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updated 1/10/2012 12:26:37 PM ET 2012-01-10T17:26:37

Guests: David Gregory, Howard Fineman, Jane Wells, Chuck Todd, John Harris, Glen Johnson, Nia-Malika Henderson, Matt Kibbe, David Corn

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Republican mutiny.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Manchester, New Hampshire, one
day before the first-in-the-country New Hampshire primary.

Leading off tonight: You can`t handle the truth. It`s finally
happened, Mitt Romney, the number one threat to President Obama`s
reelection, is now under full attack by his own party. The other
Republican candidates are inflicting wounds that could, indeed, destroy
Romney for the general election.

At yesterday`s NBC News/FaceBook debate, Jon Huntsman had the line of
the day after Romney criticized him for working for President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R-UT), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This nation
is divided, David, because of attitudes like that.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that moment recalled Army lawyer Joseph Welch asking
Senator Joe McCarthy, "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
Meanwhile, Gingrich called Mitt out for his -- what he called his "pious
baloney," Mitt Romney`s pretension of being a man above politics. So the
end game`s begun.

Also, Romney`s biggest vulnerability of all may not be his reputation
as a flip-flopper, but his years making millions of the Bain Capital. Newt
Gingrich is going after him for the kill right now, launching a $3.4
million advertising campaign, probably all negative, in South Carolina,
using excerpts from a brutal new documentary about Romney`s years at Bain
that point Romney as a heartless predator.

Plus, White House chief of staff Bill Daley has resigned. That means
the Obama team is now in full campaign mode. It`s all about reelection,
not government.

And whatever happened to the Tea Party? They control the House and
face a vulnerable president now, and they`re about to nominate -- pause --
Mitt Romney? If conservatives don`t rally around some of the other
candidates, or one of the other candidates, could Romney actually grab this
from them?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with Mitt Romney`s new clothes, his absurd
pretensions to both political innocence and right-wing orthodoxy.

We start with Mitt Romney under attack. David Gregory is, of course,
the moderator of NBC`s "MEET THE PRESS," and Howard Fineman is an MSNBC
political analyst and the Huffington Post Media Group editorial director.

Well, thanks in large part to this gentleman here, we`ve got some
amazing clips to show you from David Gregory`s debate yesterday here up in
New Hampshire. Over the last few days, Mitt Romney has been strongly
attacked by the rest of the Republican field on the exact things that are
seen as his big selling points -- let`s face it, his business background,
his ability to create jobs, and his outside-Washington persona, if you
will, his political innocence.

He was hit hard yesterday at that "MEET THE PRESS" debate. It started
early. Let`s watch what Romney said about his career and then watch Newt
Gingrich cut into it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This for me --
politics is not a career. For me, my career was being in business and
starting a business and making it successful. My life`s passion has been
my family, my faith and my country.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can we
drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran in `94 and
lost. That`s why you weren`t serving with Senator Rick Santorum. You`ve
been running consistently for years and years and years. So this idea
that, suddenly, citizenship showed up in your mind -- just level with the
American people. You`ve been running at least since the 1990s.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you hear the applause there. And this -- I was in
that audience in your debate Sunday morning. Actually, I was and my family
was. I was sitting here watching it, David. And I thought that was a
pretty pro-Romney crowd largely, but they all laughed at that.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Yes.

MATTHEWS: They enjoyed that moment.

GREGORY: Well, and there`s a couple of omens (ph) to it. I mean, I
think what Gingrich was saying, in a way, was one, you know, Give up this
pretension that you weren`t politically calculating. And two, this is not
a huge, huge deal because at the end of the day, if you were politically
calculating, that`s not going to sink your nomination.

But it was that idea that somehow, Romney`s built his campaign around
a narrative that he`s got business acumen, and so the level of distinction
is, I`m not a political insider, when, you know, he might have been.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Had he won.

GREGORY: Had he won. And look, Santorum would have been, had he won
in 2006 -- he would have been there for 21 years by now. But at least he
says, Look, I did lose. I fought the fight. But I learned some thing on
the outside. And you would think that at this point, Romney would be able
to pivot to that...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: ... and take some advantage of it.

MATTHEWS: And it seems to me, Howard, it`s part of the sort of the
starchy persona of the guy. He likes a very formal debate style. When you
question him the way that the other guys did the other night, or yesterday
morning, the fact -- the way that Santorum went after him, and then we saw
Gingrich go after him, he gets a little bit peeved.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, there are two things. First of all, he`s overmanaged, overcoached,
and over-narratived -- over-narratived. I mean, they have created this
story around him for a specific purpose, which was a 9 percent unemployment
rate. We`re going to not talk about Mormonism. We`re not going to talk
about cultural values. We`re not going to talk about anything but jobs,
jobs, jobs.

MATTHEWS: You mean the plan was to talk up Mormonism?

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: No, no. I`m saying no. Not -- I`m saying not...

MATTHEWS: I`m kidding. I`m just kidding.

