Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 19, 2016 Guest: Joel Sawyer, Mark Langley
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
There`s a lot to talk about tonight. There`s a lot of news to get to about the choosing of the next president of the United States, for example. The contests toward that end that will be taking place tomorrow both in Nevada on the Democratic side and in South Carolina on the Republican side. There`s tons of news to get to on that subject tonight.
Before we do that, just bear with me a second. Just how about a little palette cleanser, right? You had wall to wall politics news, wall to wall presidential race, just a little palette cleanser.
Here`s a tiny bit of news for perspective that is not on the subject of choosing the next president of the United States, at least it`s not directly on that subject.
This is the town seal, the official town seal of Crystal City, Texas. That`s their official town seal. Bulging forearms, just the one good eye, a can of spinach at the ready for strength.
Popeye is their town seal, and that`s because Crystal City, Texas, would like you to think of them as the spinach capital of the world. That said, what Crystal City, Texas, is more known for is the amazing spectacle there earlier this month of the FBI swooping in and basically arresting the entire city government all at once.
Crystal City, Texas, has a city council of five people. Four of the five people on the city council were arrested. Mayor arrested, mayor pro temp got arrested. City manager arrested. Even a former city councilmember was arrested for good measure.
The city attorney got arrested as well for allegedly manhandling an elderly woman who was trying to enter a city council meeting. That sounds nice. Pretty much every single official in that entire town was arrested.
Now, I remember when this news first crossed the wire services. We`re in the middle of our news meeting. It`s like me and the whole staff were there banging out what`s going to be on the show that day and sort of pinged on the wires. Somebody said out loud at the meeting, hey, this is interesting. There`s an FBI raid on the city hall in Crystal City, Texas. We all started Googling where is Crystal City, Texas.
I remember talking with the show staff that day saying, oh, we should keep an eye on that. It`s probably some corrupt local official, but it`s a federal case. Maybe that will make an interesting story down the road. Let`s keep an eye on it. Let`s see if there`s some corrupt mayor or something there.
It turns out it wasn`t a corrupt local official. They arrested the whole city government. That was earlier this month.
And then, this week, the mayor of Crystal City out on bound despite his federal felony corruption indictment, the mayor of Crystal City got himself arrested again this week. He`s out on bond. I understand there was some discussion with local residents about whether he would be recalled from office or whether he would resign. In the end, the mayor on Tuesday night got himself arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
So, that was Tuesday night in Crystal City. Then Wednesday in Crystal City, this happened.
Starting Wednesday night, this is what started flowing out of faucets in Crystal City, Texas. There`s an explanation. There wasn`t on Wednesday night when the water turned blood curdling black and nobody had any idea why or what it was.
But the next day on Thursday, yesterday, the city, whoever else works there still now, the city on Thursday, the following day after this started happening all over the town, they put out a notice to town residents saying people might notice some sediment in their water for a while. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to see.
They announced they were cleaning out the old town water tank. And that did this to the drinking water supply, which understandably upset people in town because they had no warning and no explanation until long after the fact. It almost led to the shutdown of the schools in the town, right?
But if you`re upset about this sort of thing, where are you going to call in Crystal City if you have a complaint about this? If you call city hall, nobody is going to answer. What are you going to do? Call the jail and ask to speak to the mayor?
Between a human trafficking ring allegedly run by one city council member and FBI`s multiple felony count corruption and bribery and illegal gambling sting, which resulted in the indictment of almost the entire city government, and then the subsequent additional arrest of the mayor for a second time just this week -- I mean, despite all of these things happening in Crystal City and thereby removing all city officials to all nooks and crannies in the criminal justice system, despite all, before today, not a single official who had been arrested in that town had actually bothered to resign from their jobs.
So, even though they have been indicted or arrested, and gone to jail, none of them have been doing their jobs, nobody else has been able to do the jobs either. And so, who do you call when the water turns black?
And so, thank you. Crystal City, Texas, with your amazing town seal and with -- actually, in addition, your bold downtown life size statue of Popeye as well. Thank you, Crystal City, Texas, for perspective, at this auspicious and occasionally overwhelmingly moment in American politics, because however crazy or presidential election is right now, our presidential election is about the process of choosing elected officials for our country.
And elected officials are a thing we need. And that can sometimes be easy to forget until you contrast it with anarchy and a bath tub full of black water in Popeye-ville, Texas. So, thank you, Crystal City.
And incidentally, I should just say, while we`re on the subject of terrifying water that gives you nightmares and makes you want to die, I have also have a glimmer of very slightly positive news to report about Flint, Michigan. The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, has finally decided to cough up $2 million for the city of Flint to at least start the Flint mayor`s plan of starting to replace Flint`s ruined pipes.
