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updated 9/24/2012 12:46:26 PM ET 2012-09-24T16:46:26

HARDBALL
September 21, 2012

Guests: Tim Kaine, Patrick Murphy, Robert Costa, Jeffrey Frank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Don`t do the crime if you can`t do the time.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Los Angeles. I`m doing the
Bill Maher show tonight.

"Let Me Start" with the difficulties Mitt Romney`s been having in this
campaign. The fact is, Romney is reaping what he sowed. Who was it that
approved that multi-state effort to suppress the black vote which Bill
Clinton now calls the most blatant he`s ever seen? If he and his agent,
Reince Priebus, the chairman of his party, wasn`t behind it, he should say
so.

Who was it that orchestrated this racially-coded attack on poor people
on welfare for not having to meet a work requirement? Wasn`t that Mitt`s
voice we heard saying, "I`m Mitt Romney and I approved this message"?

And who was it who`s been out there backing 100 percent the
obstructionist Republican Congress and its number one priority, to
terminate the Obama presidency through the filibuster?

If Romney`s got it hard, perhaps it was he from the start using the
dirty tools of the old days that`s responsible -- voter suppression, coded
racial appeals, the filibuster. If he`s having a tough month, maybe he`s
earned a few more.

Howard Fineman and TheGrio`s Joy-Ann Reid are here.

But first, new polls in the presidential race. Let`s check the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard." According to a new "National Journal" poll,
President Obama leads Mitt Romney among likely voters by 7, 50 to 43. The
president also has a 7-point lead nationally in the new
Reason/Rupe/Princeton poll. He`s at 52, Romney at 45.

And two interesting state numbers from the new Purple Strategies poll.
In North Carolina, President Obama has a 2-point lead over Mitt Romney, 48-
46. And look at this, the race is tightening even in deep red Arizona.
That new Purple Strategies poll shows Romney with a lead of just 3 points
over the president.

And this just in, the Romney campaign says everyone is safe after Ann
Romney`s plane made an emergency landing in Colorado after smoke filled the
cabin. Ann Romney even tweeted about it, saying, "Everyone is OK." Good
for her.

Let`s go to this with -- let`s go to this with Howard Fineman joining
us right now. I want to read to you right now a classic example of a
Friday afternoon news dump. It`s Mitt Romney releasing his tax returns for
last year. He paid an effective rate of 14.1 percent, which is below the
rate we know that people pay of payroll taxes.

Anyway, the campaign also released a summary of his taxes for the past
20 years -- a summary. They say Romney paid an average of 20.2 percent,
and they say he never paid less than 13.6 percent.

Republican strategist Alex Castellanos had a strong response to the
campaign`s move. He told "The Politico," quote, "At first, I thought this
was an April Fool`s joke, but it isn`t April. I can`t imagine that David
Axelrod will now say, I`m glad Mitt put this issue behind him. This will
drag Mitt`s taxes right back into the debate, and there`s not many days
left. I just can`t imagine why they would do this."

Howard, why would they do -- I know they said they`re going to release
the current year`s or last year`s returns, and they did that, showing he
pays less than the average guy he says is one of the victim class, who only
pays payroll taxes. He pays less, it turns out.

But why would they tease us with this Judge Stennis solution, like
Nixon did in the old days, of saying, Well, I won`t tell you what the taxes
I paid were for the last 10 or 12 years, but here`s a little hint-hint of
what I claim I paid.

Why would he do this?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, I`m tempted to say they`ve had such a bad run that they wanted
to sort of get all the bad stuff out there right away at the end of this
week.

But as Alex Castellanos pointed out, this won`t end the discussion.
And I think if you look closely at what Mitt Romney did in his 2011 taxes,
as we`ve done at the Huffington Post, you can see he disallowed just enough
of the deductions he was going to take for his charitable contributions to
inch it over 14 percent, but no more.

So if we calculated that the White House is worth $200,000 to him,
because that`s what he paid to get it over 14 percent -- and then, of
course, in tax law, he can claim those deductions later on. In other
words, he forewent $2 million worth of tax deductions. He can amend his
taxes over the next three years, and I`ll bet you anything that he does.
He`ll eventually take that tax deduction.

Everybody`s going to sit around doing these kinds of calculations, and
it just brings up the whole -- this in conjunction with the videotape, the
47 percent who pay no taxes versus this, just doesn`t solve any problems
for him at all politically.

MATTHEWS: You know, Joy, this strikes me as the word "cute" -- a good
four-letter word for this -- very cute to put out only what you promised to
put out, not to put out 10 or 12 years, and then to give this little
sketchy look at what you say you did, and then, as Howard points out, have
this trap door where you can even grab the money if you lose the election
in this year`s returns.

JOY-ANN REID, THEGRIO.COM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you know, Chris, I
think that, literally, what the Romney campaign was trying to do with this
Friday document dump was to replace the smell of decay with the smell of
tax returns. This is a classic sort of move to try to get the Howard
Finemans of the world, to get the political media to chase these returns,
to spend now time digging into Mitt Romney`s tax returns and just the
barest minimum of the tax returns to stop the story and the bleeding that`s
happening over the last two weeks of terrible news.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think, knowing that he won`t really...

FINEMAN: It worked. It worked.

MATTHEWS: ... give us the information about the tax returns improves
the story, Joy?

