updated 10/16/2012 11:29:49 AM ET 2012-10-16T15:29:49

October 15, 2012

Guests: David Maraniss, Shannon O`Brien, Scott Helman, Heidi Heitkamp

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: D-Day minus one.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. This campaign today for president floats on
a knife edge. The balance between Americans who say yes to the
achievements of President Obama and those backing Romney is that fine, that
delicate. Recent polling shows the difference in popular backing for what
Obama has done -- the saving of the auto industry, the rescue of the U.S.
economy itself, the killing of bin Laden, health care for working Americans
-- against what Romney is offering is roughly zero. As I said, it`s that

So tonight, we look at how Obama can regain the lead. Is it with a
populist message, a challenge to Romney`s politics of, by and for the
wealthy? Is it a step by step dismembering of Romney`s tax plan? Or is it
a tough, positive declaration of what he, Barack Obama, has managed to do
by president?

Whatever strategy the president chooses, wherever he places the sharp
focus of his message, his time, his energy, his money, it`s time for the
man in the White House to buy his ticket and take his chances. He`s got
three weeks to make it work.

Joining me tonight is "New York" magazine`s John Heilemann, who has a
big article in this week`s edition of the magazine, and former Pennsylvania
governor Ed Rendell. Both are MSNBC analysts.

First, two new national polls. The new "Washington Post"/ABC News
poll has President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 3 points. That`s 3 points
among likely voters, 49 to 46. In that same poll taken two weeks ago
before -- before the first debate, the president led by just 2. So he`s
picked up a point.

And the new Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll
shows the president with a 1-point lead, 49-48. The same poll taken before
the debate had the president with a 2-point lead, 49-47. So you see how
it`s dancing around that knife edge.

Anyway, both campaigns, both the president`s and Romney`s, are into
the closing argument phase of the race, and both sides are putting out new
ads today. First, this ad from the Obama campaign. I think it`s the best
they`ve ever done, the finest ad I`ve seen in this campaign so far, and
it`s positive, thank God. It`s narrated by the great Morgan Freeman, the
Spencer Tracy, I would say, of our time.

Let`s listen.


MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Every president inherits challenges. Few have
faced so many. Four years later, our enemies have been brought to justice.
Our heroes are coming home. Assembly lines are humming again. There are
still challenges to meet, children to educate, a middle class to rebuild.
But the last thing we should do is turn back now.


MATTHEWS: That`s it. I think that`s the magic message, and it`s very
positive. The Romney campaign`s closing argument advertisement is all
about the economy, as well, even uses the poll-tested words "wrong

Let`s listen to the Republican ad.


spending and borrowing like this. We can`t keep spending money we don`t
have! Did they come in and inherent a tough situation? Absolutely. But
we`re going in the wrong direction! Look at where we are. The economy is
barely limping along.

Don`t raise taxes on small businesses because they`re our job
creators. Leaders run to problems to fix problems. Mitt Romney is
uniquely qualified to fix these problems.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Governor Rendell. And you saw two very
different tones there. I mean, I think the majestic sounds of the voice of
Morgan Freeman against kind of a snippy ad there -- maybe a good one, but
it was snippy. Your thoughts?

think voters at this point are looking for something to be positive about
and something to believe in a little bit. And I thought the Morgan Freeman
ad had a majestic quality about it. And you know, you can quarrel with the
message, but it was an upbeat ad and it talked about things that this
president`s done.

And I`ve been, as you know, Chris, a critic of his at times, but boy,
no one inherited worse problems not of his own making than he did, and he`s
made them better -- no ifs, ands and buts about it. And that ad captures
that in a very pleasant, appealing way.

The other ad is sort of whiny and snippy. I`m not even sure -- I
don`t think I would have hired that guy to deliver the message. He has a
whiny, snippy voice. So I thought Obama clearly wins that battle.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Are you with us on this, John Heilemann? Do you
think the high road works now? We`re calling it the closing arguments.
And I do think it`s a big question, which way does he go? Does he go with
dismembering the president`s -- or rather Romney`s tax plan, which a lot of
people think doesn`t add up? Does it mean going after Romney`s elitism,
government by, for the rich -- by, for and of the rich? Or does it mean
going out and basically reminding everybody, You can complain a bit about
what`s going on in the country, but look where I started and look what I`ve

Chris, I think that it may be just -- these of kind of premonitions of
closing arguments more than closing arguments. I mean, the president`s ad
is more -- getting closer to what they want on the positive side to be the
closing argument. I don`t think we`ve seen the last of negative
campaigning from the Obama campaign and the last of contrast or the last of
attacks on Governor Romney along the lines you were just suggesting.

The Romney ad is, I think, even a little bit further away from a
closing argument in the sense that I think it`s typical or characteristic
of them. It`s a very tactical ad in the sense that it`s kind of trying to
play on -- just on the Joe Biden performance.

That ad only works because of Biden`s facial expressions. If you just
had Paul Ryan saying what he`s saying without the counterposition to Biden,
there`s really nothing there.

