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Tuesday, Oct. 26th, 2010  (put correct date)

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Ilyse Hogue, David Brock, Robert Menendez, Ari Melber

RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST:  Next time, I will cram you into my carry-on bag.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST:  All right.  We‘re going to do that. 

Thanks, Rachel.

A Tea Party extremist decided to use the heel of his boot as a political weapon against a woman face down on the ground.  If Tea Partiers are this crazy seven days before the election, what are they going to do when things get really tense on the final campaign weekend?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  The Tea Party message of stand up, fight back, now turns to this:

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST:  The Rand Paul supporter was the aggressor.

O‘DONNELL:  A county coordinator for Tea Party Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul shoves a woman‘s face into the ground.  Her offense?  Being on the other side of the political argument.

And Rand Paul‘s response about violence by his own campaign workers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What was your reaction?

RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE:  We want everybody to be civil.  And there was a bit of a crowd control problem.  And it wasn‘t something that I liked.

ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST:  I mean, I find this freaking unbelievable!

O‘DONNELL:  Rand Paul, Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle are all pushing the Tea Party Republican message: the other side is the enemy.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  If you fire Pelosi, you retire Reid and their whole band of merry followers.

NARRATOR:  Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear.

MADDOW:  The most overtly racist ad of this campaign season.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”:  I‘d like to see her do this ad in the south Bronx.  Come here, bitch, come here to New York and do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell.

The bickering between Kentucky‘s Tea Party Senate candidate Rand Paul and his opponent Democrat Jack Conway during their debate last night was nothing compared to the melee going on outside just before the debate started.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get the police down here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get the cops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get the cops!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get the police.  Get the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, no, no.  Come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  That was Lauren Valle on the ground, a 23-year-old activist with moveon.org.  She approached Rand Paul with a sign.  His supporters throw her to the ground and the man who stomps on her face, Tim Profitt, a volunteer county coordinator for Paul‘s campaign.  The campaign cut him loose after this video surfaced.

And according to Federal Election Commission records, Profitt has also given Rand Paul‘s campaign $1,900.

Lexington police say Profitt will get a court summons and a judge will decide if he faces any charges.

Paul‘s campaign has responded saying, in part, the campaign “is extremely disappointed in and condemns the actions of a supporter last night.  Any level of aggression or violence is deplorable, and will not be tolerated by our campaign.”

Jack Conway‘s campaign also responded saying, “Physical violence by a man against a woman must never be tolerated.  It is my hope that steps have been taken to ensure this kind of thuggish behavior never happens again in this campaign.”

Joining me now is Ilyse Hogue, director of public advocacy and communications from MoveOn.org.

First of all, how is Ms. Valle at this point?

ILYSE HOGUE, MOVEON.ORG:  Well, Lawrence, she is still a little sore.  She was released from the hospital this morning with a confirmed concussion.

But I got to tell you, she is really buoyed by that outpouring all across America of people who recognize that what happened to her is just atrocious and it‘s got to stop.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Rand Paul this morning called this a crowd control problem at first, then his campaign issued a stronger, clearer statement.  They get rid of the guy.  The guy who did this, Profitt, has also apologized.

Is apology enough in a case like this?

HOGUE:  No, we actually hope that all of those who are part of this are held to account.

But really, Lawrence, what we‘re hearing all across the country is that this is a much bigger thing than Tim Profitt and his friends that attacked Lauren last night.  We‘re seeing a pattern of violence—and we‘re seeing Republicans and the people who are behind them, the people who are behind the ads, the people who are behind the Tea Party, the oil billionaires that stand to profit if Republicans win this election, they are the ones fomenting the violence and they are the ones not standing up and saying enough is enough.

O‘DONNELL:  Speaking of fomenting violence, let‘s hear what Rush Limbaugh had to say today in his radio show today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  The man put his foot down on her shoulders, in what looked to me like an effort to help restrain her, and then the guy was immediately shooed away.

Now, nobody‘s condoning the manhandling of even a radical liberal woman.  You want to know who this woman is.  This is not the first time Lauren Valle has shown up—April 2nd of 2008 organized by Rainforest Action Network, the demonstration against Citibank.

Rand Paul supporters are simply, like everybody else, fed up with the way this usually happens, not going to bend over, grab the ankles and play nice—when something like this happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Rush inserts the mandatory phrase in there, no one is condoning the manhandling, then every other word he says condones the manhandling, doesn‘t it?

HOGUE:  I believe it does.

