Guests: Gov. Ed Rendell, Jonathan Martin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Stormy weather.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m—voters in—we‘re here in Philadelphia, rainy
and cold as it is. We‘re here for what could be the biggest day in
politics until the mid-term elections this November. And what a day it‘s
been already. Voters in four states are going to the polls on a day that
may answer some huge questions. Look at the map there.
How much trouble are incumbents facing? What are the Republicans‘
chances of taking one or, catch this, both houses of Congress, including
the Senate, this fall? And how much juice does the Obama team have really
when it comes to the polls? Polls already closed in Kentucky, and we‘re
starting to see early returns in that Republican primary out there between
Rand Paul, who‘s very hot these days, and Trey Grayson, as well as that
tight fight on the Democratic side between Daniel Mongiardo and Jack
In, Pennsylvania polls close in an hour in the big neck-and-neck race
here—in the Philadelphia area, you can see it all over the place—
between Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak. But the smart money‘s
also keeping eye on that fascinating election for Jack Murtha‘s old seat
out in western Pennsylvania, which may well tell us how strong the
Republican challenge is going to be nationwide against the incumbent
Plus, “The New York Times” dropped a bombshell today. Democratic
(INAUDIBLE) Richard Blumenthal has claimed a number of times that he served
in Vietnam when, in fact, he never did. Blumenthal now says he misspoke.
This could give the Republicans a Senate seat they never dreamed of
winning. What a day.
MSNBC will have live coverage all evening tonight, and I‘ll be back
with a live edition of HARDBALL at midnight with all the results. So take
a nap, if you have to, but be here for the hoopla and analysis at midnight.
With me now, “MEET THE PRESS” host David Gregory and “Newsweek‘s”
Howard Fineman. David, the White House strongly present here in its
absence. The president of the United States has not come to the aid of his
new friend, Arlen Specter. Your assessment?
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: Well, it was a decision
that was made very simply because they didn‘t think the president was going
to be able to do the good and they didn‘t want to have him look bad. You
know, they tried that before. Look what happened in Massachusetts.
You know, I‘ve heard from Specter supporters, as I‘m sure you have,
Chris, who‘ve said, Look what impact the president could have had just in
driving out turnout in Philadelphia alone, which appears to have been
depressed because of the rain. And yet the Obama White House made the
decision they weren‘t going to do that.
Having said that, they certainly leant sizable support. They allowed
this footage to be used in that Specter ad, where the president says, I
love Arlen Specter. But the bottom line is that there wasn‘t a lot of
confidence in Specter, I don‘t think, in the White House. They‘re still
confident in Sestak to be able to keep the seat in Democratic hands.
And let‘s be honest. This White House got what they needed out of
Specter. I‘m not saying this is how they view it. But analytically, they
got the best out of Specter in two key votes, a stimulus and a health care
vote. They were able to use the Arlen Specter as a Democrat to their
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, maybe Philly is less transactional—to
use that phrase. It‘s more about loyalty. But the more you and I talk to
the pols here—the mayor, the boss of the city, Bob Brady (ph), the
congressman, the governor, the—they seem to like Arlen Specter, even
though he was once a Republican. Well, now you‘re wincing.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I‘m trying
to figure out—you know, I talked to Bob Brady, the congressman here,
who‘s really—with Ed Rendell, the guys who runs the—what‘s the
Democratic machine here. He was furious that earlier today on HARDBALL,
the White House had told Chuck Todd that, you know, they didn‘t care who
won the primary, that actually, Specter (SIC) maybe was a stronger
candidate and Arlen had come to them, they didn‘t go to Arlen, all that
stuff, basically selling Arlen down the river at 5:05 PM with three hours
still to go before the polls closed, on your show, which people in Philly
MATTHEWS: I know. And they‘re coming home—and we all know from
the days of...
FINEMAN: They‘re coming home...
MATTHEWS: ... Teddy White...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go back to Gregory on that.. From the days of Teddy
White and “The Making of the President” 50 years ago, we know working class
Democrats, if you will, vote after work. They vote on the way home from
work. And if they see or get the word from their wives or spouses, they
look. And it looks like the White House threw in the towel.
GREGORY: Well, look, I think what the White House would say—and
officials I spoke to today both in the White House but also in Philadelphia
said there‘s nobody who‘s voting in Philadelphia or elsewhere in the state
who doesn‘t know that Barack Obama is behind Arlen Specter. And he‘s
certainly shown him a lot of love over time, as has the vice president, Joe
Biden, in terms of being there for him.
But there‘s no doubt about it. At the very end of the day, the White
House didn‘t want to run the risk of the president looking bad by putting
himself in a position where they‘ve demonstrated that he hasn‘t been able
to push somebody over the line.
I mean, Arlen Specter‘s got bigger problems than turnout issues and
whether the president‘s behind him. The Arlen Specter problem is, as a
Democrat pointed out to me today, that Democrats have been trying to beat
him in Pennsylvania for 30 years, and now today they have an opportunity.
I mean, I‘m thinking a lot about hockey, as you know, Chris, because the
Flyers are such a huge story in the NHL and they‘re playing there at this
hour against the Habs. But Joe Sestak may be the new Broad Street bully.
It may not be Arlen Specter anymore.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you are so good!
MATTHEWS: You are so good. The Broad Street bullies from olden days!
