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updated 8/17/2012 10:51:44 AM ET 2012-08-17T14:51:44

HARDBALL
August 16, 2012

Guests: Kate Michelman, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, Ted Strickland, Barry Horstman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: As radical as Ryan.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Nantucket.

"Let Me Start" with this right-wing radical, Paul Ryan, and what he
wants to do to this country. You know he wants to junk Medicare and set up
some voucher program that cuts benefits and sends a big new slice of money
to the insurance companies. We know he wants to use the rest of the money
to eliminate all taxes on the top 1 percent of this country, people who
make money off money. Ryan wants to eliminate the capital gains tax,
period.

Did you hear the rest of his health plan? He wants to basically
criminalize abortion by declaring the fertilized human egg a person. If
you have an abortion, if you use an IUD, you are a murderer. This is why
Newt Gingrich calls this guy a radical right-wing social engineer.

And last night, his new pal, Mitt Romney, said that his thinking is
just about identical to Ryan`s. But is he, Mitt Romney, willing to defend
what Ryan wants done? Is he ready to stand in a national debate with
President Obama and say, I`m for dumping Medicare, that, I`m for making
abortion premeditated murder? Is Mitt ready to climb aboard the Ryan
express and let the right-wing social engineer change the direction of this
country?

With me now are two politico pros -- political pros, former RNC chair
and MSNBC analyst Michael Steele and long-time Democratic strategist Bob
Shrum.

I want to start with Shrum. This Mitt Romney`s finally conceding he`s
running on the Paul Ryan plan, it seems. Last night, he told a Green Bay
station out in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that when it comes to Medicare, his
plan and Ryan`s are the same.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Paul Ryan and
my plan for Medicare I think is the same. If not identical, it`s probably
close to identical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Shrummy, I think what we`re seeing here is the same kind of
evolution on the ticket we saw with W. and Cheney, where the VP sets the
pace because the VP has deep convictions, like Cheney did, and W. didn`t
really have them. Here we have a right-wing social engineer, as Mitt
Romney calls him, basically setting the tune for his new partner, Romney.

Tell you what -- tell me what you think about what`s going on, the
identical nature of their health care plans, the far-out, right-wing
position that Ryan takes on abortion, basically criminalizing it by saying
it`s a person you just killed.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, politics abhors a
vacuum, and Romney was running a remarkably contentless campaign that was
designed to be just a referendum on the economy. If the Republicans could
gum up the works in the House, things were bad, blame the president, vote
for me.

So when he picked Ryan, that gave it substantive content. And they`ve
been all over the lot the last few days. It`s been like the Keystone Kops.
First they said, as Romney said in the primaries, he would sign the Ryan
budget, it was marvelous. One of his advisers repeated that on one of the
Sunday shows.

Then they tried to back away a little bit. Then they put out this
phony ad on Medicare cuts under Obama, which were not cuts in benefits but
were cuts in waste, inefficiency in terms of providers.

But then last night, he just went out there and embraced the Ryan
plan. And I`m going to tell you --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHRUM: -- it is a terrible mistake politically for him to be out
there arguing for a plan that is going to privatize, voucherize and end
Medicare as we know it. This puts Florida very much, I think, headed
toward Obama, number one. And number two, it`s going to hurt in lots of
other states.

MATTHEWS: Well, the question, I guess, Michael -- and this is an
analytical question -- at what point will Romney say, I`m not Ryan, I`m not
Ryan on eliminating the capital gains tax, I`m not Ryan on voucherizing
Medicare, although he says he is, I`m not him on this personhood amendment,
which basically criminalizes -- frighteningly so, abortion rights?

So where is he going to say, Look, Ryan`s a radical. I`m a center-
rightist? Where`s he going to do that --

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Number one,
Ryan is not the top of the ticket. Romney is. So you will not hear Mitt
Romney say, I am not Ryan. You will likely hear, and I expect to hear
certainly by the time you get to the convention, Ryan saying that, I am
Romney. And I think that`s the order of things.

I think what you`re seeing right now -- I would agree with Bob on this
point. There has been sort of a disconnect or a disconcerted effort to try
to bring all this together. And quite frankly, Chris, if you`re going to
go and open up this election from being a referendum on the last four
years, which I think it should be, to a choice election, where you`re going
to bring Ryan in, then you`d better have that script together. You got to
be on the same page from the very first interview with CBS and "60
Minutes," where he started distancing himself away, saying, I got my own
plan, to what you just played last night, where he goes, Well, our plans
are pretty much the same.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: So you can`t -- you cannot -- you cannot start this argument,
this discussion -- again, I agree with Bob -- this national debate on
substance where you`re showing that, Well, maybe we haven`t worked out
exactly what the substance is.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me get back to what do votes have to worry about
and the stakes in this election. Whatever your politics watching the show
right now, you want to know what these guys are going to do if they get in
there.

SHRUM: Right.

