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updated 2/7/2014 11:08:15 AM ET 2014-02-07T16:08:15

HARDBALL
February 6, 2014

Guests: Nicholas Confessore, Charlie Crist, Bill Carter, Lizz Winstead

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Republicans hiding from Christie.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Whatever the prosecutors decide,
the Republican indictment of New Jersey governor Chris Christie is in.
Their indictment is stark and clear. Few want to be seen near him.
Wherever he goes, when he does, we see the political verdict hanging in the
air, swung out there by every curtain that is dropped over his very
presence.

If Christie`s there raising money, the behavior of his guests is to
let him into the room, but keep the door closed behind him. Whatever the
probers find from his lawyered-up and 5th-Amendment-invoking people, or
possibly on him personally, the ruling on his political toxicity from his
fellow Republicans is decidedly and brutally guilty.

The question for Democrats is, is it better for him to fall further
from Republican grace, or it is better for the New Jersey governor to
remain in the GOP pack for 2016 as long as possible, all the way spoiling
the bunch?

Alex Wagner is the host of "NOW" weekdays at 4:00 Eastern on MSNBC and
Nicholas Confessore is with "The New York Times."

Let me start here. It certainly seems like everywhere Governor
Christie does go, there are Republicans running the opposite direction. On
January 18th, Christie went down to Florida to raise money for Governor
Rick Scott. But try finding a photo anywhere of the two men together.

The "Sun Sentinel" down there reported, quote, "Hoping to avoid
protesters and television cameras, Republicans have gone to extraordinary
lengths to avoid letting people know just where Scott and Christie are and
where they`re holding their fund-raising events. Republican insiders,
including people who have raised substantial sums for Scott or have served
in party leadership spots, say exact details are being kept, in the words
of one, super-secret."

Well, today Christie was in Texas meeting with Republican donors on
behalf of the Republican Governors Association. Oddly missing, the
Republican governor of Texas. The state`s leading Republican candidate for
governor, Greg Abbott, also stayed away.

According to "The New York Times," quote, "An aide shrugged off
Democratic suggestions he was avoiding Christie, saying that Mr. Abbott and
Mr. Christie would appear together, quote, `down the road.`"

For his part, Governor Rick Perry`s spokesperson said, quote -- you`re
going to love this quote -- "Governors come to our state regularly for a
variety of reasons, and we`re pleased to have them here." Well, isn`t that
special?

Let me go to Alex. I think this -- before we get to the reporting
here by "The New York Times," it seems to me that there`s pretty much of a
verdict coming in. This guy`s politically guilty. Nobody wants to be seen
with him, at least outside the inner circle of fat cats who are basically
hoarding their money right now, trying to decide whether to give anything
to this guy.

ALEX WAGNER, HOST, MSNBC "NOW": Yes, Chris, I mean, we were talking
about this earlier on my show. You`ve got a problem if you`re chair of the
Republican Governors Association and no Republican governors want to
associate with you, right? Therein lies a problem.

This guy, Chris Christie, was literally the Beyonce of the Republican
Party. Everybody wanted a photo with him. Three months ago, people were
dying for a handshake from Chris Christie. Now he`s operating and
traveling under a veil of secrecy.

I think this is, as you point out, to some degree, the chickens coming
home to roost with regard to scandals. But it is also a little bit of
schadenfreude, all right? I mean, I don`t drop German terms very often,
but Chris Christie has or had an antagonistic relationship with both
Governor Perry, Bobby Jindal, other governors in the association, tried to
muscle them out of leadership and executive positions. This is all well
reported in "The New York Times."

But back then, you sow those seeds, and this is the harvest. No one
is getting his back now that times are tough.

MATTHEWS: Well, Nick, tell us what`s happening on the reporting end
because you basically led us to this story today, a part of it, because of
the fact that this evidence is in now that, for whatever reason, they want
the -- don`t want the star power of this governor. They`ve made their
commitments. They`re not going to dump him because that would humiliate
all of them if they dumped him.

But they`re letting him come in, basically, incognito almost, coming
in the door, but not letting anybody else in.

NICK CONFESSORE, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, well, the problem is, first
of all, the Democrats have made clear that they will stage a protest. They
will crash the party wherever he goes. And the problem for both the
governors and the candidates and the donors is not really what`s out there
right now, it`s what happens if they have a picture with him today, and
then over the next three months, the scandal gets much worse or it
implicates the governor directly.

It`s really the unknown over the course of what promises a very long
investigation that is kind of most worrisome for all these people.

MATTHEWS: And so they might fear, if Bridget Kelly were to testify,
which we assume she will at some point, and she points and says somebody
said something to her, it may be the governor himself, all of a sudden, the
local Democrats or anybody, the local press, pulls out a copy of the
picture of these two guys together.

CONFESSORE: Right. Right. That`s right. I mean, look, it`s a
headache. It`s not -- you know, it`s not easy to be the ambassador or the
cheerleader when you can`t show your face in public with these guys. You
know, you can go on and do -- a lot of these fund-raising visits are one-
on-ones with prime donors to the RGA. And I think most of those people are
still behind him, or at any rate, they are ready to wait this out and see
where it goes, and hope it goes no further.

