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updated 1/3/2012 10:57:42 AM ET 2012-01-03T15:57:42

Guests: Howard Fineman, Mark Halperin, Richard Lui, Chris Hayes, Susan Page, John Heilemann, Jennifer Jacobs, Liz Sidoti, Roger Simon

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see
you. Thanks for being here this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep well, sir.

ROMNEY: Thank you. I`ll do my best. Wow, look at that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Isn`t that something?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I`m Chris Matthews. Let`s play HARDBALL!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at Java Joe`s in Des
Moines, Iowa.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) heading into their final weekend of campaigning
before Tuesday`s caucuses, four days to go now until the first big results
of 2012.

Leading off tonight: Romney goes for the kill. Our new NBC News
Marist poll has Mitt Romney leading the field here in Iowa. It`s the
second poll this week to show Romney on top, and one of many polls showing
Newt Gingrich is in dead freefall. The pressure may be getting to Newt,
who became teary-eyed this afternoon here at Java Joe`s.

One reason Romney`s doing so well here is evangelical voters are
split. They`re torn among Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Romney, Gingrich and
Michele Bachmann. Together, the religious-oriented candidates -- that`s
Santorum, Perry and Bachmann -- get 35 percent in our new poll. But apart,
they`re giving Romney a real path to victory through their division.

And how many tickets are there out of Iowa? How many people would
come from here to other parts of the debate and the campaign? Well, who`s
out of the race if they don`t have a strong finish on Tuesday night? We`re
going to answer that tonight. We`re going to look at which of the
candidates are most likely to quit after the Iowa caucuses this coming
Tuesday.

And tell me what you really think. We`ve got the most revealing
moments of the Republican race so far, the statements that really tell us
more about the candidates than even they ever intended to tell us.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the role of politics and human tears.

We start with Mitt Romney going for the kill. Howard Fineman`s an
MSNBC political analyst and the Huffington Post Media Group editorial
director. And Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today."

Well, here we are at Java Joe`s, ground central...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: ... ground central, on a quiet little street in Des Moines
that just happens to come alive like "Brigadoon" every four years. And
we`re all here. I think we`re part of the "Brigadoon" characters.

This crowd`s (ph) always here. We just show up. We`re the characters
out of that play.

Well, let`s take a look at our latest NBC News Marist poll. Mitt
Romney leads the pack, but still at that ceiling of 23, that weird number
that keeps popping up like on a roulette wheel, like in "Casablanca," the
one that`s fixed. It keeps coming up on 23, 4 points up from earlier this
month, however.

Ron Paul`s a close second. He`s up a couple points. Rick Santorum is
on the rise more dramatically, jumping 9 points into third place, and he`s
apparently still rising. And Newt Gingrich has continued his dead decline,
down 15 points to finish in fifth place.

What is going on in here? Let`s do -- like we like to do on HARDBALL,
let`s go to the bad news first. Why is Newt Gingrich dying in Des Moines?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: And Davenport, and other cities in Iowa.

FINEMAN: I saw him early this morning at a country club -- all right

FINEMAN: ... with a Rotary Club crowd, that was a pre-made crowd. It
wasn`t his crowd, it was the Rotary Club.

MATTHEWS: They let in non-members?

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: And when Newt started to speak, it sounded to me like a
valedictory. It sounded like he was beginning to say why he`d failed. He
said in front of this Rotary Club meeting, and I quoted it on Huffington
Post -- he said, I can`t do modern politics, meaning that there`s something
about the way a big, national, industrialized presidential campaign works
that he just never figured out. And if he ever does figure it out, it`s
going to be too late. That`s one thing that`s happening to him here.

MATTHEWS: Who was the guy...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who was the guy, the African-American guy in mythic
history, went against the train (ph)? He was the pile driver...

FINEMAN: John Henry.

MATTHEWS: John Henry. And he would pound those piles in until he had
to finally run against the machine...

FINEMAN: Right. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... and the machine beat him -- or he beat the machine and
then died.

FINEMAN: That`s certainly how Newt views himself. Now, it`s kind of
a self-serving analysis. He`s saying, I`m the honest guy who wanted to run
a positive campaign...

MATTHEWS: I won the debates.

FINEMAN: ... just talk about the issues. I won the debates. I was
running like I was a member of the House, on the floor of the House, not
this weird thing that is presidential politics. He`s, of course, going to
blame the system if...

MATTHEWS: So a Republican running against industrialization.

FINEMAN: Yes. Industrialization of politics.

MATTHEWS: There`s a -- there`s a strange development. Susan, your
thoughts about the -- what looks to be the decline to almost infinitely
little size of Newt Gingrich today.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think one big factor is 45 -- we see
all these TV ads, night and day, on Iowa television stations. Forty-five
percent of the TV ads are attack ads on Newt Gingrich. So it would be a
phenomenal character who could withstand that kind of assault.

MATTHEWS: But he`s been around a million years!

PAGE: And he`s -- and he`s...

MATTHEWS: Why would people believe the negative on him?

PAGE: And he`s a target-rich environment, right?

MATTHEWS: OK.

PAGE: Because there`s not just one thing you can criticize about Newt
Gingrich, you can criticize his temperament, you can criticize him for...

MATTHEWS: Well, why did the souffle rise...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Excuse me. Why did the souffle rise so high and so
quickly, and just come down like such a bad meal? What happened?