MATTHEWS: We pretty much know what Obama`s going to do. So the
question is, what is Romney going to do. Bob, let me go back to this
question. When you get married with somebody, the person with the
strongest convictions on something, like going to church or where you live,
or whatever, how to raise the kids, tends to get the upper hand because the
other guy or the other person in the marriage says, OK, you really care
about this thing, I`m going to let you have it. The one who`s wishy-washy
doesn`t set the course.

Mitt Romney is wishy-washy. You called him multiple-choice once on
abortion rights. You know, it seems to me that if -- if Ryan`s on the
ticket because of his conviction, why would you throw the conviction off
the train? You would throw off the wishy-washy off the train and go with
the conviction.

He said last night -- Michael, you can argue all you want, but the
fact is, Romney just said he`s identical with Ryan on the whole health care
issue, and that, to me, is amazing. Bob?

SHRUM: I don`t think Michael`s arguing with that. I think he`s
saying that Romney`s doing the wrong thing.

STEELE: Right.

SHRUM: They should have been on the same script from the beginning.

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEELE: That`s it.

SHRUM: The fact is that Romney should have said, If you`re going to
run with me, here are the parameters, here are the rules. But one of
Romney`s problems was, to get this nomination -- and remember, he got it in
a struggle against the weakest field of candidates in modern history in
either party -- he had to say that he endorsed the Ryan budget, that it was
marvelous, that he would sign it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHRUM: And if he tries to back away from it -- and that`s what a lot
of Republican pros hope -- he`s going to get some real blowback from the
base and the right wing. So I think if you get a Romney --

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: If you get a Romney-Ryan presidency, you`re going to see an
attempt to voucherize Medicare. You`re going to see an attempt to
privatize Social Security. You`re going to see taxes rolled back to zero
on interest and investment income. And Mitt Romney`s going to pay less
than 1 percent in taxes on $21 million in income. That`s not the election
--

MATTHEWS: Well, let me --

SHRUM: -- the Republicans should have wanted to have.

STEELE: I will say -- but I`ll tell you quite honestly, that`s -- I
have no problem with that debate, OK? Let`s talk about that. Let`s debate
that. And I think that`s -- that`s --

SHRUM: Oh, I`d love to debate it!

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: Well, but I`m just saying -- but --

MATTHEWS: OK --

STEELE: You know, I mean --

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to get to some more radical thinking by
Ryan and them (ph). Let me just get with this, Michael. If your message
isn`t working, what`s left to do? Well, today Romney pulled a prop to help
illustrate a point about his Medicare plan. Let`s watch Mitt Romney and
his whiteboard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I want to bring as much clarity as possible, so I prepared a
small chart here. My plan presents no change. The plan stays the same --
no adjustments, no changes, no savings. The president`s plan cuts Medicare
-- excuse me. Well, let`s see -- I got to -- there we go -- by $716
billion. Cut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Michael, I`m going to give you a minute to
describe this to me because I think there`s a problem here, and I don`t
think even you can untangle it -- unentangle (ph) it. It seems to me he
said last night, I`m with Ryan completely for the voucher program, for the
whole approach, which is quite radical. It`s certainly a difference from
what we have now, paid fee for service. And then he writes on that little
whiteboard of his, No change, no cuts.

I mean, what -- is he -- does he pay attention to what he says?

STEELE: Look, Chris, I don`t get the whiteboard escapade.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: I understand this was put together very quickly. It was kind
of rushed. The press was kind of rushed into this. Again, it goes to the
overall approach. You rolled this out. You invited this debate by
bringing someone who is the architect of the very thing that we`re now
talking about. So you should, hopefully, have the plan and the schematics
in place to make the argument.

And you know, again, from Sunday to today, we`ve seen three or four
different alliterations (ph) of where Romney is on the question of the
Romney -- of the Ryan plan.

MATTHEWS: OK --

STEELE: It should -- we should be talking about the Romney plan, if
we`re going to talk about this, and we`re not.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s total confusion. Now, let`s get to the issue of
taxes. Now, for months now, it seems now, the issue the Democrats have
said is Romney won`t tell us whether he paid decent taxes (INAUDIBLE) Now
Romney, in the manner of Richard Nixon, is saying, Well, I`m not going to
release the tapes. I`m not going to release my tax returns. I`m going to
tell you what they are, like the old Judge Stennis (ph) approach of
Nixon`s. I`ll tell somebody.

Well, he won`t even tell somebody. He`s just telling us now. Romney
made the news insisting to reporters that despite what Harry Reid said
about him not paying any taxes for 10 years, he`s paid taxes somewhere
around 13 percent.

Well, let`s listen to Romney describe what he says have been his tax
returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces -
- 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of
six Americans in poverty -- the fascination with taxes I paid I find to be
very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face.

But I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the past 10 years, I
never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or
something like that. So I`ve paid taxes every single year. Harry Reid`s
charge is totally false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, before he decided not to release them, he -- well, he
decided not to release them, then he went back and looked at them. I think
that order`s a little bit out of order. I think he went back and looked at
them before he decided not to release them. I think that`s common sense.
Why would he not release what he didn`t even look at?

