updated 11/16/2007 11:07:51 AM ET 2007-11-16T16:07:51

Guests: Rep. Jim Moran, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Joe Trippi, Tom DeLay, Kenneth Blackwell, David Brody, Ezra Klein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Can Democrats end the war?  Can Bush be beaten?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from San Francisco.  Wednesday night, the House passed a $50 billion Iraq war bill that requires President Bush to bring the troops home by December of next year, basically, at the end of his term.  Will the Democrats stick and fight?  Will they dare the president to fight the war in Iraq without them?  More on the war and the role it will play in the upcoming 2008 election in just a moment.

Plus: As the Democrats—as the Democrats get ready to debate again, will Hillary be whacked for switching on illegal immigrants getting driver‘s license?  Will Edwards go after Hillary or Obama?  We‘ll talk to Joe Trippi, senior strategist for the Edwards campaign.

Plus: Are Republicans in a rut?  The evangelical vote is divided among the various candidates for president, and the conservative movement seems strangely stalled right now.  Tonight we‘ll talk to two of the most committed conservative in the country, former House majority leader And Tom DeLay and former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell.

But we begin with the politics of war with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Four-and-a-half years into Iraq and with President Bush‘s approval ratings lower than ever and the Democratic Party‘s base as determined than ever, Democratic leaders in Congress are pledging once again to try and force an end to the Iraq war.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Certainly, because of the Iraqi government has not stepped up to the plate to do what it should do, but also because this war in Iraq is having a very damaging impact on the readiness of our troops.

SHUSTER:  Just like their efforts last spring, the Democratic measures would continue funding the war but would attach a date for ending combat operations.  Last spring, President Bush vetoed similar legislation and then accused the Democrats of not funding the troops.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our troops and their families deserve better, and their elected leaders can do better.

SHUSTER:  After failing to get enough votes to override the president‘s veto, Democrats buckled, giving the war money with no conditions.  Not this time, according to Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NE), MAJORITY LEADER:  This bill has $50 billion in it.  If the president is not willing to take that with some conditions on it, then the president won‘t get his $50 billion.  That‘s pretty clear.

SHUSTER:  Without the money, Pentagon officials believe they could cover war operations a few months by moving funds around but that the military would essentially run out by the spring.  Republicans are already attacking the Democratic leadership.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  All year, Congress has wasted invaluable time, having some 50 -- more than 50 votes here in the House trying to tie the hands of our troops and trying to ensure, frankly, failure in Iraq.

SHUSTER:  And the White House spokesperson is promising a swift veto.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  This is not money for the president, this is money for the troops.  And we‘re urging Congress not to play political games.

SHUSTER:  But the political landscape has changed over the last six months.  The number of troop casualties in Iraq is up to nearly 4,000.  The direct financial cost of the war is over $500 billion and counting.

REID:  And we cannot afford this war -- $12 billion a month?  We just can‘t—we can‘t continue.

SHUSTER:  And despite a drop in violence recently in Iraq, Americans are growing more frustrated with the war, not less.  Only one quarter believe the U.S. is winning, according to a recent poll.  Support for the war has dropped to 31 percent, opposition has risen to 68 percent.  And those numbers are survey records.

Add to that the ongoing frustration of anti-war activists, and the pressure is on congressional leaders again to demonstrate they‘re paying attention to the Democratic Party‘s base, even though House Speaker Pelosi seems to understand her legislation has no chance of getting signed by the president.

PELOSI:  It‘s not question whether it will become law.  Everybody knows that the president is stuck in his place, a place where he wants a 10-year war costing trillions of dollars.

SHUSTER (on camera):  And so the Democratic leadership and the president are once again headed towards a stalemate.  The president plans to argue that without a war spending bill he can sign, the Democrats are hurting the troops.  Democrats plan to argue that if the president doesn‘t sign their bill, he‘s the one cutting off the funds.  And once again, the question is, who is going to blink first?

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s the question for me tonight, who‘s going to blink first, the Democratic Congress or the Republican president?

Ellen Tauscher‘s a member of the Armed Services Committee.  She‘s from California.  She‘s a Democrat.  And Congressman Jim Moran, also a Democrat, serves from Virginia on the Appropriations Committee.

Congressman Moran, a year ago, most Americans voted Democrat for Congress to get this war over with.  Did it make any difference at all that they did that?

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  Absolutely.  We have an electoral mandate, and we‘re going to fulfill that mandate with this bill.  The president‘s right about one thing, that the—our soldiers and their families deserve better.  And this bill is finally going to take their concerns into mind.  They need some plan, some hope for terminating this catastrophe in Iraq.  And to ask the president to come up with a goal to end the—he should have had that before he went into Iraq, Chris.  And certainly, for him to object to the idea of our soldiers being adequately trained and equipped—imagine the number of people in the least skilled category—there are four categories, as you know, least skilled is up eight times, 800 percent in the last two years.

We are depleting our military.  We‘re losing confidence.  Their morale is low.  And the fact is, we‘re not winning the war.  It doesn‘t lend itself to a military victory.  We‘re losing it, and as a result, the Middle East is crumbling, as well.

