The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/04/15

Guest: Larry Sabato, Matt Katz

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, you know, it`s true. I mean, I`m


ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC: No, you have a blazer on.

MADDOW: No, no, I mean, I`ve never felt manish in this specific way.

Like my thermostat is manish.

WAGNER: You burn hot.

MADDOW: Yes, I burn hot.

WAGNER: We do that. It`s a good thing.

MADDOW: You blow my mind, Alex Wagner. Well done. Thank you.

WAGNER: Thank you.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

So, we`re leading off with something big tonight because there is a

problem. There is a significant problem in national politics.

Here is what has happened: FOX News Channel tonight has announced who

they are allowing into the debate for the Republican presidential

nomination, the debate that they are hosting the day after tomorrow in

Ohio. And it appears they have sort of rigged it.

There are 17 major candidates competing for the Republican

presidential nomination this year. It was a strange decision in the first

place when FOX announced in May that they would not allow all the

candidates to debate. They would pick ten who would be allowed into the

debate based on one metric only, based on national poll numbers even though

national poll numbers at this point in a presidential primary are basically

totally meaningless numbers. In years past, they have had no predictive

value at this point in the process in terms of who is going to go on to win

the early states or who is ultimately going to win the nomination.

So, it was a strange decision anyway for them to try to winnow down

the field themselves using only national polls fully half a year – more

than half a year before the Iowa caucuses, before any actual Republican

voters get to have their say. It was weird enough.

FOX News has faced a lot of pressure over this decision and the

Republican Party has faced a lot of pressure for letting FOX do this to

their presidential primary process. I mean, they could have just said,

listen, we don`t really want more than 10 candidates on the stage at one

time. That`s unwieldy.

So, instead, since we`ve got this giant field of potentially viable

candidates, instead, we`ll split them up. We`ll do two debates. We`ll do

two heats. We will randomly assign half the candidates to one of the

debates and half the candidates to another debate. We`ll do them both on

the same night. They could have kept everybody in by a simple process that

pretty much everybody agreed would be a preferable and fair alternative.

But they decided they were going to go with this national poll top ten

system instead. And it made the candidates very angry. It made

Republicans in the early states very angry because it meant that all the

candidates have had to structure their campaigns in a way that would

maximize their national poll numbers instead of focusing on meeting people

in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and trying to build up support

in the early states, which candidates have always done in both parties in

every other year in the modern political system before FOX News decided

this year that they were going to change it and take over the process.

Well, now, there`s a problem. Now, FOX News tonight has announced the

results of this criteria that they have imposed on the Republican

nominating process, and there`s a problem with what they`ve announced.

Here is what FOX had said before today about how they were going to

choose who was in the debate and who was not in the debate. To get into

their debate, and I`m quoting from a FOX press release, before today, here

is what FOX had said publicly. They said candidates, quote, “must place in

the top ten of an average of the five most recent national polls as

recognized by FOX News leading up to August 4th, today, at 5:00 p.m.

Eastern. Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized

organizations that use standard methodological techniques.”

That`s it. That`s what hey said in advance. That`s not just like the

shorthand public reference for some longer more explicit explanation that

they made elsewhere about what the criteria would be. That`s it. That`s

what they said. That`s all they have said.

They would average out the five most recent national polls. Well,

today, they announce who is in their debate and who is out of their debate.

It turns out they didn`t use the five most recent national polls.

These are the five most recent national polls. FOX News did their own

poll. They called people up to two days ago, same deal with Bloomberg,

same deal with CBS, same deal with Monmouth. All those four national polls

called their respondents over a period of three or four days that ended

this past Sunday. So, that`s four.

The fifth most recent national poll was this one. This is the

NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll. They polled people up through Thursday,

this past Thursday. That`s the fifth most recent national poll.

FOX News just didn`t use that poll. They decided to skip it. They

decided they would use an older poll instead. There is a poll that ended

earlier than NBC`s poll did. It`s from Quinnipiac. And even though FOX

had said they would use the five most recent polls, they didn`t. They used

five of the six most recent polls. They skipped the fifth and then used

one through four.

Why did they do that? They used one, two, three, four. Not five and


The only criteria they had announced was that it would be the five

most recent polls. Nationally credible organizations doing – right.

I mean, this is important in terms of not just whether or not FOX is

conducting its debate in a way that has integrity and that is transparent

and that is clearly decided in advance so as to not benefit any one

candidate or hurt any one candidate. It`s just important in terms of that.