FINEMAN: No, but my point is that they over...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: They overdid it. They overmanaged. You can be honest about
things, is all Newt`s saying. And on the other hand, yes, Mitt Romney is a
control freak who`s got a control freak for a campaign, where they
deliberately just for the fun of it, to take notice of things, when they
say an event is going to -- they put their events down to start at 5:05 or
6:05.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, here`s -- here`s Jon Huntsman hitting him from
another salient (ph) altogether. He served, of course, as ambassador to
China during the Obama administration. He all had -- he had some very
strong words for Romney, I thought very effective, honestly, yesterday
morning. Let`s watch Huntsman go after Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R-UT), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was
criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first.

(APPLAUSE)

HUNTSMAN: He criticized me, while he was out raising money, for
serving my country in China. Yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are
doing in the United States Navy. They`re not asking who -- what political
affiliation the president is.

ROMNEY: I just think it`s most likely that the person who should
represent our party running against Obama is not someone who called him a
remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China.

HUNTSMAN: This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like
that.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, one of the badges you`re going to wear, I think,
when you get very old, David, is that you were there for that discourse
because it was, to me, the knife that cut through the polarization of our
time. When he was -- whatever happens to Huntsman in this race, he
delivered that line. And that crowd reacted, and they`re partisans in that
audience.

GREGORY: But Chris, I agree with that. And I agree with it as a
moment in this debate. But there`s another side to that coin. Unlike his
son, his sons serving our country...

MATTHEWS: Right.

GREGORY: ... this is a man who went to work for a Democratic
president as his ambassador, and somewhere along the way, also plotted to
challenge that very president to run for the presidency.

MATTHEWS: Sure. But that`s a problem he would have with Obama, not
with his fellow Republicans, right?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, presumably, you would have it with both, which
is you`d have it with the Republicans like Romney is saying, when -- you
know, We were out there working for the party. You`re calling this guy a
great leader. And then there`s a loyalty issue...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: ... is you`re working for a guy that`s (INAUDIBLE) You know
what? I`m working on the inside here. I`m advancing your policies. And
now I`m going to challenge you for your second term.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I -- that`s all true in this particular case. But
Howard, there`s a history up here. Henry Cabot Lodge was Lyndon Johnson`s
ambassador to Vietnam at the time he won on a write-in up here in a
Republican primary. So there is a history of this Granite state, "Live
free or die" world, where they do respect public service.

FINEMAN: To me, the debate was fantastic. And I thought the applause
-- when people applauded was incredibly instructive. You pointed out the
first time, when even though it was kind of an establishment crowd, they
couldn`t help but applauding when Newt Gingrich forced Mitt Romney to get
real.

MATTHEWS: Admit he`s a politician.

FINEMAN: Admit he`s a politician. Then they applauded again when Jon
Huntsman made the appeal to bipartisanship and basically called Mitt Romney
out, a guy who worked with Democrats in Massachusetts, for trying to stuff
himself into this highly...

GREGORY: That`s a good point.

FINEMAN: ... highly partisan role, which people know Mitt Romney
really isn`t.

MATTHEWS: In other words, he`s the kind of guy who would serve in
other administrations.

FINEMAN: He would serve. He`s...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Some of the best things about him, the fact that he mixes...

MATTHEWS: So smart.

FINEMAN: ... the fact that he mixes politics and government.

MATTHEWS: So nuanced.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But David is right generally. And you`re right in this
weird case, where the guy isn`t the right person to be making this kind of
shot.

FINEMAN: No.

MATTHEWS: I mean, it`s not -- here`s a -- by the way...

FINEMAN: They`re trying to turn him into a right-wing attack dog,
which he`s not.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the integrity issue, which is always important
with every politician. Here`s a new line of attack being used against
Romney, that he doesn`t always tell the truth. Case in point, watch what
happened yesterday when Mitt was asked about negative ads against Newt
Gingrich by his pro-Romney super-PAC. And this is one where it`s very
tricky because legally, you`re not supposed to have a hand in writing these
ads. But here he is, I think, protesting too much. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: With regards to their ads, I haven`t seen them, and under the
law, I can`t direct their ads. I hope everything that`s wrong is taken
out. But let me tell you this. The ad I saw said that you`d been forced
out of the speakership. That was correct. It said that -- that you`d sat
down with Nancy Pelosi and argued for a climate change bill. That was
correct. Anything wrong, I`m opposed to. But you know, this ain`t the
beanbag.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Yes, it may not be beanbag, but it is a question of telling
the truth in the same paragraph. In the same paragraph, he said, I haven`t
seen them, the ad I saw -- in the same paragraph!

GREGORY: You know, I don`t think a lot of voters are surprised by all
of this. I don`t think that they hold out some hope that somehow, these
politicians are removed from the political experience.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: It`s a little bit like -- you know, President Obama is very
dismissive of the game of politics in Washington. He is the game. He`s
the president.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GREGORY: And I think Romney was trying to have it a bit of both ways.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s take a look -- here`s Mitt Romney, grew up very
privileged, of course, but listen to what he said yesterday in an effort to
differentiate himself from President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I don`t think he feels it, he experiences it the way so many
of you do and I do by virtue of having lived in the real world. I know
what it`s like to worry whether you`re going to get fired. There were a
couple times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll think about that in a moment. Today, Rick
Perry -- whether he was going to get a pink slip, this guy, worth a quarter
billion dollars. Anyway, Rick Perry jumped on Romney`s comment. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no doubt that
Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have
enough of them to hand out, because his company, Bain Capital, with all the
jobs that they killed, I`m sure he was worried he would run out of pink
slips.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re in trouble when Rick Perry`s smarter on his
feet than you are.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, there he is pointing out the fact this guy was the
guy, you know, doing chop shop work with corporations, going in like any
efficiency expert, looking for the inefficiencies -- they`re called
"people" -- and getting rid of them.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: I continue to marvel at the tendency of almost every
politician to embellish. They just can`t help it. But the difference here
is this guy is at 37, 38, 39 percent. He`s trying to close it out by
winning the New Hampshire primary here. And so people -- the other thing
that surprises me is they think that people aren`t paying attention, that
people actually aren`t going to...