PAGE: Well, because that`s what`s happened with Perry and Bachmann
and Cain and all of them because there`s a hunger for some more
interesting, dynamic character than Mitt Romney is. And voters think
they`ve found him and he shoots up. And then they discover he`s flawed,
and he goes down. And Mitt Romney is right there at the same percentage he
got four years ago. Twenty-five percent was what he got in the Iowa
caucuses...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Mitt Romney -- by the way, we have him at 23, which is
the number he seems to ride around the -- let`s take a look -- earlier this
afternoon, right here at Java Joe`s...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: I knew that would work! Newt Gingrich met with Iowa
mothers in a media event run by Frank Luntz, asked Gingrich -- Frank asked
him about his own mother, prompting a rather emotional response, a
surprising one, except at this point in the campaign, when everybody`s
tired, especially the candidates. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: What moment do you think of when
you think of your mom?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well,
I mean, first of all, you`re going to get me all teary-eyed. Callista will
tell you I get teary-eyed every time we send Christmas cards.

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) Excuse me. My whole emphasis on brain science
comes in directly from dealing with -- see how (INAUDIBLE) -- from dealing
with (INAUDIBLE) the real problems of real people in my family. And so
it`s not a theory, it`s, in fact, you know, my mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Howard, I mean, I want to say something about
at the end of the show about the role of tears. We`ve all covered
politics. Politicians, when they lose elections or are in bad trouble,
cry. I`ve seen it in every party. I`ve seen it -- it happens.

It`s the only business in which you ask everybody to like you, and
then you get a verdict from everybody, and they all tell you, in most
cases, We don`t like you. And every once in a while, they say they like
somebody for a while, and then they tell them they don`t like them.

FINEMAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: It`s a brutal business.

PAGE: They don`t cry in public. They don`t cry in public. And we
saw with Newt Gingrich -- I was in the room at Java Joe`s when he cried
this morning and...

MATTHEWS: Were you surprised?

PAGE: Yes. And it was -- it was a human moment. You know, you don`t
get very many human moments on the campaign trail. And it did remind me of
the moment four years ago in New Hampshire, when Hillary Clinton teared up
-- she didn`t cry quite as much as Newt Gingrich did -- and you suddenly
saw this human being behind the campaign.

FINEMAN: Yes, but this -- this -- I didn`t see him here, but I saw
him at the event before that, the first one he did this morning. And he
looked tired. He looked like he was worn out.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s a big part of it.

FINEMAN: He looked like he`d taken on something more than he could
handle. And he`s in terrible shape. He`s 68. He thinks he can go like he
went 30 years ago.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: And he doesn`t understand that if you`re going to run for
president, you have to build a big apparatus that you have to sit
comfortably on top of. And we make fun of this system of electing people,
but if you`re going to be president of the United States, you have to know
how to build and preside over that kind of instrument. And he just didn`t
know how to do it.

In addition to the fact that he`s been attacked mercilessly, often
justifiably, for his record over the last 20 years. And Newt is nothing if
not an egomaniacal guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, imagine going back to your hotel room with your
wife...

FINEMAN: Yes, and you turn on the TV.

MATTHEWS: ... and sitting and watching television as you`re trashed.

FINEMAN: Yes. And he didn`t respond. He never really responded.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, he didn`t have the money to respond.

FINEMAN: He didn`t have the money to respond.

MATTHEWS: Let`s be honest here. Let`s take a look at a campaign stop
in West Des Moines, we covered this morning, with Mitt Romney, who was
joined by New Jersey governor -- talk about bringing in the big clout from
back East -- Chris Christie. I got in close and got a little bit of
conversation with both these fellows. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: How`s he helping your campaign, Governor?

ROMNEY: He makes it real clear that we`re going to bring real change
to Washington.

MATTHEWS: Would he be a good running mate?

ROMNEY: There are a number of people who`d be terrific.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I got a lot out of that! At the same event, I got ahold of
Christie and asked him about Romney. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: I can see the ticket! I see the ticket before me!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open up a path here, guys. Open up a path...

(CROSSTALK)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: How`re you doing, Chris? Good
to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Oh, I don`t know. We`ll see.

MATTHEWS: Is Iowa going to decide it?

CHRISTIE: I don`t think so. Listen, I don`t know. He`s going to do
really well here, but I don`t know what that`s going to mean.

MATTHEWS: Is second place good enough?

CHRISTIE: He`s going to do well. I`m not setting expectations for
him.

MATTHEWS: Is first or second good enough?

CHRISTIE: Listen, he`s going to do really well, Chris. You watch
Tuesday night. You`ll be here, right? I`m watching you from New Jersey!

MATTHEWS: Can you bring New Jersey in on the ticket, bring Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Ohio and break this thing wide open?

CHRISTIE: He`s going to win Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the
general.

MATTHEWS: Because you`re on the ticket.

CHRISTIE: No, because he`s the best guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is!

CHRISTIE: Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio are practical people. We
know that. And the fact is that they know this is wrong and it`s not going
right, and he`s the right guy to fix it.

MATTHEWS: Are you going across the country with him now?

CHRISTIE: I`m going wherever he asks me to go.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: OK, well, this guy`s joined the team. I do think it`s a
possible ticket, but there`s so many -- John Thune, if this guy`s -- I`m
ahead of myself! Let`s stop talking about Romney winning this thing.

Is this a rock meeting a hard place, or whatever? Because -- an
unmovable force meeting an unstoppable object? Here`s a guy that`s had a
ceiling because the evangelicals don`t like him. They don`t think he`s one
of them. He`s a moderate. He`s LDS, all that. Whatever the factors are,
he seems to be stuck at 23 percent, Romney, nationwide and here in Iowa.

At the same time, they want a winner. And so people are somewhat
coalescing about him, somewhat, in the crowd we saw today. You`re
demurring here?

FINEMAN: Well, I`m demurring...

MATTHEWS: He can`t break that 23.

FINEMAN: I`m demurring a little bit. Talking to the Romney people
out there, they`re currently genuinely worried, I think, that Rick Santorum
will be able to consolidate all of those evangelicals...

MATTHEWS: The 75 percent.

