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updated 11/4/2009 11:19:15 AM ET 2009-11-04T16:19:15

Guests: Mary Thompson, Howard Fineman, Chuck Todd, Gov. Haley Barbour, Fred Dicker, Deroy Murdock, Christie Todd Whitman, Chris Chocola

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  So what‘s the verdict?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, up in New York.  Leading off tonight, “Decision 2009.”  Barack Obama‘s name is not on the ballot, but today‘s results in Virginia, New Jersey and New York will be endlessly debated as a referendum on the president‘s first year in office.  In Virginia, Bob McDonnell looks ready to take the statehouse back for the Republicans in a race against Democrat Creigh Deeds.  In New Jersey, Democratic governor Jon Corzine is fighting for his life against Chris Christie, the Republican.  And in the most interesting race of all, Conservative Doug Hoffman has already ousted the establishment Republican candidate in the congressional race in upstate New York.  Now he‘s in a one-on-one race right now with Democrat Bill Owens.

Polls close at 7:00 o‘clock in Virginia, 8:00 o‘clock in New Jersey and 9:00 o‘clock in New York state.  Are the Republicans poised for a big night?  We‘ll be joined tonight by two bold-type Republicans, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi and former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman.

Also, no matter what happens in New York state, when the establishment Republican was forced out of the race, the tea party wing was the winner.  So who‘s next in the right-wing hit list, Charlie Crist of Florida, Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas, Bob Bennett out in Utah?  Well, we‘ll see.  What we‘re looking at, it seems to me, is the GOP‘s road to purity.

And what would candidate Obama think of President Obama?  It‘s an interesting question, but seriously, what did the true believers expect when they elected President Obama?  Don‘t Republicans, or rather, don‘t all presidents, including Democrats, have to rule the country once in office?

And then there‘s the—well, you can‘t miss this item.  What would Sarah Palin have said or what would she have planned to say if the McCain people had allowed her to give a concession speech?  We‘ve got parts of the speech that she had written for her ready to give on election night but she wasn‘t allowed to give because McCain wouldn‘t let her give them.  We‘re going to give you the speech parts tonight in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

We start, however, with NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, who‘s an MSNBC political analyst, two incredibly smart people, to tell me what not to look for tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Now, let‘s not play any of the games tonight, guys, that everybody else is playing.  I know we have to come up with news every night, but let‘s not create it.  The question—Howard, you first.  Is there any meaning to attach to the Virginia—what looks to be the romp that McDonnell‘s going to pull off tonight in Virginia, the Republican?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think there‘s a little bit.  It‘s not a cataclysm.  Virginia always goes contrary to what happened in the presidential election the previous year.  There‘s a certain amount of that.  Also, until Barack Obama won it last year, it had been a reliably Republican state for a generation.  If the Republican wins big, yes, it says something about the president, but it says more about the nature of Virginia than it does about the country.

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, what does it mean?  Does it have a slop-over effect across the Potomac River toward the president?

CHUCK TODD, NBC CORRESPONDENT, POLITICAL DIR.:  I would just posit this issue—and Chris, you know this because you live in the Washington, D.C., market—and I don‘t say that accusingly.  And that is there have been $10 million of issue ads that had nothing to do with Virginia governor, that had everything to do with the Obama policy debates that were going on on Capitol Hill and in this town.  And that‘s spillover effect.  What did that do to northern Virginia voters?  Did that create—did that set a landscape a little bit that at least provided an opening for Republicans to have a conversation again with independents?

And another thing that I‘d say about Virginia.  You know, states, we watch them.  New Jersey was a Republican state in the ‘60s and ‘70s, became a swing state in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and then it just moved all the way over and became a Democratic state.  Some states, when they become swing states, are just passing by swing areas and eventually just move to the other side.  There are other states that stick and stay in a swing state area.  Virginia‘s got that feel of this is a swing state for quite some time.

MATTHEWS:  Virginia.  Let‘s take a look at what the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, had to say today.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We don‘t look at either of the—either of these gubernatorial races or the congressional race as something that portends a lot for our legislative efforts going forward or political prospects in 2010.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, guys, he would say that, wouldn‘t he, Howard?  I mean, if you‘re expecting possible defeat, if they‘re going to lose the double header tonight, if they‘re going to lose Jersey and Virginia, you‘re not going to say, We‘ve got all the chips on the table.

FINEMAN:  Yes, well, that was lowering expectation mode by Robert Gibbs there.  I agree with Chuck about Virginia being sort of in the swing state category.  But New Jersey, in some ways, is more interesting.  Although there are more local factors there, the personality of the governor, some local promises about property tax reduction, and so forth, Obama‘s very popular in the Northeast.  New Jersey went really big for Obama, as it has for other Democrats in recent decades.  If the Democratic governor loses to a Republican candidate who‘s widely considered not to be the strongest candidate on the planet, that would be something that I think would ring the bells in the White House, whatever Robert Gibbs says on the stage notwithstanding.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Chuck?  I mean, that would be my view, as well, that Jersey, being such a Democratic state, with Corzine having so much personal wealth invested in his career there, but I also think—well, before I ask you for your answer, I also think it says something about Goldman Sachs.  The guy is a big money guy from Wall Street.  I mean, let‘s face it, he can‘t walk away—who would want to walk away from that?  But he‘s got it on his back.

