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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

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Guests: Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, Steve Schmidt, Karen Finney, John Heilemann, John Nichols, Steve Kornacki, Charles M. Blow, Natalie Jackson


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Mitt Romney sweeps the Republican primary
tonight. You`re listening to his victory speech in Wisconsin.

ROMNEY: The help wanted signs can be dusted off and put in the front
yard and we can start again.

We`ll stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again
apologize for America abroad.

(APPLAUSE)

Together, we will build the greatest America we`ve ever known, where
prosperity is grown and shared, not limited and divided, an America that
guarantees that ours is the door that innovation and greatness always
knocks on first.

There was a time not so long ago when each of us could walk a little
taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else
in the world had. We`re Americans. That meant something different to each
of us, but something special to all of us.

We knew it without question -- so did the people in the rest of the
world -- those days are coming back. That`s our destiny. So join me, walk
together, take another step every day until November 6th. We believe in
America. We believe in ourselves. Our greatest days are still ahead. We
are, after all, Americans.

God bless this country. God bless you. God bless the United States
of America. Thanks, you guys. Thanks for the victory in Wisconsin and
Maryland and District of Columbia. Thanks, you guys. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: That was Mitt Romney`s victory speech in Milwaukee after
sweeping all three primary contests tonight, the Romney speech usurped the
last several minutes of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." So, of course, she will
get those minutes back here on THE LAST WORD.

After two quick and easy wins in Maryland and Washington, D.C., NBC
News has declared Mitt Romney to be the winner in Wisconsin. Mitt Romney
leads Rick Santorum by double digits with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul
trailing far behind.

In the Maryland Republican primary, NBC News projects that Mitt Romney
will win. Romney leads Santorum in Maryland with double digits again with
Gingrich and Ron Paul far behind.

And in Washington, D.C., where Rick Santorum is not even on the
ballot, NBC News easily projects, Mitt Romney will win that primary,
beating Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Joining me now is Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, chief White
House correspondent, and of host of MSNBC`s "THE DAILY RUNDOWN".

Chuck, Wisconsin is where everybody is looking tonight. What did we
learn about Mitt Romney`s strengths tonight and the future of Rick
Santorum?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think not only do we
know that demographics are destiny one again, and Wisconsin we told you is
a little bit closer to being more like somewhere between an Illinois
primary electorate or Michigan Republican primary electorate.

But worse for Santorum is we`re starting to see some of his core
support groups that we`ve been identifying throughout this primary season,
most notably non-college graduates, white evangelicals and folks that make
less than $100,000 and household income, they`re starting to move towards
Romney. Look at this among Wisconsin Republicans -- dead even among
basically middle income folks -- they are folks that make less than
$100,000.

Look at this one here. When you come our next graphic here among
college graduates, there it is. Move too fast. A little touch screen
tonight, Lawrence, so bear with me. The college graduates here and no
college degree, Romney actually won that category.

He lost -- this is where Santorum won among non-college educated
Republicans. But in Michigan and in Ohio. Not the case in Wisconsin.

And, finally, the evangelical vote, which was not large in Wisconsin
in comparison to Ohio. But look at this among evangelicals. Santorum is
going to win them, but only by two points.

So what we`re seeing in our exit polls, what we`re seeing in the
actual raw returns is that that coalescing, it`s starting.

And in Wisconsin, when you think about it, Lawrence, there were two
big popular Republicans in the conservative movement who got behind Romney
over the weekend. One is Ron Johnson, a big Tea Party favorite, that new
U.S. senator there. And, of course, the other one is Paul Ryan.

And I have to say, watching Ryan introduce Romney tonight and seeing
how base Republicans reacted to President Obama targeting Paul Ryan today
in that speech, I think there`s going to be a lot of pressure on Mitt
Romney to pick Paul Ryan. And while that might leave some Democrats giddy
about it, I think that makes the base just as giddy for the Republican
Party. It could be a fascinating ticket preview that we got tonight.

O`DONNELL: The Romney/Ryan ticket taking shape. Chuck, hang in there
with us.

Joining us now is Rachel Maddow, the host of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW,"
and Steve Schmidt, MSNBC political analyst and former senior advisor to the
2008 McCain campaign.

Rachel, these Republicans just talk right through your show, Rick
Santorum seizes part of your show, and then Romney seizes part of your
show.