FINEMAN: ... which could get him above the 23, 24, 25 percent ceiling
that Romney has. And when you talk to the people out at that rally -- I
talked to one guy who said -- he was wearing a Romney sticker. I said, So,
tell my why you`re for Mitt Romney? And he said, Well, I`m not really 100
percent for Mitt Romney, but he does seem to be a sane guy.

MATTHEWS: OK. There`s a standard!

FINEMAN: There`s a -- there`s a standard.

MATTHEWS: In the clown car, one guy`s sane.

FINEMAN: He`s going to -- he`s going to -- and that might be enough
to get him the 24 percent or 25 percent that he needs. But the Romney
people are being very careful not to predict anything more than that.

MATTHEWS: You know, my daughter says, the night you let the less
drunk guy drive.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s what goes on.

FINEMAN: They`re not worried about Ron -- they figure they can --
they figure they can -- the Romney people figure they can explain away Ron
Paul...

MATTHEWS: Oh, I -- OK.

FINEMAN: ... but they have more trouble explaining away a surge by
(INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s that surge in Rick Santorum with the most
committed voters. Look what he`s got, 59 percent say they`re with him to
the end as a candidate. They ain`t going to switch. Ron Paul, Rick Perry
and Mitt Romney are all close behind him. This is the percentage of people
who say they`re totally with him. But that`s in the low 50s.

We`re in the real science here. We`re in the metrics here, Susan.
But here`s the question. Will the full committed people of Santorum drive
their way through the evangelicals, get the lion`s share of that 46 percent
come Tuesday night, and overtake Romney, who can`t seem to bust free from
23, 25?

PAGE: Well, it`s possible...

MATTHEWS: Howard sized it up.

PAGE: You know, the other candidates are not backing away. Rick
Perry is on the air here all the time. Rick Perry...

MATTHEWS: But Rick Perry doesn`t have the brains to be president.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: Rick Perry...

MATTHEWS: I mean, the guy`s...

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: ... going to get a part of that vote...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t have the basics...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the necessaries to be president.

PAGE: We`re talking metrics here.

MATTHEWS: OK.

PAGE: And you`ve got other candidates who are going to be splitting
up that vote.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, what`s the appeal?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: The appeal of Rick Perry?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Is that he seems to be a decent guy -- to the evangelicals,
he seems to be a decent guy with his heart in the right place, even if he
doesn`t have...

MATTHEWS: Upstairs.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: You know, the rest of it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

PAGE: He`s the nation`s senior governor of a big state. That`s
what...

MATTHEWS: Texas! OK, thank you, Howard Fineman.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Just kidding! Lot of smart people in Texas. Anyway, I was
going to say liberals, but that would be pushing it. Anyway, thank you,
Susan Page. Well, you know your -- how many of these have you covered?

PAGE: This is my ninth caucuses.

MATTHEWS: Ninth caucus. We are "Brigadoon" characters, aren`t we?
We come out here in the...

FINEMAN: She has me beat by one.

MATTHEWS: ... every four years.

Anyway, coming up: Why don`t evangelical voters get in line behind one
candidate? I don`t know why we`re encouraging this, but if they get behind
Santorum rather than splitting their vote among Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich
and the rest of them, they`re not going to have any clout out here. We`re
teaching Santorum -- we`re teaching evangelicals tonight how to have more
political clout.

We`ll be back from Java Joe`s in Des Moines.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: First, I caught up with some voters at that Romney rally
today. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS: Tell me about your vote and how you see your vote next
Tuesday in the caucuses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I feel like that I don`t need my
president to be my moral compass or my religious compass. I need him to
take care of my paycheck, and that`s why I`m out here supporting Romney.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. What an exciting campaign this
is! Four years ago, Mike Huckabee won in Iowa by gaining overwhelming
support from the people who identify as evangelicals. And this year, the
evangelical field is a little more crowded and a lot more divided among the
following -- Rick Santorum, who`s doing the best, Rick Perry, who`s hanging
in there, Michele Bachmann, who`s fading.

As the saying goes, the shape of the field defines the winner. That`s
a Massachusetts political expression which means, If you`re the only
evangelical against four secular candidates, you win. If you`re the only
evangelical among four seculars, you win. Jimmy Carter was the only
conservative among four Democratic liberals. That`s how he won.

So will Mitt Romney be the big winner as the secular candidate, thanks
to the inability of evangelicals to coalesce around one candidate?

We`ve got the two experts of -- maybe not all time, but near time.
Mark Halperin`s "Time" magazine`s editor-at-large and MSNBC senior
political analyst, and of course, John Heilemann is national affairs editor
of "New York" magazine and MSNBC political analyst. That`s the way Cary
Grant used to say it, New York!

OK, let me ask you both -- one of the three of us, I believe it`s safe
to say, is an evangelical. So let`s make that straight. OK, we are
looking inside the fish bowl. Why can`t they find one guy or person they
like the most? You first, Mark.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Four years ago,
Mitt Romney had to run against three other establishment candidates -- Fred
Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain...

MATTHEWS: None of...

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: And Huckabee was able to be the evangelical to consolidate.
It`s a mirror image this time. They can`t consolidate because all of them
have had moments, all of them have sacrificed for months to run for
president, Rick Perry a little bit less than the others. They don`t want
to give up. They don`t particularly like each other. And they all think
that they can be the one to emerge from here as the Romney alternative.

It`s kind of a prisoner`s dilemma. If they got together, they could
do what they all want to do individually, but fighting each other, Romney
now -- again, mirror image. He`s the only establishment candidate against
not just the three you named, but Gingrich, and to some extent Ron Paul...

MATTHEWS: Right.

HALPERIN: ... also have the same kind of backing.

MATTHEWS: I was at that 801 steakhouse the other night last night,
and the lobsters in the lobster tank that got through the night -- you know
the ones that are still there when you get home...

