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updated 4/22/2014 10:59:33 AM ET 2014-04-22T14:59:33

HARDBALL
April 21, 2014

Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Steve McMahon, Robert Costa, Ken Vogel, John
Wisniewski

JOY REID, MSNBC GUEST HOST: The Democrats` 1 percent solution.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Joy Reid, in for Chris Matthews.

And leading off tonight: Democrats` winning strategy. Democrats are
coalescing around a clear message for 2014 and a clear target audience.
Remember Mitt Romney`s Thurston Howell III problem in 2012, capped off by
his politically devastating 47 percent musings at a Republican fundraiser?

Well, Democratic strategists are encouraging candidates to hammer home that
same theme of economic unfairness in 2014. The message, the top 1 percent
is doing great, but the rest of the country is just getting by, and it`s
Democrats who`ve got your back. And the target audience -- it`s the
powerful coalition of young voter, minority voters and women, the same
groups that propelled President Obama and other Democrats in 2012 wins, but
who often don`t show up in midterm elections.

This year, Democrats are expected to reconstitute the intense get out the
vote effort that the Obama campaign used to transform the electorate in
2012 and in 2008 in hopes of recreating that electorate for the 2014
midterm. It`s an ambitious plan and a tall order.

And joining me, "Mother Jones" magazine`s David Corn and HuffingtonPost`s
Howard Fineman, both MSNBC political analysts.

And so Howard, I`ll start with you because the first question is whether or
not this can work. The electorate, obviously, in 2012 and 2008 heavy with
minorities, with younger voters and with women, very tough to do, though,
in a midterm.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, it`s tough to do, but I would cite two examples of midterm elections
that give the Democrats some hope. One was 1986, when the Republicans had
the White House, but the Democrats took it back by running against the
theme of too much giveaway to the rich in the `80s.

In 1998, Bill Clinton, threatened with impeachment, you know, threatened
with being convicted, under assault, managed to hold his own. The
Democrats managed to hold their own in that election because Bill Clinton
said, Look, I want to do the work of the people. I want to help the middle
class. I`m all about helping you. Those people are not there to do the
same. They want to screw you at every turn.

Now you add to that theme the one of all the rich people who are pouring
tens of million, if not hundreds of million dollars into the campaign.
Yes, a few Democrats, mostly Republicans. I think it`s a strong message.

REID: Yes. So David, a new Democracy Corps memo that`s put out by long-
term Democratic strategists, who you well know, James Carville and Stan
Greenberg -- it lays out the Democrats` midterm problem, and it makes it
pretty stark.

And they quote, "Democratic voters are 7 points less likely than
Republicans to say they`re almost certain to vote in the off-year election
in November." And that same memo prescribes the cure, and it`s a laser
focus on that issue of fairness. And the message it boils down to is the
incomes of CEOs, the top 1 percent are soaring. Everyone else is working
harder just to get by -- essentially, much like the 47 percent message that
worked in 2012.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I`m a
big fan of the 47 percent message, Joy. But you know, politics is message
and mechanics. And you`re talking about -- what James and Stanley
Greenberg are talking about is creating sort of a national, you know,
framework for the election.

Now, the hard thing is taking a national framework and really applying it
and the mechanics of getting people out to vote and people getting attached
to that message at the local level. It`s much easier, in a way, for a
national campaign where the focus is, OK, this is our message, and it all
gets poured into one candidate -- in that case, Barack Obama -- beating
another candidate -- Mitt Romney.

To take this message across this board and apply it to, say, a dozen
different Senate races and have people sort of identify with the high (ph)
message and the on-the-ground message is really, really difficult.

It`s -- because it`s -- you`re dealing, in some ways, with an abstract
issue here. Are the Democrats better than Republicans in general when it
comes to issues of fairness? The polls say that most Americans believe
they are. It`s easier to attach that to Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.
How you apply that on a state-by-state level and get that turnout, which
they need desperately, is still a really heavy lift.

REID: But you know what, David? And I wonder why you might be a fan of
that 47 percent message. It could be because "Mother Jones" is the one who
discovered that video. And one of the things that Republicans did in 2010
was to try to make what you just said happen by making Nancy Pelosi -- sort
of attaching her to every Democrat in the country.

And I`m wondering -- let`s go back and take a look again at Mitt Romney and
sort of what he said that galvanized Democrats to be able to use him in the
2012 election. I want to take a listen to it real quick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRES. CANDIDATE: 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 (INAUDIBLE) who believe that
they`re victims who believe that government has the responsibility to care
for them, who believe that they`re entitled to health care, to food, to
housing, you name it. But that`s -- it`s an entitlement, and the
government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president
no matter what!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: And David, I`m wondering if you can take that same message -- and
maybe you don`t have Mitt Romney to kick around anymore, but could you
theoretically substitute, let`s say, the Koch brothers into that same
framework and make that stick to every Republican that`s running across the
country?