And what‘s really ironic to me and what I think is critically important to all of our members across the country, the teachers, the small business owners, is the fact that, actually, it sounds like Rush Limbaugh is attacking 23-year-old Lauren Valle for actually criticizing a financial institution that most Americans agree have gotten away with murder.  They‘ve gotten bonuses—Americans are losing their homes.  They have record profits—jobs are being outsourced overseas.

Why is Rush Limbaugh—why is Rand Paul—not holding those corporations accountable but willing to point fingers at a 110-pound 23-year-old woman?

O‘DONNELL:  Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org—thank you for your time tonight.

HOGUE:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Violence is an unfortunate theme in the history of our politics.  And now, “Media Matters” is reporting that there‘s a link between a man arrested for firing on police in California in July, who‘s admitted to plotting the assassination of leaders at the American Civil Liberties Union and the rhetoric of Glenn Beck.

Now, the founder of “Media Matters,” David Brock, along with Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, are calling on Sarah Palin, who‘s been a huge supporter of Glenn Beck, to refudiate the FOX News host, to use one of Palin‘s invented words.

Joining me now is David Brock, the founder of “Media Matters for America.”

David, can you explain this connection between a contemplated assassination plot and Glenn Beck‘s rhetoric?

DAVID BROCK, FOUNDER & CEO, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA:  Sure, yes.  I mean, the concerns that we raised in the op-ed that you cited today, one, Glenn Beck incited an attempted assassination plot against innocent employees of the Tides Foundation in San Francisco.

But that‘s not all.  There‘s a history here as Ilyse said—he has attempted to poison in effigy Nancy Pelosi on his set.  That led to a death threat by a guy in San Francisco who threatened to burn her house down.  That guy‘s mother said he gets all his ideas from FOX News.

And let me give you a personal one.  Dick Morris is on the air every night on FOX News raising money for his political activities.  One of his consultants after “Media Matters” fact-checked one of their ads and found it false tweeted that our staff should be curb-stomped.  OK?

So, there‘s a whole pattern here what‘s going on.  And I think the question is what to do about it.

So, I think there—this is how we get to Sarah Palin.  Basically Beck, Beck‘s erratic, he either won‘t or can‘t control himself even after he loses a hundred advertisers, so you can‘t go there.

Murdoch was asked at a shareholder‘s conference a couple of weeks ago about Beck, shareholder concerns about Beck—he said he doesn‘t agree with everything that goes on on the FOX News Channel, but he‘s standing with Beck.

Ailes recruited Beck to do this.  So, he‘s standing with Beck.

That leaves you with sponsors.  So, PFAW has backed up a Tides Foundation call with “Media Matters” called Drop FOX to ask for advertisers to take responsibility for this rhetoric.

I was recently told by a member of the Murdoch family that if you could affect the bottom line, you might get attention by the News Corp board.  But the truth is, we can‘t wait for that.

So, Sarah Palin, right now, in our view, needs to step up.  She needs to step up because she‘s a leader of the Republican Party, of the conservative movement.  She‘s a Tea Party favorite.  She is the one person in this country right now, today, who in the national interest, just in the moment to put partisanship aside, could pull this country back from the precipice of another Oklahoma City.  And that‘s what a real leader does, that‘s what we‘re asking.

As you know, you know, Bill Buckley, back in the ‘60s, divorced the conservative movement from the John Birch Society, and called it idiocy and paranoia.  So, there‘s precedent for this.

And Sarah Palin is a leader.  We‘re now going to find out what kind of leader, what she‘s made of, and whether she‘s going to do it.  And I‘m telling you, we‘re going to find out.

We published this piece this morning.  We heard nothing today.  I hope she‘s watching the show tonight.

If we hear nothing in the morning, I am personally going to call Sarah Palin.  I‘m going to ask Michael Keegan of PFAW to join me on that call and we‘re going to make a personal plea to her to stop this insanity.  It has got to stop, as Ilyse just said.

O‘DONNELL:  David, what you just laid out sounds to me like an absolutely brilliant political strategy, political posture for Sarah Palin to adopt at this moment in this kind of atmosphere.  She would get so much credit for a move like that without, I think, costing her anything from her right wing base.

BROCK:  I think that‘s right.  Now, you know, she‘s a FOX News contributor star.  She‘s perfectly positioned.  She‘s joined at the hip with Glenn Beck.

We know she‘s done a few tweets, right, about resisting and reloading and all of that.  But, you know—now, words have consequences, as Peter King, a Republican, had the guts to say last week.  So, she‘s on notice.  And she needs to do the right thing.

