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updated 9/11/2012 11:39:14 AM ET 2012-09-11T15:39:14

HARDBALL
September 10, 2012

Guests: Jim VandeHei, Bob Shrum, John Feehery, Bob Shrum, Jim Moran

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Sweet and sour politics.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews from Washington. "Let me start"
with this tonight. You can lead a horse to water, but you can`t make him
drink. You can lead a party to Tampa, but you can`t make them like them.
Talk about a loveless marriage, this thing down in Tampa had the look of a
shotgun marriage. OK, Romney ran all those negative TV ads to kill
Santorum and Newt, but is that any reason to make some guy president of the
United States? Is it?

There`s a reason Obama got a bounce and Romney did a thud. One guy
had people really loving him in Charlotte, giving the speeches of their
lives, Bill and Michelle and Deval Patrick and Julian Castro. Remember
what Romney got? Guys like Chris Christie up there giving testimonials to
themselves. They barely got around to paying for their supper, they were
so full of themselves.

So there we have it. Romney`s had two chippies now, easy ones, going
over to get acquainted with the Brits, then going down to Tampa to get the
kudos. In both cases, he ended up laying more eggs than the Easter bunny -
- but people actually like the Easter bunny.

Joining me now to join the post-convention cigarette is Howard Fineman
of the HuffingtonPost -- you like that reference? -- and Jim VandeHei of
Politico.

Howard, this thought. It seems to me what happened the last two weeks
was patently obvious. One convention worked, one didn`t. One was sweet,
one was sour. One, you felt the vibes of happiness. The other one was,
you felt something, but it was usually hatred of the president.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Yes. Well, Chris, I spent every evening on the floor of the convention at
both conventions, and at the Republican convention, there was a dutiful
feel to it. And as you said, a lot of the speakers were speaking for
themselves and speaking in a sort of dark and gloomy, foreboding tone.
That was the tone that Chris Christie took. Mitt Romney was respected, I
think, even admired, but not loved.

At the Democratic convention, it was the opposite story. People there
loved Barack Obama, and that transmitted itself and as (ph) people were
dedicated to his election such as Bill Clinton, a former enemy, in a way,
who is now...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... very -- working very hard. And as you always say, the
person likely to win, the candidate likely to win is the one with the sun
in his face.

MATTHEWS: In his face, yes.

FINEMAN: And in this case, the Democratic convention had the sun in
its face and the Republican one didn`t, and I think that carries forth.
People get a message from that.

MATTHEWS: Jim, take a look at these numbers. We`re starting to see
new numbers, of course, following the Democratic convention. A new CNN
poll -- CNN Opinion Research poll, I should say, has a 6-point lead now for
President Obama. And this is above 50 percent, which we all know is key,
52-46 for -- 46 just for Romney. That poll was tied 48-48 before the
Democratic convention.

Also, today`s Gallup daily tracking poll, which is a week-long average
of voter opinions, shows Obama now up by 5, outside the margin of error,
49-44.

So that first one impresses me more than the second one. When you
start getting over 50 percent, it looks real to me. Your thoughts, Jim,
studying this.

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM: There`s no doubt that Obama got a bump
out of this. And there`s no doubt also that Romney`s camp is disappointed
in the lack of bump that they got out of their own convention.

I don`t totally agree with the two of you on your assessment of the
Republican convention. I thought there really was authentic excitement for
Ryan. I thought that Romney`s speech was well-received. You always have
to work with these within the parameters of what are they capable of. By
that measurement, I thought he had a decent speech.

But the problem was, Democrats went second and Democrats had a very
successful convention. You know, I don`t know that Obama`s speech was the
best he`ll ever give, but certainly, Clinton`s speech was very, very well-
received, and I think a lot of the other speeches captured a spirit of
excitement at the Democratic convention you just didn`t feel at the
Republican convention.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

VANDEHEI: And that seems to have had a psychological tilt...

MATTHEWS: When did you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let Jim talk for a second -- go ahead.

FINEMAN: Jim, I think -- I think, though, when you said that people
were excited about Paul Ryan`s speech and were respectful about Romney`s, I
think that`s the point.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s fair. I thought Romney beat the spread, Jim.
I think he was better than he usually is. But when did you -- my first
feeling -- of course, we`re at MSNBC. We had a tremendous number of people
there, a very diverse crowd around our sort of setup down there, our stage.
So I got -- I obviously am getting the most intense people down there.

But from the first moment I got down into that area where all the
people were at the convention, I felt a very different feeling than I got
in the other convention just watching peoples` smiles. Their faces were
smiling. At the other convention, maybe it was the weather, it was just so
hot and sticky down in -- as we say in Philly, so sticky down in Tampa --
where was -- how did you register? What was your method, as a reporter, in
registering the mood of these two conventions, Jim?

VANDEHEI: Well, you know, I thought that the mood wasn`t terrible.
You know, again, there`s a lot of talent in the Republican Party beneath
Mitt Romney that gets Republicans excited about it.

What was curious was that the delegates, even on the speeches that
they really liked, weren`t that thunderous in their response. I mean, I
think the Republican Party should require in all of their delegates the
next time they come to the convention some kind of pledge that they`ll get
up and hoot and holler...

(LAUGHTER)

VANDEHEI: ... because the optics really...

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEHEI: The optics -- the optics help...

