'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, January 9th, 2012
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Put The Blame On Bain', Ken Vogel
#5 'Put The Blame On Bain', Robert Reich
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Romney vs. The Rest', Nia-Malika Henderson
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Dem Changes', Markos Moulitsas
#2 'It's Still Early'
#1 'Pity The Billionaire', Thomas Frank
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: David Shuster, Markos Moulitsas, Nia-Malika Henderson, Robert Reich, Thomas Frank, Ken Vogel
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people.
SHUSTER: Romney gifts the ultimate present to his opponents. But didn't we already know this?
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.
SHUSTER: Double the pleasure, double the dumb. Things get testy with two debates in 12 hours.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: But can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?
(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: I think he came out as one of the top corrupt individuals.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: We want someone, when the time gets tough - and it will in this election - we want someone who's going to stand up and fight for the conservative principles, not bail out and not run, and not run to the left of Ted Kennedy.
SHUSTER: But with 98.7 percent of the delegates still up for grabs after South Carolina, is their anger premature?
As all eyes shift to New Hampshire for the GOP primary, it's important to remember the other man on the ballot. And while you may have forgotten that the president's name will be on there, he has not. And neither have Occupy protesters.
And - "Pity the Billionaire." After conservative policies resulted in the economic collapse, conservatives defy logic, taking its failed ideas to the extreme and calling it change. Thomas Frank, on how the right wing swindled its way back to power.
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people.
SHUSTER: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, January the 9th, 302 days until the 2012 presidential election. I am David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann on this - a tough day to be a plutocrat running for president.
Our fifth story on "Countdown" - Mitt Romney is now taking withering criticism for his years as a successful venture capitalist, and it's coming from his fellow Republican candidates, just as polls show the former Massachusetts governor retaining a commanding lead before tomorrow's New Hampshire primary.
Romney came in with 33 percent of the Suffolk University/7 News tracking poll. It's a drop of 10 points in just five days, but it's still well ahead of Ron Paul at 20 percent, Jon Huntsman at 13, Newt Gingrich at 11 percent and Rick Santorum at 10.
Romney is doing even better - 41 percent - in WMUR New Hampshire primary poll. With Ron Paul coming in at second, again, with 17 percent, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum tied for third at 11 and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with eight percent. All of those numbers, however, came before this - a former Massachusetts governor, Romney - a former millionaire's son with a net worth of more than $200 million - told a New Hampshire audience he feels good about letting people go:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me. You know, if is someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say that, you know, I am going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.
SHUSTER: Former Utah Governor John Huntsman pounced on Romney with this:
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN HUNTSMAN: Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.
SHUSTER: Romney then tried to backpedal, explaining he was only talking about President Obama's health-care plan when he shared his pleasure in firing people:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: My comments entirely reflected that discussion, which is - we should be able to choose the insurance company of our choice.
SHUSTER: If Romney was out of sync, it might have been because he was thrown off by a feisty exchange earlier with the United Auto Workers' representative over the Obama Administration's auto-industry bailout.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: How could you say that those people, people from your own state of Michigan, would have been better off under bankruptcy, when they would have really very likely lost their jobs, instead of where they are today?
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: The answer is this - bankruptcy is not going under and losing jobs.
SHUSTER: Well, not if you are Mitt Romney. Former house speaker Newt Gingrich has another answer for Romney voters. That's to say - his entirely-unaffiliated super PAC, "Winning our Future" does in an upcoming film that will start running in South Carolina this week.
Romney's firm, Bain Capital, comes off on screen as a cross between Bernie Madoff and the bubonic plague.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: A group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney, more ruthless than Wall Street ... For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.
SHUSTER: An unapologetic Gingrich, perhaps eager for revenge after the flogging he took from a Romney super PAC in Iowa, is sounding more like Ralph Nader than Grover Norquist in hammering Romney.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Governor Romney is going to have to hold a press conference and walk through, with considerable detail, some of the companies that Bain took over where they apparently looted the companies, left people totally unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars.
SHUSTER: Romney's wealthy background also caused him some problems on Sunday, at least in the credibility department.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I know what it's like to worry whether you are going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.
SHUSTER: That comment was enough to create perhaps the strangest political couple of the 2012 election - Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and GOP candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Wasserman Schultz said of Romney, "The only reason he knows what a pink slip looks like is that he's handed out so many."
Rick Perry followed, with this elaboration on the theme:
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips - whether he was gonna have enough of them to hand out, because his company, Bain Capital, with the jobs that they killed - I am sure he was worried he would run out of pink slips.
SHUSTER: Governor Perry is showing his affection for Romney's candidacy in another way. According to today's Talking Points Memo, Perry has now made a ring tone of Romney saying, "I like to be able to fire people."
For more on Romney's joy in firing people and the numbers going into tomorrow's New Hampshire primary, we are joined by Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter for Politico. Ken, thanks for being with us.
KEN VOGEL: Hey, David.
