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updated 8/12/2010 12:20:51 PM ET 2010-08-12T16:20:51

Guest Host: Chuck Todd

Guests: Howard Fineman, Charlie Cook, Julia Boorstin, Jonathan Martin, Roger Simon, Michael Gerson, Anthony Weiner

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC GUEST HOST:  Can the White House exhale?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chuck Todd in Washington, sitting—in New York, actually, sitting in for Chris Matthews. 

Leading off tonight: Just what the Democrats wanted?  If you ask Democrats what their dream scenario was for last night‘s primaries, they‘d have said, one, Michael Bennet, the president‘s man, wins the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado, check.  A Tea Party candidate, Ken Buck, winning the Republican Senate primary in Colorado, check.  And also in Colorado the Tea Party candidate pulling an upset in the governor‘s race.  Check again.

Democrats are hoping weaker, more conservative, less-funded Republican candidates will help them hang onto governorships and the Senate this fall.

Plus, the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll tells us something we probably already knew.  Americans are fed up with everybody, both parties included.  But it also told us something we didn‘t know, that the Democrats may have figured out a way to push back a little bit and maybe cut their losses.

And there are those in the GOP who are having second thoughts about some in their party who want to change the 14th Amendment.  They‘re looking at long-term damage to the party with Hispanic voters and are saying, Enough already.

Also, so-called the “professional left” is still seething over Robert Gibbs‘s outburst yesterday.  Is the White House alienating its base?  A hero on the left, Congressman Anthony Weiner, joins us later.

And wait until you see the ad that former vice president Dan Quayle‘s son, Ben Quayle, shot attacking President Obama.  He calls him the worst president ever, and that ad lands in the “Sideshow.”

But let‘s start with the big story from the primaries.  “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and Jonathan Martin is with Politico.

Look, let‘s go to the results first here and last night‘s winners.  Colorado Senate race, Michael Bennet beat Andrew Romanoff for the Democratic nomination.  Ken Buck narrowly beat Jane Norton for the Republican nod.  In Colorado‘s Republican primary for governor, Dan Maes beat Scott McInnis.  Why does that matter?  Because if McInnis had won, the Republicans could have gotten him to quit the race and they would have found a new candidate to face John Hickenlooper in the fall.  That‘s not going to happen now.

In Connecticut‘s Republican Senate primary, Linda McMahon won with just 49 percent of the vote.  She‘s going to face Democrat Dick Blumenthal.  In Connecticut‘s Democratic primary for governor, Dan Malloy beat a new, moderate Ned Lamont.  And in Georgia‘s Republican run-off for governor, Nathan Deal won by just a couple thousand votes.  Karen Handel conceded today instead of asking for a recount.  And in Minnesota‘s Democratic primary for governor, former senator Mark Dayton won the nomination, upsetting some in the Democratic establishment.

But let‘s go to Colorado, guys, and I want to start with Michael Bennet.  Clearly, the White House is relieved that Michael Bennet won, but check out Senator Bennet this morning on the “TODAY” show with Ann Curry about what he thinks about President Obama in the fall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN CURRY, “TODAY”:  What do you want to say about President Obama as his—in terms of his being an asset on the campaign trail?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO:  You know, I‘m very pleased to have had his support, but I don‘t think it made the difference in the primary.  It won‘t make the difference in the general.

The content of what I hear in my town hall meetings has never been farther away from what we‘re hearing on our television sets than it is today.  And people are focused on how we get out of the most savage economy since the Great Depression.  And I think, you know, the politics in Washington and the political conversation we‘re hearing on TV these days is not particularly responsive to that.  And we have spoken to that, and I think that‘s why we were successful in the primary and will be in the general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  All right, Howard Fineman, is Michael Bennet right, President Obama wasn‘t that big of a factor in the primary and won‘t be a factor in the fall?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No.  I think he was a big factor in Colorado and I think the president will be a big factor in the fall, whether Senator Bennet wants him to be or not.  This is all going to be about if the Republicans can keep their heads about them, which is a big question, as you were pointing out in the intro, if they can keep it focused on the economy, it‘s obviously still going to be about Obama and whether his plan has worked.  And that‘s going to be the issue out there, and that‘s what Michael Bennet has to both distance himself from and respond to in the fall campaign.

TODD:  Hey, Jonathan Martin, it seems as if Democrats are doing a touchdown dance about Ken Buck, and they‘re trying to turn him into Sharron Angle and Rand Paul‘s somehow hidden brother in the basement.

(LAUGHTER)

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO.COM:  Right.

TODD:  Is Ken Buck, you know, Sharron Angle in drag?

MARTIN:  Chuck, it‘s funny you mention that.  I‘m actually doing a story right now about what I call the race to define Ken Buck.  It started last night right after the results came in.  Both the GOP and Democrats are in this sort of furious battle now as to who can set the narrative of who is Ken Buck.  Is he this sort of Princeton graduate, mainstream conservative, county prosecutor, respected pillar of the community?  Or is he—like you said, is he the Rocky Mountain version of Sharron Angle, which is what Democrats are saying, focusing on some of the controversial things that he said during the course of the primary that were not about spending or not about the sort of issues that Howard mentioned that are winners for the Republicans this time around?

I think it‘s still an open question.  I don‘t think he has the vulnerabilities day in, day out that a Paul or an Angle has—

TODD:  Right.

