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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/24/2016

Guests: Michael Medved

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 24, 2016 Guest: Michael Medved

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now in its regular hour.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: We`re just trying to keep everybody on their toes this year. We`re just skipping around. You might see us at any time.

HAYES: You never know.

MADDOW: At some point, we`re going to be broadcasting from under people`s beds. Hey, it`s time!

Thanks, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this particular hour. It`s nice to see you.

If Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz goes all the way this year, either of them would make history as the first ever Latino presidential candidate for a major political party. That would be a huge deal.

Had Carly Fiorina gone all the way this year, she and Hillary Clinton could each have been in contention to make history as the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major political party. You know, frankly, while we`re on this train of thought, if Donald Trump goes all the way this year, he would be the first Trump nominated for president by a major political party.

There are lots of ways that history could have been or could still be made this year, particularly in this Republican presidential contest.

But one of the ways the Republican presidential candidates` field already made history this year is with this guy, because when Rick Perry declared his candidacy for president last year, he became the first person ever in U.S. history to mount a major party candidacy for president while simultaneously being under criminal indictment. Whoa!

That had never happened before. Rick Perry was indicted on two felony charges in 2014, abuse of power charges related to his time as Texas governor. This mugshot was taken in August 2014. The governor made sure to take a handsome mugshot with a big smile, and he actually turned that arraignment that day into a big happy political event. He had cheering supporters outside the courthouse. He gave kind of a simultaneously triumphant and defiant speech from the courthouse steps.

Afterwards, he invited reporters to go out to ice cream with him after his arraignment. I`m not kidding.

Rick Perry put the happiest possible spin on his felony criminal indictment. But it still did seem to just kind of linger on like an old cooking smell you can`t quite get out of the kitchen even when you open the windows.

As 2014 turned to 2015 and he tried to mount his second run for president, this indictment thing just hung around. It had to be mentioned by anybody who talked about him for any length of time. That run for president didn`t last all that long. Governor Perry made basically no impression other than the indictment thing and some favorable reviews for his smart new glasses. He didn`t do very well at the early debates. It was only mid-September when he became the first of all 17 Republican candidates this year to drop out of the race.

And that is why it must have been bittersweet news today for Governor Perry when he got word that the Texas court of criminal appeals just dismissed the last charges left standing against him. As of today, Rick Perry is no longer facing criminal charges and potential jail time in Texas.

But, OK, fine, heck of a lot of good that does him. He`s no longer governor. He`s no longer even trying to run for president. His chance to be a national figure in Republican Party politics appears to have up and left him faster than the time it took to clear his name in the Texas courts. So, he`s in the clear, but it must be very, very bittersweet for the governor.

And Rick Perry was not the only one-time presidential hopeful criminally indicted Republican governor of a major state to get some very awkward time in the spotlight today. No, today we also got a surprise appearance in the political headlines in a very awkward way from the one other person who fits the bill of criminally indicted Republican governor of a major state in the whole country.

And it happened at a Donald Trump event at a college in Virginia today. It was very unexpected and it happened like this. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, there are some who say that in the past you have supported Democrat and liberal views. How can voters be sure that you will truly hold and would actually continue to uphold Republican ideas and values?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, it`s interesting, as one of the magazines said, Donald Trump is a world class businessman and it was sort of interesting, I`m all over the world and I deal with all politicians, and honestly I never thought I`d be doing this. I just got exasperated. I would have done it four years ago. I looked at it seriously with Romney. I was actually leading in the polls.

And I decided I had a lot of jobs going, my children were younger. Now, they can do a great job and I have excellent executives. But this is not something I really was going to do or really wanted to. I loved what I was doing.

The fact that as a businessman, you get along with all politicians or you have a problem. I got along with Democrats, got along with liberals and conservatives and Republicans. I get along with everybody. That was my thing. It was very important.

I got along with Bob. Where`s Bob? I saw Bob in the audience. Where is he? Where is he? By the way --


And a fantastic person, OK? You know that. Stand up, Bob. He`s a --


He`s a fantastic person. And -- but I get along with everybody. I get along with -- and that was important. And I tell people, and people will forgive me for that, they`d say, well, you know, it`s true.

But as a businessman, you want to get along with Democrats, Republicans, everyone.


MADDOW: As a businessman, you want to get along. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump today giving this big sort of tangential shout- out in the middle of his remarks to former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who was in the audience at Donald Trump`s event today at Regent University. Regent University is the college founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.