Anyway, I don`t expect him to release his tax returns anytime soon,
obviously. However, here`s what Ann Romney, the wife of the candidate,
told NBC`s "Rock Center." Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: We have been very transparent to
what`s legally required of us. But the more we release, the more we get
attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so we
have done what`s legally required, and there`s going to be no more --
there`s going to be no more tax releases given.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There`ll be no more. Well, there`s a statement from the
candidate`s wife, Bob Shrum. An interesting choice that she would make
that statement, no more releases, period.

SHRUM: Well, look, three things. One, that`s a peculiar defense she
offers, says, The more we release, the more we get attacked. So there`s
obviously something in those tax returns.

Number two, Romney says, Well, I paid 13.6 percent every year. Then
he should release the tax returns. That would actually put this issue to
rest because people think he paid 1 percent or nothing.

Number three, I don`t want to use this word, but I think he could be
lying because he was lying in that Medicare presentation. The fact is, the
president`s plan doesn`t cut $716 billion in Medicare benefits.

MATTHEWS: I know.

SHRUM: It cuts savings and it cut -- it has savings and efficiencies
and it cuts waste. And Paul Ryan had those in his plan. Mitt Romney
endorsed them. The difference is that Ryan uses them for tax cuts for
people at the top, and Obama used them to close the prescription drug donut
hole for Medicare recipients so they don`t pay 100 percent of their drugs
between $2,000 and $5,000. Under Romney and Ryan, they go back to doing
that.

MATTHEWS: OK, quickly, Michael, why would a guy say, I paid 13
percent but not release the returns?

STEELE: Well, because he doesn`t feel he has to release the returns.
He feels that, you know, he`s put out two years, going to put out two
years, and that`s enough. He went back, he looked at it. He`s given us a
number, you know, and that 13 percent, whatever it is, it represents
investment income, maybe, you know, just general income. Who knows?

But I think his broader point, which I would agree with, who cares? I
mean, the fact of the matter is --

SHRUM: I care. I care.

STEELE: Well, I`m glad you do. I`m glad you do --

SHRUM: The American people care.

STEELE: I`m glad you do.

SHRUM: Sixty-three percent of them --

STEELE: Look --

SHRUM: -- Michael, want the returns released.

STEELE: Bob, I didn`t cut you off, Bob --

MATTHEWS: You know why?

SHRUM: I`m not cutting you off.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know why --

STEELE: Can I just finish my point, please? The bottom line is, you
know, in the overall scheme of things, the American people, to your point,
Bob, will judge this as to whether or not it`s serious enough for them to
hold it against him if he doesn`t do it.

I think what they`re going to hold against both these candidates, if
they fail to have a discussion about how we`re going to create jobs in the
country.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, Michael. Thanks for that. But a reason -- in
this froncier (ph) thing, the reason people care about his taxes is he
wants to cut corporate taxes even lower. He wants to (INAUDIBLE) Bush tax
--

STEELE: This is a good thing.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: I don`t see the problem with that.

MATTHEWS: No, he wants to give all the rich people more taxes. (SIC)
And --

STEELE: Goes to everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: No, no, the rich get almost all of it.

STEELE: No, no, guys. You`re just totally wrong.

SHRUM: The rich get almost all of it, Michael.

STEELE: No, they don`t.

SHRUM: Go look at the numbers. Read the numbers.

STEELE: I did --

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: No, no, reading talking points, not numbers.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- shifts taxes to the middle class. Anyway, thank you,
Michael. Good case. Bob Shrum --

SHRUM: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- even though you`re wrong, Michael.

Anyway, coming up: If the Republicans think Paul Ryan causes them
trouble with seniors, what about women? As I just said earlier, Ryan co-
sponsored a bill to give fetuses, fertilized eggs, full rights as citizens.
In other words, from the moment of fertilization, it`s murder if there`s an
abortion. This is going to be serious business. It includes IUDs, as well
as abortions. What are we talking about? "The New York Times" says this
can mean murder charges.

Also, muzzling Joe Biden. Yes, the vice president goes off-message in
terms of his language occasionally, but is it really necessary for his
staff to keep trying to muzzle him? According to reporters, that`s what`s
going on.

And lock the vote! Ohio Republicans fail to respond -- expand voter
hours in Republican areas while voting them down in Democratic areas. Get
it? Keep Democrats from voting, encourage Republicans to vote. Boy,
that`s democracy.

And finally, a new low in negative advertising. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m Mitt Romney. Americans say there`s been too
much negativity in this campaign, and I agree. From now on, I pledge to
focus on the positive. For instance, I`m positive that Barack Obama is a
communist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s positive. Anyway, now it`s just a parody from
Jimmy Kimmel that you`ll see on the "Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New poll numbers in some key battleground states. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

Starting in Florida, and a new poll from Purple Strategies gives Mitt
Romney a 1-point edge there, 48-47. In Ohio, the Purple poll has Romney up
by 2 points, 46-44. And according to that same Purple poll, Romney`s up 3
in Virginia, 48 to 44. Those three states look a little different than
other recent polls we`ve seen from those same states. So keep looking for
these numbers.

