'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guests: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Steve Schmidt, Howard Fineman, Steve Schmidt, Jonathan Capehart, Sandra Fluke

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: We have breaking news in tonight`s election
coverage. We have a nominee. "The Associated Press" is predicting that
after tonight`s results are in, President Obama will have the 2,778
delegates he needs to secure the Democratic nomination for president, but
Mitt Romney has not yet won that Republican nomination.

When all the votes are counted, Mitt Romney is expected to gain
another 200 delegates after winning all five contests tonight in
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

In the one state where Newt Gingrich claimed that he had a slight
chance tonight, Delaware, Mitt Romney is expected to win with more than 50
percent of the vote.

With no competition left standing, Mitt Romney read a teleprompter
attack on the president tonight in New Hampshire where he trails the
president by nine points.


dazzled us in front of Greek columns, with sweeping promises of hope and
change. But after we came down to earth, after all the celebration and the
parades, what do we have to show for 3 1/2 years of President Obama?

Because he has failed, he will run a campaign of diversions and
distractions and distortions. That kind of campaign may have worked at
another place and in a different time -- but not here and not now. It`s
still about the economy, and we`re not stupid.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Steve Schmidt, senior adviser to the
McCain campaign and an MSNBC political analyst. Chuck Todd, NBC News
political director and host of MSNBC`s "THE DAILY RUNDOWN", and Andrea
Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and the host of

Steve, the thing I love about watching a Romney speech is just
watching him play those teleprompters, because he has silenced the
Republican attack on President Obama for using teleprompters. They seemed
to have come to an agreement on this.

teleprompter heavy election here.

But, look, I think we`ve watched all of these speeches together
through this long primary season. I thought by a hundred miles, this was
his best effort. It was the best speech. It was a concise economic
argument that I think has the potential to have resonance in the middle of
the electorate. And it`s something that I think unifies the entire
Republican Party.

O`DONNELL: He cleared that very low bar for best Romney speech of the
season. Let`s hear a little clip of him talking -- it seems like he`s
reaching, or trying to reach across the gender gap here, talking about
single mothers and let`s listen to this.


ROMNEY: For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to
explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job and won`t be home
as often, for grandparents who can`t afford the gas to visit their
grandchildren anymore, for the mom and dad who never thought they`d be on
food stamps -- I have a simple message: hold on a little longer. A better
America begins tonight.



O`DONNELL: Chuck Todd, he seems to be trying to reach into the middle
with that.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: No, look, I agree with Steve. I thought this
was the best speech that Romney`s put together so far. You know, he`s been
trying to pivot to the general election.

I think he has a concise general election message, which is simply,
you may like President Obama, and he was not personally going after the
president. He`s been trying to walk this line for the last couple of
weeks, which is, hey, we know you like him and we were rooting for him and
we were all hopeful for him, but it`s not working.

And that`s the message he`s trying to sell. Basically, look, I know
you`re not going to like me better than you like him, but maybe you will
think that I can imagine the economy better than he did.

He has his message. The question is can he stick to it, can he stay
with it, and can he continue it, or is the Obama campaign -- it`s not
exactly -- it`s not like they`re not going to respond to this and they`re
going to let him go on this road. But I think Romney has found his message
and found his -- what -- how he can make this go after President Obama.

O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell, can Mitt Romney credibly weave sympathy
for the American single mom into his speech?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Well, he`s trying to, and I think I agree
with Chuck and Steve that this was definitely his best speech. He was
pivoting, he was making a turn.

And I had the advantage or disadvantage, as the case may be, of
watching Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at the same time on side-by-side
screens. It`s my job. Someone has to do it.

And watching Newt Gingrich making his speech in North Carolina
tonight, which was completely disjointed and also beginning to signal that
he is going to step aside. He said he`s sticking to his schedule in North
Carolina for the coming week, but that they are going to -- that he`s
realistic, that they`re going to be thinking things through, that they want
to defeat Barack Obama. That he wants a conservative platform in Tampa.

So, he`s beginning to lay out the terms for getting out of this --
it`s too late to get out of it gracefully, but he`s certainly laying out
those terms.

And we also heard today that on May 4th, there`s going to be that
long-awaited meeting with Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. But we`re told by
the Santorum people, not ready to endorse yet. He still wants something
and the Romney people are frankly getting angrier and angrier and more and
more frustrated. And I`m not sure Santorum is going to have much
bargaining power.