Do you have any unexpressed thoughts on tonight`s proceedings?

RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: I have very many.

O`DONNELL: That your audience would have heard if Mitt Romney didn`t
grab your microphone.

MADDOW: Thank you. You are very kind.

You know, the Romney/Ryan prospect that Chuck was just raising there
is interesting. I mean, the Democratic and particularly the liberal
perspective on that is oh, please, go there. We had yourself even more to
the kill Medicare guy. I mean, that is absolutely the issue that Democrats
I think are most enthusiastic about being able it to win on, this idea of
turning Medicare into a coupon system.

We all saw how well George W. Bush did on that in 2005 with the
privatize Social Security plan that he came up with. So, I think that is
from the liberal perspective a very exciting prospect.

But seeing him speak tonight, there is no worry that Paul Ryan would
overshadow Mitt Romney as a speaker and as a campaigner. I sort of --
because Paul Ryan is so beloved on the right, I thought when he was
introducing him tonight, that this might be a real chance for Paul Ryan to
show off.

And it was -- he gave a very bad introduction. I mean, it was bad
enough that I actually cut him off and I would have let it run if he said
anything useful.

But I mean, he`s calling -- he said I think this guy wanted to be the
uniter and not the divider, didn`t he say that?

No, he didn`t say that. George W. Bush said that. That wasn`t a
Barack Obama thing. It was just incredibly bad introduction and speech.
So, maybe he will pick him. He won`t be overshadowed by him.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, you`ve been through this vice presidential
selecting on the Republican side. You gave us Sarah Palin. Did you see --
what did you think of Paul Ryan`s audition for the V.P. slot tonight?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I`m not sure
that qualifies as an audition for it, but I think that he could certainly
wind up as one of the people who goes through the vetting process who`s on
the list. But I think that the mistakes of 2008 will have a big impact in
2012. I think for sure that Governor Romney is going to run a very tight
process that results in someone who is qualified to be president of the
United States, should they have to take the oath of office from day one.

O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd, is there any mathematical formula left for
Rick Santorum to cling to tonight in the delegate count?

TODD: No, there`s not. In fact, tonight he may not even crack 10
delegates. You know, tonight, our modified winner-take-all system began in
April 1 the way the Republicans did their rule.

So, if you carry a congressional district in Maryland or in Wisconsin
the way it did, you would win, and even if you carry it by a vote, you win
three delegates out of the district. It`s possible looking at the results
coming in the way they are in Wisconsin tonight that Santorum might carry
three congressional districts of the eight. That would give him nine.

Can he get one congressional district out of Maryland? That seems
unclear. So, he may not crack 10. There were 92 delegates at stake
tonight.

So I have to say, you know, this is going to be interesting to watch.
I thought Romney in his speech was basically giving Santorum permission to
stay in the race I thought at the very end when he was asking for support
from folks in Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut. He was
rattling off the April 24th states.

But you got to wonder ft pressure is going to grow on Santorum, and
whether Santorum is prepared to potentially lose his home state. Does he
want to be embarrassed that way going out?

And when you look at what we saw in the demographics tonight, his core
group starting to erode. He may -- I`ll say in the next three days,
Lawrence, you and I watched this a long time. It wouldn`t surprise me if
you see rethinking going on.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, does Romney want him to stay in -- because he won
over by 50 percent in Maryland, like h can get a couple of real big-looking
wins against Santorum, and maybe that`s more useful than having no opponent
out there.

MADDOW: But if Santorum stays in, how important it is for Romney if
he does lose five, six, seven more primaries? If Santorum staying in for
Arkansas and for West Virginia and for Texas and for all these places and
Mitt Romney still is the inevitable nominee, but he has to get basted by
Rick Santorum who has no chance in those states, does that hurt Mitt Romney
in a way more than just hurting his feelings? Does that have a material
effect on his ability to mobilize people once he has the nomination locked
up?

I`m not sure that we`ve seen that. I`m not sure that we know how that
would play out.

O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, what`s your answer to Rachel`s question?

SCHMIDT: Well, of course it hurts him.

You saw today with President Obama in the speech that he gave started
the general election campaign. He`s trying to seize the ground in the
middle of the electorate, trying to make Mitt Romney own the Ryan budget,
trying to paint that Ryan budget as extreme.