MATTHEWS: Well, we are.

FINEMAN: I know, but we are. Everybody is...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: He is so far ahead that he may be losing the tendency to
campaign within himself. He should not be out there really trying to say
that, I identify with concerns of people like you. He is fashioning
himself as a guy with business acumen who can better handle a distressed
economy. That is his calling card and it suits the moment. It`s not, Do I
really connect with people?

MATTHEWS: Yes, but let me ask you, David, you`ve covered this like we
do. Is it today so important that you act like the average person and you
have to assume the garb of the average person, like, I`ve faced firings,
too, like a lot of you people. Do you have -- is that some new de rigueur
requirement of politics, that you have a wealthy man like him -- can`t he
just say, I`ve been privileged?

GREGORY: I think it`s any instinct to try to connect. But actually,
Romney`s been better in previous debates when he said, Look, if you`re
looking for somebody who grew up poor, that`s not me.

MATTHEWS: That would be a good answer.

GREGORY: But I think that -- but I do think voters are pretty
sophisticated. I don`t think they -- they sort of get it. I mean, I don`t
think they expect Mitt Romney, if they support him, to understand their
journey through life. He`s got his own...

MATTHEWS: Well, why`d he do it, then?

FINEMAN: I think he did it because -- because Rick Santorum got good
reviews for talking about his coal miner ancestors.

MATTHEWS: And his father`s big hands -- grandfather...

FINEMAN: Yes, the coal miner ancestors. Again, David`s right, on the
one hand, I think Romney`s too scripted at times, and they`re trying to
make him fit a narrative that he doesn`t quite fit into. But then when he
gets out on his own...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: ... for a few minutes, he makes it even worse.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) revelation. Congratulations.

GREGORY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I`ll say it many times.

GREGORY: I appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: It was one of the great debates. I think you got it
riveted (SIC) up to the level where they were forced to think quick on
their feet, and things happened. They weren`t able to rehearse every line.

FINEMAN: You know what? If the "MEET THE PRESS" debate had happened
on last Thursday or Wednesday, as opposed to yesterday, the dynamic in this
state could be different coming down to Tuesday night.

MATTHEWS: But then you can`t say this is Sunday, so it`s "MEET THE
PRESS."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This is Thursday.

GREGORY: It would never work.

MATTHEWS: Never work. Anyway, congratulations. Great work.

GREGORY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, David Gregory, Howard Fineman.

Coming up: Newt Gingrich is on a last-chance mission to hit Romney.
You might call it almost like a -- well, a kamikaze pilot. He`s going
right into this guy. He`s going to hurt himself, but he may blow up -- he
may possibly blow up what looks to be the insurmountable position of Mitt
Romney because of his position at Bain Capital. Here`s a Republican
attacking a Republican for business.

You`re watching HARDBALL from Manchester, on the eve of the big New
Hampshire primary up here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Mitt Romney`s under increasing
attacks, as I said, by his Republican rivals. And today a pro-Gingrich
super-PAC called Winning Our Future unveiled a new video calling Romney a
"predatory corporate raider" -- a predatory corporate -- this is a
Republican saying this. It interviews people who lost their jobs as a
result of Romney`s former employer, Bain Capital. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney became CEO of Bain Capital the day the
company was formed. His mission, to reap massive rewards for himself and
his investors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney and them guys, they don`t care who I
am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney took foreign seed money from Latin America
and began a pattern of exploiting dozens of American businesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel that is the man that destroyed us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Newt`s support is coming from an old friend, Shel
Nadelson, a Las Vegas billionaire, and the money`s already being spent,
$3.4 million already committed to a South Carolina ad campaign -- already
committed to. So will these attacks on Romney bring the front-runner down,
or is Gingrich setting the stage for what the Democrats will use later this
year? Maybe both.

John Harris is Politico`s editor-in-chief and Glen Johnson is politics
editor for "The Boston Globe." I also have to point out in the interests
of full disclosure, as we always do here, NBC Universal and Bain Capital
are both part-owner of the Weather Channel.

Let me ask you about this -- this thing here. If you wanted to do a
really good pre-game for President Obama, you would have a Republican spend
millions of dollars claiming that this job creator, Romney, is a job
chopper and destroyer, and a predator at that, John Harris.

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO.COM: Chris, it`s obviously not a new charge,
but it`s one that is potentially devastating for Mitt Romney if he does not
answer it effectively. If you look at the various charges that have been
leveled against Romney -- oh, that he`s a flip-flopper on things like
abortion or gay rights or what have you -- those don`t hit the bone because
people could say, Well, Mitt Romney probably doesn`t even care about those
things that much anyway. This is the essence of who he is as a...

