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updated 5/24/2012 2:59:58 PM ET 2012-05-24T18:59:58

Guests: Ezra Klein, Eugene Robinson, Joan Walsh, Sue Herera, David Corn, Mark Halperin, Sam Stein, Robert Reich, Ezra Reich, Steven Rattner

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Boston. Let me start with Mitt
Romney`s rules of engagement. He is a man of faith, family and business,
and that, ladies and gentlemen, is about it. This is also a statement of
what his opponents, the press and the public is not supposed to ask about.

We`re being asked to let a man lead us in the world without knowing
what his world is all about. He`s a candidate for our highest office who
holds himself well beyond the rope line, who complains about the need to
explain himself.

There is something strangely and defiantly weird in a man demanding to
enter the public world who demands -- commands is a better word -- that we
keep our distance and do not try too hard to enter his world. We can`t
talk about his faith. We can`t talk about his time as governor. We can`t
talk about Bain Capital.

What can we talk about, his choice in Cadillacs?

Steve Rattner was the car czar for the Obama administration and "Time"
magazine`s Mark Halperin is an MSNBC senior political analyst. He just
interviewed Mitt Romney for the new edition of "Time" magazine.

By the way, Mark, in your interview, you asked Mitt Romney whether his
business record was open to scrutiny. Let`s watch his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: But you welcome
scrutiny of your business record, is that right?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Mark,
what I can tell you is this. The fact is that I spent 25 years in the
private sector. And that -- that obviously teaches you something that you
don`t learn if you haven`t spent any time in the private sector.

If you were to say to me, Tell me what you learned from your schooling
that would help you be a president, that`s, like, well, How do I begin
going through a list like that? You learn through life`s -- life`s
experience.

The president`s experience has been exclusively in politics and as a
community organizer. Both of those are fine areas of endeavor. But right
now, we have an economy in trouble. And someone who spent their career in
the economy is more suited to help fix the economy than someone who spent
his life in politics and as a community organizer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Mark, what did you make of that interview? It`s a good
question, but what did you make of the answer?

HALPERIN: Well, that`s part of what he said, Chris. And people can
go to the Web site and read the full answer on Time.com. I think two -- I
think his answer had three basic parts to it, two of which I think are
politically effective.

The general answer of just, business -- if you`re in business, you
know how to make the economy work -- I don`t think that`s particularly
effective. And he went to that well, as he normally does, several times.

There were two other aspects of the answer that I think are more
effective. One is -- and part of what you showed there -- I think his
critique of the president -- while the White House will push back on it, I
think a lot of voters will find that compelling, to say, I have been in the
private sector, he hasn`t, you don`t like the economy.

There`s part of his answer I thought was quite effective -- again, we
didn`t see it there -- where he talked about energy. It`s one of the first
times I`ve ever heard him drill down specifically and say, When I was at
Bain, this is a specific thing I learned about business that I can apply as
president, basically not a huge, like, mega-revelation, but that if your
energy costs are high in a business, you can`t -- you can`t meet your
payroll. You can`t be competitive with other countries. And that`s
something that he thinks -- he says animates his energy policy. I think
that line could be effective if he fleshes it out.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Steve Rattner. Steve, you -- I`ve known you a
while and you`ve worked with -- pretty closely with politicians as a
reporter and then as a political contributor and a man who`s close to a lot
of them and also to business people. You`re in business yourself up there
in New York.

What -- there has been a reason why business types -- and I don`t mind
using the phrase like Romney, and I don`t mean just corporate or private
equity guys, businessmen -- have not made great political leaders. It
seems like a different world. You have a different press. You have a
different isolation. You can pick the press you want to talk to. You can
pick the people you want to talk to.

Politicians have to swim in a world of people and be concerned about
an awful lot of people that aren`t involved directly in making money for
them.

STEVEN RATTNER, FMR. OBAMA CAR CZAR: There`s no question about that,
Chris. They are somewhat different sets of skills. And I think you
articulated it pretty well. If you`re a CEO, you do have to do with --
deal with employees. You do have to deal with shareholders. But it`s a
lot different than legislating and being part of a group and trying to
build consensus.

And the record of business people going to Washington -- treasury
secretaries and other jobs -- is at best very mixed because most
businessmen are used to this sort of command-and-control CEO kind of
approach. It is quite -- it is quite different.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let me ask you about Bain. And he seemed to
give -- he did -- I mean, Mark is smart. He shifted quickly away from it
to Obama. And he said, I can`t give you a whole list of things. He
doesn`t want this to be a choice election. He wants it to be about the
performance of the president, right? That`s where he wants the focus of
the voter to be, on Obama, not him.

RATTNER: I was -- I watched that clip of Mark`s interview and I was
astonished at how quickly he pivoted. He never really even answered the
question. He immediately turned around and started talking about the
president as a community organizer.

