tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC March 13, 2012 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT
voters and in the close election which what is most people think it will be, a two or three point race, that would make a difference. >> richard wolffe, e.j. dionne, great to have you with us. that is "the ed show," i'll return at 11:00 for another live edition of "the ed show." msnbc's special election coverage continues now with "the rachel maddow show". good evening. >> this is turning out to be unexpectedly exciting night. >> it's a horse race, we will see if the $2.50 gas promised worked for newt gingrich before the night is over. >> talk to you later, man, thank you very much. thanks to you at home for being with us for this exciting hour. this is in fact a big election night. who would have thunk it. it is a really election night there is a ton of suspense what will happen. election night in alabama, mississippi and in the great state of hawaii as well. now as you know the polls just closed about an hour ago, exactly an hour ago, in
mississippi and alabama. the latest results that we have from alabama and mississippi right now, in mississippi, nbc is declaring the race there to be too close to call. also a three-way race, 6% in with the vote in in mississippi, mitt romney and rick santorum 32%, newt gingrich at 29%. ron paul, fourth place with 6% of the vote. on to alabama, nbc news is declaring the alabama primary at this point too close to call. right now with only 1% of the vote in in alabama, rick santorum with 33%, mitt romney 32%, newt gingrich 27%, ron paul in fourth place with 6%. both of these races in alabama and mississippi not only too close to call but described as three-way races at this point. we're watching the numbers very closely as they come in, don't extrapolate too much from the very small percent of the vote that is in now.
take those nbc characterizations of the race seriously but basically we'll watch throughout the night as the numbers come in. whether or not we are talking about the races at any moment right here at the bottom part of the screen you can watch as the percentage of the vote rises and more clarity about these races throughout the hour. while we don't know the winners yet tonight, we do know from the exit polling who turned out today in alabama and mississippi, and what was motivating them as voters. overall the republican primaries this year have been much more heavily white evangelical in character than the republican primaries in 2008. in 2008, the percentage of republicans who turned out to vote in republican party primaries overall was 37%. that was in 2008. white evangelicals, 37% of the republican electorate. this year so far, it's 48%. running more than 10 points higher than last year. and tonight, in mississippi, that number is a higher number
than we have seen anywhere else in the country. right now in terms of the exit polling, 80% of today's voters in mississippi are white people who described themselves as born again or evangelical christians. that number almost as high in alabama. 74%. both of those states tonight topped the previous high ranking state in that category in the proportion of the republican electorate, the previous record was tennessee. but this high number, this high proportion is in part why alabama and mississippi have been seen as such important tests in this particular race. thes on tense i belie s on teno not won over the key base of the republican party. the key is whether he can generate voter enthusiasm as a general election candidate. aside from the southern part of florida which is the least southern part of florida, mitt romney has shown no ability also
to win in the republican stronghold that is the southeast. so, tonight's results out of the deep south are more important than they are usually. and they are both fraught and complicate forward mitt romney. on the one hand, mr. romney has vastly outspent the other candidates in both of these states. these figures were posted at website buzzfeed, showing combined efforts of the campaigns and super pacs supporting them. mr. romney, hugely outspending his rivals in mississippi. and outspend his rivals in alabama by even more. look at that. at the same time that mr. romney is spending money hand over fist to try very hard to win in alabama and mississippi, mr. romney has sigh mutried to damp expectations he might have a shot. newt gingrich and rick santorum are scheduled to give a speech. victory or concession speeches or amalgam of neither.
mr. romney on the other hand is not scheduled to give a speech tonight, not scheduled to be in any of the states that are voting tonight. mitt romney will not be speaking while he's in the great state of missouri tonight. missouri isn't voting today, it doesn't hold the caucuses until saturday. to be fair, rick santorum is also not going to be in alabama or mississippi tonight, he will make his speech from louisiana. louisiana votes in another week-and-a-half. that is not a clear signal of much except for the fact rick santorum intends to still be competing in the race a week-and-a-half from now. mr. santorum on a conservative radio show overtly called for newt gingrich to get out of the presidential race in order to set up a one-on-one contest between mitt romney and rick santorum. >> shown no ability to get votes outside of even around the state of georgia and that's really -- those primaries are all over.
