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Live from South Carolina TRANSCRIPT: 2/27/20, All In w/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Chris Van Hollen, Olivia Nuzzi, Brittany Packnett Cunningham

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: This isn`t about the crowd size at his inauguration. And that`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on a special edition of ALL IN live from Charleston, South Carolina.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, Charleston.

HAYES: Two days from the Democratic primary here and things are getting intense.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: Tonight, why that intensity is totally normal.

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You set a goal to go after my mother.

HAYES: Then, the stock market plummets as we get new information about the administration`s incompetent handling of the coronavirus.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody happy with your 401(k)?

HAYES: Plus, the stakes of this election --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is an enormously important primary here in South Carolina.

HAYES: With Super Tuesday right around the corner.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.

HAYES: ALL IN live from Charleston, South Carolina starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Hello. Hey, Charleston. How are we doing? Great to have you here. Good evening. It`s great to be here in South Carolina. We are just, of course, two days away from the Democratic primary right here in this state. And I think it`s safe to say it`s been an anxiety-inducing week for a lot of people. Coronavirus, of course, is sort of implacably making its way around the globe, which also happens to coincide with Donald Trump being the president. So you have those two things together.

It has also been, I think, a worrying week for some Democrats as they`ve watched as what has been I think the messiest week of the primary so far, with the most inter-party warfare. And I get when people are stressed out. People want to -- Democrats want to beat Donald Trump, and they`re worried that if Democrats attack each other too much, that`s going to weaken the eventual nominee.

But I would not worry too much about that for two reasons, OK. The first one is, it`s actually not that bad so far as primaries go, right? Remember, just four years ago on the Republican side, we had the absolute, weirdest, nastiest, grossest presidential primary that we have ever seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Try it. 202 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump today down in South Carolina in Lindsey Graham`s home state giving out Lindsey Graham`s cell phone number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump basically equated Carson`s childhood temper to the illness of a child molester.

TRUMP: You`re a child molester. There`s no cure for that.

BUSH: My mom is the strongest woman I know. It`s not about my family.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK.

TRUMP: What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death.

CRUZ: Donald, you`re a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.

BUSH: This is the standard operating procedure to disparage me. That`s fine.

TRUMP: I don`t know. Spend a little more money on the commercials.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): And you know what they say about men with small hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Insults about everything including male anatomy, and I`m not kidding.

TRUMP: He referred to my hands, if they`re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you, there`s no problem.

Two days ago, he said he would take his pants off and moon everybody. And that`s fine. Nobody reports that. He gets up and says that, and then he tells me all my language was a little bit rough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: All right, so remember all that? Remember that? And, you know, the person that won that primary did go on to become the president. Now, obviously, the messiness there revolved around Donald Trump. But even if you look at a non-Trump primary like the one in 2008 between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, that was far nastier than I think people remember.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s very likable. I agree with that. I don`t think I`m that that.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You`re likable enough.

CLINTON: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove`s playbook.

OBAMA: While I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shipped overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Walmart.

CLINTON: Now, I could stand up here and say, let`s just get everybody together, let`s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: It was pretty messy. So, it could be worse is one thing to keep in your mind, right, as you watch this part of the primary season. But the second reason not to get too worried is that in a weird way, it`s kind of what primaries are actually for. They serve a purpose. One of the things they do is they serve to inoculate candidates against attacks in the general.

And we`ve been talking all week about viruses and vaccines, right, and the way that viruses work. The way the vaccines work is you get a little tiny dose of the actual virus. And you put that in your body and you build up antibodies so that you could defend yourself against the virus when it comes. And a lot of ways that`s what a hard-fought primary does.

You get stories like what Bernie Sanders thinks about Fidel Castro`s literacy program, or remember back in 2008, in the primary, dominating all the cable networks and all the coverage, the story about Barack Obama`s longtime beloved pastor in Chicago, who said, God damn America from the pulpit. Sean Hannity is still talking about that, by the way.

And then when these attacks get rolled out in a primary battle, as inevitably they do, because everyone`s sort of emptying their chamber and they`re dropping all their elbow, the candidates and the campaigns have to figure out how to respond. You fight things out in the primaries. So you have a plan when you reach the general election.

And also, crucially, it`s probably better that voters first hear about this during the primary so they are not shocked by the news six days before the election, right? Imagine Jeremiah Wright dropping a week before election day. That`s probably a much different story. So, you want to get that issue away from voters front of minds as early as possible. And this is part of what the primaries do. You get a little bit of nastiness, and it prepares you for what`s coming ahead.

Now, all of that said, no one should be under any illusions about the difficulties that are inherent in the Democratic primary, because the core fact is this, Democrats have a harder job than Republicans do. There`s two reasons for that. I think. One is of course, the nature of the electoral college and geographic polarization the United States at this moment. Democrats can`t do what the Republicans have done, which is when the presidential election with fewer people actually voting for their candidate. That`s not going to happen. Republicans can do that.

