updated 11/1/2004 1:14:18 PM ET 2004-11-01T18:14:18

Guest: Ben Ginsberg, Johnathan Alter, Joe Trippi, Bill Owens, Bill Richardson, Rosey Edeh, Vanessa Kerry

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Live from Democracy Plaza in New York‘s Rockefeller Center, let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to a special pre-election edition of HARDBALL.  We‘re broadcasting, as you can see, from Democracy Plaza in Rockefeller Center in New York City.  We‘ll be here day and night through the election now.  Let‘s look at the celebration of America and the world‘s oldest democracy.  The exhibit located at NBC News world headquarters features an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.  Mock-ups of the Oval Office and Air Force One.  And a “make your vote count center.”  Plus, a video wall featuring our current and former leaders and political giants.  Thousand of citizens have visited Democracy Plaza since it opened on the 20th.  So if you are here in New York City, stop by.  It‘s in Midtown.

We‘re two days out before Americans go to vote to the polls and elect a president.  And according to a new NBC News /”Wall Street Journal” poll, I just got my hands on, the race is a statistical tie.  Bush 48.  Kerry 47.  Nader 1.  On my panel tonight, political analyst Joe Trippi, Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter, MSNBC—Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg.  Thank you Ben.  It is hard to get all those words into one big thought.  According to the new NBC poll, as I said, it is 48-47.  Andrea Mitchell, does that mean dead even?  Does that mean anything else but?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It means dead even.  There‘s a slight uptake in Kerry since the last poll.  But when you look at all the polls, average them out, look at the trends, it is dead even.

MATTHEWS:  No breeze.  There‘s a slight breeze in your hair, is that a breeze...

MITCHELL:  That‘s a breeze.

MATTHEWS:  Is that from Bush or from Kerry?

MITCHELL:  Neither.

MATTHEWS:  Neither.  Does everybody agree it‘s still, there‘s a calm here before the storm of Tuesday‘s voting?  Ben?

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION ATTORNEY:  I think if you look at the battleground polls, you‘ll see a slight up-tick for the president in a number of them.

MATTHEWS:  Does anyone want to counter that obviously partisan take? 

Just kidding.  No, it‘s fair but it‘s partisan.

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think there is a stillness.  But there is also...

MATTHEWS:  But no surrender.

ALTER:  For instance, there was a very interesting “Des Moines Register” poll today of people who have already voted.  In Iowa, 30 percent have already voted.  Kerry had an 11-point lead with those, according to the exit polls.  The returns are already coming in...

MATTHEWS:  So these are exit polls.  Go ahead, Joe.

JOE TRIPPI, POLITICAL ANALYST:  The thing that NBC poll shows, the young voters.  Again, in the NBC poll, 35 and under, it is the only lead Kerry has in the entire—if you look across the other age groups, it is the only one, he‘s got a significant one there.  And you keep seeing that in all of the battleground states.  In Iowa, in Florida.  A huge lead there.  If those folks turn out, those young people turn out, they are going to decide this election.  It is clear when you look at the data that that‘s where the future.

MATTHEWS:  Are you talking about the mobile phone poll?

TRIPPI:  Not just the mobile phone poll, I‘m talking about when they get to young people.  In Florida, Bush is behind 29-63.  Kerry has a 34 point lead in voters under 29...

MATTHEWS:  Will those kids stand in line?  Frank Luntz raise that had point an hour ago.  Will those kids go in there and take off from classes and stand there for two or three hours to get a vote cast?

MITCHELL:  That‘s the big question this year.  Is whether the new voters—and many of them are these young voters.  Whether they will come out and vote.

TRIPPI:  If they do, this is over.  When you look at what‘s happening.  11-point lead from Kerry in Ohio among these voters.  27-point lead in Iowa among voters under 29.  34-point lead in Florida.  You look at these states.

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.  You say it is over but they‘re getting polled along with the rest of the population.

TRIPPI:  What‘s going on is the pollsters are making, using a model of what happened in past elections.  And in past elections, young voters haven‘t voted.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get into box card numbers, here.  I want to go around the room here.  This morning on “Meet the Press,” Charlie Cook, who is one of the latest gurus in predicting how people vote, he thinks out of the 160 million people who could legally cast a vote on Tuesday, this never happens, he thinks it will be 135 maybe.  Does that sound reasonable?

GINSBERG:  That sounds a little high.  Although I would say more like 118 to 120.  But the caveat is the grassroots networks that both parties have mobilized in this election could really lead to new records.

MATTHEWS:  Is that bad for the Republicans?

