updated 10/24/2008 11:12:59 AM ET 2008-10-24T15:12:59

HARDBALL

October 23, 2008

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

Guests: Gov. Ed Rendell, Tom Ridge, Bob Herbert, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Ed Gordon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Angry Republicans attack each other. The blame beats the defeat.

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Leading off: A closing window of opportunity. One look at the NBC News political unit's map shows just how difficult the terrain is for John McCain. Barack Obama is leading in the 21 states won by John Kerry in 2004 and by Al Gore in 2000, forcing McCain to play defense and win virtually all the red states.

One state where he's playing defense is Florida, where McCain was today on his so-called "Joe the plumber tour."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Whether it's Joe the plumber in Ohio or Joe over here-thank you, Joe-Joe, thank you. There's Joes all over here, the small business owners I met with this morning here in Florida-we shouldn't be taxing our small businesses more, as Senator Obama wants to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the one big blue state-in other words, Democrat state-where McCain has decided to play offense is Pennsylvania. Why? We'll talk to Governor Ed Rendell, who's a Democrat, and former governor Tom Ridge, a Republican, in just a moment.

Plus, are we seeing the makings of a Republican crack-up? In today's "Washington Times" newspaper, a conservative newspaper, John McCain criticized President Bush for the country's problems-mounting debt, failing to pay for extended Medicare coverage, for abusing executive power, all that he said-that led to a Republican strategist to blame McCain for going after his own party instead of his opponent. So what's going on? Intramural fighting in the Republican Party on the eve of this election.

Also, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann now has this to say about her comments on HARDBALL last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: I didn't say nor do I believe that Barack Obama is anti-American. I didn't say nor do I believe that he is not patriotic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, anyone who watched the show, of course, can look at it, and you can always look at the clip again and again to see what the congresswoman actually said.

Can we move the prompter? It's not moving.

Anyway, Congresswoman Bachmann said about Obama, quote, "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views." That's what she said on the air. We'll show that tape infinitum, I think sometimes.

Fast-forward to today, when former Republican Minnesota governor Arne Carlson endorsed Obama, in part, he says, because of Bachmann's on-air comments. We'll talk about that and the rest of the hostile political landscape for Republicans with the HARDBALL strategists.

And John McCain defends Sarah Palin in the latest from the Brian Williams interview. We'll look at that-what effect Palin is having on McCain's chances in the "Politics Fix" tonight.

And we may have the best HARDBALL "Big Number" ever. What's worth more, Joe the plumber's house or Sarah Palin's wardrobe? Talk about "must see TV." That's on the HARDBALL "Sideshow" tonight.

But we begin in Pennsylvania and Governor Ed Rendell. Governor Rendell, why do you think the Republicans have set their eyes on Pennsylvania as the one big blue state-in other words, the state that has been voting for Democratic candidates for president-the one that they'll, hopefully, pick up and offset their losses elsewhere?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think their theory is that most of the undecided votes will break for them and that there are some people who are not answering the question when pollsters ask them, Who are you voting for. Some people refuse to answer, and they're finding solace in that.

But as you know, Chris, the polls have been almost exclusively double digits. Susquehanna had a poll beginning of the week that said it was 8 points, but the polls have-other polls have consistently held it at double digits.

But Look, I'm nervous, and I'm nervous for no other reason than they're making a great effort here. Senator McCain and Governor Palin are here a lot. Governor Palin back again today, Senator McCain in three spots yesterday. So they're pulling out all the stops here, and we've got to be ready to defend. And you know, we're doing a good job defending. The issues speak for themselves. And most Pennsylvanians are targeted on the economy and health care, and those issues break strongly for the Obama campaign.

MATTHEWS: I know you've been very supportive of Governor-of Senator McCain (SIC) and you were very supportive, extremely supportive of Senator Clinton and Bill Clinton before that. I'm trying to figure out what's missing in this campaign that would bring it home for the Democrats in Pennsylvania. And I just wonder if there's something that hasn't been said by either candidate, including by Barack. I want to run this by you because you're the best pol in the state, and ask this question.

When you talk to the average guy out there, especially the guy-and let's be blunt, the white guy because he's in play right now-he takes pride in being a provider. My dad-you know, my dad was like that. You take pride in bringing the food home, getting the kids something for Christmas, maybe a week vacation somewhere at the shore. You take pride in being able to take care of your family, and that's the crisis everybody faces right now, taking care of your family.

Do you think Barack Obama has done a good enough job of talking to that average guy out there about how he will be of some modest help and will not get in the guy's way by raising taxes on him?

RENDELL: Yes. I think in the last six, seven weeks, since the economy became in a crisis mode, I think he's done a terrific job speaking to what the average person is worried about-their own pocketbook, their own budget. I think he's been enormously effective. He's driven home the fact that for working families that make less than $250,000, he's going to give them a tax cut bigger than McCain. He's not going to raise taxes. I think he's driven that home.

I think his whole economic proposal makes more sense to the average person. They look at it and say, yes, that's right, we should be fighting back on trade, things that he's been strongly talking about the last couple of weeks. And his performance-poised, in command, clearly effective as compared to Senator McCain, who started out, first comment, The fundamentals of the economy are strong, an hour later, The economy's in crisis, four hours later, I'll fire the SEC commissioner. The president doesn't have the power to do that. Then the suspension of the campaign and not debating, when, in fact, the campaign wasn't suspended and he wound up debating. I mean, he's looked like a chicken with his head cut off.

