updated 10/24/2012 10:50:01 AM ET 2012-10-24T14:50:01

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 23, 2012

Guests: Ted Strickland, Robert Reich, D.L. Hughley

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: And so, a 21st century presidential
campaign comes down to a fight over horses and bayonets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: The final debate now over at last.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: And the presidential debates are over.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: It`s two weeks until Election Day.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Two weeks left and every moment count.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Fresh off the stage, it`s on to a 14-day
push.

MITCHELL: The campaign is now in a frantic.

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC ANCHOR: A full-scale, all out --

MITCHELL: Nonstop.

BASHIR: All important.

ROBERTS: Campaign push.

BASHIR: With dueling events happening this very hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both candidates are on the trail this hour.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney`s
foreign policy has been wrong and reckless.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We haven`t heard an agenda for
the president.

OBAMA: I laid out a plan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The president has
not articulated.

OBAMA: I`m proud to talk about what`s in my plan.

RYAN: What he would do in a second term.

OBAMA: If you want to take a look, check it out.

JANSING: Do you play it safe?

RYAN: We need to fix our problems.

JANSING: Do you go more aggressive?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no quit
in America.

JANSING: Do you take some chances?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to control your destiny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of talk about momentum in this race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These national polls indicate momentum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to control your destiny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both campaigns are fooling themselves if they
think momentum is a factor.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: You can scratch two more states off the
list of toss-ups.

MITCHELL: And now there are seven.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven battleground states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The battle ground has changed one again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems to me there are seven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colorado or Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: North Carolina, Nevada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Virginia and Colorado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there really are only one.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.

TODD: This is all about winning Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, Akron,
you name it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know if Mitt Romney gets there.

TODD: Gets where the president and Biden are today.

OBAMA: God bless you Ohio.

BIDEN: We`re moving forward.

OBAMA: We`ll win the Montgomery County again.

BIDEN: America is coming back.

OBAMA: We`ll win Ohio again.

BIDEN: And I`ve got news for Governor Romney.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: If you don`t run Chris
Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we`ll lose.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: With just 14 days until the election, President Obama
began the day campaigning in Florida and then flew to Ohio where he tried
to reinforce the Obama message in last night`s debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: America needs leadership that is strong and steady.
Unfortunately, Governor Romney`s foreign policy has been wrong and
reckless. You heard him last night, he was all over the map. During the
debate he said he didn`t want more troops in Iraq, but he was caught on a
video just a few months ago saying it was unthinkable not to leave 20,000
troops in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is that caught-on-video moment that President
Obama is referring to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This president`s failure to put in place a Status of Forces
agreement to allowing 10,000 to 20,000 troops to stay in Iraq?
Unthinkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Dr. Obama thinks he saw even more symptoms of Romnesia
last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If you say that you love American cars during the debate,
you`re a car guy, but you wrote an article titled "Let Detroit go
bankrupt", you definitely have a case of Romnesia. There`s a cure, but
you`ve got to vote to make sure that the medicine is there for Romnesia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Vice President Joe Biden is still humble enough to admit
that last night`s debate left him confused.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Last night, you saw Governor Romney rushing to agree with the
president on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria. He disavowed the foreign policy
he`s been running on for the past two years, just like that.

Half the time, I didn`t know whether Governor Romney was there to
debate Barack Obama or endorse Barack Obama. It was hard to tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Fifty-nine-point-two million television viewers watched
last night`s debate, according to Nielsen, down from 65.6 million who
watched the second presidential debate.

A CBS poll shows that 53 percent of uncommitted voters believe
President Obama won and only 23 percent believe Romney one, a 30-point
advantage for the president. A "Reuters" poll shows that 47 percent of
registered voters believe President Obama won the debate, 31 percent
believe Romney won. And a PPP poll shows that 53 percent of swing state
debate watchers believe President Obama won the debate, 42 percent believe
Mitt Romney won.

Today, Nate Silver of "The New York Times" "FiveThirtyEight" blog
forecasts that on November 6th, President Obama has a 70.3 percent chance
of winning re-election and President Obama will win 291 Electoral College
votes, and Mitt Romney will win 247.

Alex Wagner, I know you work while Rush Limbaugh is on. You actually
overlap with him.

WAGNER: I actually have him in my ear.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: You can`t miss a minute.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You`ve missed the show a few times.

