updated 5/25/2012 12:25:50 PM ET 2012-05-25T16:25:50

Guests: Chuck Todd, Amanda Drury, Newt Gingrich, Major Garrett, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The eye of Newt.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Let me start with
this. I`ve got Newt Gingrich here with me here tonight, and it`s going to
be an interesting discussion. I hope to get the former speaker to say what
he really thinks because he thinks a lot.

And whatever you think of his conclusions or his rough politics, and I
stand ready to challenge him on both, he operates on a higher level of
debate for the simple reason he thinks at a deeper level of discussion than
his opponents. And unlike them, he`s got the perspective that comes from
knowing history and knowing its importance.

So let`s get at it with the man who gave Mitt Romney a good fight, who
learned the hard way a lot more about Mitt than most of us will ever learn,
Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and former presidential

Mr. Speaker, thanks for joining us.

be with you.

MATTHEWS: Let me -- you know, I have a theory about you, which isn`t
hard to prove because anybody who watches you knows that you`re smarter
than you talk sometimes. You know more about politics at a deeper level.
You read endlessly about American political history. You write historical
novels. And you were up against guys in debate who don`t.

GINGRICH: That`s true.

MATTHEWS: How much does it burn you that Mitt Romney, a man who I am
convinced -- check me on this -- is not deeply rooted in American political
history, beat you with money?

GINGRICH: Oh, it doesn`t burn me a lot. Look, you know, Mitt Romney
did what he had to do in order to become the nominee. He organized for six
years. He`s worked at this, I think, since his dad`s campaign for
president, his mother`s campaign for the U.S. Senate. He`s paid his dues.
He lost in `94 to Teddy Kennedy, came back and served as governor.

And when he got to the crunch, he was tough enough and smart enough to
beat me in Florida. Now, I have real respect -- and you have the same --
you know, you`ve been at this stuff. When you have somebody who`s tough
enough to look you in the eye and run over you...

MATTHEWS: Does he tell the truth about you?


MATTHEWS: All right.

GINGRICH: But he did what he had to do...

MATTHEWS: So the ends justify the means and we get the best man that

GINGRICH: No. No, it`s not that. It`s just that -- I mean, go back
and look at what Obama did to Hillary. I mean, these are tough fights.
You know this. You`ve been through them. You throw the kitchen sink.

He was in a situation where everything he had ever done was going to
disappear if I beat him in Florida. And so he said, Look, I got two
choices. I can throw the kitchen sink at Gingrich...


GINGRICH: ... or I can be a nice guy and not be the nominee.

MATTHEWS: Well, what burns me, as a student of politics, is that
someone like yourself, who has been studying politics -- look what we`ve
got a history of the presidency. We`ve got people like Woodrow Wilson, who
wrote a life of Washington. We`ve got people who came into the office who
actually earned it in terms of deep thought about what the office meant

Mitt Romney is not that guy. He`s a guy who`s a man of faith -- OK,
we`ll give him that -- of family -- give him that -- and of business --
give him that. But he`s certainly not a man of history or in any kind of
historical understanding of the presidency. He doesn`t understand what it
is. He thinks it`s a business tinkerer job, a guy who...

GINGRICH: No, I don`t...


MATTHEWS: Tell me what`s good I`ve missed about him.

GINGRICH: Look, I don`t think that`s fair. I mean...

MATTHEWS: Well, tell me what I`ve missed.

GINGRICH: First of all, I think having served as governor is a step.
But I also think something deeper. This is a guy who has thought about
this at least since his father ran...

MATTHEWS: Yes, about doing what daddy couldn`t do.

GINGRICH: Right. But he`s thought about it. He`s thought...

MATTHEWS: Is that historic?

GINGRICH: ... about it on a serious level.

MATTHEWS: Is that understanding our country?

GINGRICH: I would say -- I`ll just say this, having collided with him
head on and having collided with his organization head on, and now working
with him...

MATTHEWS: All right...

GINGRICH: ... on the campaign. He has assembled a very smart group
of people, and he listens to them well and he asks them tough questions,
and he is approaching this as methodically as anybody I know.

You know, back in the 1950s, Sam Labell (ph), who was one of the
greatest political scientists of all time, was at election night with a
whole bunch of academics who were shocked that Eisenhower won over


GINGRICH: And he walked around the room and not a single person in
the room had voted for Eisenhower. And he said, Guys, this is a sign of
how big the gap is in America.

MATTHEWS: I understand that.

GINGRICH: OK? Mitt Romney is a lot like Eisenhower. He is a very
good organizer. He is a very methodical person. He is prepared to
systematically do what he thinks is right for the country. And I think he
might turn out to make a surprisingly good president.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but let me tell you -- that`s what gets to me because
Eisenhower received the Nazi surrender, OK? Eisenhower won the war in
Europe from the Western side.


MATTHEWS: Eisenhower was a man of peace who kept us out of the
Indochina war, kept us out of Lebanon, kept us out of a lot of things like
the Suez campaign. (INAUDIBLE) took us into Lebanon. That was about it.
He was a man of peace who had seen war. The other guy is a guy who had
never seen war who talks like a hawk. So I got a problem with that.
Romney talks like he`s been to war, but he hasn`t.

GINGRICH: No, but...

MATTHEWS: OK? Am I right?

GINGRICH: No, the parallels aren`t even, but I think the point is,
Stevenson was much more eloquent than Eisenhower. Stevenson was much more
admired by the intellectuals than Eisenhower.


GINGRICH: Different presidents come from different backgrounds. I
mean, who would have guessed in 1860...

MATTHEWS: But it`s such a stretch to compare him to Ike.

GINGRICH: No, who would have guessed in 1860 that Lincoln would end
up being as eloquent and as effective as he was?


GINGRICH: Now, I`m just saying...

MATTHEWS: So you`re saying he`s a long shot.

