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PoliticsNation, Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Read the transcript from the Tuesday show

Guests: Michael Steele, Bob Shrum, Bob Franken, Perry Bacon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, "HARDBALL": Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICSNATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

For weeks Gingrich vowed to stay positive. But now the gloves are finally
coming off. I`d watch my back if I were you, Willard.

Going to extremes -- Iowa front-runner Ron Paul has disowned the views
of far right extremists, but he doesn`t seem to mind their support at the

And this picture had a lot of people smiling over the weekend, but
here`s something the president can smile about. New polls show his message
is working.


succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair


SHARPTON: Welcome to "politics nation." I`m Al Sharpton. Tonight`s
lead, Newt Gingrich promised to honor the GOP`s 11th commandment not to
attack other Republicans. But tonight he`s going back on that promise and
going after Mitt Romney.


Massachusetts moderate, who said he did not want to go back to the
Reagan/Bush years, who voted as a Democrat for Paul Tsongas in `92, who
campaigned to the left of Teddy Kennedy, who has recently as running for
governor said I`m really sort of a moderate pragmatic guy, to have him run
a commercial that questions my conservatism?


SHARPTON: With just one week to Iowa caucus, Newt is falling in the
polls and desperate to stay alive in this race. The Gingrich camp is
launching a full-fledged attack on Willard`s record as a Massachusetts
moderate. They`ve sent an e-mail pointing out that Romney was eager to
show he is a moderate independent and no ideologue, and that Romney
indicated that he would side with the moderate wing. They ask "Can we
trust a Massachusetts moderate to enact a conservative agenda?" Newt`s
doing all he can to respond to recent attacks on his character.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a character problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t have the discipline that you want in a

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt has a ton of baggage. He was fined
$300,000 for ethics violations.


SHARPTON: He`s also trying to defuse the attacks on his record.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that Gingrich railed against when he
was in the House he went the other way when he got paid to go the other

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re an embarrassment to our party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy hasn`t got skeletons in his closets.
He`s got a whole graveyard in there.


SHARPTON: Newt`s gearing up for a fight, but is it too little too
late? Joining me is Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist and professor at NYU,
and Michael Steele, former RNC chairman and now an MSNBC news analyst.
Thank you both for being here tonight.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Good to be with you, Rev, merry

SHARPTON: Same to you, and no tuxedo tonight, Mr. Steele.


STEELE: I know. You were looking good, Rev.

SHARPTON: Thank you, sir.

Bob, is this 11th hour counterattack by Newt going to work?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don`t think it will work in part
because he`s doing it in the free media, the earn media, and he`s having
hundreds of thousands of dollars of negative ads thrown at hip. Gingrich
says it`s not a negative attack. And, of course, to me calling someone a
moderate is a negative, but I`m not the target audience for this. The
target audience is a group of very conservative voters in Iowa.

I think Romney now sees a chance that he`s going to win Iowa and end
this thing maybe early, and he wins even if he comes in second to Ron Paul
because Ron Paul is an unthinkable Republican nominee. So they want to
just push off Newt. You can see Romney trying to ride high now, trying to
be positive. Newt is trying to get back at him, but I don`t think it`s
going to work.

SHARPTON: Now Mr. Steele, we look at the poll numbers. The Real
Clear Politics numbers show that Gingrich went from the 11th of December
from 31 percent all the way to now, 15 percent. Paul has gone up from 17
percent the 11th of December, up to 22 percent on the 27th, and Romney`s
kind of steady, 18 percent, 18 percent.

STEELE: Right.

SHARPTON: H was 20, now he`s 21. And then we look at the national
polls. Gingrich has gone from the 8th of December where he had beaten
Romney, this is on the national polls --

STEELE: Right.

SHARPTON: -- 37-23. Now they are dead even just about, 25-24. So
Newt has reason to be concerned. But is this desperate move going to

STEELE: I don`t know so much about backfiring, but I agree with you
about the desperation. I also agree with Bob Shrum that I don`t know what
the ultimatum pact of it going to be given the timetable we`re in. I mean,
look, $3 million plus in negative advertising obviously has had an impact.
What I find is it`s done very little to improve the position numerically of
Mitt Romney, but that was not the point. The point was to bring down the
numerical position of Newt Gingrich even if it had the opposite impact of
increasing the opportunity for someone like a Ron Paul.

