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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/10/12

Guests: Dan Rather, Richard Hasen

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: People are watching this strike. It`s very interesting the issues. It`s not about the money, it`s about the kids. We`ll follow it again. 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. Thank you, my friend. SCHULTZ: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. The Romney/Ryan ticket just came out for legalizing pot -- I think. At least they did it for a second before they took it back. The Republican campaign had not previously been in favor of legalizing pot. Paul Ryan, as a member of Congress, had not only never voted for legalizing marijuana, he had never voted for legalizing medical marijuana. But now, Paul Ryan has gone to Colorado and said, you know what, it`s up to the states to decide. If Colorado wants to legalize pot, that is Colorado`s choice. Woo hoo! (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That`s up to Coloradans to decide. REPORTER: So even if federal platform says marijuana is illegal, you`re saying -- RYAN: Look, my personal position on these issues have been let the states decide what they want to do with these things. This is something that is not a high priority of ours, as to whether or not we go down this issue. But I`ve always believed that states should make the right to decide. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`ve always believed the state should have the right to decide. I mean, I realize that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney are behind in the polls. It`s kind of a surprising development that the Republican Party is running their presidential campaign now on a platform that states should be allowed to legalize pot. And yet, that appears to have been the Republicans position as of Friday, at roughly 5:30 p.m. local time in Colorado. But by noon, the following day on Saturday, they had changed their mind. Quote, "A Ryan spokesman later emphasized that Mr. Ryan agrees with Mitt Romney that marijuana should never be legalized." So the Republicans were for legalizing pot for about 18 hours. But they are no longer for that anymore. That particular issue and that issue in the state of Colorado has flummoxed the Romney campaign in the past. This was back in May. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Medical marijuana is legal in Colorado. One of our viewers Bill Fergusson (ph) asked, should marijuana be legalized for medical use? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Aren`t there issues of significance you`d like to talk about? The economy -- REPORTER: This is a significant issue in Colorado. ROMNEY: -- the growth of jobs. But you want to talk about -- REPORTER: Medical marijuana. ROMNEY: I think marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it`s a gateway drug to other drug violations. We`re going to do marriage. We do marijuana. I`m not running on marriage and marijuana. Those are state issues, right? Aren`t they? Really? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Romney getting testy with the reporter earlier this year in Colorado for even asking him about the issue of marijuana, which his running mate screwed up so badly this past weekend. Mr. Romney also got visibly annoyed with that same Colorado reporter there for asking about guy marriage as well and that same reporter in Colorado, she`s a CBS reporter, her name is Shaun Boyd, she also created more headaches for the Romney campaign nationally as well as in Colorado this year when she reported on the air last month that the Romney campaign had insisted on certain ground rules as a precondition for her being allowed to interview Mr. Romney. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHAUN BOYD, REPORTER: This all started yesterday morning. We got a call from a Romney staffer asking if I wanted to do a one-on-one satellite interview with Romney. When I agreed, I was told that there was a condition. I not ask about abortion. I later clarified what this meant. I planned to ask about Todd Akin, the Missouri candidate that said the woman`s body shut down in a legitimate rape to prevent pregnancy. But I was told Akin was part of this stipulation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is not uncommon to try to shape the interviews their candidate is subjected to. But you`re supposed to do it off the record. You`re supposed to say those negotiations are off the record, so you`re not giving the reporter about what your candidate is afraid to be asked about. Then, what the candidate is afraid of becomes a bigger story than what did eventually make it into your carefully-stage managed interview. Don`t. Colorado has just been tough for the Romney campaign this year. It`s like it`s jinxed there for them. They end up being snake bit, every time they go to Colorado. You might remember this happening the night of the Colorado Republican caucuses in February. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: I can tell you this room, we talked about this a few moments ago, this room was not even half full. It`s started to fill in a little bit, but, guys, I have to tell you, this room is still not completely full. And keep in mind -- we`re in the city of Denver. This is a large metropolitan area. Outside of the city limits you have a lot of conservative Republicans. And Mitt Romney is not filling this room tonight. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not only was Mr. Romney unable to fill a room in Colorado, the night of the Republican caucuses there, Mr. Romney ended up losing the state of Colorado, in a very unexpected result. He had won Colorado by more than 40 points the last time in 2008. But he lost Colorado this year to Rick Santorum, which made for a lousy Romney victory party in Colorado that night. Here`s how it looks for Mr. Romney in Colorado right now. The average of polls that "Real Clear Politics" does shows President Obama with about a 3-point lead over Mr. Romney. Now, all of that polling was done well before the Democratic convention. So, to the extent that that convention looks to have helped President Obama`s campaign, that 3.4 percent gap might get bigger. Broadly speaking, it does look like there is at least a preliminary convention bounce helping the president in some key swing states. In Ohio, Mr. Obama has increased his lead over Mitt Romney from three points to five points. In North Carolina, which hosted the Democratic convention, Mr. Obama had been behind in the polls. He`s not got a 1-point lead in the latest poll in the lead. In terms of national polling, Mr. Obama appears to have gotten a pretty big bounce from his convention. After the Republicans did their convention, Mr. Obama and Romney were tied in CNN`s poll of likely voters. But today, the new CNN poll came out and it shows Mr. Obama with a 6-point lead. The Gallup poll shows the same thing. While Romney experienced essentially no bounce after the Republican convention, Mr. Obama has now opened up a 5-point lead. The president`s job approval rating at Gallup also spiked to its highest level since right after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Numerically speaking, President Obama and the Democrats seemed to have the more successful convention this year. Mr. Romney, you may recall, did not do a post convention campaign tour as candidates almost always do. Instead, Mr. Romney took some time off. He went boating in New Hampshire. He was pretty much off the campaign trail. The campaign indicated that he was debate prepping or maybe retooling his campaign message. Mr. Romney did resurface this weekend, it was to unveil a new stump speech in which he mentioned the evils of an imaginary plan Republicans have made up that President Obama is somehow secretly planning to take "in God we trust" off our coins. He`s not planning on doing that. They also had Mr. Romney endorsed the far right, sort of clownish, birther Congressman Steve King of Iowa. I don`t call names like that lightly. I really believe it about Steve King. And they had Mr. Romney do a photo op with televangelist Pat Robertson at an appearance in Virginia. When the Web site "BuzzFeed" today pressed the Romney campaign about this seemingly sudden culture can war shift in the campaign in the last few days, Mr. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom insisted, quote, "The subject has been the economy, it is the economy, and it will be the economy." So then why do you have him a appearing with Pat Robertson? There`s the issue right now of the Romney campaign`s focus, right? What issues they are trying to get people to decide the election on. But there`s also the issue of the campaign`s message. This very simple issue of whether or not the candidates know what to say when they are asked basic questions about what they are running on. I mean, they almost accidentally started running on legalizing pot this weekend. For about 18 hours, they were running on that. Conceivably, that might work, by I don`t think that`s what they meant to do. Shortly after that, on Sunday, Mr. Romney went on "Meet the Press" and he said on "Meet the Press" that Republicans made a big mistake when they voted in Congress for the sequester. The big debt deal that potentially entails a lot of defense cuts. Mr. Romney said Republicans who vetoed for that made, in his words, quote, "a big mistake". One of the Republicans who voted for that was his running mate, Paul Ryan, who then later that same morning had to go on a different network Sunday show and deny that he had cast the vote for those defense cuts, which he definitely did vote for. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NORAH O`DONNELL, CBS NEWS: You voted for the Budget Control Act. In fact, I went and looked. You put out a statement the time it was passed. You called it a victory and you called it a positive step forward. RYAN: Yes. O`DONNELL: So you voted for defense cuts and now, you`re criticizing the president for the same defense cuts that you voted for. RYAN: No, no, I have to correct you on this, Norah. I voted for a mechanism that says a sequester will occur if we don`t cut $1.2 trillions in spending in government. O`DONNELL: It`s a trillion dollars in defense spending and you voted for it. RYAN: No, Norah -- O`DONNELL: You voted for it. RYAN: I voted for the Budget Control Act. O`DONNELL: That included defense spending. RYAN: Norah, you`re mistaken. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Actually, Norah O`Donnell factually was not mistaken. Paul Ryan voted for a bill that his running mate Mitt Romney is now calling a big mistake. That is what Mr. Romney was talking about, that is what Mr. Ryan voted for. In the same interview on "Meet the Press," Mr. Romney also undermined his whole year-long campaign message, more than a year-long campaign message that Obamacare is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing for America and that he, Mitt Romney as president, will get rid of all of Obamacare. All yearlong, he`s been pledging complete repeal of Obamacare. That`s been his language. Complete repeal, until this weekend. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I`m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I`m going to put in place. One is to make sure those with preexisting conditions can get coverage. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Romney is going to keep the part of Obamacare where you can still get coverage even if you have preexisting conditions. That`s a whole new policy. That`s awesome for people who have preexisting conditions. That`s a whole new plan for him, a whole new plan that they waited until after the conventions to unveil? I mean, it`s sort of weird timing. But actually it turns out they took it back. They didn`t mean that. The Romney campaign later that day told the conservative magazine, "The National Review," that there`s actually no change in Mr. Romney`s long-held position on health reform. They said he was not proposing to, quote, "require insurance plans to offer those particular features." You have an entire week off to listen to the Democrats` arguments about you, to think about how you`re going to sell yourself to the public, for this homestretch in the campaign. You had a whole week and what you came up with is I kind of like Obamacare and Paul Ryan has a horrible voting record? But when we`re pressed (INAUDIBLE) we`re going to -- oh, yes, also legalize pot for 18 hours and then quickly pivot back to, on second though, ban pot everywhere. Either this is such high level campaign genius that we just don`t understand the complexity of what they are doing here, or they don`t have any idea of what they are doing here. Joining us to help decide which is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on AXS TV. Mr. Rather, thank you for being here. DAN RATHER, "DAN RATHER REPORTS"/AXS TV: Always a joy to be with you. MADDOW: Is it possible there`s some secret genius at work here? That you`re telling broad audiences or even specific state audiences like Colorado voters on the issue of pot, or NBC viewers on the issue of Obamacare, you`re telling them something they might want to hear and hoping they don`t hear the correction? Is it possible that this intentional? RATHER: It`s possible, anything is possible, but I don`t think so. I think the Romney campaign is in a bad stretch. It may or may last. It may not be deciding the campaign. But they are having a terrible week post the Democratic convention. Frankly, I thought the Republicans and candidate Romney and his running mate came out of the conventions OK. The Democrats had more energy. Bill Clinton who could talk the legs off a chair did a masterful performance. But I don`t think they are in all that bad shape. But, one, you pointed out Governor Romney did not go out on the campaign trail. He sort of disappeared immediately after the Democratic convention. Two, he appeared on this interview with David Gregory, which I thought Gregory did a good job. When the Obamacare thing came up, I`ll keep some Obamacare and then he says, I didn`t mean it. Here`s his basic problem. We talked about it before. Does this man know what it is he believes? Is he willing to stick to it and is he willing to fight for it? Now, whatever the truth of it is, the perception has been there from the beginning. This guy may not know really what he wants to do when he gets to be president, where he stands. These last few days have fuelled that anew. If he wins, he`s got to win on jobs and the economy. He can`t seem to keep the focus there. And you can`t run a campaign with more twists than a pretzel factory and expect people not to catch up. Not in the present day. Rachel, I think that future historians and politicians and people who cover politics will be looking at this campaign and studying it for a long time to come because the center of gravity has changed with Facebook, Twitter and the immense amount of coverage there is of a campaign. There`s a time not long ago, you can say one thing to one group of people and another thing to another group of people and it wouldn`t really catch up. Those days are gone. Now, either the Romney campaign doesn`t understand that, which could be serious as the campaign goes along, or they are having a bad few days and they will refocus. I do want to emphasize, I`ve said to you before, that I think Romney has a good chance to win. I still think he can win, but the odds are longer on him today than they were even 10 days or two weeks ago. Certainly, the Obama camp is going to jump on these poll numbers that show a bump from the Democratic convention and post convention. They are going to jump on those like a road runner or a rabbit. However, we know historically from campaigns in the past that the bump you get out of a convention or polls at this time in the campaign frequently evaporate. MADDOW: Right. RATHER: By the time we get through the first debate, which is on October 3rd, I think, the campaigns may seem as far away as the Napoleonic campaigns. We just have to see. But I do come back to this -- the reason Bill Clinton is so masterful is he didn`t talk at people. He talked to people. And he had a conversation with the audience, with the American people. And he had a respect for the audience. Even some respect for the other party. This was powerful stuff. Now neither frankly -- neither Obama nor Romney seems to have gotten that message fully. But it`s time, and I will have this and the rest of the campaign -- let`s cut the bull feathers here. Let`s cut the business of saying one thing to one group and really talk to people and not at them and talk seriously. And the press has a big role to play in this. The press needs to hold candidates accountable. When they flip-flop, not just the appearance, but when they flip-flop, that needs to be driven home. There`s a tendency in the press, and I do not accept myself this criticism, to say, well, on the one hand this isn`t true, but the other side says this and try to kind of give a moral equivalency. That`s not the way to cover a campaign. And I hope the press can do better. MADDOW: I think the extent the press has gotten better about that. And I think you saw some very sharp elbows pushing back at Paul Ryan for example for some of the things that he misstated in his acceptance speech, I think that to the extent that the press has gotten better about that, it`s because we have been pushed by people who are existing as their own fact checkers, people who are sharing information using social media, but also able to do the research themselves. RATHER: Let me ask you, Rachel. You get paid to ask the questions. Are you as surprised as I am that Paul Ryan has thus far proved to be as unsteady a candidate? I expected Paul Ryan to be Mr. Cool, nothing shakes him, have an answer for everything. You saw in the interviews, he`s not very well prepared or he clutches during the interview and doesn`t have very good answers. I`m surprised almost to the point of