Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: February 16, 2016 Guest: Tony Beam, Danielle Gray, Nick Confessore, Karen Finney
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ted Cruz, he`s, seriously -- he`s got a -- he`s got a mental problem.
HAYES: The Trump rampage to the nomination continues.
TRUMP: We`ve got a win on Saturday.
HAYES: Tonight, the latest major evidence that Donald Trump is poised to win in South Carolina.
Then, President Obama joins the fight to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now.
HAYES: Tonight, there are signs the Republican blockade may already be crumbling.
And tonight, the first indication that the Clinton firewall may hold in South Carolina as Hillary stops in Harlem.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to begin by facing up to the reality of systemic racism.
HAYES: And the Sanders campaign makes a major ad buy.
AD NARRATOR: Bernie Sanders is a protester.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
And tonight, we have new information that shed some light on the most burning question in politics following Saturday night`s very heated debate -- how South Carolina`s Republican primary voters feel about the omni directional assault that Donald Trump launched at that debate not just against his opponents, but also against the crowd and the debate hall, as well as the legacy of former President George W. Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You`re the single biggest liar. You`re probably worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar.
Jeb is so wrong. Jeb is absolutely wrong.
Just so you understand, you know who that is? That`s Jeb`s special interest and lobbyists talking.
I want to tell you, they lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. They knew there were none.
The World Trade Center came down during the reign. He kept us safe. That`s not safe. That is not safe.
MODERATOR: All right.
TRUMP: That is not safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: As we watched this all unfold live, people rushed to declare what they have declared countless times before. This was it. This was finally it -- Donald Trump`s waterloo. He would pay for attacking George W. Bush in South Carolina, where polls suggest Republicans love the ex-president, he would pay for saying that the country was misled into Iraq and that on September 11th, Bush did not, in fact, keep us safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He basically is mirroring the words of Michael Moore in a Republican primary. It`s kind of weird. What Trump is talking about is conspiracy theories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Today, we got our first post-debate polling in South Carolina which holds its GOP primary this Saturday and behold the devastation. The poll shows Trump with 35 percent support, putting him 17 points ahead of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Another poll shows him with commanding lead over the field. Thought there are signs in that one the debate may have taken something of a toll. Trump had 40 percent in interviews before the debate and 31 percent in interviews conducted afterwards.
Still, that is a big edge over the rest of the field and the polls do not show any sort of serious boost for Jeb Bush who has been campaigning with his brother in South Carolina and who today was widely mocked online after tweeting a picture with a gun with his name carved in the barrel with a caption, "America".
And here`s the lesson we`re learning this week, even if voters in places like in South Carolina like the Bush family, even if they sometimes disagree with what Trump has to say, even found unfair, or outrageous, it just didn`t make much of a difference. Trump has become a vessel for a certain type of, let`s call it, lost cause identity politics.
In a new poll, 38 percent of Trump supporters said they wish the South had won the civil war, 31 percent said they support began on gay people entering the U.S. He`s also more than that though. One Trump supporter told "The L.A. Times", quote, "We`re voting with our middle finger."
Another South Carolina voter considering Trump told our Benjy Sarlin, quote, "If Jeb had just told Trump to F off, he`s get my vote."
Yesterday, George W. Bush argued that, quote, "We do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our frustrations." Donald Trump is a living, breathing refutation of that argument. And if he wins South Carolina on Saturday as the polls currently suggest he will, the odds of Trump achieving the once unthinkable and becoming the GOP presidential nominee will grow considerably.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Saturday is such a big day. And we can do Saturday, we can do really well, we can literally run the table and we can win this whole thing and we can turn this country around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: At a press conference today, President Obama said that at least in the general election, he believes cooler heads will prevail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people. And I think they recognize that being president is a serious job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Trump was asked to respond to the president`s comments this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This man has done such a bad job. He set us back so far and for him to say that is a great compliment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Dr. Tony Beam, vice president for Student Life and Christian Worldview at North Greenville University in South Carolina, host of the radio talk show "Christian Worldview Today". He is supporting Ted Cruz for president.
Dr. Beam, let me start with the president`s comments. Does that help Donald Trump when the president explicitly says something about Donald Trump? Do you think among the people that you spend your time with?
DR. TONY BEAM, HOST, "CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW TODAY": Absolutely. In fact -- by the way, Chris, thank you for having me on this evening. I appreciate the opportunity.
No, I don`t know that there`s anything that Donald Trump can do at this point to blunt his support. I agree with some of the analysis I`ve been hearing and reading and talking about all week. The things that he said in the debate the other night should have really cut into his lead. Well, it might have cost him a few percentage points but it seems that nothing can derail the Trump rain, at least here in South Carolina.
