updated 11/1/2004 1:31:44 PM ET 2004-11-01T18:31:44

Guest: Jon Meacham, Craig Crawford, John Street, Ben Ginsberg

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

Good evening.  I‘m Chris MATTHEWS.  Welcome to a special pre-election edition of HARDBALL.   We‘re live from Democracy Plaza in New York‘s Rockefeller Center, world headquarters for NBC News.  This plaza has been transformed in a celebration of democracy, just two days before Americans vote.  Exhibits feature an election timeline, mockups of Air Force One and of the Oval Office.  Tonight, this presidential race is a statistical tie according to a NBC News “Wall Street Journal” poll that just came out tonight.  The race is - catch these numbers.  Bush 48, Kerry 47, Ralph Nader 1.  And according to our NBC News polling, 26 states are considered solid or leaning towards President Bush.  They comprise 222 electoral votes of the 270 needed to win.  15 states and the District of Columbia are considered solid or leaning toward Kerry and they are worth 207 electoral votes and nine states worth 109 electoral votes are still rated as tossups.  Tonight my panel joining me on stage here outdoors almost, MSNBC‘s political analyst Patrick Buchanan, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, “Newsweek‘s” Jon Meacham, he‘s an editor over there, and MSNBC‘s political analyst Craig Crawford.  Let‘s talk about this number.  I‘m looking at all the numbers.  We all have.  We could smother ourselves in numbers.  All the national polls are clearly within the margin of error.  What do you make of them, Andrea?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  I think the important thing now are the battle ground states.  And what we‘re seeing is a trend in a number of states that did go Democrat last time.  We‘re seeing that it is trending toward the president.  That is significant in a couple of places like Ohio and New Mexico.

MATTHEWS:  New Mexico, Iowa, Colorado—Colorado was red last time.  Pat, do you see anything in the tea leaves here?  Looking at all the numbers, the national numbers and the state totals, the match-ups in the battleground states, do you see anybody moving ahead?

PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I see the president of the United States.  I don‘t think there is a head to head poll if you have eight or 10 of them, Chris, that has Kerry ahead.  There might be three or four with ties and then you have a number - I think CBS came out with three points for the president.  “Newsweek” has him six points up.  Kerry has got to run the table.  If he loses Ohio, Chris, alone, I don‘t see how he wins the election.  The X factor here, what a lot of us have been talking about, intensity, youth turnout, cell phone folks, Internet people.  If that is there, that may be the way Kerry can roll the tide, but I think that‘s what he‘s got to do.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at some of the states that do matter like Iowa.  An MSNBC Night Ridder Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters in Iowa has President Bush he beating Senator Kerry by five points, 49-44.  In New Mexico, a Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters for the “Santa Fe New Mexican” newspaper and KOB television has President Bush with a four-point edge over Senator Kerry 49 to 45.  What do you make of these, Craig, when you look at these?  Let‘s go through them all.  Do you see a pattern whereby the president is beginning to close this down?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST:  No, I see a pattern of the president losing this race.  I owe you all dinner Wednesday night because I have disagreed with everything that has been said here.  These aren‘t leads.  These are ties.  These are statistical ties.

MATTHEWS:  Why does the president always seem to be on top of the tie?

CRAWFORD:  We have a president who is under 50 percent at 48 in a dead heat two days before the election.  I don‘t think presidents win dead heats when they are under 50 percent.

MITCHELL:  Craig, what you are seeing slight increase in the president‘s margins, if you look at the several day averages.  So you are seeing a trend line.  It is a statistical dead heat.  I‘m just talking about the trend line toward the president in a couple of these blue states.

CRAWFORD: But it‘s still—he is still under 50 percent in all these polls, and in the national poll, and I do—I do agree with Pat that there is a turnout happening for Democrats out there with not just cell phone users, but the money that is going into the streets of the Democratic Party to get that vote out.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about that in a minute.  Let me bring in John Meacham here.

CRAWFORD:  It mattered in 2000.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about this poll.  Jon, according to a - once again, to make it full, MSNBC‘s Knight-Ridder Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters in the state of Ohio, a state that everyone here agrees Kerry has to win, President Bush has a two-point edge over Senator Kerry 48-46.  In Pennsylvania, another state I really believe, I don‘t know if anybody else does - Pennsylvania, another must-win for Kerry, he‘s ahead by two.  What do you see here?

JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK:  I see—I think that president Bush—I thought all year long, there was perhaps a one or two-point secret Bush vote.  Sort of like Nixon always polled a little lower than he actually did on Election Day.  Because I think it‘s slightly unpopular to say you want to vote for a guy who is pretty clearly about shooting first and asking a lot of questions later.  But at the end of the day, people are going to want someone who is stronger and who is not going to get hung up asking a lot of questions and maybe not get around to shoot it.  I just think that that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  So you still believe there is a hidden Bush vote?