CORN: Well, they`re trying to do that. One issue is that it`s a bit of a
bank shot. The 47 percent video I think was effective because people were
being asked to vote for Mitt Romney himself. The Koch brothers are
obviously not on the ballot.

In Alaska, though, they`ve done a good ad, an independent group, for Mark
Begich, the Democratic senator there who`s in a tough reelection battle,
which is focused on the Koch brothers and their influence in Alaska. They
have some factories there that have broken some environmental regulations,
have had some layoffs. They`ve tried to make it very particular.

But again, it`s a little bit of a bank shot in 2010. The White House did
try to come up with a similar message that, you know, the Republicans are -
- you know, are being funded by the corporate interests. And in that case,
it didn`t work. So it`s a start, but there`s still a lot else they have to
do.

REID: I mean, Howard, the same question to you. Can the Democrats win by
grafting the Koch brothers, sort of making them the Mitt Romneys of the
midterms? Will that work across the country, or do people just not know
enough about them? And if not, is it smarter for Democrats to go at those
issues that are very particular to voters, things like minimum wage, things
like closing the gap between the 1 percent and the rest? Which of the two
do you think is more effective, or should be a combination?

FINEMAN: It needs to be a combination. As David said, it`s complicated
because Mitt Romney`s not in the race, and he embodied the very ideas that
the Democrats couldn`t stand, and that`s what brought them out in 2012.

Here you`ve got a whole range of an argument. What you`re saying is, is
that Republicans in Congress and the Republicans in general have sat on
their hands, do not want to do anything to help the working people and the
middle class people in America. They voted 50 times, as the president said
last week, to try to defund the Affordable Care Act, a complete and utter
waste of time for a bill that has its problems, but is actually helping
people.

You say the ways Barack Obama and the Democrats have helped people. You
point out that the Republicans have done absolutely nothing, have proposed
nothing, merely stand for no, and if they get more power, if they take the
Senate, then it`ll be all-out war on working class and the middle class.

Now, the problem with that type of argument is, number one, Barack Obama
can`t carry it everywhere himself. He`s not that popular in a lot of these
states where there are tough Senate races, number one.

Number two, Barack Obama is better campaigning as a candidate of hope than
he is a candidate of darkness and doom. And I don`t know who`s going to
carry that message, but other people have to, and aim it at the traditional
voters they have to get out in the Obama coalition, which are young people
and working people.

CORN: Maybe the answer is Bill Clinton. He seems to be the answer to a
lot of these questions.

FINEMAN: He can help. Hillary isn`t going to want to do it, by the way.

CORN: No, she won`t.

FINEMAN: Hillary won`t want to do it. She doesn`t want to be associated
with a potential disaster in 2014. So I have a question as to who the
surrogates are, who the leaders are going to be. David mentions Bill
Clinton. That`s one of them, but where are the others? The Castro
brothers in Texas, for example, other young leaders, people from the
entertainment industry -- no joke, if you can get them as a route to reach
younger people. The Democrats are going to have to think very creatively
about who is going to carry their message.

CORN: And the key thing, Joy, is at the end of the day, you`re got to
connect that message to the individual races --

REID: Right.

CORN: -- you know, because otherwise -- you know, people do not --
people often don`t think about these races until the last minute. They`re
going to be bombarded with tens of millions of dollars --

REID: Right.

CORN: -- in ads from the Koch brothers and others on the other side of
this. So it`s -- connecting that big message to what`s happening in your
neighborhood right in front of people`s, you know, faces is really the hard
task.

REID: Is the key. Well, absolutely. I mean, the same -- going back to
that same Democracy Corps memo that we did cite earlier, it did cite sort
of a key Democracy constituency that they said really could make the
difference. And that includes this high proportion of unmarried women, and
it said they respond very strongly, as do other voters, to a broad economic
agenda, but one dominated by policies explicitly to help working women.

And the memo also singled out these issues that motivate the base, which is
raising minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, protecting Medicare,
protecting Social Security.

So Howard, could the working -- the single woman -- is that the voter that
they need to zero in on as they`re looking for that right surrogate and
that right message? Is the single working woman really the sort of key
target here?

FINEMAN: In an electorate always dominated by women, that`s always the
key. And I would also add, Joy, there are certain parts of the Affordable
Care Act, even if you don`t want to talk about the Affordable Care Act by
name, that you can mention that appealed to those women, particularly the
business about preexisting conditions not being a bar to getting coverage.
That`s key to women.

And every poll I`ve seen over the last few years shows that health care is
often right at the top with minimum wage, with job opportunities for women.
And that`s something that the administration and the Democrats have to
thread the needle on. They have to say what`s good about it without
engaging in a big philosophical discussion in states like Kentucky and
Georgia, and so forth.

