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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/21/12

Guests: Chris Hayes

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Happy Friday. And thanks for being with us for this next hour. Boy, howdy, what a Friday it has been today. All right, I`m going to bottom line it right away. Here is I guess the big headline out of today`s unexpected Friday news dump of Mitt Romney`s 2011 tax returns. Here`s the big headline. Mitt Romney says that Mitt Romney is not qualified to be president. This has been a weird week, a lot of fast moving developments in the presidential campaign, but I don`t think anybody could have predicted the week was going to end like this. You may remember, back in July during Mr. Romney`s big overseas trip to Europe and the Middle East, Mr. Romney sat down with ABC News and he spoke with them in part about his tax returns. He talked with them about why we, the people, have not been allowed to see many of his tax returns, despite the fact he`s been going around the country telling everybody a lot of this evenings of what`s in those returns. He said he`s paid all of his taxes. We have to trust him on that. We have to take his word on that but we`re not going to be allowed to see the evidence. Here`s what he told ABC News at that time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have paid all the taxes required by law. I don`t pay more than are legally due. Frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due, I don`t think I`d be qualified to become president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If I had paid more taxes than our legally due, I don`t think I would be qualified to become president. Nobody who pays a dollar more in taxes than they legally owe is qualified to run for president. It`s a weird assertion right? I mean, it is a assertion particularly for Mr. Romney because his own father when he ran for president in 1968 made it public knowledge that as a rich man he had declined to take certain tax deductions but he was legally allowed to take. So was Mitt Romney saying that his own father was not qualified to be president because he paid some more taxes than he had to? It was a weird thing to assert when he said it in July. But it was made all the more weird today. At 3:00 this afternoon, so late on a Friday of what has been the single worst week of his entire presidential campaign, Mr. Romney finally released one year of his tax returns, his long awaited, long promised 2011 tax returns. In the return, we learn that zillionaire Mitt Romney paid an effective tax rate last year of 14.1 percent, which is probably lower than you. But that is actually a higher tax rate than he could have paid legally. Here`s how the Romney campaign explains it. Quote, "the Romneys donated $4 million to charity in 2011." But as can you see here, the Romneys claimed a deduction of only $2.25 million for those charitable contributions. So they donated $4 million but only deducted $2 million. They could have deducted all four million. In other words Mitt Romney in 2011 paid more in taxes than was legally due. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: If I had paid more than are legally due, I don`t think I`d be qualified to become president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Why would the Romney campaign put their candidate in the position of declaring himself unqualified to be president? Because last month, Mitt Romney declared to the country in another interview that he had never paid less than 13 percent in taxes at any point over the last ten years. He had always paid more than 13 percent he said. And even though he says that, turns out mathematically that was not going to be true in his taxes for this past year in 2011. So, in order to make that statement from last month retroactively true, Mr. Romney`s accountants went back and artificially inflated his tax rate so it would comport with what he said. They artificial live inflated his tax rate to more than what it needed to be. So, as his previous statement about what he paid in taxes would be a lie. And in so doing, Mitt Romney unwittingly declared himself unqualified to be president of the United States. This is nuts. This is nuts. If he had simply filed normally, taking the deductions he was legally entitled to make, he would have paid a lower tax rate than what he paid. But since, that would have been a political problem, purely for show, he deliberately over-paid the IRS in order to purposely increase his tax rate on purpose. And he explained that`s why he was doing it. As Steve Ben can put it at Maddow blog today, he said Mr. Romney was in the rather extraordinary position of selecting his own preferred tax rate and then working backwards from there. This whole thing is a mess for the Romney campaign and maybe it was going to be anyway. But now, we know exactly what kind of mess it is. In these new tax returns we learn Mr. Romney made $13 million in total income last year. And aside from the gee whiz factor of him making $13 million a year, even though he hasn`t had an actual paying job since 1999, aside from that there is also the fact that even other millionaires, average millionaires in this country pay way more in taxes than Mitt Romney pay. The average effective tax rate for your one mill millionaire in America right now is 25 percent. That`s what the average millionaire in America ends up paying in taxes after all the things they do to their taxes. But Mitt Romney is a special kind of millionaire. He doesn`t pay 25 percent. He only pays 14.1 percent. How do you get 10 points below the rate that even the other millionaires are paying? You get that by trying, by working really hard by avoiding taxes. As "the Wall Street Journal" noted in coming through today`s returns quote, "the Romney`s main tax return mentions entities based in the Cayman Islands on at least 28 separate pages. The Romney campaign is insisting those Cayman Island investments