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updated 8/22/2012 11:01:34 AM ET 2012-08-22T15:01:34

HARDBALL
August 21, 2012

Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Rep. Donna Edwards, Joe Klein, Major Garrett, Michael Nutter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: A rape by any other name.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

"Let Me Start" with the raging, crazing uncertainty about the person
of Todd Akin. Will this Republican candidate for the United States Senate
stick with his run, risk the demolition of his own political party, or will
he take the hit and pull himself out of the race?

To be or not to be. That`s question for Todd Akin, the man who
continued through today to explain what he meant by "legitimate rape,"
saying he meant what, in fact, most of us thought he meant the first time,
that he believes that significant numbers of women who charge rape are, in
fact, victims of rape -- not victims of rape, that only in certain cases is
there a rape, as he put it, a "legitimate rape."

Well, to assess the perils of this Pauline, who has strapped himself
to the railroad tracks, I`m joined by Michael Steele, the former chairman
of the Republican National Committee, and Nia-Malika Henderson of "The
Washington Post."

Nia, I want you to start with the news here we have from our end, late
this afternoon, Mitt Romney came around to the position that Akin should,
quote, "exit the Senate race."

But the timeline on how Romney evolved to this point is not exactly a
profile in courage. Let`s review. On Sunday, within hours of Akin`s
comments, a Romney spokeswoman put out a statement saying, quote, "Governor
Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin`s statement, and a
Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."

Well, actually, Congressman Ryan differs with Mitt Romney on this
issue. He believes abortion should only be used to save a mother`s life,
not in cases of rape or incest.

Anyway, on Monday, Romney took a slightly harsher tone. In an
interview with WMUR up in New Hampshire, he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His comments
about -- about rape were deeply offensive, and I can`t defend what he said.
I can`t defend him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think for the benefit of the party, sir, he
should drop out?

ROMNEY: Well, the thing he should consider is what`s in the best
interests of the things he believes most deeply, what will help the country
at this -- at this critical time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, yes, I guess he believes in evolution because this
afternoon on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh joined the chorus of Republican
criticism of Akin. And shortly after Rush Limbaugh had said what he had to
say, a Romney campaign spokeswoman released this statement on Akin.
"Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he
should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race."

Nia, this is a strange progression and a slow one from remarks made on
Sunday, here we are on Tuesday, and the candidate has decided, after
hearing from Rushbo that it`s OK to call from the guy`s withdrawal. I
wonder who the boss of the Republican Party is? It looks like it`s Rushbo
again.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I mean, I don`t
know if this has anything to do with Rush Limbaugh. I think it has more to
do with the fact that you have just had a really defiant Akin over these
last couple of hours. He, of course, gave that interview with Mike
Huckabee declaring that he is a crusader in this race and he is in some
ways crusading against the establishment of his party.

At this point, Romney, in some ways, had no choice but to come to this
decision and call for his ouster. It doesn`t look like he has any sway
with Todd Akin. And Todd Akin has positioned himself, it seems to me, as a
poster boy for the wing of the party, an evangelical, very conservative
wing of the party that, in some ways, agrees with Todd Akin`s statements.

If you listened to that Huckabee interview, what was most interesting
to me was that they did have this sort of dialogue in currency (ph), his
original thoughts about rape and false rape and talking about the initial
decision, the Roe v. Wade decision, and Jane Roe, apparently, allegations
of false rape around her initial claims with that lawsuit. So it`s very
interesting.

In talking to evangelicals today, they feel like Todd Akin has some
sort of appeal with evangelicals and with grass roots folks and that he
could have some staying power and could win this thing with the backing of
evangelicals.

MATTHEWS: Well, Akin is impervious to the avalanche of Republican
calls for him to withdraw today. He was defiant. Let`s listen to Akin
himself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN (R-MO), SENATE CANDIDATE: I want to make thing (ph)
absolutely clear and that is we are going to continue with this race for
the U.S. Senate.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Who does that "we" include, Michael Steele, former chair of
the Republican National -- who is with this guy in persisting?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that`s
him and the supporters, those folks who went to the polls and elected him
in the Missouri primary a few weeks ago. You know, I mean, that`s the
basis of his energy right now.

He`s probably got some poll numbers that they`ve, you know, rushed
together to sort of get a vibe on the ground on how this thing is playing.
And there is no big push from the grass roots, from the evangelical
community. You know, you have, you know, the Family Research Council and
others who are coming behind him and standing with him.

So he`s got a base of support --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: -- that, quite frankly, Chris, is probably growing to some
degree, to your point. So you know, for him right now -- and you know, the
witching hour is an hour from now. We`ll see whether or not he actually
does step out. I doubt it, and there`s no incentive for him to do it. And
there`s nothing the party can do about it.

MATTHEWS: And the longer he stays in, the longer he risks having to
pay for the new balance for somebody else to run and also to have to push
(ph) a court order.