GINGRICH: I`m saying that you don`t know today and he doesn`t know
today exactly what kind of president he`d be, but I mean -- you`re not
going to agree with this, but look at Obama. Obama`s one of the most
articulate, eloquent people we`ve ever had, and I think he`s largely an
amateur. I think that his -- his misunderstanding of this city is

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s your shot. Let`s take a look at an earlier shot
you made against Romney.


MATTHEWS: Here you took on Romney`s claim he wasn`t a career
politician back in January during that "MEET THE PRESS" debate, and I
actually thought this was quite a smart comment by you. Let`s watch it.


politics, is not a career. For me, my career was being in business and
starting a business and making it successful. My life`s passion has been
my family, my faith and my country.

GINGRICH: Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact
is, you ran in `94 and lost. That`s why you weren`t serving in the Senate
with Rick Santorum. You`ve been running consistently for years and years
and years. So this idea that, suddenly, citizenship showed up in your mind
-- just level with the American people. You`ve been running at least since
the 1990s.



MATTHEWS: You got him to laugh because it was true.


MATTHEWS: He`s a failed politician who claims to be better than that.

GINGRICH: OK, but now I have to tell you he`s probably laughing
watching this because now he`s a successful politician. He`s going to be
the Republican nominee.

MATTHEWS: But his claim to have been a citizen by choice, some kind
of business guy who stayed away from the dirtiness of politics, was forced
on him by defeat!


MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Let me...

GINGRICH: He wasn`t a volunteer after `94.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at this. Here we are. We have Newt
Gingrich at an event down in Florida. Let`s watch the next clip of you in
action here. I like this stuff.


GINGRICH: We`re not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has
Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs
while it forecloses on Florida and is himself a stockholder in Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac while he tries to think the rest of us are too stupid to
put the dots together and understand what this is all about.



MATTHEWS: So now I think the Obama team -- maybe they`re not as sharp
as your team, but they`re going to use everything you`ve said.

GINGRICH: Yes, and here`s the problem they`ve got. And I`m actually
surprised they did this. It didn`t work.

MATTHEWS: Well, you didn`t have the resources.

GINGRICH: Not just didn`t...

MATTHEWS: No, but if you had the kind of money that...


MATTHEWS: ... Restore Our Future -- if you could have matched them
dollar for dollar, you`d have won this election. You know that.

GINGRICH: But I wouldn`t have won it on that issue. That issue
didn`t work, and it didn`t work for two...

MATTHEWS: In the Republican Party it didn`t work.

GINGRICH: No, it doesn`t work in general.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes?

GINGRICH: I mean, watch what`s happening to him right now. There`s a
reason you have the governor of Massachusetts, you have a Democratic
senator from California and other...

MATTHEWS: Because they like the equity boys because of the money they
give them. Let`s be honest. They hang out with those guys because they
want their support. You know what`s going on! Cory Booker! Come on!
Look at this. All these guys like Deval Patrick, they love those guys!

GINGRICH: So you`re saying the only honest, ethical guys are guys
like Barack Obama, who was the number one choice...

MATTHEWS: No, I think you were being honest here. I think you had a
streak of honest there, saying, Do you want some chop shop guy...


MATTHEWS: ... coming in and taking over the American political


MATTHEWS: ... when his only claim to fame is he knew how to shut down
businesses and cost-cut them to death...


MATTHEWS: ... so he could flip them!

GINGRICH: I thought...

MATTHEWS: You said it well, by the way.

GINGRICH: I thought I was a better choice.


GINGRICH: Compared to Obama, I think Romney`s a better choice.

MATTHEWS: But you thought...


MATTHEWS: ... all your IQ, you said that this Bain Capital thing was
the bane of the guy`s existence.


MATTHEWS: For months! And you said it rather well, better than the
president maybe.

GINGRICH: I was...

MATTHEWS: And now you`re saying you`re wrong.

GINGRICH: No, I`m saying it doesn`t work. Here`s the president`s
problem. First of all, the president was the number one recipient of Wall
Street money in 2008. The president was loved by everybody who he`s now...

MATTHEWS: For reasons that have nothing to do with economics.

GINGRICH: I`m just pointing...

MATTHEWS: You smile, but you know...

GINGRICH: I`m just pointing out...

MATTHEWS: These people on Wall Street never vote their economic
interests when they vote for a liberal. They don`t -- they don`t -- they
don`t want regulation. They don`t want high taxes.


MATTHEWS: They do it despite that, whereas the Republican guys do it
because they like those deals.

GINGRICH: I`m just...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) know the difference.

GINGRICH: I`m just reporting to you that -- your position, which is
if they`re for us, they`re not virtuous, but if they`re for your guy...

MATTHEWS: No, no, no! I think a lot of people vote their interests.
But in the case of Wall Street...


GINGRICH: ... problem, and it`s twofold. One, Obama has set up a
class warfare paradigm which people reject. And two, his performance on
the economy is so bad that a president with this level of unemployment
attacking business I think is just not credible.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me try the class warfare the other way. Suppose a
guy comes along and said, Look at me, I made a quarter billion bucks. If
you do it my way, we win. Isn`t that class warfare? If you -- if you
benefit (ph) from having a guy as successful as me -- that was his word,
"successful" -- we`ll have a better country.

In other words, my wealth is my case for my presidency.

GINGRICH: Well, that`s what George Washington would have said.
That`s what -- I mean, the fact is...

MATTHEWS: Yes, they were elites!

GINGRICH: ... historically, what they would have said is their
interest in ending -- in ending poverty by leveling up, not leveling

MATTHEWS: Well, just remember Washington had a couple hundred slaves,
and there was a different kind of politics -- let`s take a look at some
(INAUDIBLE) I don`t think anything we say here is as good as what you were
saying in the campaign.


MATTHEWS: You described the choice between yourself and the president
in stark terms just a few months ago on the (INAUDIBLE) I want you to
analyze some of the signals you`re sending. These are called
"dogwhistles." You watch. Let`s listen.


