Guests: Roger Stone, Mudcat Saunders, Al Sharpton
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama face off in Las Vegas tonight after a week of remarkable nastiness, while Mitt Romney, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and the rest of the Republican field face the voters in today‘s Michigan primary under way as we speak.
Welcome to the show, coming to you tonight from Los Angeles.
Last night both Obama and Clinton called for a truce on issues of race and gender in their contest for the Democratic nomination. But race has been a central theme in the campaign this week. Can the Black Man of America—the hundred Black Man of America and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are among the sponsors of tonight‘s black-brown forum in Las Vegas. Race will come up.
So what attack will Obama, Clinton and John Edwards, and for that matter, take on questions of minority voters and minority issues?
Bill Clinton, meanwhile, spent part of the day on the Reverend Al Sharpton‘s radio show and Reverend Sharpton will join us in just a minute to discuss what he said.
While the Democrats vote, Republicans watched the returns come in from Michigan, where a son of ex-governor of that state, Mitt Romney and John McCain are perceived to have the best chance to win.
Where will the Republican field stand when the smoke clears there?
Roger Stone joins us in a minute to help assess the still wide open field.
But first the latest news on the ground in Michigan and Nevada, we begin with our reporters from NBC News correspondents accompanying the candidates. First up, what is Mitt Romney doing in these final hours before voting closes in Michigan?
For that we check in with NBC‘s Ron Allen who is in Southfield, Michigan covering the Romney campaign.
Ron, welcome. How are they feeling?
RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think they‘re feeling good. I think they‘ve been feeling good for the past few days because this is home turf. And a lot of people have said observing Romney, he seems to be more comfortable here. The other thing is that the issues in Michigan are all about jobs and business and economics, that‘s more of a strong suit for him than the issues out in Iowa, for example, where it was all about conservative values and abortion and all, this stuff which doesn‘t play to Romney‘s strong suit.
So he seemed to be more of a natural here, if you will. Of course, this is his race that he really—a lot of people think he really has to win after coming in second in Iowa and New Hampshire, after being way up in the lead. Here, the polls are very close. I‘ve seen polls giving him an eight-point lead, giving McCain the three-point lead. So it‘s somewhere in the middle. It‘s probably very close. And both of them have been trying to get out their vote today.
CARLSON: You keep reading, Ron, talk—people who analyze politics, not necessarily the players in it, say Romney, as you just said it, has to win this state, if he doesn‘t it‘s over. This is the last state where he‘s spending a lot of money. What is the Romney campaign saying?
ALLEN: Well, they don‘t say that. But whether they believe it or not is another issue. Tomorrow they have a full-day of events planned to South Carolina. Four stops, we‘re leaving early tomorrow morning, and I believe we‘re going to Nevada the next day. So there‘s the schedule. You know what they have been saying lately is they‘ve have been counting delegates and they‘ve been saying that with second place finishes and a win in Wyoming, which no one talks about, they‘re saying that they‘ll prove that they can win across the country and they‘re playing in every game.
They‘re kind of saying that this whole idea of Rudy Giuliani moving to the front in Florida is sort of ridiculous. They‘re saying that they are accumulating support and they‘re going to be in it for a long time. And I think, to some extent as well, they believe that if it gets down to a battle of attrition, they‘re going to have more money and more resources than anybody else. They have been on the air in South Carolina, even though they pulled their ads. They have been on the air in Florida. So they say they are in it to keep playing.
CARLSON: Ron Allen with the Romney campaign. Thanks a lot, Ron.
We go now to MSNBC‘s David Shuster who‘s covering Mike Huckabee‘s campaign there in Lexington, South Carolia right now.
David, what—how do the Huckabee people think he‘s going to do in Michigan tonight?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tucker, they‘re not sure.
They‘re hoping that he‘s going to do well, double digit, 15, 16 percent. But one of the reasons that they came here to South Carolina this morning is because they didn‘t want to be in Michigan when the returns came back because they believe this is either McCain or Romney‘s race in Michigan. Having said that, they believe they could still do pretty well and at least show that Iowa was not just sort of a one-state wonder as they get ready for South Carolina.
South Carolina, Tucker, as you know, is a must win for the Huckabee campaign. And what‘s been so fascinating over the last 24 hours is to see the language from Huckabee change, not so much about jobs, which is the main message in Michigan, but starting last night, Tucker, you started hearing a lot more about his faith from Mike Huckabee, talked about amending the constitution so it‘s in God‘s standards. And then today at his very first event here in South Carolina, Mike Huckabee was talking not just about illegal immigration but about legal immigration suggesting that in a Huckabee presidency he would consider not allowing people into the United States who come from countries that harbor or sponsor terrorists.
I mean that‘s a pretty dramatic departure in policy. But it‘s the kind of politics that plays pretty well in South Carolina especially on the Republican side—Tucker?
