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updated 5/9/2012 1:33:03 PM ET 2012-05-09T17:33:03

Guests: Joan Walsh, Amanda Drury, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, David Corn, John Heilemann, Angela Maria Kelley, Richard Blumenthal, David Nakamura, Erin McPike

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Get this. Romney now says the rich, like him,
should be congratulated.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. It`s unbelievable.
Leading off tonight: America at the crossroads. This country now confronts
a choice that is suddenly starker than anyone could have imagined. The man
who now carries the Republican banner for the presidency has now thrown
down the challenge.

All his talk about liking to fire people, about having two Cadillacs,
about pals that own NASCAR teams -- he now says it all means something big.
Romney wants the country to live in a country where financial wealth like
his is not just respected, but catch this, congratulated. Congratulated!

People who make less, regular people, well, they`re going to have to
look up to people like Romney. And they darn well better. Let Romney and
his wife depend on -- actually, let Obama and his wife depend on student
loans. The Republican Party`s for the successful. The successful, as I
said, in the latest Romney speech, are to be congratulated. The successful
are to call the shots. It`s unbelievable how he`s laid it out.

Plus, Newt Gingrich now says he`s going to drop out of the race
altogether after he spends one more weekend enjoying the good life as
candidate. And wait`ll you see Rick Santorum`s cringe-worthy effort to not
endorse Mitt Romney. He can`t do it.

Another problem for Romney, his name is, well, Barack Obama. All the
president`s campaigning skills have been on display these last two days,
whether it was "slow jamming" the news with Jimmy Fallon or getting yogurt
spilled on him. In a tight race, how do you compete with that one?

And Arizona rising. At the Supreme Court today, many of the justices
appeared sympathetic to Arizona`s tough as nails immigration law. How will
Latinos react to that, if the nine justices uphold that law?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the difference between a
candidate, as I said, who wants his wealth applauded and one who admits he
needed student loans to get through school.

We begin with Romney`s message of fairness last night. John Heilemann
is "New York" magazine`s national affairs editor and David Corn is
Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones," and most importantly today, the
author of this brand-new book, "Showdown." Great book. And both these
gentlemen are MSNBC political talents.

Anyway, in his victory speech last night, Mitt Romney seemed to try to
steal a page from Romney -- from Obama`s playbook, highlighting fairness.
He`ll fight -- well, he`ll fight for it, should he win, he said. In fact,
he used a variation of the word "fair" six times in one paragraph. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This America
is fundamentally fair. We will stop the unfairness of urban children being
denied access to the good schools of their choice.

We will stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to
their friends` businesses.

We will stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute
to politicians not of their choosing.

We will stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay
and benefits than the very taxpayers they serve!

And we will stop the unfairness of one generation passing larger and
larger debts on to the next.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You got a huge problem out there, John Heilemann. You`re
covering this campaign, writing another book on it. But here`s a problem
with this guy, Romney. At the same time he comes out last night and says
not only should we respect great wealth, we should congratulate it, we
should congratulate people who make a lot of money, no matter how they make
it -- land developers, strip miners, hedge funders, whatever. Make a lot
of money, and we should applaud you and congratulate you.

At the same time, he`s trying to poach the theme of fairness from the
Democrats because he saw the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll last week that
showed fairness beats the stuff that he`s been selling. Your thoughts?

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
Chris, I mean, first of all, I think that there`s no question that it is a
problem to try to coopt this theme of the Democrats for Mitt Romney because
I think any discussion of fairness is largely defined by Democratic terms,
and so you end up having conversations about the tax code, and those
conversations are conversations that work to the president`s and Democrats`
advantage.

I think that what the Romney campaign is trying to do here is trying
to do something they`ve been doing, and I think quite effectively for a
little while, which is to say, We are not going to cede any turf to this
president. We`re going to fight. We`re not going to let you have any
ground that you can just have uncontested.

That, I think, is a -- is a fighter stance, and it works well with
Republican voters, might even work well with some voters in the middle.
But as I say, I think you end up playing on the president`s turf.

And then you get into the problem of this language issue that you just
pointed out. I mean, there`s a mile, more than a mile, many miles, an
ocean of difference between respect and congratulate. And congratulations
-- any politician who`s seen on stage congratulating himself is not someone
who goes over very well with very many voters.

Self-congratulation is not a pretty thing to see in any public figure,
and Mitt Romney kind of seems to be patting himself...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... and other rich people on the back. It`s not -- it`s
not attractive.

MATTHEWS: Yes, if he`s got a quarter billion dollars, fine. That`s
legal. He earned it. It`s his. But now he wants people, in this new
speech of his, to congratulate people who make a lot of money. And by the
way, it doesn`t matter how they made it.

Now, a teacher doesn`t make much money. Forget him. Forget the cop
who catches the bad guy and risks his life every day. That doesn`t matter.
If you make a ton of money, we should congratulate you and make you one of
our leaders.

I mean, I`ve never seen it laid out there like Romney`s laying it out
there now.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And he accused
Obama of attacking success, meaning attacking people who want to give tax
breaks to the rich and maybe the people who were behind the Wall Street
meltdown that cost this economy millions of jobs.

