updated 9/21/2012 1:10:16 PM ET 2012-09-21T17:10:16

POLITICS NATION
September 20, 2012

Guests: Bob Shrum; Michelle Cottle; Alicia Menendez, Richard Wolffe, Celinda Lake, Jonathan Capehart


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, this is a
campaign about the 100 percent. My campaign is about the 100 percent of
America, and I`m concerned about them. I`m concerned about the fact that
over the past four years, life has become harder for Americans. More
people have fallen into poverty.

This is a campaign about helping people who need help, and right now
the people who are poor in this country need help getting out of poverty.
The people in the middle class need help.

I care about the 100 percent. People in America are going to have a
better future if they elect me the next president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Does he think we are stupid? I
mean, honestly, does he think the American people are stupid? Mr. One
percent and now Mr. 47 percent, now wants us to believe he`s Mr. 100
percent?

Three days ago we heard him call 47 percent of the country victims who
mooch off the government. This is what he said about them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My job is not to worry about those people. I`ll never
convince them. They should take responsibility and care for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Know my job is not to worry about those people. Yet
magically, all of a sudden, he`s concerned about all Americans. Give me a
break.

Governor Romney`s new strategy, his play for the middle class, his
play for all Americans, just gave President Obama the political equipment
of a sledgehammer to go on the attack today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve been president now
for almost four years. And -- but the day I was elected, that night in
grand park where I spoke to the country, I said 47 percent of the people
didn`t vote for me. But I have heard your voices, and I`m going to work
just as hard for you as I did for those who did vote for me. That`s how
you have to operate as a president.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I truly believe that. When you express an attitude that half
the country considers itself victims that somehow they want to be dependent
on government, my thinking is maybe you haven`t gotten around a lot.

We, the American people are hardest working people they are. And
their problem is not -- their problem is not that they`re not working hard
enough or that they don`t want to work, or they`re being taxed too little,
or they just want to loaf around and gather government checks.

We`ve gone through a challenging time. People want a hand up, not a
handout. The people who are not paying income taxes are either paying a
lot of taxes because they are working every day but they just don`t make
enough money overall to pay income tax, or alternatively, they are senior
citizens or their students who I know these guys aren`t making a lot of
money, even with some work study programs, or they`re disabled, or in some
cases they are veterans or soldiers who are fighting for us right now
overseas, they don`t pay in income tax.

And so, I just think it`s very important for us to understand,
Americans work hard and if they`re not working right now, I promise you,
they want to get to work and that`s what my economic plan is designed to
do, to get more people back to work and to lift up the middle class and
people who want to work to get into the middle class.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This is what Mitt Romney is up against. It`s 47 days to
the election. And all of a sudden Mr. 47 percent wants Americans to
breathe he`s Mr. 100 percent. I don`t think they make etch-a-sketches that
big. Not big enough for this one, anyway.

Joining me now is Democratic strategist Bob Shrum senior adviser to
the Kerry and Gore campaigns who also ran Ted Kennedy`s campaign against
Romney in 1994, and Michelle Cottle, Washington reporter for "the Daily
Beast" and "Newsweek."

Let me thank both of you for being here tonight.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Glad to be here.

MICHELLE COTTLE, WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST, NEWSWEEK:
Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Bob, let me start with you. Governor Romney says he`s for
the 100 percent. How on earth can he say that with a straight face?
You`ve run campaigns against him. How could he do this?

SHRUM: Look Rev., this makeover is going to make about as much of a
difference for Romney as if he changed his name from Mitt to Matt. He
can`t be the candidate of 100 percent of the people of this country. He
can`t be the candidate of the middle class, because he can`t change who he
is and where he stands. I mean, he wants to voucherize Medicare. He wants
a big tax cut for people at the top paid for by increasing taxes on the
middle class. He wants to gut student aid. He wants to privatize Social
Security.

These are the issues and positions that have got him in such trouble,
even before that tape came out. The tape, however, confirms his character.
He`s the candidate of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. I don`t see how
he becomes a candidate at the 100 percent.

OBAMA: Well, trouble is what he`s in, because Michelle, a new Reuters
poll shows that Romney was seriously hurt by this tape. It says that 43
percent of Americans said they view him less favorably, and he wasn`t doing
great in the first place, they view him less favorably after seeing those
tapes.

