'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 11, 2014
Guest: Frank Rich, Sam Stein
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks very much,
And thanks to you at home for joining me this hour.
I have to give you a fair warning, there`s going to be standing
during the show, which usually means there`s some sort of technical
disaster. But that`s going to happen. All right, in 1945, at the end of
World War II, as the allies declared victory over the Germans and over the
Japanese, there was almost no one on the planet who was more popular, more
appreciated, than the British prime minister, Winston Churchill.
Victory in Europe was May of 1945. Churchill, knowing that both
Britain was in dire need of a general election, they hadn`t had one in
decade, in part because of the war, but also Churchill knowing that he was
basically revered as a god among men, as the prime minister who won the war
for Britain, Winston Churchill, right after V-E Day, 1945, called for a
snap general election in Britain.
They don`t have elections on a regular schedule, you have to decide
when you`re going to have one, and Churchill looked around at the end of
world war ii and says, yeah, now seems like a good idea to have one. This
seems like a good time. Take his popularity, right? Take the thanks of a
grateful nation and lock in the gains, politically, for himself and for his
Victory in Europe, V-E Day, was in May. The election that he called
was held in July. And in that election, Winston Churchill got clobbered.
It was amazing.
Churchill`s Conservative Party lost 160 seats in parliament.
Churchill lost his job as prime minister. The Labour Party, instead, won a
majority in parliament. Clement Attlee was installed as a new prime
minister, replacing Churchill. It was the first time the Labour Party had
ever gained a majority in the British parliament, and it happened right
after the end of World War II.
You want to talk political shock? That was a political shock.
In the United States, this is the picture in the political science
dictionary next to the definition of political shocker. This happened just
three years after Churchill`s debacle in 1945. This was 1948. Deeply
unpopular Democratic incumbent, President Harry Truman. He was widely
expected to lose as he ran for re-election.
Republican Thomas Dewey was definitely going to beat Harry Truman in
1948, and everybody knew it. "The Chicago Daily Tribune" famously so sure
of it that they put it down in black and white with their Dewey defeats
Truman headline. And, yes, that election, where Dewey did not defeat
Truman, that was an incumbent president holding on to his seat, but it was
an absolute shock.
Political science is sort of a fake science. I say this as a degree
holder in the subject. But you can use empirical methods to graph
political outcomes, to chart political importance. And I`m not sure this
is totally going to work, but I do feel compelled.
I feel like this is maybe the only way to make sense of what has
really happened in American politics. We have tried things like this
before on the show.
In June 2011, you may remember that we built something called the
post-President Clinton modern American political sex scandal consequence-o-
meter, where we graphed post-Bill Clinton political sex scandals on two
axes. It was more creepy to less creepy, hi, Mark Sanford. The other axis
was more prosecutable to less prosecutable. We`ve created this sort of
chart. That was June 2011.
Before that, we also on this show once built a matrix of
televangelist infidelity, where we broke down what can sometimes be a
confusing subject. Where it feels like all the televangelist infidelity
blends together, so we broke it down. Was there crying, was this not the
first time, was it a church employee, was there a hooker, was there the
hooker a guy, was there meth.
Did you make your wife be present at your TV confession? They all
This is not an endorsement, but I should tell you that an
enterprising RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewer has apparently put the televangelist
chart on a mug and you can buy it online now in case you ever need to be
reminded. Don`t make your wife go to the press conference.
But, today, as everybody in American press conference today searches
for appropriate adjectives and historical analogies to try to convey just
how big a deal it is that the next speaker of the House, the House majority
leader, lost his seat in Congress yesterday, in a primary defeat that
nobody saw coming, I think it`s helpful, again, to try to break this down a
little bit. I mean, we`re always talking about shocks in politics, right?
Shocks and surprises and upsets, earthquakes in politics.
I think that, by nature, is because pundits are prone to hyperbole.
In order to really understand whether or not this is as big a deal as
everybody says, I think it`s worth breaking it down, which I`m sorry to say
I`m now going to do by standing up.
OK, behold. Modern U.S. political shockers, a chart.
All right. This is a representative sample, what we`re going to
build here, is sort of a representative sample of large scale American --
large scale shocks in American politics that have happened over the past 30
Thirty years ago, in 1994, the loser -- excuse me, 20 years ago. In
1994, the House speaker was tom Foley. Tom Foley, who was an incumbent,
who was very important. He was speaker of the House. He was not,
actually, turfed out by his own party. It was a general election defeat.
Also, it was not a blowout. He lost his seat in a race that wasn`t
that close, but it was a really big surprise. Everybody knew the
Republicans in 1994 were going to do great, but nobody thought the speaker
of the House was going to lose his own seat at home.
