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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/21/15

Guests: Jon Erpenbach, Nicolle Wallace

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It`s always easy to say in hindsight, but looking back now, it really does seem like there were early signs that something was wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MODERATOR: We`re out of time. Governor, I know you`ve got to be somewhere else. Can I finish with a question -- it`s a tradition to ask visiting, particularly Republican -- senior Republicans that come to London. And it`s not about cheese, and it`s not about foreign affairs. It`s actually about Evolution. Do you -- are you comfortable with the idea of Evolution? Do you believe in it? Do you accept it? GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: For me, I`m going to punt on that one as well. MODERATOR: No. Really? WALKER: That`s a question politicians shouldn`t be involved in one way or the other. I`m going to leave that up to you -- MODERATOR: Any British politician, right or left wing, would laugh and say, yes, of course, Evolution`s true. WALKER: To me, I said, it`s just one of those where I`m here to talk about trade, not to pontificate on other issues. I love the evolution of trade in Wisconsin. And I`d like to see an even bigger evolution as well. MODERATOR: Thank you very much. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin. In February this year, he went to London. It was ostensibly a trade mission to promote Wisconsin business. But really, what it was more of was a way to get the taxpayers of Wisconsin to foot the bill for this trip that was designed to make Scott Walker seem more presidential-ish. When Scott Walker`s London hosts ended up laughing at him right to his face, that maybe should have been seen as an early sign that he was not going to be all that good at making the case that he could really credibly be president. That was February. When he got back to the United States, there were more ripples of concern. When he was asked how he would handle the threat of ISIS and in response he suggested that his political fights with protesting Wisconsin public school teachers would have ISIS trembling in their boots. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MODERATOR: Would like to know should you become commander in chief, how would you deal with threats such as ISIS? WALKER: Well, you know, the interesting thing, sometimes people in the media don`t understand that as a governor I actually get a threat assessment from the FBI and from my adjutant general. And without divulging confidential information, I will tell you, for years, I`ve been concerned about that threat. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not, do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Nailed it. You can tell he thinks he stuck the landing, right? Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin answering a question about fighting ISIS by comparing is to schoolteachers and other protesters in Wisconsin who did not like it when he abolished union rights in their state. I mean, did he really just compare ISIS to teachers? John Heilemann of Bloomberg Politics pressed Governor Walker on that point just moments after he finished giving that talk. Governor Walker insisted that really wasn`t what he said and that`s not certainly what he meant, and then said this thing about the Grand Canyon and there was also a mention of a land mine and a landslide. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN HEILEMANN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Just to break it down, I mean, you`re not actually comparing ISIS terrorists to the protesters in Wisconsin, right? You`re not trying make that comparison in either direction? WALKER: No. HEILEMANN: That the protesters are equivalent to terrorists or the terrorists are equivalent to protesters. WALKER: Not by a landmine -- or by a landslide out there. Not a Grand Canyon size difference. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not a landslide. Not a land mine. Not a Grand Canyon. You guys are always twisting my words. There were signs very early on that something was wrong with this guy as a supposedly top-tier presidential candidate. He got all this great beltway press, all the sort of right endorsements. All these people saying -- all the right people saying he`d go all the way. But when he went out there to perform as a candidate, this is the kind of thing that would happen. And he did not get better over time. That landslide, landmine, Grand Canyon, teachers are ISIS thing, that was Fin February. In March, he was asked a very sober, respectful question about his qualifications to be commander in chief and whether he was daunted at all by that prospect. Governor Walker responded that, of course, he was qualified to be commander-in-chief, he was not at all daunted by the prospect of becoming commander-in-chief because after all, he had a lot of experience in the boy scouts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUGH HEWITT: Does the prospect of being commander-in-chief daunt you, because the world you described when you were talking about safety is going to require commitments of American men and women abroad, obviously, at some point. And how do you think about that? WALKER: It`s an appropriate question. As a kid, I was in the scouts and one of things I was proudest of when I was in the scouts is earning the rank of Eagle. Every time I go to an Eagle Scout ceremony, I go during and speak to the young man who`s gotten the rank and I say, I`m not here to congratulate you. I`m here on behalf of all the other eagle scouts like me to issue a charge to you, to tell you that because you`ve attained this rank, you are now the rest of your life responsible for living up to the calling of an Eagle Scout. