updated 9/28/2012 11:49:31 AM ET 2012-09-28T15:49:31

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 27, 2012

Guests: John Stanton, Bill Burton


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you.

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

It is now 40 days out from Election Day. Even though it feels every
year like the election season gets longer and longer and longer, this last
homestretch between the start of the debate until Election Day, this is
always about the same amount of time, at least in recent elections.

And so, on this date in 2004, which was the last time we had an
incumbent president running for re-election, at this time on this date in
that campaign, the campaign you might remember was all about Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: With the conditions in Iraq at odds with the hopeful
picture described by the president, Mr. Bush was challenged during an
interview with FOX News about last spring`s mission accomplished appearance
on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Would you do it again?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You mean have the sign up
there?

O`REILLY: No, no, but go in there with the flight jacket?

BUSH: Absolutely.

O`REILLY: You would?

BUSH: Of course, I`m saying to the troops on this carrier and
elsewhere, thanks for serving America. Absolutely.

REPORTER: Senator Kerry today noted that since that speech, more than
900 soldiers have died in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So that was this date in the campaign in 2004.

This date in the campaign in 2008, even though we were right in the
middle of the meltdown of the financial sector, still at the center of the
campaign in 2008, at the first debate between John McCain and Barack Obama,
which was this date four years ago, the focus was the war. In fact, both
wars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBATE MODERATOR: Do you, Senator McCain, much has been said about
the lessons of Vietnam. What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think the lessons of Iraq are very
clear that you cannot have a failed strategy. Thanks to this great General
David Petraeus and the troops who served under him, they have succeeded and
we are winning in Iraq.

THEN-SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I think the first question is,
whether we should have gone into the war in the first place. Six years
ago, I stood up and opposed this war. We hadn`t finished the job in
Afghanistan. We hadn`t caught bin Laden. We hadn`t put al Qaeda to rest.
And as a consequence, I thought that it was going to be a distraction.

Now, Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So that was this date, 40 days out from the election in `08
and 40 days out from the election in `04. In `04, the campaign was
consumed with the debate over at least one of our wars. Forty days out
from the election in `08, even in the midst of the financial meltdown the
campaign was consumed with both of the wars.

Now, it`s 2012 and we`re 40 days out from the election this year and
we are not quite as consumed with that issue, but we are still in one of
those wars. And not being consumed with that issue turns out is not a
mutual decision by the two candidates.

I mean, the Democratic side, President Obama, talks about the war in
Iraq that he ended and the war in Afghanistan he is still waging all the
time. He brings it up all the time. It is his Republican opponent, Mr.
Romney, who has generally done his best to avoid the subject altogether.

I have to say, credit where credit`s due. Today while he still did
not go there directly, at least, at last, finally, today Mitt Romney got
close to the subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have huge numbers of our
men and women that are returning from conflict that are seeking counseling,
psychological counseling, and can`t find that counseling within our system.
And, of course, record numbers of suicides. This is a crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was Mitt Romney speaking today in Springfield, Virginia,
to the American Legion. And, no, he is still not apparently able to say
anything about the war directly, but at least today where you saw him
there, he did mention that this war has produced an outcome of war, which
is American war veterans.

Neither the war nor its veterans were mentioned, of course, in Mr.
Romney`s speech to the nation upon becoming his party`s nominee for
president. So, he`s trying to fix the veterans part of that oversight.
But he really as a candidate still seems incapable of talking about the war
he would be taking over as commander-in-chief.

There were these dueling appearances in Virginia before military-heavy
audiences in that military-heavy state -- President Obama talking about
ending the war in Iraq, talking about his strategy in Afghanistan.

President Obama also releasing a two-minute TV ad today. Two minutes,
as sort of his closing argument for his campaign.

In the two-minute ad, he talks about what the country should do with
the savings that we will obtain when we eventually end the war in
Afghanistan.

But while Mr. Romney did mention veterans in his Virginia speech
today, he did not say what he would do to improve the problem that he
identified for veterans. In fact, the way he talked about it indicated
that he might not know even which part of the government is supposed to fix
a problem like that. And he still can`t bring himself to talk about what
he would do as commander in chief. He still can`t bring himself to talk
about the war that we are still in that is now producing new veterans every
day and is due to keep doing that for another couple of years.

In any other election year, with any other candidate who was more
capable of holding his own on this issue, we would be having a debate on
this issue. We would be having a big national debate on this subject right
now, because it very obviously needs debating.

"Wired" magazine today published this internal assessment from the
U.S. military in Afghanistan. And it shows sort of inadvertently what the
effect has been of the big Obama troop surge in the war.

In 2009, after he was inaugurated, and there was a summertime surge of
violence and attacks in Afghanistan, President Obama took several months in
2009 to do an intensive review of American strategy in the war. You`ll
remember that he announced that the end of that review, at the end of 2009
in December, that he was going to send tens of thousands more American
troops into Afghanistan. The idea, they said, was to blunt the Taliban`s
momentum.

