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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/3/2016

Guests: Dan Nowicki, Michael Medved

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 3, 2016 Guest: Dan Nowicki, Michael Medved

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. There`s a lot going on tonight.

President Obama today was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was there to talk about big slew of people getting health insurance under Obamacare in that city. But he made news for other reasons. While President Obama was having lunch at a Milwaukee restaurant called Engine Company Number 3, he was having lunch, he was chatting with his lunch companions.

And over the course of small talk he mentioned to one of them that after his time this president is over, he and his family might not leave Washington.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Basically by next week, winter will be over in D.C. I`ve been in Chicago like here, basically, you can`t really count on that until the middle of May.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Took a long time to get started this year too.

OBAMA: Yes, yes, it always feels good being closer to home, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s Hawaii, though.

OBAMA: Well --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feels really good to be there.

OBAMA: Hawaii is home for me. I spent almost 30 years in Chicago. It`s where I met Michelle and where she grew up, where our daughters were born. At this point --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You going back to Chicago?

OBAMA: We haven`t figured that out. We`ll have to stay a couple of years in D.C. probably so that Sasha can graduate. Yes, because transferring somebody in the middle of high school -- tough.


MADDOW: President Obama overheard by reporters today casually chatting with some nice folks in Milwaukee, first about the weather, then about where he thinks of his home and then ultimately about his plans to stay with his family in Washington for a couple of years so his youngest daughter`s time in high school will not be disrupted by a big cross country move.

And that`s big news. That would make President Obama the first U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson to not leave Washington, D.C. after his time as president was over. That`s fascinating.

That said, the president I don`t think was trying to make that news with his announcement today. It wasn`t an announcement. He was trying to small talk with some regular folks in Milwaukee, and the press just happened to overhear it. So, that was some unexpected news made today by the president.

We also got expected but still rather dramatic news from the last person who tried to be president, from the person who won the Republican Party`s nomination to be president of the United States in 2012. Today, Mitt Romney gave a speech in Utah, roundly criticizing the man who appears to be next in line to get his party`s presidential nomination. We`re going to be talking about that a little more later on the show tonight.

But if you want to know how the story ends, you want me to just cut to the chase, suffice to say that Donald Trump responded to Mr. Romney`s criticism today with what appeared to be maybe a sexual reference to Mr. Romney`s previous attitude toward Mr. Trump when Mr. Romney was the one running for president.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mitt is failed candidate. He failed. He failed horribly. The third --

He failed badly. That was race, I have to say, that should have been won. That was a race that absolutely should have been won.

I don`t know what happened to him. He disappeared. He disappeared.

I wasn`t happy about it. I`ll be honest because I am not a fan of Barack Obama, and that was a race that I backed Mitt Romney. I backed him. You can see how loyal he is.

He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, Mitt, drop to your knees. He would have dropped to his knees. He was begging.


MADDOW: So, the previous Republican presidential nominee criticizes Donald Trump. Donald Trump responds with the on his knees reference. I could have said, Mitt, drop to your knees and he would have dropped to his knees. See how he got dropped to his knees twice in a sentence. Make of that what you will or don`t, just pretend it didn`t happen if that makes you real more comfortable and sane.

There`s also news ahead tonight on the Democratic Party`s turn out issue in this campaign and whether Democrats should be concerned about that. There`s also new news ahead about the name that`s been leaked by the White House as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

Plus, we`ve got a little bit of concrete news tonight about the possibility of a third party entrant into the 2016 presidential race, because things aren`t complicated already. That`s all ahead. We`re going to get to all of that this hour.

But we start tonight with this amazing kid. He`s 6`2", who`s 170 pounds. He`s 17 years old. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, which is amazing. That means on that metric alone, he would have placed in the top dozen wide receivers for the NFL draft this year. This kid is in high school.

He goes to high school in Shreveport, Louisiana. He`s a wide receiver and he`s one of most heavily recruited wide receivers in the country.

And in November, this young man, his name is Jonathan Jones, this remarkable young athlete got an offer from the biggest and most important cultural institution in Louisiana that`s not named Mardi Gras or jazz. Jonathan Jones got an offer from a big time Louisiana college football program.

