updated 10/18/2004 10:33:08 AM ET 2004-10-18T14:33:08

Guest: John Edwards, Charlie Cook, Chuck Todd, Tom Shales

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  This was the week, the last presidential debate took place showing a deep divide between the candidates on domestic issues. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have supported or voted for tax cuts over 600 times.  I broke with my party in order to balance the budget.  Ronald Reagan signed into law the tax cut that we voted for.  I voted for IRA tax cuts.  I voted for small business tax cuts.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Senator, no one is playing with your votes.  You voted to increase taxes 98 times.  When they proposed reducing tax, you voted against it 126 times.  You voted to violate the budget caps 277 times.  There‘s a mainstream in American politics and you sit right on the far left bank.  As a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative Senator from Massachusetts. 

MATTHEWS:  This was the week HARDBALL hit the campaign trail and caught one John Edwards in Iowa.  And this was the week the use of the L word in the debate didn‘t stand for liberal and stirred up some unexpected trouble.  That‘s right, we‘ve got the numbers.  The inside line.  We‘re covering the horse race and we‘re off!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL:

“The Horserace,” your best guide to the presidential finish line now only a little more than two weeks away.  The reporters of NBC have joined the HARDBALL election team to give the weekly line on the presidential election.  Plus, key state and local races. 

Our trifecta of the top three political stories of this week from Carl Quintanilla, traveling with the Kerry campaign.  Headlines from my interview with John Edwards from the campaign trail in Iowa.  And let‘s begin with NBC White House correspondent Norah O‘Donnell with the president in Iowa—Norah. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Hello, Chris.  The president admits he‘s happy the debates are over and that the final phase of this campaign has the gun.  Even in this home stretch, he‘s getting very personal.  Even as the president‘s campaign chairman concedes that Kerry gained ground after the debate. 

Now, the president did something very unusual following the debates.  On Air Force One, he walked back to the press cabin to counterclaims that Kerry had won the debate.  The president said the pundits and the spinners all have their own opinions, but the only thing that matters is the opinion of the people on November 2. 

Now on the campaign trail across this country, in the upper midwest, like here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the president has been hammering home his points that he had thinks Kerry is trying to run from his record.  The president saying that the senator‘s record is 20 years out of the main stream with votes without any significant reform or results. 

But it really was Kerry‘s comments in that final debate about the vice president‘s daughter and her homosexuality that really got the president‘s campaign furious.  In fact, the president, through his spokesman said it was inappropriate for Kerry to bring it up.  The vice president, who as you know, is normally doesn‘t show emotion, was visibly angry saying Kerry had crossed the line and it was totally inappropriate.  Lynne Cheney said she was speaking as an indignant mother and said Kerry was a quote, unquote, a bad man. 

Now, Senator Kerry release a statement saying that he was trying to say something positive about how families deal with homosexuality.  To that, a senior Bush-Cheney adviser said that‘s double speak from the Kerry campaign and they predicted that Kerry would pay a heavy political price for his comments about the vice president‘s daughter.  I‘m Norah O‘Donnell for “The Horserace” in Cedar Rapids in Iowa.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Norah.  And now let‘s get the latest on the Kerry campaign from NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla in Wisconsin—Carl. 

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well Chris, you probably heard it by now, the campaign of John Kerry claiming a 3 debate sweep against the president.  And more important than that, claiming that after those 4 debates, polls, especially polls among independents, now see Kerry as more presidential, as more likable, with better clarity of ideas.  The campaign‘s view is that independence, and especially women now, who are already anxious for some kind of change in the White House, are what they say as warming up now to John Kerry and perhaps giving them a boost in the final weeks of this campaign. 

Right now, the strategy is to really deliver what they call their closing argument, which is going to be a series of policy speeches mostly on domestic issues like healthcare, the economy, stem cell research this weekend.  And then after that, working really harder to get out the vote. 

Already there was a conference call on Thursday night with the campaign‘s top strategists talking about how to mobilize voters.  And also, how to prepare for what they expect will be an onslaught of lawsuits and challenges to voters who claim they‘re disenfranchised. 

Here in Wisconsin, the race is going to be tough because Kerry is really focusing on the economic message.  The economy here is actually better than in other states.  The unemployment rate is lower than the national average.  And so Kerry is having a tough sell on that point. 

From a strategy standpoint, they say we have to wait for the poll to see how the debates really fall out.  If in fact Wisconsin is not turning out the way they want to, or other states perhaps are just too tight, it is at that point they‘ll have to make, what they call, some tough judgment calls and marshall some resources and give up on others. 

Finally, Ralph Nader is the other thing to watch, Chris.  His campaign claiming some credit for Kerry‘s return to a important populous agenda. 

