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updated 10/28/2011 9:59:51 AM ET 2011-10-28T13:59:51

Guests: John Heilemann, Ken Blackwell, Michelle Goldberg, Steve McMahon,
John Feehery, Ron Reagan, Dana Milbank


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The flipper ain`t no Gipper.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: Flip-flop the front-runner. Mitt Romney`s become
the real-life version of the cartoon that Republicans created in the image
of John Kerry. Remember that one?

Romney`s latest 180 on anti-union legislation in Ohio may have set a
land speed record for policy reversals. But it has only been the only
latest example of Romney`s tendency to sell whomever he`s talking to what
he thinks they want to hear. Romney flip-flopping has even allowed the
Perry and Obama campaigns to find common ground, exposing Mitt.

Also, how bad has Rick Perry been in the GOP debates? This bad, so
bad that he`s in single digits, and so bad, in fact, he`s decided he might
adopt his Texas strategy of avoiding debates. Can you really get nominated
if you`re scared to debate? If you can`t duck Mitt -- if you duck Mitt,
can you beat Barack? We`ll ask the HARDBALL "Strategists" that one
tonight.

Plus, there`s an anti-abortion measure up for a vote in Mississippi
that would declare a fertilized human egg to be a person. Proponents hope
a victory for the "personhood amendment," it`s called, in Mississippi will
lead to similar laws in other states. We`ll hear from both sides.

And which candidate`s staff put out this memo about the candidate, "Do
not speak to him unless you are spoken to." Who`s this, Grandpop? We`ll
get you the answer to that one.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the refusal of the Tea Party to let
government function.

We start with Mr. Flip and Mr. Flop. They both go by the name Mitt
Romney. Mark Halperin is MSNBC senior political analyst and "Time"
magazine editor-at-large, and John Heilemann is "New York" magazine`s
national political columnist.

Gentleman, let`s take a look at this full screen. It`s from "The
Boston Globe`s" Glen Johnson. He wrote this about the concerns about
Romney.

Quote, "In recent weeks, Mitt Romney has given fresh life to the long-
time political complaint that he lacks a core. The criticism has been
leveled anew both by rival Democrats and Republicans, who may be hyperbolic
as they work to dethrone him as a GOP presidential front-runner. The
consistency of the complaint, though, underscores a major challenge the
former Massachusetts governor faces if he hopes to win his party`s
nomination and unseat President Obama just over a year from now. Can
voters still getting to know him grow to trust what he says?"

And I go to you, Mark, on that question. It doesn`t seem to be the
most important issue outside of Ohio as it is inside Ohio, this flip-
flopping on this anti-union legislation, but it does mark more trouble.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: If this election
is about whether Mitt Romney put his dog on the roof of his car on a family
vacation, if it`s about his change of positions from candidate in
Massachusetts to a national candidate, he can`t win the nomination and he
can`t win the general election.

If it`s about the economy and his competence and his usual on-message
pattern on the big issue that voters do care about, I think he`s got a
decent chance to win the election. He`ll never live down the reputation of
being a flip-flopper. It`ll be seared in forever. He has to win despite
that. He can`t erase it. Making additional mistakes like he did in Ohio -
- I`m no genius, but that isn`t helpful.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at that flip-flop. Here it was,
the most recent flip-flop, as you mentioned, Mark. Back in June, Romney on
his Facebook page said he supported Ohio governor John Kasich`s law to
limit collective bargaining in the state. Well, that law to limit
collective bargaining is up for a referendum on the Ohio ballot in two
weeks. But on Tuesday, Romney visited the Ohio GOP phone bank, where
callers were urging voters to back the law. And even on the way to the
phone bank, where he was out (ph) to support it, he didn`t sound very
supportive of the cause he was going to support.

It`s very strange, this one. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not
speaking about the particular ballot issues. Those are under the people of
Ohio. But I certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the
scale of government. So I`m not terribly familiar with the two ballot
initiatives, but I`m certainly supportive of the Republican Party`s effort
here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m not too supportive of ballot initiatives (INAUDIBLE)
look for help to his (ph) lifeline staffer there. Well, yesterday, Romney
tried to clean up the mess. Let`s listen to this version.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I fully support Governor Kasich`s -- I think it`s called
question 2 in Ohio -- fully support that. What I was referring to is, I
know there are other ballot questions there in Ohio, and I wasn`t taking a
position on those. One of them, for instance, relates to health care and
mandates. With regards to question 2, which is the collective bargaining
question, I am 110 percent behind Governor Kasich and in support of that
question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was a squirrely moment there. And politicians have to
adjust to strange questions, but there he was on the way to the phone bank,
which is supporting the initiative. He obviously had it on his schedule to
go there. His staff must have told him where -- isn`t he?

HALPERIN: Got some reporting on this, OK?

MATTHEWS: Good.

HALPERIN: He was in Ohio to do fund-raisers. He was not planning to
do that event. He had no press office -- press official with him. He
wasn`t briefed for questions. He got dragged there by his state chairman.

MATTHEWS: Where was the state chairman dragging him to, as he
understood it?

