1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 7/10/2012 9:57:07 AM ET 2012-07-10T13:57:07

Guests: Alan Chambers, Susan Page, Marc Levin

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Tax bracketology.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: Gimme shelter. If you`re Barack Obama and you`ve
just seen another weak jobs report, what do you do? You change the
subject. The president and his allies are hitting Mitt Romney on two
fronts.

Today, Mr. Obama called for extending the Bush tax cuts for people
making less than $250,000, and his campaign has been blasting Romney`s
offshore accounts, suggesting they are tax shelters for the wealthy
Republican. The fight for the middle class is on.

One reason team Obama is feeling pretty good despite the sluggish
economy is playing itself out on TV. Today, we got more evidence that the
president is winning the ad war in the swing states.

Plus, the "pray away the gay" movement is reeling today. One of its
leaders says he was wrong, that there is no so-called cure for
homosexuality. Alan Chambers joins us tonight.

And think political debates can get heated here? Well, check this TV
face-off from Amman, Jordan, out. Don`t worry, nobody got hurt. We`ll let
you know what happened in the "Sideshow."

And "Let Me Finish" with a solution in search of a problem,
Republican-backed voter ID laws designed to keep Democrats from voting.

We begin with the fight for the middle class. MSNBC political analyst
David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine and the
author of the book "Showdown." Robert Costa is with "National Review."

Gentlemen, today, the president tried to turn the conversation from
the disappointing jobs numbers on Friday to a message of tax fairness. He
called on Congress to pass an extension for part of the Bush tax cuts for
people making less than $250,000 a year. The tax cuts are set to expire at
the end of this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all say we agree
that we should extend the tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people.
All right? Everybody says that. The Republicans say they don`t want to
raise taxes on the middle class, I don`t want to raise taxes on the middle
class. So we should all agree to extend the tax cuts for the middle class.
Let`s agree to do what we agree on. Right?

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Let`s not hold the vast majority of Americans and our entire
economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the
wealthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: At the White House afterwards, Jay Carney took it a step
further, saying the president would not sign any bill that came to his desk
if it included the extension of the tax cuts on the wealthy.

In a radio interview later, Mitt Romney accused the president of
proposing a massive tax hike on job creators.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the
president`s proposing is therefore a massive tax increase on job creators
and on small business. Small businesses are overwhelmingly being taxed not
at a corporate rate but at the individual tax rate. So successful small
businesses will see their taxes go up dramatically, and that will kill
jobs. That will be another kick in the gut to the middle class in America.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Robert Costa, the president says, Look, we have such
little agreement among us on different sides of the fence, at least we can
agree that here`s a group of folks who ought to have a continuation of the
Bush tax cuts, so why don`t we at least take care of that piece of
business? What`s the response?

ROBERT COSTA, "NATIONAL REVIEW," CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Michael, two big
takeaways from the president`s speech today, one on the politics. This on
its surface looks like a Clintonian tack to the center. In the general
election campaign, he`s trying to throw a bone to fiscal hawks, to
frustrated middle class voters and saying, I`m with you. I`m going to make
sure your rates stay at the rate they are today.

But the politics on this on Capitol Hill are a little different.
Remember, two years ago, President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts as part
of the lame duck 2010 session. This was the first salvo, let`s say, in the
2012 lame duck politics. Obama`s signaling to people on Capitol Hill that
he`s willing to talk about extending the Bush tax cuts to a certain extent,
but he`s laying out the stakes for that lame duck discussion later this
year.

SMERCONISH: But David -- David, why -- why not do that which at least
there can be agreement on? I mean, he or she who`s making $261,000 a year
is going to enjoy the Bush tax cut for the first $250,000 of that. In
other words...

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

SMERCONISH: ... everybody would be a beneficiary in this scenario.

CORN: Michael, you`re committing the sin of talking sense. It was a
question that our pal Robert didn`t answer when he gave his response to
you.

This is because, you know, the president`s saying, Listen, we can
agree on 98 percent. Let`s go with that. But the Republicans are holding
that 98 percent hostage, as they did back in 2010, knowing that it`s very
difficult to justify continuing these tax cut bonuses for the rich.

And the only way they can get them -- they can`t them on their own.
They only way they can get them is if they hold the 98 percent of the rest
of us hostage. You know, they did that in 2010. That`s their strategy
again. And they just -- you know, they`re just going to try to stare the
president down and claim that this is a tax hike.

Listen, every -- you know, the tax cuts, which Bush brought, you know,
into existence, were designed to be temporary. So if you return, if you go
back, if you revert to the original rates, you know, you can call that a
tax hike, but that`s really semantics and it`s double talk. It`s -- you
know, you have to keep voting to keep these things going, otherwise they
revert back.

