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updated 9/7/2011 11:31:28 AM ET 2011-09-07T15:31:28

Guests: David Corn, Pat Buchanan, Michelle Bernard, Michael Steele, David Corn, Jonathan Alter, Brad Goode, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, John Harris


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Show me the jobs.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at the Ronald Reagan presidential
library in Simi Valley, California. Leading off tonight: Well, this is the
week. Today`s Tuesday. By Friday AM, we`ll know two things we don`t know
now. Does President Obama have a convincing jobs plan and the hard
commitment to sell it to the American people and to fight the Republicans
tooth and nail to get it passed or make them pay if they try and stop him?
That`s a great question.

Question two. Can Governor Rick Perry prove himself the obvious
conservative challenger to President Obama next year? It comes down to two
events, the big Obama speech Thursday, the big Republican debate here
tomorrow night. By Friday AM, the reviews will be in and we`ll know where
things stand. What a week.

And we start coverage right now with the new NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll that has new lows for both President Obama and the U.S.
Congress.

Politico`s editor-in-chief, John Harris, will co-moderate tomorrow
night`s debate here with Brian Williams. And also with us, "New York"
magazine`s John Heilemann.

Well, let`s take a look at the first big set of numbers right now,
gentlemen, and these ones are amazing. Let`s start with the bleak numbers
for President Obama from our NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Here`s a new
low. When it comes to job approval, the best number you can have, just 44
percent approve`s of how he`s handling his job as president, 51, percent,
now a majority, disapprove.

He`s also at a personal low when it comes to his handling of the
economy. No surprise there. Thirty-seven percent approve -- I don`t know
who they are -- and fifty-nine percent disapprove. Fifty-four percent
think he`s facing a long-term setback that is unlikely to get better, a
number our pollsters say is very dangerous for him. It`s like the number
for President George W. Bush after Katrina.

One positive note for the president -- and I`m not sure I believe this
one -- 70 percent of the American people, seven in ten of us, say they
still like him personally.

I want to go to John Heilemann, who wrote "Game Change," to start with
the Obama situation. It looks to me like President Obama is in serious
trouble of the American people beginning, if they haven`t already, to
change their minds about him.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, yes, Chris, I think that`s
right. And I think, you know, the fact is that President Obama has been
personally popular throughout the time that he`s been in office. And as
the economy has stayed bad, and in some respects, it got a little better,
but now it seems to have gotten worse again with zero job growth whatsoever
in August -- there was always a question of when those economic numbers
would start to weigh him down, start to weigh down his approval rating more
broadly.

And I think that`s what we`re starting to see happen now. He`s --
people are beginning to think that the president is a good man who tried
his best over the course of the first two-and-a-half years of his
presidency, but what he has tried has not worked, and they are at least, at
a minimum, open to looking for other alternatives and other solutions.

MATTHEWS: John Harris, good luck tomorrow night. Break a leg, as
they say in show business.

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO.COM: Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this. Have the American people made a
reassessment of the president`s political skill?

HARRIS: I don`t know about the American people. I don`t think they
view it in terms of somebody`s political skill. I think they view in terms
of a president`s substantive skill...

MATTHEWS: OK, ability to lead.

HARRIS: ... and his leadership...

MATTHEWS: Ability to lead.

HARRIS: Well, they look at is he able to run the country? And
specifically, in this context, that means is he able to do something about
a structurally unhealthy economy? And all they can look at so far is
evidence, and there`s no way to say yes to that. The best case you can
make is he needs more time in order to prove his case. The other case is,
No, he`s had his chance. He`s had his time. Now let`s try something
different.

MATTHEWS: Quickly, I want to make -- ask you to -- maybe can you make
a call. Tell me if you can, Heilemann. You`re a friend of mine, as well
as colleague. And let me ask you this. Can the president make a decision
this week in that speech he gives Thursday night, with everyone in the
country watching -- it`s a big NFL night, besides everything else.

Can he decide, Go left, do something populist that Ed Schultz and a
lot of other of my friends of mine would love, even if it would never sell
with Republicans, but would be a hell of a sales pitch, go down the middle,
do something Republicans will choke on but have to buy, or give them
something soft and tasty that`ll seem Republican? Which way would you go?

HEILEMANN: Well, I don`t know which way I would go, Chris, but here`s
the fundamental -- the fundamental...

MATTHEWS: Well, that is the question. If you don`t want to answer
it, fine. I want to ask John. Where would you go, down the middle, off
to the right or what would you do, somewhere in the middle?

HARRIS: I believe that the -- the administration`s going to try to do
something down the middle.

MATTHEWS: Down the middle, something...

HARRIS: They`re going to give -- they`re going to have some measures
that Republicans would have no excuse not to support, Republican ideas.
But if you ask for a national audience, if you say, I want to speak to the
Congress and the whole country, you`ve got to -- that`s a big moment and
you`ve got to fill that moment. So I don`t believe it`s all going to be
kind of incremental...

MATTHEWS: OK, big stuff.

HARRIS: ... mush.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to John, give you more time with that
one. I`m trying to find out whether he wants to get something across the
plate that the batter can swing at, the Republicans, or just give them a
bad pitch and say, Look, we know you`re not going to give me any help, so
let`s not kid ourselves, I`m going to give you something Ed Shultz is going
to love?

