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updated 10/12/2012 11:55:10 AM ET 2012-10-12T15:55:10

HARDBALL
October 11, 2012

Guests: Jonathan Martin, Gov. Steve Beshear, Stephanie Cutter, Rob Zerban

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Primetime Joe.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at Centre College in Danville,
Kentucky, site of tonight`s vice presidential debate.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Start" with this. It`s fairly well known how
frustrated a lot of us -- you, me -- as I said, a lot of us -- are at what
happened in the first debate last week. It`s come to me what this
election`s about and what that first meeting between the president and his
challenger was not about. The differences between these two men is Grand
Canyon-sized, Grand Canyon-sized.

The president led the creation of the national health insurance
program. Governor Romney said this week again that he would dump Obama`s
health care plan and send the 40 million suddenly uninsured into the
emergency room, letting them sit there.

The Romney-Ryan team has other plans. In place of Medicare which
covers people who`ve retired, it would offer them vouchers. Vouchers!
Imagine some 80-year-old to get on a bus somewhere and go try to find
someone to sell them a health insurance policy. Good luck, Granny!

And that`s not the whole of it. Listen to Romney -- when you`re not
supposed to be listening, by the way -- the best time to listen to him is
when he`s not thinking you`re listening -- and hear his condescension
towards seniors on Social Security and Medicare, saying they have simply
failed to take personal responsibility for their lives. Nice talk.

Listen to Romney say out loud that if you have a pre-existing medical
condition and don`t have insurance, well, that`s your problem because that
was your decision. That`s how he talks.

The same with the automobile industry. Romney -- Obama stuck his neck
out to rescue it for all kinds of good reasons. His challenger said let it
take bankruptcy. Well, these are the big drastic differences these debates
should debate, and they better do it. And wouldn`t it be something if they
did.

I`m joined by "New York" magazine`s John Heilemann, the great writer,
former RNC chair Michael Steele, my kind of Republican -- that`ll kill `em!
-- and Politico`s J-Mar -- that`s his nickname. He is, in fact, in real
life Jonathan Martin.

Well, let`s talk about this, about Biden -- first of all for the
opposition. You`re on defense, Michael.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Always on
defense.

MATTHEWS: What does -- what does Mr. Ryan have to do to tend (ph) off
the older, perhaps more seasoned veteran tonight?

STEELE: I think -- well, I think what he has to do is not get down in
the weeds of the numbers, but take those numbers and translate them into
real people, real stories out there, very much as you saw Romney do at the
beginning of the debate last time.

It really set the tone for where he was going to go and how he was
going to frame the discussion. So I think that to the extent he can do
that, it gets him on some good ground.

MATTHEWS: Can Biden -- does he have the ability to nail the guy on
where those -- these weedy decisions on vouchers, on personhood, on cuts
and cuts in things like cap gains tax, which we -- who will benefit -- the
rich will benefit from all these cuts of poor people programs, and getting
rid of estate taxes and lowering the top individual rate, all the wealth
that`s going to the top people that`s going to be coming from the people at
the bottom -- can Biden nail him on that stuff?

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
you know, I did an interview with the vice president back in August. And
he hasn`t done very many interviews. And we actually talked about this
then. And he was already -- this was obviously before what happened in
Denver last week, but this is exactly what he was saying he was going to
do.

He was saying, There`s these stark differences between us and them,
between me and Paul Ryan. I`m going to go up to him and I`m going to say -
- and I`m going to examine the implications of what his ideology and
policies would mean in the real lives of real people, and I`m going to
stand up to him and I`m going to say, Sir, on this and this and this and
this, you`re dead wrong.

I mean, he had already in his mind the absolute polar opposite
stylistically...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: ... to what President Obama showed in Denver.

MATTHEWS: OK, the people behind the numbers -- how will that do (ph)
Do you think Biden can handle that without getting into the weeds?

JOHN MARTIN, POLITICO: Well, that`s going to be the challenge for
both of them because both of them are fluent on policy, is how do you keep
it at 20,000 feet? I know from talking to Ryan`s advisers, they really
want him -- as one put it, this not the health budget committee. This is
not a hearing. Stay away...

MATTHEWS: It`s not a mark-up.

MARTIN: Right, stay -- it`s not a mark-up! Stay away from talking
about cloture and for mark-ups and focus on how these policies affect the
lives of everyday people.

STEELE: Exactly.

MARTIN: And if Ryan can do that and make the case for why their
policies going forward would be better than the last four years, then he
will have a good night. If Biden can get Ryan down into the weeds of, Is
the tax cut plan $5 trillion or $3 trillion, and how about entitlements,
then Biden`s going to...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...

MARTIN: ... a good night.

MATTHEWS: ... you about -- I have a sort of a stupid person`s guide
to how I`m going to do it tonight. I`m going to be really dumb. I`m going
to count the times I hear the word "voucher" tonight in an hour-and-a-half.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: If I hear it four or five times, I`ll say Biden`s doing it
pretty good. I want to see how many times the phrase "personhood" is used,
two or three times, not overdoing it, but it better come up. The phrase
"47 percent" -- I`d like -- how about the word "bankrupt automobile
industry."

MARTIN: Auto. Auto. Auto.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) These phrases to me were what the president,
Michael...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... as a debater failed to do, bring up the topics because
topics drives winners. If you`re talking about the area the guy`s
embarrassed by, talking about something makes you look good, you win.

STEELE: Well, exactly, and...

MATTHEWS: And he didn`t seem to win on that basis.

STEELE: No, he didn`t win on that basis because the president was
someplace other than that debate.

MATTHEWS: He was waiting for Jim Lehrer to bring these up, and it
wasn`t the format.