In Colorado, by the way, the Purple poll has President Obama ahead,
49-46. And finally, in New Hampshire, a University of New Hampshire poll
puts Obama in front, 49-46.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Mitt Romney has moved to the
right on abortion since his days as running for governor of Massachusetts,
but his VP pick -- catch this guy, Paul Ryan -- is even moreso. I`ll say.

In 2010, he told "The Weekly Standard," "I`m as pro-life as a person
gets." And then last year, Paul Ryan co-sponsored what`s been called a
"personhood" bill, which would declare legally that life begins once a
human egg is fertilized -- in other words, after conception. Is this what
the Republicans have in mind when they want to get rid of "Obama care" and
replace it with their own plan?

Kate Michelman is the former head of NARAL and Maggie Haberman is
Politico`s senior political reporter.

Kate, thank you for joining us. It just seems to me so radical --
talk about radical social engineering -- to declare abortion basically
murder. I mean, this what "The New York Times" said in an objective
statement. "The concept of personhood is a fundamental tenet of the anti-
abortion movement, and under this definition, abortion and some forms of
birth control" -- that`s IUDs, I guess -- "could be construed as murder."
And of course, in this case, it would be premeditated murder.

Are these people crazy? And do they know what they`re doing when they
start playing around with common law and what a person is? Kate?

KATE MICHELMAN, FORMER HEAD OF NARAL: I don`t -- I can`t -- I can`t
speak for them. I don`t know that they know what they`re doing. What we
know will happen, however, if this were to become law, as you said, it
would overturn Roe. It would make every abortion under every circumstance
at any time during pregnancy illegal. It would be murder.

Women would be subject to criminal penalties. Doctors would be
subject to penalties and go to jail. Think of a doctor trying to treat a
woman who`s having a miscarriage. It -- this would be extraordinary! And -
- and Congressman Ryan has been very devoted to this mission of making --
of taking away from women any role in -- for them in determining their
reproductive lives.

MATTHEWS: Maggie, you`re a straight reporter on this and you may have
your own views.

But just in terms of straight reporting, I find, when you use the
phrase -- not you or I, but certainly Newt Gingrich referring to radical
social engineering, this is the baby, this one right here.

When you start talking about abortion`s probably going to be on issue
as long as we live in terms of what the law should be. In fact, I think
people should think more clearly about the law than all their positions on
the philosophy of it, the metaphysics, which you always debate.

But when you start talking about law and saying it should be a person,
you put a position where a woman using an IUD is a murderess. And there`s
no other way to describe it, in fact, a premeditated murder. How can you
think like that, people? Do they really mean this?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: I think that one of the things that is
going to be interesting here is we have been the focus since the Paul Ryan
rollout has been on Medicare, right? It`s been almost entirely on
Medicare.

There are other issues about Ryan`s record that the Democrats are
going to highlight, and you are focusing on one of them. Democrats were
already looking to paint Mitt Romney as extreme on issues of women`s
health. There`s a Planned Parenthood ad focused on the issue of Planned
Parenthood by the campaign which strategists on both sides have said is
actually pretty effective against Mitt Romney and it basically paints Mitt
Romney as a throwback on the issue of birth control, says something like
this isn`t the 1950s.

And so I think that having Paul Ryan on the ticket is going to make it
harder for Mitt Romney to get away from that issue. You were already going
to see it. You`re just going to see it in a much more focused form now.

MATTHEWS: Kate, you have worked in this field for so long and
figuring how women especially vote.

MICHELMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And they may vote in some cases the economics of their
family. Perhaps their spouse is well -- has a good income. Maybe they
have a good income and so they think Republican.

And then they come along to this issue of personal freedom and rights.
How do you talk to them about delineating how they should be really voting
and not just knee-jerk voting for people that get a better tax break
because they`re in the higher brackets? How do you get to them?

MICHELMAN: Well, I don`t think it`s at all, you know, terribly --
what`s -- terribly difficult to get to the kind of voters you want to get
to, but when women learn about Ryan`s stance and what it would mean if he
were the vice president -- and I think that Romney`s choice of Ryan puts to
rest any question about where Governor Romney is on the issue of a woman`s
right to decide.

So, I think that women -- and we have known in the past that this kind
of issue can really swing women`s votes, especially pro-choice Republican
women, independent women. They -- they don`t want an extremist like this
whose plans and programs and policies are adamantly anti-woman, anti-
women`s health.

Everything about Ryan`s program is anti-woman. And so I think it will
-- reaching women in the suburbs, reaching independent women, reaching
young women, I think it will -- it will have a real resonance and it will
have an effect on their voting patterns.

MATTHEWS: I couldn`t have said that better or anything else.

Thank you so much for coming on, Kate Michelman. And you have really
delineated it.

And, Maggie, I wish we had more time, because I`m thinking this is the
last thing the Republican ticket wanted to be talking about. They have got
a time bomb here, that they thought they were just going to talk about the
economy and the budget. They have created a real Frankenstein`s Monster in
putting this guy on the ticket with this background, supporting personhood
and criminality of abortion.

Anyway, thanks to both of you for coming on.