GINGRICH: If you`re for paychecks, you`re with us. If you`re for
food stamps, you`re with Barack Obama. If you are for American
exceptionalism, you`re us. If you`re for European socialism and Saul
Alinsky radicalism, you`re with Barack Obama. If you are, in fact, in
favor of a strong America in a dangerous world, you`re with us. If you`re
for a weak America that tries to appease its enemies, you`re with Obama.


MATTHEWS: I`ve been applauding your intellect, but then you use a
phrase like "food stamps," with all the coinage that it`s got. Fine.
Fine. I know what the game you`re playing (INAUDIBLE) It`s OK. But then
the Saul Alinsky line. Do you think the average person out there has any
idea who Saul Alinsky -- they think they`re hearing Trotsky. You know what
you`re saying, Saul Alinsky!


MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, they do!


MATTHEWS: You said this foreign-sounding name, Russian-sounding name.
Why are -- why Saul Alinsky?


MATTHEWS: What`s the point -- what`s the point of giving a stump
speech saying, This guy wants to worry about food stamps and Saul Alinsky.
What`s the signal is? He`s for poor blacks and he`s off with the commies.

GINGRICH: Food stamps are not about poor blacks.

MATTHEWS: Oh, it isn`t?


MATTHEWS: That`s not the signal you were sending.


MATTHEWS: What does it say?

GINGRICH: Food stamps are about dependency.

MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. It doesn`t have any ethnic connotation?


MATTHEWS: OK. Fine. How come it always did until you came along?

GINGRICH: No, it doesn`t. It didn`t -- it never has had that.
That`s -- that`s a liberal...

MATTHEWS: Reagan used to do it. Reagan used to say a guy standing in
line, a woman standing in line at the Safeway, buying, you know -- and sees
a guy, a young buck walked by and buy his -- his liquor with his food
stamps. It was the same old Welfare mother line -- lineage. You know

I`m not going to get you to agree with it.

GINGRICH: Reagan...

MATTHEWS: I`m just going to assert it.

GINGRICH: Reagan`s Welfare mother...

MATTHEWS: Welfare queen!

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) remember the Welfare queen.

MATTHEWS: Yes. What was that about?

GINGRICH: Never once had an ethnic -- I mean, it could have been any

MATTHEWS: Yes, right!

GINGRICH: More -- more whites...

MATTHEWS: You`re smiling.

GINGRICH: More whites than blacks...


MATTHEWS: I know that and you know that, but I`ll tell you, the
average person out there thinks it`s another shot (ph).

GINGRICH: OK, so if I`d said Bill Ayers instead of Saul Alinsky,
since Ayers...

MATTHEWS: Fair enough.

GINGRICH: ... is not a foreign...

MATTHEWS: Fair enough...


MATTHEWS: You would have called him a terrorist.

GINGRICH: That`s not a foreign-sounding -- well, he was at one time.

MATTHEWS: OK. I know he was.

We`re going to be right back. I want to talk to you about some
interesting stuff right now. One question I have about your party, and you
are a prominent Republican, former speaker -- why can`t you lose the
birther stuff? Why do you guys got, like, Trump, who you`re going to be
with tomorrow, why this guy, what`s his name, Coffman (ph) out in Colorado,
still pushing this line? There`s about a dozen of these guys. Why don`t
you just drop them off the back of the caboose and say, Lose it. We don`t
want you anymore.

We`ll be right back with Newt Gingrich. He`s going to explain why he
hangs around with -- well, his party does -- with birthers.

GINGRICH: You`re going to tell...


GINGRICH: ... this`ll be an interesting segment.

MATTHEWS: You`re going to tell Obama to lose who?

GINGRICH: I said, Are you going to lose the Donald?


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and back to the former Speaker of the
House, Newt Gingrich.

You know, I don`t think you believe a word of this, but why does some
people in your party, including the very wealthy Donald Trump, who I have
mixed feelings about, of course, like everybody does, perhaps not you --
and I like him in some ways, but he`s not stupid enough to believe this
birther stuff, and yet he keeps playing it.

Barack Obama has a birth certificate, the same as ours, right? He
comes from a father who was from another country, but he`s locally born in
Hawaii. Why do some people in your party keep pushing that he`s not an

GINGRICH: Beats me.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Tampa convention. The way it
usually works is we`re on -- we`re going to be on almost gavel to gavel
here. I`m going to be down and we`ll all going to be covering this thing
on Fox and here at MSNBC and CNN. But on the broadcast networks, which is
still the standard people like to apply to it, you get about an hour a

Are you going to get primetime?

GINGRICH: I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: Did you ask for primetime?

GINGRICH: No, but I`ll get whatever Romney thinks helps him win.

MATTHEWS: Even if it`s not on broadcast.

GINGRICH: Yes. I will take whatever Romney thinks will help him win.

MATTHEWS: You`re just a supplicant now. You`re just a humble...

GINGRICH: I`m not a supplicant, I`m a team player.

MATTHEWS: A team player?

GINGRICH: I started my career as a team player.

MATTHEWS: You know, when you smile, I see what you are! But that`s
all right. Let me ask you about the vice president. Without trying to
guess it -- I think it`s Portman -- but without guessing it, I would love
it to be Christie, for purposes like I`d like you to be the nominee because
there`s a lot more color.

But how do you -- how`s he go about picking him, the way he does
everything, like an IBM executive, very calculated, maybe get him one
state? Is that same rule we used to have, get one state...

GINGRICH: No, I don`t think.

MATTHEWS: What is it about?

GINGRICH: I think it`s, first of all, about -- I mean, if you look at
George W., for example, getting Wyoming couldn`t have been the reason he
picked Cheney.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but Dick Cheney picked himself, though.

GINGRICH: Yes. Well...

MATTHEWS: Come on!

GINGRICH: That whole -- that whole dance was orchestrated by...

MATTHEWS: By Cheney.

