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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/23/12

Guests: Yasmin Neal, Manuel Roig-Franzia

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. The best show on television this whole past year has just come to an end, which is very sad. And like any character driven show, part of what kept it exciting over the course of the season is that some characters, even characters that you might have grown really attached to, some of the most charismatic characters of all got axed from the show unexpectedly, right? Even if you love them, they had to go. Remember back to the season premiere of the Republican debate show? This is who was on the very first episode of the Republican debate show. Ron Paul, obviously. Rick Santorum -- who knew how it would work out for him by the end of the season, right? Tim Pawlenty was there on episode one. Yes. Just last year that Tim Pawlenty was running for president. It seems like a lifetime ago. Herman Cain, the breakout child store that fell into obscurity and now we all worry about him. And now this guy, the situation, Gary Johnson. By the second episode, Gary Johnson was gone. But we got new characters by the second episode, right? There was the introduction of Newt Gingrich. There was the only female character, Michele Bachmann. There was some guy named Mitt Romney. But by the fourth debate, Tim Pawlenty was gone. And then -- Tim Pawlenty was gone, but by the fourth debate, we got even a new character, a new guy -- Rick Perry. By December in the debate show, we had lost Herman Cain. After Iowa, we had lost Michele Bachmann. After New Hampshire, we had lost Jon Huntsman. After South Carolina, we lost Rick Perry. And by the season finale, by the season finale last night of the Republican debate show, by number 20, we were used to just seeing these four remaining characters. The whole cast narrowed down to these four. But throughout this show, throughout the whole season, the most interesting and most unpredictable and most outrageous character of all of them for the entire series of this show has been this character. This character. The audience. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)\ STEPHEN HILL, SERVING IN IRAQ: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I`m a gay soldier and I didn`t want to lose my job. My question is: under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress made for gays and lesbian soldiers in the military? (BOOS) RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Boo. That was debate number six in Florida where Republican debate audience booed at an American soldier who had been deployed to Iraq. They booed at him because he was gay. For most of these debates the sound coming out of the audience told you more about Republican politics in 2012 right now than the sound coming out of any of the characters on the stage itself. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -- (APPLAUSE) WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night? CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty? REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Up until this past century, you know, for over 100 years, they were legal. What you`re inferring is, you know what? If we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody is going to use heroin. How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet no one would. Yes. I need the government to take care of me. I don`t want to use heroin so I need these laws. (APPLAUSE) WOLF BLITZER, CNN: The healthy 30 year old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I`m not going to spend $200 a month for health insurance because I`m healthy. I don`t need it. But now, something terrible happens. All of a sudden, he needs it. PAUL: My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not before -- BLITZER: But he doesn`t have that. He doesn`t have that. And he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays? PAUL: That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea -- (APPLAUSE) PAUL: -- that you have to compare and take care of everybody. BLITZER: Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die? AUDIENCE: Yes. BLITZER: No. REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective. It gained information for our country. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Whoo! Yes! The Republican debate show audience has been everybody`s favorite character in this amazing show this year. And last night, we got the Republican debate show audience booing birth control. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR: Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control and if not, why? (BOOS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, it`s possible that the debate audience is booing contraception. It`s possible also that the debate audience is booing the fact that there is a question about contraception that`s being asked at the debate. And that seems to be how it was interpreted by the guy from CNN who was last night`s debate moderator. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (BOOS) KING: As you can see -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a very popular question you have. KING: It`s a very popular question in the audience as we can see. Look, we`re not going to spend a ton of time on this. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: CNN`s John King saying we`re not going to spend a ton of time on this, saying that candidates don`t have to spend too much time on the issue of birth control, he`d be happy to move things right along, let`s get touch on this and get onto other things that won`t go booed. But for all of the audience booing, and the characters on stage, totting at CNN for asking this birth control question, when given the chance to talk about birth control, boy, howdy, did these guys have a lot to say. If you exclude the big voice announcer guy introducing the whole debate and you exclude the commercial breaks, we counted today. There were a total of 89 minutes in this debate. Given the chance to talk about birth control, the candidates held on forth on the subject of birth control for 13.5 minutes. That means for roughly one out of every seven minutes in the grand finale in the debate last night, one out of every seven minutes, the candidates wanted to talk about contraception -- specifically the evil and immorality of contraception. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) PAUL: As an O.B. doctor, I`ve dealt with control pills and contraception for a long time. Sort of along the line of pills creating immorality, I don`t see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning after pill. Unbelievable. NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning after abortion pill and that the governor`s office issued explicit instructions saying they believed it wasn`t possible. KING: When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical blog, if elected, you will talk about what no president has talked about before -- the dangers of contraception. Why? RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I was talking about is we have a society, Charles Murray just wrote a book about this. It`s on the front page of "the New York Times" two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of we wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Rick Santorum citing the guy who wrote "The Bell Curve," which is the book about black people being biologically inferior to white people when it comes to intelligence -- citing that guy and his new book to make his case if there was less birth control in America, take birth control away, there will be fewer pregnancies out of wedlock. I don`t. It is a conspiracy theory on the right, right now, that Democrats have brought up this contraception issue as a trap for the Republicans. This is what the Rush Limbaugh show is about right now. Democrats are the ones who raised the issue of contraception. Democrats are the ones who decided to politicize birth control to try to make Republicans look bad and to distract Republicans from their core message which has absolutely nothing to do with this. Now, as a liberal personally, would that Democrats were that Machiavellian, or that they could make Republicans talk about things they don`t want to talk about? But in this case, it really, really is Republicans bringing it up. I mean, the Obama White House decision on health insurance coverage for birth control -- that came down in the middle of January. It sat there for weeks unmolested by national politics until Newt Gingrich started trying to make anti-birth control hay over that decision. He is the one who brought it up on the campaign trail and thereby the national outcry erupted. Republicans are the ones who decided that inveighing against the accessibility of birth control, even inveighing against birth control itself as evil was what they wanted to campaign on. You cannot blame liberals for this. I wish you could. As a liberal, I wish you could but you cannot. But it`s not just the campaign against contraception. It isn`t only happening on the Republican presidential campaign trail this year. Since Republicans won governorships and control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, frankly, it has been abortion and contraception-palooza in the states that when it comes to state policy. And wherever Republicans are in control, these are issues they have prioritized. In the great state of Virginia, for example, in 10 years before 2011, there were 19 votes over ten years on abortion in the general assembly. That`s an average of less than two a year. After Republicans took control of the House in 2011, there were 34 votes on abortion in one year -- 34 votes on abortion just in 2011. In Virginia, representing a national trend -- a flood of new anti- abortion restrictions in state legislatures across the country, and they are being passed. Check this out. This is a chart of the number of anti- abortion bills enacted by states up to 2010. Then look at what happens in 2011. Hello! Look, a record number of anti-abortion bills enacted by the states last year after the Republicans had their huge year in 2010 election. Eighty new abortion restrictions courtesy of Republican state lawmakers. That`s more than double the previous American record of 34. But here`s the thing. What happens when you start having steamrolling legislative success like that -- is that I think it tends to make you cocky and sloppy. And so, in Virginia flushed with their own power, Virginia Republicans proposed their own version of a forced ultrasound bill, like seven other states have enacted. But in Virginia they are very excited about their own power and they overreach. They overreach almost literally. They mandate the forced ultrasound must reach inside your body -- the forced vaginal probe ultrasound which gets everyone in the country`s attention. It takes a couple days but it does get everyone`s attention. And now, Virginia Republicans are frankly in chaos. There was another day of protests outside of the capitol in Virginia today. This one decidedly not a silent protest like the one