TODD:  Well, I think what it does, though, is that the Democratic congressman or senator that‘s sitting in a swing state, or a red state for that matter, or a swing congressional district or a red congressional district, all of a sudden, they‘re going to watch New Jersey and go, Boy, Corzine, yes, tough environment, OK, he had all the money in the world, he drew a mediocre opponent and the president was popular and he used him, and he still came up short.  That is a tough thing.

Now, the other thing out of this—and I just don‘t want us to lose this fact.  The independent—the Republicans, win or lose in New Jersey tonight, will carry independents in Virginia, will carry independents in New Jersey and are going to win independents in that New York 23 race.  That is not insignificant and that should be a warning sign, sort of like a yellow light, not red light to the White House, but a yellow light to Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod.

FINEMAN:  By the way, Chris, the Goldman Sachs tie is important beyond just Governor Corzine because it speaks to the question as to whether or not Barack Obama has been tough enough on the big boys, whether he‘s really taken on the system either in Washington or on Wall Street.

And that‘s what independents—I agree with Chuck that we need to focus on independents.  Independents want to see things happen here.  They want to see the system change.  They think in systemic terms.  And so the fact that Corzine has those ties and the fact that Barack Obama has dealt with a lot of those people in trying to rescue the system as it is on Wall Street, I think, is important and may be something that a lot of voters don‘t like.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s David Plouffe, who ran a successful campaign for Barack Obama.  Here he is on the “Today” show.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  These are local races. 

There‘s 18,000 lifetimes between now and next November.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST:  And would you say the same thing if the Democrats were leading in both of those?

PLOUFFE:  Absolutely.  We won a congressional district special election in New York earlier in the year.  You did not see us pounding our chest about the significance of that.  We have a good night tonight, I promise you, we‘re not going to be overstating that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I share Meredith Vieira‘s skepticism.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  When you say, Everything is local, I think you‘re saying, Don‘t blame me.

Let‘s take a look at that 23rd race up in New York state, up in Watertown, the race that was cleared because McHugh was named secretary of the Army.  You know, Chuck, let‘s start with the whole law of unintended consequences.  The president‘s people may have thought they were plucking a district that‘s long been Republican and made it potential as a Democratic seat.  It looks like it‘s no way going to go to Democrat.  It looks like it‘s probably going to go Conservative, not even Republican.

TODD:  Right.  No, well, the Democrats will say, Hey, we‘ll target this race immediately.  Let‘s not—they spent $1.6 million between labor and the Democratic Party on this race.  That doubles the amount of money that was spent on behalf of Doug Hoffman, basically equaling the amount of money that was spent on behalf of both candidates.  And so it‘s a—they didn‘t—they‘ll sit there and argue, Well, we didn‘t have the best candidate, and they were trying to win it by the numbers.

But another thing about this district, President Obama carried the district, so I know it hasn‘t had a Democratic representative in over 100 years, but this is one of those New England districts, Northeastern districts that are trending Democrat and may eventually be gone, frankly.  Redistricting or Democrats might win in a general election environment.

FINEMAN:  But the fact that it had gone for Obama in the general election last year is why they made the maneuver with McHugh that they made.  But what they ended up doing is reinforcing the star power of Sarah Palin, who was the first one in to try to engineer Hoffman‘s rise in that district.  And that was the ironic result.  Now, if you listen to David Plouffe, that‘s all part of their grand plan.  The more visible Sarah Palin is, the better it is for the Democrats and Barack Obama.  We‘ll see.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask, isn‘t an excellent time to run as a Republican tonight anywhere in the country, Chuck Todd?  Churchill, our hero—my hero and I think ours—once said, the worst thing you can do is be the government candidate in a by-election.  Let‘s face it, Creigh Deeds is the government candidate in Virginia.  Corzine is clearly the government candidate.  He‘s Barack Obama‘s best friend this past weekend.  Being the government candidate in a time of economic peril seems to me risky business for a Democrat right now.

TODD:  Well, look—and that‘s what made Hoffman—had the perfect profile because he‘s got the conservative energy and this built-in independence—because he could say...

MATTHEWS:  Up in the 23rd.

TODD:  ... that‘s right—because he can say, I wasn‘t a party of any of the political parties.  They rejected me.  Those Washington Republicans said no to me.  And so that turned out to be the absolute perfect—now, can you actually run that profile, if you‘re Republicans, all over the country?  No.

But I‘ll say this.  I think that‘s the story out of tonight that is sort of the canary in the coal mine, that we may look back a year from now and say, You know what?  Boy, independents, this is a volatile bunch, it‘s an angry electorate out there.  And the party that figures out how to—I think you‘re going to have a bunch of incumbents try to figure out how to stand up to people.  You‘re going to see a lot of symbolic outrage on Capitol Hill after tonight as a result of both Chris Daggett in New Jersey and Doug Hoffman.

FINEMAN:  That‘s true.  That‘s true, Chris, and I agree with Chuck about the independents.  But if—and it‘s a big “if”—if the Republicans sweep tonight, it‘ll also be a big Republican story, as well.

MATTHEWS:  Sure, but there‘s four reasons to vote Republican tonight.  They seem to be pretty broad.  One is you‘re just mad at the economic times.  You don‘t like the way things are going.  You vote against the incumbent party.  Two, you‘re a regular Republican.  Your daddy and mommy were Republican, and that‘s the way you vote.  Three, you‘re a conservative.  Fourth, you‘re a winger.  Clearly, there‘s a lot of space out there for most people to vote Republican this time.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... from winger to don‘t like the way things are going, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Yes, and calling around to play (ph) in New Jersey, I mean, the turnout there, from what I hear from talking to people, is moderate.  Not big, not small.  I don‘t—it‘s going to be a close race.

