updated 9/3/2004 1:50:55 PM ET 2004-09-03T17:50:55

Guests: Laura Ingraham, Ken Blackwell, Susan Collins, Eileen Melvin, Martin Chicon, Neil Bush, Pierce Bush

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  I have knocked on the door of this man‘s soul and found someone home, a God-fearing man with a good heart and a spine of tempered steel.

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CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL‘s coverage, sad to say, the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention live from New York‘s Herald Square.

Tonight is the night we‘ve been waiting for.  President Bush takes to the podium, and his challenge—it‘s a big one—Can he match the all-week buildup?  Can he display the courage and determination promised by Senator John McCain...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  We need a leader with the experience to make the tough decisions and the resolve to stick with them, a leader who will keep us moving forward, even if it‘s easier to rest, and this president will not rest until America is stronger and safer still.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  ... the leadership, so admired by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani...

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RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER MAYOR, NEW YORK:  We believed that we would be attacked many more times that day and in the days that followed.  Spontaneous, I grabbed the arm of then Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and I said to him, “Bernie, thank God George Bush is our president.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  ...  the optimism and strength of character cited by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  America is back, back from the attack on our homeland, back from the attack on our economy, and back from the attack on our way of life.  We are back because of the Perseverance, character and leadership of the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  ...  and be seen as the commander in chief, the protector of the nation, as by his vice president, Dick Cheney?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The fanatics who killed some 3,000 of our fellow Americans may have thought they could attack us with impunity because terrorists had done so previously, but if the killers of September 11 thought we had lost the will to defend our freedom, they did not know America and they did not know George W. Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight, reports from NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, plus NBC reporters on the floor and spread across the city, and our guests: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; Senator Susan Collins; former Senator Alan Simpson; New York Governor George Pataki; and “Saturday Night Live”‘s Darryl Hammond, the guy who does me.

I‘m here with the panel: radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, MSNBC Political Contributor Ron Reagan, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, MSNBC Political Analyst Patrick J. Buchanan, and on the floor, NBC White House correspondent Norah O‘Donnell.

But first, let‘s go to NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell for the big preview.

Andrew, can President—Andrea, can President Bush match the buildup tonight?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST:  Well, they believe that he will, and, of course, they are staging this in a very unusual way, Chris.  He is going to come out on a crosswalk and then approach a center stage that was built overnight.

Now this was done once before here, not for a political convention, but for the Rolling Stones.  So we‘ll see whether it matches that kind of performance.

But he did come out earlier today and tested the staging.  he feels very comfortable in this kind of arena.  What you‘re going to see is people surrounding the president, so he will look very much surrounded by very enthusiastic supporters.

The content of the speech is going to be 50 percent domestic, 50 percent foreign policy.  He‘s going to talk about the need for tax reform, for Social Security reform, for pension reform and also for initiatives on health and education, not big-ticket items.  They don‘t have any money because of the huge deficits, but he is going to talk about the changing global economy and what needs to be done domestically to meet those changes.

On foreign policy, the president is going to defend his war on terror, claim credit for locking up three-quarters of the known al Qaeda operatives out there.  They‘re saying that they‘re making progress.  This while there is growing terrorism around the world.  But Americans have not been victimized and certainly not at home.

In speech excerpts that were released a couple of hours ago, he says that striking terrorists abroad—“We do not have to face them at home because of this effort against terror,” and he says in his prepared remarks, “This moment in the life of our country will be remembered for generations.  We will know that they have kept faith with us and kept our word.”

He is saying in his prime-time speech that we are building a safer America because—it is not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake.

So he‘s laying it on the line here tonight, Chris, and, in these remarks about the war on terror, he is positioning himself as the commander in chief.  The buildup, of course, last night that slashing speech from Zell Miller in the keynote and the very tough speech, but a little more low key, a lot more low key, by Vice President Dick Cheney.

So the negative is not what you‘re going to hear from the president tonight.  It‘s going to be a positive, optimistic speech, and they hope it will kick off the fall campaign—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Andrea.  Thank you very much.

Andrea Mitchell who‘s down on the floor.

Let‘s go to our panel and, of course, to NBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell.

Let me go right now to Norah O‘Donnell—Norah.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, it is significant tonight.  Of course, a high stakes speech for the president, and the style is as important as the substance tonight.

They have built this very unique stage, this center stage.  As one senior adviser to the president described to me, it‘s like a pitching mound where the president will deliver his pitch to the voters.  They are sort of evoking this “Field of Dreams” imagery, if you will, for the president.

Remember when he was beamed in just two nights ago to introduce his wife, Laura Bush, and he was on that softball field in Pennsylvania?  Well, there will be more baseball field imagery tonight, part of what some people say may be reaching out to white male voters, part of this the base, ginning up the base.

One of the targets, certainly, for the president today, but not just the base, certainly reaching out and broadening his message.  That‘s what we‘ll see the president do tonight in very broad terms.  You will not hear real specifics about policy proposals.

Remember Kerry‘s convention speech was more like a State of the Union speech with lots of, lots of specifics in there.  Bush‘s speech tonight is not going to be like that.  He is going to speak more broadly about his agenda for the second term, as he speaks in a speech that he said today is going to be sheer wisdom.  That‘s how the president said—he billed his speech tonight.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Norah.

I liked what Andrea said about using the same stage used by Mick Jagger.  Did you see the stunts at the Forty Licks concert?

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK-SHOW HOST:  No, but it—it wasn‘t center stage.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think the president prances quite like Mick.

