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updated 10/24/2012 10:42:39 AM ET 2012-10-24T14:42:39

HARDBALL
October 23, 2012


Guests: Steve Rattner, John Nichols, James Lipton

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The hawk goes lovey-dovey.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this tonight. I suppose when you take it all in,
the three debates, all that came before it, it comes down to what kind of a
president do you want? Obama`s a man of the world. He respects other
countries, accepts the fact that we are, we Americans, part of this planet,
maybe the best part, but we share the world and we better be a smart, just
and competent citizen in it.

We need to take the long view of our interests and use our influence
when we can, but also avoid stuff that makes the future more dangerous.

Romney, well, clearly, he`s in debt to the hawks, the neoconservatives
who write the stuff we heard last night, this talk of accusing the
president of Iran of genocide for the things he said about Israel. It`s
purely political stuff that practically barks the neocon ideology, that and
what he said about Russia being our number one enemy in the world today.
All this old cold war stuff seems like a suit he borrowed for the occasion.

What`s beneath it? Who knows. What we do know is that he feels the
need to wear that neocon suit. Will he rip it off if elected? Why would
anyone think that? He spoke last night about wanting, however, a peaceful
planet. Talk about learning a dance for the occasion!

John Heilemann`s national affairs editor for "New York" magazine and
Ron Reagan`s a radio talk show host. Both are guest of -- both our guests
are MSNBC analysts, of course.

Well, massive political shifts are nothing new for Mitt Romney, of
course, as his biography, "The Real Romney," chronicles. Mitt has had a,
quote, "tendency to assume whatever political profile he thought would best
help him win. In 2007, facing the relatively moderate John McCain and Rudy
Giuliani, Romney tacked to the hard right." Quote, "`Everything could
always be tweaked, reshaped, fixed, addressed,` said one former aide
describing Romney`s outlook." Quote, "It was foreign to him on policy
issues that core principles mattered, that somebody would go back and say,
Well, three years ago, you said this."

What`s unique to Romney this campaign is how rapid the turnover in his
positions can be, as the president said today. Let`s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re accustomed to
seeing politicians change their positions from, like, four years ago. We
are not accustomed to seeing politicians change their position from four
days ago.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: John Heilemann, this is a unique thing because, like we`ve
always talked as kids, you can`t hold onto a greased pig, it just slips
away. This is almost an illusory being, this Romney person.

What does he believe? He was talking last night like he was George
McGovern. No disrespect to George McGovern, we just lost him -- but this
idea of, I want a peaceful planet, all this soft, putting flowers in the
end of guns stuff last night.

Where did this peacenik come from, and why?

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
it came from the same place that the guy who came to Denver and talked at
the first debate about how -- about bipartisanship and about positions that
were considerably more centrist and soft on questions like health care. It
came from the same place, Chris.

And look, you know, we`ve all been around presidential politics for a
long time. There`s a standard set of moves where candidates in both the
Republican and Democratic Party run to the far right or the far left or
farther right or farther left than they really are to get through the
nominating process in their parties, and then they begin a gradual drift
back toward the center.

I think the Obama campaign expected Mitt Romney to do that on domestic
policy, on foreign policy, in a gradual, traditional way, over the course
of the summer, into the fall. Instead, Governor Romney kept very much in
the hard right mode all through the summer and into the early fall. And
then suddenly, in the debates, in the month of October, he did something
really out of character for most presidential candidates. He made his
lurch in the center all in one fell swoop, first in Denver on domestic
stuff, and then last night on foreign policy.

It`s a really bold, audacious gambit. It does raise the question --
and I think the question`s been asked the entire time he`s been running for
president -- what does Mitt Romney actually believe? What`s in his heart?
What are his core convictions?

But just make no mistake, if this succeeds, what he`s done here, he`ll
be rewriting the rules for the rule book for presidential politics for
years to come.

MATTHEWS: Etch-A-Sketch forever.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And an Etch-A-Sketch book (ph). Ron, it seems to me,
though, there are reasons to believe why he couldn`t escape the commitments
he made. He signed on to Grover Norquist. He actually put it in blood.
He put the grobes (ph) on of Pat Robertson down there in Liberty
University. He`s down there with the honorary degree in Regis (ph)
University, or wherever it was, totally part of the religious right.

He bought and -- he didn`t buy them, they`re working for free, maybe -
- all these guys around him from the neocon far right, all the hawks that
really were involved with the Iraq war.

So how does he break loose from all these entanglements? Are they all
part of the charade? Are they all saying, yes, you go out and pretend
you`re a moderate, you be a wolf in sheep`s clothing because we want power.
And if you have to play that game of looking like a reasonable, peaceful
person to get there, at least we`ll win with you. We`ll be there at the
winning circle.

RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that
seems to be the story with Mitt Romney. He`s like...

MATTHEWS: They`re all cynics!

REAGAN: ... a political cubist. Well, yes, it`s very cynical. He`s
like a political cubist. You know, is that his nose? Is that a foot
sticking out of the side of his head? He`s a politician as funhouse
mirror.

