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updated 10/2/2012 12:27:19 PM ET 2012-10-02T16:27:19

HARDBALL
October 1, 2012

Guests: Bob Shrum, Sen. Sherrod Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hide and seek.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with the many secrets of Mitt Romney. He wants to be
president he`ll tell us that, but why? Besides the office, that is,
besides the honor his father missed, besides the notion of being America`s
top winner, that is.

Why does he want to be president? To go to war with Iran? Waging a
new war in the Mideast while escalating two others, to do it without
telling us when or how he`s going to end it, or for that matter, those
other two?

To finance a big across-the-board tax cut but not tell us how, not
what big across-the-board deductions he`ll deny people in order to pay for
it, or even what taxes he`s been paying himself over the years, or how
he`ll finance all those popular things in the president`s health care plan
once he kills the plan itself.

Lots of secrets, secrets because he himself has no earthly idea what
the answers are.

I`m joined by Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Salon`s Joan Walsh.

First, however, we`ve got two new national polls on the presidential
race. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, President Obama
has a 2-point lead, holding there, 49-47. Same score in the new
Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll, Obama by 2, 49-47.
Same numbers.

Well, "The New York Times" this weekend reported on the two campaigns`
ongoing debate preps. Here`s what they said about Romney`s prep. Quote,
"Mr. Romney`s team has concluded the debates are about creating moments" --
creating moments -- "and has equipped him" -- the candidate -- "with a
series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides
since August."

Bob Shrum, you`ve been on that particular role of preparing candidates
for debate. What do you make of Romney, a rather stiff customer to begin
with, coming off as sort of a Henny Youngman or whatever, some sort of a
Don Rickles, I should say, with some zingers?

I don`t think of him as a zinger kind of guy, which Obama is expected
to be left helpless. What do you make of that strategy?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, DAILYBEAST: Well, first of all, if
you had it, you wouldn`t announce it. It`s kind of stupid because...

MATTHEWS: Well, why are they leaking it?

SHRUM: Well, I don`t know. Because they`re trying to hold onto their
people, because they`re undisciplined, I have no idea.

Number two, zingers don`t exist in a vacuum. It`s not just coming up
with some funny lines. They have to be part of the fabric of the argument
and part of the fabric of who the person is. When Ronald Reagan said
"There you go again," it was completely natural to him.

As you know, Chris, by the way, Carter was right. He had opposed
Medicare at the start. But when Reagan said, "There you go again," it
actually sort of discounted everything else that Carter had said in that
debate.

So they`ve got to be organic, they`ve got to be natural, they`ve got
to be real. I think everybody, at least in the political class, who`s seen
this report is going to be watching the debate to see if we can sort of
tick off, Oh, that was the prepared zinger. Did he bring it off?

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

SHRUM: And the other thing is he`s not very good at this. I mean,
you know, I know they don`t want him to be spontaneous because he`ll say
the wrong thing, but delivering a prepared funny line seems to me to be one
of the hardest tasks, probably even harder than telling us what`s in his
tax plan.

MATTHEWS: Well, as journalist, Joan, I want your view. Suppose
you`re watching the debate as we all will be -- everybody`s going to be
watching Wednesday night -- and you see what is obviously a confected, a
prefab zinger that doesn`t even sound like Romney -- it`s more of a
wisecrack, which he`s not particularly good at -- something I would do for
example...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... and he comes out with this thing. And would you, if
you were Obama, say, Is that the first one of the night? Why don`t you
just spill your beans now and do all your wisecracks and get them over
with? I mean, would you be -- would you parry him or would you take it
seriously like he actually just thought that one up?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It depends on what it
is, Chris. I mean, the great thing about President Obama in the debates
with John McCain, it really wasn`t so much what he said, it was the way he
held himself compared with the way that Senator John McCain held himself.
And Senator McCain looked increasingly flustered. He looked frustrated
with candidate Obama.

I think that the great thing about President Obama is that he does
have the capacity to be totally in the moment and to be totally funny. He
is funny on his feet. And so you know, for him to practice what he`s going
to do in case of a zinger...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: ... I think he`s got the blessing of being rather spontaneous
and the blessing of being up against someone who is incapable of
spontaneity, reveals himself in those spontaneous moments like the 47
percent taped remark to be not a terribly likable person.

So I think for the president to practice the way he handles zingers
defeats what the president is particularly good at.

MATTHEWS: Well, actually, Barack means -- Barack actually means in
Swahili "blessed one," so you got that one right.

Anyway, will President Obama challenge Romney on the details of his
vague tax plan, a plan that almost every expert agrees doesn`t make
mathematical sense? Well, yesterday`s, Romney`s running mate, Paul Ryan,
was grilled about it on, of all places, Fox News.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": How much would it cost?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It`s revenue-
neutral. It`s...

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: No, no. I`m just talking about the cuts. We`ll get to the
deductions, but the cut in tax rates...

RYAN: No, so the cut in tax rates is lower all Americans` tax rates
by 20 percent...

WALLACE: Right. How much does that cost?

WALLACE: It`s revenue-neutral. Lowering tax rates by broadening the
tax base works. And you can...

WALLACE: But I have to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You haven`t given me the math.

WALLACE: No, but you -- well, I don`t have -- it would take me too
long to go through all of the math.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is not the first time Romney was challenged, or
Ryan, on the vagueness of their proposal. Back in 1994, Romney talked
about a plan to tackle health care up in Massachusetts, actually
nationwide, but never explain what cost would be, the cost of the program.

