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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Bill Karins, Mick Cornett, Jeff Zremski, E.J. Dionne

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thank you for that.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. 

There are two big breaking news stories in the country right now.

One is the important special election in New York state where polls are about to close in 15 seconds.  That news is coming up in just a moment.

But we have to begin tonight with bigger news—with breaking news tonight from Oklahoma, where a series of tornados have touched down, killing at least four people today.  The National Weather Service has warned there is a high risk of more severe weather to come tonight.  That warning extends not only to Oklahoma but also to parts of Texas, parts of Kansas and the same part of Missouri where Sunday‘s tornado in Joplin is now being blamed for the loss of 123 lives and for at least 750 injuries.

The National Weather Service rating that tornado in Joplin an EF-5.  It‘s the highest rating with winds stronger than 200 miles per hour.  “The Associated Press” reporting that four people are known to have been killed so far today.  It is reasonable to expect that those reports may change as the hours and days pass.

Joining us now is Bill Karins, NBC News meteorologist.


Bill, thanks for being here tonight to help understand these big storms today.  Really appreciate it.

BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST:  Well, Rachel, the biggest thing that‘s happening right now is that we now we have a tornado warning in effect for the Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, areas.  We got a report of a tornado on the ground just north of Fort Worth.  It does not appear to go through the downtown section.

But even the north sides of this heavily populated area, now, you need to be getting out of the way—taking your family, your kids into the bathtub if you don‘t have a basement, or getting you‘re your storm shelters in the basement.

This storm is just north of Fort Worth.  Our computer is indicating a tornado.  We just got a report that some houses have been damaged, significant damaged north of Fort Worth, Texas, and also a very powerful storm right over top of Denton.  Our computers are also indicating a possible tornado.

Now, all the drama that played out in the last couple of hours was in Oklahoma and especially around the Oklahoma City area.  And the worst of those storms were on the northwest side of Oklahoma City.  It appears we had a tornado just as strong as the ones that went through Alabama, just as strong as the one that went through Joplin.

But this one was mostly outside the city limits.  That was the only minor saving grace.  I say saving grace because it didn‘t kill over 100 people or anything like that.  But it did go through a lot of rural towns, a lot of farms were destroyed.  And there‘s going to be deaths with that storm.  And that‘s where you‘re seeing all the pictures from.

Now as far as these storms as they‘re progressing, Tulsa—they‘re heading over the top of you now.

And everyone wants to know what‘s going to happen when it goes through Joplin.  Joplin has an hour or two before this line of storms goes their way.  It does not look at this time that there are tornadoes heading that way towards Joplin, large hail, damaging winds.  It‘s not going to be fun.  But it doesn‘t like—right now at least—the threat of tornados. 

Again, that‘s about two hours from right now.

And what‘s all worse about this, and it seems like we‘re doing this about once or twice every week this spring, Rachel, another tornado outbreak tomorrow.  Then we‘re going to be talking about towns like Memphis, St. Louis, Louisville, Indianapolis, and eventually into Neville.

So—I mean, this is a left, right hook.  I mean, one day after another, Rachel.  And it‘s getting to be a little much for everyone.

MADDOW:  Bill, in terms of the forecast capability here—how confident are you in terms of those longer term forecasts?  Looking at what we might be expecting 24 hours from now—how wide is the window in which these forecasts for tornados is really confident prediction?

KARINS:  Twenty-four hours in advance, very good.  Forty-hour hours to maybe two or three days gets a little more questionable.  But at least we can pinpoint a region.

Once you‘re out past, say, a week, we really can‘t pinpoint where tornados will occur, like the forecast for tomorrow, it‘s a good safe bet.  I‘m very confident we‘re going to have tornados in the red region during the day tomorrow.  I can‘t pinpoint the town.  And that‘s where, you know, it‘s kind frustrating for people is that forecasting and the technology just isn‘t good enough to let us know what town has a better chance of being hit than the one next door—you know, maybe in decades and years ahead.

You mention the technology, Rachel, and this is probably the thing that‘s the most mind blowing about this year and what‘s going on is that, you, me anyone that‘s really wasn‘t alive in 1953, has never seen anything like this.  We‘ve now had 488 fatalities this year.  And you have to go all the way back to the 1920s, the ‘50s.  I mean, in the modern era of technology, we‘ve never seen death tolls like this.

And honestly, I think we get a little arrogant.  We thought we were better than this with our, you know, the forecasting, the tornado sirens, all the alerts.  But—I mean, this year is just, you know, it‘s a wakeup call for everyone.

MADDOW:  In terms of the survivability of these storms, Bill, I mean, you look at Joplin, Missouri—the death toll from Sunday‘s tornado there now stands at least 123.  But it‘s so striking that the buildings destroyed were businesses, schools, banks, well-built buildings that just had no hope of standing up against a storm of this strength.

Is it—is it even possible to build tornado-proof structures, to think about building codes as a potential way of making these storms more survivable?

KARINS:  Yes.  And there‘s cases even in Joplin where someone had a safe room built and the tornado did not blow apart that safe room.  It was strongest EF-5, over 200 miles per hour.  The problem is, most people can‘t afford it.  I mean, it‘s very expensive to have that built into your house.

And you just—you can‘t do that everywhere.  I mean, it‘s just not economically feasible.  I can‘t imagine how much money it would cost for everyone in the Midwest and the Southeast to have that done in their homes.