Look, Mitt Romney put Bain on the table by claiming that he created
100,000 jobs while he was there. He made this an issue in the campaign.
He basically put himself forward as a kind of job-creator-in-chief. And so
once he did that, and frankly, did it in what I think is a very specious
way, then I think it`s totally fair game for the press, for the Democrats,
for anybody who wants to, to dissect that job creation record and see what
it really amounts to.

MATTHEWS: Well, here we are back to the interview. Mark, you asked
Governor Romney about the president`s focus on Bain. And he told you he
welcomes that before quickly pivoting, as Steve said, to the president`s
record.

Let`s watch that action here in your interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALPERIN: So when the president said he wants to focus a lot of the
election debate on your career at Bain Capital, do you welcome that?

ROMNEY: Well, of course. I`d like to also focus on his record. What
is it -- what is it that he`s done as the president of the United States
over the last four years? Has he established the revitalization he
promised he would bring to us? Did he hold unemployment below 8 percent?
It`s been what, 39 months now. That hasn`t happened. He promised it would
happen by virtue of his stimulus.

Gasoline prices -- are people happy with those? Home prices -- they
happy with the home prices, the level of foreclosures? Do they think
someone can do better?

This is a president who spends his time blaming other people for the
fact that he has been unsuccessful in turning around this economy. And I
think the reason you`re seeing across the country people saying they`d like
to try someone new is because they believe this president, while he may be
a nice guy, is simply not up to the task of helping guide an economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Mark, what do you make of his nervousness, his calmness?
Could you read anything into that? People have told me he looks a bit
nervous there. I can`t tell from the small clip.

HALPERIN: Well, he`s getting over a head cold, so you got to -- you
got to give a little bit of a slack on that.

I think -- I think right now, one of his great strengths is he`s not
all caught up in the election. You and I have both covered presidential
candidates who sometimes -- they`re constantly saying, What`s the other guy
saying? What`s the newspaper saying? What are the polls saying?

Governor Romney`s engaged in all that, but in my time with him this
morning -- it was a long interview, it was more than 30 minutes, one of the
longest he`s done -- I found him to be very calm, the same guy, from the
first time I met him, calm, relaxed.

And he -- just like the believes Mitt Romney would be a horrible
president, Governor Romney in his heart believes the president`s been a
horrible president. And that really animates him and gives him the ability
to talk about this stuff, I think, quite naturally for him. He`s not
making this up. This is what he believes.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you -- well, I trust you on that as a reporter.
You`re one of the best. But why does he have this weird dichotomy where
he`ll do a formal sit-down with you because he obviously respects you, but
-- and then he seems to be very wary of the rope line -- and he says the
loopiest things on the rope line -- and yet when he gets a formal setting,
almost like a business press interview, he`s solid?

He can`t talk spontaneously on the rope line. He gets in trouble all
the time. He seems nervous about it. And he likes the formal debate
structures and conversations with you.

What is it about his formality that you can figure out?

HALPERIN: He`s got a severe allergy to rope that causes him to get
loopy.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HALPERIN: Look, not everybody`s good at everything in politics. And
I think he`s learned not to talk on the rope line most of the time, but
sometimes he slips up. He`s not a great off-the-cuff politician. It`s
still the case. And this is why the debates will be a really interesting
challenge for him.

It`s still the case that sometimes, when a certain button gets pushed,
like on a rope line or in a debate when he`s weak, he`s not that good. But
I think, overall, in the interview today, on rope lines most of the time,
in most of the debates in the Republican nominating process, his skills are
pretty good. When he`s prepared, he`s pretty good.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Let me go back to Steve. Again, to your
knowledge -- you do have a pretty good knowledge of all these kinds of
people. He doesn`t seem like the guy that wants to talk about his private
life. He certainly doesn`t want to talk about religion, and that`s a right
he has to keep that to himself, doesn`t really want to talk about his
experience as governor, as a moderate governor up in Massachusetts. He
really doesn`t like this scrutiny of some of the -- a lot of the Bain
stuff.

Can you get away with being elected president and have this hermetic
shield around you?

RATTNER: I don`t think so. I think people expect something different
from a president, or from any politician who`s running for office, than
they do from a CEO. And so I do think that part of his problem connecting
with people is the fact that he doesn`t want to do any of the things that
you just mentioned.

I think the thing in Massachusetts may also be a little bit different,
which is that I think there are questions about his record in
Massachusetts. The Democrats have a sound bite about Massachusetts being
47th out of 50th in job creation. I don`t think he wants to be in "Romney
care" because that is clearly a toxic issue politically for him.

And so he`s trying to dodge and weave. And I agree with you, I think
we have several months in which people are going to try to run him to
ground, and I think he`s going to have trouble responding.

MATTHEWS: OK, Steve. And by the way, thanks for saving the American
car industry. I think that is quite a notch on anybody`s belt, including
yours. Thank you, Steve Rattner. And thank you, Mark Halperin, as always,
for a big interview.

Coming up: The Republicans say it every day, President Obama raised
taxes. His spending is out of control. He apologized for America. Well,
the fact is, not one of those three things is true.