And they want to make sure that their friends, the rich, you know, get
those break, and they can only do it by coupling them to the tax cuts for
everybody else.

SMERCONISH: Robert, Republicans want all the tax cuts extended
including on the wealthiest Americans. The rich, they are -- and you`ve
heard this before -- are job creators, and the more money they have, the
better it is for growth.

Here was former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, as a matter of
fact, on "MORNING JOE" making that point today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY BARBOUR (R), FMR. MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: The United States is in
a global battle for capital and for labor. If we`re trying to attract
capital so we can hire more people, so we can be innovative, deploy
technology, improve benefits, how do we figure -- where do you think that
$850 billion you were going to talk about is going to go? It`s going to go
to the government instead of going for more employees, higher wages and for
expanding the economy. It`s pretty simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Robert, a skeptic would say, Well, wait a minute. If we
-- if we`ve maintained the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans,
why do we nevertheless have an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent? Why do we
still have this funk, this malaise in the economy? They don`t create jobs.
Your response would be what?

COSTA: To blame this recession on the Bush tax cuts, which came into
effect 10 years ago and to say that this recession is happening because the
tax rates are too low -- I think most Republicans and conservatives would
shake their head at that! That doesn`t make any sense.

Government spending`s part of the problem. The financial collapse of
2008 is the significant factor in the recession.

But to say the low tax rates -- what Romney was saying was that the
president`s effectively writing off all voters who are making over
$250,000. It`s a class warfare argument. He`s trying to win the voters
who are the middle class who are making $250,000 or less.

But for those who have sole proprietorships -- that`s what Romney was
saying -- sole proprietors, individuals who pay at the individual rate for
their businesses -- Obama doesn`t even want to speak to him when it comes
to tax policy!

SMERCONISH: But I guess what I`m asking is whether there`s any
empirical data, where there`s anything quantifiable that we can look to and
say, Aha, here are jobs that were created by individuals because they are
wealthy Americans or small business people...

COSTA: OK, Michael...

SMERCONISH: ... and they were able to enjoy the fruits of the Bush
tax cuts.

COSTA: If you do not extend the rates on those making $250,000 or
more, you will have some more revenue for the federal government, and the
Democratic argument would be that revenue would perhaps lead to growth.

But if you look at what happened with the president`s spending over
the last three years, I would argue that with unemployment stagnant, it
stays at around 8 percent, I don`t think more revenue and government
spending would lead to any growth! The conservative argument`s always been
pro-growth policies equal -- equal growth in the economy!

CORN: Michael...

SMERCONISH: David, quick reaction to that, and then I want to show
you something else.

CORN: We have empirical evidence. Look at the Bush years prior to
the recession that occurred in the Bush years. You cut all those taxes on
the -- I mean, you cut those taxes and it didn`t create a lot of growth.
Look at the Clinton years. Clinton actually raised taxes on the high end,
not on the middle class but on the very high end, and you had growth
through the Clinton years.

And I`m not saying this is directly cause and effect, but what I`m
saying is there is no empirical evidence that if you cut taxes on the rich
that jobs are created. It`s not an article of policy, it`s an article of
faith. It`s ideology. It`s religion for the right...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, let me show you this. The Democratic message
on taxes is not just about policy, it`s also personal. President Obama`s
allies are ramping up calls on Governor Romney to release more of his past
tax returns than he has. This follows reporting by "Vanity Fair" and the
Associated Press that Romney has stored assets in notorious tax shelters,
like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Switzerland.

Let`s watch some of the Democratic attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA SENIOR CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The next four years,
we`re going to have to undergo comprehensive tax reform. And you know, is
somebody who has sheltered their income taxes in Switzerland and the
Caymans and Bermuda really somebody who`s going to get under the hood and
get us to a place of tax fairness? We need to know why he`s got that money
there.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: I`d really like to
see Mitt Romney release more than one year of tax records because there`s
been disturbing reports recently that he`s got a Bermuda corporation that -
- a secretive Bermuda corporation that no one knows anything about,
investments in the Caymans, you know, investments in -- he`s got a Swiss
bank account.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: When it comes down to his Swiss
bank account, there is just no way to explain it. You either get a Swiss
bank account to conceal what you`re doing or you believe the Swiss franc is
stronger than the American dollar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Robert Costa, financially smart maybe for Romney as an
individual, but boy, you`d have to agree, politically unwise for a guy who
has known for years that he`d be running for president.

COSTA: No, Michael, I respectfully disagree. It`s not politically
unwise to do something that`s entirely legal, which is invest globally.
Mitt Romney has made a career of investing globally.

I think when it comes to disclosure, he should disclosure as much he
can. The Democrats, I think, may have a case there that one year of tax
returns may not be enough for the general election.