MARTIN: -- who are pure Libertarians, who really have a sort of strong philosophical view of the role of government.  I think he‘s more of a pragmatist, Buck is.  But there‘s no question about it, he went pretty far in—

TODD:  Right.

MARTIN:  -- some of his comments during the course of the primary.

TODD:  But Howard Fineman, the Republicans—look, John Cornyn, the chairman of the Republican Senate committee, he‘s done what he‘s supposed to do.  He identified what—who he thought were the best candidates in these states, the most electable candidates in November.  He‘s just not getting them through these primaries.

FINEMAN:  He‘s not getting them through the primaries, and what‘s happening in places where the Tea Party types are winning, and therefore, across the country, they‘re pulling the whole Republican Party towards them.

MARTIN:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  Best example, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader from Kentucky, saying that maybe the Senate should have hearings about the whole 14th Amendment—

TODD:  Right.

MARTIN:  Right.

FINEMAN:  -- birthright question.  That‘s a huge hot button issue.  The Republicans are going to be really tempted because of the Tea Party people to press that hot button.

TODD:  Right.

FINEMAN:  But it‘s a question of whether that will divert attention from the economic issues that are best for the Republican Party.

TODD:  Speaking of diverting attention, let‘s take a look at Linda McMahon.  She‘s talking about money on another show I‘m familiar with, “THE DAILY RUNDOWN,” today.  Let‘s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDA MCMAHON ®, CONNECTICUT CANDIDATE FOR SENATE:  I‘m certainly spending money that I have earned in this race.  I‘m investing in myself to be a public servant for the people of Connecticut.  And I will continue to have the same kind of campaign that I‘ve had since I got into this race last September, which is, you know, a good, strong campaign which includes me, but it also, more than anything, includes a real grass roots effort to get out and meet the people of Connecticut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Now, what‘s interesting there, Jonathan, is Linda McMahon there, candidate, businesswoman, different from, of course, the Linda McMahon that was involved in the World Wrestling Entertainment.

MARTIN:  Yes.

TODD:  But there are two theories of the case on Linda McMahon‘s Senate candidacy.  Case number one says, You know what?  She‘s the more well known figure.  She allows Dick Blumenthal not to have to just simply be—have it be a referendum on him or the Democrats, and he‘s got a contrast.  Theory number two says, OK, Linda McMahon‘s going to spend a whole bunch of money, is going to make the Democratic Party‘s life miserable in Washington.  Why?  Because Blumenthal‘s going to be begging for more money, and maybe the biggest loser here is Brad Ellsworth, the Democrat trying to make a decent run for Evan Bayh‘s Senate seat in Indiana?  What say you, Jonathan?

MARTIN:  I say, C, Chuck, all the above.  I mean, there‘s no question about it that she has got some real vulnerabilities.  One of the most educated, affluent states in the country, it‘s going to be something of a hard sell for her, given her background.

But she brings so much money to the table that the DSCC, the Senate Campaign Committee for Democrats, is going to have a finite amount of resources to spend.  And if she can spend enough cash, Chuck, to close in on Blumenthal, make this race, you know, 5 points or less going into October, that‘s going to force the DS (ph) to spend more money in Connecticut, not just hurting not just Ellsworth in Indiana but perhaps a Lee Fisher (ph) in Ohio, for example, perhaps a Patty Murray in Washington state—

TODD:  Right.

MARTIN:  -- one of those vulnerable incumbents, too.  So it‘s a matter of resources.  She can force them to spend cash they‘ll (ph) actually have (ph).

TODD:  All right, Howard Fineman, Linda McMahon‘s chances for not just making the Senate race competitive in Connecticut—I think we know $50 million will make it competitive.  Can she win it, or does she need the national wave to bring her across the finish line?

FINEMAN:  She might.  And by the way, Connecticut‘s an expensive state to advertise in because you‘ve got to advertise in New York—

MARTIN:  Right.

FINEMAN:  -- to reach a lot of those Connecticut voters.

TODD:  That‘s right.

FINEMAN:  So you‘re buying a whole lot of unnecessary voters.

TODD:  Yes.

MARTIN:  Right.

FINEMAN:  It‘s hugely expensive.  She strikes me—you know, if this is a wave election, Chuck—you know, I‘m old enough to remember some other wave elections.

TODD:  Right.

FINEMAN:  All kinds of sort of weird creatures get washed up on the beach, you know—

TODD:  You‘re not calling her a creature now.  I want to—

FINEMAN:  OK, I‘m sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  I hear what you‘re saying.  I‘m trying to save you there.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Jonathan, who‘s a good student of history, remembers Paula Hawkins out of Florida.

TODD:  Right.

FINEMAN:  You had some other people who otherwise might not have been elected—

TODD:  Right.

FINEMAN:  -- who were sort of curiosities, if you will.  And not to take anything away from her seriousness, but as Jonathan says, Connecticut is a patrician state, generally speaking.  There are blue-collar workers, yes, but it‘s sort of a—you know, a state of affluence and high education.  The notion of picking, you know, the former impressari-ess—

TODD:  It is.

FINEMAN:  -- of body slamming is—you know, it‘s a little bit out there.  But who knows?  It depends on—

TODD:  Well, it is.  I challenge—

FINEMAN:  -- how big that wave is.