Wait until you catch -- we did some work here, our producers and I.
We got some facts for you. Spending hasn`t gone up every year. It`s
basically been flat. He hasn`t (INAUDIBLE) didn`t even care what the
Pakistanis thought. He got bin Laden and killed him. This guy is not what
the Republicans say he is. You ought to know that.

By the way, swing time. The economy may be struggling nationally, but
it`s a lot better in many swing states. Wait until you hear this. A lot
of cases where it`s going to matter most, he`s doing his best.

And we`re looking at a great divide right now in the Democratic Party,
or are we, among the elite who do like people, well, like Cory Booker, who
likes the guys in eq1uity and big money, and the regular rank-and-file
person who doesn`t quite like the big guys.

Anyway, finally -- finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the knock-
knocks (ph) on President Obama and why they`re a joke.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Troubling numbers for President Obama in the biggest swing
state on the map. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

Here it is. A New Quinnipiac poll out of Florida gives Mitt Romney a
6-point lead over the president, 47 to 41. That`s a big swing from the
polls we`ve been seeing recently showing a much tighter contest down there
-- Romney by 6 in Florida.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. There`s been a flood of dishonesty
coming from Republicans as they try to reshape the image of President
Obama`s record the last four years. They want you to think the president`s
ballooned government spending. Well, that`s not true. For four years
running now, spending has run basically flat as a pancake at the federal
level.

Nor is it true that he has raised taxes. Let`s face it, Bush`s tax
rates are still in effect, even though Karl Rove will try to convince you
otherwise. And what do they want you to think? They want you to think he
didn`t order the death of Osama bin Laden, that he`s been out there
apologizing all over the place for America. Well, it`s been a campaign of
large falsehoods, and the question is, does it work?

Joan Walsh is editor-at-large for Salon. David Corn is Washington
bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and the author of "Showdown." Both are
MSNBC political analysts.

Joan, I have to tell you, every once in a while, I come across a fact
that just blows me away. Look at a part -- now, this is not the true part,
this is the falsehood. Here`s the new ad from Karl Rove`s group Crossroads
GPS, which says President Obama engaged in massive government spending
increases. Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama started spending like our credit cards
have no limit. We`ve had stimulus and bail-outs. Obama added almost
$16,000 in debt for every American. How will my kids pay that off when
they can`t even find jobs? Now Obama wants more spending and taxes. That
won`t fix things.

I had so many hopes. Cutting taxes and debt and creating jobs --
that`s the change we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Mitt Romney likened Obama`s spending to an inferno.
Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Rather than putting out that spending fire, he`s been feeding
it. He has spent more and borrowed more. The time has come for a
president, a leader who will lead. I will lead us out of this debt and
spending inferno!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Not true. And the only problem with Republicans trying to
paint President Obama as a reckless spender is it`s not true at all.
Marketwatch points out that federal spending is rising at the slowest rate
-- in fact, look at it there -- since 1950 (ph). But take a look at that
bar chart there. For four years, from fiscal year `09 right through the
fiscal year `13 we`re heading into, no change. It`s been about $3.5
trillion right through.

You know, Joan, every once in a while, I`m amazed because I`ve heard
so much about how government spending`s been spiking every year. And you
look at the ad that Rove`s put out and you`d be led to believe...

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... every year, it`s ticking upward. It`s incredibly flat,
government spending, federal spending.

WALSH: It is. You know, I mean, this Marketwatch piece has gotten a
lot of attention because it does fly in the face of what a lot of people
believe, even a lot of Democrats, Chris.

And you know, I`ve been trying to think about -- what`s the biggest
lie they`ve told so far? I mean, birtherism is vile, but it is really a
crackpot, fringe. This may be the biggest lie of all. You take...

MATTHEWS: Including Trump...

WALSH: ... utter mendacity...

MATTHEWS: Trump`s still pushing it.

WALSH: Trump!

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: And Joe Arpaio, the crackpot fringe. But this one, you take
sheer mendacity and you multiply it by the number of people who believe it.
And this to me -- that`s the Joan Walsh formula for the biggest lie -- this
to me is the biggest lie. And it`s frankly devastating.

When you look at the numbers, I mean, actual per capita spending per
American dropped under President Obama. You know, it`s partly -- the
administration is now pushing this and Jay Carney practically swore at
today`s briefing, telling people, Don`t believe the Republican BS. But
they`ve got to get better at getting this stuff out.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: That chart is unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: Well, the phrase "big lie" is -- the phrase "big lie" is
terrible, of course, but in this case there has been an effective use of
relentless not truth telling. David?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are
so many candidates for the biggest lie, despite Joan`s favorite. One was
that...

WALSH: I know.

CORN: ... the stimulus created -- you know, created no new jobs,
which Eric Cantor and others were saying. And a good example -- I think
about how they get away with this and why they get away with it.

And we were just watching Mark Halperin`s, our colleague`s, interview
with Mitt Romney. And in that interview, Mitt Romney said once again that
Barack Obama promised that the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8
percent. He never made that promise. You know, Politifact and others have
said that that`s a lie, and yet Mitt Romney keeps saying it again and again
and again.

