updated 9/5/2012 11:06:29 AM ET 2012-09-05T15:06:29

POLITICS NATION
September 4, 2012

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Alicia Menendez, Richard Wolffe, Lee Saunders

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, a record to run on. The Democratic convention is
officially under way in Charlotte, North Carolina. This week, Democrats
will be talking about who they are and what they stand for. Unlike
Republicans who last week tried to hide their right-wing policies from the
American people.

Tonight, Democrats will showcase key parties of their base. Women,
Hispanics, African-Americans, and young people. First lady Michelle Obama
will be front and center tonight and as well San Antonio mayor Castro, who
gives the big keynote address.

Democrats are proud of that your policies. And what they believe in
will be demonstrated on stage. Last week, Republicans tried to hide what
they were really about. Just look at this. BuzzFeed reports that 55 prime
time speeches, not a single one, not one, included the words tea party.
All those unpopular extreme Republicans.

GOP decided to keep them out of the public eye. Guess that tea was
little too strong for swing voters around the country. And let`s remember
the most conservative platform in history. You know, that one that didn`t
represent their nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: This is the
platform of the Republican part. It is not the platform of Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes. He`s just the head of the party. But this week is
different. Forget the caricature of the president and his policies. At
his convention, Democrats will set the record straight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They spend a lot of
time talking about me but didn`t spend a lot of time talking about you.
Basically they said first of all, everything is bad. And it is Obama`s
fault. And governor Romney knows the secret to creating jobs and growing
the economy. The only problem was he kept it secret.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Governor Romney kept details of his plans to kill Medicare
secret. But today, in his last speech before he accepts the Democratic
nomination on Thursday, President Obama put his plans on the table.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, the other side may not have been eager to talk about
their ideas. But on Thursday night, I`m going to look forward to sharing
mine with you. On Thursday night, I will offer what I believe is a better
path forward. You can choose their path, give back some tax cuts to folks
that already made it, or you can choose my plan.

I want to keep taxes low for every American who is out there still
trying to make it. Governor Romney`s promised that he would overturn Obama
care on his first day in office. Maybe we should call his plan Romney
doesn`t care.

But I do care. And this law is here to stay. And we are not going to
re-fight the battles we have already fought over the last four years. We
are not going backwards. We are moving forward. That`s why I`m running
for re-election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s what this election is about. Moving forward. But
only one party is offering a path to do that.

Joining me now in Charlotte is Steve Kornacki, co-host of "the Cycle" on
MSNBC. Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for "the Washington Post" and
an MSNBC contributor.

First, thanks to both of you for being here.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Steve, let me start with you. This is a very close
election. What do the Democrats need to do in Charlotte tonight and this
week?

KORNACKI: You know, the word I keep coming back to is context. You
know, what Obama is up against, what Democrats are up against because I
think this is sort of powerful tendency of swing voters when the economy,
when economic anxiety is high, when unemployment is stalled at a really
high level. There`s just this sort of tendency to want to take it out on
the incumbent and that really is -- I look to that Republican convention
last week and to me that was sort of - that was the overriding theme
especially of Romney`s acceptance speech. It was a very generic acceptance
speech. He talk about how there weren`t that many details in there. I
think that`s intentional, that`s by design. That the Romney strategy here,
you know, is not - it is to say as little as possible that is going to
offend the average swing voter`s sensibilities and alarm the average swing
voters, to stay away from inflaming, you know, inflaming passions
needlessly.

And so, the challenge for Democrats this week is to really present
context important the average swing voters.

SHARPTON: How do they energize?

Steve, how do they energize? How do they get their base going? What
do they have to do, not just lay out policy, not talking policy walk. What
will get the voters riled up to say we got to come out and re-elect this
president?

KORNACKI: You know, I think it is -- I think -- look at the platform
they came out and say. I know people don`t always, you know, read through
the details on platforms. But, if you look at the Democratic platform and
you look at Republican platform, there is a real just basic philosophical
contrast there.