TODD:  I know it‘s affluent in Connecticut, but I challenge Jonathan Martin to go to Waterbury and see how well she plays.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN:  (INAUDIBLE) Waterbury.

TODD:  One more thing—one more thing, Jonathan—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  I want to go to this.  Georgia Republican congressman Jack Kingston on “Human Events” radio this morning with Amy Holmes.  Let‘s take a listen.  It has to do with Sarah Palin.  Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

AMY HOLMES, HUMAN EVENTS RADIO:  Congressman, would you have preferred that Sarah Palin just kind of butt out of it?

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, FLORIDA:  Well, yes, I wish she will because what she‘s doing is dividing the Republican Party at a time when we don‘t need to be divided because in a case like this, really, what people were saying, Well, she‘s endorsing Karen Handel because she‘s a woman.  And she got up on stage on Monday and said, I‘m not doing it because she‘s a woman, although she is a sister, you know, wink, wink.  And I understand that, but you know, it—what it does is it makes Republicans say, Well, maybe we do need to rethink Karen—I mean, Sarah Palin as somebody who does shoot from the hip a little bit too much.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD:  All right, Jonathan, did we learn anything about Sarah Palin, queen-maker, on the fact that Karen Handel actually came up short?

MARTIN:  Chuck, the most striking thing about Kingston‘s comments—it‘s the first time that I can recall a prominent Republican—

TODD:  Conservative.

MARTIN:  Well, conservative, deep South GOP guy—

TODD:  Yes.

MARTIN:  -- raising the issue of her playing gender politics and doing so in a fashion where he was plainly uncomfortable with it.  There‘s been a lot of talk in the party about how this is a great thing, electing more women, but I think there—you know, pardon me—below the surface, some irritation about her gender politics.  And you heard—

TODD:  Great point.

MARTIN:  -- that very clearly from Kingston.

TODD:  It‘s a great point.  Identity politics is not something a lot of Republicans—

MARTIN:  In the GOP!

TODD:  -- are comfortable playing with in the Republican primaries.

All right, Howard Fineman and Jonathan Martin—we got a couple more great August primaries.  Remember when August was a dead month?  Anyway, thank you both.

MARTIN:  Thank you.

TODD:  Coming up, we‘ve got the results of our brand-new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, and President Obama‘s aggressiveness towards Republicans could be helping him and it could be hurting him at the same time.  We‘re have all the numbers next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Washington‘s mourning another former giant of Capitol Hill.  Congressman Dan Rostenkowski has died.  The Chicago Democrat served 18 terms, from 1959 to 1995.  He ended up becoming one of the most powerful legislators in Congress maybe ever.  He was the long-time chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  But in 1996, he pled guilty to charges of mail fraud and spent over a year in prison.  Dan Rostenkowski was 82.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There‘s been a fundamental lack of seriousness on the other side.  We have spent the last 20 months governing.  They‘ve spent the last 20 months politicking.  Now we‘ve got three months to go, and so we‘ve decided, well, we can politic for three months.  They‘ve forgotten I know how to politic pretty good.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  And so I‘m happy to make this argument—I am happy to have this debate over the next several months about what their vision of the future is because they don‘t have one.  They‘re trying to move us backwards, and we need to move us forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was President Obama Tuesday in Austin, Texas.  He‘s been talking tougher on the campaign trail, and our new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows that it might be having an effect in both directions.

Let‘s bring in NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook, who is also the editor and publisher of “The Cook Political Report.”  Let‘s take a look at a couple of numbers here, beginning with President Obama‘s performance in office—better than expected 12 percent, worse than expected, 29 percent, about as expected 58 percent.

Charlie, clearly, the president is sort of—there‘s no more of the euphoria, the Grant Park.  We‘ve known that and we‘ve known that for months.  But we‘re starting to dip into some pretty troublesome territory for this White House, are we not?

CHARLIE COOK, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT,” NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  We are.  I mean, that we saw him sort of gradually drifting, drifting, drifting down, and now it‘s just sort of getting to the point where it‘s in that same danger zone that—that President Reagan was in going into the 1982 election.

TODD:  Hey, by the way, Rahm Emanuel loves that comparison.  He hopes it‘s President Reagan in 1982.

COOK:  Well, yes, although 26 seats.  But the thing is—Democrats—

Republicans—Democrats didn‘t even have a full team on the field that year, and they still picked up 26 seats.  That one could have been a lot worse, and Republicans ended up holding onto a bunch of Senate seats by very narrow margins.  But that was still a rough election for Republicans.  And certainly 1994.  So he‘s down in that—right—right in that area where presidents at this point—in this point in their presidencies have real tough elections.

TODD:  And you know, let‘s look at this even further.  We looked at a

bunch of issues.  We measured 12 of them, separate issues, and asked, Is he

meeting expectations or has he fallen short, based on what you thought he

was going to be able to do?  Fifty percent or more told us that he‘s

falling short of what they expected on 10 of these issues, including—and

this one surprised me—improving the U.S. image abroad, the war in Iraq,

health care, standing up to big business, the war in Afghanistan, handling

regulating Wall Street, dealing with the economy, changing Washington, reducing government spending and dealing with the federal budget deficits.