And when Louisiana Tech gave him the offer in November and Jonathan Jones accepted a committed he would play football for Louisiana Tech, it made headlines all across the state. It was a huge deal for this promising young man, this young football player.

It was a huge deal for Louisiana Tech. It was a huge deal for Louisiana. There were interviews over the press how this wide receiver was coming to Louisiana Tech and it was a coup for the school`s program.

A couple of months later, a few weeks ago the same young man, Jonathan Jones uncommitted. He decommitted from Louisiana Tech.

He put out a statement that sent a little shiver down the spine in Louisiana, even down the spine of people who are not college football fans, and I hear there are a couple. In explaining why he was decommitting to Louisiana Tech, this young man said, quote, "I`m grateful for the blessing and the community to receive an offer from Louisiana Tech University. In light of recent political events, though, I must with a heavy heart rescind my verbal commitment to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs."

And when that young man cited recent political events in taking back his statement that he would go play at Louisiana Tech, what he meant by recent political events was this guy. Bobby Jindal.

Bobby Jindal was the governor of Louisiana for the past eight years. When he came in as governor in the first place, the state had big budget surpluses. By the end of his first year in office, though, that was over.

And thanks to Bobby Jindal`s economic genius about how to run the state, not only did Bobby Jindal squander the state`s budget surplus, which they have when he got there, but every year thereafter, while he was governor, the state went deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into a financial hole. Bobby Jindal`s policies were such a financial catastrophe for the state of Louisiana, the longer he was in office, the worst it got.

By the time Bobby Jindal was running for president last year, promising to do to the United States what he did to his home state, last year, by last year, one of the big ideas the Bobby Jindal administration came up with to scrounge up some money somewhere to run the statement government was to start selling off the cars used by the state government. Literally, selling off state owned vehicles at auction, because obviously, it`s a wasteful thing to have cars in the state government.

State workers need to get somewhere to do something for their job. Obviously, they can hitch or jog or they can save up and buy a skateboard. Maybe they could pull their resources and each office could have its own skateboard, then when people needed to go to Baton Rouge or something, and they were in New Orleans, they could just grab the hold -- maybe the bumper of a truck in a highway and they could there that way? Maybe two skateboards in case you both needed to be at the meeting.

The Bobby Jindal administration thought they maybe get a million dollars or so at auction for state vehicles, and so, they decided to start selling them off. Sure, try that.

That was the kind of stuff they had to turn to under Bobby Jindal. At one point, the state of Louisiana won a settlement in a lawsuit. That`s obviously a one time thing. That`s not the sort of thing you can count on year after year but they decided to use that settlement to run the state government for a while.

Then they found some other state property that they could maybe sell off to get a little cash that way. Sure. Try that.

I mean, shockingly, the pawnshop approach to state assets doesn`t turn out to be an awesome, long term path to fiscal stability. And so, by the time he left office, at the end of his two terms, he had gotten himself a spectacularly failed presidential campaign but put his state into the worst financial crisis the state of Louisiana has ever faced in its history.

You want to know how bad it was? It was this bad.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.


MADDOW: That is the new governor of Louisiana. Democrat named John Bel Edwards who took over from Bobby Jindal in January.

After just a few weeks in office, this new governor was apparently so shocked and horrified by what he found when he got into office, so shocked and horrified by the scale of disaster that Bobby Jindal had left in his wake, that the new governor gave this remarkable, and I think unprecedented, televised primetime crisis address to the people of the state of Louisiana to sound the alarm, to alert the state that what Bobby Jindal had done was worse than anything the state had been through before in terms of its finances. The disaster Bobby Jindal left behind was so big, the state is now considering closing hospitals, closing colleges, even, yes, ending college football.

Those were the, quote, "recent political events" that led the promising wide receiver from Shreveport, Jonathan Jones, to uncommit from Louisiana tech after he decided to go there. This young football player, he doesn`t appear to be any sort of political activist. He doesn`t seem to have any evident political interest, at least looking from the outside. He`s just a really good football player.

If you had other options and you are a really good promising young football player, would you commit to go play football at a college that might get shut down this summer?


