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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/03/12

Guests: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. This is going to be a very exciting week. I`m looking forward to our big joint coverage. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Well, I guarantee that the Democrats will have more personality than the last group. MADDOW: I don`t know. I think there was some personality on display last week. SCHULTZ: I think Brian Schweitzer will take care of that in one speech. MADDOW: That`s fair enough. He can out-personality pretty much anybody in politics. Thanks, man. I`ll see you tomorrow. SCHULTZ: Absolutely. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. You know, there was a funny moment on the campaign trail today. President Obama was campaigning in Ohio today. He was talking to a big fired up crowd in Toledo. And even though the president is a pretty reliably good speaker, there is a certainly predictability to his speeches -- by necessity, right? I mean, he`s a candidate, he gives stump speeches. You pretty much know the broad strokes of what you`re going to hear about. You`re going to hear about the middle class. You`re going to hear about the auto bailout working when Mitt Romney said Detroit should go bankrupt, you`re going to hear about ending the war in Iraq, he`s going to say that thing about every American getting their fair shot and every American doing our fair share and everybody playing by the same rules. I mean, if you are a fan, a fan enough to go to a speech like this, you likely know what you`re going to hear in broad strokes. But today, today on the campaign trail, there was this moment in Ohio where the crowd totally thought that President Obama was going somewhere that he was not actually going. They started to audibly react as if he was talking about something that they pretty clearly really wanted him to talk about. But he was not going where they thought he was. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, there was one person at Governor Romney`s convention last week who wasn`t entirely on script. No, no -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No, no. The crowd is sort of half booing and half starting to applaud, and a little excitement that President Obama is about to talk about the off-script guy from last week, right? He`s going to talk about this Clint Eastwood thing from the Republican convention. But that is not what the president is about to do at all. Behold an oratorical letdown in Ohio. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: There was one person at Governor Romney`s convention last week who wasn`t entirely on script. No, no. Because while they were busy telling folks how bad everything is, your governor, John Kasich, John Kasich stood up there and told everybody that Ohio is now number one in the Midwest in job creation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama making a substantive point about Ohio`s economy and how Mitt Romney wants to say the Ohio economy is terrible because he wants to blame President Obama for that. But in Ohio, the Republican governor of Ohio is actually saying our economy is doing kind of great right now, because he want to take the credit for himself. He`s making that substantive point. But, of course, what the crowd thought President Obama was going to do there was talk about the most memorable thing that happened at the Republican convention. Although the Romney campaign and the Republicans have tried to put a little shine on the Clint Eastwood disaster, they tried to say in the press how Mitt Romney personally thought it was such a great speech by Clint Eastwood. And it was a real high point for the convention and everybody loved it. You know, when the RNC released their inspirational recap video of the greatest moments of Mitt Romney`s Republican convention, when they released the video this week of the highlights, good old Clint Eastwood`s speech did not make the cut, did not make the highlight reel. Today, in this past weekend, there`s sort of a weird interregnum, over the holiday weekend but between the two conventions. Republicans just had their 72-hour infomercial for Mitt Romney and for the Republican Party. In this interregnum, and maybe through the Democrats` three days this upcoming week, the Republicans are supposed to be capitalizing on what they did last week. They`re supposed to be capitalizing on the momentum they built with their 72-hour infomercial. This is the part where you`re supposed to be campaigning at warp speed. In 1992, after the Clinton/Gore convention, these guys did a 1,000- mile bus tour right after their convention. In 2000, after the Republican convention, George Bush and Dick Cheney left straight from their convention to Ohio and Michigan and Illinois to tour it by train. In 2004, John Kerry and John Edwards did the same sort of cross- country tour through Pennsylvania and West Virginia and Ohio and beyond. In 2008, Barack Obama and Joe Biden went straight from their convention to Michigan and to Pennsylvania and to Ohio by bus. You`re supposed to go out there and make it stick, right? It is post- convention momentum time. Mitt Romney today is not on a bus tour, or a train tour, or any kind of tour. When you get to be the presidential nominee of your party, you have what`s called a press pool that follows you around at all times. It`s basically a small pool of reporters who track your every movement all day long 24 hours a day and then they distribute that information to the rest of the press. Well, today, the Mitt Romney press pool was informed at 10:00 a.m. that Mr. Romney was down for the day. That he had no events scheduled. The press was essentially told to stand down, Romney watch is over for the day, nothing to see here. You can leave, you got nothing to cover. That was at about 10:00 a.m. Then, an hour and a half later, this almost never happens, the press was called back into action after being told that he was down for the day, they were informed an hour and a half later that Mr. Romney actually was going to be on the move. So the press pool immediately had to snap into action in order to cover this event. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Mr. Romney taking his boat out for a spin, on a lake. Instead of a cross country whistle stop tour, Mr. Romney spent the day boating, and also jet skiing with his family in a lake in New Hampshire. They reopened the press pool for that, after closing it for the day earlier. Mr. Romney had no campaign events yesterday. He had no campaign events today, unless something is happening on this boat, and he had no public events scheduled for the rest of the entire week. You know, that`s their call. They can do whatever they want to do. They can put Clint Eastwood on network primetime coverage instead of the candidate intro video, do what you want, it`s your campaign. But it`s not like they have it in the bag here and they can be this relaxed. Before the Democratic National Convention starts tomorrow, so while you can still isolate the impact of the Republican convention on voters` opinions about the two candidates, this right now is what the big Republican convention bump looks like in the polls. See, this part right here, what that is showing there, that`s the day before the Republican convention started last week. And then here`s the period of the convention, running all the way through today. Put this in the category of world`s least exciting graphs. Also, the world`s most imperceptible bounce. Blue is Obama, red is Romney. Those are the results from Gallup`s daily tracking poll. Gallup also measures reaction to the convention in terms of what people say what they saw of the convention will make them more likely or less likely to vote for the candidate in question. On that point, there`s a net two-point uptick for Romney from his convention, in terms of people saying they`re more likely or less likely to vote for him after having seen the convention. That net plus two is the lowest recorded impact for any convention from either party since 1984. In terms of Mr. Romney`s speech specifically, which is supposed to be the high point of any convention, even a convention that doesn`t include Clint Eastwood scolding an empty chair for 15 minutes, the nominee`s speech this year itself got the lowest rating of any nominee`s convention speech since they have been polling on nominee`s convention speeches which they started doing back in 1996. I mean, the news isn`t all totally bleak. There do seem to be little upticks in Mr. Romney`s favorability numbers and his numbers among Latinos, very small upticks. We`ll be talking about those a little bit later on. But basically, the Republican convention appears to have a negligible political impact and by the broadest measures, it appears to have no impact at all. And now the Romney campaign is responding to that by doing absolutely nothing to try to improve on that. I know they won`t take advice on me on how to campaign, but it`s a little weird. Their story is that Mr. Romney is too busy to do events this week because he`s doing debate prep for next month. But dude, there he is on a boat. Maybe Rob Portman is hidden on the boat prepping him and we can`t see him because the boat is going too fast or something. Is Rob Portman in the glove box? Do boats have glove boxes? I have no idea. On the other side, the Obama/Biden ticket is not taking time off. Vice President Biden was in Michigan today. He addressed the AFL-CIO. President Obama again was in Toledo talking to autoworkers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It`s working folks like you who fought for jobs and opportunity for generations of American workers. It`s working people like you who helped delay the cornerstones of middle class security. Things that people now sometimes take for granted, but weren`t always there, the 40-hour workweek, weekends, paid leave, pensions, the minimum wage, health care, Social Security, Medicare. Those things happened, because working people organized and mobilized. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, yes. Happy Labor Day. While support for people who have to work for a living and for union rights and for unions is a Democratic mainstay -- excuse me. I`m being attacked. Never mind. The current Democratic Party has had some trouble on this issue. They have arranged for their own party`s convention to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week, a place that has this number of unionized hotels. Zero. I know numbers are supposed to be tough on televisioning right, but this one is easy. None. It was a totally nonunion city in an anti-union state hosting the supposedly pro union political party. I mean, look at what`s in their party platform. Quote, "The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower administration." Wait, the Eisenhower administration? Yes, I`m told I`m not reading from the current Democratic Party platform. This is the Republican Party platform from 1956, from the Eisenhower era. OK, how about this letter from the president? Should any political party attempt to abolish labor laws, quote, "you would not hear from that party again in our political history. There`s a splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things." And what does the president think? Quote, he says, "Their number is negligible and they are stupid." Yes. Again, that`s not President Obama. That`s President Eisenhower again, from 1954. Republicans used to really like union rights. They used to think it was, and I`m quoting here, "stupid to try to get rid of them." Republicans used to be very much in favor of the rights