Guests: Jon Ralston, Rick Steiner
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now, to discuss what looks like the come from the head defeat of the chicken lady tonight in Nevada—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I have to say, if I had to say that I wanted to see anybody from the MSNBC family impersonate Cher, Lawrence O‘Donnell would be pretty close to the top of the list.
MADDOW: Do not mock.
OLBERMANN: That was juxtaposition. That was not meant to be about him. I‘m sorry.
MADDOW: I know. You just stumbled upon it. I think it‘s perfect.
Anyway, thank you, Keith. I‘ll see you later on tonight.
OLBERMANN: Yes, great.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us and all of our inner Chers for the next hour.
We are live tonight from beautiful Los Angeles, California, where polls close exactly two hours from right now. Across the country tonight is election night. If not Super Tuesday, then it‘s at least pretty darn good Tuesday. And that‘s all the excuse we need to play my favorite song.
MADDOW: Voters in 12 states around the country cast ballots in races that will help define November‘s big midterm elections. Between now and Election Day in November, today is actually the biggest day in terms of the number of races that are simultaneously being held.
Within the last few hours, polls have officially closed in Georgia, in Maine, in New Jersey, in North Dakota, in South Dakota, in South Carolina and in Virginia. A few of those races have already been decided tonight.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Republican State Senator Robert Hurt has easily won a seven-way primary in the fifth congressional district. Mr. Hurt will now take on incumbent Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello in November.
There was a possibility with Mr. Hurt‘s election that one of the people who he defeated in that primary might consider mounting a third party-tea party challenge even in the general election. We will be keeping an eye, of course, on developments there to see if that happens. That, of course, would be great electoral news for Tom Perriello, the Democrat.
Also in Virginia Republican Congressman Rob Wittman has held off a primary challenge from tea party favorite Catherine Crabill. Catherine Crabill is famous, probably, nationally—she‘s famous if at all, nationally, for saying last year when she was running for the Virginia House of Delegates that we have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to result to the bullet box. Bullet box? In any case, she lost.
Congressman Wittman cruised to victory tonight. He was the only Republican congressman facing a primary challenge tonight.
Those races have already been decided this evening. But perhaps no single race tonight has gotten as much national attention as the one that‘s happening tonight in the state of Arkansas. Within the last half an hour, polls have closed in Arkansas. Incumbent conservative Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln is fighting there for her political life, fighting to win her party‘s nomination for her own seat.
Senator Blanche Lincoln‘s primary challenge tonight is roughly from her left. It‘s from Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Senator Lincoln attracted the primary challenge after she helped derail the public option during last year‘s health reform debate.
Tonight‘s race in Arkansas is a runoff because Senator Lincoln failed to win 50 percent of the vote during last month‘s Democratic primary. She and Bill Halter got roughly got 45 percent and 43 percent of the vote respectively. And a third party candidate was in the low teens.
Whoever wins round two tonight between Lincoln and Halter will be the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in Arkansas come November.
Here are the latest numbers that we got in. There‘s less than 1 percent of precincts reporting so don‘t extrapolate from these numbers. But at this point, we‘ve got about 54 percent for Senator Lincoln to 46 percent to Lieutenant Governor Halter. But, again, that‘s less than 1 percent of precincts reporting. Results are very early in that case and we‘ll be keeping a very close eye on them throughout the night.
Joining us is NBC News political director, Chuck Todd. He‘s also NBC‘s chief White House correspondent.
Mr. Todd, it is good to see you, as always.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It‘s great to be here on a -
you know, you‘re right. It‘s pretty good Tuesday. And it‘s became a great Tuesday here in Washington, because our boy, Stephen Strasburg, has looked so good in a Nationals‘ uniform, we need something here for sports. But I digress.
MADDOW: Not that you‘re trying to focus on something other than politics on pretty good Tuesday, Chuck.
TODD: Pretty good Tuesday. It‘s going to catch on.
MADDOW: Pretty good Tuesday.
MADDOW: I think so. I mean, it‘s hard to call this Super Tuesday. It‘s a midterm election year. It‘s not a presidential election year. And it‘s hard to keep track of what‘s happening on any one night.
But, obviously, the big things that anybody—everybody is focusing on right now is Arkansas. Polls closed there about half an hour ago. We‘ve got less than 1 percent of precincts reporting.
Are there any good indications at this point about which direction it‘s heading?
TODD: Not in the actual numbers and it‘s really hard to look at the results and extrapolate that out. Look, the rule of runoff is this: when an incumbent gets forced into one, and she did as poorly in the first round, Blanche Lincoln, it‘s hard to imagine how she somehow gets over 50 percent.
She did very well with African-American voters in the first round. If turnout—she needs a good turnout among African-American voters. It‘s something that the president supports, has helped there a little bit. Bill Clinton is campaigning for her, has helped a little bit. That‘s sort of her key here and the expectation has been that you‘re not going to see a large turnout among African-American voters and that that will be among the keys for Halter to be able to go over the top here.