TODD: I don`t think he has any leverage. I agree with you, Andrea.
I think at this point, this train has left the station. You`ve got a
presumptive nominee. You`ve got a guy that essentially claimed the
nomination and rightfully so. He`s going to be the nominee.

What does he need Rick Santorum`s blessing at this point?

O`DONNELL: Steve, this is just timing, isn`t it, for both Santorum
and for Romney? Its` -- what is a good time for Romney to get a Santorum
endorsement and what is a good time for Santorum to deliver one?

SCHMIDT: I think a good time for Rick Santorum to deliver an
endorsement to the Republican nominee is like tomorrow morning.

O`DONNELL: Just get it out of the way.

SCHMIDT: Get it out of the way. The notion that he`s going to go
bargain with Mitt Romney and his campaign for something and he`s going to
endorse, you know, in fact, I think the Romney campaign would be well
within their space to refuse to meet with him until he endorses him. They
certainly shouldn`t meet with him with a gun held to their head.

O`DONNELL: Chuck, where are we on the math with the delegates for
Romney? The president officially crossed the line tonight, picking up
enough delegates --

TODD: He`s not going to get there until the June 5th primaries.

O`DONNELL: But will he? Will California actually deliver --

TODD: Yes, he will, because he`s been getting these unaffiliated
delegates, these endorsements that have gone to him. So his numbers have
grown. So he`s going to get there. That`s not going to be -- he`ll have
the actual number by the end of the primary season.

But I don`t understand -- I think Santorum is blowing -- if he`s not
careful here, he`s going to get a speech at 4:00 in the afternoon in Tampa
rather than 8:00 at night. I mean, he really is -- while getting out at
the right time to preserve his own political future, he`s now mishandling
this part of it. And perhaps he didn`t realize how quickly, all of a
sudden, Mitt Romney was going to look presumptive.

O`DONNELL: Andrea, what are the stakes for Santorum in terms of his
political future on how he handles his next steps?

MITCHELL: He may have already blown it, in fact. Because I was told
by some people very close to Mitt Romney that he may not get any kind of
speaking date, 4:00 in the morning is a possibility, I guess. But he`s not
going to get prime-time at the convention. They`re already so angry with

And look at Newt Gingrich, and also the way that campaign has evolved.
He had the improbable run up and down and back up again, and down, but now,
why is he staying in? And what is this about, other than vanity or ego? A
lot of people are asking.

O`DONNELL: Chuck, the president`s up by nine points in New Hampshire.
Mitt Romney claims New Hampshire as one of his residential states. I don`t
think you can call them home states, but residential states. What does
this mean for the president?

And New Hampshire tells us things about how he must be plays

TODD: I think it tells us a lot about the suburbs. The suburbs of
New Hampshire basically, the suburbs of Boston. And what`s been
interesting about following New Hampshire, is six months ago, of all of the
battleground states, New Hampshire was the place the president was
performing the worst. His job rating was the lowest and you talk to the
Obama people, they said, look, this economic message -- New Hampshire`s
always been more hope to a fiscal conservative message. But it also
doesn`t want to hear, doesn`t want to have conversations about social

And as the Republican primary and that Republican conversation turn to
contraception, you saw the biggest swing against the Republicans came in
New Hampshire. And I think what we`re seeing there -

O`DONNELL: We`ve got a graph charted right up there where you can see

TODD: And I think what you`re seeing is that is, that`s also telling
us what`s going on in the Philadelphia suburbs, northern Virginia, suburbs
of Denver. It`s a warning sign to the Republicans about how devastating
the social issues can be in places, in the suburban areas of the country,
where Republicans -- Romney has to do well to win.

O`DONNELL: Steve, you`re nodding your agreement.

SCHMIDT: Well, this is where the southern evangelical brand of the
Republican Party is so lethal. Is that New Hampshire`s a state where the
Republican legislature just overwhelmingly rejected an effort to repeal the
right of gay Americans with to be married. So I think that when these
issues got introduced in the Republican primary, that opened up a lead for
the president.

And I think that you`ll see that lead begin to close to the extent
that Mitt Romney`s able to distance himself from the congressional GOP
brand, which he`s going to need to do to become competitive in Northeastern
states, into the suburban markets, particularly in the collar counties
outside of Philadelphia, if Pennsylvania`s to be a competitive state.