HEILEMANN: Well, this is the contradiction, though, Chris, is that --
is that I think the president and his people recognize that the likelihood
of the Republicans approving anything that would substantially alter the
economic conditions in the United States between now and election day is
virtually zero.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

HEILEMANN: That would require a really big figure...

MATTHEWS: That`s a statement.

HEILEMANN: ... to get passed, and the Republicans are not going to
pass something like that. The problem is that if he proposes something
really big and that shows the kind of fight that a lot of populists and a
lot of people on left would really love, it`s not going to be that popular
in the country because the truth is, most people in the country -- and we
can say they may be wrong about this, but most people in the country right
now are...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... are against big spending programs. They don`t look at
the stimulus and say that it was a success. Again, put aside the merits of
the argument. Politically, the things that would show him to be a big
thinker or a big, bold political leader are things that would not
necessarily be popular in the middle of the country, would not necessarily
help his political prospects.

So the White House is looking at this as a political speech. It puts
him in a very difficult box, trying to do something that`s both big and
bold but is also broadly popular. And that -- there re not that many
things that fall into that basket.

MATTHEWS: So let me just try something very specifically by you.
We`re preparing this here at HARDBALL, a real graphic display of what he
could do. We`ll see if he does it. Suppose he takes every bridge in
America below safety code -- good, old American Democratic politics -- and
says, I`m going to fix every one of those bridges below code, I`m going to
put the engineers to work, the workmen, the semi-skilled, every worker in
the city, and we`re going to create a million jobs doing it.

Is that a good thing to do?

HARRIS: Look, if...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... basic safety.

HARRIS: I think what he has to do is try something new. As Heilemann
pointed out, a lot of people didn`t like the stimulus. And so if he says,
Look, we`re going to do more stimulus, I think there`s going to be a
reaction like, Well, you tried that. It didn`t work.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HARRIS: So I think he does have to, in order to fill this moment
(INAUDIBLE) he`s got to come up with something that feels genuinely new...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HARRIS: ... and worthy of the problem...

MATTHEWS: Not the usual suspects.

HARRIS: ... worthy of the moment.

MATTHEWS: Not the usual -- let`s go right now to the Republicans.
What a night they`re going to have here tomorrow night. Among Republican
voters, Rick Perry is tough (ph). Boy, this guy has zoomed up to 38
percent favoring him right now as the nominee. Look at this, Mitt Romney
falling down to 23. And look, Ron Paul in third, Michele Bachmann dropping
to fourth.

Compare that to just a month ago, when Rick Perry was almost -- well,
he was hardly anywhere, while Michele Bachmann has lost half of her votes
in the last month and she now trails even Ron Paul. Rick Perry, by the
way, has a commanding lead among the Tea Party Republicans, and
surprisingly, Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann comes in fourth among her
own crowd.

Perry also wins among non-Tea Party Republicans. So he`s winning in
both groups. These are small sample of Tea Partiers and non-Tea Partiers,
but they do shed light onto how the candidates are faring.

Let me go with you on that, John, and that seems to me -- is the field
simply so volatile that a guy comes in there without -- not from
Washington, gubernatorial experience, governor of a big state, good jobs
record -- those are the tickets? They don`t even know the guy. Only 21
percent of the people in our new poll give him a favorable rating, 38
percent want him to be president. Twice as many support him for the
nomination who know him.

HARRIS: Right. Well, there`s clearly a Republican hunger for a
broader field. That`s why Perry shot to the top. Your numbers, NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" are not outliers. We`ve got a Politico/George Washington
poll basically shows the same thing, 36 for Perry, 17 for Romney. So...

MATTHEWS: Do they know Romney -- do they know Perry?

HARRIS: Of course not. That`s why these numbers...

MATTHEWS: OK.

HARRIS: ... might be quite ephemeral. That`s why this debate
tomorrow is so important.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) it is. You know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: John Heilemann, seems to me most of the politics -- I`ve
been watching so many cycles -- is there`s two stages. You pick the
profile of the candidate you like, whether it`s Gary Hart, outdoorsy,
young, whatever, and then you get to look inside and see where`s the beef.
In this case, is that the question this week, "Where`s the beef"?

HEILEMANN: I think that`s a huge question. And look, right now,
there`s a poll that just came out from Gallup that talked to Republican
voters. Romney and Perry are both among people who know them both broadly
liked. The difference is that there`s an intensity factor on the Perry
side. People who like Perry like him a lot. People who know Romney, they
like him, they`re kind of mild towards him. He`s riding that intensity
wave right now.

But as you said, Chris, people don`t know that much about him. And as
a lot of people have pointed out, including some really good reporting in
Politico last week, the book that he wrote has a lot of landmines in it.
People are going to start exposing that, those landmines, and we`re going
to see whether he has staying power.

There was never any question about the fact that Mitt Romney was not
going to be able to just waltz to this nomination. He was not going to be
the front-runner from day one and then get the nomination next year. He
was going to face a big challenge, and it looks increasingly like Rick
Perry is that big challenge.

But that doesn`t mean that Romney can`t still bounce back, especially
if people start to look under the hood, as you put it, in terms of what
Rick Perry really is, what he believes and whether he could actually win a
general election.

MATTHEWS: I wonder -- two points now. Is the concern about Rick
Perry not whether the conservatives like him or not -- because I wonder if
you can be too conservative this time around. They are really
conservative, the Republican Party. Or is it the fear he won`t pass muster
come next November? Or is it -- I just wonder -- let me ask you this
shorter (ph) question. Is it possible you can`t go too far right for the
Tea Partiers?