But, you know, one thing we ought to mention is, whoever wins is a big underdog against the Republican. Remember, this is a state that was one of just four states where Barack Obama performed worse than John Kerry did the previous four years. This is a state that is trending more Republican even in a year that was a big Democratic year in 2008.
So, both of them will be underdogs. The question that you have is if Bill Halter wins, will labor, who is very heavily invested in him in this primary, will they stick with him even if he looks like a huge underdog going into the fall or in the fall? And that will be an interesting test for those loyalties because he‘s certainly been there for him during this primary, was able to send that message. But how far do they take that message?
MADDOW: Well, surely, labor‘s interest here is—it‘s more to the
Blanche Lincolns of the world than it is to the Bill Halters of the world -
in the sense that they‘re trying to get Democratic candidates to toe a better line on labor issues. And so, abandoning Bill Halter to lose in the general election would seem to undercut their own point of throwing so many resources into beating Blanche Lincoln, wouldn‘t it?
TODD: It would, and this is where you had this fight inside the Democratic Party, and sort of the establishment. It‘s a friendly fight here a little bit. But you get this little debate inside, you know, if you want to call it “Democratic salons” of Washington, where they sit there and you have one part of the party apparatus saying, what are you doing? You‘re spending all this money, now you‘ve committed yourself.
You‘ve spent, say, $6 million, approximately what a lot of these labor groups spent on Halter‘s behalf. Are you going to really spend that much more money when maybe candidates are going to need it in Ohio more or you might have a better shot in Kentucky or you might be doing better in a place like Missouri? You know, are you going to stretch yourself thin?
And that‘s why there‘s been so much anguish inside the Democratic Party and sort of the establishment apparatus over this primary challenge because they worry that it‘s going to just divert resources that the party may need more of in Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, you name the Senate race.
MADDOW: Well, Chuck, in terms of the relationship between this race, which has been an exciting and interesting thing, I think, for the Democratic base and the sort of Democratic establishment, there is a perception that the White House has sort of stepped back from this race. Of course, they are not actively supporting Bill Halter, but their ostensible support for Blanche Lincoln doesn‘t exactly have a brass band out in front of it.
Is the perception that the White House is sort of letting Blanche Lincoln go—is that perception accurate and could that lack of support affect the outcome here?
TODD: I guess what I‘m trying to figure is if you say that they‘ve stepped back, that assumes that they somehow stepped forward. And while the president lent his name to Blanche Lincoln for direct mail pieces, did use—he did record a couple of radio ads, he hasn‘t exactly been active for her. Bill Clinton was sort of the surrogate as far as the White House was concerned as far as helping Blanche Lincoln more than anything else.
But you‘re right. There is this perception where the White House, they just—I‘ll be honest, they see the writing on the wall on the fall. And they say, you know what, this is a race that‘s going to be tough with either one of them. They come at this assuming that Blanche Lincoln is more ideological suited to survive—to potentially win in the fall than Bill Halter.
But you got to say this for Bill Halter—he has somehow made this less left versus center in this primary, which could help him in the fall, and more outsider versus insider.
And the one thing, and one thing everybody needs to do is take a deep breath for three weeks before writing off Bill Halter if he does win—everybody needs to take a deep breath and say, you know, can he run a similar campaign against a sitting member of Congress, a Republican nominee there, John Bozeman, who voted for both, quote, “bailouts,” both Wall Street bailouts where Blanche Lincoln only voted for one of them? Is that an—you know, can he duplicate that campaign against Bozeman?
I think three or four weeks, after the dust settles, assuming Halter does win this runoff, like a lot of people expect, then we‘ll have a real idea of whether this becomes a competitive race in the fall.
MADDOW: I totally agree with you. I think that‘s—I think that‘s right, Chuck. And I think there‘s a sort of facile common wisdom about this race that on the left, there‘s a mirror image of what‘s going on with the ideological fight that‘s going on within the Republican Party where people really are obviously running from the right against Republican establishment candidates—
MADDOW: -- I do think it‘s not so easy to call Halter a challenge from the left. In some senses he is, in some senses, he is not. But I think it‘s going to be a fascinating result tonight, Chuck.
Thank you. Thank you very much for your help understanding it.
TODD: You got it.
MADDOW: I‘m sure we‘ll check in with you later. Thank you.
TODD: You got it. OK.
MADDOW: NBC News political director, Chuck Todd.
All right. To be honest with you, the biggest most important result that everybody is waiting on tonight is that Democratic runoff in Arkansas. Again, right now, we‘ve still got very few precincts reporting, less than 1 percent; and Blanche Lincoln ahead 53 percent to 47 percent.
As Chuck Todd mentioned, a lot of observers are expecting Bill Halter to actually—to actually win in this race. It‘s way too early to say in terms of the results. Turnout is going to be important. Turnout is very hard to predict in a—in a midterm election runoff race.