The president would be well served by taking this bill and signing it, providing the money to begin a withdrawal of our troops.  And that‘s all this bill does, and it‘s exactly what the American people instructed us to do in the last election, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Tauscher, the unfortunate fact is that Congresswoman Pelosi, the speaker of the House, just a moment ago on tape - - we showed it—basically admitted that the president will not sign a bill that calls for a removal of our troops by the end of next year.  Are you confident that the leadership of your party won‘t just give the president what he wants next spring after this fight is over with?

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Look, Chris, I‘m very confident that after 50 votes that Democrats have put to the House of Representatives, with our Republican colleagues sticking not with the American people or our troops but with the president, that we have made it very clear to the president that we are determined to curb his spending in Iraq, to bring our troops home as fast as possible, to ensure that they‘re well trained and to make sure that the politics in Washington that he keeps initiating on this issue begins to create some politics perhaps in Iraq, where they‘ll have political reconciliation and take advantage of the fact that we have so many troops on the ground.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the secretary of defense, Congressman Moran, is out there saying—Bob Gates, who a lot of people respect, more than they did Rumsfeld—is out there saying that if you guys cut off the funding or don‘t give the president‘s appropriation in Congress, he‘s going to start furloughing federal employees that work in the Defense Department, he‘s going to be starting to vitiate or to terminate contracts for materiel.  Are you worried that your actions are going to hurt the military more than change the policy?

MORAN:  Only if they decide to do that.  That‘s what‘s called in Washington, the “Washington monument syndrome.”  As you know, Chris, there was a time when a spending bill was delayed a few days, and I think it was the Reagan administration said, Well, we‘re just going to have to close down the Washington Monument and every public park that the American people visit.  It‘s nonsense.  He doesn‘t have to do that.  He has enough money to go until mid-February, anyways.

And I think Secretary Gates, if you were to speak with him privately, understands that what we are asking for is exactly the way this money should be spent.  So that‘s nonsense.

We just gave the Pentagon $460 billion, Chris, and they‘re crying poor-mouth?  Imagine the idea of having to furlough people!  Four hundred and sixty billion dollars, and they can‘t find enough?  If the Iraq war is that low a priority, then they ought to agree that we shouldn‘t be there.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go and look at these numbers.  I know, Congresswoman Tauscher, like everyone, you must look at these polls.  The NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll says that 68 percent of Americans don‘t think Congress has done its job.  That‘s about the war, I would estimate.  Some of it is simply Republicans who don‘t like the Democrats running the Congress, but a big chunk of that must be that people are disappointed—in fact, angry as hell might be a better phrase for it—the people they elected to end this war haven‘t done it.

TAUSCHER:  Chris, I join them in my frustration and anger.  Look, we‘ve had a president who has balked from the first day that we won the election a little over a year ago.  When we took office in January as the majority, this president has basically said, I‘m not listening to the representatives of the American people who are now the majority, the Democrats, and I‘m not listening to the American people.  That‘s why his poll numbers are below freezing and that‘s why almost 8 out of 10 of Americans are saying, Look, I get this.  We‘re borrowing all the money for Iraq.  You‘re not putting enough money for child care, for education, for fighting cancer.  You‘re not doing children‘s health.  You‘re borrowing all this money.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TAUSCHER:  And our readiness for any other contingency is desperately bad.  I mean, we don‘t have one Army or Marine unit here, ground forces, that is C-1 rated to go to war in another atmosphere (ph) if we had another attack.  That is a deplorable state of readiness.  And the president‘s really damaging our national security by having this attitude of, My way or the highway.  The people are sick of it.  We‘re sick of it.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TAUSCHER:  This is the way to get it fixed.

MATTHEWS:  But those are words.  Congressman Moran, if you had a vote in the House right now or a vote in the U.S. Senate, as well, on whether to authorize this war, the vote that Hillary and others voted for back in—and Kerry voted for back in 2002, would it pass, a vote to authorize this war in the Congress?  Would it pass?

MORAN:  I don‘t think that it would, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, then...

MORAN:  As you know, I voted against it.  We got 155 Democrats to also oppose it.  But I think today...

MATTHEWS:  How many...

MORAN:  ... in hindsight, they would have to agree that this has been the worst foreign policy...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

MORAN:  ... and military fiasco in American history.  I can‘t believe that they would make that mistake.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s why I‘m asking the question is—you‘re telling me—and I think Congresswoman Tauscher, do you agree that a vote to authorize this war would not pass right now?

TAUSCHER:  Not only wouldn‘t it pass, I think we should have a vote to deauthorize the war...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TAUSCHER:  ... and I‘ve been agitating for that for a long time.

MATTHEWS:  This is what doesn‘t make sense to people watching right now.  If the war wouldn‘t pass muster with you folks, as the whole Congress taken together, House and Senate, then why are you funding a war that  you don‘t believe in, that wouldn‘t even be approved if you voted on it?  Why are you funding a war that you don‘t believe should be fought?

TAUSCHER:  Well, we can‘t leave 165,000 troops on the ground in Iraq without not only food and water but without the ability to protect themselves and to deal with the kinds of fight that we have right there, which...

MATTHEWS:  Well, they won‘t be there if you cut the funding?

