Guests: Bob Garfield, Eugene Robinson, Craig Crawford, Jill Zuckman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The future of our country now rides with the wisdom of Woody Allen, who said, 90 percent of life is showing up. If you are in Iowa right now, and you don‘t show up next Thursday, just don‘t tell me you had something better to do.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL.
Six days out, and it‘s a dead heat for the top three Democrats in Iowa, Hillary, Obama, and Edwards. And, on the Republican side, there‘s the battle for first and the battle to stay alive out there. What is on the candidates‘ real wish list for the new year in Iowa? We will tell you in a moment, and you will be surprised by what these guys are up to.
Also, air wars—ads, ads, and more ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. Who is fighting fair, and who is hitting below the belt? The 2008 ad wars coming up here.
Plus, His Honor is in the House. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani comes to us live tonight from Fort Dodge, Iowa.
And how long did it take after yesterday‘s assassination of Benazir Bhutto for a candidate to say something really ridiculous? We will find out in our HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.
But, first, it‘s almost New Year‘s Eve, and the candidates have made up their wish lists.
Our panel tonight to talk about it, MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, and “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.
Gentlemen and lady, let‘s take a look at this.
It seems to me—and you can check me on this, starting with Norah—look at this. Let‘s take a look at these numbers right now. Here‘s a poll number right out of—this is the Research 2000 poll. What a number. I haven‘t seen many numbers like this. There is John Edwards at 29, Barack Obama at 29, Hillary at 28, the same number, practically, for all of them. It seems to me that is something to watch.
Now let‘s take a look at the Republicans out in Iowa, The “L.A. Times”-Bloomberg poll. This is a different kind of poll. It shows a clear leader, Huckabee on the other side. Let‘s take a look at “The L.A. Times” for Republicans now, not the Democratic one, the Republican one.
Let‘s take a look at the Republican poll. There it is—Mike Huckabee, 36 to 28 Thompson. Let‘s take a look. That‘s interesting, too. There‘s a clear advantage for Huckabee right there.
Norah, let‘s talk about the Democrats. It seems to me that—that Mrs. Clinton, Hillary Clinton, has a dream: Obama doesn‘t win in Iowa...
NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well...
MATTHEWS: ... at all costs.
O‘DONNELL: ... in fact, all three of those candidates‘, I think, New Year‘s wish is that it would actually be that close, that that Iowa caucus would be 28, 28, 29, or something that close...
O‘DONNELL: ... because then they could all survive into the next round. And, certainly, if Senator Clinton does not win in Iowa, she‘s going to hope that Edwards wins.
MATTHEWS: Why? Explain that. Explicate that.
O‘DONNELL: Because, if Obama wins, and if he wins by a lot, and if—or—and, if Edwards is second, then Senator Clinton looks like she‘s vulnerable.
MATTHEWS: In New Hampshire right off the bat.
O‘DONNELL: Right, in New Hampshire right off the bat.
And, so, that‘s the worst-case scenario for her. But, if it‘s very, very close, they can certainly make the argument and spin it that, you know, it was a tight race and the Democrats like all of them.
EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
That‘s why I think Obama is the one who doesn‘t want it to be 28-29-29. He would like to win, and win big.
MATTHEWS: He sort of needs to win, doesn‘t he?
ROBINSON: He does. I think he figures that he can get a real boost if he wins. It could propel him to New Hampshire, where he has gained a lot of ground—in some polls, he has got a lead—and could just kind of sweep him on to be almost unstoppable, the way we thought Hillary Clinton was unstoppable a few weeks ago.
If he loses, and it‘s not 29-29-29, but, if he loses, even by a few points, finishes third, he could be in real trouble, because it reinforces this image that he can‘t—can‘t win.
MATTHEWS: So, do you agree—do you agree with us that—Howard Fineman, that this game is all about Obama? If Obama wins, Hillary loses big. If Edwards wins, Hillary can deal with it later on down the road.
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that‘s pretty true. And it‘s remarkable the way politics works, Chris.
The expectations now are a tough thing for Obama. He probably will have spent 10 million bucks in Iowa. I mean, his spending there has been enormous, both in terms of time and money. He has clawed his way to the top. And, when you get to the top, the expectations are raised.
So, it‘s not enough for him to surprise people. He can‘t surprise anybody anymore, unless he wins, and wins by a few points in Iowa. I do think, though, that the relationship between Iowa and New Hampshire is a very, very close one. Nobody is going to be definitively out of the ball game unless they lose big. But Obama has the most to lose by losing in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: OK. We have looked at the polls and we have seen—let‘s go over the Republicans for just a minute now to get this completely even.
It seems to me, on the Republican side, you see an advantage for Huckabee, a clear one, above the margin of error, over Romney.
So, what does Romney want? It seems to me he wants, Norah, to keep it close enough, so he doesn‘t get blown away, so he can go on and win in New Hampshire, in his home ground.
O‘DONNELL: Well, I think that he ultimately hopes that Huckabee continues to make the statements like he was making today and yesterday on Pakistan...
O‘DONNELL: ... and sort of blows up his candidacy.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we‘re going to talk about that later in the program on our “Big Number,” the statement, just not to tease too much here...
MATTHEWS: ... would was basically, let‘s get the Pakistanis...
O‘DONNELL: Yes. Right.
