updated 4/11/2012 12:54:31 PM ET 2012-04-11T16:54:31

Guests: Ron Allen, Michael Isikoff, Brian Sullivan, Howard
Fineman, Francis Suarez, Stephen Moore, Robert Reich, Hogan Gidley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off
tonight: Going, going, gone.

It wasn`t long ago...

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Going, going, gone. It wasn`t long ago that Rick Santorum looked like the
guy who just might knock off Mitt Romney, the man Republicans hate to love.
But he lost Michigan, he lost Ohio, he lost Wisconsin, and it increasingly
looked like he was about to lose his home commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

So today Rick Santorum suspended his campaign. And though he refused
to mention Romney by name -- you bet he did -- nothing now stands between
Romney and the nomination. Check your calendars, by the way. The general
election starts today.

On that last point, President Obama knows that times are bad this
fall. He won`t get reelected arguing, I`ve done a great job. So he`s
making a different case right now, that if you`re struggling, it`s not
because he`s failed, it`s because the system failed.

The president made fairness the issue again today, arguing that the
Republicans have stacked the deck in favor of the rich against the rest of
us. Team Obama clearly thinks it has a winning strategy here.

Plus, the Trayvon Martin case. Late this afternoon, the lawyers for
George Zimmerman said they were no longer his lawyers. They cited odd
behavior on Zimmerman`s part. We`ll get the latest from Sanford, Florida.

And more than 50 years after the Cuban revolution, we`ve learned again
how politically dangerous it is for anyone in this country to compliment
Fidel Castro, especially in south Florida. Tonight, what happened when a
Miami sports figure did just that.

Finally, why the Obama campaign can`t or won`t let go of the great
Mitt Romney "dog on roof" story. I happen to like it myself.

We begin with Rick Santorum tonight exiting the race. Hogan Gidley
served as his campaign communications director. And also with me is the
great Howard Fineman of the HuffingtonPost. He`s an MSNBC political
analyst, who joins us especially on nights of great historic moment like
this.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Rick Santorum is out. I want to take a look at something -
- here`s the -- here`s what he said, your candidate, in leaving the
campaign, announcing it late this afternoon. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies
and gentlemen, we -- we made the decision to into this race at our kitchen
table against all the odds, and we made a decision over the weekend that
while this presidential race for us is over for me and we will suspend our
campaign effective today, we are not done fighting.

We are going to continue to fight for those voices. We`re going to
continue to fight for the Americans who stood up and gave us that air under
our wings that allowed us to accomplish things that no political expert
would have ever expected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s fair enough. Hogan, thanks for joining us.
No one would have expected. There you have to agree with this guy, Rick
Santorum. Whatever you think of his politics, his philosophy, his
ideology, many believe it`s pretty far right, because I think it is -- he
did pull a very surprisingly strong campaign. He was the second to last
candidate that really mattered.

Why`d he quit?

HOGAN GIDLEY, SANTORUM COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, I think
there were a number of reasons why he quit. But you know, you had to look
at the nuts and bolts of it. And I think that in order to secure the
amount of delegates we needed to actually, you know, surpass Romney would
be very, very close, I think, at the convention, a few things had to
happen.

And we had to do well in Pennsylvania, first and foremost.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIDLEY: We knew that. We had to have Newt jump out and push all
those delegates and say, You guys need to go support Rick Santorum. he`s
the conservative. That wasn`t happening any time soon. At least it didn`t
seem that way.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GIDLEY: And then third was Texas. It had to be winner-to-take-all by
a simple majority, and it looked like that was going to happen over the
weekend. A big movement was afoot to -- to...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GIDLEY: ... try and make that happen. But then when it...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t like -- he doesn`t like Mitt Romney, does he.

GIDLEY: Oh, he`s fine. That`s not...

MATTHEWS: He doesn`t like him. He never mentioned his name today.

GIDLEY: Well, yes, he didn`t mention his name. I mean...

MATTHEWS: Why not?

GIDLEY: Well, I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t concede to the guy. He didn`t say he won the
nomination, he just ignored him.

GIDLEY: Well, he hasn`t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: By the way, I think he`s right to not to like him,
personally, from a subjective point of view. I want to -- let`s take a
look at the ad that Romney had already begun to run. This is fairly
personal, maybe effective, but it doesn`t win you friends of the guy you`re
attacking. Here`s what it -- here`s what -- take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Pennsylvania, CBS News estimates Republican
incumbent Rick Santorum has been defeated by Democrat Bob Casey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Santorum`s 17-point loss, historically
embarrassing. Rick Santorum lost his home county by 30 points.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He lost across the board with voters, among
Democrats and independents, women and men, blacks and whites, young and
old, rich and poor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We fired him as senator. Why promote him to
president?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Mitt
Romney and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, is that below the belt, to say that Pennsylvania
voters fired the guy?

GIDLEY: I mean, I guess that`s what happens when you lose an
election. But I mean, Romney was no different. I mean, not only did he
lose for president a few years ago, but he didn`t even run for reelection
because the poll numbers were so bad. He quit. So I mean, it`s not really
a -- that`s just politics.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me try to get to an objective reality here for your
universe because you have to be still defending your guy and defending the
reality you live in.

