updated 8/13/2007 1:14:33 PM ET 2007-08-13T17:14:33

Guests: Sen. Sam Brownback, Deroy Murdock, Julie Mason, Eamon Javers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Talk about spreading democracy.  Mitt Romney‘s buying tomorrow‘s Iowa straw vote.  I wonder if the Iraqis are watching how we do this thing.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Cash crop in the heartland.  The much ballyhooed Ames straw vote is tomorrow, and the odds are on Mitt Romney to win.  But the real question is by how much?  And what will it really mean?

Romney has invested millions of dollars into organizing, advertising and in busloads of paid volunteers.  Isn‘t that a great phrase, “paid volunteers”?  But will Romney get his money‘s worth?  Frontrunner Rudy Giuliani dropped out in June, calling the straw vote a “shakedown.”  McCain wrote it off, and Fred Thompson‘s not even in the race yet.  Will winning the straw vote in Iowa in reality deliver Romney a straw man victory.

Perhaps the most important news out of Saturday‘s straw poll will be who comes  in second and which weaker candidates will be forced to drop out of the race.  Tomorrow could be a make-it-or-break-it event, for example, for Republican senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.  He hails from Kansas, the heartland.  He‘s a bona fide conservative.  But can he deliver the votes?  We‘ll talk to the senator in just a moment.

And yes, Iowa, there is a Santa Claus.  Iowa governor Chet Culver ended speculation that its caucuses would be moved up to December 2007 in reaction to South Carolina‘s decision to move up its Republican primary.  He said, quote, “The bottom line is Iowa will have the first caucus, and we‘re going in January.”

Plus: Senator Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama for ruling out nuclear weapons against bin Laden in Pakistan, trying to paint him as too inexperienced and naive to be elected commander-in-chief.  But it turns out that Hillary herself said the same thing about Iran just a year ago.  Our HARDBALL roundtable will dig into Hillary‘s hypocrisy later in the show.

And the battle over the women‘s vote is hot and heavy this election season.  Who will win the hearts and minds of America‘s women?  That‘s our HARDBALL debate tonight.  THat is going to be great.  We‘ll also have the latest on the stock market, which won‘t be so great, from CNBC‘s Erin Burnett.

But we begin tonight with Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback, who‘s out in Iowa.  Senator, is this an auctioning of votes or is it a real democratic case of picking the best guy or the best person because people really independently choose to vote, or is it 35 bucks a head, a thousand bucks a volunteer, whatever?

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What I think it actually is and what we‘re treating it as is building a grass roots organization across Iowa.  Now, we‘re not spending the kind of money that Governor Romney is spending.  We don‘t have that kind of money.  But we are building a grass roots organization, and I think it‘s going to serve us well into the caucuses, even—whatever the performance is tomorrow on it.  That‘s why we see  it as a kind of a two-step process of a power lift.  This gets it up to the shoulders, the straw poll, and then you move it on forward into the caucuses.  And now with the caucuses taking place very early in January, I think it puts a premium on participating—on participating in the straw poll.

MATTHEWS:  You know, we‘re trying to spread democracy.  It‘s very controversial, this whole nation-building thing.  The president said he didn‘t believe in it before he became president.  Then after 9/11, he says he does believe it.  And he was very clear about that the other night.  We have to create democracy to remove the conditions that lead people to kill us on 9/11.  I understand the philosophy.

But do you think we are really setting an example of democracy with this kind of purchasing of votes -- 35 bucks a head tomorrow, Senator, to vote?  You have to pay to vote out in Iowa.  The fact that they‘re paying so-called super-volunteers a thousand bucks a head.  One guy out there is making $200,000 from Romney.  It doesn‘t seem like the kind of example we want to set and that our soldiers are fighting for, is it?

BROWNBACK:  Well, I don‘t think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So what is it?  Is it democracy?

BROWNBACK:  Well, it is democracy, but I think it‘s really about

building a grass roots organization.  And I don‘t really think, at the end

of the day, on the caucus night—not on straw poll, but on caucus night -

that you can buy the vote.  You can pay people to get organized.  You can pay people to get organized on the straw poll or even on the caucuses, but I don‘t think you can buy the vote.

And I particularly don‘t think you can buy the vote in an early state like Iowa that looks at this process as a very important one, that they are the key winnowing ground of candidates.  You know, many politicians enter Iowa and few leave.  There are probably three or four tickets out on both sides of the aisle.  And I don‘t think you can, at the end of the day, buy it.  You may be able to buy it at the straw poll.  I don‘t think you can at the caucus.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have to come in second tomorrow, Senator?

BROWNBACK:  No, I don‘t have to come in second, but I think we have to build organization.  I think we have to show capacity.  I think we have to show people like yourself that, you know, look, there‘s a possibilty that he can take off with this organization and with this consistent message.  This party, the Republican Party, is primarily built around a message (INAUDIBLE) principles, not around personalities.  And so the caucus-goers are looking for that consistent message in a package that they believe can win.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me there‘s a vacuum at the top of this fight for a true conservative, a hard-line conservative, if you will.  Fred Thompson has been talked up, but he‘s not in the race yet.  Can you win that title?  Can you win that subdivision of true-blue heartland conservative?  Because Rudy‘s not going for it.  Romney‘s a late comer to that competition.  Can you win it?

