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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/26/2016

Guests: Doug Heye

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 26, 2016 Guest: Doug Heye

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening. We will see you next week from Houston, Texas, the epicenter of Super Tuesday.

Tune in tomorrow for our coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary.


Good evening, Chris.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Safe travels, my friend. Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Just when you think you know what`s going to happen next. Just when you feel like you got a handle on this story and where it`s going, just when you think you`ve got it under control -- things go a little nuts.

I mean, there are still some known knowns in the world. We do still know a few things about what`s going to happen next.

Por ejemplo, I can tell you with all certainty that tonight is South Carolina Eve. Tomorrow, polls will open and then polls will close in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. That will happen.

In terms of what is going to happen in that primary, nobody can tell you that for sure in advance. The voters will decide. But we decided to take a little snapshot today of the last three days of polling, heading into this weekend and beyond.

So, looking first at the Democratic side, heading into this very important South Carolina race tomorrow night. The polling situation in that Democratic contest is pretty stark. Over the last three days, there have been two polls on the South Carolina Democratic race, and they both show Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders in that state by a big margin.

One of them shows -- sorry. We`ve got two polls there. Both of which show her leading by a big margin. In one case, it was 23 points. The other case, it`s 50 points.

That Clemson poll that shows Hillary Clinton leading by 50 points, I should point out that`s much larger margin than we`re seeing from other polls. That`s a bit of an outlier.

But that is -- excuse me. I lost my teleprompter. That`s been the outlier.

But that Clemson poll is a much larger than any other poll. That`s what Clemson published, though.

If you`re planning on watching the South Carolina results coming in and watching the reaction of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to see how tomorrow`s results are going to affect the overall trajectory of the race, I`ll give you all the details coming up in just a moment in terms of what our coverage is going to be and how and when you can watch the South Carolina race.

But after tomorrow night, after South Carolina, just three days later, it`s going to be mother of all primary days in both parties, Super Tuesday, right? On the Democratic side, again, looking at just polling that`s come out in the last three days, this is the polling snapshot that we`ve got for Super Tuesday.

First of all, you can pull out Colorado and Minnesota. There`s no polling in Colorado and Minnesota even right before the vote, and that`s basically because Colorado and Minnesota are not primaries. They are caucuses. Caucuses are much harder to poll.

But we also have reported information from the state that tells us that Colorado and Minnesota are being hotly contested by Sanders and Clinton. The Bernie Sanders campaign keeps saying that they think they have a very good chance to win in both the states. So, even though we don`t have polling, don`t read anything into the lack of polling there. That`s to be expected because they are caucuses.

That said, we also don`t have any current numbers from the last three days for Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee or Vermont. You can, I think, reasonably cut to the chase this two of those states.

Vermont is the home state of Bernie Sanders. He`s expected to win there almost by acclimation. His numbers are completely off the charts.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton is thought to have large home state advantage in the state of Arkansas. So, she`s expected to be a shoo in in the state of Arkansas.

The other states that we don`t have data, those will be interesting to watch.

It will also be particularly worth watching over the weekend, right, to see if polling does come out Saturday, Sunday into Monday ahead of the states holding contests on Super Tuesday. Particularly, keep an eye on Oklahoma where the existing polling showed that the race is very close. Both candidates have been working really, really hard and holding big events.

The states where we do have current, new data for Super Tuesday on the Democratic side, those states are Virginia. Monmouth put out a poll yesterday that shows Hillary Clinton leading there by 27 points. In Georgia, there had been two polls out of Georgia in the last three days. One of them has Hillary Clinton up by 28 points. The other has her up by 39 points.

In Texas, there`s been a bunch of polling. Six polls in Texas over the last three days. They show Hillary Clinton with a Texas lead, ranging anywhere from 10 points to 40 points depending on who is doing the poll.

There`s also that Massachusetts poll. We got an exclusive, early look last night, right, when it came out. This Massachusetts poll from WBUR, it doesn`t show a giant double digit lead for Secretary Clinton like we`re seeing in the states.

But this is a notable result for the Democratic contest because it`s Massachusetts. Massachusetts borders Vermont. It`s expected to be almost a home state race for him when he got that huge victory there on February 9th. The Sanders campaign, the candidate himself have said repeatedly that they expect to win in Massachusetts.

So, this WBUR poll that came out last night showing Bernie Sanders actually trailing Hillary Clinton in Massachusetts, even if it is by a small margin, that could be big news on Super Tuesday.

