Guests: Michelle Bernard, Julia Boorstin, Chuck Todd, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Jack Reed, Joan Walsh, Charlie Cook
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I‘m Chris Matthews, and welcome to HARDBALL. Tonight, the Senate will vote on the economic bail-out, or as it‘s called now, its rescue plan.
Right now, we‘re joined by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. We‘ll go with seniority first.
Senator Hatch, are you ready to vote for the bail-out? It‘s now being called a rescue plan.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), FINANCE COMMITTEE: Well, I‘ve looked at the plan, and I think there a lot of good factors in there, including the Senate extenders bill, which will get rid of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax, for 23,000 -- 23 million American citizens, and of course, all kinds of financial incentives in there to spur on business. Just the solar and wind tax credits in that bill will amount to about 116,000 jobs. So I‘m going to vote for it because I think we have to.
I think that, frankly—frankly, this is a much-improved bill. Increasing the FDIC rate from 100,000 to $250,000 is a very helpful thing, and there are a number of other changes that I think are going to be beneficial for America. But we‘ve got to do this because otherwise, there are no answers to the problem that we‘re—we‘re in a freefall on. And so I think most people in the Senate should vote for this.
MATTHEWS: Senator Reed, let me ask you, do you agree with Senator Obama, who just spoke on the floor, that this is a necessary but not sufficient plan to save the economy right now—not sufficient, something else has to be done later?
HATCH: Well, I would not—I would not cast it that way...
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI), BANKING COMMITTEE: Absolutely.
HATCH: Oh, I thought you were talking to me. I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS: No, Senator Reed. I‘m sorry.
HATCH: Oh, I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry.
REED: No, I absolutely agree with Senator Obama. This is the first step, but it‘s not the last step. One aspect we have to consider is regulatory reform to prevent the situation that occurred over the last several months and years on Wall Street to occur again. That‘s one step.
But we do have to make a strong commitment to families, dealing more aggressively with the foreclosure issue, investing in families, as he discussed. We have to do things like extend unemployment compensation because there are a lot of people out there that are hurting. So there‘s much more we can do to move resources and increase the opportunities of working Americans, not simply respond to this great financial crisis.
MATTHEWS: Senator Reed, who‘s the leader of the country right now? America? Who‘s our leader right now? In going to the rescue of our economy, who‘s leading this fight? Is it the president? Who‘s the leader of the country? I‘m serious about this right now because I don‘t know.
REED: Well, the leadership of the country is one issue that is going to be debated over the next several weeks. I think, frankly, and this is not just unique to this administration, that in the waning days of any administration, you‘re looking ahead. But one of the things that was, I think, very characteristic of this approach was that Secretary Paulson seemed to be the spokesperson for the administration. I think the president spoke, but frankly, not with the authority and not with the decisiveness was sufficient at least to persuade the House Republicans to support this measure and pass it.
But I don‘t think we can just discuss leadership at this point. We have to get this bill passed.
REED: We have to provide the next administration with the tools to get the job done.
MATTHEWS: I want to put the same question to you, Senator Hatch. Who‘s leading our country right now? I‘ve never seen it so hard—and I‘ve studied it, and you‘ve been a leader. I‘ve just been studying it for all those years. It seems hard to figure out who‘s in charge. Is it Pelosi? Is it the president? Is it Paulson? Is it Senator Reid? Is it Senator Mitch McConnell? Who‘s the boss?
HATCH: It‘s all of the above. I have to say that the president has given some very good talks on this, has made some very good suggestions. Secretary Paulson has been a major leader here. We all know that he has the capacity and the ability to work with these situations and this legislation, should we pass it.
HATCH: And I have to give credit to both leaders in the House, both leaders in the Senate, who have been pushing and shoving and working on this. And last but not least, you know, the people who negotiated this bill, especially Barney Frank...
HATCH: ... Chris Dodd, and from our standpoint, Judd Gregg has done a terrific job on this. And there are a lot of people that have worked on this, but I think all of those people deserve credit if we can pass this bill tonight.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Senator Reed on the question of procedure. Why do you need 60 votes? Was there really a United States senator out there who was willing to filibuster this bill, this rescue bill?
