updated 11/4/2008 2:08:37 PM ET 2008-11-04T19:08:37

Guest: Jeff Johnson, John Murtha, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Bob Ehrlich,

Stephanie Cutter, Pat Buchanan, Michelle Bernard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Four days before election.  Is it true?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL, and happy Halloween.  Leading off tonight: Ferocious.  That‘s what Barack Obama‘s campaign manager says the last few days of this campaign will be all about.  But the fact is, this campaign is largely being fought in states that Republicans need to hold.  They‘re on defense.  And Democrats stand to gain.  They‘re on offense.

Today, Obama will be campaigning in Iowa and Indiana, red states he wants to grab.  Tomorrow, he goes to Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, more red states.  On Sunday, he‘ll spend the entire day stumping in Ohio, red state target number one.  Then on Monday, he‘s scheduled to hit Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, every one of those states red states.  The only exception, Ohio (SIC).  The rest were all won by George Bush in 2004.

John McCain is spending his entire day today in Ohio, one of the big must-win states for Republicans.  Tomorrow, it‘s on to Virginia and Pennsylvania, a state that John Kerry won four years ago.  And then on Sunday, he‘s scheduled to go to New Hampshire, a second blue state that McCain hopes to pick off from the Democrats.  And on Monday, McCain is expected to be in as many as seven states—that‘s on Monday—Nevada, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico and Arizona, every one of them a state that George Bush won four years ago.

Today on the trail, McCain continued to pound Obama with the “socialist” charge, while Obama answered back that McCain was trying to take the low road now to the White House.

Also: Are voters spooked by Sarah Palin?  It‘s bad enough that 59 percent of the people in a new CBS News/”New York Times” poll say Sarah Palin is not ready to be vice president.  That‘s three out of five who don‘t think she‘s ready to be president.  Now comes this from former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger in an interview with National Public Radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Give her some time in the office, and I think the answer would be she will be adequate.  I can‘t say that she would be a genius in the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s one of her endorsers.  That‘s Eagleburger, a former secretary of state, as we said, and a big John McCain supporter, but apparently not a thrilled supporter of Sarah Palin.

Plus: Pennsylvania.  Congressman Jack Murtha‘s going to be here.  He‘s been a national figure in recent years because of his opposition to the Iraq war and his comments about his own constituents.  Let‘s talk to him tonight about what‘s happening in the very hot part of the country, western Pennsylvania.

Also: Where‘s Obama advertising on television now?  Would you believe he‘s got ads going up in Georgia, in North Dakota and—get ready—

Arizona.  Smart politics, or is he running up the score or trying to look like he will?  We‘ll ask the HARDBALL strategists.

And can you find any McCain supporters in New York City‘s liberal

Upper West Side?  Well, our own Willie Geist—this is going to be really

funny tonight—found it‘s like trying to find a Tampa Bay Rays fan in

today‘s Phillies victory parade in Philadelphia.  More on what Willie Geist

this is going to be so funny—his search for a conservative, or even a Republican, on the West Side of Manhattan.  Anyway, that‘s going to be in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.

But first: The presidential candidates are hitting battleground states today and they‘re bringing out the big buns.  Bob Ehrlich‘s a former governor of Maryland.  Governor, thank you for joining us today.

BOB EHRLICH ®, FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR:  Hey, Chris.  How‘re you doing?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at these numbers right now—Mr. Governor, thank you.  Let‘s take a look at these numbers.  The “New York Times”/CBS poll just came out.  It‘s got an 11-point spread for Barack Obama over John McCain nationwide.  That‘s among likely voters, which is usually, you know, a more conservative estimate of who‘s going to show up.  The average of all the polls out there in the country catching up is about 6 points.

How does John McCain close that in just three or four days?

EHRLICH:  Well, he closes it by what he‘s doing.  Chris, I was really interested to listen to the schedule of the respective candidates.  There‘s no doubt about it, it‘s a Democratic year.  I‘ve always been very blunt with you in my appearances in this show over the years.  But there‘s also no doubt that there‘s a reason McCain‘s been in Pennsylvania so much, there‘s a reason McCain‘s obviously in New Hampshire, as well.  And some red states, obviously, are much closer than they have been—Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, Florida.  But these states are all within the margin, Chris, and most of the polls that I‘ve seen and the internals of Pennsylvania have McCain really picking up.

You saw what happened in the Democratic Party with Senator Clinton—the Democratic primary, I mean, with Senator Clinton in Pennsylvania.  So look, I‘m not rose-colored glasses here.  It‘s a tough cycle.  It‘s a sort of “Throw the bumps out” mentality that Obama‘s taken hold of early on and really taken this great advantage.

On the other hand, with a number of the other national polls I‘ve seen and a number of the polls I‘ve seen in the marginal states, the swing states, it‘s all within the margin.  And if he closes fast, who knows?  Pennsylvania, Chris, could be a surprise on election night.

MATTHEWS:  It could be.  Let‘s look at John McCain using the “socialist” charge again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  It‘s not an accident that he‘s the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, more liberal than a senator who used to call himself a socialist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  well, is that going to work?  I mean, you say the mood of the country is “Throw the bums out.” Are they saying, Better bums than socialists?  Is that your party‘s message this year?

EHRLICH:  We...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s pretty sad, isn‘t it?

EHRLICH:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Do you really think Barack Obama‘s a socialist?

EHRLICH:  Here‘s what I think.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, a guy who believe the government should run the economy, not the private sector?  Do you believe he‘s against capitalism as a principle?  Do you believe that?

EHRLICH:  Chris, I didn‘t make this up.  But you know the deal in Washington.  The Republicans are the party of big government, Democrats are the party of really big government.  And quite frankly...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EHRLICH:  ... a social welfare state...

MATTHEWS:  But what about the socialist charge?

