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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/09/11, Midnight Show

Guests: Ed Schultz, John Erpenbach


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Ed Schultz doing a stupendous job tonight from Madison. Ed, it`s been so great to have this in your hands tonight. Thank you so much. It is a nail-biting election night in Wisconsin. What`s going on here is six incumbent Republican state senators are facing recall elections. This is part of a backlash in Wisconsin against those Republicans having supported Republican Governor Scott Walker`s stripping of union rights in Wisconsin this year. At this hour, midnight on the east coast, 11:00 p.m. in Wisconsin, two Democrats have beaten two incumbent Republicans state senators in Wisconsin. Three incumbent Republicans have kept their seats. And if you`re doing the math, two plus three, but wait, there were six. Right. The crucial sixth race. The one that would change the balance of power in the Senate is at this moment too close to call. This is the crucial race. Wisconsin state Senate district 8, where democrat Sandy Pasch challenged Senate Republican Alberta Darling. Alberta Darling is a veteran state legislator. She has been in the state Senate since 1992. She is chair of the joint committee on finance. Alberta Darling, one of the governor`s chief and most visible allies during the budget fight and the fight to strip union rights. This ad here shows you part of Sandy Pasch`s campaign against Alberta Darling. Sandy Pasch is said to have run frankly the best campaign of all of these recall campaigns this year in Wisconsin. That being said by dispassionate campaign observers. Sandy Pasch taking on Alberta Darling not just for her role in Scott Walker`s controversies but also for her support of the house Republican Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget at the federal level. Because of Alberta Darling`s power in the state, because of Alberta Darling`s central role and the things that most aggravated recall supporters in Wisconsin, defeating Alberta Darling has been seen as frankly a difficult prospect by Democrats in these recalls but the one that they say would taste the sweetest to them if they could manage it. Again, the recall election for incumbent Republican State Senator Alberta Darling, too close to call at this hour. And with that race may tip the balance of the state Senate in Wisconsin. Just moments ago I can tell you that in district 18 in Wisconsin a democrat have been declared the winner there. The associated press calling the race for democratic challenger, Jessica King. That means state senator Randy Hopper has tonight been recalled from office. This is actually a rematch of the 2008 Senate race in this district. Back in 2008 Jessica King lost to Randy Hopper by less than 200 votes. This was the district that Democrats really thought they had a chance of winning tonight. This race was marked by allegations early on from Randy Hopper`s wife about problems in their personal life, including allegations from his wife that he no longer lived in the district he represented because he had moved out of their family home to move in with his mistress in another city. At this hour the A.P. confirming that senator Randy Hopper is free to live wherever he wants without anybody, including his wife, making a political issue about it because now randy hopper is no longer a Wisconsin state senator. He has lost his seat to democrat Jessica King in Senate district 18 tonight. Another democrat winning a recall election in Wisconsin state Senate district 32 tonight, Republican state senator Dan Kapanke has been recalled, defeated tonight by democratic state representative Jennifer Shilling in the 32nd precinct. Dan Kapanke having lost his race, his race thought of as being perhaps the easiest pickup for Democrats tonight and Jennifer Shilling proving that point with 90 percent of precincts now reporting. Jennifer Shilling ahead 56 to 44 percent. Jennifer Shilling having won tonight, the margin, again, 56 to 44 percent, with 90 percent reporting, that race having been called by the associated press. Dan Kapanke has served in the Wisconsin state Senate since 2004. His opponent tonight, Jennifer Shilling, interestingly said that she actually voted for Dan Kapanke in the past but this time she decided to challenge him for his seat because of his actions under Scott Walker this year. Jennifer Shilling`s challenge has been successful tonight. Jennifer Shilling, who has served in the Wisconsin state assembly since 2000, will now take a seat in the Wisconsin state Senate. Three Republican senators have held on to their seats tonight, fending off recall efforts. One of them is Republican senator Robert Cowles. He easily held on to his seat tonight. Robert Cowles`s recall race against democratic challenger Nancy Nusbaum was the first one that was called tonight. It was called in senator Cowles`s favor. In this race Senator Cowles had been considered the safest of the six Republicans facing recall tonight. The petition to recall him was the last one to be filed, and in a set of elections that was drenched in campaign cash the total spending on both sides of the Cowles race was reported to be the lowest of all the recall races. Again, with 94 percent of precincts reporting, this race long called the recall - the Republican, excuse me, state senator, the incumbent Robert Cowles having fended off Nancy Nusbaum as the democratic challenger. Also, district 10 tonight, that was the second race called tonight. The Republican incumbent, State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, has