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was in March. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Eagle Scout, suggesting that being commander-in-chief of the United States of America and living the honorable life of an Eagle Scout were kind of -- of course, he`s ready. Ask his Boy Scout troop leader. Despite those early signs, though, of how Scott Walker was going to behave as a candidate, he persistently had these very powerful allies. I think that drove the beltway narrative around Scott Walker, the inevitable Republican nominee. In April, at a New York City fund-raiser, billionaire David Koch told a group of Republican donors, quote, "We will support whoever the candidate is, but it should be Scott Walker." Charles and David Koch not only wanted the Republican presidential nomination to go to Scott Walker, they said publicly they believed the nomination would go to him. At that same fund-raiser, David Koch also quoted by the "New York Times" as saying, quote, "When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination." So however wobbly he was as a candidate, one of the things that always made Scott Walker seem very viable, made it seem like he really might have a shot at the nomination is that he won the billionaire bingo. He had the Koch brothers in his corner more than any other candidate. And they had supported him so long and so generously in Wisconsin, it felt natural I`m sure for their largesse toward his Wisconsin political career to extended to a national campaign as well. And that sort of support I think in particular gave Scott Walker a perceived momentum and positive beltway press that tended to outweigh the unfortunate ground truth of what would happen when Scott Walker opened his mouth as a real presidential candidate. By mid summer, in -- you know, by July, Scott Walker was doing great in the polls. He was the clear front-runner in Iowa. He`d been for weeks. He was polling well into the double digits in national polling. He was definitely a top-tier national contender. That was all before he formally got into the race. But then he did have to formally get into the race. And again, just something was a little off. This was Scott Walker`s introduction that day. This was his warm-up act on the day he got ready to declare he was running for president of the United States. The person speaking here I believe is a nice person who works at the FOX News Channel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: Scott has been married to Tonette for 24 years. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) Twenty-four. Twenty-four is Bill Clinton`s favorite age. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Scott Walker declared formally that he was running in mid- July. And he got really good poll numbers right up at the top of the heap for a few weeks after he announced. But then by August, he was stumbling all over himself again. Asked a straightforward question about whether or not people who were born in the United States should be U.S. citizens, Scott Walker said yes and then he said no, and then he said he had no position and then he was back to yes. Four position, which was actually three positions because one of them he took twice -- that whole journey taken in the span of seven days. Governor Walker capped off that performance by suggesting at the end of that same week that perhaps the United States really should look into building a border wall with Canada. He suggested the border wall on Sunday. By Monday his campaign had taken that back. By the day after that, the satirist Andy Borowitz struck a particularly resonant chord when he wrote this headline, "Cutting losses: Koch brothers to sell Scott Walker." The Kochs, who had reportedly been frustrated by Scott Walker`s performance in the poll, finally decided to sell the Wisconsinite after last weekend`s odd pronouncement in which he seemed to support a border wall with Canada. According to a Koch associate, quote, "Ignorance has always been a part of Scott`s appeal but that Canada thing, that was just too much." Again, that was a joke. That was a joke published by comedian Andy Borowitz, but it does a little too close to real. By the first week in September, national polls were describing Scott Walker standing as, quote, "freefall" and "fading into the background." Scott Walker donors, in fact, started talking to the press about other candidates who they also liked in addition to their like for Scott Walker. Governor Walker`s top-flight, top-dollar campaign team, at that point they picked a new catch phrase for the governor to drop into his appearances and his stump speeches. He started to say in early September that if elected he would, and I quote, wreak havoc in Washington. This past Friday night, we reported Governor Walker had given up a keynote address opportunity in Michigan this weekend, at a big Republican event in Michigan, as a sign of some of the chaos in his campaign. It appears that what actually happened is Governor Walker gave up that keynote address so he could spend more time campaigning in Iowa. He then, after canceling his keynote, asked to be put back on the schedule of that Republican event in Michigan this weekend, at a time that was more convenient for him. So they put him back on the schedule. He was due to speak Saturday morning at a breakfast. That was how we left it Friday night. But then Saturday morning breakfast rolled around and Scott Walker did not show. He bailed out of that event. He blamed bad weather. This morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, a new national CNN poll came out which showed