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updated 4/4/2011 5:06:37 PM ET 2011-04-04T21:06:37

Guest Host: Chuck Todd

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Errol Louis, Harold Schaitberger, Mike Taylor, Bobby Ghosh, Jim Zogby, Ron Fournier, Jim Geraghty

CHUCK TODD, GUEST HOST:  We‘ve got jobs.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chuck Todd in Washington, sitting in for Chris Matthews, who‘s on assignment this final day in Israel.  Leading off tonight: There are some jobs.  Republicans have been asking, Where are the jobs?  Well, for the fourth month in a row, they got their answer.  The economy added 216,000 jobs.  The unemployment rate dropped by a tenth of a point.  The rate now has gone down a full point in the past four months.  And Republicans were a bit flummoxed on how to respond.  Our question tonight: How far does it have to fall before voters start giving the president credit for an economic recovery?  It‘s probably the 2012 million-dollar question.

Also, the backlash against the backlash.  The assault on union rights is turning some traditional friends of the Republicans into antagonists, like cops and firefighters, and it is becoming increasingly likely that the new restrictive law in Ohio is going to be put to a statewide vote in November 2011.  Have the new Republican governors gone too far?  We‘ll find out.

Plus, remember that pastor, that extremist pastor in Florida, Terry Jones, who was threatening to burn a Koran?  Well, apparently, he did it, and today there was a response.  A mob in Afghanistan killed at least 12 people, most of them United Nations workers, what may be the deadliest attack ever on United Nations workers in Afghanistan.

And is demography destiny?  Put another way, is the minority population growing so fast that President Obama simply won‘t need the same level of white support that he had in ‘08 to win in ‘12?

Finally, see if you can guess which possible presidential candidate now says President Obama wants people to lose their jobs and be poor.  The answer in the “Sideshow.”

But we‘re going to start with the president and the economic recovery.  “The Washington Post‘s” Chris Cillizza is an MSNBC political analyst and Errol Louis is senior political analyst for New York 1.  Gentlemen, thank you both.

Look, we‘ve seen the numbers, and what was interesting today was watching the response with the Republican side.  We know that President Obama was cheerleading this one.  He had something to cheer.  Here‘s what the president said about the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We added 230,000 private sector jobs last month.  That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last 13 months.  And the unemployment rate has now fallen a full point in the last four months.  And last time that happened was during the recovery in 1984.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Yes, he likes that 1984 analogy there.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  Chris Cillizza, let me read to you what John Cornyn said and I‘m going to compare it to what Tom Price—Senate Republican John Cornyn said this about the numbers.  “Since Republicans convinced our colleagues across the aisle not to raise taxes, America has added nearly 650,000 jobs and the unemployment rate has dropped from 9.4 percent to 8.8 percent.  Now here‘s how Republican Tom Price in the House talked about this new number.  “There‘s been a stubborn unwillingness on the part of Senate Democrats and the White House to confront our debt crisis and propose responsible solutions to create a better environment for job creators.”

So Chris Cillizza—

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes?

TODD:  -- you have some Republicans that say, Hey, let‘s take credit, and you have other Republicans that say, Hey, not yet.

CILLIZZA:  Here‘s what‘s hard about it, Chuck, is everyone knows—though no one will say this, everyone knows if the economy is bad, if the unemployment rate is high, you know, 9 percent, 10 percent, it‘s very difficult for President Obama to get reelected.  Consequently, if it‘s lower, it‘s easier to for him to get reelected.

But the problem for Republicans is you can‘t root for the economy to

be bad publicly, obviously.  They have to want the economy to get better as

Americans, but they know, politically, that strengthens President Obama‘s

hand.  I think that‘s why you tend to see some taking credit, some taking

blame—or some putting blame.  It‘s not easy for them, this issue,

because they don‘t want to look hyper-partisan.  At the same time, they

know the stronger the economy gets or the better people feel about the

economy, the harder it‘s going to be to beat President Obama come next

November.

TODD:  You know, Errol Louis, I remember during the 2004 campaign, and there was some bad months on the economy.  You know, it was a slower growth of jobs.  And the Bush campaign accused the Democrats of rooting against the economy, and that was an effective pushback.

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK 1:  Oh, sure.  Yes.  And look—and they‘re very much at risk of having that turned back on them again this year.  Absolutely.  I mean, Chris is absolutely right.  You can‘t cheer for high unemployment.  It‘s hard enough even to explain it, if it were to happen.

And the reality is, it leads the Republicans, I think, to some secondary targets, like getting control of the Senate back, which is not a small thing and is, in fact, within their reach on some level.

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  The Democrats have to defend a whole lot of seats.  They‘ve also got sort of a prairie brushfire going on in some of these Midwestern states at the state level, and they‘ve got plenty of targets of opportunity and some ground that—some turf that they have to defend there, too.  So against all of that, Going after the president at a time when job numbers are looking better, no way.

TODD:  Well, Errol, let me read you something else here today.  This is what Mitt Romney said about the new unemployment rates.  He said, “Look, I‘m afraid some people are becoming conditioned to unemployment rates above 8 percent.  Unemployment should be around 4 percent or less.  The idea that we celebrate 8.8 percent—I‘m glad for the progress, but my goodness, we‘ve got a lot of people out of work.”