And, you know, the past advice, Rachel, was if a big tornado comes to you, you take your kids, you go to your bathtub, if you have a basement, of course, you go to the basement preferably.

You know, when we had the storm like we‘re seeing in Joplin, people in their basements they were killed.  I mean, when you get these really, really strong tornados and this is what‘s kind of changing this year—I even heard it out of Oklahoma City today was: leave town.  Get in your car and get out of the way.

Now, they don‘t tell you to do that with big tornados.  But these big, huge ones we‘re having this year, you know, I would take my family and get in my car and I would drive away from the tornado.  The problem is you can get caught on the road with all the traffic if anyone does that.

So, it‘s kind of a predicament, something that will be studied in the days and weeks ahead as we analyze what happened.

MADDOW:  Bill Karins, NBC News meteorologist—Bill, thanks for helping us understand this tonight.  I really appreciate it.

Joining us now by phone is Mick Cornett.  He‘s the mayor of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us this evening.  I know that you have a lot on your plate right now.  Let‘s me start by asking you the status right now in Oklahoma City and what people in Oklahoma need to know about surviving these storms right now.

MICK CORNETT, OKLAHOMA CITY MAYOR (via telephone):  Well, Oklahoma City dodged the bullet.  The large tornado was about 15 miles to the north and then there was another one about 30 miles to the south and about three small communities got hit really hard.

A lot of people in rural areas were impacted.  You know, these places are rural but they‘re not unpopulated.  People in one, five and 10-acre lots.

There‘s all sorts of different demographics involved.  There‘s low-income people.  There‘s high-income people.  There‘s people that make their living off agriculture.  There‘s people that commute into Oklahoma City.

Inside the city we dodged the bullet this time.  They split us and went north and just to the south.

MADDOW:  Do you know what‘s happening tonight in terms of search and rescue and recovery operations in some of those towns that were hit, places like El Reno and Piedmont and Goldsby, and four corners?  Are there any active rescue and recovery operations still underway?

CORNETT:  There‘s many significant work in those areas.  And many of our public safety officers are lending help outside of our city limit, to those smaller communities that need that assistance.  There‘s still a couple of people missing.  At least one small child is missing.  So, you can imagine how the community is rallying around trying to find the child.  There are some fatalities.

We had excellent warning systems in place today.  The meteorologists gave us about 24 hours in warning, which is unusually.  We have tremendous weather coverage here and you‘re seeing, you know, the pictures throughout the evening on MSNBC, an example of an Oklahoma City residents seeing on a continual basis this time of year.  Outstanding coverage of storms, so we know when and where it‘s going and we can make, you know, our decisions based on what we see.

But that the warning no doubt saved quite a few lives and the fact that it did not hit the major metropolitan area.

MADDOW:  Mr. Mayor, do you feel like—of course, your part of the country, your part of the state went through a record-breaking tornado about 12 years ago in 1999, were there lessons learned, accommodations made from having survived that disaster in terms of preparing the community, better for this one or this potential one?

CORNETT:  Yes.  You know, that‘s the only F-5 tornado to ever hit Oklahoma City in the 130-year history of the city.  Nonetheless, most new construction of homes since that time has included a safe room.  And a safe room is a fairly inexpensive small capsule that some people might build below their garage floor that they can get into in an emergency situation.

You know, it‘s still—keep it—I‘ve never seen a tornado and I‘ve lived in Oklahoma City basically my whole life.  It‘s not like we‘re infested with them on a continual basis.  But you learn to live with the warnings.  And you learn what to do if one is coming your way.  And then you cross your fingers and make the best judgments you can.

And it‘s, you know, one of the more dangerous things you can do is be in your car and traveling on the interstate highway when one of things comes by, because then you don‘t really have anywhere to go.

So, you know, there‘s a lot of advice.  But, at the end of the day, people have to make their own decisions.  And in this part of the country, you learn to live with that in the back of your mind, knowing that in the springtime, you need to keep one eye and ear on the media to get the best warning you can.

MADDOW:  Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City.  I know this has been an incredibly intense day for you today, sir.  Good luck for you as this storm season continues and thanks for joining us tonight.  Appreciate it.

CORNETT:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  We will continue to follow these extreme berth events in the Southeast and the Midwest.  We‘ll update you as we get more news.

As Bill said at the top of the segment, this is an ongoing situation, these alerts.  If you are in the immediate of some of these severe storms and tornadoes, this is an ongoing situation.  And it‘s, of course, an issue of national concern when these many Americans are potentially in this much danger.

We will keep you posted again over the course of the hour as we get more information.

There is breaking political news tonight as well.  The polls in New York‘s special election in the very Republican-leaning 26th congressional district have just closed in the last few minutes.  This is being seen as a bellwether election in terms of the political tide and the country approaching the 2012 election in terms of Republican plans for killing Medicare, the Democratic response to those plans.

This election tonight is a very big deal, not just for the constituents of that district, but for everybody looking to see which way the winds are blowing in U.S. politics.  We will have first results tonight.  Polls have just closed.  We‘ll be back with the latest on that, next.


MADDOW:  Just a few months ago, New York‘s 26th congressional district in Upstate New York, that was a safe haven for Republicans.  They voted reliably Republican in every election.  Now, that district is the scene of a hotly-contested congressional race, but the Democratic candidate was leading in the last two polls heading in to today‘s voting.