EHRLICH:  Well, listen, he obviously...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re backing away, Governor.  You don‘t like it, either.

EHRLICH:  Chris—Chris, listen.  Now, listen, here‘s the deal.  He wants to make a social welfare state, which we have, which has come about since the New Deal...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

EHRLICH:  ... with Republican and Democrat administrations.  He wants to make that much larger.

What really worries me, Chris, about what he said recently is, You build the economy from the bottom up.  I don‘t know what that means because, quite frankly, when you start a business, you‘re out there, you borrow, you work hard, you learn your profession.  You want to live the American dream.  You take a risk.  I mean, that‘s not—you start with a dream and you work hard and you have an idea.  You don‘t really start from the bottom up, it‘s somewhere from the middle up because you have to have something to go out there and be an entrepreneur.

I am concerned, obviously, about marginal tax rates and the sort of class warfare, Chris, that was never really part of the John F. Kennedy-Harry Truman-Scoop Jackson Democratic Party.  You‘ve seen a change over the years.  And class warfare has been the mantra of the Obama campaign.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s bring in another view.  Here‘s Stephanie Cutter.  She‘s senior Obama campaign strategist.  Thank you for joining us tonight on Friday night, Stephanie.  This “socialist” charge—used to be a really bad word to call a guy a socialist—or a woman a socialist.  It was almost like calling somebody a communist back in the early ‘50s.  What do you make of it?  What‘s your defense?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  Well, our defense are the facts, Chris.  I mean, our economic plan is geared towards the middle class.  I don‘t anybody who understands the definition of socialism would think that helping out the middle class is socialism.  It‘s actually common-sense economic policy based on what‘s worked in this country.  Investing in the middle class is how you stimulate an economy.  Those are the facts.

MATTHEWS:  Will you create...

EHRLICH:  But Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Would Barack Obama create a—well, let me let the governor get in here.  Governor, you have a thought.  Talk to Stephanie.  You have an argument here.

EHRLICH:  Quite frankly—and look, and Barack Obama‘s run a brilliant campaign, but by any measure, his voting record has been anti-growth, anti-entrepreneur.  It‘s been Far to the left.  And you know what, Chris?  Good for him.  He‘s running as a really hard left liberal.  And the whole thing about Joe the plumber has been overplayed a little bit, but it‘s very instructive because Joe the plumber is the American dream out there.  And this whole idea of whether it‘s $250,000 or $200,000 or $150,000 -- class warfare is real bad when it leads...

CUTTER:  Chris, can I get in for a second?

EHRLICH:  ... to the realities of economics.

CUTTER:  Chris, can I jump in?

MATTHEWS:  Stephanie, yes.  You‘re in.

CUTTER:  Well, you know, the governor—there are many things the governor is right about, that Joe the plumber is, you know, the heart of America.  It is what most of us are fighting for, for building a strong economy.  You know, the facts on Joe the plumber are that Barack Obama‘s economic plan actually gives him more benefits than John McCain‘s.  And Barack Obama‘s economic plan actually stimulates small business growth.  John McCain doesn‘t have a small business plan.  So I‘m wondering what the governor means by Barack Obama‘s playing class warfare when it‘s John McCain leaving more than 100 million people out of his economic plan, doing nothing to help small businesses.  That‘s class warfare.  You‘re just helping one class instead of everybody.

EHRLICH:  Oh!  Man, this is unbelievable!

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Governor...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me your candidate has thrown a lot of charges against Barack Obama now that he‘s 10 points behind or well behind.  He‘s called him a celebrity, as if that‘s a bad thing, as if John McCain wouldn‘t mind being a celebrity.  He‘s basically called him—he pals around with terrorists, Governor Palin—pals around with terrorists.  It does seem to be that you‘re throwing a lot—sort of—he‘s sort of like in a sleeper cell, suggestions about all kind—you‘ve had people stand up on platforms referring to his middle name, Hussein, as if that‘s significant.

EHRLICH:  Yes, I don‘t like that, Chris.  I don‘t like that.  I reject that.  I don‘t like that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, is it true that your party is demonstrating a desperation...

EHRLICH:  Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re getting desperate.

EHRLICH:  Chris, here‘s the deal.  Here‘s the deal.  Some of this stuff is stupid.  And you know me.  You‘ve known me for a long time.  If he went by Barack Hussein Obama, it‘d be—you know, he doesn‘t.  It‘s not Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard Milhous (ph) Nixon.  Forgot all that stuff.

But quite frankly, I think a legitimate issue has been raised here...

(LAUGHTER)

EHRLICH:  A legitimate issue has been raised here concerning who he pals around here.  And let‘s just say Mr. Ayers is a reformed bomber, OK?  Let‘s just say he‘s a retired bomber.  What he does today is bring this very hard left, extreme Marxist view—and I don‘t use that term loosely, but with Mr. Ayers, I will—into the public school system.

The bottom line is the association, the Chicago, the voting record, the platform, the class warfare—it‘s the associations, Chris.  And you know what?  I haven‘t been big on this or that or that.  But when you add them up over time—what he comes from, how he‘s voted in the United States Senate, the most far left member of the United States Senate—it does mean this is going to be a very liberal, if he wins, administration.  And I think that‘s out of the mainstream of America.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s pro-terrorist?

EHRLICH:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you just...

EHRLICH:  I think he‘s weak.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you keep talking about—well, why do you keep talking about William Ayers if you don‘t think he‘s pro-terrorist?

EHRLICH:  I think, instinctively, he‘s pro-appeasement.  You saw that with...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EHRLICH:  ... with—with—was it Georgia, the Russian invasion of Georgia?  That was his first instinct.  It‘s always his first instinct.  If you look at his voting record, labeling the Iranian national (SIC) guard as a terrorist organization, one of only a few Democratic senators to vote against it.  It‘s always appeasement.  It‘s always weak.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

EHRLICH:  And that‘s a dangerous situation for America.

