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updated 5/30/2012 12:52:41 PM ET 2012-05-30T16:52:41

Guests: Michael Smerconish, Hampton Dellinger, Hampton Pearson, Howard Fineman, Chris Cillizza, Eric Bates, Joe Conason, Melinda Henneberger, Jon Ralston, Maggie Haberman


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Honeymoon in Vegas.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

I`m Chris Matthews down in Dallas. Let me start with the biggest
question of this campaign so far. Is there any level to which Mitt Romney
will not descend, any level he will not take himself to in order to
scrounge for, as he puts it, the 51 -- or the 50.1 percent of the vote he
needs to win?

And the answer is, Just watch. He went down for Grover Norquist on
tax policy, down to the "always got to have a war" crowd on foreign policy,
down to the religious right on their "We know best" to-do list, and now
he`s gone to the lowest level of American politics, the crud at the very
bottom, nativism, know nothingism.

I`m talking about the scum of birtherism and its grand pooh-bah
himself. Tonight, we talk about Mitt Romney`s latest evidence that Mr. 1
Percent will do anything, promise anything to beat 50 percent.

Jon Ralston`s a columnist for "The Las Vegas Sun" and Howard Fineman
is an MSNBC political analyst , as well as editorial director for the
Huffington Post Media Group.

Let`s start with this -- George Will. This Sunday on ABC, George Will
questioned what Mitt Romney has to gain by associating himself with Donald
Trump. Let`s watch Will in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WILL, ABC "THIS WEEK": I do not understand the cost-benefit
here. The costs are clear. The benefits -- what voter is going to vote
for him because he`s seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with
this bloviating ignoramus...

(LAUGHTER)

WILL: ... is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump -- it is
redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be
very low and you can still intrude into American politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this morning on CNBC`s "SQUAWK BOX," Donald Trump
again wouldn`t back off the birther issue, the same day he plans on holding
a fundraiser today for Mitt Romney out in Vegas. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (via telephone): I walk down the
street, and people are screaming, Please don`t give that up! Look, a
publisher came out last week and had a statement about Obama given to them
by Obama when he was doing a book as a young man a number of years ago, in
the `90s, born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia! I mean, this was a
statement. This was from Obama.

Now, amazingly, the publishers -- Oh, we made a mistake. I don`t
think life works that way. Now, is it the most important thing? In a way,
it is because, you know, you`re not allowed to be president if you`re not
born in the country. But let`s see what happens.

So I`m not fanning flames. This is something that came out last week.
A lot of people are questioning his birth certificate. They`re questioning
the authenticity of his birth certificate.

I`ve been known as being a very smart guy for a long time. I don`t
consider myself birther or not birther. But there are some major questions
here, and the press doesn`t want to cover it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, just to correct Mr. Trump on this fact, the literary
assistant he talked about who wrote that copy said not only was the Kenya
reference her mistake but that Barack Obama never once gave the publisher
any materials or background that would imply he was born in Kenya. So so
much for that summation of the facts by Donald Trump.

Let`s take a look at what happened just a few moments ago, earlier
this -- actually, late this afternoon, on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP (via telephone): You know what? Everybody`s entitled to their
opinion, Wolf. You know my opinion. You know his opinion. And that`s
fine. We`re entitled -- as he said yesterday in the airplane, we`re all
entitled to our opinions. And he`s entitled to his opinion, and I think
that`s wonderful. I don`t happen to share that opinion, and that`s
wonderful also.

I think if you look at the birth certificate, take a look, and you
tell me, really -- you analyze the birth certificate -- there are many
people that don`t agree with that birth certificate. They don`t think it`s
authentic, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": I don`t know, when you say
many people don`t agree...

TRUMP: Many people.

BLITZER: Like who?

TRUMP: There are many people.

BLITZER: Give me -- give me a name of somebody...

TRUMP: There are many people...

BLITZER: ... in a position of authority in Hawaii who says...

TRUMP: ... that do not believe...

BLITZER: Well, give me a name.

TRUMP: There are many people -- I don`t give names. There are many
people that do not believe that birth certificate is authentic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman, my friend, there you have an example of the
brilliance, if you want to call it that, of Donald Trump, the ability to
spin this story endlessly, going into transcripts and going into references
by assistant PR people at publishing houses, anything to keep this thing
alive. And then when pressed on it by a good reporter like Wolf, he can`t
answer the question. But it doesn`t bother him because he simply
establishes a new commandment a la Trump, which is I don`t name names.

(LAUGHTER)

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, I`m actually...

MATTHEWS: What can you say? Romney is in bed with this guy. Why is
Romney pulling up the covers over him and Donald Trump? What`s he up to
here? Why`s he running (ph)?

FINEMAN: Well, first of all, I`m less interested in what Donald Trump
says than in what Mitt Romney doesn`t say, and what, for that matter, John
McCain doesn`t say.

I tried pretty hard today to elicit from either the Romney campaign or
the McCain Senate office their view on the latest about Donald Trump. I
wanted to know from the Romney people whether they thought that the
association, as George Will said, was harmful. No answer.