It`s important in terms of the material consequences of the decision they


I mean, most polls at this point in the race, they do have the same

basic contours in terms of the top group of top ranking candidates and the

middle group of middle ranking candidates and the lower group of lower

ranking candidates. I mean, most are producing roughly the same results.

When you look at the poll they threw out, though, and you compare it to the

one they decided to use instead, the one that isn`t one of the most recent

five, when you look at the difference between those two polls, there is one

very interesting salient difference. One different that has real material


And, of course, it`s not at the top. It`s not with the candidates who

will be at the center of the stage where they got the highest polling

numbers. No, those guys are safe.

The material difference between these two polls that FOX made an

inexplicable decision about, the material difference where it really

matters is on the edge of the stage, it`s with the candidates for whom this

decision by FOX either means they get to keep running for president or it

is the de facto end of their presidential run because FOX News said so.

It`s on the edge of the stage, the part of the polls where the

question is: are you going to make it into the debate or are you not? It`s

there where you find the salient difference between the poll they threw out

and what they used instead, because in the NBC News poll which FOX threw

out, down around tenth place, turns out John Kasich and Rick Perry are

tied. They`re both at 3 percent. FOX threw out that result. And instead

went with the Quinnipiac poll which has John Kasich kicking Rick Perry`s

butt, more than doubling him. And yes, these are small numbers, right?

But small numbers are everything right now.

Small numbers at this point in the difference between Rick Perry being

done with politics forever and Rick Perry being a contender for president

of the United States. In that Quinnipiac poll, John Kasich beats Rick

Perry 5-2, beats him by a lot. FOX News inexplicably picked that poll and

threw out the one where those guys were tied. Apparently, arbitrarily

throwing out the NBC poll and picking Quinnipiac instead, even though

Quinnipiac is not one of the five most recent.

That decision has the effect of making John Kasich look like he is way

more clearly ahead of Rick Perry than he would look otherwise. Having done

that, FOX News was able to announce tonight that John Kasich is in the

debate and Rick Perry is very out.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: This is where the real drama has been, because

the question has been, who will make it into the tenth position and appear

on the prime time debate stage with the FOX News anchors at the debate?

The tenth participant who will appear on stage at the FOX News debate this

Thursday night is Governor John Kasich with 3.2 percent, the governor of

Ohio, which will be the state in which the debate is held. That edges out

Governor Rick Perry who had been in that position up until recently but did

not average into the top ten.


MADDOW: This is nuts. I can`t believe they did this.

I mean, I get that FOX News only wants ten candidates on the stage.

They know and everybody knows that arbitrarily setting this ten candidate

cutoff when you got 17 people running is going to have politically fatal

consequences for, if not all, at least most of the candidates who don`t

make the top ten. I mean, it`s impossible to look like a viable next

president of the United States if they won`t let you into the room with the

major candidates to make your case.

They know how consequential their decision is here. They know how the

cutoff between candidate in tenth place versus candidate in the 11th place.

That cutoff, it better not look totally arbitrary, it better not look like

an exceedingly close call, or it will be way too obvious that FOX has, in

fact, perverted the course of the Republican primary to end the candidacies

that might otherwise have worked out in the end.

It`s really important, right, that tenth place versus 11th place looks

like a big chasm, because that`s the decision between political life and

political death and FOX News is imposing it. So, tenth better look like

it`s pretty far from 11th, better look like some sort of natural split.

And so, it appears that what they did, they just kicked out the poll

results that would make it look too close. They kicked out the poll result

that would result in their being less than one percentage point difference

between the candidate who`s in the debate and the candidate who`s out of

the debate. And so, they threw that poll out and instead picked a

different poll which would make it look much bigger gap, much less

controversial decision.

They violated their own previously announced criteria of what polls

they would use. They moved the goalposts in the middle of the game in a

way that makes it look like they were just trying to justify the lineup of

who they wanted on stage. I can`t – I honestly can`t believe they did


And I don`t think – I should be clear. I don`t think there`s any

reason about them throwing out the NBC poll is anything specifically

against NBC. I mean, FOX News Channel clearly dislikes us, dislikes

friendly rivalry with us, right? But we`re MSNBC. We`re not NBC. This is

an NBC poll. NBC`s partner in this poll is “The Wall Street Journal”,

which is own by the same Australian billionaire who owns FOX News, Rupert

Murdoch, owns both.

So, I don`t think this is a personal thing or an ideological thing

against the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll. But the NBC/”Wall Street

Journal” poll really is one of the five most recent national polls, which

means according to FOX`s own announcement about how they were going to do

this, it should have been part of the criteria for getting into this


And granted, using national polls was a bad idea in the first place.