I think they will shift to broader, bigger themes, but you can see the
kernels in both of these of what these guys are going to be saying down to
the wire. President Obama`s going to be saying, We`ve come too far to turn
back, and Governor Romney`s going to be saying, It`s not good enough.
You`d be foolish not to change course.

Those are the nutshells of these arguments. We were going to -- it`s
been -- they`ve been building up for the last six to nine months. And over
the course of the next few weeks, you`re going to be hearing those in a
much more -- in much clearer and starker terms than we`ve heard before.

MATTHEWS: You know, a lot of elections turn on the very immediate
conditions and how things are developing. I think right now, things are
starting to look a bit brighter than they were a couple of months ago in
terms of -- let`s look at this one. This is a good poll. It`s the
"Washington Post"/ABC poll, and it looks at right direction, wrong
direction. It`s perhaps the most significant poll out there in that

If you look at the graphic up here, the trend lines are closing to the
president`s favor. At present, more people still say the country`s in the
wrong direction, but -- by a 14-point margin, but the trend is
unquestionably improving, with optimism rising steadily over the past year.

The "Washington Post"/ABC poll analysis pounds out that in the
stretch, those who are becoming more optimistic about the direction of the
country are Democrats. No surprise there, Governor.

There`s been cruel fates before. Like, I remember the first President
Bush was knocked out by Bill Clinton just at the time the economy was
picking up. Remember the fourth quarter of `92? And then, of course, Al
Gore got hurt because the economy just went down just at the very end of
the Clinton terms.

But this time around, it looks like it is getting a shade better as we
go to vote, but maybe not a shade enough. What do you think? Is there
enough an upturn out there to do a little bit of bragging on?

RENDELL: Well, all the indicia are good. Housing starts are up. The
stock market`s doing great. Consumer confidence is up, freight shipments
up, I mean, you name it, and all of the things are moving in the right

So I think that it is going to be enough. And I think where it`s
going to really resonate, Chris, is with the Democratic base. One of the
things that I am impressed about -- and I don`t know if anybody`s as
impressed as I am -- is the early voting returns.


RENDELL: The early voting returns in Ohio, for example, are 76 to 24,
with 19 percent -- Obama, 76-24, with 19 percent of all registered voters
having voted. Now, that`s extraordinary.

And what it means is the Democratic base, African-Americans -- that`s
the only way you produce those type of numbers -- are coming out in force.
They are ticked off about these attempts at voter suppression. They`re
ticked off at the attacks against the president, and they are coming out.

And if they`re coming out at that level -- and I think these early
voting returns all across the country seem to indicate that -- that, I
think, is the main reason for optimism for Democrats. The enthusiasm gap
has either leveled off or has totally diminished or we now have an
advantage in the enthusiasm gap.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the latest polling from Ohio,
Governor. I`m glad you raised that. This is the PPP poll. We don`t --
pardon me? Let me talk about the numbers here. We got Obama up 51-46,
John. And we have the latest Rasmussen, which is even -- usually tends
Republican, to say the least -- even that gives it to Obama by 1, John.

HEILEMANN: Right. Well, look, I mean, Chris, I think, first of all,
Republican enthusiasm is up also because they`re excited about the way that
Governor Romney performed in the debate. There is tightening across the
battleground states. So there`s not -- this is not a moment for unalloyed
optimism for Democrats.

I`ll say one thing about the national poll and one thing about Ohio.
In addition to the "right track" number that you cited, there`s also the
fact that President Obama`s approval rating in that poll is now at 51
percent. The president has struggled for most of his term to get over 50
percent in terms of an approval rating. And the one thing we know about
polling is that an incumbent president`s approval rating will be his vote
share on election day.

So if he starts getting over 50 with any regularity, if this is a
harbinger of where the polls are headed, it`s a good sign for President
Obama heading into election day.

On Ohio, the PPP poll is yet another in a string of incredibly
encouraging pieces of micro-news for the Democratic side. It`s almost
impossible for Governor Romney to win the election without winning Ohio.
The president`s lead there has been 5, 6, 7, 8 points. It`s tightening,
like it is everywhere else right now. It`s down to 5 from where it was up
at 8 or 9 maybe a few weeks ago.

But still, 5 points is a pretty good, solid lead in a Republican-
leaning state that, as I said before, Governor Romney has to have.

And the Obama people, for reasons of the ground game, for early
voting, as Governor Rendell suggested, because of the power of the labor
unions in Ohio, because of the strength of the recovery there and the role
of the auto bail-out in Ohio, they feel like they`re going to be able to
hold that lead there. And if they do, they`re probably going to be able to
win this election.

MATTHEWS: By the way, we always say -- the experts always say, like
yourself, John, that the Republicans need to win Ohio. and I think that
Ohio always goes the winner. The last time it didn`t go with the winner
was the Kennedy race. And Kennedy used to have the biggest crowds in the
world in Ohio. He used to say, even kidding Nixon, who he`d beaten, How
come I got the crowds and you got the votes?

But if -- do the Democrats need to win Ohio, or just the Republicans?
How does it work?

HEILEMANN: Well, I think -- look, Governor Romney just has a much
narrower path to get to 270 electoral votes because of some of his
demographic weaknesses...