I think it also may have a positive impact for someone like a Rick
Santorum. So the dynamics for Newt are very tough right now, but, you
know, in talking with some of his folks and talking with some of the
Santorum people as well, I think that the dynamics are going to still be a
little bit more in flux. Folks are still undecided. There`s a huge
undecided number out there, reverend, in terms of those who will show up
next Tuesday. So there`s still some room for someone like Newt to grab and
hold on to a third place, maybe a second place finish, and that`s probably
hopeful right now, but we`ll see how he works these numbers over the next
few days.

SHARPTON: Bob, isn`t the fact now it`s down to a week or so. this is
a real deal now. This is beyond the candidates spending. We really need
to look at the mechanics of caucus because caucus is about who has
organization, who can bring their numbers out. Unless you have an overall
enthusiasm, and we`re not seeing this for any of the candidates, and they
are starting to play dirty.

I mean, you ran a lot of campaigns when you start seeing things like
attacks on candidates coming from anonymous text messages. Look at this
text message. "Romney exposed at 2012 caucuses." "Romney pro-life?" And
voters were instructed to call a phone number for more information. Then
when they called the number, you -- the number now that`s totally
anonymous, it says "Mitt Romney on life -- I believe abortion should be
safe and legal in this country." I`ll play it for you. I won`t even read
it. Play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney on life.

should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since "Roe V.
Wade" has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it.


SHARPTON: Now when you start getting anonymous texts, you make a call
and have a tape of Romney that`s pro-choice, that is in a very conservative
state, I mean, somebody`s playing a little ugly here.

SHRUM: Yes, I`m not sure that ugly is the right word. I was actually
there when Romney said that. It was in a debate with Senator Kennedy, and
he went on to explain that he was pro-choice in part because there was
someone close to his family who had died of a botched illegal abortion, so
he said he had to be pro-choice.

You know, what`s happened to him here is that --

SHARPTON: But they are not giving that whole context. That`s what
makes that ugly.

STEELE: They would make it worse if they went on to root this in an
emotional conviction related it to a personal experience. What they are
doing is attacking the guy for being a con man, for changing his positions
on fundamental issues of conscience. If the Christian right or the
religious right in Iowa had gotten behind one candidate like they did with
Mike Huckabee four years ago, I think that candidate probably would have
won. But they`re very splintered here.

Romney is in the odd position of saying it`s a dirty, mean, lowdown
negative attack to quote me accurately from 1994.


SHARPTON: And that is a real precarious place to be, but let me go
back to you, Michael Steele. Mr. Gingrich said tonight he is not going to
promise that he would vote for Ron Paul, and he went further and said that
he thinks nobody would take him seriously. What does that do to the unity
of the party, your party, going forward when you now have one of the three
front-runners at least in the early states saying he may not even vote for
the other if he is the nominee?

STEELE: Well, I think the unity issue has been kind of blown out of
the water long before now, and I think you`re going to see more of that as
this Iowa vote settles accounts on next Tuesday. More and more people are
going to hedge their bets about Romney. They will hedge their bets
certainly -- if Ron Paul is the nominee you`ll probably see more of the
establishment and others coming out and distancing themselves. I think
that`s unfortunate, but that`s the way this is going to get played out so
the whole concept of the Reagan 11th commandment and unity has long been
blown up and called a lie because starting with the Romney campaign over
the last few weeks, the Ron Paul campaign as well. They have been hitting
below the belt and then some. And then I think that stings. We saw it in
2008 where all that comity went out the door and people were very upset by
the time it was over and the energy to support the nominee eventually

SHARPTON: Now, Bob, we saw in "The Weekly Standard" that Bill Kristol
actually called for some others to still jump in. He said, quote, "It`s no
time for leaders to duck responsibility. Now is not a time for leaders to
engage in clever calculations of the odds of success or to succumb to
concerns about how they will look if they enter the fray and fall short.
Now is the time to come to the aid of our country." He sounds like he has
no confidence in those that are on the stage. Come to the aid of our
country. Don`t worry about how it looks. Help, help, help.