But that‘s the one, big serious Democratic result everybody is waiting. And tonight, it‘s going to be an exciting night watching those results come in.
But other than that one big Democratic race, tonight is all about the Republicans, frankly. And it‘s about Republicans letting their freak flag fly. South Carolina, Nevada, here in California, especially, it is hard to narrow down the single most entertaining Republican storyline for tonight‘s races, so we won‘t try to narrow it down. The “I can‘t believe you‘re not making this up” Maddow stories are all coming up next.
MADDOW: So, the Senate race in Arkansas has gotten a whole lot of attention in this election season. But tonight‘s real entertainment, I got say, is on the Republican side—in Nevada, in South Carolina, and most especially here California. We will tell you those stories and track those results when we come back.
Please stay with us here on MSNBC, the place for politics.
MADDOW: In South Carolina, polls closed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Right now, with 54 percent of precincts reporting, it looks like Nikki Haley, Republican gubernatorial nominee wannabe, is ahead, well ahead of her nearest challenger, Gresham Barrett. She‘s up with, again, 54 percent of precincts reporting, she‘s up 48 percent to 23 percent.
Nikki Haley needs to clear 50 percent of the vote tonight to avoid a runoff. Right now, Andre Bauer and Henry McMaster trailing the two leading candidates in that race with 17 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
But, again, 54 percent of precincts reporting. Nikki Haley is out ahead. But she‘s got to get 50 percent in order to not end up in a runoff.
That is the Republican race for a nominee for governor in the great state of South Carolina.
Right now in Nevada, one of the single most unintentionally hilarious primaries of the season is in its final hour. Polls are still open until 10:00 p.m. Eastern in Nevada. Republicans are choosing a candidate to run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the fall.
Now, there‘s no doubt that Harry Reid is politically weak in his home state and Republicans have been super excited about challenging him.
But the top two Republicans going into today‘s primary are both famous for things you don‘t generally want to be famous for as a political candidate. At least not in the 21st century, or most of the 20th. Maybe 19th, maybe?
Sue Lowden was seen as the Republican establishment candidate, the prohibitive favorite in the race. Most famous—she‘s most famous nationally, I guess, now for suggesting bartering using poultry as her proposed solution to high health care costs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUE LOWDEN ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, before we all started having health care in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor.
I‘m not backing down from that system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I‘m not backing down from that.
And that, my friend, is why people in chicken suits are prohibited from loitering around polling places in Nevada today. Thank you, Sue Lowden.
It should be noted, however, that while just hanging around a polling place dressed as a chicken is now verboten, actually voting while dressed as a chicken is still totally legal in Nevada. So, apparently, we are still a free country. Thank you very much.
Of course, if Sue Lowden hasn‘t already been super-famous for the “pay your doctor with a chicken” thing, she would have become famous late last month when she said this to Jon Ralston of the “Las Vegas Sun.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN: Do you think that Rand Paul was right that the Civil Rights Act should not extend into private businesses?
LOWDEN: And this is—this is what I say. I‘m more interested in what we‘re doing here in Nevada. I haven‘t—
RALSTON: It‘s a simple question.
LOWDEN: It‘s a simple question but it‘s a gotcha question. Frankly, I wouldn‘t even know Rand Paul if I saw him on TV.
RALSTON: If not asking you about Rand Paul.
LOWDEN: I haven‘t been watching that race. I haven‘t been watching it. I think you want to change the subject from what‘s really happening here. Nobody is asking that question, Jon.
RALSTON: So, you‘re not going to answer?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, in Sue Lowden‘s world, we should all be able to pay the family doctor in food stuff and do you agree with the Civil Rights Act is a gotcha question.
As you might imagine, although she was the prohibitive early establishment favorite, Sue Lowden‘s poll numbers in Nevada have been sinking like a stone falling through water. Enter Sharron Angle, the conservative tea party backed candidate in Nevada who stole the lead from Sue Lowden in the run-up to election day. Ms. Angle has since become pretty famous herself.
Policy-wise, Sharron Angle wants to get rid of Social Security and close down the Department of Education because, you know, who needs them. But she‘s probably most famous for something she said in 2006 about alcohol, about how she was against it being legal.
Quote, “I would tell you that I have the same feelings about legalizing marijuana, not medical marijuana, but just legalizing marijuana. I feel the same about legalizing alcohol. The effect on society is so great that I‘m not just a real proponent of legalizing any drug or encouraging any drug abuse.”
Remember, she wants to be the senator from Nevada, which last I checked is where Las Vegas is.
Now, watch what happened when it was her turn to talk to Jon Ralston and she was forced to explain her self-admitted position on prohibition, her self admitted position against the legalization of, say, beer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALSTON: You want to bring back prohibition, now?
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: No, John. We actually repealed prohibition with a 21st Amendment.
