updated 10/31/2008 12:32:26 PM ET 2008-10-31T16:32:26

HARDBALL

October 29, 2008

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

Guest: Rep. Kendrick Meek, Susan Molinari, Ron Brownstein, Chris Cillizza, April Ryan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Philadelphia is world champion! The City of Brotherly Love wins it all!

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. The name of this show, HARDBALL, comes from that old expression of Mr. Dooley's that "Politics ain't beanbag." No, it's tough. It's hardball. But last night, we saw the heart in the game out there on the field. What a win for Philadelphia!

Leading off tonight here on HARDBALL, it's the closing days. Is the race getting closer? It's not unusual for a presidential race to tighten in the final week. In fact, the McCain people have been predicting that for some time. And we may be beginning to see that in some state and national polls. Is it real or illusory?

John McCain today was in Defiance-I love that! He was in Defiance, Ohio, taking a shot at Barack Obama's nationally televised ad last night. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Last night, Senator Obama said if he lost, he would return to the Senate and try again in four years for the second act. That sounds like a great idea to me! Let's help him make it happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Barack Obama was in Florida last night, the state the Democrats are convinced John McCain has to win. Let's listen to Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: If you want to know where John McCain will drive this economy, just look in the rear-view mirror because when it comes to our economic policies, John McCain has been right next to George Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let's look at what's happening on the campaign trail today. Plus, that half-hour Obama TV commercial last night and Obama's raucous appearance with Bill Clinton last night at 11:00 PM in Florida.

But we begin with former U.S. congresswoman Susan Molinari, Republican of New York, and Florida Democratic congressman Kendrick Meek. Congressman Meek, I've got to start with you. Why in the world do you start a political rally at 11:00 o'clock at night? What was the thinking down in your state?

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA: Well, I can tell you Floridians are so excited about voting. The lines are long. And we've been voting now for a week. We're leading into the last week. And in Florida, we know how to stay up a little later. But I can tell you one thing, they were all over the 11:00 o'clock news throughout the state of Florida. Everyone woke up this morning knowing exactly what to do. Just to see Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at the same time in the I-4 corridor that time of night shows the kind of commitment that Barack has put forth in winning Florida.

MATTHEWS: Did you see a winning smile from Bill Clinton last night? Is he thoroughly now on the bandwagon, he believes Barack Obama will win, he's with the winning side? Is that the way you saw it last night? Because this is the first time they've campaigned together.

MEEK: Well, I can tell you one thing, Bill Clinton has been playing up Barack Obama. Hillary has been here representing Barack. And I believe that seeing the hard economic times that we're going through now and to see those two men on stage, one who has brought us back to the economic stronghold that we had in the world, and the one that's going to repeat that and even make it better, but Barack's job is going to be bigger.

MATTHEWS: That is a sight, Susan Molinari. That is a sight for the ages.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I'm overwhelmed by it. It is something.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Look at them. They are-look at the two winners there together. Bill Clinton said he's the future, Barack Obama last night, he passed the torch, like Kennedy did to him once, figuratively speaking.

SUSAN MOLINARI ®, FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSWOMAN: Uh-huh.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You are so sarcastic in your silence!

MOLINARI: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

MATTHEWS: Well, look at him build him up there. Look at that!

MOLINARI: Oh, it's just amazing!

MATTHEWS: That's Bubba...

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI: It's bringing tears to my eyes. You know, look, Bill Clinton wants to serve his legacy and save his legacy as a, you know, Democrat leader. And good for him. He wants to also save some space for his wife and make sure that, you know, Senator Clinton has an ability to come back four years from now and try and reclaim the mantle again, or you know, eight years, I guess, if Senator Obama were to win. So he's doing what he has to do. He's doing it at the 11th hour. He's doing it in Florida. He's doing it at 11:00 o'clock.

MATTHEWS: Let's watch him do it. Here's the pro of all times, Bill Clinton, a man I always thought was the best politician of my time. Maybe Barack Obama's the best speaker, but the best politician has got to still be Bill Clinton. Here he is, the former president, in Florida last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at this crowd! It's not only big, it is highly diverse. You've even got a few old gray-headed white guys like me. You haven't cut my demographic out yet.

This is America's future. This is a future state (ph). Barack Obama represents America's future, and you've got to be there for him next Tuesday.

You know, I am very grateful to Florida. I worked hard to bring you back into the Democratic fold, and you came and I thank you for that. It's time to come back again so we can take America forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, before we get to last night's half-hour infomercial, I want to ask Congressman Meek-you're from Florida. I want a promise right now from your side of the aisle. Will the Democrats reverse history and win Florida this time clearly? Yes or no?

MEEK: Oh, yes. Absolutely. What we've seen now-young people, middle-aged folks, independents, Republicans that are voting for Barack Obama-we have a forward lean here in Florida because our economy is bad and we don't want to continue to look in the rear-view mirror. And we're glad that we can pull a past president out to be able to stand and testify on behalf of a future president.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MEEK: And I'm glad that Barack has been down here investing the time, him and Michelle.

MATTHEWS: OK. There'll be no complaints about the voting machines or voter suppression or anything like that, in other words, from you, Congressman, if he will win a clear victory, no question about it. Is that right?

MEEK: I think it'll be clear.

MATTHEWS: OK. Susan?

