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updated 9/20/2010 11:58:30 AM ET 2010-09-20T15:58:30

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Willie Geist, Amanda Drury, Jonathan Martin, Shushannah Walshe, Christina Bellantoni, Hendrik Hertzberg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Palin gives Iowa a try.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: The senator from Delaware?  That‘s right, the prominence of Christine O‘Donnell this week tells you how much the Republican Party has changed, at least for now.  The Grand Old Party is history.  This week‘s primary voting, especially in Delaware, has changed the calculus, less for this November than for November 2012.  If you‘re a classic line-up—well, if you‘re a classic “line up the endorsements,” big money establishment Republican like Mitt Romney, you‘ve had a very bad week.

Who had a good week?  The candidate who wasn‘t at today‘s Obama-bashing Values Voters Summit here in Washington, Sarah Palin.  This is her party now.  The only question is what she wants to do herself, run or stand back on the sidelines, get out on the field or play quarterback or grab the megaphone as the party‘s number one cheerleader?

Well, the shining new star at today‘s Summit was Senate nominee

Christine O‘Donnell.  She may win, she may not, in Delaware, but

progressives are fools to underestimate her and even more so for

underestimating the voter attitude—or as they say in Philly, “atty-tude”

that led to her nomination.  By the way, O‘Donnell was on HARDBALL as far back as 2002 talking about the 10 Commandments.  We‘ll show you a clip of that from the old days.

Plus, Jon Stewart announced his Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington last night.  Can Stewart do for liberals and progressives what Glenn Beck did for conservatives and right-wingers a week ago?

Well, let‘s talk about the hard feelings.  Three decades after Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination in 1980, Carter says we could have had comprehensive health care reform back in the 1970s, but Kennedy wanted to deny Carter any success.  Some wars never end.  We‘ll get to that one.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight on the Sarah Palin challenged.  Do Republicans think she‘s presidential or even vice presidential material?  Just answer the question, please.

Let‘s start with this brave new Republican Party and what it means for the mid-terms and 2012.  Shushannah Walshe is with The Daily Beast and Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst.

Let‘s take a look at something pretty pathetic now.  Here‘s Mitt Romney trying to talk like a Tea Partier at today‘s Values Voter Summit.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If only he had, in fact, been transparent and bipartisan and uniting, as he pledged in his campaign, then perhaps he could have delivered on his promise of “Yes, we can.”  Instead, we know all too well that no, he didn‘t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God.  Richard Wolffe.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so sad!

WOLFFE:  Look—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a smart guy, a business guy.  He‘s probably a good family man, trying to act like someone he clearly isn‘t.  He is not a raging rebel against the system.

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not a Tea Partier.

WOLFFE:  Look, and his problem has always been about credibility and authenticity.  So if he tries a new character, a new persona, which may be persona number five or six or seven, he‘s going to be in trouble again.  He has to stick to who he is and hope that the cycle in his party shifts back towards economic issues—

MATTHEWS:  Well, it won‘t in two years.

WOLFFE:  -- economic issues, which are his number one thing.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WOLFFE:  That‘s what people care about—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Remember how he was pro-choice, then he was anti-choice—

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- and then he said he was multiple choice.  You can‘t keep track of this guy.

What do you make, Shushannah—just before we get to the candidate you know more about, talk about this fellow, Mitt Romney, trying to act like, you know, a crazy, a wild-eyed right-winger, which he‘s not.  He‘s somewhat of a moderate, I think, politically.

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, THEDAILYBEAST.COM:  I think that you‘re right that he really needs to stick to the economic issues.  And I think he could be pretty successful if he does that, if he really just goes against—goes after the president on the economy and really paints himself as—as who he is, somebody who‘s—who has a great background in finance, has been very successful in—

MATTHEWS:  Is that—well, I don‘t know if that‘s what they‘re looking for in the casting Democratic Party of the Republican right right now.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSHE:  -- believable.

MATTHEWS:  No, here‘s what they seem to be looking for.  Here‘s Christine O‘Donnell Tuesday night, thanking Sarah Palin, who endorsed her and really made her have a good chance to win that one in Delaware.  Let‘s look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE:  So again, you betcha!

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  There‘s another woman I got to thank.  You betcha!

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you, Governor Palin, for your endorsement because she got behind—

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

O‘DONNELL:  She got behind us war-weary folks and gave us a boost of encouragement when we needed it, and she was a vote against the politics of personal destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a national map to get a sense of how wide the power is, I think, of Sarah Palin.  We got a map there, just like in election time.  Look at those greens.  Those are the primary picks that she picked across the country, and the green spots are where she picked a winner coast to coast.  Numerically, she had 25 wins, 11 losses, 7 no contests.

But Richard Wolffe and Shushannah, that adds up to almost 50 candidates she had a big hand in helping out.  And by the way, when they lose, they can be even better help to you next time around—

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- because they got nothing to do—

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- but help you win the next presidential election, by the way.  It‘s sometimes smarter—we‘re going to talk about Jimmy Carter later.  He built a presidential campaign by backing people that lost races.

WOLFFE:  Hey, look, it‘s an interesting mix.  Endorsements are the old-style politics, right, and they‘re not supposed to really count for much.  But in this new world, she can help raise money.  She‘s mobilizing voters.  The really shocking thing is how much the establishment party has failed to get Republicans out to vote.  You know, it‘s as if they don‘t have—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- turnout in Delaware.