GINSBERG:  No.  I don‘t think so.  Because the Republicans have done their party programs as never before.  A million and a half volunteers going neighbor to neighbor...

MATTHEWS:  So, the old rule that the bigger the turnout, the better for the Democrats, no longer holds?  Do you accept that, Jon?

ALTER:  I don‘t.  Because it would be the first time ever that the Republicans won a turnout game.  Now they are much better.  They brought up their game tremendously.  Especially in 2002.  It is true that a lot of the younger voters don‘t vote.  So you can‘t count on them.  That‘s another thing...

MATTHEWS:  What about the people who vote by the busload?  The religious people who go right from church, they meet at church and go over and vote?  Are they going to be a new surprise vote?

ALTER:  A lot of them are already in red states.  See, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, real swing states, you have same day registration.  So the question is will some of the people who came out for Jesse Ventura, who is marginally for Kerry, will they come out, nonvoters, those same day registration and vote for probably for Kerry.  That would be decisive.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea?

MITCHELL:  One of the other things, this new NBC “Wall Street Journal” poll shows is on the issue of terrorism.  First of all, people care more about terrorism than they care about the economy and healthcare.  That should be good for Bush.  Not good for Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  What about people who hate the war in Iraq?  Where do they stand?  Do they consider terrorism an important issue?  How do they vote on that question?  Why do you assume terrorism means pro-Bush, pro-conservative when it could also mean I hate this damn war and I want it over with and I want to get Bush out of there?  What would you say on terrorism being important?

MITCHELL:  Because even the Kerry people will tell you, that when terrorism is the subject, the biggest gap Kerry has with the president is on your ability to handle—which is the best candidate to handle terror?  And you look at the bin laden tape.  By a 2-1.  24 percent of those are more inclined to vote for Bush because of the bin Laden tape.  12 percent...

MATTHEWS:  And 62 percent say it doesn‘t affect them.

MITCHELL:  And I think for most people it does not make a difference...

MATTHEWS: Do you realize what you‘re saying?  You‘re saying that if a guy sends a video to this country and puts it on al-Jazeera, an Arab broadcasting network, and you see it on TV, you‘re going to change your vote for the president of the United States based on that?

MITCHELL:  It is pretty horrible to even contemplate that.  The fact is that in a race this tight, with people...

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.  But these people are self-admitted reeds shaken

by the wind.  To use a biblical term.

TRIPPI:  It is true from a campaign manager‘s point of view.  When you look at the other side that are left.  We‘ve been through this for two years.  98 percent.  97 percent of the American people have made up their mind.  This last 2 percent is a group of people that can be moved by something like that.

ALTER:  The problem for Kerry is that a lot of the late deciders are non-college educated women.  And they are often quite interested in this terrorism issue.  They used to call them security moms.  And it could be that if they come out and make a last-minute move toward Bush that could...

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re the ones that believe Iraq attacked us 9/11.

ALTER:  Right.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  And the women‘s vote is so important, here.  The high school educated women tend to be more Bush voters.  The college educated women tend to be Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to come back and talk it later in the program because this old-time gender gap where women and men voted as gender automatons, apparently, according to the new numbers I‘ve looked at, there‘s only a 7 percent advantage among men for Republicans and only a 4 point advantage for Kerry among women.  That‘s nothing compared to what it was during Reagan‘s time.

MITCHELL:  It must have been the goose hunt.

MATTHEWS:  Some things I have to absorb over time.  The panel is staying with us.  And coming up, two governors of two key battleground states.  Colorado‘s Bill Owens and New Mexico‘s Bill Richardson.  They‘re both coming here right away.  You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL, live from Democracy Plaza on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL live from Democracy Plaza.  Two Western states still in play in this presidential election.  There are a lot of them, but two of them are Colorado and New Mexico.  We‘re joined by the governors of both those states.  Colorado‘s Bill Owens and New Mexico‘s Bill Richardson.  Let‘s start with Governor Owens from Colorado.  A Republican, sir.  Thank you for seeing you both—nice to see you, Bill.  If you both can hear me now?  Are you on Air Force One?  You have got the law library of Air Force One up there.

BILL OWENS, COLORADO GOVERNOR:  No.  Been at the Denver Broncos game and we‘re losing.

MATTHEWS:  The Patriots lost today.  I don‘t know what that mean.  What do you make of the fact that the Washington Redskins lost today and all the way back to the 1930‘s, whenever the Washington Redskins lose the last game before a presidential election, the incumbent president is defeated or his party is?

