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updated 5/9/2012 2:17:08 PM ET 2012-05-09T18:17:08

Guest: Jon Tester, Mark Critz, Simone Campbell, James Salt, Chris Matthews, Michael Steele, Mark Halperin, Alex Wagner, Amanda Drury

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Charge!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Philadelphia. Leading off
tonight: Playing offense. We know what the Romney campaign strategy is,
make President Obama defend his record in a struggling economy. Well,
today we learned that the Obama team refuses to fight on the defensive.
They`re going on the assault against the Mitt Romney who said, "Let Detroit
go bankrupt," the Mitt Romney who said, "Getting bin Laden might not be
worth the effort."

Well, Joe Biden, signaling his role as chief attacker, today portrayed
Romney as weak, uncertain and backward-looking.

Also, 2012 is not the only campaign under way. The Clinton party, if
you will, scored a big one in Pennsylvania this week. Bill Clinton
supported Democrat Mark Critz over another Democrat because Critz supported
Hillary over Obama in 2008. Big Bill is settling scores and is now
marching forth as Hillary`s chief advance man, preparing the way for 2016.
You bet he`s in this thing.

Plus, Paul Ryan`s got some trouble with his hard-line Republican
budget. Today at Georgetown University, Ryan was told by -- get this --
100 faculty and administrators that a plan that hurts the poor and coddles
the rich violates Catholic principles.

And Democrats took the Senate six years ago when John Tester eked out
a victory out in Montana. Whether they can hang onto their majority this
time requires an outpost like Tester`s hold on this November. John Tester
himself joins us tonight.

Finally tonight, our musical tribute to Newt Gingrich, the Newtster,
who made this Republican campaign a lot more interesting, you might say,
than it had any right to be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We
will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.

I`ve founded four businesses. I`ve written 24 books, 13 of them "New
York Times" best-sellers.

This was the finger the penguin bit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the full Newt-thology is in the "Sideshow," where it
belongs and always will be, by the way.

We begin with the Obama campaign on the offensive against Mitt Romney.
"Time" magazine`s Mark Halperin is MSNBC`s senior political analyst. And
former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele`s also an MSNBC political
analyst .

Gentlemen, today Vice President Biden launched the campaign assault
against Mitt Romney, and I believe he crystallized the contrast between
Romney and Obama on two of the biggest events of the president`s term.
Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said before,
thanks to President Obama, bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.
You have to ask yourself, had Governor Romney been president, could he have
used the same slogan in reverse?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was soft-spoken, Mark, but it looks like they`re
laying it out here. They`re not going to play defense, they`re going to
play offense. They`re going after Romney for not supporting the bail-out
of Detroit and for being hesitant about the need to go after Obama -- I
mean, I`m sorry, to go after bin laden because President -- certainly,
President Bush never went after him that much, and apparently, Romney`s on
record as not saying (SIC) it was that important. Your thoughts.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
the speech was primarily about foreign policy. This is a very aggressive
campaign, and Joe Biden and the president both have studied Mitt Romney`s
expressions, statements from the past. They`ve studied his critiques.

The press should study his critiques, too. I think the vice president
made excellent choices today both politically and substantively on
critiquing the criticisms that Romney`s making of the campaign. They`re in
a very strong position, I think.

And I`m sure we`ll talk more the specifics on the foreign policy side,
but the vice president has been out there being very aggressive. And
again, he knows his brief. He`s not freelancing. He`s not just reading
somebody else`s words.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: He knows what he`s talking about.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this. Michael, you join us
here. Biden took aim at Romney`s self-proclaimed managerial skills and
unloaded with an assault on Romney`s lack of knowledge about the job of
president.

Let`s listen to this indictment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: He starts with profound -- a profound -- misunderstanding of
the responsibilities of a president and commander-in-chief. Here`s what he
said, and I want to quote him exactly. And I quote, "If we want someone
who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the
State Department."

He went on to say, and I quote, "But that`s not how we choose a
president. A president is not a foreign policy expert," end of quote.

In my view, the last thing we need is a president who believes that he
can subcontract our foreign policy. That kind of thinking may work for a
CEO, but I assure you it will not and cannot work for a president and it
will not work for a commander-in-chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: By the way, we did check, and Romney did say those very
words that Biden quoted in a December 2007 interview with Fox the last time
he ran for president.

Michael, your thoughts about the smartness of going after Romney on
foreign policy here...

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: ... as Biden`s doing today.

STEELE: I think Biden certainly can bite. There`s no doubt about
that. And he does it in a way in which he makes you pay attention to the
context and how he`s framing the argument.

And I think the Romney people -- you know, look, these guys are not
going to be slouches in this race. They`re going to come out really
prepared to lay, you know, metal to the pedal in terms of how they, you
know, go after and go back against these arguments.

