updated 11/6/2006 11:48:24 AM ET 2006-11-06T16:48:24

Guests: Howard Fineman, Chuck Todd, Frank Donatelli, Steve Jarding, Kim Brace, David Kay, Joe Trippi, Charlie Black

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bad news for Bush.  If you like the Foley scandal, get a load of this sugarplum.  A top pro-Bush evangelical—in fact, a leader of all evangelicals—gets caught in a gay sex and drugs scandal. 

Plus, Congressional Republicans get blamed for spreading nuclear secrets.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Tonight, with only four days before millions of Americans go to the polls, a flurry of breaking news stories that could make a difference in tight races: a major pro-Bush church leader gets caught in a gay sex and drugs scandal, and congressional Republicans get blamed for spreading nuclear secrets. 

Polls consistently show that the bad news from Iraq is the top concern for voters.  Iraq is the number one issue going into the election.  Sunday is Judgment Day for Saddam Hussein.  Iraq is bracing for more violence ahead of the verdict, but if Saddam gets the death sentence, will American voters give some points to President Bush and his Republican Party? 

Today on the campaign trail, President Bush blasted the Democrats for not giving a plan or having a plan to win the war on terror.  But the president‘s tough talk comes in the wake of a “New York Times” report that the Bush administration, under pressure from congressional Republicans, posted sensitive documents on a Web site which could give terrorists themselves a basic road map to building a nuclear bomb.  Will this hurt Republicans on running Bush‘s signature of national security? 

And Republicans need a bit evangelical turnout to win on Tuesday, but Christian conservatives already turned off by news of the Foley scandal now have something else to think about: claims that an evangelical leader Ted Haggard was cavorting with a gay prostitute who also doubled as his drug dealer.  Christian conservatives may forgive, but come Election Day will they forget?

“Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an NBC News political analyst, and Chuck Todd is the editor in chief of “The Hotline.” 

I don‘t know what to say, gentlemen, except that you could start with the first one.  What does this guy Ted Haggard—he‘s apparently the guy who‘s on the phone with the White House every day.  He‘s the linchpin, the link, if you will, between the Christian conservative community and the White House, the West Wing and the Bible Belt, if you will. 

And now it turns out he‘s been either digging into the collection plate and paying for sex with a gay guy, a prostitute, for the last two or three years—some stories are actually over the top.  Let me ask you—we‘ll start with that.  We‘ll get to the nuclear secrets being disseminated by the people on Capitol Hill next. 

What do you make of this one? 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  Look, I think this is a -

you know, this is in—Focus on the Family kind of—this is Colorado Springs, this is where James Dobson makes his headquarters and, you know, all this stuff.  So it‘s the heart of sort of the headquarters of evangelical America. 

I think on the margins it doesn‘t—it‘s only going to matter on the margins.  It probably costs another House seat in Colorado.  I‘ll be honest with you.  There was one that was teetering on the edge and I thought Republicans were going to keep.  It‘s probably going to cost them that. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are you going to believe in that world of Christian conservatives if the top guy now—and it looks like the speakership and all those other people were involved with keeping the lid on that Foley story.  You must wonder if they‘re with you or against you. 

TODD:  No, I think it‘s going to cost.  I think there‘s going to be a huge—look, one of the big fallouts from this election cycle is going to be who runs the evangelical world.  And, you know, in an odd way, all these scandals, you know, who is this going to help? 

John McCain, because if they‘re not organized and if they‘re fighting with each other, they‘re not fighting John McCain as a unified thing.  So in some ways it may—you know, there‘s some parts of the Republican Party that are going to be glad that the evangelicals are self-destructing. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Yes, the Republicans are already at war with each other over this.  You have Dick Armey, formerly in the House leadership, you know, basically attacking the role of James Dobson and other leaders of the evangelical movement, Dobson firing back.  Richard Land, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention also fighting back, telling Armey in so many words to shut up.  So this just exacerbates that.  I agree with Chuck. 

The other thing is, a lot of this right now is about psychology in the last few days.  We‘re talking about waves.  Is there one?  I don‘t think actually this story will have that much effect on evangelicals.  I think it has more of the effect on the Democrats. 

I think the Democrats smell a sense of disarray on the other side.  I think Democratic organizers and so on will be energized by this story.  I know that sounds a little crazy, but I think they think they have the Republican coalition on the run and it‘s going to energize their workers to get out and work all day on Tuesday. 

TODD:  Psychology is a big deal.  The Kerry story, for two days, provided Republicans some psychological lift and now this is sort of like a punch back in the stomach. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about this nuclear question.  As part of their effort to try to find out what was available in terms of WMD, apparently the Congressional Republicans have put out something on a Web site which gives you a road map, it said, to nuclear production.

FINEMAN:  Well, there are a lot of questions about this story.  I mean, some people think that that material that‘s out there has actually been out there for quite some time.  There are some people who only half facetiously suggest that that‘s where Saddam got it in the first place years ago, from public sources.  So there‘s a little uncertainly about that.

I must say, as far as the dynamics of this midterm election season are

concerned, the die is already cast about Iraq.  I don‘t care what happens

in the verdict on Saddam on Sunday, the American people have concluded

overwhelmingly that going there was a mistake, that it did not make us

safer, and that George Bush not only mismanaged us into the war, but has

mismanaged it since.  That‘s what this whole election is about, and this

story—I don‘t think—has that much effect on that dynamic.  That‘s

already set, in my view

MATTHEWS:  OK, Sunday‘s news tends to be boring.  We have the Sunday shows that obviously produce some of it, but that‘s somewhat—that‘s political and artificial to some extent because it‘s talk show material and that gets on the Monday papers. 