That seems like he‘s trying to frame it—he wants to be the economy Republican candidate, Errol—

LOUIS:  Well, yes, he—

TODD:  -- and he‘s trying to frame it.  Yes.

LOUIS:  You can‘t blame him for trying to move the goalposts.

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  And frankly, I—look, I agree with him.  I‘d love it if—I mean, 4 percent, in effect, is zero unemployment because you get about 4 percent just from people naturally moving to new jobs or coming in and out of the workforce.  But you know, that‘s not going to sell it for him, you know?  I mean, he—if he‘s going to be the candidate of pain, he risks being where Democrats have been in so many campaigns, sort of saying there are two Americas and one America‘s not being—

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  -- attended to.  It never works for Republicans.

TODD:  And Chris—

CILLIZZA:  Chuck, I was just going to say—

TODD:  -- Cillizza, I mean, Mitt Romney—he can‘t afford for the economy—he wants to be the economy candidate.

CILLIZZA:  Yes.  And if the economy—look, here‘s the deal.  You mentioned 1984, Chuck.  I think it‘s a telling comparison.  In March of 1983, under Ronald Reagan, the unemployment rate was 10.3 percent, OK?  By October of 1984, it had dropped to 8.1 percent or 8.2 percent.  Look, 8.2 percent is not particularly good, right—

TODD:  Right.

CILLIZZA:  -- for the unemployment rate.  But it‘s all trend line.

TODD:  So is that the line?

CILLIZZA:  It‘s not the—

TODD:  If this thing—

CILLIZZA:  Yes, I think it—

TODD:  -- is moving toward 8 --

CILLIZZA:  Yes, I think it is.

TODD:  -- and maybe it‘s right around 8, 8.1 come October 2012, president gets reelected.

CILLIZZA:  And Chuck, let me tell you one other thing.  A guy smarter than me, a guy named Matt McDonald (ph) at Hamilton Place Strategies—you know him, he‘s a former Republican consultant.

TODD:  Yes.

CILLIZZA:  He‘s into economics now.  They put out a paper today, 185,000 jobs need to be created every month between now and November 2012 for the unemployment rate to be under 8 percent.  We created 220,000 this month, so it‘s—

TODD:  It doesn‘t seem farfetched.

CILLIZZA:  -- not out of the question—

TODD:  Yes.

CILLIZZA:  It‘s not out of the question that that happens.

LOUIS:  Yes, that‘s right.  And the direction is really critical because the economy, as we all know, is really about people‘s perception.

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  If the perception is that things are turning around, that‘s all you need.

TODD:  Hey, Errol, one of the more fascinating things inside the numbers over the last four months—private sector growth is up.  There is one sector where growth is down, and it‘s part of a bigger fight, and that is public employees.  The government worker again was in a negative, lost jobs on the state and local level, and it‘s a trend that‘s likely to continue.  Does that have a possibility of backfiring on Republicans because it‘s Republican governors that is are on the front lines of this fight?

LOUIS:  Oh, absolutely.  In fact, one of the first state senators that pushed for the very tough law that got passed in Wisconsin, the first recall petition, I think, got legal ballot status today.

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  And it was a district, in fact, that Obama had won.  So they risk seeing some local gains eroded.  And I think that‘s where your real panic‘s going to come in.  The presidential contest, absolutely important, but if they start losing control of some of these state legislatures, they start being in danger of losing these statehouses, that‘s a real critical problem for the GOP.

CILLIZZA:  And Chuck—Chuck—

TODD:  You know, Chris Cillizza—

CILLIZZA:  -- you and I talked about this.

TODD:  Right.

CILLIZZA:  Look at Ohio.  You and I have talked about this.  Ohio—if they can get that referendum to repeal the law that John Kasich, the Ohio governor, has signed this November, I mean, that is going to be a marquee—it‘s going to be the Super Bowl of 2011.

TODD:  You know, what‘s interesting about this, Chris Cillizza—and I know that you‘ve talked to the same pollsters that I have, that talk about this underlying resentment that had grown from sort of underemployed or disappointingly employed Americans with government workers, feeling like they have it better—does that end up, as the economy gets better, then suddenly Republicans own laying off workers?  Is that going to be tough for them to deal with?

CILLIZZA:  I think it potentially is.  You know, it‘s an amazing thing to me.  We can debate whether Scott Walker will ultimately win or lose from this, but one thing he clearly did is make unions relevant again in politics.  You know, you‘ve seen—

TODD:  Yes.

CILLIZZA:  -- a decline in the union share—union share in the electorate.

TODD:  Right.

CILLIZZA:  Unions have struggled.  There‘s—you know, there‘s this split within the union movement.  But they got behind this.  You know, they got behind Wisconsin.  They got behind Ohio.  And all of a sudden, people said, Well, wait a minute.  Unions are actually standing up.  Unions have political power again.  I mean, Scott Walker, he may ultimately, when we write the story of the 2010 election in labor‘s role, we may look at Scott Walker as the guy who deserves more credit than anyone else for reawakening unions and their political power.  It‘s a fascinating law of unintended consequences in politics.