MATTHEWS: ... which was an incredible statement.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
O‘DONNELL: But, given that, if Huckabee does still finish first, I think Romney hopes that he is close behind, that it‘s not a blowout, so that he can still live another day in New Hampshire, and perhaps defeat McCain.
Romney did a very interesting thing today. He is attacking on two fronts. He is pummelling Huckabee on ads in Iowa, new ads, and he is pummelling McCain with new ads in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that, Howard, that Romney‘s goal is to lessen his defeat, if he takes one, in Iowa, so he can win in New Hampshire and move on to later successes?
FINEMAN: Yes, but just the image of the guy sort of with one fist flying in each direction, trying to pummel different people...
FINEMAN: ... in different states shows you the problem he has.
And I know he is right next door from Massachusetts, but that tends to work better for Democrats than I have ever seen it work for Republicans. The people likely to vote in the Republican primary in New Hampshire are a tough, flinty lot, and I‘m not sure they‘re going to stick with Romney unless he shows he can be a winner.
That‘s why, if he loses by a substantial margin in Iowa, I think he is in big trouble in his neighboring state of New Hampshire as well.
MATTHEWS: And the one rooting most for that to happen, besides Huckabee, is the guy who benefits if Huckabee wins in Iowa. And that is?
FINEMAN: That is John McCain, obviously. And he is doing very well in New Hampshire, where he is practically a native son and where, once he showed that he had some life to him, once the military surge showed some progress, once his views on immigration came forth, once he showed in some of those later debates, Chris, that he seemed like the man in the room, that he seemed like the adult, that he seemed like the truth-teller, he was back to the McCain that the Iowa Republicans like.
Now, a lot of independent voters may end up voting in the—in the Democratic race. It‘s very interesting. If Obama doesn‘t do well, if suddenly the bloom goes off the rose of Obama, in an ironic way, that could benefit McCain, too, because some of the independents will then drift over to vote for McCain in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: We‘re—we‘re going to have Mayor Giuliani on in a few minutes on the program.
And I think it‘s interesting to watch him, because he has a—a strategy which is really to score all the points in the last quarter, right, Gene?
MATTHEWS: He is basically saying, I can take some losses.
MATTHEWS: But he would like to see Romney take a lot of losses...
MATTHEWS: ... like starting in Iowa, right?
ROBINSON: Exactly. He wants Romney to lose in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: And then again in New Hampshire would be good.
ROBINSON: Well, he has—yes, he has got to lose again in New Hampshire. He doesn‘t want McCain to start, you know, rising up. And he wants Huckabee to remain containable. And then Rudy is going to take it all in Florida.
ROBINSON: It really is...
MATTHEWS: So, the Democratic...
MATTHEWS: Just to recap, the Democratic side, everybody must agree, has really gotten to be—it looks like now it may be a three-way race. It‘s still a three-way race, but it looks like two people at the top fighting right now.
Hillary and Obama, whoever wins, could go on all the way, perhaps.
MATTHEWS: It will be a harder thing for Edwards to go all the way, because he has to catch up to those two nationwide. He is not as exciting as the first black and the first woman.
MATTHEWS: That‘s ironic, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: You know, he is the white guy, and he is disadvantaged.
ROBINSON: ... white guy...
ROBINSON: ... is disadvantaged.
MATTHEWS: One of the strangest situations in American history.
ROBINSON: Not that I‘m enjoying this at all.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is—it is ironic.
But the other side is the Republican, which is a little more complicated, because, Norah, they don‘t really have what you would call a front-runner anymore.
O‘DONNELL: There is no...
MATTHEWS: If you go through the whole list...
O‘DONNELL: There‘s no clear front-runner. And this is based on our NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” polling. There is genuine sort of ennui, otherwise known as boredom, with the Republican field of candidates. And, so, they‘re still kind of waiting. There‘s even people talking about a brokered convention among the...
MATTHEWS: Hey, I‘m dreaming of it.
O‘DONNELL: We‘re all dreaming of it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s better a white Christmas. That‘s a brokered convention.
O‘DONNELL: Since we‘re talking about New Year‘s wishes. I think that Giuliani hopes that everybody develops amnesia between the Iowa and New Hampshire...
O‘DONNELL: ... and Florida on January 9. He wants everybody to just forget that there are elections going on and just wait until Florida, so he can win big.
MATTHEWS: OK, second best dream for—second best dream for Giuliani.
Howard, you pick it up there. It seems to me what Giuliani would like to see is the following: mayhem.
MATTHEWS: He would like to see Huckabee win in Iowa, and then Romney perhaps—or McCain win in...
FINEMAN: New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: ... in New Hampshire, then Romney go back to the ancestral home in Michigan and win out there...
FINEMAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: ... then Huckabee win a narrow one in South Carolina.
FINEMAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: And then he goes and wins in Florida, and everybody is even Steven going into the big day of February 5.
FINEMAN: Going into February 5. Yes, that‘s exactly what he would like.
The other thing we—he would like, probably, in his wish list would be to have everybody think it‘s going to be January 2002, instead of January 2008, because the farther we are from 9/11, the farther we get from the original justification for his campaign.
But he is a strong—he is still a pretty strong candidate, too. I mean, it‘s remarkable, Chris. There‘s never been a time when there have been five legitimate candidates in a race all in double digits nationally, all with a chance to finish in the win, place, or show in all these states. It truly is remarkable. There‘s never been anything like it in modern times.
