updated 11/7/2006 11:25:24 AM ET 2006-11-07T16:25:24

Guests:  Ed Gillespie, Terry McAuliffe, Mike Barnacle, Charles Schumer, Howard Fineman, Chuck Todd

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR, HARDBALL:  Tomorrow 100 million of us vote.  Will the roar and blood of Iraq seem into the voting both?  Will voters protest the war with their ballots, or stay the course with Republicans now leading the country?  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to an election eve special edition of HARDBALL. Just one day away now. Tonight we bring you the latest poll, the last-minute barnstorming, and best of all, hot predictions from our panel of election experts. Tucker Carlson, Nora O‘Donnell, Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman will all be here.

Democrats appear poised to take control of the House of Representatives right now, but can they run the table, as they say, to win six seats in the Senate? Who will show up at the polls tomorrow? And who will stay home? And who wants it more? Which party has the fire and the excitement to win?

First, let‘s look at the polls. First in Virginia, the latest “USA Today”/Gallup poll shows Senator George Allen ahead of his Democratic challenger Jim Webb by just 3 points, which is a statistical dead heat.

Next in Missouri, where Claire McCaskill leads Republican incumbent Senator Jim Talent by 4 points. Again, a neck in neck race. In Montana, Democratic challenger John Tester, the guy with the crew cut, leads incumbent Republican Conrad Burn by 9 points, 50-41 percent. And finally another hot race in another statistical dead heat. Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse leads Senator Lincoln Chafee by 3 points up in Rhode Island.

We begin in Florida, however, where President Bush was stood up today by Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, at a political rally in Pensacola. NBC‘s Mark Potter join us with the story.

MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, HARDBALL:  Another Florida story, Chris, absolutely. The White House thought Charlie Crist would introduce the president at that rally, but Crist decided at the last minute not to show up.

Just a short while ago, I spoke by phone to his press secretary and his chief of staff, as they were heading in the car to another rally in Miami. They claim Crist made a decision that he didn‘t want to go to Pensacola, on the far edges of the state, an area that he believes he already has locked up with the conservative voters there.

They say that he decided he needed to be in other parts of the state today,  and all around the state. So, he took a tour from Saint Petersburg to Orlando, Jacksonville, back down to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and he‘ll end up in Tampa later tonight.

When I asked George Lemeaux (ph), the chief of staff, if Crist was trying to distance himself from the president, he wouldn‘t say.  Only saying that Charlie decided he needed to be in other cities, and that he‘s glad the president came to Florida.

When I persisted, and I asked if he was concerned, that the White House seemed upset about this—and indeed, it is upset—he said—he didn‘t answer that, repeating the line that he‘s glad the president came to Florida.

Of course, Charlie Crist‘s opponent Jim Davis, the Democrat, was all over this today. Saying that the president is so unpopular that Crist now refuses to stand by him, leading to this concluding line, it says:  “When the going gets tough, Charlie won‘t stand up.”

The president, himself, seemed to be above all. This at least publicly, he urged the people in the crowd there, the thousands in the crowd, to vote for Charlie Crist, as did the governor, Jeb Bush. The president also asked people to vote for Katherine Harris. She was in the audience, not on the stage.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Mark Potter down in Florida.

Let go now to the latest in Pennsylvania and the Senate race between Bob Casey, Jr. and Rick Santorum. We go now to NBC‘s Lisa Daniels who is in Pittsburgh.

LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, HARDBALL:  Hi, Chris.

Well, more and more, this race is looking like a referendum for one person, that is Rick Santorum. That‘s probably the way his Democratic challenger Bob Casey likes it. Casey has been hammering home in the last few weeks, especially last few days, that Santorum is basically a yes man for President Bush.

That he voted with the president 98 percent of the time. That he supports the war in Iraq without much thought without much reservation. He is blindly following his leader President Bush.

And it the polls are any indication, Chris, that might prove to be a winning strategy. The latest polls continue to show Casey with a substantial double-digit lead over the incumbent. Of course, Santorum says that he‘ll still be the winner come tomorrow. He is a fighter.  And he says that the reason Casey has been so shy is he doesn‘t want you to know his positions on these issues. That he‘s purposely hiding that. He doesn‘t want to share what he believes in with the voters.

As Santorum recently told a group of voters, at least you know what I stand for. The irony, Chris, is voters say they do, they just don‘t like it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much. Lisa Daniels, in Pittsburgh.

We‘re joined right now by the former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie.

Well, the two Catholic U guys are together again here tonight. I want to know who is happy.  Who has the best smile? I want to you smile, Terry.  And I want to you smile, Ed. I can‘t tell who has the happiest smile.

Ed Gillespie, you have the tough challenge tonight. Put the best light on it. How does it look for the Republicans?

ED GILLESPIE, FMR. CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CMTE.:  It looks good, Chris.

We have a surge going on all across the country. You are seeing it in the congressional generic ballot, which doesn‘t necessarily translate into individual races, but we‘re seeing it, more importantly, in individual races. Just before I left, I notice the “Evans-Novak Political Report” move in Rhode Island with Linc Chafee to lean Republican and moved Maryland, with Michael Steele running an historic race in the Free State to lean Republican.  You showed one poll, with Jim Talent down, but Rasmussen (ph) just came out and had him up one and you said, Senator Allen up 3 over Webb.

