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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  January 21, 2012 6:00am-9:00am PST

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that no one notices you?" and i'm like, "doesn't it bother you you're not reliable?" and they say, "shut up!" and i'm like, "you shut up." in business, it's all about reliability. 'cause these guys aren't just hitting "print." they're hitting "dream." so that's what i do. i print dr, baby. [whispering] big dreams. ♪ in south carolina, history in the making. could this be the most pivotal day for republicans in the run for president in 2012? neck and neck, the latest polls show a see saw race between newt gingrich and mitt romney. today one event that could make this day even more unique.
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saturday morning cartoons, that super pac is out with a new ad and ask a man behind the commercial whether it's doing more harm than good to the gop. from southern exposure we have a live report on how bad it might get. good morning. welcome. it's 9:00 a.m. on the's a east t and 6:00 a.m. out west. the four remaining candidates are crisscrossing south carolina as voters head to the polls today for the first primary in the south. today's vote caps off a wild week where two major candidates dropped out of the race. a salacious interview with newt gingrich's ex-wife was aired and potentially game changing debate took place after which newt gingrich rose in the polls and romney fell. nbc's peter alexander is in
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columbia, south carolina. >> reporter: there has been a dynamic shift within the last week. okay? we began the week on monday with nbc polls showing mitt romney led the race in south carolina by roughly 15 percentage points. today we are getting our first look at a clemson university palmeadows state poll that shows newt gingrich leads by roughly six percentage points. this as the voters get a chance to cast their ballots. fueled by a fiery debate performance and surging poll numbers, newt gingrich greeted an overflowed crowd on friday insisting he can win south carolina. >> if every conservative in the state decided to vote for newt gingrich, we would win a shockingly big victory tomorrow and that would be good. >> reporter: mitt romney rallied supporters with the help of south carolina governor nikki healey celebrating her 40th birthday. ♪ happy birthday to you >> all i want is president romney for my birthday! >> reporter: still the romney campaign that once enjoyed a wide lead here was trying to
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lower expectations. >> it's always an uphill battle for me in south carolina. i came in fourth last time. love to come in first but we are making progress. >> reporter: rick santorum emphasizing the differences between him and his republican rivals. >> the intellectism of professor bouncing around different ideas but you're not a professor when you're the commander in chief of the country. >> reporter: meanwhile, ron paul is committed to going the distance, already buying ads in the upcoming primary states of nevada and minnesota. >> you want big guts? ron paul has been screaming it for year. >> reporter: but grab the spotlight friday, former candidate herman cain and comedian stephen kol becolbert ridiculed the republican field. >> a statue never changes its position. that is not positive. >> reporter: to give you a sense of exactly what the experience has been for the penal here in south carolina, ready? this is what one family here in
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south carolina, alex, received within the last 48 hours. you see all of this mail? not a lot of it is very nice as you can imagine. the gentleman who let us show you this said he got two row bow calls the last 24 hours as well. to give you a sense, though, there is going to be perhaps the best metaphor what is going on right now is what will happen this morning at a place called tommy's country ham house, both newt gingrich and mitt romney scheduled to be there at roughly the exact same time and same place. cue the tumble weeds. that is going to be a good showdown. >> that is going to be great. hold that up to the camera. i want to see a fan display. in 48 hours that's how much has come into this household? >> there it is. is there a positive one. pretty much everything else ain't so nice. >> i can see by the pictures there and the exclamation on the center picture. thank you, peter. you heard peter talking about tracking the candidates today. newt gingrich started the day at a restaurant in spartanburg.
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here is that 10:45 a.m. build up eastern time. both are scheduled to be at the same location in greenville. ron paul has no public events scheduled. more now from the ground in south carolina to do that i'm joined by mark halpern. good morning to you. >> good morning, alex. i got to warn you. >> what? >> reporter: if you want me to do show and tell, all i can do is show you my breakfast receipt. i have no mail with me but i can show you that and hold it up. >> no, no. i'll ask you to go inside your mind there. tell me what you think about this just truly remarkable 48 hours. rick perry out. gingrich second wife mari anne speaks. tell us what is on your mind in terms of what has happened and what do you think is the most important thing? >> i think the most important thing has been gingrich's two
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debate performances. he does not have vast resources. he was down in the polls but i think those two debate performances have gotten so much coverage. a lot of focus on television ads and the direct mail and the candidate events but what really matters in presidential politics more than anything else because there is so much media is the news coverage of these things and what breaks through. gingrich started down in south carolina focusing on bain capital and romney's record as a businessman. when he shifted, not just his debate performances, but when he shifted his message in the debates and elsewhere, that is when he started to catch on and he has been the momentum candidate for the last five days and i suspect he'll win this primary unless something very dramatic and unexpected happens. >> like what? can you envision anything to shake things up last minute here? >> reporter: i think the one thing that could allow romney to still win the primary, if you look at the current public and private polling is if santorum who had a strong debate performance in the cnn debate,
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if he turns out to be much stronger than we think and that -- a lot of that vote comes from newt gingrich. the other thing is we all look at newt gingrich's debate performance when he responded to john king's question about the interview his ex-wife did with abc. we looked at that a big moment he got the crowd on his side and he rallied against the media which is a big punching bag for a lot of conservatives. it's possible particularly women voters and maybe religious voters looked at the coverage of that and said we don't want that as our nominee and don't want to go there. gingrich may do so poorly with women voters, romney is stronger with women voters and that could produce the kind of unexpected result that doesn't match up with the last minute polling that we are not necessarily braced for. >> there was something else to talk about with that debate, because mitt romney has been wrongly criticized at that point. you remember he was asked if he would reles multiple years of his tax return like his father did as governor of michigan? here is what happened to anyone
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missed it. >> will you follow your father's example? >> maybe. i don't know how many years i'll release. i'll take a look at what our documents are and i'll release multiple years. i don't know how many years. but i'll be happy to do that. >> who do you think is to blame, mark, for mitt romney's muddled message on taxes? how inexcusable is this for a guy who knew that question was coming? >> reporter: i blame both the candidate who has handled it poorly in public and i blame his staff. this is the kind of thing where the staff has to say to the candidate, we think this is unfair. they rightly point out that other candidates, for the most part, in the modern era haven't released their tax returns at this point. we think it's unfair and think there are plenty of other questions to look at on substance and on the other candidates' background. even though we think it's unfair there is a reality here. when a document becomes famous for not being released in politics, you almost always eventually have to release it. now mitt romney's tax returns
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are famous for not being released. they have handled it badly. it may not be the biggest issue for voters but it has kept romney from getting out the message he wants to get out as fully as he would like. >> do you think if gingrich wins today he can win florida on the 31st? >> i do. i've been saying for a day on the twitters and i'll say it here now. i think the biggest mistake the romney campaign might be making here is underestimating what a gingrich win in south carolina would do to the political weather in florida. gingrich was ahead in florida three weeks ago in some polls by 35 points. so there is clearly a way for gingrich to have broad support in florida. if there is a lightning strike out of here, we have a couple of debates scheduled, although romney hasn't committed to them yet. gingrich, those debates happen, could do real well. florida is a good state for him. romney saying gingrich is from georgia, a neighboring state. i'm no geographical genius by i
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believe georgia also borders florida. romney has strength in florida but i think if gingrich wins in south carolina today he goes into florida with a big head of steam that romney mate be able to stop. doesn't mean he hay may not be the nominee but losing florida is a big deal for all of its implications. a biggest battleground state in the general election, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. >> okay, mark halpern. love getting your thoughts on thanks. thanks. today's primary is considered a make or break moment for the race. if romney wins he will gain enough support to become the next nominee. if he loses the battle will continue into florida and beyond. so here is what is at stake in south carolina. the state has 25 delegates. the statewide rirn wiwinner wil receive 11 at large delegates. it's the state's record of accurately predicting the republican nominee. ronald reagan, george h.w. bush, george bush and bob dole and
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each claimed victory here and john mccain. any voter can cast a ballot today in south carolina. south carolina voters do not register by party. today's primary could end up a photo finish as well. the latest polls show mitt romney trailing newt gingrich as the voters head to the voting booths. romney is trying to lower expectations somewhat in south carolina. >> i think i said from the very beginning, south carolina is an uphill battle from a guy from massachusetts. i knew that. speaker gingrich is from a neighboring state, well known, popular in the state, and so i knew that we would have a long -- long road ahead of us and, frankly, to be in a neck and neck race at this last moment is kind of exciting. >> we will get a read on the race from the man in charge of the party. joining me from washington is ryan superbus. we have this primary today in south carolina. romney and gingrich neck and neck in the polls.
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after this brutal fight rights, do they both come out of primary as damaged goods in any way? is your future nominee in trouble here? >> no. no, i don't think so at all. i think it's actually really great for the republican party. it's not spin, it's not talking points. i think it's american history. if you look back at historical races in america, including barack obama and hillary clinton but let's go back even 30 years before that. the classic battles between bush 41 and reagan and lee atwater taking on bob dole in new hampshire and south carolina. these are things that are very common. i think they are better for our party as opposed to, remember, 2008, i mean, we were half asleep with the republican primary, while all of the excitement and all of the talk was with hillary clinton and barack obama. they nearly split their party in half. they put it back together. obviously, the president won pretty easily. >> what do you think is worse right now? is it romney's tax problems, his
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hesitation to release his tax returns, or is it gingrich's marital issues? >> i know it's an interesting topic with the media, but, in reality, i don't see any movement on those issues with the base. >> either one? >> none. no. not a single e-mail from a single person that i've received in five days on either of those topics. and i think what you saw on thursday night at the cnn debate with the reaction from the crowd was -- it was a reaction to a couple of things. one, it was a reaction to the fact that i don't think people could believe that they waited all day for that debate and the first question out of the box was that question. i think people were saying to themselves, wait a second. are we going to sit through two hours of this kind of a discussion? that was sort of this bottled up, you know, anger or frustration with the media you saw there. it wasn't so much protection of
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a particular candidate. it was frustration like you've got to be kidding me, we are going to talk about this for two hours? so i think that's what you're seeing and i think it's interesting. ba. >> i'm goi to say even within the newsrooms, we talked about the timing of that question. it was up for much debate so i certainly understand that. however, what about the female vote with newt gingrich? i can tell you righteous in my discussions with other women it has been very animated shall we say when it comes to newt gingrich. >> these are things that campaigns have to deal with, alex p.m. i'm not throwing all of these things under the carpet but i think individual candidates deal with these different issues and it's their responsibility, i would say, as a candidate, to make the decisions that they make in order to decide a what and how they want to deal with these issues. i think it's up to them. as party chairman, it's not something i get in the middle of. but i will tell you, overall, to try to answer your question, i
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don't think those are going to be the issues that are going to determine the outcome of today's vote or the vote in florida or nevada a couple of weeks later. >> how much do you worry about this becoming a personality conflict -- rather contest, and nobody wanting to have a beer with either newt gingrich or mitt romney? you will well remember that -- >> i'd have a beer with them. >> i wouldn't mind as well so i could talk with them too. you remember so many people were talking about george w. bush and that was a very electable factor to him. people liked him and wanted to have a beer or dinner with him. >> remember, hillary clinton took that shot of whiskey in new hampshire to deal with that. i think these things oftentimes come down to personality. people gravitate towards folks that they feel close to, but i also think that in this particular election, it's going ton a referendum on barack obama and whether he fulfilled the promises and whether he met the standards that barack obama made for himself and i think that our
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base and i think independents, if you look at polls, not just republicans, but people in the middle, they are concerned about whether or not this president is driving this country into the ditch and whether we need to make sure that we fire him in order to save america. i really think it's a fundamental question about what kind of country we want to be as americans. and i think some of the traditional issues like that, i think get put on hold when we are talking about the future of america. i think all of our candidates would be a great fun to hang out with. but i don't think that is really what this election is coming down to. i think it's a serious election about the future of america. >> i do agree with you there. rnc chairman, reince priebus, us and getting our day started. >> thank you. >> keep the latest on msnbc today. bad weather hits the midwest and moves east where the storm will hit worse. we will talk about that in a live report next.