OWENS:  I think you‘re going to have to just wait until Tuesday.  But I don‘t make much of that.  The Washington Redskins deserved to lose and the president is going to win on Tuesday.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God! A Green Bay Packer fan.  Let me ask but the outlook out West.  It seems to me, the election has more or less been stratified back East and the fight‘s going to the Midwest and the West.  We‘re looking to Wisconsin, of course, Minnesota, and we‘re looking at Iowa as well.  The fights back east are getting kind of tired, I must say.  The fighters are tired.  Tell me about the fight out West.  Nevada, Colorado, and of course, well, one other state out there.  New Mexico.  We‘ll get to Bill in a minute.  Governor Richardson.

OWENS:  Right now I‘m very optimistic about Colorado.  We have a new “Denver Post”  Mason-Dixon poll out this morning that shows the president up seven points.  That‘s consistent with yesterday‘s “Rocky Mountain News” Public Opinion Strategy poll which had us up as well.  So in terms of Colorado I think this state is moving towards the red column.  And I was interested in the MSNBC poll results which showed President Bush up in Florida, up in Ohio, up in Iowa.  And we‘ll wait to hear from my good friend Bill Richardson.  But even in New Mexico.  So we‘re going to know on Tuesday but Tuesday we‘re going to know that Colorado is going to be Bush country.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to Bill Richardson.  This good looking guy over here on the right.  There he is.  Bill Richardson.  Looking great.  I love this guy.  Hello.

BILL RICHARDSON, NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  How does it look for your pal, the former president?  He came out there to campaign in New Mexico.  Did it make any difference?

RICHARDSON:  He did make a difference.  We just finished the huge rally in Albuquerque.  He was in Santa Fe last night.  I can cite a lot of polls but I feel the energy of the Democratic base.  There‘s 140,000 new registered voters since June.  We‘re ahead in those voters 51-31 -- by 20 points.  We‘ve got 11,000 new Navajos registered, Chris, for the first time since June.  That is going to be a huge vote for Senator Kerry, if we get them out.  And then here‘s the most important statistic.  For the first time in New Mexico history, we have beat the Republicans in early voting and absentee by about a 5-3 margin.  So—this is up since Friday.  Although we are behind in a very respected poll by 3 percent, I feel that momentum is with us.  And with these statistics I just cited, I think New Mexico will go for Senator Kerry by a very, very small margin.  The president is strong here.  He is a neighbor from Texas.  He is coming on Monday.  But I just, the intensity, the enthusiasm is huge.  We‘ve done rallies all weekend.  I‘ve never felt this way.  And I‘ve been in a lot of elections here in New Mexico.

MATTHEWS:  Let me just throw out a poll here.  We do have one here with us, Governor Richardson.  A Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters in New Mexico for the Santa Fe, New Mexico American-Mexican newspaper(sic) and KOB television has President Bush with a four point edge over Senator Kerry.  Do you think that‘s about right now or is that too high?

RICHARDS:  No, I think that‘s about right.  Maybe a little bit high.  I always estimate Election Day, there‘s about a 2 percent vote that I can count on.  The rural Hispanic voters, Native-American voters that are not polled who don‘t even have cell phone.  So I think that‘s probably reasonably accurate.  The “Albuquerque Journal,” which is a little more reliable, has President Bush ahead by 3 percent.  But 4 years ago, President Bush was ahead of Al Gore in those same polls by 5 percent.  So I just feel the voters, I‘m not going to polls right now.  We‘re out there with the people, with rallies, volunteers, get out the vote ground game.  Right now, Chris, issues don‘t matter as much.  They matter a little bit.  It is the ground game.  And whenever there‘s a heavy turnout, this favors Democrats.  We‘re a little better than Republicans in the ground game, although they‘ve gotten very competitive.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Governor Owens, back in the old days, the cowboy days in Colorado, when a guy ran for sheriff, he would say, reelect me in four years.  And then he would post some wanted posters, and say “wanted dead or alive.”  And say I‘m going to get that guy whether he is Jesse James or Billy the Kid...

OWENS:  Is that the way it works here in Colorado?  OK.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the way it used to work.  And Osama bin Laden has had a wanted poster in every post office in Colorado for the last three years now.  And he hasn‘t been caught.  Is the sheriff in this case, George W. Bush, does he really have a case for re-election when he hasn‘t been able to catch the number one bandito in three years?

OWENS:  Absolutely.  And I think the case for re-election is this...

MATTHEWS:  How?  Wouldn‘t it be better if he caught the guy than not caught him?