STEELE: And it`s not the format. And I think John is exactly right
in his conversation with the vice president. Look, this is a man who spent
his political career on the trains of America between Delaware and
Washington, talking with real people, spending time in the neighborhood.

MATTHEWS: He knows the conductors`s names.

STEELE: He knows the conductors` names. And that -- that -- that
side of Joe Biden is what I expect to see tonight. And so for Ryan, he`d
better be prepared to deal with that because you can be put off by it if
you`re, as Jonathan...

MATTHEWS: OK, suppose...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... something like this. I`m going to try this out. His
mother lived to a great old age. His mother was great. We were at the
funeral. She was a great lady, had a lot to do with his upbringing,
obviously. And he`ll say something like, My grandma Finnegan or my grandpa
Finnegan, what -- should they have gone out and bought health insurance
with their vouchers?

I mean, will he bring it that home?

HEILEMANN: Just remember -- just -- just two things to remember.
First of all, Joe Biden is the only one of all four of these candidates who
fluently speaks the language of populism. And it`s a populist moment.
He`s the only one. Not Romney, not Obama, not Ryan.

On this point, remember what his most effective moment in the Sarah
Palin debate was four years ago? It was the moment when he turned on her
and brought up the experience of losing his wife, his first wife and son
and infant child, infant, daughter and what it was like to be raising his
sons alone.

It was a very personal moment. It was like exactly what you`re
talking about. Instead of talking about his grandmother...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What was the public policy implication?

HEILEMANN: Well, it was -- she was claiming about -- about how --
what it was like -- the struggles of average working women. And he was
saying, Don`t tell me I don`t know about that. As a man, I still
experienced that.

And I`m just saying he personalizes everything. He talks about his
family more than any politician in America. He will -- if he doesn`t talk
about his mother, father, children, grandchildren and grandparents tonight,
I will be shocked!

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Speaking of family, you`re going to hear Ryan talk about his
mom, too, tonight.

STEELE: Exactly.

MARTIN: She`s in Florida. She`s currently on Medicare. So I think
you`re going to hear lots of family stories tonight from both Ryan and from
Biden.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How does Ryan normally talk? Does he talk like that kind
of interesting, syncopatic way of talking in the -- he gave a good speech
at the convention, but it`s almost a strange way of talking.

MARTIN: It`s a Gatling gun.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... technocratic kind of talk. He talks -- anyway, let`s
watch what Obama top guy, David Axelrod, has previewed as the strategy for
Joe Biden tonight. He did it on CBS earlier today. Let`s listen to Ax
here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Right now, the Romney
campaign is running away from some of their positions like unwanted
stepchildren. But we`re going to hold them to them and explain to the
country exactly what the differences are here because the choice is very
stark.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of that?

HEILEMANN: Well, this is always...

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: But you know, it`s interesting. You know, this has always
been their position. Back in the spring, I had a conversation with David
Plouffe where he said, you know, this choice between flip-flopper and hard-
right conservative is a false choice.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Have they made up their mind yet?

HEILEMANN: It`s a false choice. He said, We`re going to do both.
When Romney tries to flip and flop, we`re going to call him coreless, but
we`re always going to try to pin him back to the positions he took during
the primaries.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s better politics? Michael, what`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: ... is extremism, right?

MATTHEWS: That`s what I say!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Everybody thinks politicians are politicians, that they
flip. They all believe that.

HEILEMANN: But that`s their point. Their point is you can say both.
You can say, Look, he`s lying to you here. He`s being coreless. He`s
being phony. But this is what he actually believes. It`s exactly what
Axelrod`s saying. And the phrase someone used in the campaign back in the
spring was...

MARTIN: But John...

MARTIN: ... We need to freeze him like a bug in amber.

MARTIN: John, they wouldn`t have the advantage with women right now
were it not for trying to define him as an extremist for the last six
months.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me get back to Michael...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But what`s the right issue -- what`s the fair charge
against the Ryan-Romney ticket, that they`re flip-floppers or that they
have true beliefs on the right that do have human costs?

STEELE: No, I think -- I think that the extreme argument is the one
that resonates and pushes the envelope the most. And I think the same is
true for the Romney-Ryan ticket in reverse in talking about the extreme
impact of the policies of this administration with 22 million unemployed, 1
in 6 in poverty, et cetera.

MATTHEWS: OK...

STEELE: So you`re going to see both of them try to take those
elements...

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s my...

STEELE: ... of the campaign.

MATTHEWS: ... key thing on Romney right now. Remember last month
when Romney, Governor Romney, was on "60 Minutes," that he said if you have
a heart attack in your apartment -- that was his phrase -- the government
provides health care by putting you in an ambulance and taking you to the
ER to get treated.

Well, now he`s saying people don`t die because they lack insurance.
He told "The Columbus Dispatch" editorial board this week, quote, "We don`t
have a setting across this country where if you don`t have insurance, we
just say to you, Tough luck, you`re going to die when you have your heart
attack. No, you go to the hospital. You get treated. You get care. And
it`s paid for either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We
don`t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they
don`t have insurance."

Now, there you go with a statement of his belief that if you don`t
have insurance, you will properly be taken -- and he`s saying it sounds
like a pretty genteel system -- you go to the ER. Is that the Republican
health care plan?

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: No, Chris.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Michael Steele.

STEELE: Chris, it`s, like, why -- why do you even bother to go there?
He`s giving an example that we are a caring people, that we do not leave
people on the street to die.

MATTHEWS: But is that the Republican health care plan?

STEELE: Come on, Chris. It`s not. Come on.

MATTHEWS: Well, what is it then?

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Chris, it`s -- it`s making sure that people have affordable
access to health care across the board, the bottom line. And the way...

MATTHEWS: That`s not what he said.

