updated 11/3/2006 11:38:00 AM ET 2006-11-03T16:38:00

Guests: Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook, Stuart Rothenberg, Howard Fineman, Andy Card, Tony Perkins, Mike Barnicle, Kate O‘Beirne

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Down to the wire as the big day arrives. 

The poll numbers jingle and gyrate.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL. 

Just five days to go now before the election, and it‘s close.  You‘ve seen the political ads, the polls and the campaign flyers, but tonight, HARDBALL‘s all about handicapping this horse race with some of the top political prognosticators in the business. 

NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook is a major pro in the business, and in a moment, he will brief us on who is up and who‘s down.  The bottom line in politics is the bottom line.  It‘s a numbers game, and in five days, Democrats have to pick up 15 seats to regain control of the House. 

I don‘t know why these write these scripts.  Regain?  How about gain control—they haven‘t been there in 12 years—after spending 12 years out of power.  Five days, 15 seats—the polls are favoring the Democrats, but can they retake the House?  Again, retake? 

A new CBS/”New York Times” poll looks grim for the president and his party.  Only 29 percent approve of the way that the president is managing the war in Iraq, matching his all-time low.  Nearly 70 percent say the president doesn‘t have a plan to end the war and 80 percent think his latest effort to rally support is just a bunch of talk. 

And what about the Senate?  Some races are tighter than two coats of paint, and Democrats have to run the table to take control. 

We begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Based on the latest polling in individual races across the country, House Republicans appear to be on the brink of losing power.  GOP-held seats are now in deep trouble in New York, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico and Arizona.  Democrats need to gain just 15 House seats to take control.  Most analysts believe they will pick up between 25 and 30.

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  The most likely seems to be scenario one that this is a Democratic sweep, that there‘s a building landslide out there for them.  All the national polls are pointing to that, and you see an internal polling that it seems to be every close race seems to have just a pinkie on the scale for the Democrats. 

SHUSTER:  Democrat, according to the surveys, are also far more enthusiastic about voting than Republicans.  And among independent voters, the latest CBS/”New York Times” survey found that 50 percent of independents said they intend to vote for the Democratic candidate compared to just 23 percent for the Republican. 

For most voters, the biggest issue is the Iraq war and how it‘s been managed by President Bush.  The CBS/”New York Times” poll found that only 29 percent of Americans approve of the president‘s handling of the war, matching the lowest mark of the Bush presidency. 

In recent days, the president has been ratcheting up his rhetoric about Iraq, even suggesting that Democrats are on the side of terrorists. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  However they put it, the Democrat approach comes down to this:  The terrorists win and American loses. 

SHUSTER:  But most voters are not buying it, and when asked if President Bush has a plan to end the war, 69 percent of voters said no, he does not. 

The demand for a new approach is also having a huge impact on races for the U.S. Senate.  Democrats need to pick up six seats to take control.  They are leading the Republican incumbents in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Montana.  And in New Jersey where the Democrats are trying to hold a seat, the latest Reuters/Zogby poll gives the edge to Democrat Bob Menendez.

So that leaves three close races that will likely determine Senate control: Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri. 

In Virginia, the latest polls give a slight edge to Democrat Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran who has been pounding Republican George Allen over Iraq. 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  I very much agree with the president.  We need to stay the course. 

SHUSTER:  In Tennessee, polls show Democrat Harold Ford slightly behind Republican Bob Corker, and in Missouri, Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill is in a dead heat with Republican Senator Jim Talent. 

(on camera):  For Republican candidates hoping for a little more breathing room over Iraq, now there is none.  This week, President Bush pledged to keep Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense for two more years.  In other words, President Bush is promising to stay the course with his team managing the Iraq war, even if that makes most voters angrier. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Let‘s bring in our expert election panel: NBC political analyst Charlie Cook; Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report; and “Newsweek‘s” chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman; and the director of the University of Virginia‘s Center for Politics, Larry Sabato. 

Let me start it from Larry on around clockwise

Larry, do these big numbers coming out of the “New York Times” today get translatable to the victories for the Democrats? 

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA:  Well, not completely, but I‘m going to be surprised if my three friends on this panel don‘t disagree that the Democrats are going to have a very good night on Tuesday, certainly in the House, and increasingly, it‘s looking like they‘re going to have a good night in the Senate too.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they‘ll take the Senate? 

SABATO:  It‘s on the edge of the butter knife.  If you force me, Chris, to guess today, I would say six seats.  I may be back to five by Monday.  We‘ll see. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right where I‘m trying to figure this thing out.  Let me go to Charlie Cook.

That five or six, it seems to be where people are looking.  If you take the five, you have to go with they‘re going to in Pennsylvania, they‘re going to win in Ohio, they‘re going to win in Rhode Island, and they‘re going to win probably in Virginia at this point, right, to get that five. 

CHARLIE COOK, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Well, I‘m sort of—you know, everybody agrees on Santorum in Pennsylvania, DeWine in Ohio.  Then you get into Chafee in Rhode Island but there‘s some signs that that‘s closed up.  Can‘t tell how much, but it‘s closed up.  Same thing with Conrad Burns in Montana.  But those aren‘t over.  I mean, they are behind, but they‘re not over. 

Then you get to Virginia and where you see some conflicting polls, and in a lot of these races, they are tons of polls out there.  The public is seeing about one out of every five polls that are out there, and they‘re generally seeing the one that was the cheapest to conduct.  And sort of the higher-priced stuff by the two sides oftentimes shows different things.  I think I would consider Virginia tied basically. 