And on Friday, suggesting to the campaign that they would do some joint

appearances with Kerry if they asked.  I‘m Carl Quintanilla in Milwaukee

for the “Horserace.”  Back to you, Chris

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Carl.  The day after the last presidential debate, I caught up with Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator John Edwards on his campaign bus in Iowa. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Vice President Cheney says he‘s an angry father because John Kerry brought up his daughter‘s sexuality the other night in the debate. What‘s your reaction?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My reaction is that John Kerry—remember, Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney have brought it up right here in Iowa, where we are today and all that John Kerry was saying was that he respects, as I said in my own debate, and he thanked me for it, I might add.  We respect the way they dealt with this in their own family.  And it should not be an issue that‘s used to the divide the country as George Bush is doing.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it unusual for a politician for any kind—any candidate to bring up another candidate‘s member of their family?  I mean, for you to introduce it as you did in the debate originally—as John Kerry introduced—isn‘t that a little strange, to bring up somebody else‘s family member?

EDWARDS:  Well, only in this case because Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne had themselves brought it up. I mean, having watched the entire 2000 debate with Lieberman, he brought it up himself and talked about what it meant for him and his family.  And he had talked about it, I think, a few weeks before my debate with him.  And I think actually Gwen Ifill referenced his family‘s situation in her question to the two of us. 

So it has been talked about a fair amount on the campaign trail and in the 2000 debates.  We thought it—especially since we were both just expressing our respect and admiration for the way they‘ve dealt with it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, somebody said that a gentleman is somebody that doesn‘t unnecessarily or unintentionally hurt someone else‘s feelings.  You obviously got them angry.  Lynne Cheney last night got very angry, coming up on the stage saying John Kerry is not a good man.  I mean, she was quite vociferous on this topic, indicted him for being a bad guy.  Do you think that was real or do you think she was calling a foul when there wasn‘t a foul?

EDWARDS:  I don‘t have a way of getting inside their heads about this.  And I don‘t think this should become some political football going back and forth...

MATTHEWS:  Is that what they‘re doing?  Because both of them are speaking out on this now, Lynne Cheney last now and now the vice president today.  They obviously want to keep it going.

EDWARDS:  Well, John Kerry is a good man.  I know him very well.  And the American people have seen him in these three debates.  And I think both the way he talks about it and I hope at least the way I talked about it in our debate expressed our own personal admiration for the way their family‘s dealt with this.

MATTHEWS:  Your wife, Elizabeth, said this morning that she thinks they might be ashamed of their daughter sexuality and that‘s why their so sensitive.

EDWARDS:  I have no way of knowing how they feel about it. They do talk about it openly.  And you know at the vice-presidential debate in Cleveland they had their daughter sitting on the front row and they—I had the pleasure of meeting—I don‘t think I had met her before, although I had met the vice president before then.

I think that the simple answer to this is we both admire the way they‘ve dealt with their family and with their children.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it hurts the vice president and the president to have a gay family member on the ticket, in other words, to be related to someone like that in certain conservative areas in this country?

EDWARDS:  No. I don‘t, especially when they‘re as forthright as they have been about it.  No, I don‘t think it hurts them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  We put in a request to the Bush-Cheney 04 campaign with an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, and hopefully the vice president will come on before election day. 

Up next on the “Horserace,” Andrea Mitchell from NBC News and more on the political fallout from the debates. 

And later, NBC‘s Ron Allen and his exclusive interviews with Senator Tom Daschle and his Democratic opponent John Thune, who‘s Republican opponent John Thune, from one of the hottest races in the country, South Dakota. 

You‘re watching the “Horserace” only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome back to “The Horserace.”  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell traveled with the HARDBALL team to cover all four debates, and she joins us now from Philadelphia with her post-debate analysis.  Andrea, what do you think it looks like, based upon everything you can see out there, the impact of the debates on this result coming up in two weeks? 

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it certainly put John Kerry in the game.  It made this a very close race.  People who were not sure that he could be commander in chief got a new confidence in him, so he introduced himself over again after the disastrous weeks of swift boat veterans pounding on him from those 527 ads.  He was able to reintroduce himself to American voters.  And a lot of people bought on. 

But he didn‘t quite close the deal.  And I think now it‘s the last two weeks, where he‘s going to have—have to keep selling, and of course the president can demand and command the platform a little bit more easily than John Kerry.  Now, both sides will be covered, but if some event happens outside of this country, that of course could have a big impact. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there is three things that are going to happen in the next two and a half weeks.  We‘re going to have the two candidates campaigning, and we‘re going to have this war in Iraq continuing. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that sort of the third player in this race? 

MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  The one that might help John Kerry?

MITCHELL:  Indeed.  And it could help Kerry because the president is by necessity, speaking very optimistically about Iraq.  And people are beginning to question themselves.  People in the polling show, you know, what is the reality?  What I‘m seeing on the ground, what I‘m seeing on the nightly news, or what I‘m hearing the president say?  That was certainly true coming out of the debates. 

