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updated 12/11/2012 10:57:57 AM ET 2012-12-11T15:57:57

HARDBALL
December 10, 2012

Guests: R. Clarke Cooper, Charlie Crist

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The bonds (ph) of marriage.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. Are we living in a liberal hour? Four
states voted against -- or actually voted last month either for gay
marriage equality or against efforts to deny it. The issue that just eight
years ago was used to deny victory to a Democratic presidential candidate,
John Kerry, is now this country`s majority opinion.

Well, something here has stirred, but what is it? What has shifted
the country from two thirds against same-sex marriage to more than 50
percent for it, compassion, common sense, idea fatigue, the inability of
opponents to specify a single resilient argument against it? Or is it the
sheer number of declarations to family, friends, co-workers and public by
so many people that they are gay?

Is this why so many Americans have changed their minds on marriage
equality in so breath-takingly short a time. In any case, tonight, a major
breakthrough in the conservative ranks.

Our guests, Clarke Cooper, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, and
Joan Walsh of Salon.com.

Let`s take a look at something that George Will said this weekend.
And the question is, has the opposition to gay marriage softened, even
among conservatives? Take a look at what Mr. Will said this weekend.
Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WILL, ABC "THIS WEEK": This decision by the Supreme Court came
31 days after an election day in which three states for the first time
endorsed same-sex marriage at the ballot box -- never happened before --
Maine, Maryland, and the state of Washington.

Now, the question is, how will that influence the court? It could
make them say, It`s not necessary for us to go here. On the other hand,
they could say, It`s now safe to look at this because there is something
like an emerging consensus. Quite literally, the opposition to gay
marriage is dying. It`s old people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Dying." That`s brutal. Will is on to something there.
The question of marriage rights for gays and lesbians is barely an issue
for young people.

Take a look at this Gallup poll from just last month -- 73 percent of
people in the younger age category -- 73 percent of people between 18 and
29 say same-sex marriage should be valid. Only 29 -- or actually, 26
percent of that group say they don`t like it.

Now, this is an amazing development. I want to start with Clarke
Cooper. You have lived this. You`re gay. You`re a Republican, which I
always found an interesting combination, a socio-metric (ph) overlay which
I find confounding, but you can explain it.

Your party is against same-sex marriage. You know -- you`ve fought
that battle, at least in your platform and in the public positions. We`ll
argue about that in a minute.

R. CLARKE COOPER, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Sure.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that someone like George Will,
a vintage as a conservative -- among the intellectuals, he`s always been
reigning pretty high for years now -- him saying the fight`s over because
the people against it are just too old to even be alive anymore?

COOPER: Well, what George is saying is a reflection of what we
actually saw in the platform debates earlier this year in Tampa. There
actually was a debate about DOMA, about striking DOMA from the platform.
Those who fought for it tended to be much older, in that demographic. And
so yes, the younger the Republican, the younger the conservative, the
younger the libertarian, the chances are they`re either agnostic, at a
minimum, or they`re fully supportive of freedom to marry.

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re getting into it much faster than I wanted to.
Now we`re going to go to blows. Here it is, the language on gay marriage
of the Republican platform this year. It`s not just against DOMA.

Quote, "We reaffirm our support for a constitutional amendment
defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the
citizens of the majority of states which have enshrined in their
constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the
campaigns under way in several other states to do so."

And take a look at what the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, said
back in May about his opposition to not only gay marriage but even civil
unions. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: I think people
have differing views on marriage, and I respect people`s different views.
When I served as governor of my state, this issue arose, same-sex marriage
and civil union. I pointed out that I`m in favor of traditional marriage
between a man and a woman, and I don`t favor civil union or gay marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, Clarke, not to badger it, but your party is so far
right on this issue, they`re not just against -- they`re not even going to
not do anything about DOMA, they want to basically put it in the
Constitution you can never have a same-sex marriage.

COOPER: Well, it`s not going to happen.

MATTHEWS: That`s how far over they are.

COOPER: It`s not going to happen. There`s not enough votes in either
party...

MATTHEWS: Why keep putting it in your platform?

COOPER: Well, that is a problem. And this is what we fought against
this summer in Tampa. What was -- what did happen in that committee, in
the general committee on the platform, for the first time, there was
outright vocal, healthy (ph) opposition to that language. In fact, there
was even intent to compromise with civil unions. Obviously, that failed,
but what it did show...

MATTHEWS: Why don`t you have a floor demonstration against it, like
in the old days? Stand up on the floor, everybody who`s pro-gay rights and
for gay -- marriage equality -- why don`t you go to the floor of your
convention, walk around with placards like in the old days and say, This
isn`t fair? Why don`t do you that?

COOPER: Well, what happened is you saw an anchor around the neck of
candidates up and down the ticket. That platform -- usually platforms are
of no consequence for any candidate at any time. But this cycle, it
actually did matter because of those four ballot initiatives.

MATTHEWS: What did you personally do to stop them from doing it
again?

COOPER: What would I do to stop them...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COOPER: We make sure that...

MATTHEWS: What did you do? Did you testify?

COOPER: Yes, we did.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You did? Personally? You?

COOPER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

COOPER: Pre-platform hearing sessions -- there are meetings at the
RNC. Actually, Log Cabin Republicans was invited to attend.

MATTHEWS: OK.

