tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC January 3, 2012 9:00pm-10:00pm EST
welcome back to msnbc's coverage of the iowa republican caucuses. i'm rachel maddow in new york city. it is 9:00 p.m. on the east coast. it's 8:00 p.m. in iowa. the first results are coming in now at the moment. nbc news is characterizing the race in iowa as too close to call based on early returns and entrance polls the three candidates who are in contention to win tonight in iowa are mitt romney, ron paul, and rick santorum. as you can see there just 4% in. this decision by nbc news to call this too close to call is based on both what we have in terms of early results and also our entrance polling. we'll check in now with our nbc news political director chuck todd about what we know about why this race is so close right
now. chuck? >> well, as you know, our boiler room down at 30 rock does a lot of different modeling and based only on precinct modeling. if you just get rid of the entrance polls. on the data that has come in, 0.3 of 1%. okay? separates first and third. and based on different models depending on what happens, any of the three appears it can win. we can also report that the entrance poll did overstate ron paul not by some significant of a margin and that is why you've seen some reporting people following on twitter feeds about where paul was and this or that. as we're seeing the actual data come in it's showing that romney and santorum were under represented in the entrance poll and paul was over represented. now remember, it is an entrance poll. and because it's an entrance poll it is possible people went in thinking they would vote one way and got talked into it. the other thing to keep in mind is the most organized campaign
gets people there early and in this case the paul campaign did that and four years ago the romney campaign was the most organized and they were over stated so this is why this could be somewhat of a long night. it's going to be a while until we think we even have a clear leader let alone a clear twosome. it is a three way tie with this trio for real. it's not just based on nervousness about the entrance poll. it's based on the data we're seeing come in. >> that is fascinating. chuck todd, thank you very much. i do want to add one piece of news to what we're able to report tonight. that is the former new mexico governor garret johnson. never got much traction in his effort to run for the republican nomination. recently dropped out of a run for a republican nomination to seek the libertarian party's nomination for president. we are hearing tonight that gary johnson has dropped his bid for the libertarian nomination and instead will be endorsing ron paul. let's go back to chris matthews who's in des moines.
>> well, that's fascinating. i'm back with the huffington post howard fineman and "the washington post" eugene robinson. you have news about one of the other tier candidates. >> i think as the numbers are beginning to trickle in i think reality is beginning to dawn on some of the candidates and one of them may be michele bachmann who put such a big effort in here, could not get the full backing, the evangelical pastors in part because of her gender her staffers are saying privately. they don't want to sound like they're complaining. >> some of them said so publicly. she is now about to be told by her inner circle that she should call it quits. and that conversation my understanding has not quite taken place yet but is about to. she is supposed to go to south carolina tomorrow. she may or may not go but i think there is a very -- i just know her top people are telling her or getting ready to tell her that it's time for her to drop out. >> do you think she might endorse santorum? >> i think she'll wait on whatever she does.
>> if she changes, pulls out. >> i do think her endorsement is valuable. and that she has a passionate group of supporters. other than ron paul, i would say the most personally passionate supporters of all the voters taking part in the caucuses tonight were michele bachmann who just ended up not being very many of them. >> i would agree. on the stump she just lights into newt gingrich, to mitt romney, to ron paul. she basically compares to fidel castro almost. so santorum would certainly be the most likely. >> i was just watching tamron hall giving us the report. it's great when you see confirmation of what you see. when you go to a ron paul rally and everybody is under 35, everybody is, when you go into a romney event and everybody looks like slightly better off republican, he's doing okay. a business person. a successful person economically. and why are you laughing? >> i'm not. i'm just thinking about at the romney rallies i noticed so many people, so many guys wearing
wind breakers with names of companies or clubs or restaurants or places they've been around the world. they look like those kinds of -- >> they look like those -- >> let me ask you. and the pro life -- you know that joke. then the pro lifers the fact that rick santorum it's taken for granted that everyone in his rally as pro lifer. >> we kind of knew who was supporting any of the candidates. you know, what is going to be really interesting to see as the night develops is what the margins are. number one, who finishes first but also what the margins are. and i just think we have no idea at this point because we know the ron paul people got there early. we know -- we don't know how many santorum people eventually showed up or changed their minds. >> the classic division of the republican party into -- >> three ways. >> into its three constituent parts from the days of ronald reagan. the parts that ronald reagan held together, the hawks, establishment, the talk wing, the foreign policy in which i'm