WOLFFE:  Look at the—

MATTHEWS:  It was great.

WOLFFE:  Yes, but the Republican base—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  -- is turning out with these insurgents now.  What happened -

who established the best turnout models for the Republicans?  George Bush, the 2004 campaign, 2000 campaign.  They had a tremendous ability to turn (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  They were church people, too, as well.

WOLFFE:  Right.  But they—you know, they‘re not speaking to them.  And it‘s—whatever—whatever her success rate is, she has the mojo, and in a multi-candidate field—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WOLFFE:  -- she can really make a difference.

MATTHEWS:  Shushannah, you (INAUDIBLE) very close to that campaign. 

You know what it‘s like.  So give me the report.  Who are the Palin people?  Who are the Palin people that can turn out and become Christine O‘Donnell people, that can become Nikki Haley people, et cetera, et cetera?  How do you make—how do you build this multiplication process she seemed to be doing here in the country?

WALSHE:  Yes.  She has an incredible grass roots appeal that we know is also very successful.  And so those people that support Governor Palin are very loyal to her and—

MATTHEWS:  Who are they?

WALSHE:  They‘re—

MATTHEWS:  Are they women?  Are they men?  Mostly women?

WALSHE:  No, I mean, I think that it really—it is both men and women.  And they‘re all over the country and they are really plugged into a lot of anger at the president.  But what‘s also interesting about her supporters is they are just so incredibly loyal to her.  She really can do no wrong.  I mean, everything, whether it be on Monday, when she‘s with Bristol on “Dancing With the Stars” or endorsing, you know, Christine O‘Donnell, it‘s really whatever she does, they are supportive.  And it‘s—

MATTHEWS:  OK, are they—

WALSHE:  -- incredible.

MATTHEWS:  Are they—are they pro-life?  Are they—

WALSHE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, they tend to be pro-life.  Are they middle, working class, regular income people, that‘s my hunch, right in the middle.

WALSHE:  Yes, I think so, too.  And you know, and obviously, the Tea

Party—the Tea Party people are supporting her, people that identify

themselves with—as Tea Partiers.  They love her.  But I think it‘s more

than that.  I think that she really—and what‘s interesting is when she -

I do believe that she‘s running for president, and when she does start that—

MATTHEWS:  I do, too.

WALSHE:  -- when she goes to Iowa, as we‘re seeing today, and she starts shaking hands and kissing babies, as they say, you‘ll—we‘ll really see her again on the trail and how successful she is with that—that politicking, that hand-to-hand politicking.

MATTHEWS:  What percentage of her voters are right-wingers, would you say, hard right?  And how many are just sort of middle-of-the-road, frustrated people, who are normally not political?

WALSHE:  I think a lot of them are.  I wouldn‘t know exact percentage.  But I—I mean, I think a lot of them are, that they—they define themselves as social conservatives.  They also want smaller government.

MATTHEWS:  On the right.

WALSHE:  Yes.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  She (INAUDIBLE) people on the right.

WALSHE:  I mean, I—that‘s clear.  Definitely.

MATTHEWS:  Because they like to deny that.  Here are some numbers, by the way, from “New York Times,” to put her in perspective.  And we have to do this once in a while, even though she‘s hot as blazes on the right and can really influence Republican voters, who show up in primaries, which is an even smaller set.  Palin has only 21 percent favorable in the “New York Times”/CBS poll out and 46 percent unfavorable, about 2 to 1 against her. 

That‘s a flip from two years ago, when she first came into the spotlight, where she was doing pretty well -- 12 percent say they‘d be more likely to support a candidate that Palin endorsed—just 13 percent, 37 percent said they‘d be less likely, 18 percent say Palin is mostly interested in electing conservatives, 67 percent she‘s mostly interested in her brand and staying in the public eye, I guess for money.

Let me go to you, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me that we—we‘re watching the picking process—

WOLFFE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  -- which is picking nominees.  It‘s always different than who‘s going to vote in November.  But this year, I have a smell out there, like you do.  The people that are going to vote in November are a lot like the people that voted in the Republican primaries, red hot, angry.  They‘re going in there to—to smack the president hard.

WOLFFE:  Right.  It‘s—turnout is always the question in these mid-terms.  The interesting thing is that Sarah Palin—and maybe Christine O‘Donnell does this, too—Sarah Palin is one of the biggest motivators for people on the left.  They give money because of Sarah Palin—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good bit of news for a lot of people watching. 

How do you know that that works, it works in reverse?

WOLFFE:  Once she was—once she was nominated to be vice presidential candidate—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know that!

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  -- raised $20 million for the Obama campaign.  So—and there are reports now that she‘s still being used successfully—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

WOLFFE:  -- in Democratic fund-raising mail, right—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- the Jewish community, for example, I know from talking to people—scared the—well, not the bejesus out of—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  them, but scared them to death.  And like, in Florida, I hear the reason south Florida just went crazily against her was we got a theocrat running here.

WOLFFE:  Right.  And I suspect if the Democrats have any sense about them, they‘ll try and do the same with O‘Donnell, try and get—

MATTHEWS:  But can you do that—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- in a Senate race or a gubernatorial or congressional race?  Can you scare people about that person right there if she‘s not coming to take over the country, she‘s just out there giving talks?

WOLFFE:  In Delaware, when you play those clips, when you write the mailings and you run the 30-second ads, you bet.

MATTHEWS:  You think that‘s going to scare the general election voter away from Christine O‘Donnell?