HALPERIN: A victory -- a victor center for calls not just on that
ballot measure, but on everything that`s on the ballot in Ohio. So he
wasn`t -- he wasn`t prepared. That was bad staff work, his campaign
acknowledges. And he didn`t -- he didn`t focus on that one question. So--

MATTHEWS: But he did know -- well, the question was on that question.

HALPERIN: He didn`t -- he -- he said -- they say he didn`t hear it
that way.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know they say that. Yes. They would say that.

HALPERIN: But the conventional wisdom is, he did this because now the
ballot measure is unpopular and it looks like it`s going to--

MATTHEWS: Yes!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, he`d be a lot more cheerful about saying yes if he
knew -- if he thought people would agree with him.

HALPERIN: That is not -- that is not their account of what happened.
And it is true--

MATTHEWS: Of course.

HALPERIN: And is true that he was not scheduled to do that event.
That was thrown on at the last minute, bad staff work, didn`t prepare him
for the possibility, familiarize him with the ballot measures. I will say,
if you`re Mitt Romney and you have the history you do, you pay a much
bigger price--

MATTHEWS: OK--

HALPERIN: -- than anyone else for something like that.

MATTHEWS: He reminds me occasionally of Prince Charles (INAUDIBLE)
Charles visiting, you know, some island out in the Pacific, and I don`t
know the social mores here, and then he starts to dance with the people
because that`s cool. He doesn`t seem to really be connected with the sweat
of the poor and the working people of Ohio and what they`re most engaged
with, this ballot initiative.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, this is the one way in
which -- Mitt Romney has improved a lot as a candidate since 2008. This is
the one way in which he hasn`t--

MATTHEWS: New Guinea, by the way, is the location I was thinking of,
Prince Charles visiting New Guinea.

HEILEMANN: He is still very awkward and uncomfortable in human --
situations where human interaction is involved--

MATTHEWS: Right.

HEILEMANN: -- which is not a great--

MATTHEWS: Electioneering.

HEILEMANN: And -- and you saw in this -- in his -- when he walked
this thing back today, that was a picture, I think, that looked a lot like
the old Mitt Romney. There was -- he looked uncomfortable trying to walk
it back. It`s -- a lot of these things, the flip-flopping, a lot of the
stories from 2008, the presumption is then that they`re kind of priced into
the stock with Mitt Romney. People already know these things.

I think what we`ve seen with Rick Perry bringing up the immigrant --
the illegal immigrant gardener story at the debate, and now this story, is
that his rivals from this nomination think that there is traction from
bringing up things from 2008--

MATTHEWS: Sure, but--

HEILEMANN: -- that we thought were kind of dead and buried. And he
personally is not reacting to that well, you know, on either one of those
stories.

MATTHEWS: OK. By the way, the word "flip-flop" itself is almost like
happy talk. It`s almost, like, Oh, the frisky guy, he switches from one
thing (INAUDIBLE) These are fairly fundamental positions that this guy
flips on.

Let`s take a look at some of his notable examples of that in Romney`s
career. One, he was pro-choice when he ran for the Senate against Ted
Kennedy, meaning, support of abortion rights. Now he`s for outlawing
abortion. That to me is a fairly fundamental flip-flop. I think it`s more
important (INAUDIBLE) call it that.

He championed his state`s health care program as a model, by the way -
- he still does -- that could be used statewide -- nationwide. Now he says
his plan wouldn`t work across the country. That`s fairly fundamental.

Again back in `94, he promised to be more pro-gay rights than even
Senator Ted Kennedy. Well, today he says marriage between a man and
woman`s the only thing (ph) that goes.

I`m sorry, it isn`t even -- I think we`re friendly with this guy
saying it`s just a flip-flop. He seems to take dramatic turns of opinion
and belief on major issues.

HALPERIN: On abortion, he admits that he did that. He`s not the only
person ever to do that in public life. The elder President Bush did the
very same thing. Other people have done it. On those other two issues, I
think there`s a little bit more nuance. For instance, on the gay rights
thing, when he said he`d be better -- he said he`d be better for gay rights
than Ted Kennedy. His argument was, as a Republican, I can get more done
than a Democrat.

So there`s nuance to all -- to most of these. But I agree with you,
on something like abortion, the fundamental change is so big -- he hasn`t
explained--

MATTHEWS: Well, let me -- let me--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would you call him--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me the turn it on you, here, Mark, because
you are an analyst, not an opinion guy. Would you, when you write your
next book, refer to Mitt Romney as a conviction politician?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: A conviction politician?

HALPERIN: Unlikely. Unlikely.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, because that`s what I think that`s we`re
getting at here.

HEILEMANN: And then -- but then -- and this is -- this -- it goes to
the -- all these issues go to what is his biggest vulnerability, which is
that there is a perception, particularly among conservatives, that he is
coreless, that he is not someone who has firm beliefs, and certainly not
firm conservative beliefs. And that is -- if you want to, like, look for
to one explanation as to why Mitt Romney has been stuck at 25 percent
nationally, and at 25 percent or below in every state except for New
Hampshire this last year--

MATTHEWS: OK--

HEILEMANN: -- why do conservatives look for somebody else? Because
they don`t believe he really is--

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s -- let`s--

HEILEMANN: -- a man of conviction on conservatism.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to probably the most--

HEILEMANN: That`s the truth!