TAUSCHER:  Well, cutting the funding is an issue that we have been trying to work on.  And we‘re not going to do is fall into the trap that the White House has set for us, which is to look as if we‘re leaving our troops abandoned.  The American people still are bearing the scars from the Vietnam war.  None of us want to have our troops feel as if we‘re not taking care of them, or their families here at home who are making such great sacrifices feel as if that we‘re not taking care of them.

But the truth is of the matter is, there‘s only one person in this country that can bring our troops home, and it‘s the commander-in-chief.  He is failing our national security by not dealing with the fact that we don‘t have readiness in our troops right now.  We have too many troops deployed...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TAUSCHER:  ... for a very dangerous world.

MATTHEWS:  But the thing is, you recently described how you came back from Iraq—well, you were over there, and you realized when you got over there to find out what was going on, on a fact-finding mission, that your whole reputation had been taken down by the military—to the military by our political leaders in Washington.  They said, Don‘t trust this woman, basically.  Is that the way the family debates this issue, to take U.S.  congresspeople like yourself over there and have it so they can‘t get the facts because they‘ve already been slimed, in your words, by the PR people in the military?

TAUSCHER:  No.  I thought it was pretty disgusting.  I‘m a chairman on the Armed Services Committee.  I‘ve been on for 11 years.  I have, I think, a very serious record of supporting our troops and supporting our national security.

But look, you know, this administration in its desperation is finding ways to reshape facts all day long, and if they don‘t have a fact, they make it one.  And I felt very terribly about what they did to me, and frankly, to Congressman Moran, when we were in Iraq this summer.  And I‘m sure they did it to other members.  We‘ve gotten assurances from Secretary Gates and from General Petraeus that they‘re not going to do this anymore.

But I think that that‘s part of the Green Zone fog...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TAUSCHER:  ... as they call it, and the bubble that you have over there.  They‘re committed.  They‘re drinking the Kool-Aid.  They believe that they‘re doing the right thing, even though the facts on the ground don‘t support it, and certainly, the political facts in the United States don‘t support it.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Moran, the last question, the toughest question I can think of.  After all this rigmarole is over, after Nancy Pelosi has put this bill to the president and the president‘s refused to sign it and it‘s all over with next spring, will the Democratic majority in the House give the president more power to wage this war because you‘ve lost this skirmish?

MORAN:  No.  This is it.  It‘s over.  He will get the money that is necessary to start withdrawing the troops, and that‘s the only money he‘s going to get.  It‘s over.  We‘re going to stand firm.  And of course, the problem is the Senate moved the goal line.  We thought that a majority would be able to pass these bills that pass easily in the House, but then they moved the goal line to requiring 60 votes.  That‘s been our difficulty.

But Harry Reid says we‘re going to let them filibuster.  This is the most important issue before us.  If they want to filibuster for the rest of the year and do nothing else, that‘s what Harry Reid said he‘s willing to do.  That bill will get to the president, and it will only get to the president with these restrictions attached.  No more blank checks.  He said, Just give me the money, I‘ll run the war.  No president has ever run a war as poorly as this president.  And that‘s the problem.  These people that make war would never fight the war, and the only people sacrificing anything are our soldiers and their families, and it‘s got to stop!

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia.  Thank you, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California.

TAUSCHER:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: Hillary Clinton—whoa!  She vows to come out swinging in the next Democratic debate, and that one‘s tonight.  Are her rivals ready for her, the new Hillary?  Top Edwards strategist Joe Trippi‘s going to join us in just a minute.

Plus, the HARDBALL “Big Number.”  Just how many positions on driver‘s licenses for illegal immigrants has Hillary Clinton taken?  Well, you might be surprised by the number.  It‘s more than two or three.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, Only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As I mentioned, I‘m out here in San Francisco, and we have just got some big breaking news coming across right now.  Barry Bonds, who, of course, has the all-time home run statistic right now, has just been indicted on charges of perjury and obstructions of justice in connection with a probe into allegations of steroid use.

Anyway, time now for the HARDBALL “Big Number,” where each night we give you a little tchotchke, as they say, a little stat, a vital number to use however you see fit.  Tonight, our “Big Number” is 5.  That‘s a, believe me, conservative estimate of the number of positions Hillary Clinton has held on driver‘s licenses for illegal immigrants since the issue first came to the fore.

Hillary said that Eliot Spitzer‘s plan, quote, “made a lot of sense.”  Then she said that she supported Spitzer but didn‘t say she supported the plan.  Then her campaign said she did support granting driver‘s licenses to illegal immigrants.  Then she said it depended on the state and what it decided.  And now she says she does not support it at all, will not do it if she becomes president.  Well, that‘s the number 5, the 5 positions Hillary‘s taken on driver‘s licenses.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”

John Edwards has been hammering Hillary Clinton since the Philadelphia debate two weeks ago, but are his attacks just helping Barack Obama?  Joe Trippi‘s a senior strategist for the Edwards campaign.

I guess that‘s the first question to you, Joe.  Are your very serious charges against Hillary simply boosting the other guy, Obama, up and bringing her down a bit?

JOE TRIPPI, SENIOR EDWARDS CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Look, we‘re going to—we‘re going to continue what we have been doing, take the case. 