OWENS:  Well, I think the case for reelection is this, and that is that Afghanistan today is moving towards democracy, millions of people are free in Afghanistan, and Iraq is as well.  And those were two countries which in fact were dangerous.  Afghanistan was a base of international terrorism, and I think this is a very dangerous time, Chris.  And I think that as we look to which of these two gentlemen is best able to lead our country, I think it is one of the reasons we‘re going to see these numbers coming...

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t say best able to catch bin Laden, though.  You can‘t say he‘s best able to catch bin...

OWENS:  No, but I‘m not going to define the election over whether or not we capture bin Laden.  I think there‘s much more important issues here.  That‘s who can best defend this country.  We haven‘t been attacked in the United States since September 11.  Now Osama bin Laden is reduced to threatening us by videotape.  I think the American people are going to reject that on Tuesday.  Return George Bush for four more years.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you governors.  Thank you very much, Governor Bill Owens and thank you Governor Bill Richardson.  Coming up, a key factor on Election Day, as it always is, is the weather.  We‘re going to get Tuesday‘s weather forecast when we return, because it really does matter, because people are going to be standing in long lines outside.  We‘ll be talking with the people here in Democracy Plaza.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUBERT HUMPHREY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  I‘ve done my best.  I‘ve lost.  Mr. Nixon has won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Vice President Hubert Humphrey‘s defeat in 1968 offered an electoral comeback for Richard Nixon.  After losing the race in 1960, Nixon came out on top, becoming the 37th president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Having lost the close one eight years ago, and having won a close one this year, I can say this.  Winning is a lot more fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Live from Democracy Plaza, there‘s a big crowd here.  One of the key factors that may affect the turnout, who comes out the vote on Election Day, is the weather.  MSNBC‘s Rosey Edeh joins us right now with us a look at the forecast.  Rosie.  Give me the picture.  Can we get a national picture on the weather on Tuesday?

ROSEY EDEH, MSNBC WEATHERPERSON:  Yeah.  Let‘s show you what you can expect for Tuesday.  We‘ve got some weather to talk about for sure.  Taking a look at some of the battleground states in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, we‘re looking at some rain.  For example, in Akron, Ohio, we‘re going to see some thunderstorms roll through, highs in the mid 50‘s.  And as we go into Philly, we‘re looking at dry conditions.  But Pittsburgh is going to be wet.  You‘ve got some rain to contend with and also into Detroit we are going to see rain until about noon.  Now, taking a look at Florida.  That‘s another hotly contested state.  We have got nothing but blue skies for most of the state.  Watch out though, Florida Panhandle.  We‘ve got some rain to deal with.  Light rain anyways for Tallahassee.  We‘re going to see a pretty wet day for you.  Down into the Midwest, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa it is going to be simply gorgeous.  Temperatures a little below normal but dry conditions and sunny skies.  Really, no reason not to go out to vote.  All right.  Back to you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  It‘s good to hear that.  Thank you Rosey Edeh. 

A good day for democracy.  I‘m going to ask some questions around here. 

I‘m going to ask, how many people will vote on Tuesday?  A little weak. 

Who will not vote?  Who is not going to vote?

I already voted.  I voted absentee.  How many people will vote for Kerry?

How many will vote for President Bush?We have an undecided voter here.  Mr., why are you still undecided?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m trying to decide between good heartedness of president Bush and thoughtfulness of Kerry.  And Kerry is an extremely thoughtful person.  And we do need somebody thoughtful in that position to deal with the complexity that we have today.

MATTHEWS:  Great.

Anybody else undecided?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ralph Nader!

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good one.  Anybody else?  Nobody is undecided. 

Are you undecided?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m a Canadian.

MATTHEWS:  Good!  Good luck to Martin.  Let me you ask a big question. 

What is the biggest issue in this campaign, ma‘am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think the war and the economy.

MATTHEWS:  Are you for or against the war in Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am—i support the troops but I think the decisions to go to war was inappropriate.

MATTHEWS:  How many people think it was smart—how many people think we should have gone to war with Iraq?  How many people think we should not have gone to war with Iraq?

You‘re for the war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m for peace.  Hindsight is 20/20.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you not like certain questions I ask?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I didn‘t say that.

MATTHEWS:  You like some questions but not others.  Let me ask you a question.  Who are you voting for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  President Bush.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re voting for President Bush.  And you don‘t like the war in Iraq because—what‘s wrong with asking if it‘s a smart war or not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, there‘s nothing wrong with that but we‘re there now.  We have to be tough on terrorists.  We have to protect Americans.