O`DONNELL: So you cut deeply into his first hour of ratings.

WAGNER: I do.

O`DONNELL: Therefore it is my job to deliver to you what Rush has
said today. He figured out, it took him a while but he figured out
Romney`s debate strategy last night. Let`s listen to Rush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: A lot of people on our side
thought he agreed with Obama too much. A lot of people on our side didn`t
like that debate last night.

Let me just tell you, if my circle of friends is any indication. A
lot of people thought Romney got his clock cleaned, didn`t like it at all.
Think the election is lost. I`m not kidding you.

Once I understood the strategy that the Romney camp was employing,
then the whole thing made sense to me. And the original disquietedness and
uncomfortableness and dissatisfaction that I was sensing melted away. And
I had an entirely different view -- I thought from the get-go Obama looked
mean. I thought he looked petulant. I thought he did not look likable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Romney`s strategy was to make Obama look mean. It took
Rush all morning to figure that out. It didn`t come to him right away.
So, don`t forget, you know, to make perfect sense, to you right away,
because you have to think about it.

WAGNER: Theories like that don`t --

O`DONNELL: You`ve got to think about it.

WAGNER: Lawrence, who is in Rush Limbaugh`s circle of friends? That
gaggle of crows.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: That`s my favorite thing. He says, if my circle of
friends is any indication, no, Rush, it`s not.

WAGNER: That gaggle of crows.

HAYES: PPP has been tracking the circle of Rush`s friends every day
throughout the election.

WAGNER: It`s like honestly people on the left thought Obama threw the
first debate so he could come back hard in the second. I mean, this is
nonsense theorization. Mitt Romney did get his clock cleaned but far be it
from anybody on the right to give the president any kind of credit.

The idea here is that the operating principle is Mitt Romney is going
to pivot as hard to the center as he possibly can, to the point of giving
President Obama a bear hug on foreign policy on every single issue that
pertains to American`s role on the global stage, whether that`s Iran,
Pakistan, Afghanistan, the usage of drones. I mean, there was no daylight
between the two.

And I will say the only brilliance if there is brilliance in that, is
that it is very difficult for the president to make a strong case against
the Republican Party when someone is bear hugging you that closely. It is
like trying to get a glass of water from the mirage in the desert. There
is no there there.

The burden of proof lies with the American voters. Do people remember
who Mitt Romney was not but two weeks ago? I hope and think they do. We
will see in the polls.

O`DONNELL: Chris, what I`m left is the question of what should Romney
have said? You know, he had embraced the Obama positions, all of which are
better positions than the Romney positions. So, what choice did he have?
Stick with the bad position that can scare people?

HAYES: Totally the right strategy. I think it was -- look. The
problem that Mitt Romney has had for the duration of the two years he`s
been running for office, except for, say, the last three weeks, is that he
has a lot of positions that aren`t very popular. And he had to keep
hammering those positions because he constantly had to shore up his right.

At a certain point, they got desperate enough that they basically said
go do your thing and now, he`s doing his thing, and they`ve made the
correct strategic choices in so far as the American public is weary. The
American public doesn`t want to hear you talk about how we should have more
troops in Iraq and how we shouldn`t come back from Afghanistan and how we
should essentially have a red line with Iran that might put Iran over that
red line today as we speak.

They don`t want to hear that because they are unpopular and also
terrible policy positions, and so they are strategically wise to disavow
them in the cynical, narrow political sense to them.

The question is people will ask eventually, do you have -- is there a
single fixed principle do you have? Do you have any -- seriously, there`s
something almost kind of breathtaking about it. I would actually rather a
politician than have no principles then have really strongly believed in
terrible principles.

But there`s also something terrifying --

O`DONNELL: You`ve got your candidate.

HAYES: But there is also something terrifying about someone who
really manifestly and with a kind of, almost unnerving convincingness will
tell you something as if he hasn`t changed his mind.

Rachel made this point last night. You can change your mind on an
issue if you come and say, look, I was wrong, you know? And we saw
Democrats go through that with Iraq, right? But they had to have their
come to Jesus moment, they have to talk about I was wrong, now I`m right,
I`ve changed my mind.

But Romney does time and time again, if he just pretends he never had
the position before. And that is very unnerving.

WAGNER: And we`re not talking about economic issues or positions on
health care or the like. We`re talking about war.