COTTLE: Well, Romney already had a problem that most Americans didn`t
have a good sense of him, who he cared for or what he stood for. So for a
lot of Americans, this big hullabaloo was their first introduction to the
governor. And it didn`t help that even his own team came out swinging at
him after this. You know, Republicans were quick to pile on. So he is
going to have to do a great deal of back-pedaling to make up for this.

SHARPTON: And the fact is, it wasn`t some foul play here. He was
talking to people that he wanted to donate to his campaign, a public outing
that someone just filmed. It wasn`t like someone was filming some private
conversation between him and someone.

COTTLE: Exactly. Usually when something like this happens,
politicians complain that their quotes have been taken out of context,
start twisted or in some way. "Mother Jones" was smart. They put up the
whole video, and just showed him talking -- you know, just talking away
about the 47 percent. So that`s made it even more complicated because once
you get something on video, it can be played over and over. You will see
this in ads. You will see this in news clips. That sort of thing.

SHARPTON: And he was using it to appeal to people to give me money.
This is what I`m running against. Forget them, they are free loaders, help
finance me to stand to get these five or 10 percent in the middle.

Bob, today the campaign for Mr. Romney announced that they`re going to
have a three-day bus tour of Ohio next week. Quote, "Romney and Ryan will
tour six cities in the Buckeye state Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,
promoting the Romney plan for a stronger middle class."

Now, no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.
But how do you go to Ohio? How do you go to the Buckeye state that is full
of the 47 per centers and turn this around?

SHRUM: Well, it is going to be very tough. He`s pretty far behind in
the polls of Ohio right now. Republicans will tell you if they are
speaking privately that it`s eight or seven or nine points.

But you know, the thing that`s really amazing about this is it`s a
campaign in trouble. Some of the people I think who are getting more
powerful in that campaign like Kevin Madden and Ed Gillespie are pretty
smart. But they are now moving on to the president`s turf. Because
there`s a whole raft pulling out there, including in Ohio that says who
stands up for the middle class and who favors the rich?

Romney overwhelmingly is seen as favoring the rich, the president
overwhelmingly is seen as the person who wants to stand up for the middle
class. And the difficulty is, they had a theory of the case that
collapsed. The theory of the case was, this was going to be simply a
referendum. We were going to go out there, and the whole country was going
to hear Romney and he was going to say, if you feel kind of bad, then give
me a chance, let me take over.

That`s gone. This election is a choice, and he`s now playing on the
grounds the president has defined, who stands up for the middle class.

SHARPTON: Well, Michelle, you know, the Romney campaign launched a
series of ads this week saying that he was the candidate for the middle
class. But listen, just listen to how he plans to bolster the middle
class. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My plan is to help the middle class. Trade has to work for
America. That means crack down on cheaters like China, it means open up
new markets. Next, got to balance the budget. You`ve got to cut the
deficit. You`ve got to stop spending more money than we take in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: And cut the deficit and in his plan, at least his vice
presidential candidate`s plan, is cutting into Medicaid, cutting into
Medicare. And I think that the American public has overwhelmingly said,
this is the middle class that are being pulled. Who understands -- or
being polled about the middle class. Who understands the problems of the
middle class best? Fifty-seven percent say President Obama, 37 percent
Mitt Romney. Twenty points.

COTTLE: And this has been his enduring problem from the beginning.
In ads like this, he likes, because he can say cut the deficit without
having to get into the ugly details of what that will mean. And, you know,
how it will affect Medicare, how it will affect all of these programs that
when people start thinking about them, they actually decide they like. You
see problems with senior voters when you start talking about touching
Medicare at all. So he`s going to have to kind of get in there and paint
this picture that people have been waiting for him to do. And it just --
it remains at this point whether he`s going to be able to make much ground.

