updated 10/3/2008 11:17:16 AM ET 2008-10-03T15:17:16

HARDBALL

October 3, 2008

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

Guests: Roger Simon, Bill Richardson, Jane Swift,

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening.

And let's go with this: Palin wants greater powers for the vice presidency. What's she got in mind?

Let's play HARDBALL.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews.

Welcome to this late, but noisy edition of HARDBALL from the campus of Washington University in Saint Louis, the host of the vice presidential debate tonight that ended an hour-and-a-half ago.

It was a battle between the veteran and the rookie, between Senator Joe Biden, who's been in Washington for more than three decades, and Governor Sarah Palin, the newcomer from Alaska.

So, who won? It depends on how you view Sarah Palin's brisk, rhetorical, often folks manner. Here are the early from two network polls. A CBS poll of uncommitted voters found that 46 percent thought Biden was the winner -- 21 percent gave the debate to Palin.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Thirty-three percent called it a tie.

A CNN poll of debate watchers, not just uncommitted voters, also came out with Biden the winner -- 51 percent gave it to Biden, while 36 percent saw Palin as the winner.

It's early, and those numbers could change. But the first impressions seem to be on Joe Biden's side.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Here with me, "Newsweek"'s Howard Fineman, who is an MSNBC political analyst, and "The Politico"'s Roger Simon.

Your curmudgeon, Simon, you absolute curmudgeon. Every week, we have these polls, and, every week, you disagree with them.

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: You know, the polls are screwy.

MATTHEWS: The polls are screwy?

SIMON: They're always screwy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Everybody is out of step, but Roger. OK.

SIMON: Yes, that's generally how I view life.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: I think those people-people expected Sarah Palin to fall off the stage. Instead, she dominated it.

People thought she was going to be a dumb bunny for 90 minutes. Let's admit it. A lot of people thought she was going to look dumb. Did they look dumb? I don't think she looked dumb. I thought she looked warm, folksy, human, all those things.

Did Joe Biden look smarter? Yes, did he. Does that matter more in politics than you feel good about the person? Not always.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's a strong opinion.

Howard, yours, please. Your hard analysis now.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I told Roger on the way over here that I always wondered what a wolverine would look like chewing through plywood.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: That was Sarah Palin.

She was reared as a hunter.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

FINEMAN: And she stalking the big guy in pinstripes. And she did it with attack lines, attack lines, memorized attack lines, loose with the facts, this and that.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: In the body language of this weird thing that's not really quite a debate...

MATTHEWS: I know it's not.

FINEMAN: ... especially this one, a choppy series of not much by way of questions and quick answers...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... she tore her way through this thing.

And you know that Roger's right in the-within the context of the debate itself, because, when David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Obama...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... came out to the press room, he didn't say, this woman's clearly not ready for prime time. He said, she didn't distinguish the McCain/Palin ticket from George Bush, which was her main objective tonight.

And I think, on that, he's right. And the reason why the numbers are the way they are, I think, is because the country wants change. And she didn't convince people, which, after all, was her main job.

MATTHEWS: OK. She wants one change.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Here she is, Governor Palin, on the office of the vice presidency. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. I want to know what you both think about what-I mean, I thought for a moment I was hearing "precious bodily fluids" there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: All of a sudden, a candidate-a candidate for president -

vice president of the United States is talking about a new expansive role for the vice presidency in presiding over the Senate.

Roger, you have been defending her performance tonight. Explain what she is up to here.

SIMON: You know, that was like the 86th minute of the debate or something.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I was paying attention.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: Yes. Was America?

I don't think a lot of America are really going to be focused tomorrow on whether Sarah Palin wants to expand the powers-the powers of the vice presidency in a legislative...

MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have paid attention...

SIMON: ... manner.

MATTHEWS: ... when Dick Cheney came into office eight years ago?

SIMON: It was totally different.

FINEMAN: I think-I think America...

SIMON: She can have whatever duties she wants that the president...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: You're saying she wants to-to change the Constitution and expand her role...

MATTHEWS: What is she talking about?

SIMON: ... in a legislative branch.

FINEMAN: Well...

SIMON: Who knew that she even knew what the Constitution said about the vice presidency?

FINEMAN: That's highly unlikely.

MATTHEWS: I find it interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you think she said when she said, I want to have more extensive authority in the Senate?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: As somebody who spend a lot of time covering the Senate, I know what she wants to do. She wants to try to run the Senate from the-from the president's chair, which is not the way the Senate runs.

Now, maybe there are people out in the country who think that the vice presidency currently doesn't have enough power. That's probably not true. But I agree with Roger, to the extent that most of the American people are focused on one thing, the economy, and who's going to help middle-class voters.

MATTHEWS: OK.

You know what I think?

SIMON: OK. What?

MATTHEWS: She's being briefed by the vice president's people, people like Randy Scheunemann. She does want more authority for the vice presidency. She wants it in the legislative arena. She wants some power over there that the vice president has not enjoyed in the past. I would like her to spell that out in the next couple days.

