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updated 10/8/2010 11:01:33 AM ET 2010-10-08T15:01:33

Guests: Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Steve McMahon, John Feehery, John

Heilemann, David Corn, Sam Stein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Hillary in the spotlight.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, up in Boston for the Massachusetts Women‘s Political Caucus. 

Leading off tonight: Eyes on the prize.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come into the political spotlight again.  Will she be on the ticket in 2012?  What do her supporters want for her, and how do they want her to get it?  That‘s our top story tonight.

Plus: Take me home.  They‘re not really from West Virginia, they just play them on TV.  Remember that ad we showed you that Republicans are running against Governor Joe Manchin in West Virginia?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama‘s messing things up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Spending money we don‘t have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stimulus, “Obama care”—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, and Joe Manchin supported it all!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joe‘s not bad as governor, but when he‘s with Obama—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he turns into Washington Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it turns out those guys were actors—they are actors who answered a casting call up in Philadelphia for, quote, I love this—the “hicky, blue collar look.”  Will an ad that talks that way about West Virginians backfire on the Republicans?  That‘s one for the HARDBALL “Strategists” tonight.

And sticking with the TV theme, remember the line from the old margarine ad, “It‘s not nice to fool Mother Nature”?  Well, Joe Miller in Alaska‘s learning it‘s not nice to cross mama grizzly, especially when she‘s Sarah Palin.  Tonight, why some Republicans are staying away from Palin.

Also, the Tea Party‘s Republican purge is not over.  Now they‘re targeting moderates.  I shouldn‘t call them moderates.  Some of them are—

Olympia Snowe, Bob Corker—Orrin Hatch is a moderate?  Anybody who is not extremely, extremely conservative.  Is no Republican senator conservative enough for the Tea Partiers?

“Let Me Finish” tonight by saying what no one has said, no one has had the guts to say about Barack Obama.

All that‘s ahead, but first the latest polls around the country.  For that, we check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard.”  And a new poll from Florida shows Republican Marco Rubio sitting pretty.  He‘s got a 15-point lead over Charlie Crist, the governor now, 42-27, with Kendrick Meek down at 21.  Next, New Hampshire, where the Senate race may be tightening up up there. 

Republican Kelly Ayotte has a 5-point lead now over Democrat Paul Hodes. 

Hodes is coming up.  Her lead was 14 in that same poll just two weeks ago. 

He‘s closing.

In Ohio, Republican Rob Portman is up 10 over Democrat Lee Fisher in that Senate race.  In the Ohio governor‘s race, it‘s Republican John Kasich leading the incumbent governor by just 46-42, very close to the margin of error.  And in the New York governor‘s race, Democrat Andrew Cuomo back again, maintaining his double-digit lead over Republican Carl Paladino.  Cuomo is up 18 in the new, much-respected Quinnipiac poll.  We‘ll continue to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” and all the big races every night leading up to November 2nd, election day.

Now to Hillary Clinton and her prospects for running for president in 2016.  Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and senior editor now for The Huffington Post.  And Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild was a big Hillary Clinton supporter back in 2008, and I believe still is.

I‘ve got to start with my friend, Lynn.  Lynn, it seems to me that out of nowhere has come this spotlight on Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state.  You‘re a big Hillary supporter, and I respect you for that.  You‘re a real loyalist.  What would you like to see happen right now to sort of forge support for Hillary Clinton in the long run, for president when the time comes?

LADY LYNN FORESTER DE ROTHSCHILD, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER:  Well, first of all, I think all this talk about vice president is a little bit premature and sort of silly season talk because the—section 2 of the 25th Amendment makes it very difficult to replace a vice president.  So I think that talk should be shelved.

If President Obama thinks he needs her in 2012, that is one thing.  What we know about Hillary Clinton is she works hard and she does her job for the American people, and she does it without her personal agenda.  She is always concerned about what is in the best interests of the nation.  So I don‘t believe that she is thinking about this.  She is probably laughing it off right now.  And I really don‘t actually think we should be talking about it because it‘s not really fair to Joe Biden.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let‘s go on right now to Howard.  How do you see this, Howard?  I was amazed.  I know Lynn was going to be aggressive here, but talking about dumping the guy?  No.  I think a lot of the discussion, because of the Woodward comments, is about what would happen on the ticket in 2012.  Let‘s go to that.  Is that something that‘s getting serious buzz outside the Clinton people, or is it also being considered somewhere near the president?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t

think it‘s being considered near the president because I think Joe Biden,

based on the calls I made this afternoon in and around the administration -

Barack Obama is pretty solid with Joe Biden.  Joe Biden‘s out there campaigning really hard.

And some Biden supporters will tell you that it‘s all well and good that Hillary has terrific numbers right now because she‘s secretary of state, which is a nice, positive job, trying to bring world peace, and not dealing with unemployment and the health care bill and all the other difficult political issues that have hurt Barack Obama and Joe Biden‘s standing in the country.  I don‘t—I don‘t—I don‘t think it‘s a serious thing right now.

Now, Hillary wanting to be president of the United States?  There‘s no doubt about it.  James Carville—and there‘s nobody much closer to the Clintons than James Carville—told me, of course, Hillary would probably like to run again, would like to lead the country, but not through the vice presidential route unless Barack Obama asks her to.  And I think, if you think of the relationship between Barack Obama and the Clintons, it‘s not likely, especially since he, Obama, still has a good relationship with Joe Biden.