BROWNBACK:  I think I can.  I think I‘m the dark horse in the field, or as I‘ve said many times here, I‘m the tortoise in the race.  It just—it‘s crawling and moving every day forward, and particularly the further I think that Governor Romney‘s in the field and his inconsistency on so many of the core issues that the party is built upon.  I think it‘s tough to lead on a topic that you haven‘t been consistent on yourself.  And that‘s why I think he‘ll have difficulty as we wear on into this to the caucuses.

MATTHEWS:  The contradiction, the Catch-22 I keep noticing in Governor Romney‘s appeal is he said it was a mistake for him to be pro-choice when he ran for senator and then governor of Massachusetts, which is a pro-choice state, generally speaking.  And yet if he hadn‘t played that card, if he hadn‘t gone that way, he wouldn‘t now have the credential of being a governor to run for president.

So why does he keep saying, I wish I had done it the other way?  If he‘d done it the other way, he wouldn‘t even be this far.

BROWNBACK:  Well, I think that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  It just seems to me a contradiction in terms.  He got elected in Massachusetts because he said he was pro-choice.  Now he‘s saying that was a mistake to say he was pro-choice.  Well, isn‘t it a mistake to use the title governor?  He ought to drop using the title, then.

BROWNBACK:  Well, I‘ll leave that to them.  But I think the key issue here is, Chris, is how do you lead on this, the—what I believe is the lead moral issue of our day, if you haven‘t been consistent on the topic when you‘ve been in leadership positions?  And how are the people going to trust your leadership on it if they don‘t believe that you believe it?

That‘s why I think this is such a key topic, particularly in a Republican Party primary, but also for the country.  Do we believe human life is sacred, and sacred at all stages?  And I‘m talking about being pro-life and whole life, from the beginning to the child in Darfur to somebody in poverty.  I want to expand the pro-life message to be much more inclusive and I think embracing, at that point.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you could run with a Rudy Giuliani and balance out that ticket as a pro-lifer?

BROWNBACK:  Well, with him as vice president, I think we can get that done.  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not being...

BROWNBACK:  I think we could do that.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not being tongue in cheek at all here, are you.  You mean it.

BROWNBACK:  I‘m not.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the numero uno and he‘s going to be in the sidesaddle there.

BROWNBACK:  He‘s a good man.  He‘s a good man.  I‘ll certainly look at him.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the president and this war.  It doesn‘t seem to get better.  I guess we can argue that we‘re going to get a decent 50/50 report from Petraeus.  But listening to the president at the press conference yesterday, he sounded like his commitment to this war in Iraq isn‘t a matter of something that can be changed next month or by a report or a failed economic or a failed political progress over there or a failed military campaign.  He sounds like he‘s in it to the end.  Are you?  Would you stick it out in Iraq all the way until we get a working democracy over there, no matter what the cost?

BROWNBACK:  Well, your last statement is the thing I think is troubling on it, a working democracy.  And I think we‘re going to see in the Petraeus report is he‘s going to say excellent progress on the military side, little if no progress on the political side in Iraq.  And that‘s where we have the ineffective answer.

MATTHEWS:  Well, then, what are we fighting for?  What‘s our army fighting for over there?  What are we asking the Iraqi army to fight for, if behind it all, is non—there‘s a non-democracy there, there‘s not something to fight for?

BROWNBACK:  I think what you might fight for is a three-state solution

that can get you to political stability.  And within those states—like

the Kurdish state.  They‘ve been operating separately for some time.  And

it‘s somewhat of a working democracy.  I think you have to do that in the

Sunni, the Shia area, with Baghdad as a federal city and a weak federated -

that‘s a political solution that can build on the military space that‘s been given.  That‘s a political surge...

MATTHEWS:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNBACK:  I think that‘s what we need.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like you and Senator Biden on the Democratic side should get together because both of you...

BROWNBACK:  We already have.

MATTHEWS:  ... agree on what looks like a reasonable alternative to what we have, and you‘re the only guys that are really pointing to something that might offer a brighter prospect than continued war forever.

BROWNBACK:  We have a joint resolutoin that Joe Biden and I are doing on it.  And that‘s one of my frustrating points on this, Chris.  We‘re going to be in this war with militant Islamists I think for a generation.  And we need to come together as a country, Republican and Democrat, on a strategy for how we contain militant Islamists.  It‘s not a majority of people who are Muslim, but it is a dedicated force.  And we need to have the same sort of bi-partisan, long-term strategy that we had to contain communism for this militant-ized Islamist push.

MATTHEWS:  And we have to pick our fights.  Anyway, thank you very much...

BROWNBACK:  We do.

MATTHEWS:  ... Senator Brownback, who‘s fighting hard in the Iowa caucuses (SIC) tomorrow.  Get out and vote for Senator Brownback.  Come on!

BROWNBACK:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: What‘s wrong with the stock market?  Should we be worried?  Of course we‘re worried!  CNBC‘s Erin Burnett‘s here to talk about how low this thing can go, and I don‘t like it one bit.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  So what‘s going on the stock market?  Yesterday the stocks on Wall Street suffered their biggest one-day decline since February.  Should we be worried?

Erin Burnett anchors CNBC‘s “Squawk on the Street” and “Street Signs.” 

Welcome.