MATTHEWS:  Which was is the movement?

COOK:  It was—it has been going back and forth to be honest.  But I think Allen has been up more than down, but it‘s a very precarious lead, but I don‘t know anybody that seriously believes that it‘s a 10-point race, or anybody that knows anything about polling.  And then you get ...

MATTHEWS:  Where did you get that number from, 10 points? 

COOK:  There is a—is that the Zogby 53-43?  Is that it?

MATTHEWS:  It says that who‘s winning by 10.

COOK:  That had Webb up by 10 points. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COOK:  There‘s no way on the planet that anybody is ahead by more than six points in the state of Virginia.  Nobody. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go around the table starting with Stu with time, and trying to figure out where there‘s movement.  Let me start—well, let me not leave it up to you guys.  Let me be arbitrary here.  I want to look at two states right now. 

Let‘s start in Virginia right now, this is the macaca state.  This is where it all started because one candidate, the frontrunner, made the comment, and he‘s never really been able to get out of this problem of calling somebody a name that‘s perceived to be an ethnic slur.  You go from that, it seems to me that that race there is movement. 

I hear, Stu, that Allen is out of money. 

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT:  Well, I think the voters have decided about this race, Chris.  I mean, I know its close.  I think Charlie is right.  I think it‘s probably a three-point race.  But the way I look at this—and I don‘t think it‘s coming down to money now. 

I think this is about incumbents who have been running for six months to nine months, they‘ve been spending a lot of money, they got their message over and over again and they are even or two or three points behind.  I mean, we ...

MATTHEWS:  Howard, do you believe that, or do you believe that Jim Webb is moving up a bit? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  I just think it‘s very, very close right now, Chris.  I think Allen has used up a lot of his money, and I think the Republicans are in a situation where they, for the first time in a long time, have to decide and make careful decisions about where they are putting that money. 

What interested me about the “New York Times” poll overall was that among evangelicals as well as rural people, the Democrats were competitive, and they were fully competitive in the way they haven‘t been in a long time. 

And the Democrats have spent a lot of time and effort in Virginia, particularly, going back to former Governor Mark Warner and current Governor Tim Kaine, to try to get those votes.  Jim Webb may benefit from about a decade‘s worth of work in Virginia by Democrats in trying to get rural and faith-based voters.  That may help Webb in the end.

MATTHEWS:  So you think—let me go around. 

Stu, has he got the edge or not?  Who‘s got the edge in that race?

ROTHENBERG:  Of course, Webb has the edge. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie?

COOK:  Allen is not out of money, but he‘s being outspent right now. 

It‘s very, very—I wouldn‘t call it. 

MATTHEWS:  Because nobody‘s moving.

COOK:  It‘s gone back and forth.  I mean ...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Larry. 

Larry, do you see Webb winning this race, beginning to win it? 

SABATO:  You know, if my friend Charlie Cook is going to say it‘s too close to call, I‘m going to stick with him.  I have to live here. 

MATTHEWS:  What happened to your style there, Larry?  Awhile ago, you were out front on this stuff?

FINEMAN:  Hey, Chris, can I make a point?  Can I make a point?

MATTHEWS:  What are you—I don‘t like you this way.  Let me go to Howard. 

FINEMAN:  Can I just make a point?  George Allen‘s campaign has been one disaster after another, and he is still in this race.  I think that in and of itself is remarkable.  It may mean that somehow he‘s got the staying power to survive here, because you have macaca followed by the Jewish family roots, you know, followed by throwing the protester into—the heckler into the plate glass window. 

I mean, that campaign is just a living nightmare, and yet here he is stride for stride with Webb who‘s had a tremendous amount of backing, and as I said, all that work by Democrats over the last eight years in Virginia.  So that indicates that Allen, even though he‘s taken a lot of blows and is still hanging in, which I think is interesting and maybe definitive in the end.

COOK:  Two out of three things Howard said wasn‘t the campaign, it was the candidate.  I mean, you know the fact that if it was up to the campaign, this wouldn‘t even be a close race.  The candidate has made some bad mistakes.  He wouldn‘t even be in a race right now. 

MATTHEWS:  It must drive him and his family crazy that if he sat home this year and did absolutely nothing except eat Oreos and drink milk from the beginning of this campaign, he‘d be ahead. 

ROTHENBERG:  Chris, I think this is the wrong way to look at the race.  This race is about incumbents.  And it‘s true Allen has had problems and he‘s still close, but the point is Allen is at 45 percent of the vote.  Jim Talent is at 45 or 46 percent of the vote and incumbents, can‘t—they‘re well-known—if by now, they haven‘t converted people to them, I think it‘s going to be very difficult. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go up to Maryland, where you have two newcomers.  You don‘t have any incumbent—that‘s Michael Steele, the Republican and lieutenant governor of the state and Ben Cardin, who is the congressman from Baltimore—Balmore as we say it up here.  There‘s a lot of talk, especially based upon on this brand-new poll, the Zogby poll that has got him within five, that Michael Steele might be making history here Charlie Cook.

COOK:  It‘s closed up.  We‘ve had this as Lean-Democrat race about a week ago.  We moved it to Toss-Up.  We were seeing contradictory data.  We were seeing some that showed Cardin, the Democrat up by seven-eight-nine, but we were seeing some two-point margins, some closer, including one two-point margin from one of the best pollsters in the business (INAUDIBLE).  And let‘s face it, the Cardin positive ads have been among the worst I‘ve ever seen in my entire life...