But I think right now, the administration -- rather, the campaign is
taking the -- the president`s campaign is taking the offensive is a good
position to be in. But again, you know, the foreign policy debate is one
that, you know, the president can talk about four years later, you know,
with all this great experience. You know, you can`t forget he came into
the White House after, you know, eight years in the state legislature and
18 months in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEELE: So -- so I think...

MATTHEWS: I thought of that, too, Michael...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I do, too. I accept that. Let me go back to Mark on a
couple points we saw today. Number one, it looks like they`re going to go
aggressively. As I like to say, the reason the cavalry always left the
fort in the old cowboy movies is because that`s what they do. They don`t
hide in the fort. These guys are coming out to fight the attackers.

Number two, Biden looks like he`s got the job, doesn`t he.

HALPERIN: Well, yes. (INAUDIBLE) part of a series of speeches he`s
given.

Look, I take very seriously to critique all the foreign policy
criticisms that the Republicans make of the president to sort of evaluate
them on their merits and on their political efficacy. I find the attacks
from Governor Romney so far on most foreign policy issues -- not all, but
on most -- to just be almost flailing. They`re just throwing out language.

His surrogates did a conference call today to rebut Vice President
Biden`s rebuttals, and again, you go through issue by issue, and the
administration`s point is correct. Either what Governor Romney is
proposing is vague, it`s what the president`s already doing, or it`s
something the American people wouldn`t support and is bad policy.

So I think there should be rebuts (ph) from a foreign policy debate.
There are some issues, like China, where there seems to be a real
difference. But for the most part, I think the -- it`s easy for Joe Biden
to rebut the criticisms that are coming because they`re just not very
politically effective or identifying actual areas of substantive
difference.

MATTHEWS: This is all on point here. Vice President Biden hit Romney
hard for being, as he said, both misguided and uninformed on America`s
relationship with Iran, which is the hot issue now. Listen to what he said
now because I want to put into context what the Israeli army chief of staff
just said today about this thing.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: He says we need, quote, "crippling sanctions," apparently,
unaware that through President Obama`s leadership, we`ve produced just
that, crippling sanctions. President Obama has said, and I quote, "Now is
the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad
international coalition we built. Now is the time to heed the timeless
advice from Teddy Roosevelt, `Speak softly and carry a big stick,`" end of
quote. I promise you the president has a big stick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, again, Biden`s quote is accurate. While campaigning
in Ohio in February this year, Romney did say with regard to Iran -- this
is amazing, he must have forgot he said it -- quote, "We have in place
crippling sanctions."

Michael, here`s a guy that`s not familiar with his own brief.
Apparently, just several months ago, this winter, he said the very thing
the administration is already doing, gave them credit for having done it.

And then he`s come out now and criticized them for not doing what he
said they were already doing, which is tightening the screws on Iran to the
point where the -- I noticed and I`m sure you saw today, as well, and Mark,
the Israeli army chief of staff said that he don`t -- they don`t think that
Iran`s going to go ahead all the way with weaponizing their nuclear
weaponry. So something`s happening that, for example, Romney seems to have
lost his touch with his own brief, for example, here.

STEELE: Yes, because of those crippling, you know -- you know, screws
that have been placed into the economy over there. The reality is that
with respect to the foreign policy stuff, it`s an interesting dance for
Romney to do because in large measure, Republicans in the House and Senate
-- and the Senate have supported the president`s foreign policy
initiatives.

I mean, they`ve, you know -- you know, talked about it in the context
of the Bush -- overall Bush agenda from the last eight years, continuation
of that, how he`s effectively used drones beyond anything Bush has done,
the effort to go after Osama bin Laden.

The war in Afghanistan, for example, is one, again, where the
Republicans in the House and Senate have largely given a lot of cover, if
you will, to the administration because they`ve supported this approach and
this effort.

So it`s very difficult, I think, for Romney right now to kind of carve
out that separation, when we look at it tactically (ph)...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

STEELE: ... the Republicans and the administration line up a lot more
than they fall apart.

MATTHEWS: And here`s the president again keeping on the aggression.
He doing this part (ph). In an interview with "Rolling Stone" --
obviously, an attempt to get the young voters -- President Obama made clear
that Romney will have nowhere to hide from his primary positions, the ones
he took to win the nomination.

The quote from the president here, "I don`t think that their nominee`s
going to be able to suddenly say, Everything I`ve said in the last six
months I didn`t mean. I`m assuming that he meant it. When you`re running
for president, people are paying attention to what you`re saying."

Let me go to that -- to Mark. You`re the expert, or you`re really the
chronicler of these campaigns now. It looks like -- somebody said to me --
one of our producers today said that it looked like it was an opp research
dump today, or they`re beginning it. They`re going to really make an
effort from now until election day to spend time reminding voters of what
Romney`s been saying before he got into this general election mode.

