updated 10/22/2008 11:17:34 AM ET 2008-10-22T15:17:34

Guests: Tom Ridge, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Michael Smerconish, Todd Harris,  Steve McMahon, Perry Bacon, Howard Fineman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Celebrity.  Terrorist.  Socialist.  Why are the Republicans saying such nasty things about Barack Obama? Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight: Voters of the world unite.  After spending more than a week making the charge that Barack Obama is close to, is friendly with or maybe even sympathetic to terrorists, the McCain/Palin campaign is trying to pin another disqualifying tag on him—socialist.  The campaign has started using the “S” word, as Sarah Palin did today in Colorado Springs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH Palin (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth.  Joe Biden calls higher taxes patriotic.  Joe the plumber said it sounded to him like socialism.  And now is not the time to experiment with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Obama today in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate that they paid under Bill Clinton.  John McCain calls that socialism.  What he forgets, conveniently, is that just a few years ago, he himself said those Bush tax cuts were irresponsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll talk to supporters of both Obama and John McCain in a minute.

The Powell endorsement—the Colin Powell endorsement of Obama certainly has everyone talking.  The cover of today‘s “New York Daily News” is, quote, “Pow!  Bam!” The fact that most newspapers are endorsing Obama isn‘t necessarily news, but some are backing a Democrat for the first time ever, and one conservative columnist who‘s endorsing Obama for the first time is one with of our regulars here on HARDBALL, Michael Smerconish.  We‘ll ask him why he‘s made the historic leap to the other side.

Also, if it‘s Monday, there must be changes in the NBC News political unit‘s electoral map, and there are.  And we‘ll have the HARDBALL strategists, one Democrat and one Republican, to talk about the narrowing field of states available to McCain. In the “Politics Fix” tonight, I‘ll ask our roundtable whether McCain‘s sharp elbow tactics are just what he needs to revive his flagging campaign. And if you were watching HARDBALL on Friday—wow—you heard this from Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America.  I think people would be—would love to see an expose like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  And there was an incredible reaction to Bachmann‘s appearance on HARDBALL.  We‘ll let you know what the fall-out is. But we begin with former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, who‘s the co-chair of the McCain campaign.  Do you believe, sir, Governor Ridge, that Barack Obama is a socialist?  And I mean in the term we grew up with, what it means—it means have the government run the economy.  Do you believe he‘s one of those guys?

TOM RIDGE (R-PA), MCCAIN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR:  I think he‘s going down that path.  I don‘t know—you know, I think—listen, I think if you have a voting record that is more liberal than the only self-proclaimed socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders, there‘s a suggestion that—if your vice president thinks that paying higher taxes is patriotic, when you, as a presidential candidate, have never voted for—who had voted against a tax increase, and you couple that with the Speaker of the House and the majority leader, who all embrace more taxes, you get more government, more taxes, and one could say that you‘re moving down that path, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s useful to the American debate for this election to call one person on the other side a word which most Americans hold in disrepute?  Do you believe he‘s an enemy of free enterprise?  Do you believe he‘s a man who believes in state control of the economy?  That‘s what a socialist is.  Do you believe he is such a person or not?

RIDGE:  I believe he‘s moving down that path.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not what your candidate is saying.  Your candidates are saying he is a socialist.

RIDGE:  Well, I think you can derive from some of the comments he‘s made with regard to taxes, with regard to small businesses, with regard to sharing the wealth, redistributing the wealth—and he‘s the first presidential candidate, I think, Chris, that has made a statement that limits the financial and personal aspirations of people, i.e., If you pay more—if you earn more than $250,000, we‘re going to tax you more.

MATTHEWS:  But Governor, we have a progressive tax system.  We‘ve had it since 1910...

RIDGE:  But that‘s—that‘s the point.

MATTHEWS:  We have a...

RIDGE:  That‘s the point.

MATTHEWS:  ... which means that you pay according to your ability. 

It‘s a progressive tax system.

RIDGE:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t have a straight-line 10 percent.

RIDGE:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  Obviously, people in the higher brackets pay a lot more percentage-wise than people in the lower brackets on the theory that they can live well and still pay higher taxes.

RIDGE:  Yes, and that‘s the basis of...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s called...

RIDGE:  ... the progressive tax system, and...

MATTHEWS:  Is there something wrong with that?

RIDGE:  ... there‘s nothing wrong with that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is your party now saying there‘s something wrong with that, that someone who makes $250,000 a year should pay a higher rate than somebody who makes $25,000 a year?

RIDGE:  They‘re already paying higher rates.

MATTHEWS:  Is there something wrong with that?

RIDGE:  No.  They‘re saying—but to say now, in the midst of this campaign—suddenly, a presidential candidate has set a ceiling on the financial or the personal aspirations of people—Joe the plumber...

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe—do you believe...

RIDGE:  ... may be taken out of proportion...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s putting a ceiling on the aspirations of any American, given the fact where he came from?  Barack Obama came from squat.  Look where he is today.

RIDGE:  He came from the same place that...

MATTHEWS:  He obviously believes...

RIDGE:  ... you and I and everybody else did.

MATTHEWS:  ... in aspirations.  He obviously believes in aspirations.