that Scott Walker had dropped in that particular poll from 10 percent to 8 percent to 5 percent to -- that`s nothing. To -- CNN today described Scott Walker`s support in this latest national poll as less than 1/2 of 1 percent. This afternoon, Governor Walker`s campaign manager was due to appear at an event sponsored by the conservative magazine "The National Review." By this afternoon, rumors were circulating the Walker campaign might be coming to an end. That appeared to be confirmed when at that live event, Scott Walker`s campaign manager also bailed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR: Not unexpectedly, we have a little change in programming that I`m alerted by in this post-it note. Rick Wiley not -- from the Walker campaign will not be joining us and instead we are going to go straight to Timmy Teepell of the Bobby Jindal campaign. Timmy, how are you doing? (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Imagine being Timmy in that situation. On the one hand you get to move up in the schedule because Scott Walker`s campaign manager was supposed to go before you but Scott Walker`s dropping out of the race so his campaign manager didn`t show up so you get to move up. That`s good, right? On the other hand, you`re Bobby Jindal`s campaign manager and other candidates have started dropping out of the race, including Scott Walker. By 4:15 this afternoon, NBC News had confirmed through Walker campaign sources that the gig was up. Governor Walker would be getting out, and by 6:00 Eastern, it was done. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WALKER: I was sitting at church yesterday. The pastor`s words reminded me that the bible of full of stories about people who are called to be leaders in unusual ways. Today I believe I`m being called to lead by clearing the field in this race so a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately. I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The current front-runner, of course, is Donald Trump. So with that being his withdrawal statement, Scott Walker today bluntly cast his withdrawal from the race as a noble effort, a biblically inspired effort to try to stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination. Whether or not you think Scott Walker quitting will go help or hurt Donald Trump`s chance of getting the nomination, there`s a few nuts and bolts things to consider. And one thing I think everybody`s getting wrong already about Scott Walker, the thing everybody`s get wrong is the question of when Scott Walker started to die as a presidential contender. A lot of people today are saying that his campaign fell apart after the first debate in which Governor Walker didn`t have an oops moment or anything but he did have a rather lackluster performance. If you actually go back and look at the polls, the inflection point at which he starts dropping both in the crucial early state of Iowa and nationally, that inflection point comes before the first debate, he was already starting to crater before that disappoint debate ever happened. So, that`s one thing to consider about the history here. Something else to consider about Scott Walker which I think may become important in short order is that Scott Walker is one of the candidates who prioritized raising money for his super PAC over raising money for his campaign. Scott Walker very early on raised on the order of $20 million for his super PAC and they didn`t spend most of it or nearly any of it. Now that Scott Walker`s dropped out of the race earlier than most people expected him to, one of the important factors going forward is what`s going to happen to the millions of dollars that super PAC has. They`ve still got millions of dollars in the bank. They were raised in a pro-Scott Walker way but that money theoretically could be used for any candidate if that pro-Scott Walker PAC decides to throw its support behind someone else. So, watch for that in the coming days. But there`s one other point that I think is important and that is sort of being missed nationwide. Scott Walker is a big name to be dropping out of this race, especially in the Beltway, because the Beltway had sort of adopted Scott Walker as the best chance, most viable mainstream candidate. I mean, even though 35 percent of people in the latest CNN poll still said they had never heard of Scott Walker, the beltway has been in love with him since before he declared. And I think because the Beltway always saw him as being more viable than he was, because the beltway always saw him as a better candidate than was warranted by his actual performance as a candidate, a lot of the discussion now today about him dropping out is how it`s going to affect who wins. How it`s going to affect the top of the race. How it`s going to affect the front-runner, Donald Trump. How it`s going to affect the other real contenders who really might win the nomination. Honestly, that makes sense if you believe the beltway that Scott Walker was going to be the nominee. In real life, Scott Walker didn`t have enough support that there will be any meaningful redistribution of Scott Walker supporters that`s going to be significant in anyone else`s campaign. Nobody was for him. So, Scott Walker is quitting, which means we get to poof him off the list. That`s right. Ready? Scott Walker going bye-bye in three, two, one. Gone. Scott Walker poofed. Scott Walker being out of the race. I maintain it tells us very little about who is likely to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States of America. It is likely to have zero effect on the top-tier contenders, because he had less than 1/2 of one percentage point support in nationwide polls. The more pressing question it raises is who`s likely to be the