HARRIS: I think there`s two questions about Rick Perry, to hit on
what you`re asking, Chris. One, does he have depth? Is he ready to be
president? Is he going to look plausible next to Barack Obama in the
general election a year from now?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARRIS: Two, does he have national appeal? He obviously has intense
regional appeal for Southerners. He`s got intense appeal for hard-core
conservatives. That`s not enough to win an election. Can he broaden it?
Those two question, depth, national appeal.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. I think the intensity there is so important.
Let me go to Congress now. We don`t tend to spend a lot of time thinking
about Congress because usually, it`s the second question. But look at
this. Thirteen percent of the American people -- and you have to wonder
who they are -- approve of Congress`s job approval (SIC) this year.
Eighty-two percent disapprove.

Heilemann, to me, it`s one of those great questions. Who are these 13
percent who like the job that Eric Cantor did this year, that Boehner did
this year, that Pelosi did this year? What did they do?

HEILEMANN: Well, the one...

MATTHEWS: That you could approve?

HEILEMANN: The ones -- Chris, I think the ones who are on the far
right ideologically in the Republican Party, the people who were behind the
movement of the Tea Party into power...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... in the mid-term elections last year who don`t -- who
wanted -- who thought that the outcome of the debt ceiling debate was a
good thing, who were on the side of the holdouts in the Republican caucus.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: There are people like that in America. But I think -- to
go back to the very top of our conversation, the unpopularity of Congress
is one opening that Barack Obama has. There is an opening here for a
Truman strategy to run against these guys because they are broadly
unpopular. Even in the Republican Party, they`re broadly unpopular. Obama
could get some mileage by attacking them starting this week...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... and carrying all the way forward to next November.

MATTHEWS: Proof of that pudding, John Harris, is this new poll
number. I`ve never seen this one like it. If given the option to vote out
every single member of Congress -- in other words, if you could go as a
voter right now, walk into the voting booth and say no to 435 members of
Congress, throw them out, the bums, men, women, left, right, center, black,
white, Hispanic, Asian, throw them all out, would you do it? And the
majority of the voters said, I`d love to have the chance to throw them out.

And we know that when they go in that voting booth, they`re going to
vote for the same old people they`ve always voted for, 90 percent of the
time.

HARRIS: Well, it`s a revealing number because Congress has never --
maybe it`s never been so low, but it`s never been popular. But people
usually say, But I like my guy.

MATTHEWS: This time...

HARRIS: He`s doing a good job. Throw them out, all of them!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, it reminds me of 1980, John. You first.
People went into that voting booth, they were so angry at Carter -- because
I was on that airplane when we lost that election, as a speech writer --
that they went in that voting booth and voted straight Republican on
everything. They almost gave the House away. They gave the Senate away to
the Republicans. They almost -- they swept 33 seats for Reagan (INAUDIBLE)
pickup seats.

In other words, when you get really, really angry, you vote for a
shift from left to right or right to left. Will there be a shift, or is
there truly a pox on all their houses?

HEILEMANN: No, I don`t think -- I think this is different than 1980,
which was a genuine ideological shift, as you say...

MATTHEWS: To the right.

HEILEMANN: What we have right now is we`re on track for our fourth
straight change election -- 2006...

MATTHEWS: Kick them all out.

HEILEMANN: ... people were mad, kick them out, 2008 change, 2010
change.

MATTHEWS: The scary part of that is...

HEILEMANN: So what we have is not like there`s an ideological
direction. There`s just this radical fluidity. People are not happy with
the way Washington and government works.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and we get stuck again with another divided government
where nothing gets done. Anyway, thank you, John Harris. Great segment.
You guys are the pros. Good luck tomorrow night. Break a leg, John
Heilemann (SIC), in that debate with Brian co-moderating.

And by the way -- by the way, you`re always great, Heilemann. And
remember, Brian Williams, as I just said, and John Harris, the man to my
immediate left, will moderate the Republican presidential debate right here
at the Reagan library tomorrow night, 8:00 o`clock Eastern, right here in
this building next to Air Force One. And then join us Thursday night for
the president`s big jobs speech at 7:00 PM Eastern. He`s going to speak
early, right before the NFL game.

When we return, the stakes for the president and his big jobs speech.
He can`t just give us -- remember those drug stores signs, "sundries and
notions," just a list of little things, usual suspects. It`s time for him
to go big, we all think.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Wow, big shake-up in the Bachmann campaign. Politico was
first to report that Ed Rollins has stepped down as the day-to-day leader
of Michele Bachmann`s presidential operations. Rollins, who ran Ronald
Reagan`s `84 campaign, cited exhaustion and his own age for the move. And
he`ll assume an advisory role in the campaign. His deputy`s also leaving
the campaign, citing "strategic differences." Bachmann has faded since
Rick Perry got into the race and Rollins himself conceded that the
Republican contest for president essentially boils down to right now Perry
against Romney.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The stakes obviously couldn`t be
much higher for President Obama this Thursday when he gives his big jobs
speech before a joint session of Congress. And this is his chance, of
course, to lay out a strong vision, a vision from Obama for the economy and
how he proposes creating jobs in contrast to the Republicans, who will
likely reject whatever he says. And that`s an assumption we`re making
here. This is also an opportunity for the president, perhaps one of his
last before the next election, that shows he`s a leader.