I wanted to know from the McCain campaign, which is -- who -- McCain -
- McCain`s Senate office, McCain having been used in an Obama ad as the
good senator who rejected this kind of politics four years ago -- I wanted
to know if McCain had anything to say about what was going on in Las Vegas
today. Silence.

So I think the silence from both Romney camp and McCain camp means the
following. They`re willing to let Donald Trump root around in this and say
whatever he wants to bring this topic up or keep the topic alive for those
voters who are going to care about it.

And they exist. They still exist in places around the country and in
swing states like Virginia, like North Carolina, like southern Ohio, and so
forth. I know those people. I went to the early Tea Party rallies in 2009
in my second home state of Kentucky, and for some of those people, this
still matters.

That`s who Donald Trump is speaking to. So Romney will take the money
and keep his distance from Trump. Don`t forget, the last time Mitt Romney
said that Barack Obama was born in the United States, the last time Mitt
Romney said that in public was April of 2011. He hasn`t said it since.

All Romney has said is, you know, people are entitled to their
opinion. So they`re letting Trump go out there and raise this as much as
he, Trump, wants.

MATTHEWS: Yes, all he did was send out his spokesman today to do it,
but he won`t put his lips around it.

FINEMAN: No, no. He won`t say it again.

MATTHEWS: Let me go out to Jon Ralston and -- Jon Ralston, here`s the
thing about why this is so important. So far in this campaign, Mitt Romney
has shown a willingness to go down for just about anybody, the tax nuts
like Norquist -- I shouldn`t say "nuts," ideologues. Let`s be fair --
ideologues. The war hawks, the neocons -- completely with them on Iran.
The Christian right, going down to Liberty University and getting an
honorary degree, whatever that is worth -- all this effort constantly to
woo the constituencies of the right and never say no to anybody.

Now he won`t say no to a birther, to a guy who`s out there trumpeting
this stuff again and again and again, that Obama`s some kind of illegal
alien who was snuck into the country like some international con artists.
He`s saying this about our president so he can reach the racists out there
and the nativists and the known-nothing people.

What`s it -- what`s it sound like to you out in Vegas?

JON RALSTON, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "LAS VEGAS SUN": Well, Chris, I
think you hit on it. And I think that George Will was being kind and
underplaying by calling him a bloviating ignoramus.

(LAUGHTER)

RALSTON: That creates the appearance of a buffoon, which -- which
essentially is what Trump is. But this is the most noxious swill you can
offer up in American politics. As you say, it`s between-the-lines racism.

It`s one thing to genuflect to Grover Norquist and the anti-tax wing
of the Republican Party. It`s quite another thing to stir up the most
insidious feelings in this country. And Howard`s right, there are people
here in this swing state here who will respond to it. There are people
everywhere.

And the real issue here, as Howard points out, is Romney`s silence.
Chris, today on a program on the NBC affiliate here, the most visible
Romney surrogate in this state, the lieutenant governor, Brian Krolicki,
said the following when confronted with Trump`s comments. "He`s larger
than life. He`s an icon. We appreciate his assistance."

MATTHEWS: Well, Howard, the problem is Romney looks like the
apprentice here. He doesn`t look like the boss. He (INAUDIBLE) the guy
who`s on "The Apprentice" on the TV show on NBC, trying to win the support
at any cost of Romney. (SIC)

By the way, here`s Romney telling reporters on his campaign -- let`s
take a look at this latest. Yesterday, Romney told reporters on his
campaign plane that he doesn`t hold the same views as his supporters. Boy,
isn`t this special. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t agree
with all the people who support me and my guess is they don`t all agree
with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more, and
I`m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Howard, he`s basically -- remember what he said
when somebody said, Give me an adjective for yourself, and he said
"resolute" a while back, a few weeks back? And now he`s saying, Just give
me 50.1 percent. He`s basically saying, I`ll do what is necessary.

FINEMAN: Yes. And I think that`s been the case with Mitt Romney all
along, especially in this campaign. I think he resolved after the last
campaign, 2008, which didn`t work out, that he was going to do whatever it
took this time.

And in the early primaries, as we recall, Chris, in Iowa, in New
Hampshire, in South Carolina, in Florida, he used every weapon at his
disposal, including, if not especially, weapons that he didn`t have to hold
the handle of himself but that others used to flatten his opponents.

And that`s what he`s doing here. As I say, the Romney campaign itself
is trying to say, Hey, you know, it`s other people, it`s not us, we want to
focus on the economy. They`re maintaining radio silence about this.

And it`s politics at its roughest in this country. They justify it to
themselves. Mitt Romney, people who know him well, like him personally.
They think he`s a great family guy. When it comes to politics, we have not
seen the limits of what he`s willing to say or not say to get that 50.1
percent.

MATTHEWS: The astounding thing here is, to use gambling terminology,
Jon -- and I`ve lost money at the gaming tables, just like a lot of people
who are watching the show have over the years, especially at something
simple like roulette. You know, you go in to the table -- I often thought
about this. Instead of wasting your time working the odds, because the
odds are always against you on the side of the house, go in and put all
your 100 bucks or 1,000 bucks, whatever you have to gamble for the whole
weekend, put it down on red, and if it comes up great, you probably have as
good an odds on that one roll, one spin, and then you walk out.