Nia -- Nia, I have to ask you about this in a totally nonpartisan
manner, but in a gender-sensitive point -- I`ve noticed that the women I
work with, the producers and all -- not all liberals, I got to tell you, by
any means, despite the reputation of the liberal media, not all liberals at
all -- are very sensitive to that word he used, "legitimate," as if to
imply, Well, let`s not believe every woman`s charges here.

I mean, why would a woman go into court and charge anybody with rape,
which is a major crime, if they didn`t believe they were raped? I mean,
first of all, what an assumption to make about a person to want to go into
such a hell hole for their own testimony because we all know how women are
sometimes brutally interrogated in these situations.

Your thoughts.

HENDERSON: Well, no, I mean, again, I think with certain members of
the pro-life community, there is a sense that real rape doesn`t result in
pregnancy. You heard --

MATTHEWS: Well, what about reap rape, as opposed to what other kind
of rape?

HENDERSON: Yes, but --

MATTHEWS: I opened the show with a cold open, "Rape by any other
name."

HENDERSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: What other rapes are there besides real rape?

HENDERSON: I don`t think there are any other kind, but you`ve seen
this creeping of the language into this -- these bills, in fact, "forcible
rape." You have Dr. John Wilkie (ph), who is a hero to the pro-life
movement, talking about "assault rape," as if there is anything different.

But there is this sense among pro-life people that rape shouldn`t
really -- that pregnancy doesn`t result from rape. So when Akin --

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s quackery. But I`m getting it back to this issue --

HENDERSON: Quackery, but I --

MATTHEWS: -- of "legitimate" rape.

HENDERSON: -- but it has some currency.

MATTHEWS: Look, the way I hear it from people, women such as
yourselves, middle of the road here on this thing -- what I hear is a real
condescension to the basic character of women that they would make up these
stories, and only in a few cases, Michael, is there such a thing as
"legitimate" rape. In other words, some guy just forces himself --

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- in some way that is so graphic that they can`t deny
that that was rape. I don`t know why the -- why this guy is -- see, what I
think`s going on here -- we`re in some strange territory, Michael.

STEELE: Well, Lord knows that`s true.

MATTHEWS: Your political party has some real troglodytes in it. As
Boehner said the other day, the speaker, you`ve got some knuckle-draggers
in your party, guys right out of the caveman television ads, you know, the
ones on TV with the guys and the cavemen.

STEELE: Well --

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts on that. Is it true or not true that you`ve
got people in your party so far to the right that they have a problem with
a woman saying she was raped?

STEELE: I mean, I don`t -- I can`t -- I can`t speak to everybody in
the party and where they stand on that issue. I do think that, yes, there
are some folks who have a very strong view, an extreme view in that regard
in terms of the definition of rape.

But as the president said, as Mitt Romney and others have said, rape
is rape. And for us to have this discussion, for Akin to even begin to
elevate this conversation this way, to me is not only wrong-headed and
ignorant, it is harmful to women. It puts them in a very, very bad
position should they ever have to, God forbid, confront that situation.

As you noted, Chris, this system is already geared against them, to
not believe in the first instance that that has occurred. And so this
makes that even harder for them to express and to come forward when they
have been so brutalized. And that`s what so stupid and pig-headed about
these comments --

MATTHEWS: I like the way you (INAUDIBLE)

STEELE: -- is that it elevates it to a point it does not need to go
to.

MATTHEWS: I like it when you get really human out there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, last night -- I mean, seriously, non-partisan. I
love it when you are because I think -- I don`t think this is a partisan
issue, although it clearly hurts the Republicans.

Last night, Akin, the congressman who`s running for the Senate -- by
the way, he`s a U.S. congressman, this guy. He`s not some guy living out
in the trees somewhere. He`s a U.S. congressman, representing a
congressional district, with this point of view. He taped an ad asking for
forgiveness, which is OK as an idea, but let`s listen to him. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIN: Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way,
and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough
justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of
sexual assault and I pray for them. Fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy.
The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I
said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s not forget, yesterday -- or rather, on Sunday,
he said there ought to be "some punishment" for rape. What a strange thing
to say.

Anyway, late this afternoon, that man was on Sean Hannity`s radio show
distancing himself from his comments on the biology of rape and admitting
he was misinformed. This is on the science of whether you can get pregnant
if you were actually raped.

Well, let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

AKIN: -- an article that I`d read or a couple of articles I`d read,
and I think they were probably in error, and so that was --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: When you say probably in error, are
they? I mean --

AKIN: I don`t know the details of, you know, what the percentage --
somebody who`s a medical doctor would have to tell you that, Sean.

HANNITY: Well, you know that if a woman -- if she is raped, you know,
you`re suggesting that it`s -- that her body has ways to prevent pregnancy
is simply wrong and medically discredited. You do understand that?

AKIN: Yes. That`s what I`m saying.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, what is he saying there, Nia?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what he`s saying. He said, yes, and then he
goes, yes, they might be discredited. Yes, sure. He`s pretty casual about
his lack of interest in scientific information, it seems.