MATTHEWS: -- most important book on politics in recent history. In
your book, "Game Change," you guys -- you were the co-authors -- you write
about the reputation Romney had among his fellow Republican contestants
last time around. And you say, "Huckabee complained, I don`t think Romney
has a soul."

HALPERIN: That`s the common view in the party. The two things are
related. John`s mentioned the book, doesn`t relate well to people, and
seen as being--

MATTHEWS: OK--

HALPERIN: -- someone who doesn`t have convictions.

MATTHEWS: Let`s do -- let`s do the big -- let`s do (INAUDIBLE) casino
(ph) now. The biggest threat to President Obama`s reelection in a person
is Mitt Romney, to me. Do we agree on that?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s probably the most credible person who can take him
on in debate, in four or five national debates, best him because the
economic circumstances haven`t turned around. That`s how it would happen,
right? Pretty simply.

HALPERIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You say relying on the economy, this is the guy to do it,
right?

HALPERIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: What does the recognition by all characters that he`s not a
man of conviction do to that prospect?

HALPERIN: It makes him vulnerable to what John Kerry was vulnerable
to, which is a very well run, big-spending, incumbent campaign that makes
it defined as, This guy`s unacceptable. He`s too coreless, he`s too
convictionless to win. If that`s the way the race sets up, Romney--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- independent voter hope that his flip will flop in their
direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He`ll end up being a moderate.

HEILEMANN: There is -- there is a definite -- look -- look, every
Democrat and independent that we know looked at John McCain, when John
McCain would say, I have a 30-year record of being pro-life -- no one
believed John McCain was pro-life. Everyone thought John McCain was
winking, and that was actually a benefit for him in the general election.

I think for Romney, in some respects, if he can get the nomination,
there are going to be some number of voters who are going to look at him
and say, He`s not really that--

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: He`s not really that conservative, and that`s why I
actually like him, the fact that he (INAUDIBLE) He had to say these things
to get the Republican nomination, but in fact, he is kind of moderate. He
is a pragmatic, centrist kind of governor, and that`s actually what`s going
to work to his advantage. In some ways, it could help him to be seen as
coreless when it comes to the general election.

MATTHEWS: Could the combination--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: One last question. Say there`s four factors going on next
year this time of year, October next year. The economy`s getting a little
better, as it looks like it might be now, a little better. Romney`s the
nominee. He`s seen as a flip-flopper still, and he`s still a member of the
Mormon church, which is probably absolutely a matter of conviction for him.
All those put together, will they discourage conservatives from voting?

HALPERIN: I`ve got to get my Ouija board. Wait a second.

MATTHEWS: No, no!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Conservative -- will it discourage conservatives from
getting out and voting?

HALPERIN: I don`t think so. I think -- we don`t know all the
variables that will be at play a year from now. Enthusiasm on the right to
beat the president I think is baked in the cake right now, and despite the
factors you listed, they will turn out to vote.

MATTHEWS: OK. A little better economy, LDS, and a flip-flopper.

HEILEMANN: Totally agree with that. The conservatives --
conservative want to beat Barack Obama more than anything, and if this is
the guy who gets the nomination, they will turn out for him because they
hate the president.

HALPERIN: And he`ll be endorsed by every conservative in the country.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

HALPERIN: Almost every conservative.

MATTHEWS: They`ll beat him with anybody.

HEILEMANN: They will, if they can, yes.

MATTHEWS: I think we got the lay of the land here. Thank you, Mark
Halperin. What`s the name of the next book? Just kidding.

HEILEMANN: "Game Change 2."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Gamier Changier."

MATTHEWS: OK, thank -- thank you, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin--

HALPERIN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: -- the two greatest political students of our time, next to
Teddy White, who still lives among us.

Coming up, there`s an anti-abortion measure on the ballot in
Mississippi that would actually declare a fertilized human egg to be a
legal person. If it wins in Mississippi, it could go national. We`re
going to get to that next. It`s an interesting way to address the abortion
issue from the pro-life side. Haven`t seen it before. It might change --
it might be a game changer.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s big news. President Obama`s standing among African-
Americans remains rock solid. "The New York Times" debunks the
conventional thinking here out there that the black community is souring on
the president, and the polls prove it. A Pew poll found that 95 percent of
African-Americans say they`d vote for President Obama versus only 3 percent
who favor Mitt Romney, of the African-Americans. Those numbers show no
erosion of support compared to the totals Obama racked up against McCain in
2008.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s one of the most radical
anti-abortion measures to appear on a state ballot. On November 8th, this
November 8th, Mississippi voters will decide whether every fertilized human
egg from the moment of conception should be treated as a person. That`s an
important label because it would outlaw all abortions. It would also make
it harder for women to get in vitro fertilization procedures and a lot of
other consequences.

The group backing the measure has already tried to get something
similar passed in Colorado twice. They failed there. But they promise to
spread their personhood movement to other states in the near future,
including Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, among others. According to "The New
York Times," that`s all going to happen.