But John made a very, very important point there. And it`s not just
about Mitt Romney. This is going to set a template, if he wins, if he is
successful in this sort of "big lie" strategy of running for president. If
he`s successful, this will become a template for campaigns on both sides of
the aisle moving forward because as you know, people who run campaigns are
always waging the last campaign.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

REAGAN: Whatever, you know, won there, they`re going to drag it into
the next cycle or the present cycle. Imagine if we find out that you can
lie so brazenly and not have to pay for it in a presidential campaign...

MATTHEWS: OK...

REAGAN: ... in fact, you can triumph through lying. It`ll be quite
an extraordinary thing.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at it, Ron and John. Let`s take a look
at last night. Here he is, Mitt Romney, presenting himself as a man of
peace, saying military action was the furthest thing from his mind, even on
Iran -- on Iran! Last resort, he`s talking!

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It`s also
essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to
dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic
means.

I laid out seven steps. Crippling sanctions were number one. And
they do work. You`re seeing it right now in the economy. It`s absolutely
the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions. I`d have put them in
place earlier, but it`s good that we have them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Where did we find this sudden scholar, to quote Henry V?
There he is. Romney was more hawkish on Iran during the primaries. On a
radio show back not a million years ago, in March, he talked about "kinetic
action" against Iran if they continue pursuing the nuclear option.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we get to that point and they continue and they
look like they have now created a weapon and have a means to deliver it, do
you support a first strike against them, either by Israel or by us, or a
combination of the two to halt that process?

ROMNEY: Yes, and I think you`d actually have to act before they
actually had a weapon, a deliverable weapon. They`re -- they have to
understand that we will take military kinetic action if they -- if they
continue to pursue a nuclear option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he was -- he should have said, Yes, bubba, because he
was certainly singing that guy`s language. Here`s a guy with a country
accent. He figures this guy must be a right-winger, let`s feed the guy.

And by the way, there was a different standard altogether from the one
he`s adopted recently. He said if they have a weapon, not if they have the
capability, under which -- by that standard, we could attack Holland
tomorrow. They have the capability to make a nuclear weapon if they ever
wanted to.

Let me ask you about this -- what is he, John Heilemann? You`re
writing the book about him this year. Who is -- who is he beneath the
garb, the neocon clothing, the latest wistful talk of peace? Who is under
all that?

HEILEMANN: Well, look, Chris, I don`t know the answer to that
question. I don`t think anybody knows the answer, especially on foreign
policy because, of course, unlike -- you know, we can at least look at his
record as governor of Massachusetts on domestic policy and economic policy
and make some judgments -- some judgments.

In this case, on foreign policy, he is a blank slate, and we can only
go by the things he`s said because he`s never had a chance to actually
practice any foreign policy in the past.

I`ll say last night -- you know, we`ve talked about that interview
yesterday on your show before the debate, where I brought it up, and you
know, he`s basically endorsing a first strike against -- not basically --
he is, in fact, endorsing a first strike against Iran. It`s a very
bellicose posture that he`s taken there.

Last night, as you say, he sounded a lot more -- well, not -- maybe
not totally McGovernite, but he sounded Obama-ite. I mean, he was
basically endorsing the president`s position.

I thought I heard somewhere the sound of Sheldon Adelson and maybe
John Bolton choking on a pretzel last night when they heard him say those
things. The neocons must not be very happy with that new language.

But it`s the case that the country is weary of war. And Mitt Romney
knows that if he`s going to win over the slender slice of undecideds who
are left in the battleground states, he can`t come across like someone who
sounds like he`s going to jump into more foreign entanglements and want to
get into a fight with...

MATTHEWS: You know...

HEILEMANN: ... Iran. It`s just an untenable political position at
this point.

MATTHEWS: I know a lot of people that care about Israel. I do, too.
And I know -- and I just want to get to Iran on this political question,
the politics of this thing. I don`t know who`s more likely to strike at
Iran if it does look like they`re getting close to having a weapon. I
wouldn`t put it past Obama. I think he knows it`s historically (ph)
essential that we do something to prevent from that happening because if he
ever got a weapon, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs, we have no idea how much of
a hair trigger they would have in using it. We have no idea. They`re not
even like the Pakistanis, who are scary enough.

So it seems to me if you`re calculating this election who`s most
likely to strike -- I would do it this way. I would say who`s most likely
to do it in a way that they`ve considered the consequences, they`re ready
for the reaction, the blowout that`s going to come next, the other actions
we better be damn well prepared for having the ships in the right place,
the alliances in the right place, the clearance (ph) (INAUDIBLE) so that
when it does happen, there`s the least negative reverberation, because
there will be reverberation and the smart president will be ready for it.
Not attacking, that`s easy. It`s dealing with what happens next.

HEILEMANN: Obama would have the rational reason for doing it, if he
ever did it. But it`s worth mentioning that neither hawk Romney nor dove
Romney seems to know what he`s talking about.

(LAUGHTER)

HEILEMANN: I mean, he threatened -- he threatened military action if
it -- hawk Romney threatened military action if Iran continues to pursue
its program. Well, presumably, if he took office in January, they would
still be pursuing their program. Does that mean he launches an attack
right then?

But dove Romney doesn`t seem to know any better. He says he likes --
he loves sanctions now. The sanctions are very effective. This is
terrific. He would have imposed them sooner.