Of course, another event could happen.  Something that we don‘t expect and don‘t predict.  And that could cause people to rally around the president.  So it is really one of those races that—one of those rare elections where none of us are about to go on the line and say what we think is going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Does the word liberal have the same snap when we have this background of war? 

MITCHELL:  I think it does with a lot of people.  The people—certainly the base that George Bush is trying to reach.  That Massachusetts liberal tag, John Kerry tried to inoculate against it in the earlier debates, saying labels don‘t matter, but labels are what it‘s all about, of course, in this kind of ground war.  And with those kinds of labels, I think the president was trying to energize people to come out and vote against John Kerry, to make him more of the enemy. 

MATTHEWS:  Does John Kerry look like the bad guy for raising the name of Mary Cheney in the last debate?

MITCHELL:  Well, you know, it‘s—I really don‘t think that his motive, who knows what the real motive was tactically—I think he was trying to put a human face on the issue.  And I don‘t think that it was meant to be as intrusive as it certainly was felt.  And I think what was really aggravating to the Cheneys was the implication that John Kerry could know what Mary Cheney, a very private person, is thinking. 

Yes, she is part of the campaign team.  She campaigns with her father.  But she has never spoken publicly about her own life and has kept that very, very private. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.  You‘re in Philly right now.

MITCHELL:  Yeah.

MATTHEWS:  That state, I heard today that there‘s talk that the Republicans are giving up possibly on that state. 

MITCHELL:  I spoke to the governor, the former Democratic National chairman, of course, Ed Rendell, and he is pretty confident about Pennsylvania.  There are up a couple of points here in their own polls, and they think it is about a point above that.  So they think that there is a real three-, maybe four-point spread here. 

In Philadelphia alone, they‘ve really registered new voters.  Now they have a nine to one Democratic to Republican registration, and they need to produce on election day out of Philadelphia to compensate for a big Republican vote in some of the Republican areas upstate, and also in some of the suburban areas. 

But they think that there is a net of at least 150,000 new voters, perhaps maybe more than 200,000 new voters.  But net, real new voters, that are not duplicates, 150,000 new voters.  And most of those are Democrats.  There is a lot of interest on college campuses.  A lot of young people are registering.  And people—young kids who register are probably going to make the effort to vote.  And there‘s a big get out the vote effort here.  Of course, we‘re in a city.  I‘m in Philadelphia, which is hugely Democratic.  But I think the Democrats are going to pick up Pennsylvania. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, good showing for Eddie Rendell.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell. 

Charlie Cook is one of the top political analysts in the country for “The Cook Report, “The National Journal” and NBC News.  We‘ve asked the polling at NBC News to help us show where the race stands in the polls.  Today‘s Reuters-Zogby poll gives President Bush a four-point lead.  And today‘s ABC News-“The Washington Post” poll has the race tied. 

Charlie, which states could go either way right now? 

CHARLIE COOK, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT:  I‘ve got 10 states that are in the toss-up column, but some are even closer than that.  I‘ve got the three states that I have that are just absolutely on the knife‘s edge, are Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, not tilting any little bit one way or the other. 

Then you have Minnesota, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, that are too close to call, but maybe edging a little bit toward the Democratic side.  And Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin are tilted a little bit on the Republican side. 

That‘s 10 states, 118 electoral votes that are very, very close. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the next couple of weeks.  Suppose there‘s a bad situation in Iraq, for example, a really bad—and the headlines are terrible over there.  Moving—would that move that notch a little bit to the Democratic side, and what would happen? 

COOK:  Absolutely.  To put it differently, if President Bush has another week like last week‘s was, where the news either from or about Iraq was as bad as last week, I don‘t think he can win. 

But one thing I‘m watching is I‘m anxious to see what happens tonight.  There‘s some polling that shows there was a little bit of an uptick, in fact a pretty real uptick for President Bush last night.  And trying to figure out whether that was the L-word going after Kerry so pronounced as a liberal, or was it the Mary Cheney thing.  I‘m not sure what.  But there‘s a little bit of an uptick last night in some private polling.  I‘m anxious to see whether it gets followed up tonight. 

You know, I would be stunned if the morning of the election we had any idea who was going to win that day.  And frankly, I don‘t know if we‘ll know the next morning when we‘re eating breakfast. 

MATTHEWS:  It struck me, Charlie, that both candidates, the president and Senator Kerry, are both trying to exploit homophobia to some extent.  The president said he wants to protect the sanctity of marriage.  He said it beautifully and powerfully.  John Kerry, on the other hand, introduced the name of Mary Cheney.  Are they both trying to basically gain votes from people who don‘t like the gay lifestyle? 

