Guests: Eugene Robinson, A.B. Stoddard, Ben Ginsburg, Craig Crawford
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tomorrow we vote on Iraq and Bush, on taxes and terrorism, on the Mark Foley scandal and the John Kerry joke, but most of all, the direction we‘re headed as a country. Will the answer be yes, or no, to accept this country‘s political leadership or to challenge it? Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, welcome to HARDBALL. I‘m Chris Matthews. The challenge, that‘s what the 2006 elections are, an historic challenge to the policies of George W. Bush. The Democrats are telling the American voter to choose them over the Republicans. They‘re telling us to reject the Bush war policy in Iraq, to reject President Bush himself.
The Republicans are warning voters to be aware of the Democrats, who they say will be weak on terror, strong on raising taxes. They say it‘s safer for the country to stay the course. Tonight, reporters on the ground with all the late breaking news on the biggest races and a very smart election panel, Andrea Mitchell, Eugene Robinson, Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.
HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is covering the Virginia Senate race in Richmond, where we begin tonight. David?
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, this race in Virginia is ending the way it started, at least the way the Democrats had started it, and that is it‘s a referendum on President Bush, on the Iraq war and also on one of the president‘s most reliable supporters in Congress, Senator George Allen.
Tonight, in Alexandria, the Democrats had a massive rally. Jim Webb, the Democratic challenger, was joined by President Clinton. Former President Clint taunted the Republicans as a group that can not do anything right, whether it‘s a response to hurricane Katrina or whether it‘s the management of the Iraq war.
President Clinton and Jim Webb have long been at odds with each other. It was only six years ago when Jim Webb was a forceful critic of the president. But tonight President Clinton said it was time for all Democrats of all stripes to come together because of the Iraq war and here‘s what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was personally thrilled when Jim Webb decided to run for the Senate. And I was—I was thinking something that he has often said, that after 9/11, we all had to let our former divisions go and join hand in hand to make our country what it ought to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: And that is what Democrats are hoping for, Democratic unity tomorrow. That very rally was in northern Virginia, Alexandria, that is an area where the Webb campaign says they have to turn out in very strong numbers. It‘s an area that has changed very much over the last six years, many more immigrants, many more Democrats in that area.
As for Republican incumbent George Allen, this area here in Richmond is an area that Allen is counting on doing very well, as well as southern parts of the state. Today, as he has in previous days, Allen focused very much on taxes, on border security. He also pushed a Virginia ballot initiative that would define traditional marriage. But Allen also walked around today with, sort of, an image that is very familiar to people for as long as they have known him and that is he carried a football.
George Allen, the son of the legendary Washington Redskins football coach. He was a quarterback in college. He made references to the gridiron, saying we are now in the two-minute drill, which is the reference to a late score. He acknowledged it will take a late score to win this election. This is not the position that George Allen thought he would ever be in just six months ago, when there was talk about him running for president. Now he‘s running simply to hold on to his seat and his campaign and the Webb campaign, Chris, are not very certain at all how this race is going to turn out, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, David, did he ever settle that Macaca issue?
SHUSTER: No, he never did settle the Macaca issue, in part because his own campaign acknowledged, Chris, that this video was replayed on Youtube something like 100,000 times. He never quite got away with it, not so much because of what he said initially, but by all accounts, even Republicans here in Richmond say that he botched the way it was handled, not only by saying Macaca, but then the way he handled the allegations about using the N word. Then when he appeared on “Meet The Press” and said he had never heard the term before, even though it was a term that was familiar to his mother growing up in that country in North Africa. So, time after time, even Republicans here in Virginia say it was poorly handled. He could never get away from that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You mean, David, he would have been better off if he had admitted using a racial slur?
SHUSTER: Chris, his own Republican supporters say that if he had apologized immediately, if he appeared with African-Americans or dark-skinned people the very next day, as opposed to waiting two weeks, two weeks for the story to percolate before there was the formal apology to that young man, two weeks before he started appearing with African-American groups. By that point Republicans say, Chris, he lost control of this story.
MATTHEWS: I have to disagree, David. It was a great report. But I have to interpret it this way, if he had admitted that he had learned that racial slur from his mother and had blamed it on her, it would have been worse for all of them.
Any way, thank you David Shuster. We now turn to the Tennessee Senate race between Democrat Harold Ford Jr. and Republican Bob Corker, which has also seen its share of negative, racist campaigning. NBC‘s Tom Costello is in Memphis, Tom.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, and I‘d say race is absolutely a component of this particular race, as well. In fact, you can say that this race in Tennessee is not as much over Iraq as it is over allegations of nasty campaigning. You mentioned the notion that one of the ads, launched by the Republicans, was, in facts, a racist slur.
In addition, notions of god and race relations and exactly who is your family and how deep the family roots run, it‘s all about Harold Ford, frankly, the 36-year-old, five-term Congressman, who is part of this political dynasty, the Ford political dynasty, based right here in Memphis. His father, of course, having been a Congressman and then, of course, he had an uncle serving in the state legislature. That uncle is right now under criminal indictment. In addition, he had an aunt who is also on the hot seat.
