updated 9/25/2012 10:47:53 AM ET 2012-09-25T14:47:53

HARDBALL
September 24, 2012

Guests: Bob Shrum, Dee Dee Myers, Jay Roach


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Can`t wait for the debate.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

"Let Me Start" with the big one, next week`s first huge debate between
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. No matter what we say now trying to figure
this thing out, it`s impossible to know what it will feel like when these
two men meet, shake hands and take their positions.

The studio where we do HARDBALL in Washington was the site of the
second great debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Right
before that debate, the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, arrived to
discover something weird had happened. The studio temperature was meat-
locker level, so cold, they couldn`t believe it. And they knew why.
Kennedy`s television adviser went racing to the basement and found Nixon`s
guy standing there, standing watch on the thermostat.

Nixon had sweated in that first debate, and it cost him. This time,
the Nixon people were intent on freezing the room so cold that Nixon
couldn`t sweat at all. Well, after a standoff in that basement at our
headquarters and some threats to call the police, they agreed to bring the
temperature up.

Well, think this stuff doesn`t matter? It all matters, just like
everything we do, wear, look like, act like, seem like in our first debates
-- actually, our first dates when we were growing up, remember? Tonight we
look at the serious stuff that will matter, where the two guys stand, Obama
and Romney. And boy, do they disagree.

I`m joined by Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and the David Corn with
"Mother Jones" -- the great David Corn, I should say, famous for having
unearthed that very important 47 percent speech by Romney he never wanted
us to hear.

First, we`ve a new national poll to tell you about. Let`s check the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new Politico/George Washington University battleground
poll, President Obama has a 3-point lead among likely voters. He`s up at
50 percent number, a key number. It`s Obama 50, Romney 47. And that`s a
national number.

Let`s go right now to the issue of this debate coming up. Mitt Romney
seems to have changed his tune on health care again -- again last night.
Here he was on "60 Minutes." Let`s watch him change again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: Does the government have a responsibility to
provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don`t have it today?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, we do
provide care for people who don`t have insurance. People -- if someone has
a heart attack, they don`t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up
in an ambulance and take them to the hospital and give them care. And
different states have different ways of providing for that care.

PELLEY: That`s the most expensive way to do it...

ROMNEY: Well...

PELLEY: ... in the emergency room.

ROMNEY: Again, different states have different ways of doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s interesting, the people that don`t have health care
live in apartments. This is an interesting conclusion he drew there.

Anyway, that may well be Romney`s latest Etch-a-Sketch moment, by the
way. Listen to what he told our colleague Mike Barnicle a couple years ago
on "MORNING JOE" on the very same subject, same question. Listen to how
the answer is different.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE BARNICLE, "MORNING JOE": Do you believe in universal coverage?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure. Look, it doesn`t make a lot of sense for us to
have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance, and yet
who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they
have no responsibility, particularly if they`re people who have sufficient
means to pay their own way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum, that`s terrifying. He`s saying as of last night
that you go to the ER, tough. Tough luck. You live in an apartment.
There`s an assumption he makes, you don`t live in a house, you`re not a
rural person. You live in an apartment somewhere. That`s the usual, I
guess, assumption they make. And you go to the ER. You get picked up by
the ambulance. You get there. It`s all paid for. But of course, we all
share the cost of that.

He`s fine with that, ER coverage for working poor people. Two years
ago with Barnicle, he just offhand said, Oh, sure, we ought to do universal
coverage, health insurance.

Who is this guy?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, DAILYBEAST: Well, he`s the biggest
shape shifter outside of Harry Potter.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SHRUM: I mean, look, he`s flipped on almost everything. But
what`s...

MATTHEWS: But where does he flip to? Where is he now?

SHRUM: Well, where he seems to be now is in what I regard as not only
an immoral position but an economically inefficient one. It is the most
expensive way, as Scott Pelley said, to provide health care.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SHRUM: But beyond that, if you`d taken the guy and given him health
coverage so he could go to the doctor, get a checkup, he might not have the
heart attack and you`re not going to run up the $100,000, $200,000,
$300,000 bill in the ER.

I`ve had a suspicion that he was going to bring something better to
the debate. I still think he could.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHRUM: And maybe he was leaving his best stuff for that...

MATTHEWS: They could be one-liners (INAUDIBLE)

SHRUM: Yes, not "60 Minutes." Maybe not doing the best stuff on "60
Minutes." But if he gives an answer like that, he`s fried in that debate.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think that gets to the heart of this. David
Corn...

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But what was odd
about that...

MATTHEWS: The 47 percent thing that he talked about in that tape you
unearthed last weekend is probably going to be a big part of this campaign.
There he says basically last night, Oh, yes, you know what I want to do
with those 47 percent? Send them to the ER. Let them wait it out.
They`ll get waited on eventually. Eventually.

CORN: Yes. Yes, and that`s what they deserve. I mean, what`s odd is
he didn`t say -- he didn`t say "Romney care." I mean, he -- there is a way
to deal with this. He`s dealt with it. Actually, "Romney care" has been
pretty damn successful. And it`s the most, you know -- you know, odd thing
about the campaign that perhaps his signature accomplishment in public
life, he can`t even breathe a word of. And Scott Pelley, you know, bless
him, didn`t really raise that issue with him.