kept her seat, defeating her democratic challenger, Shelly Moore. This is 100 percent of precincts reporting. The final tally there, Harsdorf with 58 percent of the vote, Shelly Moore with 42 percent of the vote. So a comfortable margin there for Sheila Harsdorf in district 10. Early on Senator Harsdorf had been considered vulnerable by Democrats, but polling in the last few days before the election did show Harsdorf polling rather comfortably ahead of her opponent. Shelly Moore is a high school English teacher in Wisconsin. She`s a member of the teachers union that had its right to collectively bargain stripped away by governor Walker and by the legislature`s Republicans this winter. And over in district 14 the Republican incumbent Luther Olsen managed to hold on to his seat by a slimmer margin tonight. With 100 percent of precincts reporting in the 14th district Republican Luther Olsen has received 56 percent of the vote. Excuse me, 52 percent of the vote, his democratic challenger Fred Clark at 48 percent of the vote. This was no sure thing heading into tonight`s elections in terms of predictions. But by the four-point spread you that see there state senator Luther Olsen has defeated the recall effort against him and has held on to his seat. So again, to recap, right now Democrats have picked of two Republican state senators in the great state of Wisconsin. If senator Alberta Darling hangs on to her seat, that will mean that Republicans will have a majority of one in the state Senate. If Alberta Darling falls tonight, Democrats will take control of the state Senate. But if Alberta Darling holds on, if that happens, I have a wild card to throw your way. If Alberta Darling holds on tonight and the Republican margin in the Wisconsin state Senate goes to one, all eyes in Wisconsin will turn to this guy as a potential wild card for the real balance of power in the state capitol. He is a Republican. He`s State Senator Dale Schultz. He represents Wisconsin district 17. Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz, while he is a Republican, has been loudly dissenting from many positions of his party this year. He has been working recently very closely way democratic state senator named Tim Cullen. Senator Schultz saying of his new democratic friend, "Tim and I have a great partnership." the pair says that they have currently working together on issues including local infrastructure. With Senator Schultz having voiced some concerns about the behavior of his own party and even some regrets about what they did on the crucial union- stripping vote this year, could Republican Senator Dale Schultz become a democratic ally in the Wisconsin state Senate even if Republicans nominally hold on tonight? With all eyes on the Alberta Darling race. Joining us for the second time tonight is Wisconsin State Senator John Erpenbach, who you may recall is one of the 14 Democrats in the state Senate who left the state earlier this year in an attempt to halt passage of the union-stripping bill. Senator Erpenbach, thank you for joining us again, Sir. STATE SEN. JOHN ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: The best Democrats could do is to go 3-3 tonight, three wins and three losses. Right now we do not know what has happened, what the final result is going to be in the Alberta Darling race. Do you have any further information for us about what we have to expect there in terms of when things will come in and what we should look for? ERPENBACH: Well, we`ve been told now by Waukesha County that we won`t know for at least an hour what the results are in Waukesha County which Rachel is simply ridiculous. They have the same voting machines everybody else does. And it`s coming down to Waukesha County yet again here in the state of Wisconsin. So that`s real frustrating. If you recall, in the Supreme Court race we had here in Wisconsin a short time ago, Joanne Kloppenburg was unofficially declared the winner on election night but in Waukesha County the next day or two they found 14,000 more votes for Justice Prosser. So, that`s what`s going on in Wisconsin. It`s ridiculous it`s come down to this. MADDOW: In terms of results so far in that race, I think we`ve got one more board we can show you right now. I`m told we`ve got 79 percent of precincts now reporting, Alberta Darling leading Sandy Pasch 52 48. Again, that is with 79 percent of precincts reporting. And of course all eyes on Waukesha County. Senator Erpenbach, if the results go either 3-3 tonight or 2-4, if Alberta Darling does hold on, what do you think that`s going to mean for the state Senate? Do you think that tonight changes things regardless of what happens in this race? ERPENBACH: I think it does simply because we`ve already won two seats. We`ve won two seats in one a fairly Republican area. There`s no doubt about that. And obviously we`re pretty neck and neck in a very Republican area with Senator Darling right now. It`s no doubt it`s going to send a message we need to get along, we need to get together. And what you said at the top of the show regarding Dale Schultz is absolutely true. Dale`s a good guy. He looks at the issue more so than he looks at the party. He`s always been that way. And he`s also more about good government and what good can we do as opposed to OK, how can one party stick it to the other. He`s always been that way. So, needless to say in working with Tim Cullen and trying to deal with some bipartisan stuff in the Senate I think it`s good. MADDOW: In terms of Dale Schultz, the details of how important he will be, particularly if the Alberta Darling race, if Alberta Darling is able to fend off this recall