But this is a by-election of a by-election.  You know, this is the first year, not even the second year.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  So the turnout—the turnout, generally speaking, is at its low ebb, and that favors the people with the passion.  And right now, the people with the passion are the people who are scared by Barack Obama‘s agenda.  That‘s what‘s driving...

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, is this...

FINEMAN:  That‘s what‘s driving it.

MATTHEWS:  ... an old white person‘s election, Chuck Todd?  An old white person‘s election.

TODD:  Well, let me turn that on its face.  I think I would be a little concerned if I were the Democratic Party today and I see that this coalition that Barack Obama—and by the way, this is not the first time we‘ve seen when Obama‘s name is not on the ballot, suddenly young people, African-Americans, Hispanics are not coming out in the big numbers.  Remember that Georgia Senate primary, Senate run-off in December?  Obama‘s name disappears from the ballot and that guy collapses.

And so here you had Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine in the last days of this campaign grab on to whatever the coattail is of Obama.  I think we‘re going to find out he really doesn‘t have any coattails right now, and that‘s because they‘re state races, they‘re everything that the White House wants to argue, but these two, Deeds and Corzine, are trying to figure out, Well, how do I...

MATTHEWS:  Powerful statement.

TODD:  Where is this Democratic vote?

FINEMAN:  In the Virginia...

TODD:  Can‘t find it.

FINEMAN:  And in Virginia, at the beginning until really the end, the White House ran in the other direction.  Not only were there no coattails, Creigh Deeds and Barack Obama were running in opposite directions.  And by the way, let‘s not forget that there was no love lost originally between the Obama White House and Jon Corzine.  They weren‘t happy initially with having Corzine up there as the candidate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, let me just tell you I think what may be a bad result for the White House is that people perceive you can vote against somebody like Corzine to get to the White House, almost like a voodoo doll, put a pin in it and that hurts the White House, but there isn‘t the positive coattail aspect.  It‘s just the negative aspect of a chance to vote against the incumbent, rather than a vote for the movement that Barack Obama came to represent after last year‘s election.

Anyway, we‘re going to be discovering that throughout the evening on MSNBC, the place for politics.  Thanks to Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman.

Coming up, the emerging battle within the Republican Party. 

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour is going to be with me in a second.

And also, former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman, a real “good government” Republican.  She‘s coming here to talk about the races out of Jersey.  She‘s been campaigning very hard for Chris Christie up there.  In fact, that‘s right near here, across the river, across the Hudson from here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  There‘s a war within the Republican Party right now, and tonight‘s elections may determine who wins.  So will Republicans choose to be a big tent party or will they take their cues from grass roots conservatives and go hard right?

Late today, I spoke with Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, who also chairs the Republican Governors Association.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Governor Barbour, what‘s happening to the Republican Party up north?  I saw Arlen Specter split, he left the party, became a Democrat.  He said there‘s no room for a moderate like him.  This Scozzafava quit, endorsed the Democrat in that congressional race today.  Linc Chafee‘s running as an independent.  He was a Republican senator for years.  He split.  He‘s going independent.  Are you losing your Republican Party up north?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Chris, as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, I deal with a Republican governor of Vermont, a Republican governor of Rhode Island, a Republican governor of Connecticut, and I think today we‘re going to elect a Republican governor in New Jersey.

What happened in New York, I think, really is terrible, but here‘s what really happened.  The state chairman, who has now been replaced—the state chairman let a handful of people pick the nominee for our party in a district where there are 45,000 more Republicans and Democrats.  And the Republicans in the district were furious about it.  They should have had a primary, picked whoever the Republicans in the state—in the district wanted, and that would have stuck but for a handful of people in a smoke-filled room to pick somebody who turns out to be more liberal than most of the Democrats.  This is not about moderates and conservatives.  This is about having a participatory party and letting people who are the Republicans in the district choose their nominee.

MATTHEWS:  Do you see a pattern here, however, nationwide, especially down South—do you see races around the country where this pattern of the conservative—your party‘s obviously made up like both political parties of some people who are just born in the party and they vote the way their daddy and mommy vote, you‘ve got regular people who are just sort of somewhere center right or center left, you‘ve got the true conservatives, and then you‘ve got people on the far right.  You‘ve got all kinds of people in that party.  How are you going to keep them all together if this purge seems to be going on?

BARBOUR:  You know, Chris both parties in the American two-party system necessarily are coalitions.  We‘re the conservative party of the United States and the Democrats are the liberal party.  But let‘s just have a real-life example, and it‘s New Jersey, where today Chris Christie, our nominee, a few months ago was the moderate Republican in the race.  He had a very strong Republican conservative mayor, Lonegan, who ran against him, ran as the conservative, said Christie was the moderate.  Well, Christie won, and today that moderate Republican in the polling is getting 94 percent of the Republican vote.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What do you make of the TV commercials being run against him by Corzine, the incumbent Democratic governor?  I have never seen an ad that attacked the other party‘s candidate for being too fat before.  This may be a first.  Maybe it‘s a last.  What do you make of it?

BARBOUR:  Well, I‘m living proof that it‘s not a very successful attack. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARBOUR:  You know, the—the voters don‘t care about the size of your belt.  What they want to know about is the size of your heart and the size of your brain. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

So, this time—is this a new low in politics?  I‘m trying to get you to say something nasty here.  What do you make of this kind of ad hominem?  That‘s kind of a sophisticated word for a nasty shot, but what do you make of it? 