MOLINARI: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: What are you hearing about Florida?

MOLINARI: I'm...

MATTHEWS: I'm hearing the lines are long down there.

MOLINARI: I'm a part-time Sarasota resident and I love it down there, and I know the people and I know the party and I think, you know, between the governor and the former governor, they've got an organization there. I think they're going to be surprised. It's close in Florida, but it's getting closer every day, and I think John McCain's going to take it over (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: But right now, you've just admitted that Barack Obama is...

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI: Polls show Barack Obama in a 2, 3-point lead. It's a statistically-but where's the trend? Where's the trend, Chris?

MATTHEWS: I don't know if there is one. But let's take a look at last night's half hour of television that any politician would like to have, a half hour to do exactly what you want to do, say what you want to say, with the highest production values you can afford. And by the way, Barack Obama can afford just about anything right now.

Here's from last night's-this is the opening, if you missed it-very few did-of the half-hour TV commercial paid for and produced by the Obama campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With each passing month, our country has faced increasingly difficult times. Everywhere I go, despite the economic crisis and war and uncertainty about tomorrow, I still see optimism and hope and strength. We've seen over the last eight years how decisions by a president can have a profound effect on the course of history and on American lives, but much that's wrong in the country goes back even farther than that. We've been talking about the same problems for decades, and nothing is ever done to solve them. This election is a defining moment, a chance for our leaders to meet the demands of these challenging times and keep faith with our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Susan, he looks like he's already won. He's in the Oval Office there!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I swear that's the Oval Office!

MOLINARI: The music...

MATTHEWS: Oh, it was...

(CROSSTALK)

MOLINARI: ... hovering above the halo. And you know what? And let me just say, yes, it was a beautiful production, $5 million worth, something he would not be able to afford to spend if he kept his first campaign promise, which people like you were crazy about, campaign finance reform, so...

MATTHEWS: Yes. People like me, huh?

MOLINARI: Didn't-weren't you a big supporter...

MATTHEWS: Congressman Meek...

MOLINARI: ... of campaign finance reform??

MATTHEWS: ... what did you make of that ad?

MEEK: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Did you go for that last night?

MEEK: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Did it work for you last night?

MEEK: Chris?

MATTHEWS: Congressman Meek, what'd you think last night?

MEEK: Chris, let me just say this. Barack Obama has brought about a paradigm shift in politics, and he is the only candidate in the history of the United States that has been able to raise-get Americans to give their hard-earned dollars in this economy. I think we should celebrate that, the fact that he's not using taxpayer dollars, the fact that the American people are behind him 110 percent.

I thought it was a wonderful broadcast last night. Actually, you can go on Barackobama.com, put in whatever information you want to put in and get tax information, find out what he wants to do when he becomes president. Transparency is important. So he really...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MEEK: He really embodies making this campaign about the American people and not about Barack Obama. So I think any candidate, including myself, would love to kind of-would love to have that kind of airtime to have what we really call the straight talk express and going directly to the American people...

MATTHEWS: Well, here's the man...

MEEK: ... and letting them know what you're going to do.

MATTHEWS: Here's the man who created that term "straight talk express." Here he is, Senator John McCain in Ohio today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: So let me give you the state of the race today, my friends. There's less than a week to go, five days. The pundits have written us off, just like they've done several times before. My opponent is working out the details with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid of their plans to raise your taxes, increase spending and concede defeat in Iraq. He's measuring the drapes, and he gave his first address to the nation before the election. Never mind. We're a few points down, but we're coming back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, why does he keep saying raise taxes? Every fact checker in the world is saying that Barack Obama is not going to raise taxes unless you make more than a quarter a million a year. Why does he keep saying that, when all the independent people say that's not true, Susan?

MEEK: Maybe it's because he recently said $200,000 and Joe Biden said $150,000! So in the last, like, two weeks, we've heard-you know, the numbers keep inching down.

MATTHEWS: These people, these numbers are under $250,00. The fact is that $250,000 is the ceiling which protects you from not getting a tax increase.

MOLINARI: No, no, no~, no! And the other day...

MATTHEWS: That's consistent with saying $180,000 and $200,000.

MEEK: And the other day, Senator Biden said, Starting at $150,000, you won't see a tax increase. Senator Obama said, Starting at $200,000 you won't see a tax increase. So you know, let's get the real numbers here!

MATTHEWS: Well, I do is...

MOLINARI: This is coming from their own...

MATTHEWS: ... I look at...

(CROSSTALK)

MEEK: Chris, I have a recommendation. Chris, any American within the sound of my voice can see me, go on Barackobama.com, put in your income and it'll tell you exactly what kind of tax break you'll receive. Ninety-five percent of Americans will be pleased.

I will also say that 4 percent of Americans will be pleased, too, like myself. I'm over the $250,000 in a household, and I know I'm going to be paying more taxes. But you know something? I'm tired of seeing communities cut services to seniors and kids and the schools that are crumbling and we can't invest in infrastructure here. So this is not going to be a cake and ice cream administration and say that, Oh, we can do two wars, we can give tax breaks to big oil, we can do all of those things. We cannot.

And this is tough times, and Tuesday's vote is going to only be the first step that we're going to have to take to get this country back and moving in a new direction. And that's the serious talk.

So if you want the facts, I tell people and I direct them to the Barackobama.com Web site, and they can find out everything they need to know.