Howard, I heard Chuck Todd, who we all respect, say today that the
reason his Congress, Rick Santorum, never mentioned the name of the guy who
beat him and was flogging him with this kind of TV ad out here -- didn`t
mention his name today is because of that kind of TV ad. It was personal.
It hit him below the belt. It said he was a loser.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Yes. I think, obviously, there`s no love lost between the two. Is it
worse than what normally happens in a tough primary season? Maybe
marginally so.

MATTHEWS: Why`d he go for the knockout? Why was Romney not willing
to simply take the guy out slowly and gradually?

FINEMAN: No, no.

MATTHEWS: He was almost out of the race. Why`d he punch him on the
way out the door?

FINEMAN: Well, it`s because Mitt Romney needs anything that looks
like convincing finality whenever he could get it. And if that meant
dumping 10-to-1 negative ads on Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, he was
perfectly...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: ... willing, if not eager to do it, grind him to dust in
Pennsylvania, and he would have done it.

MATTHEWS: You know that old game of roller derby, where you really
win by knocking everybody else off the track?

GIDLEY: Sure. Sure.

MATTHEWS: is that what Romney did?

GIDLEY: I don`t know. I mean-...

MATTHEWS: Did he win positively or negatively?

GIDLEY: That`s a good question.

MATTHEWS: Well, answer it.

GIDLEY: I don`t know that he was necessarily...

(CROSSTALK)

GIDLEY: He didn`t run one positive ad the entire cycle. I mean,
everybody knows that. But that...

MATTHEWS: So was Rick, who`s your guy -- was he both the steward of
those who believed in him and those who didn`t believe in Romney? Was he
both?

GIDLEY: I think he was a little bit of both. Sure. I mean, you
know, they were looking for a conservative voice. They were looking for
someone who wasn`t Mitt Romney and...

MATTHEWS: Is Romney a conservative?

GIDLEY: I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: I love it when you don`t answer the question because you`re
telling me -- you got a great face. (INAUDIBLE)

GIDLEY: I don`t know. I mean...

MATTHEWS: So in the end, you`re a spokesman for Santorum and you`re
saying here on this show, in the very hours after your guy leaves the race,
that the other guy`s not the true blue conservative.

GIDLEY: Well, I mean, he`s more conservative than Barack Obama, and I
think that`s what we`re all going to have to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is that the point?

GIDLEY: Sure, that`s the point.

MATTHEWS: Is that going to be the campaign slogan of the
Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s great stuff. You`re great. Go ahead, Howard.

FINEMAN: No, I`m just listening -- I`m listening -- I`m listening to
the -- to the trailing off of the Santorum campaign here in the words of
Hogan Gidley. And if I`m Mitt Romney, my enthusiasm level is going down by
the second.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at -- one of Rick Santorum`s advantages
was his clear ability to connect with certain voters, mostly regular blue-
collar people, conservative and evangelicals especially. Even though he`s
a Roman Catholic, he really did connect with the very conservative
Protestants out there, as well as Catholics.

Here he is describing his rise as a candidate in his concession speech
just now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: That`s what -- people say, How did this happen? How were
we able to come from nowhere? It`s because I was smart enough to figure
out that if I understood and felt at a very deep level what you were
experiencing across America and tried to be a witness to that, to try to be
in a sense an interpreter of that, that your voice could be heard and
miracles could happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you because you`re still his spokesman,
right?

GIDLEY: For Santorum? Sure.

MATTHEWS: And you know, a lot of us -- I always liked him personally,
obviously, when though I disagree with him -- a lot of things, but -- I
like him personally because of a lot of reasons. One is his spunk.

By the way, my wife argues with me about this. A lot of people that
cannot separate their politics from their personal attitude towards people.
Howard and I can do it. We have to do it. In fact, I like doing it. I
like being complicated.

Is he going to run in 2016? Is that what this is all about, get out
before he loses Pennsylvania so he still has the credibility of a guy -- at
least didn`t lose at home twice?

GIDLEY: Sure. Well, I mean, you know, we -- I`m not going to say we
haven`t talked about it. Of course. I mean, you look and you say, What
are you going to do in the future, and there are a lot of things thrown out
there. A lot of people want him to do certain things. A lot of people
have said, you know, prepare for 2016. And...

MATTHEWS: Oh, by the way, there`s an implication here.

GIDLEY: What do you mean?

MATTHEWS: If you`re preparing for 2016, you`re preparing for Romney
to lose.

GIDLEY: No, no.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it is.

GIDLEY: No...

MATTHEWS: Because there`s no job open if a Republican wins it this
time. See what I`ve got you caught -- it`s called HARDBALL. Howard, he
just admitted it. This young guy has just admitted the fact that this guy
you still speak for is planning to run in 2016.

By the way, I`ve already written my final commentary tonight about
Rick Santorum, how he`s going to run in 2016, and I`m hoping he runs
against Hillary because then we won`t have to even read the newspapers to
know who to vote for.

Go ahead, Howard.

FINEMAN: No, I`m just -- I`m just -- I`m just marveling at Hogan
having wandered into this den.

GIDLEY: That`s right.

FINEMAN: And he`s confirmed that he might -- that they`ve already
talked about the possibility of Santorum running in 2016.

MATTHEWS: Because Romney is going to lose in 2012.

FINEMAN: Well, for whatever reason.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s no other reason to run. If you get a
Republican elected in 2012, which you now have said is unlikely, your guy
has an opening in 2016.