But the problem, again, if you`re organizing a fund-raising event for,
say, April, and you`re a donor somewhere in Texas or Chicago or somewhere
else, and you`re inviting all your friends to your event in April, and
you`re, saying, Can you write checks, can you buy tickets to my event? And
then in between now and April, something really, really bad happens, it
makes Christie look bad, but it also makes the fundraiser and the host of
the event look bad.

And that`s real problem here is sort of how do you keep the money
machine going, how do you keep it all going when this is hanging over you?

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the question. I want to go back to Alex, who
knows the politics of these things. You know, it seems to me that this is
the way it works. It`s like lead time in journalism. You`ve got to write
it for a magazine, you got to figure three months ahead. If you`re the
editor, think six months ahead.

And here you`re a politician, you got to think from now to the
primary, you got to think from now to the general, and think about all the
various witnesses that are going to be called, all the people that have
been subpoenaed, all the e-mails that are subpoenaed, all the memos from
the office, all the phone -- voicemail, all of this stuff ganging up.

And you`re figuring, OK, over the next six or eight months, that`s all
going to be coming up.

WAGNER: Yes, and...

MATTHEWS: And as it comes up, I`m going to have to account, me
personally, for this guy`s problems. What am I getting out of it?

WAGNER: Well, yes. And Chris, let`s keep in mind there are other
alternatives. You know, there is the Mike Huckabee waiting in the wings.
Bill Kristol was talking about Jeb Bush. I mean, there are some other
alternatives here. So why put your eggs in a basket that may have a hole
in it?

I will also say something that has not been entirely confidence
building in Christie`s own circles are these crazy, I think, reactionary
memos they`re sending out. I mean, you`ve talked and I`ve talked a lot
about the memo of last weekend, the pushback on David Wildstein`s lawyer`s
letter. When you are talking about someone`s high school career, you are
generally losing in American politics. That does not seem like a concerted
political strategy that was well discussed and thought out among elder
statesmen.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m waiting for somebody to say, There you go again.

Anyway, Democrats, of course, have poured energy into attacking Chris
Christie, jumping in on this. They`ve sent out 58 separate e-mails to the
media going after Christie. They follow him around the country, as Nick
pointed out, holding press conferences wherever the governor of New Jersey
shows up.

American Bridge, a Democratic research group, issued 169 requests for
internal documents under FOIA from the Christie administration, according
to "The Times," according to Nick`s piece, and Democrats have released 11
different anti-Christie Web videos.

Here was one from last week tied to the Super Bowl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Maybe the folks in Washington,
D.C., should tune in their TVs right now, see how it`s done!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone looks at the Chris Christie performance
this Tuesday and doesn`t think that it`s an absolute slam-dunk as a model
for the future of the Republican Party, they need to have their head
examined.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: ... one-time close political ally who
resigned after organizing the crippling lane closures of the George
Washington Bridge now says the governor, the governor, Chris Christie, knew
about those lane closures.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you go. Nick, this football analogy is the
first quarter.

CONFESSORE: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s interesting in your reporting to think about -
- I love it when reporters who do straight news coverage have to figure out
how politicians think. It took me about 40 years to figure it out.

But the fact is, they`re not stupid. They`re not geniuses. They`re
somewhere in between. They think ahead maybe a week or two. They
certainly think from any point until their next election. That is their
world view. That`s the weltanschauung, to use another German word on top
of what Alex just used, of a politician. And in your reporting, your
pointing to the fact that every Republican in the country, especially the
governors, are thinking, How is this going to affect me in the next
political cycle, in fact, the one we`re in right now?

CONFESSORE: Yes. That`s right. I mean, look, this is a huge year
for the RGA. I think they have 22 incumbent seats to protect, and they
want to expand that, obviously. They`ve been a very, very effective
organization the last couple of cycles, and the tide is with them probably
in 2014, as well.

So you can see this as kind of the bad news for them, that they have
this guy who should be the rainmaker, and their candidates and their
incumbents are going to be averse to being seen with him. It`s not the
ideal way to go about kind of winning in 2014.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this interesting NBC/"Wall Street
Journal" poll that shows the positive feelings for Christie have gone up in
one category of Americans. It`s not Republicans generally, it`s the core
GOP voter, the real hard-line guy or woman. Look at that. It`s gone up --
it`s gone up 10 points. What do you see at the bottom on there? It`s gone
up 10 points, from 32 to 42.

What do you make of that? Is that reaction to media coverage of this
thing? Is it Democrats enjoying it? Why do they leap to support someone
who`s clearly got a taint, if not a real problem on his hands?

WAGNER: Well, I think -- at this point, Chris, I think Republicans
are very good at lambasting scrutiny as just sort of media bias. I think,
as Nick, you know, discussed, there...

MATTHEWS: But all these people pointing the finger at the governor
are all Republican appointees. Wildstein`s his guy, you know. Bridget
Kelly`s the one who pushed the button for...

WAGNER: Chris...

CONFESSORE: I mean...

MATTHEWS: They`re all his people. OK, Nick, your reporting. Go
ahead.