Up next: a double scoop of embarrassment for the president and the
first lady. That`s next in the "Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": It`s kind of incredible.
These two campaigns, they`re going to spend close to $2 billion insulting
each other.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: It`s like the world`s most expensive Comedy Central roast
played out over a year.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: Romney vowed to focus on the positive. And for the time
being, that seems to be the plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m Mitt Romney. Americans say there`s been too
much negativity in this campaign, and I agree. That`s why, from now on, I
pledge to focus on the positive.

For instance, I`m positive that Barack Obama is a communist.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m positive that he hates freedom and favors
Satan.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I`m positive that he wants to kill your
grandma. How`s that for positive?

Let`s cut the negativity. Vote for Mitt Romney. I`m positive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

That`s Jimmy Kimmel citing the angry turn some people say the
presidential race has taken.

Well, Mitt Romney, of course, called the president`s campaign one of
division, anger and hate. But, as I said last night, look at his crowd.

Here`s Jon Stewart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": The rhetoric on
all sides can be hateful sometimes, but are the Republicans really that
blind to the depth of their own vitriol?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Name one prominent
Republican who even comes close to what, like, the Alan Graysons, the Harry
Reids, the Joe Bidens come up with and spew to the American public. I
can`t think of one prominent Republican who talks the way that they talk.

STEWART: Does the lake behind you have reflective properties?

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough
to pal around with terrorists.

Nancy Pelosi is a dingbat.

A left-wing liberal.

Socialist.

Washington elite.

They`re like a bunch of dead fish.

STEWART: There can only be two explanations for that. One, not even
Sarah Palin believes she is a prominent Republican anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Or, two, Sarah Palin can no longer hear herself speak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: In fact, Palin, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Romney, they
have all been questioning even Obama`s basic Americanism. Who are they to
be complaining about negative campaigning?

Also, Romney meets NASCAR. You may remember when the candidate
botched an opportunity to attract some average Joe appeal at the Daytona
500 back in February.

Well, Romney was asked if he followed NASCAR racing back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not as closely as some of
the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends that are NASCAR team
owners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, touting that he`s buddy-buddy with NASCAR team
owners, not the drivers or the race results, like everyone one.

Well, earlier this week, Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan,
toured the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina. But that`s not
the NASCAR news getting buzz now. Guess who helped Romney rake in over a
million dollars at a fund-raiser yesterday? That`s right, NASCAR`s CEO and
other team owners.

Next, a spokesperson for a Chicago shopping center calls it -- quote -
- "a marker for the community, for posterity and tourism." But "New York"
magazine dubs it as an embarrassment for Sasha and Malia, as in the
daughters of President and Mrs. Obama.

Well, back in 2007, the president told "O" -- that`s the Oprah
magazine -- about his first kiss with Michelle Obama -- quote -- "On our
first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to
offer. Our dinner tabling doubling as the curb, I kissed her, and it
tasted like chocolate."

Get this. That memory has become an historic marker printed word for
word on a plaque and then placed at the exact Chicago curb -- there it is -
- where the first kiss occurred. Local businesses hope to attract tourists
to the spot. And now you see what "New York" magazine was getting at with
the potential lack of excitement the Obama girls might get from that
curbside memory. Wow.

Up next, Joe Biden`s known to go off-message every now and then in his
wordage -- but now -- there it goes -- now his own staff is trying to keep
him away from the press.

You`re watching HARDBALL from Nantucket, as you`re just hearing, the
place for politics this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Dow higher by 85, one of its best days in weeks, the S&P up 10 and
Nasdaq added 31, better than 1 percent. Wal-Mart shares did not
participate in today`s rally, though. Its revenue fell short of
expectations. And that sent the stock down about 3 percent.

Facebook shares also slid big-time, hitting a fresh low earlier. It
ended down more than 6 percent after the company`s so-called first lockup
period ended and insiders could sell.

And on the economic front, weekly jobless claims up by 2,000, that was
in line with expectations.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In today`s Politico, Jonathan Martin writes about covering Vice
President Joe Biden and he opens the piece with a description of aides,
Vice President Biden`s aides, interrupting the vice president with shouts
of "Let`s go" as Biden was trying to describe his personal reaction to
viewing the Virginia Tech shooting memorial. Biden prevailed over his
staff.

And here`s part of what he said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s that call out
of the blue. You`re just like, how could this happen?

(CROSSTALK)

JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO.COM: And what
about the recent shootings?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s go, guys. Let`s go, guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Jonathan Martin reports -- quote -- "The moment never
would have taken place if he, Vice President Biden, had not effectively
overruled his would-be handlers."

Well, do staffers` reports -- efforts to publicly muzzle the vice
president smack of disrespect?

Joining me right now is Politico`s Jonathan Martin and "TIME"
magazine`s Mark Halperin, who is also an MSNBC senior political analyst.

J-Mar, let me ask you about your reaction when you saw that happening,
the vice president basically being interrupted by his staff when he was
trying to make a very personal point.

MARTIN: Look, it`s not just the vice president`s staff. This is the
knee-jerk reaction of really any staffer with a candidate for high office.