TODD:  And Errol, let me play a little bit more of what the president said today in response to this.  He was trying to talk about everything else on his plate.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I know there‘s a lot going on in the world right now, and so the news has been captured by the images of the Middle East and what‘s happening, the tragedy to our friends in Japan.  And I‘m focused on those issues, but you should know that keeping the economy going and making sure jobs are available is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and it‘s the last thing I think about when I go to bed each night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Errol, it‘s something that the White House folks have been trying to pound in our heads, saying, Hey, we know you guys are talking about Japan and Libya and these are important stories, but we also know the swing voter is talking about gas prices and jobs.

LOUIS:  Oh, absolutely.  He knows exactly what they‘re thinking about and—or wants to get on the right side of what they‘re thinking about in Florida, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, in Nevada.  It‘s not that hard to figure out.

And look, the reality is, he‘s been told this all along.  He blew a lot of his capital—I don‘t want to say blown in the sense of wasted—

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  -- but he spent a lot of his political capital on that health care bill.

TODD:  Right.

LOUIS:  He knows that.  He acknowledges it.  He would do it again, I suppose.  But now, for reelection, it‘s going to the economy and no other issue.

TODD:  All right.  Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post”—

CILLIZZA:  And Chuck—Chuck, remember—really quickly—

TODD:  Very fast.

CILLIZZA:  Really quickly, remember he mentioned the economy in the Libya speech, which you—

TODD:  Yes, he did.  That‘s right.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA:  It shows you how focused they are.  Anyway, sorry to interrupt.

TODD:  All right.  Chris Cillizza, “Washington Post,” Errol Louis of New York 1, my favorite New York cable channel, I can say that, I think, and get away with it.

LOUIS:  Thank you.

TODD:  Thank you both.

CILLIZZA:  Thank you.

TODD:  Coming up: Will police and firefighters turn on Republicans in the latest Republican-union dispute?  We‘ll see.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Well, lookit here.  Here‘s a race Michele Bachmann is, in the words of Charlie Sheen, winning.  Bachmann raised $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2011 in all of her various PACs and stuff, outgaining Mitt Romney, who raised $1.9 million over the same period.  Not quite apples-to-apples type of stuff, but still, the latest fund-raising success shows that Bachmann could have some financial backing to sustain a serious presidential campaign, should she decide to take the plunge.  Don‘t take her—don‘t take her unseriously.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  There are battles between Republican governors and these public employee unions causing sometimes Republican-friendly voters to turn on those governors.  Well, today‘s Politico reports that “Rank-and-file police officers and firefighters, who long viewed themselves as separate from the rest of the movement, are carrying picket signs, signing petitions and standing side by side with their labor brethren in a way that we hadn‘t seen before.”

So even if Republicans score some short-term victories, are they doing some long-term damage to their party?

Harold Schaitberger is the general president of the International Association of Firefighters and retired police officer Michael Taylor is with Ohio‘s Fraternal Order of Police.

And Harold, let me start with you on this.  Look, you‘s been and the firefighters union has been fairly traditionally Democrat on the national level.  But talk about the state level and the local-level firefighters and the partisan diversity that they‘ve shown over the years.

HAROLD SCHAITBERGER, INTERNATIONAL ASSOC. OF FIREFIGHTERS:  Well, Chuck, you‘ve been watching us in the political arena for a long time.  Our principle has really always been pretty straightforward, and that is that we will support those in the elected field to—that support us.  And that makes us probably one of the more bipartisan unions in the country.

But our principle is very careful, and that is you‘ve got to support us.  And the attacks that are now going on in Wisconsin against workers—

Ohio, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and the list goes on—are absolutely galvanizing our members.  They‘ve given us a lot of energy.  And our members are going to push back and push back hard.

You‘re not going to get members who traditionally support those in the GOP to consider supporting them when, in fact, we‘re facing GOP governors and legislatures that are literally trying to rip their rights away from them they‘ve earned over all these years.

TODD:  And Michael Taylor, why is it that in Ohio—you know, the governor in Wisconsin had a carve-out for firefighters and police officers.  How was it that there was no carve-out in Ohio?  What happened there?  Did you guys try and get one?

MICHAEL TAYLOR, OHIO FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE:  Well, I can only speculate on the why, and that is that I think that at least in Ohio, that maybe some of those in Republican leadership and the governor‘s office view us differently than maybe they did in Wisconsin.

You know, the governor, shortly after being elected, was captured on a video called a police officer that issued him a ticket over three years ago an idiot.  The videotape of the stop was clear that the officer was very professional and did absolutely nothing wrong.  So even before this started, our members were very apprehensive of the new leadership in Ohio and what their thoughts on police officers and the respect level for police officers.

TODD:  Harold, I want to talk, though—there was one of the stories that I‘ve looked at in looking at the local level and the issue about collective bargaining and where there is flexibility and where there isn‘t flexibility—is the story of Mansfield, Ohio, because this was a town that was struggling, was basically bankrupt, needed to—wanted to renegotiate some of the contract with the firefighters.  Couldn‘t.  Had laid off some workers.  You guys had to—you sued on behalf and you‘re supporting your firefighters, and understandable, you sued on behalf.  And then other folks had to get laid off.