HALPERIN: The 1 percent lobsters?

MATTHEWS: They don`t let any lobster get out of the tank. If they
see one getting out, they pull him back in. Now, no evangelical wants the
other evangelical to win. For example, it looks like Rick Santorum, who`s
Roman Catholic, actually, but charismatic, a conservative Catholic -- he`s
starting to pull away. Can he pull away by next Tuesday and overtake
Romney as not only the evangelical winner but the big winner out of Iowa?

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, look, I think that it
depends. I mean, he`s certainly like -- this is a momentum game, right,
who gets hot at the end. Rick Santorum has the hot hand right now, and
particularly the hot hand among this voting...

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: But you`ve got -- the candidates aren`t going to do that.
The voters are going to make that decision. The problem for Santorum --
he`s benefiting from Bachmann`s collapse, for sure. And she`s kind of on
the way down. The problem...

MATTHEWS: We saw her yesterday with 12 people at an event, at the
most.

HEILEMANN: The problem he`s facing -- and I think it was almost the
interesting thing in the NBC poll was that Perry is still holding steady,
and actually even ticking up a little bit.

MATTHEWS: Is that TV advertising?

HEILEMANN: It is totally, I think, a matter of money. And it shows
you the contrast between the two of them because Santorum, if he had
Perry`s money, I would bet today that he would win the caucuses. But he`s
totally broke. He`s got momentum but no money. Perry`s got no momentum,
but he`s got enough money to be on television everywhere, and he`s spent
more money on TV than I think any other candidate in Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. A number of the
candidates, as you`re saying, are using a strong sell in their TV ad buys
to go after evangelical voters, trying to win them. Here`s an ad by Rick
Santorum, showing some power here (INAUDIBLE) pay for this, touting his
marriage and family. There`s even an appearance from Mike Huckabee in the
ad. Let`s watch.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So big family, happy family. I think that`s all true, by
the way. I think this is a legitimate ad, for once, from anybody. He
really does have a great marriage. And 21 years ain`t much, but it`s
something, you know?

(LAUGHTER)
MATTHEWS: You know, I`m 31, so, I don`t know what everybody`s bragging
about. I think -- anybody got more than 21 here?

Look at you -- oh, everybody in Iowa`s got a longer marriage than Rick
Perry.

HEILEMANN: There`s like a 20-year-old kid back there who put his hand
up just now.

(LAUGHTER)

HALPERIN: He`s a good Iowa candidate. He`s been to all 99 counties.
He speaks the language of a lot of the voters here.

He hasn`t had a lot of money, although he is on TV now. I think the
thing that could be the moment for him that pivots, where he could
consolidate, not the -- not the religious -- he`s gotten some endorsements
here from evangelical leaders, some nationally, but what could consolidate
for him in the voters` minds is the "Des Moines Register" poll out Saturday
night, tomorrow night. If he`s doing well in that...

MATTHEWS: They`re smart, the voters. The evangelicals are smart.
They will go with the leader.

HALPERIN: They will go with someone who they think can win this
thing...

MATTHEWS: With a punch.

HALPERIN: ... and send a message.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that?

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: That`s why I said before I think the consolidation is
going to happen not because one of the other candidates decides to throw up
their hands, but because voters decide that there`s one that has the best
chance of winning.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s Perry trying to stop that from happening. Here
he is talking about -- in an ad -- about what he sees as a war on
Christianity in this country. Let`s watch this tough ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RICK PERRY CAMPAIGN AD)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not ashamed to
admit that I`m a Christian. But you don`t need to be in the pew every
Sunday to know there`s something wrong in this country when gays can serve
openly in the military, but our kids can`t openly celebrate Christmas or
pray in school.

As president, I will end Obama`s war on religion and I will fight
against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I could argue with that ad for 1,000 years.

I don`t know what the connection is between letting people serve the
way God made them in the military. Nobody made themselves gay. God made
them what they are, allowed to serve their country if they love it. I
don`t see what the problem is with that.

Number two, why can`t you pray in public school if you want to pray?
Nobody`s stopping you. You just don`t have an organized reading of the
King James version of the Bible anymore. That`s the difference.

HALPERIN: Do you want me to go get Rick Perry and bring him...

MATTHEWS: I just don`t understand what his case is.

HALPERIN: Well, which most...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I do understand it, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: ... interesting to me about that ad is when he got in the
race, his advisers said, the religious conservative Rick Perry is not going
to be front and center. It`s going to be the job creator in Texas.

He mentions that occasionally, but his advertising and a lot of his
rhetoric on the stump is about anti-Washington, the religious issues.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: He`s gotten away from the message he thought would bring
him to the nomination.

MATTHEWS: But Rick -- look, I guess I -- I know Rick Santorum from
Pennsylvania, and I have always liked him, even though I have disagreed
with a lot of his stuff, but he is what he is.

Rick Santorum is -- if you peel off the skin deep, deep down, he would
be Rick Santorum. He`s not like Romney, who can speak French, but wouldn`t
show it in the daylight, right? Right? He isn`t some other guy hiding
somewhere. He is Rick Santorum.

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: Let`s say one thing about that ad. It would have been
better if he had done it with the "Brokeback Mountain" jacket on. That`s
the first thing.

(LAUGHTER)

HEILEMANN: But the second -- but the second...

MATTHEWS: You are making connections I never would have thought of,
John Heilemann.

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: The second thing is, this is true. What Mark just said is
really true. He has spent all this money on television.

MATTHEWS: Was that a secret code that we...

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: He has not had a consistent message.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: And all the money that he has spent on TV has not
redounded as much to his benefit as it might have, because he`s been on
jobs sometimes, on culture sometimes. He`s been all over the place.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But Santorum never talks about the economy, or hardly ever.

HALPERIN: He does. Look, he`s gotten no scrutiny.