COOPER: We went through line by line the `08 platform and gave
guidances on what to avoid and what could actually be put in to be helpful.
So you know, one of the things that we did get in there, that we were
successful, to say, Don`t -- don`t mess with open service. The RNC years
ago had said, We`re not going to support that. We got that...

MATTHEWS: Remove...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Joan. Thanks for joining us tonight,
Joan. And I think -- I think this is a partisan issue. And I`m being very
fair here because I do read platforms, unlike you, Clarke, and I do take
them seriously. If a party`s going to campaign for historic inequality and
fight for it in perpetuity to the point of putting it in the United States
Constitution and running on that platform means something to me. It means
serious challenge to the direction of history. Your thoughts?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I agree. And I
know that Clarke has fought the good fight and lost, and I expect that he`s
going to continue to lose for at least a little while, Chris.

I mean, there is -- the arc of history is bending in the direction of
gay rights, and you know, to have George Will say that -- it was brutal,
but it was also true. When you look at the younger generation, you look at
our kids, and even Republican kids -- they`re not as liberal on this issue
as Democratic kids, but they`re getting there.

So over time, this will change. The problem right now for Clarke and
for all Republicans who are trying to liberalize their party in any way --
maybe that`s on immigration or maybe that`s on women`s rights -- is that
they have doubled down on a certain kind of hidebound white conservative
Christian, very backwards base, and they have pandered to that base for so
long that it`s very hard...

MATTHEWS: Not only that...

WALSH: It`s very hard to imagine...

MATTHEWS: Worse.

WALSH: ... an electoral future where...

MATTHEWS: It`s worse than that, Joan. I`m sorry to interrupt. It`s
worse than that.

WALSH: All right.

MATTHEWS: You guys, Karl Rove and your buddies -- remember Karl Rove?

COOPER: I know Karl.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) eight years ago, you went up to Ohio and you
went up to Cleveland in the black areas, you basically went to the black
ministers up there, Karl Rove and -- and who was that guy, the boxing
promoter, and you guys -- Don King -- and you rallied all them, We got to
fight this gay marriage thing! And you used that to destroy John Kerry in
Ohio and you cost him the Electoral College.

COOPER: And that -- in `04, that was an exploding cigar, and we`re
paying a price for that as the Republican Party because there were...

MATTHEWS: Where were you then? Did you fight it?

COOPER: There...

MATTHEWS: Did you fight Karl Rove on this?

COOPER: I was actually fighting in Iraq. I was deployed in `04, so I
was overseas.

MATTHEWS: OK. Touche. Touche.

COOPER: Yes, there...

MATTHEWS: You win.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Thank you for your service. Thank you for your service.
It`s a very good alibi.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: But we paid for it in the `08 cycle, when we weren`t running
on it. We certainly weren`t running on it in 2012. So we`ve been trying
to run away from this issue, and we have been paying for it in spades since
`04. And as you said earlier, the platform document was an anchor around
the neck of candidates...

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m going to be fair to you now. This country has
never gone through a faster transition in thinking, and I`m part of it, all
right? Everybody`s part of it...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... I think, in different degrees. The public attitude on
marriage equality has shifted dramatically in just a short period of time.
Take away these numbers tonight. I think you`re going to be astounded by
this.

In 1996, not a million years ago, only 27 percent of the country
supported same-sex marriage, just about a quarter of us. Nearly 70 percent
were opposed, almost three quarters. Today, a majority, a healthy
majority, 53 percent, support it, only 46 percent oppose.

So it hasn`t gone completely symmetric the other way, John, but it has
gone -- I don`t think there`s any other issue -- I was thinking -- has
anybody ever changed their mind as quickly? I remember Barry Goldwater
once opposed -- and I always liked the guy, I disagreed with him. He was
opposed to 18-year-olds getting the right to vote until somebody pointed
out on the floor of the Senate, Senator, I know you`re a patriot and a
military guy. Have you noticed we`re drafting these guys?

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: And we`re not letting them vote. And he said, You got me
there. I think we should let them vote.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: He actually changed his mind on the floor of the Senate.

WALSH: And the -- you know, ideas about interracial marriage have
changed, but not nearly as fast, Chris. You`re right.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: I just want to go back to something Clarke said, though,
because I don`t think it`s true to say that nobody ran on this issue. I
mean, Mitt Romney did come out again and again and say that he was against
marriage equality, he was against civil unions. He`s actually a person who
ran, you know, in the `90s as more pro-gay rights than Ted Kennedy, which
was crazy. And so...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) used to do it? He`d say one man and one woman.
It was a very interesting way he would define...

WALSH: Yes, instead of group marriage.

MATTHEWS: One man...

WALSH: Group marriage, which is...

MATTHEWS: ... one man and one woman.

WALSH: ... what we`re all for...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... that way. I`m sorry.

WALSH: So I just don`t -- I don`t think it`s fair to say that nobody
ran on it. Mitt Romney made it very clear that that -- that he was against
marriage equality, and so did a lot of other Republicans. So you are
really -- you`re fighting an uphill battle. I think your side`s going to
win eventually. I really do.

COOPER: Oh, we are going to win.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, when`s your party going to change its platform? Give
me a year

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024...

COOPER: I would say this next go-around. And the reason why is, is
that...

MATTHEWS: Really?