Think about this. Since 1992, there have been seven presidential elections. A Republican candidate has won the popular vote in one of those seven. That was George W. Bush`s reelection bid in 2004. But of course, Republican has been elected president three times, right? That`s how Donald Trump won in 2016.

In fact, there`s a lot of people and I think it`s not crazy to assume that Donald Trump is likely to lose the popular vote again. It`s certainly conceivable. It`s much more a question of what`s going to happen in the Electoral College. So Democrats have that working against them. It`s a lot harder for Democrats, as Hillary Clinton well knows, because they have to win more by bigger margins, and they have to win in the right places.

The second reason it`s harder for Democrats is because they have to bring an extremely diverse group of people together into one group. There`s two parties, two major party in American life. There are two major political coalitions, right? And they are increasingly polarized and distant from each other ideologically and even physically, spatially.

The Republican coalition, it`s basically a bunch of different kinds of white people. I mean, I`m exaggerating a bit. Obviously, there are all kinds of folks in the Republican coalition. It`s an enormous country, there`s tens of millions of voters. But the overwhelming majority of the Republican coalition in this day and age is white and Christian. White men and white women, there`s some young white people in the white -- in the coalition. There`s some old white people, there`s rich white people, there`s some poor white people. There`s college-educated people, there`s poorly educated people, as the President called them.

Again, not just white people, right? This very state, of course, has a black Republican representing it in the United States Senate. But by and large, right, the overwhelming part of what that coalition is demographically, the Democratic coalition is just everyone else, right? It includes, of course, millions of white folks, it also includes black people, and Latino people, and Asian American people. It includes Muslims, and it includes Jews, and includes gay folks and straight folks, trans folks and sis folks.

Every way you can slice and dice and electorate, the Democratic Party has some big chunk of them. And it`s hard to get those people to come together. It`s just a difficult thing. That`s why Democrats have a harder political job. There are people who are experiencing American life, right, their perspective on what`s going on the country from these wildly, wildly different and disparate point of views. And Democrats need to find a way to bring these people who all come from these wildly different life experiences into one big group to achieve this victory, to achieve this political project. And it`s hard to craft a message that binds all those people together from all the different perspectives they have.

Barack Obama was very good at this, right? He was the last successful person to win a presidential election with the current multiracial, multi- ethnic, multi-religious coalition that is the Democratic Party, but it is a hard political project. That said, it is a vital and essential one. This is what the Democratic Party will look like in the foreseeable future. Heck, it`s what American democracy will look like into the foreseeable future. And there is no harder testing ground for durable multi-racial political coalitions than the American South, right, which has been the graveyard of those political coalitions historically.

Now, the Democratic Party in the state of South Carolina and throughout the south, right, the rest of the country but throughout the South, it is a multiracial party. It has to be fundamentally an existential it`s a multiracial party. And so, the folks in this state and other states throughout the south, they have a harder job the other side.

So if this process feels painful, and it feels torturous, and difficult, and full of obstacles, it`s because it has to be. I want to bring in someone who knows all about this. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, he is also a native son of the great state of South Carolina, Eugene Robinson.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Welcome to South Carolina.

HAYES: It`s wonderful to be here. It`s a great place. You know, it`s interesting, because the way this primary calendar works is that the you have sort of different demographic groups that are sort of represented in different states.

ROBINSON: You do, right.

HAYES: And you find that this is that testing ground, right? This is the question that everyone`s looking at the internals, is like, how can this candidate appeal to these different sets of voters. And the answer is that it`s hard to do.

ROBINSON: It`s really hard to do. So you`ve had -- you had, you know, Iowa and New Hampshire where you essentially had no minorities, right? I mean, basically, none in Iowa. You know, got out to cover the Iowa caucuses and back in 2008, reporters, a couple of friends of mine, and I would play a game at rallies, and we, we try to find a non-white person at the rally. You know, any candidates rally in Iowa.

And we find one and it turned out to be a T.V. producer in Chicago or something like that. And you know, and New Hampshire`s like basically the same. And so when we got to Nevada, you know, first time we had substantial numbers of Latino voters, and we learned something. You know, we learned that Bernie Sanders did very well with Latino voters.

HAYES: Like he had figured -- I mean, he had figured something out.

ROBINSON: Yes, right.

HAYES: And it`s not just -- to me, what`s interesting about that is him figuring that out, that is -- that is a thing about him and the horse race sense, but it`s also a deeper thing about like, do you have the tools to do this in a broader sense, right?

ROBINSON: Right, right, exactly.

HAYES: Because that`s part of that the test is.