SHRUM: Well, you`ve got to admire Bill because he just doesn`t give
in. This is the fifth or sixth time he`s written the same editorial.

STEELE: Exactly.

SHRUM: He doesn`t like Mitt Romney. He doesn`t think Mitt Romney
should be the nominee. For a while he kind of liked Perry, but even though
Perry appears now able to talk, people still think he can`t be the nominee.
So they are looking for somebody else.

There isn`t going to be somebody else. The Republican establishment
faced with the threat of Newt Gingrich I think wheeled very effectively
behind Mitt Romney. I think Romney is likely to be first or second in
Iowa. I think he may very well be first. And then he`ll win New Hampshire
and do OK in South Carolina, probably win Florida. And Reince Priebus, or
the Republican National Chairman, now suggests they may get an early
nominee. I think that may be right.

By the way, I have to add I`m not actually sure that Michael Steele
would vote for Ron Paul for president even if he won`t say it.

SHARPTON: Well, I won`t put him on the spot right now, but I will ask
you this, Michael. If the scenario that bob just laid out was the case, if
you see Romney win Iowa or come in a strong second, win New Hampshire and
well in South Carolina and win Florida, is it over?

STEELE: I don`t think so, because I still think there`s going to be
other candidates -- maybe two at the most who will still garner some
electoral support will have those delegates because those early states are
proportional states so they will get something. How much and how that`s
leveraged could have an impact and stretch it out, not necessarily to June,
but maybe through late March possibly, but we`ll see on that.

And I think the other point, that you know, Bob made about, you know,
the establishment, I think he`s exactly right again. They have clearly
made up their mind. The Bill Kristols of the world are whistling and
wishing, but that reality just is not going to come home because there`s no
life in that effort at all. And so Romney`s the go-to guy for the
establishment in D.C. The establishment has got to put their imprimatur on
that as well and hopefully getting past the possibility of a Ron Paul and
Newt Gingrich from their point of view. I kind of like the mix myself, so
here`s for a longer process than a shorter one.

SHARPTON: Well, Bob Shrum and Michael Steele, thank you for your
time. Michael, I didn`t put you on the spot about Ron Paul, but keep
watching the show because I`m going to talk about what Ron Paul`s
newsletter thought about people like you and me.

STEELE: Oh, yes, sir. It`s getting hot in here. We do have
something to say about that.

SHARPTON: Yes, we do.

Ahead, Newt Gingrich slams Ron Paul over his connection to racist
newsletters, saying he has a long way to go in explaining himself. We`ll
talk about Paul`s extremist supporters next.

Plus, message received -- more signs that President Obama`s fight for
fairness is paying off.

And a major development in the battle over voter suppression. We`ve
been talking about it for months here. What it could mean for the 2012
election. You`re watching POLITICSNATION on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: In just seven days GOP voters could hand Ron Paul a victory
in Iowa, and that has some Republican elites very worried. Last week we
showed you some questionable excerpts from newsletters bearing Paul`s name
written over 20 years ago, statements like, quote, "Order was only restored
in Los Angeles when it came time for blacks to pick up their welfare
checks." Another quote, "If you`ve ever been robbed by a black teenaged
male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be." Another quote,
"I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in
Washington, D.C., are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

Paul says he didn`t write any of that and even denies reading the
newsletters. But back in the `90s Paul thought the newsletters were a key
part of his political machine.


RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I deliver babies for a living,
but I also do an investment letter. It`s called "The Ron Paul Survival
Report," expressing concern about surviving in this age of big government.

I also put out a political type of business newsletter that sort of
cord all these area areas, and it covered a lot of what was going on in


SHARPTON: And in 1996 Paul told "The Dallas Morning News" he was not
a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns.
He said they were being taken out of context. Ron Paul`s surge to number
one in Iowa has brought new attention to his record and to what his
supporters believe in.

Joining me now is Perry Bacon Jr., the politics editor of,
and an MSNBC contributor, and Bob Franken, syndicated columnist. Thanks
for joining me tonight.