So, just culturally, this is kind of an amazing snapshot on a lot of levels, like, right?

I mean, number one, a televangelist like Pat Robertson founded a college.

Number two, that televangelist college is now playing host to the Republican presidential front-runner right in the middle of the heat of the Republican presidential race.

Number three, the Republican presidential front-runner is Donald Trump.

Number four, in the audience of that event at Pat Robertson U is the former governor of Virginia convicted of multiple felony charges for having an inappropriately cozy relationship with a rich businessman who cultivated the governor`s friendship basically in order to bribe him into helping out the businessman`s company.

And so, at that event, in the heat of the presidential race, Donald Trump sort of departs from his prepared remarks or what he was going to talk about more broadly in order to point out the convicted governor in the audience so he can say that as a rich businessman, he, too, had a close and great relationship with Governor McDonnell because rich businessmen like to do that sort of thing with all kinds of politicians.

If there`s one thing that Governor Bob McDonnell does not need right now, it`s a big high-profile public reminder of how cozy he got with a rich businessman who wanted things from him when he was governor. That`s what he was just convicted for. But that`s exactly the shout-out that he got from Donald Trump today at Regent University.

The reason that is terribly awkward, and even dangerous for Bob McDonnell today, is because he is currently awaiting his last-ditch effort to avoid having to report to start his federal prison sentence. Bob McDonnell`s case is getting its last appeal. Bob McDonnell`s case is due to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the court overturns the lower court ruling in Bob McDonnell`s case, he could be vindicated, the Supreme Court could overturn his conviction. If the Supreme Court leaves the lower court ruling in place, though, Governor McDonnell will have to report immediately to federal prison to start serving his time.

Now, it was widely believed that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, it was widely believed that he would have been a vote in favor of Bob McDonnell in this case. With Justice Scalia`s passing, he loses a vote. Governor McDonnell is now in the unhappy position where if the eight remaining justices deadlock 4-4 on his case, that leaves the lower court ruling standing, and the lower court ruling is that he has to go to prison.

Governor McDonnell may, therefore, be one of the only high-profile Republicans in the country who really wants the Supreme Court to get back to full strength to fill that ninth seat vacated by Justice Scalia`s death.

The other high-profile Republican who definitely wants that seat on the court to be filled is probably Brian Sandoval, the current governor of the state of Nevada. "The Washington Post" this afternoon dropped the bombshell news that the White House is currently vetting Governor Sandoval as a possible nominee for the Supreme Court.

Now, there are lots of reasons why that seems particularly crazy to Democrats. Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada is a Republican. It`s almost unimaginable to imagine a Democratic president using one of his Supreme Court picks to put a Republican on the court for a lifetime appointment.

Governor Sandoval substantively is a strong anti-union pro-big business guy on a court that is already really starkly anti-union and pro-big business.

Governor Sandoval also has the distinction of having vetoed a very popular bill in his state that would have established background checks for gun sales in Nevada. The bill, it was very popular. It passed both houses of the legislature in Nevada, but Governor Sandoval vetoed it. He vetoed on the six-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. So, there are a lot of things about Brian Sandoval that give Democrats shpilkes.

There are also a lot of things about him that are moderate. He`s pro- choice. He`s pro-immigration reform. He expanded Medicaid under Obamacare in his state. He increased school funding. He`s not against gay marriage.

Even just on the guns thing, alone, setting aside the very important business and labor issue, right, just on the guns thing alone, President Obama just said recently he would no longer support or campaign for or even vote for political candidates who don`t support what he calls commonsense gun reform. It is, therefore, very hard to imagine President Obama putting on the Supreme Court a governor who vetoed commonsense gun reform when he had the chance to sign it.

So, there`s lots of reasons why when the White House leaked to "The Washington Post" that they`re vetting Governor Brian Sandoval for the Supreme Court, there`s lots of reasons why that gave Democrats a little agita today. The people it was supposed to give agita were, of course, Senate Republicans, particularly Senate Republicans who have hard re- elections ahead of them this year, but who are nevertheless towing the Republican Party line that the Supreme Court vacancy must be held open for at least a year while the Republicans in the Senate refuse to vote on, hold hearings on, meet with or even discuss the possibility of any potential court nomination by this president.