I think both sides start out, Lawrence, with 47 percent of the vote.
That middle part of the electricity rate is going to be critical. Mitt
Romney needs to get into the general election against President Obama and
get out of the fight with Rick Santorum that pulled his favorable ratings
down to 34 percent.

Plus, the campaign needs to begin the process of merging with the
Republican National Committee, off-loading some overhead and expenses to
the national committee.

So, at this point, when Rick Santorum has no chance of being the
nominee and Mitt Romney for sure is going to be the nominee, it`s good for
this to start winding down. And I think that Rick Santorum is going to be
under a lot of pressure not to do more injury, not to do more damage in a
race that he has no plausible chance of winning.

O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd, Steve Schmidt, and Rachel Maddow -- thank you
all very much for joining me tonight.

MADDOW: Absolutely.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: the president was unleashed today in a speech
in Washington, specifically unleashed on Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney by name.
That`s next.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, another episode in the politics of
religion. Mitt Romney knows the polls show he has a religion problem, and
so, he`s trying to create a religion problem for President Obama. Some of
Mitt`s supporters might think the president is a secret Muslim, but Mitt is
now saying that the president is a secret atheist.

And later, new information in the killing of Trayvon Martin. George
Zimmerman is lawyering up. He has a new lawyer on the case tonight. And
that lawyer immediately went on local television in Florida to explain how
he can defend a client he has still not met.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney still has to deal with Rick Santorum in the
Republican primaries, which is fine with President Obama who today finally
let everyone know exactly what he thinks of Mitt Romney and his partner in
budget crime, Paul Ryan. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a Trojan horse
disguised as deficit reduction plans is really an attempt to impose a
radical provision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.
It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and
upward mobility for everybody who`s willing to work for it, a place where
prosperity doesn`t trickle down from the top but grows outward from the
heart of the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It was President Obama unleashed today in a speech in
Washington in which he finally went after Mitt Romney by name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: One of my potential opponent, Governor Romney, has said he
hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as
a bill on day one of his presidency. He said that he`s very supportive of
this new budget. And he even called it marvelous, which is a word you
don`t often hear when it comes to describing a budget. It`s a word you
don`t often hear generally.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is former DNC communications director and
current MSNBC political analyst, Karen Finney, and John Heilemann, national
appears editor for "New York Magazine" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Thank you both for joining me.

I just want to explain to the audience the reason you weren`t getting
hooting and howling and cheering and all of that -- tell us who this
audience was, Karen.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: This was the American
Association of Newspaper Editors. So that`s not an audience that`s going
to cheer.

O`DONNELL: They`re not allowed to.

FINNEY: No way.

O`DONNELL: They`re like the Supreme Court. They can`t clap.

FINNEY: That`s right, in theory, right? A little bit of laughter.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But a audience that is
guaranteed, a historic audience, audience where presidents go to give big
speeches and they will get a lot of media attention and has gotten a lot
today and we`ll continue to get it for a lot of the week.

FINNEY: You know, Jonathan Capehart actually pointed this out earlier
that, you know, it was a very red meat speech to a crowd like the newspaper
association where it was a crowd that couldn`t give the hooting and
hollering in the same way you kind of heard in Romney`s speech where he was
clearly throwing out the red meat, you know, because the crowd loves it.

O`DONNELL: It was a long speech, knowing that these people are
capable of listening to a long speech, in fact, taking notes during it.
There were things he wanted to drill in don`t forget, don`t forget -- in
your coverage, don`t forget this.

FINNEY: Right.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what he said about the Bush tax cuts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The results of their experiment is there for all to see. At
the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans received a huge
tax cut in 2001 and another huge tax cut in 2003.

We were promised that these tax cuts would lead to faster job growth.
They did not. The wealthy got wealthier. We would expect that. But
prosperity sure didn`t trickle down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: He was giving them ways of framing things, I think, even
in their own coverage, Karen.

FINNEY: Absolutely. I mean, whether you want to say it`s trickle-
down economics, you`re on your own, to pick your favorite phrase, it was
absolutely. I`ll tell you, though -- for Democrats one of the things I was
happy to hear, I think a lot of folks were happy to hear, he was
essentially also rejecting the Republicans` premise that you screwed
everything up.