I mean, if you`re the Bernie Sanders campaign or a Bernie Sanders supporter, tomorrow in South Carolina and Tuesday in all these other states, you look at the polling, it`s not a good outlook. The Sanders campaign and Sanders supporters are at a moment where however hard they have been working, they`re going to have to crank it up and start working three times as hard in order to overcome these stiff heads that they`ve got against the Clinton campaign over these next crucial contests.

But that renewed front-runner status that Secretary Hillary Clinton is enjoying on the Democratic side right now, that is almost nothing compared to what front-runner Donald Trump is enjoying on the Republican side.

The Republicans for their party, they don`t have a contest this weekend. Their next primary and caucuses are on Super Tuesday. If you look at the last three days of polling for the Republicans, that will give you two polls, excuse me, out of Virginia. Donald Trump leading by 14 points in one of them and by 23 points in the other.

In Oklahoma, a new poll has Donald Trump leading there by eight points. That WBUR poll in Massachusetts has Mr. Trump leading in Massachusetts by 21 points.

There are two recent polls out of Georgia right now on the Republican side. Both of them show Mr. Trump leading. One by 12 percent. One by 26 percent.

The only place on the forthcoming calendar where Donald Trump is not leading in the polls right now where one of his competitors appear to be enjoying a home state advantage over Donald Trump, the only state where that`s true is the great state of Texas. In Texas, it does look like Ted Cruz could win there. There have been five polls released on the Texas race over the last three days. One of them shows a tie between Senator Cruz and Mr. Trump. The other four show Senator Cruz leading in his home state by a range of anywhere from one point to 15 points.

So, what do you do if you are Donald Trump presidential front-runner and you`re leading in every single state in the country except for one, which is the home state of one of your competitors. If you`re leading everywhere in the country except for that one state, and you`re Donald Trump, obviously you go to that one state where you`re not leading. And then you hold a raucous, sweating, yelling and hollering red face, scream your lungs out rally in front of 8,000 pumped up Texans in Ft. Worth.

And if you`re Donald Trump before you hold that mosh pit of a giant rally in Ted Cruz`s backyard, the other thing you do is unveil a big surprise.

We all got word at the news networks today that Donald Trump was going to be holding a press availability before his big rally in Ft. Worth today. That`s kind of par for the course. We all tend to get notice when these things are going to happen. That`s how the press shows up.

Now, usually, if there`s going to be some big announcement, particularly some big endorsement at one of these press availabilities, we`ll get a little heads up about that. They may not tell us who the endorsement is, but they`ll tell us there`s going to be big endorsement or there`s going to be news made at this event. There was no notice like that at all, about today`s Donald Trump press availability. No notice it would be anything special. We were just told the time and then reporters and camera crews turned up at the allotted time.

It`s going to be a Donald Trump press conference. OK. See what he`s going to say.

So, now, what I`m going to show you is the part before it kind of started. I`m going to show you the raw footage from the network camera here so you can see how that they made this happen, so you can see how they orchestrated for maximum shock value.

Again, the reporters were there because they expected a press conference. They had not been told to expect anything special. And so, then it starts. And listen to how the press reacts. Listen to the reporter nearest to the camera when in walks Donald Trump with somebody else who nobody else expected to be there.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Something`s going on that`s very positive.


MADDOW: Wow. Yes, wow indeed.

Mr. Trump started to sing, he actually says, wow, as if he`s professing shock that all these cameras are there. But the people next to the cameras, the reporters are saying wow because, oh, holy mackerel, we didn`t know that was going to happen. That`s Chris Christie. And if he`s here in Texas with Donald Trump, he must be here to endorse Donald Trump.

But before today, none of the 64,000 Republicans who have dropped out of the presidential race thus far had decided to endorse Donald Trump after they got out. The closest we got to that was Mike Huckabee`s campaign manager, his daughter Sarah Huckabee signed on with the Trump campaign this week. Also, there was one failed presidential candidate from 2008, Rudy Giuliani, admitting publicly this week that sometimes he talks to Mr. Trump.

But that`s it. Nobody, certainly from the whole giant failed field this year had endorsed the front-runner yet before today. And nobody would have expected that the first one would be Chris Christie, right, especially after the way Chris Christie talked about Donald Trump during his own presidential campaign, which again only ended two weeks ago.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I just don`t think he`s suited to be president of the United States.

Donald, you don`t want this job. This is not -- this does not play to your skill set. If the speaker of the House doesn`t post one of your bills, you can`t fire him.