Is that a story like that, you say to yourself, We‘ve got to become more flexible?  You know, obviously, you‘re upset about this fight with Governor Kasich, but can you get more flexible on the collective bargaining?

TAYLOR:  Well, Chuck, let me say this.  First of all, you point out the one example there.  Let me point out that in Tulsa, in California in San Francisco, in Elyria (ph), Ohio, in place after place, our members, in fact, have been doing the responsible thing.  We have been going back to the table.  Our members have agreed to furloughs.  They have deferred wage increases in many cases.  They‘ve been doing their part in cities and states all over this country and trying to protect jobs.

TODD:  And are you advising the locals—are you advising your locals to do that, don‘t get drawn into these fights, don‘t—this is not the time to draw a line in the sand? 

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, right now, what we‘re advising our locals to do, and that is to make sure that we are coming together to fight back on those that have attacked our workers, our members, and are trying to simply kill our unions and keep our political voice out of the political arena. 

And this has brought all of our members together.  And our focus right now is on the recall effort.  We will be involved in all six of those recalls—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  In Wisconsin?

SCHAITBERGER: -- Wisconsin senators.

TODD:  OK.

SCHAITBERGER:  And we are going to be heavily involved in the referendum recall on SB-5. 

TODD:  Well, I want to show some poll numbers here, Michael.  This is a Gallup poll.  Who do you agree with in these battles, the state employees, labor—state employee labor unions or the governors?  This is just overall -- 48 percent say they tend to side more with the labor unions, 39 percent with the governors here. 

You know, what is it that the governors have gotten wrong in this fight?  Obviously, you don‘t like the policy, but messaging-wise, it seems as if you are getting your message out there and they‘re not.  Why do you feel like you‘re winning the PR battle?

TAYLOR:  Well, in the polls we have seen in Ohio, the numbers are even higher than that in people that support us.

But they have gone to almost trying to create a Darth Vader image out of public workers.  And, you know, public workers are your neighbors.  They‘re your husbands, your wives, your brothers, your sisters.  These are not evil people.  These are not Darth Vaders. 

They try and talk about the union bosses.  Look, our union bosses are police officers.  The president of the FOP in Ohio now is a full-time active police officer in Marion, Ohio.  So I think the public is seeing through this image they‘re trying to create for public workers and teachers and firefighters and police officers.  And they see it‘s a bunch of nonsense.  They see it‘s all about politics.  They see it‘s all about ruining the unions, getting rid of the unions.  And they think it‘s maybe even a little bit of class warfare.  And I think the public sees through that. 

TODD:  And, Harold, how much money do you think you are going to end up having to spend?  And how much money is the labor movement going to end up spending in Ohio and in Wisconsin? 

SCHAITBERGER:  We are going to be investing very heavily, Chuck.  As you know, just in the—at the federal level last year, we spent over $2.7 million in the political arena. 

We will be investing very heavily in Wisconsin, as well as in Ohio, to move that referendum forward and to repeal those senators.  Our members are really coming to the table.  And we know how to commit significant resources to this kind of effort. 

If I may, Chuck, just very quickly, this is, though, nothing about—this is not about budgets and deficits.  This is a fraud.  This is all about power.  And this is about the right wing of the GOP that thinks they see an opportunity to make a power move and to try to cripple our unions, to try to take workers‘ rights away.  And what they‘re really doing is they are galvanizing our members and they are moving them forward in the fight. 

TODD:  It does appear so.

And, Michael Taylor, very quickly, in Ohio, how confident are you that you‘re going to be able to get the signatures you need in the next 90 days to get this on the ballot? 

TAYLOR:  I‘m absolutely confident we will get the signatures.  And I think we will get a lot more signatures than we need.  There‘s just no doubt in my mind.  Our people—as Harold said, our people are fired up and ready to go like I have never seen them in my 26 years.  I‘m very confident. 

TODD:  This is going to be like a mini-presidential election in an off-year. 

Harold Schaitberger of the firefighters union, good to see you. 

SCHAITBERGER:  Thank you. 

TODD:  Michael Taylor from the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, thank you for coming on. 

SCHAITBERGER:  Thanks for having me. 

TAYLOR:  Thank you, Chuck. 

TODD:  All right, up next:  Wait until you hear Donald Trump‘s exit strategy for Iraq.  Actually, there‘s no exit.  It belongs in the “Sideshow.”  You will see it. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Back to Hardball and now to the “Sideshow.” 

First up, listen to this.  It‘s Donald Trump‘s exit strategy for Iraq.  Actually, it turns out he doesn‘t have one, because he doesn‘t want to leave.  Trump outlined his plan about Iraq on FOX last night.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS:  You stay and protect the oil and you take the oil and you take whatever is necessary for them and you take what‘s necessary for us, and we pay our self back $1.5 trillion or more. 

If you look at wars over the years—and I study wars, OK?  My whole life is a war.  You look at wars over the years, a country goes in, they conquer, and they stay.  In a nutshell, we go in, we take over the second largest oil fields and we stay. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Wow.  Make Iraq the 51st state, another Alaska?  Whew.  OK.  We will see.  That one is clearly one he truly believes.  Still not sure on the birther stuff. 