MATTHEWS:  Michael‘s have been fabulous. 

COOK: They‘ve been fabulous.  So, there‘s no question, which is the better campaign—it‘s Steele.  In a different state, in a different year, Steele would win this race, easily.  The question is can he win this state, this year.  It‘s a very close call.  People find him an interesting, different candidate, not a boring politician, but on the other hand, would he end up being a vote for President Bush and Republicans, which is what Democrats... 

MATTHEWS:  Sounds like a family argument I had in my family the last few days. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When you vote for somebody like that, you just get into a lot of trouble with the ideologues in your own world.  Anyway, Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg, Larry Sabato, and Howard Fineman are staying with us.  Coming up later, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.  You‘re watching HARDBALL ON MSNBC.

MATTHEWS:  This is fun, we are back with the big shots, the best in the business.  NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report, “Newsweek‘s” chief political correspondent Howard Fineman, and University of Virginia‘s Larry Sabato, who has become a bit squeamish lately.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me—and I can‘t figure out why—it gets close to exciting and you whimp out.  Let‘s talk about the race that seems to have been decided already and now we will ask even our most cautious members of this panel to say something. Lieberman-Lamont.  As much as we have championed that cause up there, the excitement of a real battle over the war in Iraq, it looks to me that Joe Lieberman, the old big-city pol, ethnic, grandpa, best-friend of everybody, seems to have put that race to bed early.  People like him.  They like the fact that he‘s been around.  They like his personality—who he is, where he came from.  And, Lamont comes off as some sort of Ivy League—what‘s the right word?  I can‘t say it—twit?  What‘s the problem, Charlie? 

COOK:  I think this race is...

MATTHEWS:  Why is it over so early? 

COOK:  Because, the 50-yard-line in the Democratic Party in Connecticut and the 50-yard-line of the state are two different places.  The biggest party of the state are independents -- 43 percent of the people.

MATTHEWS:  But they‘re all anti-war.

COOK:  Right, but the thing is Joe Lieberman is firmly between the two 40-yard-lines on the whole (INAUDIBLE) issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Not for the war—he‘s a hawk.

COOK:  But, they look at other things other than the war. 

MATTHEWS: Well, apparently you‘re right, the war is not the number one issue with these people because anybody who votes for Lieberman thinking he‘s going to cut down the number of wars in our lifetime is crazy.  This guy has already got his eye on Iran—God knows where we‘re going next—to Syria, which next country are we going to hit?

COOK:  But, you have a country, you have a race where the Republican candidate is in single digits. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think he‘ll pop to 10? 

COOK:  He may have a surge to 11.  But the thing about it is,

Lieberman can‘t lose

MATTHEWS:  Larry, you don‘t think that Mr. Schlesinger, the gambling man is going to make it to 10? 

SABATO:  No, I think he‘ll end up at about seven.  I think Lieberman will actually get a majority, and that leaves Lamont with maybe 43 percent, something like that.  That‘s about it. 

MATTHEWS:  So, he‘s going down in the polls—Mr. Schlesinger?

SABATO:  Well, Schlesinger, is...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s at eight now.

(CROSSTALK)

SABATO:  But I‘m saying six, seven, something like that.

MATTHEWS:  Anybody think he‘s going to pop past 10? 

UNIDENTIFIED:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Silence is golden.  Let me ask you about another race that

seems to have been decided now.  Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey, son of the

former governor—a very Waspy, rich, sort of old money sort.  Howard you

are shaking your head positively—you like those guys—against Bob

Menendez

UNIDENTIFIED:  How does he get to be described that way and Lamont doesn‘t?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess there‘s different strokes.  Look, Menendez here looks like he has been put in the mob by the other side.  They‘ve got him in “Sopranos” leather here.  You know, sleeping with the fishes politically already.  I‘m sorry, it didn‘t work.  Menendez is ahead and it looks like he‘s put away Kean.  Why?  Why is it over so early?

FINEMAN:  George Bush in New Jersey, I think.  It‘s one of those states where you mention Bush and just, talk about sleeping with the fishes, you go straight to the bottom of the river. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think it‘s over, Charlie?

COOK:  No.  I think it‘s going to be fairly close and I don‘t know—

Tom Kean could win, he really could.  It‘s a fight between Iraq over here and are we sick and tired of having a reputation as one of the most five corrupt states in the country.  And it‘s like this...

MATTHEWS:  Somebody said New Jersey voters have been holding their nose for years. 

COOK:  And you know what, I think their arms are getting tired and so I think this is making this a real close race. 

MATTHEWS:  Anybody joining Charlie on the fact that this race isn‘t over—that Menendez could lose this thing.

ROTHENBERG:  Well, Charlie‘s right—it‘s a single-digit race, whether it‘s low single-digits or high-single-digits we don‘t know, but here is a case where the undecided votes could actually go to Tom Kean as the alternative if they find Menendez so unacceptable. 

MATTHEWS:  Larry, are you with Menendez hanging in there or are you with Menendez going down here? 