EDWARDS: Tonight, I speak to you as no other Louisiana governor has ever spoken to our state, because the challenges have never been so great nor the impact so severe for all of us who live, work, or go do school here.

Since I took office exactly one month ago today, I have met with business and industry, working families and educators and parents to share the news of our budget crisis, to seek their ideas and to share my own so that we can get down to solving this massive problem as quickly as possible, the largest budget deficit in our state`s history. This is a historic fiscal crisis, the likes of which our state has never seen and absolute candor is required.

Our health care system is on the verge of imploding. The health care systems in jeopardy mean the difference between life and death. Funding for vital services like hospice care and in-stage kidney dialysis would be impacted. Higher education will face catastrophic cuts over the next four months, and that comes on the heels of the largest disinvestment in higher education in the nation over the last eight years. If you`re a student attending one of these universities, it means that you`ll receive a grade of incomplete.

Many students will not be able to graduate and student athletes across the states at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester. That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.

Please join me in praying for our state and I`m asking you pray for me and for all of our elected officials.


MADDOW: Usually elected officials finish a speech by asking God bless our state or God bless the country.

John Bel Edwards did that too at the very end of his remarks, but you know it`s serious when the governor is asking for is for people at large to start praying for the state and to start praying for him as the governor of the state.

That is the gravity of the situation when you`re in such a financial catastrophe you`re literally talking about unplugging people from dialysis machines and ending hospice care. So, people currently in the process of dying no longer get supportive care and pain relief that you get in hospice. I mean, when you`re talking about shutting down the university system and that second tier deity in the state of Louisiana known as college football, that`s serious stuff. That is Louisiana right now.

And the presidential campaign heads to Louisiana in two days. And that means, to a certain extent, the national media is thundering into Louisiana now focused on the number of delegates at stake, and the ad spending in the state, and the demographics of the electorate. That`s great. That`s all good. No problem with that.

But let the record show, let it be a notice to the national press thundering down to Baton Rouge to cover this election that until quite recently, the Louisiana secretary of state`s office was warning the state would not have enough money to hold this primary. They didn`t have enough money to hold this election on Saturday until recently. Ultimately, I guess they did find that. Bobby Jindal pawned a few state cars. But they`re in a full blown crisis because of him and his policies.

There`s a special session that`s been under way in the Louisiana legislature trying to figure out how to keep hospitals open, how to keep schools open. The president of LSU setting off an alarm in sports media across the country, saying that best plan he had seen for state education would literally render half the LSU football team ineligible to play next year because they will have incomplete on their report cards. There will be no summer school options for football players to maintain their athletic eligibility.

He said that`s the best case scenario that has been put forward for Louisiana schools. That`s what Bobby Jindal left behind in his state.

When Bobby Jindal quit the presidential race this year and endorsed Marco Rubio for president, Marco Rubio called Bobby Jindal called Bobby Jindal, quote, "one of best governors in America." Really?

Marco Rubio incidentally big football fan. On the same day as the Louisiana primary this weekend, voters are also going to be turning out to vote at the presidential nominating caucuses in the great state of Kansas.

Like Bobby Jindal, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback also came into office with good budget surplus. He then announced that he was going to conduct a great experiment in Kansas. That was his term. He called it a, quote, "live experiment" in conservative economics in the state of Kansas.

Thanks to Sam Brownback and his experimental conservatism, what his done to that state, his state has gone from budget surpluses when he took over to the worst financial crisis they`ve had in Kansas state history. Kansas had the credit rating downgraded multiple times since he`s been governor. Kansas school districts last year ended up having to cut short the school year.

In some school districts in Kansas last year, they sent kids home 12 days before the school year was supposed to end. Not because the kids learn fast but because the school districts just ran out of money to keep the doors open. So, they called the school year over before it was done.

Kansas never had a financial disaster like the one they`re in right now because of the policies of Sam Brownback.

Sam Brownback has also endorsed Marco Rubio as his choice for president.

So, it`s just interesting. Louisiana and Kansas are two of the states that are going to be voting for presidential nominees this weekend.

And then, of course, there`s the next big one. The biggest prize after Super Tuesday which will be the great state of Michigan. Michigan, which is lucky enough to be governed by a man named Rick Snyder.