HENDERSON: Well --

MATTHEWS: But I don`t think that`s the main point. It seems to me
the main point is your attitude towards the rights of women, the equality
of the sexes, the attitudes about whether sex should be an actual mutual
decision, that it`s entirely mutual or it`s illegitimate (ph), and the
whole idea that there`s some different categories of rape just drives
people crazy.

HENDERSON: And you know, I feel odd talking about this on air.

STEELE: Yes.

HENDERSON: I mean, this is something that`s odd that we`re talking
about this. We`re in the middle of a presidential campaign --

MATTHEWS: I`ll say.

HENDERSON: -- and we`re talking about rape and we`re talking about
women`s bodies. And it`s a very odd thing. Obviously, in Tampa, they`re
discussing what the Republican platform is going to be. There is some
discussion there about putting language in there about respecting women`s
bodies, in some ways saying that abortion actually is upholding the dignity
of women.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re also saying --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`re hearing this, that the draft so far is -- they`ve got
to approve it on Monday, the first day of the convention -- so far, is
headed towards an absolute abolition of any right at any level for any
reason to have an abortion. It`s an absolute hard-line position, which is
consistent with Ryan and consistent with Akin. This is much more hard-line
than the candidate for president has espoused.

STEELE: Well --

MATTHEWS: Michael, you respond to that.

HENDERSON: But it`s in keeping with what --

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: But that is not consistent with the vast majority of
Republicans, pro-life and pro-choice.

MATTHEWS: Well, how come they don`t get to write their own platform?

STEELE: Since -- since -- since the -- since this plank was put into
the -- you know, the body of our laws or rules back in 1980, that is not
consistent.

MATTHEWS: I know.

STEELE: There`s always been those exceptions. So it does speak to,
you know, some voices within the party, certainly on the RNC and the
committee, that want to see this thing fleshed out further.

I think that, given what we are now dealing with, to the point that
was just made that we`re talking about this -- they should be very smart
and very careful.

MATTHEWS: OK --

STEELE: We do have an issue that goes beyond this election, and we
don`t need to get bogged down on this.

MATTHEWS: You might warn your former colleagues over at the RNC, at
the convention, as they write this platform that Rachel Maddow and the rest
of us will be watching closely --

STEELE: Oh, I know!

MATTHEWS: -- what they actually write, and we`ll be reporting on it
--

STEELE: I know you will!

MATTHEWS: -- with great relish on Monday night, the first night of
the proceedings.

STEELE: I`m going to send that out right now!

MATTHEWS: Whatever you guys try to hide, we`re going to show.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele, my friend, and thank
you, Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post."

HENDERSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: An inconvenient truth. Todd Akin`s views have
been exposed as extreme, but guess what? There`s very little daylight
between what Akin and Paul Ryan believe, as I just said. Ryan and the
other Republicans are just smarter about the way they talk about it.

Plus, less than a week before the Republican national convention,
where does the presidential race stand? Well, a new NBC/"Wall Street
Journal" poll has just come out. Got some numbers that may make the
progressives feel a little better tonight.

Also, a GOP official in Ohio admits Republicans have made it harder
for blacks to vote. Guess what? That`s what they`re doing around the
country. A tighter voter ID law is approved in Virginia, and hundreds of
thousands could be disenfranchised in Pennsylvania. We`re going to have
the Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, joining us tonight.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the illegitimacy of so-called
"legitimate rape."

This is HARDBALL, place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Dirty, ugly money. The Romney campaign and its allies now
have a huge fund-raising advantage over President Obama. July`s numbers
are in, and while the Obama campaign raised $49 million and has $88 million
in the bank, the Romney campaign brought in $40 million and has $30 million
on hand. But factor in the outside groups, and it`s a decisive Romney
advantage. The RNC raised $38 million and has $89 million in the bank,
versus the DNC`s $10 million raised and just $15 million on hand.

And those pro-Romney super-PACs dwarf anything on the Democratic side
with Karl Rove`s American Crossroads and Restore Our Future with nearly $50
million more for those negative ads against the president.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When it comes to abortion
issues, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is more in line
with Todd Akin than he is with Mitt Romney. But actually, neither man is
on the fringe of where the GOP stands today. And every day, Republicans
have to answer questions about terms like "legitimate" and "forcible rape."
The Democrats have an opportunity in each case to seize women`s voters
(SIC) this November.

U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards is a Democrat from Maryland and Joe
Klein is a columnist for "The Washington" for "Time" magazine.

Let me ask you both -- I want to start with Congresswoman Edwards
because I`ve known you for a while, and I want to ask you, just as a human
being, not as a partisan, what did you think when you heard about this U.S.
congressman, a colleague of yours in the broadest sense, who says -- who
said that he`s really -- he doesn`t think in a case of legitimate -- only
in a case -- actually, he said -- the way he phrased it, which is so wild,
in a case of "legitimate" rape, the woman wouldn`t get pregnant. And by
the way, there should be "some punishment" for -- for rape.