REED: Well, I hope there was not one, but I think...
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you need 60 votes? Why are we in this syndrome that you need 60 votes to pass something that everybody says is a necessary condition to save the country‘s economy?
REED: I think we‘re in this syndrome because we‘ve had so many filibusters over the course of the last several years. I think the reflexive reaction of the leadership was, Well, let‘s not get into a procedural fight about whether we need a cloture vote, then a subden (ph) vote. Let‘s just go right to the subden (ph) vote. I hope the vote tonight will bear out what you say, Chris, which is more than 60 -- far more than 60 -- senators will support this package.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you both about this. Senator Hatch mentioned the FDIC extension of the cap of the $250,000. Is that important to you as a Democrat, Senator Reed?
REED: Well, I think it‘s important to me because what it will do is help community banks across the country. And I think what we‘ve seen, what the FDIC is reporting, is that there is a deposit outflow from some of these banks. I think this provision to increase insurance will provide more confidence to local small banks, community banks. And again, the emphasis here has to be not just on the financial market and Wall Street and across the globe, but it has to be across the country, into the Main Streets of America.
HATCH: Well, the purpose of...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask Senator Hatch about the economy. I heard Jack Welch on our program this morning, on “MORNING JOE,” say that he believes we‘re heading into a very bad recession in the fourth quarter of this year, what they call negative growth. In other words, the economy is shrinking. Is that going to be something we have to face, even if the Senate does act tonight?
HATCH: Well, first of all, the FDIC $250,000 is to protect all the individuals out there who have money in those banks.
HATCH: But it also helps the banks, as Jack has said. With regard to your question—I forgot it already.
HATCH: It was...
MATTHEWS: No, the recession. Are we facing a recession, sir?
HATCH: Well, let‘s put it this way. If we pass this bill—and I think one reason why they‘ve set the 60 votes isn‘t because anybody‘s going to filibuster it, I think it‘s because they want a substantial vote out of the Senate so that the House then will pass it in the House.
But you know, I think—you know, I personally believe that we‘re going to have a really rough time over the next while as we try and sift through all these things. Let‘s face it, we don‘t even know how many derivatives there are out there.
HATCH: And that‘s really a very, very big problem in the financial world. And frankly, this is the first step in trying to take care of all these problems, and it‘s just a first step. I think we‘ve got to do a number of things that will stabilize our country, protect our citizens, especially Joe Six-pack and everybody else who‘s worried about losing their homes and worried about losing their jobs and worried about job creation in this country.
MATTHEWS: Senator Reed, when you‘re back in Rhode Island and you try to explain this to people, Joe Six-pack, whoever, that‘s a regular person, how do you explain it, how we got in this mess? We have—the government has to commit $700 billion to back up these financial institutions and the bad deals they‘ve made?
REED: The crisis right now is in the credit markets. If the credit markets seize up, if banks won‘t lend, then that translates into higher interest rates on credit cards. It translates into fewer auto sales because you can‘t get a car loan, translates into difficulty of sending children to school because you can‘t get a Stafford loan at a reasonable rate. All of these things impact directly on families, and that‘s the reason why we‘re acting.
Wall Street might have started the crisis, but it‘s spread, and it‘ll affect every American. It‘ll affect unemployment. It‘ll affect a whole host of issues.
And I agree with Orrin. I think this is a first step, a necessary step, but we have to do much more to help people who are struggling in their homes across the country. We just can‘t stop at this juncture.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Democrat, thank you for joining us.
REED: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah.
Gentlemen, thank you very much.
We will be back with more HARDBALL right after this.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Time for the “Sideshow.”
Seasons change. Political parties win, lose, get the job done. Get their butts kicked. What never changes is the need to fasten blame on the shoulders of the other political party.
Here‘s late-night television on the recent back and forth over the bailout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: Nancy Pelosi did it.