REID: That`s the problem. I mean, they know that the tax return
story is a bad news story, but it`s the returns previous to 2011 that Harry
Reid and others are speculating Romney paid even less than 14 percent. In
Harry Reid`s sort of, you know, smoke and mirrors thing, maybe even zero.

So this doesn`t help. But I think that they`ve decided because that
this return shows that he paid some taxes, at least it will take away the
talking point that, Well, you`re one of the 47 percent, Mitt Romney. You
didn`t pay any taxes.

MATTHEWS: Well, he paid less than people...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, Joy, you know he paid less than you pay...

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... payroll taxes, which...

REID: It`s a bad story line...

MATTHEWS: ... who don`t pay taxes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... income level do pay it when they go to work. You know,
paper boys pay that. Go ahead.

FINEMAN: Chris, it`s a little like firefighting. You -- if you`re
out at of forest fire, you build a backfire...

REID: Right.

FINEMAN: ... to try to stop the bigger fire. That`s sort of what
they did here. They set a second fire to try to stop the spread of the
first.

MATTHEWS: OK.

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re going to get back to that tax story again and
again, whether Romney likes it or not.

Anyway, today President Obama gave a strong rebuke for Mitt Romney
over his 47 percent comments that got out this week. Let`s watch the
president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2008, 47 percent of
the country didn`t vote for me. But on the night of the election, I said
to all those Americans, I may not have won your vote, but I hear your
voices, I need your help, and I will be your president.

The values we believe in don`t just belong to workers or businesses,
the 53 percent or the 47 percent, the rich or the poor, the 1 percent, the
99 percent. These are American values! They belong to all of us!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, down in New Orleans at an AARP annual
conference, Paul Ryan got booed by the audience when he talked about
repealing "Obama care." Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The first step to a
stronger Medicare is to repeal "Obama care" because it represents the worst
of both worlds...

(BOOS)

RYAN: I had a feeling there would be mixed reaction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, what do we make of that, Howard? I mean, here`s a
group of older people -- now, what I keep looking at is the polls that show
that the only age group that supports Mitt Romney are 65 and older. That`s
it. If people under retirement age got to vote only, he`d get killed. So
the fact is, why is he out there going to war through his VP nominee with
older people, saying, Get rid of "Obama care"? Why is he stirring this up?

FINEMAN: Well, he`s speaking to the wrong audience in going after
"Obama care," Chris. I think the attack on "Obama care" worked to some
extent in the 2010 congressional races, when they focused on the fact that
some tax money would be necessary and that some Medicare spending would be
cut.

Remember, that`s what they used in 2010, and that worked. But the
people that worked with were not the seniors. That worked with swing
voters and younger voters, who were, you know, looking at how that was
going to play out.

So I think to go into the teeth of the activists at the AARP with that
argument was going to elicit boos. You knew that was going to happen. And
again, you ask, Why would they want to do that kind of thing? Why would
they want to get booed at the AARP? I can`t imagine any positive -- this
is not like a Sister Souljah moment from the Clinton years.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Speaking...

FINEMAN: It makes no political sense whatsoever.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of Bill Clinton, let`s watch something from Bill
Clinton because once again, he`s come in and clarified something that was
murky. This is this whole thing. In 30-some states around the country,
the Republican legislatures have gone out there and tried to restrict the
rights of people to vote, limit the number of hours you can vote early,
limit the opportunity to vote different ways, have to show more
documentation. Clearly, a partisan effort.

Now, here`s Bill Clinton saying this is still a big concern with him,
especially down in Florida, but also in Pennsylvania. Let`s watch Bill get
to the heart of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How much will
the vote be lessened or reduced by the fact that in Florida, except for
four counties, the preelection voting, advance voting, has been cut down to
eight days and doesn`t include the Sunday before the election, which is an
arrow aimed straight at the heart of the African-American churches, who
pull up the church buses on the Sunday before election and take elderly
people who have no cars or people who are disabled to the polls so they can
vote?

How much is all that going to affect the turnout? I`ve never -- in my
lifetime, nobody has ever done anything quite this blatant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Quite this blatant. Joy, I don`t -- what I don`t
understand -- and I`m going to get ethnic here -- white people don`t hear
the whistle here. They don`t see -- not just the whistle, but the changing
of the law, the changing of the goal line, really, for getting ready to
vote or being able to vote because they see, these people and these
legislatures, Here`s a chance to screw the black voter.

Here`s a way to get -- they have this tradition of voting after
church. People don`t have private transportation. They get on the church
buses. They go from church, perhaps, in a black church. They go and vote
that Sunday, a nice tradition, very democratic.

And then the Republicans say, Oh, I know how to screw these people.
We`re going to take away that Sunday before the election. And it`s so
blatant, as Bill says, Bill Clinton.

REID: No, it`s incredible, Chris. And I mean, you look at a state
like Florida, where they literally legislated every single kind of voting
except absentee, which is the one kind of voting Republicans do well in,
and the one kind of voting, by the way, where you actually do see fraud.
Right now, the Miami-Dade...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Yes, paper absentee ballot, where people are going to nursing
homes and filling out the ballots for people with Alzheimer`s and turning
them in. That`s the kind of fraud you actually see in Florida, not
legislated by the Republicans in Florida.

You have in Ohio, where you`re literally having precincts with
majority Democrats getting less time to vote. They`re doing it that
blatantly.