But "Romney care" addresses that issue of the person who gets the
heart attack who has to go to the ER. And just -- but I don`t think he has
any strategic intent here. Maybe Bob can discern it. Just the other day
at the Univision forum, he said he was the godfather of "Obama care" and
that would be fine with him.

So he`s really flailing back and forth on this issue. Whatever sort
of seems to pop into his head at the moment is what he says. He`s just so
hand-tied or handcuffed on the issue of health care that he just can`t give
a good answer, no matter what angle he comes at it from.

MATTHEWS: Do you sense Jim Lehrer, the moderator, is going to be able
to put him in circles without even having the other guy involved? I mean,
how tough are they going to be, these moderators?

SHRUM: Well, Lehrer tends to push pretty hard on the specifics, and
he knows the stuff cold. So I think he`ll hold him to account.

But David`s right. I mean, he just seems to be saying the first thing
that pops in his head. My theory of this first debate is that he can do
better than people expect. He has low expectations. If they get him in a
room -- and apparently, he`s been practicing a lot. He memorizes what he`s
going to say. He uses only the memorized answers and he never says the
first thing that pops into his head because it`s almost instinctively and
invariably the wrong thing.

MATTHEWS: But you know, David Corn, years ago, a pollster told me the
three things to look for in every great leader, is motive. Why are they in
public life? You knew with Teddy Kennedy why he was there. You knew with
Reagan why he was there. Churchill, name your hero, FDR -- they know why
they were there. And everybody knew why they were -- passion, what makes
them cry, what makes them laugh, what makes them tear up? What makes them
really get angry occasionally?

And third, spontaneity, the ability to answer a question you haven`t heard
before. And it seems like Romney is a strikeout. Three strikes, you`re
out. He doesn`t have emotion. He doesn`t have any kind of idea of any why
-- reason he`s there except to get the job. He has no passion that I can
ever spot.

And spontaneity, you`re right, Bob Shrum, he`s going to have it
memorized, confected like candy -- like cookies coming down a chute,
already caked for him and baked for him so he doesn`t have to think because
if he thinks, as you say -- well, what do you think? Does he have any
spontaneity -- if you ask this guy any question he hadn`t heard before,
what would come out of his mouth...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... the Romney from Massachusetts or the Romney from Bain
or the Romney from Norquist or the neocons?

CORN: The interesting thing about this debate format is that each
candidate is going to be given a lot of time to answer some of these basic
questions. That may not be good for Romney. You get the sense,
particularly on health care, while the Governor Romney of 2003 could give a
good 10-minute answer on health care and what he thought about it, what he
wanted to do about it, what he had accomplished in Massachusetts, how can
Mitt Romney talk for five minutes on health care, even, like, 90 seconds,
without saying something that contradicts something he said the week
before, the month before, that gets the base upset, that is confusing, that
reporters can`t quite understand?

I mean, I don`t know how he does it. He`s tied himself into knots on
this particular question.

On the other side, I do know some Obama aides who are a little worried
that the president, who sometimes can be overly professorial, may use the
time not to his advantage, either. And they like to see more succinct
answers. So they each kind of have the opposite issue here to deal with,
how Romney can speak coherently about health care in a way that`s
convincing, showing passion and vision...

MATTHEWS: OK, I think it`s...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: ... Obama doesn`t go too far down the road (ph).

MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to get through this debate the way I got
through grad school in economics -- sheer, unadulterated memory.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What we saw last night on "60 Minutes" seemed almost like
opening arguments for next months` debate -- actually, next week`s debate.
Here Scott Pelley interviewed Mitt Romney and Steve Kroft interviewed
President Obama. Take a look at their competing visions for the
government, what we should be doing in the federal government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Making government smaller. Don`t build these massive
deficits that pass debt on to our kids. Rebuild the foundation of
America`s strength with great homes, great schools, with entrepreneurship
and innovation.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s no bigger
purpose right now than making sure that if people work hard in this
country, they can get ahead. That`s the central American idea. That`s how
we sent a man to the moon because there was an economy that worked for
everybody and that allowed us to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Great homes"!

SHRUM: Maybe we can build a bunch of homes with elevators for four
cars!

MATTHEWS: McMansions. Let me ask you, Bobby Shrum, because you`ve
prepared candidates for this. What would you -- I`d ask him what
government agencies or departments -- you say you`re going to make it
smaller -- would you get rid of?

SHRUM: Oh, that`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... go for that.

SHRUM: See, he`s -- he`s...

MATTHEWS: Do it.

SHRUM: ... there. He`s got a pretty honed answer that appeals at a
kind of general level to people`s anti-government impulse.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SHRUM: But we know when you look at the polls that if you ask them
about Medicare, the Department of Education, Social Security, Environmental
Protection...

MATTHEWS: Energy.

SHRUM: ... there`s huge -- energy -- that there`s huge support for
all of these. So I suspect that he will be pressed on these things.

Now, he`s been preparing like crazy. He hasn`t just been fund-
raising. He`s been in a room. He`s been in a room with Rob Portman and
he`s been preparing. The guy I think is smart, at least smart about
numbers. So maybe he can memorize these answers, and maybe he`ll bring a
better game to this than he did...

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you...

SHRUM: ... did to "60 Minutes."