We think the clearest—the clearest difference in this election is between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.  We‘re not out there attacking anybody.  We‘re trying to defend this party and make it stand for something.  I mean, we don‘t even know where she stands on a lot of the issues.

But, more importantly, we know where she takes her money from.  The—

the number—the money—the most amount of money that comes from special

interest corporate PACs, and probably corporate lobbyists, isn‘t a Democrat

I mean, isn‘t a Republican.  It‘s Hillary Clinton.

The person who takes the most defense money isn‘t a Republican.  It‘s Hillary Clinton.  I mean, the person that takes the most health care thank, industry money from Washington lobbyists isn‘t a Republican.  It‘s Democrats. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I have got to ask you the obvious question, Joe.  So what? 

TRIPPI:  Well, you know, look, we‘re out there...

MATTHEWS:  What are you trying to say here, that she is bought? 

TRIPPI:  No.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, tell me the words.  Why should we care about who she‘s taking money from? 

TRIPPI:  Well, this—we don‘t believe that—we don‘t believe that changing a bunch of corporate Republicans, exchanging them with a bunch of corporate Democrats is the best way to change this country and change the way Washington works. 

We have been out there in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, with a very clear message about, we‘re not trying to—we‘re trying to save the Democratic Party.  Somebody has got to stand up for working people in this country.  They have been...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TRIPPI:  I mean, the NAFTA, all the stuff that has been going on has been going on because corporate America has taken control of Washington through—because they just made it awash with money.  And you‘re not going to change this country by continuing to take their money. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, there‘s an expression on Capitol Hill among members of Congress that, when they look into the eyes of somebody on a subcommittee when they‘re marking up a bill, and they realize that that person has been bought by big industry or by an interest group, that that person is tanked.  They‘re in the tank. 

Are you saying that Hillary Clinton has been bought by these interest groups, that she is in the tank on these issues like medical care for people, health financing, et cetera, because why else are you raising this issue? 

TRIPPI:  We‘re raising the issue because it‘s what‘s wrong with Washington.  It‘s exactly the point you‘re—you‘re talking about.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is wrong, then?  What is it that is wrong?

TRIPPI:  It doesn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What is wrong with her taking money?  Tell me what you mean by this.  Is it that she‘s a crook, that she‘s in bed with these people? 

TRIPPI:  No.

MATTHEWS:  What is it?

TRIPPI:  We believe, if you‘re going to change Washington, you have to stop taking their money. 

And it‘s not just her.  Everybody.  We believe—that is what—John Edwards has never taken a dime of PAC money, never taken a dime of Washington lobbyist money.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why—I am going to ask this one more time, and then I am going to give up, Joe. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why should these politicians stop taking money from interest groups? 

TRIPPI:  Because I don‘t think anybody in this country thinks they don‘t expect something for that money. 

I don‘t think anybody thinks that the reason she‘s taking—they‘re giving—the health care industry is giving Hillary Clinton this money is because they don‘t expect something from her. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TRIPPI:  I mean, I just don‘t think anybody in this country thinks that. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  The American people know the government is broken, Chris. 

They know. 

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  ... do something about it. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just trying to get you to voice it.  I just wanted to hear you voice it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—so, you say they basically give money with the idea of expecting something in return.  They‘re hoping to buy these politicians.  Sometimes, they‘re successful, is what you‘re saying? 

TRIPPI:  Well—well, look, yes.  And I would say this.  We had a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House the last time we tried to pass health care.  It failed.  It failed, dead on arrival.  They pulled the bill. 

They didn‘t do that because—they didn‘t do that because Democrats weren‘t in charge and couldn‘t push it through.  They did it because there was too—because of the special interest money that killed—that worked against it.  It‘s not about one person.  It‘s about a system that is broken and corrupt.  And everybody knows it. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton said yesterday, after a lot of hemming and hawing, that she‘s opposed to giving driver‘s licenses to people in this country illegally.  Where is John Edwards on that issue? 

TRIPPI:  John Edwards always had the same position.  He—he favors it as part of a path to citizenship.  In other words, if they‘re not on a path to citizenship, the answer is no.  But if there‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did he say so—when I asked him on this show in 2004, when there was no question about what—what Spitzer was up to in New York, it was just a general question, let‘s take a look at what he said.  I asked this three years ago.  Let‘s see what he said then. 

TRIPPI:  Uh-huh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN AD) 

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My father worked in this mill and others like it for 30 years.  I worked in it when I was young.  Now it‘s closed.  The jobs are gone.  For too many, it‘s just about profits and greed.  They‘re wrong.  It‘s about the dignity of a job and doing what‘s right for America‘s workers. 

I‘m John Edwards, and I approve this message because we don‘t need another president that puts wealth above work.  So, if you‘re ready to stand with me for American jobs and America‘s workers, your time is now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I guess you guys paid for an ad right in the middle of my show.  Here‘s what I wanted to show.

TRIPPI:  That sounded pretty good, sounded really good to me, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know.  It sounded great.  And you got it for free. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Back in 2004, after a debate among the presidential candidates...

TRIPPI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... John Edwards was on HARDBALL, and I asked him where he stood on the issue of driver‘s licenses for illegal aliens. 

He said, “I‘m for it.”