GINGRICH: By Cheney, by Rove...

MATTHEWS: Yes, of course. You know, he was in charge of picking and
he picked himself. He basically said...


MATTHEWS: ... Tom Ridge is a good guy (ph). Of course, he`s not good
on the values questions. Of course, he was against the MX (INAUDIBLE) You
could see how he shot everybody down, Cheney, to get the job himself. But
go on.

GINGRICH: I think -- look, I think they will face a couple of big
decisions, and you won`t know the shape of it until probably July. For
example, Virginia`s a key state both for governor and for the Senate. Bob
McDonnell is a terrific governor. Do you use him, and does that seal off
the South?

MATTHEWS: Does it hurt if he`s Catholic?

GINGRICH: No, if anything, it helps. I mean, given the current
struggle between Obama and the Catholic hierarchy...


GINGRICH: ... McDonnell would actually be an asset everywhere. I
mean, he would be an asset across the whole country as a Catholic. If you
-- if you want a guy who helps you in the industrial Midwest, Portman has
the advantage across the whole region.

MATTHEWS: Does it hurt he was in the Bush administration?

GINGRICH: I think it makes it more complicated that he was the trade
representative because then he`s got to get -- but on the other hand,
Portman`s really smart, so I suspect he can handle being the trade
representative. He did run...

MATTHEWS: Would you go with a colorful guy like Christie or Rubio?

GINGRICH: I would look at Rubio very seriously, and I think they
will. I would also look at a longer shot like Susana Martinez, who`s the
governor of New Mexico.

MATTHEWS: Does it hurt Rubio that he had Mormon roots, that he was a
Mormon when he was a young kid? Is it too strange to have two people with
Mormon backgrounds on the ticket?

GINGRICH: No, it doesn`t bother...


GINGRICH: Rubio`s a unique figure in his own right.

MATTHEWS: OK. So you think he`s really in the running, Rubio?

GINGRICH: I`d be -- yes, I think -- at this stage, I think he is.
And you got to question -- I mean, first of all, delivering Florida is now
-- a huge state.

MATTHEWS: Sure. If you had (INAUDIBLE) right now, who do you think
are the best picks for him, if you were picking?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think almost anybody you just mentioned. And I would
look at a Mitch Daniels. I would look at three or four other people.
There are -- there are -- they`ve to decide a couple things. First of all,
the person has to be philosophically -- has to be capable of being
president, and second, has to be philosophically compatible, which means a
broadly conservative person.


GINGRICH: I think John Thune is extraordinarily attractive...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think so, too.

GINGRICH: ... very articulate, and you know...

MATTHEWS: OK, last question, animals, because you and I, in a
different way maybe, share a tremendous interest in animals. I think
you`re the only presidential candidate ever to basically go zoo to zoo.


MATTHEWS: What is that about? You went off on a zoo trip -- and
you`ve also made comments over the years about how men and women in combat
-- or women in combat are a problem because men want to go off and kill
giraffes and...

GINGRICH: That actually came --

MATTHEWS: You`ve made some strange comments.

GINGRICH: -- from a course I taught.


MATTHEWS: OK. Well, it was still -- it still belies -- well,
whatever it means, what are you about -- what are you about animals?
What`s you and animals about?

GINGRICH: I love the natural world. I love animals, whether they`re
in -- out in the wild. I love animals in zoos. I love paleontology.

MATTHEWS: OK. We`re going to make news now.

Best zoo in the country?

GINGRICH: Oh, San Diego.

MATTHEWS: Best -- for big animals, all kinds of animals?

GINGRICH: Sorry. If you take the wild animal park and the


GINGRICH: It`s just huge.

MATTHEWS: Best -- best animal, favorite animal to go watch?

GINGRICH: Favorite animal to go watch? Hard to say. Maybe

MATTHEWS: That`s me, too. Me, too.

GINGRICH: They`re amazing.

MATTHEWS: I`m with elephants.

GINGRICH: They`re just remarkable.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`ll show you in the picture in the office here.

Let me -- do you like the reptile house?



MATTHEWS: Why do you like the reptile house? Because most people are
afraid to go in there.


GINGRICH: They`re astonishingly successful. They do it in a totally
different way than we do, and they have been successful for a very long

MATTHEWS: Favorite snake?

GINGRICH: Probably a python.

MATTHEWS: Why? A constrictor, right?

GINGRICH: Big and passive.

MATTHEWS: Constrictor?

GINGRICH: Yes. It`s...

MATTHEWS: You like the constrictor aspect of it?

GINGRICH: No, I just think they`re very...


MATTHEWS: You like that it eat cows whole?


GINGRICH: They don`t eat cows whole.


MATTHEWS: What about a mamba? I would have thought you would like a
black mamba. They go 30 miles an hour. They attack your nervous system.
You have got 15 minutes to live. They attack like this and they keep

GINGRICH: You have a more ruthless approach to politics than I do.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.

The black mamba has been here.

Anyway, thank you, Newt Gingrich. Please come back, if you don`t sign
with FOX again. That would be good for you. Stay independent, like Notre


MATTHEWS: Stay out there.

Anyway, we will be right back with the "Sideshow." And this has not
been that.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



months, there has been an increasing buzz that Mitt Romney will pick a vice
president who is safe, white and duller than him...


LENO: ... which pretty much narrows it down to a piece of chalk,
doesn`t it, really?



MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And that is the "Sideshow."

We have already started.

First off: how Florida Governor Rick Scott just became the laughing
stock of Spanish TV. It started with his trip to Spain to promote business
opportunities in his home state. Some backstory here. Spain`s leader,
King Juan Carlos, caused a firestorm last month when he went on an elephant
hunting trip into Botswana over in Africa.

It didn`t go over well with Spanish citizens, who are struggling
through the country`s severe economic crisis. Enter Rick Scott, who met
with Juan Carlos earlier this week.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I still want to hear about -- I have
ridden elephants. I never tried to shoot one.