You know, between where the Democrats want on go important this
country and where the Republicans want to go. I mean, look at whether it
is on immigration, Democrats in their platform calling for comprehensive
immigration reform. Abortions saying they are unequivocally supportive of
abortion rights. Gay marriage for the first time ever you had major
national political party that`s endorsing gay marriage. On taxes, talking
about, you know, they want to end for people with $250,000 or above, Bush
era tax rates. You know --

SHARPTON: So, they should be pushing - they should push the contrast
and what they believe and the Republicans believe.

Let me go to you, Jonathan Capehart.

Jonathan, the president and in an interview today talked about how
he`s been depicted by the GOP. Well, let me show you the quote. "USA
Today," he says the Republicans have spent a lot of time creating a
fictional Barack Obama who is supposedly taking the work out of welfare
reform and doesn`t think small businesses are their own businesses.

Does the president and the Democratic Party this week have to show the
American people who the real Barack Obama is? Is there a problem that he`s
been mischaracterized successfully by the Republicans?

CAPEHART: Well, the problem for the president has been that you have
a Republican party that`s been calling the president a failure, without
telling the American people that they are complicit in the failure saying
the president has been.

So, I think what the president needs to do is to remind the American
people of where we were when he was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. And
to talk about where we are right now which is -- a heck of a lot better
than we were four years ago. And then, most importantly, talking about
where he wants to take the country from January 20, 2013, to the end of
what he hopes will be a second term.

I think the president has a very good story to tell. Doesn`t have to
be terribly defensive. You know, in an interview he said when he was asked
to give himself a grade on the economy, he said that he deserved an
incomplete.

SHARPTON: Right.

CAPEHART: I think he`s being realistic because he can`t say that he`s
done everything he needs to do to get the economy going. He is recognizing
the fact that there is still a lot more work to be done and that if the
American people give him four more years, he will actually be able to do
it.

SHARPTON: The noise in the background - you know, Jonathan, I went on
this show, we went with you to your hometown of Newark. That`s the mayor
of Newark, Cory Booker, speaking in the background.

CAPEHART: Raising the roof here, Rev.

SHARPTON: Let me go back to Steve.

Steve, on the trail yesterday, congressman Ryan, the vice presidential
nominee, accused President Obama of having no record. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me quote
President Obama four years ago. If you don`t have a record to run on, then
you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. Ladies and
gentlemen, that is exactly what Barack Obama is doing today. You see, the
president has no record to run on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Has no record to run on. Well, let`s go through that a
minute, Steve. You might not agree now with the policies and you might not
agree with the record but he has one. It includes he passed the affordable
care act which was 100 years in the making. He rescued the economy from
collapse, impose the most sweeping wall street reform since the great
depression, he killed bin Laden, rescued the auto industry, signed the Led
Better fair pay act, ended the war in Iraq, reformed the stun loan system.
I mean no record, Steve?

KORNACKI: Well, I mean, what Ryan is trying to sell there is
rationalization. I mean, that line in the speech really is designed to
trigger an emotion in people. It designed to take the swing voters who I
am talking about who - you know, they can be aware of if some level, that
it was his administration with a lot of accomplishments. That the Congress
in 2009, 2010 was as accomplished or more accomplished than any Congress
since the great society days. They can be aware of that at some level.

But the calculation there from Romney, and from Ryan people, is they
ultimately want to vote Obama out because of where the economy is, because
of how higher economic anxiety is. And so, they are looking for a
rationalization. They are looking for something they can tell themselves
it will make it OK to vote him out.

So, that`s what Paul Ryan is offering there. And again, I`m not sure
that will be enough to win the election on but it is a testament to the
power of, you know, how bad economy can hurt a president that that sort of
strategy has the, basically, tie right now at least heading into this
convention.