RALSTON: Well, thanks for telling me that. What are you talking about there? You‘re the one who said, “I feel the same about legalizing alcohol.” You would go back and you want to put prohibition back in?
ANGLE: No, I think you‘ve lost the point here.
RALSTON: Did you mean that when you said it or not? Let‘s just get that off the table now. We‘ll move on to a more important issue.
ANGLE: Well, what we were talking about was the impact of these kinds of things on our state and people. You know, Mothers against Drunk Driving, I don‘t think you would call them prohibitionists, but certainly, they have brought a focus and education to an issue that we‘ve long—
RALSTON: So, you don‘t want to outlaw alcohol?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good. Those are the top two Republican candidates in the Nevada primary to go up against Harry Reid. Their most famous positions are: we should be able to pay doctors with chickens and maybe booze should be illegal. I see a very amusing fall campaign in Nevada‘s future.
Joining us is Jon Ralston, columnist for the “Las Vegas Sun,” host of “Face to Face with Jon Ralston,” and cheerful interrogator of all Nevada politicians.
Jon Ralston, thanks very much for your time tonight.
RALSTON: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, Jon. Hi. It‘s good to see you, Jon.
Tell me who Harry Reid is rooting for in the Republican primary tonight.
RALSTON: Well, it is tough to choose between chickens and prohibition, right, Rachel? But I think he‘s opting for prohibition and scientology, and that‘s Sharron Angle in this race.
The main reason is, of course, because Sharron Angle—you mentioned some of her positions. She also wants the U.S. to get out of the U.N. She wants to get rid of Social security. These kinds of things.
Fifteen percent of the voters here are registered independents. Sue Lowden could maybe come back to the middle. Sharron Angle is just not—she‘s not constitutionally capable of coming back to the middle. In fact, she was the tea party before the tea party even existed, Rachel.
So, I think Harry Reid—that‘s why he‘s been sending out these press releases for months every day attacking Sue Lowden.
MADDOW: One other candidate thought to be competitive in the Republican primary in Nevada that, of course, is Danny Tarkanian, son of the famous former UNLV basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. If this were a normal election, if the other candidates weren‘t talking about paying your doctor with chickens or making beer illegal, then Tarkanian would have been the most famous candidate in this race. Does he have any sort of a shot tonight?
RALSTON: I think he‘s got a chance. Of course, the only reason he‘s competitive is because of his last name, son of the legendary basketball coach here.
But I have to tell you, I think, of all the three candidates, he‘s run the best campaign, at least for a Republican primary. Early on, he sensed the anti-establishment fervor that‘s out there in the electorate, portrayed Lowden correctly as the establishment candidate pointed out a few of her votes in the legislature, one of her comments about the bailouts and he also latched on to the issue which, of course, is totally disingenuous, illegal immigration. But that‘s an 85 percent approval rating issue here in Nevada, Rachel, in the Republican primary. So, he‘s gained some traction.
He still could benefit by all this carnage between Lowden and Angle in the final days. But I still think it‘s going to be tough for him to win.
MADDOW: Jon, I know that in Nevada, you can actually vote against everyone. There is a “none of these candidates” option on the ballot. How do you think Mr. or Ms. “None of these Candidates” is going to fare in today‘s election?
RALSTON: You know, it‘s going to be interesting to watch that because “none of the above” actually has actually come close to winning some elections in Nevada. So, I don‘t think it‘s going to get quite there in this election, but more importantly to watch, Rachel, is where does that get in the general election? That‘s what Harry Reid hopes will save him because starting tomorrow, he‘s going to unleash his arsenal against either the chickens or the prohibitionist, and then we‘re really going to have some fun.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about one last election—one last election issue in Nevada, briefly, Jon, and that‘s the gubernatorial race. Your governor, Republican Governor Jim Gibbons, is likely to become the first governor in Nevada history to lose in a primary. What brought Jim Gibbons down?
RALSTON: Oh, we don‘t have time for that, Rachel. We‘ll be doing a telethon if I have to tell you all of those different things. But, you know, there‘s a lot of personal problems that he‘s had, filing for divorce, his wife making some very ugly accusations publicly. And that divorce has been going on for a couple of years.
But then you have to take the fact that he has no respect among members of his own party, essentially people in his own party recruited a federal judge off the bench, a lifetime appointment, Brian Sandoval, an attractive Hispanic, to run in that primary to knock him off. He‘s going to win by probably 10, 15, maybe even 20 points tonight to give the Republicans a chance to hold on to the governorship.
MADDOW: Jon Ralston, columnist for the “Las Vegas Sun,” host of “Face
to Face with Jon Ralston” and a friend of the show, I‘m very proud to say -
Jon, thanks very much for joining us. I know it‘s going to be a real busy night in Nevada.
RALSTON: Good to be back with you, Rachel.
All right. Lots to come tonight as we continue to watch the elections results roll in on this, if not Super Tuesday, then at least pretty good Tuesday.