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... totally nonpartisan question, David Corn, totally
nonpartisan. Everybody has their own favorite formats. I think he likes a
very formal setting. I moderated the debate at the Reagan Library last
time around. He did very well. He likes formality. He likes the
moderator to be formal, Governor this, President this. You get your time
allotments. Everybody treats everybody in this very formal, structured
way.

Is Obama able to match him in that environment, where he can...

CORN: Well, in...

MATTHEWS: ... his brain power may not be that useful in that very
formal environment.

CORN: Look -- look, where did Mitt Romney make his bones, so to
speak? It was Bain and Company, not Bain Capital, as consultants. He`s
probably great with a PowerPoint and wonderful with presentation, boiling
information down into, you know, nuggets and presenting it in a coherent
fashion.

And I think he`d like to do that without anybody intervening or, you
know, interrupting.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: When you see him on the campaign and he starts having to talk
like a normal person and interacting with people, it almost always throws
him and he starts saying who knows what. So I think, you know, he`ll have
his presentations. But if you watched the interview last night with Scott
Pelley, he still can`t speak in depth about budget cuts, tax -- you know,
the tax deductions he wants to limit.

And so he`s very good at that first index card, but how you get -- you
know, what he has to say for the second, third, fourth index card is still
a problem for him.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the moderator`s challenge, to get them beyond
the memorized material, I would think. But I`m not moderating, obviously.

Well, no one can question whether these two men come down on different
sides of the tax issue. Let`s watch their different views.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Well, it would be the current rates less 20 percent. So the
top rate, for instance, would go from 35 percent to 28. Middle rates would
come down by 20 percent, as well. All the rates come down. We`re also
going to limit deductions and exemptions, particularly for people at the
high end because I want to keep the current progressivity in the code.

OBAMA: The problem that Governor Romney has is that he seems to only
have one note, tax cuts for the wealthy and rolling back regulations as a
recipe for success. Well, we tried that vigorously between 2001 and 2008,
and it didn`t work out so well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Bob, in all fairness, he speaks the language of
very well-off equity guys, business guys, where they all agree and they
want to see less regulation, especially EPA, some FDA. That`s where they
stand. They want lower tax rates for their corporations, lower tax rates
themselves. Notice how very verbal he was on the issue of his rate...

(CROSSTALK)

SHRUM: Well, he knows the top rate.

MATTHEWS: But he`s just -- he is a perfect representative of the top
few percent of the country.

SHRUM: Well, I think that`s true. But what`s interesting here is the
president, in the polling now, is doing as well or better than Romney on
taxes, which is unheard of for a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHRUM: And that, I think, is because Obama`s position has gotten
through to people. People at the top should pay more, the middle class
should not pay more. And Romney`s position is getting through. People at
the top get a big tax cut.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SHRUM: Everybody who wants to claim gets 20 percent, but he`s going
to close all these loopholes like mortgage interest, which is going to hit
the average middle class family very hard.

MATTHEWS: What`s hitting them hard is the differential they have on
middle class. Who`s going to help the middle class. It`s up to double
digits, this huge advantage for the president.

Anyway, thank you, Bob Shrum. Not much of a debate here tonight
between Shrum and Corn, but that`s fine with me!

SHRUM: Well, I salute Corn. He`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We were trying to find a Republican to represent the Romney
crowd. They`re a little quiet these days.

Coming up: Two big complaints from conservatives. One, they say
Republicans would take the White House if only Mitt Romney weren`t the
nominee. Really? Who would they have preferred? Newt? Santorum? Perry?
Democrats have outpolled Republicans, if you count all the elections,
actually count them, four of the last five times. Maybe the problem isn`t
Mitt Romney. Maybe it`s the party.

Complaint number two. Paul Ryan has been neutered by a too cautious
Romney campaign. Believe that? Conservatives cry that, but let Romney
(SIC) be Ryan? Will that -- let Ryan by Ryan. Is that really the answer?
We`ll be at HARDBALL here to try to accommodate that because we`re going to
find out where Ryan really stands and whether Romney`s comfortable with
that.

And the politics conquers Hollywood tonight. "Game Change," the HBO
movie based on the book by our Carl -- no, Mark Halperin and John
Heilemann, took home four Emmies last night. I was rooting for every one.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with why Romney has a shot to win
this election by winning all these debates. The bad news is he`s really
got to win them.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Now we`ve got some new state polls in the presidential
race. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

In Ohio, a key state, University of Cincinnati poll shows President
Obama leading pretty well here, 51-46. Most importantly, as you see, above
50 percent for the president.

In Florida, however, a new "Tampa Bay Times"/"Miami Herald" poll has
Obama by only 1 -- this isn`t (ph) very significant -- 48-47. But a new
PPP poll for Florida has the president up by 4, which is more significant,
50-46.

In Colorado, a new PPP poll has Obama up by 6 -- that`s powerful, 51-
45 in Colorado. North Carolina, a new Civitas poll shows the president
with a 4-point lead, and that`s the most he`s had down there, I think, in
any poll, 49-45. That`s a poll that tends to lean Republican. Well, it`s
leaning Democrat in this case.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE MCKINNON, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Do you really think this would
be going better if you`d nominated someone else? Who, Rick Santorum? Are
you thinking you missed the boat with Newt Gingrich? If you think I`m
unrelatable, check out Callista Gingrich. She looks like a character from
"Mars Attacks."