next candidate at the bottom of the list to drop out? Because in that latest CNN national poll with that devastatingly low result of support for Scott Walker, he is tied at that devastatingly low level of support with four other candidates. He`s tied in the CNN poll below 1 percent, at the very bottom of measurable support, he`s tied with George Pataki and Lindsey Graham and Bobby Jindal and Jim Gilmore. How long are those guys going to stay in the race? In the latest Iowa poll, the PPP Iowa poll that is just out today, Scott Walker was polling at 5 percent. Which is a disaster for somebody who`s whole presidential campaign depends on them winning Iowa. But Scott Walker at 5 percent in Iowa means that in that state, he`s ahead of Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, also Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie. I mean, Scott Walker had more support in Iowa than any of those other guys, and he has just quit the race for his lack of support. How long can the rest of those guys stay alive? If Scott Walker`s out, who`s next? Joining us now is Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach, who has a long history of battling with Scott Walker in his home state of Wisconsin. Senator Erpenbach, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: When Scott Walker said today he was suspending his campaign, I don`t know who it was, but somebody in the room applauded like a seal being commanded to perform. I wonder if that was sort of a weird audiovisual metaphor for how this is being greeted by Governor Walker`s old opponents at home in Wisconsin. Are you happy to see him out of the race? ERPENBACH: Yes, I actually am. But it`s kind of a double-edged sword. He`s obviously going to be back here as governor in the state of Wisconsin. But he didn`t have to give up his seat to go run for president. But I`m not surprised he`s out. I`m not -- I`m surprised he`s out on Monday but Friday given the idea that he didn`t do well in the polls over the weekend and he had to shore up his hard money donors as best as he possibly could, and I know that was he was doing over the weekend and obviously it didn`t work. So, I thought he`d probably drop off by the end of the week. A little surprised that it happened today. MADDOW: In terms of his Wisconsin history, obviously part of the reason that I think the Beltway was so enthusiastic about him, part of actually the mainstream explanation for why he might do great is that he`s won something like a dozen straight elections going back to 1993, all of which he won in Wisconsin. Why has he been able to win all those elections in Wisconsin when he performed so unbelievably badly at the national level? Do you have insight into that, having seen him operate in your state all these years? ERPENBACH: Yes, I have. And he won his first election in my opinion Rachel by saying one thing all over the state of Wisconsin, and doing something completely different once he was elected into office. Act 10 is a great example. He never wants to talk about taking away collective bargaining rights. He talked about sitting down and working with the unions to resolve budgetary issues. Never once talked about giving away the rights but that`s the first he did. And then the second time he won, he had a tremendous amount of money backing him, a lot of state money, a lot of independent expenditures coming in because a lot of conservatives money saw Scott Walker as their next president of the United States. So, obviously, that`s why he won here in Wisconsin. It`s not so much people responding to the message because they really didn`t know when he ran the first time. They liked what he said but he did something completely different. But now, again, I`m surprised that he`s out as quickly as he is. If you think about it, it was just 70 days ago when he announced. He announced pretty much as a top-tier candidate leading in several polls that I saw. It was a very quick descent and a very quick fall. MADDOW: When he comes back to Wisconsin -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Yes, up fast and down fast. When he comes back to Wisconsin to be a full-time governor and not governor who is running for president which he has felt like for several years now, do you expect him to be any easier to work with or do you expect him to be the same guy? ERPENBACH: I would hope he would come back to Wisconsin humbled. I would hope he would come back to Wisconsin and actually try to be a little more inclusive when developing public policy Wisconsinites have to live by. I also know that he`s angered some state Republicans by basically saying he had to take on Republicans in Wisconsin even in Act 10, which was not true. And it upset a lot of Republicans here in Wisconsin. So, I don`t know how he`s necessarily going to be greeted by Republicans in the legislature, but in the end, when he comes back and starts working full-time as governor again, I hope he`s inclusive, I hope he realizes a lot of people live in Wisconsin, not just hardcore conservatives and a lot of people have a lot of good ideas about what direction the state should go and hopefully he`ll listen to them. MADDOW: Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach, it`s nice to see you again, Senator. Thanks for being here. ERPENBACH: All right. You, too. Thanks. MADDOW: This is -- the prospect of not only Scott Walker`s political career in Wisconsin facing that dramatic recall election and all the rest of it, the prospect of Scott Walker as a presidential contender has completely loomed over that state`s politics for years now. Having him come back as the senator says ascending to the top of the heap and then dropping out of the race within 70 days is going to make Wisconsin