organized earlier this week outside the capitol. There were also protest happening inside the building where a Senate committee was busy amending and passing both a forced ultrasound bill and "a fertilized egg as a person" bill that would ban all abortion in the state and hormonal birth control as well. This is the kind of chaos the sponsor of the personhood bill encountered as he tried to talk to reporters outside of the committee meeting room. The lobby was full of people shooting "shame" and chanting at him. At least one woman had to be physically restrained by police while he is conducting this interview. And after all of the drama surrounding today`s hearings in the Senate on that bill, in the Virginia Senate, something really surprising happened. Virginia Senate Republicans decided to not take a vote on that personhood bill, that "fertilized egg as a person" bill. They decided to scuttle, to not take a vote on it in the full Senate. They went along with a Democratic motion to send the bill back to committee and a move that means the bill is dead for the rest of this year. So, the personhood bill -- dead in Virginia. The mandatory forced ultrasound bill on the other hand passed a Senate committee today and is moving forward. There wasn`t a vote on it in the full Senate today. Now that the whole nation is sort of awake to the horror of state- ordered vaginal probing which was in the original bill that Bob McDonnell had already said he would originally sign, I wonder if it is sinking into Virginia Senate Republicans that state probing of any kind, vaginal or otherwise, is seen by Americans as legislators playing doctor. So, as this resonates from a hearing room to a state legislature to a governor who really, really, really wants to be vice president, to the national stage, Republican political chaos on the issue of abortion and contraception and what they supposedly think of as limited government, Republican political chaos on this issue is spreading. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) SANTORUM: Obamacare, which is the biggest issue in this race, of government control of your lives. GINGRICH: You inevitably move towards tyranny because the government has the power of force. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: There was a collision course in Republican politics right now. Bob McDonnell after amending the forced vaginal ultrasound bill still wants to force doctors to do things to you even if it`s against their judgment and it`s against your will and he wants to make you pay for the privilege. That`s the revised bill from Bob McDonnell. Not the forced vaginal ultrasound bill, but the forced ultrasound nonetheless. And you can pay for it, the states said so. You can tell your doctor to shut up and you too. Take it. Across the country nobody in the Beltway media noticed until now, it has been the Republican agenda both federally and at the state level to have the government control this part of the practice of medicine -- telling you what to do, forcing you to do things you do not want done to your body, telling your doctor what to do, all because the government knows best. Medical judgment doesn`t matter. Your will doesn`t matter. The chaos in Virginia today is coming to the national stage, because you can be the party that tries to scare people about a phantom government takeover of health care when you rant about what you call is Obamacare, right? You can be the party that rants about a phantom government takeover of health care. Or you can be the party that really is trying to take over health care -- women`s health care, anyway. You can be one of those things or you can be the other. You cannot be both of those things. Joining us now is a Democratic legislator who has been fighting back anti-abortion rules by way of legislative satire. Georgia State Representative Yasmin Neal is the author of an anti-vasectomy bill in the Georgia House of Representatives. Representative Neal, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate you being here. STATE. REP. YASMIN NEAL (D), GEORGIA: Thank you. Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Let me ask you if you would explain both what your vasectomy bill would do and why you decided to proposal it. NEAL: Well, the anti-vasectomy bill makes it where men cannot get vasectomies unless they are trying to avert a death or serious bodily injury. And it originated due to the fact that when we started the abortion debate, I noticed that the number one thing that was missing in the conversation was women -- how women feel and what we want to do with our bodies. Granted we don`t want to act like there`s no sympathy for a fetus or what-have-you, but what a fetus is and when life starts is at the discretion of each individual person or family and your belief system, and we don`t feel that the Georgia House of Representatives should legislate that. MADDOW: What would be the consequences of your introducing this? How has it been greeted in the state legislature? And what do you think is going to happen in the long run because you`ve done this? NEAL: Well, ironically, it hasn`t had really bad reviews at all. Even the author of the abortion bill himself, he hasn`t been nasty or rude or anything of that nature. The opposing Republican Party -- they have not been rude at all. Some of think it is quite funny. At the same time, the Democratic Party, they have been supportive as well. I don`t see -- I don`t see anything really happening as far as historically bad. I don`t see anything occur -- I don`t see any problem with anything moving forward as