it would be great if he would get out of the race because clearly the vast majority of the votes that he is taking are coming for me. >> would be great if he would get out of the race. newt gingrich for his part says he is not getting out of the race no matter what happens tonight. even though his campaign spokesman spent last week saying mr. gingrich would quit if he lost either alabama or mississippi. so, as we keep an eye on tonight's results, newt gingrich's fate is key tonight. even though he personally says he won't get out of the race, regardless of what happens in alabama or mississippi, he's obviously hoping that getting rained out of his planned trip to the birmingham zoo today will be the day's only alabama gingrich-related disappointment. ron paul will look ahead to much later in the evening when the other much lower profile race, the hawaii caucuses get going at midnight eastern. mr. paul is the only republican candidate to have committed any significant advertising in hawaii. right now, at just after
9:06 eastern, the latest results we've got. in mississippi nbc calling this race too close to call, looks like a three-way race with 9% of the vote in in mississippi, rick santorum at 33%, mitt romney at 31, newt gingrich at 29. in alabama a race that is too close to call. a three-way race in addition in alabama. right now, rick santorum with 32% of the vote, newt gingrich with 30, mitt romney with 29. that is with 1% of the vote in, so extrapolate at your peril. >> joining me is steve schmidt, and john harwood, gentlemen, thank you for being here, nice to have you here. >> rhey rachel. >> newt gingrich will stay in the race regardless of the outcome tonight. steve, if mr. gingrich does not win either of these states tonight, do you think he can
remain a viable candidate? >> no, the race will be in the final stages for him, ehe'll hae tough decision. he talked about putting together a southern strategy to remain viable. that means he has to win these states, not come in second or third. >> if he won big say the hyalaba would that be enough or is it both places? >> he articulated it means winning the southern states. you can't run a race where you're trying to be the most conservative candidate and lose one of the two most conservative states in the race with the most conservative primaries electorates and continue to go on in my view. >> john, is it your perception the gingrich campaign would agree with steve schmidt there is pressure behind the scenes for mr. gingrich to guess out of the race that he might be susceptible to the pressure if he doesn't win both of these tonight? >> i think he will feel pressure
from voters and donors, evidence he enif he himself has a hard time accepting reality that his strategy won't be sufficient, he won't be the nominee. he continued flying around the country and giving speeches but once the air starts coming out of the balloon and it would start at a more rapid pace coming out of the balloon, if he loses both of these states, he could keep going but be a walking dead candidate who has diminished ability to divide vote with rick santorum. santorum has goal is not so much for him to get out of the race but stop taking votes for him. that would difficult min irrelevant. >> he might stop being the factor that he's being -- >> exactly. >> steve, one of the things so interesting we talked about on super tuesday last week was the idea that you might have a republican nominee win the nomination without winning where the base is, in the south it would be strange but not mathematically impossible for mitt romney to put together a nomination win that way. if mr. romney wins in one of
these two states tonight, which is possible, it's too close to call, three-way race in both states. steve, if you were working for the rick santorum campaign and mitt romney won mississippi, what would you individuals tadv santorum campaign to do next? >> i think they continue to go forward, even under that scenario, but mitt romney takes a step forward. mitt romney's argument becomes stronger, rick santorum's argument becomes weaker. what rick santorum needs to be able to argue is that neither one of us, romney and santorum, are able to accumulate the necessary number of delegates to be nominate and to republican voters out there you don't have to settle on the moderate candidate, you can get the true conservative candidate at a convention, this will have to be brokered. rick santorum tried to run an ideological race against mitt romney.