challenge, again, at this point we are not calling that race. Is Dale Schultz somebody who`s going to face pressure to actually switch parties, or is he somebody you who see staying as a Republican but being willing to substantively work with Democrats issue to issue? ERPENBACH: I don`t think Dale`s switching parties, but again, I think Dale will govern the way he`s always governed, vote at way he`s always voted. He`s already has taken a look at the issues. Number one, how it has an impact on his district like we all do and then secondly how it has an impact on the rest of the state of Wisconsin which would explain his vote on collective bargaining back in March I believe is when that happened. But in the end what`s going on in Senator Darling`s district is we`re going to have a very, very close race. There is a file of absentee ballots to be counted yet so, you`re right, nobody`s conceding anything. But again, in order to get the state of Wisconsin together and move us forward that certainly could start in the state Senate with Dale Schultz working with the Democrats. MADDOW: What we do know tonight is you`ve got two new democratic colleagues that you`ll be working with shortly, Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King. What can you tell us about what`s important about the districts in which those two new democratic senators won tonight? ERPENBACH: Well, let`s start with Jess King`s seat. Now, that`s a Republican seat that`s been held by a Republican for a long time. And when Jess ran against Randy Hopper a year ago, a couple of years ago, she came in within a few hundred votes of actually defeating him. And it`s one of those races that flew underneath the radar. But it also tells you that what`s trending in Wisconsin is trending a little more democrat. So that`s good. Over in Western Wisconsin, where Jen Shilling won, it doesn`t surprise me Jen won, first of all. She`s an outstanding legislator. She`s done a phenomenal outstanding job in the state assembly. She`ll do an even better job in the state Senate. We`re happy to have her. That seat`s gone back and forth, but Dan Kapanke was a pretty popular guy out there. So, if anything - what I see coming out of western Wisconsin, what it should tell Governor Walker is that Western Wisconsin that voted for the Republicans does not like the Republican agenda. And it`s one of those things, again Rachel, you take the whole issue statewide I think for Scott Walker that`s not necessary very good news because we picked up two Republican seats, we`re tight in a third Republican seat. So in the end the two additions that we have I think it`s great. MADDOW: In terms of what you were mentioning earlier about Waukesha County, obviously we have seen -- County Clerk Cathy Nicholas in Waukesha County is the only famous county clerk in America right now because of her role in some election consternation in Wisconsin over the past few months. Because we are waiting on Waukesha County, because that is the same area that we were waiting on after the state Supreme Court race, are there election protection concerns? Are there integrity of the vote concerns as this comes in so late? There are? ERPENBACH: I can tell you as a citizen of Wisconsin I do have concerns now. You know, mistakes are going to happen. And I gave Waukesha County the benefit of the doubt as much as it was tough to do back in the Supreme Court race. Waukesha doesn`t get the benefit of the doubt now. Neither does Cathy Nicholas. This is two important elections in a row. And for her to sit on the results is absolutely astonishing. You know, Tammy Baldwin, who`s a congressperson from Madison, did ask for an investigation. And you don`t want to play with the elections like this. You simply don`t. Just give us the truth. Win or lose. We just want the truth. And Waukesha County should have been one of the first counties reporting, not the last county to report. MADDOW: Senator Erpenbach, I`ll just ask you one last question here because you`ve got an amazing backdrop behind you, which is a whole lot of Wisconsinites who are very engaged on what`s going on. ERPENBACH: A lot of your fans, Rachel. MADDOW: Again, it`s very flattering. Thank you. But let me just ask you, it`s been a long night already, and we still don`t know. The balance of power in the state Senate is still hanging. We still don`t know what`s going to happen. And it may be some time before we get results here. How do people feel? ERPENBACH: People feel really optimistic and upbeat. Just the fact that we are that close in Alberta Darling`s seat says an awful lot not only about Sandy Pasch but the issues, obviously, we feel are very, very strongly on our side. So optimism is still running very high. We know it`s going to be very close. We know there`s a pile of absentee ballots that are out there. And I really don`t hope there`s an over vote or an over count in Waukesha County that would certainly taint things. So we`re optimistic and we`ll wait and see what happens. We`ll be up here all night. MADDOW: Democratic State Senator John Erpenbach of Wisconsin, Thank you once again for your time tonight, sir. Enjoy the night. I really appreciate it. ERPENBACH: Thanks, Rachel. Good to see you again. MADDOW: Thank you. There`s still a race to be decided in Wisconsin state Senate recall elections. There is a ton hanging in the balance. Can we put up the latest board so we have the latest results that we`ve got in the one state Senate race that still remains here? We`re going to have up-to-date numbers throughout the hour. We`ve got a live report from Ed Schultz in Madison coming up. But again, we`ve got one race in Wisconsin. Right