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updated 9/23/2011 9:55:01 AM ET 2011-09-23T13:55:01

Guests: Clarence Page, Matt Kibbe, Sherrod Brown, Steve McMahon, Todd
Harris, James Peterson


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bad numbers.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off
tonight: Florida, Florida, Florida. It determined who won in 2000 and has
voted with the winner 11 of the past 12 presidential elections. And right
now, President Obama`s in deep trouble down there.

His approval rating in Florida is underwater, and he loses to Mitt
Romney in a new poll. And that`s not the only tough number out today, as
we`re all watching. Look at this. The Dow dropped almost 400 points
today. And over the last two days, the Dow has fallen nearly 700 points.
And that`s the backdrop to tonight`s Republican debate in Florida. With
grim news like this, how does the president turn things around?

Plus: Build, baby, build. President Obama takes his campaign for his
jobs bill to the back yards of Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell and calls them out, by name. He`s sounding and
acting tough now, but can he get something done?

Also, Tea Party GOP takeover continued. The House voted down a
spending bill last night. Why? Because Republicans held down spending on
disaster relief and then insisted on paying for it by cutting on a project
Democrats favored. And even then, the Tea Party crowd decided it cost too
much. Can John Boehner control his own right-wingers?

And Congressman Emanuel Cleaver took President Obama to task on black
unemployment this week, saying, quote, "If Bill Clinton had been in the
White House and failed to address this problem, we`d would be marching on
the White House." Well, tonight, two African-American scholars come on to
defend the president`s performance.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with a moment of decision for President
Obama, and it`s a big one.

We start with the fight for Florida. Clarence page is a "Chicago
Tribune" columnist, and he starts off the discussions tonight. You know,
you look at these numbers, Clarence -- and you and I have been through this
a few rounds.

And I have to tell you -- here`s the new Quinnipiac Florida poll, 57
percent disapprove of the president`s job performance, 39 percent approval
-- 39. That`s below 40. This is the worst score of any state that
Quinnipiac`s been looking at. You got to wonder about it getting that low.
The poll also shows that 53 percent of Florida voters say President Obama
does not deserve to be reelected. That`s kind of a punch.

CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Oh, yes. And we know, though, that
Florida has taken it on the chin for years because of the housing market in
particular. And their --

MATTHEWS: All those empty condos.

PAGE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Thousands of them.

PAGE: It`s just been devastating down there for them, and you know,
people take out their rage on the president. That`s not news. What he`s
got to do is show that he cares, that he`s doing something to try to help
the situation.

MATTHEWS: And I`m looking at all the factors. Florida`s great
because it`s almost like the falling chads go down there. You got people
of every accent, Southern accent, New York accents, all kinds of people
live down there.

PAGE: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: South Florida`s retirement land, middle Florida`s youth
land and economic development. Now you`ve got dairy down -- you got
everything.

PAGE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And the question is, what is turning that vote? Is it the
retirees` fear about the market going down? Is that it, today`s news?

PAGE: That`s got to be part of it, the market, the real estate, the
401(k)s. There`s the Social Security debate, which we could talk about.
But there is -- you know, it was interesting, Chris, you remember back in
2008, Obama`s team discovered a pocket of potential votes down by Naples.
And they discovered that while they were fighting it out with Hillary
Clinton during the primaries. They approached that area and they turned
it. It had gone for Bush four years earlier. It went for Obama this time.
MATTHEWS: And that`s pretty well off.

PAGE: Pretty well off, exactly, and heavy with retirees.

MATTHEWS: WASP-y, too.

PAGE: Around Naples south of --

MATTHEWS: I know that area. There`s no breeze down there. It`s very
WASP-y.

PAGE: I know it, too. My 80-year-old uncle lives down there, not a
WASP, but definitely a retiree.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I was generalizing it for us.

PAGE: But you know, he`s surrounded by people down there who have
turned against Obama now because, you know, he`s the president.

MATTHEWS: And they`re looking at -- I think a lot of people look at
these numbers about the market --

PAGE: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: -- and they`re looking at what they have saved and how much
they`ve saved, say, in the last 10 years after their kids have all gone to
school. And if they`re empty nesters, they`ve got enough money to save,
then they see it dwindling.

PAGE: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about these issues affecting him down there.
Let`s talk about the issue of the Social Security. You`ve got, tonight,
Rick Perry coming on television, probably once again, having to defend his
charge that it`s a Ponzi scheme. It looks to me like Mitt Romney has a
plan. Bite onto his ankle and don`t leave go.

PAGE: And you can`t blame him. You know, Rick Perry is untested
outside Texas. And what`s the first thing most of the country learned
about him? That he thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Now, he`s
not the first Republican to call it a Ponzi scheme, but certainly the first
run to run for office with that being the first thing the public knows
about him. And you`re talking about Florida --

MATTHEWS: And he called it unconstitutional, basically.

PAGE: Oh, yes. Yes, absolutely, saying -- from the very beginning,
he wants to re-fight the fight that went on in the 1930s.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s shift gears right now. Stay with us, Clarence.
Matt Kibbe`s president of FreedomWorks. I want to show some -- by the way,
Matt, thanks for joining us, as always. I want to show some poll numbers
among Florida voters. Quinnipiac has Rick Perry out in front with 31
percent, Mitt Romney in the Republican fight down at 22. So it`s 31-22
among the leaders. The rest of the field, single digits.