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plus, the polls have been open for a little more than two hours now in south carolina as we look a mitt romney event under way. believe me, he's in there somewhere. we are looking for him. right here, you're watching "weekends with alex witt." wake up! that's good morning, veggie style. hmmm.
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20 past. much of the northeast is waking up to snow. a rare sight in some parts. several of inches already on the ground. here is the scene new york of new york city. places in new england are going to see up to half a foot and the weather channel's eric fisher is live for us in new york city's greenwich village. good morning.
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>> reporter: good morning, alex. hi there, everybody. first, record shattering snowstorm before halloween and silence. mild snow. new york hadn't recorded any snow until today. now the snow is on the ground. there is a bad sign to this. if you're heading up and down the i-95 corridor issues. freezing rain and sleet falling down toward philadelphia and baltimore and central new jersey and travel is discouraged at least until this afternoon. then at laguardia a ground stop until 9:45. this is a fast moving storm which means it's almost completely over by early afternoon and then we have improving conditions as we head into sunday. the good news is the kids, they finally get to use those snow tubes and new snow blower you bought in october can be taken out of the garage and some people enjoying a taste of went that took till the end of january to finally arrive. >> pretty as a picture, eric. thank you. back to south carolina now. a new dis for newt gingrich from
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jenny sanford the ex-wife of the governor of sanford when he was overseas cheating on her and said he was hiking the mountains. >> i encourage people to look at the personal side. if you overcome somebody's moral failings or infidelities you have to look where they stand and how much their rhetoric matches their reality. in my mind gingrich falls short on both fronts so he wouldn't get my vote. >> i'm joined by rick tyler. he is a former spokesman for newt gingrich. good morning to you. >> good morning, alex. >> you just heard jenny sanford a woman who experienced marriage infidelity and questions gingrich's character. anything gingrich has done in his past to pose a problem for women voters? do you understand why it might be a problem? >> we actually have a recent poll that shows mitt romney with women voters, i don't see any
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evidence of that. i think we have had every bomb thrown on us the last 24 hours. south carolina voters have seen what is true and not true and what is real and not real and how it affects their lives and what not. the fact is newt gingrich is a southern conservative republican with a legislative record and mitt romney is a massachusetts liberty rap. mitt romney said he has trouble in south carolina will have trouble with almost every state as a massachusetts governor. southeast of pennsylvania. >> interesting. rick santorum, he leveled a lot of attacks at gingrich during's debate. >> grandiosity is never a problem for him. it was an idea a minute. no discipline. no ability to be able to pull things together. >> rick, there was a time when
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those two seemed to be teaming up against mitt romney. how damage religion the comments coming from a former ally? >> rick santorum, look. i understand he is trying to get some attention but these things aren't true. newt led the republican party to the majority in 1994. he then helped balance the budget for four years in a row. bill clinton vetoed it but then eventually signed it. newt gingrich. 405 billion paid off. the stock market went up and nasdaq went up. the idea rick santorum says newt can't pull things together. show me somebody else that has a record on achievement since ronald reagan and that is newt gingrich. >> your ad now between a debate between romney and obama. here is a clip of that. >> i agreed with governor romney on many things. but this presidential candidate
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romney, i don't even nope the guy. then again, he doesn't seem to know himself. >> come on! governor romney? >> in the long run, do you think ads like this do more harm than good for the republican party? i mean, is this slug fest only lay the republican field bruised and bloodied? >> no. no. look. we have a long history coming together with the nominee. what i'm trying to point with the nominees we don't neat to march off the clip with the establishments candidate like candidate like bob dole and mccain and now march off the cliff with romney. i'm trying to get us away from the cliff and choose a conservative. elections are about contrast and what that ad in an entertaining way points out. no real contrast between mitt romney as governor and barack obama as president. unfortunately, mitt romney is now trying to claim he is something he is not. newt is the real deal. he ran as a republican in 1974 when you couldn't get your trash picked up in georgia as a
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republican. as i said he led the republican revolution. he has a stellar record of conservative achievement and mitt romney doesn't. i think it's a two-person race and going into florida 74% of the people don't want romney and we want to be the 75%. >> rick tyler, thanks for the chat. appreciate it. >> thanks. thanks for having me. >> you're welcome. who is going to win today in south carolina? will it be a nail-biter? talk to me on twitter. i'm going to get to some of your tweets throughout this morning. what matters most to south carolina voters as they head to the polls today? we have got a live report when we return. [ sniffs ] i have a cold. [ sniffs ] i took dayquil
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> welcome back to "weekends with alex witt." the polls open in south carolina for two and a half hours now. the first in the south primary of the 2012 presidential election. mitt romney meeting with voters in greenville headquarters. south carolina governor nikki haley and bob mcdonald joined him. >> the turnout means a great deal to us. it has every indication this is going to be a close race. the work you do can make the difference between winning and losing. as we found out in iowa every vote counts so make sure we do our part. >> newt gingrich is rallying voters this morning. the former speaker of the house held a meet and greet this morning at a restaurant in spartanburg. >> we need to make sure everybody turns out to vote and convince everybody that the only
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practical conservative vote in order to stop a massachusetts moderate is to go vote for newt gingrich. >> we are keeping an eye what happens an hour from now. a potential gingrich/romney showdown. the two are scheduled to appear at the very same time in tommy's restaurant in greenville. romney and his supporters have spent a combined 4.7 million, nearly twice the gingrich and perry campaigns. you stephen colbert held a rally on friday and joined by herman cain. >> herman cain is a business leader and a family man. herman cain is an outsider. in fact, he is such an outsider he is not even running for president any more. >> i don't want you to waste your vote because one of the things that a lot of people fail to really appreciate is that every vote counts.
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every vote counts and your votes still matters and you still matter. >> despite dropping out of the race last month, cain's name is still on today's ballot. a bit of history now. since ronald reagan's win in south carolina in 1980, every gop candidate to win the south carolina primary has gone on to grab the party's nomination. craig melvin is now joining me from columbia, south carolina. what are the voters saying as they head out to the polls today? >> good morning. a fantastic week for the post office in south carolina. that's for sure. a buddy gave me 15 pieces of candidate mail he said he received in 48 hours. as you mentioned super pac alone have spent north of $13 million in the past few weeks. south carolina voters relish the fact they have picked the eventual nominee every circle since 1980 and past cycles more about social issues but not so much this time.
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>> a story of greed. playing the system for a quick buck. >> reporter: super pacs have pumped millions into south carolina to pay for ads like this. >> more ruthless than wall street. >> newt has more baggage than the airlines. >> reporter: but for many of the state's voters, romney days at bain capital or gingrich baggage are not a priority. >> people are hurting and unemployed. people are struggling. >> reporter: south carolina's unemployment rate has not been below 9% in three years, and one of the worst in the country. for many rural areas and many minorities the real unemployment rate is closer to 16%. most of the losses have been in construction and manufacturing but even the state's famously lucrative tourist industry has taken a hit. mickey backs runs this grill, a popular restaurant. >> the number of people coming is down. the amount of money that people
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are spending is down. >> reporter: the state's harsh economic reality has also refocused the political debate. in 2008, 60% of republican primary voters were evangelical social conservatives. >> this year, they are out there. but jobs is competing with those social issues for the top spot in terms of priority when they go in the voting booth. that helps romney. >> reporter: four years ago, the former massachusetts governor finished fourth in south carolina's primary. a lot has happened since. >> he has been out there for four years working hard running and meeting people and raising money and building an organization. >> reporter: don fowler is a former head of the democratic national committee and in the trenches of south carolina politics for nearly four decades and all but certain romney wins saturday and rolls on to the nomination but mentioned gingrich is a fierce competitor.
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>> he has baggage but despite of that he has done quite well. >> reporter: a shift in momentum here the past week. earlier in the week there was that poll that showed mitt romney with a few percentage point lead. over the past three days, we have seen at least two or three other polls that show gingrich ahead and i've talked to a number of folks on the ground who are very familiar with politics in this state and nearly all of them, nearly all of them are predicting a win by newt gingrich here tonight. so, again, over the next ten, 12 hours a lot will play out here which is generally the case every two or four years. >> you got that right. we will talk about the nbc poll now in detail. it is shedding light on how south carolina republicans may vote today. 39% of registered republicans in south carolina say they prefer a candidate who can defeat president obama in the general election. 21% prefer a candidate who is
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closest to them on the issues. 20% want a candidate who shares their values. 18% say experience to govern. now, at the same time, republicans there don't appear to be overwhelmingly impressed with the candidates. 48% say this year's field is average and 21% say above average and 8% say they are of the best groups of gop candidates ever! before thursday' debate, rick perry suspended his campaign for president. as he announced his decision he threw his support behind newt gingrich. how much will that help gingrich? joining me is kate dawson. a senior adviser to newt gingrich's campaign before last summer. becoming a frequent guest on the show. good to see you again. thank you for joining us. >> good morning. good morning, alex. >> let's talk about the fact you've said you're endorsing gingrich now that rick perry has bowed out. the last 24 hours of rick perry's campaign, what happened
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there? tell me what that was like. >> certainly the governor makes his own decisions, but the speaker gingrich and rick perry have always been close allies in the fight for conservative principals. i think rick perry put a tremendous amount of gasoline in the gingrich tank and right now, you're seeing a small collapse of the romney vote and the establishment and newt gingrich has put a stake in the ground for the conservative movement and certainly the tea party movement. exciting day in south carolina. it's rough and tumble the last 48 hours, i can tell you that. >> how about the donors behind rick perry? do you think they will move over to newt gingrich? >> i think certainly the momentum is going to start to shift. a lot of times with momentum comes a tremendous amount of money. this race has come down as compliment to rit mitt romney. >> can you believe we are sitting here with a nail-biter
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primary today with romney and gingrich neck and neck? could you have foreseen this? >> you know, every candidate sort of had their day in the sunlight and most ended up with a sunburn. what is happening now newt gingrich has gone up and down and moved around and now sitting at the absolute perfect pinnacle of electoral politics in a place everybody is talking about him and most of it is good. >> i want you to put on your former gop state hair hat for a minute. if mitt doesn't win today does it reaffirm the notion he can't win a state now that he effectively lost iowa? >> it will take a lot of heat to defeat barack obama. people are sort of fooling themselves if they think his organization is going to be weak. but at the end of the day in south carolina, what is happening here is the conservatives are coalescing around looks like newt gingrich and putting a stake in the ground for the tea party movement and i think mitt romney certainly has an organization in
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florida, prepared to go to battle, so i don't think it's over yet. but it's a big change in the last 48 hours for sure. >> you say emotions and heat. it also comes down to personality as well. we have seen that. there continues to be this thought that people aren't particularly eager to run out and have a beer with romney or gingrich. is that a fair assessment? is that a problem? >> that, i don't know. newt gingrich is a guy with just tons of ideas and solutions and mitt romney has a record to raise a tremendous amount of money. but at the end of the day, i think that what the voters are looking for and what we have seen with governor perry the last two weeks, everywhere we went to everybody raised their hand when we asked do you know somebody out of work, looking for work, and can work? that was a painful thing when 600 people raised their hands. this election probably won't be about who wants to have a cold beer. it's going to be about who can help uncle joe get a job.
