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updated 7/12/2010 9:48:59 AM ET 2010-07-12T13:48:59

HARDBALL

July 8, 2010

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Ken Blackwell, Martin Frost, Jon Ralston, Jerry Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Dangerous business.

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight, November preview. We now have a pretty good idea of how President Obama plans to campaign against Republicans and try to save the House and Senate for the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We face a choice in November, and I want everybody to be very clear about what that choice is. This is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess in the first place and the policies that are getting us out of this mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What the president faces, of course, is that it may be easier for voters to remember the current soft economy and stubborn unemployment.

Plus: Is President Obama bad for business? A lot of CEOs say yes, but the White House and its supporters are pushing back very hard, saying business should be thankful for President Obama for saving it from the Bush disaster.

Also, Jerry Brown. He's in a neck-and-neck fight with Meg Whitman out in California for governor. We'll ask Brown about how he beats Whitman's millions.

And when Harry met Sharron, Harry Reid versus Sharron Angle. In the last few days, Angle has called the BP compensation program a "slush fund" and said that Reid's campaign is against her and trying to, quote, "hit the girl." That's the words they're using, whatever that means. That may be the best Senate race of the year, out in Nevada.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight by explaining how what Lebron James did last night reflects what's been happening in American culture, and most importantly, in our geography for years.

Let's start with President Obama on the campaign trail. "Newsweek's" Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and Richard Wolffe is also an MSNBC political analyst.

Gentlemen, I want to ask you about this new thing. Here's the president. Here's President Obama again framing it as a choice question last night in Missouri. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You're going to face a choice in November, and I want everybody to be very clear about what that choice is. This is a choice between the policies that got us into the mess in the first place and the policies that are getting us out of this mess. And what the other side is counting on is people not having a very good memory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So this is the big preview, we think. We all around here at MSNBC and HARDBALL think this is a plan. He's going out there, saying, Don't just push this button whether (ph) you're happy or not because then you're always going to say, No, I'm not happy, and you're going to vote Republican. Pitch (ph) A or B. Do you want the Republicans, do you want the Democrats? Do you want the hell that got us in here or the relative heat you got right now?

HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as David Axelrod, his main political adviser, says, it's-we don't-we didn't-we have responsibility for cleaning up the mess and we take that responsibility. But they, meaning the Republicans, have the responsibility for creating the mess. That's the best argument that...

MATTHEWS: Does he have...

FINEMAN: ... frankly, they have...

MATTHEWS: ... their fingerprints on this?

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Does he have proof that it's their mess that they created?

FINEMAN: Well, I think there was. As the president said, it's a matter of memory. But the problem that he's got is he said-it's not a clean comparison because he says it's a choice between the people, you know, who-who-who got us in the ditch, and-and we, who are getting us out. He can't say "got us out"...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... because we aren't out yet. That's the problem. It's not a real clean contrast at this point.

MATTHEWS: This is a problem because Franklin Roosevelt had a great advantage. Hoover, you could argue, created the Great Depression and then sat there wallowing in it from 1929 all the way to '33. In March, Roosevelt comes in. It clearly is something he inherited. This thing was messier. It happened on the borderline. It happened late 2008, right? And we could see...

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Before Obama came in.

MATTHEWS: Before he came in. But its worst impact came after he got in.

WOLFFE: For the first couple of months, yes, but I don't know that people blame Obama for the job losses in January and February.

MATTHEWS: Well, then, why is he down...

WOLFFE: The question...

MATTHEWS: ... to 44 percent?

WOLFFE: Well, people are unhappy with the economy. The question is, are voters more unhappy with big government or are they more unhappy with big business? That's what this election-he wants it to be a choice between, you know, the past and the future, which is what every president wants...

MATTHEWS: Well, they-by the way, business hears that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Well, the problem is...

MATTHEWS: They hear it and they don't like it!

WOLFFE: If he can frame this as the other side are for these big businesses, who you hate because they're the banks and they're the big auto companies, all those guys-they want-they're for big oil. I'm for cleaning up the oil. That's the frame he needs to get to.

FINEMAN: It's tricky for a couple reasons. First of all, distinguishing between big business and your own employer can sometimes be very difficult.

MATTHEWS: And your job.

FINEMAN: And your job. That's the one thing. The second thing is Barack Obama was and I think most naturally is a bridge builder, a unifier, a uniter. He's not given to the old-fashioned partisan, populist, Democratic tub-thumping rhetoric. And I don't think he's entirely believable on it, partly because he isn't anti-business.

MATTHEWS: He's not a populist, you're saying.

FINEMAN: Well, but he bailed out everybody under the sun!