COOPER: Well, if you can`t -- remove it. Just strike it. So the
debate...

MATTHEWS: Is this a promise from the Log Cabin?

COOPER: Hey, this is not Log Cabin, this is GOP write large. So you
look at the CRs, the College Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... writ large?

COOPER: Write large.

MATTHEWS: I love it when people talk like that!

COOPER: There you go.

MATTHEWS: Writ large. OK.

COOPER: So but if you look at College Republicans -- and we were
talking about the demographic shifts, all of us, you and Joan and I, the
three of us recognize what George Will stated the other day. The College
Republicans in `09, three years ago, updated their platform...

MATTHEWS: OK...

COOPER: ... to reflect...

MATTHEWS: ... speak right now to all gay Republicans out there. What
should they do to change your platform? Talk to the camera.

COOPER: We need to be involved in the party process. So you need to
be a delegate to the convention. You need to be a delegate on the platform
committee. You need to be involved in your state party. You need to be
involved in state parties like Oregon, where they actually changed their
platform because of our work there. You need to be involved in state party
politics.

And that`s how we get involved in the national party. That`s how it
works. So you don`t want to depend on a surrogate per se.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Right. Do Log Cabin Republicans lean forward or
backward?

COOPER: Forward!

MATTHEWS: Good! Thank you, Clarke Cooper, for joining us. Joan
Walsh, thank you, as always.

Coming up: changing teams. When Charlie Crist made it official and
became a Democrat this Friday night, he became the first big state governor
to switch sides since John Connally of Texas became a Republican. The GOP
has declared war on its moderates. The former and perhaps future governor
of Florida, Charlie Crist, joins us here tonight.

Also, the looming fiscal cliff. President Obama is campaigning out
there, and Republicans are considering. The question is, will the
president gain a small victory on taxes or a big deal? Could it be in the
offing?

And we have the annual list, by the way, of the most notable quotes of
the year, the verbal gaffes forever. The list is full of bloopers like
"legitimate rape" and "Etch-a-Sketch." Let`s see if you can guess which
verbal stumble made the top of the list.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the key percentages of the year.
Remember 1 percent? Remember 8 percent? And of course, 47 percent.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Listen to what Newt Gingrich said about Hillary Clinton and
the future of his party yesterday on "MEET THE PRESS."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:
If their competitor in `16 is going to be Hillary Clinton, supported by
Bill Clinton and presumably a still relatively popular President Barack
Obama, trying to win that will be truly the Super Bowl, and the Republican
Party today is incapable of competing at that level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Incapable of competing at that level. What a statement!
Hillary Clinton isn`t saying anything right now about her plans. "The New
York Times" reported over the weekend that aides and friends say they
expect she`ll exit the State Department shortly after the inauguration this
January 20th and spend a couple months resting and thinking about what she
wants to do next. I think that makes sense.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When the governor of a major
state switches political parties, it`s very big news. The last time this
happened in a big state was when the former governor of Texas, John
Connally, switched in 1973.

Now we`ve got former Florida governor Charlie Crist, who served the
state as a Republican, announcing this weekend he`s leaving the party,
joining the Democrats. In a tweet Friday night, he wrote, quote, "Proud
and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President Obama."
It was accompanied by this picture of him taken at the White House with his
voter registration form.

I`m joined right now by former Florida Republican governor, Democrat
Charlie Crist. Governor -- I always will call you governor.

CHARLIE CRIST (D), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Chris, how are you?

MATTHEWS: It may be appropriate more formally some day, but it`s an
honor to have you on the show. I just have to hit you up front with a
hardball question. Peter Feaman, who is now and still your Republican
national committeeman -- he said you sat at his table not too long ago, his
breakfast table, and you said, I am a Reagan -- a Ronald Reagan Republican.

Were you then? Are you now so changed that that`s not true?

CRIST: I think the party`s changed, is what`s really happened. And I
think Reagan is a Great example. My friend, Jeb Bush, not long ago, in
fact, said that Ronald Reagan probably would not be successful in today`s
Republican Party. That tells you everything you need to know.

And I really think it`s the leadership of the party more than the
membership. But what`s happened is on issue after issue, Chris -- and you
know this better than I do -- whether it`s immigration, education, voter
suppression, what the leadership of the party has done is say on
immigration, you know, You got -- we want deportation.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CRIST: When it talks about education, it`s talking about not funding
it anymore. When they talk about voter suppression, they deny people the
right to vote in a civil (ph) manner, in a way that they should be --

MATTHEWS: But you grew up in this party.

CRIST: ... able to do so...

MATTHEWS: It has been a party tough on immigration before, hasn`t it?
Hasn`t it been a party on a number of the issues you mentioned before?
Before recently.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: When do you think the Republican Party, in your terms,
broke bad? When did it start to be a party you couldn`t be comfortably a
member of anymore as governor or as a political person at all?

CRIST: Oh, I think it started several years ago, maybe three -- two,
three years ago. I mean, I left the party two years ago and became an
independent, and I did so because of the fact that, you know, on all of
those issues, it just wasn`t comfortable for me to be there anymore.

I mean, you know, everybody has the right to be a member of whatever
party they want, and I respect that. But you know, for me as a live-and-
let-live kind of guy, as somebody who wants to be tolerant, who wants to be
kind, who wants to be compassionate, you know, the leadership of the
Republican Party today doesn`t seem to embrace that kind of view, and so it
became uncomfortable to me.

