updated 5/9/2012 1:35:36 PM ET 2012-05-09T17:35:36

Guests: Howard Fineman, Kristen Welker, Howard Fineman, Hampton Pearson, Joy-Ann Reid, Andrew Card, Dave Wilkinson, Kendall Coffey, Gary Siplin, Ken Bell

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good for bail.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
George Zimmerman on the stand.

It`s a well-known principle defense lawyers don`t let their clients
testify. But today at his bail hearing, covered live by all three cable
networks, George Zimmerman took the stand and told the parents of Trayvon
Martin that he was sorry for their loss, that he did not know how old
Trayvon was, and that he thought he was only -- only -- that he was
slightly younger than himself.

Well, the judge set bail at $150,00. Also on trial, some critics
argue, is Florida`s "stand your ground" law itself. Florida led the nation
in implementing the law. Now the governor there, Rick Scott, has create a
task force to look into "stand your ground." Could it set the trend for
repeal or revision of the law?

Plus, despite polls showing the presidential race essentially even,
Republicans are increasingly discouraged about Mitt Romney`s prospects, and
Democrats have a plan to make them more discouraged -- give up the "Romney
is a flip-flopper" argument and hold him to all that right-wing positioning
he took in the primaries. That`s interesting.

And how did talk of Sarah Palin get tied into the Secret Service
investigation? We`ll get into that one.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the eensy-beensy number that
will determine whether Obama or Romney gets elected this year.

We begin with George Zimmerman`s day in court today. It was dramatic.
Joy-Ann Reid is managing editor of Grio.com. She joins us right now. And
Kendall Coffey is a former U.S. attorney.

Well, I always start these conversations by saying I am not a lawyer.
I listen to those who are. Let`s take a look at this. Here`s George
Zimmerman speaking in court this morning and addressing the parents right
there in court of Trayvon Martin. Let`s watch.


I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I
thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he
was armed or not.


MATTHEWS: Joy-Ann Reid, that is something that the defendant in this
case says he wanted to do earlier, but there he did it in court today.
What do you make of it?

interesting, Chris, is that the family of Trayvon Martin found that very
off-putting and disingenuous. I mean, the truth of the matter is, George
Zimmerman has had opportunities to address the family before.

He started a Web site a couple of weeks ago, at which no such
statements of contrition were included. He`s also had a phone call. He
left a message for a friend, Frank Taaffe, in which he expressed no

So when I spoke with one of the attorneys for the Martin parents, they
simply felt that this was a performance for the cameras, that this was
about humanizing George Zimmerman.

MATTHEWS: OK. Yes, but what did he say was the reason he did it
today? I understood his statement was that he had tried -- he would -- he
was told by counsel not to try to contact the family. Isn`t that the case?

REID: Well, that is what he is saying now. But again, we only heard
for the first time...

MATTHEWS: Well, is that true?

REID: ... he wanted -- the family has essentially said that they`ve
had no contact from George Zimmerman.

MATTHEWS: Well, we know that, but was he told by his attorney --
let`s go over to Mr. Coffey. Would it be normal for an attorney to tell a
defendant or potential defendant in this case not to contact the victim?

KENDALL COFFEY, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Of course it would be. And it
would not very common to put a defendant on the stand for any reason what
so all to -- whatsoever to make what was an unwanted and apparently
unappreciated apology because it creates the risk that the prosecutor might
be able to go somewhere when you expose your client to cross-examination.

Now, the judge kept a very short rein on the prosecutor, so it didn`t
blow up in the defense`s face. But it was an unnecessary risk, and it
certainly doesn`t seem to have accomplished anything for George Zimmerman.

MATTHEWS: By the way, I`m not lawyer, again, but I was -- I`m always
surprised by things that happen in court. Let me ask you this, Mr. Coffey.
Is it normal for a prosecutor in a bond hearing to just say to the person,
the defendant in this case, You committed a crime, that day you committed a
crime, to basically say he`s guilty and act as if he`s been found guilty.
Is that normal parlance, acceptable parlance in a courtroom?

COFFEY: Well, I guess if you can get away with it, it seems like...

MATTHEWS: Did it surprise you he could get away with it?

COFFEY: It surprised me that the defense didn`t object. At the end
of the day, it wasn`t -- didn`t turn out to be a big deal. But yes, he
said, When you were committing that crime -- I thought it would prompt an
objection from somebody. But again, at the end of the day, important
result for George Zimmerman. He is going to be out on bail.

MATTHEWS: Joy-Ann, were you surprised by that, that he just called
him a convicted criminal, basically?

REID: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: He said, You committed a crime, just right there in court.

REID: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: As a fact.

REID: And he really also challenged him very much. But yes, I think
that the presentation of the prosecution was as much as he could to try to
cross-examine George Zimmerman. But as Kendall Coffey just said, there was
a very tight rein on him.

The other thing that was interesting...

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. He didn`t cross-examine, he said, You
are a criminal, you committed a crime that day, in his questioning. He
just said it.

REID: Right. I mean, but the idea is, of course, a presumption from
the prosecution is that he is a criminal. That is the presumption...