Because, again, there`s not this magical universe where we can say,
well, if we did their way, here`s how much better it would be. He said, you
know what? We tried it their way. And here`s how it was and here`s how we
did it under me and here`s what`s happening.

O`DONNELL: John, what do you make of him picking today as Mitt Romney
day? Here`s the day I come out here with the name I`m really going to be
running against.

HEILEMANN: Well, I mean -- look, appropriate in the sense that Mitt
Romney basically sewed up the Republican nomination tonight. But also,
there`s a poetic element to this, right?

Mitt Romney on stage tonight first with Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan is going
to be almost as important a foil in this campaign as Mitt Romney.

The president framing those two up today throughout the speech saying
this is the Paul Ryan budget, Republicans are wed to this and Mitt Romney
is wedded to this. It is extreme. It is radical.

And importantly in that previous bite that we just heard, saying, not
just extreme and radical, but a proven failure and making the pragmatic
argument that under Bush, we had huge tax cuts and did not see great
growth. Under Clinton, we had a little bit higher tax rates and we saw
huge growth. Let`s look at the historical record here in addition to this
is just too extreme.

FINNEY: Also making a point that under Republican presidents like
Nixon who started the EPA, right, that government plays a role. It`s been
Republicans who have recognized the role of government. I thought it was
interesting -- Mitt Romney, I mean, to me tonight felt like game on, right,
because Romney tried to come right back at him and this whole, you know,
Obama wants this government-centered society. He was clearly going right
back at Obama in what he said today.

O`DONNELL: He went as far back for Republican presidents talking
about Lincoln and the Transcontinental Railroad as a worthy government
project. And he seemed to be going after the Ryan thing on that piece that
we say in the press all the time. At least Paul Ryan is serious and he`s
proposing something. And President Obama tried to undermine that framing.

HEILEMANN: But the president -- he is. But he`s also -- he`s kind of
-- Joe Biden over the weekend was on one of the Sunday shows and said,
look, the Republicans aren`t hiding the ball. They`re telling you what
they`re going to do.

There is a virtue to what Paul Ryan is doing, which is, look, if
you`re going to try to keep tax rates where they are, we`re going to need
to make really painful cuts to a lot of programs that are going to affect
large swath of the American public. And the president hitting on that,
saying, look, this is a religion for these people in some ways. It`s one
that`s going to bite really hard if we follow this path.

O`DONNELL: And in this version of the Ryan plan now, it`s actually a
very big tax cut. It`s taking these rates way, way down. Go ahead.

FINNEY: Well, remember what the president did is he reminded this
audience in the framing last time, it was Gingrich, right, who said this is
right wing social engineering to remind them. And he ended up having to
attract that because he got jumped on by his own people. So, that was
another interesting little tidbit he threw in there.

O`DONNELL: Karen Finney and John Heilemann, thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.

Coming up, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney may have just committed an
election crime in Wisconsin, seriously. You have to stay with us. We`ll
tell you all about it. They may have violated the law there.

And in "The Rewrite", Mitt Romney has a new theory about President
Obama`s religion. He`s not pushing the secret Muslim idea. Now, Mitt
Romney is insisting that the president may be a secret atheist. That`s in
"The Rewrite."

We`ll have the latest on the killing of Trayvon Martin, including
video of George Zimmermann`s new lawyer tonight on local television in
Florida, explaining how he can defend a client he still has not met.
That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Now, Mitt Romney is trying to invent a religion problem
for President Obama by accusing the president of trying to start a new
religion. No more of this secret Muslim stuff. Now the Republican
strategy is to call the president a secret atheist. That`s later in the
"Rewrite".

And we`ll have the latest developments in the killing of Trayvon
Martin. George Zimmerman has a new lawyer tonight. Charles M. Blow joins
us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: While President Obama was eviscerating the Ryan budget in
a speech in Washington, Congressman Paul Ryan was in his home state of
Wisconsin, participating in a possible illegal election day event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: The person that we`re going to go to
the polls today if we have not already done today is who I think is going
to be the winner today here and the next president of the United States.
Join me in welcoming Governor Mitt Romney.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got to tell you how
much I appreciate your coming by and getting a free sandwich today. That`s
a tough job, but someone`s got to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Wisconsin state law, in the section easily found under the
title "Election Bribery," prohibits, quote, "offers, gives, lends or
promises to give or lend anything of value to induce a person to go to the
polls or vote."