But let me ask you a serious question.  I think something‘s up tonight like there always is.  It‘s a beautifully planned convention.  I think they‘re going to throw it forward.  The president‘s going to run—throw out some proposals.  They may be skeletal in their presentation.  He wants to talk about the future.  He wants the Democrats go for the bait and argue about his plans.

INGRAHAM:  The first two...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think so?

INGRAHAM:  The first two nights were positive, last night was fight night, and today is the future.  It‘s going to be very visionary.  They describe it as evolutionary.

I think you‘re going to see some changes in some of the Bush policies, too, when he talks about investor choice, consumer choice, health-care choice.  It‘s going to be focused very much on the individuals, many of who have been hurting in this economy, and he‘s not going to deny that.

You‘re not going to see the president try to say that this is all big pie-in-the-sky economics.  There have been tough times for Americans.  He must to acknowledge that tonight.

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s going to acknowledge there‘s pain, but he‘s got a cure, and he wants the Democrats to go for the bait and question his cure.  That means he‘s controlling the agenda again.

INGRAHAM:  Once again because John Kerry knows he has to switch topics, get off of Iraq, and get on economy.

MATTHEWS:  Going to the future, Ron?

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He may not strut like Mick Jagger, and he probably won‘t open with the cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” either.  He‘s probably—he‘s probably not going to do that.  He‘s a little bit hamstrung here.

Conventions are the place where you lay out detailed specifics, but he can‘t come with big program proposals either because of the budget deficit.  There‘s no money for anything big, so it‘s got to be a little bit...

MATTHEWS:  Who has that ever stopped?

INGRAHAM:  Yes, exactly.

REAGAN:  Not this Congress.

MATTHEWS:  I stick to my theory.  They want to talk about the future. 

They don‘t mind fighting about it, Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Yes.  And Karl Rove told me and told everybody in town that, in the Boston convention, because John Kerry chose to focus on his Vietnam War record, he was talking to the past and not to the future, and that‘s the opening that the Republicans want to seize tonight.  They‘ve had enough of the war knife fight.  They will allow that to continue on the level with the base, OK.

Now, now.  Wait a minute.  Don‘t roll your eyes.

MATTHEWS:  No.  I‘m laughing because it‘s an old—you and I come from Pennsylvania.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  OK.

MATTHEWS:  The oldest strategy in the book in Pennsylvania politics—

Pat‘s going to love this—you spend the first half of the campaign kicking the other guy in the cahonas, and, while he‘s holding on to cahonas, you talk about the future of Pennsylvania.

FINEMAN:  You talk about—well, there you go.

MATTHEWS:  This is of the old trick.

FINEMAN:  Well, the cahonas were last night, and the future is tonight, and that‘s the way they‘re going to run this campaign, and the irony is that Kerry wants to talk about the economy, too, but Bush is going to get there first tonight.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s still probably trying to defend himself against last night.

FINEMAN:  Yes, he‘s probably still grabbing his...

MATTHEWS:  You love this stuff.

INGRAHAM:  Another grumpy old man.

PATRICK J. BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I know, but I think this is very high risk tonight.  I‘ll tell you why.  Last night was extraordinarily exciting, red meat all over the floor, the delegates were cheering, the country was aroused, and the president‘s going to come out tonight in a format—in a forum where you walk around and look at teleprompters because it‘s a prepared speech, and I don‘t think the president‘s ever done this before.  I don‘t know anybody that‘s done it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he did it the other night.

BUCHANAN:  And then you‘re talking...

FINEMAN:  They practiced it.

BUCHANAN:  ... about abstract hopeful programs.  I think there‘s a real potential for folks to say yes and lead as they did in 1992 where—I was at that convention where we were waiting for George Bush senior to do something big, and it just wasn‘t done.  It was sort of a letdown night.  I think there‘s a real possibility of this, especially given all the excitement.

MATTHEWS:  What would be a letdown for you?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think—no, here‘s—he‘s—this is going to be aimed at the country, not the convention and the floor, and he‘s going to hope he gets the middle and the—if you will, the moderates and the others, and so it‘s going to be for—a lot of people will say, well, it wasn‘t as exciting as last night, but he‘s sort of going to lay these things out, and it could be a problem for him.  If I—I would be nervous if I were giving that speech.

MATTHEWS:  Laura, what do you think?

INGRAHAM:  Well, Zell set an unbelievably high bar for conservatives, but conservatives wanted this moment for President Bush.  He has to show that he‘s strong.  He is the wartime president.  But he also has to show that he still is that compassionate conservative.

MATTHEWS:  All right.

INGRAHAM:  That‘s a real hard line to walk for him, and he‘s not—he‘s not great in an Oprah-style setting.  He‘s not Elizabeth Dole.  He‘s not going to walk into the crowd.  Maybe he will.

If he does and he‘s comfortable with that, that‘s going to kill Kerry because I don‘t think John Kerry still is good in that type of one-on-one format.  Bush is very good in the one-on-one and the crowd, but he‘s—when he‘s dealing with multiple teleprompters, I worry about that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to the oldest convention in American politics that we know about.  The man in the arena, Teddy Roosevelt, the Sorbonne speech.  Tarred—what is it, scarred, whatever, but he went into the battle.  Is he going to set himself up as a man who‘s been there, taken the heat, taken the shots, compared to Kerry who‘s still seen as somewhat of a man who‘s elusive?

FINEMAN:  That‘s why they designed the stage as they did, Chris.  In talking to them last week, for the story I wrote of “Newsweek,” they deliberately wanted to create a contrast.

In Boston, John Kerry was surrounded by the Swift Boat Veterans.  They had a choir of people behind the stage every night to show that we are the people.

This is supposed to emphasize strength of leadership.  The key word in the excerpts tonight has nothing to do with the policy proposals.  It‘s the word “steady.”