REID: Indeed. And in Kentucky, a state where they do happen to have a
woman surrogate that`s perfect for the job because she is the candidate.

FINEMAN: Right. She is.

REID: All right, thanks so much to David Corn and Howard Fineman.

Coming up, the "bridge gate" investigation may be about to heat up. New
Jersey Democrats investigating the scandal are expected to issue four more
subpoenas this week. This comes as we learn more about how Governor
Christie`s aides operated.

Plus, that delay in the decision over the Keystone pipeline could be a win
for Democrats on both sides of the issue. Supporters in red states can
continue fighting for the pipeline, while opponents keep the money flowing
from anti-Keystone contributors.

And here`s some advice for anyone making a presentation on rail safety, as
Connecticut Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal tried to do. Don`t stand
so close to the tracks that you risk getting clipped by oncoming train. It
kind of buries the message you`re trying to send.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with why putting off a big decision may pay off
for President Obama in the long run.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Looking ahead to November, Democrats are gaining ground in the
generic congressional ballot, but they have a ways to go. According to the
HuffingtonPost`s pollster Trendline, the Democrats` advantage peaked in
mid-October at 6.6 points, just after the government shutdown. The botched
health care Web site rollout helped put the Republicans up by 1.4 points by
early December.

But as of today, the Democrats are back on top, but by less than a point.
Still, higher Republican turnout in midterm elections means the Democrats
will need a much bigger lead to hold off Republican House gains in the
fall.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL, with four investigations hanging over his
head, two of them criminal, Chris Christie is fighting for his political
life. His reelection campaign has been saddled with more than $300,000 in
legal fees, a total, as "The Wall Street Journal" reports, that`s double
the campaign`s cash on hand.

And it`s likely the least of his worries. The big story today is that the
New Jersey committee investigating Chris Christie has announced it will be
holding more hearings on last year`s lane closures, and that means more
subpoenas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: We`ve gotten to that point
where we`ve assessed enough material that we can start asking questions to
witnesses. And we`ve lined up potentially four individuals that we think
we`re going to bring in. So I could foresee there being four subpoenas
going out to individuals.

What you`ve uncovered, what we`ve uncovered through these interviews has
opened up a whole new possibility of additional subpoenas not only for
documents but for additional people that up until now we might not have
thought were relevant to the investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: It`s been four long months since the story exploded with the release
of Bridget Kelly`s infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-
mail, but it`s only recently that we`ve been able to piece together a more
complete picture of Christie`s political operation.

We`ve learned that Christie`s campaign had compiled a list of mayors which
it called "approved targets." Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich was number two
on one of those lists that the campaign circulated last year. We`ve also
learned that Christie`s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, was apparently
giving payback orders to Bridget Kelly`s Office of Intergovernmental
Affairs, known by its acronym IGA. These were orders meant to send a
message to certain mayors.

According to a recently released summary of an interview that Christie
administration lawyers conducted with Christina Renna, who was a staffer in
that office, quote, "Christina Renna believed Christie`s campaign manager,
Bill Stepien, kept track of mayors who were not in favor with IGA. IGA
staff would receive mandatory directives along the lines of, Do not rush to
return this mayor`s phone call, which was enough to send a message to the
local elected official.

Approved targets, mandatory directives, send a message to local officials -
- what are we to make of all this? Christie`s camp has attacked the
credibility of the state`s investigative committee as they blow (ph) ahead.
So Christie and his team have done all they could to declare this saga over
with. Instead, it`s clear that this is far from over.

And joining me now, John Wisniewski, the co-chair of the state`s
investigative committee, and Brian Murphy, an MSNBC political analyst and
former managing editor of Politicsnj.com.

Brian, I`ll start with you. Tell us, what do you know as of now about
those four new subpoenas?

BRIAN MURPHY, FORMER MANAGING EDITOR, POLITICSNJ.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL
ANALYST: My understanding from conversations that I`ve had with other
people in the legislature and with the chairman -- off the record, of
course -- is that they`re going to be talking to people who have provided
information in the past, but who can sort of begin to shed light on what`s
been going on here and probably explain more about those mandatory
directives, for example, that we see and give us a better sense of what`s
going on and where the sort of -- not so much where the criminal
investigation is going to go, but probably, I`d imagine, performing the
legislative oversight functions that a legislature is supposed to do, give
us a better sense of how this operation has been working and how the
executive has been conducting itself over these last few months.

REID: Well, I mean, to the limits of what you can discuss with us, I mean,
without being able to actually talk to Bridget Kelly or to Bill Stepien,
those subpoenas having been quashed by the judge, how do you get at the
motivation behind these bridge closures, which we still have not been able
to get to?

