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updated 4/10/2012 11:58:20 AM ET 2012-04-10T15:58:20

Guests: Brian Sullivan, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann,
Michael Steele, Chris Cillizza, David Kuo, Amy Sullivan, Lesley Stahl

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The Romney plan -- help the rich, cut the poor.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington. Leading off
tonight: The Buffett rule. Can Mitt Romney and the Republicans make the
case that wealthy people like him should pay lower tax rates than the
middle class?

Well, the Obama campaign is trying to make them do exactly that,
betting that the so-called "Buffett rule" that billionaires should not pay
a lower rate than their secretaries, is a winning issue.

Republicans, of course, are hoping that Americans hate taxes so much,
they`ll oppose raising them even on the Warren Buffetts of the world.
Well, let`s see.

Also, we have yet another example of how fellow Republicans look like
they`ve -- they`ve smelled something that`s actually foul when asked to
endorse Mitt Romney. This time, it was Ohio governor John Kasich who said,
Thanks, but no thanks, to an endorsement. How do you nominate a guy so few
in your party want to even endorse at this point?

Plus, the religious right desperately wants to see President Obama
defeated, but they have little use for Mitt Romney himself. Will
evangelicals stay home in November?

And the great Lesley Stahl joins us tonight to talk about her
colleague and friend, Mike Wallace.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with how the historic divide between church
and state doesn`t deny the role of faith-based morality in pursuing social
justice and peace in this world.

We begin with the battle over the Buffett rule. "Time" magazine`s
Mike Halperin is MSNBC`s senior political analyst and John Heilemann I
guess is something lower. He`s the national political correspondent for
"New York" magazine and also an MSNBC political analyst. How did you get
the title "senior," Mark?

I tipped the doorman.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

Let`s go to this now. This -- I`ve been away for a week, guys, and
I`ve got to catch up on this. President Obama and Mitt Romney are pushing
two very different agendas on taxes and economic growth.

Here was the president last week pushing the Buffett rule, which the
Senate is set actually to take up to next week. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If that`s the choice
that members of Congress want to make, then we`re going to make sure every
American knows about it. If you make more than a million dollars annually,
then you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as
middle class families do. And I intend to keep fighting for this kind of
balance and fairness until the other side starts listening because I
believe this is what the American people want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, meanwhile, Mitt Romney has embraced the Paul
Ryan budget plan with all the cuts in it which dramatically lowers taxes on
the wealthiest Americans by -- but at the same time, really hurting poor
people. He`s framed the debate as being about tax cuts. Let`s watch
Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president
believes in higher taxes! Now, he doesn`t want to say that, he just wants
to do that!

I want to reduce the marginal tax rates across the board for everyone
in America, cut out the special deals, limit the deductions an exemptions
and get America working again!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me start with John Heilemann, with a very simple
question about the way we argue politics in this country.

Why do the Republicans argue, successfully at times, that the way to
get the rich to work harder is to give them more tax breaks, give them more
money, and the way to get the poor people off their butt and work harder --
this is the Republican thinking -- is to screw them, cut their programs,
cut their health benefits, cut everything, their education benefits?

In other words, you get rich people to work harder by giving them
stuff, you get poor people to work harder by taking away their stuff.

How does that work politically?

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it works,
I think, fundamentally, Chris, on the notion that America is an
aspirational society. And the idea has always been that poor people and
middle class people and lower middle class people and even upper middle
class people aspire to be rich, and that in a fair society, if they`re
given incentives to work hard, play by the rules, get rich themselves, they
will be happy and they will be motivated, and therefore, they will end up
accepting the notion that the benefits of being rich accrue to those who
work hard.

I think the part that has gotten askew over the course of the last...

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! We`re giving tax breaks to the people who
have already made this money, not to get them to make it. We give --
according to the -- if you look at the latest numbers -- we`ll go through
them in the next few minutes -- Romney has a plan that basically gives the
most benefits and tax cuts for the people who make a million or more.
That`s where the real -- the real money is for his tax cuts.

HEILEMANN: Chris, I`m not advocating this point of view, I`m just
trying to tell you what the Republican philosophy is.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: I`m just trying to say this is what...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... their theory has been. An in the past, accusing
Democrats of being tax hikers has worked, as you know, over the course of
many decades in American politics.

But I think one of the things that`s really changed now is the
premise. The premise to used to be that in a fair -- that the system was
fair. If you worked hard and played by the rules, you could get yourself
rich.

What the -- what the Democrats are now arguing is that the -- the deck
is stacked against you. And they`re playing to the notion that we need to
make the system more fair, so that -- so that you still have a chance to
get rich. But their problem that Republicans confront is the notion that
most people don`t think that working hard and playing by the rules
necessarily gets you to be rich. And so there`s this notion that
aspiration will not necessarily get paid off in the way that that has in
the past.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Paul Ryan`s budget plan. It`s been
criticized for pushing deep tax cuts for the wealthiest, while making major
cuts to programs that mainly serve low-income Americans.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan`s
budget includes cuts to Medicaid and to other health care programs, Pell
grants -- those for working kids or poor families that want to go to
college, and other social services. There`ll also be cuts to discretionary
programs and the food stamp program.

