Guests: Chuck Todd, Larry Sabato, Pat Buchanan, Eliot Spitzer, Eric Cantor
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST. Polls are closed in Virginia. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, up in New York.
The polls have closed in Virginia where they‘re voting for governor today. Right now, we can report that based on exit polling, Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor, holds a lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds.
As of right now, it is too early to call the election results. Too early to call. We will have the results for you as soon as we get them based on our exit polling, and the early vote counting itself.
The governor‘s race of Virginia is one of the many contests we‘re watching tonight. In New Jersey, Democratic governor Jon Corzine is fighting for his life against Chris Christie, the Republican challenger.
And in the most interesting race in many ways of all, conservative Doug Hoffman up in upstate New York has already ousted the establishment Republican candidate in the congressional race in upstate New York. Now he‘s in a one-on-one battle tonight with Democrat Bill Owens.
Polls close at 8:00 in New Jersey and 9:00 in New York state. We‘re going to take a close look at all those races tonight. Do they represent a referendum on President Obama? That‘s a question. Or are they being decided on local issues?
We‘re also going to look at the civil war you could call it within the Republican Party. It‘s going on for sure. The establishment of the party versus the hard right. The wing nuts some call them.
And we‘re going to ask the question, what would President Obama think of—what would actually candidate Obama think of President Obama? In other words, what would the outsider think of the man who‘s now an insider a year into this presidency? Has Barack Obama promised on his—delivered on his promise of change you can believe in?
A lot of liberals think he has, not all of them certainly. But we begin with Virginia and the governor‘s race there. Larry Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at University of Virginia. He‘s sort of Mr. Politics in Virginia.
Larry, this election, it‘s an interesting one because Virginia is such an interesting state now. It‘s a middle Atlantic state, it‘s not a southerner state exactly. How would you describe Virginia politically right now?
LARRY SABATO, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Chris, I think it‘s the ultimate swing state. You know, back in the Nixon era which you remember and I remember, we used to ask, will it play in Peoria? I think now you ask, will it play in Virginia?
Virginia had the closest percentage of any of the 50 states to Barack Obama‘s 52.9 percent win in 2008.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the story about why Virginia seems to uncannily elect a person of one party, the opposite of the party of the candidate who was just elected president the year before? It‘s like it‘s not even a correction. It‘s a whiplash.
Look at this. Clinton wins in ‘92. George Allen wins in ‘93 in Virginia. He certainly was a conservative Republican. Clinton wins in ‘97. Jim Gilmore, an even more conservative Republican wins the next time.
In 2001, Bush Jr., Bush W. wins, and then Mark Warner, Democrat, comes in. Bush wins again, Tim Kaine comes in on the Democratic side. It‘s predictable.
SABATO: It is. It‘s called the presidential jinx. And Chris, believe it or not, I named it that back in 1989 after it only happened four times. And at that point, people said, no, it‘s just a coincidence. Well, tonight is probably going to be the ninth time that it happens. Nine times in a row.
Now, look, my personal theory is, as a lifelong Virginian, Virginians remember that most of the original founders, best-known founders were from Virginia. They believed in checks and balances. They didn‘t want any branch of government or any party to get too much power.
So I do think there‘s a little extra check and balance that Virginians have built into the political system. And this is why they do it.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the race for governor. We don‘t have the final results. We have been able to say that the Republican candidate is winning. I‘ve noticed a couple things about the race.
From the beginning, the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, seemed desperate. He jumped on the Republican candidate for a paper he had written, an academic paper he had written for grad school back in his early 30s. Did that strike the voters as pathetic?
SABATO: Chris, I actually think it was legitimate issue. I don‘t see anything wrong with that because.
MATTHEWS: Because you‘re in.
MATTHEWS: You teach in college. But is it relevant outside the campus what a guy or a woman writes in a college term paper or a master‘s thesis even?
SABATO: Sure. That‘s why I keep the term papers, Chris. I think sometimes they‘re very revealing.
But look, seriously, I think that was a legitimate thing to do in terms of making the negative case against Bob McDonnell. But a candidate also has to make a positive case for himself. I can‘t tell you what the positive case was for Creigh Deeds and I followed it hourly.
MATTHEWS: Why did the “Washington Post” endorse Creigh Deeds who seemed to be the most conservative of the candidates?
SABATO: Because they thought Creigh Deeds could win in November. It may seem funny now, but of the three candidates running in the Democratic primary, Deeds, from an ideological perspective, was best positioned to win a moderate swing purple state like Virginia. That‘s why they did it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s why they tried to get a little too ahead of themselves in terms of Machiavelliness. Anyway, thank you, Larry Sabato. Mr. Politics down there in Virginia.
Let‘s bring in NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd.
Chuck, we‘re looking at this from a local perspective with Larry Sabato.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: But Virginia is a swing state. But it always seems, in all fairness, to swing the opposite direction of how the country, even its own voters, swung the year before. So is it a bellwether or simply a Carmagione (ph) move against power? Automatically?
TODD: I‘ll say this. I think—I‘m just—it‘s remarkable to me that the president‘s job approval rating in Virginia is 51 percent. The president‘s job approval rating in the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, 51 percent.