Charlie, obviously, a lot of this, it may be colored by just everybody‘s negative view at this point of the economy, but they‘re not giving this guy—I‘ll tell you this.  The White House was shocked that they were, quote, “failing to meet expectations” on Iraq.  They‘re sitting there going, Hey, wait a minute.  At the end of the month, we‘re pulling out all combat troops in Iraq.  But that could be an issue with Afghanistan.

COOK:  Well, and the thing is, like, improving America‘s image around the world -- 44 percent lived up to, 52 percent falling short.  Now, short of Israel, other than Israel—

TODD:  Right.

COOK:  -- this guy is pretty popular around the world.  What this means is that the economy has contaminated everything, and you could ask them, How good is this guy at anything—

TODD:  Right.

COOK:  -- as a husband and parent—and there‘s no evidence that he‘s anything other than an absolute perfect model husband and parent—and there still would be a good chunk that would rate him critically, that when people get sour on you, they get sour on you on everything, both whether you deserve it and even things that you don‘t, they get sour on you.

TODD:  And you brought up a case of the image around the world, because you‘re right, when you go around the world, this guy is still very popular.  Somebody else, though—there‘s another entity whose negatives also rose, and that was something else about this poll, Charlie, was that everybody‘s negatives went up, not just President Obama, not just the Democrats, not just Republicans, but even the Tea Party movement.

We have been measuring the Tea Party movement all for the last year, ever since they sort of took off during the health care debate, and a 34 percent negative rating now, just a 30 percent positive rating, and, like I said, it‘s the first time it‘s been upside-down.

Is this the result of, say, President Obama finally getting on the campaign trail and creating a contrast? 

COOK:  I don‘t think it‘s that so much as that, when campaigns engage, when you get down to the real back-and-forth of campaigns, everybody‘s negatives go up. 

I mean, it‘s just—it‘s hard to—you know, it‘s rare to see anybody‘s—the—people‘s positive impressions getting better when you get into the last 90 days of a campaign, and so I think you can expect everybody‘s negatives to go up. 

But, you know, roughly speaking, I mean, just very roughly, you know, you can look at the Tea Party movement and say, a third like them, and a third don‘t like them, and a third still don‘t know who they are, but the thing is, it is a potent movement—

TODD:  Right. 

COOK:  And it is going to drive turnout in this low-turnout election. 

TODD:  Let‘s look at Congress.  Norm Ornstein, our friend, would say this was probably one of the most productive Congresses maybe in the history—or at least in the last 100 years.

But when you ask voters what they think of this Congress, only 1 percent say it was one of the best -- 32 percent say it was one of the worst.  That‘s the highest number—we have done this question for years.  That‘s one of the highest numbers ever for the one of the worst.  When you put the one of the worst and below average together, you get 60 percent. 

Boy, Charlie, your outlook for Republicans winning Congress, when you see numbers like this?  You know, you have been pretty aggressive out there saying you thought Republicans have, you know, at least a 50/50 shot of getting the House.  After seeing this poll today, are you in that same place? 

COOK:  Yes, I absolutely am.  It‘s—it‘s—I‘m not getting nervous.  We got out there real early and aggressively on this, and I don‘t—I‘m not feeling in much danger to be wrong. 

I have been going through political science models for the last day or so, and—and even the political science models are—I mean, they are showing like 30- to 50-seat gains for—for—for Republicans in the House.

And, to be honest, you know, I think it‘s more likely to be on the high half of that range than the bottom half of that range.  And, no, it‘s not—there‘s not any good news out there for Democrats right now, other than money, other than money. 

TODD:  And when a wave—when a wave goes that high, then Senate seats move, too.  But have the Republicans, do they have too many sort of troubled candidates that they go—they have to go in and rescue?  I think Mark Halperin called it a SWAT team.  The NRSC has got to send in these SWAT teams to fix these campaigns?  Do they have too many of them to not even get them on the surfboard? 

COOK:  I think it‘s fascinating to see what‘s going on, because, you know, I tend to think that Republicans are going to have a great night in the House, and Democrats a tough night.

But, in the Senate, it‘s interesting that there were places where Republicans needed to get close races, and they got them.  I mean, California is basically dead-even, Washington State, Patty Murray, dead-even. 

TODD:  Right. 

COOK:  Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, almost there.  So Republicans got what they needed to get to the point where they might be able to get a majority.

But at the same time, they have had erosion in the backfield. 

Kentucky doesn‘t look as good as it used to.  Florida doesn‘t look as good

as it used to.  I mean, we‘re sort of—Nevada doesn‘t look—the Harry -

knocking off Harry Reid doesn‘t look as good. 

TODD:  And now Colorado. 

COOK:  Colorado.  So, they—the places where—some of these places, not so much Colorado, but the other three, where they could have taken for granted a couple months ago, they can‘t.

But what their hoped-for places of looking good are in fact looking better, so I still think it‘s more likely in the five or six range, not in the—not—not getting too close to the 10 that Republicans need to get a majority. 

TODD:  All right. 

And is—Linda McMahon, is she more important to the Republicans because she potentially diverts resources that Democrats could use to, say, make Brad Ellsworth a competitive Senate candidate in Indiana or rescue Blanche Lincoln, if you think somehow she can be rescued, in Arkansas? 

Is that how she plays a role as far as the battle for the Senate, or can she get on that surfboard and potentially somehow wash—wash ashore on election night? 

