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updated 10/31/2012 11:30:37 AM ET 2012-10-31T15:30:37

HARDBALL
October 29, 2012

Guests: John Nickels, Gov. Martin O`Malley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Facing the storm.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Welcome to this
second live edition of HARDBALL tonight.

"Let Me Start" tonight with the storm, but also the society and the
leadership that faces it. This is not the first storm this president has
led us through. He came into office facing the full blast of the worst Wall
Street collapse in eight decades, a jobless rate then spiking to double
digits, and amid Republicans sitting under their desks saying, No, no, this
can`t be happening, no, no, no to every step the new president took to
regulate Wall Street, to pull us back from the economic cliff, to reform
health care, to equalize pay between the sexes, to end the war in Iraq, to
pound al Qaeda to destruction, and of course, to cut off its head.

Tonight, this president, who has prevailed against so many storms,
both natural and man-made, stands on post near the same Situation Room
where he directed the killing of bin Laden. Again, he`s the officer in
charge through perilous times.

Here`s where things stand right now at 7:00 o`clock Eastern. The eye
of the storm is expected to make landfall in southern New Jersey or in
Delaware within the hour. The slow-moving storm will batter the Northeast
into tomorrow, winds gusts between 60 and 80 miles per hour have been
reported along the coast, all the way from Massachusetts down to Maryland.
Winds will get stronger throughout the night.

Already, it`s caused massive damage. Now, in Atlantic City, part of
the famous boardwalk we all grew up with has washed away, and a large part
of the city is under water late today. Along the shore in Maryland and
Delaware, communities are dealing with widespread flooding, with parts of
Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, under water right now.

In midtown Manhattan, police closed off streets after (SIC) a building
there where a crane collapsed and remains dangling. There it is. The
Weather Channel`s reporting that more than 1.6 million households are
without power across 15 states now, and trains, subways and other public
transportation systems have been suspended in cities from Boston down to
Washington, D.C. Nearly 14,000 flights have been grounded.

We begin our coverage tonight with NBC`s Tranh Truong, who`s in
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Tranh, thank you for joining us. We had you on
earlier tonight. What`s been developing down there along the water?

TRANH TRUONG, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the water right now along the
Atlantic coast here in Rehoboth Beach is steadily creeping towards the
(INAUDIBLE). That`s because high tide, as you`ve been hearing probably all
afternoon, and you`ll hear this through the evening -- high tide will hit
around 8:00 o`clock, and that`s going to be the true test for Rehoboth
Beach and coastal Delaware.

The governor is very concerned in the hours going from 8:00 o`clock PM
here throughout the evening and into midnight and well past midnight --
he`s worried that as the tide starts to increase and we get more of these
winds coming off shore, it`s going to push all that water that you`re
seeing behind me inland and up along this boardwalk. And this is the same
concern that you`ll hear along coastal Delaware.

Right now, they have 6,600 -- that`s the latest count, 6,600 power
outages. So far, though, the good news is that they have no fatalities
that they know of. This area right here of Rehoboth Beach and also in and
around the coastal Delaware area was under a mandatory evacuation order.
Fifty thousand people were ordered evacuated.

The governor said, at this point, all options to leave have been
pretty much thrown out. If you`re stuck here, you`re going to be stuck
here for the next few days. And if the power does go out, the governor
says that is going to be a likelihood that this is the time that you`re
going to have to hunker down because there is no other option.

There are no stores right now open because the governor ordered most
businesses -- all business, actually, closed as of yesterday, very few gas
stations. So there are very few options right now for people to leave.

But Chris, I just want to show what the constant tide has done here.
Try to take a look here as I walk down. Because of the water coming in and
because of the tides coming in, it`s really washed away some of the areas
of the beach here. And as it`s been coming in, you can see some of the
sand just basically burrowing in here.

This is the boardwalk that was renovated with stimulus money. But
that`s the major concern here, as we get through the evening and into the
midnight hour, that most of that water`s going to be pushed up here, and
you`re going to see more beach erosion.

But so far, again, the emphasis now, the governor says, is that the
most important thing, there are no fatalities that he knows of, very few
rescues. And for now, everybody is safe, Chris.

MATTHEWS: How are you getting out? Are you going to get out? It
seems like you just described the geography of despair there. Is there any
way to get -- is there no way to get out of Rehoboth Beach tonight?

TRUONG: Well, right now, they have the main roads and the bridges
blocked. You`ll have to have some credentials and ID to get through. But
they`re emphasizing everybody to stay put through the evening because,
obviously, if you do get on the road and you do get stuck, there are first
responders probably at this point responding to, quote, unquote, "real"
emergencies.

And it`s in the governor`s eyes and the local officials` eyes that if
you are here and you`re out and about unnecessarily, you`re causing more
trouble and unnecessary danger for the first responders who would have to
be reserved and preserved for real emergencies, for rescues and that sort
of thing here, Chris.