It seems like this guy, Donald Trump, bet everything he had on the
fact that the birth certificate wouldn`t be there in Honolulu. It wasn`t
going to be there. He comes out, he basically, loses. He ends up with
nothing. He bets red, it comes up black, or the other way around.

And now it doesn`t seem to bother him. This is my proof of Trumpism.
It doesn`t matter whether he`s proven wrong. It has simply to do with this
kind of -- this ability to just be -- just chutzpah, over and over and over
again, just keep saying things, that his transcript doesn`t add up, the guy
had a 3.7 at Columbia. He was magna cum laude. He was head of the Law
Review at Harvard.

But just keep raising these things and saying that there`s people out
there that agree with me. There`s always going to be some clown out there
that just read "The New York Post" or some other right-wing rag and is
going to believe anything they hear, that will believe Trump. And he uses
them as his authorities.

I thought it was great that -- that Wolf said, Name one person. How
would he know the names of the people yelling at him from the other corner?
That`s his expertise. That`s his authority figures. And yet here he is
dancing in his honeymoon with (ph) Vegas with a guy who`s the Republican
nominee! Unbelievable. I don`t know...

RALSTON: Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... to say or what to ask anymore. It`s...

RALSTON: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Is this politics? What is this?

RALSTON: He doesn`t care. He doesn`t care. That`s the issue. He
doesn`t care. He thinks that any publicity is good publicity. He doesn`t
-- he probably came off of that interview with Wolf Blitzer and high-fived
his staff! He thought it was wonderful.

Here`s the issue, though. There are a lot of conservatives today
putting out on Twitter and elsewhere, Oh, this doesn`t matter. People
aren`t going to vote based on Donald Trump. Here`s the issue, though.
Number one, Trump is not just some ordinary Romney supporter he can
distance himself from. He`s not some person holding a sign in a crowd.
He`s a guy raising millions of dollars tonight in Las Vegas...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RALSTON: ... at a hotel called Trump. Secondly, does anybody in the
universe think this is the last dumb, obnoxious, offensive thing Donald
Trump will say before November? Of course not.

I still believe Romney`s going to have to deal with this at some
point.

FINEMAN: Yes, I think -- I think, Chris, to Jon`s point, that -- I
don`t think Mitt Romney could get rid of Donald Trump if he wanted to
because there would be risks in doing that, in that you don`t know how
Donald Trump will respond when cornered. And of course, Mitt Romney is not
the kind of guy to take that risk.

Not only is he getting money, so he`s getting money from him. He`s
going to raise millions through -- through Donald Trump probably, and
thereby show the other Romney supporters, Hey, Mitt Romney`s willing to
associate with anybody, no problem, so let`s all get in on this thing.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: But if Mitt Romney were, by some stretch of the imagination,
to say to Donald Trump, I don`t want to have anything to do with you
anymore, can you imagine what Donald Trump would do next? It could be
very, very interesting, and Romney doesn`t want to know what that is.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I know. There might be a dead rabbit on the lawn.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I just want to tell you, that might be -- I will
not be ignored. I think we saw that when Michael Douglas tried that once.
Anyway -- "Fatal Attraction." Anyway, thank you, John Ralston. What
happens in Vegas doesn`t stay in Vegas. Anyway, thank you, Harold Fineman,
as well, my buddy.

FINEMAN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: The three things the Obama camp -- campaign --
the Obama campaign needs to be worried most about between now and the
reelection, the three biggest worries. We`re going to get to that.

Also, again tonight, our special feature "Dirty Angry Money." By the
way, how right-wing billionaires are trying to put Romney in the White
House so they can have him there. Nice to have him there for you, isn`t
it.

And the jury in the trial of John Edwards tonight remains out. Is
that good news for the once top Democrat?

And "Let Me Finish" where we started, Mitt Romney`s failure to show
some political character.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Mitt Romney campaigned today in Colorado on his way to Las
Vegas, and we have a new poll out of Colorado that shows a tight race out
there. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to the new poll for the Democrat-leaning Project New
America, President Obama has a 4-point lead over Romney in Colorado, 48
percent to 44 percent. Now to another battleground state, Michigan, and
it`s trending towards Obama. According to a new PPP poll, the president
leads Mitt Romney in Michigan by 14 points now, 53 to 39. Has something to
do with the car industry comeback, don`t you think?

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Even the best run campaigns turn
on the unexpected event or the surefire strategy that backfires. With
that, we decided to look at what may be President Obama`s campaign`s
biggest fear right now, or three fears.

Let`s break it down with "The Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza, who
writes "The Fix" column and is an MSNBC political analyst, of course, and
Maggie Haberman, who`s senior political writer for Politico.