It`s not the way it works man. I want this. No. You`re fired.

He goes back to his office on Capitol Hill and says, oh, yes, which he says, I`m going to mess with you now. You need a different skill set.

The other guy whose only experience is sitting in fake board room in New York City looking into a camera and saying, "You`re fired".

Show time is over, everybody. We`re not electing an entertainer in chief. Showmanship is fun but it`s not the kind of leadership that will truly change America.

I mean, whatever you want to say and have said about me over the years in terms that have come out of my mouth, they`re fraction. I never said I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and I wouldn`t lose a voter. I never called Mexicans rapists and murderers. I never said ban all Muslims from the United States.

Mr. Trump himself has said that he`s walking, living special interest group and lobbyist. OK? He`s gotten special deals. He`s admitted this on the stage. He said he gave money to Hillary Clinton because he wanted to make deals with her. He gave money to Nancy Pelosi because he wants to make deals with her.

It`s one of great ironies of the Trump campaign. He says, I`m not going to be affected by special interests. He is special interests. He`s walking special interest.

You don`t like to debate moderator, stand up and fight. You don`t like the network, stand up and fight, show up and fight. What`s that tell you about what we can expect if things go sideways when you go into the Oval Office?

What are you going to do? Just go upstairs to the residence and say, I`m not playing? Vladimir Putin isn`t being nice to me, I`m not going to return his phone call? The press isn`t being nice, I`m not going to hold anymore press conferences? I mean, basically, this is like -- this is like a 13-year-old argument.

We`re not picking an entertainer-in-chief. We`re not casting a TV show. This is real.

Donald has a lot of talents. He does. He`s been a very successful businessman. He has lots of talents.

He has absolutely no ability in this area. He has no experience and he has no ability in it. And it doesn`t make him a bad guy. I think he`s generally a good person.

But you know what? He had no business being president of the United States. And if I though he did, I wouldn`t be running. I`d be helping him.


MADDOW: Up until two weeks ago, the reason Chris Christie said he was running for president is because Donald Trump had no ability to be the president and has no business trying to be president of the United States. So, Chris Christie was running against him instead of helping him.

Well, now, as of today, Chris Christie is helping him. And so, yes, in a presidential race where we thought we had seen it all, where nothing could surprise anyone anymore, Chris Christie endorsing Donald Trump today was a moment that made hardened reporters and camera crews go wow.

"The Associated Press" called it a shock endorsement today. And, you know, you can explain any way you want. I think the immediate explanation that sprang to mind for most people was just your basic cockroach theory, right? When everything else around you is dying and it`s the apocalypse, just adapt. You can live through almost anything.

I mean, Chris Christie doesn`t have a next political job lined up in his life. He`s term limited out as New Jersey governor. Getting 2 percent of the vote in Iowa and sixth place in New Hampshire has considerably dimmed any illusions that there`s some national Republican appetite for what Chris Christie has to offer, for what kind of job, what? I mean, Republican Party chairman maybe? National spokesman for something Republican? I don`t know.

This might have been the only move left for Chris Christie that would give him any political role in the Republican Party going forward.

Strategically, for Mr. Trump, Mr. Christie`s endorsement also meets a couple of his immediately needs. Marco Rubio was widely seen as having a pretty good debate performance last night in Texas, mostly on the basis of his criticism of Mr. Trump in that debate.

This shocker, this unexpected Chris Christie endorsement early today quashed that debate story line pretty fast and let Donald Trump once again take over the news cycle from anybody else he`s running against.

Mr. Trump is also enjoying a diminished Republican field in which only Marco Rubio has the establishment support and endorsements to stay in the race against him for the long haul, even though Mr. Rubio is expected to lose state after state after state after state to Mr. Trump. Marco Rubio is not expected to win in a single Super Tuesday state.

That take down that Chris Christie administered to Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, that may not have helped Governor Christie`s own chances in New Hampshire, but it did establish Governor Christie as the one proven Marco Rubio slayer in the whole Republican field. I mean, Jeb Bush won against Marco Rubio, he was ineffective against him. Ted Cruz has been largely ineffective against Marco Rubio.

But Chris Christie has been great against Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio probably has his fifth place finish in New Hampshire, he probably has Chris Christie to thank for that.

And so, now, even though Chris Christie is out of race himself, now, Donald Trump has the patented anti-Rubio elixir on tap in his campaign in the form of his highest profile endorser, Chris Christie.