His opponent in the race back then was Ted Kennedy, memorably
challenging him on that debate. Let`s watch how it`s done. Here`s where
you challenge a guy to come clean, especially when he can`t do it.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They ought to have an
opportunity to know. What is the cost of your program?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), SENATE CANDIDATE: I -- I don`t have a cost of my
program.

KENNEDY: You don`t have a cost?

WALLACE: No, I`m sorry. I don`t have the -- I don`t have the
Congressional...

KENNEDY: That`s interesting.

WALLACE: I don`t have the Congressional Budget Office...

KENNEDY: Yes, but what will be the cost in terms of the tax
incentives that you provide? What will be the impact of that on the
budget?

ROMNEY: Well, the impact -- I do not know the specific number...

KENNEDY: So you don`t know the costs...

ROMNEY: ... of the impact of that on the budget, Senator Kennedy, and
I think it`s a wonderful idea to take it through piece by piece and --
and...

KENNEDY: That`s what you have to do as a legislator.

ROMNEY: I understand that...

KENNEDY: That`s exactly what you have to do as a legislator.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Bobby, I don`t know where that line came from...

SHRUM: That was his.

MATTHEWS: ... "That`s what you have to do as a legislator," but it
definitely won the election right there. You didn`t need to...

Let me ask you -- that`s exactly where we are in this debate right
now. Everybody would like a tax cut. Who wouldn`t want a tax cut,
especially 20 percent across the board? If you`re making the 35, the top
rate, you go down to 28.

And all that Chris Wallace was trying to get from Ryan yesterday, on
Sunday, was, Just tell me what big deductions you`re going to get rid of so
we can finance that? It is the question. Of course everybody wants a tax
cut, but if it`s not going to cost bigger deficits, tell us how you`re
going to do it? And they won`t do it.

They won`t say, We`re going to get rid of charitable deductions, we
won`t get rid of the home owner, we don`t (INAUDIBLE) mortgage -- we won`t
get rid of state and local. And that`s where all the money is.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s not little doo-dads here. Joan, you take this one on.
He won`t tell us. Same question comes up Wednesday night, can Romney
dodgeball it? Can he say, I`m not telling you how I`m going to do the
major thing I promised to do, get the economy going through a tax cut, but
I`m not going to tell you how I`m going to do it? Can he get away with
that with even the middle?

WALSH: I hope not. I mean, I really -- I really think this is a
moment for Jim Lehrer to be very -- to be very tough -- tough...

MATTHEWS: Jim Lehrer?

WALSH: Respectful tough. And for President Obama to come back at him
and to say, Look, I`m happy to see -- your running mate said that you
didn`t have -- that he didn`t have enough time on Sunday. Well, that`s too
bad. That`s terrible, in fact. I`m willing to cede you, Governor Romney,
all the time you need...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... think Jim Lehrer, who`s a smart guy, is obviously
skilled in this business and very respected -- could he get away with
simply saying, You know what? I`ve got a little liberty here, a little
leeway. I`ll give you all the time it takes. Tell us now what tax breaks
you`re going to get rid of.

WALSH: Tell us what tax breaks you`re going to get rid of. And also,
please, Governor Romney, you were very upset about the 47 percent of
Americans who pay no taxes. Well, they include seniors, they include the
military, and they include the working poor. Please tell me, Governor
Romney, exactly which groups you`re going to raise federal income taxes on
of those three groups because you don`t like the fact that they`re not
paying taxes.

I think he`s a very wonderful man, he`s a warm man, he could be tough
but respectful. And I think President Obama should help him out by saying,
I`m happy to cede some of my time to you so you can go through it, so you
can take the time, lay out those charitable -- lay out all those
deductions...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know that`s a briar patch, by the way, to use the old
Uncle Remus thing from Walt Disney, because you walk him in there, Bob --
you walk him into that briar patch, you say, Go ahead, tell us what you`re
going to get rid of. And all of a sudden, the guy is in worse shape.
That`s why they won`t do it, right?

Romney won`t tell us what he`s getting rid of it because if he gets
rid of it, he`s killing charitable organizations that need the money from
charity. You start capping that -- you start messing around with people`s
mortgages, the one thing they need to build up some capital and some...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... personal worth, you mess with state and local, what,
are you supposed to move if you live in New York or a high-tax state like
Massachusetts, you`re supposed to move because Romney got elected? Your
thoughts.

SHRUM: Yes, listen, you -- he`s going to slam -- his tax cut plan is
going to slam about 68 percent of the American people, not 47 percent of
the American people.

WALSH: Right.

SHRUM: So he can`t provide real details. You could close every
single loophole that benefits the wealthy and just close it for the
wealthy, and it wouldn`t pay for a fraction of the tax cut he`s giving the
wealthy.

WALSH: Right.

SHRUM: For example...

MATTHEWS: Because they`re still getting ahead, yes.

SHRUM: ... reducing capital gains to zero, which means Romney would
pay virtually zero taxes. He`s going to come back and he`s going to say,
Well, I want to work this out with the Congress.

Well, I just don`t think the country is going to trust Mr. 47 Percent
and this Congress to play around with taxes because they understand very
well -- and the Democrats now have an advantage on taxes, which as you both
know is very rare -- they understand very well where Romney`s priorities
are.

MATTHEWS: OK...

SHRUM: He`s for the people at the top.

MATTHEWS: Why would you -- Joan, why would you want to get rid of the
estate tax unless you own $250 million, you don`t expect to spend it all
while you have time on this earth, you want to divvy it among the kids,
right?