RIDGE:  But for him to stand up in front of a crowd—Chris, look, this is—politics is—we‘re on HARDBALL, right?

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RIDGE:  But to stand up in front of a crowd of thousands of people—and he is a celebrity, he does attract big crowds, so does John McCain, by the way—and say, How many people here make $250,000?  Doesn‘t sound to me like he‘s appealing to the bright...

MATTHEWS:  No, he‘s just saying...

RIDGE:  ... to the better—to the better side of the nature.  Sounds to me like he‘s appealing to the darker side.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds to me like he‘s trying to pay for the government‘s costs...

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE:  Well, he needs to find some way to pay for...

MATTHEWS:  Somebody actually...

RIDGE:  ... another trillion dollars worth of programs.

MATTHEWS:  Well, by the way, let me ask you about your foreign policy. 

We have a very extensive, some would argue adventurous foreign policy.  We‘re spending tons of money, $3 billion a week, on our exploits in Iraq right now.  We are spending $810 billion on this latest bail-out.

What I wonder is about the conflict between Republicans who support these huge outlays of federal money and at the same time don‘t want to pay for the damn stuff.  You cannot claim to be a free enterprise, anti-government guy when you support the biggest government we‘ve ever had.  Sarah Palin supports all the spending I‘ve just described, foreign and domestic, and then says, Oh, we shouldn‘t pay the taxes.  Well, somebody‘s got to pay them.

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE:  ... pay them.  You know, the American people end up—the government has...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, a guy making $250,000 a year has to begin to start paying it, doesn‘t he?  Somebody‘s got to pay it.

RIDGE:  The guy who‘s making $250,000 is...

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you make it only...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t we only make people who make $10 million a year pay taxes?

RIDGE:  I‘m just talking about the approach that he‘s taken, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s socialist somebody who makes...

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE:  ... and you know the answer is no.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Do you believe a guy who says a person who makes $250,000 or a quarter million a year in net taxes—in net income—do you believe that person shouldn‘t be taxed appropriately?

RIDGE:  He is...

MATTHEWS:  Appropriately.

RIDGE:  ... taxed appropriately now.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

RIDGE:  He‘s the highest tax bracket now.

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me take a look at...

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE:  ... also saying capital gains, dividends down the—down the path...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Should I bring in my big brother?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m having a fight with a governor I respect.  So let‘s bring in my big brother, whose name is General Colin Powell.

RIDGE:  All right.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what he—he is everybody‘s big brother.  Here he is right now on “Meet the Press.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET.), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having.  And almost every day, there was a different approach to the problem.  And that concerned me.  It‘s got the sensing that he didn‘t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you want to respond to that?  Your candidate, the other guy you‘re calling a socialist—what are you calling your guy?  He‘s unclear?  He says, I don‘t understand economics.  I mean, he‘s made a few amazing sort of full-mooner comments that you‘re not used to in politics.  Nobody says they don‘t understand economics who‘s running for president of the United States, but he did.  And we know he was using overstatement.  He obviously understands it better than most people.

RIDGE:  Of course he did.  Of course he did.

(CROSSTALK)

RIDGE:  He understands that lower taxes reduce federal spending and restraining the growth of government is one of the best things we can do.  But with regard to...

MATTHEWS:  OK, how about...

RIDGE:  With regard to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can we agree on something?  Penn State this week—what do you think, huh?

RIDGE:  Well, obviously, Penn State Nittany Lions (INAUDIBLE) with the Buckeyes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, an amazing—that‘s next week.  But this week, they were really good against Michigan. Let‘s take a look at this, Peggy Noonan.  She‘s somebody I know we all respect here.  In her latest column that ran this Saturday—by the way it‘s one reason to read “The Wall Street Journal” on Saturday.She said, quote, “We have seen Mrs. Palin”—that‘s the governor of Alaska—“on the national stage now for seven weeks, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for and expects in the holder of high office in the past two weeks.  She has spent her time throwing out tinny lines to crowds she doesn‘t really understand.  This is not a leader, this is a follower.  In the end, the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization of American politics.  It‘s not good, not for conservatism and not for the country.  And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.” Ms. Peggy Noonan, one of the best speech writers in the world, who wrote all of Reagan‘s speeches, or a lot of the good ones, and she believes that Sarah Palin is not up to the job.  By the way, Governor, Powell said, I thought, something very succinct the other day.  He said she‘s not ready to be president, therefore she shouldn‘t be vice president because that‘s the job of a vice president.  Your thoughts?

RIDGE:  Well, first of all, I was interested in General Powell‘s endorsement.  Some people say they were surprised.  I thought it was counterintuitive.  I mean, the fact that the man had so much—and so battle-tested, military, diplomatic and foreign affairs, for him to be supporting someone who is not tested...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

RIDGE:  ... militarily, diplomatic and foreign affairs, is not only surprising, it‘s absolutely counterintuitive.  So again, I think if you asked the troops—if you asked the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan who they prefer to have as their commander-in-chief...

MATTHEWS:  General Powell.

RIDGE:  ... I bet they would say John McCain.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they might—they might get him as secretary of defense.

RIDGE:  I suspect they‘d probably have John McCain...