MATTHEWS: What‘s going to be the biggest focus, as journalists, when we‘re all looking at this next Thursday night? Is the focus going to be—let‘s be honest—the Hillary vs. Obama vs. Edwards race, Gene?
MATTHEWS: That‘s more interesting than the other one, because Huckabee seems to have a leg up now on the Republican side.
ROBINSON: Right. I think the focus is going to be the Democratic race, Hillary vs. Obama.
MATTHEWS: And, as you might expect, the numbers come in later for the Democrats.
ROBINSON: Of course.
MATTHEWS: How do we always know that?
ROBINSON: Because they have to go stand in the corner and everything.
MATTHEWS: The balloons don‘t drop on time.
ROBINSON: No it‘s...
MATTHEWS: And the numbers come in late.
ROBINSON: It‘s the Democratic Party. You know how it works.
ROBINSON: That‘s going to be the real focus.
The Republican side, as—as Howard said, we have never had a mess quite like this.
ROBINSON: I think part of the reason is that all these candidates have flaws—I mean, not that the Democrats don‘t have...
ROBINSON: ... their flaws, too, and their electability questions.
But these are the—the Republican candidates, there are five of them who could win, but they‘re all missing something.
MATTHEWS: But the point you are making is objectively verifiable, Norah, because, if you ask Democratic voters, the ones who are going to show up, they‘re pretty happy with the list of choices.
ROBINSON: They are.
MATTHEWS: They even—they don‘t even mind the backbench guys, like Dodd and Biden. They have got some pretty good—Richardson.
MATTHEWS: And they have got two front-runners, three front-runners, that they‘re pretty happy with, Norah.
And I think what Edwards is probably hoping for on his wish list on caucus night is a snowstorm.
O‘DONNELL: And the reason is because...
MATTHEWS: Because he has got the muscle guys.
O‘DONNELL: He has got the muscle guys.
MATTHEWS: The tractors.
ROBINSON: The tractors.
MATTHEWS: These guys are coming in tractors.
ROBINSON: They have got four-wheel drive. They‘re going to make it through the snow.
MATTHEWS: They have got chains.
O‘DONNELL: And all the Obama kids who are going to be away for college break won‘t make it back.
MATTHEWS: Howard, will the sugarplums not make it next Thursday night, the college kids who are wearing flip-flops, not be able to make it through the snow?
MATTHEWS: I am amazed by young men in their 20s...
MATTHEWS: ... who wear flip-flops in the coldest weather.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t quite get it, but...
FINEMAN: You remember the Dartmouth debate? You remember Dartmouth in January? That‘s what it‘s like up there.
No, I think—I think Gene is—Gene and Norah are correct, because turnout is going to be critical. The weather is supposed to be pretty good next Thursday, according to the weather forecast that we have all been looking at now.
And I think the turnout will be pretty good. But, if it‘s a low
turnout on a snowy night, that, by conventional wisdom—I think it‘s true
benefits—benefits Edwards the most, because he has got the...
MATTHEWS: You know, I should never say this.
FINEMAN: ... he has got the old caucus—he‘s got the caucus-goers who have been there before...
MATTHEWS: Right. Exactly.
FINEMAN: ... who caucused for him four years ago.
MATTHEWS: I should never say this, since we‘re in a commercial enterprise here at HARDBALL, but don‘t ever talk to me if you don‘t vote in Iowa.
You got to vote!
MATTHEWS: You got to get up in the morning. You got to plan all day to get to those caucuses, or I don‘t want to talk to you anymore.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.
Yes, last thought, Howard.
FINEMAN: Just very quickly, some professor did a study showing that the Iowa caucus voters have 20 times more power in American politics than any other voters in the country.
MATTHEWS: They‘re—they‘re very potent people out there, aren‘t they, Howard?
FINEMAN: Yes, they are. Yes, they are.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.
And, if they are potent, they should act it.
Anyway, Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman.
Coming up: The Iowa caucuses are six days out, so whose TV ads are having an impact? The good, the bad, and the ugly coming up here, and some of these ads are pretty tough.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani plays HARDBALL right here tonight.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With less than a week until the Iowa caucuses, the ‘08 candidates are making a big push with their TV commercials.
So, whose ads are effective?
Bob Garfield is a critic at “Advertising Age” magazine. He co-hosts National Public Radio‘s “On the Media.”
Bob, let‘s take a look at this Giuliani ad. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN AD)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right before September 11, and months before, I had read this book about the greatest generation written by Tom Brokaw. And the book explains how brave and how persistent and how courageous the people were in the generation that won the Second World War.
And, during the day of September 11, living through the things that I saw and observed, immediately, when I saw people helping each other, and I saw the picture of the firefighters putting the flag up, I said, these are the children, the grandchildren, and the great grandchildren of the greatest generation. They have the same resolve, the same understanding.
When you challenge Americans, there‘s no country that stands up stronger and better than the United States of America. And when you try to take something away from us, like freedom, my goodness, Americans are going to be one in resisting it.
So, the Islamic terrorists would make a terrible mistake if they confuse our democracy for weakness. Our democracy means we disagree with each other, but, when you come and try to take away from us our freedom, when you try to come here and kill our people, we‘re one, and we‘re going to stand up to you, and we‘re going to prevail.