Presumably, at least, it makes it harder to sustain that stance when you are talking about blind obstruction like that even for a nominee who is a Republican governor. A Republican governor who`s wildly popular in this home state and who is a Latino at a time when the Republican Party, frankly, could stand to stop offending Latinos in this country. So, who knows what`s going to happen there.

Governor Sandoval`s name notably is the only name that has been leaked off of the White House vetting list so far.

For Governor Sandoval`s part, it`s hard to imagine what it must have felt like to him today to see his name pop like that in "The Washington Post." I mean, think about what`s going on in his life right now. Last night, the Republicans in his state overwhelmingly chose Donald Trump as their choice to be the Republican Party`s next presidential nominee. Governor Brian Sandoval never made an endorsement in the Republican presidential race in his state, heading into last night`s caucuses.

But Governor Sandoval did say publicly months ago that the one candidate in the race he could never imagine supporting was Donald Trump. And then in his state, Donald Trump went on last night to beat the rest of the field by more than 22 points. He had just a huge win, a devastating win.

Donald Trump won in Nevada last night with every single demographic group that voted in the Republican primary except for one tiny stripe. There was one group of voters by age, voters under the age of 30, didn`t support Donald Trump. They supported Marco Rubio.

But other than that, Donald Trump won every age group. He won both men and women. He won all income groups. He won all races. He won evangelicals, he won non-evangelicals, he won moderates, he won conservatives, he won everybody.

He won with 46 percent of the vote, which frankly shatters the wishful thinking argument that Donald Trump has some sort of 30 percent ceiling in the Republican Party where he`ll never get more votes than that, 46 percent.

Heading into Super Tuesday, which is the next round of races on the Republican side, to the extent that there is polling in the Super Tuesday races, Donald Trump is leading all across the country and basically all of the Super Tuesday states.

Looking a little down the field, I can also tell you he`s leading in the polling right now in the home states of both John Kasich of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida. Donald Trump is going to beat them in their own home states if the polling holds.

The only place down field at all where Donald Trump does not look like he`s in control of the Republican race is maybe in the state of Texas, where home-state Senator Ted Cruz appears to have the state wired. He`s reported to have nearly 30,000 volunteers active in the state of Texas. He`s reported to have locked up a large proportion of the early vote in Texas, which has been going on for just over a week now and which ends on Friday.

Most of the vote in the Texas Republican primary is expected to be people who early voted. So, Ted Cruz may have already banked a win in Texas before his ship started to sink this week after his disappointing third- place finishes in both South Carolina and Nevada.

So the polling is actually very close right now between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in Texas, but the only place, the one place on the calendar right now where it even arguably looks like Donald Trump might not wind is that one state, it is Texas.

Ted Cruz`s good standing in Texas today was reinforced by this video endorsement for him for Ted Cruz. This is created by the serving governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. Greg Abbot endorsing Ted Cruz, the only endorsement Ted Cruz has from a settle governor anywhere in the country.

It`s the single highest profile endorsement he`s had from any elected official anywhere, except maybe that other endorsement that he got a few weeks ago from the previous governor of Texas whose criminal charges were just dropped today. Couldn`t come at a more auspicious time for Ted Cruz. Probably could have come at a more auspicious time for Rick Perry, but you win some, you lose some.

And this time, Texas might be the only place in the country where Donald Trump really might be expected to lose one, on his way to the Republican presidential nomination.

We`ve got lots of news to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Last night`s caucuses in Nevada marked the fourth time in a row that Republicans have set a record for voter turnout this year. Republicans have voted in four states so far this year and in every single one, they have broken the voter turnout record for that state.

By comparison in every state so far, turnout for Democrats is down. Compared to 2008, Democratic turnout is down 20 percent in Iowa, 13 percent in New Hampshire and 33 percent in Nevada.

South Carolina, you`re the Democrats` only hope to get turnout numbers up this weekend.

Looking past this weekend to Super Tuesday, it`s not good. At least the indications aren`t good so far. The latest early voting numbers out of Texas are bad news for Democrats. This time eight years ago to the 2008 race, Democrats had cast twice as many early ballots as they have this year so far.

And, yes, I know, 2008 was a very exciting year. But that`s also the last time Democrats won an open seat for the White House. So falling well short of the voter enthusiasm from that year is not a good thing for the Democratic Party this year.

I mean, whatever you think of the comparative merits of the Republican field and the Democratic field right now, the Republican field is consistently making way more people turn out to vote. They`re setting records. Democrats aren`t getting anywhere near their records.