BARBOUR:  Well, I think it hasn‘t been successful.

And, you know, I would rather somebody attack me for something unsuccessfully than attack me for someplace they can hurt me.  So, you know, they can—they—they can call me fat until cows come home, as long as it doesn‘t cost my any votes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Virginia, the other big governor‘s race.  Do you think that one‘s home for you guys? 

BARBOUR:  You know, it‘s never done until it‘s done, but, unless something really weird happens, it looks like Bob McDonnell is going to get elected governor of Virginia, and by a pretty good margin.

I think he‘s going to have some legs, too, help down the ticket for the House of Delegates. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the way he campaigned?  Because he is a very cultural conservative.  He went to Pat Robinson‘s University, Regent University, I believe, very culturally conservative on a lot of issues.

And yet he ran very much as a sort of a suburban, Washington suburb kind of guy.  His daughter went to Notre Dame.  She fought in the military, very much in that solid military tradition, not at all as a cultural conservative.  Is that a role model for a lot of the country, for your party? 

(CROSSTALK)

BARBOUR:  I think every candidate who‘s running for office any time ought to talk about what‘s on the minds of the voters. 

And that‘s what Bob McDonnell did.  What voters in Virginia are concerned about are jobs.  They‘re concerned about taxes.  They‘re concerned about transportation.  And they‘re concerned about the federal government spending money in a way that give drunken sailors a bad name. 

And, now, he went out and that‘s what he campaigned on, because that‘s what people in Virginia at the kitchen table were thinking about.  That is always the right issue set, is the issue set that‘s on voters‘ minds. 

MATTHEWS:  Last question.  You just opened a door for me. 

Do you believe that the last administration of George W. Bush was financially conservative? 

BARBOUR:  Not as fiscally conservative as I would have liked for them to be.  There was a lot of spending, and I don‘t—you know, when you‘re in the—when you‘re fighting the war on terror, I‘m not has hard on—in my criticism as some people might be. 

But many Republicans and independents who were very disappointed about the amount of spending had good reason. 

MATTHEWS:  But just to make it—record clear—and I have got a lot of respect for you, Governor, but the president of the United States who left office this January never vetoed a single spending bill at home or abroad.  It wasn‘t just fighting terrorism.  On every front, he signed the bill. 

BARBOUR:  Well, I think, in fairness, they set their priority as winning the war on terror, and that made them very willing to compromise on other things that, if it had not been for the war on terror, they might have been a whole lot more hard-nosed about. 

I—I think Bush was trying to pick his fights, or caught himself doing that, but there‘s no question a lot of our people and a lot of independents felt like there was too much spending. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Governor Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, looking forward to two big governors tonight. 

Thank you, Governor. 

BARBOUR:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And now to prove the size of the Republican tent, joining me now is former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman. 

You‘re from the other end of that party, Governor.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, you‘re out there campaigning like mad for Chris Christie.  What do you make of the fat charge? 

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR:  Oh, it‘s ridiculous.  And it‘s a—it‘s a diversionary tactic to try to get people not to look at Corzine‘s record.  And I think it‘s pretty clear, pretty apparent. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at it, because I have never seen anything this lowbrow, but here it is.  I enjoy these, because it shows how stinky-poo politics can get.  Let‘s watch this ad. 

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR:  If you drove the wrong way down a one-way street, causing an accident, and putting the victim in a trauma center, would you get away without a ticket?  Chris Christie did. 

If you were caught speeding in an unregistered car, would you get away without points?  Chris Christie did.  In both cases, Christie threw his weight around as U.S. attorney and got off easy. 

If you didn‘t pay your taxes, ignored ethics laws, would you get away with it?  Chris Christie, one set of rules for himself, another for everyone else. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Clearly, it had nothing to do with traffic tickets.  It had to do with how much white shirt they could put on that screen there.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITMAN:  Well, exactly.  And Chris has been has been taking it to the governor, saying, at least man up on it.  Say that that‘s what you‘re trying to imply, that I‘m fat, and somebody fat can‘t do the job. 

Now, he could come back and say, and someone who‘s supposedly bright shouldn‘t sit in the front seat of a car without a seat belt.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WHITMAN:  But, you know, he didn‘t take that tack.  He said, look, man up to this one, at least. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Jersey?  Because a lot of people have watched this program all across the country.  I find it fascinating, because it seems like it‘s a Democratic state generally, but every once in a while, they just hold their nose and say—oh, I‘m sorry—they don‘t hold their nose—they say, enough stink.

We have had enough—all those rabbis that got arrested and the mayors that got arrested, and you‘ve got the governor messing around with that labor lobbyist, and every—and taxes going up.  Every once in a while, they just say, enough.

WHITMAN:  Exactly.  They did it 12 -- actually, it was 16 years ago, when I was elected, after Jim Florio.  You had Tom Kean before that, after Brendan Byrne.

And the people do say—they said, OK, we have had it.  We have seen what the record is.  Right now, this—the state of New Jersey is 50th in business—in bringing business into the state.  We‘re 50th in the country.  Nobody wants to come to the state.  And that means jobs aren‘t coming and jobs are leaving. 

That‘s the most important thing that we can do.

Why do certain states, like Rhode Island and Jersey, have crime in—in public office so often? 

WHITMAN:  Well, we didn‘t when I...