have nothing at all to do with avoiding taxes. Maybe the money just likes the nice view. But honestly, everything that we know about Mr. Romney`s financial history points to his involvement in decades and decades and decades of one tax avoidance scheme after another. This house on gentle bend drive in Missouri city, Texas. Mitt Romney owns that house. Every month, the couple who lives in that house makes out a personal check to Mitt Romney for $600. They don`t have their mortgage on that house through a bank. Their mortgage is with Mitt Romney personally. Why is Mitt Romney this one Texas couple`s mortgage lender? Because of a tax avoidance scheme he got involved in back in the 80s that he`s still in on. They re-file this year. When Mitt Romney sat on the board of the Marriott corporation, Marriott took advantage of a bunch of fancy auditing tricks called son of boss. After Mitt Romney`s ten-year on the board audit committee, Marriott ultimately got flopped with tens of millions in fines from the federal government. And that`s because son of boss was a criminal tax avoidance scheme. A tax avoidance scheme was also at the center of Mr. Romney`s run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. Even though Mr. Romney told Massachusetts voters he had always filed his taxes as Massachusetts resident, Mr. Romney actually had declared his primary residence in Utah in what the local paper there described as an attempt as, say it with me now, tax avoidance. Mr. Romney`s Olympic dressage horse, Rafaelca, not just a hobby for his wife, also a tax avoidance scheme, an attempted $77,000 write-off on his tax returns. Mr. Romney`s first release of his tax returns earlier this year, showed investments not just in the Cayman Island and in Bermuda, but also in Switzerland, a Swiss bank account where money can also have a very nice view and can be shielded from American taxes. Mitt Romney`s entire adult life has essentially been one long, boring plot to dodge taxes at one level or another. That`s what rich people do, certain kinds of rich people, right? And that`s what makes the specifics of his tax returns so exotic and therefore so interesting. That`s why people want to see his actual returns for multiple years. They don`t necessarily just want to take his word for it. Well today, Mr. Romney released one year tax returns. But the other years, still holding back. Today they released a summary of 20 years worth of taxes. They are not releasing the tax returns from this year. They are not even releasing specific details. They are just a summary of what tax rate he paid over 20 years. Mr. Romney has had to release summaries of his financial situation in the past. If you`re running for federal office, you have to release personal financial disclosure forms. Now, Mitt Romney had to do that, you know. This year Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, all these guys had to do that. And Mitt Romney, over the years, in those disclosures has hidden stuff that could have potentially been damning to him. And we don`t know much about it because he`s never release much of the actual tax returns for us to compare them with. But when he has released tax returns we can compare with those summaries, the comparison does not look good. Here is an example of what I mean. When Mr. Romney released his tax returns for 2010, that is the year we had before today. He had already made summary disclosures about his finances for that same year in order to run for office. He had already filed these personal financial disclosures. But then we got the actual tax returns and you could compare them to those summaries for that same year. And it turns out that that in the tax returns were listed 20 different investment vehicles that were just never listed in his disclosures, including seven of the 20 that were overseas foreign investment vehicles. Commenting on while the juicy foreign staff had been hidden in his disclosure forms, until it had to come out in the tax return, Mr. Romney`s campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul said at the time that the candidate`s failure to include his Swiss bank account in earlier financial disclosures was merely a, quote, "trivial inadvertent issue." Trivial and inadvertent. Today, after months of stalling, Mr. Romney finally released the one additional year of tax returns that he says the American public deserves to see. His vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, was required to give him ten years of tax returns for Mr. Romney to review. But we are only allowed to see two years from Mr. Romney. What we learned in the year that he released today is that obviously, Mitt Romney is a zillionaire, who has dedicated lots of time and energy to avoiding taxes over the years. Each 28 pages in the current return discussing investments in the Caymans. But the timing on this is just incredible. I mean, I understand the campaign`s thinking in terms of getting all the bad stuff out at once. Well, we are having a bad day anyway, how much worse can it get? It can get worse, honestly. It`s a little crazy in terms of political strategy here. In the same week we get the new, fresh evidence of Mitt Romney`s lifelong enthusiastic let`s be pursuit of avoiding taxes, we also get to see how Mr. Romney talks about the issues of taxes behind closed doors, when he thinks he only talking to his fellow zillionaire Republicans. While we get to see the enthusiasm with the rich, he once from the opportunity to pay taxes. We also learn what he thinks about the 47 percent of Americans who are not required to pay federal income taxes, who he says sees themselves as victims and cannot be convinced to take personal responsibility or care for their lives. And while Mr. Romney is happy working full time to lower his tax burden, other people paying low taxes disgust him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: The 47 percent of the people who voted for the president in `09, are there 47 percent who with him, these are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. I think it`s a real problem when you have almost half of Americans that are not paying income tax. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the real problem. The rest of the country is not paying enough. Time for everybody else to do their part. Chris Hayes joins us in just a moment. But first, one more thing. You want to know how bad the context was in which Mitt Romney made the decision he would rather talk about his tax returns today than anything else? Consider this. Mr. Romney did not just lose Tim Pawlenty from his campaign this week when governor T. Paw quick the Romney campaign to go become a bank lobbyist. He didn`t just lose T. Paw, look at the travel schedule this week of three guys who are supposed to be top here headliner Mitt Romney for president surrogates. Chris Christie this week was in Iowa, which is not part of New Jersey. Rick Santorum also this week, hey look at that, also in Iowa. He is going to be back in Iowa on Monday. He is doing an Iowa bus tour now. On Wednesday of next week where is Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana? Not in Louisiana. He is also going to Iowa. When your own top tier surrogates are saying forget this guy, forget this year. Let`s talk 2016 and me, then it is time to change the subject to anything, even to your tax returns. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I have paid all the taxes required by law. I don`t pay more than are legally do. Frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due, I don`t think I`d be qualified to become president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If I had paid more than are legally due, I don`t think I would be qualified to become president, except for this special circumstance which I`m paying more than is legally due because I would like to become president. Joining us is with Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show, "Up with Chris Hayes." Chris` new book is called "twilight of the elite America after Meritocracy." Chris, thank you for being here. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH CHRIS HAYES: It`s great to be here. MADDOW: The question that we will get to is the strategy of why now. We will get to that. But substantively Mr. Romney paid more in taxes than he owed in order to make a statement to ABC News from earlier in the summer retroactively true about what he said his tax rate had been. HAYES: Here is my favorite part. This is a three act trilogy, right? Act one is he makes this promise, which it`s unclear if he could keep. Act two is that he pays I think about an extra $225,000, which is a lot of money to people, not that much money to Mitt Romney, to make that statement true. Here`s my favorite. He can file an amendment to the return after the election in which he claims that extra $1.6 deduction and get the money back. So, the best part of it is that when he`s done and if he has lost or even if he`s won, he just goes back to the IRS and says I`m amending my return. Actually, I do want to take that full deduction on that money. MADDOW: The amazing thing will be if he wins -- HAYES: Will he do that. MADDOW: It would take to get it back. Also notable that Mitt Romney in 2008, gave his campaign -- he spent tens and millions on his campaign in 2008, this time he`s contributed essentially $50,000. So this is a loan of $225,000 to the campaign. It`s his biggest personal investment in his campaign yet. HAYES: I seriously so looking for that press release or that story about filing the amendment the day after the election because what`s clear here is and I think it`s actually a really interesting set of question, right? There is a question about what is morally acceptable. Forget the law, right. As far as we know, we are in the four square corners of the law, right? MADDOW: Yes. HAYES: But it is like, what do we find to be admirable behavior, what do we find to be normally neutral behavior that needs to be taxes, and what do we find condemnable. And I think the thing that I find condemnable about all of this, is that, of those 340 pages of his return, 225 are foreign vehicles that have been created as far as we know solely for the sole purpose to shelter tax income from the government. It`s one thing to take the deduction you are due. I gave this much in charity. I`m going to write all that off. Or I have the child tax credit. It is another to orient the entire of your income streams, to engineer them from the beginning, to try in the most exotic fashion possible to minimize your taxes. MADDOW: The Romney campaign line on that is listen, yes, there is a lot of money in the Cayman Islands but it`s not to avoid taxes. HAYES: It is not just possible. MADDOW: Right. Why would anything be -- (CROSSTALK) HAYES: I have talked to people at Bain, who have worked at Bain. And here`s one thing they will tell you. Bain says to you when they are recruiting you we structure these deals in ways that will minimize your tax liability. That is one of the pitches of Bain, right? You are going to keep an extra 10 percent of your income, which people like that, right? This is just part of the way it works. MADDOW: This is also difficult politically speaking because of what else has happened about taxes this week. So, obviously, there is this hidden camera video in which he was talking about in really morally disdainful terms toward - essential the second class citizenship, the people who are not paying income taxes. Mr. Romney is by en-large not paying income taxes because he doesn`t have income. He hasn`t have a paying job since 1999. So, this is investment income which is taxes income and in the same way that regulating income is tax. So how does this politically sort and that morally, I`m not moral question, interact with the thing that he got caught on tape saying that he`s so embarrassed on this week? HAYES: It amplifies the bad message because what it does is, there is a vision that the right