When they are with the candidate, with the principal and the press
tries to ask an impromptu question, some form of spontaneity, the reaction
is always to try to cut it off and say something like thank you or let`s go
or no questions or something like that.

And so I think that`s what you saw yesterday, but, ultimately, it can
be self-defeating. And yesterday is an example of that, because the vice
president is at his best when he`s talking about heartfelt emotional issues
like the Tech shooting, because he, of course, himself has lived through
such a similar tragedy and losing his wife and daughter when he was 29
years old.

So, it`s one of those examples of politics where the reaction of staff
to sort of, you know, keep the candidate, keep the principal sequestered
can ultimately harm what you`re trying to do in the first place, which is
help the cause, help your candidate.

MATTHEWS: Mark Halperin, your experiences with the vice president in
this kind of a situation that you have witnessed?

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I say two things
that might seem contradictory, but they`re not.

Joe Biden, as Jonathan writes in the kicker of his piece, the Joe
Biden of his early days in the Senate, of his time as a presidential
candidate in 1988 would be stunned and maybe is stunned if he saw what it`s
like today, which is to say, when he was a candidate in `88 -- I didn`t
cover him them, but he was widely accessible. He was widely accessible as
a candidate in 2008, amongst the most accessible and fun-to-cover
candidates I have covered.

He`s come a long way. He`s more cloistered than he was back then. On
the other hand, he`s less cloistered than anybody else running in big-time
politics today. And the notion that his staff can control him very much I
think is pretty farfetched. He`s much more assessable, open, available to
the press.

On the other hand, again, he`s far less assessable. I approached him
on a rope line in Las Vegas. I was the only reporter trying to get to him.
He answered one quick question, but nothing like it would have been before
he went semi-cocooned.

MATTHEWS: Well, what happened with that? Let`s take a look. Here`s
a video that you have provided us in Las Vegas. It occurred before you
were told to shut off the camera. Let`s watch what you were able to get on
camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALPERIN: Mr. Vice President, can I ask you a question? How are you?

What do you think of Governor Romney`s idea of the administration
putting off the sequester for a year with an agreement?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

BIDEN: I think we should act. We can act now. We can act now and
get it done.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the Jesse Brown Memorial Scholarship
winner.

HALPERIN: And what do you --

BIDEN: How are you? Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: West Virginia.

BIDEN: Well, congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

BIDEN: What part of West Virginia?

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: Can I? I could. Sir.

BIDEN: all right

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m the proud mom.

BIDEN: Hey, mom. You look like an older sister.

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: How old are you, child?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, were you told the turn off your camera by a staffer
there, Mark?

HALPERIN: I was. His traveling aide, nice young man, told me -- he
said, could you shut off the camera?

Again, if it had been Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, I wouldn`t have
been able to walk up to him like I did.

MARTIN: That`s fair, right.

HALPERIN: On the other hand, no one`s ever asked me to shut off my
camera before. I was a little taken aback by that. They let me get up
there. They saw me there.

It`s more of a cocoon than ever for Joe Biden. But I will say again,
he`s much more open. He literally -- I`m not being facetious.

(LAUGHTER)

HALPERIN: He`s much more open and available to us -- and Jonathan and
other reporters saw that on the trip -- than anybody else out there.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MARTIN: You can get a question to him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: J-Mar, your view. Your own -- go -- tell me what`s going
on here as you see it as a reporter. Is Joe Biden being gagged by his
reporter -- by his staff people?

MARTIN: Oh.

MATTHEWS: Now, I know some of this myself. Is there some kind of
control on him that people believe that, if they cut him off, it will stop
him --

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- from being Joe or being somebody they don`t want to be
Joe?

MARTIN: Look, I think the response to Joe Biden when he commits a
gaffe is to pull the reins tighter and to try to limit the access. Now,
Mark makes a fair point, by some standard, he`s more accessible than
certainly President Obama or Governor Romney. At least with Vice President
Biden, you can get to the point where you can ask him a question like I did
at tech and like Mark did in that video that you showed there.

Now, what happens after that, as your viewers just saw, is the staff
will swoop in and try to cut it off, either yelling or having you turn your
camera off. But at least in Biden`s case, you can ask a question.

But this is the campaign 2012, Chris. It is harder and harder to ask
these candidates questions. When you do, you`re immediately cut off.
There is no space anymore for kind of impromptu interaction between the
press corps and the candidates. And I think the voters are the real
losers.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you this, Mark, and then last question to
J. Martin. Is the vice president being told to shut up or are the press
being told to shut up? Who`s -- you`re laughing because it is a hard one
to call. Did you ever get the sense watching Biden that he wanted to say
something and the staffers told him, the boss, don`t say it?

MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: I get the sense that happens a fair
amount. He understands the rules of the game. He likes to talk to
reporters. He likes to talk in general.

His staff is pretty much independent of the West Wing, to a large
extent and his staff wants to try to make sure he doesn`t do anything in
the last 75 days or so that hurts -- that sets back their chances of
winning.

He`s a competitive guy. He wants to win. There`s no question he`s
being handled more than ever, but it`s not much compared to even most U.S.
senators. He`s out there and his interaction.