going to say is represented by mitt romney here. >> okay. >> who has become a tremendous hawk on things. the libertarian wing, antitax antigovernment wing which is ron paul in the extreme. and rick santorum being what i call the pizza ranch candidate. pizza ranch being the pizza chain here in iowa owned by an evangelical christian and rick santorum campaigned at every single one of the pizza ranch restaurants throughout iowa to the point where it became his official place. i guarantee you that 80% of the patrons of the pizza ranch chain around iowa are turning out tonight for rick santorum what is it about pizza? dominos is pro life. it's interesting. i guess the bottom line is our anecdotal information, our reporting matches up with what tamron hall just gave us, rachel, from the entrance polls. >> thank you. i appreciate it. i think the idea that the pizza ranch candidate would become sort of one of the three legs of the republican party stool would
be eternal and beautiful if we could make that happen. in terms of what we know right now nbc is calling this race too close to call with 12% of the vote in right now. ron paul, mitt romney, and rick santorum are in contention to win it as you can see them here even with just 12% in, very tightly bunched and we are told that the candidates are in fact very tightly bunched and this race may take a long time to unfold tonight. i should also let you know that the -- that the news about gary johnson dropping his libertarian party bid and endorsing ron paul was a hoax. >> oh. >> sorry. >> that'll happen. >> that will happen. live television, ladies and gentlemen. >> that will happen. >> the pizza ranch. better known in the midwest as affordable food. this is where working families go. this is where you can feed your whole family with a couple pizzas and fried chicken. it's a very community oriented type of place and it's where you
go in a small town. >> and they are also very open to political events. >> and if this remains the way it's beginning to unravel, this will break to help santorum because he is the one that has somewhere to grow because bachmann and others may be more inclined to go at him than paul. so if this stays bunched up like this santorum is the one that could make the appeals to the bachmanns, to the other conservatives, and he has gingrich ready to start smearing mr. romney so all he has to do is stay in the top three and he starts leaving his way because gingrich becomes his hatchet man. if he can get one of two of the other right wingers who can't get paul to go with him he can come out of this with momentum. >> how does it actually work? we all know the dynamic we're watching for is to see if they can gather around a non-romney candidate. that is the thing we've been watching through the entire year
of 2011 whether there would be a coal echl scing around somebody not mitt romney. how does it actually work when they make that decision? we talked earlier about what it takes to pressure a candidate oust the race. who brokers these things? >> no one. presidential campaigns end when they run out of money. if they're going to have that conversation as howard said tonight with michele bachmann it is fundamentally going to be on the back of a dollars and cents equation. we don't have the money to pay staff. we don't have the money to buy airplane tickets. it's time to wrap the set. >> is that true anymore though in the era of dark money? what you could do is say okay. we've got, there is a billionaire who wants it to not be mitt romney and the billionaire is willing to put, you know, $750 million on any one of our campaigns on whoever is going to be the nominee. >> you can't actually move a candidate that money. >> if you can walk to south carolina you can let, you know, that hundreds of millions of dollars -- >> put it on tv. >> absolutely. that could be enough to run a
campaign. don't the big money donors have a role to play here? >> i think in south carolina for example you saw the conservative governor of that state nikki haley who has come out and endorsed governor romney and the notion there is a conservative element in the republican party that exists for the purposes of denying mitt romney the nomination i just don't think is real. i think it's much more fractured than that. i think there are people who will rally to a romney alternative as they rally to a romney alternative all year. that may turn out to be rick santorum who, you know, has done well in this contest but at the end of the day, mitt romney is going to get more than his fair share of conservative endorsements and you look at chris christie. you look at john thune. you look at some of the republican heavy hitters that are held in high esteem across the depth and breadth of the party. they're looking at mitt romney saying this is the person who is the plausible candidate, the electable candidate. pennsylvania is a state that republicans want to be competitive in.
