The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/14/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 14, 2016
Guest: Dan Rather
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was on – going to radio
stations today, went to the conservative radio station. Cruz is actually
getting backlash for going against the violence of the Trump rallies. That
could be Rubio`s opening.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Very interesting.
McKay Coppins, Joy Reid, thank you for joining me tonight.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening, live from the bayside marketplace in
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. I am jealous you are
there, my friend.
HAYES: It is lovely. It is truly lovely.
MADDOW: I`ll meet you there. All right.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy pie day. Also
happy Florida eve.
There is one huge international story that surprised everybody today, which
was the unexpected announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that
Russia is pulling its troops out of Syria. This Russian war effort in
Syria, which started in late September, this has been the biggest Russian
war anywhere since the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in the late
But today, President Putin said Russian is pulling out tomorrow, which, of
course, will be a huge deal if it happens. Nobody seems all that truly
confident that it definitely will happen. But we shall see. That`s the
biggest international news story of the day.
In domestic news, the biggest thing going on in the country is our nation`s
effort to pick Vladimir Putin`s counterpart in our nation, minus the
lifelong tenure and the kleptocracy privileges, hopefully.
Ahead of tomorrow`s voting in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and
Illinois, Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, held a really big rally in
front of 6,000 people in Charlotte, North Carolina, this afternoon and then
off to St. Charles, Missouri, for another big event that is starting in
this hour. That`s a shot of that event tonight. Crowd estimate, Missouri,
is at least a few thousand people. But as you can see, that`s a big room
and it`s very full.
Senator Sanders, interestingly, though, after this event in Saint Charles,
Missouri, right now, then going for broke and he`s going to do another just
before midnight rally in Chicago, where tons of people are already lined up
to see him. One might reasonably expect that Senator Sanders will turn out
a crowd of thousands of people in Chicago – just as Donald Trump did on
Friday night. However, on the Democratic side of the race, one might also
reasonably expect that nobody will riot or get in fist fights at the Bernie
Sanders event in Chicago. That has been kind of a unique feature just of
the Trump campaign.
Hillary Clinton today did an event in Chicago this morning. She is in
Charlotte, North Carolina, tonight. In terms of the polling between the
two Democratic candidates heading into this big day tomorrow, there`s been
a lot of polling in the biggest prize tomorrow, which is the state of
Florida. All the Florida polls consistently show Hillary Clinton ahead of
Senator Sanders by 20 points or more.
The next biggest prize tomorrow in terms of delegates is Ohio. There has
not been quite as much polling as there has been in Florida, but recent
polls in Ohio also show Secretary Clinton ahead, but as you see there,
she`s ahead in Ohio by a significantly smaller margin.
After that, there`s also Illinois and North Carolina and Missouri, who are
all voting tomorrow. And in those three states, there`s sort of a poll
here and a poll there. But there`s no large sample set of good, big,
scientifically sound recent polls from which to draw a clear average
picture of how those races are going to go in those other states.
The common wisdom about tomorrow night on the Democratic side is that
Secretary Clinton has a solid lead in Florida and North Carolina. But the
other three states are closer and the Sanders campaign has been flat out
saying they`re going to win Ohio and Missouri, at least.
So, whatever happens between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and these
five big states tomorrow, unless one of them throws a huge knockout punch
and just clobbers the other one in all five states or something, I don`t
think anybody thinks the Democratic race is going to change that much,
based on what happens tomorrow night. But there have been surprises
before. We shall see.
The Sanders campaign obviously still riding a little high over the upset
win they got in Michigan last week where they outperformed the public polls
by roughly 20 points. We`ll see if the big rallies that Senator Sanders
has been turning out like this one – these rallies we have seen from him
multiple cities in multiple states, thousands of people at every rally,
we`ll see if those big rallies pay off for Senator Sanders tomorrow night
in items of votes.
Now, on the Republican side, tomorrow is much more dramatically important
to the remaining characters in the race. These last four candidates,
because depending on how things go tomorrow night, tomorrow night could
very well be the end of the road, conceivably, for two of the four
Republican candidates who are still left standing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to win Ohio.
If I don`t win Ohio, then ball game over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t win your home state –
KASICH: I don`t know how you go forward. If I didn`t win Ohio, I couldn`t
go forward, but I will win Ohio.
Some of the other candidates if they can`t win their home state, get out.
If I don`t win my home state, I`ll get out. But you know what, I`m going
to win Ohio.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor John Kasich of Ohio says he will win his home state of
Ohio tomorrow and if he does not, will quit the race for the presidency.