CONFESSORE: I was going to say, look, the -- you know, a tried and
true way to get the base on your side is to attack "The New York Times" and
say that your coverage is biased, that the media is against you, and the
Democrats hate you. He`s done all of those things. His team is doing all
of those things.

It works for a while. It certainly helps shore up the base, and
especially among people who have their doubts about Christie, who thought
he was too close to President Obama, who resent his embrace with him after
Sandy.

But you know, personally, I think it kind of works until it doesn`t.
It`s no substitute for kind of winning on the merits here. It`ll certainly
work for a few days in getting people to kind of rally.

MATTHEWS: I`m with you. I think it`s quicksilver, Alex. I think
it`s the kind of thing you saw where you saw bumper stickers back during
the Watergate days, "Get off his back" about Nixon.

WAGNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But that was only until the evidence came in.

WAGNER: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And I think this case -- and Nick, as a straight reporter,
is going to appreciate this. I really think this decision about the future
of Christie is going to be dictated by evidence, e-mails, actual hard
testimony, paper, where everybody is going to say with different attitudes,
This guy did it. This guy put this machine together. He`s responsible for
it. Or through some fluke, all this happened around him, and this poor guy
was so out to lunch, he didn`t know that he had created this Frankenstein`s
monster that thought it was cool to shut down bridge traffic to screw
little (ph) enemies. I mean, I -- it`s always possible, but it doesn`t
look that way.

WAGNER: No, and...

MATTHEWS: But you know, it is going to be the evidence that decides
this thing.

WAGNER: Yes. And I think evidence is fairly irrefutable, Chris.
This is not just -- you know, Palin won over the sort of hard-core
conservatives and continues to have their ardor because there was never
sort of evidence to prove that she was not fit to be vice president. There
was a general feeling. It was unprovable. People will still argue about
that.

With Chris Christie, if and when this investigation finds that he`s
guilty, he will just be guilty because there will be a paper trail to prove
it. And I think, you know, in that way, it`s permanent.

MATTHEWS: Well, you just caught me with that allusion there to the
ardor for Sarah Palin. I love the use of that particular noun, the
"ardor."

WAGNER: For you, Chris. For you.

MATTHEWS: I can`t -- I don`t think I`ve ever used that, but I think
it`s great for her. Anyway, thank you -- and for you. Alex Wagner, thank
you. You`re on at 4:00 o`clock every day, right?

WAGNER: Yes. Yes, sir, Chris.

MATTHEWS: At 4:00 o`clock right here. And Nicholas Confessore in
"The New York Times," which I love.

Coming up, the right-wing hate machine. The Republicans say the
health care plan`s killing employment. The CBO director says it`s creating
demand for more employment. Who you going to believe, the people
distorting the CBO report or the guy who wrote it? Tonight, this and more
reminders of how the right wing distorts anything they can pin with the
name Obama.

Plus, ever since he was elected governor of Florida, Democrats have
wanted to topple Rick Scott. Tonight, the Democrat who`s leading Scott in
the polls for this November`s election, Charlie Crist.

Also, you don`t get to be president unless you survive the "Tonight"
show primary, actually. Now, on Jay`s last night -- that`s tonight --
we`re going to look at some of the "Tonight" show`s most memorable
political moments.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with that hatred of our president. Is it
rational, or is it something perhaps more obvious?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Interesting new poll numbers in the 2016 presidential race
from the key state of Colorado. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Hillary Clinton trails Paul Ryan
by 5 points in Colorado. It`s Ryan 48, Clinton 43. Against Rand Paul,
Hillary`s down 4. Paul`s at 47, Clinton 43. Look at this. And against
Ted Cruz, Hillary leads, but barely. It`s a 1-point race against her over
Ted Cruz, who`s certainly a strange candidate to be running for president.

Finally, against Chris Christie, it`s again Clinton by one, 43-42.
Back in November, Christie led by 8. Colorado leaning right.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In politics, it`s one thing to
spin, but it`s another to do what the right wing`s been doing, where it
seems that each day, they need a new permission slip to hate President
Obama. We`ve seen it time and again from the far right. They hate first,
then they come up with a way to rationalize their hatred.

We`re seeing it right now. They say that a new CBO report proves that
the president`s health care law will kill jobs. Speaker Boehner blasted
out this message to constituents. "CBO report confirms devastating impact
of Obama on jobs." And the Senate Republican campaign committee followed
suit -- "`Obama care` to print even more pink slips." Well, the RNC
twisted things even further. "CBO, `Obama care" is bad for economy."

Well, the truth is the exact opposite. Here`s Democratic congressman
Chris Van Hollen talking to the CBO director, its chief, Doug Elmendorf --
he`s the guy that wrote this report -- at a hearing yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: The CBO estimates that the ACA
will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years.
And then you go on to say the net increase in demand for goods and services
will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years.

That`s the conclusion you make, right?

DOUG ELMENDORF, CBO DIRECTOR: Yes, that`s right.

VAN HOLLEN: OK. So when you boost demand for labor in this kind of
economy, you actually reduce the unemployment rate because those people who
are looking for work can find more work, right?

