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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/30/12

Guests: Jon Ralston, Frank Rich

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks. I`m finally looking forward to Florida coverage with you tomorrow night. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Florida tomorrow night. Although you and I have been up here in the cold country, roughing up, while, you know - - that`s OK. We want to go to Florida when the Democrats are going at it, don`t we? MADDOW: I feel at this point, this time of the year, the main thing I accomplished this weekend was slipping on the ice and cracking my head. So, I just thought, I`ve got -- laying there on the ground, it was Saturday night. I`m outside in my back porch with the dog laying on the ice looking at the stars going, "Why aren`t I in Florida"? So, in Tuesday, we`re going to make up for it. SCHULTZ: I know the feeling. Have a great one. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks, man. I appreciate it. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. I got to tell you, Florida is tomorrow night, Florida is Tuesday. But in my mind, honestly in politics, it`s Nevada week. I mean, it is Florida week, too, right? But really, it`s sort of Nevada week. We`re getting blanket political coverage this week about what`s happening in the Florida primary. But there is a good argument to be made that Nevada ought to be seen as just as important as Florida is. This is a week with sort of two tent poles, Florida and Nevada both. Even though Florida is going to have as many Republicans voting in their primary as the number who voted in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina combined and then some, a win in Florida this year is worth precisely half as much as a win in Florida has been worth in previous years, because Florida wanted to be seen as really, really important in this year`s presidential race, they intentionally broke the Republican Party`s rules, when they moved up their primary date to make it really early, to make it happen in January. Florida moved the primary so early they lost half of their delegates. So tomorrow, in Florida, instead of there being 99 delegates up for grabs, it`s only going to be 50. In their rush to get toward the head of the line in terms of the order of the nominating contest, Florida made itself half as important as it should have been. Florida has roughly seven times the population of Nevada, they got 19 million people. But they`ve got less than two times the number of Nevada`s delegates. Florida has got 50 delegates, and Nevada has got 28. Also, it also should be noted that we at least sort of thing we know what is going happen in Florida. If you believe the polls, right? If you TiVo a big football game and then you make the mistake of looking at the final score before you actually watch the game, sort of takes away a little of the oomph, even if you still enjoy watching people play. I mean, anything could happen -- anything could happen tomorrow in Florida. Volatility is the only constant in this year`s Republican nominating race. But when you look at the latest polls out of Florida, the day before the primary, Mitt Romney is ahead by 20 points in the latest Suffolk University poll. He leads Newt Gingrich by 15 points in the latest NBC News/Marist poll. And he`s ahead by 14 points in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Why is Mitt Romney leading by these huge numbers in Florida? Well, it`s in part because he has been running for president for six years. He has been running in Florida for essentially all of those six years. It`s about 2 million bucks a week to advertise in Florida`s major media markets. Mitt Romney and his campaign, who are after all made of money, they have been campaigning there for a very long time, for months before anyone else had ads on in the state in this election season. Look at the number of ads that Newt Gingrich and the PACs supporting Newt Gingrich have run in Florida in a span of two weeks ahead of primary day, 210 ads total. Now, look at the number that Mitt Romney and the PAC supporting him have run. Not to scale, right? We even bother making a graph, I`m sorry. It looks like that`s like what, a third of 12,000? Yes, not to scale. Mitt Romney at 12,768. So, yes, he`s winning. The Democratic -- the worst bar graph in the history of cable news. That`s astonishing. Anyway, the Democratic Party actually circulated this comparative figure today without the worst graph ever, to give their spin on how Mitt Romney has put together this win in Florida. Florida also has early voting, so that also takes away a little of the drama for Florida because any bump that Mr. Gingrich might have gotten out of his win in South Carolina was muted by the fact so many Floridians had already cast their ballots in the race. So, reasons this week to be even more excited for Nevada than you might be for Florida. In terms of delegates, on the line, Florida had half of their delegates stripped by the Republican Party. Mitt Romney appears to also have Florida in the bag, if you believe the polls. It`s not a foregone conclusion, but it sort of is starting to look like a foregone conclusion. And Nevada looks to be up for grabs. The third reason why it is possible to be more excited about Nevada today than it is about Florida is Nevada`s columnists. Yes, Florida has Carl Hiaasen. He wrote the funniest column last think I think about five years. It was about pythons, but specifically it was about the enthusiasm with which pythons fall in love with each other and reproduce in the Everglades. But with the exception of the wonderful Carl Hiaasen, who ought to be on Rushmore, Nevada`s columnists are, I mean, A, they`ve got Jon Ralston. But the whole state is amazing in terms