The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/14/12

Guests:
Steve Kornacki, Jeff Berman, Barbara Boxer, Jonathan Gruber
Transcript:

ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: That`s “THE ED SHOW.” I`m Ed
Schultz.

Ezra Klein is filling in for Rachel Maddow.

Good morning, Ezra. How are you?

EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Ed. I`m good. How are you?

SCHULTZ: Very good. Nice to see you.

KLEIN: It`s good to see you, too.

And thank you to you at home for sticking around for the next hour.
The great Rachel Maddow is on assignment tonight. She`ll back here
tomorrow.

Now, last night Republicans in three states and one U.S. territory,
America Samoa, were the latest to cast ballots in the Republican
presidential primaries and caucuses.

So, who won? It`s straightforward, right? You heard this all over
the news today. It was Rick Santorum. In fact, we said so right on this
very network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: And we now have a projected
winner in Mississippi. NBC News now projects that Rick Santorum will win
in Mississippi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: But time has passed a full day. So let`s actually take a
closer look at that Mississippi vote.

Mississippi has 82 counties that had a total of 40 delegates up for
grabs. What you`re looking at is how Mississippi voted last night. All of
the counties you see in purple, those are Rick Santorum counties. All the
counties you see in green, Mitt Romney.

So, yes, close race, but Santorum took it. So, it was clear he had
more votes, he had more counties and the end result proved it – 13
delegates for Rick Santorum, and only 12 for Mitt Romney. Poor Mitt
Romney.

Except that wasn`t really the end result in Mississippi. The end
result actually was a tie. And it might be a win for Mitt Romney. You
see, Mitt Romney got one more vote, that was not yet accounted for. One
more vote from an unusually important voter. A guy named Henry Barbour.

Now, you may not have heard of Henry Barbour. There`s really no
reason you have heard of Henry Barbour. But Henry Barbour is the nephew of
former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and he`s also the national
committeeman for the Mississippi Republican Party.

And even though Rick Santorum won Mississippi last night, even though
he won the popular vote there, Barbour boosted Romney to 13 delegates
because Barbour is a super delegate. His vote is one delegate. And so,
that made it a tie, 13 to 13.

And Mississippi has two more super delegates like Barbour. If Romney
wins them, too, he`ll eke out a win in delegates, 15 to 13, despite losing
the vote, despite losing the counties.

And the same was true elsewhere last night as well. In terms of how
many delegates were awarded, Mitt Romney won more than Rick Santorum did.

NBC`s Chuck Todd tallied the night at 42 delegates for Romney, and 38
for Santorum. And that means Romney won the night, or at least he won the
part of the night he needed to win in order to move closer to the
nomination.

Now, Romney hasn`t always seemed so strong in this primary, but he`s
actually won a lot of nights like that one. As you can see, he is way
ahead in the delegate count. It isn`t even close.

Now, that is part of the new truth in the Republican primary. There
are two kinds of presidential primaries, as you can be looking at, at any
given moment. There is momentum-driven kind and there`s the delegate-
driven kind.

Now, if you`re a presidential front-runner, what you want is momentum-
driven election. You put it away early by piling up one after the other in
victories, because Iowa votes for you, then you get New Hampshire, then
because you got New Hampshire, you get maybe South Carolina, then maybe
Super Tuesday falls your way.

Suddenly, the other candidates, they can`t raise money. They can`t
get any endorsements and they just begin dropping like flies. You win the
race by sheer momentum.

All of a sudden, you got everything and you can turn your attention to
the general early, you can turn your money to the general early.

That is pretty much what happened for John Kerry in 2004.

But it doesn`t always go like that. Sometimes you wind up in a long
trench warfare style race. You end up fighting and scrapping for every
single delegate. And that`s where we are right now in the Republican race.
We have officially moved from momentum mattering to delegates mattering.

And, one reason for that, one reason that Rick Santorum despite being
strong in the polls, despite piling up victory after victory, one reason
why he`s still expected to lose this race is because he hasn`t built a
campaign for delegates.

As Dan Balz wrote in “The Washington Post” right before Super Tuesday,
quote, “The absence of a good delegate operation is an early warning signal
of a campaign ill-prepared for whatever might be coming.”

The failure of Santorum to qualify for Tuesday`s primary ballot in
Virginia is an example what can happen to a small, under-funded or
disorganized campaign. Romney`s advisers say Santorum has flunked a key
test of organizing. They are correct.

So, in a place like Ohio, you can see this playing out even though
Rick Santorum lost to Mitt Romney by less than 1 percent of the vote, I
mean, it was pretty much a tie, he got trounced when it came to delegates.
More than a quarter of Ohio`s delegates were off limits because he didn`t
have a delegate right there. His campaign didn`t fill out the paperwork.

