1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 6/15/2011 2:38:26 PM ET 2011-06-15T18:38:26

Guests: Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Michael Steele, Eamon Javers, David Corn, Jennifer Donahue, Perry Bacon, Maria Teresa Kumar, Jenny Backus

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The front-runner and the sleeper.  The horse race begins.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Leading off tonight: Scouting report.  The Hill Web site reports today that only three Republican candidates are listed on the wall of President Obama‘s own new campaign headquarters, Mitt Romney—no surprise—Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty.

If you‘re sitting in the Obama camp today, what did you see last night in that debate that made you smile?  And what did you see that scared you?  One thought.  It‘s time to lower that picture of Pawlenty, who whiffed at last night‘s debate.  The view from camp Obama, our top story tonight.

Maybe the biggest story from last night was not Romney‘s cool or Pawlenty‘s retreat but the emergence of a star, Michele Bachmann.  She was, of course, created here.  She came off as poised, informed—that‘s right, Gene—poised, informed and serious.  Could she be the candidate that Sarah Palin was supposed to be?

Also, President Obama‘s trip to Puerto Rico today may have less to do with San Juan than with must-win states like Florida or North Carolina.  The Puerto Rican population there is booming in those areas, and Latino vote—the Latino vote could be even more important in this year‘s election for the president than it was last time.

Plus: You don‘t hear much from Democrats these days about, oh, the Republican plan to kill Medicare or their big congressional win in western New York a while back or even about job creation.  Why?  Because they can‘t keep having to talk about Anthony Weiner.  That‘s why.  Why the Democrats need Weiner to wander.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the Eastern and Western conferences of the Republican Party, otherwise known as the Whigs and abolitionists or the shirts and the skins.

We start with the GOP debate last night.  Eugene Robinson is a “Washington Post” columnist.  Howard Fineman is the Huffington Post Media Group editorial director.  Both are MSNBC political analysts.

First of all, the big take, guys, the big take last night.  Headline? 

Let‘s go to—what was it—

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  A great night for Romney.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  Romney, Romney (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  OK, you‘re sitting out there in Chitown, second city—

ROBINSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- you‘re Axelrod, you‘re David Plouffe—although he‘s back here—you‘re Valerie Jarrett, you‘re Michelle Obama, you‘re all the big shots on the inside.  Last night, what did you see that made you smile?  First of all, you.  What did you get a giggle out of—These clowns?  What made you feel like—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: -- Oh, they can beat these guys?

ROBINSON:  Well, nobody would take on Romney.  That would make me smile if I were Axelrod.  I‘d say, Well, OK, he‘s a legitimate candidate, but nobody else is going to—going to—

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We described it as a whiff.  Howard, you can jump in for the kill here.  You can do the coup de grace here.  Here he is, Tim Pawlenty, not doing what he said he would do on Sunday, go after this guy, Mitt Romney keeping cool at last night‘s debate.  Here was what didn‘t happen.  Pawlenty did not go after Romney.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN, MODERATOR:  Your rival is standing right there.  If it was “Obamney care” on “Fox News Sunday,” why is it not “Obamney care” standing here with the governor right there?

TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  President Obama is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program.  He‘s the one who said it‘s a blueprint and that he merged the two programs.  And so using the term “Obamney care” was a reflection of the president‘s comments that he designed “Obama care” on the Massachusetts health care plan.

KING:  All right.  Governor, you want to respond to that at all?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  No, just to say this, which is my guess is the president is going to eat those words and wish he hadn‘t put them out there.  And I can‘t wait to debate him and say, Mr. President, if, in fact, you did look at what we did in Massachusetts, why didn‘t you give me a call and ask what worked and what didn‘t?  And I would have told you, Mr. President, that what you‘re doing will not work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Romney walked past him like he was a small, uneventful insect in his world.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t even acknowledge (INAUDIBLE) nuance.  And there‘s Pawlenty saying, I‘m going to call it “Obamney care.”  I‘m going to tie the president and Obama (SIC) together in one big bundle and trash them both.  And then said Monday during the day, Well, I‘m not really going to do it.  And then he—and John King, by the way, has a better shot at the presidency than Pawlenty, and he‘s not running.  Your thoughts.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, you saw when Romney was listening to Pawlenty shy away there—

MATTHEWS:  Oh!

FINEMAN: -- real emotion on Mitt Romney‘s face.

MATTHEWS:  I got this guy beat.

FINEMAN:  Yes, which you don‘t usually see.  I mean—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: -- so controlled.  It was just a very slight thing—Oh, boy!

           

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t realize, The only thing I have to worry about was this guy and this guy just whiffed.

FINEMAN:  It can‘t be this guy.

ROBINSON:  This guy just whiffed.  You know, I actually wondered—

MATTHEWS:  Is this like (INAUDIBLE) you know, they‘re not going to pitch to the guy because he‘s just too good, you know?

FINEMAN:  No.

ROBINSON:  But when it was—

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t he fight him?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: -- happening, I said, is he running for vice president?

MATTHEWS:  Oh!

ROBINSON:  Is that what he‘s running for?  But—

FINEMAN:  Something—

ROBINSON: -- but that wouldn‘t make sense.

FINEMAN:  Somebody told Pawlenty, This is your first time on the big stage, nobody knows who you are, don‘t introduce yourself by attacking—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

FINEMAN: -- this guy.

MATTHEWS:  You know who gave that—you know who gave the advice (INAUDIBLE) in a debate?  Right before Nixon debated Kennedy and got his clock cleaned, the great Henry Cabot Lodge, his running mate, his Yankee running mate, called him up and said, Erase the assassin‘s image.  Well, Nixon erased the image—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  And he lost.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  The fact is that the audience for this thing last night was not really the people of New Hampshire or real voters, it was the commentariat and the pundits and so on—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

FINEMAN: -- all of whom are hammering Pawlenty for being—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to our point.  It‘s the people in the White House and how they‘re going to direct their attack.  Here “The Hill” reports—the insiders‘ newspaper—here it is—reporting that there are three names on the wall at Obama headquarters out in Chicago, Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman.  Let‘s go back to that.  Reporting from the White House, where you always report.