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: That`s a lot of divvying!

WALSH: And he`s also already shoveling money into trusts for his
sons. I mean, you know, he has provided us, Chris, with a seminar in tax
policy for the last six months. We`ve learned a lot about how our tax code
privileges the super-wealthy, and I think that that, too, is a very valid
area of questioning and concern for both the moderator and for President
Obama. How do these policies benefit you? And why have you availed
yourself of every imaginable deduction while you`re so -- allegedly so
concerned about our deficit?

MATTHEWS: Well, according to TalkingPointsMemo today, the Obama
campaign is shifting its strategy on how to deal with Romney`s proposal to
explain which tax deductions he`ll eliminate in his plan. Rather than call
Romney out for his proposal (INAUDIBLE), the president will, quote, "warn
middle class voters of the worst and goad the Republican nominee into
proving him wrong." It`s a lose-lose proposition for Romney, according to
TalkingPoints, because any answer would invite further criticism.

That`s my point, Bob. In goading him into saying what deductions he
would get rid of, he`ll either not say, which will make him look like he`s
hiding out during the debate -- with Jim Lehrer and the other guy saying,
Tell us, tell us, tell us, he`s saying, No, no, no -- or he begins to tease
a little bit and show some leg and say, Well, I am thinking something to do
with the home mortgage thing or I am thinking about a charitable cap or
something less on state and local.

In any case, they`ll go through the roof, the voters, the next day,
and the headline writers.

WALSH: Right.

SHRUM: Chris, that`s really smart because the question he should be
asked that would smoke him out is, Do you rule out limiting or eliminating
the home interest mortgage deduction, Pell grants for -- that send middle
class kids to college, the deduction for state and local taxes? If he
says, Oh, no, I wouldn`t touch the deduction for state and local taxes, he
opens the door to a continuing process where you say, Would you touch this
or would you touch that?

MATTHEWS: Yes, right.

SHRUM: If he doesn`t answer it, everybody out there is going to
assume that`s exactly what he`s going to do and that they`re going to be
hurt.

MATTHEWS: OK, real quick, Joan, one sentences. What`s the toughest
question you got for -- the best hardball question for Governor Romney
Wednesday night?

WALSH: The best hardball question is, If you don`t want those 47
percent to pay no taxes, which groups are you going to raise taxes on?

MATTHEWS: Well said. Bob, any thoughts?

SHRUM: Well, for Romney -- I got one for Romney, which would be, you
know -- or for the president, rather, Your opponent says that he favored
the kind of reorganization and bail-out in bankruptcy that ultimately
worked for the auto industry, but with no public money. Mr. President, was
there private money available? And if there wasn`t, what would have
happened?

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: I`m not Jim Lehrer. I`m not fair.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s really tough for Obama!

SHRUM: I`m not Jim Lehrer!

MATTHEWS: In other words, the other guy`s -- the other guy`s a
scumbag. Thank you. I love these answers! Thanks so much, Bob Shrum.

SHRUM: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I knew you wouldn`t do this. Anyway, Joan, thanks so much.

WALSH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Coming up -- yours at least was legitimate.

Coming up, what can Brown do for you? That`s Sherrod Brown. He`s
running for reelection up in Ohio. But he`s got Karl Rove`s money machine,
the whole money machine coming at him, and he`s taking him on pretty well.
He`s doing well. We`re going to learn something from Sherrod Brown about
winning in a good, old state like Ohio.

Also, Republicans have been searching without success over the country
for voter fraud, and now they`ve finally found it in their own campaign.
The biggest case of alleged registration fraud in the country, and the
Republicans are caught paying for it and holding the bag. We can`t wait to
get to that one.

And we`re going to visit that parallel Republican universe where Mitt
Romney leads, by the way, in every poll in that universe. Do Republicans
really believe in a liberal conspiracy involving all the pollsters of this
country left and right, even the FOX pollsters? Maybe they just don`t
accept the legitimacy of a Democratic president, any Democratic president.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my belief that presidential
debates are often unfair and almost always unpredictable.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New polling from some key Midwestern battlegrounds. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

First to Ohio. According to a new PPP poll, President Obama`s lead
there is 4 points, 49 to 45. PPP tends to lean Democratic. But the new
"Columbus Dispatch" poll shows the president with a lead more than twice as
big. He`s up 9 in the newspaper poll, 51-42.

And in the battleground state of Iowa, a new "Des Moines Register"
poll has the president up -- look at this -- 49-45. And that`s been a
tricky state, Iowa.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Democrats` hopes of keeping
the U.S. Senate are getting stronger by the day, especially when you zero
in on a key battleground state like Ohio, where Sherrod Brown seems to be
successfully fighting back against the big money -- what we call the "Dirty
Angry Money" here on HARDBALL.

A new "Columbus Dispatch" poll has Brown up over his opponent Josh
Mandel, by 10 points now, 49 to 39. That`s a big change from their tied
race in late August.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is with me tonight from Cleveland.
Senator Brown, thank you so much because -- I love seeing you here on this
show because you represent to me the bread and butter, the meat and
potatoes Democrat Party that I grew up knowing all about and worked for
when I worked for Tip O`Neill, regular people who need regular government.

It struck me, and it must have struck you, that this 47 percent thing
that Romney said and didn`t think anybody was recording, where he said
those people don`t take care of their own lives, they don`t meet their own
responsibilities -- well, the problem with that is he`s attacking people on
Social Security.

