updated 10/12/2012 11:56:38 AM ET 2012-10-12T15:56:38

October 11, 2012

Guests: Howard Fineman, Gene Robinson, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Michael Steele, Joy-Ann Reid, Rep. John Yarmuth, Rep. Marsha Blackburn


Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at Centre College in Danville,
Kentucky. The site of tonight`s vice presidential debate.

Let me start with this about tonight. It`s fairly well known how
frustrated a lot of us, you, me, as I said, a lot of us at what happened in
the first presidential debate last week.

It`s come to me that what this election is all about and what this
first meeting last week between the president and his challenger was not
about. The different is between these two people, between Obama and
Romney, is Grand Canyon size. The president led the creation of the now
health insurance program. Governor Romney said this week again that he
would dump Obama`s health care plan, get rid of it and send the 40 million
suddenly uninsured into the emergency room, letting them sit there.

The Romney-Ryan team has other plans. In place of Medicare, which
covers people who are retired, it would offer them vouchers. Vouchers. I
imagine telling some 80-year-old to go out and get a -- get on a bus and
find someone to sell them a health insurance policy.

That`s not the whole of it. Mr. Romney, when you`re not supposed to
be listening to him, that`s when you should listen to him and hear his
condensation towards seniors on Social Security and Medicare, saying, they
have simply failed to, quote, "take personal responsibility for their
lives," close quotes.

Listen to Romney say out loud to them, you have a preexisting medical
condition and don`t have health insurance and now can`t get it, well, sir,
that was your decision. That`s Romney talking.

Same with the automobile industry. Obama stuck his neck out and
rescued it. For all kinds of good reasons. His challenge, Mr. Romney,
said, let it take bankruptcy.

This are the big drastic differences between these candidates and
these debates should debate them. That`s my argument. Wouldn`t that be

I`m going right now to my NBC`s political director and host of MNSBC`s
"THE DAILY RUNDOWN," Chuck Todd. Howard Fineman, MSNBC political analyst
and editorial director of the "Huffington Post." He`s here. And rounding
out our panel in Kentucky is the "Washington Post`s" Pulitzer Prize-winning
columnist Eugene Robinson.

Gentlemen, thank you all for being with us. I want to start with

Your reporting, does it tell you this is going to be a broad debate
about philosophy and differences, or is this going to be one of those
congressional markup sessions where they argue every details?

Ryan it`s going to be details, a little bit markups, a little bit in the
weeds. I think if it`s up to Biden, I think it`s going to be more of a
lively, more of an ideological split, because it`s my understanding, been
talking to a lot of Obama folks, that one of the goals they -- they would
hope that Joe Biden accomplishes tonight is to make you feel better,
essentially, Chris, is to make the base of the party feel better. Show
some fight. Get in there in some issues that they know. Create a divide
in some parts of the electorate that they think help them including some
women issues.

With Paul Ryan, I think they -- in some ways, expectations got out of
hand for them. Their base of their own party doesn`t have a lot of respect
for Joe Biden. So there`s this expectation that Paul Ryan is going to
clean his clock. But I think his advisers know he`s never been on this
kind of big stage. They would like to try to drive home the points on
Libya, get Benghazi out there. But I think he`s going to try to keep it in
the weeds, if you will, because a draw for the Ryan team in their minds is
a win because it moves it on to the next debate.

MATTHEWS: I agree completely.

Howard, before we get into the scoring, which I agree on, a draw is a
victory for the Obama --


MATTHEWS: For the Romney team.


MATTHEWS: Will Vice President Biden move to try to bring on the air
while we`re all watching, 40, 50 million people, issues like the 47 percent
comment by the presidential nominee, the issue of vouchers which he`s
pushing, the issue of personhood, basically criminalizing abortion.


MATTHEWS: That kind of an issue. The pre-existing condition, an
issue which Romney keeps lying about. The only time I say he lies about
that issue when he keeps saying his program would cover it. And the auto
industry rescue which -- rescue which Romney opposed. Will he bring up
those, A, victories which he wins just bringing them up? Is he sharp
enough to do that, Biden?

FINEMAN: Well, the answer is --

MATTHEWS: Bring them up.

FINEMAN: The answer is, is he`s sharp enough to do it? He`s been
studying to do it and I predict that he will do it. If he -- if he doesn`t
complete your checklist by the end of the night, he will have not -- he
will fail to do what they want him to do, which is to focus and to fight.
Neither of which the president did a week ago. Focus and fight.

Focus on the issues that you outline, plus others, and bring a sense
of combat to the thing. Because, again, Chuck Todd`s absolutely right.
The base of the party, the volunteers, the donors, the fundraisers, the
people who go out and knock on doors, were dispirited as a result of last
week`s nonevent.

MATTHEWS: OK. You know what I`d do?

FINEMAN: They need to be -- they need to be energized before anything
else can happen.

MATTHEWS: You know, boxes, when their eyes start to close and the guy
keeps punching the eye, well, that`s what they got to do. They got to say,
OK, you don`t want to talk about vouchers, let`s talk about vouchers.


MATTHEWS: You don`t want to talk about this crazy personhood thing,
let`s talk about personhood. You don`t want to talk -- preexisting
conditions, let`s talk about it. You don`t want to talk about the
emergency room, you don`t want to talk about it, let`s talk about it.
They`ve got to keep driving home that punch to the dead eye.

ROBINSON: Joe Biden has been around a long time. Everyone who knows
Joe Biden knows Joe Biden can talk and Joe Biden certainly knows how to
give the answer he wants to give no matter what the question is.

MATTHEWS: Will he get to it?

ROBINSON: I think he will. Yes. I think he will.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back --

ROBINSON: I think he`ll be aggressive. Because what else is there
for him to do in this debate? After last week, Biden really doesn`t have a

MATTHEWS: Let me -- well, so I think we all agree.

