1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 10/17/2012 11:05:50 AM ET 2012-10-17T15:05:50

HARDBALL
October 16, 2012

Guests: Joseph Crowley; Jason Chaffetz; Antonio Villaraigosa


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, HARDBALL: Battle stations. Let`s play
"Hardball."

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at Hofstra University, New York.
Two hours away now from the second presidential debate.

Let me start with this. I don`t think there will be a more important
few minutes in this presidential likeness to those coming tonight. Just
after 9:00 a.m. Eastern, we will see a spirited defense by Barack Obama of
his four-year record or we won`t. If we see it, this election campaign
will take a strong new life. If we don`t, something historic will begin to
die.

Obama has much to say in his defense. He inherited the economic
carnage of a recent Republican president, a catastrophic loss of jobs, a
collapse in the U.S. stock market, the death rattle of the auto industry.

He, Barack Obama, then brought a financial and economic collapse back
from the brink, changed the course of the economy from job destruction to
job creation, doubled the American stock market, saved the auto industry.
He did it all with a dramatic change of policy, a stimulus program that
varied 180 degrees from the austerity measures that have humbled Europe.
And the intervention into the auto industry that reinvigorated an industry
that means more than jobs to Americans. It means pride.

Obama needs to make this defense, he needs to underline the fact that
his opponent and his party fought him every inch of the way on the
stimulus, on the auto industry, on health care, on equal pay for women, and
that it disagrees on fundamental ways on the future course of American
economic policy. On health care, on Medicare, on Social Security, on equal
pay for women.

He has got to both defend and also hold his opponent accountable for
his and his party`s obstructionism from the first day he took office. It`s
a tall order. One worthy of an American president in a troubling but still
hopeful time.

I`m joined by NBC political director and chief White House
correspondent, Chuck Todd, Joy Reid with "the Grio" and "Huffington Post"
Howard Fineman.

Chuck, it seems to me -I want to start with the women`s issue. We
have had two debates now out of four, and none of them did the Democratic
candidate for president or vice president for re-election, raise the strong
difference between these two ticket on women`s issues. Will they do it
tonight?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He almost has no choice.
When you look at the structural shifts in this race that we`ve been
witnessing. The one thing that is held for the president is this advantage
he`s had with suburban women. However, there is some hints that this
voting group could peel away and Mitt Romney can get it. Here`s what we
saw after the first debate.

Mitt Romney`s favorable rating went up with suburban women. His
handling of the economy went up with suburban women. The only thing that
didn`t move enough was the ballot test. And that`s what, I think, you are
going to hear a lot tonight. You are going to hear Mitt Romney trying to
target these folks, not talking about social issues.

You`re going to hear the president, I think, try to bring this up in a
way, because they believe this is their trump card into Colorado, their
trump card into Virginia, their trump card in some of these suburban areas.
This is what moved. And you are right, they didn`t bring it up a lot,
although Joe Biden did. And it`s the one opening they thought that Biden
exposed against Paul Ryan late in that debate.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that was sort of -- it was done by his pushiness, if
you will. Biden just kept pushing, pushing, until finally Paul Ryan broke
and said what he really believed, sort of a theocratic argument that if you
believe something morally, you have to enforce it by forced of law which
certainly offends a lot of people in the middle and the left.

Let me go right now to Howard, you are thinking - you are telling
something before. You heard something about Colorado.

HOWARD FINEMAN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP: Yes.
In the spin room just now, Jim Messina who is the campaign manager for the
Obama campaign, was talking to reporters before the debate. We now have
pre-spin even before the debate.

But he said Colorado was key. I said, who are the undecided voters?
He said well, one example are undecided women in Colorado. He specifically
focused on Colorado because Colorado is a place where those women are being
cross-pressured. On the one hand they`re open, they are libertarian, open
to the economic arguments of Mitt Romney.

Then on the other hand, by the same token, they don`t want government
telling them what to do with their own bodies. They`re very strong on
abortion. They are strong on women`s rights. They are strong on education
spending. They are strong on pay equity. Those are all things the Obama
campaign is --

MATTHEWS: Why would a woman, or any gender, not be for at least
equality? How can you -- I mean, you know, only three Republicans in the
house voted for that equal pay issue. Which means you can`t -- for the
same work, you can`t pay a woman less than -- I say, when you grow up as a
young girl, you ought to know from the time you`re thinking about it, your
work and time is worth as much as the boy next to you, boy. And yet, why
would any woman say, yes, I`m going with pay inequality. That`s my deal.

JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right. I think that`s
one of the issues the Obama campaign hasn`t pushed enough.

MATTHEWS: Why haven`t they brought it up?

REID: You know what? It doesn`t really make a lot of sense. I just
came from across the way where protesters are. That`s a huge Planned
Parenthood protest going on here today.

MATTHEWS: Right.

REID: And what you heard from a lot of women there was they were
older or younger, was almost a libertarian argument, just what Howard said.
I don`t want the government telling me what to do with my body. But, I
think the equal pay issue is just as resonate even with older women. I
think there are too, women`s vote. There is the older white suburban
woman`s vote and there is the younger. I can`t think of a younger woman
that I have ever talked to. There isn`t outraged and actually shocked at
the way this Republican --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think the difference on this personhood thing, this
giving the rights of the 14th amendment to life, liberty and property,
whatever that means, to a fertilized eggs, and seconds after conception, I
think that is almost Shariah talk. It is so strange.

