updated 11/8/2013 11:52:55 AM ET 2013-11-08T16:52:55

HARDBALL
November 7, 2013
Guest: Steve LaTourette, Jonathan Martin, Michael Duffy, Joan Walsh,
Howard Fineman, Wayne Slater

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Right versus harder right.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Philadelphia.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. You know a political crowd is going
a bit nutty and maybe a little bit scared when they start blaming the one
guy who won. The crazy, angry right of the Republican Party spent the last
several hours attacking New Jersey governor Chris Christie like he was the
creature from the black lagoon.

All the guy did was manage to carry 60 percent of a deep blue state.
That to a normal, sane political party might offer a map to victory
nationwide. Didn`t happen that way.

On Tuesday night, the Republicans put up two Tea Party candidates, one
in an Alabama primary and the other in the Virginia governor`s race. Both
lost. The race Republicans did win, as I said, by a blowout was in New
Jersey, where mainstream governor Chris Christie distanced himself from the
Tea Party extremists.

The Cruz wing of the party, however, wants you to believe that they
didn`t lose Tuesday, they were betrayed, especially in Virginia. They hold
to that view despite the fact that Ken Cuccinelli was soundly viewed as the
more extreme candidate. Case in point. This is how one Republican mayor
in Virginia diagnosed the loss. "Our party in many respects in Virginia
has been taken over by a sideshow. The party of Reagan`s big tent has been
reduced by some to a dunce cap."

Well, with that, the GOP`s circular firing squad has been let loose.
Cuccinelli`s finance chair says his party`s betrayal was like something out
of a primetime soap opera. Quote, "The Democrats weren`t happy with their
candidate, but they were united. Ken Cuccinelli had to deal with "Melrose
Place.`"

And Ted Cruz`s office used it as a chance to attack those he called
the party squishes. Now, that`s grownup talk. Cruz strategist Jason
Johnson (ph) said, "At the urging of the establishment, far too many
national Republican donors declined to support Cuccinelli. You cannot win
if you lack the resources to be heard."

Steve LaTourette was a Republican congressman from Ohio, and Jonathan
Martin is, of course, a reporter with "The New York Times." Thank you so
much for joining us.

Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight. I mean, I`m looking at
this right now. I would have thought there`d be a little more discretion
in these last couple days, careful comments, not an all-out battle of
words. But it seems like the people who lost in Virginia are blaming those
who didn`t back them in the mainstream. And the mainstream candidate in
Jersey, of course, Chris Christie, the governor, isn`t getting as much
respect as you`d think from the party across the board.

STEVE LATOURETTE (R), FMR. OHIO CONGRESSMAN: Well, that`s exactly
right. I mean, Tuesday -- I think you can`t read too much into midterm
elections, but what you can read into it -- I thought it was a great day
for the center of the Republican Party. You had Chris Christie getting 51
percent of the Hispanic vote in New Jersey, in a bright blue state. You
had Senator Byrne win down over the guy that -- Mr. Young down in Alabama,
that didn`t think that President Obama was born in the United States.

And the Tea Party, rather than again going on the attack and trying to
root out RINOs and squishes and everything else, I think they should take
heart that Ken Cuccinelli could have been elected governor over a flawed
candidate, Terry McAuliffe, in the state of Virginia with his conservative
rhetoric if his allies, Senator Cruz and others, hadn`t slammed the door on
the government and brought us to almost the brink of default, where
Cuccinelli got wiped out in northern Virginia. And I don`t care how much
money he had, the people that were thrown out, federal employees weren`t
voting for Ken Cuccinelli.

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, the same question to you. It seems like there`s
not -- it`s like Rodney Dangerfield, not a lot of credit coming from the
right to the governor of New Jersey for his huge win up there, carrying all
the different economic groups and ethnic groups...

JONATHAN MARTIN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and winning about 60 percent. And on the other hand,
they`re out there rooting for Cuccinelli, who lost.

MARTIN: Right. I think what you have now is a divide in the party
between those who want to elevate Chris Christie, and that`s sort of the
mainline wing of the party, because they see him as somebody who has now
proven he can win among non-traditional groups, and by the way, somebody
who does not have the stink of Washington, D.C., on him right now. And
those two attributes are very compelling to a lot of the donor and the
operative, and frankly, the elected official class in the Republican Party.

There is a much more conservative wing, though, of activists -- and
you can call it the Tea Party, I think it`s broader than that -- that is
uncertain about Governor Christie and that thinks he perhaps is fine for
Jersey, but they`re uneasy about him being on the national stage because
then they`re not quite sure that he truly wants to advance the conservative
movement.