WOLFFE:  Isn‘t that the whole—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s find out.

WOLFFE:  Isn‘t that what they‘ve been trying to do with Sharron Angle?

MATTHEWS:  Try to keep open minds about this.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at November.  Let me go to you, Shushannah.  Is it your sense that she will drive the left into hysterics enough to come out and say, My God, this woman, if she wins with all these races, she‘s going to be hard to stop, a real tyro?

WALSHE:  Well, I think you‘re right that the people that are the most angry are the ones that are going to show up.  But if the Democrats are smart, that‘s what they‘ll do.  I mean, as you said, you know, they‘ll send out mailers and they‘ll put Sarah Palin‘s face on ads and—I mean, I think that they could be more successful if they do do that because, as you said—I agree that she does drive people on the left.  But is it enough to get them out?  I just don‘t know.  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

WALSHE:  -- in order for them to kind of stop the bleeding, the Democrats stop the bleeding, they‘re going to have to do that.

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of bleeding, I got hot news tonight, late today.  And here‘s somebody who‘s not afraid of Sarah Palin.  We learned that Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, who‘s still in office—she‘s from Alaska, of course—will announce that she‘s running a write-in campaign against Miller, the guy who beat her in the primary, and also attorney—the Republican—the Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams, who‘s the mayor of Sitka up there.

Let me ask you about this.  The fear here for Republicans is that Murkowski, of course, and Miller will split the lion‘s share of the conservative vote.

WOLFFE:  It‘s possible.  Write-ins are really difficult, though.  It‘s really—if she was running as an independent candidate and she‘d get on the ballot and—

MATTHEWS:  Especially if your name‘s Murkowski.  Apparently, you got to run—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They got to figure out whether they‘re going to run her as

--

WOLFFE:  Well—

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  -- name up there, so they should be able to get that right.

MATTHEWS:  But you know, you got to—it‘s got to be the way it appears with that handwriting.

WOLFFE:  Right.  Well, it‘s tough.  Write-ins are always tough.

MATTHEWS:  Oh!  They got to pass out stickers and everything else.

WOLFFE:  Unless you‘re Fenty and you‘re writing in as a Republican (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the one advantage, Shushannah, is that you can run a write-in campaign in a state with a small population as Alaska.

WALSHE:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  A lot easier than California.  So you got to get the stickers around at every voting station.  You got to teach people how to write the name the way they want it to appear.  Although I‘m told by the judges up there, reading about it, if they recognize the intent is Murkowski, they‘re going to give her the—boy, we‘re going to get another hanging chad thing coming here.  Your thoughts, Shushannah?  Can a write-in candidate beat Sarah Palin‘s candidate in her hometown?

WALSHE:  I think that Murkowski has a good shot.  It will be difficult, but if you can do it anywhere, you can do it in Alaska and you can do it as Lisa Murkowski.  She has 100 percent name recognition.  Everybody knows her and her family up there.  And she does have wide support.  Even though those people—I was up there in Alaska.  It was a gorgeous day and I—her supporters—

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe—

WALSHE:  -- did not come out that day.  I think, you know—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

WALSHE:  -- a lot of them just didn‘t go to the polls.  But I think they would come out in November for her.  So if there‘s anyone that can do it and do it in Alaska, it‘s Lisa Murkowski.

MATTHEWS:  I think she‘s—

WALSHE:  I wouldn‘t count her out.

MATTHEWS:  -- planning a Democrat—I think she‘s counting on Democrat votes.  I think that‘s the goal here—

WALSHE:  Yes.  Definitely.

MATTHEWS:  -- or she wouldn‘t be doing this.

WALSHE:  Definitely.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s going to do what Crist was trying to do in Florida not so successfully.  By the way, it may not be Miller time in November.  Shushannah, thank you for joining us.

WALSHE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Shushannah Walshe and Richard Wolffe.

Coming up: Delaware‘s newly minted Senate nominee, Christine

O‘Donnell, has much of the appeal of Sarah Palin, and as was the case with

Palin, progressives should not underestimate that person there.  People say

I hear from the inside it‘s going to be single-digit, this election, closer than you think, this election coming up in Delaware this November.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The election results this week changed the political landscape heading into the mid-terms, and it‘s reflected in “First Read‘s” latest list of the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip parties.  Here‘s the top 10, counting down to the most likely to flip.  Number ten, the state of Washington.  Senator Patty Murray‘s showing strength, but she still has a fight on her hands.  Number nine is California.  Senator Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina are in a toss-up.  Number eight, Wisconsin.  Good government guy Russ Feingold is in the fight of his life.  Number seven, Nevada, where Senator Harry Reid just can‘t shake Sharron Angle.  And at number six, Colorado, with Ken Buck looking strong against Senator Michael Bennet.

We‘ll have the five most likely seats to switch later on HARDBALL. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s no secret that there‘s been a rather unflattering portrait of me painted these days.

I‘m not counting on the national media to vote for me on November 2nd, I‘m asking all of you to vote for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Republican Senate nominee Christine O‘Donnell Thursday at a candidate forum up in Delaware.  She took center stage today in Washington at the Family Research Council‘s Values Voters Summit.  She was the big story this week, of course, and now on into November.

We‘re joined now by Christina Bellantoni, who‘s the senior reporter for Talking Points Memo, a distinguished Web site, and Politico‘s Jonathan Martin.  There you are, Jonathan Martin!  There you are!