That said, the polls look good for Governor Kasich tomorrow. Pollsters
have been surveying Ohio Republicans with increasing frequency, as we close
in on tomorrow`s vote. Out of the last six polls in the state of Ohio,
over the last couple weeks, four of the six of them show John Kasich with a
small lead in his home state. Two of the six show an outright tie between
John Kasich and Donald Trump.
The Donald Trump campaign appears to be worried enough about their
prospects in Ohio that Mr. Trump added a last-minute campaign event in
Youngstown, Ohio, tonight. This had not been on his campaign schedule
today. In fact, he had to cancel another event in a different state in
order to detour to Youngstown tonight. The event that he cancelled today
in order to be in Ohio had been an event in south Florida.
So, you could sort of read a little bit into both sides of that equation,
right? The Trump campaign obviously thinks they`ve got work to do to try
to sew up what had previously been a lead for them in the polling in Ohio.
They also feel like the place they can afford to stiff arm a little bit
right now is Florida, where the polling shows Mr. Trump leading in that
state by a very, very healthy margin. Look at that, plus 18, plus 17, plus
24, plus 21, plus 20.
Numbers like that in Florida, the Trump campaign obviously feels it can
afford to bail on some Florida events right now. They have got a cushion.
They`re winning every poll in the state right now by double digits, almost
all over 20 points.
And those numbers must be, you know, a delight for Donald Trump right now.
We know how much he loves it when he gets good poll numbers. What those
same numbers represent for Marco Rubio, however, is potentially the end.
To be clear, Senator Rubio has never said that he will definitely quit the
race if he doesn`t win his home state of Florida. John Kasich said that
Ted Cruz said that about Texas – although I should mention, because he`s
Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz didn`t say that about Texas, didn`t say he would
quit if he didn`t win Texas until after he had already won Texas.
Very brave of Senator Cruz to say had he not won he would have gotten out
of the race. But he waited until he won the state to mention that. Ted
Cruz has always been a very special kind of brave.
But if the polls in Florida do hold up, if the polling there is born out in
tomorrow`s vote, if Marco Rubio does not win Florida, it really is going to
be a night of existential reckoning this time tomorrow night for the 44-
year-old first term Florida senator. And remember, he`s not running for
reelection to the Senate. So, that would be it for him.
And we are, you know, seeing signs through this past weekend and into today
that Senator Rubio`s competitors are already seeing him as road kill. The
first sign was Thursday when the Ted Cruz super PAC pulled their
advertising out of Florida, saying, quote, “we are no longer doing anti
Rubio ads in Florida because it appears Senator Rubio can lose Florida all
by himself. He doesn`t need our help.” Ouch.
Then, on Friday, Senator Rubio himself and his campaign manager both said
publicly that Rubio supporters who live in Ohio should cast their votes not
for Marco Rubio in Ohio, they should instead cast their votes in Ohio for
John Kasich. Rubio`s campaign manager, his spokesperson, described Kasich
as the candidate with the best chance to beat Donald Trump in Ohio.
She said outright that Kasich is who people should vote for in Ohio. It`s
kind of amazing, coming from a competing campaign.
What was all the more amazing, when the John Kasich campaign decided they
would not reciprocate this favor. The Kasich campaign said in response to
these urgings by the Rubio campaign that Rubio supporters vote for John
Kasich in Ohio. They said in response, quote, “We were going to win Ohio
without his help, just as he`s going to lose in Florida without ours.”
So, the other campaigns are already treating Marco Rubio like he`s a dead
man walking. “The New York Times” apparently had a magazine piece set to
run on Marco Rubio I think this upcoming weekend in “The New York Times”
magazine. “New York Times” magazine comes out on Sunday.
To be clear, as best as we can tell, this Marco Rubio profile was not set
to run this past weekend that just finished. It was set to run next
weekend. But “The New York Times” appears to have upped the publication
date on that Marco Rubio profile to today, because obviously they believe
that Senator Rubio`s expiration date is tomorrow. And so, you don`t want
to hold the piece too long.
Now, it`s possible, of course, that Marco Rubio could pull out a surprise
huge upset win in Florida tomorrow. We`ve actually got some hard data to
talk about the possibility of that happening coming up a little later on in
the show. We`ve got that exclusively. You will want to see that here.
If Senator Rubio does pull off an upset in Florida, that would be obviously
enough to keep him alive. He would still be nowhere near a contender to
win enough delegates to get the Republican nomination. But at least people
would stop clamoring for him to quit immediately. Or all the worse,
treating him like he already has.