Next: Michele Bachmann in overdrive.  Most 2012 contenders would argue President Obama‘s policies hurt economic growth.  Yesterday on the radio, the Minnesota congresswoman took it a step further.  She said the president actually wants Americans to be poor. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I think that the agenda that we have seen—we know that 63 percent of all households have seen a major decline in their personal wealth, a decline in their personal income, and an increase in their debt level. 

That‘s all attributable directly to Barack Obama‘s principles.  I think Barack Obama‘s getting exactly the outcome that he hoped for.  All of us, I think, are perhaps giving the president too much credit, thinking, well, he probably just doesn‘t understand that liberalism actually makes people poorer.  I actually think that this is what the president wants. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD:  I have to say, one thing I think she would agree is that the president wants to be reelected.  And what‘s the number-one way to get reelected?  A good economy.  It‘s the single best indicator of whether an incumbent president gets reelected.  And guess what?  This guy really wants to get reelected.  So I don‘t think he‘s doing whatever it takes to get everybody poor. 

Anyway, finally, civics on the House floor, not civility, civics.  This week, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, he said that if the House passed the—quote—“Government Shutdown Prevention Act,” it would become the law, even if it doesn‘t pass the Senate.

Well, that‘s just not true, as well anybody who‘s seen “How a Bill

Becomes a Law” will tell you.  And guess what.  So, Anthony Weiner decided

from Brooklyn—decided he was not going to let Cantor‘s slip completely go unnoticed.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  I brought you this, “House Mouse, Senate Mouse,” which is sold in the gift shop to teach children how to understand the Constitution.

And permit me to read.  “It‘s the floor of each chamber of the Senate and House where each senator and Congress mouse gets to vote on the bill.  And if enough do, if enough do, this president signs it if he likes to.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Ah, Anthony Weiner, man, he‘s been on a roll this week.  He stole the show at the big congressional correspondents dinner.  And he loves himself a House floor speech.

Anyway, now to tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Who‘s more valuable as a public speaker, a Nobel Prize-winning author like Toni Morrison or Snooki of “Jersey Shore”?  It‘s not a trick question or an April Fools‘.  Catch this.  Rutgers University, they‘re paying Toni Morrison $30,000 to deliver the school‘s commencement speech.  That‘s a lot of money. 

How much did they pay Snooki for simply a Q&A, not even prepared remarks? -- $32,000, $2,000 more.  And what was some of Snooki‘s advice?  Study hard, party harder -- $32,000 for those pearls of wisdom from Snooki, tonight‘s awfully depressing “Big Number.” 

You know what?  Can we give Toni Morrison—go buy a Toni Morrison book this weekend.  Let‘s get her that extra $2,000. 

Anyway, up next:  Remember Pastor—that extremist from Florida—

Terry Jones, who threatened and then burned a Koran?  Well, the response came today when an angry mob in Afghanistan killed at least 12 people, mostly U.N. workers.  How did we not see this coming?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, stocks seesawed to a higher close on that upbeat jobs report, with the Dow Jones industrials climbing 57 points, the S&P 500 up by six, and the Nasdaq adding eight -- 216,000 jobs added in March, the unemployment rate falling to 8.8 percent, well, that‘s good news, right? 

Well, traders are a little worried the Fed may now be considering an early withdrawal of stimulus and a possible interest rate hike by the end of the year.  Well, most automakers finished higher on solid March sales.  GM sales rose more than 11 percent.  Ford outsold GM with a 19 percent jump, but Toyota‘s sales fell almost 6 percent. 

Nasdaq OMX and IntercontinentalExchange are putting in a rival bid for NYSE Euronext at a 19 percent premium over the Deutsche Boerse bid.

And Coca-Cola and PepsiCo bubbled higher.  Coke won a lawsuit accusing it of deceiving customers.  And Pepsi announced a new mid-calorie version called Pepsi . 

That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide—now it is back over to you at HARDBALL. 

TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

All right.  That Florida pastor that we probably gave all too much attention to—he ignited that worldwide firestorm last year when he vowed to burn a copy of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 -- followed through with his threat. 

Terry Jones and his so-called church set fire to the Koran in a crazy stunt about two weeks ago.  We‘re not going to show it.  And just as President Obama and General Petraeus had warned then, lives—that lives could be lost, well, guess what?  They were lost today in Afghanistan as a result. 

A 20,000-strong mob, stirred up about this incident, incensed over it,

this Koran burning, overwhelmed the United Nations compound in Afghanistan

today, killed at least 12 people, most of them U.N. workers.  Video of the

Koran burning was posted on the Web site of Jones‘ church.  And we‘re not -

as I said, we‘re not going to air it, but we‘re going to talk about this story. 

And for more on what this means for our troops, the mission and the safety of Americans in Afghanistan and our standing with Muslims around the world, we‘re turned to Bobby Ghosh, who is the deputy international editor for “TIME” magazine, and Jim Zogby, president of the American—Arab American Institute here and author of the book “Arab Voices.”

Bobby, I want to start with you on the story itself.