HEILEMANN: ... particularly like in Hispanic states, and so on. So
President Obama starts with a higher floor in terms of the Electoral
College. So Governor Romney sort of needs to win.


HEILEMANN: It`s possible to imagine him winning without winning
either one of Florida, Ohio or Virginia, but he more or less has to win all

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at the -- here`s the Fox News
Channel, a very impressive interview. Here`s Chris Wallace, who does a
dandy job here taking on Ed Gillespie.

Gillespie as often (ph) was out there trying to sell the case -- he`s
been doing this before -- that six studies, he calls them independent
studies, are out there supporting the mathematical logic of the Romney tax
plan, which you know means we can cut $5 trillion in tax rate reductions
and we can make up for it with an equal amount of closing of loopholes or
deductions, but won`t tell you how and keeps saying it`s doable. And he
keeps saying -- his people, like Gillespie -- that`s because we got experts
that say it`s doable.

Watch Chris Wallace meticulously take apart that argument put forth
here by Ed Gillespie. Let`s listen.


studies have said this is entirely doable.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Those studies are very
questionable. Some of them are -- some of them are blogs, some are from
the AEI...

GILLESPIE: Chris, I -- I...

WALLACE: ... which is hardly an independent group. Those are not...

GILLESPIE: These are very credible sources, and -- and...

WALLACE: One of them is from a guy who was -- is a blog from a guy
who was a top adviser to George W. Bush. These are hardly nonpartisan


MATTHEWS: Do you like that? Governor Rendell, quickly, did you like
-- you didn`t see the face of Ed Gillespie. It just fell because finally,
one of the people just nailed him on this BS about these six independent
studies. They`re bloggers...

RENDELL: Remember, Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... and the AEI, the American Enterprise Institute...

RENDELL: And remember...

MATTHEWS: ... the most neocon organization on the planet, and he`s
saying, Oh, they`re independent. Good for Chris. Your thoughts.

RENDELL: And remember, it`s not even $5 trillion in deductions have
to take away, it`s the $2 trillion in additional defense spending...

MATTHEWS: Exactly.

RENDELL: ... that they have to balance off. And there aren`t $7
trillion worth of deductions, even if you swept away mortgage interest and
everything else. It just doesn`t add up.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re picking a point, Governor. Just kidding!
It`s so obvious.


MATTHEWS: We only have a thought here for a moment, but I know the
late Arlen Specter just died this weekend. He was such a big part of my
life, your life. But you were a close friend of Arlen`s. Tell me about
him as a guy.

RENDELL: Well, an incredible person. First of all, perhaps the last
independent moderate in the Republican Party. He`s gone. And he left
behind a great legacy of service to Pennsylvania, Chris, but an amazing
guy. He was so tenacious and had such strong will about everything he did
that we all believed -- he beat cancer twice. We all believed he was going
to beat it a third time.

We were wrong this time, but Arlen Specter`s will and his tenacity and
his political courage served Pennsylvania and the nation incredibly well.

MATTHEWS: And apart from you, I don`t think anyone knew the state --
the commonwealth better than Arlen did. Boy, was he a student of our
state. He knew it cold.

RENDELL: Incredible.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you for that, and a great honor to have known
him and I know for you to have served with him and been his friend.
Anyway, John Heilemann, thank you. Governor Rendell, again, thank you.

Coming up, the Ali-Frazier number two. Tomorrow night, President
Obama has a chance to undo some of that damage from that knockout he
suffered at the debate two weeks ago. Enough of that. Let`s talk about
the future. Democrats say we`re going to see a different Obama at Hofstra
University this Tuesday. That`s tomorrow night. My take: He`s going to
cheer the troops.

Also, which Mitt is going to show up tomorrow? Who`s he fighting, the
right-wing ideologue we`ve seen for the last year, or moderate Mitt, multi-
task Mitt, multi-whatever, multi-beliefs Mitt? Lately, moderate Mitt talks
to the cameras, then his deputies whisper to the press afterwards, Psst, he
really didn`t mean it. Well, we`ll see what happens tomorrow night.

Plus, Democrats assumed their North Dakota Senate seat was a goner
when Kent Conrad retired this year. Well, a sure Republican pick-up. But
now Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has turned certain defeat for the Dems into a
tossup. She could easily -- well, she could win, and she joins us here
tonight, Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota.

Finally, you knew this was coming.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bunch of malarkey?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that mean?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no. Irish is I come over there and smack
that dumb look off your face!



MATTHEWS: Well, "SNL" takes on the vice presidential debate in the
"Sideshow" tonight, that and a preview of a helium-filled debate between
myself and the inestimable -- or estimable Bill O`Reilly.

Well, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got some new poll numbers in some key battleground
states. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

First in Florida, a new PPP poll shows a tight race down there, with
Mitt Romney leading Obama by 1. These numbers are so close -- 49-48. In
North Carolina, PPP has Romney up 2, 49-47, still very close. In
Pennsylvania, President Obama`s lead is down to 4 points in the Muhlenberg
College/``Morning Call`` poll. That`s out of Allentown. It`s Obama 49,
Romney, 45.