holds that right and conservative plutocrats hold and some non-conservative plutocrats, I think plutocrats who consider themselves liberal, and Mitt Romney holds, which is that the nation is veering towards this point in which these kind of super beings, who are the job creators, who are in some deep core, meta physical sense different than normal people hold up all society. And if you start attacking them with your petty slings and arrows, everything will fall down. This is the (INAUDIBLE) that they have, that I think Mitt Romney genuinely shares. And what we see is that when you are looking at the actual social contract, those same people who view themselves as the pillars of the society are welching on the social contract, are doing everything in their power to slither out of it, to get themselves out of those obligations and this just reaffirms that. MADDOW: And the idea also that its inherent in the job creator idea, but also in the idea that the reason that people aren`t paying income tax, things like the earned income tax credit, things like child tax deductions, things like deduction for education and mortgage interest and all these other things were created by the government as ways to encourage those behaviors that are rewarded in the tax rate. HAYES: Right. MADDOW: If we`re not challenging that, if we are not challenging that there ought to be a chimed tax deduction, then, we ought not be damning people who collect it and that is -- HAYES: Particularly when it was Republican policy. Can I say one more very quick things? MADDOW: Sure, yes. HAYES: Our Brad Malt, he is the trustee for, you showed his blog post talking about it. This is a reminder of everyone. Remember when Romney says he has a blind trust, the man who runs his blind trust is his personal attorney. It is not a blind trust in any way that would be recognizable -- MADDOW: There is no veil of ignorance. HAYES: He is a guy, his attorney claim privilege that he could go into a room and say let`s make sure we pay 14.1 percent. That is not a blind trust. MADDOW: Chris Hayes, host of the MSNBC weekend morning show, "Up with Chris Hayes," the author of "twilight of the Elites." Chris, thank you very. I`m looking forward to your show tomorrow. Christie Vilsack. HAYES: Yes, Christie Vilsack. MADDOW: It is very exciting. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Also trying to regain some Mojo for the campaign today was his budget flashing running mate Paul Ryan, who did not have an ideal work day. I do not know how your Friday was, but statistically speaking, you had a better day than Paul Ryan. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. If you are the Republican presidential campaign, you have two people on your ticket, right? You have two guys. You also have a very fragile lead in the polls among older voters. You must maintain or increase that lead among seniors if you want any chance of winning the election in November. So, there`s a big speaking engagement coming up in front of the AARP, the American Association of Retired Person, the senior set if you will. The voters you have and that you must keep. Sensitive issue, right? Which of your two guys do you spend to the AARP? Do you send the old guy, the one that is 65 years old and famous for being a great businessman with two whole years of zillionaire tax returns that you can see? Or do you send the other guy? Do you send your senior citizen or the young blue-eyed hyper kinetic ball of lean muscle who is mainly famous for his plan to kill Medicare or in velocity that want private size Social Security. Which guy, old rich guy or young guy with plan to kill Medicare? Remember, it`s AARP. Which of your two guys do you send? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obama care because it represents the worst of both worlds. (BOOING) RYAN: I had a feeling there would be mixed reaction. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That didn`t sound so mixed. That went about, as well as could be expected. Bonuses all around for the staffers who made that decision. More ahead on that. Stand by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The criticism of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this week from his own side, from Republicans, is essentially of two different varieties. There are some people criticizing him for his views, for his campaign message and what he says on hidden camera. So, that`s Mark McKinnon, the George W. Bush ad guru, saying, "How can anyone support a candidate with this kind of a vision of the country?" And David Brooks, the conservative "New York Times" columnist, saying that Mitt Romney doesn`t know much about the country he inhabits. And that he has lost any sense of the social compact of this country. That is one variety of Republican criticism of Mr. Romney this week. I can`t believe we pick this guy. This guy would make a horrible president. A lot of the people who are making that criticism are being derided as not real conservatives by other people on the right. But the other variety of criticism of Mr. Romney from Republican this week is not all ideological. It`s not about there being anything wrong with Mr. Romney`s beliefs or his policies, their criticism is just that he`s running a bad campaign. And this is coming from all sorts of people on the right. So, when the campaign released more of Mitt Romney`s tax information today, Alex Castellanos, who`s a former Romney adviser, said, quote, "At first I thought this was an April Fool`s joke. I just can`t imagine why they would do this. There are 40 days left and you have just made more of them about Mitt`s taxes." The sort of criticism is also all the Mitt Romney backstabbers who are leaking things like this to "Romney associates are baffled that such a successful corporate leader has created a team with so few lines of authority or accountability." They`re trashing their own candidate`s ability to run a large organization such as a presidential campaign. The criticism of