MSNBC host Rachel Maddow's political forecast

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CUMMINGTON -- For progressive Democrats, the 2012 election outlook is bleak, though not hopeless.

That's the view conveyed by Rachel Maddow, the popular MSNBC host, at a community event in this picturesque, close-knit Pioneer Valley community on the eastern slopes of the Berkshires.

Dubbed "Rachel Maddow: Unplugged," the discussion drew a capacity crowd of about 250 to the Village Congregational Church Saturday afternoon as a benefit for the Old Creamery Cooperative.

The non-profit group is raising funds toward a $1.2 million project to purchase and renovate the town's general store, cafe and gathering place. Close to $450,000 has been raised so far.

Maddow -- whose 9 p.m. hour is seen by an average of 1.4 million viewers nightly -- told the crowd that "it'll be very hard for President Obama to get re-elected in this economy I think it would be hard for any president."

The highly animated TV personality's 70-minute dialogue mixed rapid-fire, warp-speed political observations with folksy, humorous anecdotes and even a suggestion for an ideal summertime cocktail.

She opened with a brisk summary of her odyssey from a childhood in "very conservative" Castro Valley, Calif., to Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, then to western Massachusetts, drawn by friends to Northampton's gay-friendly reputation -- "Lesbianville, U.S.A.," as she described it to appreciative laughter.

With wry, self-deprecating amusement, she listed a succession of failed efforts at odd jobs ("I was very, very broke and my jobs were pretty odd, and I wasn't good at any of them") to an eventual break as news reader on local radio wakeup shows, a stint at the failed leftist Air America radio network and -- as of September 2008 -- instant success on MSNBC.

Maddow, 38, spends weekends at home base in Cummington with her partner, artist Susan Mikula, but without a TV. They met in 1999 when Mikula hired Maddow to do yard work.

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She parried a request from an audience member to size up state politics by wondering aloud "how Scott Brown is doing" as Republican Senator -- predictably, a chorus of boos erupted.

Maddow observed that "in a year when you can keep raising unlimited money, whoever challenges him is going to have to spend an unimaginable amount of time raising an unimaginable amount...He's sitting on $10 million."

In response to another question, she touted President Obama's former consumer-protection official Elizabeth Warren, who's considering a challenge to Brown, as speaking about the economy "more eloquently than any public person in America .

"She is very scary to the forces who caused what was almost a Great Depression -- and is the greatest recession since the Great Depression -- who are already back to record profits, and none of them went to jail and now they're all doing exactly same thing, and the reforms have done almost nothing to curtail their behavior."

"Elizabeth Warren bothers them," Maddow maintained, "and that seems to me like a great vote of confidence in what she has to offer. I don't know anybody who's better at it..."

According to Maddow, members of the tea-party movement are "the exact same people as the religious-right base of the Republican party." She summarized the tea-party approach as "we're going to be raising taxes on poor people in order to fund corporate tax cuts for businesses."

Responding to a question on whether cable news "helps or hurts us," she dispelled the notion that MSNBC's liberal perspective was triggered by the conservative bent of Fox News.

"Is MSNBC good or bad for the country?" she asked rhetorically. "For whatever reason, it is working in a business sense for there to be smart, articulate, principled, uncompromising liberals. We don't coordinate shows, there are no talking points or agendas for the network. Our plan is not to wage any political crusade or get people to vote one way or the other, but to explain the world, and I'm a liberal, so I'm open about the fact that I'm doing this from a liberal perspective."

"I'm glad the country has a network where you can count on that happening," she continued. "It may be polarizing, that may be one of the impacts that we have, but it's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to give a voice that's never really been on television."


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