MATTHEWS:  Stephanie, your witness.  The governor says he‘s guilty of appeasement.

CUTTER:  Well, I don‘t even know where to start, Chris.  I mean, appeasement?  You know, I think that Barack Obama has...

MATTHEWS:  Start with appeasement.  That‘s pretty rich.

(LAUGHTER)

CUTTER:  I don‘t know what you think we‘re appeasing.  I mean, you know, finding common ground in this country, bringing people together, millions of Americans answering the call for change, ground up, from the ground up—I mean, you know, I understand that the McCain campaign doesn‘t like the position they‘re in, and you know, we‘ve got several days to go before this race is over and this race is going to tighten, no doubt.  But let‘s talk common sense here.

I mean, the reason that Barack Obama has gotten as far as he has is because he‘s speaking in common sense ways to the American people about how to move this country forward.  He‘s putting out real plans...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CUTTER:  ... on how to fix the economy in the United States, how to fix the mistakes of John McCain and George Bush‘s foreign policy mistakes.  So you know, I don‘t think that that‘s appeasement.  I don‘t think Bill Ayers has anything to do with it.

I think it‘s time we get down to the bare basics of this campaign and who‘s actually going to put this country...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CUTTER:  ... back on track or who‘s just going to offer more of the same.  And you know, I think, right now, voters are making their judgments that John McCain is the past and Barack Obama is the future.  That‘s the facts.

MATTHEWS:  Governor...

CUTTER:  I mean, it‘s backed up...

MATTHEWS:  Governor, one problem I have is...

CUTTER:  ... by research.  It‘s backed up by polling.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  OK (INAUDIBLE) Stephanie.  I want to (INAUDIBLE) with the governor.  Just the other day, yesterday, we pointed out a poll that showed that a quarter of the people of Texas—all voters, Democrat, Republican, middle of the road—believed that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  It seems to me that your party has to take some responsibility for having perpetrated that notion, with all this suggestion and innuendo about hanging around with terrorists, about using his middle name, about talking about contributor lists.  It‘s all been dots out there thrown on the screen, and the result is some people come out and say, This guy‘s anti-American.  A lot of people now say he‘s a Muslim.  Isn‘t that the responsibility of your party to push that story?

EHRLICH:  Chris, name me one...

MATTHEWS:  How did it get out there?

EHRLICH:  Name me one mainstream Republican candidate or office holder, including, by the way, Senator John McCain, who has perpetrated that myth.  Name me one.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Michele Bachmann...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... congresswoman on here two weeks ago...

EHRLICH:  Chris—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... who said he was anti-American.

CUTTER:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  OK?  Right on the air.

EHRLICH:  Let me ask you this.  I mean, I find all this outrage from the left—which is kind of interesting because do you think, like, the Kos and the Moveon.org and all of the incredibly mean-spirited, ugly things lodged against Sarah Palin and Senator McCain, over the years, does that not count?  Do we not pay attention to that, as well?  Look, they‘re both inappropriate.  I‘m not defending one or the other.  But you have to look at both sides, as well.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Do you accept responsibility for everything said by the left-wing bloggers, Stephanie?  Do you take—will you take that hit.

EHRLICH:  Of course not.  And neither do I...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking...

EHRLICH:  ... take the Congress...

CUTTER:  Yes, but...

MATTHEWS:  Stephanie, will you?

CUTTER:  ... when we see something that—but when we see something that goes beyond the pale that attacks John McCain‘s honor, who‘s the first person to stand up?  Barack Obama.  And you know, we haven‘t seen John McCain say a word about...

EHRLICH:  Oh, come on!

CUTTER:  ... what the congresswoman said on your...

EHRLICH:  Oh, Chris, come on!

CUTTER:  ... campaign two weeks ago.  No, we‘ve never called John McCain anti-American.  In fact, we talk about how honorable his service has been all the time.  We respect his service.  But the McCain campaign hasn‘t said a word about Michele Bachmann that happened on your show, Chris, just two weeks ago.

EHRLICH:  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I remember that.  Governor...

EHRLICH:  Chris, let me tell you...

MATTHEWS:  ... I appreciate the fact that—last word here coming up.

EHRLICH:  No, I wanted...

MATTHEWS:  Say the last word.

EHRLICH:  Senator McCain has been an incredible gentleman.  He‘s taken heat from the right because he has not gone over the line.  This is a maverick, a real gentleman.  You know him.  You‘ve seen him.  And he‘s acted accordingly over the course of this campaign.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Governor Bob Ehrlich of Maryland, and thank you, Stephanie Cutter for the Barack Obama campaign.

Coming up: Former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger backs John McCain for president but says Sarah Palin—well, he doesn‘t say much good about her.  And by the way, the polls show a lot of voters are thinking that this candidate for vice president is not ready to be president or vice president.  Is Palin dragging down McCain in these final days of the campaign after it looked for a while she‘d be pulling him up?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Some tough words today about Sarah Palin from someone who is supposed to be a supporter of McCain.  For a closer look at Palin, look—we turn to MSNBC political analysts Pat Buchanan and Michelle Bernard.  Let me bring in—let‘s take look here.  This is a little thing on NPR we showed before.  We got to show it to you now.  It‘s what he said.  This is the former secretary of state sort of defending, but not really, the selection of Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

EAGLEBURGER:  Of course not.  I don‘t think, at the moment, she is prepared to take over the reins of the presidency.  I name for you any number of other vice presidents who were not particularly up to it, either.  So the question, I think, is, Can she learn, and would she be tough enough under the circumstances, if she were asked to become president?  Heaven forbid that that ever takes place.  Give her some time in the office, and I think the answer would be she will be adequate.  I can‘t say that she would be a genius in the job.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Patrick, this is an endorsement?