REID: Exactly. And it think that it is something --

MATTHEWS: It is political.

REID: I think it`s -- what the president wants tonight is for a woman
to ask a question about this tonight and Mitt Romney to have to look into
the eyes of an actual woman and defend this idea of his party that it`s the
government --

FINEMAN: On that point, Candy Crowley has a more important role than
people realize here.

REID: Absolutely.

FINEMAN: Because they were explaining to me just now that not only
does she pick the questions, she knows who the questioners are. And so,
she is scripting the drama that will result in who the questioners are.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to the bigger issue to you, Chuck. It seems to
me Obama had an original plan. You covered this better than anybody, had
an original plan of just making the choice election, not a referendum on
how do you like things because things looked pretty bad a year ago or so.
They look better now, of course.

But to make it a choice election, and yet in the first two debates,
especially his debate, the president didn`t really carve out his
achievements, the auto industry, bringing the economy back in the seven
percent range rather than the 10 percent range, doubling the stock market.
There are a lot of things to talk positively about. Is he going to do that
tonight or just let that pass? What`s he up to, on that?

TODD: I had an aide bluntly admit to me that, look -- and they said,
his job tonight is simply to say why he wants a second term and what he`s
going to do. And he`s got to simply answer those two questions.

Yes, he needs to draw contrasts. And I sort of pushed back. I said,
it sounds like you think the president didn`t answer the Roger Mudd
question, if you will, going back to the `80 campaign with Ted Kennedy.
And this person went, exactly. He has to answer that basic question.

Why -- you know, not just why do you want to be president? Why do you
want a second term? And you got to look like you want it. And that is
what, you know, Peter Hart, one half of our polling team, did a bunch of
focus group. And he was talking about in his analysis he was struck by how
many folks in his focus group, some supporters of the president, some
undecided, some with Romney, who all came to the same conclusion and said,
the president didn`t seem strong on that stage.

You got to look like you`re commanding the stage. You know, one thing
about Biden, he commanded his debate, right? Whether you love him or hate
him, it was his debate. And as one person said, Paul Ryan was sometimes a
spectator at that debate because Biden sort of dictated the terms. Romney
dictated the terms of the first debate. Who`s going to dictate the terms
tonight?

MATTHEWS: Yes, but the question --

FINEMAN: Part of being strong is citing what you have accomplished as
the predicate for what you want to continue to do. You have to make it a
continuing story.

MATTHEWS: Not more promises.

FINEMAN: No. But you have to say, look, the trim lines are good.
Let`s look at what positive has happened. I can`t complete -- I want to
complete the job for you. I must complete the job for you. Here`s what
I`ve done. Here`s how I`m going to do it.

MATTHEWS: You know, great questions is why, I mean, Andrew Sullivan
asked over the weekend on out weekend show, he said, ask Romney to say one
area -- significant area of policy where he disagreed with "W." What is
going to different than what we had four years ago?

REID: Exactly. And that is the basic case the Obama campaign is
making. But, I think, that they have to do one additional thing. Because
this is the thing that comes up over and over and over again. Republicans
saying that it`s his fault there wasn`t more cooperation on the things he
wanted to do.

I think he also has to prosecute Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney`s party a
little bit. Half of that ticket is a member of the United States House of
Representatives who obstructed this president since day one. And he has
got to say, hold me responsible as president, but hold your representatives
responsible, too, because I`ve been dealing with that crowd over there for
the last four years. And they haven`t exactly been doing what`s in the
best interest of the American people. And of you --

MATTHEWS: I was in Massachusetts and I was --

REID: Being a severely conservative Republican --

MATTHEWS: And let me --

FINEMAN: There are no examples of where he disagreed with his own
base, tea party base, zero.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go the performance. Start with to you, Chuck,
in performance tonight. It seems Romney took control of the stage last
time. He walked in like the CEO to a boardroom.

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: And he took over physically almost. Obama, and certainly
the moderator were at loose ends to try to catch up with him. How does the
president walk into a room where there`s this big guy with total ego, self-
confidence facing him down. Will he look him in the eye? Will he stare
him down? Does he want to do that?

TODD: I think there`s going to be a little of that, but you know,
both sides have been very careful to be saying, hey, you know, we`re not
interested in having confrontations with the other guy.

You know, I`ve had Romney people say to me, he knows that he has to
sort of balance talking to the room and the person that asks the question,
while also trying to have a conversation with the folks on the couch and
ditto on the president`s side.

They`ve been careful saying, look, he wants to draw a contrast, but he
knows, you know, his job is to make his own case. Yes, he`s going to draw
some contrasts with Romney, but it`s not -- you know, I think that some
people wonder, is it going to be a throw down, if you will.

That it seems to be, at least both sides, are saying they are
hesitating to do that. I buy it on the Romney side. I`m not sure on the
Obama side if they`re just saying that and spinning us or if that`s the
case. Look, it is not in Obama`s nature to be fully confrontational.
That`s just not -- that`s not what he did during the debates when his back
was against the wall a little bit with Hillary. But, he did always try to
find a way to be a little more sousing in his contrasts.

MATTHEWS: What happens if the president is confronted with a little
bit of sarcasm masked as cordiality which this guy is very good at? He
comes on strong in the first couple of minutes. And all Mr. Romney has to
step, oh, you had your witty this morning, Mr. President. You like a
little bit more of --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What happens if he pulls that number?