SHUSTER: Romney's gaffes - he likes being able to fire people and knew what it was like to fear a pink slip. We have already heard him insist that corporations are people. How did the backpedaling compare on this one today?
VOGEL: Well, I think if you put it in the context that he actually said it, the full quote is, in fact, about health insurance and people choosing their health-insurance provider.
Nonetheless, it was in-artful, to say the least, and it certainly feeds into this narrative that has been developing around him - both because of Democratic attacks and because of the attacks that we heard from his opponents - that he is a heartless capitalist.
And what a funny thing, to hear Republicans leveling that attack. And the context is important here, as well. In terms of the race, it is an unusual environment, in which you have the deep and intense vein of populism - economic populism - running through the GOP field, wherein they think that it is a solid basis form which to launch attacks, to criticize this guy's work in the private sector as a capitalist.
SHUSTER: Also pretty funny - did you hear the Romney campaign demanding we all keep his comments in context, given the way he treated some of the comments from President Obama. But in any case, any surprise that the GOP counterparts of Romney didn't give him a pass on this one? I mean, to hear populist criticism coming out of Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich - I mean, somewhere down the line, aren't they violating GOP orthodoxy?
VOGEL: They are violating GOP orthodoxy. They are also trying to play to this populist vein that is within the conservative base, within the tea party particularly.
But to answer your question, yes, it's going to bite them, either the - if any of these candidates, you know, in the unlikely event any of these other candidates do capture the GOP nomination and they try to hit Obama from the economic right - these comments are going to be brought back.
And if Mitt Romney is the nominee, they are going to see an endless loop from the left, of conservatives and his formal rivals, saying things that - in many ways - echo attacks that the DNC is leveling at Romney and his time at Bain Capital.
SHUSTER: You mentioned the tea party. Where are they in all of this? I mean, would Romney's pro-business comments work for them, or would his attempts to come off as something other than he is - a remarkably wealthy man - would that turn them off?
VOGEL: Well, they just hate Mitt Romney. There's no way around it. And he has made nominal entreaties to them that have been totally rejected, but they are largely MIA. They are not a factor in this race.
And this is something that gives great concern to organizers, who were very influential getting this movement together and getting it to focus on politics. They are starting to come to the conclusion that maybe - either, it wasn't ready for the big leagues of presidential politics, or it's just better suited to local, state, congressional, even Senate races - where the decentralization and the fragmentation isn't quite such a problem, because they can pick and choose between their candidates.
Here what you have is this totally splintered field where - after their movement darlings dropped out or floundered - like Rick Perry did, Bachmann and Cain obviously dropped out, Sarah Palin didn't run - all of those folks would have been preferable, to tea partiers, over Mitt Romney.
And now they are splitting their vote among the also-rans - among Rick Santorum, among Newt Gingrich and, to some extent, Ron Paul, who has had a base within the tea party - but that's not the way to have an impact on the tea party. If anything, it's only furthering the chances and the prospects of Mitt Romney, their sworn enemy.
SHUSTER: It's always so intriguing, Ken, as you know, to hear about the numbers and the expectations game on the eve of voting. What expectations are being set tonight by the Romney campaign? And any expectations being set by his rivals?
VOGEL: Well, they are trying to downplay expectations. Everyone knows he is going to win. It's just a question of the margin. And I don't think the margin will have a whole lot of impact. He is going on. He is looking more and more inevitable. His organization is so vastly superior to any of these other folks.
On the other folks, from their perspective - Jon Huntsman. I mean, he needs to do better than the 11 to 13 percent that he is polling at. If he doesn't do better than that, I think it's going to be a tough argument for him to make, for his supporters to make and, perhaps even more acutely, for his super PAC supporters - among whom, we understand his father to be the pre-eminent donor - to continue to shovel money or to base their support - to channel their support to his candidacy.
He's hung it all on New Hampshire and if he doesn't break 15 percent, I just can't see how he goes on.
SHUSTER: The comments of Romney liking to fire people, regardless of the context - as far as South Carolina, which is the next primary, how do you think, Ken, that those comments play down there, as folks in South Carolina are starting to pay attention to this race?
VOGEL: It's going to be really interesting in South Carolina because this populist attack - say what you will about whether it's appropriate at all in a GOP primary or unusual - it's going to be very evident in South Carolina, the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, "Winning Our Future" has already said it's going to commit $3.4 million to airing ads that are based on that movie attacking Mitt Romney for his time at Bain Capital that you showed some clips of.
So, that's gonna be the argument there. And it will be a good test case, to see if that can hurt Mitt Romney in a Republican primary or -if all it does is sort of taint the eventual and nominative Republican nominee headed into a general election match-up - where we know the same arguments are going to be brought by Democrats.
SHUSTER: And Ken, now are you detecting any nervousness from the Romney campaign - if only because, if you look at the polling over the last couple of days, coinciding with the barrage of attacks by Republicans on him - his numbers have dropped. He is still ahead of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum and the rest of the field, but they are sort of trending down.