SHARPTON: Well, both candidates were in Florida today, Bob, where
Medicare is one of the hottest issues. The Romney campaign just released
an ad featuring Marco Rubio, touting their Medicare plan. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get it.
Medicare is going broke. That`s not politics. It`s math. Anyone who
wants to leave Medicare like it is for letting it go bankrupt. My mother
is 81 and depends on Medicare. We can save Medicare without changing hers,
but only if younger Americans accept that our Medicare will be different
than our parents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But a recent poll by the CBS "New York times" pollsters say
78 percent of Americans want Medicare to continue as it is today. They are
selling a message that a lot of Americans are not going to buy, Bob.

SHRUM: Yes, I think what happened was, they did some polling in
Florida, they found out the Medicare issue was hurting them badly. They
can`t use Romney to go out there and advocate on this, because frankly,
people don`t like him very much. So they picked a popular figure, Marco
Rubio, and they`re hoping that somehow or other his personal popularity
will translate into them gaining some grouped on the issue.

When a campaign gets this granular, when you`ve got Marco Rubio in
Florida trying to defend the Medicare plan. When you take both the
presidential and vice presidential candidates and spend three days in it
one state, Ohio, what you`re doing is signaling the problems you have.

They have a big problem in Florida, a big problem in Ohio, a problem
all across the battle ground states. And they are losing the battle for
the definition of this election, in fact they have lost it, and as I said
earlier, they are now playing on the president`s turf.

SHARPTON: Bob Shrum and Michelle Cottle, thank you both for your time
tonight.

SHRUM: Thank you.

COTTLE: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Ahead, the Romney campaign is in trouble and they are
rebooting. Again. You won`t believe their new strategy.

Plus, to say it has been a bad week for the Romney campaign is an
understatement. And today more Republicans are running and new numbers are
out in key swing states.

And America, this is how desperate it is on the other side. They are
making up stuff to be outraged about. We will tell you why conservatives
are talking about this pirate pitcher.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: The Romney campaign unveils its new
strategy. So 47 percent of you can skip that segment.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: Well, it`s fall, you know.
Unless you`re Mitt Romney, then it`s free-fall.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Have you checked us out on facebook? The "Politics Nation"
conversation is going all day long. The hit of the day was this picture of
the president with Beyonce and Jay-Z at Tuesday night`s fund-raiser.

As Robert said, they are brushing off the haters.

And our facebook family was also talking about James Meredith who
began his battle to desegregate the University of Mississippi 50 years ago
today.

One of our facebook fans Leroy told us that he was part of the
military mission that shut down the angry mob that tried to keep Meredith
out. And says it`s a sad experience, but needed accomplishment.

We want to hear your stories, too. Head over to facebook and search
"Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation. It keeps going
long after the show ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back on "Politics Nation" with a kitchen sink. Yes,
that`s right. Just your standard-issue, stainless steel kitchen sink. Why
am I showing this to you? Well, it is because this image defined Governor
Romney`s campaign.

Over the course of this campaign, he has been forced to use everything
in the book, but the kitchen sink. He`s gone from plan A to B to C to D to
E without any sense of core conviction. Just a few days ago, we saw him
blasting 47 percent of the nation. But now he is parading a new plan, a
plan to help the 100 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My campaign is about the 100 percent of America, and I`m
concerned about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I have 47 reasons why that it is not going to work. Of
course, this is a guy who has become quite familiar with plans not working.
Remember plan A? He was going to run to fix the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: From my first day in office, my number-one job will be to see
that America once again is number one in job creation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yes, that was the plan. Only that didn`t stick, because
people trust President Obama to handle the economy.

Then he tried plan B. He would go after the female vote, even ling up
women at events behind him. But turns out women weren`t really buying that
either.

How about Latinos? Now, at a Univision event, he`s saying he`s not in
favor of mass deportation. But that`s not working either. Maybe it`s
because of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide
they can do better by going home, because they can`t find work here. You
can`t have any illegal working on our property. That`s I`m running for
office, for Pete`s sake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: For Pete`s sake, that won`t work. I know, send Paul Ryan
to Capitol Hill to vote on a bogus welfare plan, or take President Obama`s
14-year-old redistribution comment out of context.

None of those seem like winning solutions, so now with the campaign in
free-fall, with Republicans running from his 47 percent comments, with the
campaign desperately in need of a change, after a string of incredible
blunders and months of gaffes, the Romney team has a solution, another new
strategy. Are you ready?