COOK:  Well, I mean, I think this thing is so close that people are doing things that they probably wouldn‘t normally do.  And that I was kind of uncomfortable with what—how Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards got a little more personal on that.  I mean, I don‘t know that it was necessarily badly intended, but I was a little uncomfortable with how they handled it. 

But on the other hand, Republicans are trying to have it both ways.  They‘re pushing the constitutional amendment to ban same sex-marriage, and yet at the same time saying, oh, but you know, we respect people‘s own personal beliefs.  And so I think there‘s probably a little disingenuousness on both sides. 

MATTHEWS:  It seems like from the Republican side, the president said he thought it might be a matter of choice, being a homosexual, at the same time treating Cheney‘s family situation as something that just happens.  An act of God.  Aren‘t they trying to get it both ways? 

COOK:  Yeah, no, I think both sides—I think both sides are.  And this is why, you know, some people are sitting there saying, where Kerry is moving so far to the middle and President Bush is trying to be more—I mean, that we‘re really kind of glossing over some really big differences between these two men. 

MATTHEWS:  Your numbers are so close.  Thank you very much, Charlie Cook.  Can‘t wait to hear you next time.

The battleground states are being bombarded with political advertisements going into the final days of the presidential election.  David Shuster separates fact from fiction in this week‘s “Ad Watch,” next on the “Horserace.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  If you live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida, you probably noticed your favorite TV shows are constantly interrupted by political ads,  most of them negative.  With about 2 weeks to go, the campaigns are throwing everything they have onto the tube.  HARDBALL election correspondent David Shuster is on the “Ad Watch” with the latest—David. 

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL ELECTION CORRESPONDENT:  Well Chris, this should not come as a surprise to anybody.  As the election heads to the home stretch, the attack ads are the nastiest and most aggressive of the entire campaign year. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE

SHUSTER:  Since President Bush took office, 5 million Americans have lost their health insurance, and healthcare costs are up by 36 percent.  But in his latest television commercial, the president ridicules and distorts John Kerry‘s plan. 

NARRATOR:  A big government take-over.  $1.5 trillion.  Rationing, less access, fewer choices, long waits.  And Washington bureaucrats, not your doctor, make final decisions on your health. 

SHUSTER:  That is false.  Under Kerry‘s proposal, you choose your doctor and your plan and the government doesn‘t require you to participate.  There is a big government role for children who don‘t have any health insurance.  As for the Kerry campaign, the Democrats latest attack ad is state specific and distorts the president‘s position on lost jobs. 

NARRATOR:  Out of touch is George Bush with Ohio.  Over the last four years, we‘ve lost over 230,000 jobs in our state.  Now, George Bush sends his treasury secretary to Ohio to tell us these job losses are a myth.  Do you think it‘s a myth that we‘ve lost jobs? 

SHUSTER:  The problem is that John Snow‘s quote from a speech in Ohio was taken way out of context.  He was referring to harsh Democratic charges about the president‘s economic performance.  In any case, the ad war has narrowed to 14 crucial battleground states. 

Independent groups are also pitching in.  The Republican Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is spending $3 million in these final two weeks. 

NARRATOR:  And the men who spent years in North Vietnamese prison camps, tortured for refusing to confess what John Kerry accused them of,  of being war criminals.  Because to them, honesty and character still matter especially in a time of war. 

SHUSTER:  A group of veterans who served in Iraq is now running this ad against President Bush. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was called to serve in Iraq because the government said there were weapons of mass destruction, but they weren‘t there.  They said Iraq had something to do with 9/11 but the connection wasn‘t there.  They told us that we would win the war and be home soon, but we‘re still there.  So when people ask me where my arm went, I try to find the words.  But they‘re not there. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  It‘s a powerful ad designed, like the rest, to evoke a strong response down the stretch.  Pollsters say that negative ads tend to depress voter turnout.  But with so much interest in this campaign and so many attack ads flying back and forth, no group and neither presidential campaign seems worried in the least about any possible campaign backlash.  I‘m David Shuster for the “Horserace” in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Coming up, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is in the fight of his political life out in South Dakota where he is running against former U.S. congressman, John Thune.  When we come back, NBC correspondent Ron Allen has the latest from there. 

Plus, Chris Jansing‘s report from battleground Pennsylvania.

You‘re watching “The Horserace” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  This half-hour, “The Horserace” goes to South Dakota with Ron Allen‘s front-line report on the Daschle-Thune Senate battle.  Plus, “The Washington Post” TV critic Tom Shales on the presidential debates.

But, first, let‘s check in with the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to “The Horserace”. 

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is a familiar face on Capitol Hill.  And he wants to keep it that way.  But he‘s engaged in one of the toughest races of his career, running against Republican John Thune.  A recent Democratic poll showed Daschle ahead of Thune 53 percent to 45 percent.  But a Republican poll has Thune leading Daschle 50 percent to 48 percent. 