The values that my mother and father raised me and my three sisters
with were to do unto others, be good to other people, reach out to them.
You know, we`re all in this together. You`re not on your own.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CRIST: I mean, those kind of things really matter to me, and I think
they...

MATTHEWS: I love all that.

CRIST: ... they matter to the American people.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think you`re great on all that stuff, but...

CRIST: Well, it`s the right stuff, I think.

MATTHEWS: ... I have to warn you -- I have to warn you, Governor, as
someone of the center-left who`s experienced this, there is a blue plate
special aspect to both political parties, where you have to buy into
everything. For example, you have to be against vouchers now. Do you know
that? Under the Democratic Party, you must be totally for the public
school teachers unions. That`s the deal. Are you comfortable with that?
This party -- both parties have their demands...

CRIST: I`m fine with that.

MATTHEWS: You`re fine with it. How about the issue...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Are you for any kind of enforcement on immigration, any
kind of enforcement? Because I never hear a Democrat talk about it. Are
you -- are you comfortable with that kind of thing? Actually, a law, you
have to have a work permit, something like that, that might be not too
comfortable to people on the hard left. Are you comfortable with making
that kind of compromise as a Democrat now?

CRIST: I think we need to have a pathway to citizenship. I`m the
grandson of a Greek immigrant, Chris, and...

MATTHEWS: What about enforcement? What about enforcement?
(INAUDIBLE) easy stuff! You`re going for the low-hanging fruit here! What
about the tough stuff...

CRIST: Not at all.

MATTHEWS: ... of being a Democrat? You got to be very weak on
enforcement, don`t you? See?

CRIST: I don`t know if you have to or not. I think...

MATTHEWS: See?

(CROSSTALK)

CRIST: Each individual has to do what they want in their heart and
what they believe is right. And that`s what I`m going to do, whatever the
issue might be. I will be guided by common sense and my heart and my
upbringing and what think is fair and right for all people.

MATTHEWS: But you`re going to accept the Democratic Party sort of
mainstream arguments, right, all of them?

CRIST: Yes. Yes. Sure.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s quite a switch, to go from being a Republican
who`s upset and wants to be an independent and now you`re saying, I`m
willing not to be an independent.

CRIST: I`m willing to be a Democrat because I think the Democratic
Party is where I am much more comfortable than I was as a Republican...

MATTHEWS: OK.

CRIST: ... or even an independent. I really do. I mean, I went to
Monticello last week and had the opportunity to see Jefferson`s home. You
know, this guy who talked about trying to look out for each other, trying
to look out for people, trying to do what was right -- and you know, he`s a
great leader and a great man. And there`s a great book on it that Jon
Meacham just wrote...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

CRIST: ... and I just enjoyed reading your book on JFK, as a matter
of fact.

MATTHEWS: Well, welcome aboard, I suppose, to the center-left.

Let me ask you about the -- about your potential here. I do think you
were a very popular governor. And if you had stayed -- I think I talked to
your lieutenant governor -- your lieutenant governor on an airplane a while
back, and he said if you had stayed there, you would still be there. So
did you like that job in Tallahassee as governor of Florida?

CRIST: Oh, it`s a great job, absolutely.

You know, I talked to Bob Graham about it. And he said, Charlie, when
you`re governor of the state, it`s like being the quarterback of the
football team. You have the opportunity to call a lot more plays than you
do when you`re serving in the U.S. Senate.

MATTHEWS: That`s true.

CRIST: You`re more of a spectator of what`s going on.

MATTHEWS: Where was he when you needed him?

CRIST: And he got it right.

MATTHEWS: Where was he when you need advice years ago?

CRIST: Oh, he`s right there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Because, if he had advised you to do that, you would still
be governor.

CRIST: Yes. Well, maybe so. I had the wonderful opportunity and my
wife did to have dinner with Governor Graham and Adele, and they are lovely
people, and he is a great Floridian and a great friend.

MATTHEWS: If you had to advise somebody young deciding on which
political party, what would be your main knocks against the Republican
Party, 2012, right now?

CRIST: Well, I just don`t think they`re very tolerant anymore and not
very compassionate, at least the leadership.

And I make that distinction, because my mom and dad are very
compassionate people and they`re still Republicans. They`re moderate
Republicans and I love them to death. But I think the leadership of the
party really has sort of lost its way. I was proud to be a Republican when
I was because it was the party of Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator.

It was the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who founded and set up our
national park system and cared about the environment. Those things are
important to me, especially as a Floridian. And, so, when the party
started moving away from those kinds of things, and taking away the Sunday
before elected for people to go vote.

As you know, in the African-American community...

MATTHEWS: I know.

CRIST: ... there`s a great tradition after church to go and vote in
the states that have early voting. And to take that away, it just seemed
like to me that there was real suppression going on, it wasn`t a tolerant
party, it wasn`t doing what was right for the environment or public
education.

I`m a public school kid. My dad was on the school board when I was a
kid. I have three sisters. Two have been public school teachers here in
Florida. So, I have a heart for that kind of thing, and it means an awful
lot to me.

People have told me for a long time, Chris, Charlie, you have really
been a Democrat. You just didn`t know it. I mean, these are people that I
went to college with and went to law school with.