What a difference the Paul Ryan, kill Medicare budget makes.  Again, the polls have just closed in this bellwether special election race.  That story is next.


MADDOW:  There‘s yet more breaking news to report tonight, this time from the world of politics.  It is now 9:14 p.m. on the East Coast, which means that polls have just closed in New York‘s 26th congressional district.  This is a special election to fill the seat of former Republican Congressman Christopher Lee.  Yes, that guy.  Shirtless Craigslist, one minute; shirtless on the next minute, and resigned from Congress just about a half minute thereafter.

The special election to fill Mr. Lee‘s vacated congressional seat was supposed to sort of a gimme for the Republicans.  Even though New York 26 is part of blue state New York, Christopher Lee‘s district is a deep red Republican stronghold.


MADDOW:  There‘s the music.  And, yet, tonight, we are looking at a closely-fought race between the Republican candidate Jane Corwin and the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul, with a Tea Party candidate named Jack Davis also playing a role here.  How big a role is yet to be determined.

This seat just a few months ago was seen as being as safe as can be for the Republican Party.  It is now heading into tonight‘s results seen as up for grabs.  All of the available polling heading into the today‘s election indicated that the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul could be poised to pull off a big upset here tonight.

This hour, we do not yet have our first results.  But polls are closed, we expect results within this hour.  We will get a live report from the ground in New York 26 in just a moment.

But the reason you I should know that people are extrapolating from this one race in New York state to national politics is not just because it‘s fun to do that about any individual special election, although it definitely is—it‘s because the dynamic that is putting the race in play.  The dynamic that is giving this Democratic candidate a shot in this Republican district tonight is a dynamic at work nationally, on almost every Republican across the country right now at any level of elected politics.

This was the front page of “The Buffalo News” today.  “Nation watches vote in 26th district.  Medicare issue designs the campaign.”

The defining issue in this election, including according to the local news, has been the Republican candidate‘s support for the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan.  That one issue, the kill Medicare issue, more than any other has essentially turned what should have been an easy victory for the Republican Party in to a nail-biter tonight.  This is a deep red district that has been put up, been put up for grabs because of the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget, and the Republican candidate saying that she would support that plan.

Before at the last minute this weekend, she freaked out and started to recant that position.

The fact that this Republican seat is in trouble shows why other Republicans across the country have reason to be concerned this year and heading in to next year.

Take Republican Senator Brown of Massachusetts, please, as a case study on this.  On May 13th, less than two weeks ago, Scott Brown told an audience in Massachusetts, quote, “The leaders will bring forward Paul Ryan‘s budget and I will vote for it.”  I will vote for it.

A few days after saying that, staffers for Senator Brown explained that statement, “I will vote for it,” was not in fact a statement about how the senator would vote on that thing.  That explanation was written up by one incredulous Massachusetts newspaper as Scott Brown saying he would vote on the kill Medicare plan but he didn‘t know which way he would vote on it.  He was talking about having the opportunity to vote on it, not necessarily to vote for it—even though he explicitly said, “I will vote for it.”

Ultimately, after saying, yes, he wanted to kill Medicare and then after that saying he really had no idea whether or not he wants to vote to kill Medicare, Scott Brown eventually settled on no—no, he does not want to kill Medicare after all.  Final answer.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  The way that the Medicare and Medicaid proposals and a lot of other proposals in the bill are right now, no, I can‘t support it.


MADDOW:  Scott Brown followed up that radio interview with an op-ed at where he affirmed again that he would vote no on killing Medicare, only this time—he put it in writing this time.

So, to recap, Senator Scott Brown went from “yes, I will kill Medicare,” to, “I don‘t know if I will kill Medicare,” to, “no, I won‘t kill Medicare,” to “Oh, my God, no, seriously, please, I swear I won‘t kill Medicare”—all in 10 days.

Whatever you think of Senator Brown, his tenure in the Senate so far has really been micromanaged for its political impact.  It‘s sort of what you have to do when you are the lone Republican in a very, very, very deep blue state like Massachusetts.

So, what explains Scott Brown‘s frantic flippity-floppity chaos on the kill Medicare issue?

It‘s the same thing that explains the hesitance of every Republican who‘s going to be on any ballot anytime soon—the rabid unpopularity of killing Medicare.

For Scott Brown, the pointy end of that public opinion is that he is on the ballot in Massachusetts next year and he has strong Senate challengers already.  The Democratic mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, Setti Warren highlighting Scott Brown‘s position on Medicare wherever he can, like say here on the very front page of his campaign Web site right now.  And then starting last night, the news that even beyond Setti Warren, who would be a formidable challenger to Scott Brown in his right, national Democrats may also be looking to cultivate challenge for Scott Brown in the form of Elizabeth Warren, no relation.  Elizabeth Warren, the very, very, very, very popular consumer advocate who is currently a key adviser and a high-profile adviser in the Obama administration.

Democrats are now reportedly wooing Elizabeth Warren to run against Scott Brown for Senate in 2012.

So, that‘s what Scott Brown is facing in terms of public opinion and challenges before he said he would kill Medicare before he took it back.  The problem for Scott Brown and for all Republicans who are going to be on any ballot anywhere anytime soon is that the Republican Party has decided that this kill Medicare thing is the proverbial hill they want to die on.  They have decided that dissenting from the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan will bring with it a heavy, heavy price.

