The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/08/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you very much.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
One of the things that is going to happen now in Washington is that we
are going to start learning which senior members of the Obama
administration really only wanted to serve one term. Is Hillary Clinton
going to leave as secretary of state? Is Eric Holder going to leave as
attorney general? Mr. Geithner going to leave as secretary of treasury?
The speculation is officially hot and heavy in Washington as to who
will stay on, who will leave and, of course, who will get the jobs of the
people who do leave.
Everybody in Washington is also now figuring out how they are going to
work with President Obama for another four years, how the politics of him
earning a second term affects what he wants to do and how likely it is he
is going to be able to do it.
It probably was not an auspicious sign for that process when the
president, right after his victory speech on Tuesday night, right after he
was done speak, as soon as he was done speaking, the night he wins a second
term, after he gave that speech, he got on the phone and he tried to call
the Republican leader in the House and the Republican leader in the Senate.
He tried to call John Boehner and Mitch McConnell but he was told they were
Quote, “After his speech, Mr. Obama tried to call both Mr. Boehner and
the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, but was told they were
I realized it was late night and everything, but if the president
calls you and you are asleep, do you not get woken up? Isn`t that sort of
a standing order? One of the things we can all agree on the sort of thing
you get out of bed for? The presidents an on the phone, OK, I`ll wake up
and take the call no matter who you are?
But, no, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell stayed asleep. Nobody woke
them up. So, those conversations did not happen that night. Since then,
both Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell have made statements about what they see
happening in this next year, indicating that maybe they also slept through
the part of the night when the results of the election came in.
Mr. McConnell put out a statement saying that what`s clear to him
about this election is that the voters have not endorsed President Obama`s
The fact that the president won the election is not an endorsement of
Filling in a little bubble next to the man`s name on a piece of paper
is technically how we endorse a person in America. But Mitch McConnell
does not see it that way.
Taegan Goddard at “Political Wire” was able to find online today the
Romney campaign`s would have/could have/should have transition Web site
today. Surely, this was not supposed to go live until Mr. Romney actually
won the election. The campaign did not wait. They presumably accidentally
put it up, a transition Web site for President-elect Romney, how to apply
for a job with the new Romney administration and all this stuff.
And it looks like because they screen shot it before they finally did
take it down, it looks like the Romney folks had a transition motto all
ready to go, a slogan, repeated slogan on the Web site is smaller, simpler,
When Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner gave his first post-
election press conference what he thought should happen in this country
given the results of the election, it`s almost like he thought he was
speaking in the context of a President-elect Romney and President-elect
Romney`s smaller simpler smaller branded transition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: By working together
and creating a fairer, simpler, cleaner tax code, moving to fairer, simpler
system energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Simpler, fairer, simpler – John Boehner at that press
conference congratulated President Obama for beating Mitt Romney said, as a
consequence of this election and to reflect the will of the country, I
suggest what we do now is enact Mitt Romney`s tax plan.
He said what he wants the president to do now, what he expects the
property to do is now to cut income tax rates and pay for it by closing
unspecified loopholes in the tax code. If that sounds familiar, it`s
because that was what Mitt Romney proposed – Mitt Romney who just lost the
election after proposing that very thing, people said no.
If you lose the election, you do not get to implement your ideas what
the country said no to. That`s what losing means. That`s the whole point
of a loser.
We`re not going to get a Mitt Romney tax policy now because Mitt
Romney lost the election, John Boehner, while you were sleeping through the
Republican`s phone call.
But this is how Republicans have been handling the news of this
election this week, at least so far.
This is handwriting – this is my – that`s my actual handwriting.
That`s how bad my handwriting is on the printout of a newspaper article
that I read when I first got into work today. When I went back to look for
the article this afternoon, I realized that is what I had written in the
margin of the article not paying attention to the fact I was doing it. I
just wrote the word “ha” five times and then an exclamation point and star.
Here`s why I did that without noticing I was doing it. It`s a quote
in this “New York Times” article today from Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole.
What does Tom Cole – Congressman Tom Cole think about Mitt Romney and Paul
Ryan losing this election?
His take away is this: “The Paul Ryan budget passed a pretty big test.
We had to run around the country and defend it. The Ryan budget proved
itself a viable platform on which to run and be reelected.”
Wow. Just to reiterate, this is what happened on election night. How
does this constitute the Ryan budget passing a big test? The Ryan budget
took a big test but it did not pass that test. Those are two very
The lesson of this election for Republicans appears to be – hey, all
that stuff we ran on, it totally worked. Think about what determines what
the Republican Party does next, what determines how they fix their
political problems. The question of who is going to be the new face of the
Republican Party and how they will course correct after this disastrously
bad election for them. It all depends how they assess what just went
wrong, right, and why it went so wrong. What do they think their problem
is that caused the country to reject them so emphatically in 2012?