far as any repercussions after the bill has been introduced. I`m just interested to see what happens with the bill. MADDOW: When you look at not just what`s happening in Georgia but what`s happening nationwide, as a state legislature, somebody who is in the midst of this in your own state, what do -- what do you think? Why do you think the issue of contraception and abortion rights has risen to the very top of the political agenda in state legislatures, legislatures in the nation`s capital and even in the presidential campaign trail this year? Why do you think this is being made such a priority by Republicans? NEAL: Well, that`s the number one question that all women are trying to answer themselves. Maybe it`s the irony of it being an election year. Maybe it`s convenient to put a political campaign on the backs of women. I don`t really know considering there are many Georgians and many Americans that are trying to decide between if they`ll put food on the table or if they`re going to pay the light bill when some of our school systems are in shambles and we are trying our hardest to compete with international students that are far exceeding us in all of the areas scholastically. I don`t know. And that`s the question we`re trying to answer. So many Georgians, so many Americans need help with so many other topics and areas, why are we focusing on this? Why are we under the skirts of women as opposed to handling the other government business? MADDOW: Georgia Representative Yasmin Neal -- thank you very for being here tonight. I know you had a bunch of national attention since you introduced this and you`ve been willing to explain to us is real a kindness to us. Thank you, ma`am. NEAL: No, thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Given what Mitt Romney has said about immigration and immigration law, and the stuff like Arizona`s papers please law should be a model for the nation, given his positions on this stuff this year, you would think that Mitt Romney had some big plan to try to de-alienate Latino voters, right? If his plan is the plan everyone thinks is his plan, then his plan is maybe going kablooie. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last night`s presidential debate perhaps the final debate in the Republican nominating process. It was held in Arizona. Arizona, of course, the land of these kind of politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Can you please explain to me what criteria will you use to determine if someone is an illegal immigrant? What does an illegal immigrant look like? Does it look like me? GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Arizona`s Republican Governor Jan Brewer expending great effort to not fend off very well questions about her state`s papers please law. Papers please law, SB-1070, in its original form, required Arizona police officers to demand papers on the spot from anyone who they thought looked like he or she might be an illegal immigrant. Last night in Arizona, the home of papers please, Mitt Romney was asked about his vision for the nation for good immigration policy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Papers please for the whole country. That means now reporters can start asking that same Jan Brewer question to Mitt Romney. Do I look illegal to you, Mr. Romney? I mean, he is running for office for Pete`s sake so be careful in case he runs away from you at speed once you say that. Right now, the polls in at least one of Mitt Romney home states, Michigan, are heading in Mitt Romney`s direction. He still got six days to make up Rick Santorum`s lead on him in Michigan. That happens next Tuesday. But based on movement in these polls now and the overall state of the race, it still looks like Mitt Romney is the likeliest candidate to win the Republican nomination. That said, this campaign has shown up a lot of weaknesses in Mitt Romney. He`s struggling against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for Pete`s sake. I mean, nothing personal, but Barack Obama is going to be a lot harder to beat than Michele Bachmann. If Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee, the biggest thing he can do to make up for his deficiencies as a candidate is probably the one decision a nominee gets to make before they`re elected. That`s a presidential caliber decision. And that presidential caliber decision is picking a vice president. After this week in Virginia, clearly it`s not going to be Bob McDonnell. Now, to be fair, Bob McDonnell has never been photographed holding a transvaginal ultrasound probe as seen here. But that picture will pretty much be everywhere if any nominee so much has winks at Bob McDonnell, let alone picks for vice president. One emerging theory about the hints Mitt Romney is dropping now about who he might pick for his VP focuses on Mr. Romney`s hard, hard right turn on immigration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: If I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes. Amnesty is a magnet. What we have had in the past, programs that say people that come here legally will get to stay legally for the rest of their life, that`s going to encourage more people to come here illegally. We went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have illegals working on our property. I`m running for office for Pete`s sake, I can`t have illegals. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m running for office for Pete`s sake. You know, being super anti-immigrant is -- has been fashionable in Republican politics for a long time. It`s not that weird. But this year does represent a hard right turn for Mitt Romney even for this particular field of candidates. I mean, Mitt Romney used to be for the DREAM Act. It was a Republican idea after all. Now, he says he would veto the DREAM Act. Mitt Romney used to speak favorably about the John McCain/Ted Kennedy bill to give a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But now, no mercy -- papers for the whole nation. Self-deportation. Mitt Romney sought out endorsement of a guy named Pete Wilson. Pete Wilson -- does that name ring a bell? If it does is because you remember the only thing Pete Wilson is famous for. As an otherwise totally forgettable, totally unremarkable California Republican governor, the only thing Pete Wilson is famous for is that he tried to make California a place where if you got hit by a bus and got brought to a hospital, they would have to dump you on the street and let you die without treatment unless they could verify your citizenship. That`s the only thing Pete Wilson is remembered for -- trying and failing to do that to California. And Mitt Romney dug that guy out of obscurity to get his endorsement for president. Why? Latinos are the fastest growing block in America. You cannot win a national election if you have alienated every Latino voter in the country. Mitt Romney has so alienated Latinos that I kid you not -- Mormon Latinos are now organizing against Mitt Romney. The Mormon Latinos are against Mitt Romney. How can this be the strategy of somebody who wants to be elected president? The only way this makes sense is if Mitt Romney does something equally big in his candidacy that`s presidency that`s going to seem so pro-Latino that it will overshadow all this other stuff. Oh, hello, Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio has been a United States senator for one year and a couple weeks. Mr. Rubio has done essentially nothing in federal politics at all. Actually, that`s not true. To be fair, combing through his legislative record today, Marco Rubio has done one thing. He personally championed and got passed through the Senate this important piece of legislation, quote, "A resolution designating September 2011 as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month." Marco Rubio, everybody. That`s the sum total of his legislative accomplishments. Marco Rubio ran for his Senate seat as a fiscal conservative. And do you remember his proposed budget plan as a Senate candidate? To put he was a fiscal conservative, he put forward a budget plan to add $3.5 trillion to the deficit. Marco Rubio is not a particularly serious guy in terms of what he has done in his Senate life or even as a Senate candidate. But his biography as a young conservative Latino Republican senator in some ways makes him perfect, right? I mean, unless spinal cord injury awareness is a much bigger political deal than I as a liberal can possibly understand in Republican politics, I think it is Marco Rubio`s biography and not his legislative accomplishments that make him as a potential vice presidential pick. And as imperative of attracting the Latino vote and a hard right turn of anti-immigrant policies on the Republican side have created more and more and more of a focus on whether or not Marco Rubio might be able to save the Republicans chances, the focus on Marco Rubio`s biography has turned up a bunch of unexpected and unexpectedly complicated stuff. Do you remember back on January 29th when Univision was going to host a debate for all the Republican candidates but that it didn`t happen? Univision debate got canceled? All of the Republican candidates except Ron Paul boycotted that debate as a favor to Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio was in a personal fight with the Univision Media Company because Univision was planning to run and they eventually did a run a story on a relative of his who had gone to prison for being part of a drug ring. A presidential debate got called off out of deference to Marco Rubio wanting to keep that story out of print. Then today, BuzzFeed ran a story about how any idea that Mitt Romney`s Mormon religion might be balanced by having a Catholic vice president like Marco Rubio and anyone who thought that now has to factor in that Marco Rubio himself used to be a Mormon. Marco Rubio`s family during his childhood and during teenage years was enthusiastically Mormon. And Mr. Rubio himself was baptized into the church of Latter Day Saints. And then, of course, and probably the biggest bombshell of them all, "The Washington Post" revealed back in October that Marco Rubio`s stated family history didn`t actually line up with the facts. The whole biographical parable that he had spun about himself and his upbringing was that his family had fled Cuba once Fidel Castro came to power. They were exiles from communism. That claim central to his rise to power in Florida was disrupted by reporting from "The Washington Post`s" Manuel Roig-Franzia that actually Marco Rubio`s parents immigrated to America more than 2 1/2 years before Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. What that does to vice presidential politics for the Republicans when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: What we have known about Senator Marco Rubio`s life story has made him a pretty compelling candidate for number two slot on the Republican presidential ticket. The problem is what we have been told about Senator Rubio`s life story is not exactly the same thing as Senator Rubio`s real life story. And as the Arizona primary approaches and as Republican problems with Latino voters start to get