ROBINSON: Yes, it is. It is. It is. Because you have to -- you have to think your way through things and figure out what you need to do. And so, on Saturday, we get the first big indication from African American voters. I mean, that`s the ball game here in South Carolina, 61 percent of the Democratic vote last time around, potentially a bit more this time around. So we`ll see. You know, we`ll see what`s on people`s minds.

HAYES: You know, it`s -- it strikes me that when you go back to 2008, we`re just talking about Barack Obama, that, you know, he`s been the most successful at knitting this together. And how much do you think the fact that you know, he -- it almost like he was designing the lab in some way because here`s a person who is the son of immigrant father, an African American who grows up in White household in Hawaii.

ROBINSON: The physical embodiment of the entire coalition, right, which is -- which you could not design in a laboratory.

HAYES: That`s right.

ROBINSON: And so --

HAYES: So he`s got this very good talent.

ROBINSON: Well, talent. He`s, you know, unanimous first-ballot politician`s hall of famer.

HAYES: Yes, right.

ROBINSON: I mean, you know, the best politicians, you know, who`s ever been. But because he had these attributes, when Jeremiah Wright, you know, blew up he could give that speech about race and he could say that you know he could no more disown Reverend Wright than he could his own white grandmother who he had heard say racially insensitive things because he had this this this different sort of physical relationship with both white people and black people that he could just himself you know corporeally represent and bridge.

HAYES: Yes.

ROBINSON: Now he did eventually disown Reverend Wright, but that was, you know, sort of later incident. And nobody like Barack Obama is in this race. I mean, and --

HAYES: And maybe there is not going to be another one.

ROBINSON: There`s not going to be another one. So everybody running this year and probably in future years is going to have to do it the hard way, is going to have to convince people that who don`t look like them, who don`t have the experiences that they have, that they do understand, that they -- that they -- that I`m with you too, even though you know, I might not look like it, right?

HAYES: And there`s -- so there`s two problems, right? What makes it so hard is you have to do that, right? So if I`m -- so if I`m -- say I was running for president, right, there`s all kinds of experiences I don`t have. And if I`m speaking to an all-black audience, I have to sort of show that I understand where they`re coming from and listening, right?

But then, to the extent you do that, right, there`s also a loaded racial politics of like, oh, well, that`s persons in the bag for them.

ROBINSON: Yes.

HAYES: Right? So then you have to sort of -- you have to stitch together something even greater than that so you can go out to whole country and be like, hey, I`m going to speak out -- I`m going to look out for all of you.

ROBINSON: Right. So, what -- how do you do that? If you look at --

HAYES: Yes. how do you do it?

ROBINSON: Well, look, just take a few of the candidates we have now. If you look at Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders has a consistent message for the last 30 years, right. And so he sort of uses that in addition to some pretty significant organizational skills because of what he did in Nevada, but it`s his message, right? And it`s the same message for everybody basically, that you know, I`m a Democratic socialist. This is, you know, the way we should -- we should reorganize things that would be better for everybody.

HAYES: For everyone.

ROBINSON: For everyone, except billionaires, not the billionaires. And so that`s Bernie`s message. You know, Joe Biden. As you saw that clip when he was talking about Beau Biden, you know, those are some of the most effective moments from Joe Biden, I think, because he is all empathy, and it is -- it is a genuine empathy. I mean, he`s genuinely empathetic to different kinds of people. And they understand that. They feel the genuineness of that empathy.

HAYES: That`s a very interesting contrast, right? One of them is a sort of almost political-ideological message about unity and one of them is a personal message.

ROBINSON: It`s a personal message.

HAYES: You really -- Biden really does try to personalize how he can bring the coalition together because he puts front and center that he is empathetic.

ROBINSON: Right. And that`s important because we don`t live just in the realm of politics, right? I mean, we live -- we live lives. We deal with grief, and suffering, and perseverance, and bravery and all those things that Biden talks about, and the way that a lot of politicians don`t.

HAYES: Yes. It`s a really good point. Eugene Robinson, it`s fantastic to be here in your home state. Thank you very much.

ROBINSON: Thank you so much. Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: All right, stick around. We`re going to have the latest on this weekend`s primary happening right here in South Carolina. Plus, the other huge story unfolding tonight. What a whistleblower is now saying about the administration`s incompetent handling of the coronavirus. You do not want to miss that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The coronavirus story keeps getting worse by the day. This afternoon, just after the stock market is closed down again, the Dow more than 1,100 points. We got another truly distressing story, I got to say. So you may have heard the last night there`s a new patient diagnosed with a virus in Northern California in Solano County. And what made that patient different than the others in the U.S. is that we don`t know how that person contracted the virus. The person hadn`t traveled to one of the affected areas. We don`t know the source of exposure.