Anything of value includes any amount, quote, now, "any amount of
money or any object the value of which exceeds" guess how much? One
dollar. The sandwiches cost five dollars each.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board told NBC News affiliate
WTMJ Milwaukee that it appears the Romney campaign broke the law. After
participating in apparent election crime with Mitt Romney, Congressman Ryan
attacked President Obama for talking about the Ryan Plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: I don`t think history is going to be really kind to a president
that when confronted with one of our country`s most pressing challenges,
the debt crisis, chooses to do nothing about it and then waits for those of
us who offer solutions to attack us in these kind of baseless ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: See, Paul Ryan and his supporters are cool with anyone
talking about the Ryan Plan as long as they use only praiseful adjectives
and don`t do any math.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These proposed tax
breaks would come on top of more than a trillion dollars in tax give-aways
for people making more than 250,000 dollars a year. That`s an average of
at least 150,000 dollars for every millionaire in this country -- 150,000
dollars.

Let`s just step back for a second and look at what 150,000 dollars
pays for: a year`s worth of prescription drug coverage for a senior
citizen, plus a new school computer lab, plus a year of medical care for a
returning veteran, plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease,
plus a year`s salary for a firefighter or police officer, plus a tax credit
to make a year of college more affordable, plus a year`s worth of financial
aid.

A hundred fifty thousand dollars could pay for all these things
combined, investments in education and research that are essential to
economic growth that benefits all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are John Nichols, Washington correspondent
for "The Nation," and Steve Kornacki, political columnist for "Salon" and
an MSNBC political analyst.

John, we`ve seen worse election crimes in this country, but giving out
sandwiches, five dollar sandwiches to get someone`s vote, it reads as a
technical violation of Wisconsin law.

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": Well, you have to understand that
Wisconsin is pretty tough on these things. Historically, it`s been a
rigidly ethical state. This law is well-known in Wisconsin, especially to
people like Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan has run in a dozen primary and general
elections since 1998.

And he managed campaigns, ran campaigns before he became a candidate
himself. So it`s a little bit shaky for him to suggest that he was unaware
of the law. And it might have been a good idea for him to remind his
friend Mitt Romney of it.

O`DONNELL: There are a lot of states with these laws, and the
professional campaigners operators all know about it. It`s no surprise. I
want to get to the president`s speech today and how he took on the Ryan
Plan directly. And especially let`s go to what he had to say about the
Ryan Plan and Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But here`s the solution proposed by the Republicans in
Washington, and embraced by most of their candidates for president: instead
of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors who retire a
decade from now would get a voucher. If health care costs rise faster than
the amount of the voucher, as, by the way, they`ve been doing for decades,
that`s too bad.

Seniors bear the risk. If the voucher isn`t enough to buy a private
plan with the specific doctors and care that you need, that`s too bad.
It`s a bad idea. It will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "End Medicare as we know it." Steve, this was a carefully
written speech, in the teleprompter, carefully delivered. He`s not going
to need those words in the teleprompter when he`s in Florida campaigning.
That is the memorized boiler plate Florida campaign.

STEVE KORNACKI, "SALON": This was the dress rehearsal, really, for
next seven months I think everywhere. I think what Obama is doing here
really is this is the updated version of the Bill Clinton re-election
campaign. Bill Clinton was down and out after the 1994 midterms. And he
sort of got the gift of a far right Republican Congress that was devoted to
deep cuts in the social safety net.

It was Medicare back in 1996. It`s Medicare in 2012, and other issues
that are raised by the Paul Ryan budget. But Bill Clinton was very
successful in 1996 as presenting himself as the defender in chief of the
social safety net. You know, he had Newt Gingrich certainly as the chief
foil. It`s more Paul Ryan right now.

But this is exactly the -- this is exactly the kind of plan that Obama
wants to be running against. I almost -- I hate to say this. I almost
think there might be a little mischief here on the part of the White House.
It`s not their main goal here.

But think about this: if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, and
he`s going to be, he is going to needs a vice presidential nominee who
really passes muster with the Republican bids. By singling out Paul Ryan
the way he did today, Barack Obama just made Paul Ryan basically the most
popular conservative Republican in the country, and in a way, a natural
running mate prospect for Mitt Romney.