front-paged, now comes the part where the vice presidential prospects of Marco Rubio are scrutiny beyond just the surface level. Joining us is Manuel Roig-Franzia. He`s the author of an upcoming book on Marco Rubio called "The Rise of Marco Rubio." It comes out in July, which is right on time. Mr. Roig-Franzia, thank you very much for taking time to talk with us tonight. MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Happy to be with you. MADDOW: Let me start by asking you about today`s news that was reported by BuzzFeed. Mr. Rubio apparently as a child and as a teenager was a Mormon, who had been baptized into the Mormon Church. Do you see the news complicating the issue of whether or not he`s selected as vice presidential nominee? ROIG-FRANZIA: Well, I think there are two things to look at. One, does it matter he had connection with the Mormon faith at one time in his life when he was young? And, two, will this bring attention to the complexity of his religious life and his faith, you know? So, the first part, does it matter that he was Mormon at one time? I think that it`s been established through polls, particularly by Pew, that Mitt Romney wouldn`t be hurt in a general election by the fact that he`s Mormon. At the same time, there`s still in the United States, there are still some people who have questions about the Mormon faith. And it`s interesting when you look at the research that Pew did, they asked people what is the one word that comes to mind when you think of a Mormon? And in that study -- while a majority of people had positive things to say, family values, et cetera, some of the most commonly referenced words were cult, different, polygamy. In fact, cult was number one. That says there are still some questions about the Mormon faith that exist in the United States. The second question about the complexity of Marco Rubio`s religious life is a very interesting one because besides having had some connection to the Mormon faith when he was young in Las Vegas, he also has participated and identified himself as a Catholic, and at the same time has attended services of an evangelical church in the Miami area that`s associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. So, it becomes a much more complicated thing than simply saying I`m Catholic, I`m evangelical, I`m Mormon. MADDOW: Obviously, there`s no religious test for office in this country and it`s not the sort of thing that should affect whether or not a person is affected or even whether or not they`re popular. But I wonder when you start looking at Marco Rubio as somebody who has got a sort of meteoric rise in national Republican politics -- are issues of religion important to that at all? When Republicans assess him as a potential national leader, when they consider him for a job like V.P., or higher profile national roll, does religion matter at all? ROIG-FRANZIA: I think it absolutely matters. It matters in part because Senator Rubio has made religion and faith an important part of the narrative that he has communicated to the public. He talks about religion a lot. He mentions God a lot in his talks. I`m thinking of his farewell speech when he was leaving the Florida legislature. He ended on a note in which he said that he wanted to tell everyone who was sitting there something very important and what he wanted to say was that God is real. And he repeated that phrase. God is real. And it`s clearly something that is central to the way he identifies himself. It`s clearly something that is central to the way that people perceive him and I think that his faith and his religion will continue to be an absolutely fundamental element of any assessment of Marco Rubio whether it be for a national ticket as either a vice presidential candidate, or even at some point as a presidential candidate, or whether it`s simply an analysis of him as a political figure in Washington that has risen quickly and developed a large following. MADDOW: The back of the envelope calculation about Mr. Rubio`s prospects as a V.P. choice have to do with the idea, I think, that he would increase support among Latino voters for Republican candidate who chose him. What is Mr. Rubio`s support among Latino voters like? I mean, could he be counted on to bring Latino voters on board despite Mitt Romney`s stance on things like the DREAM Act and E-verify and we should have an Arizona type papers please law for the whole country? ROIG-FRANZIA: Yes. Well, it`s a very good question. It absolutely remains unanswered at this point at a national level. In Florida, he did well in a three-way Senate race. And in Florida, as you know, there`s a large percentage of Cuban Americans. In the United States at large, Cuban Americans represent a small percentage of the overall number of Latinos. The overall number of Latinos are Mexicans and Central Americans primarily. Now -- so the question becomes then how is Marco Rubio going to do with those folks? And clearly, he has been attempting in recent weeks, months, to communicate a message to all people, Latinos also, that the Republican Party should be changing its rhetoric on immigration. At the same time, he has had some problems with criticism because he hasn`t supported the DREAM Act and because he has supported E-verify, which is an electronic way of testing whether someone is legal and has been criticized by a fair number of Latino groups. MADDOW: That`s really important to remember that as sort of an open question, the diversity of the Latino vote in this country and how these things might not just translate by being Latino yourself. Manuel