It doesn`t hurt that President Obama came out and had some things about Trump never being president. Here in South Carolina, President Obama is not very popular. And certainly, that will cause a reaction. But I think it will be a reaction in favor of Donald Trump.
HAYES: You know, you are an evangelical minister. You have something called Christian Worldview Radio. And I just got to ask you -- here is polling on evangelicals in South Carolina. Donald Trump is winning 42 percent over Ted Cruz, 23 percent.
Donald Trump who talks about the little cracker when he refers to communion. Donald Trump who says he`s never asked forgiveness from God. Donald Trump who in every way seems a total refutation of a theological integrity to viewing the world that world view philosophy calls for. How is this happening?
BEAM: Well, I`m not sure, Chris. I think if I could explain that, I would be a wealthy people, because I think a lot of people are asking that question. I ask it every day on my radio show.
I talk to people every day that are Donald Trump supporters. And I ask them standard questions about why they are supporting Trump. What do you think about what he said here? How about his position that he took years ago about this? What makes you think we should embrace him as an evangelical Christian if he can`t describe forgiveness or anything to do with the depth of the Christian faith?
But what I get back is anger. Trump is going to change things. Trump is going to take Washington and turn it upside down.
My concern is what Washington is going to look like after it writes itself after Trump gets there without a track record, I don`t know what he`s going to do and that concerns me greatly in this election.
HAYES: Let me ask you about abortion. I thought the abortion ads that Ted Cruz had been running about Donald Trump had been fairly effective if you`re opposed the abortion and a very committed to that opposition.
Is that not working with the people that call your radio show? I mean, I imagine that the people that listen to your radio show have a deeply held belief that abortion is wrong in every instance and want to see that made into law. Trump`s position on this seems so obviously to have been adopted so late. Do people buy it?
BEAM: Well, I don`t think it matters, Chris, whether they buy it or not. That`s the frustration that I have. That I`ve had with this whole campaign as we talk about Donald Trump.
I`ve asked that question plenty of times on the show. What about the fact that Donald Trump didn`t appear to be pro-life until recently? What about the fact that Donald Trump didn`t appear to be conservative until recently? What about the values of conservatism that are supposed to matter to us if we`re conservatives and we believe that conservatism is the right way for the government to be run? It`s the right philosophy for America. What about all that?
And people just keep coming back to home base. They are mad -- they`re angry. They`re frustrated. They believe the Republican Party establishment and Washington, as they describe it, has turned their back on the grassroots voters. And they don`t care about his positions as long as Trump is going to go to Washington and turn things up side down. Become a different kind of president.
HAYES: All right. Dr. Tony Beam, this is really a fascinating, fascinating look into the psychology of voters down there. I really appreciate you taking the time.
BEAM: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
HAYES: All right. Joining me, MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, correspondent for "The Upshot" at "The New York Times".
That`s -- I mean, there`s a great "This American Life" piece with Tony Beam, which is where we got the idea to have him on the show, I should not.
You know, you can hear how flummoxed he is about how post-ideological all this seems.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. No, and you`re seeing this in all parts of the Republican Party, right? One of the key features we see in the polls is that Donald Trump doesn`t do well with given groups in the party. Somewhat better with people less educated and have lower incomes. But it`s really pretty popular across the scale. He does well with moderates and conservatives, with evangelical Christians, with people who are not evangelical Christians.
And all of the assumptions you had about these elements in the party and what they wanted out a candidate is not bearing fruit. In New Hampshire, places that Mitt Romney won going away four years ago went strongly for Donald Trump. The sort of Northeastern, moderate establishment Republicans who are supposed to be the bulwark for candidates like Jeb Bush were going for Donald Trump. It`s not a Trump-Cruz right on the right. It`s also a Trump versus Bush, Trump versus Kasich.
BARRO: Trump versus Rubio race in the establishment.
And I think one of the things we`re learning is voters are much less ideological than we were led to believe that they were. It`s not so much that they walk into the voting booth and say, I want the moderate candidate. I want a conservative candidate.
HAYES: Or even I want someone who agrees with me obviously and sincerely on abortion.
BARRO: Right. There`s a piece you wrote for the nation about 12 years ago that I think it`s really instructive about how a lot of voters don`t understand what a political issue is.
BARRO: I like to say, voters don`t have opinions about policy. They have feelings about issues. Donald Trump speaks to their sort of very broad nebulous feelings about what`s wrong with the government.
And it doesn`t really matter that much what the specific policy positions are that get plugged in there, and even he can go after someone like George Bush who is popular with them on the war, say things that would be extremely unpopular coming out of the Democrat, but because they have this emotional connection with Donald Trump, he`s able to not only get away with saying those things. He seems to have tried on it.