Remember, Nevada, Montana and Iowa, polls closing all at the top of this hour. And the big one, California, closing at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific, at which point our MSNBC coverage will still be live through the night.
New news on the BP oil disaster and more election coverage all to come. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: We are still waiting for a definitive result on that very important Senate race in Arkansas tonight.
My monitor is over there, which is why I keep looking at it and not being shifty eyed.
Right now, with 4 percent in -- 4 percent of precincts reporting, Blanche Lincoln ahead of Bill Halter in the Arkansas Senate race, 53 percent to 47 percent. Again, that‘s just 4 percent of precincts in. There‘s no statistical grounds from which you should extrapolate final results from that. But we‘ll keep you posted as those precinct numbers continue to climb.
And yes, that Democratic result in Arkansas tonight is very important. But, honestly, I got to tell you, the Republican races tonight are spectacular. Can we do some of these?
I want to start here in California. Polls are close at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. While the Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, Democratic candidate for governor, has basically been able to sit out this round and prep his general election campaign and raise and save his money for that, the race for the Republican nomination for governor in California has turned into one of those scenes where an armored truck gets into a car accident on the freeway and everyone gets out of the cars and panics while it rains hundred dollar bills.
Yes. State insurance commissioner Steve Poizner has spent $24 million of his own money so far -- $24 million just in the primary, a ton of dough, which is too bad for Mr. Poizner because his opponent has spent about three tons of dough. Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, has thus far reportedly spent $81 million on this primary -- $71 million from her own account, making impressive decisions with that money like hiring the campaign staff who advised her that this was a good press strategy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please clear the room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Clear the room. That was supposed to be a press event. Clear the room. Get out. The candidate will not speak to you. Thank you for coming to our press event.
Meg Whitman also used her considerable fortune to buy a lot of campaign signs, apparently many of which have the word “Sac” on them. From up close they say, “Take Sac back.” But from any reasonable distance, they just appeared to say, “Sac,” which is supposed to make you want to vote for Meg Whitman.
In the Senate race in California, it is Carly Fiorina, a.k.a. “the demon sheep” spending $6.7 million of the money her former company, HP, gave her to go away, to likely defeat lifetime professional reasonable Republican guy Tom Campbell and as well as tea party favorite Chuck Devore who spent most of his campaign time fighting with Don Henley, Mr. Devore ripping off Don Henley songs to turn them into jingles against the other candidates.
But the Senate race and the governor‘s race aren‘t actually the most amazing Republican phenomenon in the Golden State today. That honor goes to the contest to the Republican nomination for California Secretary of State. That is the contest in which the winner really, truly actually, amazingly, “I‘m not making this up-ly” might be Orly Taitz, the queen of the birthers, the woman trying to lead the quest to have President Obama declared secretly foreign and therefore secretly not really president.
After even tea party groups have refused earlier in the season to have Orly Taitz at their events for fear of looking too crazy, Orly Taitz has started to be welcomed by the California GOP. She appeared at a California event two days ago with Republicans like Carly Fiorina and Chuck Devore and Karl Rove and wannabe lifetime professional, reasonable Republican guy Norm Coleman of Minnesota.
Those Republicans two days ago appeared publicly with this Republican.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORLY TAITZ, CALIFORNIA, CALIFORNIA CANDIDATE FOR SECRETARY OF STATE:
A number of volunteers have called each and every hospital in Hawaii and no one had any record of either Obama or his mother ever being hospitalized there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Orly Taitz is running for secretary of state in California against former NFL player Damon Dunn. And of course, Orly Taitz has filed a lawsuit, duh, challenging his eligibility for office.
It is conceivable that Orly Taitz might just win. I mean, name recognition does count for something, plus, she appears first in the ballot so she wins the “too lazy to read all the way down” vote. And she is listed on the ballot as an attorney, not queen of the birthers or dentist.
She will also definitely win the votes of all the Republicans in the state who agree with her, that the president is secretly foreign or something. Orly Taitz could conceivably tonight become the Republican candidate to be the top elections official in the largest state in the country. Oh, yes, the Republican Party is back.
Then there is South Carolina. Polls closed about two hours ago. We only have partial results so far in the Republican gubernatorial primary, so far with 70 percent of precincts reporting. Nikki Haley has 49 percent of the vote against her newest challenger, Congressman Gresham Barrett who has 21 percent of the vote.
Obviously, Nikki Haley way out ahead, but she needs to clear 50 percent in order to avoid a runoff. The third and fourth winning candidates in that race in this point are Andre Bauer, the lieutenant governor with 12 percent of the vote, and Henry McMaster with 18 percent of the vote.
Now, South Carolina‘s Republican gubernatorial primary is a race that we have avoided talking about on this show so far because I‘m easily embarrassed and frankly, it makes me feel dirty.