So here`s the data he was looking at in terms of what the Taliban`s
momentum was when he made his decision to send the surge. What you`re
looking at there on the left is the calendar year. It`s what the military
in Afghanistan calls enemy initiated attacks. All the years of all fights
in Afghanistan all have that general sort of pattern where it peaks in the
summer and drops in the winter. That`s what they call the fighting season
in Afghanistan.

Looking at that, see what the overall level was. That was the first
calendar year that President Obama was president. After looking at those
numbers he decided to do the surge. That`s the level of violence he was
looking at when he sent more troops at the end of that year.

Now, three years later, after the surge has ended, this is the level
of attacks in this calendar year in 2012. So over 2010 and 2010 during the
surge, right, we endured this level of enemy-initiated -- that`s during the
surge. We endured that level of enemy-initiated attacks. Now after the
surge, after all of that blood and treasure and sacrifice, we have a new
level which is higher than when we started.

So that`s for enemy-initiated attacks. Here`s the same number for
what the military calls executed IED attacks. So, bombs in Afghanistan,
right?

Here was the rather outrageously high numbers of bombs in Afghanistan
in 2009 when President Obama was making his decision about the surge.
These are IEDs.

Here`s the level now. Here`s what we went through during the surge
years, the interim years. That`s 2010 and 2011. So, you know, it`s
possible to spin this as, oh, look, 2012 is slightly better than last year,
looks like it might be, right?

But that wasn`t the point. The idea was that it was supposed to get
better than when we started the surge. This deadline that the president
set for leaving at the end of 2014 was prefaced on the idea that the surge
would have created some better environment from which it would make sense
we could leave because things would be better. If that promise is wrong
and things after the surge are worse than before the surge, if things are
not going to get better by the time we are set to leave, then why are we
sticking with that as still being the time to leave?

When the Pentagon announced the end of the surge last week, when they
announced the surge was over, they talked less about blunting Taliban
momentum and more about how the surge helped us train lots of Afghan
security forces.

In theory, lots of trained Afghan security forces is a way Afghanistan
could get more safe. But right now, it`s also a way Americans get killed.
By the Afghans we are training and arming. Afghan troops are turning
around and killing American troops they`re supposed to be working with at
such a rate now that the training and joint operations between the two
forces were halted this month. And have only now started to scale back up.

That`s the circumstances in which 68,000 Americans are putting their
lives on the line right now while you watch this TV show, 68,000.

There is a debate to have here about what we are doing in Afghanistan.
Things are worse after the surge than they were before the surge. What was
the surge for? Why does the deadline for leaving stay the same if the
surge was supposed to make things better and it didn`t?

If the Republicans had picked a candidate who was capable of engaging
in this debate, we would be having this debate as a country. We did it in
the last two elections when we were at war. We`re still at war but we
apparently can`t do it in this election because Mitt Romney has nothing to
say on this.

So, it`s not a debate. It`s one guy talking and nobody answering.

Other Republicans below the presidential candidate level are willing
to have this debate. Look at this, this is from "The Tampa Bay Times."
I`m just going to read you the lead here. "Over and over, every time the
subject of pulling troops out of Afghanistan has come up, Republican
Congressman Bill Young has voted to stay the course. He opposed
resolutions to withdraw and even a resolution to set a timetable for
withdrawal, but not anymore." Quote, "I think we should remove ourselves
from Afghanistan as quickly as we can," says Congressman Young. "I just
think we`re killing kids that don`t need to die."

This is the longest serving Republican member of Congress. He chairs
the subcommittee that funds the Pentagon in the House. He describes
himself as a stay the course politician, since the days of the Vietnam War.
But he now says he is done. He is over it.

And you know what? He`s not alone. Most Americans are done. We are
over it. More than two-thirds of the country says the U.S. should not be
involved in Afghanistan anymore and that is not a partisan figure. When
you`re looking at 69 percent, that`s too high to be a partisan figure if
nothing else.

There`s a political debate to have here between two responsible,
competing ideas for what to do in the longest war in American history
that`s already in year 11 and that is not slated to end this year and that
is not slated to end next year and that is not slated to end until the end
of the year of that. That, right now, is the Democratic Party`s position
as embodied by the Democratic president.

Does the Republican Party have a competing idea? Nobody knows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: It`s six weeks before this election and
we still don`t really know what Governor Romney wants to do as president.
That should make you worry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senator Jim Webb, former Navy secretary, a Vietnam War
veteran, spoke with President Obama today in Virginia Beach. And he went
right at Mr. Romney on foreign policy and the wars.

And he is -- he`s right there when he says that we don`t know what Mr.
Romney would do if he became president. Mr. Romney has said recently and
vaguely that he supports what President Obama is doing in Afghanistan in
terms of there being a timeline for leaving, but he has also said he was
against a timeline for leaving in the past. So really who knows? He`s not
even trying.

The closest we`ve gotten to any competing, cogent Republican position
on the war is probably what we got from Senator John McCain at the
Republican convention when he said that the Afghanistan war just shouldn`t
end. He also thinks that the Iraq war shouldn`t have ended. So I`m not
sure that it`s a politically viable position, even if it is an internally
cogent one from the senator.