VOGEL: And this is a serious test for him. Not New Hampshire. South Carolina is a good test for him in terms of the demographics, but I speak more to this Bain Capital argument and this sort of "ruthless, heartless capitalist" argument that's being leveled simultaneously by Democrats and Republicans against him.
We see him responding quickly and aggressively to it, by explaining his, sort of, as you call it, "time in the private sector" and talking and explaining what he meant by the pink-slip comment, as well as the comment about the "liking to be able to fire people."
At some point, Newt Gingrich may be right. Mitt Romney may have to give a full speech, sort of laying out why his experience in the private sector is not only not - is not only helpful, but not a detriment in the way that it is being sort of wielded against him right now.
SHUSTER: Politico chief investigator reporter Ken Vogel. Ken, always great to have you on the program. Thanks for being with us tonight.
VOGEL: My pleasure, David.
SHUSTER: For more on Mitt Romney's painful moment of truth, we are joined by Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor Secretary, professor at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and author of "Aftershock: The Next Economy in America's Failure."
Mr. Secretary, you blogged last week that you ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts 10 years ago, and would have faced Mitt Romney if you would have won. Are you surprised by his clueless comment today on firing people? And what sort of impact do you expect that to have in New Hampshire?
ROBERT REICH: I am a little bit surprised, because this is a candidate who is scripted, carefully scripted. He has a big organization behind him. Every word, every image, every phrase is one that has been rehearsed and tested. I mean, for him to say something like "I enjoy firing people," - even if out of context - that is a slip that should not have happened, is not the kind of slip that I would remember from 10 years ago, when I almost had the privilege of running against Mitt Romney.
Also, you know, the "corporations are people" comment. I mean, you have got a lot of stuff that is getting aired and, obviously, his opponents are taking advantage of it, doing the Democrats' work for them, and this campaign is going to be - both the primary and the general campaign - is going to be about the establishment versus average working people. Those are really the two parties. And Mitt Romney is the candidate of the establishment.
SHUSTER: And as far as the GOP rivals using this populist attack against Mitt Romney - essentially, as you said, doing the Democrats' job for them - what do you make of it?
REICH: Well, you know, apart from being ironic - I mean it is - it is extraordinarily ironic. Newt Gingrich, I mean - not that long ago, was talking about the wonders of the free market and how it's fine that executives get the paid all of this and many of the other Republican candidates have been on record as saying that the market and what happens in the market and job losses in the market are all a part of the wonders of capitalism.
Now, they are taking on capitalism, taking on Mitt Romney and taking on the ability, willingness and propriety of, you know, a company like Bain Capital - which is basically in the business of taking over companies and trying to refurbish them, firing workers - about a third of Bain Capital's companies that it took over went bankrupt because they had so much debt attached to them. Well, now, suddenly, the Republican herd - except for Romney - has turned populist and they are making the arguments that Democrats have been making for a long time.
SHUSTER: And never mind the political expediency. Is it at all possible that maybe the progressive view about the economy is taking hold, to a certain extent?
REICH: I think it is. I don't think there is any question about it, Dave. I think the president's speech in Kansas last month - where he set out a very populist vision of what this country needs to do, what it has done, why inequality is so bad for us - really was positioning the president, in a way, to run against Mitt Romney.
And the Republicans, as I said, are doing the president's work for him right now. Setting Mitt Romney up as the establishment candidate, the candidate of big business, the candidate of Wall Street, the candidate of a culture and an economy that treats people as if they are fungible, as if they can be fired at will. And they can be, legally.
SHUSTER: You blogged that Romney is the son of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that made super PACS that conceal big donor identities possible. Explain a little more about what you meant, and the irony here. What does that say about the fact that elections are determined by who puts out the nastiest, largest, most aggressive anonymous ads?
REICH: Well the super PACs in Iowa were dominated by Romney's super PAC. It went after Gingrich, over $3 million spent against Gingrich. And again, very negative advertising and because it was super PAC, that supposed to be separate from the Romney campaign, Romney could distance himself and say, "Well, look. I wasn't nasty. It was those guys and that super PAC."
Now, one of the delicious double ironies here is - when you get to South Carolina, you are going to have a repeat performance, but instead of Romney's super PAC being the belligerent one, unleashing all of the venom, it's going to be Newt Gingrich's. And Newt Gingrich, of course, in Iowa said, "I am not going to go negative at all," but Newt Gingrich's super PAC is spending everything. Spending as much as Romney spent against Gingrich in Iowa.
Gingrich is going to be spending against Romney in South Carolina and the major theme is going to be, again, "Romney is this kind of vicious capitalist who fires people and that's what he loves to do."
SHUSTER: Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary. Mr. Reich, thank you so much for joining us. Always a pleasure.
REICH: Thanks, Dave.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, we will show you what happens when the Republican presidential field has two debates in 12 hours. It happened this weekend and it was intriguing.
And later, the Occupy movement had a dramatic message today for the Obama re-election campaign. You are watching "Countdown" on Current.