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let‘s all take a look at this comment by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.  This is what she said to Ann Curry of NBC a year ago, pretty strong language.  Let‘s listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I can‘t help but think, nine months into this administration, having campaigned so fiercely to be president yourself, that there can‘t be moments for you, where you wish you could make the decisions yourself.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have to tell you, it never crosses my mind.

CURRY:  Never?

CLINTON:  No, not at all.  I am part of the team that makes the decisions.

CURRY:  Will you ever run for president again, yes or no?

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  No.

CURRY:  No?

CLINTON:  No!  I mean, this is—this is a great job.  It is a 24/7 job.  And I‘m looking forward to retirement at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Lynn, it never crosses her mind.  Maybe we‘re just politically crazy because it crosses our minds.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—well, let‘s—everybody talks like the secretary does.  I‘m not going to hold that against her, to say she‘s not thinking about it because you never admit you‘re thinking about it or you‘re dead.  So let‘s look at this.  And Howard, I want you to join in as an objective observer because I know Lynn‘s with the secretary of state.  Fair enough.  We know who we are at this table.

Let‘s take a look at some interesting questions.  Is it smarter—because I said last night I thought it was—for her to stay where she is as secretary of state, achieve perhaps history in the Middle East peace talks, leave in a couple of years, maybe a year or two, become president of a big university, like Eisenhower did, like Columbia—that‘s what he was president of—and then come off independently, not having to carry the baggage of everything that goes wrong in the next four years or the next six years or whatever, don‘t have to carry all the baggage of Obama, come in clean from somewhere independently, having served with credibility, having served with credibility—and in fact, great credibility—as secretary of state?

Lynn, wouldn‘t that be a smarter move than basically hooking her wagon to Obama any time in the next six years?

ROTHSCHILD:  Chris, you are constructing this in a way that is not true to her character.  She is not sitting there, conniving and thinking.  I know you don‘t believe it—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you what you think would be the smarter move.

ROTHSCHILD:  I think what the smarter move for Hillary Clinton is to do her job, to act on behalf of—

MATTHEWS:  Stay the secretary of state?

ROTHSCHILD:  -- the American people—do her job, day in and day out.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

ROTHSCHILD:  And that will, in the long run, put her in her place in history.  The Democratic Party decided when they nominated Barack Obama that they wanted him and not her as president.  She has accepted that, and she is doing her job in his administration.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what—

ROTHSCHILD:  And that‘s a wonderful character trait.  She‘s not the kind of calculating animal that you‘re trying to portray.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m asking—no, I‘m asking you, as a supporter, would you like to see her president some day?

ROTHSCHILD:  I would love to see her president.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What would be the most logical path for her to get that prize, to achieve the presidency?  Would it be as staying where she is as secretary of state and then leaving, or joining the Obama ticket?  What would be a better way to get to the presidency?  You‘re a political person.  What‘s the smarter way to go?

ROTHSCHILD:  I am a political—I am a political person.  I would love to see her be president one day.  She has to follow her own heart, her own instincts—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ROTHSCHILD:  -- and she has to play it straight.  She works hard.  She does her job.  And that‘s what—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a subjective analysis—

ROTHSCHILD:  -- she does do.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Howard, let‘s go.  I want you to come—I‘m going to come back to you, Lynn, because I think you know there are routes to the presidency we‘ve seen successful and unsuccessful.  It‘s very hard to go from vice president to president historically.  It‘s better to come in as an independent.

Howard, it looks to me like you want to be your own person, Hillary Clinton.  She‘s earned it, her right to be her own person, not to be number two to anybody.  If she comes—if she goes to secretary of defense, for example, it seems to me that would put her in a very strong position, leading the U.S. military forces, to eventually be seen positively by people in the political middle, which is where the action is, for commander-in-chief.  That‘s my thought.

FINEMAN:  By the way, Chris, she has excellent credentials from the Senate in defense policy.  She made it her business to spend a lot of time at Fort Drum in New York, to be up on all the issues of the Armed Services Committee and otherwise, because that was part of her constituency and her job.  So sure, I think that would burnish her credentials.  She doesn‘t need the vice presidential platform to be Hillary Clinton.  She‘s already got that.

Over at the State Department, where I was last week for a dinner, there‘s a whole Hillary world over there at the State Department.  Top people, people who are highly thought of for their skill and their political knowledge, they‘re ready to do anything Hillary wants to do.  I think if she goes somewhere else, like Defense, she‘ll take a lot of those people over there with him—with her.

But she doesn‘t really need the veep job.  And as you say, why tie yourself to a difficult presidency at this point, when your numbers are so good, when your husband, by the way, is so highly regarded in the country?  And Bill Clinton has done it by being somewhat of an outsider.

Yes, he‘s campaigning now, but he also has a Clinton Foundation.  He‘s also this global figure.  And by the way, I don‘t think Bill Clinton is necessarily pushing Hillary or would push Hillary to try to go on the ticket.  I‘m not sure Bill Clinton would necessarily push Hillary to do anything more.  Right now, he‘s enjoying his own life, which in a way gives her more freedom to take her time here and not push things because Bill Clinton doesn‘t need Hillary‘s change of jobs to give him something to do.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at something that Bob Woodward said on CNN.  And the reason why we‘re talking about this now, Lynn, and you probably caught this in the clips—here‘s Bob Woodward talking about what‘s on the table, as far as he believes in his reporting, is from the Clinton people themselves.  Let‘s listen to Bob Woodward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, “OBAMA‘S WARS”:  It‘s on the table.  And some of Hillary Clinton‘s advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012.  President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries.  And so they switch jobs and not out of the question.  The other interesting question is—Hillary Clinton could run in her own right in 2016 and be younger than Ronald Reagan when he was elected president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So there you have Bob Woodward, probably the most respected reporter in the business right now, saying that some of Hillary Clinton‘s advisers—I guess you‘re not one of them, Lynn.

