updated 7/9/2004 11:27:51 AM ET 2004-07-09T15:27:51

Guests Richard Shelby, John Breaux, Rick Davis, Steve Jarding

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight: fear factor, Homeland Security warns America there‘s credible information that al Qaeda is moving ahead with plans for a, quote, “large-scale attack in the U.S. aimed at disrupting this November‘s elections.”  And polls show that U.S. voters approve of the Edwards pick.  And at least one new poll shows Kerry maintaining his narrow, 2-point lead over Bush.  Plus the Cheney controversies.  A former Republican U.S. senator shocks his party and says Bush should dump Vice President Cheney and replace him with Colin Powell.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.

John Kerry and John Edwards campaigned in the ultimate battleground state of Florida today, and tonight the two are attending a fund-raising rock concert in New York City which is expected to bring in $7 million.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge warned that al Qaeda is planning an attack in the U.S. to thwart the presidential election, but he did not raise the threat level.

Republican senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator John Breaux‘s a Democrat from Louisiana, one of the Southern states, by the way, in play in this election.

Mr. Shelby, Senator Shelby, what should we make of this threat warning about al Qaeda interfering with our elections?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY ®, ALABAMA:  I think we should take it very seriously.  I know the specifics are not there yet, and I know that Governor Ridge has not raised the threat level warning.  But there‘s been a lot of talk about disruption of our primary—I mean, our conventions and then our general election.  But I believe we‘ll do everything we can in our power to thwart that, to stop it.  And if it does happen, the American people understand that we‘ve got leadership, that we‘re in it for the long haul.  And ultimately, we will prevail.

MATTHEWS:  What happens, Senator Breaux, if it looks like that al Qaeda is playing cards here, playing a game of trying to get people to vote Democrat for president, to basically make their case worldwide?  Doesn‘t it put your party in a terrible position of having al Qaeda rooting for you?

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA:  Chris, the news that we are potentially under attack in this country is not really news.  When you hear it, it‘s frightening.  I think what they‘re trying to do is disrupt American society, disrupt our democracy...


BREAUX:  ... and our political conventions.  And also, the ports we have to be careful of, the airports.


BREAUX:  We‘re doing that.  We‘re going to go far.  We‘re not going to let them dictate what we do.

MATTHEWS:  But what happened in Spain, Senators?  I want to go back with you, Senator Shelby.  You‘re chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  Everybody saw what happened in Spain a little while ago.  They basically blew up the train systems over there and basically made the case, You got to get rid of your pro-war government, and the people did just that in the elections.  Are they going to try the same thing here?

SHELBY:  They could, Chris, but it won‘t work.  It won‘t work in America.  I‘ll tell you, I believe if they try that in America and think it‘s going to influence the election, it will do the opposite.  The American people traditionally have reallied behind the government, the flag, and we would do it in this case.  We‘re not going to let outsiders, terrorists or other foreign powers, influence our elections, tell us what to do.  Do they do it in other countries?  Yes.  But not in America.

MATTHEWS:  How would a big explosion right before the election affect the election, Senator Breaux?

BREAUX:  Chris, I don‘t think it does.  I think people are concerned about terrorism, whether they‘re Democrats or Republicans.  If they attacked us anywhere in the United States, I think it brings about a resolve that‘s even greater than it is today that we‘re not going to stand for it.  We‘re not going to let them dictate to us who our political selections are.


BREAUX:  And we‘re not going to be able to let them change our habits and our way of going about our daily business.

MATTHEWS:  Let me talk to you about the vice president.  You first, a Democrat.  Do you make—do you think it‘s significant that a sort of a rangy guy like D‘Amato, Al D‘Amato, who basically says what he thinks like, says the other day on television—we all just watched the tape—that he thinks that Cheney ought to be dumped in the interests of party success?  Isn‘t this pretty strong language?


BREAUX:  ... hear it from a Democrat.  No, it‘s not a big surprise if a Democrat criticizes the vice president‘s performance.  But when you have a senior member of their party in a powerful position as a spokesperson, people listen to Al D‘Amato.  And that‘s pretty significant when someone from the inside says, Look, if we‘re going to win, we got to get somebody else on the ticket.  That‘s pretty significant.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Shelby, Who would do better in November down there, a ticket composed of the president and. say, Secretary Powell or Senator McCain, or the current vice president?  Who would do better in your state of Alabama?

SHELBY:  I like the Bush-Cheney ticket.  Despite people saying ugly things about the vice president, the vice president brings a lot of experience, national security experience, business experience and just plain common sense.  He was chief of staff for President Ford.  He served in the House with me.  I have a lot of confidence in him.  And ultimately, I believe he will be part of the winning ticket.

MATTHEWS:  We have a new poll out today.  It‘s a Zogby poll, which has turned to be a pretty good poll of recent years.  Just a month ago in the South, your part of the country, both of you senators, it was an 18-point spread for the president and the vice president against the challenger, John Kerry.  Now with the new ticket of Kerry and Edwards, it‘s down to a 1-point spread, a 17-point drop just because of this news.  Amazing stuff, isn‘t it?

BREAUX:  I mean, I think elections, Chris, are always about the future and not the past.  I think a John Edwards projects the future.  He has enthusiasm.  He brings a spirit to the ticket that I think is going to help us in the South.  He‘s certainly a person that can talk to rural Americans and rural farmers and people who are struggling and fighting against the big and powerful interests.  I think he‘s a big help to us in the South.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Senator Shelby?  A Southerner on the ticket.

