Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 1/31/2016
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: January 31, 2016
Guest: Elise Jordan; Boris Epshteyn; Vaughn Hillyard; Akhil Reed Amar,
Symone Sanders, Erika Alexander, Danny Freeman, Addisu Demissie, Austin
Cook, Daniela Feijoo
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good morning to you. I`m Ari Melber in for
Melissa Harris-Perry. But she is out in Iowa today as we count down to the
last 36 hours to the caucus. With them, the very first votes that will be
cast in the 2016 presidential race.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Hey, what`s going on?
MELBER: Just getting ready to do this. It is a very exciting day here in
the place for politics. And we are going to get to Melissa who everyone
can see there live in Iowa in just a second. That`s what we call proof of
But first, that new poll out last night from the “Des Moines Register” and
Bloomberg news. Let`s show it to you. On the Republican side, Trump
maintaining a lead of five points over Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio, you see
there, coming up in third. And for Democrats, this looks close to a two-
person tie. Clinton at 45 percent. This is among likely Iowa democratic
caucus goers, those who count. And then Sanders there at 42 percent. A
margin of error, we should tell you, of four points.
What does that mean? Well, it`s anybody`s game, which is why the
candidates have been campaigning so hard in Iowa all this weekend, making
their final pitches to both the decided and undecided Iowans alike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those of you who are
still thinking and weighing your options, I hope to be able to persuade you
to come out and also caucus for me, because the stakes in this election are
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iowa is prepared to say
that it is just too late for establishment politics, and establishment
economics. That in fact we need a political revolution.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You`re going to love me as
president, and I love you anyway. So get out. Get out and vote. Get out
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that you have a lot
of choices, right? One out of seven Republicans are running for president
this year, so. But I`m asking you to caucus for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And let`s get right to it. I`m going to turn things over right
now to Melissa Harris-Perry who you know is in Des Moines, Iowa, where all
the action is happening. Now, she has got E.J. Dionne from the “Washington
Post,” who is also an MSNBC contributor. We want to mention author of this
new book “why the right went wrong” conservatism from gold water to the tea
party and beyond.
Over to you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks so much, Ari.
So I do have E.J. here with me. And in fact, E.J., I want to start on the
Republican side. In part because the caucuses in Iowa really are two
different kinds of events. There are Democratic caucuses and Republican
caucuses. They actually are different kinds of things that happen, you
know, tomorrow night. So start with the Republican caucuses. What will
actually happen for Republicans who show up in those classrooms and high
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the Republicans have a much simpler
system and we will probably know a lot more about the Republican race
earlier. Because the Republicans essentially go in, they have – they
argue, they talk about it, but the vote is simply a ballot. You write the
name down of your candidate. In some places, I think you can check the
box. And then you count the votes. So that the Republican results will be
essentially the popular vote of those people who show up to caucus.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, Ivanka Trump has this kind of – I love the piece
only because it`s a reminder that even in a place like Iowa where so many
people are kind of long-term caucusers that even here, people have to be
reminded. So Ivanka Trump got this piece out for her dad where she is
like, it will only take about half hour. You go in. You write down Trump.
And it`s just a reminder that for Mr. Trump, he is relying on brand-new
caucusers to show up. You know, she tells them, go and find out, you know,
where you`re going to caucus. Know that it`s a different place than where
you cast a general election vote.
DIONNE: Well, the biggest question for Trump is exactly that is whether he
can get people, his supporters, on the whole, are not people who
participated before. Some have, obviously. The “Des Moines Register” poll
has been historically very good at figuring out who is going to show up.
And, you know, which is very hard to do, because it`s a relatively small
turnout compared to a presidential election. But that is still the big
question. Will the Trump people show?
The other interesting question is, organization has a lot to do with this.
And historically, the evangelical conservative movement has been better
than anybody on the Republican side at turning out votes. The last two
winners here were Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Both powered by the
Now, the “Des Moines Register” poll suggests a lower percentage of
Republicans are going to be evangelicals than before. But that also
squares with they`re showing Trump ahead, but what Cruz has going for him
is so much certainly the case that a higher percentage of Cruz supporters
around the state are going to show up at the caucuses than anybody else
because of the power of that evangelical machine.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Trump clearly knows, again, the power of that
evangelical vote. Let`s take a listen to his most recent ad on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really appreciate the support
given to me by the evangelicals. They have been incredible. Every poll
says how well I`m doing with them. And you know, my mother gave me this
bible, this very bible many years ago. In fact, it`s her writing right
here. She wrote the name and my address. And it`s just very special to
me. And again, I want to thank the evangelicals. I will never let you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So is that an effective strategy? Kind of the mother, the
bible, not really a religious message there, just kind of a show of the
DIONNE: Well, again, what you`re seeing is the power of the evangelicals
here. I mean, there are times when Republican speeches here sound like
you`re at a prayer service. I saw Marco Rubio last night, and he was - he
has been very explicit about his faith in a way he hasn`t necessarily been
elsewhere. Ted Cruz`s speeches, fused with scripture and prayer. And
Trump doesn`t need to win a majority of evangelicals. He just needs to
take a piece, pieces of it away from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. But I
think, you know, if Trump wins, it will be a real blow to the traditional
Christian conservative movement, which was built on, you know, the so-
called values issues related to abortion and religious liberty and school
And if Trump wins, with a decent share of the evangelicals, it`s going to
be based on anger and a sense of identity, that our identity is under
threat here. And I think that`s one reason why the traditional evangelical
groups are working so hard for Cruz because they want to say, we are still
here. The old movement is still alive. It`s really the old movement
against a certain kind of backlash politics that Trump represents.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s pop over to the Democratic side, which is really my
favorite part of the caucuses. I have a group of students who are here
with me. And for those who have been working on the democratic campaigns,
I keep telling them, there are cookies, right. It is a different way to
caucus. What is going to happen for the Democratic caucusers?
DIONNE: The democratic rules, maybe Democrats like complicated rules. You
walk in and you go to a side of the room for your candidate. And you all
stand together. And democrats have this rule about viability which if you
don`t get 15 percent in a precinct, your candidate is no longer viable.
And so, there are several things that can happen at that point. One, the
obvious one is, and in this case, it will be Martin O`Malley. He is not
clear how many precincts he is going to be viable in. So O`Malley people
can redistribute themselves to Sanders or Clinton. And there`s already
been a lot of preliminary work in those precincts to identify the O`Malley
people to persuade them, well, if your guy can`t make it, come to us.
DIONNE: Which is another odd thing that could happen, which is if you`re
in a precinct with, say, two delegates, you have to win that
overwhelmingly. I think it is like 75 percent to get both delegates. If
you beat me 60/40, I still get one delegate. You may have Clinton and
Sanders people throwing votes to O`Malley. If they have enough to keep the
other out so that a precinct will report one Clinton, one O`Malley or one
Sanders, one O`Malley. So there are an extraordinary number of games you
can play with in the Democratic process because you`re going to have a
certain number of O`Malley voters. So those voters will never be more
popular than they are in those hours on that evening.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. On Monday night, may be the most powerful,
the Martin O`Malley and Martin O`Malley supporters will be for this entire
primary. It will be fascinating to watch how that happens.
So we are going to send it back to Ari Melber in New York. We`ll be seeing
you again a little later in the show. Lots going on here in Des Moines –
MELBER: This was great, Melissa. And you are special to me as an O`Malley
voter tomorrow night. So we will be checking back with you.
DIONNE: Me, too.
MELBER: Up next, we have a closer look at the Republican side. Their
closing arguments in Iowa from attacking Democrats to, yes, attacking each
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Right? But he`s an anchor baby. No, he`s an anchor baby. Ted
Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like Donald, and he is
welcome to say whatever he likes. I like and respect him. That`s all I
got to say. And right now, it`s up to the voters to decide.
TRUMP: At Florida, we just came out 48 percent, 48 percent. We have a
sitting senator who is running. You have a sitting senator. Rubio is
running. He is at 11 percent. I`m at 48 percent. And you have a guy
named Bush. He was a governor, low energy.
RUBIO: I truly personally like everyone running on the Republican side.
You know, Ted Cruz has been my friend and is. He has decided to run a very
deceitful campaign at the end. Some things he`s saying. People see
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s some of the latest from Republican candidates taking jabs
at each other, although they are all friends as they make these pivotal
closing arguments to Iowa voters.
Now, let`s get right to it. We have Boris Epshteyn, a Republican
strategist, and former aide with the McCain/Palin campaign. Elise Jordan,
NBC News and MSNBC political analyst, and a former adviser in policy. L.
Joy Williams, national political strategist and president of the Brooklyn
NAACP and Mark Alexander, professor of Seton Hall law school and a former
adviser to Barack Obama.
So a couple former advisers in the house. Starting over here at our sort
of Republican lane, you know, Kasich said in the last debate, there`s a
Kasich lane, which I didn`t know. I hadn`t heard that except for Kasich.
But in our Republican lane here, obviously, the “Des Moines Register” poll,
which is different than so many others, which actually models the turnout
universe correctly and has a precedent for that, does show Trump is
BORIS EPSHTEYN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right, he is, but only a five-point
difference. And if you look at the polling from last time around, from
2012, with three days out, Santorum was down by nine points in the same Des
Moines poll, and ended up winning or not winning, you never know. But he
gained all the nine points that were assigned to the undecided. So right
now there is plenty of time.