The head-to-head matchups with President Obama are fascinating. Mitt
Romney beats the president rather handily, 47 to 40. And by the way, he`s
making a big pick-up there. he`s running well ahead of the president and
gaining on him.

And a matchup between Rick Perry and the president is also a
statistical tie. So even Rick Perry`s doing quite well down there against
the president. But there is a 9-point swing, with Romney ahead by 7, Perry
down by 2.

Let me ask you, among people with strong views about President Obama,
is electability and defeating the president a key issue or is it a
peripheral issue?

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS: Oh, I think electability matters a lot
because none of this matters unless you actually win and put a Republican
in the White House.

MATTHEWS: So when Mitt Romney -- here`s Mitt Romney, by the way,
making that point. He`s playing up his electability last night. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to
be a Republican candidate who can win. And I say that with significance.
To beat the president -- it`s never easy to beat an incumbent. The best
thing I can do to help Republicans is to run a good race as a president,
and to make sure, by the way, that we get independents and women voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Matt, I don`t know you that well, but I`ve always
thanked you for coming on this show and respect your strong views. And
clearly, the question is gut, perhaps, versus calculation. People that
have strong views about this president and don`t really like him being in
the White House, period -- there may be all kinds of factors involved, but
they really want him out of that White House deeply.

Will that drive them to pick someone who may not share their deep
feelings about the president -- in other words, pick somebody who doesn`t
want him out as much as they do, but will get him out?

KIBBE: Well, the problem with Mitt Romney is that his argument with
electability is only about an inch deep. And I think and I think every Tea
Party believes that good policy is good politics. And if we find a
candidate that can both run a national campaign and be a credible candidate
but stands for something, stands for a set of values that really resonate
with not just Tea Partiers, but independents -- people that are worried
about the economy, people that believe that the government`s gotten too big
and is in the way of recovery and job creation -- I think you`ve got to
find both of those things if you want to beat President Obama.

MATTHEWS: Is there an under-the-table kind of worry that if you pick
a Romney, who talks your talk because he wants to get the nomination, and
somewhere down towards November, he begins to move to the center, and
somewhere after he gets elected president, you begin to watch somebody
become sort of the first George Bush, much more establishment than you are
in your heart? Are you afraid of that?

KIBBE: Well, I think that`s exactly what happened with John McCain
and it`s exactly what happened with Bob Dole. But I`m not sure that Mitt
Romney`s actually talking the Tea Party talk, certainly not like the other
candidates are, certainly not on "Romney care." And health care and the
individual mandate is such a core value for Tea Partiers, I think he`s got
a real problem.

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t that a central issue, then? I`m trying to read
you on this. He was for in Massachusetts exactly what you`re against in
the government, in Obama. You don`t like what he did. It`s the same thing
Obama did. He required individuals to buy health insurance --

KIBBE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: -- basically on government fiat.

KIBBE: Yes. What I`m saying is that we are interested in
electability, but we don`t necessarily believe that Mitt Romney is the
electable one because we think, again, that good policy is good politics.
And actually taking a stand on some of these big economic issues, even when
it`s difficult, even when it`s uncomfortable -- this is something that`s
going to resonate with independent voters that don`t vote on a partisan
basis. They vote based on whether or not they think you`re an authentic
guy that believes something and will do something.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think, by the way. Let`s go to Rick Perry
right now. He took a shot at Mitt Romney last night. Let`s listen to that
shot. Maybe it`s along the lines you`re talking here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don`t need to
nominate Obama lite. We don`t need to nominate someone who`s going to blur
the lines between President Obama and our nominee. When you take a look at
what Mitt did from the standpoint of "Romney care" in Massachusetts, you`re
going to have a hard time finding a difference between "Obama care" and
"Romney care."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Obama lite. You know, somebody`s doing good jobs coming up
with those slogans. I used to do it. I think it`s a great piece of work
there. Obama lite stings, doesn`t it.

KIBBE: Certainly on "Romney care." And you got to know that the
first debate between Mitt Romney, should he get the nomination, and
President Obama, President Obama will preemptively thank him for the idea
of the individual mandate. And that undermines one of the Republicans`
most potent arguments against the president.

MATTHEWS: You mean, right in the debate, if they get to debate three
or four times in the fall, if it`s Romney versus Obama, Obama will just
kiss him on the cheek in the first debate for giving him the idea, and that
will undermine his whole challenge.

KIBBE: Absolutely. And that`s why I think a lot of Republican
voters, a lot of Tea Partiers, a lot of independents are looking for
someone to fill that vacuum that Mitt Romney has created by essentially
being the establishment`s front-runner. And maybe that`s Rick Perry.
Maybe it`s somebody else. I think the whole process is more decentralized,
so maybe we don`t know who it is yet.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s very cute and teasing, Matt, but here we are,
September, the Iowa caucuses are coming -- you`re smiling -- you`ve got
about three months. For somebody to come in now -- tell me how anybody
could come in. Just give me a scenario. Who might come in that would
tickle your fancy more than Perry, a Tea Partier?