But there is something qualitatively different between the system just

looking stupid and the system looking rigged, rigged by a cable news

channel in order to justify apparently what they want in terms of who

they`re allowing to compete from the Republican nomination and who they`re

prohibiting from the Republican nomination.

I mean, this is the part I would say, oh, you sneaky bastards, it`s

not at all sneaky, though. This is all happening – it`s kind of being

rigged in plain sight. I mean, after they announced tonight, they had an

explanation for what they did.

After they announced tonight who was going to be in the debate and

announced the five polls that they used to come up with their debate

participants and they weren`t the five most recent polls. After they made

those announcements tonight, they also for the first time tonight

retroactively announced brand new criteria they had never publicly

explained before which they say justify why they didn`t include what they

call the highly respected NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll.

We`re just learning from them today that FOX believes that that poll

doesn`t meet the previously unannounced FOX News criteria for the exact

manner in which the candidate`s names had to be read to poll respondents

and in what order and using what titles. This has never been previously

announced as part of how FOX would decide which polls they were going to

include and which polls they not include. They said it today for the first

time as a retroactive explanation for why they were not including the

NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll even though it was one of the five most

recent polls.

But, apparently, it`s done now. They didn`t take the most five most

recent polls. They took five of the six most recent polls. That when

average would show that Rick Perry was being excluded from the debates,

thanks to more than 1 percentage point difference between him and the other

candidates in the polls, instead of less than 1 percentage point difference

between him and the other candidates in the polls, which is which would

have happened if FOX News had run this process the way they announced it

would be. And that would look terrible for them so they made sure that

would never happen.

If I were a Republican in particular, I would be so mad about this. I

mean, it would be one thing if this was a fight about TV ratings, or like

the perception of somebody`s approval ratings or something. But this is –

this really is who is allowed to compete for president of the United

States. And it is amazing that the Republican Party is letting this happen

to that process, to the process of choosing who will compete to be


But they gave it to the FOX News Channel and this is what they got.


MADDOW: We just got one of the responses to FOX`s decision on who

will be allowed to debate in the Republican presidential debate this

Thursday. This candidate`s campaign is not particularly happy. Quoting

from the campaign statement, “The idea they have left up the runner up for

the 2012 nomination, the former four-term governor of Texas, the governor

of Louisiana, the first female Fortune 50 CEO and three-term senator from

South Carolina due to polling seven months before a single vote is cast is


That is from Rick Santorum`s communications manager tonight after

learning his candidate will be relegated to the pre-debate consolation

prize event this Thursday on FOX News. And the senator has a month, seven

months before a single vote is cast, what FOX News just did may really mean

the end, not only of the Rick Santorum campaign. It may mean the end of

several of those candidates he mentioned.

We`ll have more on that in just a moment. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today is President Obama`s birthday.

This chart is his present from the Republican Party and its voters.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

This is the last 30 days of polling in the race for the Republican

nomination for president. This is what it looks like overall. But break

it down so you can see what`s going on.

Down there you`ve got – those are the lines representing polling

numbers for Lindsey Graham, Fiorina, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, the lilac

beauty showing life there. That`s John Kasich. Hi, Gov. Kasich.

They`re all sort of barely respirating, all sort of eking it out.

Some doing more eking than others.

Then, there`s the next little group. This group of five is Rand Paul,

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson. The only one of them,

the dark red line – sorry, no, the Ted Cruz line there – yes, Ted Cruz is

the black line, yes. The only one showing upward lift at all, maybe, Ted

Cruz, a little upward slant for Ted Cruz, the black line?

And then you`ve got the top three. You`ve got Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush in

green there. He`s on a slow but unsteady descent. In yellow, you`ve got

Scott Walker starting to get some lift, but then not.

Every single one of those pooling stories is a sad trombone, wa, wa,

except for one guy, this guy. Look. He`s it. He is it. And he is why

everyone else is failing to thrive at best or just outright failing at


Donald Trump is not just the Republican presidential front-runner.

Donald Trump is so far out ahead it is hard to overstate how dominant he is

in this field of candidates.

I mean, just in terms of his raw lead, Donald Trump has now been the

number one choice of Republican voters in the last 12 straight national

polls, 12 polls in a row. In terms of the national polls out today, in the

CBS poll, he`s 24 percent which is more than Jeb Bush and Scott Walker

combined and they`re in second and third.

In the new FOX News poll that came out last night, Mr. Trump is at 26

percent, which again is more than Jeb Bush and Scott Walker combined, and

they`re in second and third.