But people can say things on different days and people can try to twist them and turn them around. But in the final analysis, we do see an explosion throughout this country of new voters and voters that are inspired in the political process again, feel good about it, because they see the kind of leadership that Barack Obama has brought to this race and will bring to the country.

MATTHEWS: You really think, Susan, that the Democratic Party is stupid enough to raise taxes on average people? I mean, do you really think they're going to come into office and-no matter what this argument is, you really think they're going to come in and say, First thing we're going to do is raise your taxes?

MOLINARI: (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, I would think they're not that dumb.

MOLINARI: I don't know if it's going to be the first-the first thing they're going to do is give away the entire country to big labor.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

MOLINARI: The next thing they're going to do is raise taxes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, as a political esthete who understands the value of TV commercials, even if you have to pay for them, like Barack Obama has done-That ad last night, according to Tom Shales, who's the critic for "The Washington Post," made it easier in this country to picture Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Did it succeed?

MOLINARI: I think it did. But here's another question. And maybe there is a lag time here, but we are seeing these polls not only nationally but in these battleground states every day get 1 point closer.

MATTHEWS: No, no. I see the polls...

MOLINARI: This trend line is starting...

MATTHEWS: ... get wider and wider in a lot of states.

MOLINARI: And in a lot of states...

MATTHEWS: OK...

MOLINARI: ... that we talked about and you said we wouldn't have a chance at a few weeks ago, now we're going to win. I don't see any movement.

MATTHEWS: Susan Molinari, you and I do this for a living. You look at the polls where the states are going to decide this election-

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia all solidly for Barack Obama. If he wins those states and picks up the Kerry states, he walks away with this thing with about 340 electoral votes. Where it's tight-it's tight in North Carolina.

MOLINARI: Right.

MATTHEWS: It's tight in Indiana. It's tight in Florida. But I'm telling you...

MOLINARI: It's starting to get tight in Ohio now. There's four days left. If that trend continues, we can do this, and we will.

MATTHEWS: So you say the cake's not baked.

MOLINARI: I'm saying that cake's not baked...

MATTHEWS: What do you say...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... is the cake baked? Is this over, or is the election still to be fought?

MEEK: Well, I'll tell you that I think the election is still to be fought, and that's the reason why Barack Obama and Joe Biden are moving throughout this country, running as though they're 8 points, 10, 20 points behind. That's the reason why folks are waiting in Florida here...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MEEK: ... for three, four hours to vote with their children. So you know, Chris, I believe that we're going to be here on Tuesday night, talking about the fact that Barack Obama has worked this country...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MEEK: ... and this country has responded in a positive way and elected him president.

MATTHEWS: Well said, sir. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek from the state of Florida, which includes Tampa, I believe, Tampa Bay, the home of the Rays.

MEEK: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Good work down there. Actually, it was (INAUDIBLE) making it to the Series. They beat some great teams to get there. Thank you, Susan Molinari. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek again.

Coming up: In the final five days of this campaign, which may well decide the deciders-by the way, who are these undecided people? What do they want, breakfast in bed? What do they need to get to put down the little thought, McCain or Obama? Those are the choices, ladies and gentlemen. You got to decide. It's getting close. You can't keep putting this off.

Did Barack Obama's 30-minute commercial win any of the unwinnables? Were they watching? Did they know it was on? Did they know what channel this stuff's on?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The presidential primary and general elections have gone on nearly two years now, yet there are still-

I can't believe-it's hard to say it anymore. There are undecided voters. What does it take? As I said, do you have to give them breakfast in bed? Please tell us how you're going to vote!

Anyway, Howard-I got the two pros with me, Howard Fineman of "Newsweek," of course, and MSNBC, and "The National Journal's" Ron Brownstein, two best guys in the world to explain this to me.

Who are these people?

HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well...

MATTHEWS: Please tell me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It's 6 percent, according to the latest polls.

FINEMAN: What Ron and I want to say is, as big baseball fans, and I as a Pirate fan, want to congratulate you on the Phillies.

MATTHEWS: Did you see that love out there? I mean, brotherly love out there when Ryan Howard (ph) jumped on Brad Ledge (ph), he practically killed the poor guy!

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: I was at the game on Saturday night, and the game started late, so it wasn't...

MATTHEWS: And we have players with names like headmasters, you know, like, Chase Utley (ph) and (INAUDIBLE) Hamels (ph) and-these names are amazing!

(LAUGHTER)

RON BROWNSTEIN, ATLANTIC MEDIA: I would only say, as a Red Sox fan, I can afford to be magnanimous these days.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, you can...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: I was up in Pennsylvania last night and I was talking a lot of these undecided voters...

MATTHEWS: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: No, no, in Harrisburg, in central...

MATTHEWS: Right. OK.

FINEMAN: ... right in between York-between, basically, York and Harrisburg, where a lot of these people are. Now, around Harrisburg, there's one category of them who live in the nice suburbs. They're nice little suburban towns, so they're upscale soft Republicans and they're downscale soft Republicans-"soft Republicans" being the word that they use in Obama headquarters in Chicago. There are the upscale ones who are worried about taxes, and more about Sarah Palin, and the downscale ones, who want help on health care but who think Obama's a little strange. That's basically it.