ELMENDORF: Yes, that`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So there`s Elmendorf, the head of the CBO, making clear
that this new report shows that the government believes, in its nonpartisan
work here, that the Obama health care plan will create more jobs, the
demand for more jobs.

But this isn`t the worst distortion. We`re going to stop with that
for a minute here.

Let me go right now to Nia-Malika Henderson and to Dana Milbank. Both
are with "The Washington Post." Nia, this whole thing about the jump to
attack yesterday -- some of it was headline writing, and you can`t blame
that on anybody, people are writing on deadline, putting deadlines
together. But a lot of he -- going in the first or second paragraph, they
can see that there is going to be less people wanting to work because they
get health care with less hours, so they`ll decide not to work any more
hours than they have to.

But it also makes clear that the strength of the economy, what we call
in economics the demand coming out of the economy, for more jobs, for more
resources, for more growth, the good stuff that really makes the economy
leap forward, is going to be there because of "Obama care," pretty clearly
stated by Elmendorf, the head of the CBO, yesterday. And yet the
Republican media machine continues.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON
POST": That`s right.

At some point, all those things that Elmendorf laid out will probably
be a reality. But I do think there is still some uncertainty about what
this -- what Obamacare actually means for the economy. The economists are
actually not quite sure, because we haven`t had this sort of expansion in
these sort of marketplaces in individual states, and certainly not across
the country ever.

So they looked at two states, Oklahoma, I believe, and Tennessee as
well. And so there -- they`re -- I think Republicans are very much playing
into the sort of unknown here and playing on people`s fears.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well...

HENDERSON: And in many ways, I think it`s easier to have a bumper
sticker that says, you know, Obamacare kills jobs than it is to say, well,
it`s not quite that it kills jobs. It actually is going to reduce the
amount of workers because people will be allowed to not have to have jobs
just to have health care.

MATTHEWS: Well, there is like a starting gate thing to this. Like,
the great sprinters are down with the chocks and they`re ready to go. You
know, they`re poised to jump.

It`s like the time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. The minute
there is any news coming out, the Republicans have this attitude of we can
really stick to it this guy we hate. We hate him before we get the news.
What is the news? Great. We hate him more.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":
Right.

And it`s almost as if the facts are out there, but they`re entirely
optional here. And it`s -- what the Republicans have been doing lately is,
look, you could make a case based on actual things in that CBO report that
were damning about Obamacare. On balance, it was fairly mixed.

You -- in any of these instances, you could make a case that something
went wrong with the IRS. You can -- certainly -- you can argue all you
want about Benghazi. But in each of the instances, they seem to be taking,
setting aside this set of facts and arguing something that is completely
made up of whole cloth.

MATTHEWS: But you go down to this level of vitriol that seems to be
unrelated to the -- disproportion is a good word.

Anyway, here is a classic example of the hate Obama machine in action
during the president`s reelection campaign. That summer, President Obama
spoke at a town hall event in Virginia about government`s role in helping
people get ahead. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you were successful,
somebody along the line gave you some help.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system
that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and
bridges. If you have got a business, that -- you didn`t build that.
Somebody else made that happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it would seem to me when he said, you didn`t build
that, he was talking about the roads and all the other infrastructure and
things like good teachers and good education systems and towns that are
lucky to have one. He wasn`t referring to the fact that you didn`t build
your own business.

But the Republicans have turned it around, you didn`t build your own
business.

MILBANK: Right.

And, look, this is politics. You know that if you say something that
is a little bit off, you`re going to get slammed for it. That`s just what
is going to happen here.

MATTHEWS: Right.

MILBANK: But something different is occurring here, and that is,
we`re completely untethered from the fact.

MATTHEWS: Well, here is Mitt Romney pouncing on the wrong way to read
what was a reasonable argument by the president. You know, we didn`t build
the campfires that warm us, to be using an old reference.

But here is almost President -- almost President Mitt Romney, who may
run again, on the campaign trail distorting this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you have got a
business, you didn`t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Let me ask you this. Did you build your business? If you did, raise
your hand.

Take that, Mr. President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Take that, Mr. President. We can lie.

Anyway, Republicans even made a theme of their convention -- at their
convention, we build it.

Nia?

HENDERSON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know how you keep track of this, but nuance, and we
do have recording devices now. You can hear the way a person said it. You
don`t have to go to the flat words on the screen. You can go, he clearly
meant all this infrastructure and roads and everything. You didn`t build
that. You have a company somewhere. There had to be a road to it.

HENDERSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: There had to be a public role, not just a private role.

But they turn it around to, he is a socialist bastard, basically.
That`s what they`re saying. OK? Isn`t that the message? Isn`t it?

HENDERSON: And one of the -- I mean, one of the things about this is,
it didn`t really catch on. They tried to hammer this point home. I
remember covering this campaign, and for a couple of days, they had this.
It was obviously at the campaign there.

But it required you to believe that President Obama is a socialist.
It required you to believe that he believed in the redistribution of
wealth. And most people don`t believe that.

MATTHEWS: I know.