It seems to me somebody who has been paying payroll tax from the time
they were a paperboy or a stock boy, like I was, from the time they were
14, has taken care and responsibility for their lives. They shouldn`t be
derided or mocked for not being reliable citizens.

Did you ever think about that, who he`s -- I`m sure you have. He`s
attacking basic bread-and-butter people in this country who worked their
whole lives and are living on Social Security as somehow bums.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, he`s attacking people on Social
Security. He`s attacking people who are veterans. And you know who else
he was attacking? If you watch that video, you see the wait staff walking
back and forth in front of the camera. And in some sense, he was attacking
them, who have just their first names on their shirts...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWN: ... and you know, they`re not paid much attention to, and
they`re probably eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. They`re
probably working harder than most people do in this society, frankly,
because they`re struggling and working two jobs. And he`s talking about
them as they`re waiting on his friends. And it was pretty interesting, but
I -- you know, when...

MATTHEWS: By the way, that`s probably -- that`s probably one reason
why one of them put that little camera up on the chair, to get even with
that SOB!

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: We don`t know who that was, yes. But you`re right about that.
But I think the issue here is that, you know, when you run for office and
you serve in elective office, you raise your right hand and you represent
everybody, including people that might not like you and might vote against
you and might contribute to your opponent. You still represent them
because I want everybody in my state to do better.

My focus is on people that -- in the middle class and people that are
looking for opportunity, Pell Grants and, you know, getting ahead, sending
their kids to school, going to Lorain Community College or Sinclair or
whatever, and having that opportunity of the American dream.

But I respect everybody, and all of us should, from the president on
down, as you know.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the president on down.

In Ohio, do you have a sense of the zest, the excitement, the noise of
the campaign yet? Do you see the lawn signs? Do you see -- apparently
he`s got -- Barack Obama`s operation has 120 offices up there in your state
and 600 people working there.

BROWN: Yes.

We have -- he has hundreds of people in the field, as my campaign has
65 full-time organizers. No campaigns in the country -- I don`t think any
Senate candidate in the country has that kind of field operation that we
do. We have had that in place since March because we know with this
onslaught of $19 million, the way to fight back is grassroots, online at
SherrodBrown.com, or in the field like that.

We`re working closely with the president on registration persuasion,
get-out-the-vote. Tonight, there`s people camping out at the Board of
Elections in anticipation tomorrow morning, where I`m going to join them.
Early vote starts tomorrow. We`re ready, we`re organized, and that`s how
you win with this -- in the face of this onslaught of money.

MATTHEWS: It used to be that rich people who traveled a lot out of
country, whether they were businesspeople or just people wealthy enough to
travel out of the country were the ones who used absentee ballot.

Now everybody use it. I use it because I have to be in New York
sometimes or I can`t vote at home. But how does early voting affect you?
Does it lean Republican or is it even-steven now, the people who vote
early?

BROWN: No, I think it`s -- I think it`s flipped.

It used to be you had to give a reason for early voting. You had to
be disabled. You had to be over 65 or you had to be out of -- you
originally just -- you had to be on travel.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWN: And that would mean people in -- wealthy people in Florida or
businesspeople, more likely Republicans.

Now it`s all about organizing and getting people there early. In
Ohio, we have what`s called the golden week. And this was interestingly
written by a Republican legislature, the law was, several years ago, where
for one week registration is still open so you can register at the Cuyahoga
County or Franklin County or Richland County Board of Elections.

You can register this week to vote and you can vote in your same trip
to the Board of Elections. It`s really Election Day registration for a
week.

MATTHEWS: I like that.

BROWN: It really makes sense. And we`re urging people to come in
this week, people particularly who are least likely to be registered, and
that`s people on college campuses that are coming back to school, more low-
income people, and people that might have moved for business reasons,
whatever, and need to update their registrations.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Here is the battle going on in the air. You are talking the ground
game. Here`s the air game. The Obama campaign is running this ad in Ohio
to attract voters in coal country. Let`s take a look at this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: Seen these new ads where Mitt Romney says he`s a friend of
coal country? This is the guy who wants to keep tax breaks for companies
that ship American jobs overseas, the same guy who had a Swiss bank account
and millions in tax havens like Bermuda and the Caymans.

And on coal, well, here is what he said as governor outside a coal-
fired power plant.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not create jobs or
hold jobs that kill people. And that plant -- that plant kills people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a tricky business because you have a coal
situation and environment and all those concerns. How do you win on that
argument in your state and how is Mandel running that case? He seems like
he`s stuck with the Romney idea.

BROWN: Yes, he is.

And I think you win on that by, you know -- you know, we have talked
enough on this show, Chris, and you get this better than almost anybody,
that it`s not liberal, conservative, left or right. It`s whose side are
you on.

And when I go to Belmont County and I go to Zanesville and Cambridge
and Woodsfield and these communities in Appalachia, and they know I want to
keep programs strong for veterans. They know in putting them back to work
-- veterans, as you know, have a higher unemployment rate than the general
population.

We`re always working on helping with manufacturing. There`s a lot of
small manufacturers in these small communities. And I want to make sure
that these workers get an opportunity to send their kids to school. We
have more -- we have coal mine jobs today in Ohio than we did four years
ago.

It`s not a huge number anymore, but it matters in our state, and we`re
seeing those -- those -- I think those miners come around and support the
president in the end in pretty large numbers because they know he fights
for them on taxes, he fights for them on issues of opportunity for their
kids, for all of that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I hope they don`t go for those race-baiting terrible
ads on welfare, which are nothing more than a cheap ploy to get people to
vote with their resentments.