There`s been some. Perry`s gone after him in the last 48 hours a
little bit, but the Rick Santorum record is not going to be scrutinized
between now and Tuesday.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me try a headline by you guys. You write history,
but let me ask you a preview.

Suppose the headline in the papers next Wednesday after Iowa, in all
the papers, "The Des Moines Register" and "The New York Times," is -- let`s
see -- "Paul Edges Romney, Santorum Finishes Strong." Is that a good
prediction?

HALPERIN: It`s certainly plausible. I don`t think it`s most likely.
But it`s plausible.

MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think, Heilemann?

HEILEMANN: I think it`s plausible and it sounds pretty good for Mitt
Romney.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.
But you`re not agreeing yet, not signing up.

Coming up -- by the way, "The Des Moines Register" poll...

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Coming up: With a vote soon on Tuesday, how many
candidates will survive and how many will get kicked off the island, as
they say? In other words, no more campaigning. You`re done.

You`re watching HARDBALL from Des Moines, Iowa, coming up only on
MSNBC.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Can you say "Let them eat cake" in French?

(LAUGHTER)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can, but I won`t.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back at Java Joe`s. What a wild crowd.

I think, sometimes, that the only people that come in here are
Democrats. But that`s just...

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: I`m going to keep looking. This is supposed to be a
Republican big show -- big story here.

Let me ask you about Newt Gingrich tearing up right next door here in
the other room here of Java Joe`s. It seems to me now we have watched this
across both gender sides.

Ed Muskie was supposed to have cried in New Hampshire. Senator,
what`s her name, Pat Schroeder from Colorado, Senator Clinton, Hillary
Clinton, and, of course, this guy now.

My experiences is, behind the scenes, they all cry when they`re in
trouble politically. It`s a personal reaction, usually when they`re
totally exhausted. They get emotional.

What does it tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, it comes off as phony. They`re at this
every day, out in it every day, day in and day out, and then, all of a
sudden, right near the end, it seems like the tear ducts come in. And, to
me, it strikes me as phony.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s an appeal for sympathy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely, it`s an appeal for
sympathy.

MATTHEWS: Really? You`re a hard guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: I want to ask somebody -- I want to go to a woman now and
see if there`s a gender agreement.

Do you agree with that, that this is a show, that the tears are for
show, or crocodile tears?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not usually. No, I think they seem to be
genuine at the time.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s driven by tiredness, just exhaustion?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That could be a good part of it, sure.

MATTHEWS: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, when you`re tired, you`re emotionally
vulnerable.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it shows Newt Gingrich to be more of a mensch?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think I better respond.

MATTHEWS: You don`t want to go that far?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask this guy. He`s a tougher guy.

Do you think Newt Gingrich is trying to show his softer side here, or
what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just can`t say too much good about Newt
Gingrich.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m with you, bro.

Let me go to you. Sir, what do you think? Too many teardrops? Isn`t
there a big song? I remember that, too many teardrops. I like that song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he`s sincere. I mean, I think he`s just
tired, exhausted.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. I`m with you, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think it was sincere, but when Hillary
cried, it was sincere.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: That`s what we like, true political prejudice. We`re all
guilty of that -- not you.

Boy, we`re -- you`re exactly who I want to talk to you. Why not you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have nothing to say.

MATTHEWS: Nothing to say? Gosh. We don`t like that.

Over here. Oh, there you are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey.

MATTHEWS: Excellent reading material, though I don`t want to show
people...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great reading material.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s the name of that book?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero."

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

Let me ask you about your views here.

Crying in politics, Ed Muskie totally denied it back in my age, `76 --
`72, rather. He didn`t cry. It was the tear -- it was something, it was
the snow in his eyes or whatever. Do you think tears hurt a politician or
give them a human side?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it gives them a human side, but I don`t
think Newt Gingrich has much of a human side.

MATTHEWS: You don`t think...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he`s tired.

MATTHEWS: You think he`s tired. OK. Thank you.

Most of the people here are cynical. They have no hearts, and they
think Newt Gingrich doesn`t either.

Anyway, we will be right back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RICHARD LUI, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Richard Lui with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

It`s the final day of the year some investors may wish they could
forget. The Dow shedding 69 points, the S&P down five, and the Nasdaq shed
eight. But for all the wild ups and downs, the Dow actually made people
some money this year, up 5.5 percent over December 30, 2010. The S&P ended
almost exactly where it started, though.

Among the blue chips for you, McDonald`s led the winners for 2011.
Bank of America though posted the biggest loss there. Meanwhile, Verizon
is doing a little damage control. One day after customers fumed about news
of an added surcharge, the company said, oops, we will drop that fee after
all.

And a banner headline for Ford Motor Company, which announced sales of
its primary vehicles, topping $2 million in the U.S. this year, the first
time that`s happened for any single car brand since 2007. And then U.S.
drivers are cutting way back at the pump evidently, according to a new EIA
report, making way for refiners to export more fuel than ever before.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and an incredible changing
environment out here right now for Republicans who have watched candidate
after candidate top the charts for a couple of weeks and then collapse in a
heap. Take a look.

First came Michele Bachmann. Her performance is shown by the black
line there. She reached a peak in mid-July, then fell fast. Look at the
numbers. They`re taken over time. Then Perry, the blue line, that comes
on there right now, very much matches it, was the next to steam up and then
lose all favor right there. Look how that works now, this sort of new arc.

And then it was Herman Cain`s turn. He did very well. Look how high
he went in that red line there, climbing to his high in late October,
fairly recently. And, of course, most recently, Gingrich took the lead
before starting his descent, as voters commit to -- look, there`s the
green.

See the patterns? They all have their peaks and they all sequenced
after another, serial love affairs, one after another after another.
People fall for their candidates in a big way, and then they die.