Let me go right now to—let‘s—let‘s move around the country and get
out of Philly and off Broad Street for a minute, although we‘re on Market
right now. Let‘s go—you get in here first, Howard. Arkansas, a battle
of the center against the left in the Democratic Party. Will the netroots,
the progressives out there, make a dent in the chances for reelection of
FINEMAN: Well, the problem that Blanche Lincoln‘s got is that I don‘t
know that she‘s going to get enough votes to avoid a runoff.
MATTHEWS: She needs 50.
FINEMAN: Yes, and she might not get 50 percent. The latest polls
show she‘s not going to. If she doesn‘t, then she‘s going to have to deal
with Bill Halter, the lieutenant governor, for another few weeks. It
weakens her prospects, gives the Republicans a chance to run against a
weakened candidate. I think, ultimately, Lincoln will win, but the
question is what shape she‘s going to be in come the fall campaign.
MATTHEWS: I mean, one of the life-and-death signs I see for the
president this round, David Gregory at the White House, is perhaps—
perhaps—they‘re going to show real weakness in the South this round.
They‘ve already lost Virginia badly. Badly. If they lose Arkansas this
fall, it does seem to reduce the president‘s running room for reelection if
he starts losing these Southern states.
GREGORY: And look, Senator Lincoln has made the case to the president
personally on camera about the difficulty that centrist Democrats faced in
the matter of the health care debate. And she rode various angles of that
health care debate in terms of her votes late in the game.
But also look at how she positioned herself with regard to this
derivative legislation and amendments on financial regulation. I think
you‘re going to see Democrats, led by Senator Lincoln, if she gets then
ultimately past this test, of making the case that, Look, I stood up to
Wall Street, which is what has, you know, so many on Wall Street concerned
about the juggernaut, the kind of populist sentiment out there that will
drive Democratic politics in the fall campaign.
FINEMAN: And that is the Democrats‘ defense. They have to counter
the anti-government populism with the anti-Wall Street populism.
MATTHEWS: Who do you hate more?
FINEMAN: Who do you hate more? Which is what Blanche...
FINEMAN: right, that‘s what Blanche Lincoln‘s doing.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about some good new for the ideologues of
the right tonight. It looks to me like if Rand Paul wins tonight big, it‘s
proof you can run a positive campaign on the right in these tough times—
FINEMAN: Well, Kentucky, which I know, where I started out as a
MATTHEWS: In Louisville.
FINEMAN: Yes, Louisville—it voted by 16 percentage points for John
McCain in 2008. Kentucky is trending culturally very much to the right.
MATTHEWS: Look at those numbers coming in, raw numbers, 54 percent
for Rand Paul, the challenger against the establishment.
FINEMAN: And I think it‘s going to be that way throughout the night.
Trey Grayson was the establishment Republican candidate. And keep in mind
that the only group less popular than congressional Democrats, according to
the NBC poll, are congressional Republicans. This guy, Grayson, was seen
as Mitch McConnell‘s candidate, which made him the establishment candidate,
which played right into Rand Paul‘s Libertarian populist anti-Fed deal.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know...
FINEMAN: And he can win the general, by the way.
MATTHEWS: David, here‘s an interesting parallel here. It looks to me
like if you look at this as symmetric here, both city halls are being
challenged. Both establishments are being challenged tonight. All the
power of the Democratic Party from the White House down has been for
Specter. He could lose tonight. All the power of the Republican
establishment has been for Trey Grayson out in Kentucky. He could well
lose tonight. Is this a sign the country‘s truly in a rebellious mood?
GREGORY: Well, there‘s no question about it. And they don‘t like
incumbents. They don‘t like the ways of Washington right now, and that‘s
the message being sent. Now, from the White House point of view, they
would rather swim in the soup of anti-incumbency, anti-Washington, rather
than it just being anti-Obama, Reid and Pelosi and that axis, which is why
Pennsylvania 12 is something the White House is paying perhaps more
attention to than they are even the Specter race.
But I would also like to add this about Rand Paul. I spoke to a
MATTHEWS: They should.
GREGORY: ... this afternoon, who said Rand Paul, as a tea party
candidate, is really unequal. There aren‘t other statewide races where
that‘s really brought to bear in the same way. They still would rather
have a tea party influence that makes their candidates more fiscally
conservative, rather than focused on socially conservative issues. They
think it‘s better for the party overall.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at—Gregory hit the button, I think the
hot button. That‘s the 12th out here in western Pennsylvania, where you‘re
MATTHEWS: It looks to me that if the Democrats lose the seat where
Jack Murtha was king for all these years, 2-to-1 Democratic ethnic, lot of
Eastern European, names like Critz, which is the name of the candidate out
there—no reason to vote against the guy. It‘s not an African-American
running, like the president. There‘s no (INAUDIBLE) sense of bizarre,
whatever it—same old local yokel guy from the Murtha crowd running,
local guy running, right, not an outsider running...
MATTHEWS: If they beat a local guy in a Democrat meat-and-potatoes
district, isn‘t that a real bad sign for Nancy Pelosi?
FINEMAN: Well, Chris, I don‘t like to make grandiose statements on
the show. But if the Republicans take that district...
MATTHEWS: We‘re looking at the vote...
FINEMAN: Now, it is true that that district went—switched from
Democrat to Republican in the presidential race, the only one in the
MATTHEWS: It‘s different.