MELBER: You see there, and this is significant is that yes, Trump in the
lead, but only seven percent of everyone else sees him as anywhere near
their top pick, whereas Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, I think for a range of
reasons, have tremendous what you might call secondary or residual support.
Those are people who actually really like this guys but are going to them
at least. I mean, how does that play in as we try to understand the
sorting among Republicans?
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What I found most interesting about
the new poll is I think Cruz is down five points. So he is going down and
Marco Rubio is going up. And so, that is momentum on Rubio`s part in these
final hours. And I think that that`s something who has momentum is so much
more important in the last hours before people actually go to vote.
MELBER: Well, you mentioned Cruz. L. Joy, we have something going on here
that has gotten some attention among political junkies. But I don`t know
if everyone has ever heard about yet and we can put up on the screen. Ted
Cruz basically sending out these flyers trying to get people to vote, but
suggesting that not voting might be some sort of – you see it in red –
voting violation, which drew a rebuke from the secretary of state of Iowa
who, of course, generally tries to stay out of all this but that was how
bad they deemed it. And yet the Cruz campaign fired back and said
something I want you to address, which is they said, hey, we want to
apologize for trying to encourage people to get out and vote.
L. JOY WILLIAMS, NATIONAL POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Not only that. But this
is something in various forms that happened in campaigns all the time. It
might not be this blatant in terms of making it look like a parking ticket
or something like that. But you know, to send letters to voters or even in
the call script in the final days where you call and say, listen, you have
consistently turned out. Or the records show that you have consistently
turned out or you haven`t voted in the last election and we need you to
So there have been different variations this happened in campaigns as part
of the strategy you use to get people out to vote. This is, I think, way
overboard. Way overboard. And it - this is a strong reaction from people.
But it also does attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it plays into the narrative that Ted Cruz is not a
nice guy. And that`s a narrative you have seen from his days at Princeton
to his days working in Texas to the Senate, to now. People do not like Ted
Cruz and voters don`t like him because of that.
MARK ALEXANDER, PROFESSOR, SETON HALL LAW SCHOOL: Well that, I think, goes
to also who they`re going to stay with over the course of the evening. The
thing about the caucus we have to remember is you stay in the evening. You
have to talk and talk. You say this is my first choice. You show the
second choice candidates, that`s key because once your candidate falls off,
you have to move on to a second candidate. So the thing is it is going to
be the staying power of the candidates that`s very important.
MELBER: We`re getting into the weeds here, but that`s where you want to be
one day out. I mean, at least when I worked in the Iowa caucuses as a
field organizer on the democratic side. I worked for John Kerry at the
time. You have the ordering and you have these speeches and all that. But
the Republican process, as we were showing – Melissa was showing just last
block, with Ivanka Trump saying it`s easy. No big deal. Just come on in.
She`s right. I mean, it isn`t as hard and there isn`t as much of the give
and take. Does that benefit the people near the top right now?
JORDAN: I think, you know, at this stage, I really don`t want to say
because the Trump numbers are so much is such an unknown because are these
people who are going to show up in the first place to caucus. And you look
at how they`re polling and they are people who are not traditional caucus
goers. I think about 50 percent of what his supposed strength is. So I
don`t even want to speculate there because the Trump phenomena is such a
total unknown right now.
WILLIAMS: And I think also what the polls show are there are a large
percentage of people who are undecided, haven`t made up their mind, can be
persuaded. And so, if I`m going to actually leave my house and go and
caucus and I`m still undecided, what am I going to be swayed by.
MELBER: And the goes to a great point on turnout. I will get you back in
Boris„ but like that`s something people forget, which is when you actually
look at the turnout models, right, the campaigns are rating each potential
caucus goer and a one if they`re a firm supporter and two is light support
and three is undecided. One of the things that happened and we see this up
here in the screen all about turnout there, one of the things that happened
in previous cycles is the Dean campaign was losing its support, but still
trying to turn out people that it had identified as supporters. And they
turned them out, hey, reminder, go to the caucus, and then they weren`t
voting for Howard Dean. To Elise`s point, you have folks like Cruz with a
turnout team that is much more effective than Trump. Not many voters have
been contacted by the Trump campaign.
EPSHTEYN: Polling can be wrong, but (INAUDIBLE) not that wrong. Trump is
going to have a lot of support in these caucuses. If he loses, he`ll lose
by a small margin. Now, someone to keep an eye on is definitely Marco
Rubio. But now, we haven`t talked about somebody outside of the top three
of Trump, Cruz, Rubio. Kasich, who you mentioned at the outset, is very
interesting to keep an eye on. He has had a very good organization in
Iowa, and he`s pressed a lot of fresh.
MELBER: And he just got two endorsements, one that doesn`t matter for
Republican primaries, the “New York Times,” but the other one, the quad
city newspaper there, votes for Bernie and Kasich. Quad City Times. And
these are things that, again, we`re not talking, Mark, about moving 50,000
people. We`re talking about moving 500, 1,000, 2,000.
ALEXANDER: And that`s what`s so important in the Republican primaries.
You have so many people. The caucus coming up and primaries. A question
of a little margin here and there. And so that every last voter, Elise
talked about, you know, the momentum. Those things are really going to
matter. The last voter out.
MELBER: All right. Look, I want to thank Boris and Elise here. And then
we are going to be seeing a lot more of you here in the coming days. And
L. Joy and Mark are staying with us.
I you to stay right there because we are going to check on more from the
campaign trail, candidates making the final dash across Iowa.
MELBER: Donald Trump still holding a big lead in the polls in Iowa. He
says it might be a path to victory tomorrow. Starting his day here on the
campaign trail with a stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He is going to end the
day with a larger rally in the convention center in Sue (ph) City.
NBC`s Kerry Sanders now in the thick of it in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Nice to see you, Kerry. Walk us through the turnout strategy here. I
think even Trump detractors would acknowledge long-term polling support.
How does he turn that into caucus goers?
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a real big question.
How do you get people who have been so enthusiastic, showed up to political
rallies, things they have never done before because they were apathetic,
they didn`t think the political process was something that reflected them,
and then show up, not to a rally as there will be again this morning at the
middle school in Council Bluffs, but actually show up to caucus. To
actually get out there and do something.
So first of all, let`s take a look at those poll numbers, which shows that
Trump is now, according to the most recent poll, leading by five points,
which is a dramatic turn around, really, from December, where he was down
15 points. So this dramatic turn has happened very quickly leading up to
the caucus. And then we see that the question is, what is a caucus? You
have never been part of it. The word even sounds like an ugly word.
Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump have sort of put together a video trying to
explain to people what a caucus is, effectively going to a location,
somebody`s house, a school gymnasium, it`s all determined. Donald Trump
put up a Web site to try to guide people based on their addresses of where
to go, to participate in a back and forth for about a half hour. And of
course, it can get contentious, you know. You have people in a room who
will decide how they`re going to vote, and then they write it on a piece of
paper. Small towns in Iowa, 99 counties, 1681 of these caucus locations,
and you know, depending on how heated it gets, you could lose some friends.
One of the big parts about the vote in Iowa is that evangelical vote. And
Donald Trump seems to be playing to that vote. There`s a picture of him
here. You can see him holding what he says is the bible that his mother
gave him. And Donald Trump just a week ago, when he went to church, said
that it was not a routine experience for him to go to church. And he said
that the sermon there was about humility. Sort of ironic, since Donald
Trump is not known for being the most humble of men.
He will be in church today here in Council Bluffs. We understand, and then
he will hold a rally. At the end of the day, that evangelical vote may be
what determines who actually wins, getting out in what will be snow.
Getting out in what will be, you know, if there`s something good on TV,
maybe people are going to stay home. We really don`t know until we see if
these people go to caucus rather than to a rally.
MELBER: well, yes. And I know, Kerry, when you went to - when Trump went
to church last week, the campaign said he gave a, quote, “generous
donation.” Always something that is better for someone else to say than
you to say about your own tithing.
But Kerry Sanders in Council Bluffs, we will be coming back to you all day.
Thank you so much.
Senator Ted Cruz hoping to erase Donald Trump`s lead, of course, somehow in
the next 31 hours. He has three events today and he is going to finish
late tonight. We have NBC political analyst Vaughn Hillyard following the
Cruz campaign from Des Moines.
What`s going on? What`s the closing strategy here?
VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ari. So the closing strategy
for Ted Cruz is actually number one, he has to finish his 99-county tour.
He is trying to go to full grass all 99 counties. He has a plan to finish
it tomorrow. He spent the last couple days going to small towns. We went
to this town of Hamlin yesterday with just 252 people. And a lot of people
are kind of saying what at this point, when you are trying to compete with
Donald Trump, you need to go to places with as big of urban cores as you
can get. But Ted Cruz is in part of its strategies is going to these rural
counties. The same places where Mike Huckabee won in 2008, where Rick
Santorum won in 2012. He really needs to utilize it.
And Kerry was talking about the evangelical vote. A large part of the
population is in these rural counties. So Ted Cruz, if he can pull them
out there, he could see some support. What we found in the poll last night
from the “Des Moines Register”/Bloomberg poll, respective (INAUDIBLE) put
that together, 45 percent of Iowa likely caucus goers still have not made
up their mind fully. So really, a lot of people are still out there.