REID: ... they`re going into this case with. So it`s not shocking
that they would present the case that way because, remember, the defense
was trying to mitigate at every turn what was in that proffer from
prosecutors. They were trying to say the word "confrontation" was
problematic. It should have been "met," that Zimmerman met Trayvon Martin,
rather than confronted him.

MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t it?

REID: So given that...

MATTHEWS: Isn`t "confrontation" -- isn`t "confrontation" a loaded

REID: Well, absolutely, but it`s also what the prosecution is trying
to accomplish.


REID: They`re trying to prove second-degree murder, so each side
wants to present their evidence...


REID: ... in their best light.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at further here. Here`s video
further. He said he didn`t change his story. Here he is, denying that
he`s been giving conflicting accounts. Here`s Zimmerman again on the


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And isn`t it true that in some of those
statements, when you were confronted about your inconsistencies, you
started saying, I don`t remember?

direct examination. I would object, Your Honor.

JUDGE KENNETH LESTER: We`ll give him a little bit of leeway, not a
whole lot, but a little bit here, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that when you were questioned and
you were questioned about the contradictions in your statements, that the
police didn`t believe it, that you would say, I don`t remember?

LESTER: Granted. I`m going to grand his motion at this time.

O`MARA: Thank you, Your Honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree that you changed your story as it
went along?


MATTHEWS: Mr. Coffey, let me -- Kendall, let me ask you this
question. Is this the normal thing with a bond hearing, that you try to
establish the credibility of a witness -- credibility of the defendant, I

COFFEY: Well, what the prosecutor was doing was trying to take that
little bit of an opening he had and be as aggressive as he could with
George Zimmerman.


COFFEY: By the way, he was also aggressive cross-examining George
Zimmerman`s wife and father, where they were very careful about holding
back was (ph) their best evidence. And anybody that thinks that the best
evidence that the prosecution has was fully displayed today is making the
wrong takeaway from this hearing.

MATTHEWS: Your thought, Joanne? (sic)

REID: No, I...

MATTHEWS: Joy-Ann. I`m sorry.

REID: No, that`s fine. And I think that`s true. I think the
prosecutor actually said right at the end of his presentation, Look, we`ve
got a lot more. And you`ve got to presume that they were trying not to
show too much of their case because, remember, there can be a second
hearing. And Kendall Coffey is the expert that can explain that.

There could be a hearing specifically on "stand your ground." They
don`t want to give the defense attorney a preview of their case, which
would give them an advantage going into that next hearing.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this hot stuff. Here`s George
Zimmerman`s father, who was questioned via speakerphone this morning. He
was asked about George`s -- his son`s appearance following the shooting
that night. Let`s listen to his case, his testimony, at least, right


O`MARA: So what did George`s head look like when you saw it the day

his face was swollen quite a bit. He had a protective cover over his nose.
His lip was swollen and cut, and there were two vertical gashes on the back
of his head.

O`MARA: Did you take any pictures of that?

R. ZIMMERMAN: I did not take any pictures.

O`MARA: Have you seen any of them?

R. ZIMMERMAN: Yes, I have.

O`MARA: Who showed them to you?

R. ZIMMERMAN: I saw one on the news today.

O`MARA: Did the state attorney`s office ever show you any of those

R. ZIMMERMAN: No, they did not.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the pictures. They`re an
exclusive. We got them from ABC News. Let`s take a look at those
pictures. There it is. I guess there is that gash there, two vertical
gashes on the back of his head, the -- I don`t know how to read injuries.

Joy-Ann, your thoughts about this evidence now, that it`s all over the
country now?

REID: Yes, you know what, Chris? When I saw that picture, the
question I had is when was that taken? Because if you look at the timeline
as presented by the police report, George Zimmerman within minutes of this
shooting was confronted by police officers.

I spoke with EMS officials in Sanford, Florida, who said that Florida
law would have prohibited them from taking any pictures. If a neighbor
walked onto this crime scene shortly after the shooting but before
Zimmerman was treated -- remember, he was treated in the back of a patrol


REID: ... for cuts and bleeding. No, when did a non-member of the
investigative team get to take a picture of the back of his head? That`s
the question it raises for me.

MATTHEWS: So you`re thinking -- you`re suggesting that the ABC
account is inaccurate.

REID: No, I`m just wondering who could have...

MATTHEWS: Well, what are you saying?

REID: ... taken that picture...

MATTHEWS: Because if you`re saying that, you`re saying it`s not a
picture of him that night.

REID: No, I`m saying it -- did other people get to come onto that
crime scene?


REID: Did they take that at the scene, which would also raise
questions about the investigation. If people not directly involved until
an investigation were close enough to the crime scene or were on the scene
before he was treated, that means that they encountered George Zimmerman
while the police were still investigating. That was my question.

MATTHEWS: And why is that relevant? Why is that relevant to his
guilt or innocence or his -- whatever happened that night.

REID: I don`t think it`s...

MATTHEWS: Why is that relevant?

REID: ... relevant to that. I think it goes to the way that Sanford
police handled this case, which has been sharply criticized...


REID: ... not just by Trayvon Martin`s family, but by people I know
in law enforcement who say, Was this crime scene thoroughly checked...


REID: ... or did they just...

MATTHEWS: That`s a good point.