I think the Obama campaign would love it if that ever happened. John
Nichols, you Wisconsin experts know Paul Ryan better than any of us. When
you hear Paul Ryan for vice president, what`s the reaction in Wisconsin?

NICHOLS: Well, it depends on your -- on the person you are talking
to. Republicans in Wisconsin adore the guy, and that`s why Mitt Romney
attached himself to him. I have never seen anyone run in Wisconsin to
closely aligned with a particular congressman as Mitt Romney was with Paul
Ryan.

But there`s a challenge with Paul Ryan. And that is that he is not
merely a rigid economic conservative, an Ayn Rand extremist as regards
cutting down government. He`s also one of the more richer social
conservatives around.

He is right there with Rick Santorum. So it is, in fact, true that
among conservatives, hard core conservatives, he`s a very popular figure.
But folks should understand that if you look at polling not just in
Wisconsin but nationally Americans know who Paul Ryan is. They associate
him with assaults on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

And if he was chosen as a vice presidential candidate, Mitt Romney
would attached to that agenda. I think it`s true. That would be a dream
ticket for the Obama White House to run against.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, right wing social engineering is what Newt
Gingrich referred to it as. We have all that video. The Obama campaign
has all that video to play.

This is also an untested possibility for the vice president. As much
as we feel like we know this member of the House of Representatives because
we`re covering him on budget issues, that`s such a narrow frame to look at
someone. Do you think that the Romney campaign has reason to fear what the
full vetting of Paul Ryan might show and might show in terms of just
political weakness around the country?

KORNACKI: Sure. The fundamental lesson of the Sarah Palin experience
in 2008 is really, you have to vet these people very closely. Who knows
with Paul Ryan what you are going to turn up?

But the fact that Ryan is getting more mention now than he was before
really speaks to the problem that Mitt Romney has. So do the primary
results that we`re still seeing tonight, for that matter. There is still
strong resistance to Mitt Romney. We are even seeing it in these Wisconsin
returns tonight, not just among Republicans but among a very specific type
of Republican, culturally conservative, social conservative, Evangelical
Christian, the most conservative elements of the party.

These people still are refusing to vote for him. These are the people
who are going to be disproportionately represented at the convention this
summer. He needs to make them happy. If it`s not Paul Ryan, it is going
to have to be somebody like Paul Ryan. That`s a real problem.

O`DONNELL: John Nichols, quickly before we go, Rachel Maddow made the
point that boy, Ryan can be a really boring speaker. Does he have the
capacity with rhetoric to light up a room?

NICHOLS: No. He`s not a particularly exciting speaker. You saw that
when he did the response to the president`s State of the Union last year.
But one thing about Paul Ryan that people should understand, he is a very
charming man. He is very, very good in TV interviews. And he can handle
himself. He can take the hits.

And so in many ways, they will look at him as an appealing candidate.
But he`s also -- he`s not going to be the guy that is going to wow the
convention with a great stump speech.

O`DONNELL: John Nichols and Steve Kornacki, thank you both for
joining me tonight.

NICHOLS: Sure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney has decided to attack President
Obama on religion. Now Romney is saying the president is a secret atheist.
That`s next in the Rewrite.

And later, as the FBI continues to investigate the killing of Trayvon
Martin, George Zimmerman has added a second lawyer to what is now his
defense team. We have video of that lawyer appearing on a Florida
television station tonight. Charles M. Blow will join me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, another episode of the politics of
religion. Willard M. Romney has a religion problem and he knows it.
That`s why he`s saying things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, I think -- I think there is in this country a war on
religion. I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America
known as secularism. I know that, based upon reports, the Obama
administration gave this a lot of thought, a lot of discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: There is Mitt Romney, who has as bad a religion problem as
anyone who`s ever run for president, trying to create a religion problem
for President Obama, a political religion problem. That`s what we`re
talking about here. Romney has a political religion problem.

This is Romney`s attempt to Swiftboat the president on religion. This
is a much used page of the Republican playbook. We saw it used against
John Kerry, who is a decorated war hero and combat veteran of the Vietnam
War. George W. Bush had taken the more practiced route for the sons of
privilege at the time by avoiding service in Vietnam, while being coddled
in a National Guard unit in Texas.