You know, through this whole crisis, not a single pipe has been replaced yet. The mayor of Flint has absolutely forced this to happen despite incredible continued resistance at almost every level, but she has pried $2 million out of the governor now. And this first $2 million in funding the mayor says will be enough to start.
It will be enough to pay she thinks to pay for the first several hundred lead pipes to be replaced in Flint out of a total of more than 15,000 that are going to have to go. The mayor plans to start digging up Flint`s first pipe and training local workers how to do the pipe replacement as of next week, thanks to the shear force of will of that city`s mayor there. They are finally going to fix the water system in Flint next week.
And I`ve got one more for you. One more. Do you remember the Porter Ranch ginormous natural gas leak in southern California? That thing started leaking back in October. Thousands of people evacuated from their homes. Schools closed and moved.
This thing was pumping out a quarter of all of the emissions for the entire state of California every single day, every day, seven days a week since October. A week ago tonight, we reported that they finally got a temporary plug into that billowing hell mouth of a leak in southern California. Now, we can report it`s been confirmed that Porter Ranch gas leak is finally capped. It`s cemented shut.
So, you know, sorry about having to depopulate a portion of southern California. Sorry about cooking the planet and making everybody sick for months. But it`s finally stopped. It took them four months to stop the leak. So, it`s good news about a bad situation.
So, I know I digress, but there is news in the United States right now that is not at all related to the presidential election, except to the extent it can give us some perspective on it. Some of it is bad news. Some of it`s surprisingly good news.
But that very fact, the fact that the world continues to spin on its own axis and our national experience hasn`t collapsed into the gaping mow of our acrimonious politics right now, that probably would come as a surprise to some of the candidates out there today who are now so used to this Klieg lights of this election that I`m sure they found it hard to believe that there is anything happening in the country, let alone -- or even in the world that doesn`t relate to them.
It`s also, I imagine, a comfort to some of the candidates for whom the spotlights, the Klieg lights of the campaign, have been burning a little too hot recently. And that means, yes, I`m talking about former governor Jeb Bush of Florida.
The Jeb Bush campaign, God bless them, they woke up in South Carolina today to this. This 5:00 a.m. headline from Politico.com, "Bush machine running on fumes". The lead quote, "Some of Jeb Bush`s most steadfast allies think Saturday night be the end." Quote, "Governor Bush`s close confidants and longtime friends are dejected."
Now, one person who "Politico" describes as a long time Bush ally is quoted saying, "The fact of the matter is there isn`t strength anywhere." About the decision by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to not endorse Jeb Bush and instead endorse Marco Rubio, a person described as one of Bush`s closest supporters tells "Politico", quote, and forgive me for this, I`m just going to say it, quote, "What a kick in the balls." Sorry. Now I regret saying that. I want to go back in time and not say that.
This is just terrible for any campaign, right? I mean, it`s terrible. Dejected. We`re done. These morose critical quotes from people who are described as Bush`s closest supporters.
You know, a fund-raiser who was close to Bush who up until now had remained optimistic about his chances, Florida based Bush donors, long time Bush donors, people described as being close to Jeb Bush.
There`s there quote from somebody who is described as a Florida Bush supporter who has been close to the Bush family for the better part of three decades. Quote, "The question is, will Jeb Bush do what`s best for the country, especially with Trump in a position to run away with it or is it too personal for him to quit? This is a gut check moment Saturday, depending on the outcome."
Imagine you`re Jeb Bush, right? You wake up and read this. All these donors, all these supposed supporters and lifelong family friends, the family who not just most want you to be president, these are the people who are supposed to be helping you become president. Instead, they are begging you through blind quotes to do your duty and quit the race for the good of your country. If there was any morale left on the Jeb Bush campaign, this is the sort of thing that could end that forever.
That said, this kind of thing has been going on for a while with Jeb Bush. Specifically, with the publication Politico.com. I mean, if you look at the string of stories that are been ran about Jeb Bush that are just like this, it`s now been a couple of months from "Politico", over and over and over again. This is like a specific beat that they`ve got at that beltway publication for telling the doom of Jeb Bush, blind quoting people close to him saying terrible things about him.
Look, this is more than just a trend, right? It`s almost weird. This is from the beginning of December. Headline, Jeb Bush is convincing donors the polls wrong. One Bush donor quoted as saying staffer morale is exceedingly low.
Another Bush donor quoted as saying, "We`re not going to sugar-coat it. It`s bad." That was December.
Then in mid-January, we got Bush donors await green light to jump ship. More blind quotes including one urging him to get out of the race. Also, bonus, super sad picture of Jeb Bush with that one.