If you have to pick a word out of this convention, they want the notion of steady, they want a guy—they want to show the image of George Bush who doesn‘t need a whole choir of advisers telling him what to do because he gets it from his gut and he gets it from above.

INGRAHAM:  Bush doesn‘t need veteran wallpaper behind him.  He‘s going to stand on his own.  That image of him by himself, I think, is very important.  Kerry needed the backdrop.  Bush doesn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  You know what the most impressive time when you meet a politician is?  When they come up to you in a circumstance, we expect a retinue of people behind him, and they come up to you completely alone, and if they meet you in a diner for breakfast—Fred Thompson one time—he showed up completely alone, and I said I like this guy.

FINEMAN:  By the way, this—the other—the thing about the staging...

MATTHEWS:  Pat, you were almost alone.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... didn‘t have a test.  I mean, the best you can have is when you go up yourself and you‘ve got a microphone and you‘re moving on the stage and you‘re talking to the audience.  It‘s all in your heart and your passion.  He‘s got a text he‘s got to work from.  I don‘t know how he does it.

FINEMAN:  He‘s not going—Pat, I was just over at the hall.  That‘s not how it‘s going to work.  Yes he‘s on that pitcher‘s mound in the middle, but they‘re going to have a podium out there, too, and they have a teleprompter screen set up.  So it‘s not going to be Oprah-like.

INGRAHAM:  Good.

FINEMAN:  He‘s out there in the middle.

INGRAHAM:  We don‘t want to...

REAGAN:  He‘s not walking around.

FINEMAN:  No, he‘s not walking around.

INGRAHAM:  No, we don‘t want an Oprah president.

FINEMAN:  It‘s a podium with a teleprompter.  It‘s—and the teleprompter is already up, and the first words on the teleprompter are four score and seven years ago.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know, the only guy I knew who could go from teleprompter to teleprompter without showing he was doing it was your father.

Coming up, we‘re going to compare the speech last night by Vice President Dick Cheney—or Cheney, as he was introduced last night—with his Democratic counterpart, Senator John Edwards.  Boy, there was a 180.

You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  When you return home some night, you might pass a mother on her way to work the late shift.  You tell her hope is on the way.

When your brother calls—when your brother calls and says he‘s spending his entire life at the office and he still can‘t get ahead, you tell him hope is on the way.

When your parents call and tell you their medicine‘s going through the roof, they can‘t keep up, you tell them hope is on the way.

And when your neighbor calls and says her daughter‘s worked hard and she wants to go to college, you tell her hope is on the way.

And when your son or daughter who‘s serving this country heroically in Iraq calls, you tell them hope is on the way.

CHENEY:  His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision and sends a message of confusion.  And it‘s all part of a pattern.  He has in the last several years been for the No Child Left Behind Act and against it.  He has spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement and against it.  He is for the Patriot Act and against it.

Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas.  It makes the whole thing mutual.  America...

(LAUGHTER)

CHENEY:  America—America sees two John Kerrys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What a comparison.  Pat, you know, I was thinking in canine terms.  It‘s like trying to decide between a collie and a pit bull.  I know which one is which.  You‘d probably like the pit bull.

BUCHANAN:  Well, listen, I mean, in a sense, you put in a positive quote by Edwards, the refrain thing, and that‘s less interesting television to see the gutting going on, quite frankly, and people are riveted by that, and I think in...

I think the negative is going to do a lot better than John Kerry running around talking about two Americas, quite frankly.  I think they‘ve done a phenomenal job this week and in the previous month of really taking Kerry down, and I think he‘s in very serious trouble because of all these attacks.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think Edwards did so well in the primaries then?

BUCHANAN:  I think he did—well, first off, the media fell in love with him, and he was number two to Kerry, and he was offering this hopeful message, but after I had seen it one or two times, I got bored with it, quite frankly.  He‘d do it every single time.  He ran second in the primaries.  There are two Americas, you know.  OK.  We heard that.  Got anything else to say?

REAGAN:  Is the lesson that negative works, and so if you‘re going to be the president, you‘ve got to cut the other guy‘s knees off?

BUCHANAN:  If you‘re in a 40 -- I mean, a 45 -- or a 50-50 race and you take Kerry down to where he can‘t get above 45, it‘s all over.

REAGAN:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  You‘re asking Pat Buchanan if negative hurts?

REAGAN:  Well, I—you know, it‘s a leading question.  I know it was an underhand softball.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Laura, you‘ve been on the radio all day today.

Let‘s talk to Laura.

You‘ve been out talking to people on your show.  What are you hearing...

INGRAHAM:  Coast...

MATTHEWS:  ... about this approach, very tough approach last night?

INGRAHAM:  Coast to coast, women calling into the show—I asked women to call in because I wanted to understand what they heard because, all night long, I heard on cable television and network media that women were going to be so turned off by Zell Miller and the fight night and with Cheney, and I actually personally was stunned, Chris—and I‘m not exaggerating—at the reaction on the Web and on the phones.  Women were like, yes, a manly man who‘s going to stand up there with...

MATTHEWS:  Which one?  Zell or...

INGRAHAM:  Both.  Zell and Cheney.  But the focus was on Zell Miller.  Zell Miller really took the sunshine away from Dick Cheney last night.  It just—it is a fact.  And women were saying...

O‘DONNELL:  Chris...

INGRAHAM:  ... a manly man who‘s stepping forward and telling us like it is.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Norah O‘Donnell on the floor—Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  Chris, two interesting—that‘s a very interesting point that Laura makes.  Today, you know, Dan Bartlett—I spoke to him this morning, the White House communications director, and when we asked him about Miller‘s comments last night, he said, well, I‘m not going to speak for women‘s reaction.  So he seemed to allude that maybe women were reacting negatively.