So, this endorsement was a shock to the race. It does meet immediate political needs for Christie. It does meet immediately political needs for Donald Trump. So, maybe we shouldn`t game it out. We shouldn`t have been so surprised, despite what appeared to be Mr. Christie`s previous principled opposition to Donald Trump and his belief that Mr. Trump was patently unqualified and suited for the job he`s now endorsed him for. Oh, well.

But here is the critical question. Not just for these two people as men and as political figures. Here`s a critical question, not just for the immediate tragedy in this campaign, and for what`s going to happen next, but for us as a country, and this peculiar political moment we find ourselves in.

Now that somebody like Chris Christie has stopped opposing Donald Trump, he used to really oppose Donald Trump. He said he was patently unsuited for the job of the United States. He didn`t have the skill set. He had no business running for the job. He`s given that up.

Now that somebody like Chris Christie has stopped opposing Donald Trump, he`s given up and given in and decided to get on board the Donald Trump train, which appears to be stemming toward the nomination, now that he`s given up his opposition and gotten on board, should we see that as a harbinger of things to come.

This is turning out to be a critical empirical question for our country and frankly the whole world is now watching for an answer. I mean, obviously, there is a sizable contingent of the Republican Party that finds Donald Trump horrifying that`s absolutely opposed to the prospect of him winning their party`s nomination for president. The anti-Trump feeling and the conservative movement and the Republican Party is real. You can see it in the anti-Trump ads being run for groups like the Club for Growth and the anti-Trump ads being run by these little super PACs here and there that have surfaced in some on of the early states.

You can see it in things like "The National Review", the conservative magazine trying to have some unified conservative movement against Mr. Trump. You can now see it in some of Mr. Trump`s political opponents, finally getting around to criticizing him directly, as they compete with him for Republican primary votes.

We`re going to have more on that ahead tonight including the moment that will be preserved in ember and will go down in history as the first instance in American major politics when one candidate accused another of wetting his pants. And the person who made that accusation was not Donald Trump.

But as the Republican contest further descends and as Mr. Trump standings in the polls get higher and higher and more consistent in states all over the country, including the home state of Marco Rubio, there is now a critical question to ask about the Republican Party and it`s important for all whole country.

Since it looks like Donald Trump is going to win, unless things change radically, are things going to change radically? Are Republicans going to do what Chris Christie did today and give up and get on board, or will the anti-Trump contingent within the Republican Party get stronger? Does the anti-Trump contingent within the Republican Party have any chance of ever getting strong enough to keep him from getting the nomination?

It`s an empirical question, and it`s getting to be kind of critical not just to this race but to the future of who we are as a country. And we do have one small specific way to try to get an answer to that question tonight ahead on this show.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: A word choker as in a person who chokes, that word is spelled c-h- o-k-e-r. That`s the relevant context here.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want to have a little fun?


All right. What is Donald Trump do when things go wrong? He takes to Twitter.

I have them right here. Let`s read some. You`ll have fun.


All right. Number one. Here`s the first one, "Lightweight Marco Rubio was working hard last night." This is true. "The problem is he is a chalker. And once a chalker always a choker." I guess that`s what he meant to say. He spelled c-h-o-k-e-r.

He called Mr. Meltdown. Let me tell you something -- last night in the debate during one of the breaks, two of the breaks he went backstage. He was having a meltdown.

First, he had this little make up thing applying like make up around his mustache because he had a sweat mustache. Then he asked for a full length mirror. I don`t know why because the podium goes up to here. But he wanted a full length mirror. Maybe to make sure his pants weren`t wet. I don`t know. Then --



MADDOW: This is the Marco Rubio campaign for president now. He says the front-runner, he peed his pants maybe.

Also the word choker is actually spelled c-h-o-k-e-r. It is spelled that way. And while we`re at it Senator Quayle, the word potato has no e on the end of it.

But this is the presidential campaign of the Republican Party right now. And then once it gets to the point where one candidate is saying his opponent wears make up and maybe he pees his pants, then there has to be a response to those charges which, of course, arrives with equal if not opposite dignity. This is their campaign now.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ll tell you about backstage, I mean, if you like. I walk back there and he`s with a pile of makeup putting it on his face. I said, Marco, easy with the make up. You don`t need that much.

You know the story with Marco. I watched him against this man where Marco, he was right over here, and I actually looked at him. I said, are you OK? He looked like he came out of a swimming pool. He was a mess.

So, we`ll see what happens. I heard he had some nasty, personal comments. But I saw him backstage and e was putting it on with a trowel. Well, he`s desperate.