MATTHEWS: Isn`t this a Karl Rove strategy, attack the strength?
Right, Glen?

GLEN JOHNSON, "BOSTON GLOBE": Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Go after the strength. Go after the main bragging point of
the guy and smash his face on it.

JOHNSON: Yes. And if you think about the scale of these ads -- I
mean, we`re talking about $3.7 million being dumped in South Carolina.
That`s about what Mitt Romney dropped on Newt Gingrich...

MATTHEWS: It`s saturation.

JOHNSON: ... or his Super-PAC, in Iowa. And it had a devastating
effect on him. Then you throw in Rick Perry competing down there, Rick
Santorum nipping at him, too, and you know, they`re thinking that South
Carolina could put this away for them, but it actually could be a real
tough state for them.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the point of what the ad says. Let`s take a
look at another piece of it to get a sense of it more. Here`s another
excerpt of that video going after Romney from a pro-Gingrich super-PAC.
Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They fire people. They cut benefits. They sell
assets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did he do when he was the CEO of this
holding company?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney,
more ruthless than Wall Street. For tens of thousands of Americans, the
suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I just want to suggest something. Maybe I just thought
this up, but I think it`s right. The president the last couple weeks has
been running a very sharp campaign saying it`s OK to make money if you`re
building something and creating jobs, like Stephen Jobs, Steve Jobs, or
Steven Spielberg, or Iacocca. Anybody that makes things and puts people to
work is a good American entrepreneur.

The people that make money off of money are not good people. I don`t
particularly like this, because we all try to make interest on our money.
We all try to get a dividend now and then. But it seems to me what he is
saying -- and here`s a direct case made for that -- Mitt Romney has not
made his money by creating jobs or building anything. He`s created by a
chop shop, one of these companies that goes in and chops apart companies
and gets rid of their so-called inefficiencies and creates a lot of debt
for them and watches them go broke down the road.

HARRIS: Yes, it`s a way of saying he`s not a real businessman in
terms of building something. He`s essentially a manipulator of money for
his own advantage, not for the greater good.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARRIS: People generally like the idea of businessmen in positions of
leadership. But they`re saying, wait a minute, he`s not really a
businessman in the way we think of it in terms of creating jobs.

Mitt Romney has got to answer this, as he has tried to at various
points...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: John, you know politics. You`re the editor of Politico.
In answering it, doesn`t he bring it to the fore of debate? Doesn`t he
make it the focus of the campaign? I`m not a job destroyer is a slogan.

Glen?

JOHNSON: Well, I think one of the problems, too, is this is the kind
of thing that resonates with voters.

The whole reason Mitt Romney is running now, he`s talking about jobs
haven`t been created. The people who are out of work right now, a lot of
them got put out of work by people who went in and laid off a huge number
of people. They can identify with the criticism of this kind of corporate
raider strategy that is now being used...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... once said it`s hard to kill a whispering campaign when
it`s true.

And if it true that he`s cost people jobs and these people are exhibit
A, how does he deal with them?

HARRIS: He has to say there`s been some job losses, but a lot more
job gains. I think he`s got to deal with it.

Mitt Romney is never going to be a Bill Clinton-style, I feel your
pain. But what he could say convincingly is I want more people to be
successful, like I have been successful. I want more opportunity.

MATTHEWS: Here`s the argument back here. Here`s Mitt Romney`s
response to the new negative campaign from the pro-Gingrich group. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gee, I thought he apologized
for going after my record of Bain. Wasn`t that just a couple weeks ago?
You apologize for that and now he`s decided to make that a centerpiece.
Well, I`m not going to worry about that.

As we will find out, free enterprise will be on trial. I thought it
was going to come from the president and the Democrats from the left. But
instead, it`s coming from Speaker Gingrich and apparently others. And
that`s just part of the process. I`m not worried about that. I have broad
shoulders. I`m happy to describe my experience in the private economy and
the fact that if you take all of the businesses that we invested in over
our many years, over 100 different businesses that collectively they net-
net over 100,000 new jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: To what extent do you think this is kind of a suicide
campaign for newt? How does Newt Gingrich show up on the Republican
platform should he lose this fight and endorse this guy?

JOHNSON: I don`t know. It`s a good question. This is like all in
for him. It`s not his committee. It`s a pro-Gingrich super committee.
But they are dumping a bomb on...

MATTHEWS: It`s Sheldon Adelson. It`s his guy.

JOHNSON: Right. They`re dumping a bomb on the potential nominee of
the party. It`s not like something people are going to be easily able to
forget.

MATTHEWS: And here`s Romney perhaps putting gas into the fire
speaking today about being able to fire people like insurance companies.
I`m not sure this is fair, but it`s a bad tone for him to be striking right
now. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means
the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also
means that if you don`t like what they do, you can fire them.

I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If
someone doesn`t give me the good service I need, I want to say that if --
I`m going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I like being able to fire people. Well, Jon Huntsman
responded to Romney later. Now, this is another Republican, by the way,.
This isn`t somebody like Kucinich coming after him.

Here it is. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s become abundantly
clear over the last couple of days what differentiates Governor Romney and
me. I will always put my country first. It seems that Governor Romney
believes in putting politics first. Governor Romney enjoys firing people.
I enjoy putting them to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Governor Romney enjoys firing people.