And so he has been trying to distance himself from those allegations and from that family trouble and trying to run this campaign against Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, who was himself a rather wealthy former businessman. And so while there is not a whole lot of daylight between these two on many positions, this issue has become really whether this state is ready to take this man, who has been part of this Ford dynasty and put him in one of the most powerful position, of course, from Tennessee, being in the U.S. Senate.
He would be the first African-American senator from the south since reconstruction. Or course, the rap against him is that he is not truly a native Tennessean, having spent most of his adult life, most of his formative years, in Washington, D.C., having grown up there, but this is where his family roots are. The polls, this is very interesting, the polls are all over the map. One poll has Corker up by 12 points, another one up by three points.
The Ford campaign tells me they believe it‘s a dead heat. But 40 percent, 40 percent of the electorate here has already voted. So the question is how did they vote? We won‘t know until they count all of the votes, of course, but presumably many of them voted when Harold Ford was up in the polls, as opposed to Corker up in the polls, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You know, Tom, it‘s amazing, we were just talking about the report—we just had a David Shuster report from Virginia, where George Allen Jr. is trying to get reelected Senator on his father‘s football skills, throwing a football around because his father once coached the Redskins and here you have Harold Ford Jr. getting blamed for what his father did. It‘s fair to say that Harold Ford Jr. is no more responsible for his father‘s misbehavior than George Allen is responsible for his father winning pro football games.
This is a bit Old Testament, isn‘t it, this coverage that we‘re getting here? We‘re focusing on the old man instead of the kid.
COSTELLO: Or more precisely, in this case, his uncle, who is in immediate legal jeopardy.
MATTHEWS: Right, that‘s the immediate problem.
COSTELLO: Yes, but you are absolutely right. Listen, in order for Ford to carry the state he has to carry all of the African-American vote, roughly 16.3 percent of the state, and 40 percent of the white vote in the state. He is generally viewed as a very likable guy and a very smart guy, but the question is at 36 years old is he ready for the U.S. Senate? And the other issue, of course, is does he yet have the experience in order to pull this off?
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much Tom Costello out there in Tennessee. Now let‘s bring in our panel, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson—I said this was a heavy weight group—MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum. Well, I‘m getting rough because I think there‘s a rough quality to this campaign. I mean I‘ve been watching politics since I was five-years-old, I think, and loving it and I haven‘t seen anything quite this awful.
We have a racial slur in this state that has been allowed to pass. We have got a campaign ad run against a candidate, a young man who is clean as a whistle, that suggests he‘s out doing the stuff you shouldn‘t be doing as a grown up. And yet it just gets by. We let it go by and we move on to another story. Let everybody else talk now.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: In fact, it was neck and neck, that race, Bob Corker, Harold Ford, until the day that that campaign ad came out. The “Harold, call me” ad. And despite it being disavowed by Bob Corker, the RNC, the Republicans didn‘t take it down. Ken Mehlman went on the air on MSNBC with Tim Russert and defended it.
MATTHEWS: He defended it. Tim Russert didn‘t defend it.
MITCHELL: No, no, no, no, Ken Mehlman said, first of all, that, well, even though the Republican National Committee sponsored it, he didn‘t know the content, number, and number two that he didn‘t see it as racial, that the people he talked to didn‘t see it as racial. There is no question in the mind of any honest analyst, looking at this in a bipartisan or a nonpartisan way, that that was a racial ad.
And now, when you were talking about families, it strikes me that Tennessee is a state of dynasties, Al Gore, Harold Baker, the Frist family. This is a state the produces very interesting politicians and politicians who come from families that are very well known. So Harold Ford has that going for him, but it really went all downhill for him ever since the day that ad ran.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE “WASHINGTON POST”: Is Tennessee ready to be the first southern state to elect a black senator since reconstruction? And I don‘t know that it is. It‘s very interesting.
MATTHEWS: So when is your newspaper going to get off Michael Steele‘s back in Maryland? I mean, if you are going to push African Americans for high office, you‘ve got a guy that‘s on the edge of winning it and your paper is whacking the guy.
ROBINSON: Not being a member of the editorial board, I can‘t really answer your question, Chris. However, Harold Ford, Michael Steele, two different—two different—very different candidates.
MATTHEWS: But still the problem of diversity, still the problem of a Senate that‘s largely a white institution.
ROBINSON: Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the “Washington Post” took this Macaca comment and put it on the front page about nine times and was—hammered it and hammered it and hammered it and hammered it. What‘s happening to Allen is he‘s being made the issue in Virginia and they made Harold Ford the issue in Tennessee. And Corker has run, what, 12,000 ad, most of them attacking Harold Ford.
