Guests: Eugene Robinson, Hilary Rosen, Lanny Davis, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, Roger Stone
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: The pendulum of momentum for this day swings Barack Obama‘s way, leaving the race for the Democratic presidential nomination closer than ever between Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Welcome to the show. Coming to you tonight live from Miami, scene of tomorrow‘s primaries.
Already buoyed by his overwhelming margin of victory in Saturday‘s South Carolina primary, Obama receives further boost this afternoon from three prominent Kennedys—Congressman Patrick, Caroline and Senator Ted. All of whom joined Obama on stage in Washington to endorse him. It was taken live on all three cable networks.
That event followed Caroline Kennedy‘s piece in the Sunday “New York Times” in which she compared Obama‘s capacity to inspire to her late father‘s. Today Senator Ted Kennedy added to that rhetoric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: With every person he meets, every crowd he inspires, everyone he touches, he generates new hope that our greatest days as a nation are still ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Both Obama and Hillary Clinton had sought Ted Kennedy‘s endorsement but the effect remains to be seen that the senator from Massachusetts still have the juice with the broader American electorate.
Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen and “The Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson join us in just a minute.
Mrs. Clinton spent part of the day in Massachusetts as “The New York Times” reported on her campaign‘s recalibration of Bill Clinton‘s role in her race with Obama. Conventional wisdom has the former president bombast costing Hillary Clinton votes in South Carolina as well as Ted Kennedy‘s endorsement.
However, as MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan said Saturday, the purpose of Bill Clinton‘s rough and tumble techniques may already have been achieved if you know what I mean.
Where does the Obama-Clinton contest stand now? Clinton advocate Lanny Davis is here in just a minute.
And the next meaningful vote of the season is tomorrow morning among Florida Republicans. They kept the rhetorical hands in their pockets at last Thursday‘s debate no longer. Mitt Romney and John McCain are swinging at each other hard in the final hours. McCain‘s claim that Romney has shifted positions on the Iraq war has been met with a flat-out denial from former governor Romney, and the counter-insinuation of McCain is a liberal, a Democrat in disguise. McCain returns fire sliming Romney, at least to Republican voters, with a comparison to Ted Kennedy.
Where will all the mudslinging lead in tomorrow‘s crucial contest?
We‘ll analyze it for new a minute.
But we begin with three very good days in a row for Barack Obama and the Hillary campaign strategy to retake momentum.
Joining me now is Hillary Clinton‘s campaign supporter, longtime friend and former White House special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny Davis.
Lanny, thanks for coming on.
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WH. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRES. CLINTON: Thanks, Tucker. I‘m still smiling.
CARLSON: I bet. Well, we‘ll see if you are after this next sound bite. I want to see how you can explain what Bill Clinton said this weekend about the results of the South Carolina race.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in ‘84 and ‘88 and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama has run a good campaign. He is a good candidate, good organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Oh I get it. It‘s the black primary. So of course, the black candidate wins. I mean Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama have literally nothing in common other than the color of their skin. So that was absolutely what Bill Clinton was saying, isn‘t it?
DAVIS: Well, I haven‘t talked to President Clinton about the comment but what I have heard is that he made that statement in the morning before the results were in. And he was answering a question about the historic results in previous years in South Carolina and other southern states. His answer was that Jesse Jackson had carried South Carolina and some of the other southern states, and that Barack Obama was running a great campaign.
Your clip did not include the question and did not say that the statement was made before the results were over.
CARLSON: Well, let me.
DAVIS: He was not attempting to diminish what was a great victory by Barack Obama.
CARLSON: Let me—I‘m not saying he was attempting to diminish it. I‘m saying that he was, obviously, injecting race into the analysis of the victory. Let me, by the way, include the context for that, which was the question which was: does it take two of you, meaning Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton to defeat Obama in the state?
And Clinton is clearly is saying, look, you know, of course, he won. All these black people are voting and they vote for their own. I mean you honestly want to tell me that‘s not what he was saying?
DAVIS: I don‘t think he was interjecting race. I think he was representing what happened in the past. When Joe Lieberman ran for president, a large substantial majority of Jewish people voted for him out of pride, out of ethnic pride. When Jack Kennedy ran for president, a large percentage of Catholics voted for him.
It‘s not interjecting race. I think if I were President Clinton, I would have been talking about what a great campaign Barack Obama ran, what a great candidate he is. But that Hillary Clinton is still the more experienced and qualified candidate and I think that‘s what you are going to be hearing from President Clinton from this point on.
CARLSON: The more experienced candidate. Interestingly Frank Rich has a piece in “The New York Times.”
DAVIS: Far more.
CARLSON: (INAUDIBLE) of course former drama critic for “The New York Times.” Interesting guy, big liberal, thoughtful piece. He says this about a Hillary-McCain match-up potentially in the fall.
