Guests: Rachel Maddow, Dana Milbank, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The take nothing for granted state surprise: The day after the world did anything but end for Senator Hillary Clinton.
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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I felt really for a long time that I was kind of running against myself. There were lots of questions coming in to me and there wasn‘t a lot going in any other direction. But you know, that ended on Saturday night.
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OLBERMANN: The implication in that that Clinton surged when she started hitting back. Today, Senator Obama hints of hitting back harder.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I come from Chicago politics. We‘re accustomed to rough and tumble. I don‘t expect this to be a cake walk.
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OLBERMANN: Don‘t anybody expect anything about the Nevada or South Carolina, those evil polls, those evil pollsters, those evil poll participants. One of the problems with the theorizing and the conspiracy theories and the claim racist voters lied to dumb researchers. Most of the key polls got Obama‘s percentage of voters right. Did we all not simply not read the fine print about firmness support and undecideds? Ask not for whom the bell tolls if polls will be.
What next for the Democrats and their two frontrunners? What next for the Republicans and their estimated 20 front-runners?
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That served the cause greater than self-interest. And you will know what happiness far more sublime than the pleading pleasure of fame and fortune.
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OLBERMANN: And the person who might have decided New Hampshire, Mary Ann Kernel Young.
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MARY ANN YOUNG: And my question is very personal. How do you do it?
CLINTON: I think we did connect at a very you know, personal level.
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OLBERMANN: Mary Ann Kernel Young (ph) is the woman who asked the question. The woman who 35 years after Ed Musky (ph) made crying in New Hampshire a good thing. At least for Hillary Clinton. The woman who tells us she voted for Obama. All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening, this is Wednesday, January 9th. Exactly 300 days until the 2008 presidential election. Senator Hillary Clinton did not stand on the stage at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night and brandish a yellow newspaper over her head burying the headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman” when she would have the right to. Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: Amid conflicting reports that there might be one less candidate in that Democratic field tonight, Governor Bill Richardson‘s office vehemently denying that he will vow out tomorrow. If anybody says they know for certain what‘s going to happen next in the Democratic nomination process, they don‘t. Senator Clinton with a three point upset over Senator Obama in the New Hampshire primary, 39-36 the final score. Former Senator Edwards, third at 17 percent, but, and it is an important but, a close finish between the first and second place candidates there means that in real terms, the Democratic stuff in New Hampshire ended in a tie. Senators Obama and Clinton each awarded nine delegates in last night‘s primary. Senator Edwards earning the other four. And the estimated from the Iowa caucuses and the total right now stands at: Obama, 25, Clinton 24, Edwards 18. Senator Clinton and her advisers as surprised as everybody else about her victory in last night‘s primary. In one interview this morning, Mrs. Clinton buying in to the theory that her display of emotion on the campaign trail Monday, could well have been the turn around to her chances. In another, admitting only that it played a part.
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CLINTON: I think that the whole sequence of events starting from the debate through the last voter I talked to at about 5:30 on Tuesday night. I don‘t think of politics as a game, I think of it as a means to an end. And I don‘t get up every morning to go out and make a great speech or shake a million hands and then, go to bed at night and say good for you. I go out to say what can I do for you. How can we make our country what it should be? And the woman said to me, well, how do you do that, I really felt touched by that. And I think we did connected at a very you know, personal level.
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OLBERMANN: That vague reference to a candidate only in the race to make great speeches and shake a million hands perhaps it‘s turning why Senator Obama was anything today at a sharper edge to his campaign in the days ahead.
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OBAMA: I come from Chicago politics. We‘re accustomed to rough and tumble. I don‘t expect this to be a cake walk.
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OLBERMANN: And as Senator Obama learned over the last five days, front-runner can be uncomfortably tight and difficult place to dwell in. He seemed somewhat relieved to leave it behind this morning.
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OBAMA: I think that folks have started to anoint us in a way that they are anointing Senator Clinton back in the summer. And that‘s always a dangerous place to be. And I feel a lot more comfortable now, understanding this is a victory we are going to have to earn. And the American people are not going to just hand over the keys to the White House.
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OLBERMANN: And one of the stranger stories of this campaign, already singular in the American political history tonight, the Associated Press reported that former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson will drop out of the race tomorrow. But there was no comment from his campaign organization. A campaign organization which promptly commented to NBC News. Richardson‘s deputy communications director, Cathy Roberts (ph) saying, he is not dropping out of the race and the AP wire is incorrect. That the governor is tonight back home, working on state business and preparing to convene New Mexico‘s legislature. One possibility reported by NBC political director, Chuck Todd, that Richardson might suspend his campaign at some point. That not confirmed. The no comment on the, that from the Richardson campaign at this hour.