In Ohio, as I mentioned earlier, President Obama`s firewall seems to
be holding there. The new PPP poll there has Obama up by 5, 51-46. In New
Mexico, a new "Albuquerque Journal" poll has the president up there up 10 -
- boy, these states are different -- 49 to 39, 10 points there, with former
new Mexico governor Gary Johnson running as a libertarian at 6. He`s
probably hurting the Republican side.

And look at this number from Arizona. A new Rocky Mountain/BRC poll
has the president leading by 2, 44 to 42. Anyway, that`s Arizona.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Ahead of tomorrow`s big showdown
on Long Island, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have been deep in
debate prep today. According to Politico, Romney`s camp is apparently so
confident with the candidate`s answers that their focus has been on
stylistic matters, such as reminding him to lean into the questioners as if
he`s in a one-on-one conversation.

And according to "The New York Times," the president is practicing how
to challenge Romney when he twists the facts without seeming rude. Over
the weekend, the president`s advisers said we should expect to see a
different debater than the one that showed up two weeks ago in Denver.


watched the tape of that debate that he`s got to be more energetic. I
think you`ll see somebody who`s very passionate about the choice that our
country faces and putting that choice in front of voters.

make some adjustments on Tuesday. And you know, I`m not going to get into
detail about strategic changes that he might make. I think he`s going to
be aggressive in making the case for -- for his view of where we should go
as a country.


MATTHEWS: Well, the format of the debate this time is a town hall,
meaning people in the audience get to ask questions. That means new
challenges for the president.

As one Democratic source told Politico today -- quote -- "You have got
to take on this guy and challenge him, but you can`t seem like a bully in
front of an audience." Can he do it? He`s got a lot to do tomorrow night.

And David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and the
author of "47 Percent." He`s an MSNBC political analyst. And David
Maraniss is a great author. He`s associate editor of "The Washington Post"
and the author of "Barack Obama: The story."

David, we have got to start with you, David Maraniss.

Barack Obama, is he capable of a two-fisted assault in public on an
opponent? I have never seen him go at somebody aggressively. Is that
something he has in his toolkit, or not?

have it in his toolkit tomorrow, but I think that actually the town hall
format will help in that regard, because it can allow him to come at Romney
from an angle, from the side.

He can be very polite and civil and warm and ingratiating with the
person asking the question, and then go at Romney. And that allows -- it
makes it a little bit easier for someone like President Obama, who is
inherently a little bit reluctant to confront and has a tendency to act too
much like a constitutional law professor.

I think this format will actually serve to his advantage.

MATTHEWS: Well, David Corn, respond to that.

If Obama says, I agree with you, I have done the following, I put -- I
brought the auto industry back, and some people disagreed with me, they
thought we should let it go bankrupt, is that how you do it?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I know there are people
out there who crave a really slugfest from the president, but you can`t do
that in a town hall debate because your first obligation is to do what?
It`s to answer the question from the person in front of you and engage that
person as representative of voters...


MATTHEWS: Like Clinton did back in `92.

CORN: Bill Clinton, he was very good at it. I`m sure they watched
the tapes.

But I think David is right. In the process of doing that, you can
sort of answer the question, but say, but I have got to tell you, there`s a
choice here because Mitt Romney sees it differently, and start describing
Romney`s plan.

He says, you know what? He may not even tell you that, because at the
last debate he kept saying there is no tax cut, $5 trillion tax cut plan,
but there is. So, he has to find a way to sort of pivot to that, but make
it part of addressing the voters` concerns.

MATTHEWS: I want to ask you about something I have been thinking
about ever since that first debate.

I try to understand the president`s position in the first debate. And
since you wrote that beautiful biography about him, maybe you have this
answer. He doesn`t want to get in the pit with the other guy. He`s
president of the United States. It`s not just an angry black man and all
that stuff I don`t quite understand. But I guess I get it.

It`s you`re president of the United States. You don`t want to get
down in a mud fight with the other guy because the minute you do that, you
lose the advantage of office and he can start throwing mud even further at

If this president gets down in the ditch tomorrow night, unlike the
way he did the first time, does that give Romney more license to get even
dirtier, more aggressive, David?

MARANISS: I think David Corn is right that he`s not going to get down
in the pits like that, but he can be just as direct and powerful without
sort of lowering it to that standard. That`s not who he is.

He`s -- I doubt very much that he would do that. First of all, he has
a certain sensibility of himself as president, a little bit even of
grandeur about it that he doesn`t like to be -- to lower it in that sense.


MARANISS: So, I`m not expecting that. I`m just expecting him to be
more direct and using the opportunity of the town hall to also be warmer
with the audience and more direct with them.


MATTHEWS: Would you say he`s going to hit the points like 47 percent?
Would he use points like vouchers? Would he say bankrupt? You know all
the magic words we talk about. And they`re our lingo here. Do you think
he will use those magic bullets in this debate? One last question to you,
David Maraniss.

MARANISS: Well, David Corn can answer part of that better than I can
about 47 percent, certainly.

But, yes, he has to hit those points. And that`s what he was
watching. When he was watching Joe Biden, he wasn`t watching Biden respond
with the vigor that he was doing, but was making those points and how to
get to them, and that`s what he will do, certainly.