And you know, Chris, I`m not sure that white voters don`t see this. I
think that the blatantness of this, the obvious sort of racial -- going
after Latino voters and African-American voters -- Americans, you know, in
2012 are not for that kind of thing.

People don`t see any problem with having to show an ID. I think on
that level, people don`t have a problem with voter ID. But when you have
Republican legislators literally saying, This is going to help Mitt Romney
get elected, I think that hurts them with white swing voters as much as it
does energize African-Americans and Latinos to defend their right to vote.

MATTHEWS: Well, Howard, I don`t know. You and I hear it. I hear it.
I hear what Joy hears. But I`m surrounded by people, maybe you are, too,
white people who just love to say, Oh, tut-tut, that isn`t true. Why are
you hearing things we don`t hear?

I think they hear it because it`s directed at them. These -- these --
what do you call them, these dog whistles are aimed at white people.
They`re not aimed at black people. They`re aimed directly at white
sensitivities and anger and resentments and all that old stuff.

Here is a way to rip the scab off and get you to vote against a black
guy. That`s my thought. And maybe that`s Joy`s thought, as she`s shaking
her head. Is it your thought? Are we surrounded by people who are deaf or
just politically resistant to the truth?

FINEMAN: Well, I would like to agree -- I would like to think that
what Joy said is right about America in 2012, but I`m not entirely sure
that`s true, and it`s certainly not true everywhere. And some people might
enjoy the prospect.

The fact is that over the last 20 years or so, voting rights have been
expanded or voting hours have been expanded, voting days and weeks have
been expanded in the interests of getting people to participate, which,
after all, should be an American ideal.

And has that benefited the Democrats in some places? Yes. But what
reducing those hours and reducing those days does is run against the idea
of participation and fair play.

MATTHEWS: One thing I have to do here. Let`s show this guy who
pushed through the Pennsylvania law. You want to hear it clear, Howard,
and everybody watching?

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: You think there`s not some ethnic factor, racial factor?

FINEMAN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Watch this guy Daryl Metcalfe. He`s the guy that pushed
that law, the photo voter ID card. Here`s his explanation of what he
thinks of the people who don`t have those cards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARYL METCALFE (R), PENNSYLVANIA STATE REP.: I don`t believe any
legitimate voter that actually wants to exercise that right and takes on
the according responsibility that goes with that right to secure their
photo ID will be disenfranchised. You know, we -- sure -- we have -- as
Mitt Romney said, I mean, what, we have 40-some percent of the people that
are living off the public dole, living off of their neighbors` hard work,
and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get off and --
what they -- you know, to get up and get out there and get the ID they
need.

So I mean, if individuals are too lazy, the state can`t fix that. But
the process that`s put in place to get an ID card -- there`s a free ID
available if somebody needs one, and there`s a process they have to go
through. They have to present certain documents. That`s the way it should
be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There you have it, Howard Fineman, clear as a bell. That
guy`s not using a dog whistle. Thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Joy-
Ann Reid.

FINEMAN: That`s a bullhorn. That`s a bullhorn.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: I`d say so.

REID: And it comes from the same place as that 47 percent argument,
the welfare queens argument. It`s all about saying, We`re going after, you
know, somebody that`s being demonized. It`s these lazy welfare queens.
They can`t vote. They`re abusing food stamps. It`s all part of the same
argument.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you, Joy.

Coming up: See how they run away from Mitt Romney, one Republican
after another saying, Sure, Mitt, we`re behind you -- way behind you. And
this is what happens when a presidential campaign begins to take on water.
I mean, that`s what it`s taking -- also, there are a few Republicans whom
Democrats would like to defeat then -- well, there`s few out there than
they`d like to defeat Allen West of Florida. That guy`s a character. And
that`s Patrick Murphy`s job. And he joins us tonight. And so does Tim
Kaine of Virginia, who`s up running for that Senate seat.

And don`t look now, but Homer Simpson is going to the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a 40-year-old white guy who didn`t go to
college and gets all his news from monitors at gas stations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In you go!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, wait until you see what happens when Homer gets a
look at Mitt Romney`s tax returns.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a question. What is Mitt hiding
in those tax returns?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We told you about that Purple Strategies poll showing
President Obama with a 2-point lead in North Carolina and within 3 in
Arizona. We`ve got the rest of that Purple Strategies poll now in the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In Ohio, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 4, 48-44. Next to
Virginia, where the president`s lead over Romney is 3, 46-43. In Florida,
the poll finds Romney with a 1-point lead, 48-47. And in Colorado -- crazy
state to keep up with -- it`s President Obama now ahead by 3, 48-45, but it
keeps switching around out there.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, the battle for control of
the U.S. Senate is likely to hinge on a few states that could go either
way. And right now, they`re too close to call.

In Virginia for months, the former Democratic governor, Tim Kaine,
seemed to be underperforming President Obama in his home state, and is no
better than tied with his former -- the other former governor and former
senator George Allen. But just this week, four polls -- four polls -- have
put Kaine up an average of 5 points in that very tough race. The most
impressive poll for Kaine was by "The Washington Post," which gave him an
8-point edge, driven by overwhelming support from women.

With me now is the Democratic candidate for Senate for Virginia, Tim
Kaine. Governor, thanks so much for joining us. Why are women...

TIM KAINE (D-VA), FMR. GOV., SENATE CANDIDATE: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think the Republican agenda nationally and in
your state, the Old Dominion, is bad for women?