And so, did the Beltway lose its mind? Yes, absolutely. The Beltway
lost its mind in 1994 when Tom Foley lost his seat when he was speaker of
the House. Did anybody cry? We don`t know. Benefit of the doubt, we`re
guessing that nobody cried.
That same year in 1994, recognize this guy? New York state
governor`s race. Mario Cuomo was defending his throne, basically, and it
did kind of feel like a throne in New York.
Not only did he seem like he was governor for life in New York state,
but it felt like the only thing that might actually pry Mario Cuomo out of
the office of governor of New York state in Albany was is if he agreed to
accept the Democratic nomination for president. And everybody was pretty
sure the Democrats would be eager to hand him that nomination, even though
he twice turned them down. He turned them down in 1988, turned them down
And in 1994, when he was running for election as New York state
governor, Mario Cuomo was one of the most recognizable, most powerful, most
popular Democrats in the whole country. And in 1994, at the height of his
power, he lost to a guy that nobody had ever heard of, called George
Pataki. And that was a Republican wave year in 1994.
And this wasn`t a federal election. This was just in New York state.
So the Beltway actually didn`t lose its mind very much over Mario Cuomo,
losing that election.
So, he doesn`t get a check mark there, but that`s mostly because the
beltway was losing its mind about everything else that was happening in
1994. So, he gets some of those check marks, but not Beltway losing its
mind and I don`t think anybody cried.
Four years later, this was a great one, 1998 in Vermont, this was Pat
Leahy`s Senate seat from Vermont. But the big shocker here was in the
Republican primary for that seat. 1998, a guy named Jack McMullen was a
zillionaire who moved from Massachusetts to Vermont, expecting that
basically his welcome gift for arriving in the state would be that he`d be
handed the wide-open Republican nomination in the Senate race to run
against Democrat Pat Leahy.
Jack McMullen was a zillionaire, he was smooth. He knew exactly what
he was doing, and there was no one else in the Republican field for Senate.
So, it really seemed like he had very clear sailing for that race in 1998,
until a man named Fred Tuttle came along.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to say Fred Tuttle, very clearly. Can
you tell me your name?
FRED TUTTLE: Fred Tuttle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see, when you say it, it sounds like you`re
saying is fury turtle. Fred Tuttle.
TUTTLE: Fred Tuttle. Fred Tuttle! Fred Tuttle! Fred Tuttle!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Spread Fred, Fred Tuttle, Vermont dairy farmer, lived in
Vermont all of his life, expect for when he was serving his country in
World War II.
Fred Tuttle basically charmed the pants off of Vermont, running as a
dairy farmer who loved his cows. Running against this multi-millionaire
guy from out of state, who thought the nomination should be his.
In the Republican Senate primary in Vermont, in 1998, good old Fred
Tuttle won 55 percent of the vote. He sent the zillionaire guy packing.
Fred Tuttle self-imposed campaign spending limit was $16 that year.
Even though Fred Tuttle won the Republican nomination for Senate in
Vermont that year, he promptly endorsed Pat Leahy, the Democratic
incumbent, who he was running against.
On election night, Senator Leahy and Fred Tuttle had dinner together
at Fred Tuttle`s House. They reportedly shared milk and cookies together,
and Fred told all the reporters that actually he didn`t even vote for
himself, he voted for Pat Leahy and he hoped everyone else would too.
So, Jack McMullen was the zillionaire loser to Fred Tuttle, and that
was not the world`s most sequential shock, as reflected of the fact, there
aren`t many things checked off here. But, still, that was kind of amazing.
Six years later, it`s 2004, Senator Tom Daschle is the Harry Reid of
his day. He`s the majority leader for the Democrats who control the United
States Senate. And in 2004, that`s the night that George W. Bush is re-
elected of the United States, and that is the night that the Senate
majority leader loses his seat at home to Republican John Thune, who took
Tom Daschle`s seat in the Senate.
Tom Daschle in that race, he was an incumbent. He was very, very
important, not only was he Senate majority leader, he was widely considered
to be a very viable Democratic presidential contender. Mr. Daschle was not
defeated by his own party, it was a general election, and it was not a
blowout. It was a very close race.
Was it a surprise? Absolutely, it was a surprise. Did the Beltway
lose its mind? Oh, my God, did the Beltway lose its mind. Was there
crying? Not that we know of.
But that was 2004, the Tom Daschle race. 2010, there was a whole
bunch of these shocks. Starting in Utah with the ousting of a Republican
incumbent senator named Bob Bennett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB BENNETT (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The political atmosphere
obviously has been toxic and it`s very clear that some of the votes that I
have cast have added to the toxic environment. I offer my congratulations,
as I say, to whoever wins, but I assure him, he will not have anymore
loyal, dedicated, or efficient staff than I`ve had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bob Bennett was an incumbent Republican senator. He`d been
there for 18 years. He was not in the leadership, but he`d been there for
18 years. He was ousted by a challenger from his own party.