The signs how their self-assessment is going so far are not promising.
On Wednesday, the day after the election, yesterday, Mr. Romney had
breakfast with some of his richest donors. What does he think happened in
the election, why does he think he lost? Well, he told his donors, quote,
“Romney told the donors he believed hurricane Sandy stunted his momentum in
the final week of the campaign.”
Karl Rove wrote in “The Wall Street Journal” yesterday that President
Obama was lucky that hurricane Sandy happened because it, quote,
“interrupted Mr. Romney`s momentum.”
This began for Republicans even before Election Day, Republicans
explaining how Mitt Romney`s loss in the election would not be a reflection
on anything about Mitt Romney or his policies or campaign or the Republican
Party. They were explaining that before Mr. Romney even lost.
On October 31st, campaign sources told CBS News, quote, “Superstorm
Sandy stalled Romney`s momentum.”
A few days before the election, Karl Rove, again, quote, “If you
hadn`t had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the Romney
campaign to talk about the deficit.”
The blame the storm line has continued all through today especially
with former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour speaking on the “Today”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY BARBOUR (R), FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: Hurricane Sandy saved
Barack Obama`s presidency. It broke the momentum Romney had coming in at
the end of October.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is a narrative Republicans are telling themselves, that
the Beltway media is also now starting to tell itself because they keep
hearing Republicans say it. It is not a theory born from reality.
I mean, this is a checkable thing, right? This is an empirical idea.
Their theory is that Mitt Romney was on track to win this thing if it
weren`t for that blasted storm. This is something we can check. I mean,
it`s easy, right?
OK. Let`s start with this. We`re all in agreement that the polls
were correct, right, despite all the nonsense ahead of the election about
how the polls seemed so wrong before the election, now that the election
has happened, it has been proven and we can all agree that the polls
reflected math and not some an nefarious agenda to make conservatives feel
So, the polls were right, we can all agree. Out of all the polls,
let`s look at the one we know now mathematically was the most accurate
daily tracking poll. The one that was most accurately reflected what was
really going on in the race. That would be the IPSOS-Reuters poll.
Did hurricane Sandy blunt Mr. Romney`s momentum? Was he on track to
win if it weren`t for that storm?
Well, hurricane Sandy made landfall October 29th. Here`s how Obama
and Romney were running against each other in the most accurate poll in the
country on the day before the hurricane. On the day of the hurricane,
October 29th, President Obama is up 48, Mitt Romney is up 47 percent.
And look at the five days after the storm hit. Hey, again, President
Obama ahead by the exact same 1 percent.
So, before hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead one or two points.
After hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead by one or two points.
Remember, this is the poll that we know in retrospect was totally
right. So, if we believe the polls, which we all do now in America and the
IPSOS-Reuters poll was the most accurate one of all the polls in this
presidential election, then, really, probably, there was no Romney momentum
going into hurricane Sandy that was ruined by the storm. It just didn`t
happen and it`s checkable.
And I`m not saying this to make conservatives feel bad. I`m saying
this to welcome you out of the bubble of denial that has proven so
dangerous to your political prospects of late.
I think Haley Barbour is a smart guy. This is not a smart idea.
I mean, liberals probably shouldn`t disabuse conservatives of this
notion. Think about it, if the Republicans take as their lesson from this
election that a hurricane is the only reason they didn`t win, Democrats are
probably be psyched about that delusion, because that means the Republicans
next time will go on the next election campaigning with the same kind of
candidates on the same kind of policies, but just planning on not having a
Is that going to be their plan? No storm and then, we`ll win.
I understand why a guy like Karl Rove would tell his donors this,
right? He wants to tell his donors, I didn`t waste your hundreds of
millions of dollars. Your hundreds of millions of dollars would have
bought you a shiny new president definitely if it weren`t for that darned
storm. You definitely need to give me your hundreds of millions of dollars
again because this time there won`t be a hurricane. And everything else we
did was fine and I should do it all again.
That makes sense for charlatans who make their living separating
gullible rich conservatives from their money. It makes sense why a guy
like Karl Rove would do that. But is going to be the Republican Party`s
assessment of what happened here?
It is factually untrue. You did not lose because of the storm, and
this election really was an endorsement of Barack Obama and this election
did not prove the political viability of the Paul Ryan kill Medicare
budget, it proved the opposite.
What the Republican Party does in response to this information,
whether they prove capable of absorbing this difficult information is the
next great question in the amazing politics of the American right.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Barney Frank. He represents
Massachusetts` fourth district. He`s the ranking member of the Financial
Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Since Tuesday, John Boehner has suggested what we need to do
fiscally for the country and what we should expect to happen in Washington
is Mitt Romney`s tax plan.