O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell, what are the odds of the Republicans in
the House of allowing Mitt Romney to do that? Are they going to all stand
silently by as Mitt Romney tries to swerve leftward?

MITCHELL: Well, let me just point out, it`s not only on the social
issues. The student loan debate, which was engaged this week by the
president in these three battleground states, and Mitt Romney notably
yesterday coming back to the microphone at a brief press conference in
Pennsylvania to say, oh, by the way win support that reauthorization before
July 1st, that the student loan interest rates don`t double. So basically
he and Barack Obama are on the same side.

Well, today, I interviewed Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania and he
will not sign on to extending that student loan rate, the lower rate. And
Chuck, on his show, interviewed Connie Mack from Florida, and he would not
sign on.

So you have in the House and the Senate, Tea Party-supporting economic
conservatives who are not willing to go as far as Mitt Romney even on
pivoting to the center.

O`DONNELL: Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd, thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.

Steve Schmidt`s going to hang around for more Republican analysis.

Coming up, President Obama versus Mitt Romney this week. They are, as
Andrea said, fighting over the youth vote with student loans as the issue.
We will show you the president talking about student loans on Jimmy
Fallon`s show tonight, in a way that no politician has ever talked about

And Rush Limbaugh viciously attacked Georgetown law student Sandra
Fluke again today. In her first response to Limbaugh`s attack, Sandra
Fluke joins me tonight for an exclusive interview.

And on the "Rewrite" tonight, a not-so-fond farewell of the
presidential candidate Rick Santorum brought to you by "Funny or Die".



JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Do you know Mitt Romney?

not friends.


O`DONNELL: We`ll show you more of President Obama tonight on "Late
Night with Jimmy Fallon" later.

And Rush Limbaugh attacked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke again
today. Sandra fluke will join me in an exclusive interview in her first
response to the new Limbaugh attack.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, Ashley Judd and some of her friends say
good-bye to the presidential candidacy of Rick Santorum in a video produced
by our friends at "Funny or Die". That`s coming up.



OBAMA: The average student who borrows to pay for college now
graduates with about $25,000 in student loan debt. This is something
Michelle and I know about firsthand. I didn`t just get some talking points
about this. I didn`t just get a policy briefing on this.


O`DONNELL: We`re back with coverage of tonight`s presidential primary
election results, and that was President Obama today at the University of
North Carolina, talking about what has become the issue of the week, with
student loans.

As reported here last night, it is the first issue Mitt Romney has
chosen to move to the left. Romney now says that he agrees with President
Obama, although he never says he agrees with President Obama. He just says
that Congress should take action to prevent student loan interest rates
from rising as they are scheduled to on July 1st.

But the president has no intention of giving up his advantage on this
issue. Here he is at the University of Colorado moments ago.


OBAMA: We didn`t come from well-to-do backgrounds. We didn`t have
famous, you know, families.

We`ve been in your shoes. When we graduated from college and law
school, we had a mountain of debt, both of us. That means when we got
married, we got poorer together. You know, we added our assets together
and they were zero.

We only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.
Think about that. I`m the president of the United States and, so --



O`DONNELL: Tomorrow, President Obama will continue his campaign to
preserve low student loan interest rates at the University of Iowa.

And earlier tonight, he found another way to make his case on a taping
of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" which will be broadcast on NBC at 12:35


OBAMA: What we said is simple. Now is not the time to make school
more expensive for our young people.

FALLON: Oh, yes. You should listen to the president. Or as I like
to call him, the preesy of the united steezy.

Things are heating up inside Congress, at the chambers, behind all
those closed doors.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, AOL/"Huffington Post" editorial director
and MSNBC analyst, Howard Fineman.

Howard, Steve and I are sitting here watching Steve laughed at that
appearance in Jimmy Fallon laugh at the president, and just imaging what
it`s like when you`re sitting there on the Romney campaign and thinking,
we`ve got to go out there and fight with this guy over the youth vote.
Good luck with that.

imagine, maybe Steve can, but I can`t imagine Mitt Romney standing there in
between the soul singer in the back and Jimmy Fallon in the front. I don`t
think that would work.

O`DONNELL: And then the clip we showed of him at university in
Colorado. He`s going to do it again tomorrow in Iowa. He was at another
university earlier today.