From this point forward in the Republican race, it`s all about
delegate, nobody is dropping out quick. That`s the whole ball game. And
the Holy Grail when it comes to that are winner-take-all delegate contest
where even if you win by a percentage point, half percentage point, you get
everything.

There are only four winner-take-all contests left in the race. And
Rick Santorum is in trouble in at least one of them, because one of those
is in Washington, D.C. It`s on April 3rd. And in Washington, D.C., Rick
Santorum won`t even appear on the ballot.

The funny thing about Mitt Romney`s campaign right now, about the
strategy they`re employing, the model they are using, is people they want
to be liked, their role models, the big brother they look up to is
President Obama and his campaign from four years ago. This is probably the
only time when Mitt Romney will tell you – at least maybe privately –
that him and his campaign are sitting there studying what Barack Obama did
and trying to do the exact same thing with the exact same result.

During the `08 race, there was a night dubbed Super Tuesday 2.0. On
that night, Hillary Clinton not only won Ohio, she won Texas and Rhode
Island, too – the only state Barack Obama one was Vermont.

But listen what he said that night after losing in these crucial
states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do know that
senator Clinton has won Rhode Island, and while there are a lot of votes to
be counted in Ohio, it looks like she won there, too. So, I want to
congratulate Senator Clinton for running a hard-fought race in both Ohio
and Rhode Island.

We also know that we have won the state of Vermont and so we want to
say thank you to the people of Vermont.

And we know this – no matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the
same delegate lead as we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning
this nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: But slightly differently, Senator Clinton you did a great job
but we took a bunch of the delegates out from under you, because even
though Barack Obama just lost three big states, at least two big states and
tiny Rhode Island, he was focused on one thing, delegates. While he lost
the votes, he was behind the scenes maneuvering, he made sure he hadn`t
actually lost in delegates.

Now, flash forward four years, even though Mitt Romney just lost
Alabama and Mississippi, here is a message from his campaign today. Quote,
“Tuesday`s results actually increased Governor Romney`s delegate lead,
while his opponents only move closer to their date of mathematical
elimination.”

Mathematical elimination, that sounds so final, doesn`t it?

This is a delegate fight now. When Barack Obama was in the midst of
his own delegate fight back in 2008, he was prepared for it. His campaign
had hired a former Dick Gephardt strategist named Jeff Berman. “The New
Republic” noted back then that Berman was, quote, “probably the party`s
most respected authority on the dark art of delegate math.”

Together, Jeff Berman and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe put
together a path for Barack Obama to get the Democratic nomination, a long
path, a path for delegate slog. And it came down to just that –
delegates, delegates, delegates and more delegates.

Now, joining us now is Jeff Berman. The aforementioned dark wizard of
delegate art who served as President Obama`s national delegate director
during the `08 campaign. He`s also the author of the new book “The Magic
Number,” about the fight in which I think he reveals all his wizard-like
tricks.

So, Jeff, thank you so much for being with us here tonight.

JEFF BERMAN, AUTHOR, “THE MAGIC NUMBER”: Hi, Ezra. Very good to be
with you.

KLEIN: So, this Santorum campaign just hired you. They just hired a
delegate director. At this point in `08, you had your job for a year. So,
have they lost organizational ground to come back or is this still chance
for them?

BERMAN: Well, definitely, it`s a late time to be hiring a delegate
director, but it`s never too late. So, the question now is: can they move
fast enough and smart enough to make up for a lot of the lost ground?

KLEIN: The odd thing about winning delegates, and you bring this up
in your book a little bit, is that even once you win them or think you win
them, they`re not necessarily yours, they can change their minds. That was
happened late in the `08 race. So, Clinton was pursuing it after the
mathematical path for her was impossible but the hope was something would
come out that would make Obama seem unelectable and delegates would leave
him.

Can that happen in the Republican primary? Can there be a late term
switch in delegates if they come and see Mitt Romney as not enough strong
enough candidate, or something comes out about him?

BERMAN: Well, there will be some actually quite a few delegates, I
believe in the Republican system who are technically unbound, particularly
at various stages in the process, in particular in the caucus states. And
then you do have super delegates also.

KLEIN: And how many – and the super delegates, are they enough to
sway it or the type of leads Romney is racking up, can he actually – can
they move it if they go in one direction, or there is just not enough of
them to affect it at that level?

BERMAN: Well, it is somewhat different. We had roughly 850 super
delegates and they are looking at a little over 100. So, of course, we had
twice as many delegates, but still, proportionally we have four times as
many as the Republicans. So, it will have less of an impact on their race,
all things being equal.

KLEIN: So the Ron Paul campaign has essentially been lying in wait
for weeks now waiting for the state and county conventions. And they feel
that those places, they can move what has been a very small amount of the
vote to a much larger amount of the delegates to exert power at the
Republican convention.

Now, I know you were involved in those conventions as Barack Obama`s
national delegate director back in `08, how much can they change things?
What can the Ron Paul campaign do here?

