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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/27/12

Guests: Bob Herbert

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. I`m looking forward to our long-term nights-long commitment starting tomorrow. SCHULTZ: I`m taking my watch off right now. MADDOW: That`s right. There`s no use counting the minutes. SCHULTZ: We don`t wear watches on convention coverage. I got it. Looking forward to it. You bet. MADDOW: I appreciate it. All right. Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Contrary to what you may have heard, the Republican National Convention did actually get under way today. Today was day one of the Republican convention. And it lasted precisely seven minutes. Actually, the opening and closing gavel were only about 30 seconds apart, but the overall proceedings around that did go on for a few moments longer. The Republican convention has of course been delayed to account for the impending arrival of tropical storm Isaac, which is now on track to make landfall either as a tropical storm or potentially as a hurricane somewhere on the Gulf Coast late tomorrow might or early Wednesday morning. Now, even though the broadcast networks had never intended to cover today`s proceedings even when it was going to be a full day of RNC activities, the cable networks including this one have committed to being there gavel to gavel. And so, all of us cable networks were there today for the seven-minute-long session. It was a short instance of RNC coverage, but still it was exciting. If you`re a politics dork, there`s always something exciting about the conventions. At least something in one of the conventions every year goes amazingly not according to plan. The first year that the conventions were broadcast at all was 1924. They were broadcast on NBC radio. And that turned out to be a great advertising hook that year to try to sell people radios. Look at this. We found this in the archives today. "Cheer with the galleries when the delegates march in. No influence needed this year for a gallery seat at the big political convention. Get it all with a Radiola Superheterodyne. It used to be all for the delegates` wives and all of the big folks of politics. Now, it`s for everybody. Listen in, get it all with the newest Radiola!" That was the pitch back in 1924. Buy a new radio so for the first time ever you can listen to this year`s political conventions because they`re going to be broadcast. The very first convention ever broadcast was the one that came first that year, the Republican convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The Republicans renominated incumbent President Calvin Coolidge, and then nothing else happened. It was historic because it was covered on the radio for the first time and technologically, that was an exciting thing. But even when not much happened at the Republican convention that year. The whole broadcasting for the first time thing really paid off at the Democratic convention because the Democratic convention that year was nuts. It took the Democrats 103 ballots to get their nominee that year. The Democrats had a huge fight with the Ku Klux Klan at the nominating convention that year, and the Klan won the fight. For the first time in history, a woman`s name was put forward for nomination for vice president, and there was an actual bloody fistfight between delegates that was caught live on the radio and broadcast as a play-by-play fight by a man named Norman Brokenshire (ph) who happened to be covering the mike at the moment the fight was breaking out and he was sitting close enough to it that you could hear it on the radio. He later called it, quote, "One of the finest donnybrooks I had ever seen. Delegation signs were banged on opponents` heads, chairs and decorations destroyed. I had a ringside seat. I was letting the listening audience in on the fracas." The excitement of the coverage of the Democrats` convention was about as good as it got for the Democrats that year. It turns out them being divided to the point of beating one another bloody on the convention floor and taking sides both against and for the Klan did not carry the Democrats very far into the general election that year. They got beat to a pulp by Calvin Coolidge. That sort of airing of dirty laundry, having a national broadcast of the donnybrooks in your own party, the inner sign (ph) warfare among factions of what`s supposed to be your side, worries about that sort of thing were a real problem for the Democrats the first year things were broadcast in 1924. But they`re often a concern and they have been a vexing concern for the planners of this year`s convention for the Republican Party. Here`s a visual clue from today`s very short coverage as to that worry. Look at the news coverage today, the few seconds that did technically exist of the RNC proceedings. There`s Republican Chairman Reince Priebus in this big arena that has not all that many people up. They have the signage, the vertical signs for when the sign will finally fill up with delegates. They seat delegations by state because of the one important piece of business that has to happen at these conventions. They have to do a role call, so every state one after the other, declares who that state`s choice is to be the nominee of the Republican Party of the president of the United States. This is technically the business they need to get done. It`s the whole purpose of the convention. But it can also be a dramatic and exciting thing. I mean, it creates this sense of momentum for the party and nominee. Each state says we want him, we want him. They all commit one after