For this year`s nominee, it`s apparently just not going to happen.
Not unless he starts it now. Forty days out, Mitt Romney did get as close
as he gets to talking about the issue today. In that he spoke before a
group of veterans and he talked about a concern about veterans, even if he
didn`t say what he wanted to do about that concern.

Mr. Romney, in fact, implied that the sequester that might result in
defense cuts that his running mate Paul Ryan voted for, he implied that
would hurt suicide prevention programs for veterans even though the V.A.
would be exempt from that, so I`m not sure he even understood what it was
he was talking about. But at least he tried. At least veterans got a
mention from him, even if it didn`t make sense in policy terms.

You do know that defense and veterans are two different -- at some
point it should be possible here with 40 days left to say veterans have to
be more than just an applause line, right? You don`t just get to use them
for a photo-op like the decommissioned battleship you used as a photo-op
backdrop when you introduced Paul Ryan inexplicably in front of a
battleship, another time when you didn`t mention the war.

Even if you`re not willing to talk about the war we are in that you
would be taking over, veterans are not a hypothetical construct. And the
way they`re treated is not an esoteric consequence of how we feel about
them as a nation or how much military spending we have which is how Mitt
Romney described it today.

Forty days out from the election with the Israeli prime minister
drawing an actual redline on a Wile E. Coyote acme style bomb at the United
Nations today when talking about Iran, 40 days out with the surge in
Afghanistan looking like it did the opposite of what it was supposed to do,
40 days out with "The New York Times" reporting that the Romney campaign`s
big national security legal idea is to have President Romney rescind the
ban on torture on his first day in office. That`s their big idea. That
will help.

Forty days out from the election, there has to be a way to build on
this one small thing this Republican campaign for the presidency seems
capable of handling when it comes to national security matters. If not for
the country, if not for the candidate, then for the country we should try
to be optimistic about this, right? Mitt Romney showed today he is
capable, at least, of mentioning veterans and how veterans get treated even
if he doesn`t totally understand the issue.

Let`s start there. The fact he can handle that much, we can at least
take as a starting point. I mean, in previous campaigns, yes, we`ve been
able to have debates about the wars. This year the Republican is not
capable of handling that.

But maybe he can handle this. Here`s a simple idea. An American
soldier gets killed in the war. That soldier`s family gets a payment --
dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.
We`re sorry your husband, your father, your wife was killed. This is
essentially a widows and orphans payment to you from the U.S. government.

You think this would be one of the less partisan inflected things we
do as a country, right? The payment we make to surviving spouses and
children.

From time to time, that payment gets adjusted to reflect increases in
the cost of living. Right? That makes sense. One of the least
controversial things you could possibly imagine the United States
government agreeing to.

Well, a bill to adjust that payment for the cost of living was brought
to the Senate floor last Thursday. Now, it was expected to go ahead. No
mas, no fuss, who`s going to argue with that?

But it was blocked by someone in Governor Romney`s party. An unnamed
Republican senator has put a hold on the cost of living adjustment to the
surviving spouses and children`s payment for soldiers killed in the war.
The same hold is also affecting the disability payments to soldiers who are
wounded in the war. Some Republican senator is blocking this. We don`t
know who.

Governor Romney, here`s a place to start. You are now the leader of
the Republican Party. I realize you`re having a hard time getting the
training wheels off when it comes to national security.

But here`s an easy one -- should that senator from your own party lift
that hold on the cost of living adjustment to the payments to those people
who we sort of owe it to? Should a Republican senator who`s holding this
up keep that hold in place or drop it? You`re the leader of that party.
Do you have anything to say on this?

Here`s another one. Veterans Jobs Corps bill we talked about last
week on this bill, a bipartisan bill, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have an
unemployment rate 35 percent higher than the rest of the country now. This
bill comes to the Senate floor and is blocked by Republican senators.

Governor Romney, you are now the leader of the Republican pert.
You`re willing to talk about veterans even when you can`t bring yourself to
talk about the war and even when you plainly don`t understand the issue
you`re discussing. Still, this is kind of an easy one.

You could take a position on the veterans jobs bill. Do you think the
senators from your own party should stop blocking the Veterans job corps
bill?

One of the million times that you relaunch yourself since you started
losing so badly after the conventions; you said the way you were going to
relaunch is start getting specific. Let`s get specific. You won`t get
specific on the war.

But you are obviously willing to mention veterans to get applause.
Why don`t we start there? Whether or not it helps you, it would be great
for the country.

We are 40 days out. Hope springs eternal. Maybe this campaign can
yet live up to what our politics are supposed to be.

And what on the issue of the wars they have always previously been
before you became one of the nominees and couldn`t handle it.

Our politics are supposed to be a way to solve problems. We`ve got
problems. Do you have anything to say about how to fix them?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You know, underneath the official campaigns there`s a whole
lot of money and a whole lot of weird. We`re going to be looking into that
with one of the dark weird money guys for the interview tonight. That`s
straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

OBAMA: Four years ago, I said I`d end the war in Iraq and we did. I
said we`d wind down the war in Afghanistan in a responsible way, and we
are. You`ve got a new tower across the New York skyline. Al Qaeda`s on
the path to defeat. Bin Laden is dead.