HAYES: You know, there`s another aspect of this, I think you`re right. There`s another aspect about this performance of dominance. This is some other people talk about. Josh Marshalls has written about this. And Benjy Sarlin, who`s been doing great reporting in the field at MSNBC.com, talking to voters, right? At this rally, right? People come out to see George W. Bush yesterday.
So, these are people that like him and talking to those folks saying I like the Bushes. I want to see the ex-president. I`m probably going to vote for Trump. And one guy who says, if Jeb had just -- had nothing to do with like establishment, moderate, where they are, how big their tax cuts are going to be, it was purely the performance of dominance that basically Donald Trump beating up on Jeb Bush had essentially that Jeb Bush was unable to fight back had disqualified him in the eyes of his voters.
BARRO: Yes, although I don`t know. I mean, of all the candidates in the field, Jeb has tried to punch back the hardest. Now, maybe because it`s not convincing coming from him.
BARRO: I don`t know if it`s about dominance. I think it`s dominance coming from Donald Trump and I think it`s about who it`s against. I think if voters were not so upset over what the establishment has done over the last 16 years or so, beating up on the establishment wouldn`t be as popular as it is.
HAYES: That is true. But I also think, frankly, that a pathology has been cultivated in the sort of conservative subculture about this sort of dominance and machoness. And you see it all the time in the way that certain kind of, hermetically sealed echo chamber of conservatives talk about things that I think is now coming back to bite them.
BARRO: Yes. Although, I think if you look on the left we`re seeing the success of Bernie Sanders that doesn`t have the element of machoness but has the same element of rejecting all of these losers who have made all of these mistakes before.
HAYES: Yes, but look at the difference between how this -- I mean, we`ll see where we are, right? But Bernie Sanders is not winning going away.
HAYES: That`s something different about this institutional nature aside from the fact they`re not substantively different.
BARRO: Right. Well, I also think the left is not as displeased with the status quo.
BARRO: Which makes sense because we have a Democratic president who has a fairly long list of legislative achievements that people should be at least somewhat happy about. I`m sure Hillary is screaming that in private like why are people not grateful for this stuff?
BARRO: But I think they are to some extent grateful. I think that`s why it`s working more on the right than the left, but it`s working on both sides to a significant extent because of the immense level of discontent.
HAYES: All right. Josh Barro, thank you very much.
HAYES: All right. Still to come, it`s the off (ph) foretold Rubio surge. Can his campaign spin a third place finish as a win again?
And later, why Nevada will be a major battleground of the Democratic candidates and why the outcome there is still absolutely and completely unclear. We don`t know anything.
Plus, President Obama has some words from Republicans threatening to obstruct a Supreme Court nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Your job doesn`t stop until you`re voted out or until your term expires. I intend to do my job between now and January 20th of 2017. I expect them to do their job as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right. There`s a new conspiracy theory going around in the furthest recesses of the right wing fever swamp popularized by the likes of Info Wars and even the Drudge Report, suggesting that because Antonin Scalia was reportedly found dead with a pillow over his face, because he wasn`t pronounced dead and had no autopsy performed, the only logical conclusion is foul play.
Let`s be clear here, there`s zero evidence to substantiate this theory. And according to Matt Pierce of "The L.A. Times", the man who found Scalia said the pillow was not actually on his face, but between his head and the headboard.
On top of that, there`s reason to believe the Scalia family, as you can expect, might find the conspiracy theory pretty offensive. That didn`t stop the Republican presidential front-runner from doing an interview with one of the theory`s most high profile opponents, talk radio host Michael Savage.
It`s the latest sign of Trump`s willingness to engage with the ugly, irrational underbelly of far right wing politics. And America`s most famous birther is open to questions about what befell the Supreme Court justice.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL SAVAGE, HOST: I went on the air and said we need the equivalent of a Warren Commission. We need an immediate autopsy before the body is disposed of. What do you think of that?
TRUMP: Well, I just heard today, and just a little while ago actually. You know, I just landed and I`m hearing it`s a big topic that`s the question, and it`s a horrible topic. But they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.
I can`t tell you what -- I can`t give you an answer. You know, usually, I like to hear your answers. But I literally just heard it a little while ago. It`s just starting to come out now, as you know, Michael.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. It`s the one court where we would expect elected officials to rise above day-to-day politics, and this will be the opportunity for senators to do their job. I intend to do my job between now and January 20th of 2017. I expect them to do their job as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President Obama making it clear he`s ready for a fight over nominating a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, despite Republicans` pledge to block him.
"New York Times" reports Democrats are teeing up a public campaign to put pressure on Senate Republicans, complete with an online clock that would start on the day President Obama named his nominee.