O`DONNELL: There was a giant Romney behind you on the big board.
He`s actually giving a live speech somewhere where he`s not saying anything
interesting. The giant Romney back, by the way. As soon as he says
something interesting we`ll let him interrupt you.

HAYES: Perfect.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, the giant Romney is over your shoulder. Don`t
let that affect you in any way.

WAGNER: He won`t. If it was a giant Rush it would be different issue
entirely.

But to your point, Chris, and to Rachel`s point before, there is no
sort of -- we talk about who is the most despicable person in politics,
someone that just sort of say terrible things, or some that sells their
morals up river at the drop of the hat.

And with regards to Mitt Romney, there`s been no sort of seeming
deliberation over any of these issues. It is as the president said, a
whitewashing of history and a Romnesia, and that is incredibly
disconcerting as long as you remember that he started from a different
place and that`s the big question, right?

If you look at the numbers in terms of viewership on all these
debates, 52 million or 53 million people is a lot of people. We are hoping
they were watching before the debates even began.

HAYES: Rachel`s points last night, when you talk about 60,000 plus
troops whose lives are on the line and that this is something you make a
calculation about 15 days before the election because there`s a certain
amount of bad faith. I think that`s the thing I find so troublesome. I
think it`s strategically wise, it`s been executed fairly politically
deftly.

But there`s a fundamental bad faith in it that is really disconcerting
and unnerving. And the question is: Do people get that? Is there a kind
of visceral appreciation of the fact that he is showing up at your door
telling you whatever it is you want to here.

O`DONNELL: But, Alex, the Obama counter to this is don`t trust him,
don`t trust him. But they`re speaking to what is now left, this tiny
sliver of undecideds and those people don`t trust politicians. That`s why
they`re undecided.

They don`t trust President Obama. They don`t trust their local mayor.
So I`m not sure a trust argument works with people in that kind of voting
pattern.

WAGNER: I think that`s true. You`ve seen and you`ve played a lot of
sound from Obama and Biden on the stump today. They are putting heart out
there like they have not before on this campaign trail.

Now, Joe Biden has a proclivity towards aviator sunglasses which may
or may not win some --

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: There all the time, he`s channeling Goose from "Top Gun",
perhaps. But it is this idea that you can believe in Obama, that he has
the heart, he has legitimacy, he has this sort of moral compass that Mitt
Romney doesn`t have.

I will say when delivering these lines, which fundamentally are
campaign lines and which Obama delivered last night I think was aplomb,
there is something fundamentally more maybe believable and convincing in
them. Hopefully that sways independent voters. I don`t know.

HAYES: I think also that they`ve done a very good job. At this point
and it`s a very apt point by you about the undecideds don`t trust
politicians.

There is a force to incumbency, there is an authority that comes with
being the president of the United States that they have been leaning on
harder and harder. You saw it in the moment, the very powerful moment in
the second debate when he said, you know, when he`s talking about the
deaths in Benghazi, and he put that on the table, like I`m the president, I
agree to those caskets, and you`ve seen him use that card, which is
essentially a trump card when you`re an incumbent playing it more and more.

And I think that, you know, at this point, Lord knows what is in the
mind of those few undecided voters.

O`DONNELL: Alex Wagner and Chris Hayes, apparently our control room
has decided that every word you said is more important that any word that
the giant Romney was saying. Therefore, you have not been interrupted.

HAYES: Meanwhile, the giant Romney has been saying, come home,
America. He`s decided to completely go all in.

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for keeping the giant Romney quiet and
thanks for joining us.

HAYES: It`s our great pleasure.

WAGNER: It`s our great pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Coming up: the Obama campaign`s target -- Ohio, Ohio and
Ohio. And D.L. Huguely is back with a look at last night`s debate.

And in the rewrite, how another comedian may have been the source for
President Obama`s best line of the night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last night, the presidential candidates were fighting over
foreign policy, but they were really fighting over Ohio. We`ll show you
how, next.

And in the rewrite tonight, we will reveal the comedy writer who came
up with the horses and bayonets line. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We`ve already created 5.2 million jobs. We`ve already brought
back the automobile industry. The president and I worked so hard to rescue
the automobile industry right here in Ohio, more than 100,000 jobs are
directly supported by that industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Joe Biden today in Toledo.

This is what the battle for Ohio sounded like last night at the
debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I said these companies need to go through a managed
bankruptcy and in that process, they can get government help and government
guarantees. But they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess
costs and the debt burden that they`ve built up --

OBAMA: Governor, that`s no not what you said.