And even though they didn`t oust him in a statewide vote in a
primary, they just ousted him at the convention, you can still reasonably
say that they ousted him in a blowout, because not only did Bob Bennett not
get picked by the Republican convention in Utah that year, they didn`t pick
him to defend his own seat.
They didn`t pick him. They picked this guy, Mike Lee, instead. But
I should tell you, they picked another Tea Party person behind mike lee and
ahead of Bob Bennett. He not only didn`t get picked, but he got third
behind the incumbent.
Was it a surprise? Yes. Did the Beltway lose its mind? Yes,
definitely. Was there crying? Yes, sadly, there was crying.
Also in 2010, this one is remembered mostly for probably breaking the
record on blowout-o-meter. Bob Inglis was Republican congressman from
South Carolina for a decade. Bob Inglis, knew he was going to have a tough
primary challenge in 2010, but I don`t think anybody knew it was going to
be so tough that Bob Inglis was going to lose by 42 points.
It was that night he got 42 points in the primary and the person he
was running against got more than that, the margin by which he lost his
seat in the primary was a 42-point margin. Boing!
So, this is not an exhaustive list of political surprises and shocks,
right? Even just in recent history, you could put Richard Mourdock beating
Dick Lugar in Indiana, or 1998, Jesse Ventura beating Norm Coleman, and
randomly becoming the governor of Minnesota for five minutes before he got
a conspiracy theory TV show.
But as a representative sampling, I think this helps contextualize
what makes a political shock actually shocking. And all of these
aggravating factors, how much of a blowout was it, was it your own party
that turfed you out, were you an important figure in Washington, were you
an incumbent? How much of a surprise was it? Did the Beltway lose its
mind? How consequential was this for people other than yourself?
All of these aggravating factors all add something, I think, to the
impact of these political upsets. Even the emotional impact of it, I
think, aggravates it.
And I think this helps explain, or at least show, why Eric Cantor,
what happened to him yesterday, is such a big deal. Not only does Eric
Cantor meet all of the aggravating criteria, in terms of the size of the
shock wave, everything except crying, although there were reports today of
his staff crying, but I think we`re going to leave them to that.
In addition to him meeting all of the aggravating criteria, the
magnitude to which he`s meeting this criteria is also sort of something
else. I mean, not only is Eric Cantor an incumbent, he`s a seven-term
incumbent. Not only is he important in the House, he`s the majority leader
in the House and in line to become speaker of the House soon.
A House majority leader has never before been defeated in a primary
in our country ever. It was a huge surprise, right? Literally, no one
predicted that Eric Cantor might lose his seat. And the degree to which it
has convulsed the Beltway today just cannot be overstated. Capitol Hill is
a whirlwind and it is deserved because this is that big of a shock.
What happened last night in Virginia is the biggest electoral
political shock of at least a generation.
But here`s the thing about a shock. A shock, by definition, is the
kind of thing that knocks you off kilter. That makes you not think
straight. That makes you not see things clearly.
And as the country and the political world was being hit with this
shock wave about Eric Cantor last night, the initial explanatory narrative
that sprung up to answer the obvious question, oh, my God, what just
happened? The initial explanatory narrative seems to have been bluntly
That`s why I think it`s important to recognize that this was a really
big shock. It`s easy to get things wrong when you are shocked and
confused. But now that we`ve had a day to actually look at and assess what
happened, it seems like the initial explanation that everybody gave last
night for why this happened, it just doesn`t make sense. The rush to
judgment that everybody made last night and in this morning`s papers,
explaining what happened in Virginia, I think it was an easy mistake to
make, because the candidate who beat Eric Cantor in Virginia last night, he
did run a one-issue campaign against him.
David Brat`s whole campaign against Eric Cantor was focused on
immigration. That Eric Cantor wasn`t tough enough on immigrants.
Now, this wasn`t a very closely watched race, right? Nobody
anticipated that this was going to be something that changed the course of
modern American politics in a huge way. Most of the national press, if
they knew anything at all about Dave Brat versus Eric Cantor, the only
thing they knew was that Dave Brat was running a campaign based on opposing
So, right, the result, when it came in, the one thing that everybody
knew about the race, people just decided, oh, OK, that must be what
explains what happened. That must explain it.
Dave Brat, the only thing we know about him that he was running on
immigration. Must be that it was immigration. Must be that Dave Brat
struck a chord with the residents of that district by being so anti-
immigration. That district must be very anti-immigration. If only Eric
Cantor was himself more anti-immigration, then he would have held on to his
That`s how this race last night had been explained for the last 24
hours. But it is plainly and obviously not true. This polling was done by
PPP in Eric Cantor`s district in the seventh district of Virginia
yesterday, on primary day.