Dropouts in the Republican race? No way. In fact, they may be headed to a field, consisting of nothing but 100 percent front-runners. Arizona senator, John McCain with a decisive six point victory over New Englander Mitt Romney, 37 to 31. The winner in Iowa, former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee third with 11 percent. As for the delegate count there, McCain awarded seven, Romney - four, Huckabee - one out of New Hampshire. And the estimated delegates from Iowa and Wyoming and things get truly interesting. Huckabee 31, Romney 19, McCain - seven, former Tennessee senator, Thompson - three, California congressman Duncan Hunter - one and Rudy Giuliani still just watching. Senator McCain recognizing just how difficult it‘s going to be for anyone in the field to win the GOP nomination in the field.
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MCCAIN: We carried Michigan in 2000, which is next and we will actually got a lot of work to do. But a positive campaign mattered here too. I hope that this campaign proved that negative ads don‘t work and Americans prefer a positive campaign. So, look, I‘m very optimistic. I think we can move on from here. We had to win here, as I said before. But we got to keep up the hard work; positive campaigning and I understand there‘s going to be further ups and downs in this campaign.
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OLBERMANN: We‘ll look at the Republicans in-depth later. Right now from the Democrats, let‘s turn to our correspondent, David Shuster, just back from New Hampshire and you know, Washington Bureau tonight. David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT -WASHINGTON, DC: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Senator Clinton‘s campaign, I listened to you and then in the process I found my own voice. Any idea practically what that‘s going to mean while everybody else seem to be losing their voice and then New Hampshire and then up literally?
SHUSTER: Well, never mind all the jokes about the number of voices that Mrs. Clinton may have in her head because of her husband, her husband‘s past, all of the advisors, but the Clinton campaign is suggesting that with that emotional moment, Hillary Clinton sort of found the balance between wanting to talk about policy all the time, which is something that she likes to do and her sort of comfort level as far as showing her emotion. She‘s not like Obama in terms of feeding up from the crowds and she can tend to sort of stiffen up in front of the crowds. And I think what the Clinton campaign is suggesting now is that by Hillary Clinton essentially tearing off the mask and being able to show a little bit more emotion that she‘s now in the certain comfort zone with that, and can use that from here on out to try to say, look, I‘m not just some sort of policy robot, I can show emotions, I have emotions and if you need me to sort of express emotions well, here you go.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama meanwhile seem to be indicating today, his not going to be quite as willing to leave any charges that he faces particularly from a Clinton camp but I imagine on anywhere else on challenged. Does that mean something in particular if she mentions al Qaeda and his preparedness or lack thereof as he did last Monday and next time he will not let it pass. She references Dr. Martin Luther King to perish and he doesn‘t just smile and so, why I didn‘t compare myself to him. Is that what we‘re talking about?
SHUSTER: A little bit, Keith. I mean, he did make reference for example on Martin Luther King references part of a back and forth with Mrs. Clinton but the Obama campaign is suggesting and Obama himself said this morning that Hillary Clinton did a pretty effective job over the last three days of suggesting if you look very closely of Barack Obama‘s record, there is not much there. And Barack Obama seemed to hint this morning and his campaign advisors have said more directly, that they needed to do a better job and hindsight of the middle of the punching that on that and say, no, wait a second. Here‘s our record, here‘s what Barack Obama has done as United States senator. Here‘s what exactly what he did as a member of the Illinois Senate and here the specific accomplishments. And to sort of left the Clinton charges stand out of Hillary Clinton or from Bill Clinton, the idea that Barack Obama really doesn‘t have a lot there, they believed that hurt them and so I think that‘s the reference Obama‘s making this morning. Don‘t, you‘re not going to see him wait around anymore, as soon as they hear something from the Clinton campaign, specific charge, they‘re going to have a far more rapid and aggressive response.
OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards drew only half of the vote of the two leaders did which makes him more of an afterthought certainly after Iowa where he was right in the middle of it. We may not know much heading out of New Hampshire but are we closer to knowing whether or not this is a two-person race or he has something up on his sleeve that‘s going to make it again a three-person race?
SHUSTER: Well, as senator say, they were disappointed with the results in New Hampshire. They have wanted to finish at least at second place. However, there‘s still absolutely convinced that this is a change election and that John Edwards version of change as far as fighting for change as opposed to negotiating change which is the argument that make about Barack Obama, that it‘s still a winning argument. The challenge now is where they can be picking up some victories? They had at one point it might not have been impossible to imagine John Edwards winning Nevada if he could have picked up the Culinary Union endorsement which went to Barack Obama today or the CEIU endorsement which went to Obama. So, looking at the landscape, it‘s difficult but Edwards believes he‘s got the winning message that South Carolina is always been very favorable to him and so, they‘re going to hang around and see if either Clinton or Obama implode and maybe, they can be part of the equation when you talked about a two-man race.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC‘s David Shuster, back in Washington. As always, great thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more of what happened in New Hampshire, let‘s turn to our Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine.” Richard, good evening to you.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Associated Press reported tonight, Bill Richardson is going to drop out tomorrow. His press office promptly flatly denied that to us. Last night, he said, onto the west. What do we know about Bill Richardson?