KAINE: Well, Chris, for a whole bunch of reasons. I mean, first,
Virginia was sort of the epicenter this year of a lot of bills that really
went after women`s health care -- invasive ultrasound procedures promoted
by our governor, and my opponent, George Allen, stood silent and didn`t
condemn them. Personhood legislation that would criminalize abortion and
potentially criminalize FDA-approved birth control that George Allen wants
to take to the U.S. Senate.

And then you go to additional areas, like my opponent not being in
support of paycheck equity, having a history of voting against Family
Medical Leave Act, wanting to support the Blunt amendment to roll back
contraceptive protection. These issues have all kind of come up at the
same time. Some deal with health care choices, some deal with things like
paycheck equity. But women in Virginia are feeling like they don`t have a
lot of friends on the other side.

MATTHEWS: What`s this thing -- explain where that thing stands about
the probing that women really find invasive, this procedure that the --
they were talking about requiring under the law that every woman who had --
who is having an abortion as her own choice had to go through this
procedure by law.

What is this all about?

KAINE: Yes.

Yes, Chris, it was absolutely outrageous. There was a bill that was
introduced this year in Virginia that would have required a woman,
exercising the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy,
would have to undergo an ultrasound with a vaginal probe that was clearly
designed to demean.

And that vaginal probe was even against the woman`s will. And it has
an expense, and she would be required to pay for it. One house of the
legislature pushed that through like on greased skids, but then the women
of Virginia and a lot of men stood up and said, hold on a second, this
isn`t going to happen.

There were protests at the state capitol. In one of the protests,
women and others protesting peacefully, were surrounded by capitol police
in riot gear. Eventually, the Virginia Senate came to their senses. They
watered down the bill so that the ultrasound was not a vaginal probe, but
an external ultrasound.

But it was still medically unnecessary, expensive, and against a
woman`s will. And yet now, as of July 1, that`s a mandated procedure for
women.

MATTHEWS: OK.

KAINE: And so whether it`s these issues or, again, paycheck equity,
Family Medical Leave Act, all of this has been under pressure.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me clear up something that was in "The Washington
Post" today. Where do you stand on -- it makes sense if you say it the
right way. I hope you get to say it the right way.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Everybody ought to get tax returns. It seems to me it`s a
very democratic idea. Everybody pays a buck or two bucks, whatever they
can.

KAINE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And the rich people certainly pay their progressive share.
Is that what you believe in? I mean, this came up in the debate that David
Gregory moderated yesterday.

KAINE: Yes, had a great debate yesterday, Chris.

And I laid out a really specific tax proposal about the elimination of
the Bush tax cuts at the top end and taking away oil company subsidies, all
geared or -- at avoiding the big sequestration cuts that will hurt the
economy.

David Gregory said, would you consider down the road a long-term tax
proposal that would require some form of minimum taxation of everyone? And
I said I`m open to that. But then I pointed out -- as you know, look, I
used to be a mayor of Richmond.

The lie that some perpetrate that poor people don`t pay a lot of taxes
is wrong. I pointed out that that 47 percent that Governor Romney was
going after, most of them pay a higher tax rate than he does.

And, so, sure, I`m going to be open to considering proposals advanced
because I want people to consider my proposals. But my specific proposal
that I have on the table is one that deals with the elimination of the Bush
tax cuts at the top end.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think I have been paying the payroll tax since I
was 14, and a lot of other people have.

KAINE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: When you get your first job as teenagers, you pay that one.
Everyone ought to pay attention to that.

Anyway, thank you, Governor Kaine.

KAINE: All right. You bet, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Good luck in the race.

KAINE: Take care.

MATTHEWS: Next up, you might not know former congressional candidate
Patrick Murphy, but you surely know the man he`s running against,
Republican Congressman Allen West.

West is infamous for saying stuff like this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: I believe it`s about 78 to 81 members
of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And that was no outlier.

West also wrote in his blog just last summer -- quote -- "I must
confess, when I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize
them as a threat to the gene pool." Those are the words of a U.S.
congressman.

The race is a tossup down there.

And with me now is the man trying to make Allen a former congressman,
Patrick Murphy.

Mr. Murphy, it doesn`t seem like a hard job to prove that this guy is
a bit of a kook. Do you think he is a kook?

PATRICK MURPHY, D-FLORIDA, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well,
unfortunately, Allen West has framed himself as probably the most divisive
and the most extreme member of Congress. And it`s scary, truthfully, that
he ever got elected.

MATTHEWS: Well, why do people down there vote for a guy that says
stuff like all the -- there`s somebody -- 80 or so Democrats who are
communists? What is he talking about?

MURPHY: Not one knows.

It`s unfortunate. You know, I get asked that question continually,
and we`re getting calls from Republicans coming out, saying, look, Patrick,
I`m a Republican, I have been a Republican my whole life, and I`m going to
support you, because what Allen West is doing is dividing the country and
created gridlock in our Congress.

And it`s scary he ever got elected, but we have got a great chance to
defeat him.

MATTHEWS: Have you had a chance to go face-to-face with him and
challenge him on some of these kooky ideas of his about communists out
there and the other stuff he`s been saying about people being bad for the
gene pool? I would call that rather personal. Your thoughts?

MURPHY: Well, we`re certainly looking forward to some upcoming
debates with the congressman.