But what do you do if the big story coming out Sunday night is the verdict on Saddam Hussein.  Let‘s assume he‘s convicted of murder, not a hard charge to make in this case.  Is that going to create riots, and will the riots overwhelm the importance and the success of having gotten a case through here? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think there will be riots, of course.  I mean, the Sunnis and the Shia are at war in Iraq, and Saddam was the leader of the Sunnis. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Shia should be thrilled. 

FINEMAN:  Well, they should be thrilled but they‘re not necessarily the ones who are instigating a lot of the incidents going on over there and you don‘t have to like Dick Cheney to kind of agree with him, that the people over there in Iraq, the bad guys, know very much that there‘s a relationship between what happens there and what happens here.  So I think you can almost guarantee that there will be some jubilation in some places and a split screen of violence elsewhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get that straight—you don‘t have to like Dick Cheney to believe this, right? 

FINEMAN:  Yes, exactly.   

MATTHEWS:  Just kidding.  Let me go to you ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, let me ask you about this overall box this election comes in come Tuesday morning.  It‘s going to come wrapped in these kinds of stories.  The Iraq war is the biggest wrapping and, of course, the verdict on Saddam Hussein I think would probably give some uplifted spirits to people to say at least we‘re getting something done over there. 

TODD:  Are they going to execute him though immediately? 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no.  I mean, he‘ll probably have an appeal right?

FINEMAN:  Maliki says he would like to. 

TODD:  If they‘re introduced American justice to him it will be forever, but anyway, go ahead.   

MATTHEWS:  Right, well, then that thing goes, creeps along, but it is good news for those who want some kind of justice over there, who believe that was the reason we went there is because he was a tyrant and an evil man. 

What about these other stories, this endless sort of oddity the Republican Party has taken a position against gay rights generally—I know they don‘t want to hear this, but that‘s been their positioning—and then they find they‘ve got the Foley scandal and the leadership involved. 

And now this big evangelical who was their pipeline to the Bible Belt, he is involved in this sexual professional thing, buying sex from some guy.  God knows if he‘s using the collection money or not.

Don‘t they say, wait a minute, maybe we‘re not what we think we are? 

What is the reaction on the cultural right to these creepy stories?

TODD:  I‘m more interested in what‘s going to be the reaction of the libertarian right.  OK, this has been the problem ...

MATTHEWS:  Who never liked this church.

TODD:  Who have never been into it.  They‘re sort of—there is such a think as secularist Republicans, secularist conservatives. 

MATTHEWS:  Barry Goldwater was one.

TODD:  That‘s right.  Ronald Reagan was one and he just sort of did what he had to do with the evangelicals.  You know that the swing—that the vote that the Republicans have lost in this election or are losing is that vote.  It‘s this libertarian, secularist conservative, and these stories, I think, sort of drive—just sort of really hit these independents—these conservative independents harder than any other part of the Republican coalition. 

FINEMAN:  Well, they‘ll be an inclination among some to say it‘s just another conspiracy by the so-called mainstream media to depress our turnout and so forth, but I struck by that “New York Times” poll the other day, if that‘s accurate, that said that about half of evangelicals—self-described evangelicals—were prepared to vote for the Democratic candidate in this midterm election. 

If that number is anywhere close to accurate, that‘s going to be one of the big stories on election night, depending on whether we have some exit poll information to look at, because that means that there‘s been a huge falling away way of what has been the huge crucial base constituency that Karl Rove has focused on from the time he began building George Bush‘s campaign for governor more than a decade ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you wonder about the old rule of Lord Acton that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  It seems like the more you‘re in office, it may have taken the Republicans a lot less time to catch up to the Democrat when it came to those old problems of too much power.

Howard Fineman, thank you, Chuck Todd, and Chris Cillizza who never showed up. 

Up next, we‘ll have the latest—he‘ll be here—the latest news on the Virginia Senate race and the talk with the Webb campaign‘s Steve Jarding and the Allen campaign‘s Frank Donatelli.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Virginia‘s Senate battle between George Allen and Jim Webb is a nasty fight to the finish.  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is in Alexandria, right across the Potomac from here. 

David, what does it feel like over there tonight? 

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, today was an unusual day, I suppose, in that there were no fights between supporters and campaign workers, there was no allegations about the “n” word or somebody‘s views about women. 

Instead, however, there was a big argument today between the campaigns about money and who‘s got it here at the end.  The Democrats are suggesting that Republican George Allen has run out of money, evidenced, they say, by the fact that Allen is not spending as heavily in the Washington, D.C.  television market as a lot of people had expected.  The Allen campaign says, no, that‘s not true at all.  We still have buys left in the Washington area, but furthermore, we‘re advertising much more heavily in other parts of the state, where our base is located. 

In any case, Chris, this is certainly not the position where Republicans wanted to see George Allen here at the end.  Every poll over the last couple of days has indicated that this race is neck and neck, that both candidates are within the margin of error with each other.  So here at the end, you have both campaigns bringing out the big guns. 

You have Rudy Giuliani, who is expected to campaign with George Allen this weekend.  You have people like the governor of Virginia and others.  Bob Kerrey, the former senator from Nebraska, is going to be campaigning with Jim Webb.  And then Bill Clinton‘s going to be right here this very spot with Jim Webb on Monday night.  Again, nobody‘s entirely sure, Chris, how this particular race is going to turn out. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go through those visitors, those lucky visitors.  I mean, how does Giuliani help Allen in this race?  He‘s a northeastern liberal on all the social issues, here he is coming into the Old Dominion trying to say that he and George Allen are soul brothers.  I don‘t see how it works.