It`s kind of amazing right, that you`ve got this disaster, unprecedented disaster in Louisiana because of the governor there. You`ve got this unprecedented disaster in Kansas because of the governor there, and then right after those states, they`re going to disaster zone Michigan, where the biggest political question ahead of that state`s presidential primary on Tuesday is whether Governor Rick Snyder is going to last that long or whether he would have had to resign before that primary happens on Tuesday in his state, because of the lead poisoning that was caused by the Snyder administration.

As more as more documents have come out showing awareness of the Flint disaster and involvement in the Flint disaster by basically all of Governor Snyder`s top aides for months and months while he professed total ignorance of the crisis, calls have grown steadily across the state and across an ideological spectrum of the state, that Rick Snyder has to go, that he has to resign, that he cannot effectively lead the state for another three years.

So, Rick Snyder has not resigned yet. But in his last few days leading up to the presidential primary, the calls for his resignation are starting to get deafening and who knows what affect that`s going to have in the primary.

So, we`re in this very interesting moment, right? There`s this collision of this fascinating presidential race on both the Democratic side and the Republican side, and over the next few days that race will come through Louisiana and Kansas, and then Michigan on Tuesday.

There`s this big collision between that national political calendar and what just happened to be some of the worst disasters in failed governance in modern American history. Because of these catastrophic failures by Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownback and Rick Snyder, these states that are all about to vote in the presidential race, they are all in crisis. They are all going through something unprecedented and unprecedentedly bad.

And so, you know, the political campaigns, the presidential campaigns and the national political press will be thundering through these places over the next few days. And I think there`s good reason to expect that things might ring a little different there than they do in the rest of the country. The poll-tested national messages in the various candidates might not resonate exactly the same in those states in crisis, as they do in other states that aren`t on political life support.

I mean, it`s one thing to rail against government in the abstract, right? To wish government away and deride government as stupid. It`s another thing to actually be living right now in a place where terrible governance is shortening the school year, sending your kids home in May instead of June, and it`s shutting college football, and it`s poisoning your kids.

Badly run government is really bad for real people. And because of where this presidential campaign is about to go geographically, that fact is about to get real for all these candidates.


MADDOW: Time machine time. John McCain of Arizona was first elected to Congress the year that "Eye of the Tiger" took over your AM radio. The same year that Olivia Newton John was an actual thing. Ask your mom.

John McCain arrived in the year when this is what a really great computer looked like.

John McCain has been congressman and then-Senator McCain for going on 30 years now through two House elections and four elections for the Senate. Nobody has ever been able to beat him.

But in the political season, we`re all acid tripping through together this year, John McCain has suddenly become test case number one for Democrats` new strategy, not just for unseating him but for trying to unseat Republicans up and down the country from coast to coast.

The Democrats this year apparently have one strategy that they are counting on. One strategy they think is going to work against every kind of Republican there is. It`s going to be kryptonite against the whole Republican Party if it works. If it doesn`t work -- meh.

Hold that thought. That`s coming up. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Republicans have now posted record turn out in 14 of the 15 states they voted in this primary season. These are just crazy numbers for the Republicans. That shows how much turn out was up in each of the states.

Look at that. Texas up 95 percent. Minnesota up 78 percent. Arkansas up 73. Republicans have set voter turn out records everywhere they have voted so far this year except Vermont. Maybe a little crossover voting for Bernie, do you think?

Democrats, though, they have seen turn out down in every state they voted in so far this year, at least when you compare it to the last contested primary in 2008. You`ll be surprised to hear that about those record Republican turn out numbers, Donald Trump believes that Donald Trump is the reason why those numbers are happening.


TRUMP: We`re going to be a much bigger party. Our party is expanding. All you have to do is take a look at the primary states where I won, and just look. We`ve gone from x number to a much larger number. That hasn`t happened to Republican Party in many, many decades.

So, I think we`ll be more inclusive, I think we`re going to be more unified. I think we`re going to be a much bigger party and I think we`re going to win in November.


MADDOW: The unifier. The expander.