But Laura makes a great point because the message that was conveyed and the message that the president‘s going to convey tonight is stability.  That‘s a important word tonight the president‘s going to be stressing, stability in a time of war.  That plays very well with women.  They know that.  They talk about that in this attributes and values war that‘s going on.

INGRAHAM:  And I think that the strength is something that women want in a man.  I mean, this sounds personal now, but they don‘t want, as Arnold said, a girlie man.  They want a manly man, someone who isn‘t afraid to take a fight to an enemy or take a fight to a political opponent.

FINEMAN:  All right.  Speaking...

INGRAHAM:  That was refreshing to a lot of women, and you guys in the media don‘t get that among women voters.  They‘re not monolithically liberal.

FINEMAN:  Speaking as a manly man...

INGRAHAM:  You all are manly men.

FINEMAN:  We‘re all surrounded by manly men.  Let me say that John Edwards looked like a manly man in the Democratic primaries because John Kerry, despite his war hero record, came off as this nuanced, subtle character and by comparison, in the Democratic primaries, Kerry looked like three...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Wait a minute.  Let me finish.  Kerry looked like street-fighting man.  Kerry—I mean, Edwards looked like street-fighting man.  He doesn‘t look like street-fighting man in the larger context of the overall election.

INGRAHAM:  But can I ask...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Laura—Laura‘s turn.  Laura‘s, please.

INGRAHAM:  Can anyone tell me what “hope is on the way” means?

REAGAN:  It means...

INGRAHAM:  What is that?  It‘s a Hallmark greeting card.

FINEMAN:  It doesn‘t mean anything.

BUCHANAN:  You know, every single...

FINEMAN:  It doesn‘t mean anything.

BUCHANAN:  ... Republican—every single Republican speaker—

McCain, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, Miller, Cheney—all tough customers.  Republican Party‘s projecting an image: We can protect and defend this country.  We are tough guys.  And I think you are exactly right.  A lot of women say, look, this country needs security, we want tough customers.

INGRAHAM:  We don‘t want...

REAGAN:  With all due respect, Laura, I...

INGRAHAM:  I love it when you start that, Ron.  When you say “all due respect,” you‘re going to say something nasty.  Go ahead.

REAGAN:  No, no.  I‘m not nasty at all, but I‘m...

INGRAHAM:  Sometimes.

REAGAN:  I‘m not sure that your audience is really representative of the country as a whole.

INGRAHAM:  I‘m not saying it is.

REAGAN:  The women that call in to your show may be raw meat-eating women.

(LAUGHTER)

INGRAHAM:  Now, Ron—Ron, you...

REAGAN:  So Zell Miller...

INGRAHAM:  ... obviously know nothing about talk radio if you just said that.  But go ahead.

REAGAN:   To me and to—well, no, you‘re probably right, but anyway...

INGRAHAM:  Right.  Point made.

REAGAN:  OK.  Fine.  The point being that there are other women out there that may have been turned off by this...

INGRAHAM:  Oh, sure.

REAGAN:  And when I saw it, I had the same reaction that your guy—that you had, that this guy is a little bit nuts.

INGRAHAM:  I didn‘t think he was nuts.  I thought he needed to smile a little bit more.

REAGAN:  OK.  Well, I did.

INGRAHAM:  That‘s all.

REAGAN:  I thought he was a little nuts.  I thought he was over the top.

INGRAHAM:  That speech was incredibly powerful.  It‘s one of the most important political speeches of...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you.  Is there any way you can solve this debate?  It seems to me that we have—in this business of covering politics, we do at some point rely on polls.

Do you think it‘s fair to say that if we have a poll out in the next four or five days that shows that, in a match-up face to face between Cheney and Edwards and if Cheney—if Edwards still has a commanding lead, it means you‘re wrong?

INGRAHAM:  Yes.  I mean, I think—but among the GOP base, which must turn out for George Bush to win, last night was critical for women voters.  John Edwards—hope is on the way.  It does—it sounds a little bit like a Hallmark greeting card.  When we‘re fighting terrorism and the world is so dangerous, you want a tough team and we have a tough team.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Well, let me go back to the floor on that with our panel.  If we have a 9/11 tomorrow, would you rather have as the president—whoever he is, would you rather have as his corner man, his chief counselor, the person in the room with him, Dick Cheney or John Edwards?  Forget everything else in the world politically.

BUCHANAN:  No contest.

MATTHEWS:  Who would you most like in the room?

Pat?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s no contest.  I mean, Dick Cheney, whatever you think of him, is a tough, knowledgeable customer.  He knows government.  He‘s been involved in planning and plotting a couple of wars.  John Edwards knows nothing about it.  He‘s a very nice man.

FINEMAN:  That‘s not really a—that question answers itself because Cheney knows the government, he knows the defense policy, he knows the Pentagon.  That‘s not the only...

MATTHEWS:  Let me put to you a counterargument, Howard.  During the course of the Democratic Convention in Boston, which was very well—the feeling was good, but there was one note that hit everyone as false.  It was when John Edwards said I‘m going to chase those terrorists down, I‘m going to do—I‘m going to sue those guys.  It was something like that.  And most everybody said that didn‘t sound true.

FINEMAN:  Didn‘t sound—didn‘t sound true.  Well, my point before was...

MATTHEWS:  Do you remember that?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I do remember it very well, and it was the false note. 