So, there is clearly a rallying effect going on as candidates get closer to election day and voters look at the choice, when it comes to economic grow and taxes and national security. And even on Iraq, there is polling data that shows that Republican have made gains in all of those areas. So I feel like we‘ve got a little bit of momentum going into election day tomorrow.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Terry?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR. CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CMTE.:  I think we‘re in great shape. I believe there are 50 seats in play in the House of Representatives.

Chris, if I would have told you a year ago, that after redistricting in 2000, we would now have over 50 seats in play, about 48 of those are Republican seats. And the Democrats are poised for a huge victory tomorrow night in the House.

And I‘ll tell you, I think we‘re going to get those six seats in the Senate. I feel very good about the races around the country.  We have seven seats where we‘re up or within the margin of error. We‘ll probably going to net six new Democratic governors, including Ohio, which is so important for us in 2008.

They want a change in this country. George Bush‘s approval rating is in the 30s. He goes to Florida to campaign for the candidate for governor. The governor candidate doesn‘t show up with him. And then the U.S. Senate candidate, I just hear, is there, but she‘s not allowed on the stage, and they put her in the audience. I‘m telling you, it couldn‘t be any worse for the Republicans. It couldn‘t be any worse for the George Bush.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Katherine Harris isn‘t the strongest candidate.

Let me go back to Ed. It is true, if you look at a map of the president‘s travels this weekend, he really only come to the East of the Mississippi, in Pensacola, Florida. He hasn‘t really used his prestige in the East.

GILLESPIE:  Well, he‘s been in a lot of swing states. A you know, Chris, he was in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa.  And the fact is—look, we are in the second mid-term of a two-term presidency and we are defending Republican seats, so it is not surprising the president would be out there rallying Republican voters in some of these Republican areas.

But like I said, when you look at the trend line, and I‘m started seeing internals from House races last week. There is clearly a rallying effect in the surge going on right now. And I think the president, exciting Republican voters is the most important thing he can be doing right now.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the six hot races for the Senate. It looks like Pennsylvania and Ohio look good for the Democratic candidate. Let‘s look at the tricky states, Virginia, first. Here we have George Allen leading Webb, very narrowly. In fact, I‘m not sure that‘s even a lead. It‘s 3 points, certainly within the margin of error.

Democrat Claire McCaskill leading Republican Jim Talent, the incumbent, 49-45, again, very close. Bob Corker leading Harold Ford, Jr., 49-46 in Tennessee. John Tester leading Republican Bob Conrad, 50-41, now there is a real lead. And Democrat Bob Mendez the appointed senator leaning Tom Keane (ph), Jr., 50-40. Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, up in Rhode Island, leading Lincoln Chafee, 48-45.

Terry, it looks to me like every one of those races is within the margin of error. What do you make of those?

MCAULIFFE:  That‘s right.  It is all going to be about turn out tomorrow.  We just had a huge rally here in Alexandria. President Clinton was there with Governor Keane, former Governor Warner, all out there for Jim Webb. Had a huge turn out.

I think, Northern Virginia, which you have seen delivered the last two governors to the Democrats, in the last two elections. I think you are going to have a huge turnout in Northern Virginia for Jim Webb tomorrow.

If you look up in—and President Clinton is now going up.  They just had a 10:00 o‘clock rally for him up in Rhode Island.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MCAULIFFE:  I think we‘re going to have a huge turnout tomorrow in Rhode Island. He has consistently been ahead in the polls.  Montana, 10 points up, is very good for us.  And then, of course, Missouri has been dead even. Claire McCaskill, a great candidate.  And she, in the last polls over the weekend, she has been consistently up in every one of those polls.

MATTHEWS:  I have to give Ed a chance. I‘m sorry. 

Ed, how does it looking for you, quickly?

GILLESPIE:  Well, it looks good. The fact is you see John Tester is someone who is completely out of step with Montana. He is opposed to a marriage amendment to protect marriage as between one man and one woman. He is opposed to a flag burning amendment. This is someone who is completely out of step and voters are locking in on that. That‘s why Conrad Burns has come back from so far down.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

GILLESPIE:  That poll I saw, Chris, is inconsistent with other polls that have that race a dead heat. Jim Talent, I think that race is—

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back. We‘ll come back with you. You start when we come back, Ed.

(CROSS TALK) 

MATTHEWS:  Stay with us!  When we return, an update from Connecticut on the hot Senate race up there, a three-way.  And then on to Los Angeles where Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s bid for re-election seem more like a Teddy Kennedy bid.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of Decision 2006, on the eve of the election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  In Connecticut, Senator Joe Lieberman running as an independent, is looking to be Ned Lamont, the candidate who beat him in the Democratic primary. MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is up in Hartford.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, HARDBALL:  Hi there, Chris.

Well, there are three candidates who have been crisscrossing the state in the closing hours of this campaign.  Something you can literally do in a place the size of Connecticut.  They‘re running as if this was a dead heat, but take a look at the new Quinnipiac poll.  It‘s nothing like that.

Joe Leiberman, 12 points ahead of Ned Lamont, 50-38 percent. And I think the poll director summed it up, he said, it looks like Ned Lamont peaked in August, which is when he won the primary.