In the new Bloomberg poll that`s out today, Mr. Trump is at 21

percent, which again is more than Jeb Bush and Scott Walker combined even

though they`re in second and third place.

In Bloomberg today, they wrote up their poll like they almost can`t

believe it. Here`s their lead on their story about their own poll,

“Billionaire Donald Trump is lapping the Republican field.”

Joshua Green at Bloomberg says that Mr. Trump has risen to a position

of total dominance in the Republican presidential field. Quote, “Trump

leads with male voters and female voters. He leads with voters younger

than 45 and voters older than 45. He leads with seniors.

He leads with voters who don`t have more than a high school degree.

He leads with voters with a college degree. He leads among affluent voters

who earn more than 100 grand a year. He leads among non-affluent voters

who make less than 50 grand a year.

Trump wins with born again Christian voters. He wins with

Protestants. He wins with Tea Party conservatives.”

Quote, “The only demographic category Donald Trump does not win is

self-professed moderate voters. But even here Donald Trump is a narrow

second choice. Jeb Bush leads self-professed moderate Republican voters

with 20 percent, f9ollwoed by Donald Trump with 19 percent, only one point


And that`s moderate Republican voters. And if you think the

Republican presidential primary is going to be decided by self-proclaimed

moderate Republican voters, I would say I would like to sell you a bridge,

but what I would like you to do is take me to meet some of these people,

because the last five years of national politics tells me those people do

not exist.

The top of the field in terms of the Republican presidential

nomination is stark and clear and by many measures, it is amazing. I mean,

Republican voters may yet change their mine. But right now, if you ask

them who they`re going to pick to be president, they are going to pick

Donald Trump with an exclamation point and a megaphone and a helicopter and

a beautiful tower and a casino and – the top of the field is very clear,

one truly dominant front-runner.

But the bottom of the field is muddy and inchoate, still sorting

itself out, at least or it would be if the Republican Party had not decided

that this year, seven months before any Iowa voter goes to any caucus,

seven months ahead of that, they`re going to kill off a large number of

their potentially viable candidates by letting FOX News exclude them from

the competition by not letting them debate. reporting today that Rick Santorum who FOX News is

keeping out of the debate, Rick Santorum already is basically politically

dead. His campaign manager, his Iowa manager, his top digital strategist,

they have all left the Rick Santorum campaign. They`re apparently going to

try working at a super PAC instead to see if maybe that works.

Maybe it will work. But it`s never a good sign when your campaign

manager leaves and the only statement from the candidate about that is that

there are no plans to replace that campaign manager.

I mean, with this news today that FOX News is also going to be

excluding Rick Perry from the presidential debate, it looks like the Rick

Perry campaign will probably start to die now, too.

Larry Sabato, the great Virginia oracle of electoral politics, has

already basically run the death knell for the candidates who FOX is going

to keep out of their debate. Quote, “The stakes are simply too high. If a

candidate can`t even make it to the debate stage, why would rational donors

and volunteers continue giving money and time to what is apparently a lost

cause. It`s hard to look presidential languishing at home while your

opponents are discussing foreign policy and national security on national


That has already started for Rick Santorum who is out of the debate

thanks to FOX and whose campaign has apparently started to die because of


Next on campaign death watch now is probably Rick Perry. But in his

case because of the way FOX changed around their poll eligibility criteria

on the day they announced who is in and out of their debate, at least in

Rick Perry`s case he has a credible case to make, he didn`t lose it, it was

stolen from him, not because of the vagaries of national polls, because of

some cable news executives moving things around to effectively stack things

against him.

Joining us now is Larry Sabato. He`s director of the Center for

Politics at the University of Virginia.

Mr. Sabato, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being here.


MADDOW: The FOX News criteria has been widely criticized before it

was used today to finally announce who they`re going to let in and who

they`ll exclude from this debate. Do you really think that it is the death

knell effectively for candidates who don`t get on that debate stage?

SABATO: Well, that would be my guess. Miracles happen in politics,

as well as other sectors of life, but they don`t happen very often. It

just seems to be awfully difficult for a candidate who`s sitting at the

kid`s table, you know, the 5:00 session, to make a case to those donors and

to his volunteers or her volunteers that somehow, some way they`re going to

be able to compete with the adult whose are getting all the prime time.

I mean, it`s pretty obvious to people, most people who are active in

caucuses and primaries aren`t stupid. They`ve been around for a while.