very unpredictable as Scott Walker comes back a humbled former presidential candidate. All right. Lots to come tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Happy Monday. We`ve got more ahead tonight on Scott Walker unexpectedly dropping out of the race for president today. We also have some exclusive new reporting just ahead on the front- runner for the Republican presidential nomination and a proverbial rake that he stepped on last week, which now keeps getting worse for him and his campaign. This is a story we first broke last week. It involves this appearance that Donald Trump made aboard a decommissioned battleship. There is new news to report on that tonight which we`ve got exclusively here next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have new news tonight on a Donald Trump scandal that will not quit. Last week, the Republican front-runner promised a big speech on national security. He was going to give his first ever policy speech on board this decommissioned battleship. His big foreign policy pronouncement on that ship was at an event hosted by something called Veterans for a Strong America. At that event, Donald Trump did not in fact put forth a lot of policy ideas. He didn`t give much of a policy speech. But he did seem proud on the eve of the Republican debate, he did seem very proud to accept the endorsement of this group, of Veterans for a Strong America. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Boy, oh boy. I didn`t expect that. You know, Joel and the group called and they said would you come over and speak. I`m here for a certain reason. You know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here. And they asked a couple of days ago would it be possible to come over and say a few words, an endorsement from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands of veterans. I really appreciate that, Joel. I did not expect it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Your group with so much hundreds of thousands of veterans. Thanks, Joel. We were the first to report last week that this group, Veterans for a Strong America, does not have hundreds of thousands of members, beyond this one decorated combat veteran from South Dakota who started the group and who runs it and who appears to be basically the whole organization. In South Dakota, a U.S. Senate candidate was just convicted of 12 felonies after she says she followed her campaign lawyer`s advice about signing documents and filing fraudulent paperwork with the government. Her campaign lawyer, who she blames for her plight but who denies the charges, her campaign lawyer is that guy who runs this Veterans for a Strong America group. Veterans for a Strong America has been under investigation for two different entities in state government in Arizona. At the federal level, the IRS revoked the group`s non-profit status this year because the IRS says the group didn`t file tax returns. As we reported last week, FEC filings show that the group`s PAC had just $30 cash on hand when they filed with the FEC. And this whole string of publicly knowable problems and sort of red flags around this group, all of these things happening in multiple states and at the federal level are all evident with a pretty easy Google search. But yet, there was Donald J. Trump wrapping himself in the mantle of support from hundreds of thousands of veterans from a group you apparently cannot join. Donald Trump, presidential candidate, talks about how we have stupid political leaders in this country who get skunked on deals by the leaders of other countries, who are much smarter. We have dumb leaders who get taken advantage of in negotiations and in deals and in jockeying for power because our leaders are naive and dumb, not like Donald Trump. Donald Trump, he wrote "The Art of the Deal." No one`s going to get one over on him. In this instance, the reason this tends to be an important -- I think continues to be a politically important story is because in this instance, someone does appear to have gotten one over on Donald Trump. I mean, on Friday, the Trump campaign told us that they had no idea of any of the issues surrounding the authenticity of this group, no idea of any of the issues concerning the founder of the group, with whom Mr. Trump appeared personally at the event. They told us they had no idea how much money Mr. Trump raised for the group at the event. They told us they had no idea what the money would actually be used for. What do you have an idea of? Because now, it`s worse. Because now, there`s new news tonight, exclusively here, about what Donald Trump got himself into on that battleship when he was trying to make it look like he had all this veteran support. That fund-raiser that Donald Trump held for that group on that decommissioned battleship, it was held in southern California. That`s where the USS Iowa has been turned into a museum. Well, we can now report that on the night of that fund-raiser, the group that used Donald Trump`s presidential campaign to do this fund-raiser, right? That group was not legally allowed to operate in the state of California. Veterans for a Strong America got its franchise tax board registration suspended in California months ago. Not only did Veterans for a Strong America not file their federal tax returns, state officials say they did not file their California tax returns either. As far as the state of California is concerned, Veterans for a Strong America should not be operating in California at all. In fact, they told us it`s illegal for them to operate in California with their tax status suspended. We asked California officials today whether it was legal for this group, whether it was legal for Veterans for a Strong America to hold that