I should say that no one I talked to, from the campaigns, local political analysts think the race is this far apart. They all call it six to eight points. Even at that, it is not the kind of deficit you make up in the closing days of a campaign.

Both of the main candidates giving what they called their closing speeches over the last 24 hour. Lieberman is saying, I am the bipartisan candidate. Send me back to Washington. I‘ll reach across party lines, in part responding to criticism that he has taken too much support and too much money from the Republicans.

Ned Lamont, his last message:  I‘m more than a one-issue candidate. I‘m not just about my opposition to the war in Iraq. He also said that whatever happens, meaning if he loses, he doesn‘t regret this campaign. He spent $16 million out of his own pocket.

And what of the Republican, Alan Schlesinger, well the Quinnipiac poll also gives us some insight into his problem, 79 percent of registered Republicans said they would vote, in fact, for Joe Lieberman, not for the Republican candidate. The secretary of state expecting a record turnout tomorrow—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. Chris Jansing, up in Hartford, Connecticut.

In California now where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is well ahead in the polls against his opponent, California State Treasurer Phil Angelides . NBC‘s George Lewis is joining us now from Los Angeles.

GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, HARDBALL:  Chris, in this last day of campaigning, both Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his Democratic opponent, are making one final round of appearances. Some political pundits are saying this contest is really no contest at all. Schwarzenegger, who helped man the phone banks today at one of his volunteer headquarters, is leading in the polls by double digits.

Writing in “The Los Angeles Times” today, veteran political reporter George Skelton said we have just witnessed a brilliant comeback by a governor, who only a year ago seem to have one foot in the political grave. Back then, Schwarzenegger was trailing in the polls. He backed a series of right wing initiatives that were soundly defeated by voters who were angry at the governor for wasting $54 million on a special election.

So how did Schwarzenegger turn it around? He admitted he was wrong. He took a turn to the center, backing legislation favored by Democrats, such as the hike in the minimum wage. He is also appointed Democrats to key positions on his staff, somewhat to the consternation of California‘ Republicans.

His opponent, Phil Angelides, never figured an effective counter attack. In the fundraising department, he‘s been able to spend only about half the money Schwarzenegger has, $19.5 million for Angelides, $42 million for Schwarzenegger.

The most memorable moment in the Angelides campaign?  Unfortunately it was John Kerry‘s gaff about President Bush in Iraq while Kerry was stumping for Angelides in Pasadena. So come tomorrow night, Schwarzenegger‘s faithful will gather at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, for what they—and the pundits—expect to be a huge victory rally—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much. George Lewis, out in California.

We‘re back now with former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie. Let me go to Terry.  You‘re chuckling like mad there right now.  I want to give you a chance to chuckle informatively. Where will your big victories going to be in terms of the governorships? In other words, the big new faces we‘ll see out there starting Wednesday morning?

MCAULIFFE:  You‘ll see Arkansas, Colorado, those are two big wins for us, for the Democrats. You‘ll see Nevada, Ohio, which as I say for 2008 for us to have the governorship there, Eliot Spitzer in New York will be a huge for us. You‘ll see Martin O‘Malley in Maryland.

But I think, you know, you look at Arkansas, we have a double-digit lead down there in Arkansas.  And out in Colorado, which nobody had given us a chance in Colorado, you‘re going to see a Democrat win in Colorado.

So I think we could net six new Democratic governors, which is very important for us as we head into the ‘08 presidential election.  Not that anybody wants to hear about that tonight.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Terry, that was the word “could”, I jumped on there.

Ed Gillespie, “could” start with the “could”. In Maryland, I‘ve been hearing good things about Michael Steele and also I‘m sorry for Governor Ehrlich the incumbent.

GILLESPIE:  Both, both surging with momentum going into election day. I‘m optimistic, they will both win. I think we have great opportunities to win Democratic governorships in Michigan. And in Iowa, where Jim Nelson is running a great race and  closing strong—in Oregon.  And as well as the fact that we are going to retain three of the four biggest states, California, Texas and Florida, will remain in Republican hands. It will be a good night for governors.

But as with the House and the Senate, I don‘t think we‘ll have a net gain in seats in this second mid-term of a two-term presidency. I think we‘re going to give back seats that were gained in 2000 and ‘02 and ‘04, but not enough for Democrats to get a majority in either the House or the Senate, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  So, the big story coming out of this will be Spitzer in New York. The whole country will get to know him. He may turned out to be a kind of Teddy Roosevelt on the Democratic side, a real reformer, a trust buster type.

You‘ve got Schwarzenegger, who can‘t run for president because he is foreign born, born in Austria. You have Jennifer Grenholm, getting reelected probably out in Michigan. She is the star of some sort.

GILLESPIE:  I wouldn‘t bet the house on that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I wouldn‘t.  Bet the car, maybe.

MCAULIFFE:  I would.

MATTHEWS:  How about Blagojevich, he‘ll probably win in Illinois.  Now, I want you to say something nice about my little brother Jim, Ed Gillespie, he is running for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania. That is a tough race. Some of these states seem to run eight years, every eight years, you get to win. It is a very much a pendulum, a very tough race for the Republicans.

