updated 4/10/2012 12:04:03 PM ET 2012-04-10T16:04:03

Guests: Steve Kornacki, Jon Ralston


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

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

We`re coming to you live tonight from Los Angeles, California. I`m
out here to do some stuff for my book, for "Drift," and also to see my
folks. But I`ll be doing regular shows live from here on the West Coast
all week long.

Traveling is always nice. I`m from California originally and the
weather is awesome. But I do have to say, one of the sad things about
leaving our office back in New York, whenever I have to leave the office,
is that I don`t like to be away from my wood-burned veto paddle.

The office of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer last year mailed us
this block of wood into which the governor had burned the word "veto" with
a cattle brand. We promptly put it up in our bull pen. They mailed it to
us after we reported on Governor Schweitzer`s particular Montana spin on
making a really big deal out of bills that he chooses to veto as governor.

Governor Schweitzer from time to time will gather a big crowd outside
the Montana state capitol and quite literally burn the word "veto" right
through bills that were sent to his desk from the Republican-led state
legislature.

Even though he is maybe doing it with the most style of anyone,
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is not the only governor or even the only
Democratic governor who has had some fun making a big fiery symbolic deal
out of the process of saying no.

Today, for example, in Minnesota, that state`s Democratic Governor
Mark Dayton held a press conference for him to symbolically but not really,
but symbolically veto a bill that would make it harder to vote -- a bill
that was passed by Republicans in the state legislature there. Governor
Dayton had to fake veto this bill instead of actually vetoing it because
Minnesota Republicans voted to put this measure on the ballot in November.
They`re putting it on a ballot as a constitutional amendment.

In Minnesota, that sort of thing does go through the legislative
process, but the governor doesn`t have any way to block it. Instead it
goes right up for a vote by the people in November. Even though he could
not veto this legislation, Governor Dayton symbolically vetoed it today,
calling the measure unwise and unnecessary.

Now, this is not the first time that Governor Dayton has done this
sort of thing. Also on the ballot in November in Minnesota is going to be
a measure to doubly, triply extra pinky swear ban gay marriage again in the
state. Governor Dayton fake vetoed that bill last May.

I mean, to be clear, same-sex marriage is already illegal in
Minnesota. It`s already banned. But Minnesota Republicans presumably
having solved all the other pressing problems in their state have decided
to go through the process of putting an extra redundant ban before the
voters this November.

Again, it would have no e effect on current state law. Same-sex
marriage is already banned in Minnesota -- but presumably I`m guessing
maybe in their estimation maybe they think it will have the effect of
driving up the turnout of very conservative voters in Minnesota who really
care and really want to vote on a symbolic strike against the gay this way.

But there was an interesting and somewhat unexpected development on
that little bit of Minnesota uselessness today. When President Obama`s re-
election campaign decided to weigh in on the issue, the Obama campaign
officially came out today in opposition to Minnesota`s anti-gay ballot
initiative, the one that Governor Dayton fake vetoed.

The Obama campaign released a statement that said in part, quote,
"While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in
every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed
divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex
couples."

As Chris Geidner at "Metro Weekly" pointed out today, that language
from the Obama campaign is essentially identical to the language the
campaign used when it came out against another anti-gay measure that`s
going to be on the ballot next month in North Carolina.

Because this has now happened in a couple of states, which I guess
means it`s something approaching a pattern from the Obama campaign, we
probably should not be surprised if this happens again.

But given that the president is on the record as still being
personally opposed to gay people having the right to get married, even as
his administration have pursued a number of gay right measures including
repealing "don`t ask, don`t tell" and no longer repealing the anti-gay
defense of marriage act and pursing equality in benefits for federal
employees who are gay -- even though they have done all of those things and
more, the president`s personal stance on the issue of gay marriage rights
does make this campaign move, like the one he made in Minnesota, does make
these moves politically noticeable.

Interestingly, though, there was no immediate response to this today
from the Minnesota Republican Party. There had been no response from them
until we called them for a response. And then they e-mailed over a
statement that read in part, quote, "While it`s flattering that President
Obama thinks so highly of Minnesota to weigh in on our ballot initiatives
when we has so much else on his plate, I`m pretty sure we can decide these
questions for ourselves."

You know what, that itself is sort of worthy of congratulations to the
Minnesota Republican Party. Congratulations. It is good to know that you
guys still have phones. You still have your phones up and running. You
still have e-mail accounts.