From the field, here‘s more on the story from NBC‘s Ron Allen. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, South Dakota‘s general rolling farmland provides the backdrop for perhaps the nation‘s most hotly contested Senate race.  Democratic leader Tom Daschle is atop the GOP‘s target list, second only to John Kerry.  His challenger, former Congressman John Thune, was handpicked by the national Republican Party and to some extent by President Bush as well. 

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER:  What a gorgeous afternoon. 

Nice talking to you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nice talking to you, Congressman.

DASCHLE:  You bet.  I was just in the neighborhood and I wanted to say hello. 

ALLEN (voice-over):  The Senate‘s most powerful Democrat turns on the homespun charm in a state where manners matter. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, he‘s friendly.  He‘s open.  He doesn‘t put on any airs.  He is just common as can be. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello.  How‘s it‘s going?

DASCHLE:  I‘m Tom Daschle. 

ALLEN:  A Democrat in a heavily Republican, but independent-minded state.  Less than 500,000 registered voters, each one really counts. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you have any idea how many hands you shake in a campaign? 

DASCHLE:  I really don‘t know.  My very first campaign, I went to 40,000 houses and we only won by 110 votes. 

ALLEN:  Daschle has a real fight once again, an unlikely position for a longtime Senate leader.  He tells audiences at clout in Washington and the federal money it brings home is what this election is about. 

DASCHLE:  Having that desk is one of the most powerful in the world. 

And, right now, it belongs to the people of South Dakota. 

JOHN THUNE ®, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I take issue with that because I don‘t necessarily subscribe to the fact that he used it for South Dakota. 

ALLEN:  His challenger is former Republican Congressman John Thune. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I appreciate your coming  

(CROSSTALK)

THUNE:  Thank you.  It‘s good to be here.  Thank you, Deb.

ALLEN:  Thune is an experienced and well financed candidate.  After leaving Congress, he passed up what many say was an easy run for governor          at President Bush‘s request to take on South Dakota‘s other Democratic senator, Tim Johnson, in 2002. 

(on camera):  What is it like to lose an election by 524 votes? 

THUNE:  Well, it is like—the analogy I like to use, it‘s like losing a game on a last-second shot. 

ALLEN:  What really distinguishes you from Senator Daschle?

THUNE:  There are a lot of issues that have been stopped and blocked and obstructed by Senator Daschle in the United States Senate.  He will say one thing in Washington and come back to South Dakota and say something entirely different. 

DASCHLE:  Tonight, the president has called us again to greatness. 

ALLEN (voice-over):  Exhibit one, insists the GOP, this ad, where Daschle, a frequent critic of the president, is seen hugging him after 9/11. 

DASCHLE:  I think the hug is a time when our country needed to see both parties and all of its leaders work very closely together. 

ALLEN (on camera):  What about the charge that you‘re the chief obstructionist? 

DASCHLE:  Pretty old, pretty lame, pretty tired.  That stuff, I think South Dakotans are kind of amused at it. 

ALLEN (voice-over):  The campaign has been personal, nasty and both camps spending big in a cheap TV market. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would like to have seen Congressman Thune talk to the president and suggest that they do something for the people who are suffering from the drought in South Dakota. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN:  Daschle‘s counterpart, Bill Frist, broke Senate tradition and campaigned on his turf.  And here‘s one of several angry exchanges between candidates on “Meet the Press.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

DASCHLE:  How could they be part of the

(CROSSTALK)

THUNE:  How can you not vote for it, Tom? 

DASCHLE:  Well, you ask them.

(CROSSTALK)

THUNE:  Obviously, they knew and they wanted to help their farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN:  Thune remains critical of Daschle on the war. 

THUNE:  When you‘ve got political leaders in the country who are consistently attacking the commander in chief, consistently attacking the work that‘s being done there, that it does undermine the morale of our troops in the region. 

DASCHLE:  We could have done a much, much better job of winning the peace and of running this war. 

I think we have got to ask ourselves, how do we do right by South Dakota?  How can we stay strong? 

ALLEN:  Daschle has won seven elections by getting about 20 percent of the Republican vote.  Polls have the race very close.  Once again, he‘s running on clout. 

DASCHLE:  Do we want to stay at the front of the line or do we want to go to the back right now? 

ALLEN (on camera):  With President Bush expected to win big here, the key to the Senate contest seems to be whether Thune can ride the president‘s coattails or if Daschle can hang on to the decisive group of Republicans who usually support him.  Either way, it‘s shaping up to be another razor-thin close South Dakota election. 

In Yankton, I‘m Ron Allen, NBC News, for “The Horserace”. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thanks, Ron.