KIBBE: Well, let`s assume that there is this vacuum, and in politics,
vacuums are filled. And if Rick Perry doesn`t rise to the occasion, then
somebody like a Chris Christie, and I know that you think that he`s not
running, or like a Marco Rubio, or like even a Paul Ryan -- somebody will
step up.

And what`s different today than the old days is that it`s easier for
someone to run the same kind of guerrilla campaign that Barack Obama ran
against Hillary Clinton, raise a bunch of small dollar donations across
America on line, if they have that credible brand, that authenticity with
the American people.

MATTHEWS: OK. I think you`re talking with your heart, Matt. But let
me go back to Clarence Page here. Clarence, I mean, you`ve studied
campaign cycles a long time. And how does somebody get in this race at
this point? I mean, Chris Christie`s the one that everybody whispers
about. And as Matt`s correctly said, I don`t think he`s getting in now
because I think he would have done it.

PAGE: Right.

MATTHEWS: But you`ve got to put together a team that`s going to win
in Iowa, you`ve got to be ready to slingshot yourself all the way to New
Hampshire. You`ve got to have some plan for South Carolina.

PAGE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: And Chris Christie`s a northerner who may like a Northerner
to those Southerners, has to figure out how he gets all the way through
that South and still survives.

PAGE: It`s hard to remember anybody since Dwight Eisenhower in `52
who came in this late or later than this.

MATTHEWS: Well, he came in, like, March of the election year.

PAGE: Yes. But he could do that because he had that kind of
popularity already.

MATTHEWS: He had beaten Hitler.

PAGE: It was a very different era. Thank you -- you know, a very
different era. But look at Rudy Giuliani. He decided, I`ll wait until
Florida to get in, and he was dead by then politically and just didn`t get
anywhere.

It`s hard to imagine anybody coming in this late. But this is an
unusual year. Perry is a strong front-runner because of the very first day
he got in, he was up 27 points, whereas Romney was around 17, 18. So it`s
possible, but not likely.

MATTHEWS: It looks to me like Rick Perry still has some work to do
with the Tea Party people. Looks like he`s got work to do with our guest
tonight, Matt Kibbe. He`ll probably be calling you soon and saying, How do
I win you over, sir? Anyway, Matt Kibbe, thank you, a man of the Tea Party
who has still not been moved -- the earth hasn`t moved for him yet with
Rick Perry, as some people would say.

Anyway, Clarence Page, thank you so much.

PAGE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And a reminder. I`m on Twitter tonight -- well, it`s not a
reminder, it`s the first time I`m telling you I`m on Twitter tonight! I`ll
be live tweeting, just like I did in that Reagan debate. I love doing it.
You probably get about 10 or 15 tweets from me. I`m learning this. But
there`s nothing more fun, I`ve got to tell you, nothing more fun than
watching a debate and honestly trying to call it as it goes on, like a
referee in a fight -- in fact, like somebody sitting as a scorekeeper right
behind the ropes. And that`s where I`m going to be tonight for two hours,
watching that debate.

Coming up: President Obama takes his campaign for jobs to a bridge
over the Ohio River, a functionally obsolete bridge that connects the home
states of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell -- and not by accident. Can the
president make the Republicans say yes to jobs on their home turf?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New poll numbers out of New Hampshire. Let`s check the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard." It`s Mitt Romney with a commanding lead out there,
according to a poll out today from Suffolk University. He`s the hometown
favorite, of course. New Hampshire is just one of the states Romney has a
house in.

Second place goes to Ron Paul, with 14 points. And Jon Huntsman is up
to 10 points. Watch that guy. He`s gaining, more than doubling his
standing just in June. And by the way, Rick Perry`s in fourth place in New
Hampshire at just 8 points.

And if you`re looking for more on Twitter tonight, I`ll be tweeting
tonight on the Republican debate. Follow me on hardball-chris --
hardball_chris.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Build bridges! Look at that great graphic there.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For months, I`ve been saying President Obama should identify
construction projects, especially bridges, where American workers can
build, baby, build, roads that need fixing, bridges that are in danger of
collapsing, and dare the Republicans to vote against these projects and the
jobs they create in their home areas.

Well, today President Obama went all the way. He took his fight for
jobs on the road conveniently to a location connecting the home of -- the
home states of, I should say, Speaker John Boehner, Ohio, and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Brent Spence Bridge --
there it is coming up on the screen -- connects Cincinnati, Ohio, with
Covington, Kentucky, and it`s been deemed functionally obsolete by the
federal government.

It was built in the 1960s to accommodate 80,000 cars a day, but today
more than 170,000 cars travel over it, sort of. They get congested every
day. Well, today the president called on Republicans to pass his jobs
bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bridge behind us
just happens to connect the state that`s home to the speaker of the House -
-

(BOOS)

OBAMA: -- with the home state of the Republican leader in the Senate.