Erin, you know, I notice the statistical quirk is the market‘s actually up for the week, but it doesn‘t feel that way.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, “SQUAWK ON THE STREET,” “STREET SIGNS”:  You know, it certainly didn‘t.  And Chris, hey, you‘ve noticed it.  I think it‘s now, well, six out of the past eight days, I believe, after today‘s close, that we‘ve had the market move either 100 points up or down.  I mean, the volatility that we‘re seeing right now is volatility we haven‘t seen since 1987.  And you may remember what happened in 1987, an unpleasant one-day 23 percent fall for...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but I didn‘t have any money back then.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t care back then.  Go ahead.

BURNETT:  Yes, well, you know, I mean, this—we have a—it‘s almost unprecedented, right, except for then.  You know, but I was talking about today, Chris, you know, people—people are afraid and worried about the market, and they should be because it‘s so unpredictable right now.  But if you look back at 1987, there‘s a lot of things that are similar to what we‘re seeing now.  You know, oil prices were going up then.  The cost of loans were going up then.  Market hit a record and then started to falter.  We‘re seeing all of those things now.

But it is different this time around.  A lot of people, other than you, have a lot of money, so the market‘s a lot bigger, and that likely means that the cushion is a lot more significant than it was back then.  So as far as, is this just the beginning of a giant crash?  Most likely not.  That might...

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m wondering about that because I keep thinking about back in the ‘20s, when we had the worst great depression, of course, the Great Depression, and it started with the agricultural prices, and all of a sudden, you couldn‘t produce anything to make any money with it.  So you know, they had deflation.

Are we facing anything like that?  I keep wondering why Bernanke doesn‘t cut rates and end this nonsense and just give everybody a big break in the market.  Why doesn‘t he just say, There‘s going to be more money, I‘m going to lower rates, and we‘re not going to have this credit crunch anymore?  Why doesn‘t he he just solve the problem?

BURNETT:  Well, here‘s the thing.  I don‘t know that he can solve it, Chris.  I mean, he could cut rates.  He could cut rates, all right?  So maybe that would help the mortgage situation a little bit.  But even where interest rates are right now is almost not in the control of the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke.  It‘s more global.  It‘s the Chinese central bankers that are buying  a lot of this debt and keeping interest rates low in this country.

So the biggest thing that‘s different from 20 years ago and that‘s keeping interest rates where they are is it‘s global.  There are people around the world who have a lot more money, and it is a much more global problem than it used to be.

You know, when you talk about inflation, that‘s another interesting point because a lot of people like to say—scare monger about China, right, a lot of politicians, and I know you talk about that issue all the time.  I think people should be careful what they wish for on China.  You know, if China were to revalue its currency or China is to start making, say, toys that don‘t have lead in them or food that isn‘t poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up, and that means prices at Wal-Mart here in the United States are going to go up, too.  So I would say China is our greatest friend right now.  They‘re keeping prices low and they‘re keeping prices for mortgages low, too.

MATTHEWS:  What about the land prices?  I‘ve been reading abut that, watching about that.  Are all these houses in the ritzy neighborhoods, like in California, which the whole state is ritzy—are they all overvalued? 

Are they all going to take a big drop?  Is that‘s what‘s going on here with

land values, and therefore the whole value of property

BURNETT:  You‘re seeing it in particular in California.  You‘re seeing it in Florida, too.  I was talking to an economist today who specialized just on California, Chris.  It was interesting.  He thinks we could have a total—in addition to what we‘ve seen in California of price declines, another 15 to 20  percent...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BURNETT:  ... in certain neighborhoods.  So yes, California is going to be problematic, and it could take several years to get out of this.  You know, and (INAUDIBLE) issues, a lot of these developments that they started to build, they sold a few houses, the value of the houses that were finished is dropping sharply because the builders don‘t even want to finish building those developments because there‘s no one to sell the remaining houses to.

MATTHEWS:  Where are—where are the people turning 25, starting young marriages—where are those people buying houses?  Where are they moving to?  Are they staying at home?  What are they doing?

BURNETT:  Well, they were part of the biggest increase in home ownership in this country that we‘ve ever seen.  I mean, home ownership‘s ticked up a few percentage points over the past few years, thanks to low interest rates...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BURNETT:  ... and all those creatve types of mortgages.  And you could say that‘s a good thing, but you know, Chris, I guess just to throw it out there and, you know, be provacative, but also ask a fair question—you know, maybe not everybody is able to own a home.  We like to think of owning a home as a right in this country.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BURNETT:  It might not be.

MATTHEWS:  Could you get a little closer to the camera?

BURNETT:  What—what is it—is it...

MATTHEWS:  Come on in closer.  No, come in—come in further—come in closer.  Really close.

BURNETT:  What are you—what are you...

MATTHEWS:  Just kidding!  You look great!  Anyway, thanks.  Erin, it‘s great to—look at that look!  You‘re great.

BURNETT:  I don‘t even know.  I‘m going to have to go look at the tape here.  I‘m in a strange location.

MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re beautiful.  I‘m just kidding.  I‘m just kidding. 

You‘re a knock-out.  Anyway, thank you, Erin Burnett.

BURNETT:  All right, Chris.  See you later.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s all right getting bad news from you, even, OK?  Thanks for coming on HARDBALL.

Up next, my review of today‘s big political news and the expectations game going on into tomorrow‘s big straw vote out there in Iowa.