Heading into these big contests tomorrow, unless something changes
dramatically, the Republican race is still slated to end one of two ways.
Either Donald Trump will get all the delegates he needs to lock up the
nomination before the convention, or nobody will. And if nobody gets
enough delegates to lock up the nomination before the convention, it will
get decided at a contested convention. Those are the only things that can
happen at this point in the race, unless something radically changes. And
the only thing that could change that trajectory at this point in the race
is if there was some sudden and radical collapse in support for Donald
What could cause that, if anything? After days of escalating violence at
his events, this for example was Mr. Trump`s event during the day and
afternoon on Friday. I think this got overshadowed by what happened later
Friday evening in Chicago. But this was the scene outside the Trump event
in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday afternoon. This was St. Louis on Friday.
And then Friday evening, we all watched as Trump supporters and Trump
protesters brawled on the floor of the big arena at the University of
Illinois in Chicago. Not before they let thousands of Trump supporters and
Trump protesters all into that room together, and then told them just to go
home. Yes, so that`s how that one turned out.
Then on Saturday, there was Kansas City, Missouri, where protests outside
the venue ended in volume ease of pepper spray dispensed in great quantity
by the Kansas City police.
As this becomes a national subject of discussion, I think there are two
things lost here. One, is that Mr. Trump has said out-loud and on the
record that he thinks that violent incidents at his rallies are probably
good for his presidential campaign. He thinks they probably help him. He
sees political utility in violence at his events.
This is what he told my colleague, Chris Matthews, live on Friday night
while the brawling was still under way in Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Did you think people who are coming out
on the Republican side to vote are going to – how are they going to react
to these pictures when they go to vote for you or against you?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t know. Two people told
me that are experts saying this increases the vote for Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s one thing that I think is underappreciated or at least has
been lost a little bit – in what is now, thankfully, a big, energetic
national discussion about the fact that there is violence regularly at the
political events for the Republican presidential front runner. I think it
is underappreciated that he has articulated that he thinks violence at his
events is good for him. That he benefits politically from this stuff
happening around him.
The other thing that I think has been lost now that we are having a
national discussion about violence and Donald Trump events – the other
thing that has been lost about the way he handles, deals with and in some
cases promotes this aspect of his candidacy, is maybe even a little darker
and a little creepier than him thinking that it helps him politically. And
that is next.
MADDOW: I hereby declare that Republican presidential front runner, Donald
Trump, likes it when there is disruptive protests and violence at his
rallies. At least he says he likes it. Over and over and over again, he
says he likes it. He`s not hiding this stuff. This is the way he talks
about it while it`s happening. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, this is amazing. So much
fun! I love it! I love it! Are we having a good time? USA, USA!
CROWD: USA, USA, USA!
TRUMPO: Get `em out of here. Get `em out. Get `em out of here. Get `em
Are these rallies the most fun of everybody? Right? We have the most fun.
Do we have the most fun? Yes, get him out of here. Get him out. Get him
What`s more fun than a Trump rally, right? I don`t know why, but I love
it. Am I crazy? I love this.
The protesters end up taking over and frankly – I mean, I have to be
honest. From my standpoint, it makes it a little more exciting. And it
gives me time to think about exactly where I want to go next. It`s
beautiful. It`s like intermission. And the guys that are near the event,
they see some pretty good stuff.
Honestly, in certain ways – in certain ways, it makes it more exciting,
OK, to be honest. It does. Makes it more exciting.
Do we have a good time at Trump rallies? Has this happened with anyone
else? Man. Unbelievable.
Exciting, though, right? Is it exciting? I mean, supposing this didn`t
happen, it really wouldn`t be the same thing. Don`t we agree? Wouldn`t be
quite the same.
But I have to say, honestly, seriously, this is more exciting than having
like a speech. Right? You have to say it is exciting though, right? This
is not like your normal, low-key, really boring rally that nobody cares
about. Nobody cares.
That protester had a hard time. He had a hard time. Thank you very much.
Yes, get him out. Get him out. Thank you. Get him out.
This is so cool, right? Do we love it? Do we love it? USA –
This is a wild evening. This is one hell of a way to spend a Friday
evening, right? Do we love it?
Some nice protests, which we all love, because it makes life exciting.
Let`s keep it going.
But it is fun, right? And exciting! Exciting. You know, all the other
candidates, they don`t have this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Trump speaking in each one of those instances, while
protesters had disrupted his event, were being taken out of the room.
There had been a disturbance in the room.