O‘DONNELL:  David Brock, I think you‘ve offered her a brilliant strategy.  It‘s almost—it‘s something of a political intelligence test and we‘ll find out in a couple of days—

BROCK:  We‘re going to find out.

O‘DONNELL:  -- just how far she is going forward if she‘s going to be a candidate.

David Brock of “Media Matters”—thank you very much for joining us tonight.

BROCK:  Thanks very much for having me.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: in presidential elections, it‘s always Florida, Florida, Florida—the race for Senate in that state is just as critical.  Tonight was the final debate for the three candidates.

David Gregory moderated the debate and will join us with his reaction.

And later, Sharron Angle‘s anti-illegal immigration ad—it‘s being attacked as racist.  We‘ll talk to Democratic Senator Robert Menendez about the ad and show you the explosive reaction to it on “The View” today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: the battle for control of Congress.  In Florida, the Senate candidates held their final debate tonight.  David Gregory led the questioning and he‘ll join me next.

And later, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez on the midterm elections and the way forward after November 2nd.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  The three candidates running for the open Florida Senate seat had their final debate tonight in Orlando.  Going into the debate: Tea Party Republican Marco Rubio was leading in the polls at 44 percent of the likely vote, independent Charlie Crist was at 30 percent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek was running third at 22 percent of the Florida vote.

Tonight, all three candidates seemed to steer clear of the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE:  I think everybody on the planet understands that the Republican Party‘s gone hard right.  There‘s no question about it.  All you have to do is look at the other Republican nominees around the country tonight.  You know, those people, Christine O‘Donnell, you know, Rand Paul, Angle or whatever in Nevada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sharron Angle.

CRIST:  Sharron—thank you.  You know, those people have gone so far to the right, it‘s just a position that I‘m not comfortable with anymore.

MARCO RUBIO ®, FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE:  You know, I‘m not sure that‘s a part we disagree with or not disagree, because my public policy isn‘t based on the Republican platform.  It‘s based on the things that I believe in.  It‘s the things that I stand for.

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Well, let me tell you something—I‘m a Democrat for sure, you can count on that.  But I can tell you this: if it‘s making sure that we bring down health care companies that have ran this whole issue on insurance, who gets it and who doesn‘t get it and when they drop them—and then you can count me in that number.  When it comes to when a woman can be paid the same as a man and making it federal law—I‘m for that, too.  When it comes to Wall Street reform—

I‘m for that, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  But one big Florida issue they did not agree on was Social Security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, DEBATE MODERATOR:  Well, how is it a responsible position to say, “We‘re basically OK until 2037”?

CRIST:  Because I think we are.  I think that‘s the truth and the reality.  And Paul Krugman wrote a great piece about it not long ago.  He said what‘s interesting about Social Security, this is the one program in Washington, D.C. that‘s actually working.  My view is that we need to preserve it and protect it as it is.

RUBIO:  Here are the facts, Governor, beginning this year: for this first time, we are paying out more than we‘re taking in in Social Security.

Here are the facts: Congress has consistently raided the Social Security Trust Fund year after year, taking all these additional funds and using it into general revenue.

And here are the facts: the facts that are that every year goes by, we have more and more people retiring, taking out of the system, and less and less people paying into it.  So, we‘re not talking about the year 2037 or 2041, that‘s when it explodes.

MEEK:  The thing about it is that Rubio, on January of this year in Tallahassee, said he agreed with Representative Ryan‘s bill that calls for privatization of Social Security, privatization of Medicare, privatization of Medicaid—but he‘s not talking about that now because he sees it will be something that will rock the boat.

When we talk about the facts versus fiction, I think it‘s very important for those of us who defended Social Security to the point where we had to fight the Bush administration—and I must say, I‘m a the only one sitting at this table that can say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  NBC‘s David Gregory moderated tonight‘s debate from our Orlando affiliate WESH 2 and joins me from there now.

David, the first question always after a debate—was there a game-changer and there was something happened that changes the dynamics of this race?

GREGORY:  Well, I think—no, there‘s not a lot to change the dynamic of the race.

I was struck by a couple of things.  It was a little bit less aggressive than I thought it might be.  Marco Rubio is clear the front-runner in this race and he acted like it.  I mean, he was careful.  He didn‘t really go after some areas where he could have with Governor Crist on some of his flip-flops, for instance, and some of his past positions.

I thought Congressman Meek was a little less aggressive than I thought he might be.