It is a perfect bellwether. But let‘s explain how Bob McDonnell, why he‘s leading in this race, why it‘s looking better for him. I know we haven‘t called it yet. And who knows, maybe the exit polls aren‘t right. But if the exit polls are right here, we know why McDonnell is doing well and that‘s because this wasn‘t a referendum on President Obama.
His coalition didn‘t show up. Among voters under 30, just 10 percent of the electorate this year were under 30. In 2008, it was 20 percent. Let me give you this number, Chris. In 2008, 70 -- 30 percent of the electorate in Virginia was nonwhite, was either African-American or Hispanic. That number is just 20 percent in 2009.
TODD: The Obama coalition, and this was the fear that some Democrats had, is that you know what? Without Obama‘s name on the ballot you cannot motivate these new voters that surged to the polls for him in 2008.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s scary, because it means that people are free now to vote against Obama in terms of voting against some candidate identified with him like Corzine later tonight in New Jersey, we‘ll find that one out.
MATTHEWS: But they‘re not sort of—he‘s not creating a movement like Reagan eventually did. Reagan—people from the beginning, people like Orrin Hatch in Utah were running as Reagan Republicans.
MATTHEWS: They were all over them, lower taxes, tougher defense.
They were Reaganites. Can you be an Obamiac? Is there such a thing?
TODD: Well, look, they didn‘t figure out how they to do it here. Creigh Deeds didn‘t figure out how to—he tried to attach himself to the president too late. Look, they finally obviously read their own poll numbers and realized, oh my gosh, we cannot duplicate the Obama turnout model because we‘re not associated enough with President Obama.
So, you know, the irony here is one lesson the president might take from this is he may need 2010 if we‘re in the same environment where this sort of—it seems to be we‘re 50/50, it‘s back and forth, the two parties are pretty equal. The president to motivate his base may almost have to force 2010 to be a referendum on himself.
Make this a nationalized election. Force his base to say, if you don‘t vote for Democrat x in Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, wherever, then you‘re not voting for Obama. And that might be what they have to figure out how to do because this is the second election in a row, a statewide election, that Georgia Senate runoff, where once Obama‘s name is not on the ballot, those new voters disappear.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, that may be an endorsement kind of campaign.
Let me go back to Larry Sabato at UVA.
Larry, a different—a bigger question whether the president can endorse or not or attack or not. I don‘t think that really works generally. Or says if you vote for this person you‘re voting against me or if you vote for him you‘re voting for me.
A larger question. Has he started a movement? Can you be an Obamiac? I don‘t even know what the right word is. You can certainly be a Reaganite, someone who believed in less government and identified with the president in those states.
Is there such a person today? Or is he sui generis, there‘s only one Obama?
SABATO: I think it‘s the sui generis, Chris, and that is, as you‘re saying and as Chuck was saying, that‘s really the problem. You know, there are some politicians and Reagan‘s not the only one, who can generate coattail without being on the ballot.
I think what tonight may prove once all the figures are in is that Obama has to be on the ballot in order to motivate African-Americans, the young, those new suburbanites who came to Obama in 2008. If he‘s not on the ballot, they don‘t show up. That‘s bad news for Democrats in the midterm elections of 2010.
MATTHEWS: But, Chuck, let me go back to you again. Is there such a thing as an Obama believer? In other words, is there a set of beliefs he holds which can be shared by other politicians of the Democratic Party?
TODD: You know it‘s funny you say that. I think right now you‘re seeing an argument on the left take place where you‘re seeing some criticism of the president, hey, where‘s all the change? So I think this is trying to—they‘re all trying to figure this out.
Right now the White House seems to be about—and this president seems to when about pragmatism and trying to, you know, get something done, trying to figure out a solution in Afghanistan, try to compromise and get health care through.
But you‘re right, there isn‘t this core set of principles that were so
easy to say and do, change you can believe in, in 2008. I think he‘s
struggling to translate that to policy. We‘re seeing that this whole Obama
· this whole Organizing for America wing of the DNC is struggling to work correctly.
I think they haven‘t figured it out. They want to create this, Chris. They know they have to if they want to govern and have a majority behind them to govern. They just haven‘t figured out how to do it.
MATTHEWS: You know I don‘t understand that, Larry, and Chuck, back to you in a minute. I know what Obama believes in because I agree with a lot of it. He believes in rejoining the world community.
He believes in not being a lone gunman out there in the world, but recognizing the rights of other countries and trying to work with them toward peaceful solutions to world problems. Respect for little countries as well as big countries.
At home he believes in a positive role for government, in the area of health care, in regulation and environment. He clearly believes in global warming. He has strong beliefs that run very much against what Bush and Republicans generally believe.
I don‘t have a hard time interpreting his beliefs. Well, do you, Larry? Maybe everybody else does. I don‘t know.
SABATO: Yes. No, I don‘t have a hard time interpreting them. But let‘s remember, part of his problem is expectations were just sky high. Too many of those new Democratic voters who weren‘t used to voting thought the whole world was going to be re-made quickly.
SABATO: . after Obama got into office. And look.
MATTHEWS: But they‘re wrong.
SABATO: . the economy is still bad.
MATTHEWS: Larry, they‘re wrong and misinformed.
SABATO: Once the economy improve.