Roig-Franzia, staff writer for "The Washington Post" -- the new book about Marco Rubio coming out in July, I`m sure it will be a blockbuster. Thank you for your time. It`s nice to have you here. ROIG-FRANZIA: It`s been a pleasure. MADDOW: All right. Political Zen question: is a supporter still a supporter if he keeps saying in public that you`re wrong about really important things? Mitt Romney and the hazards of honest surrogates -- coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Thesis number one about Mitt Romney`s unexpectedly treacherous and uncertain path toward the Republican nomination for president, that he still might not get -- thesis number -- Mitt Romney is being made a better, tougher, more nimble candidate by all this intramural brawling. Whatever weaknesses he`s got, they`re out there, he is figuring out how to deal with him. He`ll be ready for rumbling by the fall. Thesis number two about Mitt Romney`s treacherous and uncertain path toward the nomination that he still might not get -- dude, nobody likes this guy. Not even the people who have endorsed him. Fresh data in support of thesis number two, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Yesterday at the end of the show, we reported on a demonstration in the Syrian city of Homs, honoring two slain international reporters -- American Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik. These are people in a city that`s been attacked for three straight weeks by the military of its own country holding a demonstration in honor of foreign journalists who died trying to cover what was going on there. The pieces of paper they are holding up to the camera say, "We will not forget you." A third journalist was also honored at that same demonstration, a Syrian man named Rami al-Sayed . This is a picture of Mr. Sayed with his infant daughter. He was one of the reasons the world had any idea what was happening in Homs. He was a digital journalist. He kept by live stream of the bombing there. His videos, many of them too disturbing to show on TV were uploaded to a YouTube channel that showed almost unbelievable atrocities in Syria. It`s been reported that Mr. al-Sayed died of injuries he received during bombing in a neighborhood called Baba Amr in the city of Homs. Rami al-Sayed posted this message online shortly before he died. Quote, "Baba Amr is facing a genocide right now. Our hearts will be with those who risk their life for our freedom. I know what we need. We need campaigns everywhere inside Syria and outside Syria, and now we need all people in front of all embassies all over the world. In a few hours, there will be no place called Baba Amr and I expect this will be my last message and no one will forgive you who talked but didn`t act." Today, a video surfaced of a French journalist named Edith Bouvier pleading to be evacuated from Syria as soon as possible. She was wounded in the same bombardment that killed Rami al-Sayed and the American Marie Colvin and the French photographer. Ms. Bouvier is speaking in French and the video she`s explaining that her femur has been fractured and she needs surgery -- surgery that is not available to her in the makeshift clinic where she is inside this city that is being attacked all day every day by Syria`s military. This young journalist is there with a French colleague and someone we presume is a doctor maybe and a couple of other Syrian men who have been trying to help her and her colleague. The person filming her appeal is the only one who speaks English. You can hear what we guess is an explosion toward the end of this plea for help. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We asked the French government and the Red Cross for help and to evacuate these injured people and take responsibility out of our shoulder because we are here in a very dangerous situation. We plead for you to come and evacuate them and give them the right to medical attention. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Today, a group of investigators from the United Nations reported that the highest levels of the Syrian government are guilty of crimes against humanity, that Bashar al-Assad`s government is killing anyone and everyone with military force and with impunity. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said that the opposition forces should be recognized as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, not Assad`s government but rather the opposition. The United States, along with the European nations met today to start drafting what has been reported as an ultimatum to the Assad regime in Syria. We`ll try to keep you informed about what happens next. And we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Heading into the 2012 election, Mitt Romney`s strength was that he`s the establishment candidate, right? The former Massachusetts governor, never the most popular guy, and the more he campaigns, the less people have liked him. His unfavorable ratings, the measure of how much voters disliked him, clocked in at 47 percent today in a new Gallup poll which actually is, believe it or not, an improvement. But what Mr. Mitt Romney lacked in the popular support coming into the race, he could maybe make up for with big money billion-dollar donors, right, and high profile endorsers everywhere. He is the establishment guy. And that`s one way to run a modern campaign -- unlimited money from rich guys with money to burn, and publicly professed love from political stars. You especially hope to bring along the supporters of those political stars who express their support for you. It`s like the