FINEMAN:  Yes, we do.

MATTHEWS:  Report now.  What does the White House know they didn‘t know 24 hours ago about what they‘re facing?  They know the unemployment rate‘s going to be too high.  They know the economy‘s not that great.  They got to face that.  Who are they going to face in terms of personnel?

FINEMAN:  Well, I—

MATTHEWS:  Looked like Romney‘s going to get now the 11th commandment. 

They‘re not going to go after him for a while.

FINEMAN:  Well, first of all, it‘s amazing the way things have shifted

around.  A couple weeks ago, Romney was being widely derided as a non-start

--

MATTHEWS:  And then we got a 9.1 percent unemployment rate.

FINEMAN:  Right.  Exactly.  So I think the main thing the White House learned is the power of the economic issue.  But they already knew that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What does—

FINEMAN:  At this point—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: -- what they said was—what they told me today was—I said, What is your comment about what‘s been printed, you know, what they said at the briefings, and so on?  And they said two things.  They said, No ideas from them—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  That‘s going to be a line of attack.  And tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts that don‘t help the middle class.  Middle class and no ideas.  That‘s what I got from them.

MATTHEWS:  But the Republicans wake up in the morning saying no taxes

cut taxes.

FINEMAN:  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s their pre-intellectual thought each morning.  Here‘s Gibbs, Robert Gibbs.  I guess he‘s been brought in here by somebody to do some attacking here, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on MSNBC.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  And you know if that opponent is somebody like Mitt Romney, the president and people like myself will talk about, as during his four years as governor of Massachusetts, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation.  If it‘s somebody like Tim Pawlenty, we‘ll talk about the fact that this is a guy who created net 6,000 jobs in eight years and left his state with a $6 billion deficit on the way out the door to run for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s got his talking points.  And here‘s David Axelrod last night on CNN before the debate.  Let‘s listen to this setup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I do not believe—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that wasn‘t David Axelrod.

ROBINSON:  No, it wasn‘t.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know that.  Let me—let me—let‘s go to this question of the Republican candidate.  If it‘s Mitt Romney, that‘s because they‘ve decided to go the way they‘ve always gone before—whose turn is it, go on the economy issue, go on executive experience.  Stiff the Tea Party.

ROBINSON:  Right, stiff the Tea Party.

MATTHEWS:  Can they do that?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, it‘s a tough year.  What does Rick Perry do?  This is my question—

MATTHEWS:  It saves them from the White House, though.

ROBINSON:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  If they don‘t have a crazy on the ticket, the White House has a harder time beating them.

ROBINSON:  Yes, that‘s true.  That‘s true.  And I‘ve always thought that Romney, because of his, shall we say, ideological flexibility, would be a pretty good candidate in a general election, if he got there.

MATTHEWS:  Because he would seek (ph) the opportunity that came.  He would be a mood ring for whatever broke (ph).

FINEMAN:  By the way, the reporting I did this afternoon talking to White House people, they were not doing what Robert Gibbs was doing.  And I think they‘re smart because I think what Robert Gibbs was doing, saying that they‘re going to go after Romney‘s record in Massachusetts, or Pawlenty‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Never works.

FINEMAN:  That‘s punching down.  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

FINEMAN:  You‘re punching down.

MATTHEWS:  Never do that.

FINEMAN:  You‘re taking the presidency and going after somebody‘s record in Massachusetts and Minnesota?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- build him up.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  They‘re not going to do that.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re learning all the rules here.  We know the rule, Never shoot down because then they become bigger than you.

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a video, by the way, about the debate that the DNC put out today.  Maybe they‘re shooting down at everybody.  Here it is.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts.

PAWLENTY:  I support a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

I think Governor Palin‘s a remarkable leader.  I think qualified to be president of the United States.

ROMNEY:  If I‘m elected president, I will repeal “Obama care.”

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We would today probably have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it wasn‘t that bad.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I just—I was thinking (INAUDIBLE) with all our

producers, trying to figure out—you‘re in the White House, Howard and

Gene, you‘re in the White House and you‘re thinking, OK, we got a president

who‘s got about a 160 IQ.  He can move fast (INAUDIBLE) He can adapt just -

you say Romney can adapt.  This guy can move.  He‘s only worried about one of these Ingemar Johansson (ph) type boxers who‘s got one punch in his entire arsenal, but you don‘t want to get hit by it.

Is there a punch we saw last night from any of these Republican candidates that would really be a haymaker against the president of the United States—

FINEMAN:  The best—the best punch—

MATTHEWS: -- in a national debate?

FINEMAN:  The best punch I‘ve seen so all right out of this crew is the one that Romney said when he announced.  He said that if you‘re going to create jobs in the private sector, it‘s really better if you actually had one yourself.  And that got a really good response—

MATTHEWS:  And this goes back to community organizer.

FINEMAN:  That goes back to community organizer, lawyer, constitutional law professor guy who isn‘t up to the job of managing the economy.  That‘s the one punch that they‘ve got.  It‘s a question of who is going to deliver it.

ROBINSON:  But I—

MATTHEWS:  And he also keeps saying the word “failure.”  Have you noticed what a—what a—what a colossal—

ROBINSON:  Oh, he uses it all the time.

MATTHEWS: -- shot he takes at the president.

ROBINSON:  This president is a failure.  This president is a failure. 

It‘s a—you know, obviously—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Carter-esque (ph).