WISNIEWSKI: These conversations, whether they`re through e-mails or
conversations in people`s office, didn`t happen in a vacuum just between
Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien. We`ve seen through the Mastro report,
we`ve seen the interview memorandum that shows that there was a very robust
discussion both during the time the lane closures happened and afterwards
by a number of key individuals in the governor`s administration.

And so you can look at those as being road signs, if you will, as to where
the questions need to be asked.

REID: Yes, I mean, what`s kind of remarkable here, Brian, is that you have
Chris Christie, with all of this taking place in his office, even up to
recently saying that he doesn`t even believe that the bridge closures were
meant to be for him.

MURPHY: Right.

REID: I do believe we have him saying the same on ABC "World News." Let`s
take a listen. This was on March 27th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, ANCHOR, ABC "WORLD NEWS": You don`t think there`s a single
possibility that they thought that in your -- rough and tumble style, in
Jersey politics style, that they thought this would please you?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No.

SAWYER: That this was for you?

CHRISTIE: No. I don`t believe it was for me.

SAWYER: It was just personal --

CHRISTIE: That`s -- listen, I don`t believe it was for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Brian, we have target lists of recalcitrant mayors with the mayor,
Sokolich, number two on one of those lists. We have communications between
Christie`s office and his campaign office. We have Bill Stepien out there
somewhere in this process.

Is it even conceivable that the mayor really believes that there was no
Chris Christie in the calculation to do these lane closures?

MURPHY: It would be difficult to believe that, right, I mean, just that it
doesn`t pass the commonsense test, and especially since we know that they -
- they were assiduous in keeping track of who was endorsing them and who
was playing ball with them.

They used -- it sounds like the intergovernmental affairs office was
defense their political affairs office, the corollary for what would be
going on in the West Wing, and they kept these color-coded folders. They
kept all this information. There was even belief that there might have
been, it was possible that there was a list of people who they shouldn`t be
talking to.

REID: Right.

MURPHY: It`s just -- it`s difficult to believe that -- that the governor,
maybe he didn`t -- it`s possible that he doesn`t know. It`s possible.

REID: Yes.

MURPHY: But the operation that he set up and that his people ran seems to
have been extremely responsive and nimble in sort of rewarding and
punishing people that they were dealing with on a day-to-day and almost
hourly basis.

REID: In the Venn diagram of the Chris Christie administration and the
campaign operation, there is a lot of overlap in communication during this
period.

WISNIEWSKI: If you have got that Venn diagram, I would like to see it.

(LAUGHTER)

WISNIEWSKI: Because we`re still trying to really understand the
contradictory nature of the information we`re receiving.

We see interview memos and e-mails that really show a -- a robust level of
micromanagement. And at the same time, we have statements saying that
we`re not micromanagers, people are operating on their own.

REID: Right.

WISNIEWSKI: Both can`t be true.

REID: Right.

And you also have a sense, Brian, that this was a governor who either
didn`t know, but who certainly wasn`t that eager to find out. As this was
unfolding, as it became clear that this was a scandal, you still had a
governor who was operating publicly as somebody who was not interested in
the information.

Is that -- am I far afield in saying that?

MURPHY: Except -- that seems true, except there are more and more
indications in these -- even in the memos that his own lawyers prepared
that Christie -- there were avenues for him to have found out about this
earlier than on the dates that he suggested, not necessarily before the
bridge operation itself went on, but in the -- in the aftermath, during the
period when they`re discussing how to respond to it, how to, for lack of a
better word, cover it up.

REID: Right.

MURPHY: During the planning of that and the execution of that, it seems
that Christie was aware of it and that there were more people around him
than we previously knew about who were aware of how that was being planned
out.

REID: Assemblyman.

WISNIEWSKI: The Mastro report really leads a road map to the people who
say that they talked to the governor in early December about what they
knew, and not only that, about what other people knew.

And so you have a memo about Mike DuHaime`S interview in which it`s related
that he advised the governor about Wildstein`s statement that Bridget Kelly
and Bill Stepien knew about these lane closures. Yet, hours after that, or
maybe a day after that, the governor comes out and says, nobody in my
administration knows anything about this, paraphrasing him, roughly.

And so it -- those two things don`t match. And they both can`t be
accurate. So our job is to find out exactly who knew what when. I want to
make it clear. This is about fixing the problem at the Port Authority and
fixing the abuse of power. We`re following it wherever it may lead.

REID: Yes, indeed.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Brian Murphy of MSNBC, thank you both for
being here.

WISNIEWSKI: Our pleasure.

MURPHY: Thank you, Joy.

REID: All right.

Up next: a perfect example of how not to teach people about train safety.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."

The White House was hopping today for 136th annual Easter egg roll.
Activities included a reading nook with President Obama himself. His book
of choice? "Where the Wild Things Are." And as "The Washington Post"
pointed out on Twitter, the president really got into it. Just look at
those facial expressions.

