The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/23/2016


Date: February 23, 2016


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: (AUDIO GAP) has ever won the Nevada Republican
caucuses. In its current iteration where Nevada is an important early
state and Nevada goes right after South Carolina and has this incredibly
influential role in the Republicans choosing their nominee, in the entire
history of Nevada as an early state Republican presidential caucus, only
one person has ever won. And that guy is Mitt Romney.

The first time the Nevada caucuses were held in 2008, Mitt Romney not only
won here, he won by a mile. He came in first that year in Nevada with 51
percent of the vote. Second place was a very distant Ron Paul.

Mitt Romney got over 50 percent of the vote. Ron Paul came in second with
only 14 percent of the vote. And then awkwardly, even though Ron Paul only
got 14 percent of the vote, that was enough to give Ron Paul supporters
basically a tow hold in state politics that they used that year to
basically hijack the nominating process and take over the party to a point
where the whole Nevada state Republican convention was shut down and
replaced with a back room conference call by which they picked their
delegates instead. And that`s amazing. It`s kind of a story for another

But it should have been a sign, right? We should have known with that
first contest in 2008 that Nevada was going to be more than meets the eye.

But anyway, the bottom line, that first one Mitt Romney won. Second one,
Mitt Romney won. The second one was in 2012. But in 2012, the president
for president on the Republican side was at a volatile moment in that
instance, when Nevada was having its caucus.

In Iowa in 2012, Mitt Romney won for day and then the Republican Party said
it was a tie and they said Rick Santorum won and ultimately Ron Paul got
the delegates. So, Iowa was a contested mess in 2012.

Then came New Hampshire. Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, then they went
unto South Carolina, and newt Gingrich won South Carolina in 2012. That
was crazy. I mean, South Carolina had never picked a Republican who didn`t
go onto win the nomination.

But in 2012, they didn`t do that. In 2012, they picked Newt Gingrich.
Everybody freak out.

And so, heading into these Nevada contests in 2012, Mitt Romney was
obviously the favorite to win again. He won here in 2008. But the Newt
Gingrich thing spooked everybody a bit. And Newt Gingrich campaigned here.
He campaigned in Nevada. He was really trying to win here. And Mitt
Romney knew he better win here but he was going to have to fight for it.

So, there was this great celebrity moment in the 2012 race. The last time
we had a Republican presidential contest in this state right before the
Nevada caucus in 2012, Newt Gingrich hot on Romney`s heels. So, Mitt
Romney in his campaign decide to unveil their big but also super awkward
celebrity endorsement for the Nevada caucuses, just ahead of the Nevada
caucuses in 2012.

Mitt Romney and his wife went to a hastily arranged event right on the Las
Vegas Strip, at one of the big, gaudy casino hotels here. They did an in-
person acceptance of their celebrity endorsement, with their new celebrity.
It was very awkward.

There were tons of press there. The celebrity endorser had his name and
his logo on the podium. It was very, very Las Vegas. Mitt Romney looked
like he just swallowed a small, live bird and it didn`t go downright. Like
he looked like he wished to be anywhere else but there.

But it was a big moment for him. It was a big moment for Mitt Romney when
he got that big endorsement right ahead of the caucuses last time around.
Of course, the person who was his big endorser was Donald Trump, right
ahead of the last Nevada caucuses.

That was such a weird moment. But that is what happened the last Nevada
Republican caucus. And then Mitt Romney went onto win it. Again, for the
second time.

It was closer in 2012 than it had been in 2008, but Mr. Romney got 50
percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich got 21 percent of the vote. And Ron
Paul was back. He came in third with 19 percent of the vote.

And so, to this day, it`s weird, Mitt Romney remains the only human who has
ever won the Nevada Republican caucus. He`s the only one.

But because this caucus and this state is freaking crazy, this is what it
sounded like. This is what happened when it came down for the Nevada
delegation to cast their official votes for Mitt Romney at the Republican
National Convention in 2012. He had won Nevada, right?

Romney won the Nevada caucuses, but this is what happened at the Republican
National Convention when it came down for Nevada to submit their votes for
Mitt Romney. This is what they did. This is what happened. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the spirit of freedom that inspired the founding of
our country and in honor of the liberty that is made the United States the
greatest country on earth, we proudly cast 17 votes for Congressman Ron


Five abstentions and five for Romney.



MADDOW: And five for Romney and five for Romney.

Mitt Romney was the Republican Party`s nominee. He was the only one who
would get the delegate votes. But Nevada just cast all their votes for Ron
Paul any way. Seventeen votes for Ron Paul.