MATTHEWS:  I mean Cianci.  I mean Hudson County.  Why is there so much criminal action in the Democratic Party, especially in New Jersey?  What‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

WHITMAN:  Well, we give them so many—so much opportunity, because there‘s so many different levels of government.  And it‘s so diffused. 

And you‘re allowed to double- and triple-dip in the state.  That‘s why somebody like a Chris Christie, who is—everybody knows is not afraid to take on those people, would be a good antidote for what we have seen over the last four years. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, do people run for office in New Jersey to put their snout in the trough?  Do they just do it for money?  It‘s not the salary; it‘s how much they can steal?  What is it about Jersey politics, especially Northern Jersey? 

WHITMAN:  I think we just catch them more often.  I think we just catch them more often. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on.  You are playing—you are playing defense. 

WHITMAN:  Hey, I support my state. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This—this state of New Jersey is—this—is this—are you guys a—a voodoo doll for the president?  In other words, does this have anything to do with President Obama? 

WHITMAN:  Well, everybody‘s going to spin it that way, depending on how it comes out.

MATTHEWS:  Well, are you going to spin it that way midnight tonight? 

WHITMAN:  No, I‘m not.  No, I‘m not going to, because I think it really is about Jon Corzine and a—and a very bad record for the state. 

If—if Chris Christie loses tonight to Corzine, the incumbent wins because he‘s been embraced by Obama all weekend and all these weeks, does that mean it‘s good for Obama? 

(CROSSTALK)

WHITMAN:  Yes, in a way.  I mean, it certainly—what it speaks to is his ability to energize the base, because they haven‘t been able to get Corzine‘s numbers out of the 40s. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

WHITMAN:  For an incumbent governor, that‘s a terrible place.

So, these things were not about saying Jon Corzine is good.  It was about saying to the base, hey, I‘m—I‘m your president, and you really liked me, you voted for me in the state of New Jersey, but—he won by 16 points. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you tell your Republican colleagues right now, look in the camera and say, there is climate change and we have to do something about it?

WHITMAN:  Yes, I would, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Do it. 

WHITMAN:  OK.  There is a thing called climate change.  Humans don‘t cause it, but we exacerbate a natural trend.  And we better start doing something about it now. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s a Republican, by the way. 

Thank you, Christie Todd Whitman.

Up next:  What would Sarah Palin have said in her victory or in her concession speech if John McCain had let her say it?  Next in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL. 

He stopped her in her tracks that night, didn‘t want her to be a star.  Well, we will get back to that in the “Sideshow,” where it belongs—back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First: the lost concession speech.  Remember this election night scene during John McCain‘s concession?  We have since found out that Sarah Palin also wanted to speak to the country that night, but was stopped in her tracks by the McCain campaign. 

One year later, the authors of the new Palin book “Sarah From Alaska” have another nugget about that night.  It turns out that Sarah Palin took the stage again after Senator McCain had exited.  She told the McCain team she wanted to take pictures with her family and staff.  The thing is, the press were still there.  The media was still there. 

And the McCain team was worried that Sarah Palin would go rogue on them and deliver that speech, after all, once she got up on to the stage.  So, what did they do?  They pulled the plug on her.  They cut the lights and the sound equipment on stage. 

Talk about mutual trust. 

Anyway, the authors of “Sarah From Alaska” also posted online the full concession speech Palin had ready and waiting.  Catch this line.  By the way, she didn‘t write it herself.  Somebody else did.  Matt Scully wrote it for her. 

“Now it is time for us to go our way, neither bitter nor vanquished, but, instead, confident in the knowledge that there will be another day.

Hint, hint.  Confident there will be another day?  Well, she‘s certainly lived by that credo.  Today, we live in that day, and Sarah Palin‘s living it to the hilt. 

Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

It‘s been a year since Barack Obama rode a wave of anti-Bush sentiments to the White House.  And those attitudes haven‘t faded much with time.  In a new CNN poll, 57 percent say Barack Obama has proven himself now to be a better president than George W. Bush. 

But catch this number.  Thirty-four percent say Bush was better at the top job, a third, by the way.  These are the same loyalists, of course, who kept W.‘s approval rating above 30 percent throughout the worst times of his presidency, proof you can never win them all, nor lose them all. 

Thirty-four percent would take George W. Bush back over Barack Obama, tonight‘s interestingly negative “Big Number.” 

Up next:  The conservatives knocked out the Republican candidate in Upstate New York.  So, who are they going to go for next?  Charlie Crist?  I think he‘s their prime target down in Florida.  Kay Bailey Hutchison, the challenger against the secessionist governor down in Texas?  She could be a target.  How about boring Bob Bennett out in Utah?  He is, believe it or not, is seen as too liberal for some of the conservative wing nuts. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

They shouldn‘t be called conservative, anyway.  They‘re just wing nuts. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending mixed after a bumpy ride again today, the Dow Jones industrial average falling 17 ½ points, the S&P 500 climbing 2 ½, the Nasdaq finished up eight points. 

The transportation sector one of the few seeing solid gains today, on word Warren Buffett is buying Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, this in a deal valued at $26 billion.

In other M&A news, toymaker Stanley Works buying rival Black & Decker in an all-stock deal valued at $3.5 billion—shares in both companies climbing today, Black & Decker soaring more than 30 percent. 