Next up, it was a close call for U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut on Saturday. The senator was precariously close to the edge of
a platform of a local train station when an Amtrak sped by and nearly
clipped him. The irony of this story, however, is that the senator was
making a presentation on rail safety at the time of the incident. And
whether he meant to or not, his brush with death is a reminder to all of us
to stand safely away from the platform edge.

Next up, we have seen how Republican candidates nationwide are scrambling
to outdo one another in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Some,
as we have seen, have literally shot holes through a copy of the health
care law. But if Republicans think that tough guy stunts like that are the
best way to get noticed in 2014, then Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Beau
McCoy probably fell a little short with an ad he`s airing in the state.

It seems McCoy was trying to distinguish himself in a crowded field by
facing off against a bobblehead of President Obama, yes, a bobblehead.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEAU MCCOY (R), NEBRASKA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: More Obamacare in
Nebraska? That`s the last thing we need.

I`m Beau McCoy. When Barack Obama tried bullying Nebraska into expanding
Obamacare, I pushed back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Yes, this is what it`s come to, folks, flicking a doll off of a
fence post. Oh, the humanity.

Finally, his political future may be uncertain, but, as a father, Chris
Christie`s still got it. That`s according to the National Father`s and
Mother`s Day Council, which named the New Jersey governor the father of the
year today. He is set to be honored with the award in early June. So he`s
got that going for him.

Up next, why even Democrats who are criticized the Keystone delay may be
privately smiling.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s
what`s happening.

More than 30,000 runners took to the streets for the Boston Marathon one
year after the deadly bombings during last year`s race. An American won
the men`s race for the first time in more than 30 years.

Vice President Joe Biden is in Ukraine. He`s expected to announce new
assistance for the country`s acting government.

And South Korea`s government is accusing the captain of a sunken ferry boat
of murderous behavior. Eighty-seven people died in that disaster. More
than 200 are missing -- back to HARDBALL.

REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Friday`s Obama administration decision to delay construction of the
Keystone pipeline again may turn out to be a boost for Democrats who oppose
the project and for those who support it. It allows vulnerable Democrats
room energy-producing red states room to distance themselves from President
Obama and oppose him.

And for Democratic opponents, it motivates the base to maintain pressure
against the pipeline and keep the money faucet running from the more
liberal and activist wing of the Democratic Party.

For instance, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu called the administration`s
decision -- quote -- "irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable." Alaska
Senator Mark Begich said -- quote -- "I am frankly appalled at the
continued foot-dragging by this administration on the Keystone project."

And Arkansas` Mark Pryor said -- quote -- "There`s no excuse for another
delay. The president needs to approve this project now."

On the other hand, billionaire environmentalist activist Tom Steyer, who
pledged to spend $100 million to help Democrats keep the Senate, called the
decision "rotten eggs for TransCanada and good news on Good Friday for
those who oppose Keystone as not being in our nation`s best interest."

Nia-Malika Henderson is a reporter at "The Washington Post" and Steve
McMahon is a Democratic strategist.

So, guys, yesterday on NBC`s "Meet the Press," the chair of the Democratic
National Committee insisted that the latest delay in approving the pipeline
did not take politics into account. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY")

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Are you worried, as the party
chair, that this shouldn`t be resolved before the election because of the
potential impact it could have on vulnerable Democrats?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: As a member of Congress who
represents hundreds of thousands of people in South Florida, I want to make
sure the right decision is arrived at and that the president makes that
decision carefully and doesn`t factor politics into his decision, which I
don`t think he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: But NBC`s political director, Chuck Todd, said differently this
morning on "MORNING JOE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MORNING JOE")

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is only politics that has been
involved with every part of this process. Let`s not pretend that politics
is not involved. It`s only been the political process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: All right, Nia-Malika, shocking that politics would have some --

(LAUGHTER)

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

REID: -- would play some part in a decision by a politician.

HENDERSON: Right.

REID: But I think the real question here is, is it smart politics for
Democrats and for the White House?

HENDERSON: Absolutely.

These red state Democrats that you listed there, they need something where
they can talk to their constituents and say in these red states that they
are standing up for this president -- standing up to this president.

If you look at Mary Landrieu`s first ad down in Louisiana, it`s all about
her carrying the message, the Louisiana message that`s all about oil and
gas production up to this president and standing up to them. So this will
give her ammunition. This will give Begich ammunition. This will give
Pryor ammunition as well.

So, I think it`s a win-win. And these are Democrats who are skittish about
is, skittish about Obamacare, skittish about this president coming to their
states to campaign. In some ways, there`s some feelings among some -- some
Democrats that Obama has often been a party of one, right, that he hasn`t
always been so good for the party at large and all of the members of the
Senate and the Congress.