if he loses to mitt romney, that argument becomes weaker. >> let me ask you both about what we're seeing from the exit polls tonight, this preponderance of voters identifying themselves as white evangelicals, that number being a high absolute value number is not a surprise for deep south primary. but i wonder if either of you have any insight why we are seeing proportion of white evangelicals overall be more than 10 points higher this year than it was in the republican primaries four years ago? let me ask either of you if you have insight in that, john? >> i think in a party that has moved to the right in recent years, in the era of the tea party and accelerated conservativism, those are the people most motivated to turn out. it's to mitt romney's advantage that is being split among newt gingrich and rick santorum, and so it's not beyond the pale he could win one or both of the
states. that would be a huge step from santorum's view point the optimop tity outcome it is to win both, but not have newt gingrich win any and have mitt win the other one. >> steve, when your candidate john mccain was up against mike huckabee and mitt romney and fred thompson and the rest of those guys in 2008, why was a smaller proportion of the electorate for those races a white evangelical elect toran than we're seeing this year? >> i think as we're looking at the accumulation, rachel of exit data from all these states, we don't have a clear enough picture yet to make diagnosis about exactly what is going on in the electorate. but when you look in the president's numbers, there is a couple of polls that show his support level shrinking as well, you look at the republican voter, and the negative intensity that they have for the president, one of the highest groups with the highest negative intentionity is white evangelicals and that could be driving turnout in these
republican primaries which is ultimately a good sign for the republican candidates in terms of being able to put the party together. you want to have an enthusiastic electorate for you, the next best thing to that is an enthusiastic electorate against the other guy you see a dynamic where the republican number fors for romney and santorum have problems in the electorate but declining support for the president. what it means generally, you have a very volatile, very unhappy electorate and what is shaping up to be a very close general election regardless whom the republicans nominate. >> that is a subtle and smart point about why the republican race i think has been so volatile, too, this idea if what is largely motivating people to turn out to vote in the races is animosity toward the president, thus showing a more white ev evangelical electorate. that doesn't necessarily tell
you who they will like as a republican and that might explain why voters have been so all over the map. >> exactly. >> absolutely. >> steve schmidt, john harwood, thank you both very much for your time. looks like this will be a fun night to watch. thanks a lot. >> you bet. more on the alabama and mississippi races, latest numbers show al and mississippi mississippi too close to call and three-way races. again in the state of mississippi right now we are looking at a race that is too close to call, 333-30-30, 14% of the vote in mississippi, in alabama three-way too close to call in alabama, division and percent age among the candidates, 34-24-28. that is just 2% of the vote in. we will keep you updated to the minute as the night goes on. this is very exciting, stay tuned.
first we have one more things about alabama the republican presidential primary getting most of the attention that is not the only alabama game in town. in alabama's sixth congressional district spencer bachus, ten term incumbent, fight fighting for his political life. a district that goes republican but he's the subject of a congressional investigation over insider trading allegatio. the agency ts hallegations have dogging him for months. he is being challenged by a state senator named scott beason. we don't have results in the district but we will watch that closely. spencer bachus will watch it more closely. in alabama's first district jo bonner fighting to save his seat. he remted that district for five
terms, for a decade. he has a hard right wing challenge tonight from a republican businessman named dean young. again that is alabama's first congressal district. in republican primary news tonight, look at this. you remember alabama judge roy moore? remember him? roy moore made himself nationally famous back in 2003 when he was state supreme court chief justice an refused an order by a federal judge to remove a ten commandments monument from the grounds of the state courthouse, he was removed from office by a state judicial ethics panel but has since made himself in a conservative national celebrity and tonight he's trying to win his seat back, trying to unseat the current supreme court chief justice, chuck malone. these are the results we have in now. less than 1% of the vote in. but that is what we have. there are fascinating down ticket races tonight, even if you ignore the issue whether this is newt gingrich's last
up to the minute result ts on the gop primaries in mississippi mississippi and al, 18% of the vote in, too close to call, among three candidates. rick santorum right now with 34% of the vote, newt gingrich 31, mitt romney 29. that is with 18% of the vote in in mississippi. over in alabama, it's also too close to call, and a three-way race. right now, there is 2% of the