The interesting thing to me, playing off John`s point, is that in my
book, which covered 2011, I saw how the president spent the whole year
trying to set up a contrast in vision and values with the Republicans,
first playing off the Ryan budget and now playing off Romney.

And it seems that the Romney campaign is saying, Listen, we`re ready
to have a fight over values and vision. I don`t think that really works to
his advantage, for all the reasons that John laid out. But they`re saying,
Listen, we`ll give you our vision. Our vision happens to be, I`m a
success. You should like that.

I don`t think that plays that well, but he is taking it dead on to
Obama`s effort to try to make the selection not just a referendum on Obama
but a referendum on what the future vision and values of this country
should be.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s banking on this. Now, he uses these terms like
"congratulate," John. I`m going to go over that for a while because I`ve
never seen a politician say, I`m rich, congratulate me, and that`s what
he`s saying.

And then he conflates, like Bush W. did during the war, this
conflation of words -- you know, Iraq and al Qaeda, conflate them all
together. Success can mean a lot of things in our value system, thank God,
in our country. You can make a -- you can write a great novel. Perhaps
nobody every reads it until you`re dead, but you`re still successful.

But his definition is money. And money talks. And you can see it in
his campaign, all this super-money he`s pulled in, his super-PAC money.
He`s basically bought these primaries and caucuses with huge amounts of
money. And now he`s saying we should worship at the altar of this big
money. Not only has it won the nomination for him of his party, we should
now congratulate that money.

It`s -- it`s pretty -- it`s gone beyond Gordon Gecko, this guy.

HEILEMANN: Well, it is -- look, I mean, there`s something about the
word "congratulate." There`s a lot of times when congratulations are
handed out, congratulations are in order. Usually, they`re when things
like a blessing has occurred. You know, if someone gets married, you
congratulate them. They have a child, you congratulate them. Someone gets
a promotion at work, you congratulate them on that.

But there`s also a kind of tone of kind of heroism to it. You
congratulate someone for having performed a heroic act. And you know, I
was just thinking about the fact that -- you know, I think for -- you
mentioned, like, cops and teachers, Chris. Those people do things that
they should be congratulated for every day.

I think there`s nothing wrong with making money in America. We don`t
penalize that. We shouldn`t say there`s something wrong with being an
entrepreneurial success. The economy depends on those people.

But again, it`s something about standing up in front of people and
congratulating yourself for your success that that I think kind of rubs
people the wrong way.

Politicians who are successful are ones who make the campaign about
other people, about the -- about...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: About "we," not about "me" and not about patting
themselves on the back in an untoward way.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, he better be prepared to explain how he made
every nickel at Bain Capital if he`s going to brag about it and say we
should congratulate -- OK, explain how you made the money in your chop shop
over there.

CORN: This opens -- this opens the door for that. We thought that
that was gone with Newt Gingrich`s documentary being over and over with.
But this just opens the door. If you think you`re the definition of
success, which was what he was saying -- Look at me, I am success -- well,
then let`s put that under the microscope and look at that.

And the Bain examples -- you know, there are some successes, real
successes -- Staples, he keeps saying -- but there are still lots of times
when they didn`t act in a fair manner. He`s talking about success equaling
fairness? If you lose your job because LBO guys come in and take it away
from you, that`s not necessarily very fair.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go (INAUDIBLE) Last night in an interview, by the
way, with Piers Morgan on CNN, Rick Santorum was asked whether he now would
be willing to endorse Romney. It`s almost painful to watch Santorum
actually trying to avoid saying yes. Let`s watch him in action, Santorum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": But you believe that Mitt
Romney`s the right guy.

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I
believe he`s the better -- obviously, I believed I was the better choice,
but I`m not in this race anymore, so...

MORGAN: But he`s won the race.

SANTORUM: He`s won the race.

MORGAN: Is he, therefore, the right guy?

SANTORUM: Yes. Absolutely. He`s -- he`s the -- he`s the person that
-- that is going to go up against Barack Obama, it`s pretty clear. And we
-- we need to win this race. We need to defeat Barack Obama.

MORGAN: Well, that`s an endorsement, isn`t it? Unless I`m mishearing
things...

SANTORUM: Well...

MORGAN: ... you just endorsed Mitt Romney.

SANTORUM: Well, if that`s what you want to call it, you can call it
whatever you want. I -- I...

MORGAN: Am I wrong?

SANTORUM: All I would say -- look, I believe we need...

MORGAN: Karen, you know your husband.

SANTORUM: We need to win the race!

MORGAN: Has he just endorsed Mitt Romney?

KAREN SANTORUM, RICK SANTORUM`S WIFE: Not at this point, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s interesting. Piers goes to the wife to ask
what the husband`s saying. I mean, he just didn`t do it.

And I think if you put that guy into a stress test, I don`t think you
would have heard him honestly say, I really like this guy running for
president, Mitt Romney. He detests Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney used Dresden-style saturation bombing, huge amounts of
money he got from his equity buddies, to destroy that guy in a totally --
well, you can say all`s fair in politics. But it wasn`t an argument that
won the battle. It was huge amounts of money by the super-PACs in states
like Iowa, and of course, out in Michigan and all across Ohio. In every
one of those states, he smothered the guy in negative advertisements.