From Governor Crist, I did think you saw him taking on one of his big liabilities, political opportunism, head on, talking about one flip-flop over gay adoption, for instance, and saying that he‘s had an evolution in his life.  Presumably, that happened somewhere in the last four years on that issue.  The reality is: there‘s a pattern of issues that he still has to be held accountable for, and there was some discussion about that.

I don‘t see anything here that really changes the dynamic in this race.

O‘DONNELL:  How much pressure is there now on Kendrick Meek to drop out?  If you combine the Meek vote and the Charlie Crist vote, they‘re currently on the polls add up to 52.  That‘s a winning vote.  Is there pressure on Meek to do that?  And would it work if he did?

GREGORY:  I‘m not certain it would work, Lawrence, because I think that presumes some things about his support going to Governor Crist.  And maybe that would happen.  Certainly, there‘s no intention by the Meek campaign to do that.  They say privately that question should be asked of Governor Crist at this stage as well.

So, I think—I don‘t think that‘s something that‘s going to happen at this stage even if there were pressure for that from other campaigns, and other questions coming up in the press.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, Marco Rubio is kind of sticking his neck out politically on Social Security in the state of Florida, where people normally, in politics, play it very, very safe.  He‘s willing to see the retirement age increased slowly over time—not for any current beneficiaries or anyone coming online soon.  But in the future, he would be willing to increase it.

How does that play in Florida when the message like that might be confused in to something else, including current beneficiaries or even future beneficiaries?

GREGORY:  Right.  Well, and look, he‘s been attacked erroneously by Governor Crist, and, you know, Governor Crist saying he wants to privatize Social Security.  That is not his plan.  He said here tonight that President Bush tried that with the creation of private accounts.  That‘s not going to happen.  But he did talk about raising the retirement age.

I mean, I think it‘s very interesting.  You have expertise on this issue and others, particularly on Social Security, to have three candidates, two of whom the Democrat and the independent former Republican essentially say, in a state like Florida, well, we‘re going to go along here for a while before we have any problems and not take a position on whether you got to cut benefits or raise taxes.  But then to have a conservative Republican candidate say, no, we‘ve got to do something like raise the retirement age, it is a politically courageous step to take in this state.

It is also, I should point out—beyond the policy merits of it—it was part of something else I picked up from the former House speaker here in Florida, a willingness to engage.  He talked about wanting to find some areas of consensus with President Obama.  And while he wasn‘t specific about what federal program he would cut to cut the deficit—even that kind of rhetoric and engagement on those particular issues sets him apart from other Tea Party-backed candidates in terms of what he‘d be willing to do, in terms of his willingness to work in Washington.

So, you put all that together, there was some political courage being taken by him.

O‘DONNELL:  David, I‘m finding a lot of political analysts wondering about how much momentum are the Republicans going to have as we really get into Election Day.  The latest “Newsweek” poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats compared with 42 percent who lean Republican.  There‘s starting to be a little bit of chatter out there now saying, hey, maybe the Republican tidal wave isn‘t going to be such a giant tidal wave.

What does it feel like in Florida?

GREGORY:  Look, it feels pretty tough here.  Early voting, I think, is a big factor that can help in a state like this, help a Republican when you have Rubio who‘s up for a while.  We have the dynamic of the three-person race here.

I think the frustration with Washington, it‘s not just Democrats, but the idea that Washington is broken beyond repair, that politicians don‘t have any credibility, and that people are not feeling the effects of what‘s been done by the Obama administration—I think that all ranks pretty high.

I think what‘s interesting, however—you know, you look at our polling: people don‘t really have a decisive view about whether Republicans or Democrats should be in charge.  So, there‘s no great love for Republicans across the land and their ideas.  I think Republican leaders acknowledge that in some quarters at least.

So, I think what we have to wait and see on this question of magnitude is to what extent Democrats have been successful taking down their opponents, right?  You see more success in Pennsylvania.  You see this incredibly vicious fight in Nevada.  You see how it‘s playing out in California.  The blue tendencies of California are starting to come home.

So, I think to what extent are they making it a choice rather than a referendum and to what extent is the Republican base getting energized to say, yes, we‘re disappointed about some things but we‘re going to actually turn our—and we see this is a big election.  As you know, I mean, I think those are the things that are going to determine what kind of night next Tuesday is.

O‘DONNELL:  David Gregory, America‘s moderator, moderator of “Meet the Press,” and moderator of tonight‘s Senate debate in Florida—thanks for joining us tonight, David.