He said, “Mrs. Clinton‘s spiel about being tested by her 35 years of experience won‘t fly. The moment she attempts that Mr. McCain will run an ad about how he was being tested when those 35 years began in 1973. It was that spring when he emerged from five-plus years of incarceration at the Hanoi Hilton when Bill and Hillary was still bivouacked at Yale Law School. And can Mrs. Clinton presumed to sell herself as the best equipped to be commander in chief on day one when opposing an actually commander and war hero?”
It‘s a good point. Can she make that—that case sounds kind of ludicrous when you are running against John McCain, doesn‘t it?
DAVIS: Well, Senator McCain will have all the arguments to make. It‘s ironic that Frank Rich would be making them because what would he say the comparison between Hillary Clinton having served eight years in the United States Senate and also having been in the White House where the crucial decisions were being made for eight years compared to Senator Obama.
Frank Rich has consistently been anti-Hillary Clinton and pro-Barack Obama. That column doesn‘t surprise me. But the basic argument hasn‘t changed, even with my hero, Ted Kennedy, who I wish had endorsed Senator Clinton. The basic argument hasn‘t been changed. Inexperience with an inspirational candidate versus experience of somebody has a record over 30 years, that Democrats know as a progressive record, fighting for the middle class, fighting for choice, all of the great issues of the Democratic Party.
CARLSON: Well, then.
DAVIS: Hillary Clinton has been there. They‘re both two great candidates with two great arguments.
CARLSON: Well, Ted Kennedy not only didn‘t endorse Hillary Clinton, he didn‘t even call her. He called her husband to say he was endorsing Barack Obama. So if she‘s this strong, powerful woman, this feminist icon committed to abortion for everyone and whatever you just said, why did Kennedy.
DAVIS: No, I didn‘t.
CARLSON: .sort of blow her off like the little woman and go right to the husband? It‘s a little embarrassing. No?
DAVIS: I don‘t know why Senator Kennedy didn‘t call her. I wish he had. As I said he‘s been a hero of mine ever since I was a young Democrat running for office where he came in and campaigned for me.
But he‘s entitled to his opinion. The history shows us that endorsements change very few minds. They do change some. We wish we had Senator Kennedy‘s endorsement. But the states that are voting on February 5th have the basic choice right now. They know who Hillary Clinton is. It‘s not about Bill Clinton. It‘s about Hillary. They know who Barack Obama is. They have a choice between somebody who‘s been tested, who has experience and who‘s ready to be president from day one.
If Senator Kennedy disagrees with that, that‘s his opinion and I respect it, versus Barack Obama who‘s an inspirational leader but who I don‘t think has the substance that Senator Kennedy—that Senator Clinton has that she has shown both in had Senate as well as in her life in the White House.
CARLSON: All right. Lanny Davis, you got a tough job today. You did it admirably. I appreciate you coming on. Thank you.
DAVIS: Thank you, Tucker. Thank you.
CARLSON: Barack Obama had a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary. In fact, that‘s not right. He crushed her in the South Carolina primary. But it‘s not just because he won the black vote. We‘ll tell you who else voted for him.
Plus there‘s word that if Obama is elected president John Edwards might have a spot in his administration as attorney general. Apparently the campaign is say that off the record. Is it true?
We‘ll tell you when we come back.
CARLSON: Barack Obama picks up a big endorsement from members of the Kennedy family and even worse for Hillary Clinton, she didn‘t even get a phone call from Kennedy. Why did he call Hillary‘s husband instead?
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: I love this country. I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I‘ve seen it. I‘ve lived it. And with Barack Obama we can do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: The Kennedy dynasty isn‘t what it used to be but some Democrats are still impressed. So when Senator Ted Kennedy along with President John Kennedy‘s daughter Caroline passionately endorsed Barack Obama this afternoon, it was greeted by many as a potentially momentous shift in the fortunes of another political family, the Clintons.
Will this Democratic Party‘s seal of approval mortally wound the Clinton campaign? Does it lock Obama into the frontrunner‘s seat? Does it make for another juicy target for Republicans? Does it do all three?
Joining me now Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Hilary Rosen and “Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson.
Welcome to you both.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here.
HILARY ROSEN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hi, Tucker.
CARLSON: So, Hilary, if you can just settle something from the last conversation I just had with Lanny Davis. It‘s so very, very insulting, it seems to me, that Ted Kennedy didn‘t bother to call Hillary Clinton before making this endorsement and instead called her husband, the man of the house, Bill Clinton. I‘m not quite sure what to make of that. It seems like such an intentional act of disrespect.
ROSEN: I could be wrong about the facts. I could be wrong here but I think actually the timetable was that Bill Clinton had called Ted Kennedy to talk to him about campaigning. Kennedy had reached out to him to express some of his concerns about the president on the campaign trail. And so the final callback that he was going with Senator Obama was a continuation of their phone calls.