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: I mean, he bailed out the auto companies, the banks...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So you argue that, basically, he's decided, Choose your sides. You like big business or you like government.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Take a look at-here he is on going after the Republicans. This is new.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: They're not coming back and saying, You know what? We really screwed up, but we've learned our lesson and now we've got this new approach and this is how things are going to turn out really well. That's not their argument. They are trying to sell you the same stuff that they've been peddling-I'm just saying.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: They are peddling that same snake oil that they've been peddling now for years! And somehow, they think you will have forgotten that it didn't work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I may disagree with (INAUDIBLE) I think there may be a new Barack here, a new Barack Obama. You know, I used to-my favorite line was, Why does the cavalry come out of the fort to fight the Indians? Answer, they're cavalry. That's how they fight. They fight on horseback. This guy seems to be enjoying this. He's tired of taking incoming. Here he is out there dishing some out, going after the other side.

WOLFFE: Especially-especially when he can say it's the same old politics. Remember, the mood at the moment is, Let's kick the bums out. We'll reform Washington. He still wants to be the guy who's above and beyond and outside Washington, so he can say the other side is playing the same old games. In fact, he thinks his side is also playing the same old games. But the other side is playing the same old games, and let's call them out on that. That's what his best...

MATTHEWS: By the way, they're both...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They're both using this line that everybody's spending money like a drunken sailor. They're both using...

FINEMAN: There's lots of drunken sailors on the sea.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: I'll say this. The scene is full of drunken sailors. But if he can do it with a smile on his face-now, this is what...

MATTHEWS: No, it is!

FINEMAN: OK. This is what...

MATTHEWS: That's it!

FINEMAN: ... Franklin Roosevelt did. He made fun of the old mossback businessmen opposition and their Republican allies...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he said, I love their hatred, too.

FINEMAN: I love their hatreds. He's doing the same thing with Barton, meaning Joe Barton in Texas...

MATTHEWS: OK-OK, here he is...

FINEMAN: ... Boehner and Blunt.

MATTHEWS: OK. For a year-and-a-half...

FINEMAN: Barton, Boehner and Blunt.

MATTHEWS: ... he practiced what I think is Chicago politics, ignore the opposition because there really isn't any. Well, there is an opposition nationally. Here he is now for the first time naming names, promoting the names and name IDs of Republican guys. They have names that begin with "B." The first one is Boehner. Here he is last night, hitting at John Boehner, the somewhat-not nebbishy but boring Republican leader in the House. Here high school is knocking him on behalf of the Senate candidate for his party, Robin Carnahan in Missouri. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Robin's opponent, and almost all of our friends in the other party, are against Wall Street reform. The Republican leader, Mr. Boehner, said this reform was like employing nuclear weapons to kill an about, he said. An ant! That's what he called what we just went through. You can imagine the movie, "The Ant That Ate Our Economy."

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: That's a big ant!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And here he is, guys, one more time going after another (INAUDIBLE) He hasn't gotten (INAUDIBLE) and Fish (ph) yet...

FINEMAN: No, he does have Barton, Boehner...

MATTHEWS: He's got...

FINEMAN: ... and Blunt.

MATTHEWS: ... Boehner and Barton. Here's Barton-going after the guy that thought BP was just wonderful and the slush fund was terrible. Here's Joe Barton he's going after. Barton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You may have read the top Republican on the House Energy Committee, Mr. Barton, publicly apologizing to BP. Does anybody here think BP should get an apology?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Mr. Barton did. He called this a tragedy, this-this fund that we had set up to compensate fishermen and small business owners throughout the gulf. That's not the tragedy. The tragedy is if they didn't get compensated. So this is the leadership that we've gotten from Barton and Boehner and Blunt. Sometimes I wonder if that "no" button is just stuck in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he's not past the B's yet, Richard. Barton...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Boehner, Barton and Blunt...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the guy running in Missouri. It seems like-you're Chicago. Let me tell you about Chicago. I thought for years he followed the old Dick Daley rule, There aren't no opponents out-there's no alternative, there's just the Daley machine and some troublemakers out there. Well, now he's out there naming the Republicans, hoping, as you said a minute ago, that people will vote against them.

WOLFFE: Because if there's one thing...

MATTHEWS: Because they've got to vote against somebody.

WOLFFE: If there's one thing more unpopular than Washington politicians right now, it's Wall Street and big oil. Anyone who...

MATTHEWS: Well, what about Republicans?

FINEMAN: And Republicans are unpopular...

MATTHEWS: Republicans benefit from the hatred of incumbency! But is he now announcing, Hey, we got a lot of Republican incumbents out there?

WOLFFE: Right. The Republican incumbents, people like Blunt, who-you know, he may tape an ad in his bluejeans and pretend like he was never in Washington. But there are incumbents or former incumbents who are creatures of Washington who they can run against. That's why it's going to be hand-to-hand combat in these places. And he's framing every race...

MATTHEWS: This is B.B. gun, isn't it.

WOLFFE: ... in terms of this.

MATTHEWS: The B.B.s. He's going after...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: ... name them by name. There are two things here. One, he wants to say, These people are out of the mainstream. They're crazy. I mean, they make crazy comments like the ant ate the economy and apologizing to BP. And Sharron Angle in Nevada, and you know, Ron Paul in Kentucky-they're all crazy and out of the mainstream.