REID: ... presume he was the victim and then not...

MATTHEWS: There`s a broader point.

REID: ... do a thorough investigation?

MATTHEWS: I think you`re making part of a broader question about the
whole way they dealt with this. And to me, personally, watching this,
again, with the presumption of innocence, I don`t like the way the whole
matter of this guy, this -- this kid -- the way he was treated that night
and now almost irrelevantly he was treated, as almost like they assumed he
was the -- the bad guy.

O`Mara, by the way, Mark O`Mara, who`s the defense attorney here,
questioned the investigator from the state`s attorney`s office as to who
started the fight -- boy, this is a critical question -- between Zimmerman
and Martin. Let`s watch this interplay.


O`MARA: Do you know who started the fight?


O`MARA: Right.


O`MARA: Do you have any evidence that supports who may have started
the fight?



MATTHEWS: You know, let me go to Mr. Coffey, or Kendall. How do you
-- how -- this is so -- there`s a number of steps in this. When did the
encounter begin? We can assume the encounter began because he was trailing
this guy. He was suspicious of him, whatever. You can throw in the
profiling thing, if you want, but he was suspicious of him. He confronted
there -- they confronted each other at some point.

Does it matter under the law of self-defense who throws the first
punch? Does that matter?

COFFEY: Well, it certainly can, and that`s why I was, frankly,
surprised by the gap in that part of the testimony. But certainly, the
state is going to get to work on fixing that because if, in fact, it
develops that Trayvon Martin started the fight or that the state can`t
prove who started the fight -- and I`m not saying by any means that he did
-- that`s a problem. It certainly helps George Zimmerman with his self-

But we`re very early on in this case. Again, we`ve got to emphasize
the prosecution`s got a lot more ammunition. And that is, as was being
said a moment ago, something that they`ve got to save up for the "stand
your ground" hearing because if there is such a hearing, it gives the judge
the ability to throw this whole case out.

And that`s going to be a much more actively contested hearing than
anything we saw today.

MATTHEWS: Well, the president, Bernie De La Rionda, had one final
message in his press conference. Let`s watch that today.


BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: You all have not heard all the
evidence. Please be patient and wait for the trial! Thank you very much.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is so tricky here, Joy-Ann, and I don`t know how
we`re going to cover this. I`m going to try to do with the presumption of
innocence here, as we do in all case. I think everybody`s going to be
watching this with all kinds of attitude, however, right?

REID: Yes, absolutely. And Chris, the bottom line here is that this
case has already been litigated and relitigated on Twitter, on line, on
blogs. Everyone feels that they, too, are prosecuting this case, and
people have taken a side.

And I think that raises a lot of troubling questions really about jury
selection. Is the entire jury pool in the country tainted? And can
Zimmerman get a fair trial? I think those are all important questions.

MATTHEWS: What scares me, if we could all watch the picture, like a
movie, a tape of everything that happened that night from the beginning to
the end, I think there would be difference of attitude about guilt and
innocence. That`s what scares me about this case. There`s so many
different perspectives, so much history, ever since the first slave arrived
in the United States, the attitude of history here. You can`t push it
aside, I don`t think.

Anyway, thank you, Joy-Ann Reid, for joining us tonight, as always.
Please come back many times.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Kendall Coffey, to you, sir, as well.

Coming up: Florida led the country with its "stand your ground" law.
It`s maybe at the heart of this case. We don`t know. After the Trayvon
Martin death, could it be the first in the country to repeal that law?
That`s ahead and it`s coming here in a minute.



MATTHEWS: Wow, Florida and Ohio could once again be the biggest
battleground states of the 2012 election. Let`s see where they stand right
now in the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In Florida, a new Fox News poll finds a tight race. President Obama
is up 2 over Mitt Romney, but that ain`t much, 45-43. Now to Ohio, where
the Fox poll has Obama up a bit more comfortably. He leads Romney by 6,
45-39. Boy, those two are the ones to watch.

We`ll be right back.



GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: (INAUDIBLE) for the 2nd Amendment. I
also wanted to make sure that we do not rush to conclusions about the
"stand your ground" law or any other laws in our state. We look forward to
hearing from the citizens of our state about their concerns and
recommendations for keeping our state safe.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was now somewhat famous
Florida governor Rick Scott yesterday announcing a task force he`s created
to review the state`s "stand your ground," now the center of public debate
following the death of Trayvon Martin.

Well, the 17-member task force is headed by Florida`s Republican
lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll -- there she is -- an NRA member who
voted to pass the "stand your ground" law while serving in the state
legislature back in 2005. She also voted in favor of the "take your guns
to work" law -- wow -- in 2008.

What is going on? With me are two members of the governor`s task
force, Senator Gary Siplin. He`s a Democratic Florida state senator who
voted to pass the "stand your ground" law in 2005, and Kenneth Bell. He`s
the former -- Judge Bell is the former Florida supreme court justice.

Well, I don`t live in the hedge (ph) you guys live in, guys. I mean,
this pro-gun thing, I don`t get it, I don`t get it, I don`t get it. I
sometimes think you all want to go back to the Long Branch Saloon with --
with -- what`s his name -- Marshall Dillon and trying to clean up the --
why -- I got to start with something really basic.