BREAUX:  Well, I personally like John Edwards.  He‘s got a lot of charisma.  He‘s got a lot of ability.  But I believe that the South will belong, at the end of the day, to the Bush-Cheney ticket.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the war again because the war looks like a pivotal issue in the campaign as much as it‘s ever been.  Was the war worth it?  Again, a Zogby poll.  Yes, 56, no, 43 a month ago.  Today 50 say it was worth it, 49 say it‘s not worth it.  So close.  Right on the drum there.  Senator Breaux?

BREAUX:  Chris, I think that people are now coming to the conclusion, like many of us in Congress, is that we were misled on the pretense of why we went there.  It was very clearly said to those of us in Congress that we‘re going there because they have weapons of mass destruction.  I think now—and Senator Shelby knows this from his good work on the Intelligence Committee—that that information was simply not correct.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t Democrats say we shouldn‘t have gone?  I can‘t get any Democrat on this show to say we shouldn‘t have gone.

BREAUX:  Well, I think that, based on what...

MATTHEWS:  Should we have gone?

BREAUX:  If I knew what I knew today then, when I voted to go to—to war, I would not have voted so...


BREAUX:  ... because -- -

MATTHEWS:  That‘s not something—that‘s not something your candidate‘s willing to say.

BREAUX:  Well, weapons of mass destruction—that was the reason I said, Look, we got to go in and get rid of him...


BREAUX:  ... because we‘re in danger.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

BREAUX:  And now we‘ve found out that, look, they weren‘t really there.  And Dick Shelby and them have found that out from the CIA.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Shelby, would you have voted to authorize the president to go to war if you found out before the vote that this WMD case wasn‘t true?

SHELBY:  I would have voted to go to war anyway to remove Saddam Hussein because he would be on the road to aiding and abetting terrorists all over the world.  He would also be trying acquire, as we know, weapons of mass destruction.  I think, in the end of the day, it will be worth the effort.  But wars are never popular for very long when they‘re protracted.  But I believe we did the right thing.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the top issue.  What‘s the top issue in Alabama, Senator, right now, in your region?

SHELBY:  Well, the top issue—I‘m not polling.  I don‘t have the Zogby poll under my belt, but...

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me read it to you.  We‘ll give it to you.  We just got it.  It‘s hot off the press.


MATTHEWS:  According to the new Zogby poll, Jobs and the economy rank as the top issue facing the country...

SHELBY:  Well, that‘s what I would say.

MATTHEWS:  ... for 27 percent.

SHELBY:  Jobs and the economy are always—well, I‘ll tell you this.  My state of Alabama, overall, is doing very well.  We have a lot of counties, 2 percent or 3 percent unemployment, including my own county of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  We do have some counties with higher unemployment.  Some of it‘s structural.  But the economy as a whole in my state of Alabama is pretty good, and I believe it will get better between now and November.

MATTHEWS:  Are those good jobs, high-paying jobs over 10 bucks an hour, or are some of those jobs that you include among the...

SHELBY:  A lot of our jobs...


SHELBY:  Chris, in our state of Alabama, we have brought a huge automobile manufacturing business in the last 10 years, Mercedes Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota to our state, brought thousands of jobs.  And these are good-paying jobs, to say the least.

MATTHEWS:  Well, as someone who gets his car fixed an awful lot, I can agree with you on that.


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you...

SHELBY:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Senator Breaux, let me ask you this question.  If the economy is doing well, why is it still the top concern of everybody‘s list here?

BREAUX:  Because for many people, it‘s not.  I mean, John Edwards talks about the tale of two Americans.  And for many people, it‘s doing very well, but for many others, it‘s not.  And any time a president has numbers that say, Is the country moving in the right direction or the wrong direction, and the majority of the people say it‘s going in the wrong direction, any incumbent, a senator or a president, has a big political problem when the majority of the people feel that we‘re going in the wrong direction.  And that‘s what the polling numbers are showing us.

MATTHEWS:  Do people like President Bush less today than they did when they elected him, or is it about the same?

BREAUX:  I think people like the president personally.

MATTHEWS:  About the same?

BREAUX:  I like him.  And I think from a standpoint of likability, he is a likable person.  I think they‘re concerned about the ability to manage international, world affairs.  That concern is very serious.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re going to come right back.  I want to talk about the South, the real facts of the South.  We‘re going to go through a number of states, including Louisiana.  I‘m not sure I‘m going to get to Alabama because I think that‘s pretty safe for Senator Shelby and the president.  But we‘re going to talk about the South, if it‘s really in play or not. 

Should be some fun.  Come back and join us on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m back with Democratic senator John Breaux of Louisiana and Republican senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Senator Shelby, is there any part of the South that you think that is endangered by this candidacy of John Edwards?

SHELBY:  I don‘t think so.  I believe that the Bush-Cheney ticket will be formidable throughout the South.  It was before, and it will now.  Despite Edwards being, bringing some energy, he will bring some energy to the ticket, but I‘m not sure he‘ll carry North Carolina at the end of the day.  As a matter of fact, I‘d bet against it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a tough one.  That‘s 13 points last time.  Do you think that‘s too far to go, Senator Breaux?

BREAUX:  Chris, I think with the addition of John Edwards, we have a geographical balance on the ticket, which has always been very important.  You have an articulate vice president who can speak to the needs of rural America.  I mean, I think Florida is clearly in play.  Arkansas is in play.  And I think my home state of Louisiana is going to be very close, and I think it‘s certainly winnable.