But the other thing is what Richard said. A lot of these people are incumbents, too. And the anti-incumbent mood is out there so big...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: ... that the Republicans have to be careful.

MATTHEWS: There's a whole band of Republican burghers, you know, just townspeople, the business guys from Main Street-Boehner, McConnell, Eric Cantor and the other guy, Jon Kyl, regular-they're not right-wing Republicans, but they're the Republicans in power. He's now settling on them. He finally figures they can knock off people like Sharron Angle and a couple of the other whackjobs out there, but he's got to go after the mainstream guys, that's what he's doing.

WOLFFE: Right, and...

MATTHEWS: Big names.

WOLFFE: And look at...

MATTHEWS: He's advertising them!

WOLFFE: ... his old seat in Illinois, where you have a troubled Democrat who is running against an incumbent who happens to make up stuff about his own resume. But it's a classic Washington against the non-Washington character. Even with all his flaws, Giannoulias is actually doing well precisely because he's framing this as the same old politics that he's running against. That's their single narrow track that they've got to survive this election.

FINEMAN: Yes, but he's got-Obama has to be very careful because I agree with Richard, he wants to try to still be above it all and be the outsider. But to the extent he starts sounding like an old-fashioned Democrat, an old-fashioned rank-and-file old politics Democrat, he loses the magic-whatever magic he has left.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Thanks, guys. Great having you. Great Friday. Have a nice weekend, Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe.

Coming up, former governor Jerry Brown is running again for governor of California. He's neck-and-neck with Republican Meg Whitman. He's got a campaign-a lot of campaign out there. He needs to overcome her millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars in advertising. How's he going to do it? We're going to put that question to him. Maybe he can take on his own critics who are saying he hasn't got a campaign yet to take on her money.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The NBC News political team has updated its list of the top 10 Senate takeovers for this November. Here we go. At number 10, Ohio, a chance for the Democrats to take over the seat held by the retiring George Voinovich. Number 9, Washington state, where Republicans have a shot against Patty Murray. Number 8 is Illinois, where both candidates have hit rough spots in the race for President Obama's old seat. Number 7 is Florida, where Charlie Crist is still standing strong-running strong, rather, as an independent. And at number 6, Pennsylvania. The political environment up in Pennsylvania favors Republican now Pat Toomey. We'll have the top 5 takeovers later in the hour.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. California voters yanked their governor out of office back in 2003 and replaced him with a bona fide outsider in Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now just seven years later, with a broken economy and a bleak forecast out there, will voters there go for another outsider in Meg Whitman or a man who served California government on and off for some four decades?

Former California governor Jerry Brown is currently the state's attorney general. Governor Brown, it's great to have you on. I just want to ask you, do you think the last seven years have been good for California with Schwarzenegger? Here's a business guy and movie star, a business guy, who said, I can take business sense, like Meg Whitman, and make government work. It hasn't-well, has it worked? I'll leave it as an open question. Has he been a net plus or a net negative?

JERRY BROWN (D-CA), ATTORNEY GENERAL, FMR. GOV., CANDIDATE FOR GOV.:

Well, certainly in terms of the budget, blowing up the boxes, reorganizing government, it hasn't. Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger has pioneered the environment and climate change legislation that is really path-breaking, so I give him full credit for that.

But in terms of the crisis we're in now, the idea that not knowing anything, not even caring enough to vote for 28 years, gives you the equipment, the skill, to wrestle those 120 legislators to the ground, get them on your team and deal with this deepening crisis-I doubt that. And if these surveys are any indication, Ms. Whitman has hit a wall for the last-probably since March, not moved forward. And I think we're in a very strong position to win the confidence of the people and get down to brass tacks here of solving the problem.

MATTHEWS: What it in the Americans psyche or character that says, if you don't know anything, you're somehow an average person or average guy and you have horse sense? What is it about people that keep picking people like George W. Bush to be president? And you see these people like Sarah Palin out there with fans. Why would anybody like somebody who the campaign manager for John McCain said, She doesn't know anything? Why is not knowing anything-why does the know-nothing candidate, like Meg Whitman, a person who doesn't have any government experience, have the appeal to be even with you in the polls? The know-the person that doesn't know anything about government!

BROWN: Well, wait a minute. Even is pretty amazing because she's spent over $100 million -- $100 million already. I haven't put up my first ad yet. So this is a very competitive race. We're right on message. We're on our program here. And I think the reason why you see her being so well known-she's known to 95 percent of the people-is there's been about 80,000 separate TV commercials already run on her behalf, so-but look, after you've heard it over and over again, you're going to say, Well, hey, what else is there?