STEELE: That`s exactly what he`s saying.

MATTHEWS: No, he...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: He`s talking about people being cared for who need that --
you just don`t throw people on the street, and you know that. Come on!

MATTHEWS: That`s right. That`s right. You don`t.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: So why are you asking -- is that -- is that Obama`s health
care plan?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you -- let me tell you...

STEELE: Come on!

MATTHEWS: ... the stark difference between the two. Obama stuck his
neck out. He was called a socialist, a communist, a European whatever they
were calling at him, because he came out for health care...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s bloated -- he`s bloated the government!

MATTHEWS: Romney`s plan is that we don`t need that "Obama care"...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: What are you talking about?

MATTHEWS: He says we don`t need "Obama care" because...

STEELE: We don`t need "Obama care"! We don`t!

MATTHEWS: ... because we put people in the emergency room.

STEELE: What we -- what we -- we don`t need "Obama care." What we
need is -- what we need is less government to make -- decision-making
power...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m going by what Romney says.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m going by what Romney says repeatedly again and again --
ER. Your answer.

HEILEMANN: Well, first of all, people do die every day in America...

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: ... because they don`t have health care. Second of all,
the whole point of what the -- the health care bill that he passed in
Massachusetts was, This is a disaster, a system where people go and show up
at the emergency room and impose incredibly...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HEILEMANN: ... intense costs on the system. That`s why...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HEILEMANN: ... we need universal health care...

MATTHEWS: OK, prediction time...

HEILEMANN: ... to keep that from happening!

MATTHEWS: Prediction, nonpartisan assessment now. How many people
think this debate is going to open up the vast differences between the two
candidates, and how many believe it`s going to get so complicated and
wonky, we`ll lose the audience? Michael.

STEELE: I think it`ll open it up.

HEILEMANN: I think the ideological distinctions between the two will
be starker in this debate than in any other debate of this entire cycle.

STEELE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan?

MARTIN: I think it`ll be clear tonight, certainly moreso than last
week, what Romney and Ryan are trying to do...

MATTHEWS: OK...

MARTIN: ... and what their plans are.

MATTHEWS: Final question. My contention is that Joe Biden has to win
a clear victory tonight or it`s a loss for the Obama team. He needs a
clear victory.

STEELE: I think he needs a clear victory, yes.

MARTIN: Yes.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK, we all agree, all four of us. Thank you, John
Heilemann, Michael Steele and Jonathan Martin. Biden better win!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Coming up in Danville, Kentucky: Should Democrats stop
panicking? We`ve got new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Marist polls, and
they show Romney`s post-debate bump is much less than feared in places like
Ohio, Florida, Virginia. Yes, the race has tightened, but the advantage
remains with the president. (INAUDIBLE) we`ll talk to Obama`s deputy
campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, and Kentucky governor Stephen Beshear.
He`s going to be here to talk about the state of the race.

Plus, whether it`s the president`s birth certificate of better than
expected jobs numbers, some on the right deny facts and throw their dirty
(ph) conspiracy theories out there. We`ve seen enough of that.

Also, meet the other man running against Paul Ryan this November.
While Joe Biden debates Ryan for the vice presidency tonight, he Democrat
trying to win Ryan`s congressional seat, Bob (INAUDIBLE) , joins us later
right here.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the -- well, that same old-fashioned
dirt we`re seeing out there.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Danville -- noisy
Danville, Kentucky, the vice presidential debate.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., VICE PRES. NOMINEE: I may not answer
the questions the way that either the moderator or you want to hear, but
I`m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my
track record also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LLOYD BENTSEN (D-TX), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Senator, I
served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend
of mine. Senator, you`re no Jack Kennedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow! Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Centre College in
Danville, Kentucky, site of tonight`s big vice presidential debate.

For some Democrats, legitimate frustration with the president`s
performance at last week`s debate turned into something like panic this
week as a number of national polls showed the president in a very tight
race now, even losing in some cases to Mitt Romney.

But in the key battleground states that will decide the election, of
course, the numbers tell a somewhat different story so far. According to
the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" Marist polls in Ohio, Florida and
Virginia, Romney has improved his standing only slightly.

Take a look at Virginia. Romney has a 1-point advantage over Obama
now among likely voters. Last week, the president was up 2 in that count.
In Florida, the president`s up by 1. That`s not very much, but the same
gap as last week. And in Ohio, the president`s ahead by 6 points -- still
solid there.

Here might be the reason why. In all three states, vast majorities
say their minds were made up before the debate -- before the debate they
made up their minds. And that`s the state of the race in those key states.
So are Democrats right to be worried or not?

Stephanie Cutter is deputy campaign manager (INAUDIBLE) manager-in-
chief for President Obama, and Steve Beshear is the illustrious governor of
the state of Kentucky. Thank you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: By the way, Governor, how can you get elected in this
regular-seeming (ph) state and Mitch McConnell is your senator and Rand
Paul? You don`t seem like the same (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Well, you know, Kentucky`s a little
schizophrenic with this national politics. We elect Democrats on a
statewide level, and then we go back and forth. You know, we voted for
Carter. Then we voted for Reagan. Then we voted for Clinton. Then we
voted for Bush. So you know, we go back and forth on the national scene.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What are they going
to do this time?

MATTHEWS: ... as far as Frankfort, but not to Washington.

(LAUGHTER)

BESHEAR: That`s right!

MATTHEWS: Stephanie, thanks for joining us. Stephanie Cutter has
been out there all the time. Give me a sense, if you can, of the feeling,
because you can tell me that, I think, honestly, of inside Chicago, inside
the headquarters.