I‘m Rudy Giuliani, and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Six years later from 9/11, does it still work?
BOB GARFIELD, COLUMNIST, “ADVERTISING AGE”: No, of course not.
Look, here‘s the problem. Not only is he waiting for the fourth quarter. He has only one shot. And if people figure out that there‘s a difference between being the hero of 9/11 and kind of a take-charge victim, he has got problems. You know, we already have a take-charge victim, and look what, you know, that has come to.
MATTHEWS: You mean George Bush?
OK, let‘s take a look at Mitt Romney‘s ads. Here they are. He is—he is taking on Mike Huckabee here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.
NARRATOR: Two former governors, two good family men, both pro-life, both support a constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage. The difference? Mitt Romney stood up and vetoed in-state tuition for illegal aliens, opposed driver‘s licenses for illegals.
Mike Huckabee supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants. Huckabee even supported taxpayer-funded scholarships for illegal aliens.
On immigration, the choice matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I guess you can tell that Huckabee is beating Romney.
GARFIELD: I—I think it‘s clear. I mean, this is an attack ad.
But, you know, as attack ads something go, it‘s pretty soft. It‘s truthful. It‘s—almost—it‘s relevant. It‘s in context, so no problem there.
The problem is, it‘s likely to—to send consensus-seekers running to
to Huckabee. He did another one on McCain in New Hampshire. It‘s going to do better for Huckabee and McCain than it will be for him. He is going to win a few hard-liners and lose the consensus-seekers.
MATTHEWS: So, people don‘t like the attacker any more than the attackee?
GARFIELD: Not in this case. I mean, I think he is raising the wrong points.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at John McCain‘s ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: After taking a close look, 20 newspapers all across New Hampshire endorsed John McCain.
Here‘s what they‘re saying.
NARRATOR: McCain campaigns with decency.
NARRATOR: The right stuff.
NARRATOR: To become among our greatest presidents.
NARRATOR: Integrity and honor.
NARRATOR: Impeccable national security credentials.
NARRATOR: McCain transcends partisanship.
NARRATOR: Most trustworthy.
NARRATOR: The man to lead America.
NARRATOR: All across New Hampshire, newspapers agree.
NARRATOR: The choice is clear. For President: John McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John McCain, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: God, he is the Brockton Bomber. He is the—he is Rocky Marciano. He‘s got every endorsement.
That‘s a pretty positive ad.
GARFIELD: It‘s a very positive ad. There‘s not a thing wrong with it, except he is trying to woo Republicans, who don‘t trust the liberal media, except when they say nice things about John McCain.
MATTHEWS: So, if you get an endorsement from a newspaper, you are a bad guy?
GARFIELD: Yes. I‘m not sure that...
MATTHEWS: Oh, what a world we live in.
Here‘s Hillary Clinton and her latest ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: What if we had a different president this year? Hillary Clinton called for action on America‘s housing crisis in March, in June, in August. George Bush and Wall Street did nothing.
Since then, home prices have plummeted and millions may lose their homes. Hillary‘s plan: freeze home foreclosures, freeze rates on adjustable mortgages, provide real tax relief for the middle class.
When we choose a president next year, let‘s choose one that would have started fixing our economy this year.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Hillary Clinton, and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That strikes me as chicken noodle soup. I don‘t get it.
MATTHEWS: She called for action?
GARFIELD: Republicans divide and conquer. And Democrats pander. And that‘s what she‘s doing here. You know, the last presidents who intervened in the economy the way she‘s talking about were Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. I‘m not sure if those are comparisons that Hillary Clinton wants to make.
MATTHEWS: You mean price freezes and wage freezes don‘t work with the people.
GARFIELD: I don‘t know if they work with the people, but they certainly don‘t work on the economy.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Obama‘s latest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I‘m Barack Obama, and I approve this message. America is listening. Not just Democrats, but Republicans and Independents who have lost trust in their government but want to believe again. I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. We have a chance to bring the country together. A nation heals, a world repaired. An America that believes again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, Bob.
GARFIELD: Well, look, I think it‘s the best of the lot only because it trades on his strength, which is the ability to inspire people. It almost doesn‘t matter what he says, what he promises, but how he says it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s syncopated, if that‘s the word, cadence. Where it‘s almost like Martin Luther King. It‘s a black Baptist church kind of intonation. Is that going to work with that white crowd out in Iowa? It really is evocative to me of historic civil rights efforts.
GARFIELD: Yeah. There‘s a world of white people who would love to pull the lever for a black man. You know, especially one who, as Joe Biden says, is so clean. I think he was trying to say clean cut, but he is so acceptably black to so many white Americans who would really like to exercise some guilt.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going take some of the edge off of what you just said. The man is a star. He has gone to the most prestigious schools. He got into them the hard way. He is an amazing success story.
GARFIELD: He is a fabulous candidate.
MATTHEWS: So is his wife.
GARFIELD: He is one of the first people ever to get through to me, and I‘m a little suspicious now because I have been following him carefully for the last few months, but he has the ability to make you believe in a politician. That‘s his greatest strength, his greatest asset, and he is playing it to a fairly well here. I think it‘s the best ads of the lot.