Is this going to be what we`re going to see in the general, Romney
running around bragging about his wealth and spending his friends` money to
destroy Obama?

HEILEMANN: Well, he`s certainly going to try to spend -- (INAUDIBLE)
try to spend his friends` money to be competitive with the president. I
think both sides are going to be up to their neck in a lot of money, Chris,
and I don`t think we`re going to be able to cast aspersions at either of
them. They`re both going to raise money from a lot of rich people, and
that`s fine.

But I think that Rick Santorum in this case -- look, you said it was
painful to watch. I think he was clearly -- he was in pain having to
answer the question. It looked like Piers Morgan was kicking him in the
shins under the table. The man looked like he was in almost physical pain.

He -- I think his emotional response to the way that Romney treated
him has made him act in a non-strategic way. I think his position...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, it`s hard...

HEILEMANN: If he wanted to get something out of Romney, he could have
gotten more out of him two weeks ago than he can now or tomorrow or the day
after. I think he`s a wasting asset right now, his leverage.

CORN: I know you remember Jackie Gleason in "The Honeymooners."

MATTHEWS: I certainly do.

CORN: And he was essentially saying, Humna, humna, humna, humna.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CORN: He didn`t want to answer the question. Now, Santorum still has
a bit of a choice to make whether he`s going to be a -- eventually be a
cheerleader for Romney while there are a lot of conservatives out there who
are looking to him to lead the conservative movement because there is no
leader at the moment. That means being an ideological enforcer...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: ... upon Mitt Romney. So you can`t do both at the same time.
He has to figure out what his future is. Is it leading the social
conservative movement...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it`s that.

CORN: ... or is it something in politics?

MATTHEWS: By the way, you talk about the pain in the face of Santorum
about -- a guy about whom -- personally I get along with, and I have to
tell you, I disagree with his politics. But I was thinking about what
Woody Allen once said -- I have not evolved successfully enough
existentially so I can experience my own death and still carry a tune.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think that`s something we`re at here. Anyway, thank you,
John Heilemann. Thank you, David Corn, author of this great new book,
"Showdown," which I show up here again because I`ve been told if you
actually physically show the book, people know it exists. Anyway, a great
book. I`m dead serious.

Coming up: President Obama`s out on the trail and he`s showing off
what a lot of people may have forgotten, he`s a heck of a campaigner. And
that`s ahead.

And this is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the end is near for Newt Gingrich. The candidate who
said he had high hopes for a first or a close second finish in Delaware was
trounced last night. Take a look at this wipeout. He came in nearly 30
points behind Romney. Campaign sources say that Newt`s going to suspend
his campaign next week, and he sounded like the end was near this
afternoon. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are
also committed as citizens to taking big solutions to Tampa and arguing
that the Republican platform has to be a solidly conservative platform. In
that sense, we`re going to continue to move forward.

But we`re going to do so within a framework where I think it`s pretty
clear that Governor Romney is going to be the nominee, just based on the
sheer weight of yesterday`s evidence. And we need to work in a way that we
can find a way to focus on defeating Obama, not focus on fighting
ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, Romney running on a perhaps forced right-wing
platform.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": I want to slow
jam the news. And I`m not the only one.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m President Barack
Obama.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And I, too, want it slow jam the news.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Even President Obama`s
detractors have got to admit he`s a truly gifted campaigner. And his
appearance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" last night, along with three
visits to three colleges in the last 24 hours made clear that when it comes
to campaigning, he`s in a class by himself.

Here he raises the bar by, as he said, slow jamming the news. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our
young people.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

FALLON: Oh, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

FALLON: You should listen to the president, or as I like to call him,
the preezy of the United Steezy.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: The reason it`s so important to keep down costs is so we keep
college affordable.

FALLON: And the president knows his stuff, y`all. That`s why they
call him the POTUS, which means person on top -- what is it?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Jimmy, POTUS stands for president of the United States.

FALLON: He`s the POTUS with the mostus!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. Well, the president`s obvious ease in
campaigning generally, whether on late night TV or mixing it up with
college students, is in sharp contrast, let`s admit, to Romney. Will it be
enough to beat Romney?

Well, Joan Walsh is MSNBC political analyst superb, nonpareil, and
editor-at-large for Salon, of course. And Erin McPike is a political
reporter at the inestimable RealClearPolitics, which many years ago I
discovered is a great place to figure out who`s winning different races.

Anyway, let`s go to this. Joan, this campaigning here -- I want to
take a -- all take a look here at the yogurt situation. Here the president
made an unscheduled stop at a college dive bar in Boulder, Colorado, called
The Sink, and wound up being accidentally doused in frozen yogurt -- that`s
the stuff that tastes good -- that belonged to a student there.

After a little ribbing, Obama quickly put the young woman at ease.
Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Oh, look, you got me! You got me!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m so sorry!

OBAMA: It`s OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama, will you please take a picture?

