Guests: Ron Brownstein, Cynthia Tucker, Jimmy Carter, Sushannah Walshe,
John Heilemann, Sam Tanenhaus
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Eight days to go.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Christ Matthews down in Washington. Leading off tonight: Nerves on edge. How can people be so heartless? The American independent voter is on a tear. A new Politico battleground state poll shows independent voters inclined to be even nastier to the Democrats next Tuesday. Whether Democrats can stop is surge among independents will determine whether they either cut their losses next Tuesday or drown in a Republican tsunami. We‘ll weigh the odds on that, look at all the hot Senate races and tell you which party is benefiting from all this early voting.
Also, I‘m going to talk to former president Jimmy Carter about the race to the finish this week and what will happen if President Obama gets caught—and he could be—between a Republican candidate next time and independent in 2012. What does happen if Sarah Palin runs and sparks an independent run by Mike Bloomberg of New York? Believe it or not, they could split the vote and result in Palin‘s election in the House of Representatives.
Also, closing arguments. We‘ll take a look at the last rush of ads hitting the airwaves and what they tell us about which candidate is confident he or she‘s going to win and which one knows he or she is in big trouble.
And which candidate said President Obama could take his endorsement and—these are his words, up in Rhode Island—“shove it” only after he asked for the president‘s endorsement and didn‘t get it? That‘s in the “Sideshow,” where it belongs.
All that‘s ahead, but first let‘s check the latest polls from around the country. With one week of campaigning left, let‘s go to the “Scoreboard,” the HARDBALL “Scoreboard.” Let‘s start with the generic congressional ballot and how independents are breaking for Republicans. Look at that number. That is nasty, 44 to 30, independent voters are going to go for the Republicans. That‘s in the Politico George Washington battleground state.
Now to the Pennsylvania Senate race, where were last Thursday. The latest Muehlenberg “Morning Call”—that‘s out of Allentown—tracking poll has Republican Pat Toomey, the Club for Growther, with a 5-point lead over Joe Sestak, 47 to 42. That race may be opening up for Toomey.
In Illinois, where we were on Wednesday last week, Republican Mark Kirk has a 3-point lead over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. Too close to call there, obviously. In the Florida Senate race, it‘s Marco Rubio again holding his big lead over Charlie Crist, who is fading, and Kendrick Meek, who is not taking off. Neither one of those candidates are showing much. It looks like Rubio down there.
In California—this is the one that is the blockbuster poll of the weekend—a new “Los Angeles Times” poll has Senator Barbara Boxer, who was struggling, barely ahead of the other candidate, up 8 now. Something happened out there. And check out this number from the California governor‘s race. Look at this, Jerry Brown, the old veteran, coming in 13 points now over Meg Whitman, 52-39. We‘re going to talk about that right away.
We‘re going to continue, by the way, to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” all this week on all the big races leading right up to November 2nd, next Tuesday.
Now, let‘s turn to the state of play in these races. We‘ve got some experts here. Cynthia Tucker‘s political columnist for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” and Ron Brownstein is the “National Journal” columnist.
I want to start with Ron on this big question. You were in California this weekend. I was there—my wife‘s Stanford reunion. Big question. What‘s going on with Jerry Brown? Was it the way that Meg Whitman seemed to have treated her Latina housekeeper?
RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Yes, well, this is a bigger margin...
MATTHEWS: Is that it? Is it personal?
BROWNSTEIN: I think it is largely personal in that Meg Whitman has made herself, for a variety of reasons, the focal point of the campaign more than Jerry Brown. I mean, it is more...
MATTHEWS: That‘s not good.
BROWNSTEIN: And that is not good at a time when people are so dissatisfied. That‘s why the other race is closer. I mean, the general feeling in California is that the government‘s race is more a referendum on Whitman. The Senate race is more a referendum on Boxer.
BROWNSTEIN: And no one wants to be kind of the focus at a time when you have such, you know, broad dissatisfaction with the way things are going.
MATTHEWS: I think, in California, they‘re voting against my friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
MATTHEWS: I think that Jerry Brown ad that shows her lip-syncing, basically, or you know, synchronized swimming with Arnold Schwarzenegger on every single word she spoke, is lethal to her because it looks like she‘s another Republican business person who says they can fix up Sacramento when it‘s already been screwed by a Republican businessman.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, “ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION”: Well, that was a very clever ad for Jerry Brown to run because I thought he‘d have more trouble digging himself out of the hole I thought he was in when one of his staffers was overheard calling Meg Whitman something that you should never call a woman.