Let`s take a look at the first one here. You both agree the number
one concern for the Obama campaign -- we all must have known this -- the
economy flatlines. Is that their number one concern when you talk to them,
Maggie?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO.COM: Yes, it is. I mean, bar none, the
idea is if the economy stays where it is, the unemployment rate stays where
it is or ticks down a bit, but you know, not much, if it stays in this area
and/or gets worse, this is a major concern between the months of August,
September, October. The feeling is that whatever the president says, he
won`t be heard, it won`t matter, and Mitt Romney will win.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Chris on that. Agreed that if the economy
flattens or even gets worse, it`s just bad news all the way.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I
don`t make a policy of disagreeing with Maggie, and she`s totally right,
Chris. I mean, I think that what it is -- what`s fascinating about it,
it`s not just the economy, it`s the timetable by which the Obama team needs
progress of some way of forward movement to be shown.

By September -- let`s say the unemployment rate in September shows
that unemployment has dropped, it`s 7.7 percent. Let`s just throw that out
there, 7.5 percent. You start to get a little too late as you get into
September, October because people make their minds up about the economy is
good or the economy is bad. Again, they make their minds up largely on
perception, as opposed to reality.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: But these next few months do really matter, because he
needs -- he, the president, needs to show genuine movement so that they
have an answer to that question that Romney is going to ask from today
until November 6, which is, are you better off today than you were four
years ago?

MATTHEWS: OK. I disagree with -- that`s fine, because I think that
come back to school time, we all go back to school, and the air turns a bit
crisper, the news gets better on the economy.

I think there will be a tremendous euphoria.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s go to the second big concern you both point
to -- and you first here, Chris -- Bain attack by the Obama people fizzles.

You both agree that`s their second biggest worry, this attack on Bain
Capital and Romney`s role in killing jobs or whatever in the steel
industry, et cetera, won`t work.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

I mean, look, Chris, I think it`s gotten a lot of attention and
there`s been a lot of back and forth so far, oh, is it working, is it not
working? In truth, the Obama campaign has not spent all that much money
sort of exploring Mitt Romney`s record at Bain. And so until they do that,
I don`t think we can draw conclusions about whether it`s working or not.

But if it doesn`t work, that is, if people essentially say, look, Mitt
Romney was a businessman, yes, he did some things that weren`t great but he
also did -- he also helped build companies, they buy the Romney argument on
why Bain is good, it just is hard for Obama to make the case, then, because
they have to make this a choice, not a referendum.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CILLIZZA: If it is a choice between what -- an image of Mitt Romney
as a vulture capitalist and Barack Obama as a guy doing the best he can and
looking out for the middle class, Obama probably wins.

If it`s a referendum on how has Barack Obama handled the economy vs.
kind of nondescript business guy who has done some good things, some bad
things, but let`s give him a chance, Romney wins.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to -- let me jump ahead to your third pick here,
Maggie, because it`s different than Chris`. And that`s why I want to start
with this on your -- European, some kind of bust over there, whether it`s
Greece-related or Spain-related, what`s their -- when they watch what`s
happening, and you`re an economics person, when they watch over here,
what`s the thing that could really cause a clattering bad effect in our
economy between now and November?

HABERMAN: The euro crisis is a major -- or potential euro crisis is a
major problem. It will have a ripple effect on markets.

It sort of won`t matter what happens here because it`s completely out
of their control. This is something they`re watching very carefully. It
is -- again it is not anything they can do anything about. It`s a big X-
factor. Obviously, there are other global concerns that could be big X-
factors, too, but anything that could have an impact on the economy here
really scares the Obama folks.

I think it`s not number one, it`s not number two, but it is something
that they`re keeping an incredibly close eye on.

MATTHEWS: And it could kill growth here. It could kill our...

HABERMAN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: It could kill us by the second or third quarter.

HABERMAN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to your third pick, which is different,
Chris.

And you say -- and I found this fascinating, because it`s out of the
box -- a brilliant uptick in the Romney prospect because he picks the
perfect, wonderful, exuberant possibility for V.P., and it just does
something magical to their campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: First of all, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, I`m thrilled at this prospect. I didn`t know it was
possible.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: I like to keep you -- I like to keep you fascinated so I`m
happy that you find this fascinating.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I am. But I want to know who this is.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Well, here`s my thought, is that Mitt Romney will get to do
one thing that Barack Obama doesn`t get to do between now and November 6.
Barack Obama is the president of the United States.

Huge advantages come with that, bully pulpit, everything we already
know. The one thing that Mitt Romney will get to do and will get
significant press off of as we head into the conventions is picking his
V.P. Now, I don`t think -- I just saw that thought bubble.

I don`t there is a perfect person to put in there, but I don`t also
think it is something we can just write off and say it doesn`t matter. We
saw the negative side with John McCain picking Sarah Palin in `08. I`m not
sure a Marco Rubio or a Chris Christie, or whatever name you want to throw
in there, solves -- if Romney is behind, solves Romney`s problems.

But I do think it does have the potential. We now have three out of
four major players in the presidential race are already set. The fourth is
to be determined. I don`t think it`s ridiculous to say the fourth will
matter. It`s not going to end the race either way unless Mitt Romney picks
Sarah Palin, which I don`t think he will do, but it does have an impact.