ROTHSCHILD:  Well I don‘t see any reason why Hillary would want to be, and I certainly don‘t think she should be number two.  I think she should be number one.  But I know that she is not planning and scheming for that right now.  And she won‘t.  She will do her job.  She‘s working her tail off.  She‘s going around the world, inspiring girls like she inspired them here.  But she‘s out of the game here.  And she really is.  It‘s hard to accept it, but unfortunately for America, she I don‘t think will ever be president.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  I‘m not sure you‘re right.  Thank you, Lady Rothschild, for joining us—Lady Rothschild—I‘m sorry. Howard, thank you, buddy.  Thanks for joining us.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Coming back, we‘re going to remember this tough ad the Republicans are running against West Virginia Senate candidate Joe Manchin.  If you‘re going to have people, make sure they‘re the real thing.  Let‘s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama‘s messing things up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Spending money we don‘t have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stimulus, “Obama care”—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, and Joe Manchin supported it all!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joe‘s not bad as governor, but when he‘s with Obama—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he turns into Washington Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, those guys actually ought to be wearing Phillies caps.  That was filmed up in Philly, apparently, by local actors—they‘re actors, by the way, who responded to a casting call up there looking for, quote, “hicky, blue collar looks.”  Wow!  Republicans!  Can Manchin turn it on to his advantage?   We‘ll as “The Strategists” next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton‘s pushing hard to save Senator Blanche Lincoln down in his home state of Arkansas.  He‘s cut a new ad for the senator, who‘s way behind in the polls.  The former president was a big reason she was able to pull off a victory in that Democratic primary down there.

Clinton‘s also headed to Kentucky, to campaign for Senate candidate Jack Conway, who‘s running against Rand Paul.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Remember this anti-Manchin ad from the NRCSC (SIC) -- that‘s the Republican campaign committee in the Senate races—the one with the working-class guys sitting around a diner?  It seems like it‘s down in West Virginia somewhere.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama‘s messing things up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Spending money we don‘t have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stimulus, “Obama care”—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, and Joe Manchin supported it all!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently, that was filmed somewhere in south Philly.  Anyway, it turns out those weren‘t frustrated West Virginia working guys, they were actors looking for work up in Philly.  Here‘s part of the casting call for the commercial that went out.  Quote, “We‘re going for a hicky, blue collar look.  These characters are from West Virginia, so think coal miner trucker looks.  Clothing suggestions, jeans, work boots, flannel shirt, John Deere hats, not brand-new, preferably, beat-up looking.”

Governor Joe Manchin running for the Senate took offense earlier today.  Let‘s listen to that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  -- going for a “hicky blue collar look.”  I don‘t know where they‘re coming off of calling “hicky blue collar look.”  First of all, the coal miners who provide the energy that all of us in this nation enjoy and the truck drivers that deliver the goods and the energy that depend upon are some of the most God-fearing, family-loving people.  And you‘ve been here, Andrea, and you know how strong these people and how good they are.  But if my opponent and his friends feel that way about it, then shame on him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee says, “No no at the NRSC or associated with the NRSC”—that‘s the campaign committee—“had anything to do with the language used in this casting call.  And the ad has been called—or actually, pulled.  Could be a turnaround moment for Manchin, who now trails Republican John Raese by about 6 points, according to Pollster.com?

Let‘s go to “The Strategists,” Steve McMahon, he‘s a Democratic strategist, and John Feehery is a Republican strategist.  I‘ve got to go to John.  This is more crocodile tears than I have ever seen in politics!  What‘s wrong with having guys wear Cat hats?  What‘s wrong with them—or John Deere hats, in this case?  What‘s wrong with having them with a little bit of an accent, although I never believed it when I heard it?  What‘s wrong?  They weren‘t all sweaty.  They weren‘t all dirty.  They weren‘t toothless guys out of “Deliverance.”  There was nothing embarrassing about these guys at all!  What‘s the knock?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Chris, I am shocked that in advertising, you would hire some actors to play somebody in an advertisement.  Hey, Chris, I have a question for you.  Do you think all those guys in those erectile dysfunction ads have erectile dysfunction?

(LAUGHTER)

FEEHERY:  No, they don‘t.  This is—you know, this is all part of the thing (ph).  People hire actors for advertising.  This is no big shock.

And the other thing about the ad that‘s important is that John Raese is running against Barack Obama, and I think that that‘s why he‘s going to win this election because the people in West Virginia didn‘t like him in the primaries—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

FEEHERY:  -- they didn‘t like him in the general election, and they‘re not going to like him now.

MATTHEWS:  Technical point.  If there‘s so many people down in West Virginia that look like these guys, supposedly, and don‘t like Obama, why didn‘t they just go down there and interview those guys?

FEEHERY:  Well, you have to—

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s a simple question.  Why didn‘t they just go look for those three guys sitting in some local dinette, having coffee or breakfast together, and say, What do you guys think of Obama?  They would have gotten it worse than that.  Why didn‘t they just do that?