Anyway, thank you, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

BROWN: Glad to be back. thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: the endorsement President Obama would just as soon
not have.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First, if you could vote in favor of any issue in the upcoming
election, what would it be, I mean, something you and perhaps only you
want?

Well, here is a celebrity list of ideas. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: If you could vote for anything in the
world.

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, ACTOR: Anything at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would it be?

SARAH SILVERMAN, ACTRESS: Gays in the military, exclusively.

SELENA GOMEZ, ACTRESS: I vote that if you talk about your baby...

AMANDA SEYFRIED, ACTRESS: It`s got to be a really good story.

GOMEZ: Like a really good one.

BENICIO DEL TORO, ACTOR: I vote yes on cats. I know they`re up to
something, but I like them.

JONAH HILL, ACTOR: Guys, rock the vote. This isn`t Rock the Vote?

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": Women should have
the right to vote.

HILL: OK, Ellen. Sure.

DEGENERES: They do?

SILVERMAN: Yes, right?

DEGENERES: OK. Well, that`s good. Women should have the right. So
I will think of something else.

I wouldn`t have red and blue states. I would have like fuchsia and
seafoam. Prettier.

HILL: It would be against the law to touch my stuff. Stop touching
my stuff, mom. You paid for it, but it`s in my room.

EDWARD NORTON, ACTOR: Obviously, you can`t vote for most of that
stuff.

GOMEZ: But there is a simple way to have a voice on a lot of
important issues.

DICAPRIO: What stuff is important to you in the upcoming election?
Vote for stuff.

GORDON-LEVITT: In 2012.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I love Sarah Silverman`s proposal, gays in the military
exclusively.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, that was Vote for Stuff, the Vote for Stuff
Initiative.

Next, the Simpsons goes political again. A few weeks ago, a promo for
the show tackled voter I.D. laws, and last night`s episode also had a nod
to the 2012 race. Here goes. You have heard of McBain, "The Simpsons"`
version of an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like action star.

We are going to take a look at that sign that popped up during the
show`s opening credits last night: "McBain Capital: Consider This a Hostile
Takeover."

Well, that`s obviously a knock at Mitt Romney`s old stomping grounds,
Bain Capital.

It was "The New York Times"` reporter Dave Itzkoff, by the way, who
caught that one.

Next, when things get damp. A Florida reporter went to the home of
congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad last week to track down some
answers. Was the failed Democratic candidate only in the race to take
votes away from another Democratic candidate? And was Republican incumbent
David Rivera behind him in this?

Well, here is what happened when the reporter, Michael Putney, showed
up at Sternad`s front door.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PUTNEY, REPORTER: Sorry to bother you. I`m Michael Putney
with Channel 4.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Drenched. The person behind the splash was apparently the
former candidate`s wife.

The situation of Sternad`s candidacy, by the way, is currently under
investigation by the FBI.

Finally: the endorsement neither candidate has been courting,
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Well, Chavez has had a rocky stint in
office, to say the least, amid allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

In a TV appearance yesterday, Chavez weighed in on the U.S.
presidential race -- quote -- "In the point of view of his politics, if I
were voting, I would vote for Obama. And I believe that if Obama was from
Caracas, he would vote for Chavez. I am positive."

Well, relations between the U.S. and Venezuela have been tense, to say
the least, in recent years. Neither embassy has had an ambassador since
2010. Chavez himself is in a tight race for reelection. I`m rooting
against him. And voters in Venezuela will cast their ballots this coming
Sunday.

Up next, Republicans have been looking for voter fraud. Guess what?
They have found it in their own campaign. After making it difficult for
Democrats to vote, it`s the Republicans who are to blame for the biggest
case of registration fraud in the country.

And that`s coming up in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Kayla Tausche with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow industrials give back earlier gains, but end the day up 78
points. The S&P 500 adds four. The Nasdaq composite falls 3. Upbeat news
about the economy started today`s rally. A report on the manufacturing
sector showed expansion in September, and that was the first time that
happened since May. Meanwhile, on the M&A front, 3M is by buying ceramic
component maker Ceradyne in a deal worth $847 million.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

We will send it now back to HARDBALL and your host, Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL.

Republicans have been on the hunt, by the way, some would say some
witch-hunt, to root out voter fraud, they say. In 17 states, they have
made it a lot harder for regular people to vote, honest voters, including
pushing unnecessary photo I.D. requirements in Pennsylvania, all to ward
off what they call voter fraud.

Well, that hasn`t been proven to exist, however. And they may have
found some in their own ranks, it turns out. The firm hired by the
Republican National Committee to register voters in Florida and four other
battleground states has been hit with allegations of fraud.

Here is the Palm Beach County elections supervisor describing some of
the inconsistencies that caused her to sound the alarm. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN BUCHER, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA, ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: Some
of the information on the Florida voter registration forms were trying to
register people with addresses in New York.

Some of the address changes that were being requested on the forms
were actually being transferred from a home address to commercial
buildings. In one instance, a couple was being re-registered to an address
in Miami that`s a Shell gas station.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What was it, Pogo that said, we have met the enemy and he
is us?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We have David Corn joining us right now. And of course
he`s our political analyst on MSNBC. He`s also "Mother Jones" Washington
bureau chief and also of "Showdown." And Michael Isikoff is NBC News
investigative correspondent.

Let`s start with the investigation.