But to try to portray Romney as sipping a pina colada in the Bahamas
or Bermuda or in Switzerland is just -- it`s class welfare of politics!
And I think if Romney can connect with people in the suburbs like he did in
the primary, it`ll be effective in the general. And if he loses voters
because of a Swiss bank account, those voters were already voting for the
Democrats.

SMERCONISH: But it doesn`t -- it doesn`t help you establish a common
bond with middle America, is what I`m saying...

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: So Michael, your argument is that having money means -- or
having a lot of money means you can`t have any kind of common bond?
Romney`s, I think, trying to counteract that conventional wisdom by going
on a bus tour recent.

CORN: It`s not about...

COSTA: But I think -- it`s absurd in American politics if a wealthy
person because he has foreign investments is suddenly disqualified from
being president!

SMERCONISH: No, I didn`t say that at all. I just said if I`m trying
to reach -- if I`m trying to reach middle class voters, I don`t -- I don`t
know that my bona fides are enhanced if I`ve got financial investments in
the Cayman Islands.

I want to show you guys something else. Over the weekend, Romney
raised millions of dollars from wealthy donors in the Hamptons. One
quote`s getting a lot of attention today for sounding especially tone deaf.

"The LA Times`s" Maeve Reston caught up with one donor as she was
heading to a fund-raiser at the home of Revlon chairman Ron Perelman, and
the woman said, quote, "I don`t think the common person is getting it.
Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them. We`ve got the message, but
my college kid, the baby-sitters, the nails ladies, everybody who`s got the
right to vote, they don`t understand what`s going on. I just think if
you`re lower-income, one, you`re not educated, two, they don`t understand
how it works. They don`t understand how the system works. They don`t
understand the impact."

David, I`m sure you`d love to have a piece of that.

CORN: Well, I`m just saying that`s the problem with this country,
that nail ladies can vote...

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: ... and they don`t know what`s going on. But I have to...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: It speaks for itself. But I have to say just in response to
what Robert just said, the problem is -- having Swiss bank accounts and
Cayman Island accounts doesn`t disqualify you. What might disqualify you
is if you don`t have more disclosure. There was -- go -- everyone should
read the "Vanity Fair" piece by Nick Shackson (ph) from last week. He
raises lots of real, legitimate questions that can only be answered by
releasing tax returns.

That`s the expectation in American politics today. The fact that Mitt
Romney is not releasing those records only can lead to greater suspicion
and shows that he doesn`t really care about disclosure and that he`s just
an opaque rich guy, like people suspect.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Thank you, David Corn.
Thank you, Robert Costa.

CORN: Sure thing, Michael.

COSTA: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up: One of the leaders of the "pray away the gay"
movement now says he was wrong. Alan Chambers says there`s no cure for
homosexuality, and the movement`s ideas are harmful to gays and lesbians.
And he`ll join us.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: The Obama campaign`s fund-raising totals for June are in,
and the campaign, along with the DNC and Obama Victory Fund, raised $71
million last month. That`s team Obama`s best month so far this campaign,
but it falls well short of the haul of the Romney campaign last month, 106
million bucks.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Three years ago, I welcomed
our next guest to my radio program to discuss the American Psychological
Association`s repudiation of "gay to straight" therapy or reparative
therapy.

As president of Exodus International, the largest evangelical
organization dealing with this issue, Alan Chambers believed you could pray
away the gay. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ALAN CHAMBERS, PRES., EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: I`m denying the power
that those things had over me. You know, people say once you`re gay,
you`re always gay, you can`t break free from that. That`s not true.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Chambers even appeared in ads with his wife saying change
is possible. But now he says there`s no cure for homosexuality and that
reparative therapy doesn`t wipe out homosexual desires. Alan Chambers is
still president of Exodus and a husband and father of two kids, and he`s
joining me now.

Mr. Chambers, what happened? What accounts for the change in
position?

CHAMBERS: Well, I want to be clear about what those changes are. The
fact is, my life is still as it was when I was on your radio program three
years ago, and I still hold to a biblical sexual ethic where homosexuality
and other forms of sexuality are concerned.

But what I think what`s changed for me is, really, the overemphasis on
this issue in ways that we don`t emphasize other issues in the church. And
specifically, with regards to reparative therapy, that so much of that type
of technique and therapy is focused on changing attraction or changing
temptation, when I don`t find that there`s a biblical reality that says
people will necessarily change their temptations or change their struggles.
So I want to be very, very clear about that.

SMERCONISH: Well, how about...

CHAMBERS: ... as we reach out to people...

SMERCONISH: How about the practical -- how about the practical
reality? Can you pray away the gay? Do you believe today that reparative
therapy works?

CHAMBERS: You know, I -- I think that praying away the gay has always
been a lazy stereotype. That`s certainly not what I did. And I think it
invalidates the complexity of this very complex issue.