So I think Christie himself has become a figure who illustrates the
divide right now that`s cleaving the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to the former congressman. It seems like there`s
an all-around nastiness right now. I was watching Buono, senator -- state
senator Buono up in New Jersey. Instead of taking the loss like most
people do, saying, you know, I did my best says, we tried, my workers did
their best, we came up on the short end, she`s out there blasting
Democratic Party leaders across the state for not backing her in the same
way Cuccinelli`s doing that.

There`s so much -- in other words, the same word "nastiness" out
there. Nobody`s being magnanimous about this and saying, you know, You win
some, you lose some, which is the way politics usually works.

LATOURETTE: Well, and it`s more than that. The people that are
complaining the loudest should really go out to the local store and buy a
mirror and just hold the mirror up to their face.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LATOURETTE: And what they see in the mirror is going to what`s to
blame for their loss. So Chris Christie -- you know, I don`t know if he
can be the president of the United States or not, but in politics, if
you`re in a political party, the goal is to win elections. It`s not to
blame people when you lose.

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, despite their losses on Tuesday, some conservatives,
including strategist Mary Matalin, of course -- she`s a Cheney loyalist --
are convinced that their ideology can win out there, not just in Virginia,
which used to be a conservative stronghold, but nationwide. Here`s Matalin
during an interview with Newsmax`s Steve Maltsberg (ph).

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I do blame the party and those
in the party who are attacking so-called Tea Party conservatives who were
elected, who are doing exactly what they were elected to do! And they`re
attacking them on tactics. This was never about tactics. It`s about
ideology. And it`s an ideology that not only is the base of our party,
it`s the base of the country! And it`s an ideology that wins elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn`t agree...

MATALIN: And it`s an ideology that works!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the fellow from Newsmax agreed with her. I don`t.
Let me ask you objectively, Jonathan Martin...

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... was it the tactics of the people who shut down the
government or the ideology? (INAUDIBLE) of people who almost caused a
fiscal catastrophe, a debt default, or their tactics? It seems to me it is
about tactics.

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: People don`t -- aren`t -- everybody`s concerned about the
debt, to various degrees. Everybody worries about the deficits year after
year, to some degree.

MARTIN: Well, the...

MATTHEWS: And yet the issue was, Should we turn the government upside
down and turn this country into a laughingstock economically to make a
point ideologically? She seems to be saying that, Mary.

MARTIN: Well, if you look at the Virginia governor`s race and pull
out the exit data, there is no question that Ken Cuccinelli had a major
problem with women. You know, his gender gap with women overall was not
terrible, but if you drill down further, Chris, he lost unmarried women by
42 points. And that`s just not sustainable if you want to win statewide
elections, or certainly national elections. So he had a problem with his
identity with women. So I think that that is partly ideology.

The Cuccinelli people, though, say even though they had that challenge
with women, they still had a shot to win, but there was that shutdown of
the federal government, as you pointed out earlier, really hurt him in
northern Virginia.

So the Virginia governor`s race is really giving evidence, Chris, to
both sides. You know, both sides can make the case that either, A,
Cuccinelli was too conservative and therefore unelectable in a centrist
state, or B, he was in the game, but the government was shut down, his poll
numbers dropped, and then the establishment was nowhere to be found because
his poll numbers dropped, and so he had no money.

So there`s arguments now from both sides. So it`s really not a very
satisfactory election, Chris, in terms of the analysis because both sides
have arguments to make about why he lost.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I like the congressman`s argument, though, that the
real drop in support for Cuccinelli came when the government got shut down.
In northern Virginia, that meant people`s jobs.

Anyway, Congressman, your group, Main Street Advocacy, is out there
with an on-line ad right now attacking the Tea Party`s extremist wing
there. Let`s take a look at your ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s only the special few who enter the Senate
candidates hall of shame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think even when life begins in that horrible
situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it`s a legitimate rape, the female body has
ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not a witch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were they thinking? The time to act is
now. Help us fight to protect Main Street.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a great tag line, Congressman, "What were they
thinking?" What`s your answer to that? Why do the right-wing put the
craziest candidates up in winnable elections so that they lose them?

LATOURETTE: I have absolutely no idea. And you know, I have argued
for a long time that it`s this notion that we have to elect these pure
Republicans, pure by their definition, that we are not in functional
control of the United States Senate as a party today.

Harry Reid, who every Republican is supposed to hate, wouldn`t be the
Senate majority leader if it hadn`t been for Sharron Angle. And so why
they continue to hew towards a small section of the party to nominate
people who are not electable in certain areas -- in Texas, apparently,
people like Ted Cruz, so Ted Cruz can be Ted Cruz. In Ohio, Ted Cruz
couldn`t be elected dogcatcher.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s like the Democrats coming out and saying, We must
run the most left-wing possible candidate each time in every part of the
country.