MATTHEWS: They‘re misinformed.
MATTHEWS: The net roots people out there who think you can change the Congress overnight legally and civilly are wrong. It takes a strong majority to bring big change. Somebody should have told them that.
I‘m sorry, Chuck, you‘re laughing. But nobody ever told that.
MATTHEWS: The net roots people you can‘t just order pancakes from mommy. You can‘t order change in American government as easy as mommy, give me some pancakes. It‘s not that easy.
TODD: OK. I hear you on that. But I also, you could say that—remember Reagan had a symbolic moment early in his administration when he fired those air traffic controllers.
TODD: And it was a symbolic moment of saying, you know what? I‘m changing the way Washington does business. You do wonder, does the president need to mix in some symbolic moments?
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.
TODD: Because, you know, you‘re right. You know all of this stuff is, you know, it‘s incremental. It‘s more incremental than anybody has patience for and it‘s certainly a horrible thing to watch when you‘re doing it through the 24-hour cable news prism. Because it‘s agony sometimes watching Congress work.
But that means that they‘re going to probably need to do more symbolic things to sort of calm the troops down a little bit.
TODD: But let‘s also remember, nobody ran against Obama this campaign. You know, there‘s a lot of talk about is this a referendum or not? You know, did he have enough coattails? And I think those are real questions.
Bob McDonnell did not run against Barack Obama. Chris Christie did not run against Barack Obama. That‘s very important.
MATTHEWS: By the way, Bob McDonnell won, I think, because if he does win, because he ran a positive campaign and not a negative, pathetic, scary campaign like Corzine ran in New Jersey. We‘ll see if Corzine squeaks by with that negative campaign. But it was definitely a negative one whereas McDonnell ran a positive campaign.
Chuck Todd, thank you, sir. Thank you, Larry Sabato.
TODD: All right, guys.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to have much more on the Virginia governor‘s race as we get the returns coming in now. Still too early to call. Too early to call. But we‘re looking at a lead for the Republican in that race, still waiting to hear on Jersey.
Plus polls in New Jersey will be closed at the top of this hour. That‘s 8:00. And in New York the conservatives knocked out the Republican candidate already in that congressional race. Who are they going to go after next? Charlie Crist down in Florida? Kay Bailey Hutchison down in Texas?
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Polls are closed now in the state of Virginia, rather, the commonwealth of Virginia, in the governor‘s race between Republican Bob McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds. There‘s a southern name for you. It‘s too early to call. But we do have a vote tally trickling in here at MSNBC. And we can report right now that McDonnell holds a lead. I would bet on that lead, by the way.
Milissa Rehberger has the latest on the rate from our exit polling.
Milissa, details, please.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, as you mentioned it is too early to call the governor‘s race in Virginia. Republican Bob McDonnell does have the lead at this hour and as often as the case, the big factor may turn out to be who showed up at the polls.
Our MSNBC exit poll is showing that today‘s electorate is very different from than the one that gave President Obama a surprise victory in Virginia a year ago. For one thing, they‘re older. The percentage of senior citizens voting nearly doubled from last year standing at 21 percent. That‘s compared to 11 percent last year.
At the other end, voters under 30 dropped by more than half. Ten percent this year compared to 22 percent when President Obama won. All that seems to have worked to McDonnell‘s advantage. He did better among older voters while Deeds held a slight advantage among those who are under 30.
And while black voters were an important part of president Obama‘s coalition in 2008, they made up a much smaller percentage of the electorate today. Only 15 percent of today‘s Virginian voters were African-American. Down sharply from 20 percent in 2008 and that lower black turnout seems to have hurt Deeds.
Overall today‘s Virginia voters were less Democratic than those who handed Obama a victory back in 2008. This year Democrats made up only 35 percent of voters. Nearly the same percentage as Republicans. Last year Democrats had a clear advantage with nearly 40 percent of Virginia voters calling themselves Democrats compared to 33 percent for Republicans.
All that seems to indicate it may turn out to be a good night for Republicans in Virginia. We will know more about New Jersey after the polls close there. That will happen at 8:00 p.m. Chris?
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Milissa.
REHBERGER: You bet.
MATTHEWS: And joining us right now is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and a former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer. What an interesting group to talk about the Republican Party. One ex-Republican and one never going to be one.
But anyway, Pat, let me ask you—are you Republican these days or not? I can never get it straight with you.
PAT BUCHANAN: I‘m an independent conservative. You don‘t register by a party in Virginia, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s gives you a dodge, but if you had to, what would you do?
BUCHANAN: If I had to go Democrat or Republican?
MATTHEWS: Oh no.
BUCHANAN: I would go Republican.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. You always (INAUDIBLE) at it. Let me ask you about Virginia, your state. You‘ve lived there for a long time.
MATTHEWS: It seems to be that the state just loves to vote against the guy who was just elected president. On principle.
BUCHANAN: I think that‘s true. But I know back in 1969 we won—when I was with Nixon and he came in and we won down there with Linwood Holton, which was a real stunner, and we won New Jersey as well, Chris. And it was portent of things really to come for Nixon which was a ‘72 landslide.