SHARPTON: Now, Jonathan, the president slammed Romney specifically
for his failure to address the war in Afghanistan in his speech last week.
Take a listen to president`s attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This November you get to decide the future of the war in
Afghanistan. By the end of this month, I will have brought home 33,000
troops. I have said we will end this war in 2014. Governor Romney last
week didn`t have a word to say about Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And Jonathan, not only was it Afghanistan that Romney
didn`t address, not a single word about Social Security, welfare, Medicaid,
financial reform, Romney care, and in addition Afghanistan, he also didn`t
address Iraq. There was a lot missing from Mr. Romney`s speech.

CAPEHART: This has been the problem for governor Romney`s campaign
meeting all the way up to the convention. No specifics in any of the
policies that he would want to pursue as president of the United States.

When you are president you can`t afford to leave things off the table
and turns it to discussion. So, to not talk about Afghanistan, not talk
about Iraq, to not talk about Medicare, to not talk about Social Security,
it is to basically ask you the American people to vote for you, literally
as a blank slate. Or in the case of governor Romney, a blank etch-a-
sketch. And I don`t the problems facing the country are so big that the
country --the American people -- I think the consideration that they will
come to is should we take a chance on someone who is a blank slate.
Compared to the guy that`s in office now.

SHARPTON: I will have to leave it there, Jonathan.

Jonathan Capehart, Steve Kornacki. Thank for your time tonight.

And be sure to catch Steve on "the Cycle" weekdays at 3:00 p.m.
Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, there he goes again. The marathon man, Paul Ryan, running
to new lengths to strength the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: What they are trying to suggest is that I said Obama was
responsible for a plant shutdown in Janesville. That`s not what I was
saying. Read the speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Read the speech? Sir, we all watched the speech. And it
is not getting better with age.

Plus, the first lady`s on the first night. How Mrs. Obama will try to
expand the president`s advantage among women voters.

And big voting news. Ohio`s Republican elections boss is refusing to
implement a judge`s order to expand early voting. It is amazing. And we
have to fight it.

You are watching a special edition of "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Have you joined us on facebook yet? The "Politics Nation"
conversation is going all day long.

Today, our fans had a lot to say about the great women set to speak at
the DNC tonight.

Carrie says, it is a big night. And I for one will be watching it
with my 10-year-old daughter.

Folks, also were rave being the new Planned Parenthood shirt scene in
- down in Charlotte. With their yes, we plan slogan.

Melody calls it genius. Saying, quote, "it speaks to the heart of
family planning and a woman`s ability to plan her life."

Pat had a simple reaction. Woman power rocks.

We`ve got a lot more on the Democratic pitch to women next. We
wouldn`t hear what you think, too. Head over to facebook and search
"Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation that keeps going
long after the show ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are back on "Politics Nation." You are looking at live
pictures of the floor of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North
Carolina. Tonight the president is looking forward to hearing a fan
favorite speak on that stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Whatever I say here today, it is going to be at best a distant
second to the speech you will hear tonight from the star of the Obama
family, Michelle Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The first lady speaks after 10:00 p.m. eastern time. Part
of a night that Democrats hope will be a strong pitch to women voters.
This week, we will see key speeches from women like Cecil Richards,
president of Planned Parenthood and Lilly Ledbetter who gave her name of
the president`s fair paid law. The most recent poll shows President Obama
leading Romney from women by 16 points. It id made a point of appealing to
them on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When it comes to a woman`s right to make her own health care
choices, they want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s
than the 21st century. I believe women should be in charge of their own
health care decisions. We are not going backwards. We are going forwards.

In November you can say that in this century, women should be trusted
to make their own health care choices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And tonight we will see women making that appeal to women
on the biggest stage in Democratic politics.

Joining me now is senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat from California.

Senator, it is nice to see you. Thanks for coming on the show
tonight.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I am so excited to be here and to
be on your show.

SHARPTON: Well, senator, what do Democrats have to do on the issue of
women in the convention?

BOXER: We have to tell the truth. We have to tell the country that
President Obama has stood by our side. He`s fighting for our right to
choose. He is fighting for our right to earn equal pay for equal work.
He`s there for us.