MATTHEWS: I know. Well, what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... with Chris Christie -- you agree with Chris Christie,
who blamed the audience for the lack of excitement. I mean, that was
(INAUDIBLE)

VANDEHEI: I blame Chris Christie for his speech.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, I was waiting for him to say, "To the moon, Alice,"
at the end. Anyway...

FINEMAN: Part of it is also that Republicans, generally speaking -- I
don`t want to generalize too much. Republicans are a little less raucous
overall.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but they get there on time.

FINEMAN: They do get there on time.

MATTHEWS: They`re very organized people.

FINEMAN: And they sit in the proper chairs.

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at -- Joe Scarborough this morning, I think, had
it right when he talked about the loveless marriage between conservatives,
their -- he`s speaking two conservatives about their feeling towards
Romney. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re from Florida, obviously. Why do you think
Romney`s doing so poorly in Florida?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": He`s just a flawed
candidate.

The Romney people think that they can run a Bob Dole campaign, a John
McCain campaign, a Gerald Ford campaign and win. That doesn`t happen.
Republicans do not win by running these types of campaigns.

And for those idiots out there that`s saying that I`m a RINO or I`m
not a conservative because I`m actually telling them we will lose if you
don`t start running as a conservative, if you don`t start telling people
what you believe -- if you really do, in fact, believe in anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I think Joe Scarborough is sort of like a
mainstream conservative, you know, moves to the center there pretty often
or over to the other side occasionally. And I`m just looking at that
situation there.

Is this convention suffering from a lack of ideological zeal because
the candidate himself for president isn`t a Ryan?

VANDEHEI: I think there`s a huge problem here for the Republicans in
that when you want to beat an incumbent, you have to do two things. One,
you have to convince voters that it`s time to change, that there needs to
be a change. I think that they`ve kind of accomplished that. Voters seem
very open to a different president.

But then you have to make the affirmative case for you being a better
president. And that`s why, not just Scarborough and Bill Kristol but a lot
of Republicans are very frustrated. They thought when Paul Ryan was put on
the ticket, then, All right, ow we`re going to engage in a very specific
fight about Medicare, about budget priorities, about tax reform. And
instead, they basically reverted to the old Romney formula, which is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did you see him yesterday?

FINEMAN: That`s Bill Clinton...

MATTHEWS: Yesterday was a great example. On "MEET THE PRESS," David
Gregory of NBC gave him a great opportunity to lay out what he meant by tax
reform. What are you going to try to get rid of? What are you going to
reduce? He wouldn`t mention a thing!

FINEMAN: Well, there are a couple things operating here. One of them
is Mitt Romney`s just not a great candidate as a personality and as a
biography. And that`s been said over and over.

The other is the specificity point. And the people closest to Mitt
Romney, who I know and I talk to, believe that making the case against the
president is still their number one priority and their best opportunity...

MATTHEWS: It`s a negative campaign.

FINEMAN: They came up with this phrase which they got from Margaret
Thatcher. Thatcher`s phrase when she ran in Britain was, "Labour isn`t
working." Their phrase here is, "Obama isn`t working."

Not only does it quite not make sense on a personal level, it`s not
enough to win the campaign. And what they`ve done is that they`ve -- as
Jim says, they brought in the guy with the ideas and the specificity, and
told him to shut up.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: I would predict eventually that Paul Ryan is going to chafe
at the...

MATTHEWS: I think some Republicans in the end are going to turn and
say, Wait a minute, I really had a problem with Obama. Now I meet this
guy. I may have to stick with Obama. I think there`s going to be -- you
know, as Clark Clifford used to say, wherever you go, that`s where you`re
going to be. I`m not sure everybody wants to be with Romney. We`ll see,
though.

To try and prevent the right-wing herd from being spooked, the Romney
campaign pollster released a memo today saying, Don`t get too worked up
about the latest polling. "While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-
high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed
significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as
the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency, and Mitt Romney will win
this race."

Now, that`s a good, solid argument, even though it sounds a bit like
Chris Christie condemning the applause meter. Let me ask you this, Jim. I
think still the box this campaign came in is marked Romney. I mean, all
the conditions say change, but the campaign itself and the people, the
candidates themselves, I think is (ph) still marked Obama. And isn`t that
an interesting conflict.

VANDEHEI: Yes, I mean, I think -- I basically agree with that memo,
that there`s some bit of a sugar-high right now built into these polls, but
it`s not -- when they say don`t get worked up, I can tell you from
reporting that the Romney people are a little worked up. They look at
those poll numbers. They don`t care about the national poll number. They
do care about their internals in Ohio showing them down 5 to 8 points.
That`s Ohio. Show me a way to win the presidency without winning Ohio.
It`s really, really hard.

And so those numbers are troubling to them. And they are right, it is
about the economy. And if you look at that last jobs report on Friday,
it`s bad news for the president. It`s very hard to spin that that was good
news for this White House.

The problem is they`ve been living with that for three, four months.
It doesn`t seem to be enough.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

VANDEHEI: There has to be...

FINEMAN: Yes, that`s...

VANDEHEI: What`s the next step?

MATTHEWS: I think people have discounted that. But in Ohio, you`re
right, a new PPP poll has the president increasing his margin over Mitt
Romney, as you say, Jim. He`s up now by 5 points, 50 -- I love it when
anybody gets to 50, you know, Howard? Fifty`s much different than forty-
nine.