And I asked: “Well, what happens when you get on an airplane and they ask you for a driver‘s license, and you‘re an illegal alien?  What the hell does that driver‘s license mean?”

And his answer was: “But the problem is, if you don‘t do that, Chris, then you have who are people driving anyway.  They‘re not going through training.  They‘re not going through the driver‘s education program.  They‘re not going to through the tests.”

TRIPPI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, he‘s saying back then, give them a real driver‘s license, not the kind that Spitzer was giving them, that allows them to get on airplanes, to let them act like they belong in this country legally.

He was totally for giving I.D. back then.  Why has he changed his mind, your candidate? 

TRIPPI:  No.  No, I—because it‘s—first of all, the situation has gotten much, much worse. 

But back—but his—he—back then, yes, he did articulate that he wanted—that he was for it, because he was concerned about safety, about having, you know, people driving on our roads without having licenses. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the safety of people getting on airplanes with phony I.D.? 

TRIPPI:  No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why should people in this country illegally be able to get on airplanes with phony driver‘s licenses?

TRIPPI:  That—that is—that is why it—he is for it only in—only as a path to citizenship.  If they‘re not on a path to citizenship, no driver‘s license. 

And, as part of the path to citizenship, he wants to—he wants to make sure that they have learned the English—they have to be able to speak English.  There‘s all kind...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TRIPPI:  And we have to have comprehensive immigration reform.  I mean, the situation has changed quite a bit since—since when you asked him that—that—that question.  But he is for it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we still have the problem in this country. 

Let me tell you where the situation hasn‘t changed. 

TRIPPI:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The people that attacked us on 9/11 had dozens of driver‘s licenses, and they were not in this country legally, but, yet, they had driver‘s licenses that can be used to get you on airplanes.  And they got on airplanes and used them as weapons.  That is what is real.  It is still real.

I don‘t think it‘s the only issue here.  I personally am for a national I.D. card that everybody has to have, so we‘re all on the same page.

TRIPPI:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  We‘re all treated the same, whether we‘re born here or have been here 5,000 generations or just got in off the boat. 

We all get treated the same.  You got to have papers, or else we‘re never going to solve this immigration problem. 

TRIPPI:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Look, let me ask you this.

TRIPPI:  Well, you are not going to have any of that until you have comprehensive immigration reform...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TRIPPI:  ... that gets...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m rolling my eyes, because I have been hearing this comprehensive talk for so many years.  Until the right and the left agree on this issue...

TRIPPI:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... we are going to deal with this problem of people hiring people illegally in this country to get cheap labor.  Until we get to that, Joe, you know it‘s not going to get solved, because, as long as big business wants cheap labor...

TRIPPI:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... and the Latino groups want to have pretty free access to coming in the country...

TRIPPI:  That‘s right.  That‘s why you need...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and the Democrats and Republicans are competing for votes, it‘s never going to get solved. 

TRIPPI:  No, that‘s why you need a president—that‘s why you need a president who has fought the big corporations his entire life and is going to change this, and we‘re going to have comprehensive immigration reform, and it‘s going to—and he‘s going to take the side on this issue and a bunch of other issues against—against what—you know, against set—I mean, basically setting up rules that work for the American people, work for working people...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TRIPPI:  ... and take—take corporate interests on, on this kind of stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  Your candidate, John Edwards, has not said he will support the nominee of the Democratic Party, whoever it is.  Where does he stand on that?  Is he still on that position that he‘s not willing to commit to supporting the nominee of the party? 

TRIPPI:  He expects—he expects to support the nominee of the part, expects to be that nominee.  I expect to support that nominee.  I expect it to be John Edwards.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

But not if it‘s Hillary Clinton?  You don‘t want to commit to that possibility? 

TRIPPI:  We—I mean, look, that‘s the whole thing.  The press has been doing this over and over 10 months.  It‘s Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s something that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This started back in Lincoln‘s day.  You ask the candidate who is seeking nomination of a party, you have got to agree up front before you even run for the office that you are going to support the winner of the nomination fight, or else it‘s not really a party. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  Oh, we don‘t accept—we don‘t accept that she‘s going to be the nominee.  We expect to be the nominee. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TRIPPI:  And we expect to make the case that there‘s a real difference and that people, if they don‘t want—if they want the status quo... 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TRIPPI:  ... look, they have got a great candidate.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

I have got your commitment now that, if it is in fact John Edwards who is the nominee of the party, then John Edwards will support John Edwards. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That is the deal you‘re willing to—thank you, Joe Trippi. 

TRIPPI:  And so will—so will I.  So will I. 

MATTHEWS:  Every candidate should be lucky to have Joe Trippi working for him. 

TRIPPI:  Thanks, Chris. 

Anyway, so what else is new out there?  Check out Rudy Giuliani trying to bring down Mitt Romney in Iowa.  Let‘s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The governor probably has the worst record on illegal immigration.  I think the number of illegal immigrants expanded dramatically while he was governor. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And, in a state where 86 percent of Republicans think that illegal immigration is a serious matter, will Rudy‘s charge work?  They‘re all working the immigration issue out in Iowa.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out there in politics? 