It was a strongly Republican sample, only 21 percent of the people
they talked to were Democrats, 49 percent of the people they talked to were
Republicans. And in this poll, they asked specifically about support for
immigration reform. They asked the question in three different ways.
They described the Senate immigration bill, they described it as
bipartisan immigration reform legislation, being debated in Washington.
Then they asked if people liked it. And in Eric Cantor`s district, the
number of respondents who strongly support or somewhat support that
immigration reform proposal, which is basically the Senate plan, the number
who strongly or somewhat support it is 72 percent.
The number of people who somewhat or strongly oppose it is only 23
percent. It`s 3-1. They asked it in a different way. They asked it
actually in slightly harsher terms, in more draconian, less friendly to
immigrants version of immigration reform.
That one also supported by huge majorities in Eric Cantor`s district.
And in Eric Cantor`s district, the percentage of people who support that
immigration reform, 64 percent strongly or somewhat support.
People strongly or somewhat opposed to it? Thirty-two percent, 2-1.
And then this blunt question to Eric Cantor`s district, how important
is it that the U.S. fix its immigration system this year?
The number of people in Eric Cantor`s district who say it`s somewhat
or very important that we fix the immigration system this year, 84 percent.
Only 14 percent said it`s not too important or not important at all.
Eric Cantor`s district did not vote against him because they hate
immigration reform so much. Turns out, when you ask them, they kind of
love the idea of immigration reform. They love a whole bunch of different
ideas about immigration reform. The more liberal the idea for immigration
reform, in fact, the more they seem to like it and by huge numbers.
And yes, this is Public Policy Polling, which is a Democratic leaning
firm, but this does not appear to be an outlier. Last year, PPP and
another group called Harper, which is a Republican firm, they also polled
Virginia as a state on the overall issue of supporting immigration reform
in the state of Virginia.
And they found very similar numbers. Again, they asked about two
different versions of immigration reform and the support number in
Virginia, the support numbers were 2-1, 3-1 in favor. Sixty percent of
Virginians said they`d be more likely to vote for an elected official that
supports immigration reform. Only 23 percent said they`d be less likely.
So, how do you make sense of these numbers?
Contrary to all the Beltway noise, all the initial shock punditry
last night, this does not appear to have been a frenzy of anti-immigration
sentiment in Eric Cantor`s home state and home district that drove what
happened last night. Yes, immigration is what David Brat ran on, but the
polling says there`s nothing magic about the issue of immigration that
allowed him to win that seat. Maybe David Brat could have run a one-issue
campaign on the debt ceiling or the need for term limits or some spending
issue or any other issue where he might have been able to come up with
language to put Eric Cantor on the defensive.
Maybe. I mean, if we`re going to pick a magic decoder ring for
understanding last night`s results, it really can`t be immigration. And
maybe this is a imagine tick decoder ring, because this in Eric Cantor`s
home district, from the latest polling conducted yesterday, this is Eric
Cantor`s home district approval rating.
Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Representative Eric
Cantor is doing? Approve, 30 percent, 30. Disapprove, 63 percent.
With numbers that bad, there`s no reason to think it had to be
immigration, particularly because the immigration numbers suggest that it
wasn`t. I mean, anything where you can stake a claim and say, I`m not Eric
Cantor, it kind of looks like, I`m not Eric Cantor was going to win, even
if I`m not Eric Cantor had no money, no outside support, and he couldn`t
articulate answers to the most basic policy questions, as Dave Brat proved
himself in his disastrous first round of television interviews today.
I mean, in context, Eric Cantor losing his seat and losing it this
way, it is a huge American political shock. And maybe it is the fact that
it was so shocking that explains why the prevailing initial explanation of
why it happened actually makes no sense.
MADDOW: I made a mistake, sorry. In our chart of modern U.S.
political shockers, I just said that Tom Daschle was Senate majority leader
when he lost his seat in 2004. In fact, he was Senate minority leader.
I`m sorry I didn`t even notice I said it wrong, but I said it wrong.
Minority leader, not majority leader. I`m very sorry.
We`ll be right back with Frank Rich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: While, I will not be on the ballot
in November. I will be a champion for conservatives across the nation who
are dedicated to preserving liberty and providing opportunity. Truly, what
divides Republicans pales in comparison to what divides us as conservatives
from the left and their Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying today that what
divides Republicans from each other pales in comparison to anything else
you might be thinking after he got primaried out of his seat by a Tea Party
Republican challenger last night.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York
Mr. Rich, it is a pleasure to see you. Thank you for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to see you. Thanks for having
MADDOW: What happened? It feels like it is not immigration that
happened, because we`ve now seen the polling from his district and from
Virginia that suggests that there`s nothing about the immigration issue,
specifically, that could have motivated this big a political outcome.