It is an underappreciated part of the national discussion we`re now having
about violence at Donald Trump political events. It is underappreciated
that Donald Trump likes it. He likes it when there are disruptive protests
and particularly when there is some kind of action, right? Some kinetic
physical action around those protests, he is selling it to the crowds that
come out to see him as part of the reason to come out and see him. You
might see somebody get beat up!
I love the part where he says the guys that are close, the guys that are
near the event, they see some pretty good stuff. It`s part of the
excitement! Nobody else has this!
I mean, whatever it is that people are protesting at Donald Trump events,
and there are a myriad of reasons, right? The act of physically throwing
people out of venues in which he is speaking is part of the show. He is
marketing to audiences all over the country.
Heading into this next crucial stage of the presidential race, what could
be a determinative night for the Republican nomination tomorrow night, the
question for Republican voters is whether it gives them pause to consider
voting for a presidential candidate who is offering up the ejection of
protesters, the roughing up of protesters at his events not as a lamentable
fact as the state of protests in our country but as a positive, as part of
the entertainment value for why you should come out and see his act. Come
see his show. Somebody might get hurt. It`s exciting!
I mean, in the abstract, you might expect that would be shocking enough to
our American political system that it would creep out a big portion of the
voting population that might otherwise consider supporting this person. In
this year, though, in this Republican Party, turns out people are kind of
In the latest Monmouth poll of the Florida race, they ask Florida
Republicans if the violence at the site of Mr. Trump`s planned rally in
Chicago on Friday night made Florida voters more like owe or less likely to
vote for Donald Trump. They also asked perhaps it would have no impact on
Most Republicans in Florida said it would have no impact on their vote, but
among Florida Republicans, who said, yes, that violence in Chicago would
affect their vote, twice as many said that violence in Chicago would make
them more likely to vote for Donald Trump, as would make then less likely,
2-1. Next, presumably, comes feeding people to the lions.
Lots ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On big nights like this, on, say, the eve of the Republican
nomination for president being decided, what I find myself wanting and what
I find hardest to get from particular low the beltway media on nights like
this, is perspective – perspective from someone who has been there,
perspective from someone who has seen stuff like this come and go. Even if
there hasn`t been anything quite like this before. On big nights like
this, the person who I most want us to try to get in studio here with me to
talk about what`s going on in our country is Dan Rather. And he`s here
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like
that when they were in a place like this? They would be carried out on a
stretcher, folks. It`s true.
I`d like to punch him in the face, I`ll tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Dan Rather. He`s the former “CBS Evening News”
anchor and host of AXS TV`s “The Big Interview”, and somebody who I turn to
for all things 2016 these days.
Mr. Rather, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
DAN RATHER, FORMER “CBS EVENING NEWS” ANCHOR: It`s always a pleasure to be
MADDOW: We were just talking before we came out of the commercial there
about whether objects in the rear-view mirror are closer than they appear.
Whether because we`re covering this election now, with all of its
craziness, it feels like something that`s never happened before, it`s
unprecedented. This is crazier and bigger and more unpredictable than
anything that`s happened before.
Is that sort of biased because we`re close up to it and we shouldn`t be
shocked by this year?
RATHER: Well, I think we shouldn`t be quite so shocked. For example,
1968, in my lifetime was the most violent presidential election year. Now,
2016 is second to that so far. It hasn`t reached the level.
But I think it`s worth reminding ourselves in 1968, things were much more
violent. We had the assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination
of Robert Kennedy, we had race riots, literal race riots in the streets.
There was an anti-war protest everywhere. The two conventions were an
absolute disaster of chaos.
We`re not at that level yet. But it`s still early in this campaign year.
But when we say it`s never happened before, we`ve had these years before,
but not since 1968.
I think the closest parallel is to say is 1968. Now, what`s new is Donald
Trump. Donald Trump is politically – he has a blood line running back to
George Wallace. But he is not George Wallace. There are elements of the
George Wallace campaign in this campaign, whether he intends that to be the
case or not, that is the case.
But not in my lifetime, if we had a candidate, one who is a businessman,
not a career politician, who has made this kind of impact, this big an
impact, this early in the campaign. Now, we see where all of this leads.
And I`m excited about tomorrow. It`s true, I have a pre-thousand calorie
attack every three hours thinking about it. But tomorrow could be a
decisive time, because as you and others have pointed out, if Trump wins
both Florida and Ohio, I think he`s a Republican nominee.
If he doesn`t win both, whatever happens in the other states, Missouri,
Illinois, North Carolina, then if he doesn`t win both those big states
tomorrow, then the race is going to go on for quite a while, murky.