But that race has now forced its way on to this show because today is the actual primary. We ran, but could not hide from Election Day. Remember, this is the race to replace Gov. Mark Sanford, he of the not faithful work redefinition of hiking the Appalachian Trail.
In the revitalized Republican Party, the Republican South Carolina gubernatorial frontrunner is 38-year-old Indian American Nikki Haley. If elected, she would be the state‘s first female governor. Now, notoriously, over the last couple of weeks, two Republican men have claimed they had extramarital affairs with Nikki Haley but they offered no real evidence other than their very public accusations.
One of Ms. Haley‘s accusers is a conservative political blogger named Will Folks, who was also Mark Sanford‘s former spokesman. The other accuser is Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer‘s former campaign consultant, a lobbyist named Larry Marchant.
Now, of course, there is press event for the vile gutter South Carolina Republican primary politics here. After all, this is the same vile gutter that gave us in George W. Bush versus John McCain in 2000 the infamous campaign flyer saying that John McCain secretly had a black baby.
So it is a classy crowd down there made more so this go-around by Gov. Sanford who graciously came forward to vouch for Nikki Haley‘s sexual morality because Gov. Sanford is the guy you would ask. Vouching may be good enough when it comes to Mark Sanford.
For others, may we suggest a polygraph test? I‘m not kidding. Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer actually took a lie detector test about the “Nikki Haley had at least one affair” allegations to prove that he wasn‘t the source of the rumor from his former consult, Larry Marchant.
Now, as for Larry Marchant, the second person to say that he had done what he should not have done with Nikki Haley - Mr. Marchant also took a polygraph test. I would tell you what the results are but it doesn‘t matter. People are taking polygraph tests about the affair accusations. It‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
So there is that end of the Republican race for the gubernatorial nomination in South Carolina. And I‘ve got to tell you, that is the less-offensive and disgusting end. Republican State Senator Jake Knotts put himself in the running for Keith‘s “Worst Person in the World” hall of fame edition when he referred to Nikki Haley as, and I quote, “a rag head” because her family is Sikh.
Sen. Knotts said, quote, “We already got one rag head in the White House. We don‘t need another in the governor‘s mansion.” One moment of full disclosure, when Mark Sanford was missing, first completely and then hiking the Appalachian Trail, then just missing again, we actually tried to book Mr. Knotts on this show.
We ultimately had to cancel his appearance because we didn‘t have time. But even the fact that we planned that at one point makes me feel so dirty, like I could wash and wash and never be clean.
It is a big night in South Carolina and in 11 other states. We will be tracking all the results as they come in all night until 1:00 in the morning here on MSNBC. By then, we will know a few more contestants for the November midterms.
But as we go through the night, as we track the many inadvertently entertaining races in California and South Carolina and Nevada and elsewhere, compare the reality of those politics to the conventional beltway wisdom that the Republican Party is ascendant, that the Republican is a force that can‘t be stopped this year.
Maybe it is. Maybe that‘s so. But then again, maybe the Republican Party is locked in a battle to the political death with its whack-a-doodlism within. In either case, this is going to be a very fun political year.
MADDOW: We are back in Los Angeles where the polls are still open tonight, voters going to the polls in 12 states today. We‘ll update the status of all those races as the hour goes on.
But first, we want to give you an update on the oil still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico tonight. The government has finally confirmed the existence of one of those undersea plume of oil that BP officials have been denying existed, a 10-mile long plume, 42 miles northeast of the gushing well discovered by a team from the University of South Florida.
Last night, on this show, we talked to the head researcher of one of the teams testing another plume, Dr. Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia. And today, at a press conference, she presented her team‘s conclusive documentation of their second plume.
So far, the implications of the plumes are opaque at best but as Dr. Joye explained to us last night, the atomization of these particles of oil and these big undersea plumes mean that microbial bacteria - microbes are working to essentially eat the oil which, on the one hand, sounds good. But that microbial action also has a downside as it sucks the oxygen out of the water.
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DR. SAMANTHA JOYE, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: This age, if you will. The oxygen is getting drawn down to very low levels. The lowest concentrations that we measured were about three milligrams per meter.
Basically, the level where animals begin to get stressed out is two milligrams per liter. So we‘re almost to the point where fish and other organisms that require oxygen will be stressed in this water.
MADDOW (on camera): And just to be clear and forgive my - the speed at which I absorb these things because I‘m not a scientist. But what you‘re saying is when microbes essentially eat the oil, they‘re also using out the oxygen in the water.
And so while that sort of bio-remediation of these microbes is going through the oil is a good thing in terms of getting rid of the oil, it also can create potentially dead zones where this water can‘t sustain living things?
JOYE: That‘s precisely correct. And things will survive in the low-oxygen water, but any higher organism that requires oxygen won‘t be able to survive in that water. It will avoid it if possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So now we have confirmation of two giant plumes. One of which is at least 10 miles long, two miles wide and 600 feet thick, and another which is 22 miles long, six miles wide and 3,300 feet thick.