OBAMA: Whose yogurt got on me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really sorry. It was mine!

OBAMA: You`ve got a good story to tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Joan, what do you think of this? This guy has good
synapses. By the way, later on -- excuse me -- later on, speaking at the
University of Colorado, the president joked about the yogurt incident.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I was shaking hands with folks outside, and a young woman --
she got very excited and spilled yogurt on me.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: More hazardously, she spilled yogurt on the Secret Service,
which...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: The agent just stood there, just looking at her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Joan, you know, I get charmed fairly easily by
different politicians. And here he is, doing his best. I`ll tell you, he
does have a pretty good ability to connect and to adapt to strange
circumstances, like getting splashed with yogurt.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Splashed with yogurt,
Chris, and not all of us could slow-jam the news. I`m not sure I`d be up
to it, so that was very funny, too.

I mean, look, it`s really problematic for Mitt Romney because, as you
were talking about before, it`s not just that he`s awkward, it`s that he
seems so entitled. And you know, when he gets offered cookies, he makes
jokes about the cookies, rather than graciously accepting the cookies, like
we were all taught.

You take food from people, every culture, that`s a nicety. That`s a
kindness. And Mitt Romney just can`t compete on this basic human
relationship level. So, you know, I have seen a lot of wing nuts today
suggesting that President Obama`s appearance was some kind of violation of
campaign finance law, which is ridiculous.

But they are desperate. That went very well for him.

MATTHEWS: Well, making your point, here`s Mitt Romney. He just
couldn`t have the same gift apparently for retail, getting along with
people, politics.

Last week in Pittsburgh, as you said, he managed to offend many local
people in Pittsburgh when he questioned the cookies from a famous area
bakery. Let`s listen to this absurdity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not sure about the
cookies. They don`t look like you made them. Did you make those cookies?
You didn`t, did you? No, no. They came from the local 7-Eleven, bakery,
or whatever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bakery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s right. Put down the local product. Good move
there.

And while campaigning in June, Romney, a multimillionaire, met with a
couple unemployed Floridians and had this cringe-inducing line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I should also tell my story. I`m also unemployed.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a hoot, Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, REALCLEARPOLITICS: It is.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What is he -- you don`t make fun about being unemployed
when there is real unemployed people there who are going through the
humiliation of it, and you are a multi -- I`m sorry -- a quarter
billionaire, and they know it.

MCPIKE: Yes. And that I think is why we keep hearing the president
say, Michelle and I were paying off our student loans just eight years ago.

You know, it is not just the finances, I think, that Obama is better
at relating to people. He is better at relating by saying, I have been
through some of the same struggles that you have. And he understands
college kids.

And he`s almost sometimes when he is campaigning surprised that he is
the president of the United States. He just said yesterday, you know, I`m
the president of the United States and I just paid off my student loans
eight years ago. Same thing, this girl spilling yogurt on him. Can you
believe it? She has got a story to tell. I`m the president of the United
States and here she is spilling yogurt on me.

He is surprised sometimes.

MATTHEWS: I know.

MCPIKE: And people like that.

MATTHEWS: I really think you said that well.

Let me go back to Joan.

If you think Romney is pompous now, can you imagine what it would be
like if he were president?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Think about it. The sense of entitlement that exudes from
him, that he talks about we need to be congratulated for our success with
moneymaking. Imagine if he were actually elected, what he would be like.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think he would be connecting to regular people.

WALSH: And Ann Romney, who generally has been the likable of the
pair, saying it is Mitt`s time, it is our turn.

There is just going to be this incredible contrast between these
people who act like they were to the manner born and these other two people
who have been fortunate product of the American dream, who always seem, as
Erin says, a little bit surprised and taken aback by their extreme success
and are pretty darn gracious about it most of the time.

MATTHEWS: I`m trying to wonder about the students -- he is working
the students now, people in their 20s and people that are still in school.
Which of them will vote for Romney?

It seems to me the only ones that would naturally be driven to someone
like him would be the B-school people, some of the kids in business school
who can`t wait to go out there and make money in equity or in Wall Street
as fast as they can, no matter how they make it. And they will say, yes, I
want to be like him. That would be a small group of kids, I would think.

(CROSSTALK)

MCPIKE: I have actually talked to some MBA holders who say that very
thing. When you are trying to figure out, who is it that really loves Mitt
Romney and wants him desperately to be president, it is those people who
realize that he did a lot with venture capitalists.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And would be good on their tax bracket, their tax coverage.
They wouldn`t be taxed much.

MCPIKE: But they appreciate what he has done because they understand
it, whereas so few people do.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. Get me back it that. If he focuses on his
success, as he calls it, being rich, and he focuses on the need to be
congratulated for it, won`t he put himself in a corner and have to explain
how he made the money, all the chop shop, all the breaking up of
corporations, buying the little companies and breaking them up, selling
them off, making the money and firing people, which he says he likes to do?

MCPIKE: Well, he hasn`t yet defined what success was at Bain. He
hasn`t said what are the lessons he has learned.

MATTHEWS: Money.

MCPIKE: Well, evidently so. That`s what he talked about.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s what he says.