And I would agree with Maggie on the euro.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You have set it up. You have set it up, Chris. I don`t
know if you did this on purpose, but you have set it up to be, if he picks
a Catholic, it will be interesting. If he picks a Protestant, it will be
boring.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: I did not do that on purpose.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Rubio and Chris Christie, you have done this. I know you
didn`t do it on purpose, but it`s more interesting that you did it not on
purpose.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Maggie, what do you think of this? Can a V.P. prospect be
that interesting and that much of a cannonball that it just blows this
thing up, be, wow, this guy is more fascinating than I ever thought he was,
this is bigger and more patriotic than we ever thought, look at who he
picked?

HABERMAN: Now, I don`t make it a habit to disagree with Chris, but I
am going to disagree with him here.

I think that if Mitt Romney were to pick a Marco Rubio or a Chris
Christie, he would get press bang. I don`t think he`s likely to pick
either of them for the reason that they would overshadow him. I think
you`re much likely to see something like a Rob Portman. And I think that`s
not going to get you the razzle-dazzle headlines that would be a huge game
changer here.

MATTHEWS: OK. It is an interesting ethnic divide here, though, isn`t
it, Chris Cillizza? It`s fascinating.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: You know this better than I do. Catholic voters are the
kind of -- look at Catholic vote in the last eight to 10 presidential
elections. Whoever wins the Catholic vote almost exclusively wins the
election.

MATTHEWS: They decide it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What does that say about us?

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: There are one or two examples where that`s not the case,
but it`s just a fact.

MATTHEWS: Serious about their religion, fickle about their politics.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you very much, Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Maggie Haberman.

HABERMAN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And tomorrow we`re going to look at the biggest fears on
the Romney side. We`re going to be even on this one. What`s Romney`s
biggest worries? We`re going to talk to top reporters about that, too. I
love the way we did it tonight.

Up next, Rudy Giuliani has nice things to say about Mitt Romney, but
he`s really saying nice things about Rudy Giuliani, as usual -- Giuliani`s
tortured explanation for the change he`s making, that is coming in the
"Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now for the "Sideshow" tonight.

First off, Rudy being a bit Rudy. Remember this lukewarm endorsement
of Romney?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I think that Mitt
has won fair and square. This reminds me of going to a surgeon. Right?
If I have got a terrible cancer or something to be operated on, when I had
to be operated on for prostate cancer, I didn`t go to the nicest doctor. I
went to the best doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

GIULIANI: The guy could have a great personality and tell great
jokes, and you put the knife in the wrong way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, what`s love got to do with it? Anyway, Giuliani now
explains why his bashing Romney`s job creation back in Massachusetts was
great for him to do, but not for Romney to -- or not for Obama to do now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: There`s a certain amount of personal ego in that.

At that point, I was probably comparing his record to my record. And
maybe it was circumstances or whatever, but I had massive reduction in
unemployment. He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8, 10 -- I think
it was 15 percent. I had a reduction in unemployment of 50 percent. They
had a growth of jobs of about 40,000. We had a growth of jobs of about
500,000.

So I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his
otherwise decent record. The simple fact is that Mitt Romney has been far
more successful in the things that he`s done than Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Doesn`t it sound, most of that, like Rudy really plugging
Rudy?

Anyway, former Senator Alan Simpson isn`t one to sugarcoat things.
No, he isn`t. On CNN, Simpson let it trip at members of his own party,
Republicans, who are in the grip of right-wing ideologues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER CO-CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL COMMISSION ON FISCAL
RESPONSIBILITY AND REFORM: I guess I`m known as a RINO now, which means a
Republican in name only, because I guess of social views perhaps, or common
sense would be another one, which seems to have escaped members of our
party.

For heaven`s sakes, you have Grover Norquist wandering the earth in
his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he will defeat
you. He can`t murder you. He can`t burn your house. If you want to be a
purist, go somewhere on a mountaintop and praise to east or something.

But if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise. Show me a
guy who won`t compromise and I will show you a guy with rock for brains.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Go on some mountain somewhere and praise the east. I love
that.

A rock-ribbed Republican, Alan Simpson, going after the rock heads.

Finally, here`s a question. What`s it called in the world of Twitter
when one of your tweets adds up to exactly the 140-character limit? Well,
President Obama got the answer to that question during a Twitter Q&A after
an event recently in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) for Twitter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) zero characters left. That`s the
perfect tweet.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That`s the perfect
tweet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the perfect tweet.

OBAMA: What is it called?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A twoosh.

OBAMA: A twoosh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A twitter swoosh.

OBAMA: I twooshed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you proud of it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a record for twooshes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I`m the twoosh master.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it. It`s called a twoosh when you
have a perfect score, a perfect number of characters. I guess it`s like a
swish in basketball, all net.

Up next: dirty, angry money -- how a few billionaires in this country
-- on the right, of course -- are trying to get Mitt Romney elected so they
can him right in the White House, where they can want him, and can use him.
And what are they expecting if Romney wins? Good question. We are going
to get to it.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."

The Dow surges 126 points. The S&P is up about 14. The Nasdaq gains
33. Today`s big gains did not carry over to Facebook shares. The stock
sank more than 9 percent, closing below $29 a share. Investors also
overlooked a gloomy report on consumer sentient. According to the
Conference Board, confidence is at its lowest level in four months. And
Case-Shiller says home prices fell 2 percent in the first quarter to new
post-crisis lows.