MATTHEWS:  Well, these are the numbers for everybody who pays attention to these close states.  Missouri, a border state, was 3 points for President Bush and Cheney last time.  Ohio was—got a lot of Southern people in it—was 4 points.  Tennessee was 4 points, although you had Al Gore there.  Arkansas was 5 points.  Louisiana, your state, was 8 points.  And as I said before, North Carolina was 13.  So there‘s a number of states that all you have to do is switch 2 or 3 points.

Let me ask about the South, Senator Shelby.  Does it help, if I put it bluntly, that a guy‘s got an accent?

SHELBY:  Well, I think—I have an accent, as you well know. 


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know that.

BREAUX:  ... talked about it before.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m just kidding.

SHELBY:  Sure, you do.  But I‘ll tell you, I don‘t think it matters either way.  I think that people are going to vote for the—basically, for the president, first, not the vice president, the vice president on either candidate on each ticket.  They add something to it, but if we look through history, most of the time, people vote at the top of the ticket.  But in this case, I believe the South is Republican.  It‘s going to stay Republican, especially in this race today—this year.

MATTHEWS:  You know, when your—excuse me, Senator.  When your—when your party, the Democrats, runs Southerners—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, LBJ—it works.

BREAUX:  Yes, I don‘t think John Edwards has an accent where I‘m from at all.


BREAUX:  I think he fits in perfectly.  And I think—I really think elections are about the future and not the past.  And I think in John Kerry and John Edwards, you have an opportunity to say, Look, we need to change some policies in this country.  People need to be part of America, and everybody needs to be part of it.  I think that type of inspiration is going to do well in the South, particularly in rural areas that have been very hard hit economically.  I‘m very excited about it.

MATTHEWS:  Will a very patriotic part of the country, the South, go for his “two Americas” argument that there‘s a real, fundamental inequality in a country they love?  Will they buy that?

BREAUX:  Oh, there‘s a lot of hard-working people who feel they don‘t get a fair shake.  They feel there‘s a lot of people that are doing very well at the top, and I‘m glad they are.  But there‘s an awful lot of people at the bottom who work hard every day don‘t feel they‘re getting a fair shake.  And when you talk about that, they can identify with that.  They can identify with the corporate scandals, and they can feel they‘re not getting a fair shake under the current administration.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Senator Shelby, you‘re very much in tune with what‘s going on in the intelligence community.  The report tomorrow is expected to be blistering against the intelligence community, the CIA included.  Will it hurt the president?

SHELBY:  I don‘t think so.  At the end of the day, let‘s face it, the intelligence community, I believe, has failed the president, failed this administration, the CIA right in the midst of it.  If we would have had great intelligence on the ground, we wouldn‘t be facing the challenges that we have the last six or eight months.  We didn‘t have it.  So I think Senator Roberts, Senator Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee‘s report, and others on it, are going to point out a lot of the problems in the community, especially the CIA.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to go into great depths about this Friday, tomorrow, because it‘s—I have to ask you—I asked you when we were off the—I still don‘t get it.  I‘ve followed this like you both have as senators since day one.  How could the entire international intelligence community get this wrong and say this country had all these weapons they didn‘t have?

BREAUX:  Look, Chris, I mean, Harry Truman said it best.  He had a sign on his desk said, “The buck stops here.”  It‘s not, I think, fair for a president to say, All my team had it all wrong, but don‘t blame me.  They‘re part of a team.  They‘re part of an administration.  And when one major part of the administration has it incorrect and wrong, which they did, then everybody at the top also has to recognize that that‘s part of their problem, as well.

MATTHEWS:  But wasn‘t Tenet a Clinton guy?  He was picked by Clinton? 

Can‘t you blame some of it on Clinton?

BREAUX:  Yes, well, that doesn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s the—it‘s his CIA director.

BREAUX:  Well, yes, but he wasn‘t working for Clinton when he got it wrong.  He was working for this president when he got it wrong.  He was part of that team.  And I mean, you just can‘t say, Well, my team got it wrong, but don‘t blame me.  You‘re responsible for the members of your team.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Senator Shelby and...

SHELBY:  Chris, I think—I think we...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

SHELBY:  If I could?  I think you have to look at what‘s really wrong.  It‘s not just what went on regarding Iraq, but there are deep, deep, fundamental problems in the entire intelligence community.  The community needs to be reorganized.  It hasn‘t been.  There are too many stovepipes.  There‘s too many people, and no one‘s in charge.  The CIA only controls about 20 percent of the whole budget.  The secretary of defense controls 80 percent of the intelligence budget.  We need a cabinet-level position.  We need real restructuring.  Will we ever get it?  I‘m not sure, but we need it.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, Senator Shelby, that the CIA and the other intelligence units could have been giving the president and the vice president and the secretary of defense and his people what they wanted to hear?  They wanted to go to war.  They made it clear they wanted to go to war.  They wanted a case to be made.  Were these bureaucrats trying to scramble to give the boss what he wanted to hear?

SHELBY:  Well, I trust not.  They‘re supposed to be objective.  They‘re supposed to know what they‘re talking about at all times.  You know, they do make judgment calls, which we all do, and sometimes we‘re right, sometimes we‘re wrong.  But if you‘ll just reference Bob Woodward‘s book, where he was told by—President Bush, basically, according to the book, questioned some of the findings of the intelligence community.  And the director was—supposedly said, It‘s a slam dunk.  And he questioned that at the beginning.  So I don‘t believe that the president was trying to look for information to justify what he did.  I think that the agencies and others have failed the president.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is the case like Westmoreland and the guys in Vietnam?  Mr. President, we can do what you want to do, Mr.  President.