That did not seem like a foregone conclusion -- after Politico.com
said the state Republican Party is now carrying over a million dollars in
debt. At the state level, they are in the red big time. They may be the
worst off of all state Republican parties and a lot of them are bad off.

Quoting "Politico", "The Minnesota GOP is so deep in debt it has
stopped paying the lease on its headquarters."

Just seven months from what Republicans like to call the biggest
elections in our lifetimes, the Minnesota Republican Party is apparently
having a little problem with insolvency. Now, we saw this sort of thing
back in Nevada back in 2010 in the last election cycle after the big John
Ensign scandal, and various other statewide battles. The state Republican
Party in Nevada, remember, was in shambles.

We traveled to Nevada right before the big Harry Reid/Sharron Angle
Senate race in November 2010, and what we found is a state Republican Party
that was essentially unable to perform the basic tasks that a party needs
to perform in order to win a Senate race. At that late date, it was
getting out the vote.

Sharron Angle was ahead in the polls heading into election day in
Nevada but she ultimately lost that race in part because the Nevada
Republican Party was a hot mess. They could not get it together enough to
figure out how to do basic turnout for their own voters. And so, on
election day, they lost.

Fast forward two years now and it`s now the Republican Party of
Minnesota that is a nationally reportable hot mess. According to
Republican Party of Minnesota, "We are not paying our office lease rent
payment currently, and have not yet negotiated long-term payment schedules
and/or negotiated settlements relating to most of the offenders on the
accounts payable aging."

It`s not even just Minnesota. Politico also reporting today on a
number of so-called orphan state Republican parties in serious trouble.
These are state parties mostly in blue states where Republicans essentially
don`t compete well.

And so, therefore they have not developed the ability to compete well,
places like California and Illinois and New York. The national Republican
Party reportedly now setting aside millions and millions of dollars to
essentially bail those relatively lame state parties out.

But the states that "Politico" documented as having their state
parties in trouble are not all orphan states. They`re not all liberal
states. A lot of them are either swing states or something close to swing
states -- again, Minnesota, where Republicans can`t even pay the rent. One
local Republican telling the paper, quote, "I don`t know how the party is
going to be at all capable of doing anything this cycle."

"Politico" also noting the trouble right now in the state of Ohio
where, quote, "Republicans have been in a state of open warfare for
months." The brand new just installed Ohio Party Chairman noting he`s
going to have to rely on county organization to get out the vote as opposed
to state organization.

There`s also more trouble brewing in Nevada, which just saw its state
chairman depart after a disastrous Republican presidential caucus in
Nevada. One former Nevada Republican Party official telling "Politico,"
quote, underprepared would be generous as a description of his state`s GOP.
Quote, "They just don`t seem to be prepared at all."

Then there`s the Republican Party up in New Hampshire which saw its
own state chairman up and quit amid serious fundraising problems in New
Hampshire.

And in Iowa, remember Iowa? You recall the state chairman in Iowa was
forced to resign there after the party botched the Iowa Republican
presidential caucus this year. Under the state party chairman`s
leadership, remember Mitt Romney won on election day -- oh, no, no, then it
was a tie -- no, actually, it turns out Rick Santorum won. No, I`m sorry,
I quit.

The new Iowa state chairman is known for being a rather vociferous
supporter of Ron Paul. One Iowa Republican telling "Politico," quote,
"He`s not a guy you have a lot of confidence in."

We spoke to a veteran Iowa observer today who confirmed to us that
there`s considerable angst in Iowa right now among Republican Party
activists and conservative activists about their new chairman`s ability to
get the job done in Iowa.

State parties are important. I mean, the first thing that we think
about are things like getting out the vote, and the basic logistics for the
presidential race. But it`s also everything else on the ticket. It`s
every other race that`s going to be on the ballot in November. Every
single member of the House is up for re-election this fall.

With redistricting, a lot of those races are way more up in the air
than they otherwise would be. So in states like are a total mess at the
state party level, what`s plan B?

If some key state Republican parties literally are not able the pay
their rent, so it does not seem like they will be able to do anything for
the elections this fall, what`s plan B?

Plan B, as it turns out, is this guy. "The New York Times" front
paging a story today about how the $200 million war chest that Karl Rove
has already committed to this year`s elections is going to start producing
anti-Obama campaign ads this month. So, if your state Republican Party is
bankrupt like Minnesota or otherwise in the state of disarray like Ohio,
say -- don`t worry, Karl Rove and his millions are on the way.

"Politico" reporting today, quote, "Just as American Crossroads
stepped in to help with senate turnout two years ago to compensate for the
underfunded RNC, some new super PACs will help where the state parties need
assistance."