Well, tonight, a government whistleblower has come forward. And the mystery of how this happened appears to possibly have been solved. Listen to this. New York Times reporting that federal health employees interacted with Americans quarantine for possible exposure of the coronavirus without proper medical training or protective gear and then scattered into the general population.

Those health workers were sent to receive Americans evacuated from China without proper training or gear. That`s according to whistle blower. And then they came back into the general population. Now, they were deployed to two military bases in California, that house those quarantined Americans? One of those bases is called Travis Air Force Base. It`s located in the same county that the new patient just popped up in, in Northern California.

Here with me now, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. And Senator, I want to just first ask you about this latest reporting of this whistleblower. What`s your reaction to what you`ve learned about that?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Chris, it`s good to be with you and this is a very disturbing situation right now, because this administration seems to be dealing with the coronavirus challenge as if it`s a political problem instead of a health care crisis. And what we learned from this whistleblower is that you`d have these health care workers who`d been exposed. But when the whistleblower let people know about what had happened so that we could better protect the general public, the whistleblower was retaliated against by folks in the administration.

So at the very time when we need to make sure people get full information, when people get the truth, you`re having somebody being punished for telling the truth. And that is not the way you deal with the healthcare crisis like we face now.

HAYES: There`s also reporting today that there has been a centralization of the messaging from the White House that the vice president name to head up this task force will now control all the messaging and that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who of course is legendary public health figure, one of the country`s leading experts on viruses, had told the associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.

And just for some precedent here, Ron Klain, of course, who was the Ebola czar under Obama said he was the White House Ebola response coordinator in 2014 and 15. We never told CDC or NIH what they could say or ever censored their medical statements. The White House is doing that now. It is a danger to public health. Do you agree with that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, this is exactly right. There`s no problem in having a coordinated message so long as the coordinated message is coming from the scientists and from the health care experts. Instead, what you have is the healthcare experts and scientists having to filter their information through the political lens of Mike Pence and the White House.

And we saw this problem earlier in the week where whenever the scientists told us one thing, they warned us about the growing threat to communities to the virus, you would have Kudlow and the folks in the White House say no, they pretty much have it contained. You had the political folks saying, we have a vaccine that`s just around the corner. Then you have people like Fauci saying, well, no, really, it takes about a year to go through all the testing.

So it`s very worrisome, not that they want to coordinate the message, but that they want to coordinate through the political folks at the White House instead of through the scientists and the healthcare experts.

HAYES: Obviously, there`s the handling, there`s the messaging, but there`s just a real -- there`s an issue here about how the country prepares for this, how he does it in a way that`s going to be most efficacious and protect people. Do you feel like there are people inside that administration, you as U.S. senator and your staff, and the folks in your caucus, or on both sides of the isle can work with on this problem?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the folks that we really want to work with are the scientists, the folks at the CDC, the folks at NIH. It`s, of course, fine to have the folks from the White House with them, but with them not as filters to the information but with them as part of the effort to coordinate things. You`re absolutely right.

What I worry about is what we`re seeing with respect to the messaging and communication is a symptom of a larger problem of lack of coordination in terms of actually getting the services that we need to the people when we need them. So for example, there have been all sorts of problems with getting these testing kits that are actually effective.

First, we had a number of kits that were sent, turns out that they were defective. They`re not going to enough places. So we`ve had plenty of time. I mean, this coronavirus, has been growing since when we first learned about it months ago. And this is unfortunately not a very good sign about coordination with the administration in terms of the response.

So we are going to be on it. I can tell you there`s bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill. We are going to be putting together an emergency supplemental. It will be significantly larger I believe than what the Trump administration has proposed, and it will be addressing all the different dimensions of this. I wish we`d done this sooner. But it`s better that we get on this right now than we allow things to drag the way they appear to be dragging from the administration at this particular point in time.

HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much. All right, stick around. We are live tonight from South Carolina, which will of course be crucial test for Democratic candidates. There`s brand new polling out today. It`s pretty eye-catching. We`re going to talk about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  In less than 36 hours polls open here in South Carolina. The state of the race right now in this state is very unclear. There were two polls out today that showed wildly different results. So after a stream of polls showed Joe Biden`s lead in South Carolina steadily dwindling, a new Monmouth poll today has him beating Bernie Sanders by 20 points. That would be a pretty startling result after Sanders` big win in Nevada last week.

But a poll released this afternoon by the Charleston Post and Courier has Joe Biden only leading Bernie Sanders by four points, which has been the margin of error. Totally different race, right? There are three candidates in that poll jockeying for third place.

Now, Biden, of course, has been favored to win South Carolina since he announced he was running for president. It`s a state he had been counting on from the very beginning, so much so that he came to South Carolina before the polls were even closed back in New Hampshire. That`s how important he feels it is.

He got a big endorsement this week from South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in the House. And Joe Biden is putting his hopes for the rest of the trajectory of his campaign on what happens here on Saturday.