Supporters of the measure include both the Republican and Democratic
candidates for governor in the state of Mississippi. Activists have
canvassed house to house and paid for radio and TV ads to get the word out.

Here`s one advertisement the group is using. Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Founding Fathers guaranteed all persons life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But who is a person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regardless of age, race, gender, and no matter how
small, every human life has infinite value and deserves protection under
our laws. Think about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, the pressure is so extreme, some anti-abortion
activist organizations -- even they have distanced themselves, fearful it
will cause a backlash from federal courts.

Ken Blackwell is the senior fellow at the Family Research Council,
which is backing the measure. Mr. Blackwell, I`ve had you on many times.
I`m going to give you much time today to make your case.

A person, a fertilized human egg, before it attaches to the uterine
wall -- what would protecting that person mean in terms of the use of an
IUD or a morning-after pill, so-called, that would prevent it from
attaching to a uterine wall?

KEN BLACKWELL, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Chris--

MATTHEWS: What would it do to that person, as you call it? It`s very
important to me to get that answer because that would mean it applies to
what some people consider legal rights for them as mothers, potential
mothers.

BLACKWELL: Chris -- Chris, here -- here is what we know. Technology,
as well as public opinion, has made it crystal clear that what we have at
the moment of conception is a small human being. It is not a glob of
tissue. It is not something that can be easily dismissed, defined and
discarded. It is a human being.

What we are pushing for across the country, in Ohio, in Mississippi,
is legislation that recognize the human nature of that fertilized egg. The
questions that you raise, in league (ph) with questions that have been
raised about in vitro fertilization, you know, are questions that are not
addressed in this legislation. There will be, I am sure, consistent
arguments across the body politic about the questions that you have raised.

But what this legislation would do would be to recognize that what we
are talking about at the moment of conception is a human being. And this
would be consistent with science and consistent with a broad cross-section
of public opinion.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about its implications, as you intend
them to be. Right now, in a human, a woman`s cycle, there will be
conception, caused by the joining of an egg with sperm. There will be such
a fertilized egg. Some of them attach to the uterine wall and develop into
young babies. Some do not attach. They simply go away. They wash away.

Would you consider the ones that don`t attach, naturally -- forget
anything to do with artificial technology or science -- would you consider
those fertilized eggs that don`t attach to the uterine wall to be people
people, persons? If they just go away, are they just human beings that
have gone away and not been developed into babies? But you would consider
them persons?

BLACKWELL: They would be persons. Yes, they would be.

MATTHEWS: To what purpose do we do this, do we attach that reality?

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Well, here`s the reality.

And let me use something that some of the reporters who have been
dealing with this have been addressing. And that is IVF, in vitro
fertilization. Look, the reality is this, that the science has moved us
back to an appreciation that there has been a business model that has been
used with these IVFs and not a human life model.

You know, if you go back to Louise Brown, the first baby of in vitro
fertilization, it was a very straightforward proposition, one egg, one
embryo, one baby. If you look at what`s happening in Germany right now,
they are going back to one egg, you know, one embryo, one baby.

What that suggests to me is that there is a debate, even within the in
vitro fertilization medical community, about life, when it, in fact,
begins, and whether or not we should be using business models or whether we
should recognize when human life begins and what we do is fight to give
that human life every possibility of blossoming into a full, productive
life.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think? I have let you give your position.

BLACKWELL: Sir.

MATTHEWS: I think this is what we call in football an end run. I
believe whatever else it is, it is an attempt to outlaw, ban the right of a
woman to have an abortion. No matter what else you`re talking about here,
that will be the implication, under the law. There`s no other reason to go
this direction.

BLACKWELL: Chris, Chris--

MATTHEWS: That`s why you`re doing it.

BLACKWELL: Chris, Chris, I have been engaged for four decades in the
pro-life movement. I am not a doctor.

MATTHEWS: Right. And that`s what this is.

BLACKWELL: I am not a lawyer.

I am not a doctor. I am not a lawyer. But I am one who believes in
the human dignity of the human life, no different than the pope, no
different than, God bless him, Jerry Falwell, no different than millions of
men and women who have taken a stand for life. This is not an end run,
this is not a game. This is a pro-life movement.

MATTHEWS: And let me tell you my advice to you. If you want to stop
the number of abortions in this country because you are against abortion,
tell young men to stop having unprotected sex with women. Discourage the
act that leads to unwanted pregnancies. Help people get birth control
procedures available to them. Reduce the incidents in which people choose
to have an abortion in a free country.

That would be my way of dealing with it.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Chris, I won`t be insulted that you have presumed that I
haven`t been engaged in a multiplicity of movements to reduce abortion.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BLACKWELL: I won`t be insulted that you would make that assumption.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. I hope you won`t, because that is all
that we hear--

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Because I have been. You know me, Chris, and you know
that that`s not the case.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s all I hear, though.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ken Blackwell. Thank you for coming on.

I heard your point of view, and I give you mine.

We`re joined by Michelle Goldberg. We`re going to be joined by her
right now, senior contributing writer for "Newsweek" and Daily Beast.
She`s written about the Mississippi measure.