CARLSON: It appears to be. He‘s doing remarkably well in that state.
David Shuster with the Huckabee campaign. Thanks a lot, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Tucker.
CARLSON: After a week of injecting race into the campaign, will Obama and Clinton take the gloves off tonight? Or will we get a kinder, gentler debate? And what about John Edwards? Is his message winning critical attention among union voters in Nevada? That‘s a key constituency for him.
Well, for more on tonight‘s debate, we go live in Las Vegas and NBC‘s Kevin Corke who is standing by.
Kevin, we assume that race is going to be center in this debate tonight. What do you expect the two main candidates, Clinton and Obama, to say about it?
KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they are going to try to really downplay the controversy, quite frankly, because, as you heard Barack Obama say earlier today, Tucker, the party doesn‘t win if they get essentially lost in the weeds on this issue. You can‘t really get bogged down on race and gender when the fact of the matter is Democrats have lost five of the last seven national elections.
I mean so when you think about it, if you get bogged down in that, if you start alienating a major core consistency, the fact is you‘re probably looking at another loser in November. And so you‘re going to hear them try to get around that, although the fact of the matter is we‘re going to be talking about it because, after all, they started talking about it.
Now as for John Edwards, real quickly, I do want to just point out one thing, you made a really important point. He is very well leveraged here in terms of his labor support in the silver state. That should help him. He continually and consistently has performed well in the debates but can he translate those good performances into a, say, a second or maybe even a first place finish? We‘ll find out this weekend but they‘re certainly hoping for, at the very least, a very strong second place finish here, Tucker.
CARLSON: What‘s the status, Kevin, of Dennis Kucinich? Last I heard he had been not—NBC had not invited him to the debate tonight. He‘d gone to a judge to try and force his way and the judge had essentially ruled that he has to be included in tonight‘s debate. That‘s being contested. Where are we now? Is he going to be there?
CORKE: Yes, that‘s still under consideration. We did hear earlier today that the state Supreme Court was going to actually have a hearing about this subject. For the folks at home who don‘t know, the way the format was set up, we were expecting to have the three major candidates. Why? Well, quite frankly because those are the probable candidates, that pool is the most viable pool. And truthfully most people want to hear what Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama have to say. After all, those are the three they‘re going to be picking from.
Here‘s the issue. You‘re right. The judge here entered a decision and said, “Look, you invited the guy. He‘s viable from my standpoint. Let him be a part.” The problem with that is, then who else? Is Allen Keys going to be here? Am I going to be on the stage? So we‘re still waiting to hear from the court on this one on right now, Tucker. I would doubt that we will see Dennis Kucinich tonight but you‘ll never know. I mean I‘m not so sure it serves the voters that well but certainly there‘s a feeling here that every voice needs to be heard and that‘s why the judge, at least, in issuing an earlier ruling said that Kucinich should be part of the event tonight.
CARLSON: Well, as long as judges are deciding who‘s on television, frankly, I want a better time slot and I plan to petition the court. But more on that later.
CARLSON: Kevin Corke, I really appreciate it.
CARLSON: Maybe you should, too.
CORKE: My pleasure.
CARLSON: Thanks, Kevin.
In a programming reminder, be sure to tune in to MSNBC tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for the Democratic presidential debate, that‘s in Las Vegas. It will be moderated by NBC‘s Brian Williams.
Well, he‘s beating Mitt Romney by a nose in Michigan, polling and trouncing everybody else in national polling on the Republican side, John McCain must be feeling pretty good right now.
If he wins Michigan how much does that improve his chances of winning the nomination?
We will check now with the senior advisor to the McCain campaign, Frank Donatelli. He joins us from Washington.
Thanks for coming on.
FRANK DONATELLI, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR: Hi, Tucker, how are you?
CARLSON: I‘m doing great. I wonder—I just got an e-mail from your campaign, the McCain campaign. It‘s a response to something called Vietnam Veterans Against McCain, which is a group I hadn‘t heard of until about 10 few minutes ago, that apparently sending mailings attacking McCain. Again, you all have responded to it.
Who is behind this group and what are they saying? What do you know about them?
DONATELLI: I don‘t know a whole lot about them. You know, Vietnam veterans are a very large group. They‘re a very diverse group. I guess there are some problems still, you know, Senator McCain was one that graciously stepped up and understood the need to engage Vietnam, and we recognized Vietnam during the Clinton administration and Senator McCain was for that. So I guess maybe there was some hard feelings about that.
What I can tell you is down in South Carolina, which is the home to a lot of veterans from what we‘ve seen, Senator McCain has a lot of support there. The veterans are going to form the basis of hopefully a successful campaign in South Carolina.
CARLSON: I think that‘s believable. How are you going to do tonight in Michigan?