of people who have to work for a living, their ability to join unions and advocate for better pay and conditions for themselves. Republicans used to think that was a really good thing for the country. Now? Not so much. In fact, quite the opposite. The dramatic turn in Republican politics toward venomous, open hostility to union rights, that isn`t just new symbolic, ideological politics of the kind that Ike called stupid back in 1954. It also has really practical political consequences. Because Democrats have tried to be the party of the people who have to work for a living and because Democrats have therefore supported union rights and other things that benefit working people, particularly when Republicans have been willing to take the opposite side of those fights on behalf of business interests, because of that, Democrats have long benefited from unions not just raising money for Democratic candidates, although they do that. But also unions being a huge part of the Democratic ground game, the "get out the vote" effort, knocking on doors, educating voters, that sort of thing. So when Republicans use public policy in the states to go after union rights, to try to destroy union rights and therefore to destroy unions, they went after a core institutional structure of the Democratic Party that makes it possible for there even to be a party that competes with the Republicans and all of the funding that the Republicans get from the corporate side. This is what campaign spending by outside groups looks like in the last presidential election in 2008. The two groups that spent the most money that year were labor unions and they mainly spent on behalf of Democrats and against Republicans. That`s `08. Then look what happened in 2010 after the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling and other Supreme Court rulings tearing down campaign finance laws. Look, this is 2010, the top 10. The big money on the right skyrocketed. Seven of the top 10 outside spending groups that year were on the right, largely fueled by corporation contributions. The only non- conservative groups that cracked the top 10 were unions, the only ones. When Republicans started going after union right in the states in the last two years, when they tried to effectively destroy unions, they knew exactly what the partisan impact of that would be. They were willing to talk about it. For example, they were willing to talk about it in Wisconsin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE SEN. SCOTT FITZGERALD (R), WISCONSIN: If we win this battle and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you`re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult - - a much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If you kill the unions, you kill them off as a structural support that Democrats rely on, Republicans win elections they wouldn`t otherwise win. Today, on Labor Day, President Obama went to Ohio where Republicans under John Kasich also tried and ultimately failed to kill union rights. Listen to the message that the president took to this union audience in Ohio today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Toledo, what you need to know is this. When they`re trying to take your collective bargaining rights away, when they`re trying to pass so-called right to work laws that really mean right to work for less and less, you should know this isn`t about economics. This is about politics. I don`t understand why these folks have the nerve to talk about you like you`re some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten down. After all that unions have done to build and protect the middle class, they were standing up there at their convention saying you`re responsible to the problems we face. The good news is starting on October 2nd, Ohio gets its say because you get to vote early. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) I`m counting on you. I`m counting on you. I`m counting on you. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney might be running kind of a strange campaign this year. But maybe you can afford to spend the week after your convention just boating around and jet skiing around when you really do have all of the money in the world to spend on your side of the campaign. We will see how the Democrats do with their convention this week, whether they`re able to get any more of a bump than the Republicans were able to get. But right now, head nothing to it, this race is basically tied, and close elections are won or lost as they always have been, in the ground game. And for that ground game, the Democrats have never needed their friends in the labor movement more than they do this year. And Republicans have never done more to help out the Democrats in trying to fully capture that audience given how aggressively they have attacked union rights in their states. Democrats need them and Democrats are in a position to be asking in a place that ought to be quite politically receptive to the argument. But unfortunately, Democrats are going to be asking unions for that help from their non-union venue in their nonunion town, where they`re putting up all of their delegates in non-union hotels. Why are Democrats making this so hard on themselves? Steve Kornacki joins us live from Charlotte, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: While there was no big general post-convention popularity bump for Mitt Romney, there was a teeny tiny bumplet, bump teeny, tiny thing from one group he must win in November. That`s just ahead. Bumpette? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We weren`t going to let Detroit going bankrupt or Lordstown go bankrupt or Toledo go bankrupt. I stood with American workers, I stood with American manufacturing, I believed in you. I bet on you. I`ll make that bet any day of the week, and because of that bet, three years later, that bet is paying off for America. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) The good news is starting on October 2nd, Ohio gets a say because you get to vote early. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was President Obama today in front of an enthusiastic crowd of union members in Toledo, Ohio. The president making his case for why he should be reelected and then he got specific on how he should be re- elected, saying that early voting starts in Ohio way sooner than I can get my head around. Early voting starts in Ohio in less than a month. Joining us now from the site of the DNC, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Steve Kornacki, the host of MSNBC`s 3:00 Eastern show, "THE CYCLE." Steve is also a senior writer for Steve, thanks for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Sure. Happy to do it. MADDOW: So, how much does union support matter to the Democrats in terms of their ground game, their get out the vote efforts, everything they need to do to convey that political messaging into votes? KORNACKI: I think it matters maybe even more than it did in the past. You started to outline the reasons there in the last segment. And what it really gets down to is the ground game because I think we`re at the point now in this campaign where we can say, look, if you combine the money that the campaigns have with the outside money, with the super PAC money, it`s pretty clear that Obama is going to be outspent here by Romney and by the Republicans. But the bigger implication, the bigger problem the Democrats have is that`s going to trickle down the ballot as well. So, you start talking about Senate races, you start talking about House races, you talk about gubernatorial races on the ballot this year, and you start talking about state legislative races and you have seen since 2010 when Republicans won control of all these statehouses and suddenly, you know, all of this sort of right-to-work type legislation was advanced in all of these states, a lot of the action is playing out down there. So, you look at all those races and if you have the sort of disparity, the financial disparity in those races, you`re going to have in the presidential race, if you have that disparity and it`s even more pronounced and I think that`s very likely to be the case, then you really need something to go against them. If it`s not going to be money, the only thing you have left is the ground game. And so, if you want to say there`s a silver lining here for the Democrats in the Citizens United decision of 2010, which I`d say, you know, organized labor obviously has spoken out against and opposed, but the silver lining is this: the Citizens United decision freed organized labor to set up actual full scale political operations like they couldn`t before. You know, the old rule for labor was, you know, in the election season, they would provide people -- people would be sort of farmed out to work with Democratic campaigns, to work with campaign organizations. Now, labor is free to set up its own organization. So you take people who have experience doing these campaigns who have experience organizing them, working on them, labor can now organize its own campaign, can target its own resources. And honestly, that`s hugely important to Democrats right now because if they`re going to be outspent in all these races, if they`re going to have a shot, I keep saying the action really is down ballot because Obama can overcome a spending disparity theoretically in the way that the average House, the average Senate candidate can`t. Ground game is a huge part of that. And that`s really that`s where they need labor right now. MADDOW: Well, Steve, in terms of -- it`s a really important point about how they could potentially do even more this year than they have done in the past, and we know from past experience how important they`ve been to Democrats. Given that, have Democrats screwed things up with the unions by putting their convention in Charlotte, which is an anti-union town, has no unionized hotels, and they really, I think, gave unions the back of the hand when they made this decision that they were going to go there over labor objections? KORNACKI: I think there`s something to be said for that, and obviously, the calculation that the Democrats said and really that the Obama White House had in making North Carolina the site was they sort of saw it as the premiere swing state, they sort of saw it as, you know, our future is winning over states like North Carolina where there`s changing demographic patterns and we can make inroads to a region in the South where we have been shut out for decades, really almost for generations at the presidential level. So, that was the calculation. I will be honest with you, I heard when the decision to go to charlotte for the convention was announced, I heard a lot more grumbling, a lot more over outrage from labor than I`m actually picking up here. And for various reasons today, the weather included, I wasn`t able to get out as much as I wanted to. But the labor people I have spoken to here, yes, if you ask them, should the convention have been held in a right-to-work state, the answer comes back right away -- no, they`re disappointed. They wish it was elsewhere, they don`t really get the logic. But when you start asking them, does that translate, are you going to sit on your hands? Are the people you know who are back home going to sit on their hands? I`m not picking up on that right here. Again, these are people that the true believers more so, I guess, but I`m not picking up on it here as much as I was a few months ago. MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, co-host of MSNBC`s 3:00 Eastern show "THE CYCLE," also senior writer for "Salon" -- Steve, this is going to be fun to cover this. Thanks for being with us. I`m looking forward to it. KORNACKI: Happy to do it. Thanks. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Still ahead, absolutely nothing at all about Paul Ryan saying he ran a marathon more than an hour faster than he actually did. There will be nothing further on that on this show because, my God, what can you say about that, seriously? We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You know that Mitt Romney did not mention the war that our country is fighting right now during his speech accepting his party`s nomination for president. But do you know why he says he didn`t mention it in the speech? It`s a very strange answer. Stay tuned. That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: For a decade I have been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, we put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they have been brought there by no fault of their own, I don`t think you have a heart. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: My friend Governor Perry said that if you don`t agree with his position on giving that in-state tuition to illegals, that you don`t have a heart. I think if you`re opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn`t mean you don`t have a heart. It means you have a heart and a brain. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney staked out a position on immigration specifically that was far to right of even his own party, which was pretty far to the right and he`s been pretty blunt about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) ROMNEY: So we went to the company and 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. The answer is self deportation, if they`re going to self-deport. JOHN KING, CNN: You`ve talked, Governor, about self deportation if businesses do their job asking for the right documents. The people will leave. But what about arresting? Should there be aggressive seek them out, arrest them and arrest as Sheriff Arpaio advocates? ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona. The question is, if I were elected and Congress would have passed the DREAM Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: How does a candidate with those policies make an appeal for Latino voters in an election year? Well, he sends other people to do it for him, preferably, in Espanol. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (SPEAKING SPANISH) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: At this year`s Republican National Convention, not just his Mitt Romney`s one Spanish-speaking son, but every statewide elected Latino Republican in the country got a primetime speaking spot, every one. Plus, another guy who wasn`t even elected, he just won a primary. Welcome to primetime, Ted Cruz. Republican Latinos luminaries introduced Ann Romney and Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney himself. How did it go over to not talk at all about Mitt Romney`s politics, his policies on an issue of particular concern to Latino voters, immigration, how did it go to not talk about policies at all and instead to just go primetime with Latino speakers who did not talk about those policies either, but who did that not talking about it while themselves being Latino? Well, the first round of post-convention Latino Decisions polling is in. Look at this -- 62 percent of Latino voters said the prominent speaking rolls for Latinos at the convention had no effect on them as voters. But, however, the strategy did actually move the polls a little. For a convention where it appears Mr. Romney got almost no eve overall measurable bump, he did get a little movement with Latino voters. Mr. Romney moved from 26 points among Latinos up to 30 points, 26 to 30. Proportionately, that`s a pretty big jump, four points. And yet he is still more than doubled up by Barack Obama. Barack Obama still beating him two to one. In theory, Republicans could be doing much better than this. Theoretically, Republicans have some room to move here on policy. President Obama, as you know, has been very hard-nosed on border security. He`s been deporting people at a really quite remarkable clip. President Obama said he would get the DREAM Act passed for immigration reform, but he was not able to do it. The Democratic-controlled House passed it, but the Democrats in the Senate could not figure out a way how to get it past the Republican filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it his biggest regret from that Congress that they didn`t get the DREAM Act passed, too. But Republicans looked at all of the room to work in terms of policy and decided instead of trying to appeal to Latino voters on policy, they would pass a platform, a national platform calling for the establishment of English as the official language of the United States. They called for the Arizona papers please laws to be emulated across the country. And then the author of the Arizona papers please law, Mitt Romney`s immigration adviser, Kris Kobach, left the GOP platform committee in order to go sue the Obama administration to try to stop the mini version of the DREAM Act the president brought about by executive order because, of course,. Republicans in Congress remain totally hostile to it now even though long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, it was a Republican act in the first place. Latino voters are the nation`s fastest growing bloc of voters, which any political strategist can tell you in his or her sleep. Latino voters are the reason Democrats think Texas is going to be a swing state as early as 2016. And to the extent that Republicans want to woo those voters now in 2012, they`re not trying to do it on policy. They`re trying to do it on identity politics alone. It is a big gamble for them, actually, as a party. So far it`s paying off in very, very, very tiny poll numbers. Democrats get their chance to