It should be noted, though -- take a critical eye of what happened in
2010. What we saw back in 2010 is that Karl Rove and Karl Rove`s endless
supply of corporate cash can do a lot but it cannot do everything. It
can`t, for example, fill the entire organizational void left behind by a
hollowed out atrophied state Republican Party in chaos. As much money as
he has to throw around, there are certain party functions that take humans,
local grassroots humans and that can`t actually be replicated by a flown in
campaign full of money from somewhere else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: What`s the Sharron Angle turnout infrastructure, if the
Republican Party isn`t all that here, what is she -- what is she relying on
for turning out votes?

JON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN: Karl Rove.

MADDOW: What?

RALSTON: American Crossroads announced a few weeks ago that they were
going to dump a bunch of money into Nevada to help them with get out the
vote. And so they have poured some money, my understanding, into the
Nevada Republican Party which essentially is a shell corporation. There`s
nothing there.

MADDOW: Can you really fly in a get out the vote infrastructure?
Doesn`t it have to be based here? Doesn`t it have to be organic?

RALSTON: I think not only does it have to be organic to be effective,
but it can`t be done in just a few weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Jon Ralston was right there. The death of the Republican
Party in Nevada seems to have doomed Sharron Angle`s chances at winning a
senate seat that year -- despite her standing in the polls heading into
that election.

Now, this is not to put Republicans down. This does not represent
anything morally qualitative about Republicans, but it`s a really important
organizational fact about how different the two parties are. It doesn`t
factor, I think enough into the way we think about partisan contests.

The Republican Party, at this moment, is not a very strong party.
Just organizationally speaking, they don`t seem to have it together. But
the Republican Party exists alongside a very strong, very rich conservative
movement -- very strong, very rich conservative movement that can give
unlimited money anonymously, even from corporate sources, thanks to the
conservative decisions on the Supreme Court that have undone campaign
finance law.

The imbalance between the Republican Party and the conservative
movement is not matched by anything on the Democratic side. It is the
thing that makes Republican politics so fascinating and so different to
watch than Democratic politics.

And that imbalance between the conservative movement and the
Republican Party, the conservative movement having its act together so much
more than the party has seemed to be basically true since the end of the
George W. Bush presidency.

But it`s never seemed more true than it does right now with the state
parties just falling apart.

Watching partisan politics in 2012 means trying to understand the
Republican Party`s strategic assets and weaknesses, essentially post-
Republican Party as an institution.

Joining us now is Jon Ralston, columnist with "The Las Vegas Sun" and
host of "Face to Face" -- Jon, it`s great to see you again. Thanks for
being here.

RALSTON: Hi, Rachel. Love those memories of standing out in the
desert with you a couple years ago here in Las Vegas.

MADDOW: Well, tell me, heading into this election cycle, whether or
not things have changed, Jon? Is the Nevada Republican Party back on its
feet? Does it exist as more than a shell corporation, as you put it back
then?

RALSTON: Let me tell you how bad it is, Rachel. The John Ensign
days, you mentioned, Jim Gibbons, our scandal-plagued governor, back in
2010 -- those are the glory days compared to what`s going on right now with
the Republican Party.

No chairman. No money. No credibility. You used the right adjective
-- disastrous caucus. They had only 33,000 Republicans turn out. That`s 8
percent of registered Republicans turn out for that caucus.

As you may know, it took them forever to count the very few votes.
They had a special caucus just for Sheldon Adelson, essentially.

The party is about to elect, it looks like, as its state chairman, a
former Las Vegas city councilman -- I`m not making this up -- who was found
guilty by two ethics tribunals, was investigated by at least a couple of
federal agencies and was ousted from office in disgrace.

He also, by the way, was a lobbyist while in office for a couple of
different strip club owners. Yes. The Republican Party is back here,
Rachel.

MADDOW: Well, if Mitt Romney goes on to be the Republican Party`s
presidential nominee, a lot of Republicans talk about Nevada as a state
Republicans might be able to win. They think the demographics there are
good for Mitt Romney. They think the politics blow his way in some parts
of the state.

How do you think what you`re describing about the state of the
Republican Party infrastructure in Nevada affects the Republican nominees`
chances in November?

RALSTON: Well, I was getting e-mails and phone calls even while the
caucus disastrous caucus was going on from representatives of the
presidential campaigns. And from other prominent campaigns, including --
we have the big senate race here between Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley
saying we`re just going to avoid the party. We`re not going to have
anything to do with it. We`ll raise money outside.