vote in alabama, 34% for rick santorum, 29% for newt gingrich, and 28% for mitt romney. it's too close to call and three-way race. 2% is almost nothing, we'll watch those numbers as they come in over the course of the hour and throughout the night. voters in mississippi went to the polls for the first big election since that state decided to make it much harder to vote. in november, mississippi approved new limits on the right to cast an ordinary ballot on election day. that right should extend only to people who can present an approved photo id at the poll. many thousands of people in mississippi do not have an approved photo id like that. maybe a quarter of all mississippi african americans. for instance. they make voter harder amendment was favored in white districts in mississippi passed by a wide margin. the timing on this is interesting, the timing in fact is critical to understand the politics here. when voters went to the polls in
mississippi today, nobody asked today's voters for a photo id. between november, when they changed the law and today, the mississippi legislature has not passed the rules that would allow the new id requirement to take effect. state lawmakers have not implemented the new voting restrictions in time to effect today's voting. they seem to be in no hurry to get the voting restrictions passed in time for today's republican presidential primary. you don't have the final numbers yet but early polling from nbc showed that 97% of the turnout for mississippi's republican republican primary was white. the state is 40% african american, but nearly every voter today was white. so there is no need to make it harder to vote for today's election. no rush. here is the deadline mississippi republicans say matters. they want the voting rules tightened up in their state in time for the general election, the one for president in november, the republican secretary of state in
mississippi saying he hopes the new rules will be ready by then "if we haven't got it by september, we're not going to have it." even if mississippi lawmakers to get around to passing the new riels the state needs permission from the federal government to make voting harder in that great state. mississippi is one of several states where elections come under special strut knee a legacy from the jim crow days when african americans were not allowed to vote in mississippi or pay a special poll tax in order to exercise that right. that leg dpa see is the same reason the justice department has also now said that they will not pre-clear a new law in texas that blocks people from voting unless they show documentation you never had to show before. the justice department said the state's data showed that $600,000 to 800,000 people would be blocked from voting by the new law. a recent steady found people who do have the new id you have to show to vote in texas, nearly
one in five of those legal voters might be blocked from voting, too, because their address on their voter registration didn't match the address on their id. that would mean potentially millions of people would be blocked from voting in texas. but in terms of who does and who don't have this new documentation texas wants you to show in order to vote, texas data shows hispanic texans were much more likely than non-hispanics to not have the new id. supposedly free id for voting would in fact cost a minimum of $22 in order to purchase the documentation to get said id. so that would be a $22 poll tax to vote in texas for some people. texas republicans considered making the whole process of getting the id free and that would get rid of the poll tax problem. texas republicans considered making it free and then they deliberately decided not to. they deliberately said no. so then the justice department considered all of that and the justice department said no to texas, no, texas we don't
approve of your new law, now on hold pending a court challenge by rick perry's administration. just before christmas the justice department turned back a law to make voting harder in south carolina. saying the law placed an unfair burden on minority voters there. south carolina's goftd under nik kifrn healy is looking to get their law approved. the lawsuit comes with an estimated cost of at least $1 million in legal fees, billable to the south carolina taxpayer. it's tempting to think of it as southern thing but it's a republican thing. south carolina, alabama, mississippi are some of the dominated states that passed laws to make voting harder since the last election. another state is wisconsin. but judges in the state courts there have put that voting restriction bill on hold as well. on thursday, the bill was temporarily blocked bay madison judge after he heard testimony
that more than 200,000 wisconsin residents who are otherwise legally kwaqualified to vote co not under the restrictions of the new law. yesterday that temporary injunction against the law was replaced by a permanent one after another madison judge reviewed the law. scott walker's administration is appealing and they are raising money off of the issue. but it all puts in doubt whether wisconsin's new make it harder to vote law will be in effect for november. in wisconsin the november election will be one of those elections that features not just a presidential race but also an issue of major state-wide importance. likely, the recall of governor scott walker himself. this was the scene this weekend, crowds gathering at the state capitol to mark the anniversary of scott walker signing union stripping legislation a year ago. tens of thousands of people turning out in madison. union stripping bill a decision that turned the state inside out with rage and led to the recall plans for the governor.