Donald Trump says Republicans should love the idea of him at the top of the ticket. He says it`s him who`s turning out record numbers in all of these states. Not only is he Donald Trump therefore going to win in November as the party`s presidential nominee, the Republican Party as a whole will win up and down the ballot because of him, because of all these new voters drawn to the lamp of liberty that`s Donald Trump.

And that is one narrative about Republican politics at the moment. Donald Trump is driving out turnout. Driving up turnout, will help Republicans up and down the ballot. That`s one.

The other competing narrative says if Donald Trump is the Republican Party`s presidential nominee, then not only will he definitely lose the general election, but Republicans everywhere are doomed, just thanks to the fact that they too will have an R next to their name on the ballot that looks like the R next to the name Donald Trump who will lose.

And that narrative, the beltway believes it. And that narrative the head of the effort to elect Republican senators this year has said that the party nominating Mr. Trump for president would hang in albatross around the necks of Republican senators. That narrative is also why Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has given senators his blessing that they could run ads against Donald Trump during their own re-election bids the they need to.

One senator up for reelection this year on the Republican side is a very famous one, Arizona`s John McCain.

And when another former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, criticized Donald Trump today, Senator McCain jumped on board and issued public criticism of Mr. Trump today.

But in John McCain`s case, that may be too a little too late, at least of his likely opponent this fall has anything to say about it. It`s expected that John McCain this fall when he runs for re-election, he`ll be running against Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick on the Democratic side. Ann Kirkpatrick is now running this ad against John McCain.

And watch this because congressional and Senate races over the country are about to have ads like this, anywhere that the Republican candidate can be tied to Donald J. Trump.


AD NARRATOR: Donald Trump is dangerous for America.

TRUMP: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn`t lose any voters, OK? I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

AD NARRATOR: No matter what Donald Trump said, John McCain would support him for president.

INTERVIEWER: Including Donald Trump, you`d support him?


TRUMP: She said he`s a pussy. I`d like to punch him in the face, I`ll tell you.



TRUMP: You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

AD NARRATOR: Even Mitch McConnell is distancing himself from Donald Trump. Not John McCain. Even after Trump said --

TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.

AD NARRATOR: McCain repeated.

MCCAIN: I vote for the Republican nominee. Obviously, I`m a loyal Republican.

AD NARRATOR: There was a time when country mattered more than his political party. But 30 years in Washington has changed John McCain. We need leaders to stand up to Donald Trump.

REP. ANN KIRKPATRICK (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Ann Kirkpatrick and I approve this message.


MADDOW: So, that`s how Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick is going to run against John McCain in Arizona. But more importantly, that is also how every Democrat in the country is going to run against every Republican in every congressional seat, and every seat and probably every dog catcher`s seat, too, if Donald Trump gets the Republican nomination and maybe even if he doesn`t.

Will that work? Hold that thought.



INTERVIEWER: You`ve been asked a million times, if Donald Trump was the nominee --

MCCAIN: I`ve given up answering that question. It`s on the record. To ask me again after I`ve answered it 50 times is not something I`m going to spend my time on.


MADDOW: That was John McCain today, exasperated Senator John McCain there responding to the latest in a long line of questions about whether he would support Donald Trump as the presidential nominee of his party.

For the record, John McCain would support Donald Trump and that is now being used against him in his own reelection campaign in Arizona.

It`s being used against him like a first rate run-from-the-reporters kind of scandal. And the you-support-Donald-Trump accusation is a template that Democrats are expected to use all over the country, against Donald Trump all over the country.

Is it likely to work nationwide? I don`t know.

Maybe we can start to tell whether it`s likely to work against John McCain who appears to be the first U.S. Senate candidate facing explicit political ads on this subject already.

Joining us now is Dan Nowicki. He`s a national political reporter for "The Arizona Republic".

Mr. Nowicki, it`s real pleasure to have you here tonight. Thanks for your time.

DAN NOWICKI, ARIZONA REPUBLIC POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. Hey, thanks, Rachel. Great to be here.

MADDOW: So, Senator McCain obviously is a political fixture. There`s nobody else like him in politics. It`s impossible to imagine politics without him.

But still, it wasn`t 100 percent certainty he would run for re-election this year because of his age.


MADDOW: What are the odds of anybody unseating him?