Look, look, I watched part of his little act. And he`s desperate guy. I`ve been watching him over the last number -- he`s not presidential material, that I can tell you. He doesn`t have the demeanor. He`s a nervous Nellie.

I watch him backstage. He`s a mess. The guy`s a total mess. And, you know, I joked recently can you imagine Putin waiting for a meeting and Rubio walks in and he`s totally drenched. I don`t know what it is, but I`ve never seen a human being sweat like this man sweats.

So, I don`t think he`s a presidential -- I don`t think he`s of presidential caliber. I don`t think he has the demeanor. I don`t think he`s going to do very well, and he`s a mess.


MADDOW: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are also running against each other for president right now and running very hard. Between them though, peeing your pants and sweating too much hasn`t come up at all. Not even once.

The parties are different every year. The parties are really, really different this year.



CHRISTIE: I am thrilled to be here this morning to lend my support. I will lend my support between now and November in every way that I can for Donald, to help to make this campaign an even better campaign than it`s already been and help him do whatever he needs to do to help make the country everything that we want it to be for our children and grandchildren.

He`s a good friend. He`s a strong and resolute leader. He is someone who`s going to lead the Republican Party to victory in November over Hillary Clinton, which is the single most important thing we can do.


MADDOW: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie becoming the first failed presidential candidate from this year to throw his endorsement behind the Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump.

Now, at this point what`s going to happen seems pretty clear. Either Donald Trump will become the Republican Party`s nominee or the anti-Donald Trump forces within the Republican Party will prove to be strong enough to stop that from happening.

From outside the conservative movement and from outside the Republican Party, frankly, it`s very hard to gauge the strength of the anti-Donald Trump effort. It is real effort. You can see evidence right of individual Republican politicians and strategists and advisors and passionately loyal Republican individuals and individual conservative organizations and sometimes other candidates in the presidential race. You can see them all trying to criticize Donald Trump or at least express their opposition to him getting the nomination as his front-runner status gets stronger and stronger.

But is the anti-Trump effort within the Republican Party basically tilting at wind mills at this point? Or is it really a powerful enough counter- force to what he`s put together in his presidential campaign that it could derail it?

I can`t tell from the outside. So, in order to effectively report out this story, we must consult with somebody on the inside.

Joining us is the former communications director for the RNC, my friend Doug Heye. Last month, Doug wrote this op-ed, "As a Republican operative, here is why I won`t support Trump if he is the nominee."

Doug, it`s great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.


MADDOW: So, how strong -- explain to somebody outside your world. How strong is the organized effort against Mr. Trump inside the Republican Party, inside the conservative movement?

HEYE: Well, I`ll tell you, if you have trouble defining it from the outside, I have trouble defining it from the inside. What I can tell you is, I`ve talked to countless people, not just in Washington, D.C., but the early primary states and late primary states, for that matter, who think that Donald Trump would be the worst thing that can happen to the Republican Party even if he`s not our nominee has been destructive to the efforts of party.

I think it would be a total disaster not just for winning the White House, but also for the House, for the Senate, for state houses, control of state houses, governorships.

Everything about this is bad. It`s -- I would love to tell you it`s great organized effort, it`s not. But I think you have seen a lot of individual who is have stood up and said I`m concerned about the direction of our party which means they are worried about the direction of our country.

So, we`re all standing up one at a time. I welcome all aboard to say that Donald Trump is somebody that we can`t support but also I think everybody I have talked to is happy to finally, thank God, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, finally giving real scrutiny to Donald Trump.

You know, we`ve had three phases of Trump right now. First was, you can`t attack Donald Trump because he`s not serious. That was in the summer.

Then, in the fall, you can`t attack Donald Trump, it won`t work. That was in the fall.

And then come right now in the winter, it`s well, you can`t attack Donald Trump, it`s too late.

There`s one common thing there, not going after Donald Trump. Not treating the front-runner of the Republican Party as the front-runner. I`ve been arguing since July we need to treat him like the front-runner, hold his feet to the fire on issues and go after him. No one has done that until last night.

MADDOW: With that evolution of all the reasons not to do it, now that he`s getting closer to the nomination -- obviously, we`re still early but Super Tuesday looks daunting. As it starts to look like he`s closing in on that nomination, does the effort the try to stop him get weaker or stronger. I expected it would get stronger, then seeing Chris Christie jump in with Donald Trump today made me sort of feel like maybe what we should expect is the effort will get weaker because people feel like they`d rather be with him than against him if he`s going to win.