SHUSTER: At their wedding, John Warner reportedly toasted Elizabeth Taylor with a reference to the multiple times she had already been married. "I know what to do tonight," said Warner. "But I'll be damned if I know how to make it interesting."
The GOP debate Sunday morning actually had its damn interesting moments despite coming just hours after the debate Sunday night. We will show you.
Later, the media obsession with Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. I'll explain why Floridians are justified in calling it ridiculous.
President Obama is taking no chances during this primary season. His re-election campaign has offices, and a message, across dozens of States. Today, the Obama office in New Hampshire got a dramatic visit by Occupy protesters.
And, there is an intriguing new book out about America's collective policy amnesia and how that's fueling the key GOP talking point. We will talk to Thomas Frank.
SHUSTER: In New Hampshire over the weekend, the six remaining GOP presidential hopefuls gathered for back-to-back, high-stakes debates, affording voters in the "Live Free or Die" State a last chance to examine their choices ahead of Tuesday's primary.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - while the candidates not named Mitt Romney set used ABC News/Yahoo debate their sights on one another, on Sunday at the NBC News/Facebook debate, it was back to the business of lampooning the front-runner on everything from his super PAC ads to his credentials as a conservative.
Newt Gingrich, who has seen his numbers plunge in the polls since the last debate in Iowa, sharpened his New Hampshire attacks against the favorite Romney. And he swung hard at Romney's assertion of not being a career politician.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran in '94 and lost. You were running for president while you were governor. You were going all over the country. You were - you were out of state consistently. You have been running consistently for years and years and years. So, this idea that - suddenly, citizenship showed up in your mind - just level with the American people. You've been running for - at least since the 1990's.
SHUSTER: And Gingrich doubled-down on his Romney assault over the Romney-affiliated super PAC "Restore Our Future."
(Excerpt from video clip) MODERATOR: You have agreed with the characterization that Governor Romney is a liar. Look at him now. Do you stand by that claim?
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Well, sure. Governor, I wish you would calmly and directly state, "It is your former staff running the PAC. It is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC. And you know some of the ads are - aren't true." Just say that. It's straightforward.
SHUSTER: Rick Santorum, who has seen his numbers surge since the Iowa primary, got in on the game, taking a swing at Romney's attempts to cast himself as an outsider.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: He wouldn't stand up for conservative principles. He ran for Ronald Reagan. And he said he was going to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights, on abortion, on a whole host of other issues. We want someone, when the time gets tough - and it will in this election - we want someone who's going to stand up and fight for the conservative principles, not bail out and not run, and not run to the left of Ted Kennedy.
SHUSTER: Jon Huntsman, who has virtually anchored his campaign in New Hampshire, attempted to settle the score with Romney from the previous night's debate.
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. He criticized me - while he was out raising money - for serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They're not asking who - what political affiliation the president is. I will always put my country first. And I think that's important to them.
SHUSTER: Mitt Romney saw the pitch from Huntsman and took a swing.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I think we serve our country, first, by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama's agenda.
Let's bring in Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor Nia-Malika Henderson for more from New Hampshire. Nia, thanks you for your time tonight.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Great to be here.
SHUSTER: Mitt Romney seemed to go unchallenged by his rivals in Saturday's debate. On Sunday, he was the focus of attacks from Santorum, Gingrich and John Huntsman. What happened overnight? I mean, did the candidates get an earful from their advisers?
And speaking of the final run here - how many "undecideds" are there, going into tomorrow?
HENDERSON: Yeah, there seem to be quite a few "undecideds," something like 25 percent. In some ways, I think it's just the New Hampshire way to sort of tease us when we ask them, "Hey, who have you landed on?" So, they still are undecided a bit.
I just came back from a Romney rally. I have to say there are a lot of people there, but a lot of those folks were from Massachusetts. They are called political tourists, and they certainly filled up this rally.
Romney, of course, he stumbled in some ways over the last couple of days, attacked in that debate - every time I hear that "pious baloney" I just laugh - vintage Newt Gingrich. And I think Newt Gingrich is, in some ways, on a kamikaze mission at this point. He has nothing to lose. He is going to dump a whole - I think it's, like, a 30-minute long film - on Mitt Romney going down to South Carolina.
But at some point I think they did collectively decide - not to say they had a meeting - but they decided, in some ways at the last minute, to finally go after Mitt Romney in a sustained way. They have done it on a number of fronts.
You have seen Jon Huntsman's, very - I thought it was a clean blow he landed there. I was out with him yesterday, and for the first time on the stump, people were responding to him, almost like he was a star. I had never seen that at a Jon Huntsman rally. They were coming up to him and congratulating him on his debate performance, handing him cookies, saying they were going to go out and support him. I think he will probably have a decent showing tomorrow. I think it's 11, 12, 13 percent in some of the polls.
Ron Paul, the most rabid supporters I have ever seen at any of these rallies over the last couple of days and even in Iowa. So, I think he will have a strong showing, too.