And I think Corker is one of these guys who has made fit for Tennessee and he has raised all these doubts about Harold Ford down the line. I don‘t consider that thing so much a racial ad, as it was one attacking Ford. This isn‘t the guy he says he is. This isn‘t the church-going guy. This guy like Playboy parties. This is a guy who gets money form pornographers, undercutting him with that religious base. Look, if I were --
MITCHELL: He went to a Playboy party at a Super Bowl.
BUCHANAN: All right, if I went to a Playboy party, they would have used it on me night and day.
MATTHEWS: Wasn‘t the sainted Bill O‘Reilly at that event?
BUCHANAN: Well look, in the Republican party that would kill you, going to a playboy party, in a primary with religious right guys.
BOB SHRUM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Pat‘s doing the same thing Mehlman did. It was done on “Meet The Press” on Sunday by Elizabeth Dole, who defended the ad, said there was nothing racial about it and sounded like Borat making glorious Republican rationalization. But I‘ll tell you, I think it‘s had an impact beyond Tennessee. I think Michael Steele has run a pretty close race in Maryland. I think that ad is going to hurt him because I think that made national news and I think it helped African-Americans understand that the Republican outreach to them is phony. It only lasts until they need to take out the racial card and play it, which is exactly what happened in Tennessee.
MITCHELL: We should point out, though, Pat‘s right about one thing. At least internally the “Washington Post‘s” own ombudsman on Sunday wrote a column saying that the Macaca thing was overplayed by the “Post.”
ROBINSON: That‘s true.
BUCHANAN: Let me add though, Chris—
MATTHEWS: That doesn‘t mean it‘s right. I don‘t buy the “Washington Post” as the tablets from heaven. I mean, I thought the Macaca line was never explained adequately and I agree with Pat. I think you said the cover up was the problem, the fact that this was the case where the cover up was no worse or they‘re all bad.
SHRUM: If he had said I‘m sorry the next day and not said I don‘t know what the word means and all this other stuff, he would have been better off.
BUCHANAN: That ad down there in Tennessee was aimed to kill Harold Ford with the Christians and Evangelicals.
SHRUM: And the bigots too, Pat.
ROBINSON: And the bigots.
BUCHANAN: Well, you call them all bigots.
SHRUM: No, I didn‘t call them bigots. I said and the bigots. There are some Pat.
BUCHANAN: All right, let me ask you, why will Harold Ford get 100 percent of the African-American vote? They are voting on the issue of race. Lots of people do on both sides.
SHRUM: Actually, you know what, why will Michael Steele only get 15 percent of the African-American vote?
BUCHANAN: Because he is a Republican.
SHRUM: No, I‘ll tell you why, because he‘s not for an increase in the minimum wage. He‘s not for health care. He‘s not for investing in the schools where they send their children. They‘re voting their economic self interest.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is one of the few places in America where we‘re honestly discussing this. Everybody else skips past it like they‘re sidewalk surfing because they don‘t want to look at it.
We‘ll be right back with more from our panel and the latest on that nerve wracking Senate race in Missouri. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. For the latest on the dead heat Senate race in Missouri, between Republican incumbent Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill, we turn to NBC‘s Kevin Tibbles, who‘s out in St. Louis right now. Kevin?
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris. This thing is going down to the wire. You cannot say anyone is ahead of the other in this race, as you just mentioned, between Talent and McCaskill. Both candidates criss-crossed the state today and they‘re expected to do so again tomorrow. And really, it‘s been a dead heat ever since Democrat Claire McCaskill through her hat into the ring.
The last time around, when Jim Talent actually won this thing, he only won by about 20,000 votes. So this really is a toss-up here in the state of Missouri. And interestingly enough, it might not even really be the Senate race itself that makes the decision, because there is a ballot issue taking place here on stem cell research that the voters will also be voting on. That‘s also become a contentious issue and many people are suggesting that the stem cell research issue could essentially have some sort of effect on who wins the Senate race. Sorry, something going on behind me there.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry, Kevin, you know, it‘s interesting, I‘ve been hearing that that thing bounces both ways. It helps in the suburbs, among the more secular people, with regard to the people who want to get these diseases conquered, and also it backs the other way, with regard to very conservative people in the country.
TIBBLES: Well, you can look at it several ways. One is that the pro stem cell research people are also supported, of course, by Washington University, which is here, and then the Stowers Institute (ph), which is in Kansas City and also a very important research institute. They‘re the ones who are supporting the ads, for example, that have featured Michael J. Fox. So there is that side of it, because they want those research dollars to come into the state.
Obviously, if this thing doesn‘t pass, no one wants to invest a whole bunch of money on stem cell research or other kinds of research and then have the plug pulled a couple of years down the line. Now, when it comes down to the Senate race, of course, if you are perhaps for the stem cell research amendment, then you would perhaps be voting for McCaskill, the Democrat, because she supports it.