So at this point, the governor is emphasizing everybody to stay inside
and hunker down because he says that they don`t want to get complacent,
even though the -- much of the storm has blown on shore right now, he still
believes that a lot of the flooding is going to occur overnight, and he
doesn`t want anybody around here unnecessarily getting into danger.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Tranh Truong, who`s down there at
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, apparently for the night.

Now for what the storm means for politics -- that`s our specialty here
-- we`re joined by NBC News White House correspondent and political
director Chuck Todd. Chuck, you`re at the White House tonight. Right
behind me, I keep thinking that the president is basically holed up here
now.

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: He is.

MATTHEWS: How is he -- tell us about what`s doing as chief executive.
Forget politics itself, but what has he been doing in terms of protecting
us against this storm and its damage and danger for the last 24 hours?

TODD: Well look, there`s the official stuff, right, which is
essentially approving emergency declarations, which speeds up red tape,
speeds up bureaucratic issues to get money quickly to the states, allows
states to essentially spend money that they don`t have because the federal
government will back them up, stuff like that.

Then there is getting -- you know, doing the -- getting the briefings
from his national security team, sort of the homeland domestic national
security team, if you will. That`s John Brennan. He`s a big part of this.
Janet Napolitano, head of DHS, the Homeland Security Department.

And then of course, Craig Fugate, who is sort of this -- the head of
FEMA, but you know, he was -- he was brought in as sort of -- he was Jeb
Bush`s head of emergency planning in Florida during that period, if you
recall, when Florida went through four hurricanes. And everybody`s, like,
How did Florida do this? All these other states seemed to not do it, and
this guy was sort of seen as this nonpartisan super-emergency management
person, if you will. And that`s the guy running FEMA.

So the president`s getting constant updates. But in many cases,
you`re just sort of -- you`ve got to wait it out. You`ve got to find out -
- you know, it`s in the middle of a storm. I`ve been through these
hurricanes. You just -- there`s nothing you can do.

You`ve done everything you`re supposed to do with your -- you`re
finding out if all your teams are in place, and you`re managing something,
or at you`re at your own house and you`ve brought everything in. You`re
just waiting for the storm to pass to figure out, OK, how bad is the
cleanup? So right now, it`s just hunker down.

MATTHEWS: Well, hold on for a second. We`ve got an update from the
National Hurricane Center. Sandy -- that`s the name of this one -- is no
longer packing hurricane-strength winds. It`s now a post-tropical cyclone,
still very powerful, and it`s expected to make landfall in one hour right
near us.

Let me ask you about -- let me show you a picture. Here`s what Chris
Christie, who`s a very outspoken governor of New Jersey. He`s very much
affected by this situation and weather. Here`s Chris Christie speaking
very positively of a Democratic president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I thanked the president for his
telephone call inquiring about how things were going here and assured him
that things were going well so far. He invited me to call him at any time
if things are not going well.

And so we`ll make sure that we do that and appreciate the president`s
outreach today in making sure that we know that he`s watching this and is
concerned about the health and the welfare and safety of the people of the
state of New Jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And Chuck, here`s an event -- here`s the president himself
speaking on this topic of the weather today. Here he is, President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be a
big storm. It`s going to be a difficult storm. The great thing about
America is when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together.
We look out for our friends. We look out for our neighbors. And you know,
we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we
respond appropriately and with swiftness. And that`s exactly what I
anticipate is going to happen here.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) impact of the election, sir?

OBAMA: I am not worried at this point about the impact on the
election. I`m worried about the impact on families and I`m worried about
the impact on our first responders. I`m worried about the impact on our
economy and on transportation. You know, the election will take care of
itself next week. Right now, our number one priority is to make sure that
we are saving lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Put that in perspective, what we just heard. I mean, give
me a real world look at what we just saw there, the president of the United
States getting rewarded by a -- somebody from across the aisle, obviously,
the very outspoken governor of New Jersey, who`s a Republican, who`s very
pro-Obama (SIC), obviously. But in this instance, I see the president very
cool, very cool there.

TODD: Well, and there`s -- you`ve also got to remember that there`s -
- there always was a big point of emphasis, I mean, when he went and
recruited Fugate to do this and got Jeb Bush to sort of sign off on Fugate
to do this because -- you know, don`t forget there was this hangover --
with emergency management and with FEMA, there was this hangover from
Katrina, you know, going back in the Bush administration. And so there`s
always been a point of emphasis, if you will, on FEMA by this -- by the --
by the Obama administration.

I think, frankly, it wouldn`t have mattered who came into the
presidency in the post-Katrina world, there was going to be an emphasis on
FEMA. You weren`t going to let that get politicized. You weren`t going to
have political appointees in charge of it.

Yes, it`s a political appointee, but you were going to have somebody
who sort of came with a background to do this stuff. So I think that they
realize that they`re -- it`s a high-wire act, this emergency management
business. And most of the time, if you do a good job, it`s good politics.
If you blow it, it`s really bad politics.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

TODD: It can be unrecoverable politics. So this is a case where good
politics and good public policy and good management all converge. It`s
good politics to do a good job. This isn`t -- you`re not playing one side
against the other.

MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve always thought the Democrats, being the
government party, because they believe in government more than Republicans,
owe a greater debt, a greater responsibility to be good at it, right? I
mean, this is a little more ideological, but it seems to me if the
Democrats are going to defend the federal government`s role in our lives,
they better be very good at executing it, and that it seemed to be there
would be a double blow if you don`t do it right...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Look, I think that the times when Democrats have been dealt
electoral blows, it`s been sort of, Hey, wait a minute, you`re the party of
government, you`re not running it well.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: And that is -- I mean, I think that you`re on to something
there. But look, this is -- I think there are certain people that put an
extra emphasis on it. And considering what happened with Katrina and the
hangover to that, there was just always -- it`s not that FEMA has any fewer
resources than they had before. It`s just a different type of emphasis
that it gets and a different type of urgency that I feel like Mr. Fugate
brings to the job.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I was there back in the Carte administration. I feel
so old. But we created FEMA and we realized at the time, at the
president`s reorganization project (ph), how important it was to coordinate
through one agency.

Let`s take a look at something I think`s important. I want your
reaction. This is something -- I was covering, of course, as you were, the
Charlotte convention of the Democratic Party, and here`s a point, in an
otherwise pretty good speech but not a great speech by the president
accepting the nomination for reelection -- here`s a point where the crowd
around me just went wild when the president said the -- I want to you put
that in perspective with this, what`s happening right now.

Here is the president at the -- giving his acceptance speech in
Charlotte.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to
this convention. Times have changed, and so have I. I`m no longer just a
candidate, I`m the president.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Chuck, you and I cover this and we watch it from
a little different perspective, and I keep thinking, when does it become an
advantage of being the incumbent, all these months of having to defend
against an unsatisfactory economic recovery, all the things that he may
have inherited or may not have inherited, whatever way you look at it, it`s
not been great playing defense on this time in our lives in this country.
This may be an opportunity. Who knows. What do you think? Because he
clearly thinks it might be.

TODD: Well, not only that, I mean, that the Obama -- the Romney
campaign believes that it might be. They wouldn`t have canceled their
events and sort of basically said, Look, we`re going to cede this turf.
We`re not going to try to compete on this front. We`re not going to try to
have competing events. We don`t want to look tone deaf, none of those
things, try to basically isolate a couple of days and hope you can get back
on the campaign trail.

But the fact of the matter is, there`s no part of this -- this race is
frozen in place by this. I think pretty much any professional...

MATTHEWS: Yellow flag, yes.

TODD: ... that looks at this realizes that`s a -- yellow -- that`s a
great way of doing it. The caution flag is out and nobody -- and everybody
is sort of doing their laps in place. And when the green flag comes down,
there`ll be a quick sprint, but I think the tone will change.

And I don`t think this helps -- it certainly -- it hurts Romney in two
ways. One, the president is -- got a job to do. Mitt Romney has nothing
to do during this crisis. The president has stuff he can do. That`s
number one.

And second, if Romney felt as if momentum was starting to take hold
here and he had this opportunity to start talking about Minnesota, talking
about -- all of that`s gone for three days, at a minimum.

MATTHEWS: Something you may not have thought of, although you think
of everything. I think this is going to sap some of the poison out of this
race. And I think that`d be a good thing for the country.

TODD: I completely agree. I think the tone -- I think the changes a
little bit. However, I heard Biden and Clinton -- they did the Youngstown
event today. It was still pretty partisan and it still had some tough hits
on Romney.

But I do think from the two principals -- I think the surrogates will
be pretty tough, but I think for Mitt Romney and from Barack Obama, for the
last six days of the campaign, assuming it does start up on Wednesday
again, I bet you it`s a slightly different tone.

MATTHEWS: I think Mother Nature might take over here. Anyway, thank
you, Chuck Todd. Great reporting and great analysis, as always.

TODD: You got it, buddy.

MATTHEWS: I don`t even need to say so.

Coming up, we will continue to track Sandy as it bears down on the
East Coast, now under an hour, by the way, from making landfall. It`s out
there coming close. Back with more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. There you saw it, the coverage
of -- did you see that crane going down there in Manhattan? Well, it`s now
a very powerful tropical storm, under an hour now from making landfall,
Sandy is. In New York City, a construction crane, as you just saw,
partially collapsed earlier today. We got that on film there. And part of
it now hangs precariously, I have to say, over a midtown Manhattan street.

NBC News`s Rehema Ellis is at the scene. Rehema, as I said in our
earlier edition tonight, this normally wouldn`t be a big national story,
but it`s become an iconic picture of what`s happened here with this storm
situation.

REHEMA ELLIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It really has, Chris. And it`s even
moreso now because you can`t see it because it`s dark, but we were looking
at it just a moment ago, and that crane is now starting to sway with the
gusting winds, the high, gusting winds that we have. If it was dangerous
before, it is absolutely frightening now.