And I think that appeals to women and men. Men depend on women. You
know, when you look at our families today. We find men and women both
working, both sharing responsibilities in the home. So I think when we see
his favorite woman, Michelle, tonight, I think she will speak to the heart
of every American p. Male, female.

SHARPTON: Now, you know, that many people around the country,
particularly women, were outraged by the statement of Todd Akin and the
Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri. President Obama made it part
of his pitch to women. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Frankly, the comments by Mr. Akin, I think, confirmed why
women shouldn`t leave it to politicians in Washington, most of who are
male, to make these decisions. You know, I think that this is an example
where you have a clear choice between the parties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The fact that Akin having said legitimate rape or
suggesting there was a legitimate rape and illegitimate rape, that he is
still the Republican nominee, is this something the Democrats ought to keep
reminding voters around the country?

BOXER: Without a doubt. But it is much more than Todd Akin.

You know, Todd Akin didn`t step down. And the reason I think the
reason he didn`t step down is he looked around and saw his partner, his
most reliable partner, Paul Ryan, his friend, who was with him on
redefining rape get the nod for vice president.

So I think Akin thought why should I take the fall when my partner,
who is working to criminalize a woman`s right to choose, is the vice
presidential nominee. S, it is way deeper than Todd Akin. It is about
Ryan and it is about ask Romney who chose Ryan who said he admitted that
this is where he has been his whole life.

SHARPTON: Well, literally senator, you are right because Ryan and
Akin literally sponsored bills, including one bill that really redefined
rape. So, when you are talking about partners, you are not even suggesting
something social, they will co-sponsors of legislation on women`s rights.

BOXER: Yes. So goes Akin. So goes Ryan. And that`s a fact. They
wanted to criminalize certain forms of birth control. They wanted to put
women and doctors in jail. These people are so far to the right, Reverend
Al. You know, I have had the honor of serving in the Congress for a long
time. When I started out so many years ago, these issues were nonpartisan.
You know, that Republicans and the Democrats worked together protecting a
woman`s right to choose, fighting for equal pay for equal work.

And it is all different now. This is not the same Republican party
and they have moved so far to the right that they are really extreme and
Democrats are Mainstream. And I think that the country is going to see
that as they watch this convention unfold.

SHARPTON: Senator Boxer, thanks for your time tonight.

BOXER: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, Paul Ryan is claiming he didn`t say what he
said. Really? Let`s look at the tape.

But first, a top Republican in Ohio is refusing to owe pay a judge`s
order on early voting. That`s next here on the special edition of
"politics Nation."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are back with big voting news.

Today in the key battleground state of Ohio, Republicans are defying a
federal court order to restore early voting for all voters. The case is
heading for appeals court. But time is short.

Early voting begins in Ohio on October second. That`s the same day
Florida voters begin to cast their early ballots. That state`s Republican
governor is also resisting a court order, ruling to expand early voting
days in five counties.

The stakes are high. In the last four years, early voting has really
caught on. And it is now allowed in 32 states plus the district of
Columbia. In fact, voters in North Carolina start casting ballots this
Thursday. Just a few hours before President Obama`s acceptance speech at
the convention. But now Republicans are intent on rolling back the cot and
it is easy to see why.

In 2008, 54 percent of Florida`s African-American voters cast their
ballots before Election Day. Twice as many as white voters. Obama won the
state by two points. Republicans want to avoid a repeat of 2012. With the
election now just 63 days away, GOP officials are working overtime to limit
access to the polls. We must con to fight them in Ohio and everywhere
else.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are back on POLITICS NATION.

With a live look at the floor of the Democratic National Convention in
Charlotte, North Carolina. A little later, First Lady Michelle Obama will
be in the spotlight on that stage. And President Obama will be joining her
and fellow Democrats in Charlotte tomorrow.