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>> thanks for joining us ahead in this long day. when our coverage continues, how will candidate baggage decide the battle at the ballot? you're watching "weekends with alex witt." when i grow up, i want to fix up old houses. ♪ [ woman ] when i grow up, i want to take him on his first flight. i want to run a marathon. i'm going to own my own restaurant. when i grow up, i'm going to start a band. [ female announcer ] at aarp we believe you're never done growing. thanks, mom. i just want to get my car back. [ female announcer ] discover what's next in your life. get this free travel bag when you join at aarp.org/jointoday. i would never go out without my covergirl.
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[ female announcer ] nature valley granola bars, rich dark chocolate, toasted oats. perfect combinations of nature's delicious ingredients, from nature valley. ♪ nature valley granola bars, nature at its most delicious. some notes on the campaign now. the dominance of the super pacs is one of the big issues. the groups have spent more than $27 million most on advertising. and one campaign source tells the l.a. times super pacs shelled out $27 million slated to run through today. gop candidates are crisscrossing south carolina and making a push for last-minute votes. newt gingrich may not be the nominee but already picking fights with the white house and many are asking if there is more to his message about food stamps?
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joining is jim hodges and glenn mccall. gentlemen, good morning. >> good morning, alex. >> good morning. >> i'll tell you, governor, i feel like we are getting whiplash as we look at these opinion polls. which candidate's baggage plays bigger in south carolina right now? >> well, i think romney has had an awful week. i can't think of a worse week he could possibly have. looks to me like the momentum is on the side of gingrich. south carolina republican party primaries are about momentum at the very end and looks like he is closing strong. >> what about the identity of everything, glenn? do you think that gop has an identity crisis? because no one seems to be emerging as a favorite, particularly in that state and case in point you have yet to endorse anyone. >> well, that's right, alex. also, i'm chairman of the york county republican party and i think it's appropriate for me not to endorse so that way all of the candidates feel comfortable coming to our county
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which they have. i don't think there's an identity crisis. i think what conservatives are looking at today, truly those undecid undecided, who best can lead us into november in the matchup with president obama. >> as former gop michael steele said in a b.e.t. column he wrote. republicans have a hard time getting the message right to minorities. do you agree? >> i think to some degree, that's true. i think we are lax on delivering the message but not just the minorities. i've been critical of our party across the board. i think we have been lax and really getting a strong message out to all citizens. so i think there's some work that we have to do and we will do. to make sure our message is received by all citizens. >> governor, a bit earlier in the week, gingrich stirred up
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controversy, calling president obama a food stamp president. listen to what he said and then the white house response here. >> the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by barack obama than any president in american history. >> you know as well as i do that is crazy. >> governor, some suggest there are racial overtones to this. how much traction has this gotten in south carolina? >> not very much. the fact of the matter is that the president is correct in what he is doing and that is focusing on trying to make life better for the middle class here in our country. i think he has done a terrific job of digging us out of a hole that was created before he got there. and these distractions, talking about issues like this, are not what people here want to talk about. they want to hear how jobs are going to be created and move the middle class forward forward in our country. barack obama is talking about those things but newt gingrich and mitt romney and the others aren't. i think that net is favorable for the president and bad for
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the republican party. frankly, i think, alex, that is why there has not been much excitement down here, up until the last day or so, in the republican primary. people have said these guys aren't talking about what we care about and not really excited about the field that they have and it shows. >> glenn, do you agree with what the former governor is saying and do you think whether it comes to jobs there is any one p. >> he fr i dell you that i disagree with what the governor said. it's facts. and it's truthful and it's facts that what speaker gingrich said, that's the fact. there are more people on food stamps, not even that, unemployment rates in my african-american community have done nothing and these candid e candidates have been talking about what they would do
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creating jobs especially here in south carolina and what they would do to help stimulate that process not only with the candidates but with the governor. so i think there's been plenty of conversation oorn thaaround i think the excitement is there for mitt romney and newt, and i think it's going to be to the wire, go down to the wire. >> all right, i think you're right there, sir. glen mccall and former governor jim hodges. thanks so much. president obama's reelection campaign has begun its first tv ads blitz in six key states, just as his approval rate is at a historic low. what can the president do to change his fortunes? [ male announcer ] is zero worth nothing? ♪ imagine zero pollutants in our environment. or zero dependency on foreign oil. ♪ this is why we at nissan
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the results of today's south carolina primary have a huge impackets in the republican
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context, but it also affects president obama's strategy. joining me is the chairp of the democratic nashlg committee florida congressman debbie wa wasserman schultz. let's talk about this new gallup poll that shows an approval rate, the lowest since jimmy carter who wasn't reelected. that has to concern you a bit. this is how he's polling while flying under the radar while everyone's focused on the republican feield. what do you think happens when the attention turns to the president and the attacks really start fly something. >> well, you know, i think -- right now the national polls really don't mean so much because when it comes down to it, head to head, there will be a dramatic contrast between president obama and the direction he's been taking this country, fighting for the mitd class and work families and that he's taking us from bleeding 750,000 jobs a month to now
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three years later 22 straight months of job growth in the private sector. he took on wall street and championed the consumer, recess queued the american automobile industry. in contrast to mitt romney and the rest of the field who would have allowed detroit to go bankrupt and staeshlly want to drag us back to the failed republican policies in the past that got us to the precipice of financial disaster in the first place. so the dramatic contrast there will be in the general election really will be the choice voters have to make and i think it will be much more clear at that point. >> i want to talk about your own state, florida. the president was in orlando couple of days ago. unions are waging this ground war against mitt romney on the ground right now in florida. it is president obama worried about florida? >> well, florida is the biggest battleground state. one of the most significant states particularly because we have such a diverse population whe
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we're really a true reflection of the diversity in the united states. that's why president obama is making sure we can attract tourism from all over the world, 65% of florida's economy is based on tourism. it's the number one industry in the state. and to roll out a plan to ensure that we can expand tourism to the united states particularly to florida even more really critical announcement, and another contrast between the kind of economy that mitt romney and the republican field want, which would only benefit people who are already doing well, and the economy that president obama is fighting for, that would ensure that working families and middle class have the opportunity to be successful also. >> if newt gingrich wins in south carolina today, if he the nominee, will your party or will the president resurrect the attacks being used against gingrich right now?
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are those fair game? >> right now, president obama has been and will be lasered focused on getting this economy turned around and creating jobs. we'd love the republicans join us in making that a priority. but they are fixated on extending the bush tax breaks, making sure we do anything possible to not give tax breaks to the middle class and working families. remember we had to drag them kicking and screaming to extend the payroll tax cut. if we didn't, 160 million americans would have seen a tax increase of $1,000. really, again, repeatedly there are contrasts between president obama fighting to help everyone be successful, the republican field in a circular firing squad essentially, mitt romney in particular repeatedly none straighting he wants to play by his own set of rules. that's the contrast. >> debbie wasserman schultz, thank you so much. >> thank you. want to give you a live picture of what's happening. we're keeping an eye on tommy's country henhouse. we told you there's a big setup
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as romney and gingrich are going to be there together. romney is up to his time. perhaps he didn't want that showdown and arriving the same time as gichk rich. we'll get a look at this further.
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♪ top of the hour here on "weekends with alex witt." we look at mitt romney, a live look at what's going on. here's what's so interesting about this picture. he was not scheduled to arrive for another 45 minutes or so, but that would have put him in exactly the same time as his chief rival candidate newt gingrich who will be making an appearance at this same location coming up later in the hour.
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there's been a lot of behind-the-scenes going on with these 300 people or so, folks who have been attending. again, he is there early, but what's so fascinating, you talk about the romney signs, the gang rich signs, you have campaign staffers trying to put steins of their candidate into hands of people there. it's incredible the dance being played there. we're going to go to greenville, south carolina, nbc's ron mott. tell me what you are seeing there in terms of this stop. and look at all these people. a lot of romney signs, but that wasn't the case just a short while ago. i'm told his campaign staffers got out there and did their thing in advance of his arrival. >> reporter: yeah. hey there, alex. you see all these romney folks behind us. he was not scheduled to be here. he is in some ways upstaging newt gingrich who's got a scheduled arrival at 10:45. we thought in some ways we might have this west side story type showdown, a danceoff here at the country ham store. it's been a tough wiek for
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romney. his poll numbers are sagging, uneven responses on the tax issue. meanwhile, newt gingrich has had about as good of a week as he can possibly have. he had two standing ovations at the debates this week, all this despite his ex-wife went on the news and talked about their marriage. he is scheduled to be here in 45 minutes. he says if he wins here in south carolina he believes he will win the nomination. this is a little bit of what the former speaker had to stay this morning. >> it sets the stage, then, to go to florida and beyond florida to clearly take barack obama on at every level, take him on on values where he is a radical and i stand for american exceptionalism to making him on in the economy where he has been the best food stamp president in american history, i'd like to be the best paycheck president in american history. >> reporter: all right. now, the poll nubls show that this could be a very tight finish, the polls close here at 7:00.
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the romney supporters are here, excited about their chances today. we'll see how fired up the gingrich folks are when they get here in about 45 minutes, alex. >> i've got to ask you about this, ron. i love the behind the scenes. apparently the romney supporters have been inside the restaurant behind you. they've been walking around to the tables of the romney sue poerts and saying, eat and get out of here because we want to have a less-dense crowd, not so many people, for the cameras like ours which will be wauching things when newt gingrich arrives. that's the mrilt cal playing going on right now. those kids behind you, aren't they college kids that were bussed in? i mean, this is what happens. >> reporter: right, exactly. this is what politics is all about in south carolina. it's strategizing, all is fair in love, war and politics. so these folks have come out here trying to take some of the thunder away from newt gingrich. we'll see if the gingrich folks are here while the romney folks are here. that will be very interesting.