FEEHERY:  Because they subcontracted it out to the wrong people, that‘s why.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—OK.  Here you go, Steve.  I don‘t know how indignant you‘re going to be, but I‘m listening. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I‘ll tell you what, Chris. 

This is a little bit like T-ball. 

I mean, I have got to—

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  I have got—

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  I have got to tell you, you know, the job of political advertising, seriously, is to be relevant, credible and persuasive. 

And when you put out a memo like this to cash people, where you make fun of the very state that you‘re trying to persuade voters in, and when you hire actors from Philadelphia to appear in an ad in West Virginia, you undermine every premise of political advertising. 

And then when the RNC or the RSCC puts out a memo that says no one associated with the RSCC had anything to do with this, that‘s simply untrue, because these people were hired by the RSCC to make fun of West Virginia voters, to put this commercial together, and to try to win this election. 

FEEHERY:  No, that‘s not true, Steve.  That‘s not true.

(CROSSTALK)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  John—your turn, John. 

I don‘t think it made fun of those guys at all. 

FEEHERY:  I don‘t think it does. 

And, actually, I think that a lot of people in Pennsylvania feel the same way that a lot of people in West Virginia do, which is why Toomey in Pennsylvania is doing so well against Joe Sestak. 

The fact of the matter is that people in West Virginia and Pennsylvania don‘t think that Obamacare is good.  They don‘t like President Obama and where he‘s taking the country.  And they‘re going to vote against him in this election. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to Ohio.  Let‘s go to Ohio.  John Kasich ad, here it is.  It stars an actor again.  Let‘s listen to the Kasich ad for governor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now Ted Strickland wants us to keep him in his job, when he didn‘t keep us in our jobs.  Reelect Ted Strickland?  Are you kidding me? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Here we go again.  The front page of “The Toledo Blade” out there has the headline, “Democrats in Ohio Rip Kasich Ad.  Speaker in spot is actor, not blue-collar worker.”

Pollster.com shows, by the way, Kasich leaving Strickland by eight points.  There‘s a big red line for Kasich.

Steve, your turn first. 

Are you going to go after that ad, too?  What‘s wrong with an ad that hires actors? 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Well, it‘s the same thing.  If you‘re trying to represent yourself as somebody who represents the blue-collar, you ought be able to find at least one person from that community, from that socioeconomic group who will appear in your ad and say the kinds of things about you or your opponent that you would like to have said. 

And these Republicans in these campaigns don‘t even know enough blue-collar people to go out.  When we do ads for Democrats, we have people lined up who want to appear in them, real people.  And Republicans can‘t seem to find any real people.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

FEEHERY:  So, Steve, you have never hired an actor for any of your ads?  Come on.  I find that very hard to believe.

MCMAHON:  We almost—John, we almost never hire actors for our ads.

FEEHERY:  Almost never.

MCMAHON:  We get real people.  And they line up, because they all want to—

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Chris, the fact of the matter about John Kasich, he‘s a blue-collar guy.  Everyone knows he‘s a blue-collar guy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Well, why doesn‘t know any blue-collar people who could be in his ad then? 

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  And that‘s why he‘s going to win this election. 

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  John Kasich has a good vision for this country. 

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Anyway, go ahead, Chris.  Sorry.

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s the real Rudy Giuliani.  Newt Gingrich wants Republicans to frame the choice this way: the party of food stamps vs. the party of paychecks. 

Now, here‘s what he wrote in a memo to his fellow Republicans.  “Which future do you want, more food stamps or more paychecks?  This is the choice we want to drive home again and again for voters from now until Election Day.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back.  Let‘s listen to her reaction to that food stamp party claim.  Go ahead.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I think this is a very, very dangerous terrain.  I think there‘s something, some subliminal message that is being sent out there about us and them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s Nancy Pelosi.  She was caught working at her daytime factory job there.  Just kidding. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Steve, Steve, what is this about?  I mean, this does remind me of the old days of Ronald Reagan talking about—here was Ronald Reagan back in the old says.  Here‘s an excerpt of the way he portrayed working people, were—quote—“rightly outraged when they waited in grocery lines while a strapping young buck ahead of them bought T-bone steaks with food stamps.”

And here‘s a “New York Times” headline from that era: “Welfare Queen Becomes Issue in Reagan Campaign.” 

So, we know how Reagan ran against the young buck living off food stamps and buying whatever with them.  And we know how he ran against welfare queens.  Is this Newt going back into the old trough of going basically with wedge issues, getting the working middle class against the poor people? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, unfortunately, it is. 

And—and these are code words, and they‘re the kind of words that, frankly, the Republican Party or most mainstream Republicans have left behind.  You know, Speaker Gingrich is a very thoughtful person, but he is very, very quick to suggest race as a factor. 

You remember he attacked Sonia Sotomayor.  He suggested race was a—he jumped on—he jumped on the—the—the recent Department of Agriculture employee whose name I can‘t come up with right at this moment. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That‘s right. 

MCMAHON:  He‘s very, very quick to pull the race card and play the race card. 

And I think if you want to be the president of the United States, or you want to be a respected voice in the Republican Party, you need to be a lot more careful than Newt Gingrich is being right now. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make, John, of this—of the food stamp code language? 

FEEHERY:  Chris, I would make one observation, is that Newt Gingrich is not running for office, is not on the ballot anywhere. 

MCMAHON:  He‘s running for president, John. 

FEEHERY:  Yes, well, he‘s not running for office this time around. 