Well, here`s a news flash. You unilaterally don`t impose sanctions.
You had to get the world community together to do that, and that took a
little bit of time.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think you understand American exceptionalism, Ron.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Under his theory of American exceptionalism, you do it when
you damn well feel like doing it, at that second. Anyway, last night,
Romney emphatically stated if he were president, we would be out of
Afghanistan by 2014. Turns out to be the exact same day as the president.

Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We`re going to be finished by 2014. And when I`m president,
we`ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: As I said, that sounds like he`s announcing a date of
withdrawal, which is odd since during the primaries, he was so critical of
President Obama for doing just that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: He announced the date of the withdrawal of our surge forces
based upon a political calendar, not the calendar that the commanders on
the ground said it was based (ph) for our mission. That was wrong!

This president, however, has done -- made -- made it very difficult
for our troops to be able to be successful in that mission by, number one,
announcing a withdrawal date for our troops.

I think it was a mistake to -- to say the specific date we withdraw.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I guess, John, he`s talking about an alternative strategy
of sneaking out of Afghanistan.

(LAUGHTER)

HEILEMANN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, it seems like you ought to alert your allies to
your general thinking before you conduct it.

HEILEMANN: Well, again, Chris, to the point, the parallel point to
the one that Ronald Reagan, Jr., just made -- a second ago, Ron Reagan just
made -- is that, you know, he`s -- those are only -- there`s a logistical
issue. It`s not just alerting your allies. It`s not like -- it`s not like
you snap your fingers, and suddenly, all of American forces, like, are
suddenly vanished from Afghanistan.

Marching those troops out takes time. It takes movements and materiel
and logistics. You can`t do that in an unplanned, ungradual, unmethodical
way. It`s not like -- again, it`s not something you do instantly. So
there`s no way you can surprise your...

MATTHEWS: How would he know that?

HEILEMANN: Well, again...

MATTHEWS: How would he know? It`s not fair. You`re asking him to
know something he doesn`t have any idea of how to know. No one in the
history of his family, looking forward, looking backward through all the
known generations, has had any interest in the military life at all.

HEILEMANN: I agree.

MATTHEWS: How would he know any of this stuff you`re talking about at
all?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why would he have an interest in it?

HEILEMANN: In theory -- well, he would have an interest in it because
he wants to be president. And the way that he`d know...

MATTHEWS: Oh, this comes with the job.

HEILEMANN: Again -- no, if you want -- you can have serious policy
advisers around yourself. And one of the things that`s true about Mitt
Romney`s team -- and I say this not in a blanket way -- he has some very
good people around him on the political side, but he has one of the weakest
policy shops...

MATTHEWS: You know why?

HEILEMANN: ... both on domestic and particularly on foreign policy of
any nominee of either party that I`ve seen in my time covering politics.
It`s a very, very weak shop, and he`s not got advisers around him who can
tell him the things that we`re talking about.

MATTHEWS: He`s running for secretary of commerce, and he`s calling it
the presidency. Thank you very much, Ron Reagan. Thank you, John
Heilemann. What a day, trying to figure this thing out.

Coming up: Grand theft auto. First Mitt Romney was against saving the
auto industry, then he was, he said, for saving it. Now he says he was
never against it in the first place. Why the switcheroo? Well, three
reasons -- they`re all the same -- Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. If Romney loses Ohio,
he probably loses the election. And they got a lot of car-making people up
there.

And at long last, President Obama goes up with an old ad -- or a new
ad, actually, laying out his vision for the next four years. It`s been a
long time coming. Is two weeks enough, however, to make his case? We`ll
see that in two weeks.

And of course, it`s the day after a presidential debate, and that
means the great James Lipton is here with us to review from the director`s
chair.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the choice between a president who`s at
home with America`s place in the world -- that`s Barack Obama -- and a
candidate who wants to take us back to one that caused so much trouble.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Two weeks to go, we`ve got some new Senate polls to report.
Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

We start in Florida, where the race looks to be tightening. A new PPP
poll gives Senator Bill Nelson, the incumbent, a 4-point edge over
Republican challenger Connie Mack. They must have him mixed up with his
father. And in Pennsylvania, a "Morning Call" poll shows Democratic
senator Bobby Casey leading Republican Tom Smith, the self-financer, by 8
points, 45 to 37.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. If there was any doubt Ohio is the
center of the political universe this year, and for the next two weeks,
certainly, two pieces of information tell us it most certainly is.

First, Nate Silver, the expert, has crunched the numbers on the
tipping point states, and his model shows Ohio blows away the field.
There`s an exact 50/50 chance Ohio will provide the decisive electoral vote
for whoever wins.

Put another way, Silver says in the thousands of election simulations
he`s done, the winner in Ohio wins the election 95 percent of the time. Do
you like the way (INAUDIBLE) do business, 95 percent is pretty good for any
bet.

And the reason number two it`s ground zero in this election occurred
last night in the debate. In a debate that was supposed to be about
foreign policy, the most heated exchange between Obama and challenger
Romney came over the auto bail-out, an issue that`s of crucial importance
to voters in -- you guessed it -- Ohio as well, as Iowa and Wisconsin, and
of course, Michigan.

The HuffingtonPost Pollster.com average of Ohio polls shows the race
has narrowed, but Obama continues to lead there, 48 to 46. That is close.