(BOOS)

OBAMA: Now, that`s just a coincidence.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It`s purely accidental that that happened. But part of the
reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell -- those are
the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this
jobs bill or they can help pass this jobs bill. Mr. Boehner, Mr.
McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Sherrod Brown`s a Democrat from Ohio.
Welcome, Senator. You`re the kind of Democrat I get because you seem to be
a guy that would like to get people working, and also, I think what the
president`s talking about, getting work done that needs to get done, not
just the demand for work, but the supply of jobs out there that need to be
filled. If these bridges are below code, if you got a traffic congestion
that cannot be dealt with any other way, you need a new bridge. It seems
to be a logical way to make a case for job creation.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Yes. It`s, Chris, a lot of things.
And you know, in many ways, what we did in the 1940s, `50s, `60s, into the
`70s, we built the best infrastructure, the greatest infrastructure the
world had ever known, starting -- well, prior -- certainly including
President Eisenhower`s interstates and all we did with water and sewer and
bridges and highways and all of that.

And we have really let too much of it decay. And when you look at
what this is about, this is about putting people directly to work building
bridges, putting steel workers to work making -- making cable, making
steel, and then setting the table, the foundation for eliminating that
congestion and more efficient transportation.

Southwest Ohio, Cincinnati has got some of the most important economic
drivers in the nation, Procter & Gamble, Kroger, which is, I believe, the
largest grocery store chain now in the country. It`s got Wright-Patt Air
Force Base. It`s got all kinds of companies that rely on good
transportation, good access to markets.

And it matters for building long-term economic prosperity. That`s why
we had such great years in the `50s, `60s, `70s in this country, because we
built that infrastructure.

MATTHEWS: I know. We built the country.

Here`s Senator Mitch McConnell disagreeing with you, and he`s from
Kentucky, right near that bridge. He was quick to criticize the
president`s trip this morning. Here he was on the Senate floor earlier
today. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I would suggest, Mr.
President, that you think about ways to actually help the people of
Kentucky and Ohio, instead of how you can use their roads and bridges as a
backdrop for making a political point.

If you really want to help our state, then come back to Washington and
work with Republicans on legislation that will actually do something to
revive our economy and create jobs and forget the political theater.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a blast of B.S. I don`t usually say that about
politicians, but what you just heard Senator McConnell say has no meaning
whatever.

Everyone who has paid attention to American politics, especially the
Congress, Senator, has noted that the Republicans do not negotiate, do not
work together with the president. They have stiff-armed him, they have
straight-armed him at every meeting he`s gone to. They won`t take a 10-to-
1 deal. They won`t take any deal, and then he has the nerve to say, come
back and talk to us again, so we can stiff you again and thump you one more
time.

I guess they count on the American people not paying attention. It
must be what this guy McConnell has figured out. Nobody`s listening, so he
can say what he wants.

BROWN: Well, and I think, as you know, or as you can guess, like I
can, Chris, my guess is Mitch McConnell`s not sat in traffic at rush hour,
going south into Kentucky or north into Ohio. I-71 and I-75 meet right at
the Brent Spence Bridge and right half-a-mile north of there, and that
bridge is not in good shape.

I certainly hope there`s never any serious, serious public health or
public safety problems there. But I don`t want to put my -- just stick my
head in the sand and just hope the bridge lasts another 10 years and we
don`t have to worry about it.

The other thing that`s interesting there is, under federal law and
state laws, almost that entire bridge, even though it spans the Ohio River,
is actually in the state of Kentucky, because Kentucky owns basically the -
- almost all the way across the river.

And I wish that Senator McConnell would pay a little more attention to
things in his state, if he doesn`t seem to care anymore about that bridge,
than his sort of dismissive comment about the president of the United
States.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the reality of life in Ohio, your
state.

You`re up for reelection, and I`m thinking about the president. I
don`t know how he wins reelection without Ohio. If he comes to
Pennsylvania, the election`s over. So he has to start by winning Ohio to
have a chance to get reelected. You know how it works.

Everybody -- well, I`m a nut. I have been watching Ohio politics
since I was a kid. To me, there`s three interesting states, California,
Pennsylvania -- or New York, rather, and Ohio. Something about Ohio is
fascinating. Can you figure out the state? Do you understand how they`re
going to decide this election come next November for president?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Could they vote for a Southern guy, a yahoo like Perry?
Could they go that far?

BROWN: Well, I think President Obama`s going to win Ohio. I think
it`s going to be hard. It`s heavily contested.

Karl Rove`s already been in the state, spent I believe $700,000 or
$800,000 just against me, let alone what he`s doing -- going to do with and
to the president. That`s all fair game. I`m OK with that.

But Ohio`s a state where there`s a lot of -- it`s the third leading
manufacturing state in the country and everything flows from that. We know
the middle class is strengthened when we make things. We don`t make enough
stuff in this country. A group of us did an announcement today about a
currency legislation to level the playing field with China.

We have lost, according to a new study, almost three million jobs,
two-thirds of them manufacturing the last decade, because of bad trade
policy with China. And my focus is -- everything is through the prism of
how do you create jobs, how do you give people a chance to go to work? An
overwhelming number of people who are unemployed want to work and pay taxes
and not draw unemployment and not spend all their time looking for a job.

So it`s all about that. That`s how you win Ohio and that`s how you
build the country. And my state has built this country at wartime and
built it during peace, and we`re proud of what we make in Ohio.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re the paradigm. Thank you very much.