Now Chris Jansing with the latest from my home state, battleground Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It‘s a rainy Saturday in Erie, Pennsylvania.  But that doesn‘t stop Matt Catterly (ph) and Gary Chimera (ph) from knocking on doors, urging people to vote for John Kerry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m here today with the Kerry-Edwards campaign. 

JANSING:  Catterly and Chimera live in Buffalo, but they drove an hour and a half to get here because, unlike New York, this is a state where the race between Kerry and George Bush is still too close to call. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I couldn‘t live with myself if Pennsylvania went Bush and I didn‘t do anything. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  George Bush, you‘re fired!  George Bush, you‘re fired!

JANSING:  Erie residents are also passionate about politics.  Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city roughly 3-1.  But at a Bush event here in September, 22,000 people came, the largest crowd the president has seen in 27 visits to Pennsylvania. 

And though he lost the state to Al Gore by five points in 2000, he won metropolitan Erie by 1 percent. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My name is Daniel Johnson.  I‘m a volunteer here in Erie County calling on behalf of President Bush. 

JANSING:  So at Bush-Cheney headquarters, volunteers try to persuade the undecideds and conservative Democrats to vote their way. 

JOHN EVANS, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN:  Many of the Catholics in our area are pro-life.  And certainly, that‘s why they‘re supporting President Bush in this election. 

JANSING:  In a recent poll, the war on terror and the economy were the most important issues to Pennsylvania voters, followed closely by health care. 

JEFF PINSKI, “ERIE TIMES-NEWS”:  The war is a gut issue.  The economy is a gut issue.  Jobs are a gut issue.  Pharmaceuticals for everyone is a gut issue. 

JANSING:  Pennsylvania has the second largest senior population in the nation behind Florida.  John Brensil (ph) is a lifelong Democrat but this year, he‘s having trouble deciding how to vote. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe in times of conflict or war that it is not the time to change your leader. 

JANSING:  But for Mary Gallagher (ph), it is all about the economy. 

And John Kerry will get her support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He seems to have pretty good ideas about something he can do for the economy. 

JANSING:  In a county where the unemployment rate is 6.9 percent and where about 8,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost, Gallagher is not alone.  When International Paper closed two years ago, Dan Watkins (ph) lost his $60,000-a-year job.  Watkins blames the president. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All his economic policies, from giving these tax breaks to the rich, OK, these tax breaks, this corporate welfare breaks, it‘s not working. 

JANSING:  Randy Brewer (ph) couldn‘t disagree more.  He works at General Electric, where the average wage is about $40,000 a year.  Brewer supports President Bush‘s economic policies, but says national security is more important than jobs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you have a great job and you can be attacked and your family can be hurt at any given time, obviously, that needs to trump job security. 

JANSING:  I‘m Chris Jansing for “The Horserace”.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  And just a reminder, General Electric, where that guy we just saw in Erie works, is the parent company of NBC News. 

Millions of Americans tuned in to watch the debates.  But how did the candidates do?  We‘ll get a review from the TV critics for “The Washington Post,” Tom Shales.

You‘re watching “The Horserace” on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, “The Washington Post” TV critic Tom Shales reviews Bush and Kerry in the debates—when “The Horserace” returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Television is playing a tremendous role in this election, obviously, from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to “Meet the Press With Tim Russert.”  Millions of Americans are tracking the race on TV, in fact.  The debates delivered top ratings. 

And joining us right now to rate the candidates‘ performance is “The Washington Post” television critic Tom Shales.

Tom, in the past, the guy who wins the debates wins the election.  Are we going to see that again? 

TOM SHALES, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I don‘t think so.  I think the guy who won the debates was John Kerry.  I think the guy who will win the election is George Bush.  But that‘s based on my hunches, no scientific formula. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it too high a wall to climb for Kerry? 

SHALES:  I don‘t think so.  I think he performed well. 

There‘s a limit to how much you can slap around the incumbent, no matter who it is or no how silly some people may think the incumbent looks on television.  So Kerry had to come in there strong.  He was dignified, I thought.  He was presidential.  I thought he looked much more presidential than the president, especially in that last debate, when Bush was so kind of goofy.  I mean, he was laughing and laughing and laughing, like he was watching some show off in the wings. 

And I guess that—I guess he was trying to look as though he were dismissing Kerry as just a joke.  And that‘s—it didn‘t mean anything to him.  But I thought that philosophy didn‘t exactly work and that Kerry won again, if slightly. 

MATTHEWS:  That was the death knell for Al Gore last time around, looking different in all three debates.  Why didn‘t the differentiation in each role on each evening hurt the president more? 

SHALES:  I don‘t know.  It seemed like he was being retooled and his batteries changed and rewired like a robot after each one.  Now, next time, you can‘t do this.  Next time, don‘t do that.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Sounds like television to me, Tom. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHALES:  Does it? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... to me. 