HALPERIN: They`re just -- they`re right now, though, Chris, just
picking off the top of the pile. In Chicago, there`s tons more opposition
research, tons more quotes. I predict they`ll have quotes that Governor
Romney`s never seen.

The problem for Governor Romney on the foreign policy front and on
this issue of flip-flopping is these attacks right now -- they`re themeless
(ph) footing (ph). George Bush had a kind of a frame on Bill Clinton`s
foreign policies in 2000 that was effective. Bill Clinton had a frame on
George Bush 41 that was effective. It added up to kind of a different
world view that would be compelling to the American people.

The Romney criticisms on foreign policy don`t do that. And as you see
from the president`s quote to "Rolling Stone," the vice president`s series
of speeches, as I said before, they`re very familiar with Mitt Romney`s
record. They`re not just taking staff briefs and kind of going out there
and reading the teleprompter.

And that makes them formidable. That`s the kind of stuff Mitt Romney
did as a candidate when he was debating in the Republican nomination fight
when he was so good. I don`t think he`s at the level on the president`s
record in terms of efficacy and focus an self-knowledge that the president
and the vice president, who are pretty busy guys, have about Mitt Romney
right now.

STEELE: And -- and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead, last word, Michael.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Just real quick on this -- on Mark`s point. And people
forget Romney`s been running for six years for the presidency, so he`s got
a long history on foreign policy and other issues that they can delve into.

MATTHEWS: OK, great opening bell by Joe Biden today and a great
coverage of it by you gentlemen today. This is the beginning of the fight.
The president`s getting in it full bore in a couple of days.

Coming up: Never mind -- Mark Halperin and Michael Steele -- coming
up: Never mind 2012, by the way. Bill Clinton`s got his eye on 2016, I
think. He`s doing the great advance work for Hillary Clinton, especially
in my home state up here in Pennsylvania. Bill Clinton is the pathfinder,
the pioneer, the spearhead, the ramrod of the potential -- potential --
Hillary Clinton for president campaign.

This is HARDBALL, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new polling from Southwestern United States
in the battleground states. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard." First
to New Mexico, a state President Obama won in 2008, and he`s up there big
again in a new PPP poll. Look at this, Obama 54 in New Mexico, Romney 40.
Now to neighboring Arizona, and a bit of a surprise here. Obama`s got a
slim 2-point lead over Romney in the latest Rocky Mountain poll, 42-40 in
John McCain`s state.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Here`s a question a lot of
people are already asking. Is Hillary Clinton running in 2016? Well, one
clue, she`s got a pretty good advance man working for her, Bill Clinton.
And I`d say the former president has taken on the role of endorser-in-chief
among Hillary`s 2008 allies, rewarding her supporters, punishing her
opponents. Big deal, and it`s a big question. Is Bill fighting old
battles or getting ready for a big new one in 2016?

U.S. Congressman Mark Critz just won the Democratic nomination in his
Pennsylvania congressional district this week. He also was the lucky
recipient of a big Bill Clinton endorsement before the primary. And my
colleague, Alex Wagner, joins us now. She`s the host of "NOW," of course,
on MSNBC.

Well, look at this. Our own Howard Fineman wrote this in the
HuffingtonPost just yesterday -- very prescient. Quote, "We have three
leading political parties in America today," Howard wrote, "Republican,
Democratic, and Clinton. The last is a mom-and-pop operation with a
Chelsea. It`s been 12 years since they had a president in office, but they
still keep score, tend to their base and ponder what to do next with their
political, financial and charitable clout."

Congressman Mark Critz, I was rooting for you, sir. You`re the Jack
Murtha of today. You represent everything I really like about politics.
It`s local, you look out for your base and you delivered. Congratulations.

REP. MARK CRITZ (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about Bill Clinton and his popularity and his
future importance this November. I`m sure you`re going to want him back
helping you in November and the future in Pennsylvania. What do you see
the Clintons` role down the road?

CRITZ: Well -- well, obviously, you know, President Clinton is still
very popular in western Pennsylvania. You know, a lot of people look back
at the years when President Clinton was in office and then when Hillary ran
in `08. And obviously, his support of me -- you know, I`m not completely
devoid of ego, I`m hoping I had something to do with it, but it was -- you
know, it was really important to my race. I think it helped with voters
who may have been on the fence.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about -- let me bring in Alex Wagner. We`re going
to talk you more about your race in a minute, Congressman, and
congratulations again on winning the primary.

CRITZ: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Alex, come in here and tell us about this whole thing. You
grew up in a political family. You know about the Clintons from way back
when. I have a sense they`re going to be part of our lives if not for
decades ahead, for a long time...

ALEX WAGNER, HOST, MSNBC`S "NOW": Forever!

MATTHEWS: ... whatever happens. Go ahead. Perhaps forever.

WAGNER: Forever! I mean, look, Hillary is obviously on center stage
because she is the secretary of state and she`s done a bang-up job, I
think. It`s also we are approaching the end of her tenure. She`s been
very clear about the fact that she`s leaving the end of January, and that`s
prompted a lot of discussion about what she`s going to do next.