WOLFFE: Well, of course, Bill Richardson lives in the west. So, not exactly the class of statement there but look, after last night, we should probably ought to get out of the predictions game. The AP would be extraordinary if they got things wrong, this badly wrong and clearly, Richardson doesn‘t have a lot of money, his performance has while been OK in the debate since he‘s been pretty poor in this early states. So, if he doesn‘t leave now, I don‘t think he‘s much longer in this race.
OLBERMANN: I asked this last night and it‘s not just to how do you feel kind of question that addresses political flexibility and also as a how do you feel quality to it. Who got surprised more last night, the Clinton campaign or the Obama campaign?
WOLFFE: Well, it‘s a great question for couple of reasons. First of all, look at where they stood before, this result. The Obama folks were expecting this to be a tough, tough fight. In fact, they thought it would even tougher had they won. Of course, they wanted to win but there‘s expecting the full onslaught from the Clinton campaign. But they will still get the full onslaught but that was the position they were very much geared up for and the speech Obama gave last night was not going to be a whole lot different whether he won or he lost. On the other hand, the Clinton campaign, the senior folks, they were all bracing for defeat and bracing for many of them to lose their jobs. So, a pleasant surprise in the sense that they still have jobs but I think it‘s actually more of a shock to the system now and the Clinton folks are going to have to recalibrate where they are and what they want to do.
OLBERMANN: Will there be a tendency inside the Clinton campaign to tense back off now because clearly, that whatever the emotional opening was for Hillary Clinton and there are people pointed to the tearing up moment on Monday, the debate moment on Saturday where she sort of plaintively half joking the as seriously said, you know, that hurts my feelings I think was just a signal, a moment. Is there going to be now a debate within that campaign, you know, more exposed Hillary, less exposed Hillary?
WOLFFE: Well, that debate has been raging for some time and of course, it was in the last couple of weeks of Iowa where they showed the more human side, ruling out the mother and the daughter and putting them more lot together. Look, the default mode for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail as David Shuster just said, is a much deeper Hillary Clinton. I think campaigns resort back to that default mode. The other thing is what was the message from the so-called emotional moment? The answer was she cared about America, she cared about wanting to get this job of president and doing something there. Well, wanting the job isn‘t a rationale because they all want the job. So, I think this is a much more policy driven agenda driven candidacy, the emotions I think is going to be lot to win the box.
OLBERMANN: About that delegate count? Senator Edwards has 18 delegates, when he assures in his features that he‘s taking the campaign all the way through the Denver, to the national convention in August, what is - is the intent there purely the belief that he is in this as a three-horse race or does he say himself as kingmaker in Denver in the old-fashioned political sense of the word?
WOLFFE: Well, we all dream about that kind of convention but I think it‘s a generation gone now. And you‘d had to be incredibly meet his audience to think that you can play that role, given the way this shakes out. More likely, I think the Edwards‘ role is that he thinks one or two of these candidates is going to collapsed at some stage and that he will be able to step in to that role but that‘s a - I mean, an increasingly tough battleground for him.
OLBERMANN: Yes, those conventions winning James Bryan and Sean Clark in Baltimore in 1912, they just don‘t make them like that. I remember that real well. Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. Thanks, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: With the Democratic race and actual horserace now. Next week‘s debate takes on even greater importance to Democratic candidate will convene next Tuesday in Vegas. Their first debate in 10 days. You can see it right here on MSNBC from 9:00 to 11:00 eastern. Brian Williams moderates. The debate will be preceded by special edition of COUNTDOWN.
What about the latest polling? Now the pollsters feel like they‘ve been fool acts something you probably not hear anywhere else. A defense and then, explanation those evil polls in New Hampshire. And once upon a time I ended in New Hampshire ended the presidential aspiration of a deserving and dignified Democrat, not anymore. They‘ll be New Hampshirite who asked the questions sent that snowball rolling downhill voted for somebody else. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Last week, it was Hillary Clinton that was finishing American politics. Today, it‘s been polling that‘s finished an American politics. But we‘re not right about the senator and they‘re not right about the polls. No fix, no line, no resins. We‘ll explain what did happened. And later in Worst, Dick Morris (ph), Larry Ingram (ph), Major Garrett and two guys in New York who tried to reenact weekend at Barney‘s for the sake of a social security check. All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It was a rush to declare Hillary Clinton dead after Iowa. There was a rush coronate Barack Obama just before New Hampshire. And there is now a rush to blame the polls or the pollsters or the poll participants with accusations flying of shady methodology, racism, even conspiracy. Our fourth story on COUNTDOWN: Not that the polls including the in-house ones for Senators Clinton and Obama did not get the result wrong, but there is one overlooked fact. Remembering the magic number. Obama got 36 percent of the vote in New Hampshire last night. Now, look at this pre-primary poll numbers. FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll: Obama - 32 percent. New York Times/CBS poll: Obama - 35 percent. Rasmussen Reports poll: Obama - 37 percent. WNBC/Marist College poll: Obama - 36 percent. Right on the nose. Obviously, you can respond, yes, the pollsters did great, the only thing they got wrong was Clinton‘s totals and the winner, however: if your other inconvenient polling true that the “New York Times” poll suggested nine percent of Democrat were undecided and 28 percent said they might still change their minds. Don‘t know in the FOX poll: 12 percent, Marist poll: 23 percent of Obama‘s supporters, 30 percent of Edwards supporters not firmly committed. I think those are the answers right there. I‘m joined by our own Craig Crawford, also of course of CQPolitics.com. Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM: Good job in laying out the numbers there.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir and thanks for suggesting it. Even if the exit polls suggested Obama and Clinton split the late deciders, is the poll disaster as monumental as it seemed at first was last night? Is it this not all within the various kind of adding up margins of error?