BROWN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: You may not like that word, but it`s a good word for you.
You`re how the Democrats ought to be right now.

Senator Sherrod Brown, a labor Democrat from -- and I think you can be
proud of that word.

BROWN: I`m very proud of that word.

MATTHEWS: Up next -- from Ohio -- up next, Mitt Romney wants you to
think he`s a regular guy, think he is. Don`t be fooled. And now he`s
getting teased for it. He`s not exactly a regular guy. He`s a quarter
billionaire -- coming up on the "Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."

First up, average Joe? GOP candidate and extreme millionaire Mitt
Romney may be attempting to frame himself as such, but look out. People
are already on to him. Ready for this?

Let`s check out some photo captions from a Web site called Mitt`s
List. It parody`s the candidate`s more average American moments. Hmm.
Here`s one from last month with Romney on a Southwest Airlines -- quote --
"Bags fly free. I love that commercial. Average Joes don`t skip them on
their DVR. That`s socialism."

Well, quite a few of the photos show the candidate chowing down on
fast food, like this one at a Carl`s Jr. -- quote -- "Absolutely love that
I`m not used to my burgers being wrapped in paper like that, but it was a
nice quaint touch." Well, the Web site`s dubbed an Angie`s List for
millionaires of the people.

And next up, it`s something else -- it`s somebody else setting up camp
on both sides of an issue. It seems like the goal of Republican Darrell
Issa, who headed up a hearing this morning entitled "How Obama`s Green
Energy Agenda Is Killing Jobs."

Well, Issa also touted his message on C-SPAN earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE
CHAIRMAN: There`s been this attitude that somehow government can weigh in
with loan guarantees and money and pick winners, specific company winners
and losers.

We see that as a backdoor, easy way to end up with corruption in
government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he may be taking a stand there, but as it turns out,
the California congressman has in fact fought for dollars to fund clean
energy companies in his home state as recently as 2009.

In a letter to the energy secretary back then, Issa played up the
potential of an electric car company in his home state -- quote --
"Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Motors will greatly assist a leading
developer of electric vehicles in my district. And later Aptera`s project
will also promote domestic job creation throughout California, as well as
in other states."

Well, I guess the "in my district" part is the deciding factor for
Issa. So much for job-killing.

Up next, it`s the latest installment of the Tea Party takeover of the
Republican Party. Tea Party Republicans in the House voted down a
Republican spending bill that would have provided disaster relief to
victims of the recent storms. They insist on paying for that relief by
cutting projects Democrats favor.

Can John Boehner control his own party?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The bears were on a rampage today as recession fears gripped the
markets, the Dow plunging 391 points. That`s its biggest decline in a
year. The S&P 500 fell 37 points. The Nasdaq finished 82 points in the
red.

Slower economic growth in Europe and Asia sparking fears of a double-
dip recession. Business activity in France and Germany grew at its slowest
pace in two years in September. China`s manufacturing sector contracted
for the third straight month.

And here at home, the index of leading economic indicators gained for
the fourth month in a row, but not enough to suggest a real turnaround
anytime soon.

In stocks, FedEx skidded after trimming earnings expectations due to a
slowing global economy. Bed Bath & Beyond squeaked out again after beating
earnings expectations. And Hewlett-Packard slumped ahead of the
announcement late today that former eBay CEO Meg Whitman will replace
current CEO Leo Apotheker.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It was a major embarrassment for House Speaker John Boehner last
night. The House voted 230-195 to reject a stopgap spending measure he
brought to a vote, a measure that would have helped fund disaster relief.
And it was the right flank of his party that helped kill it, joining almost
all the Democrats, well, 48 Republicans, many associated with the Tea
Party.

The possibility of a government shutdown looms now at the end of the
month if Congress can`t pass something. Can Boehner control the Tea Party?

That`s a question we`re going to ask the HARDBALL strategists tonight.
Does this all add up to an overwhelming disapproval Americans have for
Congress, as shown in poll after poll? And does it give Democrats any help
in next year`s elections? Good question.

Point number two in our debate tonight with the strategists, with the
president`s approval number dropping, some of the congressional Democrats
are worried about the prospect of having to run on the same ticket as the
president, according to Politico. What chance do the Democrats have of
winning back the House, given the environment of the president`s low
numbers?

Here comes the answers. Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist and
Todd Harris is a Republican strategist.

First, herding cats. This speaker of the House, one of the most
likable guys in politics, he carries his emotions on his sleeves. Nobody
thinks he`s a right-winger, but he`s got all these crazy right-wingers that
just want to vote no, no, no, cut, cut, cut, and they don`t care about the
consequences. They`re embarrassing your party, are they not?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I don`t think they`re
embarrassing our party.

Look, they`re doing exactly what they said they were coming to
Washington to do, which is shrink the size of government and roll back the
ridiculous runaway spending that`s been going on from both parties over the
last several decades. This is what they said they were going to do when
they ran last year, and it`s exactly what they`re doing.