They play close attention to politics and they pick up on signals like


MADDOW: In terms of how we got to this point, I can understand, it

seems totally reasonable you wouldn`t want more than ten candidates on the

stage at once. Maybe you wouldn`t even expect that you`d have to make hard

decisions if you let up to ten candidates be on the stage at once. I think

that`s the biggest primary debate we`ve probably had, about ten candidates.

But when this enormous – this historically enormous field evolved on

the Republican side and it looked like we were going to have 16 or 17

candidates with a reasonable chance at being viable, does it make sense

that the RNC didn`t insist on a more inclusive criteria? It – there`s a

weird dynamic between a Republican Party and a media outlet being given

this much say in the process, isn`t there?

SABATO: Yes, of course. Remember they gave the same flexibility to

CNN and they`re having something reasonably similar in September.

You know, Rachel, I don`t know, I wasn`t in the room when the

decisions were made. But if I were to guess, I would suggest it happened

this way – the Republican National Committee wants that field winnowed.

They know it`s too big and the longer it goes on with 15 or 16 or 17

candidates, the more negative attacks you`re going to have candidate

against candidates.

Why did they want to reduce the number of debates? Because they

believe Mitt Romney was weakened by the debate process in 2012 when many of

those candidates survived for a long time and they attacked Romney pretty

intensely for months and months. They wanted to prevent that this time.

So, they wanted to winnow the field but they didn`t want to do it

because the committee would get the blame for excluding candidates. So,

instead, they said to the networks, well, you come up with a process. It`s

OK. Whatever you do we`ll rubber stamp, it`s all right.

And the networks, of course, also didn`t want to make the decision to

exclude candidates. So, that`s how they picked the polling process because

they can blame it on the polls. And Americans love precision. They love

numbers, and that`s what the polls present people with.

The problem is, anybody who understands polling, the numbers really

aren`t precise and they really aren`t all that useful, certainly, when you

get down into the low single digits.

So, this whole process has been a matter, at least in my view, of one

entity after another kicking the can down the road and now the polls are

going to be blamed when, in fact, there were alternatives that were much

better, like taking the field of 16 or 17, splitting it into two, splitting

the primetime available into two, having two separate debates with the

lottery picking the eight or so candidates that would be in each segment.

I add a little twist to that, Rachel. I believe it would be very

useful not to tell the candidates in the campaigns ahead of time which

group of eight they`re going to be in. Have the lottery lead off the

debate. This might actually lead to some spontaneity because they would

have no idea in advance what the dynamic would be on that stage. They

wouldn`t know who they were going to be on the stage with.

But, naturally, no one would be in favor of this, or very few people

involved in the process were instead.

MADDOW: It would make not only for interesting – an interesting

challenge for all those candidates, it would make for great TV to see them

actually drawing straws or participating in that sort of mini lottery and

deal with their fate right there. I would pay, I not only would watch

that, I would pay to watch.

Larry Sabato –

SABATO: Pay-per-view, pay-per-view.

MADDOW: That`s right. Maybe we can get UFC to organize it.

Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics at the

University of Virginia – it`s great to have you here tonight, sir. Thanks

a lot.

SABATO: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I will say – with FOX making this decision that they just

are not using the five most recent polls and picked five of the six and

threw one out, that would make Rick Perry look a lot closer to being a

contender, to getting on that stage. If I were the Rick Perry campaign, I

would be doing everything short of filing a lawsuit right now, if not that.

I don`t know.

I mean, I just can`t imagine that something this arbitrary is going to

be used to effectively end his political career after he spent four terms

as governor of Texas, after he makes a run in 2012 and he comes back and

tries to make another run. They`re going to let him kept out of this

debate under circumstances like that?

I`ve got to say, I am no Rick Perry partisan but I feel for him

tonight in terms of the way he has been left out of this. And I can`t

believe any fair-minded Republican looking at this think it`s OK that he`s

not going to be there on Thursday night.

We`ve got lots more ahead. We`ll be back.


MADDOW: Here`s is a little giblet to drop into the stew tonight –

that sounded grosser than I meant it. Here is a thing – this is from the

Democratic side of the presidential race. This is kind of amazing. It`s

the new WMUR poll out of New Hampshire. It shows Hillary Clinton and

Bernie sanders in a statistical tie for the Democratic presidential

nomination in New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton in this new WMUR poll is ahead of Bernie Sanders in

New Hampshire by six percentage points. Look at the margin of error. This

is a poll where Secretary Clinton`s New Hampshire lead is six points but

the margin of error is 5.9 points.