FRANK: Well, the problem with that is, I don`t know what it is
because there`s a third question, it would be a mistake to assume Mitt
Romney having said it a month ago still supports it. You know, his public
policy positions came with “not good after 30 days”.
But Romney himself didn`t tell us what it was, except he floated it
out too much. He said in of the debates, this is incredible. We`ll limit
deductions. Pick a number. What an extraordinary thing for a presidential
candidate to say, pick a number.
And then he said $25,000, we would limit reductions to $25,000. Well,
in our home state of Massachusetts, Rachel, if you buy a house, you`re
paying more than that in your mortgage interest the first year – $2,500 is
not excessive mortgage in Massachusetts given, even today with house
prices. So, that takes away any middle class deductions for homeownership,
for education and health care. But we literally don`t know what the Romney
The other thing we ought to say when they say this is an endorsement
of their principles, remember too that the Romney plan was only about a
month that plan. It was before that to reduce taxes for the rich. And
when we talk about who did what, to the extent that Romney started to make
some gains and he did make some gains from the dismal position he was in,
he did it by abandoning his positions.
One other point that – by the way, I did want to note, you and I have
this interest, I did want to ask the Romney people smaller, simpler,
smarter except the military.
FRANK: The biggest single area of expenditure in the federal
government, smaller, simpler smarter, we have to have more World War I
ships. I don`t know how that fits with smaller – but it was simpler. It
weren`t smaller and smarter.
FRANK: But the other thing is this and we look at the election, we
didn`t just elect a president, we elected a Senate and a House. The
Democrats, despite all predictions, picked up seats in the Senate, and the
way they work, they drew more Republican senators (ph). Were people voting
for Democrats in Montana and Indiana and Wisconsin and elsewhere because of
the storm? I mean, did the people of those Midwestern states say – well,
you know what, Obama did a good job in the storm, let`s re-elect our
And, by the way, in the House, we gained House seats. Unfortunately,
the Republicans were able to gerrymander the House badly because they won
the 2010 election. If we had run this House election by the same districts
that had existed in 2010, we`d have a Democratic House now. We did very
well in the Democratic Senate.
So, this was a very big victory. Nearly 3 million in the popular
vote, the fifth time in the last six Democrats have won the popular vote.
And as far as Mitt Romney`s tax plan, one, we don`t know what it is,
he was afraid to tell us what it is because it would have brutal effect and
the public did repudiate it.
MADDOW: The president has been quiet since mostly his victory speech.
He gives victory speech, the campaign today released tape of him speaking
to his volunteers. We know he`s going to speak on the economy tomorrow.
But even in that little bit that we heard from the president, we heard
some gesturing at least towards stuff he might want to get done in his
second term and might want to get started with in his second term.
Obviously, we`re expecting something in terms of economic policy,
immigration, climate change, maybe something in terms of election – the
conduct of elections and reforming that process.
With more Democrats in the Senate and with – I think Democrats
picking up seats in the House, too, despite all the things you just side,
what do you think is going to be possible?
FRANK: Well, that`s a good point. But you say one other thing you
reminded me of when you mentioned climate change. Yes, the storm did help
the president. The man did his job very well, much better than his
Republican predecessor. And, oh, that`s cheating. That shouldn`t be
But climate change – it brought on the endorsement of Mike Bloomberg,
because one of the things the storm did was to bring climate change to the
fore. So, to that extent, if Republicans got hurt because of the storm, it
was because of the abysmal stupidity of their position denying climate
change. And yes, so the storm did remind people how wrong they were.
I think this question – the Senate I hope and president will come up
with a balanced plan, substantial cuts in the military. That`s one we won.
Romney tried to make that an issue. For the first time a president
campaigned on less military spending in my memory, maybe in my lifetime and
it was successful.
MADDOW: He won Virginia with that message – a military state, right.
FRANK: And secondly, you get some tax increases on the very wealthy,
which showed to be popular. And Romney ran away from cut their taxes.
Yes. There`ll be some domestic spending restraints. Not raising the
retirement age. One of the reasons I`m glad I`m not running again, when I
tell people, I don`t think a woman who started waiting on tables at 18 and
still carrying heavy dishes in and out of a hot kitchen when she`s 66, I
don`t think she ought to have to work another five years. I`m not saying
that just because I`m a politician, because I ain`t one anymore.
I think it depends. There were clearly some Republicans with a sense
of survival and who understand you have to have some revenue increases on
the wealthy, military cuts and spending restraints elsewhere. And the
question is will any of them break with the party? That`s really have
What we have to say to Republicans, do you now not understand what
happens when you let crazy people win your primaries? I mean, I don`t know
if I ever showed you my bumper sticker which I actually made up, because I
know some of our friends, ourselves, we think the president could do a
little more in some areas. But I made a bumper that said vote Democratic,
we`re not perfect but they`re nuts.