of its political coverage. How can you beat this? This is Jane Ann Morrison in "The Las Vegas Review Journal." Here`s the start of her column today. This is just how it starts. I`m quoting. "Doesn`t that guy sticking a needle in that cat`s butt look familiar? It`s former Senator John Ensign who has gone back to work as a veterinarian." That`s the way her column starts today. Remember John Ensign? John Ensign is part of the reason that nobody has any idea what`s going do happen with Nevada`s caucuses, and that state`s 28 delegates. John Ensign and his sex and ethics scandal is part of the reason the Nevada Republican Party has basically disintegrated over the past few years. Mr. Ensign admitted to his extramarital affair in 2009, and it unspooled from an adultery scandal into a sex and ethics scandal, into a lobbying scandal for solid two years before Ensign finally resigned in 2011. And it`s not like Nevada`s Republican Party at that point was evolving from a previous position of strength. In 2008, before the John Ensign scandal even broke, the Nevada Republican Party was forced to cancel their annual state convention. They decided to cancel the convention and hold a conference call instead, Nevada Republicans at the time citing a lack of interest. So they didn`t hold it. A year later, the John Ensign scandal started unfolding. He was the most prominent Republican in the state except for maybe the state`s Republican governor, who was at the time, also having his own scandal. Nevada`s Republican Governor Jim Gibbons left office also in 2011, in the wake of allegations that among other things he too was engaged in an extramarital affair. Then in the midst of all that, in the midst of the Gibbons scandal and Ensign scandal, and nobody wanting to come to their convention, the Nevada Republican Party decided that their anointed establishment candidate to run against Harry Reid, the best chance the Republicans are ever going have to unseat the Senate majority leader, they decided their establishment candidate would be Sue Lowden. Remember Sue Lowden? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUE LOWDEN (R-NV), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, before we all started having health care in the olden days, our grandparents would bring a chicken to the doctor. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not the John Ensign, different kind of doctor. She meant to the human doctor, you`d bring a chicken to pay for your checkup -- chickens for checkups lady. She was the establishment choice for Senate in Nevada. This choice of the Republican establishment in the state of Nevada. She lost to this person. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Sharron, will you answer some questions really quickly? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys, we have to go. I`m sorry. REPORTER: Sharron, you don`t have any -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re running behind. I`m sorry. REPORTER: You`re not willing to answer what Second Amendment remedies means? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sharron Angle ultimately lost to Harry Reid in that Senate race, obviously. Nevada Republicans are a mess. They have been a mess for quite a few years now. And Nevada Republicans` inability to get it together, to get out the vote for Sharron Angle, who was ahead of the polls when she lost to Harry Reid, the fact that the most famous Republican in the states is now castrating cats in Las Vegas and talking to local columnists about it, the Nevada`s Republican Party`s pure fecklessness is what makes the Nevada race this week so interesting. In a presidential year that`s defined by an anti-establishment candidate, Mitt Romney, and the countervailing anti-establishment feeling in the party, in Nevada, we`ve got something unique going on because in Nevada, there sort of is no establishment. The Ron Paul campaign has been saying for weeks now that their strategy is to do well in Nevada and in other states that have caucuses. Their strategy is to take advantage of their organizational strength and try to rack up as many delegates as possible. Ron Paul is not bothering wasting money or time in Florida. When I came in work on Friday, we get a political note at the start of the day everyday that tells us where all the candidates are going to be that day. And the note on Friday said that Ron Paul was in Maine. In Maine? Really? The results of Maine`s caucuses will be announced on February 11th but Ron Paul was there putting in some shoe leather. Today, my where are the politicians note said Ron Paul was home in Texas with no public events scheduled. He`s apparently resting up. I guess for Nevada, despite the fact that tonight is Florida eve. So, Ron Paul, long haul, caucus states, delegate strategy. But now, it is also starting to sound like Newt Gingrich may also pursue a delegate strategy long haul strategy as well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The conservatives clearly are rejecting Romney. He is nowhere near getting a majority. And so, this is going to go all the way to the convention. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: All the way to the convention, that was Newt Gingrich yesterday on ABC. Later in the day, Mr. Gingrich told some reporters in Florida, quote, "When you take all of the non-Romney votes, it`s very likely at the convention, there will be a non-Romney majority, and maybe a very substantial one. My job is to convert that in a pro-Gingrich majority." Now, I know that may sound crazy, like Gingrich is going to stay in all way to the convention, and consolidate all the anti-Romney vote under him, it may sound crazy. The Republican establishment definitely wants you to think that that`s crazy. But one final thought here, there are 2,288 delegates that are up for grabs in the Republican presidential nominating process. Let`s see how we do with this graph. This is where we`re at right now, out of the 2,288. So far, Ron Paul has four delegates. Rick Santorum has 14. Newt Gingrich has 26. And Mitt Romney has 37. That is where we`re at. That teeny, tiny sliver of delegates is all that`s been divvied up so far. And Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are both pledging to take this thing all the way to the convention. If you think this is over just because Mitt Romney is likely to win Florida tomorrow? It doesn`t seem like it will be over. It seems like maybe these guys have not yet begun to fight. Joining us now is a man who is the most fun person to talk to about politics in the state of Nevada, which is full of fun people to talk to about politics. Jon Ralston is a columnist for "The Las Vegas Sun" and he`s the host of "Face to Face with Jon Ralston." Jon, it`s good to see you. Thanks for being here. JON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN: Good to see you, Rachel. Two years later, it`s still John Ensign you`re talking about. MADDOW: I`m sorry. The fact is John Ensign is back and like taking care of cats. I just, I feel like we had to check in. The reason that John Ensign was so relevant even in 2010 when he was on his way out the door is because he was sort of a symbol and maybe the symptom and maybe the cause of Nevada`s Republican Party really falling apart. Since 2010, have they gotten their act together at all? RALSTON: Well, they tried to. They`ve actually hired some professionals. They have a good executive director. They`ve hired a professional firm to run this caucus. But they`ve still gone through all kinds of chaos. They had a chance to really increase registration rolls, Rachel, and with same day registration as the Democrats, you may remember in 2008, got 116,000 people to come out, they registered 30,000 new voters. But kind of the crazy conspiracy theorists said, no, we can`t do that. Harry Reid is going to infiltrate our caucus. So, they still got those factions. They were forcing out the current chairwoman essentially, Amy Tarkanian. So, they still have a lot of problems. And you`re right. John Ensign, of course, our former governor, Jim Gibbons, went a long way in hurting the Republican brand here in Nevada. MADDOW: Last time around in the Nevada caucuses in 2008, if I remember correctly, it was Mitt Romney and then Ron Paul. We didn`t really see much of John McCain at all in Nevada. What are you seeing so far in terms of what kind of investments the candidates are making there? How do you think they`re going to pay off? RALSTON: Well, Mitt Romney, as you mentioned, has been running for president for six years. He`s been here essentially all that time. He didn`t leave in 2008. He still got the infrastructure set up. He won the caucus easily in 2008, 51 percent. You mentioned the John McCain didn`t even campaign here. Ron Paul finished in second with 14 percent. So, I think Romney is the favorite. But the Paul folks are more organized than they were in 2008, Rachel. I wouldn`t discount them. Paul actually is really invested fairly heavily here on television, also mostly positive ads. So, I wouldn`t completely count him out. Gingrich is just getting started here, as is Santorum, very difficult to organize from the ground up for a caucus that quickly. MADDOW: Sheldon Adelson, of course, the billionaire Vegas casino mogul who`s injected $10 million in the Gingrich campaign. He`s -- there`s been some controversy around a special caucus that`s going to be held late on Saturday, at a school named after him in the county in which he lives. Mr. Adelson is being credited with sustaining Gingrich`s campaign through South Carolina and in part in Florida. How should we see him as a factor in his home caucuses in Nevada? RALSTON: Yes, I think this is kind of ironic, Rachel, because I think Sheldon Adelson is going to have more influence on Newt Gingrich`s campaign outside of Nevada than he actually has inside Nevada. You know, he saved Newt Gingrich by that money he infused in the super PAC aligned with Newt in South Carolina, and then his wife invested $5 million more. You put up those ads, the comparison, though, I mean, obviously, it hasn`t really worked there. Now, what is he doing there? You mentioned a special caucus. That`s going to be a night caucus for observant Jews. He and others protested that this was going on. Of course, his spokesman is distancing Adelson from all this. But it`s too late for that because it`s at his school, he called the Clark County chairman, the county chairman told me to inquire about the caucus. Clearly he wanted it, that is only going to be a few hundred voters. So, he`s not going to be able to influence the outcome of that. It sounds like all of the employees of the Venetian and Palazzo are going to show up at the Adelson school to vote on Saturday night. So, he really has had more influence on the race outside Nevada than I think he has inside Nevada. MADDOW: His influence outside Nevada, globally I think cannot be overstated. I don`t think there would be a Gingrich candidacy at this point without him. But this is going to be a fascinating week to watch. Jon Ralston, columnist to "The Las Vegas Sun," the host of "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" -- Jon, it is great to see you. I have a feeling we`ll be talking before this weekend. Thank you. RALSTON: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. The interview tonight is Frank Rich, the Frank Rich, very excited about that. Plus, we got the best new thing in the world on tap and a debunktion junction. That`s all ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you add up the net worth of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Barack