I think Trump is already assured of going to the convention with the most
delegates. But his struggle, his determination, his night now is to go to
the convention with at least 1,237 votes, where he has it. If he goes to
the convention and he has the most delegates but he doesn`t have enough to
win, anything could happen.
MADDOW: In terms of anything could happen, I`m glad you raised the point
about 1968, but for two reasons.
One is, I question the importance – I want to question you about the
importance of Donald Trump seeming to encourage the kind of violence and
disorder that has happened at his events. We have tried to document the
way he talks about it when those incidents happen, the way he sort of
praises people for both, you know, roughing up protesters. He`s talked
about violence, even criminal acts as being something he would underwrite,
legal fees. That`s happening on the one hand.
The other hand, this prospect that will be in the strange situation in
Republican Party politics where nobody has got a majority of delegates.
They will have to decide at the convention who the nominee is going to be
when nobody has locked it up.
Are those two things connected? I mean, is there a possibility of violence
at the convention? Something as contentious as that after a campaign where
there has been so much disorder and violence? Do those things feel like
they`re crashing toward each other in your mind?
RATHER: They do. And this is – that`s what happened in 1968 at both the
Republican and Democratic conventions. There was violence, there was more
at the Democratic convention.
MADDOW: Chicago, right.
RATHER: Both Chicago and Miami.
Another parallel of `68, not an exact parallel but something to think
about. In 1968, the Democratic Party was splitting apart. It`s one reason
they lost the election. They finally settled on Hubert Humphrey, but it
was a hell of a fight. Eugene McCarthy was playing the part, if you will,
of the outsider trying to break through.
So, there`s that parallel for the Republicans fighting tooled who had
themselves together. Hard to see how they can do that at the present time.
But you know, Rachel, when we saw things like the chaos that erupted last
Friday night, which may have been a decisive point one way or another in a
nomination. It`s distressing. It`s disturbing as Americans. I don`t want
to be preachy about it, but Abraham Lincoln described America as the last
best hope of earth. Well, can you imagine what people overseas, who
understand that America is – the stability in our country is the key to
world order. And when they see those television images, what can they be
Now, as you know, I haven`t been as hard on Donald Trump as some people.
And I don`t mean to be overly so. But when he says violence is good for my
campaign, which he said recently, it may be good for his campaign, but
what`s good for the country?
RATHER: And with all of these candidates, I wish they would stop talking
about what`s good for their campaign. What about the country? Violence
may be good for his campaign, but it`s not good for the country.
I have no way of knowing what`s in Donald Trump`s heart. But some of his
public rhetoric, as well as the rhetoric of some of the other candidates
has certainly damaged our civil public discourse. But Donald Trump has a
decision to make. He can turn down the volume, and if he is as smart as I
think he is, if he`s as good-hearted as I hope he is, he will turn down the
MADDOW: Dan Rather, host of AXS TV, and, of course, long-time anchor of
“CBS Evening News” – Dan, thank you so much. That`s exactly I didn`t
wanted to talk to you. Thank you, sir.
RATHER: I appreciate it. Thank you.
MADDOW: Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, the Republican nomination basically decided tomorrow night, as
Dan Rather was just saying, the Democratic race won`t be decided tomorrow
night. But as of this time tomorrow night, we`ll know a heck of a lot more
how the race is going to end. This really is crunch time. This is a
really big deal tomorrow night.
And here`s how you`re going to spend it. Tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m. Eastern
is kickoff. Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina, even the
Republican caucus and the Northern Marianna Islands. What?
Sit down with us 6:00 p.m. Eastern, plan to stay all night. And if you
want to cram ahead of time, here`s your chance to do your homework. Chris
Matthews` Hillary Clinton town hall aired earlier this evening on MSNBC.
It`s going to re-air tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
And then, at 1:00 a.m. Eastern, which 10:00 on the West Coast, we`re going
to re-air the Chuck Todd Bernie Sanders town hall from earlier tonight.
So, homework with the Democratic candidates tonight. Then you need a good
night`s sleep, because it`s 6:00 p.m. Eastern until the cows come home
You have been warned. Sleep well. But you can wear your PJs when you
come. It`s OK.
MADDOW: So, we`ve got a scoop. You have not heard about this anywhere
else. But if you want to know what`s going to happen in tomorrow`s big
crucial elections, turns out I already sort of know. We`ve got not exactly
advance notice of the results, but we`ve got the next best thing, for real.
And that is coming up tonight, right at the end of tonight`s show. It is
exclusive to us. It will make you know what you`re talking about when it
comes to tomorrow`s big night. It`s kind of a big deal. That`s straight
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am in my second term. It
has been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as president of the
United States. I cannot imagine a greater honor or a more interesting job.