CRAWFORD: I tend to think Keith that the disaster was in the reporting of the polls and the interpretation of the polls than in the polls themselves. The problem we always have and it‘s understandable, we want to do the bright line numbers, who‘s ahead and who‘s behind. We don‘t want to get into margin of errors, we don‘t want to get into the undecided numbers, we don‘t want to get inside the polls and look at somebody‘s issue that you just laid out. And it‘s forgotten. It‘s over looked in the reporting. And I think what happened here is in Iowa, we saw a big turnout for Obama. Of a lot of voters that pollsters had not expected to see. And so, they thought that might happen again here in New Hampshire and that led to a conclusion not only about pollsters but by those of us reporting and interpreting them that we‘d see a repetition of that and it didn‘t happen.
OLBERMANN: The first hip suggestion here was that the polls were wrong 100 percent or nearly thus because of race. That in Iowa, people had to go out and vote in public, that they had to do, you know, do the politically correct thing. But in New Hampshire, statistically anyway, one out of six could say whatever they wanted to the pollsters, then go in to the voting booth and not vote for an African-American. Two problems with that, one, the polls were very close as we indicated on Obama‘s number. And the other part, lying or chickening out or whatever in New Hampshire, it didn‘t happen at all in Iowa, but happened to a degree of like 14 to 15 percent in New Hampshire. Does that make any sense?
CRAWFORD: Yes, in the modern era, I‘ve always had trouble with this theory. Let‘s say someone is a racist and a pollster calls him. And they decide, well, I‘m going to say I support Barack Obama, because I‘m a racist and I‘m really going to vote for someone else when I get to the polling place. I just can‘t believe a lot of people go through that. What I do believe is when people asked, would you vote for an African-American candidate or would you vote for a woman, there‘s some inflation on that number, people might say what don‘t really and truly believe. Another thing I would compare New Hampshire to Keith is the Devon Patrick, the African-American governor who was elected just last year. His polling numbers going into the voting booth were almost exactly on target with what he got in the actual vote. Right there in neighboring Massachusetts, arguably more of a racial caldron than New Hampshire is. So, people are going to believe what they want to believe. That racism play the factor in this polling (INAUDIBLE) I‘m saying you got to believe that in an evidence free zone.
OLBERMANN: Or at least in a zone which you would say it may have happened but we have no way of suggesting it was decisive or to that percentage degree. The worst of these polls and again, we‘re operating in a vacuum in terms of the percentage they actual have the numbers. Were those internable (ph) as Tim Russert revealed last night, the Obama poll had him up by 14, the Clinton poll had her down by 11. Were there be a particular reason the politicians, the officials, the professional polls got it so widely wrong?
CRAWFORD: I think a lot of them were also making the same assumption I was talking about with Iowa. You know, going into Iowa, a lot of us didn‘t believe these numbers that the “Des Moines Register” had showing all these independent voters and even some republicans are going to vote for Obama. That did happen. And so, I think even inside the Clinton campaign was totally shocked by that result in Iowa and feared that it was about to happen again in New Hampshire. I think what we saw, because this is a new era, in terms of the calendar, everyone assumed that such a short period of time between Iowa and New Hampshire meant that the Iowa bump would be that much stronger. That there wasn‘t time for New Hampshire residents to think about this and to step back and make their choice. I think in the end they actually did. Maybe that‘s because the news cycles these days are so compressed that you get just as much information and back and forth in five days in the modern era as you did 20 years ago in two or three weeks which used to be the spread between Iowa and New Hampshire.
OLBERMANN: I mean good, because the voters should be ahead of the media. Not the other way around. They usually are. They used to be.
CRAWFORD: I‘m all for that.
OLBERMANN: There‘s one theory on paper ballots versus the build optical scanning stuff that Obama won the areas using paper ballot and Clinton won the areas using machines. The problem there numerically is Clinton‘s percentage on the paper ballot was still 35 percent which was still way above what the polls showed she was going to get throughout the state. So, anyway, wrap this up. Why did the polls pick the wrong winner? What is the principal reason?