Chuck, are you in on this? Can you raise the issue of scoring card
tonight? For a lot of reasons I`ve been thinking you`re as good at this as
anybody there is. Does O`Biden -- there, I`m doing it again. O`Biden.
That`s hysterical. O`Biden.

TODD: O`Biden. You went Sarah Palin, yes.

MATTHEWS: Does he have to win tonight a clear victory? Does he have
to have a clear victory tonight for this to work for the -- for the Obama

TODD: No. I mean, I think -- look, the Obama folks don`t want to
lose, OK? Going down 0-2, I mean, let`s put this in baseball terms. You
don`t want to ever go down 0-2. This is a four-game series, not a five-
game series. You don`t want to go down 0-2. So you`d like to go 1-1.
Worst-case scenario, 1-0 and 1. So, you know, I do think that -- that`s
why the goal tonight, I think, is not for Biden to win the debate.

Of course he wants to win the debate but I think more of the goal for
Biden is to make the base feel good, bring up some points, try to force
Ryan on defense even if he doesn`t take the bait, as you hear from some
Republican advisers, as I say, Ryan isn`t going to do that. He`ll try to
avoid getting into direct confrontations. At least will show life on that

The worst part of it -- look, these VP debates, they only matter if
somebody loses badly. If somebody fumbles. But let`s remember, one of the
biggest knockouts in a VP debate ever was Lloyd Benson over Dan Quayle.
How did that work out for that Dukakis-Benson ticket?

HOWARD: Yes, but --


MATTHEWS: Well, let me put you on the case. 2004 when W. lost the
first debate to John Kerry and then in his most establishment --


MATTHEWS: Dick Cheney came back and won the second debate against
Edwards. He said I`ve never even met you before tonight, putting him down
in a box there.

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me that there are more like that situation.
Don`t they have to stop --

TODD: Well --

MATTHEWS: -- the bleeding -- by a victory?

TODD: Yes, I do believe that that they`ve got to stop the bleeding
and you don`t necessarily have to do it. But, you know, you also bring up
another point here that I think we overlook and that is, I think a majority
of folks watch a VP debate to see, can these guys be president? You know,
we`re going to sit here and score the policy fights and the back and forth.


TODD: And I think we overlook this fact and that is why these little
generational gaps that we`ve noticed, is it a pattern? Well, there`s not
enough statistical -- there`s not enough happenings of it to say it`s
statistical proof but it does seem there`s a pattern here on this VP
debates when there is a big generational gap, it`s usually advantage to the
older guy, because of the gravitas thing. And I think that that`s a
challenge for Paul Ryan tonight, that they know that they have.


TODD: And I don`t know if they have the best idea of how it works.
It is why they wanted to be at the table. I don`t think they like the idea
for him at a podium.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s say --

TODD: He would have looked less presidential there.

FINEMAN: I`m going to disagree with Chuck on a couple of things.
First of all, the thing to look at is the last vice presidential debate
that took place here in 2000 --


It was Dick Cheney against Joe Lieberman, and Joe Lieberman did not
make an aggressive case against the Bush-Cheney ticket.


FINEMAN: He basically, it sounded like, they were in the men`s club
having tea.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I thought it was a membership club.

FINEMAN: It was a membership -- yes.

MATTHEWS: In fact it is.


FINEMAN: Lieberman was trying to get in.


FINEMAN: And it was a tremendous lost opportunity. I also don`t
think people care about the vice presidential candidates particularly as --
as people. As people. They want to know what the arguments are for a
change of administration or to keep the current administration.

MATTHEWS: So debate the top guys?

FINEMAN: Debate the top guys.

ROBINSON: Exactly. That`s --

FINEMAN: Don`t spend all your time trying to make Paul Ryan look bad.

ROBINSON: That`s the thing.


ROBINSON: Yes, the job of each of these guys is to make the top guy
look good.



ROBINSON: So -- and so, Joe Biden will be selling President Obama and
Paul Ryan will be selling Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s -- Gene, and everybody, here`s Axelrod, David
Axelrod, explaining the strategy tonight early today.


DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Right now the Romney campaign is
running away from some of their positions, like unwanted stepchildren but
we`re going to hold them to them and explain to the country exactly what
the differences are here because the choice is very stark.


MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think of that, Chuck? Will they do that?
Will they do what -- is Axe really advising the vice president -- do you
say there`s a connection between what he just said and what will happen

TODD: Well, yes. I mean, look, this is -- the idea that somehow that
Chicago wasn`t involved with this and then suddenly they came through,
they`ve always been involved. This is one big team here, Obama-Biden. So
that always seems a little silly to me. Some of this reporting almost
over-reported about, was Axelrod involved. He was always involved in the
debate prep. But yes, that is what they`re trying to do. Build a bigger
contrast. That is Biden`s job tonight, is to try to draw brighter lines.

The president didn`t do that. Right? Mitt Romney`s goal was to try
to blur lines in that last debate and this time Biden is supposed to draw
brighter lines. We`ll see how he does it and they`re trying to draw Ryan
into some fight, and we`ll see if he does it.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s -- that`s the question, Chuck.

Howard, the problem I have is this. They seem to want to re-litigate
to do the modern term. All the old argument is, how much of his tax
deductions actually cover his tax reductions. Boring.

FINEMAN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: You start talking --


FINEMAN: It`s got to be about where are the mortgage -- where are the
tax deductions you`re going to get rid of, for example, on taxes? I think
that`s important for --

MATTHEWS: But they won`t tell you.

FINEMAN: Well, but then they`ve got to say --


MATTHEWS: He`s already said he`s not going to rid of charitable or
mortgage --

FINEMAN: All right. OK. And then Medicare and -- the other big
thing to me is Medicare. And that`s what they`ve really got to focus on.