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it will be tough to get all of these folks out of here in $35 minute. a lot of politicking going on here in the palmetto state. >> gee, what a surprise. we'll keep a camera trained on you. thank you so much, ron. let's get a fwit more on south carolina, home to several regions all with their own identities. here are three counties to watch today and why. first up, green vm county, the state's most populous and strongly rng. the county had the most votes in the 2008 primary. second, lexington county, near the state capital, home to conservative fwerm communibedro communities. then charleston county, home to the second biggest city and large military presence n. 2008, john mccain doubled romney's votes here. more twists in the race, i'm joined by msnbc contributor and political editor for the grio, harry bacon. good morning, guys. >> good morning. >> perry, i'm going to get to
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you first with juror your assessment on the ground, is there any clear momentum shift this morning? what's the mood? >> not from this morning. the last three days have been very strongly pro gingrich. i was out with him yesterday and a woman came up to him and said, great job taking on john king. those debates have really helped him and emboldened him and got his supporters energize behind him him. >> dana, some are calling thursday the most remarkable day of this race. here's a peek at that. >> therefore, today i am suspending my campaign and endorsing newt gingrich for president of the united states. >> he was asking to have an open marriage and i refused. >> she says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. would you like to take some time to respond to that? >> no. but i will. i am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
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>> when you release yours, will you follow your father's example? >> maybe. you know, i don't know how many years i'll release. >> and more than two weeks after the iowa caucuses, santorum claimed new momentum after a recount determined he actually won there by 34 votes. >> that was one day. a lot has changed in the race. clearly dana, given that backdr backdrop, where do things stand right now on this primary day? >> i think it's the republican primary voters who want to have the open marriage. just when you think they're ready to tie the knot with mitt romney, suddenly we're back where we were a month earlier. i'm suspicious that they'll keep it up this way in the end they'll ultimately decide they have no chance with newt gingrich against president obama. but the folks in south carolina are making it interesting. the support for romney is absolutely flaccid. the people on camera there,
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those are the first enthusiastic supporters i've ever seen. and newt's been playing everything just about exactly right there. we really don't know. he could pull off an upset tonight, but it's still hard to see how thursday becomes that sort of inflection point that changes the whole direction of the race. >> your open marriage analogy, pretty clever. that works. >> perry, you're right there in south carolina. what do you think seems to be sticking more of these two, the romney tax returns or the gingrich infidelity issues? >> the infidelity issue but in some ways in a positive way for gingrich, not a negative taking on the media. that's what stuck the most. the tax returns vnlts helped romney, but voters are saying about romney, they're not that into him. the same thing dana referred to. they're not that excited about him. they're looking for choices. but the gingrich media bashing has people excited. those moments have really reshaped what we've seen here. >> dana, talk about the possibilities as we move
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forward. does gingrich have to win south carolina to punch his ticket to florida? >> you know, that's up to all of the pundits to rand chandicap i if he does well there, people will still pay attention to him in florida. noshgs i don't think he has to win, but he has to be very close to romney. indications are that he will, and so it may buy some of us a ticket to florida and to nevada. >> so, conversely, perry, if gingrich wins south carolina, does that put romney in peril in florida? >> florida's got a very different voting demographic than south carolina does. it has more of the moderate voters where romney does well. it's a bigger state. his money will help him more. it doesn't put him in peril, but it means the campaign will go on and gingrich the be stronger, he'll have more money here. if he wins especially by double digits, there will be a lot of
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questions about romney, what happened, the tax return thing will be more intense. we'll see a totally different campaign if gingrich wins here. thanks, guys. keep it here throughout the day for the south carolina primary news. watch tonight for all of the results right here on msnbc. after south carolina comes florida. that first primary in what can truly be considered a swing state. in fact, the early voting is actually under way in all counties in florida today, in addition to more than 100,000 absentee ballots the state ha has said to already received. msnbc political embed jamie noef agrod is there in tampa. good saturday morning to you, jamie. the floridians seem anxious there in florida to have their say. that's been the sense we've been getting. we look at the number of ballots being cast already. do you see it that way as well? >> i'm sorry, alex. could you repeat the top of that question? >> just the fact we've already
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got 100,000 absentee ballots and floridians are starting to vote effectively today. i mean, the primary isn't technically until the 31st. do floridians want to get going? are they eager? >> yeah. the officials i speak to, that's exactly what they say is happening. early voting was happening all of last week in five counties, and now early voting is happening in all of florida's counties, 62 more opened today. yes, we have -- until now, we have about 10,000 early votes cast and more than 170,000 absentee ballots cast. that's a huge number, alex, if you consider that only 122,000 people voted in iowa. >> yeah. what's behind the early rush, jamie? why do they get out there so quickly? >> well, absentee voting has always been a big thing in florida. you have a population that has dual residences. you also have a number of people who travel a lot for work. you have big hospitality
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industry here. so that's part of it. and the big question here is who it will benefit. the officials i speak to say it looks like so far at least this will benefit mitt romney because he's been ahead in the polls until now. he's been ahead in florida polls all the way. and so the thought is that he can take advantage of that momentum, alex. >> jamie, i'm presuming it's nice weather out there because you were closing your blinds. here it's sunny and very dark outside. enjoy the weather for me. >> sorry to hear it. mitt romney and ron paul? an unlikely alliance. why a moment at thursday's debate is raising questions. then in office politics, a lot of fun on the set of "mad money" with jim cramer. watch us play a "mad" game of whac-a-mole. i got him there.
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the. . he arrived about 15 minutes ago, but mitt romney you see supporters there outside of the tommy's ham house in greenville, south carolina. he's inside right now talking with supporters as we expect he'll be doing. but probably trying to skedaddle out of there before newt gingrich arrives at his scheduled time about 10:45. otherwise there's a showdown. regardless, we'll be covering it for you here on msnbc. crowd of about 300 there outside. meantime, the sky-high stakes this morning in south carolina where republican voters have an uncanny knack for picking the party's nominee. no guarantee they'll continue to be right, but the pressure is certainly on now. for more from the ground in
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south carolina, peter alexander live in columbia. what are you seeing there this morning? >> reporter: alex, history is on the side of the south carolinian voter. not since 1976 have they picked someone other than the gop nominee during the primaries. newt gingrich's camp is hoping with the momentum he has here he again will be that person going forward. you know, what's changing right now is the fact that the weather is starting to shower on us. it shouldn't have a big impact on voting in this state that began at fw 7:00 this morning and will wrap up about 7:00 as well. by 7:30, we may start to get a better sense of exactly how things are looking here in the state. but the closeness of this race will daikt just how long of a night this is. the weather here, though, behind us with these rain squalls i think is sort of a good metaphor for the political tempest that mitt romney's campaign has faced over the course of the last week, wavering in terms of his answers of when he would release his tax returns, acknowledge that he pays an effective tax rate of 15%. his personal wealth really
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becoming an issue, even earlier in a week during an event i was at, when asked what money he made he referred to the fact he didn't, make, quote too much from his speaking engagements in the last year. according to the information we had that not too much meant $374,000. that's a narrative his campaign is trying to change in these final minutes, even hours as people are still making their choices as they walk into the voting booth over the course of the this day. his campaign trying to lower expectations as mitt romney said a short time ago, as we learned in iowa, every vote counts. they say it's always bceen an uphill battle in south carolina and they are confident they will do well in florida no matter what happens here. it really remains to be seen when you consider how momentum has shifted lately. >> peerlt alex sander with things from columbia, want to let all of you know we had the picture up from greenville, south carolina, outside the tommy's ham house. what you saw there while peter
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was talking was mitt romney exiting that place. again, just keep in mind how kind of tight things are and there's a lot of tension between the camps right now. both mitt romney and newt gingrich had been scheduled to be there around 10:45 this morning. he brought his campaign there a little bit early, got there about 10:00 a.m., now leaving well in advance of newt gingrich's arrival in 20, 25 minutes. meanwhile, ron paul has been campaigning less aggressively in south carolina than he has in the other early voting states. but it's part of a larger plan taken straight from president obama's 2008 campaign playbook. after posting strong finishes in iowa and new hampshire, the good doctor who you aren't seeing there, is now focusing on low-cost states holding caucuses that can yield a large number of delegates. i'm joinled by doug wead, senior adviser for the ron paul campaign. nice to see you, doug. thanks for joining me there in t the. >> thanks, alex.
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this is it ron paul weather. >> i hope that works for you! i want to talk to you about the primary today. you're not likely to win it, i think you know that. you're effectively skipping florida next week. >> unless it snows. >> right. how do you envision this playing out without the national attention these two contests would generate for you? >> beautiful. it's turning out beautiful. you remember that great agatha christie and book "ten little indians and then there were none"? and then there were four. and now that newt gingrich is challenging romney in south carolina, our feeling is, whoever wins, it doesn't matter, just the fact that newt gingrich could challenge mitt romney shows for us it's a wide-open race, it isn't over, anything can happen. and there's still going to be money pumped into both campaigns. that's very good for us.
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>> okay. let's play a little bit from that thursday debate. here is an exchange we're going to play between ron paul and mitt romney. >> we need to shave someone outside washington go to washington. if we want people who spent their life and most of their career in washington we have three people on the stage. i take that back. we have a doctor back here who spent most of his time in the surgery suite. not surgery. the birthing suite. but i just -- i think america has to make a choice as to whether we're going to send people who spent their life in washington to go represent our country or instead whether we're going to have someone go who's been a leader in the private sector and knows how the real economy works at the grass roots level. >> now, doug, a lot of people interpreted that from romney as being extremely defer reshl to ron paul. do you think he could be aiming for ron paul supporters eventually? >> i think all of the candidates ought to. there's no path to the white
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house without ron paul. in the general election they're going to need the vast numbers of young people, most of the young people i worked all across iowa new hampshire and here in south carolina tell me four years ago they voted for barack obama if they voted. some of them were too young to vote. they're going to need him in the general. and it looks like, if newt gingrich makes a run here and he apparently has whether he wins or not he's made the run, that there's no way that newt gingrich could win the nomination without ron paul. 's not even on the balance loot. there ballots that newt gingrich and santorum aren't on the ballot. . last poll any of the major networks, the cnn poll, shows only two candidates beating barack obama, that's ron paul and mitt romney. you don't hear much attention to that poll, but it's a reality we deal with tv thank you for bringing it to our attention. ron paul has not attacked romney very much. the overwhelming ma joort of his
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attacks has been at gingrich and santorum. why? do you think mover attention would be focused on the republican front-runner in the other circumstance. >> no, not necessarily so. we see it as a war of attrition and we know the numbers are stacked against mitt romney. that's why this is so important with the dynamic that's happening right now. mitt romney is the elite candidate, the goldman sachs candidate, the obama of the republican party. he's going to be anointed lie ed musky was, rudolph giuliani. if he doesn't make it through these first contests that the republican insiders moved up for his benefit and arranged for his benefit, then it's wide open and he knows he's got to do it quickly. if we can have some of the other candidates drop out -- and five of them have -- we become the alternative candidate and the polls show clearly that maybe 30% or so of the voters want romney, the other 70% want someone more conservative. >> no, bottom line right now,
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are you guys just running a marathon and you're either just staying in it to potentially be a king maker at the end of it? >> yes and no. yes, we're running a marathon but, no, we're still going after the nomination because from our standpoint a lot of these early contests moved up early. we knew we wouldn't do that well. we like the way the numbers are moving. just a month ago, we were 6% in south carolina. now we are the only evangelical christian in the race and we have more donations from the military than all the other candidates combined and we're the only veteran in the race. we like the way the numbers are changing and we're still going for it. >> doug wead, thank you for take time for us. we appreciate it. >> thanks. mitt romney, did he miss a major opportunity to connect with americans thursday? plus, i go on the set of "mad money" with jim cramer on cnbc to see how he makes financial news fun.