When John Kerry‘s talking about suing the bad guys and being a trial lawyer on behalf of the poor people and health care, it‘s quite convincing, but when he talks about defense policy, it just doesn‘t work, and that‘s why they had Cheney out there doing what he did last night to accentuate that difference.  So Bush doesn‘t have to do it tonight as much. 

O‘DONNELL:  And, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Norah?  Norah, please.

O‘DONNELL:  And that‘s exactly why they used Miller last night, to use the spitball argument.  Which one of these two parties, these two candidates would use spitballs instead of real weaponry, and that was a—probably a low blow according to some, and a lot of Republicans I talked to here thought the tone and the way Miller delivered it was probably too tough and too mean, but the substance of it was what they wanted to get across to the base.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s nice to have a Luca Brasi in your party, if you can control him. rMDNM_ No, seriously.  Everybody says they don‘t like strength in the Democratic Party.  They‘d like to have some strength.

In fact, they would—you know, in big cities like Philadelphia, they vote for people like Frank Rizzo when they‘re endangered.  In Israel, they vote for people like Sharon.  In South Africa, the whites used to vote for the right-wingers because, in a tough situation, it‘s funny how even liberals and moderates behave.

They say, you know, when I get on that subway at midnight, I‘m thinking about a tough cop.  I don‘t want—you know, I don‘t want some liberal—an academic meeting me on that train.

FINEMAN:  And in retrospect, looking at the Democratic Convention, even though they had all these Vietnam veterans testifying to Kerry, they didn‘t have the people testifying on behalf of the weapons systems, which they probably...

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with our panel.

Coming up by the way, a friend of ours, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, someone who might be described as a moderate Republican.

And we‘ll go down—back down to the floor as we await President Bush‘s speech tonight.  It‘s his big night.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention—too bad it‘s got to end—on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  George, I‘m in your corner.  I‘m ready to volunteer—I‘m ready to volunteer a little advice now and then or offer a pointer or two on strategy, if asked.  I‘ll help keep the facts straight or just stand back and cheer.  But, George, just one personal request—go out there and win one for the Gipper.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the fourth and sadly to say final night of the Republican National Convention.  We‘re live in New York at Herald Square at 34th and Broadway.  You ought to walk by here some and look back and say—I‘m going the rest of my life saying, “I used to do big things here on 34th and Broadway.”  And NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell is down on the floor with Ohio‘s secretary of state—Andrea.

MITCHELL:  Thanks a lot, Chris.  I‘m here with Ken Blackwell, secretary of state of Ohio, and your delegation wants to hear what from George W. Bush tonight? 

KEN BLACKWELL, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE:  How he will sustain economic growth and job creation across those pockets of our state that haven‘t gotten the uplift from the rising economic tide that his tax cuts stimulated. 

MITCHELL:  What can he do?  There‘s not very much time between now and the election.  There‘s going to be a jobs report tomorrow.  We‘re told that he will not have those official numbers, that they are deliberately not telling him what the jobs report is, nor his speechwriters so he has to give a speech tonight and talk about a jobs picture and it could be completely different tomorrow. 

BLACKWELL:  Well, I think that the jobs picture is moving in the right direction.  We are increasing and improving the job count.  I think what he has to do in Ohio is that he has to tell people he knows that all votes haven‘t been lifted and people will give him the chance to continue to work on that.  That‘s all he has to do is to connect tonight using that competitive advantage that he has and that is that he is so likable and he is trusted to do the right thing. 

MITCHELL:  You talk about likability and his being trusted.  Was the speech last night by the keynoters, Zell Miller, too negative as far as your delegations?  What kind of feedback did you get? 

BLACKWELL:  We got some feedback where people were a little worried, but overwhelmingly, he was a hit.  He had talked to the delegation Tuesday morning and he was already one of the favorites of the delegation.  Last night what he did is set the stage and he did some of the heavy lifting for the president.  He drew the contrast between himself and Senator Kerry and he basically said that the president is the guy who can be trusted to be steadfast, who has the moral clarity to lead in troubled times, and Senator Kerry is pretty wishy-washy. 

I tell you right now, tonight the president has to in fact close the deal and I think he will.  This is a very intimate setting.  I think he‘s going to be right there and he‘s going to tell the American people that he has the prescription to take us further into the 21st century and reposition us as a prosperous and powerful nation. 

MITCHELL:  Now you‘re going to see the president tomorrow or at least Ohio will see the president tomorrow.  He heads out to Pennsylvania tonight, but he goes to Ohio again tomorrow for the 25th time during this campaign.  How many more times do you think you‘ll be seeing the president?  Obviously Ohio is critical to his victory. 

BLACKWELL:  I anticipate he will be in Ohio between tomorrow and election day at least 15 times. 

MITCHELL:  Thanks very much, Ken Blackwell.  Chris, Ken Blackwell as secretary of state is also going to have to be the person ruling on a Democratic petition that was filed in Ohio today to try to knock Ralph Nader off the ballot.  You know how important that can be. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a familiar story around the country.  They‘re trying to make it a two-person race.  Anyway, thank you, Andrea. 

Right now we‘re joined by a person who must be called I think a Republican moderate up in Maine.  Senator Susan Collins of Maine.  Thanks for coming on tonight, Senator.  What do you think of what the secretary of state of Ohio said that the president has to offer some recognition, perhaps for the first time tonight of the people who are suffering economically? 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  I listened to what the secretary of state said and I agree with him that it‘s important that the president recognize that the recovery while robust has not been even across the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s true according to the polls by the way.  We have an NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll out just this week that said that by 60 percent to 30 percent the American people believe we do have a recovery.  I mean, people are accepting that.  That‘s kind of a mixed argument, but the issue as to who benefits is definitely seen as unequal. 