Now the caucuses are going to answer a big question: Who`s going to
get out of here?

And I guess my question is tough. You`re both objective reporters.
You don`t deal in opinion. I notice you pointed that out before we
started.

Jennifer Jacobs is the chief politics reporter for "The Des Moines
Register," the key newspaper here, and Liz Sidoti is the political editor
for the Associated Press.

These are big jobs, so let me ask you what you do.

Just in terms of stakes coming in here, it seems to me that the guy,
the candidate who could have come through here without even stopping could
have been Mitt Romney. Yet, he is now one of the three possible winners
out here, right? so he doesn`t really need to do better than top two or
three. Fine.

But Bachmann and Perry, do they have to prove that they can hold on to
some of that vote against the very strong performance now of Rick Santorum?

JENNIFER JACOBS, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": Those are the two that
are probably the most in peril.

You know, Michele Bachmann, this is her home state, and so if she
doesn`t make a case here, she`s going to have a hard time after she moves
on.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why is it her home state?

JACOBS: Well, she was born here.

MATTHEWS: She was born here.

JACOBS: Yes, native here. So, you know...

MATTHEWS: Is that known?

JACOBS: Oh, yes. Iowans definitely know that. She`s made a very big
point of that. So, if she can`t do well in Iowa, how is she going to do
well elsewhere?

But she`s still trying to inspire confidence. Her crowds today in
Iowa were just minuscule, though. Our beat reporter who covers her said
that they were just small, disinterested crowds, no more than 30.

MATTHEWS: I was there yesterday. I saw one of those crowds. It was
very small.

JACOBS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this, Jennifer, the same question to
you. Who could really get -- who`s imperiled right now, can`t get a ticket
out of here maybe?

LIZ SIDOTI, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think you have to actually look
at their bank accounts, not just the voter -- how they end up on January --
June -- hello, what day is it? January 3. But you actually have to look
beyond Iowa.

Who`s going to have the money to put organizations in all these other
states and who`s going to have the momentum to go the distance? And the
fact of the matter is, it`s really only three people who are going to be
able to do that, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

They`re not only doing well here, but they actually have organizations
and money in other states.

MATTHEWS: Is Newt running out of money as well?

SIDOTI: I think it`s going to be difficult for Newt to raise money if
he`s not in the top three heading out here.

MATTHEWS: And his hope -- excuse me -- his hope, Liz, is to try to
last long enough to get to the next debate, which is almost like his oasis.
If he can get to a debate, right, Jennifer, he can -- he`s one guy that can
live off the land. He`s so successful in the debates. And one thing that
killed him out here, right, is there haven`t been many debates for a while.

JACOBS: And that`s why Perry is doing well. Perry is best at retail
campaigning, that one-on-one contact.

MATTHEWS: Advertising.

JACOBS: Exactly. So more people are showing up to see Rick Perry,
and he`s finally dedicating some time here, and he`s not debating.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the larger point here, the role of
Iowa. Iowa made Jimmy Carter. It made, in many ways, I would argue,
President Obama. Winning out here sort of established him as almost the
way that Bush won the presidency, W., to the extent he deserved to win it,
because he was seen as the first sort of flash winner, right, when the
first count came in.

Your thoughts about Iowa? Is it going to remain a powerful picker of
presidents?

JACOBS: I think so. You know, we have a lot of confidence in who our
-- you know, our Iowans choose. And it just seems like no matter who they
choose, the caucuses just go on strong every year -- or every four years.

MATTHEWS: Is it important to Iowa?

JACOBS: Oh, definitely. And they take it so seriously. You know
that. You see it in...

MATTHEWS: OK. I want to get back -- same question to you. Looking
at it nationally, Liz, do you think Iowa`s going to hold the power that New
Hampshire`s seems to have held forever?

SIDOTI: Well, I actually think that what happens in New Hampshire and
South Carolina and Florida will dictate whether or not Iowa continues to be
seen as, you know, a place every candidate has to play.

Don`t forget about New Hampshire. And you know this. New Hampshire`s
fickle, independent-leaning state. They may not like -- what happens if
Mitt Romney wins here? Are they going to turn their backs on him and
choose someone else or not?

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at some of the new ads here.
Here`s some examples of the tough ads Newt has had to contend with. And
this has been brutal on him. A pro-Romney super PAC released this ad this
week trashing Gingrich`s mistakes.

Let`s take a look at this. This is a brutal, almost knock-him-out ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: Ever notice how some people make a lot of mistakes?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was probably a mistake.

I made a mistake.

I have made mistakes at times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoops.

NARRATOR: So far, Newt Gingrich has admitted his mistakes or flipped
on teaming up with Nancy Pelosi, immigration, Medicare, health care, Iraq,
attacking Mitt Romney, and more.

GINGRICH: I made a big mistake in the spring.

NARRATOR: Haven`t we had enough mistakes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And Ron Paul released this ad targeting both Gingrich and
Romney. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: The Washington machine is strangling our economy.
Politicians who supported bailouts and mandates, serial hypocrites and
flip-floppers can`t clean up the mess.

One man stands alone, a real plan to cut $1 trillion year one, balance
the budget in three, consistent, incorruptible, guided by faith and
principle.

Ron Paul, the one we`ve been looking for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, at least it ends positively.

Liz, it just looks to me, I don`t know how you can sit at home. I
mean, a lot of people are home because they`re taking care of an older
relative, a parent, and they have a lot of TV time. I don`t know how you
can take it. It`s brutal.

SIDOTI: Yes, it really is.

MATTHEWS: It is brutal! I mean, you turn on the TV for relief from
your home care, it is worse than life. It`s really tough. You know?

You`re smiling, but it`s -- how -- I thought Philly, the Delaware
Valley of South Jersey area, every judge is a crook. Everyone running for
re-election is terrible. These ads are awful, especially against Newt who
-- one of reasons why he`s crying is he has a TV set.