MEACHAM:  I do.

MATTHEWS:  You think there is a lot of hidden Kerry votes.

CRAWFORD:  I think there is an overwhelming hidden Democratic vote out there.  With the president in a dead heat, a wartime president, John Kerry deserves a lot of credit, even if he loses this race, that two days out he is holding this president to under 50 percent in a dead heat, a wartime president.

BUCHANAN:  You have to do the math.  Chris, you gave Bush New Mexico, you gave him Iowa.  That‘s minus 12 from the Democratic base.  Kerry starts with 261.  You have taken him down to 249.  Do you want to tell me where he gets the next 20, 30 electoral votes?

MATTHEWS:  Clearly has to win Ohio and New Hampshire.

BUCHANAN:  Does that do it?  Not if he loses New Mexico and Iowa, does he?

CRAWFORD:  Where does the president spend his day today?  He spent his day in Florida and Ohio, two states he won in 2000.

BUCHANAN:  If he gets those two, it‘s over.

CRAWFORD:  But it‘s turf that should be his.  It was his four years ago.  That‘s where this battle has been fought today.

MITCHELL:  I do think that there is a hidden Democratic vote.  I agree with Craig on that.  But I think that the conversation turned to terrorism on Friday with the Osama bin Laden tape, and that could have helped the president in the last 48 hours.  Because that is an issue that I think benefits the president more than John Kerry.  What you‘re seeing here is that people are not talking about the economy, they are not talking about social security, they are not talking about issues that John Kerry needed to mobilize the Democratic base.

CRAWFORD:  I think at the very minimum, it‘s a wash because this also shows that here‘s the man that ordered 9/11.  He‘s still alive and well.  I thought it was outrageous that the Bush campaign advisers were out telling reporters quoted in the “New York Daily News” Saturday, saying it was a gift to them.  How is finding the man who ordered 9/11 alive and well ready to do harm again a gift?  It may be a gift to their campaign.  That is not a gift to the country.

MATTHEWS:  Craig, you know that‘s what politically, it shifts attention—I‘m just doing the analysis here.  Politics is about topic selection.  If you‘re thinking about economics and it‘s the economy‘s bid, it helps the challengers.  In this case, the president says terrorism every three words.  He wants to talk about terrorism.  He doesn‘t want to talk about Iraq.  As Andrea said, this shifted attention at the end of the week before the election from the issue the Democrats were pounding him on, Iraq and incompetence in fighting the war they allege, to an issue in which there is a tremendous amount of rallying around the flag that‘s terrorism.

CRAWFORD:  I don‘t think we‘ve seen the numbers to the extent that that conclusion could be drawn clearly.

MEACHAM:  I think there are two numbers in the NBC poll.  49 percent say terror and social issues are more important.  39 percent say the health care and the economy, and of the people who say the tape affects them, it‘s 24-12 more likely.

MATTHEWS:  But 62 say it doesn‘t affect them at all.

MEACHAM:  In a race like this, that 12 percent is important.

MATTHEWS:  Craig, let me lean into Craig‘s direction here for one second?  The polls that just came out tonight, the NBC poll, we just got it around 6:00 tonight.  Once again, it doesn‘t look like the president can grab the country.  49 percent approve his conduct as president.  49 percent.  He just can‘t seem to break 50.  On the other question, should he be re-elected?  49.  It seems to me an extraordinary campaign because usually you really don‘t like the guy and you dump him out or you like him and you keep him.

CRAWFORD:  I talked to a car dealer in Pennsylvania one time.  He probably put it a way a lot of people feel.  Everybody hates Bush and nobody likes Kerry.  I think that‘s why this is a tied race.  Kerry also has a...

BUCHANAN:  The polling at CBS are taking it up to 50.  But “Newsweek” says 56 percent, Chris, of the country think we‘re going in the wrong direction, 40 percent in the right direction.  And Bush is leading by six points.  Kerry has failed to close the sale.

CRAWFORD:  I think when you pull within a dead heat with a war-time president, you are at the cash register.

MITCHELL:  We‘re not talking about the ground war.  It is going to depend on whether the Republicans have, in fact, matched the Democrats in their ability to turn out the voters.  Both sides are spending an extraordinary amount of money in trying to get people to the polls and get their targeted voters to the polls.

CRAWFORD:  In comparing the get out the vote operations, it is true, the Republicans are doing a lot more than they have ever before.  But when you go to their offices to get out the vote, it‘s mostly volunteers, people coming in for a couple of hours.  You go to the Democrats, they are paid.  They are paid to be there, they are working 12-15 hours a day and they have done it for years.

MITCHELL:  One other factor quickly.  The unions in Ohio have organized port-a-Johns because the lines are going to be so long and they are going to make sure they take care of their voters.