MATTHEWS:  Maybe they vote for one guy, they‘ll get him for secretary of defense, who knows, or you, with the other guy, right?  So you might be the candidate for the other...

RIDGE:  Troops on the ground I think would support a commander-in-chief...

MATTHEWS:  A man of your social views...

RIDGE:  ... John McCain.

MATTHEWS:  ... is still appropriate for defense secretary in the Republican administration.  By the way, you would have been a great running mate.  You‘re not so tough nuts (ph) here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Governor.

RIDGE:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Governor Tom Ridge, a great guy.  Thank you.

Well, Senator Amy Klobuchar is a Minnesota Democrat.  What do you make of your comments—of your comments by your colleague, U.S. congresswoman Bachmann, that we ought to have a media investigation of the Democratic members of Congress, including the Senate, for their possibly anti-American views?  I mean, what do you make of that proposal?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  You know, she was on as a McCain surrogate, Chris, and I just think it was an outrageous thing to say.  And I can tell you this.  It was the end of the week, on a Friday, and I didn‘t know that everyone was watching, but you just hit that hardball right out of the studio.  It ended up in the middle...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I just pitched it.

KLOBUCHAR:  ... of Minnesota, where we‘re...

MATTHEWS:  No, she hit it.  I pitched it.

KLOBUCHAR:  ... we‘re having a political—we‘re in the middle of a political earthquake here.  A guy named Elwyn Tinklenberg, who wasn‘t exactly a household name nationally, her opponent, has now gotten in nearly a million bucks.  He is a very solid guy.  He‘s a pastor.  He‘s got—he‘s a former transportation commissioner of Minnesota.  And he is just flying high right now and running strong, volunteers showing up everywhere.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KLOBUCHAR:  People were really outraged by what she said, and they‘re just tired of this divisiveness.  I think that Colin Powell said it best yesterday.  He was asked specifically about this.  And he said, It‘s just nonsense.  We need to unify.  And it more than just coarsens our politics.  It really hurts us in terms of our national stature with the rest of the world when we have...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KLOBUCHAR:  ... leaders on TV saying thing like that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe former senator Zell Miller will go out there with his Confederate firearms and go out and help her.  What do you think?

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, there‘s just—again, there‘s just too much of this stuff going on, whether it is, you know, people trying to divide Virginia geographically...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

KLOBUCHAR:  ... or people trying to use these hate calls that—you know, it was McCain himself a few years back who said he didn‘t want to take the low road to the highest office in the land.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

KLOBUCHAR:  And sadly...

MATTHEWS:  Is this just desperation...

KLOBUCHAR:  ... we‘re seeing this over and over.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at this because you are a young person, an incredibly successful political figure because you know how it works.  Is this simply the desperation shoot-‘em-up politics of a campaign that‘s not working, the fact that every week, it‘s a new charge?  They went after Barack Obama for being a celebrity, which I thought was interesting.  Then they went after the “lipstick on a pig” line for days and days and days.  Then they went after him for consorting with terrorists.  In fact, they‘ve still got this robocall out there blasting away that he works with domestic terrorists, blah, blah, blah.  And then—and now this.  He‘s a socialist. You come from Minnesota, which has that old sort of progressive tradition, the DFL, of course, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a lot of Swedes and Norwegians that come in there that live in that state that believe in a bit of a strong role for government.  Is socialist a bad word, a naughty word, or is it just fair play here—fair game, I should say?

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, first of all, let me say that—I think, to John McCain, I‘d say people who live in seven houses shouldn‘t be throwing stones.  And this name calling, of course, it‘s red meat.  I mean, he‘s using it—he‘s using it to try to cut down Barack Obama, when Barack Obama is someone, when you look at his economic plan, he believes in vigorous entrepreneurship in this country.  He is talking about giving a tax cut to 95 percent of the people in this country.  All he‘s talking about is, we‘ve got to pay for it when we‘re going to...

MATTHEWS:  OK, what does “share the wealth mean,” if it isn‘t socialism?  What‘s “share the wealth”?  Is that...

KLOBUCHAR:  What he‘s talking...

MATTHEWS:  Is that Huey Long, or what is this we‘re talking here?

KLOBUCHAR:  What he‘s talking about is paying for what he‘s going to  do.  And one of the ways he‘s going to pay for it is by rolling back the tax cuts on people making over $250,000 to the Clinton levels, when we had,  may I add, a time of great prosperity and a budget surplus.  So all he‘s talking about is if we‘re going to give tax cuts to people—and we should we‘ve got to show how we‘re going to pay for it.  I don‘t call that socialism, I call that smart.  I call that fiscal responsibility.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at what your candidate, Barack Obama, Senator Obama, had to say about what your colleague from Minnesota—I‘ll call her that from now on throughout the show—your colleague from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann...

KLOBUCHAR:  Oh, thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  ... had to say here.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you for doing that.

MATTHEWS:  I want you to—I want to tie you in to her, as well as they‘re tying what‘s-his-name into Bill Ayers.  Let‘s take a look.  Just kidding.  Let‘s take a look now...

KLOBUCHAR:  Great.  Whatever.

MATTHEWS:  ... at what—about what your colleague...