SIMON: If the Democrats can sell that tomorrow, they will have accomplished something.

MATTHEWS: No, I'm curious.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, we're not likely to get the answer, because she said something else interesting: No longer will I be held by the filter of the mainstream media.

FINEMAN: Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: Does that means no more interviews, no more edited interviews, no more live interviews, no more interviews?

FINEMAN: No.

MATTHEWS: What does it mean to you, Howard?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Well, I think, by the end of the debate, she had decided that she had done pretty well. I think that was a line she was holding in reserve as a defense tactic, if necessary, if, for example, Gwen Ifill, the moderator, had really gone after her with a series of follow-ups, which she didn't do.

MATTHEWS: Didn't do.

FINEMAN: Gwen was very standoffish on the whole thing.

MATTHEWS: So, in many ways, that was the final run-through...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Right.

As you said, it was more like you were listening to a contestant more than a candidate, because she-Sarah Palin was going through all of her lines, all of her lines, all of her lines.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought it was a...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: And that's actually-that's actually a good forum for her.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: And she comes from the school where you attack relentlessly. She says she's bipartisan. She says she's bringing people together. But her style of politics, if you look at what she did in Alaska, was to attack the establishment from beginning to end, until she got the job.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here she is, closing up. And you respond to this, Roger.

SIMON: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they have just heard. I would rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did.

And it's so important that the American people know of the choices that they have on November 4.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you think she meant by that, Roger?

SIMON: I think she meant she's going to do the rest of the campaign in speeches, rather than interviews.

As Howard said, where she did badly in her interviews was not on the first question. It was on the follow-up, when Katie Couric would say, give me an example. Tell me a person from history. Name a Supreme Court case.

The debate wasn't structured that way. She didn't get those questions. If she does more interviews, she's likely to get them again. I think she-you know, she did far better than anyone, you know, on the Republican side or the Democratic side thought she was going to.

MATTHEWS: Yes. But did you have a sense that you were watching, for an hour-and-a-half someone, a director, saying, cue the energy speech particular; cue the tax part; cue the Israel part?

SIMON: That's what politics...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: That's what politics is.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They were cues. But they weren't questions. They were cues.

SIMON: It's a performance.

MATTHEWS: OK. You are so cynical, Roger.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: No, no, but he's right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let's step back a little bit into the world of substance.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Did we learn anything about her, accept her ability to recite tonight?

FINEMAN: No, not really. Not really. And I...

SIMON: You know...

MATTHEWS: To recite.

FINEMAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: But the-but Roger's right about what these events are, especially one like this, where there are only two-minute answers and 90-second follow-ups. And the pace was frantic in this thing from the beginning...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... which perfectly suited Sarah Palin's purpose.

MATTHEWS: More from-let's take a look at Biden now on the issue of John McCain and President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Past is prologue, Gwen. The issue is, how different is John McCain's policy going to be than George Bush's? I haven't heard anything yet.

I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different with Israel than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different than George Bush's.

It may be. But so far, it is the same as George Bush's. And you know where that policy has taken us.

We will make significant change so, once again, we're the most respected nation in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that's the heart of the Democratic campaign this

year, right there.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Yes. That's the heart of the Democratic campaign on the foreign policy side. That was one of Biden's best moments.

His other best moment was when he did the same thing on domestic policy by saying, you think John McCain is a maverick? He's not a maverick. And he repeated over again, he's not a maverick, he's not a maverick, he's not a maverick.

That's the essence of it. And that's why the Obama people are satisfied, or claim to be satisfied, because they're saying, look, the main objective of this ticket and of Sarah Palin, who is the one they brought in from Alaska, the new change agent...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... is to separate this ticket from George Bush, in terms of policy. And the Obama campaign's argument is, they didn't do it.

MATTHEWS: Well, she said that was looking backward, that was backward finger-pointing.

FINEMAN: Yes. If you do that, you're only looking backward.

MATTHEWS: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: That's not going to sell. That's not going to sell, I don't think.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: In other words, you can't get out of the trap of being a Republican by saying, that's backwards.

FINEMAN: It's hard. You can't just wave your hand and say, it's backward.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Roger.

SIMON: You know, it's the Democrats' main point of attack. It's the same point of attack that Obama used in his debate.

MATTHEWS: It's the usual point of attack.

SIMON: It's the usual point of attack.

But the one problem with it is, George Bush's name is not on the ticket in November. And people might just not make the connection. They might just say, who is better to lead us out of this? I-you know, forget the last eight years. Who will lead us best in the next four years?

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let's talk about style now for a couple minutes, because style, as you mentioned, is very important.

And let's take a look. Here's Governor Palin when she first went up on to the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?

BIDEN: You can call me Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do you mind if I call you Joe? Well, of course, she didn't resort to that. But I thought that was rehearsed. What do you think, Roger?

SIMON: Well, of course, but...

MATTHEWS: What was the point?

SIMON: Again, what part of Biden's performance was not rehearsed?

MATTHEWS: Well, his response to everything she said. He was reactive.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: ... politics sort of a dirty word?