COOK:  Well, HARDBALL listeners/viewers are a pretty sophisticated group, and so they know that, when you‘re talking Connecticut, what you‘re saying is New York City television. 

TODD:  Right. 

COOK:  And I think she—I think this race is going to be getting very, very close. 

You know, it‘s been about a 10-point lead for Attorney General Blumenthal, the Democrat, but I think it‘s—I would bet you that it‘s in single digits within the next—the next few weeks, month or so.  I think it‘s going to be a very, very, very close race.

And you‘re right.  It‘s going to—you know, New York City television is a bottomless pit.

TODD:  Right. 

COOK:  And that‘s what you buy for Connecticut.  And so some places are looking better for Democrats, and they have got to be real happy today about Colorado, as you said.

TODD:  Right. 

COOK:  But Connecticut—

TODD:  We shall see, yes.

COOK: -- that‘s tough. 

TODD:  All right.  Charlie Cook, as always, this was great.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  And we will have a lot more numbers from our poll, including the president‘s approval numbers, in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern edition of HARDBALL. 

Up next:  How far will Republicans go to gin up their base?  How about calling President Obama the worst president in history?  That‘s what Ben Quayle, son of the former vice president, did in a new ad, but have you to see the ad, and you will see it next in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First up: fear factor. 

Ben Quayle, he‘s the son of the former vice president.  He‘s running for Congress in Arizona‘s 3rd District.  He‘s one of 10 Republicans on the primary ballot on—two Tuesdays from now.  That perhaps explains Quayle‘s new conservative got-to-see-it-to-believe-it campaign ad.  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BEN QUAYLE CAMPAIGN AD)

BEN QUAYLE ®, ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  Barack Obama is the worst president in history.  And my generation will inherit a weakened country, drug cartels in Mexico, tax cartels in D.C.

What‘s happened to America? 

I love Arizona.  I was raised right.  Somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place. 

My name is Ben Quayle, and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Interesting ad.  All right. 

Well, Barack Obama, worst president in history.  Well, you have got James Buchanan, that president.  He set the stage for the Civil War.  You have got Herbert Hoover.  He helped fuel the Great Depression.  Andrew Johnson was impeached.  Some even say Andrew Jackson messed up the entire banking system.  But we shall see. 

In related news, Ben Quayle is also having to answer to reports that he was once a contributor to the site DirtyScottsdale.com, which details nightlife in the city.  The site‘s founder claims that Quayle used to post to document his quest for the—quote—“hottest chick in Scottsdale.”

After initially denying any involvement, Quayle told a local station last night that, well, he was in fact a regular commenter on the site, but that he—quote—“just posted comments to try to drive some traffic.”

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  We will see what Republican voters think of all of this on August 24, Arizona primary day. 

Next: lifestyles of the rich and famous.  In a “Sports Illustrated” interview, boxer Mike Tyson offered up some wild details from his summer vacations.  Well, they were trips that included hard partying, cocaine use and, at times, stays on a yacht belonging to a guy by the name of billionaire Jeff Greene. 

Well, guess what?  He‘s now the Democratic candidate for Florida‘s Senate seat, one of two Democratic candidates.  Greene‘s response, the drugs never came near him or his boat.  Remember, the drugs never came near him or his boat—quote—“We have a zero-tolerance policy” he said.  “I‘m not a drug-doer.  I don‘t even drink.  I don‘t drink coffee.  I like nice wines with dinner.” 

Denials aside, pictures like this of Greene partying with Mike Tyson on a 2005 trip can‘t be good for his campaign image.  We will find out, again, on August 24. 

Up next:  All this talk about repealing the 14th Amendment and doing away with birthright citizenship, it could help Republicans with their conservative base, but it could decimate the party in the long term.  That‘s ahead. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A dramatic sell-off today, the Dow Jones industrials tumbling 265 points, the S&P 50 sliding 31 points, and the Nasdaq plunging 68 points.  Transport stocks leading the decline on fears of an economic slowdown in China.  Investors were hoping steady growth there would drive the global recovery. 

Shares in FedEx, UPS, trucker Con-way, and railroader CSX all moving sharply lower.  Adding to those concerns, a surprise widening of the U.S.  trade deficit, suggesting second-quarter growth was weaker than everyone thought. 

Today‘s turmoil spilling over into the oil sector.  Prices for crude fell more than $2 to settle around $78 a barrel.  In earnings news, Macy‘s was one of the very few bright spots today, surging nearly 6 percent on better-than-expected results and an improved outlook. 

But networking giant Cisco, shares are tumbling after hours after beating on profits, but missing on revenue. 

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

HARDBALL. 

TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Is the push by Republican—some Republican lawmakers to revoke or at least revisit the idea of birthright citizenship creating a divide within the party?  Former Bush administration officials have warned that the movement threatens to seriously weaken the party in the long term. 

Mark McKinnon, who was a campaign adviser to both Bush and McCain, told Politico—quote—“The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican Party.  It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons.  Initially, Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country.  Now it‘s being used to drive people away.”

Roger Simon is the chief political communist for Politico, and Michael Gerson was a speechwriter for former President Bush. 

Roger, I want to start with you. 

You wrote this column that basically today said the Republican Party risks a long-term debacle, basically, particularly if you look at the Electoral College and the presidential elections going forward, because of the changing demographics of this country. 