FINEMAN: OK, that is different. It is meat and potatoes. Johnstown
from the time of the Johnstown flood cares about government help. They
loved John Murtha for bringing in the money.
MATTHEWS: You‘re so good!
FINEMAN: Pennsylvania is a bacon state. You have to bring home the
MATTHEWS: You‘re so good, Howard!
FINEMAN: If you vote against the New Deal in that district...
FINEMAN: ... it‘s lights out for the Democrats this year.
MATTHEWS: OK, I‘m with you. Gregory...
FINEMAN: Lights out!
MATTHEWS: David, do they see it that way in the White House? If they
lose the 13th, Jack Murtha‘s district, it‘s like losing, to me,
Massachusetts with Scott Brown. What do you think up there?
GREGORY: Well, they‘ll make the argument, as they have and other
Democrats have to me all day, that this has been trending Republican, even
though you can separate a primary from a general election, and that it‘s a
more conservative district. But look, I think there‘s no question—
Democrats have a good record so far this year on special election races,
but Democratic performance has been strong there.
Here‘s the other point. This is a race where Obama and the Democrats
have been the issue. They have run against the Obama record, which is
another reason why the White House is paying special attention.
MATTHEWS: And also against Pelosi, with those big cartoons of her.
FINEMAN: If the Dems lose that district, they‘re going to lose the
MATTHEWS: Good round-up. I love this round-up. Thanks, guys, two
pros. Thanks, David Gregory, from down in Washington...
GREGORY: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... and Howard Fineman from the city of Pittsburgh, home of
The other big race that could signal which way the wind is blowing for
the November mid-terms and whether the Democrats will hold onto the White
House is, of course, what we just mentioned, that special election out in
western Pennsylvania. We‘re going to get into that one. We already did.
What a hot race that is.
Plus, much (ph) of the Senate primaries tonight with Pennsylvania
governor Ed Rendell and our own Chuck Todd. That one coming up right away
on HARDBALL, so stick with us, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome (INAUDIBLE) Philadelphia. We‘re joined right now
by the kingpin of Pennsylvania, the governor himself, Ed Rendell, formerly
weighing in at about 200-something, now down to just below 200. Thank you
for joining us.
Your pal, Arlen Specter—anyway, down in Washington, we got Chuck
Todd, the expert, who takes no sides in these fights. He‘s with NBC News.
I want to start with Chuck and then go to the governor. Chuck, the stakes
from the White House—I was just talking to David Gregory, our colleague,
and I get the sense...
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Yes, I
MATTHEWS: ... that the White House is very transactional about Arlen
MATTHEWS: Like, you know, Hyman Roth in “The Godfather,” small
potatoes. Do they have any deep personal, tribal, passionate loyalty to
Arlen Specter, or was that just a deal they made to get through the health
care fight and the stimulus fight?
TODD: Look, you went very black and white in those descriptions. I‘d
say it‘s somewhere in between. But let‘s remember Arlen Specter is
somewhat transactional. He did come to the Democratic Party.
But I want to give folks a little bit of an update. I‘ve been talking
to some folks who are monitoring the turnout on the ground. And we‘ve been
talking about for a long time in the last—at the 5:00 o‘clock hour,
Chris, about low turnout. There are now some estimates inside the
Democratic Party headquarters that I‘ve talked to and some folks—they
think turnout for this primary might surpass Governor Rendell‘s successful
2002 primary night turnout. I believe that was about—a little under 1.3
voters. There‘s now some estimates could be at 1.3, 1.5. That‘s
potentially good news for Specter. But overall, the White House folks are
very happy if turnout gets that high because they were getting very nervous
about these early reports of low turnout.
MATTHEWS: So Governor, what is the turnout situation right now, with
all this rain?
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, turnout is going to be
better than we expected because the rain stopped in the eastern part of the
state at 5:00 o‘clock. And those are the bread-and-butter hours for us,
5:00, 6:00 and 7:00, especially in Philadelphia, which is a late-voting
town. So I we‘re going to pick up. I think we‘re going to be above 30
MATTHEWS: Does it hurt you that Chuck put out the word at 5:00
o‘clock that the White House...
TODD: Oh, goodness.
MATTHEWS: ... doesn‘t care about this race?
RENDELL: Oh, I don‘t think people decide on who the White House cares
about or who I care about. I am always careful. I don‘t say to people,
Chris, that, Vote for Arlen Specter because Ed Rendell says so.
RENDELL: I try to give them reasons to vote for Arlen Specter, and
they‘re good reasons.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this Murtha race. We‘ve been watching
this all night because it‘s a bellwether. Democrats have to win bread-and-
butter Democratic districts to hold the House. Nancy Pelosi, it surprises
me, has become a big target out there. This guy, Burns, is blasting her,
this woman in San Francisco. They‘re using her as the attack target for
that camp. Is that going to work?
RENDELL: I don‘t think it‘s going to work in Pennsylvania because I
think Burns distracted a little bit from his own qualities, where Mark
Critz went out and sold himself. He‘s been a very good candidate, and I
think we‘re going to win in that district. By And The way, that‘s despite
the registration. That‘s a Republican-performing district. John McCain
carried that district.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m thinking about Pennsylvania here, and I grew
up here in the old days, 50 years ago, and this used to be a vibrant part
of town. You know, we had Gimbels, Wannamaker, Santa Claus.