now three democratic -- excuse me, three Republican state senators have fended off democratic challengers. Two Democrats have picked off Republican state senators. Democrats need to pick up three seats in order to change the balance of power in the state Senate. And this is the race that remains. The incumbent Republican senator is Alberta Darling. The democratic challenger is Sandy Pasch. Right now with 80 percent of precincts reporting, Alberta Darling is ahead 53 to 47 percent. Results coming in for this race much slower than in the other races, but we will keep an eye on this as it happens throughout the night. We`ll be live with Ed Schultz when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We are still watching results from Wisconsin`s recall elections tonight. One race still yet to be called. The balance of power in the state Senate hangs on this race. Incumbent Senator Alberta Darling trying to fend off a democratic challenge from Sandy Pasch. This was said to be the hardest fought and perhaps best- fought campaign by the part of any of the democratic challengers. As we watch those results coming in tonight, we`ll be joined live next from Madison, Wisconsin by our own Ed Schultz. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Down to the wire in Wisconsin tonight. Democrats need to win three out of the six recall elections today in order to take clear control of the Wisconsin state Senate. So far they have two. Republicans have kept three of their seats. And the crucial final race in district 8 between incumbent Senate Republican Alberta Darling and democratic challenger Sandy Pasch is still too close to call at this hour. Right now, with 80 percent of precincts reporting Sandy Pasch, the democratic challenger, with 47 percent of the vote, and the incumbent Republican Senator Alberta Darling with 53 percent of the vote. It`s all down to district 8. Ed Schultz is in Madison, Wisconsin right now, and he joins us live. Ed, my friend, tell me how you are feeling and what the mood is like right now in Madison about this outstanding race in district 8. ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is an air of disappointment here, Rachel. There`s no question about it. But looking at the glass half full, the Democrats here are saying, hey, we picked up two seats, which was going to be a heavy lift to start with. These are all Republican districts. They won two counties, two districts that they thought they were going to win. And that is district 18 and district 32, where they defeated Randy Hopper, defeated Dan Kapanke. But as you`ve been reporting, now Alberta Darling has pulled out in front. And I`m not sure we`re going to have a decision in that race tonight. We`ve had a source that was in contact with the Menomonee Falls clerk there, who says you won`t hear anything from us until tomorrow. Now, what that means I don`t know. But that is just what has been told to me. 80 percent in and Pasch has fallen behind as Darling has gone ahead 53 to 47 percent. This of course is the same county that has had some questionable operations in the past such as the Supreme Court race which you mentioned earlier that happened not too long ago. So a lot of people here are very apprehensive of how this is unfolding. They`re disappointed that they might not get the magic number of three. And of course there`s another battle next week where two Republicans are going to -- two Democrats are going to be challenged in the recall process as well. But in the big picture, Rachel, I think that this does give progressives across this country a ray of hope, that there are things that can be done against big money. That if you pay attention to detail, if you`re brilliant on the basics, if you do the door to door, the social networking, you get the boots on the ground, you engage every possible group you possibly can, that you can win. And the amount of money that has been poured into all of these districts is absolutely unparallel on a state level. And it`s going to be upwards of $40 million. And in the district that is in question right now that you are reporting on, the 8th district, Alberta Darling had over $8 million put behind her, much of it outside money, to save that seat. And so whereas it`s been a real gallant effort and 20 percent of the vote has not yet been counted and I don`t think we`re going to have a result until tomorrow, it just signals to the country how tough it`s going to be, how close we are, how closely divided we are in this country when it comes to the issues. It really is one night for the archives politically for this country and for the state of Wisconsin. MADDOW: Ed, the district that we`re talking about, district 8, state Senate district 8 in Wisconsin, includes Milwaukee County`s North Shore Suburbs, a little bit of the city of Milwaukee, parts of Ozaki, Washington, and Waukesha Counties. And as you`re mentioning, Waukesha County is politically known to the rest of the country because of concerns about the county clerk there, who is -- I was talking with Senator Erpenbach a moment ago, probably the only famous county clerk in America right now. Republican Activist who is handling the over count in the Supreme Court race, received some national attention, a lot of national criticism. It is almost impossible to believe that Cathy Nicholas again is who the state of Wisconsin and the nation is waiting on while that county cannot seem to get it together to get their votes out again. This is a Republican stronghold county. She is a Republican activist. Are you worried? I know you know a lot about Wisconsin politics. Are you worried that if it does come down to sort of