FINEMAN: And he said that Romney is not -- or you haven`t said that
he`s a conservative.

GIDLEY: He`s more conservative than -- than...

MATTHEWS: That doesn`t mean anything. That doesn`t mean anything.

GIDLEY: ... Barack Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: Well, look, I think in the end, that Rick Santorum will
campaign for Mitt Romney. And I think he`s going to campaign for him among
evangelicals, among others, and say, Look, I didn`t get it and I disagree
with Mitt Romney on health care -- I think he`s going to -- I know Hogan
may agree or disagree with -- I think Santorum`s going to have to say that
to take some of the wind out of the sails of...

GIDLEY: He`s already reached out. You know that, right? I talked
with Tamron earlier. I mean, Governor Romney did call Rick and say, Look,
I`d like to meet about...

MATTHEWS: Yes, he put out a nice statement.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: But what Santorum is going to do, I think, and Hogan,
correct me if I`m wrong, is that he`s going to talk about Barack Obama.
Rick Santorum`s not going to talk a lot about Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: There`s not a chance in hell that Santorum`s on the ticket,
is there. You guys know that. Just say that now.

GIDLEY: I -- I...

MATTHEWS: Let`s get that...

(CROSSTALK)

GIDLEY: I don`t know that that would be. I mean, I -- you know, I
haven`t seen their short list. I don`t know if...

MATTHEWS: You don`t expect that Rick`s on the short list, do you

GIDLEY: I don`t know. We`ll see.

MATTHEWS: You think he might be?

GIDLEY: He might be. I mean, look...

MATTHEWS: Spokesman for Santorum says still hope for...

GIDLEY: Look -- look...

MATTHEWS: ... second spot?

GIDLEY: Listen, he -- Howard wrote a great piece during that campaign
in New Hampshire, when Rick was out there taking it on the chin...

MATTHEWS: Right.

GIDLEY: He said, No one campaigns like this anymore. No -- everybody
should have to do this. Somebody needs to be on the ticket that says, Hey,
I can go into...

MATTHEWS: OK...

GIDLEY: ... the lion`s den and (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question. There`s parts of the campaign
when people -- the middle, even from the center left, were very affected by
what looked to be the lunchpail case for -- and I`ve been telling people,
my liberal friends, you know, there`s a lot of populism in the Republican
Party, and your guy spoke it.

GIDLEY: Right.

MATTHEWS: It isn`t all 1 percent party. It wouldn`t be getting 50
percent in general elections if it was a 1 percent party. So 49 percent --
or 49 of that 50 percent Republicans often get in general elections, like
in 2010, are not 1 percenters. So he didn`t -- he was -- why didn`t he
stay on that line and run on that line and knock Romney`s block off? Why
didn`t he stick on, My grandfather`s big hands out of the coffin (ph) and I
grew up as an ethnic kind of guy from Pennsylvania, a Joe bag of donuts
kind of guy, right? Why didn`t he stay there? Why`d he get into
contraception and all this stupid stuff that we have fought about --
somebody did -- 50 years ago?

GIDLEY: Yes, I think he did. I mean, he focused on -- I mean, you
guys took -- oh, come on, Chris. You took...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... read the old tape of him saying, I hope we bring up
contraception in this campaign?

GIDLEY: Yes, that`s fine, but I mean, that`s one sentence out of a
whole 45-minute speech. And most of his speech was blue collar. Look, my
dad -- my grandfather was a coal miner. I`m a son of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... everybody in the world thinks that Rick Santorum is a
cultural warrior like Pat Buchanan, in many ways?

GIDLEY: Because he is.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: Looking back on it, I think Hogan would probably agree with
me Michigan was the key. And I think he got off track a little bit,
Santorum did, in Michigan. If he had stuck with the theme that you`re
talking about and driven it relentlessly...

MATTHEWS: Populism.

FINEMAN: ... a populist...

MATTHEWS: Regular people.

FINEMAN: ... relentlessly and focused on the economy -- if he could
have won Michigan, we wouldn`t be sitting here right now. Be an entirely
different race. We`d be counting delegates (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, congratulations. You did a good job, Hogan.
And I think you did a pretty good job tonight of telling us the truth,
which is Romney`s no conservative. Your guys running in 2016 because he
expects Romney to lose in November and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll be back on it at 7:00 o`clock tonight with another
edition of the show that might have your words in it. So I`d watch
television tonight...

GIDLEY: I will. I will.

MATTHEWS: ... because your candidate`s going to be watching. Anyway,
thank you, Hogan. Hey, it`s so much fun, Howard, because we`re both
predicting the same thing. This guy`s coming back in 2016. Of course,
Newt Gingrich is probably coming back, too.

Anyway, coming up, President Obama`s pushing the issue of fairness
again. Fairness is a great Democratic argument always. He`s arguing that
the wealthy should pay their fair share and are not doing it. But is
raising taxes even on the very wealthy a political winner? We`ll find out
when we come back, a big fight coming back on fairness versus, whoa, way-
out capitalism.

And this is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, if you think Mitt Romney`s background could help him
win in New England, think again. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

We have new numbers from Maine, where President Obama`s looking strong
now. Obama leads Romney by 18 points, 55-37. Wow, that won`t last, I
don`t think. That`s according to a new automated phone poll by the Maine
People`s Resource Center.