MATTHEWS: OK, David Corn, will he say the 47 percent, the name of
your new e-book?


MATTHEWS: No, no, because these things are like -- what do you call
them, these are bullets that everybody knows you have got in your gun. Why
are you using them?

CORN: Shorthand. You can talk about Bain, income taxes. There`s a
lot of shorthand he can do.


MATTHEWS: Will he say, why don`t you show your taxes? Will he be
that direct?


MARANISS: ... that reinforces a narrative that they have tried to
create that Mitt Romney is not empathetic and his policies also aren`t the
best for middle class and working class Americans.

You call them bullets. I call them shorthand. Talking to some of the
people around the campaign, they say that he will not be shy about pointing
out that when Mitt Romney says he`s for pre -- for getting rid of
preexisting condition, he`s really not.

I think they may still want to keep it kind of policy oriented, so we
will have to see.


OK. Well, look at what Michael Tomasky wrote today in The Daily Beast
about what the president needs to be thinking -- quote -- "I hope that
someone can say to him, Mr. President, 70 million or more Americans are
counting on you. They voted for you. They`re planning on voting for you
again and they want you to fight for them. If you lose, you let them down
horribly and you damage their lives. They`re the 47 percenters, a lot of
these folks. They need you. If the other side gets in, you will be fine,
but they`re screwed."

That`s rough language by Michael Tomasky, David, but the does the
president go in there knowing that he`s the champion of the -- sometimes
the 47 percent, the people that aren`t so rich in this country, that he`s
carrying the ball for them, and if he fails, it`s a psychological defeat
for him and the voters going to the voting booth, but also if they lose
this election, they lost, not just you? Does he feel that?

MARANISS: You have got two Davids here. Which one are you talking

MATTHEWS: David Maraniss, the author and biographer of Barack Obama,
who wrote the most perfect book on Barack Obama and knows all these




So, yes, of course, he feels that, but, Chris, you have to be
realistic. With each of these people, you know, their strengths are also
their weaknesses. So, certainly, President Clinton felt that, too, when he
let people down.

But Barack Obama of course feels that. He doesn`t want to let people
down, but he is a human being with certain failings. And so, you know,
he`s going to do the best he can. And to carry the burden of 70 million
people -- he carries the burden of 200-plus million every day.



MATTHEWS: So what`s the name of your book, David Maraniss? We don`t
have it up yet. What is it?

MARANISS: "The Story."

MATTHEWS: "The Story."

MARANISS: "Barack Obama: The Story."

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. "The Story."


CORN: I think people forget, too, that Barack Obama can be really
competitive. He`s often like -- he likes to have the ball with three
seconds left to make the shot. He likes these sort of...


MATTHEWS: "The Perils of Pauline."

Well, we will see.

CORN: We will see if it works out.

MATTHEWS: Because if he doesn`t win tomorrow night, then it`s 0-2 in
a three-game match. If he wins tomorrow, then you go to the rubber match.
You can win two out of three, still.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn.

CORN: Sure thing.

MATTHEWS: That`s how we think in baseball season still.

Anyway, thank you, David Maraniss, as well, author of "The Story."

Up next: Vice President Joe Biden gets the "SNL" treatment. Wait
until you catch this. Those are -- there it is.



And tomorrow, we will be live from Hofstra University in Hempstead,
New York, for live editions of HARDBALL at 5:00, another totally different
show at 7:00. Then at 8:00, I will join Rachel Maddow as we preview the
second presidential debate. The debate starts at 9:00. We will be back
afterward at 10:30 with lots of reaction.

Then stay up late for us for the biggest fun of the night, if you have
got the energy. Stay up at midnight and watch us. We have got some great
guests coming on live from the debate site.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I`m sorry, Martha. Martha, but with all due
respect, this is a bunch of malarkey, all right?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is malarkey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: A bunch of malarkey?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: What does that mean?



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, no, no. Irish is, I come over there and
smack that dumb look off your face.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For anyone watching the V.P. debate last Thursday night, the thought
must have crossed your mind, what will "Saturday Night Live" do with this?
Well, "SNL" didn`t disappoint.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mr. Vice President, I know you`re under a lot of
duress to make up for lost ground.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But I think the people would be better served if
we didn`t keep interrupting each other.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You don`t scare me, shark eyes. All right?



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, look, you think you`re tougher than me
because you do the P90X workout, because you`re younger than me?

Well, let me tell you something, there`s gym strong and there`s old
man strong, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You want to know my workout? When the Amtrak
breaks down on my morning commute, I strip down too my tighty-whities, I
push that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all the way to Washington.



MATTHEWS: Anyway, "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live" had
Arianna Huffington bragging on moderator Martha Raddatz`s style.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Martha Raddatz said, answer this question and
answer it this way. Women have to do that. You don`t say to your husband,
maybe we should go out next weekend. No, you say, hey, we`re going to
dinner Friday night with my sister and her husband. Be ready by 7:00 and
shave the back of your neck.



MATTHEWS: My response to that, no comment.

Anyway, "Meet the Press" guest Stephen Colbert was also at it. He
described how Romney`s surge has rejuvenated his character.


night, I just thought I don`t know what I`m going to do for the next month.