FINEMAN: And there are two reasons for that, in my understanding.
One of them is the auto industry, positive news that the president has been
able to sell for the bail-out.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: The other, according to Frank Luntz, who is a Republican
media strategist, is an independent ad that they did talking how the
workers at a plant built a stage for an announcement which turned out to be
the announcement for the closing of the plant. And the worker says, It
turns out we built our own coffin. That ad has run repeatedly in Ohio, and
according to Frank Luntz, that ad alone has killed Mitt Romney in Ohio.

MATTHEWS: Wow, because they -- OK, let me ask you about the next
chance that we look ahead here, Jim. Everybody`s going to be -- I think
everybody watching this show will be watching the debate, the big debate
October 3rd between the president and Governor Romney.

That is -- everybody in the business of watching politics says that`s
the key event, that first hour, even, of that hour-and-a-half debate. Is
that your look at the way this thing could turn another -- take another
turn in another direction or double down for Obama either way?

VANDEHEI: It seems to be the only other big turn, outside of an event
that we can`t fathom right now sitting here, chewing over the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

VANDEHEI: It`s going to be the next time where a bunch of people tune
in, and they want to see whether or not Mitt Romney measures up to the
president.

I will say, if you look at Mitt Romney`s debate performances early on
as a candidate and certainly early no in the primary, he can be a very
effective debater. It would not surprise me if he outperformed the
president in that first debate.

Remember, the president is there. It`s the first time in four years
that someone really gets in his face and challenges him sort of in the same
room.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

VANDEHEI: He doesn`t have that. And so that would be a chance to
turn it, but he really has to be able to convince people that he has
something specific that would be superior. I don`t think he has to say,
I`m exponentially better than the president as an alternative. He has to
be able to say at least, I`m marginally better...

FINEMAN: And also...

VANDEHEI: ... a marginally safer bet.

FINEMAN: And also, the format is interesting because even though it`s
only one moderator, it`s Jim Lehrer and so forth, there`s going to be a lot
of room after the first two minutes back and forth for the moderator to
guide, like, a 10 or 11-minute discussion of each of six topics.

People haven`t looked at that yet. That`s unstructured territory,
which no politician likes, and if Romney can take advantage of that, it
could help him.

MATTHEWS: Just remember one thing I`ve learned from military history
and debating history, the best position to be in is to attack from a
defensive position. When the other guy throws the Sunday punch, that`s
when he`s vulnerable. He`s sitting there with his self-satisfied look, and
that`s when you put him away.

You wait for the other guy to take his Sunday punch, and you put him
away with "There you go again," or something like that, because the public
always roots for the candidate who`s just been hit hard. They always root
for him. You get up off the floor, they love you, they root for you.

And that`s why I think if Obama goes into this first debate ahead
substantially, it`s going to be Romney who`s going to have to throw the
Sunday punch. And God help him. Anybody that throws that Sunday punch in
a debate better be ready to defend himself with that sur-rebuttal because
the other guy`s coming back.

Anyway, thank you, Howard.

FINEMAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I love doing this! Thank you, Jim VandeHei. It`s great
having you on.

Coming up: Did you catch Mitt Romney yesterday on "MEET THE PRESS"?
Well, he says he wants to keep kids on their parents` health insurance and
also make sure people with existing preconditions (SIC) can get -- he wants
everything that Obama is offering, but it won`t cost you a penny. This is
great. This is perfect. He`s going to give you everything Obama does, but
it won`t really be a program. It`s interesting how he`s promising. By the
way, DR warned about this stuff.

So next (ph) skip (ph) the specifics. Neither Romney or Ryan have
come up with any specific deduction that they would actually eliminate from
the tax cut plan, not one. They don`t want to tell you anything. They may
get rid of charitable. They may get rid of the mortgage -- home mortgage
deduction. They may get rid of state and local tax deduction. Look out!
Nobody`s safe.

OK, now we`re 57 days from the 2012 election. So what`s ahead for
Hillary Clinton in 2016? We`re going to get to that little sugar plum, the
question we all have, where is it going for the secretary of state? That`s
one of the great political questions of our time.

Anyway, let`s finish tonight with, what do you do when nobody likes
you? What do you do if you`re Mitt Romney?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new poll numbers to bring you. Let`s check
the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In the Democratic convention state of North Carolina, the new PPP poll
has President Obama leading now, Romney, 49-48. It`s very close there,
hardly different from last week`s 48-all, but he`s ahead, though.

In New Mexico, one of those three Western battleground states,
President Obama has a 5-point lead now -- I say he wins New Mexico -- 45-
40, with the state`s former governor, Gary Johnson running as a Libertarian
at 7. That`s dangerous. And that`s according to a new poll from "The
Albuquerque Journal."

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. When he campaigned for reelection in
1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made an argument that is just as true today
as it was then. Catch these words. Let`s listen together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me
warn you and let me warn the nation against the smooth evasion that says,
Of course we believe these things. We believe in Social Security. We
believe in work for the unemployed. We believe in saving homes. Cross our
hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things.

(LAUGHTER)

ROOSEVELT: But we do not like the way the present administration is
doing them. Just turn them over to us.

(LAUGHTER)

ROOSEVELT: We will do all of them. We will do more of them. We will
do them better. And most important of all, the doing of them will not cost
anybody anything!