ROBINSON: -- focus-grouped word that—

MATTHEWS:  It is.

ROBINSON:  But I think the real opponent is the economy.  I mean, I don‘t think he saw—

MATTHEWS:  Does any of this work last night—

ROBINSON: -- political kill (ph) --

MATTHEWS: -- with an 8 percent unemployment rate?  With 7 percent?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: -- a lot with 7 percent (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN:  Everybody wouldn‘t be writing, including me, that Romney, whether he‘s capable of capitalizing on it or not, is in the right spot right now.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  I don‘t know if he can do it, but he‘s in the right spot.  We wouldn‘t be writing that.  The other thing is you see the Democrats‘ strategy, part of the Democrats‘ strategy here, which not to talk about Minnesota or Massachusetts.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  It‘s to say, These people are nuts.  If they get back into office with all these crazy people—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why they want (INAUDIBLE) on the ticket.

FINEMAN:  They get all these people back, it‘s not going to morning in America, it‘s going to be midnight in America.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s not take the shine off the victory, apparently, by Romney last night and the star is born aspect of what Bachmann did last night.  We‘ll get to that in the next segment.

But it seems to me Romney does better in a wide field.  When there‘s seven or eight people at the table, and if there‘s an exciting candidate like Bachmann, he does OK.  He doesn‘t have a lot to say.  He‘s charming, to an extent—just to a little extent.  But if he only has to show a little, that‘s all he‘s got.

When I moderated the debate that MSNBC did last year—four years ago, he came out there and he—I think he won that night.  He was the first—he had—he had the rail position.  He was the first one.  And he did as well as—beat everybody else, my point is.

Does he always do well when there‘s seven or eight candidates, and he gets into trouble when it gets interesting and it‘s one or two other candidates?  Your thought.

FINEMAN:  Well, that—my experience—

MATTHEWS:  Does he have the personality to really win—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: -- having followed him and interviewed him, he‘s not—he‘s not all that great in a tight situation, thinking on his feet, the fifth and sixth and seventh political answer.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  I mean, he‘s a smart guy.  He‘s an intelligent guy.

MATTHEWS:  Is he spontaneous?

FINEMAN:  But he‘s not—he‘s not spontaneous and he doesn‘t—he doesn‘t have the gift of maneuver, of quick maneuver—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s where I see the president and him—I‘d love to see them in a ring because I think he would be more like Ingemar, one good punch maybe on the economy.  What‘s wrong with that?

FINEMAN:  No, no.  I just—

MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t ethnic!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s one good punch.  It‘s one good punch.  The other guy can do 50 different things.

ROBINSON:  Yes, he—

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go back—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- the hedgehog and the fox, OK?  We‘ll do that one.

ROBINSON:  Well, the—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the hedgehog.

ROBINSON: -- real problem is he doesn‘t have a lot of juice.  He doesn‘t have a lot of electricity, excitement.  He doesn‘t have the pizzazz that Bachmann—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ROBINSON: -- showed.  I mean, Bachmann was the dazzle last night, as far as—as far as I‘m concerned.

FINEMAN:  Oh, as a matter of fact, the Romney strategy is partly to be anti-pizzazz, to be anti-charisma.

MATTHEWS:  Does he want her to be number two?

FINEMAN:  One reason—

MATTHEWS:  Is that a lock (INAUDIBLE) his number one?  Does that jam out Pawlenty?

FINEMAN:  Possibly.  But one reason that they—I realized in retrospect that they staged that very traditional kickoff in New Hampshire was to show what a traditional guy he is.  In other words, he‘s not charismatic.  Let‘s forget about the dog on the roof of the car.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  You know, he‘s not charismatic.  He‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that issue—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  He‘s not—he‘s not—you know, he‘s not charisma, he‘s not fancy because that‘s what he‘s got.  That‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: -- try to make a virtue of it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- that Miss America wave of all the candidates last night?  I was taught that by Tammy Haddad, my former producer.  She told me, Put the hand up right here and wave, like, from over your head.  We‘ll have to look at that over the years.  They all were doing it last night.

Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I do the trivial stuff, too!  Thank you, Howard Fineman.

Coming up, the other big story from last night, as I predicted, as I previewed, the emergence of that candidate who I think might just have the stuff, the right stuff to challenge Romney and be the alternative to him as we go through the whole year.  She launched her career here on HARDBALL, we believe—and I will assert.  But last night, she came off as a real contender to the front-runner.  She‘s the sleeper.  He‘s the front-runner.  We‘re using trout (ph) talk—tap—track (ph) top (ph) language here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Big news.  Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman says he‘ll announce he‘s running for president next Tuesday.  That‘s the 21st of June.  Huntsman, the former ambassador to China under President Obama, will make the announcement at Liberty State Park in New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, same as Reagan, and that worked.  That‘s the same place where Reagan, of course, kicked off his campaign—there it is—in 1980.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need everybody to come together because we‘re going to win.  Just make no mistake about it.  I want to announce tonight President Obama is a one-term president!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s battle cry at last night‘s debate.  Here‘s more from the debate about President Obama.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  He isn‘t leading on balancing our budget and he‘s not leading

on

RICH SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He has turned his back on American allies and he has embraced our enemies.

PAWLENTY:  This president is a declinist.  He views America as one of equals around the world.

CAIN:  If I had my druthers, I never would have overturned “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” in the first place.

GINGRICH:  The Obama administration is an anti-jobs, anti-business, anti-American energy, destructive force.

BACHMANN:  I want to announce tonight President Obama is a one-term president!

KING:  Has he done one thing—has he one thing right when it comes to the economy in this country?

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Boy, that‘s a tough question!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what else did we learn last night?  MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele‘s the former RNC chairman and former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and Jennifer Donahue—there she is—is the Huffington Post—with Huffington Post, who‘s also with the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College.  What a fine place to be.