Steve Rattner was formerly Obama administration lead auto adviser He
was called the "car czar." And when the auto bail-out was going on, he was
key. And "The Washington Post`s" Chris Cillizza`s an MSNBC contributor who
knows nothing about cars except he likes them, and he knows a lot about
politics.

Anyway, let`s take a look at the most heated exchange from last
night`s foreign policy debate. It was spurred by a question about trade
with China, but went straight to the heart of Ohio, where one in eight jobs
are tied to the auto industry, especially up in Toledo.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto
industry, we`d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.

ROMNEY: I`m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was
head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to
hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when
it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President
Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagree with that. I said they need
-- these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy.

OBAMA: Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know, airbrush
history here. You were very clear that you would not provide government
assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through
bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace.
That wasn`t true. They would have gone through...

ROMNEY: You`re wrong. You`re wrong, Mr. President.

OBAMA: No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: People can look it up, you`re right.

OBAMA: People will look it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How does -- how does he -- how does Romney do it?

Anyway, Romney`s "New York Times"` op-ed headline quote in the old
days, "Let Detroit go bankrupt" -- that was the headline -- is often cited
as evidence he would have let the auto industry fail.

And, in fairness, Romney didn`t select the headline. But within
Romney`s column is evidence he would have withheld federal money from the
auto industry when it was needed.

Romney wrote there -- quote -- "A managed bankruptcy may be the only
path to the fundamental reconstruction the industry needs. It would permit
the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate cost. The
federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy
financing."

Well, Steve Rattner, you`re the expert.

Chris, get in here in a minute.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: But it seems if I wanted to borrow some money from somebody
to stay alive as a company, I would remember who turned me down. If they
came along a couple years later and said of course I was going to give you
the money, I`m going to give you guarantees, but unless somebody is going
to give you the money, what are you guaranteeing?

It doesn`t make any sense. But he thinks he got away with it last
night, Romney.

STEVEN RATTNER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CAR CZAR: No, look, I think the
president said it exactly right.

The fact is that under the Romney plan the companies would have gone
into bankruptcy without any government help, but they would have never come
out because there was no private financing to help them during this period.

The reason President Bush gave them money was because they had no
money. They had run out of money. They literally were on the verge of
closing their doors, laying off their workers and liquidating.

MATTHEWS: And so bankruptcy means bankruptcy. He makes it sound like
it`s managed bankruptcy, it`s not really what we think of as Chapter 11.

RATTNER: There`s a lot of different kinds of bankruptcy.

There`s what we did, which was a special kind of bankruptcy that was a
quick bankruptcy that we did within 30 to 60 days. Romney would have put
them into a regular Chapter 11, would have led to something we call Chapter
7, which is liquidation, because nobody was going to finance these
companies while they were in bankruptcy.

MATTHEWS: Can you say as the car expert and as well as a financial
expert that if Obama hadn`t taken the extraordinary step of going in and
lending them, what, $80 billion or whatever it was, that they would have
died? GE (sic) and Chrysler would have died?

RATTNER: GM and Chrysler, absolutely, there is no question about it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RATTNER: They were literally running out of money. They did not have
money to make their payroll. They did not have money to pay their electric
bills. They did not have money to pay their suppliers. They would have
closed their doors and liquidated.

MATTHEWS: I like clarity.

Chris, is that clear to the guy and the woman out there working on the
line who work in the vendor industries or the supply industries, as well as
the main auto shops, auto businesses?

CILLIZZA: Here is what I don`t know, Chris, is whether it is. Here
is what I do know. Something has happened in Ohio that`s put it in a
better place for Barack Obama than I think many of us, at least me in the
political world, would have thought it would be at this point.

He is still ahead. Has that margin narrowed? Sure, I think it`s
narrowed somewhat. But you look at what could it be, and I think it is an
auto bailout that`s very popular in the state -- we know that from polling
-- and the fact that the unemployment rate is significantly under the
national average.

So those two things allow Obama to make an argument that he can
struggle to make in a place like North Carolina, where the unemployment
rate is, you know, over 9 percent, Florida, where it`s above the national
average, which is, look, not only did I put in place this policy that you
like. It worked.

And that`s -- that kind of cause and effect argument is not an
argument he can make everywhere, but in truth you hit it right in the
opening. He may not need to make it everywhere because, if he wins Ohio,
the number of plausible paths Mitt Romney has to 270 electoral votes just
absolutely narrows down.

MATTHEWS: Steve?

RATTNER: Yes. I don`t -- I think those two factors that Chris
mentioned are obviously completely connected.

The unemployment rate is lower because the auto industry was saved.
There`s something like 12,000 more auto jobs alone, just auto, direct auto,
plus suppliers and suppliers to suppliers.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know, I wish, Steve and Chris, I wish the president --
I`m not as good at thinking about this as he and his people, I will admit,
even if I`m not sure it`s true.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But the auto industry in this country is so important to
our culture, that we make cars. We grew up as kids in my generation
wanting the new models and falling in love with the Thunderbird and all
these incredible cars, the Corvette. We always wanted to see the new cars.

We love new car smell in this country. What a crazy thing we are. We
love getting in those cars. We love making them. It`s a huge thing if it
had gone...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Well, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And you deserve credit for working with the president on
this.