election protection and election integrity concerns that that`s going to essentially infect Wisconsin politics with some contentiousness and acrimony and suspicion that`s going to be hard to grow out of in years to come? SCHULTZ: Well, I guarantee you, Rachel these folks here in Wisconsin are not going to let this story go away. I`ve had two state senators tell me moments ago that they think it`s going to end up in an investigation. I mean, they`re going right to it. They have been worried about this in recent weeks about how this might unfold. And I know it`s a tired and worn out saying, but you can`t make this stuff up. It`s almost unbelievable. That you have six recall elections tonight and oh, by the way, the county that`s had trouble in the past is right back in the firestorm again? I mean, come on, folks. I just think it`s just hard to believe. And there is a real sense of frustration through this crowd tonight. And they`re very apprehensive. And I can guarantee you the personality of the politics, the personality of their DNA, their make-up; they`re not going to let this go. And this is one that`s going to go on for weeks, I think. MADDOW: Ed, you and I have talked in recent days, in recent weeks about whether or not Wisconsin knits into the rest of democratic politics, whether it sort of connects with national democratic politics. And the whole idea that there is a democratic base that matters. These races tonight were in Republican leaning districts, only one of these districts was a democratic leaning district. The other ones were an uphill climb for Democrats because they were Republican districts, and that meant you can`t just count on an enthused democratic base in order to win these things. You have to win over independents. You have to try to maybe even win over some Republicans here. What`s your sense of how those dynamics worked in this race? SCHULTZ: Well, I think if we can show that map you just showed a moment ago, Rachel of Wisconsin. These are all, all rural areas except for that distribute 8, which is Suburban Milwaukee. I mean, if you look at the districts that were involved in this recall tonight, it doesn`t involve Milwaukee Metro. It doesn`t involve Madison, the city in which we`re broadcasting from tonight, the state capital. And - So that`s rural Wisconsin talking right there. And we`ve talked about a sea change in the rural areas. And for the Democrats to pick up two of those and for the rest of the races to be very close, the national picture, you can leave no stone unturned. You have to do everything you possibly can. It is in get out the vote. Do whatever it takes to get out the vote. Because I think this is a microcosm of what we`re going to see in Ohio in 2012. What we`re going to see in I would say the Rust Belt States. The Democrats haven`t won Indiana since the `60s. You`re going to have a heck of a battle in Michigan. We`ve seen what is happening with Rick Snyder there. But this is a really signal to the progressive movement and a real signal to those who care about democracy that it`s a heavy lift everywhere. It`s going to be a heavy lift and you can`t give up. And I think tonight maybe the message can be sent from Wisconsin that hope is still alive, that big money can be defeated if you can get the boots on the ground. And let me point out, you know, this race with Alberta Darling and Sandy Pasch, it`s not over. It`s not over. But the anticipation is not voting well right now for the Democrats. But I think it does send a big message across the country that it`s going to be a heavy lift. No question. The citizens united - Rachel, I really thought that this was the first real test of citizens united. I mean, if Alberta Darling had not had the outside money, would she have won tonight? We`ll ask ourselves that question for days on end. If the outside money had not come in to support the Republican agenda and to fight off the recall, would we be where we are tonight? So obviously, the money has an influence, which is only going to make the other side have to work a heck of a lot harder and pay closer attention to detail. There are some disappointed people here tonight. No doubt. MADDOW: Right now, Ed, we`ve got 82 percent of precincts reporting. The margin remains the same right now. Incumbent Republican Senator Alberta Darling still with a 53 to 47 percent led at 82 percent of precincts reporting over her democratic challenger, Sandy Pasch. I also want to let you know, Ed, that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman, Mike Tate, has just issued a statement. He says "following evidence of election tampering in the 8th state Senate district race," I`ll read you the statement. "The race to determine control of Wisconsin`s Senate has fallen into the hands of the Waukesha County clerk, who has already distinguished herself as incompetent if not worse. She is once more tampering with the results of a consequential election, and in the next hours we will determine our next course of action. For now Wisconsin should know that a dark cloud hangs over these important results", brief response to that, Ed? SCHULTZ: Well, John Erpenbach and Fred Risser were talking investigation. And as I said a few minutes ago, I don`t think these people are going to let this go whatsoever. Sources are telling me there are some people that have been watching this county closely. I think it`s going to be in the news for weeks to come. And as I said, you can`t make it up and I don`t think we`re going to have a real decision here for quite some time, it`s one for the archives no doubt. And I think that`s very aggressive on the part of Mr. Tate, who has worked tirelessly to get a successful outcome for the democrats. He knows the landscape as good as anybody in this state. I think it is a statement that`s very accurate in that position. MADDOW: MSNBC`s Ed Schultz, host of "The Ed Show," joining us live tonight from Madison, Wisconsin, doing double time. Ed, thank you so much for all your hard work and doing such a great show tonight. Thank you. SCHULTZ: And Rachel, I just want to tell you, you got a ton of fans out here. MADDOW: It`s all my relatives. (APPLAUSE) (CROSSTALK) SCHULTZ: You need to know that. Great to be with you. Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thank you, that`s great. I appreciate it. Thanks, you guys. All right, I love you, too. One race still too close to call at this hour in Wisconsin, the race for District Eight, between incumbent Senate Republican Alberta Darling and Democratic challenger Sandy Pasch. This is the race on which the control of the state Senate in Wisconsin hangs right now. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Alberta Darling, the Republican, ahead 53 to 47, but again, waiting on results tonight in this race, and waiting once again on Waukesha County, the county whose bungled results in the last contested election over the state supreme court race earlier this year brought national attention and national consternation over the behavior of the Republican activist there who is the county clerk. Waukesha County a Republican stronghold in Wisconsin politics and now famous for all the wrong reasons. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: An extremely volatile day on Wall Street today. Yesterday, of course, down more than 600 points. Today, up more than 400 points. Part of today`s big upward swing attributed to an unprecedented announcement today by the Fed. They said they will keep interest levels at their current record low level for at least another two years. Two years. That is what you`d call a long-term commitment from the Fed. The Dow first lost points on that news, but then it started heading up, eventually giving the stock market its biggest one-day gain in over a year, the Dow finishing up 4 percent, nearly 430 points. The S&P 500 up 4.7 percent. The Nasdaq up even more, up 5.3 percent. Amid that news today came the announcement of the first members of that super committee that is going to be given so much control over the federal budget thanks to the debt ceiling deal the president just cut with congressional Republicans. Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, House Democrats and House Republicans each get to put three people on this committee for a total of 12 members. We now know that the Senate Democrats on the super committee are going to be John Kerry and Patty Murray and Max Baucus. House Democrats and House and Senate Republicans will be announcing their picks by next week, and that super committee, that cabal of 12, will be tasked with finding $1.2 trillion to cut out of the budget by Thanksgiving. In 2012 presidential politics today, the prospects of Michigan Congressman and political music video making guitar hero Thaddeus McCotter are looking frankly exactly the way everybody expected them to. His presidential prospects are looking rather gram. Not only was Thaddeus McCotter excluded from this week`s candidate forum in Iowa, he`s polling second to last in a poll of Republican primary voters from his own home state of Michigan. A mere 5 percent of Michiganders would pick their own Thaddeus McCotter to be president out of all of these Republican choices. The only candidate with worse news in the polls than Thaddeus McCotter right now is Tim Pawlenty. Oh, yes, look, even below him, Tim Pawlenty polling even lower than Thaddeus McCotter. A mere 3 percent of Michiganders say they would pick T-Paw if the election were held today. Which as Public Policy Polling pointed out this afternoon, makes Tim Pawlenty officially the first serious Republican presidential candidate to poll behind Thaddeus McCotter anywhere in the country. Congratulations? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Right now as we speak, from Virginia to Massachusetts, 45,000 Verizon employees from two separate unions are on strike -- 45,000 people. Unlike in Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker`s stripping of union rights led to the massive protest this winter and the recall elections, we are watching results from tonight -- these workers are not protesting a tax on their right to be in a union, they are on strike because Verizon wants to roll back employee`s benefits -- things like health care and pensions. Those are benefits the unions fought for and won over the last couple of decades. Verizon union workers have the benefits because that`s what unions do, they make employers pay and treat and compensate their employees on a whole better than they would an individual employee-by-employee basis. That`s the whole point of unions. In this country, unions equal a middle class. You see the two lines sloping downward almost like synchronized swimmers there, almost indistinguishable from one another. One of those lines represents the rate of union membership in America. The other one is middle class share of national income. I can`t tell which line is which? Don`t worry about it, they are basically identical. Not just people in unions who benefit from unions, it`s the entire group of Americans we call the middle class -- which is why unions are not the hated empire the conservative movement really wants them to be. In the midst of the daily protests in Wisconsin this spring against Governor Walker`s union-stripping adventure, 77 percent of Americans sided