DONATELLI: It will be close. As you say, the polls to the extent that you can believe the polls, and it‘s hard to get a sample because you don‘t know how many independents are going to actually turn out, go in both directions. So we had a good campaign up there, had a chance to talk about our economic message. If we win, great. If not, it‘s on to South Carolina in the next contest.
CARLSON: I wonder why, though—I mean McCain, of course, won Michigan the last time he ran there in 2000. He‘s just coming off an upset in New Hampshire. Why wouldn‘t he be, you know, the obvious winner tonight? Why does Mitt Romney even have a shot at wing?
DONATELLI: Well, the reason he would have a shot is number one, he‘s spending a lot of money up there. But number two, you could say it‘s a little of the home state advantage. His father was governor of that state and there‘s a large number of his family that still live there. So I think that is certainly a factor. But as I say, we had a good race. Hopefully we‘ll do well. But Michigan is just one stop. We move on to South Carolina, and then Florida, then Super Tuesday. There‘s a lot more campaign to be run, Tucker.
CARLSON: Well, tell me one thing finally, Frank. You all doing very well at least from the polls I‘ve been reading in South Carolina. But Mike Huckabee is doing pretty well, too. It may be that that‘s really a contest between McCain and Huckabee. If I‘m an evangelical voter in South Carolina why shouldn‘t I vote for Huckabee? What‘s the case against Huckabee from your point of view?
DONATELLI: Well, you know, I guess, I would rather talk about the case for McCain but it‘s two sides of the same coin. If you believe that the transcend an issue that the next president is going to face is national security and who can protect the United States best and who has the most experience dealing with foreign policy crisis around the world, whether it‘s, you know, Governor Huckabee, who‘s a fine fellow, or any of the other candidates, frankly, their credentials in that regard pales in comparison to John McCain.
He‘s the one by far, and we‘re going to say this to South Carolina, that‘s best prepared to lead America from day one. There‘s no on-the-job training with him.
CARLSON: Frank Donatelli, speaking for the McCain campaign.
Thanks a lot, Frank. I appreciate it. Good luck tonight.
DONATELLI: OK. Thank you.
CARLSON: John McCain and $y are locked in a tight battle for the state of Michigan. Can McCain pull off another win? Or will Romney finally get the gold he has sought over three states?
Plus Mike Huckabee isn‘t expecting to win Michigan but he is expect a victory perhaps in South Carolina. What happens if he‘s right? Can Huckabee represent the Republican Party in November? We‘ll tell you. We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: We‘re down to the wire in Michigan‘s Republican primary where John McCain and Mitt Romney are running pretty much neck-and-neck. The polls close in less than three hours from now. Can McCain pull off a victory? And would that be the end of Romney‘s presidential campaign?
We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: It‘s coming down to it in Michigan right now where Mitt Romney and John McCain are duking it out for the top spot in the GOP primary in that state. Thirty delegates are up for grabs and the latest polls show those two in a statistical dead heat.
McCain, of course, is hoping for a repeat of his win eight years ago, while Romney is hoping his favorite-son status will propel him to the goal.
Joining me now, associate editor of “The Hill” A.B. Stoddard and MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
Welcome to you both.
Pat, if Romney wins tonight, who is the Republican frontrunner?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: If Romney wins tonight, the frontrunner is the winner of South Carolina, Tucker.
CARLSON: So what is kicking the cannon down the road? Is that what you‘re saying?
BUCHANAN: No, here is what I‘m saying is, if McCain wins tonight, I think McCain is not only the frontrunner, he‘s the prohibitive favorite for the nomination because I think he will roll through South Carolina and Florida. But if he‘s stopped, I think he‘ll be weakened in South Carolina and Huckabee could win that. And then the contest goes on to Florida, and I would guess Huckabee would suddenly become the favorite there.
So this is a must-win in a sense for Romney. But it‘s—I mean it would be an enormous win for McCain after New Hampshire. I think he‘d be almost unstoppable.
CARLSON: Well, A.B., that‘s—I mean everybody I know believes this is a must-win for Romney. That is very much kind of the consensus view from outside his campaign. But Romney himself says, no, he doesn‘t have to win, he can keep going.
What‘s the truth, do you think?
A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: Well, I think the only thing that matters is that Mitt Romney is determined to keep fighting. He‘s now—it‘s no longer about momentum, it‘s about delegates. So he‘s piling them up with his two second place finishes and his win in Wyoming and he‘s planning to forge ahead and compete in every state as he said through Super Tuesday and maybe beyond.
He was quoted this week saying when a Romney drowns, look up river for the body. I mean the man is really not going to go lightly into the night.
BUCHANAN: You know, Tucker.
CARLSON: That‘s—Pat, I‘m sorry, go ahead?
BUCHANAN: You know—yes, I think that look—that Romney if he loses tonight, I think he will go on. But I think he will lose South Carolina, he will lose Florida, and then he will get a share of delegates and he may go to the convention with a number of delegates. But it‘s hard to see how he‘s the breakthrough candidate who wins it.