ROBINSON: Grandma on that bus searching around town trying to --

MATTHEWS: That`s what I want to know. I want to know -- anybody
knows an 80-year-old grandma that`s going to get on a bus to go look and
buy anything, let alone to get a health insurance program --


MATTHEWS: -- that somehow meets her a budget that`s given to her by
Paul Ryan.

FINEMAN: And I agree with you also, Chris. If they -- if they talk
about the tax thing too much in the context of deficit reduction, it
doesn`t help them because that`s not the president`s strongest turf. The
president`s strongest turf is what you and Eugene were just talking about.

MATTHEWS: OK. Do you have a sense, Chuck -- I know I ask you all of
the tough questions because you`re a great reporter. You think he`ll go
for the kill? It sounds like you`re saying that the vice president will
not go for the kill. He won`t nail them on the 47 percent, nail them on
vouchers --

TODD: No, no, no, no.

MATTHEWS: Nail him with the emergency rooms. Will he do that?

TODD: No. I was -- look, I had an adviser tell me -- I said, am I
going to hear the number 47 and they wouldn`t 100 percent commit to it but
they said I`d be shocked if you didn`t hear the number 47 tonight and 47.


TODD: But no, no, no, Biden`s job is to throw -- as somebody said, I
said red meat earlier and somebody corrected me on Twitter, hey, it`s
called blue meat if it`s for the blue team. Fine. It is supposed to be
blue meat. Help -- because this is a way of going -- trying to draw the
brighter lines with Ryan. Also fires up the Democratic base.

Remember, that is an issue here after this first debate, right, which
is this demoralized feeling that some Democrats have. Biden`s job is to
fix that tonight.

MATTHEWS: I think -- so he wants to be a cheerleader for the team, he
wants to get -- he wants to attack him with blue meat or whatever we call
it these days. And really make him hurt a little. But I say make him
hurt, make him squirm, make him wish they didn`t have to be there. Do to
their guy what they did to the other guy last week.

Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd, thank you, Eugene Robinson, thank you,
Howard Fineman.

You`re good. The pros.


Coming up from Danville, Kentucky, Joe Biden faces off against Paul
Ryan. We`ve just spent the two hours now. The man who channeled Ryan in
debate prep for the vice president joins us live. We`ve got the sparring
partner, Chris Van Hollen, my congressman, is joining us with some insight
into Biden`s game plan tonight.

Plus, whether it`s the president`s birth certificate, polls show that
-- don`t show -- I don`t know. Anyway, or better than expected job
numbers. Some -- keep going here. Some right-wingers don`t want to
believe facts. We should call them what they are. Conspiracy theorists.

Keep going. Also I`ve got some questions of my own, by the way, about
these candidates tonight. I`m going to ask them. I`m going to ask
Representative John Yarmuth and Marsha Blackburn, the Republican
congresswoman from Tennessee, that fill in for Biden. Can they answer my

So let me finish tonight with some old-fashion dirt because that`s
being thrown at the president. This is HARDBALL. A place for politics.
Live from Danville, Kentucky, the site of the vice presidential debate.



SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I may not answer the questions
the way that either the moderator or you want to hear but I`m going to talk
straight to the American people and let them know my track record, also.




I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator,
you`re no Jack Kennedy.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Centre College in
Danville, Kentucky. The site of tonight`s vice presidential debate. So
what can we expect from Joe Biden tonight? Democratic Congressman Chris
Van Hollen, that`s the man to ask. He`s been playing Paul Ryan during the
vice president`s debate sparring matches. Will Joe Biden mention that 47
percent? I`ve got a whole list of things I wanted to mention.

Will he bring out Romney`s shifting positions on abortion? And of
course Paul Ryan`s position on something called personhood, which basically
criminalizes abortion. Democrats need a boost of course, some enthusiasm,
everybody is saying tonight after last week`s debate. So can Biden deliver
that, too?

And joining me right now is of course U.S. Congressman Chris Van
Hollen who happens to be my U.S. congressman, my wife`s, too, probably more

Also with us is Mark Halperin, editor-at-large at "TIME" and senior
political analyst for MSNBC.

Gentlemen, I`m going to start with you, sir, because you`ve been
there. You know what we don`t know. You know how prepared Joe Biden is.
Is he?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: He`s ready to go. He`s looking
forward to tonight and he understands the stakes are high and he`s looking
forward to talking about the choices in this election. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: How is he different? I`ve been comparing him to
middleweight fighters. It`s always faster, more punches are thrown than
the heavyweight division. Does he have a different role he knows than
running for president?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, he`s got -- as you know, he`s got working
class roots from Scranton, Pennsylvania. And you know Pennsylvania --

MATTHEWS: Will he Scranton tonight?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, he may be because -- you know, but he has it in his
gut and that`s the issue with Joe Biden. He is a fighter for the middle

MATTHEWS: Will be a street corner guy tonight?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, he`s a fighter for the middle class. And this
election is about whether you have policies that are going to help middle
class or whether you`re going to do what Romney and Ryan want to do, the
old trickle down, help the folks at the very top, and pretend it`s going to
somehow help everybody else. We know that was a bust for the middle class
so --

MATTHEWS: Remember Rocky and his eyes closing up and he yells,
Adrian, cut me, cut me, so Mickey has to cut his eyes open.


MATTHEWS: Does he know the weak spot of the -- of the Romney team
that he`s got to hit?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, he -- look, he knows what the Romney-Ryan plan is.
And if dissect it it`s very weak. Look. We saw Paul Ryan the other day.
Remember when he was asked to explain his plan, what did he say? Well, you
know, I don`t have enough time to do that. That, as we all know, was a
clear cover for the fact there`s nothing there.

Look, it`s just like Mitt Romney. He didn`t want to provide his tax
returns, right? He wants to hide the ball on his tax returns. He wants to
hide the ball in his tax policy. They want to hide the ball --

MATTHEWS: It`s working. I forgot about his tax return.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, there you go. But the reality is, that here`s a
guy who talks about tax reforms. Why are you going to tell us whether you
are going to benefit from all those tax deductions you claim you want to

MATTHEWS: Is this going to be like a xylophone tonight? He has to
hit all the notes tonight, Joe Biden. Forty-seven percent, vouchers,
personhood, E.R., we`re going to throw all those people in the E.R., that
kind of stuff?