So, this is too close to call polling-wise in New Hampshire between

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

I knew this presidential election was going to be fun. I didn`t

expect it to be this fun.


MADDOW: This was the headline over the weekend in New Jersey`s

largest newspaper, quote, “Christie booed mercilessly twice at the

Haskell.” The Haskell is a horse race that took place over the weekend in

New Jersey. It was a very exciting race.

But here is how that newspaper described what happened when Governor

Chris Christie took center stage to present the winner`s trophy to the

winner of the race. The record crowd of 60,983 people booed the governor,

long, loud, sustained booing.

The print description of that event was already really bad for Chris

Christie. The tape of it was almost too awkward to watch.


EMCEE: It`s my honor to introduce the governor of New Jersey, Chris

Christie, the honorable Chris Christie will be giving the trophy.


EMCEE: Joel Hasher, the president of William Hill U.S. will do the

honors as well.

Governor, great day today.


Jersey, for New Jersey`s horse, welcome home, Mr. Asher.



MADDOW: Having a giant stadium full of tens of thousands of people

boo you lustily in your home state, that`s not good. That`s not good even

if you`re not the governor, but particularly if you`re the governor, that`s

not good.

In general, though, things have not been good recently for New Jersey

Governor Chris Christie on the presidential campaign trail. The booing was

over the weekend in New Jersey. This morning at a campaign stop in New

Hampshire, Chris Christie took his “tell it like it is” campaign motto and

told it maybe way too much like it is.

This is 9:30 this morning. Watch the guy on the lower left-hand part

of your screen.


CHRISTIE: For instance, I`m a Catholic, but I`ve used birth control,

and not just the rhythm method, OK? So you know, my church, my church has

a teaching against birth control. Does that make me an awful catholic?


MADDOW: They say face palm rarely happens, literally.

This man at that Christie event campaign appears to trying to

physically hide from hearing what the governor is saying about not just the

rhythm method.

Things have been going this way for presidential candidate Chris

Christie in terms of people`s reactions to him, that booing, the

uncomfortable rhythm method thing. I mean, just tonight, protesters flew

this banner over a venue of a Chris Christie fundraiser in Asbury Park,

Chris Christie makes us sick.

Then there`s this polling out of Rutgers University in New Jersey,

which shows Governor Christie losing in his home state to Donald Trump by a

lot. And this is among Republican voters in New Jersey, the people most

likely to vote for him in the world, right? They say they would rather

have Donald Trump as their president than Chris Christie by a long way.


This time four years ago, in the 2012 race, Chris Christie was going

to be the savior of the Republican, right? He was going to be shoo-in.

All he had to do was say he was going to win. He say he`s going to run and

the nomination could be his.

This year, his presidential campaign has essentially been written off,

you know, over before it started. Except maybe, now, there may be signs

that things maybe be starting the look up for the Christie campaign. At

the New Hampshire event that he did last night, it was kind of a first

debate and kind of not, him and 13 other Republican candidates.

Governor Christie more than held his own among those candidates. He

sounded prepared and confident. To my ear, he sounded quite human.


JACK HEATH, WGIR-AM: One of the folks working here tonight asked me

pretty passionately if I would ask one of you this tonight, her daughter

recently passed away to heroin overdose. She`s now trying to do some good

of it. She wants to know why there`s not rehabilitation in prison, why

there`s not more help for these addicts versus just arresting them, when

they have to turn to prostitution or breaking into a family`s member home

or car just to get more money to support their habit. Why are we falling

down on heroin crisis?

CHRISTIE: There should be, and there is in New Jersey. We are the

first state in the country to say for first-time non-violent drug

offenders, no more prison. They`re going to mandatory in-patient drug

treatment, because this is a disease. And the war on drugs has been a

failure. Well-intentioned but a failure.

We`re looking at this as a moral failing by people. Everyone makes

mistakes. Everyone in this audience has made a mistake. There but for the

grace of God go I for those people who have been stricken with the disease

of drug and alcohol addiction.


MADDOW: That was last night.

And then tonight he made it, just barely, but he squeaked through the

completely arbitrary debate criteria FOX News made up out of thin air and

tweaked at the last minute to make themselves look good.

Chris Christie is going to be allowed on stage for the first primary

debate on Thursday. And for Chris Christie, maybe more than anyone, you

have to think that this is going to be key. He`s running his entire

campaign on the strength of his personality, right, his ability to tell it

like it is in real time in front of a crowd. That is his campaign

platform. That is why he says he should be president.