Perry can Ron Paul really deny that he knew what was in these
newsletters? It`s one thing and all of us in public life may have said
things we needed to apologize for that was distorted, but to say you have
no knowledge, didn`t read it, and then people can now come and have you
saying that these were part of your machine and that you were taken out of
context, well, even if you were taken out of context, you acknowledge that
you had read them, how do you take the whole thing in context and in 2011
say I don`t even know what you`re talking about?

can`t do this. One thing is Ron Paul has always been known for being
straightforward and honest. He has views that people don`t agree with,
even Republicans about war and government but usually he`s known for being
candid and honest. And in this case his stories don`t seem quite
consistent, and I think this does take away from his political brand in a
lot of ways.

SHARPTON: Now, ironically, Bob, nobody less than Newton Leroy, who
has called -- said a few racially insensitive things himself in this
campaign, he had this to say about Ron Paul.


GINGRICH: You look at Ron Paul`s total record of systemic avoidance
of reality and look at his newsletters and then you look at his ads. His
ads are about as accurate as his newsletters.


SHARPTON: Now also, Bob, before you respond, Ron Paul on FOX News
Friday defending the statements on his newsletter.


PAUL: I think the charge, could be a correct charge, is I was pretty
negligent as the publisher of a newsletter not paying more attention. In
many ways what they`re trying to portray me as is exactly the opposite of
what I am, but I don`t think it will stick.


SHARPTON: So he`s saying the only thing he was was a negligent
publisher despite the fact that there`s tapes and I played them when he
said things were taken out of context, where he said this is a part of what
he does, he delivers babies for a living and has this political newsletter.
I mean, come on, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I mean, first of all, I think we
should note this is possibly the first time in your life that you`ve held
up Newt Gingrich as a shining example, number one.

SHARPTON: As an example. It wasn`t shining, but go ahead.


FRANKEN: In any case, that you`re expressing an agreement with him.
There`s such an implausibility, translate probably lying, to somebody
having no knowledge whatsoever that this kind of -- you call it
questionable material. I think it`s unquestionably hateful -- was going
out in his name, that we really just have to sort of shove that aside and
really form some opinions about his credibility.

But there`s also a danger. As the "New York times" pointed out today
Paul consistently refuses to disallow those groups that do believe in that
kind of thing. And what that means is that they get some encouragement.
He`s in effect making a deal with them to make them players in our system.
That`s kind of a Faustian deal that he`s making, but it`s very dangerous.

And if I may, let`s not underestimate the danger of this kind of
thing. We have a society right now that is angry, and it`s a society that
for many reasons is angry about the way that the economic system is going
and how certain people have manipulated it. And a lot of people want
simple answers about who it is they should be angry about. So now this is
going to resonate a bit. If you think about the history. We`ve got people
of color. We`ve got Jews. We`ve got homosexuals, gays, that kind of
thing. And what does that remind you of? Go back a generation and you`ll
have your answer.

SHARPTON: Perry, he attacked Dr. King in these newsletters, Israel.
Let me show you some of the quotes. "Martin Luther King, the world class
philanderer who beat up his paramours." "Israel is an aggressive, national
socialist state." "AIDS patients should not be allowed to eat in
restaurants because AIDS can be transmitted by saliva." This is all in the

But going to Bob`s point, which is more disturbing or as disturbing
is some of his extreme supporters. "New York Times" reported -- well,
first, let me show you "Storm Front," which is a white supremacist group,
American Free Press, labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law
Center, and the "New York Times" when questioning Paul about this, they
reported on Friday that he said to them, quote, "If they want to endorse
me, they are endorsing what I do or say. It has nothing to do with
endorsing what they say."

So in many ways he is not -- he`s refused to repudiate their
endorsement which brings them into the mainstream of these primaries,
something that President Obama and other major presidential candidate has
not been allowed to do when groups were questioned.

BACON: I don`t think Ron Paul will be allowed to do these things. If
he wins in Iowa I don`t think he`ll win in any other state. And I think
you`re right. The people who support you do say something about you, which
is why President Obama repudiated his former pastor and mentor to him last
time. Who supports him and what they say does say something about you, and
I`m surprised he doesn`t take time to disavow these supporters. I think it
would help his campaign if he did.