And I was just wishing for Mark to stop the interview just there and
say, Wait a second. That`s really not true, is it? Can you defend this
comment? But as long as Mitt Romney and others can keep saying things like
that and feeding an impression that`s out there, even if it has no basis,
they`re going to keep doing it. The fact checking doesn`t stop them.

MATTHEWS: Well, the word "hold," by the way, is dishonest. The
number of unemployed in this country spiked up to above double digits the
minute the guy got into office that first spring.

CORN: Of course.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: And he was trying to get it down to 8, and he`s got it down
to 8.1. And it was Christina Romer, his economics person, who said it was
8. But he -- the word "hold" it, as if it was all way down below 8
percent...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and he was keeping it from going up.

CORN: It wasn`t a promise.

MATTHEWS: It was...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: None of this made sense. But it`s just one...

MATTHEWS: I know. It`s dishonest.

CORN: ... big lie after another.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Here is another one: taxes. You and I, all three of us, have watched
Obama lose one fight after another with the Republican-controlled Congress
trying to get rid of Bush tax rates.

They get it both ways, Joan.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: They attack him for having raised the rates from -- from
Bush`s level, when he has lost every one of the fights to try to do it. So
they whack him from both sides.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They say, he -- he tried to raise the taxes. Oh, he did
raise them. But he didn`t. We have still got Bush`s tax policies right
now.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Bush -- our economic fiscal policy is basically the Bush
tax rates right now.

WALSH: Mm-hmm. Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, I guess there`s nothing more to say on that.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Well, no, but he cut -- there is more to say. He cut taxes.
He cut taxes in the first two years through the make work pay tax credit.

MATTHEWS: On payroll.

WALSH: And then he followed up with payroll taxes cut. So actually
he cut taxes for most Americans and he hasn`t raised them on any Americans.

The only thing they can point to really is I think is that tanning tax
that Snooki was so upset about in the Affordable Care Act.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: That`s the extent of the tax increase.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. I have heard about the tanning tax.

Let`s go to Romney`s dishonesty here. OK, let`s go -- we have skipped
-- we have moved that already. Let`s go to another attack that he`s sort
of always around the country, around the world, being weak on national
defense.

And I don`t know. Here he is, here is Romney again with that old song
that he is always apologizing. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Internationally --
internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy.

He believes America`s role as leader in the world is a thing of the
past and he apologizes for America. And I will never apologize for the
greatest nation in the history of the Earth.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president took on credits about his national
security record during a press briefing last December. Let`s listen to the
president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask Osama bin Laden and
the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field
whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them
about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: David, appeasement has a horrible ring to it, of course.
And -- and they don`t mind using it.

CORN: Of course.

It goes back to the Nazis and appeasing Hitler. It is an awful word,
and there is no basis for this. Ask him for an example of appeasement.

Libya? That was an instance where the president pushed the European
allies to go further than they were willing in order to take on Gadhafi`s
killing machine that was threatening civilians. The president himself
makes a good case on not appeasing al Qaeda, which is really our biggest
threat now.

Mitt Romney is out there saying that Russia is our number one
geopolitical foe, which is not true. And he`s blaming the president for
appeasing unknown, unidentified enemies. It is the type of thing that
really shouldn`t pass any sort of laugh test...

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s horrible.

CORN: ... in polite society. He should just be -- he shouldn`t be
allowed in the room with positions like that. But because it feeds this
notion that Obama is an amateur, that he is not really American, doesn`t
really care about American -- and American values, it finds a foothold
amongst those out there who are already skeptical of the president and it`s
red meat for those folks.

It is kind of sad that Romney has to sink that low and can`t have an
honest debate over foreign policy and national security differences that
may legitimately exist.

MATTHEWS: Well, he doesn`t know anything about foreign policy.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Yes, I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Joan, it seems to me, and David -- he doesn`t know anybody
about it.

You know what? I`m no hawk, as everybody knows it.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But I have been reading a lot about Reagan lately. He
spent a lot of time trying to get Gadhafi. And he`s been toppled thanks to
this president. And the people of Libya, let`s forget -- let`s not forget
the people with our help...

CORN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Those people got rid of this bad guy.

W. talked like the macho man about getting the bad guys in the war on
terrorism. That was his phrase. And yet in terms of the war on terrorism,
I thought that the sheet that the president just ran through, the bad guys
at the top of that list, the 30-some people, he has done pretty good at
actually fighting the war on terrorism.

So even on their own score sheet, he should be their hero. Barack
Obama should be a hero to the hawks and the right wing.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: He should be their hero.

And, you know, I have to call ourselves and the rest of the media on
the carpet here, too, Chris, because we have got to find ways -- I don`t
know if Mark Halperin should have jumped into that interview. I would like
to see that too, David. Maybe that wasn`t the time.

But certainly in print and in broadcast, every time we report that
Mitt Romney once again said Barack Obama apologizes for America, reporters
should be required to say, as a matter of fact, you know, MSNBC has found
that he has never once apologized for America.