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM:  Yes.  The Republicans did a famous self-analysis of themselves after the 2000 election, because their polls showed them winning the popular vote.  And, as we all know, they lost it by half-a-million.

And where they undercounted and where they went wrong was underestimating the minority vote in America, especially the Hispanic vote.  And memos were written, and it was decided that the Hispanic vote was in reach of Republican candidates.

But, ever since then, Republicans have been associating themselves with anti-immigration measures, with sending them back, with shutting down the border.  And that is not the way you get Hispanic votes in this country. 

TODD:  Michael, I want to read you a quote from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  He is a potential candidate for president in 2012.

And here‘s what he said in response to this question about birthright citizenship.  He said: “I think we‘re one of the only or one of the few developed nations in the world that allows somebody to come here illegally, give birth to a child, and then have the child be a legal citizen of our country.  The procedure around amending the Constitution is very difficult, but I would be in favor of a rule that says you have to be here legally in order for your son or daughter to be deemed legal here if they are born here.”

Look, you were very, very critical of some Republicans jumping on this bandwagon on Sunday.  I heard you say it.  And I have noticed a lot of your former colleagues in the Bush administration have been actually very silent on this issue, whether it‘s Karl Rove not touching it.  Jeb Bush has yet to touch it.  And you have been very outspoken about it. 

What do you think of a Tim Pawlenty?  I was—I was surprised to hear a Tim Pawlenty say that. 

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: 

Well, I think it‘s really a measure of the pressure that a lot of Republican politicians are under right now. 

You know, Pawlenty is a mainstream governor, you know, I think a really pretty good candidate in many ways, forced into this kind of position, you know, by the political trends within the party, and not just Pawlenty, but people like Lindsey Graham—

TODD:  Right. 

GERSON: -- who has been a real hero on this issue from my perspective, a supporter of comprehensive reform, or John McCain. 

They are all feeling the same kind of pressures.  It really shows where the party is right now. 

TODD:  You know, Roger, Harry Reid, who is in his own tough reelection fight, trying to, frankly, drive up Hispanic support for himself, he‘s got a way to be blunt.  As we know, he‘s been blunt in the past. 

Here‘s what he told Latino voters in Las Vegas earlier this week—quote—“I don‘t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK?  Do I need to say more?”  Now, that quote got a lot of Republicans upset. 

I saw some, you know, they went, and Marco Rubio got very critical of what Harry Reid said.  But Democrats think they have got actually a real opportunity here, don‘t they? 

SIMON:  They do, and they might be right. 

It‘s simply hard to look at the Republican Party and say they are pro-Hispanic.  You‘re—you‘re not just talking about shipping people back.  You‘re telling voters who are citizens that:  We‘re going to take your mother or grandmother or grandfather or father, and we‘re going to send them back to Mexico or Guatemala or China, because we‘re going to change the laws.  That‘s not a welcoming party.  If you look at the four largest states in America: New York, California, Florida and Texas—

TODD:  Yes.

SIMON:  -- those are also the four largest states in terms of Hispanic population.  If you add up their electoral votes, that‘s 54 percent of the votes you need to win the presidency.  If the Democrats can use this issue to get those votes—

TODD:  Yes.

SIMON:  -- they start off in an awfully good position.

TODD:  If Texas ever becomes a swing state, I don‘t know how Republicans ever win the White House again.

SIMON:  Yes, it‘s true.

TODD:  Michael, I want to ask you with this.  Marco Rubio, the Republican—the likely Republican nominee in Florida for the U.S. Senate, a Cuban-American, could become a very important face for the Republican Party if he wins a U.S. Senate seat.  He was asked about this, and what is interesting is how he tried to not answer the question.  He was asked about the 14th Amendment.

Here‘s his quote—he said, quote, “The fundamental issue we need to focus on is border security.  These other things are really not at this moment pressing issues.  If you have a legal immigration system that works, these other issues take care of themselves.  Otherwise, you end up pursuing public policy that I don‘t think solves the problem.”

What‘s interesting here, Michael, is—look, his campaign says he‘s against this idea of birth right citizenship.  They‘ve been very blunt about it, but as you just pointed out by Tim Pawlenty, it seems as if Marco Rubio was afraid to say that himself.

MICHAEL GERSON, FMR. BUSH SPEECHWRITER:  No, I agree.  I think Republicans that oppose changing the 14th Amendment need to be a little more forthright in order to provide an alternative voice.  Republicans have been arguing about this issue since the mid-‘90s where you had Pete Wilson doing Proposition 187.

TODD:  Right.

GERSON:  And you had George Bush in Texas running a very different kind of manner, appealing to Hispanic voters.  And right now, clearly, the restrictionists have an upper hand.

And, you know, this is a case where this 14th Amendment debate really clarifies the issue in a lot of ways.  If you‘re talking about building a border fence, you‘re talking about punishing wrong doers, people that break the law.

TODD:  Right.

GERSON:  If you‘re talking about changing the 14th Amendment, you‘re talking about punishing infants in hospitals.

There‘s a fundamental lack of generosity, and I think kind of seriousness in this kind of proposal.  It just—you know, it shows the Republicans in a very bad light, and there has to be another side to this argument.