And I think the contrast to working Pennsylvanians to that guy you're talking about has been real. It's the only reason, Chris, that the polls jumped from a 2-point election before the economy tanked to a 10 or 11-point election. Those working class Democrats have come home because of the economy and because Barack Obama has finally convinced them that he's the best person for their budget.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, you're the expert. I was-I got another education in the "T" in Pennsylvania, the middle part of the state. I drove up from here up to see the Penn State game on Saturday, which is the great victory over Michigan. And the interesting thing, and the dismaying thing, if you're a Democrat or for Barack-the dismaying thing is I drove all the way up 15, 83, 81, all the way up, and I didn't see a damn Barack Obama sign on the lawn of any house all the way up. I saw a scattering of McCain/Palin signs.

Is that just geography? And can it be overcome by the big turnouts in Philly and the suburbs?

MATTHEWS: Oh, sure. It's just geography. But interesting, if you look at the polls, the breakdown of the polls, Barack Obama is carrying south central Pennsylvania. He's carrying Cumberland and Dauphin and places like that. It's pretty remarkable. No Democrat since Lyndon Johnson has carried those areas. So I don't know whether it's a question of the Obama folks having distributed lawn signs or what, but the polls show he's doing better in central Pennsylvania than Kerry, Gore. You'd have to go back to the second Bill Clinton election to find a Democrat who's done any or close to that well in south central.

So yes, look, I think the Obama campaign has really taken flight over the last six weeks, and I think it's only natural. When, you know, it hits the fan, people are worried about themselves and they're worried about the economy. They don't care about someone's race. They don't care about religion.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: They don't care about where they went to school. Who's going to help me? And Obama and the campaign have done a great job saying to that working class guy, I'm the one who's going to help you. And as a result, I think you've seen this tremendous shift.

MATTHEWS: OK, the over-under on Philadelphia, the plurality coming out of the city, 550, 600? Where would you put it?

RENDELL: No, I'd say-John Kerry carried by 419. I'd say Barack's going to do at least 50,000 better than that, maybe 75,000.

MATTHEWS: So 470,000...

RENDELL: So 460 -- right. And you know...

MATTHEWS: I'm writing it down, Governor! I'm writing it down.

RENDELL: 470 to 500. 470 to 500.

MATTHEWS: OK.

RENDELL: Absolutely. But by the way, you say I'm the best pol in the state. Maybe currently, but that Tom Ridge knows an awful lot, too.

MATTHEWS: Oh, aren't you sweet!

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL: Hey, and if...

MATTHEWS: He's coming up right now.

RENDELL: If Tom Ridge were on the ticket-if Tom Ridge were on the ticket, Pennsylvania would absolutely be a toss-up.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you're tickling him. Anyway, we'll be right...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Governor Ed Rendell, the current-in fact, the governor of Pennsylvania. Not just current, he is the governor.

The popular former governor, Tom Ridge, is co-chair of the McCain campaign. You're out there on the bus Governor Ridge, and you're out there trying to turn this thing around. Why do you think Pennsylvania's become the keystone politically right now?

TOM RIDGE ®, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: Well, because what John has said and what he's stood for his entirely political life, his entire life of public service, is very consistent with where most Pennsylvanians are. I mean, I just-first of all, jot this down. It will be under 400,000 in Philadelphia. Secondly, you take a look at the northeast, where the vice presidential candidate for the Democrat Party claims to have roots, but his values and priorities as reflected in his public service career don't work that well in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

And then you go down to the southwestern part of the state, we've got a lot of independent-thinking Democrats, in spite of the fact they've got a Democrat congressman calling them racists and rednecks. They're pro-life, pro-military, pro-gun. They appreciate the fact that they've been going to church and having the right to bear arms. They're not bitter about anything. They just like what John McCain stands for.

MATTHEWS: So why is he 15 points down in Pennsylvania right now in the average of all the polls?

RIDGE: Well, Chris, I-well, I don't know what polls you're looking at. There are polls, polls and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Governor, it's called Pollster.com.

RIDGE: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Anybody can look it up. It's transparent. It's the number we all look at. It's all the-including the conservative polls, like Rasmussen and Opinion Dynamics. Put them all in the list, it's a 15-point spread.

RIDGE: Well, have you talked about the AP poll that says 44 percent 43 percent?

MATTHEWS: That's one of them.

RIDGE: And have you talked about the...

MATTHEWS: That's in the average.

RIDGE: Well, yes, but-well, listen-OK, but the point of fact is, we know we're behind in Pennsylvania. I was behind with two weeks going out, probably about as much as John is now. But the fact of the matter is, this is a battleground state. We love playing offense. We love comparing John's credibility on issues and his consistency on issues dealing with the economy, dealing with public financing, dealing with energy independence.

There's a huge contrast that we've been drawing all day long today about what Senator Obama has said on an issue and how he's been able to change his position depending on how the political winds blow. And at the end of the day, I think Pennsylvanians are interested in a consistent, principled leader who doesn't change-necessarily change a position politically because it favors him. And at the end of the day, that kind of credibility and principled leadership will win on election day.

MATTHEWS: What role will race play?