There`s got to be a way to just -- to make this a reporting
convention.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There is a catch-22 there.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: What is it?

MATTHEWS: There`s a catch-22, Joanie (ph). We will never get that
interview.

CORN: No. No.

MATTHEWS: Because we will keep doing that to him.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They`re not going to listen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, we won`t get a second interview. We are
not going to get a second one. If Mark has done that, had laced into him,
like you and I would love to do it, the goodbye would be permanent from
this guy.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: David?

CORN: Well, that`s part of the problem. Well, that`s part of the
problem here, because if you don`t do that, then you are enabling him to
use you as a platform to say things that aren`t true.

The other day, he gave a speech in which Romney said, if Obama is
reelected and Obamacare is fully implemented, half of the government will
be controlled by the government, again, not true. It`s a line he keeps
over and over again.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: And unless someone sort of really gets in his face about it, he
is not going to stop. And some voters will actually believe that. That`s
the sad thing. And that`s what is unfortunate about it.

WALSH: Oh, yes.

CORN: It is not just cable chatter here. This really matters when it
comes to picking a president.

WALSH: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: They believe he raised taxes.

MATTHEWS: Well, he will be president and his press conferences will
have all kinds of participation all the way from "Forbes" to FOX.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, they will give him good interviews.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Joan Walsh.

Up next: Say no more. Wait until you hear the brain-dead answer
repeated over and over by a United States congressman who is still, believe
it or not, in office about what he said about the president not being an
American. Finally, this guy has been caught by a good piece of work by a
local journalist out there in his state.

By the way, tomorrow on HARDBALL, Newt Gingrich is going to join us.
We are going to have a lot of fun looking back over his late, great
presidential campaign, and we are going to have some real interesting back
and forth with the Newtster. And I`m glad he`s coming on.

This is the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: the ad wars. Last week, Mitt Romney ran his first ad of the
November election. It is what Romney would do on day one, he says. A
couple of comics did some editing.

Here is Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What would a Romney presidency be like? Day one,
President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, introduces tax
cuts and reforms, and issues the order to begin replacing Obamacare.

Day two, Mitt Romney is reminded his wife, Ann, that he lost to
President Obama by a landslide.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s what a Romney presidency will be like.

(APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Mitt Romney, and I
approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that one is called day two, of course.

Well, taking things in another direction, here is Jimmy Kimmel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What with a Romney presidency be like? Day one,
machines, trucks, Mexicans, an American flag, guys wearing hats, ties and
tractors, a black lady, more American flags, dockers, happy old guy, black
friend, more American flags.

ROMNEY: I`m Mitt Romney and I approve this message.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I wish the original was that smart.

Anyway, and last week, I told you about Congressman Mike Coffman, the
Colorado right-winger who at a recent fund-raiser said this about President
Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I don`t know whether Barack Obama
was born in the United States or not. I don`t know that. But I do know
this, that, in his heart, he`s not an American. He`s just not an American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Coffman later said he misspoke, but a local newspaper
reporter -- actually newspaper -- TV reporter actually -- tried getting
Coffman to elaborate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you feel that voters are owed a better explanation than
just, I misspoke?

COFFMAN: I think that as -- I stand by my statement that I misspoke,
and I apologize.

QUESTION: OK. And who are you apologizing to?

COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I apologize.

QUESTION: "I apologize."

We talk to you all the time. You are a very forthcoming guy. Who is
telling you not to talk to handle it like this?

COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I wrote, that you
have, and I misspoke, and I apologize.

QUESTION: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert
County, where folks are very conservative, and you would never say
something like that in the suburbs?

COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke. And I apologize.

QUESTION: Is there anything I can ask you that you will answer
differently?

COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I
apologize.

QUESTION: Thank you, Congressman.

COFFMAN: Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Sounds like he`s brain-dead, doesn`t he? It`s like, I
refuse to testify on the grounds it may tend to incriminate me.

Anyway, finally, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett last week
floated the idea of not putting President Obama on his state ballot if the
state of Hawaii would not verify his birth in the United States. Well,
yesterday, Hawaii put out the president`s birth certificate again. And
Bennett said now he now apologizes if he has embarrassed his state.

These guys are unbelievable.

Anyway, up next, while the economy isn`t in great shape nationally
yet, it is looking up in some key states. And that`s good news for
President Obama, of course. We`re going to talk about it

You are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

The Dow closes well off its session lows. It was down 200 points. It
finishes down 6, the S&P up two and the Nasdaq gains 11. The NYSE says
there have been no talks with Facebook regarding a switch in their listing
from the Nasdaq, contrary to some reports.

New home sales rose a stronger-than-expected 3.3 percent in April.

And oil prices fell to several-month lows, below 90 bucks a barrel.

And Hewlett-Packard`s earnings beat estimates, but it also plans to
cut some 27,000 jobs.

That`s it for CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL and Chris.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The economy has been a drag of course on President Obama`s reelection
efforts, but where the election will be decided of course is in those swing
states. And the story is much different there.

