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updated 1/19/2010 11:46:03 AM ET 2010-01-19T16:46:03

Guests: Norah O‘Donnell, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Nancy Snyderman, Howard Fineman, Damien Cave, Sam Allis, Tom Joyner

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Will the cradle of liberty be the deathbed of health care?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  We‘re here at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, where later tonight, I‘ll be co-hosting with radio talk show host Tom Joyner a special MSNBC town hall on race relations in this country.  It‘s called “Obama‘s America: 2010 and Beyond.”  And we‘ll be doing that at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight right here on MSNBC.

Let‘s begin with the latest on Haiti.  Fear of looters and sporadic outbreaks of violence have slowed the delivery of water and relief aid from the airport into Port-au-Prince today.  U.N. forces already had to fire rubber bullets and tear gas at an unruly crowd for overrunning an aid station.

For now, the U.S. military is resorting to air drops to distribute food and water.  And tonight, a curfew will be enforced for the first time since the earthquake struck.  Some 12,000 U.S. forces will be in the area tonight, including 2,200 Marines.  Several more Navy ships will be arriving in the coming days.  And U.S. Maritime Administration is dispatching five ships loaded with supplies to the earthquake-ravaged country.  At least 55,000 Haitians who lost their homes are living in temporary makeshift camps set up throughout the city.  Earlier today, Bill Clinton, the U.N.  special envoy to Haiti, arrived in Port-au-Prince to deliver emergency supplies and meet with the Haitian president.

And as in every tragedy, there are small miracles.  U.S. urban search and rescue teams rescued 10 people from a collapsed building on Sunday.  But six days after the earthquake, time is running out to rescue any remaining survivors.

And to our other big story today, tomorrow‘s Senate election in Massachusetts.  To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, Republicans feel if they can win in Massachusetts, they can make it anywhere.  They can make it anywhere.  Scott Brown has Democrat Martha Coakley on the ropes, and increasingly, the money is on Brown.  A Democratic loss could kill health care reform and send nervous Democrats running for the hills.

We start with that Senate race tonight in Massachusetts with a real expert, “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.  He‘s, of course, our MSNBC political analyst.

Howard, this is one for the history books.  No one predicted this before Christmas.  Suddenly, this Republican guy from nowhere, a state senator, starts running ads, great-looking TV ads of him with Jack Kennedy, the Kennedy family having been deserted politically by the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley.  Have the Republicans been smart enough in Massachusetts to grab the Kennedy baton and run with it?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it‘s fascinating, Chris.  And it‘s the Jack Kennedy baton that they grabbed.  It‘s change.  It‘s generational change.  It‘s ideological change.  And if you look at the latest polls, independent voters are abandoning Martha Coakley in droves, especially men, but all independents.  And that‘s because they‘re concerned about what‘s going on down in Washington, because they want to express their outrage about the economy.  They want to express their skepticism about the health care bill as it‘s developed.  And they want to send a message to everybody in power.  And Scott Brown seems to be the closest instrument at hand to do it.

Now, Martha Coakley, even though she‘s not a federal official, and just the attorney general, still seems closer to the establishment than Scott Brown does.  And that‘s why he‘s benefiting from this mood that threatens everybody looking ahead to November.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the latest numbers.  Last week, we had the Suffolk poll that had Brown leading for the first time over Coakley, that‘s the Republican beating a Democrat in Massachusetts, 50 to 46.  And Pollster.com‘s trend line of all the polls show Brown pulling away.  And over the weekend, Suffolk University‘s pollsters looked at some of those key bellwether towns in Massachusetts.  Brown led by double digits in all those towns.

By the way, they took those polls last night around 9:00 o‘clock.  I talked to the pollster this morning.  He‘s got, as you can see in this chart here, Howard, almost double—well, he has clearly double digits, almost 20-point leads in those very bellwether areas.  In other words, they tell you what the state of Massachusetts—they were described by the pollster, David Paleologos, as “little Massachusettses” in each case.  So all the evidence scientifically, if you can measure these things, says he‘s going to win.

FINEMAN:  Well, Chris, the interesting question, if it happens, is why.  And as I said, this is a protest against the powers that be and the policies that are being pursued in Washington.  Don‘t forget, in Massachusetts, they have their own version of health care reform.  They installed it a few years ago.  It‘s expensive.  It doesn‘t provide all of the benefits that older plans, when people had them, were able to enjoy.  But it was the Massachusetts answer.