rick santorum lost that state by 18 points in 2006 and his candidacy for president would be a nonstarter there. i think all of that will start to become part of the fabric of the discussion. >> i would say that if this holds up mitt romney did 25% in '08. he is still there now. if he doesn't go higher than this tonight momentum would be on the side of santorum. if he can come out of here near there, get some more endorsements, because we don't know where a lot of them -- we don't know where herman cain and 9-9-9 may go. this could go a lot of funny ways if romney cannot decisively win tonight. >> what about rick perry's money? rick perry is going to have to smell the roses here pretty soon, too. he is not doing very well tonight. >> right. >> though he does have a lot of money. if he puts his ego aside and goes with rick santorum. >> yes. >> this of course brings in a different element to the whole deal. >> what if they all decide newt gingrich is their guy, that newt gingrich now roused from his i'm going to only be the positive guy is now going to go after not only barack obama but also mitt
romney and that newt gingrich can be the guy who can win why couldn't he be the guy who coalesced them? >> personally i don't think newt can win the south as well as santorum could because of the conservative base and his track record. i mean, these ads we were talking about earlier, i mean sooner or later newt is going to do a newt. a lot of that stuff that was in the super pac ads, it's baggage stuff. but moving forward for santorum, this is great news for him tonight. now will the capitulation of a couple other conservatives help? would the old conservatives who hold a lot of money embrace rick santorum? they can't stand romney. he told me not mitt now or ever. >> there will be a constituency of people out there that rally around the alternative to mitt romney. you saw it absolutely in 2008 with senator mccain. ironically a lot of those people were rallying to mitt romney and endorsed him as the conservative. didn't make a lick of
difference. rush limbaugh was on the radio every day lamb basting senator mccain and still wound up winning south carolina. he wound up winning florida. people don't turn over their voting franchise to talk radio hosts and to the activist leaders of the base. i think that you will see if rick santorum does as well as we're all talking about here tonight we'll see how long he's able to continue the momentum. how will he do in new hampshire? is it like lamar alexander in '96 who had a strong showing in iowa and very quickly ran out of steam against senator dole in new hampshire. will he have more staying power? how will he hold up in south carolina? what does rick perry do? he in or is he out? i think there are a lot of questions there and it is also a question of how quickly can rick santorum scale? he is going to be flooded with donations, flooded with supporters. is he going to be able to turn it on? they'll be placing television advertising as fast as they get the dollars in ahead. i do think as you pointed out it will be very interesting to see
how newt gingrich, who i don't think is going to get a third look by republican primary voters. i don't think he is going to be the republican nominee. he is not going to come back but is he going to be the tip of the spear for the anti-romney, is he going to go into these debates and try to eviscerate mitt romney? a the plot of an old western. >> haven't had a debate since december 15th. newt gingrich built his campaign on the debates. >> you're going to see newt come on strong and i'm telling you unless romney can close it tonight i don't know the infrastructure that santorum has. but every day that goes this way, if this holds tonight, it will look like a shotgun wedding if romney does get the nomination. and that is not a good wedding to get an invitation -- >> governor romney never had to win iowa. he has to win new hampshire. no republican has won both iowa and new hampshire. he could have had the knockout. if he wins tonight and he wins both and he broke that precedent, you have a scenario
where this becomes a short primary season. but typically these things are never won the easy way. >> if i'm rick santorum tonight and these numbers hold up i call a guy in south carolina named jim demint. >> yep. >> i know you don't like obama. and i don't either. and by the way, can you help me counterpunch the governor down there? that phone call will be made and that would be just the candidate that demint would gravitate to. >> nbc news now characterizing the race in iowa tonight as too close to call. mitt romney, rick santorum, and ron paul all in competition to win but at this point based on entrance polling and on the early results, 13% of the vote counted so far, ron paul, mitt romney, and rick santorum at the top. we are getting our first entrance poll results now on how evangelical caucus goers are voting. we'll get those next and talk with the man who led the victorious mike huckabee iowa campaign in 2008. we also have live pictures of a caucus in cedar falls right here as the vote continues to come in. this is all very exciting.