I was watching -- Billy Daley left, his chief of staff, as
presidential chief of staff, who was the pro-business guy. Is this
basically wheeling out the canon basically? It`s saying this is going to
be an anti-financier/big shot business guy, anti-Wall Street campaign,
Glen, and both sides know it? But here the Republicans are joining the
fight against the man who will probably pick up the pieces here and have to
defend it.

JOHNSON: It`s not surprise here the president goes out to Kansas a
couple weeks ago and delivers an Elizabeth Warren-style anti-Wall Street
speech. This is really where they feel the American people are and how
they can speak to them.

MATTHEWS: Is this a fifth column in the Republican Party against Wall
Street?

HARRIS: It`s obviously, at some level, you might even call it pious
bologna, Chris, because the Republicans, as a party, are not opposed to
what Bain Capital does.

MATTHEWS: To predatory business practices.

HARRIS: They call it free enterprise.

MATTHEWS: They do.

HARRIS: So there is a bit of hypocrisy here.

But it`s devastating because you have Republicans, Democrats, and the
news media reinforcing the message.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re an ad writer for the president and his party
right now. I saw a couple great bites there. He likes firing people. I
mean, they`re great ones.

Thank you, John Harris, thank you, Glen Johnson, real pros.

Up next: "Saturday Night Live" bids farewell to Michele Bachmann, one
of the first casualties of this campaign. That`s coming up next.

You`re watching HARDBALL from Manchester, on the eve of the New
Hampshire primary -- the actual eve. It`s tomorrow night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: last laugh.

Michele Bachmann finished sixth in the Iowa caucuses last week. It
meant, I guess, the end to her presidential bid. Well, "Saturday Night
Live" marked the occasion with its farewell to Bachmann`s time in the GOP
race. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You haven`t blinked since this campaign started?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I have not.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Would you like to now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I would love to.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, those babies were dry.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Do you mind if I shut them again for a second,
Seth?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, sure. Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You don`t mind?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS (singing): This is how we do it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: It`s like my eyes are eating a Peppermint
patty.

Simply, to the Iowa voters, I want to say thank you. I so enjoyed my
time with you. And in turn, I hope you enjoy a future that will be
littered with death panels, reeducation camps, and forced immunizations,
all ending in an Iranian nuclear bomb that will bring about the Rapture,
saving me and leaving you all to ask yourselves, what if?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Michele Bachmann, everybody.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well -- well, it`s time to look back to the beginning of
her campaign. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: What this election shows is that
people believe in this country. They love free enterprise. They love
capitalism. We want to make sure that we have jobs going forward.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Bachmann, are you hypnotized tonight? Has
someone hypnotized you? Because no matter what I ask you, you give the
same answer. Are you hypnotized? Has someone put you under a trance
tonight, that you give me the same answer no matter what question I put to
you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, we did go back to that. Anyway, raised at the
beginning, that question, was she hypnotized? Was her campaign what it
looked like, a trance?

Next up, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi was asked this weekend
about Newt Gingrich saying that that 2008 ad featuring the two former
speakers discussing climate change was -- quote -- "the dumbest thing I
have done in four years."

Well, here`s Pelosi`s reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: He who has been
fined $300,000 by the Ethics Committee, you think he`d consider that a big
mistake.

Since you brought up my name in association with him as the dumbest
thing he ever did, I think there`s plenty of stiff competition for that
honor as far as his activities are concerned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The former speaker is pretty tough. People don`t mind
being used. As you see there, they mind very much being discarded.

And finally, wanted, that`s the gist of some ads featuring former veep
Dick Cheney that popped up last month in "The Casper Star-Tribune," a local
paper in Wyoming. Its producers of the film are working on a documentary
about Cheney. They are looking for home movies and other material on
Cheney`s early days as a teenager and college student when he lived out
there in Wyoming.

Well, the producer, R.J. Cutler, got an Academy Award nomination for
"War Room," which focused on the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton. Maybe we
will find out something warm and fuzzy about Dick Cheney.

Up next, big changes at the White House. Chief of Staff Bill Daley
stepping down as President Obama gets into full campaign mode, I guess.

You`re watching HARDBALL from Manchester on the eve of the New
Hampshire primary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jane Wells with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

The Dow ends up 32 points. The S&P and the Nasdaq gained two and
change. Fourth quarter earnings season kicks off this week. Woo-hoo!
Reuters says profits will be up about 8 percent over a year ago, but that`s
down from a July prediction that there would be more than 17 percent
growth.

After the closing bell today, aluminum giant Alcoa reported a loss of
three cents a share. That was in line with what analysts were expecting.
However, sales were stronger than forecast. Consumers were borrowing in
November, according to the latest read on consumer credit. The Federal
Reserve says borrowing is up by $20.4 billion. That`s the biggest gain in
a decade. Credit card debt rose by $5.6 billion. That`s the biggest gain
since March 2008.

In the meantime, salaries at Goldman Sachs are going way down,
according to "Wall Street Journal." And the fixed income trading business,
that`s bond, 2011 pay is going to be down a whopping 60 percent from the
year before.

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

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Late breaking news from the White House today, Chief of Staff Bill
Daley is leaving his post at the end of the month. Daley will be replaced
by Budget Director Jack Lew.