joining us is reverend al sharpton, last week you led a march from selma, alabama to the state capital in montgomery, restoring the marchs from 1965. thank you for being here. >> thank you, rachel. >> you came off the road in alabama, voting tonight in their primary, do you think that the challenge to voting rights in alabama, in mississippi, even in places like wisconsin, is it 1965 all over again or do you think this is a different kind of story now? >> i think it the same spirit of '65. i think that we've gone from poll tax to now photo id, like we've gone from jim crow to james crow, jr., esquire, more polished, more sophisticated but the results are the same. if you have an impact disproportionate on poor people, working class people, students who don't have this kind of
photo id, seniors, and minorities, it's designed to stiffle a vote. that what is dr. king and others fought in '65 where they outright wouldn't let people vote. here you're putting an impediment there but you know what the results will be. it's fixing a problem that doesn't exist. there is no massive voter fraud. there was z000.3% according to the bush administration of fraud they found. why are we changing the law when there is no reason to change id? why not use the same id, we're not against id, the same id we used when reagan ran or clinton or both bushes, why all of a sudden now do we need it? if you really feared fraud, why didn't you fear today? during the republican primaries, you only feared it in the general election because you're only tar geth trying to make it difficult for certain people to vote. >> looking at the justice department's letter to texas about blocking the texas law,
couple things in there were fascinating. first of all pointed out texas offered no evidence at all, they were asked to provide it, offered no evidence of any voter i am percent nation fraud, which is the only kind of fraud that would be stopped by this. they also noted that texas did not even submit information on what proportion of african americans or asian americans in texas didn't have the kind of id you now need to vote. they submitted it for hispanics, didn't submit for it african americans, they didn't document what might be the racial disparity there. what do you think is going on there? >> the documentation would have bolstered the questions that those of us have raised from the civil rights and labor community and the justice department has come and said there is no documentation it is a dispro national impact against these groups being able to vote. here we are all over the world fighting for democracy, trying
to limit those that participate in the democratic process at home. it a glaring contradiction and violates voter rights. we intend to fight many. >> the texas case, texas almost made it easy, you can argue id isn't about race, even though it has a disproportionate racial impact you can make that same argument about the poll tax. texas decided the voter id that would count includes your license to carry a gun, but not your student id. >> but your gun id. in georgia you can use from certain state universities, not from certain historic black colleges. i mean they have not been very subtle about it i think our job was to make it public and the justice department's job is right, they have to pre-clear where there is a
disproportionate impact on are no tee vo-- minority voters. it's ironic we would celebrate dr. king and then undermine what he was for. one of which was voter rights. >> reverend al sharpton, not only do i enjoy your show but happy to see your recent success. you have been banging lately. >> i hope to grow up to be like you. >> that is backwards. watch politics nations weeknights at 6:00 and you should it's good and good for you. mitt romney's thoughts about a theorhetical romney-rick santorum ticket. plus the latest results from alabama and mississippi still ahead.
this is turning in an exciting night. in mississippi right now, nbc news says the race is too close to call with 44% of the vote now in, in mississippi, the race is a three-way too close to call bunched up knot. rick santorum at 33%, newt gingrich at 31%, mitt romney also at 31%. that's mississippi. >> in alabama, nbc news also says it is a three-way race and as you see here, too close to call. in alabama right now, just 8% of the vote in, rick santorum at 34%, newt gingrich and mitt romney each with 29% of the vote. you're watching as the percent of vote totals rise over the course of the hour but this will be an interesting night.