On the other hand, if he wins tonight, I think it‘s a three-way tie for
frontrunner. I would put Huckabee, McCain and Romney all three tied with -
frankly, with Romney leading in delegates and two golds and two silvers, which is not bad. He had (INAUDIBLE) yet.
CARLSON: What is—I mean can—so I mean, assess quickly what you think Huckabee‘s appeal in South Carolina is. Again, the conventional view is, it‘s his religion, he‘s a strong Christian. Is his economic message getting traction in that state?
BUCHANAN: His economic message got a little traction in Michigan and it will get traction up in the Greenville, Spartanburg area where the textile mills are the ones that are being shut down and where John Edwards will probably get some traction as well.
But mainly, I think, it is evangelical Christians with McCain getting the military folks. And Fred Thompson frankly have to really roughen up. Huckabee probably surging a little bit down there in South Carolina. You hear he‘s third and closing. One poll had him tied for second. So I think those three are there. I think Romney can come in here and here‘s where Romney might be running out of the money in South Carolina. He could run fourth down there.
CARLSON: So, A.B., just in 20 seconds, I hate to put you on the spot, but you‘ve been over time really the most accurate predictor of what‘s going to happen in American politics. Do you want to predict the outcome of tonight‘s race in Michigan?
STODDARD: I do not. I do think that there‘s some monkey business about liberal Democrats being encouraged to go vote for Romney in order to stop McCain, so independents voting for McCain. It‘s really—it‘s too close to call. But I have another theory about South Carolina I‘d like to share when I have more than 20 seconds.
CARLSON: All right. We‘ll be back in just a second and you can do that.
CARLSON: Meantime Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama called a truce over remarks regarding race in the LA race. We‘ll get a reaction from the Reverend Al Sharpton who spoke to Bill Clinton today.
We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: Race. Just mention the word and you‘ll likely get an immediate and emotional reaction almost anywhere in the country. What role in the end will race play in the first presidential election in history with a black frontrunner.
Joining us now to help us answer that question, the founder of the National Action network, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Rev, thanks for coming on.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK PRESIDENT: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: So Bill Clinton‘s friends and surrogates have been running around the country in the past couple of weeks—Billy Shaheen, Bob Johnson—bringing up Barack Obama‘s drug use, trying to make him and sound like a crack head.
Did you ask Bill Clinton about that when he came on your show today for an hour?
SHARPTON: No, I‘m going to ask those surrogates. We asked Bill Clinton about his statement, where he had talked about the fairy tale. He clarified that he was talking about Senator Obama‘s position on Iraq, which we deal with—we‘ll deal with Senator Obama. We dealt with his statement. I don‘t believe in asking other people to speak as to what others meant. We‘ll ask them as to what they meant and let them speak for themselves.
CARLSON: Well, did you ask Clinton about his claim yesterday that the Obama campaign is, quote, “racist,” in a mailing it sent out calling joking and calling Bill Clinton‘s wife, the senator, from Punjab, calling the Obama campaign racist. Did you ask him about that?
SHARPTON: Well, no, I‘m not aware of that. We asked him about the statement on fairytale. We asked him a lot of questions about issues that people did not agree with when he was president. As you know, I was one of those that marched when he was president. I think that this has got to go now to some substantive issues. What are we talking about in these campaigns and in their candidacies, and what will be the reality if they become president. And I think all this back and forward is not the answer. The answer is to get down to the meat and potatoes of what their campaigns will mean to all of these constituents.
CARLSON: Yes, but you know what? You know what, Rev? You‘re giving him a pass. When some government official does something appalling you hold the president accountable. You had Bill and Hillary Clinton surrogates come out and make a hey out of Obama‘s drug use. And that clearly.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, that is not.
CARLSON: (INAUDIBLE) because he racially charges back and you‘re not holding him accountable for that?
SHARPTON: First of all, that is not giving any one a pass when I‘m challenging them on what they say. The easiest thing in the world, Tucker, is to ask somebody what somebody else said, and they say I don‘t know what they said and avoid asking them what they said.
SHARPTON: The pass is to ask what somebody else said rather than what you said. If I‘m talking to you, I‘m going to talk to you about you. Anything other than that.
SHARPTON: .is a distraction and to give you a pass.
CARLSON: But does the—here‘s the question: does the Clinton campaign benefit when the question of race arises in this campaign?
SHARPTON: Absolutely not.
CARLSON: There‘s only one candidate in this race, he‘s Barack Obama. So they keep bringing up this issue. Do they benefit from that?
SHARPTON: I do not think—I think it backfires when they bring up race. I think that in many ways that to bring up race, particularly when we‘ve had all this advertising that we‘re beyond race, I think hurts those that bring it up. But I think the public sees whoever that is.
