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updated 9/28/2012 11:30:16 AM ET 2012-09-28T15:30:16

HARDBALL
September 27, 2012

Guest: Bob Shrum, John Feehery, Jim Graves, Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Tomasky

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Romney losing his bearings.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. Why do we have such long campaigns for
president? I`ll give you a reason. Because it`s a tryout, a chance to not
just kick the tires, not just to look under the hood but to actually take
the car out for a drive.

Over the past several weeks, this country has experienced what it`s
like being in a car with Mitt Romney. We`ve felt the swerves, the sudden
shifts, the abrupt stops and reverses, the reckless changes of lanes, the
slipping and the sliding. There`s more road ahead, of course, including
three debates, but we`re getting a sense that this guy doesn`t know exactly
where he`s going or even on how to drive this car.

And the big question is, why is he having such a tough time? Why does
he seem, dare we say it, confused? Could it be because he doesn`t know
where he`s trying to take us, because he doesn`t know where he wants to go?
As David Axelrod said, campaigns are like an MRI for the soul. Whoever you
are, eventually, people find out.

Joining me now are the two men who wrote the book that resulted in a
sweep of four Emmys this week, "Game Change" authors John Heilemann of "New
York" magazine and Mark Halperin of "Time." Gentlemen, thank you for
joining us.

Right now, never has Mitt Romney`s ability to shape-shift more -- more
on display than yesterday. It involved health care reform, the issue he
can`t decide whether to run from or embrace. So he did both in the same
day. In an interview with NBC`s Ron Allen, Romney said his health care
plan up in Massachusetts, the one that the Obama plan is modeled after,
shows his compassion. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Throughout this
campaign, as well, we`ve talked about my record in Massachusetts. Don`t
forget, I got everybody in my state insured. A hundred percent of the kids
in our state have health insurance. I don`t think there`s anything that
shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind
of record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, shortly after that -- very shortly, a matter of two
hours or so -- Romney spoke before a Toledo, Ohio, crowd to denounce
Obama`s Affordable Care Act, which is based on his Massachusetts plan.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I will repeal "Obama care" and replace it with real health
care reform!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: "Obama care" is really exhibit number one of the president`s
political philosophy, and that is that government knows better than people
how to run their lives!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it. I think -- I don`t know what you
can say. He`s talking to Ron Allen, a straight news reporter. And by the
way, this is the third episode here in a matter of hours. At a Univision
forum last week, Romney admitted that he`d take credit for "Obama care"
except during the primaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I have experience in health care reform. Now and then, the
president says I`m the grandfather of "Obama care." I don`t think he meant
that as a compliment, but I`ll take it. This was during my primary. We
thought it might not be helpful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it, Mark, and then John. Speaking to
a straight news reporter for NBC, Ron Allen, he says something that`s
sounds somewhat supportive of what he`s done in Massachusetts. Then he
goes before a partisan crowd, he takes it all back and lashes out at "Obama
care." And then before a group he assumes to be a bit more liberal, a
Univision Hispanic crowd, he goes back in favor of it again, saying, I take
that not as a compliment but I`ll accept it anyway.

And there you go -- what is this guy? He`s like a bobblehead.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I`ve not
been as dubious about the notion of you could be for a certain type of
policy at the state level but not think it`s a good idea for Washington to
do it. But when you extend the rhetoric to the morality of covering all
children and the morality of universal health care, then I think it`s a
harder case to make.

And you know, Governor Romney is getting a lot of criticism in the
press, some even on this channel. I separate the two types of criticism.
The kind you`re talking about comes not just from journalists or pundits,
but almost any Republican we know who`s not on Mitt Romney`s payroll will
tell you that that`s just not the kind of inconsistency that he can afford
at this point, given the deficits he faces.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, John.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
look, Chris, I just think he`s in an untenable position and he has been all
along. The bottom line on Mitt Romney is that he is proud of his
Massachusetts health care law. There`s part of him that wants to defend
it. There`s part of him that`s always wanted to defend it.

And he found himself running in a Republican primary where he couldn`t
defend it forthrightly, as I think what his heart would have wanted to do.
And so he twisted himself up in a lot of knots.

I think there`s some theoretical way in which you could be in favor of
-- make a federalist argument, but he hasn`t made that argument
consistently, either. The truth is, he should have just stood up and said,
you know, the individual mandate is, in fact, a conservative policy. It
was invented at the Heritage Foundation. It was embraced by conservatives
as recently as a decade ago. And he could have stood by that, made the
argument for Massachusetts health care...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... and just told conservatives that that was what the
conservative position was. He didn`t have the guts to do that and he tried
to find a middle ground. And so he`s ended up in this very bizarre
position where he`s had to pirouette on this crazy tightrope, where he`s
saying, you know, My law is great, but the federal law which -- the core
element of which is the individual mandate, is bad.

It`s not, I think, intellectually tenable and it`s politically
ridiculous.

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is doing it again on the tax issue. He`s
pushed the idea that the president`s raised taxes. Here he tries to make
the point using his interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling on "Obama
care," his interpretation. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: By the way, the president has now raised taxes on the middle
class as so determined by the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And then this week, Romney mangles his message by saying
Obama didn`t raise taxes in his first term but might in his second term.
Let`s listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, he`s got one new idea. I admit this. He has one thing
he did not do in his first four years he said he`s going to do in the next
four years, which is to raise taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So which is it, Mark? Did he or didn`t he, or is he about
to and hasn`t yet?