how Mr. Romney is campaigning and why he`s losing has also focused a lot this week on the schedule, on the fact that he`s not campaigning very much. Mitt Romney`s spare campaign schedule worries some Republicans. "Fundraising Trumps Rallies in Romney`s Schedule." "Romney`s light public schedule in the heart campaign schedule has led some GOP donors to grumble." From the "Wall Street Journal," "GOP Senators Offer Romney Advice." What`s their advice? Quote, "The nominee should be spending more time campaigning in official states." Mr. Romney was asked about that criticism, ask if he`s going to do more campaign events, ask if he`s going to start campaigning harder. Mr. Romney`s response to a reporter who ask him that was this, quote, "Ha, ha. We`re in the stretch, aren`t we? Look at those clouds, it`s beautiful. Look at those things." It`s such a strange answer. You have to think maybe he`s uncomfortable with the premise of the question. Are you going to start campaigning harder? Is that a disorienting question? Is that patently offensive, you`re being sarcastic? Were the clouds in fact that lovely? Even if campaigning nationally for the presidency is an overwhelming thing early in the process, he`s right that we are in the home stretch of the campaign. But the important consequence of that is that it actually makes campaigning less overwhelming at times like this. It`s now less of a daunting prospect, less of a difficult question to answer because it`s a less complicated answer. As we get closer to the election, the map of places you need to campaign in gets smaller -- not bigger. It gets smaller. It`s clearer and clearer each day which states are actually in play. And even within those states, campaigns know by now in which counties they need to rack up their big margins. And within those counties, the campaigns as they get closer to Election Day can zero in either further within individual counties, focusing even tighter on which specific voters and which specific counties and which specific states are the ones that they need. So presidential candidate at this stage of the race ought to be able to answer that question about how hard he`s campaigning easily. And frankly, he ought to be able to campaign harder than he is campaigning in those crucial districts. But technologically how the two sides do that focusing in on the people they think they need to persuade is super interesting and it changes with each election cycle now as the technology of this gets better. Just as an example, NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group. They briefed reporters this week on what they`re doing with their $2.5 million that they`re going to spend between now and the election. NARAL narrowed the country from 50 states down to nine battleground states. And between those 25 specific counties, they have identified to the person, 338,020 specific women they believe they need to persuade. These are women who voted for President Obama in 2008 and who are pro-choice, but who NARAL believes based on their polling model analysis, NARAL believes they`re likely to either vote against President Obama this time around or more likely to just not vote at all. NARAL, of course, has a very specific message about this election and their endorsed candidate that is targeted to those specific women and they`re going to use direct mailers and live phone calls and targeted advertising and more phone calls to try to move them -- 338,020 of them and they know exactly who they are. Here`s another case. Everybody knows if you have to pick one swing state to win, you would pick Florida, right? Of all the swing states, Florida has the largest number of electoral votes. And the polls are tight right now in Florida. But knowing it`s important and knowing you want to win Florida is only about step one and a half in a 20-step process what it takes to win there. I mean, who exactly do you have to turn out? Who exactly do you have to target? And it`s empirical questions that have empirical answers. It`s all in the numbers. Look at the Florida polls. Look at this pattern. This is the age groups, OK? Look at the pattern. As the age groups get older, President Obama does worse. He does great with younger people but he`s actually losing among older people in Florida. This is the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll out of Florida. If you look at the latest numbers from Florida -- in Survey USA, same pattern. See? Same story. As voters get holder, Obama does worse. Obama is winning overall in each of these polls but his support is totally dependent on specific age groups. You see the exact same pattern in the data from FOX News`s latest polling. Yes, FOX News. President Obama`s support is high among younger voters but it drops off and Mr. Romney is winning with older voters. So if you are a political technician and trying to win the state of Florida for your candidate, this polling pattern is not just an interesting fact about how this state is likely to vote. What you are looking at right there is actionable intelligence. What political messaging is going to be most effective for winning this state given these age-specific numbers? Again, you do not have to guess. It`s an empirical question with an empirical answer. It is in the numbers. Look from that same FOX News poll. Look at this question, regardless of how you might vote, which presidential candidate do you trust to do a better job on protecting Medicare? Look at the margin. President Obama winning that question in Florida by a 13-point margin. So the people who want Barack Obama to win Florida are pressing that advantage right now and the people who want Mitt Romney to win Florida are trying to eliminate the president`s advantage on that right now, and they are both doing it in an intensely targeted way with this crucial bloc of older voters in Florida that everybody knows they`ve got to persuade. With that in mind, listen to this radio ad that just started running there. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) (PHONE RINGS) JEFFREY: Hello? MOTHER: Jeffrey, it`s your mother. JEFFREY: Hey, mom, how are you? MOTHER: I`m good. JEFFREY: What are you doing? MOTHER: Well, I`ve been watching TV all day but it`s making my head spin. JEFFREY: What do you have mean? MOTHER: All these ads about Medicare. It`s very confusing. JEFFREY: OK. I`ve read about it. What do you want to know? MOTHER: Well, what`s the truth about Romney and Ryan? JEFFREY: The Romney/Ryan plan does essentially end Medicare. That`s what the "Wall Street Journal" said. MOTHER: I don`t like the sound of that. JEFFREY: What I read said seniors would wind up paying over $6,000 more per year. MOTHER: Oh, that`s a fortune to me. JEFFREY: And Romney would make drastic cuts to Medicaid, too. You know, two-thirds of seniors rely on Medicaid for nursing home care. MOTHER: Oh, boy, that`s scary. JEFFREY: Here, mom, look, I`m on my computer. Go to this web site, and have a look for your son. MOTHER: OK, son. Take care. ANNOUNCER: Paid for by SEIU Cope/, which is responsible for the content of this advertising. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate`s committee. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That is kind of how you win Florida, right? That`s an ad from SEIU, a union that supports President Obama. It`s a Medicare specific message targeting in a flattering and kindly way with a really good actress, right? Older voters who are concerned about Medicare, makes the case that if you care about Medicare, Paul Ryan and Mitt Ryan are the last people that you get your vote. Which is exactly why the Republicans are fighting on that battleground, too. As SEIU launched that radio ad in Florida, the Romney campaign launched this TV ad for the same state. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get it. Medicare is going broke. That`s not politics, it`s math. Anyone who wants to leave Medicare like it is, is for letting it go bankrupt. My mother`s 81 and depends on Medicare. We can save Medicare without changing hers but only if younger Americans accept that our Medicare will be different than our parents` when we retire in 30 years. But after all they did for us, isn`t that the least we can do? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Mitt Romney and I approve this message. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You see the problem with the message there? The Romney/Ryan message in their official campaign there is we need to drastically change Medicare. Might be OK for people using it now. Also I have a mother. But I want to throw the word bankrupt out there. If you like Medicare, we`ve got some serious changes in mind. The Democratic message is the Republicans want to make serious changes to Medicare. The Republican message is the Republicans want to make serious changes to Medicare. This doesn`t usually happen this way. In the fighting over the same voters on the same issue, but the Republican`s campaign verifies and underscores the validity of the Democrat`s most potent attack with this crucial group of people in this crucial state on this crucial issue. I know that Mitt Romney approves that message of that ad you just saw but I bet Barack Obama approves that message, too. Joining us now is Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst, and columnist for "The Hill." Karen is a former communications director for the Democratic Party. And because I mentioned NARAL, I should also tell you that she is a board member at NARAL Pro-Choice America. Karen, thank you for your time. KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, you a political pro. What does it mean when one side is running ads saying how scary that side`s position is and the other side is saying the exact same thing, yes, that`s what we want to do? I feel like this is very rarely crucial fights go. FINNEY: Well, we`re saying we all agree, that the Republicans want to make drastic changes to Medicare. And if it goes to, frankly, the point that you made earlier in the intro here and it goes to partially why we look at things like honest and trustworthiness and shares my values so closely in the polling and that is there`s an agreement that Republicans want to make a change. The question for voters is, who do you trust? If changes have to be made, who do you trust to be the steward of those changes? One of the things we know, Republicans have admitted this, is they go into that conversation with a deficit, right? Democrats largely are more trusted on the issue of Medicare than Republicans. So they`re already starting with a trust deficit on an issue where they haven`t quite locked in on a message frankly that is going to get them even with Democrats, as we saw frankly from the AARP response today. MADDOW: We played a clip of Paul Ryan being booed when he was talking about wanting to repeal Obamacare. I should note that he was booed throughout his speech. He was heckled and their cat calls and people yelling at him throughout this very long speech that he did. You know, Karen, I once asked Nancy Pelosi in an interview at a live event, I said when George W. Bush came back after reelection, he`d been reelected and he said, then he wanted to spend his political capital on was privatizing Social Security, how did you beat that? She said, well, there was a big fight in Washington about whether or not we should put up our own plan for doing something else to Social Security besides privatizing and I quashed all that, I used my power in Washington to say no. We have a plan. We do have a plan on Social Security. You want to know what it`s called? It`s called Social Security. I mean, she felt that playing pure defense on that, no, we need to protect this thing that Americans know and love was the way that President Bush not only lost that fight but I think it -- it was a part of the economic reason his second term was scuttled. Do you think that Democrats has something to learn from that here? FINNEY: Well, I mean, I remember