In 2008, Obama moved nine states that had gone from Bush, he won them,
that had gone for Bush in 2004, brought them into his column. Today in
five of those states, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado, the
unemployment rate is below the national average, in Iowa`s case far below.

In short, the geography of recovery may be working for the president.

Sam Stein is political reporter for The Huffington Post. And Ezra
Klein is with "The Washington Post."

Sam, let me ask you just generally about the way the local economies -
- my old boss Tip, up here in Boston, would say, or in Cambridge, that all
politics is local. My question, do people go by what they see on the
economic reports, like we get on CNBC and in the financial pages? Or do
they go by what they sense locally went they vote?

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I would have to guess they go by -- I
would have to guess they go by what they sense locally. Like you said, all
politics is local.

But you know you get a sense of what is going on by the community
around you, by the Main Street in your town, by businesses that you know
that are hiring. And, so, in this case, you`re right. Obama has an
interesting map of states that are battlegrounds that have done by and
large better than the national average with respect to the unemployment
rate.

There are some states that are higher, such as Nevada and Florida.
But it is interesting that the key -- some of these key battlegrounds
states have recovered or never had a recession quite like the national
averages were. And I think it benefits him in the long run.

MATTHEWS: Ezra, the president bought a ticket on the auto industry.
He bet on an industrial policy, as we used to call it, rather than laissez-
faire, rather than buying into Ayn Rand, like some of these guys like Ryan
do every day when they get up in the morning. They pray to her.

He made a decision. He didn`t want to trust the markets. Will he
benefit from that, say, in Ohio, where you have a resurgent auto industry?

EZRA KLEIN, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They`re going to run
hard on the auto industry.

And I think the way to see whether people think it`s going to work is
to look at the incoherence, frankly, of the Romney campaign on it. What is
important about the auto bailout for the Obama administration is it`s
somewhere where the Romney campaign actually had a very different proposal,
a very different message.

So Romney has been very quiet about what he would have done on things
like TARP. But he did say in an op-ed that he would not have bailed out
the auto industry. He would have sent them into a managed bankruptcy. The
problem was, when the economy collapsed, there was no bankruptcy financing
that could have got in and threw that into the other side.

Everybody understood that forcing them into traditional bankruptcy
court would have meant a liquidation. So you have had two messages now out
of the Romney campaign. And one, a couple months ago, in "The Detroit Free
Press," he wrote a second op-ed on the auto bailout and said that what
Obama did made things worse.

A couple weeks ago, though, his communications director, Eric
Fehrnstrom, said that the Obama campaign is frustrated because they just
followed Mitt Romney`s advice on the auto bailout, and so all the success
of that is actually attributable to Mitt Romney.

So, I think their inability to actually figure out a deal with this
sort of shows how touchy they are and how ineffective frankly it has been
in some of these states.

MATTHEWS: You know, Sam Stein, it impossible to imagine.

Suppose Romney were to win this election this November, for whatever
reason, perhaps the economy.

STEIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: And people would say, wait a minute. He won by arguing the
case for rock `n` roll, cowboy capitalism, free-ranging deregulation, lower
taxes for corporations, all the good stuff that got us into this mess, and
he rolled to victory by saying, let`s come back and do it again.

STEIN: Yes. I mean, it`s a gamble on his part, but the gamble is
that there`s some sort of amnesia along the American populace about what
actually got us into the financial crisis to begin with.

And, you know, Ezra hits on a lot of it. But, you know, it goes
beyond that. For instance, when he talked about the foreclosure crisis in
Nevada, he said explicitly, we need to let it hit rock bottom before we
start doing anything else. That is the style of deregulation that, you
know, two years ago would have seemed crazy, but I think it gets him
somewhere politically because the American public has to some extent moved
on.

Now, if you look at some of the polls, there is a large blame placed
on Bush for getting us into this mess. But, you know, Romney has done very
well to distance himself, at least in name, from the former president. You
rarely see him talking about George W. Bush. The endorsement that happened
-- happened in an elevator. It is not exactly rolling out Bush on the red
carpet here.

So, yes -- I mean, he is hoping that people forget exactly the causes
of what happened.

MATTHEWS: This is another one of those do not go there demand behind
the curtain. I didn`t think we would talk about it here but it seems so
relevant, Ezra. We can`t talk about Bain. We can`t talk about his
religion -- fair enough. We shouldn`t talk about his family -- fair
enough.

We can`t talk about Bush. We can`t talk about his philosophy. We
can`t talk about where he came from politically.

What are we allowed to talk about even in this show about Romney if
you ask him? What`s fair game?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: You can talk about Obama`s high
spending and high deficits, of course. I actually think one of the
interesting things about Romney`s veep search right now is that two of his
leading candidates, Mitch Daniels and Rob Portman were former Bush budget
directors.

So, you bring up one of the guys who ran Bush`s budget policy and
you`re going to bring up the Bush years in a very, very big way.
Similarly, if you look at his economic team, Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard,
who are two of his four key economic advisors, they both ran Bush`s chief
economic council, his council of economic advisers at different times.

