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updated 2/8/2012 10:33:18 AM ET 2012-02-08T15:33:18

Guests: Seema Mody, Howard Fineman, Susan Milligan, E.J. Dionne, John Feehery, Dee Dee Myers, Tom
Tancredo, David Boies, Gavin Newsom

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Church versus state.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off
tonight, a hot one: Church, state, and presidential politics. The Obama
administration has gotten itself into a fight with the Catholic church. At
issue, its ruling that religious institutions -- colleges, universities and
hospitals -- must provide full insurance coverage for birth control.

The Catholic church says it is being required to pay for something it
views as morally wrong. Is this an attack on religious freedom, as some,
but not only Republicans, are arguing, or simply the effort of the
government to provide state-of-the-art health care? Let`s get to that one
right up front tonight.

Plus, reversal of fortune. You can hear the charges of hypocrisy
already, hypocrisy. Four years ago, candidate Obama said he would accept
public funding, then opted out when he saw how much money he could raise
privately. Now, after denouncing super-PACs, the Obama campaign is
embracing them. Is Mr. Obama violating a principle? Yes. Will he get
lots of money to fight off Republican attacks? Yes, again. And will he
lose any votes because of it? Probably no.

Also, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota hold contests tonight in the
Republican race for president. The big question tonight, can Rick Santorum
pick off a state or two, maybe win two, and give the Romney campaign a new
headache it doesn`t need?

And a big victory for supporters of gay marriage today. A federal
appeals court, the 9th, out in California has struck down the gay marriage
ban in California known as Prop 8. The ruling is a narrow one, and the
case is likely to wind up in the Supreme Court.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with that conflict between the right of
the government to protect what it views as public health and the right of a
religion to practice its deepest moral beliefs.

We start with that fight the Obama administration has gotten itself
into it with the Roman Catholic church. Susan Milligan writes for "U.S.
News & World Report," and E.J. Dionne is a columnist for "The Washington
Post."

Lady and gentleman, here we are.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Here we are.

MATTHEWS: Here we are, an issue that it was once said never argue
religion or politics, since we argue politics all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is the trickiest for me. Let me state the fact, and
then we`ll begin the discussion here. A new ruling by HHS and this
administration as part of its new health care bill says that if you`re an
organization, any organization, and you provide health coverage, that
should include without co-pay coverage for contraceptives, that`s birth
control, but also birth control devices such as IUDs and morning after
pills, which the Catholic church views as abortive because it doesn`t
involve prevention conception, it prevents the attachment to the uterine
wall.

Most people understand these issues, especially Catholics. Now, the
question is fundamental. You and I are church goers of the Catholic church
and we understand this issue and we heard it on the church altar I think
two weeks ago. It stunned me when I heard it from the cardinal. So I know
how hot this issue is.

My question -- explain to non-Catholics watching right now why the
church opposes financing, paying the insurance costs that covers without
co-pay these methods.

E.J. DIONNE, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, the church has, you know, back
in the `60s, decided that artificial contraception, as they called it, was
immoral. Now, it should be...

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: It should be said that you don`t see a lot of Catholic
families of 11 or 12 anymore and that most Catholics...

MATTHEWS: The new five in our family is three.

DIONNE: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

DIONNE: We have three kids.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we went from five of us and five in my wife`s family
to three kids, and we are what you see in the pews. Agreed.

DIONNE: Right. But the church has this position, and I think even
among more liberal Catholics -- and I`m a liberal Catholic -- there`s a
feeling that there should be some space for these religious organizations
that provide so much social service work, health care -- one in six
patients go into a Catholic hospital. They ought to have some religious
liberty rights, the same way as you wouldn`t tell a Quaker college you have
to have ROTC on your campus. You have to offer ROTC to your students.

MATTHEWS: Right.

DIONNE: And so I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... where a very observant Jewish group was allowed to vote
after sundown.

DIONNE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Allowances are made all the time.

DIONNE: Correct. And then I think the other piece of this is that a
lot of people inside the church who supported President Obama on health
care reform, people like Sister Calkeen (ph), the president of the Catholic
(INAUDIBLE) Association, said, We`re willing to find a compromise here, but
you have to show us some sense of respect for this religious liberty right.

And it`s going to weaken all of the progressives inside the Bishops
Conference and inside the church that the administration was not willing to
give anything on this issue. And I think that`s an important underlying
political fact here.

MATTHEWS: Susan Milligan?

MILLIGAN: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You wrote for "The Globe" all those years...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Catholic church issue up there. You know how hot it
can be.

MILLIGAN: Yes, I absolutely do, and I can certainly understand why
this is a very, very difficult issue for the church. But we`re talking
about providing birth control in the church, we`re talking about businesses
that the church is running and their employed...

MATTHEWS: Like what? Like what (INAUDIBLE)

MILLIGAN: Hospitals, universities...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLIGAN: You don`t think a hospital is a business or...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I went to a college called Holy Cross, which was very
religious. You had to go to church every day.

MILLIGAN: OK.

MATTHEWS: Every semester, you had to take a course in philosophy and
religion. So the idea that these schools are just technically Catholic is
not an argument.

MILLIGAN: All right, but do you think that...

MATTHEWS: Or Georgetown or Villanova. They`re all the same.

MILLIGAN: Do you think that everybody sweeping the floors at
Georgetown is Catholic?