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  ... Senator Barack Obama had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  There are no real or fake parts of this country.  We‘re not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this country.  We all love this country, no matter where we live, where we come from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Amy Klobuchar, Senator, do you agree with that?  Is that a fair defense of our nation?  Or what—I don‘t even want to...

KLOBUCHAR:  All right.  I...

MATTHEWS:  ... throw softballs at you.  Let me ask you a question.  Why has a guy got to defend himself against a charge that some of his people in his party are anti-America and require an investigation by the media, as if we got all this investigative firepower to throw up on Capitol Hill and go through each member‘s dossier and find out who‘s really working against the interests and values of this country or not?

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m scared.  I‘m scared, Chris.  But let me tell you this.  I think what Michele Bachmann did here was really hand Barack his own message because what he has said from the beginning, no such thing as red state/blue state.  We‘re one country.  And what he did here was simply reiterate what he has said from the minute he hit the national stage.  That has been what he‘s talked about, bringing people together. He thinks there‘s too much divisiveness in this country.  They‘re trying to divide us more time and time again, whether it‘s the hate calls, whether it‘s saying there‘s one part of the country that‘s really true American and one that isn‘t.  It‘s outrageous. And here‘s the thing.  The American people are sophisticated.  They‘re smart.  They‘re seeing through it.  And that‘s why you see Barack doing so well right now, because he has kept to a very focused economic plan with people supporting him like Warren Buffett.  Last time I checked, I don‘t think he was a socialist, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KLOBUCHAR:  He‘s got people supporting him who are businesspeople, who are successful, that know we have to get this economy going again.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Colin Powell‘s endorsement will no doubt help Barack Obama among men, you can guess, and among certainly military families.  And up next, another Republican backs Barack, our own Philadelphia radio talk show host, Michael Smerconish, who appears on this network often.  He‘s a registered Republican, I think a man of at least center-right instincts.  He‘s going to be here to talk about why he for the first time in his life is going to vote for a Dem, for Barack Obama. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  There are no real or fake parts of this country.  We‘re not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this country.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  We can‘t spend the next four years, as we have spent much of the last eight, waiting for our luck to change.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Colin Powell—General Colin Powell—wasn‘t the only Republican to jump ship on Sunday.  “Philadelphia Inquirer” readers opened up their Sunday paper to find Michael Smerconish offer this quote: “John McCain is an honorable man who has served his country well.  But he will not get my vote.  For the first time since registering as a Republican 28 years ago, I‘m voting for a Democrat for president.” With us now, Michael Smerconish.   Thank you, Michael, for joining us.   I—I was taken by your consistency, sir.  Since you and I have begun talking about 9/11, a long time ago, you have had a focus, a bee in your bonnet, if you will.  Get the guys who did it.  You hold true to the original mission of the American people outlined by our president to get the people that did what they did to us 9/11.  You have said, “I want a president who‘s going to go get Osama bin Laden. “ Talk about it, because it‘s in your article.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I have been on this—I have been on this—I have been on this case for three-plus years.  I have been writing about it in “The Inquirer” and “The Philadelphia Daily News” incessantly, talking about it on my radio program constantly, and talking about it here on HARDBALL, so much so, Chris, that my own audience in Philly are a little tired of hearing me address it.   But here‘s the reality.  It‘s seven-years post-September 11.  Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in the Fatah region of Pakistan.  The two individuals most responsible for 3,000 deaths on September 11 are still at large.  We have outsourced the hunt for bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri to Musharraf and Pakistan, to the tune of $11 billion, and they haven‘t done squat.   And nobody talks about it.  And that‘s number one on my list.  I have interviewed Senator Obama about this issue three different times, and I have interviewed Senator McCain.  And on this issue and on a number of other issues, I think it‘s Obama who has the superior answers and plan. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at General Powell, who spoke yesterday, the same day you issued your—your mandate, manifesto.  Here he is, General Powell on “Meet the Press.”  It‘s got to be one of the most important “Meet the Press”es in a long time.   Here‘s he is talking about why he is backing, not McCain, his colleague of many years, but the man he‘s gotten to know, Barack Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  In the case of Mr.  McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having, and almost every day, there was a different approach to the problem.  And that concerned me.  It‘s—I got the sensing that he didn‘t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.   And I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin.  She‘s a very distinguished woman, and she‘s to be admired.  But at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don‘t believe she‘s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president.   And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know who he looks like?  He looks like the president of the United States, doesn‘t he?  I‘m sorry.  If we had central casting, Michael...

SMERCONISH:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  ... we would pick him.  If I were a Hollywood producer, I would say, get him to play the president in the next movie. And now that we may have an African-American president for the first time—may have—maybe that won‘t be such a surprise when a guy like Morgan Freeman does get to play the president.   Your thoughts about the—about the—Palin, because you and I know that Governor Palin has been incredibly appealing as a candidate.  She‘s drawn huge crowds, and not just in rural conservative areas, but also in areas around Pennsylvania and places in the Northeast.  A lot of regular people like her.  They just like her.  What‘s going on here?  Why is she appropriate or not appropriate, in terms of the judgment of this guy John McCain? 