MATTHEWS: That`s the way I look at it.

HALPERIN: Look, the vice president has his detractors in the country.
His biggest advantage to me tonight is the very issues that the president
and the vice president want to run against. Joe Biden feels them in his
gut. They are not abstract to them and he`s great at explaining them and
he`s -- he`s been studying for months. You go back and look at his
speeches about Mitt Romney going back to last year. He knows Mitt Romney`s
record. He knows how they contrast in issues. And he feels it.

Now he can make mistakes, he may not performed perfectly. But he goes
into this at peace with what he wants to do and I think that`s a big

MATTHEWS: Well, what does the other guy do? What does Mr. Ryan do if
Biden keeps trying the human aspect of these numbers of his?

HALPERIN: Paul Ryan has lots of strengths, too, but I have rarely
seen him display the kind of humanity. The guy gets excited talking about
quantitative easing and passionate about big issues and abstract concepts.
He`s got a great touch on the trail. It will be interesting tonight
because there`s no doubt Joe Biden is going to play that Scranton card.
It`s going to be interesting to see if he can do that effectively as a
matter of performance in the debate.

MATTHEWS: You think -- you said neither one of you guys are Catholic.
Right? But I am a Catholic. I get the feeling, because I`ve been reading
those A.J. Fiona stuff, he`s a smart columnist, that this may end up being
one of those philosophical debates tonight.

If you`re Catholic where the other guy is pro-choice and you`re pro-
life, it merely raises the issues of values. So you say, yes, yes, I`m
pro-choice and I`m not very happy about it but I do think it`s up to the
individual woman to make that decision and family, not for me to make that
decision. It`s just never an easy argument because it`s always

But then he has to say, but you should be listening to your church
when it comes to issues like social responsibility and that you`re not
exactly consistent to the beliefs of the church. You`re cutting every poor
person`s program. That fight will be fascinating. Any chance it`ll

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I don`t know --

MATTHEWS: A philosophical debate.

VAN HOLLEN: I don`t know whether that will happen. But we all do
know that the bishops, the Catholic bishops, wrote a letter saying that
there are parts of the Ryan budget that did not meet -- meet the royal

MATTHEWS: Right. I know that.

VAN HOLLEN: And that`s -- so -- and that`s because they look at what
he did for folks who are on food and nutrition programs. In addition to
that, you`ve got his Medicare plan and his whole idea of Medicare is to
offload rising health care costs on to the backs of seniors. I mean that`s
the Republican plan for Medicare.

So these are all issues that you talk to what you care about, what`s
in your -- what`s in your gut. And in his gut, Joe Biden beliefs in making
sure middle class families have an opportunity for success in this country
and it`s not the trickle down theory of Mitt Romney where you just give
people like Mitt Romney another tax cut and hope that it will work out for
the rest.

MATTHEWS: If you -- if you had to predict, would you predict that it
will be a wonks night or a philosophical night?

HALPERIN: I`d say it`s going to be both. It`s going to be --


HALPERIN: I think both of these guys talk about wonky things in
philosophical ways. I think the vice president a little bit more with his
gut. Congressman Ryan a little bit more with his head and his intellectual
passion. But my sense from the body language of both -- both camps is
they`d -- their hope is not to lose this. Neither one of them wants to
come out of here having to say at the top of the ticket, sorry about that,
we put you --


MATTHEWS: They don`t want a gaffe.

HALPERIN: They don`t want a gaffe. They don`t want to come up having
made a mistake that should -- changes the contours of the race.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s try what`s really fun. Suppose you play -- you
play Ryan. Why do you want to get rid of the estate tax? Why do you want
to get rid of capital gains? Why do you want to raise the corporate rate
from 35 -- why do you want to reduce the top rate from 35 to 28? Why do
you want to do nothing but give rich people more money and screw the poor
people on Medicare?

HALPERIN: We`ve got the world`s --

MATTHEWS: Why do you want to do that?

HALPERIN: We have the world`s leading expert at playing Paul Ryan
sitting right here and you`re asking me to do that?

VAN HOLLEN: I`ve got to deprogram myself after this. I`m not sure if
I can answer. No, but I --

MATTHEWS: Will he get that tough?

VAN HOLLEN: What`s that?

MATTHEWS: You`ve been sparring with him. Will he get that direct?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, look --

MATTHEWS: And say, you`re not cutting the debt. You`re taking money
from poor people and giving it to rich people. You`re not reducing the
debt for, what, 20 years?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, all we -- what we do know, for instance, is
that`s exactly what the Ryan budget does. Right? He pretends to talk a
big game in debt but when it comes to asking the wealthy to put in one
penny, just one penny to help reduce --


HALPERIN: If I -- if I could guess -- if I could guess what Ryan is
going to do, everything is going to be turned to their mantra now. We just
-- why would you expect the next four years to be any better than the last

MATTHEWS: OK. Great, it`s so macro. OK, what about the voters
tonight? A lot of people are going to be voting in the next week before
even next Tuesday. Are they thinking about that, Congressman, that Joe
Biden`s actions, his success tonight will affect how people vote over the
weekend through Tuesday when the presidents meet again?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, there`s no doubt. I mean this is a big night and
that`s why the choices are going to be plain and very clearly tonight. So
the American people are going to understand exactly what the president and
Joe Biden want to do and the fact that Mitt Romney, those guys want to do a
U-turn. Back to the same policy that --


MATTHEWS: You`re my congressman. You`re my congressman. And
someday, if this all I`m going to ask you what happened.

VAN HOLLEN: All right.