Republican Party in Nevada that year thought they changed the rules so that
would be impossible. They thought the bound the delegates to vote for Mitt
Romney, but the Ron Paul people said, screw it, they voted for Ron Paul
anyway. What are you going to do?

The Nevada Republican Party is amazing. The Nevada Republican caucus is
nuts. And now that neither Ron Paul nor his son is running anymore, nobody
knows if the Ron Paul people are going to somehow hijack and take over the
process again this year like they have every other year the caucus has been
run much to Mitt Romney`s chagrin.

Also, nobody has any idea who is going to show up for the caucus. The
caucus had 44,000 Republicans show up in its first year. It had 33,000 in
the second year. Nobody has any idea how many are going to show up this
year in part because the Nevada Republican Party is so disorganized and so
strange, they didn`t keep a list of the people who turned up the last time
they did this in 2012. They can`t even like contact those people and say,
hey, do you want to caucus again? They didn`t make a list. They didn`t
write down anybody`s name.

There`s also been pretty epic problems in the Nevada caucus even though
they had the small turnout in 2012, less than 8 percent voter turnout.
They really have 33,000 votes. It`s still took them days, days to count
the vote in 2012 here in Clark County which is where most of the
population lives.

This year, they decided to speed up the counting process by making the vote
stop earlier in Clark County than it does everywhere else in the state.
The basic idea I think is to give themselves more time to count here where
there`s a lot of votes. That should go fine.

And then the process by which they will count is at the 36 different caucus
locations just in this county, Republican Party staffers on sight are going
to count the votes by hand at those caucus locations. And then they`re
going to write the results of their hand count on an envelope, put all the
votes inside the envelope, and then this, I swear this is the official
process. After they have done that, they are supposed to take a picture of
the envelope.

What – they are supposed to take a picture of the envelope and what they
wrote on the inside, they are supposed to take a picture of it with their
cell phone and they`re supposed text that cell phone picture of the
handwritten thing on the envelope. They are supposed to text that picture
to a guy named Ed.

Ed Williams is the county Republican chairman in Clark County and everybody
is supposed to text him their pictures of what they wrote on the envelopes
and somehow the pictures of the envelopes with the handwritten counts will
get sent to the state. And, yes, that`s the process by which we`re
supposed to find out who has become the first human being in history not
named Mitt Romney to win the Nevada Republican caucus.

“The Wall Street Journal” did a long reported piece this week on the
history of the total freaking bag of cats full of chaos in this contest
we`re about to have tonight. In the course of the reporting on the insane
history of what usual happens here, “The Journal” talked to one former
Republican Party chairman on Nevada. His name is James Smack. Please,
God, tell me he goes by Jimmy Smack, but I cannot promise that.

His name is James Smack. And Mr. Smack told “The Wall Street Journal”,
he`s summed up what ought to be a national expectations for what happens
tonight in Nevada. He summed them up as follows, quote, “It`s not a
natural course of politics as usual” – it`s not a natural course of – can
I – thank you. “It`s not a natural course of politics as usual and voting
as usual as everybody is used to.” Quote, “It`s going to be scratchy no
matter what.”

It`s going to be scratchy. The official word from the former chair of the
Nevada Republican Party. It`s going to be scratchy is the prediction.

Let`s us check to see if it already is.

Joining us now from a caucus polling sight at Palo Verde High School in Las
Vegas is MSNBC`s Jacob Soboroff.

Jacob, it`s great to see you. How are things going at Palo Verde High?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: This is an extraordinary sight to
behold, unlike anything actually that I`ve ever seen before. It`s very
different from the Democratic process.

As you`ve been talking about people are not separating into preference
groups. They are showing up to tables like this which are effectively
precincts. Like normally, they go to a building to be precincts. These
tables are precincts. We`re hearing speeches from people.

OK, Donald Trump has just walked in live. Following me over here, guys.
Donald has just walked in to this location, and here`s Donald Trump walking
into this caucus location live. Glenn Beck is actually speaking on behalf
of Ted Cruz now.

And who are looking at right here is Donald Trump. He`s shaking hands with
caucus goers. I`m getting pushed out of way. It`s sort of a mad house,

What I expect right now is Donald Trump moving up to the podium. He`s
going to be speaking live to the attendees here at the caucus.

It`s mad house. I think that`s the only way to describe it, Rachel. It`s
an incredible mad house here. People are rushing up towards him, trying to
touch him and the cell phones are out. Elbows are flying.

Donald Trump is approaching the microphone, Rachel, as people are supposed
to be voting, filling out their ballots. People are screaming.

You`re looking at Donald Trump inside this caucus location in Summerland,
Nevada. I`m having a hard time hearing you.