BERMAN: Well, I actually talk quite about the conventions that occur
in the caucus states. And even in some of the primary states in the
Democratic side, we did have a few delegates who would be selected through
that process.

But, you know, he – I think that in his case, the problem is just
that he doesn`t have quite enough support to really have that kind of
impact. Perhaps a Rick Santorum, if he manages his delegates at these
various conventions around the country, he could perhaps have a significant
impact on the outcome from the caucus states through good management
practices at the conventions.

KLEIN: So, if you were advising the Santorum campaign right now, if
they called you for advice, what would you tell them?

BERMAN: Well, I would tell them number one, they need to hustle up
and get on the ball more than they have. Number two, I would set up a
small unit which is what we did, as I also talk about in the book, we set
up a small unit of three professionals whose job was nothing but to work on
those caucus states. And I`ll tell you, in the Republican process, there`s
even more than can be accomplished by knowing what you`re doing, having a
plan and implementing it.

KLEIN: I like that idea of the super special delegate unit.

Jeff Berman, author of the new book “The Magic Number,” thank you so
much for joining us this evening.

BERMAN: Thank you.

KLEIN: Next up, passing a bill to fix America`s roads, bridges, rails
and ports should be an easy thing to agree on – unless you`re the current
House of Representatives under the leadership of John Boehner.

The biggest roadblock in American history with Senator Barbara, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: This used to be the easiest bill to
pass on Capitol Hill. That`s why the House Public Works Committee has so
many members. People couldn`t wait to get on the committee to pass this
bill every five years.

(END VIDEO CLPI)

KLEIN: That was Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, talking to reporters
last week in Washington.

The bill he`s referring to, the bill formerly known as the easiest
bill to pass on Capitol Hill, kind of rhyme – is the highway bill. And
Senator Durbin is right. Once upon a time, the highway bill was not only
beloved by members of Congress far and wide, after all there are potholes
to be filled in everyone`s district, it was also routine. It authorized
spending on roads, on bridges, railways, airports, spending that pretty
much everybody agrees needs to be done.

Look, there are plenty of things we argue about whether or not the
government should be doing. There is debate over the government should be
making sure everyone has health insurance, for example. We`ll talk about
that coming up.

There`s a debate over whether or not the government should be going to
space. It`s not intrinsically obvious it`s the federal government`s role
to put the first foot on mars.

But there are a couple of areas where the government has an obvious
role, things that everyone agrees the government should be doing –
national defense and national infrastructure lead that list. These are
public goods. Pretty much everybody, no matter their political stripe,
thinks the government should fund national defense and infrastructure.

Don`t take my word for it. Listen to Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of
Oklahoma. This is not a guy who is big on government. This is one of the
most conservative people in the Senate, maybe in the entire world. But
here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: I say this to my conservative
friends that you can – a conservative in my opinion, should be a big
spenders in two areas, national defense and infrastructure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Two areas. National – I`ll write that down – national
defense and infrastructure. Senator Inhofe is putting his money where his
mouth he co-authored this year`s highway bill with California Democrat
Barbara Boxer. This makes the whole process sound like the kind of mythic
utopia, days gone by bipartisanship described by Senator Durbin.

It has not been that easy. The last long term highway bill to be
signed in law was in 2005. It expired in 2009. That is, as you`ll notice,
a couple years ago.

Congress has been getting by with short term stop-gap measures ever
since. Good job, Congress.

The highway bill might as well be the mascot for Washington gridlock.
But, today, in the Senate, with 17 days to go before the last stop-gap runs
out, a two-year highway bill passed. Hallelujah, by a lot. The Barbara
Boxer-Jim Inhofe highway bill got 74 votes. But still has to get through
the House and that`s where the problem is.

How Speaker John Boehner has been trying to pass his own highway bill,
trying and failing. Two separate House versions have already failed to win
the support of the majority of members. At this point, he seems near to
giving up. He said he would take the Senate bill or something like it if
Republicans can`t agree on their own bill.

So, it is anyone`s guess whether they`ll be able to come together
behind the Senate bill either. That said, the pressure is most certainly
on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: We are, I think now, about two
weeks away from a total shut down. The House is away this week, they come
back. They are staring at two weeks of a time frame.

When you have a bill that gets 74 votes at a time when everything is
so contentious, you`re barely squeaking by on most of these votes, they
ought to take a serious look at taking this bill up and passing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: If the House does not pass the highway bill in the next 17
days, bad things happen. I mean, they could try another stop-gap, but that
would be the ninth – the ninth – short term extension since `09 when the
last highway funding measure expired.

As my colleague Brad Plumer noted over on “Wonkblog” last week,
transportation experts argue that all these short-term bills have made it
harder for states to do infrastructure. It may need predictability
obviously. So, another one of those would just exacerbate the problem.