Thank you very much, former congressman Steve LaTourette, and of
course, the great Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times."

Coming up: If you want proof that Chris Christie is the Republican
frontrunner for 2016, listen to what his would-be rivals are saying about
him. Rand Paul`s called him a moderate -- bad word for Republicans. Marco
Rubio suggested he`d have a hard time winning outside New Jersey. And Ted
Cruz knocked him for not standing up for principles. Well, make no
mistake, these guys are talking that way because to them, Chris Christie`s
a real threat.

Plus, President Obama talks for the first time about whether he ever
really considered dumping Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton on the ticket last
year.

And the president travels to Texas, Ted Cruz country, and has some
choice words for the Texas senator.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the strange way the Republican Party is
rebuilding itself.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re coming back with how Republicans are already on the
attack against Chris Christie.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Governor Chris Christie pulled
off an impressive win, of course, in New Jersey Tuesday night, in a state
President Obama easily won last year. The Republican governor was
reelected with 60 percent of the vote. He won among women, among Latinos,
and he scored 21 percent of the African-American vote. Those are feats the
modern Republican Party at large can only dream of. And that`s why
Christie`s star is on the rise.

This week, he graces the cover of "Time" magazine. He`ll appear on
"MEET THE PRESS" and other Sunday shows this weekend. Among Democrats and
Republicans, there`s a widespread agreement that Christie could be the most
formidable Republican candidate in 2016.

So how has his impressive win been greeted by others in the party,
especially those rumored to want to run as well next time? Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Every race is particular to the state
that it`s run in. So there are factors in New Jersey that I think are
individual to that race, and clearly, he was able to speak to that and to
the hopes and aspirations of people within New Jersey.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think it is terrific that he is brash,
that he`s outspoken, and that he won his race. I think we need more
leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle, and in
particular, "Obama care" is not working.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think the Republican Party is a big
party, and we need moderates like Chris Christie who can win in New Jersey
in our party. What that means about the national party I`m not sure
there`s an answer, but We do need moderates like Chris Christie in the
party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think it`s possible they`re scared of him? It
sounds like it to me.

Michael Steele is the former chair of the RNC and an MSNBC political
analyst. And Michael Duffy -- another Michael -- is the executive editor
of "Time" magazine.

Let me go to Michael Steele. It seems to me -- and this sounds tough
-- there are two prevalent emotions in politics, fear and envy, fear that
somebody wants what you`ve got or want to get, or envy -- or -- or what`s
the other one? Fear -- envy. They got what you want.

So here we go. It seems to me that what you`re hearing in these nasty
comments by people like Cruz -- he can`t even give the guy credit. You`re
supposed to say when you walk out of the theater, Great performance.
Fabulous. You`re not supposed to day, I see you had a stupid role. I see
you really blew the second act.

What`s the point? What happened to the 11th commandment of Ronald
Reagan, say no evil of a fellow Republican?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, they
blew that one out a long time ago, Chris. We haven`t applied that going
back now for two or three years.

I think the reality, though, as you`ve framed it, there is fear, maybe
trepidation would be a softer word, but there`s certainly fear, I think,
underlying a lot of that, and a little bit of envy. He`s -- Chris Christie
is doing something that Republicans haven`t been able to do in about three
or four years in terms of connecting with the electorate in a very
different way and expanding the opportunity for the party to bring that
electorate to the table for votes.

Now, there`s going to be a lot of water, as you know, Chris, under
this bridge before we get to anything about a 2016 race with Chris
Christie. But what you`re seeing right now, the initial salvo is to let
him know, If you want to step out on this field, be prepared because you`re
going to have to prove your bona fides with the base first. You can talk
all you want to MSNBC. You can talk all you want on "MORNING JOE" and
HARDBALL. The reality of it is you have to start with us here at home
first.

And that`s going to be a very interesting dynamic for Chris Christie
to enter into.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Duffy. By the way, I thought you were
going to do it, and you did it. You got that cover on fast, "Elephant in
the room." What did you mean by elephant in the room, besides the obvious,
elephant being the symbol, the Thomas Nast symbol of the Republican Party?

MICHAEL DUFFY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he`s obviously a big guy. He`s
obviously a big Republican. But he`s also done a really huge thing here
this week. He stood astride the Republican Party and said, Stop. We don`t
have to make our whole appeal about narrow base issues. And that campaign
showed it with the demographics you talked about.

But there`s another thing that`s really big about what Christie
achieved in a state that hasn`t voted for a Republican two times in a row
since 1985. He`s made his campaign, Chris, not really about issues, but
about sort of the cult of personality.