SOBOROFF: Donald, Donald. Here he goes. He`s grabbing the microphone.
We`ll move over here.

MADDOW: Can you hear me?

SOBOROFF: Follow us. Here we go.

MADDOW: Did people there at the site know that Mr. Trump is going to come
in person.

SOBOROFF: Again, Rachel, we have a hard time hearing you, but here`s Mr.


SOBOROFF: No, we didn`t know, Rachel. I`m hearing you spotting in and out
a bit. Let me see if I can get up to close to Mr. Trump.

Excuse me.

Mr. Trump, how are you feeling?

TRUMP: Feel good. Look at the crowd.

SOBOROFF: Do you think you`ll be able to get the win tonight here?

TRUMP: We hope so. We have an awfully big crowd.

SOBOROFF: What are you plan – did you expect to see anything like this,
Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: No. Like this. This is incredible. Thank you.

SOBOROFF: Thank you, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. This is an honor. It`s great to be with you


We are going to have a historic night. In New Hampshire, it was amazing.
In South Carolina last week, unbelievable. Hopefully, this will be the
same. I appreciate everybody being here.

I wanted to be here myself and say a few words.

Our borders are going to be strong. We`re getting rid of Obamacare.


We`re going to take care of our veterans. Our military is going to be
great again. No longer depleted. Our military is depleted now. We`re
going to make it big and strong and we`re going to be respected again.

I just wanted to thank everybody. You`re really, really spectacular
people. I really appreciate you being here.

I`ll be with you for a while. If you need anything, you come see me.

Now, much more importantly, get over there and vote. Thank you.

Make America great again. Remember that. Make America great again. Thank
you. I love you.

Thank you. We love you, everybody. Thank you very much.

SOBOROFF: Rachel, we`re here with Donald Trump. I`m having a hard time
hearing you because of the activity. We`re in the middle of Secret
Service. See if I can get another word with Mr. Trump here.

Rachel Maddow, we`re live on the air with Rachel.

TRUMP: I like Rachel. I actually like Rachel.

SOBOROFF: Rachel, he likes you.

Mr. Trump, you`re here right now at the Nevada caucus. What`s the plan
going forward right now? After tonight, you know, what are you going to

TRUMP: Well, based on this crowd, we`re doing pretty well tonight. This
is amazing. They`ve never seen anything like it. It`s record setting
stuff already. It just started.

But I think we`re going to do very well. We have the SEC coming up. So,
hopefully, we`re going to do well.

Rachel, I appreciate your charts. You make the most beautiful charts with
the head on top. I love looking at them.

I don`t like my picture that much but that`s OK.

SOBOROFF: You continue to get hit by Ted Cruz and maybe now, Marco Rubio,
maybe not by name, has been hitting you. What`s your message to the
supporters of those candidates tonight and to those candidates?

TRUMP: Well, you know, Ted is going to start telling the truth. He lifts
his hands up high, but he`s going to have to start telling the truth.
People have gotten wise to him. That`s what happened in – if do you look
what happened in South Carolina, that was a disaster for him. I think New
Hampshire was a disaster also for him.

So, he`s going to start telling the truth. He`s going to learn to tell the
truth. When he lifts his hands up high, I think he`s going to be very
happy and feel much better about himself.

SOBOROFF: How about to the Democrats? Do you have any message to Hillary
Clinton or Bernie Sanders tonight?

TRUMP: Well, no, they`ve got their own race. I wish them both luck. I
think proably Hillary looks like she`s very successful but – if she`s
allowed to run. We`re going to find out whether or not she`s going to be
allowed to run.

SOBOROFF: All right. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Hello, Rachel.

SOBOROFF: Appreciate it.

Rachel, I`m going to throw it back to you. We`re going to get this audio
situation sorted out. Donald Trump here in Palo Verde High School in
Summerland, Nevada.

MADDOW: Excellent. Jacob Soboroff cannot hear me to save his life at this
point. Jacob, that was amazing.

And Mr. Trump said he likes the way we build charts where we put his little
head on top of them. So, that`s through Jacob from Donald Trump through me
back to our graphics department. When you guys make bar graphs and you pop
a Trump head on top bar, candidate likes it.

We`re going to have a long ethical discussion on our team if we should keep
doing that given that the candidate likes it. All right?

Lots of come tonight. We`re in Las Vegas, where Republicans are hoping one
big thing changes tonight in the race. And that story and a lot more is
straight ahead. It`s going to be fun night here.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: We got some good news. Today, the Republican Party in Nevada got
some good news about its historically beleaguered presidential caucus.