So I don‘t think it was that he had deliberately avoided the senator.
I think it was part of an ongoing conversation they‘ve been having.
CARLSON: OK. Well, it does—OK. Then it does seem to me, though, that the act itself is fraught with significance beyond what it is. I mean it‘s not just another endorsement. This is a guy who is seen as a hero by many Democrats, who‘s really the institutional memory of the Democratic Party. He doesn‘t need to weigh in on this race, and yet he‘s doing it anyway against the frontrunner.
I mean, it‘s kind of—there‘s a lot of symbolism here. No?
ROSEN: Well, there‘s—I think Ted Kennedy has an interesting history of sort of being this iconoclast when it comes to presidential politics. I mean, remember he went against a sitting Democratic president for the nomination of the party. But look, he‘s is a lion of the Senate. He will be the most important Democratic legislator if Barack Obama were to become president. That‘s not nothing. And I‘m sure it was personally hurtful to the—to Senator Clinton.
But, you know, she still has plenty of Kennedys endorsing her and I think that they‘ll move on.
CARLSON: Well, there are a lot of them. All the lesser Kennedys are on Mrs. Clinton‘s side.
Gene, the conventional view is this is a reaction against the excesses, verbal excesses of Bill Clinton over the past month getting red in the face mad, appearing to inject race into this contest, and the final dignity this the line about Jesse Jackson.
Do you think that‘s accurate?
ROBINSON: I tend to take Senator Kennedy at his word, you know, our developing understanding of this motivations. But it seems to have built up over time as he got to know Senator Obama. Obama apparently consulted him before he decided to run for president. He—you know, allowed Ted Kennedy to be something of a mentor in that regard. These men got to know each other. Obviously Senator Kennedy started feeling that Obama was something special.
And clearly, the—Bill Clinton‘s activities over the last couple of weeks, especially, you know, this thing over the weekend with Jesse Jackson, I think Ted Kennedy probably made up his mind by then but it could not have called him to question his developing decision to go with Obama and—or the timing for that matter. I mean the timing is pretty dramatic.
CARLSON: So it looks at this point, Hilary, like all the momentum is on Obama‘s side. But you still have these massive states that make all the difference. More than two-thirds of the delegates.
CARLSON: .will be chosen potentially in those states. And the Hillary people, and at least one senior Hillary aide, is saying to friends, I happen to know, that our—pretty much quote, our backstop is the Hispanic vote, which is on our side and not on Obama‘s side.
With that in mind, there‘s this remarkable quote from this Hillary Clinton supporter, Sergio Bendixen is saying, quote, “The Hispanic voter, and I want to say this very carefully, has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.”
He, by the way, has not been fired as far as I know.
Is that the plan? This Hispanic backstop to save Hillary?
ROSEN: I have no idea. But I think.
CARLSON: Is that—do you think that‘s a legitimate strategy?
ROSEN: No. I think that‘s a stereotyping of—terrible way to analyze the campaign. And Sergio Bendixen, I think, is a pretty thoughtful and credible pollster. But he does understand the Hispanic community. There are issues, I think, that Senator Clinton has been much more out front on, particularly in states like—that matter in states like California in terms of the economy and workers‘ rights and other things that Senator Obama might have to same view on but he just hasn‘t been as public about.
ROSEN: I don‘t see that as an issue.
CARLSON: Well, I agree with you. I hope that this—that the conversation about, you know, well, one group voted against another group, you know, ends in the next 24 hours or so because it‘s ugly and divisive, I think.
We‘ll be right back.
The Republican presidential candidates are focused on Florida at the moment. It‘s a tight battle between John McCain and Mitt Romney. Literally they‘re neck and neck. It‘s a winner-take-all primary here.
Could the person who wins inevitably be the nominee?
Plus Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are hoping to make it back to the White House for at least another four years. But is it actually better for Democrats if Hillary doesn‘t win the nomination? At least one analyst says yes.
We‘ll be right back.
CARLSON: When the sun rises on the Florida primary tomorrow, anger and anticipation will permeate the voting. Democrats are mad at their own party for refusing to see any delegates to the convention after legislature here voted to move up Florida‘s primary date.
Republicans are wondering if John McCain can carry his momentum for South Carolina after picking up many endorsements, including Florida senator Mel Martinez and Florida governor Charlie Crist.
(INAUDIBLE) the economy as Mitt Romney virtually tied with McCain while Rudy Giuliani is wondering why, after spending all the time here he has, he‘s not doing better.
Back with us once again, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Hillary Rosen and “Washington Post” columnist Gene Robinson.
Gene, it must be interesting for Democrats or for people against the war to look on and watch John McCain running explicitly on the war in Iraq. I mean, a year ago would you ever have imagined there will be a candidate doing that?