COLBERT: Her partisan speech made Republicans vote against what they thought was in the best interests of the country.
COLBERT: How dare you? Oh.
COLBERT: Oh. I‘m sorry. I just—I have no choice.
COLBERT: “Dear Iran, Nancy Pelosi made so—me so angry...”
COLBERT: .... “here are our nuclear launch codes.”
COLBERT: And send.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: Well, Republicans are blaming Nancy Pelosi for the bailout not going through. Democrats are blaming it on an incomplete proposal by the Republicans. John McCain is blaming Barack Obama, Barack Obama blaming John McCain. And Sarah Palin is praying nobody asks her what‘s going on.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LENO: What‘s happening? Oh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s see if she has got the right answers tomorrow night.
Next, what is that saying, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet? Well, when it comes to wine, apparently not. It turns out wine enthusiasts in San Francisco are shunning a Chilean red wine that used to be a bestseller. Why? Because of its name. Palin Syrah. You know, sounds like Sarah Palin backwards?
A Bay Area bar owner told the Associated Press his customers soured to the wine, which was once a local favorite, because it reminds them too much of the Republican vice presidential nominee.
I guess all those San Francisco Democrats are letting their politics mess with their taste in wine.
And pay up, Barack Obama. Remember when the Democratic ticket made its glittery debut out in the land of Lincoln this August? Well, it looks like that coming-out party is now going to cost the Obama campaign $50,000. That‘s right. Amid the economic crunch, the city of Springfield, Illinois, reviewed its finances and has decided to—quote—“recover whatever costs it can.”
That now includes expenses related to the Obama/Biden announcement ceremony.
I would say it was worth every penny that day. Those two guys did look very good together. My big question is, why don‘t they campaign together more often? Because, the more Obama and Biden campaign side by side this October, I predict the better they will do in November. Side by side, boys.
Time now for the “Big Number.” Election Day is coming a little early this year. It turns out people out in the key battleground state of Ohio are lining up this week to cast early ballots. What does this mean for the election? You won‘t believe this. Well, according to today‘s “Washington Post,” the rush to the ballot box reflects a national trend.
Overall, how many Election Day ballots are expected to be cast via early voting? One-third. Do you believe that? A third of U.S. voting before Election Day even arrives. That‘s up from 14 percent back in 2000, 20 percent in 2004, 25 percent in 2006. One-third of Americans may choose to cast their ballots before November 4. That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Coming up tomorrow night is the big debate between vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. What are the pitfalls for both running mates? Where can they shine? We will preview tomorrow‘s vice presidential debate next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closing slightly lower, ahead of today‘s scheduled Senate vote on a financial bailout bill, the Dow Jones industrials down 19 points, the S&P down five, and the Nasdaq down 22.
Oil prices also fell on a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. inventories last week and a surprise increase in gasoline inventories. Crude fell $2.11, closing at $98.53 a barrel.
Meantime, manufacturing activities shrank more than expected last month, falling to the lowest levels since after the 9/11 attacks. Automakers reported grim September sales. Ford, Chrysler and Toyota sales plunged more than 30 percent from a year ago. And GM sales were down 16 percent.
And General Electric says investor Warren Buffett is buying $3 billion in preferred shares. GE also says it will offer at least $12 billion in common stock to raise capital. GE shares fell almost 4 percent. And GE is, of course, the parent of both CNBC and MSNBC.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome become to HARDBALL.
Just one day now until the vice presidential debate. I can‘t believe how exciting this is. Governor Sarah Palin and U.S. Senator Joe Biden face off tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
So, how do they are going to do tomorrow night?
Joining me right now is MSNBC‘s political analyst, Michelle Bernard, and the Salon‘s Joan Walsh.
Ladies, thank you for joining us.
I want you to look right now at an interview piece from Katie Couric, who is getting a lot of noise about her interview, with Sarah Palin. Here‘s a bite that I think went on last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CBS EVENING NEWS”)
KATIE COURIC, HOST, “CBS EVENING NEWS”: What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I read most of them, again, with a great appreciation for the press, for the media, coming...