ROMNEY: Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help
the industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I
would liquidate the industry, of course not. Of course not.

OBAMA: Let`s check the record.

ROMNEY: That`s the height of silliness.

OBAMA: Let`s check the record.

ROMNEY: I have never said that I would liquidate the industry.

OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don`t forget.

You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance
to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy. You said
that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn`t true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That exchange caused a huge spike in positive sentiment
online for President Obama, as you can see from this graphic from Taykey.

The Obama campaign is now run this closing argument ad in Ohio and six
other battleground states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There`s just no quit in America and you`re seeing that right
now. Over 5 million new jobs. Exports up 41 percent. Home values,
rising. Our auto industry, back. And our heroes are coming home.

We`re not there yet, but we`ve made real progress and the last thing
we should do is turn back now.

Here`s my plan for the next four years: making education and training
a national priority, building on our manufacturing boom, boosting American-
made energy, reducing the deficits responsibly by cutting where we can and
asking the wealthy to pay a little more, and ending the war in Afghanistan
so we can do some nation-building here at home. That`s the right path.

So read my plan, compare it to Governor Romney`s and decide which is
better for you. It`s an honor to be your president and I`m asking for your
vote. So together we can keep moving America forward.

I`m Barack Obama and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now are former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, an
Obama campaign national co-chair, and former labor secretary, Robert Reich,
a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Governor Strickland, I just want to read so we can all remember what
Mitt Romney actually wrote in that famous "New York Times" op-ed piece in
2008. He said, "If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that
their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American
automotive industry goodbye. It won`t go overnight, but its demise will be
virtually guaranteed. Without that bailout, Detroit will need to
drastically restructure itself."

Governor Strickland, does anyone in Ohio really think that Mitt
Romney`s non-plan for the auto industry would have the auto industry where
it is today?

TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Well, there may be one or
two. But most Ohioans understand what this president has done for Ohio and
for Michigan and Indiana and many other states where this industry is so
vitally important.

It was the president. He was right last night. Mitt Romney was
trying to take some credit.

I mean, he should be embarrassed. Not necessarily for the position he
took. That was his position. But to try to, as the president said,
airbrush history, rewrite what actually happened, to take credit for
something that he drastically opposed, strongly opposed, is just unseemly.
But we`ve seen that throughout the last two or three weeks with his etch-a-
sketch, you know, remaking of himself.

O`DONNELL: Robert Reich, given the president`s history on the
subject, given Mitt Romney`s history on the subject, what would you advise
Mitt Romney to say under these circumstances?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: I think Mitt Romney be would do
well to be honest and say, look, I was wrong. I didn`t want to bail out
the industry but the president did and the president was right and I`ve
come clean. You know, I have enough integrity, enough moral fiber to be
able to say that. And I also don`t believe the American people are so
stupid as to believe that I didn`t say what I actually said just a few
months ago.

In fact -- but, of course, you`re dealing with a chameleon. You`re
dealing with somebody who is willing to say anything, anywhere, any place,
any time to anybody in order to get votes and that`s why it`s so important
in Ohio and around the country for the Democrats, for President Obama, for
everybody who believes in this country to make sure that Romney is held
accountable for what he has said, what he believes.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what he said last night, as expected, he
made that day one promise again about Chinese currency manipulation. Let`s
listen to that.

STRICKLAND: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`ve watched year in and year out as companies have shut down
and people have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same
rules, in part by holding down artificially the value of their currency.
It holds down the prices of their goods. It means our goods aren`t as
competitive and we lose jobs.

That`s got to end. They`re making some progress. They need to make
more. That`s why on day one, I will label them a currency manipulator
which allows us to apply tariffs where they`re taking jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Governor Strickland, we`ve made more progress on Chinese
currency under President Obama than we did under the entire eight years
with George W. Bush. But what I keep wondering about, do voters in Ohio
understand this currency manipulation argument?

STRICKLAND: Well, I don`t know if they understand that. But they
understand Mitt Romney`s history. They understand that he`s the guy who
outsourced jobs to China.

I mean, Mitt Romney is trying to sound tough. He`s trying to sound
mature. But quite frankly, I think he comes across as, you know, a guy who
really doesn`t know much about foreign policy. What he knows is how to
outsource jobs, how to take his own personal wealth, and enrich himself by
putting that wealth in the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or China or wherever.

