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tv   Politics Nation  MSNBC  January 3, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EST

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not what people fight for, not what people believe n.mitt romney can quote america the beautiful, but this campaign he's put together has putrified it. and that's "hardball." thanks for being with us. stay with msnbc now for full coverage of the iowa caucuses. good evening and thank you for being with us. this is a night we've been waiting for for a long, long time. the doorps at caucus sites across the straight state of iowa have opened at this hour, and the voting, the actual voting is finally about to get under way in the first contest of the 2012 republican presidential race. the last time iowa owned the national spotlight it was this underdog senator from the great state of illinois who made history on the democratic side. that same night four years ago the republican party's eventual nominee came in fourth place in iowa. republican four years ago who outspent all other republican candidates in iowa combined that year, he also ended up lose that
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night. he lost to a former arkansas governor who cap toured the hearts of iowa evangelicals and took iowa by storm. mike huckabee won the iowa republican caucusesy in 2008 with a ten-point victory over the second place finisher, mitt romney. tonight mitt romney is back. sherunning at or near the top of the polls. his campaign had initially steered clear of iowa this year, but now they are all in. the latest challenger to romney's front-runner status is former pennsylvania senator, rick santorum, a candidate whose cause was once so lost he held an iowa rally attended by one other person. looking at him now you would never guess that. >> we've got the organization, and our summon coming in better than it's ever come in. when we do well tonight, we expect we'll have the resources to be able to compete in new hampshire and compete all the way through. >> after polling in 2008 at 10% in the iowa calk yeses, congressman ron paul's standing
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in the polls now is roughly double that number, and his campaign is confident. they say the organizational demands of caucusing play to their greatest strengths as a campaign. few republican insiders believe that congressman ron paul could be the one to win the nomination, but almost everyone believes tonight that he has a chance to win in iowa. former speaker of the house and former iowa front-runner newt gingrich is not going down without a fight. he says his numbers have dropped from his front-runner status because of other campaigns going so negative against him. he initially complained about that negativity, but now newt gingrich is fighting fire with fire. >> are you calling mitt romney a liar? >> yes. >> you're calling mitt romney a liar? >> well, you seem shocked by it, yes. this is a man whose staff created the pavjt his millionaire friends fund the pac and he pretends like he has nothing to do with the pac, it's
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baloney. it's not true, like the pretense he's a conservative. >> for barack obama, he'll be making his presence felt in iowa as well holding teleconferences with democratic iowa voters. >> i'm rachel maddow here at msnbc headquarters in new york city. chris matthews is leading our coverage from des moines, iowa tonight. let's say hi to chris. how are you tonight? how is everything going in des moines? >> great, rachel. you know, i think the big weapon out here we saw unleashed tonight and through therese these weeks leading up to the caucuses tonight is pretty ferocious. it's based upon a court decision, citizens united. it allows a candidate and his rich allies to spend all kinds of money, in fact, unlimited money, destroying an opponent candidate without ever putting
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their names on that list, never identifying themselves, never associating themselves with the candidate they are favoring. they can destroy an opponent. totally anonymously, and they can do it without ever hurting their own canned day. now, of course, mitt romney is using that weapon in this campaign and has used it to destroy, it looks like for purposes of tonight, newt gingrich. see if he's destroyed him permanently but real victim, of course, is any kind of democracy as we know it. if you can run a campaign now with anonymous money, if you can use it without putting your name on negative ads and can destroy an opponent without paying any price for it and your friends never have to have their names known and can spend all the money they want to spend to do t it, this is not my idea of democracy, but that weapon has been unleashed here, and the only fairness in this thing is that newt gingrich is one of those on the right that supports the right of money to call itself democracy. >> chris, thank you. joining us here in our coverage is republican strategist steve in schmitt, a chief strategist
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with the mccain/palin campaign and also the host of "the ed show" on msnbc, ed schultz, lawrence o'donnell, the host of "last word" and the host of msnbc's "politics nation," the reverend al sharpton who himself has been a presidential candidate and knows what it is to compete in iowa. gentlemen, thank you all very much for being here. this is going to be a fun night already. let me start with getting some first thoughts from you about what you think the stakes are tonight and what you're watching forks steve? >> well, i think what tonight does is set up the next several contests going to new hampshire, to south carolina and to florida, and if the polls are to be believed, we will see an order of finish that is romney, that is santorum, that's ron paul, jumble. too tough to predict who is going to finish where, but there will be three tickets out of iowa heading into new hampshire. you'll see some of the candidates heading direct throw south carolina, rick perry, michele bachmann where they will make their last stand. we're at last point of the race where candidates will start to get out of it because their