People in Massachusetts are skeptical now of piling a federal answer on top of the one that they devised for themselves in Massachusetts, which is not that popular to begin with.  Independent voters are concerned about spending.  They‘re concerned about the role of the federal government.

Chris, this is not Ted Kennedy‘s Massachusetts anymore.  And I thought it was brilliant and significant that Scott Brown latched onto Jack Kennedy and not Ted.  Once Ted Kennedy passed away, once the respects were paid to the Kennedy family, the Kennedy era in Massachusetts ended.

And for Barack Obama and other Democrats to come racing up to Massachusetts and invoke Ted Kennedy and invoke the perils of the federal health care bill, those are precisely the wrong two arguments to make if he wanted—if the Democrats wanted to stanch the flow of blood among independent voters.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So I guess, in a weird way, although they loved each other, Jack Kennedy‘s tax cut is beating the Ted Kennedy notion of health care, I think.  That‘s probably a crude estimate.

But take a look now—we‘re going to bring right in—let‘s bring in Chuck Todd.  He‘s NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent.  Howard, that‘s been great.  Let‘s go to Chuck right now.

Chuck, there‘s near problem here.  Let‘s take a look at a radio interview that the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, had, in which she showed ignorance of the Boston Red Sox.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MARTHA COAKLEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATE CANDIDATE:  If it weren‘t so close, Rudy Giuliani wouldn‘t have come, either.  And besides, he‘s a Yankee fan, I just want people to know.

(LAUGHTER)

DAN REA, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes, but Scott Brown (INAUDIBLE) Curt Schilling, OK?

COAKLEY:  And another Yankee fan.

REA:  Schilling?

COAKLEY:  Yes.

REA:  Curt Schilling a Yankee fan?

COAKLEY:  No.  All right, I‘m wrong on my—I‘m wrong...

REA:  The Red Sox great pitcher of the bloody sock?

COAKLEY:  Well, he‘s not there anymore.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Chuck Todd?  How can you live in Massachusetts and not be part of that cosmos of Sox craziness, Sox fever?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I mean, look, this isn‘t what lost her this race.  She lost this race—assuming she does end up going on to lose this race, she lost this race a month ago.  When the lights came on and suddenly this became a race, we found out that Scott Brown was ready for primetime.  He was ready for his close-up.  And Martha Coakley wasn‘t ready for her close-up.  She wasn‘t ready to be scrutinized for every second, every word that happened.  And this is a classic case of that.

But there‘s another thing that happened here.  A couple other things happened here with Coakley.  And again, we‘re pronouncing—in many ways, I feel like we‘re pronouncing her candidacy dead.  You know, I believe we did this one other time in New England, right, back in 2008, with a woman candidate against somebody everybody was so sure was going to win...

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  ... in the New Hampshire primary.  So I want to get that caveat out of the way.

But assuming that is the case—look, she became the incumbent.  You know, that is as much of a problem—she became—going into what Howard was saying, building off of that, she‘s become the establishment, the incumbent.  And that is why I think Howard‘s right when he says the president‘s stop, in a weird way, only to help reinforce Brown‘s message that he was the outsider and she was the insider.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a new poll we have out here.  It‘s not all conjecture, a brand-new—it‘s a “Politico” Insider Advantage poll just out yesterday.  It‘s a one-day poll.  It shows Republican Scott Brown leading Martha Coakley 52 to 43.  That‘s a fairly strong lead there.

Howard, you start—you look at the—the old rule was incumbents have to get 50 percent in the primaries or else there‘s a problem.  She‘s almost the incumbent.  But a 9-point spread right now and gaining certainly is impressive, Howard Fineman.

FINEMAN:  Well, a couple things.  First of all, Chris, she doesn‘t have any of the advantages of incumbency, but she has all of the problems of incumbency.  She, yes, was a statewide official, did not have a big machine to rely on, did not have the ties all around the country that she could call in, until the national party worked on it.

But I don‘t think this is about Martha Coakley, as bad as a candidate she turned out to be.  Chuck is absolutely right.  I don‘t know any Democrat in Massachusetts they could have put up who necessarily could have stopped what‘s going on here.  I know Congressman Ed Markey, for example, who we know well, Chris—he‘s a popular guy up there.  He‘s probably breathing a sigh of relief that he wasn‘t standing on the beach as this tsunami approaches.

TODD:  That‘s a fair point.  And not only that, I would say there is one person...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

TODD:  ... and it would have only been Vicki Kennedy.