Ohioans have figured this guy out. And I think that`s why, although
the polls are tight here in Ohio, I believe Ohio is going to do the right
thing. This president has stood up for us, as has Senator Sherrod Brown
with this trade issue.

You know, the tire issue, which the president mentioned last night, he
helped save jobs here in Ohio and in America by stopping the importation of
these cheap Chinese tires. Mitt Romney in his book criticized the
president, said it was tragic, the wrong thing to have done, bad for our
economy and now, he`s trying -- you know, two weeks before an election,
he`s trying to sound tough on China.

It`s just almost -- I don`t know. He ought to be embarrassed. You
know, as the secretary said, this man ought to have the courage and the
integrity to stand up for what he has been saying for the last two years.
And not try to reinvent himself a handful of days before this election.

O`DONNELL: Robert Reich -- go ahead.

REICH: Well, I was just going to say, Lawrence, that the only
consistent threat in Romney`s approach to economics and approach to
basically American industry is the bottom line. He says and he still
believes that corporations are people. And he still believes that the way
you measure the health of an economy is by the profitability of the
corporations.

That`s why when he was pressed on his position with regard to General
Motors and Chrysler, last night, what he said was he thought bankruptcy
would be better than the kind of government support that actually save
jobs.

The problem is bankruptcy would have generated huge employment losses.
It would have generated maybe a tiny little company that was profitable but
it would not have protected American jobs. This is what this man doesn`t
understand.

O`DONNELL: And Steve Rattner was on "HARDBALL" earlier tonight. He
was there working on this bailout for the president, and he said it was so
bad at that time, he said, they didn`t have money to pay for their
supplies, they would close their does doors and liquidate. They couldn`t
pay their electric bills. They couldn`t pay their payroll. That`s how bad
it was when the president intervened.

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and former Labor Secretary Robert
Reich, thank you both for joining me.

REICH: Thanks, Lawrence.

STRICKLAND: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, NBC News is now officially narrowing the battle
ground states to seven. We`ll take a look at those states next with
Krystal Ball and Steve Kornacki.

And in the rewrite, we will unmask the comedy writer who come up with
the horses and bayonets line, the line of the night in last night`s debate.

And later, D.L. Hughley will tell us exactly what Romney was thinking
when the president was lecturing him about horses and bayonets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In 1973, the year after running the most liberal
presidential campaign in the history of the Democratic party, South Dakota
Senator George McGovern negotiated with Russell Means (ph) to try to end
the arms standoff in the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, on the
reservation where Russell Means was born. George McGovern was born in
Avon, South Dakota, and grew up to be a United States senator and the 1972
Democratic nominee for president.

Russell Means was born 18 years later on the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation and grew up to be a leader of the American Indian Movement, a
group that protested the American presidency`s history of signing and then
violating government treaties with American tribes.

George McGovern was 90 years old when he died on Sunday in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota. Russell Means died the next day on the Pine Ridge
Indian Reservation. He was 72. According to the "New York Times," a few
months before he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer last year, Russell
Means cut off his braids. He said it was a gesture of mourning for his
people.

"The Sioux believe that hair holds memories and mourners cut their
hair to release those memories and to release the people in those memories
to the spirit world."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Toledo.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Henderson. Thank you, Nevada. Great to be with
you!

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey Colorado!
Colorado! Hey Colorado? Are you ready to help us win this thing?

OBAMA: We will within Palm Beach County again. We`ll win Florida
again. We`ll finish what we started. We will win this election. And
we`ll remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest
nation on Earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, the new, smaller battle ground
map. With just two weeks until election day, the new NBC News battleground
map finds the race narrowing down to just seven states: Colorado, Florida,
Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Nevada is now leaning
towards President Obama, while North Carolina is leaning towards Mitt
Romney.

National polls find the two candidates tied. The new "Washington
Post" poll has the two tied, 48.5 to 48.4 percent. A new Reuters/Ipsos
poll find President Obama leading by just one point, which really is a tie,
47 to 46 percent. The Reuters poll also projects that President Obama will
Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, and win the presidency with 322 electoral
college votes.

Krystal, Paul Ryan`s not too practiced at this thing about campaigning
in more than one state. His whole life, he`s just had to say hello
Wisconsin. Now -- didn`t it seem like he was trying to convince himself
that he was in Colorado there?