ROBINSON: Well, maybe John McCain. I mean he‘s been pretty consistent with his position. But I didn‘t think all of the Republican candidates would essentially be saying, you know, war is great and it is going fine and we should stay the course. And you—I wouldn‘t have imagined that they would all—would all have been this close to the president on the war issue that they wouldn‘t have been tried to put some real distance between them and the Bush White House.
But, you know—and I still don‘t think that‘s a winning issue for the Republican Party. Given the way things are going now, it may not be as acute a losing issue as it would have been—what it looked like a year ago.
CARLSON: So Hilary, McCain is making the case explicitly, vote for me because I‘m best positioned to beat the Democrat in November. And he‘s running this ad, which I know you‘ve seen, which has a series of talking heads saying boy, I hope they don‘t nominate McCain, he could win.
Is that true? Do you believe honestly the Democrats fear McCain most?
ROSEN: Yes. I do think the Democrats fear McCain most because he has a history of attracting independents and in a general election, independent voters are key. So I think that he becomes the tougher candidate for reason.
On the other hand I think that what we face now with—him wanting to stay in Iraq for 100 years if that‘s what it takes, as—whatever the goal is, who knows anymore, that I think that that‘s going to lose those same independents. So I think that the more he talks about the war and the more he campaigns in the Republican primary about the war, the better off Democrats are even if he is the nominee.
CARLSON: So there was this other candidate here who ran the biggest city in America, Rudy Giuliani. He was the frontrunner for the longest time. Now he seems to be polling at about half what McCain and Romney are polling and he‘s picked up, I don‘t know, an even smaller percentage of endorsements.
They—McCain particularly has endorsements from—I mean, virtually every living person in Florida has endorsed John McCain, it seems like.
Here is Rudy Giuliani‘s response to that trend. This is pretty clever. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani is not endorsed by “The Tampa Tribune,” not endorsed by “The Orlando Sentinel,” not endorsed by the South Florida “Sun Sentinel.” In fact, he is not endorsed by any of the liberal newspapers.
When you‘re responsible for cutting people‘s taxes by an incredible 17 percent and announce a plan to give Americans the biggest tax cut in history, when you fight to appoint conservative federal judges, want to grow America‘s military to make sure our families are protected, demand that new citizens learn to read, write and speak English, and that welfare recipients work for their benefits, you are the last person on earth to be endorsed by the liberal “New York Times.”
Rudy Giuliani, tested and ready now.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL: I‘m Rudy Giuliani and I approve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: So good. I mean, Gene.
ROSEN: It is good.
CARLSON: If I were the guy making that ad, I would go out to dinner and toast to myself. In a Republican primary, it‘s probably too late but that‘s a clever ad, don‘t you think?
ROBINSON: I think it‘s pretty clever. But, you know, I mean, you use what you‘ve got, right? I mean.
CARLSON: Right. You know.
ROBINSON: .he (INAUDIBLE) by anybody. I mean you can run against the media. I mean the bigger issue, as you noted in the intro, is that, you know, the elected officials, including conservatives aren‘t endorsing Rudy, and that people don‘t seem to like him all that much. And he‘s not that great a campaigner on the national stage. And it looks like he is going to go down in flames in Florida.
CARLSON: And it looks like he gave an interview at the back of his campaign plane. It was reported just—about an hour and a half ago in the “L.A. Times” in which he said the winner here in Florida will be the Republican nominee. Whoever wins here will be the nominee. And that was taken by the reporter who was with him when he said that.
ROSEN: There‘s good reason to think that.
CARLSON: Well, I think there is reason—but it was taken as an indication of his plan to get out of this race if he wins—if he loses here tomorrow.
We‘ll be right back.
President Bush will be giving his final State of the Union address just a few hours from now. He‘ll talk about Iraq, the economy, even pork, not the meat, the practice.
Plus the Republicans are campaigning in Florida at the moment ahead of tomorrow‘s primary. Are they publishing enough effort on one of the most important voting blocs in the state—Cuban voters? Is it still one of the most important voting blocs in the state?
We‘ll answer both questions coming up.
CARLSON: We‘re now just two and a half hours from President Bush‘s eighth and final State of the Union Address. Amid the torrent of news and interest about the race to succeed him as president, the president, the current president, is expected to speak of this country‘s clear and present problems, like the subprime lending crisis, the resulting fears of recession, the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the question of homeland security.
You can watch the speech, the Democratic response to it, and full recap and analysis until 1:00 in the morning Eastern time tonight, right here on MSNBC.
Before then, we are joined once again for pre-speech analysis by Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Hillary Rosen and “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson.
Hillary, the president has released portions of the speech, excerpts of it, very short ones. The theme seems to be this is not about my legacy. It is about what I want to accomplish in my time left in office. I guess, my feeling is why not? Isn‘t that—I mean, you have a year left. Might as well act like you can do something.