So, one thing is very true about Romney, is he`s got the Bush sort of
circle around him. But I do wonder, you know, whether or not he`ll be able
to escape from some of that. I think one really interesting thing about
this recession, people used to talk about Obama and this FDR moment, you
remember "Time" had the cover when he came, as Obama is FDR.

FDR came in three years after the Great Depression had begun. Things
had long ago hit rock bottom, and so the previous philosophy had been fully
discredited. Obama came in right as things hit rock bottom. So, he came
in and for months things got worse because we were in descent, falling off
cliff.

There was some sort of sharing of blame that didn`t exist from the
Great Depression and allowed a lot of the key financial policies here, you
know, the deregulation of things to get muddled.

MATTHEWS: I guess one the problems was the Constitution office and
he took office in January rather than March 4th, right? That`s it.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: It`s a great counterfactual.

MATTHEWS: Yes, OK. Well, thank you for the constitutional change
which is allowing you to come in just in time for the blame for the
catastrophe created by the Bushes.

Anyway, by the way, when you come back, I want to talk more next time
about Virginia and the states that are doing well. Again, I think that may
help Obama but you never know.

Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein, as always.

STEIN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, the brilliant Ezra Klein, up next -- and as
well, the brilliant Sam Stein. Anyway, thank you.

Is there a government rift, by the way, within the -- a growing rift
within the Democratic Party right now between pro-business better off
people, I must say, like Cory Booker, politically, and the rank-and-file
regular Democrats who mistrust big economic power?

Well, this is HARDBALL -- place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, President Obama has a big lead over Mitt Romney
among Latino voters. That`s according to our new NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll. And also Telemundo poll.

Let`s take to HARDBALL scoreboard.

Obama has a 34-point lead, believe it or not, over Romney among
registered Latino voters, 61 percent to 27 percent. Don`t see numbers like
this anywhere else. He carried the Latino by a similar spread, by the way,
in 2008.

The challenge for the president: getting Latinos to vote. Only seven
in 10 told pollsters they were highly excited to vote this time around.
That`s Latinos. Less than 10 points than for fellow Americans.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

When Newark Mayor Cory Booker criticized the president`s attack ads
on Bain Capital on "Meet the Press" this week, he outraged most Democrats
who hoped to hang Bain Capital around Mitt Romney`s neck. But some of the
Democratic Party have increasingly relied on Wall Street for money and
support. In short, Booker exposed a fisher, a fisher in the Democratic
Party, between the rank and file and its moneyed elite.

Robert Reich is former labor secretary under President Clinton. He`s
the author of a new e-book, "Beyond Outrage". And Eugene Robinson is a
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC
political analyst.

Gentlemen, I want it talk about this. I`m not sure this is true.
But I`ve been told it`s true.

I`ve been told, Robert Reich, that there are Democrats who are pro
private equity, who like those very wealthy people on Wall Street. They
seem to think that the Democratic Party is of kinship with those people and
don`t like this populous outrage. I know there`s only few of them but they
are noisy and they know how to get into the newspapers.

Your thoughts?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, they are noisy, they
know how to get into the newspaper and they`re also very wealthy, generally
speaking, Chris.

This is not a new rift, by way. I remember 20 years ago, 15 years
ago in the Clinton administration, there was very much the same kind of
rift. There were the Wall Streeters, there were the big money people,
Democratic Party, many who came from Wall Street or business big, and then
there rank and filers who didn`t want it have anything to do with them and
were far more populist in their inclinations. That`s going to be
inevitable, that rift, in the Democratic Party, in the modern Democratic
Party.

But I think it is wrong to take it to the point where you see a kind
of conflict between the notion of fairness and the notion of growth. I
mean, you can`t get real growth in the economy unless have a more equitable
distribution of income because what`s happened for the past 30 years is so
much income and wealth has gone to the very top that the vast middle class
doesn`t have the purchasing power to keep the economy going?

MATTHEWS: Wasn`t that liberal Henry Ford who said he wanted his
workers, his auto workers to be able to afford one of his cars? Was that -
-

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That was a reasonable, conservative gentleman.

REICH: And back in 1915 --

MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson, your thoughts about this battle? I`m not
sure it`s the same battle -- I think there`s always a battle in the
Democratic Party as there is used to be in the Republican Party between
center-right, and center and right. The Democratic Party between left and
center left.

But it also seems to be there is a -- I was going to say lousy, I
shouldn`t say that -- a noisy group of people that are in equity who are
offended that their wealth is being questioned. And I thought Cory Booker
spends a lot of time hanging around with those guys for future reasons.

Your thoughts, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, politicians in the
New York metropolitan area, the greater New York area, like Cory Booker,
get a lot of campaign contributions from wealthy financiers, including
people in private equity. So they are nicer to those folks.

You know, this divide exists not only in the Democratic Party, Chris.
I think you saw it during the primaries. You saw the same sort of rift
inside the Republican primary. In fact, when Newt Gingrich made a lot of
hay out there, especially in my home state of South Carolina, talking about
Bain Capital and talking about private equity, and talking about that form
of what Rick Perry called vulture capitalism.