The poll also found independent Senate candidate Angus King trouncing
his opponents in the race to succeed Olympia Snowe. King is at 56 over the
Republican and the Democratic rivals, even though he hasn`t announced which
party he`d caucus with once he makes it to the Senate. I say he becomes a
Democrat, effectively.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The president seems to think
he`s found a winning message for his reelection campaign, and that is
important. This afternoon, he gave a strong push for Congress to adopt
what he`s called the Buffett rule. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The share of our
national income going to the top 1 percent has climbed to levels we haven`t
seen since the 1920s. The folks who are benefiting from this are paying
taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years.

That`s wrong. That`s not fair. And so we`ve got to choose which
direction we want this country to go in. Do we want to keep giving those
tax breaks to folks like me who don`t need them, or to give them to Warren
Buffett -- he definitely doesn`t need them -- or Bill Gates -- he`s already
said, I don`t need them -- or do we want to keep investing in those things
that keep our economy growing and keep us secure? That`s the choice.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What you just heard has become a major aspect of President
Obama`s reelection campaign. While the Republicans are lining up behind a
budget plan that would slash social services for the poorest Americans,
programs like Medicaid, while giving deep tax cuts to the wealthiest
Americans, up to 12 percent for people making over a million a year, the
president`s betting that a message of economic fairness will sit better
with Americans.

Is he right? This is the key question, perhaps, of the campaign.
Robert Reich served as secretary of labor under President Clinton. His new
e-book is called "Beyond Outrage." And Steve Moore is the respected
economic writer for "The Wall Street Journal." Thank you, gentlemen, for
both -- come on, I mean it, Steve.

Let`s go to the fight here. It does seem to be a classic American
fight. The president`s making it here, not saying, I`ve done a great job
as president, saying, No, I`m on the right road, and the road is fairness.
We should not be out there giving tax breaks beyond the Bush tax cuts to
the rich. We shouldn`t be doing that at the expense of the poor people
when we have to cut Medicaid and Pell grants and things like that that
really affect working and poor people.

Robert, will this be a winning issue or not?

ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON: It`s going
to be a winning issue. We`re going to see the most populist campaign,
Chris, that Democrats have waged since the last three weeks of Al Gore`s
2000 campaign.

I mean, Mitt Romney is the poster child for wealth and power and
privilege in this country. He also fell into the trap, it seems to me, of
endorsing Paul Ryan`s budget that, as you said, gives a huge tax break to
people who are at the top and also cuts Medicare and Medicaid and food
stamps and a lot of things that the middle class, the lower middle class,
the poor depend on, a kind of reverse Robin Hood budget.

So look, we`re going to see a lot more of this. We`re already hearing
and we already heard in December in a great speech, I think, that at least
my -- it`s in my ears, that the president gave out in Kansas about
fairness. He used the word fairness then in December 15 times. We`re
going to have at least 15 fairnesses (sic) per speech from now on.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a good word, fairness. I like it.

I mean, Mr. Moore, I want to ask you this, respected Stephen Moore,
this question. Why do you folks on the Ayn Rand conservative right believe
the way to get the rich to worker harder is to give them tax breaks, more
money, in addition to money they have already earned by tax breaks all over
the place, and the way to get the poor people to work harder is to cut
them, to hurt them, help the rich, hurt the people, but both make people
work harder?

Why would a poor person work harder if you slash Medicaid, the chance
for his kid to go to college? Why would a rich person work harder when
he`s already made the money that he`s now getting the tax breaks for? Your
thoughts.

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC WRITER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": My
thought is that you`re right, that this presidential election will be about
two themes, Democrats talking about what Bob Reich was just talking about
continuously, fairness, fairness, fairness. He`s right. That will be the
president`s message.

For Republicans to defeat that message and for Mitt Romney to win this
race, he has to use the word that neither you nor Robert Reich nor Barack
Obama has been using at all lately, and that is growth and prosperity. I
think that has to be the message. The way to grow this economy is the way
Reagan did it, get tax rates down.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: By the way, I want tax rates down for everybody, not just rich
people.

MATTHEWS: By the way, Bush was only known for one domestic
achievement, besides the war in Iraq, which most people didn`t like. The
one thing he did at home was cut taxes. That gave us what we got in 2008
and 2009. Why do you say it`s the road to prosperity when it was the road
to doom is what it was under W.?

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Chris, you could make the make the same argument about Bill
Clinton`s tax increases, that those caused doom by 2009.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Most people remember the Clinton era as very positive.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Look, we cut the tax rates in 2003. In 2003, 2004, 2005,
2006, and 2007, we had a very, very healthy, healthy and then the economy
crashed because of reflation of the housing market.

But the same thing happened in the Clinton years. We had four or five
prosperous years, and then the economy crashed.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: My good friend Stephen Moore doesn`t want to admit that after
the Bush tax cuts in 2001-2003, median wages started to drop and fewer jobs
were created even before the great crash than were created in any four
years of Bill Clinton`s presidency.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: And Bill Clinton raise taxes. He did not lower taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: This whole supply-side baloney...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Bob, you know that on April 1, the United States became the
highest corporate tax rate nation in the world, and now, if we do the
Buffett rule, we will have a 30 percent capital gains.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re talking down America. And let me tell you, this is
the only country where everybody tries to get to. We don`t put walls to
keep people...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: No, I agree. I agree.