As far as reparative therapy goes, you know, for years, we at Exodus
endorsed that and had people within our movement who did reparative
therapy.

But so much of the focus is changing there, where they`re talking
about 100 percent cures and using that word specifically with me in private
conversations, and then even introducing things like heterosexual
pornography to help initiate or instigate or bring about heterosexual
attraction. And I don`t find that that`s healthy or helpful or realistic
at all.

SMERCONISH: I guess what I`m waiting for you to say that I gleaned
from "The New York Times" but I`m not hearing on HARDBALL is that it
doesn`t work, because in "The Times," quote, "He said that virtually every
ex-gay he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself
included."

You`re married, father of two. You have homosexual cravings, is that
right?

CHAMBERS: I have same-sex attractions. You know, I think that what
Eric said in "The Times" wasn`t what I said. I didn`t use the word
"cravings," nor would I use them. I am married. I am happily married. My
attractions, if you want to know, are specifically and always towards my
wife.

For me, those things have changed. My life is not the same as it was
21 years ago when I sought help. But to say that I don`t have temptations
or that I could never be tempted or don`t have same-sex attractions isn`t
true. And I think it`s very important For me as a Christian leader and as
someone who is helping people in their journey say those things very, very
clearly.

SMERCONISH: But if you have the -- respectfully, if you have those
attractions, because I think I just heard you say that you still maintain -
- not that there`s anything wrong with it, but that you still maintain
same-sex attractions -- are you trapped in that marriage of yours?

CHAMBERS: I`m not trapped in that marriage. I married my wife 15 years
ago because I was in love with her. I remain in love with her today.

And what has changed for me is, that love has only grown deeper. My
attraction and my desire for my wife has only grown stronger. Never in 15
years have I been tempted to be unfaithful to my wife. I love her. She is
the object of my every affection. But to say that I don`t have...

SMERCONISH: Mr. Chambers, what would you say -- what would you say,
sir, to a young person who perhaps three years ago at the time when we
first met via the airwaves listened to Alan Chambers and took to heart your
message as it then existed and believed and pursued a career path for the
last couple of years hoping that they could turn away from these innate
feelings that they had?

Do you apologize to those folks now? Do you say I got it wrong and
come back to this fold? I mean, what`s the message?

CHAMBERS: Well, I think if someone hears my message and thinks that
I`m telling them that they`re never going to struggle again, that those
feelings are going to go away or that they`re going to be -- their lives
are going to be anything like my life, I am sorry for that.

That has never been my intention. My intention is to -- is to simply
help people of faith who are in conflict where their sexuality meets their
faith to live either celibate lives or to pursue a life that they feel is
congruent with their faith. And that...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Would a homosexual -- would a homosexual be precluded --
would a homosexual be precluded admission from heaven on the basis of their
sexuality, according to Alan Chambers?

CHAMBERS: Well, thankfully, it`s not according to Alan Chambers.

My biblical beliefs are that no one is excluded to heaven who has a
personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He offers that relationship to
anyone and everyone who would ask him for that. And I think the Bible is
very simple in its terms of how you come into a relationship. It says ask
and you shall receive. Knock. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door
will be opened to you. It doesn`t say anywhere that there`s any exclusions
of people who can seek, ask and knock.

And that has always been our message.

SMERCONISH: You defended reparative therapy a year ago in an
interview with ABC`s Brian Ross, comparing it to a weight loss struggle.

Here`s a piece of that tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAMBERS: It`s not picking and choosing people who are gay or
lesbian. It really hits all of us. We can look at other organizations who
help people dealing with other life struggles, for instance, Weight
Watchers, which has tremendously benefited by life.

Should we go after Weight Watchers and tell them, don`t say that
there`s anything beyond obesity for people who are struggling with obesity
and want an alternative to that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Does that analogy still hold up in your view?

CHAMBERS: You know, for me, I think those things do hold up in my
life.

I have benefited from Weight Watchers and other types of programs that
have helped me in other areas of struggle in my life. I`m not telling
someone that is happily gay identified or gay or lesbian that they should
choose the life that I live or that God will love them more or love them
less depending on the decision that they make.

What I`m saying is for me and for people of faith who want to choose
to live through the filter of their faith and a strong biblical sexual
ethic in that regard, that they have that right to do that. And so when it
comes to issues like reparative therapy, I wouldn`t say that I was
defending reparative therapy a year ago.

I think we broad-brushed that. Reparative therapy is a very small and
specific type of therapy that a few therapists use. That isn`t something
that Exodus does today.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Bottom line, if I can just frame it simplistically, in
that age-old question, genes vs. environment, we agree. Genes, right?
It`s the hand you`re dealt.

CHAMBERS: Well, I think that what we have to do is stop making it so
simple. It`s not simple.