What is amazing to me is when we had all of these stories about how this will be a campaign and a whole season where we‘re beyond race. And we‘ve had more acrimonial race in the last three or four days than the whole time when I ran last time, and I was supposed to be the racial guy.
CARLSON: I know. No, you‘re right. That‘s—yes, that‘s actually a very good point.
You know what‘s amazing to me? I see Bob Johns, I see Charlie Rangel, who came out savagely attacked Obama, and I see a kind of collapsing old time civil rights establishment that is clearly terrified of the new generation which is personified by Barack Obama.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, Tucker.
CARLSON: They hate him because he challenges their power base, and so they are trying to bring them down. That‘s what‘s going on. You know it.
SHARPTON: Tucker, I think that what‘s interesting to me is that I didn‘t know Charlie Rangel or Bob Johnson were civil rights member. I think one is a businessman, one is a member of Congress. So again, you also used to blame the civil rights. There‘s no civil rights leader I know.
CARLSON: What do you mean? They both pose as civil—I mean everybody pretends to be a civil rights leader.
CARLSON: You‘ve got to be kidding.
SHARPTON: No, there is no civil rights.
CARLSON: I mean of course they pretend to be civil rights leaders. I‘m merely saying.
SHARPTON: Tucker Carlson, there is no civil rights leader I know.
CARLSON: .they are attacking Barack Obama because he threatens their power base and you know it.
SHARPTON: There‘s no civil rights leader I know that has told people don‘t vote for Barack Obama and that is attacking Barack Obama. And in terms of generations, we‘ve—I‘ve had the same fight for generations. Barack Obama and I are five or six years apart, we‘re on the same generation. Yes, there are generational problems but you can‘t make people civil rights leaders that were not civil rights leaders. Let‘s be real serious now, Tucker.
CARLSON: All right. I hope, Rev, that you‘ll endorse Obama soon and you‘ll announce it on this show. I can‘t wait for that. I hope it happens. The Reverend Al Sharpton.
SHARPTON: I will tell you that I will be endorsing soon and I don‘t know why I wouldn‘t endorse on my own show.
CARLSON: OK. Well, I hope we‘ll be second.
Rev, thanks for coming on.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
CARLSON: John McCain‘s campaign was nearly written off. But after winning New Hampshire his campaign is taking off. Now he‘s leading in national polls of Republicans. Could he win the nomination?
We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: John McCain went from afterthought to Republican front-runner in a single night last week in New Hampshire. The question is, will his lead endure, and does another McCain win mean the end of Mitt Romney? We‘ll have a better sense in just a few hours from now when the results come in from the Michigan primary.
In the meantime, we‘re joined once more by the next best thing, associate editor of “The Hill,” A.B. Stoddard, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
OK, Alexandra, here is the question, basically nobody is attacking John McCain in South Carolina. You think he‘s the front-runner there. He‘s come out of nowhere. A lot of people have a lot to gain by bringing him down, but you haven‘t seen the 527 come out and attack him independently. Why is this? Is he beyond attack now?
STODDARD: I think he‘s a different candidate than he was in 2000. I think that you‘re beginning to see Mike Huckabee start to find some language to use on John McCain. He‘s trying to refer to his age. He talks about a new generation of leaders. I think he‘s trying to come up with an aggressive immigration proposal, which he does every few weeks before he rescinds on it, to sort of challenge McCain on this issue, which he thinks is a weakness for John McCain.
I think John McCain, generally speaking—he hung in, he persevered, and he, fortunately, has all these other candidates who are not strong enough as his rivals. And he won in New Hampshire, which is really sort of a tailor made state for him. I think Pat is right, that if John McCain wins in Michigan, he could be unstoppable. But I don‘t think if Mitt Romney beats him in Michigan then that necessarily means John McCain won‘t win South Carolina.
I think he‘s a different candidate who—as we said, national security is a huge issue now. There‘s a humility to John McCain that wasn‘t there in 2000. And I think people respond to that.
CARLSON: Pat, Huckabee and McCain are in kind of a weird position if they are campaigning against one another, because both have become famous for their different style of campaigning. They are both gentlemen, and they have complimented one another. Can they go after each other, or will that be self-destructive.
BUCHANAN: Well, I think Huckabee is a religious man. He‘s praying tonight that Romney knocks off McCain in Michigan. If Romney doesn‘t do it, McCain could very well win South Carolina, and I think he‘s modestly ahead in Florida. He really could run the table. You‘re right, there has been no tough argument between Huckabee and McCain. And Thompson, who is surging, decided to take down the front-runner, who was not McCain as of last week. It was Huckabee himself.
Of course, Romney has been going after McCain, but he‘s pulled out of South Carolina. I think you‘ll see a different dynamic. If Romney wins tonight, Tucker, going into South Carolina, people are going to look at who is ahead of them, because what South Carolina is going to do, it‘s going to kill some campaigns I think. This thing could get very, very rough. They will go after the front-runner. I would not be surprised if Huckabee sees his lead diminishing to McCain, that McCain goes after him and vice versa.