SMERCONISH:  I think the answer is inappropriate.  When she was selected, I—I—I was shocked.  I thought, the resume is way too thin for her to be a heartbeat away.  And, then, I was in the hall in Saint Paul when she delivered those remarks.  And she wowed me with her speech.  But now the dust has settled.  And, Chris, I‘m not just comfortable, A, with the vetting process that Senator McCain undertook in order to make her selection.  And, B, she hasn‘t convinced me that she‘s ready to step into that role.  Now, maybe that‘s the fault of the McCain campaign.  Maybe it‘s the fault of the McCain campaign for the way in which they rolled her out, so carefully.   They kept her in a pappus, for goodness‘ sakes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  And they only allowed select media to question her. 

But, you know, we‘re at war on two fronts.  The economy is in shambles.  And I just don‘t think that she has convinced the American people that she should be a heartbeat away.  She‘s great for the base, but she‘s done nothing for independents and moderates.

MATTHEWS:  I want to bring up General—not General Powell—I want to talk—in a moment, I want to bring up what Rush Limbaugh said. But I—before I do that, I want to bring up this question, the role of a vice president.  You and I are students of the Constitution.  It has two roles for the vice president, one of which is ceremonial, basically, tie-breaker and presiding officer of the U.S. Senate.  That‘s sort of become incidental, except in those rare moments when one vote matters.  But the other role is to stand ready, to be in the ready room, the understudy, if you will, for the presidency of the United States.  You have got to be there if something bad happens, an injury, an illness, or the death of a president.   I thought General Powell made it clear today—I want to know your view—the—the job of a vice president is to be ready momentarily to be president.   Is that a fair estimate, under normal circumstances, that they have to be ready, that it‘s not a job training program, it‘s not an assistant president program, or deputy, but you have got to be ready to be president if you‘re going to be vice president?  Is that too rigorous a standard?  What do you think? 

SMERCONISH:  Not—not at all. 

And, look, John McCain was dealt a good genetic hand.  His mother is alive.  She‘s doing well.  He looks good.  But the reality is, he‘s 72 years old, and he has been battling melanoma.   Chris, when the Palin selection was—was—was named, when that was announced, I was watching MSNBC at a breakfast counter leaving Denver.  And I looked up at the television set and I saw, it‘s Governor Sarah Palin.  I then went back to my “USA Today”—I will never forget this—and Ken Duberstein, who had been Ronald Reagan‘s chief of staff in the waning days of the Reagan administration...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SMERCONISH:  ... was quoted in that day‘s newspaper, saying, this is a time for a selection of someone who is ready immediately to step in there day one. 

And I thought, there‘s a disconnect between my television set and what I‘m reading from Duberstein. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  And Ken was a guy who was with Ronald Reagan right to the very end, with him every single day.  He knows the reality of the job.   Let‘s take a look at one of your competitors. 

SMERCONISH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Rush Limbaugh.  I know he comes on in the afternoon, but he‘s on the radio. 

Here he is talking about Powell‘s endorsement.  You know, I don‘t despise Rush Limbaugh.  I like him, actually, personally, when I‘m with him.  But I have got to tell you something.  I think you‘re into trouble when you do what he did today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Now, back to General Powell. 

I just want to button this up, because the drive-bys had a tizzy over my allegation that his nomination was about race.  It—well, let me say it louder, and let me say it even more plainly.  It was totally about race, the Powell nomination, or endorsement, total—totally about race. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I could put my two hands together, and I could say, in that fashion, that Rush‘s support for John McCain is totally about race.  I don‘t know how you get into this tribalist talk.  We can make all kinds of assumptions, but we have no knowledge of a person‘s inner beliefs.   You know, Colin Powell is a Republican.  He could have come out for McCain, and we wouldn‘t have been shocked.  We would have said, I guess he‘s a Republican.  All kinds of motivations move people, white or black.  To assume that a black people has only one motivation, I think, is a dangerous leap of faith, or something else.  Anyway, that‘s my thought.  Generally, I‘m not going to go after Rush, but, anyway, your thoughts. 

SMERCONISH:  My thoughts are as follows.  I was stunned yesterday, sitting on my sofa, and watching Tom Brokaw question General Powell, and when it came to the $64,000 question, Colin Powell spoke, Chris, for six-and-a-half minutes without notes.  It was an impassioned case that he made for Senator Obama, not race-based.  I think it was all substantive in nature.  And I—I respectfully—I think that that sound bite really is a disservice to General Powell and to his service to this country.  And what I‘m most horrified about are the e-mails that I‘m now receiving which are lumping me together with General Powell, a man who‘s worn the uniform for this country—I have not—and saying some really hurtful things about him, and besmirching his service.  It‘s not right.  It may drive the base.  It‘s not going to win this election. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what drives me crazy?  When somebody says, well, I know you‘re Catholic, so you must believe this, or, I know you‘re Jewish, you must believe this, or, I know you‘re black, you must believe this.   Give us all a break, Rush.  Let us think.  Let us think.  Let us decide.   Thank you, Michael Smerconish.  And, by the way, agreeing you on the big one coming up this week.  Go, Phillies.   Up next, I will have some thoughts about Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who was on Friday, and called for a media investigation of anti-Americanism in the U.S. Congress.   You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

Last Friday, we had an extraordinary claim made here on HARDBALL.  U.S Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said this about the Democratic nominee for president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 17, 2008)

MATTHEWS:  So this is a character issue.  You believe that Barack Obama may—you‘re suspicious because of this relationship—may have anti-American views?  Otherwise, it‘s probably irrelevant to this discussion.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Absolutely.  I absolutely...