MATTHEWS: It was booming. Everybody came here to shop for the
holidays. And yet I get a guy out here, unemployed guy. People in my
family have been let out of work. This is a tough time. This state‘s been
deindustrialized, hasn‘t it. It‘s been hurt hard.
RENDELL: True, but of all the big states in the union, Chris, we have
the lowest unemployment rate and we have...
MATTHEWS: Does it feel like that to you, politically, happy times?
RENDELL: No. No, it‘s not happy times. But I‘m just saying,
comparatively, we‘ve done pretty well. And steel and coal, as you know,
were doing very, very until the recession hit because of India and China.
We‘ve got a very good bio-pharmaceutical industries. We‘ve got life
sciences. We‘re the third highest state in green jobs. So we‘ve got a
diversified economy. And again, there‘s no state that has a good economy
today. There‘s no state. But we have weathered the storm better than
MATTHEWS: OK, this mood, Chuck—I get the feeling we have a big
vote tonight in Kentucky. It looks like the tea party types are going to
win out there. Arkansas looks like a mixed bag between the Democratic
center and the progressives. Overall, give me a wrap-up early in the
evening, or give me a scorecard, if you will, of how to read the returns
coming in as we cover them throughout the night.
TODD: Well, I think you‘re right about Kentucky. We‘re seeing some
early returns out of Louisville in particular. This is Mitch McConnell‘s
home base, and Rand Paul is just running away with it in that part of the
state. Look, there are some polls—all the polls finally just closed in
Kentucky. So it does look like, in just the sporadic places that reported
early returns because they closed an hour ago, that Paul‘s strength that
was in the polls is showing up on the ground.
And I‘ll tell you, I look at this and you look at sort of Joe Sestak
and you look at a Rand Paul, and these are—you know, these are guys that
are saying, Hey, I‘m bucking the party, or, I‘m bucking the establishment.
And that‘s what seems to be—I would say if the two of them win, you
merge them together and say, This is your faces—these are your faces of
the 2010 campaign. You had the year of the woman in the past. You‘ve had
the year of other things in the past. And this seems to be the year of
sort of the fed-up candidate, the fed-up voter, fed up at Washington, fed
up at government. And so they‘re responding to candidates that say they‘re
fed up. And Rand Paul and Sestak have a blunt way of speaking and
connecting. They may not be the most likable guys, but I wonder if it
connects more in this type of year, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the Sestak appeal up here? Why is he running even
with Arlen Specter, the establishment candidate?
RENDELL: Because Arlen Specter switched parties, and that‘s always
difficult, because he was endorsed by George Bush and for our progressives,
MATTHEWS: That ad‘s hurting, isn‘t it.
RENDELL: It‘s a terrific ad done by the campaign group. But—so
that stuff hurts. And I will tell you, the interesting thing is I think
both Paul and Sestak, if they win, are weaker candidates in the general
than the people they would have (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: You‘re probably the most popular guy in this—you and
Bobby Casey, the popular guys in this state. You—everybody tells me
watch this race, that you‘ve gone all out for Arlen.
MATTHEWS: They know he‘s your old friend, you‘ve known him forever.
You worked together (INAUDIBLE)
RENDELL: And I always stand by my man.
MATTHEWS: But you have been incredibly bonded with this guy. It has
not been transactional with you.
MATTHEWS: T.J. Rooney (ph), your party organization‘s with him,
Brady‘s been with him here, the mayor‘s been with him through your oomph,
MATTHEWS: So you got your heart riding on this one, right?
RENDELL: Well, of course.
MATTHEWS: So tell me why it‘s important that Arlen Specter win
tonight, as a friend and as a guy. Why is it important to this country
that a guy like Arlen wins, a veteran, over this sort of upstart guy that
isn‘t easy to deal with sometimes? Sestak‘s a real maverick. He‘s a real
RENDELL: Well, because it all comes down to who‘s going to serve
Pennsylvania the best. Arlen Specter has delivered for 30 years. And you
know what, Chris? He never asked whether we were Democrats or Republicans.
When he was a Republican, he did great things for the city of Philadelphia
when I was mayor. He delivers. He knows Washington. He knows how to get
things done. Toomey won‘t be able to do that. I‘ll be for Joe Sestak, but
he won‘t be able to do that.
MATTHEWS: Is Toomey too far right to win a general, or is he
dangerous to you guys? Could he pull an upset, like Santorum back in bad
economic times, a man of the right, far right, was able to win a Senate
seat in Pennsylvania? Can the far right candidate still win in
Pennsylvania in bad times?
RENDELL: Yes, I think, absolutely, because of the context of the
times. But Congressman Toomey‘s going to have some explaining to do, or
‘splaining to do, as we say in Philadelphia. He worked for the Club for
Growth. Who funded the Club for Growth, Chris? Wall Street. Wall Street.
MATTHEWS: So you think you can beat him on his laissez-faire pro-
RENDELL: And on the fact that he‘s a creature of was.
MATTHEWS: OK, the Flyers all way to the cup?
RENDELL: All the way.
MATTHEWS: Phillies this year?
RENDELL: All the way. We‘ll win the division by...
MATTHEWS: This city has changed, the city that used to choke, and I
say that as a lover. I‘m sorry, Chuck. This state that used to choke now
comes through when it‘s down 3-to-nothing. What do you think of that?
TODD: Well, all I can say...
MATTHEWS: The comeback city.
TODD: ... is it‘s killing us.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know what he is. He‘s not...