Certainly, Bill has an incredible profile, with the Clinton
Foundation. And you look at the numbers in terms of favorability -- when
Hillary exited the 2008 race, her favorables were -- her unfavorables were
54 to 45. Now they`re 65 to 27.

That`s not only a testament to her as a person, but the job she`s done
as secretary of state in a time where she`s dealing with everything from
Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Burma.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WAGNER: I mean, there`s turmoil around the world. And she`s done it
not only with aplomb but with a sense of joy, Chris. I mean, you saw those
photos of her swilling beer after hours. She`s really loved this position
and I think it`s really -- it`s -- she`s worn it well.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever heard of anybody walking away from politics
when they have those kinds of approval numbers?

WAGNER: No, especially not a Clinton. But then again, I don`t think
this is the -- I mean, I don`t think this is the end of the Clintons, as
you said. There`s definitely a next act.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about -- Mark Critz, Congressman, thank you. Tell
us about -- I have a great belief about the Democratic Party in
Pennsylvania. It has a lot to do with working people. It`s somewhat
suburban around the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh area, but it`s also a very
working-class, working crowd people, regular people, if you will.

The Clintons seem to have a special tag with those people, with
regular people. I grew up with them. And they seem to connect in a way
that other politicians don`t. Explain that. Explain the way you connect
with people in the same way, I believe.

CRITZ: Well, I think you hit it right on the head, Chris, is that
obviously it`s a working-class neighborhood, I guess you could say, in
Western Pennsylvania, and the folks here really do identify with President
Clinton.

And I think the one thing that Hillary did during her race in `08 and
then becoming secretary of state is that she showed people how hard she
worked. And then obviously, when she took the job as secretary of state,
people were very impressed with the way she handled that, and she`s done
such a bang-up job.

So I think all that she`s done is enhance the Clinton reputation in
Western Pennsylvania, is that they work hard, they`re looking out for
people, and when they are called upon, they do a great job.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it just seems like the two enemies that people have in
America, they think the Republican Party has an economic elite, which we
see all the time, the 1 percenters, the real rich people, and the
Democratic Party has a tendency to have a cultural elite that people don`t
like.

The Clintons seem to avoid both of those people, don`t they?

CRITZ: Yes, absolutely.

WAGNER: Yes.

CRITZ: Oh, I`m sorry. Go ahead, Alex.

BALDWIN: Go ahead. You first. You first, Congressman.

I want the congressman on this one first and then you...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: Go ahead.

CRITZ: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I don`t get him on that very often. I can get you on more
often, Alex. I don`t get this guy on. He just won a primary.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: Whatever you want.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CRITZ: Yes, I`m a little tired, too.

But, anyway, no, I think that you`re right. President Clinton, in
fact, when he came in to campaign for me two years ago, he talked about me
being a person who gets things done. And that`s how people look at
President Clinton as well, is that he went into office and he got things
done.

He lifted the country, and he left with such a good reputation of how
he moved this country forward. And people remember that, and they remember
that -- you know, that he did move the country forward, and again, going
back Hillary, she`s done such a wonderful job as secretary of state, is
it`s just enhanced that.

And people look at that and say, look, we want leaders who can get
things done, and that`s why their popularity just continues to surge.

MATTHEWS: And now my colleague Alex, go ahead. Your thoughts.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Well, you know, when -- to your point, Chris, about the sort
of blue-collar appeal that Bill Clinton has, we`re only going to see more
of Bill Clinton.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WAGNER: We know that he`s going to be stumping for President Obama.
He`s going to help with some of the super PAC fund-raising.

I was talking about President Obama`s message in that "Rolling Stone"
piece where he`s talking about Republicans. And he goes out of his way to
say, I don`t think -- I think there`s a difference between Republicans in
this country and the Republican Party, and really tries to sort of reach
out to moderate Republicans in this country who may not sort of like
President Obama right now.

MATTHEWS: Smart.

WAGNER: And Dee Dee Myers was on our program and she said, you know
what that sounds like? That sounds like Bill Clinton.

And there is this understanding that Bill Clinton knows how to appeal
to the center of this country, blue-collar workers, moderate Republicans,
and is going to impart some of that knowledge on to President Obama.

MATTHEWS: So well-said.

In fact, I keep reminding people around here that of the Republicans,
who are about half the country when you have these national elections which
are close -- so that`s 50 percent of the country in some elections -- there
is only 1 percent of the country that is really rich, so 49 out of 50
Republicans are not up in the elite class and benefit from all those tax
breaks.

But they vote Republican. They could vote the other way.