The good news is it looks like turn out will be way, way up for the
Republicans, 37,000 Republicans pre-registered for tonight`s caucuses.
That`s more than the entire turn out last time around. That`s just the
pre-registrations this time.

Some people have been saying turn out could hit 75,000 in the state this
year. That`s still, of course, just a fraction of the state`s half million
Republican voters, but it might be enough turn out to spare Nevada the
indignity of losing this caucus, losing their first in the West status to
some other place like Colorado or Arizona.

If Nevada does hit record turnout tonight, I should also say, that would be
the fourth consecutive state in which the Republicans have hit record
turnout for their primary this year.

Democrats haven`t had a record turnout yet in any of their contests.
Democrats, in fact, have been way down from what they had in 2008.

But if Nevada Republicans hit a record tonight, it will be four straight
turnout records for them. So, that`s the good news for Nevada Republicans.

The bad news is that Nevada Republicans have a stupendously bad record of
actually counting the votes even when they had terrible turn out and few
votes to count. We`re now over an hour into the Nevada caucuses, although
a bunch of them start at different times, so that`s hard to say. But the
caucuses are underway. They`re happening now.

If we`re lucky, we could get results tonight or tomorrow afternoon or
sometime soon maybe. We don`t exactly know when we`ll get numbers, but we
know we`re going to have a long and crazy night ahead if the rest of the
night thus far is any indication.

Get your granola bars, kids. Settle in.


MADDOW: One of the known unknowns in terms of what happens next is who`s
going to become the new big profligate spender.

The first state, of course, was Iowa. The biggest spender in Iowa on the
Republican side was Jeb Bush. He got sixth place there but he spent the
most money there.

Next up was New Hampshire, where again, the biggest spender was Jeb Bush.
He spent more money than anyone in both Iowa and in New Hampshire. It got
him sixth place in New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, it got him fourth

Same goes for South Carolina. No candidate spent more money trying to win
South Carolina than Jeb Bush did and despite the fact that he was first in
spending again, he got fourth in the results again in South Carolina.

Well, now that Governor Bush has left the race, the caucuses will be the
first contest in this Republican race where Jeb Bush is not going to be in
the running. And so, interesting question, right? Who`s going to be the
biggest spender here? I mean, now that Jeb Bush is out of race, who will
have spent the most money in Nevada?

It turns out the answer is Jeb Bush. Yes. The guy`s been out of race
since Saturday, but even before he quit, he racked up so much spending in
the state of Nevada, that there`s a chance he will still have spent more
here than every other candidate, even from beyond the political grave.

From numbers that we`ve got, it looks like it`s going to be close. He does
have competition. The main competition for the dead Jeb Bush campaign in
terms of spending will be the very alive Marco Rubio campaign. The Jeb
Bush super PAC is thought to have spent around $900,000 trying to win this
state. That`s amount the same amount that`s been spent by the Marco Rubio
campaign and the super PACs supporting him. Ted Cruz is close behind in
about $800,000.

Donald Trump, he`s the clear frontrunner in the state. He spent under a
half million dollars. The winner, though, in terms of thrift, the winner
in terms of sheer bang for the buck in this state is undoubtedly John
Kasich. John Kasich has spent a grand total of zero dollars in the state
of Nevada.

If he gets one freaking vote here, if he gets one delegate here, he`s got a
great case to make that he`s the most efficient politician alive. Right?
That`s kind of a great pitch to donors. Look what I can do with zero
dollars. Imagine how well I`d spend your $5.

But Donald Trump is really expected to do very, very well here. You heard
that confidence when he spoke on the stump there with Jacob Soboroff. Palo
Verde High School here in Las Vegas.

Donald Trump is expected to do well here. He`s expected to do well in
general. He`s come in like second and then first and then first so far in
the first three states on the Republican side. He`s heavily favored here
in Nevada, despite a dearth reliable polling.

That prospect that his record after tonight heading into Super Tuesday
might be second, first, first, that has a good proportion of the country
well and truly freaking out right now with the realization that Mr. Trump
might actually be unstoppable in the Republican primary.

“The Washington Post” editorial page went off on the subject today like a
Roman candle with a fast fuse. They called Mr. Trump`s campaign quote,
“moral poison.”

But responding to the comment this weekend by the Republican Party chairman
that the RNC would support Mr. Trump if he won the nomination because
winning is the antidote to a lot of things, that`s what the RNC chairman

“The Post” today said in response, quote, “Winning can quiet many
complaints, it`s true. But it cannot and will not be an antidote to the
moral poison of Mr. Trump`s campaign. Party leaders who support and
celebrate his victory will be accomplices to an attack on the fundamental
values of American democracy. Winning will not wash away the stain.”