I love my work.
But under our Constitution, I cannot run again. I can`t run again. I
actually think I`m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win.
But I can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking last summer on his visit to the African
Union in Ethiopia. The president there lamenting that he can`t run for a
third term, but he said if he could run for a third term, he thinks he
would probably win.
I think he`s probably right about that, particularly given how things are
shaping up on the Republican side of the race to try to replace him. But
it`s not going to happen. And the reason President Obama cannot run for a
third term is because of this guy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
He was a few months into his fourth term in office when he died in 1945.
FDR served 12 straight years as president of the United States. And after
him, they changed the rules so a president could only serve two terms.
So, FDR changed everything because of how long he was in office. At the
outset of his time in office, though – at the outset of FDR`s time as
president, it was not at all clear that he was going to be there for quite
so long. At the end of FDR`s first term, in fact, in 1936, everybody
thought that FDR was going to be a one-term president. In 1936, everybody
thought that FDR, after his first term, was going to badly lose his first
bid for re-election. Everybody thought he was going to lose to a guy named
The most influential poll at the time predicted that the Republican
governor of Kansas at the time, a man named Alf Landon, would clobber FDR
in that election by a predicted 14-point margin. FDR was going to lose
that thing, 57-43. And the reason everybody respected that poll, the
reason everybody thought an Alf Landon presidency was a sure thing, was a
total gimme, is because the magazine that conducted that poll in 1936, they
had correctly predicted the previous five presidential elections.
It was “Literary Digest Magazine”. And they had a great track record. And
check out their sample size for their 1936 poll. To poll for the
presidential election in 1936, they polled 10 million people – 10 million!
But the sample size isn`t everything. And boy, were they wrong about poor
Governor Alf Landon of Kansas did not just lose to FDR in that 1936
election, he just got clobbered. President Roosevelt beat him by 24
points, and that was actually the good news for Alf Landon. In terms of
the electoral votes, FDR won 523 electoral votes. Governor Landon won –
eight. He couldn`t even carry his home state of Kansas. That was the most
lopsided U.S. election since 1820, which was a time when U.S. presidents
were basically running unopposed.
Polling, of course, has changed dramatically since 1936. It`s way more
scientific. But there are still elections every now and again, where
things go all hickelty picklety. Like, for example, last week`s Michigan
primary on the Democratic side.
It`s interesting. In Michigan polls basically got the Republican side of
the race right. But on the Democratic side, the polling was a complete
disaster. Before that vote last week in Michigan, Hillary Clinton had led
in every public poll in that state since June of last year. Of the 18
public polls conducted in that Michigan race, all of them showed Hillary
Clinton not just beating, but trouncing Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Real Clear Politics” does an average of public polls for most races.
Their polling average for Michigan showed Hillary Clinton with a 21-point
margin over Bernie Sanders in that state.
And then Bernie Sanders won that state. And that seemed to shock just
about everyone – except for, apparently, the Sanders campaign and the
The night of the Michigan primary – but before any exit poll data had been
released in that race – so the evening of the Michigan primary – the
Sanders campaign started shopping a story to the press that they thought
they were going to pull off an upset that night in Michigan.
And a week before Michigan, Hillary Clinton`s campaign manager sent out a
memo about that state of the race in Michigan, which said this. Quote,
“Senator Sanders is competing very aggressively in Michigan. We`re also
competing to win in Michigan and feel good about where that race stands.
But even if Senator Sanders was able to eke out a victory there, we would
still net more delegates in Mississippi, which holds its election on the
And yes, I know campaigns try and lower expectations all of the time. But
that just doesn`t read like the campaign memo of somebody who thinks their
candidate is about to win by 21 points, right? It kind of seems like they
foresaw a situation in which senator Sanders would be able to eke out a
victory in Michigan.
So, how did they know? The public polling said Hillary Clinton was going
to win by 20-plus points. The campaigns did not seem to believe that.
How could the campaigns have better information? How were the campaigns
able to predict what actually happened?
Well, turns out, campaigns have access to a lot of data. There are more
than 190 million registered voters in the United States – the Democrats,
Republicans, independents. There is basic information on these 190 million
voters that is publicly available from secretary of state offices all
across the country. It`s information like how old these voters are.
Sometimes it`s racial and other demographic information, who they have
voted for in past elections.