MATTHEWS: Soft Republicans, huh?

FINEMAN: Soft Republicans.

MATTHEWS: Well, what's that, they need Viagra? Or what are we talking about here?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: It means they think they can...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, great. Here we go. Let's-let's talk about this interesting thing. The latest polling either is, like-some people, like "The Hotline," which you're familiar with, say there's 6 percent that are undecided.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: "The Washington Post" says about 3 percent. Now, let's go to the longer list. I've heard theories lately-in fact, as of this morning-that, basically, undecided voters are not decisive, that in the end, they split down the middle. They don't decide anything.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. There have been-there have been analyses-

Mark Blumenthal (ph), my colleague at Pollster.com and his colleague, Charles Franklin, have done an analysis of the undecided in our "Hotline"/Diageo poll, and they've concluded they are not likely to break in any decisive way, one way or the other.

I think, on balance, when you look at who you are-like, in our poll you said 6 percent undecided.

MATTHEWS: Women.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: Looking at the last two weeks, there-there's-three-quarters of them white. More of them non-college than college whites.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: Only 15 of the undecided are black and Hispanic.

I think, on balance, most of them, if they vote, will end up voting for McCain. Now, there are two other factors to consider. Some of the people who are saying they're undecided today, after all of this barrage, as you're suggesting, may not vote at all.

And, secondly, they're not the only variable we're talking about here.

I mean, you look at that NBC poll that was done with MySpace this week...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: ... there are a lot of people who are at the periphery of the electorate who might come in and vote. Those people would predominantly be Obama voters, if they come out.

MATTHEWS: These are registered voters, but not likely voters?

BROWNSTEIN: Not likely voters.

And, so, you have-you have...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, I'm with that. I think the way we always poll these things, we say likely voters, as if they're the only ones who are going to vote. I think you're going to see such a turnout this year...

FINEMAN: Well, that's...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: A better-a better indicator is look at all registered voters and assume that just about everybody is going to vote.

FINEMAN: That's why Gallup...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... which is one of the veterans in the business, have-has two different polls. One is for likely voters based on whether they voted in the past. And the other is likely voters based on whether they're saying they're going to vote. That's an expanded number.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: And that's a bigger number for Obama. That's a bigger number for Obama.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I always to take the registered-the registered and the likelies, and then get sort of an average, and see what will be an average.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Will there be-you're an expert, Ron-will there be any Republicans who are just sort of bummed out, like, McCain's not their guy, he's not a true conservative, or they don't like the way the campaign is going, or they feel mildly, you know, maybe Barack ought to get his shot, get his turn?

Is there anybody who's not going to show up?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, yes. Well, I think yes. Some people won't.

MATTHEWS: Like, Republicans not show up?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, in 2004, because of the Bush turnout effort and because of Bush's electric appeal to the base...

MATTHEWS: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: ... Republicans equaled Democrats as a share of the vote on Election Day. That had never happened before in the history of modern polling.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: It will not happen again. Given the deficit in party identification that Republicans face in Bush's second term, there will be more Democrats voting, almost certainly, on Election Day than Republicans.

And, as I say, I mean, you-have these two countervailing forces.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK.

BROWNSTEIN: Even if most of the undecided end up breaking for McCain, which I think is possible, looking at them, on the other side, it's entirely possible that we will see more of the new voters than any of these polling models expect, which will push you in the other direction, toward an Obama advantage.

MATTHEWS: You know what they say sometimes? They ask voters whether you're a Democrat or Republican. Everybody watching knows what question. Well, I guess I'm a Democrat. I guess I'm Republican. Or I guess I'm independent. But then they don't believe that, because then they ask you, where are you on life issue, pro-life, pro-choice?

And if they say, I'm a Democrat, but I'm pro-pro-life, and they use that term, meaning for outlawing abortion, basically, and I'm pro-gun, meaning straight-down-the-line Second Amendment, I mean, every kind of gun, they figure they're going to vote Republican, just because they say those two things. They don't really believe they're Democrats on those two issues.

FINEMAN: And those aren't the ones in Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Western-well, the Western people are, out near Pittsburgh, where you live.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Take a Pennsylvania, for an example. Those aren't the people that Obama is really going after now, that they're calling soft Republicans. It's not them.

It's upscale people who are offended by McCain having chosen Palin, because they think Palin is unqualified.

MATTHEWS: Right. That's the suburban type.

FINEMAN: Or-yes.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

FINEMAN: Or it's the downscale types that-that Ron was referring around York, Wilkes-Barre, and so forth.

And, by the way, I heard a poll showing Obama ahead by close to 20 points, 15 to 20 points, in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, which, if that's true, I think that's remarkable.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: And it's a tribute, by the way, to Joe Biden...

MATTHEWS: And to Hillary. And to Hillary.

FINEMAN: ... one of the reasons why Biden-and to Hillary-who-

Biden brought in for specifically those people.

MATTHEWS: I mean, that was his job.

FINEMAN: That was his job, to get those people.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the-because a lot of people watch these things who watch HARDBALL and programs like it, who are really interested in our-our-well, they love the country, obviously, or they wouldn't care about the topic, but they also watch the-the game aspect of it.

When is the latest people decide when to vote? Do people literally go in line and think? You know, I do that sometimes for local issues. You know, I try to figure them out, some of the propositions. Now, where am I on gambling? Where am I on early voting?