So, I think he`s --

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, he`s on tomorrow night and we will raise that.
We will raise that issue -- the populism in the Republican Party is there,
just like when Nixon could refer to the cloth coat Republicans, they are
there. They don`t always make the most noise in that party, Gene, but
they`re there. And he`d cling to them and so did Rick Santorum.

ROBINSON: They are there. And there is a wealth of Newt Gingrich
quotes. Of course, there`s a wealth of Newt Gingrich`s quotes about
everything. But there`s a wealth about Bain Capital and equity.

And he hasn`t taken it back. He has talked about that model of
capitalism, where you kind of come in and pick the bones clean of a failing
company, and he`s questioned it. I mean, he continues to question. So
that would be great to talk to him about it tomorrow night.

MATTHEWS: Good idea.

Let me go back to Robert Reich and this question of populism. I know
you`re a populist. I know you believe in it. And I just wonder why we`re
seeing this fight. It looked to me like a couple of things happened last
Sunday.

Cory Booker obviously wanted to differentiate himself from the
president. He did so effectively. But he did so by undermining the
president`s main campaign argument.

I want to ask if you think it`s a smart argument, the Democratic
side, that fairness cuts with voters.

REICH: I think it does -- again, Chris, if it is linked up with
growth, as it must be, because the only reason and the only way we can get
growth back in this country is if we have a fair distribution of income and
wealth in this country. Most people looking at that why we have such a
sluggish recovery now understand the problem is on the demand side. It`s
not the supply side. It`s not because corporations don`t have tax cuts and
it`s not because the wealthy don`t have the tax cuts, it`s because the
middle class doesn`t have the income they need to provide adequate demand
for all the goods and services that the private sector is capable of
producing. And understanding that makes the connection between growth and
fairness.

So, I think the president has done a good job. He could do even
more, making that connection. You know, Wall Street and the top reaches of
the Democratic Party, the big contributors, very often they don`t
understand that. They would do better with a rapidly growing economy, a
smaller share but rapidly growing economy, than they are doing right now
with a big share of an economy that is slowly growing.

MATTHEWS: You know the old line, Gene, you`re my age so you remember
this. If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat. I
mean, the fact of the matter is, the great irony is that Bill Clinton, with
his 39.5 percent top rate, was the best thing that ever happen to American
wealth.

ROBINSON: Yes, look at recent Republican and Democratic
administrations. And under Democrats, government spending goes down, and
the economy roars ahead. And under Republican, spending goes way up and
the economy stalls out and goes into recession because they cut everybody`s
taxes, they cut the wealthy`s taxes and essentially stomp their foot on the
middle class, you know?

And just to add to what Bob Reich said, I think you also have to talk
about the equality of opportunity in the sense that wealthy insiders like
the people at Bain Capital and like a lot of folks in Wall Street have
opportunities that the rest of us don`t have, simply, because they`ve sort
of rigged the system to favor themselves at the expense of everybody else.
And, you know, financial markets are supposed to serve the interests of the
economy. It`s not supposed to be the other way around.

REICH: And most people in this country understand that right now.

MATTHEWS: I know. Robert Reich, you`re great. Please come back
with your populist message whenever you can.

And, Eugene Robinson, as always, sir.

When we return, let me finish with you just couldn`t believe -- or
shouldn`t believe everything you hear from the Republicans about President
Obama. This is a lot of the phrases, B.S., as it is. Lots of it coming
out of their mouths about spending, about taxes, about apologizing. None
of it`s true. We ought to know that.

You`re watching HARDBALL -- the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Did you catch this Karl Rove ad on TV? He`s running it for, I think,
10 million bucks across the country attacking the president. It`s a smart
effort to grab single women in this case -- smart, but not especially
honest.

Did you see what that ad said about government spending under Obama,
that it`s rising year after year, relentlessly throwing away our dollars?
Well, the big lie in that is that spending, government spending, has been
basically flat all these last years. Fiscal years `09 to 2013, flat,
flat, flat. Anyway, flat all four years.

And how about saying Obama raised taxes? That`s another thing you
hear out there. How could we have fallen for that one? Obama has lost
every single fight we know he`s had with the Congress, the Republican
Congress, trying to get rid of the Bush tax rates. Lost every single fight
and we know it. The tax rates we have today are the same as they were when
W. left us.

If they`re holding the economy back, blame W. Republicans like Karl
Rove can`t keep attacking Obama from trying to dump the Bush tax cuts and
then come back and blame him for having done so. He didn`t succeed. We
still got Bush`s tax rates.

Well, that`s apparently they can. And that`s what he`s doing in this
slick ad, Karl Rove, walking Obama for the tax cuts his guy -- remember,
wasn`t Karl Rove the architect of the W. era, the tax rates he left us
with?

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Join us
again tomorrow when we meet Newt Gingrich in the flesh on HARDBALL.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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