"Stand your ground" -- OK, I guess I can (INAUDIBLE) the arguments
about if you`re out in the street somewhere and somebody`s really trying to
kill you, you have a right to defend yourself. Fine.

But what`s this gun fetish you`re into? You first, Senator. Why`d
you vote for "stand your ground"? Why are you voting for all this gunplay?


MATTHEWS: You got 900,000 people in Florida with concealed weapon
licenses, almost a million people walking around in Florida today. You go
into a movie theater, you got 20 guns in the movie theater with you!
What`s that about?

SIPLIN: Well, you know, the law is a result of the looting after the
hurricanes in Florida...


SIPLIN: ... and they wanted to protect...

MATTHEWS: Give me a break!

SIPLIN: ... our citizens...

MATTHEWS: The looting after the hurricane. Oh, so in other words,
you put a sunrise -- a sunset law on this that only lasted through the

SIPLIN: No, no. It`s a good policy. You know, I think what we tried
to do was protect the home because a person has the right to defend
themself in their home. And a lot of people don`t live in houses, they
live in their cars...

MATTHEWS: OK, wait a minute.

SIPLIN: ... so they got a right to defend themselves in the car.

MATTHEWS: You`re just -- you are -- I`m sorry, Senator, I think
you`re into the BS land here when you say defend your home. The right to
carry a concealed weapon is not the right to have a shotgun upstairs in a
closet. It`s the right to walk the streets, probably walking it rather
proudly, with a gun in your pocket. Why?

SIPLIN: Well, you know, this is America and the Constitution allows
you to have -- to bear arms.

MATTHEWS: No, your law allows it. Your law allows you to carry a
concealed weapon.

SIPLIN: That`s true, just like other states in the United States of
America allows concealed weapons, too.

MATTHEWS: I think you guys are flipped out. Let`s go to Judge Bell.
You`re part of this problem, too. Are you one of these guys that thinks
everybody should walk into a restaurant armed? No, really!


MATTHEWS: There`s people that are out there and they won`t go to
certain hotels unless they let them in with a gun, unless they`re packing
and let people pack, they won`t let them in to have a meal. This is Long
Branch Saloon stuff, guys. And I grew up watching Matt Dillon, but thank
God I didn`t live in that town. Your thoughts, Senator -- I mean, Judge,
Judge Bell.

BELL: Well, I`m on the task force that the governor appointed because
my experience with the general law of using justifiable force in defending
yourself. And that`s what the "stand your ground" -- what you call the
"stand your ground" law is about.

It`s not about guns. It`s about whether or no and in what
circumstances you are allowed to use deadly force to protect or your family
or others.

MATTHEWS: So what else are we talking about besides guns, Judge?

You said it is not about guns. What do you mean?

SIPLIN: Well, Chris, it`s about public safety.


MATTHEWS: No, no, Judge, you`re on the stand here. You said it
wasn`t about guns, stand your ground.

Well, in the Trayvon Martin case, it`s clearly about guns. If Mr.
Zimmerman didn`t have a gun on him, I don`t know what would have happened.
But the other guy wouldn`t have been shot.

BELL: Well, what if he had a knife, what if he had a baseball bat,
what if he had a sword or any other weapon? There could have been other
weapons used in the case that he could have used deadly force in an
appropriate or inappropriate way.


BELL: The purpose of the task force is to look at the changes to the

And the law itself doesn`t address the issue of the right to bear arms
or concealed weapons.


BELL: The law that is in question is justifiable use of force and
when -- and the presumptions and the immunity and other things given there.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Senator Siplin.

Do you think it`s is a good idea to review this law and see if it`s a
good law or not?

SIPLIN: Yes, I do because a lot of defendants who use deadly force
under suspicious circumstances are resorting to the stand your ground

I think it`s appropriate that we do go across the state of Florida,
which is our intent, to take testimony to review those cases that are
suspicious and see if we do need to go right to Tallahassee and redraft the
law or tweak or do something.


MATTHEWS: Because it`s an easy defense, isn`t it?

SIPLIN: Absolutely, and I think it`s being abused throughout the

MATTHEWS: Give me an example of how it`s been abused by your lights.

SIPLIN: Well, here in Sanford, Florida, with Trayvon Martin and Mr.


MATTHEWS: Please, let`s not litigate that case here, because that
case is going to trial.

Find another case. You`re a state senator. You must know other
incidents where it`s been abused.

SIPLIN: I think there was a case in Jacksonville where a person was
walking down the street and he utilized -- he ended up killing the person,
and utilized the stand your ground defense and he won.


Let me ask you about that, Judge. Here`s the question I have.
Everybody knows in this country, especially in tough neighborhoods, you`re
going to have street fights, you`re going to have people in ballrooms,
people getting in trouble, especially it seems about 2:00 or 3:00 in the
morning. That is when all hell breaks loose.

One gets into a fight with another guy and he says the wrong thing and
the other pulls a gun and kills him. But he says this other guy had a
knife, or this other guy threatened me. Is that what we`re talking about
as an abuse where there is clearly a killing which is totally criminal but
the guy gets off because he says -- or the woman I guess -- gets off by
saying the other guy threatened me, and there`s no way to disprove that

Is that what we`re talking about here?