Let me go back to Mark on that same question. It is ironic, isn`t it,
if you think the way to goose a rich person is to give him a tax cut after
he`s made all his money, and the way to goose or push a -- boost, if you
will, a working person is to take away what they already are limited (ph)
in terms of health care, so you don`t get an operation you need, the kid
doesn`t get to college, you go to college. (sic)

How does that encourage aspiration, if you will?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, I
think the Democrats` failure to win the argument about (INAUDIBLE) the tax
cut benefits (INAUDIBLE) disproportionately the wealthy is one of the most
inexplicable and pathetic failures in my -- in my career.

I don`t understand why the last three Democratic nominees for
president, including Barack Obama, who won, aren`t able to make that
argument. It`s manifest. It`s obvious. And it goes not just to fairness,
but to -- for individuals, but also to the overall workings of the system,
as your question suggests.

I don`t understand why they can`t make it successfully, but so far,
they haven`t.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the Ryan tax cuts and the way they
benefit the wealth. Here -- for people who make less than 10K a year, you
get .2 percent cut. People that make between $10,000 and $20,000 make a .1
percent cut. Between $20,000 and $30,000, they get .5 percent.

These are all less than 1 percent tax breaks. Now to the motherlode.
If you make between $200,000 and $500,000, John, you get a 4.8 percent. If
you make over a half million a year, you make 8.8 percent. If you pass a
million a year, you make 12.5.

This is clearly identifiable, for anybody who`s paying attention now,
that this deck is stacked against people the less they make. And again,
they`re rewarding people for money they`ve already made, not aspirational
but money they`ve already made. You give a break to the richest people,
meanwhile taking away the chance of getting, say, a heart transplant, the
chance to get health care for your kids, from poor people.

How does kissing rich people and smacking poor people get the same
kind of encouragement in both cases? I think there`s a real disconnect in
the Republican philosophy here. Do you agree or not?

HEILEMANN: Chris, I totally agree. And a second ago, I tried to
explain what Republicans are thinking by putting these things forward. I
think the great weakness in the Ryan plan is that it`s not a plan that
calls for shared sacrifice.

Ryan Paul`s trying to say we have a serious long-term fiscal issue
here the United States had to deal with in terms of long-term structural
deficit and the debt burden that the United States operates under. I think
he`s right about that.

But the big flaw, both politically, and I think, substantively in this
plan, is that it doesn`t call on the people who are best off in our society
to make sacrifices in order to better the whole of society. It puts all
the burden on those who are on the lower end of the income scale.

Mark is exactly right, though.

MATTHEWS: He is right.

HEILEMANN: Democrats should be able to win this argument, and they --
and Mark is right that they haven`t won in the past. I think it`s possible
that the president prosecuting this -- prosecuting his argument
successfully...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HEILEMANN: ... is within his grasp now. They seem to be making a lot
of headway with this argument with swing voters all across the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, the big lie about the Reagan economic program, as you
know, Mark -- I covered it back then. I was the other side politically
back then. But I must tell you, it came out with William Greider`s (ph)
piece in "Rolling Stone." It came out with David Stockman`s admission.
The whole thing was a Trojan horse back then.

They said they were for cutting rates across the board for everybody
so that the top rates would come down. That was the whole goal of it. In
fact, the phrase "Trojan horse" was used by them back then. To get the tax
cuts for the richest people down, they would lower them for the middle
class a bit, as we`re seeing it.

Let`s take a look at what the president said on Tuesday about another
Trojan horse coming our way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This congressional Republican budget is something different
altogether. It is a Trojan horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans,
it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is
thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history
as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who`s willing to
work for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Mark on that. This question of these tax
structures, the (INAUDIBLE) the term was "Trojan horse" back in the `80s
with Reagan, where everything was geared to getting the top rate down. It
looks like it`s doing it again here, the same Republican strategy, the
Trojan horse -- We`re here to help the middle, we`re really here to help
the rich.

HALPERIN: There`s on caveat to all this, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Sure.

HALPERIN: ... which is not spelled out in Ryan`s plan and which
Congressman Ryan does talk about, which is eliminating what some people
call loopholes, other people call deductions, for the wealthiest Americans.
It would depend on how much you eliminate them, the big three, charitable,
health care, home mortgage. If those really are scaled back or eliminated
for the upper-income Americans, that would put this in a much more balanced
way.

MATTHEWS: Sure, but he hasn`t named one of them.

HALPERIN: He hasn`t, although he`s -- he`s migrated a little bit
towards a rhetorical openness to them without any specificity. I think
people who praise him for his courage and his honesty should be pressing
him harder to say exactly what he means...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: ... because then you can recalculate the tables and you
might find that, in fact, there is a progressivity to it.