But let`s say they can`t even manage to pass a stopgap measure. With
this Congress, it`s always possible. If that happens, as of March 31st,
states are no longer allowed to spend the money in the highway trust fund,
literally not allowed. They can`t continue to build roads.

That means mass layoffs in construction, means roads don`t get fixed.
It means America stops doing anything to improve or repair the crumbling
infrastructure.

This could be the future – the very, very near future, if the House
isn`t able to pass the easiest bill to pass on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now is Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and
co-author, along with Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of the Senate highway
bill.

Senator Boxer, thank you for being here.

BOXER: Thanks, Ezra.

KLEIN: So, we got in this a little bit in the intro. But you studied
more. What happens if we go over the clip in 17 days? What happens if we
don`t pass a highway bill at all?

BOXER: Well, you explained it very well.

KLEIN: Well, thank you.

BOXER: The end of the program for now, it`s gone. They can`t even
collect the gas tax, which goes into the highway trust fund, and from
there, it goes really to private sector companies. That`s why 11,000
businesses are holding their breath, 1.8 million construction workers are
holding their breath.

And I think your set-up piece – I couldn`t have said it better. It
is now in the lap of Speaker Boehner and Leader Eric Cantor. And I checked
today, just before I came on the show, our bill will save 55,000 jobs in
Ohio, in John Boehner`s state. It will save 40,000 jobs in Eric Cantor`s
state.

So, here you have those two leaders there, I would hope that they
would not want to see more layoffs in these recessionary times we`re
finally getting out of slowly and painfully and they should take up our
bill and pass it.

KLEIN: Your bill, let`s talk about the specifics for a moment.

BOXER: Yes.

KLEIN: It`s 8108 billion in over two ears.

BOXER: About $109 billion.

KLEIN: That`s two thirds the size of the infrastructure request in
the president`s budget. So, in a country where the estimated
infrastructure gap is in the trillions, does it do enough? Are we getting
far enough in solving our problem?

BOXER: Let me tell you that I would much prefer to see a larger bill,
but I`m also a pragmatist. I have to find the sweet spot. We`re not going
to be able to pass a Democratic-only bill. It just won`t happen in the
Senate, where we don`t have 60 Democrats. We must reach across the aisle
and we did it.

And what we did is we kept the current level of spending, we added
inflation. But here is the great news – we also took a program called
TIF, Transportation Infrastructure Financing, and we greatly increased that
and the Republicans and Democrats agreed to do this. It`s a leveraging
feature.

Now, I don`t have enough time to explain it, but I will tell you, the
idea came from Los Angeles. They passed a half cent sales tax to build a
number of transportation projects. And it was going to take them 30 years.
Using the TIF program, we found, they could count on the federal government
to front that money, do those projects over 10 years. So, Republicans and
Democrats embraced it.

So, here`s the thing. It will in fact create up to a million new
jobs. So I think because we were clever on using leveraging, this is a
very best step forward and I say to John Boehner, right on your show
tonight, I don`t know if he`s watching the show or not.

KLEIN: He always watches the show.

BOXER: I think he might be.

Stop that clicker, Mr. Boehner. Take this bill and pass it! It got
74 percent of the votes in the United States Senate. It is bipartisan, it
is fair, it is good.

And we need to fix the infrastructure – 70,000 bridges are deficient,
50 percent of our roads are not in good repair. This will put people to
work. It will certainly boost up business because it goes to the private
sector, the vast majority of the funds.

KLEIN: Let me ask you about the other side of the bill. We talked
about the spending.

Let me ask you about the taxes, because one things I`m always amazed
by in infrastructure, and we talked about Republican bill, Democratic bill,
bipartisan bill, in the `80s when Reagan had to do a infrastructure bill.
He put – he created a nickel increase in the gas tax.

And so, the thing we did after that was we funded the infrastructure
bills, highway bills through gas taxes under the theory that people who
drive on roads should pay for them. That stopped happening in the Bush
years, it`s not in your bill.

And to me, it`s a signal how far Washington has moved on taxes. Did
you have any discussion with your colleagues on that?

BOXER: Ezra, the gas tax was started a long time ago and it still
funds infrastructure. So we have in fact kept the gas tax, and dedicate
the federal gas tax to the highway trust fund which funds our roads, our
bridges and highways, along with state matching funds. So, that`s how it
works. We haven`t turned our back on the gas tax.

It is true we haven`t raised it in a very long time for obvious
reasons, because we don`t want people to feel the pinch. But we are facing
a big problem here, because the good news is we`re getting better fuel
economy, the bad news is, the highway trust fund then gets less money.

So, we have to figure out another way to make sure that we can fill
that trust fund because I believe and most of us believe at least that
there ought to be a dedicated source of funding, of making use of the user
fees that we get.

KLEIN: Right. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California – thank
you so much for being with us tonight. And congratulations on your bill
today.

BOXER: And the House has to pass the Senate bill.