nbc is now characterizing the iowa caucus as too close to call but again based on early entrance polling and the results that we have thus far, 15% of the vote counted thus far, ron paul, mitt romney, and rick santorum competing to win tonight in iowa. we have more now from our entrance polling and for that we go to tamron hall. >> rachel, evangelicals or born again christians are always an important group in iowa republican caucuses and that is the case again tonight. here is what we found in our nbc news entrance poll. white evangelicals made up 57% of the electorate. tonight just about as many as four years ago when 60%
described themselves as evangelicals. tonight they are favoring rick santorum, 30% of evangelicals said they would vote for santorum. 21% you see went for ron paul. newt gingrich to 14%. mitt romney and rick perry are getting 13% each. we'll keep you atrack of how things are going in these key groups and how they are choosing their candidates as the night goes on. >> that's fascinating. four years ago mike huckabee united the evangelical vote to win the iowa caucuses and win them big. his campaign manager in 2008 was chip saltsman and chip is kind enough to join us tonight now from nashville. thanks very much for taking the time. really appreciate it. >> good to be with you. >> when you look at the similarities between the number of evangelicals among the caucus goers turning out tonight in 2012 compared with when you won in iowa in 2008 what does that tell you about iowa and about what we should expect for the night's results? >> well, i think what we're seeing is a couple things.
it's a little less as the total turnout is. what you're seeing with ron paul is a lot of new voters, about 25% new caucus goers coming for the first time. as i've seen the early numbers and was looking at the maps of east versus west versus middle the evangelicals are pretty much across the board kind of where they were at huckabee in 2008 but when you talk about a two man race in 2008 between mike huckabee and mitt romney, those are the two choices. now they've got santorum, gingrich, perry, bachmann. some of them as you've seen from your polling to dr. paul and some to mitt romney. you're seeing mitt romney under perform a little bit where he was in the west but over performing in the middle and so i think at the end of the day it's a little bit like 2008 but mostly a lot different. >> in terms of how huckabee put together his iowa win in 2008 and the sort of long bumpy road that lies ahead of all of these candidates who aren't named mitt romney tonight, do you think there is a lesson from your campaign with mike huckabee for how any one of these candidates
can get the rest of the evangelical voters that are still out there that may be thinking about who to support, how to get them to coalesce? >> it was the home schoolers, a lot of different folks. his record as governor with transportation issues, a lot of different coalitions. the lesson learned here is you can do this with lots of different coalitions. look, everybody will say it's the evangelical crowd that is going to support rick santorum. he has lots of other supporters just like mike huckabee did four years ago and his challenges as he moves on is what can he make the case in new hampshire, south carolina, and florida that he can beat barack obama and why? it's not just that he is the value voter's choice. he has to make it to all the voters because at the end of the day if you have every single evangelical to vote for you you aren't going to win. you need to get a lot of other voters. it's not just one segment.
>> if you could advise say rick santorum does come out successful tonight and become the main candidate for the evangelicals going forward against romney, what advice could you give him and other contenders that you could give in saying that if we had done this in 2008 this would have happened so you could sort of like give them a warning not to repeat what tripped up huckabee in 2008? >> first of all, i would make sure reverend sharpton you're the fashion guru for any other candidate because you're my fashion guru. i always try to follow what you wear. i have my red tie on trying to look good. second is focus on what you know. rick santorum is going to go to new hampshire tomorrow, compete there, try to compete everywhere but go to south carolina and stake your claim. you know, we competed in new hampshire. then we went to michigan. we spent valuable resources in michigan four years ago trying to kind of do the knockout punch on mitt romney. when we probably should have stayed in south carolina, spent
a few more days there and maybe a few more hundred thousand dollars to go ahead and complete the iowa/south carolina two step as i like to call it. if we had done that we probably would have been the nominee four years ago. >> i wore a red tie because it's the republican caucus. i wanted to be red tonight. >> we appreciate that, reverend sharpton. >> i just want to go a bit theological here on the evangelical voter. how much did they distinguish in particular practices of christianity there has been talk about mormonism but i am now concerned with the question of how does a catholic like rick santorum appeal to that voter and do they find distinctions in catholicism that are uncomfortable for them? >> no. i mean, i think there's lots of evangelical voters, certain evangelical catholics. i'm catholic and i was campaign manager for mike huckabee. it never was an issue. they don't dig that deep. i think it is really more than that. evangelical voters. do they vote pro-life issues and pro-family issues? sure.