Which means that if those huge plumes in the gulf cease to be able to support life, we are potentially talking about areas of about 150 square miles of water that can support no life that are big moving dead zones.
And no, in all of the decades of oil spills and all the
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) profits, oil companies never bothered to develop any technology for removing oil from the water when it‘s in deep undersea plumes. That cleanup technology doesn‘t exist because they never bothered to work on it.
I need to do a quick correction on a couple of items. On Friday, I said Deepwater Horizon was involved in oil production when it blew up. It wasn‘t really in the technical sense. When Deepwater Horizon blew, it was supposed to be sealing up after the drilling process so that a production rig could come pump out the oil later. I‘m sorry for that misstatement.
Last night, at one point on the show, I also inadvertently said “barrels” when I meant “gallons” when talking about the total amount of oil in the gulf. What was in the script that I should have said but I blew through because I was really hot under the collar was an estimate of 39 million gallons of oil in the gulf so far.
I actually said 39 million gallons. I said 39 million barrels. I‘m sorry for that. That said, I probably wasn‘t as wrong as I wish I had been. We still don‘t really know how much oil is leaking into the gulf.
BP had estimated that cutting that the riser pipe in seabed in order to put that containment cap on might lead to a temporary 20 percent increase in the flow of oil. But today, the “New York Times” front-paged an interview with one of the scientists who‘s part of the team estimating the oil flow for the government.
And he said that cutting the pipe might have led to a several fold increase in the flow weight from the well, not just 20 percent. Quote, “The well pipe clearly is fluxing way more than it did before. By way more, I don‘t mean 20 percent, I mean multiple factors,” end quote. To which the appropriate technical scientific response is “Oh, man. Holy mackerel.”
And finally, this is day 50 of the BP oil disaster, an occasion marked in Louisiana by the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints going to Plaquemines Parish. They hung out with residents and clean-up crews.
They announced that they would auction off one special Super Bowl ring to raise money for gulf coast recovery. You can buy raffle tickets for $2 at “SaintsGulfCoastRenewal.org.” The winner will be announced before the Saints-Vikings game, the first of the season, on September 9th. Believe that.
MADDOW: The Associated Press is now reporting that Nikki Haley has not been able to avoid a runoff in the South Carolina Republican primary for the governor‘s race. She has, of course, won the most votes in the race.
But AP reporting that she has not reached the 50 percent critical threshold to avoid a runoff. With 84 percent of precincts, Nikki Haley leading her newest challenger, Gresham Barrett, 49 percent to 21 percent.
The runoff, in this case, will be June 22nd, Nikki Haley versus Gresham Barrett to be the Republican nominee to replace Gov. Mark Sanford in South Carolina as that state‘s governor. We‘ll be right back.
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BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: This is going to be a mess. It already is. But I‘ve been down there and the people are resilient. And these ecosystems are more resilient than I think we anticipate right now if we act swiftly, if we act seriously.
There are going to be marshes, for example, where the oil goes in and the sea life that‘s there is decimated for a season - maybe two. But potentially, we can preserve those estuaries and those marshes so that three years from now, things have come back. Things have bounced back.
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MADDOW: That‘s President Obama this morning on NBC‘s “Today” show trying to bring a little optimism to day 50 of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He said if we act swiftly, if we act seriously, potentially, we can preserve those estuaries and those marshes and the life they sustain.
So what is our response? A big part of the response plan throughout the disaster has focused on one, one-syllable word.
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OBAMA: We deployed over three million feet of total boom to stop the oil from coming on shore. And today, more than 100,000 feet of boom is being surged to Louisiana Parishes that are facing the greatest risk from the oil.
ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: In the last 48 hours, we‘ve actually brought 30 miles of boom into the region down there to be deployed.
OBAMA: Try to get more boom placed into the places that are needed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We continue to move boom into Alabama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Every day, on the Deepwater Horizon response Web site BP brags about how much boom they have deployed. Yesterday, they have deployed more than 2.19 million feet of containment boom and more than 2.46 million feet of sorbent boom.
Today, they announced they‘ve deployed more than 2.25 million feet of containment boom. That‘s 0.06 million more people yesterday. Today, they report they‘re deploying more than 2.55 million feet of sorbent boom, which is 0.09 million more than yesterday.
As if this gives us some sense of progress. We really must be on the way to licking this thing with all those numbers, right? How much of that boom looks like what I saw last week on my trip to the gulf town, un-tethered from its pickets and its anchors piled up on shore, doing absolutely nothing, because nobody is around to maintain it.
Or actually potentially making things worse, like in these pictures that were taken today by a Greenpeace photographer, showing that improperly tended sorbent boom around Queen Bess Island is actually trapping oil on the wrong side. It‘s keeping oil up against the island.