Let me start with you, Jonathan, because I want you to look at this again.  Here‘s O‘Donnell today.  And I want you to try to be, everybody, totally non-ideological and just look at this political phenomenon we‘re looking at and see if it‘s real or not.  Here‘s Christine O‘Donnell today at that Values Voter forum.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  This is America!  And the ruling class elites may try, but they will never have the last word on liberty.  There‘s something about our national DNA that insists on shouting at those who would be our masters, You‘re not the boss of me!  The small (ph) elite don‘t get us.  They call us wacky.  They call us wingnuts.  We call us “We the people.”

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, Jonathan, I have to tell you, I am not unimpressed.  Your thoughts.

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO.COM:  No.  Yes.  Look, she‘s got a natural stage presence.  She obviously makes a very good sell.  And she‘s got a sort of Palinesque feel for how to really drive in that sort of class wedge and try to sort of frame this election as us versus them, you know, those people.  So she‘s definitely got some talent.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s the bad guy?  Who‘s the bad guy when she‘s talking?  Who‘s the implicit devil out there that she‘s got?  Because Palin, you know who it is.  But who is the bad guy when she‘s talking.

MARTIN:  Oh, liberal elites—

MATTHEWS:  Same person?

MARTIN:  Sure, liberal elites, you know, the Ivy League types, the media et cetera.

MATTHEWS:  You got it.

MARTIN:  Here‘s the challenge, Chris, though.  She‘s not running in Alaska.  She‘s running in a state that, except for the southern tier, is mostly a, you know, Northeastern-style, suburban/urban place, where a lot of the voters are either center or center-left.  And it‘s going to be tough for her to win in that state this election, even in a good year, just because of the underlying demographics of Delaware, where, in a primary, she can pull it off.  In a closed primary, that is, she can pull it off.  When you have got all those Wilmington sort of moderates coming out, it‘s a lot tougher.

MATTHEWS:  Where are you from, Jonathan?  Are you from California somewhere?  Where are you from?  Where are you from?

MARTIN:  I grew up in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t seem like you‘re into Northeastern ethnic politics too much.

Let me bring in someone who might be. 

Christina, you‘re from California, too.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But let me tell you, you‘ve overlooked some basic tribal facts here.  Her name is O‘Donnell.  First of all, there‘s a lot of people that live around Wilmington with named something like that or Italian or Irish.  And they‘re going to say, she‘s not some wacky evangelist from way out west somewhere.  She‘s not from Colorado Springs or something.  She‘s not a family values type from out there.  She seems like somebody I grew up with. 

There‘s a lot of appeal to that. 

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, TALKING POINTS MEMO:  And she‘s campaigns appealing to Catholic voters as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, she‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- pro-lifer, conservative Catholics, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BELLANTONI:  Absolutely.   And so that is something.  She went out there—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think you have got to look at that when you look at the Wilmington burbs.

Take a look here.  Here she is Thursday.  I‘m just suggesting that this is a little different than somebody from out West, in Alaska running. 

MARTIN:  I agree with that.  No, I agree with that.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I would like to get back into that old neighborhood of ethnic politics once in a while and figure it out.

Let‘s take a look and see if that is right or it‘s wrong.  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s O‘Donnell Thursday, very conservative culturally, very conservative, as I have read about it.  Let‘s listen.

MARTIN:  But, Chris—yes.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I think that we‘re heading in the wrong direction.  We‘re increasing the size of government.  We‘re out of touch with the needs of the average Delaware voter.

I‘m a hardworking, average citizen who understands what it‘s like to fall on economic times.  So, as I go into Washington, D.C., I will keep this perspective with every spending bill that comes across my desk.  Every tax—proposed tax increase, I will first ask myself, does this benefit or hurt the people in Delaware?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  This is not a mink coat Republican here.  She‘s not from the country club.  Her annual income last year was $5,000.  When she‘s talking about a recession, she‘s living it.  Your thoughts. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, you, and then Christina.

MARTIN:  Chris, I hear what you‘re saying about her appeal in some of the old neighborhoods.  But let‘s look at who Delaware has elected in recent years, Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper, Representative Mike Castle.  These are not sort of Bob Brady-style, corner politicians in the clubhouse, Chris.  This is more of a suburbanized state now.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I could give you those facts and I can also say they had their chance. 

Your thoughts, Christina.  I think it‘s an interesting discussion here.  Is this the old politics or the new politics going on here?  Because I‘m watching this person.  I think women, by the way, no matter what any guy thinks, women are now looking at gender with some sympathy for fellow women. 

BELLANTONI:  And that‘s what you‘re hearing her appeal to those Hillary Clinton Democrats.

MARTIN:  Yes. 

BELLANTONI:  She said this repeatedly.  She would love Hillary Clinton‘s endorsement.  I can tell you that is not coming.

But she‘s also—she uses a lot of the same language as Hillary Clinton, hardworking people, the working-class Americans.  This is a woman who was a theater major in college initially.  And she has studied successful female politicians.  And she‘s emulating them.  And she was Palin-like today.  You expected her to blast the “lamestream media.”

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she‘s mimicking her like Tina Fey does? 

BELLANTONI:  Not in the same vein, but I think that‘s she learned some of Palin‘s successful traits.

MARTIN:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at her back before she went through what you see as this sort of “Manchurian Candidate” training program you‘re suggesting.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Here, take a look here.  Here she was—and, Jonathan, I love this—Friday night, OK? 