And then we're going to come in I think with a very strong alternative. And I've got the skill, I know. Mrs. Whitman is saying, Oh, what we need to do is eliminate the capital gains tax, which gives her millions of dollars personally and her friends and allies about $5 billion, compounding the problem for the schools and the police and the fire and all the other fiscal challenges we're facing now in the state.

MATTHEWS: Are you-do you suggest that California or anywhere in America is like Italy, or over there, where somebody like Berlusconi, some media tycoon, can come in and just spend zillions of dollars and buy the state? Could she, sitting there, looking at tracking polls, two weeks before an election, two nights before an election, just pour more millions into the race and buy it? Is that conceivable, purchasing California?

BROWN: Well, I don't think it is conceivable, and I'll tell you why, because here we are in July and all this exposure has already occurred. And we have four more months to go. And I'm convinced that by the time we get to election day in November, everybody's going to have enough information about my candidacy, about the Republican side here, and I don't think they're going to be bamboozled any further by one commercial after another or sky-writing or another 20 million pieces of mail.

Yes, that's effective to a point. But the other side, the Democratic Party, my own campaign, we'll get our message out. And I think at the end of the day that people will know enough to pick the person they think can best handle this state that we're in now.

MATTHEWS: The people of California haven't had a lot of faith in politicians over the last 20 or 30 years. They have gotten their fingers into actual legislating, not just saying who should do it, but doing it themselves, Prop 13, term limits.

Add it all up together, using the recall. All that stuff put together, has that been good for California? All this effort to keep refining and refining and messing with it as amateurs, has that been a good political system for California?

BROWN: Well, no, it hasn't been good. And part-certainly a big part is the abysmal lack of confidence in the legislature-the legislature itself. So, people say let's go to the ballot box. And then the ballot box becomes subject to these massive, highly financed campaigns.

And that really is the key point here, that the governor is so constrained, that it isn't enough to say I'm going to give a bunch of edicts and lay people off and do whatever I want.

The next governor has got to herd cats. He's got to get these 120 legislators in a room, focus them, get some solutions, and if they can't pull it off, then ask the people themselves to weigh in on some of the key issues.

MATTHEWS: You had two terms as governor. If you could do some-one or two things different than you did then, what would you do now? What were your-I'm not going to ask-well, I will ask you. What were your mistakes you learned from? People do learn from mistakes. What did you learn from in eight years as governor in Sacramento?

BROWN: Well, I learned the difference between management and ideas.

Advocacy is one thing, however eloquent.

A management, step by step, making the kind of incremental changes that government can actually accomplish, that's something different. But, as far as mistakes, the biggest mistake was probably when I ran for president in 1980. That was really a diversion here.

But I have learned about the energy, the schools, the water, the crime. Oh, that's another issue, the whole matter of criminal justice, how the sentencing system should work, and how we can create a whole integrated criminal justice system that will be cheaper and won't have the massive recidivism that the one we have today exhibits, sadly.

MATTHEWS: How do you deal with the kick-butt unions out there? They're really tough. You have got the correction officers. You have got the police. You have got the teachers, the nurses. These are tough, strong, well-funded unions that are politically cohesive. They took down the governor, Schwarzenegger, when he tried to take them down. How do you make them work? How do you get them to serve the public and get reasonable compensation?

BROWN: Well, you just lay out-first of all, you treat them with respect. You lay out your agenda, and you get everybody understanding we're Californians first. We're not Democrat or Republican or a member of this group or that group.

And don't just say unions are a powerful force. Wall Street destroyed $11 trillion worth of wealth. That's pretty powerful. No union could ever do that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

BROWN: Then there's the tea baggers. There's the Chamber of Commerce. There's all manner of interests. And the key to democracy is-is leadership that can forge the common purpose.

And that's what I feel my entire life has prepared me now to take what I have learned, work with these diverse and conflicting factions and get this common pathway to the future, seizing the assets of California, which, after all, is still the eighth wealthiest political entity in the world.

MATTHEWS: OK. Can you beat Meg Whitman if she's going to outspend you 10-1, have staffs 10 times as big as you?

BROWN: Yes, without question. I'm already-by every indication, I'm ahead of her, and I haven't even started yesterday.

I'm giving some speeches. I'm meeting with people. I'm talking with you on television. But the real firepower will be coming, but not yet. And when it does, watch out.

MATTHEWS: When is your kick? When do you go for it? Labor Day?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: We don't-we keep our-we keep-oh, no, a little before that.

But we're going to keep our powder dry, and we're not giving all our signals out at this point in time.

MATTHEWS: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But, believe me, Chris, we have got the plan. We have got the horsepower. And we have got the people on our side.

MATTHEWS: Well, you won that reelection by going after Evelle Younger's three pensions or whatever they were in August in that reelection year. I'm watching August and Jerry Brown.

Jerry Brown, Governor Brown, thanks for coming on HARDBALL tonight.

Up next: Another Republican says Barack Obama is the biggest threat facing-wait until you catch this guy, Tancredo, totally crazy over-the-top, the "Sideshow," where he belongs, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."