There is a lot of votes on the table.
And one of the things this morning on “Meet the Press,” Ted Cruz
acknowledged to Chuck Todd, saying that I`m worried about the other
candidates in the race, specifically Ben Carson, who is still polling in 10
percent. Rand Paul pulling in five percent. Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum,
they may be two percent, but when you`re down by five points over Donald
Trump, every percentage point, I guess every vote in this place matters.
Just eight years ago, Mike Huckabee had the largest ever get out the vote
turnout. He got 40,000 people, in the way Cruz is seeing this is if we can
at least get that, then we are in a good position. And Donald Trump, you
know, I think Kerry was bringing it up, I have been out here since August.
And it`s interesting to watch the Ted Cruz operation and the Donald Trump
operation. Two very different things. The Ted Cruz operation is very much
more the classic, the phone calls, door knocking routine. Donald Trump is
very much these are some grassroots operatives making connections within
their community. They are posting videos on Facebook, on twitter through
email, saying this caucus process is easy. It`s OK. You guys can make it
through. So it`s going to be really interesting to see. I mean, it is
Kerry can attest out in Council Bluffs. It`s not really easy for anybody
to predict at this point.
MELBER: What you see with Cruz is they are taking their message out to the
people. Trump feels he is big enough of a celebrity and a known quantity
that people will come to him, come to his videos and learn it that way.
We are going to get a real-world test to this tomorrow and you`ll be there
with a front row seat.
Vaughn Hillyard, thank you so much.
And if you`re watching, don`t go away. Melissa Harris-Perry is going to be
back with us live from Des Moines. That`s next.
MELBER: Welcome to Melissa Harris-Perry show. Today, we are counting down
to the Iowa caucuses. The first nominating contest in 2016. The
candidates have just one more day, of course, to close the deal. And this
weekend, they have been traveling all over the state to make their appeal.
And we go back to Iowa now where the host of the show, Melissa Harris-
Perry, in the middle of the action. She has “Washington Post” writer E.J.
Dionne and our own Joy Reid with her.
Take it away.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, Ari, thanks.
Yes. So, Joy is here. You have run over. And look, there is a lot going
on here. And look, Iowa is not the most diverse place. Obviously, in
terms of what we`re going to see happening around the caucusing. And yet,
both sides are already beginning to recognize that in the long-term,
running for president in the United States of America is going to be a
battle for voters beyond the relatively narrow ethnic and racial
constraints of the Iowa caucuses.
So I just want to play a little bit of the sound from this morning, Rand
Paul talking about the concerns within the Republican Party, relative to
the possibility of Mr. Trump winning the Republican nomination. Let`s take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are a lot of us who are
alarmed by having Donald Trump as a nominee. I have been one who says we
have to have a bigger, better, bolder party. And that means a more diverse
party. I think Donald Trump will make us the sort of the lily white party,
which is not going to win any elections, frankly. And I worry about him
scaring people away based on sort of ethnic generalities, which I don`t
think are good for our party or good for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So what do you think, joy?
JOY ANN REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it`s
interesting because I just saw Rand Paul. And you know, just a little bit
of not too far from here. And I asked him off camera, just was he
concerned that there isn`t more resonant to the idea that he for instance
as a candidate who ran on things like mass incarceration, ending mass
incarceration, criminal justice reform, and who has tried to at least have
some appeal to non-white voters, is he concerned it`s not resonating in the
party. And he said that he thinks it is outside the polls and that younger
Republicans understand that this need is there, but the sort of megaphone
that Donald Trump quite frankly has had has overtaken that. But I think he
expresses a concern that a lot of Republican strategists genuinely have.
HARRIS-PERRY: And look, this is also interestingly enough, not an
irrelevant concern on the democratic side, too, where obviously, the kind
of party make-up is quite diverse, and yet the folks running for office
this year, they don`t look like 2008 when we had a Latino candidate
running, obviously, the first African-American who became president of the
United States, when we had in Hillary Clinton a white woman running. I
just want to listen to Bernie Sanders, however, talking about wanting to
create a diverse coalition and have you respond to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: The only way that we can bring real change to this country is
when millions of people, young people, working people, black people, white
people, Latino people, gay people, straight people, women, men. When all
of us stand together and very loudly and clearly say, enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is Bernie Sanders the person who can sustain that Obama
DIONNE: Well, apparently, so far, no. In other words, Bernie Sanders has
part of the Obama coalition. He is clearly got overwhelming support among
young people in a way that crosses racial lines. But if you look ahead in
states such as South Carolina, average Americans are still with Hillary
Clinton. I think it`s one of the reasons why Sanders needs a breakthrough
here followed by New Hampshire, because then I think he will get a second
hearing. Although, the Sanders people talk about picking up young Latinos,
for example, later on in the process.
But that Rand Paul quote that you alluded to and Joy talked about earlier
is really interesting because he said young Republicans care about this.
And I`m sure he is right about that. The problem is that the Republican
Party is so weak among the young right now. That there aren`t many young
Republicans to care about these things. And they are involved. And there
are some Republican pollsters and strategists worried about this, kind of
self-re-enforcing project where their constituency is getting older and
less diverse, and a lot of young whites do not like a party that is not
diverse. In other words diversity isn`t just an issue for African-
Americans or Latinos. It`s an issue for young people generally. And that
is a big problem that only Rand Paul has talked to, with, for example, his
coalition with Cory Booker on ending criminal justice reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder if Marco Rubio speaks to that as well, though. I
mean, he speaks to it both in his identity, right, in terms of being a
young person, a young person of color. And he also spoke to it recently in
kind of the way he described sort of what America is, what America is to
his family. So let`s take a listen to Marco Rubio trying to speak to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: America isn`t just the country I was born in. It`s the country
that literally changed the history of my family. My parents were not rich
or famous, but they were successful. They lived the American dream. Here
is why. Less than ten years after my parents arrived, they owned a home.
Not a mansion. But they owned a home in a safe and stable neighborhood.
Working as a bartender. They were able to raise four children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that the story that kind of uplift, immigrant narrative,
diverse young story that could sort of save the Republican Party in the
REID: That would have been a successful message in 2008. If he had been
the opponent of Barack Obama in the 2008 election, that could have actually
posed a significant challenge to the Democrats because he would have been
giving a similar sort of message to Obama.
That message is not resonating in the Republican Party today. In 2016, the
party is driven by a white working class base that is very much driven by
sentiment against unlawful migration. Illegal immigration is the
galvanizing issue. It`s what is creating the Donald Trump phenomenon. It
is a non-sale. You cannot sell it.
And Marco Rubio is the guy who did the gang of eight. And so, his
immigrant story because it`s also an immigrant story tied to the Latino
experience, even though the Cuban-American experience is completely
different than the migration experience of Mexican Americans, and he`s
Cuban-American, so he is outside of the experience. His family didn`t come
as exiles. They just flew on a plane like, you know, any other immigrant
like my family did.
So I think it`s less resonant on the Republican side. I think his campaign
is very retro. It`s not really where the Republican Party is today.
DIONNE: You know, that`s exactly right about today`s Republicans, but
Rubio is trying to do a bank shot with this. And I heard him yesterday
where he says, look, I`m the only candidate who can talk to a diverse group
of people. I`m the only candidate on our side who had these experiences
like having student loans. And then he pivots to say if you want to defeat
Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you need someone like me. And it`s now
a big part of his stump speech.
Now, I`m not sure electability is an argument lots of voters respond to,
although in the Republican Party, there is such a desire after eight years
of President Obama –
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. To win.
DIONNE: – to take back the White House, that he`s counting on that
working at least with enough Republicans here to push him up.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is one person making a strong electability argument as
the closing argument and that is Hillary Clinton who is making it not only
as a general sort of I am the most electable candidate, but also, and I
should be, right. And have you noticed my record? Have you noticed my
years in public office? Do you see who I am? And I wonder the extent of
that that is resonating particularly with Iowa caucusers who after all do
care about the quality of the candidate, who will ask the hard questions.
REID: Yes, indeed. And Hillary Clinton, if you just look at her resume,
right, is an incredibly sort of accomplished person. And it does say
something about us as a society that as a woman candidate, you have to be
that stacked you resume that fact for you to be considered ready to be
president. I mean, some of the people on the other side of the Republican
side are nonpoliticians who never spent a day in office, right. And she is
sort of presenting this resume.
DIONNE: Including the front-runner.
REID: Exactly. Including the front-runner. So yes. And I think for
Hillary Clinton that argument actually resonates this year. If you look at
the “Des Moines Register” poll, the interesting thing is that Hillary
Clinton supporters are actually more enthusiastic than Sanders supporters.
And I think the reason for that is this is a year of retention. Most
Democrats are trying to save, preserve, and defend the Obama legacy.
That`s their prime directive. She is saying I`m the person competent to do
that. Bernie Sanders has a bank shot, to use E.J.`s term, because he`s
running for the people who are most disappointed with Barack Obama and
trying to get Obama voters. That`s a very difficult thing to do at the
same time. Hers is I`m hugging Obama. I`m competent. I can keep his
DIONNE: You know, just –
HARRIS-PERRY: And right now, there isn`t anybody else who can make that
particular claim about the ability to do it.