But will he take it? And will his speech live up to what`s been a
dramatic buildup these last couple of weeks because of him, or will it fall
flat by failing to present a plan that can be embraced by the average
person out there watching from home? And will it contain a lot of little
things but nothing big and memorable? Boy, those are tough questions.

To discuss what we can expect, we`re joined by MSNBC senior political
analyst and "Time" magazine editor-at-large Mark Halperin, and Jonathan
Alter, Bloomberg columnist and MSNBC political analyst.

Let me go to Mark first. Mark, I guess the simple question is, should
the president go down the middle and offer up something that the
Republicans will at least nibble at, or should he offer something so broad
and New Deal that they`ll obviously reject it, but the American people on
the Democrats` side will love it? What should he do?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, I think he
should do whatever he thinks is most likely to create jobs. And my sense
is, which it`s been through all year, is the thing that`s most likely to
create jobs is finding common ground between John Boehner and Barack Obama.

I think the way the speech has been led up to, the things that are
likely to be in the speech, the Republicans pre-reaction to what`s going to
be in the speech, all suggest that this speech, even if it`s brilliantly
delivered, is not going to produce the kind of bipartisanship that is
required to get something approved by John Boehner, Harry Reid and Barack
Obama.

MATTHEWS: But there`s a conflict. I know you know this, but there`s
a conflict in what you just said. You said he should offer up a bipartisan
offering, knowing it will be rejected.

HALPERIN: No, I think he should -- I think they should have been
consulting with the Republicans all along. I don`t think it`s too late.
But to go in and give the speech that it seems like he`s going to give,
offering up new spending -- massive spending proposals with nothing on the
other side that Republicans could say would be a trade-off that they --
they -- would be worth taking for them, I think is, again, going to lead
again to the kind of gridlock and partisanship and bickering that isn`t
going to solve the problem.

The president is more worried about creating jobs than reelection, as
he should be. But the way he`s approached this and the way he`s headed I
think is not going to produce anything that can be approved by John Boehner
and by Harry Reid and by Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HALPERIN: And if the federal government is going to help create jobs,
those guys all have to be on board.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a great question I haven`t thought about even
getting to.

But let`s get to it with you, Jon. Should the president engage in now
-- he`s got a couple days now -- engage in a courtship where he goes up to
the Hill through his emissaries, through Bill Daley or whoever else and
Jack Lew, and tries figure out the common ground or? Or will that just
make him just give away the game?

JONATHAN ALTER, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT: Been there, done
that, fool`s errand.

You know, burn me once -- you know the expressions.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALTER: At this point, they`re not going to cooperate.

The Republicans, like the Democrats, are playing for the 2012
election. So what this speech should do is to tee up the choice for the
American people. And it`s an extraordinarily important one about what they
think the government`s role should be in creating jobs.

And we know we have seen Romney`s proposals. There are some good ones
in there. There are some good ideas that he has. And some of what the
president will talk about, some of these tax cuts, will parallel what the
Republicans want to do.

So it may be that they can find some common ground, but he has to lay
out a Democratic vision of what government`s responsibility is, and that
includes putting people to work immediately.

You know, Chris, in 1933, when Roosevelt became president, he said, I
want 250,000 young people working in the national parks by summer, three
months later. And he did it. He got it done.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree. I agree. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER: In other words, the president can at least lay that out in
terms of what he thinks the government`s responsibility is to help people
who are jobless.

It`s a philosophical difference that has to be heightened and
illuminated in this speech.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Jon.

I mean, go ahead, Mark.

HALPERIN: It`s September 2011. The election`s in a year. He could
do this a year from now.

I agree that it could be a fool`s errand. And I agree with you,
Jonathan, that it may be that the smartest thing economically would be some
massive new spending program. That`s possible. But it`s not going to
happen.

And to say everybody should just now make their best argument for the
election in 2012, so that the first time the federal government is going to
come together and act at this time of crisis and hardship for so many
Americans is January of 2013, I just don`t think that`s the right thing to
do for the country.

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER: Look, they can act on things like extending the payroll tax
cuts, tax credits to business for hiring new employees. There is common
ground. They can act on that. And he should stress that there is common
ground, room for bipartisanship.

But he also needs to say some bold things about what a Democratic
president believes should be done to create jobs, so the voters can make an
intelligent choice next fall. It`s not too early to do that.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Yes. One thing I like about Jon is his historic
sense. And Roosevelt had three stages.

I think the American people would understand this very clearly. First
of all, relief. You have got to do something about the people out there
desperately looking for work besides giving them an unemployment benefit a
couple more months. And, two, there`s something called recovery, which
comes next, and then there`s reconstruction.

Don`t get those three layers confused. He`s got to do something about
the jobs program right now.

Here`s President Obama, what he said this weekend in his speech of
what it could include in terms of ideas that both Republicans and Democrats
can get behind. He says -- and here was the president just yesterday
speaking at a Labor Day rally out in Detroit teasing a bit about what his
strategy will be coming off this speech. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to see if
we have got some straight shooters in Congress. We`re going to see if
congressional Republicans will put country before party.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We will give them a plan and then we will say, if you want to
create jobs, then put our construction workers back to work rebuilding
America. Do you want to help our companies succeed? Open up new markets
for them to sell their products.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You want -- you say you are the party of tax cuts? Well, then
prove you will fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as
you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans. Show us what you
got.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, before you can get a run, you have got to get a hit.