CUTTER: Well, you know, Chris, it`s the same as it has been for
months. We have always said and always believed that this is going to be a
very close race all the way up until election day. You know, the president
wasn`t happy with his debate performance. He is looking forward to the
next debate to, you know, take Romney on, clear up some of those facts that
Romney wasn`t so clear on, and you know, we`re working hard.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about -- Governor, what do you think
about Romney`s performance last week? I mean, I thought it was different
than everything I`ve seen before.

BESHEAR: Well, obviously, the president wasn`t on his game and Romney
was on his game. Tonight, I think you`ll see two guys go at it, and
they`ll both be invigorated and exciting. And then I think you`ll see a
different president the last two debates.

MATTHEWS: Well, the stunning thing is the difference between the
cosmetic and the performance values of Romney, which were excellent last
week, and what he continued to say -- no matter what Michael Steele said
here a moment ago. He`s wrong.

The fact is, the governor -- former governor of Massachusetts` answer
for the vast majority of people who don`t have health insurance is, if
you`re lucky an ambulance will arrive, an ambulance will take you to the
ER, and if you`re lucky, you`ll be treated or you`ll sit there. It may be
a chronic condition, whatever it is. The ER is not right for everybody.

CUTTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: It`s certainly not right for people with chronic illnesses
or potentially chronic illnesses, and yet he`s satisfied with that horrible
plot.

CUTTER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: No industrialized country in the world is satisfied with
that. Why would a Republican, a serious person like Romney, say it`s OK,
throw them in the emergency room?

CUTTER: Well, I think -- well, I`ve got a few points to make on this.
One, it`s sort of emblematic of that 47 percent comment that he made,
that...

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER: ... half of the country, he`s not fighting for them. But in
terms of his specific comments on health care, number one, tens of
thousands of people lose their lives every year because they don`t have
insurance, because they don`t get the care that they need.

Number two, tens of thousands of people go into bankruptcy because they
don`t have an -- insurance. And, number three, what he`s doing is
encouraging people to use emergency rooms for their health care, which is
the entire free rider problem that Obamacare fixes and actually Mitt
Romney`s plan in Massachusetts fixes. So, there are several problems with
that statement.

MATTHEWS: But there`s a more drastic difference between the two. You`re
the expert, but I have got to tell you, when I hear your people, including
the president, he`s our president as well, say the difference between the
health care plans of the Democrats and Republicans on Medicare is it will
cost more if you have to go to vouchers, I`m telling you this, as a
thoughtful person.

No fricking 82-year-old person can go out on a bus and go buy health
insurance. Nobody is going to sell it to them.

CUTTER: That`s exactly right.

MATTHEWS: Why don`t you say that? Why do you say it will cost a little
more? Who is going to give grandma, 82, 90, years old, is going to say,
oh, I will buy you health insurance?

CUTTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: Nobody is going to sell it to them.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, in other words, he`s condemning people to no health
insurance.

CUTTER: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thought, Governor? That`s common sense.

BESHEAR: Chris, this is the same -- this is an example of what Romney has
been doing now for a year.

You know, he gets out...

MATTHEWS: Playing peekaboo.

BESHEAR: He plays peekaboo. He changes his positions.

And this thing -- when you get right down to it on November the 6th, this
is going to be decided on trust factor.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would you trust him for what he said to those rich people down
in Boca Raton, Florida, or what he says on national television? I trust
what he said down there.

(CROSSTALK)

BESHEAR: Well, listen, people understand that you can really find out what
a guy really is and what he thinks when he gets behind closed doors with
his buddies and nobody thinks anybody is listening. And he said what he
thought then, and that`s the real Mitt Romney.

And I don`t think people trust him to be president.

MATTHEWS: I noticed he was for a two-state solution in the Middle East
when everybody was watching, but when he was with a bunch of people he
thought was further right than him on the Middle East, he pandered, he
pandered.

BESHEAR: Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the way these things work.

A lot of Americans vote early now.

CUTTER: Right.

MATTHEWS: I will probably end up voting early because I have got to be in
New York for election night.

And I`m thinking, as we have these debates, it seems like some people might
go right from watching a debate and go vote.

CUTTER: Well, it`s possible.

MATTHEWS: And it`s kind of tricky, because you could have an off-night and
lose scads of voters.

CUTTER: Right.

Many of them have already voted. In the NBC Ohio poll, of the people that
they polled, 20 percent of them have already voted. We have been working
hard to make sure...

MATTHEWS: Do you like this poll of ours that says that two-thirds of the
people who voted already in Ohio voted for Obama?

CUTTER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, do you think it`s true?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BESHEAR: Well, and also...

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s true? That`s what I mean by like.

CUTTER: Well, it`s your poll.

BESHEAR: Also, Chris, those polls are indicating that 90-some percent of
the people have already made up their minds even before these debates.

MATTHEWS: But that last handful seems to be hard to get. I keep waiting
for them to make up their mind.

What do you want to hear? I love "Saturday Night Live" when they say what
do you want to know? Well, I want specifics. Now, who are the two
candidates running for president?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And I want to know exactly who is the current president of the
United States and how long the term is, because I`m against this lifetime
thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, do you really think there are people that really -- how
can -- let me ask you this. I`m feeding you this, Stephanie, my friend.

CUTTER: OK, good.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re pro-choice, that`s Obama. You`re pro-life, it`s the
other guy.

You`re for bailing out, a rescue in the auto industry, that`s Obama.
You`re for letting it go bankrupt, that`s the other guy. You`re for health
insurance, the other guy is for the E.R.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You`re for Medicare, the other guy is for vouchers.

It ain`t complicated. What are you waiting for? There`s nothing in the
middle for anybody here.

CUTTER: No. What are you doing later at about 9:00?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, it just seems like a simple thing.

CUTTER: It is a simple thing.