Michelle, tell me about the purposes of this amendment in the
Mississippi constitution. Is it to simply, in effect, outlaw a woman`s
right to have an abortion?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. Well, it`s
absolutely meant to ban abortion, all abortion, even in cases of rape and
incest, in cases where the woman`s life is threatened.

I think it`s really significant that Mr. Blackwell that things like
the IUD and the morning after pill and IVF, as it`s currently practiced,
would be allowed under this measure, because it wouldn`t. Once you say
that a fertilized egg is a human being, like you or me, you change -- I
mean, you`re not just kind of changing -- you`re not just changing the law
in a way that affects abortion.

You are radically changing the definition of pregnancy, which now the
medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants in the
uterine wall. And you are going -- it`s going to have all of these second
order effects, not just on women who are trying to prevent pregnancy, but
on women who are absolutely desperate to get pregnant.

Some of the women who I spoke to, who I found -- who are kind of the
most panicked about this measure, are infertile women in Mississippi, who
know that this is going to radically curtail their chances of getting
pregnant with IVF.

MATTHEWS: I just wonder how it squares with the writings of the
Constitution and people who believe in the original intent. Life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness relates to people who are alive, living, and
born. Pursuit is a word, an active verb. I don`t think you would
associate that with a fetus.

And certainly liberty is a word you would apply to people who are
alive and born. I don`t know what it means to say an unborn person has
liberty. I don`t even know how the Constitution possibly catch up in its
original intent to what these people are talking about.

GOLDBERG: And one thing that it means when you say that an unborn
person or a fertilized egg has liberty is that you`re saying that a woman
doesn`t, because, again, what we`re talking about here is, you know, these
people pretend to be kind of small government libertarians.

It`s hard to imagine a more kind of radical intrusion into people`s
lives. You know, they seem to want government out of our Medicare, but in
our uteruses. This is you know, forced pregnancy, forced pregnancy and
kind of dictating to women the kind of birth control that they can use, the
kind of help that they can seek out when they find themselves unable to get
pregnant.

It shows such a profound disrespect for women`s liberty and women`s
autonomy and women`s ability to make their own decisions.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I think they ought those million people,
marches for life against young men having unprotected sex with young women
with no intention of having a child.

If you want to stop abortion, you stop the circumstances that lead to
people who feel they have to have one. This is so logical and they don`t
do it. They just want to prevent people from having a free will at a
certain point, is what they`re really up to.

Anyway, thank you, Michelle Goldberg.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We will do more reporting on this, because I think it`s an
end run against the Constitution.

Up next, the Raging Cajun unloads on the Republican field. Catch
Carville doing what Carville does best. He`s a smart guy -- next in the
"Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, so much for sugarcoating. You didn`t expect Democratic
strategist James Carville to be heaping praise on any of the Republican
presidential candidates, but he`s now throwing verbal punches at the front-
runners like you have never seen.

Let`s hear Carville`s strategy for figuring out when Mitt Romney`s
about to make another one of those well-known flip-flops we talked about
earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The man is a serial wind sock.
Anytime that you turn around, it`s something else.

And once he uses any kind of adjective in front of it, you know he`s
getting ready to flip-flop. If he`s very committed to it, that means he`s
going to change positions. And if he`s 110 percent for something, that
means that he`s changing positions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Well, here he is on the subject of Rick Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARVILLE: The best thing Rick Perry could do for himself and his
family and his friends is just get out of the race and go back to Texas.
This man is evidently not up to this. He had plenty of chances to do it.
He can`t debate, he can`t give a speech, he can`t have poll a position
paper, he can`t go on television.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I love the bottom-line way he talks.

Carville and Perry can agree on one thing, debates are not Rick`s
strong suit.

Next up, put the birther talk to bed. Well, Rick Perry, he welcomed
the Obama birth certificate hysteria back into the conversation, as you
know, this week, and later insisted he was just joking. But at least one
of other members of the 2012 field has had enough of this talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I see one of my
colleagues, Governor Perry, who starts talking about birtherism again, I
cringe.

I say, as a party, if we`re going to win this election, we have got to
focus on the issues that are germane for the American family. This has
been settled, folks. It`s been settled. The president`s a citizen of the
United States. I mean, how much more do we have to talk about it? Let`s
move on to the real issues of the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think that did the trick? Only until Donald
Trump again stated that Perry`s original remarks were -- quote -- "good for
him" in the Republican primary just a few hours later. Good for him.
Thanks, Donald.

Up next, how`s this for a profile in courage? Rick Perry plans to --
got it -- duck debates. Again, how`s he going to debate Obama if he can`t
debate Romney?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."

A massive rally losing steam in the final hour of trading. The Dow
Jones industrials soared 339 points to finish well above the 12,000 point
benchmark. The S&P 500 jumping 42. The Nasdaq surging 87 points.

A deal on Greek debt, strong corporate earnings, and solid economic
growth here at home all teaming up to bring investors back to the markets.
One analyst calls it an excellent step in the right direction. Eurozone
ministers and lenders agreeing on a deal to slash Greeks` debt in half.
U.S. and European banks benefited big-time with Morgan Stanley leading the
way with an impressive 17 percent bump.