BELL: Yes. That`s part of the problem in this case is the granting
of immunity from prosecution or civil actions and the granting of
presumptions that you`re fearful. It`s primarily when you`re in your home
or in your car. There was a case in northern Florida where a gentleman was
in his automobile and somebody attacked him, but then he was being pulled
away and as he was being pulled away, the gentleman in the car shot him.

And the immunity applied.


MATTHEWS: Why would he be able to shoot somebody in self-defense,
even under stand your ground, if the other guy was no longer a threat to

BELL: Well, because there was a presumption that he was in fear, and
there was a presumption that the gentleman was intending to hurt him.

And then there is that immunity. There a lot that needs to be looked
at by the task force. I think this is a great task force. There are
people from a broad racial background, geographical background, interests
from different communities.

And I think it`s a great opportunity. A tragedy occurred in Trayvon
Martin, and we can be destructive or divisive or we can be constructive and
bring unity. And I think this is an effort -- and that`s why I`m involved
or agreed to be involved -- is an effort to look at it and bring balance
where necessary.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, Judge Bell.

And thank you, state Senator Gary Siplin. Please come back on the
show. I`m sure we will be talking about this as you proceed with your task

SIPLIN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, wants
you to know full well he never falls asleep during a Springsteen concert.
He listens to the boss quite intently, in fact. He took on that allegation
as only he can coming up in the "Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now for the "Sideshow."

Yesterday, I talked about Massachusetts voters` latest beef with
Senator Scott Brown, that he accepted a sizable campaign donation from the
president of the New York Yankees.

Today, Senator John Kerry joined the "MORNING JOE" team at Fenway
Park`s the 100th birthday celebration and didn`t pass up the chance to
knock Brown for his ties to the evil empire.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m the lone Yankee fan on set today. I was
listening to something that...


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, you had Scott Brown there.



KERRY: I`m just playing around. We`re just having fun. I want to
announce to the Boston press, that`s fun, only fun.


MATTHEWS: Well, the progressive super PAC American Bridge is also
reminding voters that Brown has a rocky history with the Sox.

Back in 2001, he supported a plan to move the Sox out of Fenway to
Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the Patriots play.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I know lots of things have
changed over the years, but not Fenway Park. There`s been a lot of talk
over the years about replacing the park, but that would have been a

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps not so surprisingly, Brown forgets to
remind listeners he once wrote a letter asking the Red Sox to move their
ballpark to Foxborough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brown suggested in a letter to Patriots owner
Robert Kraft asked that the baseball team move to the football team`s new
stadium in Foxborough.


MATTHEWS: The things they fight about out there.

Next up, last week, "The New York Post" reported that New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie had been spotted dozing off during a Bruce
Springsteen concert in Madison Square Garden.

Well, the sighting was a hot topic at Christie`s press conference


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What happened was, during "Rocky
Ground," which is like kind of a really spiritual song, people sat. So I
sat up on the seat and I put my head back and closed my eyes and listened
to the song.

When I was like fist-pumping during "Badlands," nobody -- I`m glad no
one took pictures of that. When I was contorting myself during "Because
the Night," no one took pictures of that.

I have never fallen asleep during a Bruce Springsteen show. I will
never fall asleep during a Bruce Springsteen show.


MATTHEWS: Actually, I believe him. Christie says he`s been to more
than 120 Springsteen concerts and has been lobbying the Boss to perform
this summer a new casino in Atlantic City.

Well, up next, Republicans are increasing worried that Mitt Romney
just can`t win this election, and the Obama campaign wants to make sure
they`re right by making Romney pay for all those right-wing positions he
took during the primary. They will not let him swing back to the center.

And that`s head. You`re watching HARDBALL.


CNBC "Market Wrap."

The Dow closes up 65 points, the S&P is up one and change, but the
Nasdaq is down seven points. Shares of GE helped loose the Dow. The
company`s earnings beat estimates thanks to strong jet engine sells. GE is
a minority shareholder of NBC Universal. McDonald`s was also a gainer
after its earnings met expectations, but it`s been a rough stretch for
Apple, which is more than 10 percent from its high, down about two-and-a-
half percent today.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- Now back to

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Do Republicans think Mitt Romney is already doomed right now? Take a
look at what Jonathan Martin wrote in Politico today -- quote -- "Poll
after poll indicates the presidential campaign is a dead heat, but you
wouldn`t know it from talking to many Republican professionals. If you
gave them truth serum, they would tell you they think Mitt Romney will
lose. Under the table, there is pervasive pessimism among Republicans
about Romney`s prospects this fall. Among his first task as nominee in
waiting is to convince members of his own party that he can win."

Well, are Republicans looking past Mitt Romney already to 2016?

Andy Card is a former White House chief of staff for President George
W. Bush. He is now dean of the Bush School of Government.

Wonder how you got that job?


MATTHEWS: And public service at Texas A&M. And Howard Fineman is
editorial director for The Huffington Post and an MSNBC contributor.

Andy, with all the respect that goes to a former White House chief of
staff, we start with you.

Why do we keep getting these whiffs of disinterest, of pessimism, of
ennui, to use a French term, about Romney? They don`t seem that excited
about this guy.

why would you use a French term?