(LAUGHTER)

MCKINNON: At least my hair moves. Seth, look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. That`s very nice.

MCKINNON: It`s better than nice. It`s freaking awesome!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

MCKINNON: You guys wish Ron Paul was still running? Well, guess
what? He probably is because he`s a lunatic who doesn`t understand how
voting works!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wouldn`t it be great if that was Ann Romney.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was the new "SNL" cast member,
Kate McKinnon, playing her, and in fact, playing an exasperated Ann Romney.

Mitt Romney`s taken a beating lately, most from his -- mostly from his
own party. But really, would Republicans rather have Rick Perry as their
nominee?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRES. CANDIDATE: And I will tell you, it`s
three agencies of government when I get there that are gone, commerce,
education, and the -- what`s the third one there? Let`s see...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t name the third one?

PERRY: The third agency of government I would -- I would do away with
education, the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commerce.

PERRY: Commerce. And -- let`s see, I can`t. The third one I can`t.
Sorry. Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was the quietest "oops" in history, but boy, was it
funny. Anyway, here`s Herman Cain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 9-9-9 is bold.

What 9-9-9 does, it expands the base.

I have proposed 9-9-9...

Put it in the 9-9-9 plan.

-- 9-9-9 plan...

-- 9-9-9 will pass...

-- 9-9-9...

Remember 9-9-9 plan...

-- 9-9-9...

My top priority is 9-9-9. Jobs, jobs, jobs!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think capital punishment may be better than listening to
that guy say the number nine. Anyway, even Michele Bachmann knew these
numbers didn`t add up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MN, THEN-PRES. CANDIDATE: When you take the
9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil`s in the details.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. That`s the sign of the beast. Where does her
mind go? Anyway -- well, that`s an assumption.

All of this and more has taken a toll on the party. For evidence,
just look at the Pollster.com party I.D. -- I mean, this is a fascinating
number. The number of people who identify themselves as Republicans has
been decline over the past six months. So, if you ask people, what are
you?

And for all the -- look at that, how the number has gone down
dramatically just these six months. People say, are you a Republican?
Well, not me anymore. Anyway, they have got a weak candidate? Maybe
that`s not the issue. Maybe it`s that they have become the party of
religious conservatives. That`s part of the problem for some people, a
party that is relying on a shrinking portion of the voting population,
older, whiter voters who long for the good old days.

That means the GOP is essentially writing off younger voters, minority
voters, college-educated white women, if you will. In other words, maybe
the real problem isn`t Mitt Romney, but the Republican Party itself.

Dee Dee Myers is former press secretary for President Clinton. Joy-
Ann Reid is managing editor of TheGrio.com and an MSNBC political analyst.

I was thinking of the old Pepsi vs. Coke commercial. Remember that,
guys? And Coke was the traditional drink and Pepsi was the new generation
drink. It seems like -- well, Coke is more popular than Republicans these
days, but you first, Joy.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It seems like the new generation minorities, some -- all
kinds of people, single women, for example, college-educated women, gay
people, all kinds of these people, Hispanics, all find themselves very
comfortably at home in the Democratic Party.

JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They don`t find themselves comfortably at home in a party
that talks about the good old days, because they didn`t have the good old
days.

REID: Yes, exactly. We`re getting to the point where battery acid is
more popular than the Republican Party right now, let alone Coke.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Where did you get that?

(LAUGHTER)

REID: I`m sorry. It`s a terrible thought.

The idea -- the problem is this. The Republican Party is sort of down
to their three legs now, that three-legged stool of the plutocrats, the
sort of really rich guys, the Archie Bunker guys, and what you described,
the older, sort of 55 and older white males and some of their wives, and
the third is these evangelicals.

The issues they want put on the table are issues that are an anathema
to almost all of the other demographics. African-Americans don`t want to
hear about all this voter I.D. stuff that they read as directed at them.
Latinos don`t like the sound of the party, the way the party talks about
immigration, using terms like illegals, which Romney...

MATTHEWS: Self-deportation.

REID: Self-deportation. And Romney actually used the word illegals
even in front of that Univision audience , not understanding how that reads
with that audience.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did you like the way he referred to people going back to --
or coming from their apartments?

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Coming from their apartments.

MATTHEWS: It`s nothing wrong with living in an apartment. A lot of
my friends live in apartments. I will probably live in an apartment some
day.

REID: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But the fact is just that cultural class assumption. They
couldn`t possibly be rural people, rural whites or rural blacks. They
couldn`t be people living in their little and perhaps modest homes. They
all live in apartments. That`s just the way his brain works.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: And that`s what you`re talking about. It`s the way the party
feels and sounds to younger people, to Latinos, to African-Americans, and
you know what? That`s not a good idea in a country that`s becoming more
and more minority.

MATTHEWS: Yes. So it looks to me like, Dee Dee -- you`re an expert
on this -- that they`re betting on the older crowd surviving a few more
cycles as we say in politics because they`re not betting on the new crowd,
they`re not betting on African-American voters who all can vote now as of a
few years ago, Hispanics who are increasingly voting and showing their
strength even in double-digit levels right now, and young people who just
seem to love Obama.

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes.

Well, when you get a group of Republican tacticians and strategists in
a room away from the TV cameras and iPhones, they will acknowledge that
demographics is not their friend here as they look to the future of the
party. They know they have to figure out how to sort of make the tent
bigger because it`s becoming an increasingly small tent.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s a pup tent.