And, ironically, Rachel, you mentioned the Karl Rove, we talked about
him last time, Crossroads is going to pour a lot of money in here. The RNC
is going to pour a lot of money in here to try to make up for the lack of a
state Republican Party.

But as I said to you back then and I believe it now, you can`t just
erect those things overnight or even in one election cycle. The Democrats
here spent two or three election cycles building up the formidable
organization they have now that helped save Harry Reid back in 2010 and
helped Barack Obama win this state by 12 points in 2008.

The Republicans are just trying to put stuff together on the fly.
That`s just not going to work in a big presidential year here. It`s going
to be an impediment for them especially compared to the Democratic Party
here. I bet Nevada is not alone.

MADDOW: Briefly, Jon, do you see the -- I guess, what all that
external Republican money can be spent on as essentially ads that that
money can be spent on ads, and that`s something that`s easy to organize
even if you`ve never stepped foot in Nevada but that more organizational
stuff, shoe leather stuff, is something that can`t be done with a fly-in
operation? Is that essentially the bottom line?

RALSTON: I think that`s right, Rachel. Listen, the Democrats have an
inherent advantage at the grassroots level. They can tap into a lot more
shoe leather than the Republicans can. They have the unions, for example.

But the Republicans need to have the infrastructure set up to identify
voters to get out to the polls and to register voters. The Republicans
here have no voter registration apparatus that`s been detective yet.
They`re not registering a ton of voters.

In fact, the numbers that just came out showed Democratic out-
registered them just last month. That`s the kind of thing you need a
sophisticated operation to do. And there`s no sign that it exists.

MADDOW: Jon Ralston, a "Las Vegas Sun" columnist and host of "Face to
Face" with Jon Ralston -- Jon, it`s great to talk to you as always. Thanks
for being here.

RALSTON: You, too, Rachel. Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. First, the chairman of the Republican Party said
there`s no war on women. Think war on caterpillars instead. That did not
go over very well.

Then the party spokesman declared war on declaring anything a war.
That also did not go over well.

Now, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is taking his
own stab at it. It`s also not going well. Unfortunately for Mitch
McConnell, it was all on tape today. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is Ban Ki-moon. He is the secretary general of the
United Nations. He`s the top guy.

This is the previous top guy, Kofi Annan. And just a former U.S.
presidents get dispatched by their country to do important, diplomatic-ish
things after their terms in office are over, guys that who used to head up
the United Nations also get tapped for missions impossible.

In Kofi Annan`s case, he`s most recently been tapped to try to stop
this -- the horrible conflagration in Syria where the Assad regime
responded to protests and calls for reform by turning Syria`s considerably
military might against its on civilian population.

As a special envoy for the region from both the U.N. and from the Arab
League, Kofi Annan worked on a deadline, tomorrow, supposed to be the
deadline for Syrian troops to pull out of the major cities, and then
Thursday would be the day in which all sides all over the country would
stop fighting and try to talk out their differences instead.

Today, that fell apart. A top Turkish official saying that even
though the Syrian government had previously agreed to the deal, they now
consider it void.

And the fighting is spilling over borders. In Lebanon, Al-Jadeed
television says that one of their cameraman was shot to death by Syrian
soldiers while the cameraman stood on the Lebanese side of the border
filming in to Syria. The cameraman was killed and another employee of the
TV station was wounded.

And it gets worse. It`s estimated that a total of about 9,000 people
have been killed in Syria since fighting broke out a year ago.

And when that many people, that many civilians are being killed, other
civilians in the country naturally try to get the heck out of there. And
so you get lots of refugees. You get people fleeing their home country in
order to try to stay alive.

More than 24,000 people in that situation have fled from Syria over
the border into the neighboring nation of Turkey. And today, Turkey
officials say Syrian soldiers shot into Turkey over the border to kill
Syrian refugees on the Turkish side.

The Turks and the United Nations and us, the United States, are all
expressing outrage over this.

And everything is connected. Everybody else in the world may be
outraged at what Syria is doing but their one friend in the world is Iran.
Talks are due to restart at the end of this week over Iran`s contested
nuclear program.

But those talks are scheduled on what`s supposed to be neutral ground.
They are scheduled to take place in part in Turkey. For a moment, Iran
balked, saying that Turkey is not neutral ground since Turkey is so mad at
Syria and Syria is Iran`s only friend.

Now they say they are back on board as long as there can be a second
round of talks in Baghdad. And did I mention that everything`s connected?