with the public unions in Wisconsin on their right to organize. At around the same time, only 39 percent of people overall had an unfavorable view of unions. Don`t tell the beltway press and conservative movements. The Beltway press has monopolizing their speed dials. But Americans actually like unions. And the Democratic base is entwined with them, 2/3 of Democrats are really cheerleaders for unions. Look at those numbers -- they really, really like them, and that makes sense if this, frankly, has sunk in, if it has sunk in the fate of the middle class and fate of unions are inextricable. It makes since the base of the Democratic Party would be pro-union if the point of the Democratic Party is to stick up for the middle class and the fortunes of the middle class. But it also makes sense for another reason, it makes that Democrats really like unions because union and the policy goals for the Democratic Party have bumped into each other more than once in the last century. For almost all Democratic Party policy accomplishments, for almost all of the things Democrats now brag about, unions have been crucial, if not essential if there`s a difference between those two things. President Obama acknowledged as much at a Labor Day picnic almost two years ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Much of what we take for granted, 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare -- they all bear the union label. It was labor that helped build the largest middle class in history. Even if you are not a union member, every American owes something to America`s labor movement. Few have fought longer and harder for health care and America`s workers than you, our brothers and sisters of organized labor. In good economic times and in bad, labor`s not the problem, labor`s part of the solution. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Labor part of the solution. Organized labor, good for the country, that`s what the president`s point was there. Organized labor, also good for Democrats, capital "D" Democrats, even in recent years as union membership has declined, the Democrat`s Party electoral successes have owed so much to union voters and union get out the vote efforts and organizing strengths -- not to mention union money. When Barack Obama was running for president and the three presidential elections before that, almost 60 percent of union household voters voted for the Democrat in the race. Union membership trump a lot of other traditional voter demographics, gun ownership, education, race, church attendance, age, just being in a union in 2008 made you significantly more likely to vote for Barack Obama than all of those other factors. And look at the money part of it. In the most recent election, these were the top donors, outside groups that spent the most money on the 2010 midterm elections. They were all corporations, all giving to the Republican side of the race -- all but three of them, the only three that gave more money to the Democratic side than to the Republican side were the three unions. They were the only competition to all the top donations to the Republican side. Corporations, big business, they know they have a home in the Republican Party, people who work for a living, the whole dream of the American middle class is supposed to have a home in Democratic politics. Union rights and union strength are inextricably intertwined with Democratic politics, unions do not succeed without strong Democrats and Democrats do not succeed without strong unions. So, after a generation of unions taken it on the chin, and the middle class reeling as a result, the recall elections in Wisconsin today are frankly about whether or not Democrats can hit back when union rights are attacked, about whether or not the Democratic Party knows there`s an economic point to its existence. Joining us tonight for the interview is a author and journalist that has done more than anyone else in the country to force the issue of Americans not making it, the disappearance of the American middle class into the national debate -- she is Barbara Ehrenreich. And her landmark book, "Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America" has been reissued for a tenth anniversary, which makes me feel old. Barbara Ehrenreich, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time tonight. BARBARA EHRENREICH, AUTHOR: Glad to be with you, Rachel. It`s a treat. MADDOW: I don`t want you to play pundit about this Wisconsin election night that we are watching, but do you think we`re having a national fight, national debate at least about working for a living, about jobs, about class? EHRENREICH: I don`t know how much it`s being framed by that by the candidates themselves, but it`s something we`ve got to have. I mean the -- you`ve been saying middle class, I think we can also use words like "working class," and it`s been going downhill for a couple of decades -- stagnating wages, inability to organize into unions, loss of rights in the workplace. You know, it`s on every front. And when I say this, all right, somebody`s going to say she`s talking class war, it`s true, but we didn`t start this war. MADDOW: In terms of the way this translates into Democratic politics, watching that tape we just played of President Obama in 2009 giving that really strong pro-labor speech about the importance of unions to everything that has benefited the working class and middle class really over the past century, I found myself thinking -- I wonder if we will see that guy again on the campaign trail. I wonder if Democrats are reconnecting to the need to talk about economics and economic populism as a way of connecting with