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Is Iowa for sale?  The Ames Straw Poll.  Mitt Romney is outspending everyone, but with Rudy Giuliani, McCain and Thompson not in race, will he get what he paid for?  Is this a shakedown, as Rudy calls it?  Is Romney buying himself into the race for president?  Here is what Romney is spending to win, between $500 and a $1,000 a month for so-called “super volunteers.”  Sixty of them all getting paid.  Volunteers aren‘t supposed to get paid.  Over $2 million in TV ads just in Iowa, $200,000 is going to a consultant, a single person who is running the whole thing. 

And also, Romney is leasing a whole fleet of buses to ship the voters in.  But will this straw vote serve to whittle down the field or not?  And who will finish second out there?  That can be the big story. 

That gay debate.  A new poll shows an endorsement from gay groups actually hurts candidates in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.  The Democrats go a-courting for the gay vote, are they just interested, however, in the gay money? 

The Clinton contradiction.  Senator Hillary Clinton slammed Barack Obama, as we all know, for saying he would not use nuclear weapons against bin Laden in Pakistan.  And that was her effort to paint as both naive and inexperienced.  But just last year somebody dug up this thought, I think it was Beth Fouhy of AP, Hillary Clinton was asked about the possibility of the Bush administration using a nuclear strike in Iran.  And she said: “I have said publicly no option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table.” Is Hillary opening herself up to that famous phrase from 2004, is she going to be seen as a flip-flopper? 

Rudy Giuliani was asked about the health risk at Ground Zero.  And he says that Ground Zero, he was there so often, if not more often than most of the workers there.  Quote: “I was there working with them.  I was exposed to the same things that they were exposed to.  So in that sense I am one of them.” Really?  James Riches is a fire captain whose firefighter son was killed on 9/11, said to The New York Post: “That‘s insulting and disgraceful.  He is a liar.” That‘s the firefighter talking about Mayor Giuliani. 

Later today Giuliani said he could have said it better and what he has been trying to say was that he empathized with the Ground Zero workers because he feels like he faced the same health risks.  But that didn‘t stop Democratic rival John Edwards from jumping in a bit late.  His campaign manager said: “Giuliani has taken a break from reality.” 

My five sons, this is my favorite story.  Mitt Romney is casting himself as the hawk of all hawks in this presidential campaign.  But when he was asked this week in Iowa why none of his five grown sons is serving in the military, even though Romney is clamoring to increase the size of the Army, he said they were serving the country by helping him get elected.  Well, can anyone compare campaign service with fighting in a war with bullets coming at you? 

Up next tonight‘s HARDBALL debate.  I‘m your girl.  That‘s what Hillary said.  Does she have a right to use that word “girl” in these feminist times?  We will be right back.  That is going to be our debate between two women.  One doesn‘t like her saying “girl,” the other one sort of likes her.  You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  She really likes her. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I love a good argument.  And this could be a big one.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  At the AFL-CIO Democratic Forum this Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton told union members this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I have noticed in the last few days that a lot of the other campaigns have been using my name a lot.  But, I‘m here because I think we need to change America.  And it is not to get in fights with Democrats, I want the Democrats to win and I want a united Democratic Party that will stand against the Republicans.  And I will say that for the 15 years I have stood up against the right-wing machine and I have come out stronger.  So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I‘m on your girl. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m your girl.  It was heard quite differently by our two guests coming up right now.  Democratic consultant Marjorie Fields Harris.  And the former chair of the Virginia Republican Party, Kate Obenshain. 

So is it “go girl go” or “no girl no way”?  Let‘s go right with Marjorie.  Marjorie, you like the phrase, “I‘m your girl.” 

MARJORIE FIELDS HARRIS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT:  Well, you know, Chris, I use it all of the time.  It is kind of a colloquial thing with me and my girlfriends.  And it is like, hey, girl.  And we didn‘t take it at all—you know, I kind of did a straw poll of my own and called my friends and said, well, were you offended?  They are making noise at using the word girl.  And they said, well, we use it all of the time. 

So I really wasn‘t offended by it.  Although I do talk to Jewel Jackson McCabe, who is the founder of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women who is one of my mentors, and she said that it is kind of a generational argument and she felt that women of other generations are slightly offended by the use of the word girl. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, let‘s go to another view.  Kate Obenshain, you don‘t like the phrase, “I‘m your girl”? 

KATE OBENSHAIN, CLAIRE BOOTHE LUCE POLICY INSTITUTE:  You know, Chris, I‘m about the last thing that somebody would—I‘m about the last person someone would call a feminist.  And I have to say I was shocked when I heard it.  I thought, oh my gosh, this radical feminist is using a patronizing word for women. 

This not “go girl go,” you know slapping each other on the back.  This was “I‘m your girl.” It just was an—the irony is that this is Hillary Clinton, who has championed radical feminism for so many years and here she is being the traditional hypocrite that she is being these days, changing her tone when she needs to sort of soften that image, convince people that she is no longer that radical feminist.  This all plays into what she has been doing lately in terms of just toning it down a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that if somebody like me had referred Hillary Clinton as “girl,” that somebody like Wolfson or.

OBENSHAIN:  You might have gotten away with it.