Let‘s take a look at her back in 2002 on HARDBALL.  We were talking that day.  Remember Judge Roy Moore, who had the Ten Commandments, that big bock of granite in his office there at the judge‘s courthouse? 

MARTIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s listen to her side.

Obviously, she was for the Ten Commandments.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the constitutional provision that says that a state shall pass no law establishing a religion?  What do you think that means to you?  What does that mean to you, the Constitution? 

C. O‘DONNELL:  That the nation will never say everyone has to be Protestant, everyone has to be Episcopalian, because you have to remember that when the founders crafted the Constitution, they were rebelling from a nation that did mandate a religion.  There was a national religion.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

C. O‘DONNELL:  It‘s freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. 

And, by Judge Roy Moore having this statue, it‘s not saying that everyone who comes into his courtroom has to bow down to the Ten Commandments. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a lot of natural talent there in communication, I‘ll tell you. 

MARTIN:  No, there absolutely is.  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

BELLANTONI:  She‘s been doing it a long time. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Jon.

MARTIN:  No, I was going to say, I think she has shown the past few days that she does have some really natural chops when it comes to speaking.  She‘s also raised a lot of money, by the way, Chris, 1.5 million bucks since she won on Tuesday.  So, this is not somebody that you can write off.

MATTHEWS:  Are the big shots going to get in there and help her, like Karl Rove? 

MARTIN:  Well, see, that‘s the big question.  Is Rove and this group, American Crossroads, this big third party now, are they going to go in there and spend money on Philly TV, Chris, which is very expensive, as you know?

MATTHEWS:  Oh, it‘s enormous. 

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  The tricky part is, if you live in Delaware, it‘s sort of a media suburb of Philly, in the sense that you have to pay for Bucks County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, South Jersey, and Delaware just to get into Delaware.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN:  Right. 

BELLANTONI:  And these guys can read polls just like any of us.  And they‘re going to see, if she doesn‘t start—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think the jury is out on this candidate.  And those who look down on her are doing what she wants you to do. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She‘s looking down on me.  It works, because a lot more people are down than up these days. 

Thank you, Jonathan Martin.

Thank you, Christina Bellantoni.

And, up next—Irish and Italians—up next:  Senator Jim DeMint has a goal for the next year in Congress: total gridlock.  You have got to give this guy credit.  He says what he‘s going to do: destroy the U.S.  government.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

On last night‘s “Daily Show,” Bill Clinton talked up his most recent high-profile role, father of the bride. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s one of those passages in life that makes you feel like your child has finally, really grown. 

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  Right. 

CLINTON:  I love my son-in-law and I admire him.  And I wanted to do this wedding just the way she wanted it. And it‘s my contribution to the economic stimulus. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART:  That was very nice of you.  Very kind. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  I was sort of surprised when the unemployment rate didn‘t drop after the wedding. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s great deadpan.

Anyway, the former president‘s been making the rounds ahead of next week‘s big Clinton Global Initiative in New York, something we will be sure to be covering.

Next:  FOX News protects its own.  The network has just filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, believe it or not, against Democrat Robin Carnahan‘s Senate campaign out  in Missouri.  Carnahan put out an ad using a 2006 clip of her Republican opponent, Roy Blunt, getting hammered by Chris Wallace on FOX.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  You just said a moment ago that you have to show that you‘re the party of reform.  But some question whether you are the man to do that. 

In 2002, you tried to insert language into the Homeland Security Act to help Philip Morris tobacco while you were dating that company‘s lobbyist.  And your campaign committee has paid $400,000 to a firm linked to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Are you the one to clean up the House? 

NARRATOR:  Roy Blunt, the very worst of Washington. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, I don‘t think Chris Wallace had that music playing when he was doing that interview. 

Anyway, FOX said the ad tries to make it look like Chris Wallace is endorsing Robin Carnahan.  The Carnahan campaign says they believe the ad complies with the law and that it will continue to air on TV. 

Finally, Senator Jim DeMint, fresh off the victory of his endorsed Tea Party candidate Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware, expounded on his idea of good governance to “Bloomberg BusinessWeek.”

Quote—you‘re going to love this, if you‘re a progressive—“I‘ve been told by businesses that if we would stop the tax increases, the best thing that could happen for business after that is complete gridlock.  At least gridlock is predictable.”

Well, DeMint is DeMint, too.  Complete gridlock, shutdown of government, that‘s what DeMint wants.  Give him credit for saying what he wants and saying it clearly anyway.

Up next:  Jon Stewart has an answer for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.  Stewart is hosting his own rally on the National Mall.  He‘s calling it the Rally to Restore Sanity.  And he wants people to bring signs that say things like, “I disagree with you, but I‘m pretty sure you‘re not Hitler.”

Can Jon Stewart change the country?  Can he tamp down the craziness?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mandy Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Well, stocks inching higher at the end of another quiet day on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials adding 13 points, the S&P 500 up about a point, and the Nasdaq climbing by 12. 

Investors stuck in a holding pattern all week based on an uncertain economic outlook.  But the markets did extend their September rally.  All the major indices are higher on the week, with the text sector showing particular strength. 

Today, it was Oracle leading techs higher, after delivering strong earnings and an upbeat forecast after the bell on Thursday.  Texas Instruments also finishing in the green on plans to buy back another $7.5 billion in stock. 

Financials, however, were under pressure after regulators said they want banks to be more transparent about their debt.  And the coal sector also feeling some heat on an analyst downgrade for Massey Energy, citing Production shortfalls and rising costs. 