MATTHEWS: So, that same question to you -- so that sounds pretty
healthy. J. Martin Jon, is he telling his staff, you know, "I tend to go
on too long, just cut me off, I want you to do that"? Or is it a sense
they`re doing it against his will? That`s the key question here.

MARTIN: I don`t know if they`re doing it against his will. I think
he being in politics for the last 40 years, is conscious of his own
shortcomings. But look, I don`t think he`s asking his staff to do it. I
think they are taking steps here to ensure that he essentially is not
harming himself. In doing so, this is the point of the piece I wrote.

In doing so, they limit the lest of Joe Biden, at least in the eyes
of a lot of observers, which is this sort of raw, real, down-to-earth
politician who can really connect one-on-one when his staff tries to stop
him from hurting himself, ultimately, that runs the risk of missing some
real moments where Biden shines. And I think that`s unfortunate for the
press and it`s really unfortunate for voters.

HALPERINO: Let Biden be Biden, literally.

MARTIN: Not verbally.

MATTHEWS: I`ve never had the experience where a politician has let a
staffer shut him up. Maybe my old days with Tip O`Neill -- the idea of
telling Tip O`Neill, excuse me, Mr. Speaker, you`ve got to stop talking. I
would have been gone in about three seconds.

Anyway, thank you, guys. I guess he puts out with because he puts
out with it. He wants it. It must be the theory.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Martin. Thank you, Mark Halperin.

Coming up, Ohio Republicans failed in their attempt to expand voting
hours in Republican areas while cutting them back in Democratic areas. But
there`s still a problem, they`re still keeping black voters effectively --
effectively keeping black voters from doing what they like to do. Vote in
person, rather than by absentee ballot.

We`re going to talk about that and what effect it can have in this
coming election in Ohio, a must-win state, you could argue for the
Republicans.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Now to Congressman Paul Ryan`s on the Republican ticket.
Here`s a potentially potent line of attack for the Obama campaign.
Congress is at its all-time low in public approval. The new Gallup finds
only one -- well, only 10 percent of Americans approve the job Congress is
doing. By the way, Congress includes Paul Ryan.

And as President Obama`s pointed out, Ryan`s one of the ideological
leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. He`s right
there in the belly of the beast and no doubt, we`re going to be hear ago
lot and plenty of Congress-bashing from the president and his allies in the
weeks and days ahead. And it`s fair because they`re the ones that have
been screwing him all these months.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Ohio is just the latest state where Republicans are trying to tamp
down the Democratic turnout this November, no surprise there. Here`s the
background in Ohio. Republican counties there, Republican and Democratic
election officials in those counties voted 4-0 to extend voting hours, so
they want Republicans to vote more often. But in heavily Democratic
counties, Republicans voted no and the Republican secretary of state John
Husted broke the 2-2 tie and decided to keep polls closed on weekends in
Democratic areas. So, no shows for the Democrats.

Well, the move caused such an uproar that yesterday, Husted did away
with all early in person voting across the state on weekends leading up to
the election. But even that is not fair because history shows that blacks
who vote before election day tend to vote in person, rather by absentee.
So closing in person opportunities to vote hurts Democrats more.

With me now is Ted Strickland, of course, the former governor of
Ohio, and Harry Horstman, investigative reporter of the great "Cincinnati
Inquirer".

Thank you, Governor. It`s great to have you on, Governor Strickland.

What -- the Republicans are so flagrant here. To first of all try to
shut down only Democratic counties where people are going to vote
Democratic or President Obama and then to win so far in basically saying,
yes, he can vote by paper or absentee ballot. But that`s a Republican way
of voting. You`re not going to vote the way blacks like to vote, show up
at the opportunities they have before Election Day.

Once again, you got something 90,000 people voted last time in 2008,
the weekend before the election. Now, they won`t be able to vote. And
those are largely Democrats. This is another screw job, it seems.

Your thoughts.

TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Well, they had no shame,
Chris. And across the country, this is happening in. What`s happening in
Ohio is not as bad, in my judgment, it`s what`s happening in Pennsylvania
and Florida and some other states.

But only public pressure caused the secretary of state to reverse his
course and to bring uniformity to the voting hours. But still this year,
Ohioans, will have fewer opportunities to vote than we had four years ago.

And, Chris, what`s the difference between now and four years ago?
Four years ago, Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, was the secretary of state
and she was advocating for expanded opportunities to vote.

Mr. Husted is wanting to condense the opportunities to vote in Ohio.
And it`s just terrible. It`s shameful. It`s a threat to democracy if this
continues to happen across the country.

MATTHEWS: Barry, anybody who studies political history knows that
any restrictions on voting opportunities help Republicans. They`re tougher
voters. They go rain or shine. Democrats aren`t always going to vote,
because of economic opportunities aren`t there. They have education
challenges, or transportation challenges, economic challenges generally.
If you want to win an election for the Republicans, make it harder to vote.
And here they go again.

Is there any motivation for the decision to shut down early voting in
person?