(LAUGHTER)

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You know what, my friend?  Larry Eagleburger was at State and we didn‘t send him out to help us- (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  That wasn‘t the lift of a driving dream there.  That was...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  No. 

But let me say about Palin...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  ... there‘s no question what we see.  She has got the intelligence, the toughness...

MATTHEWS:  The charisma.

BUCHANAN:  ... the savvy, the charisma. 

MATTHEWS:  I got you.

BUCHANAN:  She doesn‘t have the knowledge base to be dropped into the presidency of the United States...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BUCHANAN:  ... no doubt about it.

MATTHEWS:  Was she brought up too fast, like a AAA ball player...

BUCHANAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... being brought up to the bigs? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, there‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Should she have been left down there a little longer?

BUCHANAN:  I think she would—but, still, even though—you could say that, but I will say this, Chris. 

It was an inspired choice, in this sense.  McCain was going down the tubes.  He was down by eight. 

MATTHEWS:  He needed a Hail Mary.

BUCHANAN:  It gave him—it gave him 10 points.  It put him ahead. 

It was a great decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, Michelle, there are 400 congresspeople on Capitol Hill, men and women both of both parties, who can‘t do what she can do...

MICHELLE BERNARD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... which is turn on a crowd. 

BERNARD:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t have any idea how to do it.  They don‘t even know how to do television, some of these guys, which is easy. 

BERNARD:  Right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But they certainly can‘t turn on a crowd. 

Whatever she has, whether it‘s—I‘m not going to be too tough here -

whether it‘s the windshield wiper wave, or it‘s the attractive smile, or whatever it is, I think it‘s the excitement and the exuberance of her personality. 

I think what lifts her and lifts the crowd is, she‘s delighted to be alive.  She‘s delighted to be a politician.  And she‘s proud of her ideology.  And a lot of politicians are sniveling, gee whiz, I hate to say this.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And she does say it with pride. 

I don‘t think—I agree with Pat.  She‘s got to do some homework, and she‘s got to take these issues seriously for a number of years, probably, to be in the league of John McCain. 

BERNARD:  She has...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or—or Joe Biden. 

BERNARD:  She—I think Sarah Palin has what some people call that “it” factor.  You can‘t quite put your finger on it, but you know it when you see it. 

She was a rousing success over the Republican Convention over the summer.  She is a fantastic speaker.  People really, really identify with her. 

And I think that part of the problem that she has is that, after having this horrible and dreadful Katie Couric interview, she‘s really got to get people to feel comfortable with her again.  But the bottom line is, the more she declares her...

MATTHEWS:  Katie had a great comeback with that.  Katie‘s career has soared ever since then...

BERNARD:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... because she asked good, solid, wide-open—they weren‘t gotcha questions. 

BERNARD:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a—let‘s bring in Jeff Johnson of BET.  He‘s BET—let‘s talk with him.  It‘s called “The Truth With Jeff Johnson.”  We‘re going to get it right now.

Jeff, what do you think about Sarah Palin?  Give me an estimate of her political viability into the years ahead? 

JEFF JOHNSON, HOST, “THE TRUTH WITH JEFF JOHNSON”:  I mean, I think the political viability high. 

I mean, I think everyone gets it.  Clearly, she is, you know, a little bit beyond her league as it relates to knowledge.  But she‘s got that thing that politicians need.  She‘s attractive.  She can engage.  She believes what she‘s saying. 

And if she puts herself in the right position moving forward, I think her viability, sky‘s the limit in many cases.  I mean, she—I don‘t know if there‘s anybody, outside of who wins this election, who is going to have won as much as Sarah Palin has, whether they win or lose. 

MATTHEWS:  I like her line a couple weeks ago, which wasn‘t too helpful to your candidate for president, John McCain...

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... when she said, “I have got nothing to lose.”

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If I were John McCain...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  “Aren‘t you on this life raft with me?”

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: “I‘m not doing this for naught.”

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I‘m not—here he is—here she is, the governor. 

Let her talk, and then we will talk, Pat.

Here‘s the governor out in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the home of my grandfather and the home of Arnold Palmer.  Here she is, talking about national security. 

(CROSSTALK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  With Democrats in

control of the House and the Senate, heaven forbid, the White House—and

this isn‘t the mainstream policy, mainstream thinking in the Democrat Party

it is far left—according to their own stated plans, one of the first things that‘s going to go, if they get control, monopolize power in D.C., will be one-quarter of our defense budget. 

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There it is.  Keep it simple, stupid.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s Barney Frank.  That‘s Barney Frank.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Is that who has proposed a cut of 25 percent in our defense budget?  All right. 

BUCHANAN:  Barney Frank.  That‘s exactly what she‘s quoting.

Here‘s your boy Ed Rendell today—Ed Rendell.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Did you see this? 

MATTHEWS:  No.  I like news, though.

BUCHANAN:  He said—he said—look, he said: “Pennsylvania is not won.  Sarah Palin has drawn thousands of people to every event she has appeared at.  She has enthused the base.”

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  There‘s a guy that understands Pennsylvania. 

What you see in this woman—excuse me—is, she‘s fresh.  She takes a beating, and comes out with a smile. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  She doesn‘t whine or cry.  She fighting back with a grin on her face.  She‘s terrific. 

And does she have the knowledge base and the information, dropped in from Alaska?  Obviously not. 

MATTHEWS:  Would she have been a good running mate for you when you ran third party? 

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  I may have gotten better than one-half of 1 percent. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  I might have gone to 10 percent.  And there‘s no doubt who would have carried it.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You have to understand the paternal feelings that this man feels for Sarah Palin.  It goes back—I think she was a pitchfork lady.  I think she was one of your people, wasn‘t it?  Come on, Pat.  She was one of yours.