FINEMAN: I don`t think Mitt Romney will do that. Talking to people
who have been in town hall debates. The trick or the skill is to use the
audience, to use the crowd, to get them on your side. It`s kind of a bank
shot thing, where you have to --

MATTHEWS: Are they allowed to applaud?

FINEMAN: No, I don`t think so. But they -- the idea is when you`re
answering the question, you`re also appealing to the rest of the crowd, in
trying to get the crowd on your side, opposed to the other candidate. And
that`s what they`re both going to try to do, I think.

REID: And that`s an important point. Because Mitt Romney sort of
board presentation act plays one way when you are up to electorate. It
plays a lot different when there are regular people in the room. But, he
has exactly had good luck communicating with the average person. So, Mitt
Romney has got to balance not coming across like that sort of nasty CEO
guy. A lot of snare can hurt him in the room with those individuals.

MATTHEWS: You know the Hollywood role, the key is sincerity. And if
you can fake that, you`ve got it made.

Anyway, thank you, Joy-Ann Reid. And thank you, my friend, Howard
Fineman, and my old friend of mine, Chuck Todd. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Coming up, the biggest danger of President Obama in the
final stretch which we are getting in to the campaign as a malaise sets in
among his main support, especially women, his Hispanics and young people.
That is got to be weighing on his mind tonight. Can he rouse the troops?
We are going to get that.

Also, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have emerged as major allies of
the president in this election. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton took heat off
the White House when she said she, not the president, was responsible for
the lack of security in Benghazi. And the former president has emerged as
a major booster out on the campaign trail. So, just how important is the
Clinton factor this election? We`ll get to that. That`s always fun.

Plus, I`ll go toe to toe with Obama and Romney stand-ins for another
round-up "just answer the question." It`s my turn to pose the questions I
would like to ask the candidates in tonight`s debate.

Well, Congressman Joe Crowley is filling in for Obama and Congressman
Jason Chaffetz of Utah will play Romney. Can they answer my questions?

Let me finish with this, heavyweight battle. And that is what is
going to be tonight, the heavy championship.

This is "Hardball," the place for politics, life from Hofstra
University, the second presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball" live from Hofstra University,
for the second presidential debate.

President Obama rode a wave of enthusiasm to the White House back in
2008 putting together what is sometimes called the coalition of ascendants.
That coalition had a heavy dose of young people, of course, and minority
particularly Hispanic voters. The president has to engage them again, he
has a challenge this time.

The latest NBC news/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows the prompt. It
tested for voter enthusiasm, right now at 79 percent of Republican call
themselves extremely interested in this elections, meaning they hate Obama,
73 percent of Democrats or lower level excited. But, four years ago at
this time Democrats had a 13-point edge in this department.

Let`s talk about how they get it back for the Democrats. Antonio
Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles. Eugene Robinson is Pulitzer Prize
winning columnist for "the Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

Let me just start with you, Mayor. How does tonight`s debate, when
probably between 50 and 70 tonight, probably 60 million people watching and
going back and forth to the baseball games, probably. How does he reach
them tonight? What does he do tonight to get them rock `n` rolling, we are
going to do absentee ballot, we are going to show up and vote, darn it?
How does he do it?

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Well, you know, the
format, the questions from the audience, obviously, he has to answer their
questions and then pivot. He has got to hit Mr. Romney`s record. Just
because Mr. Romney says it, doesn`t mean it`s so. We saw it in the last
debate that he says a lot of things, none of which are based on fact or are
true. Particularly his misrepresentation of our record on Medicare, which,
as you know the president extends Medicare and reinforces it. His own
record on Medicare, where he wants to turn it into voucher care. And a
coupon program.

So, he has to be very aggressive about defending his record and
putting Mr. Romney on his heels to explain why he says one thing and then
another and then another every single day, it seems.

MATTHEWS: Gene, I`m worried people my kids` age, you know, that you
never saw a president like President Obama, they take him for granted. Let
me honest about it. They think he`s just another president maybe. There`s
a big deference between him and what the other guy is offering. Do they
know the choices above here?

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, he
has to outline the choices. I mean, the choices have to be outlined. I
think to young people, to Latinos, to African-American, the president has
to talk about his record, talk about things he has done, show that he
understands their issues and their concerns. Be it unemployment, student
loans, whatever, and -- or immigration.

And then he has to talk about what he has done, what he`ll do in the
next four years and contrast that with Mitt Romney`s stance. So for
Latinos, for example, I think Latinos would be interested to hear the
president`s version of the dream act he implemented, which is an important
issue, and Mitt versus Mitt Romney`s policy of self-deportation.

VILLARAIGOSA: Of 11 million people.

MATTHEWS: That`s a ludicrous claim he`s going to do it. But, I
understand what it means, it`s an insult. Anyway, President Obama swamps
Mitt Romney among young voters, those in the 18 to 34 age group, but
they`re less enthusiastic this time around.