CRAWFORD:  That‘s thinking.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t just have to vote.  You have to stay in the line.  And that‘s changed.  It‘s going to be like South Africa voting their first time.  The panel is staying with us.  And when we return, we‘ll talk to Philadelphia Mayor John Street about the African American vote and the race in the key battle ground state of Pennsylvania.  You‘re watching HARDBALL live from Democracy Plaza on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Democracy Plaza.  Tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, join me and NBC‘s Tom Brokaw for a preview of Tuesday‘s election.  And later on in this hour in Tom Brokaw‘s interview, it‘s a pretty hot one with President Bush.  We‘re talking about Philadelphia Mayor John Street who introduced Bill Clinton at a Kerry rally in Philadelphia last Monday.  Mayor Street, thank you much for joining us from Philly.

JOHN STREET, PHILADELPHIA MAYOR:  I‘m delighted to be here.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have you here.  Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, what impact did Bill Clinton have when he showed up at Love Park last Monday?

STREET:  Well, I think former President Clinton is a huge favorite in our city.  He has the capacity to energize and motivate and get people all fired up and ready to go to the polls.  In our city, Bill Clinton has probably been the most popular elected official that‘s not from the city in our history.  He has just a huge, huge impact and really has gotten us off to a great start coming down the stretch.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor.  Let‘s talk turkey.  Let‘s talk Philly, which is a very distinct community.  I grew up there from Pennsylvania.  Sometimes I think Philly part of some other state.  It‘s a different part - you know what I‘m talking about.  I remember going to Redding once as a kid and thought I was in Colorado or somewhere.  Let me ask you this.  What kind of a majority do you need coming out of the city?

STREET:  We look to John Kerry about a 350,00-vote edge coming out of Philadelphia.  We gave Al Gore about 340,000.  On a clear day, we can do 300,000 plurality without a lot of effort.  This will be the biggest, most organized, most effective Election Day operation that I have ever seen in the history of this city.  We think we can give them 350,000 votes as a lead coming out of the city.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the operation.  Who is controlling the get out the vote campaign?  Is it city committee, the Democratic committee, the mayor‘s office, or the Kerry campaign?

STREET:  Well, it‘s divided into a number of different places.  As you know, I work very, very closely with the Democratic Party, and we will have probably in excess of 5,000 people that will be on polls and throughout the city.  I expect, however, that the amount of workers and party workers and volunteers and paid workers that the party has will probably be more than equaled by a number of other organizations that are also putting people on the street.  We will probably have 10,000, 15,000 people on the street on Election Day.  This will be the biggest and most effective Election Day operation I have ever seen.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk resources.  How much money are you getting to run this city operation, this get out the vote campaign?  Is it a couple million bucks?  How much money is being spread around by the campaign to win Philadelphia?  I heard you‘re aiming at higher an 350, but to get 350, that‘s an expensive proposition, that‘s a lot of street money, to use a term we‘re all familiar with, isn‘t it?

STREET:  That‘s an awful lot of money.  We will distribute—we have distributed to our party workers probably between—between $750,000 and $1 million, and that will probably be doubled or tripled by the other efforts that are going on.

MATTHEWS:  I heard it‘s at least $1 million.  Let me ask you this.  I‘m sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Mayor, your honor, but let‘s take a look at the latest poll we have.  According to an MSNBC/Knight Ridder Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania, Kerry is up by two.  Does that look right to you?

STREET:  No, that does not look right by me.  I think Kerry is up by probably four, five, maybe even six points at this moment.

MATTHEWS:  Let me bring in Andrea Mitchell who worked in Philadelphia many years and went to Penn, knows the city pretty well.  Maybe not as well as you do.  You know it better than anybody here.  Here is Andrea Mitchell, Mr. Mayor.

MITCHELL:  Mr. Mayor, when you talk about distributing this kind of money, what about the possibility of voter fraud?  Because the walking around money in Philadelphia is going to produce, I was told, about 100,000 votes of new registrants who are really duplicates, ghosts, people, how shall we say it, who might be voting from the graveyard.  What about that prospect?

STREET:  I really don‘t think so.  We—we are very, very careful in most of our wards and divisions to make sure that we get people out to the polls that are duly authorized and registered to vote.  We—fortunately for us with the voter registration edge that we have, we have over 900,000 registered Democrats to about 180,000, 190,000 registered Republicans.  We don‘t have to make up Democrats in order to have a huge turnout and to get a great Democratic victory.  There are more than enough registered party loyal Democrats for us to win this election in a huge way for Senator Kerry if we just go get the legitimate, regular, everyday Democrats to the polls.