BREAUX:  Well, I mean, there‘s a certain hesitancy on the part of any person in any administration to differ with the boss.


BREAUX:  I mean, you want to try and support the boss‘s feelings and beliefs, and they try to go out and gather information to make sure they‘re in sync with the boss.  And I think that was something that they probably did and did a disservice to the president.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll find out.  We don‘t know that yet.  But Senator, thank you very much, Senator John Breaux of Louisiana and Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Up next: Former Republican Al D‘Amato thinks President Bush should dump Dick Cheney as his running mate.  He‘s going to be a popular guy around town.  And later: Southern strategies.  Will adding John Edwards to the Democratic ticket help Kerry win the South?  Two top strategists will duke that one out.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  John Kerry and John Edwards are both in New York tonight, in New York City, in fact, after spending the day campaigning in the battleground state of Florida.  And on the Republican side, a prominent former U.S. senator is raising concerns about Vice President Dick Cheney.  HARDBALL correspondent—election correspondent David Shuster joins us now with more—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, the Kerry-Edwards ticket is spending the evening at the Radio City Music Hall.  The Democrats are attending a star-studded concert and fund-raiser featuring Jon Bon Jovi, the Dave Matthews Band, John Cougar Mellencamp and Whoopi Goldberg.  Many of the top donors at this event had pushed Kerry to pick Edwards as his running mate, and so Kerry is giving them an opportunity to return the favor in the form of contributions expected to total $7 million.

This is just the latest show of Democratic unity, and it comes at a time of Republican anxiety.


(voice-over):  While the Democrats today continued their touchy-freely “so happy to be together” campaign tour...

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I believe that John Edwards brings to America the possibilities of the future and the experience of a lifetime...

SHUSTER:  ... on the Republican side, there came division.  Private concerns about Vice President Cheney became public as former senator Al D‘Amato during an interview on New York 1 said Mr. Cheney should be dumped.

ALFONSE D‘AMATO ®, FORMER NEW YORK SENATOR :  This is an important race for the future of America and our direction.  And I think if we, as a party, want to think seriously, we should be thinking about strengthening the president‘s hand.

SHUSTER:  D‘Amato mentioned secretary of state Colin Powell and Arizona senator John McCain.  He suggested a change not because of the youthful energy or appearance of John Edwards but because of Cheney‘s own controversies.

The latest flashpoint was an unusual story involving Cheney‘s doctor.  Officials at George Washington University Hospital this week confirmed the doctor has been abusing narcotics and trying rehab for five years.  The hospital also said the vice president was aware.  When a reporter became aware of the situation, Mr. Cheney was put in an awkward spot politically, and it was then he felt compelled to fire the doctor.

On Vice President Cheney‘s disputed claim of the link between Iraq and al Qaeda‘s 9/11 attacks...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you know things that the commission does not know?


SHUSTER:  ... this week, the 9/11 commission stated, quote, “After examining available transcripts, the 9/11 commission believes it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9/11 attacks.”

Commissioner Tim Roemer added, “Our position is firm.  We have not discovered collaboration or cooperation.”

Cheney‘s ties to Halliburton could be a liability because of no-bid contracts and overcharging in Iraq.  The image of the CEOs has been battered, most recently by the indictment of Enron‘s Ken Lay, a top Bush-Cheney campaign contributor.  And Republicans worry about a grand jury investigation examining the leak of classified information about an administration critic.  The Bush campaign has been trying to soften the cold image of the vice president with appearances like this one, and the White House says Mr. Cheney will stay in the line-up, no matter what anybody says.  Still, Cheney, who recently used the “F” word on the Senate floor, become a lightning rod, at least for Democrats.

KERRY:  You think Dick Cheney is cursing today, wait until you hear what he says on November 2 this year.


SHUSTER:  Republicans are infuriated at Al D‘Amato and have quickly dismissed his call for a new Bush running mate.  Others noted that D‘Amato‘s timing alone was awful for the GOP and great for Democrats, who were in New York this evening for another Kerry-Edwards lovefest—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t wait for that debate.  Talk about asymmetric warfare, those two guys going at each other.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, David.

Up next: Now that a Southerner has been added to the Democratic ticket, how much of the South is really in play this time?  Two top campaign strategists will be here.  And later, a report from the key battleground state of Pennsylvania.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, does John Kerry‘s selection of John Edwards give the Democrats a fighting chance in any of the Southern states?  Top political strategists Rick Davis and Steve Jarding will be here to battle that one out.  Plus, the big battle in my home state, Pennsylvania, where it could be winner-take-all for the whole presidential election. 

But, first, the latest headlines right now. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

With us now are two veteran political strategists, Republican Rick Davis, who ran John McCain‘s 2000 presidential campaign.  And Democrat Steve Jarding was a strategist on the John Edwards recent presidential campaign. 

Today, both Bush and Kerry released a new series of television ads. 

Let‘s first look at the new Bush-Cheney ad. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m George W. Bush and I approved this message. 

NARRATOR:  Leadership means choosing priorities.  While campaigning, John Kerry has missed over two-thirds of all votes, missed a vote to lower health care costs by reducing frivolous lawsuits against doctors, missed a vote to fund our troops in combat.  Yet Kerry found time to vote against the Laci Peterson law that protects pregnant women from violence.  Kerry has his priorities.  Are they yours? 


MATTHEWS:  And here‘s the new Kerry-Edwards ad. 


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘ve met workers who have been out of work for two years.  I‘ve met steel workers and mine workers and auto workers who are now laid-off workers.  And some of them have told me, what it is like to have to unbolt their own equipment, pack it up, put it in a crate and send it to another country. 