ROMNEY: I happen to subscribe to Ronald Reagan`s maxim that peace
comes through strength. I want to have a military that`s so strong no one
wants to test it. You see, you want to --

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: President Obama and Mitt Romney both making their case to
veterans in Virginia today. The president talking about ending our
trillion-dollar wars, at least eventually, and his opponent talking about
Ronald Reagan.

Joining us now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief at "BuzzFeed"
and it`s been way too long since we`ve had you on show.

Congratulations on your move, by way.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

MADDOW: How is "BuzzFeed"?

STANTON: It`s awesome?

MADDOW: Do they let you do whatever you want? It sort of seems like
they do.

STANTON: Pretty much let me go do my thing.

MADDOW: On -- I mean, one of the things you did around the convention
is you Greyhound bused down there, and sort of went out of your way to talk
to regular on the street folks who were not necessarily getting, having
their opinions plundered by pundits. When you`re doing sort of "man on the
street" talking to people about politics, do people ever talk about the
wars?

STANTON: They do. You know, and talking, particularly, I was in
Savannah and I was talking to church people that were feeding the working
poor and homeless people. There were a lot of veterans there. Some of the
people I talked to on the bus were veterans.

You know, they feel like their plight as the working poor in this
country, no one is really talking about the wars anymore. President Obama
talks about it, sort of generally, his accomplishments, but he doesn`t talk
about so much going forward and what`s going to happen.

I think a lot of people have become fatigued with it. I think -- even
these people, some of them have gone through it, or their families have
gone through it, even they`re sort of tired of deal with it almost. They
want it to go away.

MADDOW: The going forward part of it is the part I`m really hung up
on. I mean, looking at those surge numbers today, I`m not sure if our
graphs totally showed it the way we laid those out. But essentially, the
violence the president was looking at in `09 when he surged the troops, and
the violence now, it`s worse now. We spent a lot of blood and treasure and
a lot of lives getting to a place that ultimately is worse.

And the idea was it would get better and that`s how we would tail out
and live. And it is hard to imagine that that policy, which has blatant
problems with it, isn`t a matter of debate. Do you feel like not only
talking to voters, looking at this campaign, is there hope that the last 40
days ever gets there?

STANTON: Honestly, I think neither campaign wants to talk about it.
To be honest, I think, you know, to a certain degree, Mitt Romney is doing
Barack Obama a bit of a behavior by not engaging him on this thing. Romney
has a lot of difficulties but he doesn`t have any real experience, himself.
Paul Ryan is a domestic guy. He doesn`t do a lot of foreign policy stuff.

But by not talking about it, it lets Obama off the hook a little bit
because there is this problem of what happens next after the surge is over?
You know, what happens with pulling out the troops? Do we pull them out
earlier like Bill Young is talking about? Or do we keep them in longer in
that debate is not happening.

You know, I don`t think either candidate, frankly, probably had a
particularly good answer for that. And I think that`s sort of why we`re
seeing neither one of them really engaging hard on what`s going to happen
next in the war.

MADDOW: I mean, the president is talking about the new tower on the
New York skyline. That tower is not done. He`s talking about savings from
ending the war in Afghanistan. That war doesn`t end until the end of 2014.

I mean, anybody running against somebody who`s taking those positions
provided they had the slightest bit of confidence in our own position, it
seems like a place to go.

But I wonder if you see the Romney campaign potentially bringing
somebody else on who can handle it? Any sort of heavyweight surrogates who
can handle it?

STANTON: Well, that`s been something I thought was interesting, is
they haven`t done that. They could have brought in Condi Rice. They could
have brought in, you know, some former generals, some other folks from the
Bush administration that were, you know, not neocons. Some sort of the
latter part of the Bush administration.

MADDOW: Right, second-term folks.

STANTON: Right. And they haven`t done that yet, which I think is
surprising. When they went to the domestic focus on the vice president,
they needed to sort of bring somebody in. That is what Joe Biden did for
Obama in `08. That was the counter to John McCain. And they haven`t done
that.

And I -- it`s going to be difficult for them to do that in the next
couple weeks. And going into that last debate where they`re going to be
talking about this stuff, this is going be an issue, they`re going to need
to frame that up before they get there or it`s going to be difficult for
them to have much of a debate among, no, I`m better, I`m worse.

MADDOW: Yes, I feel like we`re in an u unsustainable spot where world
events are proceeding in a way that these issues are being forced into
discussion even if they can`t be forced into the politics. I feel like
reckoning is coming on this in political terms.

John Stanton, "BuzzFeed`s" D.C. bureau chief -- you do great work,
man. Thank you. Appreciate it.

STANTON: Pleasure to be here.

MADDOW: All right. Are you a college student? Do you know any
college students? Do you have any sense of how college students will vote
this year if they vote?