Stick with us. But I got to say, I`m going to send it back to Ari in New
York, sitting at the table there in Nerdland.
MELBER: Fantastic. I know a lot of viewers are disappointed with this,
but I`m excited to be back in. Interesting conversation. We are going to
check back in with Melissa later in the program. We want to thank you E.J.
and Joy, of course, for joining us here on MHP.
Now, whoever becomes president could have a chance to change the Supreme
Court as we know it. Will President Obama end up as a justice? Stay
tuned. That`s next.
MELBER: As Iowans think about who they`re going to pick to be their
nominees, the next president will have a chance to appoint potentially
several people to the Supreme Court, choosing a justice is truly one of the
most lasting decisions any president makes and likely outlasts their time
in office. Now, that makes it a critical question for every candidate.
Let`s take a look at how Hillary Clinton fielded one interesting suggestion
she received this week in Iowa on who she should appoint if she gets the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Wow. What a great idea. Nobody has ever suggested that to me.
Wow. I love that. Wow. He may have a few other things to do, but I`ll
tell you, that`s a great idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The wows you`re hearing there for the idea from the questioner
that she should appoint Barack Obama to be on the Supreme Court. Now, as
you might imagine, one of Clinton`s Republican opponents weighed in on that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: The future of the constitution is in the balance. And you know
what kind of person Hillary Clinton wants to put on the Supreme Court?
Barack Obama. They asked her, what about Barack Obama on the Supreme
Court? She said, what a great idea. No, no, it`s not a good idea. You`re
going to appoint to the high court someone who has habitually violated the
constitution? This is going to interpret and apply it? There is no way.
We cannot lose this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And at the table, joining me, Akhil Reed Amar, constitutional law
professor at Yale University, and back with us, L. Joy and Mark.
Professor, let me start with you. Presidents have ended up on the court
before, after their term. This is unlikely and the White House has not
embraced it by any means. We`re in the middle of a political contest. But
what kind of Supreme Court justice would Barack Obama be?
AKHIL REED AMAR, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Yes. William Howard Taft
went from being president of the United States to chief justice and he is a
Yale person, too, I should just put in that plug as is Hillary. And Barack
Obama way back when was asked and he said, you know, it could be Hillary
Clinton. I mean, she could – she actually is law trained and very
serious. So kind of a right back at you. But you have to win first. And
then you have to have a vacancy.
Now, the vacancies could occur either in the natural course of things just
because of age or disability. Death, God forbid, but also, people choose
to retire. And you`re going to get a different set of retirees, probably,
if it`s a democrat president than if it`s a Republican president. So Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, will, I suspect, step down if it`s President Clinton.
MELBER: What is Clinton getting at other than the fact the sitting
president is popular? What else is she getting at in the notion of an
AMAR: Well, Sanders and Clinton are both going to appoint the same type of
person. Pretty much a generic Democrat appointee. So it`s not going to
matter as much whether it`s Clinton or Sanders. What`s going to matter
more is whether it`s a Republican or Democrat president.
MELBER: Well, of course. But delving into that, and we`ll do Republicans
in a bit, here`s what Sanders said, L. Joy. Any Supreme Court nominee will
makeover turning citizens united one of their first decisions. That`s a
little bit more direct than the way Clinton has talked about it.
WILLIAMS: Yes. You know, I actually agree with the law professor that I
think it is just - I think the more of the differences is not between
Hillary or Bernie Sanders, I think more of the differences between Democrat
or Republican. And it`s been interesting hearing the Republican responses,
not only to the suggestion of President Obama but just in general because
they have had conversations or have infused into their stump speeches about
what type of jurors they would appoint. And it`s always to the extreme.
You know, that they –
MELBER: Sure. At the risk of pushing both of you, I`m not looking to hear
that the Republicans are extreme. I`m asking about their appointments.
I mean, Mark, what Bernie Sanders is saying is that he would put campaign
finance issues as a litmus test on par with what the right has done with
abortion. Does that make him different than Clinton? Is that a good
ALEXANDER: Well, I think it`s a thing he wants to say to point out he
thinks citizens united is a bad decision. And it has change our politics
in a lot of ways. But that`s not something which the court does all by
And to get back to the first question, I absolutely believe Barack Obama
would be a great Supreme Court justice because he is well trained as Akhil
has talked, well trained in the law. He is a law professor who studied the
law, and he`s shown himself, his personality, his demeanor throughout being
president, committed to the rule of law. Committed to very carefully
considering what`s in the best interest of the people. And I think in that
conduct he would be an excellent justice.
WILLIAMS: But I think also, Ari, that whatever appointments happen, there
are going to be litmus tests on both sides in terms of who the nominee.
Because remember, it`s not as if whoever is going to be president is just
going to appoint someone and that`s it. It has to go through - you know,
there`s all this process. So there`s going to be a litmus test on either
side, whether it`s citizens united or abortion.
AMAR: Any nominee will deny and truthfully that any promise has been made
about any vote. And anyone who does promise actually – should not be –
MELBER: Which would be improper. Which is why there`s space.
AMAR: So that is when Bernie Sanders says that, he`s not credible. And
I`m not sure he will say that in a general election. And he is not as
constitutionally law trained frankly as Clinton and Obama.
MELBER: Which in itself is an interesting criticism.
Now coming up, I want to show where there`s a presidential candidate who
has actually argue in front of the Supreme Court nine times and often does
so in his black ostrich cowboy boots. Can you guess who it is? Stay tune.
MELBER: Here`s Ted Cruz campaigning on who he would appoint to the Supreme
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Unlike the other very fine individuals on the debate stage, I would
be willing to spend whatever political capital is necessary. And sir, I
give you my word, every justice I put on that court will be a principled
constitutional jurist with a proven report who will be faithful to the law
and will not legislate from the bench.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Our panel is back.
Professor Amar, when he says constitutionalist, what does he actually mean?
AMAR: I don`t know. It`s a good sound bite. But the folks whom he has
lauded on the court gave us Bush vs. GORE, which was a disgrace. Because
in the constitution, presidents are supposed to pick justices. Justices
aren`t supposed to pick presidents. And they invalidated the voting rights
act. And they upheld voter ID, which influences not just whether you`re
going to be able to keep Obamacare if you get it through Congress, which is
a hard thing, and his – the folks he likes voted against Obamacare, and he
thinks it`s unconstitutional. It is not just whether you`re going to be
able to keep a fair one political gain, it`s whether you`re even going to
win a close election if we don`t protect voting rights and the justices
whom he has lauded have not been good on voting rights.
MELBER: You talk about voting rights.
L. Joy, we heard in his own words Ted Cruz say no legislating from the
bench. As the professor points out, the voting rights act which was passed
by Martin Luther King and the Congress, right, in that effort, and was
upheld several times in many ways and basically renewed, reauthorized
bipartisan overwhelming majorities, and then all of a sudden, it was the
court that legislated and said this thing that was always OK now isn`t.
WILLIAMS: Right. The irony always of saying, using as a talking point, we
don`t need judges legislating from the bench. We don`t need these type of
justices. Yet, they`re using candidates like him, using this as a litmus
test in terms of supporting these issues. So while on one hand you`re
saying we don`t want activist judges, you`re also advocating for activist
AMAR: Five times this document actually says the right to vote. And it
says again and again and again, Congress shall have power. That`s what the
civil war amendments are about. And the Ted Cruz vision really doesn`t
understand that civil war linked envision.
ALEXANDER: And he throws out the red meat terms in things like activist.
Well, activist, you know, the current Supreme Court and the majority of the
Ted Cruz-like have been very active in ways that are very damaging to our
society. Very damaging to our constitution.
We talk about this at Seton hall, at my election law class. We were
talking about how the people have this right. And the fact is that the
justices that Ted Cruz wants to support, they`re pulling back on the
rights. And so, the reality is that we don`t know what he means from that
statement he`s making, but I think he`s trying to get people excited,
throughout red meat, but I`m not sure you have people super qualified for
WILLIAMS: And it is not just on the Supreme Court. Remember, this is in
courts all across the country that they`re, you know, seeking activist
judges to change these laws.
MELBER: Yes. And several voting issues before the current court on the
I want to thank Akhil Reed Amar very much for being here. L. Joy and Mark
will be around in the next hour. What are we going to talk about? We`re
going to go back to Iowa with Melissa Harris-Perry who is going to be
joined by representatives from both the Clinton and Sanders campaign. So
fresh reporting there.
And next hour, my exclusive death row interview with an inmate who says he
is innocent and has several judges actually backing him up. But only has
one last chance to convince the state of California to spare his life.
Also, this is important. Be sure to watch MSNBC`s primetime coverage
tonight. The final day before the Iowa caucuses, 8:00 p.m. eastern. We
got Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Brian Williams. Don`t want to miss
And more MHP at the top of the hour.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Ari Melber. We are counting
down the hours until the start of the Iowa caucuses. Of course, tomorrow,
7:00 p.m. Central, Iowans will kick off this 2016 presidential primary year
with the very first and so pivotal nominating contest in the entire
country. The candidates, of course, this weekend, have been traveling all
over the state, making their case to Iowans.