the meetings around that very, very well. And again, part of the calculation there is the majority of Americans do not trust Republicans on this issue. So President Bush really put himself out there and then he didn`t frankly have an answer that assuaged people`s concerns and that`s the biggest problem. When you talk about the Romney/Ryan plan, there are so many gaps that people hear in terms of how will this actually work and that they don`t have answers for, which is another pattern with them obviously, that that`s part of why they`re not able to win on that. And again, part of what Democrats are saying is here are the changes, here`s what we know about the changes that they want to make and the implications of those changes. Romney/Ryan don`t have an answer for that so that`s what hangs in people`s mind when is they`re listening to the debate. MADDOW: Karen, one last question for you, just on the technical side of this, I`m just really marinating on all this quantitative data trying to figure out how they target these specific voters. I notice that -- so Mitt Romney is leading in almost no swing state polls, but Nate Silver at "The New York Times" is pointing out that the polls where Mr. Romney is leading in the swing states are almost invariably polls that stand out because of their methodology. He`s leading in polls that use the old methodology of just calling landline phones only and ignoring cell phones. He leads in those polls and he loses in polls that do include cell phones and sort of more modern techniques of polling. What -- as a former DNC spokesperson, what do you think that means? FINNEY: So here`s what I think is going on here, just when you look at polling at those techniques. We know that when we`re talking about generally people who are using land lines, those tend to be what I would consider sort of more traditional Republican voters, they`re likely to be a little bit older. Again, this tracks with what you were saying in the intro, those are voters who are likely to be a little bit older. Voters for whom the cell phone is their primary way that you would contact them, they tend to be more transient, they tend to be younger, they tend to be more diverse. So, not surprising that that`s how you`re seeing the numbers. One point though that I would make, Rachel, on how this polling is breaking down, it`s not actually telling us all the data in terms of the ethnic changes in this country and the demographic changes as an example. Barack Obama won the state of Virginia but he lost the white vote. It was the black vote that made the difference. The polls don`t really capture a dynamic like that. So, we can look at these polls to get a snapshot. But understand there are other things going on underneath that as you pointed out, that`s the kind of data that the campaigns are really looking at as they go county by county and state by state. MADDOW: Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst, columnist for "The Hill," former communications director for the Democratic Party and person who knows a lot about these things -- thank you, Karen. I really appreciate. FINNEY: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: It`s really good to have somebody`s insight who has been in the middle of these things. All right. One story we did on the show this week that way, way more attention than any of the other stories that we did, way more -- will surprise you when I tell you what it is. The surprising public reaction to something we did here and an important follow up on that story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Insight into the creation of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, inevitably, about 40 minutes into our editorial meeting everyday, the whole thing devolves into us all making jokes and saying things about the news that can definitely not be said on cable TV. When that happens, somebody usually reins it in by saying, "Ah, well, we`ll put that on our imagery late night weekend show where we totally cut loose and break all the rules." We don`t have that show but there is that show, produced and performed by people who are way better at it than us, by a factor of infinity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney did not apologize for his comments though he did say they were not elegantly stated. Apparently he meant to say 47 percent of Americans are victims and have a sense of entitlement, my lady. As for it`s claim it`s not his job, worry about Americans who don`t pay taxes, I wouldn`t worry, buddy. It`s looking less and less like it will be your job. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is from "The Saturday Night Live" special that they did this week. It`s called the "Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday." And that special is going to air here on MSNBC, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, right after the show -- which is very exciting. You`re not going to prison. You`re going to that. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One of the main reasons Barack Obama is president of the United States right now is because he was against the Iraq war from the start. As a state senator, he spoke out against the invasion saying he was not against all war, he was against that war. He was never against the war in Afghanistan, though. And when Barack Obama became president, in part because of that early clear stance against Iraq, he quickly made clear that he would keep his commitment to end the war in Iraq and he made clear that the war in Afghanistan would grow. At the end of his first year in office, President announced a surge of tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan putting more Americans there than George W. Bush ever did. But the president insisted that surge into Afghanistan would not last forever. He said that surge in troop numbers had to be over by roughly now, by the end of September, 2012. So now, a little ahead of schedule, a little before the end of the month, the