GILLESPIE:  Yes, but Lynn Swan and Matthews—the Swan-Matthews team has been very effective ticket. I think people are excited about Lynn Swan. He is a charismatic figure. And we have a great opportunity there.  Randell is a good politician, there is no doubt about that. But I‘m optimistic there as well.

Look we‘ve had a great series of candidates emerge on this, on our side in this Republican field. And I‘m very excited about not only Lynn Swann, but Ken Blackwell in Ohio, and Michael Steele in Maryland.  Ken Mehlmen did a great job as chairman of the RNC recruiting African-Americans candidates who can wage good campaigns.

MATTHEWS:  He did that.  He did that.

Let me go to Terry for this last one. I love to watch machinations, Terry. 

Eddie Rendell, we call him Fast Eddie up in Pennsylvania. Campaigning, with Al Gore this weekend, is he trying to fashion a Gore/Rendell ticket to take on Mrs. Clinton?

Come on, I see it coming. What else is he up to?

MCAULIFFE:  Maybe a Rendell something.  I think Ed has been a great governor for Pennsylvania.  I think he‘d love to run for president.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, come on.  He‘s bringing in Al Gore to be the leader of his ticket, so then he can take on Hillary.  Come on.

MCAULIFFE:  I think Rendell Matthews—oh, wait.  Oh, wait, I think that is the ticket.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much.  Terry McAuliffe, Ed Gillespie, both proud graduates of the Catholic University of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  When we return the latest on the hot Senate race in Virginia.  This is HARDBALL, on the night before the election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  One key race for a Senate seat is in Virginia, Republican incumbent George Allen is in a dead heat in most poll with the former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb. HARDBALL Correspondent David Shuster is standing by right now, in Richmond, the old capital—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT, HARDBALL:  Well, Chris, Jim Webb has had his final event of this campaign. Just a short time ago he ended it with Bill Clinton and other top Democrats.

President Clinton and Jim Webb have not always seen eye to eye, but President Clinton said tonight that because of the Republican mismanagement of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, that this was a time for Democrats to come together. Northern Virginia is absolutely critical territory for the Jim Webb. The demographics have changed. 

He needs the Democrats there to turn out in massive numbers to make up for other parts of the state, including here in Richmond where George Allen is expect to do well.

George Allen, the Republican incumbent, this is not the position he wanted to be in several months ago.  He‘s had a series of missteps. There was the “macaca moment”, or allegations he used the “N” word.

In recent weeks, George Allen has been hammering the issue of taxes, saying that Republicans will cut your taxes, Democrats will raise them. George Allen has also been trying to make a big issue out of illegal immigration.

But the main issue, according to the polls here in Virginia, has been the war in Iraq. It is a clear choice between Jim Webb, who has said repeatedly that he wants the troops to start coming home, and George Allen who has been branded as a rubber stamp of the Bush administration. That is the main choice that voters say they will be making their decision on. And, Chris, is one of the reason that pollsters say this race is simply a dead heat, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  David, what that to the big bundle of money that George Allen brought into this campaign?

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, there were some reports over the weekend that he had run out of money. He had spent a lot on advertising early on. What had happened is that even though Jim Webb was outspending, as far as campaign commercials, tonight George Allen had purchased the two minutes of television time all across the state. There will be George Allen with the Republican senior Senator John Warner.

Again, George Allen trying to make the point that the war position that he has in Iraq is the right position, and there is John Warner there supporting him.

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t John Warner remind people what a really good Virginia senator looks like? Doesn‘t that hurt George Allen?

I‘m serious. He‘s such a—

(CROSS TALK) 

MATTHEWS:  He is such a profoundly impressive figure. And then you have George Allen with the problem he‘s been having.

SHUSTER:  That may hurt him, Chris, except to the extent Republicans are trying to unify the party. John Warner, George Allen, they‘re all trying to make the same point Republicans need to be together.

MATTHEWS:  Hard break. Thank you very much David Shuster in Richmond.

Some of our viewer in NBC stations across the country are leaving us right now. But HARDBALL will push on in a moment, when MSNBC—and MSNBC‘s “Decision 2006” coverage continues non stop up through election day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Will president Bush help or hurt his party in these midterm election?  Michael Beschloss is NBC News‘ presidential historian.  Michael, it is great to have you tonight on this night preceding history.  George W. Bush, our president, seem to only be able to campaign west of the Mississippi with the exception of Joe Scarborough‘s country down there in Pensacola.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Right.  Not exactly a blue state area.

MATTHEWS:  No.  Well, why?  I want a reaction to this.  Here is the president of the United States.  Bill Clinton on the other hand is popping around tonight.  He is in Virginia helping Jim Webb.  He is up in Rhode Island.  The president meanwhile in Rhode Island has an unbelievable job approval of 23 percent.  Just a few years ago.  We brought Bush in to get rid of Clinton.  Now Clinton is out there starring and Bush is hiding out in the country.

BESCHLOSS:  Absolutely, Chris.  Look at those number.  Bill Clinton now is an ex-president, is at least in the 60s.  Sometimes the low 70.  And George Bush has dropped to the mid 30s.  That‘s why a lot of these candidates are saying, thank you, Mr. President, but no thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Has a president ever been so corralled in the White House as this one?