Basically, we have got two sets of extremists here.  We got this extremist in Florida and a couple of extremists that took advantage of the moment to stir people up in Afghanistan.  How much has this spread around the Muslim world? 

BOBBY GHOSH, DEPUTY INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, “TIME”:  Well, the real concern now, Chuck, is that this now spreads from here, that you have in other small groups of extremists in other parts of the Muslim world that people feel like they have to do a copycat thing. 

We saw that happen many years ago with Salman Rushdie.  We saw that happen much more recently with the Danish cartoons.  The thing to keep in mind that‘s very important here is that the Koran to Muslims, it is not—it is not the same as the Bible to Christians. 

The Bible is a book written by men.  It is acknowledged by Christians that it is written by men.  It‘s the story of Jesus. 

TODD:  Yes. 

GHOSH:  But the Koran, if you are a believer, if you‘re a Muslim, the Koran is directly the word of God, not written by man.  It is transcribed, is directly the word of God. 

That makes it sacred in a way that it‘s hard to understand if you‘re not Muslim.  So the act of burning a Koran is much more—potentially much, much more inflammatory than—

TODD:  Directly attacking—directly attacking God. 

GHOSH: -- than if you were to burn a—burn a Bible. 

TODD:  Directly attacking God. 

Well, Jim Zogby, here, Terry Jones today said he had no regrets about this.  In “The New York Times,” he quoted as saying the time has come to hold Islam accountable. 

Here is what he said on HARDBALL last August when he first started with this absurd threat.  Let‘s take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER:  What we hope to accomplish by the burning of the Koran is to send a very clear—it is, indeed, a radical message, but a very clear radical message to Muslims, to Sharia law, that that is not welcomed in America.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  If somebody reacts—somebody‘s going to react to what you do.  Do you think the reaction‘s going to be positive or negative?

JONES:  I think it‘s going to be positive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Boy, he was terribly wrong. 

JOHN ZOGBY, PRESIDENT & CEO, ZOGBY INTERNATIONAL:  Well, not only was he terribly wrong, but, in a way, he got what he wanted out of this.  He got all the attention he needed last year, and—

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  But, this time, we didn‘t give him attention for this—

ZOGBY:  I understand.

TODD: -- in the mainstream media this time.

ZOGBY:  But we catapulted him into that position last September.

TODD:  We did.

ZOGBY:  What really struck me was, you know, on September 7, I was at a press conference at the National Press Club with the leaders of every Protestant denomination, all of the major Jewish community denominations and organizations, the Catholic—the Conference of Bishops, all the major Muslim leadership.

And it was a press conference to say, bigotry should not happen in America.  It was about the Park51 and the—the burning.

TODD:  Right. 

ZOGBY:  The next day, scant attention in the press because this guy chewed up all the oxygen, the press was completely with them.

TODD:  No, it was -- 

ZOGBY:  Now, there are crazies and evil people in that region in Afghanistan who are preying on the tormented and traumatized Afghani people.  They got what they wanted, too.  They got a display of the ability they have to mobilize folks.  We may see it now in other countries.  It is dangerous.  But this is the situation that really must be brought under control—part of the control starts here with sending different messages.  But, clearly, folks in Afghanistan and elsewhere have to take control of these situations.

TODD:  Bobby Ghosh, the president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, General Petraeus, they were all over this Terry Jones last year when this threat was so public.  And, in fact, at the time, here‘s what the president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan, who are in Afghanistan.  You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan.  This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Bobby, explain how these—because—explain how these extremists in Afghanistan use it.  How do they use it?  Obviously, they‘re preying on people who are just upset in general and but how are they using it?  Are they cherry-picking the events themselves, as well?

GHOSH:  Well, absolutely.  They‘re cherry-picking it.  Now, let‘s keep in mind that there are lots of other resentments that are bubbling up.

TODD:  Yes, right.

GHOSH:  You have lots of Afghans who are upset that there‘s a continued foreign presence, people who are upset about the economy.

TODD:  It doesn‘t take much.

GHOSH: It doesn‘t take much.  The tinder is dry and ready to be lit up.  But you have these groups that take—exploit the situation.  They‘re not telling the Afghan people that one radical American preacher acting mostly on his own has done this.  They‘re telling them the Americans, the American government or the American people as a whole are behind the burning of the Koran.

And most of the people who are responding in this manner are poor.  They don‘t have access to the Internet.  They‘re not getting “New York Times.”  They don‘t know that much about Terry Jones and who he is and what he stands for.  They will be—they will be taken in by the message that it‘s the American government or the American people that are directly responsible for burning the “Word of God.”

TODD:  Right.  Jim—

ZOGBY:  Bobby‘s got it completely right.

TODD:  Let me ask you this.  These 12 people that are dead, United Nations workers.

ZOGBY:  Yes.

TODD:  If you‘re related to them and their family, you‘re going to want this Terry Jones held accountable.

ZOGBY:  And you‘re also going to be angry at the people in Afghanistan and the problem is—

TODD:  Right.  At both.

ZOGBY: -- it deepens the divide.

TODD:  Right.