MATTHEWS: A woman -- a single woman, for example, who is concerned about
reproductive rights, you don`t have to sit and watch television to decide.

I heard that there was a swing among single women towards Romney after that
debate. They never talked about abortion rights.

CUTTER: No. No.

And you have seen the back and forth with Romney over the past couple of
days, what he tried to -- he understands he has a women`s problem. He
understands that if he is going to win, he has to close that gender gap.
So what did he do in the Iowa "Des Moines Register editorial board? He
tried to soften his position on abortion. But what did his campaign do the
moment he walked out from that?

MATTHEWS: Right.

CUTTER: They called Tony Perkins and said don`t worry, don`t worry. We
will clean it up.

MATTHEWS: So who is running for president, Andrea Saul or Mitt Romney?

(LAUGHTER)

CUTTER: Or Tony Perkins.

MATTHEWS: The amazing thing is, Governor -- I don`t know if you can do it
down here, but in that campaign, Romney can say something on "60 Minutes,"
he can say it on national television, anywhere he wants, and at some time
around 11:00 at night, some fellow named Eric Fehrnstrom shows up in some
briefing room and says he didn`t mean that, or somebody named Andrea Saul,
but 99 percent of the people heard the cosmetic pandering that the governor
engaged in, and said, I sort of like that guy.

And only in the midnight, in the darkness, when the movie, when the Etch A
Sketch goes on, they change and say, well, he didn`t really mean that. He
really is pro-life. He really doesn`t believe in covering people with
preexisting conditions. It was all malarkey.

BESHEAR: But, you know, Chris...

MATTHEWS: How do you get away with this?

BESHEAR: They don`t.

MATTHEWS: Are you this good, Stephanie? You can`t do this.

BESHEAR: In the end, in the end, he doesn`t get away it because on
November the 6th folks are going to vote their gut. When you get right
down to it, they`re going to vote who do they trust the most?

And they like Obama. They may not agree with all of his policies, but they
trust him, that he`s out there trying to fight for them. They don`t trust
this other guy.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Well, OK. well, we will see, we will see, we will see, we will
see.

I`m still confused by this state. They got a guy like you and they have
got Mitch McConnell?

Anyway, thank you, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Stephanie Cutter of
the Obama campaign.

Up next: more from Danville, Kentucky, and our coverage of the vice
presidential debate.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m up in the
Senate most Tuesdays when they`re in session. The first time I ever met
you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)

JAMES STOCKDALE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who am I? Why am I here?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was James Stockdale, who we didn`t appreciate at the time,
many of us, but he was of course a POW and really served his country and
had spent seven years, seven years in that Hanoi Hilton. Quite an
American.

Anyway, who are you and why are you here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Ann Williams (ph) and I`m here supporting Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Tell me about your health care situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Communist!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are an example of somebody -- my husband and I
have six children. We have worked hard our whole lives and at the end of
June, my husband lost his job. And for the first time in our whole lives,
we are without health insurance.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let`s go back to this lady.

Who said communist down here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Goodbye, communist!

MATTHEWS: What did you mean by that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, all you have to do is study it out, just study
it out, and you will see. You haven`t done your homework, buddy.

MATTHEWS: And what do I need to study?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a communist. And those of us who are not voting
for him know it.

MATTHEWS: And what do you mean by communist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t know?

MATTHEWS: Well, just tell me. Help me out here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t know?

MATTHEWS: I just want to know what you mean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I know what I mean.

MATTHEWS: Well, help us out. You`re on national television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I know I`m on national television.

MATTHEWS: Well, tell me what you mean when you just accused a guy of being
a communist. You think he`s an American?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just study it out.

MATTHEWS: Is he an American?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no.

MATTHEWS: He`s not an American?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

MATTHEWS: What is he? What country is he from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because he was born here doesn`t mean that he
thinks like us. He`s a communist, buddy.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

(BOOING)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Young man, you`re going to be at the debate tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right. I will be inside.

MATTHEWS: Tell me what you`re looking for and what your -- whose side are
you on, either way, or are you just looking at this thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`m absolutely on Vice President Biden`s side
tonight.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: What would you like him to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What are you hoping to see tonight?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`m hoping to see a recovery. We really do owe
Governor Romney a favor for making this race tight, because now the vice
presidential debate at Centre College matters. And Vice President Biden is
going to come out aggressive and he`s going to win.

MATTHEWS: When are you going to have your first race for Congress?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You look like a good candidate.

Anybody else here want to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote for Obama, because nobody trusts Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote for Obama because no one trusts Romney, and let
Obama be president for four more years.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about tonight`s debate here? It`s quite an
honor for Centre College to have another -- one of these big national
debates here tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is. I`m very happy for Dr. Roush and the
Centre students and for Barack Obama. And I`m looking forward to the
debate this evening.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, sir, is Obama a communist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, he`s not a communist. In fact, he saved
capitalism when he bailed -- when he helped out -- when he helped out our
auto industry. We wouldn`t have the jobs for him except for his -- except
for his diligence in helping us out.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Let me get to another person here. OK. What do you think? This guy has
been here all night.

What do you think about tonight`s debate? Who wants to talk here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will do it. I will do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t wait. It`s my school on national television
hosting the vice presidential debate. I couldn`t be more proud.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you.

Anybody else?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I`m Kelsey Johnson (ph) and I`m voting for Mitt
Romney.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should, too.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, Ryan!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

Who wants -- you look great. What do you think?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama has helped create five million jobs in
the last three-and-a-half years.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much.

We will be right back with more HARDBALL.