HEYE: Well, I think that`s certain an attitude. Certainly, that`s what we saw with Chris Christie. The Chris Christie of February 25 is not the Chris Christie from February 5th when he was speaking out against Donald Trump.

It was -- look, I`ll give the Trump campaign credit. They held this as a very close secret. It surprised everybody.

Rachel, I know what a great fan you are of professional wrestling. For me, this is like when Andre the Giant walked out with Bobby Heenan and shocked Hulk Hogan and shocked the world. No one saw this coming.

And maybe in retrospect, it makes sense. Certainly, it`s smart politics of the Trump campaign to also tamp down on a bad debate performance last night.


HEYE: Will it work? Is it too late? I don`t know the answers to these questions. I`m just glad somebody is speaking about him on candidate level, and that we`re starting to see people go after Trump and treat him as the frontrunner. It`s amazing in American politics, we`ve never seen this before. Obviously, we never seen anybody like Trump before, but we have never seen a front-runner be immune to scrutiny.

He`s received all the attention not just of the country but of the world, with very little scrutiny.

MADDOW: And the scrutiny that he has received has slid right off of him because it`s not seemed material for whatever reason to the people who are trying to take him down. It`s going to be really fascinating particularly after Super Tuesday to watch to see what happens to your side of the party. People who want to take him on.

Doug Heye, former communications --

HEYE: Let me say very quickly one thing, Rachel.

MADDOW: Sure. Go ahead. Yes?

HEYE: Whether or not our effort is successful or not, if Donald Trump is our nominee, Republicans know one thing, Democrats will not make the mistake that Republicans have, whether it`s folks like Brad Woodhouse at Americans United for Change, the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary campaign presuming she is the nominee, they will attack Trump, they will attack him hard and it will be bloody. Republicans should have been doing this for eight months.

MADDOW: Doug Heye, former communications director for the RNC -- a nice guy and a good sport for being with me tonight. Doug, come back soon. It`s great to see you.

HEYE: All lies. But thank you.

MADDOW: All right. It`s such a busy news night that I got to say it doesn`t feel like a Friday. It feels like the middle of the workweek, doesn`t it? That`s because technically it is. We`ll have more on that.

Plus, a governor who has become an unexpected household name in American politics this year may be on his way out of his job. And that dramatic story is ahead.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Two roads diverged in yellow wood. One led to exactly who you expect winning the Republican primary. The other led to no one winning the Republican primary and the party thereby being thrown into a level of chaos that`s close to historic.

The numbers, the official numbers that create this map, those numbers have been crunched by some of our very, very smartest colleagues. That reporting is next. It`s a stark truth about what`s about to happen that a lot of people have not come to terms with yet.

But if you want to sound smart about the presidential race this year, I have just the thing for you, next.


MADDOW: So far in the three states that Donald Trump has won, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has lost to Mr. Trump in those states by 24 points, by 10 points and by 22 points. In all the states where Trump has won, Marco Rubio has never gotten close enough to have lost to him by single digits.

After the last one, after Nevada, where Mr. Trump got 46 percent of the vote and Marco was 22 points behind, Senator Rubio then went on the FOX News Channel and said that Mr. Trump is the one who underperformed in that race.


RUBIO: Last time, Mitt Romney got over 50 percent so Donald Trump actually underperformed what Mitt Romney did.


MADDOW: You know, it`s true. Mitt Romney did get over 50 percent of the vote in Nevada when he won the Nevada caucuses twice. But Donald Trump did get 46 percent this time.

And the one person who can`t accuse that of being an underperformance in is guy who lost to the underperformer by 22 points.

Marco Rubio has been anointed by the press and by most of the Republican Party as the one guy who can beat Donald Trump. Well, when Marco Rubio has had the chance, he`s never come even close.

That said, the smart kids at First Street which is the MSNBC Politics blog, they have taken this blunt reality one step further into the future and them putting it as bluntly as they did today is maybe finally going to set everybody`s hair on fire the way it should.

Look, only two possible delegate out comes. Number one, Trump as nominee. Or two number, a contested convention.

According to what Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dan have back of the envelope about this election with where the delegates are now and where that he are likely to be after Tuesday if we extrapolate conservatively from the Super Tuesday states poling right now, is this is the delegate situation after Super Tuesday, which is what we are expecting it to be, well, then forget it. I mean, forget it if you were momentarily excited by Marco Rubio describing Donald Trump as an underperformer after the latest state in which Donald Trump just crushed him by double digits.

