be glad of the confusion
-- be glad for the confusion. Yes, it was Joe Biden in Toledo and the
president was in Maryland making the same case, in some respects.

I think Mitt Romney`s problem is -- one of his problems is he has run
such a negative campaign. It`s been based so much on tearing down all of
his opponents, including the president, that he hasn`t thought through a
more vivid and convincing argument for himself on the economy.

He hasn`t figured out how to focus on the parts of the economy that
have not improved. He hasn`t figured out how to make it personal. He
hasn`t figured out how to tell the lives of people who are suffering as a
result of this very long and deep recession.

There are weaknesses in the president`s case, on home foreclosures, on
some regions of the country, on some industries. But the Romney team is
focused so much on scatter gun attacks on everybody else, including the
president, that they haven`t made their own case. And because they
haven`t, it`s now coming pack to haunt them.

SCHULTZ: Illinois primary is Tuesday, and Romney has been on Fox News
or Fox Radio almost every day this week. Plus he`s thrown over three
million dollars at Illinois, running very negative ads against Rick
Santorum. I had some radio callers tell me about it today. He`s almost
running like a Democrat, he`s so negative on Rick Santorum.

How is it going to play out?

FINEMAN: Well, the polls right now are showing Mitt Romney ahead.
But Rick Santorum has always kind of overperformed, for the most part, on
polls. And Mitt Romney`s continuing to be a sort of heavier than air
craft. And the Democrats are attacking Romney hard, so that may have an
effect.

I think it is going to be close. I do think that Rick Santorum, if
he`s going do make a convincing case that Romney just shouldn`t be the
nominee, mathematics aside -- that Rick Santorum has to win one of these
big industrial states. He came close but did not win Michigan. He came
close in Ohio but did not win Ohio.

Just coming close in Illinois is not going to be good enough. He is
going to have to make that case. Otherwise Mitt Romney will once again be
able to say that he came out on top in an important industrial state. That
is just the state of things right now.

SCHULTZ: No doubt. Howard Fineman, great to have you with us
tonight. Thanks so much.

Still to come on THE ED SHOW, John Nichols, has the latest out of
Wisconsin. A Republican senator up and -- before the recall resigns. Stay
tuned. You`re watching THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: In the Big Finish tonight, the battle to end Scott Walker`s
radical control of the Wisconsin State House took an amazing turn today.
State Senator Pam Galloway, a Tea Partier, is one of four Republicans
facing recall elections this up summer. Today she announced her
resignation effective at midnight. She cited family health issues.

The GOP has now lost its Senate majority in Wisconsin. And Galloway`s
seat will still face a recall despite her resignation. What a difference a
year makes.

When the Senate passed Scott Walker`s union busting bill, Republicans
had a dominant 19 to 14 majority. It shrunk to 17-16 after Democrats won
two recall elections last August.

Now the Senate is dead-locked at 16, making it very hard for Walker to
push through any more radical changes before the next round of recall
elections in May and in June.

Let`s turn to John Nichols, Washington correspondent of "The Nation"
magazine. How big is this?

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": This is really big. Let`s understand
where we were. As you just said, a year ago, Republicans controlled
everything. Now at a point when the governor was saying he was going to do
special sessions, and when redistricting could be kicked back by the courts
to the legislature, he doesn`t have control of the key legislative chamber.

SCHULTZ: So this means there won`t be any special sessions? He`s not
going to be able to get anything done. It will be dead locked.

NICHOLS: Unless he wants to make a deal with the Democrats.

SCHULTZ: OK, so the seat Galloway is vacating, what do the Democrats
have? Is this going to be a pick up, do you think?

NICHOLS: I sure do. This is Wausau, up in northern Wisconsin. It`s
the hometown of Dave Obey, who used to be the Appropriations Committee
chair in Congress. Very solid union town.

And during the Tea Party vote of 2010, it swung Republican. But they
already were -- Dems were in good shape to take it back. They`ve got a
solid candidate, Donna Seidel. And now the Republicans have lost their
premier candidate.

SCHULTZ: So you got a big break in this regard, when it comes to the
numbers and the recall election. It`s the biggest recall in the history of
politics in America.

You have this John Doe investigation that`s going on, that -- it`s
like the noose is just starting to tighten in on Walker. How is this
affecting people in Wisconsin? What is it doing to his approval or
disapproval rating?

NICHOLS: Look, his approval rating, it just can`t get over 50. It
can`t get near 50 in recent polls. So he has a problem there.

This is sort of the wheels coming off the car kind of moment. You
look at Republican state senators stepping down, Republicans losing control
of the state senate. Those are all the sort of things that add up to a
sense of crisis, a sense of loss.

SCHULTZ: And more bad news for Republicans in Wisconsin today; an
ethics complaint has been filed by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission
against Supreme Court Justice Davis Prosser, who faced a recall and won --

NICHOLS: Faced a regular election and won.

SCHULTZ: OK, regular election and won -- for allegedly choking a
colleague.

NICHOLS: Yeah.

SCHULTZ: Now is this the first step to him being taken off the bench?
How would this process work?

NICHOLS: It is going to be a bitter battle. But that complaint has
been filed. If the Judicial Commission determines this is a big issue, it
could lead to his removal. But for that to happen, you really have to have
a legislature that would probably impeach him.

SCHULTZ: What does this mean, that he is going to be facing a
Judicial Commission for ethics violation?

NICHOLS: The truth of the matter is it`s going -- the Judicial
Commission will make a ruling. It will probably then have to be decided on
by the court. It`s a messy, long situation. But it highlights a crisis.

The colleague who was choked was Ann Walsh Bradley, a highly respected
jurist.

SCHULTZ: Will any of these Republican senators who are up for recall
-- will they ask Scott Walker to come in their backyard and help them get
them reelected or is he politically toxic?

NICHOLS: I do not think especially -- there`s three key districts
that are very Democratic. Bringing Walker in isn`t going to help them at
all. In fact, these Republican senators got to go beyond the Walker vote
if they are going to survive. I don`t think they can pull it off.

SCHULTZ: The money war being lost by the Democrats. Fair enough?

NICHOLS: Unquestionably. The Republicans will have the money.

SCHULTZ: That is the way it is going to go?

NICHOLS: Yes, it`s going to be money power versus people power. But
remember, 30,000 people passed those recall petitions.

SCHULTZ: John Nichols, here in New York tonight, you got to fix your
wardrobe now. You got St. Patrick`s Day tomorrow. You got to get some
green on.

SCHULTZ: Well -- well, that`s right. I didn`t think you`d say that.
Have a great Friday.

That`s THE ED SHOW. I`m Ed Schultz. You can listen to me on Sirius
XM radio, channel 127, Monday through Friday, noon to 3:00 PM. Happy St.
Patrick`s Day.

Let`s to do Rachel Maddow. She has the show tonight. Rachel?

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

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