Here`s Hillary Clinton, by the way. Just to prove we`re not getting
ahead of this story, here she was being honored Tuesday night doing a great
flirtation. She was at the "TIME" magazine for the 100 party. She used
her chance up at the podium to toss a coy nod to a couple of other rumored
2016 presidential candidates who were also in the room. Let`s watch
Hillary Clinton do a little flirtation I think with running for president
in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I was delighted to
see that our wonderful governor, Andrew Cuomo, is on the "TIME" 100 list,
along with others, like Marco Rubio. And the two of them and I have ended
up on some other lists this past couple of months.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it.

Congressman, Congressman Critz, you still there?

CRITZ: I am still here, yes.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about running with the Clintons some day,
Hillary Clinton, for example, in 2016? Would should be good coattails?

CRITZ: Well, I`ll tell you what. She was very -- she is and was very
popular in Western Pennsylvania. I can`t imagine that that changed.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CRITZ: I think she`s only enhanced her reputation here.

MATTHEWS: Well, good luck in the general election against a
Republican opponent. You have knocked out Jason Altmire in a big upset. I
think I know how you did it, getting your vote out. It`s critical,
especially in low-turnout primaries.

CRITZ: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations for assuming the mantle of the great Jack
Murtha.

And, Alex Wagner, you`re the best. Thank you so much for coming on
HARDBALL tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next, a special HARDBALL "Sideshow" farewell, isn`t it
about time, to the Newtster, Newt Gingrich. He`s saying bye-byes next
Tuesday. Can`t wait. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. It`s time for the "Sideshow," and
tonight it`s all about Newt.

He`s about to officially say farewell, but before we part ways with
the Newtster, let`s look back at some unforgettable moments of 2012 race
for the Republican nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t have to go down
and point out the inconsistencies of people who could be a nominee.
They`re not going to be the nominee.

In seven three-hour debates, Barack Obama will not have a leg to stand
on.

I`m very concerned about not appearing to be zany.

You`re in a school that`s failing with a teacher that`s failing. I
tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought
to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local
students to take care of the school.

We will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be
American.

A Gingrich presidency will submit to the United Nations a treaty that
extends the right to bear arms as a human right for every person on the
planet.

Just go to Facebook and on your home page put Newt equals $2.50 a
gallon gasoline.

The odds are very high I`m going to be the nominee.

I founded four businesses. I have written 24 books, 13 of them "New
York Times" bestsellers.

I did no lobbying of any kind, period. I was charging $60,000 a
speech. And the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally,
celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We
were selling more.

I don`t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than
left-wing social engineering.

Any add which quotes which I said on Sunday is a falsehood.

QUESTION: Are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?

GINGRICH: Yes.

I`m not going to compete with Obama in singing.

I also am an amateur paleontologist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can bite it.

GINGRICH: Put one in here.

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: There`s Louisiana treatment of an Etch A Sketch.

Some of you probably have an additional interest. This was the finger
the penguin bit.

When I worked with Ronald Reagan, we set out to defeat the Soviet
empire. I worked with Reagan when I was a junior member. We created 16
million new jobs.

I worked with Ronald Reagan.

I think, obviously, that I would be a better candidate.

I`m going to be the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Newt, thanks for all the memories.

Up next, Paul Ryan came to Georgetown University today to push his
hard-line budget, a budget he says was guided by his Catholicism. But some
Catholics at Georgetown say a budget that helps the rich and hurts the poor
violates the very principles of the church. And that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, the Dow gained 114 points, the S&P up by nine and the Nasdaq
adding 21. Well, stocks gained ground despite a weaker-than-expected read
on weekly jobless claims and also an earnings report from ExxonMobil that
missed estimates. But pending home sales surged 4.1 percent in the month
of March. And after the bell, Starbucks earnings coming in a penny ahead
of expectations. Meanwhile, Amazon.com shares our surging following its
blowout profit report.

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

MATTHEWS: U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of
the Budget Committee, says his Republican budget was influenced by his
Catholic faith.

Well, today, it was clear not everyone agrees with him. Ahead of a
speech at Georgetown University today, he was met with protesters and a
letter from nearly 100 professors and staffers who disagree with his
philosophy and his budget.

That letter says in part, "We would be remiss if we did not challenge
your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that
decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens
protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the
wealthiest few."

James Salt runs the group Catholics United, which protested the
congressman`s speech today. And Sister Simone Campbell is the executive
director of NETWORK.

Sister, I want to start with you. And it`s an honor to have you on
today, as well to have James on.

We have been watching this dispute over Catholic philosophy and the
social justice issue. My question to you is a very simple and perhaps a
little -- a whimsical one. How come nuns tend to be Democrats and bishops
tend to be Republicans?

(LAUGHTER)

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NETWORK: Well, that`s a
really good question.

I would like to know the answer to it myself, but I have a hunch that
it`s our experience that makes the difference. We sisters work at the
margins of society. We work with people who are struggling, who are
working for minimum wage, who have a very tough time with the minimum wage
-- it`s $7.25 -- keeping food on the table for their families.