ROSEN: He has a year left and he is the president, after all. I think we are going to see the president talk about the economic stimulus. He will probably take credit for the good relationships that are going on right now with the House and the Senate and the White House, in terms of trying to piece together a package that can actually pass, and he deserves that credit.
Then I think we are going to see another piece to the president‘s speech, which will be sort of a recitation of some of the things that he has been previously asking Congress to pass and that they haven‘t approved, things like trade agreements and making the tax cuts permanent. It seems to be setting up, I think, a little bit of—there was nothing I could do because the Democrats were in charge by the time his term is over. So that a lot of things that don‘t happen aren‘t his fault.
I think that‘s going to be interesting to see how it plays, because, of course, the Republicans were in charge of the Congress for six of his eight years of his presidency. So if he thinks he‘s going to get away with, you know, the failures of the presidency rest at the hands of obstructionist Democratic Congress, I just don‘t think that‘s going to wash. I just think he has not been a very effective leader.
CARLSON: In many way, a president is much better off when the other party is in charge of Congress, because then you have a built-in foil. And that has been, in some ways, the tragedy of the Bush administration. He had to roll over to what his fellow Republicans wanted in the Congress.
Gene, here is what he will say—part of what he will say about climate change, a subject that he talks about a fair amount, believe it or not. You don‘t often see it in the press, but he does. He says, “let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop and eventually reverse the growth of Greenhouse Gases. This agreement will be effective only if it includes major economy and gives none a free ride.”
He‘s basically saying look, it‘s global warming. You need a global solution, by which he means India, China have to sign on, too. He has boxed Democrats in on this, it seems to me . How can they not agree with that?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, ultimately any solution to the problem is going to take into account in the India, China, Brazil, the other big developing economies. But, you know, it is going to some take time to work that out. And, in a way, it is almost a recipe for continuing to do nothing. If you put down that marker at the beginning and say, well, you know, we are not going to do anything unless everybody gets involved, that‘s been the problem all along with the U.S. position. You know, if that‘s your position, and you stick to it, then you end up doing absolutely nothing.
You have to—we have to be—there has to be steps to bring the developing nation into the process. And you have to, I think, express a willingness to take that first step. So we will have to hear what he says about it.
CARLSON: Go ahead.
ROSEN: I actually think here is an area where President Bush has an enormous opportunity for a legacy and he ought to grab. Just forget about Republicans versus Democrats. We have a lot of leverage as a nation with developing economies around the world, with those very resistant governments to doing something serious about climate change. And frankly, we have a Democratic leadership running for president who hasn‘t talked about this issue very much.
So President Bush really could do something here by spurring on this discussion and doing more to encourage peopling to act. And, frankly, I think Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards might just have to go along with that discussion, as well as the Democratic Congress, because, after all, it isn‘t essentially that constituency that has been hoping for more dramatic change.
CARLSON: It is like entitlement reform; everybody lies. Everybody who talks about it glosses over the potentially powerful effect, negative effect, on our economy, and pretends that somehow fighting global climate change is going to create millions of new high-paying jobs and save our economy, which is ludicrous. It is going to hurt. That‘s why we haven‘t done it. Why do you think we haven‘t done much, because it will hurt the economy. Maybe it‘s worth it, maybe it isn‘t, but—
ROSEN: That‘s President Bush‘s opportunity, Tucker, if, in fact, there is an economic impact. You and I have had this discussion before. I‘m doubtful, considering the potential good offsets about job creation with alternative fuels and the like.
Nonetheless, who better to take on some of those issues than a Republican president. It is sort of like Nixon goes to China. If there is an opportunity—he‘s really the guy who potentially could move the ball rolling.
CARLSON: Gene, I want to ask you about a terrifying rumor I heard recently that I believe came directly from the Obama campaign. It‘s this; if Barack Obama became president, he would consider strongly appointing John Edwards attorney general, which would mean John Edwards would have lots of armed people under his authority, basically giving John Edwards guns. I think all us recognize that‘s a really bad idea. Tell me it isn‘t true.
ROBINSON: So you are locking doors and loading the shotgun?
CARLSON: As Waco proved, nobody is safe from the Justice Department. I say you have to take greater steps like moving to Paraguay. You don‘t think that will happen, do you?
ROBINSON: I have no idea if that will happen. It sounds kind of off the wall to me. I‘m not sure that that‘s what John Edwards wants to do if he fails to reach the presidency. I‘m not sure he wants to be attorney general. He won‘t talk about it now because he‘s running for president. So we will see. I wouldn‘t bar the windows just yet or move to Paraguay.