TODD: Whatever happened to the Caps? I miss them. Oy!
TODD: Right now, it‘s America. You can‘t root for Canada!
MATTHEWS: ... people out here! Look at them out here!
TODD: You can‘t root for Canada at this point. We got to root for
MATTHEWS: OK, we‘ll be right back. OK, said like a true American
from America‘s capital, Washington, D.C. Thank you, Chuck Todd, as always,
a real expert.
Another conservative values lawmaker, by the way, falls victim to a
sexual affair. Don‘t you love, well, irony? There‘s a twist in this baby.
Let‘s watch in the “Sideshow.” Something to do with selling abstinence but
not buying it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the “Sideshow.” First, talk
about deja vu. Yet another conservative lawmaker known for his tough
stance on family values has admitted to an extramarital affair. This time,
it‘s eight-term Republican congressman Mark Souder of Indiana who announced
his resignation in a statement last night. The kicker here? Congressman
Souder actually made a Web show video with his mistress, an aide in his
district office, about a 2008 House hearing on abstinence-only education.
Here it is. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRACY JACKSON, OFFICE OF REP. MARK SOUDER: You‘ve been a longtime
advocate for abstinence education, and in 2006 had your staff conduct a
report entitled “Abstinence and It‘s Critics,” which discredits many claims
purveyed (ph) by those who oppose abstinence education. What did you think
of this hearing?
REP. MARK SOUDER ®, INDIANA: Well, I personally feel I should have
probably abstained from the hearing. When I was chairman of the committee,
which Waxman was part of—the chairman was part of my subcommittee, we
did on abstinence programs on how to make them work better and how to many
any kind of program work better.
JACKSON: Not to prove that they failed.
SOUDER: And his program is how we can repeal abstinence programs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, they sold abstinence. I guess they weren‘t buying
Next up, a campaign ad that hits below the belt. Out in California,
Steve Poizner running an uphill race against former eBay CEO Meg Whitman
for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. In a Web video, Poizner takes
on eBay‘s track record of selling guns, fake paintings and pornography and
what Whitman did with the site when she took over. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whitman cleaned up the site—no more guns, no
more fake paintings. But pornography? Whitman started a separate division
that only sells porn. Under Whitman‘s leadership, the porn site became one
of the largest on the Internet. That‘s Meg Whitman, from Goldman Sachs
deals to porn. It‘s all about the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a tough ad.
Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” Think the White House isn‘t trying
to distance itself from their man out in Pennsylvania? Well—Arlen
Specter, that is. Catch this. Not only did President Obama fly over the
state today, but he gave a big speech out in Youngstown, Ohio. Just how
close is Youngstown, Ohio, to Pennsylvania and its border? Seven miles.
Talk about adding insult to injury, President Obama rallies the troops just
seven miles away from Pennsylvania. Tonight‘s hop skip and a jump away
Up next: How much damage has the Democrat running for Senate in
Connecticut done to his party? Richard Blumenthal was considered
practically a shoo-in to replace Chris Dodd, but his lies about serving in
Vietnam when he didn‘t do it have doomed his candidacy, and with it,
perhaps, the Democrats‘ hope to hold onto the U.S. Senate. We‘ll get to
that straight ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC, on primary night, live from
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Political bombshell up in Connecticut in that Senate race today.
Senate State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who‘s running to take
Senator Chris Dodd‘s seat was page one in today‘s “New York Times.” He
didn‘t want to be there.
The headline “Candidate‘s Words Differ From His History,” and the
history in question here couldn‘t be more critical. His military service.
“The New York Times” Web site has this video of him—the candidate for
senator—speaking to a crowd of veterans and supporters in March of 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT SENATE CANDIDATE: This nation has
a way of sending young men and women to war and then forgetting them when
they come home.
And that is unforgivable. And I know that Congressmen Mike
(INAUDIBLE) has been working very hard to change that situation.
We have learned something very important since the days that I served
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he didn‘t come home because he was never in Vietnam.
He claimed he was in Vietnam, fighting a war over there. He was actually
in the reserve here at home for a few months stateside in a cushy position
here in Washington.
He defended himself today, however. Let‘s listen to his defense.
It‘s not much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLUMENTHAL: Now on a few occasions I have misspoken about my service
and I regret that, and I take full responsibility. But I will not allow --
BLUMENTHAL: I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and
impugn my record of service to our country.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He will not allow, huh? The question is, will he survive?
And what does that mean for Democrats and their hold in the Senate?
Lawrence O‘Donnell is an MSNBC political analyst and Jonathan Martin
writes for Politico.
Lawrence, it reminds you of Bruce Caputo who was going to run against
Pat Moynihan at one point until a—a late colleague of ours discovered
something in his record. He was lying about having fought in Vietnam.
What do you make of this redux (ph)?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, that was
1982, Tim Russert was running the Moynihan campaign and he did the digging
to discover that Caputo‘s record was false. In fact Caputo was never in
the military. It was very—it‘s different from this story.
You know, and that‘s a long time ago. I think our reaction to these
things have changed. Ten years after Bruce Caputo had to drop out of the
race, we elected a draft dodger president in 1992. We re-elected the draft
dodger in 1996. He had been caught lying to his draft board on paper.
He had written a letter to his draft board saying, I want to preserve
my political future in the way that he was dodging the draft. And the
voters didn‘t have a struggle with that. They looked at—what is this
guy proposing in office if we elect him?