And I‘m not sure why this is such a big deal.  The fact of the matter is that I think what Newt is trying to say, although he says it in a way that is typically Newt, is that Republicans are the party of economic growth.  Democrats are the party of the welfare state. 

I think that that‘s what he‘s trying to say in his typical fashion, which is always going to be controversial, because that‘s how Newt gets press. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t think it has a racial tag to it? 

FEEHERY:  I actually don‘t think it has -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Really don‘t?  You really—how about when Reagan talked about the young buck waiting in line with his food stamps?  And I think he used to talk about him buying booze with it, too.

You don‘t think that had a little bit of a tag to it, a little bit of a suggestion, not just about class, but ethnicity and race?  Don‘t you think he did—don‘t you think Newt is playing that same card again? 

FEEHERY:  Let me tell you what I think. 

I think that the fact of the matter is, is that people are really hurting out there.  There are more people now on food stamps than ever before. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FEEHERY:  This is a bad time for this country.  And by saying that people want a—do want a paycheck and don‘t want to go on welfare, I think that that‘s not a racial thing.  I think that that‘s a reality, that people do want a job. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me tell you something.  Let me tell you something, John.  I‘ll tell you this, Steve, because you ought to know this, too.  Nobody wants to go on food stamps.  You go on them because you‘re poor. 

FEEHERY:  Oh, I understand.  Listen—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And you take food stamps because you want to feed your family.  There‘s nothing funny about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not to be made fun of or to be used in TV ads or in political appeals. 

FEEHERY:  I get it.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s wrong, what he did. 

FEEHERY:  That‘s my point.  That‘s my point exactly.

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s not the first time Newt has played this game. 

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Well, you know what?  Newt‘s not on the ballot.  The fact of the matter is, people are hurting out there, but they do want jobs. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  John, I want to—I‘m counting on you to keep him off the ballot. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Steve McMahon. 

Thank you, John Feehery.

MCMAHON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next—I don‘t mind the actors.  I worry about the real thing.

Up next:  White House senior adviser David Axelrod sizes up the Republican field for 2012.  It‘s interesting.  He‘s thinking about this all the time and hints at the one Republican candidate they‘re working about—they‘re worried about.  I think so.  That‘s Newt.  No, it‘s not.  It‘s Mitt. 

Stick around for the “Sideshow.”  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on

MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First:  David Axelrod is out there sizing up the 2012 Republican field already.  He did it last night on “Letterman.”  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  Donald Trump, we know that‘s a goof. 

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Chris Christie.

Jeb Bush, is he in or out?  Is he going to go or not going to go?

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER:  Well, I have heard the name.  People don‘t feel he‘s going to go.  And you‘re right.  The Trump thing was—

LETTERMAN:  It‘s silly. 

AXELROD:  You know, because it requires a big ego to run for president, and I don‘t—

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Mike Huckabee. 

AXELROD:  You know, one of the interesting things is, a lot of the names you‘re rolling off and a lot of the names you hear all work for FOX News.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD:  So, if they all run for president, there‘s going to be a lot of openings over there.  So, if you know anybody—

LETTERMAN:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD:  -- send them over, yes.

LETTERMAN:  Mitt Romney. 

AXELROD:  You know, he started off as kind of a moderate Republican in Massachusetts, passed a health care plan very much like the president‘s health care plan. 

LETTERMAN:  Yes, that‘s right. 

AXELROD:  And I always thought, if he had just stuck to who he was, he would be a far more formidable candidate.  But—

(CROSSTALK)

LETTERMAN:  Everybody‘s favorite, Sarah Palin, is she going to run? 

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD:  I have a soft spot for her, Dave, because I was at the vice presidential debate, and, you know, she winked at me. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t ever think that people like David Axelrod aren‘t eating this stuff for breakfast every day.  They‘re tracking their opponents constantly.  And it looks like they‘re worried about Mitt Romney. 

Next up:  What‘s the frequency, Kenneth?  This week, the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life rolled out a radio ad targeting Democratic Congressman John Salazar.  At least, that was their intention. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)

NARRATOR:  Congressman Ken Salazar voted for taxpayer-funded abortions in Nancy Pelosi‘s health care bill.  Ken Salazar says he shares our values when he‘s running for reelection here at home.  The life of an innocent child may not matter to Congressman Ken Salazar, but, here in Colorado, life counts.  And Congressman Ken Salazar‘s vote has consequences.

Ken Salazar betrayed our trust. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There is no Ken Salazar, Congressman.  That poor actor was reading the wrong name. 

Anyway Ken Salazar was mentioned five times in that ad by the actor.  Ken Salazar is a former Colorado senator, current secretary of the interior, and brother of the ad‘s intended target, Congressman John Salazar.  They should get their facts straight.  

Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

According to a “USA Today” review, voters this year are taking the early bird mantra to heart.  Compared to the 20 -- rather, the 2006 midterms, the number of early voters in 2010 in the primaries has increased 50 percent, a trend that could reshape how campaigns operate—a 50 percent increase in early primary voting.  That looks good for Republicans, I think—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller gets another crack at the “Is Sarah Palin actually qualified to be president?” question.  And, once again, he didn‘t answer. 

Meanwhile, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are steering clear of Palin when she comes to California.  What does that say about Palin‘s chances?  What does it say about her and whether people want to be identified with her in close general elections, and whether they think she really is presidential material?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKIE DEANGELIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Jackie DeAngelis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A stronger dollar and a cautious investor keeping pressure on the markets today, the Dow Jones slipping 19, the S&P two points lower, and the Nasdaq doing a little better, adding three points. 