Less than a week later, "Politico" again, the Bush blame game begins. One person described as a Florida Bush backer is quoted saying, you might as well light all of this money on fire.
Then, February 7th, "Politico" is back at it again. The headline, February 7th, Bush loyalists concede the end may be in sight. Ten days later, Bush struggles to mask mounting frustration. That one also came with an extra super sad picture. That was two days ago.
Now, today, this Bush machine running on fumes.
One, one, one, one, one, one after the other, in "Politico", each story all with the same angle, with the same desperation, the incredible undercutting of any moment Jeb Bush might ever hope, any movement, any momentum Jeb Bush might ever hope to get from anywhere, right? Every one of them, every one of these pieces quotes his supposed donors and allies and supporters just talking incredible smack about him, right?
Of course, that helps make their worries about the campaign come true. They`re not just idly worrying about whether or not Jeb Bush`s campaign doesn`t have enough momentum or gets too much bad press. They are telling the press these horrible things about the campaign.
That becomes a true perception of the campaign because you as a Bush supporter and donor are telling reporters these things and they`re printing them and that becomes the weather in which the campaign, the Jeb Bush campaign rains every day.
And so, you know, who knows? South Carolina, it may be the end for Jeb Bush. If it`s not, I`m sure it will not be the end of terrible politico.com Jeb Bush headlines proclaiming that the end of Jeb Bush is near. It`s a beat for them now. It must drive Jeb Bush crazy.
Who are the Bush donors are going to talk to when Bush finally does quit and the stories stop, right? So, they`ll be so lonely. Reporters aren`t calling them to talk smack about Jeb Bush all the time. Presumably, they`ll all then write tell-all books blaming each other from what went wrong.
As we head into tomorrow, South Carolina primary, the Republican polls are tightening. There`s no South Carolina poll that doesn`t show Donald Trump still in the lead but in the few polls where we can do apples to apples comparisons, right? The same poll being taken over time, so you can see sort of the trend within that same poll, it does look like there`s tightening in the race.
We saw that, for example, in the "Augusta Chronicle" poll where Mr. Trump`s lead has gone from 16 points to just three points. We saw it in the FOX News poll, where Mr. Trump`s lead went from 20 points to 13 points.
We saw it pretty dramatically in the NBC/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll that just came out in South Carolina. Last month, that poll had Mr. Trump leading by 16. Now, it has him leading by five.
Now, again, he`s leading in every poll and leading by five isn`t as good as leading by 16, but it`s better than losing by five.
The tightening of all these polls may show the momentum in the race in South Carolina is working against Mr. Trump. Is it possible the momentum could be moving fast enough that he will not win tomorrow in South Carolina?
Stay tuned. Polls open in South Carolina tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Eastern. They close at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. If Mr. Trump is going to have a run for his money in terms of first place in tomorrow`s primary, you know, there`s always a chance it could be from Jeb Bush. Hard to believe, but theoretically possible. Probably not worth speculating on.
More likely any challenge to Mr. Trump tomorrow will come from Ted Cruz and/or Marco Rubio.
Marco Rubio did poorly in New Hampshire. But he`s been riding recently in part because of an endorsement from South Carolina`s governor, Nikki Haley. Also though, I got to say, his campaign just seems very excited about Marco Rubio`s prospects in South Carolina.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott who has endorsed Mr. Rubio, you see him there between the governor and Mr. Rubio at a campaign event in South Carolina. Tim Scott probably went out on a limb this week when he raised expectations sky high for how Marco is going to do in South Carolina. Tim Scott told reporters this week that Mr. Rubio could place second in the state or quote, "we have a long distance shot at first." First place.
That is awesome has a pep talk, right? That`s awesome to show you`re psyched and you`re confident. It`s bad idea, though, to say it to somebody other than your campaign volunteers. It`s a bad idea to say that to the press because then you`ve raised expectations that you may not meet.
And now, if Marco Rubio doesn`t come in first, we`re going to know that his campaign thought it was possible that he might. Nobody wants to look like they placed lower than they expected to.
The latest last-minute endorsement in the South Carolina race though did not go to Senator Rubio, and this is really intriguing one. In part, because we don`t know what the influence will be of this endorser in South Carolina because of the unusual political history of the endorser. But it`s also intriguing because this particular endorser had a really hard time handling the Donald Trump factor in the Republican race, earlier on the race.
Back in August, this was "The Post and Courier" newspaper in South Carolina. Quote, "U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford has not decided which Republican running for the White House he will endorse, but he knows which one he won`t, Donald Trump."