SHUSTER:  Well, it fits with what Allen has been saying this week.  I mean, Allen had an event yesterday where he talked about African-Americans, and Allen is certainly trying to make inroads with minorities and with some of the groups that might be angry with him, and by bringing in Rudy Giuliani, who has a certain appeal among women and minorities... 

MATTHEWS:  No, he doesn‘t.  He doesn‘t have—he doesn‘t have appeal among minorities.  New York City blacks can‘t stand the guy. 

SHUSTER:  Well, but Chris, remember, we‘re not talking—well, that may be true, but we‘re not talking about New York City blacks, we‘re talking about Virginians, and minorities who may not realize whatever particular issues blacks might have in New York City.  They basically see Rudy Giuliani as the hero of 9/11, as somebody who is a more moderate perhaps politician than George Allen. 

And when you have George Allen standing next to Rudy Giuliani, the idea that George Allen is some sort of Southern guy who likes to waive the Confederate flag, that seems like an image that gets pushed aside because there he is with Rudy Giuliani.

MATTHEWS:  OK, David, sorry to argue with me—I‘m sorry to argue with you, I should say. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, thank you.  David Shuster across the Potomac River right now in Alexandria.

Steve Jarding is an adviser to Jim Webb‘s campaign in Virginia, and Frank Donatelli, an old pal of the world here—everybody likes him—is an adviser to George Allen.

Is George Allen as nice a guy as you are, Frank?  He doesn‘t look like a good guy lately.  He looks angry.  He looks nervous.  He doesn‘t look like the old backslapping, affable George Allen I‘ve known over the years.

FRANK DONATELLI, ALLEN CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Chris, it‘s been a tough campaign, but I have known George Allen for almost 20 years and I can tell you that every campaign he has ever been involved in, he‘s been open, he‘s been optimistic, he‘s been open to new ideas, and that‘s why a lot of people, including myself, think that he has a lot of resemblances to Ronald Reagan. 

MATTHEWS:  Ronald Reagan would give an occasional press conference.  George Allen for weeks now has refused any contact with any media, even conservative media, as far as I can tell.  He‘s talked to nobody. 

DONATELLI:  Well, he‘s on the campaign stump the whole time.

MATTHEWS:  No, but he‘s out there doing the hoopla and the balloons are popping and the confetti cannons are working, but no contact with people that might ask him a question.

DONATELLI:  Well, people ask him questions all the time. 

MATTHEWS:  Who?  Who does? 

DONATELLI:  He‘s been on the road every time...

MATTHEWS:  Why is he hiding?

DONATELLI:  He‘s not hiding.  He‘s been giving campaign speeches. 

He‘s been appearing at rallies.

MATTHEWS:  OK, name the last show, radio show or newspaper interview he‘s given.  Just name one.

DONATELLI:  He‘s doing Sean Hannity today. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

DONATELLI:  You asked for one, right? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That would make sense.

DONATELLI:  I‘m sorry it‘s not MSNBC. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, it‘s just a friend.  Go ahead, go ahead.

STEVE JARDING, WEBB CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, I would like to see him talk to the Virginia media.  But I think part of the problem in the Allen campaign is it‘s been—this is an individual that is out of touch.  He started this thing having to defend a record.  He has never had to do that, never run for reelection.  He‘s been with the president almost 100 percent of the time on all issues, 97 percent overall.  This is an individual by his actions and words have stumbled throughout this campaign. 

It is a campaign that‘s in trouble.  We have two publications just last week, “National Journal,” Republican operatives saying it‘s the worst run campaign in America, 55 percent of them.  Ten percent said Katherine Harris.  She was second.  We have “The Washington Post‘s” Fix saying it‘s the worst campaign...

MATTHEWS:  But you‘ve got the worst candidate.  This guy Webb is not a great politician.   He looks like a stiff.  He‘s been sitting in that chair, he looks like a stiff.  But let me ask you, why haven‘t you guys—can we talk turkey? 

I know Northern Virginia politics, I don‘t know southern Virginia—a lot of single women, as anybody would guess, a lot of women come to work in Washington, a lot of job opportunities and career opportunities, they end up being single a lot, they live in Virginia.  They are very pro-choice, they want to have women‘s rights and all that.

You guys have never really advertised the fact that Jim Webb is pro-choice.  You have let that go.  And you have let these guys beat him up on a book he wrote 200 years ago that makes women look sexy.  Excuse me, why didn‘t you play the card you had, which is the pro-choice card? 

JARDING:  Well, first of all, the campaign is not over and there‘s a lot of ways to reach voters...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Friday night. 

JARDING:  It is Friday, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Why haven‘t you played the pro-choice card with the single women of Northern Virginia?

JARDING:  Well, we‘re going to be fine with single women in Northern Virginia and married women in both in the inner suburbs and the outer suburbs.  Our numbers reflect that.  We‘re also doing very well with men.  We‘re about even with men.  There‘s normally a big gender gap there.  That is not there.

MATTHEWS:  Among white men?

JARDING:  Among white men.  We‘re doing extremely well amongst African-Americans.  We‘re ahead down in Hampton Roads, which a Republican normally has to win by...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re ahead among white men?  You got the election knocked. 

JARDING:  No, we‘re about even with white men.  We‘re ahead in Hampton Roads.  It‘s not knocked.  We take nothing for granted.  We have got to turn our vote, Chris.  But we feel pretty good about where we‘re at. 

MATTHEWS:  Frank.

DONATELLI:  Yes, let me just say, I wish that—I hope this election is about Senator Allen‘s record, as Steve says, because if it is, Senator Allen will be fine. 

You had asked earlier what does he have in common with Rudy Giuliani?  They‘re both tough on terrorism.   When Senator Allen was governor, he remade welfare.  Giuliani remade welfare.  They both remade crime, both very tough on crime.  On all those issues, Giuliani and Allen are together. 