We have been to four debates already in the district that he didn`t
appear at, so we have one scheduled October 19, and I look forward to that
discussion with him.

MATTHEWS: Who are the people that like him? Come on. Be honest now.

There must be -- if this is a tossup race, half the voters out there
must like -- why would any voter vote for a guy that was back in the 1950s
with Joe McCarthy kind of comments? Why would anybody vote for a guy who
questions the genetic makeup of the political opposition? I mean, we have
a country with enough problems without this stuff.

MURPHY: No, you`re exactly right.

And I can`t answer that question who these people are. Most of it is
just partisan politics, just people voting down the ticket. And what I --
one of the reasons I think we have such a good chance in this race is
because we`re getting calls from so many Republicans, from so many
independents that are tired of it, that are tired of this extremism.

So...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s -- Patrick, let`s take a look at your ad you have
been running here. This is called "West`s War on Women." It`s a $1
million ad buy by an independent group. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: What could be worse than Allen West`s vote against
affordable contraceptives? Or to eliminate cancer screenings programs? Or
to take away a woman`s right to choose? What`s worse than Allen West`s
record on women are the words he uses against them.

WEST: All these women who have been neutering American men and
bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness, to let them know that
we are not going to have our men become subservient.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is like Rush Limbaugh, the way this guy talks about
women neutering men. What does this guy -- what is his problem?

You`re afraid to say he`s a kook. Well, give me a description of your
opponent, will you?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Help me out, Patrick. He`s not a normal Republican, even
of the old school.

MURPHY: I`m going to stick to him being the most extreme member of
Congress. I don`t want to get into this name-calling game. That`s what
he`s so good at.

MATTHEWS: I`m just trying to figure him out.

MURPHY: And I`m going to stoop to that -- yes, I`m not -- I don`t
want to stoop to his level.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we will have to do it ourselves.

Anyway, thank you. Good luck in this race. I think the guy is really
off the wall. And I don`t think it is regular partisan race. That`s where
I might disagree with you. I don`t think this is a normal left vs. right
or center-right vs. center-left race. I think this guy shouldn`t be in the
Congress.

MURPHY: I agree with you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Patrick Murphy.

MURPHY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Maybe you should be.

Up next: Which former Republican presidential candidate now says he`d
have a substantial lead over President Obama if he`d been the nominee? I
think you can guess. That`s in the "Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. This is the "Sideshow."

When politics shows up in unlikely places, first, ESPN. There`s buzz
in the sports world about John L. Smith, the former -- or the -- actually
the head coach of the University of Arkansas. In addition to a dismal
start for his football team, Smith`s racked up $25 million in debt,
personal debt, and recently filed for bankruptcy.

So, let`s go to ESPN`s "Outside the Lines," where the panel weighed in
on Smith`s troubles and found a certain prominent political figure to
compare him with.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sitting down with John L. Smith and saying, cut
out the circus act, I mean, that`s impossible. No one in this country,
with the possible exception of Mitt Romney, has had a worse two weeks than
John L. Smith.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andy, how would you characterize the last couple
of weeks in John L. Smith`s tenure -- Smith`s tenure?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolute circus act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So Romney`s the new tackling dummy on ESPN.

Anyone else had a worse circus act than Mitt Romney? Anyway, "The
Washington Post" reports that Smith, the coach, is trying to win over
critics with his -- quote -- "engaging personality and infectious smile,"
not exactly qualities people have been tossing around about Mitt Romney.

Now to "The Simpsons." Spoiler alert: Homer votes for Mitt Romney,
but there`s more to the story in this online promo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE SIMPSONS")

DAN CASTELLANETA, ACTOR: Oh, man, not another election. Why do we
have to choose our leaders? Isn`t that what we have the Supreme Court for?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: If you`re going to vote, we will need some photo
I.D.

CASTELLANETA: But I lived here all my life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Stopping all Americans from voting is for the
protection of all Americans.

CASTELLANETA: But I`m a 40-year-old white guy who didn`t go to
college and gets all his news from monitors at gas stations.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: In you go.

CASTELLANETA: Barack Obama, I don`t know. I already got one wife
telling me to eat healthy. Mitt Romney, his horse totally choked at the
Olympics. On the other hand, he did invent Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Thank you for voting for Mitt Romney. You may
now see his tax returns.

CASTELLANETA: Wow, medical deduction for personality implant. The
government paid him taxes for five years.

I have got to tell the press.

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You are now being outsourced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Did we really just see "The Simpsons" tackling voter I.D.
laws?

Anyway, finally, remember Herman Cain? At one point, he was actually
the front-runner the GOP primaries. Well, his self-confidence doesn`t seem
to have taken a hit.

At an event yesterday in Florida, Cain talked to reporters about how
he would be doing if he had scored the Republican nomination -- quote --
"Cain said he would have been doing better if he was the nominee, saying
that he`d probably have a substantial lead on President Barack Obama at
this point."

Quote: "The reason is quite simple, I have some depth to my ideas," he
said.

Well, Cain also said he`d turn down a slot on Mitt Romney`s Cabinet.
Instead, he`s focused on an upcoming stint as a radio host and maybe a
career in TV.

Remember, when Cain was blasted, critics -- blasted, critics who see -
- blasted critics who said his campaign was more a publicity stunt than a
serious political run. Maybe he was auditioning for TV.