(CROSSTALK)

MCPIKE: But he won`t go out and say, what lessons did I learn from
turning around these companies and making them successful that I would then
apply to the government. He`s just a consultant.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Imagine you are out there. You`re a good teacher.
There are a lot of them out there. You are busting your hump everyday to
be a good teacher, maybe working a magnet school, maybe at a tough inner-
city school, and you`re working real hard.

And you`re making $40,000 or $50,000 a year, whatever, maybe you`re
making one of top salaries. And there along comes a guy who says, no, the
way I look at things is the people that make the really big money, they are
the ones to be congratulated, not the cop who risks his life every night or
the firefighter or anybody, no, no, not the teacher who sweats it out,
never makes big money, maybe retires OK, but never rich.

These people are not to be congratulated. Oh, no, the ones from Bain
Capital, the Gordon Gekkos, the big money people, the successful people
like me, the quarter billionaires. How is that going to sell, Joan, to
people that are not like that, the small group that see themselves in
Romney`s shoes some day?

WALSH: I don`t think it will sell. On the other hand...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: These are his words.

WALSH: I know, congratulatory, not that we should all respect each
other. It is congratulations. So talk about class warfare. It is really
elevating one class above another.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: On the other hand, I just do want to say that the president
will get most young people`s votes for sure.

The question is really going to be excitement and turnout in November.
And I think he is right to focus on the student loan issue, because student
loan indebtedness is now bigger than credit card debt in our country,
Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: That`s a scandal. But there`s a lot more that we need to do
about college affordability. When I went to school, it was $300 a
semester. I`m not that old.

We really aren`t making the American dream possible for kids anymore.
And I think the president needs to talk about -- talk more about that
directly to young people.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe he will look kill -- maybe he will get more
votes if it looks like he is running against Goldfinger.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh.

Thank you, Erin McPike.

Up next, how do you know that Marco Rubio is being vetted for V.P.?
Stick around for the "Sideshow." He is definitely being vetted. He is
being carried around by this guy.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the "Sideshow."

First up, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is one of the potential running
mates for Mitt Romney. But how can we tell if he is actually being vetted?
Well, for GOP strategist and former McCain adviser Steve Schmidt, this said
it all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I`m not going to discuss it anymore,
because now there`s a real process in place and I want to be respectful of
the process that he is working on. I think it would be wise for all
Republicans to kind of respect that process.

He has a process and we should respect that process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here is Steve Schmidt reading between the lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: To me, that
says, I`m getting vetted. Once you start going through that, once you
start going through the process, you stop talking about the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interesting.

SCHMIDT: So people who aren`t getting vetted are going to say, well,
I`m not being vetted, I`m not going to do it. People who are going to be
vetted say, well, I want to respect the process and I won`t talk about
that.

But his answer to me clearly said that, yes, he is starting to turn
over records and documents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Well, that may be the case, but Schmidt also says Ohio Senator Rob
Portman is the current front-runner in the Republican veepstakes.

And we all saw Rick Santorum`s painful back and forth with Piers
Morgan last night, still refusing to endorse Mitt Romney, but he is not the
only one. Another former member of the 2012 crowd also has yet to admit
that Romney is even a conservative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ON THE RECORD WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN")

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, "ON THE RECORD": Is Governor Romney a
conservative?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, that what voters are
choosing right now. I think that he`s got a very good record in a number
of different areas, and he`s explaining that record. He is doing that in a
big policy speech tonight.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has he satisfied you?

(LAUGHTER)

BACHMANN: Again, the point is, he is satisfying people across the
country in the primary races. Overwhelmingly, he is satisfying them
because they are giving him his vote. He had a clean sweep tonight. I
think that`s a pretty strong endorsement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s Michele Bachmann refusing to speak for Michele
Bachmann.

Finally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined other members of
this year`s "TIME" 100 list. At a New York City gala last night, Clinton
gave a nod to someone else who made the list, but was an inevitable no-
show. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: "TIME" has honored so
many national and global leaders. There`s many I haven`t had a chance to
meet yet. I was sort of hoping Kim Jong-un would show up.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I don`t think he`s here. But if you catch sight of him, let
me know. We are still trying to figure out what he is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. No sign of the North Korean dictator.

Clinton`s popularity has been through the roof lately, of course. A
"Washington Post" /ABC poll out today has her favorability rating at a
record high of 65 percent. And a recent PPP poll shows that she is by far
the top pick among Democrats for the 2016 presidential race.

Up next: The United States Supreme Court seems ready to uphold
Arizona`s very tough immigration law. will that help rally Latino voters
to President Obama in November? You betcha.

And you`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Well, the Dow today gained by 89 points. The S&P was up by 19, and
the Nasdaq added 68. Better-than-expected earnings from Dow component
Boeing helping to boost stocks today. And as expected the Federal Reserve
left interest rates unchanged. The Central Bank also upped its economic
growth and jobs outlook for the year.

Elsewhere, Apple shares soared nearly 9 percent or close to $50
following the company`s blowout earnings report that came out on Tuesday.