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campaigns are out of money, and i think us a look ahead tonight, i think no matter what the outcome is and the order of finish, it's going to be a pretty good night for governor romney because i think it's tough to see scenarios where senator santorum and ron paul in particular will have much staying power. >> in terms of who might go home tonight, who is most at risk of doing so poorly that it's the end of their campaign? >> clearly michele bachmann. governor perry is in a lot of trouble. no one wants to be the first person to drop out. no one wants to be the first person to concede the obvious after a loss in iowa, so they will lang on for a little while. presidential campaigns end when they run out of money, and there's going to be a conversation in the perry campaign, in the bachmann campaign i think before very long where people come into the room, say, hey, governor, hey congresswoman, there's no money left to pate bills, hand that's what ends the campaign. >> ed schultz, first thoughts tonight? >> well, first thoughts are the ground game means everything in the way this is all set up and when rick santorum says they have the organization, that means he's got people that are going to be able to stand up in the caucus meetings and make the
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pitch. it's a very parochial setting in iowa. a lot of friends, a lot of neighbors, small groups. come on, joe, vote this way. what do you think, johny? a lot of that es on, and so i think santorum has done the groundwork. the 99 counties, the social conservatives, no matter how you look at it, they carry big stick in iowa. they are about 60% of the vote, and keep in mind that huckabee won this with 40,000 votes. mitt romney got 30,000 votes in 2008. the question is what has he done to build on that number? i think santorum is the wild card here tonight. if there's a big turnout and the social conservatives are strong and they leave bachmann and they don't spend too much time with perry, i think santorum could win this thing tonight, and the fact that they have got three social conservatives in this race is the best thing that could happen to mitt romney. >> al sharpton, have you been in iowa in a lot of different capacities, including running there. what are you looking for in terms of the big picture? >> several things. one, turnout. it's going to be very
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interesting if there's a low turnout because it will signal that these candidates don't even excite their own base. second, how much damage they do in terms of how the american public is going to view them because at the end of all of this someone is going to have to run against president obama. if they are in such an extreme right position, they can win and lose it all tonight because there's no democratic caucus, so they have the full stage to themselves. america is looking at them. they can lose independents. they can lose a lot of moderates tonight, even if they win the caucus because they had to go so far to the right to win in iowa that they lose the rest of the country, and how much damage do they do? with this citizens united rule that has come back to haunt them, they are reaping what they have sowed. they may hurt themself so president obama doesn't have to do anything because they will destroyed themselves before the main match, so it's very funny to me because if -- if it was a
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rock band, i used to, as a kid be around james brown, if you kill yourself in rehearsal, the guy on the main show doesn't have to do anything but sing on note. >> do you feel -- this is what chris was talking about in his opening thoughts, too. do you think that -- and we always see negative ads and see candidates get torn apart. do you think that things are materially qualitatively worse in terms of the negativity because people don't have to put their name on their ads? >> when you have the night before the first caucus, we haven't even gotten to a primary yet, one of the candidates calling another one a liar, the other one saying the other one's too liberal. i mean, all of this is absolutely nothing but music to the ears of the dnc, and i think that they can damage each other so until it will be hard to unite the party and, again, there's no one looking at the democrats tonight in america. they are all looking at them. so unlike '80 and in other races, you don't have what's happening on the democratic side, what's happening to the republican side.
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you've got the whole stage to yourself. knock yourself out so the americans can say with one out of every two americans near poverty, with the income gap, these are the people that i'm going to put in charge of country? we couldn't have wrote this script better if we did it ourselves, rachel. >> lawrence o'donnell, host of "the last word, "kwhat are you looking for? >> tonight marks the end of the year of idiocy in republican campaigning. the most single embarrassing year of modern campaigning within the party. the fake candidacies that the media fell for, most embarrassing political performance for the media, too. fell for sarah palin, couldn't read the clues when she started quitting her job, clear she was never going to run for anything. they fell for donald trump and the republican voters, and they got infatuated with michele bachmann and in-fat fatated with impossible candidacies. the insanity is over, and the
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reality starts tonight and it turns out when we get to 2012 the reality candidacies are a former governor and a former senator. big surprise. no game show host, no junior member of congress like ms. bachmann, no edgy, flaky guy like ron paul, always been where it's been, a former governor and former senator. >> if ron paul places first in iowa which he has a chance to do? >> aunter meaningless candidacy in terms of the final outcome. he's a decoy. an additional prop on this set, and he can stay on the set for a long time because all he needs is airfare to the next town to keep this thing going. he's never going to be president. he's never going to get the nomination. he represents something fascinating for democrats which is who are these republicans who are voting for the most anti-war candidate since gene mccarty in 1968.