RIDGE: Well, I think you can't deny that it's-there's a-there's two edges to it. You know, we've got a significant black population in Pennsylvania, and I suspect very probably they're going to be marching to the polls in record numbers. And you can't deny the fact there're probably unfortunately, regrettably, sadly, tragically in the 21st century, we're going to still have some people in this commonwealth-hopefully not, but probably will be-that may vote against a man because of the color of his skin.By and large, the people that-at one point in time, I think even Governor Rendell said racism might play a role in this. By and large, people are going to vote against Senator Obama because he's ill-prepared to be a commander-in-chief, he's been inconsistent in a lot of the...MATTHEWS: Yes.RIDGE: ... messages that he's delivered during the course of the campaign, and their values are different from his.MATTHEWS: Yes, I think we all agree it's a factor-it's a factor on both sides. I think when people stop denying that...RIDGE: It's got to be.MATTHEWS: ... we'll move ahead intellectually in this country. Let me ask you-I want to make...RIDGE: Exactly.MATTHEWS: ... some news tonight, Governor, my pal, so I'm going to ask you this question. Does your party, does your candidate, does the Palin/McCain ticket-where I did see all those lawn signs driving up 83 the other day-will you need to carry Pennsylvania to win this thing?RIDGE: Yes.MATTHEWS: Need it.RIDGE: Yes.MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.RIDGE: Yes, I believe we do. I mean, I think we do.MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Sarah Palin...(CROSSTALK)RIDGE: What it does, Chris, it's not just the 21 votes. If we take Pennsylvania, it's really 42 votes. We get the 21 that they've got in their column, and they've got to go out and hustle and find 21 more. And we believe if we win Pennsylvania, we win the presidency. Pure and simple.MATTHEWS: Because you're taking what they thought they had. Let me ask you about Sarah Palin. I know she's been popular out in the Southwest. She's popular in the Northeast. Has she still got the new car smell? Has she still got the excitement level that she had a month ago?RIDGE: Oh, Chris, when they appeared here in central Pennsylvania, they had about 7,000 people. They could have had 14,000 people. We're having a huge rally for them next week. Yes, there's a certain genuineness and authenticity. I mean, we can talk about who's had more experience, who knows more about this issue or that issue, but there's a certain refreshing approach that she's brought. She doesn't talk inside Beltway. She doesn't talk like the Washington psychobabble. She's very refreshing in that regard. She energizes our base, and we're delighted to have her. And she's going to be in Pennsylvania a couple of times next week, and I plan on campaigning with her.MATTHEWS: Do you think it's odd that the Republican Party dished out $150,000 to put her in designer clothing when they want-what you call the genuine article? If she's the genuine article, why do you dress her up like she's from the east side of New York?RIDGE: I don't-look...MATTHEWS: What's the idea? In other words, it seems to me...RIDGE: I don't know what...MATTHEWS: I think she looks great. I love her clothing taste. I don't know anything about style. I don't know who Valentino is.RIDGE: Good. Then why bring it up?MATTHEWS: I thought he was a movie star 50, 100 years ago. Well, because it's all over the place and it's 150,000 bucks. And if you're selling her as...RIDGE: Well, I mean...MATTHEWS: ... the lady from the countryside and then you present her as the fashion plate, which is it? That's all.RIDGE: Well, listen-listen, the fact of the matter is, whether she wears designer clothes or not, what difference does it make? And why are we even talking about it? Let's talk about...MATTHEWS: OK, why don't we talk about...RIDGE: ... that she was the governor...MATTHEWS: OK...RIDGE: ... of an energy state. MATTHEWS: OK.RIDGE: She was-she was the governor of an energy...MATTHEWS: OK, and you know why?RIDGE: ... state.MATTHEWS: You know why?RIDGE: She had executive experience-why?MATTHEWS: Because your party is talking about Joe the plumber. Every damn speech that McCain gives now is about some guy named Joe the plumber out there, who really exists. And his house is not worth-we're going to bring it up in the next segment of the show-is not worth what her latest clothing allowance is worth. That's why. We're trying to find some authenticity about the real economic challenges facing people, and you're spending more money on her clothes than on your guy, your iconic hero's, house is worth. That's why.RIDGE: Well, listen-let's-let-Chris, because it's absolutely ridiculous to be having this conversation on national TV. Let's not get into who is spending what on their clothes on either side of the aisle. I dare say if you went digging into closets perhaps from your candidates, you'd find some pretty expensive clothes. That's immaterial.MATTHEWS: OK.RIDGE: It's who's going to put the clothes on the backs of the working class Pennsylvanians, that middle class that they talk about...MATTHEWS: OK...RIDGE: ... but who-ultimately, whose taxes they're going to raise.MATTHEWS: The only reason is most people would have to take out a mortgage...RIDGE: When Senator Obama gets done...MATTHEWS: They'd have to take out a mortgage to dress like her! That's why! I'm kidding. It isn't that important. It's only iconic, just like Joe the plumber.RIDGE: You're right. Let's move on.MATTHEWS: It's another one of these interesting iconic thoughts that everybody's trying to put in our heads. Thank you, Governor Ridge, for coming on tonight.RIDGE: Joe's...MATTHEWS: You say they're going to...RIDGE: Joe's the real deal. You ought to listen to him. Thanks, Chris.MATTHEWS: And the real statement is, you've got to carry Pennsylvania. That's the news we made tonight.Coming up, McCain versus Bush. A top Republican strategist-I'm sure-well, I think it's Karl Rove because he's the only guy that can guarantee not to be mentioned by name-slams the McCain campaign after John McCain lashes out at Bush. The Republican candidate's attacking the Republican president. The Republican top politico out there is attacking the Republican candidate. Everybody's blaming everybody for a defeat that hasn't even happened, that may not happen yes. What's going on, on the waning days of this campaign?You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.Just two days to go until the election-I'm sorry -- 12 days, with John McCain slipping in some polls, are Republicans prematurely jumping onto themselves and blaming each other? With us now is MSNBC's