SABATO:  I think Menendez will hang in, but I do agree, it could be closer than expected.  Kean is a very attractive candidate.  If there‘s ever going to be a chance to say no to corruption, it‘s this one.  I doubt New Jersey voters do it.  Too much push, too much Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Ohio where I made the comment earlier that I think Sherrod Brown looks like the kind of Democrat that should be running nationally.  Looks like a working guy, looks like he he‘s actually had some physical labor in his past.  And he has a little bit of talking out of the side of his mouth, which works with most Americans.  he doesn‘t look like one of these Ivy league guys that keep getting crushed nationally.  I‘m going through the Gore, Dukakis, Kerry hit list of infamy, politically.  Why don‘t they run guys like Sherrod Brown and Bobby Casey?  I know I‘m talking from my own kind here, OK, guys?  But I really think these guys—what are you doing, Charlie?  What‘s wrong with Sherrod Brown?  He‘s going to do something awful in Ohio.  He‘s going to win. 

COOK:  No, he‘s going to win big.  No doubt about it.  he‘s going to win big. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is he going to win big?  Because the cut of his jib is regular working guy, he looks like a union guy.

COOK:  No.  I don‘t this election has the slightest thing to do with Sherrod Brown, and it‘s everything to do with a Republican who‘s not going to win statewide in Ohio this year, period.  That‘s all it is.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why can‘t DeWine win?

COOK:  The scandals. 

MATTHEWS:  DeWine.

COOK:  Between the national environment... 

MATTHEWS:  DeWine‘s clean. 

COOK:  ... the national environment, the economy in Ohio, the scandals, it wasn‘t going to happen.  It just wasn‘t going to happen. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROTHENBERG:  The environment is toxic.  Brown is running a good campaign—you‘re actually right.  You‘re right.

MATTHEWS:  See, I‘m right.  He agrees with it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What was I—Larry.

SABATO:  I think that‘s been over for a long, long time.  Bob Taft is at 16 to 18 percent, Bush is around 30 percent in Ohio.  All the Republicans are dead in Ohio and the governorship is in a landslide for Ted Strickland.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to Bobby Casey, the other regular guy I mentioned, no great shakes, perhaps.  He‘s not going to be the next Barry Goldwater or Hubert Humphrey, but he‘s able to beat Rick Santorum.  Why so effectively? Larry—Charlie.

COOK:  I think a mainstream middle-of-the-road or liberal to moderate Republican would have had a good chance of winning this year.  But if you‘re on, like, the five, six, eight yard line in a bad year, you‘re going to have a really, really hard time. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... expect it would have beaten Bobby Casey? 

COOK:  I think so.  I mean, it would have been a good race in this year.  But I think also the book hurt.  I think Santorum‘s book hurt. 

MATTHEWS:  The book where he said women shouldn‘t work outside the home?

COOK:  Where someone could draw that implication, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Reading the book is how you draw the implication.

COOK:  Well, I haven‘t read it, somebody in my office did.  But a reasonable person could draw that conclusion. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Larry  on that.

Larry, why do you think a guy who‘s won twice now—and he‘s a bright guy, Santorum, whatever you think of his politics.  He is so bright, such a hard worker.  And he is a great constituent guy in Pennsylvania.  He has done the job of being a senator.  Here he is on the way to a wipeout. 

SABATO:  Yes, but see, Chris, he‘s deeply red and the state is light blue.  And he got in at a great year for Republicans, 1994.  He skated in a second time on incumbency in 2000, when people really weren‘t looking.  They have gotten to know him a lot better and they‘ve gotten to know that he‘s deeply red.  They also don‘t much like his personality.  So I think this one was over a long time ago. 

COOK:  Chris a couple of...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t like him either, do you? 

SABATO:  No, I think Santorum is—look, I don‘t like, dislike.  I‘m like everybody else, I just try and pick the winners. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You look like you have some attitude about this guy because you said they discovered that they don‘t like the guy. 

SABATO:  Well, I don‘t think they do.  I think they disagree with him about a lot of social issues. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  He‘s a bit right winger on those things. 

Anyway, thank you, Charlie Cook.

Thank you, Stew.

Thank you, Larry.  Stay with it, Larry.  Make those calls. 

And Howard Fineman, my friend.  Thank you, Howard.

Up next, NBC‘s Tom Brokaw has a look at the two men leading their party‘s push for power in the House. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Just five days now before the election and both Democrats and Republicans are looking to make sure that their party comes on top.

NBC‘s Tom Brokaw takes a look at the men from each party whose job depends on a win on November 7th

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR:  Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on the right, and Congressman Rahm Emanuel,  chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on the left.  Mano a mano with five days of campaigning left. 

REP. RAHM EMANUEL, CHAIRMAN OF DCCC:  The American people want action, and a Democratic Congress is going to give them action. 

KEN MEHLMAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE RNC:  I think their greatest vulnerability, frankly, is on the combination of national security issues and they‘re favoring higher taxes. 

BROKAW:  Mehlman, a driven, Harvard-educated lawyer who ran President Bush‘s 2004 campaign, is famous for getting out the GOP vote.  Emanuel, a Chicago Congressman, is the son of Israeli immigrants.  A veteran of the Clinton White House, he‘s an aggressive fund raiser. 

They agree the war in Iraq is this the big issue. 

MEHLMAN:  Iraq is a key front in the war on terror.  I believe it actually is beneficial to Republicans, and the reason is I think that most Americans who look are going to recognize we‘re in the middle of a very tough war against a different kind of enemy. 

EMANUEL:  All the Republicans are saying is when you‘ve gotten yourself in a hole, can you get a bigger shovel?

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  While these Republicans are cutting...

BROKAW:  Mehlman would rather make Nancy Pelosi the issue.  The San Francisco liberal, who would likely be Speaker if the Democrats win.

MEHLMAN:  I think people are going to instead—they‘re going to say, who—which party is going to vote for leaders who reflect my values and my community?