MATTHEWS: I demand service as a constituent. Anyway, thank you, U.S.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: He`s a very good congressman.

And Mark Halperin who knows everything.

Coming up, more from Danville, Kentucky, and our coverage of the vice
presidential debate.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


this from listening to the new -- latest version of Mitt Romney. He`s
trying to go through an extreme makeover. After running for more than a
year in which he called himself severely conservative, Mitt Romney is
trying to convince you that he was severely kidding.



Why am I here?


MATTHEWS: That was a great man. James Stockdale. Of course he`s a
POW for seven years, he served our country well. A little embarrassing.
That moment. Anyway, but here we are. Why -- who are you and why are you
here for the big debate tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I`m Mariel (ph). I`m a student at Centre
and I am here for the debate tonight because I think that supporting Biden
and supporting Obama represents my rights as an LGBT person.

MATTHEWS: Great. Thank you -- thank you very much. Let`s go over


MATTHEWS: Put that down so I can see you. Why are you -- are you for or
against coal? Were you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am for renewable energy. We need to put all
our efforts behind solar, wind, water.

MATTHEWS: But coal -- but coal is big here in this country, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can put miners to work with green jobs.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Sir, you`re a
veteran. We were talking earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a veteran. And I`m -- the reason that I`m
here is I`m a senior citizen and the senior citizen needs to recognize, we
need some help.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Thanks a lot, sir. Thank you. We have
somebody else.


MATTHEWS: Put this sign down. Talk about it. Why are you here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m here to support Romney and Ryan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Because they stand for what I believe in.

MATTHEWS: Which is -- which is?


MATTHEWS: What are you, a ventriloquist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need change. What has Obama done for you
over the past four years?

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.


MATTHEWS: What`s up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, my name is Drew (ph). I`m here with the ONE

MATTHEWS: What`s the one organization?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re an advocacy program.

MATTHEWS: What do you advocate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We advocate for, like, AIDS relief in Africa.

MATTHEWS: Good. I`m for that. (INAUDIBLE).


MATTHEWS: That was something. (INAUDIBLE). Front and center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So I`m a parent and Mitt Romney exemplifies
everything I`m trying not to teach my kid.




MATTHEWS: Like what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has very little integrity, no honesty, he`s


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s uncooperative. Mitch McConnell and all of
those resistant obstructionist Republicans, that is not this country is
supposed to work. And so I`m working so hard to teach my kids --

MATTHEWS: Do you think Mitch McConnell shouldn`t have said his number
one legislative achievement and for the next four years, four years ago,
was to get rid of Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely he should not have said that. If we
had said it, it would have been treason and it is.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I`m here to support Obama-Biden. My name
is Madison (ph), and I`m here to support them because I do not want this
next generation of women to go through what our previous generations have.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Next person?


MATTHEWS: Hold on.


MATTHEWS: What do vouchers mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, vouchers mean to me that basically you`re
cutting the legs off from under the Medicare program. And if it`s good
enough for me, it`s good enough for a 55-year-old. And no cuts for Social


MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. (INAUDIBLE) for Obama.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

We`ll be right back with more HARDBALL and the vice presidential
debate, coming up.




PALIN: Hey, can I call you Joe?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, you can call me Joe.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Centre College in
Danville, Kentucky, the scene of tonight`s vice presidential debate.

And today`s new economic numbers showing weekly jobs claims are
actually slightly down. Just bolster Friday`s promising unemployment
numbers. And put the damper on conspiracy theorists who were out there
saying these Chicago guys, meaning Obama`s campaign, taking with those good
numbers of 7.8 percent last Friday.

Well, here`s what today`s numbers show. Weekly jobs claims are
actually down at 339,000. That`s down 30,000 from the lowest number --
that`s actually the lowest number since February 2008. Well before the
president took office.

And there`s been more teetering by the way of Twitter about whether
these numbers are kosher. There`s a conspiracy afoot to manipulate them.
It`s just another -- the many conspiracy theories cooked up about President
Obama and his accomplishments. These new jobs numbers, by the way, are
both good and legitimate.

Joining me is former RNC chair, Michael Steele. and Joy-Ann Reid,
managing editor at thegrio.com.

Joy Ann, it`s nice to have you on again. And this case again. You
know, I don`t want to say it is partisan the fact that crazies join one
political party because there were a lot of truthers out there --


MATTHEWS: -- when but George W. was president. They were saying
George W. had some sort of demotion pump down in Washington that blew up to
the World Trade Center. But the fact is, he didn`t. Those were airplanes
that did that. And we know it. It was an airplane that went into the
Pentagon and that`s a fact.

Conspiracy theories are a waste of our time, generally, but here we
have them about the president. And they may have a role in this campaign.
And the conspiracy theorists about President Obama have -- just look at the
rest of this. Have been wild and persistent. First, the big lie that the
president was supporting, we`ve heard that forever. And then that his
birth certificate was a fake. And there was the conspiracy theory that
says the president`s health care plan somehow is part of a socialist plot
from Europe.

And then his plans to strengthen the safety net is really just a
political move to, quote, "shore up the base," and then last week`s
conspiracy push that the unemployment numbers had been monkeyed with. That
was a wonderful phrase by Donald Trump. You might expect that.

So this goes on and on and on. What`s the purpose of pushing these
conspiracy theories, Joy-Ann?

JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Chris, thanks for having me on
again. And you know what the difference between the Democratic conspiracy
theories and the Republican conspiracy theory is that you didn`t have
people like Darrell Issa in Congress stoking this stuff. You didn`t have
supposedly serious business people or retired business people like Jack
Welch, you know, supporting these kinds of theories. And you didn`t have
entire networks like FOX News egging this stuff on.