MATTHEWS: Is it your hunch that the American people will lead to this change agent or go to the safer Hillary or the safer Edwards? I want the answer. Here we go. Here‘s Edwards. Here‘s another alternative in Iowa, John Edwards ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I have been blessed for the last 30 years to be married to the most optimistic person that I have ever met, but at the same time he has an unbelievable toughness, particularly about other people, and that is his ability to fight for them. You‘re not going to outsmart him. He works harder than any human being that I know, always has. It is unbelievably important that in our president we have someone that can stare the worst in the face and not blink.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Edwards, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it amazing we need a spouse to OK these guys? Bill to OK Hillary, we need Michelle to OK Barack, and we need the wonderful Elizabeth to OK her husband. Why do we need the spouse to say this is a good person?
GARFIELD: Maybe the same reason to sell cold remedies they have the doctor‘s receptionist telling moms what the smart antihistamine is. Look, she‘s fabulous. She‘s a great presenter.
MATTHEWS: She‘s the real thing, too.
GARFIELD: But the problem with this ad is the same problem that Giuliani has with his. You know, optimism and persistence are great, but we have a president who embodies those things. Optimism and consistency get you into a jam.
MATTHEWS: So what‘s the word we are looking for? What don‘t we have that we want?
GARFIELD: Well, I think Americans always want change. In election season, it‘s like spring training. Everybody thinks it‘s going to be different this time around.
MATTHEWS: You know what, when we really do vote for change, I‘ll be impressed. We did it in ‘80, we did it in ‘52, we did it in ‘60, we did it in ‘32. Is your hunch this year we‘ll vote for real change? We‘ve done it.
GARFIELD: People may vote for it. I just don‘t think any of these candidates necessarily have the wherewithal to provide it. But you can always cross your fingers.
MATTHEWS: We sure can. Thank you very much, Bob Garfield. Up next, which candidate had the unsettling experience of seeing his image depicted in food? You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So what else is new out there politically? Well, he is like butter. Barack Obama showed up at a middle school in Toledo, Ohio, where he was greeted by the likeness of himself, that‘s right, in butter. It was sculpted by Norma Lyon, better known as the butter cow lady for her life-size butter cows at the Iowa State Fair. You can cut this stuff with a knife.
Anyway, you know about don‘t ask don‘t tell in the military. Well now Hillary Clinton has had a just don‘t ask policy. The “L.A. Times” reported this morning that Hillary had stopped taking questions from voters in Iowa during campaign stops. Then late today, perhaps after one of her people got wind of the “L.A. Times” story, she started answering questions again. The listening tour was dead. Long live the listening tour.
Now comes the HARDBALL big number tonight. During crises, politicians often unwittingly show their true colors. Some act like grown-ups, and others act like children. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated yesterday at 8:30 a.m. A courageous woman was killed. She‘s dead trying to stir the Democratic heart of her country. Well it took Mike Huckabee roughly just 13 hours to publicly call for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We ought to have an immediate, very clear, monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there‘s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country. We just need to be very, very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What? The lesson from yesterday‘s horrors is to make sure that Pakistanis don‘t sneak into the United States? 13 hours, the amount of time it took for Mike Huckabee to turn the Bhutto assassination into a push for good ole Paki-bashing. Thirteen, unlucky 13, tonight‘s big number.
Up next, Rudy Giuliani live from Fort Dodge, Iowa. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. With just six days to the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has unveiled a new ad that evokes the 9/11 attacks. In his campaign today in Fort Dodge, Iowa, welcome, Mr. Mayor.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you, Chris?
MATTHEWS: It seems that in South Asia—how are you doing? It seems to me in Pakistan, nobody knows who killed Bhutto yet, Benazir Bhutto, but the people that wanted her dead were al Qaeda, particularly bin Laden. How would you, as president, catch this SOB and kill him? How would you do it? Because this president has failed to do so.
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we have to put on a lot more emphasis in Afghanistan than we‘ve been doing. I said some time ago we should increase our troops in Afghanistan. We should put more pressure on. This may be now an action forcing event that has us increase our emphasis there in Afghanistan. We‘ve got to work with the Pakistan government, but we‘ve got to put a lot of pressure on them to help us eliminate al Qaeda, help us eliminate the Taliban. And Musharraf has to really now take some very significant steps, it seems to me.
No. 1, there‘s going to have to be a complete explanation and investigation of what happened. And, number two, there‘s got to be a restoration of stability and, number three, there‘s got to be immediate movement toward democracy. So we can‘t draw definitive conclusions yet, but it seems pretty clear that part of the reason for this was to prevent the movement toward democracy.
The very best thing to do with terrorists when they strike and they have an objective is to foil that objective, and by foiling that objective, what I mean is Pakistan should be right back on track toward democracy. I realize stability has to come first, but that should be achieved very quickly.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president. When he was in New York at Ground Zero in his most memorable statement ever, he said we‘re going to get the people who knock down these buildings. He said that back in 2001. It‘s now 2007. How many years do you think the American people should wait for our president to make good on his promise to get the guys who killed 3,000 Americans? This guy is apparently in Pakistan, and we haven‘t done it. Are you satisfied with this?
GIULIANI: Well, there‘s—nobody probably more - I‘m sure there are people that are just as interested in making sure that we catch bin Laden as I am, but there is probably no one that‘s more interested in doing that, and I would make every effort as president of the United States, every single thing you could do to try to catch him.