COLBERT: He was just a walking shambling mound of weakness. Even the
people who liked him didn`t seem to be behind him that strongly.

Now he`s the man. Now every -- now he`s got these long, luscious
coattails and everybody is jumping on board.


MATTHEWS: Well, the country`s fate isn`t the only thing riding on
this campaign. Apparently, comedians` livelihoods are too.

And, finally, this weekend, I joined Bill O`Reilly, John King, and Jon
Stewart at New York`s Beacon Theatre for a good cause. It`s Stewart`s
annual "Night of Too Many Stars" benefit to support education and training
programs for autistic children and teens.

Well, O`Reilly and I had a debate of sorts. Here`s a bit of the


how much these two believe in the cause, Bill O`Reilly and Chris Matthews
are going to debate the crucial issues of today.

And they`re going to do it while inhaling helium.


STEWART: So let`s -- let`s see how that goes. It`s helium time!


JOHN KING, CNN: Here are the rules. Neither participant shall be
permitted to speak without first filling their lungs with helium.


KING: Are you with us?



KING: Close enough.

As you know, our annual deficits are now above -- you might want a
little more of that -- $1 trillion a year. The president says it`s time to
raise taxes on the rich.


STEWART: I think Matthews might be hollow.


KING: Governor Romney said that would inhibit job creation.


MATTHEWS: Well, Comedy Central advises us here at HARDBALL that we
will get another clip later this week in which I actually do speak under
the influence of helium. Anyway, think the Chipmunks.

Anyway, you do not want to miss that. Anyway, "Night of Too Many
Stars" airs on Comedy Central Sunday night, October 21, at 8:00.

Up next: Which Mitt Romney is going to show up on the stage at
tomorrow night`s debate? The severely conservative Mitt we have seen in
the past year or the moderate who showed up for the first debate? That`s
ahead. Which Mitt?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


"Market Wrap."

Well, the Dow rising by 95 points today, the S&P gaining 11, and the
Nasdaq adding 20. Well, Citigroup shares rose more than 5 percent after
reporting earnings and revenue that beat estimates. As for the economy,
retail sales rose 1.1 percent last month, much more than expected. And
according to a report, Apple may unveil more than just an iPad mini later
this month. The All Things D bombing says a smaller MacBook Pro is also in
the works. No word yet from Apple.

Well, that`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now it`s
back over to HARDBALL.


different reaction to that first debate than a lot of people did. I mean,
I thought, wow, here is old moderate Mitt.


CLINTON: Where you been, boy? I missed you all these last two years.



MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Old moderate Mitt, as Bill called him there, Bill Clinton, called him
last week, is front and center appearing in swing states and on the
airwaves. He`s even touting his record as a Republican governor who worked
with Democrats in Massachusetts,hardly the guy we watched all through the

But just how bipartisan was Mitt Romney as governor and which Romney
would actually show up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if elected, the severe
conservative or the nonthreatening moderate?

Well, with me are two guests who know his record out there in
Massachusetts. Shannon O`Brien ran against Romney in the 2002
Massachusetts governor`s race, and Scott Helman co-authored the biography
called "The Real Mitt" -- "The Real Romney," rather, "The Real Romney." I
see that in bookstores everywhere.

Let me start with -- with Shannon.

Thank you for joining us, dear.

And here is the question. I hear there`s a story, a wonderful little
anecdote about the elevator in the statehouse and Mitt`s attitude towards
it, which is one of those stories that I always like because it explains
human behavior in a way that voting records don`t. Explain the elevator
and Mitt as governor.

the man of the people, the guy who was so bipartisan, actually for the
first time in, you know, history that anyone could remember took an
elevator that was previously open to the public and kept it just for
himself, his own little private bubble going up and down into the
governor`s office.

So, the public couldn`t be on it and no legislators who wanted to
button hole him to talk to him about legislative priorities could not get
on for the four years that he served as governor.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Scott, that reminds me so much when the
Republicans took over the White House after Carter was president, they took
the White House mess where most of the middle and the upper people, the
speech writers, got to eat and they divided it in the executive mess for
people like Ed Meese and Jim Baker, separating them so gingerly from the
masses of other people.

What is this? Is this a Republican cultural thing, you have to have
segregated eating facilities for the very elite?


MATTHEWS: And elevator facilities?

HELMAN: I can`t speak to the broader dynamic but it`s certainly
reflective of Romney who is a control freak. He loves to have people in
the places where he wants them. I mean, even more than that, when you were
in the statehouse and you had an event with him, there were pieces of tape
on the floor with your name. That`s where you were supposed to stand. It
was all tightly controlled. I think that is very much reflective of the
Mitt Romney that I know.

MATTHEWS: Well, the moderate mitt showed up in Denver, of course,
for the first presidential debate. That was appropriate. Here he was
touting his bipartisan bona fides for the national audience that hadn`t
seen him before or knew about his real background.

Let`s listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I had the great experience,
it didn`t seem like it a time, of being elected in a state where my
legislature was 87 percent Democrat. And that meant I figured out from day
one I had to get along and I had to work across the aisle to get anything
done. We drove our schools to be number one in the nation. We cut taxes
19 times.