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who are those voters because those voters are people that the obama campaign should figure out how to talk to? >> they are the most interesting people in american politics, and i think they have been since 2008, at least that's how i've felt about it. we'll joined by our political director chuck todd to take a look at what is at stake tonight by the numbers. mr. todd, thank you for joining us. what are you seeing at this hour? >> well, rachel, what i'm curious about, the one advantage we have to looking at this race is romney ran four years ago so we can look at what the entrants polls said four years ago in iowa and figure out motivations. one thing i've been fascinated by when it comes, to and let me get our app going here tonight, is what is going to be the motivation of the voter as they go in? are they looking for a candidate that they personally believe in more, has core set of values, or are they looking for electability and experience? four years ago 80% came looking for a candidate that connected
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with them on core beliefs and said what they meant and mike huckabee destroyed mitt romney in those voters. those that show up for electability and experience, if you look here, only 21% of them. finally came up. we're working out the kinks here right now. they went for romney. now, is it going to be 21% this time that shows up thinking about electability first and experience, or is it going to be say 35%, 40% in the more people that show up tonight thinking about the general election, the better mitt romney does. the more it looks like four years, shares my values, core beliefs, that's a rick can strum electorate tonight, so that's a question we have on our entrance poll. we'll know that in 90 minutes we hope, and that will tell us sort of the makeup tonight, are these republican activists focused on their conservative beliefs or simply thinking about november and beating the president? >> chuck, the iowa caucus goer is such an experienced political animal. it's a minority of republican
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voters. >> yeah. >> in iowa, and it's folks who know what they are doing and are willing to spend several hours doing when almost nobody in the state is. do you find in general that they are thinking more strategically about the race, that they are thinking in terms of how it's going to affect further states, or are they voting as if they are voting essentially for the president of iowa? >> well, the thing is the answer is yes, i've run into both of those type of republican activists. you're right. there's all sorts of political analysts and pundits, guys that get involved in their local politics so they know and are gaming this out. a lot of iowa republicans don't want to coronate mitt romney tonight. they believe eventually they will be for him and the second choice, for instance, for a lot of newt gingrich and rick perry voters but he has to work harder to woo conservatives, hasn't done enough and not quite sold. iowa's job is winnow the field, not simply end the race, but then there are others. i ran into one woman who to me
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epitomized what mitt romney was trying to woo, and she said i love michelle bachmann, i wish she had a chance, she doesn't, i guess i'm going to caucus with romney because she didn't want to be with a losers and last night's mitt romney speech, if you read it carefully, everybody said was he going and gaming to say that i'm going to win this thing, he was trying to send a subtle messages, hey, i'm going to win this thing. maybe it's going to take me five weeks, maybe it will be tomorrow night, but don't you want to be with a winner? we're going to win this thing in the end and be the ones that go on to november, and i think he was trying to send that because that could have an impact on some of these -- some of these folks that show up tonight. >> of course, the risk of that, saying we're going to win, is if you don't you've set up your own expectations which is a huge part of implication of what iowa results mean. >> absolutely. >> we'll be checking in with you later. nbc's ron mott is northeast of iowa in johnston, home to one of the larger caucuses that's
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happening tonight in iowa. ron, what can you tell us about what's happening tonight and what you expect? >> reporter: hey there, rachel, good evening to you. you can see they are making final preparations to get some seats down for the folks who are going to come to this middle school to caucus tonight. this is one of about 1,800 of these meetings that will take place across iowa. all those 99 counties getting involved, and for people who don't really know what the caucuses mean, it really is what tip o'neill said, all politics is local. this is the community coming together, open politics in front of everyone. and what they will do is they will start the meeting here with the pledge of allegiance, have some administrative things to take care of at the top of the meeting and then surrogates for all the candidates will be invited to come up and make one final appeal to the voters. we understand former congressman from oklahoma j.c. watts, a little star power coming to speak upon behalf of newt gingrich, trying to close the deal for him in this caucus here so they will have their final pitches to voters, and then they hand out blank pieces of paper to the voters. they write down who they want to support, turn it back in and tabulate votes, they -- they announce it to the crowd here
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and send the results off to the state headquarters. everyone dashes back home to turn on the televisions and radios to see if their candidate ends the night as the leader of the pack, so it's very involved. expect to hear hey lot of applause lines coming from the surrogates to w.h.o. speak before the voters, trying to clothes deal, and what's interesting is so many people said they were coming to the caucuses tonight undecided 4. 1% in the later "des moines register" poll so a lot of folks may be swayed by what they hear in caucus meetings across this state tonight. a very interesting night, rachel. >> nbc news correspondent ron mott. thanks. we'll be checking in with you later on. i love the fact that people would go out on a very cold january night and be willing to spend definitely a minimum of several hours signature around talking politics while 40% of them have not yet decide what had they want to do. not going there for a crusade, not going there because they have got to get something done that they know they have to get something done for a specific candidate. going before they even know what they want to do. i love it. coming up, we'll be checking in with former republican national committee chairman michael
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steele and "washington post" pulitzer prize winning eugene robinson and ben ginsberg from the romney campaign. you're watching msnbc coverage of the iowa caucuses. stay with us. [ male announcer ] wouldn't it be cool if you took the top down on a crossover? if there were buttons for this? wouldn't it be cool if your car could handle the kids... ♪ ...and the nurburgring? or what if you built a car in tennessee that could change the world? yeah, that would be cool. nissan. innovation for today. innovation for tomorrow. innovation for all. ♪ [ whistle blows ] oh!