So compared to John Kerry, George W. Bush had a war problem, as in
experience at war, as in showing courage under fire, literally under fire.
George W. Bush had carefully avoided combat, while John Kerry risked his
life on the battlefield. And so of course, the Republicans attacked John
Kerry`s combat record. They took George W. Bush`s problem and made it John
Kerry`s problem.

Let`s take a look at just how bad Mitt Romney`s religion problem is.
Here`s a poll showing voter reluctance based on a candidate`s religion.
You see, Catholicism puts a seven percent drag on a candidacy, with seven
percent of voters saying they would not vote for a Catholic. It`s the same
with a Baptist, seven percent, a little more reluctance for a Jewish
candidate, nine percent.

And then a huge jump, more than double, with 22 percent of voters
unwilling to vote for a Mormon candidate. And that`s in an election that`s
going to be decided by one or two percentage points.

So what does Mitt Romney do with his religion problem? He doesn`t
just attack President Obama`s religion. He invents a whole new religion, a
religion that doesn`t even exist, and attributes it to President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, I think -- I think there is in this country a war on
religion. I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America
known as secularism. I know that, based upon reports, the Obama
administration gave this a lot of thought, a lot of discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so there`s Mitt Romney accusing President Obama of
trying to create a new religion. Now part of Romney`s religion problem is
that he`s a member of a new religion. Established religions like Judaism,
which is about 4,000 years old, and Christianity, which is about 2,000
years ago, don`t easily warm up to new religions like Romney`s, which is
only 182 years old.

Mormonism was created by a guy in upstate New York in 1830 when he got
caught having sex with the maid and explained to his wife that God told him
to do it. Forty eight wives later, Joseph Smith`s lifestyle was completely
sanctified in the religious that he invented to go with it, which Mitt
Romney says he believes.

So Mitt Romney is not content with attacking the president`s religious
beliefs. Romney must accuse the president of trying to create a new
religion, a religion newer than Mitt Romney`s. Religiously, Mitt Romney
lives in the glass house of American politics. That`s what these polls
tell us; 22 percent unwilling to vote for a Mormon for president.

Mitt Romney knows that the press wouldn`t let him get away now with
accusing Barack Obama of being a secret Muslim, which is an even bigger
glass house in American politics. Polls show that 46 percent of voters
would be reluctant to vote for a Muslim candidate. So instead of calling
Barack Obama a Muslim, Mitt Romney is now calling him an atheist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America
known as secularism. And I know that, based upon reports, the Obama
administration gave this a lot of thought, a lot of discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So having failed to make Barack Obama a Muslim,
Republicans, led now by Mitt Romney, are hell-bent on making him an
atheist. And here`s why: in the politics of religion in this country, the
only thing that`s worse than being a Mormon or a Muslim in the eyes of our
extremely religiously intolerant electorate is being an atheist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: New developments tonight in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
One lawyer is not enough for George Zimmerman. Now he has two. Joining
the Zimmerman defense team as co-counsel is Hal Uhrig, A criminal defense
attorney who became a television analyst in the local Florida coverage of
the Casey Anthony trial.

Uhrig is a former Gainesville, Florida, police officer and a former
Florida assistant attorney general. He joins Craig Sonner (ph), the highly
peculiar lawyer who has been representing George Zimmerman without ever
having met his client. Craig Sonner is the lawyer who fled our studio in
Florida last week, just before doing a scheduled interview on this program.

The Zimmerman defense team appeared tonight on the local Fox station
in Orlando and addressed the oddity of both of them defending a client that
neither one of them has actually met.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAL UHRIG, ZIMMERMAN DEFENSE TEAM: There`s been a pretty thorough
investigation ongoing in this case. There are cases where I want to hear
my client`s version and look in his eye and see if I believe him or not.
In this case, I understand the Sanford Police have already given him a
voice stress test. He passed that.

The evidence seems to supports his version of what happened, so I
don`t necessarily need to look him in the eye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: One week from today, a Grand Jury will begin meeting to
decide whether there is enough evidence to indict George Zimmerman and
bring him to trial.

Joining me now are Charles M. Blow, editorial writer for "the New York
Times," and Natalie Jackson, co-counsel for the Martin family. Natalie,
first of all, what do you make of this expansion of the Zimmerman legal
team with Hal Uhrig?