But 910 miles up the road, Governor Romney is holed up in a beautiful
New England town with his good buddy, Ohio Senator Bob Portman. There`s
Mr. Romney`s caravan. This morning driving down cemetery road to get to
his retreat. Seriously. He had to drive down cemetery road in a beautiful
quaint West Windsor, Vermont, population, 1,099. That`s right. No crowds,
no campaign. No press.

They are just kicking back and practicing for next month`s debates.
Mr. Portman is playing the role of President Obama. This is unheard of in
any presidential campaign. Four years ago, President Obama and Joe Biden
launched a four-state bus tour after their convention. George W. Bush and
John McCain toured the mid west after their convention. And Bill Clinton
and Al Gore went on a thousand-mile bus tour after their convention.

But Paul Ryan is not hiding out in Vermont. He`s making the TV
rounds. He hit all the morning shows today trying to back pedal from his
RNC speech, when he blamed President Obama for shutting down a General
Motors plant in his hometown, that was really shut down under President
Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The point I was
making about GM is that the President said that he lead an effort to retold
the GM plan, get people back to work. That didn`t happen. What they are
trying to suggest is that I said that Barack Obama was responsible for a
plant shutdown in Janesville. But that`s not what I was saying. Read the
speech. What I was saying is, the President ought to be held to account
for his broken promises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Read the speech. We can do that. But we also have this
little thing called videotape. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, I believe that
if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for
another 100 years. That`s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out,
that plant didn`t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this
day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I wonder if they sent the wrong guy to the farm this week.

Joining me now is Alicia Menendez, host and producer of HuffPost Live.
And Richard Wolffe, MSNBC political analyst and author of "Revival the
Struggle for Survival Inside of the Obama White House." Thank you both for
being here tonight.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, HOST AND PRODUCER, HUFFPOST LIVE: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Richard, we will get to Mr. Romney hiding out in Vermont
but first, how is Paul Ryan trying to spin this GM story?

WOLFFE: You know, it doesn`t pass the smell test and the laugh test
here. I mean, I -- I think it is kind of sad. Here is a guy who by all
reports is -- a smart guy, right?

SHARPTON: Right.

WOLFFE: He comes up with big budget proposals. And -- it is just
desperate. You know. Who is he trying to fool? He`s not criticizing the
policy. He`s just criticizing the broken promises. It is like complaining
about your birthday cake because there`s wax dripped on it, you know. GM
is the world`s number one automaker. It would be bankrupt and gone and all
the suppliers` jobs with them. So, complain about one plant and saying oh,
well, you know, I was just talking about the promises, just not credible
and what`s he trying to sell? It doesn`t make any sense.

SHARPTON: Well, Alicia, but is this a pattern now that`s turning into
a problem because, you know, here he -- first misspoke about other things.
He even -- lied about the marathon saying he ran under three hours and he
changed that. We have seen a pattern that could become a real problem for
Mr. Romney`s ticket.

MENENDEZ: It is a pattern and it`s particularly disappointing because
when they -- first were, you know, talk being Ryan, everyone was so excited
because he`s actually able to -- thought he was actually able to capture
the nuance of policy. And it turns out that he is not. You know, we hear
him talking about the plants. We also hear him talking about Medicare,
whether this awful robo calls out right now that are meant to scare senior
citizens into believing that Barack Obama is making drastic cuts.

SHARPTON: Wait a minute. Let me -- let me stop there. Because I-
want people to hear this robo call that you are talking about. Let me play
this robo call that Alicia just referred to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Obama is raiding $716 billion from Medicare changing the
program forever. Romney/Ryan plan will restore Medicare funding, and
protect and strengthen the program for the next generation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Alicia, I mean, that would scare seniors to death if it was
true.

MENENDEZ: It absolutely would. And that is what it is meant to do.
Listen, these cuts are not cuts to beneficiaries. They are cuts to the
plan and more disingenuous, the matter is the fact that Romney and Ryan
both support these types of cuts in that your own plans. So to suggest
that this is simply an Obama policy when in reality it is a very agreed
upon policy. And then you take that even further and look at the
Romney/Ryan plans and the fact that they essentially turn Medicare into
voucher system, that is a much more radical re-imagination of the system
than anything that Barack Obama has suggested.