HALPERIN: Well, again, I`ll probably have a more charitable
interpretation.

MATTHEWS: Well, go ahead with your -- your interpretation is the one
we want.

HALPERIN: I mean, I think he was talking about -- my sense is, from
what I`ve been told, he was talking about raising the marginal tax rates,
rather than raising any taxes as are raised for some in "Obama care."

MATTHEWS: Well, OK, well, that`s charitable, you`re right.

HALPERIN: But I`ll say -- I`ll say what -- I`ll say a version of what
I said before. He`s not at the point where he can afford either to create
distractions...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HALPERIN: ... through loose rhetoric or to have a muddled message
that doesn`t give people a sense of where his heart is, as you said at the
beginning.

I`m just amazed that at this stage -- he`s been a candidate for five
years now -- that he`s still just being that sloppy in a way that`s
distracting from trying to drive a real message that could help him make up
the gaps he has now.

MATTHEWS: Well, Jack Kennedy once said of Dick Nixon, he said, I feel
sorry for the guy because he doesn`t know which Dick Nixon to be on any
particular day.

Now, here`s a deep problem here. It`s not just catching this guy.
It`s not "gotcha" journalism here. He wants the support of the Tea Party
crowd, of course. He needs them, John and Mark, but he would never be a
Tea Party person. He wouldn`t show up at one of those yahoo wild yipee-hi-
yay kind of politics of, We don`t like government.

He`s not been a life-long foreign policy hawk, but of course, he wants
the support of the neocon community out there. He wants people who are
very hawkish.

He`s not a member of the religious right. He doesn`t run around
Liberty University or hang around with Jerry Falwell, but he wants their
support. He`s not really a Ryan Republican ideologue conviction
politician, but he, of course, put him on the ticket.

Starting with you, John, isn`t that the fundamental problem with the
guy? He wants to date these people through the election. He wants their
support, but he doesn`t want to be one of them. He doesn`t want to marry
them. Is that true?

HEILEMANN: Yes. Look, Chris, I think he`s a person who is -- who is
fundamentally ill-suited to being the Republican nominee, given what the
Republican Party currently is. And you can say that on a bunch of
different levels. It`s an evangelical party and he`s a Mormon. It`s a
Southern and Western country -- Southern -- Southwestern -- South -- and
Southern and Western party, he`s Northeasterner. It`s a populist party.
He`s more or less an establishmentarian.

He had a relatively simple what he wanted to say in this campaign. He
wanted to way, Barack Obama has failed as an economic steward and I`m a
business guy and so I know how to create jobs. And as soon as that fell
away, as soon as people started to think the economy was doing better, as
soon as people started to think that this was about policies for the future
and not just about a referendum on the past, he`s found himself adrift in
terms of what the message is that he wants to hew to.

And he does feel as though this is a base election. He needs to stir
up the Republican base. And he doesn`t have the kind of natural connection
to that base that some of his -- that many other people in the party, some
of the people he ran against and some of whom he didn`t run against, have.

MATTHEWS: Is that true, Mark, that all -- the only requirement to run
for the Republican -- to be the Republican nominee this year looked like
several months back just not be Obama, just be a Republican? And it`s
gotten tougher because somehow, maybe because of the Clinton speech in
Charlotte or what economic numbers slightly changing, perhaps, you have to
make a bigger case than, I`m just not Obama.

HALPERIN: Well, I think that the case which they did at the
Republican convention in one -- what turned out to be a stray remark was to
say, What makes you think the next four years will be better for you
economically than the first four years of an Obama presidency?

I think that the economy -- you can look at some macro-statistics and
say things are better in some ways, but I think there are still people who
have a lot of doubt about what`s going to happen next. Talk to anybody
who`s doing focus groups now and ask people in groups, What does the
president plan to do in another four years if he`s reelected?

MATTHEWS: Right.

HALPERIN: People don`t know. And so Mitt Romney still has an
opportunity, I think, to not only say...

MATTHEWS: Well, you can say the same about Mitt Romney.

HALPERIN: You could. You could. But the president`s got a record of
four years that a lot of Americans aren`t happy with.

But he`s not -- he`s not coming close to driving that message. He`s
still doing one event a day, for the most part. He`s still more likely to
do a bad television interview that says nothing or creates a negative
story...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: ... or have some old video pop out. I mean, again, this is
not left-wing pundits or reporters who don`t like Mitt Romney. This is
what every Republican I talk to is saying, scratching their head, saying,
How can he continue to waste another day? I`m just looking at my calendar
every day. When`s he going to win a single news cycle?

MATTHEWS: Yes, what I would argue more positive for Obama and say
that he`s doubled the stock market. He`s taken the unemployment rate from
double digits down to 8. If he does that again, he`ll take it down to 6.
I mean, if you want to say I`ll take it another couple -- 2 or 3 points
further. I mean, just stay on that continuum.