We were in Botswana. And we were in the jeep. And an elephant
started chasing the jeep. My wife was in the back part of the jeep. And
she tried to get out to the front of the jeep.


MATTHEWS: He really didn`t want to talk about it, the king didn`t.

Anyway, you have heard of the elephant in the room? Rick Scott didn`t
know that the elephant in this room was an elephant. It`s been all over
the Spanish press.

Next up, at a fund-raiser earlier this month, Mitt Romney said that
Obama`s edge among Hispanic voters could -- quote -- "spell doom for

Well, it was a closed-door event, but NBC News caught part of it on

Anyway, last night, Mitt Romney spoke at the Latino Coalition Economic
Summit, a prime opportunity to discuss key issues for Hispanic voters,
right? So what did he talk about?


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If every one of our small
businesses added just two employees, Americans could pay more mortgages and
buy more groceries.

President Obama has decided to attack success. If unemployment was
where it should be, and home values were going up, there is no question but
that the crisis in American education would be the great cause of this

As president, I will pursue a very bold policy of change that will
restore the promise of our national education system.


MATTHEWS: Well, no mention whatever by Romney of immigration in his
speech to Latinos.

Asked to comment afterwards, the group chairman said, "I don`t think
he`s been unilaterally against hearing ideas."

I guess Mitt Romney is only opposed to talking about them.

Finally, veteran newscaster Dan Rather has covered a whopping 11
presidential elections over the course of his career, and so far he thinks
2012 is a standout race, not in a good way.


DAN RATHER, NEWS ANCHOR: There have been bad ones before, but this is
by far the worst so far.

I think the fact there were so many debates during the Republican
primary contributed to it. I hope I`m wrong about this, but I think by the
time we finish with this campaign, not only will it be a $3 billion
presidential campaign, $3 billion, but it will be ugly enough to choke a
buzzard before we get through with it.


MATTHEWS: Ugly enough to choke a buzzard. Where does Dan get this
sagebrush stuff anyway?

Up next, we have got new poll numbers out from some key swing states,
the states that will decide the presidential race. How is it looking for
President Obama? We will get to that right next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


"Market Wrap."

Well, Dow added 33 points, the S&P gained by two, and the Nasdaq,
however, shed 11 points. Well, Facebook shares ended higher for a second
day, but demand to borrow shares for shorting is up with 8 percent of
shares out on loan. That`s according to Data Explorers, which tracks short
selling activity.

Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims fell by 2,000. Economists expected a
flat reading. And Tiffany`s shares slid nearly 7 percent. That company
lowered its guidance due to slowing sales.

Well, that is it from CNBC for now. We`re first in business
worldwide. Now it`s back over to HARDBALL.


The 2012 presidential race will likely come down to just a handful of
battleground states. Perhaps the three most important of them are -- it`s
always dangerous to say which three, but let`s try Ohio, Virginia and
Florida. And today we`re learning more about where things stand there,
thanks to the latest NBC News/Marist poll.

President Obama leads Mitt Romney in all three of those states, though
the race is certainly tightening. And take a look. It`s very much near
the margin of error. In Florida, Obama is up by four, 48-44. Catch this,
Virginia, same exact numbers, 48-44, in Ohio, almost the same, a six-point
spread, 48-42.

So, what do these numbers tell us about where this race is nationally,
as well as in the Electoral College?

Chuck Todd is the NBC News political director and chief White House
correspondent, and Major Garrett is the White House correspondent for "The
National Journal," two of the best.

Chuck, you know, when you look at these state -- state numbers in
these key states of Florida, Virginia and Ohio, what do they tell you about
the shape of the race, both in terms of the Electoral College, where these
matter, and the popular?


Well, I think, number one is you first look at -- when an incumbent is
running for reelection, you look at their number first. Their number this
far out matters more than the challenger number.

MATTHEWS: Do you need to be 50 to get reelected?

TODD: No, but you need to be right -- basically, he is at a
reelectable number right now at 48.


MATTHEWS: What was Bush?


TODD: Bush was sitting at 47/48 right now.


TODD: And that`s where Obama is. He`s got 48 percent job approval
rating overall nationally, 47 in the battleground -- in the matchup

And where is he here? -- 48, 48, 48. Even in the likely voter
modelling that we had in there, Romney moves up a little bit. The Obama
number sticks right at 48.

MATTHEWS: So is he walking along the edge of a cliff right now, the
president? Could he slip? Could he slip down into the 44s, rather than
48? Is he that close to trouble? Or is he solid?

MAJOR GARRETT, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": We haven`t seen that sign yet.

The president has, at the national level and at the state level -- and
the state numbers are really just starting to take on some relevance. The
state numbers...


TODD: ... starting to gel. It`s still wet cement, but...



So -- but the national numbers have not been 44, 42, 43 for the
president in a long -- not since the dog days of August.


MATTHEWS: Stays in the high 40s.

GARRETT: He`s static there.

But here`s the thing to think about with Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
Republicans and the Republican brand vastly underperformed in all three of
those states by 4 percentage points in Ohio, 4.3 in Virginia and 3.2 in

If Republicans do better than half, get half of that back, OK, in
their turnout modelling, then Romney is in all three of those states very,
very competitively. But they have to gain back at least half of the vote
they gave up from 2004 to 2008. And if they don`t, the president is in
good shape.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the states that are way out there, way out
in the West which are very, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada.

Can the president count on them?

TODD: Yes. I think he can count on two of those three.

I think assuming stuff doesn`t step back, I think Colorado, he`s the
favorite. I think New Mexico pretty much...


MATTHEWS: Because of Hispanic voters. Yes.

TODD: Hispanic voters.

Nevada is the one. Nevada is a coin flip right now. I think...

MATTHEWS: Does the LDS religion help Romney?

TODD: I think it helps him a little bit.