He`s lifted himself beyond politics into something of a kind of
cultural figure here, the way Palin did, the way Clinton did, the way Bush
even did at the start, and said, I`m kind of past politics. I`m bigger
than that. I`ll tame it when I get wherever I`m going. But people -- I
appeal to people, he even said it last night, because of sort of who he is,
just brash, bold, bare-knuckled, a different kind of politician than we`ve
seen from Republicans in a while.

STEELE: Hey, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Here`s some real pissant -- I want to say something about
Rand Paul. He`s getting smaller by the minute. Here`s Senator Rand Paul.
He had some strong words, negative words for Governor Christie yesterday
because Christie appeared on several TV ads to boost the New Jersey economy
after Hurricane Sandy. The ads were funded with the federal disaster and
state money they got from the federal money for the state.

But let`s watch this -- watch this -- just watch Rand Paul going at
him here. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Some of these ads -- people running for office put their mug
all over these ads while they`re in the middle of a political campaign. In
New Jersey, $25 million was spent on ads that included somebody running for
political office. You think there might be a conflict of interest there.

You know, that`s a real problem. And that`s why when people who are
trying to do good and trying to use taxpayers` money wisely, they`re
offended to see our money spent on political ads. You know, that`s just
offensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s -- I think that comment by Rand Paul makes him
smaller. It`s a pissant comment. The guy just won a 60 percent election
victory in a state that`s very hard for their party, if he is a Republican,
Rand Paul, to win. Instead of going after that, he goes after the ad
campaign.

And the other guy going -- Cruz was doing the same thing, saying he
didn`t battle for principle because he allowed the state of New Jersey,
which has a lot of poor people and working poor people in it, to get
Medicaid. I just don`t see -- the lack of chivalry -- or what`s the right
word -- magnanimity, Michael, is amazing -- Michael Steele, is amazingly
missing here.

STEELE: Well, Chris, let`s start with where this thing really took
off between Christie and Rand Paul, when Christie went after Rand Paul a
couple of months ago, and they got into their sort of back-and-front. (sic)
Well, this is -- this is a little bit of a continuation of that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: And -- and Rand Paul stood his ground then and he`s standing
his ground now.

And, again, it goes back to what I say. They`re drawing the lines
here, the markers. The first gauntlet for Chris Christie is not a general
election gauntlet. It is a primary gauntlet in which he`s going to have to
stand on the stage with one of these guys, maybe both of them, and really
engage in a conversation about his bona fides.

And so the one that was the most -- a little off for me was Cruz`s,
because he starts talking about he ran this race and congratulations, and
then he sort of looped it back into Obamacare, sort of reminding people to
your point about, well, yes, he`s giving -- given -- given up and he`s
allowing Obamacare in New Jersey.

So this is the dynamic that Christie is now confronting. And what I
think Christie has to do is just take his time. Don`t do this on their
timetable or on their turf. He`s now set the stage. And he can really
define the direction of this party almost indirectly around these folks
without having to play the game they want him to play.

MATTHEWS: Let me try something. I love that thinking there.

Let me ask you, Michael Duffy, this. I want to you have -- I want --
test me on this. Here`s my theory. If they thought they were going to
beat him down the road next time, they would need him in the general come
2016. If they were confident of a victory over Christie, they would be
working him, charming him, seducing him a little, saying nice things about
him.

But if they fear him in the meantime, they`d be attacking him now. It
seems to me the real statement these buckaroos have been making the last 48
hours is, we don`t think we can beat this guy unless we can attack him.
Therefore, we don`t want to support -- we have to beat him first.

DUFFY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

DUFFY: I -- the smart play was to just stroke him and keep him
alive...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Yes, stroke him.

DUFFY: ... so you can chew him up later.

But to do it now just I think really underscores how effective
Christie`s message and his politics, the way he`s running the campaign,
which was going into labor union districts, going into minority districts.
He doesn`t get all of those votes. He got some. But he`s appealing to all
kinds of independents simply for doing it.

I think he represents a completely different path than the one this
party has been on for the last 10 or 11 months, and they are concerned that
perhaps the pendulum has begun to swung -- swing back in the party toward
the middle. That`s a big change.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

DUFFY: And I think that`s what this week`s probably about, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: And, Chris, as you pointed out, keep in mind, Chris Christie
is a conservative.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he is.

STEELE: I mean, you know, the Rand Paul comment, yes, we really like
having moderates in the party. Well, dude, he`s a conservative.

I mean, you go through the whatever box, litmus box...

MATTHEWS: I know.

STEELE: ... that the party has, you check them off, Chris Christie`s
there.

(LAUGHTER)

DUFFY: All right. And his politics...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you know what?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You take what you can get on that side.

STEELE: His politics...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know what? I remember he didn`t build the bridge -- he
didn`t build that tunnel to New York, which I thought was very narrow
thinking.

Thank you, Michael Steele and thank you, Michael Duffy.
Congratulations on the cover.