And that means Governor Christie has – he had more to lose than

almost anyone if he failed to make it onto the debate stage. Now that he`s

made it, he has more to gain than anyone. If he can shine on the debate

stage, the booing, the awkwardness on the campaign trail, the sort of deep-

seated hatred for him at home, that will all be seen as the first act in

the comeback story of how the naysayers wrote off the Chris Christie

campaign until it roared back to life, and he showed them all. And if not,

we know how this ends.

Is he back? And can people who know him very well tell any better

than the rest of us can?

Joining us is Matt Katz, reporter for WNYC Radio. He has covered

Governor Christie extensively.

Matt, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here.

MATT KATZ, WNYC RADIO: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Would it be fair to say that over the last year or so, Chris

Christie started to look less and less and less viable as a candidate for


KATZ: For sure, December 2013, he was the clear front-runner.

January 2014, bridgegate happened, and it`s been an absolute steady

collapse since then.

He announced his candidacy June 30th, has not been able to get any

traction. He`s toiling in 3 percent, 4 percent range. Can`t get out of


But I think you`re absolutely right. This debate, getting on the

stage, he`s well-prepared, he`s answering more questions from constituents

than probably any other candidates so far. He`s had 16 town halls just in

New Hampshire.

He`s going to be able to answer, like the answer or not, he`s going to

be able to answer every question posed to him at this debate Thursday

night. And he`s also probably in a better position because he`s, you know,

Chris Christie, can land a nice zinger on either Trump or Jeb or whomever.

And they – if you put on the rose colored classes. If you`re team

Christie, if you`re team Christie, you see a pathway to the nomination via

that debate and via New Hampshire, been to New Hampshire more than any

other candidate. All he needs – he said he only needs 20 to 25 percent in

this crowded field to win.

Most people don`t make their minds up until January, the last month

before the election in New Hampshire. By then, he`s going to have been

there so much, he`s going to have shaken so many hands in so many diners

that all those people are going to end up supporting him. That`s what they


MADDOW: I mean, I feel like – the reason I wanted to talk with you

about this tonight is because I feel like of everybody who is poised for

the great comeback story, I mean, provided that Donald Trump doesn`t keep

up these numbers and steamroll everybody for months and months and months,

if that`s going to fall apart, the person who`s best poised for the

comeback is him, in part because – mostly because of his innate political

skills and instincts and ability to perform on his feet.

What I don`t know, though, is whether or not he`s actually running a

good campaign and whether he`s got a good infrastructure and good fund-

raising plan in place and all of the other fundamentals that he`d need to

be able to climb up to the middle tier and ultimately the top tier. Do you

have a sense of that?

KATZ: He has a good structure in place in New Hampshire. He`s got a

guy who worked on both gubernatorial campaigns and was running the New

Hampshire state party with a blessing from the governor. This guy left New

Jersey in November –

MADDOW: A guy who had more than a cameo in bridgegate. OK.

KATZ: That`s true. He was hauled back to Trenton to testify because

he was responsible for securing the endorsements of the mayor of Ft. Lee

whose town got jammed up by traffic because he didn`t endorse the governor.

But for the last year and a half, he`s been in New Hampshire building

relationships. They`re starting to see the fruits of that come to bear. I

mean, he`s getting endorsements from local elected officials. This guy,

his name is Matt Mowers, knows the lay of the land over there. He

certainly has an infrastructure there.

They have a little operation in Iowa. But this is a New Hampshire

campaign. It`s a New Hampshire strategy. They think that if they can win

New Hampshire, it changes everything and the establishment falls in line

with him.

He also, because this is a post-Citizens United world, he has his

billionaires. He`s got billionaires who are backing him, Steve Cohen, the

controversial hedge fund manager whose company was indicted a couple years

back, him and his wife gave $2 million to the pro-Christie super PAC.

MADDOW: There`s more where that came from if he does well –

KATZ: For sure, plenty more, absolutely. So, he`s got the pieces in

place potentially.

MADDOW: If stuff picks – if stuff turns around for him, I think he`s

the best candidate for stuff turning around. But we shall see.

Matt Katz from WNYC Radio, really helpful to have you here, Matt. Nice

to see. Thanks.

KATZ: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. There`s a mystery tonight. There is a mystery

that involves two Republican candidates. There is something strange going

on between them. I genuinely cannot figure out what is happening. I kind

of need your help with this. It`s a small story but I think a really

strange one and that`s next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Mystery, we`ve got a mystery on our hands. This does not

make any sense to me at all. Tell me if it makes any sense to you.