And maybe now the answer is will the Dick Lugars, the ones remain in
the Republican Party, not left. Mainstream conservatives finally say, you
know what? This is crazy. We`re going to vote for a balanced (INAUDIBLE).
And I think that`s the issue.
They understand the right wing got repudiated this time and Democratic
position won in the Senate and White House and even in the House given the
gerrymander. So, I don`t know the answer. It is possible you have
mainstream Republicans with some common sense and survival instinct to
abate with the crazies.
MADDOW: It`s going to be amazing to watch that dialogue happen, given
what didn`t happen after the McCain –
FRANK: Oh, I have enjoyed watching FOX News for the first time.
MADDOW: Let me a brief question about your future. You said you`re
psyched you`re not running again for your House seat. If John Kerry,
senator from Massachusetts or Deval Patrick the state`s governor, takes a
cabinet job in this administration, would you make yourself available for
the governorship or Senate seat in Massachusetts?
FRANK: No. It`s flattering people mentioned it. The Senate seat,
I`m 72 years old, Rachel. I don`t think at 72 you commit yourself to a six
year term. I mean, I hope I`ll be healthy and Jim keeps me healthy.
But, no. I want to write. I want to be involved in the debate
without having to march in parades, to be honest and without having people
scream what I say through this, oh, you`re just a politician.
I`m very happy splitting my time between Jim and my house in Maine and
probably get and do some teaching. I want to be a participant in the
public debate with a little less responsibility.
MADDOW: Well, I expect to be talking to you at this table when you`re
Barney Frank, thank you very much for being here, sir.
FRANK: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. The things we learn this week: women voters have
their own ideas. That`s coming up next.
MADDOW: So, as you know, Nevada casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson
spent something like $100 million of his own money on this year`s election,
with that money, he elected no one. None of the candidates he supported
ended up winning.
But you know who else spent $100 million of her own money and nothing
show for it, Linda McMahon. Linda McMahon spent almost $100 million of her
own money trying to get a Senate seat for herself in Connecticut, trying
over two elections and she lost both times.
This time, Linda McMahon tried to make it look like she was running on
the same ticket as President Obama which was a very nice try but
Connecticut apparently knew that Linda McMahon really is a Republican and
she lost. She lost the Senate race in blue state Connecticut by 12 points.
But look at this, Linda McMahon lost the women`s vote by nearly twice
that margin. She lost overall by 12 but she lost women by 21. Linda
McMahon, despite being herself a woman running against man had a gender gap
problem that was among the worst of all the Republican candidates this
And, boy, did Republican candidates this year have a gender gap
problem. Look at this. In Florida Senate race, Republican Connie Mack
lost to Democrat Bill Nelson by 13 points overall but he lost by 20 among
In Missouri, Republican Todd Akin lost to Democratic incumbent Claire
McCaskill by 16 points. He lost among women by 22 points.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Tom Smith by nine overall. He lost by 18
In Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly
by six points overall. He lost by twice that, by 12 points among women.
And in Virginia, Republican George Allen lost to Democrat Tim Kaine by
six points overall and again, by twice that margin among women, lost the
women`s vote by 12 points.
In Wisconsin, Republican Tommie Thompson lost to Tammy Baldwin, the
Democrat, by five points. But his margin by women, admirably enormous by
triple that, he lost women by triple that, he lost women by 15 points.
In Massachusetts, Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent, lost to
Democrat Elizabeth Warren by eight points overall and by more than twice
that, by 18 points among women.
In the great state of Ohio, Republican Josh Mandel lost to Sherrod
Brown by five points overall. His margin of defeat among women was 14
In Montana, Republican Denny Rehberg lost to Jon Tester in a close
overall, by about four points, but among women, he lost by nine.
Look at this now. In Nevada Senate race – now, in this race, the
Republican, Congressman Dean Heller, won this Senate race. He won overall
by one point, but he did it no thanks to women. He actually lost the
women`s vote by six points. So women voters in Nevada did not support the
guy who won. They picked his opponent, Democrat Shelley Berkley.
Same thing happen in the Arizona Senate race, where Republican Jeff
Flake won by five points. But if you look at how women voted, he actually
lost the women`s vote. The preference of women voters in Arizona is not
the guy who won the election. Arizona women picked the Democrat. They
picked Richard Carmona.
The governor`s race in Indiana. Republican Mike Pence was elected.
He won by four points. But if you asked women, they did not pick him. He
lost the women`s voice by five points.
If Indiana had their way, Mike Pence would not be the governor of that
state. They chose the Democrat. They chose – women chose the Democrat
Now, look at this in the presidential race. North Carolina was one of
two states President Obama won in `08 and didn`t win this time around.
Mitt Romney ended up winning North Carolina by three points this year.