Up next: As if things couldn`t get worse for the Romney campaign,
more and more Republicans around the country are running away from Mitt
Romney. And that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The Dow falls 17 points, the S&P 500 ends flat, and the Nasdaq gains
four points. Apple shares ended slightly higher. The new iPhone 5 hit
stores today. But many were less than impressed with Apple maps. Users
say it contains inaccuracies.

And in the fall, gas prices usually move lower. They`re down four
cents from a week ago at $3.83 per gallon nationwide, but that`s still 50
cents higher than they were on July 1.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

How big of a drag has Mitt Romney become on Republicans in tight races
around the country? Since his caught-on-tape remarks came to light on
Monday in which he wrote off nearly half the country, a steady stream of
Republicans have distanced themselves from the candidate. They include
Senate candidate Linda Lingle of Hawaii, Linda McMahon of Connecticut,
George Allen of Virginia, Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, as well as Senators
Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Dean Heller of Nevada, all in tight races.

What does it say about Romney that so many of his allies don`t want to
risk being seen too closely with him or his words?

David Corn broke the story this week, and he is the Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones," the much respected "Mother Jones," and also an
MSNBC political analyst. And Robert Costa is a political reporter for
"National Review."

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: We have this in Iowa. In a radio interview, Ann Romney,
the wife of the candidate, had strong words for conservative critics of her
husband`s campaign. Let`s listen to Ann Romney.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION: What do you say to your fellow Republicans who are...

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Stop it. This is hard. You want to
try it, get in the ring. This is hard.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, who was she talking about? Well, people like
conservative columnist Peggy Noonan today.

Noonan wrote today -- quote -- "This week, I called Romney`s campaign
incompetent, but not -- but only because I was being polite. I really
meant rolling calamity. A lot of people weighed in, in, I suppose,
expected ways, glad you said this, mad you said this, but some surprises.
No one that I know of defended the campaign or argued you`re missing some
of its quiet excellence."

Well, that`s sarcastic.

Anyway, Romney surrogate John Sununu responded to Peggy Noonan`s
criticism on MSNBC today. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: I wouldn`t hire Peggy
Noonan to run a campaign. I don`t ask her to have me write her columns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there he is.

Let me go back to David Corn on that.

You know, getting Sununu out there, there`s sort of a canine aspect to
the way he defends the president -- he just -- he`s at the gate. It says
beware of dog, and it`s John Sununu there.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: With no leash on him.

He will say anything in defense of -- anything in defense of Romney.
But smart people out there -- let`s go through the list of these people.
Dean Heller, close race in Nevada. Tommy Thompson, having problems in
Wisconsin. George Allen, neck and neck in Virginia.

These people are real pros who are trying to keep alive politically,
and they want some real separation, as they say in the NFL, from this guy,
Romney. What`s going on?

CORN: Well, you know, Romney`s taken all these hits in the last four
weeks, from his miserable trip to London, to Clint Eastwood, and not
mentioning the troops in Afghanistan, the disaster with the Libyan
statement, and, of course, the video that I -- that I made public earlier
this week.

And the thing is, if he had a real good overarching strategic plan and
message that the conservative Republican elites hear and members of the
Senate had any -- could see, could discern, I think people would be more
willing to stand by him.

But he doesn`t have a strong rudder. Every day, it`s like he changes
strategy. He`s going to be a little more moderate. He`s going to be a
little more red meat to the conservatives. He`s going to be an outsider.
He`s going to be an insider. Obama says black, I`m going to say white
today.

So, the campaign is sort of like bouncing around like a ping-pong ball.
It`s being buffeted by winds, and again without a strong rudder, you move
back and forth. I think that`s really what Peggy Noonan and everybody else
is responding to, that there`s -- you know, we talk about being no core
about Mitt Romney, there`s sort of no strategic core to the campaign.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Yes. I`d say the ping-pong ball in a
bathroom. Anyway, you can hear the sound of it -- bing, bing, bing.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Tommy Thompson, who`s running for the Senate out
of Wisconsin against Tammy Baldwin, had this explanation for why polls are
showing himself trailing. Why he`s trailing. That`s Tommy Thompson.

Well, he`s blaming Romney. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMMY THOMPSON (R), WI SENATE CANDIDATE: The presidential thing is
bound to have an impact on every, you know, whether you`re a Democrat or
Republican. If you`re a standard bearer for the presidency who is not
doing well, it`s going to reflect on the down ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let`s get back to Robert Costa, because you`re close to
the Romney campaign. It seems to me if you have a true believer at the top
of the ticket, people don`t mind associating with that person like Ronald
Reagan, of course, the great example of a true believer. Is it because
Romney, as David just said, doesn`t seem to be a true believer, that people
don`t want to stick with him?

ROBERT COSTA, CNBC: On "National Review," Chris, I report on the
conservative movement and I do not see a mass desertion from Mitt Romney.
Are there some grumbles? Sure. But that list you just read out, Linda
Lingle, Scott Brown, and others, those candidates mostly come from blue
states and they`re backing away not from Romney particularly but from the
47 percent.

MATTHEWS: Nevada? Wait a minute, I`m checking you there. Nevada,
Virginia, you think those -- Haley Barbour from Mississippi? Haley
Barbour, let`s watch Haley Barbour here. He isn`t running for any office.
He criticized Romney for not apologizing.

He told "Bloomberg," quote, "I don`t know what the question was but
it is not correct that 47 percent of Americans are on means-tested
entitlements, on welfare. Many of those people are retired military.
Perhaps a better way to say it is, you know, I made a mistake on that
number."