Let me—let me go to Michael last night.  First of all, we all around our table this afternoon—in fact, all day today—think Bachmann was the big sleeper last night.  She came out of nowhere to really be the second star, maybe the star last night.  Here she is announcing last night, using the podium last night to announce for president, something I‘ve never seen done before.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN:  I just want to make an announcement here for you, John, on CNN tonight.  I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today, and I‘ll very soon be making my formal announcement.  So I wanted you to be the first to know.

KING:  Appreciate that.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a woman, a person, not afraid of the mainstream media.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  She‘s not.

MATTHEWS:  No hiding over in Fox land.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That was (INAUDIBLE) What did you think of her performance last night?

STEELE:  I thought—

MATTHEWS:  Because we all thought she was great.

STEELE:  I thought she hit a home run. 

I think that she came to the table with an agenda and she stuck to it.  She—and you—you got it right.  That battle cry, Obama‘s a one-term president, will probably resonate as a theme throughout her campaign. 

And I think that a lot of the folks here in this town who act surprised that, you know, wow, you know, the way she did that, that‘s Michele.  I mean, she connects in way that‘s genuine.  She does bring a little bit of extra to the table.

And I was struck by the fact that a lot of folks didn‘t take advantage of that opportunity to really carve out their space, like she did in a very unique way.  I thought the whole thing with Pawlenty and Romney was just—talk about anticlimactic.  You build this thing up and you let it go. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And, also, I think they‘re posturing.  My hunch is—

I‘m not an active Republican.  And my—

(CROSSTALK) 

STEELE:  I‘m working on you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

It seems to me—let me bring in Jennifer.

It seems to me that the other candidates suffer at her—they suffer.  She wins in this sense.  She benefits.  They look like they are trying to figure out—they handle issues.  They‘re trying to figure out where they stand. 

Romney is proving the ultimate flip-flopper by not flip-flopping on a couple issues, which really is really flip-flopping.  And the other guy is trying to be a Tea Partier, when he really isn‘t.

And she is what she is.  I have always given her credit for not being

--

JENNIFER DONAHUE, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  She is.

MATTHEWS: -- for example, a birther or plays any cheap shots. 

Well, anyway, your thoughts on her?  Why would—what did you think of her performance last night—

DONAHUE:  Well—

MATTHEWS: -- Michele Bachmann? 

DONAHUE: -- she walks the walk.  She was a Reagan Republican last night.  She talked about the three-legged stool.  Nobody else took that opportunity. 

Four years ago, in the debates, all we heard was Republicans wanting to be Ronald Reagan.  She walked in and she owned it.  She had magnetism.  She‘s a conservative who is a movement conservative.  She‘s a Pat Buchanan of Republicans. 

If she can win Iowa and she can get mojo in New Hampshire, which somebody‘s going to do other than Romney, who, by the way, I think has capped, then she could potentially actually win Iowa and New Hampshire, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  No, you ought to know.  Tell me about New Hampshire, because that‘s your old turf.  You—what makes you think she can beat a local in—up in New Hampshire?

DONAHUE:  A local.

MATTHEWS:  Because that would be stunning. 

DONAHUE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DONAHUE:  That would be stunning. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me.  He‘s got a house in Winnipesaukee for the summer. 

DONAHUE:  He‘s got a house.

MATTHEWS:  He was a one-term governor for Massachusetts.  What else? 

You don‘t think that‘s enough to make him local? 

DONAHUE:  I don‘t think it‘s enough, Chris. 

I think it‘s not enough.  I think McCain showed him by cleaning his clock last time that it wasn‘t enough.  People don‘t accept him as genuine in New Hampshire.  Conservatives do not trust Mitt Romney.  The reason he has got high numbers right now is because independents can vote in the primary.  So, independents are being polled. 

But you can‘t get to the left of Mitt Romney in this race.  There‘s no room for Jon Huntsman.  There‘s no room to the left of Romney.  And that‘s the trouble that Pawlenty has.  There‘s only room to the right of Mitt Romney.  And Michele Bachmann is the natural alternative to Mitt Romney, except for Rick Perry.  If he gets in, he could unite conservatives in a way that nobody else in this race has been able to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Would he steal the bacon from Michele Bachmann, who‘s just beginning to be a star? 

DONAHUE:  I think he would sizzle, Chris.  I have heard a lot of conservative activists say today that Rick Perry is the one person who could eliminate Michele Bachmann‘s gains last night.  Santorum‘s off the table. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

DONAHUE:  Gingrich is dead man walking.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re very sharp tonight, especially tonight, I must say. 

I‘m hearing every syllable. 

Let me go back to you, Michael and check that.

STEELE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that Michele Bachmann, whose star—as much of a star as she was on that performance last night, could be checked, could nueterized (ph) by—by the entrance of Rick Perry, the governor of Texas? 

STEELE:  I don‘t see it so much as nueterizing (ph), as more or less consolidating.  I think that you are going to see a consolidation, if Perry gets in, around Bachmann and Perry.  And that ostensibly could be your ticket.

MATTHEWS:  Could they take away the vote away from Romney? 

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE:  Oh, very—oh, I think very much so. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is your party that conservative that—do you buy exactly what Jennifer said, that Romney is probably—her implication was he is probably too far left for the party?  There‘s certainly no room for Huntsman to coming into his left.  And therefore everything‘s to his right.  And if all the action is to the right, there‘s enough space out there for Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to take it away from Romney?

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE:  I think that‘s -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Even in New Hampshire?

STEELE:  I think Jennifer‘s analysis is very close to being on.

MATTHEWS:  I have never heard sharper than this, so I‘m not—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Your absolute conclusion here so early in the race—and I‘m going to check you on this later in this fight, Jennifer—

DONAHUE:  It‘s a deal. 