What do we know? Is this like the allegations that the right wing had
put against ACORN a couple years ago?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: There are some striking parallels
with the ACORN allegations.

What we had here started in Palm Beach County. You have a lot of
registration forms that had similar signatures, so they`re suspect right
from the outset. You had one person registered at a Shell gas station,
another at a Land Rover dealership in West Palm Beach, a medical building
in Boca.

And then as people started to dig into this, they found similar
inconsistencies, irregularities in eight other counties. The Florida
Division of Law Enforcement today has launched a statewide investigation
into this company, Strategic Allied Consulting. The Republican National
Committee has fired them. They had paid them $3 million to do voter
registration across the country.

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they do their own? Why doesn`t a party
organization rely on volunteers who believe in the party cause? Why are
they outsourcing...

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Because they don`t have the
bodies to do this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They don`t have people that want to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s not that hard to do voter registration, if you do it
right.

CORN: The Democrats over the years have used unions and other groups,
and we talk about ACORN and things like that, have relied on these groups.

And the Republicans don`t have the same bodies in a lot of places.
And so they have hired these places. It`s very lucrative. The guy who
runs this, who was in Mike`s story earlier today, was head of the
Republican Party of Arizona.

MATTHEWS: How much do they get for a sheet of names?

ISIKOFF: Well, they advertised on Craigslist to get the people to do
this for 12 bucks an hour.

MATTHEWS: Twelve bucks an hour.

ISIKOFF: And we talked to one election supervisor who is saying,
look, whenever you put money into the equation here, you got an incentive
for people to sort of dummy up forms.

MATTHEWS: Make up names.

ISIKOFF: Make up names.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: ... Mickey Mouse right here.

MATTHEWS: OK. Look, the question people watching right now is --
even though it`s just a screw-up and it`s embarrassing to them and it looks
bad, does it affect who gets to vote?

Suppose a company, whether it`s left or right, goes out and starts --
comes up with lists of name that are bogus or re-duplicated all over the
place. That doesn`t mean, does it, that somebody is going to vote
illegally?

ISIKOFF: Right. No, probably not because the fact is that they go to
the voting booth and they have a false registration form with a phony
address, they have got to present a driver`s license. The driver`s license
is not going to match with what`s on the registration form.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They won`t even know where to go vote. They won`t even
know who they are.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: The question is -- and this happens in some cases -- if you
sort of put in false information about somebody who actually exists. And
there are a lot of different ways of doing this. If someone is just
writing fake Mickey Mouse names to collect that $12 an hour, that`s not
going to lead to fake voting.

But if you`re out there trying to do something even a little more
evil, you would put in fake -- real names, but with bad addresses and you
would say these are the new addresses. And there are a lot of ways you can
sort of screw things up.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But that has to be done -- look, I know a little bit. You
have to do that off the street list. You got to do that division by
division. You don`t stand in front of a Safeway or a Giant food store
doing that.

That`s -- the guys -- the volunteers don`t really -- look, here is
Sean Spicer of the RNC distancing the party from the firm they hired. Now,
this is Reince Priebus` operation, obviously, the Republican National
Committee. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:
We at this point have an allegation. That mere allegation has caused us to
act, act swiftly and boldly and sever our ties with this firm because we
have a zero tolerance when it comes to this.

The other side clearly engaged for a long time in inappropriate
behavior. We don`t believe that that`s appropriate, and we wanted to make
a swift and bold action to illustrate that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Swift and bold, zero tolerance, lots of nice words, but
they spent how many millions of bucks on this company?

ISIKOFF: Well, three million bucks that they paid them over the
summer.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s the reality.

ISIKOFF: Right.

MATTHEWS: Nathan Sproul, who runs the Strategic Allied Consulting
company that was doing this, should have been a known quantity to the
Republicans that hired him because Matea Gold of "The Los Angeles Times"
writes: "His reputation is such that when Sproul was tapped by the RNC to
do field work this year, officials requested that he set up a new firm to
avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations, Sproul told `The
Times.`"

Anyway, "The firm has set up in Virginia -- with a Virginia address
and Sproul does not show up on the corporate work -- paperwork."

So, in other words, they knew they were dealing with a somewhat sleazy
fellow and they covered for him.

CORN: He had a whole past of doing this.

ISIKOFF: There had been allegations about Sproul going back to 2004.
Now, no voter suppression, throwing away Democratic registration forms.
Nothing was proven, but he was a known quantity.

In addition, there was an allegation relating to an Arizona attorney
general`s race that is covered in our allegation funneling independent --

(CROSSTALK)

ISIKOFF: So enough to make him sort of a hot commodity.

MATTHEWS: Here`s something that really bothers me because this
affects voting. Here, more Florida shenanigans category. We have a video
of a Romney volunteer down there saying that President Obama is a Muslim.
It was picked up by an answering machine after the volunteer didn`t hang up
before moving on to her next call.

The clip originally aired in Tampa on a radio station, WNMF, NBC News
hasn`t independently authenticated the audio. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROMNEY VOLUNTEER: You don`t want Obama. You really don`t want Obama
because he`ll get rid of your Medicare. You might as well say goodbye to
it. Yes, and, I don`t know if you`ve done any research on Obama or not,
but he is a Muslim.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he is a Muslim. That`s what we call the dirty old
business of push polling.

CORN: Push polling.