I think nature and nurture play a part in my life. We are genetic
beings, for sure, but we are certainly a product of the environment that we
grow up in. And I think to oversimplify this is to invalidate the
complexity of someone`s life. And I`m not willing to do that.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Chambers, thanks for being here. We appreciate it.

CHAMBERS: My pleasure.

SMERCONISH: Next, if you think we play hardball politics in this
country, check this out. We will tell you what is behind this political
fight in Jordan.

And if you want to follow me on Twitter, you just need to figure out
how to spell Smerconish.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

How DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz managed to turn her
introduction by "FOX NEWS SUNDAY" guest host John Roberts into a dig at
Mitt Romney. Easy. There was talk of a road trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Good morning.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS. I think the headline of the day is that you
just drove 2,000 miles from Florida all the way up to New Hampshire with
four dogs, the cat, the kids and the husband. How are you after all that?

(LAUGHTER)

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And lived to tell about it. And all the dogs were
actually in the car, so I proved it can be done.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Can`t miss the swipe. They stuck out the drive without
going the Romney route of putting the dogs in a kennel on the roof of the
car.

Anyway, the chairwoman`s Republican counterpart, Reince Priebus, made
his own appearance on "FOX News Sunday," suggesting that President Obama
represents an existential threat to the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This
president can`t fulfill a promise. They`re living in fantasyland. And you
know what? We`re going to put this dream to an end of theirs in November.
Save America. Fire Barack Obama and hire Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney has to win for the sake of the very idea of America. Mitt
Romney has to win for liberty and freedom. And we have to put an end to
this Barack Obama presidency before it put an end to our way of life in
America. The fact of the matter is, is that people understand that the
president is the head of this country. The fish rots at the head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So, a vote for Obama is a vote against liberty, freedom
and America.

And, by the way, Mike Dukakis tried out the fish analogy once. It
didn`t work so well.

Next, a lot of Republicans might be hoping that Donald Trump stays far
away from the Republican Convention. Do they really need another go-round
of birther talk? Well, apparently, the chances of Trump taking center
stage in Florida don`t depend on whether he scores a prime speaking slot at
the convention.

Get this now. Donald Trump is being presented with the Statesman of
the Year Award from the Sarasota Republican Party just one day before the
convention kicks off in Tampa. That`s right, statesman. It won`t be the
first time that Trump has swooped in at an inconvenient time for team
Romney. Just after Romney officially clinched the Republican nomination
back in May, he and Trumped teamed up for a Vegas fund-raiser.

The downside? Trump snatched up all the attention by again
questioning the president`s citizenship.

Finally, it`s no secret that politics can get pretty brutal, attack
ads, name-calling, the whole shebang. But that`s here in the United
States. Watch what happened during a live TV debate in Jordan last week
between a member of parliament, that`s the guy on your right, and his
opponent. He`s the one on the left.

Apparently, the M.P. took issue with being called a -- quote -- "mafia
thief." Luckily, no one was injured, and the situation is under
investigation, including the question of how the gun made it inside the
studio to begin with. This unfolded on live TV. The host-turned-referee
described the incident as -- quote -- "the Wild West."

Up next, back to the campaign -- new evidence that President Obama`s
winning the ad war in the key battleground states.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Tyler Mathisen with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow falls 36. The S&P 500 was off by two, and the Nasdaq down
five. Second-quarter earning officially season kicked off earlier this
afternoon with Alcoa`s report. The company`s revenues and profits came in
ahead of expectations.

Facebook shares jumped more than 1 percent on word it is planning to
launch a job posting board. And Campbell`s Soup is paying about $1.5
billion for Bolthouse Farms. It makes juices and salad dressings.

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

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The political TV advertising campaign is alive and well this summer,
if you live in the dozen or so states that will decide the presidential
election. According to "USA Today," more than three-quarters of swing
state voters in states that you can see on the map on your screen have
watched these commercials in the past 30 days.

And among those who have changed their minds about the president and
Mitt Romney because of the ads, President Obama has an overwhelming
advantage; 76 percent now support him; 16 percent now support Mitt Romney.

The president also holds a narrow lead among all swing state voters in
that "USA Today"/Gallup poll. He leads Romney 47 to 45 percent.

Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today." She wrote
today`s cover story. And Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of
PostPolitics.com. He`s also the author of the new book "The Gospel
According to the Fix: An Insider`s Guide to a Less Than Holy World of
Politics."

Susan, I am fascinated by this. There are people you point out.
There are two Americas. There are people who are only learning of the
presidential race by watching news programs, sort of oblivious to the other
segments of the country, where they are inundated with all the commercials.
It`s all, what would you say, micro-targeting?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Oh, absolutely.