FINEMAN:  Right.  That would have been bloody, however.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at a Coakley—here‘s what she did in a radio interview talking about Catholic health workers.  Now, the issue here is—before we look at this tape—this is the issue because there was a question about how Scott Brown had voted in the legislature on a measure which would have basically allowed a person of conscience not to be able to participate in an abortion with regard to a rape victim, contraception-abortion.  It‘s a technical point.  People who are very pro-life believes it was an abortive method.  So here he is, talking about—she is now talking about what she thinks should happen in this case.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KEN PITTMAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Right.  If you‘re a Catholic and you believe what the pope teaches, you know, that any form of birth control is a sin, you don‘t want to do that—that...

COAKLEY:  I know, but we have a separation of church and state here, Ken.  Let‘s be clear.

PITTMAN:  Yes, in the emergency room, you still have your religious freedom.

COAKLEY:  The law says that people are allowed to have that.  And so then if you—you can have religious freedom.  You probably shouldn‘t work in an emergency room.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Howard, that comment?

FINEMAN:  Again, tone deaf.  Unbelievable.  It‘s as bad in terms of religious and ethnic politics as the Curt Schilling remark was in, you know, in guy sports talk—not understanding the sensitivity, the pain, the fact that people with deep religious beliefs are torn in their daily lives, in their work, and so forth, no expression of concern for the anguish of it, but a very cold, sort of lawyerly approach.

Now, that was what made her popular in the state as a prosecutor.  She was good as a prosecutor, it turns out, but doesn‘t have the empathy, it seems, to be an effective candidate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, of course.  And we also live in a country where people are allowed to have certain dispensations, if you will, for religious commitment.  They‘re not asked to do things—certain religious groups are allowed to be exempt from Social Security or certain kind of federal responsibilities because of their deep religious beliefs, like serving in the military, for example, during times of drafts.  And all the issue here is whether a person who is Roman Catholic and is really against any form of abortion, in any form, would be required to participate in some kind of procedure after a rape case and they don‘t want to do it personally because they have a religious objection to it.  And she just said, Well, they shouldn‘t have these jobs.  I thought that was a real challenge there for some of the voters.

We‘re going to have more with Chuck and Howard throughout the program tonight as we talk about what looks to be a very difficult day tomorrow for the Democratic candidate in Massachusetts.  As I said, the cradle of liberty up there—that‘s its title—could well be the deathbed of health care.  This is the 60th vote the Democrats need.  If they lose Ted Kennedy‘s seat, they‘re down to 59.  Bad math for the Democrats.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this one!

(CHEERS)

OBAMA:  (INAUDIBLE) Every vote counts!  Every vote counts!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman and talking about tomorrow‘s Massachusetts Senate election and what repercussions a Republican victory would have across the country.

Gentlemen, let‘s take a look at the options it seems to me that the president and Democrats in Congress have if they lose Massachusetts tomorrow, and with it that 60th vote.  Here are the four possibilities on health care, if they lose tomorrow, which, of course, is up to the voters.

Number one, Democrats just keep going along with what they‘re doing, but do it faster and try to do it before the new senator‘s sworn in.  Number two, Democrats make the House pass the Senate bill as is.  Number three, Senate Democrats find a Republican to give them 60 votes, obviously shopping around the Maine area.  And number four, go to this procedure called reconciliation, which could really cause some heat up there.

Chuck, is there any thinking to the plan B right now?

TODD:  Well, making the House pass the Senate bill is all of the chatter I hear the most from Senate Democrats, from people that are on this side of Pennsylvania Avenue here, in the White House complex, that that is the—they think the most politically doable.

You know, all of the other options seem more perilous, as—reconciliation, the 50-vote aspect, or the fact that the 60-vote deal, you know, if you—how are you going to talk a Maine Republican into supporting this when you just lost a big election in Massachusetts?  Then you throw in the other idea there of just trying to go along as it is.  So the most politically doable seems to be make House pass Senate bill.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, that opens up again that question we were just talking about, the abortion rights issue.  The problem is that the House bill is much more restrictive.  It has the Stupak amendment in it.  How do you go with a new strategy in the House, which is much more pro-choice?  You have to get replacement parts for those pro-life dozen or so House Democrats who are pro-life.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  It‘s very difficult.  I think Chuck is right.  And based—I just got off the phone with somebody on the Senate side who‘s in the strategy discussions on this.  Procedurally, what Chuck talked about would be the quickest, fastest, least messy way to do procedurally.  But you‘re right about the politics. Abortion is a complication.  Other parts of it are complications. 