If the Democrats cannot fix those by November, that`s going to be an ominous sign for the general election. And it is, therefore, something that the Democratic Party and both their candidates should start having both an explanation for and a ready plan to fix it, as part of their basic pitch for electability.

Because this kind of thing, look at this, look at those numbers from Nevada. That is not good news for Democrats. That needs a Democratic Party answer.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What a fantastic crowd and I want to thank all of you for being here and the few thousand people outside trying to get in.


When I look out at this crowd, I don`t think there`s any way we`re going to lose on Tuesday.



MADDOW: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders earlier tonight speaking to a crowd of 6,800 people. That was just a little while ago tonight. A big Bernie Sanders rally tonight and there were approximately 2,000 people outside that event trying to get in.

This afternoon, it was a crowd of over 7,000 people who showed up to hear Senator Sanders speak. Crowds lined up for hours before the event, again, at that event despite 7,000 people, more than 7,000 people at that afternoon event, again, there were many people overflowing from the venue who could not get inside.

And here`s the interesting thing: these two events this afternoon and this evening, these were not in Democratic strongholds where Bernie Sanders was speaking today and tonight. These crowds were in two red states. The afternoon event, he was in Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri. That`s where he got 7,000 people to turn out and had to turn lots of other people away.

And tonight, he was in the people`s republic of Oklahoma, 6,800 people turning out to see Senator Sanders tonight in the great city of Tulsa, 2,000 people outside the venue unable to get in.

Now, just as a refresher, the last time Oklahoma voted Democratic in a presidential election year, the year was 1964.

So, that`s one reason. It`s a little counter-intuitive to see Bernie Sanders speaking before these just immense crowds of enthusiastic supporters in this deep red states.

The other reason is a little weird to see him speaking at these venues today is because neither of those places is in South Carolina. And the next race of the Democratic side is not in Missouri or Oklahoma. It`s in South Carolina in three days. But Senator Sanders is not there right now.

Today, as he left South Carolina to go start a whole string of these other events in Missouri and Oklahoma and all these other states.

He was asked about that strategically by NBC`s Andrea Mitchell.


SANDERS: This from day one was going to be a very difficult state for us. We`re not writing off South Carolina. You all know that on March 1st, there are a dozen states that are holding elections, and the nature of the world is that we got to go out -- I think I`m leaving for Oklahoma in a little while we think we have shot to win. We have a shot to win in Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, and other states. My own state I think we were 80 percent in the polls so I think we`re going to win there as well.

But we are fighting here in South Carolina as hard as we can.


MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders today saying he is fighting as hard as he can in South Carolina, but that was right before he left South Carolina and flew off to Missouri. Senator Sanders was in Massachusetts on Monday. He was in Virginia on Tuesday.

He did make a pit stop back in South Carolina last night for a town hall TV event and to do that press conference this morning. But then he did head right out to Missouri and on to Oklahoma today.

Tomorrow he`s going to be in Ohio. He`s also making his first stop in Flint, Michigan, to do a community forum in flint tomorrow afternoon. Then tomorrow night, he`s going to go to the University of Chicago for a town hall hosted by our own Chris Matthews at 8:00 Eastern.

And all of those states are great places. In all of those states happen to not only be South Carolina, they are all voting sometime between Super Tuesday next week and March 15th.

Now, Hillary Clinton is polling 20-plus points ahead of Bernie Sanders in South Carolina. In the face of that, in political science terms, it is not dumb to take your candidate and put them elsewhere, right? It`s not dumb to put your candidate`s time and energy into states where you got a better shot.

But does the Sanders campaign have a plan that makes sense overall? That gets them on the path to the nomination?

Right now, Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls in eight or nine of the 11 states that are going to be voting next week on Super Tuesday. Given that, and given her 20-plus point lead in South Carolina, what do we make of the Sanders campaign`s overall strategy and their travel plans for the senator and their priorities? Does the Sanders campaign have a master plan that will give them a shot at winning this thing?

Joining us now from the Bernie Sanders campaign bus in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt.

Kasie, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: I have to ask you, given that you`re on the campaign bus, are you allowed to speak freely? Is there anybody listening in on you who you have to impress with what you say?

HUNT: Well, Rachel, they could also easily be watching your program, so I think I`m pretty free to speak. I apologize for the slight bumpiness. This is actually the press bus in the Sanders motorcade heading back to the Tulsa airport. We were on the ground for only a couple of hours before we head -- Sanders is a little bit of a night owl, so we`re supposed to land after mid-night in Ohio.