I wish we knew where Mr. Webb was on more issues.  He seems to be content to run this campaign by thinking that he‘s running against George Bush.  He‘s running against George Allen.

JARDING:  Well, the fact of the matter is, he‘s not hiding from the media and George Allen is.  What we would like to know is where is George Allen on stem cell research.  Why is he against...

DONATELLI:  He‘s for it.  He‘s for it.

JARDING:  Oh, please.  

DONATELLI:  He‘s for it.  He is not for embryonic stem cell research. 

JARDING:  He is not.  He is not.

DONATELLI:  You asked me.  He‘s for it.

JARDING:  No, but you‘re not being truthful.  He‘s not for it.  We all know that.  We know his record on this issue.

DONATELLI:  You want to show me the votes where he‘s...

JARDING:  I‘m aware of the votes.  I‘m aware of the votes.

DONATELLI:  Well, you asked me a question, I give you an answer, and you say you don‘t like the answer.

JARDING:  You gave the wrong answer.  You gave the answer that...

(CROSSTALK)

DONATELLI:  I didn‘t give you the answer you wanted to hear.

JARDING:  No, it was an untrue answer.  He‘s not for stem cell research.

DONATELLI:  He‘s for stem cell research.  He‘s not for embryonic stem cell research.

JARDING:  No, he‘s flipped there on that issue.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why are challenging him?  He‘s making the point—if he is making technically—it is embryonic we‘re talking about.  We‘re talking about embryos being used for experimentation.

JARDING:  That‘s fine, but you just asked a question about women.  Women don‘t like his position on stem cell research.  They don‘t like the fact that the first vote he took was against medical—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking about George Allen. 

JARDING:  George Allen now.  They don‘t like his position on choice.  This is a guy that got in trouble in a campaign and he started to try to moderate himself.  Look at what he did on the war.  This guy—

MATTHEWS:  Why do you use phrases like choice?  Why don‘t you say abortion rights?  Why doesn‘t everybody use—

(CROSSTALK)

DONATELLI:  Is he for abortion under all circumstances?

JARDING:  George Allen?

DONATELLI:  Webb?

JARDING:  No.

DONATELLI:  Well then he‘s not for choice. 

JARDING:  And he has said as much.  But the issue in this campaign—

George Allen is running a campaign that is arguably—I mean look at the adds that he has put up.  He‘s got an ad with a woman that says I was misquoted and she‘s never been quoted.  He‘s got an ad saying that Jim Webb wants to raise taxes.  Jim Webb has said just the opposite on those taxes. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is winning right now? 

DONATELLI:  Allen is slightly ahead and he‘ll win because -- 

MATTHEWS:  Who is winning right now? 

JARDING:  Well I don‘t—He says Allen, but every poll out there shows Webb‘s ahead.  Our own track shows that.  It‘s going to be a close race.  We think we have got the momentum.  I do believe Allen is out of money.  We have had an NRSC—an NRSC official said they put a little more money in because Allen was broke. 

MATTHEWS:  I can tell you the bad news, frankly, I was watching television last night and all I saw were Webb ads. 

DONATELLI:  OK, well that‘s a lot of Democratic Senatorial Committee money.  If this election is about issues, Senator Allen has a record.  Mr.  Webb is a novelist and a Hollywood producer. 

JARDING:  Well, nice try. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey look, if this isn‘t American politics at its best and it‘s worst, take a listen, this is what it‘s all about, these last minute points that may turn this election, which will probably come down to a point or two.  Thank you very much Steve Jarding, thank you Frank Donatelli. 

Up next, a lot of voters will use brand new voting machines come Tuesday.  Will they work?  I‘m talking about the machines.  Can we be sure?  NBC‘s Chip Reid will be here to talk about it.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  One third of U.S. voters will use different voting equipment this year than the last time they voted.  That‘s the biggest change in American history.  NBC‘s Chip Reid has the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  About 16 million Americans will use electronic voting machines for the first time this year.  For Wendy Noren, clerk of Boone County Missouri, the shift has been overwhelming. 

WENDY NOREN, BOONE COUNTY CLERK:  They definitely make my job much more complicated, particularly a duel system.  Lots more training going on, lots more testing. 

REID:  And lots of worrying for voting officials about voter confusion, machine break downs and long lines, and about poll workers, average age 72, who are unfamiliar with computers.  Some states don‘t require a paper trail, making recounts all but impossible and some critics even worry about computer hackers manipulating election results. 

ElectionLine.org, a non-partisan research group, finds in this recent report there could be chaos at the polls at worst and widespread polling place snafus at best. 

DOUG CHAPIN, ELECTIONLINE.ORG:  What makes 2006 so unique is the variety of places in which you could have that combination of a close election and election problems. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If it‘s not going on, chances are you have it backwards. 

REID:  And it‘s not just new machines.  Some states have new voter I.D. requirements, which are expected to add to the confusion.  On election day voters who have complaints or questions about voting can call a national hotline.

REID (on camera):  There is some good news on the voting front, one major recent study concluded that far more votes are lost using old systems, like punch cards, than using new systems, like electronic voting. 

Chip Reid, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  That‘s NBC‘s Chip Reid.  So how much voter confusion should we expect this time around?  Kim Brace is president of Election Data Services.  He is an expert on election administration and the census.  Well Kim, tell me, what does it like coming into this election, based on the last election in 2004? 

KIM BRACE, PRES. ELECTION DATA SERVICES:  Well, we have a potential of a lot of problems.  Certainly, we have got a lot more change going on out around the country.  As chip‘s report showed, we have got upwards of 33 percent of the nation‘s voters who will be voting on new equipment this time.  That‘s since 2004.  And it‘s really been—almost 2/3 of the nation has made a change since the 2000 election. 