The results will depend in large part on the state`s African-American voters, who will likely make up a majority of the ballots cast in the primary.

Now, the phrase "the black vote," which you hear all the time elides the wide diversity and complexity among the electorate here and everywhere. Earlier this year, we spoke to some of those undecided black voters, and now they`re going to actually vote. We`re going to hear from them next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  So last month MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee came down here to South Carolina to talk to African-American voters about how they were thinking about the presidential primary here. In speaking to a single group of friends he found a wide diversity of opinion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC:  Which names are you hearing that people are supporting?

SAM BELLAMY, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER:  So, previously, you know, it was Harris.

JOHN MITCHELL, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER:  Kamala, yeah.

BELLAMY:  We hear yang a lot.

MITCHELL:  Yep.

BELLAMY:  Can`t pronounce it -- is it Buttigieg?

MITCHELL:  Buttigieg.

BELLAMY:  Buttigieg.

MITCHELL:  You hear his name every now and again, and then Bernie.

LEE:  What issues are important for you? And what do you hope your candidate of choice will speak on?

JEREZ MITCHELL, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER:  The issues that are really important to me, one, are women`s issues and mental health, particularly, mental health because that`s the field that I`m in.

NAJEEMA WASHINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER:  I`m not sure that a Bernie Sanders who as old as my mom, or Elizabeth Warren, or a Joe Biden, are the people that are going to take me into the next country that I want to live in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYES:  Now, Trymaine talked to those voters back in January, as you might have caught as they were talking about Andrew Yang, for instance. That was before Iowa, before New Hampshire, when the field was much bigger than it is now. So we thought it would be a good idea to bring those same folks back to see how their thinking has changed over time as the campaign has gone on.

So, please welcome John and Jerez Mitchell, Najeema Washington, Sam Bellamy, and of course MSNBC national correspondent Trymaine Lee.

(APPLAUSE)

HAYES:  All right, so you -- I think you were more or less all kind of undecided when he talked to you. You got 36 hours. Who has made up your mind? Are you still all undecided? Really? That`s wild. So what are you waiting for?

JOHN MITCHELL:  Lightning to strike.

HAYES:  Well, what is your thinking, John, right now?

JOHN MITCHELL:  My thinking right now is I want to see somebody who`s going to inspire me to go out and vote. And right now it`s been kind of tough to get that feeling.

I`m inspired to go out and vote because I know it`s an important thing we have to do it, but it`s just been very difficult to find somebody who speaks to everything I want to see. HAYES:  So, you don`t feel like -- there`s not one candidate that you personally feel like out of your seat to go support?

WASHINGTON:  I do.

JOHN MITCHELL:  I want to see a number of them.

HAYES:  Najeema, you said there is someone you feel that way...

WASHINGTON:  I do. I`m supporting Tom Steyer. I am. I have a different philosophy, though. I understand that this process has taken quite some time, but I want to engage in the process. People need to be informed and engaged, and although others may be leading, we`re still at the beginning of this. We`re still at the beginning. and I think we can push forward.

HAYES:  OK, so that`s interesting. So what I`m hearing from you is despite the fact we`ve had three contests and despite the fact that if you listen to the pundits they will, well Steyer doesn`t really have a path. You`re like I don`t care about that, I`m just going to go for a person that I like that I want to be president.

WASHINGTON:  Definitely. He speaks to the issues that I`m passionate about. He`s been talking about them for a long time. And although again he might not be a front-runner, we are at the beginning of this. Momentum can build.

And I didn`t have a chance to participate in other political campaigns in the past due to my work, but now I can. And it`s about exercising my liberty. This is an American right and I want to do that.

HAYES:  Jerez, how are you thinking?

JEREZ MITCHELL:  I`m still undecided. Similar to John, no one has spoken directly to me. For me, I know we have that Obama effect. When Obama was running, we were all in. Everyone corralled around each other and we were like, yes, this is our candidate. I don`t feel like there`s an our candidate quite yet.

Of course there are people who say, you know, lean this way, lean that way because that`s what the black vote is leaning towards. But for me when I watched the other day I was like, this is a lot happening on stage. There`s not a lot happening about the topics I care most about. And so unfortunately, I`m feeling as though like I`m going to have to make a choice, and I`m just not too excited to do that.

LEE:  You know what`s interesting is so much has been made about this idea of black voters being so pragmatic, but it sounds like you want to go with your heart, you want to be inspired. How do you weigh the two? Someone that connects with you, but be someone who maybe could beat Donald Trump?

JEREZ MITCHELL:  Honestly, I am not thinking about this candidate beating Donald Trump, I am thinking they need to connect with the people. If you can connect with the people, then you will win. It`s not about beat be Trump for me, because, I mean, there`s a lot going on with Trump and when it comes to the debates and things there`s going to be a lot that`s thrown out there.