MATTHEWS: Sure, if he -- if he -- let`s go back to John on that same
point. Here`s a guy who brags about being a centrist, a deal maker, Mr.
Ryan. In fact, it`s just a Republican plan -- lower the rates for the
rich, increase the federal deficit, increase the debt down the road, and
claim at some point you`re going to plug the loopholes without every saying
what loopholes, which means the loopholes will never be plugged. We`ll
just have a bigger debt and more wealth to the wealthy.

HEILEMANN: Well, that`s right, and I think Mark`s exactly right again
in the sense that I think it`s incumbent upon Congressman Ryan and people
who support this plan, if they want to say that there is some
progressivity, if they want to say that there`s some shared sacrifice, they
can`t just leave these blanks in their plan.

If they`re really going to be courageous and they`re really going to
ask people to bite the bullet, they need to tell us what exactly they`re
going to do on those big three things.

You`ll note that Simpson-Bowles and their commission, which
Congressman Ryan voted against, I believe -- they were actually quite
specific about what they wanted to do. They wanted to lower top rates,
too, flatten out the tax code. but then they went after -- with
specificity they went after some of those big deductions/loopholes in order
to make sure that people at the top...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HEILEMANN: ... would be paying their fair share along the way.

MATTHEWS: Well, the big job on this show I think for the next six
months is to make sure people know the facts about the fiscal policy
proposals of these two parties. We`ve done a good job here looking, I
think, tonight at what you see as a disconnect between what the Republicans
want to do for the rich, which is give them more money to encourage them to
work harder, cut programs like health care, basic needs like education and
health care, especially health care for the poor, to encourage them
supposedly to work harder. It looks like Darwinism. I think the president
has a point.

Thank you, gentlemen, as always, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And a program note, by the way. Paul Ryan will be a guest
on the "TODAY" show tomorrow morning on NBC, of course, the "TODAY" show.

Coming up: Another big-name Republican passes up the chance to endorse
Mitt Romney. They are so slow to say they like this guy. This is like a
wedding when you really got cold feet, and they all seem to have it. This
time, it`s Ohio governor John Kasich. I think he`s leaving this guy at the
altar. How -- in the party -- how`s this party going to ever get together
on nominating a guy that nobody wants to even endorse? This is Romney`s
problem.

And it`s HARDBALL. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I talk about it a lot, of course. President Obama needs to
do better politically in that Scranton to Oshkosh corridor of Pennsylvania
through the Midwest.

We`ve got polls now from two of those states now in the HARDBALL
"Scoreboard." First, in Michigan, a new Epic-MRA poll finds a closer race
than you might expect in Michigan. President Obama leads Romney, but just
by 47-43, just 4 points.

Now to Indiana, the reddest state the president carried back in 2008.
He`s probably not counting on winning it again. A new DePauw University
poll has Romney up 49-40. But Republicans almost always get Indiana.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Here`s a question for historians
and political scientists. Can you win a party`s nomination for president
when hardly anybody in the party likes you?

Well, Mitt Romney seems ready to test that proposition big-time. Even
now that his nomination seems somewhat inevitable, the GOP`s big names
remain deeply reluctant, should I say, to even embrace this guy. It
appears the Republican establishment will tolerate Mitt Romney, and that`s
about it, only under the condition that he beats President Obama. They
want somebody to beat Obama.

Michael Steele`s the former chair of that party, former chairman of
the RNC, Chris Cillizza, who I read religiously, I must say -- he`s
managing editor of the Postpolitics.com. Both are MSNBC political
analysts.

The great thing about your column, Chris Cillizza, anybody who lives
in the Washington area knows it comes on that precious time of the week,
Monday morning, when you want to know what`s going on, what have you missed
over the weekend, and you tell us.

Let`s start with Ohio governor John Kasich. He works with -- he has
worked at Fox, an important Republican governor in a critical state.

Here he was just yesterday answering David Gregory on "MEET THE PRESS"
about whether the Republican nomination fight is actually over. Let`s
watch Kasich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I haven`t endorsed. I said everybody I
either endorsed or was for either dropped out or didn`t run. So I`ll wait
until we have a nominee. And listen, the party will get its act together.
It will be very competitive in the fall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I like Kasich. I always considered him a
regular guy when he was in the Congress. He worked at Fox. You know, he
doesn`t like Romney because Romney`s an elitist. He knows he is. He`s
trying to be a working class Republican, and he knows you can`t get away
with that hanging around with guys like Romney.

Is that too strong a statement?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I
think that`s a little strong. I think it assumes a lot about his
relationship or how he feels about him. But I think...

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t Kasich a regular guy and Romney`s an elitist?

STEELE: Kasich -- no Kasich is...

MATTHEWS: And Romney`s elitist...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: OK, follow that thought, but I -- welcome back, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: I think the reality is -- I think your opening, though, is
correct. I think that you`re seeing the party settle. I think the party
is going to come -- as we`ve been talking about for pay long time -- this
is no news, really...

MATTHEWS: OK, when you got married, did you sort of look forward to
it? No, just a minute, Michael! You...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: I`m not going to equate...