MATTHEWS: Right. We agree on that.
TUCKER: But he came right out of that with this hard-hitting ad. Meg Whitman‘s $130 million that she spent hasn‘t done her any good. But in an even odder contest, Barbara Boxer seems to be pulling away from Carly Fiorina, and I thought that that would be harder for Boxer to pull out.
MATTHEWS: You were making a point. Why is Barbara Boxer, who‘s been around a while—you either like her or you don‘t. I‘ve always liked her, but some people don‘t. She‘s too ideological for some people. What‘s brought her back out of the woods where she‘s up to 50?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, let‘s be clear. The “LA Times” poll is better for both Brown and Boxer than any...
BROWNSTEIN: ... that‘s been out there. Well, it‘s a little wider. I mean (INAUDIBLE) California last week was plus-8 for Brown. This is plus-13. Plus-5 for Boxer. This is...
MATTHEWS: But time has moved on in that...
BROWNSTEIN: But there are a number of other...
MATTHEWS: You think Boxer‘s ahead?
BROWNSTEIN: I think—I think people do feel that Boxer is ahead, but Democrats do not feel that that race is done. They‘re not even sure the governor‘s race is done, but they feel that they have a stronger advantage there because I think Brown really has reemerged as kind of an eccentric almost ingratiating character, as opposed to Whitman, who‘s had trouble connecting on an emotional level and may be facing...
BROWNSTEIN: ... sheer amount of money. But Boxer‘s—look, Boxer‘s challenge is at the backdrop of her race, is dissatisfaction with what‘s going on in Washington. Whitman‘s challenge—as you say, the backdrop of her race is dissatisfaction in what‘s going on in Sacramento. So there‘s a very different context in which each of these are being...
TUCKER: But let‘s not leave out the Latino vote. Neither one of them...
TUCKER: Neither Republican is doing well with Latinos...
MATTHEWS: When you fire somebody after something you know what they were doing illegally all those years and then pretend you‘re cleaner than whatever...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Jerry Brown. I love this guy for one reason. He makes all guys who are getting older feel much better...
MATTHEWS: ... because he‘s 70. He was governor back in the ‘70s.
BROWNSTEIN: He replaced Ronald Reagan.
MATTHEWS: He replaced Ronald Reagan...
MATTHEWS: Look, here‘s the question. Let‘s—I really am fascinated by the fact that he just looks like he‘s come alive physically in those debates. He‘s got the juice.
MATTHEWS: He‘s got the shots back!
TUCKER: ... clearly enjoys politics.
TUCKER: He enjoys running. He enjoys the contest.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take look at Pennsylvania. We were there last week. This is the Muehlenberg tracking poll out of—as I said, out of Allentown. It‘s got Toomey moving ahead, the Club for Growther. He‘s a bit to the right—as you know, Ron, he‘s a bit to the right...
BROWNSTEIN: For the state, right.
MATTHEWS: ... of normal Pennsylvania voters. Has he just done something right, or is it just anti-Washington, anti...
BROWNSTEIN: No, I think—I think in a different—in a different year, it would be more difficult for him to win. But because of what we‘re seeing in the movement among independents—the Philadelphia suburbs have been the key to the movement of that state as they move...
BROWNSTEIN: ... from reliably Republican toward being—leading strongly Democratic. Obama won them by 20,000 votes in ‘08. Now because of dissatisfaction over the economy, the size and scale of government issues...
BROWNSTEIN: ... Toomey can compete there in a way that he might...
MATTHEWS: And taxes is...
BROWNSTEIN: ... not be able to otherwise.
MATTHEWS: ... a dynamite issue in the suburbs. We saw Marjorie Margolis get killed on that issue years ago. Here‘s...
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Toomey saying today he doesn‘t see a connection between himself and other candidates like Christine—of course he doesn‘t! Let‘s listen. Who‘d want to be connected to her, the witch! Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT TOOMEY (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: I really don‘t see the need to do this. I—I—you know, this is a sort of fictitious connection that Joe Sestak is trying to encourage.