TODD:  And, Roger, here‘s what I don‘t understand.  They had a good issue in basically saying, look, the Obama administration trying to tell the state of Arizona what to do on immigration when all the state of Arizona was trying to do was to do what the federal government wasn‘t doing.  They had a winning issue with a lot of swing voters that didn‘t delve into identity politics and all of a sudden, this thing—and it‘s almost they snatched a victorious issue—snatched defeat from a victorious issue.

SIMON:  Right.  They almost can‘t help themselves, as you pointed out and I think as Mike pointed out, too, some of the leaders of this 14th Amendment repeal are not extremists, Lindsey Graham, Tim Pawlenty.  They‘re not people who have been to the far-right.

TODD:  Right.

SIMON:  But I think they see this as the issue they need to get far-right votes.

TODD:  Michael, are you concerned as a conservative, as a Republican who would like to see Republicans get back in the White House, that the Republican presidential primary fight in 2011 is just going to damage the brand for a long period of time?

GERSON:  Well, it is a concern.  The reality is, somebody like Tim Pawlenty should be a very good general election candidate.  He won in a Democratic state.

But the question is: what is he going to be—what positions is he going to be forced to take during the primaries on a variety of issues—

TODD:  Right.

GERSON:  -- that make him less electable in the general election.

This is an issue where local politics in Arizona is very different than the national politics for national elections.  Republicans have to try to get at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to be competitive in national elections given American demographics moving forward.  So, I think there‘s a huge difference between the short-term interests here of some Republicans—

TODD:  Right.

GERSON:  -- and the long-term interests of the party.

TODD:  We‘ll see if it even works in the short term.

Roger Simon and Michael Gerson, thanks for this.

Up next: Robert Gibbs ticked off what he called the “professional left” yesterday.  And when we return, one of the left‘s happier warriors, Congressman Anthony Weiner, is going to respond.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Here‘s an update on the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial.  It‘s been 11 days of deliberation by that jury, and the jury for Blagojevich has asked the judge for guidance, because they say they are deadlocked on some of the 24 counts in the indictment.

The judge says there‘s no evidence of rancor in the deliberations, and he has sent a note back to the jury to ask them about the state of deliberations.  He also reminded them that they can reach unanimous verdicts on some counts, even if they can‘t on others.

We will find out tomorrow if this is a hung jury.  Can you imagine?

This is HARDBALL.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Do you regret any of what you said to “The Hill”?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I will say I think there are many times when I read the transcripts even of answers I given in here, that I could have done—could have said things slightly differently.  I will say, you know, I watch a lot of cable TV, and you don‘t have to watch long to get frustrated by some of what‘s said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Well, welcome back to cable TV, specifically HARDBALL.

That‘s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today on his criticism of the, quote, “professional left” and he went on to explain and stand by his comments that, quote, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we‘ve eliminated the Pentagon.”

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBS:  It was borne out of frustration, but I don‘t think it was—again, I think it was borne out of frustration.

REPORTER:  Do you stand by it?  It‘s private frustration that you expressed publicly and accurately?

GIBBS:  Well, public frustration that was written down publicly.

REPORTER:  Do you want to name any names, Robert?

GIBBS:  I left my membership list back in the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  New York Congressman Anthony Weiner joins us now.

Some might say you‘re a hero of some on the “professional left,” at least on some days you‘re a hero—probably on other days sometimes not.

What did you make of Robert Gibbs‘ comments about, quote, “the professional left”?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, I think you should defend cable television and I‘ll defend the professional left.

Look, can I tell you—I think that someone who talks as much as Gibbs does every day is going to say some dopey things.  I think that‘s in the category.

I think the one thing I would say is that, you know, the critique that some on the left have had about President Obama not being aggressive enough, the difference is that I don‘t think he needs—seems to understand is we want President Obama to be a success.  You know, we wanted the public option because we wanted a better health care bill.  We wanted him to be more successful.

But I think that, overall, what we all need to do, those of us who care about the success of this administration, is take a step back and look how much they‘ve accomplished.  They‘ve accomplished an enormous amount—

TODD:  And that was his point.  He feels as if, wait a minute, at the end of the month, our combat troops are going to be out of Iraq.  That was a promise he made at the Iowa caucuses and he‘s keeping that promise.  He did get health care—more health care than any other Democratic president attempted to do.

WEINER:  Yes.

TODD:  And I think they‘re just looking for a rose petal.  You know, they‘re not looking for a bed of rose petals.  They‘re looking for a rose petal.

WEINER:  In fairness, you know, Rachel Maddow did a segment, almost her entire show to this question about how much they‘ve accomplished.  It was so—it was so good from the White House perspective.  They used it at fundraisers later on that week, you know, to show the video.

Yes, they get plenty of credit.  The one thing they need to understand and I think that Mr. Gibbs does understand this in retrospect, is that when I stand up, or someone else stands up and fights for improvements to the health care bill, it‘s not the same as when the right-wing attacks them and tries to obstruct them every five minutes in Washington.  You know, we‘re on the same team.  We want them to be successful.

But for most Americans, this is—this is real naval gazing.  What they really care about is not whether which sector of the Democratic Party supports what.  It‘s whether we‘re getting stuff done.  It is inarguable that this administration is getting things done to improve the lives of American people and I think everyone in the Democratic coalition recognizes that.