Let me ask you about the speech last night.  Did you think Zell Miller was a little too rip-snorting? 

COLLINS:  Was a little too—I couldn‘t hear you unfortunately.

MATTHEWS:  Rip-snorting?  It‘s a cowboy term. 

COLLINS:  It was certainly a tough and forceful speech.  I thought the part of the speech that was most effective was when he went through all of the weapon systems that John Kerry had voted against and talked about how important they had been to our troops.  That part of the speech I thought was a devastating indictment of Senator Kerry‘s record on defense issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you served with Senator Kerry as well as with Senator Miller.  Do you believe John Kerry when you look up to vote every time you vote on an authorization or appropriations bill or on defense, do you see him as a predictable opponent of weapons systems? 

COLLINS:  I see him as someone who has a history of voting against weapons systems, but I‘m more concerned about his recent vote against the $87 billion that our troops really needed in Iraq.  Regardless of what your position is on the war in Iraq, surely everyone should be united in making sure that our troops have the protective gear and other equipment that they need to be safe. 

MATTHEWS:  That vote was about 80-20.  Do you ever vote a vote simply to symbolically chastise a policy, not to prevent money from being spent, which that vote by Kerry did not do, it wasn‘t decisive, do you ever vote against something simply to say you don‘t like the policy? 

COLLINS:  Not on something like that.  Not when it really matters. 

And it really mattered to get that money to our troops. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, it‘s great having you on, Senator Susan Collins.  We like having you on HARDBALL.  NBC‘s Campbell Brown is on the convention floor with a delegate from Pennsylvania—Campbell. 

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC NEWS:  Hi Chris.  I‘m here with Eileen Melvin, who is the mother of four plus a foster mother from Pennsylvania.  Talk to me about what you want to hear from the president tonight in terms of number one, issues that you think appeal to women, key swing voting bloc in this election but also Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that could go either way right now.

EILEEN MELVIN, PENNSYLVANIA DELEGATION VICE CHAIR:  Well, Campbell, I think this election is very much about our future and I want to hear about that.  I want to hear about his vision, our president‘s vision for the future including important issues that are important to women and moms like me and I‘m a small business owner also, so the things that I care about are education for our kids, certainly health care for our kids and really jobs, jobs and opportunity as well as I think the safety of our families and his plans for war on terror. 

BROWN:  Are you disappointed that those issues, education, health care, jobs, haven‘t played a greater role at this convention, especially given the speeches we heard last night?

MELVIN:  Well you know, I think that so many of us, because of the events of September 11, the first and foremost issue confronting so many of us has been our safety and the safety and security of our families and certainly that has been the number one issue addressed here and—so I‘ve been heartened by that, I‘ve been encouraged by that, and actually been made more comfortable by knowing that this is—you know, President Bush is the guy with the vision and the leadership to keep our families safer. 

BROWN:  Do you need specifics from the president in terms of his agenda, like here‘s what I‘m going to do as opposed to some of the broader ideas that it‘s really all the campaign has talked about so far? 

MELVIN:  You know what?  He‘s given us specifics really and he needs to continue to build on those.  He gave us No Child Left Behind, with I think as a mom of four kids and a foster mom, it‘s mattered, it‘s made a difference.  Our schools are more accountable.  That matters a lot.  He‘s given us Medicare prescription drug benefit which really—and that‘s not fully implemented yet but it will be.  But it matters a lot for a parents and for our senior citizens.  He‘s given us that.  What we need to know is that it will continue to be implemented and continue to succeed in the next four years. 

BROWN:  Eileen Melvin, thanks very much.  And Chris, let‘s go back to you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Campbell.  You know, one of the big themes of this point in the campaign is people want some change.  The question is will they take the change from the president or accept an alternative president and people are beginning to notice—Howard, you‘re shaking your head—I‘m beginning to notice that the president is starting to show a little leg on this.

He‘s saying things like we miscalculated on the liberation of the Iraq occupation if you will.  That he may have given us the false sense we can actually, quote, “defeat in the sense of a V-Day—V.J. or V.E. Day, terrorism, and now we‘re hearing that he may talk to the people who have been hurt by the economy. 

FINEMAN:  I think he‘s going to have to do that.  Ken Blackwell of Ohio was at Ground Zero.  200,000 manufacturing jobs lost there.  Not real upbeat feelings about Ohio.  That‘s ground zero. 

George Bush has to address that and talk about a plan.  In talking to the Bush-Cheney people, they‘re less concerned about conveying the idea of 12 specifics as they are about the fact that George Bush cares about the future, that he has a big, detailed plan for the future.  That‘s the message that—the No. 1 message they want him to get across tonight. 

They‘ve done the business on the war.  They‘ve done the business on steadiness of leadership.  They‘ve got to convince the people of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and Michigan that he cares about the economic future.  That‘s the big thing they‘ve got to do tonight, that he‘s got to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Laura.

INGRAHAM:  One of the things he‘s going to do in this speech is he is going to talk about the fact that what‘s happening now in the world, and with health care and the tax code, doesn‘t really reflect the kind of lives we lead, that we need to change and profoundly change. 

MATTHEWS:  So eye on the change. 

INGRAHAM:  Yes.  We‘re going to profoundly change the way government helps you get these services, get choices for different types of services.  That‘s actually pretty surprising, because people are whetted to the idea of Social Security, health insurance, and he‘s going to talk about how these—the way we deal with these things today is outmoded and we have got to change that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s ready to step on what we call the third rail, talk about changing Social Security, giving he‘s going for older voters in Florida?  Because the trick of the election is to get the older voters, they say better leave it the way is—better the devil we know. 