KLEIN: Thank you. We`ll see what happens here.

BOXER: OK.

KLEIN: Coming up: a political Zen question: if Newt Gingrich falls in
the forest and he doesn`t hear it, is Newt Gingrich still standing? Newt
Gingrich, Chuck Norris and Monty Python – something completely different
– coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: The mainstream media which I guess partly means me, has missed
the biggest story of the 2012 election cycle. So, you darn you – I mean
me – mainstream media.

Yesterday, when Rick Santorum won Alabama and Mississippi, he not only
beat Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul, but he also beat the
unbeatable man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the eyes of a ranger, the unsuspecting
stranger, had better know the truth from wrong from right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Yes, he bested Chuck Norris – the man who can clap with one
hand, the man who can slam a revolving door, the man who can divide a
number by zero, the man who does not sleep, who only waits.

Chuck Norris endorsed Newt Gingrich. He recorded robocalls for him in
Alabama and Mississippi. The Gingrich campaign put the recording up on
YouTube, saying Chuck Norris does not endorse, he makes reality.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHUCK NORRIS, ACTOR: Hello, this is Chuck Norris. As my wife Gena
and I watched the GOP debate and went to their Web site, we were trying to
decide which of the candidates would be best to do head-to-head combat with
President Obama. Now, I didn`t say hand-to-hand combat even help to I
think they would win there, too. Gena and I decided Newt Gingrich would be
the best man to beat President Obama.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KLEIN: The only problem is the people of Alabama and Mississippi
didn`t listen to Chuck Norris. Perhaps they do not fear roundhouse kicks.

But proving that there is a limit to the awesome power that he
possesses – now, we suspected that might have been true. We suspected it
after his 2008 endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Chuck Norris
does a push up, he isn`t lifting himself up. He`s pushing the earth down.

NORRIS: Mike is a principled, authentic conservative.

HUCKABEE: Chuck Norris doesn`t endorse, he tells America how it`s
going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That would have been more true if what Chuck Norris told
America was Mike Huckabee is going to drop out of the race and not be the
next president.

So, first, Huckabee, now Gingrich. But look, you can`t blame Chuck
Norris. Blame Newt Gingrich for being much less like Walker, Texas Ranger,
and much more like another legend of the silver screen.

Who that legend is, is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: Last night, Newt Gingrich lost two states that even his own
campaign said he absolutely, positively had to win in order to become the
candidate for president.

In both Alabama and Mississippi, Newt Gingrich of Georgia – Georgia
is in the South, of course – lost to Rick Santorum, a candidate who isn`t
even from the South. Just last week, Gingrich`s spokesman R.C. Hammond had
the following exchange with the “Wall Street Journal”.

Question, does he have to win Alabama and Mississippi to remain a
credible candidate. Answer – this is from Gingrich`s campaign – yes.

Question, he has to win? Answer, yes.

It`s not at this point like losing is some weird anomaly for Gingrich.
Gingrich is badly trailing Rick Santorum in delegates, and Santorum in turn
is badly trailing Mitt Romney in delegates. Gingrich is way, way, way
behind.

And, yet, Newt Gingrich wasn`t chasing last night. He wasn`t
depressed or dejected. Newt Gingrich was defiant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because this is
proportional representation, we`ll leave Alabama and Mississippi with
substantial number of delegates, increasing our total going towards Tampa.

I emphasized going to Tampa because one of the things proved is that
the elite media`s effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is
inevitable just collapsed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Watching that clips, it appears that Newt Gingrich and I are
wearing the same tie.

On the subject of campaign`s collapsing, this is a picture of Callista
Gingrich introducing her husband in Rosemont, Illinois, today. Not exactly
a huge crowd.

Now, look, you can see the tie now. Now, look, I was racking my brain
last night. I was wondering what does this speech remind me of, what is
this like?

I knew that somewhere in the deep reaches of part of my brain that
makes everything into pop culture metaphor, there is a perfect thing that
Newt Gingrich and his campaign has become. But I couldn`t quite place it.
I couldn`t get there – who is Newt Gingrich taking his inspiration from?

Now, Newt Gingrich would be the first to tell you he is a historian.
Newt Gingrich can reach back to the great wars of the past wars, upright in
the face of adversity, warriors who never gave up.

But it took a tweet from Arianna Huffington to remind you which great
warrior of yore Newt Gingrich is taking his actual cues from, the Black
Knight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I move for no man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So be it!

(FIGHTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: `Tis but a scratch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A scratch? Your arm`s off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it isn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s that, then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve had worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on you pansy.

(FIGHTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Victory is mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank me Lord –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have at you.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: You`re indeed brave tonight, but the fight is mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, had enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look you stupid bastard you have no arms left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just a flesh wound.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: It is just a flesh wound. Joining me now is Steve Kornacki,
senior writer for Salon.com, and as of today, I believe, an MSNBC political
analyst.