But I think this is always going to have come down—this is always going to come down to those last votes in the House, either from the most liberal members of the House Democratic Caucus or from the pro-lifers. 

I think it‘s just a case of Barack Obama having to go to the members of the House and say, look, if we‘re going to have anything at all, we have got to have this Senate bill and we have got to have it now.  That‘s just the way it‘s going to have to be, or we‘re not going to get anything. 

But the problem with that is, if—and again, we stress if—Scott Brown wins, and he wins pretty big, which is the way it‘s looking, at least as of now, the political pressure on the Democrats to stop dead in their tracks is going to be enormous. 

Obama‘s going to be pushing.  But, as Chuck pointed out about Olympia Snowe in Maine, you know, all the political pressure is going to be coming from the other direction if this vote goes the way we think it is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, I just read Howard‘s column.  So, let‘s go on from there, because Howard makes an interesting point, Chuck, and I want you to check it...

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... because I sort of go along with it.  A lot of times in politics, whether you‘re rooting for a team, or you‘re on the team, you find yourself continuing to support a point of view, even when you realize that the negatives have begun to overwhelm the positives. 

In this case, there‘s no national political mandate right now for health care.  It‘s no better than even money in terms of its popularity.  And it has all these cost factors which are going to grow in the years ahead, unintended consequences down the road. 

Is there any chance Barack Obama will signal, through Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, we‘re just going to take it; we‘re going to take the loss?  Any chance of that? 

TODD:  Boy, I—I think very little chance because of how much political capital was expended on this. 

But I will tell you this.  It makes how the president reacts to a loss by—a Coakley loss, or a Brown victory.  And you‘re right.  I think margin would matter more.  If Brown wins by six, eight, 10 points, that is a—this a total whupping, frankly, of the Democratic Party in a very Democratic state. 

And I think that that‘s going to force the president to eat a lot—eat—to own this loss, more so than maybe they think they deserve.  There‘s no doubt Martha Coakley has run an atrocious campaign.  But the fact is, Senate races are more nationalized than any governor‘s race and all of this stuff. 

And, so, how the president responds—don‘t forget, we have the State of the Union.  And, by the way, that‘s been announced now from the White House as confirming that it is going to be Wednesday, January 27, so a week from this Wednesday.  It‘s going to be a perfect opportunity for the president to sort of reset things a little bit as leader of his party, not just as—as leader of the free world and president of the country, but as leader of his party. 

And how he—how he responds to the loss, and I think—will tell you whether he can still have some political capital with these House Democrats to tell them, hey, guess what?  Doing nothing will be more of a penalty with voters than at least showing that you had the guts to do something, even in the face of what looks like a tough political environment. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Howard, let‘s get to something.  And I know your sources are very good on this.  I‘m going to push you hard.  The president sits down with his chief of staff tomorrow night, or maybe earlier, but some time around 10:00 tomorrow night, when they sit and study the results in from Peabody and Athol and all those interesting places in Massachusetts, and they‘re studying them and they see it‘s really tough, it‘s really tough. 

And the president looks at Rahm and he says, you have gone over the numbers.  Can you get me 218 votes?  Can you and the speaker and Steny Hoyer and George Miller and Jack Murtha and all you people over there pull together and win one for this president and this administration, so we have a big win, rather than a big loss?

Isn‘t that the most interesting political meeting of the year? 

FINEMAN:  The answer is yes, if it turns out that way.  I agree with Chuck.  We‘re—we‘re going to have an interesting and amusing time watching the videotape of this tomorrow night if it doesn‘t turn out this way. 

But, be that as it may...

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Be that as it may, if it goes in the direction we‘re now thinking it might, that‘s going to be the meeting.  That‘s going to be the time, because it all devolves on the House. 

As I have said, I have always thought whatever the Senate was going to do was going to come back around to the House, and putting the pressure on the House.  Don‘t forget that Rahm Emanuel comes out of the House.  He had wanted to be speaker of the House.  A lot of the strategy of this whole thing is predicated on Rahm‘s reading of the House. 

So, yes.  And I think what Rahm will say is, sir, I can get them for you.  I can get you those votes. 

And they will try.  And maybe they will succeed.  Maybe they will succeed, because, having gone this far—you know, in that column I said maybe this is a march of folly.  You know, you—they keep going when they should stop.  But I don‘t see their—them changing their mind. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  And I don‘t see them having any alternative but to plunge ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is the chance for Rahm Emanuel to be Audie Murphy, the Audie Murphy...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... to win all the medals.  This is the chance. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, thank you. 