ZOGBY:  And so, you get the crazies on both sides win in the sense that they are able to portray this and to deepen the clash of civilizations mindset.  And it—I can hear presidential candidates here in America now playing off this, too.  This is a difficult and dangerous situation.

TODD:  Jim, you‘re very—you‘re close to the political world here.

ZOGBY:  Yes.

TODD:  You‘re smart, political, savvy guy.  Advise the president, what do you do with this Terry Jones?  Do you—do we—publicly make him a—don‘t?  What do you do here?

ZOGBY:  It‘s going to be a tough call.  But I‘ll tell you one thing, I‘m facing right now is that on April 22nd, he‘s going to Dearborn and he‘s going to the heart of the Arab community.

TODD:  The president?

ZOGBY:  No.  Terry Jones.

TODD:  It‘s Terry Jones.

ZOGBY:  And he‘s going there to provoke a situation at the Islamic center.  My advice to the folks in Dearborn is: ignore him.  Do not even acknowledge his -- 

TODD:  Does the evangelical Christian community need to get around and say, look, you don‘t represent me, you‘re a radical extremist, Terry Jones, get out.

(CROSSTALK)

ZOGBY: -- evangelicals were with us on September 7th.

TODD:  Embarrassing to them.

ZOGBY:  And the fact is that that might be a great thing to have a counter demonstration of real leadership in Dearborn.  This guy, as Robert Gibbs says, has less followers than the press who followed him around last year and this is a dangerous situation.

But I think Bobby‘s got it completely right.  The Afghanistan situation is tinder and it has been exploited by some evil guys who said, these are the American who are killing civilians.  These are the Americans occupying us, et cetera.

And this makes our job in Afghanistan more difficult.  It makes our job at home more difficult.  It makes their job in the world more difficult.  It‘s a dangerous situation.

TODD:  Jim Zogby there of the American Institute, Bobby Ghosh of “Time” magazine, I hope—I hope that the Christian community, the real Christian community deals with this guy.

ZOGBY:  And I hope that the Muslim community as well will speak to those folks in Afghanistan and say—

TODD:  Absolutely.

ZOGBY: -- this should not happen.

TODD:  All right.  Guys, thank you both.

Up next: how growing minorities are reshaping U.S. politics and what does it mean for President Obama in 2012?  Wait until you see this battleground map now.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Well, ready for this?  Haley Barbour‘s wife says the personal sacrifices her husband would have to make to run for president horrifies her.  Marsha Barbour said that the White House bid would consume the last part of their productive lives.  Asked whether she‘d support her husband if he does run, Marsha Barbour said that it was, quote, “a commitment that I‘m praying about.”  Rut-roh!

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Ad we are back.

Some good ways to look at the battleground map for 2012, “National Journal” has great new issue out this week that examines the 2010 census numbers and how the growing minority population in America could impact the election.

Here to talk about what this may mean for the president and the Republican hopefuls, Ron Fournier.  He‘s editor-in-chief over there at “National Journal.”  Jim Geraghty, he‘s contributing editor for “National Review.”  He‘s following this presidential race as closely as anybody at that magazine.

Ron, let me start with you.  The numbers—look, we‘ve all known about what‘s going on in the overall census, the growing Hispanic population.  But let‘s break it down state by state.

Here, you can see the seven states that have 20 percent or more Hispanics in their population—Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.  Arizona and Texas, two supposedly reliable Republican states.

Now, there‘s another map here.  On this map, you can see the states that have 30 percent or more minority population.  Look at that.  It‘s basically half the country.

Ron Fournier—Ron Brownstein there, did all sorts of calculations about what this means for President Obama.  Do your best to lay it out quickly for me.

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL:  As Brownstein can.  You know, he pointed out that there‘s three states that really jump out at you—

Arizona, Georgia and on an outside chance, even Texas, that could be in play, because even with the diminishing number of white voters who are coming Barack Obama‘s way, because of the explosion of that minority population, he‘s got a chance to put some states in play, at least enough to force the Republicans to spend money in places that you wouldn‘t expect.

TODD:  You know, Jim Geraghty, Karl Rove, during the immigration fight, would make this political argument behind closed doors, saying, guys, the country demographically is shifting.  If they—if you don‘t woo Hispanic voters, it‘s over.  You‘ll never see the White House for a generation.

JIM GERAGHTY, NATIONAL REVIEW:  Yes.  It‘s, you know, as somebody seeing (INAUDIBLE) some time, you‘ve seen Republicans make various outreach efforts.  Some of these races, some places, they have some success.  But a lot of places, it‘s far short of what they want to do.

In terms of African-Americans, you kind of knew that they‘re always going to be have a strong, kind of, you know, just base identity with the first African-American president.  You might argue they‘re really not even in play.  Hispanics are the ball game, so to speak.  That basically, this is where it‘s—for Republicans, they don‘t have to win the Hispanic vote.  You have to do a reasonable amount in Hispanic vote.

TODD:  And what is that?  We think it‘s—it‘s anywhere north of 35, right?

GERAGHTY:  In that ballpark.

TODD:  Yes.

GERAGHTY:  Obama took 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in ‘08.  If that gets lower, Republicans are going to be in better shape.  If that gets higher, they‘re going to have a very tough time winning in 2012.