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

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

I`m in Texas today in the heart where all this dirty, angry money is
coming from. Texas millionaires and billionaires have given more money to
the super PACs than any other state in this country. And most of that
money has gone to Republican groups like Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney
super PAC, and American Crossroads, which is Karl Rove`s group.

Why would somebody give millions of dollars to get Mitt Romney elected
president? Well, part of the answer is almost certainly business. Many of
the wealthy Republican backers have very obvious financial incentive to see
Romney sitting right there in the Oval Office. The latest issue of
"Rolling Stone" magazine lays out some of them, but should the voices of
billionaires count more than individual voters? Apparently they think so.

Eric Bates is executives editor of "Rolling Stone" and Joe Conason of
course is editor in chief of NationalMemo.com.

Let me bring in -- why don`t you run through a couple of these
characters?

Let`s start, Eric, with this guy. He`s a Texas business guy, a real
tycoon, Harold Simmons, who is worth nearly $10 billion. He has given more
than $16.5 million to Republican super PACs like Karl Rove`s American
Crossroads and to pro-Romney group Restore Our Future.

According to Bloomberg News, Simmons has built an underground dump in
West Texas for radioactive waste material. Easing regulations on the
nuclear industry could be worth billions to him.

ERIC BATES, EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE": That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Follow up on that. Harold Simmons, what`s he get to gain
by getting Romney where he wants him in the White House?

BATES: Yes, Simmons is pursuing this huge dump in Texas that would
dump radioactive waste from 36 different states in Texas. It`s sitting
right on top of a major drinking water aquifer, so there are real pollution
and contamination issues.

And Simmons is a guy who has been sued repeatedly by the Justice
Department for failing to clean up contaminated Superfund sites, so he`s
got a track record of really dubious practices when it comes to
contaminated waste. And having somebody like Romney in the White House
where who has pledged to roll back the EPA and roll back environmental
regulations, would be a real boon to him.

MATTHEWS: Let me go over to Joe Conason.

Back in the `60s, we had a term for characters like this. We called
them pigs. And I meant that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Back in the day -- because people that would destroy the
environment, destroy the American political system for their own personal
self-aggrandizement.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We have got another character here, Bob Perry. He`s a mega
home builder also from Texas. He is worth an estimated $600 million. He`s
given $4 million to Romney`s super PAC, another $2.5 million to American
Crossroads. That`s the Karl Rove crowd. He`s covering his bets.

Tort reform is his favorite issue. For Perry, according to "Rolling
Stone," he wants to make it harder to bring lawsuits over homes that are
purchased, you know, of shoddy materials, whatever. Whatever the issue
might be, this fellow apparently wants to make sure he doesn`t have to deal
with regulators.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

JOE CONASON, NATIONALMEMO.COM: Yes.

Well, Mr. Perry was the main guy responsible for the swift boat
campaign in 2004, Chris, as I`m sure you remember. He is a -- basically a
financial instrument of the Karl Rove machine, which he is this year as
well, and he clearly has an incentive, as all of these guys do, by the way,
to have their taxes cut enormously, which is what the Romney and House
Republican economic plan would do.

Aside from their own individual sort of pet peeves with regulation,
and the rest, they all would love to have their taxes cut. They don`t care
really about deficits. They want a better tax break for billionaires.

MATTHEWS: They want more money.

CONASON: That`s what they want, yes. And that`s what they`re after
here, and they think they will get it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Eric, fill me in on this Bob Perry. Why does he want to
fight tort reform? He doesn`t like lawyers, but so what? What is his big
issue personally here?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Have they been going after him on his building projects or
what? Where`s been the attack on him that he`s so worried he needs a guy
in the White House to look out for him?

BATES: Sure.

You get sued all the time if you`re a builder. He has been sued all
the time. He`s a major producer to every Supreme Court justice in Texas.
They call it the Perry court, and the Perry court vacated a ruling against
him that was for $800,000. A jury in the same case awarded $85 million.
So, there`s a huge financial incentive for him in these cases.

MATTHEWS: What were those cases about? Was it building materials,
what was it about?

BATES: Shoddy home building, not fulfilling contracts, and in that
case, you`re looking at putting a cap on those jury awards so that
basically he won`t be required to pay if his company does a bad job.

MATTHEWS: John Paulson, another fellow here. Let`s go to Sheldon
Adelson, I`ve always found fascinating. I met the fellow one time.

He`s one of these natural business guys. He just got the instinct
for the casino business. He`s made zillions. He`s pro-Israel and been
apparently right wing. But that`s not the issue.

Apparently, has a real problem, Eric, with organized labor. He
doesn`t like unions.

BATES: That`s right. He`s been fighting the unions in Vegas over
his casino for a long time. And Adelson is really a prime example since
Citizens United, a Supreme Court ruling that allows these guys to put a
minimal amount of money into presidential campaigns. So a guy like Adelson
was able to singlehandedly prop up the Gingrich campaign, which never could
have happened before the Supreme Court ruling.