It seems like the college campus is the perfect platform for President
Obama right now, Howard.

FINEMAN: Sure. Well, he`s returning on -- you know, we keep saying
that the general election campaign has begun, it`s finally begun, it`s
finally begun. It`s actually been going on for a while, but today was a
good slice of what`s happening, on a night where Mitt Romney essentially
locked up the nomination.

He went to New Hampshire. And Barack Obama went to a state he won,
and to North Carolina at first this morning, ands to Colorado, which he
also won, to talk to really one of his key constituencies, which is young
people. There have been a lot of polls recently, Lawrence, that have shown
while young people still support the president -- talking 18 to 29 -- while
they still support the president, they don`t support him as overwhelmingly
as they did four years ago. And there are some doubts about whether
they`re all going to turn out.

So this is a dredging operation, if you will, by the president going
to some key places, big campuses, Chapel Hill, Boulder, et cetera, to
really dredge for those votes and the support he had last time around.
They`re using the Internet to do it.

I think this may be the first speech -- I`m checking this -- maybe the
first speech in which the president has actually called out a hashtag, you
know, #dontdoublemyrates, and, of course, they`ll try to harvest those
names of people they get who go to that hashtag.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve, "don`t double my rates" was the hashtag that
was in Sandra Fluke`s tweet today that angered Rush Limbaugh so much. He`s
now going after her about student loans.

Speaker Boehner put it in one of his tweets today.

And so, it looks like the president has actually led the Republicans
to an agreement on what we should be doing with student loans, but the
Republicans are going to try to play this in such a way -- is there a way,
I guess, for them to play it where the president doesn`t end up with the
credit here?

SCHMIDT: Well, he`s going to end up with the credit for it. It`s bad
politics for Republicans to be opposed to it. And just truck by watching
the president on the late night show at the college campuses. He`s --

O`DONNELL: How would you like to have a candidate like that?

SCHMIDT: He`s an awfully good campaigner. It`s incredible to watch.

O`DONNELL: That`s right.

SCHMIDT: Look, there`s such a gap between Republicans and Democrats
on this stuff. I remember on the Bush campaign in 2004, I meant with our
entertainment coalition. It was a former juggler and a Ringling Brothers
executive. So, you know, when it comes to, you know, being hip with the
culture, you know, we operate at a little bit of a deficit.

FINEMAN: You always have Ted Nugent.

O`DONNELL: Howard, we saw Mitt Romney give what for him was an
important campaign speech tonight. Compare and contrast what the two have
done as candidates today, just in their speaking appearances.

FINEMAN: Well, I though -- I disagree a little bit with my
colleagues. I didn`t think that was a fabulous speech by Mitt Romney, but
Mitt Romney`s better when he`s in control.

He`s a control guy. He doesn`t do well in situations or environments
where he isn`t in charge. And he`s in charge now, at least of the
Republican nomination, and I think that put some wind in his sails and made
him more confident.

Also, I thought the speech was clever in that it tried to go after the
president on the grounds of fairness. The speech repeatedly used the word
"fairness" and "unfair" and so on. Mitt Romney`s argument being that it`s
unfair that the markets aren`t unfettered to help people get the kind of
jobs they need and so on.

And there were some clever lines in there. The one I thought was most
clever is where he said, it`s still the economy and we`re not stupid.
That`s a pretty powerful line.

But it`s mechanical, it`s the result of speech writers. It`s Romney
at his best when everything is smooth. President Obama just has a natural
gift for being around people and for being on the stage.

Barack Obama loves being on the stag stage. I mean, he was
practically doing shtick there about the fact that he`s president of the
United States and he still had student loans eight years ago.

You know, I expect him to do that Fred Armisen thing where he pulls
out a stool and a cigarette and starts riffing into the microphone.

O`DONNELL: Yes. There`s not a long blooper reel of Barack Obama
jokes gone bad on stage.

FINEMAN: There are a few, but not many.


I want to look at now what the Romney move has to be. How difficult
it`s going to be to move from where he`s been on the right side of the
Republican Party to where he might want to go, especially using student
loans as an example.

I want to listen to something he said in February about student loans.
Compare that to where he is now, which is basically in agreement with the
president and the Democrats on student loans. But let`s listen as recently
as February, this is the way Mitt Romney talked about student loans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just started law school, and they`re doing
away with unsubsidized loans for grad students with, which makes it almost
impossible to pay off our debts, have a house, have a car, have a family
before we retire. What are you going to do for people like me?