Pentagon has announced that the surge into Afghanistan is over. There have been as many as 100,000 Americans on the ground in Afghanistan. Now, it is now down to 68,000, which frankly is still a huge number, especially when you consider how little political attention those 68,000 Americans get. Our ongoing war in Afghanistan is not much of an issue on this all- consuming presidential race, mostly because, I think the one of the two sides did not want to talk about it at all. The war, Mr. Romney said did not come up in his speech accepting the presidential nomination of his party because the speech he said wasn`t just a laundry list of issues, it was for things that he thinks are important, as in not the war. So our war is not a major issue in our presidential race and that is a convenient reason to never really talk about it, even with 68,000 Americans still risking their lives there every day. There`s one thing I want to point out, though, and it is a small thing but I think it illustrates an important and widely misconstrued, misunderstood thing about what Americans care about and what politicians might find really rewarding to talk about. And frankly, what the media might find if we all chose to cover this more. The war, the people fighting and war and how those people get treated when they come home. OK. Here it is. In addition to this TV show, we have a Web site. It`s our blog, really. We also have a Facebook page. We post six, seven, eight things a day on our Facebook page. So just as an example, in case you don`t use Facebook, here`s something we posted this week about former Governor Tim Pawlenty quitting the Mitt Romney campaign to go become a bank lobbyist. Now, just take a look at this. This line here, that`s the number of people who liked that post, who clicked the thumbs up and told their Facebook friends they liked what we posted. This number right here, that`s the number of people who have commented on the post. Anybody can comment on anything we post. And we really do read the comments. But now, look at this -- that right there, that is the number time people shared this thing about Tim Pawlenty with their friends. That means they essentially reposted what we posted on their own Facebook pages. So, the post can go from living on our page to your page with a click of that "share" button. So, that`s an important metric. These are all important metrics about how much people are interested in something, how valuable they think it is to know that thing. As you can see, the pawlenty quoting the campaign is very popular. It has over 3,000 likes. It has over 500 comments. It was shared over 1,000 times. That`s cool, right? So a lot of people telling other people that some piece of news they got from us was interesting and useful and other people should know about it too. And it happens like that a lot on our Facebook page. So, for about the last month, an average Facebook post from us got about 3,800 likes, about 1,200 people commented on it, and it was shared about 1,000 times. Those were our monthly averages until Wednesday. And this is what I`m getting at. On Wednesday, Republicans in the snoot blocked a veterans jobs bill that was paid for. It was paid for. Five Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for it with the Democrats, but the rest of the Senate Republicans voted against it, including four particular senators who had written parts of it themselves but then they voted no on jobs for veterans. We reported this here on this TV, and we wrote about it at "Maddow Blog" and we posted about it on Facebook. Now, put those average Facebook numbers again. Can we put those up? Look. So, there you go. Those were our monthly average numbers before Wednesday. Here`s what happened when we posted on Facebook about Republicans killing this veterans jobs bill. Are you ready? That post got about four times as many likes Facebook-wide as usual. It got 15 times the number of comments. It got 16 times more people shared that post on to their Facebook pages from ours. Remember, our average numbers over the last month are especially high because of the political conventions, and yet Republicans killing the veterans jobs bill, that blew almost everything else we have ever done out of the water. We know generally if people are paying attention to stuff we produce for this TV show by our overall ratings, which have been lovely lately. Thank you very much. But in terms of getting specific, in terms of seeing and measuring the impact and your interest in one specific story, this is shocking. I know there is a presidential campaign going on right now and I know it is burning white hot. But I can quantitatively show you that there is genuine, even fervent interest in this country about how we are treating the men and woman coming home from these longest wars in American history. It is not my impression. It is not anecdotal. It is an empirical fact. People don`t just care about a story like this. They want to share it with their friends they want to scream it from the roof tops. To my friends in the media, I say don`t cover stories like this because you are a good person, or you`re trying to make some kind of statement. Cover the war and the military and people coming home from the wars, because you are a craven, ambitious editor, writer, blogger, producer or reporter, and you are after clicks and ratings. This is under exploited. There is a hunger for this. This is not just a big deal for the country. America thinks this is a big deal. And to every politician who has been ignoring this issue -- well, I`m here to tell you, you have to deal with that populist reality, as much as you have to deal with how you look at yourself in the mirror every morning. That does it for us tonight. We will see again Monday night. There`s no prison tonight. Instead it`s time for a special edition of "Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update". Have a great weekend. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END