another to picking this candidate as their nominee. It`s very exciting. It also builds and builds and builds, and when you get to the end, usually they do it on the last day of the convention, it`s followed by the candidate himself having been named by all of the states giving his big triumphant speech at the nominee. Want to know what ruins that for you as a candidate? When some of the states don`t pick you. Or when something else is happening out there when they`re supposed to be shouting your name with adulation. The Republican Party this year moved up the role call vote ahead of schedule, apparently out of fear it was not going to be the big, dramatic, seamless building for Mitt Romney thing they hoped it would be. "The New York Times" reporting last week that some supporters of Ron Paul were pushing to make their voices heard during the roll call vote. Several supporters had signaled their interest in making their admiration known for Mr. Paul on the convention floor. Afraid that the Ron Paul delegates were going to ruin this moment in the sun for Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee this year, the Republicans took all of the Ron Paul heavy delegations, they took those states and moved them up to the nosebleed sections. So, way out of the main section of the forum, you`ve got Nevada and Maine and Minnesota and all of these other Ron Paul heavy state delegations, just exile to the outer fringe of the convention floor. While arguably less consequential states and territories whose electoral voters don`t affect the outcome on election night, they were moved right up front. So, right up front, you could even see today were the northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and American Samoa. They`re right there on front. Sure, their votes don`t count in November, but what`s more important for the TV cameras is they are unlikely to yell about raw milk and the gold standard. So, Republicans have tried to move the roll call process out of the view of network cameras by shifting it to Monday, to today, the one day the networks were not going to cover the convention. Now that the weather has forced the change in the schedule, now that the weather has canceled today`s proceedings all together, there`s no way to keep the roll call totally out of network view. So the next best thing they can do is move the Ron Paul folks out of network view. But it turns out it`s not just the Ron Paul folks who are planning to make the proceedings a less predictable, more spectacular broadcast moment. In addition to the Ron Paul delegations, a whole slew of different conservatives from the longtime antiabortion lawyer and RNC committee man James Bopp, who`s a key figure in the Citizens United case, to a bunch of supporters of Rick Santorum to a Virginia delegate named Martin Blackwell, a former Reagan aide, to pro-life groups, and Phyllis Schlafly, all of these folks now say they`re planning to force another roll call vote at the RNC to protest Republicans trying to change the nominating process for 2016. The Romney folks have tried to change the nominating process for 2016 to make sure the front running candidate can essentially shut down insurgent and rival candidacies by locking up delegates at their own whim. Republicans do not want those kinds of fights to be on the news. This is supposed to be the yay Mitt Romney convention and instead it`s going to be that and also lots of other Republicans, many of whom have big constituencies of their own arguing loudly in a big room in front of TV cameras about how Mitt Romney is big footing the process and shutting down the little guy and forcing a hostile takeover of the Republican Party`s processes. And the Republican Party does not want that on television. The Democratic Party would not want something like that on television. As much as this sometimes seems like a pre-scripted pageant, it isn`t all a pageant. It`s a working political event. And when your party has divisions, those divisions tend to show at times like this. One of the largely forgotten great moments in televised party dissent that doesn`t get talked about much but I think is an interesting parallel to what is happening right now is what happened in 1960. Richard Nixon had been vice president. The party was poised to pick him as the presidential nominee, which they did. Two days before the convention was due to convene in Chicago, then Vice President Nixon sat down with Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York, they met in Rockefeller`s Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City, and they wrote the party`s platform without anybody else`s input. It became to be known as the compact of Fifth Avenue. And with that scheme, as much as they thought that might keep any unseemly fighting and dissent off the TV screens for that Republican convention, everybody eventually found out what these guys had done, and a number of people were visibly angry about it. None more so than this guy, Barry Goldwater, then a senator from Arizona who himself had been nominated for president but who walked out during the convention to a nine-minute long standing ovation. And then he gave a speech angrily announcing he wanted his name taken out of nomination for his own party. He declared his party to be essentially misguided. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THEN SEN. BARRY GOLDWATER (R), ARIZONA: What has gone on here in Chicago has been a demonstration of our serious intent to present to this nation a Republican Party capable of uniting divergent view points and presenting to the nation a true Republican philosophy dedicated to the preservation of the eternal values of our society. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Barry Goldwater chastising his own Republican Party that year for giving up its conservative roots. He said if Republicans were going to stick with establishment business as usual as embodied by this secret maneuvering by Nixon and Rockefeller, well then, he said Republicans were going to lose in 1960. And Republicans did lose in 1960. And when the Republicans came back four years later at their next convention, the guy they picked to be their nominee was the guy who told them what was going to happen, Barry Goldwater. Republican Party right now is still unsettled as to what its new identity is post-George W. Bush. The McCain/Palin ticket didn`t prove to be a stepping stone to the broader Republican Party. Sarah Palin was not even invited to speak at this year`s convention. The Tea Party waxes and wanes as the conservative brand name in right wing politics, but it has largely been co-opted by corporate-funded, standard issue establishment by any other name conservative mega donors and mega special interests. Tea Party uses the idea of small government as a brand. Tea Party doesn`t even promote small government policies. Among the politicians that adopt and drop the Tea Party name as is convenient depending on what audiences they`re speaking to and what kind of election they`re running in at the moment. Ron Paul folks do have enough support that they have held shadow conventions for two election cycles in a row now. In Minneapolis in `08 and yesterday at the University of South Florida, Ron Paul spoke before a crowd of estimated at 7,000 very, very, very, very enthusiastic supporters. He explains he does not fully endorse Mitt Romney for president. But amid all of that sort of persistent factualism in today`s unsettled politics, the figure who actually has the best chance at being this year`s Barry Goldwater, the guy who comes in this year and says we`re not hewing to conservative principles, we`re going to lose this year, but I`m the guy for the future, the guy who has the best chance of being that guy I think is this guy. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. When John McCain won the Republican nomination in `08, the guy who came in second was Mike Huckabee. Huckabee actually got the second highest number of delegates after McCain. Although highly placed Democratic sources admitted that Huckabee was among their most feared competition for this year for 2012, Mike Huckabee decided not to run again. Instead, he has been building an empire outside of direct electoral politics. He hosts a radio show that competes directly by the show hosted by Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Huckabee`s show is syndicated on hundreds of stations. He has released a number of history DVDs for the homeschooling movement that features his own sometimes peculiar view of history and evolution, or the lack thereof. He stars in an antiabortion DVD that he has used to evangelize for abortion policies like personhood and not exempting rape victims and incest victims from abortion bans, which has now increasingly the doctrinaire antiabortion politics of Republican candidates. He has formed a political action committee called Huck PAC, which has supported like minded conservatives, including a Missouri candidate who was once thought of as a long shot, his name is Todd Akin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After those comments and the ensuing fire storm, Todd Akin went on Mike Huckabee`s radio show and then the next day, he went on Mike Huckabee`s radio show again to explain himself and to bask in the support he was getting from Mr. Huckabee even as the Republican establishment was trying to shut him down. Mr. Huckabee then sent out a fund-raising pitch to his followers on behalf of Todd Akin railing against the Republican Party establishment both in that letter and in a conference call this past Friday with Baptist leaders. Mr. Huckabee saying I have never seen an effort like what I have seen this week with party leaders coming together expressly for the purpose of taking one of their own wounded soldiers off the battlefield -- excuse me, one of their own wounded soldiers on the battlefield. And instead of coming to get him off the field and to the hospital, basically, opening up rounds and rounds of fire on him, and then running over him with the tanks of the trucks, leaving him to be ravaged by the wolves of the other side," Huckabee said, speaking from his FOX News office in New York City. Oh, right. He also has a FOX News office because he has a show on the official media organ of the Republican Party, which is the FOX News Channel. Mike Huckabee is the whole package. He`s got tons of outside support. He`s well-liked. He`s got a real constituency, has been organizing outside the party, inveighing viciously against the party, and channeling Barry Goldwater from 50 years ago by paring his consent that the party will lose because it`s not conservative enough. Or even -- or he`s been pairing that contention for himself with hints or outright assertions he`ll still be young enough to run in 2016 after presumably his party losing this year after not taking his advise for not being more right wing than the party is. Weather permitting, he is speaking at the Republican national convention on Wednesday night. We`ll see what happened. Parties like these things to be scripted, non-suspenseful, but still vaguely exciting things. Sometimes they get their wish and sometimes you end up fighting with the Klan while the whole country listens in. Sometimes someone ends up angrily denouncing their own