MATTHEWS:  Are you having second thoughts?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Are you having second thoughts, that‘s why you don‘t want to be asked about it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Why did you not like that question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ask my sister.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t your sister like the question of whether we should have gone to war or not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think she is hedging.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s hedging.  How many people think she is hedging? 

She‘s hedging!  All she wants is a picture.  You‘re getting your picture. 

Let me ask you about—let‘s hear it for Ralph Nader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I like Ralph Nader because in the beginning, he was against the war just like Howard Dean.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would vote for Howard Dean if he was the Democratic nominee.  If Democrats really gave a crap about anything they said, they would have had Dean as their presidential candidate.

MATTHEWS:  How many people think Howard Dean would have been a better candidate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m a Republican.

MATTHEWS:  How many love John Kerry?  How many are voting for John Kerry because they don‘t like Bush?  How many think that President Bush will win?  How many think John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts will win?  How many think Ralph Nader will win?  How many think we‘ll have a result right here at our booth here at Democracy Plaza by midnight Tuesday night?  We‘ll know who won?  One person.  How many think we won‘t know until Wednesday night?  How many think we‘ll know by Wednesday noon?  Wednesday night.  How many think Florida will have another problem?  You think Florida will have another problem?  Here‘s a thought.  What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Disqualified voters in Florida.  The rolls of felons that are erroneous and unsubstantiated and they haven‘t sorted it out yet.

MATTHEWS:  So what is going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think there will be a lot of trouble there and Ohio and a lot of the other states.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What about it?  What do you think about the economic situation, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m for Kerry because not only because of the stance against Iraq war but because of his stance on the economic situation.  And also the possibility of who will be nominated for the Supreme Court in the next four years.  That‘s a big decision.

MATTHEWS:  How many people here care about the Supreme Court?  That‘s another issue.  A very involved electorate here.  Everybody is registered.  Everybody is going to vote.  One Nader vote.  Two extremely anti-war votes.  A lot of polling done right here tonight.  Still to come, John Kerry‘s daughter Vanessa will join us, from Florida.  You are watching HARDBALL live from Democracy Plaza on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL live from, as you can see Democracy Plaza.  What a busy corner this has become. 

The Kerry daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa have been front and center in the John Kerry campaign for months now.  Today, Alexandra is in Hawaii to help her father win that state and it‘s 4 electoral votes.  And Vanessa is campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she join us right now. 

Well, thank you very much, Vanessa.  You have a got a nice smile tonight.  You‘re so beautiful.  And let me ask you this question.  Just in nonpolitical terms, I don‘t get it your father, and this is going to sound so partisan, but since I know him, I‘m going to say this.  How in the world does he keep this calm, this Zen like calm right to these tricky last hours? 

VANESSA KERRY, JOHN KERRY‘S DAUGHTER:  Well, he keeps his calm because he is incredibly focused on what is happening in the country today.  He has traveled this country for about 2 years now.  And he is just heard the stories of the millions of Americans whose hopes and really, just prayers for a better future, are resting on him. 

He has met people who have looked at him and said, please, you have got to win, because I want to go to college.  Or please, you have to win because I want to be able to have a job again.  When you have that kind of hope and that kind of just real need for a better future, it gives you an enormous amount of energy, an enormous amount of focus.  And that‘s exactly what he is fighting for. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he has 2 roles here.  One is to run for president.  And a lot of people want him to be president, as you know.  And the other role is to get rid of President Bush.  How does he feel about that second role, that he is carrying the torch for so many people who simply want to make a change? 

V. KERRY:  You know, I think a lot of people through this process have come to know my dad and have come to see that his goal is to defend the middle class, to create jobs in America, to invest in healthcare so that the millions of Americans that don‘t have healthcare today, 5 million Americans who have lost healthcare under President Bush, are going to have healthcare again. 

They realize that my father is going to stop at nothing to defend this country.  And I think they‘ve come to know a John Kerry who really has better ideas for our future, ways to make this country stronger.  And I think that it has become about John Kerry.  Really, about all of our future. 

This election is not about my dad, it is not about this campaign, it is about the 270 million Americans that deserve better than what they‘ve had in the last three and a half years.  We can have a fresh start and it begins on November 2. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you think when you watched television the other day?  And I‘m sure you did, and saw the reemerging visage of Osama bin Laden. 

V. KERRY:  Unfortunately, I have not had much time to watch TV.  But I did get a chance to read it in the paper and to read some of the quotes.  And what it says to me is that we could be fighting a more effective war on terror. 