Let`s take a look at this, a new Obama campaign ad just put out, a
powerful ad airing in swing states that uses Romney`s own words against
him. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the
president no matter what, who are dependent upon government, who believe
that they`re victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to
care for them, who believe that they`re entitled to health care, to food,
to housing, to you name it. And they will vote for this president no
matter what. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I`ll never
convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for
their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think of that ad, guys? You first, Mark.

HALPERIN: You know, when the video first came out of Governor Romney
talking, I wasn`t sure if it would have a long shelf life. But it has a
lot of resonance with voters. It certainly has a lot of resonance with the
chattering class.

And that ad is subtle, but it draws -- they clearly think it`s going
to draw on the feelings that a lot of voters have and an awareness that a
lot of voters have. And particularly on a day when Governor Romney is
trying to drive the message about veterans and support for the military, to
feature some people from the military in that spot -- this is going to be a
thing they come back to again and again and again.

And I`ll say I don`t think Governor Romney has dealt with it
effectively. You can`t go out and assert that you care about people.
You`ve got to do something, I think, that shows people in an emotional and
concrete and resonant way. And he`s not solved that yet amongst the
problems he still has to solve.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Your thoughts, John? What I like about it is it
shows that poverty and working poor -- the working poor phenomenon in this
country, where you work very hard but you don`t make enough to live above
the poverty level, is not an inner-city situation alone. It creates a
larger notion of another America out there that`s much more diverse and
much more realistic, I think.

Your thoughts, John.

HEILEMANN: Well, Chris, I agree with that. I`ll also say there`s
nothing more powerful than a negative ad that uses nothing but the words
from the person who -- out of the mouth of the person who the ad is
attacking.

You know, you think about the way that Tina Fey set up Sarah Palin...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... on "Saturday Night Live" four years ago by literally
just saying the things that she said in an interview with Katie Couric.
What was so devastating about that was those were her words. You didn`t
have to write a script.

In this same case, the 47 percent thing, I think, is devastating. And
Mark talked a little while ago about the people talking -- we talk to
people all the time who are doing focus groups on the Republican side and
the Democratic side.

This is cutting with voters. Voters do think that there`s
something...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... that`s really toxic here. And there`s a reason why
this is the third ad the Obama campaign has put up on this 47 percent
thing. They`re putting up those ads because they`re working. And this ad
in particular, I think, again because it`s in Mitt Romney`s own voice, is
just a sign of exactly how much trouble that videotape continues to cause
him in places where it matters.

MATTHEWS: And John and Mark, I also think the (ph) own (ph) words
counts when he makes references -- they`re not the biggest thing in the
world, but they -- telling in a way when he says that we`re not going to
let people just die in their apartments, people that don`t have health
insurance. We`re going to pick them up and get them to the hospital -- the
idea that everybody who`s poor and doesn`t have health insurance lives in
probably some urban apartment, when there`s people all across the country
in different kinds of rural areas and suburban areas who aren`t covered by
health insurance today, even though they`re working 40 hours a week.

I think these are little things. They`re not evil. But they do
suggest a certain narrow view of what the problem is that isn`t really
complete at all.

Anyway, thank you Mark Halperin, and thank you, John Heilemann.

HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: How do you spot a campaign in trouble? When you
hear reporters -- actually, supporters say it`s still early or, You should
see our internal polling. Well, you can bet in those cases, the candidate
is probably headed for defeat. And right now, the GOP is trotting out the
granddaddy of all excuses -- the polls are wrong. All of them! We`re
going to talk in a minute about the self-delusion of Republicans that`s
popping up right now.

Also, breaking up is hard to do. The Republican Party broke up with
Missouri`s Todd Akin, of course, after his "legitimate rape" comments, but
with Akin still within striking distance of Claire McCaskill -- at least
until her ad campaign starts -- look who`s thinking about getting back
together. The GOP may have decided it`s better to live with the author of
"legitimate rape" than to have the Democrats retain control of the Senate.

And which Republican would Democrats most like to pick off in
November? Well, here`s some few. Michele Bachmann, Joe Walsh, Allen West.
With polls moving their way, Democrats are daring to dream of delivering
them from evil.

Anyway, finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my favorite teacher`s
wife and how much she wants to vote and how the new Pennsylvania voter
photo law is stopping her from voting.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The presidential race is being fought in a handful of
states, as you know, and to find out where the real action is, just check
the top advertising markets where the campaigns are spending the most
dollars on TV ads.

At number five, starting from the bottom, right here in Washington,
D.C., which reaches the critical northern suburbs of Virginia. Number four
is Tampa, Florida, and St. Pete. Number three, Cleveland. Number two is
Orlando, also in Florida.

The top market this week for ads in the presidential campaign,
Madison, Wisconsin, one of the great places in the 1960s to be in.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. What do you do when your candidate is
trailing in the polls? Well, you blame the pollsters. Over the past
several days, right-wing radio and television pundits have gone wild with
the new Republican talking thought: The polls are wrong. Pay no attention
to what you`re seeing or what you`re hearing that Obama is up.

According to some on Fox, for example, and elsewhere, the pollsters
are all in the president`s back pocket and they can`t be trusted, including
Fox`s polls, apparently.