MATTHEWS: -- is that you believe the Republican Party is—has moved almost—it‘s moved tectonically over to the right enough that Romney, even in any way suggesting his moderation is off-base, you‘re saying? 

DONAHUE:  I believe so.  I believe that Romney is going to find that he is roadkill in New Hampshire, and that he will come in second in New Hampshire, and needs to come in first. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Michele Bachmann the center—is Michele Bachmann centered now as in the center of the Republican Party that votes in primaries and caucuses?  Is she the face of the Republican Party? 

DONAHUE:  I will tell you, based on Iowa and based on her performance last night, it‘s Michele Bachmann‘s to lose. 

And if Rick Perry gets into the race, he creates a dynamic where it‘s both of theirs to lose.

STEELE:  Right. 

DONAHUE:  And you could see them teaming up and becoming presidential and vice presidential candidates, and there‘s no longer any room for Sarah Palin. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Half the people watching the show now right now are women.  I have a Philadelphia accent—women—and we would say woman as plural in Philly sometimes—are women.

Now, will the women do the kind of thing that matters in politics, which is decide early, like EMILY‘s List, that they like the looks of this candidate, they think that this woman has the stuff to be the first Republican candidate who is a woman who could actually win the whole ball game? 

Do you think that could happen, in a way that it came very close to happening with Senator, now Secretary of State Clinton? 

DONAHUE:  Yes. 

There‘s a reason Hillary Clinton won in New Hampshire.  And at the time, we all scratched our heads and said, how did she possibly beat Barack Obama?  It‘s partly because she was a woman.  There are a lot of women in the Tea Party.  They‘re the one who pay the bills.  They‘re the ones who carry the pocketbooks. 

I think that Michele Bachmann and any other woman who were to enter the race would get a huge bounce just for being a woman.  But I think the truth is, Michele Bachmann may be a little inflated right now.  We don‘t want to see somebody with so much popularity—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DONAHUE: -- that she gets all of the oxygen poured out of her.  She can make mistakes, and she has made many mistakes before. 

So I see her in some ways as a leading viable V.P. candidate.  And that‘s why I keep that room open for Rick Perry getting in.  Conservatives are totally split, and their vote is all across the board, but nobody yet can bring them together. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, it‘s hard to keep up with Jennifer tonight.

STEELE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, you won the night.

Michael, nice try.

STEELE:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We will have more next time.  We won‘t put you on with Jennifer next time. 

STEELE:  No, no.  That‘s—it was great.

MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, I have never seen you so sharp.  I—my brain is just—and I‘m certainly not being condescending. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m looking up to you mentally.  I have never thought it—this sharp. 

If you‘re right, this is absolutely fascinating and profound even.  If the Republican Party has moved tectonically over to the right so far that Romney‘s latest calculation on positioning is not adequate, that she, in fact, seeming to be a Tea Party person, is in fact the true Republican, all bets are off.  I would love this excitement.  I would love it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

Last thought, quickly.

STEELE:  No, I was going to say the—two things.  One is that movement has been taking place for two years.  So it‘s not a surprise. 

And, number two, Bachmann is the working woman‘s Palin.  And so I think there‘s a lot of opportunity there. 

MATTHEWS:  I think she is what she is—

STEELE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS: -- which separates her from a lot of these frauds. 

Anyway, up next:  Talk about weird.  Watch as Mitt Romney pretends that a waitress grabs his backside.  This is a new kind of humor.  I‘m not sure it‘s really funny.  We are going to get to the videotape next in the “Sideshow”—right back in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

At a New Hampshire diner this morning, the normally button-downed Mitt Romney pretended that a waitress had grabbed his backside, perhaps part of his campaign to appear, dare I say, frisky? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I get right in the middle. 

Now, see if I can get my arms around everybody.  Ah, come on, much closer. 

Oh, my goodness gracious.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That was her. 

ROMNEY:  Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Romney later stressed that he was jut teasing. 

I think we knew that, Governor. 

Now for tonight‘s “Number.”  The topic du jour in last night‘s debate, Obamacare. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I will not rest until I repeal Obamacare. 

ROMNEY: I will grant a waiver to all 50 states from Obamacare. 

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You talk about opting out of Obamacare? 

NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Repealing Obamacare. 

RICK SANTORUM ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The Obamacare bill. 

ROMNEY:  Trillion dollars of Obamacare. 

TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Because of Obamacare. 

BACHMANN:  Obamacare. 

SANTORUM:  Obamacare. 

PAWLENTY:  Obamacare. 

ROMNEY:  Repeal Obamacare. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Altogether, 23 mentions of Obamacare by the candidates.  All of them made sure to get in their shots -- 23, tonight‘s big, bad number. 

Up next:  President Obama‘s trip to Puerto Rico today may have less to do with Puerto Rico than Florida, North Carolina, and other battleground states where the Latino vote is booming.  Let‘s find out how the president‘s doing with the all-important Latino vote—coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

EAMON JAVERS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Eamon Javers with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A solid rally on some upbeat economic data out of China and the U.S. 

The Dow added 123 points.  The S&P gained 16.  And the Nasdaq jumped 39.  Stocks climbed initially on news that Chinese banks will have to set aside even more reserves as inflation spiked to its highest level in almost three years. 

Then came the May retail reports.  A sales slowdown of 0.2 percent less than analysts were expecting.  And a separate report showed that the producer price index climbing only two-tenths-of-a-point in May.  That‘s more manageable than April‘s jump of 0.8 percent.

And in stocks, J.C. Penney shares soared more than 17 percent after it named Apple‘s former head of retail operations Ron Johnson as its new CEO.  Best Buy gained on better-than-expected earnings and revenue and in-line guidance.  And Avis Budget fought Avis Europe for $1 billion, leaving Hertz perched to pounce on the up-for-sale Dollar Thrifty.