but this year it's about jobs. i think if you get really deep into the polling of the evangelical voters i think the number one issue is that certainly it is going to be abortion for some but a lot of them it's a job, about the economy. that is going to be the number one issue forth going. you can't just talk to evangelicals about value issues like abortion and marriage and stuff like that. you have to talk about jobs and how we'll get this country back to work again. that is the challenge for any candidate whether going after the evangelical vote or another group segment out there. >> chip, what is your take on mitt romney right now? he obviously isn't running away with it and has been down this road before. he got 30,000 votes last -- in 2008 against your guy who got 40,000. what do you make of his performance so far? >> well, to be honest, i'm kind of thought it was the right thing to do for mitt romney to get into iowa. i still think it is the right thing to do. i think he's going to do well tonight. and i think he is going to be able to take that into new hampshire, have a big win in new hampshire, and build the case that he is the guy that can beat barack obama in november. that's been his campaign from
day one. we always knew this race was about a couple things. one it was mitt romney and who was going to beat not mitt romney and then we had dr. paul. dr. paul has a great showing tonight. rick santorum has become the not mitt romney candidate and now what we've got, we've got the board set. we've got the players and now we run in new hampshire and south carolina to see how we finish out. >> chip salzmann the 2008 campaign manager for mike huckabee. this is an exciting neat. thanks for taking time out to talk with us. >> it was a pleasure. thank you. >> nbc news's political director chuck todd is with us with more about why this race is so close and what votes have yet to come in. chuck? >> well that,'s the one thing i want to point out. only 27% of the polk county, des moines, is in. polk county accounts for 20% of the entire vote so that is a huge chunk that is still missing there in those early counting returns. paul is leading in polk county. four years ago huckabee won in
polk county. it was his biggest margin in raw vote over mitt romney was in polk county there. and it's paul that's leading but i want to emphasize we're missing a ton of vote in polk county. we have places like dubuque county all the way on the mississippi river where we have yet to get any returns in but i can also tell you this. i told you about our modeling that the boiler room is doing first and third based on different models. there is a precinct model we do. there is a county model we do. based on those models, throwing out the entrance polls at this point, actually using the data that we have, 1.1% separates first and third. so unless something dramatic happens with some of this un -- this vote that we haven't seen come in, but in the way it's coming in it feels like it's a representative sample, we're going to be here a while, rachel. >> 1.1% between 1, 2, and 3. i will say in terms of those of us whose job it is to just make sense of what all of this means rather than just count it, i'm very grateful that the idea that
there is these three guys at the top is the most important thing of the night has been settled already. no matter how it comes down between the three of them. >> and i also think it's important, let's remember going forward, what this means. this was the place we knew ron paul could over perform. he's never going to be able to do this. the guy who might have the most room to grow after tonight is rick santorum. because paul is going to start not be able to do what he did -- it is very helpful in order to inflate your opportunities, inflate your vote totals. that's not going to happen in new hampshire, south carolina, and florida. so when you really sort of look at where this is going, this santorum surge that we all saw happening over the weekend when you look at the next three states if santorum can come up with the money, he's got an opportunity and maybe more room to grow here than folks realize. it may not matter what the order of finish is between one, two, and three. i think we'll come out of here thinking it's a three way tie
but what does it mean going into new hampshire and more importantly south carolina. >> nbc's chuck todd, thank you. at this hour nbc news is characterizing the iowa caucus is too close to call but based on what we know so far, look at that. 23, 23, 23. mitt romney, rick santorum, ron paul. all in very, very tight competition to win the iowa caucuses. we'll have the latest from the caucuses when we come back.