Obama, if you add up the peak lifetime wealth of all of those presidents, and then double it, you double that combined amount, that is the "Associated Press`" estimate today of the ballpark wealth of Mitt Romney. Interestingly though, even though Mitt Romney is worth double the peak lifetime wealth of all those presidents combined, he`s only worth about two Rick Scotts. Rick Scott is the governor of Florida. He was elected in 2010. Rick Scott is also zillionaire. He spent $73 million of his own money on pursuing the governorship in Florida. He outspent his democratic opponent nearly 5-1, and then he narrowly won the election. Since then, Governor Scott`s approval ratings have slumped through the floor. Notice, there have been all these politic stories about how about weird and interesting it is that Jeb Bush hasn`t endorsed anybody and that Marco Rubio hasn`t endorsed anybody. Nobody really wonders about Rick Scott not endorsing anybody. It`s not exactly a coveted endorsement. But the guy does have a ton of money. And a ton of money can buy a lot in Florida politics, whether it`s your personal money or your campaign money. Mitt Romney and his supporters are reportedly outspending Newt Gingrich and his supporters 5-to-1 in Florida. So, despite Mr. Gingrich`s post-South Carolina surge, if the polls in Florida hold through tomorrow, Mr. Gingrich looks like he`s going to be buried tomorrow under an avalanche of Romney bucks. Part of the reason that Mitt Romney is so personally wealthy has to do with Florida. In 1994, Bain Capital, which he was running at the time, bought a medical company that had roots in Florida. In 1996 and 1997, Bain helped that company take over two more medical companies. They also started, as they say, cutting costs. They closed a plant in Puerto Rico, which eliminated between 300 and 400 jobs there. They also shut down operations in Miami. That move eliminated 850 Miami jobs, cut out $30 million in payroll that those 850 employees used to receive as salary. That was all taken out of the Miami economy when Bain shut that plant down. Then two years later, Bain made sure that Bain got paid. They had that same company where they fired all the workers, take on a huge amount of debt, for the purpose of paying Bain Capital. After the layoffs in Puerto Rico and the layoffs in Miami and the debt, Bain walked away with $242 million for themselves and their investors. In 2002, just a few years later, the medical company filed for bankruptcy. It was buried under all the debt and it was bankrupt for five years, before it finally came out and was bought by another company. This is one of those deals Mitt Romney worked on while he was running the show at Bain. But then the deal continued paying off for him after he left the company. His arrangement with Bain Capital is that he still gets paid now. So part of why Mitt Romney is worth more money than Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and Barack Obama combined, times two, is because 850 people lost their jobs in Miami in 1997. Making money is one thing. Making money is one thing. Having money is another. This is something that has received sort of here and there attention in the last week since Mr. Romney released his tax returns, and since we learned he only pays a special mini tax rate that`s reserved for people who don`t work, but who just live off long term investments on their giant piles of money. But making money and having money are a different thing. If you would like to choose between which one of those ways is a nicer way to make a living, just having money and living off the interest it makes in its big piles is a much easier way to do it, and a much more lucrative way to do it. The mini tax rate that Mitt Romney pays, he pays less than 15 percent, 13.9 percent, in the one year that he`s given full tax returns, that mini tax rate has not been around forever. So, relatively modern tax loophole that says if you`re income is earned on investments that you had more than a year. So, if your income is earned on giant piles of money instead of wages, you only have to pay 15 percent. Mr. Romney left Bain in 1998 but he still every year gets paid a huge amount of money from Bain. Still, now -- on the deals he did while he was there. And he pays taxes at that tiny little mini tax rate on that money that he still gets from Bain. Why does that little mini tax rate exist? It exists because a company called Bain lobbied for it. On this I must defer to the master, Jon Stewart. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: In 2007, there was a bipartisan bill to make private equity investors, like Romney, pay the ordinary income tax rate of 35 percent on their carried interested earnings, instead of 15 percent they`ve been paying since 1987. Well, funny story. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you suspect the tax treatment for carried interest will be changed? SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Listen, if I could tell you about the number of lobbyists hired in the last two months to work this issue, you would know that it would be very risky for me to predict what would happen on this. STEWART: Oh, may I make a prediction because I`m in the future? Yes, they killed it. By the way, who were those lobbyists? Who had so much influence over our government that Charlie Grassley, the Republican Senate Financial Committee`s ranking guy, he co-sponsored the bill to adjust the tax rate. Who were the lobbyists so powerful this guy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like he`s talking about Baltimore when he brings them up. Well, it was the Private Equity Council, a lobbying group formed, surprise, surprise, that very year, by the country`s biggest private equity firms, including Mitt Romney`s Bain Capital. Now, to be fair, Bain is not Romney, Romney is not necessarily Bain. This whole issue could be an issue they part ways on and roll tape from 2007. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you come out on the proposals coming out of the Democratic Congress to raise taxes on hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds so forth? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I don`t think it`s a good idea to raise taxes. STEWART: Yes! Because they are your taxes! Not to say Mitt Romney doesn`t believe -- not to say Mitt Romney doesn`t believe the tax system need not be reformed. There are certain taxes he feels should be raised. ROMNEY: Forty-seven percent of Americans paying no income tax, that`s a heck of a big number. STEWART: Yes. The tax code is so unfair to you. So, to clarify, the millions of dollars that Mitt Romney saves because of the aggressively lobbied 15 percent tax rate is legal and fair, and he`s entitled to that from the government, no strings attached. But where does Romney stand on other such government largesse? ROMNEY: I also like the idea that people who are receiving assistance, welfare assistance, have a responsibility of working. I think he wants us to become entitlement society, where the people in this country feel they are entitled to something from government. STEWART: Poor people have (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lobbyists. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: The great Jon Stewart of Comedy Central. He did that segment last week and that was a sort of a rip off of Jon Stewart by showing you that. But B, I don`t really think anybody showed it better or more clearly. So, that was an homage to Mr. Stewart. Well done. "Mother Jones" also posted a little piece about this issue today. But other than that overlooked piece on "The Daily Show" last week, which was genius and "Mother Jones" doing this today, this otherwise is not sinking in. The reason Mitt Romney pays only a mini tax on the money he made closing factories at Bain is because Bain uses some of its share of that money that it made closing factories to lobby for its executives to keep paying that mini tax rate. So, yes, poor people do have sucky lobbyists. On the eve of the Florida primary, Mitt Romney is still getting paid for laying people off in Florida. But money from his campaign and from his super PAC has bought a whole lot of TV ads that make it look like he`d be great for Florida. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One of the reasons that you might want to be president one day is because presidents get to do a weekly address on anything they want. And good radio stations all over the country air that address and you can watch it online and the opposing party runs a rebuttal. It`s like a mini State of the Union every weekend, except with less clapping -- and because I guess only politics dorks and people like me who love a.m. radio pay attention to it. But, still, it happens every weekend. This weekend, the Republican response to the president`s weekly radio address was delivered by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The bottom line is this president inherited a country with serious problems. He asked the Congress to give him the stimulus and Obamacare to fix it. The Democrats in Congress gave to it him. And not only didn`t it work, it made everything worse. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Worse. You keep using that word. I don`t think it means what you think it means. Here -- the red bars are private sector job growth during the Bush administration. The blue bars are private sector job growth during the Obama administration. So when Marco Rubio says, yes, he inherited something bad but made it worse, when Rubio says things are getting worse under Obama, you must mean the opposite of that, right? Well, here is another, here is economic growth -- red equals Bush, blue is Obama. So, again, when Marco Rubio says the president inherited a bad situation but he made it worse, the president`s policies made everything worse, when Marco Rubio says that, he doesn`t mean it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUBIO: It made everything worse. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He can`t mean that. He can`t mean that. When Marco Rubio says that, he can`t mean it. He either doesn`t mean it because he doesn`t know the truth or he doesn`t mean it because he doesn`t know what the word "worse" means, or he doesn`t mean it because he`s a freshman and he thinks nobody takes him seriously or maybe he doesn`t even bother to try to get stuff right because he doesn`t care. But for the record, Marco Rubio is wrong on this and he should correct what he said. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: My partner Susan has a theory that your dog tends to obey its name. So, if you have a dog named Ranger or Rover -- that might be a great name but your dog will not like to come home when you call it. I propose naming a new dog we were getting Chewie, she said no, the dog will fulfill that destiny. I got shot down for Houdini because obviously he would slip his collar. The name Dewey, though -- Dewey -- I didn`t expect her to shoot down the name Dewey. Dewey, what could be wrong with the name Dewey? But, no, she said, Dewey -- famous for losing. Every third person our dog meets will be thinking Dewey defeats Truman. Except Dewey didn`t. All right. Republican Thomas Dewey was favored to beat Democrat Harry Truman for president in 1948. He did not. That`s President Truman two days after Election Day in 1948, looking ecstatic, holding a copy of the "Chicago Tribune." That newspaper, like practically every newspaper and every political hack in the country that year, had written Truman off. They picked Dewey to defeat him. But Dewey