MADDOW: OK. We`ve been looking at footage today of the massive event that he did in Kansas City, Missouri, and the massive event he did in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In part that`s great political sociology, great to see a Vermont senator getting red states like that in Missouri and Oklahoma.

But is it clear to you from the campaign`s perspective that trips like this into these states that this time three days ahead of South Carolina that this is part of some sort of master plan where they actually see a path to the nomination and enough delegates to be competitive?

HUNT: Rachel, Bernie Sanders, himself, claims, and we talked about this in the press conference earlier today, that he does have a math to the nomination.

The math is difficult for him especially on Super Tuesday through the South. Texas, Georgia, huge delegate totals, large minority populations, really tough road there. And if she can rack up delegates by a significant margin, it`s going to be hard to overcome.

What they`re trying to do is get to the point where they at least increase margins in states that they think they can win and try to win in places that might be a little bit unexpected.

So, of course, you read through the schedule. That tells you exactly what their strategy is. It`s not just a Super Tuesday focused strategy. It goes on to these primaries March 8th, March 15th, a little bit further out going to Kansas City, obviously hits Missouri and Kansas. Both of those states vote later in March.

They`ve basically written off South Carolina although they don`t necessarily want to say that out loud at this point. But I think one thing that links a lot of these places together, frankly, is that they have a higher percentage of white voters in the Democratic primary electorate than a lot of these states where Hillary Clinton seems to be doing well, and in many ways that`s a reverse of 2008 when Hillary Clinton carried working class white voters and Barack Obama dominated with African-American voters and other minorities.

So, I think what this is setting up for is a long-haul stretch and Sanders, himself, will say he`s going all the way to the convention. I asked him today what he wanted at the convention should he show up there without the nomination but a significant pile of delegates from this effort they`re doing there. I will say, Rachel, one thing the campaign does believe is that putting Bernie Sanders in front of as many people as possible is effective for them, so if she`s able to have a huge rallies, and these rallies today are the bigger ones we`ve been to with very excited crowds, I would say.

I actually talked to a couple of young kids, not old enough to vote. They were 17, 18. I said, the socialist thing, does that word have negative connotations to you at all? They all said, absolutely not.

When I ran into someone who is probably about their father`s age, he said, well, you know, I`ve been a Democratic socialist my whole life but liberal was a dirty word back in the 1980s when I first started following Bernie Sanders. It`s amazing that we`re at the point that he can socialist.

But I think that kind of help explain some of his appeal among young people in these otherwise seemingly red states.

MADDOW: MSNBC political correspondent Kasie Hunt doing this report from a bus that is actively moving down a bumpy road at speed while facing backwards in the dark. Kasie Hunt, you need a raise. Thank you, my friend.

HUNT: My cameraman, Kevin, does, too, because he`s also doing a great job.

MADDOW: Kevin, I owe you a beer. Absolutely, man. Well done. Thank you, guys.

Live from the bus. That was incredible.

You know, I will say the Bernie Sanders campaign strategy is not a traditional campaign strategy both geographically and in terms of the way they are trying to reach voters, but to see him turn out 7,000 people at two separate rallies in two separate states tonight is an achievement. If that was happening on the Republican side right now, we`d be like, oh, somebody is competitive with Donald Trump.

Anyway, lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: The U.S. Army right now has a vacancy in one of its key position, maybe in its key position. Back in September, President Obama nominated Eric Fanning for the top civilian role in the army, secretary of the army. Eric Fanning has been waiting for the Senate to confirm him ever since he was nominated. His nomination has been held up by one senator, Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Pat Roberts of Kansas last seen on this show crumpling up the president`s plan for closing Guantanamo and throwing it into the trash can like a melodramatic tough guy.

Senator Roberts says the hold on Mr. Fanning for secretary of the army is nothing personal, he say it`s about Guantanamo. But regardless of the reason for the hold, it appears to be semi-eternal. There appears to be no end in sight.

So, officially, Eric Fanning is not able to perform the duties of army secretary. And nobody else is either.

Acting in his place right now is this guy who you know, former Congressman Patrick Murray.