MATTHEWS: What about the winking? Can we get into all the substance all the stylistic points? Winking to the audience a couple of times, what do you make of that?

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: ... in my column for tomorrow. It's the first time I have ever seen in a national debate someone actually wink.

You know what? It was warm. It was human. When she faced the audience, she always looked directly into the camera, always directly at America. Joe Biden was turned for most of it, looking at...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He was looking at Gwen.

SIMON: At Gwen Ifill, exactly.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SIMON: Which came across better to people watching at home?

FINEMAN: Right.

And she also...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, according to all the polling...

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... talking to-answering the questions of the moderator, not ignoring those questions...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... not doing what every first-year candidate does, is go right to the camera.

You know what I think of people when they come on HARDBALL and they look at the camera? I think they're dolts.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think that's the one thing people don't like, because, when you're looking at me right now, that's-that's real. You're looking at me, that's real.

You start looking at the camera right now and answer my questions, see how you look.

SIMON: Joe Biden went through...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Just see how you look.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Talk to the camera. Don't talk to me.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Don't talk to me. Talk to the camera. And see what you look like.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: You look like a dolt.

OK. I'm sorry.

SIMON: Joe Biden...

MATTHEWS: You're not a dolt.

SIMON: Joe Biden went through like, what, 20 primary debates. He's pretty experienced at this. Sarah Palin, this is her first national debate.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SIMON: You're honestly going to say...

MATTHEWS: But you said she did it better than the normal way.

SIMON: On talking points, she didn't...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You like people that, when you ask them a question, turn to the camera like this, like its candidates' night?

FINEMAN: Yes. Well...

SIMON: She didn't turn to the camera.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: She was always looking at the camera.

MATTHEWS: You love her.

Look, let me ask you about the style question. The winking, the "Let me call you Joe," the-the manner of the whole thing about bringing the baby up at the end, I mean, all that stuff, I mean, it's 11:00 at night, and she's got the baby out, hugging it.

I mean, excuse me, those were stylistic points, weren't they?

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Am I missing something here?

FINEMAN: No, you aren't.

MATTHEWS: Are you going for all this, everything? You bought the whole act, right?

FINEMAN: Yes.

SIMON: I buy the notion that it is an act.

MATTHEWS: OK. Right.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: Yes.

SIMON: And the American people know it's an act. They know these people rehearsed.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: Did either of them keep secret the fact that they went and rehearsed the debate? No.

FINEMAN: I agree with most of what Roger says. But I also think that, over 90 minutes, people get a sense if a candidate is not answering any questions.

MATTHEWS: And says they won't.

FINEMAN: And even announces, I'm not going to answer your question.

In other words, that-the-there is a cumulative effect of that, that goes beyond style.

MATTHEWS: Didn't they agree to these rules before they walked out on the stage? Didn't they agree to accept the format of the campaign-I mean, of the debate? Didn't they say, I will answer Gwen Ifill's questions?

FINEMAN: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON: ... been smart enough to write her own rules on the fly?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let's take a look. Here's the candidate from the Republican Party for vice president saying that she's come out on the stage in this format, but will not be bound by it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It's-maybe it's nervy. I don't know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GWEN IFILL, MODERATOR: ... before we move on?

PALIN: Oh, I'm still on the tax thing, because I want to correct you on that again.

And I want to let you know what I did as a mayor and as a governor. And I may not answer the questions the way that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record, also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FINEMAN: Well, see, that's...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that, Roger?

SIMON: There's a critical difference. She didn't say, I'm not going to answer the questions. She said, I'm not going to answer the questions in the way you or the moderator may want to hear.

FINEMAN: Well, and then she preceded not to answer the questions.

MATTHEWS: Well, what does that mean?

SIMON: Oh, a candidate not answering a question?

MATTHEWS: What does it mean?

SIMON: There's gambling in Casablanca?

MATTHEWS: No, what did it mean?

SIMON: I mean, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Why did she feel the need to say that out, to spell out the fact that she's...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the question?

FINEMAN: Here's why. Because she's a maverick.

MATTHEWS: Oh.

SIMON: Ah.

MATTHEWS: Oh. Oh.

FINEMAN: No, I counted...

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

FINEMAN: I counted-I counted-I counted five mavericks against four Scrantons.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. How many Scrantons?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: He had four Scrantons.

SIMON: Yes, right.

MATTHEWS: Let's turn to-let's turn the pillow over and talk about Joe.

How many-how hokey was he, Howard?

FINEMAN: I thought-I thought Joe was-was Joe. I thought he accomplished pretty much what he wanted to.

MATTHEWS: Who is this Mrs. Donko (ph), what was the name?

FINEMAN: I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who was this character? Off these guys came up with these offstage characters.

FINEMAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who was the character he met on the main street in Wilmington? Who was it?

FINEMAN: In Wilmington. It's an ever-changing casts of characters. It's the guys on the Amtrak train. It's the guys in Wilmington.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: It's the guys in Scranton. But-but the thing is...