BUCHANAN:  She came out and visited me and had a Pat button on in Wasilla, but she was just being gracious as mayor of Wasilla. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, she wasn‘t really with you.  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re being a little too humble, which I don‘t like.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at these numbers. 

Fifty-nine percent of the people say, in the latest poll, “New York Times”/CBS poll, that she‘s not prepared.  Thirty-five percent says she is. 

Now, the sad fact about the 35 percent is, that corresponds exactly, Michelle, to the number of people who self-identify now as Republicans...

BERNARD:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... in a very tough Republican year, which makes you wonder, has she made the sale with anybody but the base?

BERNARD:  Well, I mean, some of the polls, I think, are showing that she‘s actually lost some support with independents and also with some women voters who were initially attracted to her. 

But the bottom line is, John McCain needed the base to be excited.  If the base didn‘t come...

MATTHEWS:  Is that what she was for?  Or was she—Jeff, was she there to bring in...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD:  I don‘t know if they know what she was for. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Was she there to bring in the conservative men, or was she there to bring in the Hillary people, who were very upset about the way they felt Hillary Clinton was treated by everybody, including the media, and me, and everybody else, in the primaries?  What do you think, Jeff? 

Wasn‘t—didn‘t she fail in that regard, to bring in the people who call—some of them who call themselves PUMAs, that were very tough?  I have looked at the numbers.  Women seem to be going for Barack. 

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON:  Well, I don‘t know if she totally failed. 

I think she—I think she was able to hit a demographic of women that were hockey moms.  I mean, I think it was a small number, but I think there were those that wouldn‘t have gone on to the McCain side had she not been there. 

I think she was able to excite some folks.  She was able to bring them in.  But she wasn‘t able to translate to a lot of those folks in the middle that wanted more experience. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me challenge that, Chris. 

BERNARD:  But, Pat, just one quick...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me challenge that. 

She succeeded.  She succeeded.  For three weeks, what was it that, for three weeks, before she got under attack by the Democrats, before the media went after her, that vaulted McCain 10 points, and moved him ahead, and was winning the Hillary Democrats?  No doubt she‘s been losing them. 

She‘s been under massive fire, massive fire.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Katie Couric interview was not the media going after her.

BUCHANAN:  The Katie Couric interview.

Take a look...

MATTHEWS:  But that wasn‘t a tough interview.

BUCHANAN:  But take a look at those polls, Chris.  You had a graph up there.

MATTHEWS:  so, what happened?

BUCHANAN:  Complete financial collapse is what happened...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON:  Yes, but... 

BERNARD:  But something that you all are forgetting about is that, for single-issue voters—and a lot of them are Hillary Clinton supporters who care nothing about anything other than abortion rights—Sarah Palin was damaging.  He had better—McCain would have had better luck with Carly Fiorina...

MATTHEWS:  She hurt in the burbs.

BERNARD:  ... bringing those women—bringing those women over...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at a more interesting question, which is always the question.  Who are you going to pick for president? 

John McCain‘s credibility, I think, was damaged—and somebody else said this—by two things, one, his hesitance about going to that first debate.  He was saying, we might have to call it off, that kind of thing.  People thought that was a little rocky, I think. 

And here‘s the second one: picking Palin.  Look at these numbers.  The ability to appoint qualified people, this is also in the new “Times” poll.  McCain is down to 30 percent who think they have a lot of support—a lot of faith in him now. 

Look at the support for Obama, 44 percent. 

Pat, the discrepancy is obvious now. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  People have more trust in the judgment—that‘s a key word

of Barack Obama, based on his appointing ability. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.  All right. 

Now, but—however, for three weeks after he picked her, he vaulted ahead 10 points with her on the ticket.  It looked like a great decision. 

Since then, you have had the collapse.  Since then, you have had Katie Couric. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That was the job interview.

BUCHANAN:  Since then, you have had the bashing of her. 

But why is he closing now, when she‘s under heaviest fire? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We will see that argument, though.  That‘s an argument.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD:  Well, and she‘s getting better.  She‘s getting better.

MATTHEWS:  Last word, Jeff.

JOHNSON:  No, I mean, we...

MATTHEWS:  Do you see this—do you see election closing tighter right now in the last several days?  We have four to go. 

BERNARD:  Well, it‘s going to close tighter in some states.  I mean, I think we are going to see it close tighter in Colorado, and even in Ohio. 

But I think, for the most part, we are going to continue to see Obama spread the lead. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me get—last word, Michelle.  Is Hillary—is...

BERNARD:  Sarah Palin.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is Sarah Palin hurting or helping this ticket? 

BERNARD:  She‘s helping this ticket. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat? 

BUCHANAN:  She‘s helping the ticket. 

MATTHEWS:  Jeff? 

JOHNSON:  She‘s hurting the ticket. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, 2-1, split decision for Pat‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Pat Buchanan, who is loyal to a fault sometimes, but loyal always. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Michelle Bernard, Jeff Johnson, have a nice holiday, nice pumpkin night. 

Up next:  What happens when MSNBC‘s Willie Geist—everybody is going to love this—wanders into one of the most liberal neighborhoods in the country, maybe in the world, in search of McCain supporters?  He‘s going to the West Side of Manhattan.  Wait until you hear these responses. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Halloween, a great night for the “Sideshow.” 

Let‘s go to it right now.  For a Halloween treat, let‘s go to a part of the country where no conservative Republican has ever gone before, to the Upper West Side of New York, to Manhattan, the heart of liberalism, elite and otherwise. 

Here‘s MSNBC‘s Willie Geist doing the political equivalent of streaking, standing in front of Zabar‘s gourmet food store wearing a McCain/Palin T-shirt. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)

WILLIE GEIST, PRODUCER:  Polls are closing.  We‘re getting there.  You think we‘re going to do did it on Tuesday? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is this your Halloween outfit? 