CRAWFORD: I think the pollsters gave Obama and Iowa bump, and the voters of New Hampshire did not. One of the problems I see with this argument that‘s been made that racism was behind Clinton‘s victory is I see people supporting Obama, not the Obama campaign, but others setting up the argument going into South Carolina where you have a majority of African-American voters to say to those voters, all Clinton only won in New Hampshire because of racism and actually goes off to vote for Obama. That‘s what I fear is happening here and I think that would be a perversion of the facts.
OLBERMANN: Well, I hope that‘s not the case either. Craig Crawford of CQPolitics.com as Gerald Ford said, I don‘t believe the polls consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Thank you, Craig.
OLBERMANN: Those of you who like biblical imagery, burning bush. I don‘t know what tonight‘s Britney Spears‘ stories are. I‘m starting to prefer being surprise by them and I will be.
But first: The biggest breaking news in the administration‘s 50 scandals. - Bushed. Number three: Rape-gate. Having let the outrage died down, after Jamie Lee Jones suit against her Halliburton employers after an alleged gang by her co-workers in Baghdad. The Pentagon says it will not investigate what did or didn‘t happen.
Number two: Waterboarding-gate. Federal judge, Henry Kennedy today denying a request from terrorism suspects who sued asking him to investigation into the CIA‘s destruction of the tapes it made if its guys torturing detainees be handled by the courts and not say by the Bush administration Justice Department. So, any prosecution about would be snuff films would have to be prompted by the attorney general‘s office.
And number one: Katrina-gate. We have a figure now for the 489,000 claims against the Bush administration for damages incurred after the failure of the levees and the flood walls in New Orleans in August 2005. The number is 16 digits long - $3,014,170,389,176,410. It seems a little low to me.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: This date in 1936, the greatest American leading man in film at that point died. You have to be a movie historian to remember John Gilbert. He wasn‘t even 40 when he succumbed to the ravages of alcoholism precipitated by one of two cataclysms in his life. Greta Garbo stood him up at the altar, when they were to be married in 1926. Then MGM Studio head Louie B. Meyer insulted Garbo and Gilbert reportedly attacked him. Three years later, Gilbert, a heartthrob of silent movies, made his first talkie and his public learned for the first time he had a light tenor voice. Many film-goers began to laugh at his love scenes. On that sad note, let‘s play “Oddball”.
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We begin in Jerusalem, President Bush landing in Israel to jumpstart sluggish Arab-Israeli peace talks. His first stop, over the house of Israeli President Shimoun Perez, for a disco bar mitzvah.
Oh, they are lip synching. President Bush, clearly not prepared for the club remix of “Hava Nagila”, played it cool. First standing behind the kids for a photo op and, later, trying to shake their hands while they were still shaking hips. “Eh—eh, I‘m trying to dance here, pal.”
Sam Huey(ph) of __________, California, hello! It‘s the COUNTDOWN elephant seal chase of the week. Hope you had some time. Nobody knows why this 1,500-pound load left his beach, with or without pants, over a highway and under a grassy knoll. But now, he likes it there. Wildlife officials trying to coax him to retreat over the highway, using big blue tarps to steal the seal. If that doesn‘t work, they are going to call in the gunnery sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket”. Move it, you disgusting fat body.
All right, everybody got that deep breath we needed? We rejoin the campaign already in progress. Who‘s the front-running Democrat? Who‘s the front-running Republican? And if you think it‘s personal for Senator Clinton, what about the woman who asked the question who says she didn‘t wind up voting for Senator Clinton?
This story‘s ahead but, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World”. Number three, best flexibility: Rudy Giuliani has said you need to read, write, and speak English to become an American citizen. He started running a new campaign commercial on three Miami TV stations. The commercial is in—yes, Spanish.
Number two, best dumb criminal: unnamed suspect who tried to shoplift hunting knives from a store in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He hid them in his pants. Employees saw him and chased him. He fell down and stabbed himself with the knives in his pants.
And number one, best much-married couple. This is from the Polish tabloid “Super Express”, relayed to us by Reuters news service. Incredibly, Mr. and Mrs. Unnamed from Warsaw are divorcing after 14 years simply because he decided to cheat on her by going to a brothel only to discover that she was already there working as a prostitute. Oh, for crying out loud. Divorce? But, the two of you share so much—hobbies, work, money.
(Singing) Sharing is caring for a friend. When your friend needs something.
OLBERMANN: 24 hours after the New Hampshire surprise, a highly technical campaign strategy question has emerged among academia‘s top political scientists: what the hell happens now? Our third story tonight: the much longed for return of suspense and surprise to American politics.