MATTHEWS: It's like in the old thing with Jackie Gleason talking to Mr. Dennehy.

FINEMAN: She was trying to-when she came up to him at the beginning and said, "May I call you Joe?" she was trying to get inside his space there, OK?

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: She was trying to play around with him a little bit. And she tried to get his goat several times. She tried to press some buttons when she talked about the white flag of surrender.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: There were all kinds of provocations.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: He didn't-he didn't jump on any of them.

MATTHEWS: OK. We're going to find unity right now, after all this argument.

SIMON: All right.

MATTHEWS: Who beat the spread tonight, Roger Simon?

SIMON: Oh, well, she did, my gosh.

MATTHEWS: Who beat the spread tonight?

FINEMAN: Yes, I-you have got to agree with Roger. She absolutely beat the spread.

MATTHEWS: Who beat the spread? I agree. We agree.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: She beat the spread.

FINEMAN: Spread, right.

MATTHEWS: She took the numbers.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.

Thank you, Roger Simon.

Coming up-she beat the spread. That's the line from MSNBC tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Biden says McCain is out of touch on the economy.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Palin says Obama has waved a white flag in Iraq.

We will get reactions from both camps. You're watching HARDBALL, from Saint Louis, only on MSNBC.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I do respect your years in the U.S. Senate, but I think Americans are craving something new and different and that new energy and that new commitment that's going to come with reform.

I think that's why we need to send the maverick from the Senate and put him in the White House, and I'm happy to join him there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Nine o'clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o'clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis. That doesn't make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he's out of touch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Let's bring in MSNBC's Pat Buchanan and Eugene Robinson for differing views, perhaps.

I want to go first to Pat.

I have heard you earlier tonight. You-you were raving about the performance of-of Governor Palin. Are you still on that-on that point? Or are you moved by the polling data that shows, in a couple of accounts, the network polls have found her to be the distant loser tonight?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I'm with Roger Simon.

I think that she not only dominated the debate. I think she beat Joe Biden badly. And one way to show that, Chris, is Joe Biden's reaction, constant reaction.

First, he started flashing the grin when she stuck him. And then he had some stunned look. And then he got angry. And then he got exasperated and was coming after her. Not once did she get exasperated in this entire thing.

When she talks about the middle class, she has got an authenticity, I think, that he doesn't have. And, frankly, Joe Biden, who is a nice guy, speaks in this Washingtonese, that you bring people on television, they get in the same rote mode, and it's boring. And she has got a tremendously fresh and rich vocabulary and outside of Washington. And she has got that persona and that personality. I thought she just won it hands-down.

MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think all these people who watched the thing, the undecided voters, disagreed with you?

Why do you think the poll of all voters tonight taken by CNN, they both found very much a strong performance by Biden and a much weaker performance by her? What-how do you account for the fact you're out of step here?

BUCHANAN: Well, one thing...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Well, last week, I was out of step also. And so was Roger.

I thought McCain did win that, as I said, about 10-5 on rounds. But Keith had on a-but Keith Olbermann just had on a poll where those who said most improved and who do you think of and does-is she in command of her information?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUCHANAN: She registered enormous, enormous gains.

Look, Chris, we came in here.

MATTHEWS: Yes, that's true.

BUCHANAN: Conservatives were terrified that this would be a real disaster for somebody they're in love with. I can tell you, they are wildly enthusiastic tonight. I honestly thought she was sensational.

I sat with Geraldine Ferraro, who was making comments: "Gee, she handled that very well. Gee, she did well on that."

So, I thought it was a-I don't think how-I don't know how she could have done a better job, given the pressure she was under. And, as Roger said, I mean, this guy Biden has had 20 debates. This is the first time this woman has walked into a national debate, takes control of it, dismisses the questions, answers her own questions, and comes off as well as she did. I don't know how she could have done a better job.

MATTHEWS: Right. And I thought that was true. I thought-I thought-I thought, Gene, she was doing her final run-through. I think she knew all the questions ahead of time. She had been coached on those questions. They were expected questions. She had them ready. She gave us great speech parts.

I go back to this. I thought, listening to her tonight, I was watching somebody in a spelling bee. She had that same manner of a person...

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the way you recite in a spelling bee, with the same kind of pride, and almost a cadence of a spelling bee contestant, rather than a candidate. She seemed more like a contestant than a candidate. Your thoughts, Gene.

ROBINSON: Well, she kind of did.

I mean, I actually think that-I saw the same debate that the survey respondents from-from the CNN and CBS polls saw. You know, I thought that she made one big mistake in the debate, basically. I thought she was great for the base. And I understand why conservatives would be excited.

But I thought she made a huge error in not being more specific and more forthcoming about what the-the McCain/Palin ticket would do, if elected, about these enormous problems that face the country.

You know, she said, we-you know, she didn't say what we're going to do in Iraq, beyond that we're going to stay there and we're not going to wave the white flag of surrender.

She didn't say what is-what they're going to do about the financial crisis that threatens to bring down Wall Street. She didn't say what they're going to do about the economy in general.