Investors not making any big moves today, with earnings and that monthly jobs report right around the corner.  But the dollar bounced back a bit.  Investors were inching away from Wednesday‘s concerns about potential policy changes by the Fed. 

Alcoa kicking off earnings season after the closing bell.  The aluminum giant delivered better-than-expected earnings and revenue and a killer outlook, to boot.  Shares are soaring in after-hours trading.

Hotel stocks feeling some heat from an earnings miss by Marriott.  Analysts are predicting slow but steady recovery in that sector.  And retailers ringing up stronger-than-expected sales in September.  Back-to-school shopping was especially robust, and most of the major retailers ended the session with big gains. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  Do you think that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president and would you like to see her run? 

JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I‘m running a U.S. Senate race right now in the state of Alaska.  That is what I‘m focused on.  I‘m—I have been asked about various candidates throughout the country during this race.  That‘s not my role, to comment on those candidacies. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: “That‘s not my role.”

Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller a couple of weeks ago on “FOX News Sunday.”  Miller‘s nonanswer on whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be president made Todd Palin—that‘s Sarah‘s husband—fire off a tough e-mail to Miller. 

Yesterday on FOX, Miller was given a second chance. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Are you willing to say now whether you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president? 

MILLER:  You know, I—I will tell you the exact same thing that I just said this last week while I was in D.C.

And that is, she, if she puts her name in the hat—and that‘s totally up to her—there are a number of others that are there as well, any one of which make a far better presidential candidate than what we‘ve got right now in the Oval Office.  But her decision to run is hers, hers alone.

KELLY:  I wanted to give you a chance to say yes or no, and it sounds like you‘re not really going to say yes or no. 

MILLER:  Well, let me make this—let—no, let me make this unequivocal. 

She‘s done phenomenal things for this country.  There‘s no question about that.  She‘s elevated the debate, critical to our race.  And let me make this also we know what qualified means, don‘t we?  We know that we have a constitutional requirement for somebody that‘s going to run for president.  Of course, she‘s qualified. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, if he can‘t answer Megyn Kelly‘s question, which was a good question, because it‘s the same question he continues not to answer, does it mean Sarah Palin has a bigger problem for her political plans? 

He won‘t answer a simple question:  Has she got the qualifications to be president?

And everybody knows what she meant and what Chris Wallace meant by that question. 

John Heilemann covers politics for “New York” magazine.  And Norah O‘Donnell is MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent. 

And, congratulations, Norah, a new facet of your professional career, your bestselling book, “Baby Love.” 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:   Congratulations.  And I want everybody to know, your legions of fans out there to know, that you have got a bestselling book out there on the market which is zooming. 

Let‘s talk about this weird thing. 

I want to start with John on this.

This is strange, to have somebody as popular within the Republican Party—she has a 76 percent approval level, way above everybody else.  But any time you ask a sane candidate, “Do you think she‘s got the stuff to be president of the United States?” they dodge. 

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK”:  Yes, Chris. 

I mean, I think it‘s perfectly reflective of her broader problem, which is that she is very popular, at least quite popular in the Republican Party, but she is not that popular in the broader electorate.  I mean, we have seen numbers from various polls that put her approval at—in the mid-20s with the broader electorate.  So—

MATTHEWS:  But—but—but, John, that‘s not the question these guys, these anchorpeople are asking.  They‘re asking, is she qualified?

HEILEMANN:  No, I—

MATTHEWS:  They‘re afraid to say she‘s got the basic mental, emotional, whatever, gravitas, whatever you want to call it, preparation, reading habits, to be president of the United States. 

That‘s what they‘re dodging, not whether they like her or not, but whether they think she‘s presidential material.  Isn‘t that what they‘re dodging? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, yes, clearly, that‘s what they‘re dodging.  I didn‘t mean to be dodging the question myself.  All I‘m trying to say is that I think for a lot of those people, when they‘re asked that question, I think what they must be thinking is that if they say, if they answer the question yes, they‘ll be seen as by some as if they‘re endorsing Sarah Palin running for president.  And they think that that‘s politically not a smart move for them in a general election.

I totally agree with you, that the clearer meaning of the question is something much more basic than that.  But I think what they‘re afraid of is being seen as too closely tied to her and her potential presidential ambitions.

MATTHEWS:  Norah, your thoughts?  I think it cuts even meaner.  I think it‘s a meaner question in a way because you don‘t ask that about other politicians.  You assume they‘ve got the I.Q., the reading habits, the basic knowledge to at least compete.  I mean, we‘ve had presidents that weren‘t, you know, weren‘t Einsteins, they‘ve done OK.  But they‘re afraid to even say she has the sort of necessary stuff to be president.  Not just sufficient, but just the necessaries.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Joe Miller‘s defense was pretty underwhelming, saying she needs the constitutional requirement.  I mean, that means all of us are qualified.  You only have to be 35 and as citizen of the United States.