try to claw those numbers back this upcoming week. Joining us now is Victoria DeFrancesco Soto. She`s a visiting scholar at the University of Texas-Austin, a contributor to NBC Latino. Professor, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s nice to have you here. VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks. Good to be here. MADDOW: What makes a bigger difference on Election Day? Kind of soft focus, identity politics stuff like spotlighting lots of Latino speakers, or policy that is of specific interest to Latino voters? If you have to pick one to build a campaign around, which would you choose? SOTO: Well, it also depends on what voters you`re trying to reach. In the Latino Decisions poll, we saw no movement whatsoever with Democrats in terms of being drawn to the Marco Rubios and the Susana Martinezes, But when we separated it out to independents, we saw a draw with 30 percent of the independent Latinos saying they felt they were closer to the Republican Party. But the identity is not going to get you enough. What Republicans are trying to do is going on it with economy, because Latinos were the hardest hit by the economic recession, losing 66 percent of their wealth, unemployment still in the double digits, highest poverty rates. So, what we need is for the president to acknowledge this hardship and say, this is the plan I`m going to lay out to get you back on your feet, especially because Latinos are wage earners. But at the same time, the president and the Democratic Party has to be very careful with immigration. They have to acknowledge it, but not remind Latinos too much of the unbroken promise. MADDOW: In terms of the unbroken promise, the president went much of the way toward making good on that promise he could as an individual with his executive action that people are sort of calling the mini DREAM Act. We saw the rather inspirational site last month with people lining up at offices across the country to try to take advantage of the program he`s put in place. We also see the Republican author of the "papers please" law in Arizona. Mr. Romney`s immigration adviser suing to stop it. I know immigration isn`t the only issue. But on that issue in particular, does the president sort of get credit for trying or is it the fact they weren`t able to get the full DREAM Act passed really still the main issue? SOTO: I think Latinos are still sore at the fact that he promised the big comprehensive immigration reform, and he didn`t get it passed. But that being said, I think Latinos are not dwelling on that. They`re shifting their focus to the economy and saying, we trust you. And we see this in the poll numbers, that they trust the president in terms of going forward into the economy. So immigration, I think, is going to go on the back burner for Latinos, both in terms of Democratic strategy and the Republican strategy. The Republicans don`t want to touch it, as we saw with the RNC, and the president wants to highlight what he has done and also what he`s going to do for Latinos economically. MADDOW: When we see the president talk on the economy, right now, he`s been more and more bringing into the discussion the issue of entitlements, the issue of the Republicans proposals on Medicare, talking about protecting Social Security. Paul Ryan and Congress has a radical privatization proposals on Social Security. Are those the types of issues that have specific resonance among Latinos? SOTO: Absolutely, Rachel. We know from polling that over 60 percent of Latinos support the Affordable Care Act, 70 percent of Latinos don`t want a change in Social Security. Latinos are progressive. They see government as being able to bring change into their lives, help them with educational policies, social policy. At the core, Latinos ideologically line up with the progressive Democratic agenda. MADDOW: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, visiting scholar at UT-Austin, and NBC Latino contributor, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate it. SOTO: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Something all of the pundits were wrong about, myself included, about this convention-palooze we find ourselves in the middle of right now. We were all wrong about it and it turns out to matter quite a bit. That`s ahead. That`s coming up right at the end to tonight show. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: As the Democratic convention gets under way, the man of the next 72 hours in Charlotte, North Carolina, is, of course, President Obama. But as soon as this show is done here tonight, MSNBC is going to be airing a brand new documentary hosted by Chris Matthews that`s called "Barack Obama: Making History." It tracks the president`s political life back to its beginning and up to right now. The film starts right after us at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. We`re all really, really looking forward to it. But before that, we`ll be right back here with a thing that everybody got wrong, including me, about the conventions this year. Hold on, I`m right back for that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: At the Republican nominating convention, a whole string of up and coming Republican political stars, mostly told their own inspiring stories. They did not talk all that much about Mitt Romney. Chris Christie waited more than 1,700 words into his speech before he even mentioned Mr. Romney. Marco Rubio`s speech was 1,700 words long. It contained a grand total of two sentences about Mitt Romney, total. And that was the speech that was supposed to introduce Mr. Romney. Mr. Romney`s big show in Tampa was neat. It was mostly well-produced. It was at times inspiring, particularly for people who already agree with Mr. Romney. But it was not really about Mr. Romney very much at all. But what is maybe more surprising than how little