You know, for most of America, they have to tune in to HARDBALL and
other programs to see news coverage of the ads if they`re going to see
them. But in these 12 states, you cannot turn on the TV to watch anything,
any programming on your local station without really facing a deluge of ads
on both sides by the campaigns, by the super PACs. It`s really relentless
for people in these targeted states.

SMERCONISH: And you had a great image in the paper today that we have
recreated to show the cities which are the number one markets so far for
political advertisements in those 12 swing states.

It`s places like Cleveland, Richmond, Tampa, Denver, and others.
They`re even spending in Boston, so that they can reach New Hampshire
voters.

Chris Cillizza, that sums it up, doesn`t it?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

SMERCONISH: When you`re spending in Boston not to reach
Massachusetts, but to reach New Hampshire, that tells you something.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: Yes.

Well, you get -- you know, I am a nerd enough to know the media
markets in that state. And the Boston media market reaches into lots of
Southern New Hampshire. So that`s why you`re seeing that.

I would say, Michael, look, the story and the poll that Susan wrote
about is fascinating, because what it does is, it proves what I think a lot
of us who follow this day to day know, which is a presidential campaign is
a national campaign really in name only. Yes, everybody in all 50 states
gets to vote on November 6.

Yes, all the votes count the same, but not really, is that it`s really
a series of state-based races in those eight to 12 swing states that really
make the difference, because we could hold the vote now, we could hold the
vote November 6, we could hold the vote in 2020, and Barack Obama would
probably get about 230 electoral votes no matter what, and Mitt Romney
would probably get about 218 electoral votes no matter what.

So we`re talking about 95, 80 to 95 swing votes all coming from those
states. That`s why you see all the advertising. It`s why Barack Obama`s
going to Iowa, which make Susan`s list. And Mitt Romney tomorrow is going
to where? Colorado. They`re not going to go anywhere outside of these
places.

SMERCONISH: Well, Chris, it`s also -- Chris, it`s a function of how
much money both campaigns have.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SMERCONISH: And also the level of sophistication, the knowledge that
they have about we, the voters, I think is a big story here as well.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Let me show you something. For a flavor of what these
swing state voters are seeing on the airways, take a look at a recent Obama
campaign ad attacking Mitt Romney`s business record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AD)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m Barack Obama, and I
approve this message.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Chinese are smiling all
the way to the bank, taking our jobs and taking a lot of our future. And
I`m not willing to let that happen.

NARRATOR: He made a fortune letting it happen. Newly published
documents show Mitt Romney`s firms were pioneers at helping company`s
outsource their manufacturing to countries including China, bragging they
were a one-stop shop for their outsource requirements.

Mitt Romney`s not the solution. He`s the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: And for parity, let me show you a super PAC commercial
that`s also being run on the flip side, meaning from the pro-Romney side.
This is from Crossroads GPS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CROSSROADS GPS AD)

NARRATOR: Why isn`t the economy stronger? In the seconds it takes to
watch this, our national debt will increase $1.4 million. In 2008, Barack
Obama said:

OBAMA: We can`t mortgage our children`s future on a mountain of debt.

NARRATOR: Now he`s adding four billion in debt every day, borrowing
from China for his spending, every second growing our debt faster than our
economy. Tell Obama, stop the spending. Support the New Majority Agenda
at NewMajorityAgenda.org.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So, Susan Page, you`re saying that very few minds have
been changed thus far, but those that have been changed overwhelmingly
toward Obama.

How come?

PAGE: Well, you know, people know a lot about Barack Obama and he`s
been president for almost four years. They pretty much made up their
minds, whether they think he`s doing a good job or not.

People don`t know very much about Mitt Romney. So when you have an
ad like the ad you just showed, it has an impression, it has a big effect.
That`s what seems to be happening. That`s why we showed this really
disproportionate impact the Obama ads have I think to some significant
degree succeeded in defining Mitt Romney in a way that is negative to a lot
of voters. And that`s why those voters who say they are swayed by these
ads have gone in such a heavy way to the president`s side.

SMERCONISH: Well, Chris Cillizza, let me ask you something that`s
pure fix material. Could it also be, I agree with Susan just said, but
could it also be that the Obama campaign has done a better job marshalling
its message? And, you know, now, you`ve got only super PACs out there. Is
the Romney campaign hindered by inability to make sure that some of those
supportive of Romney are saying what they`d like to be said?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: Right. So, I think that is broadly
true, Michael. I think if you look at the spending on ads, Barack Obama
spent about $96 million on ads thus far, the vast majority has been spent
in the states we`re talking.

Mitt Romney in the general election, now, remember he spent $87
million total in the primary. But in the general, they spent $23 million
on ads. In eight swing states, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire,
Florida, in those states, super PACs, Republican super PACs, that`s
Americans for Prosperity, that`s Restore Our Future, that`s Crossroads GPS,
which isn`t a super PAC but an outside group. They have outspent Mitt
Romney in every single one of those states on ads.