at this hour nbc news is characterizing the iowa caucuses as too close to call. based on what we know so far mitt romney, ron paul, rick santorum are all in competition to win the caucus. look at that. how often do you see that? 23, 23, 23. one thing that's interesting that i want to point out here, ron paul according to our entrance polling is attracting 21% of the self-identified
evangelical and born again vote. 21% for ron paul. i think it's under appreciated that ron paul's campaign in iowa even though he is not necessarily seen this way nationally, ron paul in iowa has been running a campaign that's very, very, very heavily weighing on his -- or based on his anti-abortion stance. he's done a long and multiple ads about his anti-abortion position in a way that i think may be under appreciated outside iowa in terms of how directly he has been speaking to evangelicals. 21% of evangelicals going with ron paul according to our entrance polling. 30% going with rick santorum, a candidate who everybody thought would sort of lock that group up. chris hays is the host of up with chris hays on saturdays here on msnbc and will be staying up late tonight with the lead-off coverage beginning at midnight eastern. what do you think about ron paul being in the top tier here tonight tied with mitt romney and rick santorum? what does that mean going
forward for ron paul and the republican party? >> what is fascinating about this situation is the problems it could create for romney if in fact he ends up being the eventual nominee or whoever emerges if it is not paul. paul is a 76-year-old man. he is probably not going to run for congress again. he clearly is not in this, you know, for any reason other than to do what he is doing right now. so it's hard to see what incentives he could be given to get him to drop out of the race or endorse the nominee. he did not endorse mccain the last time around and he has the money and the organization and the volunteers to last a very long time. in fact, there is a story just the other day about how his campaign is already looking at those caucus, those other caucus states which are late in calendar and taking a page from obama's playbook in 2008 and trying to get their volunteers and organization active there so they can pick up delegates where they can get them. you can envision a scenario in which paul just stays in this all the way creating a headache for romney if he is going to be
the eventual nominee and he cannot wrap it up until perhaps the convention. at that point you have the classic problem that happened with jerry brown that's happened with other candidates in the past. so giving him a speaking sure d supporters feel like they're behind the nominee. >> i don't think and the ron paul campaign can prove me wrong. i would invite them to join us tonight to tell me if i'm wrong but i don't think the ron paul long game here is to influence slightly the make up of the convention speakers' list. >> no, no. >> or to influence mitt romney's eventual platform when he becomes the nominee. i don't think that's what ron paul is in it for. i think ron paul is in it in the long run to change american politics and in the shorter run to make sure mitt romney isn't the nominee. i think that ron paul specifically wants to try to leverage his position into somebody other than romney being the nominee even if it's not ron
paul. and if that is the case, and maybe i'm wrong but if that is the case how does he do it? >> that would require paul doing something that i think would be anethema to him which is throwing his support to someone else who would be more viable. the thing about ron paul is his ceiling is probably around where it is right now. it's hard to think of ron paul getting more support going down the stretch than he has right now. he's had a lot of press. he's raising a lot of money. there is a certain hard core following he has always had but coming out of iowa he is going to be at sort of his high point. the thing is because he is such an independent figure or has been in his career it is very difficult to see him sort of bowing out to throw his support behind someone who is more establishment and more capable of winning the nomination. i think this is a crusade and i think he is going to stay in it as long as he wants to. >> he'll stay in it, build up a huge amount of leverage, maybe a huge amount of delegates and then we have to see what he does
with them. >> and let's remember, no one really went after romney on the air with negative ads. with some exceptions in iowa the way that we could see down the road. i mean, there are a lot of ads to be run against mitt romney that have yet to be run. someone with a large war chest and many months to run them and to make the case against romney that he is essentially a big government conservative, he is a sellout, flip flopper, bailout supporter, all of those can be really brutal for romney down the stretch and paul is the person who can press that case. >> chris hays the host of "up with chris hays" weekend mornings on msnbc and the host of our late night iowa caucus coverage tonight enjoy your disco nap and thank you very much. >> thanks very much. >> all right. more from iowa. it is still too close to call at this hour. chris matthews and david gregory are in des moines. when we return stay with us for full coverage of the iowa caucuses here on msnbc.