BESCHLOSS:  Yeah.  The time has been in earlier sweeps like this.  1946.  Harry Truman wanted to campaign.  He was told by the Democratic chairman, stay home.  And the result was he spent that fall basically watching the World Series, having his portrait painted.

1966, Lyndon Johnson after that huge land slide was raring to go out and be greeted by these enormous throngs across the country.  And he, too, was told, Mr. President, in a lot of places, you‘re not very popular.  And at the last minute, Johnson decided to go campaigning anyway.  All these candidates across the country changed their schedule.  Even in some cases, they didn‘t want them.  And then Johnson felt he wouldn‘t get a warm enough reception.  And then he canceled and through all these candidates into disarray and then denied he had ever intended to go out and campaign anyway.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about war in ‘52.  It killed the Democrats.  Ike came in and said he would go to Korea.  And in 1968, Nixon came in because Johnson couldn‘t handle the war in in ‘80 Reagan came in because Carter got stuck with the hostages in Iran.  Is this going to be another election where a president looks like he‘s bogged down and people say, let‘s try somebody else?

BESCHLOSS:  This is the one thing, an unpopular war that weighs down a president and his party more than anything else.  Harry Truman in early 1952 had been in Korea only about 18 months.  Yet his poll rating were down to about 22 percent.  If you can believe it.

MATTHEWS:  It is great to have you on.  Michael Beschoss.  History does matter.

BESCHLOSS:  I hope so.  I‘d like think so.

MATTHEWS:  “Study history.  Study history.”  Winston Churchill.

Lets bring in our panel.  MSNBC chief correspondent, Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell, MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson, “Hotline” editor-in-chief Chuck Todd, and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.

The president‘s popularity, I love this little sheet I‘ve got here.  I wish everybody could see it.  It tells you where the president is hated.  And it tells you where he is loved.  And it is not surprising where he is campaigned.  He knows where he is loved.  I will skip SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, because it is uniquely red.  As Joe knows so well.

Here we have Idaho, 57 percent.  This guy is a rock star.  In Idaho.  In Utah, the Bee Hive State, 57 percent.  He‘s not hated everywhere.  Wyoming, 52 percent.  Montana, 50 percent.

Now, of course, the other 46 states, he‘s not up to 50 percent.  But let go to the states—and by the way, those states were all contiguous.  They‘re all connected to each other.

The same thing at the other end of the belt.  The states are all connected, stuck together by some political glue.  Rhode Island, they call it Rhodie, 23 percent.  This is the job approval of the president of the United States.  Vermont, 27 percent.  Also the home of the only socialist who is probably going to be in the Senate next time.  Massachusetts, Teddy country, 29 percent.  And then you get to 30 in New York.  Connecticut, 31.  They‘re all connected.  The right and the left, let‘s talk about it.

Why is America so divided geographically West and East?  Not North and South.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the president spent 10 days in all red states.  The goal was they knew they couldn‘t go to these sort of tougher areas because they were concerned like what that today, where Charlie Crist (ph), who is a Republican candidate for governor essentially snubbed the president even though the president was in Pensacola, which is as you point out, Scarborough Country where Charlie Crist would have been safe standing side by side by President Bush.  They could only go to 10 states.  They were already red states.

The ones where you where you were just naming, where he is very popular.  He is not going to places where they are afraid he could turn off ...

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m asking the more primitive question.  Could it be wherever you can see the stars at night Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  I‘m a primitive person.  I have a primitive answer.

It is this.  The difference between East and West is the difference between America and Europe.  Old and new.  The newer states, the Mountain West, for instance, California because it is a coastal state doesn‘t really count and neither does Oregon and neither does Washington.

MATTHEWS:  Montana is hipper than California.

CHUCK TODD, “THE HOTLINE”:  You just start throwing out states.

CARLSON:  Colorado.  I‘m saying, it is actually less hip.  But it is more—that is the difference.  The states that played out and decadent and depleted like Rhode Island.

MATTHEWS:  I love it.  You mean it!

CARLSON:  I actually don‘t mean it.  I lived in Rhode Island.  I love Rhode Island.

MATTHEWS:  You grew up in Manhattan.

CARLSON:  I grew up in La Jolla, California, on the other side of the country.  But that is the difference.  The old cultures versus the new culture.

MATTHEWS:  The old cultures don‘t like this guy from Texas.

CARLSON:  No, because they see him as radical and see him as religious.  And that has always been the dividing line.  People hate him because they see him as evangelical.

TODD:  It is it is community thing.  If your church is the community center, if that‘s where you go play basketball on Wednesday nights, and has nothing to do with worship.  Then you‘re more likely to like President Bush.  If your community center has nothing to do with God or Jesus or anything like, then you‘re probably living east of the Mississippi in these urban centers and you don‘t like President Bush.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking to a guy who you‘d to play basketball at Saint Cecilia‘s every week.  That places me on the far right.  Good analysis here.  Howard.  Could be right.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  The interesting places in the balance wheel in the country, are places that are sort of the old new places.  Like western Pennsylvania, where I‘m from, and Ohio, places that have both these cultures in them at the same time.  We have very religious communities.  Both in the cities and the countryside and you have the big urban places that look to the east.  And George Bush‘s popularity ratings in Ohio and Pennsylvania, to take two key places where the Republican senatorial candidates are behind, are low.  And it is because the president‘s also unpopular in those places that we‘re sitting here looking at a big and pivotal election.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  And the big story this election I think is the attempt by the Democratic Party, the more liberal party, the more Eastern party to make a run at states like Montana, Missouri, Virginia and Tennessee.  We‘ll come back and talk about how blue state types can come in and take over a red state.  And that‘s what this campaign is all about.