Steve, welcome and congratulations.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you very much.

KLEIN: So, Newt Gingrich, as you know, is revered author of
historical fiction where things that didn`t happen in a logical chain of
circumstances actually do happen and we see how it turned out.

At this point, could Newt Gingrich write an alternative historical
fiction, a convincing one, in which he goes to Tampa and wins the
nomination?

KORNACKI: I think it would go something like this – nobody has
majority, we go through the summer months and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum
are in plane crashes. And suddenly, Newt Gingrich is the only one left
standing. Even then I don`t think he would get it.

KLEIN: Wouldn`t everybody else in the Republican Party have to be in
a plane crash?

KORNACKI: Yes.

KLEIN: I mean, what struck me about his campaign for a guy who was
speaker of the House, who led Republicans to one of the most victories of
the 20th century, the establishment hates him. They will not let that guy
be president.

KORNACKI: Well, he led them to one of the greatest victories they
ever had and then he made the brand politically poisonous, like it`s never
been before over the next four years. And I think they remember that and
we had reminders of that twice during this campaign when he was surging in
the polls – both times, it wasn`t just Romney, it wasn`t the Romney super
PAC, it was every Republican influential opinion-shaping Republican who
remembered the 1990s, they joined the pile-on or they watched it happen and
didn`t speak up for Gingrich.

KLEIN: Now, the weird thing about Gingrich`s role in the primary,
Gingrich says he`s there to take out Mitt. He says he`s sort of like a
Mitt-seeking missile.

And nevertheless, it helps mitt every day Newt Gingrich does not drop
out because it splits the sort of conservative anti-Mitt Romney vote.

Rick Santorum, who Gingrich seems to like very much, is anti-Romney,
which leads people to wonder is what Gingrich doing basically not dropping
out until Rick Santorum says, yes, I will run with you on the ticket if I
win the nomination?

KORNACKI: Yes, I don`t even know if he has thought it out that much.
Who knows what he has thought at all.

KLEIN: Nothing Newt Gingrich (INAUDIBLE).

KORNACKI: That`s right. That`s kind of scary.

But my sense is what he`s probably thinking here are two things. One,
they were telling me, you know, both your arms fell off last summer, when
my campaign, you know, basically imploded, I came back and won two
primaries. So, why am I going to listen to them now?

But the second thing is this: he`s probably thinking the scenarios
where this primary process ends and Mitt Romney has the most delegates but
is let`s say 100 short of the magic number, and then Gingrich is there and
he has, I don`t know, 200 delegates coming out of this process and there is
some real suspense – can Romney get the numbers to put him over the top?
And Gingrich then is – he`s relevant, that`s what he really is.

I think he might be looking ahead and thinking – I want to be
relevant when this big political story happens in June. That`s my guess of
where he is.

KLEIN: Does he – I mean, I always wondered, he`s a smart political
mind. Does he get how sort of radioactive he is to the broader electorate?
I mean, even frankly the Republicans. I mean, he`s a crater. Does he show
sort of a self-consciousness about his role in the party at this point?

KORNACKI: No, I don`t think so. And again, I think he has been
rewarded for sort of denying these things because anyone in his position
who got pushed off the national stage the way he did in 1998, leading the
impeachment drive against Clinton while conducting the extramarital affair,
losing House seats in a year when Republicans never should have lost seats,
all of this stuff.

Anybody who pushed off the tapes like that would say, that`s it. It`d
been a nice career, I`m going to be a lobbyist.

KLEIN: Right.

KORNACKI: This guy managed to go – to come back and win South
Carolina and win Georgia. He`s not going to come close to the Republican
nomination. He`s making a fool of himself, again. But he has unbelievable
capacity to bounce back and it`s because – there is no shame there.

KLEIN: No shame can sometimes be a powerful thing.

Steve Kornacki, senior writer for Salon.com ands MSNBC political
analyst – thank you for being here.

KORNACKI: Sure.

KLEIN: Right after the show, on “THE LAST WORD,” the always
interesting, always provocative Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael
Moore will be there.

And here, speaking of Mitt Romney – his greatest accomplishment as
governor of Massachusetts is the one he`s running away from the fastest.
What Mitt Romney did right, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: Still ahead, we are going to celebrate Pi Day, 3.14 or to be
more precise, wait I have it here – 3.141592653958979322 –

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: They say it`s better to be lucky than to be good.

Over the past few weeks, the Romney campaign has been very lucky,
very, very lucky, because their candidate back when he was governor of
Massachusetts, he did something very good. He passed a near-universal
health care reform bill. That was in `06.

And now, new numbers out of the base state show health care costs are
growing more slowly there than the rest of the nation. Between `02 and `06
are the four years before Romneycare – employer sponsored health care
premiums for Massachusetts families rose 6 percent faster than the national
average. So, it was going quicker.