SHARPTON: Bob, how worried about the elites and establishments of the
Republican party that Paul might actually pull Iowa off?

FRANKEN: Well, they seem to have so many things to worry about right
now. They are worried about Newt Gingrich. Surely they are worried about
Ron Paul. They are worried about the fact that he could gain some traction
in Iowa. We have a country that has two competing instincts going on. We
have all the beautiful egalitarian instincts that have been widely
discussed as the shining beacon that the United States can be. But there`s
also always an ugliness that`s there to be tapped. And you have a Ron Paul
and some of his supporters, at least in time, who were going after that.
And it`s a very potent force. I think it`s going to be very interesting to
see how Iowa votes and how it reflects one or two of those instincts

SHARPTON: Perry Bacon Jr. and Bob Franken, thank you both for joining
me tonight.

Ahead, it`s cold in Wisconsin, but Governor Walker is clearly feeling
the heat. Today he`s out blasting the recall effort against him.

And the Obama administration steps into the fight against voter
suppression. What will this mean for the 2012 election? And is it just
the beginning of things to come?


SHARPTON: The right`s favorite union bashing governor is in trouble
with the voters. So, what did Scott Walker and his cronies do? They
claimed fraud. Walker went on FOX today to push this line.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There`s an item that says that signatures of Mickey
Mouse and Adolf Hitler are being considered valid because they may be
properly dated. That seems crazy, doesn`t it?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Well, the whole process is pretty
unusual. I mean, we had one of the local affiliates here do a story about
someone signing it proudly saying they signed 80 different recall


SHARPTON: Let me clear something up. The process isn`t unusual,
governor. You just don`t like it. You don`t like to deal with the facts.
As your buddy said on FOX that election officials would let names like
Mickey Mouse count on recall petitions but PolitiFact has already labeled
that claim mostly false. Before a signature is counted it`s checked by the
petition circulators, election officials and your own supporters, Walker
supporters. Mickey wouldn`t make it through the review. Walker also
mentioned a man who told a Wisconsin news station he signed 80 recall
petitions. Even if a person signs a lot of petitions, his signatures won`t

These signatures go through a review, and Walker is suing the
government accountability board asking them to check-for-multiple names,
too. Walker thinks if he talks about fraud we`ll ignore the real story.
The real story is more than 500,000 people have signed recall petitions.
That`s 94 percent of the total needed by mid-January. The people of
Wisconsin don`t like Walker`s far right agenda, and they are fighting back.
Governor Walker, did you think your bogus claims would make us forget that
voters want you out of office? Nice try, but we got you.



ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We cannot and we must not take
the right to vote for granted. Nor can we shirk the sacred responsibility
that has fallen upon our shoulders. We will examine the facts, and we will
apply the law.


SHARPTON: Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to protect Americans
from new voter suppression laws, and now he`s making good on that promise
in a move that could have huge impact on the 2012 election. Late Friday,
the Justice Department formally rejected South Carolina`s voter ID law
because it violates the discrimination laws dating back to the civil rights
era of the `60s. Their analysis found that minority voters were 20 percent
more likely to lack proper state ID. This is a crucial moment in the
battle against voter suppression laws and it`s the first time in nearly 20
years the Justice Department has blocked a new law under the 1965 voting
rights act. But it may happen again soon.

The Justice Department is still reviewing voter suppression laws
passed in for other states this year. I`m very glad that this show, we got
on this issue early and many civil right groups including the one I had
National Action Network got on it early, marched thousands in Washington
about it and now we`re seeing movement, but we`re concerned about those
states that don`t fall under the voter rights laws and that have to be
pursued by other groups. We`re not only worried about 2012, we`re worried
about people`s rights to vote. You can`t salute Dr. King for the voting
rights act and not renew it and not enforce it.

Joining me now is Judith Brown-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement
Project, a civil rights group focused on issues of democracy and race.
Judith, thank for being here tonight.

having me, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Could we see the Justice Department block other voter ID
laws before the election?