Now, 52 percent of young voters call themselves extremely interested
in the election. Back in 2008 that number was 20 points higher. And in an
effort to fire up young voters, the president has frankly, been on a
college tour of U.S. campuses lately. This time last week he was at Ohio
State. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grab your friends, grab
everybody in your dorm, grab your fraternity or sorority, join will I am
right after this event because he`s heading to an early vote location where
you can register and vote in the same place right now. There are buses
around the corner that can get you there and back. So, don`t wait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, among Latino voters Obama beats Romney now, believe
it or not, by 50 points. But the tricky part maybe their enthusiasm level
again. Now 59 percent of Latinos call themselves extremely interested in
this election, at this point in 2008 that number was 18 points higher.

Mayor, you come from that background, they represent a lot of people
emotionally and politically as well. What is it? Is it a lack of a long
history of voting, habit-forming voting rather than just phenomenal voting,
only when it`s exciting? I mean, I think that`s true with a lot of
Democrats --

VILLARAIGOSA: A lot of young voters, a lot of voters lower
socioeconomic and across the race, they vote lower turnout rate, a lot more
renters, less homeowners. Homeowners tend to vote at a higher rate. So,
all of those things come into play. What you`ll see new Americans tend to
vote in higher numbers than second generation.

MATTHEWS: Really?

VILLARAIGOSA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They jumped at this?

VILLARAIGOSA: Yes. But look.

MATTHEWS: What is the -- this is very important to political science.
Why do people second generation in this country fade in interest? Why did
they take things for granted. Don`t they think they can change things?
What is it that dispirits them?

VILLARAIGOSA: I`m not sure I understand why. I do know this, that
people that are newly- new Americans, new citizens, they tend to vote in
higher numbers, they also tend to be older, they tend to be -- and some are
homeowners. But, look, we are going to have to lay out a record on
immigration. Mr. Romney calls for the self-dough posterior tags of 11
million people. He says the GMAC is a handout. He runs around with Chris
Kobach, the architect of the Alabama and Arizona law.

You know, the healthcare law, nine million of the 32 million are
Latinos that are going to benefit from that. When the president talks
about investing in education and lowering the tuition rate, one of the
fastest growing groups going into college today are Latinos.

MATTHEWS: He may be a wolf in sheep`s clothing, this is an old time
expression, because I don`t think Romney looks like a scary guy. That`s
the danger thing to Democrats. He doesn`t scare people. He doesn`t look
like, you know, a guy with an axe handle.

VILLARAIGOSA: His policies are going to hurt a lot of people.

ROBINSON: Yes, I mean, so you kind of have to do both. I mean, if
his policies are scary, you have to make him a scary guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, he isn`t going to do it.

ROBINSON: But you also have to give this sort of positive, forward-
looking view. This is why it`s --

MATTHEWS: There`s so much to do in three weeks, guys, for the Obama
team.

ROBINSON: In two hours --

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Tonight`s a good night to start, I
would say.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Eugene Robinson of "the
Washington Post."

Up next, more from Hempstead, New York, and our coverage of the second
presidential debate at Hofstra.

This is "Hardball," the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back. Let`s have some excitement at the site of the
presidential debate tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. My question to President Obama is, what
is he going to do about student loans?

MATTHEWS: Student loans, a common question. Go ahead, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to ask President Obama what he`s going
to do about the predatory drones` strikes in Pakistan.

MATTHEWS: Where are you on that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where I`m I on that? We shouldn`t be killing
innocent civilians in another country with our own weapons.

MATTHEWS: OK. Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask both candidates what they`ll do to
end the war on women.

MATTHEWS: And what is the war on women as you see?

MATTHEWS: The War on women is taking away their reproductive right,
taking away their access to even wages with men and the way that the
disproportionately unemployed in this country.

MATTHEWS: And why do you have a dollar bill on your face?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because bog money is gunning the voice of
ordinary Americans, the selection cycles. It`s going to be the most
expensive election in the history of democracy.

MATTHEWS: Do you blame citizens united?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do. I blame citizens united but it started
long before that.

MATTHEWS: Next question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would ask Obama why he isn`t pro life. A
fetus is a human life --

MATTHEWS: We should outlaw it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What do you do to women that have an abortion? What should
we do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the only reason --

MATTHEWS: No, what should we do to a woman that has an abortion. You
say outlaw it, that means criminalize it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But, what should be do? What should be the punishment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to jail. Like that`s killing someone. It`s
murder. It`s murder.

MATTHEWS: How long --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s murder! It`s murder!

MATTHEWS: How long?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s murder! It`s a human life.

MATTHEWS: How long? How long?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s -- Listen, are you going to pay for all
those kids, too?

MATTHEWS: Are you disagreeing with her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m totally disagreeing with her. Women`s
rights, equal rights. That`s what we`re for. That`s what Obama needs to
be --

MATTHEWS: Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to ask Governor Romney what he
would do with all the other kids that now get insurance up to 26.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s a good thing Obama`s go Obama caret.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will these kids won`t have insurance when they
get out of college.

MATTHEWS: That`s interesting point. Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d like to ask Governor Romney why he wants to
cut national endowment for the arts.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think he wants to do it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he`s trying to cut important programs
that he thinks aren`t important but they are actually really important for
the --

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

Let`s move down to this fellow who wants to get in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to ask Mitt Romney when is he going
to treat the middle class with the same respect he gives his elitist class?
When he going to come down and treat everyone the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When is he going to recognize the middle class?

MATTHEWS: Any Romney people here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to ask Obama what really happened
in Libya.

MATTHEWS: What do you think happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think it was a huge terrorist attack
and they think they`re trying to cover up --

MATTHEWS: Did you read The New York Times today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don`t read "the Times."