Patrick Murphy is an Iraq war veteran. He was the first Iraq war veteran to serve in Congress. He opposed the Iraq war. He was outspoken about it. He won a Bronze Star as an airborne major in the war. Mr. Murphy brought his family to his confirmation hearing at the Senate a couple of months ago. The Senate ended up approving him just before Christmas. Today, he was finally officially sworn in as the 32nd undersecretary of the United States Army who is -- which means right now he is the top civilian official in the U.S. Army, at least until Senator Pat Roberts decides to let our country have a secretary of the Army sometime again.

This is a really big deal for Patrick Murphy. It`s also just a really big deal. And pardon me for saying this, couldn`t happen to a nicer guy.

So, congratulations, Patrick Murphy, undersecretary of the United States Army. Well deserved. You have a big job ahead of you.



TOM RICKETTS, CHICAGO CUBS OWNER: It`s a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom. But, you know, the fact is whether it`s my mom or my dad on his ending spending stuff or my sister on marriage equality or my brothers, what they do, or what we do with the team, you know, we`re pretty much an open book. I mean, we stand up for what we believe in. We support the causes that we think are important. That`s what America should be. That`s who we are.


MADDOW: So, that is Tom Ricketts who`s the owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He took some time during an unexpected press availability concerning the Cubs to instead talk about the fight between Donald Trump and his mom.

Tom Ricketts` parents are really big-time Republican donors. They were big supporters of the presidential run by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but obviously, Scott Walker poofed out of the race pretty early. Since then, the Ricketts family has been figuring out where else they might want to spend their money this year in the Republican campaign.

Marlene Ricketts, aka, mom, she decided to donate $3 million to an anti- Donald Trump super PAC in January. That`s according to campaign finance reports. This is a PAC that spent more than $4 million so far, so do the math. Many of their dollars came from Marlene Ricketts. They`ve spent about $4 million running attack ads against Donald Trump in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

When the finance reports from that PAC came out, and Donald Trump found out who was bankrolling these ads, he responded, indeed, with a threatening tweet. Quote, "I hear the Ricketts family who own the Chicago Cubs are secretly spending against me. They better be careful. They have a lot to hide." Wooh.

But they`re not alone in this effort to try to stop Donald Trump from within the conservative movement in the Republican Party. The conservative group, Club for Growth, is now launching another round of attack ads against Mr. Trump, about $1 million worth of ads. They`re set to launch in Super Tuesday states including Arkansas and Oklahoma. They`re going to be running the same ad in those states that they ran against Mr. Trump in Iowa.

And Club for Growth is convinced that these ads they`ve got against him will work, that they will do the trick and that they denied him a win in the state of Iowa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tested these in Iowa last fall in real time playing for it`d ads and did work. They took Trump out of first place into second place. What they do is tell the truth about Donald Trump, his vision for America will bankrupt us, essentially.

If Donald Trump is the nominee, the polls show it`s the one Republican that almost guarantees Hillary Clinton will win the race in the fall, will lose the Senate, and now with Justice Scalia`s passing will lose the Supreme Court.

So, the ball game -- there are a lot of stakes here in the next three weeks in the primaries.


MADDOW: Whether or not you like Donald Trump as a potential president, or a potential presidential nominee even, we now do have a new thing to try to grasp in understanding Republican politics. This new thing we have to figure out now is political exertion, in some cases well-funded political exertion, that is not intended to elect any one particular candidate. It`s instead intended to block the election, or at least block the nomination of a particular candidate. A particular candidate that a portion of the Republican Party finds so odious they will do almost anything to stop him from becoming the standard bearer of their party.

The hawkish editorial page of "The Washington Post" is now running increasingly upset, increasingly harsh editorials overtly begging Republican leaders to do something to stop Mr. Trump from being nominated.

The conservative "National Review" magazine devoted a whole issue to what they called a symposium against Donald Trump.

So, there is a real effort on the right. It`s not like people aren`t trying. You keep hearing people saying in pundit world like, oh, why didn`t anybody stop Donald Trump when they had the chance? Why isn`t anybody trying to stop him now? There is an effort. It`s not like people aren`t trying. They`re trying.

But what I do not understand is the strength of that effort or what else could be done that isn`t already being done that isn`t already being done. And I don`t understand if there`s some other escape hatch, some eject button that the anti-Trump Republican Party, the anti-Trump conservative movement feels like it can activate -- if Mr. Trump`s march toward the nomination gets much further down the road.

Do they have anything else that they could do? Do they have anything else up their sleeve?

Joining us next is someone who actually does understand those things and is part of them. And, oddly, he`s a person who doesn`t mind talking to liberal mugs like me about it. This is going to be very good. We`re all about to learn something.