COURIC: But, like what ones specifically, I‘m curious, that you...
PALIN: All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.
COURIC: Can you name...
PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too.
Alaska is not a foreign country, where it is kind of suggested it seems like, wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking and doing when you live up there in Alaska.
Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michelle, what do you make of that answer?
MATTHEWS: What would—a wide-open question, what do you make of that?
MICHELLE BERNARD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I almost think that it was almost good strategy on Sarah Palin‘s part. She is playing to her base. She‘s playing to the...
MATTHEWS: What would—what would that base want to hear from her?
BERNARD: Want to hear that the media is beating up on her, that...
MATTHEWS: Well, how was she beating up?
BERNARD: I‘m not saying that the media is beating up on her.
But the argument will be that the media is beating up on her. And many conservatives feel that, if she were a left-wing feminist, nobody would be asking her these kind of questions.
My personal opinion...
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: Oh, now, come on.
BERNARD: Oh, Joan, let me finish.
WALSH: All right.
BERNARD: My personal opinion is, it‘s a fair and open-ended question. I don‘t know why she didn‘t answer it. I‘m assuming it is strategy. She is speaking to Joe Six-Pack, who will say, yes, why are they doing that to her?
BERNARD: She reads the newspaper.
MATTHEWS: Well, Joan, you next. You next.
WALSH: I honestly...
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the question? Was it a good question from Katie Couric?
WALSH: It‘s a good question. You have probably asked it yourself, Chris.
We have all been asked—we have been asked it when we have all been interviewed. It‘s a good window onto our world view. Do you say “The New Yorker”? She could have said “The Wasilla Frontiersman” or “The Alaska Daily News” to give a shout-out to her local people. She could have said “Field and Stream.” I‘m not—and I don‘t mean to be condescending.
She should have said something. I was hoping she would say Salon.
That hurt a little bit.
Well, I thought it was an answer that was either she didn‘t read anything, possible—I‘m sure she does.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sure every politician reads the local newspaper.
WALSH: Absolutely. Right. Right. That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Every pol. Let‘s give her that.
MATTHEWS: And they probably read the local weeklies, because they have a lot of stuff in there. And, if you don‘t red them, you can‘t get elected.
So, she obviously reads the local newspaper.
MATTHEWS: And an open question is, why didn‘t she say, I read the anchorage paper? Why didn‘t she say, I read the Juneau paper?
BERNARD: I think because—I would imagine that she is thinking that, depending on what her answer is, we will either hear, she is not conservative enough. She‘s too liberal. She‘s not on foreign affairs. My God, she doesn‘t read “The New York Times.”
WALSH: But that‘s life, Michelle. She‘s got to—she‘s got to—she‘s got to define herself.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think you got a weak answer. I‘m going with Joan on this, because I think there is a right answer. What do you read? You tell them the answer. Why would you not say what you—why would you be embarrassed by—if she reads “The Weekly Standard”?
By the way, she is probably getting a lot of that this week...
WALSH: I‘m sure she is.
MATTHEWS: ... from Randy Scheunemann. I‘m sure she is getting stacked up on that info.
Let‘s take a look at her performance, but a hell of a—she is apparently a very strong debater when she is up against another politician, not against a journalist.
Here she is in her race for the governorship in her gubernatorial debate on television.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tara (ph), I didn‘t hear an answer to my question.
So, let me repeat it to you, and I will say it slower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What percentage of the state budget today represents the constitutionally mandated services that you are going to protect? And where else would you cut?
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, Andrew, it‘s a large percentage.
And, you know, I‘m a candidate, so I don‘t mind at all you kind of disrespecting candidates with that kind of talk, but I hope, in your business, that you don‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that—you know what the question was. How much of the budget can you change? If you talk about cutting things or freezing things or that sort of thing, you have to know what is mandated and what you can‘t play with. Was that a reasonable question by her debating partner?
BERNARD: It was—all—it‘s politics. It was a reasonable question. It was fair. The way he said, “I am going to talk a little bit slower,” I hope Joe Biden was watching the tape...