I think what you have on the right is that they have trafficked in --
and I hate to be cruel but really just ignorance and paranoia for so long
because that`s the way, quite frankly, the 1 percenters keep the Archie
Bunker crowd in line. They keep feeding them this crazy conspiracy theory
and they do it from all the spectrum. From their media to their elected
officials, and they`ve built up this situation where people in the base of
the Republican Party don`t believe anything that comes out of the Obama
administration. It all has to be a fraud. It all has to be a fake. And
you know, I can only imagine --


MATTHEWS: That`s a break. Let`s go -- let`s go with Michael on that.
Is there an ad symmetry here between the far nuts or the far left, you
might call truthers far nuts, I guess, they`re certainly anti-
establishment. And the people like the birthers who have had a lot of
support within the U.S. Congress on the right?

STEELE: But you also have members of Congress during the Bush years
who said some pretty crazy -- backing up some of the crazy things they were
saying, calling the president out on certain things. Look, I don`t buy
into the conspiracy stuff. The reality of it is, look, you have to ask
yourself one question. And so you have 114,000 jobs created and the number
of jobs -- you know, three-tenths of a percent. You have 96,000 jobs
created the month before and goes down only a tenth of a percent. So
people are asking, you know, what`s behind the numbers? It`s a legitimate
question to ask.


REID: Wait a minute, Chris, Chris, come on --

MATTHEWS: Conspiracy --

REID: Come on.

STEELE: It`s a legitimate question. It`s a legitimate question. I
mean can you explain it?

REID: Michael. Michael, you`re my friend. Michael, Michael --

STEELE: How do you explain the math? Do the math.

REID: Love you, Mike.

STEELE: Explain the math.

REID: Come on. This is the exact same agency that was reporting the
numbers over 8 percent when Mitt Romney believed them so much that he wrote
that into his stump speech. They have been believing these numbers,
revisions and all, for the past generation that they`ve been reported.

STEELE: Yes, but that`s not the point. That`s not --

REID: The minute one produces something that isn`t pleasing to them,
that doesn`t help feed their paranoia and advance Mitt Romney`s interests
because they`re rooting against the economy getting better.

STEELE: I`m not buying it. I`m not buying it.


REID: These numbers have been -- they`re the same way, by the way

STEELE: Joy-Ann, I -- I understand what you`re saying. And no one is
rooting against the economy. That`s just --


REID: Well, I think one political party is. One political party is.

MATTHEWS: Come on, Joy-Ann, you won your argument.

STEELE: No, well, come on, Joy-Ann. Get off that. It`s not. You
know it.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go here. I think -- I think you both agree there was
no corruption at the BLS.

REID: Come on.

MATTHEWS: Anyway the conspiracy theorists the last week 7.8 percent
unemployment rate started moments after the number was led by a former GE
CEO Jack Welch, who tweeted, quote, "Unbelievable jobs numbers. These
Chicago guys will do anything. Can`t debate so they change the numbers."
Well, later that day on HARDBALL, I asked them about that in some detail.
Let`s listen to what -- he actually said it after the conversation.


JACK WELCH, FORMER G.E. CHAIRMAN: It just seems somewhat coincidental
that the month before the election the numbers go one-tenth of a point
below where they were when the president started, although I don`t see
anything in the economy that says these surges are true.

MATTHEWS: But here you put out the word here. "Unbelievable jobs
numbers," fair enough. These Chicago guys will do anything so they change
the numbers. What evidence do you have that they got to the BLS?

WELCH: I did --

MATTHEWS: The Chicago guys got to the Bureau of Labors Statistics and
jimmy these numbers by point 3 percent, as you put it?

WELCH: I have no evidence to prove that idea. I just raised the


MATTHEWS: Is that a fair assessment of what Jack Welch did? He just
raised the --


MATTHEWS: He went out and said, these Chicago guys changed the

STEELE: Well, that`s what -- that`s his assessment of it.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no. He said he had no evidence they did.

STEELE: He said he had no evidence but that`s what he believes.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that any sane person believes -- any person
really believes --

STEELE: Look, Chris --

MATTHEWS: -- that you have can get into the Bureau of Labor


MATTHEWS: Can you get into Labor Statistics? Nixon couldn`t do it.

STEELE: Right.

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Politicians for years have been trying to get to that

STEELE: Right. You can`t get --

MATTHEWS: Joy-Ann, go ahead.


REID: You just made exactly my point, Chris. Richard Nixon tried to
get into that agency and he actually floated a really racist conspiracy
theory saying it was because it was a Jewish running the (INAUDIBLE), he
couldn`t break in there. So the idea that the Chicago guys. What Chicago
guys? Because then, Welch, who I used to respect, by the way, then said
well, I didn`t mean the White House.

Well, which Chicago guys are you talking about? I mean look, the
number of foreclosures also have hit a record low.


REID: Have the banks conspired to lower the number of foreclosures to
help the bottom. No. They can`t stand Barack Obama. The numbers are

STEELE: The reality of it is --

REID: Numbers are numbers. And the Republican Party has decided they
don`t believe numbers anymore.

STEELE: Numbers are numbers. So let`s deal with some -- and by the
way this is the point.

MATTHEWS: This is such a leap.

STEELE: Yes, let me tell you this. The number has been coming down
from high --

REID: Exactly.

STEELE: How many jobs they need to create in this economy to get back
to where we were.


MATTHEWS: That`s the policy argument.

STEELE: Wait a minute. Come on. Wait a minute. Look, look, you guys are
engaging in this wonderful distraction and want to talk about conspiracy --

MATTHEWS: Who brought it up last Friday morning at 8:35?

STEELE: Look, it doesn`t -- it doesn`t matter. So you follow that
down the rabbit hole all day long. Let me make my point and then you can
have at it. The reality of it is this. There are 23 million Americans
tonight who will be watching this debate asking themselves, will I get a
job tomorrow.


STEELE: There are 114,000 of us who started working last month but
the reality of it is there are a whole lot more that are looking for work.
Those are the real numbers that we need to be focused on. Whether the
unemployment rate is 7.8 or 8.1, the fact of the matter is people are not
going back to work at the rate that they should be.