Stay with me. That`s straight ahead.



TRUMP: So, tonight, we had 45 percent, 46 percent, and tomorrow you`ll be hearing, you know, if they could just take the other candidates and add them up, and if you could add them up, because you know the other candidates amount to 55 percent, so if they could just -- they keep forgetting that when people drop out, we`re going to get a lot of votes. You know, they keep forgetting. They don`t say it.


MADDOW: One strategy by the anti-Trump elements inside the Republican Party is to argue that the presidential race on that side has to thin out. That more Republican candidates have to quit that race because a one-on-one fight against Donald Trump is the way Donald Trump is going to lose, has to be one-on-one then people will start beating him. Mr. Trump is publicly laughing that suggestion off and increasingly, the numbers are bearing him out.

Now, the other strategy that anti-Donald Trump Republicans and anti-Donald Trump conservatives are using is more simply just to go at him directly, criticizing him directly -- making the case that he should never be the Republican Party`s presidential nominee. In part because he`s not really a Republican or at least he shouldn`t be seen as a Republican in good standing.

How is that direct effort working out?

Joining us now is somebody who is effectively part of that effort, conservative talk show host, contributor to the "National Review`s" "Against Trump" special issue, Michael Medved.

Mr. Medved, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you so much for being on the show tonight.

MICHAEL MEDVED, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you. Great to talk to you again, Rachel.

Let me just say, I was anti-Trump before it was cool. I mean, very early after his announcement speech, I don`t believe that our party, which after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan, should be welcoming someone who spews the kind of hatred that Donald Trump does.

I am concerned about the message for the future because one of the things I`ve been talking about for 20 years in Republican circles is that we have no future as an all-white party. It cannot continue that way.

Mitt Romney won 60 percent of the white vote in 2012 and lost the election because he did so poorly among Latinos and Asians because of his position on immigration and did horribly among African-Americans. We have to build a big tent party and I think Donald Trump accomplishes the opposite of that.

For instance, he has said to Muslim-Americans who are a growing group of Americans and most of them, nearly all of them patriotic citizens, he said we don`t want you, we don`t want to allow a Muslim to come visit the United States. It`s outrageous and people of conscience who want to build a larger, more viable Republican Party with any kind of future at all have to speak out against it.

MADDOW: Well, in terms of how that speaking out is going, I take issue with people who say that there is no anti-Trump effort in the Republican Party or in the conservative movement.


MADDOW: I mean, it was you early on, but it`s a lot of people now. At least it`s becoming --

MEDVED: You bet.

MADDOW: -- more visible.

As a conservative, I mean, from somebody who`s inside that world, how strong do you think the organized effort is against Mr. Trump? Is there -- is it growing or is it shrinking at this point?

MEDVED: There`s no question that it`s growing, and --


MEDVED: -- I think part of what`s happened here has been the falling out in the bromance that used to be going on between Trump and Cruz.

But here`s the basic point, Rachel. The other strategy other than what you mentioned is simply this, is I actually think it`s good that Governor Kasich and Senator Cruz are staying in the race. Governor Kasich can win Ohio which is a winner take all state. And Senator Cruz is likely to win in Texas and win the majority of the delegates.

I think it`s very probable at this point that Donald Trump will have more delegates than any other single candidate. But I also think it`s probable he will not have 50 percent of the delegates. That brings us to the convention in Cleveland in July, with Trump having the most delegates but not having the majority.

So we could go for the first time since 1948 to a second ballot or even a third ballot where I can assure you that Trump will not be the nominee because the people who are supporting other candidates are united in one thing which is, again, what Donald Trump would mean to the future of the party and to senatorial candidates.

I mean, there are some great U.S. senators who I greatly admire. People like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. If Trump is our nominee, they go down. The Democrats get the U.S. Senate and, again, I know that`s kind of a dream scenario for folks on your side of things, but it is not healthy for the republic to become a one-party state. And that`s the risk we`re running.

MADDOW: In terms of what has been done, I hear you in terms of the possibility of things being possibility o f things being worked out at the convention, but between now and then in terms of trying to give other people a chance, trying to hold him back in terms of getting towards 50 percent of the delegates, do you feel like there are other things that could be done inside the Republican Party or inside the conservative movement that aren`t being done yet? Is there another card to play in this hand? Is there something else that hasn`t been done yet that feasible?