Meanwhile, U.S. GDP growing at a rate of 2.5 percent. It`s the
fastest pace in a year and a big improvement over last quarter, and a busy
earnings day. Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble, and Visa all
ending higher after delivering their quarterly results.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, Rick Perry`s got a new strategy. It involves a lot less
debating and a lot more one-on-one politicking. In short, his so-called
Texas strategy amounts to, the less you know about me, the more you will
like me.

Plus, it`s been a rough week for Marco Rubio. His political biography
is heavy on his personal story, of course. He said he was the son of Cuban
exiles who came here after Castro grabbed Cuba. Turns out he`s more
accurately the son of immigrants like so many other people who came here
from Latin America.

Well, today -- in fact, tonight, the strategists tackle these two hot
political issues, topic one, spinning Perry`s new strategy, topic two, is
Rubio done?

Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist and John Feehery is a
Republican strategist.

Let me go to John.

We will give you a chance to explain it. On Saturday at a Faith and
Freedom banquet in Iowa, Perry made light of his debate performances.
Let`s listen to the man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not called to
be perfect. If any of you have watched my debate performances over the
last three or four times, you know I am far from perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, he`s trying to make light of that. On Tuesday,
Perry said maybe doing the debates was a mistake. Let`s listen. He keeps
moving in this direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down
the candidates. It`s pretty hard to be able to sit and lay out your ideas
and your concepts with a one-minute response.

If there was a mistake made, it was probably ever doing one of the --
ever doing one of the campaigns when all they`re interested in stirring it
up between the candidates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Yesterday, Perry`s campaign manager said they were trying a
new strategy -- quote -- "We need to be spending time, particularly as the
last entrant, with voters, doing town halls, retail politics, and local
media in the early states." He added that Perry would do the next
scheduled debate on CNBC on November 9, but would pick and choose after
that.

John, debates don`t hurt everybody. I noticed that Herman Cain is
doing really well thanks to the debates. Mitt Romney`s doing really well
thanks to the debate. It doesn`t cut up everybody. It`s the guys who are
not very good at it who do badly.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, somebody once wrote in
a book that -- to shine a spotlight on your problems, and I thought that
that`s what Rick Perry was doing right there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It was Bobby Kennedy. He said hang a lantern on your
problem.

Thank you for that, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s doing it there. He sure is. I can`t talk, is a heck
of a problem.

FEEHERY: He`s not much of a debater, no doubt about it, and I think
that`s a fairly smart strategy to turn away from that.

And most importantly for him, go back to a Texas strategy that did
work. He`s a much better retail politician than he is a debater.

And the other problem is, these day, debates have completely defined
him. He`s not been able to get any real earned media out of anything else.
He finally laid out a tax plan last week and got some good press on that.
You know, all the other stuff, most of the bad press he`s been getting has
been from debates.

So, what the heck. You might as well announce you`re not going to do
every debate they ask you to do.

MATTHEWS: He behaves strangely in debate, with that big collar of
his. Sometimes I think it`s going to retract -- his head is going to
retract into the collar like a turtle. He doesn`t seem to like being there
physically.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know what this is, Chris,
it`s the strategy, the rope-a-dope strategy without a rope.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MCMAHON: OK. But, you know, John is absolutely right, you have
(INAUDIBLE), right?

If people are concerned that you`re not quite ready for prime-time,
the answer is to give them some reason that you think you are. The answer
is not to stop showing up in prime-time to prove their point, which is
exactly --

MATTHEWS: Let`s do tactics. People tell me a couple -- I don`t know
if I believe it or not that there`s a couple of other candidates because
nobody really likes the frontrunner of the Republican Party. Republicans
don`t like him. So, they`re always looking for somebody else to put up
there, because they don`t like the person who`s up there.

Newt Gingrich, people tell me, is going to start going well into
double digits now, if there`s no Perry in the debate showing up. He`ll
just take his place as the right-winger against Romney. Will that happen?
I`m asking you an open question. This isn`t an adversarial question.

FEEHERY: I don`t think so, Chris. I think this is still pretty much
a two-person race, as Romney versus Perry. At some point in time, the
voters are going to say, well, we`re not going to take a flyer on Herman
Cain anymore and we`re going to go with Rick Perry who`s conservative.

I think that`s what Mitt Romney`s got to be careful of.

MATTHEWS: You`ve already done that, right, John?

FEEHERY: What`s that?

MATTHEWS: You`ve already done what you just said. You`ve already
done what you said. You`ve already decided on Romney.

FEEHERY: Well, you know, I`m unaffiliated right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. I know where you`re headed. I know where there`s more
opportunity ahead with Romney. Anyway, nothing wrong with that.

Anyway, Marco Rubio made his personal story as the son of exiles as a
big part of his biography and here`s an ad from his Senate campaign. Let`s
listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It`s not something I read about in a
book. As the son of exiles, my parents were born into a society pretty
much like any other in the world, where if you`re not from the right family
or with enough money, you can only go so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there it is. Today`s "Politico" reports that Rubio
may face criticism from the Hispanic community outside Florida. It quotes
the founder of a group saying he`s a laughingstock in the Southwest,
because people discovered he wasn`t telling the truth about his political
Cuban exile story. They`re saying, at the end of the day, he`s just like
us. His mom and dad came here. They migrated because of economic reasons,
just like the rest of us.