Well, Hillary Clinton has a new strategy for tonight‘s presidential debate.  “The New York Times” reports that she will answer questions—I love this—with yeses or nos to convey her directness.  She also plans to go on the attack against Obama and Edwards.

And how about Hillary Clinton switching on issues of issuing of driver‘s licenses to people in our country illegally, well, then going around, having changed her mind, attacking Obama for supporting giving driver‘s licenses to people here illegally, the same position she held the day before yesterday?

Hmm.

Speaking of illegal immigration, Mitt Romney seems increasingly scared of dark horse Mike Huckabee.  Remember the “New York Times”/CBS poll that just showed Huckabee falling in second place, right behind Romney?  Well, Romney is now attacking Huckabee for backing tuition breaks for children—the children of illegal immigrants when he was governor of Arkansas.

Huckabee‘s response—I love this—“I guess Mitt Romney would rather keep people out of college, so they can keep working on his lawn, since he had illegals there.”

I just love it when candidates bring those big-time issues home.

And, finally, Giuliani is hitting home on the same point.  Here he is attacking Governor Romney. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI:  The governor probably has the worst record on illegal immigration.  I think the number of illegal immigrants expanded dramatically while he was governor.  So, I don‘t even know if it‘s worth responding. 

You have to—you have to decide whether there‘s any credibility from the person responding.  So, I don‘t want to criticize him, but he criticized me.  And I have to point out that he had one of the worst records in terms of the increase of illegal immigrants in his state. 

He had more sanctuary cities than just about any other state, and did very little about it until the last day or two he was in office.  And it never had any impact. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the real Rudy.

Anyway, up next:  With Republican voters angry about illegal immigration, which Republican contender will use that issue to win the whole thing? 

Tom DeLay and Ken Blackwell rate the Republicans when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks closed sharply lower again on concerns about inflation, the consumer, and continued fallout from the credit crunch.  The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 120 points.  The broad-market S&P 500 fell 19, and the Nasdaq dropped 25 points. 

Stocks were hurt by comments by the chief executive of Wells Fargo.  That‘s the nation‘s second largest mortgage company.  He said that the housing market is at its worst since the Great Depression and that problems will continue through next year. 

Consumer prices also weighing on the market, with a report out from the Labor Department that prices rose three-tenths-of-a-percent last month.  That‘s the second straight increase at that elevated level.  But so-called core inflation—that‘s when you take out food and energy prices—that rose a more modest two-tenths-of-a-percent. 

Meantime, the number of laid-off workers filing for unemployment benefits rose by a larger-than-expected 20,000 last week. 

And Oil fell 66 cents in New York‘s trading session, closing at $93.43 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Is there a shift in the political landscape of the religious right?  And will it affect the outcome of the Republican primaries, which begin, by the way, very soon?

Tom DeLay is the former House majority leader.  And Ken Blackwell is the former Ohio secretary of state.  Today, they have launched a Coalition for a Conservative Majority. 

Congressman DeLay, I have to ask you this.  Why do you think Rudy Giuliani, a man who has been married three times, a Roman Catholic who says he doesn‘t go to church very often, who is pro-choice on abortion rights, doing so well among Republicans? 

TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, it‘s all matter of degrees, Chris.

It‘s good to see you.

But Giuliani has—has kind of hit a ceiling, in my opinion, that reflects the moderates in our party.  I don‘t know if he is going to get past that ceiling or not.  I think it‘s way too early to tell. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, aren‘t you surprised that he‘s—he‘s competitive with people like Thompson, who is a—a Bible Belt—a Protestant, an evangelical, who is right on abortion, as you see it? 

DELAY:  Well, our—our coalition is big, Chris. 

As we all know, there‘s moderate Republicans.  There‘s pro-choice Republicans.  There‘s—there‘s pro-life Republicans.  There‘s all kinds of Republicans.  And each one of these candidates are appealing to different segments of the party.  It is going to take a long time for the Republican Party to work all this out. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you been taking nice pills, or do you just...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... want to beat Hillary?  I‘m trying to figure out your motive in being so open-minded all of a sudden, Mr. DeLay.

(LAUGHTER)

DELAY:  Well, Chris, we suffered a big loss in 2006, and the party is trying to redefine itself and re-find itself and present itself to the American people.  And that is going to take some time. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mr. Blackwell, a long time participant on this show.  Mr secretary, who‘s the strongest Republican you can field against Hillary in Ohio? 

KEN BLACKWELL, COALITION FOR A CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY:  That‘s still emerging, Tim. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris.   

BLACKWELL:  Excuse me. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t mind the confusion at all, but it‘s a mistake.  Go ahead. 

BLACKWELL:  Chris, let me just tell you that the conservative coalition is a huge networked coalition.  There are various groups that put emphasis on one or more important issues.  I think right now, it‘s a wide open competition in Ohio.  I think the ultimate winner will be the person who basically says, we‘re going to win the war; we‘re going to continue to cut taxes; we are going to make sure the second amendment rights are protected; and we‘re going to make sure that families and our babies are protected. 

That‘s a simple, straight-forward message that will be the message of the winning candidate, and it‘s the message of the winning coalition in November. 

MATTHEWS:  You have just excluded Rudy Giuliani. 