Up next, New York Senator Chuck Schumer is going to do something for us and then we‘re going to get back to our panel.  This is HARDBALL‘s coverage of Decisions 2006.  The night before Christmas for us junkies.  The night before the election for the other people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democrats are counting on gaining seat in the Senate.  They‘re hoping to gain six so they can control it.  Late today, I spoke with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.  He‘s the chairman.  The man responsible for winning Democratic seats in this election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Schumer, what do you make of all this jiggling in the polls out there?  Especially in these tight Senate races?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NY:  Well, there is always a lot of jiggling close to the end for every jiggle up, there is a jiggle down.  We continue to feel we‘re doing very well.  That the wind is at our back.  That the trend is in our direction.

Obviously, Chris, we have a very tough map in the Senate to beat five Republican incumbents, win six out of eight states and that are red states.  But we‘re still feeling very good.  I wouldn‘t predict that we are going to take back the Senate but it is going to be darn close.  And maybe we‘ll get there.

MATTHEWS:  It seem like you have a base of optimism from Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Is that correct?  They look like the strongest efforts there now?

SCHUMER:  They are.  We never would have thought Ohio would have been a year ago but that‘s how it has turned out to be.

MATTHEWS:  How about Rhode Island?  What do you see up there?  What is going on in Rhode Island Chafee coming up a bit?  Is that about gambling and casinos up there?  The Chafee name?  What is it about?

SCHUMER:  Look.  Chafee is a very popular fellow in Rhode Island.  There is no question about it.  As the voters of Rhode Island know, electing him might continue Republican domination of the Senate.  They turn away from him.  So it is this is just before people let go, they‘re feeling a little bad but we‘re feeling very good about Rhode Island.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this thing in—Talent seem like a tough guy to beat.

SCHUMER:  Talent was one of the toughest people we‘ve faced.  And that‘s because he come off as this sort of nice, thoughtful, bipartisan guy.  When push come to shove, he votes very hard right and very much with the president all the time.  And Claire McCaskill, we wanted her—we knew that in Missouri we would have no chance against Talent unless Claire McCaskill was the candidate.  Thank God she decided to run.  And she has run a great race.  She has real appeal in the rural area, the traditional weakness of Democrats in Missouri.  And we think we‘re going to win Missouri.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about the political calculations of the stem cell funding issue.  Is that working for her?

SCHUMER:  Well, I think it is working for her to some extent.  Not as great a margin as people had thought.

Because while it is winning her votes in the suburbs of St. Louis and Kansas City, among somewhat higher income Republicans, it may increase turnout in the rural areas, on the stem cell.

But Claire is doing well in the rural areas and she‘s going to do better than a Democrat almost always does.  And if you have seen the recent polls, there is beginning to be a break towards Claire.  The no—no poll had shown either Claire or Talent up or down by more than three until yesterday.  And there was one fairly reputable that showed her up by four.

So we think it is beginning to move in our direction and it is going to be a close race.  One other thing about Missouri, Chris, even before McCaskill was the candidate, we planned a great turnout operation.  It is one of our strongest states.  We created a Democratic voter file.  We never had one before.

And we have thousands and thousands of volunteers knocking on doors as we speak.  Our turnout operation, I believe, will be better if not—well, as good but I think even better than theirs.

MATTHEWS:  Let go back up to Montana now.  It‘s a state where the president is fairly popular.  The president is one of the four most—he‘s actually at 50 percent up there, he‘s so popular.

SCHUMER:  He is.

MATTHEWS:  In the celestial area compared to other states.  Is that why Conrad Burns seem to be—how can Conrad Burns survive Abramoff?  The president?  The war in Iraq and still an candidate for reelection.  It seems like he‘s got something that wasn‘t predicted.

SCHUMER:  Well, you know, I don‘t think he can.  The polls have shown that Conrad Burns never gets above a certain point, 45.  The only poll that showed him above that was done the night the president got there.  And in Billings, Conrad had a real bump up.  The next night, he went back down.  And so he never gets above a certain point.

He‘s attacked Tester.  Hard on taxes.  So Tester, instead of being seven or eight points ahead, went down to two or three points ahead.  We‘ve been answering on taxes very strongly with Governor Schweitzer and Senator Baucus.  Letting people know that Tester will not raise taxes.  And we‘re coming back up in that state.  We‘re having real strong finishes in three states where we need them, which are Montana, Virginia, and Missouri.

MATTHEWS:  Lets talk about Virginia.  It is close to the capital.  We all live in that area.  You work in that area.  Let me ask you about that race, is Webb able to exploit his opportunity.