MYERS: Yes. They`re going to be like two guys camping out on a field
pretty soon, but they need to -- there are two Republican parties, right?
There`s sort of the Tea Party-dominated, socially conservative,
exclusionary party and then this sort of economic party that wants low
taxes and low regulations.

And in some places those two groups overlap and in many places they
don`t. So, they don`t even agree with each other. And that`s making that
space in the middle smaller and smaller.

MATTHEWS: Is that why the Republican Convention was so unpleasant,
because they actually had to meet each other, the plutocrats and the
regular people? I didn`t know I was in that party.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: But that`s one of the reasons why the Republican primary field
was so weak was that there were -- if you look at the candidates who people
thought might really do well in a general election, Jeb Bush, Governor
Chris Christie of New Jersey, people like that, they sort of looked at it
and thought this maybe this isn`t the best year for me for a lot of
reasons.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MYERS: If one of them was the nominee and could two bring the two
wings of the party together, you might have a real race, but they had such
a weak field because the party is so fractured.

MATTHEWS: Well, that would actually be a choice election where
reasonable people would try to decide between the two candidates...

MYERS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... whereas this one is not a hard choice for most people.

Last month, when Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made his comments
about legitimate rape, "TIME" magazine`s Joe Klein wrote that the comments
demonstrate that the Republican Party -- quote -- "has become a party that
at the grassroots celebrates ignorance. And what we have is a party that
too often acquiesces, with rolled eyes and grimaces, to be sure, in the
know-nothing idiocy of a plurality of its base. In the end, Todd Akin is
not an outlier. He is a symptom of the disease."

For example, I was saying, like Governor Romney, he knows about as
much about science as anybody I know. He`s educated. He`s got a degree
from Harvard in law, in business. He could do a little studying about
climate change and understand it`s a real challenge. And yet he just plays
this know-nothing sort of Luddite view of, oh, I don`t know anything about
that stuff. He does.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: He kind of reminds me of John Boehner trying to preside over
that House caucus full of people who are real fire-breathers and who want
the first thing to be done to be banning abortion and things like that.

And Romney understand that he really is sort of a passenger in this
vehicle. The hard right is driving this car and he`s just trying to manage
the issues, he`s trying to manage the chaos. And I think people saying
that it`s Romney kind of miss the point.

This is a party that has moved so far to the right that I`m not sure
Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or any of the other ones could have managed it
any better, because the problem is the actual party itself has really moved
off of center-right and they have gone to far right. And they don`t -- and
not enough people identify with that.

But when they look at themselves in that fun house mirror of FOX News,
that fun house mirror of talk radio, they think they`re a majority.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

I was thinking about Leslie Howard`s character in "Gone With the
Wind." He`s sort of the gentleman who had to fight for the Southern side
even if he didn`t believe in slavery.

Anyway, thank you very much, Dee Dee Myers and Joy-Ann Reid.

Up next: Ever wonder what an undecided voter looks like, someone who
hasn`t made up their mind whether to vote for Obama? Who is that person?
Well, stick around for "SNL"`s take on the so-called low-information
voters. They`re what they call them.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": I will admit that "Downton
Abbey" is an amazing show. There`s so much meticulous attention to detail.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: Really.

It`s not the kind of show I typically watch, but it really gives you a
sense of what it must have been like to grow up in Mitt Romney`s house.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: It`s difficult to be a Republican in Hollywood. Being a
Republican in Hollywood is like being a Chick-fil-A sandwich on the snack
table at "Glee."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Well, politics meant comedy in more ways than one this weekend. Here
is "SNL"`s take on the undecided voter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ""SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I guess some of us are just a little bit harder
to please. Before you get our vote, you`re going to have to answer some
questions.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: When is the election?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What are the names of the two people running?
And be specific.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Who is the president right now? Is he or she
running?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How long is a president`s term of office? One
year? Two years? Three years? Life?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, hopefully, that`s a stretch. Still, in a tight
election, it`s that very small percentage of still undecided voters who
could decide it all.

I was on the HBO program "Real Time With Bill Maher" Friday night and
I brought up the issue of voter suppression. Conservative radio host Roger
Hedgecock then tried to counterattack.

It all started with mention of that 47 percent of voters who Mitt
Romney say will never vote for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

MATTHEWS: And the number one way they`re going to deal with that 40
percent -- 47 percent is make sure a lot of them don`t vote. As Bill
Clinton said the other day, he has never seen voter suppression so
perfectly blatant.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGER HEDGECOCK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Both sides are doing it.
Look, both sides are doing it.

MATTHEWS: Both sides? Who is trying to suppress the vote on the
Democratic side?

HEDGECOCK: Let me give you an example. Let me give you an example.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Wait a second. What
are you contending?

HEDGECOCK: This president has made it a point in the military where
he doesn`t think he`s going to get a lot of those votes to make sure that
those ballots don`t come out in time to come back in time.

MAHER: Actually the military likes him. This is one of those new
facts I often hear from Republicans on our panel.

MATTHEWS: In a real situation, where the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania is dealing with a real situation of voter suppression, have
thrown it back to the lower court. And it looks like the thing is going to
be struck down in a real case of vote suppression.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. That was great to be on there. Anyway see what I
mean? It`s not the first time we have heard that -- that one thrown at us.