So this is definitely something that they are looking at, these Democrats
in tough states. They are looking at it favorably. And it helps their
chances a bit.

REID: All right, so, Steve, same question to you, win/win, right, because
the base of the party that opposes Keystone is happy because it isn`t going
to happen. And these red state Democrats like Mark Pryor, like Begich, can
then say, aha, the White House is wrong and I can run an ad on it.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think, on balance, it`s
probably a win, but you could actually argue this one round or you could
argue it square, because the other side of the coin might be, for those --
to be caught in this pincer for another cycle if you`re a Democrat risks
alienating somebody.

So, if you`re Mary Landrieu and you think that turning out the base is
important ultimately to winning your election, the more you`re out there
railing against the administration, against the Democratic president, and -
- and railing for the Keystone pipeline, the more you`re probably
alienating the environmentalists who might be a base voter that might not
show up.

On the other hand, if you`re Begich, and you believe that your -- that
ultimately it`s not the base that`s going to save you, but it`s the swing
voter, then you take the position that you`re for the pipeline. You risk
alienating the environmentalists, who are your base, but you do so at the -
- because of the opportunity of picking up the swing voter.

So, I think, on balance, it`s probably good for Democrats, but I don`t
think it`s a slam dunk that some have suggested.

REID: But, Steve, I mean, just to -- just to push back on that a little
bit, if you`re Mary Landrieu and let`s say that you`re inveighing against
the administration on this particular issue, but at the same time you`re
defending let`s say parts of the health care -- or at least fighting for
the Medicaid expansion, et cetera, the passion on this issue, at least in
the Democratic Party, is against the pipeline. No doubt about it.

These are base elections. So, it`s not as if they`re railing President
Obama. They`re really pushing for something that is popular, but not
necessarily with Democrats. It is really true that it is not 100 percent
win for someone like Mary Landrieu, even if let`s say just the Koch
brothers were to spend money in the state and Tom Steyer were to both spend
money in the state? Then she`s fighting for home against outside money.

MCMAHON: Well, I mean, again, it depends on whether you think she benefits
more by positioning herself in the middle and defending some policies of
the administration that are popular with some and distancing herself in
other respects.

I would suggest to you, though, in an election that could be decided by not
very many votes, every base voter matters a lot. And an environmental
voter is part of the core base of the Democratic Party. If they`re not
motivated to show up for somebody, that`s a problem for that Democrat.

Now, I think do, on balance, it`s a win. But I don`t think it`s an
unmitigated win. I think Democrats are always uncomfortable standing
against an administration from their own party on any issue.

REID: Yes.

MCMAHON: And pushing against an administration if you`re a Democrat in a
Democratic administration isn`t a popular thing to do.

So, I don`t think it`s an easy slam dunk. I do think on balance it`s
probably better for Democrats, but I think you could argue it either way.

REID: All right, let`s go to the money.

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and his group Next Generation
ran this ad before and after President Obama`s State of the Union in
January. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NEXT GENERATION AD)

NARRATOR: It`s a sucker punch to America`s heartland. The deeper we dig
into the Keystone XL pipeline, the closer we get to the truth.

TransCanada`s ads say the oil will help make America energy-independent.
But, under oath, TransCanada won`t commit to selling us one single barrel.

The oil lobbyists and politicians, they take Americans for suckers.
Keystone means more profit for investors like China, more power for their
economy, and more carbon pollution for the world.

Keystone`s a sucker`s deal for America. Just say no to Keystone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Now, Steyer asks supporters to choose his next target for his anti-
Keystone ad blitz, providing options including Louisiana Democrat Mary
Landrieu. And Mary Landrieu later said, "It would probably help me in my
state if he would run his ads. I have billionaires on both sides",
referring, of course, to the Koch brothers and Steyer, and I`m exactly
where I should be, which is right in the middle.

That`s what Landrieu said. She said, I don`t think people are going to pay
a lot of the attention to these billionaires on both sides.

So, Nia-Malika, is that Mary Landrieu doing a little wishful thinking that
she would like more of that money to pour in?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think so. I mean, Mary
Landrieu is running one hell of a campaign down there. I mean, she`s in
some ways one of the most endangered Democrat, you know, according to all
these lists. But she`s running a really smart campaign down there, really
running more as a governor than as a Senate candidate in some ways.

And so, I think she would welcome this billionaire coming down there and
telling her what she should do for her state and her constituents. I also
think if you look at the list of issues that most Democratic base voters
care about, the environment is lower than the economy and they`re talking
about the economy, Democrats are, in terms of minimum wage, in terms of
equal pay. I think it`s below Obamacare.

So, it seems to me, Democrats have sort of weighed what is the sexiest most
hot button issue that`s going to draw out supporters and base supporters.
And judging the environment isn`t really in probably the top five of those
issues.