GREGORY:  Thank you.  And congratulations on your program.

O‘DONNELL:  The anger over an anti-illegal immigration ad from Republican Sharron Angle is growing.  We‘ll talk to Democratic Senator Robert Menendez about the possibility he‘ll have to work with a Senator Angle in the Senate.

And who told Christine O‘Donnell to run for the Senate?  Her answer:

God.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Ahead on THE LAST WORD: as President Obama campaigns to keep Democrats in power on Capitol Hill, Nate Silver today lowers the chances the Republicans can take over control of the Senate.  And the Democrat whose job it is to prevent that, Senator Robert Menendez, joins me next.

And Joy Behar unleashes on Sharron Angle.  Behar called the Tea Party candidate a moron.  And she was just getting warmed up.

Coming up: We‘ll take time out to enjoy “The View.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  In the spotlight tonight, November 2nd was supposed to be an historic day for Republicans until they nominated Tea Party candidates who dabble in witchcraft, oppose the minimum wage and refuse to accept the separation of church and state.  Can the Tea Party save the Democratic party? 

Joining me now, New Jersey Senator and chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Robert Menendez.  Thank you for joining us tonight, senator. 

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY:  Good to be with you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, Sharron Angle‘s recent attack ad has gotten a lot of negative reaction, including on “The View” today.  Let‘s listen to the ad and Joy Behar‘s reaction to it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear.  And what‘s Harry Reid doing about it?  Voting to give illegal aliens Social Security benefits, tax breaks and college tuition. 

JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”:  I‘d like to see her do this ad in the South Bronx.  Come here, bitch, come to New York and do it. 

(CROSS TALK)

BEHAR:  I‘m not praying for her. 

(CROSS TALK)

BEHAR:  She‘s going to hell.  She‘s going to hell, this bitch. 

(CROSS TALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Menendez, first of all, your reaction to the ad? 

Do you think that ad is racist, as many have accused it of being? 

MENENDEZ:  I do.  I think it‘s despicable.  I think it tries to portray all Latinos in this country in a negative light, in a state that has such a large, vibrant and productive Latino population.  And it goes hand in hand with what Sharron Angle is doing in trying to suppress that vote in Nevada, in the tactics that are reminiscent of the Republican party in the past, taking pictures of minority voters going to vote in early vote, passing out literature trying to intimidate them. 

And this ad is along the line.  It is a despicable ad.  And I hope and I believe it will backfire her in this last week of the election. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now, senator, it seemed that Harry Reid had gotten lucky when Sharron Angle won that nomination.  He was way ahead of her in the polls for a while.  She seems to have closed that gap and is now running very closely.  She could easily win that state next week.  But with Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware running way behind, hasn‘t the Tea Party and the Tea Party candidates as nominated by Republicans, actually helped you in your quest to hold on to the Senate? 

MENENDEZ:  Well, look, Lawrence, the bottom line is that these candidates—it‘s not because they‘re Tea Party candidates.  It‘s simply because they hold extreme views.  Six of these candidates want to privatize Social Security.  Ten of the Republican candidates want to eliminate the Department of Education.  Four of them want to actually eliminate or lower the minimum wage. 

In the case of Sharron Angle, for example, she believes the Department of Education should be eliminated.  She believes, in a state that has so many retirees, that Social Security should be privatized.  She wants to bring radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. 

These are all positions outside of the mainstream of Nevadans and their views.  And that‘s emblematic of so many of these candidates across the country.  So as we make this an election of choice, of whether or not we give the mantle of leadership to those who brought us on the brink of a new depression in this country, or whether we continue the progress of creating economic opportunity and moving forward on jobs, is the critical issue in these elections.  And that‘s why I believe that on election day we will do well. 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, the conventional wisdom is that the energy is on the Republican side, the motivation is on the Republican side.  That motivation has turned to outrage on the part of many Tea Party supporters.  And now we have seen, as on this program tonight earlier, violence on the part of some Tea Party supporters.  What can you do on the Democratic side to counter that outrage coming at Democratic candidates? 

MENENDEZ:  Well, I think that as our candidates make the case and create the contrast between those who would take us back to the Bush failed economic policies, which they espouse rather liberally as Republican candidates, or whether we move forward, that is creating the crystal view for voters in these elections, as they make their final decisions. 

And in terms of this constant referral to the enthusiasm gap, look at early voting in Washington and California, in Nevada.  Look at early voting in West Virginia and several other states.  And the fact is that Democrats have far exceed Republican voters in early voting.  And those are all good signs of a base that understands what this election has come down to, a referendum of whether we move back to the failed Bush economic policies that drove this country into the brink of economic disaster or whether we move forward and continue the progress we‘re making. 