Last month, Republicans blasted the Obama campaign for attempting to
prevent military members from voting early in Ohio. Actually, in the real
world, a successful lawsuit from the Obama campaign restored early voting
for all citizens in Ohio, not just members of the military.

Finally, you have heard Republicans hurl words like socialist at
President Obama, right? Well, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a charter
member of the birther crowd, went someplace else entirely, the world as it
existed prior to the First World War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: This is the beginnings, a massive
beginning of a new Ottoman Empire that President Obama can take great
credit for. Yes, we`re in big trouble here in America, but, wow, look what
has helped do in the Middle East, a new Ottoman Empire. Thank you,
President Barack Hussein Obama.

I`m not one of those who says he`s not a Christian. But what I do
know is he`s helped jump-start a new Ottoman Empire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The only thing Congressman Louie Gohmert knows about
ottomans is where he puts his feet when he`s falling asleep watching FOX.

Up next: Conservatives want to unleash Paul Ryan. let Ryan be Ryan,
they say. And we say, bring it on. Let`s take a look at the real Paul
Ryan right here on HARDBALL.

You`re watching it, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

Slight losses for stocks today. The Dow falls 20 points, the S&P off
three, and the Nasdaq loses 19.

Apple shares though slid more than $9 after a riot at the facility in
China where its iPhones are assembled. Meanwhile, Google hit a closing
high of more than $749 a share. Different story over at Facebook, which
dropped 9 percent after a weekend report in "Barron`s" that said the stock
remains too pricey.

That`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- and now
back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, conservatives swooned for Congressman Paul Ryan when he was
chosen for the Republican ticket, but he`s since played the classic role of
second fiddle, moderating his positions on both fiscal and cultural issues
to conform to Romney`s views.

Well, now that Romney/Ryan campaign is coming off a bit of a couple of
rough weeks there, some conservatives have just got the answer. Simply let
Ryan be Ryan. That was the advice they dished in "The New York Times"
today. But is that really the smart move, really?

Joan Walsh is editor-at-large of Salon and author of "What`s the
Matter with White People," a funny title. And Eugene Robinson is a
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post." Both are MSNBC
political analysts.

Joan, I think there are certain problems with marrying Paul Ryan
politically, like his positions.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, isn`t that the reason why Romney kissed him, said
goodbye, I like your name, Ryan is cute, but I`m not going to get too close
to a guy that wants to...

(LAUGHTER)

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Very handsome.

MATTHEWS: ... basically get rid of Medicare, cut Medicaid, get rid of
Pell Grants and do all kinds of things to make rich people richer? He
doesn`t want to get too tight with that thinking, does he?

WALSH: No, he doesn`t.

I mean, Chris, this is a really banner day for us because it`s so rare
that liberals and conservatives can agree about anything, as you know, but
today we can all say together, yes, please let Paul Ryan be Ryan. Please
let Paul Ryan go out -- go to Florida and say, I want to turn Medicare into
a voucher program.

Let Paul Ryan go around talking about privatizing Social Security,
which he used to do. Let Paul Ryan say, I want to ban abortion even in
cases of rape and incest, which he does. He`s an extremist. The Tea Party
loved him. They were so happy when Mitt picked him.

But they`re now very disappointed, because it looked like a rare
moment of courage for Mitt Romney. But, instead, he decided to run away
from Paul Ryan`s positions as fast as he could, shake the Etch A Sketch
again. And now you have got conservatives who are grumbling and saying
this. But it would, of course, be disaster for Romney.

MATTHEWS: Well, I will go over that same question with you, Gene,
because I was at a family event this weekend in New Jersey, and my 90-year-
old -- 90-year-old stepmother is having her birthday. And one of the
people in the family is a doctor. And the word is out that this could kill
this ticket of Romney and Ryan, this whole thing of messing with Medicare.
Nobody wants it messed with, apparently. Nobody.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, nobody wants it messed
with.

You saw the reaction that Paul Ryan got at AARP the other day, a
chorus of boos.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: It`s just -- this is not on. People don`t want to screw
around with the program and voucherize it, the way Paul Ryan wants to do.

And so I think this sort of let Ryan be Ryan thing just isn`t going to
happen. I mean, what`s in it for Romney? And, frankly, what`s in it for
Paul Ryan, who has a political future and who must realize from the
experience he`s having now that he`s going to have to moderate his
positions if he wants to run for national office.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I don`t think criminalizing abortion is one
of the smart moves for a majority of this country.

Anyway, if conservatives are pining for Paul Ryan and his specifics
when it comes to policy, let`s just remind everyone what Paul Ryan has
proposed for his budget over the next several years.

Most famous was his 2011 plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program,
as Gene said, that would drive up out-of-pocket costs for seniors and make
it very hard to get insurance policies for somebody in their 70s or 80s,
obviously.

But according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, $2 of every $3
of that suggest savings would come from programs for the poor such as
Medicaid and food stamps. Pell Grants would also take a hit and that`s for
kids who can`t afford college. And they do the same while reducing
individual and corporate rates which would give the lion share of tax cut
dollars to the richest Americans.

Ryan considered himself a deficit hawk, but that plan wouldn`t
balance the budget for decades. It would simply money.