MATTHEWS: If you think this...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: ... getting married to selecting...

MATTHEWS: They don`t like the guy!

STEELE: ... someone for president, for goodness sake...

MATTHEWS: What`s more important?

STEELE: Getting married, quite frankly.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Good.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So you`re telling me they don`t have cold feet about
(INAUDIBLE)

STEELE: I don`t know...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Right. You`re talking about stuff people already know. This
has been baked into this equation for some time now.

MATTHEWS: But it`s now April. Let me go back to Cillizza. We`re now
April. it`s not January anymore. We`re not up there in that cold -- we`re
not up there in Iowa anymore. We`re not in New Hampshire. We`re not in
all those states in the South. We`re not in Michigan. We`re not in Ohio.
We`re not in Nevada, all those states we`ve covered. The nomination`s
pretty much wrapped up, and they still can`t say, We love you. They can`t
say the words.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POSTPOLITICS.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you
know, Kasich -- I would say in a vacuum, Kasich -- it`s kind of, like,
Well, let`s let the process play itself out. He`s being very political.
But I would say, Chris, it`s not -- politics doesn`t exist in a vacuum. Go
back to Jeb Bush`s endorsement of Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CILLIZZA: He -- he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... assist here. You`re giving me the assist.

CILLIZZA: Right.

MATTHEWS: You`ve thrown the ball...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... play. Let`s watch here. Here`s Kasich`s hands-off --
his hands-off approach mirrored what we`ve already seen, even from
Republicans who have endorsed Romney. Now, catch the words here. Here`s a
refresher, starting with Florida senator Marco Rubio, who wasn`t exactly
sputtering with excitement when he endorsed the guy late last month. Let`s
take a look at him. We`ve got a whole bunch of these coming. They are so
-- I don`t know what, pusillanimous. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I am going to endorse Mitt Romney.
And the reason why is not only because he is going to be the Republican
nominee, but he offers at this point such a stark contrast to the
president`s record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m stuck with him and he ain`t Obama. You got the
drift there.

Former New York Governor George Pataki gave a rather backhanded
endorsement, wait until you hear this, when he came out for Romney last
month. Let`s watch George Pataki.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE PATAKI (R), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: And I think it`s time to
rally around the presumptive nominee. Now, Mitt is not a perfect
candidate. He has a number of problems. It`s hard for him -- for blue-
collar families like mine to identify with him, it`s hard for economic
conservatives to identify with him.

He needs to do more to reach out to the Latinos, but I think he has to
focus on that and on defeating President Obama, as opposed to winning the
next primary in the next state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Which group did he leave out? WASPs?

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Chris, Chris, one thing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I got one more. Here`s Jeb Bush.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You mentioned him.

CILLIZZA: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He finally came out for Romney. His paper statement wasn`t
brimming with enthusiasm, either. Here`s what Jeb Bush, who will probably
be the nominee some day, said: "Primary elections have been held in 34
states, and now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney
and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters
this fall. I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our party`s nomination."

Boy, he sounds like a prisoner of war with his fingers crossed.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

CILLIZZA: Chris, and didn`t do it -- did it in a statement and a
tweet, no appearance, no appearance with Romney, nothing like that.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: The one thing I would say about that Pataki thing, I hadn`t
seen the full clip until just now. I think we can now rule out George no
Pataki as a potential V.P. for Mitt Romney. He`s crossing him right off
the list.

But, Chris, can I tell you one thing that I do think is important to
remember here? I would say this is not that dissimilar to `04 when John
Kerry had the head of the party, but not the heart of the party. Howard
Dean had the heart of the Democratic Party. They nominated Kerry because
they disliked Bush so much and they thought he was the best nominee.

I think that is a lot of the thinking now. And Kerry did not lose
that election I don`t think because the Democratic base was not excited.
They were not excited about him. But they were excited about the prospect
of beating George W. Bush.

I think Romney will likely benefit from that. The Republican base of
the party is never going to be in love with Mitt Romney, but they dislike
Barack Obama to extent that it may not matter.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: You`re making a heroic effort at bipartisanship and being
reasonable here.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I will tell you why, because I don`t believe if you go back
to 2004, you will find the number of top Democrats so unhappy with the
nomination they had before them, as the Republicans are now.

STEELE: Sure they were unhappy. They were just as unhappy as the top
Republicans are now. They always talk about the folks who didn`t get in,
in 2004. They were talking about the folks who didn`t get in, in 1992.

This is not a new script for us. The reality of it is Romney has...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I just don`t believe you guys. I have never seen a
candidate that`s more polenta. He makes Mondale seem like I don`t know
what.

STEELE: But that`s for you, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: He`s floating somebody`s boat out there somewhere.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who likes him, the rich guys, the Bain Capital people? Who
really likes Romney?

STEELE: Chris like him, right, Chris?

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: I don`t get into the liking and disliking. But I will say
this. You can make the argument, Chris, that -- I agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Mitt Romney is not the most dynamic, charismatic guy in the
world. He`s not even close to it. You can make the argument though that
if what the Republican Party wants to do is say, we tried charismatic, we
tried great speaker, we tried transformational leader, and look what it has
got us, that Romney offers a contrast and puts all of the attention and all
of the spotlight on Obama.