Up next, Tuesday‘s Republican battle for Michigan: Willard Mitt Romney today, traveling to the land of his birth, seeking a rebirth and, apparently choosing to throw everything at the state. As of today, no longer spending money to buy ads in South Carolina or Florida. Sensing weakness, Mike Huckabee today started advertising in Michigan, setting up a showdown there between him and Romney and Senator John McCain.
Democrats, meanwhile, have their next face-off next week in Nevada where next-door Governor Bill Richardson hopes for a life rope despite what the Associated Press might be reporting. But Senator Barack Obama today picked up the crucial endorsement of the state‘s casino workers who are stacking the odds against John Edwards, ostensibly the labor candidate in the race, and leaving Senator Clinton to focus on building from last night‘s momentum and figuring out how to blunt Mr. Obama‘s considerable assets in both Nevada and South Carolina.
Let‘s turn now to one of our assets, MSNBC Analyst Dana Milbank, national political reporter for “The Washington Post” and author of “Homo Politicus: the Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government”. Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. So, does one guy who, yesterday morning, did not see last night coming have any business asking another guy who also didn‘t see it coming about next week? And, if not, give us the outlines of what might happen—unless, of course, we‘re wrong?
MILBANK: Keith, now look, I came to this studio fully prepared to apply this to my face. But the make-up artist assures me this will cause my powder to run. That said, I‘m not going out on any limbs here. I‘m going to predict at this moment that Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul are not going to win in South Carolina. But, it will be foolhardy to go any further than that because, if you look at the polls and we know how stupid that is, at this point, we see Clinton winning in Nevada, Obama in South Carolina, Romney in Michigan, Huckabee in South Carolina, Giuliani in Florida—wide open race unless, of course, it‘s not.
OLBERMANN: As we shift to some of those places you mentioned—Michigan and Nevada and South Carolina—how important is the change, not just in terms of demographics, but in terms of quantity, that we really basically have to trade this face-to-face retail politics for the mass media, for the advertising and the big events, correct?
MILBANK: Right and, of course, in Nevada, Obama can now rely on the culinary workers, as you said. Picture a lot of guys in poppy white hats running around and collecting votes. It is heading more towards the mass media now. It‘s still retail in places like South Carolina but, particularly, we are looking beyond this to February 5th. These guys can‘t possibly go to all two dozen of these states. It‘s going to be all on the airwaves now. That favors the well-funded candidates and the front-runners—all five or six of them.
OLBERMANN: Yes, just for the record, by the way, culinary workers are almost all the guys on this strip. So, they may have white hats or they might have eggs on their face for all we know.
MILLBANK: They might.
OLBERMANN: I‘m presuming that was an egg. Among the Democrats, in which scenario or what scenario is either Senator Edwards or Gov. Richardson, who‘s on some sort of news bubble right here, viable past super Tuesday next month?
MILBANK: Well, with the usual preface that nobody knows what they are talking about at this point, I think it‘s fair to say that the only way it‘s not Obama or Hillary is if the two of them are caught in some sort of a love triangle with Dick Cheney at this point. We‘re not sure among the two of them but we are not seeing any movement among the other two, although Bill Richardson may be moving back home to Sta. Fe.
OLBERMANN: I‘m sorry to have left you hanging in there, Dana, but we just got the word, we‘re talking about Bill Richardson. Chuck Todd is now telling us—our political director—that sources inside the Richardson campaign confirmed to NBC News that Governor Richardson will drop out of the presidential race tomorrow. Their office had denied that earlier after the Associated Press reported that at about 7:00 this evening. What happens to his supporters—I mean, five percent doesn‘t sound like a lot which is what he got in New Hampshire last night, but five percent, I think, either Obama or Clinton would happily take that.
MILBANK: They would and they‘ll probably split it because there‘s no indication that he‘d particularly go for one or the other. He was presumably running for vice-president all along the way. So, if he wants to stay in the good graces of the winner, as he goes home and puts his feet on the couch in Sta. Fe.
OLBERMANN: On the Republican side, is there a realistic possibility that it‘s going to be ‘all chiefs, no Indians‘, as the old politically incorrect phrase used to go? What happens if every one of your candidates is a front-runner?
MILBANK: Well, it‘s actually a distinct possibility that, on February 5, there will be four men each of whom will have won at least one primary. And, then, it‘s just going to be all about a popularity contest. People are always talking about February 5th super-duper-Tuesday being the decisive factor. Now, you‘re hearing February 12th, February 19th, and we‘re all in need of some sleep at this point.