And while I`m holding it down right here in our New York newsroom, Melissa
is on the ground in Iowa in the middle of the action. She`s joined now by
Symone Sanders, national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign as
well as Erika Alexander, a Hillary Clinton supporter, actress, writer, and
activist. I hope I got that all and I hand it over to you guys – Melissa.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, “MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY”: Thanks, Ari.
So, basically, what is happening right now is Iowa black girl magic. So I
am actually really excited to have you both here for a lot of reasons. In
part because we have been screaming on MHP show for a while that in the
Democratic Party, once we get to the point of the general election, that
the question of African-American women`s votes is the question of the
election. That the black girls actually are magic when it comes to the
That when you look at the election of President Obama in 2008 and his re-
election in 2012, it is the choices of African-American women that made
the difference in terms of electing and then re-electing that president.
So President Obama is not on the 2016 ticket. Instead, Mr. Sanders and
Mrs. Clinton are. So, I would like to know, what is the case for Mr.
Sanders and then I want to hear the case for Mrs. Clinton from the
perspective of the African-American women voters, recognizing that we are
diverse, that we like lots of different things. So, what might be an
argument to be made?
SYMONE SANDERS, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Well, I
think the first argument to make is that the issues that Senator Sanders is
speaking to are issues that are definitely important to black women. You
know, when we talk about the issues of economic inequality, you know, it`s
black women who are leading households. It`s black women who are taking
charge of their families. When we talk about criminal justice reform and
juvenile justice, it`s black women whose sons and daughters are being
locked up at disproportionate rates. You know, when we talk about rates
minimum wage, it`s black women who are, you know, who are getting paid
substantial less than their white counterparts so and so forth. So the
issues that Senator Sanders is speaking to are issues that directly and
overwhelmingly affect African-American women.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, there are similar kind of discourse that we can make
for Secretary of State Clinton?
ERIKA ALEXANDER, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Absolutely. She wants the
same things. She knows that many of women, not just black women, but
women, they are single parents. They go to school. They need affordable
child care. They need help with loans. They don`t want to come out
burdened with a bunch of debt. She`s talking about debt-free college.
She`s talking about helping them obviously with the rise of minimum wage
and that type of thing. But she really wants to speak to the fact that
many women don`t have the careers they want. Because they have all sorts
of other issues that take their attention away from just having the
different opportunities that other people have in life. They make less
than everybody else.
We`re at the bottom of the wrung for making money. I know in South
Carolina, I think they`re 50th for women working at all. And you can make
$8,000 less than men, and that`s equal pay. And that`s the fair pay act
that Obama signed when he got in, President Obama, the Lilly Ledbetter Act,
she was one of the co-sponsor of it, it was on his desk the day when he
stepped in there, and she`s there to work hard for those issues. She`s
always worked hard for families and children and those types of things.
And we`re not just focused on that as women. We want careers, we want
those opportunities. And she`s a person whose had those opportunities and
wants to make sure that everybody has the ability to have them, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I know one of the challenges in 2008 for African-
American women voters, when they were sort of weighing that option around
then-Senator Obama, then-Senator Clinton, and asking those questions about
public policy on the one hand but also identity politics was wanting to
feel like, yes, I want somebody who meets my policy agenda but also
somebody who understands my experience, who is with me in this walk. Do
you think that Senator Clinton, excuse me, Secretary of State Clinton now
in terms of her most recent – I know, there`s a lot of –
ALEXANDER: There`s a lot of good job.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, yes, part of that enormous resume that is, that the
“New York Times” talked about in their endorsement of her. Do you think
that she can speak to those sets of experiences without doing what she was
sometimes accused of in 2008, which was trying to speak to them in ways
that sometimes didn`t resonate with women of color voters? Does that make
sense? Like being able to speak to them but also speak to them with an
acknowledgment of what her own position is in relationship to that.
ALEXANDER: I think often we discount people if we think they`re
successful. We think they haven`t struggled enough. But if she`s a woman
of any color, she has defied gravity. And she`s going to do it again. And
I think women especially see how hard it is for her to get her fair shake,
to be seen as enthusiastic, as having people to aspire to be like her.
She`s been I think over decade the most admired woman in America, and yet
people say there`s no enthusiasm for that. And I think that when you`re
talking about people being maybe identifying with her, I think they see
that she`s an underdog in ways that people don`t understand.
And anybody who has ever gone for something really hard or been a smart
woman or seen as strong, I know. I play a lot of strong parts, and people
think I`m hard. They want to give me parts or roles that only have to do
with being – they say don`t be so angry. I say, I`m not angry. I`m
actually very happy person, but that`s how they see me. I think to
dehumanize that or characterize it as having, she`s outside of my
experience, is wrong. She`s a woman. She`s had a child. She had a child
she wants. I think she had endometria. I think she has a lot of things
that I think help her identify.
Her father paid for her education, when she went to school, but she earned
her law degree. And paid for that, too. She was the head of the household
in terms of money when President Clinton or then governor was working. She
earned the money at the law firm. She wrote the policy. There was no
policy for pregnant women at the Rhodes Law Firm. She wrote that policy.
She went down and helped juveniles in South Carolina who were being
incarcerated with adults. She helped change that law just after college.
She went down there and worked for the Children`s Defense Fund and the
Southern Poverty Center. That`s a woman of not only great power but a
person who identifies very well with people who are underserved.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me – that same question on identification with Mr.
Sanders. Because I have to say, the first time that you were on the show,
I was like, what just happened? My show just blew up because I was so
impressed by the way – because for me, I have to say, this is one of the
first times in my adult life as someone who, I make very quick decisions.
I`m very politically engaged. And so, typically, I know who I`m going to
vote for before they even know they are running. Like I`m not kidding.
This is the first time for me as an adult engaging in the political world
where I really have not chosen a candidate. So make this – make an
argument for me.
SANDERS: Well, I mean, I think that that`s yet you and millions of other
people across this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Sure.
SANDERS: And it`s because Senator Sanders again are speaking to the issues
that are important to people. I, like a lot of, you know, I`m a woman. I
want to break that glass ceiling. But I also want to break the class
ceiling. And we cannot ignore the fact that economic inequality, racial
inequality are parallel issues that have to be addressed simultaneously in
this country. And so, we have to think about the issues in this elections.
So, whether we`re talking about the disappearing middle class across the
country, in black communities, a lot of times the middle class is
And Senator Sanders is speaking directly to injecting life into that middle
class. When we talk about, you know, Main Street versus Wall Street,
Senator Sanders has stood up against the billionaires. Against Wall Street
in this country. He has stood up for hard-working American people.
People, hundreds of thousands of union members across this country are
standing with Senator Sanders. We talk about issues of you know, women`s
rights, reproductive rights. He has a 100 percent rating from NARAL, from
Planned Parenthood, and he is fighting for paid family leave.
You know, we are the only country that does not provide universal health
care, education as a right, and then paid family leave for men and women.
So, it`s important that, you know, folks get that opportunity to stay home
with their families after, you know, they adopt children or have children.
So, I really think that this election comes down to the issues. You know,
I have great respect for Secretary Clinton. She know she`s great. But I
am working for Senator Sanders because I absolutely and unequivocally
believe in the things that he`s talking about.
And it`s going to take radical change in America to, you know, to get us to
where we need to be. The Affordable Health Care Act was an amazing
achievement. Senator Sanders is talking about, you know, universal health
care, building on the success of the Affordable Health Care Act because 29
million Americans in this country are still uninsured. Millions more are
still underinsured. So, we, this election I think for a lot of people is
really about the issues. And that`s why folks are like, I don`t really
know. Well, I know.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. And I know we haven`t even – there hasn`t
even been one caucus or cast one vote in an Iowa caucus yet. That doesn`t
even happen until tomorrow night. So, to start thinking too far ahead, you
know, is bad politics just like it would be bad in sports. But that said,
do either of you know whether or not the candidate that you`re currently
endorsing or working for would consider putting a woman of color, an
African-American woman or Latina on the ticket as a VP. Because this is
the sort of think that might for example influence my thinking. Because I
sure would like to see a Latino or an African-American woman or – woman,
you know, as a VP candidate on the other end.
SANDERS: So, as you said, you know, we have to get through –
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right, exactly. You`re like, we have not even gotten
SANDERS: February 1st, February 9th, February 28th, February 27th –
ALEXANDER: You know, here`s the good news about Hillary Clinton. She`s
always had diverse staffs from when she was a first lady in Arkansas, when
she was a first lady, when she was a senator, when she`s a secretary of
state. Diversity is not a thing for her. I mean, it`s how she lives her
life. Some people see it as a category that`s outside of them. It`s the
way she lives. I have no doubt that there will be some wonderful women and
men that she`ll, I hope, consider. And frankly, that would be really cool.
I love it, you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wouldn`t it be fun to do? Look, what I am going to enjoy
and what does make me happy is we have a robust primary happening on the
democratic side. I`m going to also, I`m really happy to see black girl
magic happening in American democracy because it is critical to who we are.
Ari, back to you in New York.
MELBER: Melissa, that was fun. Do you want another 20, 30 minutes?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, what do we have? Like almost 45 left in the show. I`m
MELBER: Thank you very much. I really enjoyed listening to that. And
we`ll going to check back with you of course later on. Let me say, of
course, thank you Symone Sanders and Erika Alexander again for joining us
Now, stay right there, we have a lot more to get to as we count down to
Iowa today. Stay with us.