The thing that we are concerned is the stated intentions of the Republican Party to suppress the vote in Philadelphia.  In my election last year, there were people who came from outside of the city, largely under Republican control, who did everything they could to suppress the vote by asking people for identification, by asking them for questions by kind of intimidating them, leading them to believe that bad things could happen if they go to the polls.  And we are very concerned about that and are geared up and prepared to fight any organized effort to intimidate our voters from coming to the polls.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thanks for making news on our show tonight, Mr. Mayor.  350,000 a majority coming out of the city.  That‘s 20,000 more than we brought out of the city back in 1960 for John Kennedy.  I remember all these numbers.  Johnson was 450,000.  Humphrey was about the same.  McGovern was 90,000.  You knew his goose was cooked.  Anyway, Mr. Mayor, good luck—I don‘t know if I should say good luck, but have a nice day on Tuesday.  The mayor of Philadelphia, John Street.  Up next, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster on the legal battles already happening in Florida.  Big surprise there.  You‘re watching “HARDBALL” live from Democracy Plaza only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We all remember here at Democracy Plaza.  Of course, four years ago, there were a lot of questions about our ability to carry out a democracy in this country.  Tremendous problems getting the vote count right in Florida.  Let‘s listen to David Shuster for an update on what might go wrong this time.  David?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Chris, so many people are afraid here in Florida about what might happen that the early voting here has simply been massive.  It has been so intense, especially here in Miami-Dade, which is Florida‘s largest county, that they are now expecting that before any ballots are cast on Election Day, 35 percent of all registered voters will have already cast ballots.  There you are seeing some pictures of Miami-Dade.

When you look across the state, officials believe that two million votes will be cast before the election.  And to put that in perspective, four years ago, six million ballots were cast in the 2000 election.  The biggest change from four years ago—as you can see people lining up there today casting early ballots at those touch screens.  The biggest change from four years ago is the punch card ballots, the chads, those are gone.  There will be no more hanging chads.  There will be no more confusion of people having to try to figure out voters‘ intentions in any sort of recall.  Some of the punch card ballots were replaced by optical scans.  But in the biggest counties, they were replaced by touch screens, touch screens that will not allow overvotes.  They will ask you if you want an undervote.  But again what they may do in a county like Miami-Dade, is it could prevent spoiled ballots.  Here in Miami-Dade they had 17,000 spoiled ballots because of undervotes or overvotes four years ago.

Now, regarding the legal challenges, and there is still a number of issues out there, Chris.  Broward County a week ago officials said that 58,000 absentee ballots had been mailed and possibly lost.  They blame the Postal Service.  The Postal Service blamed election officials.  Some of those ballots have turned up, but there are now legal lawsuits being filed over that, in part because absentee ballots are being mailed out too late to be returned to Florida by Tuesday at 7:00, which is the law.  In addition, nine lawsuits have been filed, including one against the Florida Secretary of State who said that voter registration forms that did not have the check mark saying that the voter was a U.S. citizen, those are gone.  And finally, Chris, there is a confusion over federal law.  Federal law says if somebody‘s name is not on a registration list and they show up at the polls, they must still be given a provisional ballot.  What happens to the provisional ballot, federal law doesn‘t say.  That will be up to the counties.  That could be a major headache on Wednesday if, in fact, this race is very close.  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  David, any chance that Patrick Buchanan will get some votes in Florida unintentionally this time?

SHUSTER:  No, he will not, but the butterfly ballot is another thing that‘s gone.  I think what, Pat got 3,000-some votes, five times as many as he was expecting in Palm Beach County.  That ballot is gone.  But interestingly enough, Chris, the woman who is in charge of the Palm Beach - of that butterfly ballot, she is also mixed in with the mess in Broward County as far as the missing absentee ballots.  This is not another good election for Theresa LaPore, who was mixed in with that mess four years ago.

MATTHEWS:  Typhoid Mary.  Anyway, thank you very much David Shuster.  MSNBC‘s political analyst Ben Ginsberg joins us.  He represented the Bush-Cheney campaign in the 2000 election during the Florida recount.  What‘s happening?  What‘s the hottest news on the recount problems already?

BEN GINSBERG, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, the hottest news is a lot of people voting.  That‘s good news.  But there have also been a slew of false registrations around the country, that‘s causing a lot of consternation.  I understand that in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Democrats are trying to stop challengers from exercising their right under the law to be in polling places tomorrow.  If challengers aren‘t there to observe the process, that can cause some doubt about the reliability of votes after they are tallied.

MATTHEWS:  Did you just hear the mayor of Philadelphia said he thought it was wrong for people to come in and ask for identification?  To me, I think the challenge is some people come in and ask for three or four ID cards and make it very hard to vote.  Is it wrong to ask for one ID card?

GINSBERG:  You and I need to show some ID when we get a library book out.  So ID in and of itself is not bad, but there is validation in the polling books and signing in.  And as long as people do that, they will be allowed to vote.

MATTHEWS:  Do some people try to stop people from voting these days by saying give me your ID, give me a passport, give me a school ID?  Do they make it difficult?