Now, if you happen to have been in church over the weekend and had your pastor or priest persuade you to go out and vote against thing, because they are against it, then perhaps you would be voting for the Republican Talent, because he has come out against it. So, that is how this one little issue may actually play a role in this vote tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much Kevin Tibbles. We‘re back with our panel. Boy, it seems more like the Shia and the Sunni in this country every day. NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and HARDBALL political analyst Bob Shrum. We talked about race in the two or three elections in Maryland, Virginia, and also in Tennessee, that may play a role.
Lets talk about health. That‘s playing a role in the Maryland race. It‘s also playing a role—it‘s clearly, as Kevin said, out there in Missouri. This isn‘t about sexual behavior. It‘s not about abortion. It‘s not about free living or loose living. It‘s about one thing, metaphysics. What do you think is the nature of a fertilized human egg? Is it life or isn‘t? How should it be treated and regarded? Pat Buchanan, this is a hot issue. It has to do with basic human belief.
BUCHANAN: Well, it‘s about whether or not this is a human being, which is—has been in-souled (ph), if you will, according to Catholic tradition and according to Protestant ministers. I‘ll tell you what, in this race, I think Chris, the pro-life side is making it a cloning issue. In other words, the cloning of human beings is what is allowed in this amendment and that is one of the things that‘s bringing out these folks. The problem with Talent is, it‘s on a political level, Talent is at 46, 46. If your Senator has not made the sale with his constituents by election day, usually the undecided fall toward the challenger. That‘s Talent‘s main problem in my judgment.
ROBINSON: At least, though, that‘s an issue there. There‘s a genuine issue there that people care about. What I find dis-spiriting about this whole campaign, you alluded to it in the intro, is that it‘s so intensely negative, Republicans trying to essentially scare voters that if you vote for Democrats they‘re going to raise your taxes and—
MATTHEWS: But that‘s a legitimate fear though, isn‘t it?
ROBINSON: Well, it‘s not, actually, but it‘s all scare tactics. And Democrats essentially are saying, we‘re not George Bush, therefore vote for us. And not really getting into really important issues that are going to define the next decades in this country.
MATTHEWS: Does that explain the hiccup in the voting this weekend, the polling this weekend? They realized, damn it, we have got to pick one of these two guys?
ROBINSON: It could.
MATTHEWS: Because they go, my god, I can‘t just say no to one crowd. I have to say yes to the other.
ROBINSON: There‘s not a hopeful, attractive vision of a great American future coming out of either party right now.
MITCHELL: Well, when you talk about stem cell research, also, this amendment is not a cloning amendment. This amendment basically says that people in Missouri can have the kind of research—
MATTHEWS: Does it legalize cloning, though?
MITCHELL: No, it does not, not according to the way I read it and the way most people read that amendment. And, in fact, when you look at stem cell research, we‘re not talking about fetuses here. That‘s not really what we‘re talking about.
BUCHANAN: Well, if it‘s embryonic, it‘s the only thing to which the Christians object. Adult stem cell research is no problem.
SHRUM: Pat, I asked you a question yesterday. I asked you a question yesterday.
MITCHELL: They are talking about stem cells that have already been—these are stored embryos that are not going to be used, that are already taken and are not going to be used. They are excess.
SHRUM: They‘re actually stored fertilized eggs in petri dishes. And I asked you yesterday, do you really think that instead of curing Alzheimer‘s, instead of dealing with some of these dread diseases, we should just throw these eggs out, which is what we do now?
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, look, on this issue that—if you‘re talking about human life, you have no right to destroy it and you certainly have no right to create it in order to farm human beings.
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s the line that most people accept, what you just said. I think Bob accepts it. We don‘t create life to destroy life, but life, once it exists, should it be put to a positive use or not, is the question. Thank you Andrea Mitchell, Eugene Robinson. The Harvard faculty has met, Pat Buchanan and Bob Shrum.
Up next, the latest from New Jersey, a Democratic Senate seat that Republicans are hoping to pick up. There‘s a line, a pickup line. You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The New Jersey Senate race is one place where Republicans were hoping to pick up a seat. But with the latest polls showing Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez now 10 points ahead of Tom Kean Jr., it maybe more of an uphill battle. MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle caught up with Senator Menendez today, Mike.
MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Chris, as with other race you‘ve been speaking about, the campaign for the Senate in New Jersey between Bob Menendez and Tom Kean Jr. has been a brutal campaign. We spent yesterday and today with both campaigns. Let‘s take a look at this.
BARNICLE (voice-over): Life is full of stereotypes, nowhere more so than in New Jersey. Take this year‘s Senate race, a killer campaign, negative ads waged by a famous New Jersey family. Not the Sopranos, the Keans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob Menendez, he‘s caught in this federal investigation. Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Menendez will consider that a favor.
BARNICLE: The negative ads aimed at two New Jerseys, urban and ethnic, comfortable commuters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dirt that has been thrown around by both political parties are crazy.