You talk about redistribution, Joan and Gene. This is a
redistribution plan from the bottom to the top. I wouldn`t throw that word
redistribution around if I were Mitt Romney because his partner in
happiness here apparently likes to do that -- Joan.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: We`ve been doing it for 30 years, Chris.
We`ve been shoveling money from the bottom to the top. And, you know, that
is exactly what they want to do.

And I think they are paying the price because there`s a
"Reuters"/Ipsos poll that came out in the last couple days and it shows
Mitt Romney`s lead with voters over 60 has dropped from a 20-point lead to
a 4-point lead which is really devastating for him. He`s seeing his lead
with the white working class drop.

He`s really in trouble with his -- with the white conservative base
except for the Tea Party, who still loves Paul Ryan.

So I think that these positions are getting through, and I think
they`re scaring voters away.

MATTHEWS: You know, Gene, I was looking at the numbers the other day
in "The New York Times" poll. It`s fascinating to look at the age group.
It`s hard to believe actually the president is this popular because it`s
been a troubling time economically and yet he leads in every age group all
the way through 64. Starting at 65 and older, Romney wins.

But now, it seems by picking Mr. Ryan, he`s got himself, you know,
with the kitchen sink around his neck all of a sudden.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it ended up not really
helping Romney among the other age groups. It`s going to hurt him among
seniors. You know, I think the moral of this is that most people who read
those interminable Ayn Rand novels when they were in college, most people
got over it.

MATTHEWS: Ha! I`m one of them actually. Gene, you`re talking about
because I love "The Fountainhead" because it was a romantic novel. It`s
great stuff, but Dagny Taggart and all these great characters, Dominique
Francon.

ROBINSON: Sure. But to take it seriously as a way of organizing
your society is just simply not -- you know, it`s crazy.

MATTHEWS: I thought Ayn Rand needed an editor, first of all. He did
not need 800-page book. But I get your point.

Look, on the social issues. Let`s get to them with Joan.

Don`t forget, Paul Ryan was one of the 60-plus sponsors of the
Sanctity of Human Life Act which read as follows, "The life of each human
being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent,
irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of
biological development or condition of dependency, at which point, every
human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and
privileges of personhood."

You look at the Republican platform which is a fresher document,
Joan, and they talk about giving 14th Amendment rights of life, liberty,
and property to a fertilized human embryo. I mean, what are we talking
about here? Property rights? I mean, they`ve just gone crazy.

And if you start calling that murder, then you`ve got a real problem
with common law. Then people who do have abortions are murderers. This is
a fact that they`re creating here, a problem for our society.

WALSH: It also potentially criminalizes certain forms of birth
control.

MATTHEWS: Like IUD. Yes, I get, I get. Yes.

WALSH: Right, which is fine with them. So, you know, it`s really
backwards. It`s really retrograde, and we`ve talked about it for a long
time. But if they really want to put Paul Ryan forward, they`ve got to go
back to that war on contraception, war on abortion, war on women language
because it`s really true, they would take away major rights for women.

And if they think that`s a winning formula in 2012, let them try it.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the recent political director in Iowa, here`s
what he had to say, or she had to say about the Republican Party and how
it`s criticizing this guy, Romney. "I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants
to run for national office again, he`ll probably have to wash the stench of
Romney off of him."

The word "stench", Gene, it`s very unpleasant word, and I wouldn`t be
that rough, even me. But the stench of Romney?

ROBINSON: That is unpleasant.

MATTHEWS: This is a Republican statewide coordinator out in
Wisconsin.

ROBINSON: Well, you know, we sat here through the primary season,
and we saw, you know, the Republican Party`s embracing love for Mitt
Romney. Actually, no, we didn`t. I mean, they settled for Mitt Romney.
He was a consensus best candidate they thought to go up against Barack
Obama, but he was not passionately loved inside the party, and as things
appear to perhaps be going south for Romney, the circular firing squad
begins to form.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I`d say they asked for the date around 5:00 Friday
afternoon.

Anyway, thank you very much Joan Walsh and Eugene Robinson.

Up next, "Game Change" was the big winner at last night`s Emmy
Awards. We`re going to talk to a director of a film. This is an amazing
film, by the way, and it`s all about politics we love so much, just the
fighting aspect of it.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Election Day is still six weeks away, of course, but for
people in half the states voting is already under way. Take a look at this
map showing all the states where early voting has begun. The list includes
four battleground states, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and, of
course, Wisconsin. Look at that.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS: Wow. I feel so validated because Sarah
Palin gave me a big thumbs down.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back now.

And that was, of course, Julianne Moore accepting the Emmy Award last
night for best actress in a mini-series or movie. That was HBO`s "Game
Change", the epic story of the 2008 campaign and Sarah Palin`s entrance
unto the national spotlight.

We knew it was incredible drama while it was happening, of course,
here at HARDBALL and the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences
apparently agrees.

"Game Change" took home four Emmys, one for best mini-series or
movie, Julianna Moore`s award for best actress, and two more for best
directing and best writing. Of course, it was based on the book of the
same name, of course, by our own MSNBC political analysts Mark Halperin and
John Heilemann.

With me now is "Game Change" director and Emmy Award winner and best
director for mini-series or movie dramatic special, Jay Roach.