GINSBERG:  No.  Look, when you go into polling places these days, it‘s by local election officials, by and large volunteers who aren‘t partisan who follow the rules, but there are challenge procedures, laid it out in state law, to stop fraudulent registration from actually being voted.  That‘s why when the Democratic Party essentially has done all these massive new registrations, the Republicans have done massive registrations, you need some way to be able to check.

MATTHEWS:  How do you stop a party from voting somebody twice?  Now, I heard a story back 40-some years ago.  A guy was telling me recently he was working for the Democrats in the Kennedy Nixon campaign, and he was told as a kid to go around the houses and make sure who wasn‘t going to show up to vote that day so the party regulars could vote that person without them being there.  Does that stuff go on and how do you stop it?

GINSBERG:  Well, anecdotally it does go on.  The way you end up stopping it really is in contests afterwards when you can check who signed how many polling books.  One of the improvements of the law that went into effect in 2002 is statewide voter registration databases.  40 states got waivers.  It will be in effect for 2006.

MATTHEWS:  Will we get a clear result in this campaign—election night?

GINSBERG:  Oh, let‘s hope so.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re hopeful it can happen.

GINSBERG:  Yeah.  The provisional ballots put a wrinkle in the whole process.  No one is going to know how many provisional ballots have been cast, when states can be called.

MATTHEWS: OK.  Thanks a lot, Ben Ginsberg.

GINSBERG:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ll be working with us right through election night.  We have a great interview to give you tonight in the next segment.  It is going to be Tom Brokaw interviewing the President of the United States.  The last interview of the campaign.  It got pretty interesting at times. 

Let‘s watch this debate when we come back.  It was a really good interview.  It wasn‘t a debate, but it was like one for a while there.  We‘ll be right back (UNINTELLIGIBLE) MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Democracy Plaza.  NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw interviewed President Bush this morning in Miami.  Lets take a look at a bit of that interview. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  In the opening of his debate, Dick Cheney, your vice president, said if I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action for Iraq.  Even if you knew that there was no storage of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, even if you knew that the Republican Guard could fade into the North and the West with their weapons and mount a very effective insurgency against us, even if you knew that we didn‘t have enough troops to secure all the sites in Iraq necessary to be secured at the time, you would recommend exactly the same course of action. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, Tom, the bigger question is should we have removed Saddam Hussein in the first place? 

BROKAW:  But then it‘s what happens afterwards as well.

BUSH:  But that‘s easy to second-guess.  I have never known you to be a Monday morning quarterback like this.  I mean, of course we can look back and history can judge whether we could have done something differently.  But you asked me in the question of the context of really should we have removed Saddam Hussein in the first place?  And the answer is yes, sir, we should have. 

A leader must be steadfast and strong.  A leader must make decisions on principle.  Tactics change, strategies change, but principles should never change.  And I think the American people are going to decide which person, which human being has the capability of leading this nation forward into what I believe is going to be a hopeful 21st Century. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Tom Brokaw and I will be tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern right here, producing a special preview of Tuesday‘s elections.  It‘s always great to work with Tom.  We have done a couple of these specials before.  A half-hour special tomorrow night at 9:00. 

Looking at this election and thinking about its place in history is what we‘re really going to try to do. 

Andrea, that was a tough exchange there.  And I was surprised the president was sort of shot there, because it is an election time.  It is time to ask the questions about major policy decisions you make in a presidency. 

MITCHELL:  But in the debates and in all of the interviews he‘s done and again tonight with Tom, he will not look back.  He will not permit anyone to second-guess his decisions in Iraq.  He‘s absolutely steadfast about that.  Now, some people like it.  The Bush base obviously likes that, but there is a large group of voters out there who want some answers about the way...

MATTHEWS:  The president is wrong there.  Because an election period is the time to judge the achievements of the administration, whether it‘s putting people back to work.  No, really, it‘s time to judge policy.  If you don‘t judge an election day Monday morning. 

By the way, Monday morning is when you decide who to put in as quarterback next week.  It is the time to make these decisions. 

CRAWFORD:  Among women in particular.  I have gone to a couple focus groups where women volunteer this, even women who support the president volunteer it as a problem they have with him, that he doesn‘t—it‘s like how they get mad when men don‘t want to ask directions when they get lost.  They have the same problem with their husbands, I think. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, he had 3 or 4 hypotheticals thrown right in the president‘s face.  And I thought he was very tough.  And when he says I will tell you that might hurt with some moms, I will tell you.  But there is a lot of guys out there saying give it to him.  It‘s the Dan Rather thing, brother. 

CRAWFORD:  Men do like it, but women are critical in this race.  And I think it hurts him among women, this attitude that he can‘t be asked questions. 

BUCHANAN:  But you‘re a Monday morning quarterback. 

MEACHAM:  Look, he‘s made his bet on strengths.  He‘s not going to start on Sunday saying oh, by the way, yes.  He‘s not F.D.R.  F.D.R. said try something, if something fails, admit it frankly and try another. 