But Mitt Romney, I think, it is still a sense that it's inevitable, that he is going to win this thing tomorrow. The question is - who comes in second?
But I think one of the things - I think one of the things that's interesting is that, even though he's done so well, he has really damaged himself in a lot of ways over these last couple of days - whether it was in Iowa and he tried to run to the right on immigration, or whether it was standing up on that debate and talking about Roe v. Wade, how he wants to see that overturned.
So, I think he looks good in terms of his chances for the general - for the nomination - but for the general, I think Democrats are pretty happy at what they have seen out of him over these last couple of days.
SHUSTER: I want to ask you about Jon Huntsman. He is counting on the same sort of catapult that John McCain got in 2000. McCain, back then, ignored Iowa, as Huntsman has done. McCain concentrated on New Hampshire. He won the state, then saw his numbers skyrocket, literally overnight.
Huntsman is a different sort of campaign but, ironically, the same campaign manager in John Weaver that McCain had back then. How nervous is Weaver and the Huntsman campaign tonight?
HENDERSON: I actually ran into Weaver last night. We were staying in this hotel in Manchester. They feel pretty good. I think one of the things about Huntsman is - the conventional wisdom on Huntsman is - has been that he's really running for 2016, and so, if he's got a good showing tomorrow, say he comes in third, he has certainly made the connections here in New Hampshire. He certainly had the dry run for running for president.
But, to be honest, there is not a lot of room for him in South Carolina. He is going to have the same problems that Mitt Romney would have - or will have - going down there without the organization and without that already having some connections down there. So, I think they are trying to go out with a bit of a bang in New Hampshire.
They say they are going on to South Carolina, but of course that's what everybody says. Their problem - they don't have a lot of money.
SHUSTER: And as far as Rick Santorum, any sort of curiosity bounce in terms of the size of the crowds that Santorum has been getting in New Hampshire?
HENDERSON: Well, that's the thing. Santorum hasn't been here today. He ran into some problems.
The problem with Rick Santorum - and some of the other candidates, Newt Gingrich, for instance - his whole argument against Mitt Romney here has been that Mitt Romney is too moderate. Guess what? People in New Hampshire like moderate, so Santorum's message of conservatism hasn't really worked here.
I think -he was gone. He was in South Carolina for much of the day. I don't know how his plans look tomorrow, in terms of being here, but he is really focusing on South Carolina. He had some rowdy crowds, some crowds that have been shouting him down over issues like gay marriage. I think he realized this state isn't really a good fit for his message.
SHUSTER: "Countdown" contributor and national political reporter for the Washington Post, Nia-Malika Henderson. Nia, thanks as always.
HENDERSON: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
Coming up, any expert will tell you that the economic meltdown at the end of the Bush presidency was caused largely by deregulated financial institutions that went wild. So, why do conservatives want even fewer regulations now? Thomas Frank has some answers in an intriguing new book. He will join us.
Up next though, the failed campaign of Michele Bachmann isn't stopping her from busting out some wild dance moves. "Time Marches On" is next.
SHUSTER: Coming up, you've been hearing a lot about the GOP, but what about that other party? A certain sitting president has also set up seven campaign offices across the Granite State.
DAVID SHUSTER: But first, the "Sanity Break," and it was on this day in 1967 musician Dave Matthews was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Matthews moved with his family to the United States when he was two years old, eventually settling in Charlottesville, Virginia where, in 1991, he formed The Dave Matthews Band.
Interesting fact about Matthews, his 1996 song "Crash Into Me" makes for a terrible bumper sticker.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Michele Bachmann gets her groove on to Train's "Hey, Soul Sister."
We begin by checking in, once again, with the GOP candidates, or a former candidate that is. While the others candidates were wasting their time preparing for this weekend's debates, Michele Bachmann was getting her groove on to Train's "Hey Soul Sister."
I'm not judging, but I heard she learned all her moves from Marcus.
VIDEO: CNN prank goes awry when hosts wake up a total stranger.
To the world of news bloopers. Here, we have Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin of CNN's Early Start. While trying to call comedian Chuck Nice at six-forty this morning, they ran into a bit of a technical snafu.
(Excerpt from video clip) ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: We're dialing him up. Just to see how he is in the morning. Let's see how this works out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. He's a pretty funny dude, though.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Hello?
(Excerpt from video clip) BANFIELD: Chuck? Chuck, this is the FBI.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: No.
(Excerpt from video clip) ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN: This is somebody else.
(Excerpt from video clip) BANFIELD: Is this Chuck Nice?
(Excerpt from video clip) SAMBOLIN: He said perdon.
(Excerpt from video clip) BANFIELD: Hello? Hello? Oh my God.
(Excerpt from video clip) SAMBOLIN: Perhaps the wrong number.
SHUSTER: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. Could not have put it better myself.
VIDEO: Australian baby is no daddy's girl.
Finally, we travel to Australia, where a father is interviewing his young daughter, just trying to get some insight into how she thinks.
(Excerpt from video clip) FATHER: Okay, last question, think very carefully about this, okay?