MEDVED: Well, I think it`s beginning to be done. Nate Silver made this point in his FiveThirtyEight blog, and I think he`s entirely right, which is most of the negative advertising that has been used so far on the Republican side has been against Marco Rubio, not against Donald Trump. He`s been almost immune from it.

And most Americans who are behind Trump really don`t know that much about him. And again, it is ironic that somebody who has made so much of his money exploiting gambling, which is terribly unfair and a destructive force particularly for poor people in the United States of America, that somebody like that should beat Ted Cruz among evangelicals in South Carolina is appalling.

And frankly, I think that the more people know about Mr. Trump and here`s my point -- yes, he`s been scoring, but without goals. On the other hand, he may score points, but there are no goals. What is he going to do?

Nobody honestly believes he`s going to build a big gigantic wall and get Mexico to pay for it, or even that we should want to. Nobody believes we`re actually going to have a deportation force as he`s called for and go door to door and rip people out of their homes and deport 11 million people who are residing in the United States of America.

I mean, trying to get people to focus -- Dr. Johnson once said the gallows doth wonderfully concentrate the mind -- we`re not talking about a game. We`re not talking about sports. We`re not talking about sports book or casinos. We`re talking about the presidency of the United States of America.

John Adams said in his famous prayer when he was the first president to come to the White House, he said may I pray that only wise and good men may dwell here. And for the most part, that prayer has been answered. We`ve had ineffective presidents, but I don`t think we`ve ever had somebody who was in it for himself, and I think that`s a problem right here.

MADDOW: Michael Medved, host of the syndicated "Michael Medved Show", a contributor to the "National Review", and a great guest and a really nice guy, I`ve always enjoyed our conversations, Michael. I hope you come back soon.

MEDVED: Me too. I look forward to it, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks very much. All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: Set your Bernie alarm, the Chris Matthews is going to be at the University of Chicago tomorrow night hosting a town hall with Bernie Sanders. It`s going to be live here on MSNBC at 8:00 Eastern and that means my other friend Chris, Chris Hayes, is going to do his show tomorrow night at a special time. He`s going to be on at 7:00 Eastern.

So, it`s a little weird, but here`s how it`s going to go -- Chris Hayes at 7:00 Eastern, the Bernie Sanders town hall at 8:00 Eastern, and then me at 9:00 Eastern. We`re just trying to keep you on your toes.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: The way a Saturday night drunk opens his eyes and accepts the unwanted reality of painful Sunday morning, at least some part of the Republican Party is coming around to accepting Donald Trump as the nominee. Mr. Trump basically paved the field in the Nevada caucuses last night and this morning, he got his first endorsements from seated members of congressman.

Donald Trump was endorsed today by Congressman Chris Collins from New York, who had previously supported Jeb Bush, and Mr. Trump got the backing of Congressman Duncan Hunter of California.

Duncan, Duncan, Duncan, who? Oh, God, that guy. Yes!


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: I know that at least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas. There`s --

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: How do you know that?

HUNTER: Because I`ve asked the Border Patrol, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the Border Patrol, they just let ISIS members come across the border?

HUNTER: No, they caught them at the border. Therefore, we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them, then you know there`s going to be more that did not get caught.


MADDOW: Greta`s like, what now? That was 2014. The congressman said he had it on good authority, like really good information, air tight, inside info, that ten ISIS fighters had been captured at the Mexican border trying to enter the United States. We captured them. We have them in custody, 10 ISIS guys. Wow!

And yet as he said, nobody was talking about it except for him. It turns out the reason for that is that the Department of Homeland Security said that was categorically false, not supported by any creditable intelligence.

Now, at the time he said that we e-mailed the congressman asking about homeland security saying he was categorically wrong, his staff fired back to what this day remains maybe my favorite congressional staffer e-mail of all time. Quote, "Of course, homeland security is right, they`re always right, aren`t they?"

Wake up sheeple, boy Duncan Hunter has got the scoop.

So, that`s our guy, totally in the know except for being wrong. He`s lent his vote of confidence to Donald Trump`s campaign today. Congressman Hunter saying, quote, "We don`t need a policy wonk as president. We need a leader. I`m in and I`ve been in." Oh, yes.

Any other Republicans wanting to hop on board the Trump bandwagon, the line starts right behind, the ISIS at the border guy. It seems perfect somehow.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow from New York City.


Good evening, Lawrence.