MATTHEWS: OK. Are you going to lead the charge for other people to
make the switch?

CRIST: So I`m glad to be here.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to lead the charge around the country for
people to become Democrats who were Republicans?

CRIST: Well, I think they should if that is how they feel.

I mean, if they were like me and sort of middle-of-the-road and
commonsense Republicans and they see what the leadership of the Republican
Party is doing today, they ought to switch. They ought to become
Democrats, because it`s probably more true to their heart and their feeling
if they`re really more of a moderate type Republican to see the kind of
leadership we have seen in the Republican Party.

Why won`t they compromise? Why won`t they cooperate? Why won`t they
do the kind of things that the American people need and want to have done?
This fiscal cliff is a perfect example of it. And I think we`re starting
to see a little movement. I`m pleased to see that happening. I`m glad
that Speaker Boehner met with the president yesterday. That`s a positive
step. And I`m an optimist, so I hope that that continues. So we will see.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, come see us if you decide to run for governor.
We will have a nice platform for you right here.

Thank you so much, Charlie Crist, Democrat of Florida.

CRIST: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: the latest sighting of Mitt Romney in a place you
would never expect, never.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama on Thursday lit the National
Christmas Tree. Or, as FOX News reported it, Obama insults Israel.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

First, put up your Mitt. On Saturday night, Mitt Romney and his wife,
Ann, had ringside seats at a welterweight fight in Las Vegas, Manny
Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez.

Apparently, Romney visited Pacquiao in his dressing room before the
fight and wished him luck. Romney`s attempt at small talk, however, might
have you thinking back to those awkward moments he had in the campaign.
According to Pacquiao`s publicist, Romney said -- quote -- "Hello, Manny.
I ran for president. I lost."

And so did Manny, knocked out in the sixth round.

Now to those Republicans needing a reminder that the election is over,
that President Obama won. Enter Florida Congressman Allen West, who lost
his bid for reelection. What does he think about Republicans negotiating
with President Obama on the fiscal cliff? Well, like a lot of other things
for Allen West, it all comes down to socialism. Here is what he told radio
host Mark Levin.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: I think this whole thing about having
negotiations with President Obama is silly.

President Obama is a Marxist, socialist, rigid ideologue. And for
whatever reason, he believes he has some self-conceived mandate to go out
and further destroy and ruin our economy.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So if you have any lingering nostalgia for the clown show,
that should kill it. West still thinks, by the way, his opponent, Patrick
Murphy, somehow cheated in order to win the race.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WEST: The most important thing everyone has to understand is that my
voice is not going to be lost. We will -- we have gotten a lot of
opportunities, a lot of offers, and we`re going to make sure that we
continue to have that platform.

I`m not going away just because of a congressional race where it seems
they had to cheat to beat me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh.

Recent FEC filing show that West campaign`s spent about $18 million in
his bid for reelection, more than quadruple, four times, what his opponent
spent and then beat him.

Finally, how did Tony O`Donnell, an associate of the Gambino crime
family, try to sway the judges about to sentence him on several federal
charges. Well, "The New York Post" got ahold of a cache of e-mails that
Tony O`Donnell`s lawyer filed last week in an attempt to show that his
client is friends with big-league politicians.

Well, the catch, see if any of these e-mails O`Donnell received sound
or look familiar from President Obama -- quote -- "Anthony, I`m about to go
to speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first."

From Bill Clinton: "Anthony, thank you so very much for your message
on my 66th birthday. Hearing from you made a special day even more
memorable."

That`s right. He sent the judge pages of those generic mass-produced
thank-you notes politicians blast out to anyone who winds up on their
mailing list. Pathetic defense.

Up next: the fiscal cliff. President Obama`s in campaign mode while
Republicans are considering, well, considering. Can the president pull off
a historic victory? Maybe.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks make little gains, as fiscal cliff worries hang over the
markets. The Dow is up 14 points. The S&P gains a fraction. The Nasdaq
adds eight points.

McDonald`s shares ended 1 percent higher following its stronger-than-
expected November sales report. Meanwhile, FedEx rose more than 1 percent
on its busiest day of the year.

And gas prices are down about 10 cents over the last three weeks,
according to the Lundberg Survey.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last night, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met one-on-
one at the White House to crunch a fiscal deal. It was the first time the
two men met alone like this since the summer of 2011, the last time they
tried to hammer out a deal.

Well, the president was in Michigan today speaking before autoworkers
and selling his tax plan. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress doesn`t act
soon, meaning the next few weeks, starting on January 1, everybody is going
to see their income taxes go up. It`s true.

You all don`t like that, huh? We can solve this problem. All
Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the
first $250,000 of everybody`s income, everybody. That means -- that means
98 percent of Americans and probably 100 percent of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And some Republicans are slowly but steadily facing a
reality on the fiscal negotiations, leading the way, Senator Bob Corker of
Tennessee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: There is a growing group of folks
that are looking at this and realizing that we don`t have a lot of cards as
it relates to the tax issue before year end. I mean, we have one house.
That`s it.

The presidency and the Senate is in the Democrats` hands. So, a lot
of people are putting forth a theory. And I actually think it has merit
where you go ahead and give the president the 2 percent increase that he`s
talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent, and all of a sudden
the shift goes back to entitlements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Corker and some Republicans are no doubt
aware that, as this poll shows, if there`s no fiscal agreement by the end
the year, Republicans get the majority of the blame, 53 percent, in fact, a
majority of -- just 27 percent blame the president.