(Excerpt from video clip) GIRL: 'Kay.
(Excerpt from video clip) FATHER: Who's your favorite, dad or -
(Excerpt from video clip) GIRL: Mum.
(Excerpt from video clip) FATHER: Okay, I didn't actually finish the question, darling.
SHUSTER: Pops, if you don't want to know the answer, you shouldn't ask the question.
"Time Marches On!"
Just ahead, there's been a dramatic shake-up in the Obama White House. And it reflects the aggressive anti-Congress message the President intends in his re-election campaign.
And later, the message from conservatives boils down to this - "Americans have amnesia. So, let's try the Bush economic policies again." We will chat with author Thomas Frank.
You are watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: Despite all the attention on the 2012 GOP candidates, let's not forget there's a Democratic campaign underway as well, that of President Barack Obama. While the president was dealing with a staff shakeup in Washington today, his staff on the campaign trail was hunkering down.
In our third story on the "Countdown" - at the White House, President Obama's chief of staff Bill Daley stepped down and is replaced by Budget Director Jack Lew. On the trail, the president's campaign staff sets up shop along side their GOP counterparts in some key primary and caucus states. Today, the president said he initially had trouble accepting Daley's decision to return to Chicago.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: No one in my administration has had to make more important decisions, more quickly, than Bill. And that's why, I think, this decision was difficult for me. Naturally, when Bill told me his plans to go back to Chicago I asked him who he thought could fill his shoes - he told me that there was one clear choice and I believe he's right. So today, I'm pleased to announce that Jack Lew has agreed to serve as my next Chief of Staff.
SHUSTER: Lew has served as this administration's director of the Office of Management and Budget since November of 2010 - he held that same post under President Clinton. He also served under Hillary Clinton as deputy secretary at the Department of State.
Meanwhile, Daley isn't gone from the Obama team entirely. He will serve as a co-chair of Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. And although that campaign is not currently facing any Democratic challenge, the president's staff is making its presence known in the early primary and caucus states. According to ABC News, the Obama re-election team opened more campaign offices in New Hampshire than any Republican candidate - seven total, four in the past week alone.
Even though the president won that state by 10 points over John McCain in 2008, a recent poll found that only 40 percent of registered New Hampshire voters approve of the job President Obama has done thus far, 49 percent disapprove.
The Obama 2012 team was also out in force during the Iowa caucuses and has planned similar efforts in many of the upcoming primary and caucus states. There, they may again encounter Occupy protesters such as the ones from Occupy New Hampshire primaries, who staged a die-in today outside President Obama's state headquarters. A similar anti-Obama die-in was held last week in Iowa to protest the National Defense Authorization Act.
Joining us now, Markos Moulitsas, "Countdown" contributor and founder and publisher of the Daily Kos. Markos, thanks for your time tonight.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: Thank you for having me.
SHUSTER: What do you make of the fact the president has chosen someone from the Office of Management and Budget to lead his team? I mean, does this say anything about the president's agenda?
MOULITSAS: I don't think - I wouldn't read much into it. Maybe he has his own personal reasons for doing that. But really, anybody on the outside is not really going to take much heed into who was actually chief of staff. Most people wouldn't be able to name this person.
And the fact that this is happening right now, I think - it just means that this is a fresh start, new year. Bill Daley wasn't exactly the most successful chief of staff. He had been demoted in October, so clearly, he was already on the way out. And so, this just sort of creates a clean break and transitions for president into campaign mode, which I think - he is much more effective in campaign mode than he is in "trying to reach out and work with Republicans" mode.
SHUSTER: And part of that campaign mode is, essentially, to take on the Republican Congress as part of this re-election. Daley was not seen, from what I have heard, he wasn't seen as somebody who really had an appetite for sticking it to the Republicans. Is it possible, therefore, that this is sort of the change now - that you put in somebody like Jack Lew, who might be a little feistier and at least gets or embraces the idea of how President Obama going to run for re-election?
MOULITSAS: It could be some of that, absolutely. It could just simply be the fact that Bill Daley really, like you said, he did not - he was not somebody who was designed to be confrontational with Republicans.
In fact, Obama talked about how he was going to help bridge some of the differences with Republicans, so they could come together on deals like the debt limit. It did not happen. And either this was a planned outage or - outing, or maybe the White House finally realized the Republicans did not want Obama to succeed and if they were going to destroy the country to make him fail, they would actually destroy the country to do that. And now we have a president who is more focused on actually more forcefully promoting an agenda as he is on trying to make nice with Republicans, who don't want anything to do with the president.
SHUSTER: There was an intriguing proposal floated by Bill Keller in The New York Times - Hillary Clinton for Vice President on the Obama ticket in 2012. She's said the Secretary of State will be her last public position, but are you detecting any likelihood or any appetite of a Clinton and Biden swap?