NOWICKI: I think McCain goes into the race with an advantage, obviously, big financial advantage. But given the chaotic atmosphere in the anti- establishment mood, McCain is not taking any chances and I think a lot of political observer who initially viewed this race as sort of a snoozer are taking a second look at it.

MADDOW: Do you see an overall impact in Arizona politics and on calculations like that one you just made there of the presidential race? And specifically, the Donald Trump factor. Is that going to change the calculus about various candidates there?

NOWICKI: Yes, I think a lot of Republicans are worried if Trump is at the top of the ticket that it could put a red state like Arizona in play for the Democratic nominee.


MADDOW: Sorry, go ahead.

NOWICKI: Obviously, I think McCain, when he have asked early on, I think he was hoping that the nomination process would make take care of Trump but it`s pretty clear that Trump will stick around. It`s going to come back to haunt him.

MADDOW: What do you make of, in an Arizona context, what do you make of the sort of countervailing argument, which has been made by Mr. Trump, that you look at the Republican turn out numbers in the primary where Republicans are breaking records all over the country and the Democratic turn out numbers are down, and maybe Donald Trump is not going to be toxic to the Republican Party. Maybe he`s going to bring out new voters and that will not only get him across the finish line, it will help other Republican candidates.

NOWICKI: I can tell you a lot of Republicans in Arizona don`t buy that. Maybe it will work out that way. It makes them nervous. I don`t think they want to take the chance.

MADDOW: In terms of Ann Kirkpatrick as a specific candidate against John McCain, obviously, we`re not up to the primaries yet. So, we still got some -- I can`t say for sure she`s going to be the candidate against him, but if she is expected against him, is she expected to be a stiff challenger for him?

NOWICKI: Yes, I think that -- she`s pretty much the best candidate that Democrats could hope for. She`s an incumbent congresswoman. She is from rural Arizona. So, she`s not really well known in Maricopa County where most of the Arizona`s voters are. But she`s starting to get known, thanks in part to this Trump ad that she put out this week.

MADDOW: Dan Nowicki, national political reporter for "The Arizona Republic" -- thank you for letting us get the Arizona perspective on this. Appreciate you being here.

NOWICKI: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight, including some unsettling news about what appears to be some political violence or the prospect in the great state of Texas.

We`ll be right back with that story. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is a bit of a disturbing story. Beaumont, Texas is on the far southeast side of the state of Texas. It`s almost all the way to Louisiana. And just like in the rest of the country, this is political season in Beaumont, Texas, from big national election to very local contests.

And in Beaumont, the local sheriff is retiring after 19 years on the job. He`s a Democrat. Beaumont, Texas, is a predominantly blue county in Texas.

On the Democratic side, the two leading candidates to replace the sheriff are both African-American. Either of them would with the first African- American sheriff of that county, ever.

One of them, Zena Stephens, you see there on the left, she would also be the only female sheriff ever elected in county history. It`s an interesting election anyway.

But then something terrible happened. On Monday night, this week, so Super Tuesday eve, Zena Stephens and about two dozen members of her staff were at her campaign headquarters when a white man in a Jeep reportedly pulled up outside, leaned outside the passenger window of his vehicle and started shouting racial slurs at them.

Police say seconds later, the man pulled out a gun and started shooting. The gunfire shattered the building`s glass door. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.


ZENA STEPHENS (D-TX), JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF CANDIDATE: I don`t know whether the individual that did that was trying to divide the community or stop the election or stop me from running for sheriff. None of that`s going to happen. I`m still part of this community. I love this community. It`s just senseless ignorance.


MADDOW: A few hours after that shooting police arrested a local man who they say confessed to the shooting, Beaumont police say they recovered two weapons from inside his Jeep. One was a bb style gun and the other was a rifle. They don`t know which gun was used in the attack.

As of tonight, that suspect is behind bars. He`s facing charges of deadly conduct for that shooting on Monday night. On Tuesday, right after the shooting after her office, Zena Stephens went onto finish first in the Democratic primary for sheriff. She`ll be facing the other African- American candidate for sheriff in a party run off election in May.

The election continues, of course, Beaumont, Texas. We`ve been talking a lot about race in politics but not quite like this.