(CROSSTALK)

OBENSHAIN:  You might have gotten away with it.  But Rudy Giuliani or somebody else would have been just chewed up and spit out.  Any Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Marjorie, is that true?  If somebody else, a third party had come out there and taken a shot at Hillary, referring to her as “that girl,” would that have been an excuse to go after him and destroy him for being, what is the right word, chauvinist? 

HARRIS:  Well, I think someone saying “that girl” is a little pejorative.  But I mean, Chris, how many times do guys say, I‘m the guy?  I‘m your guy for this job?  And I think that Hillary was just being a little familiar.  She was being very, you know, at ease with the audience. 

And I think in the context of what she was saying, it was kind of like, let‘s go do this.  You know, it was a rallying cry.  I didn‘t take it at all out of context like, you know, I‘m your girl.  I mean, women, we are so diverse.  You know, we have been called so many different things.  And I think being called a girl is like the least harmful of all of the names you could possibly call. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is like Bill Clinton saying, I did not have sexual relations with that woman. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He couldn‘t quite remember her name of that right away, but he said, “that woman.” Do you like that better, Kate, “that woman,” rather than “that girl”?

OBENSHAIN:  I would certainly think—you know, I‘m looking at this from the perspective of Hillary Clinton‘s base, which is the radical feminist base.  And I would certainly think that they would prefer to hear “woman.”  I don‘t really care.  But I certainly prefer woman or lady. 

But you know what, Chris, the problem is this is a pattern that is emerging with Hillary Clinton.  A couple weeks ago she was asked, are you offended by being called Hillary when all of your counterparts are being called by their last name?  This is her chance to stand up for the movement that she supposedly has been fighting for her whole life and say, that is just a continuation of the traditional male dominance. 

But no, she said, oh, I understand, you know, it might offend some, but I understand.  Where is Hillary Clinton, that radical liberal? 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know what I think?  I think—Marjorie and Kate, I think it was smart, I think it was brilliant.  I think it was Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald.  They worked hard at this.  This was a set piece for the following reasons.

Guys, even traditional guys, like spunky women.  They may not like women power and all that, and women taking over, whatever, but they like spunky Cat Ballou, hot ticket women, million dollar babies.  They like that kind of woman because they love fighters.  Isn‘t that what—I want to go back to Marjorie. 

Could it be that what they have done is found a phrase, “girl,” that appeals to both the traditional guy who owns a boat and a gun up in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and also the hot ticket woman who is 25 years old in New York and said “girl” works for both sides? 

HARRIS:  I think that they have found a phrase that people are very comfortable with using.  People, particularly of my generation and some of the younger generations don‘t find it offensive at all.  And I think, like you said, this will appeal to people who want to feel more familiar and more comfortable with Mrs. Clinton. 

You know, at first they criticize her for being so removed and so uncomfortable in certain situations.  And I think that this just kind of brings her a little bit more closely into some of the circles.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she wasn‘t—she is not channeling Eleanor Roosevelt, because nobody ever called Eleanor Roosevelt “that girl.” But he she might be channeling Hilary Swank here.  That is what I think she is up to.  I think she wants to be the million dollar baby.  And girl is perfect. 

OBENSHAIN:  She has two problems though.  She is alienating that feminist base.  But more importantly.

MATTHEWS:  She already alienated you 100 years ago. 

OBENSHAIN:  No, but listen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Would you have ever voted for Hillary Clinton in a million years, you? 

OBENSHAIN:  Her problem is that people.

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, Kate.  Would you ever vote for a Democrat in a million years? 

OBENSHAIN:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  Ha!

OBENSHAIN:  But Hillary needs her base.  But also the problem is, for the mainstream voter, the NBC poll—the CBS poll that recently came out in The New York Times said that people are not believing that Hillary actually believes what she says. 

That is a huge problem, because she is seen as disingenuous.  And to see her saying, I‘m your girl, that is disingenuous. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Kate first, what percentage of the woman vote, the female vote, will Hillary Clinton get when all the votes are counted in the fight for the Democratic nomination? 

OBENSHAIN:  In the Democrat nomination?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What percentage, in all of these primaries, will she get of women voters, do you think?

OBENSHAIN:  As opposed to the Republican, I would say she would get in the low 50s.  And you are not talking about the general. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Marjorie?  Hillary—OK, you want to go with the general election?  I will do that.  Marjorie, what percentage, if Hillary gets the nomination, will she get of women voters? 

HARRIS:  I think that Hillary is the natural assumption.  You know, she is the natural candidate for women.  But I think that women are a lot more analytical than people are giving us credit for sometimes.  I think that they are going to look at Obama.  I think they are going to look his status in the community.  I think they are going to look at a lot of things. 

He is going to become like the son to a lot of older women, particularly in the African-American community.  I think women are going to look at the poverty issues.  You know, this is going to be a pocket book campaign.  This is going to be about women who have to find gas money to take their kids to soccer practice, to ballet. 

So this is a going to be pocket book issues campaign.  And I think they are going to be looking at everyone analytically across the board. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you find it interesting on the Democratic side, where you seem to be coming from, Marjorie, that men are about evenly divided between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton? 

HARRIS:  I‘m not surprised at all.  Because they are both—they both represent a new image for the party.  I mean, obviously the country is ready for change.  And I think that both of the candidates really represent a change.  And so naturally I think that they are going to be looking at Senator Obama because his “audacity of hope,” his new campaign has a sea-change message there. 