JOE CONASON, NATIONALMEMO.COM: I hope to say, Chris --

MATTHEWS: That`s an amazing general thing, Joe. Twenty million
bucks, he could just write the check to keep a -- Newt Gingrich was a
fascinating guest on our program last week. I`m glad he came on, we had a
great argument. We`ll do it again, I hope.

But the fact that he can basically personally finance a presidential
campaign is really brand new material here, Joe.

CONASON: For his own whims. By the way, Sheldon Adelson hates
unions, and he especially doesn`t like them in Nevada where he operates
casinos. At the same time, he complains about the socialist Obama
administration, but he`s very happy doing business in communist China,
where there are no unions that are effective, so he can do whatever he
wants.

So, communism doesn`t bother the guy. You know, a strong, American-
style labor union he doesn`t like and he wants to get rid of them. So, you
know, you can make your own judgment about that.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go through this thing. What used to be the old
days, they didn`t care how rich you are, unless you`re a lawyer, where
you`re good at bundling, Eric, and a bunch of law associates you could go
on and pull and a bunch of them to agree to sort of give the money with you
in one big bundle, you couldn`t really give a lot of money to presidential
candidates. You were limited to the $2,300 cycle for the primary and the
general.

This has changed it all. These guys now are back to pre-Watergate
days where one to three people could really have a big ownership of the
White House.

BATES: Yes, this is really unprecedented. The argument used to be
in campaign finance, well, for $2,300, can you really buy a campaign? Can
you really buy a candidate and expect something in return? And maybe that
was an argument back then.

But if you`re spending $3 million to $4 million on a single candidate
as Bob Perry has, of course you`re going to be expecting something in
return for that kind of money, there`s no question about it.

MATTHEWS: And the candidate will get selected. We`ll hear your side
of the argument at minimum. He will think about your side positively at
minimum.

And you may not buy the guy but you damn well opened the door to him
and had the best chance to sell him, and he will probably -- or she will
probably go with you if they can get away with it. That`s the scary part.

YATES: Of course, they will. You`re buying access for sure. If
nothing else you expect to pick up the phone and get the ear of somebody in
the White House.

CONASON: And you need to run for reelection. You need midterm
contributions. This is the first flood, and with many more to come if this
law stands.

MATTHEWS: You mean they stay bought?

CONASON: Of course, they get bought and they stay bought at least
until the next election and through the next election. Then they`ll come
out of office and complain about what a bad system it is and how much they
hate raising money.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, the question is, money can`t buy you love but
it might be able to buy you presidents.

Anyway, thank you, Eric Bates. What a great piece in "Rolling
Stone". What a magnate (ph) you`re becoming after all these years.
Anyway, after all these years, you`re still great.

And, Joe Conason, it`s great to have you on anytime.

Up next, the jury in the trial of former presidential hotshot John
Edwards has been deliberating now for seven days. Are they any closer in
getting to a verdict?

My hunch and it`s got to be a good hunch for Edwards, they can`t seem
to agree to convict the guy. It seems like that`s good news. We`ll find
out from some expert when he gets on here in a minute.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BRESAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, big news on the Matthews family front. This
morning, a bit after -- actually before 5:00 a.m., my daughter-in-law Sarah
gave birth to a baby girl, a Philly girl. Actually 7 pounds 1 ounce.
There she is in that picture.

And here she is with Sarah and my son Michael, the happy threesome.
No name yet, but the Matthews family as you can tell from me tonight, in my
effervescence, is very happy.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

John Edwards, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2004 and
the man who came in second in the Iowa caucus as recently as 2008, is
facing 30 years in prison right now. But the good news for him, I think,
the jury seems to be having a hard time reaching a verdict.

Hampton Dellinger is NBC News political analyst and former deputy
attorney general of North Carolina. He joins us from the courthouse in
Greensboro.

And Melinda Henneberger is covering the trial for the "Washington
Post."

Let me start with Hampton.

Is this good news, the fact this jury cannot convict after seven days
now, they can`t seem to agree on these counts?

HAMPTON DELLINGER, ATTORNEY: Chris, it could be, but Edwards has got
to be concerned that in their confusion, they may try and find a way out by
convicting him of a charge or two as opposed to all six. There is a huge
difference for him between acquittal and conviction.

There may not be much difference in terms of the sentencing between
one conviction and six. There is no question, though, this jury is
confused and they have every right to be. The federal government can`t
even decide whether it`s a crime or not. DOJ indicted him. The Federal
Election Commission doesn`t see a problem with this money for the mistress.

MATTHEWS: You know, it just seems to me, Melinda, the judge in this
case is asking the jury to basically create law, to create a precedent
here, that if you give money to somebody to help deal with the personal
matter, embarrassing relationship, embarrassing affair, if you will, that
helps keep her out of the story, out of news, that`s in effect a political
contribution, that should have been reported and covered that way. But
this is brand new in terms of making them make that judgment. The judge
said, if it`s mostly for political reasons, not entirely, that`s still
enough guilt there for Edwards to fry here.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, THE WASHINGTON POST: She actually said, if it`s
a reason, then he`s guilty. The way I heard that if the election and the
effect of the election were a reason rather than the reason, then it seems
to me, that she was saying you do have to find him guilty -- which I`m not
sure if she`s right about that. But I think her instruction in that way
was pretty clear.