Er, that was “The Washington Post` today.

Up at “The Boston Globe” today, the editorial board there is going to far
as to urge Massachusetts voters who are registered independents that they
should not vote in the Democratic primary in the state on Tuesday even if
they like one of the Democratic candidates. Instead, “The Boston Globe”
says independent registered voters in Massachusetts should vote in the
Republican primary just to seize the opportunity to vote against Donald

Quote, “Stopping Donald Trump is imperative and not just for his fellow
Republicans. Trump`s campaign has revived some of the ugliest traditions
in American politics. Just his nomination by one of the nation`s major
parties would be an international embarrassment.”

Quote, “As the race turns to Massachusetts, the answer to John F. Kennedy`s
question ask what you can do for your country has rarely been clearer. Un-
enrolled voters should pull a Republican ballot and vote for John Kasich
because it`s a vote against Donald Trump.”

John Kasich did get “The Boston Globe” endorsement a while back before the
New Hampshire primary. The newspaper today isn`t so much singing John
Kasich`s praises again as they are begging “Boston Globe” readers to try to
stop Donald Trump somehow, please – even if it means voting for John

There`s also an anti-Donald Trump super PAC that is making the same public
pitch. They are called Our Principles PAC. They`ve been running ads and
making calls against Donald Trump since last month.

The director of that super PAC who was back in the day a senior advisor to
Mitt Romney, she`s now published a public three-page memo begging more
Republicans to step up to stop Mr. Trump.

Quote, “There`s an increasing worry about among many Republicans that we`re
about nominate a candidate who shares none of the values our party has held
dear for decades and who will lead our party to general election ruin in
November. That candidate is Donald Trump and that fear is well founded.
Many have asked me what can be done to stop Donald Trump. The answer is
simple: TRY.” That was in all caps, try.

“No one has stopped him because no one has really tried.” Quote, “In my
nearly 30 years of political involvement, I`ve never seen a campaign where
the frontrunner had no aggressive, strategic campaign launched against

And then basically she begs for money for her super PAC to run anti-Donald
Trump ads targeting Republican voters. She says the best message they have
come up with Donald Trump in terms of stopping Republicans for supporting
him is asking Republicans how much they really know about Mr. Trump and
asking if Mr. Trump really can be trusted. So, give us money, we`ll run
those ads.

Will that work? I don`t know. Seems a little late to be trying to gin up
a big national effort like that. But if the Republican Party is going to
stop Donald Trump from becoming their nominee, that plan, as late and
haphazard add it seems, that seems like the better plan than the other
thing the Republicans are trying. And that is the thing that they are
trying right here in Nevada tonight and that is next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: As lots of Republicans freak out about how well Donald Trump is
doing in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, one desperate
Republican theory of the race is that once there aren`t so many people
running anymore, a consensus non-Donald Trump candidate will emerge and
that`s how Mr. Trump will eventually lose the fight for the nomination.
It`s just that there are too many people running.

Well, so far, of the 17 people initially running for the nomination on the
Republican side, 12 of them, poofed, have quit, 12 of the 17 and that`s
done nothing to shake Mr. Trump`s position at the top of the Republican

The latest to leave the race, of course, is Jeb Bush. But check this out,
an NBC survey monkey poll of Jeb Bush supporters asked where those people
might go now, now with Jeb Bush out of race.

The answer is they are not going any one particular place. They`re going
to scatter to the four winds: 19 percent of them say they`ll go to Rubio,
16 percent to Kasich, 12 percent to Ted Cruz, 11 percent say they`ll go to
Donald Trump.

So, even something like Jeb Bush getting out of the race doesn`t result in
a bunch of new anti-Trump votes pre-floating around the race. Some of
those people go to Donald Trump.

Republican elected officials, though, have decided that they are sticking
with this general theory, this consolidate around one anti-Trump candidate
theory and it`s become very clear over the last 48 hours that they are
picking Marco Rubio as that candidate.

Mr. Rubio has not won a state anywhere. He`s not come within ten points of
winning a state. But the list of endorsers he`s picked up since he got
clobbered by Donald Trump this weekend in South Carolina almost might make
you think that Marco Rubio was the front-runner.

That surge of interest in him on the Republican side, it couldn`t come at a
better time for Senator Rubio. He may not have won a state anywhere, but
here in Nevada, he`s got a better shot than almost anywhere else. This is
almost like a home game for him.

Senator Rubio and his family lived this Nevada for a while he was growing
up. He still has a large extended family here. The senator and his family
briefly converted to Mormonism while they were here.