NATALIE JACKSON, LAWYER FOR MARTIN FAMILY: Well, it makes us
optimistic that at least it may go to trial now. That`s something that
would have never happened had it not been for the public outcry. So he has
a right to counsel and he has a right to -- he has a right to a presumption
of innocence. That`s all this family has wanted, is a fair and just trial.

O`DONNELL: Charles, Craig Sonner, the first lawyer in the case, was
clearly in way over his head. He had never handled a homicide case before.
You could tell in his television appearances that he just wasn`t accustomed
to handling anything of this weight. Does this mean that we are -- is it
your sense that this is any indicator that we are headed towards some kind
of real judicial process here?

CHARLES M. BLOW, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It could mean that. It does -
- you would lawyer up if you felt like it may go to trial. But another
very important thing, I think it`s important for everyone to remember, is
that this is also a PR offensive on both sides.

So the Martin -- Trayvon Martin`s family has a PR offensive to try to
make sure that George Zimmerman is charged and is brought to trial. The
Zimmerman family has another PR offensive, which is to make George
Zimmerman innocent in the public view.

Because what you have to remember is what if George Zimmerman is not
charged? What if he is charged but not convicted? He still has to live
out the rest of his life. So what the family would want to do is to have
that be in a public that believes his side of the story, aside from what
happens in a courtroom.

JACKSON: Right. I will say also, Charles, one other thing that their
PR strategy is to make this -- they are bringing the race issue into this.
We have 2.2 million Americans that signed a petition that said George
Zimmerman should be arrested. We have 73 percent of the American
population that says he should be arrested.

They, however, are claiming hate mongering and racism. This is
Americans of all nationalities that believe that he should be brought to
trial.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to an interview that was on CNN this morning
with one of George Zimmerman`s neighbors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the perpetrators of the burglaries, the
prior burglaries, were young black males.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when he saw Trayvon Martin, in your mind, it
would make perfect sense to say he`s a young, black male. He probably is a
robber? Is that what you`re saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s an old saying that if you plant corn, you
get corn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Natalie, that`s one of Zimmerman`s defenders -- public
television defenders. Now this place where Trayvon was walking is a 20
percent black gated community. It`s 20 percent black. It`s not like
there`s one black family there.

It`s 20 percent Hispanic. It`s only 50 percent white. They are
trying to suggest that there`s something peculiar in a 20 percent black
gated community to see a black person walking.

JACKSON: That`s what racial profiling is. And that`s what we have to
address in this country. No one on this team and no one in this camp and
supporters of this camp support any type of racial division. We have not
mentioned that -- we have never talked to George Zimmerman.

I cannot tell you if he`s a racist. What we do know is that he found
Trayvon Martin suspicious because he was black, wearing a hoodie and
walking slow, according to his own words. That is racial profiling.

That`s what we have to address. And that`s what America needs to
address to maintain the integrity of Americans.

O`DONNELL: Charles, Zimmerman`s friend there just seemed to confirm
that really, you know, you didn`t need anything more than black skin to be
worthy of the highest level of suspicion.

BLOW: Listen, Mr. Taffy is getting me hot under my collar. It was
hard for me to even listen to that about planting corn. George Zimmerman
did not blast a hole through a cob of corn. He blasted a hole through a
young man who was 17 years old, who was buried on March 3rd and will never
get to be a day older than 17 years old.

You cannot -- no person can be condemned for the sin of another
person. I don`t care if six or whatever -- seven, maybe there were
burglaries -- and if they fit that profile, that does not give anyone the
right to profile Trayvon Martin or anyone else who looks like the person
that committed the crime. And it definitely does not give you the right to
shoot them in the chest.

What we need to find out is whether or not there was a reasonable
rationale for George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin. That is the only
thing important to this case. Everything else has to be put to the side.

I don`t care about the burglaries. I don`t care about what he was
wearing. I don`t care about, you know, whether or not George Zimmerman had
some suspicions that he had to deal with or he had some threat response.
We need to know why did George Zimmerman shoot Trayvon Martin in the chest?
End of conversation, nothing about ears of corn, planting corn and reaping
corn.

O`DONNELL: And that is going to have to be THE LAST WORD.

END

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