ROMNEY: You know, I wish I could tell you there was a place to find
really free money or cheap money and we could pay for everyone`s education.
That`s just not going to happen.


O`DONNELL: Steve, that video is going away. Every time he makes one
of these moves, everyone`s going to be playing, here`s where he was in
February, here`s where he was a few months ago. How in the age of this
relentless video memory does a candidate make this kind of move that Nixon
always talked about as if it was very easy? When you go right as a
Republican in the primaries and then you just go into the center when you
have to?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think the one thing that everyone has a general
knowledge about, including the 6 percent of people that are getting in the
middle of the electorate, they`re going to decide the outcome of it, is
that Mitt Romney has been on both sides of any one of a number of issues.
I think that`s baked into the cake. I think like he`s the guy that`s
already been pushed into the pool, he`s wet. And I think people are going
to make a decision based on something else.

Look, I think he framed an economic argument tonight that can be
effective and can win the presidency. The challenge for him is to stay in
that space, to make that argument, to be consistent with it.

And the Obama campaign`s going to derail that argument in any way that
they can. And certainly, you know, the fact that he`s been on both sides
of the issue is one of the ways to do that. But, you know, I think he made
a very effective economic argument tonight. And if he`s going to be the
president of the United States, he`s going to have to win that argument in
this election.

O`DONNELL: I think he made a wrong economic argument tonight, but
he`s not arguing with me. He`s trying to find 3 percent, 4 percent of the
vote, right there at the margin, that can tip that way. And the people
he`s going to tip aren`t even going to start listening to that argument
until October.

So, this is just kind of warm-up for when they start listening.

Howard, what do you make of using the student loan maneuver, as we`ve
seen it this week, and as we`ve seen where Romney`s come from on it, what
do you see in it as a lesson of how Romney can move from where he has been,
pleasing right-wing voters, to where he needs to go?

FINEMAN: Well, I think if I understand Steve Wright -- Steve Schmidt
correctly from the first part of his answer just now, he`s basically
saying, well, don`t worry, Mitt Romney can always say he`s a flip-flopper.
You know? And that`s going to be his defense. Don`t worry, folks, that`s
who I am. Those are the many people I are, so don`t worry about it. And
maybe he can get away with that.

I think the bigger problem he`s got is in this speech tonight, there
wasn`t very much specific. Now, I know that -- and Steve`s right, it`s
going to come down to the last few weeks and that 5 percent or 6 percent in
six or seven of those 12 swing states. But I think he`s got to be a little
bit more specific about what his sort of takeover plan, what his sort of
Bain restructuring plan is. And as he gets into those specifics, that`s
going to open up opportunities for the president to counterpunch.

And either Mitt Romney`s going to have to identify with the policies
of previous Republican administrations in which case the president will
attack him on that, say back to the future, which is what they`re saying in
their e-mails tonight, or Mitt Romney is going to have to come up with some
new ideas. And he`s capable of coming up with new ideas. After all, he`s
the guy who came up with the health care plan.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Howard. Howard Fineman, MSNBC political
analyst, thanks for joining us tonight.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Steve, hang around, we`ll have more on what`s happened
tonight in the election.

Coming up, we`re also going to have Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh read
a tweet today from Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. That`s all he had
to do to then immediately launch another vicious attack on her. Sandra
Fluke joins me in an exclusive interview in her first response to the new
Limbaugh attack.

And in the "Rewrite," Ashley Judd and her supporting cast of co-stars
bid a not so fond farewell to the presidential candidacy of Rick Santorum.
And they warn him, they warn him, about the dangers of running for
president again.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I say there`s a two in three
chance that we win control of the House again. But there`s a one in three
chance that we could lose. I`m being myself frank. We`ve got a big
challenge and we`ve got work to do.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Jonathan Capehart, a "Washington Post"
opinion writer and an MSNBC analyst. Jonathan, I`ve never heard a speaker
say anything other than, of course we`re going to keep the majority. We`re
going to pick up seats.


O`DONNELL: They always say that.

CAPEHART: They always say that, but maybe John Boehner is being a
little honest. He did say they have a two-thirds chance of holding the
House. But this is going to be a tough election for the president. It`s
going to be a tough election for the speaker in terms of whether he`s going
to be able to hold on to the House.