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>> hey, what a terrible stock that is, wow.
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. tech watch now on "weekends with alex witt." at&t is raising its rates for smartphone customers starting tomorrow. the price for each tier will cost 5 bucks more but the amount of data you get is going up. service plan prices for tablets will be changing with new $30 and $50 data packages. there's a snowstorm tuk about here in the northeast. we're going to go to nbc's bill cairns to give us the very latest. >> good morning. it's so funny how we're excited about a mini snowstorm, but this is it the first of the season. it's hard to even consider the halloween storm, the kids couldn't really play in it. it was such a shock and knocked out so much power. but this is a good storm, saturday morning, businesses aren't canceled, school isn't in session.
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this is one making a lot of kids happy. of course, if you have to travel in southern new england or between new york city and philadelphia, it's not the most fun. already three inches on the ground in central park, philadelphia only had about two ifrnlz and a little bit of freezing rain. that same forecast will go for southern new england. new york city seeing a bit of a break. only about an hour or two left, areas north of new york city are getting a little bit of the heavier snow, westchester county, northern knowledge nj could pick up three to six inches, new york city will probably top off at three, hartford and new haven around four and boston on the northern edge of this, just a little for you. also we're watching being sk, south carolina a lot of heavy rain heading your way, possibly some severe storms, isolated tornadoes later today. we'll watch that carefully if you're down there traveling in south carolina or heading out to the polls, you want to watch the radar, the local forecast. we don't want you heading out into dangerous storms as we go throughout the day. speaking of south carolina, all day here on msnbc, stay tuned.
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we'll be right back.
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. welcome back to this special edition of "weekends with alex witt." the polls in south carolina have been open since 7:00 eastern. supporters are attending last-minute meet and fwreets just like this one for both candidates at tommy's ham house in greenville. mitt romney left there about 15 minutes ago or so. newt gingrich scheduled to show up about ten minutes or so. they did not cross paths as had been expected. strategy talk now. mitt romney carrying the weight of his billions and newt gingrich carrying the weight of his past.
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gentlemen, good day. good to see you both. >> thanks for having us. >> tom, i'll begin with you. a lot of focus on mitt romney's response to the question about his father on the debate thursday relative to taxes. let's take a listen. >> in 1967 your father set a groundbreaking, what was then groundbreaking standard in american politics. he released his tax returns. he released them for not one year but for 12 years. and when he did that, he said this -- one year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show. when you release yours, will you follow your father's example? >> maybe. you know, i don't know how many years i'll release. >> tom, romney idolized his father but he didn't say anything to that effect. do you think he missed an opportunity where he could have better personalized himself? >> i don't think there's a question he mishandled his
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answer. at the end of the day this won't be an issue because i think he'll release his tax returns. when you get into the general election with president obama it won't be an issue. but he's on defense going into the final days of right marry here, and that's never where you want to be in politics. >> you know, chris, it kind of felt like a dukakis moment, that one back in '88 when michael dukakis was asked whether he would support the death penalty if his wife kitty were raped and murdered. i'm sure you can't forget that one. dukakis did not mention kitty in his response. should romney have said something about how he loved and idolized his father and played off that? >> first of all, if he had really embraced his dad and talked about their history, it would have been a really smart way to have knoi knock lated himself, defused that issue. first he had the deer in the headlights look, then he fumbled before he got to his talking
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points. it's pretty he shocking because this is a hanging curveball he knew was coming. he really wasn't prepared to handle it, and i think if you're on the republican side or even if you're just a professional in politics and watching that, it really struck you as raising fundamental questions about how good of a candidate is he going to be? you look at the course of the week, the week began with him getting whacked on bain, got popped on tax returns and ended with the iowa caulkses pulled out from underneath him. those first two, particularly the bane piece and tax piece were things he could have preempted, done some stuff to i knock late himself. it really raises questions about the competency from a pure campaign perfect spefktive. >> tom, romney has a lot of money, much more than gingrich. what does romney gain, then, by doing these debates? because they just seem to bruise him of late? if you were advising him, do you think he should just bow out of future upcoming debates? of pe's going to have to debate president obama, the incumbent. this is it a learning curve for
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everybody. i think governor romney has done a pretty good job, but you're not going to be run 00% on top of your game aum the time. these are learning curves that are necessary as you go into the general election. and the debates, of course, volcano newt gingrich's strong point, but, as you get into these other primaries and super tuesday, what you see is that governor romney has a strong organization, a strong fund raising edge, makes it harder i think for newt to compete over the long term. newt needs a win to stay in it i think. >> former south carolina's governor's wife jenny appeared on "hardball" this week. here's what she said on "hardball" about newt gingrich. >> as a voter, i encourage people to look at both sides, the personal side and if you're going to overcome somebody's moral failings or infidelities, you str to also look where they stand i'd logically and how much does their rhetoric match their reality? and in my mind gingrich falls short on both fronts so he wo d
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wouldn't get my vote. >> chris, as a former adviser, does gingrich have a problem with female voters? if he does, what does he do to overcome that? >> ultimately, when you're running for office, it's always about the public trust. i think the challenge for gingrich on this front is there's a hip ypocrisy issue. he campaigned and made morality a central focus point in his time in congress now it's an issue in his campaign, which i think raises basic issues about trust in terms of what he would do as a prospective president. i think you're really seeing that in terms of the delta, the gender gap that exists right now in south carolina and look at other polls in terms of how men view him versus women. raem, if he's able to win in south carolina, again there appears to be a lot of momentum in his direction, as long as volatility as well, if he wins,
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to make additional progress, he has to address the gender gap. >> i'm curious about a concern you may have, tom, with the president leading the gop candidates in the latest national polls, even with the bad economy, even with his own personal low approval ratings, he is still beating all of his gop opponents. are you concerned for your party here? >> not really. look, it's early. the president's still well under 50%. >> he's at 44. >> right. that's not where you want to be as an incumbent. ultimately, this race is going to be dependent on where the economy is six, eight months from now. what is the outlook. there are so many variables in this i think that have yet to be joaned. nobody knowns where it's polling. but incumbents polling at 44%, traditionally those undecides turn against the incumbent in if the challenger had makes the sale. anything can happen, but i think it will be a very competitive race and the country is closely
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divided if you take a look at recent elections. this could be a close race. >> who do you think is the better contender to make the sale? >> it depends. if this becomes a race and things are bad on competing visions, newt gingrich makes that sale. nobody articulates that better than newt. on the other hand, although governor romney may not be as dynamic in some ways, he is steady and the elements of the coalition are most comfortable with him. you find out that the people opposed to obama are most comfortable voting for romney. so you can take it either way, but governor romney seem of seems to poll much better at least today. >> so, chris, bottom line from the democratic perspective, would you be happier with newt gingrich? >> i'm happy to make sure this republican primary is protracts as possible. look, i think gingrich is disqualified as a national candidate if he's the nominee. i don't think he passes what i call the dr. strangelove test. would the folks in the country feel comfortable with him in the
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oval office making decisions about the national security and them with core economic issues. i don't think he fundamentally passes that test. as a democrat, i hope it's a slog as long as possible. >> jim lehane and tom davis, thanks so much. >> thank you. it is time now for "office politics." my interview with cnbc's jim cramer, host of "mad money." i asked the money maven about the race for president and mitt romney's millions. when romney pays 15% in taxes because his income komts from capitol gainls instead of earned income, is that fair? >> that should be regular income. it's just a complete outrage. it's ordinary income, but only the hedge fund managers get away with it. if they weren't so rich and own so many congresspeople, they'd be paying ordinary income tax. >> to you think this is the thing that it's a mistake for mitt romney to say that? >> no. he was doing exactly what anybody could do. if your tax code -- you do not
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pay 30% if you're only told to pay 15%. you take your winnings to your accountant and your accountant says, those are capital gains. you only pay 15%. he wasn't gaming the tax code. the tax code's been gamed by rich people. i see all this stuff about romney. i like -- i have interviewed mitt, i was thinking about going to work for him. i don't like the tax code. i like that mitt romney, the fact he's being hoisted on that one is ridiculous. mitt romney is a very good capitalist, but the capitalists somehow, some of the capitalists have one in washington to get this tax rate. it santa ana his fault, so to speak. he should be paying more. >> he's just going along with the code. >> he said, i see it. of course that's what he's paid. he's paid in capital gains. that's the big quirk in the law that's not a quirk. that's just people writing big checks to congress people and done gres people doing the wrong thing. that is unfortunately the
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american way. people buy congress people. that's what they do. they're very inexpensive. >> what you're talking about, though, indicateses to me this discussion ongoing, the 1% versus the 99%, the haves and the have nots. >> well, it's for real. >> is it? >> i think it's very real. there's just this huge gulf. i do think by the way everyone -- one of the things that reagan taught us, everybody wants to get rich, but we are in a situation where the 1% should be taxed to the fullest. i'm the fullest. i pay 56% of my salary to taxes. that's my rate right now. 56. when i read that romney makes 15, i don't hate romney, i'm just saying what kind of ridiculous tax code is that? i would like to pay 15 instead of 56. if you include my property taxes i'm at 63%. so i get to keep, you know, i'm in the highest tax bracket in the country in one of the highest states with one of the
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highest property taxes so i'm like living embodiment of the guy who makes a lot of money and pays a lot of taxes. and i would love to get that tax rate that romney has. i would make a huge amount of money if that would occur, but it would be wrong. >> can i ask you, are you angry about that? >> well, i'm very angry about it. i'm angry that the republicans fought -- you know, the people who make $400,000 or more, they should be paying higher taxes. i sign those pledges to pay more taxes. now, for me, is it going to take me up to 70%? johnny carson was in the 79% bracket. my parentses were, like, why does he bother to work at all? >> this is so you, right? >> this is it everything accumulated over seven years and it's pretty much the world i live in. >> you're exciting to watch. >> well, thank you. >> is that just innate? did you just develop it? >> it's a really boring topic. it start as a radio show. that's why i have the buttons, trying to create a vision for
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people. but, remember, this isn't really too difficult a topic. i have to make it come alive. to make it come alive is difficult because it's not sports. it's people's money. you have to be very responsible but at the same time you have to get them in and to make it sto that you're undoing what -- we don't teach money in any school. we don't teach stocks, money. people graduate, have no idea about money. my show is about money. the show is about what to do with your money and how to make money work for you. and that is a bitter pill. the way i -- which i try to make sweet, federal government, bears make money, hogs get slaughtered. stop whining. stop being scared. >> oh, my god. >> time for the lightning round. >> you just went through all of these. you get paid to do this. >> all aboard! >> yes, i do. and -- >> that was easy. >> you're unreal.