If you can connect with me, connect with the people, I think that`s what`s going to get you elected.

HAYES:  So that`s fascinating, so you`re saying rather than trying to like listen to pundits or read about who`s most electable you`re just saying like the proof of the pudding is in the eating, like if you can connect, then that`s the thing that I`m looking for, that gives me confidence in you as a candidate.

JEREZ MITCHELL:  Exactly.

HAYES:  How about you, Sam?

BELLAMY:  Like Jerez, I`m looking for somebody that`s going to connect. I think because of the Obama effect we have a lot of candidates that are really trying connect with us as black voters, so I think I`m a little over people trying to prove that they`re relating to me as a black person. I`m really ready to dive into the policy issues.

HAYES:  Say more about that. What do you mean by that? And what policy issues are you looking for?

BELLAMY:  Well, I think a lot of times whenever a candidate comes and -- whether it`s a town hall like we`ve had in Charleston all this week, a lot of people will really focus on I understand African-Americans, or I don`t relate to you specifically, but I`ve spoken to enough of you that I feel like I know what you guys want.

So, you get those talking points. And then they`ll go into surface issues like affordable housing or crime or wages as if those are the only things that are important to African-American voters. So I`m ready for...

HAYES:  No, go ahead. It just seems like you`re saying there`s like a niche set of issues.

Have you all encountered this...

BELLAMY:  The core four that they talk about.

HAYES:  These are the ones -- when we talked about voters we talk about these issues because these are the black issues.

WASHINGTON:  Can I jump in here for a second and say this? I think there`s a misconception that parts of America think that black people aren`t patriotic. I love this country. I love being here. I love the opportunities. My parents fought hard, all of them did, for us to be where we are. And I think that, yeah, they need to stay away from just the getting to the issues that they think we care about and talk to me building and being part of this country.

LEE:  What does authentic engagement to look like, because we don`t want people coming with lip service and you say you want deeper issues, right, a dive into the issues, but what does authentic engagement from politicians in the community actually look like?

BELLAMY:  I think for me I`m really looking for -- I`m looking for past history. I need to know that you liked African-Americans before you started running for president.

(APPLAUSE)

LEE:  That`s a start. That`s a start.

BELLAMY:  So if you`re a candidate that was always on the front line on some of those issues that were kind of important to African-Americans, I`m hoping that you will do more once you become president.

So those are the kind of things that I`m looking for.

HAYES:  Trymaine, in your package it was interesting when you asked people about issues, Jerez, I remember you talked about mental health, because that`s important to you. It`s true there`s a cordoning off that happens as politicians try to get the black vote in South Carolina that like they`re not talking about insulin, but of course everyone needs insulin, right? Or health care. Or these sort of broader issues.

How much of the sort of basic fundamentals of the message that you`re hearings on things like health care, for instance, drug prices, these sort of core -- like are you hearing those issues and feeling like they`re resonating?

JEREZ MITCHELL:  I think a lot of people are talking about health care, but just in the general form of health care. They`re not really talking about the complexities of how people who are trying to get insurance and when they go and try to see a therapist or try to see a doctor that they can`t get in because the prices are high or their deductibles are high.

And so -- their co-pays are high and things like that. And so that`s a problem. That stuff that we actually need to be talking about.

I mean, I understand health care for all, and you know, the different things that they want, but OK, underneath that we need to start talking about those things.

HAYES:  Trymaine, you -- you`ve been doing this great reporting throughout the election cycle and you have a podcast that just dropped today. I`m very excited to listen to. What`s it about?

LEE:  It`s called "Into America." And we engage in conversations just like this with real people, getting outside of the bubble. We`re talking about policy and politics and all the powers that shape the lives of everyday Americans, right?

So it`s not red or blue. It`s all across America. We`re going to these spaces and just engaging with people about what impacts and drives their lives.

It actually dropped today at 5:00 p.m. So please, everyone, you know, go subscribe and tell us what you think.

HAYES:  And that`s today`s episode on stop-and-frisk. You should definitely check that out wherever you get your podcasts.

MSNBC`s own Trymaine Lee. John Mitchell, Jerez Mitchell, Najeema Washington, Sam Bellamy, thank you all so much. That was fantastic.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON:  Happy birthday, mom.

HAYES:  Happy birthday Najeema`s mom.

All right, coming up, will there be high drama in Milwaukee? Democratic super delegates are starting to talk about what they plan to do if there`s no winner, outright, heading into the convention. We`ll break it down after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  All right. So three days after the vote in South Carolina, a third of all the pledged delegates awarded will be decided in the 15 Super Tuesday contests.