And that`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- now it
is back over to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the Supreme Court heard arguments today on the constitutionality
of the Arizona immigration law. Civil liberty groups say the law
encourages racial profiling. The law requires immigrants to carry proof of
their status. It requires police to attempt to determine the status of a
person if there is a -- quote -- "reasonable suspicion that he or she is
here illegally."

It also makes it a crime for undocumented workers to try to get a job.
And it allows police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without a
warrant.

At today`s hearing, a majority of the Supreme Court justices appeared
to be prepared to uphold at least part of the law, according to NBC`s
justice correspondent, Pete Williams.

Afterwards, supporters of the law sounded optimistic. Here was
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I`m very, very encouraged about what we
all were able to view today and hear. I thought that the hearing went
very, very, very well. I feel very confident as I walked out of there that
we will get a favorable ruling in late June.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

So what would it mean if the law or parts of it wore upheld by the
Supreme Court and how would that play out in the presidential campaign?

Angela Maria Kelley is vice president for immigration policy at the
Center for American Progress. And Victoria DeFrancesco Soto is a
contributor to NBC Latino and fellow at the University of Texas.

Ladies, thank you for joining us tonight.

And it is an interesting night because we now are becoming sort of
experts at watching Supreme Court arguments, whether it`s this or the
health care bill.

Let me start with Angela, who is with me right now.

It seems like the people who want this bill, this tough law to be
upheld by the court, to be made constitutional, basically declared that
way, are happy.

ANGELA MARIA KELLEY, VICE PRESIDENT FOR IMMIGRATION POLICY, CENTER FOR
AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well...

MATTHEWS: Jan Brewer looks happy.

KELLEY: Yes.

Well, she might be happy now. I don`t think in the aftermath of this
law, whether it goes up or down, that the conversation`s over.
Particularly Latinos are listening very carefully to how the candidates are
talking about it, what happens to them everyday on the street, whether they
are harassed or not. And so the conversation is not over today, whether
Jan Brewer is happy or not.

MATTHEWS: Will this bill, if it`s upheld by the courts, be a hammer
to be used against Romney this fall?

(CROSSTALK)

KELLEY: Yes.

I mean, look, the candidates are both -- he`s going to have to answer
the question, what do you think of the Arizona law? He has already told us
that he supports it. I think would he applaud it if the Supreme Court
upholds it. And that is going to run smack into what Latinos care about.
And that matters a lot in states like Nevada, Florida, New Mexico,
Colorado.

MATTHEWS: Will it mean electoral votes for Obama?

KELLEY: I think it could help him.

I think it could, because this is -- this isn`t like some small state
issue. Right? This is like a referendum. It is a proxy for acceptance by
the Latino community.

MATTHEWS: OK.

KELLEY: So they are listening very carefully.

MATTHEWS: Victoria, 10 percent of the voters next here -- rather,
this November -- we`re here now. I keep forgetting. We`re here. This is
the election year a few months from now -- 10 percent of people, one in 10,
walking into the ballot box and deciding who our next president is are
coming from Hispanic backgrounds. They are going to be Latinos.

And the question I have for you is will a decision by the Supreme
Court to say yes to Jan Brewer and her smile today, will that hurt Romney?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO: It won`t hurt Romney because
he has already distanced himself so much from the Latino population.

We already knew beforehand that he was in favor of SB-1070. He also
said early on in the primary that he would veto the DREAM Act if he were
president. He has tried to soften it since. But he is no friend of
immigration.

And we also know that above 85 percent of Latino voters support
immigration reform, in particular the DREAM Act with the path to
citizenship. So him cuddling up to Marco is not going to help him because
the substance isn`t there.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Is he aligned with the people who oppose the
Latino community? Is that the way it`s looked at? Has he made his stand
with the Anglos, if you will, to use that phrase, has he made the decision,
I don`t want the Latino votes? I want the people who don`t like Latinos?

Has he made that decision, do you believe, Victoria? He understands
taking sides -- has he taken sides?

SOTO: He absolutely did. And he had to do it in the primary because
in order to win the primary, he had to run to the extreme. What he feels
in his heart of hearts, I don`t know. But in this campaign year in 2012 --

MATTHEWS: I`m talking politically, not heart of hearts. I`m talking
about the way, the game, the play he`s made politically with is to go with
the enemies of immigration.

SOTO: The game is all out against immigration. Completely. And it
is not like in 2004 where the Republican candidate was actually open to
immigration.

So what we are seeing here is he claimed a state, he will try to walk
it back a little bit. But it`s not going to have an affect on the Latino
population.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a political question, if you dare answer
it, Angela, when he`s out there flirting with the bromance with Rubio from
Florida. Would that make up for his -- can he go 180 here and say, OK,
I`ve been tough on illegal immigration, I`ve been very tough on
undocumented workers. But I got this buddy here, my saddle buddy who
speaks Spanish, who comes from Cuban background, will that turn things
around politically?

KELLEY: No, I don`t think it will. I think it`s insulting to the
Latino voter to think that that`s going to be enough, just because somebody
can speak the language I speak, or that he`s handsome or he can talk about
his immigration experience.