I don`t know how to read all that to me, how to absorb it.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, I -- you know --

MATTHEWS: What did you think as a woman?

EDWARDS: Chris, I`ve said before that this doesn`t bear any relation
to either biology or humanity. And I really mean that because when you
think of what a woman experiences in rape and the horror of that, the idea
that you`re going to separate some kinds of rape from other kinds of rape,
as though you have good victims and bad victims, really just takes us back
to, you know, a really different time in our history.

And I think, as women, we thought that we`d gotten way beyond that,
where we have, you know, systems, whether those are law enforcement systems
and -- in our communities that actually treat us as whole human beings when
it comes to rape and to the horror and tragedy of it.

And so as a woman, it actually hurts me because I thought we were long
past this debate, but clearly, we`re not.

MATTHEWS: What`s interesting is the weird intellectual linkage, Joe
Klein, between this guy`s views of being very -- fair enough -- he`s very
anti -- very pro-life. Fine. You can take that position. It`s a
legitimate debate, obviously, in this country, and people are divided on
it.

But he uses that very strong pro-life position to cast doubt as a
Republican on rape as an idea --

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- because it`s inconsistent with his Republican notion,
which is in the platform, we know, in draft form already. There can be no
abortions under any circumstances, including rape, so they have to almost
out-define or non-define or define away, I should say, the idea of rape
because it gets in the way of their pro-life position, the party.

KLEIN: Well, the notion that you can parse rape is absolutely
ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: But why is he doing it?

KLEIN: Why is he doing it? Because he`s an ideologue.

And the amendment, the congressional amendment that he put in that had
Paul Ryan as a supporter used the term forcible rape. There are studies
that show that one-half of the out-of-wedlock births among teenagers are
the result of rape by older men of teenage children. And especially in
poor black, poor white communities, it`s very often mom`s boyfriend.

Now, that -- you can`t distinguish between that and forcible rape.
That`s disgraceful.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but let me go back to the idea of the Republican
Party.

Donna Edwards, you`re a Democrat, but the Republican Party is meeting
this week coming into -- right off this whole crazy thing with Todd Akin
and this debate`s going to go on all weekend. They`re going to draft
platform language that basically abolishes any legal right to an abortion,
under any circumstances.

Whether you get pregnant -- because you don`t want to be pregnant, and
you get pregnant and you don`t want to have a child or take the child to
term, any condition, whether it`s incest, they are going to basically
eradicate a woman`s right to choose. What do you think that`s going to do
to voters out there after they do that on Monday night?

EDWARDS: Well, I think it gives us some real pause.

Look, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are running away from Todd Akin and
they`re running away from Paul Ryan`s legislative agenda, which he`s been
very clear about and was in lockstep with Todd Akin. And now they`re going
to try to run away from the Republican Party platform.

There`s only so much running away that can be done by a ticket from
the top to the bottom that strongly has a pro-life position, but a rather
radical position when it comes to the way we treat rape, incest in this
country, and not even providing exemptions for that, even though Mitt
Romney says that his administration was.

It`s not their party platform. And so there`s only so much you can do
to run away from the entire agenda of the Republican Party, and this is
pretty consistent with the way that they have treated these issues related
to women and women`s health care over the course of certainly this Congress
since Republicans have had control of the House, but very consistent in
their Republican agenda.

I just don`t see how Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can distance themselves
anymore from what their agenda is.

MATTHEWS: Right. But, Congresswoman, and now, Joe, it seems to me
that was the whole idea of picking Ryan. You picked a guy which Romney did
after weeks of thinking about this, months even. He said, I`m going to
pick a guy that is going to put focus on the economy and the need to cut
the debt and I`m going to take a guy who`s true blue on that subject,
right?

But it turns out within days, we`re all realizing this guy believes in
personhood, that from the second after conception, after a fertilized egg,
you`re a human being, you`re a person, therefore, the government will
protect you under the 14th Amendment, all your rights.

This is pretty radical stuff. Do you think Romney knew he was
stepping into this?

KLEIN: Well, I think there`s a larger issue here.

I don`t think Romney was fully aware of all the aspects of Paul Ryan.
But the larger issue here is how does a guy like Todd Akin get to win a
primary in a state like Missouri? The Republican Party has a major
grassroots problem, which is that a good part of its grassroots now
celebrate ignorance.

It`s more than abortion and women`s rights. It`s evolution.

MATTHEWS: OK. Put that in nonpartisan --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What does celebrate ignorance mean?

KLEIN: It`s, you know, denying evolution, denying the science behind
climate change, the birtherism. How is it that when Donald Trump comes out
of the closet as a major league birther, he shoots to the top of the polls,
the presidential preference polls among Republicans?

I mean, there is an awful lot of celebration of ignorance going on in
that party right now. It`s really sad for me, because there was a point 20
years ago when I thought the Republicans were coming up with some of the
best policy ideas.