Here`s Dick Morris staggering even Sean Hannity on Fox News this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK MORRIS, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: ... as he`s at the moment in a very
strong position. I believe if the election were held today, Romney would
win by 4 or 5 points. I believe he would carry Florida, Ohio, Virginia. I
believe he would carry Nevada. I believe he would carry Pennsylvania...

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS "HANNITY": Oh, come on!

MORRIS: ... Pennsylvania, and I believe he would be competitive in
Michigan. People need to understand that the polling this year is the
worst it`s ever been because this is the first election where if I tell you
who`s going to vote, I can tell you how they`re going to vote. And the
models these folks are using are crazy. They assume a Democratic edge of 6
or 7 points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, we`re all wrong in this business. We make
mistakes. He`s the only guy I know who knows he`s wrong when he says this
stuff, Dick Morris. Anyway, in the eyes of Republicans, the problem isn`t
that their candidate is bad, it`s that the polls are conspiring all to
bring him down.

Michael Tomasky`s a special correspondent for "Newsweek" the
DailyBeast, and Ron Reagan`s an MSNBC political analyst and author of "My
Father at 100."

Ron -- I guess, Ron, I have to start with you because you`re a
sympathetic voice when it comes to common sense. And why would anybody
ever, ever, ever, no matter who pays them -- Roger Ailes or whoever -- ever
listen to what Dick Morris has to say about anything, especially when he
says all the polls, including Fox`s own polls, are not to be trusted
because he doesn`t like the numbers? He doesn`t like what they`re saying
this week.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s true that you sometimes imagine
that, back in the Republican green room, there`s this giant crack pipe...

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: ... that they`re all hitting on constantly, hitting it hard.

But let`s -- you know, listen...

MATTHEWS: It`s time to say don`t Bogart that, Morris, because I think
he`s been on that pipe longer than most.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But that`s just a thought.

REAGAN: It`s true. He bought the pipe, I think, and brought it into
the room.

But let`s not give them too much credit here. I mean, yes, it`s true
that...

MATTHEWS: I`m not

REAGAN: ... the rank and file -- no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: The rank and file actually believe some of this nonsense.
They believe that evolution didn`t happen, global warming is a hoax, Obama
is a Kenyan.

But the people like Dick Morris and Sean Hannity, for that matter, who
spread a lot of this kind of propaganda, they know better than this. And
there`s a method to their madness here. They`re not delusional. They`re
dishonest. They`re not crazy. They`re craven.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I hate to say it. I hate to say it, Ron, but I
believe that Sean Hannity is as smart as me or anybody else, but he says
stuff on the air that throws red meat out for that audience to just eat up.
It`s an act.

REAGAN: And what they`re trying to do...

MATTHEWS: He can`t be believing this stuff.

REAGAN: No.

And, very briefly, what they`re trying to do here and accomplish here
is to say in advance if President Obama wins this election, it`s because
the pollsters suppressed the Republican vote. It`s, therefore, an
illegitimate election, he`s not really president. They`re setting the
table for that.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let me go to Mike Tomasky.

You cover this. You`re nonpartisan. I don`t know what your politics
are. But you can tell me if you want. But it seems to me that they could
say something else. They could say, OK, this week we`re behind two or
three. We`re within the margin of error, but these debates are going to be
important. And the people are going to get serious about this thing.

There`s a lot of different ways to interpret these numbers than to
deny them.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, but denial is what they do,
and work up their base is what they do, Chris. That`s how they -- they
define their movement in large part by their enemies. And they got to get
their people worked up. And they got to get themselves worked up.

MATTHEWS: So they`re...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the couple on the cage here...

TOMASKY: Yes. Yes. They are.

But I`m not entirely sure that Hannity doesn`t believe some of this
stuff himself. You know...

MATTHEWS: You have a low estimate of his I.Q. I have a higher
estimate. Your thoughts, but go ahead.

TOMASKY: No, look, polls -- pollsters aren`t going to stack the deck
on who is -- what they`re complaining about is the sampling, how many
Democrats are in this poll and how many Republicans are in this poll.

And it is true. They have one little smidgen of a point. OK? It is
true a lot of these polls have been showing more Democrats than
Republicans. But this is the misunderstanding or the mis...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: More Democrats than Republicans exist or what?

TOMASKY: Pollsters ask people to take their poll -- let me back up.

MATTHEWS: But isn`t the latest polling showing that there is lower
Republican I.D. in the last six months than there was six months ago?

TOMASKY: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: That there`s a reduction in actual the number of people who
say I`m a Republican?

TOMASKY: Yes. That`s what it`s showing.

Now, these conservatives are trying to say that this is intentional,
this is a setup by "The New York Times" and all these other pollsters. But
that`s nonsense. That`s crazy.

MATTHEWS: Where is this meeting supposed to happen?

TOMASKY: Where is the what?

MATTHEWS: Where is this meeting supposed to happen where all the
pollsters get together?

TOMASKY: Yes. Yes. Yes. Exactly. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Don`t they compete with each other to prove they`re right?

TOMASKY: Well, of course they do. Of course they do.

MATTHEWS: Don`t they get paid by local TV...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is something, Ron, that`s very important.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... tells you about polling. Polling is like rating
services, like we are all governed by here and judged by. They get paid to
be right. They get paid by sponsors at local TV affiliates like ABC up in
Boston or whatever, any local station down here, right? WRC down here,
they pay pollsters to be right.