SCHUMER:  Yeah, I think he is.  He has really grown as a candidate.  Started out as a novice with no experience in politics.  Has grown.  If you look at the last ad that he has done where he talks right to the camera and talks about his belief in America and what he wants to do for the country.  It is one of the most powerful messages that I‘ve seen.

And we‘re feeling get about Virginia, too.  The interesting thing here is, in each of these states, and admittedly they‘re not runaways, the way, say, Pennsylvania or Ohio is.  We feel the chances are greater than half that we win them.

MATTHEWS:  What I don‘t understand about Virginia is I‘ve always been led to believe, because of following races in that area.  The choice issue is huge for the Democrats.  There are so many single women who come to Washington to work in the nation‘s capital and end up living in Virginia.  It is safer, nicer, you know all the reasons.  And they‘re all pro-choice women.  Why hasn‘t Jim Webb played that up stronger than he has and he‘s been hit on this, 20, 30 years ago, about women in combat instead of the fact, he is pro-choice and the other guy, Allen, is not.

SCHUMER:  Well, Virginia is sort of almost two states these days.  The northern part of Virginia is more like a much more like a Middle Atlantic state.  And it is growing.  It is now about 40 percent of the vote.

But she southern part of the state is still quite southern.  More like Tennessee or North Carolina.  Than it is like, say, Philadelphia or Maryland.

And so I think the state has a did I could the dichotomy.  Webb‘s great advantage as a candidate, Chris, is not only is he doing well in Northern Virginia where the sentiment against George Bush and George Allen who has just done everything that George Bush has wanted is strong, but he has real appeal as a Scots Irish person from the military in places like southwest Virginia.

So what we‘re finding in the poll is that Webb has strength across the board.  Obviously, Allen has made a whole number of miscues.  But interestingly, the desire for change in Virginia is strong.  It is a military state.  But the number of people who think things are going poorly in Iraq is greater than it is in other states in the South or in the border state area.

MATTHEWS:  Senator, it is good to see you out there fighting for the Scots Irish.  I never thought I would hear the day.  By the way—I know you know everything about Webb.  Did you know he wrote “Rules of Engagement”?

SCHUMER:  Yes, I did.

MATTHEWS:  That great movie?  How could you vote against that guy?

Anyway, thank you, Chuck Schumer, the senator for New York.

SCHUMER:  Well, we think enough Virginians will vote for him that he is going to win, Chris.  Let‘s hear it for the Scots Irish.

MATTHEWS:  Whatever gets you through the night, senator.  Thank you very much.  When we return, Mike Barnacle talks to Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy who is cruising the victory this week, I‘d expect.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on the eve of Election Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Mike Barnacle recently sat down for a conversation with Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.  Mike, how did it go?

MIKE BARNACLE, “BOSTON HERALD”:  Well, it was interesting, Chris, he was ready to talk about politics, about himself and history.  Let‘s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARNACLE (voice-over):  Ted Kennedy, working the room in Marlborough, Massachusetts

(on camera):  He has been on the ballot nine times across more than four decades.  You would think he wouldn‘t even have to show up.  But here he is.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MA:  My friends that is what needs to be changed in Election Day.

BARNACLE (voice-over):  At 74 he is still about politics.

KENNEDY:  November 7 is the date.

BARNACLE:  Edward Moore Kennedy was first elected to the Senate in 1962 and he has been running ever since.

(on camera):  Why are you doing this?

KENNEDY:  I have been very, very lucky to grow up this home here.  Public service was something now used as sort of a gimmick but it was very powerful in terms of our development.

BARNACLE (voice-over):  This is Hyannisport.  This is the Kennedy compound.  This is history and memory.

KENNEDY:  Late morning before lunch when we are here we had wonderful football games.

BARNACLE:  World War II was over.  The oldest Kennedy brother, Joe, was dead.  John and Robert were heirs to the hopes of a whole new generation.  And those hopes and their legacies still live right here.

KENNEDY:  This is our home.  This is where I basically grew up.  It is the place where my brothers and sisters group.  Our family.  We have been here in the most difficult times and the most joyous times.  That is what home is really all about.

BARNACLE:  That and the ocean where he does not sail alone.

(on camera):  Are they with you when you are out in that boat sometimes?

KENNEDY:  For sure.  Oh yeah.  There is never a day that goes by.

BARNACLE (voice-over):  He is a blend of past and present, continually restored by the sun, the sea, his wife Vicki and even by his own artwork.

(on camera):  You could pay for your campaign by putting that on eBay.

KENNEDY:  I tried to years ago.  In the mid 1970s.  I brought 12 of my paintings.  I rented a little place in Newbury Street.  I got some wine and some cheese and put a basic (ph) painting for $250 and didn‘t sell one of them.  Came downstairs, put them all in the back of the station wagon, drove them down here and gave them to my sisters for Christmas.

BARNACLE (voice-over):  The challenges of politics today still excite him.

KENNEDY:  What we have at the present time is we have the radicalization.  People that say they are conservative but they basically fundamentally undermine institutions of government.

BARNACLE:  He has an unwavering belief in what he terms the progressive political movements of his time in public life.

MASSACHUSETTS:  We have not made the social progress that we have made.  Without the leadership of progressive elements in this country, primarily in the Democrat but also in the Republican Party.  In the post war period we had many Republicans that were part of this, what I call the march towards progress.  We don‘t see it now because I think basic Republicans have left their moorings.