So we know the real-life struggles of real-life Americans. And when
you`re in touch with those sorts of struggles, you can`t help but realize
that we need to be together as a society and respond to the needs of all
around us. We`re only as good as the strength of our society, and that`s
why we think that often Democratic principles are much more in keeping with
that sense of solidarity.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to James on this.

And I could bring it up with his sister as well. We all grew up,
Catholics like myself, studying Rerum Novarum the encyclical on social
justice from the early part of the last century, and we understand the
importance of a living wage and things like that and subsidiary and all
those principles and warnings about the excesses of capitalism.

Most Americans, even Catholics, have no idea what I`m talking about,
do they? They don`t understand that there is this fabric, this safety net
that was really introduced by the Catholic Church and of course then made
part of the law under the New Deal.

JAMES SALT, CATHOLICS UNITED: You know, but it`s also part of our
DNA.

I mean, many Catholics came over to this country with very humble
origins, worked hard, played by the rules, and really proved the American
dream true, that you can succeed, which is why it`s so unfortunate right
now that at a time when there is so much suffering, Congressman Paul Ryan
really wants to beat up on the little guy.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think he wants to give tax breaks to the rich?
I can understand why he worries about the burden of debt down the road to
future generations. My kids worry about that, especially my daughter.

But why does he feel that there needs to be incentives for the rich,
and where does he find his Christianity heading in that direction, helping
the rich out?

SALT: Yes. Well, certainly -- it certainly indicates his political
motivations less than Gospel teaching.

You know, I, along with the Catholic bishops, agree that Paul Ryan`s
budget fails a basic moral test. Any time you ask working-class Americans
to pay for the tax breaks of the wealthy, that`s not just unfair, that`s
immoral, that`s un-Christian.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SALT: But, you know, it is something that we`re all concerned about.
This is something that`s central to the Catholic community. We are care
about the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s watch. Let him speak here. James, let`s --
here`s Congressman Ryan defending his budget this morning at Georgetown.
Let`s listen to the congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Our budget offers a
better path consistent with the timeless principles of our nation`s
founding, and, frankly, consistent with how I understand my Catholic faith.

We put trust in people, not in government. Our budget incorporates
subsidiarity by returning power to individuals, to families and to
communities. We draw inspiration from the founders` belief that all people
are born with a God-given right to human flourishing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sister, why do you think some people believe the way to get
poor people to work harder is to cut their money, to basically hurt them,
and the way to get the rich people to work harder is to give them more
money? Why do they have different views of incentives?

CAMPBELL: Well, I think they probably don`t know people who live in
poverty, because people who live in poverty work extremely hard to just
even feed their families.

What they know is the wealthy, the reserved. They know -- and this
lie about giving wealthy people more money will make better jobs, wealthy
people have had 10 years of a tax cut that has resulted in no jobs. The
wealthy people have had 10 years to keep wages flat and claim that it`s
because of globalization.

Wealthy people have had the chance to exploit those who are at the
very margins of society, to deny health care to them, to cause them to go
into debt or bankruptcy whenever they have a catastrophic illness. And now
the Republicans want to promote that.

Just because they say -- I mean, Congressman Ryan said it was his
understanding of his faith. I think he has a very flawed understanding of
his faith. He is half right about subsidiary and building responsibility,
but because he leaves out solidarity, and the fact that we`re in this
together, the fact that we the people of the United States, means all of
us, not just those with money, that because he leaves that out, he`s half
right, but he`s 100 percent wrong. He`s got his faith wrong.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: James -- I`m sorry, James, it seems to me
there has been a fight. We`ve covered it here extensively without getting
too much into religion here, we`ve covered the issue over contraceptive
issue, the fights between some of the sisters and some of the bishops, the
organized bishops. But it seems like you`re both on the same page, the
bishops and the nuns, when it comes to this response, the sort of Dorothy
Day approach to the social ministry here and helping poor people.

It seems like you`re together, are you? The bishops tend to be
Republican as I said, and the sisters, you tend to be Democrats. Do you
agree on this social agenda you`re talking about here for people?

JAMES SALT, CATHOLICS UNITED: Absolutely. I don`t want to echo
Sister Simone. You know, if Paul Ryan spent a day of his life in the shoes
of those of poverty, soul-crushing poverty and had to make decisions from
day to day, how do we make our paychecks stretch to either put gas in the
gas tank or food on the table, we wouldn`t be having this debate.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I`d like to remind people who come to
Washington to get up early someday and get down on the some of the poor
parts of Washington, D.C., and notice how the poor people, a lot of them
African-Americans, are up, catching their business 6:30 and 7:00 in the
morning to go to work. They`re not coming home rich, they`re not coming
home rich, but they have put in a full`s day work.