SIDOTI: Well, look, Chris, they worked, right? I mean, look at
these negative ads. And this is Midwestern country, you know? It is
Midwestern Iowa. Iowa nice. What happened there?

You know, in 2004, we saw, you know, negative ads go up and there was
backlash. And in 2008 --

MATTHEWS: What happened to Iowa nice? Jennifer?

JACOBS: What do you mean?

MATTHEWS: Well, Iowa`s always had a reputation for being, they don`t
like -- they don`t like nasty people. They don`t like nasty TV ads. They
don`t like negativity.

JACOBS: They still don`t. And if you ask them, they will always say
that. Which is why they liked Gingrich? He was the front-runner in our
poll at the end of November.

And the most common thing I heard from people, the reason why they
liked him was because he rose above it. He didn`t engage in that
Republican-on-Republican violence.

So, they really did like that about him. But, you know, that`s kind
of slipped. He spends all his time, you know, on the defense and --

MATTHEWS: Punching back.

JACOBS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the awful part, the deceit part. Romney was
Mr. Charm out there today. He was singing "America the Beautiful," one of
my favorite songs, our favorite song as Americans. It`s a beautiful song.

He had all the lyrics down. He had Christie with him, his beautiful
wife with him. He had all that going for him.

Meanwhile his super PAC ad is kicking the bejesus out of Newt, in the
butt, I mean, over and over. Somebody said, he gets loftier in his words
as his ads get nastier. So, it could be that they say, I just like this
Mitt Romney, while his ads are destroying his opponents.

SIDOTI: Well, look, I think this is the story of this campaign,
right? This is how the campaign finance system has been changed by the
Citizens United ruling, allowing these allied groups to come in and pour a
ton of money in, and allowing the candidate to say, hey, I`m positive, it`s
not me.

MATTHEWS: People of Iowa are being deceived, right? They`re being
deceived.

JACOBS: You have plenty of Republican strategists who point out that
Gingrich is sinking in New Hampshire too, and not a single negative ad has
been run against him there. So, you know, people --

MATTHEWS: OK. "The Des Moines Register," right, your poll is coming
out Saturday?

JACOBS: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: What time does it come out?

JACOBS: Seven p.m.

MATTHEWS: Seven o`clock Saturday night?

JACOBS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The whole world is going to know who`s going to win,
right?

JACOBS: We`re going to predict it.

MATTHEWS: I know you`re good.

Anyway, thank you. It`s great to be with you, Jennifer. It`s great
to be with you, Liz.

Up next, we`ve got the most revealing moment of the presidential race
so far. They said more about the candidates than they ever intended. This
is very fun, coming up here. Very fun.

HARDBALL from Java Joe`s in Des Moines, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Are you for Romney?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Tell me why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was for him the last time.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`ll do better this time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very much so.

MATTHEWS: What`s changed from `08?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think anything`s changed from `08. We
now know what`s out there is not working and I think we`re looking forward
to a change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In this 2012 Republican race, some of the most revealing moments came
in the knockout punch not taken, the barely stifled frustration, the brain
freeze. We call them the "tell me when you really think" statements that
told us more about a candidate than anything else they said.

Roger Simon, who invented the road show in politics, is chief
political columnist for "Politico." And Chris Hayes is host of MSNBC`s "UP
WITH CHRIS HAYES" on Saturday mornings at 7:00 and Sunday mornings at 8:00.

Chris, thanks for joining us.

Roger, I want Chris to start with this one. Let`s take a look at --
well, Mitt Romney probably that he was on friendly turf with a FOX
interview, but when challenged, we see his barely contained frustration in
having to answer a question from Bret Baier. Look at his body language
here and let`s watch it.

You first, react to this, Chris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Do you think a mandate, mandating people to
buy insurance is the right tool?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bret, I don`t know how many
hundred times I`ve said this too -- this is an unusual interview. All
right, let`s do it again!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Chris, I`ve never seen a candidate re-cross his legs in
the middle of an interview with great frustration.

CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "UP WITH CHRIS HAYES": I thought it was an
interesting physiological response, because he was clearly trying to
contain just barely suppressed rage at Baier in that moment.

What I thought was interesting about it was: A, it was a question
that if you hired a 19-year-old to do a little bit of research or tee up a
question to Mitt Romney, it was one of the first that he would ask. So,
the fact that he felt so offended by the question said to me that he had
just not been spending enough time in interviews. And in fact, Romney was
running one of the most closed up press shop until that moment. And I
think this showed that his muscles had atrophied.

I also think it showed that Romney has a temper. I mean, we saw him
-- his temper flare during the debate when he put his hand on the shoulder
of Rick Perry. We`ve seen it in a few moments. It`s been written about a
bit. And this was one of those points where it bubbled up.

And, you know, a campaign, a modern campaign tests people to their
very depths and core. And you`re going to see more of that as it drags on.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but Romney`s still hiding from most of us.

Let`s take a look at this. This is FOX, after all, not exactly
dangerous territory. Here`s Tim Pawlenty previewing his killer line
against Mitt Romney on FOX the day before the New Hampshire debate. Let`s
listen to what he promised to say in the debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama
said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare, and basically made it
Obamaneycare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Obamaneycare, an interesting line. But when it came time
to deliver that line in the actual debate, Mr. Pawlenty, the governor,
punted. Listen, moderator John King tried to get him to say it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, MODERATOR: Governor, you just heard the governor rebut
your characterization, Obamaneycare, why?

PAWLENTY: Let me first say to Sylvia, she has put her finger on one
of the most important issues facing the country, which is President Obama
stood before the nation in 2008 and said he promised to do health care
reform, focused on cost containment, along with Republicans. He`d do it on
a bipartisan --

KING: The question, the question, Governor, was why Obamaneycare.