I don‘t think it‘s arbitrary. I agree with the folks who say, look, McDonnell has run a fine campaign, he‘s got a beautiful family, he‘s a Republican from northern Virginia who naturally would do good down states.
Deeds has had some real problem relating with folks. And so I don‘t take this as a massive referendum on Barack Obama or anything. I do think Obama‘s problems with the economy and these issues are dragging down the Democrats generally.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, our polling down there shows that that‘s only a case for about 1/5 of the voters, a bit more than 1/5 but just a bit more.
Governor, it seems to me that voters, whether telling the truth or not, about 1/5 say it‘s hurting—they want to punch Obama‘s lights out to some extent. And another fifth want to give him a kiss. But the bottom line is 60 percent of the voters say it doesn‘t affect their thinking.
ELIOT SPITZER (D), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Look, and that‘s always going to be true. Twenty percent on either extreme is actually pretty normal. I think what‘s going on here is that governors around the nation have had a very tough time. And in a way this is a vote against incumbent governors.
Governors have had revenue down by 20 percent. They are expected to provide the services—education, health care. I‘ve said it‘s the toughest job in America. Unlike the White House and the Fed, they don‘t print money. And unlike mayors they can‘t go to the state and the Feds and get more.
So governors are in a bind, whether it‘s Corzine, whether it‘s Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ted Strickland in Ohio.
MATTHEWS: You‘re right.
SPITZER: Every governor is facing a very tough dynamics.
MATTHEWS: You speak the truth.
BUCHANAN: Chris. Chris.
SPITZER: Look, I‘ve been there.
MATTHEWS: No, no, I think that‘s true. And by the way, don‘t forget the fat and happy times when the economy is booming.
SPITZER: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: . during the dot.com bubble in the ‘90s. Every governor in the country was a sweetie pie.
SPITZER: Governor are popular, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And now.
SPITZER: Giving out money is easy, take it away hard.
MATTHEWS: So in other words, you guys don‘t do anything, you just drift with the wind.
SPITZER: Well, some people tried. But that‘s the.
MATTHEWS: The bottom line is you‘re popular based on conditions more than personality.
SPITZER: And conditions that you don‘t control.
MATTHEWS: Pat, do you agree with that, Pat? It really re-downs to the advantage—the good economy helps the incumbent governor no matter what he is.
BUCHANAN: That‘s very true. That is very true for governor. No doubt about it. I agree with the governor on that. But Chris, there‘s another point that‘s been made here. The Republican base is energized and on fire...
BUCHANAN: . the way the Democratic base was in 2008.
MATTHEWS: Who would you like to knock out next? Pat Buchanan, who would you most like to—I think you‘ve got Charlie Crist right where your fist is headed.
BUCHANAN: Well, I think what‘s—here‘s what the Republicans have.
MATTHEWS: You won‘t say this.
BUCHANAN: An energized base—I‘ll tell you.
MATTHEWS: You know this is true, Pat. You know you want to knock out Charlie Crist and put in Rubio.
BUCHANAN: Well, I would—who would I vote for down there? I would probably vote for Rubio. But more important, not only is the base energized, you‘ve got this very large populist movement which is voting for Republicans even though it is not Republican and that is a movement which will move or would move, I think, to Rubio down there if you get a race that‘s winnable.
MATTHEWS: Is it really an issue of guns, gays and abortion or is about the economy?
BUCHANAN: No, it is—no, these folks—town hall was about the health care bill. It‘s about the economy. It‘s about jobs. It‘s about government. It is an anti-Washington, anti-government mood. And Obama has got both Houses of Congress behind him. And so he‘s the guy in the bull‘s eye.
MATTHEWS: But every time I go to an Obama brigade event and I watch your pitchfork people in action, I could spot them and they were all pro-life people. You could tell. They were pro-life people and they probably weren‘t culturally liberal.
SPITZER: But Chris.
MATTHEWS: So it isn‘t just the economy, Pat.
BUCHANAN: Chris, I disagree. I think these are more Perotist stuff than they are right-to-life folks but there are right-to-life folks, no doubt, in there that really went after Dede Scozzafava big-time. They‘re all coming together.
But the thing that Republicans got going for them is, they may not have done a great job in the last eight years, but these folks got nowhere to go now as the opposition so they‘re moving toward Republicans.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an amazing thing. Pat is a smart guy, but Perot was certifiably crazy. He talked about the North Vietnamese—armed Vietnamese soldiers running across the front lawn of his house at the—his daughter‘s wedding.
SPITZER: That was a great moment.
MATTHEWS: He‘s certifiably crazy.
SPITZER: That was a great moment in politics.
MATTHEWS: And Pat is now saying there‘s millions of people that are Perotistas.
SPITZER: Here‘s the thing.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an amazing statement.
SPITZER: Here‘s what‘s going on. The right-to-lifers have always been there. Have always been mobilized. And what is changing the dynamic now, and here I agree with Pat, the—it is the economy that is now adding that swing factor that is putting certain candidates over the top.
MATTHEWS: OK, Governor.
MATTHEWS: I knew you can make that case. Everybody wants to be smart and tact sensitive. But the fact is, the only thing I‘ve read about this woman, Dede Scozzafava—I got her name right.
SPITZER: She‘s a very nice.