STEELE: Now all the other industries --

MATTHEWS: Michael, let me give -- let me give my (INAUDIBLE). It
only takes 30 seconds.

The different between a third-world country and a first-rate country
like this, every time there`s an election, you don`t scream it was stolen.
And every time a number come out, you don`t say it was manufactured. You
accept reality to the interest of a civil society. It was not civil
behavior by Donald Trump.

STEELE: Well, that`s right, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You don`t say the president monkeyed with these numbers.

STEELE: That`s great, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Try civil behavior.

STEELE: That`s wonderful --

MATTHEWS: It`s true.

STEELE: -- but it doesn`t change the fact that people are still
unemployed and underemployed.

REID: Right and unemployment --


MATTHEWS: We`ll have a debate --

STEELE: So you guys go down that rabbit hole. We`ll stay in our
room. Real people trying to create jobs.

REID: Unemployment went down in Florida from 14 to 10 percent. The
reaction of the Romney campaign, rather than saying that is great, there`s
a Republican governor down there, was to tell them to shut up and stop
talking about unemployment going down because that`s going to hurt Romney`s
chances of winning the state. Unemployment in Ohio was 6 percent. White
male unemployment is 7 percent. White female unemployment, about 6.5
percent. Those are real numbers and you know what? The Republican Party
should celebrate that.

STEELE: Yes, and black unemployment is 14 percent.

REID: Something is down --

STEELE: That`s a real number, too.

REID: It`s actually down at a four-year low.

STEELE: And I don`t hear anybody talking about that.

REID: It`s down to four-year low. It`s in the 13`s, and you know
what, Michael, that`s a good conversation we need to have absolutely.


MATTHEWS: I think they ought to have meeting -- OK. I think we
should have a meeting of all truthers, birthers, and jobbers. They should
meet on an iceberg. It`s melting.

REID: Lock them in a room.

MATTHEWS: Climate change (INAUDIBLE). I don`t know. Melting
iceberg. Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele. Thank you, Joy-Ann.

STEELE: Hey, thanks. Good to see you, Ann.

REID: Thank you. Great to see you, Michael.

MATTHEWS: Up next, just answer the question, we`re going to talk
about the few of the big issues these candidates face. We`re going to sort
of replicate as a preview of what`s coming up tonight for an hour and a
half. This is HARDBALL. A place for politics. Live from Danville,
Kentucky, for the vice presidential debate.


MATTHEWS: We`re back from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, for
the vice presidential debate. In tonight`s debate, we`re going to see the
candidates (INAUDIBLE), of course, answering the question they wish they
had been asked instead of the one at hand. It`s an old debate trick.

But tonight on HARDBALL, we`re going to ask our guests, (INAUDIBLE),
to answer the question whether they like it or not in our preview of the
debate tonight.

Playing Vice President Joe Biden is Democratic congressman from
Kentucky, John Yarmuth. He`s from Louisville. And playing Congressman
Paul Ryan is U.S. congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn, Republican from
Tennessee. We like having her on.

So, Congresswoman Blackburn, I have to ask you a question, and you`re
playing Mr. Ryan tonight, he`s going to call himself Mr. Ryan, not
congressman. Is the emergency room a great place to treat people without
insurance? Is this the future of American health care?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: My hope is that the future of
American health care is going to be solved by a lot of the innovation going
on out there and that we`re going to do something to preserve and expand
affordable access to good quality health care and that`s what our focus
should be. How do we make certain that everybody has access to affordable,
quality health care.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of your running mate`s statement, Governor
Romney`s statement, that we don`t let people die in their apartments, we
get them to the hospital, to the emergency room, and that`s how we handle
people in this country. Is that satisfactory? What the governor has been
saying now twice in a couple of weeks now?

BLACKBURN: What we want to make certain is that there is a continuum
of care. Of course, when there is an emergency situation, we are blessed
to have great hospitals, great trauma centers that have those emergency
rooms that can tend to those immediate issues.

What we want to make certain that we do is have people moving through
the process so that they have that primary care physician, so that they
have health insurance and they also are accessing quality care, making it
affordable, and making certain that it is accessible as one of our goals to
health reform.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have 40 million people right now -- well, if the
vice president, rather, the governor of Massachusetts has his plan right
now, it`s to get rid of Obamacare which covers 40 million people not
insured. You`ll have 40 million uninsured going to the emergency room.

Let me go to Biden. Vice President Biden, do you believe that the
anti-terror strategy which you advocated for Afghanistan was the right one
in a war, not in counterinsurgency strategy which has kept our men there
and women there, and caused the casualties?


MATTHEWS: Were you right or was the president right in Afghanistan?

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: No, I think -- I think the
president`s right. I think we can no longer --

MATTHEWS: So you were wrong?

YARMUTH: I think I was wrong. Absolutely. This is a new world. We
can`t be the world`s police force. This is an entirely new dynamic. Most
of the threats we face in the world today are not deterrable, and that`s
why we -- historically we`ve had these enormous forces. We need to be much
more intelligent about how the way -- they way we combat these again,
because there`s no deterrents to the type of people who don`t care if they

MATTHEWS: Let me go back --

YARMUTH: So I think the president`s approach is right.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to congresswoman -- or Congressman Paul
Ryan with a different look tonight. Do you think a fertilized egg, a human
egg should have the right to property under the 14th Amendment? As the
Personhood Amendment supports?

BLACKBURN: I think that life begins at conception. And let me go
back to your health care question, also. If you want to see what happens
and how a health plan that is a government-run health plan does not work,
take a look at what happened when Tennessee put 10 Care in place and that
was going to be government-run, it was the test case for Hillary Clinton
health care. And I have to tell you, we still had the same number of
uninsured coming into our hospitals and seeking treatment.