But if you asked North Carolina women, they prefer Barack Obama, thank
you very much. Romney barely won the state overall because he had big
enough numbers with men to make up for it, but he lost among North Carolina
women. They did not change their preference from 2008. They voted for
President Obama again this year.
This might have happened in other races, too, I should say. We only
had it for 31 states, not from 50 states, which I think was a decided I
think for financial reasons. They just decided not to do exit polling in
all states. So, we don`t know what happened to the other states, it`s sort
of a tragedy because we mine this data for many deficit reasons and we
won`t ever have complete exit polling data for the who country this year,
just 31 states.
But what is clear from the data we do have, Republicans really, really
lost women and lost them badly. Where Republicans are losing elections,
their losses are built on extraordinarily poor performance with women
voters. Even when where Republicans are winning elections, their weakness
with women was a major vulnerability.
If Republicans want to fix what went wrong for them in this election,
isn`t this a place to start?
President Obama didn`t win among women voters by nearly six times his
overall margin victory because President Obama is a lady. He is not a
lady. I mean, Linda McMahon is a lady, but that did not help her either.
This is not a matter of chromosome. It`s a matter of policy.
When women voters in Connecticut rejected Linda McMahon by almost
twice the margin the state as a whole rejected her, that was not because
she`s a woman, right? It was because of policy. It is not about the wrong
person in a particular race. It is not about a candidate here and there
making an unfortunate remark about rape.
The problem Republicans are having with women voters is a policy
problem. It is a big sweeping party-wide, nationwide pattern for
Republicans. It`s what the Republican Party stands for. Republicans are
telling American voters a story about their vision for the country that is
making women voters say no, that`s making women voters vote for whoever is
not the Republican, no matter who the Republican candidate is.
This pattern is consistent all across the country. How are
Republicans going to fix that problem? Because this is a demographic
problem that is not going to get better – I mean, unless the Republicans
in the swing states can figure out some way to reverse women suffrage, this
is not going to get better for them over time.
In America, women consistently vote in higher numbers than men do.
And that is as much a problem for the Republican Party as the wholesale
rejection of their party by African-Americans and Latinos. If the average
voter in America is female – and that is true, more women are voting than
men in basically every election, then the Republican Party is going to need
to figure out how to stop repulsing that average American voter as much as
they evidently repulse women now.
Running Republican women candidates is not going to solve this
problem. Ask Linda McMahon. This is a policy problem.
How are you guys going to fix that?
MADDOW: You can deliver a presidency that results in the most
misguided and tragic foreign policy in two generations. You can engineer
the politics of an administration that results in a financial crisis almost
as bad as the Great Depression. You can become a two word metaphor meaning
Machiavellian and dishonest to at least half the country. That is all A-OK
with the people who finance Republican politics and politicians.
But if you blow a couple hundred million dollars of their own personal
dollars, then there`s some explaining to do. Karl Rove explains himself to
the people whose money he flushed down the toilet this year and it turns
out a story worth hearing. That`s coming up.
In America today we`re running out of a vital resource we need to
compete on the global stage.
MADDOW: Underappreciated news about this election, they are still
counting ballots in Arizona tonight and nowhere near done. Look at this.
They have more than 630,000 ballots to count in Arizona, more even than
they thought they had when they started reckoning with this mess yesterday.
In Maricopa County in Arizona, which is basically Phoenix, there are
340,000 early votes not counted as of tonight.
In Pima County, which is basically Tucson, they`ve got more than
The real problem in Arizona is with the provisional ballots, which is
what you have to use when there`s a hiccup with your registration. You
vote now and you`re supposed to go back later and try to prove that your
provisional ballot shouldn`t count. It`s a crazy system.
More than half of the voters in some Latino neighborhoods got pushed
into voting using a provisional ballot with this crazy system. But that
means that Arizona has a lot of provisional ballots still left to count.
In greater Phoenix alone, 115,000 provisional ballots are waiting to be
counted. Around Tucson, they`ve more than 25,000, still tonight.
Counting these special ballots can take as many as 45 minutes apiece.
Think about that, 45 minutes for 172,000 ballots. That`s really bad math,
45 minutes, 172,000. That`s going to take forever.
Unless, of course, you just throw a large portion of them out, which
is what happened in 2008 in Pima County, Arizona. The ACLU that year named
Pima County the worst offending place in the nation for disenfranchising
voters. That was because Pima County decided in 2008 that they were just
going to throw out nearly one in five provisional ballots, just not count
them. That makes everything go faster.
People are marching in the streets of Arizona over this, this year.
Look at that. Protesters now stationed at the Maricopa County Elections
Bureau around the clock. They say they will stay there until the counting
stops, whenever that is.
There are enough uncounted ballots in Arizona to swing the race for
Congressman Gabby Gifford`s old seat and conceivably the race that Democrat
Ann Kirkpatrick is projected to win. And conceivably, the one that
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is leading.