It`s a lot tougher to hang on to -- what was it, 87 seats or however
many seats they picked up in 2010, than it is for Nancy Pelosi and the
Democrats to pick off enough for her to possibly become speaker again.

in districts that President Obama won. I think that that`s a statement
designed to give him leverage inside the conference. We`re going to hold
control unless you guys do a bunch of stupid stuff.

O`DONNELL: He`s not really -- he`s talking to his members and saying

SCHMIDT: Hundred percent.


SCHMIDT: And the donor community, we can`t make turnovers. We can`t
make fumbles. We can`t alienate the population of the country on all these
extreme issues, absolutely.

O`DONNELL: The Democrats need to pick up 25 of those seats and then
they have control of the House.

Jonathan, is the Republican House and their voting record, what
they`ve already voted on -- is that one of the most important Obama re-
election campaign tools to marry Romney to all those votes in the House?

CAPEHART: It`s those votes. And it`s the actions of the Republicans
on Capitol Hill for the last three years that the president has to use as a
weapon against Mitt Romney, to say, look, I`ve tried. This is the
president saying, I`ve tried to do all of these things, but Republicans on
Capitol Hill, whether they were in the minority and certainly when they
were in the majority, stopped me or tried to stop me every step of the way.

Remember, the health care reform law, which may or may not be struck
down as unconstitutional -- but remember, that was -- where were the
Republican votes on that? There weren`t any.

O`DONNELL: The president is in Colorado tonight now. It`s Obama
versus Romney. We know that for the presidency. So here`s the president
in Colorado tonight. And let`s listen to who he wants to talk about to his
audience in Colorado.


Republican Congresswoman. I didn`t really understand this. I`m quoting
her. She said that she has "very little tolerance for people who tell me
they graduate with debt, because there`s no reason for that." She said,
"students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts,
having opportunity dumped in your lap."


OBAMA: I can tell you, Michelle and I, we didn`t take out loans
because we were lazy.


O`DONNELL: And so, Steve, the question becomes, Mr. Romney, do you
agree with Republican House Member Virginia Foxx that students who take
loans are sitting on their butts.

SCHMIDT: He`s going to be, who?

O`DONNELL: He`s -- that`s the presidential candidate, sticking the
Republican House members on to the Republican presidential campaign.

SCHMIDT: Yes, look, absolutely. They`re an unpopular part -- the
most unpopular part, by polling, of the most unpopular institution in the
country. So, you know, it makes perfect political sense. And I think Mitt
Romney has positioned himself, though, as an outsider in the campaign,
apart from Washington. And he`s going to need to maintain that space.

And so I think you`ll see him at every opportunity where he could put
a little bit of distance between himself and the Republican Congress,
you`re going to see him do it.

CAPEHART: Although, who was it just the other day? Was it Senator
Rubio who said, you know, Mitt Romney, he`s the leader of the Republican
party. He`s the leader of the Republican party, especially after tonight.

SCHMIDT: He is the leader of the Republican party. He`s the titular
head of the party for the nominee. And if he loses the election, he`s the
titular head of the party to agree for the next four years. So it`s a
balancing act.

But he`s not going to run as the captain of team Washington. He`s
going to look out for his own political equities. And he`s going to look
for distance where he can get it in these races.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the president again, who`s trying to make
him the captain of team Washington. Here he is at UNC Chapel Hill, telling
the students about the Republicans in Washington, their records on the
issues that these students care about.


OBAMA: If these folks in Washington were serious about making college
more affordable, they wouldn`t have voted for a budget that could cut
financial aid for tens of millions of college students by an average of
more than a thousand dollars. They say, well, we`ve got to bring down the

Of course, this is the deficit they helped run up over the past
decade, didn`t pay for two wars, didn`t pay for two massive tax cuts. And
now this is the reason why you want students to pay more? They just voted
to keep giving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to big oil
companies that are raking in record profits.


OBAMA: They just voted to let millionaires and billionaires keep
paying lower tax rates than middle class workers and their secretaries.



O`DONNELL: They just voted for all that. Now answer that, Mr.
Romney, who didn`t vote for it, but you say you`re in favor of it.

CAPEHART: Right. You know, this student loan debate issue is
something I wrote about when the payroll tax cut deal was finally done. I
said, now that they`ve got -- now that the Republicans have found their way
out of the box that they`ve painted themselves in, they have one coming up
in June on student loans.