That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide.  It‘s back to

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

STEWART:  Tonight, I announce the Rally to Restore Sanity. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  It is happening, people!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  We will gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a million moderate march, where we take to the streets to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, we are here!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I will be there anyway.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Comedy Central‘s Jon Stewart, who made big news last night, as you just saw, when he mocked Glenn Beck‘s Restoring Honor Rally by calling for his own event in Washington on the Mall on October 30.

The Rally to Restore Sanity, he calls it.  It‘s real and it‘s geared for fans of Jon Stewart, who are probably progressives and probably young, but not everybody.  As part of the theatrics, Stewart‘s buddy Stephen Colbert is staging an opposing that day March to Keep Fear Alive. 

Here‘s Stewart encouraging his followers to show up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

STEWART:  You may be asking—

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  You may be asking yourself right now sitting at home, but am I the right type of person to go to this rally? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  The fact that you would even stop to ask yourself that question—

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: -- as opposed to just, let‘s say, jumping up, grabbing the nearest stack of burnable holy books, strapping on a diaper, and just pointing your car towards D.C., that means I think you just might be right for it. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence O‘Donnell is host of “THE LAST WORD,” which Debuts September 27. 

You‘re going get a three-day jump on this guy.  He was a guest on “Colbert” last night. 

Lawrence, thanks for joining us.

And Willie Geist, host of “Way Too Early” in the morning on MSNBC and author of the upcoming book “American Freak Show.”

There you are, Willie.

You guys are stars of the new hip culture, I understand. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, I‘m going to ask you this, Lawrence.  Are you going? 

And then I‘m going to ask Willie, are you going?

And then I‘m going to ask why.  And what do you expect?  Is it dangerous to take on Glenn Beck on the national holy turf like this? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Oh, it‘s fantastic. 

I couldn‘t miss it.  I hope MSNBC does wall-to-wall coverage of it every hour of the day that day.  Yes, these guys are great.  They really, you know, find the vulnerability points in all of our politics.  They find exactly where the joke is.

And, look, if Jon Stewart and Stephen get out there, they will forever change, I hope, the way we regard these different events that take place on the Mall.  Some of them are a joke and should be regarded as a joke. 

And just because you locate your event at the Mall, you know, we shouldn‘t take them all so seriously.  I think we all kind of overplayed the importance or the meaning of Glenn Beck‘s afternoon in the Mall.  And now let‘s have fun with Jon Stewart‘s.

MATTHEWS:  Willie Geist, long before you were born, before you were a glint in your parents‘ eyes, I was at the march on the Pentagon in 1967.  And I must—with Norman Mailer.  And I must tell you, it was fun. 

It was not only anti-war.  It was fun.  A good rally is fun.  Will this one be fun? 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC:  Well, I have never marched with Mailer, Chris. 

But I think I will—

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, then you‘ve missed it.

GEIST:  I will go out for a few laughs, but I think only laughs. 

This idea that they‘re going to somehow rally the Democratic base, I think even by us talking about that makes their point.  I would be surprised if they didn‘t play this clip of us discussing, will this bring out the base?

They‘re not out to get votes.  They‘re out to get laughs.  And I think it‘s asking a lot of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to save Harry Reid‘s political life. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, I don‘t think so either.

GEIST:  That‘s not what they do.  These people who came out for Barack Obama, the kids who went out to vote for him, they‘re not coming out in 2010.  And Jon Stewart can‘t change that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, but they‘re putting their butts on the line, too. 

You know what‘s going to happen.  That picture on the Mall—and you‘re going to know the visual, because you can argue about crowd estimates and all you want—if that Mall ain‘t covered, at least along the reflecting pool, the right wing will be going crazy with visuals trashing these guys, Lawrence, for a bad day. 

L. O‘DONNELL:  Well, and, if they do, that will play perfectly into Comedy Central‘s design. 

GEIST:  Right. 

L. O‘DONNELL:  If—if the right wing or FOX News wants to take this event seriously, and if Glenn Beck wants to take it seriously as a, you know, challenge to his domination, then great.

That is exactly what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are hoping for, that that side of the world will take this stuff very seriously.  You know, they know where the joke is.  If that side of the world doesn‘t get it, that‘s fine with them.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Stewart showed some samples of the signs he‘s made for the crowd.  Here‘s already ahead of the sign makers.  Here he is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  We‘re going to have signs for you down there.  If you don‘t have time, of course, you can bring your own, but here‘s a quick one.  “I disagree with you, but I‘m pretty sure you‘re not Hitler.”

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

STEWART:  Oh, how about this for dissatisfied yet non-ideological amongst us.  “Got competence?”

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

STEWART:  You know, I noticed there‘s a lot of conspiracy rally stuff going on at these things.  Here‘s one for our rally—“9/11 was an outside job.”

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

STEWART:  Perhaps this one is more to the point.  “I am not afraid of Muslims, tea partiers, socialists, immigrants, gun owners, gays, but I am kind of scared of spiders.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I don‘t know.  How do you mix satire with emotion?  I think he‘s going to be funny as hell down there, Willie.  But I‘m just wondering, when you stand there—suppose he gives us the best hour of the best material, a material, then what?  Do people just laugh and go home?

GEIST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, where‘s the emotion?  Is he going to turn it on and say something passionately pro-progressive?  Is he going to be a little self-deprecating?  What would be the angle?