astonishment that he hasn`t been steadier and more reliable as a running mate for Romney. MADDOW: He was a high performer running in his 700,000 population congressional district, obviously. That was actually a challenge. It was not a Republican-leaning district. He`s been a high performer among the conservative media and the Beltway media that sort of loves guys like him in Congress, and he`s never been tested anywhere beyond that. He`s never run a statewide race in Wisconsin. He`s never run an election where he has to face an electorate of more than 700,000 people. And I think you can sort of see the Klieg lights in his eyes when he gets up there and he blinks on his own voting record, tries to get away with stuff, lying about his marathon time and all this other stuff, that if you were more experienced, you know you can`t get away with lying about it. That`s what I think is happening at least. Dan Rather, I could talk to you all night. Thank you for being here. RATHER: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Thank you. It`s always great to have you here. Dan is the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports", which is on AXS TV. His latest program, "Dan Rather Remembers 9/11," will be airing tomorrow night on the 9/11 anniversary at 8:00 Eastern. All right. The Romney campaign`s plan A is experiencing, as we just described, some unexpected turbulence. And that`s making Republicans nervous and Democrats slightly less dyspeptic. Plan B for the Republicans is proceeding forthwith. It is making Democrats nervous and Republicans slightly less dyspeptic themselves. All the poll numbers and some important addendum to them, coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: For Mitt Romney an overseas trip is what you call when you trip all over yourself overseas. You know, it wasn`t -- it wasn`t a goodwill mission. It was a blooper reel. He`s even blurted out the preposterous notion that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe. Folks, Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska. Mitt Romney talks like he`s only seen Russia by watching "Rocky IV." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former Democratic presidential nominee Ivan Drago, John Kerry, sorry, was not considered a head liner speech going into the Democratic convention last week, But the personality that he unveiled there and how aggressive he was against Mitt Romney really turned John Kerry into a top tier headliner, as he gave that speech. And while it was fun to watch the other headliners, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, wander off script and ad lib a lot in their speeches, you know, the big headliner himself, President Obama, he usually sticks very closely to his prepared remarks. Interestingly though, the night of the John Kerry speech, the night of the Obama speech, one of the few times President Obama ad libbed off his script at all was when he went after Mitt Romney on that same Russia thing that John Kerry had just killed him on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don`t call Russia our number one enemy, not al Qaeda, Russia, unless you`re still stuck in a Cold War mind warp. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mitt Romney did, in fact, call Russia our number one geopolitical foe. He said that in March of this year, in the 2000s. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: This is to Russia. This is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world`s worst actors. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Whether or not the Republicans knew in advance they were going to get slammed on that so hard at the Democratic convention, they did go after them repeatedly including by the president himself and including by John Kerry with a reference to a "Rocky" movie. That was on Thursday night. What`s the Republican rejoinder to that? What have they come up since then to explain what it was -- what it was that Mitt Romney was talking about when he was talking about Russia? What did they come up with? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney was criticized for saying Russia is without question our number one geopolitical foe. Do you agree with Mitt Romney? RYAN: I think what he was saying among the other powers, China and Russia, that Russia stands a great threat. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is their answer. When Mitt Romney said number one geopolitical foe, he didn`t mean number one geopolitical foe, he meant this is worse than China. Just came out number one geopolitical foe. It wasn`t number one out of all of the other countries. It was just number one out of those two countries. Yes, and this struggle over the Russia question comes on top of another Romney-Ryan struggle, right? Out of their whole convention, there seemed to be two or three narratives that stuck. One, of course, why was Clint Eastwood yelling at an empty chair? We still actually don`t know who in the Romney campaign is to blame for that. As far as we know, nobody from the Romney has fired for letting that happen. Second narrative that has stuck is that there were a bunch of factually untrue things in the Paul Ryan vice president nomination speech and that was unfortunately for him reinforced when he right out of the convention had to admit he said a bizarrely, blatantly untrue thing about how fast he once ran a marathon. But the third narrative that has stuck since the Republican convention is that neither Mr. Ryan nor Mr. Romney mentioned the fact that we have 80,000 troops at war right now when they gave their acceptance speeches. That did not sit well, even with Romney allies, like the conservative "Weekly Standard" magazine, which wrote, "Leave aside the question of 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?" The Romney campaign has still not come up with a reasonable explanation for why the man who would be commander-in-chief did not seem fit to mention the war he would be taking charge of if he wins the election. This was Mr. Romney`s answer when asked about it on FOX News on Friday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Do you regret opening up this line of attack, now a recurring attack, by leaving out that issue in the speech? ROMNEY: I only regret you repeating it day in and day out. When you give a speech, you don`t go thorough a laundry list. You talk about the things that you think are important. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The case of this speech, the things that Mr. Romney did consider important enough to talk about, included the Mexican revolution, gas price, his iPod playlist, but not the war. Mr. Romney went on to say in that Friday interview he did talk in his convention speech in general terms about the military and defense spending, which is true, but it doesn`t change the fact he did not talk about the war in Afghanistan or the thousands of troops who are still fighting it. On Sunday, Romney was given a second chance at that -- a second chance to clear the air to offer some sort of reasonable-sounding explanation or apology. Here`s what happened instead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GREGORY: "The Weekly Standard" took you to task in your convention speech for not mentioning the war in Afghanistan one time. Was that a mistake with so much sacrifice in two wars over the period of this last decade? ROMNEY: You know, I find it interesting that people are curious about mentioning words in a speech as opposed to policy. So I went to the American Legion the day before that speech. GREGORY: You weren`t speaking to tens of millions of people, Governor, when you went to the American Legion. ROMNEY: You know what I found is that wherever, I speaking to tens of millions of people. Everything I say is picked up by you and others and that`s the way it ought to be. So I went to the American Legion and spoke with veterans there and described my policy as it relates to Afghanistan and other foreign policy and our military. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not true. Mr. Romney did speak at the American Legion just before his convention speech. He did at the American Legion mention the existence of the war, but he did not describe his policy as it relates to Afghanistan, which is what he said he did. He did not do that. That was all he said at the American Legion. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: We`re still at war in Afghanistan. We still have uniform men and women in conflict risking their lives just as you once did. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s not a statement of policy about Afghanistan. We have troops there. That`s a statement of fact. That`s a caption to a picture. That`s not a statement of policy. That`s not saying what you`d do as commander-in-chief of those troops in that war if you became the president of the United States. It is one thing to screw up your nominating convention like this. It`s another thing to deny you screwed it up and said you did something that you did not do. Mitt Romney, when you say you went to the American Legion and gave a speech about your Afghanistan policy ideas, you did not do that. It`s a matter of public record. The press does follow you. You were right about that. The candidate will try to make up for this with a speech on the 9/11 anniversary tomorrow. But if he tries to fix the mistake he has made by continuing to deny that he made the mistake in the first place, he will have compounded this error gravely. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This has been a pretty great campaign season but there will never again be a season quite like 2010. Sharron Angle, Second Amendment remedies in Nevada, if we don`t get what we want, we`ll start shooting. Christina O`Donnell, not a witch in Delaware -- amazing. But remember Joe Miller versus write-in Lisa Murkowski in Alaska? This year, I have found myself thinking more and more and more about what we learned on our show`s trip up to Alaska that fall to cover Joe Miller and his supporters. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Good luck, you guys. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you know that Lisa Murkowski confirmed Eric Holder and we disagree with that. MADDOW: She what? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She voted to confirm Eric Holder. MADDOW: Why are you against that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the most anti-gun attorney general this country has ever had. MADDOW: What`s he done against guns? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point -- well, what hasn`t he done against guns? Let`s ask that question. Let`s look at what his voting record beforehand. MADDOW: Eric wasn`t an elected official. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I`m asking is look at what his record is with Obama. Look at what -- MADDOW: What`s he done on guns that you`re upset about? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly, I don`t know enough about him to answer that truthfully, Rachel. MADDOW: Can I just ask why you`re upset about Eric Holder? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s anti-gun. MADDOW: What does he done that`s anti-gun? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have all the facts, but I know that he is anti-gun. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was the amazing state of mind driving the Tea Party Republican surge in the 2010 election. It`s amazing, right? But it turns out that sort of thing is not just Alaska. And it wasn`t just 2010. It`s this year too. And the data that proves it will make you laugh out loud. This coming up at the end of the show tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Big picture -- the election right now sometimes now feels like one bear wrestling another bear and they`ve got this whole giant country to fight in and fight over, but instead they`re just in this one little patch, swatting each other around, in the same little two or three cubic feet. As of last week, Mitt Romney`s campaign announced plans to carpet bomb -- their word -- carpet bomb these eight states with ads. Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and Iowa. You guys all get ads, eight states. The playing field as defined by where Governor Romney is choosing to compete. The list, as the Romney campaign first announced it on Friday, notably did not include Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, even those have been places that had been on everybody`s list of potential swing states this year. But, hey, update. Wisconsin, you are now getting added back to the list. In addition to the eight states I just named, the Romney campaign says it will also now carpet bomb Wisconsin, home of Mr. Romney`s running mate, Paul Ryan. So now we have a playing field of nine states with Wisconsin included. Nine states we define as the playing field by where the challenger has decided to compete. Presidential races are always fought this way in a very few states. Right now, this year, it appears to be nine states. But this year, in most of these nine states, Republican state officials have acted to try to make voting harder. Passing laws that require you to show kinds of documentations you never had to show to vote before and that not everyone has. They have also tried to purge voter rolls. They have tried to cut early voting. They have tried to make it harder to register voters. In five of the nine states where the presidential election will likely be decided, in a majority, five of the nine, the top elections official in the state, is a Republican. In those states, all those stories we have been covering about Republicans changing the rules about who can vote and when, and under what circumstances -- all of those stories are now not just important in those states, they are now very clearly of national importance. And they ought to get national attention. For example, Ohio -- you may remember that Republican Secretary of State John Husted supported a plan to allow for extended voting hours and weekend voting hours in counties that lean Republican, even as he supported cutting those hours in counties that lean Democratic. And then secretary of state John Husted cut voting on nights and weekends for everyone in the state of Ohio. When two Democratic elections officials tried to offer weekend voting in their county anyway, Mr. Husted fired them. We hosted them as guests on this show. Today, those two Democratic officials sued John Husted for wrongful termination. They told a federal court, quote, Secretary Husted fired us and then dared other election board members to try to stand up for the voters in their community. Mr. Husted is also now appealing a federal court decision that have ordered him to make those last three days of early voting available for this election in Ohio. Since they were available without incident in 2008 and they were available without incident in 2010, they were available without incident in this year`s Republican primary, but he wants to get rid of them now that Barack Obama is going to be on the ballot this November. His appeal of that decision means that voters in Ohio are now 57 days out from the election with no clear idea of when exactly they will be allowed to vote. Secretary Husted is getting help with the Ohio case from an outside lawyer from Washington, D.C. A liberal Ohio blog that`s called "Plunderbund" reported out last week that you can find this same lawyer they have flown in, in Ohio, you can find him arguing for a county in Alabama and for the state of Florida. Both in cases where key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, they say, should be declared unconstitutional. So you want to curtail voting rights in a way that might raise eyebrows about minority voter rights? We`ve just got the lawyer for you. We`ll fly him in. Making voting harder has become kind of an industry if you know where to look. For Republicans in these key states, it has also become a real political priority. In swing state Iowa, Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz has just declared emergency rules in Iowa to make voting harder. The secretary of state there says he simply must do this before November. It`s an emergency. If the court allows the rules to stand, secretary of state Matt Schultz will begin a purge of Iowa voter rules. Iowa`s new emergency rules would also allow anyone to allege that someone else was committing voter fraud. They can make that allegation anonymously. You wouldn`t have to give your name in order to make that allegation anymore. The case in Iowa I think has largely gone unnoticed so far mostly because we are not used to thinking of Iowa as really a hard-fought swing state. But watch this one, watch Iowa and these new emergency rules in Iowa. Also swing state Florida, where we got news today that the November ballot itself is going to be a monster. Really that`s what they are calling it. One election supervisor telling "The Associated Press" today, quote, "They have really created a monster." Another clerk says voters "may need smelling salts" once they see the size of the ballot to get through. The ballot contains 11 proposed changes to the constitution in Florida and several of them are printed in full. So that means hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of words for each of these constitutional proposed changes. And it`s all very dense legalese. When you add in the local races, the ballot in Miami-Dade runs to 10 pages, five pages front and back. The Florida ballot this year will be so long that in some cities, it will cost you $1.50 in postage to mail it in. Florida officials are now suggesting to check in ahead of time to see what the wait time might be during early voting because, hey, people have to read all those pages and fill them out and then line up at the scanners and then feed the ballots and page one, page two, page three, page four, page six, page seven, page eight, page nine, page 10 -- it`s going to take awhile. Expect long lines. And what has the Republican government done