BALL: It seemed a little odd, like he was working himself up into the
momentum. Honestly, I`ve actually been talking to a number of moderate
Republicans, sort of traditional, north eastern moderate Rockefeller
Republicans who are uncomfortable with Paul Ryan, who feel that he`s not
ready to be commander in chief, and who feel also that his budget is too
far to the right, too extreme and not what they want the Republican party
to be championing. I actually don`t think the Obama campaign has done a
good enough job of underscoring just how unprepared Paul Ryan would be to
take the reins.

O`DONNELL: Steve, what I love about this narrowing is I don`t have to
pay attention to as many states. I personally have decided to just pay
attention to just Ohio, so I`m relying on you to watch the rest of those
states. But this is -- it`s becoming more and more real as we get closer.

KORNACKI: Yeah. I think the way I`m trying to look at this map and
the way I`m understanding it is, look, Obama is ahead in the electoral
college right now. Romney -- basically there are two levels of things that
Romney needs to accomplish here. The first is there`s -- you look at these
Obama `08 states that he needs to flip. I think there`s two levels of
them.

One, you start with North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Colorado. I
think he`s well positioned to take back North Carolina. He`s probably
ahead in Florida right now. And I would put Virginia and Colorado
basically in the toss-up category right now.

To get past the first level, Romney needs to take all of those. Then
we can get into the second level where it becomes he can take Ohio on top
of that and he`s the next president, or he can take Wisconsin plus New
Hampshire, Iowa or Nevada, and he becomes the president that way.

It`s plausible, but that gives you a sense of, you know, Obama has a
lot of opportunities here to ruin Mitt Romney`s path completely, starting
with pick off Colorado, pick off Virginia, pick off one of those and we
might not even have to talk about Ohio.

O`DONNELL: Crystal, this weekend in Florida -- you know, when there`s
a Monday debate in Florida, you have to go there for the whole weekend, I
find.

BALL: Is that how that works? I went to Kentucky.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. So when I wasn`t on the beach, I was watching TV
and catching these Florida ads. And the Obama ads, pro Obama ads -- a lot
of attack ads against him, but the pro Obama ads are kind of all targeted
to women. And it`s all about Planned Parenthood. It`s just quoting Romney
saying "get rid of Planned Parenthood, get rid of Planned Parenthood."

We have new debate news tonight from Republican world on these issues,
because we`ve had this debate in Indiana, in the Indiana Senate race, where
Richard Mourdock, who is the candidate there, endorsed by Romney, said
tonight in the debate that rape pregnancies -- I`m going to quote him now -
- "are something that God intended to happen."

That has forced the Romney campaign to immediately come out, while
we`ve been on the air tonight, and say, in a statement only, "Governor
Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock`s comments and they do not reflect
his views."

This is one of those things for the Romney campaign where this issue
will keep coming at them, not just from the Obama ads, but also from within
the party.

BALL: Right. And they just thought that they had gotten past having
to talk about Todd Akin and his comments. Now we have Richard Mourdock to
remind voters of how extreme the entire Republican party -- these are not
isolated incidents. I honestly don`t know why we`re shocked. When someone
--

O`DONNELL: I didn`t look shocked.

BALL: You didn`t look shocked. In general, a lot of people were
shocked, though. This is the Republican party platform: no abortions, no
exceptions, even in cases of rape or incest. And these guys have to find
some way to justify it to themselves.

O`DONNELL: We actually have the video coming in from the debate. So
we can actually listen to exactly the way he said this. Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: The bottom line is that
if, in fact, when a man would leave a woman, the mother of his children --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It turns out we don`t. The control room is still working
on last night`s debate. So they don`t have it. Steve, this is also a very
risky situation for the Republican Senate. The Republicans should never
lose a Senate race in Indiana. And they can do it.

KORNACKI: You start to get the feeling that God`s intent is for
Republicans not to take over the U.S. Senate, because this is going to be
the second straight election now, 2010, now 2012, when the Republicans went
way too far to the right in their primaries. They nominated candidates who
screwed up races they should never lose.

Richard Lugar would have been a shoe-in to win reelection by 60 points
if he had been the nominee this year. Missouri -- Claire McCaskill was
easily the most endangered. She was a goner. You pick a Republican out of
the phone book and Claire McCaskill is out of the Senate these year. Those
two seats now, I would say after tonight, look like they`re going to be in
Democratic hands.