The thing is, Chris, you don`t have an example where government-run
health care has increased access, lowered cost, and gotten more individuals
into the health insurance rolls.

MATTHEWS: I thought that that`s what Governor Romney bragged about
doing in Massachusetts.

BLACKBURN: I think that when you look at government-run health care,
what you do not have is an example --


MATTHEWS: So Romney was wrong in Massachusetts?

BLACKBURN: -- where you have --

MATTHEWS: So he was wrong in Massachusetts?

BLACKBURN: Romney tried something that worked for -- for
Massachusetts. He feels like letting the states solve the issue, and I
agree with that, let the states take this up. Just like with our Medicaid.

MATTHEWS: OK. So government-run doesn`t mean government-run.


BLACKBURN: There are so many of our government -- on a bipartisan
basis that say --


BLACKBURN: Say send it back to the states.

MATTHEWS: OK. Back to my question, you didn`t answer it. If a
fertilized egg of a human being is a person, then someone who has an
abortion is a murderer, because that`s a person who was killed? Under the
law you want written.

BLACKBURN: No, I said I believe that life begins at conception.

MATTHEWS: Is that true?

BLACKBURN: I think life begins at conception.

MATTHEWS: Is it a person?

BLACKBURN: I said life begins at conception.

MATTHEWS: But is that -- is that life a person? Well, let me ask
you, Congressman Ryan, you endorsed and co-sponsored a bill, you,
Congressman Ryan, endorsed, co-sponsored a bill to make the fertilized
human egg a person. You stand by that tonight or not?

BLACKBURN: I don`t know what Congressman Ryan would say on that
issue. I can tell you that I do believe life begins at conception.

MATTHEWS: In other words, it`s a little tricky admitting that he
might be right or admitting that he`s wrong. Which is worse?

BLACKBURN: I am telling you what my statement is.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

This is not Congressman Ryan anymore. This is Congresswoman Blackburn
speaking in her own political interest. Anyway, I want to -- and I know
why, by the way.

Anyway, let me ask you about this bin Laden. Vice President Biden is
notoriously responsible for saying, don`t go in there with the SEALs, go in
there with drones, don`t take the chance. The president took the chance,
it worked out.


MATTHEWS: Are you wrong, Vice President Biden?

YARMUTH: Well, I think I was. And clearly --

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you a humble man tonight?

YARMUTH: I know.


YARMUTH: This is all 20/20 hindsight. It`s easy. No, the president
was brilliant and he made a tough call and it worked out.

MATTHEWS: So the president`s brilliant?

YARMUTH: He was in that instance for sure.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. I got to ask you right now, I`ve got
a chance to ask Congresswoman Blackburn, my friend on the show. Let`s make
a prediction tonight. I want you to make one. And I want you to be honest
here. Does your guy, Ryan, have to win tonight or would it draw suit the
purposes of your ticket?

BLACKBURN: I think that what you`re going to see is a very strong
performance by the vice president and by Congressman Ryan. Congressman
Ryan is going to move to a lot of facts and figures and be personable and
be himself out there. He`s prepared. And he is going to do a good job.
He`s going to represent himself and our party well.

MATTHEWS: Is he going to do what you did a few minutes ago, represent
yourself and not the running mate?

BLACKBURN: He is going to represent himself. He`s going to represent
the ticket. He is going to do a great job.

MATTHEWS: Oh, that will be tricky. That is too tricky, Congressman.
There I have a problem with. You cannot be Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney at
the same time. It is impossible.

Hey, you`re a good sport to come on. Thanks so much, Congresswoman
Blackburn of Tennessee.

BLACKBURN: Hey, you know what, Chris, the great thing about it is --


BLACKBURN: The great thing about it is, is that we in our party are a
party of big ideas. We love having people bring great ideas to the table.
That`s why we`re a big tent and we don`t have to have everybody walking in
lockstep. You`re going to see that --

MATTHEWS: OK. We`ll see.

BLACKBURN: -- as we search for answers that are going to be best for

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, it is nice having you on. And
thank you very much, Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville.

BLACKBURN: Thanks, Chris. Sure.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on tonight.

YARMUTH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with some old-fashioned dirt.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Danville,
Kentucky. The site of the vice presidential debate tonight.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with dirt. Old-fashioned political
dirt. If you can`t beat someone cleanly, spread that dirt around. Does
anyone, anyone believe this isn`t anything but a weapon? Dirt is not a
reason to vote for or against a candidate, no, the person slinging the dirt
always has his reason. It`s why he`s out there throwing that dirt in the
first place.

Exhibit A, Donald Trump. Does anyone believe that Donald Trump was
ready to vote for President Obama before he came up with this thing about
the president being some kind of illegal immigrant? Someone whose mother
cooked up some elaborate, wild scheme to have her son born in Africa so
that he could someday be elected president? No.

Trump declared personal war on the president for his own personal
reasons and then went to work pushing this nonsense. This birtherism out
there to the lesser minds. Those impressed by Trump`s money and swag and
swag who follow his lead like the mobs in a comic book following some
villain in Batman, you know, the Joker.

Does anyone think that the great Jack Welch who proved his brains
leading General Electric, the most successful industrial company in history
decided he didn`t like Obama last Friday morning between 8:30 and 8:35 a.m.
Eastern Daylight Time? Between the times of the lower 7.8 percent jobless
rate being announced from the Labor Department and when Welch tweeted his
attack on it, don`t bet on it.

No, these people are out there pushing birtherism or this jobs theory
because they want to throw some dirt on the guy. They want to hurt him and
skim some votes from him. It`s not good for our politics, not good for our
country. And people have it so good in this country shouldn`t be doing it.
It`s just wrong. And people with both brains and consciences know it.

Anyway, thank you for joining us. We`ll be right back. That`s
HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Right. MSNBC`s coverage of
the vice presidential debate continues with my colleague, Rachel Maddow,
coming up right now.


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