The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/23/12

Guests: Dan Rather, Scott Arceneaux

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. Now to the quarterback of last night`s coverage, as always, Rachel Maddow. Her show starting right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: You know, the Patriots are not having the best quarterback year, so I`m taking that with the little -- SCHULTZ: You were OK on Sunday from what I saw. MADDOW: Well, yes, we took it into extra time I think just to give everybody extra time with their ulcer doctors, but the quarterback is a little unnerving. SCHULTZ: See, I have multiple teams -- Vikings, Giants, Packers. All win. Great week. MADDOW: I understand. Thanks, man. Last night was a lot of fun. Thank you. SCHULTZ: Yes. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. You know, I do actually have something to say about last night`s debate and I hope you`ll indulge me for a moment. Last night was the last moment where the whole country will be watching the exact same thing for the exact same amount of time before we get down to Election Day. Last night was our last collective moment as a nation, tuned to the same thing, watching the same candidates at the same time in a way that was totally unmediated, in a way that brings us together as a country, and I think something important happen. Let me give you some context. This past July, July 11th, Mitt Romney made the first visit of any candidate in this election cycle to the great, totally non-swing state of Montana. Montana has a close Senate race this year, but for president, Montana is not expected to be hotly contested ground. So the candidates would usually stay out of a state like that except when they had to be there to raise money. And that`s what Mitt Romney was doing there in July. He was at a fundraiser, and at that fundraiser to his donors, Mr. Mitt Romney recounted an anecdote from his business career and then he related that anecdote to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Mitt Romney told the donors at this Montana event that he had three rules when he ran Bain Capital. The first rule was focus. The second rule was focus. And the third rule was focus. Then, Mr. Romney pulled out this presidential historical anecdote to illustrate what he said he meant by that kind of focus. Here`s how Mr. Romney`s remarks were quoted in the press pool report that day: "The idea was put all your energy and passion at the job all the hand. I heard from Secretary Jim Baker just a couple weeks ago. He said, you know, in the first hundred days of the Reagan presidency, we had a national security meeting one day where we talked about some developments in Latin America that were of concern. And after that meeting President Reagan called me in and said, I want no more national security meetings over the next 100 days -- all of our time has to be focused on getting our economy going." Mitt Romney told this anecdote approvingly to a bunch of donors in Montana in July. This is the thing that he was praising about the Ronald Reagan presidency. It turns out that this never happened. Ronald Reagan never stopped his briefings because he said he needed to focus on the economy instead. After Mr. Romney told that story and it was reported in "the Wall Street Journal", the editor of the conservative magazine, "The Weekly Standard," said he went through the notes on Reagan`s presidency to check the story by Mr. Romney. He said he could find no evidence this happened. James Baker himself who Romney says he got the anecdote from, Jim Baker himself later told Josh Rogan of "Foreign Policy" magazine that Mr. Romney perhaps misunderstood the story when he told it to him. This idea that Ronald Reagan just stopped working on national security so he could focus on something more important, Mitt Romney says that happened. But it did not happen. More importantly than him getting the story wrong though is that Mr. Romney told the donors that story that day because he thought that was a good idea for what a president should do. He was using that story as a way of praising Ronald Reagan. I want no more national security meetings over the next 100 days. Wasn`t that great he did that? This is sort of amazing, right? I mean, this idea that a president could just opt out of working on foreign policy for a while. Opt out of working on foreign policy, to say, you know what, that`s not my area of focus. I need to focus, focus, focus on something else. When Mitt Romney suggested in July to those donors with that anecdote, that that would be his approach as president, even Mr. Romney`s supporters on the right got mad at him for saying that. A former George Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen wrote, quote, "The fact that Romney thinks it would be desirable to ignore the world for 100 days is troubling." The aforementioned Bill Kristol of the "Weekly Standard" wrote, quote, "The fact that Romney is recounting this anecdote does not reflect well on Romney`s understanding of the job he is campaigning for." You know, there`s no foreign policy subject on which I agree with either of those guys. They are absolutely the opposite end of the number line for me in terms of what I think we should -- America should do in the world, right? But even though I would agree with these guys on nothing else, on this, yes, duh, I think we can agree that foreign policy is part of the job of president, right? That trying to get out of that isn`t a good plan. National security is not something a president can say he doesn`t want to work on. Who`s going to work on it if you don`t? Actually, we have an answer for that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We can`t be all things to all people in the world, Jim. And I think that`s where maybe the vice president and I begin to have some differences. I`m worried about over- committing our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use. I think we`ve got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be careful about using our troops as nation-builders. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Even beyond the use of troops around the world, George Bush said when he was campaigning for the presidency in 2000, "I`m not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say this is the way it`s got to be. We can help. Maybe it`s just our difference in government. The way we view government, I mean, we want to empower people, we want to help people help themselves. I just don`t think it`s the role of the United States to walk into a country and say we do it this way and so should you." That was George Bush running in 2000. It turns out you don`t get to decide what sort of presidency you have. George W. Bush in the year 2000 was essentially saying he wanted to have a domestic policy presidency. Remember compassionate conservatism? I mean, his big idea about our role in the world was that we should have less of a role in the world. You don`t get to decide what circumstances ultimately confront you as president, and you do not get to opt out of swaths of your responsibility. And some presidencies, for better, for worse, sometimes for a year at a time, sometimes for whole presidential terms, sometimes those presidencies end up being about America in the world. And the commander- in-chief part of the job, sometimes presidencies end up being about war. George Bush I don`t believe set out to have that kind of presidency, but that`s the kind of presidency he got. Into the vacuum of his lack of any substantive idea on foreign policy at all, into that vacuum stepped a whole very well-organized group of unelected, opportunistic, frankly, radicals who over the course of the next eight years brought upon this country, the darkest, most radical, most disastrous foreign policy in American history and we`re not over it. Now while we`re in the 12th year of one of the wars started in that era, the Republican Party is offering another choice for president who is promising a non-foreign policy presidency. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not mention the issue of foreign policy in his closing statement at the foreign policy debate last night. This is not his field. And he`s not pretending that it is. He doesn`t want it to be his field. Nobody has perfect foresight about what their presidency is going to be like. What they are going to have the option of working on or not working on. But the pressing nature of this issue now is not that it`s hypothetical. It`s about seeing into the future and guessing about something that maybe might happen. It`s about seeing what`s going on right now. We are still actively coping with one of the foreign policy disasters left over from the last time a guy said he didn`t want to work on this as an issue. Even if you just take the issue of Afghanistan, which you`ll have to take on if you want to be president, this was the Republican nominee`s position on Afghanistan right up until last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In Afghanistan, the surge was right. But announcing a withdrawal date, that was wrong. The Taliban may not have watches, but they do have calendars. I think the biggest mistake he`s made in Afghanistan, for one, announcing a specific date that we would withdrew. This president has done extraordinary thing. He announced the date of our withdrawal. He announced a withdrawal of our surge forces based upon a political calendar, not the calendar that the commanders on the ground said it was based for our mission. That was wrong. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: That was wrong. As recently as two weeks ago, Romney`s position on Afghanistan is that announcing a date for withdrawing from Afghanistan was the biggest mistake that President Obama had made. It was wrong. Then last night -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: We`re going to be finished by 2014, and when I`m president, we`ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s the biggest mistake President Obama had ever made. Mitt Romney, forget it. I`ll espouse it too. I don`t feel like talking about it. Afghanistan is not the only issue confronting the president. Even just on international affairs. But to go from being the guy who did not mention the war at all in your convention speech and who didn`t mention veterans in your convention speech, to being the guy who still made no mentions of veterans last night, even as the president went back and talked about veterans six or seven times, still nothing from Mitt Romney, to be then unveiling a 180-degree turn on your Afghanistan policy two weeks before the election, an election that will decide if you become the commander of the troops in the war you are ignoring. To unveil a 180-degree in your policy on the war, two weeks before the election as if that`s something that requires no explanation, and you`re just assuming people don`t care about it enough to notice? I use this term with hesitance, but that reflects a certain lack of seriousness about something that every single day affects 68,000 American families directly, 68,000 American families who have real, un-metaphorical skin in the game right now because a family member of theirs is in Afghanistan, which is our war, 68,000 Americans whose lives will be in Mitt Romney`s hands if he`s elected on the basis of saying he doesn`t really care what happens there because he can`t be bothered to come up with a coherent position on it. This is not a question of whether you agree with Mitt Romney or