own Pat Buchanan, and "The New York Times" columnist Bob Herbert. I was grabbed by a couple of these things, gentlemen. First of all, for the first time, John McCain is really, I think, succeeding in separating himself from the Bush administration. And he has to do it. But, today, he's going out there-or, actually, last night-saying he has-it is the president is responsible for all these generations of debt we're now going to face because of too much spending. The president is responsible for Medicare expansion that hasn't really been financed. The president is responsible for a lot of things that are going wrong right now, in fact, the problems of the country politically. And then you have a senior Republican adviser-it has all the earmarks of probably being Karl Rove, a very senior person who gets the protection of the press here, his name-blaming basically McCain now for not blaming the Democrats for what's going wrong. I wanted to start with Bob on this. Usually, when one side starts to blame itself, and it gets out, they're losing. (LAUGHTER) BOB HERBERT, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's not a good sign, politically, of course. But the issue for McCain, when it comes to the voters, is, where's he been? I mean, this debt has been ratcheted up for the longest time now. And, in fact, you know, he's blaming Bush and the administration, but, you know, it's-it's broader than that. It's the Republican Party. If you go back to the deficits that were run up under Reagan, and Clinton began to get it back under control, actually balanced the budget. And now they have just skyrocketed. And we have got this economic mess, and the-however this presidential race goes, the voters are blaming the Republican Party much more than they're blaming the Democrats. So, this is a hard sale for John McCain, I think, with less than two weeks to go until Election Day. MATTHEWS: The question-you're the keeper of the flame, Pat. You're an ideologue. You don't back the party just because it's Republican.PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No.MATTHEWS: You back it because of what you believe it, right?BUCHANAN: Right. MATTHEWS: Has it been true to its beliefs, enough not to pay for it? In other words, does it deserve political defeat because it strayed from the flame, from the beliefs? BUCHANAN: I think it-I think it deserved political defeat in 2006, which it got and may deserve defeat now. But I disagree with what McCain is doing, for this reason. I ran against George Bush's father in 1992 on taxes, foreign policy and other issues. But, once you have your convention, and you say-I said, I endorse Bush, the army marches together after that. McCain was right to separate himself from Bush. But, to be coming down 12 days here attacking the president of the United States, which damages and demoralizes the base of the party, many of whom still love these guys, I don't think it's the smart to do. You're wasting your time. The battle is now Barack Obama or John McCain. And he ought to make that case. MATTHEWS: Well, in the wake of the "Washington Times" report about that attack by McCain on his own president, here's-well, it's our president, but his own political leader, President Bush-here is what "The Politico"'s Mike Allen wrote this morning."One of the most senior Republican strategists"-it's got to be Karl Rove-"in the land-in the land"-well, that's got to be Karl Rove-"warns the McCain campaign, after reading 'The Washington Times' -- quote - - "Lashing out at past Republican Congresses instead of Pelosi and Reid, and echoing your opponent's attacks on you, instead of attacking your opponent, and spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes, when congressional Republicans are struggling for money, and when your senior campaign staff are blaming each other for the loss in 'The New York Times' magazine 10 days before the election, you're not doing much to energize your supporters. The fact is, when you're the party standard-bearer, you have an obligation to fight to the finish."That's a senior Republican adviser. I think it's Karl Rove, because nobody else would get this kind of media protection, Bob Herbert, blasting at John McCain for blasting at President Bush, who Rove advised for all those years. HERBERT: Well, I imagine that McCain can't do much about fighting behind the scenes, whether it's Rove or whoever, whatever the unnamed sources are. But the real problem that he's got is, he has not had a real focus in this campaign. It's been incoherent. And now, with these-with him launching the attack on Bush, it's-it's more of the same. What he needed to do-I don't know if it's too late or not, but he might as well do it now-what he needs to do is focus like a laser beam on this economy. Stop attacking Bush. Stop attacking Barack Obama. Look at this economic crisis and tell the voters: "This is what I'm going to do to get America's economic house in order. Whoever is to blame, this is intolerable, and you need me in the White House to get it straightened out, and this is what I plan to do."He has not done that. BUCHANAN: I-I agree with Bob Herbert, to a great degree, on this. He needs a consistent message that differentiates himself from Barack Obama by what he's going to do, but tells the country what he's going to do. McCain hasn't done that. And-and, you know, I don't like to criticize the guy, because, look, it-there's a lot of Republicans out there that didn't want John McCain as the nominee...MATTHEWS: Yes. BUCHANAN: ... unhappy with him. They don't like his record, except here and there. They're behind him. They're behind him and Palin. They're standing up. Ridge is one with of them. Ridge probably disagree with me and other folks on issues.MATTHEWS: Ridge is like McCain, in a lot of ways. BUCHANAN: Well, he's like McCain. But there are people that don't like McCain that are out there working their heart out for him. MATTHEWS: OK. Let's take a minute. We haven't done this enough, but since this election is going to be one of the most important in our lives, let's now, before it happens-you guys both have philosophical points of view-and I have read you for years, both of you-what are the two or three issues that it matters, that this election matters? You believe in less government. You believe in less of an adventurous foreign policy. I know your politics.BUCHANAN: Right. MATTHEWS: You are a traditional conservative, right? BUCHANAN: I believe-I would say this. Look, we are overextended abroad. We-our interventionist foreign policy, it's got to come to an end. It's going to come to an end.Secondly, the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. MATTHEWS: OK. BUCHANAN: I think, one more appointment, and the conservatives could set issues back to the states, where they belong. Third is the monstrous size and growth of government, which is going to eat this country up. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: That's three. BUCHANAN: That's three.(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: And that's really important. So, Bob Herbert, respond to them in your own way. You don't have to react, but respond. HERBERT: I-I think...(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: First of all, less adventurism in foreign policy, less Iraqs, less incipient Irans, lower-smaller government here, and a Supreme Court that-that protects the rights of the states, not the federal government, in other words, doesn't create or establish rights nationally that the states have a right to dictate on themselves. What's your view?HERBERT: Well, if I were-if I were going to prioritize, I would say that top-that issue number one would have to be employment, how to get as many Americans back to work as possible. That's the only way you're going to get this consumer economy turned around.And I certainly agree with Pat about the adventures overseas, specifically Iraq. We have to wind that down, because, with-without doing that, we won't be able to focus on these problems at home. The money won't be there. It will be a continuing drain. So, I think it's a one-two punch. BUCHANAN: All right. HERBERT: One, you put got Americans back to work.BUCHANAN: Let me agree with Bob Herbert.HERBERT: And you have got to roll it back in Iraq. BUCHANAN: Let me agree with Bob Herbert on-definitely on the issue of jobs. That's why I think the free trade policies of the Republican Party have devastated the Republican Party base, but, worst, devastated the manufacturing base.Secondly, Chris, we have got to get control of our borders, because, if you don't soon, that border is going to disappear, and the United States of America, its unity and everything will be at risk. MATTHEWS: You're consistent, Pat. I don't know if either of the candidates is addressing it in the way you would like. BUCHANAN: No. MATTHEWS: That's right. Thank you, Pat Buchanan. BUCHANAN: McCain is-Palin is close. MATTHEWS: Palin is close.(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Thank you, Bob Herbert. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I like these kind of conversations. (CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: They are going to matter a lot more after the election, perhaps. BUCHANAN: Right. MATTHEWS: Up next: How many houses could Joe the plumber buy-you're going to love this number-with the money Republicans have spent on Sarah Palin's clothes? You have got to get a mortgage to pay for those kind of clothes. Just kidding. It's not the most important thing in the world. But when you're dealing with icons, and you're presenting them as important, like Joe the plumber, you better get your act consistent here. And the Republicans are not being consistent in the way they're wheeling out these personalities and their lifestyles.You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.Time for the "Sideshow."For those of you who went to bed early last night, I stopped by "The Late Late Show" out in California with Craig Ferguson. Here is a bit of the discussion on what it means to be an American. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON") CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON": I don't know if this is true or not, but I-I think that America is the only country in the world that exists because of an idea. MATTHEWS: Yes, exactly. FERGUSON: Right?MATTHEWS: We're not...(CROSSTALK) FERGUSON: It's a philosophical...MATTHEWS: We're not a race. We're not an ethnic group.FERGUSON: ... belief to be an American. MATTHEWS: Yes, right.FERGUSON: It's a decision to be an American.MATTHEWS: Look, I have written all about it. I mean, I will tell you something. Every group that's ever come to America has done better here than where they came from. FERGUSON: Well, this group certainly has. I...(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Because-because this is a country...(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) MATTHEWS: ... where you can come into this country-remember this guy Archie Leach that came here from Britain, Archie Leach? He was a pole walker-he was still walker on-on Coney Island. He made five bucks a day and then 10 bucks on weekends. He wanted to be an American actor. So, he goes to Missouri.FERGUSON: Right. MATTHEWS: And working in Saint Louis theater, regional theater. And he's playing a guy named Cary. His name is Archie Leach. He's playing a guy named Cary. And he likes that name. And then he picks up the name Grant. FERGUSON: Ah, yes.MATTHEWS: That sounds like an American name. And he becomes Cary Grant, the most popular movie actor of all times. He said, "I wanted to become this guy."Only in this country can you do that. When a guy named Ralph Lifshitz living up in the Bronx.(LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: Nice, pretty name, huh? Living in the Bronx. He's a shmata. It's a Yiddish term.He's selling these big wide ties in the-and he makes them from old materials. He becomes Ralph Lauren, who tells the WASPs how to dress.FERGUSON: Yes. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: You know? It's only in this country can you do this. You can become not just who you want to be, but what you want to be. FERGUSON: Well, I...(CROSSTALK) MATTHEWS: And you see where you are? You're one of us now. (CROSSTALK) FERGUSON: No, no, I understand.(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) MATTHEWS: And it's so great. You're us. And you're a what.FERGUSON: Absolutely.MATTHEWS: You're not just a who. FERGUSON: No, no, no.(APPLAUSE) MATTHEWS: You are an iconic-an iconic being. FERGUSON: It is...MATTHEWS: And I'm sitting next to you. (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER)MATTHEWS: And I'm on broadcast television. And how come an immigrant just off the boat gets a broadcast job, and I'm on cable? Just tell me. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: He just became an American citizen, Craig Ferguson.Anyway, I must not forget-and I never do-my grandparents came here from the British Isles here not too long ago. Always remember and welcome the newcomer, anyway, because they wanted to be one of us.Time now for tonight's "Big Number." So, today, John McCain kicked off his Joe the Plumber Keep Your Wealth bus tour down in Florida. Catchy name. But let's put things in perspective when it comes to Joe. Say the McCain campaign bought Joe the plumber's house back in Ohio, instead of Sarah Palin's new wardrobe. How much money would they have left over? Twenty-three thousand, five hundred dollars. That's right, Sarah Palin's V.P. wardrobe, bought for the occasion, is $23,500 more expensive than Joe the plumber's entire house. If you're going to deal in icons and symbols, get them straight. Anyway, that's tonight's "Big Number." Up next: With Barack increasing his lead in the polls and an increasingly uphill climb for John McCain, our strategists, one Republican, one Democrat, look at the homestretch strategies for both candidates. It's coming here in a minute. We're going to have a little fight here between Todd and Steve. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Margaret Brennan with your CNBC "Market Wrap."It was another volatile session on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrial average managing to post its first gain in three sessions, up 172 points. But that was after swinging from a 300-point gain to a 300-point loss earlier in the session, a lot of volatility once again. S&P 500 gained by 11, the Nasdaq down by about 12. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted during congressional testimony that he made a mistake in trusting that free markets can regulate themselves. He also called the current financial crisis a once-in-a-century credit tsunami. Oil prices rose on expectations that OPEC will cut output at an emergency session tomorrow. Crude gained $1.09, closing at $67.84 a barrel. And, after the close, Microsoft reported quarterly earnings that topped analyst estimates. It also lowered its outlook for the full year, but not by as much as some analysts had expected. That's going to weigh on tomorrow's session. That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to Chris and HARDBALL. MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the strategists. I love this. I always like to say, one Republican, one Democrat. You know, it's like "The Apprentice." Todd Harris, of course, on my right over here, and Steve McMahon over here, closer to me. These guys are great. Let's talk about the latest. We saw here early-earlier in the program tonight, on live television here, in real time, Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, and Tom Ridge, the very popular ex-governor, had this to say about the importance of this state. And, by the way, it's become the keystone state this year. Just like Tim would always talk about Florida, this year, it seems to be Pennsylvania. Seems to be. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RENDELL: If Tom Ridge were on the ticket, Pennsylvania would absolutely be a tossup. RIDGE: And we believe, if we win Pennsylvania, we win the presidency. (END VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEWS: Wow, the former governor of Minnesota, by the way, Arne-his name is Arne Carlson-endorsed Barack Obama today. Here's a portion of what he had to say to "The Minneapolis Star-Tribune," the big paper out there-quote-"Carlson also took aim at Minnesota U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, saying that her controversial remarks of the past week, suggesting Obama may have anti-American attitudes or views, had led him to endorse the Democratic nominee. After hearing Bachmann's comments, Carlson said he telephoned former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Minnesota Democrat, to tell him of his plan."Steve McMahon, it's amazing, because-you know, I had nothing to do with this. I asked a couple of questions. We got these amazing answers by the congresswoman. STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good interview. Great interview.MATTHEWS: And you never know-to anybody who is critical about it, you never know what people are going to say. You can only ask the questions. And-and, apparently, Colin Powell was moved by what he saw here. It shows, a lot of people are paying attention. This is a tricky time, when people are making political decisions based on something they just heard. I tend to think a long time about how I'm going to vote. But some people are just...MCMAHON: Well... MATTHEWS: ... making decisions, oh, I don't like the way I heard that. That tone of voice offended me. (LAUGHTER) MATTHEWS: I'm going the other way. You know, it's interesting.MCMAHON: I think-I think, for a lot of swing voters out there, they were...MATTHEWS: Yes. MCMAHON: ... they were evaluating this the way Colin Powell sounds like he was evaluating it. He said that he believes that the party that he was a part of for so long has gone a little too far to the right. And I think an outburst like Congresswoman's Bachmann's outburst on Friday, where she's calling Democrats in Congress un-American and she's saying the press needs to investigate who is un-American, causes people to wonder, people who are swing voters, whether the party has gone off the deep end. Obviously, Arnie Carlson felt that way. I think there a lot of people 700,000 dollars was raised by her Democratic opponent, like that. So she struck a nerve and she struck a cord. MATTHEWS: Let me ask a non-partisan question. Have people of enough of partisanship, of virulent partisanship, like the other side is unpatriotic, the other guy is the bad guy, not just that we disagree. HARRIS: I think people are more than ready for this election to be over. When it comes to whether it's Arnie Carlson-actually, I don't put Colin Powell in this category. But, you know, in politics, the assumption of success has almost as many fathers as actual success does. I think a lot of people, particularly in Minnesota, Minnesota Republicans like Arnie Carlson might feel they're going to cut their losses and go with McCain. I don't know why he did it. Colin Powell laid out a very long, almost prosecutorial like argument for his decision to back Obama. Senator McCain has said he still, of course, has great respect for General Powell. MCMAHON: It was predicated on the direction that the party has taken, the reaction of Senator McCain in the economic crisis, and I think on Senator McCain's judgment in picking Sarah Palin, which I think Colin Powell believed was an indicator of not necessarily just his judgment, but the direction in which he would take the country. I think he thinks it's a direction that's going too far to the right for the Republican party. And he doesn't want to be any part of it. I think you see that in swing voters in a lot of places. MATTHEWS: I agree with you, Todd. I think the country has had it for this period of divisiveness. One thing was-it was a largely black crowd, African American crowd in north Philly, tough neighborhood. I heard Barack Obama. These people weren't interested in getting even or getting a bigger piece of the pie. That wasn't what sold them, in terms of the crowd. They