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writing at “The Washington Post” this week that Scott Brown deserves a primary challenger, a Republican primary challenger, because of his ultimate flip floppy decision he would oppose the Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing.

And here‘s the sort of treatment Scott Brown is now getting from his own Republican colleagues in Congress.  Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Respectfully, Neil, Scott Brown ought to be a shame of himself.  This is the defining moment of this generation.  We have got to be bold.  We know these entitlements have to be reformed to be saved.  He knows.  And any Republican that doesn‘t vote for this or doesn‘t support this is purely being guided by political reasons and shame on them.


MADDOW:  Shame.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine also walking in to the same shame buzz saw.  Senator Snowe announcing tonight that she, too, will vote against the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan when it is brought up in the Senate later this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

The entire Republican Caucus in the Senate with this vote will have to decide if they‘re going to go with Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown on this and face the wrath of their party, or if they‘re going to take their chances on voting to kill Medicare like their Republican colleagues in the House did.

Of course, the thing that‘s looming all over this is presidential politics.  The one Republican presidential contender who said initially that he didn‘t want to kill Medicare, Newt Gingrich, has since recanted after saying that almost destroyed his campaign.  Newt Gingrich now says he would vote to kill Medicare.

The only major candidates who have been able to avoid taking a position on this so far are Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney.  Both men have been trying to sprint as far away from this issue as possible.  We reached out to both of those candidates‘ campaigns tonight to see if they‘ll just say whether or not they support the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan.

A spokesperson for Mr. Romney told us that Mr. Romney is on the same page as Paul Ryan in terms of reducing the budget, but the spokesperson said that Mr. Romney will be proposing his own changes regarding Medicare.  We have not yet heard back from Mr. Pawlenty‘s campaign.

Imagine you are a Republican presidential contender tonight.  Imagine you are running for the presidential nomination for the Republican Party.  You are thinking about doing it and right now, like all of us, you are waiting for the first precincts, right—you are waiting if they are results from this little election in New York 26.  New York 26, which voted for George W. Bush in 2000, George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008, New York 26 which voted for Republican Carl Paladino for governor in 2010, the only place on earth a redder than red district, but Republican-allied groups have had to pour more than 1 million bucks to save this race for the Republican Party because the Republican candidate made the mistake of saying she supported the Paul Ryan kill Medicare thing.

Imagine you are a Republican presidential contender, looking at this situation tonight, this deep red territory special election tonight, this is the first district that we have got.  It‘s 2 percent in -- 2 percent in New York 26.  Democrat Kathy Hochul with 43 percent of the vote, Republican Jane Corwin with 44 percent of the vote, Tea Party candidate Jack Davis with 12 percent of the vote.  It‘s 2 percent in.

This is the first electoral result we will have as a nation of the affect of the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget on American politics, of how Americans think of Republican politicians, even in Republican districts.  This is the first temperature taking we are going to get in the post-Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan era.

Imagine being a Republican presidential contender trying to decide what you‘re going to say about the kill Medicare thing on a night like tonight.

Joining us now from Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul‘s headquarters is Jerry Zremski.  Jerry Zremski is the Washington bureau chief for “The Buffalo News.”

Mr. Zremski, thanks very much for your time tonight.  Appreciate you joining us.

JERRY ZREMSKI, THE BUFFALO NEWS:  Thanks.  Happy to be here.

MADDOW:  First of all, let me ask you the basic but important question of how the weather was today and how the turnout was in the district?

ZREMSKI:  The weather was beautiful.  It was a wonderful day to go out and vote.  And from what I‘m hearing from both sides, both sides are saying that they turned out their voters.  The Republicans are saying that the turnout in the rural counties is strong.  That‘s what they‘re really counting on.  And the Democrats are saying that they got their voters out from the city, from the urban areas.

So, that spin right now, we don‘t know exactly how that‘s going to translate in the votes, but that‘s what they are saying.

MADDOW:  In terms of anecdotal or even spin-inflected information about turnout, if there was good turnout today—do you think that all of the national attention in this race, the millions of dollars spent on advertising, on these robocalls, do you think that would have pushed up turnout?  Or do you think there‘s just plain, old enthusiasm about these candidates?

ZREMSKI:  I think there are a couple of things that would make the turnout stronger than you would expect.  One is the fact that this is a political area.  People in western New York tend to like politics.  They tend to be in to politics and they‘ll turn out for a very exciting race, which this is.

The weather is certainly a factor and I think also the national attention and the Medicare issue has engaged people that wouldn‘t necessarily have been so engaged if it was just a run-of-the-mill election.

MADDOW:  In terms of the results tonight, you guys, can we put up the results one more time?  We just got a very small percentage of the precincts in, we‘ve got 3 percent reporting right now.  The Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul at 46 percent of the vote, the Republican candidate Jane Corwin, 42 percent and the Tea Party candidate Jack Davis polling right now at 12 percent.

Again, don‘t put too much stock in this.  This is 3 percent in, but that‘s what we are seeing.

Jerry, what do you expect in terms of timing on knowing who the winner is going to be tonight?  Do you expect that these results will be known before midnight or by tonight for sure?

ZREMSKI:  Well, it really depends on how close it is.  If it is a definitive result, I would expect that 10:30, 11 p.m., we should know.  If it is close, I think we can prepare for a long night and maybe more than a long night because the Republicans today went to court, got a court order, to prevent the certification of the results of tonight‘s election and, certainly, they are going to pursue that if it looks like there‘s any possibility at all that a recount will mean that Jane Corwin has a chance.