There`s Haley Barbour. He`s not exactly blue state.

COSTA: I agree on Haley Barbour is from Mississippi, a real red
state. But what I`m seeing from the Romney campaign is you see the 47
percent comments, were they a big problem this week? Of course they were.
But look at the Gallup poll. Romney is still neck and neck with President
Obama.

So conservatives, they`re wary of some of the tactics Romney is
running, but big picture, they still see this as a pretty close race.

MATTHEWS: Why is Peggy Noonan beat the hell out of -- by the way,
her column will be in Saturday`s "Wall Street Journal" -- it`s one reason I
read that paper every Saturday morning, Peggy Noonan. Why do you think
she`s down on Romney? She`s a true believer.

COSTA: Peggy Noonan`s column is very interesting. She`s calling on
Romney for a staff shake-up. From everything I`m hearing from Boston,
Romney is not going to do that.

There`s a lot of concern among some of right about the Stuart
Stevens, who is the chief strategist for the Romney campaign. There`s a
sense he`s doing too many jobs been the campaign and the campaign is not
running a big message. And they want -- conservatives want this to be a
big theme election.

So, unless Stuart Stevens gets out, a lot of conference will continue
to be angry and as Peggy Noonan said, she`ll look for someone like Jim
Baker to come in. But that`s not happening. This is the team Romney has
and he thinks he`s going to run on a referendum on the economy and --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. David Corn, let`s get to the substance behind the
numbers. No really care about the weaker numbers. They`re going to shift
around.

It seems to me Romney has dug his own grave. He`s the guy d they
have a racially coated language about welfare.

Now, it comes out that he does believe that the people are, the down
and outers are losers. It gets out in this state. The Supreme Court in
Pennsylvania threw that back, that voter ID card, that voter suppression
thing, he approves that. He`s been with that al along. The Republican
Congress, he`s been with them and their say no and their filibustering all
along.

He`s been part of the stuff the people don`t like about the
Republican Party from day one.

CORN: You know, the interesting thing here, you know, people focus
on the campaign and the mechanics and the staff, should there be a shake-up
or not, it really is Mitt Romney.

To put it on the other side, you know, my book "Showdown", I talk
about Barack Obama really developing the strategic message of a contrast in
values and vision and really he`s running -- he`s not running his campaign,
but he`s decided the type of issues he`s going to stand on, the type of
message he`s going to bring across. It comes from him. He believes it.

Now, Mitt Romney, everything is shifting back and forth and you don`t
see a strong hand. When he didn`t say a word about the troops at the
convention, that wasn`t anyone`s fault but Mitt Romney`s.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CORN: He wants to be commander in chief and he gives a speech, the
biggest speech of his career and he doesn`t think to do that? So, a lot of
this comes from him. I don`t think he has a strong idea of what the
campaign should do for him.

MATTHEWS: As Mike Dukakis said, the fish rots from the head.

Anyway, thank you, Robert Costa.

Thank you, David Corn.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Up next, there was 60 years ago this weekend when Richard
Nixon took to the airwaves to defend himself against charges of impropriety
by the then-liberal "New York Post" while running for vice president.
That`s what he was doing back then. It became known as the "Checkers
Speech", there it is -- and it saved Nixon`s career.

Well, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with a moment in history that changed
American politics forever. Back with HARDBALL after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It was in September of 1952 that Richard Nixon gave the most
important speech of his life, the "Checkers Speech". Nixon was
Eisenhower`s running mate, as vice president facing heat for a fund that
had been uncovered where he was raising money for his political expenses.

So, he took to the airwaves to disclose every dollar he owed to the
banks for his mortgages, the loan off his life insurance, the money he
borrowed from his parents even. But it was a gift that he refused to
return that made this speech so famous.

Nixon told a story of a Texas man hearing that the Nixon girls, the
two of them, wanted a dog, and said an unexpected package to the family one
day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Do you know what it was? It
was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he had sent all the way
from Texas. Black and white, spotted, and our little girl, Tricia, the 6-
year-old named it checkers. And, you know, the kids, like all kids, love
the dog.

And I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they
say about it, we`re going to keep it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Sunday, this Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of
the "Checkers Speech," a defining moment of political transparency and, of
course, survival. And it comes just as Mitt Romney today released what
will be two years of tax returns but not the 12 his father put out or the
ones Nixon said we all should put out.

Michael Isikoff is NBC`s chief investigative national reporter and
also he reported on this anniversary.

And Jeffrey Frank is the author of the upcoming book, "Ike and Dick:
Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage."

Jeffrey, thanks for joining us.

JEFFREY FRANK, AUTHOR, "IKE AND DICK": Happy to be here.

MATTHEWS: I always remember the interesting point when Nixon was
making that demand that all the politicians should release all the facts
about their tax returns and everything else, Eisenhower broke his pencil
point. He was really listening to it. He was so angry because Nixon was
really saying to Ike, you know, you phony SOB, you won`t put out all this
information, and I`m out here on the cooker having to explain my finances.

FRANK: Yes, Nixon knew just what he was doing. He had no idea what
Eisenhower did not want to reveal, which was that namely Eisenhower had
gotten a great tax deal himself. His memoir "Crusading Europe" had earned
him $650,000, and he paid the capital gains tax on it, not an income tax.
So Ike didn`t want the whole world to know about that.