MATTHEWS: So stop talking us down. This country works.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: I never do that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, you just did.

This morning, Paul Ryan took a swipe at the Buffett rule of fairness.
He doesn`t like it. Let`s listen to what he said. I think it was on
"MORNING JOE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think people
think the Buffett rule is sort of this budget pixie dust, that if we just
do this, we`re going to fix our fiscal problems.

Number one, it pays for about 6 percent of the president`s proposed
deficit spending. Number two, it represents a huge tax increase on job
creators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to a principle here and ask you if you agree
with it, because the president will run on it. He is not getting into
detail, Steve, but here he is.

He says the wealthiest people, people over $1 million say, or even
near that range, should be paying the same rate, marginal rate, as people
that are making say 40 -- the average income. What is wrong with the
principle?

MOORE: I love that principle.

Chris, for the 25 years I have been involved in policy, I have been a
strong advocate of a flat tax, a single rate with no tax deductions, no
loopholes. Warren Buffett if he makes 100 times more money someone else,
he pays 100 times more tax.

Why can`t we have a simple, no loophole, flat rate, low rate tax
system that will make America competitive? I`m not talking down America.
You cut me, I bleed red, white and blue. I just want America to have a
fair advantage in the global markets.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`re going to have a vote. We`re going to have a vote in
the United States Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just a moment.

You`re predicting, Stephen Moore, here on this program that the
Republican -- the Republican minority in the United States Senate will
support the Buffett rule?

MOORE: They will not because it raises the tax rate to 30 percent.
We have got to bring our rate down for growth, not up.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Robert Reich.

REICH: I was just going to say, what Steve Moore and a lot of
Republicans don`t want to remember is that for three decades after the
Second World War, the top marginal tax rate never was below 70 percent, and
yet the average annual growth of this economy was faster than it`s been the
last three decades, since the Reagan administration.

In other words, history is on the side of Barack Obama and those who
say that the rich should pay their fair share, not just because we have a
huge budget deficit, and we also have a deficit in terms of education and
investment and job training and roads and bridges, but also because that
kind of fairness, that kind of fairness is completely compatible with
economic growth, which is what Steve Moore says it`s not.

But look at history. It absolutely is.

MOORE: Bob Reich, it was my hero and Chris Matthews` hero, John F.
Kennedy, who was one of the guys who said those tax rates were too high.
What happened to the Democratic Party that talked about...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: He brought it down from 91 percent to 78 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Steve, I know more than you in this area. This one area I
know more than you. When Kennedy proposed cutting the taxes back in `63,
his last year, guess who opposed him? The entire business community.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Kennedy was right and now the Democrats are wrong. They have
become an anti-growth party. They`re following the advice of people like
Bob Reich, who talk about fairness, but not how do we get, as John F.
Kennedy said, a rising tide that lifts all boat.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We have to go to the president first.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: ... unless we invest in education and infrastructure. And
we`re not going to do that under the Ryan budget.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a big point.

Anyway, here`s the president. He ended his speech with a fiery
defense of his economic fairness argument. Let`s watch the president
today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here in America we
don`t give up.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Here in America we look out for one another. Here in America
we help each other get ahead. Here in America we have a sense of common
purpose. Here in America we can meet any challenge. Here in America we
can seize any moment. We can make this century another great American
century.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Fifty years from now, the Republicans will be coming on a
show like saying, all we have to do is cut taxes and we will have economic
prosperity, no matter what the tax rate is. If it`s 2 percent, they will
say, lower it, we will have more fun.

Anyway, thank you, Robert Reich, Steve Moore. You`re not predictable.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: I love the optimism.

MATTHEWS: See, here it comes. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Up next, can Mitt Romney put the infamous dog on the roof story behind
him, instead of on the poor? It is still on his roof, by the way. David
Axelrod hit him again with this one today, and he had no choice. It was
thrown at him. Romney can`t escape that poor pooch up on his roof.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the "Sideshow" and what a
"Sideshow" it is.

First up, ask just about any of Mitt Romney`s rivals, and they will be
glad to remind you that Romney once strapped the family dog Seamus in a
kennel, of course, on the roof of his station wagon for a 12-hour family
road trip up to Canada.

Well, remember this tweet from Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod?
Quote: "How loving owners transport their dogs."

Well, today on "MORNING JOE," Axelrod was pressed on whether the
Seamus stories are here for the long haul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: When are you going to stop channeling Gail
Collins and talking about that poor dog put that was put on his roof?

When are you going to stop that, Axelrod?

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I am a dog lover.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a rescue. I would never put him on the
roof of my car.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who would do that?

AXELROD: Well, Mitt Romney.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He always does it that deadpan way. Anyway, that`s about
how great it is. The story speaks for itself. And it ain`t going away.

Finally, did you ever think you would hear Newt Gingrich, Newt
Gingrich, of all people, dispensing hair and makeup advice, while trying to
make a point about health care, no less?

Well, here`s what Newt said to a group of North Carolina high school
kids about a plan for personalized health care just yesterday.

Here I quote him. This is Newt again -- quote -- "Think about it. If
you`re going to go out on Friday and you`re going to put on makeup, each of
you has a different skin tone and you have different hair color, and you
may want to create a different effect. If you`re going to church, you
probably wear one level of makeup. If you`re going out on a date, you may
wear a different level of makeup. We`re going to be able to have very
personalized medicine just the way we have very personalized makeup."