transitive property of politics, right? It works best when those politics stars are not embarrassing. For instance, freshman Congressman Michael Grimm of New York, a young buck on the rise, working hard for the Romney campaign in the Florida primary, until Congressman Grimm turned up in the "New York Times" denying allegations about his campaign fundraising. Mr. Grimm is not a Mitt Romney surrogate anymore. Or there is Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu -- a Republican who walked the desert with Senator John McCain in 2010 and had more recently been a leading surrogate for Mr. Romney in Arizona. Paul Babeu, Romney surrogate, Republican stud, until he turned up as just stud boy 1 on a dating Web site with a secret Mexican ex-boyfriend who accused Sheriff Babeu of threatening to deport him if he told anybody about their closeted relationship. So the congressman and the sheriff ended up in the embarrassing surrogate discard pile from Mitt Romney. But for you`re not embarrassing surrogate, it also helps that these people you`re relying on to bring voters your message actually agree with your message. Last year for instance, Romney said the solution to the nation`s foreclosure crisis was to let the whole thing, quote, "runs its course and hit the bottom." That position was a problem for Mitt Romney in Nevada where the housing crisis is epic and where Nevada Congressman Joe Heck was trying to be a leading surrogate for the Romney campaign. How do you feel, Congressman Heck, about Mitt Romney`s position on letting housing hit the bottom? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOE HECK (R), NEVADA: Mitt Romney and I don`t agree on every issue and certainly housing is it one of them. When you look at what`s on in here in southern Nevada, you can`t say you got to let the housing market hit bottom. We have been bouncing along the bottom for years. And the fact is we`ve got to do everything possible to one, keep people in their homes, and two, get people who are out of their homes back into their homes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney and I don`t agree on every issue, like whether Congressman Heck thinks Nevada votes ought to get thrown out of their homes. Similarly, in the middle of the financial crisis, Mitt Romney famously argued that the federal government shouldn`t offer the automobile industry a hand. Let Detroit go bankrupt. Now that we didn`t let that happen and Detroit is back and they paid off the government bailout and they`re posting huge profits, Michigan Congressman Fred Upton is stumping for Mitt Romney in Michigan. Just don`t ask surrogate Upton about the auto bailout. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. FRED UPTON (R), MICHIGAN: I guess on this particular issue, there is a fundamental disagreement between the two of us. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: In other words, I, Mitt Romney, surrogate in Michigan, think Mitt Romney was wrong about Michigan. But vote for him, anyway, Michigan, OK? For some other reason. So Mr. Romney has tons of endorsers. He has tons of surrogates. That`s part of what it means to be the establishment candidate. But these supposed surrogates are frequent than you would expect, not helping Mitt Romney. For another example, Randy Pullen, former chair of the Arizona Republican Party, major Romney surrogate. Surrogate Pullen telling CNN this week, quote, "Santorum connects with people. Unfortunately, my guy has had a hard time doing that. My guy needs to come out and connect with the people and just lay it out there. I know he can do it, he just has to make the effort." I think he can, I think he can. Or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a crowd pleaser willing to beat the bushes for Mitt Romney, willing to stand up and say, hey, I know he seems reserved, but he`s got passion, I know he does. That`s how the surrogate should do it -- except for Chris Christie jumping all over Mitt Romney for being slow to release his tax returns. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`ve released my tax returns every year as soon as I file them. I released them historically when I ran for governor. I just think get the stuff out there. So, if Governor Romney were to ask for my advice, I would just say get the stuff out there. If they`re interested in your tax return and you`re running for president of the United States or governor of New Jersey, let people see it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I hate to say it, with friends like these -- but seriously, wait, there`s more. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman had looked like the other Mitt Romney, right, the other establishment good guy to beat. And when Jon Huntsman left the race and threw his support to Mitt Romney, that was a feather in his cap -- another Romney supporter for the long, long lists of Romney supporters. Well, check out Jon Huntsman on this network earlier today when he was asked about last night`s Republican debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold, visionary stuff. I see zero evidence of people getting out there and addressing the economic deficit, which is a national security problem, for heaven`s sake, and addressing the trust deficit. I think we`re going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Jon Huntsman saying we need new ideas, we need a new voice -- heck, we need a new party. But remember, vote for my guy, vote for Mitt Romney. I endorse him. It sounds less convincing when you put it like that. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END