CARLSON: A.B., You‘ve got to feel sorry for Mitt Romney. I don‘t
think any candidate this year, with the exception of maybe Hillary Clinton
maybe not even Hillary—has been treated more roughly by the national press than Mitt Romney.
You really get the feeling people don‘t like him personally. The latest story that came out, not the fault of the press, but apparently at a photo op yesterday, Mitt Romney was talking to a 50-year-old woman named Elizabeth Sachs (ph) from Michigan. She‘s just recently unemployed, and he was comforting her. Then reporters discovered—oops—she‘s the mother of a Mitt Romney campaign staffer.
Metaphor alert; this kind of feeds the stereotype. Doesn‘t it a bit?
STODDARD: Mitt Romney is an earnest man. I think he‘s been very successful in his career. I think he has very good resume items actually for running for the presidency. But as he runs for presidency, there‘s been many moments like this, where it just doesn‘t compute. It doesn‘t work. It just doesn‘t—it‘s too cute. It‘s like he tried to pull off some kind of thing you could do, I don‘t know, at a power point presentation for an investment bank, but it‘s just not going to work when you have the national press corps following you around. They are going to figure it out.
He also has been going to these audiences in Michigan talking about how his son gave him a Rambler, a 1962 Rambler for his 60th birthday. He does so with a big smile and he talks about how it didn‘t work, and it had to be rolled into the garage, basically non-functioning. It‘s sweet. It‘s Mitt Romney—it‘s an example to me of how completely out of it Mitt Romney is. He doesn‘t even get that he doesn‘t fit in.
STODDARD: Pat, just one second. Does a suffering middle class person in Michigan get a non-functioning Rambler for their 60th birthday from their kids? Just a quick question.
BUCHANAN: Look, he‘s a wealthy man. It‘s a wealthy family. Not all of us went to Hyannis (ph) Port and Palm Peach for Easter vacation. I think Romney, to me—clearly, he didn‘t grow up in this business, like some of us did, and spent all these years. I understand that he doesn‘t have it down. He‘s like a kid that went into the Professional Football League without playing in college.
I think, though, in terms of potential, Romney has the potential to be president of the United States. The way he‘s picked up on the immigration issue and learned it and moved his position right in tune with the Republican party, in Michigan, in the last days here, you see him talking about the working folks. He‘s obviously beginning to get in touch with that. You give him eight more months, and you know Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s problems and Barack Obama‘s. I think Romney can win the presidency of the United States.
CARLSON: I want to know—
CARLSON: I want a recap of the last seven days from both of you really quickly. There‘s been this sort of amazing argument going on in the Democratic party over race over the past five or six days. Both sides basically coming out and saying, your racist; no, you‘re racist. I wonder, in the end, who benefits most. A.B., who do you think was hurt most by this argument between Hillary and Obama and who was helped, if anyone?
STODDARD: I think the Hillary Clinton campaign is really facing a backlash from this. I think Hillary Clinton‘s campaign is hurt by this. I think the surrogates, including Congressman Rangel, who had been going out and blowing it, owe her, as well as Barack Obama, an apology. If I were a donor to the Clinton campaign, I would be asking them if they don‘t have some secret plot to help him pick up black voters. She‘s losing them, and they know that. This is a big mistake for these surrogates to go and bring up these high profile dust-ups, where they‘re insulting to Barack Obama.
They should continue to talk up her strengths and make this go away.
I think with each passing day it‘s worse for her.
CARLSON: I think there‘s something to that. It looks to me like Obama is going to win black voters hands down in South Carolina. I don‘t think that needed to happen. Do you?
BUCHANAN: I agree with you. The immediate beneficiary is Barack Obama, but the long-term beneficiary is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, South Carolina—look, Tucker, when Obama wins that, we‘re all going to say, of course he wins that; the black vote did it. Before he was a national candidate. He had both black and white.
In the long-term, I think this will benefit Hillary Clinton, to the extent that she‘s going to become the alternative to the Jesse Jackson candidate in the presidential election. However, if she wins, I think an alienated and antagonized young vote, African-American vote could hurt her very badly.
CARLSON: That is a very, very smart point. If they succeed in making Barack Obama Jesse Jackson, that will be so unfair, in my view, so tragic.
STODDARD: They cannot. It won‘t happen.
CARLSON: -- only on fairness grounds, just because, frankly, he‘s not Jesse Jackson. It‘s not fair to pretend he is.
BUCHANAN: He‘s not.
CARLSON: Do you think, A.B., that Dennis Kucinich, to the extent he helps or hurts himself by doing anything—what is behind him petitioning the court to get in the debate tonight.