Already, there`s been a small crack in Republican resistance, after joining calls to hold off on replacing Scalia until after the election, Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley would not rule out holding confirmation hearings in a radio interview this morning.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, RADIO IOWA)
CALLER: Do you plan hold a hearing on the president`s nominee and then vote on that nomination in committee?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions. In other words, take it a step at the time.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Like many of his Republican colleagues, Grassley called for a delay in nomination process, citing what he called, quote, "standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year."
As SCOTUS Blog points out, six Supreme Court justices were nominated and/or confirmed during an election year during the 20th century. Mahlon Pitney, nominated and confirmed in March 1912. Louis Brandeis, nominated in January 1916, confirmed the following June. John Clarke, both nominated and confirmed in July that same year.
The famous Benjamin Cardozo nominated in January, confirmed in February of 1932. Frank Murphy, nominated and confirmed in January 1940. And far more recently and perhaps germane, current Justice Anthony Kennedy, nominated in November 1987 after two previous nominees went down and confirmed in February of 1988.
Of the 20th century nominees that failed to get confirmed in election year, none had anything to do with leaving the seat open for the next president to fill. If you go all the way back to our nation`s founding, three presidents, John Adams, John Tyler and Rutherford B. Hayes even appointed justices in the lame duck period, between the next president`s election and inauguration.
There`s a precedent, however. After the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was passed in 2010, creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Senate Republicans vowed to oppose any nominee to head the CFPB regardless of party or qualifications until major changes were made to the bureau. It was the first time in Senate history, according to "PolitiFact", that a party blocked an appointment because it just disagreed with the role of the government agency one created by an act of Congress.
And regardless of off the lofty illusions to Democratic principles, the current maneuvering over President Obama`s Supreme Court nominee is just as blatantly political, something presidential candidate Ben Carson revealed perhaps inadvertently while discussing the last debate in a radio interview.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOST: Do you think the same six people on stage would say the same thing if there were a Republican president in the White House right now for them to wait until the next president is selected?
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CADNDIATE: No, no, they wouldn`t.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now is Danielle Gray, former senior adviser to President Obama, who is part of the team who worked on judicial nominations including the two Supreme Court justices confirmed under Barack Obama.
Who is the president going to nominate?
DANIELLE GRAY, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRES. OBAMA: You know, it`s just my opinion but I think he`s going to pick whomever he would like.
HAYES: You`re obviously not going to answer this question even though I feel like you have probably good read on it.
So, let me try this -- there`s two ways to think about this nominee. One is this person`s not going to be confirmed. You want the person who basically makes the best martyr for political purpose, the most sympathetic that you just could hang around the necks of the Republicans. The other is, no, they think they`re going to win the fight and this person will be seated on the court before he leaves offices.
Which of those two ways of thinking do you think is guiding the White House?
GRAY: I think certainly the latter. I think this is a president, as we`ve seen time and time again, who takes very seriously the role of the courts. He`s been through this twice before with two previous Supreme Court vacancies. He understands that this is one of the more serious things and responsibilities that a president actually has. And it`s a privilege and one should treat it as such.
And so, I think what he said earlier is exactly right. They`re going to treat this as an ordinary court vacancy and the obligation is to nominate someone and fulfill the constitutional duty to do so.
HAYES: But you got to -- I mean, OK, you`re going to have to get 14 votes because they`re going to try to filibuster. You got to win -- you have to get 14 defections, A, and, B, let`s say someone you think would be perfect for the court, OK? You nominate them. They then get bludgeoned for almost a year. You`ve now killed that person`s chances, right?
I mean, if there`s a new president. If it`s President Bernie Sanders of President Hillary Clinton, or a Republican, are they going to want to continue with that person? Isn`t there some risk in whoever that nominee is?
GRAY: You know, I say a couple of things about that, Chris. I think the kind of obstruction that the president is encountered with his executive appointments as you just mentioned with lower court appointments, the court of appeals, district courts.
HAYES: Which have basically been on hold since the midterms.
GRAY: Exactly. Part of the reason that obstruction can exist is those are low visibility nominations. The American people aren`t focused on them. They`re not paying a lot of attention. So, months can go by.
HAYES: Oh, the fifth circuit is down a judge.
GRAY: Fifth circuit, you know, there`s a nomination in the southern district. It`s hard for people to follow. A Supreme Court nomination is one of the more visible events in our democracy. It`s something people are paying attention. They are thinking about the role of the court.
And I think one of the things, the White House is going to think about with this nomination is, it`s going to -- for all the reasons you mentioned at the top of the show, that the historical argument that this has never occurred in history is not going to carry out. It`s certainly not going to carry when the president nominates a real life human being with 300-plus days remaining in his term who has a record, the American people can judge the person`s qualifications.