And so many Latin Americans come here to get jobs and opportunity. We
know that story. And the Cubans, and most of them came here because Castro
kicked them out of the country basically he wanted a communist country.

Rubio`s family came here before Castro. He`s much more like a regular
Latin American immigrant, a fine thing to be. But it`s not the same thing
as being an anti-communist freedom fighter -- which is what he sold himself
as.

MCMAHON: It`s not the same. And he -- I think he`s been inelegant
and inartful in his language, because he said at different times he`s the
son of an immigrant and he said at different times, he`s the son of exiles.
And obviously, if people are from Cuba --

MATTHEWS: He said he came here after Castro came in.

MCMAHON: I know, I know. And frankly, there have been some things
that have been said on behalf on his Web site and other places that are
very, very clear. There`s some things he said himself that are much less
clear. And I think it`s a big problem for him. I`m not suggesting it
otherwise, but I`m not sure that he was a systemic liar.

MATTHEWS: Is he out as a V.P. nominee?

MCMAHON: I think he`s out --

MATTHEWS: John, do you think he`s out as a V.P. nominee?

FEEHERY: Chris, let me say this is the biggest bogus story. This
group is a pro-amnesty group in Arizona. He`s not out as a V.P. If we put
him on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate, it will be a huge boost
to the ticket.

Marco Rubio is a star. He`s going to continue to be a star.

This reminds me of what the Democrats tried to do with Miguel Estrada.
They tried to knock him out. They did knock him out. And that`s what
they`re trying to do --

MATTHEWS: Were his statements accurate about coming here in `59? Is
his Web site accurate about saying he came after Castro or not?

FEEHERY: Well, it`s a bogus story -- who cares?

MATTHEWS: Who cares? Why`d he say it?

FEEHERY: It`s a bogus story.

MATTHEWS: No, bogus is --

MCMAHON: John, who cares --

FEEHERY: The Cuban community doesn`t care?

MATTHEWS: Oh, I know. They`re all circling the wagons about their
guy. But that is not exactly a truth test.

FEEHERY: That`s just a bogus story.

MATTHEWS: You know what bogus is, is his Web site and all his
statements. And go check "Media Matters," quote after quote after quote
saying "I came here after Castro."

FEEHERY: Oh, so what? Marco Rubio is a great candidate and he`ll be
a great vice presidential candidate.

MCMAHON: John, John

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Steve.

He`s allowed to say he`s a great guy. John Feehery is a great guy.

Thank you, Steve McMahon.

That`s what this show is about, people arguing inarguable positions.

Up next, Herman Cain`s risen to the top of the polls, but can his
campaign withstand the scrutiny that comes with being a front-runner. This
guy is more fun than any of them.

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Mitt Romney leads or ties for first place in the
first four states with caucuses or primaries, according to the new polls
from CNN.

Let`s get the numbers from the HARDBALL scoreboard.

In Iowa, Romney is at 24 percent, Cain at 21. That`s within the
margin of error, of course. Ron Paul`s down at 12, at third.

In New Hampshire, big win for Romney, still with a big lead there, 40
percent. He`s moving up, well ahead of Cain, still at 13. Paul at 12. It
looks he owns that state.

It`s a statistical tie in South Carolina. This is a big one to watch,
Romney`s at 25, Cain`s at 23. I think that`s the dealmaker for one or the
other guy. Ron Paul is again on the third place, and Rick Perry.

And in Florida, Romney`s at 30, Cain`s at 13. Newt Gingrich and Perry
tie for third place at 9.

Romney, four for four right now. I think his brother, Jeb, helped him
in Florida. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Now that Herman Cain`s at or near the top of the polls -- we`ve all
seen that -- he`s going to have to get used to greater scrutiny and being
pounded by all sides.

"The New York Times" talked with former Cain staffers who say his
campaign is chaotic. "The Times" also said -- was told actually, quote,
"everything we tried to do was like pulling teeth to get it accomplished,"
that`s a former staffer in Iowa who for anonymity, of course. Quote, "I`ve
never been in a job as frustrating as this one. We couldn`t get an answer
on anything. Everything was fly by the seat of your pants."

Ron Reagan is a political commentator and author. And, of course,
Dana Milbank is a columnist with "The Washington Post."

Dana, you first. It seems that he`s getting some attention here he
probably wants a frontrunner. Is he the real frontrunner? Has he
dislodged Romney?

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: I don`t think so, Chris. And the
fact, the numbers you read just a few minutes ago show that. But, you
know, he has -- he`s polling well nationally, but the elect isn`t won
nationally. It`s won on those early primary states where Romney is really
very strong.

What you have with Cain is he`s become this phenomenon, this flavor of
the month.

MATTHEWS: Was he just on a book tour?

MILBANK: He was, in the South.

MATTHEWS: If that`s what he`s doing, it`s working. It`s working.