Why would you have pollsters who were being paid by somebody to be
wrong? They have clients.

REAGAN: It`s a mystery, but we do know that some polling outfits tend
to favor Republicans and some tend to favor Democrats.

Rasmussen, for instance, which is a polling outfit that typically has
Romney with higher numbers than say PPP or some of the others...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s why we call it the outlier.

REAGAN: Yes, that`s right. But that`s the one the Republicans cite
all the time. They say, see, the Rasmussen poll has us dead even, so I
guess we`re dead even and those other half a dozen or dozen polls, they
don`t count. They`re part of the conspiracy.

MATTHEWS: We`re going underwater now to the underwater walrus, Ron.

Now to your point. Rush Limbaugh warned this week that pollsters are
conspiring -- I can`t do the voice -- conspiring to suppress Republican
voters. Let`s hear his indignation. Here is the underwater walrus
himself, Rush Limbaugh.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They are designed to do exactly
what I have warned you to be vigilant about, and that is to depress you and
to suppress your vote. These two polls today are designed to convince
everybody this election is over.

There could be a lot of reasons for this, voter suppression, voter
depression, set up the possibility of allegations of voter fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Speaking of depression, where did he get that shirt?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It looks like -- it`s like the devil`s idea of an NFL ref`s
uniform.

Anyway, Mike Tomasky, why is Rush doing this? Because he`s talking to
the drivers out there in their cars from 12:00 to 3:00 Eastern.

TOMASKY: Yes. Exactly. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He`s getting to them, saying the femi-Nazis are getting
you. Now the pollsters are getting you. Everybody is up against you, but
I`m for you.

TOMASKY: Yes.

That`s it. It`s all about the enemies. Of course, it starts with the
media. It starts with the liberal media. The liberal media wants Mitt
Romney to lose, is in Barack Obama`s back pocket and so on and so forth.
And now it extend to the pollsters. The pollsters are supposedly rigging
these things.

Nobody is rigging anything. Nobody is rigging anything. In fact,
what the voter I.D. in those polls is showing, Chris, as you know, it`s
showing that the Republican Party, that fewer and fewer people who are
being called by these polls want to call themselves Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Well, what caused -- what happened there in six months to
make them not do that? What`s real? I think it`s the Republican House...

(CROSSTALK)

TOMASKY: A bad candidate, the Republican House, a party that`s gone
way off into the right, into la-la land, and a bad convention vs. a good
Democratic Convention and this video. It`s just events...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I thought all these middle-of-the-road and slightly
conservative people I grew up with in the suburbs around Philly and places
like around Chicago and New York, they see that party flipping over to the
crazy side.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Tomasky.

And I think the president has been very good at positioning himself
much closer to the center than they`d like, the other party.

TOMASKY: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Ron Reagan, you`re great. I love your sense of
humor. You`re great.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I said to people. You`re great.

Anyway, in your case, it`s true.

Up next; George W. Bush turns up in an embarrassing place for Mitt
Romney. Wait until you catch this. Wait until you find out where he`s
speaking like right before the Election Day, George W., just to bring the
house down.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

There are a few things the Romney campaign doesn`t want to talk about,
his comments about the 47 percent who he said on that tape will never take
responsibility for their lives, tax returns, investments in the Cayman
Islands.

Well, we`re all seeing those come back from all sides. First to the
late night scene and some revamped campaign ads for Romney. Here is David
Letterman on the release of Romney`s tax returns.

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Mitch Romney
released his 2011 tax returns, and that`s not all. Take a look.

NARRATOR: Last week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
released his 2011 income taxes, and after numerous requests, Mitt has also
decided to release his tax forms from the last 20 years.

There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m Mitch Romney, and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Jimmy Kimmel took on Romney`s attempt to convince
voters that he can empathize with struggling Americans in the aftermath of
those comments on the 47 percent of Americans he said don`t even take care
for their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Too many Americans are
struggling to find work in today`s economy. Too many of those who are
working are living paycheck to paycheck.

More Americans are living in poverty than when President Obama took
off, and 15 million more are on food stamps.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: My plan will create 12 million new jobs over the next four
years. We shouldn`t measure compassion by how many people are on welfare.
We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare
and get a good-paying job.

I`m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Lobster.

Anyway, now shifting to jobs, how did President Obama turn a slip of
the tongue regarding his jobs plan into a knock at his opponent? Well,
here he is in Ohio yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me repeat. The
plan that I have put forward, practical, specific five-point plan to grow
our middle class, create strong jobs.

First thing is, I want to see us export more jobs -- export more
products. Excuse me.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I was -- I was channeling my opponent there for a second.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was a quick save.

Anyway, the Obama campaign has continually argued that Bain Capital,
which Romney ran as CEO, invested in companies that moved jobs overseas.

Finally, Romney`s offshore investments in places like the Cayman
Islands and his campaign`s tendency to sweep the presidency of George W.
Bush under the rug. Our last Republican president was notably absent of
course from the Republican Convention in Tampa and mentions of his stint in
office as president have been close to zero from the Romney campaign.