Police were afraid that this would happen, so they created this
collapse zone. No cars, no pedestrians. They evacuated the apartment
buildings, the commercial buildings, even the Parker-Meridian Hotel, the
guests have been moved to other hotels. So nothing is happening there on
57th Street, where this luxury high-rise apartment building is in
construction.

They wanted to get experts up into that building to see if they could
figure out how they could secure it. We`re told that means, because
there`s no power, they would have to walk up 74 flights of stairs.

But with these winds gusting now, the mayor of New York City -- Mayor
Bloomberg, says it could be upwards of 70, 80, 90 miles an hour. It`s
anybody`s guess as to whether or not they could do anything to secure it or
they`ve just got to wait for the storm to pass -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Can you tell us something about the flooding in the city,
the warnings of the floodings to come affecting the tunnels and subways and
everything in New York, in Manhattan?

ELLIS: One of the things that they are afraid of is that there could
be that flooding. That`s why the mayor and the city officials already went
ahead and they shut down the tunnels, they shut down the subways, because
the last thing you`d want -- you know, you`ve got electrical power lines
down there. You don`t want anybody down in that area in the event that it
should be flooded. So they`re taking all the precautions that they can
possibly take.

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much. We`re looking at the pictures. Rehema
Ellis, thanks for that report from Manhattan.

Joining me now by phone is Maryland governor Martin O`Malley, the
chairman of the Democratic Governors Association across the country.

Governor O`Malley, thanks so much for joining us. You`re a major
figure in the country, and here we are confronted with a major weather
story eight days before a national election, affecting governors, senators,
the president of the United States, the leadership of this country.

How does it all come together? Put it -- separate it for us or join
it together, the weather and the politics.

GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), MARYLAND (via telephone): Oh, golly, I
don`t know. I guess you could put together a metaphor with the -- with the
-- with the winds and the two fronts all converging on the nation`s
capital.

But I don`t know, Chris. I mean, when these emergencies hit, one of
the things that really come forward is an executive`s ability to pull
people together and to be able to protect life in the path of this very
violent storm.

We`ve had people here from the federal government now for the last two
days. The president signed our pre-declaration right away. And the
coordination`s actually very, very good. I mean, we`re as prepared as you
can be for something that`s totally beyond your control, like this huge
storm.

We`re already seeing power outages across Maryland, and it`s going to
be a long night. But we do have a lot of assets here from out of state and
from our federal government and from the new, improved FEMA.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that FEMA. Governor Markell, one of your
neighboring governors from Delaware, said tonight on our earlier edition
that it should deserve a 10 right now. We`ve heard very good words from
Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey, a Republican, of course, who`s
pretty outspoken generally, both those governors saying very good things
about FEMA.

How important is that agency? Because I bring this up in a partisan
sense in this way, that in the recent debate in June of this year, Governor
Romney -- former Governor Romney trashed it, basically saying we don`t need
it. We could go -- the states could handle these emergencies.

O`MALLEY: I think that this -- these are the occasions when people
see why it is that they pay taxes and why they have a government. FEMA was
so broken and so dysfunctional back in the days of "heck of a job, Brownie"
and the miserable way that we failed to protect and respond and help our
citizens in New Orleans to recover. And under President Obama, I`ve seen a
much improved FEMA.

And honestly, you know what? The Republican governors say the same
thing, and I`m glad they`re saying it in the face of this storm. The truth
is that public safety, emergency preparedness -- that should be
nonpartisan. And there are certain things that we have to be able to find
a way to afford to do, and protecting the public in the face of big
emergencies is one of them.

So it`s been really inspiring to see the way that men and women have
come together here in our state, our National Guard and our friends from --
colleagues from FEMA and crews and fast water rescue teams from states like
South Carolina and Texas. This is a moment when we put aside the politics
and focus on protecting life.

MATTHEWS: Well, it looks like we`re getting landfall just about now
right on the edge of your state, in Delaware. Let me ask you about your
biggest -- when you go to bed at night and you put your head on the pillow,
what are you worried about most happening in the next 12 hours?

O`MALLEY: Well, I think the biggest worry I have is really the
potential for loss of life from those unpredictable tides in the Chesapeake
Bay, especially when these winds are so unpredictable, and also the damage
that can be done to human beings when trees fall on homes. And we`re going
to see a lot of trees get knocked over and a lot of power lines getting
knocked over in this long, violent night ahead.

MATTHEWS: Yes, some of the trees in D.C., where I live -- or work,
rather -- I live in Maryland, as you know. These trees were planted years
ago, decades and generations ago. And not all of them have any root system
at all. And you realize when the big wings hit, they just go over. They
topple. They don`t even break.

O`MALLEY: You know, I guess, given some of the experiences we`ve had,
I`d like to believe that the strongest trees have survived. I mean, we
lost a lot of trees in the derecho. And as I`m looking at this map right
now and looking at the outages, I see that Cecil County up in the northeast
-- I mean, Chris, you can almost see by looking at the power outage map,
you can trace the track of the storm. So northeast is really taking it
hard. Forty-one percent of the people in Cecil County are now without
power up there.