CRAWFORD:  This is the dark side of the flip-flopping stuff, too.  Because he‘s made such a case of flip-flopping against Kerry, he then cannot make any adjustments in his own stand. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, there‘s a difference between what used his psychological (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  This is now, obviously, part of his moral foundation, his leadership is to not go back and rethink and reconsider.  But the voters have a different role.  The voters have to reconsider whether it was right to go to Iraq.  That‘s why I think the debate got going there. 

BUCHANAN:  They want certitude, or they want some guy meandering around, saying gee, maybe we did this wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat, you never said to Shelly, you never said the following

·         you‘re right, I‘m wrong, I won‘t do it again?  Don‘t you know those words? 

BUCHANAN:  Not on the eve of an election.  You go right out...

MITCHELL:  This is part of the White House strategy.  The White House strategy is to be I as commander in chief and you, John Kerry, are not.  And I am not going to second-guess myself. 

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s fair.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But the voters have to be Monday morning quarterbacks. 

CRAWFORD:  It‘s coming across as stubborn, just plain stubborn to a lot of voters. 

MEACHAM:  All that‘s true.  But that‘s the reason this is not an ordinary wartime election, he is not an ordinary wartime incumbent, is because of this refusal to look at what happened and talk about it in a nuanced way.  I‘m sorry, we‘re not supposed to be supporters.

MATTHEWS: By the way, when has the president in history, good, bad, smart, stupid, great, not great, ever said I was wrong.  Did he ever say in 1968 when he had to retire, I shouldn‘t have had the Vietnam build up in 1965? 

MEACHAM:  The closest we have come is, mistakes were made, the passive voice, with President Reagan...

BUCHANAN:  President Reagan, mistakes were made. 

MEACHAM:  That was the pronounless apology, mistakes were made. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we‘re asking him to do something that people in leadership don‘t do, which is to say I was wrong. 

BUCHANAN:  Nixon said I was wrong for Watergate.  But it was after he left office.  He apologized.  For a long time, we wish we had never said it. 

MITCHELL:  And Ronald Reagan never acknowledged, he said in my heart, I didn‘t think we were trading weapons for hostages, but they tell me that I did. 

CRAWFORD:  I think it‘s because of this that presidents do get in trouble for re-elections sometimes. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, a really good speechwriter, Landon Parvman (ph), to find those words for the president, which several months later he once again rejected. 

It was always hard to eat crow when you‘re president.  Much more with the panel down in the homestretch in the presidential campaign when we come back.

And coming up at the top of the hour, join NBC‘s Katie Couric working night times for Decision 2004 special on what‘s at stake in this election.  We‘re coming right back from Democracy Plaza on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Democracy Plaza.  We‘re back with the panel.  Let‘s talk about—Patrick, I think and I are the co-religionists (ph) here.  But this is really interesting, every ethnic group and every religious group has to have fights over politics.  And I understand that the Roman Catholics, and we‘re 25 percent of the electorate, whose an extremely large minority, we‘re not even a minority any more.  It‘s never been considered a block.  Do you think it‘s a block?

BUCHANAN:  It was a block, but it‘s not anymore.  Under Jack Kennedy when he got 78 percent to Nixon‘s 22 percent, it certainly was—and we got 33 percent with Nixon in 1968.  And then in 1972, when McGovern was the candidate of the counterculture, Nixon got 55 percent. 

But the Catholic vote, Chris, today is just like America in my judgment, there are divisions, traditionalists and modernists, if you will, but it votes like the country.  And the change is, it is more and more a Hispanic vote and less and less Eastern European, Irish, Polish, and Italian. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  They always call them White Catholics, which means Anglo Catholics.  I mean it is a hard one to distinguish, because—here we go, Bush 46 percent, Kerry 49 percent.  Do you think that‘s right?

BUCHANAN:  If Bush gets those kind of votes among Catholics, that‘s a traditional Democratic constituency. 

MEACHAM:  See, I think you‘re wrong, Pat.  What was the last time?  50 percent for Gore, 47 percent for Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  50...

MEACHAM:  50-47. 

MATTHEWS:  50-47.  So, almost exactly the same? 

CRAWFORD:  The one difference here, he does not have Bernard Law out there working the Catholic—the bishops for him.  The Cardinal obviously gone from the political scene. 

MATTHEWS:  But there are quite a number of Roman Catholic bishops who have been very actively saying look, I hear the Church.  It‘s there.  You hear the message. 

BUCHANAN:  I think Reagan brought a lot of them, Catholics over into the Republican Party.  And frankly, the rise of the counterculture and its success in states like California has driven a lot of these folks...

MATTHEWS:  But why is it the same as 4 years ago? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I don‘t know exactly why it is.  Maybe it is...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  They are not as organized, I‘m serious, because of Bernard Law.  He rallied the bishops to endorse Bush.  First time I believe they had ever done that. 