The solution is more Mitt. That`s right. The solution is to just
give us more of the problem. More Mitt. How is that for a plan? It`s the
kitchen sink campaign and time is running out.

Joining me now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother
Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst, and Alicia Menendez, host and
producer for "Huff Post Live."

Thank you for being here tonight.

David, let me start with you. Is the prescription to Romney`s failing
campaign really more mitt?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, at this point, I don`t
know what it is. I mean, today he also came up with maybe plan G, I have
lost track. Q, R, S, T? In which he said he can be -- he can come into
Washington and be the insider that will make Washington work. Why did he
say that? Because President Obama said that from his perspective, the way
to bring change into Washington is to put in pressure from the outside. So
earlier in the campaign, Mitt Romney was the outsider who would come in,
the CEO/business guy. Now all of a sudden he`s the insider. It`s like
opposite day. If Obama says black, he says white. If he says white, he
says black. And he`s trying to see what`s going to happen.

Of course you know, the 47 percent story which I broke this week has
put him on back on his heels, and now he`s -- no, not 47 percent, I say 100
percent, and it just doesn`t ring true anymore.

The one thing, the Mitt Romney who was the moderate governor,
business-oriented with a successful private sector career in Massachusetts
would have been the ideal candidate for this election year.

You know, running, you know, as a competent, not ideological,
pragmatic business guy who would say I can do better than Barack Obama.
But that`s not what he is. He`s not campaigning as his own self. And
therefore, he`s flailing, and, you know, the polls at least recently, show
him falling behind.

SHARPTON: Well, Alicia, you know, in "Politico," Romney campaign
officials also lists this as a strategy seeing the problem. He says,
quote, "in a lot of current survey data, there`s a desire among the
electorate to know more about Mitt in terms of how he would lead. Over the
next six weeks, the campaign is going to provide a lot more of that."

I mean, really, he needed a survey to tell him that people want to
know how he would lead?

ALICIA MENENDEZ, HOST, HUFF POST LIVE: I think they do, because I
actually think there was a plan A that came before all of the other plans
that you listed, which is that they would simply be anyone other than
Barack Obama. I think they misjudged the electorates` dissatisfaction with
President Obama, the amount of responsibility they were putting on him for
the current economic situation.

And so instead, Mitt thought he could get by with not talking about
policy specifics. You see him last night at a Univision forum, pivoting
off questions about immigration simply by attacking the president`s record
on immigration. But, when he`s pushed back, asked for specifics, whether
it be on dream act, whether it be on deferred action, whether be on
comprehensive reform, things that he could really lay out, bullet by
bullet, talk about family reunification, talked about an earned path to
citizenship. He does none of it, because he simply does not know how to do
that. And he`s worried that the very things that would appeal to a middle
of the road electorate are not going to appeal to his base.

SHARPTON: Well, when you say he`s worried, let me bring this to you,
David.

He`s indicated that he might not be able to win the debates. He said,
I`m quoting, "that Romney has confided to advisers that it may be hard to
win a debate, because every attack against President Barack Obama will seem
stale, while the attacks on him will seem fresher and newsier to a hostile
media."

CORN: Well, I think that`s a pretty good analysis on his part. I
mean, I hadn`t thought of that. If you watch, you know, the tape we put
out, there was an interesting portion, other than the 47 percent. There
are a lot of clips. You can see on motherjones.com, in which he tells his
donors -- they asked him, why don`t you attack Barack Obama as corrupt --

SHARPTON: It`s the same night --

CORN: The same night. The same fund-raiser.

SHARPTON: Tame tape.

CORN: Same tape. Why don`t you attack him for being corrupt? And he
gives this long, somewhat sophisticated analysis that, listen, we need to
win over a small number of independent voters to win in November. And
these are people who largely voted for Barack Obama. And if you go out
there and bash Barack Obama, you are going to make them feel like they did
the wrong thing, and no one wants to feel like they were stupid.

So they have -- so he says, if we ask people these voters
particularly, if Obama failed, they say no. If you ask them if they are
disappointed in Barack Obama, they say, well, kind a, that he hasn`t turned
things around faster.