And why doesn`t the president like -- he ought to sing this song loud.
I saved the American auto industry, and this guy out here wanted to ditch
it.

RATTNER: I think he`s trying to sing it as loud as he can, but the
problem is Romney does not stick to his positions. Romney makes up his
positions, as the president said last night. Romney just ignores the past
and says, well, yes, I wanted you to do what you did.

But here is the important point.

MATTHEWS: But how can he say that when he knows guys like you who are
in the financial pages, are in that world, know it`s B.S.? How can he talk
knowing the smart guys he has got to bump into know he`s not telling the
truth?

RATTNER: As you know, this has been a campaign of FactCheck.org.
This has been a campaign where everybody has needed fact-checkers to keep
them honest. And this is just another example of it.

MATTHEWS: And they just do it?

RATTNER: And they just -- he just says it. Romney says anything.
It`s the most extraordinary thing to me.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. We got a new CBS/Quinnipiac poll. This is on early
voter preferences in Ohio. It proves the power of early voting for the
president.

One in five Iowans polled already voted. One in five have already
voted. Of that group, 54 percent went to the president, 39 percent for the
challenger, Romney.

What do you make of that, Chris, the fact that he seems -- and this is
-- what is this, exit polling of people that have mailed in their ballots?
Or how does this work?

CILLIZZA: Right. It`s when you ask in the poll -- you say, have you
voted early? If they say, yes, say who did you vote for?

Look, you would rather be up 15 points in early vote than not up 15
points, Chris. I will say that. Now, I talked to Republicans before
because I knew we were going to talk Iowa, and I wanted to get this right.
and Republicans say, yes, we are losing the early vote. We knew we were
going to lose the early vote in Ohio. But we`re losing it by a declining
margin from last week. We`re losing it on a declining margin as it
compares to 2008.

So, it depends which kind of side you think is more important. I
would say Mitt Romney, unlike John McCain remember -- remember, John McCain
took public financing, Chris, which means he had between $84 million and
$90 million to spend on every state in the general election.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: Mitt Romney has not done that. Mitt Romney had $183
million in the bank at the end of September. My guess is that kind of
money pays for a -- significantly more volunteers, more ground operation.

My guess is Romney`s ground operation will be better than McCain`s in
`08. The issue there is, is it better than Barack Obama`s in 2012? I
don`t know the answer to that.

MATTHEWS: I hear Obama has got a great one in Ohio.

Anyway...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: I`m sure he does, because they have known from the start
that Ohio -- if they could take Ohio from Romney, it made it almost
impossible for him to get to 270. They have known it from the start, so I
bet they have a great organization.

MATTHEWS: We will see.

Steve Rattner, thank you.

RATTNER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for what you did for the car companies anyway.

And, Chris Cillizza, thank you, as always.

CILLIZZA: Thanks. Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: President Obama said Romney and the Republicans
are pushing foreign policies from the 1980s, social policy from the `50s --
I believe that -- and economic policy from the `20s, it turns out.

Well, their TV viewing habits have a nostalgic bent as well. Wait
until you see what the Republicans are watching these days, what shows they
watch.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CONAN")

CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": The final presidential debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O`BRIEN: Final.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O`BRIEN: By the way, who needs more debates to decide? Anybody?
Anybody need like 10 more debates to really figure it out?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Latest polls
indicate 6 percent registered voters undecided. Undecided, 6 percent
registered voters.

Make up your mind!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL.

In the two weeks left in the presidential race, you are going to see a
lot of TV ads, especially if you live in a swing state like Ohio or here in
D.C., which is right next to Virginia. Yahoo! News looked at FCC filings
from TV stations to find out which show is most likely to bring you an ad
supporting President Obama and which one is most likely to bring you an ad
supporting Romney.

Well, tipping the list -- or topping the list for Obama supporters is
the CBS sitcom "Two Broke Girls," which features two single women trying to
make ends meet in New York City.

Well, second place for Obama people, "Judge Joe Brown." For Romney,
it was the Olympics. Boy, they have been past for a while.

And in second place, you will not believe this, this is true. This is
where the Romney ads are placed, "The Andy Griffith Show," yes, that "Andy
Griffith Show," which stopped actual production of new shows back in 1968.

Now back to last night`s debate. Although it was on foreign policy
last night, both candidates knew the top voting issue was the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when it comes to our
economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are familiar with
jobs being shipped overseas.

ROMNEY: People have lost their jobs.

OBAMA: Americans had seen jobs being shipped overseas.

ROMNEY: A job that`s commensurate with their college degree.

OBAMA: Good jobs of the future.

ROMNEY: Opening up more jobs.

OBAMA: Jobs of tomorrow.

ROMNEY: Where jobs come from.

OBAMA: Jobs.

ROMNEY: Jobs.

OBAMA: Jobs.

You invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, either candidate pushing jobs to the sidelines
just two weeks before Election Day.

More on the debate front. "The Atlantic" politics blog picked up on a
Romneyism that you may have noticed in last night`s face-off. Romney has a
tendency to start speaking so rapidly that -- quote -- "He just can`t stop
and the words begin to pile up on top of each other at the end of the
verbal escalator."

Here is what they`re getting at right here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden.