we heard of Mr. Romney last week, is how much we heard of the man George W. Bush. We made a big deal on this show about the fact that George W. Bush was not going to the Republican convention. We noted it, everyone noted it. It seemed important, right? After having left the country fighting two wars and in financial catastrophe -- just financial ruin four short years ago, Mr. Bush`s party seems not ready to embrace him or his legacy. And it is true that Mr. Bush did not go to the convention. He was not there in person. But it turned out he didn`t really need to be there in person. His stamp was all over the place in Tampa. Beyond the glossy, "he was a nice guy" video, substantively, George W. Bush`s foreign policy was the foreign policy of this Republican convention. And apparently, it is the foreign policy of the Republican Party`s presidential nominee this year. Mr. Bush`s brother Jeb front-paged his convention speech with a well- received defense/celebration of George W. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: My granddad, my grandfather and my father have been incredible role models for me and served our country honorably. And my brother, well, I love my brother. (APPLAUSE) BUSH: He is a man of integrity, courage, and honor. And during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, of course, not to be blunt here, but not counting 9/11 against his brother`s record of keeping America safe, and not counting any of the people hurt or killed in the Iraq war either. But invoking George W. Bush`s role on the world stage was met with enthusiastic applause from the convention floor. And in her speech, Condoleezza Rice bragged about the Bush administration`s post-9/11 decision making. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In the aftermath of 9/11, the willingness to take really hard, hard decisions that secured us - - (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: By which she means going to war in Iraq, which actually was not a really, really hard, hard decision at all for the Bush administration. According to the president`s own former treasury secretary, it was something they had started planning the month they took office. There was a surprising amount of George W. Bush invoked at the RNC, more than anybody expected. And the tone was never repentant. There was never a lesson learned message about what went wrong about the George W. Bush years. When George W. Bush was brought up, wherever the Bush administration was namedropped or appeared on stage, it was always celebratory, reverential even. And for their first national security speech at the convention, they brought on John McCain -- John McCain who drew a straight line from George W. Bush foreign policy to today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: By committing to withdraw from Afghanistan before peace can be achieved and sustained, the president has discouraged our friends and emboldened our enemies. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Cutting and running. Why stop at 13 years of war when you can just stay indefinitely? Senator McCain said we should not end the war in Afghanistan. He also called for new American military intervention in Syria and Iran. Because he is John McCain and that`s what he does. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: That old -- that old Beach Boy song, bomb Iran. You know, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You seeing him there doesn`t mean this is their current way of thinking. Maybe they just gave the old bomb, bomb, bomb Iran guy one more spin around the parking lot, because they were too embarrassed to disinvite him from their convention, maybe. Maybe not. When Mitt Romney, the nominee himself, took the stage, his tone on foreign policy was the same kind of straight line from George W. Bush that John McCain took up. The same Iran stuff, right? With an extra bonus of threatening Russia as well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We`re still talking and Iran`s centrifuges are still spinning. He`s eager to give Russia`s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. (BOOS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Remember when John McCain wanted us to go to war with Russia during the last presidential campaign? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: The small nation of Georgia has been subject to Russian attacks that threaten its very existence. Today, we are all Georgians. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the Republican nominee for president then in 2008, essentially threatening an American war with Russia. And now it`s the new nominee`s turn. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The only serious discussion of the Afghanistan war at the Republican convention was that clip you just heard from John McCain saying we should stay at war there forever. We do not actually know if Mr. Romney agrees with John McCain on that, the way he agrees with him on threatening wars with Russia and Iran. We don`t know whether or not he agrees with him, because Mitt Romney did not say anything at all in his acceptance speech about our current war in Afghanistan -- which on its face is stunning. It`s stunning even to the right. The conservative "Weekly Standard`s" Bill Kristol just excoriated Mr. Romney for it, saying, quote, "Leave aside the political wisdom of Romney`s silence and the opportunities it opens up for President Obama next week, what about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention in his acceptance speech a war we`re fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it?" Mitt Romney on Friday became the first Republican nominee to -- on Thursday, excuse me, became the first Republican nominee to not talk about war in his convention speech, in 60 years. And we are in a war. We are in a hot war. Mr. Romney