That`s how I read it.
RICH: Well, I think there`s a lot to be said for that. I think that
the immigration issue may have been a loss leader in the sense that it got
Brat the attention of people like Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin
and then they looked a to the whole package that fits the radical right of
the Republican Party, because he really is sort of an Ayn Rand, economic
conservative. He told Chuck Todd he isn`t sure where he stood on the
minimum wage, for instance. He`s very anti-government, and he`s also a
And that, I think, played very well against Eric Cantor, who that $5
million that he had spent on steakhouses or whatever, it came from Wall
Street. It came from the elite part of the American economy that there`s
some point where there`s a synergy between the American right and the
American left. They don`t like it.
MADDOW: Right. And something like 2 percent small donors among that
$5 million that he raised and spent on that race, which is phenomenal.
RICH: Yes, someone was quoting today, I read somewhere, that Eric
Cantor wears Prada shoes with lifts. That`s exactly the image you don`t
want if you`re running against someone who is essentially a Tea Party
MADDOW: Whether or not that`s true, that`s a heck of an epithet.
RICH: I love it. I love it.
MADDOW: Yes. It might explain why his epithets against his
challenger, that he was a liberal college professor.
MADDOW: Well, I mean, are there -- are there lessons to be learned
here, not just within the Republican Party, but in terms of the way that
all of us understand the dynamics between the Republican establishment,
what`s still happening in that party. You`ve been a real critic of the
idea that the Tea Party is over or that the establishment somehow has
reasserted its authority.
RICH: It seems to be a liberal, and perhaps a Republican
establishment, that every time there`s a defeat of a Todd Akin, you know, a
witch who`s running, the Tea Party is dead and somehow, the establishment
Republicans have taken charge again. When Mitch McConnell won, that meant
-- the narrative became again, they`ve -- the establishment has seized it
back from these insurgents.
But it`s just not true. The right in the Republican Party, in the
United States, as a whole, has kept coming back. When Goldwater 50 years
ago this year lost in landmark defeat to Lyndon Johnson, the whole
Republican Party was thought to be dead and buried and certainly the
conservative movement. But soon after, the Reagan revolution began.
So, we have to stop falling for this same narrative. This group is
here to stay. They may not ever run the country. They may not ever win a
national election. But they`re a big factor and they`re very much
empowered now in the current GOP.
MADDOW: And I wonder if the error was watching to see if there was
going to be a Tea Party revolution inside the right and it turns out there
wasn`t. There was a lot of people trying, and every time they failed, it
seemed embarrassing and like it was over. We weren`t looking at a
revolution. It was, in fact, an evolution, as the Republican Party just
turned into the modern iteration of the conservative movement`s impact on
the Republican Party, which is the Republican Party sort of becoming tea.
RICH: That`s exactly right. Mitch McConnell, who opposed Rand Paul,
when he ran in the Republican primary for Senate in Kentucky, what did he
do? He went and got Rand Paul`s campaign manager. He buddied up with Rand
Paul, he adopted his positions. That`s what happened. You know, the -- I
don`t know what the term is, but it`s like the host is being taken over by
this -- whatever that bad analogy I`m making is.
MADDOW: The -- I know exactly what it is, and it`s too gross to
reiterate, exactly. But I know exactly what you mean, exactly. I mean, it
is a way to win, which is to become the only option for the people who
you`ve been trying to topple, let them survive by becoming you.
Frank Rich, writer at large at "New York" magazine, such a
fascinating turn in politics right now. Thanks for being here. Appreciate
RICH: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. No matter what you might have heard, there was
an election last night in which nobody got the most votes. We`ve got a lot
ahead tonight, including a really good Debunktion Junction. Please stay
MADDOW: While Majority Leader Eric Cantor held his big "I`m
resigning" press conference on Capitol Hill today, on the other side of the
rotunda, literally at the exact same time, the United States Senate perhaps
sensing that no one was noticing what they were doing, the United States
Senate seized their moment out of the spotlight today to actually do
This was the big bipartisan compromise bill to try to reform the
V.A., to open up more than two dozen new health facilities to serve
veterans and to try to hire enough doctors and other professionals into the
V.A. to actually meet the demand for veteran services instead of some
facilities cooking the books to try to make it look like they were meeting
veteran needs when they really weren`t.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont chairs Veteran Affairs in the
Senate. He had introduced another version of this bill in February, the
Republicans filibustered it. But today, the compromised bill that Senator
Sanders worked out with Republican Senator John McCain, it not only got
fast-tracked into a Senate floor vote, it passed. It passed hugely, it
passed 93-3. Only three senators voted against it.