MATTHEWS: OK. With no attack on anybody, but this -- our politics is
getting more Middle Eastern, where any rumor, any weird theory becomes the
thing you fight over.

There`s no such thing as checking it with Google even. Check the
facts. Nobody checks anything anymore. Crazy thinking.

Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland.

Thank you, Joe Klein of "TIME."

EDWARDS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, with all the attention on Todd Akin, who`s still
out there on the railroad tracks, where he tied himself to, whether he`s
going leave this ticket or not, what about Kevin Yoder? He`s the U.S.
congressman who went skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee.

We have got David Letterman`s top apologies Yoder could use. This is
pretty funny stuff and, by the way, compared to what else we`re talking
about, darned lighthearted. Let`s put it in perspective. This skinny
dipping in the Galilee is not going to cause any vote to change.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and the "Sideshow."

First, you must know by now that Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder`s under
fire for taking part in a bizarre skinny dipping incident in the Sea of
Galilee during a trip to Israel last year with other Republicans.

Well, here`s David Letterman with some of the top 10 apologies Yoder
might consider.

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": So, this is
Kevin Yoder. And now, he`s apologized to his constituents for swimming
nude in the Sea of Galilee.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: It was an oversight or something, but here we have his
excuses.

Number nine, it was spring break. Chill out.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Number eight, people in the Middle East are pretty
easygoing about nudity.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Number seven, I had been drinking heavily.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Number six, trying to take the focus off Mitt Romney`s
taxes.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Number five, it had been days since a congressman did
something embarrassing.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Number four, it`s Obama`s fault.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s Obama`s fault. I like placing the blame on the
president for even that craziness. The president made me take my clothes
off.

Next, remember when Bush 41`s running mate, Dan Quayle, made this
spelling blunder during the `92 campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Spell that
again now.

Add one little bit on the end. Think of potato. How is that spelled?
You`re right phonetically, but there you go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s bad enough he can`t spell. And he made the kid
misspell it, potato with an E.

Anyway, Congressman Ben Quayle, Dan`s son, also a Republican, is
running for reelection out in Arizona this year. An anti-Quayle super PAC
has put up an ad with a nod to that gaffe of the candidate`s father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: How do you spell lightweight?

REP. BEN QUAYLE (R), ARIZONA: America`s government through all --
throughout the nation is spending well over $14.5 trillion a year.

(BUZZING SOUND)

NARRATOR: Off by $8 trillion.

B. QUAYLE: Government in America is today spending well over $14.5
trillion.

(BUZZING SOUND)

NARRATOR: Still wrong.

B. QUAYLE: Numbers are really important, and they`re really hard to
keep up with.

NARRATOR: Q-U-A-Y-L-E. Almost forgot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I think actually it`s a cheap shot, making fun of a
kid because of his dad. If he`s a lightweight, fine. But leave the old
man alone.

Anyway, I prefer the way the Obama campaign is noting that Mitt
Romney`s father, George, released 12 years of tax returns in his own run
for president, while Mitt is only going to release two. That`s the way to
use the old man, as a role model.

Finally, are you curious about how people are reacting to Todd Akin`s
ad asking for forgiveness for his remark on what he called legitimate rape?
Well, forget about it. The options to like, dislike or make comments about
the ad -- about the ad on Akin`s YouTube channel have been disabled. You
don`t get to choose what you think of it anymore.

According to Talking Points Memo, there were about 13 dislikes by the
way for every one like before they shut down that YouTube account. Lastly,
Akin is so far refusing to cave the mounting calls for him to back out of
that Senate race.

But has Akin always been a proponent of staying the course in the
midst of controversy? Not so. Back in 1997, Missouri`s House GOP leader
was under fire for a drunken driving incident. And Akin, a member of the
Missouri House of Representatives at the time, had some advice for him:
Get out of the way, he said -- quote -- "That is a logical thing, just in
terms of keeping our focus on legislation."

Well, does he want to keep the focus on Romney this year? Apparently
not. He wants to win.

Up next, with just days before the convention starting this Monday,
actually, we have got a brand-new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll just out
with new numbers on where the presidential election stands right now. And
if you`re a progressive, a liberal, or even leaning to Obama, you`re going
to be happy tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The S&P briefly hit a four-year high, but, ultimately, investors
seeing red at the end of the day. The Dow finished down 68 points, S&P
down about five, and the Nasdaq shed nearly nine points.

Best Buy reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings and opened
the day with an 11 percent drop before slowly rebounding. And Facebook
shares slipped to $19 after billionaire investor Peter Thiel dumped some
$400 million in stock. Shares right now trading at roughly half of their
IPO price.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We`re six days away from the Republican Convention down in Tampa,
where Mitt Romney hopes to bolster his image, but if recent polls are any
indication, including the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll out today,
he has his work cut out for him.