didn`t. Truman won. That`s Dewey there with the amazing mustache. Dewey was essentially, in his day, seen as the inevitable candidate. He had been the Republican presidential nominee in 1944, when he lost to FDR, then was the Republican nominee for president again in 1948, when he lost to Truman, even though everybody thought he would win. This year, when I look in the eyes of Mitt Romney, I will admit that I have been seeing Bob Dole. But Frank Rich at "New York Magazine," when he looks into the eyes of Mitt Romney, he sees he has been seeing Thomas Dewey. Thomas Dewey who was once called the little man on the wedding cake. And Frank Rich, as the most astute political observer of our time tends to see these things earlier than most of us do. And it`s probably true the name Dewey would make for a defeatist little dog. Joining us tonight for the interview is "New York Magazine`s" writer at large, Frank Rich. His piece is in the most recent issue of "New York Magazine" is called, "Who in God`s Name is Mitt Romney?" Frank, thank you for being here. FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Delighted to be here, Rachel, as always. MADDOW: The comparison to Thomas Dewey is not the central point of your column. But you made it at the end, and I found it exercising, and I found myself reading a lot and thinking a lot about Thomas Dewey. Why do you see him in Romney? RICH: Well, Dewey was a very complacent campaigner and very cautious. And in 1948, he felt the less he said, the more he avoided the controversy, the better. So, for instance, as we have now Romney saying things like "I believe in America" and all this kind of boilerplate, Dewey did the same thing. You know, the future is just ahead of us -- that was his idea of a political platform. And in the end, of course, he was surprised. And there were a couple other parallels, biggest is that we know that Barack Obama is planning to go run against a do-nothing Congress, which was exactly Truman`s campaign in `48. Truman had very low popularity ratings going in that election, and triumphed over Dewey. Dewey was also like Romney, a Northeastern governor, New York, and a moderate Republican. However, he had more spine than Romney, because he actually remained a moderate Republican at the end of his career was on the other side of Joe McCarthy, of Goldwater. So, he -- and also he had more accomplishments before he became governor of New York. He was a mob buster. He was prosecutors, went after Dutch Schultz and so on. So, compare to Romney, he`s almost exciting, charismatic. MADDOW: Well, he`s handsome, right? And he sort of ran as this, ran as like an upstanding guy who you`d like to live next door to, sort of ran as like a solid character, in a way. RICH: Right. MADDOW: And you essentially are describing that as the same thing that Romney is going at in the vaguest possible sense. But in a way that still leaves his core beliefs and the core things about it, even his personality illusive, sort of running almost in a ghosty fashion. RICH: Yes, and one thing I have been grappling with, is I think a lot of people have been is why does this guy not connect? Why does he seem plastic, basically? And the standard answer is he`s stiff, he`s rich, he needs better performance skills, he needs to learn how to speak better before crowds. But I think part of it is also one thing that he feels really passionate about is his religion. He`s had a long history in the Mormon Church as a leader. And because he feels, it would be sad it`s true, people are bigoted about it, he doesn`t want to talk about it. And yet that`s something I think he probably cares about more than Bain and all the money and all the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts. But I think you feel that there -- you`re not getting the true Romney, I don`t think we are. MADDOW: So, you feel like because -- maybe that is the thing that he could tell stories about that he could talk about in a personal way, that would -- for lack of a better term -- animate him, that would make us sense more of who he is? RICH: I agree. I think that`s exactly it, and I think the Mormon religion is an interesting kind of great American story. That a lot of things about it have been good for the country, and helped built the country, particularly in the West, but he just doesn`t go there. So, it`s almost as if he`s closeted about his religion, and I think that makes him seem fake. MADDOW: I have always said my advice to gay people has always been that gay people should come out of the closet, if they can, if only because closeted people are boring. RICH: Well, that`s exactly it. So, just like sexual orientation, religious orientation, it is a part of your being. And so, if he can`t -- if he has to as it were, stay in the closet about being a Mormon, even when he gives a big speech about being a Mormon last time around, he used the word exactly once. So, he`s frightened about talking about the things he cares about, devoted his life and a lot of fortune to as well. MADDOW: You raised some important political questions that could be asked about the Mormon Church during his times as a leader there. Important questions about women in the church, about African Americans in the church, of course, very difficult history in the Mormon Church, being barred from the priesthood on the basis of race, until later than you think that could be possible at a time when Mitt Romney was already a leader in his church. Is it not just a fear of religious bigotry that people may find his religion objection or strange in some way, by that there are hard political questions that there may be difficult political answer to about his time? RICH: I think there are. I think the theological questions don`t matter, every religious is entitled to its own theology. And they all have their