BARNICLE: Menendez, the son of immigrants, is from one Jersey, Union City. He went to Union Hill High School. Kean, son of a popular former governor, went to the Pingrey (ph) School. But this race isn‘t about class warfare, it‘s about the Iraq war. And Ellen Brennan is worried about her 17-year-old grandson.
ELLEN BRENNAN, NEW JERSEY VOTER: I have a grandson that‘s going to be going in the Army. There‘s a time and place for fighting, and I doubt if it‘s now.
BARNICLE: According to the latest MSNBC poll, the war is the number one issue for voters in New Jersey.
TOM KEAN JR., NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: Bob Menendez not only supports amnesty—
BARNICLE: But Tom Kean Jr. does not mention Iraq, even when he appeared at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall the other night.
(on camera): Why no mention of Iraq?
(voice-over): For a Republican the war is the third rail of New Jersey politics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will make you an appointment. I want to make this more accommodating for you. We can try and make an appointment for a sit down.
BARNICLE: But for Bob Menendez, it is his principle focus.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: He refuses to acknowledge that the war was a mistake, says he would have voted for it, largely supports its present prosecution. That is not within the main stream of New Jersey thought.
BARNICLE: And Iraq is a constant reality that has real New Jersey families anxious to vote.
I‘m Mike Barnicle for HARDBALL.
BARNICLE: We should note that we made repeated efforts to sit down for an interview with Senator Kean, but his campaign was simply unable to arrange it.
MATTHEWS: They won‘t talk at all about Iraq?
BARNICLE: No, they‘re steering clear of Iraq. It‘s the third rail of politics in New Jersey.
MATTHEWS: Great piece, thank you. I love the music. Up next, how did Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger win back the confidence of California voters? You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. To California now, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is ahead in the polls against his opponent California state treasurer Phil Angelides. NBC‘s George Lewis is joining us now from Los Angeles. George?
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, about a year ago, the pundits were beginning to write Arnold Schwarzenneger‘s political obituary. He was behind Angelides in the polls after he backed a series of partisan initiatives that absolutely flopped with the voters. And after that Schwarzenneger did something that is unheard of in politics these days, he said, I messed up. I was wrong.
And he made a hard turn to the center politically and started working with the Democrats, who control the state legislature. It goes against the idea of never admit you‘re wrong and never try to explain. The new Schwarzenneger backs stem cell research, an issue you were talking about earlier in the broadcast. He also favors a measure, that was written by Democrats, to increase the minimum wage here in California and to combat global warming.
So the new Schwarzenneger is a moderate and the voters here in California seem to like him. He has broad support in the polls. He gets a majority, a vast majority of the Republicans, obviously. He gets more than half of independent voters and about one in five Democrats. Phil Angelides tried to tie Schwarzenneger to President Bush, because President Bush is a very unpopular figure in this state, saying that Schwarzenneger‘s policies were Bush‘s policies. Well, the voters don‘t buy that. This see Schwarzenneger as staking out considerable differences with the president.
And because of Schwarzenneger‘s double-digit lead in the polls, he‘s had great success raising money. He‘s been able to spend about $42 million on the campaign here in California, versus the $19.5 million that Angelides has had in his war chest. And, unfortunately for Angelides, probably the most memorable moment in his campaign was when John Kerry was stumping for him in Pasadena and made that gaff about George Bush and the Iraq war, completely overshadowing the Angelides campaign here in California.
So it has been a run of bad luck for the Democrat and a good run of luck for Arnold Schwarzenneger, who, in typical style, went to his campaign headquarters in Long Beach today and helped man the phone banks for a while and then told his campaign workers, I‘ll be back. Chris?
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, great report, George Lewis. Let me turn to our panel right now, a new one. A.B. Stoddard of the “Hill” newspaper, which covers Capital Hill, former Bush/Cheney campaign counselor Ben Ginsburg, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle, who is now a reporter somewhere in New Jersey and Craig Crawford of the “Congressional Quarterly.”
Well, it reminds me of that comment—I want everybody‘s view on Arnold Schwarzenneger‘s come back, because it reminds me of a movie where they pass out the cards after the preview and people don‘t like the ending, so they change the movie. A.B.?
A.B. STODDARD, THE “HILL”: It is, really, one of the great, along with Senator Lieberman, one of the great come back stories in recent years. I mean I think that he didn‘t just beat up on Bush. He truly ran to the center and in California that‘s where he needed to be. And I actually didn‘t think it was going to work. I think it‘s amazing that it did.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, THE “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Bush might have to take some lessons from him on how to deal with Democrats after Tuesday.
MATTHEWS: A little later in the game this time though. Mike Barnicle, what do you think of a guy who basically learned that the best strategy in politics is to cut and run?
BARNICLE: You know, the funny thing is Steve Lopez of the “Los Angeles Times” had a terrific piece on Arnold, in a sense, this past Sunday and he did it from the place where Arnold gets his hair cut in Beverly Hills. And it was basically that Arnold looks like a winner, acts like a winner, hangs around with winners, no surprise, he is a winner.