MADDOW:  Now, was that an unusual move?  I mean, the Republican candidates hours and hours and hours before the polls close gets a court order barring certification of any winner today.  Is that standard operating procedure in this district?  For these kind of races?  Or does that—do you think that tells us something about what the Republican campaign is expecting?

ZREMSKI:  It‘s not standard operating procedure in this district, but it is standard operating procedure in special elections in New York that happen to be close.  I wouldn‘t read too much in to it just for that reason.  But it could mean a different kind of night than we would normally expect.  It could be that we don‘t see Jane Corwin tonight if it‘s close.

MADDOW:  Well, Jerry Zremski from “The Buffalo News,” Washington bureau chief, reporting tonight for us from Kathy Hochul‘s, the Democratic candidate‘s headquarters—Jerry, thanks very much for your time tonight.  It looks like it‘s going to be a long night but a fun one.  Appreciate it.

ZREMSKI:  Thank you very much, Rachel.  Appreciate it.

MADDOW:  We put back up those latest results with 14 percent of precincts reporting, right now, the latest we‘ve got is the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, with 46 percent of the vote, the Republican candidate, Jane Corwin with 43 percent, and the Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, right now polling at 10 percent.

Some prognosticators today, as we‘re going to watch these results come in over the course of our show this hour and into Ed Schultz‘s show in the next hour, one thing to keep in mind about the third party factor.  Republicans, particularly national Republicans have been hyping Jack Davis, the self proclaimed Tea Party candidate as the real factor in this race.  They are trying to make the case, trying to spin this race so that the performance of the Democrat candidate, the Democrat making such an issue about the Republican on the Medicare issue is much less important than the third party factor.

National prognosticators are looking at these things today.  And again, this is Beltway common wisdom, so take it as a grain of salt, say that if Jack Davis polls at over 10 percent, if Jack Davis polls in double-digit, that will be difficult for the Republican candidate.  If he polls less than 10 percent tonight, if he polls in single digits, that will be very good news for the Republican candidate.

But again, that‘s the beltway common wisdom I think reflecting a lot of the Republican spin that the important factor is the Tea Party candidacy more so than the Medicare factor.

My look at the polling and crosstabs tells me that Medicare is the defining issue in this race.  That seems to be what the local press thinks about it as well.  But we will all know a lot more as these results come in over the course of this hour and next.

One look at the underwhelming Republican field for president right now and you might start to think, you know, maybe Aunt Doreen should run.  Aunt Doreen is great with people.  She never voted to kill Medicare and, you know, I bet Aunt Doreen could take Mitt Romney.  He‘s the front runner, huh!  And if Aunt Doreen could run and beat that guy, why not Rudy Giuliani again, or maybe Donald Trump should reconsider and give back in?  Oh, he is.

Why not every other Republican you‘ve ever heard?  If the Republican field is this weak, if Mitt Romney is the guy to beat and everybody thinks they can beat him, what does that say about Mitt  Romney‘s real chances if he does go all the way and why does it tell us the last 24 hours have seen so many Republicans say they are maybe going to run all of a sudden?

That is coming up.

But, first, “One More Thing” about Scott Brown‘s rumored to be potential opponent for Senate, Elizabeth Warren.  Today, after an hour of testimony to a House subcommittee about how Elizabeth Warren‘s new Consumer Protection Bureau will work in our government, Elizabeth Warren believed that her scheduled testimony was over as per an earlier agreement she had made with the committee.  But then something really weird happened and it happened on tape.  We‘ve got the tape.

Two Republican members of Congress o who were not actually in the room had not yet questioned Elizabeth Warren.  So even though her testimony was over, the subcommittee chairman, Patrick McHenry, absolutely blew a gasket that these two Republicans that weren‘t there weren‘t going to get to question her.  He blew a gasket in a manner most disagreeable.  Watch this.


REP. PATRICK MCHENRY ®, OVERSIGHT SUBCMTE. CHAIRMAN:  Your staff had a request.  My staff said we are trying to accommodate you.  We‘re going to get you out of here in 10 minutes.

ELIZABETH WARREN, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT:  But, Congressman, we had an agreement.

MCHENRY:  We had no agreement.

WARREN:  We had an agreement for the time this hearing would occur.

MCHENRY:  You‘re making this up, Ms. Warren.


MCHENRY:  This is not the case.  This is not the case.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND:  Mr. Chairman, you just did something that I‘m trying to be cordial here but you just accused the lady.

MCHENRY:  He‘s accusing me of making an agreement that I never made.

CUMMINGS:  I think you need to clear this up with your staff.

MCHENRY:  And I had.

CUMMINGS:  They have moved this thing around 50 million times and she‘s got to go to another hearing.

WARREN:  Congressman, not to another hearing, to another meeting.

CUMMINGS:  To another meeting.

WARREN:  Congressman, I would be what glad to answer questions for the record.  We can do that on, if you‘ll send us questions for the record, we‘re glad to answer them and they‘ll be a matter of the Republican record.