BERNARD: ... because, if he does that tomorrow, he‘s going to be in big trouble. That‘s the difficulty that you‘re up...
MATTHEWS: Sarcasm doesn‘t work, Joan, right?
BERNARD: No, it doesn‘t, and not against a female candidate.
WALSH: Sarcasm—right—sarcasm doesn‘t work and being condescending doesn‘t work. He should not treat her like she‘s stupid. There‘s no reason to think that she is stupid.
So, I think that is—that is a test for Biden. I don‘t expect him to come out and treat her like she‘s stupid. But there are a number of things he can‘t do. And that‘s one of them.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s switch to Joe Biden. Let‘s be fair here.
Let‘s take a look at some of his problems.
Let‘s take a look at a Brian Williams interview with Joe Biden that sort of told you something about his own wariness of where he is weak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: An editorial in the Los Angeles Times said, “In addition to his uncontrolled verbosity, Biden is a gaffe machine.”
Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, Senator?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Yes.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Brian Williams as Jack Benny there, by the way...
MATTHEWS: ... enjoying the reaction shot.
Now, is this something, Joan, he can do? Can he be that abstemious with—that economical with his words to offset the charge that he‘s a gaffe machine or he talks too much?
WALSH: He‘s sure going to try. I mean, Chris, you and I watched a couple of debates together, I think, and saw him, you know, rein himself in. He—he exercised a lot of discipline during those debates. He also got off, you know, with a good one-liner about Rudy Giuliani, noun, verb, and 9/11.
MATTHEWS: OK. You have led—you have led us into the promised land, from his point of view.
WALSH: Oh, did I jump...
MATTHEWS: Here is Joe Biden on that very point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I‘m running to lead the free world. I‘m running to lead this country. And the irony is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency...
BIDEN: ... is here talking about any of the people here.
BIDEN: Rudy Giuliani—I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani—there‘s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11. I mean, there‘s nothing else.
BIDEN: There‘s nothing else, and I mean this sincerely. He is genuinely not qualified to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michelle, they are all going to come in with those little bicentennial moments, aren‘t they, right?
BERNARD: They are. And he‘s really good at that.
The problem with that is that, once he makes the point, he keeps going on and on and on. And that‘s usually when he puts his foot in his mouth, a la, “I like Barack Obama; he is clean and smart,” and whatever else it was he said. So, he‘s got to be wary.
MATTHEWS: Joan—Joan, I have to ask you the toughest question of the night.
MATTHEWS: How does Joe Biden beat her on points, in other words, look better, look smarter, look sharper, look like a better candidate for V.P., and not beat up on her? How does he thread that needle?
WALSH: I think he threads that needle, Chris, by focusing on John McCain, by really focusing on the economic and the global foreign policy issues before us, by not getting personal, by not trying to trip her into mistakes.
I think he has got to be—I personal think he has got to be gracious and magnanimous to her. That doesn‘t mean—here‘s the tough thing. I think there may be moments where—where a light touch and a fair follow-up might—might elicit something, but I think he has got to be really wary of that.
I think he‘s got to look above her and beyond her to John McCain. That‘s what the race is really about. And he is here representing Barack Obama. And I think, if he does that and tries to treat the focus off her, while treating her very respectfully, which she deserves, I think he will do very well.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s a great question. It‘s not in the Brooks Brothers‘ book of etiquette. I will ask you, Michelle, but here in the question.
MATTHEWS: As they‘re sitting down—it‘s going to be a sit-down debate—and if she is having trouble with her chair—you know how people sit down, they have to pull them in?
MATTHEWS: If—does he dare reach over and help her?
I have got to go to Joan with this one.
MATTHEWS: Does he dare reach over, instinctively, or well-trained, or whatever, and help her with her chair from behind? Or is that kind of...
WALSH: I get two—I get two hard questions...
MATTHEWS: No, I want to know.
WALSH: I get two hard questions in a row?
I think he helps her.