Here`s what the polls tell us. Romney`s message isn`t selling. He`s
not viewed by enough for Americans as an acceptable alternative to Barack
Obama. And his pick of Paul Ryan hasn`t given his campaign a significant
enough jolt.

Chuck Todd is the political director and chief White House
correspondent for NBC News. And Major Garrett is the White House
correspondent for "National Journal."

Gentlemen, when you look at these numbers -- take a look at this --
the president has a strong advantage over Romney on the question of who
voters view as more likable. While both candidates score about the same in
terms of their negative ratings, Obama`s viewed more positively than
Romney. And 48 percent of voters say their feelings toward the president
are very or somewhat positive. Only 38 percent say that about Romney.

Perhaps more telling, the poll asked how recent news about Romney had
changed their opinions of him. Only 32 percent say it had given them a
more favorable opinion of the candidate and 44 percent said it`s given them
a less favorable opinion. Romney`s also been seen as more out of the
mainstream than Obama -- I love this one -- when it comes to their
positions. And 54 percent say Obama`s approach to issues is in the
mainstream vs. 44 percent who say he`s out of step.

It`s almost the complete reverse for Romney.

Chuck, it seems like -- I`m not using the word weird, except that it
seems to be this thing about he`s not one of us to voters. What is that
about?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I call it, it`s the gut
decision, right, at the end of the day.

There`s a -- I have theory in presidential elections that they`re more
personal of a vote than people realize. Yes, 90 percent of the country is
lining up in their partisan tents, OK, the blue tent and the red tent, but
for that last slice, it is that personal vote, the sort of who represents
me, who represents my values.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: And so that`s why -- it`s funny. A four-point -- if I told you
a race was 48-44, the incumbent was winning, the challenger was at 44, and
I said it was a statewide election, you would say, oh, my God, the
challenger might win.

MATTHEWS: Yes, because it`s not 50.

TODD: That`s right. He`s not at 50. And that`s what Romney campaign
keeps saying. Hey, Obama`s not at 50.

But it`s when you look at all these gut level questions, right? And
when does the president cross 50 when you ask, well, who`s in the
mainstream, when you ask who cares about -- who`s going to look out for
average people, and the question is, these gut questions all seem to favor
the president. And that`s what you have --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m with -- I`m with you, Chuck.

And let me go to Garrett, or Major Garrett, on this.

All that`s true. And if you`re a progressive or a liberal, you`re
pro-Obama or you just don`t like Romney and the crowd behind him, your big
worry it seems to me or concern would be what happens in an hour-and-a-half
of television some time in October when the guy Romney himself comes on for
the first time, in front of all the American people, maybe 90 million or
100 million people watching, and for whatever reason, fictitious or
genuinely, shows a humanity he hasn`t shown before.

Can he gobble up that money -- those extra votes that are sitting out
there now?

MAJOR GARRETT, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, that`s going to be the key,
huge question in this election.

And I can tell you the way the Obama campaign views it. They view
that likelihood as minimal, for this reason. I had a long conversation
with senior Obama advisers in Chicago not two weeks ago. And they believe
that they spent money and time and effort in June, July and August to
preemptively, in their mind -- this is what they believe -- disqualify
Romney as an acceptable alternative.

And they look at these poll numbers and say, it has begun to work. I
had a long conversation with David Axelrod. He said, look, I have never
been involved in a presidential campaign where money or messaging was
decisive in September and October. What you do to your opponent in
summertime is what matters the most. That is their theory.

Whether it works or not, we will find out. But I can tell you, the
Obama theory is disqualify or attempt to disqualify Romney in the summer.
Then what he says in the fall will not have traction. It can`t gain
purchase, because people have already had -- at least from the Obama --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GARRETT: -- point of view -- enough doubts placed in their mind
about what Romney is saying. So, whatever he says doesn`t attach nearly as
well enough as it might if they hadn`t done that.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe they`re right?

GARRETT: Well, I don`t know they believe they`re right. I don`t run
political campaigns. I don`t run presidential campaigns. I just cover
them.

MATTHEWS: I know.

GARRETT: What I can tell you, it is an embedded philosophy that they
have. And they believe they made a tactical decision, one that carried
some risk because it would mean there`d be less money for them to spend,
and they have more money against them in the fall as opposed to he summer.
So, they made a tactical decision.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I wonder -- I think they had to do something like
this, Chuck. They had to go for the gut. They had to take the guy out in
the summer.

But they still face the reality of three national TV debates with
this guy. Four and a half hours of exposure to a guy who could look so
much better than the advertising.

TODD: Well, and that`s the thing, right? It`s the moments that cut
through the advertising and can Romney take advantage of this.

But, you know, another thing, we spend a lot of time, Obama can`t
connect, Romney can`t do this. Is it Romney or I have an alternative
theory, that he is dragged down by the image of the Republican Party? The
image of the Republican Party has not been good since he announced. Romney
got the most, but I don`t know if the most charismatic guy to overcome the
negative weight of the brand of the Republican Party, it is very tough.