DIANIS: Yes, we can. And we hope that we`ll have been a couple of
weeks ago. Advancement Project delivered a petition calling on the
Attorney General to fulfill his obligation to enforce the voting rights
act. And right now, before him, he still has the State of Texas has their
voter ID law that has to be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice.
We`ll see Alabama come before them, and so the Department of Justice is
doing its job. They are finding that the state have not shown. That the
burden is not on minority voters. And so, they`re enforcing the voting
rights act. And we`re happy to see it happened, and were glad that the
attorney general is standing on the side of Americans.

SHARPTON: And many of the legal challenges that many of us are
putting up around the country are falling the states that don`t fall under
the voting rights act. But what other things that is always interesting to
me Judith, people always say, well, since the `60s, what has civil rights
community done? One other things we`ve had to do is maintain what was
achieved in the 60s. The voting rights act has to be renewed every few
years. Civil rights act has to be enforced, enforcing what was done is as
hard as getting it done because otherwise his wiped away and nothing was

DIANIS: That`s right. And this year, in 2011 we saw 34 states take
up restrictions that place roadblocks in the way of Americans trying to
have a voice in the election coming up. You know, we should be in a place
where we`re trying to expand participation, not restricted, not and
roadblocks and poll taxes. Bringing back poll taxes is not where our
country should be. We should make sure that it`s easy for people to be, to
participate, to go to the voting booth, cast their ballot and have it

SHARPTON: Now, Mitt Willard Romney, I`m sorry, Willard Mitt Romney
weighed in on this finally because one of the things that was interesting
to me is that I never hear these candidates even question on this
fundamental voter rights/civil rights issue of our time, but let me show
you what Willard said about it.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I find it extraordinary that
Eric Holder is one more time making a very serious error. The idea that
people should not be able to be identified as they vote so that we can know
that they are not voting multiple times. And that`s the purpose here, of
course, we don`t want people voting multiple times. And you can you get a
photo ID free from you state, get it at the time you register to vote.
People who can get photo ID, is there anyone here who is over 18, 18 or
older that does not have a photo ID? Yes, that`s what I thought.


SHARPTON: Well, look at where he was asking the question, but Judith,
what is so untrue about what he raised, one, if you look at the facts, only
six convictions, six for voter impersonation fraud has occurred since 1997,
out of 593 million votes cast, so it`s not a widespread problem.

DIANIS: That`s right.

SHARPTON: That`s 0.000001 percent. So, he`s fabricating a problem.

DIANIS: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Secondly, if you get false state ID, you can vote as many
times us a want. The ID is the problem. The having ID does not stop
multiple voting if somebody can get the wrong ID. So, I mean, what he`s
seeing on his face doesn`t even make sense.

DIANIS: Yes, that`s I mean, it`s all hogwash. I mean, basically when
you come into vote, they take your name, they have it in a computer system
now, we`re not talking about 1920. We`re talking about 2011. They log you
into a computer, they know that you have voted, and there is no evidence of
voter impersonation. And in fact, in South Carolina for example where the
Attorney General weighed in and struck down that law, in fact, what is
happened is there was no evidence of voter fraud. In fact, you know, we
say that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to find a
prosecutor vote case of voter fraud.

SHARPTON: Well, Judith, you said it well. Let`s keep the fight on.
As always, thanks for your time tonight.

DIANIS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, Christmas may be over, but the President got a
gift today that should have his campaign staff smiling. It`s more proof
that his fight for fairness is working. And as Americans have gotten
poorer, lawmakers have gotten richer, much richer but what does this gap
mean for the people they represent?


SHARPTON: We`re back with our Politics Nation`s stop pick for the
photo of the day, is this picture of President Obama getting a mouth full
of baby hand while visiting military families at Pearl Harbor on Christmas
Day. The President just plays along taking it all in stride. It`s
probably the cutest thing you`ll see all day and the White House must be
loving it. Here`s another snapshot the White House is probably smiling
about tonight, a new Gallup tracking poll shows the President`s approval
rating jumped five points up just in the last week surging back into
positive territory in this poll for the first time since July. It`s the
fourth consecutive poll showing a jump in President Obama`s approval
numbers. The rebound comes after the President`s relentless fight for
fairness for the middle class.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: If asking a billionaire to pay
their fair share of taxes, to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a
teacher is class warfare, then you know what, I`m a warrior for the middle
class. I`m happy to fight for the middle class.