Well, talk about a perfect storm. Where will W. be just five days
before the election? You won`t believe this, headlining an alternative
investment event in the Cayman Islands, along with British billionaire Sir
Richard Branson. The Cayman Alternative Investment Summit is a hub for
businesspeople and investors to discuss and promote offshore investments, a
place where Democrats will point out Romney is right at home.

Bush is the keynote speaker on the event`s first night, November 1.
What a favor W. is doing Romney here.

Up next: The Republican Party bailed on Missouri`s Todd Akin after
his legitimate rape comments. But with Akin hanging tough against Claire
McCaskill, the Republicans may be willing to life with Akin if it helps
them win control of the Senate. Apparently, that`s what`s going on.

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 gained 72 points, the S&P rises 14, and the Nasdaq adds 43
points. Google shares continue their march upward, hitting another all-
time high. One firm raised its price target on the stock to $860 a share.

As for the economy, jobless claims fell by 26,000 to 359,000, the
lowest level in two months. However, orders for long-lasting durable goods
plummeted 13.2 percent, the most in three-and-a-half years.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Remember last month after Todd Akin made this comment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: It seems to me, first of all, from what
I understand from doctors, that`s really rare. If it`s a legitimate rape,
the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hmm. Anyway, they tried to shut him down. Republicans
from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Rush
Limbaugh all urged Akin to get out of the race after he said that.

Karl Rove`s American Crossroads super PAC pulled their money from him.
And then while talking to donors, Rove made this, his thinking about what
Akin was doing to the party, crystal-clear. He said: "We should sink Todd
Akin. If he`s found mysteriously murdered, don`t look for my whereabouts."

Hmm. That`s Karl.

Anyway, the National Republican Senate Committee also pulled funds
from Akin`s race. Its chairman, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, said last
week, just last week, he had a simple answer on their involvement with Akin
going forward. He told "The Hill" newspaper -- quote -- "We`re done."

Well, that was then, this is now. The deadline for Akin to remove
himself from the ballot has passed, and slowly Republicans are rejoining
the Akin bandwagon, if you can call it that.

The National Republican Senate Committee, for example, said yesterday,
"As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in
November, and we will continue to monitor his race closely in the days
ahead."

So have Republicans decided Akin isn`t as bad as they once thought?

Bob Shrum is a Democratic strategist. John Feehery is a Republican
strategist.

Gentlemen, I have to give a little bit of help there to Feehery
because this may be his hardest test yet.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But let`s go to you, Shrum, because I like the way you
punch.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Akin ain`t any better now, is he, than he was right after
he said that, politically speaking? Your thoughts.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, and he`s done more.

The Republicans were who are in the midair phase of this flip-flop say
they were going to reconsider when he criticized and attacked Claire
McCaskill today for not being ladylike. He`s a gift that keeps on giving.

But they`re reconsidering for several reasons. One, Romney is fading.
Two, their prospects of controlling the Senate are fading. And they may
need that seat to do it, although I don`t think they will get that seat.
And, three, they were getting a lot of pressure from the Tea Party folks,
from people like Jim DeMint, from Newt Gingrich, from Rick Santorum, as if
those guys hadn`t done enough for the Republican Party already this year by
forcing Romney way to the right.

But this is a really hard decision politically and practically for
Republicans to make. First, it`s going to cost a lot of money if they go
back in. They canceled all the airtime. To buy the spots now would cost
five or six times more than the money that they already had there in the
first place.

Secondly, it`s not politically good for the Republican Party or for
Mitt Romney or for their Senate and House candidates to be associated in
any way with this guy. They already have a huge gender gap.

Look, he didn`t drop out. The voters are going to drop him in November and
maybe Feehery will tell me he dissents from this, and I`m sure he does.
But privately a lot of Republicans will say this guy can`t win.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Well, I want John to address the thing that
just broke, the news here today. You referred to how he referred to this -
- this is Todd Akin, how, the Republican here -- how he referred to his
Democratic opponent, the incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. Let`s look at
this, what he said today and why it may be a problem for him, even not as
big as the earlier one.

He said, quote, "She," that was his opponent, his opponent, "was very
aggressive at the debate this past week, which was quite different than it
was when she ran against Jim Talent." That was her opponent last time.
"She had a confidence and was much more ladylike back then. But in the
debate on Friday, she came out swinging. I think that`s because she feels
threatened."

I don`t know. Sometimes I wonder whether we`re too tough, but, you
know, this idea that women have to hit their golf ball from the ladies tee,
politically, that somehow they have to be ladylike in a tough brawl of a
campaign.

Do you think that`s still a nice way to talk, or the correct way, the
appropriate way to talk to your opponent politically if they`re a female
that they have to be ladylike? Does anybody say you have to be a gentleman
in politics these days? I`m just asking, John Feehery. Is this OK? Yes,
go ahead.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It would be nice if we were all
gentlemen and if they were ladies and all the whole nine yards, but the
fact of the matter is, ladies punch just as hard as men in politics.

MATTHEWS: Shouldn`t they?

FEEHERY: Of course they should. That`s the game.

At the end of the day, the reason we`re talking about this race is
Claire McCaskill is still in a pretty weak position. She`s probably -- I
would give her the edge at winning but I think that Akin has got a very
good shot at winning, otherwise we wouldn`t care this much.