MATTHEWS: All I heard was she was anti-gay marriage and pro-life.
MATTHEWS: Pro-choice. That‘s all I heard about her.
SPITZER: But that is why you‘re looking at how Sarah Palin reacts to her. I‘m looking about how—talking about how voters on the ground are reacting. Voters on the ground liked her. But what is swaying voters on the ground right now is Wall Street, a populist wave that somebody will harness and hopefully the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Is the governor of Florida in trouble? Is Charlie Crist—on two counts, the bad economy and the fact he‘s too liberal to the state, going to give it to Rubio down there? You first, Pat.
BUCHANAN: Yes, he is. Yes, he is. But Chris, you‘ve got to remember, Perot, that was an anti-Washington thing. George Bush and the Democrats were considered in bed together here in Washington. And he was against it. And that‘s—but I‘ll tell you, Crist is in trouble because he‘s perceived as a social liberal and because these folks there, I think, will go down and say Rubio is the guy. He ought to move very fast, I think, to co-opt them.
MATTHEWS: Is the gay rights issue a big issue in that race, Pat?
BUCHANAN: Well, if it‘s an issue in the Republican primary, I think Crist will have a problem. Yes.
SPITZER: Look, I disagree with Pat. Those social issues are—Pat, those are last decade‘s.
BUCHANAN: In Republican primaries they aren‘t, Governor.
SPITZER: . Republican Party, that is not what is swinging voters in the general election today. It is the economy.
BUCHANAN: This is the general you‘re talking about. This is.
SPITZER: It is an antipathy towards Wall Street. Pat, hold on, one second.
SPITZER: It is an antipathy. We‘re talking general election turnout today.
SPITZER: It is an antipathy towards Wall Street. A bailout that benefited Goldman Sachs and people who are going to vote.
MATTHEWS: See, you‘re talking my language.
SPITZER: This is what I‘ve been saying for 10 years now. I mean this is the language I‘ve been talking and the frustration with the White House is that they have not taken advantage of that to get meaningful reform in the economy.
SPITZER: No, no, I agree with you on health care. I disagree about financial.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you, I was over there when the Berlin wall came down 20 years ago. Part of it was freedom. They just wanted to be able to express themselves like we‘re doing here.
MATTHEWS: Another part of it is, the true believing socialists on the other side of the iron curtain.
MATTHEWS: There were some of them. The school teachers, the school principals, the factory managers who really believed in socialism were screwed by the system.
MATTHEWS: And I see that happening in America. The people that really believe in free enterprise, in capitalism.
SPITZER: I agree.
MATTHEWS: They feel they‘re being taken.
MATTHEWS: And they‘re really angry about it.
SPITZER: The plutocrats.
MATTHEWS: Not the cynics.
SPITZER: No, no, no. The plutocrats are taking back control and that is the problem.
MATTHEWS: Pat, you agree with it. The true-believing person who believes in free enterprise is the woman—person most offended by what they see on Wall Street? Not the cynics.
BUCHANAN: Oh yes.
BUCHANAN: I think small business folks, I think average folks, taxpayers and others. But Chris, in the Republican Party, and out there in Iowa and in Florida, social issues are very, very decisive. Quite frankly, no social liberal or social moderate can be nominated by the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Do you agree with that?
SPITZER: Look, I‘m not going to speak for the Republican Party.
SPITZER: Thankfully I don‘t know much about it. But I‘ll tell you this, everybody who is offended, who is angry right now is anybody who is not too big to fail. You‘re too big to fail, you‘re in one league. Everybody else who has to compete every day, build a real business, they are the ones who are upset because they‘re saying how about me?
We can‘t tap into that reservoir of money.
SPITZER: . that the Goldmans and everybody is getting and that the populous anger that‘s out there and I don‘t think the folks in Washington get that.
MATTHEWS: Wow. This is wow.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s economics and I think it‘s social.
BUCHANAN: Obama‘s problem is he is perceived as the guy that‘s bailing them out now.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
SPITZER: I agree with that.
MATTHEWS: Completely. We agree on that. And that does not look like American free enterprise.
MATTHEWS: It looks like a deal.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Pat Buchanan. Thank you, Eliot Spitzer.
Up next, what would Sarah Palin had said in her victory speech had she and John McCain won last year? Well, the fact is McCain wouldn‘t let her give the speech and you‘ll see why because she was talking, as they like to say in Brooklyn, wait until next year. That‘s in “The Sideshow.” You‘re watching HARDBALL in MSNBC—only here on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. It‘s time for the “Sideshow,” first a lost concession speech. Remember this election night scene during John McCain‘s concession in 2008? We‘ve since found out that Sarah Palin also wanted to speak to the country that night, but was stopped in her tracks by the McCain campaign. Well, one year later, the authors of the new Palin book “Sarah from Alaska,” it‘s called, have another nugget for you about that night. It turns out that Sarah Palin took the stage again that night after Senator McCain had exited. She told the McCain team she wanted to just take some pictures up on the stage with her family and staff. Well, the thing is, the press were all still there, so the McCain team was worried she might try to go rogue and deliver that speech after all to the country, once she got up on to the stage. So what did they do?