BARNACLE (on camera):  You are never going quit are you?

MASSACHUSETTS:  Stay at it until we get there.

BARNACLE (voice-over):  Winter is on the horizon for this legend of American politics, but here in the sunshine, home and at peace with himself and his life, Ted Kennedy remains a forceful voice.  For HARDBALL, Mike Barnacle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BARNACLE (on camera):  Still a factor in feeling revitalized by the prospects for his party in 2006.  Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Mike, you didn‘t say what a great sailor he is.  I remember one day 26 miles out from Nantucket and this boat goes by so Fast and there at the helm was this giant guy with all these kids crewing the boat.  Ted Kennedy won the race.  He beat those Yankees once again.

BARNACLE:  He is amazing out there in the ocean.  That is his home.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Mike Barnacle.  Not exactly HARDBALL, but a good honest transcription of reality, I think.  Norah, what do you think of that?  Do you want to cut through that, a slashing of media criticism of that piece?

O‘DONNELL:  No.  I am prepared to talk about the latest in Missouri, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS:  Anybody want to go after that Kennedy hit.  Go ahead Howard.

FINEMAN:  George H. W.  Bush was very much at home with Ted Kennedy.  I used to see them together.  The son went to Texas and became a different man who doesn‘t understand that world.  In fact, used that world as the old world as Tucker was saying, a corrupt old world.

CARLSON:  The one thing about Ted Kennedy in addition to the fact that he has excellent taste in summer houses and he is a great sailor, he brings his dog to committee events.

O‘DONNELL:  Splash.

CARLSON:  Splash.  Exactly right.  And I like that.  That is one good thing you can say about Ted Kennedy.  He loves dogs.  I think that is good.

MATTHEWS:  Pretty minimalist.  Let me get back with you.  I want to start with threes races.  Before we get to soft here ...

CARLSON:  I think it is deep and important.

MATTHEWS:  This is still HARDBALL.  Election Eve.  I want to get through the panel quickly.  How many seats will the Democrats pick up in the Senate?  They need six.

FINEMAN:  In the Senate I don‘t think they are quite going to get there.

MATTHEWS:  Four or five?

FINEMAN:  Five.

TODD:  There‘s no way it will be five.  It‘s either three or six.

MATTHEWS:  You have been doing that line on me for months now.  Pick one.

TODD:  I will say six tonight.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Tucker Carlson?

CARLSON:  I don‘t think they can take the House without taking the Senate.  It‘s never been done.  I say six.

MATTHEWS:  Six?  God you guys are so over the top.  What do you think?

O‘DONNELL:  I learned today and most people don‘t know this that Republicans don‘t have a 72 hour get out the vote operation in Virginia.

MATTHEWS:  They might need one.

O‘DONNELL:  Because they thought it would be a cakewalk.  It takes almost a year or more to get that ready.

MATTHEWS:  Sounds like the Iraq policy.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Republicans are very optimistic about reaching voters in Tennessee and Missouri.  They are less confident in Virginia and that could put the nail in the coffin.

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t have the ground game.

O‘DONNELL:  They don‘t.

FINEMAN:  And the Dems are putting last minute money in Maryland and Rhode Island as defensive measures.

MATTHEWS:  What is the best bet after Ohio and Pennsylvania for the Democrats to win?  Let‘s do it in order of probability here.

FINEMAN:  Virginia.

TODD:  I would say Montana.

MATTHEWS:  Montana is the next best?

FINEMAN:  I would say Rhode Island.

MATTHEWS:  I hear Rhode Island and Montana what am I going to hear what am I going to hear what am I going to hear ...

TODD:  Rhode Island is a 50-50 seat.  I think Rhode Island is more of a toss up at this point than Missouri.  Lincoln Chafee is going be ...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s going to be the hardest one for the Democrats of the six they need to win, Howard Fineman?

FINEMAN:  Of the six?

MATTHEWS:  Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, Missouri, Montana, Virginia.

FINEMAN:  I would say Montana.

MATTHEWS:  Hardest one, Tucker?

CARLSON:  I think it is Rhode Island.

O‘DONNELL:  I think it is Tennessee.

MATTHEWS:  That is not on the list.  That‘s seven.

O‘DONNELL:  It is on my list.

CARLSON:  She has a different list.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go through them again.  What is your probably quickly for everybody is watching this.  I am doing this again, Pennsylvania looks good for the Democrats?  Ohio good for the Democrats?  Missouri, no.  Virginia looks good for the Democrats?

CARLSON:  Yes, it does.

MATTHEWS:  And then comes the next one—Rhode Island.  Tough.

FINEMAN:  I think the consensus is Montana comes next, right.

MATTHEWS:  Rhode Island is the toughest?

TODD:  Think Rhode Island is now the toughest.  I think that‘s changed.

MATTHEWS:  The Chafees.  Old money wins again.  Thank you Norah O‘Donnell, Tucker Carlson, Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman at 10:00 Eastern tonight on MNSBC join us for a special election eve for that Christmas Eve feeling.  The toys are already under the tree this will be an exciting day tomorrow.  HARDBALL, election time, HARDBALL election style.  Election HARDBALL style.  See you then.

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

END   

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