OLBERMANN: What date does the convention start for the Republicans? Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post”, the MSNBC outfit, and, of course, the national egg board. Great thanks, Dana.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Her family‘s bid to help Britney Spears get help, whether she consents to it or not, its previous effort did not go too well. Tonight, the family is blaming Doctor Phil for that. And, in “Worst Persons”, Dick Morris: “when a Democrat gets teary, that disqualifies her for the presidency,” he says. When a Republican gets teary, that makes him a president feels the pain of the troops. Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Britney Spears facing commitment? The woman who asked the question in New Hampshire turned out to have voted for the other candidate. And, in “Worst Persons”, the commentator who say an emotional answer to the question disqualifies the respondent from becoming president. Meaning Mitt Romney has to withdraw and George Bush has to resign, perhaps? That‘s next. This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Now, something to do while we keep waiting for the college town vote to come in from Hanover, New Hampshire. We begin “Keeping Tabs” with reports that Britney Spears maybe close to being committed. The website tmz.com reporting her parents have been trying to get her into some kind of psychological facility for months, convinced that her erratic behavior is the result of bipolar disorder not alcohol or drugs. Spears, so far, reportedly refusing to undergo diagnostic tests. Meanwhile, Phil McGraw may have won the foul off his life-long number one—you either did it or you don‘t. He is getting it—and how! From Spears‘ parents, the family spokesman telling the “Today Show” Dr. Phil shouldn‘t have blabbed about visiting her in the hospital. He tried to build a show around her and then publicly diagnosed her as “in dire need of psychological intervention.” They accused McGraw of compromising the relationship between Spears and her family.
And, good news, everyone! The special comments book is moving up from 19th to 12th on the “New York Times‘” bestseller list. “Truth and Consequences” will be on the list in the paper that comes out a week after Saturday, Sunday, rather. If I can just get ahead of that freaking Brokaw and his book, “Boom.” Thus endeth the 20 seconds of play.
The crying game and the woman who started it all with a question to Hillary Clinton and, then, did not vote for her. That‘s ahead.
But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World”. The bronze to David J. Dalaia and James O‘Hare of New York City: they escorted their friend, Virgilio Cintron, to the Pay-O-Matic store to help him cash his $355-social security check. In fact, they were nice enough to wheel him there in an office chair because Mr. Cintron was a little under the weather. Actually, Mr. Cintron was dead. As for Mr. Dalaia and Mr. O‘Hare, who evidently thought weekend at Bernie‘s was some sort of documentary, they have been arrested.
Our runner-up tonight, Major Garrett of Fixed news, one of those reportedly non-partisan guys working over there above the political fray, he‘s the one who reported yesterday that the Clinton campaign would shake up its staff and call Paul Begala back from the trenches. The story was wrong. Today, it turns out Garrett never even tried to reach Begala for comment, let alone a confirmation. And when Begala wind up e-mailing Garrett to say this isn‘t true, Garrett thanked him, answered that he‘d take it under advisement but was sticking to his sources. Fox never even reported Begala‘s flat-out on the record denial. That‘s his name, Major Garrett. You can guess what his middle name is.
But our winners: Lorie Ingram and Dick Morris of Fox Noise. Embittered ex-Clinton employee Morris saying of Hillary Clinton choking up, quote, “I believe there could well come a time when there‘s such a serious threat to the United States. That she breaks down like that—I don‘t think she ought to be president.” Ingram says, remember all the terrorists quote, “I want to come to the United States and wreak havoc upon our population. We can‘t have people who break down and start crying at the most difficult moments.”
So, if you cry at a difficult moment, you‘re out? So, Mitt Romney has to drop out of the race? Does John Waterworks Bainer have to resign from Congress? Ali North, the first President Bush, the current President Bush? Lorie Ingram and Dick Morris—we need to call up that hooker and find out if Morris cried at the most difficult moment. Lorie Ingram and Dick Morris: today‘s “Worst Persons in the World”.
OLBERMANN: For those of us who thought primary voters in this super-charged political atmosphere of America 2008 could not be influenced whether a candidate choked up or didn‘t over the ordeal of the race, we were wrong. Very wrong. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN and those of us who thought what happened after a candidate doing that was much more important. In part, some of us are right and some of us are wrong and some of us are ready and some of us aren‘t. Apparently, not a lot of people heard anything after the catch in Senator Clinton‘s voice. But irony of ironies, that dramatic answer which may have swayed the New Hampshire primary, did not convince the woman who asked the question that precipitated it. From Mary Ann Young of Fort Smith, New Hampshire, “my question is very personal, how do you do it? Who does your hair?”
Senator Clinton answered the hair question first and launched into an emotional explanation of her own candidacy and Miss Young voted for somebody else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY ANN YOUNG, WOMAN WHO POSED QUESTION TO SEN. CLINTON: I was totally overwhelmed by her genuine, sensitive manner. And, when she welled up with tears, I was touched and I said, wow, you know, she is a human being. And, when I left the meeting, I was free-falling because I was on the fence and I was free-falling. And, I said, now, what do I do? You know, I really liked Obama a lot, I liked what he had to say. But then, Hillary was very powerful. She‘s very powerful that day. And, the only person that came to my mind was Obama. His freshness. And his enthusiasm. He brought me to tears when I saw him on Friday morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Everybody is crying. Mary Ann Young who was speaking to COUNTDOWN earlier today. Let‘s turn now to Rachel Maddow, host of her own show, of course, on Air America. Good evening again, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA PROGRAM HOST: Hi, Keith, nice to see you.