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  President Kennedy begins his venture in personal diplomacy in Latin America with a stop in Puerto Rico, where he is greeted by Governor Luis Munoz Marin. 

More than a quarter of a million people cheer Mr. Kennedy on his way to the governor‘s mansion.  And they press against the gates, calling for him to make an appearance. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I love newsreels. 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Today, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, President Obama gave a nod to President Kennedy‘s visit.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As you know, the last President to come to San Juan and address the people of Puerto Rico was John F.  Kennedy, nearly 50 years ago. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  When I came here to campaign, I promised that I would return as President of the United States. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  And although my hair is a little grayer than during my first visit, I am glad to be able to keep that promise to the people of Puerto Rico. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Looks like a good day out there.  Although residents ever Puerto Rico can‘t vote in a presidential election if they live there, President Obama‘s reelection team knows the Hispanic vote in the U.S., continental U.S., is a key to 2012 victory. 

In 2008, Hispanic voters chose President Obama by a 2-1 margin over John McCain.  Will they do it again in 2013?  That‘s our big question right now.  We‘re going to take it on.

Joining me San Juan, Puerto Rico, is White House reporter for “The Washington Post” Perry Bacon.  And here with me is MSNBC contributor and executive director of Voto Latino Maria Teresa Kumar. 

Perry, thank you for joining us.

It seems that was an exciting, positive event today out there on the island.

PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes, big rally, 1,000 people here.  Obama also went through the town a little bit later in the day, and also people all over the streets to see him, a lot of excitement to see him here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about this event.  San Juan—old San Juan is one of the nicest places in the United States.  It‘s an amazing place to visit. 

What was the—what did you hear anecdotally from the crowd about him?  We‘re hearing all these cheers.  What do they like about him?  Just he‘s a minority?  Or what is it?  What is it?  He‘s a liberal, he‘s a Democrat.  That‘s usually a good thing.  What is it that they—has he done for the people of Puerto Rico that they like?  Anything? 

BACON:  We didn‘t hear a lot about that today.  People here we talked

I talked to at least talked about more about the fact that he came in the first place.  They mentioned he‘s a Democrat.  They like that, but mainly that he bothered to show up both in 2008 and also here as well.  There was not much talk about statehood or independence or—and the sort of more issues.  The economy here is pretty bad.  Unemployment is at 16 percent.  But there wasn‘t as much discussion about issues.  It was more of the symbolism of today‘s visit. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk respect.

The importance of this, Maria Teresa, respect, showing respect in a way that no president has done since Jack Kennedy?

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VOTO LATINO:  And

recognizing that the people in Puerto Rico, they‘re all abuzz, and they‘re going to be calling their friends and family tonight, saying, I saw the president. 

MATTHEWS:  And they are citizens. 

KUMAR:  And they are citizens, saying—and it actually streamlines the process.  You don‘t have to go through a process of citizenship before, right? 

So, between now and the election, you‘re going to have approximately a million Puerto Rican voters in Florida alone, not to mention—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Explain the economics of that, because it‘s an inward migration, in a sense.  Everybody‘s American here. 

Why people chose not to the go to New York the old way, in the ‘30s and ‘40s, we‘re talking about, which we all think of as Puerto Ricans up in Harlem and all, the huge community.  Why Florida now? 

KUMAR:  Florida had a big boom, as everybody remembers, in construction jobs.  Also, they—I was mentioning Universal Studios.  So, there a lot of service industry, tourism.  And that basically created a niche.  And prices were a lot lower then going into—into New York. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the numbers here.  I want to move this. 

The Latino population, this is something I didn‘t know, and I‘m a junkie. 

***40

           

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO:  And there was a lot of service industry tourism.  And that basically created a niche and prices were a lot lower than going into New York.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Let‘s take a look at the numbers here.  I want to move this.  The Latino population, this is something I didn‘t know and I‘m a junkie -- 57 percent up since the last decade.

Obama won Florida, by the way, in 2008.  That‘s down in Florida, by just 3 percent.  Before that, went for the Republican‘s presidential candidate in ‘04 and, of course, 2000 -- well, that was always a question.  We‘ll be careful about that.  Florida, by the way, has 29 electoral votes.

And I guess that‘s a question.

Perry, let me back to you about the politics of this.  You cover the White House.  They are aware, or you tell me, how close this next election‘s going to be, and they‘ve got to watch voter suppression by the Republicans in states like Florida, and they got to watch getting their vote out?

PERRY BACON, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I think even more than before, their view is the map is going to be smaller.  It‘s hard to imagine Obama‘s going to win a state like Indiana next time.  So, it‘s very important for them to win states where there are lots of Obama voters, minorities, voters under 30, people who are, you know, live near big cities.  They‘re very focused on North Carolina, Florida, and so you can see he may not do as well in places like Indiana and even Ohio is going to be much tougher that it was last time.

KUMAR:  And can I get in there?

One of the big reasons is that the electoral map that we saw in 2008 is completely shifting now in 2012.  So, Florida is gaining electoral seats.  North Carolina gaining electoral seats.  Texas, so is Indiana.  One of the reasons is because of the boom in the Latino vote.

MATTHEWS:  And also, air conditions.  Let‘s be honest.  The retirement, let‘s face it, before air conditions, there were crocodiles down there.

In North Carolina, Latino population is grown by 90 percent.  These are things you don‘t know, but a 90 percent in—I don‘t know if that‘s rural down there.  Is that agricultural?

KUMAR:  Mostly agricultural.

MATTHEWS:  Agriculture.  I could guess that.  The state, he only carried that by 0.3 percent.  Are they looking—just to get to the facts here Perry Bacon, are they still looking at holding North Carolina?  They‘re having a convention there, of course, in Charlotte next summer. 