And I think Senator Clinton, as well, also brings a lot of new ideas. 

So I‘m not surprised that they are pretty much evenly divided. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you find it interesting, Marjorie, that you are both wearing pearls tonight? 

(LAUGHTER)

OBENSHAIN:  It is that girl look. 

HARRIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this the Junior League I‘m interviewing tonight or what? 

(CROSSTALK)

OBENSHAIN:  Now that is patronizing, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There is nothing wrong with the Junior League.  They do good work.  Anyway, thank you, Kate Obenshain.  Thank you, Marjorie Fields Harris. 

Up next, our HARDBALL roundtable and all the week‘s political news.  Will Mitt Romney win big in Iowa?  It looks like it.  Is frontrunner Hillary Clinton in danger of becoming a flip-flopper over talking about nuclear weapons use?  And all of that and more.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Mitt Romney goes for the gold in Iowa with busloads of fans.  Will paying their way pay off for his campaign?  When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the HARDBALL round table with the “Houston Chronicle‘s” Julie Mason, “Business Week‘s” Eamon Javers, and the “National Review‘s” Deroy Murdock. 

First up Ames gains?  Republican White House hopefuls, minus Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain, are pressing the flesh in Ames, Iowa this weekend for the straw poll.  Mitt Romney is expected to win this year.  And he is pouring lots of money into it by busing in supporters, paying their admission so they can vote for him.  Here‘s his TV pitch, complete with a phone number on how to get there.  It is our video 2008 clip of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thousands of miles across Iowa for the Romney family, and the next miles take us to Ames for the Republican straw poll on Saturday, the 11th.  I hope you will join us and send a message to Washington.  Washington politicians in both parties have proven they can‘t control spending, and they won‘t control our borders.  I will.  But I need your help to do it. 

So come on to Ames.  After all, changing America always starts in Iowa.  I‘m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s like Washington politicians.  He tried to be one back in 1994 when he lost that Senate race to Ted Kennedy.  Deroy, let me ask you about this—first of all, you sir, and then everybody jump in here; is this just nonsense?  Is this like the Golden Globes, where you don‘t even know who is voting or whose paying the ticket.  Is this anything like the thing we‘re trying to sell in Iraq, democracy? 

DEROY MURDOCK, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”:  I guess it is a version of democracy, sort of pay-per-view democracy, if you will.  We‘ve got all the money for these buses and 35 dollars per voter. 

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t we get rid of the poll tax back in—didn‘t the poll tax go its awful way back in the 60‘s? 

MURDOCK:  Yes, I thought the poll tax was gone.  This is kind of a straw poll tax, if you will.  But I think Mitt Romney is in a no win, no win situation.  If he wins big, everybody will say, of course won big.  He spent all this money and had these people bused in and so on. 

If he doesn‘t do well, then people will say my god, he spent all this money and had all these buses and didn‘t win.  So he doesn‘t really walk away from it having picked up very much I don‘t think. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Eamon Javers on that.  Do you have the same downward look at this whole process?

EAMON JAVERS, “BUSINESS WEEK”:  It is definitely a dog and pony show.  It is the only dog and pony show we‘ve got right now.  We have to parce it a bit.  

MATTHEWS:  The only game in town, so we have to talk it up. 

JAVERS:  The Romney camp actually this afternoon put out a press release trying to dampen expectations a little bit.  Talking about how we shouldn‘t expect a huge turnout here, like we saw in Ames in 1999, when President Bush won this straw poll. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not? 

JAVERS:  They are raising expectations, because they‘ve come out very strong and aggressive effort here to be the front running and to get that conservative mantle.  At the same time, they are lowering expectation here a little bit on the eve of things.  I don‘t know if that‘s political schizophrenia or if there some strategy behind that. 

MATTHEWS:  Julie, is this Waterloo for any of these guys?  One of the hopes is this will be like musical chairs and somebody will be left without a chair, and we‘ll start to winnow down.  We have too many candidates in both parties to even get focused here.  Do you think this might knock out Huckabee?  It might be his Waterloo?   

JULIE MASON, “THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE”:  Yes, and Thompson as well.  Wouldn‘t it blow your mind if Tancredo came in second.  The thing is, maybe with this jacked up primary schedule, the Ames straw poll is going to actually mean something this year.  I guess we will see.

MATTHEWS:  OK, if Tancredo wins, it means the president was dead wrong about illegal immigration.  He should have gone out against illegal immigration, instead of looking like he was for it. 

MURDOCK:  This is what‘s often true in these sorts of things.  It is no so much who wins, but the person who is the unexpected second or something like that. 

MATTHEWS:  Make your bid for who will make news tonight—tomorrow night?  Who is going to come out of this as the big headliner on Sunday?

MASON:  I will take Tancredo.

MURDOCK:  Everyone is going to talk about Mitt Romney having a victory here.  He‘s clearly got the bus loads of people poised.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s number two then? 

MURDOCK:  I would not be surprise if Ron Paul, who seems to have a certain, if you will, cult following among people even more Libertarian than I. 

MATTHEWS:  He is my guy.  I love Ron Paul.

MASON:  I don‘t think Youtube voters are going to be in Ames, Iowa over the weekend. 