CARLSON: Gene, you always make me feel better. So do you, Hillary.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Fidel Castro has been dying for decades. Still he has out lasted, believe it or not, nine U.S. presidents and he still induces rage among many Americans, particularly here in South Florida. How to deal with Cuba remains a contentious issue within our own political system. Which presidential candidate could Cubans gets behind? Who has the edge going into tomorrow?
Joining me now is Renier Diaz de la Portilla, member of the Miami-Dade County School Board and a former Florida state house member. Thanks for coming on.
RENIER DIAZ DE LA PORTILLA, FMR. FLA STATE HOUSE MEMBER: Thank you, Tucker. Welcome to our beautiful city.
CARLSON: I love your beautiful city. You have endorsed Mike Huckabee.
PORTILLA: Yes, I have.
CARLSON: You have. How‘s Huckabee doing among Cuban American voters?
PORTILLA: I think, unfortunately, Cuban Americans are just getting to know Mike Huckabee. Since the campaign has moved to Florida, he has had an opportunity to come down here. He went to Versail‘s (ph) Restaurant, had Cuban coffee, spoke at several important functions where Cuban Americans were present, and went on Cuban radio, on some important Cuban programs.
I think he picked up some support. It may have been too late because Giuliani has been campaigning here for months, has invested millions of dollars, especially in south Florida and in Miami-Dade County, and kind of established a strong hold down here. It was hard to break through for Mike Huckabee.
CARLSON: How big—we talk a lot every four years during the primary season and also during elections about the Cuban vote, as if it‘s monolithic. How big a part of the Republican primary electorate are Cuban Americans?
PORTILLA: In Florida, it represents about eight to nine percent of the total Republican vote, so it could be significant.
CARLSON: Eight to nine percent? You have the feeling at least that the press describes most Cuban Americans in Florida as strongly Republicans. Is that still true?
PORTILLA: Yes, that‘s true.
CARLSON: Who is going to win the Cuban vote?
PORTILLA: Right now, it is a neck and neck race between McCain and Giuliani. Giuliani had over 40 percent of the vote a month ago. Right now, there are at the mid-30s, both of them. I‘ve seen some polls where McCain is up by three or four points on Giuliani. I think it is because of his foreign policy—the perception that he will be good with foreign policy issues, and that he‘s going to be—hold a hard line against Castro in Cuba.
I think that‘s what‘s drawing some Cuban Americans at the last minute towards the McCain camp. Giuliani‘s campaign has faltered in the Cuban community like it‘s faltered in other parts of the state of Florida, but he‘s still getting a substantial portion of that vote because of the time he‘s invested down here.
CARLSON: Huckabee is the one candidate I‘m aware of who has suggested maybe the embargo helps Fidel Castro rather than hurts him.
PORTILLA: No, but Huckabee has made his position very clear on the embargo. He says that when he was governor of Arkansas that‘s how he saw the issue, but when he ran for president re realized that—he took a greater interest in foreign policy, particularly the issues of Cuba. And in meeting with Cuban American leaders, like he did over the last couple of months, he has a better understanding of the issue. Huckabee is very firm on the embargo.
CARLSON: So his position has changed?
PORTILLA: His position is firm in favor of the Cuban embargo right now.
CARLSON: Is there nobody in the Republican side who has suggested maybe the embargo is a bad idea?
PORTILLA: No, because 90 or 85 percent of the Cuban American electorate supports the embargo. I know there are some people out there who say that has changed over the years. That‘s not true. That‘s creation of the mainstream liberal media, like the “New York Times.” If you ask the average Cuban American voter, they will tell you that they support the embargo and they support a hard line against Castro and against Cuba at this point in time.
CARLSON: When Castro dies—I hope it‘s soon—will you see a flood of Cuban Americans returning to Cuba?
PORTILLA: I think you are going to see Cuban Americans—you know, we have been here a long time now. The children have been educated here. They have businesses here. They are professionals here. I think you will see a rebuilding effort. I don‘t think you will see a lot of Cuban Americans—some have died in the United States already. I think you will see them participate in the rebuilding of Cuba. But I don‘t know if you‘re going to see a huge influx of Cubans back to Cuba.
CARLSON: It is nice here.
PORTILLA: Yes, it is. It‘s nice in Cuba too, a free Cuba.
CARLSON: Yes. Thanks a lot.
PORTILLA: Thank you for having us.
CARLSON: Up next, the fight for Florida rivals Mitt Romney and John McCain. Turn up the heat in their war of words while Rudy Giuliani stays to fight in the game.
Forget the evening gown and bathing suit competition. This beauty queen has taken a new approach to knocking out the competition military style. You‘re watching MSNBC.
CARLSON: So you show up in Florida hoping to report on the upcoming Republican primary contest in the state. But how do you find out what‘s really going to happen? How do you know? Where do you go for tips? If you are me and if you are wise, you go right to the source, to legendary Republican strategist Roger Stone, who joins me now. Roger, welcome.