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welcome back to msnbc's continuing coverage of the iowa caucuses. let's check back in now with chris matthews who is in des moines. chris? >> joining me right now, as you said, rachel, i've got michael steele, the former chair of the republican national committee and eugene washington, the great columnist of the "washington post." gentlemen, i want to saw tough question. what's the most consequential result tonight in terms of who wins? >> oh, in terms -- in terms who have comes out of this thing on top tonight. if it's mitt romney, it's, you know, sort of of a firmation of everything up till now didn't
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matter. at the end. day he got the number he needed to go forward to new hampshire and beyond to take the nomination. if a santorum wins, for example, it's the big deal, a base sending the message to romney, that 25%, you're going to need more if you want that nomination, and right now our love is with somebody like santorum. >> if romney wins, the establishment candidate moves ahead to new hampshire, wins again and perhaps wins the nomination. >> yeah. >> if the challenge comes from santorum effectively tonight. >> the base sending a message. >> means something that we don't like the way this is going? >> right? >> gene? >> and i agree with michael, but if santorum, for example, were to win big what, that would do is slow this whole thing down. >> yes. >> and then would you no longer be able to assume that romney just walks -- walks, you know, cakewalks to the nomination because it would provide an opening for if not santorum, maybe newt to come back. >> that's right. >> maybe perry. >> that's right. >> the perpetual candidate of next month comes back.
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>> so there's different results. if it's mitt romney, means mitt rom i? on the way to winning it. if santorum wins mitt romney is not on the way to winning it but we don't know who is. >> not necessarily. i wouldn't even say the number, the gap between the number one and the number two matters. >> exactly. >> if there's a five, seven, eight-point gap that's a comfortable win. >> what i love is whoever wins, wins, there's no spread stuff, she didn't meet the spread. everybody thinks the top three about get 25%. romney gets about 25, santorum gets about 25 and maybe ron paul gets a little less than that. where is the other 25 going tonight? that's my big routine. you're the pundit here. where's that 25 go? it's a phantom 25%. >> half it is going to go to perry. >> it will get divide up. >> he'll get 12. >> 12, maybe 15. >> yeah, okay. >> and the rest -- >> bachmann will get 5 or 10. >> yeah. >> that's exactly sgligts what would be a big win, somebody said there would be a big winner
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tonight. can anybody get 30 tonight? >> plus 30. >> if you get 30, that's a huge win, particularly given how the numbers have played here in iowa up until now. do you believe there's 41% undecideded? >> yeah. >> a congressman sitting in that seat a few minutes ago who said -- i think this is some of this is bs, says he doesn't know how to vote. >> knows how he's going to vote. just didn't want to say. >> why is 41% undecideded? >> the same problem that romney has had from the day he's announced is the base has not gravitated to him. >> he's dog food the dog won't eat? >> that's one way to put t.one way to put, it yeah. >> eat your peas and your bran, you know, that's mitt romney. >> that bad? >> lack of love. >> just to sum this up, only have a minute. the candidate that wins tonight gets a clear win, nobody has to beat the spread. you win, you win. you get the headline. do you still get the covers of the weekly magazines, "newsweek" and "time?" >> that depends who is closest to you. if it's a small gap, usual
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sharing the headline, see what i'm saying? >> if there's a 1% or 2% -- >> i hope the editors of "newsweek" and "time" are watching. >> right back to rachel. take it away, rachel. >> still ahead, much more from ed schultz, steve schmitt, lawrence o'donnell and reverend al sharpton here in new york and we'll be talking with one of mitt romney's senior advisers, ben ginsberg. you're watching msnbc's coverage of the iowa caucuses. [ woman ] my boyfriend and i were going on vacation, so i used my citi thank you card to pick up some accessories. a new belt. some nylons. and what girl wouldn't need new shoes?