MATTHEWS: Oh, you don`t read "the Times." OK. Well, "the Times"
said it was a combination. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just wondering what the president will do to
get us out of Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: Do you think we should stay in longer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t. I don`t --

MATTHEWS: Who are you for, Romney or Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney.

MATTHEWS: And Romney will take us out when?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney has plans to take us out.

MATTHEWS: Faster than Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Really? News tonight, ladies. News tonight. News
tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder what the candidates say about the
economy, how they`re going to improve that.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think you are going to hear that tonight, I can
guarantee that tonight. Miss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to ask Governor Romney if he believes
senior citizens should be able to choose between a private system and a
public health care system, why shouldn`t every American be allowed the same
choice.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s it. Have I to think about that one. Thank you
very much.

We will be right back with more "Hardball."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to "Hardball" and live from Hofstra University for the
second presidential debate tonight coming up at 9 p.m. Eastern. There are
no bigger Democrats than the two who aren`t running for president this
year, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. And yet both are coming to Barack
Obama`s defense at a critical time in the campaign.

John Heilemann is the national affairs editor at "New York" magazine.
He wrote a big piece about the Clintons/Obama, and also, we got David Corn
of "Mother Jones." He is the author of "47 percent," also MSNBC political
analyst.

I`m starting to talk like the guy on "Saturday Night Live."

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to you, John Heilemann. Let`s talk about the
internal relationship that is driving this. Is it self-interest, is it
Bill Clinton`s love of the game, is it patriotism? What mix, what alchemy
unites these people right now?

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is all of those
things rolled in to one. I mean, the truth is, that Bill Clinton believes
he and Barack Obama are on the same page on substance. That ultimately
Bill Clinton cares more than anything else in politics and policy. He
thinks that Romney would be a disaster for the country and Obama is
pursuing policies that are now, not what he advocated in 2008, but what
he`s pursued in 2009, `10 --

MATTHEWS: So, they are moderate, center left Democrats.

HEILEMANN: Pragmatic progressive. And Obama now, is no longer
positioning himself as antidote to Clintonism. He no longer says --

MATTHEWS: No transformational stuff.

HEILEMANN: He says it`s about by getting there working for the middle
class, getting this stuff done. Clinton loves that because it restores
Clintonism. Instead of him trashing Clinton, he is a Clinton heritor now.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s for people that work hard and play by the rules
again.

HEILEMANN: All that stuff. And self-interest involved, too.

MATTHEWS: So, they converged?

HEILEMANN: Because he wants the restoration of Bill Clinton and Bill
Clinton`s reputation, Clintonism, the Clinton era, all helps Hillary
Clinton if she runs in 2016.

MATTHEWS: Well, he certainly, it succeed for Bill. Bill Clinton has
won already.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He`s massive.

MATTHEWS: You make the point no matter what happens, he`s the good
guy.

CORN: He`s massive.

MATTHEWS: David, your thoughts?

MATTHEWS: I think he is the towering figure on the political
landscape. You saw his convention speech. No one does it better. He
could have gone on for three hours and held the whole country in Iraq with
his knowledge of both policy and --

MATTHEWS: Here`s a key question --

CORN: But listen. This is the key thing Barack Obama needs to learn
from him. The intersection of policy and politics and how to talk about it
in a way that doesn`t talk down to people but brings it down to the ground,
is Bill Clinton`s great selling point. Barack Obama needs that tonight and
in the next three weeks.

MATTHEWS: Barack Obama has been campaigning for months, on the
college tour, meeting people. But, there`s something that`s not there.
Certainly shows up for work. Certainly is putting the time in. And he is
showing it with some kinetic energy. But there is something lacking in the
spiritual quality of what he`s commanding here. Does he really want this
as much as Bill Clinton loves it?

CORN: Well, I think they`re no question he wants it really. Barack
Obama is a competitive guy. You know, whatever happened in the first
debate, you know, I think is an anomaly, but he has to get to come out
tonight -- you`ve seen him at the rallies.

HEILEMANN: But I will tell you the one thing that is true, he`s not
as hungry as Clinton always was.

MATTHEWS: For public --

HEILEMANN: He doesn`t need to be loved or loved to be needed as much
as Clinton does. There`s something about Clinton that is just -- it`s
visceral and Obama`s never had that. You can still win without that, but
the thing that --

MATTHEWS: He would campaign if there weren`t an election.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- which is what he`s doing now.

HEILEMANN: That`s what he`s doing now. But, the thing Clinton said,
and kept saying during the convention speech, which was so perfect, which
is implicit criticism of Obama and what he was going to try to do was,
which was people need explanation, not eloquence. That`s his -- that was
his mantra.

MATTHEWS: OK. If you were sitting with Axelrod and Plouffe and the
rest of the guys in Chicago, Washington, Chicago, in headquarters, what
would be your use plan for Bill, from now, three weeks to go? How would
you - would you used it for weekend barn storming with the president,
separate from the president, on TV, what would you do?

HEILEMANN: Well, they have him on TV to a huge extent. The Clinton`s
ad, making the case direct to camera about Obama`s economic record has run
16,000 times in swing states. It`s run more than any other Obama ad.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HEILEMANN: Now, the Obama ads with the two of them together running
all over the place. They`ve got him now with an increasingly large
calendar of swing state visits. It was supposed to be relatively limited.
It`s getting bigger by the day. They have days set aside in the last week
where they are --

MATTHEWS: Trouble-shooting?