And shares in Kraft Foods moving lower after-hours.  Kraft turned in better-than-expected third-quarter profits, but fell short on sales in a report that was posted just after the closing bell. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Will conservatives across the country interpret the results of the race in the New York 23rd District to mean it‘s time for the right wing, the far right of the party, to dominate?  And, if so, which moderate Republicans are on the hit list? 

Chris Chocola is the president of the Club For Growth, which supports fiscally conservative suburban candidates.  Michael Smerconish is a suburbanite from Philadelphia who represents regular people.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s our political analyst on MSNBC. 

Gentleman, thank you. 

Mr. Chocola, let me ask you this about the coming fights, without assigning nasty uniforms to either side.  I believe that the right wing of the Republican Party is going to go like driver ants down to Florida after Charlie Crist, the governor, and try to knock him out in favor of Rubio, the former speaker down there, so that he will be their nominee for Senate, because they don‘t think Charlie‘s right-wing enough.  That‘s what I think is next on the hit list of your right-wing party folks. 

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS CHOCOLA, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH:  Chris, I think that, certainly, the Rubio/Crist contest is an important one. 

I think that Marco Rubio is a very attractive candidate, for all the right reasons.  But, you know, you can‘t say that New York 23 is the reason that people are focused on this race, because, in New York 23, there was no moderate Republican to talk about. 

The Republican, Dede Scozzafava, was right—or left of the Democrat.  So, it‘s not a good test to say that, you know, the—the struggle in the Republican Party is on display today.  Virginia, New Jersey, and New York have nothing to do with the struggle in the Republican Party. 

What today is all about is the voters, and really a mandate on the Obama agenda...

CHOCOLA:  ... so far since he‘s been in office. 

But, certainly, Rubio is a very attractive candidate.       

CHOCOLA:  And I think he will attract conservative voters. 

MATTHEWS:  But—but—but—but let me ask you one last time, because I guess we disagree, which is fine.  I think there‘s blood in the water.  I think, when you kill somebody, politically, that didn‘t expect to get killed, because the whole party establishment had backed Scozzafava up there, when you see the power to knock out an incumbent with a Conservative candidate, with a capital C, not even a party candidate, when you see that power nationwide, where everybody is going to see this week, I think—and challenge me on this if you really want to challenge me—they‘re going to say, wait a minute, we‘re going for bigger fish now.

And that‘s Charlie Crist. 

CHOCOLA:  Well, Chris, the...

MATTHEWS:  Am I wrong? 

CHOCOLA:  Well, the Republican establishment did not pick Dede Scozzafava.  Eleven guys in a room picked Dede Scozzafava. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CHOCOLA:  So, this was not a battle. 

You know, Florida could be a battle between moderate Republicans and -

·         and conservative Republicans. 

CHOCOLA:  But, you know, I think the center of the electorate, Chris, believes in limited government, and they believe in being tolerant on social issues. 

That‘s where the—the vast majority of voters are.  I think that the lesson today is that—that, if you stand unapologetically for conservative economic issues, pro-growth issues, and you match your district or your state on social issues, you will win, whether you‘re a conservative or a moderate Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is that true, the way you see it, in Pennsylvania and in states in the northeast?  Are the Republican people on the far right, not conservatives, but far right gunning for people like Arlen Specter, Linc Chafee, and ready to knock them out of the party, and now gunning for Olympia Snowe up in Maine?  Michael Smerconish, are they in trouble with the hard right? 

SMERCONISH:  I think that in the morning conservatives will be, appropriately, thumping their chests because of that victory in the 23rd of New York, to which you refer.  But I think it‘s the wrong lesson, Chris.  Because the Republican party now with, what, 20, 21 percent of Americans saying, yes, this is the party to which I belong.  It‘s not the time that they should be deciding who among them are fit to survive.  It‘s a time when they ought to be reaching out toward the middle.  And this is the exact opposite. 

And it may be a strategy that wins in select House districts, perhaps even a senatorial race or two.  But nationwide, remember what Barack Obama did.  He assembled a coalition of suburbanites who stood for a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, but moderation on those social issues.  And in the end, that‘s where this strategy is going to fail. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a race—let‘s get a comment, Congressman.  I want you to check this comment by Tim Pawlenty, who‘s no right-winger.  But watch what he said when asked about the party regularity and loyalty of Olympia Snowe.  I think there is something in the wind right now.  I don‘t think he would have said this two weeks ago.  Here‘s Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA:  If Olympia Snowe disagrees with us on one or two things, there‘s room for her, of course.  There is a range of behavior and issue positions we can accept and celebrate in the party.  And there‘s room for all of that.

But you can‘t be so far out of that range that you become Dede Scozzafava. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So how do you read that, Congressman? 

CHOCOLA:  Well, you know, there‘s room in the Republican party for Olympia Snowe.  We at the Club for Growth really don‘t care if people are Republicans or Democrats.  We just care what their position are on economic issues.  We look for champions of economic—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  If she backs the health care bill, in the end, because it‘s got a trigger on it, or something that she can accept, in terms of the public option, where will you be on her? 

CHOCOLA:  Well, we‘ve already run ads in Maine targeting Olympia Snowe, trying to persuade her not to support the Obama health care plan.  So we disagree with her on that issue, clearly.  And we would be opposed to her voting for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you knock her off, the way that Arlen Specter was drummed out of the Republican party in Pennsylvania by the Club for Growth? 

CHOCOLA:  We take our endorsements very seriously.  We have to have many things in place.  We have to have a candidate that supports our issues.  We have to have a candidate that‘s viable.  We have to have somebody that we could probably oppose, a distinction between the candidates. 