in part because of the strange way that the republican party allocates delegates, if you put alabama and mississippi together, they offer 90 delegates tonight. and that is something only surpassed in the republican race by new york, california and texas. right now, both mississippi and alabama are described by nbc news by too close to call. mississippi, 47% of the vote in. rick santorum with 33, newt gingrich 31, mitt romney at 30. in alabama, similarly a thr three-ray race. newt rick santorum at 34, gingrich with 20%, romney at 28%. here is a reality check, we're not quite halfway through the republican primary season. what? yeah, there is still more than three months of primaries and caucuses on the republican nominating calendar. also, we have not yet even begun to kibitz on the question who
will be chosen for the number two spot on the republican ticket. by whoever ends up in the number one spot on the republican ticket. people used to ask bob mcdonnell about his prospects all the time. then he got involved in forced ultrasound policy making and people mostly ask him about forced ultrasounds and vaginal probes. indiana governor mitch daniels used to be on everybody's short list, then his secretary of state the top election official in the state was convicted of six felonies including voter fraud and mitch daniels said he hoped to still be able to have that guy run the state's elections. what? so the veep stakes have been weird. the republican running mate pool is not empty yet. for starters, there is rick perry, fox news reporting on preliminary negotiations for potential gingrich-perry ticket. both the perry and gingrich camps denied official talks but you never know. vp potential in the current field of candidates. you might remember when newt
gingrich won in south carolina, all of his very excited south carolina supporters said they wanted rick santorum to be mr. gingrich's running mate. they chanted that at least. >> rick santorum showed enormous courage in iowa when had no money, nobody covered him and he kept campaigning. >> vp, vp. vp,vp. >> vp, vp newt gingrich basking this that idea. while newt gingrich used to enjoy sharing the ticket with rick santorum, mitt romney would not share his ticket with rick santorum. he was asked about potential running mate choses last night on the fox newschannel, here is what he said.
>> do you think though the fact that people like sarah palin, just recently endorsed newt gingrich and other conservatives are still holding back on you that if you were to become the nominee of your party, circumstances you would almost have to put a conservative, a real i know you say you're conservative, to the right of you on your ticket. >> well, that would preclude rick santorum, because look at his record. i find it interesting he continues to describe himself as the real conservative. this is the guy who voted against right to work. this is the guy that voted to fund planned parenthood. >> mitt romney going out of his way bringing it up, going out of his way to say no way would he pick rick santorum as a running mate. why? he's not conservative enough. >> this is the guy that voted to fund planned parenthood. >> guy who voted to fund planned parenthood. he's not conservative enough for me. this might have been a more effective argument for mr. romney if this were not a
picture plaintiff romney himself theheck his rife wrote to planned parenthood. >> i believe that since roe wade has been the law for 20 years, we should sustain and support the law and i support the right of a woman to make that choice. my personal believes like the personal beliefs su not be brought in a political campaign. >> i dedicated to honoring my word to have a woman right to choose. >> if you support planned parenthood and not down with the republican attacks on planned parenthood and contraception access and abortion rights, you might like the idea of a republican who says he supports roe vwade, giving them money, going to fund-raisers. that is no longer available for purchase. >> my view is that the right
next step in the fight to preserve the sanctity of life is to see roe v.wade overturned. >> we pay money to subsidize planned parenthood that has to end. i'll insure organizations like planned parenthood get no more federal support. >> mitt romney trying to run not only away from his previous record on planned parenthood specifically, on abortion and contraception access, but now trying to run to the right of rick santorum, to the right of rick santorum on abortion rights. which is given his record, astonishingly dishonest. but maybe tonight at least in mississippi, if not in alabama too, maybe republican voters are buying it. we shall see. joining us now is eugene robins
robinson, thank you for being here. >> great to be here, rachel. on a primary night. >> they keep happening. and they keep mattering. i got to ask you the big picture, question for tonight, gene, how do you feel about it being right now a too close to call three-way race in alabama and mississippi? obviously we don't have a determine tiff result in either case but is the fact it's close itself a big story tonight? it is a big story, and it's fascinating because just a few percentage points are going to make all the difference in our perception of what happened tonight. just a few votes, imagine if mitt romney were to win both states, and now imagine if rick santorum were to win both states. we're talking just a few points that are going to reshape this race or else just let it continue the way it's going now. >> we never know exact turnout numbers until after but if tonight is borne out in terms of by the average of the rest of the primaries, we will be looking at results from a