For all of these races, Arizona is not decided, nowhere near decided
and nobody knows when it will be.
They`re also still counting ballots in Florida. In Florida, the
counties have until Saturday to report their results to the secretary of
state. They will have even longer to figure out what in the name of Ponce
de Leon went so terribly wrong in Florida this year. People ended up
standing in line eight hours in order to cast a ballot. Isn`t there
something wrong with that?
Official explanations from what went wrong range from it`s really long
ballots that run up to 12 pages and caused jams at the scanners. Some
precincts were too big. Some precincts didn`t have enough scanners. Also,
there were some power outages. Maybe that was the problem.
My favorite explanation for what went wrong in Florida comes from
Broward County where the election supervisor tells the “Miami Herald”,
quote, “All of us who watch elections know when voters are interested in
candidates and issues, we are going to have long lines.”
So the reason things went so wrong is because people wanted to vote?
We are not prepared for that?
That was the November surprise in Florida this year that screwed up
Florida`s election so badly. It turns out people wanted to vote. Nobody
saw that coming. They were not prepared.
In Pinellas County, Florida, around St. Petersburg, robocalls went out
on Tuesday telling voters that they had until Wednesday to vote. You did
not have until Wednesday to vote. They`re still arguing how this robocall
The Pinellas County elections chief at first blamed the robocall
company. The company says, no, it`s not their fault. The boss of the
company says somebody actually in the Pinellas elections office controlled
the calls and when they went out. Today, the Pinellas elections office
sent over a new message about the debacle, saying they didn`t realize the
calls were going out. They`re saying they did not want those calls going
out on Election Day telling people that they could vote the day after
It doesn`t help that election supervisors in Florida, as in much of
the country, are partisan elected officials who have an R or a D after
their name. The Pinellas clerk, the Republican Pinellas County clerk is a
political actor in a political caldron.
If those robocalls telling people they should vote on Wednesday, if
those robocalls were sent out by mistake, that is a really serious mistake.
If it`s not a mistake, that happened on purpose, that, of course, is a
In either case, maybe it needs fixing. Today, a former mayor of Tampa
announced that she was ready to work on reform in Florida. Her name is Pam
Iorio. She`s considered a possible candidate for governor in 2014. Ms.
Iorio says she will convene a nonpartisan state task force to study the
problems and propose some non-partisan solutions for the Republican
legislature and the Republican governor. Things like limiting the length
of the ballot maybe and expanding early voting, which Republicans cut last
She says about undertaking reform, quote, “I think the governor should
do it. But if he doesn`t, I`m going to do it.” So, that`s a start.
Our nation has problems running elections for complicated reasons.
Some of that is that it`s partisan election administration, that`s why you
see Republicans cutting early voting in swing states, right? But some of
our problems are just problems. It`s just that we don`t have qualified
professionals running these things or we have antiquated machines that
break down or fancy new ones that break down and nobody knows how to fix
them. It`s a tangled mess.
But after this debacle of an election, do we have any choice but to
try to untangle this mess? Isn`t this as good time to start working on
this as a country?
Joining us is E.J. Dionne. He`s “Washington Post” columnist, senior
fellow of the Brookings Institution. And he`s the author of “Our Divided
Political Heart: The Battle for the American Ideal in an Age of
E.J., it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Great to be with you. I`m really glad
you`re on this and I hope you stay on this until we do something about it.
MADDOW: Well, you know, the thing that has emerged that I didn`t
expect since the election is a little bit of, I guess, lessening of the
partisan discussion around this and heightening of the technocratic
discussion about this. I sort of feel like we might be getting close to a
bipartisan consensus that it shouldn`t take you eight or nine hours to vote
in this country and that it ought to be fixed.
Do I have rose-colored glasses on about this or are you seeing that,
DIONNE: I think you`re seeing a little bit of it. But I think that
the whole election administration has been politicized to a degree it
hasn`t been since probably way back in the days of machines when, you know,
cheating used to be in New York, put a rubber band around the lever so you
can pull it down but it doesn`t register the vote. That was old-fashioned
fraud. Now you got to kind of systemic by trying to keep people from
But I was thinking of that Romney slogan you cited at the beginning,
was it smaller, simpler, smarter, or something like that?
DIONNE: This is an area all the conservatives slogans and even
legitimate complaints come into play. They say, where you don`t need
multiple levels of administration. Look what happened in Ohio, you had
those guys on your show some months ago in the county where they want to
make it easy for people to vote early, the secretary of state steps in and
says, oh, no, you can`t do that. They talk about excessive regulation that
costs people unnecessary money.
Well, that`s what voter ID laws do. Why would you want that? Or
making people`s dealings with government more difficult? That`s what the
long lines do.