But do people actually decide on the presidency of the United States or mayor of their city, which is another personal job, in line?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: I am always amazed at the-at the-how many people say in the exit poll they decided in the last three days. I-it's hard to imagine that it is really...

MATTHEWS: Did something happen...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: ... it is really true.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is it like, when you go to a restaurant, if you're lucky enough to afford a restaurant mea...

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and you go, OK, I have got to decide; the waiter is here; I got to decide?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: And the person is saying, come back to me. Everybody, go first.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

Well, and, in fact, when people say they decided in the last three days, that may be partially what they mean. I mean, I was out this week following a canvass around in Canton, Ohio, you know, and we would run into people at the door who seemed to be pretty well decided, but they were not willing to say they were 100 percent with one candidate or the other.

MATTHEWS: See, I...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: This race has been going on a long time.

And, look, Chris, there has been enormous stability in the polling in the month of October.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

BROWNSTEIN: Obama and McCain have both...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

BROWNSTEIN: ... been trading in a very narrow range. McCain seems to be consolidating some of the Republican base as he emphasizes his tax message at the end.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know who is shifting? You know who is shifting? Union members, working people are saying, I have got to vote my economic interests.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I can't vote ethnically. I can't vote...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: And that's what...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: That's what that Obama ad last night was all about.

MATTHEWS: I think that made people feel very comfortable with him in the White House.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think that was Tom Shales'...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: And the whole last month was on that in general.

MATTHEWS: I think, in a swirling storm-and I'm not like him at all neither are you guys, exactly-that the calm, Ray Milland manner of his...

BROWNSTEIN: The voice.

FINEMAN: The voice.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... is very different, is reassuring.

Anyway, Howard Fineman, Ron Brownstein, we have decided a lot, and we have derided all the undecideds, pretty much.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next: from Joe the plumber to Joe the country music star. This guy is branching out-a peek into Joe's future. He has got a press agent already-next in the "Sideshow."

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Time for the "Sideshow."

Joe the no-show? Regular working stiff one day, campaign rock star next day. Where the heck is he the day after? Case in point, Governor Palin yesterday trotted him out on stage to rally the troops. The day before, Joe the plumber was the Middle East expert, saying the election of Democratic nominee Barack Obama would-quote-"bring death to Israel."

Today, Senator McCain gave Joe a big shout-out in Defiance, Ohio. How about that name? Things, however, didn't go as planned. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Joe's with us today.

Joe, where are you?

Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today?

Joe, I thought you were here today.

All right. Well, you're all Joe the plumbers, so all of you stand up and say...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: And I thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Where is a plumber when you need one?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So, where was Joe? Helping to knock out press releases on all matter of issues, local, national and global? Had-you have to check, by the way, with his Hollywood-worthy entourage on that, because Joe the plumber, we have learned, has signed on with a P.R. firm to handle his interviews and other major requests.

Next up: Barack Obama left no channel untouched last night. Here he is on "The Daily Show" talking about the so-called Bradley effect, the idea that some white people, if you will, will tell pollsters they are going to vote for a black candidate just to look like they're going to vote for a black candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": The polls have you up. But then they keep talking about this Bradley effect.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Are you concerned, in some respects...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: You know, and I don't-I don't even know how to bring this up. Obviously, your-your mother is from Kansas. She's a white woman, your father African.

Are you concerned that you may go into the voting booth, and...

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I won't know what to do.

STEWART: ... your-your white half will, all of a sudden, decide, I can't do this?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Yes. Yes. It's a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I love the way we can talk about it now.

Now for some proof of how complex race in America is. Check out this house in Indiana. That's right. They have got a Confederate flag-there it is-and an Obama sign, both on their front lawn. It's probably a family that just loves rooting for the underdog, whether it's the army of Robert E. Lee or the first African-American with a chance to be president. I like to put things on the brighter side.

Anyway, that brings us to tonight's "Big Number."

While Obama has a good chance of winning on Tuesday, few are talking about him carrying Texas. In fact, a recent poll gives Obama some idea of the climate facing him in states that largely will not go his way. You won't believe this number tonight, but write it down. How many Texas voters in this poll say they believe Obama truly is a Muslim? Twenty-three percent, almost one in four believe, according to what they tell pollsters, he is in fact a Muslim.

And, of course, it's not true. He's a Christian, always has been. But they believe it. And who knows why these Texans said that to the pollsters, whether they actually believe it, or whether there are just other reasons involved, and they just want to say so. Either way, almost a quarter of Texans say they believe Barack Obama is a Muslim-as they used to say on "Seinfeld," not that there's anything wrong with it-tonight's "Big Number."

Up next: Rachel Maddow interviewed Barack Obama today. She has got fresh news for us. She's going to give us a sense of what he's thinking, how he looks, how he feels. She will be here in a moment with some clips, but also some of the sense of this guy, as the election gets just around the corner.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Julia Boorstin with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks rally, despite some dismal economic news. The Dow Jones industrials finished up 189 points. The S&P 500 gained 24, and the Nasdaq was up 41.

The economy contracted in the third quarter, with gross domestic product shrinking three-tenths of a percent. It was the worst performance since the 2001 recession. But, on the positive side, it was not as bad as expected.