So we have all this turmoil and all this change going on.  It does make it hard for election administrators.  It‘s not only the voting equipment, it‘s the new voter registration system.  All of these requirements that HAVA (ph) put into place, that was put into place probably too late, with too short of a timetable.  That‘s all going to come down to roost on Tuesday. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, we‘re all getting used to the ATM machine.  It used to be you had to cash a check at a bar or somewhere.  Now you can go to an ATM machine.  It‘s a touch-screen system.  Has that educated most Americans to how to use a touch screen election machine? 

BRACE:  It has helped to a certain degree, but there is still—It‘s not like going to get your money out.  You‘ve got a lot of choices on it.  It‘s got new screens on it.  Some of those new screens, just this last week, was shown that you had some of the names dropping off.  I have looked at a Diebold machine a couple of weeks ago and we ended up seeing where it should have been a vote for no more than for, it simply said vote for no more than.   

MATTHEWS:  Have you seen that movie “Man of the Year.”

BRACE:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s about the fact that some of these machines—

They call it the de la Croix Corporation.  I think they‘re clearly talking about Diebold.  That things do have systemic problems, that things can go wrong in the way the software is built. 

BRACE:  Well, the software is a delicate issue.  You have got vendors that have spent an enormous amount of money to develop this software and a lot of people want to have that software totally out in the open.  Of course, if it‘s totally out in the open, then anybody can end up figuring out how to hack it or how to make the changes.  So you‘re caught in a delicate position. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the best way to count votes.  If you had to just go with the best, not the fastest, what would be the best? 

BRACE:  Well, I always tell state and local election administrators that really every system has its pluses and its minuses.  You just have to be cognizant of what those minuses are, so they don‘t come back and bite you, you know where.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s wrong with old time paper ballots, where you put an X on the spot, where you want to vote for somebody?  What‘s wrong with that system?  

BRACE:  It‘s fine if you‘re only voting for one office.  In this country, we vote for everything.  We want to elect dog catcher.  We want to vote on propositions, and so those kind of paper ballots take an enormous amount of time.  We all want to know what the results are on Tuesday night by 10:00 for the news.  If we went to all paper ballots, we wouldn‘t know for several weeks.   

MATTHEWS:  OK, we wouldn‘t like that here at MSNBC.

BRACE:  That‘s true. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much Kim Brace.  And a reminder, if you encounter problems trying to vote, call our hot line at 866-MyVote.  Up next we‘ll talk with former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you Margaret and welcome back to HARDBALL.  With just four days to go before voters go to the polls, a developing story may influence the elections.  The Bush administration and the intelligence community posted sensitive documents on a Web site that detail Iraqi‘s nuclear research prior to the first Gulf War and that could, in turn, help our enemies build nuclear weapons. 

For more we turn to NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.  Andrea, start at the beginning of this story.  What are these documents and why were they released on the web? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well this is more than 16,000 pages of documents captured from Saddam Hussein and the nuclear documents predate this Gulf War, because this is a nuclear program that he had before the first Gulf War. 

But the documents were put up on the Web because the administration and its partners on the hill, the chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, wanted to, first of all, embarrass the intelligence agencies, and say, look you haven‘t found WMD.  Well, it‘s probably there.  Let‘s put it on the web and let every blogger and every laymen take a look at it.  They‘ll find something there. 

And also later to reinforce that, you know, Saddam Hussein was serious about trying to get WMD.  He really was trying it.  So let‘s justify, again, the reason for going into the war in the first place. 

MATTHEWS:  And what is the exposure this has created for us?

MITCHELL:  Well, the exposure, initially was resisted by John Negroponte and the intelligence professionals.  They didn‘t want to put this stuff up there.  They were supposed, though, to vet it properly and they obviously let down their guard and didn‘t, because after the president personally ordered this, they were posted last March and then the most sensitive documents apparently were posted in September, and these are the nuclear documents that the U.N. is now blowing the whistle on. 

The U.N. inspectors have said this stuff should not be up there.  It involves how to build a nuclear trigger, how to build a bomb.  It‘s not a cookbook, but it‘s highly specific, technical data that that should not be up there for terrorists and rogue nations, like Iran, to see.  Iran was well on its way before this.  Probably this didn‘t affect Iran, but it certainly could affect others. 

MATTHEWS: You know, I have always wondered—You and I have been through some of this in history and that‘s going back to the first time we had the nuclear weapon, obviously used against Japan in 1945.  And it didn‘t take many years for the Soviets to get, not just the Atomic bomb, but the Hydrogen bomb, which they basically got—they exploded one just about the time we did.  Why has it taken so long for these countries to develop what we had a half-century ago? 

MITCHELL:  Well, it‘s tough.  It is a very difficult, technical procedure.  Plus they have to have the fuel, the fissile material.  And the most remarkable thing, and we really have to credit Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar and their colleagues in the Senate, controlling all of that nuclear fuel that was available after the fall of the Soviet empire, controlling it, getting brought to the United States. 

Then again, this administration doing the same with Libya.  So there have been some successes, but the fact that the terrorists haven‘t gotten it is really remarkable so far, but this is not the kind of thing that should be out there. 

The strange thing politically is that though, it‘s very complicated.  It probably won‘t have an impact this late in the election.  And Chris, the Democrats really don‘t know how to utilize this.  Some of the were saying, shrugging their shoulders today, and saying, you know, if we had done this, if Democrats in Congress had done this, there would be torches burned in Washington as they marched down the streets, Republicans calling us traitors.  It‘s probably true. 

MATTHEWS:  Certainly.  Thank you very much Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News. 