Quoting, Mr. Sanford, "Being crass and rude in your references to other people is not the way to run for president", Sanford said. "I think the position of the presidency requires a measure of self-control and discipline."
So, that led to this very clear headline in "The Post and Courier" in August. Mark Sanford rules out endorsing Trump for president.
Well, that was before Donald Trump started leading constantly in every South Carolina poll for months and months and months. And that led to up with of the all time great, on air hamana-hamana-hamana moments when our own Steve Kornacki asked Mark Sanford recently if he was really sure that he was going to ever, ever, ever endorse Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC: What about your role in all this? I saw you over the summer when Donald Trump made some comments about Megyn Kelly, you seemed to say at the time, that would rule out Donald Trump for you. Is that still true?
REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I like every other procas -- what`s the word I`m looking for. Anyway, I couldn`t -- he has broken every single mold, every single piece of political convention out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Every single mole could not find the word that Mark Sanford was looking for there. But, today, he did finally make up his mind. And today in South Carolina, he endorsed Ted Cruz. Who knows? Ted Cruz might win this thing tomorrow.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Weekend politics time. Everybody, freak out.
OK. Here`s what`s going to happen for your weekend. Tomorrow, we`re going to be doing wall to wall live coverage of the crucial elections in two states starting in Nevada, with the Democratic caucuses. Chris Matthews is going to kick off the Nevada coverage tomorrow afternoon, 2:00 Eastern.
Then, starting at 6:00, Chris will be joining me and Brian Williams for full live coverage of the Nevada returns and a South Carolina Republican primary.
So, this is your Friday night warning. Get some rest. You`re going to need it. Saturday politics. Attendance is mandatory. I will secretly be wearing jeans with my suit jacket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: What about your role in all this? I saw you over the summer when Donald Trump made some comments about Megyn Kelly, you seemed to say at the time, that would rule out Donald Trump for you. Is that still true?
SANFORD: I like every other procas -- what`s the word I`m looking for. Anyway, I couldn`t -- he has broken every single mold, every single piece of political convention out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was just last week. But today, Mark Sanford found the word he was looking for and he endorsed Ted Cruz in the state of South Carolina.
Joining us now is Mark Sanford`s former spokesman from when he was governor, the South Carolina Republican in good standing and now works with the digital ad firm called Campaign Grid, Joel Sawyer, joins us tonight from MSNBC`s unofficial South Carolina headquarters, which fittingly is a bar, the Liberty Tap Grill in Columbia.
Joel, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
JOEL SAWYER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: So, all right. If the number line starts with like at the low end, bad news, dentist visit, and at the high end, it`s like front seat on the new roller coaster -- how enjoyable would you say this South Carolina primary has been compared to others you`ve been involved with?
SAWYER: That`s a tough call because we had so many very, very special ones here.
You know, I`d give it a seven. It`s good. It`s a good South Carolina primary. But there hasn`t been this mean, terrible dirty tricks that everyone talks about that make great television fodder. So, it`s been a good race for some ups and downs and some momentum shifts and endorsements. It`s been fun to watch it.
MADDOW: In terms of those momentum shifts and the way things have been up and down, it looks, without much data to base this assessment on, it looks kind of if you squint like the race is tightening, like the momentum is against Donald Trump and is in favor of some of the sort of second tier candidates like certainly Ted Cruz and maybe Marco Rubio.
Is that your sense on the ground in South Carolina that that`s what the polls are right about that?
SAWYER: Yes, no. I think it`s a totally fair assessment. I mean, like, you know, Donald Trump`s last debate was not good to be charitable. I think it was a bit of a momentum shift here. If you look at Rubio`s momentum with Trey Gowdy and, you know, Tim Scott having a good debate, and following that up with Nikki Haley.
Add to that, you know, Ted Cruz had a very good ground game, rounded up a lot of people in the evangelical community to go out and do get-out-the- vote stuff for him. So, you know, I think that the momentum is in their favor and it`s against Donald Trump.
I think Donald Trump is going to underperform in the polls. I`m not ready to say he`s not going win yet, but I think he`s going to underperform.
MADDOW: In terms of that ground game that you`re talking about, obviously, this isn`t a caucus state. This isn`t a place where you need to round up people to go do something that takes hours and hours and hours. But we`ve been hearing more and more that the ground game really does matter in South Carolina. Ted Cruz has been really bragging about his ground game in terms of doing voter turnout and stuff and mobilizing volunteers and door knockers and stuff.
Do you see a big difference in terms of Ted Cruz versus the rest of the field on that score?