SHARPTON: No doubt about it. And now, Richard, not only do we have
the robo calls and other things I mentioned, Ryan was out making false
claims that today about companies that have declared bankruptcy under the
president. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: In 1980, 331,000 total bankruptcies. Last year, $1.4 million.
When it comes to jobs, President Obama makes the Jimmy Carter years look
like good old days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, the truth is that Ryan`s calculations on bankruptcy
were all -- of 29, his claim, 1.4 million businesses filed for bankruptcy
last year, the truth is it was 47,806 businesses that filed. Quite a way
off.

WOLFFE: Well, I guess that`s why it takes him three decades to
balance his budget, right? Now, it`s such a great numbers guy. Hey, you
know, the truth is that if you want to campaign for president or vice
president, in his case, you go to actually talk about the issues of people
understand them.

SHARPTON: Right.

WOLFFE: There is a real reason why the world economy is still
struggling. It is not struggling like it was in 2008, 2009. But it is
still struggling around the world. If this ticket, this republican ticket,
has a real plan to get the world economy going, let`s hear it. But you
have to deal with those friends in Wall Street, you`ve got to deal with
that corporate friends who are sitting on piles of cash. Let`s talk about
how we get that moving but -- faking statistics is not the way to do it.

SHARPTON: Now, Alicia, when you look at "New York" magazine in an
article titled, quote, "Since When Did Paul Ryan Become a Liar." Jonathan
Chait writes and I`m reading from the article, "Ryan`s reputation has
suffered a massive swift erosion. Now mainstream pundits are defending
Ryan with versions of the well, all politicians fib defense. Given that
this constituency was once portraying Ryan as unusually honest, this
represents a huge retreat for his political brand."

Can the President and the Vice President use this as a character
issue? Because we are not here just playing got you, once you start seeing
this kind of pattern, does this become a character issue for Ryan in the
campaign?

MENENDEZ: I think they can use it. I think they got some nominal
traction out of it. But I think what`s more important, what`s more
dangerous is the fact that there are a lot of Americans who saw that speech
and took it at face value. Really just believed it and now it is --
unfortunately for the president, incumbent upon him in house own speech to
really go after those troops to talk about what he has been able to do in
the last four years to set the record straight.

Because most people aren`t watching this bickering back and forth
about whether or not these are truths, whether they are lies, whether it is
a lack of nuance. They heard it, they walked away, they believed it and
now it is up to the President to really clear the air.

SHARPTON: Richard, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said to the
"Wall Street Journal" that Romney has taken a few days -- off for debate
prep because, quote, "The most important development in the remaining ten
weeks of the campaign will be the debate. It`s an experience that is
elevating for the challenger.

WOLFFE: Yes.

SHARPTON: One, I guess reaching out and touching voters and
campaigning and answering questions and letting people see and feel you is
not as important as one night of televised debate. And two, doesn`t that
raise expectations if he doesn`t come in and do a great job?

WOLFFE: Well, the debates are important, no question about it.
Actually, there is another important event which is the release of his tax
returns, most recent tax returns. They`ve decided to put that in the
middle of this period, too. But why do you need debate prep now?
Normally, there is some time for debate prep later on. Candidates will
squeeze it in at the end of those days. It does suggest that they don`t
think he has passed that presidential test yet or that he`s actually really
worried about debating. You know, Barack Obama as a candidate, managed to
squeeze it in around other campaigns.

SHARPTON: Right.

WOLFFE: You do not miss this moment when you reach the public for the
first time, you have to seize on it and capitalize on it. This candidate
doesn`t think he`s trying to do that.

SHARPTON: Alicia Menendez and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for your
time tonight.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Eight years ago, I had the honor of speaking at the
Democratic National Convention. Coming up, my thoughts on how speakers can
seize the moment to make their voices heard. You are watching POLITICS
NATION. As we get ready for a big convention night here on MSNBC.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are back with the pause of the political battles of the
day. A time of rest. Relax and recharge. That`s right. It is time for
the POLITICS NATION summer break. Yes, it is still summer in my book.