I think what is a bigger factor is that Nevada -- look at -- Nevada,
North Carolina and Florida, I actually group them together because all
three, Nevada, North Carolina, have unemployment rates higher than the
national average and they have bad foreclosures -- bad foreclosure issues.


MATTHEWS: Guys, what are your observations when you see the yellow,
where we have these key we`re calling them swing states? Look at them

In Iowa, I hear, even though the unemployment rate there is way down
to 5 percent, I hear he`s got problems with evangelicals over this same-sex
marriage thing.

GARRETT: Well, the Iowa numbers have improved, though, for the
president. Remember, they were bad right after the caucuses, because why?
There was a concentrated 2.5-month period of negative conversation.

TODD: Six months.


GARRETT: Concentrated two-and-a-half months.

So Iowa is beginning to restabilize for the president, but it`s still

But the president`s strong position -- I agree with Chuck -- in
Colorado and New Mexico is a bulwark against an X-factor like North
Carolina or Virginia.


MATTHEWS: Would they have the convention in North Carolina now if
they had to do it all over again?

TODD: I think he would probably pick Richmond, if he could.

I think Virginia...


MATTHEWS: Or Cleveland.

TODD: No. Actually, I don`t -- I disagree.

The whole point, the way David Plouffe thinks about this is he saw --
and he saw the way it worked in Denver.


TODD: The convention is an organizing tool, not for that week that
the convention is, for the five months leading up to it.

GARRETT: Right, and...


GARRETT: ... all around there, which is Florida, Virginia.


TODD: ... still -- in an honest -- still be in play.

Saint Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, those are all good if you wanted
to worry about labor and making them happy. Charlotte was an organizing

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the latest advertising push by Karl

You don`t have to like him to know he`s smart, working on slightly
better upper income -- not upper income -- but slightly upper middle class,
just a bit above average, that woman in the new ad that looks very well
spoken, three kids.


MATTHEWS: The -- it`s not a poor person`s house. That`s clearly an
upper-middle-class or middle-class home. And she doesn`t have a husband

This is a white woman. And she has the kids, failure to launch,
coming back home. What about that ad? Is that a smart ad for $10 million
he`s spending?

GARRETT: I think there are two predicates that he`s trying to lay
down there that he`s either going to reinforce or he believes the Romney
campaign is going to reinforce: I was an Obama supporter. I liked what I
heard. I`m disappointed with the results.

That is a theme throughout that and the idea of children living at
home and my retirement less certain for me than it was. These play on
fears up and down the life cycle.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Your thoughts about that.

TODD: I had a Romney person say to me, wow, they obviously have the
same focus groups we have.


TODD: When they saw that ad, they said those are the same focus


MATTHEWS: So this narrows the gender gap. It works on the women...


MATTHEWS: No, they can win back. They`re not going to get African-
American women or Latina, but they will get the white woman, maybe.


TODD: ... suburban America.


TODD: ... when you look at Northern Virginia, suburbs around Philly.


MATTHEWS: According to the NBC/Marist poll, again, one of Romney`s
most significant problems is with women. The president has double-digit
leads among women in all three states, by the way, we took a look at.

The president is up by 10 among women in Florida and Virginia, and 12
up in Ohio. So that is the challenge they`re trying to break.

TODD: It is.

And one more thing though about -- I want to take these states as a
whole. The scary thing, if you`re Mitt Romney, about these -- and, look, I
put these three here because Florida was the be-all/end-all in 2000, Ohio
in `04. Virginia was the one...


MATTHEWS: By the way, how did Tim Russert always know that?


MATTHEWS: Because he used to say Florida, Florida, Florida. We got
the picture up there.

TODD: Yes, and then Ohio.

MATTHEWS: Then he said Ohio. What is it this year?

TODD: Look, I think it`s Virginia.



TODD: I think it is Virginia because...

MATTHEWS: You agree.



TODD: The president can win without Ohio and Florida. It is hard for
him -- there is a way for him to get there without...

MATTHEWS: That`s why I want us to go down and spend time in Virginia.

Let me ask you one question that is nut-cutter, if you will, the tough
one, the really tough one. Why is Obama unable to really get above 48 in
job performance and is that a problem for him?

GARRETT: Well, look, the economic news, though better, is still
mediocre at best. And the president owns the economy.

He can`t not get away from it.

MATTHEWS: He rides on that wave? OK.

GARRETT: And, look, what did the president say his campaign was going
to be about? Forward. What has been his hardest, most aggressive attack
against Romney? Backward.

OK, the president still hasn`t filled in, I don`t believe -- and I
think the polling data reflects this -- what his second term is going to be
about, what has been accomplished so far that has demonstratively changed
people`s lives for the better. It`s not as bad as it could have been,
true, but what is the payoff for them supporting him now and for the


MATTHEWS: Are things getting better in this country? Can he say
things are getting better?

GARRETT: Look at the embedded number in your poll, NBC/"Wall Street
Journal" poll.

MATTHEWS: Chuck, can he say that? Are things getting better?

GARRETT: Fearful about the future...


TODD: When you look at the numbers and the housing numbers that are
coming in, I have to say, I think the most important -- if you`re in
Chicago, the single most important thing that has happened -- numbers that
has come out in the last 10 days have been housing.


MATTHEWS: Gas prices.


MATTHEWS: A 3 percent increase in housing.

TODD: That`s right. The idea -- that is why people feel like, yes,
there is some new jobs. Yes, there is this.

I think the reason why the economic anxiety has stuck for so long is
people thought their greatest investment, their house, wasn`t worth

MATTHEWS: So now there`s an increasing real demand for housing. And
that`s why...


TODD: If that`s real, if that sticks...

MATTHEWS: I agree completely.


MATTHEWS: Most people`s one big asset, when they`re 60-some years
old, is the house.

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: And then they sell it and move into a condo but then they
have a lot of cash to retire on. They need that kitty. And without that
kitty --


MATTHEWS: It`s subjective anyway.