MATTHEWS: No, that`s the point. Well, go on to your point.

MILLIGAN: So the point is not everybody working there is Catholic,
and they may -- this is basic health care for them. And that`s -- you
know, that`s what it is. I mean, presumably, if the Catholic church...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about the people -- well, first of all, 90-some
percent of Catholics practice birth control.

MILLIGAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: So why can`t the church leave it up to the worker?

DIONNE: A couple of things. One, there are 28 state laws that more
or less provide for contraception. The church lives with those. There are
Catholic institutions that already do cover contraception either because
they choose to or because of collective bargaining agreements. I think...

MATTHEWS: Do they include these issues like -- and they`re very hot
for people who are Catholic...

DIONNE: I`m not sure they cover...

MATTHEWS: IUDs...

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: But I think that there was a way to deal with this problem.
My friend, Melissa Rogers, whom you had on your show a little while ago,
sort of pointed to Hawaii, where what you do is you do not force the
religious institutions to pay for this, but you make available somehow
through the policy, at very low cost or no cost to individuals, that they
can opt in and get it themselves. That way you do...

MATTHEWS: Who would that make happy?

DIONNE: ... cover...

MATTHEWS: Anybody?

DIONNE: Well, no, but it would be a fair compromise. Maybe the
solution here is not to make anybody fully happy, but to say there are
competing rights here, the right of the church for religious liberty...

MATTHEWS: OK...

DIONNE: ... and the right of people...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure who started this fight. I`m trying to
understand it. I know the church position because it`s never changed.

MILLIGAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: The Obama position is, Let`s get reelected, I would think.
But also, it has a very strong feminist, if you will, constituency,
certainly pro-choice constituency, and women. Most Democrats are women.
The Catholic study (INAUDIBLE) George Weigel (ph), who I recommend you read
occasionally, said on this issue, it`s an emotional one for Catholics.
Let`s listen to this guy. This guy`s our scholar on Catholic affairs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This has struck a kind of tribal nerve in Catholicism.
Catholic church has been beaten up for the last 10 or 11 years, and I think
Catholics are tired of the government and others beating up on the church.
That`s, in my view, one of the political facts behind this rather
extraordinary reaction across the Catholic spectrum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: See, to me, I mean, certainly, every woman I know has a
view on this strong because women should have a right to make decisions,
obviously. Men make them. Women should make them with equal power and
equal rights. Obviously, that`s not the issue. If I thought that was the
issue, I wouldn`t be sort of concerned about the way this is developed.

I think it`s a question of the church -- here`s -- I guess I grew up
watching movies like "Beckett" and "Man for All Seasons" and seeing the
church and state go to war with each other and being told stories from the
Old Testament about the Maccabees, about people -- families being told,
You`ve got to eat pork, the state requires you to do it.

It gets to that interesting point to me, which is frightening, when
the state starts telling the church what to do. And then the church can no
longer teach. If the church teaches it`s morally wrong to use birth
control, how can you make the teacher pay for birth control without losing
their authority, their moral authority? That`s what the church is afraid
of.

If they start financing, under the law, what they`re called to do, do
they have anymore credibility on the issue of birth control or anything
else? That`s what I think is the concern here. It`s a political issue. I
agree. If you can make them do it, they can`t teach it anymore.

MILLIGAN: Look...

MATTHEWS: I`m just asking.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLIGAN: ... I think, first of all...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLIGAN: Let`s separate the fundamental faith that Catholics have in
God and in their religion from something like banning birth control, which
is, you know, a dictate of the church, and as you pointed out, 98 percent
of Catholics don`t follow it. So -- but I think the issue here is that,
yes, if you`re talking about, you know, people who are working in an actual
church, I don`t think any one of us would say they would have to pay for
birth control or...

MATTHEWS: How is that different than working at a Catholic college?

MILLIGAN: Because when you`re working at...

MATTHEWS: Or a hospital?

MILLIGAN: ... a university, I really doubt that every professor at
Georgetown University is Catholic.

MATTHEWS: Not everyone, no.

MILLIGAN: Well, no. And why should those people be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... tenured professor at Georgetown.

MILLIGAN: Why should those people be discriminated against and be
denied this -- what a lot of people...

MATTHEWS: What are they being denied? What are they being denied?

MILLIGAN: Basic health care coverage.

MATTHEWS: See, the issue is whether there would be a co-pay or not.
Isn`t that the issue?

DIONNE: See, I think that...

MILLIGAN: Well, but it`s a different standard. Why should there be a
different standard...

MATTHEWS: I agree. OK, this is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is where it gets to be tricky, and I don`t have the
answer.

MILLIGAN: Yes.

DIONNE: See, that`s where...

MATTHEWS: I know why...

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: ... compromise can actually get people covered without the
church paying for it. But I think there`s this Catholic fear that -- and
this is -- I think this is especially true of liberals. One of the things
we love about the church is all the stuff the church does for people who
are not Catholic.

MILLIGAN: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: I know.

DIONNE: The inner city schools for inner city kids who aren`t
Catholic, the social service agencies that feed people who aren`t Catholic.
And I think that when you say it`s only these rules -- or there`s an
exception only for churches themselves, only for cultic (ph) activities,
but not for this essential...

MATTHEWS: Yes, OK...