I can‘t say the government hasn‘t done that. I believe the president has that same desire, but I think we have to redouble our efforts rather than going back and saying should have been done, could it have been done. I think everything has been done that can be done. We just have to do a lot more.
MATTHEWS: What do you—
GIULIANI: That should be a major objective. It‘s not—
MATTHEWS: The president doesn‘t share your objective because he has been asked about it. He says, you know I just don‘t give a lot of thought to it. It‘s not a big priority with me. Why does he say this? Is this a head fake? Why doesn‘t he admit I want to get this guy?
GIULIANI: I know from personal discussions with the president that he has a very strong desire to bring bin Laden to justice, and let me speak for myself.
It‘s not just merely a symbolic thing. I know sometimes people think it‘s just symbolic, and it‘s not just to bring him to justice, although, heck, that‘s really important.
It‘s also strategically valuable to take out the head of an organization like this. These Islamic terrorist groups, a lot of it goes on charismatic leadership which is perverse, but it‘s there, and when you can take out even some of the top leadership that we have taken out in the past has all helped. So if you can get him and his top people, you are going to see—you are going to see some real advantages falling to us.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the partisan politics you are involved in right now trying to win this presidential nomination of the Republican Party. You‘re still at the top of all the national polls. I don‘t think you have not been at the top for months now. You are always up there at the top. However, when all the pundits, including me, look at all the upcoming races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, we can‘t see a Rudy Giuliani win. When will you win?
GIULIANI: Well, we‘re going to try to win from the very beginning, but our theory, Chris, is that this is—these are 29 caucuses and primaries. I think I have that right. They keep changing it. From the 3rd of January to the 5th of February. You got to win your share of them. You are not going win all of them. We knew that, you know, going in that we‘re not going to win all the primaries.
So we have had a strategy that‘s a little bit different than some of the other candidates. We tried to have a proportionate strategy. We spent time in Florida. I just came from Florida. But we‘re spending time in Iowa. I‘ll be in New Hampshire over the weekend.
That kind of typifies how we‘ve done the whole year. We spent time in California. California comes up on February 5th. You better win your fair share of delegates in California. Otherwise, you‘re probably not going to get the nomination.
You have Illinois coming up. You‘ve got Missouri coming up. You‘ve got New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and the ones that you mentioned. So our strategy has been a proportionate strategy. We‘re ahead, I think, in about 16 or 18 of those 29 primaries. If we can convert those into victories, then we got the nomination. If not, well, you know—the Republican Party gets to decide this.
MATTHEWS: You know, you‘ve thought about this 10,000 times more than I or anybody like me. Look, if you‘ve got somebody down in Winter Park right now that‘s a moderate Republican, middle-of-the-road Republican, they‘re looking at Huckabee out there in Iowa. They‘re looking maybe at McCain in New Hampshire. They‘re looking at maybe Romney picking up the home state back in Michigan, looking at maybe Huckabee in South Carolina.
This is all flatlands going into Florida, are you going to say to these people look, the party doesn‘t have a favorite yet. Wait for me. Is that what you are saying? Wait for me. I‘m coming.
GIULIANI: Let‘s see where we are when we get there. We don‘t know.
We don‘t know yet where we are. We have a number of different options. That‘s how you have to do this. You try to do it as well as you can on the first one, the second one, the third one. You try to—you try to make sure that you have yourself in good shape for the big ones that come up on February 5th.
That‘s when it‘s all going to get decided. I think you have 21 on that day, so you want to be in as good shape there both in terms of where you stand nationally, but also the organizations you have in those states. I think we have very good organizations in the states that come up on February 5th. I think we spent more time at it than the other candidates, and I believe that strategy is going to pay off.
MATTHEWS: Will you come in third at least in Iowa. Is that too hard a standard for you?
GIULIANI: I don‘t—I don‘t predict where I‘m going to come in any of these. We‘re ready for any alternatives, and our strategy has been to work from the back, from February 5th back, to have ourselves in as good shape on February 5th as we can, on January 29th, and then in the earlier primaries, whether it‘s Nevada or Michigan or South Carolina or New Hampshire or Iowa. We‘re going to be contesting in all of them, and I believe we‘re going to do very, very well.
Right now, if you look at the polls, we‘re leading, and I‘m not talking about the national polls now. I‘m talking about each one of these individual states. We‘re leading in a lot more states than anybody else.
MATTHEWS: Are you the best man to lead America right now?
GIULIANI: Well, I wouldn‘t be running if I didn‘t believe that that was the case? I think there are very good people running. I have tremendous respect for them. This is not in any way criticism of any of them. They‘ve worked very hard, and they have got very good records and backgrounds. But I believe I‘ve had the most experience. I believe I‘ve been tested by crisis.
I believe I have been tested by having to solve very big problems, in what some people consider to be the second toughest job in the country. And I had that job during difficult times, not just talking about September 11th. I‘m talking about, you know, from the day I took over, with significant amount of crime and tremendous problems with regard to our economy. I‘m a fiscal conservative, I think the most fiscally conservative Republican in the race. I‘m someone who has been tested by having to get through some very big problems and some very big crises.
MATTHEWS: Can you say, I‘m the best man to lead America? Can you say that?