HENDERSON: Of course, he was playing to a certain segment of the
base. But it didn`t really catch on. It didn`t really resonate broadly.
So they quickly abandoned it, really, after they tried to really hammer it
for a couple of days.

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re still trying. They`re still looking for new
ones. They`re still bobbing for Apples here.

Here is one word that you can whip the right hate machine up with:
Benghazi. They have latched onto a narrative that Hillary Clinton
testified in front of Congress that it didn`t make a difference that four
Americans were killed. Again, it fits the pattern, hate first and
rationalize it.

But here is the full picture of what Clinton said in context.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were misled that there were supposedly protests
and then something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that. And
that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American
people could have known that within days. And they didn`t know that.

(CROSSTALK)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: With all due
respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a
protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided
they`d would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it
make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can
to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Nia, the point is, the irony of all this cabal here,
the claim cabal, is that the nonpartisan or bipartisan Senate Intelligence
Committee has come out and basically cleared everything Susan Rice said on
"Meet the Press" that day, everything about it being a copycat attack on
our facility in Benghazi that came about spontaneously from what was
happening in Cairo.

People have ways of communicating in the Arab world. And that all
they think came from that crazy movie, anti-Islamic movie out now.
Everything she said on that show was true. Everything the administration
said was true.

And here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton simply saying, you
know, we thought that`s what happened. It turns out they were right. Why
are you guys hanging on this thing? And that`s the question, when clearly
she didn`t mean it doesn`t matter if somebody got killed. She was arguing
it doesn`t matter about the details of what led to that particular
incident, even in the case where it turns out that she and the other people
in the administration were dead right.

Your thoughts.

HENDERSON: You know, again, I think this requires a certain set of
beliefs that say somehow Hillary Clinton is a bad and evil person.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HENDERSON: That there was some conversation, right, about them
sitting, watching this happen live, and they didn`t do anything. So,
again, it requires a set of beliefs that most people don`t have.

But you will see Republicans in 2014 -- the RNC just put up a Web site
about Benghazi on the RNC home page there. So they want to hammer this
point home, because they definitely want to use 2014 to start damaging
Hillary Clinton now in advance of 2016.

MILBANK: You know, Mark Twain said that a lie can make it halfway
around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

And I think the Republicans have realized that and realized that you
don`t have to -- particularly with the speed of the news cycles now, you
don`t have to operate in this zone. The Democrats seem to have more of a
sense that this -- that it`s something about fairness, that you can`t
actually do that.

And I think that`s to their detriment. This is how the game is played
now. It`s full of distortion. It`s full of outright whole cloth. And
they have got to play the game too.

MATTHEWS: Well, we saw this with Mike Dukakis. We saw it with John
Kerry. They do it again and again. The Democrats are a little slow to
recognize that`s it not about honesty.

Thank you, Nia-Malika Henderson.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Dana Milbank.

Up next: the quick reason Joe Biden might not run for president.
Think zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds, quick. That`s next in the "Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and time for the "Sideshow."

Joe Biden may be considering a run for president in 2016, but at an
event for the United Auto Workers yesterday, he revealed what might hold
him back. It`s not what you might have guessed, though. It`s the new
Chevy Corvette.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And everybody
wants to know whether or not I`m going to run for president. There is a
lot of reason to run for president. But there is one overwhelming reason
not to run for president.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: I would like to get that Z06 with zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds,
3.4 seconds!

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s right. Joe Biden loves cars. The problem is, he is
not allowed to drive while he serves as vice president. Well, the same
goes when you`re president. It may not sound like a tough trade-off. But
if you doubt his sincerity, just listen to his gaga he has over his new
Stingray.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: That new stingray, yo, oh, oh, oh.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: It`s more than a quarter-horse, even though it goes zero to 60
in 3.9 seconds.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Not that I like speed.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: And I could hardly wait if I were just not in this job to take
on my friend`s Porsche.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I`m serious. It`s the best buy in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Unleashed, Joe Biden.

Next up: This latest ad supporting the Affordable Care Act is sure to
get attention, even if it feels more like look who is talking than a public
service announcement. The independent nonprofit group called Enroll
America released a video featuring singing pets, cats, dogs, parrots, you
name it, designed to encourage young women to sign up for health coverage.
These are unconventional mascots, to say the least, but we will have to see
how it plays with animal lovers out there.

Here is a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s enough to get you to make a major financial
decision.

Anyway, up next, Democrats would love to beat Florida Governor Rick
Scott of course this year. And they think they have the man to do it,
former Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, the
former governor. He is coming here next, right here.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAGE HOPKINS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Page Hopkins. And here`s
what`s happening.

The TSA is banning liquids, gels, and aerosols from carry-on bags from
U.S. flights to Russia. The decision was based on intelligence suggesting
terrorists might try to smuggle explosives on to planes in toothpaste
tubes.

A measure to extend jobless benefits for more than one million
Americans failed again in the Senate. It was two votes shy of the 60
needed to advance.

And more than half-a-million people are still without power after that
winter storm that battered the Northeast on Wednesday -- now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, two of the biggest national races in 2014, and that`s this year,
are sure to be the Pennsylvania and Florida governor races. Both states
have very unpopular Republican governors right now, who are most vulnerable
incumbents actually on the national seen. Democrats see both states as
ripe opportunities for the taking.