DIONNE: ... the social justice work, I think that just rankles...

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you...

DIONNE: ... the Catholics.

MATTHEWS: ... the big schools in the big cities, as you know, all
teach kids, mostly -- many African-American kids who are Protestant in
their upbringing and remain Catholic (SIC) -- nobody converts them -- my
aunt Eleanor, who`s a sister of St. Joseph, my mom`s sister, has been
teaching what we used to call "retarded" children, now special education,
since 1944. They`re teaching all kinds of kids.

Anyway, the Republican presidential candidates have gone after the
president. And I`m not with any of these guys. I`m just listening to
them.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They`re absolutely fishing in troubled waters. They`re
talking about the issue of religious institutions being forced to finance
birth control as part of their health care coverage. Let`s hear the
political people now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The
administration has said that under "Obama care" that religious
organizations like schools, Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, and so
forth have to -- have to provide for free contraceptives and free morning
after pills, abortive pills, for all of their employees in violation of the
religious conscience of those organizations. This kind of assault on
religion will end if I`m president of the United States!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And now Newt Gingrich uses the issue to hit both the
president and Mr. Romney himself. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:
There`s been a lot of talk about the Obama administration`s attack on the
Catholic church. Well, the fact is, Governor Romney insisted that Catholic
hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he
was governor.

I think the Massachusetts moderate finds it very hard to draw a sharp
contrast with somebody who is an Illinois radical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Rick Santorum vowed -- he jumped into the act here to
make the Obama administration issue (ph) every day of the campaign, and he
is. Let`s listen to him today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This
administration, as you can tell from my reaction, has been hostile to
people of faith, particularly Christians and specifically Catholics. And
I`m not going to stand for it! And I`m going to call him out on it. And
they better change it. And if they don`t, I`m going to make it an issue
every day of this campaign!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you heard that, Susan.

MILLIGAN: Well, first of all, I don`t think any one of these
candidates would be seizing on this issue so strongly if the economy
weren`t doing just ever so slightly better. I mean, I think -- at this
point, I think the issue is still going to be jobs and the economy in this
campaign.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

MILLIGAN: And they want to insert a social wedge issue.

DIONNE: The Obama campaign is -- the Obama administration has given
tens of millions of dollars to Catholic institutions. They work really
well with a lot of them. And that`s why I don`t understand why they picked
this fight because they`ve done a lot of stuff in cooperation with Catholic
social service (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: You know, I`ll tell you, this is hotter than anybody
thought it would be, hotter than I thought it would be, until I heard it in
church and the way it was described to me, and I go, Wow. Susan Milligan,
thank you, dear. And thank you, dear.

(LAUGHTER)

DIONNE: Thank you!

MATTHEWS: Everybody`s "dear." I got to be equally -- coming up,
after -- it`s an old Tip O`Neill habit. I got to break that. Don`t call
people "dear."

After denouncing super-PACs, the Obama campaign is now embracing them.
A little hypocrisy here, but nobody`s going to care on left or the right.
Republicans cry hypocrisy, but the president`s team has watched big money
tear down -- for example, Newt Gingrich being demolished in both Iowa and
Florida. They`ve learned -- - they don`t want to be demolished. Equal
playing field. That`s what they`re swaying now, the president and his
people. And that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Big news here. A top official at the Susan G. Komen
Foundation is out after last week`s controversial decision to cut funding
from Planned Parenthood. Karen Handel, the vice president for public
policy at the Komen Foundation, has resigned. Handel was widely blamed for
the decision to stop funding breast cancer screenings at Planned
Parenthood, a decision the Komen Foundation reversed late last week.
Handel, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for governor of Georgia on a
platform that included defunding Planned Parenthood.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: After long criticizing the phenomenon of super-PACs, last
night the president shifted course. The White House announced they would
give their blessing now to the main super-PAC supporting the president`s
reelection, Priorities USA.

We`ve all seen what kind of effect these super-PACs have had in the
campaign so far. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent in the
Republican primaries to blanket the airwaves with ads that are
overwhelmingly negative. The White House said, given that reality, it had
no choice but to get into the game.

Critics say the president`s move is hypocritical, but will it matter
in the end? What effect will the super-PACs have on the presidential
election this year?

Dee Dee Myers is former press secretary to President Clinton and a
contributor to "Vanity Fair," and John Feehery`s a Republican strategist of
some note.

John Feehery (INAUDIBLE) hypocrisy by the president?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well...

MATTHEWS: You`re saying he`s not a Goody two-shoes, right?

FEEHERY: Well, the hypocrisy...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: The hypocrisy`s obvious. The bigger question is, I think
there`s a sense of panic in the Obama administration. They`ve got to get
in the game and start raising money. They have a super-PAC already,
Priorities USA, that`s raised no money. And they`re worried that this
billion dollars that they were supposed to have is not going to show up...

MATTHEWS: It`s not going to be a deal maker, yes.

FEEHERY: And the issue is, the president`s pretty weak with the
voters, even though -- even though he`s doing better than Mitt Romney now.

MATTHEWS: He`s mezza-mezza.

FEEHERY: He`s in trouble!

MATTHEWS: You (INAUDIBLE) If they let this game go the way it`s been
going in the primaries, with Republicans raising zillions of dollars to put
these nasty, negative, dirtball ads on the air -- and they`re all doing it
now -- if he has to face that defenseless without the super-PACs, he`d be
in trouble. Do you agree?