And there‘s much more work to be done.  But clearly there is a vivid contrast in these elections. 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator, were you surprised in the Senate debate tonight in Florida that Tea Party Republican candidate Marco Rubio actually distanced himself from what he labeled the Republican platform? 

MENENDEZ:  Yeah.  I found it amazing that Marco Rubio takes the position that suddenly he‘s not with the Republican platform; he‘s not with the Tea Party platform, which helped skyrocket him into the Republican nomination.  It‘s pretty amazing to me that he thinks that he can get away with that.  I think that, at the end of the day, if voters look at that in the final week, they‘ve got to really question whether or not—who Marco Rubio is and what does he really stand for? 

O‘DONNELL:  Senator Robert Menendez, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the toughest year that job has faced in a while, thank you for joining us, senator. 

MENENDEZ:  Thank you, Lawrence. 

O‘DONNELL:  The lengths Sharron Angle will go to avoid the press are growing.  Now her staff is trying to throw off reporters by creating diversions. 

And tonight‘s Rewrite, a bipartisan blunder‘ not one but two candidates get simultaneously tripped up on the question every politician should know the answer to this election cycle. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Time for tonight‘s Rewrite.  A month ago, a Connecticut reporter asked that state‘s silly Republican billionaire Senate Candidate Linda McMahon, queen of the wrestling industry, if she knew how much the minimum wage is.  No surprise, she had no idea.  I then took that question and ran with it, starting with my favorite billionaire politician. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  What is the minimum wage? 

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK:  U.S. minimum wage is about 15,000 dollars a year, about 300 a week.  That‘s 7.25 an hour. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jeez.  All right, you got it. 

BLOOMBERG:  Everybody would know that. 

O‘DONNELL:  No.  This is why your my favorite billionaire. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Since then the minimum wage has loomed ever larger in campaigns, especially Tea Party campaigns. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Alaska‘s Tea Party candidate Joe Miller says he doesn‘t think the federal minimum wage is constitutional.  West Virginia‘s multi-millionaire Republican Senate candidate John Raese wants to abolish the minimum wage.  And then there was this. 

What is the minimum wage, Michael? 

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  You really like the minimum wage, don‘t you?  Whether minimum wage is 7 dollars, ten dollars, or whatever it happens to be in whatever part of the country you live in, the fact is, if you don‘t have a job, that number is irrelevant. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, the minimum wage is not seven dollars or ten dollars.  But let‘s move on to jobs. 

STEELE:  All right, that will be your headline.  That will be your headline, Lawrence, Steele doesn‘t know the minimum wage. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The chairman of the Republican Party is asked on a national television show, with an audience bigger than every show on CNN, what the minimum wage is and he embarrasses himself and the party by having to admit he doesn‘t know.  So how could this possibly happen three weeks later in the Florida gubernatorial debate between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s the minimum wage in Florida, Mr. Scott? 

RICK SCOTT ®, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR IN FLORIDA:  Seven fifty five. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Sink, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

ALEX SINK (D), CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR IN FLORIDA:  Seven twenty five.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s only fair that both Democrat and Republican were caught on tape not knowing the minimum wage, because my guess is a majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress on any given day don‘t know the minimum wage.  But after it‘s been a campaign issue for a month, it is political malpractice for the staffs of these gubernatorial candidates to not in their debate prep briefing books include this page. 

So Rick Scott and Alex Sink, with seven days left in the campaign, there‘s not much point in firing the staff that let you go into that debate not knowing the minimum wage.  But one of you is going to be the next governor of a state of 18.5 million people.  And it will be governing malpractice to allow anyone from your incompetent campaign staffs to have a job in the state capitol building.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  As the election approaches and emotions run high, the set of “The View” is getting hotter every day.  Today‘s hot topic was Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle‘s anti-illegal immigration ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear.  And what‘s Harry Reid doing about it? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The ad provokes Joy Behar to challenge Sharron Angle to—

I‘m not sure what, but she suggested the Bronx as a potential venue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”:  People are saying that it‘s very racist because there are these adorable white children sitting in class.  Every immigrant is a tough looking—is going to join a gang, is going to do you harm. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Once you put out a visual bell, it cannot be un-rung.  You‘ve specifically casted to ignite fear. 

BEHAR:  People who will vote for her based on fear of the incumbent and fear of immigration. 