CARD: But, at any rate...

MATTHEWS: Because I`m not one of you French-hating Republicans.
That`s why.


CARD: No, seriously, Republicans are getting enthused about Mitt
Romney. He`s going to be our party nominee. We know that.

He`s actually putting together a great campaign. There is still some
angst over what happened in the primary process. And this is not unlike
when Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination and there were people
thinking he wasn`t the best nominee, he wasn`t the best candidate.

He was, and he was a great president. I think Mitt Romney will be a
great president. He`s putting together a team. There is not a lot of
second-guessing about the Mitt Romney nomination. We`re exciting to think
-- see who he might pick as a running mate.


MATTHEWS: Are you excited about Mitt Romney being the nominee?


CARD: ... Democratic ticket.

MATTHEWS: Are you excited...


CARD: Yes, I am.

MATTHEWS: You`re excited?

CARD: I am excited.


MATTHEWS: You don`t look excited.

CARD: Because I think Mitt Romney is a leader. He has the capacity
to lead this nation.

I watched him make a big difference at the Olympics in Salt Lake City.


CARD: And he certainly did a good job as governor in Massachusetts in
a tough state.

MATTHEWS: Howard, you talk to a lot of people. I see you as one of
the best reporters in town, besides have to do TV all the time. But you do
a lot of reporting. Is this the reality out there among professionals,

they`re trying to get over the mood that Jonathan...

MATTHEWS: The ennui.

FINEMAN: Yes, that Jonathan Martin described accurately in his piece.

But I think they`re trying to get there. They`re not trying to get
there by way of saying how much they love Mitt Romney himself. I think
Andy may be a little bit of an exception there. Mostly they`re saying he`s
going to have a gangbusters professional campaign. He`s running against
the president, who can be beaten, and he`s running at a time when the
economy is still very dicey, and he does have legitimate business

In other words, they`re trying to will themselves into getting excited
about it. If you look at the polls, Mitt Romney...


MATTHEWS: You know how funny this sounds, don`t you?


Mitt Romney has now consolidated the Republican vote in the polls, but
the problem, the question is whether those people turn out.

MATTHEWS: They`re about to run this guy for president and they got to
talk themselves into being excited about him.


MATTHEWS: Here`s a guy that is not exactly Mr. Excitement here, not
exactly the Count of Monte Cristo himself, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

He had some strong words about the Romney campaign saying, he`s too
focused on the wealthy, as opposed to people who are struggling to get some
money. He told the "Indianapolis Star" newspaper -- quote -- "You have to
campaign to govern, not just to win. You have got to spend the precious
time and dollars explaining what`s at stake and a constructive program to
make life better. And, as I say, look at everything through the lens of
folks who have yet to achieve. Romney doesn`t talk that way."

Now, is that something he needs to do, is to find some way, Andy, of
talking to people who aren`t as successful -- and when he`s always talking
how successful his family is -- as his has been?

CARD: I agree.

I love Mitch Daniels. And I actually respect him a lot. I
encouraging him to run for president. Mitt Romney will be our nominee.
And I hope that Governor Romney listens to Mitch Daniels. I know that he
will, and I think his campaign will be a very robust campaign.

We don`t get to pick the perfect nominee of our parties. We get to
have the candidate run for president who represents our party. And Mitt
Romney is going to represent our party. He will do a good job. He will be
a great president because he has the courage to make tough decisions.

He`s got the wisdom to give thought to those decisions in the context
of our economy and the people. And I think he will do a good job.

There are just as many Democrats who have angst about the Democratic
ticket this year as about the Republican ticket.


CARD: I know a lot of my Democrat friends think, oh, absolutely.

Is that the right ticket? Should Biden be replaced by Hillary
Clinton? I hear it all the time.


CARD: And maybe they -- some of them even say there`s a little
buyer`s remorse with President Obama.

MATTHEWS: Who do you hang out with?


MATTHEWS: I know what you`re talking about. You have a good point

CARD: I travel the country quite a bit.

MATTHEWS: No, I think you have a good point. I hear the same thing
you hear.

Let`s take a look at this. This is one of the bosses of your party,
Andy, the new bosses, like Rush Limbaugh. His name is Grover Norquist.

Anyway, he told Politico -- quote -- "This is not the Taft-Eisenhower
or Goldwater-Rockefeller. We`re not nominating a candidate to tell the
party what direction to go. All of them ran as Reagan Republicans. We
know what we`re going to do. We just want a guy to sign the bills. We`re
electing a coach of a team that knows to play."

In others they want a vessel, you`re seeing Romney as just some guy
to sign the bills. I mean, some incredible statements. You`re not looking
for a leader. You know where you`re going. You just want Romney to be
this factotum, this functionary that just going to sign the bills that you
guys passed. What an amazingly low estimate of a leader, I think. Your

CARD: Well, I worked with President Reagan. I worked with President
H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. I want a president who has the
courage to make tough decisions, and I believe Mitt Romney will do that.
Mitt Romney is a leader. He made tough decisions in the business world.
He certainly has made them in the political and governmental world.

He has the capacity to be a good decider, and he will make tough
decisions, implement them well. And I think we`ll be a better country
because of it.