Tonight, the big vice presidential debate, we will be covering it starting
in a minute. We will be right back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Early gains evaporate, leaving the Dow down 18. The S&P ends flat. The
Nasdaq falls two points. On the economic front, weekly jobless claims slid
by 30,000 to 339,000, their lowest level since February 2008. But there
were some quirks associated with the report which led today`s early rally
to fizzle.

And Apple shares lost more than 12 bucks each after a legal battle setback
in its battle with Samsung over the Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2008)

SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, can I call you Joe?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can call me Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and our live coverage of the vice
presidential debate tonight here in Centre -- in Danville -- Danville,
Kentucky, at Centre College.

Well, economic numbers showing weekly jobless claims came down today and
they just bolster Friday`s promising unemployment numbers and put the
damper on those conspiracy theorists out there who were saying these
Chicago guys, meaning Obama`s campaign people, tinkered with the numbers.

Well, here is what today`s numbers show. Weekly jobs claims are at
339,000. That`s down 30,000. It`s now the lowest number since February of
2008. But there`s been more Twittering on Twitter about whether these
numbers are kosher or not. There`s actually still a conspiracy theory
afoot that they were manipulated.

Well, these numbers are both good and legitimate. I can tell you that.

And joining me, "Washington Post" Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and
MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson and Alex Wagner, host of "Now with
Alex Wagner."

Alex, I want to start with you, because I have done some work on this. And
all those years we have been watching BLS come out with those numbers, they
haven impenetrable from outside influence. Richard Nixon was dying to get
control of that agency and he could never do it. I was talking to Larry
Summers this weekend, and Larry said that Republicans and Democrats on both
sides of the aisle, including the presidents from both parties, have been
dying for years to get to the BLS and reduce their monthly -- or actually
annual adjustments in the consumer price index and other indices, because
they`d like to reduce the amount of payments given to beneficiaries for
programs like Social Security.

In other words, every effort has been out there to try to influence that
agency, and it has stood solid and honest and true to itself. And thank
God it was proven again true today with these good jobs numbers.

What do you make of these conspiracy nuts out there who keep playing with
these numbers and keep saying you can`t trust any number, anything,
including birth certificates?

(LAUGHTER)

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

Well, I mean, it`s an increasingly disturbing trend of the Republican Party
being a party not of facts and figures and science, but of sort of whims.
This talk has been surrounding the Fed as well. And you remember Rick
Perry talking about kneecapping the Fed, basically, kneecapping Ben
Bernanke during the primaries.

I will also point to very recent history, Chris. Not but like 10 days ago,
Republicans were up in arms about polling that showed President Obama ahead
in swing states. The minute those polls changed, the minute the Pew polls
changed and showed the race tightening, they`re calling foul on Democrats
who say that the poll numbers are inaccurate.

It`s a back and forth and sort of a radical swing against institutions in
general. And, you know, Chuck Todd talked about this, this Sunday on "Meet
the Press." It`s part of a larger narrative of institutional failure, and
the ramifications of it are fairly dire.

Once you no longer have faith in not just Congress, but the Federal
Reserve, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you get a populace that is less
and less engaged in the democratic process. You get a lowering of
standards of public servants, and you get an increasing sort of --
increasingly lazy and simplistic narrative about what it means to govern in
this country.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. Well, the conspiracy theories about President
Obama have been -- keep going here -- have been wild and persistent, first
the big lie that the president wasn`t born in this country, that his birth
certificate is a fake. Then there was the conspiracy theory that says the
president`s health care reform was part of a socialist plot -- we heard
some of that a few minutes ago -- and that his programs to strengthen the
safety net are really just a political move to shore up his base -- that
came from Romney.

And then last week`s conspiracy whopper that the unemployment numbers had
been monkeyed with, that was the wonderful wording of Donald Trump. No
surprise there.

Gene, this goes on. And it`s not fair to say it`s entirely a right-wing
thing, because we had trutherism back when they said George W. was down
there with something -- with a pump blowing up the World Trade Center.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The real wild people on the left.

But it seems like the right is more comfortable with this. They really
tend to like -- it goes back to the fluoride thing you and I grew up with.

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Fluoride was put in the water to control our minds and...

ROBINSON: Right. I mean, the truther crowd, that was pure fringe. On the
right, there are more mainstream folks who sometimes push these conspiracy
theories, and they don`t necessarily believe them. They push them. They
push them in a way to destroy or demolish or sort of muddy up facts they
don`t like.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: And so, you know, if a fact comes along they like, then it`s
golden. It`s platonic, it can`t be challenged.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There`s not a danger of so-called m media balance? You say
there are those who believe in the 7.8 percent number and then there are
those who don`t believe it.

ROBINSON: Exactly. You know, you undermine and question facts that are
inconvenient, and that`s been done again and again and that`s what`s
happening again with the unemployment numbers.

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at my interview with Jack Welch. I have always liked
Jack Welch. I must say that personally. And he used to be our ultimate
boss here. But I think he didn`t stick to his original argument that there
was manipulation of these numbers.

He basically just said at the end of the interview, he thought there was
coincidences, there`s questions to be raised. He may change his view but
that`s where it was Friday afternoon. Let`s take a look at how it evolved
though in that few minutes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK WELCH, FORMER G.E. CEO: It just seems somewhat coincidental that the
month before the election, the numbers go one tenth of a point below where
they were when the president started, although I don`t see anything in the
economy that says these surges are true.

MATTHEWS: But here you put out the word here, "unbelievable jobs numbers"
-- fair enough. "These Chicago guys will do anything, so they change the
numbers."

What evidence do you have that they got to the BLS?

WELCH: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: That the Chicago guys got to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and
jimmied these numbers by 0.3 percent, as you put it?

WELCH: I have no evidence to prove that. I just raise the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Alex, now -- I admit it, he`s an honest guy about that.
He certainly said there`s no evidence.