Look, Rubio has been tough on immigration as well. And so, you add
up Rubio`s positions on it, Romney`s positions on it, they`re in trouble.
Look, the road to the White House runs through the barrio and they are at a
dead end. They can`t get there unless they dramatically change their tune
on it.

And I think it`s too late. I think your other guest is absolutely
correct.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Victoria.

What are they going to do down the road? Every party has to think of
the future, and the question is: where is the Republican Party is heading
if it`s known as anti-immigrant?

SOTO: Well, he`s entrenched himself. You know, in terms of Latinos,
the Republican Latinos are about 20 percent of the population. He has
their support in Florida. So he doesn`t have to worry about them.

But problem we really see is with the --

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s because Cubans put a toe on in the sand and
they were here. They had tremendously --

(CROSSTALK)

SOTO: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And I`m not against that at all. In fact, I`m for it.
They were anti-communist. But they add tremendous leg up, literally, on
everybody, didn`t they?

SOTO: They did. And so, when we see the fact that he is getting
very close to Marco Rubio, and this argument about, well, maybe Latinos
will cross party lines to vote for him -- that is completely untrue.
Cubans are less than 10 percent of the Latino population. And they are
predominantly Republican. Whereas, the vast majority of Latinos are
Democrats of Mexican American descent. So if you want to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, you`re saying --

SOTO: -- I say look at Sandoval.

MATTHEWS: So, let me end with you, Angela, you`re telling Governor
Romney don`t waste your time with Rubio, you already lost? Is it that
rough?

KELLEY: Well, I think when it comes to Latino vote, that he is in a
really deep hole, and he just keeps digging. There is no ladder long
enough to get him out of the hole he`s in.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you good with metaphors? There is no ladder long
enough to dig him out of that hole.

Thank you very much, Angela Maria Kelley and thank you, Victoria
DeFrancesco Soto, for joining us tonight.

Up next, the Secret service sex scandal -- boy, that`s a lot of S`s.
Did department bosses tolerate this sort of behavior in the past? That`s
the story that`s leaking out? This ain`t new, apparently.

And this is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, new results from the purple poll of swing states.
Let`s check the HARDBALL score board. Take a look at the numbers from four
key battle grounds states.

First to Ohio, where President Obama has five-point lead over Romney.
That`s pretty good, 49-45, in a state Republicans need.

In Virginia, Obama`s lead is down to two. Well, it`s been two, 48-
46.

Obama and Romney are actually tied, 47 a piece, in Colorado.

Down in Florida, it`s Romney by two, 47-45.

Well, it`s very close in the states that are going to decide this
thing.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The Secret Service scandal that rocked the agency this month might
not have been the result of a one-time occurrence, perhaps. That`s
according to "The Washington Post" this morning which reported today a 2009
instance of agents engaging in late night partying and strip clubs in
Buenos Aires, Argentina. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
faced tough questions by the Senate Judiciary committee today on a story
that`s not likely to I go way soon.

Senator Richard Blumenthal is a Democrat from Connecticut. He sets
on that committee. David Nakamura the reporter from "The Washington Post"
who broke today`s story.

I have to start with the reporter then, Senator, I want to you pick
up on the significance of it politically.

Let me ask you, David -- is it a fact or not, do we know, that there
was going to prostitutes, was that part of the Secret Service M.O. before
Cartagena or not?

DAVID NAKAMURA, WASHINGTON POST: We don`t know about prostitutes.
But we did hear a story from one of the current agents who said, in 2009
trip that you just mentioned, that President Clinton was on, that not when
Clinton was there, but there was partying after hours, and they included
visits to the strip clubs.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but that`s not in the same league. Come on. That`s
not in the same league.

NAKAMURA: It`s not in the same league, but this agent did say that
they heard about contact by agents with prostitutes on that trip, and that
there might have been photos.

MATTHEWS: And that`s the only other case that you`ve heard of.

NAKAMURA: Only specific case we`ve heard of.

MATTHEWS: So it was not common practice. It is still, as the
president said, referenced -- let`s hear the president right now, then I
want Senator Blumenthal to respond to the president. Because he`s still
treating this as a few bad apples, or as he put it rather well, a few
knuckle heads. Let`s watch the president`s description of what he knows so
far. Senator, let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Secret Service,
these guys are incredible. They protect me. They protect Michelle. They
protect our girls. They protect our officials all around the world.

A couple of knuckle heads shouldn`t detract from, you know, what they
do, but what these guys were thinking, I don`t know. That`s why they`re
not there anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, Senator, what do you make of this? Is this still a
couple of knuckleheads, an isolated case? Or is there any hint here of a
pattern of abuse?

REP. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, first of all, the
president is right, they are incredible by and large, and there may have
been two or 12. We think there were 12, and they certainly were
knuckleheads.

Whether there are more really has to be the topic of this
investigation. And the secretary, Janet Napolitano, said very clearly that
they are looking into whether there may have been other incidents, how
pervasive this practice may have been, and whether, in fact, any
information was compromised or threatened to be compromised.

So, I think they`re moving swiftly and effectively, very aggressively
in an investigation that has to be thorough, fair, and effective. They`re
aware of the need for a really tough investigation here.