fund-raiser with Donald Trump in the state of California. The answer, quote, "No. They cannot do that. They have lost their right to do business in California." Now, for the record, I should tell you that we have been trying to ask Veterans for a Strong America for comment and for information. The group says on their Facebook page that they conducted the fund-raiser, quote, "in full compliance with all applicable law." They`re also now saying they stopped existing as an organization after 2012 and they started over as a new group last year and they`re a brand new group even though they have the same name and the same Web site and apparently the same post office box and the same guy from South Dakota who appears to be the whole group, but they say that in this new iteration, they just haven`t come one any tax papers yet and that`s OK. OK. So that`s their explanation. But what is the Republican presidential front-runner doing calling this his veterans work, right? There`s an embarrassment factor that comes with anybody standing under the giant guns of a warship and then forgetting to talk about war or foreign policy or veterans. There`s a competence factor in letting your presidential campaign get essentially taken over to serve some third party group that you never bother to Google, let alone properly vet. But if that fund-raiser on that battleship last week was illegal, then that`s something different, that`s something altogether different. We`ve had no comment from the Trump campaign in response to our questions about this tonight. We will let you know when you hear something. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker just dropped out of the presidential race today. But he is not the presidential candidate who has had the most disastrous 24 hours of anyone running for president. He is not the one who is worst off today. We`ve got lots of news tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: John Harwood is a great guy, a long-time political reporter for both CNBC and "The New York Times." All year long, he`s been doing this thing where one by one he convinces each of the presidential candidates to sit down and eat with him. And while they are eating, they talk about politics. And sometimes it helps you see the human side of these guys and sometimes they make news and sometimes they make absolutely no sense. To the point where John Harwood has to stop eating and figure out what the heck just happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC/THE NEW YORK TIMES: There`s one passage in your book where you were talking about gay marriage and you said, "I believe in the traditional definition of marriage and that no group has the right to change that." How do you walk into this arena and manage that? BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Recognize that if you change the definition of marriage for one group, what do you say to the next group? HARWOOD: What is the next group? CARSON: Well, do you say well, we said it for this group but we`re not changing it for anybody else? Does that seem fair? HARWOOD: But what other groups are there? CARSON: There are more groups, I guarantee you. HARWOOD: But like -- CARSON: I think you that there are more groups. Everybody knows there are more groups. HARWOOD: Honest to God, I don`t know what you`re talking about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is rare that you stun a veteran political reporter like John Harwood, much less have him invoking God in saying, "I don`t know what you`re talking about." But Ben Carson managed to do that by talking about the unnamed you- know-who groups that are going to slippery slope the same-sex marriage thing right into the you-know-what by you-know-who admit it you-know-what I mean. The thing about Ben Carson`s campaign is he regularly flabbergasts reporters. I mean, interviews just stop. People who are used to covering politicians say all sorts of stuff don`t know what to do with themselves when he starts talking. Some reporters have a tough time introducing interviews that they have conducted with him because his answers are so baffling. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: I`ve got to tell you it was a big change for this presidential candidate from yesterday when he seemed kind of moderate when it came to immigration and whatnot, and at one point, he seemed to indicate that he was open to the use of military drone strikes right here on U.S. soil in an attempt to try to stop all this drug activity. And I want to give you a sound of what he had to say when I asked him about this after his briefing today, when he said he`s got to be open to all sorts of possibilities. Here take a listen. Drone strikes on American soil seems a little over the top, even to entertain that issue. CARSON: You can entertain all kinds of things. Here`s the take-home point. The take-home point is that we have excellent military leaders and we need to employ their expertise. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can entertain all kinds of things including drone strikes on U.S. soil at the border. Dr. Carson later clarified these comments saying he wants to use drones to shoot at caves along the border. He does not want to shoot at people crossing the border, just the caves. Stuff like that have become par for the course with the Ben Carson for president campaign. Even though no one seems to mind most of the time, this weekend, he said something that gave a lot of people pause. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Should a president`s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters? CARSON: I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it`s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then, of course, it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem. TODD: So, do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution? CARSON: No, I don`t. I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this mission. I absolutely would not agree with that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: According to presidential candidate Ben Carson, you should have disqualified from holding high political office in the United States on the basis of your religion. Today, the White House condemned those comments, as did all of the Democratic candidates for president, as did even some of the Republican candidates for president. Presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham said Ben Carson is, quote, "not ready to be commander in chief." Even Senator Ted Cruz said the statement was unconstitutional. And when Senator Cruz is correcting you on something like this, you know it`s bad. But despite all this, it turns out Ben Carson is not the one who`s toast. It turns out Ben Carson is not the candidate who dropped out of the race today. Ben Carson is doing great because it is apparently kosher to say things like that and still be in the top tier of Republican candidates this year. Ben Carson is still in. Scott Walker is the one who had to drop out. Joining us now is Beth Fouhy, senior editor for, and who is becoming our someone who just quit-the-race correspondent. And Nicolle Wallace, senior member of the Bush White House and the John McCain presidential campaign. It`s great to have you all here. I never talk to two people at once but in this case it`s perfect. Beth, first, I need to ask you, because you are our somebody just quit correspondent. Isn`t it weird that it`s Scott Walker? BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Oh, no. MADDOW: No? FOUHY: He was dead man Walker for the last two and a half weeks at least. Certainly since the last debate when he made absolutely no impression, and when the latest CNN poll came out showing him having less than 1 percent, it was over. MADDOW: Tied with Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum. In Iowa he`s ahead of guys like Rand Paul, Chris Christie. I mean, he is doing better and seen as more viable than some of these other guys but he`s the one who has to go? NICOLLE WALLACE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s not that he has to go. I mean, I think he`s someone that is very well-respected and admired and taken seriously but he`s in that very competitive establishment bracket. And we talked last week, you know, this is a race being dominated by outsiders. And that`s why Ben Carson and Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina have more latitude with Republican voters, because they are so hungry for someone outside of the establishment that they`re willing to tolerate some gaffes. And I think -- the race on the Democratic side isn`t going through a much different dynamic in that the outsiders are thriving. MADDOW: Well, on the Republican side, though, I mean, Scott Walker has never spent a day in his life working in Washington. His most recent campaign slogan was wreak havoc. WALLACE: Right. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: I mean, Senator Ted Cruz is doing well in the polls right now. He`s a Washington guy who spent his entire life working in government as well. WALLACE: Marco Rubio got a big bounce out of the debate. MADDOW: He`s a lifelong politico. So this idea that Scott Walker, they can`t win because he`s been elected. These other guys are doing OK with it and he tried as hard as possible to run as an outsider. FOUHY: Yes. But at the same time, Rachel, he`s been an elected official all his life. Maybe not in Washington but he`s been on the public till since shortly after he got out of college. I mean, that`s all he knows is the world of politics. And I think I agree with you. We`re certainly seeing the case that the outside candidates are very hot right now. But you need an establishment alternative. And he could have been that establishment alternative. He has a great track record for Republicans. A Republican who`s governed a blue state. He could appeal to Christian conservatives, business conservatives. He had the whole palette right there for him. But it was because of the Trump entrance into the race he sort of contorted himself, and tried to be an outsider and nobody bought it and they tried to go back to being an establishment candidate and then he sort of to make -- WALLACE: Here`s another problem he had -- he was running an expensive enterprise. His campaign was expensive, because in March, he was the front-runner. And if not the single front-runner, one of the front- runners. So, he didn`t have a cheap let`s drive around in a truck and tuck to folks kind of campaign. He had an establishment front-runner campaign. So, when those hard dollars, which are very difficult to get now because Trump`s taking up all the oxygen, your donors don`t see you on the campaign trail because all the cameras are trained on Trump to see what outrageous thing he might say next, it is very difficult. It becomes this self-perpetuating psych they`ll cycle, that you can`t get in front of your donors with your message even when it`s good. He`s had some not so good moments of late too unfortunately. And it was this perfect storm of an expensive campaign that couldn`t really get any momentum and the debates didn`t create the sort of opportunities for him like they could for candidates like Marco Rubio and like Jeb -- MADDOW: So, Jeb`s out next? (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Listen, what you just described about Scott Walker is absolutely true about Jeb Bush. WALLACE: Here`s the difference -- MADDOW: He`s got a ton of super PAC money. Scott