MADDOW: People lining up to get into the audience of the Republican debate in Detroit tonight had a bit of a surprise. They were greeted with this scene on the street outside the theater where the debate was held tonight. It was snowing in Detroit tonight. It was an exciting evening but it was not exactly the kind of excitement I think the Republicans were expecting. There were tons of protesters outside the Republican debate venue tonight as the audience members were arriving to get in.

They were right outside the entrance to the FOX Theater in Detroit. As best as we can tell, the demonstrators came from a whole bunch of organizations and demanding action on a bunch of issues, civil rights and a lot of people wanting to raise minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, a lot of people there comments and signs about the Flint water crisis. There was a light brigade group that turned up with an "Arrest Snyder" sign, saying that Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan, should be arrested for the Flint water crisis.

As of now, it appears those protests have died down quite a bit. Still, though, it was a striking scene in Detroit tonight as people were convening for that debate.

Stay with us.



MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats after Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture.

He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press.

This is the very brand of anger that`s led other nations into the abyss. Here`s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.


MADDOW: Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney today unleashing a whole speech worth of criticism against Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Now, interestingly, Governor Romney did not, himself, say that he would jump into the race to try to beat Mr. Trump nor did he endorse any of the candidates who are currently running against Mr. Trump trying to keep him from getting the nomination.

In so far as Mr. Romney has weight to throw in this fight, he is not throwing his weight behind anybody in particular. He`s not said he will jump in.

Maybe he`s hoping someone will ask, maybe at the convention.

On a similar note, NBC`s Katy Tur reports now that former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is watching and waiting to see what develops in the presidential race.

Chuck Todd is now reporting that Mike Bloomberg has rented office space in Texas just in case he has to start gathering petition signatures to get on ballot there. With Ben Carson kind of sort of announcing his campaign doesn`t have a path forward, we were finally going to be poofing this massive field that started at 17 candidates down to something more manageable.

I mean, we started with 17. We have now poofed, perfected the animation of getting rid of presidential candidates. Now with this Romney show and this Bloomberg possibility, we may have to figure out what the opposite of the poof is. We can figure out what we`re supposed to do on the graphic information in order to add people back in the race in March after 15 primaries and caucuses have already happened.

Joining us is Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Radio Show", to help us get our head around this chaos, as a late joining candidate could potentially bring to the race. Michael, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for being here.

MICHAEL MEDVED, THE MICHAEL MEDVED RADIO SHOW: Thank you. Great to speak with you.

MADDOW: We have talked about the anti-Trump efforts within the Republican Party and within the conservative movement. There`s now increasing noise about the possibility of somebody who is not in the running against him right now joining the race somehow and either complicating this problem or solving it. What do you think about that prospect?

MEDVED: Well, I think the key thing all comes down to one primary election, which is coming up 12 days from now, in Florida. If Marco Rubio catches up with Trump and actually beats him in the Florida primary which is a winner-take-all primary, 99 delegates and you win them all if you win the state, then I think Trump will be stopped in his march to the nomination.

And what probably would happen in that case would be that he falls below the 1,237 delegates he needs on the first ballot. If Trump doesn`t win on the first ballot, he will not be the nominee, because very, very few people backing either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or John Kasich, or anyone else, where Trump is their second choice.

And what that means is that on the second ballot, delegates are free to choose anyone they want. And I will tell you what I hear in the party and I think it`s terrific, is the one candidate who really could unify the party and win the election is the honorable Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the speaker of the House of Representatives, who is so refreshing and patriotic and not petty, the way that so many of the candidates, particularly Mr. Trump appeared to be right now.

MADDOW: Do you think that it`s -- I know there are some logistical issue about bringing in somebody, even in a second ballot, who has not earned any delegates, right? There`s a slightly different process you have to go through as opposed to somebody who does have some delegates. Do you think those kinds of logistical hurdles would be less important than the potentially unifying factor of bringing somebody in from outside the process, Paul Ryan, or somebody else, who really wasn`t sullied by the Republican primary at all.

MEDVED: Yes, I think it is doable. And the reason it`s doable is the Republican National Committee can change the rules and particularly on the detailed rule like that, a procedural rule like that, they can do that pretty much at will.