MADDOW:  Will Mr. President Obama recess-reappoint Elizabeth Warren to head up the new Consumer Finance Protection Agency?  I don‘t know.  Will Elizabeth Warren run as a Democrat against Scott Brown for Senate in Massachusetts?  I don‘t know.  Will Elizabeth Warren be called a liar by a really angry, petulant congressman who doesn‘t seem to no know what he‘s talking about?  No.  No, she will not be called a liar.

We will be right back.


MADDOW:  Right now, looking at the special election race in New York district 26.  With 19 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul polling at 48 percent, Jane Corwin, the Republican candidate, at 42 percent, and Jack Davis, the self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate, at 9 percent.

Again, this is a deeply red, Republican-leaning district, New York 26. 

It‘s in the Buffalo area.

This race is being watched as a potential bellwether for the nation, at least for the start of the presidential campaign season—a defining issue here, according to the local press, is that the Republican candidate in the race, Jane Corwin, early pledged that she would support the Republican‘s kill Medicare budget.  The Democrat never let that issue go throughout the campaign.  And that, by all accounts, is the reason why the race is as close as it is.

And at this hour, right now, with 33 percent in, just updated yesterday again, the Democrat leading, Kathy Hochul, 48 percent, Republican Jane Corwin 42 percent, and the self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate 9 percent.

Right now, the Democrat ahead.  But this is one-third of precincts reporting.

We will stay with it until we‘ve got a result tonight.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  As we continue to monitor election results from the special congressional election in New York 26, with 33 percent of precincts reporting, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, in the lead, 48 percent, the Republican, Jane Corwin, close behind at 42 percent, and the Tea Party candidate Jack Davis at 9 percent.

Again, this deeply Republican district.  We will be keeping an eye on this over the course of the night.  The base level account of why the race is even close, why the Democrat even has a chance in this very strongly Republican-leaning district is because of the issue she made of the Republican candidate‘s pledge that she would vote for the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget.  We‘ll be keeping an eye on this as more results come in.

The immediate chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, has signed on as a political analyst for MSNBC for this election season, which is great, because the process of the Republican Party picking its candidate this year is about Republican politicians and Republican voters and the dynamic between them.  So, having someone who just headed up the Republican Party to help us understand those dynamics, I think, is priceless.

I also think Michael Steele is of good cheer about having the discussion, even though he thinks that MSNBC is full of commie, pinko, bleeding hearts liberals like me.

So, it‘s great.  I‘m really glad that we have Michael Steele on our team this year.

But last night on this show, in his first appearance at MSNBC since he signed on with us, I got from him a totally different answer than I expected when I asked him about Republicans complaining that they want I new candidates to join the field of candidates who are running for their party‘s nomination this year.  “Isn‘t that kind of an insult to the candidates who are running?” I asked.  I thought for sure when I asked that, he would say no.  But I couldn‘t even finish the question before he said yes.  He said, “Yes, it is an insult.  Every Republican complaining about how weak the field is now and how they want new candidates to get in is slapping in the face the field that is already running.  It‘s Republicans saying hey, Mitt Romney, hey, Tim Pawlenty, hey, you all you other guys in the race, we don‘t think you can do it.  You are not inspiring.  We are not behind you.  We are hoping new people come in and replace you.

Since Mitch Daniels announced in the middle of the night on Saturday that he is not in the running, which, of course, leaves Mitt Romney as the front runner, right?  Mitt Romney pulling light years ahead of anyone else in New Hampshire, since Mitt Romney‘s place as the front runner was solidified by Mitch Daniels getting out, Republicans looking a field dominated by Mitt Romney are manifestly un-intimidated by him as competition.  Republicans past, Republicans obscure and Republicans you didn‘t know for sure are Republicans are suddenly coming out of the woodwork since Saturday night, saying, OK, if this is the field, I‘ll run.  Why not?

How much should it be seen as an insult to Mitt Romney that his status as the clear front runner right now has got Rudy Giuliani floating the idea of running again, has got Donald Trump seriously floating the idea again of running, of getting back in, has got former New York Governor George Pataki threatening that he is going to run, ahs got Roy Moore, the Alabama Ten Commandments guy forming an exploratory committee, has even got Thaddeus McCotter—who?  Thaddeus McCotter threatening to run and getting all sorts of Beltway press for it.  Who is Thaddeus McCotter?  He‘s a Michigan congressman who you might remember from his super awkward music videos where he talks about Libya and makes jokes about Silvio Berlusconi‘s child prostitution charges while playing an air brushed guitar.

When we first saw these music videos that he‘s been making, it led me to speculate on the air he was not running for re-election next year as congressman.  I never dreamed that this guy might be running for president.

The editor of “The National Review,” the conservative magazine, “The National Review,” today kind of spilled the beans how Republicans are feeling right now.  What is prompting them to reach so far down into the pickle barrel of possibilities that they are pulling up pickles like Thaddeus McCotter.

Rich Lowry at “The National Review” said this, quote, “With Governor Daniels deciding over the weekend not to run, it is slowly daunting on the Republican mind that the party‘s choice may effectively come down to Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty.  This prospect produces a range of emotions running from disappointment to panic.  As their field emerges into the cold light of day, Republicans are desperate to be surprised.”

And that desperation, I‘m sure, looks like opportunity to somebody like Thaddeus McCotter, who I guess thinks this might be his moment, or his chance to sell books or whatever.  The desperation I‘m sure looks like a big welcome sign to somebody like Sarah Palin who is deciding right now whether or not to get in the race.