So I‘m not—it‘s not clear to me that Dick Blumenthal, his career‘s
over this one word. When you study “The New York Times” piece, it all
comes down to one word. There‘s a quote there where he does say, “I served
in Vietnam.” In the same—that‘s 2008.
He also in 2008 said in a different way—he said, I served during
the Vietnam era. That quote, “The New York Times” pushes way back in the
story, and then the final quote they use from him, they really bury. And
that‘s the quote from 2010, from two months ago where Dick Blumenthal says
very clearly, “I did not serve in Vietnam.”
So you have only three quotes from him in the piece. One of them is
obviously false. The other two are true. It‘s a new era. I think he—
and he‘s got a 25-point lead as of yesterday. He might be able to survive
MATTHEWS: Right. I think we disagree on this. I don‘t—I can‘t
come out with my—I can‘t calculate or compute how anybody could ever say
they fought in a war if they didn‘t. I don‘t know how you say it to
yourself with yourself listening, let alone anybody else.
JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: Chris, I think the politics of this are
this. Two important things happened today for Dick Blumenthal. The first
thing, Senator Chris Dodd, the senior senator, the outer statesman of the
Connecticut Democratic Party, came out in support of Blumenthal which is
Secondly, National Democrats, the DSC down in Washington, oversees the
campaign committee. The Senate Campaign Committee came out in support of
Blumenthal. Those are sort of helpful—sort of steps, helpful signs for
Blumenthal here 24 hours later.
The challenge that he has now, and speaking to what Lawrence said is
that first of all, Bill Clinton didn‘t recall his service from Vietnam in a
way that --
MATTHEWS: He never claimed he fought in Vietnam.
MARTIN: Secondly there was no videotape of Bill Clinton back in that
era. What‘s challenging for Blumenthal here is, they have videotape of him
recalling service in Vietnam. It may be just one word. But in this era
having that tape out there that can be played again and again on shows like
this is damaging.
MATTHEWS: You know, Lawrence, when I meet somebody who‘s been in
Vietnam and they tell me I served over there, I always ask them, were you
in it, meaning, were you in the fighting, did you face the enemy? Were you
scared? Were you up fighting for your country face to face with the enemy?
I always have a special regard for that guy who nods his head. This
guy said he did and he didn‘t. I find that damning. You don‘t. We
O‘DONNELL: No, look, Chris, I find no defense for that sentence where
he says, “I served in Vietnam.” I am in no way attempting to defend that
sentence. I think that‘s unconscionable statement and—but it is
juxtapose with other statements where he‘s made it very clear that he
didn‘t. So he hasn‘t been doing some kind of lifetime charade here.
And he has a long relationship with Connecticut voters. And what I‘m
wondering tonight is, does his long relationship with Connecticut voters
who view him very favorably up until yesterday—does that get him through
O‘DONNELL: And that was not the case in the previous instance with
Bruce Caputo. He did not. He‘d been a congressman for two years, Chris.
You know, he didn‘t have the same kind of record. Didn‘t have the same
time kind of support.
He didn‘t have any support from Vietnam veterans as Blumenthal did
today at his press conference.
O‘DONNELL: So I‘m just not—I‘m not sure which way—how this ends
up. But Blumenthal is in a much stronger position than Caputo was in 1982.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think—let me suggest—let‘s talk about
television—get past morality and character. I think I‘ve dispensed with
the character issue from my point of view.
Television. YouTube moment.
MATTHEWS: He only said Macaca once.
MARTIN: Right. That‘s all it takes.
MATTHEWS: George Allen. He was gone. He said Macaca twice in about
10 seconds. He‘s gone. He doesn‘t have to say, I never called the guy
Macaca any other time. He did it then.
Now here‘s the question. Republican Linda McMahon knows something
about marketing and advertising. Rob Simmons served in Vietnam. These
potential opponents, they will take this, they will show the tape we‘ve
shown again and again and again, and I think reach the bread and butter
Democrat up there, the working class Democrat in Connecticut and—maybe
the elite guy who dodged the service and had his own BS to deal with. But
the average guy, I think, is going to hate this.
MARTIN: But here‘s an example that‘s even more recent than George
Allen and Macaca. What has dogged Arlen Specter in the final weeks of this
campaign? When he hits that one—the Sestak folks are showing over and
over again, that the open and close it shows Specter himself saying that he
changed parties because it would help his re-election.
It‘s the same principle. That‘s on videotape, it‘s his own words
played over and over again that‘s really damaging him. And that‘s the
challenge that --
MARTIN: -- Blumenthal has. His own words being used against him.
MATTHEWS: Lawrence, swing back to your previous career as finance
director in the Senate committee to your days serving a politician. If you
were helping a guy like Pat Moynihan run for re-election and you discovered
this about your opponent, would you use it?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I would have held on to it longer, Chris. I would
O‘DONNELL: I would have thought about maybe using it in October when
I really needed it. But you know, this is a—you know, you have to
remember Linda McMahon—Linda McMahon has a really difficult background
I promise you, “The New York Times” is going to have a front page
investigative piece about the World Wrestling Federation if she‘s the
nominee. They are absolutely going to go into all the steroid use and how
Linda McMahon has written—wrote a memo kind of warning a doctor involved
about the steroid investigation.