DEE DEE MYERS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it would be
harder for sure. I mean, there`s no question about that. They saw not
only the amount of money the Republicans are raising (INAUDIBLE) the super-
PACS but the tenor of the ads that are being funded by those. And a lot of
them are directed at President Obama already. There`ll be many millions
more spent, so...

MATTHEWS: Take a look...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at some of the ads that have run in the primary,
just to remind everybody how nasty they are. The pro-Romney super-PAC
Restore Our Future blanketed the airwaves in early states, like, in Iowa,
destroying Newt Gingrich there. Here`s one that seemed to prove effective.
Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

GINGRICH: It was probably a mistake.

I made a mistakes.

I`ve made mistakes at times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whoops!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Haven`t we had enough mistakes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that seems to work. Another anti-Newt ad put out by
the pro-Romney super-PAC. Let`s watch that one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich`s attacks are called foolish, out
of bounds, and disgusting. Newt attacks because he has more baggage than
the airlines. Newt was fined $300,000 for ethics violations, took $1.6
million from Freddie Mac and co-sponsored a bill with Nancy Pelosi that
would have given $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China`s
brutal "one child policy." Don`t be fooled by Newt`s desperate attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, John Feehery, I`ve seen negative ads. They`re
pretty good. Remember the one from Castro, "Muchas gracias, Senator"...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... in Tennessee because he had given -- he`d supported
funding for the IMF. And somehow, some of that money had gotten to Castro,
so he`s a Castro-ite. You know, these ads can be nasty and technically
accurate...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... technically accurate.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: I am shocked, shocked that people do negative campaigning.
The Obama administration knows (INAUDIBLE) negative campaigning because
they did more negative campaigns than any campaign in the history against
John McCain last time because they had all the money.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... didn`t seem that way?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: John Feehery, why didn`t it seem that way? Why did it seem
like he ran a spirited, upbeat, rousing campaign?

FEEHERY: Well, he didn`t do the commercials here in D.C.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: ... everywhere else in the country and carpet-bombed McCain.
It was devastating. They are smart to try to get off this idea of being
pure. There`s a little bit of hypocrisy. Well, actually, it`s a lot of
hypocrisy.

MATTHEWS: Part of this is money. I look at a guy like Karl Rove,
Karl Rove, able to raise -- if you put all his different money together --
something like $50 million in different checks he`s been able to raise,
some of it super PAC, some of it other funded, non -- NGO money.

The power of these guys to raise money. Obama has to get into the
money game. He has to get into the negative advertising game. Right?

MYERS: As John pointed out, they played the game in 2008. They ran
ads. I think one of the reasons the president came off as continually
positive because he spoke at his events and speeches he gave very positive.
And that will contrast.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Romney has not sold himself. Most people don`t really like
him. He`s mixed some messages. In fact, his negatives have gone up we
have seen in the last...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But he`s destroyed his opponents. He`s destroyed his
opponents.

MYERS: But -- and he`s paying a terrible price for it on some level,
because he`s not letting that happen just on the airwaves. He`s doing it
from the stump as well.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Didn`t he only spend than one point -- 1 percent of the
spending that went on in Florida I believe was positive for Romney. The
rest was like...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: And that is that all the negative campaign ads that Mitt
Romney runs are not going to have an impact on Barack Obama, because people
already know Barack Obama.

And this is going to be an election based on whether he`s done a good
job. And I think he`s in real trouble. I think he might lose the election
because he`s not done a good job as president.

MATTHEWS: But you don`t think they`re out raising as much money right
now...

FEEHERY: Well, they are because they have to counter all the negative
ads that the Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me just tell you something you know. I`m going to tell
you something. I`m going to remind you of something.

Romney has one great strength. What did he do in business? Raise
money. What does he do in politics? Raise money. He has got the LDS
money. He has got the Bain Capital money. He has got his connections in
the finance world, in the equity world. It`s enormous how much trust he
has from those people.

And guess what else? They are on his side on all the issues. They
don`t like regulation. They don`t like taxes. They want to -- carried
interest, they want all that stuff to their advantage. There`s a lot of
interest and a lot of motive out there to kill Obama politically. You know
that.

MYERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: From rich people.

FEEHERY: I think this is going to be decided...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They are going to be raising tons of money against him,
because money benefits from the defeat of Obama. You know it does.

MYERS: Here`s the thing, though. The president -- the super PAC has
not raised a lot of money for a couple reasons. One was the president
hadn`t embraced it.

The other is the Democratic -- once we have a Republican nominee and
Democrats get a load of who that is and it`s a two-person race, you will
see the Democratic money start to pour in.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Fundamental issue because voters here -- people who watch
this program I know take politics seriously, not just philosophy, but the
way the thing works, the way you win elections and lose them. They pay
attention to that.

Do you think that a grown person who is 18 years or older, male,
female of any background, would be moved, after knowing this president for
three or four years, deciding what they care about, will be moved by a TV
ad?

FEEHERY: I don`t. I actually think it`s overrated. I think that
actually earned media -- people will pay more attention to earned media. I
think people will pay more attention to his record.

And things like this, what you talked about in the last segment, I
think the Catholic Church is going to be angry.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s a hot issue.