More job cuts announced today. American Express says it will eliminate 7,000 jobs, or about 10 percent of its work force. Meantime, Motorola will reportedly lay off 3,000 workers.

Oil prices dropped. Crude fell $1.54, closing at $65.96 a barrel.

And ExxonMobil reported a record profit of almost $15 billion for the third quarter. That's when oil prices hit an all-time high. The company shattered its own record for U.S. corporate profit, which it set in the previous quarter.

That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With just five days to go until this election, which, by the way, has been going on for two years now, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow caught up-I love that phrase-caught up with Barack Obama-like she's chasing him down the street-caught up with him in Florida.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: She joins us now from Florida.

There you are. You had him on the field of Ed Smith-whose training field is that? Oh, the Cincinnati Reds. OK.

You know, they used to call the Cincinnati...

(CROSSTALK)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Cincinnati Reds.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: Home of the minor league Sarasota Reds.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Right.

You know, during the red scare, they changed their name to the Redlegs, so they wouldn't be the commies from Cincinnati.

But they have...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Obviously, we have gotten to better times, although some of the people that work for this Republican campaign team like the language of those days a little better than we like it.

Rachel, thank you.

What was it like? Give me some of the smell and sense of that interview, since you're going to have the text of it on tonight. What is -what was it like to be with Barack in these last days, before his possible elevation to the presidency?

MADDOW: If the man was more calm and relaxed, he would be asleep.

The guy is calm. The guy is joking. He is well-briefed. He knew enough about me, who is not the most famous person in the world, to know where I was coming from with my very first questions, to sort of reference what my political take on things might be in his answers.

He was in good humor, calm. He left his fish sandwich here, without eating it. He seemed to be having a very good time. He was running early most of the day. The campaign itself seems calm. I know this is supposed to be the no-drama campaign, but seeing it up close and in person, it was -it was striking.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let's take a look at a bit of your interview. The rest will be on tonight at 9:00.

Here it is, Rachel Maddow asking questions of Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Other Democrats, you will hear them talk about the GOP as the party that's been wrong on all the big stuff, creating Social Security, civil rights, the war in Iraq. But you don't really do that. Do you think there is a stark difference between the parties?

OBAMA: Well, I do think there's a difference between the parties, but

but here's my belief, that I'm talking to voters. And I think there are a lot of Republican voters out there, self-identified, who actually think that what the Bush administration has done has been damaging to the country.

And what I'm interested in is, how do we build a working majority for change? And if I start off with a premise that it's only self-identified Democrats who I'm speaking to, then I'm not going to get to where we need to go.

If I can describe it as, not a blanket indictment of the Republican Party, but, instead, describe it as the Republican Party having been kidnapped by an incompetent, highly ideological subset of the Republican Party, then that means that I can still reach out to a whole bunch of Republican moderates, who I think are hungry for change as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that's-well, how do you read that?

MADDOW: I just feel like, if you ever wanted to know the difference between an Obama candidacy and a Hillary Clinton candidate, it's right there.

I mean, Hillary Clinton spent the big ideological moments of her time in the primaries talking about what the difference is between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, and what the Republicans have gotten wrong, and how the Republicans have always been wrong on all the big issues.

I asked Barack Obama exactly why he doesn't go there, too, and he essentially said: "I'm not going to take on Republicans. I just think George Bush has been a bad apple."

If you want to know why liberals look at the criticism of Barack Obama, that he's a socialist, that he's somehow superliberal, that he's super off to the left, liberals look at comments like that and say, he seems to sort of like the Republican Party.

George Bush isn't a bad apple if think you conservatism is a bad thing. George Bush is the-the-the epitome of what's wrong with conservatism. And he just doesn't see it that way.

MATTHEWS: It seems like he is working already. Well, you have to read this as well as I can. But let me just posit this, that you were interviewing a guy today who may already be looking forward to knowing that his only chance of making a record as president is getting a governing majority, as he put it, and that means dealing with Bush senior Republicans, the people that liked George Bush senior more than they liked the kid.

MADDOW: I think that's right. I think that he is-he's trying to say, I am not your enemy. He's trying to say, anybody in America who thinks I am their enemy, it is not true. He is-the people who he's taking shots at right now are amorphous sort of corporate powers and non-personality-defined structures like Wall Street, you know, bigwigs.

He's not taking a shot at anybody. He is trying to define himself as the president of the United States of America, not necessarily as the leader of the Democratic Party, as the champion of Democrats or of liberals. He's trying to play it big.

And it makes sense. I mean, he's also in Florida today. We're in Sarasota. I'm in the heart of what was Katherine Harris's congressional district. So he knows his audience, too. But he's definitely playing down the center, and I think that will reassure a lot of Republicans who might be leaning his way out of distaste for McCain.

MATTHEWS: It's interesting how he's dropping his Gs now, like George

the Bushes do when they want to win elections, he's speaking to people, he is "ain't-ing" rather than "isn't-ing." Have you noticed that? He is trying to-is that his way of connecting?

I'm not a big fan of that, but I know it works. Let me ask about when I was in Florida down in 2000, I could smell that it was slipping away from the Republicans and I do believe that most people who went to vote in Florida in 2000 wanted to vote for Gore. Now whether it was screw-ups with the machines and the butterfly and everything else, I think the motivation was there for them to win and for the Republicans to lose, because you could smell it that weekend. It was drifting away from the Republicans, and Jeb. And I was down covering Rudy.