MATTHEWS:  So, you believe it brings into—so, you believe that...

BACHMANN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?

BACHMANN:  Absolutely. 

I—I‘m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.  That‘s what the American people are concerned about.  That‘s why they want to know what his answers are.  That‘s why Joe the plumber has figured so highly in had the last few days...

MATTHEWS:  What—OK.  I want to get off this.

BACHMANN:  ... because Joe the plumber...

MATTHEWS:  I want to say this.  What do you mean by...

BACHMANN:  ... asked the question that a lot of Americans want to know.  What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?   I think people would be—would love to see an expose like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What are to we make of this?  An elected member of the U.S.  Congress says that a major-party candidate may be anti-American, may be out to work against the interest and values of this country, may be an enemy.  May be what?  What do we make of the call by a member of Congress—we just heard it—for the press, the media, to launch an investigation into the U.S.  Congress, her colleagues, who have taken the oath to support the Constitution, of whether they‘re traitors or not, people working against the interest and values of the United States?  What are we to make of such call?   Finally, let‘s get our vocabulary straight.  What do we think we mean by this term anti-American?  Is such a word being thrown about out of belief or out of partisan purpose?  It‘s impossible to know.   Given what we can‘t read minds—let‘s give that as a fact—we can‘t read minds—what would it mean if we read somewhere that a Canadian candidate for high office had just stood accused of being anti-Canadian?  Would we treat that as absurd, or what?   Let‘s hear what General Colin Powell had to say on the subject Sunday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL:  If you‘re an American, you‘re an American.   And this business of, for example, of the congressman from Minnesota who‘s going around saying, let‘s examine all congressmen to see who‘s pro-America or not pro-America, we have got to stop this kind of nonsense, pull ourselves together, and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity.

And, so, that really was driving me.  And to focus on people like Mr.  Ayers, these trivial issues, for the purpose of suggesting that, somehow, Mr. Obama would have some kind of terrorist inclinations, I thought that was over the top.  It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth.  I think it went beyond. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, let‘s agree it went beyond.   Up next:  Two weeks to go, and there‘s movement in the NBC News Electoral College map.  Our strategists will be here to talk about what Obama and McCain need to do down the stretch.  We will find out how this race is going when we come back.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.” Stocks started the week on a positive note, rallying, amid signs that frozen credit markets are beginning to thaw out a little bit, and after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke endorsed a second economic stimulus package.  With that, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 413 points.  The S&P 500 gained about 44, and the Nasdaq was up by about 59 points.  Another round of tax rebate checks could be in the mail, after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his support to a second economic stimulus package today, though he didn‘t necessarily endorse the concept of the stimulus package.  The White House says that President Bush is also open to some form of stimulus.  Oil prices rose, amid expectations that OPEC will cut production at an emergency meeting this Friday.  Crude oil gained $2.40, closing at $74.25 a barrel.  And, after the closing bell, Dow component American Express reported quarterly earnings that easily beat estimates.  Shares were sharply higher after-hours, but Texas Instruments‘ earnings were a penny short of estimates.  It also warned about the quarter ahead.  That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the strategists.  Steve McMahon, of course, is a Democratic strategist.  And Todd Harris is a Republican strategist.  Let‘s all join and talk about this, the latest maps, because everybody hi, Todd—everybody wants to know what‘s going on in this election.   t‘s two weeks out tomorrow.  The NBC political unit‘s electoral map shows softening support for McCain in some traditionally Republican states.  Last week, these red states were likely McCain wins, and the pink ones were just lean McCain.   Now, this week, Georgia, North Dakota, and South Dakota all went from likely McCain to simply lean McCain.  Let me start with you, Todd, is this a red herring for the Democrats and Barack Obama, in particular, to go chasing after these states he might carry if the numbers stay the same now, but he ought to be focusing more on the states he needs to carry like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio? 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, a little bit of straight talk, you know; I think in a normal political environment, in a normal campaign that hadn‘t raised the amount of money that Obama has raised, it probably would just be a red herring.  But given the poor political environment we have in this country right now for Republicans, and given the virtually unlimited amount of money that the Obama campaign has at their disposal, you know, they might be running out of targeted states to actually spend money in.  So that‘s why they‘re going back to Georgia, North Dakota, Montana.  You know, I‘ll be honest.  It‘s creating a lot of headaches for Republicans, not just at the top of our ticket, but a lot of our down ballot races are starting to feel the pressure because of this massive spending from Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Down ballot.  How about North Carolina, with Liddy Dole in trouble and people like Gordon Smith in trouble?  Not just people like Sununu in trouble.  Not just, you know, Gilmore being in big trouble in Georgia.  Let‘s take a look at the map of where these guys are going.  I‘m impressed the fact that McCain is in Missouri, a state he might have counted on, that Palin is in Colorado, a state they might have counted on, Steve McMahon.  They‘re trying to hold dear to red states. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  That‘s right.  What happens in a race like this when it starts to get away from you is you need to start to begin to hold the places where you have important Senate or Congressional races, or where you have to try to keep the blue or red from spreading.  The McCain campaign right now is having a difficult time.  Every single battleground state that you look at today is a state that George Bush carried in 2000 and 2004.  They‘re not states where John McCain should be defending.  I joke about it, but I wouldn‘t be surprised if McCain retreated to the point where he‘s campaigning in Arizona soon.  Arizona was one of those that Chuck Todd said almost went from solid McCain to lean McCain. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me throw some cold water on this, because we have two weeks to go, 15 days.  Let me take a look at this Pollster.com.  This is, of course, one of the websites that takes a look at the average difference in the polling.  It‘s about six points, just under six points.  Todd, that‘s not a whole lot.  We‘ve seen races narrow.  Harry Truman‘s race back in ‘48 narrowed more than that.  Two weeks to go, that means about a point every two days that McCain has to pick up.  Can he do it? 