So far, knock on wood, we haven`t seen those sorts of numbers in the
Washington suburbs, but likely -- this thing is so damn big, it`s going to
stretch over our entire state.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. It`s great to have you on. Governor
Martin O`Malley of Maryland, one of the sharpest governors out there.

Much more ahead as Sandy nears landfall right near here. Back with
more in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re waiting for Sandy, the
great -- well, it`s now a tropical storm -- to make landfall somewhere
between New Jersey and the state of Delaware. More than 2.2 million homes
are without power in the mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast.

Now the politics of this storm and the hurricane`s potential impact
on, of course, the presidential race. Jim Warren of Chicago, editor of the
DailyBeast, and Joy Reid is editor of TheGrio. Both are MSNBC
contributors.

Jim, I haven`t talked to you for a while, but I was -- I made a
mistake in the earlier edition of the program tonight. It was Jane Byrne
who benefited from that snowstorm and the way it was handled by Michael
Bilandic and the city machine out there. Tell us about what your
experience is as a general reporter to what weather can do to elections.

JIM WARREN, DAILYBEAST, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, my gosh.

MATTHEWS: Bad weather.

WARREN: Chris, I think we even discussed this before. Just take snow
in this country -- 1965, I`m a native New Yorker, living in New York, Mayor
John Lindsay was upended by what was deemed very weak response to a huge
snowstorm. Bilandic lost the mayoralty of Chicago in 1979. As you
remember, in the early `90s, a couple of Washington bad snowstorms, Marion
Barry`s stock plummeted amid the traditional incompetence...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Give me the reason for that. Why do people have a big
scorecard in their heads and their hearts about weather and how politicians
handle it?

WARREN: Because if they are deemed to be responsible and effective
and efficient, they are lauded. Remember, Herbert Hoover won the
Republican presidential nomination in 1928 in no small measure because of
what was deemed to be a good performance as commerce secretary overseeing
the government response to the Mississippi River flood -- the Mississippi
River flooding.

The next year, Huey Long wins the governorship of Louisiana, assisted
by that. Internationally, Juan Peron benefited in 1944 by a huge
earthquake and consolidated his power in Argentina.

But the opposite is what we`ve seen in New York City, Chicago and
Washington, where you`re perceived to be ineffectual in responding to stuff
that actually impacts people`s lives.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let me go over now to Joy on that because it seems
like one of the most notorious cases, when in the middle of Katrina, when
President George W. Bush, the most recent president, acted like he was
completely out of touch with reality when he said to his FEMA director, the
former head of the Arabian racing association, Michael Brown, You`re doing
a great job, Brownie.

I mean -- I mean, give me a break it does seem to be important the --
the federal government has one responsibility, mainly to protect the
country and they put a clown in there.

JOY-ANN, REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes I mean --

MATTHEWS: And then congratulated the clown.

REID: Yes it`s incredible and you have to remember, too, that when
Hurricane Katrina made landfall, George W. Bush was at John McCain`s
birthday party celebrating. So you have that juxtaposition of those
pictures of him enjoying -- you know they were playing the guitar and
hanging out. And then of course you had his administration`s really
horrible response which is ironic because George W. Bush`s brother, Jeb
Bush, is still popular in Florida in part because he is Mr. Hurricane. The
efficiency with which Jeb Bush`s administration would handle hurricanes in
Florida is a lot of the reason that he is still popular in that state.

I mean the most close --

MATTHEWS: And explain the connection between -- between Jeb and
President Obama.

REID: Yes and now you -- exactly, President Obama very rightly as you
said in the earlier edition has hired the hurricane response guy that Jeb
Bush used in his administration. He was always considered nonpartisan and
he was somebody who made Jeb look really good and now he`s working for
FEMA. He`s heading FEMA for Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to Jim, James Warren. The question now on
the table, here we are the Monday before the election, a week out now, it
seems to me it`s not exactly a time out. For the President it`s a chance
to be an executive. For Romney it`s a chance to show patience and prudence
and the recognition of his position as a challenger to the President, not
as a President.

WARREN: Yes, one of his problems is going to be if, in fact, the
media is focused as it logically is going to be on Sandy for the next few
days that drowns out a lot of attention that Romney presumably wants to
get. And that puts I think a much greater premium on good old-fashioned,
get out to work, get out the vote efforts in all of these states which are
still critical to him which are not impacted by Sandy and also means he`s
going to have to spend a whole lot of money --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Ok.

WARREN: -- on paid advertising.

It doesn`t make it impossible but it raises the bar for getting the
collective attention to his campaign.

MATTHEWS: Ok. Well, here`s something he wished he hadn`t said as of
today. In June of last year at a CNN debate, Mitt Romney argued for
turning over FEMA to the states, in other words getting rid of the federal
role in emergency relief, and turn it over to the private sector.