But what do you think that desperation looks like if you are Mitt Romney?  If you are Mitt Romney and you are realizing and you are being told and you are reading on the Internet machine that the thought of you as the main competition for the nomination makes every Republican in the party and their Aunt Doreen think they have got a shot to win?

Joining us is E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post.”  He‘s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

E.J., it‘s always great to have you on the show.  Thanks for being here.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST:  And it‘s always fun to be here.

MADDOW:  I did not expect to be covering Republican presidential contenders so extensively this week.  But since Mitt Daniels dropped this weekend, it‘s been like last one in, last one in, (INAUDIBLE).  What was it about the Mitch Daniels‘ announcement that shook loose all of those other possibles?

DIONNE:  Well, I think that a lot of people certainly in the Republican establishment, a lot of the old George W. Bush people desperately wanted Mitch Daniels to run because they liked him better and thought he would make a better case.

Romney‘s problem is that Republicans don‘t really trust him because he has flip flopped on abortion and on some other questions and he used up all of his flip flop vouchers.  So, he couldn‘t really flip flop on the health care mandate in Massachusetts.  So, he has to say, my health care mandate is good, Obama‘s is bad.  That wasn‘t a very good position.

But I also think these Republicans are like that line about Wagner‘s music, it‘s better than it sounds.  And I think these guys are probably better than they look.  But the Republicans have set up this sort of commission on orthodox, and if you hold any position that violates where the party, where conservatives want the party to be, you got to change it.  So, Pawlenty used to believe in doing something about global warming before he didn‘t.  Romney has his change.

Newt Gingrich said on Medicare that this Ryan proposal was a bad idea.  His problem is he took the position prematurely, because after tonight and that district 26th district race, I suspect a lot of Republicans are going to say, you know, Newt was right after all but he couldn‘t say it at the time he said it.

So, they are really making the wrong guys look worse.

MADDOW:  To that point about the New York 26 race, we are watching as further results come in.  I think we have a few more precincts report since our last update.  Can we bring up the board?  Thank you.

Fifty-five percent of precincts in.  Right now, the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul in the lead at 48 percent, Jane Corwin, the Republican candidate, at 43 percent, and the Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, at 8 percent.  Again, this is with 55 percent of precincts reporting.

E.J., when you wrote about this special election you said that although the significance of any one of special election is almost overstated, you wrote, nonetheless, this race is a warning to Republicans about the potency of the Medicare issue.

Are Republicans going to hamstring all of their presidential contenders by making them say they would support this Paul Ryan plan to kill Medicare?

DIONNE:  Well, you know, a lot of them have been cagey about this.  They haven‘t gone as far as Newt Gingrich has.  But they clearly don‘t want to support this plan.  And you know, what‘s really striking about these results is 48 percent for Hochul, if that holds up, because the Republicans wanted to spin this—well, you have this third party candidate, Jack Davis.  A number like that would be almost double the share that the Democrat got just last November in 2010.

And so, I think what you are seeing here is a party that‘s potentially very vulnerable in the 2012 elections and also the enthusiasm gap.  We talked a lot about that in 2010, the right wing, Tea Party were mobilized.  Progressives were asleep.

Well, guess what?  Every Democrat in the House should write a thank you note to Paul Ryan tomorrow morning.  He woke up the progressive base, and so do did Walker, so did Governor Kasich.  Something is going on that this race, I think, actually does represent far more than just a nice district in Upstate New York.

MADDOW:  Well, you know, but I feel like I have to be very cautious because you do not want to extrapolate more broadly than is warranted by a single race, and particularly a race that‘s only 55 percent reported at this point.  But in a district that‘s got a 30,000 Republican vote advantage, you can‘t explain results like this, even partial results like this in part as you say, by enthusing the Democrats in the place, but you also have to attracting a lot of independents and even some Republicans.

And I wonder if the dramatic unpopularity of killing Medicare is eventually going to cause some sort of split or opportunity for moderate between Republican voters who are not happy with the prospect of killing off Medicare and a sort of Republican movement that demands their candidates take that stance.

DIONNE:  Well you know, I think that in two weeks, there may be a new media conventional wisdom which is perhaps we have to take another look at Governor Huntsman.  I think he‘s going to have his moment because he came in relatively late.  He hasn‘t been forced through this orthodoxy blender yet.  And he has a real chance to be—you know, there‘s a lot of room to be conservative but not that conservative on the Republican side.

So, I think this gives him an opening here.  And yes, of course, you‘re right.  We pundits love to over analyze special elections.  But when you have a district like this, I mean, this would be like Barney Frank losing his seat the last time or Chris Van Hollen out in a very Democratic district where I live in Maryland.  I mean, this is a really Republican area and Republicans are going to pay a lot of attention to this even if they try to downplay it publicly.

MADDOW:  E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post” and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, making a grade point about Jon Huntsman also setting up the obvious rejoinder that Jon Huntsman said he would vote to kill Medicare.

DIONNE:  I know.  It‘s true.

MADDOW:  This is going to be incredible.

E.J., thank you so much.  Appreciate it.

DIONNE:  Take care.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We will be right back with further results from the New York 26.