Here`s Congressman Ryan speaking about his Catholic faith this
morning again at the wonderful -- great actually -- Georgetown University.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: I suppose that there are some
Catholics who for a long time thought they had a monopoly of sorts. Not
exactly on heaven, but on the social teaching of our church. Of course,
there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do
as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine, as best I can
make of it. What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is
from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to
the problems of the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, sister, what`s your last word on the good fight
between you and Paul Ryan tonight? Your last look in (ph).

CAMPBELL: Paul Ryan needs to read the encyclical by Pope Benedict,
"Charity and Truth." He needs truth. The truth is that those who suffer
at the margins of our society are the ones Jesus cares about. They`re the
ones our society should care about. And it`s the ones that the Republican
budget, his budget, leave out.

That`s wrong, it`s morally wrong and his faith understanding is
seriously flawed.

SALT: Amen.

MATTHEWS: Wow, you`re really poaching. You`re going to Benedict on
this one. I thought you were going to go to Louis XIII. But
congratulations for finding a liberal doctrine from Pope Benedict XVI.
Thank you so much, Sister, for joining us. You know your stuff, of course.

And James Salt, thank you sir.

Up next: Jon Tester`s victory in Montana six years ago helped
Democrats win control of the United States Senate. Tester wins again this
November, Democrats could keep control. we`re talking about the man
manning the outpost out in Montana.

He`s going to come up next, Jon Tester.

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: In the four years since the last presidential campaign,
Americans have gotten more conservative on gun rights and more liberal on
gay marriage. Put that together, take a look at new poll from Pew. It
finds that 49 percent of Americans say it`s more important to protect the
right to bear arms versus who just 45 percent who said gun ownership needs
to be controlled. Well, those numbers were reversed when President Obama
first took office.

And on gay marriage, 43 percent favor it while 51 percent oppose it.
During 2008 presidential campaign, 51 percent, oppose gay marriage. Well,
we`re switching around, aren`t we?

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

A lot of people are very interested in the outcome of this year`s
Montana`s Senate race, including Karl Rove. His group Crossroads GPS has
sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race going after incumbent
Senator Jon Tester. Senator Tester is being challenged by Republican
Congressman Denny Rehberg. Today, Tester`s campaign released a new ad.

Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Jon Tester doesn`t pack much when he goes back to
Washington. What he always brings his Montana roots. In Washington, Jon
is standing up for Montana values, reducing the deficit, making sure kids
can afford to go to college, protecting Social Security, and Medicare,
protecting the Second Amendment, taking care of veterans and making the
U.S. senate look a little more like Montana.

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: I`m Jon Tester and I approve this
message. I approve Charlotte`s cooking, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, to be sure, the ads by Karl Rove and other outside
groups are flooding the airwaves out in Montana are much less positive.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana joins us now.

Senator Tester, I want to thank you for by a fact that my daughter
and I both have a Montana fishing license, both of us. We were out there
in the Madison River this summer. It was fantastic. And thank you for
joining us.

TESTER: It`s great to be here, Chris.

And you`re exactly right. I mean, Montana is an outdoorsman`s
paradise, and we have incredible fishing, and hunting and outdoor
activities all over the place. I`m glad you got a chance to take advantage
of them.

MATTHEWS: It was great. Let me ask you about, you know, I`ve
covered the primaries as part of my job and we`ve moved around a lot
through Iowa, through Florida, through Iowa, a lot of these states. I
didn`t get to Ohio.

And everywhere I went, there`s this flood of absolutely nasty ads
paid for by who knows what super PAC, no name attached to it. It doesn`t
say Karl Rove, it doesn`t say the Koch brothers or some Texas oil guy --
hugely negative, nasty ads. You can`t escape them.

How are you going to deal with that when this floods into Montana?
It`s already doing it I guess.

TESTER: Well, I mean, they`re already doing it. They`ve already
spent about 2 million bucks trying to define me as something that I`m not.
And that`s the key, that`s what -- that`s no surprise. That`s what we
figured they were going to do.

We`ve got a great record. We`ve got great things done, still farm,
my wife and I still run the place, plus do our work in the U.S. Senate.

So they`re trying -- they`re trying to paint me as something I`m not,
and the challenge is, Chris, and this is -- you know, with all of this
money, can Montana voters be bought by all of this untruthful
advertisements out there right now. I mean, one ad even gave me five
fingers on my left hand, another didn`t know how to spell my name. I mean,
my goodness, these guys are really free and loose with their terminologies.

And I would just say that we just got to -- we`ve got to work hard,
and we`ve got to have enough money to get our message out. We`re not going
to be able to outspend these guys. They`ve got more money than we can even
come close to raising. But by the same token, I`ve got a great record of
we can get people understanding what we`ve done in the last five and a half
years. And if we can get that message out to the voters, I feel very
confident in this election.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the old disconnect. Most Republicans are not
rich, some are, very few are very rich. And some of them are little better
off than others. But a lot of them are average people, and yet the
Republican Party seems to get controlled by that 1 percent, guys like Karl
Rove running around the oil people, the Koch brothers who are billionaires.
Somehow they convince that 49 percent of the 50 percent that tend to vote
Republican, they have the same interest as the 1 percent.