Let me ask you this, do you smell a drift in a direction? Is it toward Barack? Or weren't you there long enough to get that sense you can usually get in a couple of hours?

MADDOW: I-at the risk of extrapolating too much from limited data for just being down here for this interview, I don't think that it is moving heavily toward Obama. I don't. Today, I mean, again, we are in Sarasota, this is deep red territory, this is an R plus-4 congressional district.

MATTHEWS: Yes, fair enough.

MADDOW: But you know, all of the seats were full today, but the bleachers were not. And when the Obama campaign staffers were asking people as they were filing into the stadium, did you vote, did you vote, did you vote? People were either saying yes or they were saying the name of their county because the name of their county was shorthand for, you know where I live, it's too hard to vote there.

So the combination of difficulties in voting, and Charlie Crist did extend the voting hours yesterday, God bless him for it, so they're open 7:00 to 7:00 now, and that's better, but the combination of voting difficulties and the fact that McCain has kept it close here, and that he has been so on the tack (ph) with Obama, especially on the scare stuff, I think lately particularly targeting Jewish voters, I don't think it feels like it is leaning overwhelmingly toward Obama.

I think it's going to be very close here and I think there's a very good chance McCain might win Florida.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think that anybody who says the line was too long, try that statement with history. That won't sound too good in a couple of years, the line was too long, I had to go home. Anyway, thank you, Rachel Maddow.

Whatever side you're on, stick it out. I think that's the right thing to do. Anyway, Rachel, great. I can't wait for tonight. We look forward, by the way, the rest of the interview is going to be at 9:00 p.m. tonight, a real scoop, a real get, as we say in this business, Barack Obama for Rachel tonight.

Up next, Barack Obama's half hour commercial was a huge ratings winner. Something like 26 million people watched it, it beat out a lot of regular prime time shows in that slot. But was it a vote-getter? We'll see with the "Politics Fix." Back in a half-well, back in a minute to talk about that half hour. Boy, everybody would like a half hour of TV time, especially John McCain. But he doesn't have the money.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Coming up, Bill and Barack together at last on the same stage. That was last night. What brought the former president so fully aboard the Barack express? We'll talk about that.

Plus some very ugly campaigning down in North Carolina. Of course, it depends on how you look at it. But pretty rough stuff. When HARDBALL returns, we're going to talk about an ad that goes after a guy who doesn't like God. We'll see about that. HARDBALL returns with the "Politics Fix," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back HARDBALL and the "Politics Fix." Tonight's roundtable, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, and April Ryan of the American Urban Radio.

Chris, I want you to help me get through this. Let's take a look at a really tough ad on behalf of Elizabeth Dole who is running for reelection in a very tough race for her against her Democratic challenger Kay Hagan. Let's watch this ad. It's a tough one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE ®, NORTH CAROLINA: I'm Elizabeth Dole, and a prove this message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan's honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no God to rely on.

There was no Jesus.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Well, taking "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, you're down with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're down with that.

O'REILLY: "In God We Trust," you're going to whip that off the money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we would.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Godless Americans and Kay Hagan, she hid from cameras, took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Chris Cillizza, if you listen to that ad, you get the idea that the Democratic candidate for Senate from North Carolina just said "there is no God." Apparently that was an actress-an actor talking. Tell me what that ad is about.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, look, first of all, Chris, you know, context is everything in politics. Elizabeth Dole is in a lot of electoral trouble, polling, private and public, Republican and Democrat, shows her losing to State Senator Kay Hagan, who that ad is about.

Though those are not Kay Hagan's words when she says, I don't believe in God, but what she did is she did attend a fundraiser. Now this idea that it was a secret fundraiser that didn't allow cameras, 99.9 percent of fundraisers don't allow cameras. So I guess that makes them secret.

But she did go to a fundraiser. She has said she didn't know that these two people who did attend were affiliated with this PAC. Dole has used it, sort of the transitive property, to say, you attended something with them, therefore, you share their beliefs.

Hagan has hit back very hard herself with an ad in which she talks to the camera and very powerfully at the end,, Chris, says, I don't think bearing false witness is-against another Christian is a right way to end this race. Very powerful message back here.

I think it has a real tendency to backfire on Dole, because I think people are going to see this as a little too much, a bridge too far for a candidate who is losing.

MATTHEWS: Well, is it or is it not totally dishonest to have a female voice say in an ad, there is no God, with the clear implication to anybody watching that is the Democratic candidate if that candidate never said anything like that?

CILLIZZA: Well, I'll tell you what the Republicans would say is, which is we don't mean to imply that that was Kay Hagan speaking. We never said it was Kay Hagan speaking. But, Chris, I agree with you...

MATTHEWS: Who was it supposed to be?

CILLIZZA: I agree with you, Chris. Clearly the implication was meant to be that it was Hagan saying that. There is no question. You know, North Carolina, as we know, is famous for these kind of ads. Don't forget Jesse Helms and the white gloves ad back in the 1990s when he was running against Harvey Gantt. It is a state that is famous for its hard-hitting ads.

MATTHEWS: Well, I remember the ad where they went after Harvey Gantt, the African-American former mayor of Charlotte, for having money-taking money from a gay fundraiser. They make it really-well, they jazzed it up.