They pulled the plug on her. They cut the lights, this is the McCain crowd; they cut the lights at the order of Steve Schmidt the campaign manager, the cut off the sound. Boy, talk about mutual trust. These two didn‘t get along very well, anyway, the authors of “Sarah from Alaska” also posted online the full concession speech Palin had ready and waiting. Somebody had written it for her, a guy named Matt Scully, and here‘s some of the words that she was going to read.
“Now it is time for us to go our way, neither bitter nor vanquished, but instead confident in the knowledge that there will be another day.” Do you like that phrase, “there will be another day,” standing next to McCain? “Confident there will be another day.” Well, she‘s certainly lived by that credo. Today we live in that day, itself. We‘re here now and Sarah Palin‘s living it up to the hilt.
Well, up next, much more on the Virginia governor‘s race down there in the commonwealth. Still too early to call, as it turns out. We‘ll be joined by House Republican whip, Eric Cantor of Richmond, Virginia. He‘ll be here. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re watching the votes coming in are from Virginia. We can‘t call it yet. It looks like Bob McDonnell continues to lead the Democrat Creigh Deeds in the governors‘ race down there which is a race that goes - well, it seemed to always go against whoever the country voted for for president the year before. This seems to be a relentless pattern in the commonwealth of Virginia.
We‘re joined right now by one of the up and comers, I think he‘s still up and coming, although he may have already arrived. Eric Cantor, of the House Republican whip.
So, you‘re one of the top Republicans in the House, right now. Explain this race to the people outside the commonwealth of Virginia, the importance of the Virginia governors‘ race to somebody say, in Utah, right now.
ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA: Well, no question, Chris, this is a great night for Republicans in Virginia. And clearly the people of this commonwealth have said enough with the spending, enough with the waste, enough with the government overreach, and they‘ve rejected the policies that have been what this administration in Washington‘s about and they‘ve embraced what Bob McDonnell has been talking about, here in and that is a focus on the economy...
MATTHEWS: Well, where do you get that information? Because we‘ve got a exit polling which shows about 1/5 of the people, a little less than 1/5 of the people thought they were voting to support Obama today in Virginia. a bit more than 1/5 said they were voting against them and the overwhelming majority said they were voting locally. How do you get this confidence that this was a rejection of Barack Obama?
CANTOR: Look, Chris, we also look at the exit polls which indicate that 85 percent of Virginians are voting out of their concerns over the economy, and even more in New Jersey, 90 percent of the voters there are unsatisfied with the economy.
Whose economy is it? It‘s Barack Obama‘s economy, and clearly there‘s a rejection of the policies that have been coming out of Washington. And it‘s been the leadership here. Bob McDonnell, that says, you know what? There is a better way. And he‘s been able to unite our party here in Virginia and to attract independents in droves and I think you‘re going to see an overwhelming victory here in Virginia tonight in stark contrast to where the intensity and the victory occurred just a year ago, here in the commonwealth.
MATTHEWS: But, that‘s just a partisan statement, isn‘t it? To blame the economy on Barack Obama when he inherited what he inherited? That‘s just a partisan statement to call it the Obama economy.
CANTOR: Well, listen, Chris, I mean, there‘s no question that there is a rejection of things coming out of Washington. Washington‘s controlled by the other party. It‘s controlled by the Barack Obama White House...
MATTHEWS: Yeah, but every—but, Mr. Cantor, every poll shows people hate the Republican Congress as much as they do the Democratic Congress. You guys—you hate it now, but you‘re a leader now, you‘re an incumbent, you‘re part of the establishment, you‘re part of the crowd they don‘t like. Right? Or am I wrong? Tell me I‘m wrong. Tell me they only dislike Democrats. They only hold Democrats accountable for the lousy economy. Just tell me that. But, don‘t cross your fingers and say you‘re doing it because you‘re a Republican spokesman. You can‘t honestly believe that this is just a lousy economy because of Barack Obama. That we would have four percent unemployment if he weren‘t president. Do you think McCain would have any better thing going right now?
CANTOR: Listen, Chris, I‘m just looking at the voters and the numbers that we‘re going to see here in Virginia, tonight. This is a rejection of what things have been going on in Washington and this is an embracing of what Bob McDonnell and the leadership that Bob McDonnell has chose.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a couple questions. Why is it that Virginia, every year, even Mark Warner, after we just elected George W. Bush was elected, immediately thereafter, Mark Warner was elected Democratic governor of Virginia. Was he a rejection of Bush right off the bat? Right after 9/11? Two months after 9/11 he was a rejection of Bush? Can you say that with consistency to what you‘re saying now?
CANTOR: I think what we‘re seeing here in Virginia is a rejection of the theory that you and others really, Chris, had put out last year, that somehow our traditionally red state had gone blue or purple and I think what it really says is this is a warning shot to the Democrats and to the president that, you know what? The policies they‘re pursuing are not being embraced by a state that you, yourself, had talked about a year ago as going to the blue column. This is a warning shot to the moderate Democrats to say hey, wait a minute, maybe we ought to try another way. Maybe there is a better way.