Now, according to the DNC rules, the only candidates who win at least 15 percent of the vote receive any delegates at all. But delegates in each state are allocated proportionally depending on how many candidates reach 15 percent. And that means that depending on how things break down, how close the race is, basically we could end up in a situation which no candidate has an outright majority as we head into the Milwaukee convention. No one has cleared the sort of 50 percent threshold. If no candidate has a majority of delegates in the first round, the infamous super delegates come into play.

Today, the New York Times published a piece where they interviewed 93 DNC super delegates. They asked them how they would approach a convention in which they say Bernie Sanders did not have a majority of the pledged delegates coming into Milwaukee, but he led in delegates?

The Times reports, quote, "in a reflection of the establishment`s weariness about Mr. Sanders, only nine of the 93 super delegates interviewed said that Mr. Sanders should become the nominee purely on the basis of arriving at the convention with a plurality.

To talk about this, please welcome Brittany Packnett Cunningham, co-host of Pod Save the People and MSNBC contributor; Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for The New York Magazine; and Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC News.

Give them a hand.

(APPLAUSE)

HAYES:  Sahil, I`ll start with you on how that`s reporting. So the super delegates are people who are sort of named by the DNC. They tend to be political professionals, donors, party chairs, these kinds of people. And they don`t get to vote on the first ballot as they did the last time around, but they do get to vote in the second ballot. How does that New York Times story square with what you heard in your reporting?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Chris, I think the Democratic Party, the Democratic establishment, is currently going through the five stages of grief on a Bernie Sanders nomination. They are past somewhere between anger and bargaining right now. And what you hear in this New York Times article is the bargaining. They`re concerned. They`re about it. There are a lot of lawmakers in the House in particular who are, for understandable reasons, worried about how he would impact their vote in their particular districts.

The crazy thing about this is that we`re only, what, 4 percent of the delegates that are going to have voted at the end of this week. There are ways that they can defeat Bernie Sanders at the ballot box. That is the way to do it.

If they thought 2016 was a problem with his voters kind of scurrying and fleeing the party, wait to see what happens if he gets the plurality of vote and is denied.

HAYES:  I totally agree on that point there that if you have a concern, then just work now. Like, don`t be talking about what the eventuality is. If you want to stop Bernie Sanders, like, we are still having a primary, go do your thing, go do public endorsements. Do whatever you`ve got to do.

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yeah, and working now means not doing it behind closed doors in shady back rooms, right. If this is truly a Democratic process, then it needs to remain a Democratic process.

I mostly just think, to your point, about how many votes will actually have been cast by the end of the week. And one of the things we need to do here is chillax, like, it`s been a long time since I played organized sports. It was like eighth grade when I played basketball -- I was very good -- but also what I remember is a coach when things would get frenzied on the court, slowing everything down, reminding people to reset and get organized.

And I think that`s what Nancy Pelosi is trying to do. And she`s bringing folks in to say, hey, let`s go back and review the rules, figure out exactly what this looks like. But the American people need to be educated on exactly what this process is, what it can look like, so that they can all calm down and actually want to participate fully in this process.

HAYES:  So here -- I 100 percent agree with that. I mean, let the process play out, right, before you`re talking about this. The problem is there is a sort of tension between what the rules say and what Democratic legitimacy is defined as. So the rules say if you don`t get a 50 percent plus one, you don`t have the nomination. And you go into the convention and it`s a brokered convention and super delegates get to vote on the second round and they can do whatever they want to do. Does that confer legitimacy on the nominee? Does that break the party? That`s another question.

OLIVIA NUZZI, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  I keep thinking where have we heard this before? And where we heard it was 2016 with Donald Trump and the Republican Party. And there were a lot of articles like we had the one today in The New York Times where a lot of Republican establishment members were quoted at length. Everyone was very concerned. What are they going to do? They are going to have a brokered convention.

But the Trump campaign hired Paul Manafort, recall, just to prepare for a brokered convention. Obviously, that did not work out super well for Donald Trump or for Paul Manafort, god rest his soul, I think that...

HAYES:  He`s alive.

(LAUGHTER)

NUZZI:  He is alive. He is alive. His career not so great, but he is alive -- to my knowledge. And I just think that the Democratic Party`s kind of making the same mistakes by treating Bernie Sanders this way rather than just working electorally to get somebody that they would prefer to be elected.

KAPUR:  And Trump, by the way, was far more unpalatable and outrageous to the Republican establishment than Bernie Sanders is to the Democratic establishment. Keep in mind, he is a senator who caucuses with the Democrats in good standing. He`s been a chairman of a committee on their watch. He is currently the ranking member of the budget committee, overseas some of their most important priorities.

So I think to complete the previous analogy, they will ultimately get to acceptance if he is the plurality delegate leader. I doubt -- and my sources doubt -- that they will ultimately try to take it away from him, but it`s going to be an ugly and messy process.