You know, to defend the NRSC, they want to put in the best candidate
they could, and it was not Akin at the time. They wished they would have
got him out thereof and had someone else in. But now they`ve got him,
they`ve got to stick with him, and he still has a relatively decent shot of
winning because Claire McCaskill is still very weak.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s check on that. Let`s take a look at the ad
they put together. This is an ad that the American Bridge, the Democratic
group, has put out against him. I think it displays the fact this guy`s
problems go well beyond saying women are not to be trusted on charges of
rape and things like that. This goes over the whole issues of this guy`s
vulnerability.

I want Bob to jump on it and then you respond. Let`s listen to this
ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: Now, Social Security -- through the
years, for many, many people -- has been a terrible investment. It`s
really a tax is all it is. Social Security is a tax.

INTERVIEWER: Are you saying for younger people, there will be some
privatization of it or not?

AKIN: Well, if it were up to me, yes, I think that that`s a good
idea.

This bill is called the hate crimes bill. This bill increases hatred
in America. If a foreign power had done to America what the Department of
Education had done, it would be considered an act of war.

The minimum wage can be destructive.

RADIO HOST: Do you know what the minimum wage is?

AKIN: My guess is it`s somewhere in the six or seven.

Now, if you wanted to destroy jobs, what would you do? Just playing
like you are the devil, and we have one pretty close to that.

And yet we have terrorists in our own culture called abortionists.

I just don`t really believe in the whole theory of global warming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s quite an array to pick from there, Bob.
Abortionists are terrorists. Social Security, it should be privatized.
Hate crimes lead to hate.

It`s a long list to suggest that this guy is not what I would call a
mainstream conservative Republican even.

SHRUM: Yes. For once, I want to second what Feehery said. The
national Republican Party obviously wanted a different Senate candidate.
They supported a different Senate candidate. And after he made the
comments, Akin made the comments about legitimate rape, a lot of people, as
you said, Romney, Ryan, Cornyn, the whole Republican establishment said, we
don`t want to support this guy, he should drop out. He can drop out up
until September 25th.

September 25th passed, things have not been going well for the GOP,
and so you have some people saying we have to double down and we have to
help this guy.

Look, does he have some chance to win? Yes, I think it`s very small.
I think in the end, when people see all of this stuff and it`s not just the
rape stuff but they`re going to see all of this stuff and how extreme he
is, he`s going to have a very, very hard time.

I also think, by the way, nobody is talking about this -- the polls
on the presidential race have narrowed substantially in Missouri. I think
that`s Todd Akin`s gift to the Romney campaign.

MATTHEWS: Quickly, John, how do you justify calling abortion an act
of terrorism where it`s the woman normally who makes the call to get the
procedure done? I mean, whatever you think, we`ll argue about this the
rest of our lives, but to call it terrorism -- how do you justify it?

FEEHERY: Well, Chris, I`m pro-life, so I believe --

MATTHEWS: But do you call it terrorism if --

FEEHERY: I don`t use those terms but I`m pro-life.

Listen, getting back to Todd Akin, you know, he`s still got a shot.
I think that Claire McCaskill is a weak candidate. He`s not our best
candidate. I wish we had a better candidate, t we don`t. So, I think a
lot of these conservative groups are going to support Todd Akin and
Missouri is still a conservative state, and I do think that he`s got a 49
percent to 49.5 percent chance of winning this thing.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he should be in the U.S. Senate?

FEEHERY: Listen, this is for the people of Missouri to decide.

MATTHEWS: No, do you think he should be in the U.S. Senate?

FEEHERY: Well, I would have voted for someone else in a primary,
let`s put it that way.

MATTHEWS: Sarah Steelman, probably I guess. Anyway, thank you very
much, John. Nice try, nice dodge there by the way. John Feehery dodges
the ball. Anyway -- and he should.

Anyway, Bob Shrum, thank you.

SHRUM: Take care.

MATTHEWS: Up next, which Tea Party candidate would Democrats most
like to beat this year? Let me give you a slew -- Michele Bachmann, there
she is. Joe Walsh, there he is. Allen West? What a group? They have new
reasons to be hopeful. The Democrats might knock a couple of them off.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got two new polls in that voter ID law in
Pennsylvania. The people in the Keystone State say they like it, a
majority do, at least. A new Quinnipiac Poll says 62 percent of
Pennsylvanians support the law, 35 percent oppose it.

Same story in a new Franklin and Marshall poll where 59 percent say
they support it, 39 percent against it.

But the law may be blocked as taking effect as a state judge
determines who it could disenfranchised legitimate voters, a decision that
may be made by Tuesday of next week.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Most of the attention this campaign, understandably, been focused on
the presidency but Democrats are beginning to dream, what if, what if they
can kick off some of the Tea Party bogeymen and women who have come to
represent the worst of rightwing extremism since the Tea Party revolution
of 2010? Michele Bachmann, Joe Walsh, Steve King, Allen West. Democrats
think, wouldn`t it be lovely?

Well, with me now is Jim Graves. He`s running against Michele
Bachmann in Minnesota. And Nia-Malika Henderson, a political reporter for
"The Washington Post".