HEILEMANN: And they are thinking about campaigning together --

MATTHEWS: Why wouldn`t -- why wouldn`t they do that? Because that
would be dramatic.

HEILEMANN: They`re going to, I think. What they`re doing now is
trying to spread the field. Nine states to cover. Get Clinton out there,
get Obama in different places. Same reason they don`t send Obama out with
Biden. Cover as much ground as you can. But, at the end I think they are
going to close this sale together.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`d put him in Allentown, Pittsburgh, I`d put him in
Youngstown, I put him in Cleveland --

HEILEMANN: Ohio, Virginia, all the time, a lot.

MATTHEWS: Norfolk, yes.

CORN: This week, on Thursday, Clinton`s doing an event with
Springsteen, two events, in Iowa and Ohio. So, they`re already forming a
traveling road show. They will use them, I think, as much as he can be
used.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the other side. They`re going to try to break
this up.

Tonight, will Romney try to separate the Clintons from Obama by saying
something snarky which may be good politics? You know, you let her take
the hit for this Libya thing.

HEILEMANN: There`s no question he`ll go after Obama on Benghazi.

MATTHEWS: Will he try to separate them from the Clintons?

HEILEMANN: I think he may and I will tell you. I think it would be
an extraordinary moment of strength for Obama to say, just to put it all
down quickly and say, it was gracious of what Secretary Clinton said. Of
course she runs the state department but ultimately the buck does stop with
me. It`s --

MATTHEWS: Kennedy said, I`m the officer in charge.

HEILEMANN: Yes. And I think that would be a powerful thing to do.
Both, true and politically powerful.

MATTHEWS: David, you think so?

CORN: I think Romney, you know, he`s tried to do this already, tried
to like raise Clinton as the opposite of Obama to put Obama in a negative
light. If he does this now with Clinton, you know, really high profile, I
think he does it at his peril because you have Clinton out tomorrow or
tonight saying, you know, I`m thanking the governor for his remarks but
that`s not really the case.

If you really care what I think, I`ll tell you what I think. Sets up
the argument for Obama even more so. So, I think it`s kind of dangerous
for Romney to go after Clinton at this point in the game.

MATTHEWS: Does this squeeze out any chance of Biden running for
president, this close relationship between the Clintons and president right
now?

HEILEMANN: I think President Obama does not cares that much about
succession. And I think that she is going to be hard for any Democrat to
beat.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HEILEMANN: Joe Biden is a wonderful guy. But he`s not -- she is the
candidate that the party wants in 2016. From the donor community --

MATTHEWS: Women are heavily Democrat.

HEILEMANN: The party shows -- they had a tough choice between
historic woman, historic African-American. They made that choice by a hair
in 2008. They want to go to her in 2016. They want her.

MATTHEWS: So I have you, guys, right before the close tonight, what
do you want to see the president, one word you want him to speak tonight,
what is it? 47 percent? What do you want him to say?

HEILEMANN: I want to hear him say and I want to see him embody fight.
Fighting for you and fighting for himself.

CORN: And I also -- I want to see him draw the difference and tell
people why it matters, why he is, indeed, different than Mitt Romney. More
importantly, why Mitt Romney is different than he is.

MATTHEWS: And is it a negative or a positive campaign he needs to
lead tonight in this crucial hour and a half?

CORN: He has to do so much tonight. Sell himself, sell his vision,
sell his accomplishments and not let Mitt Romney get away from saying
nothing or running away from his own position.

MATTHEWS: Can he challenge him on the fact that he slid away from so
many hard right positions in just a couple weeks?

HEILEMANN: He has to bring it into one thing. And again, to go back
to Bill Clinton at the convention, the two contrasting philosophies, we are
all in this together versus you`re on your own. If he can draw that as the
difference between him and Mitt Romney, he`ll get a lot of important work
done. What specific examples to highlight what I`m --

MATTHEWS: Candy Crowley tonight, her role is going to be somewhere
between - well, it may well will be the most aggressive of all moderato
moderators. Your thoughts.

CORN: Well, she gets to pick the questions and, more importantly, the
questioners. So, whether you get an unemployed autoworker whose job was
saved by Obama`s actions or whether you get somebody who is a financier who
wants less regulation on Wall Street. That`s the big difference, I think.

MATTHEWS: She paints the picture.

HEILEMANN: She`s the director of the movie tonight. She`s casting
it.

MATTHEWS: How about real-time fact-checking, can she do that? If he
says something everybody`s agreed in the mainstream media his wrong or
inaccurate, can she call him on it?

CORN: She`s not supposed to by the rules. But I think if she does
so, he has nowhere to run. He has to answer the question.

HEILEMANN: Well, it will be most interesting is if one of the people
in the crowd actually fact-checks him. Someone who actually asks him a
question and says, that`s not what I read. I`ve heard to the contrary, you
know. I keep up with the news. I want to see --

CORN: I would like to see somebody say, what will you -- what did you
mean when you said you were completely wrong about the 47 percent remark?
When you said people don`t take responsibility for their lives, what were
you thinking?

HEILEMANN: Especially if they happen to be one of those people. You
know, as -- again, I keep going back to Bill Clinton. I saw him in New
Hampshire and his whole thing on the 47 percent was, you know who those
people are, almost all of them, they almost all work. These people who
work. And they would love to pay taxes.