But every race is different.  And we have to have candidates that we think can win based on our issues.  And again, we think that‘s pretty broad based, when you look at the center of the electorate. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the Club for Growth, Michael?  Are they strictly focused on economic issues?  Or do they go over and focus on how you focus on gay marriage or how you focus on abortion rights or guns or things like that? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, Chris, it seems to me their objectives are not the same as the Republican party.  Political parties exist for one purpose, to win elections.  And the Republican party should have absolutely no litmus tests. 

Much of what the Club for Growth stands for, I think, resonates with most Republicans.  But this idea that Olympia Snowe would be drummed out of the GOP because of how she might vote on a couple of issues—and let‘s realize what‘s going on with Governor Pawlenty.  It‘s the same old process, where seeks the nomination of the GOP, they shift to the right.  Rudy Giuliani did it.  Mitt Romney did it.  And what that does is yield a candidate who can win a nomination, but not a general election. 

It‘s time for the Republican party to decide, do they want to win general elections or do they want to strengthen the nomination process by expanding the tent.  Right now—

MATTHEWS:  Your response Mr. Chocola? 

SMERCONISH:  -- who can‘t win.

CHOCOLA:  The Club for Growth is focused solely on economic issues.  And we‘ve supported Republicans.  We‘ve supported Democrats.  We‘ve now supported an independent third party candidate.  We simply think that economic issues are broad based.  Being for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and personality responsibility are not fringe issues.  They‘re not fringe positions.

MATTHEWS:  Last question—here‘s my litmus test—are you pushing home schooling? 

CHOCOLA:  We don‘t—no, we support school choice. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but home schooling, where you don‘t go to public school because you don‘t want to mix with other children.  You want to keep the kids at home, so you can teach them about life at home, away from the exposure of other social groups.  Are you for that?  Because I would consider that culturally conservative at least. 

CHOCOLA:  We do not push home schooling.  We support school choice.  We think parents are the ones that are best in a position to make a decision about the education of their children. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Chocola, I‘m with you on school choice.  Thank you, sir, very much.  Michael Smerconish, as always, go Phillies.  If I can say it louder, I‘ll be on the D-Train, the subway, tomorrow night, going up to the Bronx wearing my Phillies hat.  If anything happens to me, look for me. 

Anyway, up next, it‘s going to be a late night in New York tonight, where the third party conservative candidate forced the moderate Republican out of the race.  So is the right wing of the party poised for a victory, a triumph over the mainstream, in fact, over anybody who gets put in by the big shots, as Mr. Chocola just put it? 

Plus, new numbers from our exit polls and what voters think today about President Obama.  We‘re getting those indications in our NBC exit polling today.  We‘re going to give them to you in just a minute, and also what factor the president is playing in these elections.  Are people voting like, as I said, a voodoo doll, voting for or against somebody, voting for or against somebody like Corzine?  I mean, Corzine.  I should say it nicely, Corzine.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Got some news for you today from the voters in exit polling today.  Voters in Virginia and New Jersey were asked as they voted, in fact, after they voted, how they intended to vote—were they intending to vote as they voted for governor, or whatever, were they trying to support or oppose President Obama in doing so? 

Interesting numbers here, I think.  In Virginia, 18 percent, about a fifth of voters, said they cast their vote in part to send a message of support for Obama.  So count that as like one in five.  Nearly a quarter said their vote was meant to express opposition.  More than one in five against him.  The majority, of course, said—this doesn‘t surprise me—their vote nothing to do with the president.  Maybe it didn‘t.

Clearly, you see a shift in either direction, which could be decisive in some of these elections. 

In Jersey, where it could definitely be decisive, 19 percent said their vote was driven, in part, by a desire to show support for the president.  Again, almost a fifth.  Twenty percent say their vote was in opposition. 

So clearly it looks a little more Democrat in New Jersey than in clearly looks in Virginia, with 60 percent, three out of five, saying it‘s not a factor. 

Well, these are interesting things.  I wouldn‘t buy them completely, because I think voters never want to admit they‘re voting for or against somebody else, when they‘re actually legally voting for a governor candidate.  But there you have it, about two thirds 3 in both cases saying it had nothing to do with the presidential situation, whether they liked Barack or not.  The ones that made up their mind, based on it, you have to say, generally, they were voting against Obama. 

Time for the politics fix with the “New York Post‘s” Fred Dicker, and the “National Review‘s” Deroy Murdock.  Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. 

I want to ask you about the meaning of this.  How much of this election in the upstate election, up in Watertown, the 23rd district there, is about what‘s happening in the country?  And how much just about the bad politics of the Republican organization up there, a few big shots getting around in a backroom and picking the wrong candidate?  Deroy?

DEROY MURDOCK, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”:  I think part of the reason this situation has developed the way it has is that, rather than having a convention or a primary, and letting the voters up there decide who would be the GOP nominee, 11 people sat down—I mean, fewer people than you find in a jury room deliberating—and decided, OK, we‘ll make this woman, Dede Scozzafava the nominee of the GOP, even though on the conservative party‘s report card, she got a grand total of 15 out of 100.  Sheldon Silver, the head of the Democrats, the assembly, only got ten. 

There‘s this mythology that she‘s some sort of a moderate.  She‘s actually a very, very left wing, liberal Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what the process sounds like, Deroy?  It sounds like Card Check. 