I`m not suggesting that will work. But I think that is an argument
that is plausibly made. Mitt Romney is never going to rival Barack Obama
in charisma, never.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Hey, Chris, if that is the argument, then you might as well
just turn the lights off of this -- at the convention and the election
already.

If you`re going to try to run that we tried charisma, and we tried
charm, let`s go boring and dull, that is not going to sell.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What will sell?

STEELE: I think that what Jeb Bush said is what has to be the
argument.

Let`s talk about on the issues where we contrast with the
administration, what Romney brings through his experience as a governor and
as someone in the business community.

MATTHEWS: If you want somebody to come over and fix your toaster,
don`t ask for George Clooney.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele and, thank you, Chris Cillizza.

Up next, Mitt Romney often tries to be all things to all people. We
know that. And this week, Mr. "Yes, I Agree With You" was taken notice of
on "Saturday Night Live." This is really brilliant. They go after this
guy better than anybody I can think of. "Saturday Night Live" goes after
Mitt`s ability to say yes to anybody and anything.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, "Saturday Night Live" went all the way this weekend with the
charge that Mitt Romney will do or say just about anything to get votes.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Governor Romney stopped in Dallas to address the
national convention of the Role-Playing Game Association.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: In all honesty, I can`t remember a time when
"Dungeons and Dragons" wasn`t an important part of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We don`t believe you!

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OK. All right.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Later, Governor Romney made an appearance at the
2012 Piercing Convention.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: When people ask me, Mitt, just how many piercings
do you have, well, I always say more than I need, but less than I want.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Governor Romney appeared at a meeting of the
United Jewish Appeal.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We don`t believe you!

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: All right, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, is it true? Will he say anything?

We got to November for him to say no mas, no more, damn it, I`m me.
I`m waiting for that night.

We all know that George Romney, Mitt`s father, served as Michigan`s
governor back in the `60s, but did you know that his mother, Lenore, ran
for the Senate in 1970? It was unsuccessful, but the folks at BuzzFeed dug
up this clip of a 23-year-old Mitt trying to win some votes for mom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: So many of our senators sometimes become so caught up in the
political situation. Why, you could come up with a new bill and you could
decide right down the line how everyone is going to vote, mostly on their
political background and which party they`re for. But she is not so allied
to a political ideology -- ideology or a political side of the spectrum
that she can`t analyze the situation and vote in it and work in it
completely candidly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So there you have it. He may be running at a severe
conservative right now, but his mother was closer to the center, as he said
himself as a 23-year-old.

And finally Politico calls today Newt death watch day 26. That`s how
long it`s been since Newt`s big losses on Super Tuesday, so is the
candidate coming around to Romney having it won?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think you have to be
realistic. Given the size of his organization, given the number of
primaries he`s won, he is far and away the most likely Republican nominee.

And if he does get to 1,144 delegates, I will support him. I do
whatever I can this fall to help him defeat Obama. This is a great
campaign, we have had great experiences. Some things work. Some things
don`t work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Pretty humble for him. Sounds like he`s already
quit, doesn`t it?

Anyway, coming up next, the religious right wants to defeat President
Obama, we know that, but for some, Mitt Romney`s faith, actually his
background and who he is, is a sticking point. Could evangelicals stay
home in November?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN SULLIVAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Brian Sullivan with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Friday`s disappointing jobs report sending the stocks into a skid, the
Dow down 130 points and the Nasdaq off 33 and the S&P down 15, the Dow now
down four sessions in a row. In the meantime, shares of AOL, remember
them, surged more than 40 percent after it agreed to sell 800 patents to
Microsoft for more than $1 billion. Facebook is snapping up photo-sharing
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higher, according to the Lundberg Survey, this to $3.97 nationwide on
average.


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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")

RICHARD LAND, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION ETHICS AND
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION: I think he`s done a remarkable job on a
shoestring budget. He has resurrected a political career that was dormant.
And, as his friend, I would say to him, you know, you ought to seriously
consider leaving the race now.

In eight years, he will be three years younger than Romney is now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Richard Land talking about
presidential candidate Rick Santorum. His words carry weight as president
of the Southern Baptist Convention, Mr. Land is a leader of the evangelical
community.

And Rick Santorum has gotten big support from that group of voters.
But how will evangelicals react to a Mormon presidential candidate?

Well, this weekend, Rick Warren, founding pastor of the Saddleback
Church, gave an indication that may worry the Romney people. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are Mormons Christians?

PASTOR RICK WARREN, AUTHOR, "THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE": Well, the key
sticking point for evangelicals, and actually for many, is the issue of the
Trinity. That`s the historic doctrine of the church, that God is three in
one, not three Gods, one God in father, son and Holy Spirit.

Mormonism denies that. That`s a sticking point for a lot of Catholic
Christians, evangelical Christians, Pentecostal Christians, because they
don`t believe that.