The former Republican Governor of Florida Charlie Crist sits with me
right now. He is launching a political comeback for his old job, but this
time as a Democrat. He is seeking to defeat the state`s right-wing
incumbent governor, Rick Scott, who I for whatever reason have never liked.

And two polls show out over the last week show Crist in solid early
shape. A poll from the University of Florida out yesterday shows Crist,
sitting with me now, with a seven-point lead over the governor, with 47
percent preferring Crist over the 40 percent supporting Rick Scott. And a
Quinnipiac poll taken a few days earlier shows Crist running eight points
ahead of Scott with 46 percent to Scott`s 38 percent.

Crist is out with a new book called "The Party`s Over: How the Extreme
Right Hijacked the GOP" and he became a Democrat.

Former Florida Governor and Democratic candidate Charlie Crist joins
me now.

Thank you, Charlie. I have always liked you politically.

Let me talk about this thing here. First of all, there is an issue
that really bothers me. I don`t like wars we don`t have to fight we get
talked into with bad evidence and bad arguments, I don`t like people being
screwed out of voting. You know, somebody called me anti-white the other
day on a blog because I fight all the time for minorities to vote.

CHARLIE CRIST (I), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think you can beat somebody in sports, but damn well do
it fair.

CRIST: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: I think you to have a fair playing field in politics.

CRIST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And everybody should get to vote.

Why does your ex-party think the way to fight the demographic changes
in this country is to screw the minorities? And this is something you have
seen in Florida. And Rick Scott is right behind it.

CRIST: Absolutely is.

When I was governor, even as a Republican in `08, we had long lines
with early voting in Florida. It was Obama vs. McCain. And Dan Gelber,
who was the Democratic House leader in Florida, called me up, and he said,
Governor, you got to do something about this. It`s wrong.

And, for me, frankly, it`s never been about right vs. left. It`s been
about right vs. wrong. And it was a compelling argument to me. And he
said, sign an executive order expanding the rights, so our fellow
Floridians can vote. So I did it. Four years later...

MATTHEWS: We`re looking at the lines here.

Go ahead.

CRIST: Yes. It`s terrible. It was terrible.

Four years later, Rick Scott faces the same situation. Dan Gelber and
I called him and say, you`ve got to sign an executive order, like I did
four years ago, let our people vote. He wouldn`t do it. And, you know,
when you look at Rockefeller --

MATTHEWS: What does he say? We have Pennsylvania guys up there. I
openly say it`s partisan. I`m not saying they don`t like black people.
I`m saying they don`t like black people voting Democrat.

So what they do is try to make it harder.

CRIST: You`re right. You`re absolutely right. I mean, I`ve been in
the discussions. I have seen it. And it`s appalling. And it`s wrong.

You know, people would come to me when I was a Republican governor in
the Republican Party, not Republican people, mom and dad store Republicans.
They`re good, honest, fair people.

But in the party, the activists really want to try to suppress the
vote. And what does that tell you? The guys who can only win when less
people vote? That`s not the right team.

And that`s not the right values. And that`s not what we ought to be
standing for in America. I don`t care what party you`re in.

We need to be as a democracy encouraging people to vote. You know,
it`s important for the democracy to survive that people have the right to
vote. >

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s partisan crap to me. It`s just a way to win.
It`s dirty politics.

CRIST: It`s wrong.

MATTHEWS: You do it in Pennsylvania. It`s not a Southern/Northern
thing. They`re doing it everywhere.

Thirty-six states under Reince Priebus in the Republican Party are
doing it. He hates to hear this, but it is his party. And he could blow
the whistle on this.

CRIST: Sometimes the truth hurts.

MATTHEWS: Yes, let`s talk about the party you were in a couple of
years ago.

CRIST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I always thought of you as a centrist. Now, the Republican
Party, even in states like Pennsylvania has gone hard right. Why? And how
hard right is it? I mean, are you going to run the old party, going run a
right wing guy for president or woman for president next time, or is it
still salvageable? Is the boat tilted so far right it can`t come back?

CRIST: It`s a great question. I don`t know what they`re going to do.
I have given up predicting what they might do. It`s incredible to me to
see what has happened to today Republican Party.

Jeb Bush said it better than I could ever say it. They are now
perceived as anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay couples,
anti-environment, anti-education.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CRIST: I man, pretty soon there is nobody left in the room.

MATTHEWS: How does he stay in the party?

CRIST: I don`t know. I don`t know. I feel for him.

It`s got to be difficult because he is a reasonable guy. I like Jeb.
He is. And he was a good governor.

But today`s Republican Party has literally been hijacked by the Tea
Party. It happened about three or four years ago.

MATTHEWS: Here is what I don`t understand nationally, because Florida
is the classic -- Tim Russert used to say Florida, Florida, Florida.

CRIST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: It`s one of the states that really does tell you where
we`re headed.

CRIST: Right.

MATTHEWS: In fact, in the days of falling chads, New York had New
York accents, Southern accents, all kinds of people.