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Tucker, great to be with you.
CARLSON: Roger, if you are sitting at home with your tip sheet thinking, where do I put my money—we are not endorsing gambling—where would you put it?
STONE: I would put it on John McCain very narrowly. I would think the endorsements by the Charlie Crist, the very popular Florida governor, has given him some good final momentum. There‘s no doubt that Romney has come up fast while Giuliani has faded. Most Giuliani votes, when they fall off the mayor, they move to McCain. I think that‘s been very significant.
CARLSON: What do you think McCain‘s decision to campaign with Joe Lieberman, a Democrat? Still a Democrat, maybe an independent, but he‘s essentially a Democrat from Connecticut. Is that wise here? Does that turn off Republicans?
STONE: First of all, it raised him a lot of money, and it‘s that money that paid for the TV commercials that have allowed him to go dollar for dollar with multi-millionaire, if not billionaire, Mitt Romney. So Joe Lieberman was very effective in raising money here in the Jewish community for a Republican, John McCain.
McCain—I also think Lieberman was a key factor in New Hampshire, a key factor in his strong showing in Michigan, because he does draw independents in those primaries that are open. Lieberman‘s real value in Florida has been fund-raising and also in terms of just publicity.
CARLSON: Why is—you said Mitt Romney was coming up. That‘s clearly the feeling that people watching this closely I think have. What do you attribute that to?
STONE: Spending, first of all. Secondarily, the fact that Huckabee has really not waged much of a campaign here. Huckabee, I think, did cost Romney in some of the early primaries. But the fact that he has not put on a full press effort in his campaign for vice president here in Florida has really left that segment of the electorate open to Romney.
STONE: Conservatives and evangelical conservatives and who could now identify with Romney‘s new positions those issues.
CARLSON: This—I mean, this really is a contest between—this exactly the contest McCain does not want to have, where he‘s positioned as the moderate and his opponent is positioned as the conservative. That‘s what happened in 2000. He got creamed in closed primaries, like South Carolina and this one. Was there any alternative? Why did McCain allow himself to get into this position?
STONE: I don‘t think he moderate. I think he gets some moderate votes, which he will need in the primary. John McCain is a conservative and he is doing fine among conservatives. Conservatives are being split among four candidates. There are some conservatives voting for Rudy. There are conservatives voting for Huckabee. There are conservatives voting for Romney.
John McCain‘s great strength is he can win a general election because he can reach beyond the base of the party for moderate and independent votes. That‘s why he is the strongest nominee. If he wins here, and I think he will win here, narrowly, he demolishes the myth that he can‘t win a closed Republican primary, and I think he will romp through the February 5th primary.
CARLSON: Giuliani apparently said today on his campaign plane, the winner of Florida is the next Republican nominee. Do you think that means he is getting out soon and if he does, who does that help?
STONE: First of all, he has run a very good campaign here. Property taxes are the burning issue here. Giuliani has focused his campaign very effectively on the tax issue, where he has a superb record, a conservative record as a tax cutter.
CARLSON: There‘s a vote on that tomorrow.
STONE: There‘s a vote on that tomorrow. There‘s a property tax vote on ballot here, Amendment One, which I urge people to vote for. The key thing here is Giuliani could have done exceedingly well here if he had competed in the four early states. It‘s like going into a prize fight. You can‘t just drop your hands and let the other guy beat the daylights out of you and not compete for four rounds, and then start competing in the fifth round and win the fight. It is just not possible.
CARLSON: He is punch drunk at this point.
STONE: I think he could have won New Hampshire. I think it was a state with a lot of Catholics, a lot of Italian Americans, a moderate Republican tradition to add to conservatives. He didn‘t compete there. So He comes in here with no head of steam and tries to jump start a campaign and you have seen the drop in his numbers because of it.
CARLSON: So if he does get out, does—do those votes go to McCain?
STONE: I think those voters go overwhelmingly to McCain. I think it will be very useful for McCain if Giuliani got out, in terms of the next round of primaries. Look at states like New Jersey and New York, for example, California; those are states where I think Giuliani voters move to McCain.
CARLSON: You say Huckabee is running for vice president. Could you see the McCain/Huckabee ticket?
STONE: It‘s certainly one possibility. I can‘t understand any other plausible reason why Huck has not come here to campaign. You can say well, he does not have enough money. He will have the same problem; if he doesn‘t show well here, how will that affect his campaign in Georgia and Alabama and those southern, you know, February 5th states that he hopes to do well in.
If this was Ed Rollins‘s advice, don‘t compete in Florida, it was bad advice.
CARLSON: Is there some—any possibility that Huckabee and Romney get together?
STONE: I don‘t think so, because Huckabee would be potentially the wrong running mate on a Romney ticket, number one. I still think they are competing, where Huckabee chooses to compete, for many of the same voters.