What do you think, Michelle?
BERNARD: I think he helps her. There is absolutely no reason not to do so. She is not somebody who is going to complain or think she has been assaulted because he‘s being chivalrous.
MATTHEWS: Suppose she pulls that number and helps him with his chair.
BERNARD: Laugh of the night.
WALSH: Because he‘s so old.
MATTHEWS: You are tough. She did say that she has been listening to his speeches since 1972, when I believe she was in second grade. Here is Governor Palin with a funny line, apparently, from the 2006 gubernatorial debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Palin, if you are elected governor, would you hire your opponent for a state job and if so, for what job?
PALIN: Andrew Halcro would be the most awesome statistician that the state could ever even look for. Andrew would be the statistician.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Palin, would you hire Mr. Knowles for a job?
PALIN: Do they need a chef down there in Juneau? I know that is what he enjoys doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s spontaneity, my friends. It‘s a big thing with politicians. Are you spontaneous. Can you answer the unexpected?
BERNARD: Absolutely. That‘s what I mean when I say let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. If the McCain people leave her alone tomorrow, I think we will see a lot of that, what we just watched. We will see the Sarah Palin we saw in St. Paul.
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying she should second guess her briefers. Thank you. I love this stuff. It‘s so speculative. Thank you, Michelle Bernard. Thank you, Joan Walsh. We have to come back and do a little review of the performances tomorrow.
Up next, new battle ground state polls give a big boost, by the way, to Barack Obama. This economic backdrop is hurting McCain, helping Barack. And with millions of new voters on the polls for the first time, can Obama count on first-timers to put him over the top? We‘ll look at those numbers. You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In the latest Pollster.com, the nationwide average of polling, shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by five points nationally. And more importantly, it seems like it‘s opening up there. A new “Time Magazine” poll now shows Barack also leading McCain by 50 to 43 among likely voters, a seven-point edge. Before the convention, that was five.
Right now, a poll by the Associated Press also has Obama up by seven points, 48 to 41. A new Pew Research Center poll finds Obama leading McCain 49-43. It‘s all interesting, guys.
Joining us, we have Charlie Cook and our own Chuck Todd. Chuck‘s out in St. Louis getting ready for the big debate tomorrow night. Chuck, you first. What do you make of these polls? Is this the economic backdrop that is helping Barack?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it‘s a combination of the economic backdrop and the debate. He didn‘t have a bad debate performance. While he was judged as not winning that debate—I think nobody thought he lost it, but nobody thought he won it going away either. It was somewhat of a draw. I think when you combine it with the economic stuff, he presented himself to a lot of voters, it looks like, as a plausible president, because you are seeing—
This is a shift. It was a drift before the debate. This seems to be a steady movement now. He‘s ahead in pretty much every swing state where there has been a reasonably good poll. There is not a lot of safe polling that goes on. But even in the reasonably good ones, you are seeing Obama, in some of these states, with a substantial lead.
CHARLIE COOK, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: When you are ahead nationally by four, five, six, seven points like Obama appears to be now, that means that just as Chuck said; in the swing states, you are starting to pull ahead. There is a little bit of a lag effect, where the national data, we see this real time. It takes a few day days for state polls to come in.
MATTHEWS: I have a theory, guys—you first, Chuck—that we have to look at two steps. One is people get used to one of the two candidates, McCain or Barack Obama, leading for awhile, then let that gel in their head and say, is this OK? Is it OK with me if this guy wins? Are we going to see that period of testing now in the next week or two? People say, yes, Obama is ahead; I can live with that or I can‘t live that. Is there going to be that kind of reaction? That‘s the way I am looking at it. What do you think?
TODD: I think it‘s possible that the next two debates now are about voters looking at them and judging whether he is ready to be a president. If he‘s not just ready to be president, whether they‘re comfortable with the idea of a President Obama. The first debate was about seeing if he was ready to be on stage with McCain. These next to may be—maybe viewers are looking at him that way.