CRIST: We`ve got it all.

MATTHEWS: What percentage of the party that you were in is hopelessly
right wing right now, just Tea Party, angry at the world, won`t change,
just can`t stand Obama, doesn`t want to think anymore?

CRIST: Maybe 25, 30 percent.

MATTHEWS: Then why is the tail wagging the dog?

CRIST: I don`t know the answer to that.

MATTHEWS: Because it is here in Washington with Boehner. Is Boehner
the boss? He ought to drop immigration the other day because the tail is
wagging him.

CRIST: Right. And it`s appalling, and they ought to have the courage
to stand up and say enough is enough.

MATTHEWS: But you`re a politician. To answer the question, why is
the tail wagging the dog in your old party?

CRIST: I can`t answer illogic.

MATTHEWS: You can answer it.

CRIST: No, I really can`t. I`m serious. I can`t answer that. I can
answer things that I can understand and make logical sense to me. I cannot
understand and give an answer to something that doesn`t make any sense to
me at all. There are a lot of good Republicans in this country, and
they`ve let the party be hijacked.

And it`s a shame, you know, this is the party of Lincoln.

MATTHEWS: Boehner is still a Republican. He doesn`t respect these
crazies on the right. But he has to kowtow to them.

CRIST: He doesn`t have to.

MATTHEWS: He makes fun of them.

CRIST: He doesn`t have to do. He could do what I did. He could say
enough is enough. If this is where you`re party is going and that`s what
you stand for, then I can`t be part of it doesn`t because it doesn`t agree
with my core principles.

MATTHEWS: OK, addressing education, what`s the worst thing you can
say about Rick Scott? I had this attitude based on his performance. What
do you think is the worst thing about why he needs to be removed and you to
replace him?

CRIST: There are so many. Let me start with his background, his
ethics. Rick Scott is a guy who headed a company that had to pay the
largest fine for fraud in the history of the United States of America at
the time, $1.7 billion, a health care company. So, what did they do? They
up-coded.

What does that mean in common parlance? It means they stole from
people whom. Did they steal from? Taxpayers. You know, they provided it
for Medicare and from patients, sick people.

They up-coded. They cheated. They took too much money. That`s why
the federal government made them pay $1.7 billion fine.

He headed that company. He had to go under oath and talk about it in
a deposition. He plead the Fifth, Chris, 75 times. I`ve never plead the
Fifth in my life.

MATTHEWS: But all that was before he got elected.

CRIST: Yes, no kidding.

MATTHEWS: Why would the people of Florida like a guy who took the
Fifth 75 times? I`ve been told by experts in politics the only people who
take the Fifth, and they do take it, are people that never expect to run
for office because the public assumes you`re hiding something.

CRIST: Of course he was. But he spent $75 million that he got in a
golden parachute when he left the company to win the office or to buy it.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for reminding me. I knew about that.

Thank you, Charlie Crist.

CRIST: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Good luck in the race down there.

Well, before Iowa, more important than New Hampshire, there is one
state every politician must command in politics, and it`s tonight`s show.
You got to be good on that show. We`re going to talk about the interesting
history of a popular show where the ratings for Jay have always been huge
and under Carson, how it matters in politics.

And this is HARDBALL, a place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Jay Leno, "The Tonight Show," and politics.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Tonight marks Jay Leno`s final broadcast of the program as host of
"The Tonight Show", where I`ve been a guest actually 29 times. I`ve been
so lucky to be on that program.

One aspect of Jay`s reign all these year that has set him apart has
been his political interviews.

President Obama made history just 58 days into his presidency by
becoming the first sitting U.S. president ever to appear on late-night
entertainment show. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW: So much scrutiny. It is fair to judge so
quickly?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look. We are
going through a difficult time. I welcome the challenge. I ran for
president because I thought we needed big changes. I do think in
Washington, it`s a little bit like "American Idol" except everybody is
Simon Cowell.

LENO: Wow, wow.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anybody that doesn`t think the presidency ages you should
look at that picture. Dark hair, looks just younger.

Anyway, 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on Leno that the current
governor, Gray Davis, needed to go and that he, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
wanted to replace him. I remember that night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: He`s failing them terribly, and this is
why he needs to be recalled. And this is why I`m going to run for governor
of the state of California.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Bill Carter is national media reporter for "The New York
Times." And Lizz Winstead is co-creator of "The Daily Show." Thank you
both for joining us.

Bill, you know, I think the key to Leno over the years and his high
ratings, one key is he`s really interested when he interviews you. I know
you`ve been on there. When you get interviewed by a guy that really wants
your answer, it`s not from a script, talk to him during the breaks, he`s
asking you more questions. The guy -- I never -- if either way, he fooled
me about his politics completely.

I didn`t know -- I thought he was one thing, he`s another. I think.
But what do you think about his interest and ability to do political
interviews?

BILL CARTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it`s clearly been a focus of
not only his "Tonight Show" but his whole year. He`s interested in
politics. He talks about politics.

He thinks it`s good, you know, fodder for economy -- which is what he
thinks about all the time. He does think about it all the time. Having
the guests on, you know, relate -- he relates to hem. He relates to those
ideas because he`s talking about them every night.