SAWYER: You know, I would say Cruz and Rubio both have a really good ground game. You know, Cruz has made a lot of hay about his support in the evangelical community and all the evangelical leaders that he has rounded up to -- you know, for his ground game. I think South Carolina, as you noted, rightly, is a paid media first state, the ground game is not as important here as it is in Iowa and New Hampshire, but it is still important to do all that block and attack (INAUDIBLE), your voters, get them to the polls tomorrow.
MADDOW: So, bottom line, Joel, it sounds like you think that Donald Trump might be in trouble tomorrow? Are you not expecting him to win?
SAWYER: No, no, I`m expecting him to win, but I think he`s going to underperform in the polls. I do not think his margin is going to be a crazy margin. I think he`s on a downward trajectory. I think it will be a lot closer than people expect.
MADDOW: Joel Sawyer, Mark Sanford`s former executive director, former spokesman, former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party -- Joel, I really appreciate you playing with us throughout this lead up to the primary. It`s going to be a lot of fun. Appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.
SAWYER: Thank you. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. In the other election tomorrow, in the Democratic caucuses in Nevada, we think we have noticed a certain distinct and kind of important turning point in that race and how it`s being fought and possibly how it`s going to be won.
And that story is ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Little known perk of this show, comes with its on theater troupe. It mostly consistent of whoever is unlucky enough to be standing by the office copy machine at the wrong time when we have a bad idea like this. But regardless of whether they have been press ganged into it, behold, the TRMS players.
When something happens in the news that`s almost impossible to tell, when words fail, when video fails, we occasionally will boldly take it upon ourselves to act something out that needs acting out. We call our awesome props department. We assemble the casts. If we`re lucky, we squeeze a quick rehearsal before show time, not usually but sometimes.
Tonight, the TRMS players are back. We have something that cannot be explained in words, but it can be shown to you. That`s straight ahead. Stay with us.
Oh, God, Nick. Watch out -- watch out for that!
MADDOW: All right. This is going to be good or totally terrible. We`ll see.
All right. In every election cycle, there`s always a point where one party raises the specter of crossover. Republicans posing as Democrats, or Democrats posing as Republicans in order to basically sabotage some phase of the voting process for the other side.
You might remember, in 2008, talk show host Rush Limbaugh tried to do something that he called "Operation Chaos". He wanted Republicans to vote as Democrats in open primaries specifically to try to keep the long, bloody race going between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Mr. Limbaugh wanted that because he thought the longer that race went on, the worse it would be for Democratic chances in the general election.
So, that was 2008. In every cycle, somebody really discovers this idea and a lot of us suspect that it might be at work somewhere.
But you know what? It never really amounts to much. The main reason is because of the basic incentives at work. The very people who would be motivated to purposely register for the party they oppose, the most excitable, most activist part of one party`s electorate, in order to do something like this, they have to give up something they value in order to participate in one of these schemes. They actually have to give up their right to vote in their own primary, on their own side in order to mess with the other party instead.
And honestly, there aren`t a lot of people who want to do that. So, even though these party crossovers shenanigans get a little news attention in every cycle, honestly, that don`t amount to much.
But there is a contest tomorrow where that usually means this isn`t a big deal, that usual incentive structure is missing in tomorrow`s Democratic caucuses in Nevada. Republicans can mess with the Democrats caucuses this Nevada tomorrow and they can do it for free without giving up anything they want to do for themselves.
And it`s because of a weird loophole that opened up in the process. Republican caucus registration closed in Nevada last weekend. But on the Democratic side, you can still register for the Democratic caucus on-site tomorrow, just show, register as a Democrat and vote. And that can lead to some shenanigans and I will show you what I mean.
All right. Let me set the scene. You`re now looking one day into the future. This is a Democratic caucus site tomorrow at an undisclosed location in Nevada.
Now, we`ve got some people here. People in blue shirts are registered Democrats showing up to caucus for their Democratic candidate. Behind them, behind the people in blue shirts, that is Wendy. Sneaky Wendy.
Wendy for the purposes of this production is not a Democrat. Wendy is a registered Republican, hence the red shirt.
But Wendy wants to mess with the electoral process in the Democratic side. Wendy wants a particular Democrat to win the caucus, one who she thinks would be easier for a Republican to beat in the general election.
Nevada`s rules allow her to register on the day of the caucus as a Democrat and then caucus with the Democrats that day.
So, Wendy gets to the location, registers as a Democrat, puts on her blue Democratic shirt. She heads onto caucus with the Democratic Party and nobody is the wiser.
OK. So, Wendy just voted in the Democratic caucus. That`s tomorrow. That`s the Nevada Democratic caucus tomorrow.
Now, scene change.
Oh, yes, there we go. Well done, my people.