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we're back here hon this iowa caucus night with our panel. steve schmitt, senior strategist to the 2008 john mccain campaign, now an msnbc political anly. also ed schultz, the host of "the ed show" and lawrence o'donnell, host of "the last word" and the reverend al sharpton, former presidential candidate himself and host of "politics nation" and krz also joins from us iowa tonight. guys, i feel like most discussion has been about who has the most to gain tonight, the conventional wisdom that if
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romney can do very well in iowa that will make him a more forment dabble front-runner, but i've been looking more at the downside. i feel like the only candidates who have no risk, nothing could happen tonight that could hurt them are jon huntsman, because he didn't campaign at all in iowa, so if he gets 1%, wow, it's a windfall for jon huntsman, got 1% and even ron paul. even if ron paul does not place in the top three, which everybody says he has chance to do, ron paul hats wherewithal and campaign mindset to keep chugging. he won precisely zero states in 2008. they not drop out until june. mitt romney was out in february and mike huckabee out in march. ron paul was still chugging away in june, and i think he still has that mindset so i don't think either of those guys can be hurt tonight, but everybody else does sort of really face some risk tonight, don't they? >> well, i think the biggest risk tonight is -- is probably mitt romney. i mean, he has --
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>> got the biggest downside, you think? >> spent the most money going after newt gingrich. he is the biggest name in the field. he has done a pretty good job the last couple of weeks in iowa, but if he doesn't finish, you know, first or second, i think the social conservatives are going to smell some blood, and they are going to say, hey, wait a minute, you know. i really believe that iowa is so different. it really is a crap shoot all the way down to the end. even the governor of iowa said that. it's a tough one to call. if you're polling in high double digits and if you're good on the ground and you've got a bunch of undecideds going into that room tonight, you have just as good a chance as everybody else to win. i don't think mitt romney has done anything over the last nfor year to turn the key for more votes in iowa. those social conservatives that went with huckabee, they are still there. the pie is divided a little bit
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different, but surging guy has been santorum, so i think real the guy i think that could lose a lot tonight as far as confidence is concerned is mitt romney. >> the question is if they do smell that blood in the water, does that make them coalesce around anybody else because i think they have sensed mitt romney's weakness from the very beginning but that hasn't made them coalesce around anybody else who could topple them? >> but i think that he had is right. romney has the most at risk, but you've got to look at again, turnout. because suppose romney brings out the voters he brought last time, but the other side does not bring out, then he doesn't need to go from 30% to 40% because the 30% he had becomes 40%. i'm looking at the fact there's not a lot of excitement on the ground, and that's what gives a ron paul the edge because he may be able to bring his people out. and i think that that is going to be the story when this is over. you've got more people going to the sugar bowl than will vote for one of these guys tonight,
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but they will be the face of this party. the other thing i thought that was interest, rachel, maybe chris could tell us, is i didn't see when ron was showing us the setup where the voter i.d. booth was. these guys believe in voter i.d., they will let people walk in without state i.d. and caucus tonight. this is amazing. >> they have change that had a little bit, have they not, rachel? >> got to show an i.d. in order to register to vote in iowa tonight, but don't have to show voter i.d. in order to vote tonight if you are already a registered voter even though iowa republicans in the legislature tried to make that the rule. >> clearly a double standard for what you're talking b.what's a good turnout, 120,000, 140,000? >> 120,000 was in 2008, a record, the highest it's ever been. >> suppose if they do 110,000, what would that say? >> that would be a huge number. >> that would be a huge number, but if romney can bring back his same numbers with 110,000 people voting, he got 30,000 out of
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110,000. >> see, i think if ten people showed up and mitt romney couldn't get over two and a half of them, why can't he improve his 25% over four years of campaigning. spent $10 million. >> it's $9 million newt is going to put on him between now and new hampshire and south carolina is going tonight problem. >> there's nothing but blue skies for governor romney tonight provide he had finishes in the top three. his most dangerous opponent that emerged during this, you know, year of asininity as lawrence pointed out was speaker grinchings and spe gingrich, and speaker gingrich has been hobbled by the pros nez iowa so the most dangerous opponent governor romney had to face is going to come out very weak. i will say this by governor huntsman. his calculus what happens in iowa doesn't affect what happens in new hampshire, that he could campaign in new hampshire pretending iowa didn't matter what. will be interesting to see if in fact senator santorum has a good night tonight as the poll