So, is the president going to win this election?


TODD: Forty-eight is coin flip territory.

MATTHEWS: You guys are the best. Nobody does more than you guys,

GARRETT: Nobody knows more than Chuck, I`ll tell you that.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Major Garrett.
Have a nice memorial weekend. As I always say, let`s remember what it`s
about it.

Up next, the Bain scrutiny. The HARDBALL strategists talk to us
about the risks and rewards that President Obama is going after Mitt where
he feels the pain of Bain. He hates talking about it.

And catch "The Chris Matthews Show" this week, and we`re going to
talk about that very topic, the Obama campaign and its plan to really start
nailing Romney on its history at Bain. "The Chris Matthews Show" this
weekend on your local broadcast stations.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new poll numbers from some key Senate race
around the country. So, let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

First, that hot race of Virginia. According to our new NBC
News/Marist poll, Democrat Tim Kaine is leading Republican George Allen by
six, 49-43.

In Florida, Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, that`s a four-
point lead over his Republican likely challenger, U.S. Congressman Connie
Mack 46-42. Not very safe for Nelson.

Now to Ohio, where Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has opened up a
big lead now over Republican Josh Mandel, the self-financier. Brown is up
14 points now, 51-37.

Up in Massachusetts, it`s a tight race between Republican Senator
Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. A new Suffolk poll up there shows a one-
point race. This is a barnburner of the race up there and a nail-biter, if
you will. Brown 48, Warren 47. No difference there.

We`ll be right back.



Make no mistake, President Obama has said Mitt Romney`s record at
Bain Capital will make him a good businessman, but definitely not a good
president. And Romney naturally disagrees. But how will both campaigns
play the Bain card? Especially when it`s page one article in today`s "New
York Times" puts it, "Bain Strategy Holds Pitfalls for President."

This is fascinating stuff. The HARDBALL strategists are here: Steve
McMahon is a Democrat. Todd Harris is a Republican.

You know what it settles down to? It settles down to this is the
main thrust, the main attack line of the Obama campaign. They`ve made it
clear, the president couldn`t have made it more clear this week, this is
what the campaign is about. So, he needs it as a weapon. The other guy
needs to push it out of the way or deflect it, right? It`s not important.


MATTHEWS: Someone has to win this or lose it?

HARRIS: And what`s fascinating about this, is that normally an issue
of this magnitude, this is the kind of stuff that you would be prosecuted
in the fall post-Labor Day. These are the heavy guns of this campaign, and
the Obama campaign made the decision that they have got to undercut --

MATTHEWS: Yes, why do think -- why do you think --

HARRIS: -- because they have to undercut his ability to present
himself as a credible job-creator and a businessman. So, they want to --
they`re throwing everything at him now so they can introduce him to the
American people.

MATTHEWS: So how does he answer to the charge that he didn`t kill a
lot of jobs, that Bain was basically a chop shop that went around basically
cost cutting, cutting and flipping them at the expense of the workers? How
does he deny that?

HARRIS: Well, it`s easy because it`s not true.


MATTHEWS: Who are these people that keep coming on and saying that?

HARRIS: They`re all people who worked at a factory closed two years


HARRIS: But this is the problem. If you`re going to create -- if
you`re going to turn this into a character attack -- that`s what it is.
No, no, these ads are about character.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Everything is about character.

MATTHEWS: You can`t talk family, you can`t talk business, what can
you talk about?

HARRIS: You can talk character.

MCMAHON: You were doing such a good job in the beginning because
you`re absolutely right. Normally this would be prosecuted in October, not
right now. Right now, this is a definitional moment for Mitt Romney. His
favorable ratings is about 33. His vote is about 46. You don`t usually
see a vote outstrip a favorable rating like that.

People don`t really like this guy. Right now, it`s kind of a
referendum on the president. The president wants to is introduce Mitt
Romney, introduce his record as -- not just as somebody who created the
jobs that he says he created, but destroyed the jobs --

MATTHEWS: So, make it about him as much as it`s about Obama. When
is that worked last time? When was it last time that worked?

MCMAHON: It worked with Bob Dole --

MATTHEWS: Four years ago.

MCMAHON: It works any time you come in with somebody who is not
well-defined. Clinton defined Bob Dole before his campaign got of the
ground. They smothered it in the crib. That`s what the Obama campaign is
trying to do here.

MATTHEWS: This is Romney basically saying, if you do what I do,
you`ll end like me, a big success? He`s saying, I`m the role model for
American success, right?

HARRIS: That`s not his campaign message.



MATTHEWS: He says, I should be president because I was good and
successful at Bain. That`s he`s selling point.

HARRIS: He said I should be president, because unlike this
president, I have experience at creating jobs.



MATTHEWS: It`s his claim to fame.

HARRIS: And they were successful, 80 percent of the companies --

MATTHEWS: How can Obama not attack the very argument the other guy
is saying is the reason he should be president?

MCMAHON: That`s exactly right.

HARRIS: Of course, he`s going to attack it. My point is, if you`re
going to make a character attack like this, you damn well better get your
facts straight. They didn`t. That`s the problem. That`s why Cory Booker
is calling --


HARRIS: That`s why Ed Rendell these are cheap shots.

MCMAHON: These are people who work their whole lives, and what do
they get in the end, they got their health benefits taken away, they lost
their jobs, they lost their pensions, and Mitt Romney and his buddies
walked away with $20 million --

HARRIS: Who is running Bain --


MATTHEWS: An update here, President Obama criticized Romney`s
business sense. Let`s listen to the president on this point. You can


25 years in the private sector gives me a special understanding of how our
economy works. Well, if that`s true, why is he peddling the same bad ideas
that brought our economy to the brink of collapse? Most good business
people I know, if something doesn`t work, they do something different.