Say this for Tom Tancredo, he knows how to steal the stage. The ex-Colorado congressman was at a rally for Senate hopeful Ken Buck when he launched into a list of all the threats America has faced, the Civil War, nuclear weapons, the Soviets, before coming out with this showstopper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM TANCREDO ®, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I firmly believe this. It's not just, you know, sort of a dramatic statement that a person would make to get press or something or ink. I believe this with all my heart, that we-that the greatest threat to the United States today, the greatest threat to our liberty, the greatest threat to the Constitution of the United States, the greatest threat to our way of life, everything we believe in, the greatest threat to the country that was put together by the founding fathers is the guy that is in the White House today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, candidate Ken Buck-he was endorsing them-denounced those remarks to reporters, saying that Tancredo-quote-

"tends to exaggerate sometimes."

I would say.

Next: Janis Joplin, here's your tribute. Freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose. South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, defeated in his Republican primary this year, came out with a candid assessment of Tea Party darling Sarah Palin.

Here's Congressman Inglis, remember, a Republican from South Carolina, commenting on health care reform and charges of death panels, a phrase coined by Palin herself-quote-"There were no death panels in the bill. And to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery."

Well, here's one Republican not afraid of Sarah Palin.

Finally, palling around with celebs. Billionaire Florida Senate candidate Jeff Greene is known for friendships with tabloid types. Boxer Mike Tyson was best man at his wedding. Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss once lived in his guest house. Now Greene has got another one off the list, Lindsay Lohan.

We don't have rights to use them, but photos have emerged this week of Greene with the actress in Saint Barth this past New Year's Eve.

What's with this guy? He can't remember if he voted for or against Ronald Reagan, something everybody I know remembers one way or the other. But he has got time to hang around with a guy who bites people's ears off, a madam, and a kid who just got busted for breaking parole.

Does he have any serious friends? Better question, is he serious?

Now for the "Big Number."

Think of all the right-wing Tea Party talk about President Obama. Think it has no effect? Think again. According to a new poll by Democracy Corps, a Democratic-leaning poll, what proportion of likely voters this November describe Obama, our president, as a socialist?

Fifty-five percent, a solid majority -- 55 percent now use the term socialist to describe President Obama, tonight's bad-for-the-White House big, bad number.

Up next: There's some buzz in the private sector that President Obama has been bad for business. But with corporate profits way up over last year and the Dow up 2,000 points since Obama came into office-and, by the way, 400 points this week, is there fair criticism out there, or they just don't like him? What is the story?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bertha Coombs with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Full-steam ahead for stocks, extending their winning streak to four in a row, the Dow Jones industrial climbing 59 points to close the week at nearly 10200, the S&P 500 adding seven, and the Nasdaq gaining 21 -- all three indices up about 5 percent, for their best week so far this year.

Today's rally fueled by good old-fashioned earnings optimism. Alcoa, intel, Bank of America, General Electric and Google all reporting earnings next week, and all finishing in the green.

Google saw the biggest bounce on the day after China renewed its license to run a Web site in that country, ending a long standoff. But Johnson & Johnson one the day's few decliners after recalling more over-the-counter products due to an odd smell.

And fears about the European economy may be starting to subside. The euro is holding at nearly two-month highs.

And investors were reassured by some cautiously upbeat comments today from the president of the European Central Bank.

That's it from CNBC. We're first in business worldwide-now back to

HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The White House is pushing back hard against a popular perception in the business world, the big-time corporate world especially, that President Obama is hostile to big business. Late last month, Verizon's CEO blamed the Obama administration for a lack of job growth and said-quote-"In our judgment, we have reached a point where the negative effects of these policies are simply too significant to ignore. By reaching into virtually every sector of economic life, government is injecting uncertainty into the marketplace and making it harder to raise capital and create new businesses."

Here's the president early this week speaking on the pearls of a government that stays on the sidelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A government that does too little can be just as irresponsible as a government that does too much, because, for example, in the absence of sound oversight, responsible businesses are forced to compete against unscrupulous and underhanded businesses who are unencumbered by taking any restrictions on activities that might harm the environment or take advantage of middle-class families or threaten to bring down the entire financial system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Is President Obama anti-business big?

Martin Frost was a longtime Democratic congressman from the state of Texas. And Kenneth Blackwell is a board member of the Club for Growth, the notorious Club for Growth. He's also Ohio's secretary state.

Let me go to the notorious Club for Growth.

Secretary, Mr. Secretary, I'm not being completely tongue-in-cheek here, by the way. Let me ask you, Mr. Blackwell, do you really believe Barack Obama hates big business, yes or no?

KENNETH BLACKWELL, CLUB FOR GROWTH: I think he's pro-I think he's pro-government. And, by definition, that makes him anti-capital.

And capital seeks the path of least resistance and greatest opportunity. And that's why see capital flowing away from our economy and not producing private sector jobs, which is the ultimate measure of political and economic success.