nomination and laying the groundwork for them to come back as the nominee four years later. Sometimes these things end up being God`s gift to the radio and TV news business. Joining us now, Steve Schmidt, Republican campaign senior strategist for the McCain/Palin campaign in `08. He`s now an MSNBC contributor. Mr. Smith, it`s always a pleasure. STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be here. MADDOW: Tell me how wrong I am about Huckabee and Barry Goldwater in 1960? SCHMIDT: Well, I think that Mike Huckabee, when you give consideration to him as a political figure in the country, I mean, timing matters in politics. I think that if he had run this time, there`s a tremendous chance he would have wound up as the Republican nominee. But presuming a Romney victory, he won`t have a chance to run for eight years. Presuming an Obama victory, I think you will see great fishers in the Republican Party, some of the unsettlement below the surface, you know, will come up. There will be a big debate in the Republican Party about the direction of the party. And Mike Huckabee is someone who will absolutely if he wanted to run for president, would be -- would be a formidable figure in the party. Absolutely. MADDOW: Do you see what is going on in the Republican Party right now as people sort of trying to set themselves up for 2016 in the event of a Romney loss? I mean, right now, nobody can protect what is going to happen, but it`s certainly no shoo-in that Romney is going to win. I feel like what we`re seeing is people trying to set themselves up as the conservative alternative. SCHMIDT: When you look at the people scheduled to speak at this convention -- Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Mike Huckabee. All of these people in their own right are people who may have presidential aspirations and the ability to run a formidable campaign. You may see the next generation of rivalries in the Republican Party, people whose careers are intertwined with the future history of the nation, but also the political history of the Republican Party. You may see them all previewing what`s going to be many, many years of history to unfold in front of us. MADDOW: With this Akin thing still going on, Mr. Romney tonight made new comments about the Akin thing, new kind of strange comments about the Akin thing to CBS News. He`s still being asked about it, Paul Ryan still being asked about it. Obviously, the Republicans are pushing it. But now, people like Mike Huckabee are pushing it on the right as well. Do you think the social conservatives actually sort of have a good tow hold for the future? I mean, everybody talked about the social conservatives fading away. They don`t seem to be doing that. SCHMIDT: Well, if you`re pro life, you want to recruit people to the cause. You want to have people open their hearts up to the message of the pro-life movement. And I would say that trying to do that through the Todd Akin issue is the wrong strategic approach to accomplish that. I think just like the royal family is learning in England and the Republican Party is learning with Akin, it`s really hard to fix stupid. That`s what he is. Todd Akin -- MADDOW: He`s the naked Prince Harry? SCHMIDT: Tough to fix stupid, and we`re going to lose a U.S. Senate seat. It`s a high price to pay. It`s a wrong issue I think for people to draw a line in the sand on. It would be much better for the party if Akin would get out of the race. MADDOW: What about the Ron Paul folks? We see the delegations being exiled. I mean, seeing the northern Mariana Islands next to Reince Priebus and there`s Minnesota up there, they have the number of delegates Ron Paul was going to get. They changed the rules so the Ron Paul delegates that exist this year could never exist in 2016, even if things go the same way. The argument from the Ron Paul folks is, listen, you want more Republicans, not fewer. You disagree with us on some things but you agree with us on most of the important things. Engage with us, don`t ignore us and pretend we`re going to go away. SCHMIDT: Well, think of an iceberg. Most of it is below the surface. You only see a small part above the surface. With all of these conventions, it`s true with the Democratic Party`s convention as well, is you have some groups of people there to cause chaos, that are there to upend the rules. And you have other groups of people, many more with the rules on their side, that are determined to prevent any eruption of spontaneity at all over the course of the entire convention. And, you know, the weight of the party`s rules are on the side of the people trying to snuff out any spontaneity. These are scripted, made-for- TV events. They`re as highly produced as the Olympic Games, for example. You don`t know what`s going to happen 100 percent, but these conventions have become less about having an undetermined nomination and much more about delivering a message to the American people every four years. I think that`s what you`ll see on this one. MADDOW: And logistically, this year, that means American Samoa, come on down. SCHMIDT: Absolutely. MADDOW: Steve Schmidt is going to be part of the convention coverage, which is going to start in earnest tomorrow. It`s going to be a really fun couple of weeks. SCHMIDT: Absolutely. It`s going to be exciting. MADDOW: All right. Tonight on a special Republican National Convention edition of "Debunktion Junction" -- (MUSIC) MADDOW: A little death metal, I know, finally, right? That and other Tampa centric clarifications, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction," what`s my function? OK. True or false, inside the event zone in which they are holding the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week, you may carry six feet of this legally? You may carry six feet of this legally. You may carry six feet of this legally. But you may not carry six feet of this legally. This one is illegal, inside the event zone around the Tampa Bay Times Forum where the Republicans are holding their convention. Is that true or is that false? True. That is true. Back in April, we reported that the Tampa City Council had voted on and passed a new set of special security rules and regulations for the duration of the Republican convention. Their first draft prohibited any rope, string, cable, or wire longer than six inches. Handguns, of course, were still allowed. Heaven forbid there be any restriction there, but a seven-inch piece of string, that was way too dangerous. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t be afraid. I have weapons on me. I have six and seven-inch pieces of string. This is not a weapon. Somehow, this is. What is it about the string? What does seven inches -- I do have one made into a tiny noose. That`s as best we could figure that seven inches of string might do some harm. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After reported on Tampa`s proposed ban on string longer than six inches, the city decided to tweak their new rules. Here`s the new rule. Prohibited items in the event zone include: rope, cable, strapping, wire, string, line, tape, having the tensile strength of greater than 30 pounds and a length greater than six feet -- not six inches, six feet. So this 20-pound fly fishing tippet from Orvis is legal. This 30- pound test is legal, too. Even if you have 6 1/2 feet of it, but this 40- pound test, this is illegal. Well, actually, five feet and 11 inches of this is legal. But 6`1" of it, that`s illegal. That`s all true. Those are the rules. And now it`s the job of police officers to eyeball the tensile strength of various lengths of string to discern the difference between this and this. True. Amazing and true. All right. Next up. True or false? Tampa, the fine, fine city of Tampa, the host city, weather permitting for the Republican convention, Tampa is the strip club capital of the country. The magazine "GQ" calls Tampa the strip club capital of America. "The New York Daily News" calls it the strip club capital of America, the incomparable Chris Rock calls Tampa the strip club capital of the world. Tampa, Florida, the strip club capital of the country or even the world, is that true or false? False. No matter what you have heard. In terms of strip clubs and adult entertainment per capita, Tampa looks into this and concluded that Las Vegas is actually number one. Put Tampa doesn`t even come in second. Tampa has fewer strip clubs per capita than Las Vegas and fewer per capita than Cincinnati does. So Tampa -- strip club capital of the country, no matter what you have heard, that is false. Cincinnati, it turns out, is way strip clubbier, way. And finally, true or false -- while Tampa may not be called the strip club capital of the country, may not be called that accurately, you may have also heard in advance of the Republican national convention, that Tampa is the death metal capital of America. If you watch a death metal music video with the sound off, it sort of just looks like hair metal maybe with a little extra eye makeup, a little more blue filter on the lens. But when you turn the sound up, ah, then you realize it`s something else entirely. It`s the kind of metal that has the deathly guttural howling and the yay for Satan, anti-Jesus plot lines. Tampa, Florida, the site Republicans picked for their convention may not be able to hold a candle to Cincinnati when it comes to strip clubs per capita, but America`s death capital mecca, is that true or false? True. That is a true thing. Tampa is considered the birth place of death metal. It`s home to such famous death metal bands as Deicide, that was their music video we played a clip of a moment ago. Also, the well- known band Obituary. Also, Hate Eternal and Morbid Angel and the band Cannibal Corpse, which Bob Dole tried to make very famous in the `90s when he criticized them publicly the year before he ran for president. Bob Dole`s friends at Cannibal Corpse, they were not from Tampa, they`re from New York, but they moved to Tampa because Tampa is America`s home sweet home for death metal. That is true. Death metal is the honest to goodness traditional Tampa experience. If you`re in Tampa for the Republican convention, don`t go to a strip club. Wait in until you go to Cincinnati. Death metal you should check out. And depending on where you go to the show, you`re probably safe bringing in 6`2" of string with this tensile strength. Maybe. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The forcible versus legitimate rape storyline that the Republican Party really did not want to drag into convention week has been dragged into convention week by the party`s presidential nominee himself tonight. Rather unexpected comments from Mitt Romney personally on the subject. We`ve got that straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In 2008, John McCain lost African-American voters really, really badly, and he lost Latino voters really, really badly. He lost Asian voters really badly, and he lost other races that are not African- American or Latino or Asian really badly. Even though he still lost overall, the only way he was able to get the race as close as he did was because he did win a majority of the white vote. He won 55 percent of the white vote. Right now, the Romney/Ryan campaign is doing about the same with Latinos, a little worse, they`re