MOULITSAS: Absolutely not. And this has been promoted a lot by, you know, Fox News Democrats like Doug Schoen and is sort of a fantasy world. I am not sure why they think they have such a problem with Joe Biden. Joe Biden is not the problem with the Obama administration. If you want to clean house with the Goldman Sachs alumni in the economics team, that actually would mean a lot more, but Joe Biden is not a problem. There is no appetite for it anywhere. There is no indication that Hillary Clinton would want this. In fact it's the opposite. All indications are she might be leaning towards retirement. So, this is just fantasy, a make believe. I don't know. Clearly, they think it's a slow news day when it's not, given what's happening in the Republican field.
SHUSTER: There is a new poll out that suggests that Mitt Romney would beat President Obama if the election were held today, 47 to 45. Ron Paul behind the president by one point, again, both within the margin for error. Is this cause for worry for the president?
MOULITSAS: I haven't seen that particular poll. I have seen others that are much more generous to the president. But I have definitely seen the Gallup stuff, which is the gold standard in polling, showing the president is now in favorable territory.
The fact is, the economy isn't doing as well as it needs to be. He has an uphill re-election battle. I don't want anybody to think that he has an easy fight ahead of him. I think, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, it's a 50-50 race. It's not going to be easy, so there is cause for concern.
Now, much of that, sort of, erosion in the president's support happened over the last summer when he was trying to make nice with Republicans. I think the recent uptick in his numbers show that the more feisty, more aggressive President Obama is actually resonating with voters a lot more. I think it's shoring up his left flank and I think independents like somebody who stands for something and doesn't looks as weak as Obama did trying to negotiate and concede with Republicans as much as he did last year. This is a new Obama, it's a much better one.
SHUSTER: Great points. Markos Moulitsas, "Countdown" contributor and founder and publisher of the Daily Kos. Marcos, always great to have you on, thanks for your time.
MOULITSAS: Have a great night.
SHUSTER: You too.
Just ahead, delegate math and why the media doesn't want you to know how it works.
Later, the resurrection of failed conservative economic policies. There is a terrific new book out by author Thomas Frank. We will talk to him, ahead on "Countdown."
SHUSTER: As we prepare for the New Hampshire primary, a word to the wise - don't by into the media hype, even if it's coming from me. I'll explain.
And later, why are so many Republicans buying into the right-wing policy again of cutting taxes on the rich? A new book has an intriguing explanation. We will talk with author and reporter Thomas Frank.
SHUSTER: As members of the national media, including yours truly, prepare to gorge on the New Hampshire primary, I want to let you in on a little secret - Iowa last week, New Hampshire tomorrow, South Carolina in 12 days, in the delegate math needed to win a presidential nomination, these results do not matter. That's right. They do not matter.
Despite all of the hoopla about Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina together, the results in these first three states account for only 1.3 percent of the GOP's nominating delegates. In fact, only once we get to Florida's primary at the end of this month will we have a contest that offers meaningful delegate totals. Now, this is despite the fact that Florida has already lost about half of its delegation - reduced from 99 to 50.
Several months ago, the Republican National Committee punished Florida for defying the original 2012 primary calendar, and scheduling their contest for the end of January and thereby prompting Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to move their contests up a month. And yet, even with Florida stripped of half of its delegation, the Sunshine State still has more delegates up for grabs than will be awarded by the results in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina combined.
So, what's going on here?
Well, first of all, the media is not exactly an honest broker. We want to raise audience levels for this time of year. And these first votes of 2012, those are our hook. Many organizations hype the story and create a broadcast spectacle and some of the channels do a very effective job of making you believe you are watching something earth shattering. Something that is the political broadcast equivalent of the Super Bowl.
(Excerpt from video clip) REPORTER: All right. We have some information now from the entrance polls. This was from the first wave of the entrance polls, the top-tier candidates - the top-tier candidates in Iowa right now, based on this initial survey that we did of people going on, as you can see - Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. They are the top three, but we want to caution everyone, this could change once we get more results.
SHUSTER: Entrance polls - well, it's not just the media. The political parties and the candidates make a big deal out of the early contests, as well. Because the drama helps them raise money, and in the dead of winter, the money then gets spent on party activists, strategists, ad makers and organizers. Thus, there are desperate pleads for money from candidates before the early contests and the more intense appeals as soon as the first votes have been cast.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Game on.
SHUSTER: Well, let me be clear. I don't think the early contests are all bad. I love Iowa and New Hampshire and the fact that this organization is paying for me to travel to these states and soak in the political atmosphere and vibes. I think it's awesome.
Secondly, most Americans don't have time to kick the tires of a presidential campaign, check under the hood and go for a test drive. But a small number of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire not only make the time, they take it very seriously.
Still, when you hear the breathless results from New Hampshire tomorrow evening - even if they are coming from me - take it all with a grain of salt. Remember 2008? Obama versus Clinton went on through the spring and that primary battle in the end was settled by super delegates.
This time around, even if Mitt Romney wins every contest, he will not accumulate the delegates needed for the nomination until the primaries in late April.