MATTHEWS: Who is Mitt Romney? You know, from Massachusetts, he was
the guy that was -- who was pro-choice, he was sophisticated about things
like science and certainly didn`t say --- he didn`t believe in Evolution
when he was governor of Massachusetts. He was a moderate in terms of all
social issues and then he went out and ran for president as this screaming
anti-immigrant candidate who is far to the right on that issue, who has
said he doesn`t really want anything done about climate change, who is pro-

Is he the guy who ran this year or the guy who run as governor and
served as governor of Massachusetts? Which is the real Mitt Romney?

CARD: You know, I`ve known Mitt Romney for a period of time. He`s a
very private person. But if you look at his life, his life speaks volumes
because he walks the walk. He is the real thing when it comes to family
values, he`s the real thing when it comes to concern about fellow
Americans, he`s the real thing about making tough decisions, and he has the
capacity to make tough decision because he`s done it so many times.

So, I`m very comfortable with him and I`m excited about his
candidacy. I think the Republican Party is going to be in a good position
as we move into the general election. The Democrats didn`t have a primary
battle, but there was still a primary debate among Democrats and they`re
not real thrilled with the ticket that they put forward.

MATTHEWS: OK. Did you see how he answered that question, Howard?



MATTHEWS: I understand why he didn`t answer because of the
Massachusetts -- he`s got that Massachusetts accent, he can`t deny. He
witnessed this moderate Republican governor.

FINEMAN: Let me just say, I`ve covered Andy for years. I think he`s
a straightforward guy --


FINEMAN: No, he said, Andy you said, I think, I love Mitch Daniels.
I tried to convince him to run for president.


CARD: I did.

FINEMAN: That sort of explains the situation. I think there are a
lot of people in the party, including Andy Card, who wanted somebody else
and they`ll settle for Mitt Romney.


MATTHEWS: Let`s make it tougher for you. A new NBC poll just came
out. This is fascinating among the numbers. Let`s take a look at this,
Obama versus Romney. Look at these numbers and the advantage the president
enjoys here.

Among Latinos -- I mean, take a look at this group, 69 percent to 22
percent among Latinos. That`s a pretty strong set of numbers there, 69 to
22. Among younger voters: 18 to 34, 80 percent to 34 percent, it can`t be
that -- 60 percent to 34 percent. Women, 53 percent to 41 percent.
Independent voters, 44-34.

These numbers are really triumphant almost for the president.

How does -- how does Mitt Romney change the minds of Latinos he`s
been sort of bashing all this campaign saying he wants them to self-deport?
And young people, how does he become hip? How does he convince women he`s
not from the yahoo party? And how does he get independents to vote for him
when he`s been a right winger all through the primaries?

Your thoughts.

CARD: First of all, I feel it`s very, very early. Polls today
aren`t necessarily going to predict what people are by a mile when it comes
to November. We`re still two generations away from the general election.


FINEMAN: Well, I think the Latino problem is one that Mitt Romney
himself has acknowledged. I mean, it`s -- they can`t that -- they can`t
win this way. The Republicans will lose if those numbers stay the way they
are with Latino community.

Don`t forget, the guy that Andy is working for, through after George
W. Bush school there, at Texas A&M won --


CARD: -- George H.W. Bush --

MATTHEWS: I was confused. He`s not --

FINEMAN: Oh, you`re H, not the W.

MATTHEWS: He`s not a --


CARD: Texas A&M University --

MATTHEWS: No, by the way --

FINEMAN: OK. Well, let`s say that the son won, over 40 percent of
the Hispanic vote, especially in the second election. I don`t think a
Republican can win with those kinds of numbers. That`s -- of the numbers
you showed there, those are the most important.

CARD: But we have time to work. You know, a lot of people in
America were not paying attention to the Republican primary.

MATTHEWS: OK, we have to go.

CARD: Republicans were, but a lot of independents and Democrats were


CARD: They are paying attention to the economy and Mitt Romney has
the best answers for the economy --

MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on the show. Andy, I`m going to be
really nice because I`m trying to get an interview with George Bush, Sr.
You are one great guy.

Anyway, thank you. Congratulations on getting that deanship, what an
honor that must be to be dean of that great school down there.

Up next, new details in the Secret Service sex scandal coming up in
just a second. We`ll get the latest next. This is HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with the latest developments, HUD
developments in the Secret Service scandal tonight and how Sarah Palin
found herself in the thick of this story somehow.

Back after this.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with breaking news. There are new developments
in the Secret Service prostitution scandal down in Colombia.

Kristen Welker is the White House correspondent for NBC News.

Kristen, what do we got?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: Well, Chris, just talking to one of my
sources moments ago with knowledge of this investigation, who tells me that
there are now 12 Secret Service personnel who are under investigation.
Just a few hours ago, it was 11 who are under investigation. So, now, that
number has bumped up to 12.

I`m also being told that it`s possible that one of the original 11
will be cleared in this instance. That I want to stress the word
"possible" because they are still sort of making sure that they have their
stories straight.

The other big piece of breaking news here, Chris, we are he can
expecting within the half hour, according to multiple sources who are
familiar with the investigation, and also our sources on the Hill, we are
expecting the Secret Service to announce that they are effectively ousting
three more personnel members.