>> well, this is an interesting night. i've got former oklahoma congressman j.c. watts with us and he is definitely with newt gingrich. i was just saying all night watching this fight between it's almost like john henry fighting the machine, you know, with newt up against those negative ads running against him out here relentlessly, how does he carry on the fight? this one man against this multimillion dollar pac that doesn't even have romney's name on it. >> it's tough. a month ago i would have told you i'm sick of the debates. i thought we were debating ourselves to death but i think that is the way newt gets an opportunity to kind of neutralize or create a little more of a level playing field because, you know, he's had 45, 47% of the negative ads run against him in the month of december and obviously the numbers tonight show that they've taken their toll. so i think he's got to be a little more aggressive in the debates and dispute some of the things or differentiate as romney folks would say. i think that's important.
>> do you think he has to go after romney's record? most of us weren't aware that the massachusetts health care plan provided funding for aboring services. most people would say they're for abortion rights but not for funding by the government. this does get him into a thicket there as a republican doesn't it? >> but, chris, that's not new. that claim has been out there and, you know, the flip flop on the life issue, that's been out there and i do think that, you know, the further south we go the governor is going to have to answer some of those questions. but tonight the story to me is not that newt gingrich might come in third or fourth or that rick santorum is the 23 or poll is at 23%. i think that is a real ceiling that romney, that he's dealing with, 23% and 25%. >> we've been noticing that. >> go back four years. two well funded, well organized campaigns, he's not gotten beyond that 23 -- >> why 23? it's like the roulette wheel in
casablanca when the guy puts the boot in it. every time we take a poll, i know we won't have the 23 probably but tonight it looks like it's stuck there and with romney. >> maybe that is the moderate count and the republican base. >> okay. >> and i think, you know, there's been no surge by governor romney, no surge by ron paul. he's got 16%, 17% base and then you've got 4% or 5% that wants to legalize, you know, drugs, etcetera, etcetera. so i think at the end of the day you've got 75% of the republicans saying he is not our choice and i remind you 2008 we went into an election that our candidate didn't mobilize, people didn't energize, we got our heads handed to us. >> that's what i keep asking about your party. you're a big republican. you get out of tampa this september you can now say this september and you have a room full of thousands of conservatives, tea party people included, hot room, it's late
september, and you got to put mitt romney up on the stage as your nominee. i just don't see where the enthusiasm would come from in that crowd. could you get excited, you personally, could you have, could you get excited for mitt romney in the end if he was the only candidate you had? >> if he is the nominee i'll support him but we're in a primary process and the primary process isn't determined by or shouldn't be determined by next in line or the establishment wants him or, you know, i ought to say republicans don't believe in affirmative action unless it's for the political candidates. >> right. >> then they say oh, well. you know, he's paid the dues. >> i know. >> i don't know mitt romney. i just know over the last 18 months i've traveled the country talking to republicans and they said there's two camps, the romney camp and anybody but the romney camp. if he is the nominee he obviously has some selling and persuasion. >> what is it with your party? the democrats feed the hot hand. they feed jack kennedy thechlt
feed bill clintothechlt -- whoever has the -- don't give him the ball. let's slow this down. the guy lost two or three times. what is it about the republicans? you got to lose a couple times. >> we don't fall in love. we fall in line. >> what is that about? >> i don't know. i think the best person ought to get a shot and when i ran for leadership i had people telling me, well, you know, you've only been around for four years. you know you ought to sit on the bench a little longer. you know, nonsense. i think you fight it out and you let people decide and at the end of the day 75%, 80% has decided or they have decided. >> when does newt throw it to santorum and say one of us has to beat the guy. we can't both beat him? >> well, i don't see that, you know, that discussion could possibly be, if it's had at all, i don't think that discussions going to be had until, you know, well into the spring.
probably march, first of april. but i think rick has to feel pretty good tonight if he comes in and comes in in the 20s. i think newt, i think newt actually feels pretty good considering all of the negative ads. he's still registering. you know, 13%, 15%. he's still feeling pretty good. >> just last question and then back to rachel how is he taking this beating he's been getting? watching television, i've been here almost a week. you turn on the tv and it's brutal. >> it has been brutal. i think some of it has been pretty disingenuous. you know, they hit him on the freddie mac thing. chris, i led the charge for six years to get reforms with fannie and freddie. i work with republicans, democrats, consultants, talked to republican, democrat members of congress, wall streeters trying to get reform. i didn't hear newt's name until three weeks ago. >> okay. >> so i think that was -- that's a little bit disingenuous.