MATTHEWS: OK. If you‘re going to quote me, congressman, and you‘re a very smart guy, try to get it right. I said that states like North Carolina, where I went to school, and Virginia, because of their incredible commitment to their university systems in Richmond and in Charlottesville and around the state with the levels of the higher education system in both those states, had taken themselves from the old South and made themselves enlightened enough to vote for an African-American for president and to have a choice who they vote for. I didn‘t say they‘d become liberal states or automatic Democratic states, and you know I didn‘t.
Anyway, let me ask you about the big question here for you, tonight. McDonnell, let‘s put a real prize around him. I think McDonnell‘s great claim to fame is he ran a positive campaign. The other guy was going after his term papers from 30 years ago and McDonnell talked about his daughter fighting for the U.S. as a servicewoman overseas in Iraq as a Notre Dame graduate, as a ROTC (ph) person, I thought he really sold the positive and that‘s why he won, if he won.
CANTOR: Well, I agree with you. The campaign was incredibly well run, and the message was positive and I think it does say something about the voters of Virginia. They want to have a better prospect for the future, and Bob‘s campaign focused on jobs. It was clearly an economic message that won the day here in Virginia.
And when you look at where people‘s minds are here, 85 percent of the people are concerned about their economy, they‘re looking for another way. They‘re rejecting the policies coming out of the Congress and the White House toward the economy. So it was, you‘re right, the positive agenda for the future that Bob McDonnell won the day on.
MATTHEWS: Why did Bob McDonnell keep Sarah Palin out of the state? He let her use robo calls but no reference to him personally. I have a theory that Virginia may not be a liberal state, certainly never will be probably, but it‘s certainly not a wacko right-wing state either. And I don‘t think it would go for a Sarah Palin over a Barack Obama, but I may be wrong, in lousy economic conditions, anything is possible. You wouldn‘t call Virginia a Palin state, would you?
CANTOR: Virginia has always been a common sense conservative state. There are millions of voters here whom embrace Sarah Palin, obviously millions embracing Bob McDonnell. You know, our state is one that is a center right state. I think it is reflective of where the nation is and that‘s why we are very excited about what this win tonight will mean for our prospects of November of ‘10.
MATTHEWS: I bet if you go home and check with your voter‘s, Congressman, a lot of your most trusted voters who like you personally, are scared the bejesus out of Sarah Palin. She‘s a theocrat. She‘s so far out in terms of basic American notions of pluralism that your voters would think she was frightening.
CANTOR: Chris, you just said that Bob McDonnell won the day on a positive message, so here you go again.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m just saying you wouldn‘t let her in the state.
CANTOR: That‘s the kind of politics that people are rejecting.
MATTHEWS: Did Bob McDonnell overrule you when you tried to bring Sarah Palin in to campaign for him?
CANTOR: Absolutely not. She‘s welcomed in this state. I‘m sure Bob McDonnell would say she is. Again, it‘s that kind of negativity that‘s been rejected here in Virginia. And you said so yourself, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what, I like a lot of—a love John Warner. What a great senator he was. I think that‘s the kind of guy you should be picking. And you, if you settle down a little bit and move to the center.
Anyway, Congressman Eric Cantor, thank you. I mean, really, one of the real rising stars in the Republican Party, I think he‘s going to be one of the real leaders of the country some day. I‘m not sure it‘s great, but I think it‘s going to happen. Anyway, thank you, Congressman Cantor, for coming on HARDBALL. Please come back, as you can tell, you‘re very welcomed here. Ha!
CANTOR: Thanks Chris.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, we‘re still waiting for a winner in Virginia where it‘s too early to call. Polls in New Jersey will be closed at the top of the hour at 8:00 Eastern. Up next, we‘re going to preview that very close race. Boy, is that going to be a tight one, tight as a drum, up there. Plus, I think, it‘s my conjecture, we haven‘t gotten official results or the NBC results in either of those states.
Plus, what would candidate Barack Obama think about President Barack Obama? What would the outsider think about the insider? That‘s a great question. Fair or not, it‘s being asked by people on the political left, the populous. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Polls are closed now, or they‘re going to be at the top of the hour in New Jersey. They already closed in Virginia, they closed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. They‘re going to close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in New Jersey and at 9:00 p.m. Eastern in New York state.
Time for the “Politics Fix” of our show, although it‘s all been politics. The moderator of “MEET THE PRESS,” David Gregory and Cynthia Tucker, the columnist for the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”
Thank you, David and Cynthia. I want to start with David on this question of how the national press will cover this election.
Let‘s imagine that we‘re looking at a split decision, a narrow one in Jersey, say, if Corzine wins. Will the president be able to walk away and say these were local.
DAVID GREGORY, MEET THE PRESS: I think so. I spoke to a top Republican in Virginia, tonight, who said flatly, this is not a referendum on Obama. What he added, however, is that this contributes to an environment that Republicans like a lot. Whether it‘s Virginia, we‘ll see what happens in the other races, but there‘s A. an anti-incumbency mood, we see that. Two, that there are conditions out there that are moving independent voters, we can see it in Virginia. A sense that the countries are off on the wrong track, that whether it‘s cap-and-trade or health care or the deficit, there are some things that are turning voters off. That‘s something that Republicans will try to build on and they tried to lay the foundation tonight.