Let me ask you about that last debate.  It reminded me of that—when you play eight ball in pool and you‘re about to knock the other guy out and you hit all the balls and you the cue ball in the pocket.  His comment about John—rather, Richard Cheney‘s daughter, do you think that just put the sort of a kibosh on his otherwise good night? 

SHALES:  Well, it left a bitter taste.  But the subject had already come up in the vice presidential debate.  So I wasn‘t particularly shocked by it. 

I mean, the president had a cheap shot that night, too.  I can‘t remember exactly what it was, but it was a kind of sneaky, under-the-table thing that—in fact, the audience, I remember, even went, oh, like that.  And it was just considered beneath the president‘s dignity. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of the moderators?  I love it when Gwen Ifill was told by the president, 30 seconds ain‘t enough to give my answer.  She said, that‘s all you‘re going to get. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And I also thought it was interesting when Charles Gibson was literally steam-rollered by the president, certainly two different approaches there.  What did you make of these guys? 

SHALES:  Well, I think—well, partly it is the debates that are to blame, though.  The structure is so rigid.  The format is king, you know?  They don‘t dare. 

And this business about they can‘t address one another, they can‘t argue, there‘s a kind of a sissified nature that has come over politics in this country.  Partly, it is television, because on television, it is the cool medium.  And if I start shouting at you here, I‘ll just look ludicrous, no matter how passionate I am about my argument. 

That was one of the things that bothered me about Kerry.  He did not seem passionate.  He was a man with supposedly with a mission trying to tell us, we‘re in great danger in this country, not only from the terrorists abroad, but from economic, bad economic policies.  He should have shown more passion.  But it is very hard to walk that delicate line between looking cool, as Marshall McLuhan said and looking, and being powerful, coming across with power on television. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about John Edwards?  He looked good on TV.  Do you think the good looks just didn‘t work or what or he‘s got to get older to look good or what, look good for a presidential candidate? 

SHALES:  Well, Dan Quayle looked good, too.  So what are you going to do?  I don‘t know. 

I can‘t see the day when, if they still have smoke-filled rooms, they will be ruling out candidates:  No, he‘s too good-looking.  Throw him out. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHALES:  Actually, Edwards has got a little pimple there or something. 

Maybe they should play that up to show that he is imperfect.  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  Like Cindy Crawford, you mean. 

SHALES:  Yes, that‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, Tom Shales, thanks a lot for joining us. 

Bloggers have joined this election in media coverage of politics.  Here with us now is the guru of bloggers, MSNBC political contributor Joe Trippi. 

Joe, it‘s interesting.  After every night we had a debate, and we covered it on MSNBC, on HARDBALL, that night, it always seemed like the bloggers were coming in strong for the Democrat, no matter what happened on the stage that night. 

JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, that‘s what we‘ve been seeing all year long, this tremendous energy on the Internet that seems—you can calculate by looking at those online votes.  It‘s clear that there‘s more energy on the Net for Kerry and the Democrats. 

The interesting thing is now the bloggers and the Web sites are all moving to organize bus trips and things like that to these battleground states.  And you‘re seeing again more energy on the Democratic side.  So right now I think Kerry is going to have a lot more help out there on the streets in these battleground states than he thought. 

MATTHEWS:  In this Internet world, where we‘re all connected by wiring and telephones and everything else, cell phone and Web sites and all that, why do the bloggers have to go physically, geographically, to the debate site to have any impact? 

TRIPPI:  Well, you know, that‘s a good question. 

The bloggers are starting to find out that they‘re actually putting themselves in the mainstream media bubble, that things that happen outside of the debate site, they‘re just as unaware of as the rest of the media.  And I think they‘re starting to rethink that, that to stay where they are and cover it from whatever town they‘re blogging from. 

But right now, they‘ve really moved their focus in the last few days to the old-fashioned stuff, getting out the vote, helping to move bodies into these battleground states.  And that same energy that you‘re seeing after these debates in online polls on the Democratic side is clearly there in these sort of offline movement to get people to get out from behind their computer screens and actually go make a difference on Election Day. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the difference between these established Web sites like Slate and Salon and the other new names on the block?  Is there a real distinction?  Or is everybody an equal player here? 

TRIPPI:  No.

If there are equal players, it is not the same as it works in any other medium.  A guy who—I know a guy, Markos, who runs Daily Kos, I remember in the days when he used to put up on his Web site, guys, I need $4,000 to buy a new server.  And people from around the country would donate $25 just to keep him up and going. 

He‘s got a bigger readership than just about any blogger Web site like Slate that has got sort of corporate backing behind him.  He has got a bigger readership than many of the corporate sites. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Joe Trippi.