Let me just assess something that reconciles both your points of view,
Mark. You are -- both of you are skeptical the Republicans will go along
with anything, but you argue against the populist approach. You say go
with the practical.

Shouldn`t the president come out and say, look, I have got a bunch of
things I think we can agree on and get done the next couple of weeks; how
about we get this done by, say, Halloween, on November 1, say, and here
what I like to do, something on payroll taxes, something on unemployment --
on extension of unemployment benefits, something on sort of business break
or something, and let`s try to get that package done by a date? Will you
give me a vote, Mr. Boehner, Mr. Speaker?

Would you do that, Mark? In other words, keep the aggressive posture,
at least, even if it`s small potatoes?

HALPERIN: I just -- I think the culture of Washington, the current
relationships between the White House and Capitol Hill, Republicans just
don`t lend themselves to that producing a result.

I don`t know exactly what would. I don`t think that would. I think,
look, the president needs to say what he believes. The problem is, it`s
increasingly clear that Republicans, in some level, they want the economy
to get better. But as a political matter, it`s not in their interests to
help the president make the economy better. And putting together a
bipartisan package is not in their interests.

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER: Well, it doesn`t necessarily have to be a package.

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s amazing. You guys are both arguing, but you
agree.

Jon, you agree. Both you guys think the Republicans will screw any
plan he sends up there, moderate, middle, right-wing, left-wing, down-the-
middle. No matter what he puts up, before they even read it, they will say
this sucks. And they`re going to do that, so why not act accordingly?

Jon.

ALTER: If it`s a big package, yes. But I like your idea that you
have expressed, which is to right there in the hall on Thursday night
challenge Boehner, give me up-or-down votes on these proposals.

Now, they can be split up. It doesn`t have to be one big omnibus
package. And he can say, all right, well, maybe they will agree with me on
extending the payroll tax cut holiday package. They won`t agree with me on
a new youth jobs program. Have votes on each one of them. Some of them
will pass. Most of them will fail. But the president will have laid out
what he wants to do for the country.

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: Name an instance in which a president has challenged
Congress with a deadline and they got it.

ALTER: Look...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s try it, you know? The country might like the
looks of it.

ALTER: You have got to it, and especially if you say to the public,
do you want a jobs-first agenda or not? Tell us in Washington, do you want
jobs first or not?

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: The public`s with him. That`s the problem. The public is
with him on almost everything.

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER: They haven`t weighed in, in these independent districts.

MATTHEWS: You know what? It beats sitting around for the next three
months watching the super committee decide how much to cut of the debt.
Boy, there`s a loser.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin and, thank you, Jonathan
Alter.

HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: The president will give his speech to Congress on Thursday
night at 7:00 Eastern right here. We will have live coverage right here on
HARDBALL time.

Up next, what`s Sarah Palin doing talking about pole dancing? This is
one of the strangest word associations I have come across. Wait until you
catch this from the former governor of Alaska.

You`re watching HARDBALL, from the Reagan Presidential Library, site
of tomorrow night`s big Republican debate, first of the fall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the first "Sideshow" from
the Reagan Library.

First up, how`s this for a play on words? Still feeding the rumor
mill that she has not ruled out entering the 2012 race, Sarah Palin spoke
at a Tea Party event in Iowa this weekend. The former governor of Alaska
launched an attack on the -- quote -- "permanent politicians in Washington"
and used public opinion polling as an example how disconnected those in
Washington are from the rest of the country. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Polls, there actually is the
-- I will say, polls, they are for strippers and cross-country skiers.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: Polls in most parts actually show that a lot of people there
believe that the economy was actually improved.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: See, there may not be a recession in your town, but there is
in the rest of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know.

Anyway, I would love Governor Palin to just tell us what poll she`s
taking about from Georgetown and why she`s talking about strippers.

And next up, it`s the first anti-Rick Perry ad to come from another
member of the 2012 GOP field. Which of the candidates do you think beat
the rest of the pack in this one? Well, it turns out it was Representative
Ron Paul. Let`s hear what he has to say on the Texas governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)

NARRATOR: After Reagan, Senator Al Gore ran for president pledging to
raise taxes and increase spending, pushing his liberal values. And Al Gore
found a cheerleader in Texas named Rick Perry.

Rick Perry helped lead Al Gore`s campaign to undo the Reagan
revolution, fighting to elect Al Gore president of the United States. Now
America must decide who to trust, Al Gore`s Texas cheerleader or the one
who stood with Reagan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a pathetic ad. This is a totally unfair
advertisement.

Back in 1980, if anybody has a memory, when -- Perry, first of all,
was a conservative Democrat back then, and Al Gore was running to the right
of all the other Democrats that year. If were you a Democrat, you had to
be with Gore. And, by the way, Gore was the hawk in that race. Does
anybody remember this stuff?

This ad is aimed at people with no political memory, Mr. Paul. I used
to think better of you.

Anyway, up next: The Tea Party`s takeover of the Republican Party has
vaulted Rick Perry to the front of the presidential pack. Can big labor
turn out to be just as enthusiastic on the other side as the Tea Party is
on the far right? Can labor balance the Tea Party, in fact, knock them
off?