So, that was sort of underwhelming, especially from Joe Miller, who would be a nobody if it weren‘t for Sarah Palin so that he could knock off an incumbent Republican.  So, that‘s why Todd Palin has become the papa grizzly and sort of reared up on his hind legs to let Joe Miller know what his place is.  But again, as about this, it is striking that Joe Miller would not say that she‘s qualified to be president.  And even though Todd Palin says they‘ve sort of kissed and made up on this whole thing, you bet there‘s probably some raw feelings there.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Palin, the governor, former governor, reacting to the Miller story with FOX‘s Sean Hannity last night.  I think she‘s obfuscating, too.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  A diversion like that trying to make me part of the narrative there in Joe Miller‘s campaign.  Joe Miller is the right person to help lead Alaska and to help lead our nation.  And the desperation of the other camps, trying to attack him on a leaked private email from Todd to Joe Miller?  You know, that‘s part of the question, too, is how did the media ever even get that email?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, she has this really—

O‘DONNELL:  (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  The answer to that is Joe Miller accidentally leaked it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  It wasn‘t that somebody else got the nefarious media got a hold of it.  Joe Miller accidentally leaked it.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s also a red herring how we got it.  We have it.  It‘s a fact.  It‘s not being denied.

Let me go to John on the simple question on the way she handles this thing.  How long can she—will perk work for her?  She sort of raises the octave.  Sort of, you know, how she does like goes in to the subjunctive, it‘s a weird thing she does.  It‘s effective so far.

She‘s sort of changes the stage of: are we arguing about a fact here or what side are you on is the question she always changes to—not what the facts are, not what the debate is, but are you with me or the big shots in New York?

HEILEMANN:  I think it‘s been very effective for her so far and I think she will continue to try to do it for as long as she can.  She probably can continue to get away with it until she becomes an announced candidate for something else.

But I do want to say—I mean, it‘s fascinating, when I saw Todd Palin‘s reaction to this, it seemed to be one of the clearest signs that they‘re telegraphing that she is, in fact, thinking about running for president.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they‘re sensitive.

HEILEMANN:  This is—this is this—is about, hey, my wife is probably going to run for president and how dare you not basically stand behind her, given that she‘s done you this favor?

That all of these endorsements are part of building a strategy—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  -- towards putting herself into the Republican nomination contest.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s one of the tricks of my trade.  When I try to do is say something really irritating so someone has to react with the truth.  All they think about is how mad they are and they are forced to tell the truth.  That‘s all they think about.  They‘re angry, so they tell the truth.

Anyway, thank you, John Heilemann.

Norah, congratulations on the book, “Baby Love,” you and the Supremes.  Anyway, thank you.  Good luck with that.  It‘s fascinating what you come up with.

Up next: after picking off a bunch of Republican senators deemed not conservative enough this year, the Tea Party is making its list, the sort of Santa Claus bad list for coal in your stocking for 2012.  Look at these people they don‘t like: Olympia Snowe, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, all on notice.  They might get tagged.  Orrin Hatch, that‘s a hit.  They‘re not conservative enough?

This is HARDBALL—they‘re playing HARDBALL—on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, George Allen of Virginia may be making a comeback.  The former Virginia senator lost his seat in 2006 for making a comment that some critics took as an ethnic slur.  Well, now, “Politico” is reporting that Allen is eyeing a rematch with the man who beat him that time, Jim Webb.  Allen has met with National Republican Senate Campaign Committee Chairman John Cornyn to discuss a possible bid two years from now.  And one Republican lobbyist in Virginia says that for the past two years, Allen has been telling people privately that he‘s in.  I think so.

HARDBALL—back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

With just 26 days now to go before the elections this year, there are a bunch of Tea Party Senate candidates who could end up winning.  Today‘s “Wall Street Journal” has a headline sure to scare senators who aren‘t on the ballot this November.  Tea Party wants to ambush more GOP senators in 2012.  But who‘s “The Journal” talking about?  Well, people like Utah‘s Orrin Hatch, Maine‘s Olympia Snowe, Tennessee‘s Bob Corker and Indiana‘s Dick Lugar.  Should they be worried?

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com.  And Sam Stein covers politics for “The Huffington Post.”

David first, and then Sam.

Should they be worried?  Should Orrin Hatch be scared a little bit that he‘s not conservative enough and certainly Bob Corker in Tennessee and people like that?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Yes, I think all Republicans should be concerned.  I think Ronald Reagan wouldn‘t be conservative enough for some of these Tea Party types.  And as we‘ve seen in the past few months, Chris, that if you have these small Republican primaries, this group of very angry, you know, far-right Tea Partiers can have tremendous impact.  We don‘t know if they‘re going to have a big impact on the general election, but we do know in the Republican primary, they have a lot of weight to pull.

So, if I was—you know, if I were Orrin Hatch or any of these others, I‘d be running to the right and we already see that happening as “The Wall Street Journal” reported.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s hard to launch a defense in this game, Sam, because if you‘ve got a 95 percent conservative voting record, they‘ll just say, but you voted for TARP.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Or you made a deal with somebody on health care that looked, you know, dicey.  So, it‘s this weird way that people are engaging in politics now.  They find one way and then they obsess over it like a tooth abscess.  That‘s all they talk or think or feel is that one thing you did.

STEIN:  Yes.  And, you know, I hate to say it, I agree with David on this one.  The institutional hurdles that usually exist for grassroots‘ candidates to run for office have been sort of leveled down.  And if a lot of these Tea Party candidates win in 2010, it‘s going to incentivize a lot more of them to run in 2012.

And I was at a briefing just now with David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager.  He said, if you are a moderate Republican thinking of running for office in 2012, you need to have to have your head examined.  There‘s no reason to do it.  You have to spend a lot of money, you come under attack, and you‘d likely lose.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s the cutting question.  You can go Sam—you, Sam, first.  How does the Republican Party build itself as a governing party, a majority party, which really needs to get the middle if it carves out its own middle?