My father has talked about how to defend this nation.  How to fight the real war on terror to take target off our troops‘ backs and make sure we bring other countries into the process.  How to invest in diplomacy and alliances to make sure that we are running better surveillance and we are able to hunt down the terrorists before they even can created a plan.  He has talked about securing our borders, securing our ports, buying up loose nuclear weapons. 

You know, we live in scary times to some degree.  And my father has talked about how to make us safer.  I think it is incredibly important because this country does deserve to know that we can defend ourselves.  And my father will stop at nothing to defend the security of this country. 

MATTHEWS:  When you talk to other people your age and younger, do you sense a real fear that the draft is coming back?  And if so, is that a warranted fear?  Because the military says they don‘t want draftees, they want professional soldiers. 

V. KERRY:  You know, it is a scary thought.  And I have talked to a lot of young people who are incredibly worried about what is happening and whether or not there is going to be a draft.  I‘ve talked to a number of young people who are petrified about the fact that we don‘t live in a time of peace anymore, that we live in a time of uncertainty. 

And I know that our military has been overextended.  I know that we in the last three and a half years have started to create a new generation of veterans who are not getting their benefits.  President Bush‘s budget for next year would underfund Florida‘s veterans, for example, by 191 million dollars. 

I think that our military, our—the young men over 18 deserve better.  We deserve to know that we are going to live in a time of peace, where a draft isn‘t even entering our conversation.  And that‘s what my father is fighting for.  And I feel very confident, if he is president of the United States, we are going to turn over a new leaf of diplomacy.  We are going to reinvigorate our alliances.  We are going to have, I think, a real investment in a time of peace.  And that‘s the goal. 

You know, we could be doing so much better than we are today.  And I think that is what matters.  This really is a chance to have a fresh start, whether it is here at home, in creating jobs, or whether it is our standing in the world. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a very impressive spokesperson for your father. 

Vanessa, it‘s great having you on.  Vanessa Kerry.

When we come back, battleground Florida.  Congressman Robert Wexler, a Democrat, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.  She‘s a Republican.  They‘ll both join us and have it out.  I‘m sure that‘ll be heated.  It always is down in Florida.

And don‘t forget, sign up for HARDBALL‘s daily e-mail briefing.  Just log on to our Web site hardball.msnbc.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Democracy Plaza here in Rockefeller Center.  It is still 2 days to election day, although it seems like it is coming on.  And The fight in Florida is already fierce. 

I‘m joined now by members of both parties.  Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Democrat Robert Wexler.  I haven‘t seen Bob Wexler since the last fight in Florida.  There‘s always trouble when I see you, Bob.  But thank you for coming on Congressman.

You start the first time.  You‘ve been around in a while.  Are we going to get a clean result Tuesday night around, oh 9:00? 

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, ® FLORIDA:  You talking to me?

REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FLORIDA:  Go ahead. 

WEXLER:  Unfortunately, I think we already have some significant problems.  There are thousands of absentee ballots in Broward and Palm Beach Counties that have not yet been received by people who requested those ballots.  So if this is a close race, I think we‘ll see an effort to extend the time in which people can legitimately return their absentee ballot. 

Hopefully, when people go to vote on these electronic machines, there will not be systematic problems.  That remain to be seen.  We also know that these electronic machines are incapable of conducting a manual recount, which Florida law requires if there is a close race.  Hopefully, it won‘t be that close. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen.  We‘ve all been covering it to some extent, this Broward County mess-up.  A couple of 20 some thousand, or 30 something thousand ballots went out, these were applications for ballots.  You know, these people probably already left on their vacations, wherever they were going, on business, or whatever it was,  family matters.  How will they get ahold of ballot applications to get it back in time for Tuesday? 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well, first of all, that was the worst-case scenario.  Now they‘ve really looked at the numbers and those numbers are substantially decreased.  And you‘re right, there may be some people who really have left and they won‘t be able to get their ballot in on time. 

But now, this has become such a national, international problem.  It is well known.  A lot of those folks are contacting their neighbors.  They‘re getting the, make sure that they get their ballots.  A lot of people are coming back from vacation to cast that ballot, because they know how important it is. 

And let me answer something about what Robert has said, we‘ve had a couple of elections now using these new voting machines.  They‘ve gone flawlessly.  I voted early voting, 2 weeks ago.  My parents voted with absentee ballots.  It‘s all been going well. 

So yes, you hear about some of the problems that are not Republican problems at all, they‘re nonpartisan problems.  But for 90 percent of the state, it has been going well.  And the 10 percent that isn‘t working well, those problems are getting fixed.  So I think it is going to go well. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Wexler, should we bring Jimmy Carter in there to straighten those things out down there like he does in third world countries? 