From `06 to 2010, the period after Romneycare, premiums for
Massachusetts families increased 3 percent more slowly than the rest of the
country. It`s a 9 percentage points swing for them in the right direction.
Bully for Romney. What good news.

Then, this week a new study came out that look at self-reported health
in Massachusetts. So, did Romney care improve health of his constituents?
Oh, yes. The authors found improvements in, quote, “physical health,
mental health, functional imitations, joint disorder, body mass index, and
moderate physical activity.” So, in pretty much everything.

What`s more – they found they were largest for the groups the law had
done the most to help. For Romney, this is great news – I mean, fantastic
news. To have such striking evidence of the success of your central
achievement legislative achievement come out in the middle of a heated
presidential primary. I mean, man, that is luck. That is timing you can`t
buy. That`s like sunshine and rainbows on your wedding day.

And so, I went to Mitt Romney`s Web site to see how they were
celebrating these fantastic numbers and I clicked over to press released
and nothing? I mean, I don`t mean there were no press releases, there were
plenty of press releases.

Here for instance is Mitt Romney announces agriculture advisory
committee. And here`s five questions for President Obama on Medicare. And
here is Mitt Romney, proud to have support of so many in Kansas – which
seems like passive-aggressive, doesn`t it? Like and what about the rest of
you in Kansas?

Then I went to his healthcare page, maybe it was there. It seemed an
obvious enough place for him to put his healthcare triumph. His healthcare
page literally never mentioned a fact that Mitt Romney as governor of
Massachusetts passed and implemented the nearest thing to universal health
care that exists in any state in the whole country. Literally never
mentions it, like they forgot, or maybe like they are trying to hide it.

Which is crazy, because the health care plan he passed is working. It
is providing health care to more than 95 percent of the state`s residents,
it is popular, it is improving health. It may be helping to control costs.
But that`s not even the really weird thing.

The really weird thing is Romney`s page does spend a bunch of time
discussing health care plan, just like Romney, but this one is called – or
he calls it – Obamacare. Mitt Romney hates Obamacare.

Now, here`s the thing about the Obamacare-Romneycare linkage. During
the health care debate: Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for “USA Today.” This
was back in 2009, which tried to persuade President Obama to do health
reform the way he did it in Massachusetts.

He wrote, quote, “No other state made as much progress in covering
their uninsured as Massachusetts,” which is absolutely true. And then he
got specific about what he wanted to do. Quote, “First, we establish
incentives for those uninsured to buy insurance using tax penalties as we
did or tax credits as others have proposed. That encourages free riders to
take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on
to others.”

You catch that? You see what he was saying there? Using tax
penalties to push the uninsured to buy insurance, is using an individual
mandate. Tax credits help them afford it that is in the bill.

Obama, who had opposed an individual mandate in `09, he came around to
Romney`s position. He agreed with him. He took his advice.

At the end of the same op-ed, Romney wrote, “The federal government
can do something we cannot. Take step to slow – to stop or slow medical
inflation. Providers are paid more when they do more. They are paid for
quantity, not quality. We will tame runaway costs only when we change
incentives.”

Obama took his advice again, the bill is trying – it spends billions
of dollars on comparative effectives review to find out what treatments
work and which don`t. That`s how you find out what quality is. It changes
how Medicare pays doctors so they get paid for meeting those quality
targets rather than just doing more. It`s exactly what Romney wanted.

He took Romney`s advice.

And what does Romney say? Did he say he inspired national reforms.
Does he say that even a Democratic president has to take his approach?

On his Web site he writes, again, quote, “When is the last time a
massive government lowered cost, improved efficiency, or raised the
consistency of a service?”

Dude, I don`t know when the last time was but your massive government
lowered cost, improved efficiency, and raised the consistency of service.

And Obama followed your advice when he built his program. Advice that
said and I quote, “the federal government can do something we could not.”

Joining me now is Jonathan Gruber, an MIT health economist who helped
Mitt Romney design his program and helped the Obama administration help
design theirs.

Jonathan, it`s also, to my knowledge, the only author of the only
comic book – I`m sorry, graphic novel about health care bill, that has
ever been written – “Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It`s Necessary
and How It Works”.

Jon, it`s good to see you.

JONATHAN GRUBER, ECONOMIST: Good to see you, Ezra.

KLEIN: You advised the authors of both of these bills. You know the
laws inside and out. Is there some huge difference between them that
accounts from the fact that Romney signed one and is running against the
other?

GRUBER: There is no substantive difference, Ezra. The core of the
national Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is the same as what we did in
Massachusetts. It was based on Massachusetts. It was inspired by
Massachusetts.

Quite frankly, it wouldn`t have happened if we hadn`t succeeded in
Massachusetts.

KLEIN: And you follow the literature on health care reform and health
care policy closely. In fact, actually, in a lot of cases, you are the
literature in that. And you live in Massachusetts.