REID: Yes, I wonder if Mary Landrieu are on that site saying vote for me.
Vote for Landrieu.

HENDERSON: Right.

REID: All right. Nia-Malika Henderson and Steve McMahon, thanks to both
of you.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

REID: All right. Up next, another plagiarism charge involving Rand Paul.
But it`s not what you think.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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REID: We are back.

Rand Paul and the word plagiarism made it into another headline recently.
But not in the way you think. It turned out that the libertarian
Republican and likely 2016 candidate has been a victim of plagiarism by
other Republicans around the country, and not just once. "BuzzFeed" has
found at least eight candidates, including two Senate contenders who have
pretty blatantly ripped off the freshman Kentucky senator.

For example, T.W. Shannon, a Senate candidate in Oklahoma seems to have
used very similar language to Paul when writing about the Department of
Education. Here`s what Rand Paul wrote on his Web site, quote, "More
money, more bureaucracy and more government intervention are eroding this
nation`s educational standards." And here`s what Shannon wrote, quote,
"More money, more bureaucracy and more government intervention have eroded
educational standards."

Another example, here`s Rand Paul`s language on the topic of incumbency.
Quote, "Long-term incumbency leads to politicians who seem to care more
about what is for their -- what is best for their career than what is best
for their country." And here`s what Michael Dreikorn who`s running to
replace Congressman Trey Radel in Florida wrote. Quote, "Long term
incumbency leads to politicians who seem to care more about what is best
for their career than what is best for America."

The list goes on and on and on -- gun control, abortion, energy, education
and more. According to "BuzzFeed", at least two politicians simply copied
Rand Paul entire issues section from his Web site.

So, what does all of this say about Paul`s place in the Republican Party?
After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattering. And you don`t
see too many people copying verbatim of Jeb Bush`s homework.

Ken Vogel is chief investigative reporter for "Politico", and Robert Costa
is a reporter for "The Washington Post".

OK. Robert, I`m going to start with you. What does it say about the
Republican Party that people are cheating off Rand Paul?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON: I think it says a lot about Senator Paul`s
ascendency within the Republican Party. If you`re a Senate primary --
Republican running the Republican Senate primary, and you`re looking to
fill up your issues page, it makes sense for you to go to someone like
Senator Paul`s Web site for information, because he has an edge to a lot of
his ideological positions. It`s a little different tone, a different way
of phrasing things than the usual Republican position that would be on the
RNC`s Web site or John Boehner`s Web site.

REID: So, I mean, Ken, big picture, is Rand Paul more in step with the
base of the Republican Party at this point than the establishment
Republicans? People like Jeb Bush, people even like Rick Perry?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Yes, absolutely, Joy-Ann. You see it in the types of
folks who copying from him. Greg Brannon is a good example down in North
Carolina. He is the Tea Party favorite for the GOP nomination to run
against Kay Hagen. He`s running against an establishment endorsed guy, Tom
Tillis, who`s the speaker of the House of Representatives down there.

And it makes sense for Brannon to try to find a way to position himself
where he can capture some of that energy that Rand Paul has really tapped
into, but not necessarily offend other sort of legs of the conservative
stool. And Rand Paul has done a really effective job increasingly of doing
that, of being that libertarian, sort of Tea Party candidate, but also
finding a way to walk this delicate tight rope where he`s not offending
social conservatives too much, or even neo-cons. He`s made some in roads
with them.

So, this is a good blueprint for others to follow.

REID: You mentioned neocons. I`m glad you mentioned that three-legged
stool in the Republican Party, because to be honest with you, you have some
on the right, really among those neocon and haws, that have made no secret
that they absolutely detest Rand Paul, at least on his positions on foreign
policy.

I will give you a couple of examples, "The National Review`s" Rich Lowry,
who wrote, quote, "He will soon be running for office where your view of
the world matters profoundly and his instincts sometimes seem more
appropriate than a dorm room bull session that the Situation Room."

You got "The Wall Street Journal" where a columnist Bret Stephens wrote,
quote, "Let`s not mince words, this man wants to be the Republican nominee
for president and so he should be. Because maybe what the GOP needs is
another humbling landslide defeat."


And let`s not forget New York Congressman Peter King. Let`s take a listen
to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I think his views would be disastrous, Joe.
I think he fields the lowest common denominator. This is an isolationist
wing from the 1930s. Rand Paul brings is to this historical level, like we
talk about the CIA, that are trying to kill Americans, having coffee for
Starbucks, when he talked about President Obama listening to his cell phone
conversations. That to me, it is feeding into paranoia.

We do need an intelligence debate, and I don`t think Rand Paul is capable
of having that debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: So, Robert Costa, Ken Vogel says that Rand Paul has gone out of his
way to try not to offend the old school neocon wing of the party. But
isn`t it more accurate to say that Rand Paul has not set them aside?