idiosyncrasies, God knows, only God knows. But the truth is the Mormon Church has been a player in various things, campaigned against equal rights amendment for women, institutionally, very slow in civil rights. In 1978, that`s how long it took for blacks to get full equality in the Mormon Church. MADDOW: Wow. RICH: And then there`s the gay part of it, because we know that the Mormon Church drummed up more than $20 million to put over Proposition 8 in California two years ago. We know -- a few years ago. We know also that 80, 90 percent of the volunteers who organized that juggernaut were Mormons. So, that`s a big player in an important political issue that affected the law in the state of California. Where was he as a contributor and leader? MADDOW: Yes, those are issues that can not only be personally animating. I mean, I heard Mr. Romney talk about the issue of civil right and the church and I`ve not seen him become emotional about it, but heard him describe himself becoming emotional about it, which is as close as I think we`ve ever had to an emotional sighting of Mitt Romney on the campaign trail. (CROSSTALK) RICH: Well, he talked emotionally about it. But also, in the last campaign, you may recall, he said on "Meet the Press" that he had seen his father march with Martin Luther King, which turned out to be complete and utter fiction. There was no such march -- his father had not marched with King. And maybe we can be sympathetic he felt he had to overcompensate for his church`s behavior in those years and the way it treated African Americans. But still that is weird to talk movingly about something that never happened. MADDOW: Yes. You obviously are not going to be a personal who the Romney campaign or any other Republican campaign seeks out for advice. But it seems to me that your piece in the "New York Magazine" this week and what you are saying here is essentially advice that the campaign could reasonably take, that this might be a way to make people connect with your candidate. Do you think that the campaign would ever consider that? I mean, it seems like the way they are addressing any issues about the candidates religion right now is to label anybody who raises them in a respectful way as a bigot. RICH: So yes, they are going to try to pave it over. But they`re not going to succeed because as we know, presidential campaigns really strip people bare. And assuming Romney may well get the nomination, at least he`s going to be there through the whole process, it`s going to be relentless, and that people look at everything. So, they are sort of kidding themselves and I think it would humanize him to talk about his faith, given his importance to it and its importance to him, and to be candid about where he agrees, disagrees, not about theology, not about their view with the Bible, not about Joseph Smith, but about 20th and 21st century politics in America. MADDOW: And his role in them. Absolutely. RICH: Exactly. MADDOW: "New York Magazine" writer at larger, Frank Rich -- it`s great to see you, thanks for being here. RICH: Great to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. After this show, on "THE LAST WORD," you expect the Republican National Committee chairman to go after the president, he does so on a daily basis. But the way he did it yesterday has a certain boomerang quality to it. It is making a lot more headlines for that certain chairman than it is about the president. Lawrence O`Donnell has those details next. And here, it`s time for another debunktion junction special campaign edition. That`s next. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Debunktion junction, what`s my function. All right. True or false? Has he has been widely reported, tomorrow`s Republican primary in Florida is a winner-take-all contests. You heard this, right? The candidate who wins the most votes gets all of Florida`s delegates. Florida, unlike South Carolina is a winner-take-all state in terms of delegates for the Republican nomination. Is that true or is that false? False. False, sort of. The Republican Party tried to make states go later this year. Only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada were allowed to go before Super Tuesday in March. Any other state that decided to go earlier than that would get docked half their delegates. So Florida got docked from its 99 delegates down to 50. Then the Republican Party came up with another punishment for any state that wants to go before April. Those states would not be allowed to give all of their delegates to the winner. They couldn`t be winner-take-all. They would have to give out their delegates proportionally. So, Florida broke both of those rules, but ultimately, they`ve decided just to blow off that last one. They decided they`d been punished enough by losing half their delegates and they`re going to award their delegates, winner-take-all no matter what the Republican Party said about that big dumb rule that they broke. That`s why everybody`s been saying that Florida is winner-take-all. They are planning on that. They would like it to be so. However, there are rules and as reported in "Tampa Bay Times" and elsewhere, nobody really knows how Florida is going to allot its delegates in the end. Quote, "All it takes is a registered Florida Republican to file a protest with the RNC and the party`s contest committee would have to consider the issue when it meets in August just before the convention." So, bottom line: Florida wants to be winner-take-all in terms of its delegates. They want to be seen that way. They want you to say that about them. They`re sort of not supposed to be able to say that. And it maybe won`t be decided until August how Florida allocates its delegates. So, anybody who tells you that it is a settled issue has not had as much as time as I have to