I got to ask, what is with this guy Newt Gingrich? Is he looking for
a job as the next sales rep for Mary Kay?

Anyway, up next, the latest on the Trayvon Martin shooting case. Late
this afternoon, the attorneys for George Zimmerman quit the case, saying
they lost have touch with their client.

We`re going to get a report from Florida.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN SULLIVAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Time for your CNBC "Market Wrap."
I`m Brian Sullivan.

And stocks logging their steepest drop of the year. The Dow sinking
213 points, the S&P off 23, the Nasdaq down 56. Renewed worries about
Europe. Yes, remember that? And also the upcoming earning season in
America weighing on stocks. However, Hewlett-Packard shares finished on
the up side, the only Dow name to do so, after it said it would offer a
cloud-based service. And after the bell, Dow component Alcoa reported
earnings that actually beat estimates, those shares rising after hours.

And that is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG SONNER, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: We are
withdrawing as counsel for Mr. Zimmerman. We have lost contact with him.
Up to this point, we have had contact every day. He`s gone on his own.
I`m not sure what he`s doing or who he`s talking to, but at this point
we`re withdrawing as counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Craig Sonner, the former, as he said, attorney for George
Zimmerman. Zimmerman, as we all know, is the neighborhood watch volunteer
that shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, in Florida over
a month ago. His attorneys by the way say they have not heard from George
Zimmerman since Sunday, which of course was two days ago, and have given up
representing him.

Joining me right now from Sanford, Florida, is NBC`s Ron Allen. And
with me is NBC investigative correspondent Mike Isikoff, who has been
covering this difficult case.

Ron, is there anything more to this that we can try to figure out?
When your lawyers quit, that`s not a good sign of the health of the client,
I would say.

RON ALLEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, they said a number of things.

They said the final straw was that Zimmerman apparently tried to
contact the special prosecutor, Angela Corey, on his own today by
telephone. And the lawyers said they do not think the prosecutor would
speak to him under any conditions because that would certainly make the
case much more complicated.

That they say was the last straw. That`s what they were referring to
when they said that he was acting on his own. They also said he is not in
the state of Florida, but he has been in touch with them by phone. They
also said they have not ever spoken with them face to face during the
course of this entire process because it has not been safe and logistically
possible.

Now we know that part of that is that he apparently has been out of
state for some time. But they maintain, despite his erratic behavior,
despite everything else we have heard, they still maintain that they
believe he acted in self-defense that night.

The question is where does this all go from here now. They also left
out the possibility of welcoming him back if in fact he reaches out to
them. But again, they say they haven`t talked to him since Sunday.

Just a very, very strange and baffling development in all this, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Who is managing the legal defense fund we have read about
for Zimmerman?

ALLEN: Well, there was some confusion about the Web site that`s been
set up over the past couple of days. The lawyers say that they believe it
is a real Web site that is being run by George Zimmerman. Apparently his
father has played a role in this as well, in trying to help this all --
this get set up.

But the lawyers say that that is legitimate. We don`t know who is
contributing to it, how much if any money they have raised. But again,
there was a very convoluted process in how that all came to be.

Just -- we were all expecting today that the special prosecutor might
announce a decision, there might be an arrest, there might be Zimmerman
turning himself in, but suddenly we`re all in front of the county
courthouse and the lawyers are saying they`re taking themselves out of this
case. Just very unpredictable, strange developments -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: On that other point on the prosecutor from Brevard County,
who was -- there was a wonderful takeout piece on her today that really
gave a good background on her. She is a tough law and order prosecutor.

The question, I guess, is that what do you make of the fact that she`s
chosen not to impanel a grand jury?

ALLEN: That`s not terribly unexpected.

There have been signs that she was going to do that. The Martin
family -- I spoke to them earlier today -- they are actually very pleased
with that decision because they were very concerned about a closed door
process, which is what a grand jury would have been, always is in this
state.

They wanted to be present for all the proceedings. They want to see
all this done in public, very transparent and out in the open, so they`re
very pleased by that. The one thing that no grand jury means is that
Zimmerman will not be charged with premeditated murder, because in this
state you need a grand jury to do that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALLEN: So that`s one thing that we are certain of.

MATTHEWS: So, murder is cold blood has been ruled out.

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: I think a lot of people are saying that is a very courageous
decision for -- it is a very courageous decision...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I read that.

Is that a good -- is that a good objective assessment, the fact that
she chose not to go to a grand jury, but to decide that she`s going to make
the call herself whether to indict?

ALLEN: Well

ALLEN: Well, that`s what people are saying, and for many the
scenario, a very plausible, possible scenario would be to hand this to a
grand jury, the grand jury decides not to indict, and then you have a
prosecutor come forward and explain to the public why this didn`t happen.

Some people say that prosecutors use grand juries for cover when they
have a very complicated case, it gives them an out. So, many people are
saying that for her to take this on her own and to say that I will make a
decision is very courageous. And again, the Martin family is very pleased
by that because it adds transparency. It adds public accountability if you
will to this entire process.

MATTHEWS: Ron Allen, thanks for that report from Florida.

Let me go to Mike Isikoff, who`s here with me.

Michael, anything from you, given this information that the lawyers
have dropped out. He`s now on his own, apparently.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: Yes. Zimmerman has gone rogue,
basically.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe. Just to be totally fair here, the pressure
on this guy, if he picks up a newspaper, a magazine or watches any program.