MATTHEWS:  I love that guy.  He is the only guy that speaks like a libertarian.  He‘s an old Barry Goldwater guy.  He sounds like the genuine article.  He doesn‘t believe in any of this neo conservative stuff at all. 

Let‘s go here—this women‘s right to change her mind.  All week Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been trading fire over whether nuclear weapons should be on the table to deal with terrorist in Pakistan or Afghanistan.  Clinton charged Obama was unwise to make blanket statements about not using nuclear options. 

But just last year, when she was asked about potential against Iran, Clinton told Bloomberg News the following: quote, I have said publicly no option should be taken off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table.  This administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven‘t since the dawn of the nuclear age.  I think that‘s terrible, a big mistake.

So how do you make that deal, everybody?  It seems like Hillary blasted away, and very successfully, including on this show, against Obama for even talking about taking nuclear off the table, although I thought it was a reasonable thing to do.  It turns out she did the same exact thing a year-ago.  Julie?

MASON:  Oops.  Them‘s heart nukes.  That‘s the thing.  It is too bad that she didn‘t remember she said that.  But are we going to remember six months from now that she said that?  I don‘t think it matters that much?

MATTHEWS:  So she got away with knocking down Barack on this.  And nobody remembers she‘s being inconsistent?

MASON:  Did he take a serious hit?  I don‘t think so. 

MURDOCK:  I think the deeper question is how she could not have clear in her head about what she thinks about nuclear weapons.  This is really one of the most important things a president has to deal with.  You would think she would have in her head either clearly, yes, we will use these as negotiating tools, or this is beyond the pale.  We don‘t want to talk about nuclear weapons.  She‘s been on two sides of one of the most important tools the president has within a year.  I find that rather disconcerting. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to take sides here—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s all be brutally honest here.  There might be a case for tactical or a smaller nuclear weapon, if there‘s such a thing, a small mega tonnage, if you are going after some bunker-buster goal, like in Iran, to find those nuclear weapons.  You really have to make a big hole to do it and cover some terrain. 

I can‘t imagine how a nuclear weapon would help in the hills of Pakistan trying to find a cave somewhere.  I think there is a big difference here in logic. 

JAVERS:  There‘s a big difference in the logic, Chris, and there‘s also a big difference in the politics of this.  Remember, we are in a Democratic primary.  There are not that many Democratic primary voters who want the United States to go around nuking people these days. 

MURDOCK:  Nuclear weapons are as much psychological weapons as anything.  They work—They are working right now. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  You are dead right.  When you are dealing with Ahmadinejad, it is wise to keep all weapons in the back.  I agree.  You never know what way to moves this guy—or the mullahs, to shut him down.  We don‘t know what will shut him down.  It is nice to try everything that might work, because we got to find a way to shut him down, or else we‘ll end up in a war with the guy. 

We‘ll be right back with our round table, very thoughtful young people here tonight.  Don‘t forget the HARDBALL ad challenge.  Make your own campaign ad and send it into us.  We‘ll play it on the air if it‘s good.  Here‘s an ad from Dave Also Brooks—what kind of name is that—from North Carolina. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The great movements that have happened in America; they didn‘t start in Washington, D.C.  They started right here with people of conviction and courage and passion, who will stand up for what you believe in and what you know is right.  We need you again.  We need all of you to speak out, to speak up, and to build the kind of America, moral and just, that all of us believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was his last name, Alsobrooks.  Keep your ads coming.  Just upload them at our website, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We are back with Julie Mason of the “Houston Chronicle,” Eamon Javers of “Business Week,” and Deroy Murdock of the “National Review.” 

Next up, chicken hawking Romney.  Mitt Romney is banking on a big win on Saturday‘s Iowa straw vote by talking tough on the war on Iraq.  Here he is earlier last weekend at the most recent Republican debate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I would strengthen America‘s military, make sure we could be safe here at home.  We know that we can be safe around the world.  I want to have more troops in our military.  I want to have them have the equipment they need on the battlefield and the care they deserve when they come home. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  More troops.  Asked this week why not one of his five able bodied sons as one of those troops, even though all are probably pro-war, Romney said this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How many of your five sons are currently serving in the U.S. military?  If none of them are, how do they plan to support this war on terrorism by enlisting in our U.S. military? 

ROMNEY:  The good news is we have a volunteer army.  That‘s the way we are going to keep it.  My sons are all adults.  They have made their decisions about their careers and they have chosen not to serve in the military and active duty.  I respect their decision in that regard. 

I also respect and value very highly those who make a decision to serve in the military.  I think we ought to show an outpouring of support, just as I suggested, a surge of support for those families and those individuals who are serving. 

One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I would be a great president. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a wistful comment.  Does Romney risk being called a chicken hawk?  By the way, he said none of them are on active duty.  Are they in the reserves?  What was that about?  That was a suggestion they had some other form of military service.  Deroy, what do you think?  I only raise this because the phrase chicken hawk is in our language, it‘s about people who support wars in theory.  

MURDOCK:  I think that Romney made an unusual comment that his sons aren‘t serving the military, but they are serving our country by helping his campaign, as if being in Ames, Iowa tomorrow would be like being in Baghdad under fire.  Obviously, no comparison there. 

But I would like to see us spend a lot less time talking about the candidates families, their marriages, their children.  Instead, I want to hear about their ideas, their programs, their agendas. 