She-you know, and I think people watching this debate, this year, with two wars, and the economy falling apart, and-and a sense that the country is, you know-you know, about to collapse, or-but that the country's not doing well. Eighty percent think it's on the wrong track.

People who would watch this debate, who are paying close attention, would want to hear-and did want to hear-more from her about what John McCain and Sarah Palin would do to make my life better, to make your life better.

MATTHEWS: OK.

BUCHANAN: Let me disagree.

ROBINSON: And they didn't hear that.

MATTHEWS: Pat.

ROBINSON: And they didn't hear that from her.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Look, you can't talk about this gigantic bailout, how you deal with the FDIC, whatever it is.

Look, what she did, she connected with the American people. She was in desperate straits going into this thing. Let me tell you, Chris, if it had not been for Lehman Brothers three weeks ago and this thing starting downhill, that's what's driving this thing to Obama.

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you...

BUCHANAN: They-those two would be winning this election.

ROBINSON: But she didn't-she didn't drive it in the other direction, Pat.

BUCHANAN: Well, you can't.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: She didn't bring it back.

BUCHANAN: She can't turn a wave around.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: I think she did a good job. She-she did herself some good, but...

MATTHEWS: Pat...

BUCHANAN: Nobody can turn that stuff around, for heaven's sake. She did what she can do.

MATTHEWS: Pat, you know, one of the questions that's-was on the table tonight is, does she know what she's talking about?

BUCHANAN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: When she talks about recognizing Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of Israel...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... does she know that-and she put it together in a couple sentences. And I really question if she knows what she's talking about.

She talked very persuasively about Israel having put together a very good treaty with Jordan, the kingdom of Jordan...

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and, of course, the Egyptian country as well.

BUCHANAN: Egypt.

MATTHEWS: ... Egypt, the republic-United Arab Republic, and she put it all together. And then she said, move the capital.

Doesn't she know that, if you move the capital, by the United States' standards, and move our embassy down there, that that breaks apart both those treaties? Does she really know what she's talking about, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Well, here-well, let me tell you about that, yes, in this sense.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does she know what she would-that she would vitiate those two bilateral arrangements?

BUCHANAN: Chris, moving the capital to Jerusalem is in every Republican platform, for heaven's sakes.

What it means, in the last analysis-Reagan was going to veto something on it-is, after there's a peace treaty, Palestine gets a capital, a Vatican in East Jerusalem, the Arab section, and then you move the Israeli capital to West Jerusalem. That's what it means to me. I'm sure she understands that.

On the vice president thing, Chris, you were in Detroit. Where's your history? Gerald Ford and Reagan were carving up the presidency. They're going to leave Ronald Reagan with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

MATTHEWS: Well, I-I'm glad that you have...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... the opportunity to revise and extend her remarks.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But what she said was trouble.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And I also wonder what she means by the expanded legislative powers of the vice presidency.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I will tell you, that's interesting to me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We have the strongest vice president in history right now...

ROBINSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and she wants more power over the United States Senate.

Isn't the job big enough yet for her?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: You have got the strongest vice president...

MATTHEWS: She wants a bigger job.

BUCHANAN: ... strongest vice president before Palin.

ROBINSON: She's not a-look, she's not a-a shrinking violet.

That's for sure.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: I mean, she's an ambitious woman. I don't think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That's for sure.

ROBINSON: In the final analysis, if she became vice president, I just don't think she would want to spend a whole lot of time hanging around the Senate cloakroom.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Well, she would back...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: ... the White House.

ROBINSON: If she wants to be more powerful than Cheney, she's got to invade a whole lot of countries. So she is going to-she will...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... be busy over at the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, the only vice president she-well, that's right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, the only vice president she liked was the one that became president, which gives you a sense of her ambition.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.

BUCHANAN: Good for her.

MATTHEWS: Thank you-not that there's anything wrong with it.

Eugene Robinson, thank you, gentlemen.

MATTHEWS: Up next, we will ask the crowd here behind me who won the debate.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: You're watching HARDBALL, from Washington University in Saint Louis, only on MSNBC.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: For a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there's just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that's where you're going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We rejoin you right now from Washington University in St.

Louis, site of the vice presidential debate.

Still ahead, we'll hear from representatives of both campaigns, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico for the Obama campaign, and former Governor Jane Swift of Massachusetts for the McCain campaign. Plus, we'll get reaction from this crowd out here. Look at them; they're up all night here. No tests tomorrow in St. Louis.

HARDBALL continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAN KLOEFFLER, MSNBC ANCHOR: I'm Dan Kloeffler. Here's what's happening. Stocks plunge a day ahead of an expected showdown vote on the House on the financial rescue bill. The Dow dropped 348 points following too (ph) dismal economic reports.

The wreckage of Steve Fossett's single engine plane was found in California's rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains, 13 months after the millionaire adventurer vanished on a solo flight. Officials say human remains were also found at the site. They say it appears that the plane slammed head on into the mountainside.