MATTHEWS: And that`s different -- that separates him from other guys
who do late night over the years.

CARTER: Well, I mean, I think Letterman is very good, too. Letterman
does very good political interviews, too. I think Jay like all the hosts
did not start out as good as he got because I think he`s gotten much better
and much more serious in his interviews and he listens better. I think
he`s piqued his interest in politics as he`s gotten older as I think a lot
of us do.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think he`s looking for material, Lizz. I`m with
that. It`s a professional thing, Lizz. I know he used to watch us, we
were on at 2:00 in California, he probably still watches at 4:00, maybe not
as often.

But the guy really knew what I was doing every night when he -- when
I`d meet with him. He was totally curious, which I love. He did not fake
it. I think he wasn`t that -- I hate to say this about Jay, I don`t think
he`s that interested in some of this show business nonsense that shows up
in the supermarket checkout counter stuff.

Your thoughts?

LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, "THE DALY SHOW": Well, I met Jay Leno 30
years ago when I started out doing standup. I started out in Minneapolis.
Ask any standup comedian, big or small, where one of their favorite cities
are to perform, and it`s Minneapolis. It was at a time when Jay would come
into town for two, three days and work a club and I would get to open for
him.

He talked about politics all the time. His act was incredibly
political. And he -- then he`d cars and I want to fall asleep.

But he loves cars and politics. And he really does love to talk about
them. He`s got a strong curiosity about it. I think he is smart.

The talk show hosts that say, you know what, we can actually from a
standpoint of ratings and politics, remember when you have a politician on
your late night show, not only is the political press going to write about
you, so is the entertainment press, so you get a massive bang for your buck
as well.

MATTHEWS: For the political -- Bill, I know you don`t cover that
beat. The political end, it seems like the pols always comes off better
than they do in any other medium.

CARTER: Yes, I think so. I think, Jay -- you know, Jay -- when he
throws punches in his monologue, political punches, he throws jabs, he`s
not so in haymakers. Not trying to knock guys out. And I think they
appreciate that.

And they also think it`s a good venue because he has a very mainstream
following. It`s not conservative or Democratic or any -- he`s got the
whole range of America there. So it`s a good place to play.

MATTHEWS: I agree completely. I think, in fact, my mom loved him
when she was alive. She was pretty much mainstream. I think, and the
politics is interesting because as I said, Lizz, I thought he was one thing
politically. I don`t want to get him in trouble. I`m not giving away.

But when you talk to him privately, you`re surprised he`s that way. I
thought he was another way. So, that means he`s probably very good.

Carson for all those years, you never knew where he stood politically.
One time he came out for gun control after his friend Bobby Kennedy was
killed, which really wasn`t political. It was emotional.

But, you know, it`s amazing how these guys -- Jon Stewart is pretty
clearly a liberal. I mean, you know what I mean.

WINSTEAD: Well, I think that a good person with good political jokes
doesn`t look to the left or the right and whatever your political
viewpoints are, sometimes you have to bite your knuckle when you have to
make fun of the person that maybe you like. And if you`re pointing out
hypocrisy, that really doesn`t know any ideology because it`s politics,
let`s be honest.

And so, I think Jay has been always really good at pinpointing who`s
screwing up, I`m going to laser in on that and make the point that
everybody kind of gets on board with.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`ll go back to my original thought I bring out all
the time. You know what it`s like, it`s not just you`re funny, it`s you`re
good company. And Jay Leno has been great company for all these 20 years,
just like Carson was. They create a party every night you get invited to
personally and you can`t beat that.

Anyway, thank you, Bill Carter. And thank you, Lizz Winstead.

We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with something that`s been bothering
me. Why do people hate this president so much? I understand the usual
partisan attitudes, how one party doesn`t like to see the other in the
White House. Sure. I can understand why people are angered by wars we get
sucked into by false arguments. Count me in on that one.

But what`s the Obama hatred all about? Republicans had their chance
to modify the health care plan, it was they who decided to sit back and let
the Democrats do it all alone. Ask senators Enzi and Hatch and the others
why they dropped out of the bargaining, and let the Democrats in the Senate
come up with the 60 votes they needed by themselves. Ask Speaker Boehner
why he didn`t want to negotiate a different program.

Of course, everyone would have been happier to have a health care bill
passed by 70 percent of the Congress rather than narrow partisan majority.
But whose fault was that?


And all this other stuff, the obscure IRS story that`s never gotten
tied to the Obama political people. The Benghazi brouhaha that was
discredited by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee that basically
squared the Obama claims with the evidence, showing it really was a
spontaneous attack probably triggered by a Cairo attack and the dumb anti-
Islamic movie out of Los Angeles.

Don`t you get the sense the Obama hatred is a hatred in search of a
reason? Whatever comes along like the CBO report yesterday becomes a way
to find a way to explain hating the guy. Is it the way the guy lives his
life? Is it his family? Is that he`s a Democrat, really? Is that the
reason to hate him?

Or is it just because, just because, just because he is who he is?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" 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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