relatively low turnout election in general, not in every state but in general republican turnout has been suppressed this year compared to 2008, people have the 2008 wasn't an exciting race for the republicans, we're seeing suppressed turnout and also a higher proportion of white evangelical voters. higher by more than 10 points in 2012 compared to 2008. what do you think explains the overall lower numbers and higher proportion of white evangelicals? i think the overcall numbers, the lower numbers have something to do, a lot to do with the nature of the republican field, and also, all the negative advertising. some people disagree with this assertion but as i read the data, negative advertising at times tends to depress turnout and many people say you know, i don't want to bother. and in terms of white evangelicals, i think perhaps they are the voters most
motivated to try to get rid of president obama. and it would make sense that they would be turning out in substantial numbers as usual, and maybe some other voters aren't. plus, where's a moderate republican to go? if there is such a thing. who does that person vote for in this field? >> maybe there aren't moderate republicans anymore, maybe they are called independents now. but if you think that the race ultimately the general election is fought over people who identify themselves at least as being mostly in the middle, then what do you think about mitt romney's argument here that rick santorum is too much of a liberal to even stand beside mitt romney in the nominating contest. to even consider him to be a running mate because rick santorum is too leftie, particularly on the issue of abortion. is mitt romney counting on people believing that or thinking that is admirably --
admirable quality because it shows he would say absolutely anything to win? >> that is so unbelievable, so incredible -- i can't seriously believe that he thinks he's selling that line. what is to the right of rick santorum? that is like asking what is the sound of one hand clapping. like a zen-meditation. the abyss is to the right of rick santorum. it's a ridiculous thing to claim. it just shows the sort of gymnastics mitt romney believes he has to go through to convince republicans that he is an actual conservative many of them don't believe he is. and even t they nominate him, a lot won't believe he's a real conservative. >> i realize this is an esoteric question and maybe met aphysical, do you think there is a sense in which mitt romney knows he has pen saddled with the flip-flopper label.
people don't see him as authentic, do you think he's counting on middle of the road people who he needs to persuade for the general election to not believe him? to think that what he is saying about rick santorum not being conservative enough for him on abortion rights, to realize that that is not true and therefore, like he sort of counting on his own bad reputation, carrying him over through the general election? is that possible? >> i don't think he's looking that far ahead. remember how he campaigned in the beginning of the campaign, he obviously had an eye toward the general election and he was very careful about how far he went in what he said, appealing to conservatives, knowing that in the general election he would have to pivot and appeal to independents. but, his opponents don't go away and a new one pops up all the time and gingrich and santorum are still there and this is not in the bag for him yet and so, i think the theory is we have to win the nomination, then we'll
worry about the general election. i think he will worry about trying to come up with amnesia pixie dust to sprinkle if he get to the general. >> he has been good at inventing new histories for himself, i i'm sure that won't change. gene robinson, thank you for joining us on this exciting night. 72% of the vote in, 33-32-30, rick santorum, newt gingrich, mitt romney. very, very close. too close to call in mississippi, a three-way race. in alabama at this point, also too close to call, and a three-way race. mitt romney at 28%. in both states ron paul running a distant fourth, ron paul did
nbc news can project a result in the republican primary in the great state of alabama. nbc news can project that the winner of the republican primary in alabama is rick santorum. we're still waiting for further results from mississippi, but in alabama, nbc news has called this race. this was a finding that is not totally out of keeping with the polling heading into tonight's results in alabama. but the polling in both alabama and mississippi is notoriously nonpredictive of those states' results on both the democratic and republican side. so rick santorum win tonight with 26% of the vote recorded. 35% for rick santorum. newt gingrich in second place, and mitt romney in third place. of course, these numbers will