MILBANK: It`s going to make some money for him.

MATTHEWS: No, but -- OK, let me go to Ron on this. Let me show you -
- he`s talking about having a bull`s-eye on his back. Let`s take a look at
this.

Here it is. "I don`t know how many of you saw that last debate. I
didn`t realize the bull`s-eye on my back was that big. They came after me
like I had talked about their mama."

It`s always going on here -- it`s sort of regular street corner talk,
but he`s like trying to set it up so if they go after him, there`s
something wrong with them. He should be sort of immunized against attack.

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he better be careful what he
wishes for if he wants to be a frontrunner in this campaign, he`s going to
draw more scrutiny, and that scrutiny will find him wanting, I`m afraid.

There is real suspicion here that Herman Cain is not actually running
for president, he`s on a book tour. He hasn`t built the organizations in
the early states you would expect a serious presidential candidate to do,
and he`s not acting like a serious presidential candidate in many ways,
blowing off fundraisers and then all sorts of things.

MATTHEWS: You know what he`s good at? And Dana, you know what he`s
really good at? Not being Mitt Romney.

REAGAN: Yes, that`s right.

MATTHEWS: Which is the main role he`s been cast for, Dana, whether he
ever asked for it or not, he is not Mitt Romney. And anybody who ain`t
Mitt Romney will get a lot of people saying he`s the guy I want for
president.

MILBANK: That`s true -- and he`s certainly not Barack Obama. And I
think there`s a consensus that he`s not ready for primetime. But you know
what? He is ready for late night, so he`s been valuable in the
entertainment factor.

MATTHEWS: OK. One of the back-benchers, Rick Santorum, who believes
on what he says about abortion rights, has gone after him. Here`s an ad
from Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania going after Cain
for the answer that he gave rather directly about the issue of a family
member if they were raped, where would he be on abortion? Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It comes down to it`s not
the government`s role or anybody else`s role to make that decision.
Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidence, you`re not talking
about that big a number. So what I`m saying is, it ultimately gets down to
a choice that that family or that mother has to make.

NARRATOR: "The Washington Post" described Cain`s position as, quote,
"an essentially pro-abortion rights position."

And Bryian Fischer of the American Family Association said, "Cain`s
position could have come right out of the Planned Parenthood playbook."

Herman Cain, the more we learn, the more concerned we become.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. You know, Ron, Herman Cain sounds like my dad used to
talk. Yes, I`m pro-life, but it`s up to the woman.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I mean, he`s pro-choice, but he thinks he`s pro-life
because that sounds better, you know? I mean --

REAGAN: That`s exactly right. He has to be pro-life because he`s
running as a Republican here.

Listen, he`s not a serious political candidate, but the fact that
we`re talking about Herman Cain as a potential front-runner in the
Republican primaries here points to the paucity of the Republican field.
Really? I mean, I guess if you squint your eyes real hard, Mitt Romney
looks like he could maybe be sort of be president.

But none of the other people look like they belong anywhere near the
Oval Office. It`s really striking.

MATTHEWS: Last word from you. Do you agree with that? This is a
weak field.

MILBANK: Well, unbelievably, and I`m waiting for Santorum to make his
surge. He`s the only left. Maybe Gary Johnson?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. I`ve watched the luck of Barack Obama all my
life -- since he started, he`s had no real opponent except for Alan Keyes
when he ran for the Senate. Hillary took the wrong side of the war, McCain
was at the end of his career, a little late for the race, and this guy,
maybe he`s lucky to pull this off and has the biggest dance in the world to
run against --

MILBANK: Better be lucky than sorry.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Milbank. Thank you for coming here.

Thank you very much, Ron Reagan, as always.

And when we return, "Let Me Finish" with the real reason the approval
rating of Congress is so dirt low right now. Here`s a hint: it starts with
tea.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this -- here`s how government
is supposed to work: you have an election, one party wins, the other party
loses. Both get the message and do what they`re supposed to do.

Republicans won the 2010 congressional elections. They were supposed
to come to Washington and make a deal with the Democrats, one favorable to
their side and the people who voted for them, but a deal nonetheless.

Democrats lost the 2010 congressional election. They were supposed to
come back to Washington, acknowledge the results of the election and agree
to a deal with the Republicans who want it -- that means carving a deal
that favors the Republican position while not giving it all away.

This is how deals should be made between the two parties. They should
favor the parity that just won the election. This is how Ron Reagan and
Tip O`Neill cut the deal that saved Social Security back in 1983.

The Tea Party-led House of Representatives has refused to deal. It
refused to any possible bipartisan deal by insisting that the debt ceiling
not be raised unless the Democrats buckled to a big spending cut without a
nickel in higher taxes. There is room in American politics for right as
well as left. But that is the way we get a consensus that reflects the
will of the American people.

The Tea Party Republicans rejected a consensus. They deserve the
whack they`re now getting in the polls -- 9 percent of the country approves
of the job Congress is doing.

Got it, Mr. and Mrs. Tea Party? You are less popular, not just less
than Jimmy Carter, not just less than Barack Obama, but any president in
history.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

END
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