MATTHEWS: Well, this morning on FOX TV, Governor Romney was asked
whether he agrees with Rush Limbaugh that President Obama is running a
campaign against capitalism. Let`s listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it certainly sounds
like that`s what he`s doing. There`s no question that he is attacking
capitalism, in part I think because he doesn`t understand how the free
economy works. He`s never had a job in the free economy, neither has Vice
President Biden. They spent their lives as either community organizers or
as members of a political class.


MATTHEWS: There`s a tough panel to work, by the way.


MATTHEWS: Give me a break. There`s an easy audience.

What do you make of that?

HARRIS: That`s absolutely right. The Obama campaign is running an
ad --

MATTHEWS: So, he`s communist?

HARRIS: -- calling Romney a vampire. They`re saying this -- when
you do what he did at Bain Capital, he is like a vampire.

MCMAHON: When you suck all the nutrients out of something and leave
it dead, what is that?


HARRIS: This factory that closed, who was the head of Bain when it
closed? Was it Mitt Romney or not? Who is head of Bain when the factory

MCMAHON: Who bought the company, loaded up $20 million in their
pocket, and left the company basically unable to do the business, and
driven into bankruptcy, leaving these poor people --


HARRIS: If private, if private equity is so bad, why did the
president take millions from private equity firms in 2008? Why did he just
have a fundraiser the day this ad went on the air --


HARRIS: So he`s willing to take money from these "vampires"?

MCMAHON: No, he`s going to take money from --


MATTHEWS: The president has been saying there`s nothing wrong with
equity, he`s saying there`s something wrong with the guy who`s claimed to
fame with Bain Capital --


HARRIS: No, no, no, that`s not what his ad says, that`s what the
president said when he politicized his NATO summit.


MATTHEWS: I agree with you, his first ad was pretty good, that went,
we`re going to do Keystone. I, by the way, think the president should do
Keystone. But here he is with his new add about what first day of the
Romney presidency would look like. It`s airing in Iowa, Ohio, North
Carolina, and Virginia, the states we`ve been talking about, swing states.

Let`s watch.


AD NARRATOR: Day one, President Romney announces deficit reductions,
ending the Obama era of big government, helping secure our kids` futures.

President Romney stands up to China on trade and demands they play by
the rules.

President Romney begins repealing job-killing regulations.


MATTHEWS: An Obama super PAC, by the way, countered right away with
a web video of their version of a Romney administration. Let`s listen to
the counter attack.


AD ANNOUNCER: What would a Romney presidency be like?

ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.

I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

I`m not concerned about the very poor.

Don`t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run it`s course
and hit the bottom.


MATTHEWS: There you have it. First of all, how does he declare the
end of deficit spending? What role does the president play in that? I
think Congress --


MATTHEWS: He just declares the end of all deficit spending. How
does he do that?

HARRIS: Well, he can start by coming out in favor of a balanced
budget amendment and getting Congress --


MATTHEWS: That`s how you declare it?

HARRIS: At least we`re in favor of ending deficit spending.

MCMAHON: What about day three, Todd? We have been talking about the
balanced budget amendment for 25 years.


MCMAHON: -- end deficit spending. Is he go down to the Republicans
in Congress and say, you`ve got to cut the fence, is he going to go down
there and say pass a huge debt deal and not walk away from it like John
Boehner did, what`s he going to do?

HARRIS: First of all, John Boehner did not walk away from the debt
deal. President Obama changed the terms and that blew up the debt deal.


MATTHEWS: The worst thing can happen to Republicans -- I mean, this
subjectively, the worse thing that happen is you win everything in the
House, the Senate, the president, you`re going to cut the hell out of
Medicare, you`re going in two years.

HARRIS: Someone`s got to do something about Medicare. What do you
want do about Medicare?

MATTHEWS: I have a whole theory about this, but I`m not sure I can
explain it tonight. I think we have to rework the whole way we rationalize
our medical system and I don`t think it`s going to be done --

HARRIS: It`s all broken and it`s making it bankrupt.

MCMAHON: It won`t be done on day one either.

MATTHEWS: A lot less paperwork is key to it. Anyway, thank you,
Steve McMahon.

Good question, by the way. We`ll get to that, when we go to the
later hour.

When we return, let me finish, by the way -- let me finish with a
basic question about Mitt Romney. Does he want to be president of the
United States or just the 1 percent?

You`re watching HARDBALL, a place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Mitt Romney has one pitch, and since it`s his only one, he makes it
again and again, is that he is a man of business, someone who spent his
life in business, doing it, thinking about it, experiencing it, and this is
why he, Mitt Romney, is a better man than the president to direct the
business of the country.

But the question, and an important one, is whether Romney would take
his business training and use it for the country or take the office of the
presidency and use it to help his fellow business people. Will he serve
the people or the CEOs? The 99 percent or the 1 percent? It`s a basic
useful question to ask.

What if he plays the business game in ways that favors the wealthy
like himself? What if he cuts taxes for the wealthy? What if he
eliminates environmental and safety regulations? What if he pulls down the
financial regulations put in places the crash of `08 and `09? And what if
he sides with the wheeler-dealers and opens the door for the hell to break
loose like it did under Bush?

And what if he can`t see what was done wrong before, but wants
instead to do it all over again? This is the danger.

We elect presidents to look out for the people. Business, especially
the people like Mitt Romney already have a voice in our national
government. They`re called lobbyist. They push for lower taxes for the
rich, lower taxes on corporations. They work with friends in Congress, to
pull back on regulation, to make live easier for them, to make more money.

Would but like one of these lobbyists to be our next president? Or
would we like someone who thinks only about the interest of big business,
doing away taxes, we pay -- deciding what taxes we pay, what working
conditions we have to endure, what protections we get for food safety,
airline safety, the safety of our investments from Wall Street sharpies?
Is that what we want looking for us -- the people whose primary concern is
the bottom line of those Mitt Romney calls the successful?

Government of, by and for the economic elite -- is that what we want?
Because if you listen, you can hear that this is precisely what the man
from Bain is now out there selling.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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