FEEHERY: Catholic voters will come out and vote against this
president, and I think it will hurt the president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You make a mistake in one of the three presidential
debates, 1.5 hours, 4.5 hours to make a mistake, and you make one mistake.
You will see that for two weeks before the election, right? That`s what
you`re going to see over and over and over again repeated, your mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: Right, in the news media, right?

MATTHEWS: And also on the paid ads.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: Maybe. But you will have another billion dollars in addition
to it repeating on MSNBC and FOX or all the other places, because that`s
how the news cycle works.

FEEHERY: I think it has more of an impact on people who don`t know
who the candidates are. I think it`s more on the House and Senate levels.

On the presidential level, something like this, where they know the
candidates, they know Mitt Romney, they know Barack Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m waiting to see what`s going on now. A week before the
election, say two days before the election, the candidate looks up and he
sees his numbers and he is down by three points, Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Now you can raise so much money in five minutes from your
richest backers out there, the guys with real money, and you get put it on
the air immediately.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: But it`s going to be a last-minute...

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be election eve.

Anyway, thank you, Dee Dee Myers. You`re Dee Dee Myers.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And you`re John Feehery.

You watch how much dirt ball negative goes on in this campaign right
near the end after the debates.

Up next, Michele Bachmann calls herself, well, what else, the perfect
candidate. I think she`s still in that trance. And that`s in the
"Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow." It`s a great one
tonight.

First up, you had your chance. Michele Bachmann may be a has-been in
the 2012 Republican presidential race, but that doesn`t stop people from
asking her what she thinks of the remaining candidates. As it turns out,
Bachmann has an interesting opinion on how the final four stack up.

Here`s what she said in an interview with Bloomberg`s Albert Hunt last
week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERT HUNT, BLOOMBERG: Remain above the fray. But you sat in almost
a dozen debates with these people. You have a feel for them. Let me ask
you this it. Who is the more conservative of these four candidates left?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I was. I was the perfect
candidate.

When I went out there, America had their chance with the perfect
candidate. But any of our candidates are going to be acceptable to the
American people and more than acceptable, because right now, if you look at
the Gallup map that came out this week, President Obama is in big trouble
all across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. There you have it. "I was the perfect candidate."
Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the rightest of them all?

And finally, so much for science. That`s right. In the final push to
rack up some votes in today`s contests, Rick Santorum took to the
microphone in Colorado yesterday to call out the Obama administration for
as he put it putting politics ahead of science on the topic of global
warming. Well, you know what`s coming now. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most important thing
we need to do, which is what this administration has not done, which is to
use sound science, not politicized science.

We saw it with global warming, an absolute travesty of scientific
research that was motivated by politics. I for one never bought the hoax
to suggest one minor factor of which man`s contribution is a minor factor
in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects
the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s all a hoax, didn`t you know? All those phony
dinosaur bones buried everywhere all designed to mislead us with this
evolution business.

By the way, it`s 55 degrees today in Washington and it`s February.

Coming up, the Republican race moves on to Colorado, Missouri, and
Minnesota. Is tonight the night Rick Santorum breaks through?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEEMA MODY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Seema Mody with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

The Dow climbs 33 points, the S&P 500 adds about three, and the Nasdaq
gains three. Coca-Cola earnings beat Street estimates, sending shares up
nearly 1 percent today. After the closing bell, Disney reported profits
that were better than expected, but revenue missed. Shares were off more
than 1 percent after-hours. And a shakeup at Yahoo! as four board members,
including its chairman, announced their departures.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: A Romney nomination would not be in the best interest of us
winning the general election and that we need to have a conservative
alternative. And my feeling is that Speaker Gingrich has sort of had his
chance in the arena and came up short in Florida and Nevada. And now it`s
our turn hopefully to get a one on one in Missouri, which we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was of course former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum last
night going after his Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

There are three Republican races today out in the country, Minnesota,
Colorado, and Missouri, a state in which Gingrich is not on the ballot,
that last state. Santorum is trying to portray himself as the conservative
alternative now to Romney, so much so in fact that the Romney campaign has
taken time to criticize the once-ignored Santorum. So they`re biting back
at this guy.

So, just what threat does Santorum pose at this point? And going
forward in the race for the nomination, does he really have a chance to
knock off Romney?

Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, himself a former
presidential candidate, recently endorsed Rick Santorum for president.

Mr. Tancredo, thanks for joining us tonight.

TOM TANCREDO (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I have got to wonder why you`re jumping into this race at
this point.

TANCREDO: What is this Mr. Tancredo thing? It`s Tom.

MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman, U.S., sir, whatever.

OK, Tom.

(LAUGHTER)

TANCREDO: Tom. Tom.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Give me the case. Give me the case. We talk politics on
this show, sometimes philosophy, usually politics. How does he win, Rick
Santorum?

TANCREDO: Yes. He wins -- the primary you`re talking about, or the
general?

MATTHEWS: How does he win the primaries?

(CROSSTALK)

TANCREDO: OK. He`s going to win the primary because he has I think
now got the momentum behind him. And this is the right time to have it.
Others have had it in the past. It did not work out for them, but I think
it`s now occurring.

I think he`s going to win tonight in Minnesota and he`s going to win
in Missouri. He will come out in Colorado at least second. And if that
happens here, where Romney had 60 percent the last time, it will be a win
for Santorum. The wind is at his back now.