BROKAW:  But Emanuel insists the Democrats have another agenda if they win. 

EMANUEL:  An increase in the minimum wage, which haven‘t had in ten years, direct negotiations by the federal government to lower prescription drug prices.  But we are not going to privatize Social Security. 

MEHLMAN:  We‘re here to win...

BROKAW:  And what do Mehlman and Emanuel have to do in the final days?

Charlie Cook, a leading election analyst, on Mehlman‘s challenge. 

COOK:  The two thing that could make this thing just horrendous for Republicans is if their folks don‘t show up, or if independents show up in really big numbers. 

BROKAW:  And for Emanuel? 

COOK:  They‘ve got a huge wave going.  And it‘s just, keep his guys on the board, keep them riding it, and don‘t say anything to screw things up. 

BROKAW:  For their part, Mehlman and Emanuel now are like football coaches in the locker room before a big game. 

MEHLMAN:  I think the people that are predicting our death, as they did in ‘04 and they did in ‘02 and they did in ‘00, are once again going to be wrong. 

EMANUEL:  I‘m really playing defense in about two races and playing offense in about 46 races.  I just like those numbers. 

BROKAW:  Mehlman and Emanuel are friendly to each other, but come Tuesday, only one will be a winner. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Tom Brokaw.

Up next, former Bush White House chief of staff, Andy Card.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Is that bombastic enough for you?  Welcome back to

HARDBALL. 

President Bush is barnstorming today on the trail for those final days of decision 2006.  But can he do any good out there?  Will feelings against him and against the Iraq war push Democrats still further into power?

Andrew Card serves as White House chief of staff from 2001 until April of this year.  His time the second longest in history White House chief of staff. 

ANDY CARD, FMR. BUSH W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF:  Second longest in history.

MATTHEWS:  Who was the longest? 

CARD:  Sherman Adams for President Eisenhower. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh Jesus, another ...

CARD:  He was a New Englander.  Hew as a New Englander.

MATTHEWS:  He had a little problem there.  What was that, the vicuna coat?

CARD:  Vicuna coat.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he got caught with some—Bernard Goldfine, as he said, was his benefactor.  I love history and politics. 

Let me ask you, why would the president of the United States, on the eve of what looks to be a tough off-year election, say I‘m going to keep the vice president, who‘s got enormously low numbers, and Rumsfeld, his secretary of defense who also has equally low numbers.  Why bring it up, especially the V.P. part? 

CARD:  Well, you know, the president wants to have a team to finish out his tenure.  And he started putting his team together, and I just think that‘s what the president wants.  I think the president is right to say who he wants on his team. 

MATTHEWS:  But the vice president is there because of the Constitution.  He was elected.

CARD:  He‘s there because of the Constitution.

MATTHEWS:  Why—it‘s like that old joke, about I like my wife.  I think I‘ll keep her.  I mean, like, who asked?  Why did he do it? 

CARD:  I don‘t know why he had to do it, but ... 

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s a nice answer.

CARD:  ...the vice president is significant contributor in the White House, and he‘s unique vice president because he doesn‘t have a political ambition.  He just wants to help the president do a job, and that‘s been very rare.

MATTHEWS:  When he was chairman of the Vice Presidential Selection Committee, did he have a political ambition at that time?

CARD:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t think he did.  I don‘t think picked himself. 

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t pick himself.

CARD:  He did not pick himself.

MATTHEWS:  Who is the boss between Bush and Cheney? 

CARD:  The president is the president. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the boss.

CARD:  He‘s the boss. 

MATTHEWS:  Clearly?

CARD:  Absolutely.  Now, the vice president is a good adviser, a quiet counselor.  And they have lunch almost every week.  And I know the president appreciates the advice and counsel, but doesn‘t mean that the president acquiesces to it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But how did he—he got his friend Rumsfeld as his secretary of defense, he brought in Scooter.  He put all those neocons in.  That was the vice president who did all that stuff. 

CARD:  The vice president was clearly part of the process when the president was picking members of the cabinet. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, he picked Rumsfeld, didn‘t he?

CARD:  No, the president picked Rumsfeld.

MATTHEWS:  He sent you for a cheeseburger and he picked Rumsfeld. 

CARD:  Well, Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a great job. 

MATTHEWS:  You did a—by the way.  You were the cleanest guy in the world.  You left politics without a—as you put it, without a billable hour behind.  That is a great thing.

Let me ask you about this election.  Tell me about how the guy you worked for, the president of the United States sees this job.  Now, he must willing to recognize how uphill it is this weekend. 

CARD:  Well, he is the president of the United States.  He is the commander in chief.  He has the ultimate obligation to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, which is really an awesome responsibility.

But he‘s also the leader of our party, and our party is in the midst of significant battle.  And this is a battle that will determine the control of the House and the Senate, and I think it‘s right that the president is out there, as the leader of our party, helping those candidates who are in need, and he‘s going to do it right up until the polls open. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like between him and the first lady?  Everybody likes Laura Bush, and I was thinking, he commissioned her, he posted her the other day to go out and to help Linc Chafee get reelected.  Linc Chafee publicly said he did not vote for the president.  In fact, he wrote in the name of his father as a kind of a stick it to him. 

And yet, Laura says—I can just—what‘s it like for George Bush to say to his wife, now, Laura, I want you to go up to Rhode Island—little, old, Rhode Island—and I want you to fight for that guy who thinks I‘m not worth anything. 