if you disagree with Mitt Romney on whatever his policy of the moment is. The amazing thing here, and the reason I think last night`s debate was really important is that the Republican Party, just four years after George W. Bush, the Republican Party has nominated somebody to be president who doesn`t seem to take this part of being president seriously. He doesn`t seem to care about this as a matter of policy. And he doesn`t think you do either. He doesn`t think it`s relevant to your decision about whether or not to elect him. A group of Mitt Romney foreign policy advisers told "The New York Times" earlier this month that even they are not sure that Mitt Romney`s even reads his campaign`s own briefing materials for him on the subject of foreign policy. We saw Mitt Romney insist last night and not for the first time, that Syria is Iran`s route to the sea. For the record, Iran and Syria are real countries that exist on a specific place on the map. Look, over there on the right, the big one. That`s Iran. Over there on the left, that`s Syria. Notice they do not touch. Notice also there`s a sea over by Syria, but Iran has access of its own. Syria is Iran`s path to the sea? What are you talking about? It`s not that he just flubbed this? It`s not that he just got it wrong this one time. Just think of something else. He said this four or five times. And there hasn`t been a corrective? The Republican campaign for the presidency this year apparently thinks this is so unimportant they have never even bothered to try to get it right. They have never checked. The nominee himself doesn`t care about being called out to make sure he`s not called out on the subject like this to make sure that he`s not called out on it again. Bother to look at a map. We know that you carry an iPad. There`s Google maps on there or even Apple maps, which might blur it, but look, there`s an ocean below Iran. It`s blue. Have you heard of the Persian Gulf? Do you know what Persia means? It`s the not caring about getting it right that is the big new thing here. The -- I`m not going to try to win this debate. I`m not going to bother having a coherent policies thing. I`m not going to mention the war. It`s not on my laundry list of things that I find important for a speech like this. Nobody is judging me on this. But this idea that this is just not the kind of presidency that you choose to have. Ronald Reagan chose to not work on national security. You don`t get that chose. That didn`t really happen about Ronald Reagan. You made that up. This is one job you don`t get the choice. There`s nothing in the commander-in-chief portfolio of responsibilities that can be delegated to somebody else. And when people try, we get historic disasters in this country. And the fact that you`ve brought on all of the same whirlwind of advisers who reaped this disaster when a disinterested president named George Bush had the same attitude about this as you do, that is why it is a good thing for this country that the last word before voting that we got collectively as a nation was the chance to hear you forced to talk about foreign policy. Mitt Romney said his big idea on Iran last night was that he wants to indict the Iranian president for genocide. Who is going to arrest him exactly? Mr. Romney`s running mate today is still trying to get away with saying he didn`t vote for the proposed defense cuts that are called the sequester, which he has been criticizing on the campaign trail. He says he didn`t vote for those, which leaves as to the question of who forged his name to the congressional record then? Whether or not you agree with that vote or not, whether your politics are like mine, or whether your politics is like Bill Kristol`s or whether they are somewhere in between, that`s a large distance. The problem here is that the Republican Party has run a ticket for president that seems to think this does not matter. They don`t even care enough to try on this subject. Just say anything. You don`t count them to really understand it or really believe what you`re saying. They do not think there`s any political cost to barely phoning this in. The commander-in-chief thing -- the commander-in-chief test that everybody talks about is a stupid Beltway term, right? But the commander-in-chief thing is a real thing. It`s not just a poetic synonym for the president. You don`t get to opt out. And if you`re going to try, you cannot just hope that we don`t notice. Even two weeks out. Dan Rather joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The great Dan Rather joins us here, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to point out in the same way that Governor Romney didn`t mention the Afghan war or our troops in his convention speech, Governor Romney didn`t even mention our veterans last night. The men and women and their families who have served this country so bravely, they deserve better from somebody who is applying to be commander-in-chief. ROMNEY: I have the greatest respect for the men and women who serve in our armed forces and appreciate their grand sacrifice. And I will not continue to reduce the number of ships we have and the number of planes we have and the number of soldiers we have. I`ll make sure that we protect our military and keep them second to none in the world. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: President Barack Obama in Florida this morning and Governor Mitt Romney in Nevada this afternoon. Both campaigning in swing states with 14 days to go before the election. Where these guys are going now and at what speed is an amazing story about what`s going on in the campaign. That is coming up on tonight`s show. But, first, joining us now is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on AXS-TV. Sir, thank you for being here. DAN RATHER, DAN RATHER REPORTS: Always a pleasure. MADDOW: I feel like we have made this a regular post-debate thing this year, which is very satisfying to me. Do you think it`s significant that Romney made the change in position on the Afghanistan war for the foreign policy debate last night? RATHER: It certainly is significant. Whether it registers with those voters who at this late date are still undecided or not, I`m not quite sure. It certainly should register. It stood out in the debate. Once again, he`s changed position. Not a small change at all. In presidential debate number two, he said, well, in effect, I`m not committing to a timeline in 2014. Last night, complete change over to the other side. This comes to a point about coverage of the campaign. We tend to cover the horse race each time. All of us in the press, myself included, and emphasize the latest poll, this or that. Each time we say the next time around we`re not going to spend as much time on the horse race aspects, there are important policy differences between the two candidates and you see a lot of post-debate about what the overnight polls show, very little about where the differences in policy are. This is what one candidate stands for and this is what the other one stands for. I think it`s important that viewers and voters understand that those of us in the press, again myself included, are not really doing our job. Then there`s also the question of who is contributing what money to whom and expecting to get what. Each time around, we always think we`re going to concentrate on that more. Once again, we haven`t concentrated nearly enough. MADDOW: I think one of the consequences of the focus on the horse race as opposed to the focus on policy is I think you see very obviously the extent to which politicians think they can change their policies on even very important issues. They think they have a lot of wiggle room because they think people don`t know what their old policy was. They aren`t paying much attention about their current policy is. And so, there`s no real cost to them at changing. For me, I will tell you my feeling about these guys is that if it is something that matters to them, one way you`re going to know is that they are not going to change on it following the polls or following what`s politically convenient. That shows a seriousness. RATHER: Very good point. It`s also a point that the Romney camp has obviously made the gamble, that look, we can change where we stand. We can make significant changes and people are either going to notice or it`s not going to matter to them. Otherwise they wouldn`t have, for example, changed on Afghanistan. The night after the election, the morning after the election whether they placed that bet correctly or not. That Governor Romney`s campaign is convinced that they have momentum. They have had it since the first debate. And they are counting on a late close as Ronald Reagan did against President Carter in 1980, a late shift. However, historically, often late closers wind up losing. Humphrey closed late against Richard Nixon in 1968, came back a loser. John Kerry began to close down, narrow the gap on President George Bush in 2004, but didn`t bring it home. So, the idea they are going to get a late momentum over the last weekend before the Tuesday vote, they are hoping and praying for that. Who knows they may get it, but the historical record doesn`t support it. MADDOW: On the issue of Reagan, substantively on Reagan, I have been chewing for a long time on this anecdote that Mitt Romney told his donors in Montana in July that Ronald Reagan has called off his national security briefings for 100 days just to focus on the economy. Not damning President Reagan on this false anecdote, but praising him for having done that. I wonder what your read is on that either in making it up or in what it would say about Reagan if it were true. RATHER: Well, it would say about Reagan is he didn`t take the commander-in-chief role seriously, which he did. As you pointed out, number one, what candidate, former Governor Romney said, was the case with Reagan saying, "I don`t want anymore National Security Council meetings. I want to focus on the economy" -- is not true. I put it in bold caps, it`s not true. The fact that Governor Romney would use it as an indication of this is surely how I plan to do when I get in, the economy is my issue and that`s what I`m going to concentrate on. That Bill Kristol, no one refused Kristol being a Democrat, called his hand on that. But again, does it matter? Will it matter with the electorate? I`d like to believe it will matter. I hope that it does. I think that it will. But we can`t be assured that it will do so. MADDOW: I look at the city of St. Louis holding a parade on its own to welcome home troops from Iraq and, it`s going to matter. RATHER: Explain to me, Rachel, if you can -- you follow these things very carefully, that at the Republican convention, candidate Romney I think failed to mention veterans in the address. And then again in last night`s debate he fails to mention the veterans. I don`t understand how that happens. It`s not smart politics for that to happen. MADDOW: I don`t know how it happens and I don`t know how you get this far on presidential politics if you`re the kind of guy who will let it happen. (INAUDIBLE) on this. Dan Rather, thank you for being here and lending some very well- appreciated perspective on this subject. I appreciate it. All right. We`ll be right back. RATHER: Thanks a lot. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So two weeks out now and, frankly, there are stories about things getting better and there are stories about things getting worse. You get to pick the half fullness or half emptiness of your glass as you read the papers these days. But let`s start with the good news. Do you remember the scary voter fraud is a felony billboards that went up all over Ohio and Wisconsin a few weeks ago? That maybe it seemed like trying to vote would get you years in jail. Dozens of these billboards went up in predominantly black or predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods or in places where college kids tend to live, in cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati and Milwaukee. Well, when we first reported on these billboards last week, we noted that nobody was admitting to paying for them except an unnamed private family foundation. The company that owns the billboards Clear Channel initially said, yes, they would take them down but it would take a few weeks, which was convenient timing given the election. Well, I know. Promise this is good news, I swear. Starting yesterday, those billboards did start to come down, 140 of them. Clear Channel changed its mind and now says the billboards violated policy against anonymous political acts. So now in the place of those old billboards, look what`s going up in Cleveland, 15 of these. Voting is a right, not a crime. These are going up instead and they are signed by the Cleveland City Council. Over in Milwaukee, Clear Channel is also working with the city to put up new billboards encouraging people to vote early. So, that`s one nice piece of good news about the billboards in Ohio and Wisconsin. Here`s another piece of good news out of Mississippi. In that state, the state`s new law requiring voters to show ID, they never had to show before, that law got blocked by an action by the Justice Department. The law will not be in effect for this year`s election. You don`t need to show a new form of ID you never had to show before in order to vote this year in Mississippi. Still though, the Republican state official in charge of Mississippi elections spent all summer long telling people in that state that you do have to have an ID. So if you don`t have a driver`s license in Mississippi, you can still vote but your state government has been very busy spending your taxpayer dollars trying to convince you to not bother trying to vote. This until recently was the secretary of state`s office Web site. Voter ID. As I said, though, good news. It`s been changed. Look. The "Jackson Free P" started raising a stink about this. And now, finally, the state election website says the truth. "Mississippi`s voter ID law will not be in effect for the November 6th election." It is a teeny tiny statement, but at least it`s finally true. And a bunch of regular folks in Mississippi, those regular citizens, are doing what they can to try to get the word out a little bit louder. Including this true message written on the back window of her own car by the beloved Mississippi auntie of one of this show`s producers. No voter ID required in Mississippi. People sticking up for the right to vote, for the prospect that our election should be free and fair and unintimidating and not purposely confusing -- all good news, right? Right. Then there`s the other side. And then, there`s Colorado. Hold on. That`s coming. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Now that debate season is over and we`ve officially entered the final stretch of the campaign, you can expect to see schedules from the candidates that defy human capability. President Obama, for example, is embarking on what the campaign is calling a two-day, around the clock campaign blitz across six battleground states. The president will campaign in six states in just two days. And while he`s in between state, he`s going to be calling undecided voters personally from Air Force One. Yes, it is that time in the campaign. Today, President Obama was in Florida and in Ohio. He was mining last night`s debate for stump speech possibilities. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If you say that you love American cars during a debate but you wrote an article titled "Let Detroit go bankrupt", you might have Romnesia. (APPLAUSE) If you talk about how much you love teachers during a debate but said just a few weeks ago that we shouldn`t hire anymore because they won`t grow the economy, what do you have? I bet you got some Romnesia. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Can`t say that he`s not enjoying himself with that line. The Obama campaign reached into the swing state of Virginia as well today where Bruce Springsteen campaigned for the president by way of a e free concert, a free get out the vote concert in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr. Romney`s stops today included Nevada and Colorado. All told, Mr. Romney will touch down in four states by the end of the day Thursday. Today, he also talked to supporters in Henderson, Nevada, about how much he thinks the debates helped him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: My guess is you had the chance to watch that debate last night, maybe a couple of the debates. And these debates have super charged our campaign. There`s no question about it. We`re seeing more and more enthusiasm, more and more support. We`re going to make sure that these campaigns and the message of these debates, rather, these messages keep going across the country. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: One piece of Beltway wisdom that`s true for a change is that you can tell where the campaign`s think the campaign is being fought by looking at where they put the candidates. When they have very limited time and they need to essentially make triage decisions about where to go and not to go. By that measure, this is the battleground map as seen by the Obama campaign, right? These are the six states the president will be visiting in the next two days. And this is the battleground map from the Romney campaign. This is where Mitt Romney will be campaigning over the next couple of crucial days. So that`s one blunt way to tell where the race is coming down to from the different campaigns` perspective. If you ask the polling firms, NBC made an interesting decision yesterday to pair down its map of the battleground states from nine states to seven states. NBC yesterday dropped North Carolina off the map of battlegrounds, dropped it into the Republican. And they dropped Nevada off the battleground list, they dropped that one into the Democratic leaning column. With the race this close, this late, is there anything else that might move the dial? Last night`s debate was the last big event in the campaign before Election Day. A CNN snap poll of voters showed Obama winning the debate by an eight-point margin. A PPP snap poll of swing state voters showed the president winning the debate by 11-point margin. A CBS poll of undecided voters showed the president winning by a whopping 30-point margin. Nate Silver of "New York Times`" "FiveThirtyEight" blog put a chart that shows the big picture effect of the debates on this point in the campaign. This is their graph over time showing each candidate`s chance of winning. You can see after the first debate, at the beginning of October, President Obama`s chances of winning reelection went down at that point. Romney`s chances went up. You can see the president`s chances improving again and Romney`s chances declining after the second debate in the middle of October. Will Obama`s win last night help him further in the polls? Will his two-day, six-state campaign marathon help get the bump? We do not know yet. We might know more tomorrow. But Nate Silver at "The New York Times" today did underscore how important even a small post- debate bump could be in deciding the election. Nate says, quote, "If Mr. Obama`s head to head polling were just two percentage points higher right now, he would be a considerably clearer favorite in the forecast, about 85 percent. A one-point bounce would bring him to 80 percent and even a half point bounce would advance his position to being a 75 percent forecast to win the election" in Nate`s "FiveThirtyEight" forecast. So it`s time to wait and watch the polls. But there is another measure we can look at right now. Something that`s not predictive. It`s not about the future. It`s something that is concrete about what is already done, what is already locked in. And we`ve got that empirical measure of what`s going on in this race right now here next, exclusively. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In reporting on efforts to make it harder to vote and harder to register to vote over the course of this past year or two, we found that we`re seeing a lot of confusing data about who actually has been able to register, especially in the swing states this year. So, a producer on this show, the great Sunita Sohoni, decided that she was going to crunch the numbers herself. She went state by state through the swing states calling the states directly and getting the registration data from the state election offices. This is what she found. In Colorado, a swing state with a large Latino population that is starting to look Ohio level important this year, this is how many new voters signed up as Democrats in 2008 looking at the period from January to October. So, it`s sort the sweet spot for the campaign that year in 2008. This is how many new voters signed up as Republicans in the same time period in 2008. so, a big advantage for the Democrats, just colossal. That was 2008 in Colorado. Now look at what has happened in the same time span this year in 2012. Democrats have improved their number some over even what they had in 2008. But look at the Republicans. The Republicans in Colorado, they improved their numbers a lot. The Democrats have lost the colossal part of what had been their colossal advantage in new voter registration in Colorado. Let`s go to Ohiowa (ph). Ohiowa, that`s nice. Let`s go to Iowa. All right. Look at this -- from January to October, that sweet spot again in 2008, new Democratic registrations outpaced Republican registrations in Iowa by almost eight to one. But now, look at 2012. Look at the difference. That`s negative. Look at those numbers. That`s zero in the middle. Where did all the Democrats go? Really, where did they do? The Democrats have lost, not gained, lost almost 23,000 new registrants this year. Meanwhile, Republicans are basically puttering along same as they ever did, same as they did in 2008. But when you compare them with the Democrats, quite a different margin, right? Definitely enough to wipe out the Democrats advantage in registering new voters and then some. In Florida last time, January through September, Democrats signed up almost half a million new voters, 400,000 plus. Florida Republicans, less than half that in 2008. But this time around, Florida Republicans changed the rules and passed a new law that makes it tougher to hold registration drives. It had a huge effect on the number of new Democratic registrations. Just plummeted. Republicans found their numbers dropping too, but not by nearly so much. That newly registered voter gap that helped the Democrats so much in Florida in 2008 is all but closed. But in all those states, Democrats say they are not worried about those numbers. Why not? Joining us now is Scott Arceneaux. He`s the executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. Mr. Arceneaux, it`s a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for joining us. Do we have audio and I can`t hear it? We`ve got an audio difficulty that is apparently solvable. We`re going to take a quick break and be right back with Mr. Arceneaux. Sorry about that. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: After a brief technical difficulty, which we have conquered, I hope, joining us now is Scott Arceneaux. He`s the executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. Mr. Arceneaux, I`m very sorry for that awkward introduction. Thank you for joining us. SCOTT ARCENEAUX, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: No problem. Still happy to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. So we got these numbers from Florida state government showing that the historic Democratic advantage in voter registration from 2008 is much, much, much reduced in 2012. Do those numbers look about right to you? And how do you feel about them? ARCENEAUX: Well, they do look about right. And what you had here in Florida is the Republican Governor Rick Scott and the legislature tried to basically criminalize voter registration. So you did have a lot of groups like the League of Women Voters who basically said they had to get out of the voter registration business. You see that reflecting a lot of the numbers. But that`s not the approach we took. Together with the Obama campaign, we have done an aggressive effort over the last year and we`ve out-registered Republicans eight months in a row. And what we`ve seen as we`ve gotten closer to the election is that number grow and grow and grow. So we really feel good about the last 12 months and where we ended up this year. MADDOW: In terms of the change in the law, it was a judge who blocked that law as of August. So, then it was sort of catch up time once registration drives were effectively re-legalized in Florida. Why is it that the Florida Democratic Party would be more, sort of, dependent on or at least attractive to newly registered voters than the Republican Party is? ARCENEAUX: Well, I mean, where we have seen our great gains is with Latino voters statewide. I think that`s obvious with the president`s message with the DREAM Act. It was opening up our country and attracting them greatly in the Cuban community, Puerto Rican community. All the different kind of Hispanic communities -- young people, African-American. You know, if you look at the subsets, the women voters, young voters, our margins are about 20, 30 points over Republicans. It`s really just about the message that the president has been giving. It`s been attracting folks. We do see that every month, Rachel. MADDOW: Early voting I know begins in Florida this Saturday, is that right? It begins this weekend? ARCENEAUX: Right. This Saturday. MADDOW: In 2008, we know Floridians waited hours in some cases for the chance to early vote. Not just Election Day lines, but early voting lines. This time around the legislature cut the days for early voting by quite a bit. Can you as a political party make it any easier for people to just go through the voting process this year? Can you do anything at this point to make it so people aren`t dissuaded by long lines? ARCENEAUX: Well, absolutely. And one thing we have done this year in particular is a huge absentee push by the Obama campaign and by the party here. For the first time ever, Democrats have gone over a million requests here in Florida. That`s a historical landmark for us. That`s so we can get more people voting by mail so there`s less people that need to voted early, there`ll be less lines. You know, we have decided we`re not going to whine about the change in the law. We`re going to do something about it. And that`s really a whole month-long process for us. We have been getting ballots in people`s hands now so they get turned in so when we get to Saturday, we can go right into the process. We feel really great where we`re at. MADDOW: Does that also account for some of the super long ballots we`re seeing this year in Florida? We sent away to get sample ballots. Looking at 10-page long ballots in some case with these really long voter initiatives on them. We saw a report out of Tallahassee today that said absentee voters are taking seven and eight minutes to fill out the ballot. Do you think that could be causing bottlenecks at the polls? Do you have any strategic thoughts about that? ARCENEAUX: Absolutely. The Republicans loaded up the bat ballot with 12 amendments. We think that`s why it`s important for folks to vote by mail, so that they can take as much time as they need. We`re going to encourage people to go early so they encourage people to go early. When people vote earlier, one, they can take a little longer at the polls and our election day. We`re going to do -- our job is really to educate folks and it is a long ballot and in some of our bigger counties, it`s even longer than in some places. So, they need to know that going in so they can take their time, get through the whole ballot and make sure everybody gets to vote. That`s really our job, is to educate folks on what to expect when they get there. MADDOW: Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, speaking with lots of confidence two weeks out -- thank you very much for your time tonight sir. Good luck. ARCENEAUX: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. So Florida obviously is still home to most of the nation`s alligator drive, stolen car, through retirement community as part of Ponzi scheme or kidnapping type of news story. Florida is famous for that. Florida is famously home to a lot of the nation`s shady politics news story. But this year, Florida has competition for that title, from a state you would not expect it from. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Congratulations. They started early voting yesterday in the crucial swing state of Colorado. We have seen long lines in other states this week, but in Colorado, a lot of people vote by mail, so the polls were not too crowded, which of course makes voting easier, which is awesome, especially for Colorado, where so much about voting has not gone awesomely this year. Like this summer for instance, when Colorado launched a great, big voter registration drive. Scott Gessler, the Republican secretary of state in Colorado, said it was the biggest voter drive in the state`s history. They just finished painting (ph) up the state`s voter registration Web site, so now you can become a voter by using your smartphone or your iPad to register, like you see in these ads that were made by the state. And, you know, when you invite millions of people to become voters, some of them will actually try to become voters. Some of them will even try to do it the way you showed them to on the smartphones. But look at how that turned out when people actually tried to do it. The state Web site for signing up that way did not work correctly. It did not work correctly for more than 10 days. A software glitch made it so that 800 people`s registrations did not go through. And they didn`t go through in such a way that it was 800 people who thought they registered online with the state, but the state screwed it up and it didn`t work and those 800 mystery people were not in fact registered. Don`t worry, said Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Everybody just head over to GoVoteColorado.com and make sure you`re registered. Well, the deadline for doing that was Tuesday, October 9th. And in the predawn hours of that deadline day, we started hearing from viewers of this show who live in Colorado, people e-mailing us on that last day, you can make sure the state`s screwed up system actually registered you, and didn`t eat your registration, the last day you could fix that, the last day you could register to vote period in that swing state, Colorado, and on that last day, this is what the state`s Web site looked like -- a picture of Mr. Scott Gessler, very handsome, and this message, "We regret that we have experienced intermittent technical difficulties with online voter registration." So on the last day you could register to vote. The last day you could fix your registration if anything had gone wrong, and it went wrong for a lot of people, people coming to the official state Web site to try to fix that, could not register to vote, could not fix it. The Republican secretary of state`s office blamed the crashing Web site on incredibly high traffic. Incredibly high traffic that they of course asked for, but they then did not prepare for. And that seems to be a sign of how things are going in the great state of Colorado this year under the leadership of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Just the day before the voter registration Web site popped out there and people could not register online, despite the state telling people to register online, the guy whose picture is at the top of that pooped out voter registration Web site, Colorado`s top elections official, the Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, he received a letter from local election officials around his state. The Colorado County Clerk`s Association wrote to Mr. Gessler to sound an alarm over what they called a series of errors and oversights by his office. The clerk said they were not sure exactly how to print the ballots this year. They had not been advised of how to do that. They expressed concerns about the way a voter registration mailing had been handled. The clerks said they were really quite worried about that pritzy (ph) online registration system that had lost hundreds of registrations because then what happens when the trusting wood-be voter shows up at the polls thinking he or she registered but the system ate it. Sorry, ma`am, you`re not really registered? Can`t vote? After the deadline, the clerks were facing a backlog of 45,000 new registrations, many of them from the last day you could register when the state`s Web sites were so busy crashing. In Colorado, this is just the view from here, but your election system looks like kind of a mess this year. And it`s not like we didn`t see it coming. Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler started making headlines last year when he tried to stop mailing ballots to every voter who normally gets one. Last month, Mr. Gessler again ordered the clerk in Denver to not mail ballots the way she usually does. This summer with the election looming, Mr. Gessler launched a new purge of the voter rules. He challenged the registrations of nearly 400,000 Colorado voters. All of 14 people ended up getting taken off the rolls. Reportedly none of them had actually voted. But 100 percent of the 400,000 he challenged have their voting rights challenged. Now, Scott Gessler is waiting on the results of another round of purges, where he`s checking up on more than 2,000 of those same voters again. And just to ice this particular cake, Scott Gessler served as the featured speaker for the Tea Party poll watcher`s group True the Vote, which has been challenging the registrations of tens of thousands of voters in swing states all across the country. Colorado, your elections are such a mess that you are on the verge of being famous for that. This op-ed appeared earlier this month in "The Washington Post", all the way across the country from Colorado, quote, "Could Colorado be another Florida?" As in, could Colorado be a historic mess on election days the way Florida was in 2000? Could Colorado screw it up for the whole country? Could Scott Gessler be this year`s Katherine Harris? It`s a good question, 14 days left. Fourteen days left and that it is too late just to ask the question, 14 days left and then it is too late just to be worried about it. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END