Are they still hoping to hold that 15 electoral votes, North Carolina?

BACON:  Absolutely.  The president was in North Carolina yesterday.  He was there earlier in the year.  He‘ll be back.  They‘re very—they are very focused.

I think any electoral map in which Obama wins will probably involve Virginia and/or North Carolina.  Those are two states, really, they won last time, and it‘s like they almost have to win again to do very well next year.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at something that Mike Murphy said about the Republicans and the problem there on the other side of the chart, how bad Republicans face, this constant loss of the African-American vote and the increasing lopsided victory of the Democrats with the Hispanics voters.  Let‘s listen to Mike Murphy, one of the smart Republican consultants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  The playing field is changing.  When Ronald Reagan was elected, our favorite election, we all like to talk about—I got a little shrine in my house and candles and everything.  1980, 88 percent of the people who cast the vote in the presidential election were white and they voted more Republican than Democrat.  In the last election, last presidential election, that was down to 74 percent.

And so, what‘s happening is, the voter groups of Republicans do a bad job of getting, growing badly.  Particularly Latino voters.  So, the demographics are pushing in a more Democratic, right now, situation versus a bad economy.  And that‘s the struggle.

           

And if Republicans don‘t get into these new demographics, eventually, we‘re going to run out of oxygen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not partisan.  So, I‘m going to ask you this question, the Republicans know that they‘re just losing this new reality in American life, it‘s Pan-American, it‘s Puerto Rico, it‘s Mexican, it‘s Guatemalan, all kinds of people moving here, having lots of kids and you have the immigration factor and you have the growth of family.

KUMAR:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  And so, are the Republicans aware how they were going to do this with George W.  Have they given up?

KUMAR:  They—I mean, they have to -- 

MATTHEWS:  Have they given up?

KUMAR:  No, and they won‘t.  You‘re starting to see the changes.  And you‘re starting to see it in, for example, in Utah.  Utah actually create a smart legislation where they said, if you can speak English and you get passed a background check, we‘ll give you a path—we‘ll give you a working permit.

Look at Utah.  They are starting to find the answers.

MATTHEWS:  So, they‘re trying to make people‘s lives better.

Thank you, Maria Teresa Kumar.  Thanks.

Perry Bacon, thanks.  Good luck out there on the road.  You‘re following the president all over the place.  Thank you, sir, for coming on HARDBALL.

Up next, now that President Obama‘s all but said Congressman Anthony Weiner should resign, he said that today, that‘s a big break to how long has this guy got?  These guys want Weiner to wander.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  One thing we didn‘t hear last night‘s Republican debate, a thoughtful plan to fix the economy and create jobs from any of the presidential candidates onstage.  We did hear a lot about lowering taxes and less regulation—usual Republican fare.  But here‘s the catch: taxes at their lowest level since the 1950s and eight years of deregulation of George W. Bush didn‘t exactly create a lot of jobs during his presidency.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Do you believe Anthony Weiner should step down?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was brief.  A blunt yes.  Get out of here.

Anyway, that was House Speaker John Boehner joining the Washington chorus, if you will, of folks calling for Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign his position.

No matter what he does, of course, it‘s clear Weiner has the Democrats off message.  Instead of touting their special election win up in New York state last month and attacking the GOP over Medicare, the caucus is facing an unending question—I‘m sure all the members are—about Weiner‘s future.

So, what‘s next with the congressman and his party?  The sticks (ph) right now.

MSNBC political analyst David Corn writes for “Mother Jones” and Jenny Backus is a Democratic consultant.

Jenny, haven‘t had you on for a while.  So, this is a problem.  There‘s no real way to get rid of this congressman, is it?  Under our system, you get elected to Congress.  You sit there as long as you want.

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Oh, yes.  There is a way to get rid of Anthony Weiner.

MATTHEWS:  How?

BACKUS:  Redistricting.  Right now.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s January of ‘13 -- 

BACKUS:  Right.  You know, you can send a message out that—that they‘re getting rid of an upstate seat and downstate seat.  It wasn‘t supposed to be his seat that they‘re going to get rid of.  That‘s one way to sort of put the squeeze on him.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, he can always challenge this (INAUDIBLE).

BACKUS:  Right.  I don‘t know if he‘s got the political capital to do it right.  I think the writing‘s on the wall.  I think Weiner actually has an interesting play here, which is, he hasn‘t really done anything that anybody in my job or your job would advise him to do, but he could potentially save himself if he gets out gracefully, helps the party, and then can do the rehabilitation and come back later.

MATTHEWS:  Are you a flag (ph) for the party -- 

BACKUS:  No.  I‘m not.  I was one of the first people to say.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This guy got been a problem in terms of his career.

BACKUS:  He should get a CNN contract.

MATTHEWS:  No, don‘t bet on it.  I mean, I don‘t know.  By the way, based on their track record, anything‘s possible.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I have no advice for Anthony Weiner whatsoever.  My advice is for the Democrats.  They should watch what John Boehner did today and do that.  Should he be out?  Yes.

BACKUS:  They are doing that.

CORN:  No, no, no.  And say nothing else.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why wouldn‘t they vote today and do it?  Why they just vote in the caucus and, a sweeping unanimous vote he should leave?  That way the party is somewhat cleared.

CORN:  They can do that, but I think at the same time -- 

MATTHEWS:  They couldn‘t get the vote unanimous.

CORN:  That might be it.  I think at the same time, they can say, we‘ve called for him to resign.  If Eric Cantor and John Boehner want to keep talking about this, let them, we want to talk about jobs, Medicare, whatever else.  They‘re dragging it out in a drip, drip, drip way.