Up next, you know Rand Paul has a plagiarism problem when the late-
night comics are on his case.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": We thought,
well, to celebrate his landslide reelection, let`s take a look back at
Chris Christie`s first term in office. Here you go. Hope you enjoy it.

(SINGING)

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I guess comedians really can get away with anything.

Welcome to the "Sideshow."

As you can see, David Letterman is having a little too much fun with
the latest political news. Here`s how he handled the charges of plagiarism
against Senator Rand Paul last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

LETTERMAN: You folks know Rand Paul? Kentucky senator Rand Paul is
accused of plagiarism.

PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER: Yes.

LETTERMAN: He just was taking stuff from other sources. Well, today,
he issued this statement.

This is from Rand Paul`s office, Senator Rand Paul. Let`s look at
that.

NARRATOR: In the face of charges leveled against him, Rand Paul
wishes to say, "I am not a plagiarist. Further more, I think it`s going to
be a long, long time until touchdown brings me round to find I`m not the
man they think I am at home."

(LAUGHTER)

NARRATOR: "Oh, no, no, no. I`m a rocket man. Rand Paul, rocket man."

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The rocket man.

Well, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but who knew
Senator Paul was an Elton John fan?

Next, there`s a new birther in the ranks of the GOP out in Colorado.
State Senator Owen Hill hopes to challenge Senator Mark Udall in the
midterms next year. And he`s wasted no time to show off his true colors.
Here he was in his attempt at birther humor at a Denver County Republican
breakfast.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OWEN HILL (R), COLORADO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I was flying back from
Kenya. We spent about two weeks in the largest slum outside of Nairobi.

And the nickname of this slum is called the Flying Toilets. The
reason they call Flying Toilets, there`s no running water and no latrines.
People do their business in a plastic bag, tie it up, and throw it out the
window.

It`s a tragic place, but you spend time there and there are little
kids running around barefoot in these kind of streets. And you ask them
what they want to be. They want to be an astronaut, they want to be a
physicist, a marine biologist. One kid even told he wanted to be the
president of the United States.

And I held back my snarky comment that said, well, you know what, we
already have someone from Kenya as president of the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hah-hah-hah. Send in the clowns.

Finally, it`s not often that you get a random phone call from the vice
president of the United States. But that`s what happened to Boston-based
political consultant Marty Walsh on Tuesday night, when Walsh took a call
from a Washington number he didn`t recognize. He was enthusiastically
greeted by Joe Biden who exclaimed: "Marty, congratulations, you son of a
gun."

Well, the only thing was -- well, the only thing wrong was, the veep
got the wrong guy. He was trying to call the newly elected mayor of Boston
of the same name Martin Walsh. The surprised Marty Walsh was quick to
point out the awkward mistake, but Biden responded with characteristic good
humor, saying, "Well, at least I got a Marty Walsh in Boston."

Then today, the vice president`s office tweeted this photo
#throwbackThursday. The captions asks: "Any other Marty Walshes out there?
We`d love to hear from you."

Well-played, Mr. Vice President. Well-played.

Up next: President Obama pushes back on that story that his aides
considered swapping out Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.

It`s being called one of the most powerful typhoons ever pounding the
Philippines at this hour. Its winds are packing 195-mile-an-hour winds.
Thousands have evacuated the central region.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Jordan today and will make an
unplanned trip to Geneva tomorrow, where talks are under way with Iran over
its nuclear activities.

The Senate has approved a bill banning discrimination against gays in
the workplace. The measure, however, is not expected to make it past the
House -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

It was the most sensational headline from the new book by "Game
Change" authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, that senior aides to the
president considered whether to swap Vice President Joe Biden for Hillary
Clinton on the ticket last year.

Well, today, in an exclusive interview, NBC`s Chuck Todd asked the
president directly about that story. Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Did you really not know that
your campaign was researching this idea of swapping Joe Biden for Hillary
Clinton?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, again, Chuck,
the problem that we have got -- and this goes back to the earlier question
you asked -- you know, I am in charge of two million people in the federal
government.

And that was true, by the way, even when I was running for president.
So, people do all kinds of stuff. Some of it, they clear with me.
Sometimes, they`re trying to figure something out, particularly on the
political side.

And I`m not somebody who delves into polling and all that data.
Here`s the one thing I can say for certain, that if they had asked me, I
would have said, there`s no way that I`m not running again with Joe Biden,
because I genuinely believe that he has been one of the best vice
presidents in our history.

He also happens to be a friend. He also happens to be one of my most
important advisers on domestic and foreign policy. I like him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman is editorial director of The Huffington Post
and Joan Walsh is editor at large for Salon. Both are MSNBC political
analysts.