Walker trails the Koch brothers money behind him like cans of a bumper on a wedding day. He had all the money that he wanted to tap in terms of soft dollars. His campaign is not exactly the same thing, inspiring absolutely no enthusiasm. Everybody says I could settle for him but I don`t want him. He hasn`t had a breakout moment. WALLACE: Here`s the difference: Scott Walker was surging and then he fell. This is where Jeb is going to be very well served by being the tortoise in the race. He was never the hare. Scott Walker was the hare in this thing. FOUHY: Yes, Rubio too is the tortoise. He seems absolutely unperturbed by the fact he`s getting about 3 percent in all the polls. He`s just sort of inching along, doing his thing. He looks very calm at the debate, he looks very poised. He doesn`t seem to be wigged out. Jeb looks like it`s getting under his skin. Trump`s getting to him. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: Unhappiest front-runner I`ve ever seen. He said this beautiful thing when he started this campaign. He said I`ll only do it if I can run with joy in my heart. (CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Viewers are going to make this determination. If you`re struggling to pick a Republican, I`m happy to come over the night before you have to vote, and help you sift through it. But the Republicans are going take the measure of these men and women and make their own choice. I don`t think the establishment group -- you know, I don`t hear rumors of anybody else. You don`t hear stories -- people that follow this every little moment I`m sure you had heard this before, had heard about the donors fleeing, had heard all the things you`ve been reporting all hour. So, I don`t think Scott Walker is going to run. I don`t think he will be on the national stage for a long time. And he still has a lot of admirers. MADDOW: I think Scott Walker -- I think that the unnamed thing about Scott Walker is that he is a black home of charisma. He only worked on paper, he never worked in person. I think this is a high-flying position from which to land. I don`t see him -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: I`m also very surprised. (CROSSTALK) FOUHY: He`s the second governor who has never lost an election to drop out after Rick Perry. Very strange. MADDOW: That`s right. Well, he`s not going to lose this one because he`s not going to Kentucky. Beth Fouhy, Nicolle Wallace, thank you both so much for being here. I appreciate it. All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight even if nobody quits before the end of the hour. We`ll see. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUBTITLE: If you are a regular TRMS viewer, you know Jackie -- MADDOW: Stockton`s genius new plan is hippos. I made Jackie laugh. Hi, Jackie. Hello. I`m sorry, Jackie. She`s got a minor cardiac episode on the set here. SUBTITLE: Our great TRMS stage manager Jackie Palefsky had a baby! Introducing -- Caroline Rose. Born this morning at 8:34 a.m., 8 lbs, 10 oz. Congratulations, Jackie! Love, TRMS. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you`re a person who has numerous family members who are nuns, you probably heard something about the fact that a very special someone is coming to the United States. Pope Francis coming to the U.S. He arrives tomorrow. Ahead of that arrival, members of Congress have just been given some very specific instructions about what to do around the pope and what not to do around the pope. Very serious congressional pontiff protocol. That`s straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is Congressman Eliot Engel of New York. Greeting President Obama last year`s State of the Union. Congressman Engel right up front near President Obama in 201=2 at the State of the Union. Here he is with President George W. Bush at State of the Union. Here he is with President Bill Clinton at State of the Union. Snagging a prime seat is a sport and Congressman Eliot Engel is Tom Brady. And this Thursday should be the Super Bowl of aisle hogging in Congress, because the person who will be addressing Congress is Pope Francis. Actually informed his address to Congress is going to resemble a State of the Union. Both Houses of Congress will be there. It will be nationally televised. Pope Francis is going to enter down the same aisle the president uses for State of the Union. It`s going to look exactly the same except for all the touching. Turns out that leaders from both parties are now being instructed that there is a leave room for the pope rule when it comes to this visit and this speech. Congressional leaders are so worried about their members` inability to control themselves that each party has designated human buffers. Members of Congress who agree to sit in those prime seats along the aisle and not only not touch the pope themselves, they agree that they will physically block any of their fellow members of Congress who try to get to the pope. This group of members of Congress will be instructed to show up when the doors open and to fill the first three seats on either side of the aisle, three seats on both sides. That`s how worried leadership is about their members desperately trying to touch or get a photo-op with the pope. And those congressional bouncers are not just going to have the Eliot Engel aisle hogs to contend with, there`s also Pope Francis. For lack of a better term, he`s a touchy pope. Not touchy as in testy, but touchy as in he hugs, he holds hands. He does not shy from human contact. Between Pope Francis, man of the people, and congressional aisle hogs, these designated aisle blockers are going to have their hands full on Thursday. Pray for them. That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END