INGRAHAM:  I think he‘s going to keep the foundation but talk about the need to change at the same time.  I think he is going to have to walk a tight rope on that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, when we come back, we‘re going to go down on the floor, plus the streets of New York have been choked the past four days with traffic.  Thanks in part to the motorcades of all the dignitaries in town.  We‘re going to take a closer look at all that when our live coverage of the Republican National Convention continues here on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re live at Herald Square.  And we‘re joined right now by Martin Chicon, a Republican, get that, running for assemblyman here in the very Democratic Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.  So what are your hopes? 

MARTIN CHICON ®, NY STATE ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE:  I think I‘ve got great chances, because in my community, a lot of people are coming around, and we‘re registering a lot, a lot more Republicans than they are Democrats right now. 

MATTHEWS:  So what does a Republican like you say to a very diverse neighborhood, a very Hispanic neighborhood in New York and say you have got to switch?  How do you get people to do it? 

CHICON:  Very simply.  We tell them that Republican values are actually the same values that many Hispanics hold dear.  For example, tonight George Bush is going to be talking about an ownership society, and for us, Latinos, the most important thing we want to do is first of all is own our own homes, have our own businesses, and in a way own the education of our children. 

MATTHEWS:  Are the Latino people, and ethnic generations—generalizations are tricky, but I‘m going to try one.  Are they entrepreneurial? 

CHICON:  Yes, they are.  Very.  They are very entrepreneurial.

MATTHEWS:  Give me an example of that. 

CHICON:  Oh, for example, in my community, we have hundreds and hundreds of various different businesses.  We have many bodegas, we have many insurance companies, we have many travel agencies, we have many beeper companies, many mobile phone companies.  So we are very entrepreneurial people.  And not only do we create businesses here, sometimes, sometimes all the red tape and all the regulations frustrate us, and we‘re forced to then open up businesses back in our country. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to play a Democratic world healer (ph) right now, I‘m coming up to your voters saying to you, I‘m going to give you more welfare, I‘m going to give you more job benefits, I‘m going to give you more minimum wage, I am going to give you more Medicaid, I‘m going to give you more money, I‘m going to take care of you.  Don‘t vote for those Republicans, they‘re against all that.  What do you say? 

CHICON:  I say to them, the welfare is just going to hold you back.  The Medicaid will only keep you down.  You‘re not going to get the full plate that you need.  And if you go on Medicaid, they don‘t get all the real benefits that they need.  That‘s why public education, public education has been a colossal failure in New York.  One of my important platforms is, I‘m calling for a statewide independent audit of the New York City Board of Education.  Because I feel that we‘re spending $12 billion, and we cannot provide an adequate education for our children. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the New York Republican Party.  I mean, there was the old Republican Party—Lionel Hampton, the musician, was a big Republican, and then there was Governor Rockefeller, who had tremendous support among minorities.  And yet Jake Javets (ph) and John Lindsey (ph) got tremendous minority support.  What went wrong? 

CHICON:  Well, what I think happened was that we went through a period in which some of the people became apathetic, many of the people who the Democrats reached out to, they did a better job than we did in the ‘70s.  And that happened.

MATTHEWS:  Can Giuliani beat Hillary? 

CHICON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, on that note, you‘re getting very popular with some of our conservative viewers.  Martin Chicon.  Good luck in your race in Washington Heights. 

CHICON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody who comes to this city knows that traffic here can be a nightmare.  It also can be fun, a time to relax, think about other things.  But for some of the delegates and officials at this convention, it hasn‘t been so bad.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster explains it all. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In a city with eight million people, there are, as the saying goes, at least 1,000 stories.  This week, there is one more. 

New York has more motorcades today than the rest of the world combined. 

And Manhattan has even less space for pedestrians than ever. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Out of the street, cameramen.  Please, off of the street, for your own safety. 

SHUSTER:  To help the VIPs get around, there are special lanes marked by traffic cones, streets blocked off completely and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) clearing tow trucks. 

So it occurred to us, who is in these motorcades? 

(on camera):  Did they tell you guys who was in which motorcade or anything like that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, we don‘t know nothing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We see a black car pass by with tinted windows, and that‘s it. 

SHUSTER (voice-over):  The occupants of these motorcades are kept a secret for security.  And the windows are fogged. 

But here‘s what we‘ve learned.  Two cars, former Senate majority leader, Trent Lott.  Half a dozen cars, including an ambulance and four Secret Service war wagons, Vice President Dick Cheney.  Though we of course don‘t know which vehicle he is in. 

Behind Cheney is House Speaker Dennis Hastert.  The next in line for presidential succession is Senate Pro Tem Ted Stephens.  So the senator from Alaska gets Secret Service agents and a three-car motorcade.  While motorcades are indeed a sign of power, and they can take you from the west side of Manhattan to the east in three minutes flat, some VIP‘s are on their own this week. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re in the city, you don‘t get a police escort, is that strange? 

KIX BROOKS, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST:  I think we lost him in the traffic. 

SHUSTER:  That was Kix Brooks, half of the best selling country music duo, Brooks & Dunn.  Dunn, is a motorcade connoisseur. 

RONNIE DUNN, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST:   Well, they (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they just kind of went beep, beep.  You know how they do the quick one, you know, just the beep, beep.  It wasn‘t the whole, dooh, dooh.  It was really cool though. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  So what‘s it like to be in a motorcade?  Well, here in New York, you can find just about everything.  We did with this horse-drawn motorcade and at this pace we‘ll be at the Garden in—oh. 

(voice-over):  Of course, the coolest of the cool is the presidential motorcade.  Unrivalled in its length and unmatched in its potential to leave behind complete and total gridlock. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If it stayed like it stayed the last four days, it‘s going to be a big sigh of relief at 12:00 tonight. 