BLACKWELL:  No, I didn‘t.  Rudy Giuliani is pretty strong on the war.  What I didn‘t mention is the courts.  Pat Robertson was very, very clear that he thought that ultimately the fight to end abortion would rest in the Supreme Court.  He made a calculation that if Giuliani is the president, Giuliani will change the composition of the court, and ultimately, give the pro-life movement its well-earned victory. 

But there are other pro-life groups that disagree with that.  Our goal here is not to participate in a game of subtraction and division, but addition and multiplication. 

MATTHEWS:  I understand. 

BLACKWELL:  The way that you do that is to make sure that people appreciate the big foot print that the conservative movement casts. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course, you are judging the decision of Rudy Giuliani on what kind of judges he is going to pick, gentlemen, based on what Pat Robertson assesses about Rudy Giuliani‘s commitment to naming strict constructionists.  Just remember, Pat Robertson is a guy who said that mainstream Protestants are anti-Christs.  He has said that women are all going to leave their husband—what else—kill their babies and become lesbians.  This is the kind of statement that comes out of Pat Robertson lately.

BLACKWELL:  Chris, I gave you the rationale that Pat Robertson has given for backing Rudy Giuliani.  That was given some weight by Ted Olsen and Ken Starr and other legal scholars that have been supportive of Rudy Giuliani.  I did not say that was necessarily the prescription for the winning candidate in the primary season.  I think that‘s important. 

The primary season is a purification process.  It is a process that allows the grass root conservatives and Republicans to hear the views, to weigh the views of the various candidates against the agenda that is emerging.  Our job—Tom and I have decided that we want to make sure that we go outside of the Beltway, we drive home a conservative agenda, and we build the organizational capacity to support whichever candidate best serves that agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Delay, are you going to set yourselves up as gate

keepers, as purification testers of the Republican nominee?  In other words

you know what I mean. 

DELAY:  We kicked off today, Chris, Coalition for Conservative Majority; Ken Blackwell is the chairman of it.  We‘re trying to participate in the new paradigm of campaigning, the new paradigm of standing up for what you believe in, that the left has proven over the last six years that you need to get involved.  That is, this CCM, Coalition for Conservative majority is a real grass roots organization.  It‘s first one, as I define grass roots, on the conserve movement, going out and creating chapters in the real world to stand up for conservative values. 

They will speak out for conservative values and hope to influence the

particularly the Republican side, and whoever is the new nominee and the party platform. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there‘s a possibility that your party will not have a nominee until you get to Minnesota? 

DELAY:  I hope so.  I think this is a very good process we‘re going through.  It‘s the first time in my lifetime that we‘ve been able to do this as a party.  I think it‘s very helpful.  I hope that if we take our time—I‘m supporting the front-runner right now, and the front-runner is undecided.  I think that is going to happen for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Delay, this is first time you and I have been in absolute complete agreement on a goal.  I can think of nothing more exciting than a political party holding an actual convention in deciding who the presidential nominee should be.  I think Ken agrees with us both.  That could be great theater out of the old days. 

BLACKWELL:  Chris, as a proponent of Ohio exceptionalism, I‘m hoping that this race at least gets to Ohio in March.  I think it possibly can and that‘s what primaries are all about, and I think the American people and the conservative movement deserve a vigorous primary. 

MATTHEWS:  The only one thing you need to do is get some hotel to let you smoke cigars.  Otherwise, you won‘t be able to solve this thing.  Thank you very much, Congressman Tom Delay and Secretary Ken Blackwell. 

Up next, can Democrats in Congress do what Americans voted them to do, stop the war?  Can they do what they said they would do?  And can Hillary Clinton finally stick with a position on driver‘s license?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Let‘s go to the round table.  David Brody is with the Christian Broadcasting Network.  Ezra Klein is with the “American Prospect.”  And of course, MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent is Norah O‘Donnell.  Let me go, gentlemen and lady, with the big question tonight.  Let‘s do a little pregame of tonight‘s debate.  It‘s a CNN debate, obviously.  Wolf Blitzer is going to moderate it.  IT is, in many ways, David, a follow-up of the Philadelphia debate that we hosted two weeks ago.  What will happen? 

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK:  I think we are going to find out if Obama can take a punch.  That‘s the bottom line.  Hillary Clinton is coming after him.  We all know it.  That‘s going to be one issue to look for.  Listen, Barack Obama has been actually very effective at being negative on Hillary Clinton without necessarily sound too negative.  What do I mean about that?  It means he talks about this baggage of the ‘90s that he keeps harping on with Hillary Clinton. 

So what does it do?  It plays into his new politics of hope, because he represents a different way, a bipartisan way.  It‘s been actually pretty effective.  We‘ll see if it continues tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Ezra, that may be true.  I have noticed that one of the spokespeople for Barack today in the paper was really trashing Hillary, saying it took her two weeks to come up with a clear cut position on driver‘s license for people in the country illegally, and she only seems to know the answer when a plant, one of her ringers asks the question.  That‘s pretty strong lingo.   