were down and out people for 50 years up there. What grabbed them was the line where he said, I think the people want a president who will unite us, not a president who will divide us. They went nuts for that. Even people who have been down and out, who have not gotten much of the action, in terms of economic hope in this country, all they want, it seems, is end this division. I thought that was heart-warming to me from a crowd that was not exactly happy with the way their lives have gone. HARRIS: And one of the things that I think a lot of things-one of the criticisms that some people have been lodging against the McCain campaign is that the John McCain that the country sort of fell in love with is the kind of John McCain-MATTHEWS: You mean the-HARRIS: No. The man who really could reach across and bring the entire-MATTHEWS: Oh, that guy. Because there was two guys who were working at the same time that people liked. They liked the guy who took on power. They also liked the guy that could cut deals across the aisle. By the way, I don't know if Barack is as good at that yet. I don't see any evidence that Barack is as good at cutting deals across the aisle as he was with McCain/Feingold, as he was with Patients Bill of Rights. McCain is good at that. Maybe because he is a maverick and he likes to cross the aisle, because mavericks get along with the other side better than they do with own people. Right, Steve? MCMAHON: No, they do. McCain was that person. He was that person that everybody fell in love with. He was the Democrats' favorite Republican until he decided, I think after the Kerry campaign in 2004, that the only way for him to become president was to go to the right and support the president and become George Bush Jr. MATTHEWS: Todd, does your party, the Republican party, need to pick up a surprise state like Pennsylvania, to offset losses elsewhere? Former Governor Ridge said that's a fact, you need Pennsylvania. HARRIS: Yes. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Thank you, Todd Harris. Thank you, Steve McMahon. We're making so much news here. By the way, I will refer to you from now on as a senior Republican adviser, and I won't say who you are. That'll get more news. I love this guy, Karl Rove. Don't say who I am. If Rove said it, it wouldn't mean anything, but a senior man who refused to identify himself. Up next, what's going on between McCain and Sarah Palin? I don't know what that means, but I read the script. Polls show she's becoming a liability. So is McCain holding his dwindling chance to win against her? We heard some of that from Chuck Todd last night, that the body language wasn't too good between them during the Brian Williams interview. We'll see. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight's round table, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, and Ed Gordon of "Our World" with Black Enterprise. Thank you, gentlemen. This is getting close and exciting. I've never been so excited about politics, at least since 1960 when I was extremely excited about it. Back when people wore voter hats. You remember that? Howard, you don't remember that. You don't remember that. People were into. Now, they're into it this time. The crowds were bigger back then. Nixon got a half million people in Philly at lunch time on Wednesday. Of course, that was shopping day. Everything has changed, now. No one comes downtown to shop anymore. What's going on in this world?Anyway, let's talk about this thing, I don't like to get caught up in the map. Chuck does it for a living and does a fabulous job. I don't think the map is going to matter if it's not close. If it is close, the map is going to be everything. Let's talk about Pennsylvania, let's talk about those states. Howard, you do this all the time. If the map-if the election is within three, four points, is that when the map begins to matter? How close does it have to be in the popular vote for us to be looking at that map and matter? Otherwise, it will be a sweep. HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK": I think that's right. It has to be within three or four points. Right now, at least in the national number, it doesn't look to be. If you look at it state by state, and add up all the places where Obama is ahead by a reasonable margin, we're looking at 300 electorate votes right now. That's the way it looks right now. But that can still change. A week is a year, and a year is a lifetime in politics. The trends favor Obama for the most part, but you have to look at it state by state. Yes, if it's more than four or five points, by modern standards, in our divided country, in our red and blue country, that's a blowout. MATTHEWS: I thought that the Republican campaign, basically it's down they were going to have some big blunder bust issues, some huge thing to drop on us. Instead, they've spent the week talking about Joe Biden's comment, which is OK to talk about, but not a big story. It seems to me all tactics. Where was the big strategic end to this campaign? ED GORDON, "BLACK ENTERPRISE": That's how lost they are. I would say that the map matters to them right now. I think they feel like if they-as we heard from Mr. Ridge earlier, if they lose Pennsylvania, if they slide and slip in Ohio, it's over. It really doesn't matter about the rest of the country. I think those two states are pivotal and I think they're frightened as all get-out right now. MATTHEWS: Because old people in those states tend to be culturally conservative, and sensitive on the race issue. But they're also the most vulnerable, because if you're retired now, and you're living on a 401(k), you can't listen to Warren Buffett say, the market is always good in the long run. That's not much good to you ten years from now. FINEMAN: One of the many interesting things I learned when I was at the Obama headquarters in Chicago the other day is among their volunteers - - they've got millions of volunteers-there are disproportionate number of retirees. It's students and retirees. Even though Obama has been weak in general -- MATTHEWS: That's great, because grandkids always get along with grandparents. FINEMAN: Ended out the Baby Boom, by the way. But even though Obama has been weak among older voters for a while, now it's person to person. It's retiree volunteers talking to other retirees. MATTHEWS: What are they doing?FINEMAN: They're calling. They're e-mailing. They're going door to door. They have tons of money that they're organizing. And they're going to get that older vote out. MATTHEWS: Is she getting the older people down there to vote? FINEMAN: I don't know that she's working, but I think the message is working. If you're talking specifically about older Jewish