CARD:  Laura Bush is a phenomenal first lady.  She is a spectacular wife to the president.  And she‘s a valuable adviser to all of us who want to do a good job for the president.  I certainly sought her counsel and would try to anticipate from her what her husband‘s needs were as president.

But, you know, she‘s a very strong person, and she‘s a great asset for the party and a great asset for the country.  And she‘s done a terrific job of going around helping.  She doesn‘t even like politics, but she‘s been out there as a tremendous asset for the party and she‘s done an awful lot of events this election cycle. 

MATTHEWS:  Does she ever say like Nancy Reagan did for her husband, you got to watch that guy?  I don‘t think he‘s on your team.  I don‘t know about that guy.  Does she ever, like, say—does she ever offer advice about personnel? 

CARD:  No, but she would comment to me about how people were doing their job and were they doing their job the right way, but she understood that the president picked the team of people to work around him.  She didn‘t pick them. 

MATTHEWS:  Do they really go to bed at 9:30 at night in this crazy town where everybody seems to stay up until midnight? 

CARD:  They would prefer to be able to go to bed at 9:00 or 9:30, yes, and they ... 

MATTHEWS:  Do they read in bed?

CARD:  They‘re early to bed.

MATTHEWS:  Are they reachable after 9:00?

CARD:  They both like to read.  They‘re both great readers.  I could reach them both when I need to, but I tried not to want to. 

MATTHEWS:  What time does he get to work in the morning, the president? 

CARD:  Before 9/11, he used to show up at 7:00 at the Oval Office.  After 9/11, he showed up at 6:45.  Now, 15 minutes may not sound like much to you, but when I was the chief of staff and I had so much reading to do in the morning and I would show up at the office at 5:30, that extra 15 minutes of time that I lost because I had to go down and greet the president when he walked into the Oval Office was pretty tough.

MATTHEWS:  Did he already—has he already shaved and showered and all that.  He already had breakfast?

CARD:  Oh yes, no.  He was ready to start the day.

MATTHEWS:  He already had breakfast.

CARD:  He was ready to start the day. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he read the paper before he comes to work? 

CARD:  He skims the newspaper.  Laura read it, and sometimes Laura would read it to him or at least I could tell that she had. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he ever come into work with a bad mood because Maureen Dowd dumped all over him again in the “New York Times.” 

CARD:  He didn‘t really read Maureen Dowd, but I think Laura did, and sometimes—the president did not dwell on the editorial page or the op-ed page of any of the newspapers.  He did look at the sports page, he looked at the front page.  He had a good sense of what was going on.

MATTHEWS:  Horoscopes?  Did he do the horoscopes?

CARD:  He didn‘t do the horoscopes.

MATTHEWS:  How about the comics?

CARD:  Sometimes the comics, but, you know, he was really into the sports page.

MATTHEWS:  Doonesbury? 

CARD:  And he like the sports page and the front page and he was pretty well on top of what was happening around the world.  But he didn‘t want to be told what he had to do the editorial writers of the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post”.  And sometimes I would call his attention to an article or an op ed piece, if I thought it was pretty good.  But, no, he did not dwell on it.  Laura Bush, on the other hand, she consumes anything in print. 

MATTHEWS:  She‘s a real librarian, a real intellectual.

CARD:  She loves to read, and she reads everything.  The president is also very, very well read.  He‘s usually got two books going all the time.  He has a non-fiction and a fiction.  And he reads an awful lot. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he finish books?  I never finish books.

CARD:  Oh, absolutely.  He finishes them.  And then he likes to have little discussions about them. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got about ten going and I never finish them. 

Let me ask you about this race for him.  This is his last race. 

CARD:  This is his last race.  And he loves politics, but he also knows that the stage is going to get real small for him after this election because other people will be looking to stand on a stage and compete...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  If he had to choose right now between Mitt and McCain, who would he go with? 

CARD:  I don‘t think the president should have to choose right now.

MATTHEWS:  Come on, who would he root for?

CARD:  I would not predict who the president would be.

MATTHEWS:  Well, who‘s he going to root for?

CARD:  He will root for the Republican nominee.  I guarantee you that.

MATTHEWS:  Does he think that McCain‘s a Republican or a maverick?

CARD:  Absolutely.  Senator McCain has been a tremendous asset to the president as he‘s helped to get a lot of tough things done. 

MATTHEWS:  But Mitt‘s trying to win his love too, now, right?

CARD:  Mitt Romney is a good leader.  And he‘s proven himself to not only be a good leader....

MATTHEWS:  Mitt and McCain, is that the field? 

CARD:  Well, I think  there are others.  You know, you got Rudi Giuliani, George Pataki... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:   You think Rudi will run? 

CARD:  ... Mike Huckabee.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know who‘s going to run.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re being generous.  But come on, do you think Rudi‘s running?

CARD:  I don‘t.  I don‘t.  But I know a lot of people who would like him to run, and out there working hard for him. 

MATTHEWS:  A Rudi campaign—a McCain/Rudi ticket would be tough to beat. 

CARD:  It would be a tough ticket.  A touch ticket.

MATTHEWS:  But McCain—this other guy, Mitt Romney, started to warm me up lately.  I think...

CARD:  But you know, the voters that are going to the polls in a few days, five days, they‘re the ones that should be paying attention to taxes.  Because if the Democrats win, taxes are going to go up.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CARD:  Republicans win, we‘ll keep taxes down.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve paid for your dinner tonight.