WEXLER:  I think we have enough monitors in Florida.  Ileana and I are close friends.  We‘re going to be traveling together next week.  but I would respectfully differ with her.  We‘ve got studies by the local newspapers and the secretary of state, Jeb Bush‘s secretary of state that says these electronic machines are 6 times more likely to lose votes than way they vote in the 52 other counties in Florida. 

We‘ve had Republican primaries where there‘s an unusual number of votes lost, and they were close elections.  We couldn‘t really determine who won.  So to suggest that we had gone through flawless elections in the last 2 years, I think is wishful thinking. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well, I think that what we‘re setting up here is that the Democrats already figure that Florida is going to be a loser for them.    They‘re setting up their legal arguments.  And they‘re getting ready to be in the courts by November 3. 

So that‘s OK.  We‘ll be in the courts, too.  If we see there are some shenanigans, we‘ll be ready to fight.  We have got a whole legal team, the Democrats have as well.  But I think Wexler is more concerned about it, because they know Florida will swing Bush‘s way. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think it will be different this time,  Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen?  Why do you think there will be a clear mandate for the president down there?  Last time it was murky as hell.  You can argue either way.  You could say that most people wanted to vote for Al Gore and they didn‘t get the job done for a lot of reasons.  We don‘t know who won.  But you say this time it is a clear mandate.  In other words, it‘ll be 2 or 3 points.  We‘ll know who won by the end of the evening. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  I really do think so.  I think 9/11 has changed the whole equation.  This is a very pro military, pro defense state throughout our area.  And we have seen a very strong leader, a committed leader.  Not one who is vacillating.  Not one who is changing position.  And like him or not like him, you know where George Bush stands.  And that‘s what his rally was today in  Coconut Grove, such an enthused crowd. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Congresswoman.  Thank you.  I wish I had more time.  Thank you, Robert Wexler for coming back.  You‘re always a great guest here.  And Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, especially you.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Always you.

And I want to thank my panel: Joe Trippi, Andrea Mitchell, Jonathan Alter and Ben Ginsberg.  They‘ll all be with us on election night.

Up next, Ron Reagan introduces us to a group of poets who are working to get out the youth vote.  That‘s interesting.

And don‘t forget, you can follow the final 48 hour of this presidential race on “Hardblogger,” our election blog Web site.  Just go to hardball.msnbc.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Declare Yourself is a group of poets who are out there trying to get people to go out and vote this election season.  And our own Ron Reagan is with them.  Let‘s take a look at Ron Reagan with Declare Yourself. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The world is very different now and yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which are forebears fought, are still an issue around the globe.  Let freedom ring. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am an American.  Ellis Island‘s Israelite orphans swapping DNA with South Carolina share croppers, Cherokee chiefs diseased fed culture captured, I clutch who I am in the palm of my hand  and hold her up to my heart so she will recognize home. 

My voice speaks loud, grafitti gems, hieroglyphic mathematics, X in the air, spitting soul songs sent from somewhere, holy and honest.  I rock this for you and you and you.  Because I‘m an American.  And I can. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am an American.  The halfway house of the heart.  Violence birth, steel guitar and fife.  Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for MTV and a slice of the genetically engineered apple American pie. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am tired of having to prove that I am an American.  Why must I explain to people that I am too young to have been the Viet Cong that crippled your uncle in the Vietnam War and that if I went back where I came from, it would be Oklahoma City. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am an American.  I can‘t check myself into a box, I‘ll be ignoring mommy straight and bobbing these nappy locks in me, the Chi Town, Midwest, Windy City in me, the bebop, hip hop, nonstop Salsa, (UINTELLIGIBLE) queen of soul in me. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am an American.  Child of king and captive.  A bloodline of imports and exports.  I am a black, Jewish, Vietnamese immigrant working late at his own business hoping to afford Christmas dinner and Kwanza gifts this Hanukkah season. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am an American.  I have the right to remain silence.  I refuse and if you refuse that right, then everything you say can and will be used against you.  You think you‘re wrong to disagree with your country?  You should read the Bill of Right and understand the freedom to shout, to assemble, to speak your mind.  That was our country‘s idea.  I am an American.  I will not be silent and you should use these words against me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I will vote with the spit of a force fed suffrage (ph) jet, on the back of a soldier returning home in the rainbowed hands joined to open the poll.  Listen, to give up now is the coward‘s way out, and you are not so easily muted.  Declare yourself American as I am an American, no hero, but knowing those with their heads in the sand, inevitably choke. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Chakta (ph) blues and civil rights songs swing somberly from my bones.  Brave, weary and unrelenting, they lived like it mattered, answered only to the sky.  Now I, warm and fed, well spoken, well read, have a say in the society.  What better way to honor them than to declare myself on November 2? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My parents left their homeland.  They left language, culture and family so that my home could be here.  So on November 2, I will declare myself, because I will not let their sacrifices be in vain. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I will let my actions speak louder than these words.  For the right to march, let me follow in the freedom soaked footsteps of Chavez and King.  For the right to speak, let my voice reverberate and remembrance of Susan B.  For the right to be who I choose to be.  November 2 is just the beginning, declare yourself if you intend on winning. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My grandfather spilled blood on some far off dirt in the hope that freedom would take root.  Before my daughter is old enough to drive, freedom will flower or die.  My grandfather didn‘t fight so that could I turn my back.  And my daughter‘s fight will be that much harder if I do.  On November 2, I will declare myself and vote to make sure that the world he fought for is the world she received. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am a 228-year experiment in freedom.  I stand before mirrors and see scars and resilience and power, for I have the strength of government in my lungs, the might of kingdoms in my voice, the ear of an entire country waiting with bated breath just to hear what I have to say.  So on November 2, I will face this nation that stares back at me from within my own reflection, and I will declare myself. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you are proud to be an American.