Jay, it was great seeing you guys winning this thing. I want to show
everybody watching HARDBALL right now a scene from "Game Change" where John
McCain played wonderfully by Ed Harris and his advisers are going over
their options for running mate. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can`t win without our base. Liebermann is the
right thing to do but the wrong way to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who all have we vetted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney, Chris, Pawlenty, trying to vet Bloomberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who can we win with?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, Obama just changed the entire dynamic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a change year, sir. We desperately need a
game-changing pick and none of these middle-aged white guys are game
changers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jay, how did you come up with the brilliance of having
Woody Harrelson play Steve Schmidt, because I watch the blood veins on the
top of his forehead, I watched the excruciating, existential hell that he
was going through because he was stuck with candidate for V.P. that he had
a hand in picking but he realized to his disaster she was a disaster.

JAY ROACH, DIRECTOR, "GAME CHANGE": Yes, that`s the point of view
that I actually, you know, got hock on and trying to tell a story. I saw
the interview he did with Anderson Cooper, the guy who had been most
instrumental in trying to sell her as the candidate turns out to be the guy
who regrets it the most months after the election.

And, I thought, man, wouldn`t you like to see the decision process
and the soul searching had he to go through in those rooms? So, yes.

And then Woody just seemed like the perfect guy to do it. I`ve seen
him in the messenger and he`s amazing actor and he reminded me of something
I thought he could do would match Steve Schmidt.

MATTHEWS: You know what you have gotten into was something nobody
else has done in politics, covering it, is to understand the roles played
by the staff guys and women. These people that don`t usually get famous
like Steve Schmidt and people like Jim Baker, even.

ROACH: Ron Klain.

MATTHEWS: Ron Klain.

(CROSSTALK)

ROACH: Those are the guys that I always find interesting because
they are behind the scenes, they are trying to sort it out. I think I sort
of relate with it almost as a storyteller because they are guys almost in
the rooms, those war rooms look like writer rooms, and they are trying to
come up with the story that`s going to move their candidate along and they
have a lot of power, too.

So there`s an interest in just trying to figure out how the decisions
are made and deals are made that keeps me up at night sometimes.

MATTHEWS: I love the way you show John McCain being a man of some
serious patriotic experience when he refused to go along with the woman who
said Barack Obama is an Arab. To me, those moments make me love politics
because you never know when the guy who may not be your favorite candidate
comes through and does something -- it`s like a George Stevens movie where
somebody pulls you away, just blows you away. The guy on the other side
tends to be the hero at the moment.

ROACH: Absolutely. There`s a lot of nobility in John McCain the man
and I have read his books. We did a lot of research in it. And I think
he`s a very interesting conflicted character. And I think a lot of these
characters, all the characters John McCain, Steve Schmidt, Sarah Palin are
almost Shakespearean in a way in their complexity and how they were sort of
doomed to be locked together in this bizarre adventure. So, yes, I wanted
all of the characters to have as much dimension as possible.

MATTHEWS: One of the problems with the Tea Party people, and I think
they have some spirit. I mean, they do care about their country. I
wouldn`t question that.

But the simplicity of their appeal is so thin. I keep thinking, like
Sarah Palin, what made her think, in your line of writing, that she should
be the second most important person in the country? That she in fact may
takeover if some happen to John McCain. Why would that woman have such
limited background, think that she could be president?

ROACH: Well, she was a popular governor, 80 percent popularity. She
had taken on corruption. She had gotten money back to her constituents
from oil taxes.

I mean -- and I think she had never really failed in her life. She
was successful mayor, you know, a successful governor. She had been a
successful basketball player. She was a woman kind of used to winning and
I think somehow when someone comes to you and --

MATTHEWS: But the 9th grade that Katie Couric put to her, what
newspaper she read? And she`d think it was some trick question? I mean,
why didn`t she just answer it? I read the Anchorage newspaper, I read the
"USA Today" once in a while. Sometimes I read "The Journal."

Nobody would have held that against her.

ROACH: Yes, that`s a really good question and, you know, I think
Katie Couric had I think appropriately gotten under her skin a little bit
and asked her those questions, what makes you think you`re prepared for
this and I think she resented it. And I think in her own -- I don`t know,
almost kind of a narcissistic vengefulness jumped in at that moment.

MATTHEWS: My dream is for somebody to write something worthy of your
direction. Jay Roach, you`re great. You keep doing it. Thank you so
much.

ROACH: Thanks, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: "Game Change."

When we return, let me finish with why debates do matter.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let met finish tonight with this: Three times in modern TV
debate history, a candidate has come from behind and won the presidential
election due to a debate performance. Before the debates, he was behind.
After, he was ahead and stayed on to win.

Those big decisive debate years where Kennedy beating Nixon, Reagan
beating Carter, W coming from behind to past Gore. Except for those years,
the trailing candidate didn`t do well enough to past the frontrunner, or
the one leading before him managed do confirm his lead in the debate.

So, the only years the debates proved decisive, were 1960, 1980, and
the year 2000. All three times, the candidates had won and come from
behind.

Something else, all three times the candidate came ahead and won
passing the frontrunner was from the party not holding the White House.
Well, that`s the good news for Mitt Romney. If he exploits the debate for
his favor and increasing his standard beyond that of Obama`s, he will fit
right in with the other three who have done it.

The bad news? Romney has to beat Obama to do it. And what a big
night for politics, history, and our beloved country.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>