MATTHEWS: Should we have had less regulation of the oil industry, particularly in terms of safety, less regulation?

BLACKWELL: I think we should have had competent government oversight. I don't think what we-what we have now is a demonstration of government incompetence. And there's been a general-general lack of confidence both in the consumer sector and the capital sector. That is not good for anyone.

MATTHEWS: I just love it, Congressman Frost. When something goes wrong, when an oil company blows it and ruins the Gulf of Mexico, they blame the government for not having done more to regulate them, when every day of their lives, they pay huge amounts of money for lobbyists to keep government away from them.

And everybody knows these facts.

MARTIN FROST (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Chris, you know, the problem with what is going on right now is that the economy was in the ditch when Obama took over.

He supported TARP. He supported the stimulus. He kept the American automobile industry alive. Corporate profits are up. And yet his rhetoric is wrong. He went after Wall Street very hard to pass the financial regulatory bill. I think that was a mistake. And I think that is what has caused him problems in the business community, not his actions. His actions have actually been very good for the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How do you explain, Mr. Blackwell, that the economy has gone up 2,000 points in the stock market, 400 points this week? If this president is a socialist and out to get the business community, as you suggest, why is it doing pretty well, given the way it was doing when he came into office?

BLACKWELL: Come on, Chris. You know that job creation in the private sector is not reflective of bottom-line profits.

In order to get those bottom-line profits, many corporations cut personnel and cut spending in other areas. That increased the bottom line. Job creation is what is the true measure of economic success. Regulation is up. Government spending is up. And I would tell you, right now, job creation is down. And that's a fact.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let's take a look at the-the chief of staff here. He's Rahm Emanuel talking to Politico-quote-"Rather than respond to atmospherics, they in the business committee should look at policies, where we have been supportive."

So, you're saying-Congressman Frost, you're saying that the president's rhetoric was a little too hot in selling financial regulation?

FROST: Absolutely.

You know, Chris, we had an old expression in Texas which you probably had in Pennsylvania. If you want to live like a Republican, you have to vote Democratic. Generally, the economy is better when Democrats occupy the White House.

Look what happened in the Clinton administration. Look at some previous Democratic administrations. But his rhetoric is off-base and has caused him problems. And I'll tell you what also caused him problems is, individual businessmen don't like him, because the maximum income rate-tax rate is going to go up to 39.6. The dividend rate is going to go up to 39.6. Capital gains are going to go up to 30 -- up to 20 percent.

BLACKWELL: That's reality.

FROST: No, no, but that affects individual businessmen. That doesn't affect the business community collectively.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here's Tom Donohue...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, let's listen to Tom Donohue for a second.

And then you jump in here.

BLACKWELL: All right. OK.

MATTHEWS: Here's Tom Donohue speaking for the Chamber with Chuck Todd just the other-well, a couple hours ago-about what's worrying corporate America. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DONOHUE, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: We need to be very careful not to increase taxes on the job creators because they're not going to move if we do. So, what every company in the country is worried about is uncertainty. What's the health care thing really going to cost? It's more than we thought. What's the capital market going to do to the availability of capital? It's a problem. Are we going to do the things about trade? What's going to happen in the tax bill in the lame duck session?

You put that all together. People are sitting on their hands and their money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Want to follow up on that, Mr. Secretary?

KEN BLACKWELL, CLUB FOR GROWTH: Yes. I sure do. Martin is absolutely right. With the looming threat of increased taxation because the Obama administration is going to let the Bush tax cuts die, what that means is the entrepreneurial class, the small business owners where most of the new jobs are created is going to suffer. That's his problem.

Regulation is up, Chris. Taxation is up. Spending up. When spending goes up, taxes go up. Big government gets bigger and-

MATTHEWS: What taxes are up? Tell me out here. What taxes have gone up?

BLACKWELL: Martin just told you.

MATTHEWS: It hasn't gone up yet.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Well, he's already said that they're going to go up.

They're going to let them die.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I just think this is-they're always saying taxes are going up. Let's take a look at-

BLACKWELL: A lot of things are anticipatory, Chris. A lot of things are anticipatory, particularly when his economic team saying it's going to happen.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's take a look at this thing. This is-this is what Paul Krugman is saying. And he's talking here about the business community. Let's take a look at this.

"Business leaders are feeling unloved. The financial crisis, health insurance scandals and the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico have taken a toll on their reputation. Somehow, however, rather than blaming their peers for behavior, CEOs blame Mr. Obama for demonizing business-by which they apparently mean speaking frankly about the culpability of guilty parties."

What's wrong with that argument? Has business been doing a great job, Ken? A great job? Are they really doing a great job in the Gulf of Mexico, for example?

BLACKWELL: I think-I think-

MATTHEWS: Have they been doing a great job on Wall Street in protecting our financial stability? Has business gotten a good report card from you lately?