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suggest, does he skyrocket past governor huntsman in new hampshire as the romney alternative, and that will be one of the interesting things to see. i think it's tough when politicians enter this process and decide to start playing in the third inning. and -- and we'll see what governor huntsman's strategy yields. >> i will say though that i think while newt gingrich has been a formidable opponent for mitt romney, i think the jon huntsman ads against mitt romney, maybe nobody has seen them but substantively they are the most devastating anti-romney ads i've seen. i don't know if anybody will pay attention to jon huntsman. maybe starting in the second inning in new hampshire will be too late for him, but i think when he trains his sights on mitt romney, his whole life has been about running against mitt romney and can you see it in the sharp hess of those ads. >> no question. >> chris, you've fwhn iowa doing your show from there and take the temperature there. when you look out there, you're horrified by the negativity of the ads, but is anybody doing them any better than anybody else? >> no, the ads by the romney
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folks, the front group basically for him are basically doing the job of destroying newt gingrich. what i think is fascinating and comes out of what ed says and what steve said. what happens if the whole result of the next several events here, caucuses tonight and in new hampshire and then down to south carolina and on through florida is that romney never really gets beyond about 25%. do people basically say they don't like him, but he beats his main opponent which is newt gingrich, so, in other words there, he's no one else around that's a real alternative who could win and beat him, and yet he's unpopular. what happens when the republican voter who is reading the paper and watching television says wait a minute, what happened here? we agreed we don't like mitt romney but romney has cleverly destroyed the only person we could beat him. are we forced to beat for somebody we don't lyrics even if we want to change presidents? this is a real quandary for thoughtful republicans now. if they don't like romney and they like a change in presidents and there's no one else to vote for, what do they do, and i
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don't know the answer to that. hive never stheen happ-- seen t happen before. it might well happen this way. >> we'll be talking live with a romney campaign senior adviser ben ginsberg and we'll hearing from a key newt gingrich supporter. you're watching msnbc's coverage of the iowa calk yucuses. stay with us. i love to eat. i love hanging out with my friends. i have a great fit with my dentures. i love kiwis. i've always had that issue
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we're back with msnbc's continuing coverage of the iowa caucuses. i'm rachel maddow here in new york, and i'm joined from des moines, iowa, by chris matthews. chris? >> i'm joined by howard fineman, editorial director of "the huffington post. "you've been out here all week, me almost as long. let's go to that question if they don't like romney and doesn't get his usual vote beyond the 25%, what do voters do from here on out? >> what i've been struck by here is the general lack of stirring enthusiasm really for any of these candidates, and -- and in that kind of dreary atmosphere mitt romney has a chance to win what would be sort of a pyrrhic victory because if we finishes first, which is possible, he'll do it in a context where i don't think there's going to be a big turnout. talking to everybody all day about turnout, 140,000 would be
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huge. "the des moines register" said 135,000. i don't think it's going to be anywhere near that. doesn't feel as exciting. there's something grudging almost and last resortish about almost all of the voters and all of the candidates. the exception to some extent is hard core for ron paul. the exception is a growing hard core for rack santorum, but beyond that and including mitt romney there's no great enthusiasm so what that portends to mesa long twilight struggle in which mitt romney is almost kind of like the occupying force of a party that he doesn't really control or in which he's not beloved. can he win the nomination in that kind of situation? yes, i suppose, but it's proportional representation this time. it's not winner take all. >> yeah. >> so it could be a long struggle, and i think we'll look back on iowa and say this was the beginning what have could be a long struggle. mitt romney is fully aware of this which is, why i've been told, he's going to go straight to new hampshire for a day or two and then dip right down to south carolina.
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he thinks he's okay in new hampshire, at least for now. we'll see, but he's going to go straight to south carolina. he announced to the world the other day that he'd become more conservative. >> that ought to do it. going swear to this? >> iowa is the bath that has made him more conservative and going to south carolina because if he gets his butt kicked in south carolina, that really means civil war all the way through. >> back to you, rachel. >> thanks, howard, thanks, chris. joings joining from ing us headquarters is ben ginsberg for the romney for president campaign. really happy to have you here this evening. good evening. >> thanks, nice to be with you, rachel. >> let me ask you if you anticipate that your candidate, mitt romney, will be able to improve on his 25% showing in the iowa caucuses in 2008. it's been a long time, a lot of water under the bridge since then. do you expect a better showing tonight? >> well, we think the voters of iowa have herd mitt romney he's message and that he'll do quite well tonight.