How do you get through that and convince those 49 percent of what
people used to call the cloth coat, not the main coat crowd? How do you
convince them that they shouldn`t be going along with the ad guys because
the ad guys who pay for these ads have their on selfish interest, piggish
(ph) interest, if you will?

TESTER: Well, I think -- I really think the key is our ads have got
to be better than theirs. But more importantly than that, I think we`ve
got to let people know what`s going on with the secret corporate money
that`s being dumped into these races. You know, back in 1916, Montana
voters, 1916, almost 100 years ago, Montana voters said enough of this.
(INAUDIBLE) ran the state of Montana, they said no more corporation
involvement.

I think if people understand where this money is coming from, and
it`s very tough because there is no transparency whatsoever --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TESTER: But if we an get them to understand this corporate outside
money, maybe not even in this country, which is totally illegal, funding
the race and the ads against me, I think they`ll react accordingly and it
might backfire on them.

MATTHEWS: What about -- Cecile Richards seems to like your campaign
and doesn`t like the other guy running against you. Is that -- are women
voters going -- let`s take a look at her. Here she said, there is no more
important Senate race in the country that yours. She campaigned with you
last week.

Here`s what she told the "Great Fall Tribune" about you, quote, "He
has been such a strong independent champion of women`s health in the United
States Senate."

Your thoughts on that issue as one of the many issues out there.

TESTER: Yes. Well, I appreciate it, I think, you know, we`ve seen
some of the impacts on the war on women come out of this Senate and come
out of this Congress. And as I told my daughter at Easter time when we
came, I said, you know, you`re going to have to get active and you`re going
to have to get involved. You`re going to have to fight a fight that your
mom didn`t have to. You`re going to have to fight the fight that your
grandmother fought.

And that`s a fact. And I think that women in Montana and across this
country understand their choices, their health care choices are going to be
badly eroded if they don`t step up to the plate, and I think this election
is a time to do it.

MATTHEWS: Does it help -- I know Montana is a reach for a guy like
Obama to win or any Democratic to win, but to my it seems to me Obama`s
strength in going after bin Laden, catching him, killing, the fact he`s run
a pretty strong foreign policy does take away one of the usual, and now,
he`s certainly has nothing to go after the gun owners, that he seems to be
less of a challenge out there as part of your situation. Is that true?"

TESTER: Yes, I mean. I think it is, I mean, I think our gun rights
are better now than when he came into office. I think the work he did to
not only find bin Laden but take him out of the equation I think is
positive from a Montana perspective.

And he was dealt a tough hand. I mean, he came into this economy, it
was losing 800,000 jobs a month. So, absolutely, he has done some good
things. On the other side of the equation, we`ve got plenty of things
where I`ve opposed him, not because opposing for the sake of opposing. You
know, the fact is, you know, whether the jobs bill that was there six to
eight months ago, I had some concerns with it, and voted against it, the
bailouts, I voted against.

So, I mean, we`ve got plenty things that we`ve differed. But, you
know, one of the things they`re trying to do and they are doing in states
around the country where President Obama is not very popular is try to tie
the senators to him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Senator Jon Tester, the man with the crew cut, the
man on the tractor. There can`t be this confusion you one of those New
York, one of those East Coast guys.

When we return, let me finish with a win-win tango between and the
Clintons and the Obamas.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

Bill Clinton is going to play a big role in American politics for
years to come, but looks increasingly like Hillary Clinton is going to run
in 2016, it looks increasingly likely that Bill Clinton is already at work
preparing the way.

As we say in politics, he`s become the number one advance man. We
saw this week in Pennsylvania, the former president`s readiness to help
candidates who are solid Clinton people against those were not. We saw how
he helped Mark Critz against Jayson Altmire in that congressional primary,
helped Kathleen Kane against Pat Murphy for A.G., rewards and pay backs
accordingly.

He`s posting the rewards for past loyalty, the bounties for the
other.

I know what you know about this interesting dance the Clintons have
been having with President Obama. Hillary Clinton has served with high
competence as secretary of state. Bill Clinton accepted whatever role the
Obama have accorded him. Whatever Hillary Clinton may decide, it`s clear
Bill Clinton wants her to be president. They began as a team, they will
end that way.

The good thing, at least, potentially in this tango between the
Clintons and Obama, is that it can, if played properly, help both. There
is nothing more important for a political party than to be able to appear
broad, having the Clinton people aboard the Obama reelection campaign is a
plus any way you look at it.

Combining the Obama and Clinton votes was the key to winning the
election in November in 2008. It will be begin in 2012. A smart move for
both the Clintons and Obamas to keep the peace through November.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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