And the same way the president`s dragging around the weight that is
the mediocre to nonexistent economic recovery, which I think is a larger
weight to carry, Mitt Romney`s carrying around the weight of an unpopular
brand, and that is the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to substance here, not just personality. Here`s
the president`s message on Medicare, apparently scoring higher than
Romney`s, in the MSNBC poll. The NBC poll, "The Wall Street Journal" poll
showed half of registered voter agreed with Romney -- with Obama, rather,
that changing Medicare the way Ryan has suggested is a bad idea. Only 34
percent agreed with what Romney said on Medicare.

So, Major Garrett, it seems to me that Medicare has become the
magnet, the lightening rod of this decision. And it looks like they like
the way it is. People who were on Medicare like it, don`t mess with it.

GARRETT: Well, this was what Romney bought when he brought on Paul
Ryan. Whether he wanted to or not, he owns the Paul Ryan budget. He owns
elements of it. He can distance himself or attempt, but Paul Ryan inject
into this race, an entire debate about Medicare, substantive or not, it
creates an atmosphere of change and unbalanced when you talk about
entitlements, people are resistant to change.

Now, Republicans argue, look, we can have this debate. We have a
long time to make this debate and we can change minds. Maybe, maybe not.

But let`s be honest with ourselves. Three week ago, Romney campaign
was not eager to spend three, four, five weeks slogging through a Medicare
debate in the context of the general election, because it takes away from
the economic message, which they believe is so much more lethal against
President Obama, but they can`t get do it because Medicare stands in the
way.

TODD: Very quickly, Chris, the Romney campaign believes if they can
change the messaging to make voters think who is the candidate most likely
to prevent Medicare from going bankrupt, if they can make that the
question, then they can win that argument. They claim they win that
argument when it`s framed that way.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: The problem right now is the argument`s been framed to who`s
going to protect Medicare and they`ve got to figure out how to turn the
question into save and prevent it from going bankrupt.

MATTHEWS: So, the battle is who won the summer and who`s winning the
fall? The Obama people think they have won in the summer. Romney people
are planning to win it in the fall with what looks like a huge bankroll of
money to go after this guy with.

Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Major Garrett.

Up next, as many as a million votes in Pennsylvania could be
disenfranchised by the tough new voter ID law. We`ve got Philadelphia
Mayor Michael Nutter coming here next to tell us what the Democrats are
going to do to get people to vote. Be able to vote.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: If you want to know where the presidential campaign is
being fought the hardest, just look at the cities with the most total
campaign ad spending this week. Here they are.

At number five, Denver. Number four, Toledo, Ohio. Number three,
last week`s top market, Roanoke, Virginia. Number two, Colorado Springs.
And the ad market with the most total campaign spending this week, Des
Moines.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Republicans continue to make gains implementing voter ID laws.
Here`s the latest -- in Ohio, a Republican elections board member who voted
against early weekend voting said, quote, "I guess I really actually feel
we shouldn`t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read
African-American -- voter-turnout machine." In other words, they don`t
like the help black Americans get to the voting polls.

In Virginia, the Department of Justice signed off on the state`s new
voter ID law for the first time. Residents have to show some form of ID in
order to vote.

And in Pennsylvania last week, a judge refused to block the state`s
strict new photo voter ID law, which may disenfranchise hundreds of
thousands of people, mostly Democrats.

With me now is Michael Nutter, the great mayor of Philadelphia.

Mayor Nutter, thanks for joining us.

Let me just start with a case in point.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA, PA: Sure, Chris.

MATTHEWS: A 72-year-old woman comes up to you. She lives in a row
house in north Philly or west Philly. She say, I`m worried, Mr. Mayor. I
don`t think I can vote this time. How can I vote? I don`t have a driver`s
license, haven`t driven in years. How do I get to vote?

NUTTER: Well, those are the kinds of situations that the
Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition has geared up, along with the Committee of
70. You know the Committee of 70, Chris. We`re geared up here in
Philadelphia to address those concerns.

The state put out a recent piece of material about how to get a free
voter ID from the department of state if someone is faced with that kind of
situation. So we just need to the facts. Do you have a Social Security
card or your number? Do you have proof of where you live? A utility bill
or something like that? And your birth date.

If you can give that information over to the Penn DOT, Department of
Transportation, fill out necessary forms, verify that you don`t have all of
this other data or ID information, you can, in fact, get a free voter ID.

But we are encouraging folks to be a part of this coalition, 1866-
OUR-VOTE. Or go to the Committee of 70 in Philly. Of course, you can call
311 to get information.

My focus, our focus, here in the city, the city government, utilizing
every resource we can for all voters, is to make sure that every eligible
voter has the information that they need. We`re printing up materials. We
are issuing new IDs. We`ll soon be issuing new IDs to all of our public
employees because municipal government have to put an expiration date on
city employee IDs and getting people the information they need through the
clergy community, through the civic community, through our civil rights
community, through activists in the neighborhoods and elect officials,
geared up and ready to go to make sure everyone can vote --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

NUTTER: -- and that no one is disenfranchised in this election.
That`s our focus now.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you my problem and I covered Katrina. And
Mayor Nagin, who`s not all of your level, I might say, said before Katrina,
we are going try to get 09 percent of the people out of the city before the
flood comes. That sounded like a good effort, 50,000 were left behind to
drown basically.