Here is the question, now we do have evidence based upon the reports today
that the jobs numbers are getting better, the best they`ve been since the
beginning of this administration. That seems to back up entirely what the
report was about the reduction from 8.1 down to 7.8 on Friday.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Of course. But did you hear Mitt Romney say the
number 7.8 at all? In fact, the day those numbers came out, he put out his
own math, which was it`s actually closer to 11 percent.

This party is unwilling to admit these numbers are right because they see
it as political gain for the president. And that`s -- you know, while on
some point not so surprising, it`s also, it`s a testament to where this
party is at.

I mean, these are unemployment figures for the country. This is a party
that should be rooting for the American worker just like Democrats are
rooting for the American worker. And once you are no longer able to
acknowledge the truth because it hurts you, politically -- I mean, what
does that say about the GOP?

MATTHEWS: You know what it tells me? They`re like the woman who spoke a
few minutes ago here who said the president is a communist. It`s like
people trying to fight their way out of a nightmare. You know, you wake up
in the middle of the night and you`re having a horrible nightmare and you
try to break out of it and break out of it.

To them, it`s a nightmare Obama is president of the United States. They
have to break out with all these theories. He`s a communist, you know,
he`s not born here. Ra, ra, ra, ra -- it`s crazy.

ROBINSON: There are therapists I could introduce them that they could work
with --

MATTHEWS: But is it that they get the vote, too?

ROBINSON: Well, yes.

MATTHEWS: And they get to go on television like Jack and, you know,
certainly Trump. I would love to see Trump under sodium pentothal, if he
really does believe this nonsense or has he talked himself into it.

ROBINSON: That might be a little extreme even for this show, Chris.

But I think Alex`s point is really good, though. When we get to the point
where we can`t root for good numbers, we can`t all cheer good numbers --
gee, things are getting better, that says something about how divided and
how bitterly divided the country is.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, we`re going to go on with this. By the way, is this a
generational thing do you think, Alex? Do you think younger people are
more suspicious of institutions?

WAGNER: You know, I think generally --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I used to watch the Oliver Stone movies, for example, and it
would drive me crazy.

WAGNER: Yes, but --

MATTHEWS: They would say LBJ, Nixon, everybody killed Kennedy and people
with baseball caps sitting there eating it up. I said you can`t believe
Oliver Stone. It`s not true.

WAGNER: I think there`s a healthy amount of suspicion about government and
institutions but keep in mind that the guys floating all this craziness are
old white guys on Twitter, Donald Trump, Jack Welch --

MATTHEWS: That`s why I like you.

WAGNER: The younger generation has washed its hands of some of the crazier
stuff out there.

MATTHEWS: I like it when you do this. You threw it right back at me. Old
white guys on Twitter. Take that Jack Welch, you billionaire.

Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Alex Wagner.

Up next, we`re going to speak to the man running against Jack Ryan, not for
V.P., in Wisconsin, because Mr. Ryan is hedging his bet. He is running for
re-election in Congress should that other thing not work out. We`re going
to talk to the guy who`s going to prevent the other thing from working out.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Danville, Kentucky, for
the vice presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SEN. BOB DOLE (R), KANSAS: If we added up the killed and wounded in
Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans --
enough to fill the city of Detroit.

WALTER MONDALE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Dole has
richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man tonight by implying and
stating that World War II and the Korean War were Democratic wars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I, too, want to avoid any
personal attacks. I promise not to bring up your singing. So --

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I promise not to sing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Danville, Kentucky, for the
vice presidential debate. I don`t feel like talking about Dick Cheney.

Anyway, tonight, Congressman Paul Ryan faces off against Vice President Joe
Biden. But Biden is not the only Democrat running against Ryan right now.
Believe it or not, Ryan is running for re-election just to cover his bets.

Anyway, Rob Zerban is challenging the Republican V.P. nominee in his home
state of Wisconsin right now, even outraised Ryan in the last fund-raising
quarter. Can he gain enough ground to potentially put the GOP`s number two
guy out of a job?

With me now is Democratic congressional candidate Rob Zerban.

Rob, do you think it`s right for a guy to run for two offices at the same
time? Vice president and Congress? Supposed wins both? What happens to
the decision of the voters?

ROB ZERBAN (D), WI CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think he`s going to
win both. In fact, I think he`s going to lose twice at the top of the
ticket and the congressional race. And I can say, you know, it wasn`t the
right fit for me. I was a county board supervisor and when I got into the
congressional race, I didn`t run for reelection for my county board seat.

MATTHEWS: Well, what is -- you don`t get to debate this guy. Biden does.
What do you think you could tell Biden his debate with Ryan, your guy,
you`re running against, tonight?

ZERBAN: Well, you know, I`m not going to give the vice president any
advice on how to debate but I do feel a special kinship with Joe Biden
because I am the other guy running against Paul Ryan and I think the
president needs to come out and go after Paul Ryan and his failed -- his
horribly destructive budget that is out of touch with reality.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me get to the one of the things he does -- he believe
in this personhood thing?

ZERBAN: He does.

MATTHEWS: That you get the rights of property -- Fourteenth Amendment
rights to property at the moment of conception? What could that possibly
mean? Liberty and property.

ZERBAN: You know, it`s a crazy ideological response. We`ve seen by co-
sponsoring H.R. 3 with Todd Akin. We know what his positions are and they
are completely.

MATTHEWS: Well, it means he wants to outlaw abortion and criminalize it.

ZERBAN: Correct.

MATTHEWS: Because if you create the legal construct, which he wants to do
that you`re a person, not under God`s law, but on the man`s law, you`re a
person for a time of conception. Then if you`re aborted, that`s murder
under the law. Does he know what he`s doing?