GEIST:  A little self-deprecating.  I think the entire point of this is self-deprecation—and deprecation of the extremes, whether it‘s on the left or on right.  He said he wants it to be about a moderate conversation.

The one thing he does have which might be some layer of a serious is this anti-establishment thing, that the government has let you down, financial institutions have let you down, and yes, the press have let you down over the last decade or so.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, stop it.

GEIST:  He is—he is the front, he is the head of this insurgent movement you see online.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But what is he for?  What‘s he for?  What‘s he for?

GEIST:  Doesn‘t matter what he‘s for.  He‘s a comedian.  He‘s out telling jokes.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the problem.  Lawrence, we‘ll come to rallies to be entertained, but at some point, they want purpose.

O‘DONNELL:  I think he actually has an important purpose in what he‘s already announced there.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  That simple point he makes that—where he‘s saying—in effect, he‘s saying, “I disagree with you, but I don‘t think you‘re Hitler,” is a very welcomed insertion in the noisy dialogue that we have now when there‘s all this questioning of the motivation of other people, and, you know, labeling this person this kind of monster and then labeling that person another kind of monster.  And there‘s so much fighting going on back-and-forth, just by the use of the labels that don‘t allow you to listen to what the person‘s actually saying.

Ands so, for Jon Stewart to say, you know, I disagree with you, here‘s what I think and, oh, by the way, I don‘t think you‘re Hitler, is a very important point.  And if he can get that out of the day, that there‘s a way to have disagreements with each other without calling each other names, that‘s a successful day.

MATTHEWS:  You mean I have to lay off neocons and Dick Cheney?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t like these guys.  I think they might well be evil.

O‘DONNELL:  Neocon is a reasonably descriptive adjective.  But, then, you know, once you struck one the word into evil, it starts to become a judgment call.

MATTHEWS:  Let me—Willie, Scooter Libby, come on.  Can I keep nailing some of these guys?

GEIST:  I don‘t think—I don‘t think -- 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I think anyone convicted of perjury you can call a liar.

GEIST:  Jon Stewart is not going to stop Chris Matthews from talking about Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney, I don‘t think.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me just ask you—you guys come in, you bring in dates, you‘re really up for this?  That‘s all I‘m asking.

GEIST:  Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Are you up for this?

GEIST:  We‘re each other‘s date.  Lawrence and I are heading down for the weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  Hey, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no better date, I remember from the old days, the ‘60s, is the coolest social gathering in the world, there is nothing like a rally in Washington when the grass is green and you walk out there, the weather‘s great, it‘s fall weather in D.C.  It‘s perfect.

So I‘m going to boost this thing.  We‘re going to boost it.  And, you know, he was really tough on me one time, Jon Stewart, and I like him.  What can I say?

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, I just wish—I just wish we could go to this thing with you and Norman Mailer (ph).

GEIST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you can go with me.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, you act differently now, Lawrence.  But I know you look up to guys like Norman Mailer.  You cannot pretend you‘re (INAUDIBLE) to him.

O‘DONNELL:  No.  Listen, Chris, you‘re the only guy who can steal his own show.  Everybody out there in the audience wants to listen to the rest of your story about you and Norman Mailer.

GEIST:  Exactly.

O‘DONNELL:  Take the rest of the show and tell us all about it.

MATTHEWS:  It was—it will be in the next book.  Thank you.  I‘m sure Jon Stewart will do his best to boost.

Anyway, thank you, Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Good luck with it.  You‘re going to beat him by three days.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  And then thank you, Lawrence O‘Donnell.  And thank you, Willie Geist for getting this up in the morning.

Lawrence‘s new show on MSNBC, “THE LAST WORD,” premiers Monday, the 27th.  A great day to start, 10:00 Eastern Time.

Up next: Jimmy Carter versus Ted Kennedy.  They‘re back again, the Sunshine Boys, all over again.  Former President Carter says America would have had health care reform 30 years ago were it not for Ted Kennedy, who Carter says blocked the president‘s proposals out of personal spite.  Well, we‘ll get into that when we return.

This is HARDBALL—really (INAUDIBLE) on this topic—only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, now to the five Senate seats most likely to switch parties according to “First Read.”  These are all going from D to R.

Number five: Illinois, a toss-up race for the seat once held by President Obama.

Number four: Pennsylvania, where Republican Pat Toomey leads Joe Sestak.

Number three: Indiana, where former Republican Senator Dan Coates looks like he‘ll win back his old job.

Number two: Arkansas, where Senator Blanche Lincoln trails by double digits.

And most likely to switch parties: North Dakota.

Notice Delaware is off that list after Christine O‘Donnell knocked off Mike Castle this week.

Still, all 10 are seats held by Democrats the Republicans have a good shot to win.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now had it not been for Ted Kennedy‘s deliberately blocking the legislation that was proposed in 1978 and ‘79.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And you blame Teddy for the failure.

CARTER:  Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Health care, his issue.

CARTER:  Exactly.  It was his fault.  Ted Kennedy killed the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just to spite you?  Is that what you‘re—that‘s the implication?

CARTER:  That‘s the implication.  He did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of American life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That clip of President Carter in “60 Minutes” this weekend has revived an old and epic political rivalry.

“The New Yorkers‘” Hendrik Hertzberg joins me right now.  He worked with Carter administration, as chief speechwriter.  I used to work for Rik.  He joins us now from New York.

There you are with a beard, Rik.  Let me ask you this question: What makes Jimmy Carter keep doing this thing, ripping off the old scab, bringing back the old fight?  He could have soft this thing.