GIULIANI: I believe I‘m the best man to lead America. I believe I‘m tested. I believe I‘m ready. I believe the time is now, and I believe I have a bold vision for the future of America, a more prosperous America, an optimistic America, an America that‘s going to tap the genius of the American people, rather than crush it with a central government that‘s too large.
And I do believe that I‘m the best one to keep the country safe and secure. I‘ve had the safety and security of millions of people on my shoulders for quite some time, and I think I got very good results with it. I believe I know how to guide the country in that area.
MATTHEWS: The honorable Rudy Giuliani, two-time mayor of New York.
Thank you, sir, for joining us. It‘s been an honor.
GIULIANI: Happy New Year.
MATTHEWS: Happy New Year to you. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards; they‘re all tied out in Iowa. We have the new numbers in the politics fix. That‘s coming up. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the Politics Fix here on HARDBALL. Our round table tonight, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, Jill Zuckman of the “Chicago Tribune,” and NBC News political direct Chuck Todd.
I want you all to focus and fasten on these numbers. I have never seen numbers like this since the great Kennedy-Nixon race actually of 1960. Edwards—these are Iowa numbers for the Democrats among likely voters to show up at the caucuses—John Edwards 29 percent, Obama 29 percent, Clinton 28 percent. Please hold those numbers up there.
Chuck Todd, how else can we see this, except dead heat?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Amazingly so. When you talk about where the candidates are on the Democratic side with the campaigns themselves, what‘s weird is they don‘t know where things stand. They assume it‘s a dead heat. They‘re afraid of these numbers, because they feel like none of them are telling them anything. They‘re not sure if polling is even going to be any good this week, because we‘ve seen some erratic results in some other polls, as far—but the tension—
What‘s interesting, Chris, is all of them are now wound so tight, the press operations, the field operations, the candidates themselves. Everybody is so wound tight. It‘s because it is a three-way, and third place is such a bad place to be, if one of them—it‘s sort of like musical chairs, and there‘s only two seats.
MATTHEWS: Jill Zuckman, is this like riding your bike along a curb, and you are afraid to move it even slightly because you‘ll go off the curb? As Chuck said, are they so wound tight that they‘re afraid to make a mistake now?
JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: If one candidate has one hair out of place, it could cost them the entire election. That‘s pretty much what we‘ve come down to. It‘s anybody‘s guess. Anyone who tells you they know who is going to win or who is going to come in second or third, they‘re smoking something, because nobody has any idea at this point what‘s going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Craig, this does open up the possibility that one of the
candidates, one of the more mature candidates, like the Clinton operation -
I got to believe that Bill Clinton is hammering the smart people around Hillary, whether it‘s Mark or Mandy or somebody, to come up with some last-minute ploy, like calling out Benazir Bhutto‘s brother and getting him to call up and say something back or—you know what I mean, some kind of Mrs. Martin Luther King incident from 1960, some brilliant gambit.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think inside these polls there are some pretty good numbers for Hillary, but they don‘t want to talk about that, because they‘re down playing expectations in Iowa, and the media desire for a horse race and a dead even race plays right into that. But, you know, like in the “Los Angeles Times”/Bloomberg poll, if you go to the tight screen of the likeliest voters, which I know is always dicey for the Iowa caucuses—but if you do that, she‘s outside the margin of error, nine points ahead of Obama. six points ahead of Edwards.
MATTHEWS: Would you go with that? Stick your neck out, Craig. Do you believe in that tight screen? Do you believe that?
CRAWFORD: They‘re the polls. It‘s there. I mean, you know, I don‘t know if it‘s reliable or not. I think it might be more reliable than a larger—wider screen given—one out of seven registered Democrats vote in these caucuses. So the tighter screen, if it‘s accurate, you can get, the more accurate your results might be.
MATTHEWS: Tighter screen means basically you are assuming that hardly anybody shows up except the real political regulars who have often been there before. That‘s the situation you confront. Jill, do you think this is going to be one of those change election situations, where people come out of the wood work who never participated, and show up for Obama, Edwards, or Hillary?
ZUCKMAN: Chris, I think it‘s—you‘re more likely to have new people showing up in a primary, like the New Hampshire primary, than you are in the caucuses. But at the same time there‘s got to be an awful lot of excitement, because you‘ve got the first possible woman to be president of the United States, the first African-American. I mean, there‘s just a lot of history going on here. And they‘ve put so much effort into Iowa. I would be stunned if we did not see a larger turnout this year.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to the Republican side, where it‘s a clearer vision right now. You have Huckabee up in this “L.A. Times” poll by eight points, fairly clearly beyond the margin of error. By the way, in the “L.A. Times” poll, among Democrats, it‘s similar, giving, as Craig pointed out, a Hillary number beyond the margin of error.
Let me start with Chuck on this. Does this mean that Huckabee is going to win?
TODD: I‘m not so sure. I was at a Huckabee event this morning, Chris, and we‘re all prisoners of anecdotes when you start going from event to event. But, you know, in doing the—combing through the audience, talking to Iowans, I couldn‘t find one person who was telling me they were definitely going to caucus. I found people that really liked Mike Huckabee, but they seemed to be new. I had one person tell me, oh, the caucus, you know, it‘s a little confusing, not sure what to do. Another guy said he had to do something on his farm that night, and he didn‘t think he was going to have enough time to actually show up to the caucus.