Let me ask you—I know you believe it.  Let me—it is the selling point for Republicans.  There‘s are reason your party‘s been in the House for years, in control.  It‘s people fear more taxes from the Dems. 

Let me ask you, what‘s the boss going to do now that he‘s out in two years?  Where‘s he going?  He‘s not going to go sit a library somewhere?

CARD:  Oh, no, non, no.  He will always be an active American.  He‘ll be a great citizen to this country.  And he‘s someone that cares a lot about the world.

MATTHEWS:  Is that rumor true, he wants to go in the Peace Corps for couple years in Africa?  Is that true?

CARD:  I haven‘t heard that rumor.  But I can tell you this much.  The issue that was number one on his mind when he took office was educating kids.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

CARD:  Leaving no child behind.  It was the first initiative that he presented to Congress.  We got the No Child Behind Act passed.  He is committed to making sure that kids get a good education, they know how to read and they‘re prepared for the future. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are the papers going? 

CARD:  Where are the papers going? 

MATTHEWS:  Presidential papers for him. 

CARD:  No decision has been made.  It‘ll be in Texas.  And we‘re looking at a bunch of different options.  I happen to serve on the committee that‘s helping the advise the president and the first lady on that. 

MATTHEWS:  A & M is Bush, Sr. and Jimmy Baker‘s at Rice.  So there‘s a few schools left over. 

CARD:  That‘s right.  We‘ve got a lot of good schools in Texas. 

MATTHEWS:  How about Wesleyan?

CARD:  A lot of good schools in Texas.  And he‘ll be taking a hard at them, I think SMU and Baylor. 

MATTHEWS:  I think I‘d pick SMU.  I‘d pick—Laura Bush being a Methodist, it makes perfect sense.  Thank you, I love figuring these things out.  You don‘t have to get involved.

Andy Card, former chief of staff to President Bush, left office without a scratch.

Up next, more predictions on who will win and lose on Tuesday from MSNBC‘s Mike Barnicle, the “National Review‘s” Kate O‘Beirne and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

How many seats will the Democrats gain in the House of the Representatives and in the Senate?  And how will the tight Senate races break?

For these and other predictions on election night, we turn to MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle, HARDBALL political analyst Kate O‘Beirne of the “National Review” and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. 

Well, it‘s tough now, because there‘s a number of races that have gotten very close and are almost unbreakable in terms of the numbers.  But I‘m going to detail each one of you people to take a minute or two and give me a capsulization of what Tuesday night is going to look like. 

We go to Boston to Mike Barnicle.  Mike Barnicle, when we‘re up at midnight, trying to cover this election, what will it look like to the country at that time? 

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  I think, Chris, it‘s going to look like to the country what it looks like right now in many, many states.  The people are consumed with worry and angst over the war in Iraq.  This is clearly going to carry out very favorably for the Democrats. 

I think maybe a couple of states that the Democrats thought they could win, pick up in the United States Senate, Tennessee being one of them, might not go their way, although, Harold Ford is the best candidate I‘ve seen out there this year.  But it‘s going to be a big wave for the Democrats fueled by all of this anxiety over the war in Iraq and the way the war has been managed. 

MATTHEWS:  Will the Democrats capture both houses? 

BARNICLE:  No.  No, the Democrats will capture the House certainly. 

And, you know, wouldn‘t it be great if it came down to even-Steven in the Senate and everybody had to go to Joe Lieberman to decide, rather than Dick Cheney. 

MATTHEWS:  You are fishing in troubled waters there, suggesting, Mike Barnicle, that Lieberman can‘t be trusted by his own Democratic caucus, which has once rejected him and will receive him back.

BARNICLE:  Well, Chris.  Chris, I mean, you know more about politics than anybody in America.  And you‘ve got to factor the resentment factor into this thing that has got to be within Joe at some point.  Everybody walks away from him after the primary loss to Lamont.  And he could end up being a really pivotal figure in the United States Senate.  So, you know, he could be standing there saying, you know, what are you guys going to do for me? 

MATTHEWS:  He would have that advantage.  Revenge is sweet, of course.

Tony Perkins, who opposes all of that kind of unchristian behavior, of course.  Tony, do you think that the Republicans have a shot at holding either house at this point. 

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  I do.  Two weeks ago, if you had asked me that question, I think they were in serious jeopardy.  I do think that they have a good chance of holding on both to the House and Senate.  And I think it comes down to two issues.  One was the New Jersey ruling a week and a half ago on the issue of marriage, imposing, essentially, same-sex marriage on that state, brings the issue of the domestic threat to the institution of marriage back into focus.  And then I think, you know, John Kerry‘s comments this week, kind of this, you know...

MATTHEWS:  What did he say this week that bothered you?

PERKINS:  Well, I think his comments about the military.

MATTHEWS:  What did he say?

PERKINS:  Well, I think his comments about, you know, if you really want to do—you do well in school—no, you know what he said. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I want to know what you think he said. 

PERKINS:  Well, I think what he said behind the lines of what he said was this Vietnam era mentality of the draft, where, you know you‘ve got to stay in school to avoid the draft and if you flunk out, you‘ll end up going over there in the rice paddies. 

MATTHEWS:  You think that‘s what he meant? 

PERKINS:  I really think that‘s what he meant. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t.  I don‘t think that‘s what he meant, but that‘s my opinion, based upon the context of what he was saying.  He was trashing Bush, trashing his, what he called his denial of facts, his honesty.  And in the midst of all that, he took this crack at the president‘s lack of book learning.  I don‘t think he was taking a crack at the soldiers.  If he did, he‘s an imbecile, and I don‘t think John Kerry is an imbecile.