voters, they're going over to Obama. MATTHEWS: You know why I think so? I think if you educate your kids, and you spend a fortune educating them, and they tell you what they have learned, you've got to respect it. FINEMAN: And also they're facing a tough economic situation, both the retirees and college kids going out in the job market. GORDON: They're been bolstered by the fact though, for instance in Missouri, in St. Louis last Saturday-I was there with him. When you looked at that crowd in Missouri, 50 percent black, 50 percent white. The Obama camp is excited about what they have seen over the last couple of weeks in terms of the whites who are showing up. MATTHEWS: Talk about that crowd, what does it look like? This is really big. You know, usually crowds in lunch rooms in college, you have the black tables, the white tables. And this is unfortunately true in high school, in public high school still you see it. What I was taken with in these north Philly places, mixed in. It's a much happier environment for some reason. You're smiling, because you think I'm falling into the romantic trap. FINEMAN: I think you're right. We also saw it also down in Nashville. Remember, when we were outside with the HARDBALL set at Belmont University, that was a mixed crowd-a mixed-in crowd that looked like something that Norman Rockwell, if he were painting today, would paint of a multi-cultural America. MATTHEWS: Or that great scene at the movie-I know all movies. "Places in The Heart," where they have an extra scene at the end and you realize what's going on here? It's heaven. That's when everybody is getting along. FINEMAN: We're entitled to think of a little heaven. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you what could come this week. You guys are grand viziers here, and pundits and you have to think ahead. It seems to me that what could change this election, an it's all horrific, one way or another, and probably in the direction of Senator McCain, if we get one of those little love letters from the east, one of those videotapes that just seems to show up before-and try to screw up our elections. I don't even mean violence. I just mean some damned videotape that showed up, and al Jazeera passes it on to somebody in one of the networks. What's the one called they always send it to? The Middle East network. FINEMAN: Al Jazeera? MATTHEWS: Al Jazeera, I'm sorry. Bin Laden sends it to al Jazeera, and all of a sudden, we're all watching the damned thing. And this guy with a beard is telling us what he's going to do to us. Is that still a possibility, or will people discount that, and say same old, same old? FINEMAN: I have to look at the numbers. One number is that war in Iraq and terrorism in general are not at the top of the list right now. The economy and jobs are way at the top of the list. That's the first thing. The second thing is Obama's pulled even with McCain on most leadership measures, including strength of leadership. MATTHEWS: Even the arrival of the fresh news from the east and trouble making-GORDON: You would almost have to have a true bin Laden tape for it to really tilt that far at this point. FINEMAN: In that case, I'm still not-that's not automatically going to translate into a McCain victory. MATTHEWS: God knows what his motive is. We never can-FINEMAN: Obama spent the last year and a half building himself up to guard again that moment, in a way, unconsciously. GORDON: I don't think we can discount-people have tried to push it away. I don't think we can discount how important-we talked about this on Sunday-that Colin Powell's words were to making people feel comfortable with this man in a leadership position. MATTHEWS: I want to talk about that. We'll be right back with Howard Fineman and Ed Gordon for more of the politics. You're watching HARDBALL. It's getting close on MSNBC.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)MATTHEWS: We're back with Howard Fineman and Ed Gordon for more of the politics fix. This is a battle of metaphors. We have Joe the plumber, who happened to have a conversation. He's a guy who's middle, sort of middle, a little above middle. Obviously, he hopes to own a business that will make a quarter million a year. That's better off than most people. But regular guy, plumber, not registered, not licensed, but regular guy. Then along comes the governor of Alaska, very attractive person, strong Republican ideology, conservative ideology. They put 150,000 bucks worth of clothes on her and they send her out to the public. But we're dealing in an age of metaphor and symbol. How does Joe the plumber stack up against Valentino? GORDON: We've allowed this to go on though. We try to act as though most of these politicians are just like the everyday guy, and they're not. The idea that they bought 150,000 dollars worth of clothing for Sarah Palin is really joke, in the sense that she's trying to say, well, it's not my clothes. The Republican party bought it. None of these people are the guys next door or the girls next door. Let's be honest about it. FINEMAN: She was picked supposedly because she was the genuine gal next door. She's been a disaster in recent weeks for the party and the ticket, in part because the Democrats in the Obama campaign, so they told me, have been raising tons of money off of her online. In other words, one of the reasons that the Obama campaign raised 150 million dollars in September is because they had the Sarah Palin talking points, the concern about her cultural views, concern about her lack of experience, and a lot of wavering Republican fat cats who hadn't gone over, the way Colin Powell just did to Obama, have done so in part because of the Sarah Palin. Not because of the clothing, but because of the whole thing, and this hurts. GORDON: There's true fear. And I'm not talking about even from zealot Democrats. There's just true fear of the everyday person that believes that this woman is simply not ready to step up. MATTHEWS: You know the Ozzie Nelson law on taxes? If you wear street clothes like this, and you only wear them at work, you don't have to pay taxes on somebody giving them to you. As long as she's using these clothes for campaigning, she's covered by the Ozzie Nelson clause. Check it out with the lawyers. Anyway, Howard Fineman, Ed Gordon, join us again tomorrow. Ozzie Nelson, remember him? Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it's time for "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" with David Gregory.THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ( www.ascllc.net ) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC's copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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