doing even worse with African-Americans. Ron Brownstein crunched the numbers at "The National Journal" over the last few days and determined if white people make up the same proportion of the electorate as they did in `08, the magic number that Mr. Romney needs to reach among the white voting population is 61 percent. He needs 61 percent of the white vote. That means he needs to capture a lot more of the white vote than John McCain did four years ago. He needs more of the white vote than George W. Bush got when he was re-elected in 2004. He needs more of the white vote than George W. Bush got the first time around as well. He needs to beat Bob Dole in the white vote by 15 points. He needs to do more than 20 points better than Poppy Bush did when he lost to Bill Clinton. He even needs to do better than Poppy Bush with white voters when Poppy Bush won. He needs a higher proportion of the white vote than any Republican candidate has in 28 years when Ronald Reagan was reelected with a nearly 20-point overall landslide margin. The only other modern election in which a Republican got a higher portion of the white vote was Nixon in `72 when Nixon won the election overall by 25 points. So essentially, he won everyone. Even among people who think Mitt Romney is going to win the election, nobody thinks he`s going to win it by 19 points the way Reagan did or by 25 points the way Nixon did. And in the absence of a landslide, an overall landslide that big, how on earth can you plan to get that huge a proportion of white voters. Who knows if it`s feasible, but Lord knows he`s trying. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I was born in Harper Hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this was the place that we were born and raised. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s amazing. Nobody is curious about my origins and my status as an American, nobody -- unlike some other secret Kenyan presidents we all know, am I right? What`s the difference, peeps? The Romney campaign is still also running ads about welfare, ads that are blatantly, racially charges -- showing images of hard working white people and telling them their black president is going to start handing out welfare checks to people who won`t even look for a job. As a special bonus, the policy claims behind these very highly racially charged ads has been thoroughly debunked as the birther nonsense has. It`s just made up entirely in terms of policy matters. But the Romney campaign is sticking with the strategy of campaigning on welfare. As our friend Ezra Klein pointing out at "The Washington Post" today, the Romney campaign is running more ads about welfare than just about any other issue now. Of the 12 most recent ads posted to his campaign Web site, five are about welfare. That`s more than dedicated to health care, more than the number dedicated to introducing Paul Ryan, more than the number dedicated to the economy. So, it`s the jobs, jobs, welfare queen platform. Let`s talk about welfare. Mr. Romney for his part took the stoking welfare strategy further this weekend defending the welfare ads to "USA Today" and accusing the president of taking this action he didn`t actually take on welfare as a calculation that was designed to shore up the Obama base before the election. As if people on welfare are Barack Obama`s base, especially the lazy ones. Don`t expect this to stop, though. The Romney folks need to get to 61 percent of white voters somehow, and the Romney campaign apparently believes this welfare queen thing is working. Romney campaign aides insisting to CBS News their racially dog whistling factually inaccurate welfare ads are totally working. The ads are helping the campaign gain ground with middle class voters who are anxious about the economy. I wonder what other kinds of ads might help the Romney campaign gain ground with these middle class voters they`re reaching out for? The big media guy at the main pro Romney super PAC is the man who produced one of the most racist television ads in history, the infamous Willie Horton ad. Maybe he`ll have some ideas. A Republican strategist told Ron Brownstein for his "National Journal" piece a couple of days ago, quote, "This is the last time anyone will try to do this." Meaning this is the last time anyone will try to run a presidential campaign aimed at winning a slim majority of votes overall by winning a big majority of white votes. Presumably, this is the last time we`ll see this strategy because white voters alone will not be enough to win an election in the coming years as the country changes. And it might not be enough this year. But this year, the Republicans are almost 90 percent white. The new Pew numbers say in terms of self-identified Republicans, it`s 89 percent white now, and the calculus the Romney campaign appears to be making is if they can maximize that vote, if they can maximize the white vote by any means necessary, maybe they can win with nobody else supporting them -- which means we`re about to find out if you can win a presidential election in this country in the year 2012, by deliberately running against minority voters. Joining us now is Bob Herbert. He`s a distinguished senior fellow at Demos, a progressive policy think tank and advocacy group. Bob, thank you for being here. BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: How are you, Rachel? MADDOW: I hear you reacting to the way I was laying that out. Is it because you can`t believe they`re doing this? Or do you think that their reasoning is faulty? HERBERT: You know, Mitt Romney has so many problems. He`s an unappealing candidate. He`s not a very good politician, and