Now, as you know, earlier this week, we announced that they were
starting the process of getting rid of three agents in the Secret Service.
Two supervisors and one non-supervisor. So this is a big announcement.
Three more Secret Service personnel expected to effectively be dismissed by
the end of business today.


WELKER: They want to get ahead of this investigation. They want it
to be fast. They want to show essentially that they are on top of this --

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- what have you learned about the
background of the agents that were -- have had to leave already.

WELKER: Well, David Chaney is one of them. This is someone who has
a long history with the Secret service. His father was in the Secret
Service under the Johnson administration. Chaney has worked in the Secret
Service for nearly two decades.

So, this is someone who has a long history with this agency. He was
a supervisor. His colleagues apparently thought quite a lot of him. So he
is the Secret Service agent who was allowed to retire. He has sought legal
counsel, though.


WELKER: We have confirmed that, although, his attorney is not

The second person is Greg Stokes, who worked with the K-9 unit, also
a supervisor. He is taking legal action. He was effectively reprimanded
for removal, which is another way for saying that he was fired. But he has
30 days to follow up with that.

Both of these agents have a long history with the Secret Service and
those who know them say that they really surprised by these allegations --

MATTHEWS: Thanks for that great report, Kristen Welker, at the White

Let`s go right now to Dave Wilkinson. He retired from the Secret
Service after 22 years in the agency. He served as assistant special agent
in charge of the president`s detail for eight years under Presidents
Clinton and Bush.

So, what do you make of the conduct of these agents who have been
under fire right now? The 11 we heard, maybe there`s one less now, maybe
there`s three more, it looks like. Or three of them are big trouble.

What do you make of the postings where you put out a picture of Sarah
Palin and that kind of thing, and they are making fun of her and talking
about her?

Service has long had a culture of absolute zero tolerance against any type
of personal misconduct. Anything like this is just a nightmare for agents
and the Secret Service when they see something like this.

I would just -- I would just argue with anyone that would suggest
that the culture of the Secret Service has changed in some way to allow
this sort of thing, a culture that would allow this to happen day in and
day out. It`s just not the case. It actually couldn`t be farther from the

MATTHEWS: Perhaps this does depart from that. But here`s a photo
from David Chaney. He`s one of the agents involved in this -- his Facebook
page showing the Secret Service agent standing watch behind Sarah Palin in
a 2008 campaign. And the comments for the photo, Chaney wrote, "I was
really checking her out, if you know what I mean."

What do you think about that?

WILKINSON: Well, I`ll tell you what? Chris, again, it`s our worst
nightmare. I just can`t imagine. Those agents every day, they go through
training, they go through briefings. And this is the sort of thing exactly
that they are told not to do continuously.

I don`t know what to say to it other than every Secret Service agent
that sees this cringes when they see because they all know that this is
definitely against the rules of the Secret Service.

MATTHEWS: Well, Dave Wilkinson, I have to tell you, I agree with
you. After years of working at the White House and coming into contact
with them as a reporter, I`ve always found that they almost like the people
at the Buckingham Palace or at Arlington Cemetery, they don`t --they don`t
engage. They are very professional.

I agree. That`s been their manner. This is a departure from it, I

Anyway, thank you, Dave Wilkinson , for joining us -- a former Secret
Service agent himself at the president`s protection unit for eight years.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the one number that will
determine whether Obama or Romney gets elected this year. The one number.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this.

Sometimes being a political pundit is the easiest thing in the world.
Want to know who is likely to win the battle between President Obama and
Mitt Romney? No brainer, look at one number, one itsy-bitsy number, the
jobless rate.

It`s 8.2 right now and that`s the starting point. So the question
is, where is it going to be on the Friday before the election? That first
Friday in November.

Here`s my HARDBALL line -- ready, set, go. If the jobless number for
October is up near nine, Obama`s got real, deep trouble. Anybody who says
different is either out of it or simply covering for him. Anywhere near 9
percent, in the high 8 percent, it`s bad, bad news for the president.

What`s a good, solid number? Again, I told you, this is easy. If
the jobless number drops to eight, he`s got a good case to make that he`s
got things headed in the right direction. I know being a Democrat, Obama
and his people will be talked into not bragging about such a number.
Remember Al Gore booted it in 2000 by not taking credit for the strong
economy for fear it might offend someone.

But the fact is, people who pay attention to the news, the economic
news, will feel like the president is on solid ground, again, if it`s down
to 8 percent, down from where its peak was when he first took office that
first year, 10.2 in October 2009.

So, we`ll all be watching the big three hour-and-a-half debates
between Obama and Romney. It will be great theater. But both candidates
will be operating in an economic situation that will allow one to attack
and the other to have to defend. It will decide as much as any of them
either of them have to say those nights.

Why? Because everything Romney had to say about Obama having failed
will rise or fail on whether jobless number is rising or falling, because
everything president Obama says about having done the right things as
president will depend on whether he`s making real progress in creating jobs
or he`s not.

I can`t think of anything that will distract from that itsy-bitsy
number -- eight, Obama wins. Nine, Romney wins.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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