TODD:  Now, you have gotten some criticism from the, quote-unquote, “professional left,” at least that and the blogosphere on your stance on the mosque issue, and this feeling that you didn‘t stand—you didn‘t stand up enough or you didn‘t do this enough.  Feeling that heat from the, quote unquote, “professional left” when normally you‘re not feeling that heat, what did you—how did you feel about that?

WEINER:  Well, first of all, you know, up and until the moment you mentioned this on MSNBC, maybe 50 people had read the criticism.  But basically, look, I have said very clearly my view, is I believe that, constitutionally, the last thing elected officials should be doing is deciding where religious institutions go.  I find—I find it just contrary to everything I believe what a congressman should be doing.  But you know?  I—I call ‘em how I see ‘em, you know, there are times—

TODD:  So, where are you on this mosque issue?  You don‘t want to see it built but you‘re not going to stop it?

WEINER:  Here‘s my view: my view is that I think what Mayor Bloomberg said was absolutely correct.  That there are some places public officials should—especially constitutional officers like a member of Congress—should not tread.  There is a clear bright line First Amendment question here whether members of Congress should be saying where a mosque should or should not be, a synagogue should or should not be.

The one minor quibble I have with what Mayor Bloomberg has said I believe some elements of transparency would be helpful.  I don‘t think that that‘s—I don‘t think anyone asking the questions, they‘re asking unfair questions, but they—elected officials, particularly a member of Congress, should not be weighing in on this debate on where they should or should not be.

TODD:  But wait a minute, but a lot of times members of Congress and you yourself don‘t usually have a problem sometimes standing up on certain issues but on this one, this feel—

WEINER:  On overtly constitutional bright line question like this, there is no constitutional interpretation that would ever say a member of Congress should be deciding where a mosque should be.

TODD:  And this isn‘t ducking an issue?  This isn‘t taking a political way out?

WEINER:  This is about—look, certain people who were supporting the mosque are certainly not happy with my position.  I‘m not—I don‘t—I mean, no one‘s—look, what I‘ve said is that I believe this is a dangerous place for a member of Congress to be.  This is not like deciding whether a cop killer bullet banning it violates the Second Amendment.  This is about as it clear as it gets.

TODD:  You‘re a resident of New York City?

WEINER:  I am a resident of New York City.

TODD:  How do you feel about it?

WEINER:  I don‘t—I don‘t believe that a member of Congress should be weighing in on it this stuff.  I think it‘s very dangerous.  Can I say something?  What is it, I take a position, I say yes, I think it should be here or there, or no, I don‘t think it should be there—how is that not a violation of the clear separation of church and state?  I mean, that‘s about as clear as it gets.

TODD:  All right.  I got more with you.  We‘re going to come back.  We got to do a break.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, we‘re going to talk about another story of the week.  Yes, the JetBlue flight attendant who lost it, because you know why?  It‘s his constituent.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  And we are back with Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.

Well, you have a new famous constituent here.  Steven Slater is now the world famous JetBlue flight attendant.  And here‘s what he had to say about his newfound fame.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN SLATER, JETBLUE FLIGHT ATTENDANT:  I didn‘t have access to much information so to come out to all of this is a little bit—a little bit overwhelming.

REPORTER:  I mean, it‘s a media circus out there.

SLATER:  Oh, yes.

REPORTER:  Did you ever think that this was going to—

SLATER:  No, no.  It never crossed my mind.

REPORTER:  Did you have the whole chute thing planned?

SLATER:  For 20 years, we thought about it.  You never think you‘re going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Look, part of the your district‘s always had this working class of the Archie Bunker, the fictional Archie Bunker character I think is in Queens, as well.  This is an Archie Bunker for the 21st century.

Look, you‘re hearing from a lot of angry constituents.  And part of our new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” pollster Peter Hart says, you know what, America wants to have a JetBlue moment.  They want to pull (INAUDIBLE) because they‘re mad at everybody.

WEINER:  Well, you know what, I have a lot of flight attendants because one of my district (INAUDIBLE) gardens, it‘s called Crew Gardens and Rockaway.  Look, there is this general sense that when people are standing up, particularly when they‘re dealing with big corporations, they have a sense that a lot of elements of our economy are not on the level.  I think a lot of the push for the financial reform was because people had a sense they were out of that control.

He is certainly a surprising hero for this summer.  But I do believe

that a lot of people—particularly if they fly nowadays—see how much -

how much stress these guys are under.  And, I mean, I don‘t—I don‘t know if all of us are inclined to slide down a chute with a six-pack of bud but I‘m sure it‘s crossed our mind or at least it‘s going to now.

TODD:  And it clearly did cross his mind.

After you leave here, are you going to Charlie Rangel‘s birthday party?

WEINER:  I am.

TODD:  Do you—yesterday‘s episode on the floor of the House, was that a good thing or bad thing for the Democratic Party?

WEINER:  I‘ll leave it to someone else to do the punditry.  But I think the fundamental that Charlie was making is a fair one.  He wants his day in court.  It‘s been two years that these allegations are around.

You know, he‘s been—he‘s a great American.  He‘s been a patriot and served his country.  I think, at the very least, he deserves a chance to answer the charges.  I do agree, two years of an investigation is a long time.

TODD:  You‘re not asking for him to resign?

WEINER:  I‘m not.

TODD:  All right.  Congressman Anthony Weiner, thank you.

WEINER:  Thank you.

TODD:  Enjoy the birthday party there.

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

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

           

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