GEIST:  No, McCain/Palin ‘08. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know, scary. 

GEIST:  I‘m walking around the Upper West Side trying to get people to vote for John McCain.  Can I count on your support? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I am afraid not. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know anybody of any intelligence that would vote for him. 

GEIST:  Do you know people or do you have friends who are supporting John McCain who live on the Upper West Side? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, because, if I did know people, well, they wouldn‘t be my friends. 

GEIST:  You guys up for McCain?  Up high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

GEIST:  Who‘s for McCain?  Let‘s hear it.  McCain.  No? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No. 

GEIST:  That‘s my man.

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t like McCain.  He stands for everything I‘m against.  I‘m absolutely for Obama. 

GEIST:  Really? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

GEIST:  Do you know anyone around here who could find who likes McCain? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No. 

GEIST:  You on board? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys don‘t stand a chance.

GEIST:  What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys don‘t stand a chance.

GEIST:  You‘re not voting for McCain? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.

GEIST:  You don‘t want to put country first, huh? 

What city are you from? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m from Italy, Naples.

GEIST:  Naples?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

GEIST:  Are you from the upper west side of Naples? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

GEIST:  Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

GEIST:  Upper west side are for McCain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, that‘s like trying to find a liberal Democrat in Saint George, Utah. 

And thanks to our friends at “MORNING JOE” for that tape.

Time now for the “Big Number” tonight. 

In John McCain‘s CNBC interview this morning, there was one word that defined his closing pitch to voters.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, CNBC ANCHOR:  What‘s your plan to create some recovery in the stock market? 

MCCAIN:  Keep taxes low. 

We‘re going to keep taxes low. 

A low capital gains tax is probably the greatest incentive. 

Pay less in taxes. 

Lowering the business tax. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was Larry Kudlow of—of CNBC.  That was McCain, of course, mentioning taxes 17 times in one interview, no surprise there.  McCain is going back to the Republicans‘ ace card, their ace in the hole, these last few days.

Seventeen mentions of taxes in one interview this morning—that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”  And it tells you all you need to know about the closing arguments. 

We go to one of the real battlegrounds of this campaign right—coming up next, Western Pennsylvania.  That‘s where Congressman Jack Murtha is fighting to keep his House seat.  That‘s a tough part of the country right now, a lot of culture wars going on there, lots of concern about losing jobs.  Let‘s talk about Obama‘s chances with rural voters in gun country, pro-life country with Murtha in a minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Good gains, despite bad economic news.  The Dow Jones industrials finished up 144 points, the S&P 500 up 14 points, the Nasdaq up 22. 

It was the best week for stocks in 34 years, as all three major indices up more than 10 percent.  But it was still a dismal month, with the Dow down 14 percent and the S&P and Nasdaq down 18 percent. 

The negative news today, consumer spending fell three-tenths-of-a-percent last month, the biggest drop in more than four years.  Meantime, personal income rose just two-tenths-of-a-percent. 

Oil rose today $1.85 today, closing at $67.81 a barrel, but crude ended the month down 33 percent, the biggest monthly drop ever. 

And the nation‘s second largest oil company, Chevron, reported, its quarterly profit doubled to nearly $8 billion.  A day earlier, ExxonMobil reported a record quarterly profit of nearly $15 billion. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—back to HARDBALL. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Four days left until the Election Day.  We go to one of the hot spots in this whole national election, western Pennsylvania.  The question is, what kind of change do voters want in that part of the country, what kind of change don‘t they want?  Right now is an old veteran of Congress, an expert on western Pennsylvania, U.S. Congressman Jack Murtha. 

Congressman, you‘re known for defense appropriation, bringing home the goods in that district.  What are people that you‘ve talked to and have known for 30, 40 years, what are they worried about Barack Obama, about John McCain, about Bush?  What‘s moving the soul of western Pennsylvania right now? 

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  What they‘re really concerned about, Chris, are jobs.  They‘re worried that this economic crisis throughout the country is going to affect western Pennsylvania.  We fought our way through the steel and coal crisis, and you know, we‘ve got a hard-working, patriotic district. 

And we haven‘t been as affected as the rest of the country.  But they‘re worried about jobs.  The young people are worried.  The middle income people are worried that they may lose their jobs. 

But the banks are much more steady in western Pennsylvania, so it‘s really not as bad here economically, but people are worried about it. 

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s the reaction?  Is it the hunker down and go with something familiar like McCain or is it the take a chance on the new guy, the new kid on the block, Barack? 

MURTHA:  Well, I have to tell you this.  An awful lot of people are telling me the difference between the two candidates is one experience and one is judgment.  And an awful lot of people say to me that Bill Clinton didn‘t have a lot of experience when he came into Washington, and yet he did pretty well. 

So it‘s judgment and they‘re starting to think about what needs to be done by a new president.  And the first thing I say to them is, you need to restore the credibility of the president of the United States of America.  And I think Obama is going to do much better than people anticipate. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I talked to a politician in the eastern part of the state, a little different than the culture of the western.  You‘re pro-gun, you‘re pro-life.  You‘re like your district out there.  I‘m talking to a guy in the eastern part of the state, and even there where it‘s more liberal, he says a lot of these working guys have to get used to the idea of voting for an African-American candidate, but they‘re getting used to it because they‘re worried as hell about the economy. 

How is the mind working on that issue of voting for a brand new kind of candidate out there? 

MURTHA:  Yes.  I think that‘s the point.  A couple of months ago, it was much different than it is today.  Today they‘re really looking at what needs to be done, restoring the credibility of the United States, getting the economy moving again, taking care of education.  That‘s the kind of things that people are looking at right now. 

And, really, I‘ve seen a sea change in the people in western Pennsylvania.  And they‘re really looking at the issues themselves.  They‘re looking at the war.  They realize that the Iraqis want us out of there, the Americans want us out of there.  We‘re spending $10 billion a month on this war. 