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the benchmarks are the benchmarks, but he's going to do well, and, in fact, tonight it will already be a victory in the sense that not six weeks ago you were saying he couldn't possibly win and tonight we're in the hunt. >> in terms of the competition from his fellow candidates in iowa, newt gingrich does not appear to be polling as a top three candidate right now, although quite recently he was in the lead. mr. gingrich made a lot of waves this morning when he said mitt romney is, and i'm quoting him, a liar. he described mr. romney a liar for denying responsibility for the negative tone of ads run by a pac which is not directly associated with mr. romney but is clearly in his camp. he also called mr. romney a liar for claiming to be a conservative. do you have a response to those allegations? >> oh, i've known newt gingrich since 1985 and worked with him since then, and to me it's just sad that as his campaign is floundering he's turning to sort of personal attacks about that,
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and -- and i'm saddened by that more than anything else. >> hey, ben, it's lawrence o'donnell. you're one of the great republican power broker lawyers and one of the great thinkers behind citizens united. >> sounds like a setup. >> it is a setup. it's playing out exactly the way you wanted it, to isn't it? you've got all this money bombing the other candidates without any technical legal association with the romney campaign. >> well, it's the way i think we expected it to play out which is not the same thing as want it to play out. the whole campaign financing scheme has south to limit candidates but yet constitutionally it can't limit what outside groups do, so have you a disparity in the system. i'm not sure that's particularly healthy, but it is the inevitable result of a robust
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first amendment and legislative limiting on what candidates can do so i don't think this outcome should be surprising to anyone. >> ben, i know that the candidate cannot specifically coordinate with the super pac, but any candidate can say, and romney can can s-- can say, i want all of the negative advertising to stop what. prevents him from saying that? >> well, what prevents him from saying that is the plain wording of the law that says you can't coordinate -- >> i'm saying he can say i don't want negative advertising in this campaign, without any reference to that super pac so he avoids the legal technicality. >> lawrence, if -- i'm sorry, but if he could say that, then he could also say i want you to buy 800 points worth of time in the northwest corner of the state that targets 18 to 28-year-olds, and would you say that was illegal. >> no, ben. >> and there's no substantive
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difference. i disagree. >> you're distorting the law. >> lawrence, you and i have talked about this. i understand this is not the outcome or the result that you want. nonetheless it is what the law is. >> i'm going to jump in here to allow chris matthews in a different part of des moines to jump in with you, mr. beginsberg. chris go, ahead. >> ben, it seems like you and the candidate are speaking differently on this because governor romney just said that he could, of course, tell them to tone it down and stop being so negative but he said if newt can't stand the kitchen, he ought to -- can't stand the heat he ought to get out of heat. he said going further in this argument there will be a hell's kitchen coming from the obama campaign. he admits he can tell them to tone it down to stop the negative and newt gingrich ought to be able to take the negative. you're saying as his lawyer he shouldn't be saying that. did he say something wrong there? did he break the law in saying that? >> you're mixing -- you're
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mixing -- no. chris, i love you, but you're mixing apples and oranges there. one is the comment about what's involved with the law. the other is the comment that politically whoever the republican nominee is is going to go through the hell's kitchen of barack obama and he is negative ad barrage which has already been directed on mitt romney this cycle through barack obama's super pac. are you not quite so outraged about that, however. >> ben, back to the point you were talking about -- >> the point is not a veiled point. >> your candidate said -- he's wrong. you're saying he's wrong to say that he could tell the super pac to cool it? >> no. >> you're saying he was wrong to say that? >> no. my candidate is never wrong, but you're mixing apples and oranges in what you're trying to get me to say. one is the legal standard and one is the politics. >> your candidate finally broke his leash and said something you don't think he should have said which is to say he could tell
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them not to go negative. >> i'm not accepting this characterization in the least, chris, i'm just not accepting it. >> it's not a characterization. just an acknowledgement. you'll be able to check the wire copy, the candidate and his counsellor are not on the same page. >> thank you. want to get al sharpton in here. >> mr. ginsberg, let me ask you this. >> why don't you let schmidt ask something. >> you do know that nurt nutewt gingrich has attacked the negative campaigning over and over again and called you liars. are you prepared to say that newt gingrich broke the law by saying that negative campaigning and these pacs should be saying this, by saying what your candidate cannot say? are you saying that mr. gingrich went over the lines of the law? >> well, i'm not sure i follow the question, but i think
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mr. gingrich was not necessarily speaking as a legal matter today. he was speaking more as the political matter which is the point i was frying to make with chris. >> and he said throughout the process he's been attacking the pacs for what they are doing, and particularly saying the pac of mr. romney, of your campaign that he felt was connect canned to your campaign. are you saying what he was saying was wrong, that no candidate should be address any of that, are you saying that that bends the law or breaks the law? >> i don't -- no. again, i think you're mixing two different things. i think if newt gingrich is talking about a super pac that has nothing to do with them, nobody is really going to accuse him of coordinating it. that would not be true -- >> why canned the candidate do the same thing? >> in the way this is all framed. >> why can't mitt romney say the super pac shouldn't be doing that? >> if newt gingrich has a super pac -- the same thing, the same
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thing would be if newt gingrich runs a super pac affiliated with newt gingrich, then mitt romney could comment on it. >> ben, did you just say that super pac is affiliated with mitt romney? >> yes, they. >> you're saying -- >> then i misspoke. >> you're saying the super pac is affiliated with mitt romney? >> that was -- that was -- i believe that was the way you framed the question. there is a super pac who ran ads that said things about mr. gingrich, and mr. gingrich accused it of being affiliated with mr. romney. >> and it is affiliated with mr. romney and that's why you're saying -- >> you -- >> it's not -- come on. let's not -- >> that's what you said. >> let's not try to play gotcha word games here. anything else you want to ask about? >> ben ginsberg, chief counsel and senior adviser to the romney campaign, i feel like i'm sort of throwing you a life ring just by offering you the chance to say good-bye but i also hope
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this means you will never come back? >> well, it's a pleasure to be with you. say hi to steve sch myodt, too. >> steve is perfectly -- steve is more capable of anyone that i november jumping in on his own terms. i'll never invite him unless he wants to be invited. aim right, steve? >> oh, the republican damning with faint praise all night long. the role of negative advertising playing in iowa. whether or not those pacs are affiliated with the campaigns. speaking of the ads focused on newt gingrich, and we'll be speaking with one of mr. gingrich's biggest supporters. for 80 years, we've been inspired by you. and we've been honored to walk with you to help you get where you want to be. ♪
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negative campaign ads have played and outsized role in iowa this election selection. nbc news investigative reporter michael isikoff has more on what the role of those ads has been.