There is every reason to believe that it will only get better as time
goes on, although, certainly, there`s going to be a lot. The race is not
over. Look, you need 1,140-some delegates. I think Governor Romney has
about 89, something like that. It`s a long way from the finish line.

MATTHEWS: Is he willing to knock the guy`s block off?

I get the feeling that your guy, your new guy here, your new flavor of
the month, mr. Santorum, is really running for V.P.

TANCREDO: No.

MATTHEWS: And, therefore, he really isn`t running against Mitt Romney
in any serious way, the way that Newt, who is -- freedom is just another
word for nothing else to lose. He`s willing to throw the frying pan at
him.

But your guy seems like, I have got to be nice enough to this guy that
he will consider me for veep when we get to Tampa. You don`t believe that?

Come on. You know politics.

TANCREDO: I don`t think so. No, I don`t think that`s it. I really
don`t.

I think what he`s doing however is trying his best to avoid the kind
of vitriolic campaign that was waged up to this point in time by the ex-
speaker and certainly to a certain extent by Romney. That has not helped
anybody. It`s not going to help going into the general election no matter
who is the nominee, except for Santorum, who has really stayed above that
fray.

And I think that has given him a lot of impetus. I think that`s been
a part of the reason why he`s now growing, because he hasn`t been a part of
that ugly aspect of the primary.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let`s face it. Romney did a lot of ugly
himself. But it was all done by those indirect super PACs who did the
dirty work for him while he kept his fingernails clean.

You know what the word cute means, Tom. Well, here are some
statements issued by the Romney campaign just yesterday about Santorum.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said -- quote -- "Rick Santorum is a
nice guy, but he`s simply not ready to be president."

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And here was Santorum last night in response to the
criticism. Let`s watch Santorum, your guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Governor Romney on that vitally important issue of
Obamacare is, in fact, the weakest candidate that we could put up and, in
fact, takes a rallying cry issue that was the centerpiece of the 2010
election that motivated people to come out to vote and give us an electoral
victory, Mitt Romney is uniquely positioned to give that issue away and
weaken our chances to beat President Obama.

Campaigns are about ideas. And on the ideas that matter most to the
American public right now, he`s on the wrong side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So is it a fair shot, Tom Tancredo, that what Romney has
done so far is run a demolition campaign against people, especially Newt
Gingrich, destroying him in Iowa and Florida, running negative super PAC
ads, while not really offering something positive?

To this day, we pay attention here, I haven`t heard the Romney plan
for the next four years to get us out of this economic challenge we`re in
right now. Do you think he`s ran a negative or positive campaign, Romney?

(CROSSTALK)

TANCREDO: Here`s what I think that Romney has been doing.

And that is setting the stage for a debate between him and Obama on
who can best control -- handle the economy, who has the best record for
creating jobs and for, you know, essentially, increasing prosperity.

And I think Romney feels, and I think rightly so, that he can make a
case for that, that he`s better at it than Obama. Hell, my dog is better
at it than Obama.

MATTHEWS: OK.

TANCREDO: So there`s no issue in terms of who is better in terms of
the economy.

But the question that I think Santorum is asking is an important one.
Will the economy be the issue in the election? I mean, it is possible that
we are going to see a decrease in unemployment. It`s possible that we will
see a little bit of growth in the economy. And as that happens, it takes
that issue away from the Republican challenger.

(CROSSTALK)

TANCREDO: And then you better start talking about those other things
that really matter.

Which view of America is right? Is it Obama and the Zuccotti Park
protesters? Or is it Santorum...

MATTHEWS: OK.

TANCREDO: ... and, in fact, if you want to say it, the Tea Party
people?

I mean, which view of America is better?

MATTHEWS: OK.

TANCREDO: Is it -- is it the Obama view of every -- the entitlement
mentality that he wants to increase?

MATTHEWS: OK. We got to go. Congressman --

TANCREDO: Or is it individual responsibility? That`s the issues
that should be brought out.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations. You deserve congratulations on the
supposed I.Q. of your dog. You said your dog is smarter than Obama. He
must be hell of a dog.

Anyway, thank you, former Congressman Tom Tancredo. A heck of a dog.
Anyway, thanks for joining us.

Coming out of "The Huffington Post" right now, Howard Fineman is an
MSNBC political analyst. Well, there you have these numbers coming out.
It does look like he has a point there in touting Santorum. He might win
in Missouri. He might win in Minnesota.

Here he is. Take a look at the polls out today on these states that
are voting today.

In Minnesota, Santorum leads with 33 percent of Romney`s 24 percent.
He`s out front there. And Gingrich and Paul are close behind Romney.

In Missouri or Missouri, depending where you live, where Newt didn`t
get to make the ballot, Santorum there leads again 45 percent to Romney`s
32 percent, Paul far behind.

And in Colorado, Romney is up at 37. But Santorum is not a million
miles behind. He`s at 27. Gingrich and Paul thrilling.

It does look like that the deal doesn`t look done for Romney.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, no deal -- the deal
is not done for Romney. The latest polls from Gallup show him at 37
percent. But there`s a new "Reuters" poll that shows him at 29 percent.