Check out our blogging site, Hardblogger, by going to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.

Still to come on “The Horserace”, the top five issues in this campaign from Chuck Todd, editor in chief of the political “Hotline.”

You‘re watching “The Horserace” on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to “The Horserace”. 

Chuck Todd is the editor in chief of “The Hotline,” called the bible of politics by “The New York Times” and read religiously every day by the politicians.  Chuck joins us now to talk now about the five big issues of the campaign. 

OK, what are they, Chuck? 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  Well, basically, they‘re meta-issues, the economy, terrorism, security, Iraq, health care, and moral issues. 

And, you know, there‘s subissues within those groupings.  Jobs is, of course, part of the economy.  But then there‘s sort of this weird relationship between Iraq and terrorism.  You know, are they two separate issues are they one in the same issues?  And it really depends on if you‘re a Kerry voter or a Bush voter, because a Bush voter, when they say terrorism, they do mean the war in Iraq.  And when a Kerry voter says terrorism, they don‘t mean Iraq.  And they mean Iraq separately.

So it gets confusing for a lot of us when we are trying to sit here and tell people what is the big issue of the campaign, because it just depends on what side of the aisle you are. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I‘ve seen polls out there that show that people think there‘s a connection between 9/11 and Iraq.  So, obviously, the Republicans are winning that argument with half the country. 

Let me ask you about the question of the health issue.  I keep hearing the Democrats talking about the health issue.  And yet it doesn‘t seem to be a big part of the debate.  Why is John Kerry constantly talking health costs? 

TODD:  Because health care, it isn‘t—OK, it isn‘t the big issue for all voters when you ask all voters.

But for the most important set of voters, and that is married white women between the ages of 35 and 55, this is the ultimate of the swing voter groups.  This group is 45-45 divided between Bush and Kerry.  It was divided between Bush and Gore 49-48.  Bush narrowly won these folks.  And, look, these people that worry about health care for their children, health care for themselves and health care for their parents, because as we of course are growing older, that‘s becoming a huge issue. 

So the health care for this specific targeted demographic group is huge.  In some cases, it trumps security and it definitely trumps the economy. 

MATTHEWS:  Is one of the reasons is that the women have that responsibility largely to themselves, that men have no idea, they‘re out to lunch as to what shots the kids have had, what coverage they get from their insurance?  They don‘t know anything. 

TODD:  Absolutely.

And ask any of your male friends.  I know I‘m terrible with this.  I go to the doctor maybe twice a decade.  And women are more conscious of taking care of themselves, more conscious of going to the doctor themselves.  And they pay the health care bills and they file the insurance claims.  So they see it.  It‘s in their lives every day.  And men don‘t see it at all.  And that‘s why on these meta-surveys, when you say, what is the most important issue, men don‘t think health care.  Women do. 

And so that‘s why it doesn‘t show up as top one or two, but for the most important swing voter group, it is one or two. 

MATTHEWS:  I have always thought taxes help Republicans, because they always say they‘re going to lower taxes.  And they do a lot of the time.

Why does John Kerry bringing up the tax thing?  He‘s not going to tax people under $200,000 anymore, but he‘s going to go after the rich people.  Why does he bring up taxes so often?

TODD:  Because the tax issue, it‘s traditionally a Republican issue. 

But Bill Clinton really beat it back. 

He was able to rhetorically say that, you know, look, we took care of

·         we got rid of some of these—we got your middle-class tax cut, but we got rid of these tax cuts for the rich back in ‘93 and the economy turned around.  So he was able to sell this argument that tax cuts don‘t always mean—as a way to improve the economy. 

And you get the sense that the public buys it, because you look at polls on who better handles taxes, and it isn‘t knee-jerk to Republicans.  It really is 50-50, because you have these sort of economic voting Republicans that don‘t necessarily—they hate taxes, but they‘re not necessarily convinced that low taxes spurs the economy. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Iraq now a loser for the president, President Bush?

TODD:  Absolutely.  If Iraq is the debate, it‘s the foreign policy loser.  If they can call it terrorism, it‘s the foreign policy winner.  And it really is a fight between Kerry and Bush to define, is Iraq part of the war on terror or not?  If it is part of the war on terror to a voter, then that voter is a Bush voter.  If it‘s not, they‘re a Kerry voter. 

MATTHEWS:  Great report, Chuck Todd.  Thanks for joining us.

TODD:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s it for HARDBALL: “The Horserace”.  Catch up again with us this weekend, Saturday 4:00 p.m. Eastern and Sunday at noon.

And Monday on HARDBALL, we‘ll be joined by former President Jimmy Carter.  He‘s been in a tight presidential race.  And he‘s coming to tell us what to expect in this campaign‘s last days. 

I‘m Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching “The Horserace” on MSNBC.

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

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