The Last Word | February 29, 2012
>>> president obama had a great day in michigan yesterday, without even going to michigan . while 59% of the michigan voter who is went to the polls yesterday were voting against republican front -runner mitt romney , allowing him only a three-point margin in his native state . president obama was in washington, addressing the united auto workers , who like most voters in michigan , remain grateful to the president for saving the american auto industry .
>> i placed my bet on the american worker and i'll make that bet any day of the week! and now, three years later, three years later, that bet is paying off. not just paying off for you, it's paying off for america . three years later, the american auto industry is back.
>> that's what i call a victory speech. president obama continues to hold a substantial lead in polls over the two republican front -runners, but in the state of michigan , his lead over the republicans is towering. an nbc/marist poll shows president obama beating mitt romney 51 to 33 in romney's home state of michigan , while the president beats rick santorum there 55 to 29. the president got more good news today about what the shape of the senate could be during the president's second term. former nebraska governor , bob kerry , who also served two terms in the senate for nebraska , returned to nebraska today from what has been his home in new york, to announce that he will run for senate in nebraska once again. democratic party officials have been urging, begging kerry to run, believing he is the only democrat with a chance of holding on to the nebraska senate seat now held by retiring democrat, ben nelson . after republican moderate olympia snowe of maine announced yesterday she will not seek re-election to the senate , the chances of the democrats picking up that maine senate seat have increased substantially. senator patty murray , the share of the democratic senatorial campaign committee , told me how valuable bob kerry 's candidacy is to her strategy of increasing the democratic majority in the senate .
>> he's exactly the kind of person that we need here in the senate today, who really understands how to work across the aisle, who comes with deep convictions, who's willing to fight for what he loves and what he cares about in this nation. but understands the art of compromise. we are losing too many people in the senate , including senator snowe , who really know how to do that.
>> i spoke to bob kerry today, before he publicly announced his decision, and he told me he will be unavailable to the national media, like this show, with while he is busy reintroducing himself to the nebraska media. here he is today, assessing his chances of victory on a nebraska political website.
>> it's a republican state, the president's unpopular. yeah, it's not like i'm going to get a nobel prize for saying that it's likely that i'm going to start this campaign as an underdog. i don't start off as saying, gee, i can win this easily. i look at this thing and i say, i think it's winnable. i don't know that it's -- i don't know how winnable, but i think i can persuade nebraska that i should be their senator. but i'm not afraid of losing. so if i lose, i lose.
>> joining me now, e.j. dionne with "the washington post ," also an msnbc contributor, and former labor secretary, robert reich , a professor of public policy at the university of california - berkeley .
he's the author of "aftershock: the next economy and america 's future," now available in paperback. thank you both for joining me tonight. the bob kerry news, i think, has changed the dynamics for the democratic senate campaign committee, as patty murray told me. e.j., you've been watching bob kerry campaign for a long time. you saw him campaign for president back in 1992 . he is polling reasonably well in nebraska . he has a 39% favorable view right now, of bob kerry , a 34% unfavorable view, which is remarkably low in nebraska , for anyone with the word "democrat" associated with their name. and 27% to have open minds and they're ready to hear what he has to say. do you think bob kerry , who's been living in new york for about the last them years or so, can go back to nebraska and take back that senate seat?
>> i think he's got a shot. i mean, as he said in that interview, it's a very tough race, and you've got to like a candidate who says, if you lose, you lose. actually, i think those kind of candidates have a better chance of winning, because they're loser. and bob kerry is just, as you know as well as anyone, an incredibly interesting maverick sort of guy. and i think someone with that profile is the kind of guy who can win in a republican state. so i think he's got a shot, and i think it's really tough.
>> let's take a look at an ad he ran in his last senate campaign, in nebraska , which shows you running against bob kerry , you're running against a different kind of democrat. let's look at this ad.
>> this is a message to charlton heston from senator bob kerry .
>> i'm a hunter, and i believe in the constitutional right to bear arms. when it's time to hunt birds, you need a good gun, like this ruger red label. 25 years ago, during the war in vietnam , people hunted me. they needed a weapon like this ak-47, but you don't need one of these to hunt birds.
>> bob kerry , the courage to lead.
>> bob reich, you worked with bob kerry while you were labor secretary, he was in the senate . it seems to me if the democrats have any chance in nebraska , that guy just showed you what kind of machine gun they used, hunting him down in vietnam as the guy who can do it.
>> absolutely, lawrence. i mean, bob kerry is not just a maverick, i mean, he marches to his own drummer. he likes to take on causes that are not particularly popular. in that spot just now, took on the the national rifle association in nebraska scl!m i mean, this is a man who has a lot of courage. and yes, i think that he is probably the best news for democrats in a very long time.
>> e.j., he told me today on the phone that if he wins this election, what we are guaranteed is six years, the country will have six years to watch at least one member of the united states senate say and do and vote exactly what he thinks. he would not care at his age about being re-elected to this seat. if there was political risk in the way he voted or the way he spoke. and i've got to say, having worked with him in the senate , i think there's a very strong possibility that if he gets that seat, america might see something it hasn't seen in a very long time. and like it or not, and i don't think there's anyone who will agree with him on everything, but i do think there's a strong chance he would do six years calling them the way he sees them.
>> well, i think he did a lot of that when he was in the senate , when he was actually thinking about running for re-election. i mean, i don't know how many democrats would have the guts to run an ad like that, taking on the nra now. i think there were very few in a state like nebraska who would do that. most democrats in states like that simply cave in to the nra. and you know, that is the kind of guy he is. he also would not shrink from having a fight with senator obama . lord knows, he and bill clinton , certainly, had some disagreements in the early part of the clinton years. and i think some of that may actually help him in this race, because people will remember that he was staunch, but not particularly partisan democrat.
>> let's listen to what olympia snowe said about why she is leaving the senate and the way the senate used to be. in fact, the way it used to be when bob kerry was a member of the senate .
>> the united states senate is predicated and based on the essence of consensus building. i always recall my first years in the senate , and it happened to be that bob dole was the senate majority leader. and i can always remember his words, they ring in my ears, when there were differences on key issues, he would put a group together, it would either be republicans or republicans and democrats , whatever the case may be, he would say, go in my office, at 8:30 in the morning, and work it out. he would always say, work it out. and that's the point, we're not working out issues anymore.
>> bob reich, you may remember a moment in a 1994 senate debate where the official white house strategy one day as imparted to the white house democrats at lunch was, demonize dole. bob kerry listened to that message, walked out on to the senate floor, and announced that the democratic strategy was to be demonize dole, and then he spent a good ten minutes praising his fellow war hero , in this case, world war ii for dole, and what a great guy he was. and then continued to fight dole on the legislation. but he would not demonize him personally. that's the senate that we've lost.
>> yes. and not only have we lost that senate , where people would treat each other respectfully, lawrence, but we also have lost the assumption that there was compromise and compromise is a good thing. bob kerry , not only is a compromiser, when evenings compromise is appropriate, but when he's told what to do, as in that 1994 anecdote you just provided, he very often does exactly the opposite, because he wants to show that he cannot be pushed around. so i think in bob kerry , we will have somebody, assuming he wins in nebraska , if he does, who is going to be a very reliable democrat when he wants to be. he's going to cross the aisle when he wants to do that. and that's needed.
>> e.j. dionne and robert reich , i think we're all rooting for bob kerry tonight. thank you very much for joining me tonight.
>> thank you.
>> thanks. bye-bye.