All right. It`s now Tuesday. Tuesday, February, 23rd. You`re looking now at a Republican caucus site in Nevada. Note all the changes.
New signs, new sweater on Nick Tuths, also glasses. Very nice.
Republican voting roles in Nevada closed more than a week ago. So, you can`t show up and register same day like you could as a Democrat. Only those already registered in the state as a Republican can caucus with the Republicans at this Republican caucus.
And so, you see some of these previously registered Nevadans are here. These folks in the in the red shirts, they sign in. They`re registered Republicans. They have been registered before February 13th. They head into their caucus.
But, hey, look, there`s sneaky Wendy again. She`s a register Republican. You can see her red sleeves.
While she just registers at the Democratic caucus three days ago, she`s still on the Republican voting roles. Even though she just caucused with the Democrats three days ago, Wendy can shed her recently acquired Democratic affiliation and caucus with her own Republican Party now, too.
And while this kind of crossover voting in both party`s elections is illegal in Nevada, there`s no such law about voting in the caucuses, because the caucuses aren`t real elections. They`re just things run by the parties.
So, nobody really seems to know if this is illegal. The Democratic Party is threatening to push for felony charges for anybody who double-caucuses on Saturday and again on Tuesday. But the Nevada secretary of state put out a super ambiguous statement tonight saying voters who do this sort of thing will be reported to both major political parties. Whoo, we`ll tell mom. Whatever that means.
Members of the Nevada`s Republican Party, some of them have come out strongly against this idea of double caucusing, but there are some Republican groups making noise to have Republicans show up to vote in the Democratic caucus tomorrow to try to wreak havoc in the Democratic side before they then vote again in their Republican caucus on Tuesday.
In years past, threats for crossover voting like this to cause chaos, mostly meaningless. In Nevada tomorrow night, the opportunity at least is there. It`s a state that is notoriously hard to poll with a volatile and transient electorate that is hard to keep track of. It is race that`s much closer than almost anybody expected and now this.
Tomorrow is going to be very exciting for lots of reasons. Watch out for sneaky Wendy, everybody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The kind of criticism that we`ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president, I expect from Republicans. I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Madam Secretary, that is a low blow. I have worked with President Obama for the last seven years.
President Obama and I are friends. As you know he came to Vermont to campaign for me when he was a senator. I have worked for his re-election, his first election and his re-election.
But I think it`s really unfair to suggest that I have not been supportive of the president. I`ve been a strong ally on him -- with him on virtually every issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Up until about a week ago, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were more ore less competing over who had more loyalty to President Obama. Hillary Clinton had repeatedly been accusing Senator Sanders of not supporting the president enough. Senator Sanders had repeatedly rejected that. You know, I supported him on everything. We`re friends. We had a fun get away in Vermont.
During the weeks and weeks and weeks of campaigning and debating and town halling, the Democratic primary has, basically until this week, felt like a hug-a-thon for Barack Obama`s presidency. Both candidates attaching themselves to the sitting Democratic president, who, of course, remains very popular among Democratic voters.
But it`s starting to feel like that basic fact, that basic big picture fact, it`s starting to feel like that`s shifting a little bit. Last night at the MSNBC-Telemundo town hall this question came up again when Chuck Todd played tape of Bernie Sanders calling for a primary challenger for President Obama in 2011 and he asked Senator Sanders to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: Last week, you called -- you said it was a low blow for Secretary Clinton to bring up the past criticisms that you had for President Obama. You said you had ever right to disagree with him.
But it went further than that. In fact, this is you calling for a primary challenge. It was on a radio show, I`m going to play it and get you to react to the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: One of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there`s no primary opposition to him. And I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting what is a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama is doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That was you in 2011.
SANDERS: That was --
TODD: I understand that.
SANDERS: That was in response to a question on radio show.
TODD: I get that. But there are some Democrats who want to continue the president`s policies. Why should they trust you as somebody who wanted him primaried? You thought it would have been good idea he had been primaried.
SANDERS: You know, by the way, there is one of the two Democratic candidates here who actually ran against Barack Obama. It wasn`t me. All right.
Second of all, you know, I have worked very closely with President Obama over the last seven years. He is a friend of mine. We have gone a long way together to move this country forward from the disastrous position we were in when Bush left office.
But to answer your question, do we have the right to have differences of opinion with President Obama? I have had a number.
For example, I have disagreed with him very strongly on his views on trade. He`s for the TPP. I`m against the TPP. He has, several years ago, continued Bush`s tax breaks for the very wealthiest people in this country. I was on the floor for eight and a half hours in disagreement with him.