Well, I absolutely believe that`s important. We want to make sure
that we`re seeing progress throughout the Middle East, these terrorists
against our people there. This is a critical opportunity with Israel, not
government, but once it exploded, we -- and that make the world more
peaceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. He needs the extra word just to catch up with
himself.

Anyway, finally Mitt Romney`s statement on foreign policy says that he
will -- quote -- "repair our relationships abroad and create a safer, more
secure nation for all Americans."

But just how much repair is really needed between the United States
and other countries? A new BBC World Service poll asked people in 21
countries outside the U.S. to choose between our two presidential
candidates. I love this. Here`s some of the results.

It looks like it`s Mitt Romney who has got the repair work to do.
President Obama represented by the blue bar there trounces Mitt Romney in
every country polled, except for Pakistan. Every country but Pakistan
prefers Obama. And they`re at the bottom of the chart, that`s Pakistan.
Some countries like France have Romney in the single digits. So I guess
he`s pretty popular out there, the president.

Up next: President Obama is finally laying out his vision for a
second term to the American voter, but with two weeks to go, can he make
the case in this time, two weeks` time? It`s like a football two-minute
drill. Can he make it?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Tyler Mathisen with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Worries about earnings and global growth sinks stock today, the Dow
sliding a big 243 points, the S&P was off 20, Nasdaq dropped by 26 points.

DuPont shares down 9 percent after its profits and revenues missed
estimates.

Apple unveiled a new smaller version of the iPad. However, its $329
price tag higher than expected, and that sent the stock lower by 3 percent.

And Facebook`s earnings and revenue beat estimates. Shares are higher
after hours.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On the heels the last night`s final presidential debate, we have got
an eye on the candidates` closing arguments and how they frame the next two
weeks. At a campaign rally, by the way, Delray Beach, Florida, today,
earlier today, President Obama unveiled his plan for the next four years.

This is a big speech this morning, doing something a lot of people
thought he should have done sooner. But let`s see what happens and let`s
listen to the president today on his future four years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In this campaign, I have laid out a plan for jobs and middle-
class security. And unlike Mitt Romney, I`m actually proud to talk about
what`s in it, because my plan actually will move America forward. And, by
the way, the math in my plan adds up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, with me now are two MSNBC political analysts, former
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and "The Nation" magazine`s John Nichols.

Governor Rendell, thanks for coming on. You know about politics and
you know about policy and how it works.

It seems to me that some people really like the fact that Romney a
couple debates ago had a five-point plan. They just love that packaging,
five-point plan. And Obama had to come back and say it`s only a one-point
plan because he knew it was trouble.

Is it important now that the president have his five-point plan, even
if it doesn`t have a lot to do with jobs next week, education, training,
building on the manufacturing base, American-made energy, and debt
reduction -- deficit reduction? Do those add up to the kind of meat and
potatoes that you need to get an election won looking to the future?

ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they do, Chris, but I
think he`s late, as you said in the intro. He`s a little late in putting
it together in a cohesive, one-, two-, three-, four-, five-, six-point
plan.

But he`s been talking about each and every one of those components all
throughout this campaign. First debate, he talked about a $4 trillion
Simpson/Bowles-type debt reduction and he`s committed to doing that. He`s
already taken $1 trillion off the debt with what they did at the last
session of Congress.

He`s talked about a jobs plan. He laid the jobs plan before the
country last October, as you recall, and it included an American energy
independence, where everything is in, including the production tax credit,
extending it for wind and solar, but for everybody, for natural gas, for
oil, for nuclear, for all of our sources of energy.

He talked about rebuilding our infrastructure. In the jobs plan,
there was $75 billion for infrastructure, which is the single best job
creator we have. So the president`s had many components of that, his
commitment to education, which, of course, as we know, Chris, is the future
of our economy. We can`t compete without a well-educated work force.

All those things, the president`s talked about in individual
components, in silos. He`s now putting them together with a plan. I wish
he had done it a little earlier, but he`s talked about every one of them.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to that. Let`s get to the timing issue.

And a lot of times, people drop news, as you know, five minutes before
the nightly news. They know that there`s -- you want to have a certain
amount of exposure for your plan, but not too much so it gets taken apart
all day.

Could they be thinking? I mean, these guys like Plouffe, these are
smart people. Do you think they`re thinking that two weeks is about enough
time for the people when they`re really paying attention to absorb?

RENDELL: Well, yes, but I think we have to put ad dollars behind
this 3.5 million copies of this plan.

MATTHEWS: OK.

RENDELL: Without ad dollars there, is no plan.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to John. Same question to you.

I mean, I agree education -- sometimes I think it`s just a sop to the
NFT and the NEA when he says it over and over and over again. But
obviously it means something to people with kids. We all know the
difference between Obama not being who he is and being who he is, he went
to the best schools in the country. We know the Clintons, if it wasn`t for
their top education, they wouldn`t be at the top.

We live in an increasingly meritocratic country. Thank God. It
isn`t the class ridden society it was 50, 75 years ago.

So, education decides how you do it in this world, right? So, it
does make sense. And without an emphasis on education, you come off as a
bit of an anti-education person. Is this going to turn it? He puts
education up front. That`s what people see first.

Is this a winning argument -- John Nichols?