Now, they will use the same terminology, but they don`t believe in the
historic doctrine of the Trinity. And people have tried to make it other
issues, but that`s really one of the fundamental differences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s start by a general agreement that we detest
religious tests for public office in this country. In fact, they`re
unconstitutional.

Amy Sullivan is author of "The Party Faithful" and a former senior
editor at "TIME" magazine, and David Kuo was deputy director of the Office
of Faith Based Initiatives in the Bush 43 White House.

Thank you, both, for joining us.

This is a tricky question because we have no religious tests.

Amy, I always respect your writing. And this is just one of those
things where we`re trying to observe what has to be done with this. If
you`re a candidate like Romney, what can he do, what will he have to do,
what can`t he do facing the differences of religion that involve his
Mormonism, his membership in the LDS Church, and the fact that he`s not
exactly an evangelical in any way you look at it, even emotionally or in
terms of his background?

He doesn`t fit on that far-right equation anyway. Your thoughts about
how he`s going to fit in with evangelical voters throughout the summer and
into the fall?

AMY SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, "THE PARTY FAITHFUL": Sure, Chris.

Well, first of all, we should make clear we`re talking about
conservative evangelicals here. Liberal evangelicals are still pretty
supportive of Obama. And a lot of moderate evangelicals who are voting for
Republicans have not shown a problem supporting Romney.

But he does have a sticking point there with the most conservative
evangelicals. And it goes far beyond just the question of whether they
think he`s conservative enough. There have been some fascinating numbers
coming out of these primaries. And one of the ones his campaign has to be
paying close attention to is the fact that among very conservative
Republican voters, those who are not evangelical are OK with Romney, pretty
much.

He`s gotten about 43 percent of those votes throughout the primaries.
But among very conservative evangelical voters, he`s only getting about a
fifth of those voters.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

A. SULLIVAN: And those are the people that he`s going to need on
board.

MATTHEWS: Let me bring that up with David, because there is a factor
that I keep coming across in covering these primaries in the Deep South.
He never seems to beat 28 percent. I don`t know what`s going to happen
when nobody is running against him anymore.

Are they still going to vote against him in these primaries? And I`m
not being ludicrous here. I just don`t -- I think people just seem to --
in that community that Amy is talking about, the evangelicals of the right,
they just don`t want to vote for this guy.

DAVID KUO, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF FAITH-BASED AND
COMMUNITY INITIATIVES: Well, listen, I`m about a Bubba Watson drive away
from Billy Graham Parkway here in Charlotte, North Carolina.

And I`ll tell you, even -- as Amy said, evangelicals are not some
monolithic voting bloc, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KUO: The interesting thing that Rick brings up in that quote is that
evangelicals are probably the most biblically literate voting group in
America.

And that means that they know the difference between different creeds.
Like, they will know the Nicene Creed. They will know the Apostles` Creed.
And these are the creeds of historic Christianity. And they are the creeds
that the Mormon Church explicitly rejects.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KUO: And that`s a problem for evangelicals, right, who are trying to
look down the road and say, OK, do I want a candidate who shares my faith?

But at the same time, we have to sort of balance this out, because
he`s not running against anybody. He`s going to be running against
President Obama. And, as Amy said, you know, a good third, 25 to 30
percent of evangelicals will vote for -- for President Obama.

The question becomes, for the evangelicals for whom Romney`s Mormonism
is a problem, what do they do? I mean, do they stay home? Do they
actually vote for President Obama...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KUO: ... for somebody who is a Christian?

I mean, these are just interesting questions. And I don`t think that
there is a clearance right now. We`re sort of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense of that?

KUO: I don`t think there is a clearance right now.

MATTHEWS: And let me -- let me tell you, my understanding, Amy -- and
I study politics a lot -- is that, you know, back when we had the decision
by the Supreme Court saying no more prayer, no more King James readings of
the Bible in the public schools, that sort of created the moral majority.
That`s when people who hadn`t been political became political.

Will they depoliticalize themselves? Will they not show up for
presidential elections? The evangelicals and the right?

AMY SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, :"THE PARTY FAITHFUL": Well, we don`t have a
sense of that yet, because just even in these primaries, we`ve seen
overwhelming participation among evangelical voters.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SULLIVAN: They were 53 percent of primary voters so far. And that`s
huge. That`s beyond where we were during the George Bush years and beyond
where we were in 2008.

But it`s not a sense of how galvanized they will be in November,
because they`re not getting out there to vote for Mitt Romney. They`re not
getting out there as a show of protest against Obama. They have been
involved in the primaries to try to find an alternative to Romney.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KUO: I think -- sorry.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

SULLIVAN: Exactly. You know, we`ve had all these weekend summits by
all these religious right leaders trying to come up with an alternative
Romney. Now, they`ll kind of reconcile themselves to the fact that he`s
going to be the nominee, but that doesn`t tell us what the people in the
pews are going to do in November, and they may well stay home.