BLACKWELL: Chris-Chris, let me just tell you, you want to make this about big business, big corporations and bad actors. This is about a business in climate and investment in climate. And the answer is that the Obama administration is going about this the wrong way and is hurting those who create jobs on Main Street. That's why --

MATTHEWS: OK.

BLACKWELL: -- the general public is saying that they're going sour on this guy's rhetoric, as well as the reality of a stagnant economy from job creation standpoint.

FROST: And yet the Republicans complained about the deficit. Now, if you want to do something about the deficit, you let the maximum rate go back to what it was 10 years ago-which is 39.6, let the very wealthy people pays 39.6 rather than 35 percent. Put that money on the deficit.

But the Republicans won't recognize that. They won't say, oh, no, they don't like the deficit. They don't want very rich people to pay higher taxes.

MATTHEWS: OK. We'll be right back. Thank you very much-

BLACKWELL: Congressman, we want to create jobs. We know where jobs are created. And we want to take regulation down. We want to take taxes down. And we want to really cut spending.

MATTHEWS: You know, I don't know how you have such pride, you know, Ken. A disastrous performance by Wall Street almost brought us a second Great Depression, disastrous performance by those pirates up there and by the polluters down in the Gulf of Mexico. Anybody who would brag about the performance of big corporate business of the last couple of years is amazing flackery.

Anyway, thank you, Martin Frost. And thank you, Ken Blackwell.

Up next: If there's one Senate race that pits the ultimate establishment candidate against the ultimate fringe candidate, it's out in Nevada: Harry Reid against Sharron Angle. She might be-well, she might be the first member of the nut bag going into 2010. Some blunt comments about Angle have added new fuel to this fiery race.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We've been counting down (INAUDIBLE) top Senate takeovers for this November. Here are the top five:

At number five: Nevada, where Republican Sharron Angle is looking to topple Harry Reid. We're going to talk about that in a minute.

Number four is Indiana where Republican Dan Coats looks strong for the seat held by retiring Evan Bayh.

Number three: Arkansas. Incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln is in big trouble against Republican John Bozeman.

Number two: Delaware, where Republican Mike Castle is coasting to victory to grab Joe Biden's old seat.

And number one, an easy win for the Rs, North Dakota.

And that means the top five takeover possibilities in the Senate are all races where the Republicans are right now favored to win seats currently held by Democrats.

HARDBALL returns right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Obama was in Nevada campaigning for Senator Harry Reid, who may be in the race of his life. This Pollster.com trend line shows Republican Sharron Angle leading Reid right now. This week on a radio show, Angle knocked the president in how he's dealing with BP.

Let's listen to her.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CALLER: I wanted to know what she thought of the $20 billion slush fund and whether or not government should be able to do that to a private company.

SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the short answer is no, government shouldn't be doing that to a private company, and I think you named it clearly, it's a slush fund.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, shortly thereafter, Sharron Angle did a 180, releasing a statement that reads in part, quote, "Having had time to think about it, the caller and I shouldn't have used the term 'slush fund.' That was incorrect."

Then President Obama said this about Sharron Angle. Let's listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She called the compensation we're providing a slush fund. Now a few hours later, you know, her campaign puts out a memo saying, well, she didn't mean that. They said there was some, quote, "confusion." And I'm sure she met slush fund in the nicest possible way.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Karen Finney is an MSNBC political analyst and Jon Ralston covers politics for the "Las Vegas Sun."

Jon, I know you're completely down-the-middle, straight reporter.

So, give it to us straight.

What did Sharron Angle mean when she called it a slush fund and then within two hours go ballistically, I should say, 180 degrees the other way? Where is her brain? It's a slush fund or it's not a slush fund.

JON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN: Yes, I think she actually believes it's a slush fund, Chris. I think, though, the Angle campaign may set a record for the "what I meant to say" press releases-

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RALSTON: -- because you have the pre-primary Sharron Angle who has essentially said all these things that she's now trying to moderate now that the D.C. handlers have flown in here like paratroopers to try to save her from herself. She cannot moderate herself and left untethered in a situation like that. She is going to say things like that that I believe she really believes.

MATTHEWS: Well, she straightened out that Second Amendment solution number of hers when she said, if you don't like the way politics is being run in this country, people have Second Amendment solutions. Well, Lee Harvey Oswald had a Second Amendment solution and John Hinckley had one, you know?

What's this-what is this story about Second Amendment solutions, if you don't like the way government's acting, use gunplay? Did she pull that one back?

RALSTON: Yes, she said Second Amendment remedies and then she ended that, Chris, by saying, let's take out Harry Reid. So, it was even more incendiary than people thought. And so, yes, when I interviewed her on June 29th about that, she did say that she went a little bit too far. But then she just tried to turn it on Second Amendment rights, et cetera.

Again, she is going to be told to moderate some of these things to change some of these things. It's not privatize Social Security. It's personalize Social Security. Oh, wait, it's save Social Security.