PERKINS:  If he said it in a vacuum of never doing anything else to be dismissive toward our troops and our military, then I would say you are probably right.  But I would disagree with you.  I think that it shows that many of the liberals just don‘t have an understanding of how there are people that have such commitment to this country that they would volunteer to defend the ways and the ideas of this nation. 

And I think those two issues, those two issues bring back into focus for social conservatives what‘s at stake here.  You can put those in power who really have no appreciation for the core values of America.  And then of course you‘ve got activist judges, so you have activist judges and pacifist Democrats.  Those two I think should be a part of the Republicans‘ 72-hour voter turnout, because I think it‘s going to help.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back.  We have to go to Kate, as soon as get back.  Kate O‘Beirne, Mike Barnicle, Tony Perkins.  You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle, HARDBALL political analyst Kate O‘Beirne of “The National Review” and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Kate, your picture, Tuesday night, what are we going to be doing at midnight?  Talking about how Democrats won the House and didn‘t quite win the Senate?  Where are we at by then? 

KATE O‘BEIRNE, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think we will be talking about what a good day the Democrats had.  I think we will be looking at them having taken the House.  Maybe we will be saying, people like myself, the Irish Catholic message would be, it could have been worse.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘BEIRNE:  Could have been worse.  Given that they were, what, like over 40 seats in contention?  And so if it winds up being half that, I think Republicans will take some comfort in that. 

I don‘t think it looks as though they are going to take the Senate.  There will probably be some surprises.  People—some who are written off who will pull it off.  We will be talking about having—the Republicans having lost a bunch of governorships, too.  They currently hold, as you know, 28.  They will probably be down by about six.  We will be talking about what a blowout Hillary Clinton enjoyed in New York. 

MATTHEWS:  Sixty-five percent...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘BEIRNE:  Exactly, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  And Arnold Schwarzenegger back in—having turned to becoming a Democrat, more or less, he has won big. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And what about the best concession speech of the night, what do you think?  Santorum?  He‘ll give out a Churchillian address, I expect.

O‘BEIRNE:  I think Senator Santorum, should that happen, will be really worth listening to, and I assume Bob Casey Jr. won‘t be.  He has not been yet during the whole campaign... 

MATTHEWS:  This is funny!  This is funny!

O‘BEIRNE:  ... worth listening to.  I think the Republicans probably hold Tennessee, although I agree with people who talk about what a terrific candidate Harold Ford has been. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘BEIRNE:  I think Jim Talent wins in Missouri.  It‘s, as you know, a barely sort of red state.  They have really close races. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s pretty impressive.

O‘BEIRNE:  But a lot of Republicans like their chances where they have got their candidates within two or three points, because they think, as you heard, their ground game can deliver. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike, do you expect anything to pop over the weekend, from the president in terms of—I just heard in the paper today, buried in “The Washington Post,” the fact that British intelligence, MI-5 or 6, whichever it is, has been able to get out of these suspects in that terrorists case that broke a few months ago, that they were planning to blow up those planes over the United States, over big cities, or crash them into big cities, instead of over the Atlantic.  I am amazed the president has not jumped on that disclosure we have now of a really close call with terrorism here. 

BARNICLE:  I think it‘s too late for anything like that.  Given the conduct and the management of this war that settled into people‘s minds in this country, I think it‘s way too late for that.  And off of something that Tony said in the earlier segment, it‘s hard for me to imagine, having been to several states and looked at several different races, that anyone going into a voting booth would decide for themselves that the possibility of civil unions or gay marriage is a more relevant and more important issue to their lives and the life of the country than is the war in Iraq.  That individual would be in need of serious, serious therapy. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Perkins, I did notice going over the NBC “Wall Street Journal” list of issues people care about, the phrase “moral values” was very near the bottom. 

PERKINS:  You have eight states that have amendments on the ballot, and what we are talking about here is voter turnout.  We are not talking about general polls of the populace.  We‘re talking about who shows up and who votes on Election Day.  Everybody knows that‘s what wins elections.  And when you look at in particular two key states where you have got Senate races, Virginia and Tennessee, you have marriage amendments on the ballot. 

All of the ballot measures in the eight states are polling about 50 percent.  They usually poll five to 10 percentage points below where they end up.  That‘s turnout.  That‘s going to have an impact in both those senatorial and congressional races, just as it did in 2004 -- not as widespread, but it‘s still going to have a significant impact, and it is an issue.  It is an issue about reaching those that care about the moral values issues. 

Do they care about Iraq?  Certainly, they do.  But they also care about judges redefining marriage and redefining marriage and family out of existence.  So they will be voting based on that issue. 

O‘BEIRNE:  Chris, your question about why wouldn‘t the president be talking more—today, he‘s talking about judges.  That‘s overdue, because that is a popular issue for the Republicans, and they haven‘t been doing enough of it.

But when you mention terror, it‘s tough, as a White House official told me last week, to get credit for something that has not happened.  A lot of people are doing something right, including this administration, given that we have not been attacked again, but it‘s tough to get credit for something that has not happened. 

MATTHEWS:  We thank them, seriously.

Anyway, Mike Barnicle, thanks for joining us.  Kate O‘Beirne and Tony Perkins.

Play HARDBALL with us again Friday, and keep watching MSNBC‘s non-stop “Decision 2006” coverage.  Guests tomorrow include Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Jim DeMint, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and White House Counselor Dan Bartlett.

Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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