firm up over the course of the evening as more of that vote comes in in alabama. but the important point there is the projection of the winner. we don't yet have a winner to project in mississippi which is still too close to call at this hour. it is a three-way race in mississippi right now. 33%, 32%, 30% is the divide between rick santorum, newt gingrich and mitt romney in that order with 78% of the vote in mississippi. i've asked gene robinson to join us once again just because we've had this call in alabama. gene, what's the most important implication of the rick santorum win in alabama now that nbc has projected that? >> there really are three, that santorum can win in the south which is the heartland of the republican party, that newt gingrich did not win the state next to his home state of georgia. it's a blow to his whole rationale for the -- for running. and it's also a blow to mitt romney, but a survivable one if he were to eke out a victory in
mississippi. if santorum wins both, so we're going to hold our breath and see what happens in mississippi. if santorum were to win both, then that really does change this race. >> if the rationale for newt gingrich's candidacy collapses tonight, either with just this loss in alabama or potentially with another loss in mississippi, obviously the most consequential thing for the ongoing race would be the prospect of mr. gingrich leaving the race. common wisdom, which is now being openly articulated by mr. santorum is that newt gingrich getting out of the race would make rick santorum viable against mitt romney, would give santorum the chance to actually win. do you believe that? do you think that's true? >> well, you know, a lot of stuff that i didn't believe could happen has happened in this race. so i think it could well be true. imagine going into illinois, very big, very important state, imagine romney having to go up head to head with rick santorum who has that sort of
blue-collarish appeal at times, who appeals to social conservatives in a way that romney doesn't, who we've seen as much more authentic and, you know, the party is in a mood to sort of enforce purity. i'm not saying that santorum runs away with this. i'm saying that romney really has a battle if he's got to go up against santorum one on one from here on out. >> gene robinson of "the washington post," thank you for sticking around. i knew you'd want a chance to weigh in once we got that call. thanks, gene. >> you betcha. >> again, the big result now is that nbc news is projecting that alabama has been won by rick santorum. mississippi at this point is too close to call. it is a three-way race in mississippi. joining us now is steve schmidt who is senior strategist for the mccain/palin campaign in 2008. steve's joining us sort of short notice now that we know that we've got the call in alabama. right now, steve, we are looking at a race that is still too close to call with 79% of the vote in in mississippi, but
alabama has been won by rick santorum. what do you think is the most important implication of that for the race? >> really bad news for newt gingrich. it's the end of his southern strategy. his campaign now, i think, has to start focusing on some tough decisions. great news for rick santorum. probably doesn't change the delegate count very much, but in terms of advancing the santorum argument that i'm not getting out of this race, i'm going all the way to the convention because mitt romney can't get enough delegates to get nominated through the voting process and i'm the better, stronger candidate to be nominated at the convention. winning these conservative southern states helps advance that narrative for him. >> is that narrative helped by the very disproportionate spending that we saw in mississippi and alabama? obviously, the romney campaign was sort of counting on nobody thinking they had a chance in these states, but they did really vastly outspend the other campaigns in both of these places. is rick santorum's narrative
sort of helped by the fact that he won even though mitt romney blanketed him in money? >> yeah, and i think that if you look at the race right now, the spending advantage, it doesn't help -- it doesn't help rick santorum to be outspent for sure, but it's also not debilitating to him in terms of being able to win these races. and as you move now forward into what's really effectively going to become a two-person race, an ideological contest with rick santorum running as the conservative candidate, it pulls mitt romney into these situations, for example, where he's defining conservativism on issues like funding for planned parenthood which expose, in my view, romney's biggest vulnerability in the race, his lack of authenticity. so his winning this ideological contest has the ability to pull mitt romney into a weak position to make the argument that he needs to make. >> in terms of authenticity being the issue there, steve,
from a republican's perspective -- from a professional republican's perspective, is it true -- i mean, it looks to me as a liberal that when romney tries to say santorum is too liberal for me on abortion rights, it's a laugh-out-loud moment. it makes romney look ridiculous. not only is he talking about it as central as to why you should be elected, but the idea that santorum is left wing on these issues seems crazy. do republicans not see that as crazy? >> no, it's a tough argument to make, obviously, for republicans. and mitt romney made an attack on rick santorum where he was criticizing him as not being an authentic fiscal conservative. that's an argument that mitt romney can make with some credibility and that rick santorum has some vulnerability on. but trying to outconservative rick santorum on these social issues is probably a dead end from an authenticity perspective in the middle of the electorate, it just doesn't make him seem honest a