It`s a remarkable thing. Mitt Romney spent $2 million in Florida.
Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which is a Koch brothers
group, have spent a combine $9 million on ads. So, you obviously can
control your message a lot easier when it`s you paying for it than when
it`s four different myriad groups spending money.

SMERCONISH: And you correct me if I`m wrong. But if the campaign
decided, hey, we need to marshal these forces, bring them all in and let`s
have a meeting of, you know, these folks -- that would violate the law,
right?

CILLIZZA: Absolutely. You cannot -- they cannot coordinate.

Now, public buying information, how much money you`re spending or
where you`re spending it is public information. You can call the radio
station, so you can get it that way.

But no, you can`t get everybody in. Remember, Michael, remember in
2008, Barack Obama essentially said you know what, if you want to support
me, give it to me. Don`t give it to a super PAC. Don`t give it to liberal
group that`s going to spend it.

It`s why he raised $750 million. It`s also, though, why the outside
Democratic groups are way behind financially and organizationally the
outside Republican groups.

SMERCONISH: Chris Cillizza, thank you.

Susan Page, your piece on "USA Today" tremendous today. Thank you
for being here.

PAGE: Hey, thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Up next, the unemployment rate isn`t just a number for
Democrats and Republicans to fight over. Millions of Americans don`t have
jobs and a new HBO documentary tells their stories. We`ll meet the
filmmaker behind "Hard Times" next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Take a look at what House Speaker John Boehner said
about Mitt Romney. Boehner was at a fund-raiser in West Virginia last week
and offered a surprisingly straightforward answer to a woman who asked him
if he could make her love Romney.

According to "Roll Call," Boehner told her, no, quote, "Listen, we`re
just politicians. I wasn`t elected to play God. The American people
probably aren`t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney. I`ll tell you
this: 95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November are going
to show up and vote for or against Barack Obama. Mitt Romney has some
friends, relatives and fellow Mormons, some that are going to vote for him,
but that`s not what this election is about. This election is going to be a
referendum on the president`s failed economic policies."

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m panic stricken. I`m feeling as if I have
absolutely nothing. I don`t want to be helped.

I want to just help myself, but what we want are jobs. What we need
are jobs. In my next job, and I will have a next job, I will thank God
every morning and every night for that job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: We`re back.

That was a scene from the new HBO documentary, "Hard Times: Lost on
Long Island".

While the monthly unemployment numbers are a fixture in the news,
often lost behind them are the real people those numbers represent.

Emmy-winning director Marc Levin chronicled the lives of four such
families struggling to make ends meet in an idyllic suburban New York town
amongst the relics of their former upper middle class existence.

The documentary premiers, pardon me, tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on
HBO.

Director Marc Levin joins me now.

Why Long Island?

MARC LEVIN, FILLMAKER: Well, Levittown is really the birthplace of
post-World War II modern is suburbia. So although there are regions in the
country that have higher unemployment rates, where the housing crisis took
a greater toll, and there are regions where the housing crisis took a
greater tool, we figure let`s go to the heart and soul of kind of the
American Dream, the suburban good life and see the fallout of this great
recession.

SMERCONISH: The four subjects that you focused on didn`t fit my
notion of the stereotypical folks who are on unemployment -- I don`t know
what that says about me or what the stereotypical vision might be. But in
what way do you think people will be surprised when they watch tonight?

LEVIN: Well, we are bombarded so much in the media scape by, you
know, sound bites that say they`re lazy, they`re good for nothing, they`re
free loaders, the moocher class, and I think when you start digging deeper
and you meet people who really have been dislocated by this crisis and
through no fault of their own, you see a totally different story. These
are people that had successful lives, that have done well. And all of a
sudden, the rug has been pulled out from underneath them.

And unlike a catastrophe like an earthquake or a hurricane, it`s not
all in one moment. It`s just kind of a slow motion of disintegration. And
not only is there tremendous financial hardship, but the psychic toll is
enormous.

SMERCONISH: The loss of one`s job means the loss of his health
insurance, her health insurance, which is a problem your subjects
confronted in your new HBO documentary. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t go without insurance especially now.
It`s just not right. I`ve been working since I was 15 straight through all
the years. I never used those benefits. I worked hard for those benefits.
Now I`m 50 years old and I can`t get them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Marc, what most surprised you spending time with these
folks the way that you did?

LEVIN: I think the most surprising thing, Michael, was the sense of
isolation, the sense that they`re almost invisible, that they have been
disappeared.

There isn`t collective action. There really is their loss they`re
afraid and they`re ashamed. I was stunned that some people that would talk
to us off of the record, when we turned on the camera they said no. And we
said, why? And they said, well, my family doesn`t know. My neighbors
don`t know.