In the past, a quarter of the turnout of Nevada Republican caucuses have
been Mormons. Senator Rubio has also run a big campaign here than any
other Republican candidate in the race. He`s trying really hard to win
this race.

On paper, he ought to win this race. He now has all the establishment
support in the world. He`s set up to win. If he can`t win here, where on
earth can he win?

But if the Rubio campaign is expecting to win here tonight, they certainly
are playing it cool, because when the caucuses report their first vote in
tonight, Ted Cruz is going to be here in a watch party on the strip.
Donald Trump is going to be here at watch party on the Strip.

Marco Rubio, when the votes start coming in tonight in Nevada, he`s going
to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is either brilliant lowering of
expectations, right? I had no idea I could win. I`m so outperforming the
expectations. It`s either that, or it`s a really good sign he`s not going
to win here, of all places.

Joining me now is the one person who I most want to speak with on a big
night in Nevada, Jon Ralston, host of “Ralston Reports”, and an MSNBC
political analyst.

Jon, it`s great to see you. Nice to see you, my friend.


MADDOW: So, we just saw Donald Trump at caucus. We saw – he walked in as
Glenn Beck was wrapping up his pitch for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump came in
and did his pitch in person.

Everyone seems to think that there`s no contest here, that Mr. Trump is
going to run away with it. Does that seem like the case to you?

RALSTON: Well, it seems like that`s the case to me, Rachel. Not so much
because of the polling data, of the public and polling data, private
polling data that I`ve seen, Rachel, but because of what the Rubio and Cruz
campaigns are saying privately. A representative of one of those
campaigns, today, this morning, when I asked for his prediction predicted
that Trump would win the race by 25 points. There`s confidence for you.

So, you know, we probably see Marco Rubio in Michigan giving a victory
speech for getting 12 percent of the vote and finishing in second or third.
That`s what this race looks like right now.

Before we go on, I want to say I agree with something Donald Trump said
tonight, Rachel. I`m a big fan of your charts as well. I want you to know


MADDOW: Well, thank you very much. I never knew my charts had a
following. But I have a feeling there will be a t-shirt soon.

RALSTON: They do.

MADDOW: John, let me ask you about this issue of turnout, right? So, we
have been watching the turn out closely toward the general election,
because on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is saying, “I can excite all
these people. I can turn out all these people. The whole secret of how
I`m not going to win the nomination but be a good president is I`m going to
get so many people involved in the process.”

But Democratic turn out has been down below 2008 levels in every state
where they have competed thus far. Republican turnout has been a record
where they have competed so far.

Does it look like that`s going to happen tonight in Nevada as well on the
Republican side?

RALSTON: It does indeed. Now, the Democrats, as you know, on Saturday
here turned out about 84,000 people. That`s compared to 120,000 they
turned out in `08, a significant drop off there. The Republicans have had
terrible turnouts in these two early state caucuses, a little over 40,000
in `08 and about 33,000 four years ago, Rachel. It`s going to be at least
that much.

The pre-registration was at 37,000, as you mentioned. Then it went up to
41,000 a little bit later. I don`t know what the final number is. But
that as you know is more than the total turnout. Some people think it
could be as high as 75,000, 80,000, which it sounds like a low number and
it is a low number in most other states.

It`s actually a low number in relation to the total number of Republican
voters in the state, which are more than 400,000. But it`s clearly going
to be much bigger than anyone anticipated here. You can see that. As I
said earlier on Twitter, Rachel, I don`t know of any organization less
prepared to deal with higher than expected turn out than the Nevada
Republican Party.


MADDOW: Well, they had very low turn out this 2008 and 2012. And they
absolutely completely blew it. If they have giant turnout tonight and they
do great, it will be a miracle on a miracle, which is starting to be what
it`s going to feel like.

RALSTON: Indeed.

MADDOW: Jon Ralston, appreciate it, my friend. The host of “Ralston
Reports”, MSNBC analyst – going to be a long night but a fun one, Jon.
We`ll check in with you later.

RALSTON: All right.

MADDOW: All right. We`re roughly 90 minutes into the Nevada caucuses. I
shouldn`t say that because they start at different times. If things are
like the disastrous 2012 caucuses, we won`t get official results for
another two days. But if we are lucky we could get the results tonight.
That`s the best case scenario. Some people are saying maybe tomorrow
afternoon. Maybe. I don`t know.

It`s going to be fun. Stay with us. Lots to come.


MADDOW: So, here`s how this goes tonight. All the caucuses here in Nevada
will have their doors closed by 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. They will all
end, all the caucuses will end by midnight Eastern Time, which is 9:00

So, in terms of coverage tonight, in terms of figuring out who won and
watching all the returns, our full live coverage from here in Las Vegas is
going to start right here after this show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Brian
Williams, Chris Matthews, the whole gang.