for a year when the ballot is a monster? The longest one some election clerks can ever remember? Oh, right, Florida Republicans cut early voting in half. Good luck getting through those 10 pages and through the line to vote. Bring some water. Maybe a chair. Joining us now for the interview tonight is Rick Hasen. He`s professor of law and political science at UC-Irvine. He`s the author of "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown." He`s one of the nation`s most highly-cited experts on election law. Rick, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. RICK HASEN, "THE VOTING WARS" AUTHOR: It`s a pleasure. MADDOW: In the 2000 election, Florida confronted some voters with a difficult butterfly ballot where you couldn`t be sure which candidate you were picking. Now, we`re hearing about a ballot that will be ten pages in some of the most populated parts of the state and they have cut early voting. Is there any way around the idea that Florida has made it difficult to vote this year? HASEN: Well, I think it has become more difficult to vote. It`s also become more difficult to register to vote. We have seen a big decline in voting registration, thanks to some which were just thrown out by a court in a settlement last week. But the cut back on early voting is really going to have an impact on Election Day. We could have long lines. It could cause people to go home and not cast their votes. It could cause people to go to -- run to court to try and get election hours extended and that could lead to appeals and it could be a real mess on election night in Florida. MADDOW: Republicans when they are arguing for changes like this never, or almost never say, they have partisan intentions. They describe these things as being good government changes they are trying to keep fraud out of the system. Why is it that there is largely a partisan effect to narrowing the electorate by making it harder to vote and harder to register to vote? Why does that tend to redound to Republican`s political advantage? HASEN: Well, since 2000, we have seen the voting wars between Democrats and Republicans with Republicans complaining about what they see is a risk of voter fraud and Democrats complaining about voter suppression. If you look at the measures that have been taken to prevent fraud, if that was really the concern, we wouldn`t see this push for voter ID, because as you know, the only kind of fraud that voter ID laws prevent is impersonation fraud. I looked in my book over the last generation to try and find a single election that was affected by voter fraud with impersonation and couldn`t find one. Yet we see absentee ballot fraud coming up every year and there hasn`t been a single proposal to eliminate or cut back absentee ballot. I don`t think there should be. I think we have to way the costs and benefits. But if you were serious about fraud, absentee balloting would be at the top of the list. Yet, it`s not on the agenda. MADDOW: In Iowa this year, Rick, the secretary of state there says he has an emergency. Red lights flashing, he`s got to purge the rolls right now and make it easier to report voter fraud, right now. He wants to make the changes under the kinds of rules that would allow him to do it without the public comment under a nonemergency situation. Has Iowa`s secretary of state got an emergency that the world does not know about? Is there a particular risk in making these sorts of changes very close to the day of voting? HASEN: Well, we have good evidence because the same move to purge voters to remove non-citizens is going on to in other states including Florida. Florida created a list. Colorado also created a list. And almost everyone on that list is an eligible voter is a citizen. Florida officials first proclaiming a hundred voters on the list, now we`re hearing it`s maybe several. These are noncitizens who shouldn`t be on the list. I think we do need to deal with a problem of noncitizen voting, but when you do it right before the election, you run the risk of throwing out many eligible voters. If those eligible voters have to cast a provisional ballot, we have to take other steps to try and get their status clarified before the election, we`re going to have a lot of legitimate voters who are not going to get a chance to vote. It doesn`t look like an emergency on that end, but if you create an emergency on the other end, if you have lots of voters who shouldn`t be removed from the rolls, being removed from the rolls at the last minute. MADDOW: Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at UC- Irvine, author of "The Voting Wars" -- Professor Hasen, thank you very much for helping us understand this. There`s a few other states that I have more and deeper questions about that I know you have done work on, particularly Pennsylvania. Could I ask if you wouldn`t mind coming back sometime shortly to talk more about this? HASEN: Sure. Any time. MADDOW: Great. I appreciate it. All right. Since Citizens United, shining a light on dark money groups that pour millions into defeating one candidate or another in any particular election has become sort of a full-time job. The good news is that full-time job is actually filled. People are doing that work. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is Josh Mandel. He`s a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio. He`s trying to unseat Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Mr. Mandel is not the most seasoned candidate in the world. (BEGIN VDIEO CLIP) JOSH MANDEL (R-OH), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I have a vision for taking the date and taking some of these auto plants and factories that used to be filled and filling them back up with Dayton area workers to make pipes and tubes and fittings for new manufacturing jobs here in Miami Valley. REPORTER: Josh, I appreciate what you`re saying but would you have supported the G.M. bail out? MANDEL: Again, I will do everything as United States senator to protect auto jobs and grow auto jobs and we`ve talked quite a bit throughout the state of Ohio about all the great plans we have to protecting our jobs here. REPORTER: You`re not going to answer it, are you? MANDEL: Great seeing you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Would you have supported the auto bail out? Great seeing you. So, yes, Josh is going to need some help unseating an incumbent senator who is a good campaigner like Sherrod Brown is. But, boy, oh, boy, is Josh Mandel getting that help. Outside groups supporting Josh Mandel are outspending outside groups supporting Sherrod Brown by a factor of five -- it`s 5-1 in Ohio. When one of those outside groups started running ads for Mr. Mandel against Senator Brown back in May, we knew the group was called the Government Integrity Fund. But that`s all we know. We didn`t know who was running it. We didn`t know who was bankrolling it. But now, aha. We have some new information. We now know that this Government Integrity Fund is run out of a Republican lobbying firm that employs one of Josh Mandel`s former staffers. We know this because of a seemingly rule change at the FCC that`s turning out to have a big impact with a national implications. It used to be if you wanted to know who was spending how much on what ads at your local TV station, you`d have to in the car and get on the bus or ride your bike all the way physically to that local TV station. You would have to ask nice folks at your local TV station to physically hand over to you the papers from the thing they maintain that`s called the public file. You would have to do that for all the local stations in your area in order to understand who was spending what in your media market in this election. So while this information is technically available, because it`s in this public life, it was so cumbersome to get that information that might as well have not really been available at all. It was not available in a way that it could be utilized to figure out who was funding the elections. Now, thanks in part to work by "ProPublica," the FCC has changed that rule. Your local stations now publish their public file online, which makes the information actually gettable and usable. The NBC affiliate in Cincinnati, WLWT, for example, did just that. Last week they posted online this political advertising form filled out by the Government Integrity Fund. Remember them? And that`s how we learned about the Republican lobbying firm that the Government Integrity Fund is connected to. If you want to check out who is spending what on political ads in your area go to You enter the name of your local station in a little search box, you click on the icon with the star in it. That`s for the political file, the public file, right? And then you can check out who is running ads in federal races and state races and local races, as well as those supposedly non-candidate issue ads in your town. That`s where you will see the spending from the outside groups rather from the candidates themselves. We never had a way to get the information before in an aggregate way, but now we can get it. Of course, in the case of Josh Mandel and Sherrod Brown, we now know who is associated with this group that is running these anti-Sherrod Brown these ads, but we still don`t know who`s bankrolling them. We probably won`t know that at all. Not for this election, anyway. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Take a look at question 15 from the latest PPP poll of Ohio voters. Look at this. Here`s the question: Who do you think deserves more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden -- Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? Why would Mitt Romney get any credit for killing Osama bin Laden? Why did they even ask this? I do not know. But look at the answer. The proportion of Republican respondents who say Mitt Romney should get more credit than President Obama for killing bin Laden is 15 percent. Mitt Romney who held no office at the time, who had no access to the White House or the Pentagon and who was not even a declared candidate for the presidency at the time gets the lion`s share of the credit for killing bin Laden from 15 percent of Ohio Republicans. And look at the Republicans who say they don`t know, 47 percent. So combined the proportion of Republicans in Ohio who are either not sure who gets more credit or who are sure that Mitt Romney definitely gets the credit for killing Osama bin Laden is a combined 62 percent. For the record, here is president in the Situation Room while the raid he ordered is under way actually killing bin Laden -- 62 percent of Ohio say Mitt Romney did that, or at least Mitt Romney did that. Who can say? It was even worse in North Carolina. PPP asked the same question there. It was the same proportion of Republicans there who said it was Romney who killed bin Laden. But the undecided number in North Carolina was even higher, a clear majority. Fifty-six percent of North Carolina Republicans say they just don`t know who should get more credit. You ask them who killed bin Laden and they`ll say Mitt Romney or they don`t know. Maybe Mitt Romney. That is 71 percent of North Carolina Republicans. So North Carolina and Ohio both swing states, two out of three Republicans in those states cannot decide between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama who gets the credit for killing bin Laden. Either they don`t know or they definitely know and they definitely know it was Mitt Romney who did it. What is wrong with the Republican Party in these states? These are the might fought over states in the country. With saturation political coverage about the two candidates and big majorities of Republicans think maybe it was Mitt Romney who killed bin Laden. You can either look at those numbers in the despair or you can look at those numbers and conclude that the people who answer pollster`s questions are just being sarcastic. Please let that be the truth. Please, Ohio and North Carolina, please tell me you are kidding. 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