All right. There is a super PA called Keep the Promise. And those

aren`t just clip art people. Those are identifiable people. As you can

see, Keep the Promise is psyched about the prospect of a Ted Cruz


That`s the reason they exist, to collect and spend tons of money to

get Cruz elected president. It`s not subtle. They`re out front about it.

That`s who they are. That`s what they are trying to do.

But here is the mystery. Look at what`s look at what`s inside the

most recent campaign filing from the Ted Cruz super PAC.

This shows them spending $16,000 on legal advice. OK, that makes

sense. This shows them writing a check for $20,000, there we go, $20,000

to a polling company. OK. I got it.

But what`s the one that`s right in between those two payments? Right

in between is this payment, there`s $500,000 to Carly for America. The

Carly in Carly for America is Carly Fiorina, one of Ted Cruz`s direct

competitors in the race for president.

Carly for America is the super PAC that`s trying to get her elected.

The Ted Cruz super PAC is trying to get Carly Fiorina elected president?

Why would a super PAC specifically set up for Ted Cruz be giving half a

million dollars to someone running against Ted Cruz?

I mean, that`s weird even for this presidential cycle, right?

We reached out to the Ted Cruz for a response tonight. We just got

word back late tonight since the show started. The president of the group

tells us that they do, in fact, support Ted Cruz for president, obviously.

But some individual donors to the group have also been, in their words,

impressed by Carly Fiorina.

So, they, the Ted Cruz super PAC, is also now donating to people

trying to beat Ted Cruz.

How do – how do you solicit donations for that? Would you like to

give money to our super PAC to elect Ted Cruz or Carly Fiorina? This is so


Something is up here. If you know that something is going on here

more than is being explained, If you don`t know what`s

going on, watch this space as we try to figure it out.


MADDOW: When they scheduled the first Republican presidential debate

for this Thursday, I think there was something they did not take into

account. The date of the big first all important Republican debate

coincides with something else on the calendar that I think they are

probably not planning on talking about. But that`s straight ahead.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson signed

into law the Voting Rights Act.


LYNDON B. JOHNSON, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: Millions of Americans are

denied the right to vote because of their color. The wrong is one which no

American in his heart can justify. The right is one which no American

proved to our principles can deny.


MADDOW: President Johnson, of course, was a Democrat.

But every time the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized, every

single time it has been done under a Republican president. There was

President Richard Nixon in 1970 and President Gerald Ford in 1975 with

major support for Republicans in Congress for both of those presidents.

Same under President Reagan.

Through everything that`s been contentious in politics all these

years, the Voting Rights Act, through the years, it has consistently, again

and again been re-upped and praised as if it were the least controversial

thing in the world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Reagan today signed a 25-year extension

of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

RONALD REAGAN, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: The right to vote is the crown

jewel of American liberties. We will not see its luster diminished.


MADDOW: President Reagan with Senator Joe Biden looking over his

shoulder there.

By the time of the 25-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in

1990, President Reagan`s vice president had ascended to the top job by

then. And in 1990, on the 25th anniversary of the act, Congress

unanimously passed a joint resolution declaring that day National Voting

Rights Celebration Day.

President George H.W. Bush signed that proclamation into law. Then 16

years later, it was his son`s turn. In 2006, under George W. Bush, the

Senate voted unanimously, the House voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the

Voting Rights Act, and on the south lawn nine years ago now, President

George W. Bush, he didn`t just sign it, he pledged to be its champion and

its defender.


GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, we renew a bill that

helped bring a community on the margins into the life of American

democracy. My administration will vigorously enforce the provisions of

this law and we will defend it in court.



MADDOW: We will defend it in court. That turned out to be necessary.

This Thursday, August 6 will be the biggest anniversary yet for the

Voting Rights Act, 50 years, half a century.

But this year, we are going to break the streak of Republicans

wrapping themselves up in the Voting Rights Act`s glory. This year, the

occasion of the 50-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act will be marked

by the first Republican presidential debate. It`s on that same day.

And this year from what we know, none of the Republican candidates who

will be on that presidential debate stage, none of them are in favor of the

reauthorization and reinstituting of the Voting Rights Act after the

Supreme Court gutted it.

President Obama is expected to call for the reinstitution of the

Voting Rights Act on its anniversary this week, but none of the Republican

candidates are expected to do the same. That is what we expect. But who


Maybe one of the Republican presidential hopefuls will be surprising

on this issue. Maybe one of them will find it within himself to try to be

Reaganesque on the issue or even Nixonesque on this issue.

This didn`t used to be a partisan thing, but we`ll see Thursday night,

50 years. Watch this space.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.




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