And what the president is doing, he is pitting the GOP, once again,
against the middle class, against people for whom these student loans are
vital. They`re essential if these children are to go to college, and you
know, keep climbing the rungs of, you know, the ladder to the American

So we`ll soon see if what happened in December plays out again
particularly in June, with the president paying the GOP into a corner.

O`DONNELL: I want to hear one more thing that Speaker Boehner said
about the re-election chances in the House, just because I find this so
surprisingly frank. He`s talking about the endangered members in his
group, calling some of them orphans. Let`s listen to this.


BOEHNER: We have 50 of our members in tough races, 89 freshman,
running for their first re-election.


BOEHNER: And we have 32 districts that are in states where there`s no
presidential campaign going to be run, no big Senate race. And we call
these orphan districts.


O`DONNELL: It`s like listening to Charlie Cook doing this straight
math thing, the guy who knows more about House elections than anybody else.
Where is the, "we`re going to win" in all of that?

CAPEHART: I defer to Steve on this. I am now fascinated.

SCHMIDT: Look, I think that this is a -- I think that this is an
appeal for discipline and basically to the conference, you guys need to do

O`DONNELL: But these guys who are in the orphan districts, don`t they
know they`re orphans? Do they have to be hold on national television by
the speaker, hey, you have a tricky district to win.

SCHMIDT: Look, I think this is a reflection -- obviously, my
interpretation of it is there are internal conversations that are going on,
which is we`re going to hold control unless we do. And they`re worried
about it. You have the Robert Draper book that`s coming out. I think that
points out a lot of the attentions that have played out over the last few

It`s going to be a great book. I`m dying to read it. I can`t wait to
read it. But I think when you read that book, and you understand what`s
gone on there, you understand perfectly why he`s saying that. That is a
message to the Republican conference about being disciplined, about being
focused, about being politically smart.

O`DONNELL: I just have never heard a speaker delivering his message
to the caucus on national television. I thought they had a room for that
where they close the door.

CAPEHART: And not just national television, Fox. That`s as close as
you`re going to get to an internal meeting as you know --

O`DONNELL: Exactly. Steve Schmidt and Jonathan Capehart, thank you
both very much for joining me tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Lawrence.

SCHMIDT: Good to see you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, our friends at Funny or Die have a few
procedures they`d like Rick Santorum to go through before he is allowed to
finally terminate his campaign. Among other things, they would like to
force him to look at a sonogram of his campaign before he ends it.

And Sandra Fluke is with us again tonight in an exclusive interview,
this time to respond to Rush Limbaugh`s new vicious attack against her
today. All it took to get Limbaugh attacking her again today was a very
simple Tweet that could only anger Rush Limbaugh.



is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless
gift, in a -- in a very broken way, but gift of human life. We have to
make the best out of a bad situation.


O`DONNELL: Well, thanks to Mitt Romney, it looks like we won`t have
Rick Santorum to kick around anymore. With Romney`s virtual lock on the
Republican presidential nomination, the time has come to say good-bye to
the also rans. but the farewells won`t all be fond, thanks to the gang at
Funny or Die.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, um, Mr. Santorum, take a seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand you`d like to terminate your
candidacy. And I am sure, pumpkin, that is a very hard decision for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you weren`t mature enough to carry your
candidacy to term, you shouldn`t have begun in the risky behavior that
began it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you made a mistake, because you were thrust
into a situation that you weren`t ready for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the last thing you knew, a good-looking rich
man took advantage of you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People might say you were asking for it. I`m
not saying that, but people are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I suppose adoption is out of the question. No
one in their right mind would want you as a running mate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The financial burden, the risk of your political
clear. There is a lot at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m so glad you could step out of the race with
your reputation and life in tact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you, say, make the best out of a bad

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not judging you, though. That`s not me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, you`re a grown man running for president
and I`m just a woman who`s never worked in politics and couldn`t possibly
understand what you`re going through. I mean, what am I doing even talking
to you about this. But here we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The law requires me to tell you that as early as
six weeks, a candidacy can have living, breathing supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And before doing anything, I`ll need your
parental consent form.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you`re going to have to listen to your
campaign manager`s heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And of course, you`ll have to look at a sonogram
of your campaign.