Look, I`m not saying that there aren`t Trump loyalists and true believers who will scream and shout and throw a fit. That could happen. But, really, this is the best possible outcome for the Republican Party, because the other reality of Donald Trump as our enemy, there are many, many, many Republicans who agree with me that it is impossible to vote for this man. You just cannot do it.

And, really, there has to be some place for those Republicans to land. Now, Michael Bloomberg if he runs, I think the danger from Michael Bloomberg is he takes more votes from Hillary than he does from Trump, because on issues that a lot of conservatives care about a lot, like Second Amendment rights or pro-life or marriage issues, Michael Bloomberg is probably more liberal than Hillary is.

So, again, if Bloomberg runs, I hate to say this, Rachel, because it complicates matters, there will be a fourth candidate, if it`s Trump- Clinton-Bloomberg, there will be a fourth candidate representing people who hold conservative points of view on the social issues, on the economic issues and on the national security issues.

Trump is not a conservative on national security and he`s not a conservative on economic issues. He`s a protectionist and an isolationist.

MADDOW: On the math there, I`m absolutely with you in terms of a third candidate, not necessarily making it more likely that Donald Trump will be denied the presidency. I think that`s absolute true about Bloomberg. I actually think it`s true about a lot of people who might get in who have not currently part of the process.


MADDOW: Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" -- thank you, sir. It`s great to see you.

MEDVED: Thank you, Rachel. Great to talk to you.

MADDOW: All right. More ahead on the Republican nomination and more. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Hello, friends.

So I have a whole script prepared for this block. I have a whole segment produced ready to talk to you about Mitt Romney denouncing Donald Trump today, the previous Republican nominee denouncing the man who looks like he`s going to be the current Republican nominee and what the precedents are for that both in terms of American political history and also in terms of the political history between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney which is a hilarious thing and maybe we`ll get to that.

I am putting that aside and I do not have a produced segment here that I`m doing. I`m just talking to you one-on-one, just you and me, and I`m also about to break a rule, because there is a Republican candidates debate that`s going on right now on another channel and the way these things work is that obviously we`re not allowed to simulcast the debate. It belongs to the company that is broadcasting it or that is putting it on cable tonight.

And then once the debate is over, we have access as a competing network to limited numbers of clips, limited amounts of time, limited numbers of clips that we can play. It`s basically their property and we can`t access it at all while it`s on and we`re only allowed to access it in small chunks once it`s over.

There is however an exception to this rule, which I think is widely accepted within the news industry and that is if something genuinely newsworthy happens, it`s not longer just coverage of the debate, it`s actually just news. And so, that has happened tonight. So maybe I`ll get in trouble, I hope I don`t, but this is genuinely news.

You may have noticed if you`ve been paying attention to the Republican race that it has descended not just into the sort of personal invective that has dismayed a lot of people, and that happens as a feature of a lot of different kinds of presidential races. We`ve had an unusual thing happen in the Republican presidential primary this year where the personal invective has evolved both from Donald Trump, the front runner, and from Marco Rubio, one of his challengers.

It`s devolved into personal insult, with the two of them deriding one another for their height or lack thereof, their propensity to sweat, they`ve talked about the size of each others ears or hands. At one point, Mr. Rubio I think actually went further into the gutter than Mr. Trump had even yet gone when he talked about Mr. Trump at the most recent debate as potentially having become incontinent and wet his pants with nervousness or something was -- was what he was accusing him of.

Mr. Rubio then followed that up by talking about Mr. Trump`s hand size, basically as a double entendre for the size of his genital endowment. Well, tonight, at the start of the debate in Detroit, Mr. Trump responded I guess in kind. This seems to me like news.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands if they`re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there`s no problem. I guarantee you.


MADDOW: Behold, the Republican contest to nominate someone to be the next president of the United States, the way they are competing with one another now, including out of the mouth of the front-runner is by bragging about the size of their genitals and that`s how we`re supposed to pick the next president of the United States.

The two parties are not the same. The two parties are not mirror images of one another. The Republican Party has become something very different.

That does it for us tonight. If you want to get me in trouble over this, you can reach me at I`ll take the heat.

We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.