So, enjoy the drama. I certainly will. Just keep in mind, this race isn't over.
SHUSTER: The goal for every candidate in a presidential primary is to fire up their base. A major talking point for this batch of Republican candidates has been that the way to get the economic firing again is to shrink the government and have less regulators watching over businesses.
In our number-one story - apparently, being a conservative means having a short memory. It was three and a half years ago when the world's economy began to collapse. Due to an overall lack of oversight, gigantic banks were buying and selling crap investments which held a false assurance of quality. It took a desperate move by a Republican president to prevent a total collapse, by bailing out banks who, we were told, would otherwise go bankrupt and collapse the world's economy. It seemed like everyone understood the need for strong regulation as a measure of defense from banks.
Listening to the candidates over the last few months, it seems like that lesson has gone out the window.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: What I pledge to do is - on day one, I will repeal every single regulation that costs over 150 - $100 million that the president has put in place. I will replace some of them with lower-cost regulations, but a lot, I will just get rid of... We repeal all of those regulations, repeal them all, and there are a lot of them.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Lower taxes, less regulation.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I will reduce federal regulation. He thinks that a bigger government, more intrusive government, with more regulation, a government that takes from some to give to others, a government that racks up debt higher and higher and higher -
SHUSTER: Joining us to delve into the mind of the right wing is journalist and author of "Pity the Billionaire," Thomas Frank. And Tom, thanks for your time tonight.
THOMAS FRANK: It's a pleasure to be here, David.
SHUSTER: So, Tom, how does the right go from in 2008 needing a vast increase in government influence in business to prevent an economic collapse to now saying we need more deregulation and less government.
FRANK: Oh my God, if only we had had, an intrusive federal government back in, you know, the mid - the middle of the last decade, you know, maybe if they had done something about those predatory lenders or maybe if they had regulated credit default swaps in even the slightest way. You know, any of these things, if they had just done any of them. If they had kept Glass-Steagall on the books, we wouldn't have had too-big-to-fail banks. If only they had done those things.
But they have now - you know, we had this catastrophe, we had this disaster and now these guys have persuaded themselves, David, if you pay really close attention to their rhetoric, that the real problem is that we didn't deregulate all the way. We didn't go all the way to the free-market utopia, you know, up there in the sky. And if we can just press on to that, you know, then everything will be fine. The market will work perfectly.
SHUSTER: And how did we get there? Because, I think a couple of years ago, we all would have thought even the Republicans would sort of move toward some better regulations of the financial industry.
FRANK: It sure looked like that was the way things were going in 2008. It sure looked like that. You know, instead of moving to the center and coming around to the sort of the reasonable course that you have described, the Republican Party took a sharp turn to the right.
And this is the part of the story that really blows my mind, every time I think about it. They did this not, you know, by saying, you know, "Let's forget about the hard times that we are in." They did it as a sort of hard-times movement, by pretending to be a populist movement, by, you know, mimicking a social-protest movement from the 1930s.
SHUSTER: How much of this anti-regulation, small government talk is being funded by corporations who are the true benefactors of this policy?
FRANK: Well, an awful lot of it. I mean, look at - look at who is funding these, the presidential campaigns, of course? But, also, I mean, look at the tea party movement. This is sort of the main actor in this - in this broader shift to the right, or was the main actor a short time ago, and that, you know, at least two of the large organizations behind the tea party movement were set up by the Koch brothers, who are these two billionaires and these fellow Kansans of mine - they live in down in Wichita - but across the board, this movement was largely - was set up by sort of D.C. conservative establishment. Now, it became something larger than that over time. But that really is where it started.
SHUSTER: The Occupy movement, the impact they have had, essentially, on both parties, have they changed the narrative a little bit or at least reminded people, "Wait a second - Washington does the bidding of the corporations through K Street and all of these sort of lobbies and what not and that has to change."
FRANK: Exactly. What you just said, that's the really simple and obvious way of understanding it. And yet, for some reason, that has been so difficult for Americans to get their head around. We imagine all of these different sort of, you know, conspiracies and these kind of baroque, you know, mechanisms that government is grasping for power and victimizing AIG and doing these terrible things to Goldman Sachs and, you know, "Boo hoo hoo, pity the billionaire." Right? This is what these guys are saying.
And every now and then, it's very refreshing to have something like Occupy Wall Street come along and remind us of the incredibly obvious truth of the matter.
SHUSTER: Well, Thomas Frank - it's a terrific book, it has gotten great reviews. The book is "Pity the Billionaire," a terrific look at what happened in 2008 and how we got from there to now, and Thomas, again, who would have figured that we would be on this political path, especially on the right?
FRANK: Exactly. Well, thank you for having me, David.
SHUSTER: Thomas, always a pleasure. Thomas Frank, and that is our show for tonight.
I am David Shuster. Again, the New Hampshire primary coverage is tomorrow night. We will, of course, be back on Wednesday, but politics does not get any better than this. On behalf of all of us at "Countdown," thank you for watching, everybody. Have a great evening.