Joining me now is former Republican National Chairman and MSNBC
political analyst Michael Steele and managing editor of The Grio, Joy Reid.

Thank you both for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is a fascinating time. And I picked up the paper this
morning, Joy, and I noticed progress. I noticed for the first time they`re
in the same room together. I noticed that if you look at the numbers, the
way they have crunched them in The Washington Post, which is a great paper
on this stuff covering Washington, as you know, it looks like they`re
reaching some kind of agreement, somewhere about $1 trillion, maybe up to
$1.2 trillion on revenues.

It looks like they`re going to get somewhere short of $1 trillion on
spending. I`m looking at the whole thing. It looks like they`re making
progress. Your assessment?

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think there`s progress,
except that whenever John Boehner makes public statements, he`s continuing
to say the revenues can come, they can`t come from raising the top rates.

And I think it`s pretty clear, if not 100 percent clear, that the
White House is not going to give on that. Boehner is going to have to find
a way to get his caucus to understand that those top rates are going to go
up. After that, there`s a lot that can be negotiated. There`s a lot these
two guys can work on, but Boehner has got to give on the top rates.

MATTHEWS: What do you -- still with you, why do you think the
president is spending so much time on the road drumming up this issue of
making sure that the regular people, the 98 percent, get their tax cut
protected and not the rich? Why does he keep focused on that piece of this
fight over and over again?

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What`s the strategy here, the tactic here?

REID: Because I think that`s where Republicans are most vulnerable in
their own districts.

It`s really hard to defend why it is that the one thing that you`re
standing for, the one thing you`re saying that would stop a deal is tax
cuts for the top 2 percent. Most people can`t relate to that even in these
Republican districts, especially swing districts. He`s going to places
like Pennsylvania.

He`s going to swing states where those Republicans are having a really
hard time explaining to people why they`re holding up their tax cut just so
that, you know, the CEO of some Wall Street firm can keep their tax cut.
It`s a really difficult idea to defend for Republicans, and the president
knows that.

MATTHEWS: You know, I am inspired by boxing imagery, Michael, because
of the attendance of Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, to that boxing match,
that welterweight fight the other night.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, K.O.

MATTHEWS: Yes, so, I`m thinking of "Adrian!" I`m actually thinking
of punching the guy in the eye that`s bleeding.

So, Obama is basically a welterweight fighter. He`s a pretty skinny
guy. He`s out there. He`s finding other guy`s weakness. The other guy`s
weakness is he can`t defend the rich anymore.

He keeps punching the bad eye.

STEELE: Right. And I think that`s why Corker is like, could you like
move your head? Just move?

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: And get -- let`s go for a fresh target.

MATTHEWS: Is that the tactic...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Yes, exactly, is to go for a fresh target here. And the
fresh target is give the president the top 2 percent. I mean, OK, it may
not be 39 percent. Make it 37 percent. Give him that and then let`s have
the conversation where the president doesn`t want to dance.

MATTHEWS: Well, what would sell to Republicans in a midnight? We get
into this thing. They`re talking about the clock ticking.

If they can get it done roughly this week and they get it done next
week finally, can they -- can the Republicans -- what do you think it`s
tougher for Republicans from your side to deal with? Would they be easier
on raising the rate for the rich, but not quite the 39.6 percent, raising
the amount that we start raising the tax at say $400,000 or $350,000 or
something like that?

STEELE: I think it`s that, plus...

MATTHEWS: Which one, rate change or the level at which...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: The level with which you -- at which you raise that number,
from $250,000 to $400,000.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: Even the Democrats are in that room, saying, yes, we could
probably look at $500,000 or $1 million.

I think that`s number one. I think also the president is going to be
having to deal with something that Senator Durbin recognized. We`re going
to have to give at some point on the entitlement front. They`re just
stalling that eventual outcome. Look, the -- Boehner has right now I think
a few cards that he can play. He wants to quiet the noise on his side.

You talked and joy referenced his, why does he always say what he`s
saying publicly? That`s just to make sure that he -- people know that,
look, this is still important for us. But he gets inside the room and he`s
negotiating a deal. You even alluded to that movement...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. So, you`re laying it out, what you think the
Republicans can give on it.

Joy, just to put you in a tough position, what do you think the
Democrats, the moderates, the progressives really want to see on the other
side before they give on entitlements? Do they want to see a rate change
for the rich? Are they willing to settle for a rate change just for people
above $350,000, $400,000, something like that?

What do they really want to say? Before you take a piece out of me,
you have got to take that piece out of them.

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: What is that piece?

REID: I that think the rate change that the president ran on, the
$250,000 and above, is very important.

MATTHEWS: You stick to that?

REID: And I will tell you why that is, Chris. I will tell you why
that is.

It`s because if you look at who got hurt the most in the downturn, it
was the 98 percent, right? The very rich, the wealthiest in this country
actually came off pretty well. They did pretty well even as the rest of
the country was falling off a cliff.

So the idea that you`re going to take that tax code and you`re going
to make it a little more progressive, even if later on you did tax reform
that let`s say brought all the rates down, you will have now made that tax
code a little more progressive. You will have given a little more pain
relative to everyone else to the top 2 percent.