So, I mean, she's going to be all over the map which, of course, is even worse for her, right? Because then you get into the issue of who is she really.

MATTHEWS: Well, take a listen-here's Sharron Angle on Harry Reid. Let's listen and then we'll go to Karen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ANGLE: He doesn't want to talk about the economy. He wants to talk about anything else and he's been reading his Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" playbook, you know, isolate that Sharron Angle, marginalize her and then demonize her. And he has been doing that to me.

And what we need to do is say, you know, Harry, it's not going to do you any good to hit the girl. Start talking about the issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she's doing a good job of marginalizing herself.

MATTHEWS: Saul Alinsky?

FINNEY: It's ridiculous. Come on, as a woman, I have to say, and having worked for women politicians, it's pretty offensive that she would pull out the girl card.

MATTHEWS: How old is she? When do you stop being a girl? Just a question mark. Can you put out a number?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think it's derogatory to use the term for her a grown-up woman anyway but-

FINNEY: But I think using the girl card or saying I'm a woman, he's playing too rough, politics is a rough game. If you're going to talk about Second Amendment solutions and let's go after Harry Reid, you got to know that politics is a rough-

MATTHEWS: Second Amendment remedies and let's take him out.

FINNEY: OK. But that's-you know, that's pretty rough. If that's not playing some kind of card, I don't know what is. But I think what Jon was saying before is exactly right. What you're seeing Sharron do is try to pull all of these phrases back and it's ironic that here's the candidate, supposed to be this homegrown candidate and now-

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Jon.

Jon, this is an unusual phrase "hit the girl." What does that mean? Is there some reference point that she's making there? I understand the Saul Alinsky, he's got this Saul Alinsky, left, whatever, Chicago, I know what that-I get that game. But what's this "hit the girl" thing? Where did that language come from?

RALSTON: You know, I was actually shocked to hear that one. I'm not shocked by much that Sharron Angle says. But it seemed like it's an off-the-cuff comment.

But, of course, Chris, that's going to be offensive to a lot of different people. I saw that there was one piece out there that quoted a former mayor of Las Vegas, Jan Jones, as saying she's offended by that kind of thing. She was involved in the hurly-burly of politics here. Yes, she's a Reid supporter.

But as I said, when she is left to her own devices and she doesn't have an IFB in her ear the way we do, when someone's telling her what to say, she's going to be in big, big trouble.

FINNEY: But guys-

MATTHEWS: Your thought, Karen. I got to go. I'm sorry, Karen.

FINNEY: She's trying-she's playing the girl card to say Harry Reid was over the line. And that was a little bit ridiculous for her to say.

MATTHEWS: We'll see. Thank you. Thank you, Karen Finney. It's always-you're great commentator. Your mother's wonderful.

Jon Ralston, thank you, sir.

When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about how air conditioning-yes, air conditioning is fundamentally transforming the geography of America.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a story of American geography.

Track the movement last night of the LeBron James-he's leaving Cleveland, Ohio, for Miami, Florida. We're seeing power and money head South to where people have been heading this whole past century, certainly this half century, followed perhaps now by basketball power. LeBron's going to the Miami Heat basically because of air conditioning which makes the heat down there bearable year round.

It's not just round ball that's been heading South. Look at the Republican Party this last half century. It once had heroes like Taft of Ohio and Dewey of New York, who battled for the nomination. Today, you're looking at Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Its candidates for presidents now come from Sun Belt states-the Bushes transplants from Connecticut, John McCain who moved to Arizona and Ronald Reagan who went to California.

This movement southward and westward to the Sun Belt goes with the population explosion in old Dixie and with it, a ballooning of electrical strength down South.

In 1952, the first election I can remember, Florida had just 10 electoral votes. The northern part of the state was part of the old confederacy. The southern tip, the home of alligators. Today, Florida has 27 electoral votes. It's on the verge of matching New York, an Electoral College clout.

This explains my growing focus on the Senate race down there. By the way, Jeb Bush may well be the next Republican candidate for president either in 2012 or 2016.

Texas has even more electoral power, outmatched only by California, which now has almost three times the electoral power of Pennsylvania. Back in 1952, as hard as it is to believe, these two states, Pennsylvania and California, had the same number of electoral votes.

Arizona now has doubled its electoral strength since '52. In fact, the states along this country's southern rim, from California to Florida, have just by themselves now more than half the electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

Today, Miami is an international capital. South Beach-a center of pop culture, a mecca for fun, excitement and style; sports teams are now in the South, the franchise move there, the people are there. Politicians are watching there because that's where the voters are.

The Republicans are holding their convention in Tampa in 2012. You don't have to ask why.

Watch the Democrats pick them-pick them to go South, at least as far as Charlotte, North Carolina. And don't worry, both towns are air-conditioned-just like the Heat games.

That's HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

Right now, it's time for "THE ED SHOW" with Ed Schultz.

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

END

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