I‘d like to see her do this ad in the South Bronx.  Come here, Bitch, come to New York and do it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re praying for you. 

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK, “THE VIEW”:  Even Joy is praying for you. 

BEHAR:  I‘m not praying for her.  She‘s going to hell. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m praying that her—

BEHAR:  She‘s going to hell, this bitch.  I want the say one thing, I am not a witch. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Candidate Angle actually has been avoiding all challengers recently, even using a decoy to duck out of an event, leaving reporters in the dark for two hours.  Here‘s why she thinks she doesn‘t need the press. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re now a national story.  Are you kind of overwhelmed by it all? 

SHARRON ANGLE ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN NEVADA:  Not really.  I believe that God has been in this from the beginning.  And because of that, when he has a plan and a purpose for your life, and you fit into that, what he calls you to, he‘s always a equipped people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Like when God calls 14 million immigrants to enter this country illegally and take jobs Americans don‘t want.  And how can you blame Christine O‘Donnell for not knowing what separation of church and state means when political reporters ask questions like this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where is God in all of this?  How do you see all of that?

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN DELAWARE:  God is the reason that I‘m running.  If I didn‘t believe that there were a cause greater than myself worth fighting for, if I didn‘t believe that it takes a complete dying of self to make things right in this election cycle, I would not be running.  And when you die to yourself, you rely on a power greater than yourself. 

So prayer is what‘s gotten us all through.  The day that we saw a spike in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me that morning for this campaign.  So I believe that prayer plays a direct role in this campaign.  And I always ask people, please pray for the campaign, please pray for our staff, please pray specifically that the eyes of the voters be opened. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Joining me now are Chris Jansing, host of MSNBC‘s “JANSING AND COMPANY,” and Ari Melber, a correspondent for “The Nation Magazine.”  Chris Jansing, let‘s just stipulate, we‘re all doing this because God told us to.  But seriously, what is a reporter doing asking how does god factor into your campaign?  How did we get there? 

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, it‘s a calculated plan that they have for appealing to their base.  I mean, if you listen to some of the rhetoric that‘s out there, especially with some of the Tea Party candidates, they believe that this is what‘s going to get people excited, what‘s going to fire people up. 

Now, you could also say that in most, I think, Christian teaching, they will tell you that God hears all your prayers.  He just doesn‘t always answer them the way that you would like him to.  So perhaps if you look at the polls right now for Christine O‘Donnell, that might be the case. 

O‘DONNELL:  So Ari, if I buy all of this, and I think it‘s God‘s plan for Sharron Angle to be a United States senator or Christine O‘Donnell‘s plan, and I‘m a supporter, but on election day I‘ve got to get my dry cleaning and a couple other things and the polls are closing, I don‘t really have to worry because it‘s God‘s plan.  They don‘t need my vote.  It‘s God‘s plan that she become senator, right? 

ARI MELBER, CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”:  Yeah, I don‘t think a real strong deterministic message gets your voters out.  Usually you have kind of the opposite thing, which is telling people I need you.  If you don‘t do it, we won‘t make it. 

O‘DONNELL:  God‘s not sure, so it‘s up to you to elect me to the United States Senate. 

MELBER:  This is almost cosmic.  In your lead-in, you really hit it.  You talked about how she has a body double because she‘s avoiding independent press questions.  When she sits down with the Christian Broadcasting Network, they have every right as much as anyone else to get in and talk about this race.  But that‘s not an independent inquiry you saw in the exchange. 

Sharron Angle has shut out most independent press.  She‘s refused interviews with most people.  And then sits down here and ends up in somewhat awkward situations. 

JANSING:  Although her press people have said—they wanted to point out to the media that last week she actually had some media availability.  It‘s unbelievable to me when you‘re in a race this tight, covering politics for many, many years, as you have, Lawrence, that you‘re not out there trying to get yourself as much free media as you possibly can. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, she‘s got this just gigantic pot of money that‘s flowed in there.  So she doesn‘t need the free media.  She‘s buying it.  But to her ad, to this Sharron Angle attack ad on Harry Reid on the anti-illegal immigration thing, there‘s a political wise woman, Sherry Shepherd, saying that this is all about fear.  This is appealing to fear. 

If the Angle campaign is trying to get the anti-illegal immigration vote in Nevada, does what happened on “The View” today help or hurt that?  I mean—

JANSING:  I think what it definitely helps is “The View,” because Joy Behar is an absolute—

O‘DONNELL:  But “The View” is mainstream television.  And the voters watching that show come out of that whole experience thinking what? 