My concern is -- I`m sure yours is, too -- we are going find
ourselves in a morning-after situation where Pennsylvania may have gone
slightly in the direction of either candidate and all of a sudden
Pennsylvania stands out there as the state that`s going to define who wins
the presidency the next time around.

Is that -- are you concerned that might happen because -- 700,000
people being denied the right to vote unless they go out and get this
extraordinary effort to get an ID card?

NUTTER: Well, my concern is that we take every effort that we can,
every day, between now and the election to identify all those folks, young,
not so young, everyone in between, that they have the information that they
need, we get them to these Penn DOT centers. We need to talk about hours
of operation and additional access issues.

So, I`m going use the time I have and work with our partners, people
like Joe Certaine over at the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, Sax Feldberg
(ph) at Committee of 70, and the black clergy and so many other groups are
unions and the -- coalition put together, not just here in Philadelphia but
even some of our surrounding counties are participating.

I want to make sure everyone can vote and that we don`t have the kind
of scenario that you laid out which, of course, we are concerned about.
Our efforts are going to be that everyone votes and that Pennsylvania stays
in my Democratic half, Pennsylvania stays a blue state.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you --

NUTTER: And vote for President Obama.

MATTHEWS: This is my challenge to you, Mr. Mayor. Mary Shields, my
grandmother, living on 15th Street, right up at Hunting Park and Broad,
where we grew up. I`m 72 years old right now, Mr. Mayor. I want to vote
but I haven`t driven a car for years. What should I, Mary Shields, do
right now to get a voter card?

NUTTER: What you should do right now is call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Or I
may have to visit your aunt personally. But we`ll make sure that she gets
the information that she needs and then we are working on a transportation
network to get folks like your aunt to the Penn DOT station --

MATTHEWS: OK.

NUTTER: -- and fill out the forms and stay with that person, work
with them, make sure she gets her ID because I know she wants to vote this
November.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me do something you can`t do, Mr. Mayor, but I
know you won`t mind me doing.

Get ahold of your committeemen, Democratic committeemen or Republican
committee. These people work round the clock. They love politics.
They`re ready to take your phone call. You know who this guy is or this
woman is. She lives within a couple of blocks of you.

Call that guy or woman up right now if you are worried about voting
and ask them to personally make it possible for you to vote on Election
Day. I want that person, even if they are Republican or Democrat,
whatever, you get ahold of that committee person. Wouldn`t that be a smart
thing to do?

NUTTER: Absolutely. And -- I want to commend Congressman Bob Brady
who is also our party chair here. The -- we had outreach from the Obama
campaign and haven`t heard anything from the Romney campaign.

My focus as mayor is make sure everyone has the ID that they need.
Folks will figure out who they want to vote for come the election. You
already know who I`m for.

But we need to make sure that everyone has that opportunity to vote
and Democratic Party and our committee people and our great ward leaders
are geared up and make sure everyone can vote this November.

MATTHEWS: OK, Bob Brady is having that meeting Monday night, all 69-
year-old, all the good guys will be there, the ACLU, the NAACP, everybody
is going to be at that meeting.

NUTTER: Incredible coalition we put together.

MATTHEWS: Maybe it`s going to wake up that machine a little more
than it`s been woken up.

Anyway, thank you, Mayor Michael Nutter of my hometown.

NUTTER: People are upset.

MATTHEWS: We love Philly.

When we return we will finish with what may be -- Todd Akin`s biggest
problem with women. It`s about distinguishing between legitimate and
illegitimate rape. This guy gets deeper and deeper in it today.

You are watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let finish with this crazy story out in Missouri.

The candidate in question, Todd Akin, raised his concern that women
who charge rape may not have a legitimate case. Well, that is Mr. Akin`s
case.

And the story continues and the question is why a candidate for major
national office would make a case like this and tells you much of what you
need to know about the thinking behind it. Why would a person belittle or
try to undermine the testimony of a woman charging rape? Why would they do
such a thing? Why?

Well, a couple of possibilities arise. One is that this person, Todd
Akin, doesn`t want to allow an exception for having an abortion, to avoid
allowing the exception, he argues women who are raped cannot get pregnant.
Well, another possibility here and I think my women colleagues here felt
this on hearing that word illegitimate, he simply doesn`t take the word of
women on this most violent of questions.

The second he voiced the word legitimate, he was calling into
question the basic voracity of women on the stand in the criminal
courtroom. Why would he do such a thing? That is the question he needs to
answer. And the voters of Missouri are going to keep asking it as long as
this guy stands out there as a candidate.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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