HAYES: So, you -- I mean, you sound like you believe they are right also that they can win this fight?
GRAY: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I think there`s been others --
HAYES: Where do the 14 votes come from, though? I mean, why am I am crazy -- am I crazy to think there`s no way for the person gets confirmed?
GRAY: Listen, I think you have to try. I think that`s my starting point on this.
And I think also ,what you`ve seen in some of the president`s legislative battles where the starting point with the Republicans is often a very, very hard line. As you noted at the top of the show, you`re now hearing statements to the affect of maybe we`ll have hearing.
You know, I think the thing that I keep coming back to is this is not going to be an academic abstract fight about whether or not the president can fill a vacancy. It`s going to be a real person and a real argument and the Supreme Court, by the way, is going to be hearing cases and potentially dividing on those cases in way that`s not productive for the country.
HAYES: You clerked for Breyer, the term that Chief Justice Rehnquist died, right? You`ve been on a court that was four-four. What was that like?
GRAY: It was for a temporary period. Ultimately, Justice Alito was confirmed. There was a lot of changeover that year.
HAYES: That`s right.
GRAY: I think there`s a few things. I think this is a court that thinks a lot about legitimacy in its decision makes and the spectacle of issuing a lot of divided opinions, opinion that don`t have precedential weight for the lower courts is not ideal in terms of this court. So, I think you`re going to -- I would expect to see an effort to minimize that to some extent and to watch the court really struggle with how to function without a full complement of members.
HAYES: All right. Danielle Gray, thank you very much.
GRAY: Thank you.
HAYES: We`re going to be relying on you as this goes forward, it`s going to be quite a fight.
Still to come, Democratic candidates fight for a vote crucial to the nomination, which sends Bernie Sanders of a historically black colleges and Hillary Clinton to Harlem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Republican governors and legislatures are erecting one barrier after another and make it harder for black people to vote. It`s a blast from the Jim Crow past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK, right now, here`s where things stand in the Democratic primary fight. Hillary Clinton won one state, Iowa by a fraction of a percentage point. Bernie Sanders won one state, New Hampshire by a wide margin. And the first state to offer a tiebreaker is Nevada, which is caucusing this Saturday.
And Hillary Clinton won that state`s caucus in 2008 against Barack Obama. And there was a time when many observers thought she would walk away with it again this time around.
But there are lots of anecdotal signs that things are quite tight. We don`t know for sure because, well, no reliable polling has been done recently which is maddening, though that`s another story.
But there are indications, as described by veteran Nevada reporter John Ralston in an interview with NBC`s Kristen Welker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN RALSTON, RALSTON REPORTS: The fact that the Clinton campaign came out of that big New Hampshire loss and tried to spin that Nevada was just Iowa and New Hampshire and that Sanders could do very well here.
I know that Clinton believes the race is in single digits. I know that for a fact. And it probably is. But what does that mean when you have a caucus, which is going to have relatively low turnout and has same day registration where the Clinton campaign has to be worried about the whole Millennial effect, right. All these young voters deciding to register on Saturday to go support Bernie Sanders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So, this contest is a big deal in terms of momentum, in terms of testing the electoral viability of Bernie Sanders outside of the very white and unrepresentative states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It`s a big deal in testing his durability if he`s built for the long haul. And it`s a big deal for Hillary Clinton if she can`t hold on to it.
So, we`re going in Nevada. On Thursday night, we`ll be hosting a special hour live just before MSNBC`s exclusive town hall hosted by Chuck Todd and Jose Diaz-Balart with both of the candidates.
We will also be there for caucus day, so be sure to joins us Thursday for the kickoff for our special Nevada caucus coverage.
HAYES: New polling out of South Carolina does not appear to bode well for Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by 21 points, that margin is even greater among black Democratic voters. And nationally, Hillary Clinton is drawing a significant portion of her support from younger black voters.
According to the latest NBC News poll, 64 percent of the black Democratic voters under 30 back Clinton while just a quarter support Sanders.
African-American voters will play a significant role both in the South Carolina Democratic primary and the states that follow on super Tuesday and beyond. And today`s schedules for both candidates reflect that. Starting with Hillary Clinton who began her day meeting with the National Urban League here in New York and prominent civil right leaders like Reverend Al Sharpton and NAACP President Cornell Brooks.
Afterwards, she headed uptown to Harlem to Langston Hughes auditorium located on Malcolm X boulevard to give a speech on, quote, breaking down barriers for African-Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FRM. U.S. SECREATRY OF STATE: Imagine if a white baby in South Carolina were twice as likely to die before her first birthday than an African-American baby. Imagine the outcry. Imagine the resources that would flood in. Now, these inequities are wrong, but they`re also immoral. And it will be the mission of my presidency to bring them to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Bernie Sanders began his day at a prayer breakfast in South Carolina with, according to the New York Times, actor Danny Glover and former NAACP President Ben Jealous who had both endorsed Sanders.