That‘s the island that I visited last week, a critical habitat for brown pelicans, an island and a habitat that Louisianans have worked for decades to save.
Joining us now is Rick Steiner, who is a marine conservationist who flew with Greenpeace over Queen Bess Island today. Rick was the University of Alaska‘s marine adviser for the Prince William Sound region of Alaska during the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. He now works on oil spill prevention and response around the world. Rick Steiner, thank you for your time tonight.
RICK STEINER, MARINE CONSERVATIONIST: Hi, Rachel. Good to be here.
MADDOW: Is the burning situation in the gulf right now as bad as I think it is? What I saw down there as recently as Friday looked pitiful and like it wasn‘t being done right.
STEINER: Yes, your instincts are absolutely right on. The numbers are meant to sort of put people to sleep and give the illusion that they‘re responding effectively to this. But one thing we have learned on these oil spills throughout the world is there is no such thing as an effective - a truly effective response to a large marine oil spill.
Seldom is more than 10 or 15 percent recovered. BP probably hasn‘t recovered more than two percent or three percent of what‘s been spilled in the Deepwater Horizon spill so far. They‘re very fond of reciting the numbers, millions of feet of boom out and things like that.
But actually, I would say 70 percent or 80 percent of that is doing absolutely nothing. And as you mentioned, we saw some today that was doing worse than nothing. It was causing more problems than it was solving, because it was actually keeping the oil around a critical seabird nesting island, the one you were at last week, Queen Bess. So the numbers are meant to - are part of a mythology.
MADDOW: Rick, given all that you‘ve seen and all that you know about this technology and about oil spill response, do you feel like - I know this sounds like dramatic, but we just shouldn‘t be doing booming at all. We‘d be better off not - without that false sense of security, given what little good it‘s doing? Or do you think it‘s worth trying to go do it right?
STEINER: I think it‘s worth trying to do it right. We‘ve got to try to keep the oil out of the sensitive habitats. And also the sorbent boom - that that‘s white sausage-looking cylindrical boom - that‘s good stuff, because it absorbs the oil that‘s in the water.
But what you have to do is take the saturated sorbent boom out of the water when it gets heavily saturated with oil and put fresh stuff in. They‘re not doing that. They really are not tending this operation.
They set the booms out and then come home. And the anchors are breaking - you saw some of that. The oiled sorbent boom is washing up to the shoreline right where the seabird nests are. And it‘s contributing to the problem rather than trying solving it.
But we need to be realistic about this and understand that all the king‘s horses and all the king‘s men can‘t do much in this situation, regardless of how many thousands of people and thousands of vessels and millions of feet of boom they put out there, but they certainly need to try.
One of the problems from this spill, Rachel, as you know, is it‘s bubbling up from 5,000 feet deep. And by the time that oil fraction gets to the surface, it‘s so emulsified with water. It‘s so naturally dispersed, and then, chemically dispersed on top of it. There are no really easily definable surface slicks to work on for mechanical recovery.
So it‘s kind of a futile endeavor, to be honest with you, but we‘ve got to try. There are some puddles of oil on the sea surface, and against these islands, the Seabird Islands, that could be removed just with buckets. You know, it‘s not rocket science. So they need to at least try something.
MADDOW: Rick Steiner, marine conservationist, we have limited time tonight, because we‘re covering all these primaries and everything that‘s going on. But we‘re going to keep covering this side of the response, not just what‘s going on at the seabed, with what‘s going on with the oil that has already leaked day after day after day until somebody starts getting this right.
Can I ask you now if you would be willing to come back and talk to us more about the technical side of this?
STEINER: I would be glad to. And one last thing - this is going to cause some permanent damage in the South Louisiana wetlands. And that‘s an unfortunate reality here.
MADDOW: Rick Steiner, thank you very much for your time tonight, and we‘ll be seeing you back on this show again soon. I really appreciate it.
STEINER: Glad to, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, a special live edition of “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann. But first, on this show, the very latest results from the primaries. We‘ve got some new results to give you and some new increased precinct totals to give you. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Twelve states are holding primaries tonight. It may not be Super Tuesday, but it‘s at least pretty good Tuesday. The Democratic runoff election in Arkansas where incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln is facing a challenge for her party‘s nomination from Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter is probably the biggest race of the night.
Polls closed in Arkansas roughly an hour and a half ago. And with 27 percent of precincts reporting, we‘re looking at 52 percent for Sen. Lincoln against 48 percent for Bill Halter.
In the South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary, frontrunner Nikki Haley looks like - is going a runoff election against her newest opponent, Congressman Gresham Barrett.
Nikki Haley well out ahead, but with 89 percent of precincts reporting, she‘s not cleared the all-important 50 percent hurdle. She‘s at 39 percent of Gresham Barrett‘s 22 percent, neither again getting the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff election on June 22nd. Polls close tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern in California. We‘ll be back live then at 11:00 p.m. with the election results. A live edition “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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