David Kay led the hunt for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for the CIA.  He also served as the U.N.‘s chief nuclear weapons inspector, following the Gulf War. 

David, you know, it seem to me once again we see the blow back here of the administration trying to prove something—the war—we needed to go to war because of potentially even nuclear weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein.  We had the whole CIA leak story, involved with the efforts to kind of cover up what they new. 

I think there‘s questions raised in the Woodward book about the vice president‘s role in this, in terms of the 16 words the president used to sell us on the nuclear threat from Saddam Hussein that turned out not to be true.  What do you make of this decision to release this information about nuclear weapons on the web, in an effort to try to prove, somehow again, that the war was fought legitimately? 

DAVID KAY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR:  It‘s shear stupidity.  Plus it‘s illegal.  We violate our own treaty obligations in letting this out.  This is clearly what is called R.D., restricted data.  It should not have been out there.  It‘s highly dangerous.  It‘s very useful for states, even like Iran, who are meeting some of the same technical challenges the Iraqis met in the 1980‘s. 

It should not have been out there.  I‘m absolutely convinced, and most people don‘t remember, but we went through this again in the Spring.  In the spring, Congressman Hoekstra announced, with Rick Santorum, that we had found WMD in Iraq.  It was old mustard shells from the 1980‘s.  They are desperate to prove a case.

MATTHEWS:  You know, when I talk to people who are very loyal to this administration, I try to find whether we can all agree on something, like there weren‘t any WMD there.  You know, and there wasn‘t a connection to 9/11.  One of the stumbling blocks in the argument is you can‘t prove a negative.  They will say all that nuclear material, everything that we said was there, was shifted to Syria before we got in there.  Any evidence of that?

KAY:  Absolutely no evidence.  I spent a great deal of time, and teams I led, trying to run that one down, as did my successor.  The material was not there to be shifted, so nothing was shifted. 

MATTHEWS:  The danger now in the airwaves, as—as we all learn that anything that gets on the Web, in the Internet world, stays there forever.  It‘s like those radio messages on their way to Mars or somewhere.  They never seem to die.  Is that a fact?

KAY:  That‘s absolutely...

MATTHEWS:  No matter what is done now, it‘s irretrievable?

KAY:  Yes, in fact, it‘s probably still up on the Web today, even though it was pulled down by the government.  Because what happens is there are a number of sites that cache the material.  And so if you‘ve got a web crawler, you can go and find out where it still exists. 

And quite frankly, if you‘re running a nuclear weapons program clandestinely, you could be sure that you‘re searching every day for that. 

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t we teach nuclear physics in all our universities? 

If a guy comes here from another country, he may be dangerous politically.  He studies nuclear physics at a good university in the United States, at Cal Tech and Michigan State and MIT.  Doesn‘t he or she go home with a lot of information about how to build a nuclear weapon?

KAY:  They go home with a lot of information.  But the dirty little secret about making a nuclear weapon is it‘s not physics; it‘s mostly engineering.  Those documents described the obstacles the Iraqis ran into and how they overcame those obstacles in actually putting the physics package together and in the enrichment cycle. 

So they‘re mostly engineering details.  You don‘t teach that; you learn that. 

MATTHEWS:  Or else check the Web. 

KAY:  Well, because this material...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s out there.

KAY:  ... is now out there.  It was not out there before.  This material is new to the Web.  Much of this material I actually seized in 1991. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take worst case.  Now we know that the biggest challenge, as Andrea pointed out, was keeping the information in the hands of the Soviets when the Soviet regime went down in ‘91 after the failure—the failure of the Moscow coup...

KAY:  Keeping the material...

MATTHEWS:  ... and the end of the Soviet era.  That those engineers over there and the people who may not have much money, might be willing to sell some of those weapons themselves.  That‘s the major danger in the world, isn‘t it?

KAY:  That and the...

MATTHEWS:  Not the development. 

KAY:  And the nuclear material that the Soviets produced, which was in excess amounts.

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s the know-how and it‘s the material.  It‘s not the fact that somebody in the Islamic world—they‘re called Islamofascists now—that one of them would independently create something?

KAY:  No.  In fact, if that‘s all that‘s happened, we‘re pretty secure.  No.  Programs are jumping.  A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani, providing material both to the Iranians and to the North Koreans.  So it‘s the jumping from known weapons programs, not just the Soviet one, to states now trying to acquire those weapons. 

MATTHEWS:  But countries that have developed nuclear weapons, from South Africa to Israel to India to Pakistan, did they develop them based upon intelligence from the United States, or did they do it independently? 

KAY:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, Soviet development obviously came with the help of Klaus Fukes and people like that, right?

KAY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But the—how did it jump to these other countries, what we used to call third-world countries?

KAY:  The Pakistanis acquired a weapons design and other technical information from the Chinese.

MATTHEWS:  They‘ve been allies forever.  They‘ve always been allies.

KAY:  They‘ve been allies for a very long time. 

The South Africans, still very interesting question, whether there was collaboration.  Certainly...

MATTHEWS:  Collaboration with Israel?

KAY:  Well, not just with Israel.  Their enrichment technique looks like they have collaboration with the Brazilians.  Though collaboration runs many ways in this world.

MATTHEWS:  But Brazil doesn‘t have a nuclear weapon.

KAY:  Brazil was well on its way to having a nuclear weapons program.  They had a very innovative way for enriching uranium.  Actually, they‘ve now gone back and are reestablishing their uranium enrichment program today under the new government. 

MATTHEWS:  So let‘s just finish off here in terms of Saddam Hussein.  Sometime after the first Gulf War, where—before which he had been working on a nuclear weapon, somehow he decided not to go that direction, right?