he`s running a campaign without a message. It`s a campaign that doesn`t have a theme. So what he`s essentially doing is going all over the place, saying, you know, white people please vote for me. It`s the only route that he and his advisers see to an electoral victory this November. But, you know, I think -- I think in 2012, in the 21st century, you can`t win an election if that`s the only thing that you`ve got going for you. I still think that racial appeals work. I still think that there is -- there are a fair number of people in this country who -- a fair number of whites who are hostile to blacks, who do not want a black president. I don`t think it`s anything close to a majority of whites. So if he needs to attract white votes to win this election and he does, it would seem to me that what would be better is to try to put forth a campaign that honestly appeals to the concerns of white voters in this country. You could start with having a plan to develop jobs, having a plan to build a stronger economy, and that sort of thing. And especially if they`re talking about middle class white voters because I think that is a crucial voting bloc. So, if you`re talking about middle class suburban voters, for example, I don`t believe they like racist appeals. I don`t think they like extremist appeals of the right or the left. You know, so it just seems to me that it`s not a great strategy. MADDOW: The other thing that`s going on around the convention, obviously, beyond the party`s control is the weather and the rescheduling and the rejiggering of the schedule that that entails which involves losing a little bit of their message. They wanted to have sort of theme days for each of the convention. They`re trying to stick with some of the themes but that`s screwed up. But the other thing that has happened is they have brought a lot of the socially conservative issues into the discussion this week. The welfare stuff is so blatantly racial that it brings the racial discussion into mainstream discussion about what their strategy is. This isn`t a cockamamie theory that I have cooked up about what Romney is doing. It is blatantly, this is what they`re doing. But there`s also the stuff going on about abortion, and there`s a split in the party about that, which is going to be aired out a little bit I think with the Mike Huckabee speech likely, and what some of the fights that are on the floor, but they`re also bringing that up themselves. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both doing interviews about that in the last few days. What happens in terms of their appeal racially to bring -- when they put forth those social issues up front? Does that affect any of the racial inflection they`ve got? HERBERT: You know, I think it`s all of a piece, and I think it`s -- instead of forward looking, it`s really backward looking. So, when you start talking about the social issues, what Mitt Romney is allowing to happen now is that he`s becoming identified personally with all of these issues. He`s got Paul Ryan on the ticket now, so you have that whole rape/abortion issues that they don`t know how to talk about. They`re on the wrong side of the issue and they don`t know how to try to explain it. (CROSSTALK) HERBERT: Yes, exactly. And then they`re doing these blatant racial appeals, you know? And then they`ve got, you know, an economic program that consists solely of tax cuts for the very wealthy. And what`s happening, I think, is that the voters are seeing that this is who Mitt Romney is. That he is not the moderate who has had to sort of play along with the right wing of his party in order to get the nomination, but he`s basically a practical pragmatic moderate guy. But now he`s being identified with all of these extremist issues. And I don`t think that overall that plays well. MADDOW: I don`t think it`s the narrative he intended, certainly. It`s interesting to see him off his game. Part of what presidents have to do is talk when the script goes wrong. HERBERT: Yes, exactly right. MADDOW: Fascinating stuff. Bob Herbert, extinguish senior fellow at Demos -- Bob, it`s great to see you. Thank you. HERBERT: You, too, Rachel. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. The leader of a conservative poll watching group reportedly said he wants to make voting like driving and seeing the police following you. There was some fresh action on that today, an important update about how hard it will be for people to vote in perhaps the swingiest of all swing states this year. Update on that is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: News and lots of it from the great state of Ohio tonight, where we have been covering the Republican Party`s attempts in that state to make voting a lot harder. Last week, we told you about a group called True the Vote, which grew out of a Tea Party chapter in Houston. True the Vote exists to challenge voters. They challenge voters` registrations, and then they challenge voters when they turn up at the polls. The first time they challenged voters at the polls was in the Houston area, where they`re from, in 2010. True the Vote appears to have mostly targeted black voting precincts, sending white challengers to stare down voting booths filled with black voters. There were so many reports of an intimidating atmosphere in Houston that election that the federal Justice Department sent observers in on Election Day. True the Vote has had some big injection of funding of some kind. They don`t say who their backers are. But now they`re planning to have a million poll watchers trained in time for November, all across America. They say every precinct in America will get watched. True