The context of all of this happening this week is that North Korea is
about to launch a missile and they`ve let some Western reporters into the
country to show off about that. Among them, NBC`s Richard Engel.

Watch Richard here. Watch him zoom in on what the West sees as the
problem with this North Korean launch. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The
journey began with a bus ride through Pyongyang, a view of the world`s most
closed capital. The streets are wide and spotless. There are so few cars
every one seems to walk. Most buildings are austere, Soviet style.
Apartments are provided by the self-described socialist state.

Then we move to a VIP train, accompanied by teams of government
minders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One person here. One person in this cabin.

ENGEL: The train will take us to a military base to see the rocket
and satellite North Korea will soon try to blast into orbit. Seldom are
outsiders given a chance to see the countryside where food is scarce.

The farms are collective, centrally planned but up here poorly funded.
We don`t see many tractors, few machines at all -- mostly farmers with hand
tools. The village houses all look the same.

After five hours, we arrive at the Sohae satellite launch station. We
brought NBC analyst Jim Oberg, a rocket expert, with two decades at NASA`s
Houston Space Center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll guide you through the launch facilities.

ENGEL: He`ll help us verify what the North Koreans are showing.
After security checks, we enter a test facility. In the middle of the
room, there it is.

(on camera): This is the satellite that North Korea says it will soon
launch into orbit. It`s relatively small. We`re told it weighs around 220
pounds. It looks about 3 1/2 feet tall. Officials here say it is fitted
with solar panels and high definition camera to take images of the earth
from orbit.

(voice-over): But the shiny satellite isn`t sparking international
condemnation. Instead, this is.

(on camera): North Korea calls this the Unha-3. It is a powerful
three-stage rocket, liquid fuel as far as we know, with enough lifting
force to carry 1,000-pound payload. This is what U.S. officials are so
concerned about.

North Korea says this rocket is strictly for scientific purposes but
U.S. officials worry that it could be converted into an intercontinental
ballistic missile.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: And there`s the rub, right? So, the little bit of math that
Richard sets us up to do there, right? They`ve got a satellite that
they`re told weighs 220 pounds. They`re launching it on a rocket that
appears to be able to handle something that weighs 1,000 pounds. And to be
able to hurl something that weighs 1,000 pounds really, really far.

North Korea tested these in 2006 and in 2009. The United States is
worried about North Korea developing missiles powerful enough to fly
between continents. And there`s this missile launch. And South Korea,
they say they think the North might be ready for their third nuclear blast
as well as this rocket.

In international news, in international war and weapons news, on days
like this, it sometimes feels like everything is connected. And,
therefore, everything is complicated. Until all of a sudden you get a
message like South Korea is sending out internationally right now, which
essentially we should prepare shortly for another nuclear explosion.

Then suddenly things are not complicated at all. They are suddenly as
simple as they possibly can be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last week, we did a long special report on the strange and
underreported slow disappearance of something called the vote in the great
state of Michigan. Tonight, part two, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last week, the Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus,
best named in American politics, went on Bloomberg television and called
the idea of a Republican war on women fiction. He said the idea of a
Republican war on women was analogous to a Republican war on caterpillars
so he made an analogy in which women are caterpillars. Caterpillars, by
the way, are bugs that have lots and lots and lots of really short legs.

In addition to the women are bugs thing, the Republican Party
spokesman inveighed not against the use of word "women" in the GOP war on
women, the way that Reince Priebus did, he instead, the spokesman instead,
decided to be upset about the first word. He decided to be upset about the
use of the word "war". He called the use of that word war bordering on
unpatriotic, which is amazing since the party he is the spokesman for has
accused President Obama from waging war on everything from coal to
Appalachia, to Mexico and naturally to women.

And the campaign for the party`s likely presidential nominee Mitt
Romney is constantly accusing President Obama of waging war on everything
from carbon dioxide to free enterprise, to the Catholic Church.

It is a little rich that Republicans or the national Republican Party
has now decided that using the word war in a political metaphor is
offensive to them all of a sudden.

But today, the Republican`s bad messaging on the whole war on women
thing got even worse. Today, the top Republican in the United States
Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the war on women charge
in an appearance on a local radio show in his home state of Kentucky.
Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Talk about a
manufactured issue. There is no issue. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and
Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from
Maine I think would be the first to say -- and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska -
- we don`t see any evidence of this.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling the Republican
war on women a manufactured issue and if you don`t believe him, just ask a
lady Republican. Just ask Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison about this, this
supposed war on women. Ask her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Planned Parenthood does
mammograms. They do so much of the health care, the preventive health
care. And if they are doing that, then we need to provide those services.
Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison speaking out against her own
party`s attacks on Planned Parenthood -- a big part of the reason people
say the Republicans are waging a war on women. Those attacks on Planned
Parenthood. In that statement, at least, she was not exactly backing up
Mitch McConnell`s point there.