people who generally elect them. Do you know if that`s possible? EHRENREICH: I don`t know -- those that little clip of Obama with his strong pro-union speech made me really nostalgic, we have not heard that man for a long, long time. And the unions -- you know, as you mention, they have been putting their money -- member`s dues money into supporting Democratic candidates, but they have not been getting that support back. I mean, look, Obama talked about raising the minimum wage more before he was elected. It hasn`t happened. No talk about that anymore. He talked about reforming labor laws -- it would be possible for workers to exercise their right to bargain collectively, to organize. No, no support on that. And I -- I don`t see that connection between the Democratic Party and the unions that you described as being entirely healthy anymore. The Democratic Party has to know that people, middle class people, working class people, are going to stand up and go their own way if they don`t get something in return. MADDOW: Barbara, you started working minimum wage and low-wage jobs in 1998 for "Nickel and Dimed." Economically, things were good then compared to how they are now. How do you think it would be different now to pursue that same project? EHRENREICH: You know, it`s -- I really still talking about this subject 10 years later. At the time when "Nickel and Dimed" first came out, I thought things were changing in a positive way because there was a struggle for a living wage, to raise people`s wages to an amount they could actually live on indoors. And that sort of petered out. It petered out with the recession. We`re still talking about the same issues. Only it`s a lot worse now. The kind of low-wage jobs I worked on to do research for "Nickel and Dimed" are not so easy to walk into anymore. They`re just not there. So people who once had two jobs to help support their family now have one or zero jobs. In the meantime, you know, we`ve really lost ground on the safety net. Even though Obama, I`ll hand it to him, did something to extend unemployment benefits, you know, in `08 and `09. But you know, we are not seeing ground being gained. We`re seeing people crowding into smaller and smaller dwellings because they can`t afford to live on their own. We`re seeing people forced to give up medical care because, you know, food costs and fuel costs are so high. I hate to say it, but there has been a real deterioration in the condition of so many people that you might call middle class. MADDOW: Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the landmark book "Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting by in America," which has been reissued for its tenth anniversary with a new afterword. Re-reading the book in preparation for talking to you tonight, Barbara, just reminded me not only what an important piece of journalism you did there but how much it changed my whole thinking about the country. So, thank you for what you`ve done and thanks for joining us tonight. EHRENREICH: Thank you. MADDOW: Ed Schultz is in Madison right now -- in front of a big loud boisterous crowd. And he`s going to have the very latest on the Wisconsin recall elections. That`s coming up right after the top of this show. And here we`ve actually got more from the rioting in Great Britain, including some incredible footage from new rioting spreading throughout Britain today. That`s just ahead, stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There are more than 16,000 police officers on the streets of London tonight. That is more than six times as many police as normally are there. The riots in Britain continued today for a fourth day But the worst of the violence today was not actually in London. It has been hundreds of miles to the north instead. Reports tonight of rioters fire-bombing a police station in Nottingham and attacking police officers in Liverpool. Earlier today in the city of Manchester, several stores were set on fire. Others were ransacked by rioters. Police in riot gear were attacked by bricks and stones. In nearby Salford, police came under attack and parked cars were set on fire. In Birmingham, which is Britain`s second largest city, young rioters attacked police and again looted stores. Nearby in west Brohmage (ph), rioters torched cars and shopkeepers closed shop early. At least 700 people across the country have been arrested in connection with the British riots so far. Again, this is day four. After days of images like this, there was some highly contrasting and more hopeful sights in the streets of London today. Hundreds of people -- look at this -- taking to the streets armed only with brooms and dustpans, literally cleaning up their neighborhoods inch by inch. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tonight in Wisconsin, six Republican state senators facing recall elections. Democrats need to win three of those recall efforts to take control of the state Senate. Democrats did win two of the races tonight, defeating Senators Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke, but the Republicans held on to three others. That leaves one very important deciding race still uncalled. With 89 percent of precincts reporting now, Republican Senator Alberta Darling leads her Democratic challenger 53 to 47. Again, 82 percent of precincts reporting, precincts still to report in Milwaukee County, Waukesha County and Ozaukee County. At this point, we will be advising you to keep it here throughout the night on MSNBC as we watch for this deciding race in this important night in Wisconsin and in national politics. Have a good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END