Let me go to April. Your thoughts about it, is this a classic desperation move by a losing candidate and not necessarily an ineffective one?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO: You said the operative word, desperation, in the last few days. But, you know, this is a very serious ad. I mean, in that part of this country, God is very important and, you know, there are churches everywhere, all sorts of denominations.

And for that attack to be made against Hagan, it's very serious. And not only that, though, Chris, there's another point. No matter who you are, whether you are gay, whether you're black, whether you're white, whether you believe in God or not, aren't you supposed to be covered by your representative, your senator, your congressperson?

I mean, you know, what if she did go to a fundraiser? Wouldn't she be covering them under her services on the Hill?

MATTHEWS: Well, it's-in this case it's a state senator. They wouldn't be representing the people in Washington. Let me ask you this about.

RYAN: Well, yes, but still-I mean, but what I'm saying is-but what I'm saying, nonetheless, that person is still allowed to go out and talk to people, correct? I mean, no matter what race, what religion, what gender, what have you.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask Chris about these last-minute things. When you go after a person and make them look like they might be not agnostic, but atheistic, that they may in fact be-apparently the entire contribution from this guy was a maximum contribution from a single individual of $2,300. That is what we are talking about here from this individual who is an atheist, a proclaiming atheist. Is it going to work, Chris?

CILLIZZA: You know, Chris, I don't know if it will work. I do think.

MATTHEWS: Oh, by the way, we've got it. It just came in. It just came in. Here is the response, a TV ad paid for, produced by Kay Hagan, that's the Democratic candidate for the Senate in North Carolina defending herself against the ad we just saw that depicted her as a godless person. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC), SENATORIAL CANDIDTE: I'm Kay Hagan and Elizabeth Dole's attacks on my Christian faith are offensive. She even faked my voice in her TV ad to make you think I don't believe in God. Well, I believe in God. I taught Sunday school. My faith guides my life and Senator Dole knows it.

Sure, politics is a tough business, but I approve this message because my campaign is about creating jobs and fixing our economy, not bearing false witness against fellow Christians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And-wow. We will be back to talk about that. We'll be back with Chris and Ryan to talk about that powerful retort. Sometimes the retort is stronger than the initial shot. You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We're back with Chris Cillizza and April Ryan.

April, I want you to respond to what you saw, both tonight, the attack ad by Liddy Dole, basically blasting her opponent for getting the aid of a godless supporter, making her sound godless because of a voice that sounded suspiciously like the candidate's female voice wherein the voice said "there is no God"; and then the retort ad that talked about-a woman by herself talking about her life of teaching at Sunday school and being true Christian.

RYAN: Sunday school, yes.

MATTHEWS: . and being offended. What did you make of those back-and-forths?

RYAN: It was a very strong retort. You know, we were just saying the retort could be stronger in some instances that the actual-the original ad. And again, it goes back to, you know, she is running up against Liddy Dole. And the bottom line, she is going try to make herself-you know, to remedy the situation, number one, but also she wants to let everyone know, look, I am a Christian, but at the same time I believe she wants everyone to know, look, I am covering all of what I have to cover in this state so that I can be the effective leader.

And again, Chris, you know, I think, you know, it's not about the Christianity thing. It's bigger than that. It's about being able to talk to all groups. It is talking and being with all groups because you are representing those people.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You know what it tells me-well, your thoughts first, Chris. And then I want to ask you another question.

CILLIZZA: I was going to-let me give you two quick ones, Chris. I think, one, Hagan's response is good because she does not directly respond or repeat the claims of the ad. She makes sort of an oblique reference. But she talks positively about herself rather than sort of showing the ad, which would give it extra play.

Number two, she brings it back, as all Democrats have done in this last month, back to the economy and job creation. North Carolina, the economy is struggling. The textile industry is struggling. Back to sort of we need to focus on what is really important to voters.

MATTHEWS: OK. Follow up question, I know you are not an opinion expert, you're an analyst, but let me ask you-both of you, does John McCain deserve a measure of respect for the fact in these closing days of the campaign, when it all depends on what we're thinking as we go to vote, he has not brought up the Jeremiah Wright story, he has not lambasted his opponent as an acolyte of a man who said some pretty terrible things at that church? What do you think? First, April. He hasn't used Reverend Wright against Barack Obama.

RYAN: There are a lot of other stories that he is trying to push out there, though. Reverend Wright has run his course. Everyone sees it for what it is. But you know, we still have a couple of days left. He is trying to the best of his ability. You know, I want to hold off on people giving kudos on either side right now.

MATTHEWS: OK, April. (INAUDIBLE) your thoughts, Chris, does he deserve credit, John McCain, for not using Reverend Wright, not getting racial about it?

CILLIZZA: April is right, that you don't ever want to draw conclusions until it is over-over with. But I do think that the McCain campaign has made the decision and, the RNC has made a decision to focus on the fact that Barack Obama's experience does not recommend him to be president.

MATTHEWS: OK. That's it.

CILLIZZA: I think that's probably-I do think it recommends him, to answer your question.

MATTHEWS: Thanks. Thanks, Chris Cillizza. Thank you, April Ryan. The Phillies are the national champs. It's a great victory for the Phillies and the city of Philadelphia to be national champs after all of these years. 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

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