How about Olympia Snowe maybe? Olympia Snowe -- she was also on
Senator McConnell`s list of lady Republicans who he says will debunk this
war on women myth.

Last month, Olympia Snowe voted with the Democrats against the Blunt
amendment to roll back access to contraception and just last week at a
women`s campaign fund event in New York, she said this about the birth
control battle waged by her party. She said, quote, "I feel like it`s a
retro debate that comes from the 1950s. It`s sort of back to the future.
Isn`t it?"

OK. Moving on down Mitch McConnell`s ladies who will back me up list.
What about Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska? Senator
Murkowski, you may remember, voted for the anti-contraception Blunt
Amendment. So, she was with McConnell on that.

But then she admitted publicly that she regretted the vote. She would
like to take that vote back if she could. Still, though, according to
Mitch McConnell, her colleague and minority leader in the Senate, if we
were to ask Senator Lisa Murkowski about the supposed Republican war on
women, she would say she sees no evidence of any such thing.

This is not a hypothetical. It turns out somebody did ask Senator
Lisa Murkowski about the Republican war on women just a few days ago and
this is what she said about it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: This is not only discussion in
Congress but you`ve got presidential wannabes that are talking about
whether or not contraception is good, bad, indifferent, wrong. Women
feeling that the party that I`ve chosen to affiliate myself with, the
Republican Party, is ignoring their concerns, is causing them to feel like
the rights that they believe were settled a long time ago are now being
threatened, possibly eroded.

AARON SELBIG, HOST: Let me ask you this from a strategic and tactical
side of thinking. Aren`t the Republicans maybe stepping into a trap? I
mean, do they really -- I guess the question I`m trying to ask is what are
they thinking alienating so many women?

MURKOWSKI: I asked the same question to my colleagues. I said, it
makes no sense to go down this road. It makes no sense to attack women.

And if you don`t view this as an attack on women, then you need to go
home and talk to your wives. You need to talk to your daughters. Ask them
if they feel this is an attack?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: If you don`t view this as an attack on women, you need to go
home, talk to your wives, talk to your daughters. That is what Senator
Lisa Murkowski thinks about the Republican war on women, Senator McConnell.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: Talk about a manufactured issue. There is no issue.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire and Susan
Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine I think would be the first to say --
Lisa Murkowski from Alaska -- we don`t see any evidence of this.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Actually, they don`t say that. They do not seem to think
it`s a manufactured issue when people do ask them what they think about
this. Maybe you should ask them, too. Modest proposal -- next time you
want to rattle off a list of Republican women who totally agree with you on
women`s issues, Senator McConnell, maybe ask those Republican women if
that`s OK first. If it turns out they don`t agree with you, maybe you
could even ask them why.

Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, senior political writer for
Salon.com, and an MSNBC political analyst.

Steve, it is good to see you. Thanks for being here.

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Good to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW: What does it say to you that a number of Republican women,
Republican senators, are speaking out against their party`s line on this
issue? And further, what does it mean that the party`s leadership does not
appear to be noticing it`s happening?

KORNACKI: It says a couple of things. One, it says to me they can
read the polls. The woman who are speaking out can read the polls better
than Mitch McConnell can because what we`ve seen in the last few weeks here
as a result of the emphasis the Republican Party has placed on
contraception the last few months, the way they`ve conducted the debate
over contraception. We have seen in polling women leaving the Republican
Party, leaving Mitt Romney, the presumptive presidential nominee in droves.

There was a poll that was limited to 12 swing states that came out
last week that showed Obama`s edge over Romney among women no those swing
states where this election is going to be decided this fall exploding to
nearly 20 points.

At the same time, he`s only ahead among men by a single point. Same
poll showed among independent voters just a few months ago Romney was ahead
five points among independent women. He`s now trailing by 14.

It`s really hard to connect this to anything except the way the
Republicans have sort of handled themselves in this debate.

I think, you know, Lisa Murkowski and Olympia Snowe are probably
sensitive to that.