(CROSSTALK)

KUO: Let me say one quick thing.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead, David.

KUO: Yes. And I think one thing we have to be careful of here, Amy
is right, 53 percent or so have been evangelicals. It`s also been
historically low turnout in these primaries. And the evangelicals who
turned out have overwhelming supported Rick Santorum in that.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

KUO: But it`s curious, it`s hard to draw conclusions. We`re not
talking about Obama/Clinton turnout from 2008. We`re talking about
remarkably depressed turnout. It will be very interesting what happens
when, you know, Governor Romney is running against, you know, President
Obama and what the evangelicals do then.

MATTHEWS: It`s going to be interesting. Well, let`s take a look at
--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to get to this. This is how Romney himself, who`s
obviously been schooled on this problem if he has one a long time. He
knows what he`s facing in terms of the sensitivity of these conservative
evangelicals.

Last week as he was campaigning in the Wisconsin primary, which he
won handily, Romney was asked a question about his faith. It was a simple
question, actually. The questioner turned out to be a Ron Paul supporter,
but that`s not important. It`s important to weigh his reaction to question
turned about and how careful he is.

Let`s watch him. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m sorry, we`re just not
going to have a discussion about religion, in my view. But I can -- if
you`ve got a question, I`d be happy to answer your question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess my question is: do you believe it`s a sin
for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?

ROMNEY: No. Next question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, that was kind of snippet there I though, David Kuo, he
said it`s OK to have interracial marriages, et cetera. But he didn`t like
the question -- why not? David?

KUO: Well, listen, you`re getting now into this question that`s a
really interesting question about the religious test. Clearly, there`s no
religious test for candidate running for office. Anybody can run for
office regardless of their test.

But the question becomes: how much of an examination of that faith
becomes a test? You know, to what degree are the views of the Catholic
Church or the Mormon Church legitimate things for the American public to
talk about.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KUO: Mitt Romney is arguably one of the most religious men to ever
run for office. He`s one of the most generous men to any church in
America. The question becomes, what does that look like?

Listen, I`ve been in Uganda --

MATTHEWS: OK. We got to go.

KUO: -- in a horrible children`s cancer ward, and there was one
wheelchair there and it had the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
on it.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s good for them. They do a lot of good work on
social issues. They take care of people, a lot of work with their relief
societies.

Anyway, thank you, Amy Sullivan, glad we got you on tonight. And,
David Kuo.

Up next, what "60 Minutes" reporter Mike Wallace showed us all about
fearlessness. We got -- this guy is gone now at the age of 93. We`re
going to talk about it with the great Lesley Stahl, his longtime colleague.

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re coming back Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" to talk
about the great Mike Wallace who died over the weekend at the age 93.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MIKE WALLACE, JOURNALIST: He was doing what?

With you.

Why? Why? Why? Really?

When you boil it down to the little gravy, you demanded special
treatment.

You needed money.

It`s almost an embarrassment, sir, to hear this from you.

What? What do they want you to do?

Why are you so reluctant?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Wow, that was legendary newsman Mike Wallace, the famed
"60 Minutes" correspondent who passed away at the age 93 this weekend.
Mike Wallace dressed like a gentleman you might say, but he could certainly
be the tough guy, resulting an incredible news-making interviews week after
week.

With me right now is the great, the equally great in may ways Lesley
Stahl, although much younger, an Emmy Award-winning correspondent for "60
Minutes" on CBS who first met Wallace back in `76.

Well, the best reason to have you on is to have you on, of course,
but here we are at a -- I don`t think it`s a sad moment. But I have to ask
the Jack Kennedy question: what was he like?

LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES" CORRESPONDENT : Well, you know,
interestingly, he was exactly what you saw in the air in the office -- he
was feisty, he was tough, he was electric, high energy, he was playful, and
you know, he did pieces where you saw that.

Mike didn`t just do the hard-hitting interviews. He -- I don`t know
how many of you remember his interview with Tina Turner where he was
flirting with her, and he fell in love with Vladimir Horowitz, and he let
you see that he was smitten. And he was all those things.

He upped our game in the office. He made us all better. He insisted
that we`d be tough ourselves.

I love you starting off originally in the show saying he was
fearless, because I think that timidity and Mike Wallace never even passed
in the night. I think they live on totality different planets.

MATTHEWS: How do you explain that? Because any journalist knows
this, you have to be -- you are friendly with people, you are cordial, you
are a civil human being, and you may even like a person, but at some point,
you`re going to have to, maybe not every interview, but a lot of
interviews, jam them where they don`t want to be jammed?

STAHL: He did that with ease. I remember, he was once had me in his
office. And he was giving me a lesson. He was wonderful to me by the way.
He brought me to "60 Minutes" and he helped me.

And he said the trick really to a good interview is that you ask the
question the people at home want you to ask but don`t think you will.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STAHL: And then when you ask it, you can`t be embarrassed, you can`t
show them that you`re uncomfortable asking it because that will make the
audience uncomfortable. And so, he said, come on, get over that, go and
work at it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Let me ask you a tough question, let me ask you a Mike Wallace
question.