A bunch of political vigilantes who know how college students are
likely to vote this year have figured out how to stop students from doing
it. It is a very simple strategy and it is very stupid, and that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I waited, I voted. That`s all that matters.

REPORTER: At Kenyon College, this was not your ordinary all nighter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m willing to wait as long as it takes for me to
vote.

REPORTER: Hours after the polls were scheduled to close in Gambier,
Ohio --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve been here since 4:30.

REPORTER: Hundreds of students, professors and neighbors were still
stuck in line, some here for more than ten hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not going to leave. I`m just going to make
sure that every vote counts.

REPORTER: Why the wait? For 1,300 voters here, just two ballot
booths available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were voting about 40 per hour, so you do
the math.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In the `04 election, Republican President George W. Bush won
the crucial state of Ohio with 50.8 percent of the vote. And he won a
second term in office.

In certain parts of Ohio, for certain groups of people who tend to
lean Democratic, voting in that election that year meant waiting if lines
for 10 hours or more. For voters in mostly African-American precincts
voting was like an endurance event.

In precincts used by college students, voting was an all day and into
the night affair. The polls simply were not set up to accommodate everyone
who wanted to vote, particularly Democratic leaning constituencies. This
time around, the national race, again, may all but depend on Ohio and the
same key Democratic constituencies are again finding that trying to vote is
a challenge.

And I use the word challenge on purpose. As we reported earlier this
month, the Tea Party group in Ohio called the Voter Integrity Project
claims to have found 730,000 suspect names that it wants purged off the
voter rolls in Ohio, 730,000. We`ve now started to get a better sense of
who this Tea Party group is challenging in terms of their registration and
their right to vote.

Look at this. Quote, "The names selected for purging include hundreds
of college students, trailer park residents, homeless people, and African-
Americans in counties President Obama won in 2008." "The L.A. Times"
reporting today the Tea Party reporter vigilantes seemed to be honing in on
college students in particular.

The Ohio Voter Integrity Project has challenged the voting rights of
college students at Ohio State and Oberlin, Kent State, and University of
Cincinnati, and on and on and on and on. When you challenge someone`s
right to vote in Ohio, you`ve got to give your name and you have to state
some kind of reason why you think the person you`re challenging shouldn`t
be allowed to vote. So, you have to fill in this form, sign it under
penalty of election falsification. You give the reason, you sign the form,
you turn it in.

So what`s the reason this self-appointed Tea Party group is giving for
challenging the voting rights of all of these students at all these Ohio
colleges? Well, "The L.A. Times" reports the reason is, quote, "failure to
specify dorm room numbers." Dorm room numbers?

Yes, it`s legal to register to vote at your college if you live there,
that`s where you live. That`s where you get to vote. So, students
register to vote using their dorm addresses and this Tea Party vigilante
group is trying to get the students thrown off the rolls and banned from
voting for listing their dorm but not their dorm room number.

The silver lining here? Quote, "So far, every county election board
that has reviewed the dorm room challenges found them invalid."

And every single one of those college kids ran the risk of being
disenfranchised and every county worker who fielded that challenge got that
much more diverted from the work of getting ready for the election and
making sure it runs smoothly and making sure people aren`t disenfranchised
and making sure the lines aren`t too long.

We are less than 40 days out. We are out -- well, we are 40 days out.
Yes, the people who want your vote are really, really business right now.
So are the people who want to take your vote away. They`re busy, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The Web site "Real Clear Politics" is one of the places that
aggregates poll numbers and offers averages for how specific races are
going and specific states. Based on those averages, "Real Clear Politics"
has changed its ranking of five different U.S. Senate races, since the end
of the Democratic convention.

Prior to the convention, they listed these three states as leaning
Republican in Senate races. They listed Arizona and Nevada and Wisconsin
as all leaning Republican. Well, now those are all moved into the tossup
category. They no longer lean Republican. Now, who knows?

Before the Democratic convention, the two states that -- the two
states they had considered tossups, too close to call, were Ohio and
Michigan. Well, now they have been shifted into the leans Democratic
category. So they`ve shifted five senate race since the conventions and
all of the shifts have been toward the Democrats.

A political scientist named Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia
has also promised probably the most famous individual person in the country
who has long done this kind of ranking and characterizing of races.

Today, in addition, to moving five swing states in the direction of
President Obama, Mr. Sabato moved 11 Senate races in one direction or
another based on polling averages. Three states moved in the Republican
direction. Connecticut moved to tossup. Montana moved to leans
Republican. Maine moved from likely to leans Democrat/independent.

So three of the 11 senate races that he moved, moved in the
Republicans` direction. But Larry Sabato moved eight Senate races the
other way toward the Democrats, eight of the 11 moved toward the Democratic
candidate, in Hawaii, in Missouri, in New Mexico, in North Dakota,
Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nevada.

So 40 days yet to go, but that`s a trend. And voting is already under
way in most parts of the country.