You know, there‘s people who lost their lives in the madness of the
World Wrestling Federation. She has blood on her hands. It‘s a very—
she‘s going to—it‘s not like she‘s some clean candidate running against
a guy who got—who told one very big and awful lie once.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. All politics is relative. Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Thank you, sir. My comments tonight --
O‘DONNELL: That‘s right, that‘s my point.
MATTHEWS: They‘re a little different. Thank you—thank you,
Jonathan. You did make it. Thank you.
Just over 15 minutes to go before the polls close here in Pennsylvania
and we start to get actual votes in this hot Senate primary between Arlen
Specter and Joe Sestak which everybody‘s been watching.
We‘re already seeing the early votes out of Kentucky. It‘s going to
be a fun night out there. Looks like Rand Paul is winning there pretty
handedly in Kentucky from the early votes. Look at those numbers, 59
percent against 36.
We‘ll be right back to Philly with the Nashville stories after this.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back and with the news, the Associated Press has
projected Rand Paul is the winner of the Republican primary for the Senate
in the state of Kentucky. Rand Paul, the Tea Party candidate, has defeated
the establishment Republican Trey Grayson, the candidate of Mitch
Let‘s turn to NBC News‘ Andrea Mitchell and radio talk show host and
MSNBC political analyst Michael Smerconish.
Boy, Andrea, that‘s hard news and it‘s big positive news for the
right. They defeated the Republican establishment. Defeated the big-time.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: And it says everything you want to know
about the Republican Party in Kentucky. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the
Republican Party, could not deliver. Rand Paul. This is where the Tea
Party really planted its flag and this is a big story. Voter anger. Throw
the bombs out. This is the leading edge of the incumbent wave.
MATTHEWS: I love this story because McConnell, I think rather
arrogantly, pushed aside Jim Bunning, dumped his fellow senator
ignominiously only to have him replaced by more trouble—a much
rebellious figure Rand Paul.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He‘s tailor-made for the
movement. And in the same way that his father has always been their
favorite. But Chris, never with the hostility, never with the anger that
has so characterized certain elements of that Tea Party Movement.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. So he‘s not a Sarah Palin. There‘s not that
edgy voice of sarcasm you hear all the time from her, for example.
SMERCONISH: Very issues oriented. I mean Rand Paul is a purist. He
is a libertarian and he takes the ideology very seriously, but doesn‘t
crack you over the head with it.
MATTHEWS: You‘re looking around as a news person tonight and as an
analyst, I want your thoughts because you‘ll be talking about this tomorrow
Andrea, when you‘re looking for the news tonight, the headline,
besides the Blumenthal thing, which I think we did pretty well a minute
ago, the news is what? The rise of the right within the Republican Party
MITCHELL: The rise of the right and the fact that parties can‘t
dictate choices. We don‘t know yet what‘s going to happen yet with Arlen
MATTHEWS: No (INAUDIBLE) rule.
MITCHELL: But we don‘t know what‘s going to happen here exactly. But
the parties may deliver for Specter. We‘re beginning to hear that the
turnout—the working class lunch bucket voters came out. They think—
the parties think late in the day. But the White House can‘t dictate
This is really people who are mostly passive and apathetic about
elections right now, but they‘re scared about their own futures and they
want people who can answer their needs.
MATTHEWS: Why (INAUDIBLE) look at the whole thing? You look at all
the states in the country of the United States. And you‘re from another
country, you‘re from Borneo, from Denmark, you‘d say, wait a minute, boss
of Philadelphia says elect Arlen, he‘s been here 30 years but now he‘s one
Close as hell vote, no matter who wins. It was not, you know, a top
down decision. People aren‘t ditto heads. They‘re voting the way they
feel and think. Out here in Kentucky, they said the hell with the Senate
Republican leader. The hell with you.
Down in Arkansas we‘re waiting for results down there. But this isn‘t
going to be no cake walk for her, for Blanche Lincoln. The progressives
out there are making noise tonight apparently in Arkansas.
SMERCONISH: I think in every one of those instance it‘s also a
referendum of sorts on organizational politics, of what value our
endorsements, whether they are newspaper, whether they‘re gubernatorial,
whether they‘re party apparatus.
Is there a sufficient angst out there in the community that people
would just say to hell with all that and go out and vote their conscience,
and overwhelm what had been the factors that could call the shot in a race
MATTHEWS: The challenge in your view so far, this fight. If you look
in Philadelphia working class white, you heard from there “The Daily News,”
you heard from your white labor leaders, they all said vote for Arlen.
If you‘re upper class white, you‘re sophisticated white, you heard
from the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” you heard from the governor who they
love, Eddie Rendell, blah, blah, blah.
SMERCONISH: Vote for Arlen.
MATTHEWS: If you‘re African-American which is 55 percent of the
Democratic vote in this city, you heard from “The Daily News”, you heard
from the labor unions, you heard from your black clergy, you heard the
president, the vice president, and the mayor who is African-American.
So all the authority figures are saying vote for Arlen, and yet this
thing is a nail-biter.
MITCHELL: It‘s a nail-biter but this is partly an unusual case. He
did switch. And people are suspicious of politicians—especially
politicians—whom they‘re not sure are really authentic. I mean you
switched parties --
MATTHEWS: Well, shouldn‘t they be?
MITCHELL: -- you did ask them for trouble. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that a reasonable assumption?