But it just seems that with this jury that the whole craziness of the
case is rubbing off on the jurors maybe because we`ve heard these stories
about color coordinated outfits from the alternates and, you know, she said
today in open court, the judge did, a lot of things can go on in a jury
room when it drags on this long and not all of them are good. And --

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about --

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: Sure.

MATTHEWS: OK, Melinda, you`re on. What is this juror issue that
came up, a juror issue that they had to deal with? What was the problem
there?

HENNEBERGER: I don`t -- we don`t know for sure what the juror issue
was. But there has been a lot of talk in the courtroom about one of the
alternate jurors who -- that`s been reported has been flirting openly about
with the defendant and he with her. So I don`t know as one of my
colleagues at "The Post" wrote, and there is one place not to meet Mr.
Right and that would be at his trial.

So, you know, given what he is on trial for, I mean, it`s truly
unbelievable. It really sort of, on the one hand, you have been taking
this so seriously, looking a back at every single scrap of paper, you know?
They`ve asked to see 500 different court exhibits -- so taking it
seriously.

And then this complete atmosphere of the thing going on with this
alternate juror. What`s good, actually --

MATTHEWS: Hampton, I guess as new example of the dangers of hooking
up in a bar, what do you think, or at the bar?

DELLINGER: Sure. And, Chris, I was in the courtroom everyday. And
I tell you what`s unbelievable, is the idea that Edwards was flirting with
the juror. You know, his behavior was abhorrent -- he brought disrepute on
my home state. I`m not apologist for him in any way.

But the idea that Edwards was flirting with a juror has no basis in
fact. Now, there was an alternate who may have, you know, went a little
too fair with their smiles at Edwards. But remember, we`re in the South.
People are friendly. People smile at each other.

(LAUGHTER)

DELLINGER: If there was a problem with the juror, Catherine Eagles,
the presiding judge, would have dismissed that juror in a heart beat.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about something that`s even less
tangible here, which is the mood of the jury. I`ve heard it described as
haggard, tired. How would you describe this jury after all these days of
argument, I guess, instead of among themselves?

DELLINGER: Sure. You know, day and night between the 12 who are now
deciding the case and four alternates. And they`ve done -- the alternates
have done color coordination. But again, I think that`s really a nonissue.

The jurors who are deciding look like, you know, they`ve been put
into a situation they have no idea what to deal with. It shows, I think,
the unfairness to put the jury in the middle of a decision the federal
government disagrees about.

You know, it`s one thing to throw the book at someone. I`ve got no
problem with that. But it`s another thing to hit them in the back of the
head. The jury has a tremendous weight on them, and they don`t know what
to do with it.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the second question is this -- I want to go
back to Melinda. You`re a journalist, is this just too much for 12 members
of your peer group, just regular people, some high school, some college, I
guess, mixed bag of people, to be asking them to basically define what is
illegal here?

HENNEBERGER: Well, it may or may not be. I`m not a legal can
expert, so I can`t say whether we`re asking too much of them. I mean, in
terms of what juries in general have to deal with, this is a serious case
as it every criminal case where someone`s freedom is on the line.

But it`s not a capitol murder case. You`re not talking about taking
someone`s life. You`re not talking about, you know, that sort of a
situation. So maybe it`s too much to ask, but that would be on the judge,
I think, in what she`s laid out for them.

And they have been asked to do this. It is their job to try to come
to a conclusion and if they don`t, if they do deadlock, then I would
certainly see that as good news for John Edwards because I really can`t
imagine that they`re going to try this case all over again.

MATTHEWS: What a story this is. I think it`s a tough case -- we`ll
see. I don`t want to get involved in affecting the jury in any way after
watching television.

Anyway, thank you, Hampton Dellinger. And thank you, Melinda
Henneberger.

HENNEBERGER: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish where we started tonight,
with Mitt Romney`s failure to show political character. He won`t say no to
anybody and he won`t even say "no thanks" like to Donald Trump. How about,
"No thanks, Donald, I don`t need you this time around"?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight where I started.

There is a bit of political give in any politician. There are people
he or she will ally himself with that they wouldn`t take out to dinner,
wouldn`t want their kids to marry. OK, fair enough.

Then there`s the type that`s so scared he might lose, so resolute to
win -- as Mitt Romney describes himself -- so resolute he`ll do anything to
win.

Dealing with birther says doing anything. Showing up on stage with
someone who says the president was someone born in another country, that
he`s a foreigner, sitting illegally and mysteriously in the Oval Office --
that`s doing anything.

I`m proud of this country because it had the stuff to pick someone
for president last time who didn`t fit the old, limited notion of who we
could pick. I`m not proud of having a presidential campaign polluted by
birtherism.

Donald Trump is a brilliant, over the top showman. He`s not
responsible for the fate of the country. But Mitt Romney wants to be.
Siding with the golden puba of birtherism isn`t a good way t prove your
political character, which is the ability to say no or in this case, no
thanks, to values you do not share.

By allying himself with this element, Romney is showing a willingness
to do anything to get elected. What should make us think he would be any
harder to bed politically once he`s in office?

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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