Let`s listen to what the candidate then, and now the chief challenger
has said -- he wished he hasn`t said, I think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: FEMA is about to run out
of money and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis.
There are some people who say, you know maybe we`re learning a lesson here
that the state should take on more of this role. How do you deal with
something like that?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Absolutely. Every time you
have an occasion that takes something from the federal government and send
it back to the states that`s the right direction. And if you can go even
further and send it back to the private sector, that`s even better.

We`re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we`re taking in. We
cannot -- we cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without
jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view.

For us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on
to our kids, knowing full well that we`ll all be dead and gone before it`s
paid off makes no sense at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: James, how long do you think it will take after this storm
has passed for that to become an advertisement in states that are affected
by this storm?

WARREN: Chris I think the general Romney take on this is an absurdity
too great to be insisted upon. If you look at the history of competence on
when it comes to matters like this in the states it comes up very, very
short. It`s a state like Illinois right now Chris, we have the second
highest per capita debt low in like $9,600 bucks a person, $60 billion
direct debt. The schools aren`t generally working. The roads are
crumbling, the bridges are crumbling. And to think that this state has the
wherewithal, the resources and the history of competence to pull stuff off
like this is simply an absurdity.

MATTHEWS: And Joy.

REID: And think back, Chris to Katrina. I mean, the response of the
state government in Louisiana was atrocious and they had to call for help.
They had to call 911 and call the federal government.

And one other quick thing, when -- when Governor Romney -- when Romney
was Governor of Massachusetts, he was not shy about asking for federal
disaster aid. There were two big -- a storm and a chemical plant meltdown
that took place in 2006. He asked for federal aid both times. In the
second case Romney actually said he didn`t want to spend Massachusetts
surplus fund, they didn`t want to spend their own money until they found
out how much FEMA, how much the feds were going to send them.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, let me get right to both of you. I got a final
question for both of you and it`s an important one. The right touch which
isn`t showboating but it`s appropriate and in fact impressive in his
handling of this. I think if George W. Bush had gone done in New Orleans
with all of those Africa-American people scared to death, holding their
babies in that terrible weather, heated weather down there, if the
President just flown into a helicopter, come in, in Marine One and handed
out water bottles for a couple of days, just really handed out something, I
mean, people wanted water. It wasn`t like they didn`t need it, and just be
part of that, something like Lyndon Johnson would have done.

The image he would have had in this country not just with the African-
Americans and others but everybody would have been so different. Now the
President has to do something -- I assume, starting with you, James, that
Romney will be doing something like helping people sandbag or doing --
doing something like that at a micro level in the next couple of days.
What should the President then be doing do you think? Physically?

WARREN: Well first of all I`m talking to folks at the White House
this morning, who had talked to the President this morning it`s clear that
in a weird sense that he`s going to try to make -- he might even coin a
phrase a necessity out of virtue. He truly believes the right thing to do
is to stay away from the campaign trail for as long as it takes to oversee
the federal reaction to this. Now it may also end up being good politics
for him.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WARREN: But that`s what he`s going to do. Now will they decide to
send him out somewhere to show some empathy to folks, sure it be an obvious
thing to do and one can expect that. But I also wouldn`t be surprised that
even amid this incredibly tight race that he stays off the campaign trail
for as long as he thinks it takes just because lo and behold an American
politician thinks that`s the right thing to do.

MATTHEWS: And you know what, it would be big spiritual, you know,
statement of faith too is belief.

REID: Yes it wouldn`t be surprising either. And remember that the
Obama campaign has so many young people on the ground that are volunteering
for the campaign and they are not averse to that idea of asking those
people to volunteer their time for the purpose of helping others in those
communities.

I mean, a President`s job in these situations is the three C`s. It`s
compassion, it`s competency and it`s showing that you care about the people
there without showboating as you said. If he can do those things, then I
think that the President will look pretty good coming out of this.

MATTHEWS: You know, so much of this campaign -- and I say this from
both directions -- has been petty and Mickey Mouse, you know arguing about
Big Bird and stuff like that and the bayonets even. How much of this
stuff? It really doesn`t matter much to the future of the country, it`s
just sort of picking up point. Don`t you think, James? It`s just sort of
catching the other side, "I got you, I got you, I got you."

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN: Yes but it`s --

MATTHEWS: And we`ve lacked the kind of a commanding sense. This is
damn important -- how a country responds to a natural crisis. This is
important.

WARREN: Yes and it`s also a reminder that we are not just solely solo
operators, individuals living apart from everybody else in a community,
that there is a collective responsibility. And I think it plays
inadvertently to the basic notion of driving the Obama campaign, namely the
positive values of government and the fact that there are some things that
the private sector just can`t do. And I think that`s a point that`s going
to be driven home to even some Tea Party folks and some of these states
that are going to get creamed and are saved ultimately by the work of
dutiful, loyal, earnest government workers.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Yes, you --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the good side here. It seems to me 00
and I`m being very nonpartisan here -- people like Haley Barbour who is a
friend of this show, a conservative Republican, Governor of Mississippi,
really came out of Katrina looking like a can-do guy, a real can-do leader.
And Jeb Bush, as you have pointed out earlier, Joy, has really made a name
and everybody knows he`s made a name for himself by dealing with Andrew,
Hurricane Andrew down there and other incidents.