The House voted unanimously, yesterday, on their own version of a
Now that some kind of bill has passed both Houses of Congress,
they`re going to go into a conference committee to try to work out their
differences and say this bill is going to be on the president`s desk for
his signature within days.
You almost don`t want to talk about it, right, for fear that the
spell will be broken and they`ll go back never passing anything
constructive about anything ever. But, stakes (INAUDIBLE), on this crisis
at the V.A., Congress actually appears to be doing something designed to
fix the problems.
Everyone is voting to try to fix the problem. Everyone. Everyone
except those three guys, who were the only no-votes in either House of
Congress. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, Bob Corker from Tennessee, and
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, needless to say, from Alabama.
Congress is actually getting something constructive and bipartisan
done to try to help vets, despite these three men.
Congratulations, Senators, you`re going to be famous for this.
MADDOW: Behold political rebranding, circa 2010.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: The new team is ready to bring America back. Eric Cantor,
Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, joined by common sense conservative candidates
from across the country.
Together, they are ready to make history. Together, they are the
Young Guns -- innovative, energetic, forging new solutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Young Guns! It actually hurts my throat when we cover
them too much, because I have to say it that way.
Young and brave and brash and Republican. Also, guns, right?
That super hero buddy movie thing was designed to sell two things.
Obviously, a youngish new brand of Republican Party, that involves the word
"guns," and also their book by the same name. And the Young Guns was just
one of Eric Cantor`s efforts to rebrand the Republican Party.
More than any other single thing, what stands out in Eric Cantor`s
record in terms of his contribution to modern Republican politics is how
frequently he tried to re-launch them, to rebrand them, reintroduce them.
But finding his side in power in Washington, but not very beloved or
exciting, Eric Cantor started doing this thing about once a year or so,
where he would try to sculpt a new image for the party.
So, yes, Young Guns, that was awesome. But that was just the 2010
version of Eric Cantor`s new relaunched Republican Party. Before that, he
had launched something called the National Council for a New America. That
one was going to show how the Republican Party was tapping outside the
Beltway ideas for the Republican policy agenda.
The launch for that one, you might remember, it involved Mr. Cantor
inviting the young, fresh faces of Jeb Bush and Mr. Romney for a
celebration of outside the Beltway ideas that was actually held at a pizza
parlor that was literally inside the Beltway, inside the perimeter highway
that encompasses greater Washington, D.C.
And despite Eric Cantor`s intention to hold a series of these
informal chat and choose spitball fresh ideas sessions all across the
country, in order to call new Republican perspectives, I have to tell you,
that first inside the beltway pizza party was the last thing they ever did.
This is actually what`s at the Web site now, which Eric Cantor set up
for his National Council for a New America. This Web site now hosts
something called no deposit casino bonus. I do not recommend gambling
After that rebranding effort fizzled out, there was the Young Guns.
There was also another new rebranding idea, which was called the America
Speaking Out Project, because new Republicans want to know what America
thinks. That Web site at least still exists and won`t rob you blind, but
they haven`t posted anything there since November 2011. Better rebrand
In 2013, after President Obama won re-election, Congressman Cantor
decided to rebrand Republicanism again. He invented a new image for the
party that he called making life work. The beltway media nicknamed it
Cantor 4.0. That project also included a pizza party, because America, it
was during that round of Eric Cantor rebranding that the Republican Party -
- Eric Cantor rebranding that he suggested that maybe perhaps in some form,
his party could accept something like the DREAM Act for young immigrants.
Eric Cantor said that could happen. And because he`s the majority
leader in the House, he could make that happen. But as always, this was
rebranding, which is about brand and image and not actually about behavior.
And so he never actually allowed a vote on the DREAM Act or anything like
it. He just stuck it in the rebrand and hoped people thought that he might
have done something about it.
Then, just a couple of months ago, because it was a new year, and
that means a new Republican image, courtesy of Eric Cantor, this past year,
his new rebranding effort was labeled, An America That Works, which did not
work either at changing broad perceptions of the Republican Party, or
changing at all the substantive party actions of the party. Nor did it
serve to rebrand Eric Cantor himself as a man that might be desperately
needed in Washington.
The history of Eric Cantor`s time in Republican leadership in
Washington is basically a marketing history. The one remarkable thing
about his legacy, if you look at it with a cold eye, is just how frequently
he announced he was defining a new brand for the Republican Party, while
also not changing anything substantive about what Republicans were actually
doing in Washington.