MEACHAM:  But you know what...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  They have met in Washington, and they turned over the mailing list of the entire Catholic Church. 

MEACHAM:  But don‘t you think—if you know American Catholicism, having the bishops‘ endorsement is probably the worst thing that can happen, because American Catholics are very rebellious.  They dislike...

MATTHEWS:  They are very American. 

MEACHAM:  They are very American. 

BUCHANAN:  But 50 years ago, if you get Cardinal Spellman that endorsed somebody, it would have meant something. 

MEACHAM:  50 years ago. 

BUCHANAN:  It doesn‘t mean what it used to mean. 

MITCHELL:  The Macomb County Democrats.  This is a working class labor vote.  Also a vote that is concerned about cultural issues. 

In Missouri, we saw that enormous 70 percent vote against gay marriage.  This gay issue could also be having an effect. 

MEACHAM:  Exactly.  You have so many American Catholics who disagree with the Vatican on basically the bedroom issues, and yet go to church, receive mass. 

BUCHANAN:  You take gay marriage, I tell you, they are right there with the hierarchy.  The may—on abortion, there is no doubt about it., some of them have peeled off.  On gay marriage, I get you—I bet you get far higher. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a real tricky, a real political question.  Because none of us are qualified to talk theological, moral issues.  If you want to do it, Pat, go ahead.  But I don‘t want to do it right now.  I‘m a layman.  I‘m not going to make these arguments. 

Is it possible, because of the bishop‘s letters that have been sent around the country to every Catholic who attends mass, that basically says you can‘t vote for a person because they are pro-choice.  You can vote for them if you happen to be, or you happen to be, but not for that issue.  Maybe that‘s a fine point, a Jesuitical kind of argument.  But do you think that in itself can cause enough Catholics to vote? 

My uncle, Uncle Charlie, is so funny.  He said this year you can‘t even vote the lesser of two evils, the Church won‘t let you.  So, I mean, that was such a funny line.  The fact is, do you think it‘s moved the vote enough to help the president win re-election? 

BUCHANAN:  Look, I have talked to a friend in Ohio.  He said they have right to life ads.  They are pumping them in.  They are very hard-line.  The president stays away from the issue.  There are some Catholics for whom that is the voting issue, Chris.  But I think the president has already got them and Kerry has already lost them. 

MEACHAM:  There is a key distinction here, too, between Catholic, Church-going Catholics and people who just identify as Catholics. 

BUCHANAN:  Cafeteria Catholics, right. 

MEACHAM:  61 percent of churchgoers are going to vote for Bush. 

MITCHELL:  Chris, the counter argument is—the opposite side of the case is the women, the suburban moms, and the other women who care about...

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you.  I had a conversation with a priest.  We had just come out of Church.  We were informed to read the bishop‘s letter and everything, very formally.  And I chatted with the priest.  He is a great, wonderful guy, a wonderful priest.  I said what do you think this parish will do, about 50-50?  You know the parish very well.  He said yes, about 50-50. 

So, they are realists.  And even though their job is to teach moral authority of the church and to teach what‘s right and wrong, they recognize that in a pluralistic society, people are going to vote their way.  It‘s not going to come from the pulpit. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, down at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mass downtown, there are no Kerry voters downtown, zero. 

MATTHEWS:  Which way does the priest face during that mass? 

BUCHANAN:  It faces directly to the altar, the way you should. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back—this is a very peculiar thing.  We‘re going to talk to the crowd here at Democracy Boulevard when we come back.  And don‘t forget, follow the final moves of this campaign on “Hardblogger,” out election blog Web site.  Just go to hardball.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to Democracy Plaza.  What are these faces?  Notice the teeth.  Scary, I actually have teeth.  Where‘s the teeth in these things?  Hide those things.  Let me—what‘s the dog‘s name? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gimbo. 

MATTHEWS:  I feel Al Roker out here, but it is fun. 

Let‘s start here.  We‘re going to do what we do at colleges every where we go.  We‘re going to ask people to be Americans, and they‘re going to have a lot of fun.

You are an American? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are you voting for? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m voting for George Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m voting for George Bush, because I believe that America has many, many years of success ahead of them.  And at the same time I feel that John Kerry has had 20 years to prove to America in the Senate, you know, what he‘s done, and in my opinion he‘s done nothing to benefit America.  And at the same time, I feel that at this time of security, this crucial time for America, I feel that George Bush is the person to choose. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.

Let‘s go to the next person.  Oh, you‘re hiding, you‘re hiding.  We have a woman from England.  What do you people think of the president of the United States and the challenger from England?  Are you free to speak?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Certainly, I don‘t think Bush should get back in. 

MATTHEWS:  What about Tony Blair?  I think the same deal. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  T-bone they call him here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We call them a plonker. 

MATTHEWS:  A what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A plonker.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, Jesus.  Something lost in the translation there. 