So from his own perspective, and this is based on focus groups, he
noted, he stuck with this very nuanced way of trying to figure out how to
attack Barack Obama without alienating people who did vote for him. And I
think that`s right. If you bring this to debate, he`ll have a hard time
going after the president for that reason.

SHARPTON: Well, Alicia, there`s something to that, because you notice
he`s been trying to come off a little more moderate in tone. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Now and then, the president says I`m the grandfather of
Obamacare. I don`t think he meant that as a compliment, but I`ll take it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (through translator): If one of our
children, grandchildren or relative, any of them were gay and wanted to get
married, what is your advice for them?

ROMNEY: I love my children and I love my grandchildren and I would,
of course, want them to be happy. My view is this. That individual should
be able to pursue a relationship of love and respect and raise a family as
they would choose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, that`s a lot for a moderate. But he`s the same guy
that said this. Let me show you old Romney. I`m talking only a few weeks
ago, Alicia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I fought against long odds in a deep blue state. But I was a
severely conservative Republican governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, that was just February of this year. So you have got
Mr. Nice guy now, after playing the way he did in the primaries. I guess
he thinks that there`s going to be a mass bout of amnesia among voters.

MENENDEZ: Well, I think David`s analysis is absolutely right. That
old-school Mitt Romney would have been a much more formidable candidate in
this election than the Mitt Romney that we got came south of, you know, the
Republican primary four years ago and this Republican primary. He had to
tack so far to the right in order to win that nomination that he`s coming
into the general electorate in a much weaker position. So there`s that.

And then there`s also the fact they have to be looking at his
likability numbers. They continue to be under water. They have been under
water in 13 of the last NBC "Wall Street Journal" polls since 1984, the
candidate with higher likability numbers has won. We can have an entirely
different conversation about whether that`s the right way to elect the
leader of the free world, but it`s the reality. And people don`t like him.
And I don`t know that giving the American electorate more of him is the
answer.

SHARPTON: David Corn and Alicia Menendez, thank you both for your
time tonight.

And congratulations, David, your book is coming out in paperback this
week.

CORN: Thank you, yes.

SHARPTON: Ahead, more Republicans are running away from Romney today.

Plus, the secret tape also revealed a fear of the women on the "the
View."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: "The View" is high-risk, because the five women on it, only
one is conservative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But we`ve got some news on Romney`s new personal strategy.

And why are conservatives talking about this picture? Yes, it`s a
pirate with the president. And yes, they got it wrong again. Stay with
us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We all know the phrase desperate times call for desperate
measures, and boy, conservatives are living up to that these days.
Yesterday, with international talk like a pirate day, and the Obama
campaign decided to have a little fun. They tweeted out this picture of
President Obama with a pirate and asked, arrr you in? A fun idea.

Who wouldn`t love something like this? I think you know where I`m
going with this. The right wing Drudge report reposted the picture with
the headline, "No time for Netanyahu," as though the President was meeting
with this pirate but not the Israeli prime minister. And here`s what the
FOX team was hard at work on this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Arrgh, here he is sitting down with a pirate,
making sure he didn`t forget to mark international talk like a pirate day.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The President says, he has no time to meet with
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the pirate got in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The President got a private sit-down with a pirate
yesterday in the Oval Office.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: An Oval Office sit-down with a guy dressed as a
pirate. I`ve got to hear more about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Oh, the outrage, and a sit down with a guy dressed up as a
pirate. Well, there`s a slight problem with this. Because the picture is
more than three years old. It was taken in 2009 as part of a gag for the
White House correspondence dinner. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: But as I said during the
campaign, we can`t just talk to our friends. As hard as it is, we also
have to talk to our enemies, and I`ve begun to do exactly that. Take a
look at the monitor there.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Shiver me tenders, FOX didn`t get the facts before slamming
the President. After the show, they tweeted the picture we aired this
morning of the President and the pirate was from 2009. That doesn`t sound
like much of a correction to me. Ahoy, conservatives, desperate times,
desperate measures, arrr they serious? Nice try, but we got you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with what was supposed to be a great ride, a
thrill a minute, right to the top. But it was anything but that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Some on the ride said, they sensed trouble soon
after they reached the top.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The swing stopped swinging so I knew that there
was something wrong. And, yes, I was panicked.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Yes, we were pretty scared.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Unfortunately, there`s really not a lot they could
do but wait this out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Yep, those thrill-seekers at a California amusement park
got more than they bargained for when the ride they were on malfunctioned,
trapping them 300 feet in the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That poor guy is sitting all by himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Too bad for that guy. He had to wait three hours, all by
himself. But fortunately, no one was hurt. But this story reminds me of
another lonely guy. Mitt Romney has been having a very bad week. It
started with those secret tapes, but it`s getting worse. Some of Romney`s
best friends are abandoning him, including his national co-chair, Tim
Pawlenty, who announced today he`s leaving for a job in the private sector.