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So there you have it, the great FDR, the greatest orator,
perhaps, of the 20th century, saying the Republicans always promise to do
everything you`ve just done for them, even though they hadn`t done it
themselves, and they promise to do it for you for nothing, basically.

Well, here on "MEET THE PRESS" yesterday, I was reminded of FDR`s
great quote because Mitt Romney said there were some good parts of Obama`s
health care plan, despite the fact that Romney`s been criticizing it
relentlessly for two years.

So let`s listen to how he said, I`ll give you all the goodies in it,
but it won`t cost you a thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not
getting rid of all of health care reform, of course. There are a number of
things that I like in health care reform that I`m going to put in place.
One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get
coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to
have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, not long after those words were out of his mouth,
Romney campaign aides were clarifying the statement, saying that what he
really meant was people who maintain continuous insurance coverage can`t be
denied coverage for a preexisting condition. And that`s an awful long way
to go to defend what Romney actually said on "MEET THE PRESS."

Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist and columnist for TheDailyBeast and a
senior fellow at NYU. John Feehery`s a Republican strategist.

You know, he basically said, I`m going to give you everything Obama`s
going to give you, but then it turns out his flacks come out and say, Well,
actually not, because how can you give away all this stuff, like
preexisting condition coverage, if you don`t have an employee mandate?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I don`t understand what the
Romney campaign is doing. The guy is the nominee. He gets on. He says
this. Why don`t they stick by it?

Instead, he was multiple choice within a matter of minutes. They
changed his position in less time than it takes for the halftime of the
NFL. What it tells you I think is he`s the nominee of the Republican
Party, but he`s hostage to the Tea Party.

You were there in Congress in the early 1980s. Ronald Reagan was Mr.
Conservative. He was also pragmatic. So he had the base. The base
trusted him. He could do a deal with your boss, Tip O`Neill, to save
Social Security.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHRUM: He could do a deal with my boss, Ted Kennedy, to pass
immigration reform. People would grumble on the right, but they were with
Reagan.

The Romney people act like they`re scared of their shadows. If he
says anything that is off the Tea Party playbook, they immediately retreat.

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you a logic question. How do you provide all
the good things, the benefits in Obamacare, if you will -- they don`t mind
that word anymore, the Obama people -- like covering people with
preexisting conditions, having your young kids, your adult kids in their
20s covered by your plan, which all costs money, without enlarging the pool
of people by having an individual mandate?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Republicans have all
stated continuously throughout the year that, if we did repeal Obamacare,
we would pass a law that included preexisting conditions, and I think this
new thing that Romney is talking about up to 25 years old.

MATTHEWS: Well, who is going to pay for that?

FEEHERY: Well, there`s the law you can pass that doesn`t include --
you can have all kinds of ways to do this. You can have risk pools. You
can have a mandate on insurance companies, which is something that is
easily passed.

MATTHEWS: But where does the money come from?

FEEHERY: There`s not a cost to have the mandate. You can do that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If I have a heart disease...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and I show up and try to get insurance, no insurance is
going to give me any insurance.

FEEHERY: This is the problem. This is why the Romney campaign said,
listen, you have to have continuous coverage -- or what Romney said on the
campaign trail, you have to have had insurance beforehand.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not what Obama is offering. Obama is offering
coverage if you don`t have insurance, if you go pay for it.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: The idea that -- what Mitt Romney believes is that the free
market, the marketplace can help cure this problem by having risk pools...

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: Wait a minute, what does it mean to say you can`t be denied
coverage for a preexisting condition if you already have coverage?

All that can mean is you can`t get canceled...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can I talk common sense?

FEEHERY: Sure.

MATTHEWS: If you`re a 50-year-old person now or 60-year-old person,
and that`s when your bad health sort of kicks in when you get older.
Right? We know that.

Young people are riding around on motorcycles having a good time,
without helmets, whatever they`re doing, smoking cigarettes. You`re going
to live forever. Once you get in your 40s and 50s, you realize you`re not
going to live forever and your spouse realizes it.

FEEHERY: Right.

MATTHEWS: Your spouse often cares more about it than you care about
yourself.

She or he is scared to death that their spouse has got a disease. It
can be a health condition -- I mean a heart condition, it could be a
cancerous condition. It could be diabetes. All kinds of diseases out
there.

And you are out of work for six months, that means you can never get
insurance again? That`s what people are petrified of in the real world,
and Romney is not going to take care of them.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Romney will take care of them.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: If you look at what he did in Massachusetts, you`re looking at
Obamacare.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to she what you he said on "Jay Leno."

Back in March -- I don`t know what Leno`s politics are, but he asked a
good question. He was on "Leno," asking clear, commonsense questions and I
think he boxed in Romney on this preexisting condition thing.

You`re trying to defend him. Watch your candidate try to defend
himself on "Leno." Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People with preexisting
conditions, as long as they have been insured before, they`re going to be
able to continue to have insurance.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Well, suppose they
were never insured.

ROMNEY: Well, if they are 45 years old and they show up and they say
I want insurance because I have got a heart disease, it`s like, hey, guys,
we can`t play the game like that. You have to get insurance when you`re
well, and so -- and then, if you get ill, then you`re going to be covered.