Frankly, I don‘t think anybody‘s confused—is confusing the candidates. I‘ve been campaigning for 18 months now. I‘ve got a very clear message for that entire time. I don‘t see the issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So Ron, here‘s a guy (INAUDIBLE) we‘re wearing ties because we have to on this show. You don‘t wear a tie. You show little underwear shirt underneath. You know, you look like a regular guy these days. And you say, I got nothing to do with the person running in the next state. I don‘t even know her.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. Look, from an agenda point of view, there‘s enormous overlap between virtually all of the serious Republican Senate contenders. We did a piece on that. You can look down the board on these issues. They‘re very similar. But in terms of credentials and credibility...
BROWNSTEIN: ... and kind of personal gravitas, you‘re talking about something very different with Pat Toomey than you are with Sharron Angle...
MATTHEWS: ... Philadelphia media market...
MATTHEWS: A lot of people in Philly are watching these ads.
TUCKER: Exactly. And that has helped Sestak a little bit. There are actually...
MATTHEWS: She‘s got great name ID, by the way, Christine O‘Donnell.
MATTHEWS: Everybody knows who she is.
TUCKER: Because we talk about her all the time. She‘s so outrageous, it‘s hard not to talk about her. And as you know, in certain parts of Pennsylvania, people see the Delaware commercials. And so...
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re called Philadelphia commercials...
MATTHEWS: I hate to tell you, Philadelphia television is so dominant, it covers all of south Jersey, five counties, and the entire state of Delaware.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: That‘s why it‘s expensive to run for office.
BROWNSTEIN: Look at Pennsylvania and California. There‘s a lot of similarity between the way the big voter groups are dividing in each state. What matters is how many of them are there in each state. In California, Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown are getting walloped among blue collar white voters, as Democrats are elsewhere. But they‘re a smaller share of the electorate.
You mentioned Latinos. A third of the vote in California this time is going to be non-white. And among the white voters, more...
MATTHEWS: They will show.
BROWNSTEIN: And they will—that will be even down. And among the white voters, more of them will be college educated, white collar white voters, where these Democrats are doing better. In Pennsylvania, there aren‘t quite as many of those to work with. And in a place like Arkansas or North Dakota, there are none of them. So that‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... in 1982, Bill Bradley—or Bradley—Tom Bradley was supposed to win the governorship out in that state. And all of a sudden, this boring guy...
MATTHEWS: ... Deukmejian (ph) came back. In Illinois, a new “Chicago Tribune” poll has Republican Mark Kirk up 3 points over the guy, Alexi Giannoulias, 44-41. I thought he was a very attractive candidate, Giannoulias, when you meet him. I mean, of all the guys we met last week, he‘s the coolest customer. He worked the crowd. He didn‘t just come in and do the speech or the interview with me. He went around, met everybody, stayed here for 45 minutes. Likable in person.
TUCKER: But he‘s got some major baggage. He carries some major...
MATTHEWS: The bank...
TUCKER: He‘s got ethical issues, banking issues. The one thing you don‘t want to be in this particular cycle is a candidate who has run a bank that failed, whose family has run a bank that‘s made bad loans.
MATTHEWS: What about his opportunity, who has the Blumenthal problem of—I hate the word “lie”—not telling the truth about his war record, his military record?
TUCKER: Well, that‘s probably why the race is as close as it is.
BROWNSTEIN: You know...
MATTHEWS: Are there any great candidates this year, or are they just imperfect candidate against another imperfect candidate?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, the way the modern campaign...
MATTHEWS: I can‘t find...
BROWNSTEIN: The way the modern campaign works, I mean, you could be George Washington and you come out of this with a lot of scars.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe.
BROWNSTEIN: But you know what? Sestak, Kirk, Murray, Bennet in Colorado, even Boxer in California, they‘re all facing really the same mathematical equation. They‘re going to get walloped in rural parts of their states. They‘re going to get walloped among white blue collar voters.
BROWNSTEIN: And the issue is can they hold down their losses in the suburbs and get out enough minorities...
BROWNSTEIN: ... to get over the top?
MATTHEWS: Two things I want to...
MATTHEWS: Your reporting this week, first thing—big swing towards the Republicans among independents, 44-30. The second thing is you interviewed the president.
MATTHEWS: What was it that hasn‘t been picked up on in your interview with him—I want to talk about attitude, as we say in Philly.
MATTHEWS: Has his attitude changed...
BROWNSTEIN: Sorry about Philly, by the way.
MATTHEWS: I know. Tell me! I was in San Francisco watching (INAUDIBLE)
BROWNSTEIN: Has his attitude changed?
MATTHEWS: Has his—you got me...