OLBERMANN: All right, it‘s been a long time. Before we indulge in this serial comic experience of dissecting an actual moment event further, as you said during our coverage of the primary last night, there‘s a double standard at play in the media‘s overwhelming reaction to this?
MADDOW: I think there is. I mean, I should say, first I don‘t see crying as a sign of weakness. Anybody who knows me, knows that I am a crier. I cry at the national anthem. I cry when I see baskers(ph). I cry at television ads. I am a crier. I don‘t see myself as weak. I don‘t see crying as a sign of weakness. And, I also should say, that I can see that it is news worthy when a public figure—a politician or an office-holder—shows emotion visibly in public. And, I remember when Defense Secretary Bob Gates choked up and actually audibly cried when he was giving a speech and he mentioned marines who died in Iraq. I did a big story about that on my radio show because it offered a lot of insight, actually favorable insight, into who he is as an office-holder. With all of that said, it‘s the double standard that‘s the problem. If it‘s a leading candidate for president showing emotion in public, it‘s news worthy. If that‘s the standard, then Mitt Romney not getting national coverage for crying three times in public in less than three weeks when he was as much of a national front-runner as Hillary Clinton was at that time, that makes absolutely no sense. There was a Clinton standard here that was different than it was for other candidates. And it feels for a gender then it feels indefensible.
OLBERMANN: So, the idea that anybody, by the way, besides her who says they know what happened -- moment of exhaustion, premeditation, genuine emotion—obviously, anybody is lying. See William Kristol who said he‘s a telepath, apparently. But, it revealed some part of her personality that she hasn‘t rarely been willing to let people see. And, for those who have met her, it‘s a real part. She can be relaxed. She can be funny. She can be as charming as her husband. Just tonight, she told Charlie Gibson that this race, that the support she and Obama both have—the stuff that that woman, Mary Ann Young, was referring to—is a good problem for the Democrats to have which very few Democrats would say. John Edwards wouldn‘t say that right now. Obama wouldn‘t, either. This is outside the political box stuff. The reality of what we saw—could it be, is it being a human being, being soft being, being real that sells or is it actually just not doing the politically expected thing that had this impact?
MADDOW: I mean, I think, what‘s engaging and interesting in politics is when something unexpected happens. Or when you can tell that something is happening that has not been scripted. And so, it‘s exciting when things go off to realism a little bit in terms of what was predicted. And, personally, politicians get more engaging when it feels like they haven‘t planned out in advance everything that they are going to do. I mean, Mike Huckabee doesn‘t have a high likability factor because he‘s somebody who writes great one-liners for him and he delivers them well. I mean, you know, a lot of politicians can do that. What‘s likable about Mike Huckabee is that he seems like he could do anything at any moment. He seems comfortable on his own. He seems unscripted. And that has actually make you connect with him in a more human light.
OLBERMANN: Yes, he‘ll make a joke about himself, he‘ll make a joke about you, then, he‘ll make two jokes about himself. One thing—are we now going to be as the media overreacts to everything—are we now going to be analyzing psychological movements of every remaining presidential candidate every moment of everyday?
MADDOW: I hope we do that less. I mean, here‘s how I feel about it. I mean, you know about this—putting a show together everyday. I know about this putting a show together everyday. You have to decide how much humanly engaging stuff to put out there—the mixing with the real meat of policy and people‘s records and stuff. And I think that if you sprinkle the kind of image or psycho-analysis across the more substance of stuff about policies, records, conflicts between the candidates, that‘s fine. But if you come down to just relying on psycho-analysis, ultimately it‘s like making a whole meal out of just Mrs. Dash. You know, it‘s just seasoning. It‘s not supposed to be the substance of what we do everyday. A little bit goes a long way.
OLBERMANN: Last point here -- is that do you find something, not that it matters to either one of us, who votes for Obama and who votes for Clinton, but do you find something particularly memorable about the fact that the woman who asked this question, wind up voting for Obama anyway?
MADDOW: I have to say, watching that clip of her, I love her. I mean, I love the whole process in Iowa and New Hampshire. I love how seriously they take it. I love how seriously they get engaged in the learning about the candidates and how important they know their own individuals. And I wish in more states around the country, people had the same feeling about it. But just seeing that tape, I loved her.
OLBERMANN: I agree. Rachel Maddow of Air America Radio joining us. Thanks, Rachel. Are we done for this hour? That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,715th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. Quick programming notice: “Politics Quest” tonight, a live edition of “Hardball” at 11:00 Eastern. We‘re back at 10:00 p. m. Eastern, 7:00 p. m. Pacific. As usual, at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific—not going to mislead you here—bringing you breaking news, these will be the same shows as this one but the “Hardball” will be new. From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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