Because if this is the delegate count after Tuesday, the only question is whether Donald Trump locks up the nomination two weeks later when Ohio and Florida vote, or whether he doesn`t lock it up and nobody gets the delegates to win and the Republican Party has to go to the nominating convention in Cleveland in July with no clear nominee.

Those are the two options available at this point. Donald Trump locks it up or nobody locks it up. Nobody else has chance to clearly win, not unless something dramatic happens. And, of course, nothing dramatic has ever happened in this race. That`s it.


MADDOW: Before this week, Donald Trump did not have a single endorsement from a sitting governor. But, today, within a matter of hours, he had two. The first one is the one everybody heard about today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who flew down to Texas to make the big shock announcement on camera.

But just a few hours later came this guy, Maine`s Governor Paul LePage. Governor Paul --


It`s just funny. Governor Paul LePage, of course, had previously endorsed his friend Chris Christie, but when Mr. Christie dropped out, Paul LePage`s very coveted endorsement was back up for grabs.

Governor LePage made his announcement today on the conservative talk radio show of Howie Carr.


GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: I`ll be very honest. Originally, I said, I`d like to see a governor. But unfortunately, the American people are not going for a governor this year, so I`m going to endorse Donald Trump. And I think and the reasons why are very similar. I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular.


MADDOW: I was Donald Trump before.

So, now, Donald Trump`s got two governors. He`s got Chris Christie and his doppelganger Paul LePage. Paul LePage was last seen making national news for complaining about white girls in Maine being impregnated by black drug- dealing men.

Any other Republican governors wanting to hop on the Trump endorsement bandwagon, the line starts behind Chris Christie and Paul LePage. No jumping the line. No cutting. Let me know if you`re having trouble telling them apart.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: So, we`ve got one big story ahead tonight. We`ve got some big news ahead on tonight`s show about a Republican governor who looks like may be out of a job soon. That story is next.

But, first, here is a programming note. Because I love you so much, I have decided that you and I should spend another Saturday night together. So, here`s what`s on tap for our weekend together.

Tomorrow night, live wall to wall coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I`ll be here joined by Brian Williams and Chris Matthews and the whole gang and you.

The South Carolina polls are open from 7:00 in the morning to 7:00 in the evening. We will be here starting at 6:00 Eastern. Don`t be late. It`s OK to wear jeans.


MADDOW: So, this is a big story. Super Tuesday obviously Tuesday, this Tuesday, March 1st. And then there are a few caucuses and a couple of primaries on the 5th and 6th of March over the weekend.

But the next big bullies of delegates after Super Tuesday is one week exactly after Super Tuesday. It`s March 8th. There are four primaries on March 8th and the big one, the big Kahuna with 59 delegates that day, the first big delegate prize after Super Tuesday is Michigan.

And there`s something going on in Michigan right now. Let`s say you were the governor of a state and nine people died in your state, possibly because of you, because of negligence and horrifically bad management by your administration.

If you were the governor who had that news to deliver to your constituents, how would you do it? Now, I don`t know you. I can only occasionally see you through the television but I doubt you would do this.


GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: The issue I`m going to discuss is really dealing with Genesee County. What was presented to me was information that over the course of 2014 and 2015, we saw a spike in Legionnaire`s disease. In terms of the spike, in terms of the specific numbers, I was told about this a couple of days ago and basically, I thought it should be shared as part of this whole process.


MADDOW: That was how Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced a really big Legionnaire`s disease outbreak in his state. Almost 90 people got sick, nine people were killed, nine people died just in one Michigan county, and that outbreak very possibly was connected to the same malpractice of government by which the Rick Snyder administration lead poisoned the city of Flint, when an emergency manager who reported to Governor Snyder switched the town`s water source to save money.

The Legionnaire`s disease part of this saga is just horrendous. Literally, people died. And when Governor Snyder announced it in January, he made it a point of saying of this deadly outbreak that he wanted you to be sure that he didn`t know -- he wanted you to be sure to know that he didn`t know about it until just a couple of days ago. He just found out about it just then.

We now know turns out, his office did know a long time before that. One of Governor Snyder`s top staffers, Harvey Hollins, knew about the outbreak last March, which is ten months before the governor announced that he hadn`t known anything about it.

Ten months before Governor Snyder said that the governor`s office got this e-mail from a state agency. It says, quote, "More than 40 cases reported since last April. That`s a significant uptick, more than all of the cases reported in the last five years or more combined." The governor`s office was told that the county health department had, quote, "made the leap formally that the uptick in cases is directly attributable to the river as a drinking water source."