But the thing to really watching Nixon just now, I realize how
extraordinarily -- I mean, how -- what an extraordinary speech it was. He
was under such amazing pressure. Here`s this 39-year-old junior senator
from California, and he`s the running mate for the most beloved man in
America, the man who had led the Allied Expeditionary Force, this five-star
general, the legendary Dwight D. Eisenhower, and he was really trying to
survive. That`s what that speech was about. He was --

MATTHEWS: You know, I agree with everything you said, Jeff. I have
very interesting feelings about Richard Nixon, he`s very complicated, as we
all know, the guy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Michael Isikoff, today`s implications, it`s one thing to
say that Romney is not meeting his father`s standard in all the 12 years he
put out when he ran for president, but not to meet Nixon`s standards,
that`s a tough one -- the event.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATL. INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: What
struck me about the speech which I reread after reading Jeff`s excellent
book is that it was -- we all remember about Checkers, we remember about
Nixon fighting for his survivable. But the issue was financial disclosure,
about putting everything on the table, telling everything about his
finances. That`s what Nixon was doing. That was the spirit of the
Checkers speech, and that resonates right to the 2012 campaign.

But what was so fascinating about it was, as you read it through,
after Nixon goes through this litany, naming his Oldsmobile, his mortgage,
how much he paid for -- in life insurance, how much he owes his mother. He
goes through that, and he says, "OK, now let`s talk about the Democrats."

He makes a sly reference to Adlai Stevenson`s wealth. I have no
problem with Governor Stevenson, who inherited a fortune from his father
running for president. But then he talks about how John Sparkman, the vice
presidential candidate, had his wife on the payroll. And he says, now that
I`ve done what I`ve done, it`s time for Stevenson and Sparkman to do the
same thing, release every detail about their finances -- and this was the
really brilliant twist -- and if they don`t, the American public can
conclude they`ve got something to hide.

Exactly the charge the Obama campaign is now making today about Mitt
Romney.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t it funny, Jeff? You`ve written about this great
history. It`s so rich and redolent of what I remember. As a kid, it was
obviously before I was really paying attention, but it`s so `50s, it`s so -
- the double breasted suit. It`s the whole thing.

Let me ask you did you think about Nixon`s statement there? We have
to basically take our clothes off financially to get by in politics these
days. Do you think about its current residence?

FRANK: I mean, just thinking about Nixon, Nixon was in a completely
desperation situation. That`s what completely astounds me about it.

Half an hour before he went on the air, he was at the El Capitan
Theater in Los Angeles. He gets a call from Thomas Dewy. He says, Dick, I
hate to tell you this, but when you finish your speech, I`ve been talking
to all of Ike`s advisers and we think you should offer your formal
resignation from the ticket. There`s a long silence.

And Nixon doesn`t know what lead this, and Dewey goes and says,
furthermore, we think you should resign your Senate seat, and you can run
in a special election and win this huge plurality and you`ll be a great
hero.

MATTHEWS: You know what Nixon said? Nixon said, he said, tell them
to watch the show.

FRANK: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Tell them I know something about politics too.

FRANK: And he really did.

MATTHEWS: What a shot he took at these guys.

FRANK: And he really did. He had earlier said this is up to General
Eisenhower, but what he did on the speech was say, it`s up to the
Republican National Committee.

MATTHEWS: Turn it over to the Reince Priebus of those days, the
important guy, the general who eat the Nazis.

Anyway, thank you, Michael. I look forward to that book. It`s
seating on my shelves.

Jeffrey Frank, you`ll be back on to talk about it when it comes to
pub date.

When we return, let me finish tonight with a question: What is Mitt
Romney hiding in those tax returns? He`s taking all this heat. Why is he
taking the heat if there`s nothing in there? Simple question, I`m going to
ask it.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

I still want to see Mitt Romney`s tax returns. It`s one thing not to
be this beloved father standing for disclosure. I think you ought to at
least belly up to Richard Nixon`s.

The only real question voters have to think about here is why? With
all the pressure on him, Romney is keeping his returns a secret, at least
to us. His accountants and lawyers know what he`s paid, know where he`s
made his money, where he`s invested it and under what terms and why. This
little caucus of people know the facts, why not us?

You see, this isn`t some family secret, some old story the family has
a perfect right to keep to itself. It`s about some failing in the part of
the family members, some fight between an uncle and aunt or something.
It`s not about a problem a child might have had.

No, it`s simply business information, business information. Isn`t
this guy running on how he`s done business? Isn`t this his resume? Didn`t
he make a fortune in business, enough money to get out there, drop
everything and run for the country`s highest office? Won`t historians want
to know he pull it off? Shouldn`t the voters who put him into the history
books as one of the presidents know it? Shouldn`t they know as much so
they can figure out the guy`s record, his methods, his attitudes towards
citizenship?

Romney probably figures and the people around him probably console
him with this, that he`s outrun the foxes on this, that the more time that
passes, the better he can evade the demands, but I wonder.

Mitt Romney is hiding those tax returns for 10 of the 12 years --
past 12 years. There`s a reason why he`s doing it, and it just may fit in
what he`s been saying -- caught saying about the haves and the have-nots in
this country, what he really thinks of the duty of Americans to pay their
fair share, especially knows, who in Mitt`s favorite word, have achieved
success.

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.
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