CARLSON: Roger Stone, the legendary Republican strategist, thank you, Roger.
STONE: Glad to be with you.
CARLSON: Miss Teen South Carolina didn‘t give U.S. Americans, people with maps, or really anyone who speaks English a very good name. Who says beauty queens don‘t know anything about politics? Wait until you see what happened at the big pageant this weekend. There‘s more to Miss America than just being pretty. Don‘t forget, it is not a beauty pageant. It is a scholarship contest.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Joining us from ice-bound New York City, the ever patient Bill Wolff.
BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT: How are you, Tucker? You look good down there in warm Florida, friend. I‘m envious.
CARLSON: Yes, just walking distance from Hooters.
WOLFF: God bless you. Be very, very careful out there, Tucker. We are concerned. I tell you, this campaign is the most interesting race since the 1985 National League Eastern Division. It‘s everywhere. Yes, politics are everywhere these days, including at Saturday night‘s Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
During the opening introduction of the yearly gala, Miss Wyoming, Jen McCafferty, who is originally from Scottsbluff (ph), by the way, introduced herself thusly—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN MCCAFFERTY, MISS WYOMING: From the state that moved up its primaries but nobody cared, I‘m proud to be Miss Wyoming, Jen McCafferty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLFF: Well, not nobody cared. Viewers are reminded that Mitt Romney cared enough to win the Wyoming primary and declare it his first gold medal. For the record, Miss McCafferty is a graduate of the University of Wyoming there in beautiful Laramie. She also went to the Culinary School of the Rockies, Tucker.
CARLSON: She has a sense of humor, which is something you cannot say for most beauty pageant contestants. I like her.
WOLFF: I do, too. I give her a lot of credit. Speaking of giving a lot of credit, there is more, more exceptional action at the Miss America Pageant. Miss Utah, Jill Stevens, is an amazing story. She is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where she served as a combat medic. Talk about a talent.
Anyway, she didn‘t make the final cut. Upon her elimination, Miss Stevens made like a soldier, dropped, watch this, and gave America some pushups. Watch this, right there in her evening gown. Go ahead. There she goes. Look at that. Some of her friendly competitors hit the deck as well. Miss Stephens, a suma cum laude graduate of Southern Utah University -- though she couldn‘t stop Miss Michigan from taking home the crown, it is hard not to root for someone who does pushups on national TV.
Tucker, a combat vet who does pushups when she gets eliminated. How could Miss Utah not be Miss America?
CARLSON: Because Miss Michigan always should win.
WOLFF: Is that right?
CARLSON: That‘s my view. The girls from Michigan are nicer, cuter, sweeter, yes. Michigan should always win.
WOLFF: Anyone specific in mind when you say that?
CARLSON: No one specific. I just—trust me. Take it from a man who knows the Michigan girl wins, always.
WOLFF: I‘m a real fan of New Jersey, in the same vein, my friend.
Next up, a lesson about life from the deep, courtesy of some video from the Minnesota Aquarium. That is a shark with another shark in its mouth. It‘s at the Underwater Adventures Aquarium in Bloomington, Minnesota, where a nine-foot sand shark named Jesse either thrilled or scooped the crowd of onlookers by nearly gobbling up a smaller white-tipped reef shark. Jesse tried to swallow its smaller cousin before workers at the big fish tank freed it of from the blood thirsty clench of Jesse‘s jaws.
The littler shark is reportedly on its way to a complete recovery. At least until Jesse sees it swimming around again. The big lesson, Tucker, if you swim with sharks, you are going to get bit, and probably to death. Good luck to that little reef shark in all its future endeavors.
CARLSON: Boy, that‘s—you know what? Those are words to live by.
Don‘t swim in the shark tank. You take your life into your own hands.
WOLFF: Tough job. How was your day? Oh, I just pried a shark from another shark‘s draws. Tough work.
Finally, an advisory to classic rockers worldwide. Leave your cut-off jeans, your hiking boots, your Zippo lighters and your black concert t-shirts in the moth balls until at least September. Jimmy Page, the legendary guitarist of the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin announced today that the groups reunion tour will not happen until at least September because legendary front man Robert Plant had another going until then.
The band played one show in London in December. The surviving members of the band, Tucker, 62 years old on average; 28 years since they put out a record. Raising the distinct possibility in my mind that discretion would be the better part of valor. Give it up, Led Zeppelin. You are great but your day has come and gone.
CARLSON: I think profit is a better part of valor.
WOLFF: Well put.
CARLSON: Bill Wolff from chilly New York. Thanks a lot, Bill.
WOLFF: You got it.
CARLSON: That does it for us. Thanks for watching and be sure to stick around with MSNBC all night for special coverage of the president‘s final State of the Union Address tonight. Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris. We‘ll see you again tomorrow from Florida. Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.