MATTHEWS: You pretend to be polling and all you`re doing is putting
out the word that the guy is a communist or in this case --

CORN: Would you vote for someone who believes in communist? We`re
taking a survey (INAUDIBLE) communist views and who`s the Muslim.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: You know, you and I have been talking about this for a couple
years now. For some reason, the Republican Party and their conservative
allies can`t get away from describing Obama as Muslim, not born here. All
different ways, not believing in America.

MATTHEWS: I know, I know, I know this is what they do.

Well, anyway, the head of Florida`s Clay County Republican GOP, the
GOP there, where the call appears to originate, told the "St. Augustine
Record", quote, "It was off script completely. We have everything
scripted. Those are clearly not the views of the Republican Party of Clay
County or the Mitt Romney campaign."

They did not deny the incident, however.

This whole thing about it was a renegade, it was a rogue operation,
those polling operations, those -- there are people sitting in war rooms,
sitting in call stations. You have people sitting next to you, sitting to
your left and right. Nobody ever heard her saying that?

CORN: Well, they claim not.

MATTHEWS: Those are phone banks.

CORN: They are supposed to have scripts. If a person says "A," then
you say "B," if they say "B," you say "C." And you have a whole script to
go through. And they drill on you on this.

If this was a rogue, this was someone who was very far rogue.

MATTHEWS: The reason why I bring this up all the time when they poll
people like in Ohio, when you see more than a third of the Republican
registered voters think he wasn`t born in this country, the president, this
isn`t just something they come up with at home. They hear this. They get
it through different channels and this is one of them.

Mr. Isikoff, you have done it again, (INAUDIBLE) investigative
reporting. You`ve captured this case of corruption really, people selling
registration lists that are bogus.

ISIKOFF: Right. And I think we`re going to hear more of it. When
you get a statewide investigation by the law enforcement, it`s likely
they`re going to find more.

And the question is, you know, Nathan Sproul, who I talked to last
week, said he`s the victim here. This was a few bad apples. You know, how
many bad apples are we talking about and what does it say about what kind
of oversight --

MATTHEWS: The other FBI case where they`ve got a Democrat who loses
the primary, running in the general so they can squeeze off the Democratic
vote for the Republican`s advantage possibly. The FBI investigating that.
Anyway, I like that story, too.

David Corn, Michael Isikoff -- great guys.

Up next, why are so many Republicans living in a parallel universe
where they think Mitt Romney is leading in all the polls and it`s a liberal
conspiracy to suppress the Republican -- boy, that`s something. Could it
be they just don`t accept the legitimacy of a Democrat in the White House?

That`s my theory. They don`t think Democrats belong in the White
House. It`s as simple as that. They`d given the Congress for 100 years so
they could have the White House.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Liz Warren is on top in the latest polling for
Massachusetts. Let`s go back to the HARDBALL scoreboard.

In a new WBUR/Massachusetts -- Mass Inc. poll, it shows Warren
leading incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown by four now. Wow, 49/45.
Something is going up there.

And a new Boston Globe shows Warren up by five, 43-38.

I guess all this making jokes about the Indians isn`t working for Mr.
Brown.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

One of the hallmarks of our democracy I might say is the highest
office, the presidency, belongs to no one political party. In fact, an
equal number of Republicans and Democrats have held the office since the
end of World War II, about six each actually.

But listen to Republicans and it`s easy to imagine they believe in
their world that the presidency belongs to them, that any Democrat
occupying the Oval Office is somehow certainly unwelcome by their tastes
and illegitimate perhaps, even an aberration. The latest Republican claim
that the polls out there now showing Mitt Romney trailing President Obama
are a hoax. Cooked up to propel the Democratic turnout machine.

Well, with me to try to get through this craziness is Joy Ann Reid,
managing editor of TheGrio.com. And MSNBC political analyst and
"Washington Post" columnist , the great Eugene Robinson.

Eugene, you and I have grown up watching basically back and forth.
Ever since Ike and Truman, it`s been basically an eight-year thing. You
get an eight-year run and people turn you out and try the other party.

The Republicans -- this is my contention -- have this almost, I don`t
mean it literally, monarchist notion, that somehow the executive belongs to
them. And, you know, they`ll give away Congress for years. They want to
hold that White House.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: They do like the executive, don`t
they?

It`s kind of part of what I call Republican mythology that this is a
center right country, therefore someone from the center right or further
right should be president of this country.

Now, I think that`s silly on two grounds. Number one, center is
center, right, by definition. So, I mean --

MATTHEWS: They`re describing that 1950s.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

Number two, I think while it`s true more people say they`re
conservative than liberal, I think people say they are conservative than
liberal, I think that`s true ideologically but not operationally, not
practically. Practically, people, you know, we --

MATTHEWS: I am with you. This is what I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: We want a society where we take care of each other.

MATTHEWS: Joy, it was the Republicans -- the old Republican Party
supported civil rights. The new party I`m not so sure was big on that
(INAUDIBLE).

But if you look at the things that were usually define liberal or
conservative, people support Social Security with all their hearts. They
support Medicare with all their hearts. They support efforts to help the
poor. No matter what they say, they would never try to kill them, most
people.

And they do like this stuff, they like that we have a mixed
capitalism with some social welfare mixed in with it to soften it and that
makes them practical people and makes them liberal in a sense of
functionality but not, I`m a liberal, you know? It`s not like that. Your
thoughts?

JOY-ANN REID, THEGRIO.COM: No, I agree. You know, I agree. Chris,
two things have happened over the course of the last 20, 30 years. You
have this slow turning away from the ideas of the New Deal, at least from
other people -- these notions that these are handouts when they apply to
other people.