We`re going to start right after this show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and it`s
going to go until the cows come home. You can sleep in November.

We`ll be right back.



SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: This is what I think of the president`s plan
to send terrorists to the United States.


MADDOW: Ooh, tough guy.

I don`t know if that what counts as an official response from Senator Pat
Roberts of Kansas. But in broad terms, it really does represent the
Republican`s position on President Obama`s new proposal to close the prison
at Guantanamo. Crumple, crumple, not going to happen. Tough guy.

But that was not all that President Obama heard from Congress today. He
also heard from lawmakers today about the new vacancy on the Supreme Court
after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. President Obama was seen
heading home from work on Friday night with a binder full of homework,
possible names and resumes for Supreme Court nominees.

But it turns out it doesn`t matter who President Obama picks out of that
binder. Republicans in the Senate say they will not give any Obama nominee
a chance regardless of who it might be. They say they will not so much
take a meeting with someone chosen by this president.

What would be the point of that?


REPORTER: Will you actually not meet with the nominee?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I don`t know the purpose of
such a visit. I would not be inclined to take one myself.

REPORTER: And, Senator Cornyn, would you not either meet with a nominee?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I don`t see the point of going through the
motions if we know what the outcome is going to be and we are united on
that. I don`t see the point of going through the motions and creating a
misleading impression that something else is going on here.


MADDOW: Republicans do not want to create a misleading impression they
will do anything about this crucial vacancy on the Supreme Court. They
want President Obama to know no meetings, no hearings, certainly no vote,
no nothing on anyone who the president might dare nominate for the Supreme

So, there are these two things now where Congress is telling the president
no way, no how, not going to happen. On one of them, on the Supreme Court
seat, the Senate, of course, does have the power to hold that vacancy open,
to block the president, right?

The Senate can stop any nomination in its tracks. The Senate can guarantee
that seat remains vacant for more than a year despite the historically
unprecedented nature of them doing so. They can do that by refusing to act
even though they will pay a political price for it, they can do it.

On the other one, on the question of closing Guantanamo, it is not as clear
that Congress has the power to stop the president from doing it. What the
president proposed today is not really a new plan. It`s essentially –
it`s a reiteration of what he has said previously, what the solution should

There`s an argument that`s been made by former Obama administration
officials in public that President Obama doesn`t need approval from
Congress in order to carry out the solution to Guantanamo. The White
House, of course, says they prefer that Congress do it. They prefer that
Congress do it, go along and do this together, but they have never ruled
out executive action by the president to close Guantanamo, the same way the
president took executive action on immigration when Congress refused to go
along with reform on that issue despite the president giving them a big
plan to do so.

So, two big jobs for the president right now – nominating someone for the
Supreme Court and closing Guantanamo. One of those jobs he really can`t do
by himself. But the other one, Guantanamo, he just might. He`s not ruling

Watch this space.



TRUMP: Mitt is tough. He`s smart. He`s sharp. He`s not going to allow
bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love.

So, Governor Romney, go out and get `em. You can do it.



There are some things that you just can`t imagine happening in your life.
This is one of them.


MADDOW: Doesn`t it look like he just swallowed a live bird there? Just
went down wrong, feathers, dry.

That was Donald Trump endorsing Mitt Romney just a few days before he won
the Nevada caucus in 2012. So far, though, Mr. Romney has not returned the
favor this year. He has not endorsed Donald Trump in the Republican race
this year. Mr. Romney has not endorsed anyone at all.

Over the weekend, the rumor was that Marco Rubio would be getting Mitt
Romney`s endorsement and soon. That was going around on Sunday, but still
tonight, the night of the Nevada caucus, there has been nothing from the
2012 presidential candidate, in a state where he won twice, a state where
Mormons came out in droves for him during the last caucuses, where his
endorsement could hold some real weight no matter who he gave it to.

In any case, Mitt Romney is not the only potentially bigwig withholding
what could potentially be an explosive endorsement in the Republican race.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent upwards to $100 million in the 2012
primary and general elections, he reportedly has met with some of the
candidates this year, including Mr. Trump, but other than that, his lips
and checkbook have been sealed.

In December, everybody thought it was a sure fire sign that Sheldon Adelson
would be getting back in the game when he bought the largest newspaper in
Nevada, “The Las Vegas Review Journal”, obviously a very powerful tool in
an early caucus state, right? A huge mouth piece for somebody who wants to
play a role in politics.