But it‘s funny, ever time—think about the last 34 days. In the
last 34 days, we have seen this financial crisis. We had two natural
disasters hit the Gulf coast. We had two convention speeches, the naming -
the Sarah Palin boomlet. A lot of stuff happened in 34 days and we had a huge roller coaster. I think the likelihood of a roller coaster effect in the next 34 is there.
But I‘ll tell you, McCain can‘t let Obama keep getting ahead too much in some of these states. He is now defending North Carolina. He‘s now defending Indiana. These aren‘t just the battleground states that he thought he‘d be dealing with. New states are coming into the battleground. That has to scare the McCain campaign.
MATTHEWS: We are looking at the last month of testing and we‘re saying now the polls are showing Barack ahead. Everybody who watches this show who pays attention knows he‘s ahead. Now, they are saying OK or not OK. Are we able to live with a President Obama, this fellow being our next president?
COOK: I think that first debate was pretty key. First of all, that was supposed to be the foreign policy debate. That was where McCain had the home court advantage. Half the debate wasn‘t about foreign policy, but Obama did fine, didn‘t screw up. That was McCain‘s opportunity. That was where McCain needed to break through.
Now it‘s moving on to Obama‘s territory. And the fact is if people are thinking about the economy, if they are focused on the economy, that‘s an election that John McCain almost cannot win. It has to go back to national security and that‘s not where it is.
MATTHEWS: I‘m looking at the women here, guys. Look at the women. We talked a lot for weeks about whether the Hillary voter would be so strong for Hillary and angry about the fact that Hillary lost the nomination—fairly or not—we can argue about the rules. People do argue. Look at these numbers now, however. Now 55 to 38 among all women. Charlie? Compared to 49-39. Look at the spread how it‘s opening up, 17 points.
COOK: I don‘t think Obama has got 55 with women. It‘s more like the Gallup poll, like 52, 53, maybe 13 points ahead. But he was running with like 49 percent.
MATTHEWS: That‘s better than Kerry did.
COOK: Oh yes, no. He was getting about 49 percent. The last two weeks, he‘s been up at 52, 53.
MATTHEWS: Is that the coming home of Hillary people to the Democratic party?
COOK: I think it‘s just—there‘s movement across the board. You look at every group and there‘s movement.
MATTHEWS: Is it a negative sale of Sarah Palin? I guess, tomorrow night we‘ll all see Sarah Palin for good or for evil, whether she‘s good or not. Is she not holding the vote that she picked up right after the Republican convention? Chuck?
TODD: I don‘t think she‘s holding that vote. I think you‘re right. Tomorrow is it for her. Tomorrow is her chance to prove that she belongs on stage as one of the four principles in this campaign. And it is also—by the way, tomorrow is about saving her natural persona for good. She is on the verge of becoming Dan Quaylized or Spiro Agnewed. Tomorrow night is about stopping that. It is not about surpassing artificially low expectations. It is about looking like a plausible national figure, political figure again. And it is a big challenge that she has ahead of her.
We‘ve seen her debate. I think we know she can be a good debater.
COOK: That strikes to the heart of John McCain‘s judgment. If people don‘t think she measures up, then the focus goes back on the big decision, the one big decision that John McCain had this year. Did he make the right call or the wrong call? And that‘s what tomorrow night decides.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got all those conservative columnists and thinkers out there who are saying he made the wrong call. We‘ll be right back with Chuck Todd and Charlie Cook to talk about the state by state. It is fascinating to look at the hot states that may well decide this election night and which way they‘re going. You know the usual, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania. The big surprise, I‘m just kidding. They‘re the states that are always going to be close. We‘ll talk about them when we come back with Charlie and Chuck. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the experts, Chuck Todd of NBC News, and Charlie Cook of the Cook Report. Quinnipiac now has new polls of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Senator Obama is moving up in all three states, according to the latest polls today. In Florida, Obama now leads by eight points. It was six points before Friday‘s debate. In Ohio, Obama leads by eight. It was five before the debate. And in Pennsylvania, Obama now leads by—this number is outrageous -- 15 points. It was six before the debate.