O`DONNELL: The control room now believes that they have it. So let`s
just see if we are sitting staring at monitors or actually going to hear
this piece of the debate.

BALL: Exciting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOURDOCK: I too certainly stand for life. I know there are some who
disagree. And I respect their point of view. But I believe that life
begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in
the case of that life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long
time. But I came to realize life is a gift from God. And I think even
when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something
that God intended to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Krystal, you have the floor.

BALL: This is why the president has such a huge advantage on issues
of women`s health, on issues of abortion, and has maintained such a large
gender gap, because people are not comfortable with where the Republican
party has gone on woman`s right to choose. And I look at my home state of
Virginia. Tim Kaine, when he rain for governor in 2005, the landscape of
the abortion debate has changed so dramatically that back then when he ran,
the first thing he said at the top of his issues page was I have a faith
based opposition to abortion, and then went on to explain his position.

Now he leads with I will strongly support a women`s right to choose
and uphold Roe v. Wade. I`m paraphrasing there. But the landscape has
shifted so dramatically because Republicans have gone way out on a limb
where Americans are just totally uncomfortable.

O`DONNELL: And we now have the latest statement from candidate
Mourdock after the debate. He has said, "God does not want rape. And by
no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing. And for
anyone to twist my words" -- what? "For anyone to twist my words otherwise
is absurd and sick." Thank you, Richard Mourdock.

(CROSS TALK)

KORNACKI: -- when two major candidates for U.S. Senate had to clarify
that yes, we do think rape is a terrible thing.

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

BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Mitt Romney is following a Republican
presidential campaign tradition of attacking the United States military.
That`s in tonight`s Rewrite.

And D.L. Hughley is back with his take on the debate last night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, horses and bayonets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think Governor Romney maybe hasn`t spent enough time looking
at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that
we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer
horses and bayonets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: I asked the president`s senior adviser, David Plouffe,
last night who wrote that line. And he with a straight face said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR ADVISOR, OBAMA FOR AMERICA: Well, the president
comes up with all the best lines, Lawrence?

O`DONNELL: He does come up with that? That`s the official spin after
the fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The horses and bayonets line is so good, it`s so perfect,
that it has the whiff of comedy writer about it. Team Obama knew that Mitt
Romney was going to do his bit about having fewer ships than we had in
1916, because Romney says that pretty much everywhere he goes. They knew
the president had to be ready with something.

And so someone came up with that devastating line about horses and
bayonets. There was something familiar about the horses thing when I heard
it. And today, I reached for a book that speech writers have nearby when
searching for funny ways of framing political ideas: Al Franken`s "lies and
the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,"
written in 2004, before he ran for and won a seat in the United States
Senate.

In a chapter entitled "Bush Can`t Lose with Clinton`s Military,"
Senator Franken agrees with this statement by Dick Cheney. "A commander in
chief leads the military built by those who came before him. There is
little that he or his defense secretary can do to improve the force they
have to deploy. It is all the work of previous administrations."

Senator Franken points out that Bush administration went to war in
Afghanistan nine months after taking office. The U.S. military quickly
took control of a country that the Soviet Union could never control and
that the British failed to subdue in 1919, and the U.S. military did that
in a matter of weeks. That was not the Bush/Cheney military that so
quickly succeeded in Afghanistan before the Bush administration let that
success slip away by shifting its military attention to Iraq.

The military that the Bush/Cheney administration deployed with
complete confidence in Afghanistan and later in Iraq was Bill Clinton`s
military, the same military that the Bush/Cheney campaign chose to lie
about every day of our last peace time presidential campaign. Candidate
Bush repeatedly said that our military was at its lowest state of readiness
since Pearl Harbor. On August 3rd, 2000, Bush said, quote, "if called on
by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would
have to report not ready for duty, sir."

That is when George W. Bush thought he was running for the job of
peace-time commander in chief. He found out soon enough that the military
was ready for duty, the military that Bill Clinton handed him. The Franken
book remind us that Republicans running against a Democratic White House
always attack the military. They always claim that the military is not
ready for the challenges the world is presenting. They always claim we
need to ramp up military spending.