TODD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  This is the politics we come to love. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And never be afraid of making a prediction. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman.

Chuck Todd, thank you, sir. 

Coming up, we will get the latest on the latest effort to rescue—and this is serious business—the people trapped in Haiti and are still alive. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back. 

Let‘s get the latest on Haiti from NBC‘s Nancy Snyderman. 

Dr. Snyderman, the floor is yours.  Tell us what we‘re able to do over there, millions of people without water and food, a huge military challenge, and still a rescue effort under way. 

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, it depends on neighborhood to neighborhood.  I have seen devastation unlike anything I have ever seen before. 

And you‘re right.  The response has been massive.  We were at the airport yesterday when the 82nd Airborne and the military really moved in.  The airport has been secure for several days.  But, outside, lines have been getting restless, basically, men and some women some lining up for any word, translation, working, building.  People have been carrying hammers to show that they have carpentry skills. 

And, today, some of the police from one of the other nations, frankly, gassed people back and hit them with rubber bullets, because they‘re concerned, frankly, that the airport might be stormed. 

Distribution of food and water continues to be a major problem here, not because supplies aren‘t coming into the airport, but because roads are ripped up, bridges are unsafe, and, frankly, Chris, there‘s no communication here. 

I have been to nongovernmental organizations.  I have been to hospitals.  I have talked to people on the street.  They just have no way of knowing where to go.  And I think a lot of the reports we have had about people getting restless and storming relief organizations is because food and water has run out.  And if you‘re at the end of the line, you don‘t know when anyone‘s going to come back and help—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I understand from sources other than you so far that there‘s no real government in Haiti, that whatever civil control there is...

SNYDERMAN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... in terms of mob control, distribution of food in a fair way, there‘s nothing there but us.

SNYDERMAN:  On a good day, the Haitian government was tenuous at best, the health care was tenuous.  And, frankly, in a country where 80 percent of the people are poor and the illiteracy rate is 50 percent, there‘s a lot of aimless walking right now. 

And while I‘m sure a lot of people are looking to the U.S. military to keep order—and we watched a lot of U.S. troops going into neighborhoods last night just to patrol—the real question is, how is everything going to be put together?

I have seen physicians from I can‘t—maybe 20 or 30 countries so far, most of them hitching rides, coming in on their own, and then, frankly, walking up to places and say, can I help?

Even getting coordination from a country like the United States, where communication is easy, and translating those messages to here has been arduous at best.  I think one of the big concerns is going to be, over the next couple of weeks, what‘s the responsibility of the U.S. military, how is this going to be coordinated, and what‘s the role of the Haitian government?

So far, as far as the Haitian police, I have seen them basically being road cops, and standing at intersections, and basically waving off cars from going down streets that have already been blocked off by rubble, but not doing much more. 

MATTHEWS:  What a terrible sight and what a story, what a reality in our lives to see this.  I‘m looking at the pictures, Nancy.  They just—I imagine just being there is far worse. 

Thank you so much, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, in Haiti. 

SNYDERMAN:  You‘re welcome, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  We will have more reports as we come back and more on that tough Senate race up in Massachusetts for—thank you so much. 

Up next,:  President Obama has recruited, well, predecessors George W.  Bush and Bill Clinton to head up that relief effort.  The country politically, our country is politically united in trying to do our best.  Really, this is America at our best right now.  And I‘m proud of our country.  And I‘m glad we are helping our neighbor. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have a big interest in not having a failed democratic state in our own hemisphere, and because we don‘t have to do this alone now.  The Brazilians are leading the military effort.  The Mexicans have come through.  All our Latin American and Central American neighbors, the Caribbean neighbors, they all want to be a part of a new modern Haiti. 

So, we have an opportunity that‘s also very much in our own interest. 

Right now, this is the morally right thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Former President Bill Clinton arrived in Haiti today, along with daughter, Chelsea, as the U.S. uses its political muscle to help the Haitians. 

Joining me now is NBC News‘ chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell. 

Andrea, can you see now, is it possible to report our big-time military strategy for the next couple of weeks to feed millions of people in Haiti? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, first of all, it‘s—a lot of it is helicopters.  We now—I‘m told, by the end of the day today, we will have 48 helicopters there.  We have got 14 American ships now offshore by the end of the day today. 

Importantly, they‘re now sending in—and this gets right to what Dr.  Nancy was talking about—they‘re sending in a mobile medical unit, which will be stationed, we believe, outside the airport.  So, that is going to be a big advance.  And they have got several others online that they‘re hoping to send in as well. 