Chuck, what do you make of these number? They‘re all in the same direction, all for Obama. As you say, perhaps because of the debate.
TODD: Well, you know, particularly with any of these polls, you do the apples to apples and look for the trend line. I don‘t believe that Pennsylvania is 15 points, that would it ever be 15 points at any point in time. Is he possibly ahead somewhere between five and eight points right now, yes. That massive voter registration advantage the Democrats have.
But Quinnipiac has a way in some of their polls, they will show wider swings times than other of these state polls. So I would say, look at the trend line. So yes, Obama‘s lead in these polls has moved up. I think that matches every trend line we‘re seeing across the country. I would not jump to conclusions on this one result.
MATTHEWS: Does this mean, Charlie, that the McCain people are going to reach for the hammer now, go for the old cultural kill? They‘re losing on the economy. Nothing is happening in the world to endanger us this day. Therefore, get Jeremiah Wright back on stage again. Go with the dirt ball. Bring all that back. Go after his middle name, Hussein. Go with the really nasty stuff. Do you they might be thinking of that at this point?
COOK: I think McCain has to do it. First of all, I don‘t believe any of these three polls. OK? I think there is movement and that Obama is probably ahead by—even ahead by a couple points in Florida, Ohio, maybe six points in Pennsylvania. But the thing is, I—McCain, this thing is getting—they have to take the gloves off. They have to go after him. This thing is setting like concrete into a bad place.
MATTHEWS: The way of going after him, in English, is go after him on culture. They‘re not going to go after him on economics. They‘re going to go after him on culture, on ethnicity, the usual.
COOK: Make people uncomfortable, risky.
MATTHEWS: Risky, uncomfortable, right the Jeremiah Right stuff. What do you say, Chuck? What hammer do they have in their pocket? What do they have left? If you can‘t talk the economy and nothing is going on in the world right now, what do you use?
TODD: I think—I guess that is where they would go and go with risky and make him not ready to be president. But I don‘t know—I think when you have such an attentive electorate—in a peace and prosperity election, the culture stuff can work. I don‘t know in a big election, with big issues on the table, that that can work.
I think he has to do something. He absolutely has to change the trajectory of the race, but he needs to do something big, like a big proposal or big something that just defines the debate again, redefines the debate on his terms. The picking of Sarah Palin did that.
MATTHEWS: That was to get it onto culture.
TODD: I just don‘t know if they can go to the Reverend Wright well. I know that‘s where folks are pointing. Bill Kristol in his “New York Times” column on Monday was appointing in that direction. I don‘t know if that works. They tried the Ayers thing. It hasn‘t really stuck. Maybe they go there, but I think he has to go big, something else. Big policy proposal, force a new debate. Force a new debate on a new issue. But I think culture may not work, only because everybody is focused on the pocket book, focused on this thing.
By the way, one more thing on the polls, I do think it is interesting that we‘re seeing—we‘re figuring out which states seem to move with the national polls, which states move ahead. It is interesting to watch both Ohio and Florida seem to move a lot closer with the national polls than, for instance, Pennsylvania, Michigan and some of these other states.
MATTHEWS: What do you make that to be?
TODD: Well, I think Florida is a perfect micro-chasm of the country, number one.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve seen that.
MATTHEWS: Pennsylvania is very much a state that is its own culture, right?
COOK: Yes. It‘s an older state. It is a state where not a lot of people are moving in. Florida is like a magnet.
MATTHEWS: All those fallen chads come from all over the United States.
COOK: They‘re sucking down retirees from everywhere.
MATTHEWS: I think we learned that—
TODD: And every count is a different state. Every county is a different state. Broward is New York and New Jersey. On the Ft. Myers side, that‘s the Midwest. It is all over.
MATTHEWS: The pan handle, which is Dixie. Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Charlie Cook. By the way, I love that discussion. We‘ll be right back in an hour for a live edition of HARDBALL as the Senate gets ready to vote on the big economic rescue plan. Don‘t call it a bailout! Right now it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
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