So they want their troops home and they want to be taken care of.  So the issues are really important in this election and people are beginning to talk about issues rather than anything else. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about that big road that is divided between the Dems and the Republicans.  If you spend $3 billion on Iraq every week, what are you going to do with it if you don‘t go to Iraq?  If we get out of Iraq, where does the $3 billion go? 

MURTHA:  Well, here is what first has to be done.  You have to be careful because our ground forces have been so depleted by the money we‘ve spent in Iraq, and that‘s the thing that worries me the most.  We can‘t cut back dramatically right away. 

We‘ve got to restore our troops so that if something happens some place in the world that threatens our national security, we can go in.  But we can, as we get them back and we start to reduce personnel, we‘ll be able to spend that money on infrastructure.  That‘s what people want to see, sewage and water.  They want to see roads. 

They want to see those kind of—they think the Iraqis ought to be spending their own money and we ought to be able to spend this money we‘re spending over there at home. 

MATTHEWS:  You came out against the war a long time ago and a lot of people disagreed with you, more culturally conservative people in your district.  And then a lot of people said, well, maybe you‘re right, maybe it is a mistake over there. 

Where does that stand right now as we go to election?  That old war issue that doesn‘t seem to be too hot in most of the country. 

MURTHA:  Well, it‘s not that it‘s hot in the rest of the country.  It‘s just people have—I just go to the hospitals all of the time, as you know, so it‘s in the forefront of my mind because of the money as well as the suffering of the troops. 

But we‘ve got the best troops in the world and people just tend to look at the economy.  The economy has taken the forefront, Chris.  There is no question about that.  In western Pennsylvania and all of Pennsylvania, the economy is the big issue.  And that‘s what people are talking about. 

But let me tell you something, they want us out of there.  The Iraqis want us out of there.  And they‘ve come around to my position not only in the United States, but all over the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about John McCain for a minute, because I know you‘ve known him a long time.  You‘re both hawkish guys.  You‘ve been hawkish most of your career.  You disagree about this war policy, but I would always consider you a hawk.  McCain is a hawk.  You‘ve known him a long time.  You‘ve probably agreed on a lot of things. 

What do you make of him right now?  What—is he just in desperate circumstances?  He is saying things he doesn‘t believe or what?  Picking Palin, what do you think that was all about? 

MURTHA:  Well, I do think it was a mistake picking Palin.  I think here‘s a person that doesn‘t really—hasn‘t been tested at the national level.  And when you get—they need time—people need time.  Barack Obama has been out there for a long time, and people become adjusted and used to him. 

So—but in addition to that, I think he is probably getting desperate because the polls are showing that he has got to win every state up for grabs and it looks like he‘s not going to win those states.  So I think people have to start to recognize we‘re going to have a new president and it‘s going to be Barack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘ve got to ask you about a tricky question that‘s called earmarks.  You know, I‘ve known you for a long time and I think you‘ve taken a lot of—well, you‘ve gotten credit for it at home and maybe some people don‘t like that style of politics. 

But I think you‘re an earmark kind of guy, I think you‘re a guy that knows how to work the appropriations process and bring home the bacon, as we used to say, the pork some people say.  Maybe you call it the bacon. 

Where do you stand on that now?  Is it still a matter of getting some seniority, getting some pork, working for the district?  Or is John McCain right, there‘s something wrong with that? 

MURTHA:  Well, you know, you‘ve got to understand that if you live in a rural area, we‘ve got all kinds of problems.  The formulas are usually set for the cities, so in a rural area, you have to work.  And every project that we bring in brings in jobs. 

We‘ve got all kinds of examples.  We‘ve been involved for the—since the steel and coal crisis, bringing in at least 20,000 jobs to this congressional district, and the kind of jobs that people want.  We‘re bringing young people back.  Our unemployment in part of the district actually went down last month because of what we brought in. 

We‘ve brought in things that are absolutely essential.  We‘ve diversified our economy with the help of the federal government.  So I don‘t apologize for earmarks.  I think they‘re very important.  That‘s part of our job under the Constitution.  That‘s what it says we should be doing. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  U.S. Congressman John Murtha of western Pennsylvania, sir, good luck next Tuesday. 

Up next, the final days of campaigning.  What‘s the endgame for both Obama and McCain?  What are they up to in these last couple of days?  It‘s really hard to figure what the strategies are. 

Obama warned us we‘re going to get a real dirty campaign from McCain.  It‘s not clear what McCain is selling right now.  What is going on.  Our strategists, we‘re going to get a real Republican here, by the way, not a surrogate, a real Republican elephant and real Democratic donkey.  They‘re both coming to us.

No more surrogates.  We‘re getting the real thing here in a minute. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, last minute strategy on the campaign trail.  Obama is going up with ads in some very red states.  Catch this, he is going up with ads in Georgia, North Dakota, and catch this, it has got to bug him, Arizona.  So what is he spending all of that money in Arizona for?  Is he really going to carry it or just to bug the other guy?

Our strategists debate whether that is smart campaigning or overkill or hot-dogging it when you‘re not even in the end zone, when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  This is the part of the show where we bring in “The Strategists.” One Republican and one Democrat each representing each political party with a surrogate.  Tonight we decided to bring you the real  -- there they are!  The real thing.  Happy Halloween! 

We‘ve got a donkey and we‘ve got an elephant.  I don‘t know how—there they are, guys.  OK.  Now take off the mask and we‘ll see who you are.  Could it be, Todd Harris, good guy, and then we‘ve got Steve McMahon.  Thank you for playing that Halloween trick or treat starting now. 