If you want to understand the role of the Tea Party within the
Republican Party, it is not dissimilar to the role of labor in the
Democratic Party. It`s a small minority, but it`s vocal and they are
important when it comes to politics.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me, Steve, the market`s dropped 700 points in
two days. The country is scared to death of an economic slowdown, and
these guys are fighting the last war. They are fighting, what, inflation?
What are they fighting, debt problems, when the country needs demand and
needs economic action? And these guys are slowing it down more.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s exactly right.

If you want to understand the role of the Tea Party in politics today,
it`s to take the country to the brink of a shutdown and to have the markets
lose 10 percent. Those of you at home, if you want to know how the Tea
Party affects you, look at your 401(k) statement tonight or tomorrow,
because the stock market drop of 700 points is a direct result of the
irresponsible way in which they cut indiscriminately. They don`t care.

They`re like kamikaze pilots. They`d rather crash on the deck and
burn everybody than make a deal and try to do something.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you being unfair to kamikaze pilots?

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON: I may be. I may be.

MATTHEWS: I wonder. I don`t know if that`s politically correct.

Well, John Boehner today brushed aside criticism for allowing the vote
to happen without knowing he had the numbers to pass it. Let`s listen to
that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have always
believed in allowing the House to work its will. I understood what the
risk was yesterday. But why not put the bill on the floor and let the
members speak? And they did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Dan Aykroyd again. I`m just kidding.

But isn`t it -- the guy doesn`t seem to have a grip. Don`t you think
he`d be happier with regular Republicans than the right-wingers?

HARRIS: I think --

MATTHEWS: What happened to your party that it`s got more of these
guys in there that just go in there to just disturb the peace? They don`t
get anything done.

HARRIS: Because, look, the bulk of Washington wants to go along and
get along. If it weren`t for the Tea Party and what happened in the 2010
cycle, we wouldn`t even be having this conversation about how much to cut.

MATTHEWS: I know. I know.

HARRIS: The president --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. You think we`re going to get out of this recession by
cutting spending?

HARRIS: I think cutting spending, I think regulatory reform, I think
there are a whole lot of things we can do to create --

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: This is a novel economic theory, and I didn`t realize Todd
was an economist, but we will go with that.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: I just play one on TV.

MCMAHON: Let me tell what happened --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Suppose business cut spending. Suppose consumers cut
spending. By the way, they`re doing it. Doesn`t that bring the economy
into a recession?

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: The reason business isn`t spending because of all the
uncertainty that exists right now.

MCMAHON: Please, Todd.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Let me tell you what happened in 2010.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: I didn`t realize that you were a Keynesian, that you think
that we spend our way out of this.

MCMAHON: These Tea Party members won their seats in purple districts.
Those were swing districts they won.

They think the people were voting for their vision of government. But
what they`re going to find out, and we`re going to talk about this in a
minute, is that people were voting for change, and they`re not liking the
change that they have gotten very much.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s your chance. Let`s shift gears to whether
Democrats can win, win back the House, even in this environment.

According to Politico today, Obama looms large in every calculus for
House control, buffeted by sinking approval ratings that recently hit sub-
40 lows. We just saw the Florida at 39 percent. Democrats privately
express worry about running on a ticket with Obama at the top.

How does your -- your Mr. and Mrs. Democratic Candidate for Congress,
how does that candidate, your candidate, perhaps, in some cases, win
elections at that point of winning back the House, up to 218, which they
need to do, can they do that with the president in bad shape?

MCMAHON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: How?

MCMAHON: Here`s the way to do it. Number one, all politics is local.
Tip O`Neill said it.

MATTHEWS: I believe that, too.

MCMAHON: They need to carve out an identity that`s distinct from the
national Party.

Two, they need to remind people what`s happening in the Republican
Party right now. You`re going to have Rick Perry perhaps on the top of the
ticket or on the ticket. He thinks that Social Security is
unconstitutional. Every single Republican incumbent voted to make Medicare
a voucher program. That`s something that`s going to loom large in the
election.

It wasn`t very prominent in the New York race, because there wasn`t a
Republican incumbent. But every Republican incumbent in the House is going
to have to defend that vote.

MATTHEWS: OK. One unnamed House Democrat put it bluntly. "Obama`s
presidency has fizzled. It`s going to be every person for himself in 2012.
There just won`t be any coattails, and any effect he does have on the
ballot will hurt us."

That`s a Democrat worrying. But I have to ask you -- you know, he
just said all politics is local, and then he slammed you for what you`re
doing nationally on cutting Social Security and destroying Medicare.

MCMAHON: That affects the senior citizens locally.

HARRIS: Steve seems to be a lot more bullish on House Democratic
chances than the actual House Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would you run for office as a congressman or a member of
Congress --

HARRIS: No.

MATTHEWS: Would you support a candidate saying, I`m with Rick Perry,
let`s get rid of Social Security?

HARRIS: Well, look --

MATTHEWS: It`s a Ponzi scheme, would you do that? Would you say,
let`s get rid of Medicare and replace it with some sort of, you know,
Starbucks $10 card to buy health insurance, a voucher?

HARRIS: I don`t think that`s anyone`s plan.

MCMAHON: What`s your response ad going to say when they say Rick
Perry wants to take Social Security and give it to the states and this
candidate for Congress voted to make Medicaid a voucher program? What`s
the response ad say?