After which, Sanders held a town hall meeting at the University of South Carolina, where he was introduced by Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner who died after being put in a choke hold by a New York police officer. None of the officers were charged.
Today, the Sanders campaign announced a massive TV ad buy with a two-minute ad featuring Garner`s endorsement airing in every broadcast market in South Carolina tomorrow as well as on national cable morning shows and BET.
After leaving the Palmetto State, Sanders headed south to Atlanta for a rally with rapper Killer Mike at the historically black Morehouse College.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, VERMONT: We began this campaign nine months ago. And we began it, people said, well, Bernie, we like the way you comb your hair. You`re kind of a sharp GQ kind of fellow, but you ain`t going to go any place because your ideas are too radical. Turns out that wasn`t quite the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We`ll be looking at each candidate`s strategy to talk to and court African-American voters, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers that you face every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Karen Finney senior adviser and senior spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Great to have you here.
KAREN FINNEY, SENIOR ADVISER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Great to be here.
HAYES: So, why did she give this speech?
FINNEY: So, this is actually a culmination of things that she`s actually been talking about from the beginning of this campaign. Her very first policy speech of the campaign was actually at Columbia talking about criminal justice reform and what she wanted to do around criminal justice reform. And she`s talked about criminal justice reform, but also that it`s not -- there`s that but there`s racism. And we have to deal with racism. She talked about that quite beautifully after the massacre at the church in Charleston.
And she pointed out that it was an act of racist terror, which I think a lot of us believe. So, she`s been talking pretty forcefully about these issues. But today was about -- you know, her life has been about breaking down barriers from the work that she did at the Children`s Defense Fund to health care for kids, you know, CHIP program when she worked as First Lady, when she was in the senate protecting the right to vote and those issues.
So, this was really a culmination of that. And she wanted to sort of talk about her vision of how do we go forward. Because to her, yes, we have talk about criminal justice reform, we have to talk about racism, but then how do we talk about making sure that people are able live a fulsome life? How do we talk about economic investments to create jobs? How do we talk about the fact that we have so many African-American female head of households. We need equal pay for women.
So, it was kind of a culmination of all these ideas.
HAYES: She used the term intersectional in this speech, which...
FINNEY: Yes, she did.
HAYES: ...what universe am I in?
FINNEY: 2016, my friend. You bet.
HAYES: Hillary Clinton is using intersectional.
I want you to respond to the most cynical interpretation of this. And it`s not the one that I hold, just to be clear -- or the mass incarceration which is basically she looks at the -- you guys look at numbers. You`re basically even with Bernie Sanders in national polling among white voters. Voters of color are people described it as demographic firewall, which I find like a weirdly belittling term. But put that aside.
But this is essentially just a kind of pander to maintain this bulwark.
FINNEY: You know, a couple of things. Number one, if she hadn`t actually started talking about criminal justice reform even in December 2014, I think before she was even thinking about running, if I hadn`t known her for over 20 years, I might -- I can see why you might -- people might believe that.
But having seen her do the work, I know that this is her heart. This is -- you know, this idea that -- and as a woman, I mean, she`s someone, her own life has been about breaking down barriers in addition to the work that she`s done.
So, you know, I guess I can see why people would say that and I think part of what you saw today, and I think this is a distinction between her and Bernie, quite frankly, she`s been doing this work for a very long time. And there`s a familiarity.
I mean, you know, some of the civil rights leaders this morning, places like we went to -- we go to African-American communities, there`s a comfort because she knows these issues. And so she`s able to talk about them at a level of and layer of depth that I don`t think you`re hearing from Bernie Sanders.
HAYES: Let me ask you what strikes me as the toughest question here, right. We`re coming off the first black president in American history. Hillary Clinton is very vocal about how she wants to continue and consolidate that legacy. And at the same time, if you look at all sorts of metrics, the disparities, racial disparities whether it`s unemployment, health, income, wealth, incarceration, right, those disparities have stubbornly remained through these eight years. In some ways they have expanded along certain metrics when you look at sort of health and the housing boom effect -- the housing bust effect.
FINNEY: Although with health, you have more African-Americans having health care now thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
HAYES: You do. But there is a real question of like what do ou do next? What does that look like shrinking that if you`re talking about continuing the president`s legacy, in some ways there`s a lot left to fulfill in terms of bringing down those inequities.