For people who are favored to win their race, must feel great right
now, right? Because it`s sort of almost over. But for people who are
favored to lose right now, they are potentially facing being cut loose by
their donors. And that is happening to some people who you might not
expect to be getting cut loose. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Here`s a look at the state of the race in the swing states.
Here`s the new polling data we got today.

New Suffolk University poll showing President Obama in Virginia up by
two points.

Also brand new NBC/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist polling on three other
swing states showing President Obama in Nevada up by two. Showing
President Obama in New Hampshire up by seven. And showing President Obama
in North Carolina also up by two.

Because early voting has already started in a majority of swing
states, and in a majority of states, period, it`s not just a get excited
cliche now to say Election Day is upon us. Really, seriously. Get
excited. It`s really upon us. Election Day is already started. You can
tell it`s already started is in part because we`re in the triage period of
the campaign.

The time of the election year when people who are spending money in
hopes of effecting the election`s outcome, start cutting their losses,
hedging their bets and pulling their money out of specific races they see
as unwinnable, so they can use their money instead in places they think it
will make a difference.

"The Hill" newspaper reporting this week the Republican Party`s House
campaign committee had not yet reserved any ad time for a handful of
incumbent Republican congressmen. A sign that, quote, "It might take the
congressmen in question is beyond saving at this point."

"The Hill" also noting that the Democratic House Campaign Committee
has already canceled two weeks of its scheduled ad buy for a North Carolina
Democratic incumbent seen as vulnerable. Quote, "A sign he thinks he`s a
lost cause in the newly drawn heavily Republican district."

As this process starts to move forward, the emotion starts to ride
high for these candidates who are getting cut off, right? I mean, this is
the end of the campaign. If your funding is getting cut off, it could be
the end of the line for your candidacy. And so, people get touchy at
political triage time. They freak out.

And sometimes the way the freak-out manifests is the reporting gets
reversed. So, yesterday, in "The Hill`s" reporting in start of the triage
season, we saw this guy, Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois, among the
incumbents being triaged out of funding by the Republicans` House Campaign
Committee given the latest polling shows him losing to Tammy Duckworth in
his Illinois House district by 14 points, it didn`t seem a surprising
notion that the House Campaign Committee for the Republicans might cut old
Joe Walsh loose.

And I don`t know what happened overnight, but this morning, new news
on that. They`re not cutting him loose at all. After yesterday`s
reporting that he was getting cut loose, today, the Republican House
Campaign Committee says they are reserving that time for Joe Walsh.

Political triage is interesting to watch, right? It shows you just
how high the stakes are at this point in the campaign. Of course, this
year the money is not just coming from the candidates and the parties`
campaign committees. This year, a huge amount of the money being cycled
into the campaign comes from super PACs and other outside groups, groups
that presumably will be going some triaging of their own before long.

Right now, the news from the dark money world is mostly just about how
much of it there is. And there is a lot of it. On the Democratic-leaning
side, the billionaire George Soros announced today he`s giving 1 million
bucks to a super PAC that supports President Obama. He`s also giving
another half million bucks to super PACs supporting Democratic
congressional candidates.

On the Republican-leaning side, we have lots of new information on ad
buys being announced by these guys in the final stretch of the campaign.
You can see here on the screen. Most of the multimillion dollar ad buys in
swing states.

But in some states, they`re buying ads just in states that neighbor
swing states. Like this ad made by the American Future Fund. See, they`re
buying time in Minnesota, not necessarily because Minnesota is a swing
state, but the media markets they`re buying time in in Minnesota they think
overlap into Wisconsin and parts of Iowa.

So it`s a way to buy Wisconsin and Iowa on the cheap. They`ll be
buying time in Minnesota, but they`ll be seen in these swing state -- by
the swing state voters in Iowa and Wisconsin, trying to get more bang for
their advertising buck.

Bargain hunting makes sense if you`re looking to get in on the 2012
campaign ad wars with this much time left. It also makes sense in terms of
understanding how effective the dark money groups are going to be compared
to the actual campaigns.

The "Washington Post" is up with a piece this week on an underreported
advantage that the Obama side has over the Romney side. Romney`s financial
advantage is because of the massive amounts of cash being spent on his
behalf by the Republican Party and by outside interest groups. He has more
super PAC money working for him.

But President Obama has more of his own campaign money than the Romney
campaign has to spend. And it turns out not all money is created equal.
Campaign money, money that you raise yourself for your campaign, is easily,
more easily spent and sometimes more effectively spent than the super PAC
money. Local TV stations, see, are required to give the campaigns, the
real campaigns their best deals on advertising time. There`s no such
requirement in terms of the way they treat the super PACs.

So, por ejemplo, the "Washington Post" is reporting that in one Ohio
ad buy, set to run right before the election, the Obama campaign is paying
$125 for a TV spot. That spot is costing a conservative super PAC $900 --
$125 versus $900 for the same spot? That`s a huge markup for being a super
PAC.

What that means effectively is that Mr. Romney and his supporters may
have fewer resources than it appears they have because things will cost
more for them than they do for the Obama campaign. When your campaign is
so fueled by super PACs and outside money, you get less bang for your buck
than if you had more of your own money. But being fueled by outside money
carries a more ominous risk than the fact you`re not going to have any
bargains.