MADDOW:  We are following the special election results in New York 26 right now with 26 percent of precincts reporting, the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul in the lead with 48 percent of the vote, the Republican candidate Jane Corwin, five points back at 43 percent, and the Tea Party candidate Jack Davis polling in single digits at 8 percent of the vote.  Again, 61 percent of the precincts are in.  We will be following this tonight and into Ed Schultz‘s show in the next hour as we await results in this unexpectedly close deep red district in New York 26.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The line of violent thunderstorms that saw a series of tornadoes touching down in the Oklahoma City area tonight, killing four people, injuring at least 60 more.  That line of thunderstorms crossed state lines into Kansas.  Yet another line of storms now moving through the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas.  For more, we turn again to NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.

Bill, what‘s the latest?

KARINS:  Yes, we started the show talking about the line of storms heading for Dallas.  Unfortunately, we‘re hearing now a report of a tornado was reported in the Dallas area, just to the north of the downtown region.  Eagle Fort has reported a tornado that was rain wrapped.  They saw power flashes because now it‘s dark.  So, literally there are explosions going on.  So, we know for a fact we had a tornado moving through the downtown Dallas area.

Right behind that, there‘s another storm back towards the Fort Worth area and if you‘re familiar with the Fort Worth area, in between Fort Worth and Dallas is Arlington.  That‘s where the Texas Rangers play.  That‘s where Six Flags is located.  That‘s where the old Dallas Cowboys stadium is.  There is a possible tornado and tornado warning heading for the Arlington area and I‘ve heard they‘ve been evacuating.

There is a baseball game, Major League baseball game with the Texas Rangers being paid right now.  The game is postponed and they‘re evacuating everyone out of the upper deck because of high winds and hail and now a possible tornado heading for that stadium, that probably had 10,000 to 20,000 people at it as these storms are now heading through the region.  So, it‘s a very serious, life-threatening situation.

We‘ve already seen the really strong storm with the confirmed tornado moved to the north of Dallas.  Now, there‘s another storm loading up right behind it.  It‘s going to go right through the Dallas Metroplex right through downtown.  We‘ve already heard of softball sized hail.  It‘s almost guaranteed we have significant damage in downtown Dallas.

Now, the question is how big was the tornado  hit?  Was it a big monster one?  Was it one that, you know, was going to be a life-taker?  Or is it going to be a small one that just does some damage and skips around town?  That we don‘t know.  The information will be coming in, Rachel, as we go throughout the evening.

MADDOW:  Bill, is this a situation where people who are in the path of these storms have to make a decision between sheltering in place or fleeing?  Is that the situation with some of these places?

KARINS:  You can‘t say that—I mean, you‘re talking Dallas, Texas.  I mean, you can‘t have everyone get in their cars and run away.  I mean, no one would get more than two blocks away.  I mean, this is Dallas.  I mean, there‘s tornado sirens going off as we speak.  There are people in Dallas and in Fort Worth right now with their kids in their basements and in their bathtubs, you know, hoping their lives will be saved.

MADDOW:  Bill, when you describe the tornado as rain wrapped, what does that mean?

KARINS: Well, we get the pretty tornadoes, we call them pretty.  But the ones we can see like the Tuscaloosa one that you saw the whole tornado from far away, just out in the open country by itself, or a tornado can be covered in rain.  In other words, no one can see it.  You don‘t know it‘s there.  The rain obscures the visibility on that.

And that‘s the report we got from Eagle Fort, Texas, north Dallas County, was that there was a large rain-wrapped tornado on the ground with power flashes and at night that‘s the only way we know a tornado is on the ground because the transformers blow and the power lines are snapping, and that‘s the pure indication that we have a tornado on the ground.

MADDOW:  That can be even more dangerous because you can‘t see it coming in a recognizable way.

KARINS:  Right now everyone in the Dallas area is just hunkering down and just hoping and praying.

MADDOW:  Bill Karins, NBC News meteorologist, this is scary stuff. 

Thank you for helping us explain it and make sense.  Appreciate it.

We will be back in just a moment.  Again, we are looking at election results from New York 26, the special election right now in Upstate New York with 66 percent of precincts reporting, the Democrat in this race is ahead 48 percent.  The Republican candidate five points back at 43 percent.  Tea Party candidate in this race is Jack Davis.  He right now is polling in the single digits.

Republicans have been saying that the only reason this race was close was that Jack Davis was going to be pulling in a significant portion of the vote which is going to make it hard for Jane Corwin to compete even in this very, very strongly Republican district.  At least right now, with just under 2/3 of precincts reporting, Davis is not making it out of single digits and the Democrat is still way ahead.

We‘ve been looking at polling heading into this, the last two polls from Public Policy Polling and Sienna College, showed the Democrat ahead heading into today‘s voting.  The crosstabs in one of those polls showed what was driving the support for Kathy Hochul seemed to be strong concerns about Medicare.  The Republican candidate in this race, Jane Corwin, is saying early on that she would vote for the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget plan.  The Democrat never let go of that issue throughout this race.

Right now, again, with just under 2/3 of precincts reporting, 66 percent, that Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul, by all accounts, who ran a very, very strong race, is ahead by five points.  Again, we will be keeping you posted as these precincts continue to report into the night.  Ed Schultz, I know will be taking in live reports from New York 26 and he will be staying on this tonight.

Stay with MSNBC for the latest results tonight.  We will see you from Washington, D.C. tomorrow.  I‘ll be sitting down with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to be talking about the Senate vote, the Senate vote on the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget plan and expected political implications of that.

Have a great night.  Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”



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