Now let‘s get serious.  This country is about to have a big presidential election in four days, not four months, not four week, not four years.  It is coming at us.  I want you to tell me, you first, Todd, because your guy is playing defense right now, he is defending Republican states and only hoping to pick up like two Democrat states of the last time, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

How can he win with such a strategy, with such a small target list of states? 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, there is no question, these were not the states that six months ago the McCain campaign would have liked to have spent the last several days campaigning in. 

They are shoring up the base states.  But there is a path.  If lightning were to strike, if he were to do what he needs to do in all of these states, there is a path for him to get to 270.  But, you know, there‘s no way to sugar coat this.  This is not the expand electoral map that originally Republicans had in mind when we thought John McCain can really reach out into those blue states. 

And it is not that I think that he can‘t.  I think in this current environment, it would have been difficult for any Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is there a danger of the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, looking like he is hot-dogging it in the end zone without getting to the end zone? 

For example, we‘ve learned tonight, here it is Friday night, four days before the election, that the Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama, is paying for TV ads right now in Georgia, in North Dakota, and, believe it or not, in Arizona. 

What is he up to?  Does he really intend to win those states?  What is he doing?  He is spending money, real money in states that nobody would think he could carry. 

STEVE MCMAHON:  Well, first of all, he has more money than NBC.  He has got $650 million.  And this is what happens when you have so much money that you have to find places to spend it.  But there are important races in those states. 

In Georgia, there is a candidate who is sneaking up in a Senate race who might be able to knock off a Republican there.  In Arizona, there are competitive House races.  So there are other reasons for him to be there.  John McCain in the last poll in Arizona was only ahead by 4 points. 

I don‘t think Barack Obama is going to win there, but I think if he forces John McCain to defend places where John McCain should be able to take for granted, then that is something that makes it more difficult for John McCain to do what he needs to do, which is to win a Pennsylvania, a New Hampshire, and some other Kerry states. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take another tack.  Here‘s Barack Obama today warning about a slash and burn campaign over the weekend.  He says they‘re coming at him with the kitchen sink again, with everything they‘ve got.  I don‘t hear it yet.  But this is what he‘s warning about. 

Let‘s look at Barack Obama giving us the warning flag.  OK, it‘s not -

we‘re not going to show that yet.  Is that something you‘ve heard?  What is the word right now?  Has McCain got something up his sleeve, something last minute to win this thing with? 

HARRIS:  No.  Look, you know, it‘s going to be—it‘s going to continue to be a tough campaign over the last couple of days, but there is no nefarious secret plan over the weekend.  I think basically, any messages, any messaging from the campaigns that voters are going to hear... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They can‘t expect—well, here he is right now, Barack Obama warning of what he says—now this could be strategic, it could actually be B.S.  But here he is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When you can‘t win on your own ideas, then you try to make up ideas about the other person.  You make a big election about small things.  So I expect we‘re going to see a lot more of that over the next four days. 

More of the slash and burn, say anything, do anything politics.  Throw everything up against the refrigerator, see if anything sticks.  A message that is designed to divide and distract, to tear us apart instead of bringing us together. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with our strategists without their masks, Todd Harris and Steve McMahon, to answer that.  Is Barack claiming a foul that hasn‘t occurred?  Or is there a foul coming?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with our strategists, Todd Harris and Steve McMahon.  Todd, you‘re the Republican spokesman here.  It seems to me that we‘re watching John McCain play a very generous strategy.  And it looks to me like he figures he‘s probably not going to win, but he‘s going to save his party by focusing on taxes. 

It is the basic ace in the hole of Republicans.  You have got to vote for us if you‘re a Republican to save yourself from high taxes. 

HARRIS:  My guess is that that might be a great offshoot of what their strategy is.  But in this environment, given the economic crisis where they‘ve thrown pretty much everything they can as far as the associations at Senator Obama, they‘ve talked about, you know, his past record and all of that, none of it seem to be sticking. 

And so in this environment, what they‘re doing—and this is bearing some fruit, you look at the polling.  They say, will Barack Obama raise your taxes?  A huge chunk of American voters think that it will. 

MATTHEWS:  But it has only been a 4-point edge over McCain on whether he‘ll raise taxes.  I just checked the numbers and the polls today.  It is only like 50 percent say Obama will raise your taxes, 46 percent say McCain will. 

HARRIS:  Yes, well, that‘s not where we would like to be, clearly. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s awful close for a Republican. 

MCMAHON:  The tax.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir.

MCMAHON:  The tax issue was the last refuge of a Republican who is losing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  And I think you have exactly identified it.  They‘re trying to—he‘s trying to hold the base right now.  And he is also trying to get whatever Reagan Democrats he can get because Reagan Democrats are Democrats unless someone is going to cut their taxes or someone is going to raise their taxes, and then they can become Republicans. 

So I think what he is trying to do is what you‘ve identified, Chris. 

And I think that the problem with this campaign really is, he can‘t decide

what campaign he wants to run, it is an association campaign one week, it‘s

a tax campaign another week, he is a socialist another week.  And it just -

it has been the most schizophrenic experience I‘ve seen in politics.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you know, you know that—you know you really see that in much more variety, to put it nicely, in what Governor Palin has been selling.  She warns about security threats if he gets elected.  She warns about cultural threats if he gets elected, economic threats.  She is experimenting I think, for the future. 

HARRIS:  “Variety,” that‘s a very nice way of putting it. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  She is scattering her shots, let‘s put it that way.  What do you think, Todd? 

HARRIS:  She.

MCMAHON:  She took the clothes back. 

MATTHEWS:  That was well said. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Todd Harris.  Happy Halloween.  Hey, sometimes people run out of arguments.  Steve McMahon, thank you.  Join us again tomorrow night at 6.  Yes, that‘s Saturday night.  We‘re going Saturday at 6:00, Sunday at 7:00 for special editions of HARDBALL.  “COUNTDOWN”—by the way, right now it is time for “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE WITH DAVID GREGORY.” 

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