I want to ask you, sir—I‘m sorry, madam, no, I guess I better not. 

Who are you going to vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I‘m actually too young to vote.  I‘m a student reporter if Scholastic News, so I‘m covering the election.  So, I‘m actually here from California on a special assignment with them. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, great.  Congratulations.

Sir, who are you voting for? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I think bush has been terrible in the war on terrorism.  I think that America is not safer because of him.  I think they can bring in nuclear weapons on container ships and they‘re spending billions and billions dollar on star wars for what?  And I just think Kerry can do a better job at prioritizing and brining in the resource that we need to fight the war on terror. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a very articulate group.  Let me go to someone else here.  Who wants to talk.

Sir, who are you voting for and way? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, Why?  Because...

MATTHEWS:  You speak German.  I want to know why you speak German.  I was trying to catch there and I think I caught one.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Just kidding.

Why are you voting for Kerry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I think he would handle the war on Iraq much better.  He would work with other countries and we wouldn‘t be going out on our own. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s mix it his up.  I‘ve got two Kerrys, one Bush. 

Next Bush. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush is, what you see is what you get.  He speaks out of his heart.  He deserves another 4 more years.  Go George W.

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s 2 for 2.  Anybody else for Bush? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No way. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s this, a caucus over here?  You? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.  Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Kerry? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, right. 

MATTHEWS:  You made it sound like he has a hope.  Why are you so ecstatically for Kerry? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I think he‘s right for our country.  We‘re tired of Bush and how he is...

MATTHEWS:  Tired.  Where are you from? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Michigan. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought I heard John Dingle talking. 

You know John Dingle, don‘t you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a big congressman for you.  Here‘s a little tired. 

Only you can prevent forest fires. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  I think Smoky the Bear is from Michigan. 

Who are you for and why? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m from John Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a voter? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not yet, but in a few years. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s a voter?  Are you a voter, sir? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m a voter.  I‘m a voter.  Definitely Kerry. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me see.  Who are you for? 

CROWD:  Kerry!

MATTHEWS:  Kerrys.  Let‘s go.

Who are you for?  Who are you for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m not old enough to vote yet. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not old enough to vote?  We need...

You had your say. 

Here we go, over here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Chicago practicing Catholic for Bush. 

Practicing Catholic from the Midwest for Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  But why? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because John Kerry is a disingenuous liar. 

MATTHEWS:  I heard the same sermon.

Anyway, congratulations for speaking.  Is this a great country? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is a great country. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I want to thank the panel: Andrea Mitchell, John Meacham, Craig Crawford and Pat Buchanan. 

Happy Halloween everybody.  Happy Halloween everybody.

I‘m looking at this.  Oh, no.  Oh, no.  This guy.

Hey Pat, that‘s a good makeup job. 

Finally tonight, we‘re going to take a look at the horserace.  Here‘s the track announcer Tom Durkin who calls the Triple Crown for NBC Sports.  Let‘s listen up. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM DURKIN, NBC SPORTSCASTER (voice-over):  And they‘re off in the presidential horse race.  Kerry comes out of the debate first in Boston.  A little awkward at the break.  A stumble beginning for Kerry.  Here‘s Bush who comes out of the convention like a thoroughbred. 

Bush gets a bump.  Bush gets a bump and opens up by eight points.  Kerry reeling.  Bush breezing along in front.  But there‘s still a long way to go in this race. 

It‘s the first debate, and Kerry comes fighting back.  Bush scowls, Kerry gains lost ground.  And now they‘re head-to-head and the race is on. 

On to the second debate.  Bush hangs tough, Kerry keeps the pressure on.  It‘s still neck and neck with more than 2 months to go.  But hold on, hold on.  There‘s a third candidate in this horse race.  Yes, it‘s, it‘s long shot Ralph Nader, but he‘s hopelessly behind 47 points off the dueling leaders. 

One more debate remains.  Kerry fires away.  Bush relaxes.  It‘s still dead tight. 

And now they‘re letting out all stops.  The president and the challenger in an all-out duel.  It‘s a sprint in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, they‘re all for grabs.  They‘re coming to the finish, nose-to-nose in the final stretch.  Kerry and Bush, Bush and Kerry, a pitched political battle.  Here‘s the finish.  It‘s, it‘s, it‘s—too close to call!  What a horserace. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  William Tell‘s Overture.  Wasn‘t that great?  By Rossini (ph), stolen by “The Loan Ranger.”

Anyway, let‘s go to this spot.  See how he‘s voting.  Let‘s get the last vote of the night. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry all the way.  Stem cell research.  And I have a question for you. 

Thank you very much.  It will be decided on Tuesday, it‘s was going to go right now—that was Tom Durkin, of course.  Join us at 7:00 Eastern tomorrow night.  It‘s going to be a big HARDBALL night.

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

END   

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