Let`s start in polling. And a tradition that`s gotten more than a few
tails wagging. This annual parade for the dogs is the hit of the town.
And check this out. There is the hot dog dog. And a sombrero-wearing dog.
Somebody call the White House. I wonder if the first family has a
Halloween costume like this for Bo.

Now, to a 7-year-old cup stacker. Austin Naber just set the record at
the Junior Olympics. He`s lightning fast. Stocking those cup pyramids in
second. Maybe he has a future in politics. With that hand speed, he can
fly through. And we end tonight with an unlikely call from President
Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Hey, this is Barack. Listen,
I need to know if you are onboard. OK. Good. Because I`m counting on
you. Everybody is.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Who is that sounded intense?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The President.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sweet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Whoa. Look at that. President Obama called Harold and
Kumar from the movies. Maybe we will see Harold and Kumar go to the DNC in
the theaters this fall. And that`s today`s summer break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Live pictures from the DNC in Charlotte where this week
Democrats are looking to energize their supporters in this election.
Democrats know the ground game will be key to countering corporate money
and the other side. President Obama talked about it all today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You will see more ads, more negative ads, more insults and
distractions and baloney than you have ever seen. And -- it will be
supported by $10 million checks from wealthy donors that like things just
the way they are. And they are counting on you maybe not to vote for
Romney but they are counting on you to feel discouraged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Outside, republican groups have already put millions behind
negative ads and plan to spend even more. Karl Rove`s group American
Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, plans to spend $300 million and billionaire
Koch Brothers plan to spend $400 million through their various groups. To
counter all this big money, President Obama is placing his bets on people
like you. Supporters on the ground, "The New York Times" says, quote, "The
Obama campaign has made an investment likely to reach hundreds of millions
of dollars. A gamble really in its ground game."

He`s banking on his ability to out organize Mitt Romney in the states
that will decide the outcome. But the $2 billion question is, will the
President`s organization be enough to counter all that money.

Joining me now is Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation
of State County and Municipal Employees, is the nation`s largest union of
public employees. Thanks for being here tonight, Lee.

LEE SAUNDERS, PRESIDENT, AFSCME: Good evening, Al.

SHARPTON: Lee, can a grassroots movement stand up to big money that`s
being pumped into this campaign from the other side?

SAUNDERS: Well, there`s no question about it. I think that it can.
And now, we are going to be putting boots on the ground and absolutely the
entire labor movement, our partners in the communities, our religious
organizations, students, seniors, we are going to have boots on the ground
after he had 40,000 activists in the last election, Al, in 2008. We are
going to have 80,000 people participating by knocking on doors and making
those phone calls and handing out leaflets.

The AFL-CIO is going to have 400,000 people doing the same thing. Not
only knocking on doors of labor union members but mocking on doors in our
communities, of nonunion members. We are going to get out the vote and
we`re going to do it strong Bradford`s Campaign.

SHARPTON: Now, you have got the big money. You`ve got the voter
suppression and many of us in the civil rights community are concerned
about a nonpartisan way. How does that raise a threat that you didn`t face
in 2008 when you are approaching this from a partisan or nonpartisan way?

SAUNDERS: Well, you`ve got the attack on voter rights. And we`ve got
a program in place as you well know and we are going to be working with you
and other organizations to make sure that people understand what they have
to do to vote. You`ve got this voter ID laws and they simply are trying to
steal our voices. Steal the right four us to vote in this election. And
we aren`t going to let it happen. But I have to tell you, we`ve got to
mobilize, we`ve got to educate and we have got to organize our communities
like never before.

This is a very, very important election. I know folks heard us say
this before. This can very well be the most important election in our
lifetime. Look at what the Republicans were saying last week in Tampa.
They were talking about getting rid of labor rights. Civil rights. Human
rights. Women`s rights. We cannot let that happen. The 99 percent in
this country are going to battle back and they are going to say that enough
is enough. We are frustrated, we`re angry and we are going to get our
votes out.