You`re watching HARDBALL at the Reagan Presidential Library, site of
tomorrow night`s big Republican debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRAD GOODE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Brad Goode with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

A late-day push helping stocks claw back from big declines, the Dow
Jones industrials finishing 100 points in the red after being down, though,
more than 300 points at the start of the session, the S&P 500 losing eight
points, and the Nasdaq giving up just six.

The general consensus today seemed to be that things aren`t great in
the U.S., but they are a heck of a lot worse in Europe. European shares
hit a two-year low, closing low overnight on concerns Germany`s enthusiasm
for bailing out its neighbors could be waning.

But here, we had the service sector snapping a three-month streak to
slower growth and solid interest in techs and biopharmaceutical stocks.
Dell is teaming up with Baidu to develop a tablet computer for the Chinese
market. Netflix successfully launched its new movie streaming service in
Brazil.

Sunoco is getting out of the refining business to focus on logistics.
And Vertex Pharmaceuticals` new arthritis drug met two main goals in late-
stage trials.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll numbers have shown earlier, they
confirm the Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party and is fueling
Rick Perry`s rise to the top. The Tea Party has the momentum right now.
Let`s admit it.

But is this is a road map for generating enthusiasm for the primaries
while losing the general election? Big question.

Michael Steele is former chairman of the Republican National Committee
and an MSNBC political analyst. And David Corn is the Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and he`s also an MSNBC political analyst.

Let`s go. This is an away game for you, David, my friend. This is a
home game for Michael. At least it was for years a home game.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go this question, Perry`s rise to greatness, 38
percent overnight.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE:
Right.

MATTHEWS: As I keep pointing out, he has a higher level of support in
this new NBC poll today than he has people who actually have a favorable
attitude toward him. Only 21 percent say they like him, but 38 percent say
they are for him. This is an amazing leap to the top. Is it for the whole
Republican Party or just the Tea Party?

STEELE: It`s not a leap in that sense.

I think what you`re seeing there is the name identification. And when
you peel back and say, OK, now that you know the guy, do you support him or
not support him? And that`s how you get such a disparity in the number.

So, the 38 percent shows more and more people are getting to know who
he is around the country both inside and outside the party.

MATTHEWS: But they all know he`s a Tea Party guy.

STEELE: Well, they may know that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... secessionist, against voting rights, against...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Yes, they may know that, but what I`m saying is, then you ask
the next question, which gets you your 21 percent, 23 percent, 24 percent.

MATTHEWS: I wonder -- I wonder -- I wonder whether they just don`t
like his -- I think they like his positions. They don`t know him
personally or anything. They don`t care, as long as he questions the
federal government, as long as he`s against taxes...

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... as long as he has a jobs record, David. It seems like
that`s good enough. They will vote for him over Obama.

But I`m talking about the moderate Republicans I`m not sure that have
decided that yet. Your thoughts?

CORN: Well, I think, right now, the idea of Rick Perry is polling
very well, better than perhaps Rick Perry himself will do, as Michael just
referred to. Once people get to know him, they may not like him as much.

But it`s certainly clear that the candidate who`s going to be in the
lead of the Republican primaries until voting day will be whoever wins the
"I feel your anger" contest. We`re talking about empathy. The Republicans
are mad as hell. They hate Barack Obama. They hate the federal
government. And they want someone who reflects that.

That`s why Michele Bachmann looked so attractive to them not so long ago,
but now, Rick Perry`s -- but there were questions about her electability.
Now, Rick Perry has come in and he lassoed up that support without people
knowing much about him or even reading his books.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Yes. Well, the problem with Romney is he has
a voice that`s so St. Paul`s, so

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re laughing already, Michael. That`s why I like you.

And it reminds me of my friend Dr. Bob Arnot, another extremely well-
educated guy. That wonderful American elocution that doesn`t seem to have
the passion of the working, does it?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You`re absolutely right.
And I think that`s what tomorrow night is going to be for him. He`s got to
-- with Perry standing on the stage with them, he`s going to have to really
come out of the box and show that other side. To show that sort of --

MATTHEWS: Is he there?

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Wait a minute. I know. What other side?

I think -- I think the Romney people understand -- I think Romney
himself. You listen to his tone, you listen to his approach over the last
two weeks, I think he`s getting there and he`s going to have to because
otherwise, Perry sucks all the air out of the room.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s too toney (ph) for the Republican -- wild
guy.

Anyway, let`s take a look at Jimmy Hoffa who`s made it clear. Let`s
have some fun now. Let`s go to the left. Jimmy Hoffa made clear who
Democrats need to find -- let`s listen to this.

Now, it`s speakable. Boy, has our lingo dropped in class. You`re
allowed to say this stuff on television. Let`s listen.

(BEIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: We got to keep an eye of the
battle we face, a war on workers. And you see it everywhere as the Tea
Party. And you know, there`s only one way to beat and win that war. The
one thing about working people is we like a good fight.

Everybody here`s got a vote. If we go back and we keep our eye on
the prize, let`s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to
where America where we belong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, who is this guy? Patton? I mean, SOB?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is what we say now on the stump?

CORN: He`s a union guy talking to union crowd. This is what they`ve
been saying for years.

Michele Bachmann, as "The Post" reported, has used that same phrase.
Let`s take them out in the context that you played.

MATTHEWS: How about the SOB line?

CORN: He was talking about political action. Use your vote. Let`s
take out these SOBs. In the grand course of things, it`s not that big a
deal.