MATTHEWS: Because they pay payroll taxes.

HEILEMANN: Or have earned income tax credit because they`re in the
working poor. These people want to pay more taxes because it would mean
they are making more money.

MATTHEWS: OK, bottom line. Bill Clinton, you mentioned New
Hampshire. I think it is so smart. Al Gore lost the presidential election
of 2000 because he didn`t use Clinton in places like Arkansas, even
Tennessee and New Hampshire. There are states where Bill Clinton can
literally make the difference in the Electoral College.

HEILEMANN: Well, New Hampshire is probably the -- they`re tied New
Hampshire now.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He can do it.

HEILEMANN: Huge in New Hampshire.

CORN: And listen. I think using him in Ohio, which is probably the
ball game here, means a lot. He can talk to the working American.

MATTHEWS: We can do this for two hour. In fact, dead lock too.

Anyway, thank you John Heilemann. Thank you David Corn.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, man.

MATTHEWS: Up next, just answer the question, we`re going to tackle
the big issues in tonight`s campaign through surrogates. I`m going to ask
people on behalf of the candidate to answer my questions.

This is "Hardball" the place for politics. Live from Hofstra
University, the second presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back from Hofstra University for the second
presidential debate where is going to figure reaction. Tonight, we are
going to watch the candidates respond a question from voters, of course,
it`s their job when the usual head to head with the moderator format.

Tonight, it will require different skills, perhaps, more empathy on
the part of the candidates, more compassion, whatever. But, the rules are
the same, just answer the question, the way I like to say.

With me now for "Hardball" mock debate is U.S. congressman Joe
Crowley, Democrat from New York, I think from Queens, playing President
Obama. And also playing Governor Romney we have U.S. congressman Jason
Chaffetz from Utah, a Republican. Jason, thank you.

Let me go to the first question for you, Congressman Crowley. I`m
talking to President Obama now, if your face.

REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: Yes, you are.

MATTHEWS: In your face. I`ve been unemployed for three years. You
say you created five million jobs. What do you say to me?

CROWLEY: Well, I say we have more to do. There is more jobs to be
created. I created 5.2 million jobs over the last four years of my -- in
my term in office. We have created 500,000 manufacturing jobs in this
country in the last two years alone. There`s more work to be done and help
is on the way. Re-elect me and I`ll make sure every job that wants a job
gets a job.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask Governor Romney a question to Congressman
Chaffetz. You say you want to go after Iran even if they have the
capability, that`s the phrase, capability of producing a nuclear weapon.
Capability. How do you justify preemptive war?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Hey, look, one of our greatest allies
is Israel. We have to make sure we`re standing with them in this fight
because they have said that they will use nuclear weapons to destroy the
United States of America, to destroy Israel. We`re going to stand together
with them. We have to prevent this and make sure that it never happens.
We`re going to negotiate hard. But the projection of strength will
actually lead to, I think, a better negotiating position because under
President Obama it`s gotten more tumultuous and worse.

MATTHEWS: OK. That will sound what that it work with the right wing
evangelicals and some Jewish people, but it`s not answering my question.
And my question is simple and you freaking answered it, all right?

Here`s the question. Your candidate says he will go to war, commit an
act of war against Iran if it even have the capability. Not that it has
nuclear weapons. But that he judges it has the capability. Are you
comfortable with that as an American? Comfortable with going to war under
those limited circumstances or extended circumstances?

CHAFFETZ: If there is a clear and present danger to the United States
of America, yes --

MATTHEWS: No, a capability --

CHAFFETZ: The president will take decisive answer that will --

MATTHEWS: That`s rhetoric. It`s not policy.

CHAFFETZ: It`s a clear and present danger. If it does create a clear
and present danger --

MATTHEWS: That`s not policy. That`s general talk.

CHAFFETZ: -- to the United States of the America --

MATTHEWS: It`s talk.

CHAFFETZ: No, it`s not.

MATTHEWS: You`re comfortable with the word - no, no, you have to
capability is enough for you? Capability is enough for you.

CHAFFETZ: Yes. I want to make sure that if there is --

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`ve answered it, finally.

Do you have any jobs -- all right, another jobs bill, and another
stimulus bill in your second term, Mr. President?

CROWLEY: I think we do need to do more to create opportunities. One
thing I can tell you, Chris, is I have a vision for this country. I want
to restore the middle class.

MATTHEWS: More jobs bills, more -- I want to protect women.

CROWLEY: And I`ll tell you, Chris, if I have a Congress that I can
work, finally get a Congress I can work, we can work together to put
Americans back to work.

MATTHEWS: And you want more jobs bills and more stimulus bills.

CROWLEY: Hey, listen. I`m about creating jobs in America, not like
my opponent, Mr. Romney, who wants to create jobs in China. I want them
right here in the United States.

MATTHEWS: But the answer to the question would be yes, more jobs
bill, more stimulus bills.

CROWLEY: I think there`s more we have to do together, and the
Congress and the president need to work together on the behalf of the
American people, not just for their own self --

MATTHEWS: I hope it gets this good tonight.

Anyway, let me ask you Congressman Chaffetz, about your health care
plan, Mr. Romney. I have a hard time figuring exactly what it is because
he keeps saying, if someone gets sick and they have a heart attack, we`ll
rush them to the emergency room, we won`t leave them in their apartments or
whatever.