So I know you have a dog in this fight. Tell me in your opinion, is
Romneycare working? Do you think that`s a fair read that it`s been at
least modestly successful program?

GRUBER: Really, Ezra, it`s a very clear read. The goal of Romneycare
was twofold. One was to cover uninsured citizens and we covered more than
two-thirds of citizens who are uninsured. Our insurance rate is now down
to about 2 percent, which is European levels.

The second goal was to fix a broken and dysfunctional non-group or
individual insurance market. And in that market, since we passed this law,
we have lowered premiums by 50 percent relative to national trend. We have
done all of this with broad public support. So, yes, it set goals and it
achieved them.

KLEIN: And towards the end of Romney`s op-ed, he said that the
federal government can do what states could not. That there is actually
role for them and realign incentives in health care to focus on quality.
Did the Affordable Care Act actually do some of this? Did they take that
advice?

GRUBER: So, if you can think of the Affordable Care Act, as starting
with the core which is Romneycare and then building on it, building on it
in two ways.

One way is actually raising the money to pay for it. One thing Romney
doesn`t talk about is the fact that his wonderful program was actually paid
for by the federal government. The federal government didn`t have that
luxury. We had to pay for it. That`s one way the Affordable Care Act is
more ambitious.

The second way is what you mentioned, Ezra. The second way of the
Affordable Care Act is more ambitious, it tackles cost control which we
didn`t do in Massachusetts. It wasn`t a goal of our law. It looks like we
are lowering premiums. That`s great, but that wasn`t the goal.

And the federal bill is more ambitious. It`s trying to through a
number of avenues tackle the critical issue of health care cost control.

KLEIN: Jonathan Gruber, MIT health economist, graphic novel creator,
extraordinaire, thank you so much for being here tonight.

GRUBER: Thanks for having me, Ezra.

KLEIN: Still ahead, what would Pi Day be without pie charts? A sad,
empty experience. And I for one refuse to allow that to happen. Awesome
pie charts are coming next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: Did you love when we got to the arcane delegate apportionment
at the top of the show. And were you sort of like I am, like really into
the cost benefit curve of the Massachusetts health reform law of `06? If
so, you are my kind of people.

Nerds, geeks, probably even lovers of charts and have I have a Pi Day
treat for you because this is Pi Day. And every normal person loves pi,
the delicious and nourishing mathematical constant we use to calculate the
area of a circle.

It is what you get when you take the circumference of a circle, the
distance around it and divide it by the diameter, the distance across it.
When you do that, in addition to a prestigious merit badge from the slide
rule and abacus society, you get Pi.

Pi is kind of magical. It is a number that never stops, never loops,
never repeats itself, never ends. The numbers in Pi just go on and on and
on. You can get a million of them on this Web site here.

But what you really need to know for today is the first three digit of
Pi – 3.14. Today is March 14th or 3.14. This is Pi Day. Happy, happy,
happy Pi Day. And this can`t be the first time that someone wished you a
happy Pi Day today, can it?

On Pi Day, people that aren`t self aware really don`t care what
(INAUDIBLE) and can do things like run Pi gauntlets. They drop Pi at
numerically appropriate hour as though it were a ball in Times Square.
They gamely rattle off as many digits of Pi as they can possibly remember
while holding toy guitars that they do not play.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s my favorite holiday –
3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939990582 –

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That was kind of amazing actually. Pi Day is that kind of
celebration. In certain circles, circles whose diameters divide by their
circumferences in equal pi of course. It is a big celebration.

In my circle, Pi Day is a day when we marvel at our favorite pie
charts. First up, this graph from `09 showing support for various
candidates in the Republican primary – 70 percent of the voters backed
Sarah Palin and 63 percent backed Mike Huckabee and 60 percent back Mitt
Romney. If you add that up a lot of people are voting two of three times.

This is a rule for pie charts that you should know, the numbers should
add up to 100 usually, particularly if you are doing percentages.

This next is, can be filed under meta. It is a pie chart of what you
are doing right now. What you are doing right now is reading this pie
chart.

Here`s parts of a pie chart – the big blue part and the tiny purple
one. Those are the parts.

This chart has a first cousin once removed. This chart is known as a
percentage and it`s a favorite of mine. The percentage chart resembles
Pac-Man. It is divided in to the part that does resemble Pac-Man and the
part that does not resemble Pac-Man. You can probably guess which is
which.

I think of this as the action pie chart. It shows the death star
before rebel attack and now, after rebel attack.

But this one on today of all days is made of delicious wind. It is a
pie chart made of pi. Very funny, very smart. Somewhere, Mr. Spock is
smiling which makes me smile.

Happy Pi Day. I`m off to eat some pie.

That does it for us tonight. I`m Ezra Klein. The one and only Rachel
Maddow will be back tomorrow. You can find more of my work with on
wonkblog.com.

Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
great night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>