ISIKOFF: Of course. He`s not totally incommunicado, I should point
out. In fact, I just got off the phone with one of his friends who`s been
out in the complex, who`s been defending him, Frank Taaffe, who said he
heard from Zimmerman yesterday. They talked about the Web site, they
talked about --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s turn this around. Could it be he doesn`t think much
of these two lawyers?

ISIKOFF: Well, you think then he`d get another lawyer, I mean,
rather than just call or contact the prosecutor himself.

MATTHEWS: Have you been able to assist where there`s much of an
offer out there on the part on the political right, I don`t know if it
narrowed to that, people who feel more sympathetic to him that have been
offering themselves up for legal help? Do you hear much of that?

ISIKOFF: Well, Frank Taaffe told me that -- there had been a report
that there`d been a $10,000 donation to the defense fund from somebody in
Texas. He said that`s not true.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That will get you a day or two from the lawyer, won`t it?

ISIKOFF: Right. It depends who lawyers. It might be a little bit
longer, or a couple of minutes.

But the other thing is -- one of the things that was interesting is,
from the lawyers they learned he had called Sean Hannity, and had a
conversation with Hannity, and apparently neither Hannity nor Zimmerman
will tell them what they discussed.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s listen a bit more to the Zimmerman lawyers, what
they had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAL UHRIG, FORMER ZIMMERMAN ATTORNEY: We learned that he had called
Sean Hannity of FOX News directly, not through us, and we believe -- I
can`t confirm this -- we believe that he spoke directly with Sean off the
record and he`s not even willing to tell us what our client told him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know what`s difficult about this, covering a case like
this from an anchor desk or anymore, covering it even for an investigative
reporter, is how little we know on what exactly happened, because there`s
only one live witness, the man involved in the shooting.

ISIKOFF: Right.

MATTHEWS: And the victim is dead, which is the case in most street
shootings, of course. But we have no way of really getting around the
attorney. The prosecutor in this case is very respectful, according to the
piece of "The Times" today. Right?

ISIKOFF: Right.

MATTHEWS: She`s very careful to say nothing.

ISIKOFF: Yes. And there`s so much that we haven`t seen that you
would need to form a judgment about what happened here, and certainly a
prosecutorial judgment, the forensics, the shooting itself. The powder --

MATTHEWS: What would that tell you?

ISIKOFF: Well, it would tell us what was the distance from which the
bullet was shot, what was the angle from which the bullet was shot.

MATTHEWS: And what would that tell you about criminality?

ISIKOFF: Well, it could tell -- it could either support Zimmerman`s
story or contradict Zimmerman`s story. If Zimmerman says --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Whether he was being rushed or not or whether he just shot
him.

ISIKOFF: The autopsy report from Trayvon Martin, the angle, you
know, where the bullet resides, medical reports from that evening on just
how serious the injuries were.

MATTHEWS: Well, we had the head bleeding and nose thing.

ISIKOFF: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this -- the stress test, because I`m always
fascinated with the veracity of lie detectors, everybody is at the time you
were a kid.

ISIKOFF: Right.

MATTHEWS: How safe is it to believe in a stress test, a voice test?

(CROSSTALK)

ISIKOFF: You know, look, I think it`s the kind of thing that could -
- that if presented in court would be challenged by other experts as these
things always are. So, I don`t think we should form any final conclusions
based on that.

MATTHEWS: Of course not. But do police believe on them?

ISIKOFF: Some police believe them, they use them at times. But I
don`t think a prosecutorial decision is going to be made based on that.

A couple of -- just another point about the fact that the lawyers
came contact with him, yet it does raise the question that if the
prosecutors do want to either arrest or talk to him, whether they`re going
to be able -- how easy they`re going to be getting in touch with him.

MATTHEWS: We`ll find out. I mean, it`s all part of the question.
It is a very difficult case to find the truth here yet.

Anyway, thank you, Mike Isikoff.

Up next, a reminder of how dangerous it is politically for anyone in
south Florida, especially to say anything nice about Fidel Castro like, "I
love him"? We got a story of a Miami sports figure, a major one, who`s
fighting to save his career after saying he loves the Cuban dictator.

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Senate race up in Massachusetts certainly
shaping up to be the marquee matchup this election year. And now, we`ve
learned that challenger Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat, has doubled the
fundraising haul of Senator Scott Brown, the Republican. Warren took in
nearly $7 million last quarter versus $3.4 million by Senator Brown. Brown
still has $15 million in his war chest, of course, $4 million more than
Warren, but it`s a big money race.

Recent polls show the race is well within the margin of error. She
can win this race.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back

And here`s some advice if you happen to find yourself in south
Florida, don`t say you love Fidel Castro. And that`s what native
Venezuelan and Miami Marlins manager, Ozzie Gillian, did in an interview
with "Time." And today, he was forced to apologize to an outrage of Cuban
American community down there. Guillen was also suspended by the team for
five games, and whether he keeps his job, even, is very unclear right now.

The incident shows, obviously, that even 50 years after Castro took
power in Cuba, how perilous it is to say anything complimentary about him,
especially and not only down in south Florida.

Francis Suarez is the chairman of the city of Miami commission down
there.