HARRIS:  He absolutely can do it.  You know, given this political environment and given that overwhelming cash advantage, I think it‘s a testament to the fact that McCain still has a great deal of appeal with independent voters, and Barack Obama has just not closed the sale yet with the American people.  He should be beating McCain in this environment by double digits, and he hasn‘t.  You know, it‘s an uphill climb for sure for John McCain.  He admits it.  But we have two weeks left.  He‘s behind by single digits and it‘s definitely doable. 

MATTHEWS:  I guess the question is, is there a connection between—people have told me that in a race that involves a racial difference, you have to assume that the people who say they‘re independent or not declared, undecided, really have decided.  They‘re going to go with their background, somebody of their background, their ethnicity.  So we can assume certain things about the numbers will probably go to McCain among the undecideds.  Are there enough for him to win if you allocate most of them to him for him to win? 

MCMAHON:  It‘s not clear that Senator Obama will suffer from what‘s sometimes called the Bradley Effect.  Congressman Ford, when he was running for the Senate in Tennessee, actually polled pretty much what he got in the final rounds of polling.  I think what‘s interesting here is what happens with all of these new voters.  In Virginia, where five million people are expected to vote, there are 500,000 now voters.  Those voters were signed up by the Obama campaign.  It‘s hard for to imagine, number one, that they don‘t show up, and, number two, that they don‘t vote for Obama.  If they do, that‘s ten points that hasn‘t been measured, that hasn‘t participated before, and it‘s ten points that goes to Senator Obama.  Todd mentioned this is still relatively close.  If you look at the national poll, it is.  But if you look at the electoral college, right now, Senator Obama has about 100 vote lead in the electoral college.  He‘s about at 264, in terms of states, outside the margin of error.  He‘s almost there. 

MATTHEWS:  Back in ‘48, Harry Truman picked up 116 electoral votes in one week right before the election.  Todd, are we going to see a 1948 upset, where the newspapers even have set their headlines Obama to win, but we‘re going to see an upset for McCain? 

HARRIS:  I certainly hope so. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to predict one? 

HARRIS:  I‘m going to predict that it‘s certainly possible.  There‘s going to be an upset. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we make—

HARRIS:  I do want to say—I do want to make one quick point about money, which is just, you know, for all the good government types out there, people are going to look back at 2008 as the year that Barack Obama, once and for all, destroyed public financing in our presidential elections.  There‘s a lot of talk these days about all the advantages that he‘s getting.  It‘s important because of that money, but it‘s important to remember those advantages all come because he broke his promise about taking part in public financing. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to tell you, the Dukakis campaign back in 1988 really started that pattern.  I agree with you.  It‘s a problem morally for the Democrats.  They should be the ones for public financing, not as much money you can raise to beat the other guy.  This started back with Bob Farmer, back with those people raising money for Dukakis.  They went to the soft money approach.  You‘re dead right.  Barack Obama should have stuck to his commitment.  I agree with you.  The end does not justify the means, Steve McMahon.  You say it does? 

MCMAHON:  Listen, I think this is a perfect laboratory of democracy that we‘re seeing.  The average contribution—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not the deal he made though.  

MCMAHON:  I know it‘s not the deal he made.  He said he would sit down with John McCain. 

MATTHEWS:  Steve, you‘re wrong.  This time you‘re wrong.  Steve McMahon is wrong.  Todd Harris is right. 

HARRIS:  I‘ve been waiting for weeks to hear that. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next, the politics fix.  Colin Powell‘s endorsement of Barack—can I talk?  Colin Powell‘s endorsement of Barack Obama has made big headlines, but will it win over undecided voters?  We‘ll get to that in the politics fix.  Steve McMahon will be leaving our set right now.  Thank you, Steve.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight couldn‘t be hotter.  Tonight‘s round table, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman.  Where are you, Howard? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  I’m in New York. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, and from Perry Bacon of the “Washington Post,” who is in Washington.  As of today—let‘s go through the literary aspects of politics today; 113 newspapers have endorsed Barack Obama.  Notable among them, the world‘s greatest newspaper, self-described, “The Chicago Tribune,” has never in the 161-year history endorsed a Democrat.  As of today, John McCain has been endorsed by 30 papers.  The usual suspects in many cases, Howard, but it is fascinating to me that people like Michael Smerconish, Colin Powell, Susan Eisenhower.  We are getting a lot of cross-aisle action and not much in the other direction, except for Lady de Rothschild, I think. 