MURDOCK:  It is a little bit like Card Check.  I think if they had a primary and she won, people would say, I‘m not crazy about her, but fair is fair.  But to have someone like this forced down the throats of rank and file Republicans makes it very difficult, makes Doug Hoffman‘s pro-market, limited government -- 

MATTHEWS:  Fred, is that right, that they basically had an inside deal there that stunk from the beginning, in way they picked this candidate?  In addition to that, she was too far left? 

FRED DICKER, “NEW YORK POST”:  Chris, that‘s not right.  That‘s what state law requires.  The selection process was pursuant to the New York State election law.  There was no other choice.  There‘s a third possibility, by the way, which I think is the reason that this race is what it is.  The voters are rebelling against the enormous tax burden that New York state has put on them.  The Republicans and conservatives have cleverly now linked that to Washington policy, but it‘s really about the oppressive nature of New York‘s tax burden. 

MATTHEWS:  While I‘ve got you, speaking of taxes and government, Giuliani; does the bouncing of the Republican establishment candidate in the 23rd upstate New York tell Rudy Giuliani be careful?  If you run for governor, the Club for Growth will come get you, the conservatives, the wingers, all the way into the more regular conservatives will come after you? 

MURDOCK:  No, I think it‘s exactly the opposite. 

DICKER:  Not at all.

MURDOCK:  Rudy Giuliani‘s not the kind of person who the Club for

Growth and pro-market libertarians and free marketeers, like yours truly,

admire.  He cut taxes repeatedly as mayor.  He kept spending one percent below inflation.  He‘s a limited government Reaganite.  You can differ with him on one or two social issues.  But he‘s a limited government Republican.  If somebody like that were running for Congress, Doug Hoffman‘s campaign probably never would have started. 

MATTHEWS:  Fred?

DICKER:  Let me just mention that Rudy Giuliani can‘t be beaten by any other Republican.  Even if the Club for Growth wanted to back a candidate against him in a Republican primary, there is no candidate who can beat him.  The nomination is his for the taking, should he choose to take it. 

MATTHEWS:  Will he go after Andrew Cuomo?  Just while we‘re on him, does he have the nerve to do that? 

DICKER:  I don‘t think he does.  That‘s what we‘re waiting to see.  I don‘t think he does.  Most people in the inside do not think he does.  Every poll shows Cuomo beating him, albeit in a fairly tight race, eight or ten points. 

MATTHEWS:  Deroy, same question to you, will we see a huge fight next year between Andrew Cuomo and Rudy Giuliani for the governorship? 

MURDOCK:  I‘d like to see that.  I hope Rudy runs.  I think he did a tremendous job here in New York City.  I think he would have made a great president.  I‘m a big supporter of Rudy Giuliani, so I hope he‘s our next governor.  He spent a long time thinking about it and sort of wresting with himself.  I hope he decides to jump in.  If he doesn‘t, I hope he decides and makes it public that he‘s not doing so, so somebody else can step in and seize the battle. 

Fred Dicker is right.  We have enormous spending here, enormous taxes. 

Somebody has to step in and talk about limited government.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Well said, Deroy.  I‘m with you totally.  I want him to run too.  We‘ll be right back.  Of course, I‘m in the business.  I‘ll be right back with Fred Dicker.  He‘ll be coming back.  And so will Deroy.  Very smart fellows.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Fred Dicker of the “New York Post” and the “National Review‘s” Deroy Murdock.  Deroy, you first, then Fred; are tonight‘s results going to be good the sort of the populist right of the Republican party?  I‘m saying it nicely, the Palin wing?  What looked good for them, in other words, a time for rebellion, like you saw in the Republican party in ‘64, the Democratic party in 72? 

MURDOCK:  I think if Doug Hoffman wins, and we have victories for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey, that certainly will enliven and invigorate the pro-market, limited government base of the GOP.  I think a big part of what we‘re seeing now is Republicans are not just frustrated by the big spending and expansion of government under Barack Obama, but that we had so much expansion of government under George W. Bush.  The enormous spending, the bail outs, the Medicare drug plan.

I‘m a Reaganite and had to suffer through eight years of George W.  Bush taking my ideas and, other tax cuts—those were great—but in terms of spending, setting them on fire.  There‘s a tremendous amount of frustration on our part at having to see our party treat us this way. 

MATTHEWS:  Why were so many people so silent during the Bush era about the egregious fiscal irresponsibility of the Congress and the president, signing every spending bill?  Pork pouring out of the Capitol? 

DICKER:  They were doing well economically.

MURDOCK:  Some people were quiet.  I was not.  Many of us free marketers are very upset about this. 

MATTHEWS:  Fred, your thoughts about the meaning of tonight? 

DICKER:  To answer your question, I think Sarah Palin and conservatives will be happy.  But it‘s not their cause that‘s winning.  It‘s the revolt of the taxpayers who are angry over the burden of government these days. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s responsible people who do believe in good government.  It‘s not people who believe the black helicopters are coming. 

MURDOCK:  I don‘t think it‘s that. 

DICKER:  Absolutely.  New York state is running out of cash.  We have got a crisis across this country, because of Democrats and Republicans acting irresponsibly. 

MATTHEWS:  I like the way you guys talk.  Thank you very much, Fred Dicker.  Thank you, Deroy Murdock.  Join us again in one hour for a live edition of HARDBALL.  Lots more coming tonight.  We‘ll have some hard numbers  coming in as we come on again at 7:00.  Right now, it‘s time for THE ED SHOW with Ed Schultz.  We should have Virginia.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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