Sir, give us a sense of what this means to people when they hear a
prominent figure of perhaps about to be beloved baseball team, with a new
stadium and everything, saying about the guy that took their country away
from them.

FRANCIS SUAREZ, MIAMI CIYT COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: Well, it`s about the
most insulting and incendiary thing someone that you can say about the
community.

You have to understand that Fidel Castro was someone who was a
dictator, who has not come up among the democratic process and has not
subjected himself to a democratic process. He`s a systematic violator of
fundamental human rights and that`s been documented by a variety of
different organizations.

And so -- and on top of everything else, this community is full of
exiles who lost their homes, who lost their livelihood, to this person, to
this tyrant, to this regime.

So, it`s basically the most -- the worst thing that can be said by
someone in this community.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at exactly what he said to "Time",
quote, here it is. "I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro. You
know why? I lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60
years, but that, whatever, is still here."

Do you have any idea -- I guess, do you want to even think about what
he was trying to say? Was he trying to say the guy is a bad guy but at
least he has been able to survive, or was he saying, "I love the guy"?

SUAREZ: Listen, I have no idea what he was trying to say. I
understand that he is someone who is, you know, generally speaks off the
cuff and extemporaneously. But there`s really no way to kind of justify
what was said or to explain it.

MATTHEWS: OK, Guillen traveled back to Miami today to hold a press
conference where he apologized for his comment. Let`s listen to Mr.
Guillen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OZZIE GUILLEN, MIAMI MARLINS: Because it was misinterpreted. What I
mean in Spanish, when he asked me in Spanish, I want to say something -- I
was thinking Spanish and to say I cannot believe somebody hurt so many
people over the years is still alive. And I say a couple things I cannot
say right now to the guy when exactly what I was thinking or what I was
saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Was there a mistranslation of the word love from Spanish
to English there or English to Spanish or either way, for a guy who was
thinking perhaps in Spanish and speaking in English and saying he was
misinterpreted. Is there any leeway there?

SUAREZ: Well, there really isn`t. The word in Spanish is amore, the
word in English is love, obviously. So, there`s no -- it`s not like it`s a
word that doesn`t translate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SUAREZ: I don`t know how he can explain it to be completely frank
with you. And the Cuban community, of course, is extremely hurt and
outraged by his statement.

MATTHEWS: What do you think about this guy? Is there any
restitution? It`s no capital offense. You don`t torture the guy? Do you
take away his livelihood, though? Do you say he can`t management team?

What`s an appropriate response by the community, whoever who has to
make this judgment -- probably people don`t show up in these seats.

SUAREZ: Right, right.

MATTHEWS: If they don`t show up in the games, somebody in management
will say, this guy is costing us money and we got get rid of him. What do
you think ought to be done here?

SUAREZ: Well, I think they have to make a very definitive statement
with whatever they decided to do. They suspended him for five games.

I can tell you ways at the stadium during the press conference.
There was a protest outside. The sentiment outside was that that was not
sufficient.

So I think they need to think long and hard about how insulting these
statements were and how it can affect them as you mentioned, in their
bottom line.

MATTHEWS: Well, my view is this guy bought the wrong ticket in the
Cold War. If the other side had won, if the communist had won, that guy
would be standing in Central Park watching the execution of anybody with
any political talent in this country. So I`m with you guys, on this one.
Thank you, Francis Suarez.

SUAREZ: Thank you so much, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Castro was no good.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a preview of coming attractions.
In 2016, how about this one, Hillary Clinton against Rick Santorum? That`s
a good one.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

Rick Santorum is no longer a candidate for president in 2012. He
hopes he made clear today to be a candidate for president in 2016. Imagine
the contest. Imagine Santorum coming back after the defeat of Mitt Romney
demanding the nomination on the ground that the false prophet, that would
be Romney, had failed to deliver the goods, that he had led the party down
to defeat and betrayed the conservative cost in the bargain.

Imagine the moral indignation that Rick Santorum would be able to
splash across the conservative firmament, the personal right he would claim
to blast away at any other candidate, especially one calling for anything
short of all out ideological warfare, and all out cleansing of the republic
of any speck of liberal intent.

Well, this is the prospect of what happened today. By leaving the
campaign before the April 24th Pennsylvania primary, the former senator
from that commonwealth has maintained his political viability. Had he
stayed in the race and lost there in Pennsylvania on his on turf, he would
leave a deep record of defeat. The commonwealth would fire him as the Mitt
Romney ad put it, would have rejected him once more.

Well, but now Santorum can march on. He can pretend to root for
Romney this November, all the while remembering that ad that Romney ran
against him, the one about him being fired from public office by his home
state. He can say all of the right things about Romney, all the while
hoping that his main chance will be next time when Romney has paid the
price for his peripety (ph), has been shown the insincere conservative that
he is, that he has lost to Obama.

Now comes the good part. Can you imagine a presidential campaign in
which Rick Santorum is the Republican candidate and Hillary Rodham Clinton
is the Democratic candidate? You think we would have to read the
newspapers to know where we stand, to not even need to have a set of
political TV debates to appreciate the vast and indeed Grand Canyon that
separate the two of them?

All I can say is, well, this would be the campaign everybody watching
right now would hope for, root for, give up their vacations to watch.
Think of it, former Senator Rick Santorum versus former U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton. Let`s dream of it, together.

And oh, thanks, Rick, by the way, for saving yourself for the big
one.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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