MATTHEWS: ... because I care a lot about the Phillies. Is it a problem for him that he has seemed too elite, too holier-than-thou in a sense of being above politics? Does he have to get down a little bit into the real world the next time around if he‘s going to get reelected? Does he know that?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, there is no question that among kind of working class white voters, the Democrats are going to get plastered. And they even perform more poorly in this election than they did in ‘94. But I did not—when I talked to the president last week...
MATTHEWS: Does he share their sweat and worry about life?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, it‘s an interesting question. I mean, he does not sweating—he does not seem to be—you know, I interviewed Bill Clinton the Sunday before the ‘94 election, and you could feel the weight of it on him and trying to wrestle with how he got himself in this position. Talking to President Obama, it was clear that he‘s begun to think very systemically about how he might deal with a world with a lot more Republicans in it. But I did not hear a lot of second guessing. It was much more matter of fact about, How I am going to move forward.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about...
BROWNSTEIN: And it was very different...
MATTHEWS: ... his personal attitude towards the average guy, if you will, black or white or whatever? Does he feel a little humbled by his failure to get the unemployment rate down to the 8 percent his economists said he would?
TUCKER: Of course he does. I mean, there is absolutely no doubt that the economy weighs heavily on the president‘s mind. For heaven‘s sakes, let‘s remember his own childhood. The president didn‘t grow up privileged. He grew up the child of a single—
MATTHEWS: Has he remembered?
TUCKER: Well, of course he does. He grew up the child of a single mother. His grandparents were working class. They struggled. Does he project that perhaps in the way Clinton did? No, he doesn‘t. But Bill Clinton lost, too. Bill Clinton may have projected that better, but the Democrats lost 52 seats when the unemployment rate was under 6 percent. So if the Democrats can now hold their losses to in the 50s, I don‘t think they will have done that badly.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) 50s?
TUCKER: To in the 50s, in the 50s.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, that‘s...
TUCKER: In the 50s.
MATTHEWS: The way I hear it put by an expert is if the Democrats only lose 45 seats in the House this year, it‘s a good night.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, that‘s a—you know, that‘s a bad good night.
BROWNSTEIN: Look, I do think it‘ll be somewhere in that range, if not slightly higher. I mean, any place—as I said to you before, any place where Democrats are going to have to win a lot of working class white voters to win, they are in danger, whether it‘s the Senate or the House, because those voters are both skeptical of government. They were dubious of Obama to begin with. And they‘re being hammered by the economy.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve got my predictions at the end of the show. I‘m going to tease a little bit to the end of the show, but they‘re along those lines. I think it‘s going to be very tough for them to beat this wind, but I still think you‘ve got to vote. And if anybody out there doesn‘t vote because they think it‘s a bad year for their party, they‘re making a mistake because there‘s always going to be good candidates you can find out there you should vote for and bad ones you‘ve got to keep out of office, no matter what the tidal flow, which is (INAUDIBLE)
Anyway, thank you, Cynthia. Thank you, Ron Brownstein.
Coming up, former president Jimmy Carter‘s coming here with some attitude of his own. Wait‘ll you catch this. I just did the interview. It‘s something. We‘ll get to him and to the mid-terms, the 2010 (INAUDIBLE) when we come back with President Obama and he needs to be doing. The president is very good, the former president, of what needs to be done.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s a troubling sign for Democrats. President Obama‘s been campaigning heavily in places he won big in 2008. Take a look at the counties where he‘s been most recently campaigning—Multnomah County out in Oregon, that‘s Portland, Oregon, where he won 77 percent of the vote in 2008. King County, Washington, that‘s Seattle, where he carried 70 percent of the vote. Los Angeles County, which he won by 69 percent of the vote, and of course, San Francisco, which he carried with 84 percent. Clark County, Nevada, which of course, is Las Vegas, where he won 59 percent, and Hennepin County, Minnesota—that‘s Minneapolis—Obama carried that county with 63 percent. And that‘s where he‘s spending all his time. Tack on today‘s stop in Providence, Rhode Island—he won that county with 83 percent of the vote. These are places the president‘s carried with an average of 72 percent of the vote last time. And here he is working hard in what should be Obama country. He‘s defending the home fort.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Jimmy Carter kept a diary during his time in the White House. His new book is aptly titled “White House Diary.” President Carter, thank you so much for coming on HARDBALL. I often mention the fact that I had the honor to serve you, and I don‘t want to leave that fact out as we begin this hard-hitting interview.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—did you make any changes in your diary to be nicer? Did you take anything out that was too tough for even you to speak?