You also have do cede control to the super PACs when it comes to
triage, among other things. In terms of cutting their losses and hedging
their bets and pulling their money out of unwinnable races, the super PACs
have their own agendas, right?

Mitt Romney campaign is never going to cut and run from Mitt Romney.
But couldn`t the super PACs at some point if the polls stay the way they
are just decide Mitt Romney is running an unwinnable campaign, their money
might be better spent in down-ballot races trying to win the Senate or pick
up more races or something?

When the super PACs do their political triage, there`s an option to
cut Mitt Romney loose.

Joining us now for "The Interview," is an evil dark money overlord
named Bill Burton, who`s a senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC,
Priorities USA Action.

Your overlordship Bill, it`s good to have you here.

BILL BURTON, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Overlord is such a dirty word.

MADDOW: It sounds better than it looks. It looks nice. Then you say
it out loud.

BURTON: I don`t think it looks nice, either.

MADDOW: Did I get the basic point right there about, about the money
-- money outside the campaigns, money you`ve been raising and spending.
It`s sort of at a disadvantage. You have to pay more for your ad time than
the campaign does?

BURTON: That`s exactly right.

The campaigns pay a much cheaper rate than the super PACs are able to
pay. On the Republican side, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have hundreds
of millions of dollars so can put throwaway behind ads they`re doing and
can be up and they do still have an impact. But the truth is the campaigns
are allowed to spend at a much cheaper value.

MADDOW: I know that the legal distinction is that there`s not
supposed to be any coordination between PACs supporting a candidate, super
PACs supporting a candidate and the candidates` campaign.

Here`s the thing I don`t understand. I understand that means you
can`t sit down with David Axelrod or whatever and say, like OK, we`re all
going to focus on Bain.

BURTON: Right.

MADDOW: But can`t you just go second? Can`t you wait to see what the
Obama campaign is doing and just copy them and backstop them.

BURTON: Well, this has been a big disadvantage for the Republican
side, because I sort of feel bad for our counterparts over there, because
if you watch the Romney campaign, what do you think Mitt Romney`s message
and strategy is? And so, there`s a week in August where Crossroads had an
ad up about the debt, an ad up about jobs. Americans for Prosperity was
advertising on Solyndra. Mitt Romney was advertising on welfare reform.

So, if you`re on the super PAC side trying to figure out what they`re
trying to get across, you have no idea. Welfare reform, $10 million behind
that? Seriously?

MADDOW: But don`t they just have the option again of going second?
The Romney campaign has had trouble stays on message, picking a message and
sticking with it, which has been fun.

But if they could stick with it, couldn`t they and couldn`t you just
choose to backstop whatever the campaign is doing, therefore colluding only
in public by the virtue of the fact you were watching TV?

BURTON: Right, you absolutely could. You know, the truth is, you
know, there`s an ark of a story that you try to tell.

So on our side, you watch what the Obama campaign is doing. You watch
what we`re doing. There`s an ark to Mitt Romney`s story. He started in
his business career as a guy who, you know, bought companies, fired
workers, made millions of dollars, went to become the governor of
Massachusetts, didn`t do a great job, and here`s what we wants to do for
the country.

On the Republican side, the story that they tell about Mitt Romney is
there is no story about Mitt Romney. There`s one ad about the Olympics
over the course of the summer. The story they tell about Barack Obama is,
well, he`s all these bad things.

So, if you are trying to figure out, well, what is the strategy here?
How are we actually trying to win this race? It`s a lot more difficult on
their side.

That`s why they`ve been so inefficient with their money. The spending
has been erratic. The message has been all over the place. I think that`s
why they`re probably not having as big of an impact, as people thought they
would.

MADDOW: Did you guys know that was the arc you were going to tell
about Mitt Romney before the campaign started, sort of no matter what he
did. Did you have that mapped out before he became the nominee?

BURTON: We started that in December of last year actually, where we
knew that, you know, if he was going to make his business experience the
center argument for why he ought to be president of the United States, then
that`s probably where you ought to start talking about who he is, where he
comes from and what that business experience meant to middle class
Americans.

We also knew that the Ryan budget was the most toxic thing that he was
associated with.

And so, we knew we`d get to that because, you know, the priorities in
there are just so far off from where the American people.

MADDOW: You thought you would be sticking him with the Paul Ryan
budget before he picked Paul Ryan?

BURTON: We can. So, when he picked Paul Ryan, it was -- oh, OK.

MADDOW: I`m giving myself Fridays off. OK.

BURTON: Not quite Fridays off but it did make the job more straight
forward.

MADDOW: And George Soros pledged a million bucks to you today and
another half million dollars to PAC supporting down ticket Democrats.

Why did he do that today and why didn`t he do that before and what`s
the consequence for you of him doing that?

BURTON: Well, the consequence is that there`s another million dollars
that we`re going to be able to spend to help President Obama get reelected.