MATTHEWS: You know, Cynthia, we just heard from Eric Cantor, one of the rising stars in the Republican Party coming out of Richmond, he just laid it out there just the way David said they would. He did it. He said this terrible economy is a Barack Obama economy. Blame all conditions on the new president even though he‘s only been in nine months.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, absolutely. I mean, it may be that these are locals. I believe they are. I don‘t believe that voters are going into the polls and thinking about Barack Obama, but certainly Eric Cantor was very disciplined on the talking points. The message from Republicans will be this is absolutely a referendum on Barack Obama.
But, let me tell you what I think Democrats really have to worry about, Chris. Certainly, they have to worry about jobs in 2010 for the mid-term elections. But, I think one of the more interesting things in Virginia, and we‘ll see if that plays out in New Jersey as well, is the fall off of African-American voters from last year when Barack Obama was on the ballot. The sharp fall off in young voters from when Barack Obama was on the ballot. Those are the voters the Democrats need to be able to turn out. If they can‘t turn them out when Obama is not on the ballot, they‘re going to have very big problems next year.
MATTHEWS: But, you know, stay with you, Cynthia, it seems like I grew up in a big city with an organization, we had a machine, and the minority vote, the big city ethnic vote, could be brought out by a fishing machinery. Those days are gone, aren‘t they?
TUCKER: You didn‘t say “bought” did you? You said “brought.”
MATTHEWS: No, brought out.
TUCKER: OK, just checking.
MATTHEWS: Those days are over, I guess that‘s the problem.
You know, let me go to David on this whole question here of the economy and everything. It seems to me that if you look at sun simple fact and you know history pretty well, and it seems to me, you look at one fact during Watergate and the Monica mess with Bill Clinton, during Nixon‘s problems—the American mood seems to be driven by the unemployment rate and if you ignore even what goes on in Washington, it‘s not what drives people‘s feelings, positive and negative seems to be driven by their own conditions, more than what they see in the newspapers.
GREGORY: And it‘s those conditions the Republicans want to build on. Because if you look at 2010, even beyond where we are in the last quarter of this year, that‘s what‘s tough for Democrats. If you look at health care and the deficit, they‘ll make the argument that Republicans aren‘t virtuous on this, that they‘re the ones who ran up the deficit and all the rest, but the reality is what people‘s circumstances are. And so they‘ll look at an activist Congress passing legislation, growing the debt, and then look at their own unemployment rate.
There‘s something, though, that I‘ve detected in the last couple of days from Democrats, and particularly the president and his allies and that is to try to restore that sense of confidence in Obama‘s leadership that is overall leadership quality is what is unassailable and that‘s what I think is suffering among independent voters, right now. And that‘s what they want to try to resurrect. I mean, you see some parallels here with Bush in ‘02 and ‘04 and how he tried—he had a national security—obviously, a huge dimension—a war on war dimension, but it was overall leadership, it was the long cast toward what the president was trying to achieve. I think Obama is trying to create that now, as well.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get back to that, because obviously success breeds success and failure breeds failure and if he does badly tonight and in the papers tomorrow, is that gong to hurt his chance to show leadership on health care? We‘ll come back with Cynthia and David. When we come back, more of the “Politics Fix.” The polls are closing in Jersey and we speak, about 8:00 tonight, we‘re going to have lots of results coming in over the hours. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: NBC News is now projecting that Republican Bob McDonnell will win the governor‘s race in Virginia. He has defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds. We‘re back with David Gregory and Cynthia Tucker for more of the “Politics Fix.” And that‘s the first bit of big news in tonight.
Cynthia, you first and then David. The implications on administration of Barack Obama should this night go against him on a number of fronts.
TUCKER: Chris, I think losing New Jersey, if the Democrats lose New Jersey, that would be a bigger deal. The loss by Creigh Deeds was expected. Virginia is a purple state, as you were talking earlier, its governor seat always goes the opposite of whichever party is in the White House. That‘s not a big surprise, but if the Democrats were to lose New Jersey, that would be a huge deal and Democrats in Congress would get nervous about any big initiatives next year.
MATTHEWS: David Gregory, the verdict, how it would play on the president‘s chances for health care?
GREGORY: Well look, the reality is that the president put himself out there in Virginia as he did in New Jersey. He has personal skin in the game, politically, here. But if you look, and certainly, the White House will point out, the president‘s own approval ratings in Virginia are about where they were last year. He‘s down slightly in terms of his own personal approval. So, even Virginia Republicans are saying tonight this is not so much a referendum on Obama as much as it is a kind of check on Obama‘s leadership, on Obama‘s agenda. And I think to that specific question, then, it does raise some flags about concern among independent voters, concern among more conservative Democrats to support issues like health care. But, we are still a long way away from the mid-term elections next year. So, the president‘s got some work to be able to do.
MATTHEWS: Cynthia, are the Democrats going to play up the Republican divisions, right now? Only got 10 seconds, yes or no.
TUCKER: Oh, absolutely. That‘s some of the best news for the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much. David Gregory and Cynthia Tucker. Join us again at Midnight tonight, Midnight Eastern Time, for a live edition of HARDBALL. As reported, Bob McDonnell is the next governor of Virginia, according to our NBC returns. Polls in New Jersey are closing now. Keith Olbermann has the latest on that very close race, next on “COUNTDOWN.”
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