HARRIS: Look, we don`t need to prosecute an entire campaign based on
the idea that Perry is the nominee. Look --

MCMAHON: Let`s just take the Medicaid voucher program. What is the
response to that?

HARRIS: I don`t think --

MCMAHON: We needed to cut spending and we decided to do it on senior
citizen`s backs.

MATTHEWS: OK. Bottom line: who do you think the White House wants to
run against?

HARRIS: Perry.

MCMAHON: You can`t have Bachmann or Palin.

MATTHEWS: They want Perry. They both want Perry. Perry, we`re going
to call him. Perry, Perry, both parties want him.

Thank you. Steve McMahon, thank you.

Todd Harris, you don`t really want him, I know that. You`re too
smart. Live tweeting tonight for two hours, I`m going to express what I
think is pretty good refereeing tonight. And I`m going to really look for
what I think helps Republicans one way or another.

You know, I may not be in that corner all the time, in fact, rarely,
but when I`m in there, I`m trying to figure out who`s going to win. So,
tonight, I`m going to twitter about who`s winning this fight tonight. Two
hours of excitement.

I won`t be spending a whole lot of time with that guy from --

MCMAHON: And the hashtag?

MATTHEWS: The hashtag, hardball_Chris. Hardball_Chris.

Thank you, Steve McMahon.

Up next, is President Obama losing support among his most loyal base,
the African-American community? That`s a hot one and that`s ahead.

Thank you, Todd Harris.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, who was here a
week ago, has been dealt a setback in his campaign for state Senate in New
Jersey. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Philadelphia
has ruled Lewis cannot be on the ballot, siding with Republicans who say
Lewis doesn`t meet the state`s four-year residency requirement. Well, the
same three-judge panel awarded Lewis a spot on the ballot just nine days
ago. We even had him on here, as I said.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

President Obama has been feeling the heat from the right, of course,
for quite some time, but he may soon feel the heat from his own strongest
supporters, African-Americans.

This is how congressman and Black Caucus chairman, Emanuel Cleaver,
explained the growing anger among African-Americans over the economy to
McClatchy newspapers earlier this week. Quote, "If former President Bill
Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem,
we probably would be marching on the White House. There is a less volatile
reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower
the people who hate the president." Boy, is that putting it together?

According to the latest "Washington Post"/ABC poll, the number of
African-Americans who, quote, "strongly support" the president has fallen
by 25 points since April to a low of 58 percent. That`s those who strongly
support him. However, 86 percent overall of African-Americans still hold a
very favorable view of the president.

So, is the president really losing his support of African-Americans or
is this just hype?

Michael Eric Dyson is a Georgetown University professor and an MSNBC
political analyst. And James Peterson is the director of the Africana
studies at Lehigh University and a "Huffington Post" blogger.

Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Michael, you first. Where do you stand in trying to survey or being
able to sort of get a gut sense, if you will -- a gut check on the African-
American community`s feelings towards this president`s performance?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that
African-American people divide an assessment of the president`s performance
versus whether or not they are inclined to still support or vote for him.
The slippage was in the strongly favorable category of the overall and
general favorability is still there in 86 percent of African-American
people say that they are somewhat favorable towards the president.

Now, of course, that`s linked to decline in jobs, the crisis and
unemployment, the inability of the policies of the government to be able to
stimulate this economy to such a degree that African-American people can
enhance their employment prospects, 16.7 percent, which means it`s probably
closer to 20 percent of African-American people are unemployed and not
working.

Of course, people vote with their pocketbooks and their jobs may
dictate the likability of politicians. But I don`t think that the Obama
administration has to go into crisis mode. I think it needs to speak
directly and target those African-American communities that feel the heat
from this joblessness, as does the larger economy, but specifically
African-American people. And if they get a wink or a nod from the White
House, I think that will go a long way toward reassuring them that this
president is concerned about them.

MATTHEWS: Professor Peterson, I went to a lot of rallies in
Philadelphia where there are large numbers of African-Americans who were
thrilled in their hearts about this president during the campaign the last
time. And I assume they voted to the man, to the person, to the young
person, everybody voted. I can`t imagine anybody in that community not
voting, your community.

And I`m asking, will you get the same kind of ebullient excitement
coming back next year?

JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: It`s going to be very difficult to
re-produce the conditions of 2008, where you have the first African-
American or the first black president in the history of this country.

So, I don`t -- I think the enthusiasm drop-off is a possibility, but
it`s kind of interesting here, because honestly 86 percent or 88 percent,
which are the DNC numbers on this thing, that is an extraordinary number
considering the economy, considering the fact that you`ve had a lot of
black folks who come out critically against the president, considering the
fact that he`s been consistently under attack by the right and by the Tea
Partiers.

To be at 86 percent is actually something we should be celebrating
about, not something we should be worried about or concerned. Obviously,
black folk want this president to speak more directly to black issues. I
think, internally, the Obama administration is kind of working on that,
trying to work on that and trying to figure that out.

But the bottom line here is that 86 percent is a strong number of any
voting bloc.

MATTHEWS: According to the Pew Research, black wealth is 20 times
less than that of whites. Those numbers are staggering, by the way. It`s
not about income. It`s about accumulated wealth.