Some have even told me what it is like to train their own replacement. 

That‘s wrong.  And when I‘m president, we‘re going to change that. 

I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message. 


MATTHEWS:  Rick Davis, it is customary that, when you‘re in office, you‘re ahead and you talk about what you‘re going to do for the country, what you‘ve done for it.  You don‘t usually whack at your opponent so fast.  Why are the incumbents, who are the most powerful political force in history, going after this little guy Kerry so early? 

RICK DAVIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  You don‘t want a little bush to grow into a big tree.  And that‘s exactly the strategy they‘ve had all this period time when Kerry has been the presumptive nominee.

And even though Kerry has spent time now picking his vice presidential nominee, he‘s still the presumptive nominee.  He is still unknown to a lot of voters; 40 percent out there don‘t know enough about him to form an opinion.  And the Bush goal is to give them their opinion of this guy first. 

MATTHEWS:  How can you, Steve, sell the argument that the economy is in bad shape when every month, the numbers get a little better?

STEVE JARDING, FORMER EDWARDS STRATEGIST:  Well, I don‘t that they are getting a little better.

MATTHEWS:  They aren‘t?

JARDING:  No.  There are still several million Americans that have lost their jobs under this presidency.  There‘s 44 million Americans without health insurance; 1.5 million people fell into the poverty level.  Go tell them the economy is better. 


JARDING:  Go to Ohio.  Go to Pennsylvania, where you have got a couple hundred thousand layoffs and tell them the economy is better. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, your case I would think would be, it is getting better. 

DAVIS:  Oh, the case is, it is getting better. 

And I think, if Kerry wants to prosecute the economy as the way to win this election, I think he is dead wrong.  I think what happens is, if the economy turn, as it has, to the better and every indicator shows you that we‘re adding hundreds of thousands of jobs on a monthly basis, every time those monthly indicators come out, it is a ready-made press conference for George Bush to say, Kerry is wrong.  And Kerry is leading with his chin on this issue. 

JARDING:  Well, it didn‘t happen last month.  The numbers weren‘t quite what they had hoped for. 

DAVIS:  Well, the last four months, they‘ve added 1.4 million jobs to the equation.  The economy is growing at an over 5.5 percent rate on an annualized basis.  Everywhere Bush goes in the Midwest, there are new jobs being created, not new jobs being lost.  And Kerry is living in last year.  He wants there to be a recession.  It is a tone of optimism vs. pessimism. 


MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got to make this case, but isn‘t the Democratic case this year is not the macroeconomic numbers?  It‘s not the total employed.  It is how much of a check are you taking home every week.  If you were making $15 or $17 an hour, now you‘re pulling home $6 or $7 at a luncheonette somewhere, a fast-food place, that‘s not exactly employment for a grown guy. 

JARDING:  No, it‘s not for a grown guy or a grown woman.  The numbers don‘t add up.


DAVIS:  ... on the rise.

Your point is, are you making more than you were a year ago?  You are.  Incomes are on the rise in America.  People are getting paid more.  There are more productive workers in America than anywhere else in the world.  And that‘s why we‘ve had some functional problems with unemployment.  These guys are working, are doing a great job.  And they‘re getting paid for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, is this a tough day for your crowd, with Kenny-boy doing the perp walk? 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s the president‘s friend.  Whenever a buddy of yours—remember the old guilt by association.  It used to be pretty popular around here in Washington, the McCarthy days.  But here you have a guy.

By the way, I thought he handled it very well.  Look at this picture. 

There is the first smiling perp walk I‘ve ever seen. 


MATTHEWS:  This guy has GOT some charm.  And he didn‘t hide the hands.  I always wonder why they do this to these guys who aren‘t exactly physically dangerous. 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s not going to jump out at court and knife somebody.  But here he is walking away like a good convict.  Doesn‘t that hurt you guys? 

DAVIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t he personal friend of the president‘s? 

DAVIS:  The reality is, it‘s the president‘s Justice Department that put this guy in handcuffs today and walked him into a courthouse. 

MATTHEWS:  Potential convict. 


The reality is, is that this is another example of showing how the Bush administration has spent some time putting friends—one of the best friends this administration ever had, Ken Lay, walked down the street with handcuffs in his hands. 

JARDING:  With all due respect, that is just such nonsense.  This administration has coddled these individuals.  You look at Halliburton.  You look at Enron.  This is an administration that has absolutely taken corporate America and said we‘re going to give a blank check.  They have looked at the rest of America and said, we‘re going to take money out of your pockets.


DAVIS:  So, Democrats have done nothing to help corporate America and the United States.  Is that your line?  Is it, they‘re anti-corporate America? 

JARDING:  No.  My line is, when you are going to lay down a marker and

say this is good news for the administration today because we‘re putting

this guy away, there is anybody in America


MATTHEWS:  ... Ken Lay?  Would you have whipped him on his way to the courthouse?  What?  You would have just put him in chains or what?

JARDING:  No.  I don‘t know that you would have to put him in chains, but there are a lot of people who would love to put him in chains.  There are a lot of people in Iowa and a lot of people in Texas that would love to see the man in chains.


DAVIS:  Those aren‘t bracelets around his wrists.

JARDING:  This is a guy that pillaged.  And lives are at stake here.  It‘s a serious issue because there are people out there that lost their entire savings.  This administration coddled these people.  They tried to turn the other cheek when they got caught.  Now they‘re standing there saying, see, we are putting him behind bars.  And I say, please, give me a break.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you guys to—just to change the point, because I think the issue may not be the quality of the economy.  It may be the fairness of the economy.  Is that the issue? 