mentioned World War II, he mentioned the Mexican Revolution. But Mitt Romney accepted the nomination to be president of the United States of America without a single word for the more than 80,000 Americans who are serving right now in Afghanistan. In an attempt to explain why that happened or why everybody should be OK with it, a senior Romney campaign aide, my friend, Eric Fehrnstrom, argued that Mr. Romney addressed the war in Afghanistan just the day before his convention speech, when he spoke to the American Legion in Indiana. In that American legion speech, it`s true, Mr. Romney did say two sentences about the war in Afghanistan. Literally, here`s exactly what he said. "We are still at war in Afghanistan. We still have uniformed men and women in conflict, risking their lives." That`s it. That`s the two sentences he uttered the day before his campaign speech. And that treatment of the war that we`re in right now is why his campaign says he didn`t have anything left to say about our current war the following day when he was accepting the nomination. I guess those two sentences exhausted it for him, pretty much. The day after the Republican convention wrapped up, President Obama went to Ft. Bliss, to talk to troops returning from and deploying to Afghanistan about the wind-down plan for the war there, and to announce a new executive order meant to ensure that veterans get their mental health claims taken care of. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And I know that you join me in saying to anyone who`s ever worn the uniform, if you`re hurting, it`s not a sign of weakness to seek help. It`s a sign of strength. We are here to help you stay strong, Army strong. That`s a commitment I`m making to you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president also talked about the drawdown plan in Afghanistan in his weekly radio address on Saturday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Next month, the last of the troops I ordered as part of the surge against the Taliban will come home. And by 2014, the transition to Afghan lead will be complete. But as long as we have a single American in harm`s way, we will continue to do everything in our power to keep them safe and help them succeed. That means giving them a clear mission and the equipment they need on the front lines. But it also means taking care of our veterans and their families, because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So that first clip you saw was Friday, that second one was from Saturday. And today out on the campaign trail in Ohio, the president highlighted the contrast between his plan for Afghanistan and what we surmise of Mitt Romney`s plans, even though he never talks about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: You get to decide what the future of the war in Afghanistan is. You know, last week, did you notice Governor Romney did not say a word about our troops, who are in harm`s way over there? And because of my plan, 33,000 of them will have come home by the end of this month. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) He said ending the war in Iraq was tragic. I think it was the right thing to do. I said we`d end that war, we did. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) I said we`d go after al Qaeda. We did. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) I said we`d take out bin Laden. We did. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know, issues of war and foreign policy are not all that partisan all the time. Republican Jon Huntsman`s campaign didn`t go anywhere this year and neither did Ron Paul`s this year, but both of these candidates were respected for and got support for running on the issue of Afghanistan, for saying what a lot of Republicans think, and a lot of independents think, and a lot of Democrats think, which is that we ought to end the Afghanistan war and leave now, not in 2014. You don`t win a medal for bravery for espousing a political position like that right now. It`s a pretty popular position. But Mitt Romney is no Jon Huntsman. He`s no Ron Paul. He`s afraid to even say the word "Afghanistan" at moments when it counts, let alone to visit the warzone on his pre-convention overseas tour. Let alone to make any arguments whatsoever that do not flow from the George W. Bush foreign policy brain trust that he has held over wholesale from the bad old Bush/Cheney years of foreign policy. Or does he not think they were bad old years? Because of that, the debate, the pressure on the president, on the life-and-death issue of the war and the more than 80,000 Americans facing in our name daily, because of that, that pressure will not come from President Obama`s political opponent. Mitt Romney punts on this one. He`s pretending it does not exist. This election will, therefore, fail us as a nation, as a means of having a robust debate about a war we are still waging, while more than two-thirds of Americans do not want us to be fighting it. Elections are supposed to help us close the gap between what we want and what we get as a nation, because enterprising competitive politicians are supposed to recognize and seize political opportunity, when a policy is deeply, profoundly unpopular. But Mitt Romney is not capable of that on this issue. And so that means the pressure on this issue, the pressure on the policy makers, if there is going to be any, will have to come from the people, from us. Because it seems like we care about this as a country, even if some of the people who say they want to lead us do not care about it. All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night at 7:00, as our coverage of the Democratic convention starts in prime-time. But right now, it is time for "Barack Obama: Making History" which is hosted by our own Chris Matthews. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END