And Ohio Governor John Kasich, who told reporters in Ohio, he doesn`t,
quote, necessarily agree with Romney`s statements. They joined a long list
of politicians and pundits who are distancing themselves from Romney. And
then there`s the polls. A few polls shows Romney trailing President Obama
by eight points. Pew also notes Romney is in the weakest position of any
previous candidate since 1988.

Folks, the thrill is gone. And Republicans want to get off the ride.

Joining me now is MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, author of
"Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House," and
democratic pollster Celinda Lake. Thank you both for being here tonight.

CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thank you.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Celinda, have you ever seen a candidate hurting so badly at
this point in the fall campaign?

LAKE: I`m sure I have, but I`ve blanked it out. Not in a long time.
And this is the gift that keeps on giving. And then the mistake after
mistake in every aspect of their operation. The pirate thing, trying to
really argue that Barack Obama is redistributed. And every day they make
these mistakes, no conversation about the economy.

SHARPTON: When you look at his trailing in three key states, NBC
poll, Colorado, the President now is up by five. Iowa, the President is up
by eight. Wisconsin, up by five. I mean, these are critical states, and
big its numbers.

LAKE: And add Ohio, add Florida, add Pennsylvania. I mean, this is
just unrelenting bad news. And Mitt Romney still can`t get back on track.
And nobody likes Mitt Romney anymore.

SHARPTON: Can he win without Ohio and Florida and some of these
states?

LAKE: Mitt Romney can`t. He`s got one path to the White House. He
has to go through those states. The Democrats have a number of paths, but
Mitt Romney cannot win without those states. And he`s in deep trouble in
both of them. And when you have the governor of the state, Kasich, who you
were hoping was going to help you deliver the state, denying your comments,
you know you`ve had a bad day.

SHARPTON: But he`s got little good news, in Nevada, the President is
up by three. That`s within the margin of error. And New Hampshire -- he`s
up by three. Let me go to you, Richard. Pawlenty is leaving. A lot of
people, key advisers and pundits leaving.

WOLFFE: Yep.

SHARPTON: I mean, how does one, that make him look, and two, how does
it affect his campaign?

WOLFFE: Well, the hardest thing about the comments being put to other
Republicans, the 47 percent comment, is that it`s become a litmus test of
whether you`re a serious mainstream republican or not. You never want the
top of the ticket to be the measure and a bad measure of whether other
Republicans can get elected or not. So this has got to play itself out for
a few more days yet. Do you or don`t you agree with Mitt Romney that the
47 percent of the country isn`t worth bothering about?

That has going to be asked of every single republican candidate up and
down the ticket, any time a reporter comes close to them. That`s one
problem. The other problem is that, you know, the supposed cure-all here,
the panacea, is that all he has to do is talk about the economy and he`ll
be fine. The problem is Mitt Romney has been talking about the economy for
the last 18 months or so. And he hasn`t made the sale. It`s not just
about his plan.

The sale that hasn`t been made is the idea that this President is to
blame for everything. He may be to blame for some of it. That`s what
Republicans would say. But actually, if you look at the polls, people
still blame the last Bush administration, they blame Wall Street, there are
a number of other people who are just not convinced with this case that he
has been making. And that`s the real problem he faces.

SHARPTON: Richard, what could he do in the debates on anything
leading up to the debates that could turn the page on this and put this
back in his ballpark where he wasn`t playing the president`s game, so to
speak?

WOLFFE: Well, look, the debates are his last best shot.

SHARPTON: What did you do in the debates?