And changing what Republicans actually do in Washington, that is well
within his power as the majority leader. He decides what gets voted on and
what doesn`t. But under his leadership, despite repeated attempts at
looking new and fresh and awesome, what House Republicans actually did was
fecklessly repeal Obamacare several dozen times and vote to restrict
abortion rights as often as they could and otherwise lurch from self-made
debt ceiling crisis to self-made funding crisis and back again.
None of his yearly attempts at presenting political freshness was
accompanied by any change in Eric Cantor`s positions or in Republican
Eric Cantor, even as he kept relaunching what it means to be a
Republican, his own policy positions never moved an inch. And people can
tell when you`re saying one thing and doing another. And in the end, Eric
Cantor`s endless repackaging of the same old stuff, it couldn`t be wrapped
up in anything that anyone wanted to buy, even in his home district.
Joining us now, Sam Stein, political reporter for "Huffington Post."
Sam, thank you for being here.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you for saying "Young Guns."
MADDOW: Young Guns!
STEIN: I`m worried about your throat.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, I`ll sound like a smoker.
I did not expect when going back through, I did a sort of historical
retrench on Eric Cantor`s record. I didn`t expect to find the only
consistent through line was this rebranding stuff. He obviously thought
that was key to his success and his leadership in the party. What do you
think the actual impact of that was?
STEIN: Well, you missed one. You missed the cut and grow rebrand
that they did --
MADDOW: Was that you cut -- oh, no, there was you cut and cut and
grow, two different ones. Yes.
STEIN: So, you know, I think you hit the nail in the head, which is
that he was a constant schemer and it served him well. I mean, he rose up
the ranks. Everyone was talking about him as the first Jewish speaker of
the House. He was the heir apparent to John Boehner, perhaps knocking
Boehner out of the way.
But when you change that much, obviously, it becomes tough to define
who exactly you are. And I think what it ended up also doing was painting
him as this constant schemer and not a serious ideological conservative and
I think that obviously hurt him obviously on Tuesday night.
Now, I will say, when he did put his efforts behind a piece of
legislation, he could -- he showed it could work.
A great story of his is that he actually devoted his time to
pediatric cancer and research at NIH. It was a bill that was going to go
nowhere this last year. He put a lot of his efforts, his political
efforts, his political machinations behind the bill. He shepherded it
through the House, got it past the Senate, path the president`s desk, $120
million over 10 years in pediatric cancer research. When he wanted to
legislate, he could do it.
But that was never apparently his priority. It was always about
MADDOW: One of the issues about thinking -- one of the things about
thinking about what happens in his wake, with him gone and him resigning as
majority leader is who might step in. And the number three guy in
leadership, Kevin McCarthy, is sort of the case against him is he may not
have that ability, that he may not shave the sort of chops on the
legislative floor to move stuff if they ever want to. It seems they move
stuff so rarely that it shouldn`t be that much of -- it shouldn`t be that
much of a mark against McCarthy.
STEIN: Well, McCarthy is sort of like the same character as Cantor,
right? Is that he`s focused almost predominantly on this branding and how
they can win seats in political battles. And very rarely do you associate
a big piece of legislative or a big conservative ideology with him. Also,
Kevin McCarthy has had some pretty epic fails when it comes to counting
So, you know, there are those two knocks against him. The
establishment and party might say, we don`t want to risk one of these other
candidates, let`s go with the safe bet, maybe we can relitigate in a year`s
time or so, and I think that might end up what happens. But, again, he has
very similar problems to Eric Cantor when you`re talking about internal
MADDOW: Looking a head to the way the Republicans shift as a group,
obviously a decision about who`s going to be in leadership.
MADDOW: I think the idea that this is going to be immigration reform
and him having the wrong position on immigration reform, to the extent that
he had one, I think it`s belied by the numbers. If that gets sold as the
narrative, do Republicans actually miss out on a chance to move themselves
in a way that actually might be more advantageous?
STEIN: Yes, I`m with you. I don`t think the numbers say it`s
immigration reform. First of all, I don`t think it was a big topic in the
campaign. It`s being inflated as that. And you have Lindsey Graham way
more associated immigration reform, winning on Tuesday night in his own
MADDOW: Right. Well, Brat did make it his issue.
STEIN: Yes, but he made it his issue in a very more nuanced way,
which is that he said, Cantor supports immigration reform because his
capital friends, his big bank friends, his crony capitalist friends want
him to do and pointed to the Chamber of Commerce and he pointed to Mark
Zuckerberg of Facebook and says, he wants it so Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
can get high-tech immigrants into this country to work for him and take
American jobs. That was a little bit more nuanced than he wants pro-
amnesty and stuff like that.
So, I think people who are against immigration reform will use that,
and I think the Republican Party will shy away from it. But I think
they`re drawing lessons from it.