They have got to get more medical teams in there.  The problem has been, frankly, there‘s been some criticism.  Some are suggesting that the U.S. medical teams are not getting in quickly enough.  And the USS Comfort, which, as you know, is always stationed in Baltimore, get stocked up.  They call the crew back.  It takes five days to get there.  They should be there by Wednesday.  They‘re moving more quickly than they had thought.

But it‘s always a time before they can get the USS Comfort there.  And they need to be sending in more.  So, they are sending in more medical teams, C-17s from MacDill Air Force Base—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Is it going to be what we‘re looking at right now, Andrea, just weeks and weeks of people standing in line for water and food?  Is that what Haiti‘s going to look for weeks and months ahead, people waiting in line to be fed by U.S. soldiers? 

MITCHELL:  It‘s not just U.S. soldiers, because there‘s—there are a lot.  There are thousands.  They have approved 2,500 more troops, U.N.  troops, there, both peacekeepers and some additional support for police. 

But, look, it‘s going to be weeks, months, maybe years where people are going to be getting food and water at distribution points.  The question, though, is, will they have shelter?  Will they be able to get that on a regular basis?  Will it be distributed in some kind of pattern, where they can resume some kind of reconstruction and begin rebuilding their country, but not this kind of mad rush for anything that is dropped from the air, which we all know and which Hillary Clinton mentioned over the weekend is not the right way, the military believes, the U.S. military believes, not the right way to distribute food?

Some aid groups have gone that route.  And it has led to a huge rush, where the able-bodied can get to the food more quickly, and where other people, the slower and the elderly and the...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  ... and those who are ill can‘t get to it.  And that‘s where you have riots.  That‘s where you have violence. 

So, no, that is not the way that they want to distribute food.  But they do want to have distribution points.  Nine are set up.  We know from the work that Dr. Raj Shah is doing at USAID that they were quickly, you know, Google Mapping Haiti and figuring out where they could move teams. 

This is a massive effort.  They don‘t have roads.  They don‘t have bridges.  That‘s, as Nancy Snyderman was pointing out, one of the huge blockages. 

They are—as P.J. Crowley from the State Department told us earlier today on MSNBC, trying to open up other port facilities and backup facilities.  If they can get the airport in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and the roads between Santo Domingo and Port-au-Prince, so, therefore, those convoys can move more—much more quickly, because I think Lester Holt was saying it took them 12 hours just the other day when they were driving in. 

They have got to get backup port facilities in the north, in Cape Haitian, and other piers around the Port-Au-Prince port, to try to get the ships in there.  And also, of course, ultimately, do what only the US military can do, which is to repair Port-Au-Prince, the port there. 

Clearly, the US is going to have to be the lead.  But it has been remarkable to see the Israelis, the Chinese, the Brazilians.  This has been a global effort from day one, especially the Turks and the Israelis on the search and rescue side, augmenting what was initially done by the Fairfax team, which we know is so elite, and the LA County and now the New York Fire and Rescue teams. 

But look, this is a massive rebuilding.  And I don‘t imagine that we‘re going to see anything in a matter of weeks.  It‘s going to be months, years. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell, who‘s giving us the report on what‘s going on in Haiti.  “New York Times” reporter joins Damien Cave us now by phone from Haiti.  The medical situation, Damien, it seems to me that there‘s still talk of people buried in the rubble, even now, all these days later. 

DAMIEN CAVE, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  There is, absolutely.  Walking through the streets here, you‘ll go by buildings that are just completely collapsed.  You get this strong whiff of death.  It‘s clear there are bodies still inside.  Yesterday, I saw a large strong man crying outside of a building, as a bunch of people tried to dig out someone he clearly loved.  That is still going on.  It‘s not clear how long it will take for them to clear the bodies out of all the rubble. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you, as a person visiting a country like that, and reporting on it, looking at what we‘re looking at just on television—we can‘t smell it.  We can‘t feel it.  We don‘t know the heat or even the—just the sense of being there.  But everything looks like it‘s leveled.  It looks like it was just Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  Everything is flattened out.  What do you do in a country like this?  Do you just start all over with bulldozers, and build new towns and new houses?  What do you do? 

CAVE:  I think that‘s a question many people are still just asking. 

Driving down any of the roads here, there are signs that say, we need help.  It‘s a little neighborhood association that‘s put up the sign.  They‘re just beginning, one, to ask for help, and, two, to organize and figure that out. 