MELBER: We begin right now with some breaking campaign news this hour.
Donald Trump now telling FOX News just now that has president he would,
quote, “Strongly consider appointing Supreme Court justices who would try
to overrule the decision that made marriage equality the law of the land.”
Interesting development there as candidates make their closing argument.
Now, we go back out to Iowa to the Hillary campaign where the last poll did
show Secretary Clinton with a thin lead over Senator Sanders.
And NBC`s Kristen Welker working hard all through this closing period in
Des Moines. Kristen, go ahead and give us your latest, what`s happening
out there. What are you hearing about Clinton and these closing arguments?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Secretary
Clinton making her closing arguments, certainly, Ari. And she and her
campaign, I would say, have a measured confidence as we enter this final
day of campaigning before the Iowa caucuses. As you pointed out, she has a
very narrow lead in the latest “Des Moines Register”/Bloomberg poll. Let`s
take a look at the numbers, 45 to 42 percent, but that is within the margin
of error. So this is still anybody`s ball game. Both candidates,
Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders, campaigned late into the night last
night. Secretary Clinton brought in her husband, her daughter, to help her
make her final pitch.
Senator Sanders rallied young supporters. He said it is up to them. He
said, if we get a big turnout, we`ll win. If we get a small turnout, we
won`t win. So, those are the stakes. Secretary Clinton did get a little
bit of good news yesterday. She was endorsed by the “New York Times.” She
was also endorsed by 28 African-American ministers and faith leaders with
whom she had met earlier in the week. Now, Ari, as you know, she`s also
been a bit on defense this weekend after Friday, the State Department
decided not to release 22 of her e-mails from her private server when she
was Secretary of State, saying that they were classified as top secret.
Yesterday, during an interview with our campaign embed Monica Alba (ph),
Secretary Clinton said that she never sent or received any e-mails that
were marked as classified at the time and said that she didn`t generate any
of those e-mails that were marked as top secret. The campaign hoping to
turn the page on that issue today. They are focused on their ground game.
That`s where the real battle lines are being drawn, Ari. And it really
does come down to turnout. We talk about this. It`s a cliche, but it`s
Senator Sanders has a pretty strong lead among those younger voters. So if
they turn out in force, he could win Iowa. That`s what happened back in
2008 when then-Senator Barack Obama won Iowa. He won the young vote by a
margin of about four to one. So Senator Sanders hoping to repeat that.
But I have to tell you, both campaigns really focused on their ground
games. They`ve spent a lot of time building them up. So that`s going to
determine what happens on Monday.
MELBER: Very interesting, Kristen. I notice in the “Des Moines Register”
poll, some of Sanders supporters say they used to be for Clinton, and you
just never know going in tomorrow if they then get second thoughts and
thinking about that ground game, as you mentioned.
Kristen Welker in Des Moines, Iowa. Thank you. We`ll be seeing you again
though. Up next, we check in on the senator from Vermont as he moves
across the state. Stay with us.
MELBER: We were just talking to the Clinton side of things. Now, Bernie
Sanders, just three points behind her, of course, that`s in the most
reliable poll typically, the “Des Moines Register” poll, that came out just
late last night. And he`s barnstorming the state, trying to close the
narrow gap. His supporters working hard to court every last vote until
every last minute.
MSNBC`s Jacob Soboroff got a chance to see some of the Sanders volunteers
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you could sign off, when you sign – have you signed
JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: What`s happening right now is these
people are all signing up to go canvas for Bernie Sanders, and that`s going
door to door to try to get every last vote before the Iowa caucus on
Monday. I`m really going out with them.
What do you do, Lonnie?
LONNIE CLELEND, SANDERS VOLUNTEERS: I retired last year. Now I work –
I`m back working part-time at the Iowa Department of Public Health. I do
kind of volunteer stuff.
SOBOROFF: Why did you decided to support Bernie?
CLELEND: I have been a lifelong left leaner, not necessarily always a
SOBOROFF: Not necessarily a democrat, meaning what?
CLELEND: Back in the `60s and `70s, I was a socialist.
SOBOROFF: Got it. Where are we?
CLELEND: We`re in Beaverdale.
SOBOROFF: You live around here?
CLELEND: I do. I live actually about three blocks back. We`re right
CLELEND: Yes, so we have got a couple, looks like a place here and a place
SOBOROFF: You must be committed to be doing this. You don`t have to knock
on doors. Show me how it`s done.
CLELEND: See if there`s a doorbell here.
SOBOROFF: Here we go. Hey, how are you?
CLELEND: Are you Matthew?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.
CLELEND: Have you decided who you`re going to caucus with?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your man.
CLELEND: Oh, no way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It`s great to meet you.
SOBOROFF: All right. Matt, take care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for stopping by.
CLELEND: Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, man. Have a good one.
CLELEND: All right. Bye.
SOBOROFF: Nicely done. That was easy.
SOBOROFF: Is it usually that easy?
CLELEND: Yes. Well, you know.
SOBOROFF: All right. Where to next?
CLELEND: We`re going to go right here. Looks like a door hanger.
SOBOROFF: So, if they`re not here, you`re going to put this thing up on
the door. You ever had a door slammed in your face.
CLELEND: Oh, yes.
Don`t wreck my car. Hello. Are you going to caucus this year?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t. I have to work that night, but I have
CLELEND: Oh, have you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I love to caucus. I`m taking my children –
CLELEND: Who are you supporting?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Donald.
CLELEND: Oh, OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if it wasn`t Donald, it would be the Bernie.
CLELEND: There you go.
SOBOROFF: You expect that?
CLELEND: There you go. No, that`s what I`m talking about. That`s what
you get. When you knock on doors. She was good.
SOBOROFF: She`s who you want to reach.
CLELEND: This may be weird, but she`s very representative of a lot of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And that`s how it`s done. Now, we turn to NBC campaign embed
Danny Freeman who is in Iowa City. Now, Senator Sanders has been
sharpening his attacks on Hillary Clinton. Even as he said he`s not going
to get into the news about her e-mails. What`s going on out there?
DANNY FREEMAN, NBC NEWS CAMPAIGN EMBED: Well, good morning, Ari. That`s
absolutely right. Senator Sanders took a pass again on taking on Hillary
Clinton on the issue of her e-mails, which has been bouncing around
headlines this entire weekend. In a carefully worded statement, Senator
Sanders` team said that there`s a legal process in place which should
proceed and not be politicized. And of course, we remember that October
debate when he said the American people have had enough of Clinton`s damn
e-mails. Now, this statement wasn`t as pointed as that, but still, Senator
Sanders wants to do what he has been doing over the course of this
campaign, at least in their opinion, and run a positive campaign focused on
the issues, not get into the world of negative ads.
Though that has not stopped Senator Sanders from drawing pointed contrasts
over the past few days. Last night in Cedar Rapids was a good example.
When Senator Sanders said that he was disappointed with the tone of the
Clinton campaign saying that while the Clinton campaign has been trying to
point him out as wanting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Senator
Sanders said, he incredulously dismantle it. I have been fighting for
universal health care my entire life. And in addition to that, Senator
Sanders has been pointing out Clinton`s going back and forth on things like
DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Keystone Pipeline and TPP. So,
we`ll see if that rhetoric intensifies moving forward to caucus night
MELBER: Danny Freeman, thank you very much. Now, stay right there. Up
next, we have my exclusive interview with a California death row inmate who
is fighting for his life.
MELBER: The presidential candidates have been talking criminal justice a
lot. It was body cameras at this week`s Republican debate. While Hillary
Clinton says, she now opposed some of Bill Clinton`s tough on crime
policies from the `90s. Bill Clinton ran on backing the death penalty in
1992 and he took pushback from a liberal opponent in that primary,
California Governor Jerry Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA: During my eight years as governor, no one
was executed, and when the legislature put a bill on my desk to reinstate
capital punishment after the Supreme Court had invalidated it, I vetoed
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today, the Clintons have moved towards Brown`s past critiques
while Brown may be moving towards Bill Clinton`s old position. He is
governor again. California brought the death penalty back in November.
And now he`s facing a new test. California is on pace to execute this man,
Kevin Cooper was convicted of a gruesome quadruple murder in 1983, but
several judges say he may be, quote, “innocent.” Now, I just did an
interview with Cooper from death row, which we will air in a few minutes.
But here is how this infamous brutal case began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight-year-old Josh Ryan, the sole survivor.
Authorities hope he can tell them what happened at his house on Saturday
night when his father, his mother, his sister on the right in this school
picture, and a 12-year-old friend were murdered. All were found hacked and
stabbed to death in this house amid the horse country of the Chino Hills.