Overall, I think the president has done an outstanding job. And the idea there can be a primary with different ideas get floated and debated, I don`t think that that is terrible.
TODD: You actually still think he should have been primaried?
SANDERS: Look, this is -- this is a media issue. This is one thing I said one radio show many, many years ago. Media likes that issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There`s a lot of ways senator Sanders might have answered that question. He chose to announce, "I`ve had a number of disagreements with President Obama, for example," and then he proceeded to list them without been prompted to do so.
So, none of this is to say that Senator Sanders is against President Obama or that he hasn`t been an ally of President Obama and the Democrats broadly in Washington. But he is shifting now, in the presidential race, in terms of how he positions himself with regard to the president.
And I think Senator Sanders is a pro. I think Senator Sanders is a really good politician and I don`t think he does things by accident. So, I think we`ve got a shift -- a visible shift going on in the way the Democratic race is now being run.
We also just got an advanced clip of Bernie Sanders interview that`s going to air this weekend on BET in which Senator Sanders seems to try to turn Secretary Clinton`s relatively unqualified support for President Obama against her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the president as closely as she possibly can. Everything the president does is wonderful. She loves the president. He loves her and all that stuff.
We know what that`s about. That`s trying to win support with the African- American community where the president is enormously popular.
You know what? I have enormous respect for the president. He`s a friend. We have worked together. I think he has done a great job in many respects.
But you know what? Like any other human being, he is wrong on certain issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He is wrong on certain issues.
This is an important moment for the Democratic primary, right? The two contenders of the Democratic presidential nomination are fighting over what level of support from the sitting Democratic, how much distance, how much light there ought to be between themselves and the guy who`s there now.
One of the candidates, Senator Sanders, is now saying that Hillary Clinton tying herself to Barack Obama is essentially pandering. And he`s now started in a new way going out of his way unprompted to list things that he thinks are wrong with President Obama and his legacy.
So, these are two very different visions of what it means to be Barack Obama`s successor, right? You can say -- you can`t say one is better or worse in terms of the electability factor yet, we don`t know. I mean, would Al Gore have done better in 2000 had he run with the Clinton legacy instead of away from it? There`s lots of theories on that. I`m not sure history tells us the truth, one way or the other.
But in term of the history we`re living right now, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, we have very quickly started to get a new race. We have very quickly started to get a much sharper distinction between the two of them on whether they are running for president on the basis of President Obama successes or whether they are running for president against President Obama`s shortcomings.
This is new. This is a new turn in the Democratic race. It has just started this week. Legacy time.
MADDOW: Look at this great picture posted from Josh Letterman at "The A.P." tonight. Not the clearest shot not taken from super close, but this is kind of a breathtakingly important picture when you know what you`re looking at. Here.
Look at the caption, "President Obama walks from the Oval Office with dossier on Supreme Court candidates." Oh, oh, that`s what`s in the binder. It looks like they`ve got a long short list.
In addition to that remarkable snapshot of the president`s weekend homework, we learned tonight that he started consulting with key senators from both parties about the potential nominee.
The White House says the president has already spoken with Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, and Chuck Grassley and Pat Leahy on the judiciary committee. That outreach directly to the Senate is something that Vice President Biden basically prescribed when I spoke with him about the Supreme Court yesterday. President Obama is now calling members of the Senate to get the nomination process going. The process is very much under way.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Brace yourself. Friends, brace yourself.
Yay! It`s the Friday Night News Dump.
Kent Jones, who`s playing tonight?
KENT JONES, TRMS: Rachel, tonight, we have Mark Langley from Kent, Washington. He`s a former public defender. He`s a throat cancer survivor and he used to work right here at MSNBC.com back in the day.
Rachel, please meet Mark.
MADDOW: Mark, it is very, very nice to meet you. See how we played that game with a guy from Kent being introduced by Kent?
MARK LANGLEY, KENT, WASHINGTON: Yes, that`s very impressive.
MADDOW: Does MSNBC look different from when you were here?
LANGLEY: Well, you know, the Potemkin village of media never changes, does it?
MADDOW: I don`t know what you mean.
LANGLEY: Empress Catherine, cardboard villages and --
MADDOW: We like to think we`re high grade of cardboard, much nicer than the other villages in the same neighborhood, if you know what I mean.
LANGLEY: Yes, that was always my feeling.
MADDOW: All right. Mark, we`re super happy to have you here.
LANGLEY: Thank you.
MADDOW: You probably know how this works. If you get two of the three questions we`re going to give you, if you get two of them right, you`ll win this worthless piece of junk.
Kent, please show it off.
JONES: Oh, yes, Rachel Maddow cocktail shaker, accept no substituted right there.