FINNEY: And I think what you`re raising is really important, which is we are not a single issue country. We do not -- breaking down the banks, great. Is that going to clean the water in Flint? I don`t think so. Is that going to fix the pipes in Flint? I don`t think so. And that`s a part of what this speech was about that when you talk about -- and, look, part of why Hillary is talking about these issues, is that when you -- in the African-American community, part of our concern is President Obama has made real progress on some very important things. Eric Holder helped to make a lot of progress. Loretta Lynch is helping to make a lot of progress. We want to know the next president is going to be as committed, if not more so, to building on what he`s done and doing more.
And that`s what today was about. And again, I think it`s still important that she -- you know, again, it`s housing and redlining and access to capital. And remember, she talked about the new markets tax credit which was something that Bill Clinton started and how that targets investment into low income communities and can really make a difference in people`s lives in way they can feel.
HAYES: All right, Karen Finney, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
All right, joining me now Trymaine Lee, national MSNBC national reporter.
There`s been some really interesting stuff around generational divides. And I thought this was a particularly interesting -- this was about -- this was a piece about the congressional black caucus PAC endorsing Hillary Clinton and Maxine Waters after the event, Waters walked out, wanted to know had her colleagues publicly chastised young voters for their naivete.
Some lawmakers had, onlookers told her. Her face dropped. You can`t do that. That`s why I can`t stand behind them, because I don`t want my young people to think that way.
There`s an interesting tension around this sort of rhetoric of Bernie Sanders as this idealist who doesn`t know the real world.
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That`s right. I think some of that -- the idea that your chastising these young people who feel very much a part of these movements that are growing very much on their own from taking to the streets. And I think part of that is the appeal of Bernie Sanders to many young people. It sounds radical. It sounds anti- establishment. When you think about some of the things that are hinged to the Clinton era. The idea of this super predator and mass incarceration. And then when you look at the stop and frisk and we look at what led to Eric Garner`s death. And it`s interesting how the campaigns almost have these dueling -- the victim`s families.
On one you have Eric Garner`s daughter, and then on the other you have Sabrina Fuller. It`s like what is...
HAYES: I`m glad you brought that up. Because I understand why those endorsements mean a lot. These are people who have suffered tremendous pain, personal anguish. They have been at the center of a national fight about policing and American democracy. But I agree that -- how do you interpret these sort of dueling endorsements we keep seeing?
LEE: In one sense it almost feels like it`s not just condescending, but it`s almost pandering by both sides. We know what`s hot right now. We both have been pushed months ago from Black Lives Matter.
On the other hand, the bar is set so low that it feels good today when Hillary Clinton talking about the inequity not just about economics, but it`s about race and it`s about the color of skin. And so it`s the one hand it`s pandering to the highest order. It`s almost like I can remember so many times sitting in black churches and white politicians come on. They put that little twang in their voice, bring your souls to the polls. And it`s condescending. And it hits you in a certain kind of place. That bothers you deeply. But they`re trying, right.
And a part of this feels like that on both sides.
HAYES: Well, that`s -- got it. You articulated it far better than I ever could. I will say this, though, when I do -- when you look at these interviews with these folks, or if look at the Erica Garner video. I mean, she has got this whole thing on her website where she talks about that video, which they`re now running. They`re going to run in South Carolina. It`s massively powerful. Forget, for a moment, the candidate. I mean, 95 percent of it isn`t about Bernie Sanders, it`s just about her life and what she experienced.
You know, she talks a about how she had full artistic control of that thing, that she made that. And, I don`t know, I think something about seeing that video flipped my thinking about that aspect of this.
LEE: See, here the thing of -- the truth is the truth. Right, so whether it`s pandering or not, whether it`s a matter of politics or not, it hits a cord because it`s all true. And we`ve seen this over the last two years. And finally for whatever reason, these candidates are addressing it. And even people in the communities that may not otherwise be politically engaged are having these conversations and these commercials and ads are a good vehicle for this.
HAYES: You know, my thought as I watched this is when is the last time we saw a bidding war for black votes. It`s sort of remarkable. And partly, I mean, it`s an inverse. Barack Obama did not have to do these kinds of things. He was Barack Obama. We are seeing something. And I can`t remember the last time I saw something like this in any kind of politics.
LEE: And not just the black vote. Traditionally, you know, Ms. Johnson, the old church folks, the souls to your polls types that had taken buses straight from church to early voting, but young activists engaged in the community.
HAYES: And a sort of full spectrum engagement with the tremendous intellectual foment that is around this moment in sort of racial justice. I think it`s a really fascinating moment. Trymaine Lee,it`s always great to see you, man.
HAYES: Still to come, how Marco Rubio`s campaign is trying to spin losing into a totally legitimate winning strategy. That`s next.
HAYES: Since the beginning of the campaign season, Politico has had a regular feature in which it asks what it calls insiders who won a debate.