JANSING:  I think they come out of that whole breadth of experience and how many of those viewers are in Nevada, I don‘t know.  I think that ad definitely is a calculated risk.  When you do something that is so blatant in a situation like this, you know, it brings to mind Willie Horton.  A lot of people have made those comparisons. 

But look, for the people who are trying to get out the Latino vote—

I was talking to the folks at Mi Familia Vota just today.  They‘re looking at closing that enthusiasm gap.  It was about 40 percent of Latino voters who said in early September that they were really excited, they were really planning to vote.  Now it is up to 60.  They think they can get it higher. 

For them, this is the kind of ammunition that they will use in this campaign. 

O‘DONNELL:  Harry Reid can win the race on a strong Latino turnout in Nevada.  What do you think happened to Latino turnout in Nevada today with “The View” doing something like that in reaction to that ad? 

MELBER:  I think Joy Behar is a friend Harry Reid didn‘t know he had.  He is someone who talks about his career in boxing 20 years ago, but you never feel like he‘s counter-punching.  And that debate, which people in Nevada did watch closely, showing her saying man up and him saying, hey, that‘s not fair, but not necessarily punching back hard. 

Joy is basically saying who are you, Sharron Angle, to come in here and demagogue people in Nevada?  Whether they‘re here legally or illegally, they‘re people.  They deserve respect.  She‘s bringing a bit of what I would call a street ethic to it.  Which is you want to talk mess, come to Brooklyn, see what happens.  I think that‘s an attitude that pushes back.  It doesn‘t just leave the people aligned with Reid campaigning about how this is unfair.  It leaves them feeling like they‘re punching back against someone who is, to some degree, a bully.

And if Sharron Angle is trying to wage her closing argument on picking on people who cannot necessarily speak for themselves or aren‘t here legally, you need to come back strongly on that in politics. 

JANSING:  I think for people who like to crunch the numbers, it is really amazing to them that actually Harry Reid is still in this.  When you have a disapproval rating 55 percent the way he does and you‘re still hanging in there, it tells you something about the other candidate. 

MELBER:  I‘ll throw one number in there quickly.  Nevada unemployment is 14.2 percent, the highest in the nation, worse than California. 

JANSING:  Foreclosures. 

MELBER:  That‘s something people are feeling out there.  So it‘s a tough climate obviously. 

O‘DONNELL:  Now on the Democratic side, you have these people running away from the president.  You have the gubernatorial nominee in Rhode Island saying he can take his endorsement and shove it, because he didn‘t get the endorsement, which I find pretty strange, for the president not to be able to endorse the Democrat running. 

You have Joe Manchin running for Senate from West Virginia saying he‘s not sure he would vote for Harry Reid to be the leader of the Senate if he becomes a senator.  So the Democrats seem to be running a little bit wild on their side.  Is it your sense that the Democratic party leadership is just saying to them, look, say whatever you have to say to get elected.  We will talk to you about party unity on November 3rd

JANSING:  Listen, there have been hundreds of ads that target Nancy Pelosi.  And they‘re not all coming from Republicans.  She‘s been asked about that and she sort of shrugged about it. 

Look, the Democrats want the Democrats to do whatever they have to do to get elected.  They want to hold on to the Senate.  They want to at least reduce the amount of gains that the Republicans make on the House side. 

Absolutely.  Look, they‘re all in a political game.  They understand how it‘s played.  Right now, the way it‘s played is there‘s this huge anti-incumbent fervor; the Democrats are the one in charge.  They‘re going to do what they have to do to try to get re-elected. 

O‘DONNELL:  Ari, quickly, we have to go.  Have you ever seen Democrat infighting like this come out publicly during campaigns? 

MELBER:  Not this close to an election.  We‘ve seen it on the public option.  You‘ve held debates on this show between people saying Obama should be tougher or actually fighting is more difficult.  But you don‘t usually see it in the last two weeks like this.  I think it basically shows you yes, you‘ve got a party that‘s worried about losing 40, 50 seats. 

O‘DONNELL:  Chris Jansing on “JANSING AND COMPANY” on MSNBC every day at 10:00 am Easter, and Ari Melber of “The Nation,” thank you both for joining me tonight.

You can have THE LAST WORD online at our blog, TheLastWord.MSNBC.com.  You can follow my very occasional Tweets @Lawrence.  That‘s tonight‘s LAST WORD.  “COUNTDOWN” is up next. 

END   

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