KAY:  He decided to defer going that direction until the end—the inspections were too tough.  Wait until sanctions came off, whenever.  And of course, in the meantime, the spiral of corruption just ended, really, his scientific capability in this area. 

MATTHEWS:  So he was a potential threat down the road, but he wasn‘t an imminent threat?

KAY:  That‘s correct. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much, David Kay.

Breaking news right now, the Associated Press is reporting that Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, touched by the Abramoff scandal, has resigned.  Ney pleaded guilty last month to making false statements and to conspiracy to commit fraud in relation to the Jack Abramoff scandal.  They keep falling.

Up next, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and Republican strategist Charlie Black are going to be here. 

This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up a national evangelical leader resigns in a drug and gay sex scandal.  Will it turn off voters?  When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With just four days to go before the election, this weekend is do or die time for Democrats and Republicans around the country. 

In Virginia the Senate race between Republican George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb is now a statistical dead heat, according to some polling.  In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey is up eight points over Republican Rick Santorum, who‘s fighting for his political life, although I think he‘ll probably run for governor if he loses this one. 

And today in Missouri President Bush was campaigning for incumbent Senator Jim Talent, who trails Democrat Claire McCaskill by three points. 

For a look at what‘s in store this weekend as we get down to the wire, we turn to two smart guys, big shots: Joe Trippi, the Democrat; Charlie Black, the Republican. 

Charlie, your party, how does it look this weekend?

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  We‘ve actually had a pretty good week, Chris.  We‘ve seen a lot of movement, especially in Senate races, our way.  But also in a lot of the House races. 

MATTHEWS:  Give me the races where you‘re moving ahead. 

BLACK:  Well, in—for example in the Senate, Tennessee.  Montana is now dead even.  Conrad Burns has closed the gap.  Rhode Island, we‘ve closed the gap.  Maryland, Michael Steele has been gaining this week and making it a very competitive race.  We still have some that are very, very close. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with all of them except Rhode Island.  I‘m not sure.  But I think you‘re right about Steele; he‘s moved up.  And clearly, Montana, that guy Conrad Burns has life in him still.  And of course, in Tennessee the numbers are turning downhill for Harold Ford Jr. 

What do you think?

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I think that the Republican candidates have closed.  But I think, you know, Steele is not going to do it, and I don‘t think Rhode Island is going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Won‘t quite make it, will he?

TRIPPI:  No, I don‘t think o.  I think, look, the real...

MATTHEWS:  Steele has run the best campaign of the year, hasn‘t he?

TRIPPI:  He‘s run a pretty good campaign, but he‘s not going to make it there.  And the real tough races are still Montana and—and Missouri. 

MATTHEWS:  Why isn‘t Conrad Burns, who‘s tied to Abramoff and had the sleaze problem, and is getting old, and has done all the things wrong, why is he back in contention against the guy with the crew cut, Tester?

TRIPPI:  Tester is a great candidate.  And the fact is...

MATTHEWS:  Why is he back there almost beating him?

TRIPPI:  Well, he‘s almost—Tester is ahead there in all the polls I‘ve seen.  I think—look, it‘s going to come—this is going to come down to the end.  It‘s going to be who gets their votes out in that state.  They‘ve got—the Tester campaign has a great get out the vote operation and a great campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed—this is so fascinating about American politics.  I‘m going to have some fun here. 

The reason I think the Democrats have lost so many presidential elections over the year, they run these elite guys, these elitists, extremely educated guys who don‘t know what American life is like. 

You have, you know, what‘s his name, Dukakis on the tank. 

TRIPPI:  That‘s not Tester.

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I‘m making the point that you want to make.  Dukakis, Gore when he was—Gore‘s gotten a little more close to earth lately, and John Kerry. 

And now you see the guys winning this year.  Bobby Casey Jr., a regular guy, Irish guy from Scranton who‘s pro-life. 

TRIPPI:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got this guy Sherrod Brown, looks like a labor leader, a regular guy, not exactly an Ivy Leaguer type.

Then you‘ve got—you‘ve got our military guy in Virginia, Jim Webb, the most military guy since John Glenn.  And it seems—and Tester with that incredible crew cut.  It seems like the Democratic Party has learned stop running elitists.  Start running regular people who look like Democrats and you start to win. 

Do you agree with that?

TRIPPI:  Absolutely.  That‘s absolutely true.  Tester‘s really given...

MATTHEWS:  Except for this guy Whitehouse.  This is as elitist, every bit, as Lincoln Chaffee.  Right?  Same deal. 

BLACK:  These biographies give Democrats the chance to hide their liberal position and run away from the liberal blogosphere nationally...

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  But the average Democrat is more like these candidates than he is like the elite guy. 

BLACK:  The average American is not as liberal as the Democratic leadership in Washington, either.

TRIPPI:  In the end, this thing‘s going to be about change.  And that‘s why all these incumbents on the Republican side are in trouble right now.  I mean, if that wasn‘t there, if people were happy with what‘s going on, even these down to earth candidates would have a tough time in some of these states. 

But we‘re—you know, we‘re really—that‘s what‘s happening.  John Tester is representing change in Montana.  And that‘s what‘s going on.  And that‘s why...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the surprise counter attacks.  You‘ve got a shot in Virginia—in New Jersey. 

BLACK:  We do have a shot.

MATTHEWS:  What are the other places where can you knock off—where can you knock off an incumbent Democrat senator?

BLACK:  Well, Maryland and New Jersey principally.  But Michigan, and Washington state is not over.  Mike McGavick is currently five points behind.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re going to beat Maria Cantwell.  You can knock her out, possibly.

BLACK:  Might.  We just might.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got four—four tough ones there. 