That`s an important principle I think because this economic downturn
has hurt the 98 percent so much more than the rich. I think it`s really
important to stay with what the president ran on, the $250,000 and above
because, look, if they don`t make a deal, it`s going to happen anyway.
Republicans don`t have any room to maneuver it up to $500,000. It`s going
to happen anyway.

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at this new poll. A new "Politico" poll shows
raising taxes on the rich is overwhelmingly popular. No surprise there. I
think 60 percent of the country favor raising taxes on households as you
say making $250,000 or more. Just 38 percent oppose it.

STEELE: Yes, that`s true.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I was thinking about 38 percent. Only 2 percent of
the 38 percent get something out of it, 36 percent don`t.

STEELE: I really don`t think people who make $250,000 a year, a
family of four $250,000 a year of annual income or adjusted gross income is
rich.

MATTHEWS: Depends where you live.

STEELE: Right.

REID: And very few people really make that.

MATTHEWS: Oh, it does.

STEELE: Take that number and divide it by 12 months.

MATTHEWS: If you`re paying New York state taxes, city tax in a big
city --

STEELE: That may be true, but, again, rich is a relative term and I
think that`s going to be part --

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Here is the thing though. Fewer than 6 percent of Americans
make that kind of money. You know what I mean? At $250,000 a year, if you
live in New York or D.C., you may not think that sounds like a lot of
money. Where you grew up in Colorado, or if you`re in Arkansas, or you`re
in, you know, North Dakota, believe me very few people you know are making
that kind of money.

MATTHEWS: OK. And, by the way, in Pennsylvania, very few counties
have people that even know people like that.

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Joy Reid.

Up next, from etch-a-sketch to legitimate rape -- remember those
great phrases -- to 47 percent. Yale University has the list of the most
notable screw up quotes of the year. They`re almost all terrible. Which
quote tops your list? We`ll be right back.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Michigan has become the latest battleground in the fight
over union rights. The state`s Republican lawmakers are expected to
approve legislation making Michigan traditionally a union stronghold in a
right-to-work state. Do you believe it? Republican Governor Rick Snyder
says he`ll sign the measure.

And today, President Obama weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, by the way, what
we shouldn`t do -- I just got to say this -- what we shouldn`t be doing is
trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working
conditions.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We shouldn`t be doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president was speaking there to autoworkers at a
diesel engine plant outside Detroit.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Of all the memorable lines this year, and there were many, which ones
proved to be the most notable? Well, for the seventh year, Yale Law School
librarian Fred Shapiro has released his list of the top 10 quotes. And
while they would win prizes for rhetorical excellence, they are certainly
some of the most memorable lines spoken this year.

Which ones will stand the test of time? You be the judge.

To help sift through a few of them, we`ve got Eugene Robinson, of
course, associate editor columnist for "The Washington Post", and David
Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones". Both are MSNBC political
analysts.

So here we go. Let`s start with you, Gene. Look at this one.

Let`s start with a memorable moment from the spring while we were
still in the middle of a tough primary fight that pushed Romney to the far
right. The question many were asking was, could he pivot back to the
center in the general election?

And then this happened. The number seven quote of the year. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY 2012 CAMPAIGN: He hit a reset button for the
fall campaign. Everything changes. It`s almost like an etch-a-sketch.
You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Impact statement of etch-a-sketch.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It was wonderful
because that quote confirmed what everyone suspected about Mitt Romney.
You know, the great thing about it, a gaffe is the truth.

MATTHEWS: If you don`t agree with me now, wait two minutes and you
will agree with me.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I will change with you.

OK. Here`s the one that was much more infamous because it really
hurt among women. If one comment crystallized the overwhelm trouble the
Republican Party had with women it was this. Take a look at the number six
category here. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: First of all, from what I understand
from doctors, that`s really rare. If it`s a legitimate rape, the female
body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. For quack medicine, that`s got to be the award
winner.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: It`s still painful to watch and hear him
say that. And I think the key thing is, you know, it got him not to become
senator, but remember the Republican Party turned against him for that
remark, but then a few weeks later, a month or two later, came running
right back.

MATTHEWS: OK. What was worse, his surmise that most women shouldn`t
be believed when they were raped, because legitimate rape meant the only
ones that really were raped, or this crazy metaphysics, what everyone call
alchemy, that said you don`t get pregnant if you really don`t want to be?

CORN: It just goes to the whole Republican narrative that they don`t
know science, don`t care about science.

MATTHEWS: They make it up.

CORN: And really don`t understand.

ROBINSON: The former was obnoxious, the second was stupid.

MATTHEWS: Needless to say, after a bad performance in the first
debate, the president was looking to come on strong in the last two
debates. Here was a memorable line from the third debate that ranked as
the number five quote of the year. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer
ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and
bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these
things call aircraft carriers were planes land on them. We have these
ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, perhaps the most memorable moment from the
debates occurred in this second round. Take a look at the number four
quote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s
interesting that the president just said something which is that on the day
after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act
of terror.

OBAMA: That`s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the in the Rose Garden, the day after the
attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.
Is that what you`re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So why was that so powerful? I know you`re chuckling, but
why does it work so well for him to say, "Please proceed, Governor"?