EZRA KLEIN, “THE AMERICAN PROSPECT”:  Unlike David, I think we will see if Barack can throw a punch.  I don‘t think he‘s gone after her directly in any of the debates yet.  I think the guy to watch tonight will be Edwards.  If Hillary is going to mix it up, he is going to try to be the one to mix it up with her.  He‘s trying to define himself as the guy who will really go after her, who is strong enough to go after the Republicans.  They just brought out a website called house plants for Hillary of something. 

They‘re really going harder.  I‘d watch him.  He tends to be more willing to go on the attack than Obama is in these debates.  Obama, I think, is waiting for him to take Hillary out in Iowa. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary—the word from Pat Healey (ph) at the “New York Times” is that Hillary, according to his report this morning, is going to give a lot of yes and no answers, very blunt, decisive answers, to establish the fact that she‘s not playing games.  Do you think that‘s something to look for? 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think Howard Wolfson has indicated today that she will try to be more clear in her answers and less equivocating, if you will.  That‘s a challenge.  She‘s got to change her tone of voice.  But because of what some say were flip-flops on the issue of the driver‘s license for illegal immigrants—it‘s a an issue that she has to be very clear on.  Senator Chris Dodd said she‘s flip-flopped cubed, he said.  And they will be very hard on her on this. 

She has to be clear about her position tonight.  It is a dicey thing for her, because, remember, she is in Nevada, where there are a large number of Hispanic voters that are going to be turning out in that Democratic primary.  It will be interesting to see how she walks that line tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s interesting, because, David Brody, she took this vague position in support of the issue of driver‘s licenses, a little waffling in that.  But then, all of a sudden, she went 180 on it yesterday.  And then her people went out and attacked Obama for taking the opposite position, even though it was her position just a day and a half before. 

BRODY:  Right, Chris, you know --  

MATTHEWS:  That sounds screwy attacking a guy for holding a position you held for two weeks as if there‘s something wrong with him. 

BRODY:  It actually turns out this may actually be the position she‘s felt all along, this latest one, potentially because she knows that as the clear front-runner, right now, at least for now, that she needs to position herself for the general election.  At some point, she‘s going to need to say, listen, this is where I stand, and she can hold her hat, at least at that point, on that come general election time, if she makes it that far.  

MATTHEWS:  I think she‘s really smart.  I think she decided she had to look like she was going to fight for a while on behalf of Latino voters and their rights, including illegal immigrants, but once she did the good fight, she was then free to go where the votes are.  We‘ll be right back with David Brody, Ezra Klein and Norah O‘Donnell. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table.  Norah, it strikes me that people in Iowa are becoming very professional, as you know.  I‘ve been out there with you in the recent years and recent campaigns.  It seems like they know what they‘re doing.  If they begin to see polls that show Hillary Clinton with a slight lead behind—with perhaps Obama right behind her, and Edwards a bit behind that, doesn‘t the third person begin to fade, because they see they really have to choose between the two front runners? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think that‘s certainly a possibility, and that‘s why Edwards has to keep himself in the fight, and why we‘ve seen an increasingly aggressive Edwards turning up the heat to that degree.  But the latest poll shows that it‘s neck and neck between Edwards and Obama.  He might even be a point ahead, but that‘s within the statistical margin of error. 

KLEIN:  They show Edwards with the lead for second place.  They show the most voters, their second place choice is Edwards.  If one of the other front runners fall out or if one of the other candidates fall out, it looks like more people are going to switch over to his camp.  I saw that today.  Obama is second and Hillary comes in a far third for second choice of Iowans.  That made a real big impact on the caucus.

MATTHEWS:  Explain that to me.  How does that mean it looks like—we only have one full month left.  That is December.  We‘re getting very close to this event, if you count the holidays as down time, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah.  Ezra, what does that tell you, which way these second choices are leading here? 

KLEIN:  It tells you that Hillary‘s support isn‘t as deep as it is broad.  Remember, the caucus is strange.  People don‘t go into a booth and vote.  If they are sitting at the caucus, if they see their favorite candidate losing, if they like Obama—he‘s not going to beat Hillary, but Edwards can, they will move over to Edwards.  It‘s exactly what happened to Edwards in 2004, by the way, when, in this case Kucinich released all of his delegates, or all of his caucus goers to vote for Edwards in the caucus, which brought him into second place and made him viable for the rest of the primary. 

So remember, the caucus is very, very strange.  And the fact that he‘s ahead in second choicers could potentially be a big deal or could not be. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s in second place, again?  Edwards or Obama? 

KLEIN:  Edwards is in first place for the second place guys, and then Obama and then far below them both is Hillary.  And I don‘t know who is in fourth. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to David Brody on this.  David, which way do you see this thing going?  We‘re really getting to reality here.  We‘re looking at polls, but we‘re also looking at the calendar.  And I really do believe we‘re getting to the—couple debates from now we‘re going to know what this thing looks like as they go in the voting booth and the caucuses. 

BRODY:  Yes, no doubt about it.  Look at what Huckabee has done to Romney in Iowa.  That‘s a huge story developing.  Clearly—not to get off on a bunny trail here, a little bit, but if Romney actually can—or actually if Huckabee can beat Romney in Iowa, my goodness, throw out the—

MATTHEWS:  How much money can Rudy give Huckabee in this race?  Just kidding.  Thank you very much, David Brody.  Thank you, Ezra Klein.  Thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it is time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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