STEELE: OK. I want to keep this tape and so the next time a
Republican says something that`s a little off color like that, I want to
play it back so that we`re all clear --

CORN: Anytime, sure.

STEELE: This is fair game. Anytime. Absolutely. So, you know, the
reality of it is, you know, Republicans have said either you lie or made
some other, you know, loud noise about the president.

CORN: That`s not the same?

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: -- get out there start screaming, so, you know --

CORN: It`s not the same thing.

STEELE: It`s not an appropriate way to introduce the president of
the United States. Let`s call it what it is.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think it`s not used yet. But if somebody says SOB
in the White House, you will be right.

Let`s take a look at, here`s Vice President Biden. His language is
much better. Here he is calling upon labor unions to stand up and fight in
an neither language. Here he is. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a fight
to the heart and soul of the labor union. It`s a fight literally for our
right to exist. Don`t misunderstand what this is.

Don`t misunderstand -- not a joke. Not a joke. Not an applause
line. You are the only folks keeping the barbarians in the gates. You are
the only nongovernmental power, the only nongovernmental power. The other
side has declared war on labor`s house and it`s about time we stand up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there he is. Joe Biden, regular guy. Can he do it?

David Corn, can he take the labor movement along with the people like
James Hoffa and turn on the passion that we`re seeing from the right?

CORN: Well, you know, I think it`s OK to call them barbarians.

MATTHEWS: Yes or no? You`re hemming and hawing. You`re hemming --

CORN: No, no, no. Chris, what`s important, not a speech that Biden
gives as a rally, which he can do quite well. What`s going to be important
is what the president lays out on Thursday night and whether that in and of
itself and the fight plan that comes with it, if there is a fight plan,
motivates those people in that crowd to do something other than applaud a
speech line.

So, it`s really up to the White House now. Biden wants to lead that
fight with the president, they`ve got to get out in front of that crowd and
give them something to fight for.

MATTHEWS: If he says that SOB, Eric Cantor, you will be there to say
-- don`t talk like that.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele.

STEELE: I`m thinking of a Rodney King moment here, you know?

MATTHEWS: Can`t we all get along? I know that line.

Thank you, Michael Steele. Thanks for coming out here.

STEELE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the one thing Rick Perry needs to do in his first
presidential debate here in Reagan Library. We`re going to go through this
analytically with Pat Buchanan. We`re going to find out what exactly these
top pugs (ph) have to do with in this fight to tomorrow night to come out
on top. Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry -- how do they all
have to act tomorrow to win?

We`re gong to get in the fight wrestling here tonight. And don`t
forget, you can only watch the debate here on MSNBC. This is a unique
monopoly tomorrow night. You`ve got to watch it here to find out what
Republicans are up to. What a revolt and development that must be.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Tomorrow night, the Republicans who want to be president
will take the stage right behind me here for a debate at Reagan Library.
Well, one Republican who won`t be here is New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie. But -- the big "but," the speculation that he may still get into
the race won`t die. Former George Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, a
smart guy, said Sunday that Christie is actively considering jumping into
the race and suggesting Republican voters aren`t happy with the current
field. We`ll see.

For his part, Christie is repeatedly denied he`s running for
president, has said so for months.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back at the Reagan Presidential Library, as you can
see in Simi Valley, California. Air Force One, the one the president`s
flying back when President Reagan was in office. It`s the site, of course,
of the Republican presidential debate here tomorrow night on MSNBC.

It`s the first time, by the way, the new GOP front-runner in our poll
-- Rick Perry is up at 38 percent -- will take part in the debate. And not
only have something to prove. He also has a target figuratively speaking
on his back.

What does Perry need to do to defend himself tomorrow night to keep
his position? And what does Mitt Romney have to do, and Michele Bachmann,
of course, to get back in this race, and bring Perry down a notch.

Joining me right now are: MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard
and Pat Buchanan.

Let me start with Pat on the frontrunner. I want to get to this
Perry guy. He has to fill in the blanks. Should he invoke the Ronald
Reagan rule that you shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican as the
first move tomorrow to cut them off at the pass?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, because he may have to do
--

MATTHEWS: OK.

BUCHANAN: -- some real fighting before the night is over.

What Rick Perry should do, Chris, when he goes in there is realize
that he`s hitting on the turf of the Tea Party, the conservative movement,
social conservatives. He`s got those -- he`s got them sort of locked up
temporarily. He wants to come off as a tough, strong, conservative leader.

But as Johnny Cash said, Rick, don`t bring your guns to town. Don`t
bring that Texas swagger, but stand up there and solve one of the problems
you`ve got which is a lot of people, he`s terrific guy and a terrific
candidate. But is this guy a president? I think he`s got to come off as
presidential, at the same time tough.

MATTHEWS: Can he ever explain why he was carrying a gun when he went
jogging?

BUCHANAN: Well, it`s because of that coyote that`s no longer with
us.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Michelle. I just can`t understand. I
don`t know where you put it together -- it`s in the shoulder holster?
Where does he hide the gun anyway? It`s an odd question for an odd
situation.

Let me go right now -- let me go to Michele Bachmann. Michelle
Bernard, of course, not Michele Bachmann.

How do you get back in this race if you`re Mitt Romney, a thoughtful
guy with the business background, who doesn`t seem to be a natural
politician? How does he catch a guy like Rick Perry, who seems to be a
born politician?