Now, here is chart on who won last Saturday`s debate, according to, quote, the top activists, operatives and early state strategists as Politico puts it.
Marco Rubio, by a mile, 44 percent doubling the next votegetter that was Jeb Bush. And this is not the first time, debate after debate, the insiders proclaim Rubio the winner, except for that Fiorina one there. Nearly the all the past seven debates it`s Rubio, Rubio, Rubio.
Now, this is also not first time Republican insiders tried to push a rosy narrative of Rubio`s standing and potential, or the first time media outlets covered supposed Rubiomentum.
On the eve of Iowa, there was a New York Times article about Rubio`s resurgence in that state. And it is true, he did overperform in Iowa quite impressively.
He came in third, which he tried to turn into a major victory, a narrative many in the Rubio industrial complex, readily supported.
But Rubio translated that momentum into a fifth place finish in New Hampshire after an epically painful sequence in a debate the weekend before.
Rubio performed far better in last Saturday`s debate, no question. The latest debate that insiders say he won overwhelmingly.
Today, there`s a political article about how he`s allegedly lighting South Carolina on fire and how a third place finish in that state could make him a, quote, comeback kid.
So, what began as a three, two, one strategy has become a three, five, three strategy. And for a conservative movement incensed with the idea of participation trophies, Marco Rubio is getting dangerously close to earning himself one.
So, just why are some of the most powerful people in the Republican Party so invested in Rubio? The answer, ahead.
HAYES: Joining me now, Nick Confessore, political reporter for The New York Times. You cover a lot of big money in the sort of donor class. That`s sort of your beat in a lot of ways.
Marco Rubio is a favorite of theirs, I think it`s fair to say, particularly this point. Why the investment in Marco Rubio? You can feel all these different parts of the sort of Republican establishment like willing him to victory right now.
NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: They wanted a candidate who is young, who is Hispanic, who would cut taxes, who have Sheldon Adelson`s foreign policy, right. And that was their ideal candidate.
HAYES: That was like, if you were like at a donor class lab where you would construct the candidate, right.
CONFESSORE: You would build Marco Rubio.
CONFESSORE: And be credible with the Tea Party, to some extent, which he was. He was a favorite of that group in Florida.
And, you know, Jeb Bush was winning the money race in a lot of ways but that was partly a function of loyalty and family, partly his own connections. But Rubio is the future of the party. And if he gets steamrolled and run over by Ted Cruz, who they hate, and Donald Trump, who they can`t control, it`s a disaster for them.
HAYES: I mean, I`ve got to say, I don`t think it`s that unlikely he does at this point. I mean, we had the polling now. He`s battling for third. The PPP has him I guess tied with Cruz. CNN has him all in sort of like this middle -- there he is, he`s tied with Cruz at 18 percent.
I mean, a third place finish, you got three, five, three. Like at a certain point, you`ve got to start winning states if you`re going to win the nomination.
CONFESSORE: I keep joking that you can`t kind of overcome expectations and win the nomination all the way. You can`t just keep...
HAYES: Right, you need delegates, not just...
CONFESSORE: You have to actually win, you can`t just pretend you almost won over and over again.
And, you know, it`s not clear. And people have said this for a while, what was his path to victory. What state does he win? They can never answer that question. It was always ask me later. It`s OK, he`s going to rack that, we`ll figure it out.
And it`s not quite coming together that way.
HAYES: Do you think that -- the argument the Rubio people make as they watch all this unfold -- and I saw people today when Barack Obama said Donald Trump won`t be president, I saw conservatives and Republicans who support Rubio thinking that was a Barack Obama attempt to elevate Trump at the expense of Rubio.
There`s a theory among those folks that Democrats don`t want to face Rubio. That`s the one they most fear.
CONFESSORE: I`m not sure that`s true anymore. I`m not sure we can take it as given that Donald Trump is somehow the most beatable candidate. This is a guy who has drawn passion and enthusiasm in a way no other candidate, probably of either party, has really produced in terms of the passion. And I just don`t see that like somehow he`ll fade away or go away and then the answer will be a Rubio.
HAYES: What do all these dudes do if it comes down to Trump-Cruz?
Like all -- I mean like all of whole crew of big money conservative money - - what are they going to do?
CONFESSORE: It`s easy. Look, Cruz has a couple of these guys in his corner who are true believers who are conservatives, but the business class would actually pretty fine with Trump.
If Trump won, if Trump`s a winner, they`re fine with him. He`s real estate guy. They have friends like him. They`re going to be fine.
But Cruz they don`t like and can`t deal with and can`t work with.
HAYES: So that`s -- yeah, if it does come down to those two, then we`re going to see if they put their thumb on the scale, it`s going to be so nuts.
Nick Confessore, thank you very much.
That is All In for this evening.
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