MADDOW: Yes, we do not even guarantee that it doesn`t leak.
If you get extra credit, what is the random office swag tonight?
JONES: Oh, extra random. This lovely velveteen black cape which we borrowed from Stevie Nicks. I don`t know why this was in our office. But here it is.
MADDOW: Yes, Mark, I`m sorry about that. We will get it cleaned before we send it to you if you win.
MADDOW: We`re also going to bring in Steve Benen from Maddow Blog. He`s the man who will determine whether or not you`ve got the right answer.
Mark, Steve. Steve, Mark.
STEVE BENEN, MADDOW BLOG: Good evening to you both.
MADDOW: Good evening.
LANGLEY: Good evening, disembodied voice.
MADDOW: All right. First question, Mark. Tuesday, Jeb Bush told NBC News that Governor Nikki Haley`s endorsement said it could with the most meaningful endorsement in the South Carolina Republican primary. The very next day, on Wednesday, who did that most meaningful endorser actually endorse?
Was it A, Jeb Bush, B, John Kasich, C, Marco Rubio, or D, Ted Cruz?
LANGLEY: As much as Jeb wanted it, it went to his Florida colleague, Marco Rubio.
MADDOW: Steve, did Mark get that one right?
BENEN: Let`s check Tuesday`s show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Naturally, today, Nikki Haley did not endorse Jeb Bush but instead endorse Marco Rubio.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENEN: Yes, the answer is C, and Mark is one for one.
MADDOW: Never talk about the value of an endorsement you don`t yet have. A lesson we all learned from Jeb Bush this week.
All right. Question two, on Wednesday, we reported that presidential hopefuls, John Kasich, actually did a pitch perfect job of keeping expectations nice and low for his performance this weekend in South Carolina primary. Which of the following things did Governor Kasich say about how he thinks he will do in South Carolina?
Did he say, A, it`s going to be a three-way split for third place, B, if I get even one vote, that`s a victory, C, I think we`ll do better than a fifth, or D, I think we`ll do better than squat?
LANGLEY: It was race up from the bottom. I think he said -- I don`t think he said -- he named a number. I think he said better than squat, because he was talking about squat.
MADDOW: Is squat the appropriate answer here, Steve?
BENEN: Let`s check Wednesday`s segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think people expected me to do squat. I think we`ll do better than squat, but we`ll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENEN: The correct answer is D and Mark is doing much better than squat.
MADDOW: All right. This is your ringer here. I`m going to through you a little curve ball. For your last question you get a choice. Do you want a slightly easier question about Donald Trump or a harder question that`s not about Donald Trump?
LANGLEY: I`ll take the harder question, why not? Better to die now than live in fear.
MADDOW: Well, I`ll tell you, the answer to the Donald Trump answer was an ISIS attack on the Vatican. You don`t get that one.
All right. Here`s the question, this week we reported on three people floated as potential nominees to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, each one addressed the question with something between a dodge and a firm no. Which of the following potential nominees has yet to address speculation that he or she might yet be named to the court?
Is it A, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, B, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, C, Senator Amy Klobuchar, or D, Vice President Joe Biden?
LANGLEY: Well, let`s see. Amy Klobuchar said she liked her job. Secretary Johnson didn`t seem the least bit interested. And Joe Biden said that was the one job he never wanted.
So, I would have to say this would be A, Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
MADDOW: Process of elimination.
Steve, you`ve got the answer for us?
BENEN: Let`s roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have to just ask you, are you saying if the president called you and ask if you would consent to be vetted and said that he wanted to consider you, that you would say no or would you consider it if the president asked?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: I`m saying that like my job now.
MADDOW: I have it from a reliable source that Secretary Johnson told friends he has, and I quote, "better chance to be pope than to be our nation`s next Supreme Court justice." I don`t even think he`s Catholic.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at me now -- I have no desire to sit on the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENEN: That leaves Loretta Lynch, and the correct answer is A, and Mark is right once again.
MADDOW: OK, tell us the good news. Did Mark win everything?
JONES: Oh, he won. Prize, you tell me. You tell me.
MADDOW: Mark, you`re a ringer. It`s great to have you back in spirit here at MSNBC. Thank you. You win all the loot. Really appreciate it.
LANGLEY: Well, thank you. You do a great job. I enjoy every minute I watch your show.
MADDOW: That`s very kind of you to say.
Your stuff is coming right after it comes back from the cleaners.
LANGLEY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Mark.
If you want to play the most awesome game in basic cable news, send us an e-mail at Rachel@msnbc.com.
Now, though, I`m afraid you`ll have to go up river. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END