HENDRIK HERTZBERG, THE NEW YORKER:  Yes, Chris you know it‘s what we used to call pure Jimmy.  Pure Jimmy.

MATTHEWS:  Ha!

Well, let me ask you.  I want to read you something from the diary which I think everybody like you and me are going to go nuts to try to look for the honesty of Jimmy Carter.  Quote—this is Carter when he was president, I think going to bed at night and doing, this writing this up.  Quote, “Kennedy continuing his irresponsible and abusive attitude, immediately condemning our health plan, he couldn‘t get five votes for his plan.”

Give us an exegesis of that politically.  What was going on there?

HERTZBERG:  Well, you know, this isn‘t exactly new.  I mean, he said essentially, in fact, almost word for word, the same thing in that memoir he wrote, “Keeping Faith,” and that came out in 1982, and it was based although partly—over largely I guess of the diaries that are now being published.  You know that was—that was an emotional outburst.

The truth is, really, that neither Kennedy‘s plan nor Carter‘s plan really had a chance of passage.  That‘s what Paul Starr says in his book.  And you know, Carter thought—it happens to be true that by the time—when Carter did get around to proposing a comprehensive health care plan, it only took three or four hours for Ted Kennedy to come out and say, he was against it.  He was going to vote against it and, of course, that made it dead in the water.  But it was probably going to be dead in the water anyway.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about something good while you‘re on, and I think that you‘re proud of this because you had a hand in it, and I am too to some less of an extent because I had less of a hand in it.

Here‘s President Carter‘s farewell address.  Boy, it‘s like Ike‘s, beware of the industrial complex at (INAUDIBLE).  This is one of those farewell speeches which I think is going to stand the test of time.  Let‘s watch, let‘s listen to Jimmy Carter explaining why he wanted to be president and what he believed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER:  I want to lay aside my role as leader of one nation and speak to you as a fellow citizen of the world about three issues—three difficult issues: the threat of nuclear destruction, our stewardship of the physical resources of our planet, and the preeminence of the basic rights of human being. For this generation, ours, life is nuclear survival; liberty is human rights; the pursuit of happiness is a planet whose resources are devoted to the physical and spiritual nourishment of its inhabitants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Now, he didn‘t have the moxie that perhaps be a great president in that way, but as a salesman, he wasn‘t a great one, but his values.  Your thoughts now about those.

You know, nuclear proliferation, which still scares the heck out of us from Iran, energy independence or dependence or whatever we‘re facing now with fossil fuels, and, of course, that bedrock of what we believe in human rights.

HERTZBERG:  Yes, that was the speech—that was a speech to be proud of.  I‘ll give you another example of pure Jimmy, though, Chris.  I have a copy of that speech on my wall, that Carter inscribed and he wrote, “Not bad for a 10th draft.”  Maybe we should have worked—maybe we should have worked a little harder on earlier speeches and saved this one for four more years.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And what do you make of that?  What‘s that Jimmy all about?  Because he‘s still around us, he‘s out there selling his new book and his diary.  The man was difficult to deal with.   He was not a team member.  What was he?

HERTZBERG:  Well you know, I—I love Jimmy Carter.  I respect Jimmy Carter.  I revere Jimmy Carter.

But Jimmy Carter is kind of an irascible guy.  And he was then and he is now.  Maybe he‘s actually a little softer now than he was then.  But that respect is something I never, never questioned or lost for him.

And that speech really was a good one, I think.  He laid out program essentially for his post-presidency and all of the things that he talked about were prophetic.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Got to go, Rik.  Maybe you can be as David McCullough.  Maybe it‘s time.  Maybe it‘s time for this guy to be rediscovered.

Rik Hertzberg, chief speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, now with “The New Yorker.”

When we return: I‘m going to have some thoughts about the big problem looming inside of the Republican Party.  Will the establishment ever accept a hero of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, as an actual leader?

Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with a thought about the challenge facing the Republican Party.

That challenge is Sarah Palin.  There‘s no doubt in the world that she leads a powerful political movement in this country, or that she carries tremendous clout in terms of picking Republican candidates.  When she speaks, she carries weight.  If she endorses, it‘s like a shot of adrenaline in a campaign.

But what about Sarah Palin herself?  What about her as a candidate for national office—either president or vice president or in a major cabinet post, like secretary of state or defense?  There‘s the rub.

Ask Mitt Romney—does he think deep down that Sarah Palin has the right stuff to lead this country in a troubling, complicated role?

Ask the same of Tom Pawlenty or any of the other serious Republican hopefuls for 2012 -- do they believe in Sarah Palin‘s abilities to lead this country in perilous times?  To answer that 3:00 in the morning call and make the right decision?  Do they buy all of this talk of hers that all that American needs in this second decade of the 21st century are commonsense, conservative solutions that a regular person with regular off-the-shelf answers can deal with the tricky, complex questions of economics, science, and international relations now before the country?

This is the problem for Republicans.  The person now leading the party in terms of popular influence can‘t pass muster with the party‘s established leaders.  How can you win the love of the tea partiers if you don‘t believe in the presidential ability of their hero?

Would Sarah Palin make a good president?  As long as Romney, Pawlenty and the other would-be Republican nominees pray not to be asked, the party has a problem at its core.  And the moment that they can speak the phrase “President Sarah Palin” and not have them give them some pause, how long from that moment will their own people still believe in them?

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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