LENO: Yes, but there are a lot of people -- see, I only mention this
because I know guys that work in the auto industry and they`re just not
covered because they work in brake dust and they could get -- so they just
have never been able to get insurance. And then they get to be 30, 35,
they were never able to get insurance before. Now they have it. That
seems like a good thing.

ROMNEY: We will look at a circumstance where someone is ill and
hasn`t been insured so far. But people who have had the chance to be
insured, if you`re working in an auto business, for instance, the companies
carry insurance. They insure all their employees.

You look at the circumstances that exist, but people who have done
their best to get insured are going to be able to be covered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Those people who have done their best to get insured are
going to be able to covered."

In other words, people who have insurance will get insurance. Those
who don`t have insurance, you can`t play the game like that. What did he
say, you guys? We can`t play the game -- the guy has a heart condition,
and he`s saying you can`t play the game like that.

That`s why people think that guy is cold. That`s an amazing -- on an
entertainment show like "Leno," he says if you think you can play the game
like that. The guy has got a heart condition. He didn`t think it up.

FEEHERY: But there is a problem with people deciding not to get
health care until they get sick, and that is a...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Sure. That`s why we have the individual mandate. That`s
why the government said you have to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you know what Obama stands for, Obamacare? It means
everybody from the time they`re working starts paying into something to the
extent of their ability so that when they do have these conditions, they`re
covered. It`s what all Republicans always believed in.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: ... government-run health care.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s for the individual mandate.

It`s all run through the insurance companies.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: John, John, that`s the talking point. This is not government-
run health care. It`s actually based on Romneycare. And it`s based on the
plan the Republicans themselves introduced...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It says you have to buy insurance from insurance companies.
That`s what Obamacare is. And we will help you pay for it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know you think it makes sense.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If Dick Nixon had done this, you would be all for it.

FEEHERY: The problem is that this is a difficult problem. There`s no
doubt about that the idea of an individual mandate is unpopular with
voters.

It`s also a difficulty that you have to deal with preexisting
conditions. And the fact of the matter is it`s a hard problem to solve.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know what I like Feehery?

You smile when you lose.

Thank you, John. You lost, because this thing he said on "Jay Leno,"
if the Democrats don`t play that over and over again, that the guy can`t
get coverage because he has a heart disease...

SHRUM: Great piece of tape.

MATTHEWS: It was great piece of tape.

And, by the way, this wasn`t exactly Edward R. Murrow asking a
question. This was a regular guy, who is a smart guy, but this wasn`t a
grilling. But I`ll tell you, Jay did a lot of better job than a lot of
people I know.

Anyway, thank you, Bob Shrum.

Thank you, John.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Not as good as me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next, what`s the story behind the picture of President
Obama being lifted off his feet? This is a funny picture. There it is.
Look at this guy. Talk about chutzpah, picking up the president. Here is
Obama with his hands -- what is this guy up to?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: President Obama stopped at a pizzeria in Florida yesterday
to commend the owner for his work encouraging more people to donate blood.

When the president shouted out a compliment about the man`s biceps,
things got interesting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody, look at
these guns.

If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, I`m so excited!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think anybody would do that to Romney. Do you?

Anyway, the store owner is a Republican, though he voted for Obama in
`08 and plans to do so again this November.

By the way, now that both the president and the first lady have been
swept off their feet this election -- remember when Michelle Obama was
hoisted up by a member of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team? There she is in
the air.

Next, U.S. Congressman Steve King scored an endorsement from Mitt
Romney on Friday, yes, Steve King, the Iowa Republican who thinks President
Obama`s birth announcement could have been telegraphed from Kenya to
Hawaii. Well, the DNC is out with a new ad highlighting a few of King`s
disgusting positions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE AD)

ROMNEY: I`m looking here at Steve King. This man needs to be your
congressman again. I want him as my partner in Washington, D.C.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NARRATOR: Congressman King says he`s not aware of any young victims
like that.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Well, I just haven`t heard of that being a
circumstance.

When I go down there and sit on that border, what I do is, I come to
this conclusion. We can`t shut that off unless we build a fence and a
wall. We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that
wouldn`t kill somebody. We do that with livestock all the time.

ROMNEY: I`m looking at Steve King. This man needs to be your
congressman. I want him as my partner in Washington, D.C.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: As Jack Kennedy said, sometimes party loyalty asks too
much.

Somehow, I don`t think that`s a bromance, by the way, between Mitt
Romney and that guy that`s going to be -- he`s not going to be touting that
much. By the way, Chris Christie is also slated to hit the campaign trail
for Steve King.

More from the realm of crazy talk. Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh,
another birther, or whatever, he`s a Tea Partier, with a another town hall
riff. Here he is, the subject this time, Sandra Fluke, the recent graduate
of Georgetown University Law School who spoke up on the issue of birth
control at the Democratic last week.

Here is the rebuttal from Mr. Walsh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: This one kills me. And then I will be
done with my rant.

So, at the Democratic Convention Wednesday night, their first prime-
time speaker was Sandra Fluke, Fluke, whatever her name is, a 30-, 31-, 32-
year-old law student who has been a student for life, who gets up there in
front of a national audience and tells the American people, I want America
to pay for my contraception.

You`re kidding me. Go get a job. Go get a job, Sandra Fluke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Why does he have to be Irish?

Anyway, so now graduating from a prestigious law school in your early
30s makes you a student for life? By the way, Walsh might very well be out
of a job himself when voters hit the polls this November.