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think
what -- for Mitt Romney right now, the key might really just be to sit back
and wait and see what happens. We don`t know if this bump that Rick Perry
is seeing right now is just a temporary bump or whether or not it`s going
to last all the way throughout next year.

Mitt Romney did very well in the last Republican debate. He seemed
presidential. He answered the questions well. He made other people appear
as if their candidacies were below him.

And maybe the strategy for him right now is to wait it out and see
what happens with Rick Perry. Is Rick Perry going to choose somebody else
for treason for example? What else is going to come out about Rick Perry`s
book?

Romney might not have to do that much in terms of defense even
offensive strategy in dealing with Perry.

BUCHANAN: Well, Chris, let me agree with Michelle on this. She is
exactly right. Mitt Romney has basically won every debate he`s come in, or
come in second. He`s doing very well. He`s running behind Perry, right --
but Perry is going to be gone after by Michele Bachmann and he`s gone by
Ron Paul as well. They`re going to have a battle.

What Mitt Romney would do is he should be prepared, be what he is, as
a personable, nice guy, strong leader, acceptable candidate.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BUCHANAN: But be ready to throw a punch if Perry comes at him.

BERNARD: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back -- last person, Michele Bachmann, I
mentioned her a moment ago by accident.

Michelle Bernard, is she out of the race? Can she get back in it?
These two guys seem to have grabbed the lead.

BERNARD: They have grabbed the lead. Again, it could be temporary.
I think we will, from now throughout the rest of the year, we will always
see Mitt Romney first or second.

For Bachmann, a lot of it is going to depend on, I hate to say it,
but quite frankly, will Sarah Palin enter the race or not? Because if
Sarah Palin enters, we`re going to see Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Michele
Bachmann all battling it out for the Tea Party vote. And I think if Sarah
Palin enters the race, Michele Bachmann is out. She`s really got to get
her mojo back.

But, quite frankly, again, if Rick Perry makes a huge misstep, she
might be in the number two slot again.

BUCHANAN: You know, Chris, I think Michele has got to go after Rick
Perry. She`s got to go after Rick Perry because he is sitting on her
constituency.

BERNARD: Absolutely.

BUCHANAN: Romney is not. Romney`s got his own. She can`t reach
that. She can use Romney as a foil, but she`s got to get back her
constituency from Perry.

MATTHEWS: OK. It will be a great fight. That`s what we`re hoping
for tonight, that Bachmann goes after Perry. What a great fight that will
be on the right.

Thank you, Pat Buchanan. You`re an expert.

Thank you, Michele Bernard. It`s so great to have you.

And don`t forget, the Republican debate is right here tomorrow night,
8:00 Eastern. You`ve got to watch it, left, right or center. This could
be the option against Obama. You`ve got to watch it.

When we return, let me finish with some big questions that will start
to be answered this week.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the politics of comeback to
this week. I`ve been out there seeing the glory of this country these past
couple of weeks with our daughter Caroline. I`ve seen the beauty of the
Snake River in Wyoming, the wonders of Yellowstone and Shoshone National
Parks. The best rodeo in the world in Cody, Wyoming, and sat for two hours
alone, I must say, looking at the manmade wonder of Mt. Rushmore. Two
hours looking up at those four faces. The proud and a bit uncertain
Washington; the upward looking, hopeful Tom Jefferson; Teddy Roosevelt`s
stern who was wary of dare I can say it the wilderness he historically
protected; and, of course, Abraham Lincoln, clear-eyed and true.

I know confront here at the beautiful Reagan Library this great week
of American politics when we -- what we`re going to know about what the
president is up, what he really has to bring to this country right now, to
bring it back economically, to restore the hope in which he ran, the hope
that lies waiting for the one who can lead. And we will learn who leads
the Republican Party once led by Abraham Lincoln and the great Teddy
Roosevelt. To see if the Republican Party that holds the conservative
principles, or has been won over by the antigovernment zealotry of the
right. Those are the questions on the table this week -- the big ones to
be answered.

Is the president able to win back the faith and hopes of the American
majority? Can he display a strong hand in rebuilding the economic brought
low -- let`s face it -- by unsound financial risk-taking? Can we fix the
housing market, create jobs, stimulate investment and consumption? Can he
create the basic economic demand that remains the essential ingredient of
recovery -- or not?

And what has become of the Republican Party of Lincoln and Teddy
Roosevelt? Is it now the Tea Party? Is it now undergoing what become of
the Wig Party prior to the Civil War when it was taken over in that case by
the abolitionists?

Has the modern Republican Party been taken over by those who see
government as the evil, much as the abolitionists saw slavery as the evil?

When you listen to Congresswoman Bachmann speaking of having taken a
job in the IRS with the single purpose of studying the enemy, when you hear
Governor Rick Perry speak of the need for secession -- are you listening to
Republicans? Or to something more radical, something a traditional
Republican would hear as alien?

Here`s what I`m hearing. Ask a regular Republican, a moderate
Republican today to choose between Palin and Obama. She`ll say grudgingly,
"OK, Obama." Ask her to choose between Bachmann and Obama, and she`ll say
again grudgingly, "OK, Obama." Ask her to choose between Obama and Rick
Perry, and she`ll start to think. And that`s where we are politically in
this week in this country.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. I`m glad to
be back from vacation.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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