About 30 miles from Los Angeles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Murders were horrific, and San Bernardino police went on the hunt,
seeking three suspects described as either, quote, “white or Mexican
males,” end quote. And that`s based on what the only survivor, eight-year-
old Josh Ryan initially said about the murders. The coroner found the five
victims received 144 wounds in four minutes. Also suggesting multiple
killers and on the night of the murders, witnesses saw three white men
driving away from the house in a station wagon that appeared similar to the
car stolen that night from the house. Beyond seeking three killers, police
did not have many clues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The initial investigation at the Ryan home where two
adults and two children were hacked and slashed to death on June 5th turned
up very, very few clues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Then, they caught a break. A woman reported that she thought her
estranged husband, Lee Furrow, was involved in the Chino murders. Now, he
was a white convicted murder. His hatchet was missing and he left blood-
spattered coveralls with her on the night of the murder. She gave police
those bloody pants logged here on this police document. Now, that you can
imagine, was potentially a huge break. But the police did not test that
In fact, they threw those bloody pants out in a dumpster as this police
record shows. Destroying evidence is not only incompetent detective work.
It is illegal as a court would later rule when it found flaws in Cooper`s
trial. But the police at this point were now fixated on Cooper, and they
did have a reason. He had just escaped a minimum security prison and was
hiding out nearby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Blood and clothing were found inside an abandoned
home next door to the Ryan ranch house. Their conclusion at the time, the
murderer may have stayed in the house next door a day or two before the
murders were committed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So police put aside the three killer theory and argued that
fugitive was the sole killer. Beyond the circumstantial evidence, he was
nearby, he had pled guilty to burglary before. At trial, the state said,
other key evidence tied him to the crime, blood, shoe prints, and Josh
Ryan`s memory. Josh was the eight-year-old who talked about those three
white or Latino men who murdered someone, his family, what he initially
said. But then prosecutors said that that story changed to Josh
identifying one killer, Kevin Cooper. And prosecutors used his testimony
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you tried to forget what happened that night?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you done to try to forget it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think happy thoughts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Beyond that evidence, prosecutors said shoe prints at the scene
were clearly prison issued shoes that only an inmate would have, and
weren`t available in stores. But that was not true according to the warden
at Cooper`s prison. Now then there was key blood evidence. Now, while
most of the evidence didn`t put Cooper in the house, prosecutors say one
drop of blood matched Cooper, a huge breakthrough if true. Now, the trial
was tense and sometimes racially charged. But after seven days of
deliberation, there was a verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled action find the
defendant Kevin Cooper guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree as
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cooper argued that that evidence was completely flawed. He
appealed but lost in state court. Facing execution in 2004, his only hope
was intervention by a federal court, and he just told me about being led
that day naked to the death chamber for execution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN COOPER, CONVICTED OF MURDER (on the phone): I met the volunteer
executioners. They had me standing naked in the death chamber waiting
room. They put me in a cage. And then you watch the clock as your life
goes off minute by minute, you get closer and closer to execution. I was
ten feet away from being murdered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And with three hours to go, a federal court halted that execution.
And it ruled those pivotal shoe prints did not link Cooper to the crime
after all. In fact, the warden at the very prison where Cooper had served
in 1983 said, they didn`t have special prison shoes, and he told
investigators that before the trial. They still presented that flawed shoe
evidence, though, and hid the story from Cooper, the federal judges ruled
that choice was illegal. And they wrote Cooper was almost certainly not
wearing the shoes that the killer allegedly wore at the house. And the
judges didn`t stop there. They cited Lee Furrow`s bloody coveralls, noting
that his associate allegedly said in jail that he committed the murders in
an attempted revenge killing that mistakenly hit the wrong house. Furrow
has denied any involvement. So the court ordered new hearings and testing
and some jurors from the original case expressed doubts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK NUGENT, FORMER JURY FOREMAN: The right to have the evidence
inspected, to possibly and he might be exonerated from that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Another juror wrote, quote, “I let the police misconduct go and
sentenced Mr. Cooper to death. I now regret that decision.” Meanwhile,
Cooper was back in court and more problems were exposed. The state`s first
test of blood in the house didn`t match Cooper. But was later changed to
match you and testing proved that the very blood used as Cooper`s sample
contained DNA from two different people. But prosecutors argued other
evidence did hold up against Cooper. Cigarettes from the family`s car, and
survivor Josh Ryan, who says Cooper was the killer, to this day.
So, after those extra hearings, Cooper`s conviction was again upheld in
federal court. Although in a split, five judges vigorously dissented.
They noted, that, quote, “The state of California may be about to execute
an innocent man.” They said he didn`t get a fair hearing for the blood
test after 2004, and that police misrepresented memories of eight-year-old
Josh Ryan, while preventing Cooper from his right to examine an accuser.
Now, to be clear, no court has held that Cooper was framed. But those five
judges called out the prosecutor`s suspicious approach to that key blood
sample saying it, quote, “has a history of being consumed during testing
and then inexplicably reappearing in different form when useful to the
The evidence against Cooper was so weak, those judges continued, it`s,
quote, “Highly unlikely he would have been convicted if prosecutors had not
illegally withheld evidence at trial.” Now, while those may seem like
troubling issues for a case that supports an execution, in the end, legally
more judges upheld the conviction, and they noted that after the new DNA
test, new hearings with 42 witnesses and long-standing evidence like Ryan`s
testimony, quote, “The results do not show Cooper`s innocence.” Now,
Cooper has no more court appeals. Governor Jerry Brown is the only person
standing between Cooper and the death penalty. Cooper is about to file an
appeal asking Brown to intervene, and he called me from death row in San
Quentin for our new interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What are you asking Governor Brown to do? What do you want him to
know when he makes his decision?
COOPER: I`m asking Governor Brown to look at my case with an open mind.
I`m the only person in the history of this state to have five federal
circuit judges say that the state of California may be about to execute an
innocent man. I`m not asking America as a whole or any one person in
particular to believe me. Forget what I say. I`m asking people to believe
those 12 justices, believe the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
MELBER: You were convicted of murdering the Ryan family. Did you kill
them, harm them, or have any contact with them?
COOPER: No, I did not. I didn`t even know they existed.
MELBER: Were you ever in their home?
MELBER: You were also convicted of burglary three times. Do you maintain
your innocent in those cases or what do you say about that?
COOPER: When I was convicted of burglary, I plead guilty to those because
I did them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I also asked Cooper about the blood evidence in his case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The best of my knowledge, and I have been studying this case for a
long time, that blood is not from me. It did not match me. Had it
somebody else`s DNA in it. How does two people`s DNA be in one drop of
blood? And that other DNA is not the victims. Which means whatever was on
the wall that they collected was the original killer`s blood. But they put
my blood in that container. That`s why you got two DNAs in there, that`s
what I believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And in our interview, I asked Cooper what he has learned about the
criminal justice system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: On death row, in this state, and on death row throughout this
country, the only people who are on death row are poor people. No matter
what their culture or their skin color or their religion, we`re all poor.
So that`s actually saying something right there. Racism doesn`t matter.
Classism does. This is a classism racist system.
MELBER: If you are executed, what would you want people to know about your
COOPER: That I`m innocent. It`s not my execution, it`s my motive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cooper now faces that execution unless California Governor Jerry
Now up next, we will have much more on Iowa, the 2016 race, and just
exactly how one gets out to the caucus.
MELBER: The Iowa caucus is tomorrow, and with it, the official start of
the presidential primary season. It is the reason why presidential
hopefuls and the press descend on the Hawkeye State en masse tomorrow.
Hundreds of thousands of caucus goers will weigh in on the still very
crowded field of candidates vying of course for the Oval Office and helping
to put some real weight behind all of her preseason predictions. For the
past 44 years, Iowa has maintained that first to vote status. The key
point of interests for presidential hopefuls, the winning in Iowa does not
guarantee a party`s nomination. The winners do get momentum that they need
along with, of course, a surge in attention.
Joining us now is one who knows the process. Addisu Demissie, veteran of
the Iowa caucus from both 2004, Kerry and Hillary Clinton `08 and now the
director of Grassroots Advocacy at the Messina Group and a former aide to
Barack Obama at the DNC. Did I get all that right?
ADDISU DEMISSIE, VP OF GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY, THE MESSINA GROUP: You got it
all right, Ari.
MELBER: And final disclosure, a former colleague of mine over a decade
ago. So, tell us straight up, what`s happening right now inside the
campaigns on the ground in Iowa and how does this thing work tomorrow
DEMISSIE: Well, right now, it`s all about field, field, field. That means
talking to the supporters you have been identifying over the course over
the last six, nine months. Insuring they know everything they need to know
about where they have to go tomorrow night, when they have to get there,
and what they have to do. And then, secondarily, to the folks that you
have recruited as your volunteers, as you precinct captains, making sure
they have everything they need. They know the math, they know the numbers.
They know exactly how many people to expect. And really, it`s just putting
it all together.
MELBER: You hear that term Addisu so much, precinct captains.
MELBER: What is a precinct captain? What do they do tomorrow might?
DEMISSIE: Yes. Really, the caucus is not like typical voting. The caucus
is a meeting that`s going to happen in a church basement or a school
auditorium tomorrow. And the precinct captain is the person that the
candidate or the campaign or the field organizer has recruited to be your
leader in the room. And actually if anybody has ever been in a room that
is crowded, you know it can be chaos. And the caucus can be a little bit
of chaos when you walk in. A couple hundred people there. You need to get
your supporters organized, you need to get them to the side of the room,
you need to get undecided people your message. And try to convince them
even though they may have walked in undecided, to caucus with you. And
really, the precinct captain is the leader of that entire effort and
frankly the most important person tomorrow night come 7:00 p.m.