JOHN NICHOLS, THE NATION: I think so, Chris. Yes, I think so,
Chris. Look, I have got an 8-year-old daughter. So, I`m one of those
people that`s very interested in education. I don`t happen to be in a
teacher`s union but, frankly, I`m glad that my kid`s teachers are.

And I think that this plan coming at this point is actually very
smart. If President Obama, who really outlined a lot of this in his
acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, if they had put it out in a
written form back in September, we would have spent most of September
arguing about the plan. At this point, we end up in a situation where we
have two weeks when people are most focused to talk about it, and this
refocuses things on his economic, domestic agenda.

And I`ll remind you, I have covered elections in countries around the
world, England, Germany, other places, Scandinavian countries. They have
much shorter election campaigns and they often have political parties put
their manifestos out two weeks before an election and then run hard on that
to the end.

I think the president might actually be playing smart strategy here.

MATTHEWS: Well, he was out detailing his plan for the next year as I
said in a new airing, a new ad airing in battleground states. Let`s watch
the ad now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here is my plan for
the next four years: making education and training a national priority,
building on our manufacturing boom, boosting American-made energy, reducing
the deficits responsibly by cutting where we can and asking the wealthy to
pay a little more, and ending the war in Afghanistan so we can do some
nation building here at home. That`s the right path.

So read my plan, compare it to Governor Romney`s and decide which is
better for you. It`s an honor to be your president and I`m asking for your
vote. So together we can keep moving America forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you two questions, governor, one is do you have
to be for something the other guy is against in order to have traction?
Does it sound like when you heard that commercial and watched that speech,
that Obama is for something distinctive from Romney so if you want it, you
have to vote for him?

RENDELL: Yes, I think that`s clever and I think leading with
education is right. I think people do get it, Chris, that education is not
just something we ought to be doing for our kids, but it`s going to shape
our economy in the future. So that`s very smart.

Secondly, asking for your vote, that`s important. People want to be
asked by the candidate for their vote.

MATTHEWS: I so agree. Last thought, John, I agree with that. That
was an old Tip O`Neill-ism, I learned a long time ago.

By the way, people like to be asked for anything. They don`t like
having things demanded of them.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: John Nichols, quickly, what do you think of the education
emphasis? Stick to that one point.

NICHOLS: Sure. I think it`s really smart because, look, this
president can`t go and promise a New Deal. But what he can promise is a
commitment and investment in the future that is both for kids and also
economically rooted. The fact of the matter is we`re competing in a global
economy. We`re going to win if we`re well-educated and everybody knows
that.

So it`s a smart ask, and also note the calmness, the clarity with
which he delivers it.

MATTHEWS: I like that.

NICHOLS: He knows there`s been too much shouting. This is closing
out very calm, very deliberate. I think pretty smart.

MATTHEWS: I want to hear shouting from Bill Clinton later because I
think the states like New Hampshire, these bite-sized states -- Governor,
you`re laughing -- he could deliver on New Hampshire, he could lock
Pennsylvania for sure, he could give them Iowa and what you really cares
about in Wisconsin. These are nail-biters.

Anyway, thank you so much, Governor Rendell. And thank you, John
Nichols.

Up next, it wouldn`t be the day after debate without "Inside the
Actors Studio`s" James Lipton. He`s coming here. This is going to be fun
because guess who had flop sweat last night. It wasn`t the president.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is back at the Mayo
Clinic. The U.S. congressman was released last month following treatment
for bipolar disorder and other health issues and his father, the Reverend
Jesse Jackson, says today`s evaluation may lead to a longer stay at the
clinic. Congressman Jackson took medical leave in June. He`s on the
November ballot though he hasn`t campaigned beyond a robocall to voters.
But polls show him leading his Republican opponent on the south side, no
surprise there, by 2-1.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back. After countless hours of preparation and,
believe it or not, 270 minutes of actual performance, Barack Obama and Mitt
Romney have concluded their three momentous nights of debate. And now
we`ve dissected the policy and looked at the politics.

Let`s take a step back and look at the performances, the stage craft,
if you will, of the efforts by both gentlemen last night.

With me now, once more, is James Lipton, host of Bravo`s "Inside the
Actors Studio." I love this guy.

Let`s look at this first of all, the flop sweat issue.

Mr. Lipton you set out to both advise Mr. Romney on his performance
but also to find out who the former governor is in life. What we saw last
night was an uncomfortable candidate, clearly. If you look closely, you
can see the perspiration on his upper lip as he debated foreign policy, not
quite Nixon-like, but noticeable, as you can see there in your screen.

Well, that shininess prompted actor Albert Brooks to tweet, quote,
"If Romney sweats any more, I get a royalty." That was referring to this
scene from that favorite from many of us in the industry, "Broadcast News".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our own State Department was rocked, not only by
the revelation but from the highly unusual persistence of the state press
corps. Martin Cline (ph) reports on the raucous at Foggy Bottom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The State Department --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just how noticeable is this, huh?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: My dad, my late dad loved that performance. I think a lot
of people identified more with him than the other guys, William Hurt.

But, James, what did you make of flop sweat? Was that just terror,
incognito, he was dealing with foreign policy and all he had was memorized
phrases to use?