The only problem with all this intriguing data, is that it`s really, really
hard to aggregate. Voter information coming out of voting precincts in
like Montana, might be formulated in a way that`s completely different from
what you`re getting out of Savannah, Georgia, which might be different from
other parts of Georgia, let alone other states. I mean, you might have
information on floppy disks in one part of the country and neat
downloadable files in another.
So, it`s a lot of data. It`s all very useful data. It`s, in fact, gold-
plated data in terms of campaigns and where they might win and lose. But
it`s hard to compile. It`s a data problem.
And when you have a data problem like that, a technical, logistical problem
like that, what happens in that sort of circumstance, particularly in
politics, you spark a new industry. And so, there a tiny industry of
companies that have formed and compete with one another to compile this
hard to aggregate data and then to keep it updated.
One of those organizations that does that is called TargetSmart. Since
2012, TargetSmart has partnered with the Democratic National Committee to
distribute data to Democratic candidates campaigning all over the country.
Similar organizations work on the Republican side to do the exact same
If you really want to know what`s going to happen in an election, this type
of information, based on real information about real individual voters, it
is – yes, hard to aggregate and kind of hard to get your hands on if
you`re not a campaign. But it is way more comprehensive than your average
So, if you really want to know – if you want like insider-level
information. If you want the kind of information that the campaigns get,
let`s say you wanted that information about tomorrow`s crucial elections.
Let`s say you wanted that kind of information about, say, the biggest prize
of all tomorrow, Florida. It would be amazing, right? It would be eye-
opening to have that kind of data today.
I mean, with that kind of data, you wouldn`t be able to see directly who
early voters were voting for. But you could see who is voting, right? You
could see if young people are heading out to the polls to vote early or if
women are turning out in large numbers. You could see black voters, white
voters, Romney voters, Obama voters.
I mean, you can tell all that. It`s in the voter records. You can even
tell if certain precincts, like say Marco Rubio`s home precincts were
getting lots of votes, banked already, in early voting.
Having access to that kind of data, it`s like access to that kind of data,
it`s like x-ray specs for what`s about to happen tomorrow. That would be
so cool to have that.
We have that. That`s next. Seriously. Stay right there.
MADDOW: I`m standing up, so you know this must be something very special.
All right. Here`s what`s going on. NBC News has partnered with a company
called TargetSmart this year. TargetSmart is a company that looks at
basically voter files.
And when I say voter files, I mean like 190 million voter files. They take
information from states all over the country about registered voters, and
they basically data mine it in a way that helps not just predict but
understand what`s going on in the electorate.
So, NBC News has this partnership with TargetSmart and that means that NBC
News exclusively can give us a window into what`s going on in the – for
example, crucial state of Florida, in terms of that state`s vote tomorrow.
NBC News elections director John Lapinski is the guy who knows this stuff
John, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.
JOHN LAPINSKI, NBC NEWS ELECTION DIRECTOR: Thank you.
MADDOW: This is kind of special stuff. This is not run-of-the-mill
information that everybody has.
LAPINSKI: No, this is actually very unique. We`re really the only media
organization that has direct access to this sort of a pipeline. And what`s
cool about TargetSmart is that they`re compiling, like you had said
earlier, this very difficult and unwieldy data and giving it to us to
MADDOW: So this is the kind of data that the campaigns get that help them
plan internally. It`s not the same as public polling data.
LAPINSKI: No, this is exactly the same data that the Sanders and Clinton
campaign are using when they`re actually making their decisions on what
voters to target. They use this data to help them with their polling.
This is really sort of the inside peek at like sort of what the campaigns
are looking at to basically figure out how they want to run their
MADDOW: OK. So with that as the basic understanding of what we`re looking
at here, we`ve got some basic data on Florida.
Florida has a lot of early vote, right? A big proportion of the vote in
Florida is early vote. We can look at that specifically to give us a
window on what`s going to happen tomorrow.
LAPINSKI: Absolutely. I mean, Florida`s one of those states. Florida has
early voting and absentee voting. And historically when we look at
primaries, about 40 percent of the electorate in a primary votes early.
That`s a lot of votes.
MADDOW: OK. Let`s look at the Democratic side and then the Republican
side. On the Democratic side in Florida, what`s jumping out to you in
terms of what we know about the vote so far?
LAPINSKI: Well, on the Democratic side, you know, if we look at all these
past primaries that have happened we`ve seen a lot of demographic voting.
We`ve seen Sanders doing extremely well with the under-30 crowd, right?
So, what we have here, but we`ve alternatively seen Clinton doing very well
with the over 65 crowd.
LAPINSKI: So one of the things we want to take a peek at under the hood is
to see people who have actually already voted, what`s the age distribution?