STODDARD: I never miss an opportunity to compliment Dennis Kucinich. Dennis Kucinich has added a lot to a lot of the debates, if you watch every single one, like I have. Dennis Kucinich has brought the candidates around to his position on the Iraq war and other things. Dennis Kucinich, if he actually got into the debate, might have a chance. If he choked up and then found his voice, he could just run the table in Nevada and South Carolina and February 5th. You never know.
CARLSON: Pat, you agree.
BUCHANAN: Are you kidding? Look I want to see Dennis Kucinich in there since I petitioned the court to get into a debate myself. I think he ought to be in there. I thought Ron Paul should be on the Fox News debate. I‘d like to see him in there. What are they going to run, a two-hour debate? They can have him. I think he adds something to it. He won that debate out there in Soldier Field.
CARLSON: Yes. It‘s true. Let Dennis talk. Thank you both very much.
BUCHANAN: He had the crowd going wild out there. Thank you.
CARLSON: He‘s a nice guy. Thank you. Campaigns are never short of their share of dirty tricks, the good ones are anyway. After the break, we‘ll check in with our favorite monitor of campaign mischief, legendary Republican strategist Roger Stone.
Plus, we‘re just over two hours from tonight‘s Democratic debate on MSNBC. What can we expect and how does John Edwards plan on clawing his way back into the national spotlight? We‘ll talk to a member of his campaign, a senior strategist, coming up.
CARLSON: There may be more than meets the eye in today‘s Republican primary in Michigan. That primary is open, which means that anybody, no matter his or her party affiliation, can vote for any candidate. The left wing website DailyKos.com has urged Michigan Democrats to vote not for Kucinich or Clinton or for uncommitted, but for Republican Mitt Romney. Why? Quoting the blog, quote, “we want Romney in because the more Republican candidates we have fighting it out, trashing each other with negative ads, and spending tons of money, the better it is for us, the Democrats.”
Joining us for the second day in a row to talk about what really determines the outcome of political campaigns is the man who knows, legendary Republican strategist Roger Stone. Roger, is this going to happen? Do we have any indication how many liberals are going for Romney in Michigan?
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Tucker, we wouldn‘t be talking about this if it weren‘t extremely close. I think Mitt Romney has utilized his Michigan roots very effectively. I disagree with what I heard. The Rambler saved Michigan. It saved thousands of jobs. It brought American Motors back. These primary voters are 50 plus, 55 plus, 65 plus. There‘s some important symbolism there, and I think Romney has used it effectively and I think he closed fast.
I think this is very, very tight for John McCain. A lot of it depends on who else votes in the Republican primary. The good news, Tucker, is when this is over, by looking at the registration figures of who voted, we‘ll be able to tell exactly how many independents and Democrats voted in the Republican primary.
CARLSON: The “Daily Kos” makes the case that if Romney wins with the help of liberals it will dilute and pollute his victory. It will become less meaningless, because he will have been elected by people who didn‘t agree with him otherwise. Is that true? Will anyone care?
STONE: A win is a win is a win. You‘d have a heck of a spin job the next day. If Romney is successful tonight, if pulls Michigan out, I imagine he‘ll turn the TV ads back on in South Carolina and Florida. And you‘re going to have a slugfest for this nomination, in which he and McCain slug it out.
On the other hand, if it‘s within a point tonight, I‘m not sure McCain loses anything. A new poll in Florida today shows him pulling ahead of Giuliani, just on the basis of the free media coverage out of New Hampshire. So this could yet be a dog fight.
CARLSON: I was talking to someone last night at dinner who was telling me about various e-mails he‘s received about Barack Obama, all of them saying essentially the same thing, Obama is a secret Muslim trained in a Madrassa in Indonesia. It‘s a complete crock, but clearly organized by somebody for the benefit of somebody. I‘m wondering since we can trace who puts ads on the television and radio, legitimate political ads, how much campaigning goes on surreptiously by email? How many attack ads are really done anonymously online these days? Do you know?
STONE: An enormous amount, because the Internet is the great equalizer. It used to be if “New York Times” and the “Washington Post” and the “Wall Street Journal” didn‘t write it, it didn‘t happen. Now you can bring news to the forefront through the Internet. Some of it, obviously, is illegitimate, because you can‘t trace the sources the way you can a paid television ad or a paid radio ad. But it‘s changed the entire game. There‘s a lot of that going on.
CARLSON: So if I‘m the head of opposition research—if I‘m running a presidential campaign, is it legal for me to take 75,000 dollars and pay a blogger to write nasty things about my opponent and not report it. Can I do that?
STONE: You‘d have to report it. You‘d just have to say blogger, 75,000 dollars. You‘d be over-paying, first of all, at that price, I can tell you that.
CARLSON: What do you—you obviously live in Florida, know the state well. What do you think the chances are Giuliani loses?