And so, there are all kinds of traditional conservative reasons to
streamline this system. And you`d like to think after this brief, we hope,
period, of passing all these crazy laws to limit voting, Republicans could
go back to their own tradition.
These are the guys who fought for the Voting Rights Bill? Why would
they want to walk away from that tradition?
MADDOW: Is there a sense of embarrassment on the right about the
voter ID stuff, about getting rid of early voting stuff? Is there a sense
of embarrassment that this is a plainly partisan thing and that maybe it`s
unseemly for the party going forward?
Now, I don`t ask that to get a definite no. I don`t think Republicans
are so craven they`re incapable of shame. I sort of feel like principled
conservatives haves to look at Rick Scott getting rid of early voting and
the result in eight hour lines and think, you know what, it`s not a kosher
way to play this game.
DIONNE: You know, until you try to go in the right direction, I was
going to give you a cynical no, because I really don`t see a whole lot of
shame yet. But when you see the effect of it – I mean, there are
principal conservatives out there who have to look at this and say, this
isn`t the right thing to do. And that`s when you heard that mayor talk
about a task force.
I mean, commissions are often a dodge. But this might be a case you
could pull together some Republicans and Democrats and say, look, no matter
how you slice it, what`s going on in Arizona, the long lines, this doesn`t
And the federal government does have the power to do something. I`d
like to see – you know, they passed the motor voter law, they passed the
Help America Vote Act, I`d like to see some real help from the federal
government from local election administration so you don`t throw this all
on localities where you can have two weeks of guaranteed early voting
everywhere in the country. Why should you have more rights to vote in one
state than another where you might beef up the number of people at the
polls on Election Day? It`s not always easy to hire people for that. You
make sure that all the machinery works.
And I even have a way to pay for this, which is – the Supreme Court
says we have to live with these super PACs. Let`s tax the super PACs to
pay for an election system. They can have their super PACs, but let them
kick in to make the elections –
MADDOW: That is an excellent, to tie some sort of transactional tax
to every ad that`s used for – every donation that`s used for and ad and
say some of that is going to go into the administration of elections, the
fair and nonpartisan administration of elections. I love that idea!
E.J. Dionne, “Washington Post” columnist, senior fellow at Brookings,
MSNBC contributor – E.J., thank you very much for this. Appreciate it.
DIONNE: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: I got to say, you know, after elections, I get all civically
tingling, you know, you get my civic geek thing on. But I really feel like
elections administration is one of those things that we`ve talked about as
a partisan problems, a partisan standoff for so long. But I believe this
kind of thing is possible. I believe that people – fair-minded people on
both sides of the aisle believe that elections should not be administered
in a partisan fashion. I think that is an American viewpoint, not left or
And I think that there actually is way more middle ground here than
maybe we`ve been willing to concede before. I think progress on this could
happen. I know, call me naive. I think it could happen.
MADDOW: It is a long way, in every single last way from the 2010
elections to what happened two nights ago in America. I mean, 2010 was an
opportunity for Republicans to gleefully use every synonym in the book for
victory. It was Republican rout, a shellacking, a pummeling, a landslide,
a relentless kicking of Democratic posterior regions.
Yes, the Republicans gained in the Senate and took a whopping margin
in the House of Representatives. But the biggest practical effect of the
2010 elections was in the states.
Republicans taking control of state legislatures. Purple states like
Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida and Iowa went
deep red in their statehouses and legislatures and the result was nearly
unilateral and very aggressive conservative law-making in those states, on
abortion rights, on union rights, on voting right. Ultimately, the states
were where Republicans took over governing in the most measurable way.
But two years is a long time in politics. And two days after this
happened, it is becoming clear that Democrats bounce back in the places
that they got hurt so badly in 2010.
So, for example, in addition to electing an entirely female U.S.
congressional delegation up in New Hampshire, New Hampshire voters flipped
the New Hampshire House from Republican control to Democratic control.
Same with the statehouse in Oregon. It had been Republican. It is
And the presidential swing state of Colorado. Colorado didn`t just
back Barack Obama for president. They also gave Democrats control of the
Colorado House. Remember how close the gay marriage vote was last year
behind the scenes in the Republican controlled New York Senate. It now
looks that the Democrats are going to control the New York state Senate.
It`s not a done deal yet, but that`s how it looks.
In Maine, where Republicans took the legislature and the governorship
in 2010, Maine voters returned both the statehouse and state Senate to the
Democrats. That`s in addition to legalizing same sex marriage. How
psyched is Republican Governor Paul LePage that he was not on that ballot?
Imagine what would happen.