Today, I saw what was perhaps the first sign of hope, which was a man rebuilding a wall.  It‘s the first person I‘ve seen actually building something, as opposed to digging through what was destroyed.  So I do think that there is an effort to do that.  It‘s just beginning to happen. 

But right now, it‘s still very desperate.  If you walk outside a hotel with a bottle of water, you‘re mobbed by people asking you for it.  There‘s still real desperation, particularly when it comes to water. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Damien Cave of “The New York Times.” 

We‘ll have you back again as soon as we can from Haiti. 

Up next, we‘re going to get a report again from Boston on that very hot election up there in Massachusetts tomorrow for Ted Kennedy‘s old Senate seat, which looks more and more like the upset of the century up there, politically.  There‘s something going on in this country politically.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  In just about 24 hours now, voters in Massachusetts will be waiting to find out who their next US senator‘s going to be.  What‘s it smell like up there?  Let‘s find out. 

MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell is up in Boston.  We‘re also joined by “Boston Globe” columnist Sam Allis. 

I‘ve got to go to Norah, who has been out in the cold all day.  I‘ve been watching you.  Norah, have you had a chance to check in and get a real sense of which way things are going, and why? 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  It is cold.  And Martha Coakley, the Democrat, is facing some pretty strong headwinds in this race.  The Democrats acknowledge that there‘s a lot of anxiety, and a lot of anger out there.  And that is fueling the Republican in this contest, Scott Brown. 

If you look at the latest poll numbers, it suggests neck and neck.  There‘s one poll that shows that Martha Coakley is in free-fall.  Clearly, Scott Brown appears to have the momentum, if you believe the polls. 

Now, Democrats are telling me that they still think that they can win this race.  Why?  Because they say the Democrats traditionally have a better get-out-the-vote operation.  As you know, Democrats outnumber Republicans in this race three to one.  So they think that with the mayors on their side, like Tom Menino, Mayor Menino, that they can get out the vote.  Clearly, Brown has more of the momentum.  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at what Vicki Kennedy had to say to you, certainly the widow of the former Senator Ted Kennedy.  Here she is today.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICKI KENNEDY, WIFE OF SEN. TED KENNEDY:  We‘ve got a race.  We‘re fighting. 

O‘DONNELL:  But how did it end up that way, that it‘s such a close race? 

KENNEDY:  But I think we have to ask for people‘s vote.  Certainly that‘s the way my husband always ran.  You always ask for everyone‘s vote, for everyone‘s support.  You can‘t take anything for granted.  We shouldn‘t take anything for granted.  Tip O‘Neill said it best, all politics is local; if you don‘t ask people for their vote, for their support—

O‘DONNELL:  But nobody expected months ago that this would be this close and that a Republican could actually win this seat. 

KENNEDY:  We‘re all out there asking people for their help and for their support.  I think that tomorrow we‘re going to have a good victory with Martha Coakley. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s very telling.  Let‘s go right now to Sam Allis, who I think is one of my best friends up there.  Sam, tell us what‘s really going on here, if you have to write the history book on this.  What happened here?  What‘s happening tomorrow?  What seems to be headed toward happening tomorrow in Massachusetts? 

SAM ALLIS, “THE BOSTON GLOB”:  You‘ve got a lawyer running against a politician, Chris.  I think Martha Coakley would rather eat crushed glass than campaign and shake hands door to door.  Brown ran a very effective ad yesterday showing him going door to door in Southie, precisely what Coakley has not done.  She can‘t match that.  It had immediacy and an energy to it.  It had the feel of a hand held camera, but it wasn‘t.  But it told you everything you need to know about the energy in that campaign, and a rather dour ad from Coakley, pointing out correctly on all the facts how he‘s like Bush-Cheney. 

If you want to know where the energy is, it‘s with him. 

MATTHEWS:  How did the Democratic party of Massachusetts get taken over by the academic elite, Sam Allis? 

ALLIS:  I think they have always been there.  Some years stronger than others.  But they‘ve always had a good sense of what they want to get from this party.  Now what they don‘t have control over, clearly—and they are losing—are any of the conservative Democrats, the Reagan Democrats in Southie and elsewhere, who would normally go for the Democratic ticket.  And in droves, they‘re saying, no, we don‘t like this. 

I think, also, I see comparisons with Mondale in ‘84 and Hillary Clinton in 2008, where they both tried to get the air of inevitability early, and lock it up.  It didn‘t work for Hillary.  It almost didn‘t work for Mondale.  And I think there‘s a large part of that going on, when we look back, in the Coakley campaign. 