MELBER: So, basically after all the ads and the speeches and the media, at
least on the democratic side, the last thing that the voters will hear
tomorrow night is a pitch from a neighbor or someone in their community.
MELBER: So, when you were working in Iowa, how would you try to shape that
pitch? I mean, obviously, if you do too many talking points or too top
down, that`s going to ring inauthentic, right?
DEMISSIE: Yes. I mean, there`s no better communicator of a political
message than somebody you know. And so, really, what we asked a precinct
captain or a volunteer to do speak from the heart. Tell, you now, tell
your fellow neighborhood member, your friend, sometimes, you know, somebody
you have seen at the local coffee shop, why you`re supporting the candidate
you`re supporting. And obviously, depending on who they support, you know,
if it`s an O`Malley supporter or somebody who is leaning towards Bernie
Sanders and you`re a Hillary Clinton precinct captain, you know
specifically the kind of messages that you want to deliver from your
campaign. But really what it comes down to is a message from the heart.
Why you`re there, why you`re taking a couple hours out of your day, or for
the volunteers in precinct captains, hours and hours over the course of –
DEMISSIE: – months and months of giving your – go ahead.
MELBER: Yes. And you worked for Hillary Clinton in Iowa when she lost.
DEMISSIE: I did.
MELBER: If you think she`s going to do okay this year, is that because
she`s a better candidate or she has a better organization in Iowa?
DEMISSIE: You know, I think it`s both, honestly. I think Iowa is a
humbling experience for any candidate. Win or lose. The President talked
about this in an interview last week. And I think Hillary Clinton is a
better candidate now than she was eight years ago. But I also think the
organization they have put together in Iowa has superseded what we did
eight years ago. And that`s – it`s partly experience, that`s partly that
the organizers on the ground or folks who are more experienced and they
learned from their mistakes, the mistakes that I made, the mistakes that we
made, and that`s just good organizing, that`s good politics.
MELBER: Yes. Well, the voters have a way of humbling even the most
arrogant people in the political process.
DEMISSIE: That`s true.
MELBER: We`ll find out tomorrow what happens. Addisu Demissie from the
Clinton and Obama campaigns. Thanks for joining us.
DEMISSIE: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate it.
MELBER: Up next, we`ll going to go back to Iowa for some final thoughts
from Melissa Harris-Perry and some special guests. Stay with us.
MELBER: Welcome back. We are watching as the Iowa caucus now just a day
away. We`re checking in all morning with the candidates, making their
final pitch. I want to go one more time on the ground to MHP over in Iowa.
Melissa joined by two Wake Forest students, Austin Cook and Daniela Feijoo.
Melissa, back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, thanks, Ari. I hope folks out in Nerdland know that
part of the reason we call this show #Nerdland is because my real job, the
one that I do Monday to Friday is I`m a college professor at Wake Forest
University, which is also the place where I graduated as an undergraduate
many, many years ago. And Wake Forest has a very long tradition of
engaging in American politics. We`ve hosted presidential debates, Jack
Kemp is associated with our university, other great folks over the years.
And so, we have a great program this year that is running out of Wake
Forest called Wake the Vote. You can follow the “Wake the Vote” project
all year in 2016, I`m on Twitter or Instagram @wakethevote. There are
website there. Wake the Vote.
And these are 22 students – 22 diverse students across the ideological
spectrum from both parties from first-year to fourth-year students.
They`re traveling together, to Iowa, to New Hampshire, to North Carolina,
to South Carolina, where they`re going to work in the primaries for
candidates. They`re going to go to campaign events together. They`re also
going to go to the DNC and RNC conventions this summer. They`re also going
to work for candidates of their choice. That is all of us hanging out
together at the Pro Humanitate house watching debates.
They`re going to host events and they`re also going to do get out the vote
efforts. This is all about engaging democracy and engaging democracy as
college students across differences. So, last night these students were
here in Iowa. And I`ve got two of them with me. So, I want to have them
to introduce themselves. So, let`s start with our first-year student,
introducer yourself, tell us your name, what year you are at Wake Forest
and where you`re from.
DANIELA FEIJOO, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY FRESHMAN: My name is Daniela
Feijoo, I`m a freshman at Wake Forest University and I am majoring in
Political Science and Spanish.
HARRIS-PERRY: And tell us what`s your hometown.
FEIJOO: Oh, I`m from Wauconda, Illinois.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. For Illinois. How about you?
AUSTIN COOK, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY SENIOR: So, my name is Austin Cook,
I`m a senior at Wake Forest, a Political Science major and a journalism
minor and I`m from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, you`re from really different parts of the
country and you also actually support different partisan candidates. Last
night, you all went to a Marco Rubio rally. I hadn`t quite made it in from
New York yet but you all were here with some of your colleagues. And I
know that you have been a supporter generally of Marco Rubio. Probably
pretty exciting to be there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about your experience there, Daniella.
FEIJOO: It was very exciting because I loved the opportunity to go see a
lot of young constituents out there supporting Rubio. And having the
opportunity to see him speak in front of such a large group of people and
having the volunteers come up to you and get interviewed. But we got
interviewed by a French reporter. It was a great opportunity. And I like
the issues he touched on. It was great to hear his input and to see his
charismatic, witty sense of humor and personality was wonderful.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was watching the Wake Forest twitter feed and I said, oh,
I think Daniela has taken over it, because I saw that there were lots of
quotes from Marco Rubio. And I was thinking to myself as I was watching
it, I was like, okay, so I know that Daniela is a supporter of Mr. Rubio
and this is probably really exciting for you to see your own candidate up
close. It`s part of what`s great about the Iowa caucuses.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I also know that you were there with some of your
colleagues, some of your peers who maybe are not Mr. Rubio supporters. And
so, I`m wondering, for students who were up close in personal with the
candidate who they might not initially supportive, what that experience was
COOK: There was a lot of energy in the room last night. And it was really
interesting to see him up close – seeing speeches on TV is one thing.
Seeing it in person is different. He had a crowd of about 1,000 people. A
lot of energy, charisma, there had been a lot of people saying that he
might be getting some momentum in the last couple of days leading up to
Iowa. So, I think it`s always interesting to hear, even from candidates
who you maybe don`t agree with, but seeing it firsthand was a really cool
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Austin, you`re in part, in journalism, either you work
as actually the editor-in-chief of our school paper, “The Old Gold and
Black” at Wake Forest. And so, part of how you just responded to me feels
like how a journalist does, right? The part of what we`re trying to do is
ask questions that in every moment when we`re engaging democracy, whether
we agree or disagree, whether it`s our candidate or not, it`s always our
country. Right? It`s always our process and that there are questions to
be asked. So, I guess part of the question that I have for you is, so why
engaging Wake the Vote? Why take the time to travel all over the country
with, you know, 21 of your other colleagues and stay in these hotels and do
COOK: I think it`s really important for people our age to get involved in
the political process. Whether you`re, you know, going to be working for a
candidate you agree with or not that is really kind of irrelevant, in my
opinion. Because I think making sure that young people are cherishing the
democracy that we have, taking advantage of the ability to vote but also
getting involved on campaigns, whether it`s making phone calls, or
canvassing, or things like that. It`s really important just to make sure
that we`re not – we`re valuing this ability, you know, this right that we
have as much as we can. And so, I think it`s a great opportunity for us to
have all these experiences and to bring it back to Wake Forest and share it
with so many other students. Which is obviously a big part of the social
media push that we`ve been doing.
COOK: But I think engaging young people, as much as possible in the
democratic process especially in 2016 when this elections is already been
so unusual and it`s going to be so important, I think it`s a really, really
HARRIS-PERRY: Daniela, what would you say are the top issues that young
people are going to be voting on this year?
FEIJOO: I think the one of the most important things for students our age
is probably going to be college affordability. Also climate change,
environment, how these candidates are going to respond to these issues is
critical. And so, it`s interesting to follow. I was just reading an
article the other day about what each of the reporters or what candidates
are saying from “National Geographic” and what their viewpoints are on
these topics in regards to the environment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. This is just my greatest privilege is traveling with
you all, working with you all. Ari, I`m going to head back to you, but I
just want to say that for me, getting a chance to Wake the Vote with these
22 students is so much fun. Being here in Iowa, the energy of the caucuses
but also the energy of these young people. And again, we`re going to be in
New Hampshire. We`re going to be in South Carolina. We`re going to be in
North Carolina. And of course, we`ll going to be on social media. So,
come join us in Waking the Vote.
MELBER: Awesome. Well, Melissa, it is. It`s a social process, it`s an
education. So, really great what you and your students are doing out
there. I want to thank Melissa Harris-Perry again here and the Wake the
That is of course, the MHP show for today. Thank you at home for watching.
Melissa will be back next Saturday right back here in our New York
Headquarters at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Now tonight, be sure to watch MSNBC
special, prime time live coverage here, final day before the Iowa caucuses,
starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with Brian, Chris and Rachel. You see it right
there. But don`t go anywhere now because “Weekends with Alex Witt” is up
next. Alex is going to talk about those ads airing in Iowa right now, what
campaigns are doing to keep them from becoming just noise and other
breaking news, so stay tuned.
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