Up next, you would think Mitt Romney would be ready for the question
about what tax deductions he`d eliminate to pay for his big tax cut plan.
Well, yesterday on "Meet the Press," he wasn`t ready.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Well, the Dow fell 52 points today, the S&P shed nine, and the Nasdaq
dropped by 32. Well, dismal data out of China fanning worries about a
weakening global economy. The company -- the country, rather, reported
weaker-than-expected trade data and industrial output slowed. Meanwhile,
Hewlett-Packard plans to cut 29,000 jobs by late 2014, 2,000 more than
previously announced.

And BP is selling some of its deep-water assets in the Gulf of Mexico
for more than $5 billion.

And that it from CNBC for now. We are first in business worldwide --
now back over to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Mitt Romney has a math problem, and it was on full display over the
weekend. The Bain whiz kid wants us to trust him that his tax policy adds
up. Well, he says he will drop marginal rates across the board, everybody
gets a tax cut, including the rich go from 35 percent to 28 percent, and he
will do without adding to the deficit by cutting tax deductions for the
rich.

But he will not go and tell us what deductions he will actually
eliminate. Take a look at him yesterday with David.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY")

ROMNEY: So everything I want to do with regards to taxation follows
simple principles, which is bring our rates down to encourage growth, keep
revenue up by limiting deductions and exemptions, and make sure we don`t
put any bigger burden on middle-income people. In fact, I want to lower
the burden on middle-income people.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Governor, where are the
specifics of how you get to this math? Isn`t that an issue?

ROMNEY: Well, the specifics are these, which is those principles I
described are the heart of my policy.

GREGORY: Can you give me an example of a loophole that you will
close.

ROMNEY: Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income
taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: His running mate, Paul Ryan, the congressman from
Wisconsin, didn`t fare much better on that question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THIS WEEK")

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you take those
loopholes, those tax shelters away from high-income earners, more of their
income is subject to taxation and that allows us to lower tax rates on
everybody.

And what we don`t want to do is cut some backroom deal like Obamacare
and then hatch it to the country. We want to do this out in the open.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Then why not specify the loophole
now? Why now say right now which loopholes you`re going to close?

RYAN: Because we want to do this -- we want to have this -- George,
because we want to have this debate in the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. They want to have it in the public.

Their math doesn`t add up and they`re not having that debate very
quickly, are they, not before November, as expert after expert has said
there simply are not enough tax deductions at the top without touching
investment income to make up for the loss of about $4 trillion in revenue
over a decade.

Economists say the dirty little secret is that Romney will have to
eliminate deductions for the middle class, meaning they will actually be
paying -- cutting taxes while the wealthy get a massive tax break.

Jim Moran is a Democratic congressman from Virginia. David Corn is
the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones."

Congressman Moran, this word loophole causes trouble with me. What
they`re really talking about for the average person working out there,
loopholes, how about your homeowner mortgage deductions which everybody
lives for? It`s the only shelter you get. Charitable deductions. What
are the churches and synagogues going to do when they`re told, oh, by the
way, no more charitable deduction write-off?

They will kill those institutions. Talk about being anti-religious.
If Romney gets his way and cuts charitable deductions, these churches will
close and synagogues. Look at this. Charitable deductions -- the other
one is state and local. You don`t have any choice. You got to pay state
and local tax.

So the three biggest ones are mortgages, state and local taxes and
charitable contributions. These are not loopholes. These are the major
deductions of our lives. And they`re talking about getting rid of them so
the rich can go from 35 percent to 28 percent. Your thought, Congressman?

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: Well, you`re absolutely right.

That`s the game plan, though. Blame Obama, promise everything, and
avoid specifics, and I guess stay off HARDBALL and assume we`re all dummies
and are going to buy it. It`s just impossible.

You can`t cut taxes by $5 trillion over the next decade, spend $2
trillion more on defense than is budgeted, and then think no one is going
to have to cover it, and you`re not going to increase the deficit. Of
course you`re going to increase the deficit.

It`s far worse than anything that the Reagan administration did when they
quadrupled the deficit. It`s worse than what George W. Bush did when he
cut -- when he had two deep tax cuts, started two wars, and then expanded
Medicare. That`s why we`re in the situation we`re in.

But what Romney is trying to do is double down.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I know.

MORAN: He`s promising even more tax cuts and we`re going to pay
less. I mean, it`s incredible what he thinks -- how gullible he must think
we are.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know why the Democrats have such a problem.
You`re better off than you were four years ago? Are you better that you
have than you were under Bush? Does anybody think we are better off in
this country under Bush? I mean, just think it through -- wars, financial
crisis like we`ve never had since the Great Depression, a stock market
dropping down to nothing, an unemployment rate spiking up to double digits.

Who -- why is it such a complicated question? Go back to this kind
policy.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Go back to December 2008 when
we were losing 850,000 jobs a month. I mean, making -- creating 96,000
jobs is not enough, but it`s certainly better --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go back, here`s George Will. I want to get to
him first because you will be surprised what he says. Here`s conservative
columnist George F. Will this weekend, doing a job explaining what`s wrong
with Romney`s proposal. Let`s listen to Will on Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: This uncertainty surrounding
the Romney/Ryan tax cut plan because they have not specified the deductions
that will be closed, and we know where the big money is. Mortgage interest
deductions, charitable deductions, taxing as compensation which it is,
employer provided health insurance, and state and local taxes. All of
those you either hit only the rich in which case you don`t get much money
or you hit the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Exactly my point. All the deductions he talked about,
charitable contributions, mortgage deduction, and state and local are what
hit everybody.