Jury deliberations are scheduled to begin in the morning in O.J. Simpson's robbery and kidnapping trial in Las Vegas. Closing arguments were finished tonight.

New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that he'll seek change to the city's term limits law so he can run for a third term next year.

And the World War II and Vietnam War aircraft carrier, Intrepid, was towed back to its New York pier after nearly a two-year $120 million facelift in dry dock. Since 1982, the Intrepid has been one of New York's most popular tourist attractions, serving as a military and a space museum. It re-opens next month.

Now, let's go back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With all due respect, I didn't hear a plan. Barack Obama's offered a clear plan-shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months, drawdown our combat troops. Ironically, the same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating. The only odd man out here, only one left out, is John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So, was there a clear winner tonight's debate? Let's ask the candidates' camp, starting with the Democrats. We got a big star here tonight, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Bill.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NEW MEXICO: Chris.

MATTHEWS: Bill, you're such a nice guy but you've got to be the referee now. Who won the debate tonight?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think Joe Biden won the debate. I think it was clear he's experienced. He showed he was the candidate of change. He showed calmness. He showed passion when he talked about his family.

I think that Governor Palin did a decent job. Maybe, she stops the bleeding, but clearly, she couldn't explain her policies on how they differed from George Bush on getting out of Iraq, on global climate change. On healthcare-she didn't know John McCain's healthcare plan that had had tax credits for HMOs and pharmaceuticals.

So, I think that Joe Biden comes out as presidential, somebody that can assume the office, especially the crossing the national security threshold. And Governor Palin, when it comes to foreign policy, national security issues, she-going beyond the talking points, she wasn't able to answer specifically the questions.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about her appeal to western states. She made a very clear appeal to states in your part of the country. Do you think it will work?

RICHARDSON: Well, maybe it will stop the bleeding, but what's been happening in western states, in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, is clearly trends towards Obama and Biden. In my state, over 5 percent lead. In Colorado, a lead. In Nevada, a tie.

I think in western states, their strategy is not working. Maybe, she stops the bleeding. But clearly, Biden showed extraordinary knowledge of domestic and foreign policy, domestic violence issues. Judiciary issues-issues relating to foreign policy in Pakistan.

And Governor Palin beyond talking points and she was very folksy. She's obviously smart. She's a governor. I think that's an asset, executive experience. She didn't fundamentally answer the question: Can she be vice president without national security credentials? And I didn't see that. So, I think Biden is a clear winner.

MATTHEWS: Would you have predicted a year ago, governor, that we'd have a national debate for 90 minutes this year without a single question about immigration? It stuns me. What a big issue that was a year ago and still is in this country, and yet, it never even came up tonight. What do you think of that? It never came up.

RICHARDSON: Well, it shows that-no, it never came up. And I don't think it came up in the presidential debate. In other words, besides just slogans about we need immigration reform comprehensive. And this is a really important issue in the west, it's a national issue. And it shows that in many of these debates, you know, the major issues affecting the country, like healthcare, only got a very, very, very quick entree that, you know, too much of it is style, is substance, is-you know, some of the who won, who lost when, I think, the American people want to see real debate on the issues.

We've got two debates to go. Hopefully, issues like immigration, hopefully, issues like what we're going to do about America's middle class, what we're going to do about the bailout, what international steps we need to take to recover American prestige around the world, how we get out of Iraq, how we deal with Iran and North Korea-hopefully, that will come out in the next debates.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Thanks for joining us late tonight.

RICHARDSON: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Let's bring in former Massachusetts governor, Jane Swift.

Governor Swift, thank you for joining us. Your take on what happened tonight?

JANE SWIFT, ® FMR. MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Well, I thought it's pretty clear why you want a governor on the ticket. Governor Palin clearly understands what issues Americans are concerned about. She has the executive experience on issues that will help us to solve those problems, like energy independence, like addressing the financial crisis on Wall Street. And I think that much of what Joe Biden said is going to keep the fact-checkers busy tomorrow morning.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think about who won tonight?

SWIFT: Well, I clearly think Governor Palin won. Let's not underestimate the degree to which people were writing her political obituary. And she came out and showed why John McCain chose her.

She was, I think, very energetic. She was very focused on the issues she wanted to talk to. And I think it is a plus to talk directly to families in neighborhoods who have real concerns in this economy.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that the two national polls taken today after the debate found overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. Look at this, CBS 46 to 21, more than two to one. On the other side, a somewhat narrower victory among all voters, 51 to 36. Do you think these people got it wrong tonight, or what? What do you think? Was the different bar setting by you and them or what?

SWIFT: No. I think first of all.

MATTHEWS: I mean, did they set the bar higher than you did?

SWIFT: No. I think that clearly Governor Palin far exceeded folks' expectations and that's reflected. But, as you know, Chris, you're a great political mind-what really matters are the narrow band of folks who haven't made up their mind yet and whether or not they were moved. And I think as the days go on and they are able to learn more now that we have a fair ability to understand exactly what Governor Palin's done that's made her so popular in Alaska, and how those experiences both as a governor as well as person, will help her, guide her as a partner to John McCain in bringing reform to Washington.