ROBINSON: Exactly. Just continue because you`re about to get
slammed. And, you know, there`s an ominous tone there. And Romney had to
kind of think, gee, do I keep going? But he kept going.

MATTHEWS: It turned out that he had said it was an act of terrorism.

CORN: But he also has a dismissive tone. I mean, there was so much
wrapped up into those --

MATTHEWS: We didn`t know in real time that he had the guy trapped at
that point. We only knew that he said don`t start pushing me around. I
can push you around. I`m the president, I think that`s what --

ROBINSON: I got this.

MATTHEWS: Here`s one that hurt the president. Let`s take a look at
this one. This ranks as number three. You watched the Republican
convention, you might have heard this a few times. It`s the most important
line of the year, at least for them.

On the list, it ranked number three. Let`s listen to this one. This
hurt the president, I think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some
help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped
to create this unbelievable, American system that we have that allowed you
to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you`ve got a
business, that -- you didn`t build that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: They used that a lot of saying of that it was almost a
socialist argument, they said. The person is not responsible for their
business success because the society somehow did it for them somehow.

CORN: Well, they claimed he was insulting the small business. And
they didn`t play the intro, they edited it out, when he was basically
saying everyone in America gets to where they are inside the context.

And they spend a whole night at the convention going again and again
and again. And all the polls showed at the end of the day, it go to
nowhere.

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But you can`t build a campaign if you`re Romney --

MATTHEWS: Are you on the giving inch on anything, David? Are you on
the giving inch on anything?

CORN: No.

MATTHEWS: I`m serious. I`m asking you a philosophical question.
You think this didn`t hurt him?

CORN: Yes, I am. I think when he said the private sector is doing
fine, that was a much worse statement.

MATTHEWS: What about this one? What do you think? Weigh in.

ROBINSON: I think this was pretty bad, actually. Yes, it was taken
out of context, but, in fact, he said it. It did hurt him.

In the end, it didn`t hurt that much. But that`s because of the huge
pushback, weeks and weeks of pushback.

MATTHEWS: Let`s get moving. The last one, where just quoted
(INAUDIBLE) look, it blew up the network. Here this is. As soon as this
quote was added, it blew up the network. Twitter went wild. He was number
two on the list this year. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had
backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I
went to a number of women`s groups and said can you help us find folks.
And they brought us binders full of women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What was funny there, binders full of women?

ROBINSON: It`s funny because it`s like a Fireside Theater line, a
Marx Brothers line, you know, binders full of women.

MATTHEWS: He should have said binders full of resumes.

ROBINSON: Exactly. Talk about objectifying women.

MATTHEWS: The binder, the whole aspect we can think of is crazy --

CORN: I didn`t think that was such a big deal when I heard it the
first time. I thought he was referring to resumes. But yet, immediately,
Twitter went --

MATTHEWS: It opened him up to ridicule.

Here`s the last one. I want to yell this. It was the quote of the
year. We know it is, but here it is.

Listen to it. You probably remember a few discussions about this
throughout the campaign. It never went away. I don`t think it ever will.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the
president no matter what. All right? There are 47 percent who are with
him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims,
who believe that government has responsibility to care for them.

And so my job is not worry about those people -- I`ll never convince
them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their
lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: All the money the Koch brothers spent, all the work of
Karl Rove was undone by probably one waiter in that catering group that
locked in that TV camera and picked it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CORN: Sixty-seven seconds versus a billion dollars --

MATTHEWS: In advertising.

CORN: -- from Koch and Rove and advertising and everything else.
One person, on their own -- don`t tell your kids at home they can`t make a
difference. One person, on their own, undid a campaign.

MATTHEWS: What was it? A cell phone? Why do you think it had such
bounce?

CORN: I think two things. I think it confirmed the narrative. I
think using the term 47 percent, if you said half the people or a lot of
Americans -- his clinical, passionate, precise description.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: I think David is right. It was the precision of it. And
the fact that he really believes it. He still does.

MATTHEWS: He`s been thinking about this.

ROBINSON: Post-election --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: He still believes it.

MATTHEWS: He`s found a stat on this he just loved. Anyway, thank
you. What a great show this has been.

Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Gene Robinson.

When we return, let me finish with the numbers that made a difference
in this presidential election. You`ll recognize three of them.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Here`s a HARDBALL take
away for you.

Think about the role played this past election year by percentages.
Remember 1 percent? That was the battle cry of the movement. The tense
may be gone, but that 1 percent, that focused on the very top of this
country`s economic pile had a lot of influence. Somehow it persuaded a lot
of voters that fairness was a matter for debate, a decider of how you
should vote.

Here`s another one: 8 percent. Obama hadn`t gotten that unemployment
rate down below that number, he was down to 7.7 percent eventually in
November, he would have had a far harder time winning last month. I
believe I said this earlier in the campaign. If it was under 8, Obama
would become the favorite. If not, he wouldn`t.

Imagine if that number, which is still headed down, had been spiking
in the other direction.

Finally, the most percentage of all, 47 percent. To his credit, Mitt
Romney took total responsibility for his maladroit reference to the people
he had given up on politically -- the people who depend on government
health, the people he said who refused to carry the burden that they
should.

In the end, too many people felt like they belonged in that 47
percent in Romney`s eyes and couldn`t bring themselves to make that man
their leader.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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