CRAWFORD: And if just weren‘t for that darn constitution, we‘d be talking about --
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t we make a deal, he can run and Jennifer Granholm can run too.
BEN GINSBURG, FORMER BUSH/CHENEY CAMPAIGN COUNSELOR: One of the really interesting things is that it was top advisors from the Bush campaign who went out and helped him run this campaign. So it may be that there‘s sort of a model for the future.
MATTHEWS: You mean after the McCain people blew it?
GINSBURG: Including my son.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about the president‘s travel. This election is a lot about Iraq. It‘s a lot about the president. It‘s a sixth year election. It‘s the kind you usually itch or scratch yourself. You don‘t like the itch you feel after six years of a presidency. This president seems to be aware of where he‘s popular and where he is not. If you look at his travel schedule, Ben, it‘s largely in the west and in the Midwest. The only eastern stop he‘s made recently is in Pensacola, which I say proudly is Scarborough Country. So what do you make of his travel schedule? And What does it tell you about his popularity?
GINSBURG: Well, it tells you that he still believes he is very popular amongst the base. Of the congressional races that are in play, 55 of the 60, if you count on all the lists, were won by Bush, essentially, when he ran in 2004. He would have carried the district. So he is going to appeal to the base, because if the base voters turn out in those congressional districts, that gives Republicans the best shots for holding the seats.
MATTHEWS: But Mike, up in your part of the country, the northeast, the Republican party, which once shared power with the Democrats in the northeast—people can‘t even remember it now, but there was a time, when we were growing up, every state in the northeast had at least one Republican senator, mostly two in most case, all through New England Republicans, and they‘re about to die out, except for Maine, maybe.
BARNICLE: Oh, they‘re gone. I mean, Chris, in Massachusetts there used to be three or four Republicans, two or three Republicans. You‘re right, the Republican party was alive and well from Pennsylvania up through the northeast. It‘s completely gone. I would disagree with you, Ben, just a bit, on the president‘s travel plans. This war has had a searing effect on people from coast to coast. And the president of the United States is now down to campaigning in places like Fort Benning or Pensacola, Florida and that‘s about it.
GINSBURG: Where there are big military populations.
BARNICLE: Because of the war.
GINSBURG: Where there are big military populations and where the base is going to hear the message the loudest.
BARNICLE: Which base is that?
GINSBURG: The Republican base, the ones—It‘s going to be a home run, don‘t worry about it.
MATTHEWS: A.B. Stoddard you cover the Hill, Capital Hill. I‘ve been looking at the endangered species, the Republican party. Five in Pennsylvania where I come from, all three around Philadelphia, to another one, Sherwood, who has his own problems and Melissa Hart on the western part of the state. Up in Connecticut, you‘ve got three people, Simmons, Johnson and Shays, all endangered. If all those people go, I think it really is a change almost like the white south going Republican back in the 1960‘s.
STODDARD: But see—I mean, I too look at Ohio, I look at Pennsylvania, I look at New York, where there‘s so much pressure from the top of the ticket. It looks like they‘re going to get wiped out. Even if they do though, I think because Iraq so much defines this election, I don‘t know that it indicates some permanent realignment.
MATTHEWS: Suppose Iraq is permanent.
STODDARD: I just think that we have no idea what‘s going to happen in the next two years, even if it goes Democratic.
MATTHEWS: So you think it might be a short-term failure for the Republicans to defend a war that can‘t be supported politically? Craig, do you believe that?
CRAWFORD: I did want to get in the question of Bush‘s travel, because what I thought was so interesting today, particularly on that Florida trip, is we got a glimpse behind the scenes of this debate that has been raging beneath the surface within the Republican party, because we saw some griping on the Air Force One about Crist.
MATTHEWS: Explain that.
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, Karl Rove made a crack about the Republican candidate for governor in Florida, saying, you know, we‘ll see how many people he gets at his event. And this is going to be unusual, I think, to see—there‘s nothing like Republicans when they start gnawing on each other‘s limbs.
CRAWFORD: Well, Democrats do it all the time. That‘s the thing.
GINSBURG: I know, we don‘t know how to do it as well.
CRAWFORD: Republicans manage unity so well that when they‘re not united, everything falls apart.
MATTHEWS: Here is Charlie Crist, a very well-mannered guy, very gentile, soft spoken. I would have thought he would have greeted the president, which is the hospitable thing to do, when he came to Pensacola today. Instead, he didn‘t show up.
BARNICLE: I think that was phenomenal that that happened.
MATTHEWS: And he‘s the front runner. He‘s the leading candidate in the polls down there to replace Jeb Bush. He doesn‘t show up for his predecessor, and to some extent, his sponsor‘s brother.
CRAWFORD: And the president‘s staff didn‘t even try to put a happy face on it, no spin or anything. I mean they made it clear.