The news comes as the president and his team has begun focusing
entirely on the reelection. Daley had been brought in, in the first place
to improve relations and focus on working with Republicans in Congress.

Joining me right now to talk about this development is Nia-Malika
Henderson, a reporter with "The Washington Post," and NBC News political
director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd.

Chuck, I have to start with you about this. We knew he had a
different role, a reduced role, because Pete Rouse has gotten the day-to-
day responsibilities as chief of staff, and that he was subordinate to the
campaign, but why did he quit right in the middle of a campaign starting
out?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This all happened over the
holidays, I`m told. Went home for the holidays, realized he didn`t like
living in Washington, D.C. Coming back, he thought I`m submitting my
resignation. Did it. The president tried to talk him out of it, I think
partly out of -- they don`t say this was the motivation, but I think partly
out of they didn`t want this story out here.

It looks bad for all the reasons we`re talking about, that it`s
looking particularly not -- and it looks like it`s a West Wing that`s just
not being well-managed, all this and that. But he had a reduced role.
Figurehead is too strong of a word, but it was certainly less than a
powerful chief of staff. Not a lot of business left to do with Congress
right now. It`s literally just getting the rest of this payroll tax deal
done.

And I think he didn`t look forward to the idea that he was just going
to be a leader in name only. And why do that if you don`t like living in
Washington in the first place?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m going to get back to you.

I want to start with Nia on this because people want to know this.

How does Obama run this country? Who runs it for him? Who is the
person that`s his job boss, the one who gets up in the morning and says, I
want this done today by the end of the day. If it doesn`t, if they don`t
take my orders, I want to know about it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who does he talk to? Who is his boss, his COO?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON
POST": Right. It used to be Rahm Emanuel. They brought in Bill Daley to
do some streamlining, to really I think decrease a lot of the inflow into
the White House.

Bill Daley sat in that office a lot with his door closed. He was very
much...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Who does the president call when he wants to bark
orders to, say, Joe Biden, I want you out there in Scranton this weekend, I
got some problems there? Who does he tell that to?

HENDERSON: I`m not sure. I don`t know if it was Bill Daley.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who told Sebelius to do -- the HHS secretary, to do
something?

TODD: Look, I think David Plouffe is the big decision-maker inside
this White House.

MATTHEWS: Who is the enforcer?

TODD: And I think at this point, it`s a Pete Rouse that -- when you
say who communicates with the rest of the government, I think it`s Pete
Rouse and in this case a Jack Lew who is going to be doing that .

But I think what Lew is going to do, he`s going to have no role -- I
was told this by multiple people I talked to today. He`s literally not
going to have any role on the campaign, which is unique for a chief of
staff in a first term.

MATTHEWS: Who hires and fires in the White House in the name of the
president? Who comes and says, you have to go, Mr. Cabinet Secretary,
you`re not pulling your load around here? Who has that kind of power? I`m
thinking of Jim Baker, his bosses.

TODD: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Who are the job bosses?

TODD: Look, it has been -- I would argue, from my feeling of it, is
that basically David Plouffe and Bill Daley have been sort of working hand
in hand. Whether one was the -- quote -- "boss" over the other, I wouldn`t
make a distinction between the two, but the two of them were supposed to be
basically co-equal partners.

MATTHEWS: OK. Nia, I want to ask you. I don`t have time to for
this. Let`s do a couple minutes on this.

Big story out in "The New York Times." Reporter -- what`s her name?

HENDERSON: Jodi Kantor.

MATTHEWS: Jodi Kantor wrote this big story.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be a big book coming out tomorrow, I believe,
that talks about the dysfunction in the White House, a big fight apparently
between Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff, and the first lady.

What do you make of it? Was it there? Have you seen this fight?

HENDERSON: I haven`t seen the fight, but I heard quite a bit about
it from former White House staffers. It`s certainly rings true. One of
things about Bill Daley, if there`s one thing that he did well, that was on
those first days, he called Michelle Obama to let her know that he was
there, and more kind of integration of the East Wing on the West Wing.

But I think this is a well-known struggle.

MATTHEWS: All right. Let`s talk about the important thing here.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Was there an ideological struggle between Rahm Emanuel and
the first lady? Was she more progressive, more liberal wanting to go
public option, things like that in the health care?

TODD: No. I think it`s less than ideologue.

MATTHEWS: What was she about then?

TODD: No. This was less than ideological struggle and more of a --
this is somebody protecting their husband, protecting the image.

MATTHEWS: But I read in this book a part of how she wanted to go
more aggressive on health care?

TODD: Yes, but it was more aggressive sometimes in messaging, more
aggressive in what you`re not feeling as if the way they were going about
it, which was going the back room way, which was, of course, the wrong
influence.

But, look, this book I think is really exposed. You know, it`s being
framed as the East Wing versus the West Wing. But the pivotal player here
is Valerie Jarrett --

HENDERSON: Right.

TODD: -- who I think is being, you know, somebody who was brought in
in `07 -- remember when she was brought in in the fall of `07 as the eyes
and ears essentially of Michelle Obama.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: And that`s the -- this tension has been there with the senior
folks who, remember, went from the campaign to the White House. That
tension never went away. Whatever happened, here, it never went away. And
I think what you`re seeing in this book is a little bit of score settling,
which in talking to other people who, I think talked to Judy Canter (ph),
admit that this doesn`t look good. All they made a pact that they weren`t
going to do this.