O‘DONNELL:  And, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Norah again, my colleague.  Norah, did you get a sense—did you get a sense, Norah—excuse me—from Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senator Kennedy—is there a frustration that this was blown? 

O‘DONNELL:  She‘s putting on a very brave face and is fully supportive of Martha Coakley.  But there‘s clearly a sense in that interview with her, where she talked about Tip O‘Neil and where she talks about you can‘t—you‘ve got to ask for every vote and you can‘t take it for granted.  That‘s been the criticism, though, of Martha Coakley, that she did take it for granted, that she took time off over the holidays.  She didn‘t do a lot of the shoe leather campaigning that needed to be done. 

And as Sam pointed out, it was my first impression when I got here to Boston, the ad‘s just told so much about just how different these two candidates are, these two campaigns are.  Brown‘s ad of him in Southie, talking to people, patting people on the back, shouting up at people in the windows.  Today, he was at the Boston Garden meeting people.  They were going to the Bruins game. 

Last night, when President Barack Obama was with Martha Coakley at a college, Scott Brown was out with Doug Flutie, Curt Schilling and Cliff from “Cheers.”  So it gives you a sense of these two different candidates.  And Scott Brown is driving around in a truck.  And the Democrats are trying to make fun of that and say, look, if you‘re get in that truck, you‘re going to be going backwards, not forward, and you‘ve got to look under the hood.

Nevertheless, that truck has been used in past campaign, as we well know.  Lamar Alexander, Fred Thompson in different states.  It‘s worked for Scott Brown because it‘s given this sort of populous appeal.  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ll see what power Doug Flutie and Curt Schilling have up there.  I bet they have more power than some of the people from the Democratic part in Washington.  Thank you very much, Norah O‘Donnell.  Thank you very much, Sam Allis, for that great report. 

We‘ll be up in Boston tomorrow night, covering the big election from up there throughout the evening.  When we return tonight, nearly a year into President Obama‘s first term, how is the country doing?  How is the racial divide coming in this country after the election of our first African-American president?  We‘re going to preview our special.  It‘s coming up here tonight on this network for two hours, starting at 10:00 Eastern, “Obama‘s America, 2010 and Beyond,” with my radio talk show host and my co-host Tom Joyner.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re down in Houston, Texas tonight, at Texas Southern University, an historically black college, for a special presentation tonight, “Obama‘s America, 2010 and Beyond.” 

And we‘re back—well, this is all new material.  Let‘s see what we can do here.  You know, back when Barack Obama ran for president, his wife, as wife‘s do and husband‘s do, asked him, why are you doing this?  And he said, you know, I think once I get elected, the minute I take that oath, every kid in this country is going to have a different view of what America is.  They‘re going to have a different look at it.  The country‘s going to look different.  We‘ll give them the direct quote tonight.

But that was the promise. 

TOM JOYNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Here we are a year later. 

JOYNER:  A year later.  Are we expected too much?  Is it fair?  Is he being judged by a double standard on how to fix these issues?  Is that fair? 

He started this at a very high level.  Can he possibly be expected to deliver in just—in just one year? 

Can anybody solve the problems that we have as Americans, especially as African-Americans, in just one year? 

I think that it is right for the country and African-Americans to be frustrated, to expect it now, because the problems are here now.  But can he deliver in such a short period of time?  I don‘t think any human being can.  Has he done a good job so far?  I say yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about, for me, the emotion of inaugural day last year were found.  What struck me was that at that moment, when he had the 21-gun salute—and then I realized, he‘s not just head of our government, or head of a political party, or head of the executive branch.  He‘s head of the country.  Like a king, only he‘s elected king.  He‘s head of our country. 

This is a big deal.  And today we have the first family that is African-American in the White House, living upstairs, the most hollow ground in America.  People seem to accept it.  I‘m not talking about the birthers, the few people on the whack end of things.  But most people say, yeah, it‘s OK.  I‘m amazed.  My parents would have been stunned by this.  My white parents would have been stunned by this change. 

JOYNER:  Yeah.  But now, a year later, frustration has set in.  OK.  So where is the promise?  Unemployment rising, the economy dropping, housing still is a big issue, Health care—

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Tonight, two hours of this, back-and-forth.  We‘re going to have a lot of participation here - huge audience, 10,000 people at this school.

Coming up right now, THE ED SHOW, with Ed Schultz.

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