JARDING:  Certainly, fairness is an issue in this economy.

And any way you break this down, you look at those tax cuts for the

rich.  You look at the way the money flows in this country.  There‘s a

greater disparity between rich and poor in America today than at any point

in our history.  This administration has to take some responsibility for

that.  And when Americans are out there hurting, when Americans are sitting

around the dinner table, and, by the way, talking family values, Rick, when

they‘re saying, my family values


JARDING:  I don‘t have a job.  I don‘t have health insurance.


JARDING:  This president is responsible.


DAVIS:  And we‘ll improve the economy.  And that‘s exactly what happened. 


DAVIS:  Promise made, promise kept. 

MATTHEWS:  You start because you‘ll be playing offense, I‘m guessing, based upon the tenor of this so far, Rick.

Trial lawyers.  When the American people turn on the TV and everyone who saw an ad shows up for the guy, have you had a hard time with your doctor?  Have you had a hard time at work?  Call up old Jack Oleander (ph) or somebody right there, right there on the set.  Are they popular figures with the American voters? 

DAVIS:  No.  I think there are a lot of American voters who have been touched in threat own lives by the results of these kinds of lawsuits, whether they‘re the class-action suits or the big civil penalty suits. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, then, why do people call them up when they leave their phone numbers on the air, then? 


MATTHEWS:  If they‘re not popular?

DAVIS:  Because I think part of the lesson we‘ve learned culturally is, it‘s all about your individual rights, not about the collective rights of the whole. 

And so the lesson we‘ve learned from trial lawyers is, hey, if you have got a way to make money by suing a big corporation, regardless of the problems that you‘ve had, call us.  We‘ll help you sue, regardless of the merit.


MATTHEWS:  Do you this is a winning issue for the Dems—to go after John—John Edwards for being a trial lawyer, for a contingency-based lawyer who‘s made a lot of money on contingency cases?

JARDING:  For the Republicans to go after him?  Let them go after him. 

I hope they go after him. 


JARDING:  But, again, this argument that somehow people out there have been touched by lawyers, that‘s a bunch of bunk.

People have been touched by corporate America screwing them.  They‘ve been touched by that.  They reach out to lawyers when they get screwed. 

MATTHEWS:  Do doctors agree with this? 

JARDING:  Well, I don‘t know.  We‘ll find out what doctors think.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know.  Doctors don‘t agree with this. 

JARDING:  Well, a lot of doctors don‘t. 

But, at the end of the day, if it‘s your child that has been hurt by a defective product and you‘ve got somebody out there that‘s willing to go to bat for your kid, you‘re not going to argue the point.

DAVIS:  There‘s nobody saying that you can‘t go to bat for your kids.  There‘s never been a piece of legislation or a law that‘s tried to be promoted by a Republican that says you shouldn‘t be protected from corporations or anybody else who did you harm in the courts. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DAVIS:  Courts should be accessible.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t bartenders have to pay for malpractice now? 


MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of litigation—there‘s a lot of litigation going on out there, isn‘t it?

DAVIS:  Yes, there is a lot of litigation.  We‘re a litigious society that‘s been brought upon because of the success of people like John Edwards.  Let‘s not forget, John Kerry was also...


MATTHEWS:  you‘re a little aggressive than this fellow here.  So let‘s let him catch up to you. 


DAVIS:  Oh, I‘m sorry.


MATTHEWS:  Let him catch up to you.

JARDING:  Knock it off. 

I have got to tell you, if they want to take on John Edwards on this issue, he can stand up and say, bring it on, guys.  Look at what I‘ve done.  Look at who I‘ve represented.  American public, they‘re coming after me because I represented little guys against corporate America, when corporate America was faceless, this big entity that just said, our product hurt you, but we don‘t give a damn about it? 

No.  The American public is going to say, I hope there‘s a John Edwards out there.  If my kid is ever in that situation, by God, I want a John Edwards. 


MATTHEWS:  In every movie that you would see—I‘m a movie nut, of course—every movie you see, the good guy is always the trial lawyer, whether it‘s “The Verdict” with Paul Newman going against the church up there, every case—or it‘s that movie down in New Orleans we just saw, “Runaway Jury.”


MATTHEWS:  The trial lawyers


DAVIS:  No, the liberals.  They‘re the ones who invented the trial lawyers.


DAVIS:  You have got the liberal John Kerry in bed with the trial lawyer John Edwards. 


MATTHEWS:  You have got to talk to Scarborough.  I think he would eat that one up.

Anyway, coming up, is Dick Cheney becoming a liability on the Bush ticket?  We‘ll take look at the latest NBC News poll.  And later, a report from the key battleground state—what a great state—the Keystone State, Pennsylvania. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

ANNOUNCER:  Follow all the action in the battle for the White House.  Sign up for our free daily e-mail.  Just log on to our Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, John Edwards vs. Dick Cheney.  Who would make a better president?  Plus, the hot battle in one of the country‘s most important states, Pennsylvania.

HARDBALL is back after this.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with political strategists Rick Davis and Steve Jarding.

According to the latest NBC News poll, 45 percent of Americans believe that John Edwards would be a better president if called upon than Dick Cheney.  That is stunning news. 

JARDING:  It is stunning news. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the new kid on the block.  He‘s never been in an executive chair in his life and now people are saying he would be a great chief executive. 

JARDING:  Well, it‘s stunning in the sense that the American public is just getting to know John Edwards. 