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capital f-u-n, let me tell you. more of my interview with jim cramer tomorrow, you can catch "mad money" weekdays 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. eastern on cnbc. right now we're going to take you back to greenville. there you see newt gingrich, candidate arriving at tommy's ham house. he was scheduled to arrive right now. he is there, but he missed mitt romney who got there early and took off. there are a few mitt romney signs, though. we'll see what the newt gingrich handlers will do about that. maybe that will change. we'll take a look after the break. live report, stay with us. ♪ ♪ ♪ one too many... [ male announcer ] it's time to reclaim your garage. the all-new passat. the 2012 motor trend car of the year.
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unable to get those down at this point. meantime, in south carolina, the weather could be a literal damper on turnout, the weather channel saying it's going to rain off and on all day. as we look at a ballot right there. it's been nearly 20 years since bill clinton settle into the oval office. today even his most bitter political enemies regard his presidency as a brietder time in our history. he spoke with "esquire" magazine about the political discourses when he ran instead of now. he wrote, quote, it is extremely poernl now and you see in these primaries that the more people agree with each other on the issues the more desperate they are to make the distinctions necessary to win so the deeper the knife goes in. i'm joined by charles pierce, writer for "esquire." charles, good morning. thanks for being here. >> alex, happy soggy primary day to you. >> there it is. here it's an overcast, gray snowy one, although not the primary. charles, i know you spoke with the former president. did you get a sense he's itching
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to be out there right now? is it foufr him tough for him t the campaign trail? >> i think if a delegation of citizens came to him and said, mr. president, we don't like any of these guys, he would be smoking and be back behind the oval office desk in a day and a half. this is a guy who's got a real appetite for solutions. if he doesn't see anybody coming up with them, he's going to leave his house, pet his dog on the head and try to find one. yes, i do believe he wishes he was out there. >> you know, he talks about how the modern day gof has pushed harder aharder to the right whie saying no 0 to everything. he said, they won congress in 1994 and 2010 by just being against everything and saying the kai was going to fall. since the people didn't feel better by the time of the election, it worked. one of the reasons people stay with a strategy like that is it works. then when it seems not to be working they tend to change. does he give you a sense he blifs a change is is coming
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soon? >> i think -- he told us he believes president obama will be reelected. i do know he's more familiar than most people about the strategy and tactics that you're seeing from what is really a truly radicalized republican party. far more radicalized back when it even impeached him, which should give you an indication how far into the -- we've actually traveled since then. but the one thing he did say to us, which i found interesting, is he thought this whole tendency towards the antiscience know nothing, really kind of right-wing id of the republican party didn't start with him. he thinks it started to the reaction to george h.w. bush's raising of taxes, having promised not to do it in the campaign against michael dukakis. bill clinton dates the radicalization of the republican party from that moment, not his election. >> interesting. do you get 8 sense of his relationship with president obama? of course when president obama was running his chief rival was
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bill clinton's wife. >> yeah. i think that at least in his mind for political purposes that's been papered over. i don't think -- i think fundamentally every ex-president has a tremendous reservoir of sympathy for every other incumbent president because it really is a lousy job. and there have only been -- there have only been 44 people -- 44 times have we elected one of these guys. it aefs a very small club and it's getting smaller. yes, i do -- obviously he far prefers him to any republican right now, but i think he looks at the parallels and i do think he firmly believes that president obama was handed a much tougher hand when he walked into the oval office than even president clinton was. >> "esquire's" charles pierce, a great article. wish i could talk about it with you further. everyone has to read it. it's a good one. thank you so much. >> i'm going to go to the ham house and see if anyone's
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hanging around. >> i think you should. call us. >>. >> the gop spouses in this campaign, how events of the past are haunting more than one of them.
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. giving you a live look right now at newt gingrich, shaking hands and greeting his supporters there at tommy's country ham house in greenville, south carolina. we'll take you back there at the top of the hour, give you a live report on what's gone down this past hour. it's been wild and busy there in south carolina. we'll be right back.
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south carolina votes. it's the palmetto state presidential primary. and this morning what once appeared to be a romney runaway, now a spell-binding squeaker. can romney fend off a gings rich comeba comeback? it's a decision up to voters from charleston to columbia, greenville to goose creek in a showdown that could dra matd cli alter the course of the republican race in the battle for the white house. good morning, everyone. welcome to "weekends with alex witt" and our continuous coverage of the south carolina primary. we're going to get to what's happening right now out there. mitt romney on the attack this morning as voters head to the polls in south carolina. the former massachusetts governor's rallying voters in greenville at his local headquarters as well as at a restaura restaurant. romney quickly took aim at gingrich. >> gingrich worked for freddie mac and fannie mae. by wait, wasn't he going to
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release information about that? let's see what report he wrote for freddie mac and fannie mae, what the conclusion were and what the contract looks like. let's have him describe his relationships in washington. >> for his part, gingrich wasted no time this morning either, meeting with voters at a spartanburg restaurant three hours ago, urging republicans to get to the polls. >> with your help today, if you'll make sure all of your friends and neighbors turn out, if you'll convince them that the only practical conservative vote is for newt gingrich, i think we'll have a very big success today. >> we've got team coverage for you, msnbc's craig melvin is in columbia, nbc's ron mott standing by at a restaurant in greenville. good morning to you both. ron, i'll ginl with you, both romney and gingrich stopping at that restaurant in the past hour. give us a scene setter. what's it like? >> reporter: well, hey there, alex. they're calling this already hamgate because we have both of
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these candidates stopping at this country ham house. now we have a sign showdown, romney signs, newt signs as well. we thought we might have one of these "west side story" face-to-face showdowns. when the former speaker got to the restauramicrophone in the , restaurant, he said, where's mitt? i thought we'd have a debate. a lot of folks here have already voted, some voted for governor romn romney, some for gingrich. a big day here in south carolina, the polls are showing this could be a very tight one-two race here. newt gingrich limped into south carolina last week, having had some lackluster showings in iowa and new hampshire, and he's had a great week, two standing ovations at the debates this week. he aels got some enthusiastic supporters here. he's still in the restaurant. they can't wait to see him out here. a big day in south carolina. we'll see who wins this thing
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tonight when the polls close at 7:00. >> do you have your ear plugs? it's going to get really cloud loud when newt gingrich exits. you won't be able to hear me. ron mott, thanks for that in greenville. let's look at the voters in south carolina and what they're saying as they head to the polls for today's crucial primary. nbc's craig melvin is joining me from columbia, south carolina. voter turnout, how large is that so far today? >> reporter: you know what, alex witt, it is at this point remarkably low. in fact, i just talked to one of our campaign embeds. she spent some time at a precinct here in columbia that is one of the largest precincts in the area when it comes to republican primaries. 35 voters in two hours, if that gives you any idea what we're look at how. upstate south carolina -- this is crucial, going to be particularly crucial for newt gingrich -- spartanburg county, greenville county, 40% of all the primary voters generally tend to come frt upstate, the
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upstate is also where you see a large concentration of evangelical voters. if turnout in greenville and spartanburg and nofrn counties turnout is low, that may not bode as well for gingrich as it will for romney. we should note here that part of the problem is the weather, it's rainy, been rainy for a number of hours. it's going to be rainy throughout the day. but four years ago it was also rainy, also much colder and it did not seem to deter voters north of 400,000 voters four years ago, organizers are expecting to exceed that this time around. >> you know, i want to get back to something you showed us, that fan of all those negative mailers out there. there's been a plethora of them. how are voters responding to that? >> reporter: the ones we've talked to here really are desensitized to it. in south carolina, it's noenl for -- as much as it's known for its sweet tea, it's known for
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its nasty politics. they grew accustomed to dirty campaigns. this was the same state in 2000 where days before the election there was the whisper campaign that john mccain had an illegitimate black child. so voters here very accustomed to that. they haven't really been moved by it a great deal, but we have seen in addition to the mailers we showed you about an hour ago super pacs here in south carolina have spent north of $13 million on radio, tv ad internet ads over the past few weeks. >> okay. well, you showed us evidence of that. thank you so much, craig melvin. appreciate it. well, the nbc/marist poll is shedding light on how south carolina republicans may vote today. 39% of registered republicans in the palmetto state say they prefer a candidate who can defeat president obama in the election, 21% prefer a candidate the closest to them on the issues, 20% say values, 18% say experience to govern. at the same time, republicans
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there don't appear to be overwhelmingly impressed with the candidates. 48% think this year's field is average, 21% say they're above average, 8% say they're one of the best groups of gop candidates ever. there's a lot at stake certainly for mitt romney and newt beginning rix today in south carolina. joining me, cnbc chief washington correspondent john har ward and patricia murphy, thank you so much. john, i'm going to begin with you. what is your take on how things are unfolding in south carolina? >> i can tell you, alex, the romney campaign is bracing for a very large wave of newt gingrich sweet tea that craig melvin talked about hitting them today. there's a new poll out this morning showing newt gingrich up nine points over mitt romney. i asked a romney adviser today, do you see similar results? and the answer was, can't argue
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with that. s so they are very concerned that newt gingrich is going to sustain the momentum he achieved in that debate thursday night and win this primary today and then they're going to look down the road, which they always have. they've been playing the long game. they're better equipped to play the long game than anybody will else. they're organized in nevada, michigan down the road. but this may be a rough day for romney campaign and slow down considerably, alex, the pace at which he has the ability to wrap up this nomination if he's still on track to dhoo. >> i've got to tell you the analysts for whom i have the most respect have been saying that, you're one of them. it will be interesting to see if you're right. patricia, the big issue for gingrich is his ex-wife's allegations about wanting that open marriage. do you think this race is going to come down to how many women turn out to vote today in south carolina? >> you know, i actually don't think it's going to be a big problem for newt gingrich today. women have known about these al
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fwaigss, maybe there are more details here today, but they know he's on his third marriage. they know he was unfaithful in his previous two marriages. a lot of people have told me they think it's a done deal. they have factored that into whether or not they support newt gingrich. women don't normally make up the majority of voters in this primary. it will focus on the men's votes and when you go to the rallies, there is a lot of men and they are really fired up for newt gingrich. when you go to romney's rallies, you don't hear that stew support. people like him, fwu in a driving rain if you have to guess who goes out and votes, newt beginning riff's voters will get out there. >> based on what trish is saying, it seems like romney is it trying to turn the tables on gingrich. he's calling on him to release documents behind the 1990s et c ethics investigation against him. do you think this can work? how much did romney do this late stage in the game to aregain soe ground?