MADDOW: What else? Does it have a knock on effect? Does it bring
other rich people, other rich Democrats who gave to President Obama before,
or have them give them to him now, does it bring them out of the woodwork?

BURTON: You know, I do think that there is a class of individuals who
look to see -- well, who else is getting engaged here this the moment where
we need to get involved.

And truth is we are getting into this period where you are at the last
moment where big investments can really matter in the race.

MADDOW: Iowa is voting today.

BURTON: Iowa is voting today. Ohio starts voting next week. And so,
you can make investments in television advertisements. You can still
increase your ad buys that you got out there.

And so, I think a lot of Democrats are feeling the election is here.
It`s very close. And even though Mitt Romney has not performed very well
over the last two weeks, to say it lightly, the president is barely
knocking on 50 percent in a lot of these states.

And so, you know, this race is still going to be incredibly close, and
Democrats are feeling the pressure and are concerned and want to make sure
that somebody`s got the president`s back out there and sort of getting
engaged.

MADDOW: When people are talking about giving maybe a seven figure
donation, do they say the same kind of things about the race and about the
politics that people who give normal size donations give? I mean, you are
on the campaign side of it with normal donors four years ago. Is that the
same kind of conversation, same kind of concerns? Or are really rich
people concerned about different things?

BURTON: It`s mutually the same thing. I mean, if are a Democrat who
is giving any sizable donation to the campaign or to the super PAC, it`s
because you care about things like equality and the environment and judges
and choice and contraception, and things that Democrats really feel
strongly about. And that`s whether it`s a huge contribution or a big but
not huge contribution.

MADDOW: I hear you. Just real quick, the master of spin, your evil
lordship -- senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA
Action, Bill Burton -- good to see you, man.

BURTON: Good to see you, too.

MADDOW: All right. Still ahead tonight, the best new thing in the
world. Now with 92 percent more world global indignation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Best new thing in the world.

All right. This week in New York is an event we look forward to all
year here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. It is the day the president of Iran
addressed the U.N. And as much as we look forward to this event every
year, this year was more exciting than usual because this week was
presumably the last time it will ever happen, because by this time next
year, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not going to be Iran`s president anymore. So,
this was kind of it.

Of course, the reason everyone gets excited for this time of year is
not Mr. Ahmadinejad`s crazy Holocaust-denying offensive speeches
themselves, they themselves are not the attraction. The reason we circle
this week in red pen on the calendar every year, is not because of
Ahmadinejad`s inevitably ridiculously offensive speeches. But because of
the spectacle of everybody walking out on his speeches. It`s walkout on
Mahmoud week in New York.

This is how that day was celebrated last year. Ahmadinejad at the
podium, delegations from several countries led by the United States
ostentatiously packing up their papers and walking out why he was speaking,
making sure the walkout was super un-subtle so it could not be mistaken for
lots of people just needing to go to the bathroom at the same time.

And it`s more of that that we were looking forward to this week,
right? Yes, it is walk out on Mahmoud this week. Until we saw this
headline: U.S. delegation will not attend Ahmadinejad`s U.N. speech.

How can you do this to us? You can`t walk out if you are not sitting
there.

Well, here`s what it looked like on TV, the camera cutting to empty
chairs at the U.S. delegations area during Ahmadinejad`s speech. And it is
insulting, just ask Clint Eastwood, empty chairs, right?

But it doesn`t have the same flare of getting up and storming out
while he talks and pretends the walkout isn`t happening. But the headlines
this week said that Canada`s delegation did walk out in the way delegations
traditionally walk out on walkout on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad week. But we
scoured the video from the U.N. this week and we can never actually find
the footage of the Canadians leaving. Also, the "Reuter`s" picture caption
on this says, members of Canada`s U.N. delegation walk out prior to Iran`s
President Ahmadinejad address.

So whether it was a walk out or a boycott, this week was not the usual
fun for the walkout on Mahmoud week spectacular moment of international
theater we have all come to know and love.

But here`s the thing -- for those of you who look forward to this
every year as much as we do, we have a slight present a greatest hits, if
you will. So, say, there was 2010 when first the United States started to
go followed by Britain, Spain, the Swedes, until the floodgates open and
total of 33 delegations walked out right in his face. Even Costa Rica
snubbed Iran that year.

Or there was a really good walkout in May of that same year at the
United Nations conference, 22 nations giving Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the
diplomatic equivalent of the one finger salute while he kept talking.

My personal favorite was 2009 at the U.N. convention on racism in
Geneva. Dozens of diplomats ostentatiously heading for the nearest exit,
which it happened to take them in front of his podium to the sound of much
applause.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has another nine months in office -- so good. He
has another nine months in office in Iran, so maybe we will get to
celebrate walk out on Mahmoud Day somewhere else in the world between now
and his inevitable and welcomed obscurity. But until then, I actually take
great comfort in the greatest hits of the world showing him exactly what we
think of him to his face.

I got to say there is the grave pleasure of seeing him leave town.
And that really is the best thing in the world today, particularly for
those of us who live in New York. Good bye, Mahmoud. Bye.

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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