WOLFFE: You know, debates are a chance, as we saw with John Kerry,
admittedly a formidable debater, but when John Kerry first had that
exchange with George W. Bush, he moved in the polls pretty significantly.
And the race where he had been lagging, he really managed to bring up to a
great degree. Mitt Romney, there are low expectations of him at this
point. You know, if you listen to how everyone is talking about him, and
you think he couldn`t tie his own shoelaces. He actually debated pretty
with in the primaries.

And presidents don`t look quite so presidential when they`re up
against a challenger. Challengers tend to look better when they`re on
stage with the president. So, this is going to even up some. It`s not
going to go in one direction. There`s still some time for Mitt Romney to
even it up. The question is, how far behind is he when he enters that
first debate.

SHARPTON: But the problem with this Celinda is that on the issues, no
matter how he survived the debates, he`s -- I mean, the issues that people
are not with him. Other than the deficit, he`s losing in it every key area
on the issues.

LAKE: And the most key thing is, he was ahead on the economy, and now
he`s behind on the economy. Here`s the number to watch. After these
debates, he has to be ahead on the economy to win. I bet he doesn`t get
there. I bet people don`t see -- think he will deliver on an economy for
them, and there are a lot of the 47 percent who need to hear that he`s
going to deliver for them. And I think that he`s not going to look like
someone they like or they trust on the economy. Yes, he`ll be there for
the wealthy guys, that`s fine. They`re not going let the first president
with a Swiss Bank accounts.

SHARPTON: So, let me get this right, because I`m going to be dealing
with that all night that night. He must move ahead of the president on the
economy in the polls to win.

LAKE: I think that`s right. And I think that his debates the last
chance for him to do it.

SHARPTON: Well, I think that you`ve given me a way to measure this.

LAKE: All right.

SHARPTON: All right. Which means all he`s got to do is stay Mr.
President.

LAKE: Yes.

SHARPTON: Corporations are people -- that will --

(LAUGHTER)

LAKE: That will.

SHARPTON: Celinda, Richard, thank you for your time tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Reverend.

LAKE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, those secret Romney tapes also revealed he was
afraid of the ladies on "The View." Now, they`re speaking out.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Up next, those secret tapes reveal more than just Romney`s
distaste for the 47 percent. They also showed something else. Romney`s
fear of the ladies on "The View." That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: There`s one part of the now infamous Romney secret tape
that hasn`t gotten as much attention as this attack on the 47 percent of
the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "The View" is
high-risk because of the five women on it, all but one is conservative.
Four are sharp-tongued and not conservative, Whoopi Goldberg in particular.
Last time I was on the show, she said, "You know what, I think I could vote
for you." And I said, "I must have said something really wrong."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Sharp-tongued women. Ouch. As you might guess, the ladies
on "The View" just had to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": This is just preseason. This
is an exhibition game. If you can`t handle four sharp-tongued women, how
are you going to handle the country?

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I`m holding my tongue until he gets
here.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Romney has now agreed to come back to "The View" next
month. Meanwhile, President Obama and the First Lady will make their first
joint appearance on "The View" next week. This little dust-up about the
"The View" is part of a larger issue for Romney. Voters want a president
they can relate to. Romney only seems comfortable in quiet rooms, closed-
door $50,000 a plate fund raisers.

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer for "The
Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor. Thanks for being here,
Jonathan.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Rev, didn`t know you were
in Washington. Still. Should say still.

SHARPTON: How can we expect a President Romney, Jonathan, to deal
with Vladimir Putin if he`s afraid of Whoopi Goldberg?

CAPEHART: Well, look, as you showed in the clip, he was joking. I
understand Sherri Shepherd is upset with him. But you know, how can you
talk about those five sharp-tongued women on "The View" in a quiet room and
then, you know, beg and plead to go on their show in October to continue
the ongoing effort to humanize yourself to a country that is just not
getting there with you on that?

SHARPTON: But I guess my -- I think the thing that bothered me most
about the tape, other than some of the real words that were offensive and
insulting is the kind of tone he`s talking to people that he hoped would
contribute in a way of us against them, in a way of dismissing half the
country, in a way of even taking jabs at the expense of the people on "The
View." It`s this kind of removed, you know, superior attitude in various
areas. But yet you want to be the president of the United States and the
leader of the free world for everyone you`re talking about.