TODD:  Ron Fournier, what evidence is there that somehow Republicans could do better than—what Republican nominee in your mind could do better than John McCain with Hispanics?

FOURNIER:  It‘s really hard to see.  I mean, look, just since Bill Clinton took office, the non-white population in this country has more than doubled.  And, right now, almost half of all Americans under 18 are non-whites.  By 2015, they will be a majority minority young vote in this country.

Those are numbers that are just going to be hard for the Republicans to overcome if they don‘t start reaching out into the population, if they don‘t stop doing things and policies and saying things that drive non-whites away.  Right now, it‘s kind of hard to see, you know, how they‘re going to get around this unless they do something like, you know, looking at—maybe putting a Rubio on the ticket.

TODD:  I was just going to say that.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  That‘s the five-letter answer I always here from Republicans. 

We‘ll put Rubio on the ticket.

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGHTY:  If Republicans were already getting 100 percent of the Hispanic vote, putting Rubio on the ticket would still be a very good idea.  That‘s the general good idea.

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGHTY:  It does for Florida because Rubio is terrific.

But the other thing I would note about this, is that the most recent study on—the most recent poll of Latino voters, Hispanic voters, 70 percent said they approved of Obama.  That‘s a pretty darn high level.  But only 43 percent said they were definitely going to vote for Obama.  So, obviously, there‘s some sort of—

TODD:  Energy, lack of energy, yes.

GERAGHTY:  Some sort of sense that it‘s not in his pocket yet.  And I think one of his key things, as you‘re talking about the jobs numbers early this week, unemployment in the Hispanic community, 11.3 percent.

TODD:  Right.

GERAGHTY:  That‘s probably going to hold back a lot of voters.

TODD:  It could.

Hey, Ron Fournier, Jim Geraghty, stay with me a minute.  We‘re going to do a quick break.  We‘ll come back and finish this.

We‘ll be right back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  We‘re back with Ron Fournier of “The National Journal” and Jim Geraghty of “The National Review.”

Ron, I want to go back to this map again and you talked about the three states.  But I want to pick out one in particular because it may be an Obama coalition state, may better represent it than most, and that is Georgia, because as both a double-digit African-American population and a double-digit—a growing Hispanic population, not quite.  We‘re getting closer.  And that is something that maybe only Obama on the ticket could pull off.  Remember, he seemed to over-perform in Georgia in ‘08.

FOURNIER:  Yes, that‘s a perfect state to look at.  Even when Ron Brownstein makes allowances for Obama losing the white votes compared to the 43 percent he got nationally last election.  Even if he loses the white vote, with the gains in the non-white vote, he‘s got a chance to put a state like Georgia in play, which is remarkable.

TODD:  Jim Geraghty, what do you do if you‘re a Republican?  You know, so, last time, McCain basically didn‘t contest North Carolina and Indiana.  He said, I don‘t believe.  At the end, they went into North Carolina, too late.

And Obama‘s going to have close to $1 billion to this thing.  And they go and mess around in Texas and Arizona, do you let them do it?

GERAGHTY:  No, I think that‘s where you hopefully have good surrogates and you can, you know, allocate your time well in this category.  The one thing that kind of jumps out at me, though, that kind of make me say, all right, let‘s not jump to the conclusion it‘s going automatically going to work for the Obama administration.

In 2009, 2010, they sent Obama into a lot of places trying to drive up the minority vote and the Obama effect was not transferable.  And it was very clear.  You know, all a lot of these states, New Mexico, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey—they all have high minority populations, but they didn‘t necessarily come out.

Now, in the primary, you know.

TODD:  With his name actually in the ballot, that‘s another thing. 

Right.

GERAGHTY:  When you have a presidential year, there‘s going to be higher turnout.  I would note, you can only vote to elect the first African-American president once.

TODD:  Right.

GERAGHTY:  And also, you know, kind of a key factor in all this is he‘s not the guy he was in 2008.  He has a record now.

TODD:  Right.

GERAGHTY:  There‘s a question of whether people feel as fondly about him as they do in—

TODD:  And, Ron Fournier, I want to go back to this issue in Hispanics.  You know, it‘s been a good voting bloc for the Democrats the last couple of cycles, but it does seem as if the Obama administration has struggled to connect with the Hispanic community.

FOURNIER:  There‘s a couple of things that could cut in the Republicans‘ favor.  One is, you know, just because there‘s a lot more voters coming to this, potential voters coming into the system doesn‘t mean it naturally will.  And Hispanics do tend to underperform.

The other thing, just as you said it, Hispanics are a little more social conservative than the African-American vote.  Issues such as abortion with the kind (ph) of population like that, could cut against Obama.  Look for him to be going after big on issues like health care and the economy and education, which are big in Hispanic community.

TODD:  All right.  Jim Geraghty and Ron Fournier, I got to leave it there.

I‘m telling you, go get this “National Journal” issue.  It is if you‘re a political numbers geek like me, it‘s the issue to read.  Anyway, thank you both.

All right, that‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Thank you, Chris Matthews, for letting me fill in this week.  Chris is going to be back in this usual seat on Monday.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

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