sprain their blessed eyeballs reading Republican National Committee arcane delegate rules. There you have it. Next up, true or false, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says Catholic hospitals should be exempt from a law requiring them to dispense contraception? Is that true or is that false? True. That is true. Now that Mitt Romney is running for president. There is a no co-payments for birth control policy that`s part of women`s health and preventive health care in the Affordable Care Act. Those health regulations have an exemption for religious employers like churches. But there is not an exemption for those regulations for large institution that is serve the general public even if they may be religious in nature, places like Catholic hospitals. The Romney campaign is calling that lack of an exemption for Catholic hospitals a, quote, "direct attack on religious liberty that will not stand in a Romney presidency." So, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says Catholic hospitals should be exempt from that law requiring them to cover contraception as part of health care. That is true. Also -- that is false, or at least it was false when Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts in one specific instance. In 2005, there was a proposal in Massachusetts to exempt Catholic hospitals from a law requiring them to dispense emergency contraception specifically to a woman who had been raped. Governor Romney says Catholic hospitals should not be exempt from that. He said at the time, quote, "I think it is in my personal view, it`s the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access emergency contraception of anyone who is the victim of a rape." He may have said that was his personal view, but he also made it policy for the state. So, that`s President Mitt Romney and that`s Governor Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney should probably be asked now about 2005 Mitt Romney`s gubernatorial position and whether or not he agrees with his old self on that part of it. And finally, true or false -- everybody who lives in the wonderful state of South Dakota has 46 early voting days in the primary and general elections this year? Forty-six days, is that true or false? False. South Dakotans do have 46 days to cast their ballots this year which you can imagine is rather helpful in such a rural state where getting to a polling place could take more than a hop, skip and a jump. But as the new investigative journalism venture 100 Reporters writes today, not everybody in South Dakota gets this deal. Not everybody in South Dakota is being allowed to avail themselves of that 46-day early voting window. Instead of 46 days, members of at least one Native American tribe in South Dakota get only six days. So, they get six days to vote instead of 46 days to vote for everybody else in the state. The Oglala Sioux tribe is suing the state of South Dakota and local officials, saying the 40 days` difference between their voting window and everybody else`s voting window in the state is akin to a poll tax. It`s also akin to ridiculous. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today, this happens. It happens. Our nation`s first ever -- look at that -- first ever parade for troops coming home from the war in Iraq. It happened, totally happened Saturday in St. Louis, Missouri. The welcome home parade, of course, was the brainchild of just two guys from St. Louis with a Facebook page who had never done anything like this before. But they pulled it off with the help of some generous local companies and a city with the will to do it. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets, cheering the troops, and shaking hands. This is a "thank you" big enough to make the nation notice and also personal enough to grab your heart and rattle it a little. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twice, Army National Guard Major Rick Ranford has flown home after serving in Iraq. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can drop me in any city in the United States, because daggumit, I was home. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was touched by the outpouring of his hometown. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely overwhelmed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was from "Nightly News" this weekend. Our nation has been debating whether now is a good time to celebrate veterans coming home from Iraq, especially since so many of them are being redeployed to Afghanistan, which is a war, of course, that is ongoing. Still, though, on Sunday, the New York giants will be playing the New England Patriots in a football game known as the Super Bowl. By tradition, the winning team in the Super Bowl gets a big parade downtown. The New York Giants got one in 2008, the last year they were champions. The Patriots got one in 2005 when they were champs. There`s nothing wrong with celebrating football. I myself am a celebrant. I wonder, though, if it won`t be a little weird for our country to go crazy over a sports team while still saying not yet to the veterans. My friend Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America asked that flat-out online tonight, challenging the mayors of New York and Boston, are you really OK with your football team getting a ticker tape parade and not your Iraq vets? For now, today, St. Louis, Missouri, pulling off its welcome home the heroes parade. I got to say, they did it first in the country and it is the best new thing in the world today. For St. Louis, man, well done. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night at 6:00 Eastern for our special coverage of the Florida primary. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. We`ll see you tomorrow. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END