Same reversal in both chambers in Minnesota, where voters also
rejected a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage and another
that would have required voters to show ID in future elections. Voters in
Florida not only likely to award that state`s 29 electoral votes to reelect
President Obama, they also put an end to the Republican Party`s super
majority in the state legislature. The Republicans still do have control
of the House in Florida, but they are no longer impervious to the
Democratic opposition. Their margin got cut way down.
The same goes for the Senate and the House in Arizona, which you will
remember the “papers please” law. They got their margin cut deeply.
And no more super majority for the statehouse in Texas either – in
Democrats gained their own super majorities in both chambers in
California and in Illinois. In the state of Carolina, which voted for Mitt
Romney Tuesday after voting for Barack Obama in the last election, the
state of North Carolina, they gained a Republican super majority in the
House and they kept one in the Senate. The House and Senate also with
super majorities in Tennessee.
And in Georgia, Republicans have the super majorities in the House and
they appear one independent away from having one in the Senate.
But with Mitt Romney winning 24 states on Wednesday, red states which
he was largely expected to win, with the exception of maybe North Carolina
for one hot minute, no one really expected President Obama`s coattails to
turn any part of the electorate in those places blue.
Republican gains in the deep, red south is kind of just like running
up the score.
And what we have witnessed this week down ballot, all the way down the
ballot has less to do with coattails than with parkas, with big downy parks
with the hoods. Tens of thousands of them worn day after day against the
bitter cold that defines February and March in Madison, Wisconsin, or
Columbus, Ohio, or the relatively balmy sidewalks outside the Virginia
state capitol in Richmond.
Voters recognize they are not just electing somebody with good
penmanship, who photographs well, who comes across well in 10-second sound
bites. Voters are looking for leadership, for good governance at all
levels of governance. And when they find good governance lacking, they
vote in changes. Voters are not stupid no matter how dumb lowest common
denominator political advertising may dismiss our intelligence.
Elections have consequences and those consequences go both ways.
MADDOW: Back in 2001, when Karl Rove helped Governor George W. Bush
become President Bush, it was almost impossible to overstate the adulation
heaped upon that senior strategist for his supposed political acumen on the
campaign trail. Mr. Rove`s campaign strategy wasn`t perfect. For example,
he kept Mr. Bush in California before Election Day for some reason, he did
not win California and never was going to. Florida recount ended up being
brutal for the country. But the Bush-Cheney did technically win that year.
Then this previously obscure-ish guy Karl Rove became part of the Bush
administration and a very famous part of it. He moved into the White House
as a senior adviser. And then once Mr. Bush was reelected in 2004, Karl
Rove was promoted to deputy chief of staff to the president. Two years
after that, Mr. Rove decided in 2006 that he would be running the midterm
election campaign for the Republican Party.
Mr. Rove`s job would be to get Republicans elected to the House and
Senate in 2006.
Just before that election, when al the polls reporting to a big win
for the Democrats in the `06 election, Karl Rove picked this fight with
Robert Siegel of NPR. He told Mr. Siegel, “You may end up with the
different math, but you`re entitled to your math. I`m entitled to the
Karl Rove`s the math that year was very, very bad math.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: It has been an extraordinary 24
hours in American political history, starting with the polls where
Democrats were the big winners, gaining control of the House of
Representatives. In the end, they won far more seats that they needed to
take the majority.
The U.S. Senate is a different story. You know the math. They needed
the six. The Democrats have gained at this hour five seats. That one race
in Virginia for U.S. Senate is still undecided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democrats ended up getting six. They won that seat. They
got their majority in the Senate, making sure that didn`t happen was Karl
Rove`s job in 2006.
You know what else is going on around that time. Of course, this
scandal surrounding the outing of a covert CIA officer whose name was made
public purportedly for Republican political gain. Karl Rove was hip deep
in the Valerie Plame scandal. He was very nearly indicted in connection
with the case.
And then there`s this year, 2012. Karl Rove has these outside groups,
Crossroads America and Crossroads GPS. They raised and spent nearly $400
million of other people`s money to affect this election. What do they get
One Republican operative put it this way today, quote, “There is some
holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do. I don`t know
how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing.”
One of John McCain`s former senior staffer put the blame squarely on
Mr. Rove. Quote, “Rove spends more for Republican candidates than the NRSC
and the NRCC.” Those are the Republican Party campaign arms for the House
and Senate. “He is running things. Rove is a problem.”
Heck, Rove even managed to make Donald Trump angry. “Congrats to Karl
Rove on blowing $400 million this cycle. What a waste of money.”
Karl Rove wanted to be not to be wrong so badly, he wanted to have one
big race so badly on election night as things were slipping away from him,
he became borderline incoherent on FOX News saying what was happening was
I realize the Karl Rove is a very powerful figure in Republican
politics. But at what point in his legacy, at what point in Karl Rove`s
life do people stop trusting him with their money on election time.
That does it for us tonight. Thanks for joining us.
Now, “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
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