CAPEHART: Well, as many people have said, you know, Mitt Romney is
very good at, you know, telling people in the room what he thinks they want
to hear. And so you`re sitting in a room, in a very wealthy man`s home in
Boca Raton where everyone has paid $50,000 each to be there listen to you
speak. You kind of think that maybe they want to hear that the women on
"The View" except for Elisabeth Hasselbeck are sharp-tongued and hard to
get along and Whoopi Goldberg, she said, she would vote for me, ooh, what
have I done wrong.

And as you played out, they all laughed at that. So Mitt Romney in
that room and on Univision yesterday and probably on the set of "The View"
in October is going to say exactly what he thinks the audience in front of
him wants to hear as a way of getting their support. Whether it`s
monetarily or electorally.

SHARPTON: Yes. But when you look at the polls, I mean, when people
were asked who connects well with ordinary Americans, President Obama leads
Romney by 43 points. Question of character. President Obama leads Romney
by 14 points on who voter thinks would make a more loyal friend. President
Obama leads Romney by 13 points on who voters would prefer would have take
care of them if they were sick. President Obama leads by 16 points on who
voters would rather invite to dinner in their homes. I mean, it`s -- it`s
on and on and on and on.

CAPEHART: Right. Well, you know, Rev, here`s the thing. Like any
businessman, he knows, you can go into the room and say what you think that
the buyers want to hear. But if they`re not going to buy it, they`re not
going to buy it. And as those poll numbers show, the disparity between
Mitt Romney and President Obama is stark. Folks don`t like Mitt Romney.
And we have known that since the republican primaries. Poll after poll
after poll showed that the more people entering the primaries, that the
more people got to know Mitt Romney, the less they liked him.

SHARPTON: Yes.

CAPEHART: That was during the primaries. And now we`re seeing it in
the general election.

SHARPTON: Well, Jonathan Capehart, thank you for your time tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Up next, a civil rights milestone. James Meredith at Ole
Miss. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Fifty years ago today, we saw the beginning of a fight
against segregation that forever changed the civil rights movement in this
country. On September 20th, 1962, James Meredith walked into the campus of
the University of Mississippi, trying to become the first African-American
to attend Ole Miss. Meredith had a federal court order saying, he should
be allowed to register. But he was physically blocked from enrolling by
state officials. And massive crowds that spiraled out of control. And
became a national story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nearly 6,000 troops patrol Oxford to maintain order
and arrests amount to more than 200 as smaller disturbances erupt the next
day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: President Kennedy addressed the nation, calling on the
crowds to obey the order.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY, UNITED STATES: Americans are free in
short to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it. No mob, however
unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But the crowds grew violent, rioters fired guns and threw
Molotov cocktails. They hoisted confederate flags in the air. President
Kennedy eventually sent in more troops to restore order. But not before
more than 160 U.S. marshals had been hurt, and two bystanders were killed.
Through all of this chaos and crisis, Meredith didn`t give up. And on
October 1st, he marched back to campus, escorted by federal marshals and
finally registered for class.

Meredith continued his fight, even after graduating. In 1966, he
began a solitary march against fear, encouraging blacks to register and
vote. But during the march, he was shot in the back. Other civil rights
leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., took up the march in his name.
But Meredith soon left the hospital and actually rejoined the march before
they finished. His courage helped change a generation.

And 40 years after the students rioted to keep him out, he was honored
with a monument on the campus of Ole Miss. Today, 16 percent of the
student body is African-American. You see, we live in a nation where
change comes when ordinary people make an extraordinary steps. When people
find the courage to stand up and right wrongs.

We don`t see the mobs today we once saw. And we don`t see the
killings that we once saw. But we see resistance. We see the changing of
the rules. We see voter suppression, we see anti immigration. We see
gender inequality, we see gays and lesbians treated differently. Do we
have the courage to make a difference? It`s not about somebody somewhere
else. It`s about all of us inside ourselves. Remembering on this day that
one man stood up and changed the nation.

We can at least stand up and change the environment around us if we
both have the courage.

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

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

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