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good evening, mike. >> good evening, rachel. look, one of the biggest stories out of tonight's iowa caucuses the power of the attack ads funded by so-called super pacs. the best example, the pro-romney super pac called restore our future. a figure to keep in mind, 2.8 million. that's how much restore our future spent on tv ads in iowa, and it's actually nearly twice as much as the 1.5 million spent by romney's own presidential campaign, and almost all of that super pac ad money has gone for hash attacks against newt gingrich like these. >> newt has more baggage than the airlines. he was fined $300,000 for ethics violations and took $1.6 million from freddie mac. >> i made a big mistake in the spring. >> haven't we had enough mistakes? restore our future is responsible for the content of this message. >> how much of an impact did these ads have? look at this. on december 4th gingrich is number one in iowa with 26% in the polls.
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that's the -- that very week the super pac ad blitz girns and by the end of the month, newt's support is cut in half to just 13%. now, most political analysts say the attack ads played a big factor, if not the only factor in, gingrich's fall. they were made, this is interesting, by larry mccarthy, a restore our future founder and veteran republican media consultant, who was best known for making the willy horton ad that was so devastating against michael dukakis in 1988. >> he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. one was willie horton who murdered a boy in a robbery, stabbing him 19 times. >> this year restore our future isn't the only super pac that has been bombarding the airwaves in iowa. all the presidential candidates have them, but what they do have in common, thanks to that supreme court ruling which you were discussing before, they can take unlimited donations from
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wealthy donors and corporations, and all that is resulting in millions for attack ads that are changing the course of this presidential campaign. >> nbc's michael isikoff. thank you for that. i want to get reaction to that now from the gingrich campaign. rick tyler was an early supporter of newt gingrich and served as his campaign spokesman until he left the campaign with a lot of other staffers in june. rick has returned to the fold, and now he's part of the winning our future super pac that is running ads in support of mr. gingrich. mr. tyler, thanks very much for joining us tonight. we're happy to have you. >> hey, rachel, glad to be here. >> do you agree with the basic thesis that when people can donate money and not have their name attached to that money and when candidates can have pacs affiliated with them without technically being affiliated with them that there's more freedom to run more negative and in some cases more false advertising? >> well, that's certainly been the result of the super pakz for the romney campaign, and i think the whole system is broken. you know, why shouldn't
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candidates have this ability to raise all the money they can can themselves and be transparent about it about who hats money. that's what we get when politicians try to cull free speech. supreme court narrowly ruled and here we are with super pacs and the first result may not be the candidates out of iowa but iowa itself. if in fact it proves that the candidate that spent the least amount of time and most amount in negative ads wins iowa, people will pretty quickly get the idea you don't have to eat the pork chop on the stick and go to 99 counties, forget going to the businesses, just run negative ads, that's what it takes to win iowa. i hope that's not the case. >> rick tyler with the winning the future super pac. looking forward to talking with you over the course of the evening as this unfolds tonight. thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> the doors are about to open at caucus sites throughout iowa. we'll be back in just a moment. our team here in new york and in des moines. we'll be here throughout evening as the results start to come in from iowa. right now the polling heading into tonight's race, it's very,
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very tight among three candidates at the top. the field is basically wide oh. you're watching msnbc's coverage of the iowa caucuses. stay with us. ] is zero worth nothing? ♪ imagine zero pollutants in our environment. or zero dependency on foreign oil. ♪ this is why we at nissan built a car inspired by zero. because zero is worth everything. the zero gas, 100% electric nissan leaf. innovation for the planet. innovation for all. and it hasn't been going exactly as planned. cut. cut! [ monica ] i thought we'd be on location for 3 days -- it's been 3 weeks. so i had to pick up some more things. good thing i've got the citi simplicity card. i don't get hit with a fee if i'm late with a payment... which is good because on this job, no! bigger! [ monica ] i may not be home for a while.
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