People do judge people by how you do, not just how good a speech you
give.

REID: Yes a lot of times for -- for people in states the closest
contact that you have with your Governor, the most you sort of see him
impacting your real life is when a disaster happens. They have to be in a
lot of way be the father-in-chief the way that Chris Christie in a sort of
blunt way was telling people you need to evacuate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: They have a constant presence on television telling you what
needs to be done and giving you the reassurance that government is there in
place and they have to interact with the federal government and coordinate
the response and -- and actually utilize the resources given to them by the
federal government.

And I think, as you said, Chris, this is one thing that is completely
nonpartisan. It was not surprising to me to see Chris Christie really
praise the President on this because in this one they are in this together.
It is a partnership --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: -- between state and federal government when a disaster
strikes.

MATTHEWS: And one way to get more of a good thing is to thank the
person for the first tranche of good things.

REID: Amen.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Jim Warren and Joy Reid. Thank you --
real pros.

WARREN: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You`re watching HARD BALL and it`s live. Our live coverage
of Sandy prepares to make, as it prepares to make a landfall, things are
happening in this country and it`s not all politics.

Back with more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to New York City right now. You`re looking
at the Battery now, right at the tip of Manhattan at the bottom there.

We`re going to have Michelle Franzen joining us shortly. Michelle
Franzen, thank you for joining us. God, we`ve been watching that very an
iconic spot with the Statute of Liberty in the distance and all that fog
and all of that water coming at us.

MICHELLE FRANZEN, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes absolutely. You can
see this water pouring up here. Just take a look. I`m going to take the
camera off of me and show these -- these waves coming up. The basin is
full, so to speak here in New York harbor. It is starting to lap over,
spill over. We`ve got a good foot of water already. That surge is
expected to go anywhere between six and 12 feet.

We haven`t even reached high tide yet. We`ve got more than an hour to
go here. So some of those projections seem to be holding true right now
here in Lower Manhattan. Of course, one of the areas that was evacuated in
and around New York City, those low lying areas. Of course, Battery Park
City, residential area, you`ve got the financial district down here as
well. Everything is shut down.

And in the last hour, we`ve also had the bridges linking Manhattan to
New Jersey as well as Staten Island those too, closed. So tonight
Manhattan is truly an isolated island tonight as everyone is being told to
hunker down; again just the waves coming up here in this area. So these
low laying areas certainly a critical time as Sandy the worst of her is
coming in now to Manhattan and in other areas.

MATTHEWS: Ok. Thank you, Michelle so much. Michelle Franzen at the
tip of Manhattan River reminding us it is in fact an island surrounded by
water. Certainly it is tonight encroaching water.

And now to NBC`s Ron Allen on the phone to us tonight from Point
Pleasant, New Jersey. Ron, it has been real, it must have been very
hazardous where you are tonight. It`s been so hard to get to you.

RON ALLEN, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It is, Chris.
Yes. The power is out down here. The phone lines are spotty. Things
really took a bad turn about an hour ago. The -- we`re at a town that`s
protected by a pretty high sand dune along the beach and those sand dunes
have been breached and there`s now water rushing the ocean, really rushing
through the streets, the main streets that are perpendicular to the ocean
into this town, it`s been evacuated for some time. So there are not a lot
of people around.

I`m standing on the third floor of a hotel, about three blocks back
from the beach looking over the scene and I can see the trees are bowing at
very sharp angles, the waters are rushing through a river. It`s an old
real cliche but it`s so true here.

Many of the media here in a parking lot and where there are trucks and
cars are parked and we`re hoping that the water level wouldn`t rise into
the parking lot where all of the vehicles are parked so everybody is -- and
this building is sandbagged.

So we`re all trying to just figure out the best position to be in to
continue doing some work and remaining safe to try to explain what`s
happening here. I imagine this is happening in many places along the
Jersey Shore where the Battery islands are. There`s a very narrow distance
between the ocean and the mainland and there are lakes, there`s inlets,
there are -- there`s a huge bay, the Delaware Bay that is (inaudible) part
of New Jersey, from Cape May going north and that`s the area that`s very
vulnerable, down there at Cape May at Atlantic City, that`s the area where
they shut down the main thoroughfare, the New Jersey pipe way and they
basically told people for many miles don`t come in this direction for --
for some time.


It appears that the eye of the storm hit a little bit south of where
we are so we`re not catching a lot of rain now. We`re getting a lot of
wind, however. It`s primarily a wind event in this area. I`m hearing that
the gusts could up be up to 56 miles per hour all through the night and
into tomorrow. But the rain has stopped which is some good news.