I want each of you in turn to tell me a simple question or answer a
simple question. Did the president deny or admit right there in that
answer to Chuck Todd that there was a poll taken on -- and focus groups
delivered and organized to find out whether it would be a good idea to dump
Biden and bring in Hillary? Was the answer yes or no from the president
there?

(CROSSTALK)

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will jump
in and say, yes, the president admitted that in a very oblique and
roundabout way.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: He said he don`t -- he doesn`t delve into polls.

That doesn`t mean he doesn`t read them. He said, if they had come and
asked me, shall we get rid of Joe Biden, I would have said no. That
doesn`t mean that they weren`t sort of percolating the idea around. And I
also love the two million employees` excuse.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: I mean, that was -- that was pretty funny, I got to say.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: And, you know, the fact is, he did talk to Joe Biden about
it. They had it out.

And I think they do genuinely like each other, but I think it`s clear
that the research was done.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So they talked about it subsequent to the book being
published and the heat coming on him.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Right.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I agree with that.

Let me ask you same question to you, Joan, because there`s always the
thing in politics. One of the earliest things I noticed in politics and
learned was, listen exactly to somebody what they say. They may seem to be
saying something, but listen. What did he actually say there? Did he say
he knew this was polled? Did he say he approved it? Did he say he
disapproved it being polled? Did he say it mattered or not? Did he make a
decision based on the polling? What did he tell us?

WALSH: I think he told us that, first of all, no one has denied that
somebody polled this question. So, I think he acknowledged that.

I think he may have also left the door open that maybe he overheard
something from another office that maybe they were doing this.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: But, at the end of the day, he gave Joe Biden a big old hug.
That`s what matters.

The other thing, later in the interview, he says something really
funny about how -- a real dig at his staff and maybe at all of us that
folks like to talk about things to make themselves feel important, so
whoever leaked this garbage to Heilemann and Halperin, you just -- I know
what your game is.

So I think that it`s certainly not anything that he directed or that
he said, I`m in a panic, go find out if I should pick Hillary. That was
never the story.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let`s ask about -- let`s see what he said now about the question which
has been hounding him lately. The president was -- has faced weeks of bad
press over, of course, the faulty rollout of his signature health care law
and more recently over his repeated claim during the campaign that people
would be able to keep the health care plans they had if they liked them.

Well, that turned out not to be true for everyone, certainly. And the
president today expressed his regret on camera. Let`s listen to his answer
here to Chuck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it
properly.

But, obviously, we didn`t do enough -- a good enough job, and I regret
that. We`re talking about 5 percent of the population who are in what`s
called the individual market. They`re out there buying health insurance on
their own.

A lot of these plans are subpar plans. And we put in a clause in the
law that said, if you had had one of those plans, even if it was subpar,
when the law was passed, you could keep it. But there`s enough churn in
the market that folks since then have bought subpar plans, and now that may
be all they can afford.

So, even though it only affects a small amount of the population, it
means a lot to them, obviously, when they get this letter "canceled." And,
you know, I am deeply concerned about it. And I have assigned my team to
see what can we do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law.

TODD: Do you feel like you owe these folks on apology for misleading
them, even if you didn`t intentionally do it? But, at this point, they
feel misled. And you have seen the anger that`s out there.

OBAMA: You know, I regret very much that what we intended to do,
which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because
they want them, as opposed to because they`re forced into it, that we
weren`t as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were
taking place.

And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are
finding themselves in a good position, a better position than they were
before this law happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Howard, what do you make of that, what he said there?

FINEMAN: Well, I think he`s -- I think he`s -- he`s moving the
goalposts here some.

I think he made for the first time a statement that he was willing to
consider changes in the law. He says here that there are holes and gaps in
the law. And he said elsewhere in the interview that the law wasn`t
implemented properly.

So, he`s gone beyond saying that things weren`t explained clearly, to
admitting that there are problems with the architecture of the law. He --
he loves the word architecture. He used it several times in this -- in
this interview. And he`s admitting that the architecture of the law is not
good as it relates to those people who are on sub-par plans who are getting
kicked off of them.

And that`s a significant admission on the president`s part. And it`s
one I would bet that the Republicans are going to seize on immediately.

MATTHEWS: You know, Joan, just to interrupt here for a second. I
want your view -- but I want people to know where I stand on this.

Both political parties have played with the idea, mostly the
Democrats, of course, of putting together a national health care plan.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: The Republicans did it under Teddy Roosevelt, I believe. I
know Nixon talked about it during the heat of Watergate, he talked about an
employer mandate. In fact, he proposed it. And I think Ted Kennedy,
unfortunately, was one of those who helped shoot it down.