A few months later, a few months after Mr. Adelson bought the paper, that
same paper did endorse Marco Rubio, but Sheldon Adelson himself has
basically stayed silent. Not only has he not made an endorsement, or even
hinted at one, he spent nowhere near the amount of money he spent last time
around. He`s mostly just made small ball donations in the race so far,
with no particular focus.

Polling in Nevada on either side is notoriously untrustworthy, but just as
a guide post going to tonight`s caucus, polls have shown Donald Trump way
ahead of the rest of the candidates, anywhere from 16 to 26 points ahead of
everybody else, which is why it`s weird that given the sketchy polling
situation and the amount of sway that endorsers could hold in a state like
Nevada, neither Mitt Romney nor Sheldon Adelson have made a peek about
their preferred candidate so far.

In a state like this, those particular endorsements might have a big impact
on the outcome of the race where Donald Trump is basically swamping the
rest of the field. So why haven`t they?


MADDOW: So here`s an unexpected turn in the Republican presidential
caucuses. This is unexpected. Check this out.


MICHELLE FIORE: This Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, repeat it. Mark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Assemblywoman Michele Fiore!

FIORE: I have landed in Portland, Oregon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have rented what?

FIORE: I have landed in Portland, Oregon. I am sitting here at the
airport right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sitting here at the airport right now.

FIORE: I will let the FBI come and bring me to the refuge and negotiate
this exit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, guys, are you there?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, hang in there. I think I got Michele Fiore and I`m
going to try to patch her in this call, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We`ve got Michelle Fiore on the phone right now.
We`re talking to Michele Fiore right now on the phone. She`s hearing what
you`re doing.

FIORE: Ask them to call me right now. I am willing – I am Assemblywoman
Michele Fiore. I am willing to come to the refuge right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. She`s coming to the refuge. She`s willing to come
to the refuge right now and you guys are holding back a peaceful resolution
by not negotiating and letting her have her chance. So, you are – you are
destroying the competition if you let her have her way because she`s here
and she`s a congresswoman with high respect. And so, if you don`t let her
come here, you will be held accountable if there`s bloodshed, Mark. You
are going to go to prison.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, she has connections, Mark. There`s lots of
people with connections, Mark.


MADDOW: There`s lots of people with connections, Mark. Lots of people
with connections. You are going to destroy the Constitution if you don`t
let her have her way.

That was a Nevada legislature, a Republican assemblywoman from Nevada who
relishes being kind of a provocateur on lots of issues, especially gun
rights. But that sound was just from a few weeks ago when she jetted up to
eastern Oregon to try to be a go between, between the increasingly agitated
holdout armed militants at that wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon and the
federal government.

Here at home in Nevada, Assemblywoman Fiore is he`s running for Congress.
She`s also on the Nevada leadership team for presidential candidate Ted

And so, this is the thing that`s flying a little bit under the national
radar, but one of the ways that Ted Cruz is trying to run for president is
by going for what you might call the Bundy vote, the Bundy Ranch vote.

See that “return our land” banner behind Ted Cruz there? That`s what the
Ted Cruz campaign is like here.


percent of the land in the state of Nevada owned by the federal government
and transfer it back to the state and back to the people!

Eighty-five percent of the state of Nevada is owned by the federal


That is going to end.



MADDOW: This is kind of an obscure issue in most of the country. I mean,
even here in Las Vegas, Nevada, this is a bit of an obscure issue, but Ted
Cruz is campaigning on it in the state. He is running ads on this issue in

He`s even brought on board his campaign, a central figure in both the
Cliven Bundy son`s armed standoff with the federal government in Oregon,
and the other Bundy family armed standoff with the federal government in
Nevada in 2014.


HAYES: Assemblywoman, why are you there near the Bundy Ranch tonight

FIORE: Questioning why the heck the federal government felt the need to
come in armed and collect an unpaid bill.

HAYES: He says he does not deny the authority of the federal government.
I`m basically quoting him there. Do you – do you agree with that stance?
Do you recognize the authority of the federal government?

FIORE: I recognize our federal government overstepped and overreached in
our state of Nevada. That`s what I recognize.


MADDOW: That was during the armed standoff between militant ranchers and
their supporters at the Bundy Ranch in 2014. That was 2014.

Now, this is the Ted Cruz campaign for president in this state and who
knows? Maybe it will win him the Bundy vote. Maybe it will win him some
other votes in rural Nevada. It might. It might also possibly be hard to
explain in other states that the Bundy Ranch vote, the armed insurrection
against the government vote is part of how Ted Cruz put together his path
to the presidential nomination, if he does.

We`ll see, very soon, because that does it for us tonight and our special
team coverage of the Nevada Republican caucuses starts right now from Las
Vegas. Do not move a muscle.


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