I think that she will continue to be a great asset to this ticket. But, you know, let's not underestimate the degree to which folks were, I think, saying she was a detriment to the ticket. And clearly, that's not the case tonight. There are lots of good reasons that Sarah Palin's on this ticket and she brings numerous strengths, not to mention a breath of fresh air that's badly needed.

MATTHEWS: Another topic that didn't get any mention tonight was abortion rights. Are you surprise that it never came up? It's usually hot issues on presidential elections.

SWIFT: You know.

MATTHEWS: It never came up.

SWIFT: I think that both candidates-it never came up because I think it's very clear where both candidates stand. I am in a different place on the abortion issue but there are many, many important issues that voters.

MATTHEWS: You disagree with your candidate on that issue?

SWIFT: I do. Just as I think Governor Palin was very clear there are a handful of issues she disagrees with Senator McCain on. But, you know, there are very core, critical issues about the economy, about international security, about finding a way to win in Iraq and being right in the judgment that were made in real time about bucking your party when it's important.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SWIFT: And those are the reasons that I can support John McCain despite differences over abortion policy.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Former Governor Jane Swift of Massachusetts-thanks for joining us, governor.

Up next: Much more from St. Louis with all eyes on Sarah Palin and her national debut tonight in an unscripted format more or less. How did she do? We'll talk to the crowd here at Wash. U.

This is a special late-night edition of HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The people in my neighborhood, they get it. They get it. And they know they've been getting the short end of the stick.

So, walk with me in my neighborhood. Go back to my old neighborhood in Claymont, an old steel town, and go up to Scranton with me. These people know the middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy have done very well. Corporate America has been rewarded.

It's time we change it, Barack Obama will change it.

GWEN IFILL, DEBATE MODERATOR: Governor?

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now, doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: In just a few weeks here on either supporting a ticket that wants to create jobs, and boast our economy, and win the war or you're going to be supporting a ticket that wants to increase taxes which will ultimately kill jobs and is going to hurt our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We're back from Wash. U., as they call it, Washington University in St. Louis, one of the great universities in the country. We're talking (ph) about tonight's big vice presidential debate, it's just been over.

Let's look at these numbers from a CBS poll out tonight after the debate. It's among uncommitted voters. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed say they now have a better impression of Biden. Five percent say they have a worse opinion of him. Fifty-five percent say they now have a better opinion of Palin. That was a good night relatively for both of them. Fourteen percent say they have a worse opinion of her.

After the debate, get (ph) this number, I've never seen a number like this -- 98 percent say Biden is knowledgeable about important issues. I've never seen anything like that. It may be superfluous, though, because his opponent is 79 percent having all the knowledge necessary to be vice president. Sixty-six percent say Palin-I'm sorry-is knowledgeable about important issues, up from 43 percent. That was Biden up from 79.

So, they're both certainly in the winning category in terms of knowledge now. Ninety-seven percent say Biden is prepared for the V.P. job from 81 percent pre-debate. Fifty-five percent Palin. Those are much more narrower verdict here -- 55 percent, a significant but not great majority say Palin is prepared for the job, up from 39 percent.

"New York Times'" John Harwood is also CNBC's chief Washington correspondent.

We'll that's a lot of information.

Rachel Maddow is joining us as well. This is amazing-of course, host of the vastly successful "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW."

Let me ask you about these numbers. What did they tell you?

Rachel first.

RACHEL MADDOW, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" HOST: It's interesting to see the same sort of size rise for the two of them. Both of them getting a 16 point boost in the proportion of voters in that last item, who see they are prepared to be vice president. Obviously, I'd rather be Joe Biden looking at those figures than be Sarah Palin looking at those figures.

But I think that matches the general feeling that we're getting tonight, which is that, neither of them did themselves any real harm. And they both, probably, did themselves a little bit of good and the campaign goes on almost as if this debate didn't happen.

MATTHEWS: John?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Did she do herself some good tonight? You betcha. But I think that there's only some.

MATTHEWS: You're like her, you ask a question and you answer it.

(LAUGHTER)

HARWOOD: Doggone it, that's what I'm going to do.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE). Let's all talk like Sarah Palin.

HARWOOD: You damn (ph) right I'm going to do that.

MATTHEWS: You know, we can do better, you know. I'm sorry, go ahead.

HARWOOD: Look-I think she stopped her own bleeding tonight. The question is, did she stop John McCain's? And I think that is much less clear. He's had a terrible couple of weeks with the economy.

And one thing I think is interesting-as charming as she was, at points (ph) of the debate, she was attacking without being mean or snarky like she sometimes came across in the convention speech, so partisans loved it.

I thought there was one fundamental incoherence in her argument related to the economic crisis, OK? When she came out and was talking about that, she said, "Well, there was no oversight, Wall Street ran wild, the mavericks are going to come to town," and somehow it's going be different. Then she spent much of the rest of the debate saying, "You know what, government has to get out of the way."