But now, we have a health care plan -- thanks to one man and also I
think largely because of Nancy Pelosi. So, the other party is still
vacant. They have a vacant lot. If there was a hospital in one party, one
party had a lot with a hospital on it, the other has a vacant lot right
next to it. They have no room to criticize.

But I do believe, being a fan of the president`s, that he did make a
very broad promise that if you liked what you had, you could it. Nobody`s
going to call you up, there`d be nothing changed. I think he`s got to deal
with that directly. I`m not sure he`s done that yet.

Your thoughts?

WALSH: I`m not sure he did it either. I mean, you know, he did give
an apology. I guess I would disagree with Howard a little bit in that I
think he`s always said that there`s room to improve this law and that it`s
not a perfect law. The problem that he and the Democratic Party face is
that Republicans will not participate in improving it, upgrading it, fixing
it. They`ve only been about repealing it.

So, you know, I think he left the door open. But he`s always had that
door open if things need to be fixed. And I think he`s really -- what you
really heard, I thought, in his voice was no good deed goes unpunished.

You know, I worked -- he says the left was not happy with me. They
wanted single payer or a public option. You know, I worked with the
existing patchwork of private insurance and this is what I get. The people
are being canceled.

So, you know, I think that people who are inclined to be patient are
still going to be patient. And the people who won`t ever cut him a break,
nobody`s going to be satisfied.

FINEMAN: The only problem here, Chris, is that even though this only
affects a small number of people in the individual market place, I think
the whole rest of the country and people who are on their employer-based
health insurance or so on are looking at this as a sort of test case of the
government`s role in administering health care. And that`s the larger risk
--

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to go --

FINEMAN: That`s the larger risk the president faces.

MATTHEWS: OK. You heard where I stood and still stand. I think one
party has a plan, the other doesn`t.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Joan Walsh.

Up next, President Obama takes the fight to Ted Cruz. This is going
to be funny. Really good actually. And it`s good he`s doing it.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter has announced
he`s running for governor of Georgia. Georgia Democratic State Senator
Jason Carter will take on incumbent Republican governor Nathan Deal in
2014. The 38-year-old Carter is the second high-profile Democrat on the
Georgia ballot next year.

Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, is running to
replace the retiring U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that
sometimes gets me a little frustrated -- although I understand it because
I`m in politics -- is folks who are complaining about how the Web site`s
not working and why isn`t Obama fixing this and all these people are
uninsured. And yet, they`re leaving a million people right now without
health insurance, that they could immediately fix. There`s not a lot of
logic to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, President
Obama at a town hall event last night in Dallas, attacking Republicans who
have made it their mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Republicans
like Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

In fact, the president specifically attacked Cruz as an ideologue when
he spoke as a private event later that night, that`s later last night,
saying, quote, "What precipitated according to at least one senator from
Texas, the necessity for the shutdown is the Affordable Care Act. In the
state of Texas, you`ve got more uninsured people than any place in the
country. A million people could have health insurance, the only reason
they`re not doing it is ideology." Well said.

Ted Cruz didn`t take kindly to the president on his home turf. In
reaction to the president`s arrival itself, Cruz put out a statement
basically telling the president to leave town. It read, "Obamacare has no
place in Texas and must be repealed so we can empower Americans and their
families by offering real health care choices rather than a government-
written menu of plans they don`t want and can`t afford. Well, President
Obama should take his broken promises tour elsewhere." That`s Ted Cruz
speaking.

Sam Stein is an MSNBC contributor with "The Huffington Post", and
Wayne Slater is the senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News."

Let me go to Sam on the big question that never seems to be asked.

How can people like Cruz who oppose and have opposed any kind of
government role in health care have no plans for their own states`
uninsured people? And, by the way, it`s one of the highest percentage
states of people not insured and therefore since it`s such a big state, it
has the largest number of absolute number of people who have no health
insurance whatever. And he never feels the need nor does anybody call him
up and say, excuse me, Senator, where`s your plan?

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, this has been a big recurring
problem for the Republican Party, which is what do you have as an
alternative to Obamacare?

In 2008 campaign, John McCain did have a plan. It involved ending the
employer tax benefit for health care coverage, giving people tax benefits
so they could go out and buy private insurance. It didn`t pass. It wasn`t
voted, the president obviously won re-election. We re-litigated this again
in 2012.

And through it all, and since John McCain, roughly, there`s been no
plan presented by the Republican Party that would provide comprehensive
health care coverage to everyone. In fact, there`s been a lot of
discussion about how many people would actually be covered under the
Republican plan.

So, this is a valid criticism of Ted Cruz, of the Republicans, which
is you want to repeal, but we somehow lost the "replace" aspect of that.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Wayne about Texas culture and hospitality.

Aren`t there any rules down there about how you treat a president
coming in? You know, especially given history about sort of at least being
formally courteous, and no saying stay out of dodge. I mean. not dodge --
stay out of Texas.

WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Yes, I mean, I talked to some Cruz
people today in Washington, who say, you know, he wasn`t saying,
physically, that Cruz doesn`t have the right to come in. I think they were
a bit sensitive of that.

But fundamentally, that`s what he was saying. He was saying, this
town ain`t big enough for both of us. And that`s because, what Cruz was
doing was not offering up a plan, not suggesting that there`s a solution.
That`s asking the wrong question. He never campaigned on the idea that he
would have an agenda, a specific policy agenda.

He`s trying to fire up his troops and point up that there is a
division out there. Obama came here and started talking about the division
within the Republican Party and the reality-based Republicans, suggesting,
hoping that maybe there could be some solutions down the road.

Ted Cruz lives for division. If the Republican Party truly did come
together in some fundamental way, which they may do, before 2016, Ted Cruz
is dead in the water. He must have the party divided with, say, the Chris
Christie folks on one side, and hopefully, he hopes, the Ted Cruz
constituency on the other.

MATTHEWS: Well, to that point, Cruz has had a history of fiery
attacks against the president himself. Personally, his style had been
compared by some to Joe McCarthy. I`m one of those. This is just a
sampling of some of his attacks on President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We should never default on the dead, and
the only players in Washington who are threatening default on the debt are
President Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

Why is President Obama threatening to shut down the federal
government? Because he wants to force Obamacare down people`s throats.

This has been an imperial presidency. It has been a lawless
presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think President Obama has been abusing his
power?

CRUZ: I think he has absolutely been abusing his power.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: You know, this McCarthy thing. You know, I`m not going to
get over the fact that he accused Chuck Hagel, who`s up for secretary of
defense, a combat veteran of Vietnam, of having taken $200,000 from North
Korea. I don`t think the man has any sense of history about this country,
what we`ve within through in the McCarthy period and his almost vengeful
attack on his political rivals is something I haven`t seen in a long time.

He treats his political rivals and those with a different philosophy
as un-American. He treats them as evil itself, and they have to be
removed, if not from Texas, perhaps even from the country. The man is
really a negative force in American politics, my view.

What`s your thinking, Sam? How does he fit in here? I`ve never heard
politics talked about like this.

STEIN: Well, I like -- I think the notion that he lives off of
division is probably the best way to put it. And I think that`s true of
both dividing himself against the president and the Democratic Party, but
also within the Republican Party. You know, you played a clip earlier in
the show about him talking about Chris Christie and how brash and great he
was, and you know, then shifting over to Obamacare.

I can`t wait until he talks about how Chris Christie embraced Medicaid
expansion under Obamacare. To Ted Cruz`s point, no one is ever pure enough
as Ted Cruz. And until -- if the Republican Party were to come together
around some common agenda, Ted Cruz would be dead in the water, because his
whole shtick, the reason that exists is to demand purity of his colleagues
and to fight Democrats at every angle.

MATTHEWS: You know, the president had a light touch there, Wayne. He
said the other day that he knows who the members of his cabinet are by who
Ted Cruz has called a communist.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s pretty rough talk, but, you know, only with
regard to that person, Ted Cruz on the look of the guy, the political face
he puts out there of anger and hatred only in that case you can actually
joke about guy saying --

(CROSSTALK)

SLATER: Well, no, think about this. Go beyond the words that he
uses. I know it`s difficult to do. But it`s not just the words he`s
using, it is what he is -- the way he is saying it. He is talking about
absolutes.

And so, when he talks about someone being not just different than me,
but a communist. Not someone who just has a different point of view, but
as evil, that`s the implication there, it resonates among the
constituencies that he`s trying to appeal to.

He lives in and lives off of a Manichean political universe where it`s
us and them, right and wrong, good and evil. And frankly, Chris, there are
an awful lot of folks, populist, Tea Party folks, many Christian
conservatives, who embrace this sort of absolutist attitude about the
world.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`ve never been a fan of Oliver Cromwell -- I guess
that`s the difference between me and them.

Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein. And thank you, Wayne Slater.

And we`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

The Republican Party has a strange way of rebuilding itself. After
its self-defacing of the government shutdown and its near debt default,
it`s now veering toward outright civil war. Rand Paul, the self-reliance
champ, recently caught secretly taking credit for other people`s words is
now out there attacking new jersey`s victorious Chris Christie for the fame
he gained openly from Hurricane Sandy.

Meanwhile, down in the old dominion, the defeated forces of Ken
Cuccinelli are blaming their loss on the fate of less-zealous Republicans
to jump aboard the hard-right bandwagon. Well, this back biting, South
against North, West against East, is not what you`d expect from a political
party still reeling from its wild and crazy ride on the shutdown express.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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