JAMES LIPTON, INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO: I suppose that was it.
After all, flop sweat is a technical term of art in my profession. And
that was flop sweat. Flop sweat derives from the days of when tap dancing
as fast as he could, knew that he was dying out there and just kept
sweating and sweating. That`s flop sweat.

We saw it earlier. Remember we talked about it a long time ago when
this campaign began and he was -- he did suffer from flop sweat then. That
introduces another term of art which is stage fright. Stage fright exists
for, I guess, politicians and it certainly exists for actors. I think we
saw a little of that last night and the reason was that he was on
unfamiliar terrain and, you`re right, he had memorized some bullet points
and that was what he was delivering.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He was referencing things like Mali and the al Qaeda
there and the Sahel and north -- Western Africa. Just to show that he knew
about a country named Mali.

Anyway, President Obama was more at home on the foreign policy turf.
And he attacked Romney for what he saw as old school policies. Let`s watch
a bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A few months ago, when
you were asked what`s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you
said Russia. Not al Qaeda, you said Russia. And the 1980s or now calling
to ask for their foreign policy back, because, you know, the Cold War has
been over for 20 years.

You seemed to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just
like the social policies of the 1950s and economic policies of the 1920s.

I know you haven`t been in a position to actually execute foreign
policy but every time you`ve offered an opinion, you`ve been wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know what, James, this is about politics and your
field. If President Obama, I believe, had looked at Romney the way we saw
him doing it there at that table, eyeball to eyeball physically, man to
man, person to person, I don`t think he`d have any problems in the numbers
right now. He would have never fallen behind in the first debate because
they would say, you know what? He stood up to the guy, he stood up to the
challenger.

How do you think the president was able to go from the guy who was
looking down at his notes, seeming to be cowardly (ph), I think he`s just
really angry at the guy, to a guy who could like at the guy he didn`t like,
didn`t think much of, but stared him down?

LIPTON: Because.

MATTHEWS: How do you that?

LIPTON: Because in the first debate, the man for whom the president
had prepared never showed up. Whatever preparation he had, what good would
it have done him? That person never showed up. Suddenly --

MATTHEWS: But he didn`t show up last night either.

LIPTON: But by last night the president was ready for this new
moderate Mitt Romney. He was prepared for him. So it was much easier.

Look at him. He`s looking at him straight in the eye. This is quite
different. The first time he was looking at his notes because he was
trying to find the guy for whom he expected to confront.

MATTHEWS: What did you think of the table? I thought the table was
great. I thought that it stopped all of that stupid choreography of
running around the room and trying to -- it was like a scene from "West
Side Story," all that choreography. The Sharks and the Jets circling each
other.

Didn`t you like the fact that they were sitting next to each other in
sort of a business environment and he couldn`t boss around the moderator
because thank God, Bob Schieffer was on the same level as him this time?

LIPTON: Yes. I agree. I liked the table. It`s a nice, calm -- it
begins to approach a conversation, isn`t it? Nice to hear two people
conversing.

Once upon a time, politics was civil. It is no longer. This helped
last night, without question.

MATTHEWS: Did you notice that Schieffer, he only got challenged once
but when Romney did that thing that he often does, sort of push away the
moderator, like whisk him away, like out of here, underling. He did that
with Schieffer one time, and Schieffer said, no, no, we`re going to stick
with the plan here.

LIPTON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: I thought that was a sign of strength. I`ve always liked
Bob Schieffer but, boy, that`s a good moment to stand up to the guy, to the
boss man.

LIPTON: I agree. What interested me very much was the way in which
Romney took us back, how retro he was. As you said, he went back to 1916
for his military policy. He went to the 1920s and Harding, Coolidge and
Hoover, and their great slogan, what`s good for business is good for the
country for his economic policy. We know how that worked out. He went to
the 1950s for the social policies and 1980s for his Cold War politics.

He comes off last night as something of a Luddite.

MATTHEWS: I think so. Well, thank you, James. It`s an honor just
to hear your words. In your thinking, in preparation for this program,
we`re humble to have you. And I mean it. We`ll be right back.

LIPTON: Good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Mitt Romney sweated a
bit. He was nervous. We can only assume about the debate subject matter.
He doesn`t know foreign policy. He memorizes the words, Mideast tumult,
Israel.

But what do they mean to him? What does he, Mitt Romney, have in
this gut about the world?

Obama, if reelected, a guy that break with the go it alone, low
information presidency of George W. Bush. Obama is preferred in the world
today, by the way, as we saw in the poll that we showed you tonight because
he accepts a leader`s role in the world.

We are not over the world. We are part of it. We are a great
country, but that doesn`t mean that we have any special rights over other
countries. We are not as super race, but we are as a country wise and
fortunate to have gotten some things right -- some at the beginning and
others over time, things like the importance of the individual, the
superiority of the person over the state, the intrinsic value of personal
freedom, personal dignity.

I think Romney has a more nationalistic view at things, a more self-
righteous view of America`s rights in the world. It`s a view that is time-
tested, of course, and it`s discredited. George W. did that for us.

With Romney, we`ve been doing what we did before, what got us into
trouble before. Hoping that doing it the same way would have a different
result. There`s no logical reason to believe that would be so.

Well, that`s HARDBALL for tonight. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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