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARWOOD: It was totally at odds with the-the two arguments were at odds with each other. And so, that went to the point of Sarah Palin having difficulty explaining to people exactly what maverick means in this context. What are you going to do with it?

MATTHEWS: Right.

HARWOOD: How are you going to be different from George W. Bush?

And Biden hammered that. Joe Biden was subdued. I think he followed the advice, maybe more than some Democrats wanted of dialing it back and not being overbearing.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he was a little bit too dialed back?

HARWOOD: Well, I think there were points he was a little too dialed back, maybe a little too Senate insider-ish.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARWOOD: And that helped her make the argument that we're going to bring change. But on the substance, you know, you got to consider two arguments. He came out and said John McCain is just like George Bush. That is an argument that if you look at the polls right now is doing very well with the American people.

MATTHEWS: That's a killer.

HARWOOD: And she came back and said, oh, that's looking backwards. That's partisan. We represent change. How do they stack up? If you look at where we stand right now, it looks like Biden has more appeal out there (ph).

MATTHEWS: Rachel, let's push the story to tomorrow. I bet that tomorrow night's big story, when we're both on the air, is not going to be the debate tonight. It's going to be the fact that the markets have discounted an $810 billion outlay by the Congress approved tomorrow. They've already discounted it and they know it's not enough to stop this big recession that's coming.

Jack Welch said the fourth quarter this year is going to be miserable. It's going to be a huge negative growth for the economy. Is the coming of a huge depression, well, I'll call it a recession-we don't know what it's going to look like-a bigger story than anything right now politically?

MADDOW: Yes. And the short-term political impact is actually about the conservative base. There's yet to be, I think, yet to be articulated a coherent Republican approach toward the economic bailout or toward the economic crisis.

But you are starting to see on the right flank, in the House, and in talk radio and in conservative intellectual circles, a real rejection of the whole idea of a bailout. John McCain stepping up to it and Republicans in the House presumably voting for it tomorrow is going to create a little bit of trouble in the base.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MADDOW: And if the House votes it down again, John McCain is going to have a huge problem with debates because that's going to be a lot of energy for the anti-bailout populist right-wing forces in that party.

MATTHEWS: Well, we're about to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

One of these candidates has got to come up with a much bigger barrel.

Anyway, thank you, John Harwood. Thank you, Rachel Maddow.

When we come back, we'll get reaction to tonight's vice presidential debate from our great crowd here gathered here at Wash U.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, all things got to come to an end, including this amazing night here at Wash. U., one of the great universities in the country. And we're out here.

I want to know, I'm going to the grand-this is the final jury for tonight. And I want to know, please keep your hearts and minds open, ladies and gentlemen, I have four people here, three women, one man. And I want them to know, I want them to ask, well, tell us who won?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden hands down.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden took it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

MATTHEWS: What kind of a vote (ph) is this? I want to come to this -

I want to come to this side (ph). You're holding that sign up there, sir. What does that sign mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it means that Senator Obama is an iconic figure for this time. And I think this is-this is something that actually represents how we feel. We feel a unique expression of hope and belief in him.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

Let me ask you-what does that sign mean to you? And first, read it aloud, to your mom and dad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, mom and dad, I'm voting for change. To me, this means that these past eight years are over and it's time for us to really change the politics. And have some hope.

MATTHEWS: I want to know why when it gets late at night this place goes Obama. Where are the McCain people? Where are you?

Where are the McCain people? Where are the McCain people? Where are you, McCain people?

Where are the McCain people? Where are the McCain people? Where are the McCain people?

Where are the McCain people? All right. Here we go.

Tell us about this. Tell us why you're for McCain

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, actually, I'm pro-war. I'm willing to stand

up and defend my country. I actually commissioned in December. So -

MATTHEWS: What service?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Into the army.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for your service. What did you think of the debate tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Palin did well. I think she needed to do well. And she came out and she waffled around a couple issues and danced around some questions. But, I think, overall it was a good night. She knew (ph) she had a good night. And she sounded well.

MATTHEWS: Do you like the idea she can say I'm not going to answer your questions? What do you make of that, sort of a change in the format tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Joe Biden did it a little bit, too. But, he didn't obviously come right out and say it. So, it maybe sounded a little bit better when he did it.

MATTHEWS: So, what's it like to be a guy who wants to be a military officer surrounded by all these Democrats here? What does it feel like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I almost went to West Point. So, it's a little bit different than my other options. So, it's interesting.

MATTHEWS: But, you know, one of the good things about coming out of a liberal arts college and then becoming a military officer, is you add something to the military that the service academy people don't bring. What's that (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. I mean, it definitely makes you more a well-rounded officer. And it's been a great experience. I mean, I got to do a lot of very interesting things. So -

MATTHEWS: The best thing about ROTC is it brings regular guys like this, who are part of a liberal arts community, in fact, part of a liberal community, into the United States Army.

(CHEERING)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you for joining us.

We'll have more HARDBALL tomorrow night-as always, Friday night at 5:00 and 7:00. This is so much fun, these debates. Thank you. Thank you.

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

END

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