Now, as we look around the country, they are certainly the President
is going on a partisan side of this. President`s campaign has set up these
field offices in Colorado, 55 field officers to Romney`s 13 in Florida.
Seventy seven Obama`s to 46 by Romney. And Iowa, 62 to 13 by Romney.
North Carolina where you are, 49 to Romney`s 19. Ohio, 75 to Romney`s 35.
It seems that they are opening up these field offices to do a real ground
campaign while the Romney campaign seems to be doing air strike through
media bias.

SAUNDERS: Well, make no mistake about it, we would not be able to
compete with the amount of dollars, the amount of money that the
Republicans and their friends are going to put into this race. But I`m
telling you, we are going to reach out and touch. Reach out and touch our
coalition partners. We are going to knock on those doors in every single
community, especially those battleground states. And I will tell you this.
I will match up our ground campaign any day to the amount of money that the
Republicans are going to spend.

SHARPTON: Well, the money is not bad either because the Obama
campaign has already topped 2008 support, $3.1 million donors today. There
were three million donors in 2008. So, they are raising more money in the
Obama campaign. It is just that they are being outraised by this big money
with the Citizens United decision, something that was not a factor in 2008.

SAUNDERS: Well, labor`s emphasis and our partners emphasis will be on
getting out to vote. And they`re putting those boots on the ground and
supporting what President Obama is doing on the ground himself. And if we
do everything that we can do, we are going to be victorious in November,
Al.

SHARPTON: Now, do you sense that people -- you are there in
Charlotte. I will be there later this week. Do people there have a sense
of urgency? Do they realize what`s at stake here?

SAUNDERS: I think they do. I think you feel the level of excitement.
People are -- heard what was said at that Republican Convention. They are
listening to what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are saying. That Republican
Convention was everything about lies. It was nothing about solving the
issues that confront the 99 percent of Americans who are trying to play by
the rules. Every single day. Put bread on the table, provide educational
opportunities for their kids. The Democratic Party, President Obama, has a
track record of doing that. The past four years have been successful. We
have a long way to go.

SHARPTON: All right.

SAUNDERS: We can`t change course now. We are going to move forward.

SHARPTON: Lee Saunders, the president of AFSCME, thank you for your
time tonight.

SAUNDERS: Good talking to you, Al.

SHARPTON: I spoke at the Democratic Convention eight years ago. Up
next, my thoughts on how speakers can seize their moment. You are watching
a special edition of POLITICS NATION here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re just moments away from MSNBC`s special coverage of
the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. This week, you will hear from
Democrats across the nation presenting their visions for the country.
Eight years ago, I ran for president. And was honored to speak at the
convention.

I remember on my way to the platform I told the chairman of the DNC
that year Terry McAuliffe, I was going to speak longer than the time given
and I wasn`t going to follow the script. I talked about the need to
protect our right to vote. A right that`s even more under siege now than
it was then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the
reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn`t gained
because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in
the blood of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, soaked in the blood of poor
little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us! This vote can`t be
bargained away! This vote can`t be given away! Mr. President, in all due
respect, Mr. President, read my lips. Our vote is not for sale!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: On that national stage, I tried to speak for those whose
voices are all too often silenced in our polite debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: As I ran for president, I hope that one child could come
out of the ghetto like I did, could look at me, walk across the stage with
governors and senators and no, they didn`t have to be a drug dealer. They
didn`t have to be a hoodlum. They didn`t have to be a gangster. They
could stand up from a broken home on welfare and they could run for
president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: We`ll see who connects in their speeches. What I have
learned, if you speak from your heart, even people who don`t agree with you
will listen. And respect you. Don`t just speak for the political season.
Speak for a high and principled reason. And people will learn who you are.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. MSNBC`s special coverage of
the Democratic National Convention starts now.

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

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