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>> it's a tactic that may give them some traction. with the ethics investigation, i think mitt romney is in the same position that the whole marianne gingrich interview was in, which is to say it's information that essentially is known about newt gingrich. everybody knows newt gingrich had big ethics troubles during the time he was in congress. that's part of what contributed to his ultimate demise as speaker. sew i'm not sure it's new enough information and relevant enough to the race that we're in right now to make a big difference. romney is it still to a greater extent behind the 8 ball on these questions about bain capital and taxes, which he has not tackled so far, and some romney advisers want him to tackle that as he heads to florida to try to put that issue behind him. karl rove, the prominent republican strategist, wrote an op-ed the other die in the "wall street journal" saying florida is where mitt romney has to deal with some of these questions. we'll see if they decide they need to do that. >> patricia, kind of a brufzer
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of the week for mitt romney, the slim win in iowa overturned. perry dropping out, endorsing gingrich. a debate performance that missed the park. what do you think south carolina is going to mean for his campaign ultimately? >> i think south carolina, he's just going to have to put it in the rear view mirror as soon as possible. it looks like he has more friendly territory when he goes to florida, when money makes a huge difference when he goes to states like nevada and michigan that john mentioned. that looks like much friend letter territory. he's going to try to full the momentum back over to him. you mentioneded marianne gring rich question. i talked to independent voters very bothered by this and evangelicals. it's not that it's not a factor for women, it's just not who newt is going after. if this race goes on, it looks like it's going to, we'll hear more attack ads on newt gingrich and it will start to erode his support. but he looks very strong here in south carolina today. >> looking for a yes/no answer from you guys.
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if newt gingrich wins today in south carolina, john, can he win florida? same to you, patricia. john? >> yes it's possible for newt gingrich to win florida. that state, it's a very large state with opinions that are lightly held until you really get down to the end. on the other hand, it's also a very expensive state. he has had the ability to advertise for a long time. ultimately i think the strategic question remains, is on the one hand mitt romney going to win the nomination fast or slow? the second question is, if newt gingrich has a big win tonight, is it possible romney could lose the nomination? i still doubt that. i still think it is it a fastd or slow question for romney, but that's what the next ten days will tell us. >> patricia, yes/no, if you -- he can win in florida? >> i can't do it in one word. i can tell you, look at 2010. look at marco rubio, florida
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republicans chose rubio over the establishment. are they going to go for mitt romney? he has to be worried about it coming out of this. but he's stronger organizationally. he's not more money. i think florida is a tossup. >> you guys are way too thoughtful to give me just yes/no answers. thank you, john harwood, patricia murphy. the jobs issue has dominated the talk in south carolina with good reason as vera gibbons will show us in just a minute. you're watching "weekends with alex witt." stay with us.
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as the gop presidential race gets increasingly nasty, the candidates' wives are finding themselves in the crosshairs in what one activist called a war
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among social conservativconserv. nbc news' michael izikoff is joining me. good morning, michael. >> good morning. it always gets pretty nasty in south carolina presidential primaries but this year is extraordinary to the extent the charges have involved the candidates' wives. >> reporter: they've been constant campaign ons and vigorous advocates for their husbands on the campaign trail. but, while ann romney so far has escaped fire and carol paul has remained unseen, karen santorum, former nurse and mother of seven, and callista gingrich, filmmaker and accomplished musician, have become targets as their husbands slug it out to become the conservative alternative to mitt romney. at a recent texas gathering of prominent evangelical leader dr. james dobson stunned colleagues asking who they wanted as their next first lady. karen santorum, who he said had given up her career to care for her family, including their special needs daughter bella.
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as for callista gingrich, he added, just remember he was his mistress for eight years. gingrich supporters were furious. >> it was completely, ut letterly and totally out of bounds an uncalled for. i was profoundly disappointed in dobson. >> reporter: dobson in an e-mail to nbc news said his remarks were not intended to be cruel or hurtful, just a statement of fact. but the very next day, karen santorum was facing scrutiny herself. ""newsweek"" reported that before she married santorum she had a six-year live-in relationship with a pittsburgh abortion doctor 40 years her senior. >> it's ugly, cheap, tawdry. it has no relationship to the issues at hand in this race. >> reporter: but the wife attacks only intensified this week when gingrich's second wife went public, blaming his request to continue his affair with callista for the collapse of their marriage. >> no. no. that is not a marriage.
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>> let me be quite clear. the story is false. >> reporter: all this, political analysts say, is unusual even by the rough-and-tumble standards of southern politics. >> it's the nastiest race i've seen in south carolina in 25 years. it's never been this personal. >> reporter: with polls pointing to a close result tonight in south carolina, personal attacks show no signs of abating as the gop race continues. you know, alex, in just the last few hours it's gotten even nastier. south carolina republicans began receiving in their e-mail inboxes a fake cnn news alert reporting that marianne gingrich was saying that newt gingrich forced her to have an abortion and then following up on that a fake news release from the gingrich campaign responding to that in which gingrich appears to confirm the charge, saying this -- i've made mistakes in my
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life. this is one of them. now, this is all bogus. this is a hoax. it's a clear political dirty trick. but it's an example of just how ugly this race has become. >> yeah, political dirty trick because it's all bogus stuff. to be clear, you're saying these are all false entities. >> absolutely. >> can i ask you, michael, really quick. do you think we'd be having this conversation to this degree were it not for newt gingrich's admitted past? and the fact that he had these -- has these three marriages and some overlapping with the women in his life? >> i think, look, the very first questions about newt gingrich when he got into this race was, was his past marital problems going to be baggage in the rails or to what degree was it? and i remember going to iowa last year, early in march, in which gingrich was talking to pastors, and this was the very issue front and center and big debate as to whether or not it was going to hurt him down the road, whether he could overcome
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it. you know, i think the jury is still out on that. it's dominated the talk this week, but also the polls showing gingrich surging. so it may well be that what happens tonight in south carolina it puts the issue to rest. >> we shall see. michael izikoff, thank you. >> thank you. just how crucial is the vote in south carolina? you can certainly tell by the fact that the candidates in super pacs have spent more than $13 million on advertising and collectively campaign spots have run about 25,000 times in the pau palmetto state. every new year comes with a few stories waiting to be built. it's when our brand-new to-do lists become "you did that yourself?" so when we can save more on the projects that let us fix, make, and do more, that just makes the stories even better. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. get this glacier bay vanity for the new lower price of just 39 bucks.
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good morning. who is the real mitt romney, the subject of your book. give me the answer to that. >> the answer is about 360-odd pages long. >> cliffs notes. >> look, he's deeply rooted in his faith, in his family. he is somebody who has always had a vaulting ambition, a very strong sense of himself. he's trying to follow the z example of his father george, a three-term michigan governor and unsuccessful candidate for president. and somebody who we've seen had trouble sort of settling on a political definition in his career. i think that's gets to the heart of why we're talking about a gingrich surge toedz day in sou carolina. there are conservatives not willing to embrace him. >> you talk about the definition. mike, he's often called out for changing his positions from his te'is as a candidate for the state office in massachusetts to now, the run for the prothe presidency. what's behind that strategy? it's called flip-flop, the
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direction focus and then the change. >> alex, for mitt romney to win in massachusetts had to be a moderate. when he looked at running for office in massachusetts, some people would say, some of his adviser, they looked at, how do you win? that is what he came from, a moderate republican no question about it. in 1994, he opposed the contract with america, of course, newt gingrich's signature achievement. romney now says that's a mistake. but it gives you a sense of where they're from very different places. >> you also talk, mike, as a businessman at bain capital you have to look at situations, assess and then be flexible in order to win in business. so do you think that's where it came from? >> well, that is a very good point, alex. you know, as a businessperson, you really are looking at changing your strategy day by day in some cases as to what the market is. some people use that as an analogy, that that works in business and it works in politics to a degree until people start calling you out on it if they perceive they don't connect with you on that issue. and what's really dramatic in
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the last week is that the issue of the tax returns, this is it an issue that's dogged mitt romney for 18 years so it seems new to voters now but it's something that in massachusetts people are very familiar with. in fact, back in 1994 when mitt romney ran for the u.s. senate he said to ted kennedy, release your tax returns, what have you got to hide? he said if kennedy would release his tax returns, he would release them on the same day. well, it never happened. neither man released their returns. again in 2002 when mitt romney ran for governor he did not release his tax returns. here are the issues coming up again. it's really something that's dogd him. he hasn't wanted to do it and it obviously makes him uncomfortable when he thinks about doing it. >> scott, sometimes mitt romney can be seen as warm, but at other times, in fact, the majority, he appears distant and cold. romney as a person. what did you uncover about that? >> well, one of the things that fascinated us in reporting this book is that there's this tremendous gulf between how he's perceived, if you're close to him, in his circle, if you're in
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his family, his wife, his kids, people in the church, they describe zrooib hhim universallm and human and funny and accessible. he'll get down on the floor and play with you in terms of playing with his kids. that's a completely different mitt romney than i think most voters see and certainly the public sees. so it drives that group of people crazy to see him described as cold and detached and wooden. but the reality is i think he has a long way to go to sort of show that side of him. because you see him on the campaign trail. you see him try to connect with people, and, again, i think these polls in south carolina and so forth are evidence it's not quite happening yet. he has to figure out a way to show that side of himself. >> well, listen, impressively researched, thought-provoking portrait. it's a great book, "the real romney." mike kronnish, scott hellman, good luck with the book. great timing. in today's "fact or fiction" a new cartoon campaign ad goes
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after mitt romney. how truthful is it? we'll take ape look here on "weekends with alex witt." wake up! that's good morning, veggie style. hmmm. for half the calories plus veggie nutrition. could've had a v8.
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voting in the first presidential primary in the south is under way. the polls have been open for about 4 1/2 hours now, and south carolina will remain open until 7:00 for voting. it is a solid conservative state, and the evangelical vote here is key. 60% of the people who voted in the 2008 primary identify themselves as born-again christians. joining me now is tony perk nz, president of the family research council. tony, good morning. nice to see you. >> good morning, alex. >> so if mitt romney loses south carolina, do you think it is because evangelicals can't vote for him? >> i don't think they can't vote for him. i think they're not comfortable in voting for him. i think there's concern over some of the policy positions that you were just talking about with your previous guests where he's kind of changed positions.
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there's just not a level of comfortability there with some very core issues to them. >> well, let's put it this way. he's not won over conservatives and if he's unable to beat gingrich and rick santorum in south carolina, is that any sort of a warning sign to party leaders? >> oh, i think this race is far from settled. i mean, if the polling is correct -- and as one who ace been in public office, i don't always put a lot of confidence in the polls. the voters will have the final say when the polls close. but if the polls are accurate and newt gingrich carries south carolina, what you then have is you have rick santorum winning one state, you have mitt romney winning one state and newt gingrich winning one state. so really you haven't settled anything at that point. i
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conservative community. this time around he's kind of -- it's as if he has a new game plan and it's kind of like you were referring to earlier, that business strategy. they look for a new model. and it's unsettling to conservatives because principles never change. you don't adopt thbase them bas upon the best path to success. you actually stick with those principles and you win with them eventually. and so there's just a level of comfort that he's not reached with them because they're not certain how committed he is to these principles. >> i spoke with msnbc prime-time host lawrence o'donnell of "last word." he said his republican contacts were telling him that the mormon element was a pulling drag on mitt romney, particularly in the
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evangelical vote. about 20%, one out of five voters, going in will not vote for him, which is a tremendous problem especially when you have a tight race like the one in south carolina right now. do you agree with that assessment? >> you know, i don't know specifically. that might be true in south carolina. but i hadn't heard it. i was just there in south carolina, had to move down to nor wheflorida where it's bathroomer. the fact is, i'm not hearing that across the country. maybe one out of every 20 time sz there a mention of the mormon faith and being uncomfortable with that. clearly there are theological differences between mormons and evangelicals. however, evangelicals and mor n mormons, the lds church, have worked very closely together on issues and are very comfortable working together. i think it's more -- i know it's more because i hear more about it, it's about the positions that he has taken and whether or not thehe can be counted on whe the going gets tough. >> tony, newt gingrich.