MITCHELL: And by the way, speaking of that --
MATTHEWS: He switches parties to save his political career, and he
said so in the ad used the opponent. When you say, I guess he is cynical.
I guess he‘s opportunistic as he says he is.
MITCHELL: You want to talk about cynicism, Democrats in the Senate
went along with Blanche Lincoln and had hands of her derivatives bill
because of this anti-Wall Street. They thought it would help her today in
her election. Late today, Chris Dodd, the banking committee, started
pulling back. They‘ve come up with a compromise watering down her bill now
that the election is over.
MATTHEWS: Well, she‘s still got to fight the—the primary runoff
out there. So bottom line, looking at Pennsylvania, the issue is boss rule
in question up here?
SMERCONISH: It is in question. And we‘ll know in just a couple of
Chris, it‘s a very typical Specter election. He‘s had 15 competitive
races. Six of them have been decided --
MATTHEWS: You love him.
SMERCONISH: I do.
MATTHEWS: You love him.
SMERCONISH: I make no bones about it. I‘ve got a 30-year
relationship with him. But six of those 15 competitive elections have been
decided within three percentage points. And I think—one thing I‘d be
willing to say is he‘s headed for number seven tonight in terms of another
very close election.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the possibility. Rand Paul, a big
winner on the right. The right is alive and challenging in the Republican
center. The progressive may put on a good show down there in Arkansas even
if they lose Bill Halter, he‘s a future star down there.
Pennsylvania, is it still possible that there is a purple state? A
state that you love, Pennsylvania, and you‘ve worked here that‘s still
purple. In other words, isn‘t right wing, it‘s not Schiavo, Santorum, it‘s
not far-right, it‘s not far-left, it never has been. You know Bob Casey,
the former governor, said this is a John Wayne state, not a Jane Fonda
Are there still states of the middle? Is this one of them?
SMERCONISH: I think—yes and yes. I mean I believe those polls,
Gallup and “USA Today” most recently they say 40 percent of the country
identify themselves as being independent and not bound to either --
MATTHEWS: Does that mean in the middle?
SMERCONISH: I think it means in the middle but, unfortunately, there
is a lack of passion in the middle. The passion exists at the polar
extremes. People turn on television, they turn on talk radio and they only
hear from those extremes. There‘s just not enough passion --
MATTHEWS: I think I‘m somewhere near the middle but that‘s my
MITCHELL: You‘re going to learn that because Pat Toomey is going to
be the Republican nominee. We know that already. And so we‘re going to
MATTHEWS: And so we‘ll see whether the right-wing is going to stay
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, your bottom line tonight, the headline tomorrow
morning in your radio show?
SMERCONISH: Specter ekes out a victory.
MATTHEWS: Your headline tomorrow with NBC News?
MITCHELL: I‘m not going to call it yet.
MATTHEWS: OK, I think that‘s smarter than you. Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Andrea Mitchell, thank you. You‘re fighting your heart
Michael Smerconish‘s close personal friend of Arlen Specter up again,
and my friend, Andrea Mitchell who‘s covered politics here since the glory
days of Frank Rizzo. Anyway, he‘s Frank, he‘s Rizzo.
Anyway, Rand Paul, the big news tonight out of—the Associated Press
Rand Paul is the winner. He‘s the Republican Senate primary winner in
Kentucky and a very strong position to win the general, by the way. He‘s
defeated the candidate of the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell,
Trey Grayson. So bad night for city hall in Louisville.
We‘re waiting for the winner here tonight in the Democratic fight for
the Senate here. We‘re going to be here all night with everybody.
When we return I‘m going to have some thoughts about Richard
Blumenthal who did I think the unspeakable by claiming he‘d fought in
Vietnam when he never did.
You‘re watching HARDBALL live from Philadelphia on primary night.
Only in MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a story of someone who did the
unspeakable. Whenever I meet a guy my age who served in Vietnam I ask them
that direct man-to-man question, were you in it?
Then I look and often see that somber nod of the head and the sad
knowing but sure answer. There is no more powerful question, no more
important answer for those men my age.
Those who were in the fighting, who walked through the jungles and
open fields, who rode in the helicopters, drove the trucks, face the enemy
by day and night in the heat of Indochina.
There were two answers, both heavy with meaning and morality. And
yes, merit—life merit—for those who served, who were in it.
I don‘t know how a person could lie about such a thing. I don‘t know
how you, I, anyone could look into the face of another and say that they
were in Vietnam, that they were a marine in Vietnam. With all the merit
attached to that claim if it were not true.
I don‘t know how a person could do it.
Today we learn that the attorney general of Connecticut, a man with
the power to indict, has made such a claim. That he was in the Vietnam War
when he never was. Never was. He said he misspoke.
But how much times did he have it written in the paper that he served?
How many times did he let the record stand that he had served in Vietnam?
How many times did other men face him, man-to-man, and ask him, were you in
And he left the impression to that other men, that other America. He
let them think that he deserved such honor when he knew every instant that
he did not.
If he stays in this race, that‘s his call, just as it was his call all
this time to say he was a courageous combat veteran who returned from
But for anyone who lifts a finger to put this man in the United States
Senate, for that I find no way to accept. The United States Senate cannot
take on the morally dead weight of this candidate without honor.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Polls are closing in Pennsylvania. I‘ll
have live reports from Philadelphia throughout the night. And join me at
midnight Eastern as we wrap it up with the results tonight.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>