Nia, stand by for a second. I want Mr. Graves. He`s running against
Michele Bachmann.

And we sort of created here on HARDBALL, we`re going to show you how
we created her. She was our Frankenstein`s monster you might say.

I want you to look at this and tell me how you`re going to deal with
this first and defeat her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How many people in the Congress of the United States you
think are anti-American? You`ve already suspected Barack Obama. Is he
alone or are there others? How many do you suspect as being un-American?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: What I would say -- what I
would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a
look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great
look at the view of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro
America or anti-America.

I think people would love to see an expose like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Graves, I hate to admit, I shirked on that
response, but have not conducted a Joe McCarthy probe of my role here of
the loyalty of the Democratic members of Congress. What do you make of
having an opponent like that? What would you make hay out of that, that
crazy comment?

JIM GRAVES (D), MN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, Chris, I`ll tell
you -- it all started on your channel and on your show. And I`ll tell you,
she just keeps going. She`s a gift that keeps giving.

Now, she`s going after Ms. Abedin. She`s actually come after me.
She likes to tread on fear and separation. That`s her whole mantra. And I
think it`s getting old.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at Mr. Joe Walsh in Illinois and
how he`s going after his actual female opponent, who`s a war veteran,
injured war veteran, wounded. Let`s take a look at how he`s going after
Tammy Duckworth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: I understand something about John
McCain. His political advisers day after day had to take him and almost
throw against the wall and hit him against the head and say, senator, you
have to let people know you serve. You have to talk about what you did.
He didn`t want to do it, wouldn`t do it.

Now I`m running against a woman who -- I mean, my God, that`s all she
talks about.

Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it`s the last thing
in the world that they talk about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I don`t even get it. I`ve never seen such bad
taste in my life. This woman lost her legs in the service of our country,
in combat, Nia, and to mock her for that -- coming up in the campaign, I
don`t know what the new rules are. Your thoughts.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: That`s right. And I think
this is one of the reasons he`s so behind in polls and Republicans are
privately conceding that he will probably lose this race. He has gotten a
bit of a lifeline thrown to him by the congressional committee. They put
about $450,000 into this race and he`s going to be able to run some ads
until Election Day.

Duckworth has ads out now that show her riding a bike and talk about
the fact that she`ll go to Washington and very much fight for her
constituents there in that district.

But you`re right, there are a lot of these below the belt comments
that I think some of these Tea Party folks have made that are now coming
back to bite them. I think they`ve done well for themselves in terms of
filling their campaign coffers. If you look at Michele Bachmann, she`s got
about $12 million in the bank. Allen West has about $10 million. But now,
they are having to run against those very words that to some people are
very inflammatory.

MATTHEWS: Back to you, Jim Graves. What happened to Minnesota was
the country of Gene Walter and Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale and
reasonable people -- how did they get so far right to think that Michele
Bachmann is the voice of sanity?

GRAVES: You know, Chris, I don`t really understand. I think she
kind trends on her base. She creates all the money. She gets a lot of
advertising out there.

But at the end of the day, the people of Minnesota understand that
she`s not representing them. They understand that she doesn`t speak the
truth. It`s coming around to roost.

She`s going to lose this election because she can`t come up with
anything that really makes any sense to the people. She doesn`t resonate
with the folks. It`s getting old. She ran for president. She did 15
debates. She wanted to do one with me after the election.

She`s afraid of the truth, she`s running, and I think it`s catching
up with her, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we made her name here.

Anyway, thank you very much. Jim Graves running against Michele
Bachmann. And Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post."

When we return let me finish with the new voter photo ID law in
Pennsylvania and how it`s keeping my favorite teacher`s wife from voting.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the real life consequence of
this bad voter photo law in Pennsylvania.

My high school English teacher Gerald Trimly (ph) has been caring for
his wife these recent years. She suffered a serious stroke and has been
able to get out and about. She can no longer drive a car and therefore has
no driver`s license, unable to travel, she has no up-to-date passport. But
she is fully alert and very much alive intellectually.

And thanks to her husband, she keeps up with the news. He holds the
newspapers up for her to read and she`s very eager to vote this year and
therein lies the problem, this new problem. The Pennsylvania law pushed
through by Republicans in a legislature requires them to get an absentee
ballot which is needed in this case. You needed to produce a government-
issued photo ID.

Well, think about the obstacles this presents here. Mr. Trimly would
have to take his wife to the PennDOT headquarters, his wife being a serious
stroke victim, simply to get the ID card that the new law now requires.
Now, we have no idea if this is the kind of person the GOP lawmakers in
Harrisburg were out to keep from voting. What we do know is predicament
they`ve created for her, a consequence of her -- their slick move in the
words of a top Republican in Pennsylvania, in the legislature, to deliver
the commonwealth`s electoral votes to Romney.

I would think this case is a good idea why justice requires fast
action by the courts to stop this unfair, new law from taking effect barely
a month from now.

What I didn`t say is that Gerald Trimly is the greatest teacher I
ever had, anyone ever had. If he`s as good of a caregiver as he was as a
teacher, God is in his heaven and all is right in the world. But this law
needs to be changed now so that his wife can cast her ballot like every
other registered Pennsylvania voter.

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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