And when we look at this we see it`s about 5 percent under 30 that have
already voted early, absentee in Florida falls in that category. And
you`ve got 50 percent in the over 65 crowd.
MADDOW: Wow, OK. Well, in terms of – obviously this looks like – this
sends a message about what`s going on with Sanders versus Clinton in
Florida, but I have to ask, are young people generally less likely to volt
earlier absentee than older people?
LAPINSKI: It`s absolutely the case.
LAPINSKI: When we`ve looked at the under-30 group in our exit polls, it`s
been a very – it`s been a small group. Maybe 15 – on average 15 percent
And so, this definitely does not sort of tip the hand of who`s going to win
here. But what it does tell you again here, key groups of where Sanders
has done very well and Clinton has done very well, this is –
MADDOW: This is what they`ve been able to bank in the early vote heading
into election day.
LAPINSKI: That`s exactly true.
MADDOW: This is the same race, on the Democratic side, and this is race.
What does this tell us?
LAPINSKI: Well, what this tells us when you look at this breakout, you`ve
got about 20 percent or so that are African-American and, you know, 12
percent or so that are Hispanic.
MADDOW: So that`s roughly in keeping with what it was in 2008. That`s
about the same proportion.
LAPINSKI: About the same proportion, exactly. So, what this is telling
you, and what you see here and again this perhaps may be good – this is
like where Sanders is holding out hope. Sanders has done very well in our
exit polling amongst white voters. And so, the – by far the most voters
in this group are white voters.
MADDOW: In terms of the Republican side, do you look at the same
categories or what`s sort of the most illustrative on the Republican side?
LAPINSKI: When you look at a lot of Republican states, now, Florida is a
little bit different than some other states. Oftentimes, the electorate is
almost all white.
Now, what`s interesting in Florida is that they have a fairly large number
of Hispanic voters for Republicans, right? It`s about – right now when we
were to look at this breakout, this is 11 percent or 12 percent of the
Hispanic electorate is voting in the Republican side of the equation. And
we know actually that those are mainly Cuban-Americans.
MADDOW: And is that up or down from previous years?
LAPINSKI: It`s actually up. One of the interesting things.
So when we actually look at – and this is interesting when you look at the
white voters and the Hispanic voters. Now, and we`ll maybe talk a little
bit more about this in a few minutes. But what`s interesting is that white
voters and Hispanic voters are up.
So, if we were to look at the 2012 numbers, it`s about 30,000 voters more
on the Hispanic side on the Republican –
MADDOW: Overall, you`re seeing the Republican electorate get bigger but
you`re seeing it get bigger even – Latino voters growing even faster than
the overall rate of –
LAPINSKI: You absolute saw – you`re seeing this in Florida.
MADDOW: OK. All right. So this is – what are we comparing here?
LAPINSKI: What we`re comparing here –
MADDOW: 2012 versus this year.
So, what we`re looking here is actually we`re looking at the Republican
race, of course. And what we want to see is who`s banking early vote right
now. And so, if you were to look at this map, this is really what`s going
on in 2016.
What you see here is the brighter color is obviously more early vote here.
And if you look at the bottom half, this is southern Florida, panhandle,
Central Florida here. And you see really it`s disproportionately in
What`s interesting here is what the comparison we`re doing is we`re look at
how well did Mitt Romney do in the 2012 primaries and why this is
interesting is Mitt Romney is obviously considered to be an establishment
candidate. And what you`re seeing is early vote is coming into areas where
the establishment candidate Romney did extremely well.
MADDOW: Oh, that`s interesting. So this tells you two things. It tells
you one, south Florida more than the panhandle is turning out. It also
tells you Romney voting areas of Florida, not exactly but more or less are
the areas that are voting –
LAPINSKI: It`s a pretty high correlation. Obviously, here you would –
Trump would really like to see those numbers brighter.
LAPINSKI: Sorry. It`s actually right here.
LAPINSKI: In the sense, because this right here is where Romney didn`t do
very well and where Trump presumably would do well.
And again, here, southern Florida a lot of voters. And a lot of early
MADDOW: Right. The question is how much Romneyville looks like
Rubioville? We`ll learn tomorrow.
LAPINSKI: Well, that`s the big question. The big question really is going
to be like this would be an encouraging sign for Rubio but on the other
hand, every election`s a little different.
MADDOW: Yes. Fascinating. John Lapinski, this is our best view yet of
what`s going to happen tomorrow.
Thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.
LAPINSKI: Thank you. Thanks.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. I will not be standing anymore but
we`ll see you again tomorrow at 6:00.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
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