As president I will sit down on day one, actually day after I get
elected, I`ll sit down with leaders, Democratic leaders, as well as
Republican leaders and continue -- as we did in my state. We met every
Monday for a couple hours, talk about the issues and challenges in our
state in that case.


MATTHEWS: Shannon, he`s already sat down with Grover Norquist and
signed the dotted line to stick to his fiscal policy. He`s already sat
down with the religion right and got his robes on down there at Regency
University. He`s already joined that crowd on everything from abortion to
same-sex. He`s joined the neocon crowds with Dan Senor and the rest of
those guys.

He says he`s going to sit down as if he`s some virgin politically
when he`s cut all these deals ahead of time. Can you believe he`s going to
be Mr. Bipartisan after being such a severe conservative all these months
getting the nomination?

O`BRIEN: No, and on the campaign trail he said so many conflicting
things. You really can`t look at his words, but what you can look at is
how he governed. I think he probably set a record. He vetoed 800 either
pieces of legislation or line in a vetoes, twice what his Republican
predecessor, Bill Weld did. Bill Weld who actually let people on that
elevator while he was governor for eight years, or almost eight years.

You know, 800 vetoes, and these were not just small things. These
were things like vetoing the minimum wage, vetoing access to contraceptive
rights. But sometimes they were petty and partisan -- vetoing a special
bill that would have helped a disabled cop, vetoing money that would have
paid for kosher meals for elderly people in nursing homes.

Eight hundred vetoes and I think something like 750 vetoes were
overridden by the Democratic legislature. So, that doesn`t sound like a
guy who is playing ball with people on the other side of the team.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Scott on the last question. Scott, is he or
is he not a moderate?

HELMAN: Well, depends on what snapshot you take. I mean, like you
have been saying, it depends -- he is now apparently. He wasn`t before. I
mean, we hear different things from him. And I think, I mean, frankly --

MATTHEWS: What are his core beliefs? Besides his religion and his
love of his family, what will he fight for, what will he say no to under

HELMAN: I can`t answer that. I think his core belief is pragmatism
above all. I mean, he looked at that debate in audience and said this is
my biggest audience yet. You know, I`m dipping in the polls, I have to be
appealing to a bigger group of people and he went out there and sold a
centrist message.

And, frankly, I think the president was so surprised by the extent,
you know, of kind of Romney`s shifts there that night. I think that`s
partly what explains his performance.

MATTHEWS: Shannon, would he be -- if you told him two months ago or
a year ago, you can be president of the United States but you have to
follow the policies of Barack Obama, you have to lean center left, would he
say, OK, I`ll take the job?

O`BRIEN: I think he would say anything to get the job. He said
anything to get the job here in Massachusetts. But look to see what he`s

The people of Massachusetts, they will be voting in droves for Barack
Obama because they have already seen Mitt Romney will say anything to get
elected. But once he`s elected, he doesn`t operate based on the promises
that he made as a candidate.

MATTHEWS: Scott, same question to you, Scott. Would he do -- would
he be any kind of president as long as he gets to be president?

HELMAN: Yes, I think that`s right. I think he has a very burning
ambition, and I think he has -- again he, does what he needs to do to get
to the next phase. If getting to the next phase means describing himself
as severely conservative, that`s what he does. That`s what the primaries
required. If getting to the next phase now requires being an acceptable
centrist alternative, that`s who he becomes. He`s a consultant looking at
any situation.

MATTHEWS: A perfect accolade of the ruling class. Anyway, thank you
very much, Shannon O`Brien.

O`BRIEN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Great name, by the way, you`re great.

O`BRIEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And thank you Scott Helman, great guy. Thanks for writing
a great book.

Up next, a Democrat who is coming on strong in a Senate race in North
Dakota. Heidi Heitkamp, there she is. She joins us next. Boy, she`s come
from the back to the front -- an even race in North Dakota for a Democrat.

Coming for a minute with HARDBALL, the place for politics. There she


MATTHEWS: Well, the father of Christopher Stevens, you know, the
U.S. as ambassador to Libya who was killed in that attack on our consulate
in Benghazi last month -- well, he says his son`s death shouldn`t be
politicized. Jan Stevens told Bloomberg, quote, "It would really be
abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue. The security matters are
being adequately investigated. It does not belong in the campaign arena."
That`s what he said.

Mitt Romney has, of course, criticized President Obama, saying the
administration didn`t do enough to keep the ambassador safe.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

The Senate race in North Dakota between Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, the
former attorney general, and Republican Congressman Rick Berg should have
been a slam dunk for the Republicans. The state is solidly red and with
less than a month to Election Day, Mitt Romney is expected to win the state
by double digits.

But the race between Heitkamp and Berg is much closer, a dead heat at
47 percent right now, and it`s a matchup that could determine control of
the U.S. Senate.

With me now is the Democratic candidate for Senate in North Dakota,
former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp.

I want to show your ad now. Let`s take a look at the brand new ad
you`re putting about the negative attack you`ve been a victim of. Let`s
show this ad that you`ve put out.


for the Senate, I knew they`d try and hit me with all sort of stuff. I`m
Heidi Heitkamp.