PAWLENTY: That`s right. Well, I`m going to get to that, John.

KING: Your rival is standing right there. If it was Obamaneycare on
"FOX News Sunday," why is it not Obamaneycare standing here with the
governor right there?

PAWLENTY: President Obama is the person who I quoted in saying he
looked to Massachusetts for designing his program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Roger, what happened?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: You know, it`s really said in politics that a
friend is somebody who stabs in the front.

Here, here`s Pawlenty who`s willing to stab Romney in the back. But
when it comes to the national debate and he got to stand there six feet
from him and repeat, he just doesn`t have the guts to do it.

MATTHEWS: You think it`s guts? That`s what it comes across.

SIMON: Part of it is guts. It`s hard on a stage, you know,
insulting a person who`s near you. This was June. It was early in the
process. The press wanted to see these guys mix it up. Pawlenty wouldn`t
play the game. He wouldn`t go for it.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you remember that scene in "Presumed Innocent" where
they say the prosecutor has to point a finger at you and say "you did it"
in front of the jury, and he wasn`t willing to do it.

Well, here`s Rick Perry who had the world`s most ill-timed brain
freeze in history -- there`s other terms for it, by the way -- at the CNBC
debate in November. Let`s watch the freeze.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will tell you,
it`s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce,
Education, and what`s the third one there, let`s see. The third agency of
government -- I would do away with Education, Commerce, and let`s see -- I
can`t. The third one I can`t. I`m sorry. Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Chris Hayes, it`s tough when you can`t answer
somebody else`s question, but when you can`t answer your own question, you
got a deep-freeze problem there. I don`t know what to do say about this.
And "oops" didn`t quite handle it.

HAYES: The saddest part of that entire thing were the other
candidates whispering, helping a little child who is stumped.

And, you know, what`s interesting in that moment about Perry`s
performance was when he got in the race, there`s a lot of people who said
he`s not ready for primetime, and then you saw a sort of backlash
particularly among Texas political writers and said, don`t underestimate
this guy, he`s won every election that he`s run. He`s a very confident
politicians.

Well, it turned out he wasn`t ready for primetime. I mean, that
moment sort of epitomized the fact that he has not been ready for
primetime.

MATTHEWS: And the sad thing is he`s ready for Texas.

Anyway, after Rick Perry called evolution a theory that`s out there
and said he doubts man`s contribution to global warming, Jon Huntsman fired
off this tweet, "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists
on global warming. Call me crazy."

You know, this is part of the weird thing the Republican candidates
are engaging in. People with the education of Mitt Romney, the best
education in our country, and Jon Huntsman, they have to hood that in the
Republican primaries and caucuses. You have to pretend you don`t know what
you were taught in school in order to pass muster with people who fear
science.

SIMON: It`s like the old days in the Democratic Party in the South
where you had to out-seg your opponent. Now, you have to out-conservative
your opponent.

Here was Huntsman making a statement, saying, look, I`m center right,
you got all six, seven people on the right, here`s an alternative. And
then they staff took him aside and said, there is no center-right in the
Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: And he took all that back.

SIMON: Well, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, here`s Christine O`Donnell, that one, who ran an
unsuccessful Senate campaign up in Delaware, most memorable for the "I`m
not a witch" line, endorsed Mitt Romney by highlighting his greatest
vulnerability. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN: So tell us who gets your endorsement.

CHRISTINE O`DONNELL, FORMER U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I like Mitt
Romney as well.

COSTELLO: Some people say that Mitt Romney isn`t the most consistent
candidate, because he`s changed his mind about big important issues over
the years.

O`DONELL: You know, that`s one of the things that I like about him,
because he`s been consistent since he changed his mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You first, Roger. Consistent since he changed his mind.
There`s an endorsement.

SIMON: The worst statement you could possibly make. But secondly
who wants O`Donnell`s endorsement? Half the people thought she practiced
witchcraft. The other half thought she still practices witchcraft. She --

MATTHEWS: Are you saying that that endorsement is a curse? Just
kidding.

Roger Simon, thank you. Chris Hayes, please come back.

When we -- when I come back, "Let Me Finish" with tears in politics,
and how they go together.

You`re watching HARDBALL at Java Joe`s in Des Moines only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

Politics is a grueling business. It`s all about getting people to
like you.

When you get elected, you think the whole world loves you.

When you get defeated, you feel the total rejection that is the lone
experience of those who choose to put themselves before the public for
approval or disapproval. We`ve looked upon you and found you wanting. We
know you, and we don`t like you. Brutal.

And the most brutal treatment comes when you are most vulnerable,
when you`ve been out there for weeks, months, years perhaps asking people
to like you, and then it comes on election night or maybe a few days
earlier when you see a poll, then you get it right in the gut. You get the
work that all that work, all those smiles and handshakes and small talk and
best speeches you could give didn`t work. You good it thrown at you cold
and brutally that the verdict is no. No, not you, not you now. Not ever,
got it? We don`t like you.

This afternoon, Newt Gingrich, one of the roughest of politicians,
showed tears. Believe me, he`s not the first. Crying in defeat comes with
the business.

It`s usually backstage when the candidate gets the word, or on Air
Force One at 1:00 in the morning, or sitting in a hotel room. You know
it`s over, people got you and decided they didn`t like you. You may have
been through it with a girl or boy or later in life, but you know the
feeling.

Candidates with public office get it with a bigger punch. It isn`t
one person saying no to you. It`s the mass of people saying not you, not
you.

Look, I`ve been there. I know firsthand the candidates that cry when
they`re rejected. It`s not about Ed Muskie in `72 or Pat Schroeder, a
generation later, or Hillary Clinton or Newt. It`s about the business they
have chosen.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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