SHUSTER:  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL, stuck in traffic in New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s gets back to the panel.  As you know, Ron, this isn‘t your first Republican Convention...

REAGAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  ....and we thought we would have a little fun as we often do.  We going to take a look at your greatest hits.  Lets take a look, Ron Reagan, at conventions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tell me something, you‘re working on my side of the fence? 

REAGAN:  Yes, in a manner of speaking. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who are you working for? 

REAGAN:  “Dallas Morning News.”  Doing five columns for them.  First one ran today. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Uh, huh.  And what did you talk about.

REAGAN:  I talked about the family actually, sort of what it‘s like to be up here doing this, and smiling. 

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  My hair was a little longer there, but...

MATTHEWS:  Look at this.  The sirens are coming for you.  Is it more

fun—is it more fun being in the first family—this is a real tough one

·         or being one of us stiffs? 

REAGAN:  It‘s more fun doing this, actually.

MATTHEWS:  Is it really.

REAGAN:  But you know, I wonder.  You know, Pat, you‘ve been back stage with the presidential candidate who‘s about to come out and do a big speech. 

BUCHANAN:  I have. 

REAGAN:  I don‘t know if you have. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  And I certainly have.  And it‘s interesting, I don‘t know many of our viewers would know what it‘s really like to be back there and the pressure on these people.  I mean, it is extraordinary. 

MATTHEWS:  Behind the podium. 

REAGAN:  Behind the podium, getting ready to go out.  I mean, you‘re a person already who the focus of attention is on, but now everybody you meet, everybody who sees you and looks at you, it‘s all about you.  And the pressure is on, you know you‘ve got to go out there and perform and it‘s this incredible bubble. 

MATTHEWS:  I like it already. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... down on the floor with another presidential family member, Neil Bush—Andrea. 

MITCHELL:  I‘m here surrounded by Bush‘s.  This is 15-year-old Ashley, 18-year-old Pierce, who started Georgetown University yesterday, but he‘s back here tonight, you know why.  Neil, these are your kids.  Your brother is going to be on that stage.  What do you want to hear from him tonight?  What do you think he‘s going—he needs to project tonight. 

NEIL BUSH, BROTHER OF PRESIDENT:  I think he needs to project himself.  He‘s been an incredibly strong leader, he‘s had the fortitude, the courage, the wisdom to lead it country during difficult times.  You know, people don‘t realize the economy was off track and then thrown off track before he assumed office and then after September 11.  And he‘s worked hard with Congress to put it back on track.  And I think people recognize that we‘ve been threatened as never before by a new world threat, terror, and he‘s rallied the and marshalled the forces of good against evil in a way that I don‘t think has ever been precedent in this country.  At least not in modern history.  He‘s determined, he‘s a good man.  He‘s a caring man.  And you‘ll see that tonight.  I‘m sure people will see that tonight and whether you agree with him on all the issues or not, I think you have to give him some kudos for caring about this country to do what‘s right and do it with conviction.  So, that‘s what you‘re going to see. 

MITCHELL:  How comfortable is he in this format?  I guess it‘s designed to make him more comfortable surrounded by people. 

N. BUSH:  I guess he‘s comfortable in any format, but especially when he‘s closest to the people that care a lot about him.  And these people have been here, they‘ve worked hard in the trenches, in their own states.  They‘ve kind of worked their way up the Republican ladder to become delegates.  I‘m finding there‘s a huge reservoir of love and commitment and support for my brother here obviously, so he‘s going to be in his element.

And I think it‘s going to be a very—it‘s been a great convention and tonight it‘s going to culminate witnessing a great president give a speech to his faithful and reaching out to those that are looking for leadership. 

MITCHELL:  The family has all been together, you‘ve talked to him.  How nervous does he get about this kind of speech?  This is a big stake speech. 

N. BUSH:  It‘s a huge speech.  My only connection with him personally this past week has been Sunday, when I was in Washington.  We went to church together, he did his exercise, he went campaigning.  He‘s not nervous.  You know, he‘s showing the same kind of calm determination that he‘s shown throughout the past four years, as a leader, and in a very troubled time. 

He‘s not nervous at all.  I‘ll tell you, he‘s confident, in a really wonderful strong and reassuring way and he‘s got Laura as an amazing calming influence in his life.  And he‘s got the love of a family that just is totally devoted to him.  And unconditionally behind him, so he comes if here, he marches in here with a lot of love.  Kind of in his sales and he‘s going to lead this country for another four years in a wonderful way. 

MITCHELL:  Thank you very much for sharing with us your thoughts tonight.  And Pierce, lots of luck in school, but this has got to be a pretty proud moment for you kids too? 

PIERCE BUSH, SON OF NEIL BUSH:  This is awesome.  This is probably our fourth convention, so we‘re kind of getting used to it by now.  But this one is special because our country is divided, but we need George Bush in there, for the circumstances that calls for it.  Four more years, exactly. 

MITCHELL:  OK.  Well thank you, Ashley, Pierce and Neil Bush.  And you can see that politics is just in the genes of this family, Chris.  They‘ve grown up with their grandfather in the White House and now obviously they‘re excited to see their uncle at this speech and this convention tonight—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Andrea Mitchell, and Neil Bush. 

In hour next hour, we‘re going to check in with NBC (UNINTELLIGIBLE) very soon.  In fact, Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, they‘ll be coming up in a couple of minutes, as we await the big night for the president, President Bush‘s speech to the nation, accepting the nomination a little later tonight. 

HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the Republican National Convention continues after this. 

END   

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