Well, today, the governor released more e-mails from his office related to the Flint water crisis and now we know his office knew about this deadly outbreak even earlier. Look, quote, "42 cases of Legionnaire`s disease in Genesee County since last May. I`ll explain more on the phone." The date on that e-mail is January of last year.

So, with Michigan residents literally dying from this, Governor Snyder says he had no idea until this year, but his governor`s office e-mail traffic shows communications about it even a year before he ever said anything to the public, a year before Governor Snyder admits he`d ever heard anything about it.

As the presidential campaign stems toward Michigan on March 8th, the first big delegate prize after Super Tuesday, Michigan`s Republican governor is in a frenzy right now of firing and reassigning and accepting the resignations of and suspending high profile members of his staff and his cabinet. The spokesman for the state environmental agency, the director of the state environmental agency, two people so far from the drinking water division of the government, yesterday, it was the governor`s communications director and his press secretary -- everyone must go. Everything must go.

And now we`ve got this enormous news stash of thousands of pages of material from Governor Snyder`s office that was just released. Reporters, including our own producers of this show, have spent the day and will spend the next several days going through this stuff, but honestly, just from what we`ve gone through thus far, it looks devastating for Governor Rick Snyder.

Let`s just take one example. Even before news organizations were reporting high levels of lead in Flint water, people who live in Flint knew there was something wrong with the water. It was so bad six months after Flint started drinking from the river later that the local GM plant, the local General Motors plant took itself off of Flint water. They quit using the water at the plant because it was corroding the automobile parts that they made.

When that happened, here`s what Rick Snyder`s top environment adviser wrote in an e-mail to the governor`s chief of staff and others. She said, quote, "I think we should ask the emergency manager to consider coming back to the Detroit water system in full or in part as an interim solution to both the quality and now the financial problems that the current solution is causing. I see this as an urgent matter to fix."

The governor`s top lawyer then replies to that e-mail, quote, "Good gravy. To anyone who grew up in Flint as I did, the notion that I`d be getting my drinking water from the Flint River is downright scary. Too bad the emergency manager didn`t ask me what I thought, though I`m sure he heard from plenty of others.

My mom is a city resident. Nice to know she`s drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal chloroform.

I agree with Valerie, they should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control."

That was the conversation in the governor`s office October 2014, six months into the Flint water fiasco. These are people who work for Governor Snyder. These are governor office e-mails, but again, Rick Snyder did nothing even with this top discussion, of top level discussion among his top level advisers, despite these explicit and disgusted warnings from Rick Snyder`s top environmental adviser and his top lawyer, they did nothing.

They left Flint to keep drinking that water day after day, week after week, month after month for another year after that discussion happened in the governor`s office. That`s just one example.

Here is another one. March 2015. March 2015, Flint had been drinking this water for almost a year and the governor`s chief of staff wrote this, quote, "How about buying some water for the people for a time? $250,000 would buy a lot of drinking water and we could distribute it through the churches while we continue to make the water even safer. If we procrastinate much longer in doing something direct, we`ll have real trouble."

Real -- you think this might be real trouble? Real trouble. This is real trouble like testifying before Congress trouble, like testifying before state lawmakers trouble, like FBI criminal investigation trouble, like EPA criminal investigation trouble, like calls for the governor`s resignation trouble, and some real way now the cracking of the wall that has so far protected Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan, and kept him in his job.

Governor Snyder, since this blew open, he has continually kept as much distance as he could between himself personally, and the idea that he knew what was going on in Flint, but in an interview today in response to this rush of email becoming public, a man named Dennis Muchmore, who was Rick Snyder`s former chief of staff, a guy who predicted real trouble, Dennis Muchmore said today that he and others in the Snyder administration discussed their concerns about Flint with the governor directly, personally. Quote, "We shared them."

Look, there`s only so much distance that Governor Rick Snyder can get from his own responsibility here. There`s only so much plausible deniability and only so much, hey, I didn`t know, never heard of it.

There are only so many e-mails like these that can come out. There are only so many staffers he can fire and send to the backwoods of state government. There`s only so much protected space he can clear around himself before it becomes evident that he is the guy standing in the spotlight alone who did it, who allowed it to happen.

There`s only so much of his own governorship that can still stand before holding that office becomes untenable for him. Are we there yet?

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern for our coverage of the South Carolina primary.

Now, it`s time for "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS". Sure. Why not?