And I think that conservatives and Republicans have built this idea
that just by default, any Democratic that gets elected, it`s illegitimate.
You had with John F. Kennedy, the claim that, well, he stole that election
from Nixon because dead people in Chicago really elected him.

And then Clinton comes along, he`s illegitimate.

MATTHEWS: Well, actually, a few did, but that didn`t make the
difference.

REID: Well, but it didn`t make a difference. Right. He did win and
I would think that there was this notion that Bill Clinton was inherently
illegitimate and that there was nothing too extreme to do to dislodge him
from the White House because he was de-facto illegitimate.

And I think with Barack Obama, I mean, you call it rejection.
There`s this notion that this could not have happened. This was a
nightmare inflicted on us by ACORN. This guy did not win.

MATTHEWS: Ha! You are so funny. You`ve got the cartoon down pretty
good. To you, you`ve got the cartoon sense, of the way they look at this.
ACORN, a bunch of people got together in the voting booth and stole this.

But this idea that somehow it doesn`t belong to the Democrats and
Bill Clinton went to Russia when he was a kid. He`s some sort of mole,
some sort of Mata Hari or whatever. And everybody, even Kennedy, you know,
you`re right. What is it about, you got a year young -- but why do they
think illegitimately, not that it`s just a conservative country they argue,
but why does the White House belong in the hands of the Tories, if you
will, the conservatives?

REID: Because I think it`s symbolic. They feel the symbol of the
country has got to represent conservative symbol of the values, and that
that`s really the job of the president is to sort of stand the stride the
world pushing what they see is the American value system, which is
capitalism, unrestrained, which is this idea of freedom that they have
actually glommed on to things like tax cuts for the rich. That`s freedom.
Corporations not being regulated, somehow that`s freedom.

But they just believe the president is the salesman to the world of
what they see as the American story, which is that we are about, you know,
free enterprise, and we are about what they see as freedom and they think
Democrats want to do this European socialist mushy, mommy-nanny state that
they just think is American.

MATTHEWS: Well, I can see it`s the other way. I can say they like
wars, which is unfair. They don`t really believe it. But they are more
hawkish. When they get in the White House, the last three presidents, they
tend to start a war. We can argue --

ROBINSON: I think it`s about power on a certain level. I mean,
look, Nixon, Reagan, George W. Bush -- Republican presidents have known how
to wield power in the White House, how to get stuff done at times in the
face of recalcitrant Congresses sometimes controlled by the other party.

You know, this whole notion of the imperial presidency that arose
under Nixon, not coincidentally, a Republican, I mean, I think you said it
was kind of a Tory sensibility.

MATTHEWS: Yes, a monarchist.

ROBINSON: But it`s really a concentration of power.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are they smarter than the Democrats in that sense, they
know where the real power is? Democrats are a little more idealistic.
They think it`s assembly, parliamentary?

ROBINSON: Yes. I think in some ways they have been more skillful and
more ruthless in the way that they have moved the levers of power in
Washington and outside of Washington, to get stuff done.

MATTHEWS: You know, last thought, Joy, I don`t think the Republicans
have a Karl Rove, someone who has this almost malignant sense of power, I`m
going to control, I`m going to be the architect, I`m going to rule.

And now, he`s out there spreading all the money around to try to make
sure they get back the power. It does seem almost obsessive, almost, their
love of the White House.

REID: Absolutely, and I think Eugene Robinson is absolutely right.
But I also think that for conservatives, that idea of being sort of the
cowboy, they like that self-image for themselves and want that image for
the country. And I agree, I think Democrats, somehow in their
constitutions, are just more conciliatory and so they wield power just not
much as a bully way and conservatives don`t like it.

MATTHEWS: Well, there were good cowboys, too, like Henry Fonda, you
know, Kurt Douglas. They were not all far right.

Thank you so much. Don`t knock the cowboys too much.

Anyway, thank you so much, Joy-Ann Reid and Eugene Robinson.

When we return, let me finish with presidential debates. They are
often unfair because of the context they come in and they are always
unpredictable. This can be fun.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this incredible exciting debate
coming up the night after tomorrow. I know from experience how many of us
watch these debates. We watch them with people of similar mind and decide
that our guy won. We then cry out in utter surprise when we hear people
saying the other guy did.

I remember how the speechwriter for President Carter watched the
debate with Ronald Reagan and we were all together on the fact -- we were
all together on the fact that Carter had won it. So few of us know who won
Wednesday night. So, we watch the show afterwards, listen for the focus
groups. We`re going to have one here at midnight and see how it`s going.

And don`t think that`s going to be the last word. Back in 2000, the
establishment group believed that Al Gore had beaten George W. in their
third debate. Now, go back and look at the bytes from that debate and you
will laugh at anyone who could say that. Why? Because it wasn`t the test
of who knew the most, but who came across as self confident, a leader, and
what we call in politics the genuine article.

It`s not exactly fair the debate itself. Richard Nixon had to stand
on the same stage with matinee idol Jack Kennedy. Reagan never did say
what he would have done to spring the hostages. George Bush, Sr. had to
fight a two-front war with Bill Clinton. That was tough enough, wouldn`t
you say? But against the pesky Ross Perot as well. John McCain had to
defend an economy falling all around him.

But by the time we get here on Thursday this week, it`s going to
matter and no one -- no one knows how. It`s one of the reasons that I`ve
been caught up in politics since I can remember because you really don`t
know how the battle`s going to go.

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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