STAHL: Oh, no.

MATTHEWS: When Mike pushed for you, who was against you joining "60
Minutes"? Can you give me the names right now?

STAHL: This is a really wonderful story. Ed Bradley came in and
told me himself, he said, you`re going to find out anyway I`m the one that
was against it.

And of all of them, he was the one I was friendliest and closest to.
I said, why? He said because he thought I was too Washington. I had been
in Washington all those years.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STAHL: So he didn`t think I could cover all of the different kinds
of stories.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t -- Lesley Stahl I have gotten to know over all
the years, you are one of the best ever White House correspondent there
have ever been because you were tough.

Let`s take a look at a memorable moment when Mike Wallace interviewed
Nancy Reagan, actually a long time pal for hers. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: What was your husband`s role in the Iran Contra?

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: Nothing. I mean, it was --

WALLACE: He was president of the United States.

REAGAN: It was what -- I don`t know enough about Iran, Mike, to talk
to you intelligently about it. All I know is that he did not think he had
done anything wrong. He didn`t know of anything that was going on.

WALLACE: You`re going to be in Japan, and I`m told it`s a $2 million
two weeks.

REAGAN: They`re getting two of us. They`re working us like crazy.

WALLACE: But it`s going to be a well-recompensed two weeks.

REAGAN: It is for everybody who goes there, which you probably know.
You really didn`t need that question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nancy Reagan is so great, and there she is getting nailed
by her buddy of, what, 75 years. They knew each other, and he put -- he
did -- he went right to it, the toughest questions.

STAHL: He just -- nothing stopped him from asking the heart of the
question, whatever it was, whether it was his friend, and they were really
close friends and had been from the time they were young. He went after
his bosses. You know that tobacco story, he went right after the big boss.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

STAHL: And one of the bravest -- one of the bravest things he ever
did was come forward to the public and tell everybody he had depression.
And he did it when it was a stigma. He was one of the first people to do
that. He just -- he was an astonishing man.

MATTHEWS: And so are you, an astonishing woman.

STAHL: And I mean that in the most positive way.

MATTHEWS: I say all those good things about you too, Lesley Stahl.
What a great figure he was for all of those. Mike Wallace, this weekend,
we lost him.

Thank you, Lesley Stahl. Whenever we come up with a really nice
reason to have you on, besides this kind of a thing, we`d love to get you
back.

STAHL: Anytime.

MATTHEWS: When we return, "Let Me Finish" with what separation of
church actually means and what it doesn`t mean. We were talking about
earlier. We`re going to talk about it in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with something we were talking
about earlier tonight.

I just got back last night, by the way, from Paris, having spent
three great days walking the left bank with Kathy. The city is as
wonderful as I ever, even as Woody Allen notice in the rain.

Well, back home this morning, I read the "New York Times" about the
interview Cardinal Dolan of New York gave on Easter Sunday about the role
that our moral values play or should play in public life. He was talking
about what Jack Kennedy said 50 years ago about the separation of church
and state and what Rick Santorum said in that over the top criticism of
what Kennedy had said.

Cardinal Dolan said he would have cheered at what Kennedy said to
those Houston ministers about a person`s right to lead this country
regardless of their religion, but he also said that the separation of
church and state doesn`t mean, quote, "a wall between one`s faith and one`s
political decisions."

Well, I want to say something about that. We have civil rights today
because of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, who led the Southern
Christian Leadership Campaign. The values of Christianity had a lot to do
with fighting Jim Crowe and the horrors of segregation, so did the values
of Judaism, belief in the dignity of the human being no matter how
powerless. It`s deeply moral position often, if not always, grounded in
religious teaching.

President Kennedy said as much in his presidential television address
in June of `63 in the midst of a fight to integrate the University of
Alabama when he called civil rights a moral issue as old as the Scriptures.
Well, the tricky question is where sectarianism ends and deep morality
abides. And, of course, where to use the force of law to mandate a moral
judgment?

I never heard anyone suggest in this pluralistic society of ours we
should write laws affecting dietary rules like not eating meat on Friday
during Lent. Have you?

But even when we argue about abortion, no matter deeply troubling to
so many people, it is the rare zealot, I can`t think of one, who would
punish the woman who makes that difficult choice to have an abortion.
Again, have you?

Why? Because we know most of us, even if we do not admit it openly,
the limits of what a society, especially like ours, dedicated as it is to
individual freedom, can do to enforce even deeply held moral commitments.
So we go on.

Our history shows that religion and the powerful moral beliefs and
teaches can be a propelling force for good. We also know at how it can be
a deeply and powerful divider. Oh, yes, it can, Mr. Santorum.

So, I agree with Cardinal Dolan of New York -- let`s hold high the
separation of church and state, but let`s not forget the role of faith-
based morality and how we treat each other. This Trayvon Martin case is a
good reminder. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" remains
one of the great guides to human behavior, the best guide perhaps any of us
will ever know.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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BE UPDATED.
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