BLACK:  We‘ve been moving...

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s your best bet to knock out as a Democrat senator?

BLACK:  Maryland.  Michael Steele is going to win. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s doing well.  He‘s doing well.

TRIPPI:  It‘s not going to happen.  I think it‘s all really wishful thinking.  But—and I understand Charles has got to pin his hopes somewhere.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What are your sure things right now, Joe?  Sure things first.

TRIPPI:  Well, I think Rick Santorum is pretty...

MATTHEWS:  Who else is a sure thing? 

TRIPPI:  DeWine‘s gone in Ohio, I think. 

BLACK:  Most people have said that...

MATTHEWS:  Who else has got your best bet?  Who else is the best bet?  I know those two, Ohio and Pennsylvania, everybody says the Democrats are going to win.  Where else?

TRIPPI:  I think Tester wins, and I think Webb wins.  I think those are—those are two—they‘re going to be tough, but I think we‘re going to win in those two—those two states. 

The real question here is—is, you know, Tennessee I think is going to be tough.  No, I‘m saying I think that‘s a tough one. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you. 

TRIPPI:  And I think—and I think Missouri—I used to have doubts about it, but I actually think we might pull that one out, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Talent looks like a strong candidate to me.  I‘ve watched this guy for weeks now.  He has nothing wrong with him yet.  There‘s nothing—there‘s no firing offenses.  Of course, it‘s a tough year.

What do you think of Talent?

BLACK:  Well, Talent is a terrific candidate.  In any other year, he would have a big lead.  The race is essentially even, but we have a much superior turn out the vote operation there.  And so Talent—Talent is going to win.  And the same thing will happen in Virginia.

MATTHEWS:  Right back—back with Joe Trippi and Charlie Black in just a minute.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  We‘re back with strategists, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and Republican strategist Joe Black. 

Charlie, it‘s Friday night, and I already feel my Christmas morning giggle about this.  I love this stuff.  I love election nights.  You guys do, too, because it‘s the crackle of truth.  One guy wins; one guy loses.  No more B.S.  No more punditry.  No more talk.  Just this guy won, this guy lost. 

What‘s your true sense—well, I guess you can‘t give me your true sense.  You give your true sense.  You guys—don‘t want to ask what you can‘t give me.  What‘s going to happen Tuesday night?  And I want numbers.  Will the Senate go Democrat, or just shy of that?

TRIPPI:  I think the Senate will go Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  Six seats?

TRIPPI:  Yes.  I think we‘ll get six.  I think—look, I think this thing could be anything from we only pick up four to we pick up eight.  I really do.  And...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not what I‘m asking you.  I‘m asking four or eight.

TRIPPI:  The odds are we get the six that we need. 

MATTHEWS:  You get the six you need.  That means you knocked off—you probably won in...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... you probably won in Missouri.  You won the four big easy ones. 

TRIPPI:  Yes.  But let me tell you where I think what‘s going on in the House.  The House is going to be big, and let me tell you why. 

The Republicans vaunted “get out the vote” thing works, except it works where they‘ve been planning it for months.  And they‘re playing it in the Senate races, and they‘re playing it in the 20 or so House races that they thought they were going to have problems in. 

But there‘s all kinds of other races that opened up, and they don‘t have the machinery in place there.  And it‘s not going to be able to make up the difference.  So I think we‘re going to—I think the House is really going to be explosively big in terms of how many seats the Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  More than 230?

TRIPPI:  Yes.  I absolutely believe that‘s possible.  And I wouldn‘t believe that a few weeks ago.

MATTHEWS:  Charlie Black, what is the Republican—I want to ask you a different question.  It‘s Friday night.  You‘ve got Saturday and Sunday, big campaign days, especially tomorrow. 

Do you expect the president will say something tomorrow that‘s new in this battle, drop a bomb like the British intelligence—I‘m serious about this—British intelligence says that those people that were planning an attack a couple months ago that were caught were planning not to attack planes over the Atlantic Ocean, but to have those planes crash into American cities. 

That was released in the papers the other day, page seven or something.  I‘m stunned that the president hasn‘t pointed to that yet. 

BLACK:  We have nothing new to say...

MATTHEWS:  You know what I mean?  You don‘t have anything planned for the weekend?

BLACK:  We‘re going to point out that if Democrats were, by some off chance, to get the majority, they would attempt to raise taxes; they wouldn‘t be as tough on homeland security and anti-terrorism.

MATTHEWS:  But you already have polled those stories.

BLACK:  Well, that‘s what will get our voters motivated to turn out. 

And if Republican voters turn out, we‘ll keep control of both houses. 

TRIPPI:  This is about turnout now.  I mean, that‘s what it‘s about.  And like I said, I think their machinery in is place in a lot of places, but where the trouble—where the real problem is they don‘t have that machinery in place. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president will negotiate with the Congress if he loses it, in terms of the war plan?

BLACK:  I think the president is the commander in chief.  He‘ll decide what he thinks is best.  Maybe something new, maybe not.  Congress, including the Democrats, will support funding of the troops.  That‘s really the only say that they have.

MATTHEWS:  I know, but will they negotiate? 

TRIPPI:  “Stay the course” means change.  That‘s what the president has said.

BLACK:  By the way, Chris, the analysis we‘re getting...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You think he will deal with the Congress if they win, the Democrats win?

TRIPPI:  I don‘t—I don‘t know.  We‘ve never seen this from this president. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Brand new start.  Thank you, Joe Trippi. 

Thank you.  Thank you, Charlie Black.

Stay with MSNBC all weekend for the latest campaign coverage, and watch a special HARDBALL at 7 p.m. Eastern on Sunday night for news analysis and predictions.

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.

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