STEIN:  It‘s a good question and there‘s people within the party who are really wondering that.  I was an event earlier this week with Mel Martinez, the former senator for Florida, and he expressed real angst about the future of the party.  He said, if everyone‘s going to be lockstep with Jim DeMint, there‘s going to be really no room for governance.  And he said actually bluntly that he thinks it‘d be better that the party didn‘t win the Senate because they wouldn‘t be held to standards of governance and would still be the Democrats who are held to standards by voters.

And so, they‘re going to have real problems figure out how to actually govern if they take power, and like you said, the middle has been moved—or hijacked way over to the right on this one.

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask the same question to, David.

What do you think, buddy?  What happens here if the party basically says if you‘re a middle-of-the-road or even a moderate conservative, you‘re gone?  At the same time, they go after the Reagan Democrats, the independent voters, the people that are a little upset with Obama or angry at him right now, and they want them to join a party which is only going to be a right wing party.

CORN:  I think they‘ve turned into a zombie party.  They‘re just not going to be interested in governing.  We saw already in the last two years the obstructionism on the right.  And if you get Rand Paul in the Senate with Jim DeMint, they will just say no and they‘ll stop everything.  You know Senate rules basically allow that, they don‘t believe in governance.  They believe—

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me try something by you guys.

CORN:  -- reinventing, right?

MATTHEWS:  This is serious business.

CORN:  It is serious business, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Supposed a gay person in your family or someone you care about or you just didn‘t care about human rights, suppose you think—you live in a suburban, you‘re not armed at home and therefore you believe in gun control.  Supposed you are pro-choice on abortion rights, is there a Republican Party for you, Sam, if you have any of these?  Because they don‘t want you in the party apparently if you believe any of these things?

STEIN:  Well, let‘s be careful here because it‘s not across the board

there have been interceptions to the rule.  You look at Mark Kirk for instance.  He‘s not their choice in Illinois but he ended up there.

               

My theory is that in 2012, once all these Tea Party candidates win if 2010, you‘re going to see real pressure on people like Olympia Snowe to actually make a party switch a la Charlie Crist.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re making my point.  You‘re making my point.

STEIN:  Yes.  No, I‘m making your point.  That said, you know, we have to wait until 2010.  We have to see how these results play out in the general election because if some of these Tea Party candidates actually lose, for instance, Christine O‘Donnell or Sharron Angle, maybe there will be a backlash against the Jim DeMints of the world.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Christine O‘Donnell, you‘re setting up a strawman.

STEIN:  I‘m not.

MATTHEWS:  Christine O‘Donnell is going to lose.

STEIN:  Yes, of course.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, here‘s the question, suppose Mark Kirk gets in this time because they need a candidate, they‘ll be gunning for him next time, David?

CORN:  Yes, well—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Corker just got in and they‘re after him already.

CORN:  He‘ll have six years to move to the right the Tea Party doesn‘t end up exploding the Republican Party to bits and pieces.  But the senators that you just mentioned, some of those people, like Orrin Hatch and Bob Corker, you know, not my favorite guys, politically, but they have shown in the past the willingness to try to work with Democrats on governing issues, whether it‘s health care or financial reform.

And there‘s going to be so much pressure on these guys—to get to your earlier point, Chris—to do nothing with any Democrat, not even to sit down and—in the cafeteria with them that will make things really impossible.  And then you know, the Republican Party will become the party of not just of no, but of anti-government and people like that to a certain degree, but it won‘t solve any of the problems that we have.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, at some point, they‘ll become not the party of the elephant but the party of the barking dogs as the cars go by.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn.  And thank you, Sam Stein.

STEIN:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  When we return—let me finish something by saying of President Obama that—well, you‘re just not hearing out there, not even from the White House, and I don‘t know why, even in this tough time.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with President Obama and what he‘s done.  I say the following because no one else including the president has.  It is the hard structure of reality that in the current cacophony so often is overlooked.

This president came into the office facing the worst economic outlook since the 1930s.  He took action—bold action—the action prescribed by the best economic minds following the best thinking there is in economics since the 1930s.

First, even before taking office, he backed up his predecessor in preventing a major collapse in the financial industry.  Everyone involved said it had to be done to avoid catastrophe, the destruction of our country‘s financial spine.

Second, he took the action, again, boldly, to powerful offset the white knuckle drop in consumer spending and business investment.  If he hadn‘t, no one, including his worst critics, have any idea what would have befallen us.  We can argue about the name that was given, the stimulus bill, but the creation of this great boost in economic demand for goods and services was critical to break what was widely seen as an economic free-fall.

It‘s easy to stand on the sideline, voting against everything, rooting against everything, and deride that bold action for the simple reason that nobody would ever remember if you had a seriously, reliably alternative.

Third, the president achieved what so many presidents from FDR from on have said, needed to be done, and this humiliating dependency of tens of millions of Americans in the emergency room as their only way on get medical attention.  He said our society had a responsibility to look out for its members health that individuals should be required to do what they can personally to provide for their care.

For the first time in our country‘s history, we are no longer the holdout in the modern world against broadly available, accessible health insurance.

It is no time for political high-fiving for bragging, we know that.  The economy‘s down and people are hurting.  But I wonder who‘s good it did does for president and those who wish him well to overlook the simple, bold, impressive, gutsy facts of what he‘s got done only now approaching two years in office.  Someone needs to say it.

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

Tomorrow on HARDBALL, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin joins us. 

He‘s in a tough Senate fight.  He‘s coming here.

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

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

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