MATTHEWS: Ben Ginsburg, speaking for the defense, why didn‘t the president get greeted by the man he went to help?
GINSBURG: Because Charlie had other things to do in his race, come on.
MATTHEWS: Why did the president come, then?
GINSBURG: Because the president can still rally the base. Listen, it is very effective to have surrogates doing things like that.
CRAWFORD: He gave him so little notice of this. It was still in the printed schedule, that was given out to reporters, that the governor was going to be there.
GINSBURG: It deploys the resources better. You get the president up in the Pan Handle with traditional Republican voters, able to help them, while Charlie goes to other parts.
MATTHEWS: The panel is staying with us, even though the candidate for governor in Florida wasn‘t staying with the president today. When we return, the latest from Florida, where the Republican candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, as I just said, you know, this promo prompt has got to catch up to the level of conversation. It has just been snubbed. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Florida‘s Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist baled on a scheduled campaign event with President Bush today, leaving him with Katherine Harris to be greeted by. NBC‘s Mark Potter is in Hutchinson Island, Florida.
Mark, it wasn‘t supposed to be this way, was it? She was supposed to be in the back seat somewhere, where nobody noticed her, and Charlie Crist was supposed to be out front with a big glad hand and a smile and a shoe shine and he disappeared.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Actually, it was a big dust-up in Florida. She remained in the audience, by the way. She was there, but they wouldn‘t let her up on the stage. The plan was that Charlie Crist was actually going to introduce the president to that large crowd in Pensacola. In fact, they had even printed up a pamphlet that said so. He was right there on the marquis. But Crist announced that he would rather spend the day campaigning elsewhere in the state, which he did.
That, of course, angered the White House and particularly Karl Rove. Now, earlier tonight I spoke to a couple of staffers with Charlie Crist, including his chief of staff, who said that Crist had reasoned that he was doing well in Pensacola already and in the Pan Handle and that conservative part of the state, that distant edge of the state, that he didn‘t need to go there again, that he just needed to hit a lot of other cities on the eve of the election.
When I asked the chief of staff whether Crist was actually distancing himself from the president, the only answer that I got was that Crist decided that he needed to be in a lot of other cities and that he was glad the president came to Florida. No yes or no answer on that. His opponent, the Democrat Jim Davis, of course, pounced on that, saying the president is so unpopular that Charlie Crist would not stand with him, concluding with this line, he hit it out of the park, when the going gets tough, Charlie won‘t stand up. That was a line given to him.
The two people who seemed to rise above all this today in Pensacola were the president himself and the governor Jeb Bush. They both urged the crowd quite enthusiastically to vote for Charlie Crist. They also urged them to vote for Katherine Harris, but did not allow her to get up on the stage.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a quiet endorsement. Any way, thank you very much Mark Potter down in Florida. Let‘s go back to our panel. A fascinating story of the potential succession, again, on behalf of the White House, in its defense. Jeb Bush is loved down there. I know Jeb Bush. I was just don‘t there in that debate, moderating the debate. Jeb Bush comes into that debate as sort of like, you know, the heavyweight champion coming to watch a current battle, weighs in, cuts through the ropes. People love the guy. Is he going to run for president some day after this is all over?
GINSBURG: Boy I hope so. He is a terrific talent. He‘s got a great sort of philosophical approach to governance.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a lot deeper than George W., right?
GINSBURG: I‘m not getting into that. Jeb would be an excellent candidate some day.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘ll run after this is all passed? We seem to be in a revolving door of dynasties here.
GINSBURG: I hope that he does and I think that he could, yes.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s going to win the governor‘s race down there?
GINSBURG: Charlie Crist.
MATTHEWS: You‘re sure?
MATTHEWS: What do you think Craig.
CRAWFORD: I don‘t see why Jeb Bush couldn‘t be a running-mate option for 2008. I mean that‘s a possibility.
MATTHEWS: Well, the obvious reason, we‘re tired as hell of these people.
CRAWFORD: Well, as a running-mate though—
MATTHEWS: I mean, I think it we might be tired as hell with the other crowd too.
CRAWFORD: I think it‘s going to be fascinating to see how the Bush family weighs in in 2008, who they‘re going to get behind. I don‘t think they can give up the glory of being involved.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk a little bit—we‘ve got a little time here before the election to talk about the future, which we always love to do is leapfrog reality. You love this.
MATTHEWS: You know, it seems to me there‘s a graveyard out there, some people have really taken some real tough whacks. We have these cartoon characters running along the beach, but the four that have really taken whacks this season, John Kerry took a vicious whack from your party, the way they lied about what he said. It was powerfully successful lying, so I‘m not going to knock it completely, but you also have Mark Warner, who dropped out for whatever reason, it doesn‘t look good to drop out, because that means you can‘t win.
And then we have—who else fell out, George Allen, even if he gets by Jim Webb, isn‘t going to be jumping into this presidential election with any funds. And who else? Rick Santorum was on his way up to the top and he just—he is really not going to make it now. Craig, any other disasters out there? This has been a tough season for 2008 politics.