the Vote has been holding summits in key swing states. They held one in Florida last month. They held one in Colorado, where the Republican secretary of state took time off from his low-profile purge of Colorado voter rolls to give a speech to the group. And in Ohio, where this Tea Party-organized challenge voters at the polls True the Vote group planned an event for this past weekend, this past Saturday. You might ask yourself where this power comes from, right? Challenging voters? Why do we have laws on the books that allow for challenging voters at their polling place? Well, in Ohio, the answer to that question is particularly ugly. In the mid-1800s, Ohio passed it a law that made it the duty of election judges to challenge anybody who showed up to vote and had a, quote, "distinct and visible admixture of African blood." The voter would then be asked a series of questions about their heritage and where their kids went to school and the voter had to produce two witnesses about their heritage. Any judge who accepted the vote of a person with a distinct and visible admixture of African blood faced up to six months in jail. That was how challenging voters worked in Ohio in the mid-1800. Much more recently, in 2004, the courts blocked a plan by Republicans to put 3,500 poll watchers in Ohio precincts. The way the Republicans wanted to use those poll watchers, the way the courts rejected, it would have meant that 97 percent of new voters in mostly black precincts would face a challenge, compared to only 14 percent of new voters in majority white precincts. This year, the challenge in Ohio -- the question, I should say, in Ohio is about when you will be allowed to vote. Ohio`s new Republican majority cut out the last three days of voting before the election, including the weekend hours that had been especially popular with Ohio African-American voters. Ohio`s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, at first also went along with the plan to allow more early voting time in Ohio`s Republican counties, and less early voting time in Ohio`s Democratic counties. Under public pressure, Mr. Husted, instead, announced that he was cutting early voting for everyone. So it`s limited hours at night and no weekends. As we reported on this show last week, Ohio`s embattled secretary of state then showed up here on the list of featured speakers for the Tea Party challenge the voters/True the Vote summit in Ohio this weekend! After we reported on that late last week, well, wait, suddenly his name fell off the list. Ohio secretary of state suddenly was not going to attend the True the Vote summit anymore, even though he`d previously been on their schedule. True the Vote`s summit did happen. Jon Husted`s appearance did not. So now Mr. Husted`s office is not returning our calls. They used to return our calls, but since we started asking about his scheduled appearance at True the Vote, they have gone radio silent on us. And that`s not all. God bless Ohio. Among Ohio`s several troubles with running elections is that a great many people tend to turn up at the wrong polling places or even at the wrong precinct table in the right polling place. By the tens of thousands, Ohio ends up throwing out those people`s votes. It`s a known problem in Ohio elections. But a judge today in Ohio put that law on hold. The judge said it was not acceptable for so many thousands of Ohio voters to have their votes wasted because a poll worker made a mistake and told a person to vote in the wrong spot. This might be my favorite Jon Husted favorite sentence of the day. Quote, "A Husted spokesman said an appeal was likely." The Husted spokesman did not say that to us, of course, but, still, apparently they`re going to appeal, because they want were of those votes thrown out. Anytime, Mr. Husted, you would like to talk about this with me one on one, I would love to have you hear on this show. Anytime. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On CBS News tonight, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked again about abortion rights. There is some stuff to clear up on this issue, right? He chose for his vice presidential nominee a man who co-sponsored legislation with the famous Todd Akin, redefining specific kinds of rape for the purpose of abortion policy. Since then, when Paul Ryan has been asked about his own hard-line position on abortion, even for rape victims, Mr. Ryan has responded by assuring his interviewers that only the president makes abortion policy, so don`t worry. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But let`s remember, I`m joining the Romney/Ryan ticket, and the president makes policy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So don`t worry about my policy, it`s the president who makes policy, and there`s no chance that as vice president, I would ever become president. See the problem with that argument? Well, now watch how Mr. Romney himself compounded that problem tonight on CBS. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: This is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court. The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It`s been settled for some time in the courts. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "This is a matter for the courts." Abortion rights are settled law in the courts. Only the Supreme Court could change that. And it`s not like the president has anything to do with who`s on the Supreme Court. You see the problem with this as an argument, right? Why have they not come up with a better answer for this stuff yet? It`s almost like they don`t want to. 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