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three wives. admitted affairs. preceding marriages with these women. and then the talk about forgiveness. do evangelical voters buy that? >> you know, they do, to a degree. i mean, no one in -- no voting segment understands that better than social conservative evangelical catholic religious voters because we understand the story of redemption. we understand that someone's life can change when they come into a relationship with jesus christ. so there is forgiveness. but the question is, were these fundamental character flaws that have been fixed, or are they still there? will it lead to this type of behavior later? i think what's troubling for many is now we've seen attacks on wives and spouses which, you know, having been in office and been a candidate, families have been left alone. and this is a little disturbing that families are now being attacked in the political process. i think what happened the other
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night in the debate, a legitimate moral issue, an issue of character that voters have a right to decide about newt gingrich, was turned from a moral issue to a media issue, and he was able to really gain sympathy from the public by making it look like this was driven by media bias. i don't know that's necessarily true, but that's how he used it in the debate and i think it was very successful in deflecting away from the bigger issue. >> all right. tony perkins there where the weather is nice and warm in florida as we have to head out to the snow shortly. no thanks. nice to see you. >> good to be with you. this morning a republican primary with a twist. but who actually gets to vote today in south carolina? let's find out. it's time for fact or fiction. joining me from washington is david hawkings, editor of the daily briefing, david, good morning. >> good morning. >> let's start with south carolina. here's the fact or fiction up first -- only republican voters are participating in the gop primary in south carolina. >> that is a fiction.
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south carolina has what is known as an open primary. any registered voter can show up to vote. it's a little bit like iowa and new hampshire in that way. about 500,000 people will show up even though there's no democrat on ballot. >> number two, president obama running his first tv commercial of the race -- we'll listen to part of this. >> america's clean energy industry, 2.7 million jobs and expanding rapidly for the first time in 13 years our dependence on foreign oil is below 50%. >> here's the fact or fiction part of it, the ad claims 2.7 million jobs created in america's clean energy industry. what's the answer there? >> that would be a fiction. the study that the ad refers to actually says there are 2.7 million jobs in all of the clean energy industries of this country, but the white house itself says at most the economic stimulus and the president's other policies have created about one-tenth that amount just since the president's been in
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office, about 200,000 jobs. >> the ad claims u.s. dependence on foreign oil declined below 50% in a decade? >> i guess that would be factish. it's technically below 50%, but the reason the white house it stfl says it's pretty clear is that the recession drove down the demand for oil, less economic activity, less need for energy, less need for oil. that's why oil is below 50% at the moment. >> there's a new animated ad by the pro-gingrich ad which shows a fictional debate between romney and president obama to illustrate why romney wouldn't stand a chance against the president. let's take a listen to part of this. >> i agree with governor romney on many things. for instance, abortion. he was pro-choice most of his adult life. so was i. but he changed his position when he became presidential candidate romney. >> david, fact or fiction here? the ad suggests that romney
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chanked his rhetoric about abortion. >> i think the presidential "avatar" is saying a fact there. there's no doubt governor romney's position has changed. he ran for the senate in 1994, governor as 2002, calling him effectively pro-choice. now he says he's firmly pro-life. this is isn't something open to much debate. >> david hawkings, always good to see you. thanks so much. >> thank you. south carolina by the numbers, economy style. we'll be right back with that.
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in south carolina, you can expect the economy to be one of the top issues driving voters' choices. it's a state that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. vera gibbons here to talk about that. tell us about south carolina's jobless rate and how it got so high. >> it's about 10%, where it's been for nearly three years, in some pockets significantly higher than that, well above the national average of 8.5%. this is an economy that's been
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hit hard, manufacturing, t textiles, construction. the state economy shifted to service and trade and then two recessions so double whammy, which is what put us in this predicament in the first place. >> it's just jobs jobs jobs. >> it's all about jobs. that's going to be the primary issues. it used to be social issues in south carolina, gay marriage, abortion. but it ace jobs and jobs and more jobs, particularly concern among the older workers. one in ten workers can't find a job, even higher among the older workers. i imagine they'll account for a large percentage of the turnout. >> how does the state rate in other categories? >> per ka capita income is 8,000 below the national average. a large percentage is on food stamps, 19%, a huge percentage without health insurance, a large portion on zblgt disability. obviously it makes since that the economy would be front and center. >> stack up unemployment in sk being with iowa and new
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hampshire. >> those are somewhat insulated from the job crisis. their unemployment rates are below 6%. south carolina is one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, one of the top ten. not as bad as florida, the next stop, and not as bad as nevada, the stop after that. there you've got the highest rate of foreclosures and highest jobless rate in the nation. >> you're absolutely right. vera gibbons, thank you. the romney tax questions. why is he having so much trouble answering them? the big three will talk about it next on "weekends with alex witt." i'm meteorologist bill karins with your weekend forecast. looking at south carolina, thunderstorms rolling through the southeast, not going to rain all day, but we will have stronger storms especially late this afternoon. little mini snowstorm exiting new england this morning. skill cold in the northern plains. unnort nalt for the west, more heavy rain in the forecast this weekend.
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already some bad flooding this week in oregon.
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it is time now for a special primary edition of "the big three." today we're looking into the south carolina crystal ball, also newt gingrich and women voters and mitt romney's tax problem after this debate moment. >> will you follow your father's example? >> maybe. you know, i don't know how many years i'll release. i'll take a look at what our
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documents are and i'll release multiple years. i don't know how many years but i'll be happy to do that. >> i'm joined now by joy ann reid, wesley donahue is supposed to be here, a senior adviser to the bachmann campaign and consultant to mitt romney have columbia, south carolina, thanks to the rain which we'll see if it helps the voting. jen socky is with us, former white house spokeswoman for president obama. hello guys and gals, this time. thank you so much for being here. >> we'll see if wesley is able to join us, but if not, we'll go right ahead with you, joanne, romney's staff had to know a question like this had to come up in this debate. why didn't he have a polished answer for it? >> the more i wonder if he knows how to play this game. when your reputation is flip-flopped, maybe is not the right answer.
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yes or no. he seems to not understand what his core problem is. he should have been prepared for that answer just like newt gingrich should have been prepared for the infidelity answer. >> does it rest on his shoulders that he messed up or that his campaign staff didn't prep him properly? >> it's a little bit of both. it goes to the fact that whether or not mitt romney has a core. surely in his internal person he knows whether or not to release his tax returns. surely he understands the longer he takes to do it, is all your money in the cayman islands and surely he has some core answer and for some reason he won't give it. this one is becoming serious. >> so, jen, given your past when staffers in the obama white house watch these debates they see that kind of a flub, what's the reaction? well, i completely agree with what was just said, but the larger issue is he doesn't seem
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to recognize this is just more than just his tax returns and releasing them and his money in the cayman islands. it's about the fact that he doesn't think that the fact that he pays half the rate of a teacher in ohio or a construction worker in missouri is a problem and that's going to be an issue that continues on this campaign, not just through south carolina and florida, but long beyond that if he's the nominee. >> well, it's a problem, but it's not illegal, jan. i was talking about this exact topic with jim cramer, he said the fact is he's making his money off of cal tal gains. that's the way the tax system is set up. he's not doing anything wrong, he's just working the system as is. >> i'm not suggesting it's illegal. it's.whether it's legal or illegal, it's about who you're fighting for. mitt romney is fighting for himself and people in the same tax bracket and he's not showing a connection to the challenge middle class families are facing
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in this country and he's not been able to come to grips with that for the months and years he's been running for president. >> okay. we're going switch -- go ahead. >> i was going to say, very quickly, the other thing that makes your head explode is it's not problematic for his base. republican base voters don't care about him being rich. they're fine with him paying low amounts of taxes so why in the primary he wouldn't get it out in front of voters who don't care about it. i don't understand. >> let's get to newt gingrich because we want to talk about the criticism and pretty scathing from jenny sanford. he was the one that was hiking the appalachian trail. you'll recall when he was having that affair in argentina. here's what jenny sanford now says about gingrich. >> as a voter i encourage people to look at both sides, the personal side and if you're going to overcome someone's moral failings and infidelities, you have to look at where do they stand ideologically and how much does the rhetoric match the
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reality. in my mind, gingrich falls short in both fronts. he wouldn't get my vote. >> do you think there's concern among republicans that she's not the only one who regards gingrich this way. >> no question character matters in a presidential election and in any election because people want to feel good about the person who is in office and who is in the white house representing them, but what's unique about this is that this is not new information. people have known that newt gingrich had marital infidelity, that he's been married three times, so we all have to get into the room with a bunch of south carolina voters and republican primary voters to know whether this is impacting them and it's hurting them one way or the other. it's not showing a side of gingrich that we didn't know about before even as unacceptable as it is. >> do you know what's interesting to me, joy ann, is i believe without exception, everyone with whom i've spoke ben this topic this morning has said we don't expect this to be a problem. maybe for reasons that jen just
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put out there that we have all known by newt gingrich's own admission that he's been married three times. he's hadden discretions, is the tactfully way he's put it with the woman who he ended up marrying. do you think this will be like water off a duck's back ultimately? >> i actually think not. what's new in this is we're hearing the voice of the ex-wife. i think that's one of the things that's new. you see the quote, unquote, victim in the case. i it does, i think, have an impact long-term with women voters if he were to become the nominee. he seems more of a cad when you see the wife in comparison, and then also there's a residual problem for calista gingrich. look at what james dobson said about her, he's described her as the eight-year midwest res of newt gingrich and so is it a problem right now? no, but longer term if he were the nominee i suspect it would be. >> guess who decided to join us. wesley don hugh.
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we are totally clear it's not your fault. it was a bit of an issue, but my question to you will be give me a crystal ball look into things. your predictions to south carolina today. gingrich winning, romney wing, paul santorum and what their level is. give me an idea. >> not only is this rain messing with your electrical equipment, i think it will affect turnout, too. it's according to how nasty things get in the upstate. i think it will be a turnout issue. newt gingrich will ecoit out by 4% over romney. what do you think, joy ann, do you agree? >> i agree that because of his debate performance he's going to win it. >> okay. how about you, jan? what do you think? i'm just going go romn has far more money and has invested far more in the super pack by all accounts and has many more people on the ground organizing. i disagree with one thing, though. there are bad weather days in
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the primary four years ago and people were still turning out to vote for barack obama, to vote for hillary clinton. so there's a difference in energy from four years ago today. >> the big 2 3/4 today. joy ann reed, jen, we'll see you. >> that's a wrap of this weekend with alex witt. stay with us. the other alex is in town. alex wagner. she's next.
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