CORN: Listen, this is part of a theme, and you can see --

MATTHEWS: But he won`t tell it.

CORN: You can see it building to the debate. He won`t show us his
taxes, won`t tell us his tax plan. And the Ryan budget, remember, we
talked about this months ago, and last year. Paul Ryan has all these
unspecified spending cuts.

So when Obama and others say are you going to take people of Pell
Grants and throw them out of Head Start, he goes, no, we`re not, that`s not
in the plan, but he won`t say where the spending cuts come from. So, on
taxes, personal taxes and spending cuts, they won`t give the basic details.
Details -- we don`t need to stinking details is the message to the public.

And I think this creates a real big opening -- and you saw what David
Gregory was able to do to him or what Jay Leno does in talking about
earlier in the show. Barack Obama will have a wide opening on the debate
to say, Mitt, if you can give us magic ponies, please tell us how it`s
going to happen.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Moran, what do people out there in your
district, you live in Virginia, northern Virginia, you represent that area.
What are people saying about Romney? Do they get this complication here
that he`s sort of hiding behind, "I`m not telling what you I`m going to
do"?

MORAN: I hope they understand it. I hope they watch shows like
yours, Chris. But the problem is they`re being besieged in Virginia, as
you know, with these 15 to 30-second ads, and, of course, they also avoid
specifics. That`s what we`re into. We`re into all these promises, these
vague generalities. We only have ourselves to blame if we let them get
away with it.

I`m hoping in the debates they will be nailed down, that they have to
get specific. Because, you know, neither party has really come to grips
with what you`d have to do to really reduce the deficit, but you can`t
reduce revenue by another $5 trillion, increase spending by another $2
trillion, and then not touch the big tax expenditures.

For example, you could say $1 trillion over a decade if you eliminate
mortgage interest deductions. You could save $1 trillion if you eliminated
investment income. Of course, that would apply directly to people like
Mitt Romney who are paying less than half their taxes because their taxed
on unearned income which is the less than half -- earned income --

MATTHEWS: They don`t want to touch that.

MORAN: I mean, those -- of course not, and then charitable
deductions, which is $53 billion a year. That would be half a trillion
over a decade. You can show how it would work, but if you do that, it`s
clear he has no intention of taking that on.

Congress would never consider eliminating all those deduction
deductions.

MATTHEWS: We`ve got to get to Hillary now. I`m sorry. The show
turns to Hillary now. It`s going to get as exciting as it`s ever been in
our lives. Jim Moran is a big Hillary person. So --

MORAN: Nobody has ever been better qualified than maybe George
Washington to be president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We gave Mr. Moran a chance to make sure he`s on the
bandwagon in 2016. Thank you, Congressman Moran.

Thank you, David Corn.

CORN: Sure thing.

MATTHEWS: Up next, why is Bill Clinton pushing President Obama so
hard? Could it be possibly four years from now he could be back living
upstairs in the White House as first spouse? What are Hillary`s chances of
this all?

I think he`s bullish on the economy and I think he thinks it`s going
to be good. He wants Obama to win.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The great political reporter Dan Balz of "The Washington
Post" has hit a major milestone. He`s been on A-1, that`s the front of
"The Post," for an incredible 1,500 times. "The Post" honored Balz after
his front page story on the closing night of the Democratic convention.
For his first time on the front page back in 1979 with a story about a
grain deal with the Soviets.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THEN-SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Although we weren`t able to
shatter that highest, hardest ceiling this time, thanks to you, it`s got
about 18 million cracks in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

That was Hillary Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, at the time, back
in 2008, giving a great speech I thought on the day she announced the end
of her campaign for the presidency. Well, the question on everyone`s mind
or a lot of political junkie`s mind now is the chance to put that final
crack in the glass ceiling will prove too tempting for her ultimately in
2016.

"New York Times" columnist Frank Bruni who I can say is a Hillary
supporter based upon his column had this to say yesterday.

"Will she run in 2016? I can`t tell you how many times I heard that
question and how largely it loomed in Charlotte. There`s a strong belief
that she`s seriously considering one last bid, and a fervent wish that the
Hillary saga not yet be over, because it`s as riveting as any in the last
quarter century of American politics."

With me now are two MSNBC political analyst, "Salon`s" Joan Walsh,
author of "What`s the Matter with White People," an engaging topic, and
former U.S. Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

Thank you very much, Congressman. And thank you, Joan.

Joan, it seems to me if this were the Republican Party, the
Democratic Party, that she would be guaranteed the slot because they have a
rule over there whose turn is it?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: You turn.

MATTHEWS: It`s her turn, you could argue. Your thought.

WALSH: You know, I don`t think it`s her turn, particularly. I think
that one of the problems with her candidacy in 2008, Chris, is that there
was a little bit of a sense of entitlement, the sense of the Clinton
restoration. And she didn`t run it as an insurgency, and she didn`t run
according necessarily of the American people. She became a much, much
better candidate when she became the underdog that first part of the
campaign when it was like hers to lose, well, she lost it.

MATTHEWS: She was dynamite in New Hampshire.