According to the Pew Research Center, the median net wealth for black
households is just about $5,700 compared with white households with a
median net wealth. It`s just over $113,000.

So, you think about the value of the house you own, you think about
your main assets in life, Michael, and still a tremendous -- I mean,
there`s a bigger gap certainly than income right now. Income is getting
much closer than wealth.

DYSON: Yes, the income is still a great disparity, but the wealth gap
is astonishing.

PETERSON: It`s tragic.

DYSON: It`s a travesty of economic justice. It shows you that the
crisis in housing really led to the greatest bleed off of black wealth in
the history of this nation.

MATTHEWS: So smart.

DYSON: And again, the question is: will the Obama administration
respond as Americans? African-American people after all are American
citizens. We understand the reluctance to target African-Americans,
because of the fear that the right wing will exploit any attention paid to
African American people as somehow some racial gerrymandering.

But I think the reality is, is that 16.7 percent unemployment and this
wealth gap suggests that there are targeted programs that can be done in
the name of democratic procedures to help American citizens. And when that
is done, I think we find new and creative ways to address. This didn`t
begin under Obama. The wealth gap has been going on for, you know, a darn
century and a half.

The reality is that we got to close that gap and we begin to figure
out policies that can speak to the crisis of these American citizens.

MATTHEWS: Professor Peterson, let me ask you about white votes. Do
you have a sense as you look at politics in America that there are some
white voters who will vote for an African-American say once, and then will
hold that person to a very rigorous standard, perhaps a much higher
standard than they would of white politician, and they`ll give him one shot
and then dump him the next time? I look at this, I look at Ed Brook, I
look at the senator from Illinois. I think about this as -- I wonder if
this is a phenomenon you professors have looked at analytically, or this
sense of, OK, you`ve got your shot, but let`s see you do it. If it isn`t
really, really good, you know, you`re out of there.

Professor Peterson, your thoughts on that.

PETERSON: We have to parse this a little bit. Remember, there`s
Democratic interpretation. So, the older white vote is going to have a
little bit of a different feeling about President Obama than the younger
white vote. And yes, there are going to be those one-time folks who said
just for the cause, just to sort of say that, look, we`re not racist.
America is changing. They`ll make that vote.

And, yes, there are going to be some voters who also hold Obama to a
different standard. That`s just the way in which race and politics
operate. But I really have a lot of faith in young folk across the
mainstream, in college campuses. They were inspired by President Obama,
and I really feel like the ways in which we think about race, especially in
ways older generational folk think about race, younger generational folk
are really trying to move beyond that and move past that.

We`re not post-race, but there certainly is an earnest attempt by
younger folk to look at folks outside the sort of ridged racial lines that
we have drawn for ourselves and the history of this country.

MATTHEWS: Michael, last thought, just briefly, how do you react to
that?

DYSON: Well, I think he`s absolutely right. The reality is, is that
I teach at Georgetown University. Many young students of all races and
colors are still inspired by President Obama. Sometimes, of course,
there`s a downturn in the enthusiasm. So, the enthusiasm gap has grown,
but that`s because people who are not used to politics don`t understand you
got ebbs and tides, but I think they`ll hang on and perhaps support very
strongly.

MATTHEWS: Great universities represented tonight, Lehigh and
Georgetown. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being there and being here.
Thank you, Michael Eric Dyson and James Peterson.

DYSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a loud and clear
message the stock market seems to be sending to the president and to this
country.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

The president of the United States now faces a critical moment of
crisis and decision. Today, the stock market dropped like a runaway
elevator. The head of the International Monetary Fund said the world
economy is entering a dangerous phase. He said the nations need credible
plans now to get their debt under control. So, there you have the bind
that the president and this country are in. Demand is dropping for goods
and services. The head of the IMF is calling for governments to drop
demands still further by cutting their spending plans.

Well, there`s the rub. How do you drop or stop the drop in demand,
the drop that is heading us into a recession, and at the same time drop the
government`s own demand for goods and services by cutting government
spending? So, we do have to choose, and we need the president to choose.
The time has come to stop trying to have it both ways.

If the best policy of the United States right now is to cut our debt,
the president should lead the way, pushing for hikes and taxes and cuts and
spending. He should be leading the charge on both fronts. But if a
dangerous recession, and across the board drop in spending on the part of
consumer, business and government, then he has to be leading the charge to
stop it.

He needs to be finding, pushing, demanding more government spending,
he needs to resuscitate the American economy with a jolt of adrenaline
before it falls completely dormant. Right now, the country is not sure
which way he`s leading us. Ask yourself the question, is he out there
calling for tax hikes on the wealthy and spending cuts in Social Security
and Medicare to go along with them?

Yes, we heard him doing that this week. Or is he out there pushing to
pump up government spending, to get the economy hopping again? Is he
pushing to get money moving through the pipes, getting it into people`s
pockets and they`ll start buying again?

Yes. He`s out there on that bridge today pushing for just that. So,
which is it?

Full speed ahead or man the pumps? I think we need a certain trumpet.
I think the stock market is saying that. I know I`m thinking that.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts now.

END
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