But I‘ll tell you where it is not stunning.  The American public does know Dick Cheney.  They don‘t like what they see.  They don‘t like the face that he puts out there.  They don‘t like the image that he‘s put forth.  And someone was saying the other day, the president came out and said, well, Dick Cheney can be president.  I thought Dick Cheney was the president. 

By all accounts, this was the guy that we brought in.  He was the guy that knew all we should do in foreign policy.  Now we have got a terrible foreign policy out there.  We have got a terrible situation around the world.  The world is leaving us.  And now this president apparently there‘s talk around the country today that maybe this president should get rid of Dick Cheney.  Well, you know what?  Maybe we should get rid of the president is the problem, because the president cannot blame Dick Cheney for all the things that he‘s doing wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s hard to argue with your logic. 


MATTHEWS:  No, let‘s go.  Let‘s go right now to Rick.  Argue with that.

DAVIS:  No, ask Joseph Lieberman about underestimating Dick Cheney.  Dick Cheney was the most underestimated candidate in the campaign last time.

MATTHEWS:  And Lieberman was Mr. Schmooze, Mr. Charm.

DAVIS:  Mr. Schmooze, Mr. Charm, Mr. I Know It All.  He‘s been around the track.  He was expected to just take Cheney to the cleaners.  Cheney was kidded about in “Saturday Night Live” over his performances on the stump during the campaign.

And let‘s face it, he trounced the guy in the debate.  And he turned out to be a good stump speaker and did a tremendous job for the Bush campaign last time around.  People do know Dick Cheney.  And they know that he knows these issues.  He‘s a sober guy, and he‘s a steady hand on the till when it comes to a crisis. 

And I think this campaign still is very much about foreign policy, national security, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq.  And you stack up Dick Cheney‘s capabilities on administering that in the White House vs.  someone who has no experience in any of these issues and never been tested, and I don‘t think the American public is going to have a problem figuring it out.


JARDING:  The vice president has been a failure.  You can say he had

experience coming in.  But we‘re failing in our foreign policy.  America is

at an all-time low in the world today.  We‘ve got a war that we went in to


MATTHEWS:  What would you do different after 9/11, your party, than this president has done?  What would you do differently? 

JARDING:  Well, surely, the way we conducted our foreign policy.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but don‘t be so general.  What specifically would you do differently than President Bush has done? 

JARDING:  I would have continued to go after bin Laden and I wouldn‘t have used Saddam Hussein as a straw man. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you have gone to Iraq? 

JARDING:  Well, I wouldn‘t have without an international coalition.

MATTHEWS:  No, would you have gone to Iraq?  There is no international coalition.


JARDING:  No, not the way Bush did it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, then, you would not have gone. 


JARDING:  You‘re assuming that John Kerry has the same poor diplomatic skills that George Bush and Dick Cheney have.  I would argue John Kerry would rally the international community behind this effort. 

MATTHEWS:  But, if he couldn‘t, would he have gone?  That‘s the key question. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s the question you guys keep


MATTHEWS:  If you couldn‘t have gotten Chirac and the French and the Russians and the Germans to go with you and you still thought Saddam was a danger, wouldn‘t you have to go after him anyway?  This idea, I‘ll only go where the French go? 


JARDING:  People aren‘t saying that. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, what are you saying? 


JARDING:  ... international coalition. 

MATTHEWS:  If you couldn‘t get it, would you have gone? 

JARDING:  Well, it depends on the threat that Saddam was.  At the time

Saddam that we went


MATTHEWS:  ... you tried to get the international community, you couldn‘t.  You tried to get them and couldn‘t get them.

JARDING:  Chris, with all due respect, how hard did they try? 

DAVIS:  No, they did try.

JARDING:  This president wanted to go in, come hell or high water. 


DAVIS:  They passed resolutions in Congress of which John Kerry was a supporter.  They went to the U.N.  How many times does the president of the United States go to the U.N. and make a pitch to go to war? 

JARDING:  Well, then, that‘s failed leadership. 


MATTHEWS:  We only have a few minutes and I am—let‘s talk about the South here.  In the latest Zogby poll—he‘s been pretty good predicting these elections—of Southern states, Bush-Cheney leads Kerry 50-47.  A month ago, that was an 18-point spread.  What happened, from 18 points down to a tight margin?

DAVIS:  Well, I think you‘re in a campaign now that is more typical of the fall presidential election in October than you are six months out. 

And so I think that, with the advent of all the TV commercials and all

the public interest in this campaign—and it‘s been very high—it‘s as

high as it has ever been—I think people are forming their opinions

quicker.  And those numbers are always going to come down.  You don‘t win

those states in that high


MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re missing a point here.  The president has done pretty well in bringing the economy back, you say. 

DAVIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s done pretty well in leading us in our fight against terrorism, you say. 

DAVIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And yet the people in the South, the most conservative part of the country, drop him by 17 points.  What‘s going on?  How can they be that fickle?  Are you saying the South is fickle?  Seventeen points.

DAVIS:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s that fickle.  I think it‘s Democrats coming home to Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Or they like the looks of this Southern guy on the ticket. 

DAVIS:  Well, he wasn‘t on the ticket long enough to take that poll. 

MATTHEWS:  No, this poll was taken in the last two days.

DAVIS:  I have no doubt—I have no doubt that Kerry is going to be

benefited in places like North Carolina and South Carolina, where John

Edwards has spent a great deal of time campaigning and has more name I.D.

than he does


MATTHEWS:  Give me your best bet, Steve Jarding, right to pick up.  Missouri was three points last time.  That‘s how close this country decided last time.  Florida was basically a draw. 