>> why don't you say the democratic party? >> the democratic party. however you define it. >> thank you. let's go back to rachel. >> the democrat party sounds good because it puts the emphasis on "rat." those dirty rats. still too close to call in iowa. we'll get more from our panel from steve schmidt, ed schultz, lawrence o'donnell, al sharpton when we come back. these are the standings right now. too close to call. 23, 23 at the time and then gingrich, perry, and bachmann at fourth, fifth, and sixth right now nbc's coverage of the iowa caucuses continues in a moment.
welcome back to our coverages -- our coverages? our coverage of the iowa caucus. nbc is calling this race too close to call, 27% of the vote in thus far, as you can see, one two and three, could be two, three, one, could be three, one, two, all at 23%, mitt romney, rick santorum and ron paul. we just heard from oklahoma congressman, former oklahoma congressman j.c. watts, speaking with chris matthews before the break. he was cautioning against the republican party, settling on mitt romney. he says, in part, because john mccain's campaign did not mobilize and enthuse people enough in 2008. steve schmidt, senior adviser to that campaign, your response? >> there's an element of truth to t john mccain was never the favorite of the republican base, of the activist conservatives that do a lot of the volunteer work in the republican party.
but that isn't the reason john mccain lost the race. john mccain lost the election fundamentally because we lost the middle of the electorate. and at the end of the day, if you look at the president's poll numbers right now in the mid-40s that middle of the elector vat up for grabs and i just think it denies lodgic that newt gingrich would be the person that would be able to appeal into the middle of the electorate, given his record, given his -- >> do you need the activists? don't the activists make a big difference? >> at the end of the day what will drive enthusiasm among those activists is -- is for a candidate that will defeat president obama and when john mccain stepped out onto the stage at the republican convention, he was greeted with enthusia enthusiastic, loud, robust applause, as will mitt romney if he is the nominee of the party. and i think at the end of the day, what will excite people is the prospect of being able to take back the white house. and so, i don't think on the natural that you have to start
out in the enthusiastic position, you know, for there to be the requisite level of enthusiasm to win the election. >> let me -- >> republican presidential politic, familiarity does not breed contempt. it breeds votes. in your lifetime, the republicans have never nominated a first-time presidential candidate. tough go to 1964 to barry goldwater to get the last one. a fire-breathing conservative who lost worse than any republican's ever lost. that scared the republican party about these first-timers. the democrats, the last four nominees were first time they ran for president and two of them won. >> chris was talking about feeding the hot hand. your hand is hot. never seen you before but go with it. >> one of the things that the -- former congressman didn't talk about was who is the candidate and what's the appeal? i mean, you've got mitt romney, he is one of the wealthiest guys that's ever run for president, if he gets the nomination. and here is the democratic party
and president obama speaking about income inequality, talking about the middle class, the working folk of america. who's doing that in iowa? rick santorum. rick santorum is talking to the economic issues of the people of that state and i think that's one of the reasons why what he is doing -- >> mitt romney doesn't embody it but he tries to talk about t. >> well, he can't. he is richer than the bushes that ran or john kerry or john mccain or john edwards. i mean, this guy is at 0.001% of the wealthiest people in america. he runs around talking about how he is unemployed. he runs around talking about how, you know, i'm from the middle class. who is he kidding? >> he runs as a business executive. but see, i think that the real thing, going took steve, i agree with him, that the republicans and mccain lost because they lost the middle, which is why i say it's a good night for democrats, because as long as a santorum is in this race, romney's gonna have to keep
playing to the right and the longer he stays having do-to-debate and stay to the right, the more he loses the middle. so, if this goes into the spring, the more damage it does to your candidate having the middle. so right on, rick, stay in as long as you can. because if we can get you to june, mr. romney cannot try to go to the middle 'cause he will be over there dancing to the right and i just think -- i'm touched beyond words. >> mitt romney has never been stopped before on changing positions when necessary. wheel is what happens. >> the iowa caulk suss is still too close to call. romney, santorum and paul locked. we will get a view of the contest from the chairman of the dnc, when we come back.