STONE: Well, he‘s campaigning here on a tax message, which is, given the property tax issue in the state, I think is very smart. It‘s also an issue in which Rudy has an excellent record, and he is a real conservative. On the other hand, he‘s trying to begin his campaign from a running start. I saw Dade County, which is Miami, poll this afternoon that showed in a dead heat between he and McCain, which, in view of the fact Giuliani has spent lavishly on Spanish language television and radio and broadcast television, is not a good sign.
But Giuliani is still very much in the fight, running a very aggressive, and very expensive campaign in Florida?
CARLSON: Interesting. Roger Stone, I really appreciate it, Roger, thank you.
STONE: Glad to be here.
CARLSON: When we come back, the man, the myth, the legend, Edward‘s senior campaign strategist Mudcat Saunders. He‘ll let us in on the secrets of the Edwards campaign heading into tonight‘s debate and the Iowa caucuses. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is the only Democrat who would ban Washington lobbyists from a White House staff? John Edwards is the only one.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Edwards and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Try as he continues to do, John Edwards‘s anti-lobbyist, neo-populist campaign has not gained too much traction in the Democratic race. The candidates‘ debate in Nevada is a little more than two hours away. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton have dominated the news, talk, and the polls since the New Hampshire primaries a week ago. What can Edwards do tonight to gain ground on Clinton and Obama? Failing that, what does Edwards do next?
Joining me now is the senior strategist to the Edwards campaign and a good friend of this show, Mudcat Saunders. Mudcat, thanks for coming home.
MUDCAT SAUNDERS, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST: Thank you, Tucker. I‘m home in Dixie, finally.
CARLSON: How is John Edwards going to awaken the rest of us to the possibility of an Edwards presidency? How is he going to grab our attention tonight, pull our gaze away from the other two?
SAUNDERS: What do I say? If we‘d have had 25 percent of the coverage of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we‘d be winning. We just keep shouting our message, is what we‘ve got to do, of social justice, and economic fairness, keep it rolling. If John discovered a cure to diabetes tomorrow, Hillary Clinton would immediately come out and say, I‘ve been working tirelessly on diabetes for 35 years and the press would go nuts. Barack Obama would say diabetes patients and sufferers now have hope. With this hope, we can now change.
You know, I think—you know, this word fairy tail has been thrown around. I think it‘s a farce that we‘re out of it. I want you to know that John is a southerner. Southerners become president because southerners continue to fight and we‘re alive and kicking.
CARLSON: Well, see, here is what confuses me, Mudcat. As you know, as I told you many times, I‘m a long way from endorsing John Edwards for president. I don‘t agree with him. Here is one place where I am sympathetic; so we are feeling the good affects and also the bad affects of NAFTA every day. They are in the front page of the newspaper day after day. NAFTA was very much a mixed blessing. A lot of people are upset about it.
Why hasn‘t John Edwards had more luck as the anti-NAFTA candidate in this environment?
SAUNDERS: Well, like I say once again, we go back to the free media that Roger was talking about before in earlier segments. We‘re just not getting it. I mean, this campaign has become about rock stars, and I think, you know, the Democrats—you know, a lot of Democrats, the elitist wing of Democratic Party are pushing this thing. They don‘t want to talk about—
CARLSON: Let me phrase it another way, why isn‘t Hillary Clinton taking more heat over NAFTA? This was the centerpiece of her husband‘s first administration, and she has not tied to it in the public mind, is she? Does your polling suggest she is?
SAUNDERS: Like I said, if all we‘re going to talk about is experience, change, and hope—I mean, I‘m in Dixie now. You can go out through these towns all around Columbia, South Carolina, been devastated by job loss. I‘m also in Dixie and I can say this, it looks like Sherman went through here and didn‘t burn anything. As we get out and as we continue to roll in the states that have been devastated by NAFTA, naturally—naturally, the talk—we‘re going to increase the talk. We‘ve been talking the talk.
As I say again, I think the media coverage of our candidacy—and this isn‘t sour grapes, because it‘s not over and it can‘t be considered sour grapes until it is over. We‘re alive and kicking. We‘re going to continue to talk about social justice and economic fairness and electability. The truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama cannot beat John McCain. John McCain is going to be the nominee.
CARLSON: Do you think—just give me a very quick answer on this—do you think that the Clinton campaign was injecting race into the conversation this week?
SAUNDERS: I think that it was remarkable when race came into the whole campaign discussion. To me, it‘s offensive. John Edwards told me months ago, when Barack Obama was—had decided to run, that John said it just like this, so help me, he said, Mudcat, if anybody tells you they are going to vote for us because of Barack Obama‘s race, tell them clearly, we don‘t want their vote. Go vote for somebody else. I think that the reason it‘s been injected is because of southern stereotypes. And we‘re going to South Carolina.
CARLSON: Mudcat Saunders, good luck toning. Thanks, Mudcat. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night. Be sure to tune in tonight at 9:00 for the debate moderated by Brian Williams. Have a great night.
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