MADDOW: Sam Stein, political reporter for "Huffington Post," thanks
for being here. It`s nice to have you.
STEIN: Young guns!
MADDOW: Young guns! Can only be said that way. That`s the rule.
I`m just going to do it again. Young guns!
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today, the Senate voted 93-3 for a big bill to try to fix
the V.A. That bill soon on the way to the president. Today, the secretary
of the defense gave Republican members of Congress a big verbal smack-down
for the way they have talked about the family of Bowe Bergdahl, the
American prisoner of war.
Today, yes, the majority leader of the House resigned because he lost
his seat in Congress in a shock primary last night. And that news had a
way of blocking out the news in the country.
But did you hear what happened in the great state of Nevada? Some
stories deserve not to be blocked out by even the biggest political story
in America. And that one is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hoot, hoot, Young Guns!
Debunktion Junction, what`s my function?
All right. Last night, primaries were not just held in Virginia,
where Eric Cantor lost his seat there. They were also held in South
Carolina, Maine, Arkansas, North Dakota and Nevada.
And in Nevada, "The Associated Press" was first to break the news
that Democrats picked their nominee to run against this guy, popular
Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval. This was the word from "The
Associated Press", calling the race at 12:39 a.m. Eastern, "The Nevada
Democratic primary to run against Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, that
primary was run -- was won by Robert Goodman", so says "The A.P."
Is that true or false that in Nevada, Robert Goodman won the Nevada
Democratic primary for governor last night. Robert Goodman won? True or
False. Technically. The second part of this headline is true.
Mr. Goodman will be on the ballot, against Governor Sandoval in
November. But the first part of the headline is not true because Robert
Goodman did not win the primary. The winner of the Democratic primary in
Nevada last night was actually the ballot line marked "none of these
candidates". See, up top there? Nobody. Nobody got 30 percent of the
vote. Mr. Goodman trailed behind at 25 percent.
This has happened before in Nevada politics. There`s always a line
on the ballot for none of the guys. But none of these guys, that line only
rarely actually wins an election. When that does happen, there is no
practical consequence. The living human, who did get the most votes, is
allowed to win.
But everybody knows that technically that guy lost to none of the
To be fair, in this case, none of the above, ran a dirty campaign,
and outspent everybody and lied all the time. Credit where credit is due,
though, Robert Goodman did not win the primary.
MADDOW: Nobody won the primary. But Mr. Goodman still made the
All right, next up in the Eric Cantor race, Mr. Cantor`s paid
pollster, the guy he paid to do his internal polling, predicted that Eric
Cantor would not only win his primary last night, but he would win in a
landslide. Is that true or false? That may be the reason Eric Cantor
didn`t bother campaigning in his home district the morning of the primary
and instead, held a fundraiser for lobbyists at a D.C. Starbucks, while his
constituents voted. Is the reason he was so cocky, because his own polling
told him he would win and win big. Is that true or false?
True, as reported in "The Washington Post," the pollster Eric Cantor
hired to tell him how he was doing in Virginia, his pollster told him he
would beat David Brat by 34 points. The venereal Republican polling for
McLaughlin and associates told Eric Cantor that he was on track to beat
Of course that is not how it worked out. Eric Cantor not only didn`t
beat David Brat by 34 points. He lost to him by 11 points.
That said, consider that the same Republican pollster in 2012 said
that George Allen, the macaca guy, was going to win his Senate race in
Virginia. He didn`t.
The same Republican pollster said that Richard Mourdock, "the rape
was a gift from God" guy, he was going to win his race in Indiana. He
The same Republican pollster also said that Mitt Romney would win in
Colorado in the presidential race. He did not.
The same Republican pollster also said Mitt Romney would win Virginia
in that race. He did not.
The same pollster also said Democratic Senator Ed Markey was neck and
neck with Gabriel Gomez in Massachusetts. Ed Markey won that by double
The same pollster polled the Rhode Island Senate race and said
Sheldon Whitehouse was vulnerable to his Republican challenger, Sheldon
Whitehouse, in fact, won by 30 points.
In October, the same Republican pollster said a Republican was within
three points, shooting distance, of a congressional seat in New York.
Three points, the Republican guy could definitely do it, so said John
McLaughlin, Republican pollster extraordinaire, look Republicans within
three points. Actually the dude lost off to the Democrat by 37 points.
Wow. So, yes, yes, it`s true.
MADDOW: Thank you.
That Eric Cantor paid a Republican pollster to tell him he would win
by 34 points last night. But given the truly remarkable record of that
particular Republican pollster, it maybe should have been as no surprise,
it should have come as no surprise that the Cantor campaign`s expectations
ended up being off by just shy of a gazillion percent once the returns came
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Thanks for being with us.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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