ZERBAN: I don`t think so.

MATTHEWS: Under the law.

ZERBAN: No. You know what? This is why he`s got such an ideological
bend. You know, look at his budget. Look at him try to privatize
Medicare, trying to, you know --

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to the other one -- does he think anyone in their 70s
and 80s can even shop? A lot of people can`t even get around in their 70s
and 80s. Go out and shop for a health care policy? Who would give them a
health care policy? By the time you get near the end, you definitely have
a lot of health problems. Why would anybody insure you? You want to
insure young people.

ZERBAN: That`s why these are the wrong priorities for legislator. We
can`t have people going to Congress and proposing these crazy ideas.
People in the first congressional district, have been, you know -- they
have never seen this side of Paul Ryan. They have never seen these extreme
positions. And that`s why the national spotlight --

MATTHEWS: OK.

ZERBAN: -- with him joining the ticket has been great for my --

MATTHEWS: What I don`t understand is people say he`s a budget guy. He
wouldn`t even join Bowles-Simpson. He wouldn`t even join up with them.
And here he does, he isn`t saving money by hurting poor people, by cutting
back on Medicare and those programs.

ZERBAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t take that money and reduce the debt with it. He uses
that savings to get rid of the capital gains tax, get rid of the estate
tax, lower the individual tax -- this is all for the rich people.

ZERBAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: So, is he more of an Ayn Rand elitist than he is a budget
cutter?

ZERBAN: No, I think he`s just fiscally responsible.

MATTHEWS: Why does he want to get tax breaks for the rich?

ZERBAN: I know. Well, he supported two unfunded Bush tax cuts.

MATTHEWS: Why?

ZERBAN: He supported two unfunded wars.

MATTHEWS: Why does he want to do that?

ZERBAN: Well, because he`s got the wrong ideas. He`s trying to make sure
that the 47, or the people like himself, Mitt Romney and the 1 percenters
can get more of the wealth at the top, and, you know, leave the country
behind.

MATTHEWS: Why do these people vote for him?

ZERBAN: You know, for whatever reason, Paul Ryan has gotten a free pass in
the past. But not this time. You know, I raised over $2 million. Like
you said, I outraised him by over $2 million this last quarter. So, I`m up
in the air. We`re taking the fight to him.

Particularly in Wisconsin, we know what`s at stake in these elections. We
saw how bad you can be hurt by an ideological agenda by Scott Walker or
Paul Ryan.

MATTHEWS: Would you like to debate him? Any chance you`d debate him in
your congressional race?

ZERBAN: I would love to debate him. He needs to come back and discuss
these topics with the people who gave him an opportunity to go and serve.
You know, serving the first congressional district should not be a
consolation prize for him not winning the vice presidency. I mean, to
serve the first constituents, it would be the greatest honor of my life.

MATTHEWS: Who do you think his loyal is towards? His own convention or
Romney right now?

ZERBAN: I`m sorry?

MATTHEWS: Who is he most loyal to? His own right wing, very conservative
positions or Romney? When he gets to a fight tonight, can you separate the
two? Choose, right now, it`s called middling the guy, OK, choose, are you
an ideologue or are you trying to be a team member of a Romney team? Which
is it? Because they are different.

ZERBAN: I think tonight -- well, his position changes with the wind. So,
I think, tonight, he`s going to say, I`m with Romney. But, you know, he`ll
--

MATTHEWS: He wants to be president someday as a right wing candidate. Can
he do that and still bow to Romney`s theories, Romney`s pragmatism?

ZERBAN: I think so, you know. I think when they lost this race, the race
is going to be the lose on the top of the ticket with Mitt Romney taking
their loss.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us. Rod Zerban is running against Paul
Ryan for the House, in Congress, in Wisconsin.

When we return, let me continue finish with some old fashion dirt.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Danville,
Kentucky, for the vice presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with dirt -- old fashion dirt. If up
can`t beat someone cleanly, spread the dirt.

Does anyone believe this is anything but a weapon? Dirt is not a reason to
vote for or against a candidate. No, the person slinging the dirt already
has his reason. It`s why he`s out there throwing that dirt in the first
place.

Exhibit A, Donald Trump. Does anybody believe that Donald Trump was ready
to vote for President Obama before he came up with this thing about the
president being some kind of an illegal immigrant, someone who`s mother
cooked up some elaborate scheme, a wild scheme to her son born in Africa so
that he could someday get elected president of the United States?

No. Trump declared personal war on the president for his own personal
reasons and then went to work pushing this nonsense, this birtherism out
there to the lesser minds. Those impressed by Trump`s money and swag, who
follow his lead like the mobs in the comic book, following some villain in
Batman -- you know, the Joker.

Does anyone think that the great Jack Welch who proved his brain leading
General Electric, the most successful industrial company in history decide
they didn`t like Obama last Friday morning, between 8:30 a.m. and 8:35 a.m.
Eastern Daylight Time, between the time a lower 7.8 percent jobless rate
came out from the Labor Department and when he, Jack Welch, tweeted his
attack on it?

Don`t bet on it. No. These people are out there pushing birtherism
because they want to throw some dirt on the guy, they want to hurt him, and
scheme some votes from him.

It`s not good for our politics. It`s not good for our country. And people
have it so good in this country, they shouldn`t be doing it. It`s just
wrong and people with brains and consciousness know that it is.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. I`ll be back in one
hour for a live edition of HARDBALL. Then at 8:00, Rachel Maddow and I
will lead MSNBC`s pre-debate coverage.

The debate starts at 9:00 Eastern tonight, and Rachel and I will be back at
10:30 after the debate for all the reaction and all the analysis. So, stay
up late with us for a special midnight edition of HARDBALL, to top it all
off.

"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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