But, no, my point is that I wonder—because I came here to this Giuliani event, and I couldn‘t find anybody who wasn‘t caucusing. So, I‘m starting to wonder does the Huckabee folks—are they talking to people that are going to show up? I look at these poll numbers, and I think, gee, Huckabee is up ten; it probably really means he is up three. And if Huckabee is only up five, then maybe he could lose.
I would worry if I were the Huckabee folks. I wouldn‘t put my money on Huckabee, because I‘m wondering does the lack of organization that he has had for six months translate into a harder time getting his supporters to show up?
MATTHEWS: If everybody got to vote at Wal-Marts, we would get a bigger turnout, right?
TODD: Well, Wal-Mart right after Christmas. You get that after Christmas sale.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with everyone, back with the round table to talk about some of these TV ads. They‘re getting nasty. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and to our Round Table. Craig, you were saying something. I want to give you a chance to continue that thought.
CRAWFORD: It was just that one thing that has impressed me about the change in attitude toward Huckabee among these voters is the electability issue. There are rising numbers of Republicans that actually see him as electable in a general election. I just saw him. He was just here in Orlando. He and Giuliani both were in Orlando, Florida, over the last 24 hours. Huckabee drew a crowd twice as large as Giuliani‘s, coming up in the polls here. And he has the luxury now, apparently—he feels so strong about his situation in Iowa that he is now moving around the country.
Giuliani is in Florida because he has nothing going on in Iowa, even though he is going there this weekend.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s Romney, who is obviously afraid that Huckabee is going to knock him off in Iowa, afraid that he might not be able to hold on in New Hampshire against McCain. Here he is nailing McCain, this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.
John McCain, an honorable man. But is he the right Republican for the future?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Chuck, it sounds like the Mark Anthony speech. You know, Caesar was ambitious and Brutus was an honorable man there.
TODD: Well, or is he—but is he playing the age card? It was interesting that he was talking about the future, almost trying to say that McCain is the past a little bit. You know, what I found fascinating about Romney is he is the only candidate going consistently negative on his opponents. Here in Iowa, Chris, the only ad that breaks through—and I actually think this may hurt Huckabee in the long run—the only negative ad airing right now are negative ads against Huckabee, one aid for by Mitt Romney.
In fact, I haven‘t seen yet a positive Mitt Romney spot. It‘s only been the hit on Huckabee. Then there‘s a Club For Growth spot that hits Huckabee. And then you have, right now, Romney being the only guy going negative in New Hampshire. Does that end up back firing on Romney? I‘m not sure. We all know negative ads work. And at some point, you know, I am starting to wonder, are they going to work against Huckabee? And, you know, Romney is going for broke in New Hampshire, obviously.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jill for a second here. Jill, if negative ads always work, then both sides would lose, because everybody uses them. Is this just a sign of who is ahead, the fact that there are so many negatives against Huckabee in Iowa and against McCain in New Hampshire?
ZUCKMAN: Look, I think it‘s a very risky game for Romney here in New Hampshire, and that‘s because—and in Iowa, too, because he has changed his position on so many things over the years. So here he is accusing McCain of doing certain things where he might have been in the past. I mean, he once supported what Senator McCain was proposing on immigration. The McCain campaign is saying, stay tuned. We are going to answer back very shortly. And I just think it‘s going to get uglier and uglier.
I‘m not sure that he is going to come out on the good end of things here, especially because he has the “Concord Monitor” and the “Manchester Union Leader” going after him on the editorial page.
MATTHEWS: Last thoughts from you, Craig, first, and then everybody. Last thoughts on the outlook for the next week and a half. We‘ll have two contests, one in Iowa next Thursday, followed by the subsequent Tuesday, first primary in the nation, New Hampshire. Give me your outlook, what you are looking at as a journalist.
CRAWFORD: I just want to pick up, I agree with Chuck. I think these negative ads are working. I think maybe the conventional wisdom of the past that there are backlashes isn‘t panning out. I think that‘s one reason Edwards has gone fairly harsh negative again, because maybe these voters in Iowa and New Hampshire just see it so much they‘re jaded by it.
I think it‘s got to get tough. I like negative campaigning. I think it‘s part of politics. Comparative issues, debate; what‘s wrong with that? I think Romney is smart to do this. I think Romney is going to pull out of these first couple of contests, and ultimately get this nomination.
MATTHEWS: OK, Jill, your thoughts looking ahead.
ZUCKMAN: I think it‘s going to be a dog fight in New Hampshire between McCain and Romney until the very end, the same thing on the Democratic side. Clinton/Obama, there‘s just not a bit of difference here in terms of the numbers, and I think a lot of it is going to come down to Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Director, Chuck?
TODD: Chris, keep an eye on this enthusiasm gap. You‘re seeing almost twice as many people show up for Democratic events out here in Iowa than you are for Republicans. That‘s taking a toll at some point. And, by the way, there‘s a new Mendoza Line. Ron Paul, who is going to finish behind Ron Paul in Iowa? What if Giuliani and Fred Thompson finish behind him?
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for that. Thank you, Jill Zuckman, Eugene Robinson and Chuck Todd—actually Craig Crawford. Anyway, join us again next week on HARDBALL for one of the best political weeks of the year. We‘ll be at our election headquarters in New York. And on Thursday after HARDBALL, Keith Olbermann and the anchors and correspondents of NBC News join me for complete coverage of the Iowa caucuses.
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