CRAWFORD: Well, I think Hillary Clinton has maybe learned some hard lessons about the war in this campaign and she might have, to at some point, acknowledge that she made a mistake.
MATTHEWS: Can a woman, this is the tricky gender politics here that she has to deal with, like it or not, change her mind? Can a woman change her mind in American politics without the Republicans killing her?
CRAWFORD: She is going to get hammered in every single presidential debate in the Democratic nomination campaign. She‘s going to get asked that question.
BARNICLE: Her biggest problem was in Memphis today with Harold Ford. It‘s Barack Obama
MATTHEWS: But you think she‘s going to make a run?
BARNICLE: If he does make a run, that puts her—that makes her very vulnerable, I would think.
MATTHEWS: A 50-yard pass is more exciting than a 20-yard pass. That‘s what I think too.
MATTHEWS: A.B., you‘re the woman up here. Once again, you sit here alone as the only female. Can a woman change her mind?
STODDARD: She absolutely can change her mind. But I want to make a point about the Republican side. It‘s been wiped out. I think John McCain retains a very strong position here, but there doesn‘t look like there‘s a future for Bill Frist in this race, no George Allen, no Rick Santorum. I don‘t think—I mean, I think that Romney needs to make a really big surprise, sudden showing to be a problem for John McCain. And you look over, you know, the House leadership is going to be wiped out of Republican leaders. It‘s a really interesting thing.
CRAWFORD: Republicans need to look at their governors. I think the Republicans need to look at the governors.
GINSBURG: The governors will come up very strong as Republicans move through. A number of the most attractive candidates are, in a lot of ways, the fact that 2008 is coming and it‘s a clean slate, there are no incumbents running, is helpful for the Republicans. That‘s sort of a bright new future.
MATTHEWS: Which governors are you talking about?
GINSBURG: Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: Of course, he looks good.
GINSBURG: Mike Huckabee.
MATTHEWS: Come on, give me a break.
GINSBURG: George Pataki, they will all run.
MATTHEWS: Give me a break, the only one that has a shot—
GINSBURG: Listen, there is a slice of the Republican party that absolutely will get behind a Mike Huckabee, Sam Brown.
GINSBURG: Anyone who‘s got the discipline to lose 110 pounds gets my vote.
GINSBURG: Anyone but John McCain.
BARNICLE: What about the really interesting equation, proposition, whatever, that the Democratic party, the future of the Democratic party might be in guys like Jim Webb and Harold Ford Jr. pulling this party back to the middle, back to the party that Chris‘ parents, my parents were a part of, and felt that the party left them in the 1970s?
GINSBURG: And interestingly, if Democrats do well in the House tomorrow night, a number of the Democrats who will be elected to the House will be much more conservative than Nancy Pelosi. And that internal conflict will be interesting to watch too.
CRAWFORD: Who is Nancy Pelosi? Have we seen her lately? Funny how she just disappeared.
GINSBURG: And so did Harry Reid and so did Howard Dean, for all intents and purposes.
MATTHEWS: Why do you like Nancy Pelosi so much?
GINSBURG: Because she is the genuine article and the face of the Democratic party and I like her for her genuiness.
CRAWFORD: But, you know, you‘ve got to give her points for cleverness. She made a command decision that she is unknown and she was going to stay that way in this campaign.
MATTHEWS: Let me suggest some winners this election. Mitt Romney wins because George Allen is in big trouble.
STODDARD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Because they were fighting for the Republican right and now there‘s only one real heavyweight out there heading for the Republican right, the Bush successor, if you will. The maverick succession is still a battle between McCain and maybe Giuliani. On the Democratic side Obama is the big winner because he gets perfect ink. He‘s become the flavor of the month.
At least Hillary has faded and every time we say Obama that means we like Hillary less, because why would we look—we be looking for a candidate if we had one? I think it‘s symptomatic and it‘s a problem. She‘s going to have to deal with it. Anyway, that was my view. Anyway, thank you A.B. Stoddard, thank you Ben Ginsburg, thank you Mike Barnicle, thank you Craig Crawford.
Let‘s take a thought here. Election eve is a fascinating time every year. Every two years the authority of the federal government reverts back to the people, if you think about it, to you and to me. For a brief period of late autumn daylight, that‘s tomorrow, the power to tax, to regulate, to wage war, to outlaw behavior, all the power of the government leaves Washington and heads back to the citizens, you and me. Then throughout the day each of us, individually, in that voting booth, and together as a country, decide with whom to invest that governmental power.
Do we give the Republicans another chance or the Democrats a shot? Do we give George W. Bush a vote of confidence or a boot in the back side? Something to think about between now and when you vote. Our prime time election coverage begins at 5:00 eastern tomorrow night and we‘re going all night as we cover the battle for control of Congress. “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe starts right now.
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