And I could spend the whole campaign answering negative ads that
aren`t true. They`re all paid for by a few billionaires who want to keep
their tax breaks or shipping overseas. And they know if I`m in the Senate,
I won`t let them. I`m not willing to trade away your Medicare or your jobs
for more tax breaks for billionaires.

I approve this message because I`m just getting warmed up.


MATTHEWS: OK, Madam Attorney General, a truth serum question -- did
you actually hit every one of them or did you edit that picture? Because
you look like you hit every -- I`ve been in those boxes. Did you hit every
one that went by you no matter how it was coming at you?

HEITKAMP: Let me tell you, it was a rocky start but after I got
going, I was hitting them all.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me talk to you and ask you about why there`s a
different? I know you`re a more moderate Democrat. Let`s get down to the
basics here. What`s the difference between a Republican and Democrat in
North Dakota, as you see it, between you and Rick Berg? What`s this
campaign about?

HEITKAMP: I think it`s fundamentally about whether you support
Medicare, whether you support Social Security, and you support that social
safety net that`s so important to the elderly. You know, so much of what
we talk about is privatizing those very important programs. You know, I
don`t believe in that. My opponents voted to privatize both programs.

I think the other piece of this is taking a look at whether you think
you can solve all the problems by giving a tax break to billionaires. And,
you know, what we hear over and over again is the economic problems will go
away if we just give another billionaire a tax break. We know that`s not
true. There`s no proof that that`s ever been true and so we continue to
push back against those ideas.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Keystone Pipeline, because I`ve
always wondered why the president opposed it because it looked like a job
creator in your part of the country. You`re for it. Tell me how you
disagree with the president on that one. It`s obviously a jobs issue in
many cases, or an environmental issue if you`re looking it the other way.

HEITKAMP: Well, the Keystone Pipeline is about transporting tar sand
oil out of Canada down into Louisiana. The environmentalists will tell you
it`s never been about the pipeline. It`s about the tar sand. That`s a
debate and an issue up in Canada.

We absolutely need to move energy in this country. We need to move
it in pipes and we need to move it in transmission lines. And,
unfortunately, we don`t have an energy policy that moves our energy where
it needs to go and that needs to be fixed.

And the other piece of this, in the middle of a recession, we`re
walking away from a shovel-ready project that would put millions or
thousands of people back to work. And it was just wrong-headed, in my

MATTHEWS: Is there such a thing as clean coal?

HEITKAMP: You betcha. I`m on the board of directors of something
called Dakota Gas, where we take goal, we pulverize it and make natural
coal. We do something nobody else does, we compress it, make the CO2 and
we send it north to Canada where it`s used to inject into oil fields for
enhanced oil recovery.

It is the largest carbon sequestration project in the country,
proving that we can do it if we use American innovation and that we quit
taking coal off the table. And that`s what I`ve been fighting for. Let`s
have a reason discussion. We know we cannot turn the energy economy on a
dime. We know we have to be dependent on coal in order to have a reliable
and redundant source of energy in this country.

So let`s do this the right way. Let`s recognize there are
technologies that we can use that will in fact promote clean coal

MATTHEWS: Are you going to hold North Dakota, hold the seat kept by
Kent Conrad all those years? I always like Conrad. Are you going to be
able to hold that seat?

HEITKAMP: It`s sure looking good right now, Chris. I tell you. You
know, we started this out saying we`re going to win every day but more
importantly, we`re going to have fun every day. Visiting with North
Dakotans and doing what you can do in a state where 180,000 votes will win
you an election. And I`ve met a lot of folks and they knew from before and
we`re feeling very positive about the outcome in November.

MATTHEWS: Well, you may be pulling the big upset of the year, the
North Dakota Senate race. Heidi Heitkamp, former attorney general, taking
on the other guy, Rick Berg.

When we return, let me finish with the "Multiple Choice Mitt".
That`s what they called him in Massachusetts -- this guy is for everything
and against everything.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this -- "Multiple Choice Mitt".
That`s what they call him up in Massachusetts and I don`t see any sign that
he`s changed. Talk about potluck, send Romney to the White House and you
have to ask yourself, what exactly or even generally are you sending there?

Well, to begin with, someone who signed a Grover Norquist pledge not
to raise taxes and will protect the well-off certainly from losing the
unfair advantage that they got from W. Someone who has gotten well into
bed with the neocons, that will pretty much guarantee a hawkish foreign
policy the next four years, and it will mean more war in all fronts, more
brinkmanship, more foreign policy pushiness. And with it, more chances for
trouble, real trouble perhaps and certainly more enemies.

Someone who has forged ties with the religious right. We heard from
Congressman Paul Ryan pretty much what that means. It means taking any
chance that comes along to fill the Supreme Court with judges that will
dump Roe v. Wade. It will mean the end of health care, for sure, that
Obama has brought us and all the good things that came with it.

Or, and let`s be fair, it will mean whatever combination of all this
that Mitt decides on after the election. It will certainly mean a lot of
what he`s promised, including his commitment to being severely

And if that`s not enough to scare you, you must not be part of the 47

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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