The other thing I note, though, is, you know, look at the women who
are speaking up right now. Kay Bailey Hutchison is basically leaving
politics this year. She`s not running for re-election of the Senate.
Olympia Snowe is not running for re-election in the senate. Lisa Murkowski
is in the Senate because she ran as an independent last year. She lost the
Republican primary to a very conservative Republican challenger.

So, these are also women that are liberated a bit from the political
games that I think the rest of the Republicans in Washington are playing
and have to play.

MADDOW: I think that`s so smart in terms of looking at -- looking at
the individual circumstance of these women who feel like they can speak
out. And that goes right to, I guess, the most important pragmatic at
least political question here which is whether or not this shift in
position by the Republican Party, whether it`s actually going to hurt them
among Republican women or whether this is only something that hurts them
among independent women, potential crossover voters and potentially even
some men who see themselves as being alienated by these issues and
otherwise seeing themselves as in the center.

Is this something that`s really only for independent voters? Is it
possible to be to the right of the Republican electorate on an issue like
this?

KORNACKI: I think it ties into the sort of, you know, the fate of
moderate Republicans in general. I mean, you know, the Republican Party
for decades, you know, liked to sell itself as the big tent party. We`ve
talked about Republicans north of the Mason-Dixon line, Republicans on the
West Coast sort of general no longer feeling at home in the party. I think
this is sort of part of that -- the pro-choice woman.

When Olympia Snowe for instance was elected to the Senate, you know,
just two decades ago, in the mid 1990s, Kay Bailey Hutchison, you know, had
just been elected the year before -- there were many prominent pro-choice
women in national Republican politics. I think you look at the party now
and you see fewer and fewer of them and you do see prominent women but they
are much more likely to be from some of the more conservative areas of the
country, more likely to be evangelical Christians or from the South and
much more conservative on social issues, conservative on abortion.

And so, the question of, you know, pro-choice women is sort of the
question of moderate Republicans in general. You know, this is not a party
that`s heart and soul is in the Northeast. It`s on the West Coast. It`s
anywhere but in the South and very red areas anymore.

MADDOW: It is remarkable to think the Republican Party is setting up
a decision point for pro-choice women of every ideological stripe in the
country to tell them there`s no home for you in the Republican Party.
There are no pro-choice people left in the Republican Party. If you`re
pro-choice and care about this issue, the Democrats are all that you have.
It is amazing to me.

And when I find the Republican who can explain to me why they decided
to do this, I will have hit gold.

Steve Kornacki, senior political writer for Salon.com, MSNBC political
analyst -- Steve, thanks again for joining us tonight. I really appreciate
it.

KORNACKI: Sure, happy to do it.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: News tonight in the great state of Michigan where the state
appeals court has blocked a lower court ruling that`s part of a remarkable
fight playing out between Michigan`s Republicans and Michigan`s Democrats.

This is a fascinating story in Michigan politics. Since we have been
reporting on it, frankly, feels like we hit about a thousand nerves on both
sides.

Here`s the basics: in the 2010 election, things went about as well as
you can imagine for Michigan Republicans. Republican Rick Snyder won the
governorship and Michigan Republicans won big majorities in both houses of
the state legislature. They won majorities. They won really big
majorities but they did not win quite big enough majorities.

See, thanks to a change in the state constitution back in the 1960s --
yes, that Mr. Romney`s dad, there on the left, George Romney. Since they
last tweaked their constitution about 50 years ago, if you have a two-
thirds majority vote in the legislature, you do not have to wait for the
end of the session for past bills to become law. With a two-thirds vote, a
supermajority vote, you can have the laws become law immediately. They go
into immediate effect.

Michigan Republicans have that two-thirds supermajority in the Senate.
But they don`t have it in the House. And even though they don`t have that
two-thirds supermajority in the House, which they would need to put their
laws into immediate effect, they have been acting like they do have that
majority.

Here`s what that looks like. What you`re going to see here is the
Republican speaker of the house, making the decision that two-thirds of the
legislature, that`s 73 people, are voting that this law that just passed
should go into immediate effect.

Watch him count to 73.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker recognizes majority floor leader Thomas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker, the majority -- the speaker -- the
majority floor leader has requested a record roll call vote. All those in
favor please rise. I`m sorry.

The majority floor leader has requested immediate effect. All those
in favor, please rise. Immediate effect is ordered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: What the House speaker is purporting to do there is count, I
think, in about three seconds, to 73. To count at least 73 supporters
standing up in that giant chamber on a measure that he knows just passed
with only 62 votes -- one, two, three, 73, done.