MATTHEWS:  So, how do they get out of this?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: -- keep talking about it every day—

BACKUS:  I think they‘re done, though.  I mean, I don‘t think there‘s anything else you can ask.  Should he resign?  Pelosi said he should resign, the president said he should resign, Boehner said he should resign.  I mean, when is the last time that Boehner, Pelosi and Obama agreed on something.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the (INAUDIBLE) saying?

BACKUS:  Do you really care?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m just asking you.

BACKUS:  I mean, my bottom line is I think people want to get him out.  They‘re sending all the signals that you do to send them out.  They‘re moving a lot faster than the Republicans did during their sex scandal.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the big enchilada.  Here‘s the president, he weighed in today on the Weiner story on the “Today” show.  Let‘s hear the president in an interview with Ann Curry.

By the way, good luck to Ann Curry.  Just stared there.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)\

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Obviously, what he did was highly inappropriate.  I think he‘s embarrassed himself, he‘s acknowledged that.  He‘s embarrassed his wife and his family.  Ultimately, there‘s going to be a decision for him and his constituents.

I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign, because public service is exactly that.  It‘s a service to the public.  And when you get to the point where because of various personal distractions you can‘t serve as effectively as you need to, at a time when people are worrying about jobs and their mortgages and paying the bills, then you should probably step back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What about my idea of him quitting, which everybody wants him to do, take a week off, spend some time with his wife and the fact that she‘s pregnant is important to them, of course, and then decide whether he wants to contest the special election.

CORN:  I think that‘s a great idea.  I mean, that‘s one way—you know, he‘d come back and say listen, we don‘t just look at a poll.  The poll now says that his constituents would vote for him again, but actually prove it.  I mean, there‘s a whole interesting element here—

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it better to go down fighting legitimately?

BACKUS:  What is he fighting about?

MATTHEWS:  Trying to—let the voters—resign to show you get the message and let the voters decide.

BACKUS:  Like get off the -- 

MATTHEWS:  Are you talking for the Democratic Party?  I‘m talking about him personally.

BACKUS:  No, I‘m not.  No, I‘m talking about like the right thing to do.  If you got a problem, this guy has got a problem.  You can‘t fix a problem in five seconds.  Tiger Woods has been trying to fix his problem for a long time.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.  I‘m not a clinician.

Here‘s Carolyn McCarthy, (INAUDIBLE) as I do you.  But Carolyn McCarthy is a member of the House.  She has to deal with this.  She hinted that Anthony Weiner may soon resign.  Maybe she knows something as a result of being a member of that delegation.

Let‘s listen to Congresswoman McCarthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK:  I think we should get on to the business of our being here in Congress.  He has to take care of his constituents.  That‘s not up to me.

REPORTER:  Is it possible to get on to your business without him resigning?

MCCARTHY:  We‘re going to find out.  Hopefully, we‘re hearing that he might resign in a couple of days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The congressman later told reporter she was referring to reports that Wiener‘s friends suggest that he‘s waiting for his wife to return from that trip overseas with Secretary Clinton to make a decision.

CORN:  But she was wrong there.  She should—when the reporter says, is it possible to get back to your business?  The answer is, of course, it is.  He‘s one out of 435 -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Your basic message is say shut up about this.

CORN:  Shut up.  You say

BACKUS:  I‘m with you.

CORN:  Thank you.

I think he‘s got to quit and then decide to run again.

David Corn, thank you.  Jenny Backus, thank you for coming back.

When we return—you‘ll be back again—“Let Me Finish” with the Republican battle ahead as I see it.  To me, it‘s a tale of two leagues.  It‘s great watching the Republican Party operates separately from itself.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with this looming Republican fight for the nomination.

I look at this in sports terms.  OK, it‘s not that exciting, but here it goes.  You got the regular Republican Party that believes in cutting spending and lowering taxes, but believes in debate and negotiation toward a more conservative government.  They are what I call the “eastern conference.”

Then, you‘ve got the Tea Party types, the people who don‘t like government at all or even politics.  I call them the “western conference.”

After last night‘s debate, I‘m showing Mitt Romney well ahead in the eastern conference.  Michele Bachmann, the star of the west.

I say this because Tim Pawlenty refused to take on Romney on last night, refused to repeat his charge that President Obama had taken his health care plan from the Romney health care program in Massachusetts.  He called it Obamneycare.  On Sunday, he went along on FOX, then refused to do it last night when he was standing alongside Romney.  Hmm.

Score this night, and it‘s a big one, for the frontrunner Romney.

I gave Bachmann the lead in the western conference because no one is really able to touch her on the Tea Party front.  She used last night‘s debate as a platform to announce she‘s running for president.  That shows her stagecraft.

So, we‘ve got a good fight coming, Romney versus Bachmann.  I think this is the bout that Romney wants.  He figures the forces of nature are moving in his direction.  The economy is slow to rebound.  The 2012 election is shaping up as a 50/50 situation between the party‘s—the winner being the candidate who makes the fewest mistakes.  Well, that‘s his plan.

What can change the situation is the entry of former Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah into the race next week.  He will have to take on Romney for the simple reason that it‘s his only reason for running.  If Romney is OK, then why is Huntsman even coming into the race?

So, here‘s the scenario: Bachmann beats Romney in Iowa.  She was born there and holds the definitive home state advantage.  Romney then wins in New Hampshire where he is the New England candidate.  Or does he?  He then heads down to South Carolina where Bachmann needs to win and can.

All this or anything on 2012 depends on the economy.  If we see a spike in job creation, a bullish market, a clear sign of blue skies economically, the Republican battle will lose its zest and importance.  Right now, it has a look of a battle that matters.

My question is more basic for the American people.  If President Obama gets some wind on his back, can he create the kind of forward motion that brought him into the presidency in the first place?  Can he show a purpose and an agenda that comes crushing through today‘s doleful jobs figures, depressed housing mark and delinquent Democratic excitement?

That is HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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