MATTHEWS: OK. Bottom line, explain it to the public. Explain to
the public why it matters that there`s been this friction, this fight
between the chief of staff and first lady. Why is it important to people
watching right now?

HENDERSON: Well, I think it`s important because it shows the first
lady in certainly a different light that she`s been in so far. It shows
her very involved with this White House, very much the keeper of this --
the flame of Obama. So, I think that`s why it`s important. I think it
might give spin on the different networks showing her as more of a co-
president, maybe too powerful. But I don`t think --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: She doesn`t want to be Hillary Clinton in that regard.

TODD: No. But I was just going to say, this is Nancy Reagan and
Hillary Clinton. It`s so reasonable.

HENDERSON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Of course, you look out for your spouse. That`s common
sense. And if it wasn`t the case, you`d wonder about that.

TODD: That would be weirder.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s right. Good work. We all agree on common
sense -- Chuck Todd, Nia-Malika Henderson.

As we all -- I have to say something sad now because we`re having a
good time. We lost a very good friend over the weekend, a noble colleague.
Tony Blankley was on this program and others like him for so many years
now. He was a man of political -- I should say patriotic commitment,
personal, really. I saw that so many times. And always a good cheer. He
was great company to work with. And we will miss him much.

There he is. Tony Blankley.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After dominating the 2010 elections, the Tea Party movement has made
a little more than a whimper in this 2012 presidential race. Take, for
instance, Herman Cain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This economy is on
life support. That`s why my 9-9-9 plan is a bold solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s bold and it`s gone. Cain dropped out December
3rd following allegations of an affair and inappropriate workplace
behavior. He said he`ll make an endorsement by the way on the Tuesday
before the South Carolina primary. It will be, quote, "unconventional."

But will it matter?

There`s also Rick Perry.

(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 the -- what`s the third one? Let`s see. The
third agency of government I would -- I would do away with, Education,
Commerce, and let`s see -- I can`t. The third one I can`t. Sorry. Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We call that a brain freeze in this business.

Anyway, this debate moment pretty much doomed the candidacy of Rick
Perry, although he`s still in the race. He hasn`t come near by the way the
levels of the support he had before that oops movement.

And finally Michele Bachmann who founded the Tea Party caucus in the
House. She dropped out of the presidential race last Wednesday after
coming in last in the Iowa caucuses, with just 5 percent of the vote out
there.

So, who will the Tea Party support in the end? And can they stop
Romney from winning this thing?

David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and not a member of the Tea
Party. He`s also Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones."

Matt Kibbe is president of the Tea Party organization FreedomWorks.

Matt, I`ve got to wonder what you`re thinking where you can stop
Romney, in what primary, in what caucus? How do you stop him if you can`t
stop before that at the convention? How do you do it?

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, I think this process is a lot more
competitive than a lot of analysts are saying because of Romney`s
persistent weakness in this process. He can`t get above 20-some percent.
And as long as that`s true, there`s going to be an alternative. And you
just ran through various iterations of folks that Tea Partiers looked at.

But we haven`t found that one champion we think that is the perfect
anti-Romney. And if this continues, I would argue that someone else is
actually going to get in this race.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about that. Of the people that are
in the race right now and have filed for these various primaries and
actually can win them now, who are you looking at?

KIBBE: Well, to be honest with you, the problem that we`re having
with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum is a lot of the votes that they made
that look a lot like Mitt Romney`s record. That`s the problem that a lot
of these politicians who are pre-Tea Party, they got in and started talking
our talk. And now, we`re taking a look at their record.

The most consistent performer frankly has been Ron Paul who stayed
around 20 percent.

MATTHEWS: OK. At 76 years old, can he be our next president, at the
age of 77? Can he be our next president in our world we live in?

KIBBE: No, I don`t think so. I think he`s running to drive an
agenda. He`s running to hold the other politicians accountable.

MATTHEWS: What are you talking about?

Let me go David Corn here.

I don`t know what they`re talking about. They don`t have a
candidate. They don`t have a guy who even in the horizon they are ready to
nominate. What happened to the Tea Party?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I almost feel sympathy for the Tea Party.
Listening to Matt, I can hear the pain in his voice. There`s no one in the
non-Mitt field who can appeal to these people.

And there`s no one coming in from the outside. You need delegates at
the convention. There`s not jump in -- Sarah Palin is not going to jump in
at this point in time. There`s nothing.

But I`ll give the Tea Party a tip of the hat, maybe of a tip of the
tri-corner hat because I do think they have affected the debate and the
shape of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney had a run to the right, I think
somewhat disingenuously, to get this report of conservative primary
Republican voters. But that has always been the case with Republican
primary elections.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at the situation at the Tea Party
in national polls. The Tea Party has lost support since the 2010
elections, where they were at the high point. As of November 2011, 20
percent say they agree with the Tea Party movement. That`s one in five.
Twenty-seven percent disagree.

Well, one year earlier, the numbers were reversed with 27 percent of
the country agreeing with the Tea Party, just 22 disagreeing.