In fact, that gentleman you just saw, he and his wife brought their
two sons to the premier of the film and it was the first time their sons
learned that their mom was going to a food pantry to get food for the
family.

So I think that`s what most stun me was the sense of shame and almost
absorbing and internalizing this sense there must be something wrong with
us.

SMERCONISH: Are they still looking for work? I asked that question
because you know, when continuation of unemployment benefits comes up,
you`ll hear arguments made from some who will say, well, these folks are
malingers who are still on, quote, "the dough for this amount of time.

LEVIN: These are people desperate for work, not just because of
obviously the financial benefits but because of the psychological benefits
that it defines who they are. It defines their life in many ways.

Ironically many of them have been told they`re overqualified. And
also unspoken is if you`re over 50 and been out of work for over a year or
so, forget it. It`s over for you.

SMERCONISH: I`m anxious to tune in and watch and see how their
extended families are able to cope with this. We have just 20 seconds
left. Give me an insight into that.

LEVIN: I think the biggest thing, going back to what you just said,
is we had the idea it`s them. It`s somebody else. If we wake up and open
our eyes, these are our neighbors, our families, our friends. It`s us.

SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for being here. Best of luck. I`ll
be watching tonight, Marc Levin. The HBO documentary film "Hard Times:
Lost on Long Island" debuts tonight. If I said 8:00, that was mistaken.
Nine p.m. Eastern on HBO.

When we return, allow me to finish with a solution in search of a
problem. Those strict new voter ID laws that will keep Democrats from
voting this November.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this: they say all politics
is local. For me, the ongoing battle for integrity versus voter
suppression certainly is. Like Chris, I`m from Philadelphia. He`s from
the city, I`m from the burbs.

If Pennsylvania is a battleground state, then I live at the front,
which is why I can tell you the ramifications of a new voter ID law in my
home state will have national implications. The new law in Pennsylvania
mandates that voters produce a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
issued photo ID.

When the folks who run elections in Pennsylvania recently compared
driver and voter records, they found that 758,939 voters were not on the
driver`s license lists. It is possible that some of those individuals have
the alternative form of acceptable ID. They include an ID from an
accredited Pennsylvania college or university, state care facility,
military ID, valid U.S. passport or other photo identification issued by
the federal of Pennsylvania government or employee ID issued by the
federal, state, county or municipal government.

But for most voters, the driver`s license is the standard ID.

It is also possible that the results were skewed by individuals who
registered to vote with names slightly different than appear on their
licenses.

But where it was revealed that 9.2 percent of the state`s 8.2 million
voters don`t have the photo ID cards from the state Transportation
Department, it`s cause for alarm. And it certainly casts doubt on prior
assertions by the secretary of commonwealth who said that 99 percent of
voters already have the ID they require.

In Bucks County, where I was born and raised, 6 percent lack a
driver`s license or the state issued non-driver`s license. Republican
David Heckler is the district attorney and has been since 2010. That year
there was a single case of voter fraud prosecuted.

In Montgomery County, where I live now, the number is 8.5 percent.
Republican Risa Ferman has been the district attorney since 2007. There
have been no voter frauds prosecution on her watch.

In Chris` hometown, Philadelphia, 18 percent of city residents, 18
percent, don`t have the Penn DOT ID.

Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one in the city. Democratic
district attorney Seth Williams has been in that job since 2010. There
have been no voter prosecutions on his watch.

So it`s not as if there`s a crisis demanding a solution. And who are
those with their voting rights threatened? They are disproportionately
poor and minority. Not exactly the Romney voters.

No wonder that at a GOP state leadership meeting, the House
Republican leader recently said, "Voter ID, which is going to allow Mitt
Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."

A court challenge is scheduled to be heard in just two weeks. In an
editorial yesterday, the "Philadelphia Inquirer" correctly noted this: What
a treacherous irony it would be if the presidential election was stolen not
by virtually nonexistent voter fraud but as a result of voter ID being
allowed to stand.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you 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

Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

More on TODAY.com

  1. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    Savannah on pregnancy oversharing: 'Now I'm one of THOSE people'

    4/18/2014 11:30:33 AM +00:00 2014-04-18T11:30:33
  1. Peter Kramer / NBC

    Rock out! 30 songs keeping Natalie pumped for the Boston Marathon

    4/18/2014 12:53:35 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T12:53:35
  1. TODAY

    video Doctor: 'Elimination' diet a quick fix for a better body

    4/18/2014 1:02:09 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T13:02:09
  1. TODAY

    video Witnesses on Everest: ‘We heard an avalanche’

    4/18/2014 12:02:37 PM +00:00 2014-04-18T12:02:37