Now, Michigan Republicans responded angrily to our reporting on this
last week with a statement from the Republican speaker of the House
accusing me of whining. And of having liberal sour grapes. I think the
House speaker is making a vineyard joke there. Like the grapes are sour,
but nevertheless being fermented into delicious wine. W-I-N-E, which
sounds like whine, W-H-I-N-E, so it`s a homophone joke which is excellent.

And as impressed as I am by the sounds alike wine-related insult the
leader of the Michigan has thrown my way, I should also note that I concede
his point, which I should have made clear in our initial reporting, that
both Democrats and Republicans in Michigan have passed lots of legislation
by immediate effect.

Republicans are not going this more frequently than Democrats did when
the legislature was under Democratic control. Both sides have done this.

But what`s different now is this -- this is Democrats trying to get an
actual count and Republicans not letting them. It`s one thing to glance
around the room, assume you`ve got your supermajority, and, bang, gavel it
through. It`s another thing to refuse to check your count when the
minority side calls you out for the fact that you seem to be lying about
that count.

Republicans say they used to get ignored, too, when they were in the
minority but they say they didn`t think it was any big deal, they didn`t
much care about it. The state`s Democrats have gone so far as to sue in
state court to try to get that count, to try to get the immediate effect of
several new laws overturned, because they say they were passed without a
real count. They were passed illegally.

It was that lawsuit that last week convinced a Michigan state judge to
issue a stay to block the implementation of several new laws that would
otherwise have gone into immediate effect in Michigan. A state appeals
court today overturned that, saying two of those laws can go into effect
after all.

But Republicans in the legislature have the Republican state attorney
general arguing this case on their side. And the court that sided with
them today says that it is the court that gets to hear all further
proceedings on this issue.

And so, as this fight unfurls, Michigan is left with some questions.
Can a court step in if a legislature is operating contrary to the
constitution in not allowing voting where there should be voting? Should
the court intervene if operating contrary to the constitution and not
allowing voting is something everybody`s been comfortable with for a long
time?

And, more importantly, as Michigan rolls into its second year of
expanded emergency manager powers, overruling local voting rights, the
emergency manager law, remember, not just passed but also put into
immediate effect even though it appears Republicans did not have the votes
to do that.

As cities like Benton Harbor and Pontiac and Flint and very nearly
Detroit, itself, are having their citizens stripped of their right to vote
at the local level in Michigan, the question remains: what`s going on in
Michigan? And why is it first recourse in Michigan now to put a halt to
all the pesky voting, to solve the state`s problems by stopping the voting
process that is otherwise known as democracy? Who, if anyone, is going to
change that in the state of Michigan?

On a personal note, I have to say I`m more inclined than ever to stay
on this story. One, because it keeps getting more and more interesting and
more and more fraught all the time. I think something is going on in
Michigan that`s going on nowhere else in the country and it deserves a lot
more attention than it`s getting. The more rocks you overturn, the more
you learn.

But also, it turns out your insults make me stronger. Bring it on.
Keep shooting the messenger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is sort of the best new thing in the world today, but I
only didn`t call it that because instead I really wanted to call it that --
when you wish upon the chair of the relevant subcommittee.

All right? Here it goes. This is a supernova. Specifically that
white arrow on the top right corner of the screen pointing to a white
circle, that white circle is a supernova. It is the explosive death of a
star, which unleashes a big burst of light.

These violent big bright deaths occur about once a century in a
typical spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. So, that`s a supernova.

And this is U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski from Maryland. She is the
longest serving woman in Congress. And as of a few days ago, she`s also a
supernova. Supernova Mikulski.

The Space Telescope Science Institute named a supernova after Barbara
Mikulski. That white box is the location of Supernova Mikulski`s home
galaxy. Her supernova discovered on January 25th. And it`s huge.

Supernova Mikulski is the explosive death of a star that`s eight times
as big as our sun. It`s also really, really far away -- 7.5 billion light
years away. So, it seems miraculous we have images of it at all, but there
it is. That green dot on this very grainy picture is what counts as a
close-up of Supernova Mikulski as taken by the Hubbell telescope.

Scientists are hoping that studying Supernova Mikulski will help them
understand star formation in the early universe. And I`m sure this isn`t
relevant at all but it should be noted that Senator Mikulski is the chair
of the Senate subcommittee that`s in charge of NASA`s budget.

So while this could be a case of deeply politicized supernova naming
rights, even if it is, it is obviously the best new supernova naming rights
quid pro quo thing in the world today.

And of that, I am sure. Thanks for being with us tonight.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
great night.

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

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