When you look more closely at the 60 congressional districts
represented by Tea Party caucus members, the Tea Party is even losing
support there. In November 2011, 25 percent of voters in those districts
agreed, that`s one in four. With the Tea Party, 23 percent disagree. But
one year earlier, far more agree with the Tea Party, 30 percent.

Matt, if you are eroding in your support nationwide, how can you
convince the Republican Party voters that you`ve got the hot hand and you
should have a Tea Party favorite as the nominee?

KIBBE: Well, you know, the Tea Party as we know is not a political
party. And those polls measure as if we`re running against Republicans or
Democrats.

The Tea Party is a set of ideas. And those ideas still dominate this
Republican primary debate. They still dominate the concerns of the
American public who still believes that the government spending too much
money and is a damper on economic recovery.

That`s where we`re going to win. We`re going to change the debate.
We`re not running for office.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you who is running for office, Mitt
Romney. At an NBC/"Politico" debate of September of last year, Mitt Romney
declined to say he was a Tea Party member.

Let`s listen to him in his words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Starting with you, Governor Romney. Are
you a member of the Tea Party?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think you carry
cards in the Tea Party. I believe in a lot of what the Tea Party believes
in. The Tea Party believes the government is too big, taxing too much and
we ought to get to the work of getting Americans to work.

So, if the Tea Party is for keeping government small and spending
down and helping us create jobs, then, hey, I`m for the Tea Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Not exactly a membership claim there.

CORN: Let me get some credit to Barack Obama here for the numbers
you just showed. If you look at the budget fight, the debt ceiling fight,
the payroll tax fight and what`s happened with the American Jobs Act, I
think he has shown the course of this past year that the Tea Party values
are not the values that a lot of Americans have.

He put them on the defensive. That`s one reason these numbers are
going down.

MATTHEWS: But, Matt Kibbe, you are a leader of the party. Let`s
talk about you are a leader of the Tea Party movement. How are you going
to get to Tampa, to the Republican national convention to influence them?

Are you going to be able to get credentials? How are you getting in
the door? How are Tea Party people getting in the door?

KIBBE: I don`t plan on going to the convention at this point. And
again, we`re not trying to run inside. This is about whether or not
whoever wins the nomination actually runs on the agenda that we`ve all
shown up to defend.

And I think both Barack Obama has changed his language about what he
cares about and I think Republicans have as well. But I appreciate the
fact that you are both worried the Tea Party is not changing America
quickly enough and I`m sure Tea Partiers appreciate that you care. But
understand -- this is not a process that`s going to change overnight.
Politics is not going to change overnight. And balancing the budget is not
going to change overnight.

MATTHEWS: I think you are being too humble. A year or so ago, you
took over the Congress of the United States. You beat Pelosi out of her
job. You took over the speakership. You basically ran the Congress for
the last year.

So you know how to influence elections but not this one for
president. And that`s what`s different from the last time around in 2010.

Anyway, we`ll talk about it again later.

David Corn, Matt Kibbe. It`s still an open question. You had power.
You don`t.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the absurd pretentions, by the
way, of Mitt Romney.

You`re watching HARDBALL from Manchester Hampshire on the night
before the New Hampshire primary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

In the Hans Christian Andersen story, the emperor of lore appeared
before the people wearing what he called his new clothes. Everyone around
him, cordiates (ph), the hangers on raved about the great leader`s new
attire which really consisted of nothing at all. He was naked except to
those who clung to him seeking the benefits which often flow from an
emperor, a man who can dispense his patronage to those who bow before him,
singing his praises on all occasions.

Well, think of Mitt Romney. He presents himself in the new clothes
of a conservative, a figure who has no faith in government, a hard-nosed
man of the right who has great fondness for the Tea Party, great distaste
for other countries, who assumes all the trappings of the American angry
enemies of the establishment. Oh, yes, that other adornment, he`s a man
who never and he wears this code well, wanted to serve a life in politics.

He ran for the Senate but never really wanted to serve a career
there. It helped that he lost that race to Ted Kennedy. He ran for
governor and was elected, but never intended to run for reelection because
that, in his words, would have made it about him.

Mitt Romney isn`t one of those politicians who runs for office with
the idea of serving there. He`s just a private citizen, a conservative
businessman who on some occasions offers himself for public service.

Well, of course, all this is nonsense. These new clothes he`s
adorned himself with are not real at all. He`s been a moderate governor of
Massachusetts who started the individual mandate which President Obama
applied to the country as a whole. He is in fact a fellow who has been
running for office since the early part of the 1990s, and in all
probability has had his eyes on the presidency since, as my colleague
Lawrence O`Donnell noted early today, since his father lost the race in
1968.

Well, the emperor`s new clothes which Mitt Romney has been sporting
since he began his run for the presidency were all the fashion in the
Republican Party right up until yesterday morning when in a truly great
debate, his rivals suddenly, much like that young boy in the Hans Christian
Andersen tale, began to shout, "The emperor has no clothes. The emperor
has no clothes."

And now, Mitt Romney, should he survive and win the Republican
nomination, will go in the battle against President Obama as starkly naked
as any candidate in history. He will have been exposed by those in his own
party that know he`s neither a true blue believer in his conservative
party`s ideology, nor the innocent citizen free of ambition who`s coming on
to save is country.

He is, in fact, a moderate Republican politician who has hoped to get
to the presidency by whatever course of ideology and fashion that will get
him there.

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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