FINEMAN:  What I think about that is that especially with modern Republicanism, the old Lincoln Republicanism that the “Chicago Tribune” was founded to advance all those many years ago, they don‘t see that in the modern Republican party.  And they also have an African-American candidate in Barack Obama, somebody who can cross over lines, as Colin Powell said.  And that‘s helped.  And I think Sarah Palin‘s pick by John McCain didn‘t help at all.  I think some of those editorial pages that may have been teetering one way or the other, I think, fell into the Democratic column after Sarah Palin was picked by John McCain, not only for her conservative views, but because a lot of those editorial writers who really care about detailed knowledge of issues found her lacking in that regard. 

MATTHEWS:  I think people who write for a living, who try to think through issues, are very tough on people who don‘t seem to be in their community.  Here‘s Rush Limbaugh.  And Perry, this is all yours.  Then Howard, comment as well.  Here‘s Rush Limbaugh today.  I‘ve had mixed views about Rush over the years.  He can a charming fellow.  He‘s obviously a brilliant showman.  But I think he is in troubling territory with this statement today, sort of saying he can read the mind and heart of Colin Powell.  Here he is today on the radio. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  Now back to General Powell, I just want to button this up, because the drive-byes had a tizzy over my allegation that it was about race.  Let me say it louder and let me say it even more plainly: it was totally about race.  The Powell nomination, or endorsement, totally about race. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Perry Bacon, your estimate of that, as a journalist.  Here is a guy that can read motive pretty strongly. 

PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  General Powell yesterday said explicitly it wasn‘t all—he acknowledged that race was a factor.  He explicitly said it was not all about race.  I have to take him at his word about that to a great degree.  And Powell spoke about it.  He criticized McCain‘s campaign tactics.  He talked about Obama being a transitional figure.  Whether you agree with it or not, I think Powell put a lot of time into thinking about his endorsement and making it before he did it.  So I think it is an important thing to keep in mind. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, I spoke with General Powell last summer.  I was out at a conference in Colorado.  And I had a chance to speak with him.  It was in July.  And it was clear to me that he was disturbed about what he found the direction of the Republican party to be.  Sure, race is involved, as Perry said, to some extent.  But Powell cared about the party.  He thought his Republican party was abandoning him.  And I think I said on Sunday‘s show that he was going to—I made the guess that he would pick Obama and he did, because of his concern of the party, concern about foreign policy, and his belief in generational change.  It has less to do with blacks than did Powell telling me, you know what, a young guy can really reach the young soldiers we need to reach.  I thought that was an important fact. 

MATTHEWS:  It was a good day for Thaddeus Stevens.  What do you think?  We‘ll be back with Howard Fineman and Perry Bacon with more of the politics fix. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Howard Fineman and Perry Bacon of the “Washington Post.”  Howard, of course from “Newsweek” and from here.  Howard, what do you make of this amazing develop many here on Friday about U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann coming on and basically referring to Barack Obama as anti-American, calling for a media investigation of the other side of the aisle. of all Democrats in Congress, for anti-American elements?  It seems to be redolent of the old bad days, it seems.  What do you think.

FINEMAN:  It has caused a sensation in Minnesota and around the country.  Nobody had ever heard of L Tinkelburg, who is the Democratic candidate.  He is now a sensation.  I‘ve just been Blackberrying with Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic king pin in the House.  I said, what are you doing for the guy.  He said, we‘ve already done a lot.  The implication was they were going to do more.  They think they have a chance to win a race in what was—is a very Republican district there.  They‘re  going to poor money in now. 

MATTHEWS:  Perry, apparently as a result of what the Congresswoman had to say here on HARDBALL, her opponent has raised 740,000 dollars in online contributions coming out of that broadcast.  If anybody doubts that people watch or don‘t watch this program; apparently a lot of people watch it and are involved politically enough on both sides, I do believe, to react in a pecuniary way.  That is a lot, more than most people raise in a Congressional race, I think. 

BACON:  I guess, Chris, the broader point is it is not clear this sort of line of attack is working in Minnesota or nationally.  Governor Palin talked a lot this weekend about the pro-America parts of the country, and she sort of mentioned this William Ayers thing, making that criticizing Obama to a great degree on that subject.  It seems to not be working with voters.  And it seem to be driving—helping Obama raise money and Democrats raise money.  It has not proven to be affective these last weeks.  I wonder why the Republicans candidates keep talking in that way. 

MATTHEWS:  We live in a touchy time, Howard, my buddy, and my friend Perry.  We live in a touchy time.  You say the wrong thing in this political environment and things happen, for and against you.  Thank you very much, Howard Fineman—especially when they‘re said here on HARDBALL.  Thank you, Howard.  Thank you, Perry.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it is time for “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE” with David Gregory.

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