MATTHEWS: Well, this has been going on now for a couple weeks, this
press coverage of this, the press inquiry, and to some extent the action by
your committee and the committee in the House led by Peter King.

From what you know now, is this a systemic problem?

BLUMENTHAL: The question of whether it`s systemic depends in part on
what the rules were. In my view, rules that permit Secret Service agents
to go abroad, have women to their rooms, married or unmarried, whether the
women paid or not, are rules that need to be strengthened and clarified, if
in fact they were unclear.

So, I think, looking forward, there needs to be very serious review
and revisiting of this system to determine whether there are systematic
defects and flaws. But by and large, let`s remember, anybody who`s had
contact with the Secret Service, and I`ve had a fair amount over the years
in the course of being the state attorney general of Connecticut, knows
that they are professional, and tough, and their integrity is pretty much
unquestionable overall. And there are bound to be a few bad apples.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to David Nakamura. Where is the reporting
going tonight? What are we going to read in the paper tomorrow, in "The
Washington Post"?

NAKAMURA: Well, I think, Chris, our next stop with our story is I
think what people want to know about, which is the director of this agency,
Mark Sullivan. He is a 29 year veteran. He`s been in charge since the
Bush administration in 2006.

And the question is, you know, the Secret Service, there`s been
rumors about partying on the road, wheels up parties after the president
leaves. This one happened, you know, two or three days before even the
president even got there, you have counter snipers involved, who shot, you
know, high powered rifles.

So the question is: who is Mark Sullivan? He has not come out
publicly right now and spoken on this. You`ll recall, he was in charge of
this agency in the last embarrassment in 2009 when two White House gate
crashers, the Salahis, got in to the party and with the president,
uninvited. He was able to sort of emerge from that fairly unscathed, and
apologized on Capitol Hill for that.

But right now, he has not spoken publicly since this event. And so,
we`re going to do our best to sort of explain to readers who he is
tomorrow.

MATTHEWS: People seem to like him. Let me go back to Senator
Blumenthal. People seem to like Mark Sullivan. I`m getting a sense from
people at your level, on the Congress and around the administration, he is
respected a lot. That he has a lot of credit in the bank starting this, a
lot of capital there.

BLUMENTHAL: He is a career guy. He`s regarded as a straight
shooter, and he was very smart in contacting the key congressman right
away, waking them up literally at 5:00 in the morning, and then calling him
back again.

So, I think he has been forthright, I think everyone hopes that this
investigation will be quick and aggressive. It has to be tough. And leave
no stone unturned. Follow the evidence wherever it leads.

MATTHEWS: Well, as Bobby Kennedy once said, you hang a lantern on
your problem. It`s very smart to let the people know.

Anyway, thank you, Senator Richard Blumenthal, for joining us, from
the Senate Judiciary Committee, and David Nakamura of "The Washington
Post."

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with where I started tonight, with
this presidential election -- a clear choice now. You see from what Romney
is saying the wealthy in this country deserving to be congratulated, and
Obama talking about having to make it through college with student loans.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" with this:

I just figured out what this election is about. Let`s discount all
the stupid stuff from now to Election Day. Both guys will make gaffes, but
I don`t mean they will say things on their minds they quickly they wish
they hadn`t said.

But who are they? That`s something we can figure out from clear
statements made just recently -- statements about their values, the way
they judge other people, the way they wish to be judged themselves. I`m
talking about their accomplish on this earth and how they value them.

Mitt Romney wants us all to value what he calls success. Others call
it making big money. He calls it success. It doesn`t mean how you make
it, you make a boatload of money, you live well. You want the world to
look up to you, to, in his words, congratulate you. That`s his world.

Yesterday at the University of North Carolina, President Obama said
that he and his wife Michelle just finished paying off student loans eight
years ago. And he said, and I`m president of the United States. He`s
saying that he`s worked hard, done the right things with his life, "Harvard
Law Review," community work in Chicago, teaching constitutional law. They
don`t bring big incomes or big houses, but they do good.

Romney`s view, when he`s putting it right out there now for us,
showcasing it now, is not that he committed gaffes when he talked about
having a couple of Cadillacs, or that he hangs out with people who own
NASCAR teams ands that he enjoys firing people -- that`s the way he looks
at things -- money. Money means success. It means people should look up
to you, congratulate you because of the prominence that mere wealth brings
to you, that entitles you to in this fair society of his that he keeps
talking about.

Well, land developers, strip miners, hedge funders, it doesn`t matter
how you you`re your money, you deserve congratulations on top of that money
according to him. You deserve to be one of the prominent people, the
stands out who, let`s face it, should be calling the shots. Forget the
teachers, the firefighters, the doctors who take care of low income
patients.

Well, Obama is not perfect, but he`s got the right values here.
Those student loans of his say a lot. They say that he and Michelle won
real success and really good schools because they had the brains and the
moxy to get there. And, yes, they have given themselves to helping other
people do the same.

So, it`s not the gaffes that tell you what these two very different
men running for president are all about. It`s how they reveal themselves
in the last 24 hours. It`s the statement their lives have made.

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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