JARDING:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Ohio was four points, Tennessee, four points.  Now, of course, that was with Al Gore on the ticket.  Arkansas, five points.  Louisiana, eight.  Where‘s your best chance to pick up Southern seats? 


JARDING:  Well, I would start with Florida.  Any time you have got a dead heat—obviously, Democrats contend they won that.  But in the column...

MATTHEWS:  Even though Jeb won by double digits last time? 


DAVIS:  Popular Jeb Bush, popular secretary of


MATTHEWS:  Double digits.

JARDING:  No, but I‘ll tell you, I think the difference this time and with John Edwards on the ticket, this is a guy that I think—this ticket should come to the American public and say, we‘re going to go take these guys on in every corner of this country, including the South, including rural areas, because we represent your values. 

This, it has been a sham, Chris, that these Republicans run around and say we‘re the party of family values, when all these people are without employment. 


MATTHEWS:  One problem you‘ve got.  John Edwards‘ voting record is almost identical to John Kerry‘s and Ted Kennedy‘s. 


DAVIS:  Look, we can only hope that the Kerry campaign decides to change their strategy and to move their strategy into the South and the Southwest, where they think that the combination of he and John Edwards is going to somehow change the dynamic that‘s rooted in American politics where the South is going to go Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 


MATTHEWS:  Lure them into the South and ambush them.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway Rick Davis, Republican, Steve Jarding, Democrat.

When we come back, we head north to a state that could decide this election, according to a top Republican last night, Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, my state.  Who has the inside track in the Keystone State? 

You‘ll find out in a couple minutes on HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time now for our weekly look at America‘s battleground states.  And this election, none may be more crucial than Pennsylvania, where I come from. 

MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, with more—Chris.



I‘m standing outside of Independence Hall, where of course two men who would later become president signed the Declaration of Independence.  In modern presidential politics, the numbers would seem to favor John Kerry.  Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans here and Al Gore won by four percentage points back in 2000.

But George Bush has spent more time and money here than in almost any other state, so this is truly battleground Pennsylvania. 

(voice-over):  The typical Pennsylvania battle is over to where get the best Philly cheese steak, at Pat‘s or across the street at Gino‘s.  But this is an election year and the presidential stakes, S-T-A-K-E-S, couldn‘t be higher. 

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I don‘t see any scenario where John Kerry can win the presidency without Pennsylvania. 

JANSING:  And it is war in Iraq that is central to the election here. 

Rich Baconi‘s (ph) son is serving in Iraq right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And it really does impact me.  And, yes, it has made a big decision for me as far as how I will vote. 

JANSING:  Jonathan Stoltz (ph) is just back from Iraq. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, ma‘am, this is the first time in my life that I‘ve taken an active role in politics.  The war in Iraq drastically affected me and my outlook. 

JANSING:  For the first time, a majority of Pennsylvanians, 51 percent in a recent poll, believe the war was wrong, after Philadelphia businessman Nick Berg was beheaded, local soldiers were implicated in the prison abuse scandal and the state lost its first National Guardsman since World War II. 

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  Listen, nobody likes what‘s happening in Iraq today, but nobody has a better idea.  It‘s easy to criticize, but I think the American people have lot of confidence in President Bush‘s leadership. 

JANSING:  Bucks County has a memorial to soldiers lost in past wars.  It‘s one of four suburban Philadelphia counties that could decide the election.  Republicans dominate in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware counties, but George Bush lost three of them in 2000, costing him the state.


JANSING (on camera):  Twenty votes a precinct? 

BAKER:  Twenty votes a precinct. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m a volunteer calling on behalf of Bush-Cheney ‘04.

JANSING (voice-over):  Still smarting from the loss, the Bush campaign has already made 60,000 phone calls and recruited 34,000 volunteers and organized every imaginable special interest group, Hunters For Bush, small businessmen, women, and Veterans for Bush. 

Kerry For President has organized earlier in Pennsylvania than any previous Democrat. 

MARK NEVINS, KERRY FOR PRESIDENT:  We have organizers in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia.  Our operation is expanding as we speak. 

JANSING:  Democrats believe the economy will be a critical issue in a state where 156,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. 

(on camera):  The Bush campaign says, look, jobs being created all over the country, all over Pennsylvania, good news for Pennsylvania.  They are going to vote for us. 

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Yes.  Unfortunately for the Bush campaign and unfortunately for us, the jobs that are being created are not nearly as good as the jobs that were lost. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The next vice president of the United States of America will be Senator John Edwards from North Carolina. 


JANSING:  To win, John Kerry will need a big margin of victories in the cities, both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where he made the much anticipated announcement of John Edwards as his running mate.  And there‘s a wild card.


JANSING:  In a city where the name Heinz is on building after building, some analysts believe that, in a tight race, John Kerry‘s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, could help with the margins. 

But just how marginal is a win likely to be in Pennsylvania? 

ALLAN NOVAK, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  We have experienced a couple of statewide elections in the last two years that were decided by 28 votes and two votes a precinct in the most recent primary. 

JANSING (on camera):  Does it have a potential to be a very late night in Pennsylvania election night? 

SPECTER:  I think it will be a late night in America. 

JANSING:  Now, you might think that because Pennsylvania has an older, more deeply rooted population than most states, cultural issues would be very important, but strategists on both sides tell me only at the margins.  This is really a campaign about the war and the economy—Chris.


MATTHEWS:  Tight as a drum in Pennsylvania.  Thank you very much, Chris Jansing.

Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Our guests will include the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller.

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith. 


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