MATTHEWS:  His program is to build a bigger army with more Americans joining the military, a larger participation by more Americans in the military, not just—obviously volunteers by the technical definition.  He is saying, basically, go out there and recruit more people, but leave my family alone. 

MURDOCK:  Well, no.  I don‘t think he said leave my family alone.  We do have a volunteer military.  His sons decided not to be in the military.  We got in this whole debate about Giuliani‘s children and back and forth. 

MATTHEWS:  This is different.  This is public policy. 

MURDOCK:  The issue here is—

MATTHEWS:  This is about a war and sending young people to war who may not want to go to war.  They may be willing to join the reserves.  They end up joining the reserves and are weekend warriors.  The next thing they know, they are spending two or three years in the Iraq because of people‘s policies, the policies of people like Romney.  That‘s why I‘m raising it.

MURDOCK:  I think broadly what I would like to see is more focus on agendas and ideas. 

MATTHEWS:  Here is one agenda; this man wants to be commander in chief of the U.S. military.  And he has shown no signs of encouraging military life by anyone in his family.  You have to ask, why does he want to lead the military, as commander in chief, when he has shown no inclination to encourage military action by his sons?  I have a problem with this.  It‘s just a personal—

MURDOCK:  We don‘t know if he has had discussions with them and they have said, gee, dad, thanks for the advice.  I don‘t want to join the army. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m willing to bet he could have said that and didn‘t.  Let‘s go to Eamon on this.  Eamon, do you think the chicken hawk charge is fair? 

JAVERS:  Chris, what this goes to is this fundamental cultural schism right now that we‘ve got.  It is one of the down sides of a volunteer army.  You get this separation culturally between the economic elites, who, by in large, in this country, don‘t serve, and their children don‘t serve in the military, and those folks who are not in the elite, who do serve. 

MATTHEWS:  What about those in the elite, who regularly choose the military option when confronted with a foreign policy challenge?  They always say let‘s go to Grenada, let‘s go to Panama, let‘s go to Vietnam, let‘s go to Iraq, let‘s go to Kosovo.  They are regularly, as a policy tool, saying, use young men and women to go fight a war. 

They choose that as an election.  It‘s a choice.  And yet, when it comes to the choice in their own personal lives, no interest in playing a role in the military life. 

JAVERS:  I did a story a while back looking at World War II veterans serving in Congress.  I asked them all—they were all sort of dying off and retiring—I asked them all what did they think about all these guys who are coming into Congress who had never served in the military?  Would they be inclined to never use the military as an option? 

By and large, what these World War II vets said is look, we are worried that they will use the military too much.  They think the military is sort of Rambo.  Those of us who have been to World War II know what combat is like and are maybe a little bit more hesitant to use military than some of these guys who haven‘t served.   Your own experience does color this a lot.

MATTHEWS:  War is hell, from those who fought it.  By the way, that whole fight going on between the “Weekly Standard” right now and the “New Republic,” whatever the ultimate facts, anybody who has been in war knows that it brutalizes you. 

Next, Obama on race.  A panel at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Las Vegas today asked the question—I don‘t know.  These questions come and here they go.  Is Barack Obama black enough?  Here is Obama‘s answer at the convention. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  This is a puzzling question.  The fact that it has been perpetrated through our press, I think, is interesting.  If there is somebody else out there who as has reformed the death penalty or organized in public housing projects or devoted their entire lives to civil rights, then I could understand why people would ask the question. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Deroy, what do you think of this?  You have to start this thing.  I wonder about it.  Is it a real question in the black community or is it something, as he said, being perpetrated by people on the other side of this political fight? 

MURDOCK:  Why did you call on me first? 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I will skip you.  If I didn‘t, it would be weird. 

MURDOCK:  This is the modern version of the one-drop rule, is he black enough?  You have a situation where Barack Obama, who is actually half black, is considered by most Democrats to be sufficiently black.  And then you have someone like Clarence Thomas, who probably has even less white blood, and people on the left think he‘s unauthentically black. 

This is the difficulty we get into in this country when we start counting by race and looking at people according to their skin color and not their ideas and issues.  The real question is, if Barack Obama walked down the street and someone said, hey, there is a black man, that‘s black enough.  I think we should focus on his ideas, what his agenda is, how he sees this country‘s future, and less on what his chromosomes look like. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it is somebody pushing this, as he said, perpetrating this, or is it just a question that came up in the culture, in the anthropology of the community? 

MURDOCK:  Do I think he brought it up? 

MATTHEWS:  He said somebody has been perpetrating this? 

MURDOCK:  No, I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think anyone behind him is. 

MATTHEWS:  No, on the other side?  Hillary Clinton?

MURDOCK:  I don‘t think so.  I would hope not. 

MATTHEWS:  It would be stupid to say is he black enough and ask them to vote for a white woman. 

MURDOCK:  If you have other candidates, particularly white or even white female, shopping around the idea that he‘s insufficiently black, based on his genetic background, that‘s horrible.  That ought to be a disqualifying factor is somebody is doing that.

MATTHEWS:  You should point out in this country, unlike in South Africa; if you are even part black, you are black in the culture.  So, I mean, it seems like this is a stupid thing.  Anyway, thank you very much Julie Mason.  It was a great round table.  Deroy, as always.  Eamon Javers, haven‘t seen you in a hundred year.  There you are.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”  Thank you.

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

END   

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