What Mitt Romney is doing now is straight out of the George W. Bush
campaign and the Ronald Reagan campaign. And what President Obama said
about it last night is pretty much straight out of this book. In making
the point that it is pointless to compare individual budget items in the
Defense Department budget over time, like, say, the number of ships in 1916
versus the number of ships today, Al Franken, then still a comedy writer,
produced a graph comparing the defense budgets of Abraham Lincoln and
Ronald Reagan on one item: horses.

In 1864, President Lincoln requested 188,718 new horses. And 120
years later, President Reagan, to his eternal shame, requested only three.
Which led Al Franken to ask in his book, "why did Reagan gut our military?"
And so, to the list of those who worked hard helping President Obama
prepare for last night`s debate, a list that includes Senator John Kerry,
David Axelrod and self several others, perhaps we should add the name of
the man whose comedy writing may have planted the seed for the best line of
the night, Al Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You mention the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer
ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and
bayonets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: OK, let`s see it one more time, the line of the night, the
most memorable line of all three presidential debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer
ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer horses and
bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these
things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have ships
that go under water, nuclear submarines.

So the question is not a game of Battleship where we`re counting
ships.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: D.L., look at this guy. What -- now, you got your choice.
You an look at the big board picture if that helps you. But what is that
man thinking during this lecture?

D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: Right there he acts like the model for Ernie
from Sesame Street. I think he was thinking damn horses. I think he
clearly knew that he got beat.

O`DONNELL: This is what this guy looks like when he really hates
somebody.

HUGHLEY: He looks so constipated to me, it`s ridiculous. I said that
last night. It was almost like he was determined to paint a face on it no
matter what happened. But that clearly is not -- I thought it was his last
best shot to really kind of seal the deal. And I think that he, to me, him
and Romney -- him and Obama switched places. I think he was Obama from the
first debate last night.

O`DONNELL: He was trying to play it safe.

HUGHLEY: He was trying to play -- and just, I mean, lied when the
truth will do. I never wanted to close that; I love cars. Like, you know,
people -- you can do that and I guess that`s a political exercise, and it`s
one that they constantly engage in. But they forget people now have Smart
Phones. We have so many ways that a person at home can just pull up what
you said and know that it`s -- you can`t look like you`re blatantly trying
to be deceitful.

O`DONNELL: There was a moment the families go up on the stage
afterwards and Taggert Romney, who last week on a radio show -- his idea of
a joke was to say, oh, I wanted to go down and take a swing at the
president when he says my father was a liar. He was very nice when he went
up there. President was very graceful to him. They shook hand and had a
moment. I don`t suppose there was any apology there.

HUGHLEY: It`s easy to say something behind someone`s back. Harder to
say it in their face. And I actually heard that I did kind of say that he
was sorry and out of line. So I don`t know.

O`DONNELL: I would be surprised if the president even heard about it.
It was one of those things that we play around with.

HUGHLEY: I think he heard about it.

O`DONNELL: I did my joke about it. which Romney world --

HUGHLEY: It didn`t seem like a joke.

O`DONNELL: Romney world didn`t think it was a joke, but Romney world
thinks that what Taggert did was a joke. Now this crazy thing tonight that
just erupted on this debate and the Senate thing in Indiana with Mourdock,
saying that a rape pregnancy is, I think, gift from God was his --

HUGHLEY: He said that it was God`s will.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to him say it. I don`t want to quote him.
He said we twist his words. I`m going to twist his words by playing him
saying his words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOURDOCK: I, too, certainly stand for life. I know there are some
who disagree and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life
begins at conception. The only exception I have for -- to have an abortion
is in the case of the life of the mother. I just -- I struggled with it
myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God. And
I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it
is something that God intended to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUGHLEY: So God intended -- let me tell you something, that wouldn`t
make him God. That would make him your creepy uncle, is what that would
do. The Republicans amaze me because they`re obsessed with smaller
government and women`s reproductive system. I don`t think they`ll be able
to stop until they actually make government so small it can fit in a
woman`s vagina. And then it will be actually a one stop shopping.

For them to say these types of things and to espouse that they love
God is amazing to me.

O`DONNELL: Once again, D.L. Hughley gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
Thanks, D.L.

HUGHLEY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Wait, we`ve got a thing to plug. You have your special
coming up, "D.L. The Endangered List." It airs Saturday, October 27th. We
talked about "The Endangered List" last week. I`m amazed by it. I`m not
going to miss that.

THE ED SHOW is next.

END

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