BARRY HORSTMAN, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER: Well, what the secretary has
said is that under a new program in Ohio this year, every registered voter
about 7 million people will be getting in the fall an absentee ballot
application. His argument, which we`ve heard a lot over the last two weeks
is that gives you 750 hours in which to cast your ballot without having to
leave the EZ chair in your living room. And as far as that goes, the
argument is valid.

The problem is, as you pointed in the intro, many African-Americans
actually prefer to vote in person for a variety of reasons, not least of
which is the degree of comfort that comes with actually handing your ballot
to an elections board official as opposed to dropping it in the mail and
then hoping that the Postal Service do their job so that envelope ends up
in accounting room.

MATTHEWS: Is there also a black vote tradition of after church.

HORSTMAN: There really is. And there was a meeting today in
Cincinnati today at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, even though it
had little to discuss after the secretary`s directive yesterday. But
nearly 200 people jammed into that meeting and there were a number of black
ministers who said you can cut back the hours, but I guarantee we`re still
going to bring those buses down to the board of elections. You`re going to
see us no matter how compressed the timetable is.

MATTHEWS: So they`re going to stand to the closed doors and try to
vote?

HORSTMAN: Well, the extended hours that the secretary announced
yesterday during the first three weeks of October will keep boards of
election open until 5:00. Then the final two weeks before the election
until 7:00. The law is if you`re in line at 6:59 p.m., you can have a
thousand people in line, those thousand will be counted. So there may be a
way to effectively extend the evening hours, even though the hours as the
secretary approved are less than we saw in 2008.

And the real anger this time is over the loss of weekend hours.
Those were very popular last time. As you mentioned, nearly 93,000 people
statewide in the final weekend cast votes in 2008, very predominantly for
Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: And they won`t be allowed to vote that weekend this year,
right?

HORSTMAN: There is a federal lawsuit ion which the Obama campaign is
trying to restore those 72 hours, which were removed by a state
legislation. We`ll be hearing something on that.

And there are some who say don`t be surprised if you see another
lawsuit trying to do something about the absence of weekend hours earlier
in October.

MATTHEWS: Governor, let me go back to you. I mean, this just shows
that part of politics, this is HARDBALL, And if one side has an advantage
in the legislature, like they do in Pennsylvania, as you pointed out, where
I grew up, or in your state of Ohio, they`re going to use it. These
parties, the Republicans are out there basically using what strength they
have in the legislature to make harder for the president to stay in office.
It`s so partisan.

STRICKLAND: Well, it`s very partisan, Chris.

And I`ve concluded that the Republican Party leadership has decided
that they are afraid of the American voter. And so they`re doing
everything they can. And as I said, it is without shame. They are blatant
about this.

Fortunately, we`re not requiring a photo ID in Ohio. But in states
where photo IDs are required, I think they are the equivalent of a poll
tax. Taking us back to a time we would all like to forget in this country,
where there was a systematic effort to keep minorities and poor people from
having the access to the ballot. And I think we`re seeing that in subtle
ways and in some not so subtle ways.

This is blatant. The Republican Party leaders ought to be ashamed of
themselves.

MATTHEWS: I agree. I think that`s an objective assessment on any
Republican to justify what they`re doing in these states, like Ohio and
Pennsylvania. They`re making it impossible for poor people to vote.

Anyway, thank you, Ted Strickland. And, Barry Horstman, thanks for
the reporting.

When we return, let me finish with the awkward blind date, it seems,
I`m calling it that, Mitt Romney has found himself in with Paul Ryan. He
didn`t know what this was all about before he got into it.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this -- think about a blind
date. Remember them? It`s when you go out on a potentially romantic
evening with someone you`ve never met before but somebody you trust says
you`re going to click. Well, you know, even marry.

Well, poor Mitt Romney has the look these days of a guy stuck on one
such blind date. He keeps trying to say it`s all going smoothly with Paul
Ryan. They like the same restaurants, they both laughed at the same time
at the movie.

But there seems to be something wrong here, don`t you think, this
date of his? He`s deadly serious about things, really, seems stubbornly
committed to what`s important. That`s Paul Ryan.

It turns out he couldn`t be less like Mitt Romney. He wants to play
the field, Mitt does, keep his options open, see what comes along, make the
best deal. Enjoy things. He`s not really all that serious about getting
serious.

His blind date on other hand is deadly serious. And that`s why he
went out on this date in the first place, to find someone who looks at
things the way he does.

So, this thing we`re all watching, this tango between Mitt and Paul
seems like it`s not going so swimmingly. The reason is right there in
their faces.

One of these guys believes deeply in what matters in the world,
that`s Ryan. The other just wants to get through the day. One`s a person
of deep and serious conviction, that`s Ryan. The other is open to whatever
comes along.

Is it going to work? If life is any example, a person who really
cares about something, religion, deep political belief, is the one who ends
up calling the shots. And the one who doesn`t goes along with it.

I`d keep my eye on this Ryan person. I think he`s the one to tell us
which way this duo is headed. Ryan, not Romney, believes in things. The
other part of this odd couple just wants the ring on his finger. Get it?
Watch Ryan.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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