COSTA: I think that`s right, Joy. I think Paul is mounting an interesting
strategy, because he knows that the hawks still control the Republican
donor class. They`re still the majority there and the hawks are still the
majority when it comes to congressional leadership.

However, when he goes after these states that are having these primaries,
especially in House races and Senate races, he senses I think Bush fatigue,
especially fatigue when it comes to George W. Bush`s foreign policy, he is
tapping into that, and a lot of his acolytes are doing the same.

REID: Yes. I mean, isn`t this a sign, Ken, that that Bush presidency
really damaged that mainstream wing of the party, you know, pretty
fundamentally if somebody who was considered fringe, the Paul family is now
in the mainstream, at least Rand Paul of the Republican Party?

COSTA: Yes, it shows the way that the Republican Party has shifted since
the Bush presidency. And you`re right to set that as the milestone.

However, I do think that despite the fact that Rand Paul is in many ways
fundamentally opposed to this sort of neo-con wing of the party, he has in
recent months sort of made at least outreach to some of these folks. Some
of them will never accept it. And, you know, to his credit, he has not
changed his views substantially on these issues, but he has shown that he
is willing to listen.

Same thing with the social conservatives, he has deemphasized social
issues. He has said that that the GOP may have to agree to disagree on the
social issues. That`s cacophonous, that`s the worst thing that some of the
social conservatives can hear. But some of them are not rejecting him
outright. And that`s a testament to his ability to sort of walk this
tightrope.

And I think it will be interesting to see whether he can make some of these
folks or set aside their concerns as he appears to be positioning himself
for a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

REID: I mean, Robert, is there concern when you talk to Republicans who
work at that operative level that there really is not a clear alternative
really at this point to Rand Paul who is to Ken`s point, trying to
consolidate all the pieces of the Republican three-legged stool, either by
directly reaching out to them or at least by trying not to offend them too
much.

COSTA: I think there is some growing anxiety on the right, especially
within the more establishment wing of the party. They expected Governor
Christie to fill that slot for the establishment, to be the hawk who can
win over the donors and can put together a coalition that look a lot like
George W. Bush`s. However, because of the bridge, of course, Christie
slipped.

And you see others now adjusting to the new reality in Republican politics.
The most recent example would be Senator Cruz articulating a Reaganesque
message when it comes to foreign policy and actually breaking with his
close friend in the Senate, Rand Paul, and they`ve actually had some
tension on foreign policy.

So, you`re seeing someone, whether it`s Cruz, maybe Christie comes back,
maybe it`s Jeb Bush. They`re all trying to get toward that Bush model,
that Reagan model, where Paul cultivates his own image on foreign policy.

REID: Yes, absolutely. I will say it again. And I`ve said it again, it
is Rand Paul and it is not Rand Paul, and that`s what the Republicans have
to deal with.

Ken Vogel and Robert Costa, thank you both.

COSTA: Thank you.

VOGEL: Thanks, Joy.

REID: And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: Let me finish tonight with the president`s decision to hold off on
making a decision on the Keystone pipeline.

If you look at the map showing that the route that the pipeline takes, it
sure look familiar. It tracks the vast swath of red territory that every
election in recent memory goes solidly Republican. But the grand totals
are between 24 and 21 electoral votes, depending on the route, 62 if you
count Texas.

As a set-up for the Democratic ticket in 2016, Keystone looks more like a
bust than a boom. Sure, there are Democrats elected in those states, some
in the United States Senate. And there are unions who`d like to see the
jobs that Keystone promises to bring.

But even as a matter of 2014 strategy, and with his party facing a midterm
election that could decide whether the last two years of his presidency are
spent passing immigration reform and infrastructure and securing a long
term legacy for himself and his party, that could have generational
demographic consequences, or spending all his time vetoing abortion
legislation and Ryan budgets, President Obama`s decision seems to be
straightforward calculation.

Contrast the fewer than 50 permanent jobs that pipeline would create, far
less than the 42,000 temporary jobs estimated by the State Department for a
pipeline that would carry Canadian shale oil through the U.S. but not
directly to American customers since it would be shipped around the world,
and it`s pretty clear that the White House is right to make the
calculation, that that particular heaven can wait.

There are simply aren`t enough electoral votes in that vast swathe of red
states to make the ultimate difference for Democrats long term, or to
offset the anger that would ripple through the liberal base, other
Democratic Party in the short-run. Democrats need every one of those
voters to turn out in November in unusually high numbers and Keystone isn`t
a fight worth picking for voters who care about the environment. And at
the same time, by not killing the pipeline outright, he leaves that much
hope for red state Dems, not to mention giving them something to fight the
White House on. The political calculation here isn`t hard to figure out,
it isn`t even close.

And it`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.
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