NUZZI:  The gap between what voters that I talk to, at least, say and what the establishment is talking about and what we`re talking about, often, is really stark on this, because I talked to voters who are as torn between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Who seems more establishment than Pete Buttigieg, despite what he says? And so I think that most voters are not really thinking about it this way that Bernie Sanders is this terrifying creature coming out of Washington and that they need to be afraid of. I think that they just really listened to his message and they are not afraid of it.

CUNNINGHAM:  I do think that there, though, is legitimacy in this plurality conversation. As you were saying, there is a reason why folks don`t want 30 percent of the electorate to decide what will happen for the rest of the 70 percent.

And I also think it`s important to remember that super delegates, even though clearly it is an imperfect process, part of that process was continued so that black leaders in the party that had been the backbone for a long time, but really didn`t have a voice in leadership, that they could actually secure that. And I think we have to make sure that whatever the system is that it truly does count the will of the people, but it also doesn`t lose marginalized voices in the process.

HAYES:  So, the point you made there about 30 percent is a crucial one, because again when you`re gaming all this out in the abstract, who knows. If you come into the convention and you`ve got 27 percent of pledged delegates and the person behind you is 25 percent, that`s a little dicier than if you come in with 43 percent and the person behind you has 20 percent, right. So, like, to me those margins and numbers from a legitimacy standpoint, they do start to matter a little.

KAPUR:  They absolutely do. If Bernie Sanders enters the convention ahead by one delegate or ahead by five or ten delegates, that`s a very different scenario than we were saying.

But to the point of, you know, whether it`s 25 percent or 30 percent, part of the narrative, part of the discussion right now misses the fact that just because he`s getting 25 to 30 percent doesn`t mean the other 70 to 75 percent are against him. A lot of voters like him as a second. Sanders may be outside the bounds of normalcy to certain figures in the party establishment, but he`s not perceived that way with voters who generally like him in the Democratic Party.

HAYES:  The other thought I had when I was reading this article, and this keeps happening is, if you`re a member of the, quote, unquote, establishment or you just don`t think Bernie Sanders should be the nominee and you have some power in the Democratic Party, like, giving a bunch of quotes about how you`re going to take it away at the convention is like the dumbest thing you could possibly do.

Like, I read that article. I`m like, they`re going to go raise $5 million off that article today. If you stoke in the minds of the most fervent Sanders supporters the notion that there is essentially a conspiracy against their candidate, then you are aiding exactly the sort of force of the most sort of ardent folks the thing that you ostensibly say you want to get rid of.

CUNNINGHAM:  You are confirming the idea that it`s a rigged game, right, and so people don`t want to play in a rigged game. People will say either you hear me out or I will not participate. And that is exactly the opposite of what we need to be happening right now.

HAYES; The Super Tuesday question to me is about the adjacency between Saturday and Tuesday, which -- right, because, once again, you see these -- there`s two kinds of things that happen. One is when you have a race like Nevada where it`s not moving off of any momentum, it`s far away from the last contest, or you have the Iowa/New Hampshire situation, right. Pete Buttigieg`s placement in New Hampshire was boosted by Iowa. You`re going to have that situation on a huge level I think -- there`s going to be a real question about this momentum of this bump idea about who comes out of South Carolina.

NUZZI:  I think that`s why the early contests are typically considered to be obviously extremely important, even though there aren`t a ton of delegates and it`s not a very diverse group of people who are voting. It`s the fact that it`s one right after the other and you can kind of -- seem to run away with it going into Super Tuesday.

And so I think that if Joe Biden, for instance, if he were to really perform well here, as all the polls are suggesting right now, as the average is suggesting, I think that would completely transform what we think of his trajectory going into Super Tuesday.

Alternatively, it could kill somebody, you know, like...

CUNNINGHAM:  You keep killing people today. What`s going on?

(LAUGHTER)

NUZZI:  It could kill somebody like Pete Buttigieg who I think really needs to at least perform strongly here, you know, going into Super Tuesday in order to keep up with the momentum he has coming out of New Hampshire.

KAPUR:  This is why it`s so important for Joe Biden. He has done very poorly in the first three contests. And this is his place to shine. If he can`t win here, where can he win, right? And if he does win here decisively that bodes well for him on Super Tuesday, because of the demographic makeup of those states.

HAYES:  That`s right. And I think there`s three -- right -- there`s -- he doesn`t win, which I think is essentially catastrophic. He wins decisively, which I think is quite good for him. And then there`s a lot in the middle of what they can look like.

Olivia Nuzzi, Sahil Kapur, and Brittany Packnett Cunningham, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

All right, that is All In for this evening. We`ll be back here at the Cedar Room in Charleston, South Carolina tomorrow night. Hope to see you then.

But first, Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END