My number one priority right now is doing everything that I can, every
single day, to create jobs faster and to provide more security for middle
class families and those trying to get into the middle class.

Americans all deserve a fair shake and a fair shot.

The free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can
from whoever you can.


SHARPTON: Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe and
Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC`s "Now with Alex Wagner" noon every day Eastern
Time. Richard, let me start with you.


SHARPTON: Can the President keep up this strategy all the way through
next November?

WOLFFE: Sure, he can, and he should, because actually a consistency
of this messaging and this focus on the middle class has actually really
been the different factor that we`ve seen from frankly the last three
years. So sustaining this campaign has -- has obviously led to a really
different dynamic in Washington, and I`m not talking about the polls
because frankly, you know, Washington gets very excited about a five-point
move in the polls. That`s only the margin of error. Of course, it`s much
better to be in the high 40s than low 40s. But the polls will go up and
down, maybe he`ll get over 50. He`s not that different from other
presidents before him like President Clinton, President Bush, running for
re-election around this point, but, you know, what matters here is that
people don`t tune into politics nearly as much as we do. They need to hear
this kind of message from this President over and over again to understand
what he`s trying to do.

SHARPTON: Alex, when you look at the fact that the President has gone
out there, has really built a whole message around fighting for the middle
class and see the importance of middle class voters, if you look at this
screen, middle class voters made up 55 percent of the 2010 electorate. So
the -- when you contrast the Republicans coming off like they are fighting
an extension of payroll tax cuts which impacts the middle class and you
have a president out there like this, this does not look like a sound
political strategy to me on the other side.

euphemistic, Reverend. You know, as Richard said, it`s a great strategy,
it`s incredibly consistent, the White House. This is something Obama has -
- the idea of Americans getting a fair shake is something he`s been talking
about since 2007. This is, I mean, he should be given some credit. This
is not a Johnny come lately thing. It`s something he`s cared about. I
think he`s sort of lost the thread a little bit in the intervening years
but it`s absolutely picked it back up again.

The Republicans have played into his hands and, you know, Reutech
Sarah (ph) at the Center for American Progress has a great piece of writing
about this. Obama has to adapt what he called a pincer strategy, which is
to motivate the young base and also 65 and older. Sixty five and older
voters want to know that Social Security and Medicare and social
entitlement programs are going to be taken care of and that they`re not
going to be cut this kind of message ensures that and younger voters want
the idea that Obama is a fighter, that he`s an agent of change and, again
this message fits in with that as well.

SHARPTON: And Richard, in that light you have Romney out coming out
with the clip I`m going to show off cut, cut, cut, where Romney is
hammering, I mean, just hammering the President on Obama-care and the


SHARPTON: Let me show you this.


ROMNEY: I`m going to get rid of Obama-care. It is a moral imperative
for America to stop spending more money than we take in.


SHARPTON: So he`s hammering away, as Alex said, seniors are watching
this and then Karl Rove, let me show you this full screen before you
respond. Karl Rove told Republicans how to fight Obama`s middle call class
warrior strategy. Resentment is not an effective political appeal.
Americans tolerate unequal outcomes if they believe people have equal
opportunity. Now, I don`t know -- I haven`t seen Karl Rove in a long time
so I don`t know what planet he`s on now but when you look at loopholes and
all kinds of cuts for the wealthy and none of that for the middle class and
the poor, how does he think that spells equal opportunity to people?

WOLFFE: Right. I think you find Karl Rove on the Planet FOX News
right now. So, you know, equal opportunity, that if clause is really
important, and, you know, it`s very easy for Mitt Romney to say he has all
sorts of moral imperatives to cut spending. When you`re worth $250
million, it really doesn`t matter whether there`s health care for everyone
or not, whether it`s affordable or not, whether it`s affordable. So, you
know, going into the next couple of months, we`ll going to see the same
debate we saw at the end of the year, in fact for most of the last year
over what`s the right thing to do here just around the payroll tax cut,
just around unemployment insurance.