In certain respects, Mitt`s run is going to be a little vivid
perhaps. He`s a little bit like a giant hairball that the Republican Party
cat is trying to cough up. They can`t swallow it and they can`t get rid of
it. I mean, that`s sort of the way he is. He`s in front mathematically,
OK?

But today is Santorum`s day.

MATTHEWS: You know what a hairball smells like? I remember. Go
ahead.

FINEMAN: Today is Santorum`s day. If he`s going to have another
one, today is it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Today is it. And, by the way, Missouri is just a beauty
pageant.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but it`s a headline.

FINEMAN: But it is a headline. And because Newt Gingrich isn`t
playing in Missouri, Santorum has a one on one situation.

MATTHEWS: He might win the daily double then. He might get two out
of three --

FINEMAN: He might get two out of the three.

MATTHEWS: Santorum wins ands it`s a big headline in the major
papers.

FINEMAN: And I think what that does is prolong the race even
further. In a way, it`s beneficial to Romney in the sense --

MATTHEWS: It screws --

FINEMAN: It screws Newt Gingrich and keeps things divided.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: And Mitt Romney has been the sort of last-man standing
candidate from the very beginning.

MATTHEWS: So, can we have --

FINEMAN: This is going to make it take even longer. If Santorum
wins a couple tonight, then that just prolongs the mathematical flow all
the way to June.

MATTHEWS: Question, biggest question tonight, can you answer it?
Can Santorum and Newt Gingrich together get over 50 percent to deny the
nomination all the way to Tampa to Romney?

FINEMAN: Well, I don`t know the answer to that.

MATTHEWS: But that`s the key question.

FINEMAN: If Santorum -- don`t forget Ron Paul is going to pick up
delegates here and there.

MATTHEWS: Together, they can all get over 50.

FINEMAN: All three of them can get over 50 percent in theory. And
it`s not like Mitt Romney is closing the deal.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: It doesn`t quite feel like that yet. It just doesn`t. If
Mitt Romney can somehow finesse his way from now to Super Tuesday, Newt --
I mean, if Newt Gingrich can, Newt Gingrich is going to win some states on
Super Tuesday.

MATTHEWS: And the thing to watch --

FINEMAN: He`s going to win some other states.

MATTHEWS: And the thing to watch every Tuesday is: does Mitt get 50
percent anywhere? Because he`s not going to get 50 percent everywhere
until he gets 50 percent --

FINEMAN: Well, they were putting out press releases is how he got
over 50 percent in Florida. They were delighted. But that`s the first
place it`s happened.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you so much.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, a big victory for supporters of marriage equality
today, a big one. Federal appeals court, the famous 9th Circuit out West,
strikes down California`s ban, Prop 8, on same sex marriage.

This is a biggie. And we`re going to have one of the lawyers that
had it happened, made it happened.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Former Senator Bob Kerrey says he won`t run for the Senate
this year in his home state of Nebraska, all but ensuring a Republican win
out there. Democrats hope to recruit Kerrey to run for the seat held by
the retiring Ben Nelson. Kerrey served in the Senate for two terms, from
`89 to 2000, spent much of the past decade as president of the new school
in New York City.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Supporters of gay marriage scored a big victory today. A three-judge
panel of the 9th Circuit ruled that California`s ban on same sex marriage,
its Proposition 8, is unconstitutional because it violates the civil rights
of gays and lesbians.

Today`s ruling reads in part, quote, "Although the Constitution
permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it
requires that there`d be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a
law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such
reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted."

Well, joining me now to talk about the ruling and the implications in
the fight for marriage are one of the lead attorneys in the fight to
overturn Proposition 8, David Boies, who represents American Foundation for
Equal Rights.

And also, the lieutenant governor of California, Gavin Newsom, who`s
been a big fighter for equality of marriage.

Let me start with David Boies.

Is it now viewed, at least by the 9th Circuit out there, that you
have a constitutional right to marry someone of your gender?

DAVID BOIES, PRO-GAY MARRIAGE ATTORNEY: Yes. Certainly in
California, the decision has a model of judicial restraint dealt with the
question of California. But if you look at the reasoning of the decision,
that decision applies generally to every state in the 9th Circuit.

MATTHEWS: So, what does that mean to a non-lawyer? Does it mean it
goes the Supreme Court or it will be accepted around the country as
constitutional law?

BOIES: I think eventually this is going to have to go to the Supreme
Court. Whether this particular case goes to the Supreme Court is up to the
Supreme Court. But I think eventually, you`re going to have to go to the
Supreme Court because even if this decision applies in the 9th Circuit, it
doesn`t apply -- it`s controlling law, it`s precedent, but it`s not
controlling law in states other than the 9th Circuit.

MATTHEWS: Who is your adversary who would take the appeal to the
Supreme Court? It`s not the government of California, is it?

BOIES: No, we`re in a kind of peculiar situation in which the
proponents of the proposition have intervened to try to defend the
proposition. So they would be the ones that would carry the ball to the
Supreme Court, if it goes there.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Lieutenant Governor Newsom.

Your thoughts about this. You were one of the people out there early
on, I mean, you`re a hero to the gay community, among others, because you
were honoring gay marriages before it was legal. What do you think this
means politically out there in your part of the country, maybe the rest of
the country as well?

GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA LT. GOVERNOR: Well, think about it,
Chris. In 2004, almost eight years ago this week, we began the process of
marrying over 4,000 couples and eventually that moved to the California
Supreme Court, which adjudicated in our favor. We saw legislative actions,
pro and con, for and against same sex marriage all across the country.

But it`s remarkable -- to answer your question -- in 2004, the great
debate was civil unions. We had just gone through a debate around domestic
partnerships. Democrats overwhelmingly were not supportive, at least
publicly, of same sex marriage. The politics of this has changed
dramatically and I think there`s a lot of pressure on those remaining
elected official, particularly the Democratic Party, to stand up and step
into this debate now.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is one of the issues that culturally, it seems,
to be changing dramatically. Gay marriage has already been approached now
and is legal in six states -- New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New
York, Massachusetts, Iowa and right here in Washington, D.C. Of course,
civil unions and domestic partnerships recognized in eight other state,
including California.

Let`s take a look at some of the polling on this.

Gentlemen, I`m looking at the age differences here. Among people 18
to 30, we`ll look at this, a Gallup poll, found that 53 percent -- look at
that, 70 percent of people who are under 34 support it. And as you get
older, it slows down.

But what`s your view, David, as you have watched this case proceeded,
and you have been fighting it, about the cultural fact. What is relevant
here about the cultural fact that it is more accepted?

BOIES: I think what`s relevance is that 20 years from now, people
are going to have as much difficulty understanding what this fuss is about
as people who grow up today can understand 30 years ago, blacks and whites
were prohibited from getting married. This issue is going to be solved
eventually by the demographics.

What we need to do is we need to be sure though that we don`t lose
another generation of people who are deprived of the right to get married.
That`s why this litigation is so important.

It`s not that there`s any chance that eventually, this battle won`t
be won, but we need to win it for the people today so that they can enjoy
the rights that they are entitled to under the Constitution.

MATTHEWS: Well, I know there`s no expression that the Supreme Court,
I think it was an old Irish expression, by mister, what`s his name, the
Supreme Court follows the election returns. But you just said something
rather amazing, you said the demographics are going to change it.

How does the changing nature of public opinion and attitudes change
the Supreme Court ruling?

BOIES: Well, eventually, you are going to get people on the Supreme
Court who have grown up in a culture of equality.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I got you.

BOIES: Eventually -- I mean, the problem is that people my age are
the people who are judges today. We grew up in an atmosphere of gay-
bashing in which there was extreme prejudice. Now, the young people who
have grown up, knowing gays and lesbians their entire lives, know that
these are our brothers, our sisters, our doctors, our lawyers, our friends,
our colleagues.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BOIES: They are not going to be subjecting these people to
discrimination. And what we need do eventually, is that`s going to move
through. I mean, you look at the 70 percent of the people 34 and under
favored same-sex marriage. That is something that is going to move through
this country just like the baby boom moved through this country.

MATTHEWS: OK. Congratulations, by the way.

BOIES: The thing we`ve got to do is we`ve got to stop it now so that
the people don`t have to wait 30 years in order to exercise these rights.

MATTHEWS: I want to congratulate you on what you`ve done here
because I have always believed in the case that you and Ted Olson are
bringing here, and my wife and I are both very, very strong on equality.

BOIES: Oh, thank you.

MATTHEWS: I have to tell you I`m so proud of the fact so many
roughly my age, perhaps a bit younger, is out there leading the fight.

And, secondly, Governor Newsom, you were out there way ahead of all
of us. And I want to say that although I thought you were too far out in
the old days, which is like eight years ago, I have caught up to you, sir,
and you deserve all the credit for being out there.

NEWSOM: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: What`s it like to be able to talk about an issue,
Governor? The mainstream?

NEWSOM: It`s a decade. It`s good to be mainstream and, you know,
remember, 70 percent of Americans opposed interracial marriage in 1967 when
the U.S. Supreme Court adjudicated in favor of disbanding those 18 --
rather 16 states that denied it. We`re much further along in that debate.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations, gentlemen, both of you -- David Boies and
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom of California.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the balance between the
government`s right to protect public health and a religion`s right to
practice what it preaches. This is a tough one.

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

It`s about the Obama administration`s decision to require as part of
the new health care bill that religious institutions -- colleges,
universities and hospitals -- provide full insurance coverage for birth
control, including IUDs and morning-after pills, in addition to those
methods strictly defined as contraceptive.

Well, the Catholic Church teaches that birth control and certainly
methods like IUDs and morning after pills, which they view as abortive are
morally wrong. Here they are being required by law to pay for them. And
this is how the church sees it and it is something the church believes it
morally cannot do.

The conflict is between the right of the government to protect what
it views as the public health and the right of a religion -- in this case,
the Catholic Church -- to practice its deepest moral beliefs in this free
society, one in which the First Amendment does guarantee religious freedom.

We are watching a real conflict here. It will be the duty of
religious leaders to follow their consciences. It will be the work of
politicians, the president on down, to do what they do best, work this out.

There are millions of liberal Catholics who did not wish for this
conflict but can see with powerful clarity its validity. It`s not about
the number of Catholics who use birth control or the number of non-
Catholics who attend Catholic colleges or universities or receive help from
Catholic charities. It`s about what the church itself teaches.

This regulation is telling you to do by law what it teaches should
not be done. That`s the issue. And that is the real conflict here.

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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