SANTORUM: I`m ready to lead. I`m ready.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ll also have to watch this.

SANTORUM: If you can`t win -- can`t win --

It hurts.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I am not a politician.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because people have got to know --

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I am suspending -- suspending --
suspending -- and endorsing --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suspending my presidential campaign.

SANTORUM: We will suspend our campaign today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We`ll finalize after this after the
mandatory 72-hour waiting period.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And be careful on your way out. There are some
really angry people out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, take one of these.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prayerfully consider what it has to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t want to have this conversation in
another 48 months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just go ahead and stay out.




RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What a coincidence, Barack Obama
just warned the students at the University of North Carolina that interest
rates on federal student loans will double if Congress doesn`t act by July
1st. They`ll go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Word for word what
Sandra Fluke just Tweeted herself.


O`DONNELL: Well, no, it wasn`t exactly word for word. Here`s what
Sandra Fluke Tweeted: "Don`t double my rate. Many students will see the
interest rate on fed student loans increase if Congress doesn`t act by

Now, nothing provocative there, unless, of course, you`re Rush


LIMBAUGH: Sandra fluke is just a poor, isolated, alone little college
student, worried about her contraception at Georgetown. But now she`s
represented by the flacks in the White House, Hilary Rosen, Anita Dunn, and
they`re coordinating with Obama, scaring students about the interest rates
on their student loans.

So contraception isn`t enough. Some people want their education paid
for by other people too.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Sandra Fluke,
responding for the first time to Rush Limbaugh`s newest attack against her.

Sitting here, watching you watch him on our monitor, it amazes me, the
grace with which you bear this. I almost don`t know where to begin. But
what is it like? You Tweet this thing about student loans. You have the
don`t double my rate, which, by the way, appears in a John Boehner Tweet

the hash tag everyone`s been using.

O`DONNELL: When you Tweet this, you think, oh, I`m Tweeting right
into Rush`s strike zone; he`s going to attack me. Right, like, he`s got to
attack you. It`s amazing.

FLUKE: Yeah, I didn`t realize this was a political fireball.

O`DONNELL: You know, Rush is a college dropout. He did no more than
two semesters. That second semester he did, he didn`t really show up for
much. So he doesn`t know that much about how higher education is financed
and how student loans work. What doesn`t -- what does he need to know that
he doesn`t knee?

FLUKE: Well, for starters, he seems to have become confused by his
own propaganda. He`s called me a college coed so many times that he
doesn`t know I`m a law school student. So this policy is very important
for college students, not for graduate students.

It`s for students who are going into college and getting new loans,
not those of us who have them. And it`s really important to keep these
interest rates low, because in this economy, having an affordable education
is so crucial for so many young Americans. And if Congress doesn`t act by
this July, it will become more expensive to get a college education.

O`DONNELL: And on July 1st, the rate basically doubles for some
people, from three point something to six point something.

FLUKE: Yes, it goes from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. And this is for
students who qualify for subsidized Stafford Loans through the federal
government. So these are students with need-based concerns, who are from
lower income families and are trying to go to college, yes.

O`DONNELL: And that is right at a financial margin that it can make a
difference. When you have thousand-dollar differences in price tags at
that economic level, it can be absolutely prohibitive.

FLUKE: Yes. This policy difference makes about a thousand dollars a
year difference to those students and their families. And they found that
for the average of the students who qualify for these types of loans,
that`s about 20 percent. A lot of them are going to state colleges, not
paying the really exceptionally high tuition. And it makes a big
difference for those students.

O`DONNELL: It feels foolish to waste time on this, but to deal with
Rush`s conspiracy theory, Hilary Rosen or someone at the White House
dictated that Tweet to you. You weren`t really concerned about student
loans yourself in any way until they told you what to say, right?

FLUKE: Let me lay this out real simply. If I want to find out what
President Obama is saying, I do it the same way everybody else does. I
Google it, OK? That`s my source of information.

So, no, I didn`t have any prior planning with anyone at the White
House. I`m concerned about student loans because I`m a young person who
has student loans. And I have friends who have these types of student
loans and who are struggling to pay them back and to find jobs. That`s why
I was concerned about it.

O`DONNELL: Sandra Fluke, sorry you had to go through another day of
being rushed by Rush Limbaugh. Thank you very much for joining me tonight.

FLUKE: Thanks for having me.


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