But again people are hunkered down here in a safe position. Just
unbelievable to see this torrent of water rushing through town. We knew it
was going to happen. We were standing on the dune most of the day, it was
an area that was an (inaudible) 30-40 yards wide. The dune itself, 12 feet
high. It has been completely breached and now this town is being inundated
with water from the ocean -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Ron, tell us about the geography. I grew up in Ocean City,
New Jersey by spending my summers down there. All those famous resorts,
Atlantic City, Cape May, Wild Roy (ph), Ocean City all up and down the
shore there are all outer islands. I mean they are separated from the
mainland but they`re only connected by causeways or the bridges. What are
the chances of all of those people getting cut off tonight where you can`t
get to the mainland?

ALLEN: Well, the governor here moved quickly to evacuate people
starting a couple of days ago and my sense of it is that a lot of these
areas have been evacuated. We`re kind of pinned down where we are here at
Point Pleasant Beach. We can`t go very far because as you say, yes, there
are bridges and canals and it`s like a checker board of water and land.

So it`s very hard to move and that`s why they have shut down the New
Jersey turnpike -- I should say the New Jersey Parkway, that`s basically
the main thoroughfare through the state to all these areas. I grew up in
New Jersey, too. And I`m used to coming to all of these places. I
actually worked down in Atlantic City for a short time after college in the
casinos.

And, yes, that area is completely, completely cut off and hopefully
people who were told to evacuate have, in fact, done that because that`s
the worst case scenario that so many first responders were talking about
this week, is that if people didn`t heed the warnings now other people have
to go in and risk their lives to save these people.

You know, in this town, we heard that there are some -- we saw police
going door to door trying to make sure that everybody was out and we heard
reports that at least two cases where they had to help elderly people out
of their home to shelters. But that was much, much earlier in the day when
the roads were very passable and now it would be much more difficult.

The water -- it`s hard to estimate because again I`m three stories in
this hotel, but I would say that it`s easily several feet deep rushing
through the city, rushing through this town from the ocean. And I would
say that I`m about maybe 100 yards or so from the ocean. I can see it in
the distance.

Again we don`t have power so everything is dark but I can make out the
outline of a shore there. The whole bottom part of this town is being
inundated and I imagine that is the case up and down the Jersey Shore --
Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. Great on the spot reporting by Ron
Allen for NBC News and MSNBC. Thank you. From Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
We`re going to continue to follow Hurricane Sandy. What a delightfully,
nice, cuddly name -- Sandy -- and what harm it`s causing.

Back with more in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Hurricane Sandy has thrown campaign plans for the
final week of the election into disarray. What will be the effects of the
storm? What will it be on Election Day coming up this Tuesday.

John Nickels is Washington correspondent for the "Nation" magazine. A
smart Canadian pollster Allen Greg once said to me there`s three things to
look for in a political leader of any culture -- any culture. Motive, why
are they there; passion, what gets them turned on; and three, spontaneity.

Let`s talk spontaneity. How you react to unforeseen events, this
black swan even in the form of this hurricane now. Is this going to
display for us not so much executive ability as to be smart in facing
something new -- John? On both sides.

JOHN NICKELS, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NATION" MAGAZINE: I think it
does in many, many ways. On both sides -- absolutely.

Look, President Obama has a style -- he has a personality. We have
referred to him often as medium cool, this guy who is maybe a little too
dispassionate to be president.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

NICKELS: But now in this moment, he comes off as in control, very
calm, able to handle a tough situation. Just on style, it benefits him.

From Mitt Romney, it`s a much tougher challenge. He has to stand down
at least for a day, perhaps for two days. He`s cancelled events in
battleground states across the country. So has Paul Ryan. And yet at a
certain point, he must step back into the campaign and he has to do so
gracefully. If he does so in a bombastic way, in too negative of a way, it
could blow back at him.

So both of these candidates are being called on to fill a role. And
the trouble is the storm doesn`t happen on schedule. It doesn`t give them
permission for when to show their best side.

I think it`s especially hard for Romney. Obama knows his role. He
knows what he needs to do here. For Romney, it`s a much tougher challenge.

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re teaching me a lot tonight John -- very
impressive. Very impressive the spontaneity on your part. Thanks for that
instruction -- I mean it. Really good stuff.

We`ll be right back with more on Hurricane Sandy and its political
power in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight again with this storm. They are
called black swans -- those unpredictable, unknown forces that enter a
campaign often in the last week that, to use the language of the comic
books, change the course of mighty rivers. There was George W`s admission
of an old driving under the influence charge. His real crime, I would say,
was leading us under the influence of Dick Cheney and his neo-conservative
allies into Iraq.

But the black swan now sweeping across the American East Coast carries
with it all the unpredictables and unknowns for which the species owes its
name. It swoops in. It is dark with mystery.

This storm will pass, thank God, but what it leaves in its trail is
still a stranger. I have said for days that the power of the first
presidential debate would not die until operated on by an outside force.
That`s Newton`s first law of physics and it applies to politics as well.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that outside force, whichever direction it
takes now is now upon us. A black swan now has us on its wings.

That`s Hardball for now. Thanks for being with us.

"THE ED SHOW" with Ed Shultz 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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