My question is, what is the Romney health care plan? Does it exist?
Is there such a thing. He wants to dump the Obama plan. What does he want
to create for the 40 million people, 40 million people who would lose their
health care?

CHAFFETZ: No, I disagree with the very premise of that. But, Chris,
what Governor Romney has done and did as the governor of Massachusetts --
what he did as the governor of Massachusetts is he worked with an 87
percent Democrat legislature in a bipartisan way to come up with solutions.
The federal government doesn`t need to try to solve every one of these
issues. States can solve lots of these issues. And how we deal with it in
Utah is going to be very different in Massachusetts or Florida.
Absolutely, it`s going to be a little bit different.

MATTHEWS: So it`s very possible --

CHAFFETZ: Of course we`re going to do this.

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute.

CHAFFETZ: I`m sorry?

MATTHEWS: It`s the year 2012. It`s the year 2012. So when Obama did
it, nobody ever did it in history. And you`re saying, of course we would
do it. Is there any evidence in history that the Republican Party would
have ever created a health care plan? Have you ever tried to do it? Ever?
Tell me when you guys --

CHAFFETZ: We have passed --

MATTHEWS: When did you guys create a health care plan?

CHAFFETZ: We have passed more bills that are now sitting in the
United States Senate than you can possibly imagine. There`s more than 30
jobs bills, there`s a number of bills that deal with health care. And yes,
a president --

MATTHEWS: When is the Republican Party ever created a national health
care plan --

CHAFFETZ: President Romney will create to give each state a waiver so
they can craft that work at their own plan. There are certain things that
the federal can and should do, and I would point to the example of what a
governor Mitt Romney did with an 87 percent Democratic legislature. You`ve
got to do it in a bipartisan way, not the way Democrats did it, slamming it
through without Republican support.

MATTHEWS: So there`s no national health care plan, it`s up to the
states.

CHAFFETZ: That`s part of it. It`s an oversimplification, but we have
to deal with Medicaid. We want to block grant this to the states on
Medicaid, so that they can craft plans and have maximum flexibility, on
Medicare. There are things that we`ve got to be able to do. That governor
Romney has laid out. Of course, we`re going to tackle this and make it
happen.

MATTHEWS: So if you live in a backwater state -- no, if you live in a
backwater state that doesn`t want to do anything on health care --

CHAFFETZ: What state is a backwater state? No, no, no. What state
is a backwater state? I don`t buy that.

MATTHEWS: No, they`re all going to -- excuse me, until Massachusetts
did it, nobody else had done it. Who else had done it?

CHAFFETZ: No doubt --

MATTHEWS: Who else --

CHAFFETZ: There is no doubt.

MATTHEWS: Describe --

CHAFFETZ: Look at what happened in Utah.

MATTHEWS: I don`t want to waste your time, but tell me the Utah
health care plan right now. Describe it.

CHAFFETZ: Well, we have, actually, a high-risk insurance pool, so
everybody, if they want insurance, they can get into insurance. We also
have health care exchange.

MATTHEWS: So if you get a disease, if you get sick in Utah, what
happens? And don`t have insurance?

CHAFFETZ: You can find your way -- what happens?

You can find your way to getting health care insurance. Absolutely,
that`s available. It`s a high-risk insurance pool that`s out there. We
also have a health care exchange. We also have one of the best systems out
there to make sure that we`re drive doing down the cost of health care.

MATTHEWS: What are you bragging about Massachusetts, and you haven`t
done it yourself. You`re saying Massachusetts couldn`t be more different
than Utah.

CHAFFETZ: Chris.

MATTHEWS: It couldn`t be more different. It`s got 87 percent
Democrats running it.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: You isn`t got health care plan.

CHAFFETZ: We do. We have some of the best health care in the nation
in Utah.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry --

CHAFFETZ: Before the state of the union, he pointed to Utah as one of
the best health care systems out there. So, despite what you said, even
President Obama points to Utah as one of the best health care systems.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, very much. You have won the debate.

Anyway, thank you, Joe Crowley. Thank you, Congressman Jason
Chaffetz.

When we return, let me finish with this heavyweight championship fight
we`re going to watch tonight. I hope it`s a big one, because it`s so
important.

You`re watching "Hardball," live from Hofstra University, the second
presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

Here we go. Tonight`s the night. The heavyweight championship.
President Obama knows the challenge. So does Mitt Romney. Let`s be
honest. I have a sense that the challenger, that`s Governor Romney, may go
for the knockout tonight. Why? Because everyone thinks he will simply try
to subdue the president tonight, keep him from a significant comeback
victory.

So what happens if Obama comes into the arena tonight knowing he must
win and Romney comes in determined, resolute is his word, to do again what
he managed two weeks ago? What happens then?

A true heavyweight bout. A real reach for greatness on the same night
by the two men. One who will take the oath on January 20th and the one who
won`t. Perhaps the one who would be President Obama, that would be
President Obama, who will have to sit there across from the one who does.

Tonight, we will learn how smart President Obama is, how tough a
performer governor Romney is, and which of these two assets will conquer
tonight. Surely a night to remember, a night even more to matter.

And that`s "Hardball" for now. Thanks for being with us. Right now,
MSNBC`s coverage of the presidential debate continues with my colleague,
Rachel Maddow.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>