Should you cut spending, should you raise taxes on the super wealth
and Mitt Romney is going to have to speak up on this even though he`s tried
to avoid it for a long time because as one of the super wealthy he`ll be
faced with that choice. Should he pay a little bit more so that payroll
tax cut continue and job creation can continue, or does he just think we
need to cut spending that affects many people whether they are teachers,
firefighters, all those people in the public sector and beyond?

SHARPTON: The example you use, Alex, of saying that young voters and
a lot of other voters are the disenfranchised in particular, want the
President to come off fighting and standing up. The fact that he stood his
ground on this last fight, on the payroll tax extension, cut extension, do
you think that also has a lot to do with his rising in the polls, that a
lot of his base began to say, yes, that`s what we want to see you fight,
draw the line in the sand and don`t go beyond a certain point?

WAGNER: Yes. I think that we talk about a high stakes game of
chicken. I think I`ve said this on your program before. Usually the
Democrats are in the Ford or minivan. The Republicans are in the, you
know, Lamborghini. For the first time, the Democrats and the White House
were crossing down the highway in a fast car and they were not going to
turn first and I think that was really empowering for a lot of democratic
voters who thought Obama blinked too often and too early in negotiations
with Republicans. But I also think, look, you`re talking about a time when
47 million Americans are on food stamps.

You`re talking about an income disparity that is unprecedented since
the great depression. You are talking about, you know, one in two
Americans living at or near poverty. Obama has not only found a message
but is a message perfectly calibrated for these times. It`s incredibly
relevant and the fact that he`s going to fight and fight tooth-and-nail
against a party that really wants to reinvasion the American social
compact, I think is really heartening for not just young voters, but the
poor, the middle class, the working class.

SHARPTON: Richard, when you look at the fact that using with Alex has
just used, as the whole analogy of the Democrats going down with a car
cruising and the Republicans on the other side, the fact is that the
Republicans and the last several weeks from Herman Cain, to now Newt
Gingrich and Ron Paul have had to discuss a lot more of their personal
internal contradictions, character flaws at all while the President has
been able to talk about policy and the middle class and jobs. They can`t
even get to their points for getting in their own way.

WOLFFE: Yes, you know. We`re going to see a slightly different
dynamic though now Reverend because there are going to be winners that come
out of this. And, you know, whatever the debate was before and the
relative strengths and weaknesses of these candidates, obviously there will
be more debates where some of these things will be fleshed out, but winners
going through primary victories tend to look good. The problem for
Republicans is that there won`t be one single winner, and that`s not going
to be great for them.

SHARPTON: Well, Richard Wolffe and Alex Wagner, thanks for your time
tonight and talking about winners, 12:00 noon tomorrow eastern, Alex Wagner
graces your office, your living room, wherever you are. Just watch "Now
with Alex Wagner." We`ll be right back.

WAGNER: Thanks, Rev.


SHARPTON: We here at POLITICS NATION hope you had a wonderful holiday
weekend. I spent mine with some great people who celebrated the season by
helping others. Hundreds enjoyed Christmas with the National Action
Network here in New York. Thanks to volunteers who spent their day helping
families in need.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It brings us closer together, and it makes -- it
should make us realize what is needed. It`s not just one day. It`s this
thing should happen every day.


SHARPTON: She`s right. Helping others shouldn`t be something that
just happens at Christmas. "USA Today" reports that more kids than ever
this year wrote letters to Santa Claus asking for basics, like food and
clothes instead of toys. Poor kids need this kind of help year round but
they are not getting it from Washington where too many lawmakers seem
ignorant of the pain of their constituents and what their constituents
face. A new study shows that over the last six years the net worth of
members of Congress jumped up 15 percent, but during that same period the
net worth of Americans dropped by eight percent. I don`t begrudge people
making more money. All of us should, as long as we`re getting paid our
worth, but we should also fight for others to have the same opportunity and
to have an even playing field so they can be paid their worth, and we
should use days like Christmas and other days to put a spotlight on that
inequality and that drive to close the gap. Otherwise it just becomes a
commercial venture and not a holiday and not a day of giving to all.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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