WALSH: She was dynamite in New Hampshire and after New Hampshire.
She really tore those Rust Belt primaries on fire and really made her case.
So I would never want her to go into it in 2016 with a sense of
entitlement. The American people want to be asked for their vote. They
want to be courted.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I have a different -- I agree with everything you
said. I would put one premise to that. She voted for that God awful war
in Iraq.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: That was the worse -- it may that she made it for
political reasons. If she did, she made the wrong call.

WALSH: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Congressman. I think she will do much
better in a general election situation where she`s the Democratic standard
bearer and a clear field without Obama running against her. There are no
heavyweights to challenge her.

I think she has a better chance of coming across the true Democratic
champion. Your thoughts?

HAROLD FORD, JR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She emerges after this
election, win or lose by President Obama, and he will win as the front-
runner not only on a Democratic side, but I would even argue on the
Republican side.

I think there`s a real hunger and I say that by in this sense --
there`s a real hunger in the country as we sit here this evening for
someone who understands politics, who loves politics but more importantly
knows how to deliver by using all the levers in politics. She has proven
that. She stood above politics by accepting the role as secretary of state
in the face of what was very tough primary, contested primary between her
and Senator Obama.

And here we are four years later with her husband reminding all of us
a week ago why the Clintons are so important to the Democratic Party and
frankly why they are so important to American politics.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think people have stopped talking about her
hair and that sort of cosmetics. I noticed that, Joan. I mean, it`s kind
of boring after a while. Anyway, most (INAUDIBLE).

You know what I think is a great question? If Obama were to lose
this November, then by December, the week after the election, people would
be crazed for who is going to run. She would have to make a quick
decision. If he wins, she gets a year or two. I mean, she gets at least a
year.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Take a year off and get in shape again mentally,
physically, get off the plane for a while. You know, just get back into
being herself again and then she can think through not only whether to run
but how to run. Your thoughts?

WALSH: Exactly. I think she is so much helped by him winning and I,
too, believe he`s going to win. I think she gets to take her time, she
gets to relax, and she gets to see what the lay of the land is.

You know, if she -- if God forbid he were to lose, there would just
be a mad scramble. There would be chaos, there would be people demanding
that she make up her mind. There will be money trying to make decision.
So, I think that we are all served by him winning and she is served, too.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to get a money question in here. I`m sorry.
We`ve got to get money question out, Mr. Ford. You`re up there. You were
the financial big shots. You hang with that crowd over the regency, and
all the world.

Let me ask you a question. Are we going to have are a good four
years economically no matter who wins or not? I would say, make sure a
Democrat is in the office if it`s going to be a good four years. If it`s
going to be a bad four years, if you`re bearish, let the Republicans take
the heat because then my wife can win.

But if you think it`s going to be bullish the next couple of years,
you want to keep Obama in there, take credit for that and have her come in
on the crest of that. Your thoughts. I know I`m being Machiavellian, but
I am.

FORD: I think President Clinton, I take him at his word. I know
that he wants President Obama reelected because he believes -- as he said
clearly the other this -- this is an election, a choice, between whether
you believe we`re all in this together or you`re on your own. This
president believes we`re all in this together and working towards that.

MATTHEWS: OK. I know that. I know that, Congressman. I know
you`re going to say that.

But let me ask you a political question, if the president -- the
former president believes the economy is going to be good, he will
definitely want Obama to be president, right? Because then you get credit
as a party for good times finally, right, like he did?

FORD: Right. But I think this president -- President Clinton
believes in order to make things good, you got to have the right president.
If you have the wrong policies in place, if we don`t address the fiscal
cliff right, if we make I think inhumane choices around where spending cuts
take place or tough choices or bad choices around tax policy, it would hurt
any Democrat -- more importantly it hurts the things that he believes in.

The reason the Clintons are valuable in politics and why Mrs.
Clinton`s name continues to surface, because there`s a genuine belief
across America, particularly Democrats, that they care, that they
understand, and they can get things done.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right as far as you go.

Anyway, thank you very much, Joan Walsh. And thank you, Congressman
Ford, good guy.

And when we return, let me finish with the loveless marriage
Republicans now find themselves stuck in with Mitt Romney.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: What do you do when
people don`t like you? What you do is make it not matter.

Look how Mitt Romney got this nomination. He couldn`t get people to
not love him so he simply used his tens of millions of dollars bombing the
hell out of the alternatives, leaving him the only one left standing.

The result? Romney is the nominee to run against the president. It
worked before, so he`s doing it again. Can`t get minorities to vote for
you? What do you do? You keep them from voting, set up all kinds of
barricades to keep them from the voting booth, kill early, in person
voting, require government-issued photo ID cards, spread the word through
the neighborhoods this isn`t going to be easy, why not call it a day and
stay home?

A better idea? Get people to hate the other guy. Rev up anger
against and talk of welfare giveaways and how your Medicare is being sucked
away to pay for the poor. Oh, you can`t be loved, but you might be able to
shimmy into the Oval Office, if you rile up enough raw hatred to the guy
already there.

What a butte this campaign has become for Romney, talk about a
loveless marriage. Look at the crowd in Tampa. Look at the crowd in
Charlotte.

As (INAUDIBLE) have warned, if there`s not love in a marriage, there
will be love outside of it. And I expect some Republicans to seriously
rethink what they are getting into here.

And 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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