CROWD:  Prove it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If not? 

CROWD:  Change America. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To something you can be proud to be a part of. 

CROWD:  Do not fall silent.  Do not get weak.  It is an act of revolution to speak.  Live...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ...in search of a cause worth dying for. 

CROWD:  Speak. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ...or let the maker take back your throat. 

CROWD:  March...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ...or let the creator rescind your feet. 

CROWD:  Dream...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ...or let your God destroy your good and fertile mind. 

CROWD:  This is our warning.  This, our birth right.  Do not let this universe regret us. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Poetry and politics, most people wouldn‘t say that those mix.  What‘s the deal here? 

GINA LORING, DECLARE YOURSELF:  Well, I think it is because spoken word is such a prominent movement right now in the age group that this campaign Declare Yourself is targeting, the 18-30-year-olds.  So, it was a way for us to be able to bring this message of being active in the Democratic system to our generation in that language that they would be able to receive.  And initially, our goal was to just get people out there and register, and now it is to make sure young people go and follow through and vote. 

REAGAN:  And you are? 

BEAU SIA, DECLARE YOURSELF:  Hi, my name is Beau Sia.  And I‘m from Oklahoma City. 

REAGAN:  Now, there seems to be a definite sort of multicultural aspect to this. 

SIA:  What? 

REAGAN:  You‘re talking to an Irishman here. 

SIA:  Yes, I think it is that America is composed of many people, and we‘ve always known that.  And we‘ve always considered American the melting pot, the one place where everybody can make and it everyone can live their own life.  And we‘re just trying to represent that. 

REAGAN:  All right.  In listening to you guys, there seems to be a thread running through this that voices are silenced sometimes.  You want people to feel empowered to speak out.  Can you explain a little about that? 

STEVE CONNELL, DECLARE YOURSELF:  Yes.  Well, whether through certain factors, whether they silence themselves or they feel silenced by others, people have taken themselves out of the Democratic process.  And we really feel that it can‘t truly be a government of the people and by the people if the people aren‘t involved.  And for that to happen, every citizen has to use their voice. 

REAGAN:  What sort of response have you been getting as you‘ve been traveling around doing this? 

SEKOU THE MISFIT, DECLARE YOURSELF:  The response has been phenomenal.  As you see, we just did rehearsals and performances.  And a new crowd gathered at each one.  We‘ve registered over a million people on our Web site, declareyourself.com. 

We did a college tour in the beginning.  Music festivals and film festivals and performances in the summer.  And now we‘re finishing here at Rockefeller Plaza.  And at each stop, we‘ve definitely touched and moved people that were, you know, some decided and undecided.  People say, I hadn‘t thought about it like that.  And I appreciate the power of poetry to actually do what the Declaration of Independence did, which is move people to recognize their need for participation. 

REAGAN:  Thank you very much.  It was a wonderful performance.  I enjoyed being here with you.  All right.  Take care. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Ron Reagan.  Thanks, Ron, for introducing us to Declare Yourself.  That groups going to be performing here at Rockefeller Center right through November 5.  We‘re coming back in an hour, but most importantly, make a note of this, we start election night right here at 6:00.  And I‘m going right through the night with no bathroom breaks, nothing, 12 hours.  Come back and see us in an hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

END   

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