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, as a matter of fact, Chris, after about a year, I‘m going to make the entire diary available to scholars and news reporters, including you, if you like, even with all the typographical errors. So no, I did not delete anything just to save my feelings or to ease off on it. I just picked out about 20 percent of the most interesting, enticing, titillating and I think historically important entries that I made.
MATTHEWS: What was interesting, I thought, from my own personal view, from my own keyhole into your administration, that the only mention you made of the speech writers was to say you didn‘t like the draft of the farewell address.
CARTER: Well, I had a good relationship with some of the speech writers, and as you know, not a very good relationship with others. But I liked to write most of my own speeches, but I benefited greatly from some of the speech writers‘ input.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the toughest issues of your administration. You know, you took a lot of grief from people, wiseguys that made fun of you for mentioning that your daughter, Amy, had mentioned nuclear nonproliferation as a concern. And here it is something we talk about almost all the time, the possibility that countries like Iran will get control of nuclear weapons. Do you feel a little bit angry about the fact people mocked you for something that‘s so current today, even in your lifetime has been proven correct?
CARTER: Well, not angry, not 30 years later.
As a matter of fact, I just got back from North Korea, where I was over there trying to do away with the North Koreans‘ inclination to build nuclear weapons, so, not angry, but, you know, I didn‘t have a very good relationship with the press in many ways.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the energy thing.
You were made fun of for talked—for trying to get people to wear sweaters in the winter and reduce the thermostat, so we don‘t...
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing, but it was such a hot issue, because people were saying you were...
CARTER: It was.
MATTHEWS: ... you were making the presidency small, when in fact you were dealing with the issue we deal with again today, which is energy consumption.
CARTER: I wrestled with it for four years.
When I went into office, we were importing 8.6 million barrels of oil per day. In five years, we cut it down to half that, 4.3 million. Now we‘re back up to about 11 million barrels a day. And most of the energy policies that I put into effect that wasn‘t embedded in law have been reversed because of pressure from the oil companies, the automobile companies, and presidents afterward that didn‘t care anything about the energy policy, and particularly Ronald Reagan.
Well, let me ask you this issue that is cutting right now. There‘s a lot of buzz on this show already about the possibility of a third party running in 2012, which, in many ways, as you know, automatically tends to help the Republicans, in this case—and maybe not automatically—but, if Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, runs, that‘s going to hurt Obama, isn‘t it?
What do you think of third parties?
CARTER: Well, of course I didn‘t like them when I ran for reelection in 1980s...
CARTER: ... because, for two-and-a-half years, Ted Kennedy had been running against me. And in the last minute, a third-party candidate came in and picked up a lot of the liberal Democratic votes.
CARTER: And, as a matter of fact, Ronald Reagan only got less than 51 percent of the votes, but he won because of a third-party candidate.
MATTHEWS: Well, won‘t Bloomberg do the same to Obama?
MATTHEWS: If you look at the states that Bloomberg could win, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, you know the ones, maybe Florida, they‘re all Obama states last time. He would only hurt Obama, wouldn‘t hurt a Palin or Republican of any kind of at all.
CARTER: Well, I‘m not sure that Bloomberg is seriously considering that. I think it would be a mistake if he did, because he couldn‘t win, but he might prevent Obama from winning reelection.
And what he would do is just guarantee the Republican would move into the White House. And that‘s what happened in 1980, when Ronald Reagan moved in because of the split Democratic Party.
MATTHEWS: So, you think it would be bad for the country?
CARTER: I think it would be better for the country if President Obama was reelected.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Democratic liberals. You mentioned them. They tend to be dissatisfied often.
There‘s a great old phrase, NDC. It meant New Democratic Coalition years ago, but it also means November doesn‘t count. It‘s the attitude of as long as you win the fight on the left and the beat the center, or beat the center-left, you have won the battle, even if the right ends up winning.
You had the battle with Ted Kennedy. I see it today with the netroots, the younger generation, groups that are angry all the time at this president.
What do you make of it?
CARTER: Well, I think there‘s no doubt in my mind that, in history, this is the most polarized country and the most polarized partisan divide that we have ever seen.
In the last two years or year-and-a-half now or more, the Republicans have decided we won‘t give Obama any support, maybe two or three votes at the most, on most important issues, even when he puts forward ideas that the Republicans had first originated themselves.
So, it‘s a deadlock now. And I hope that, after this election is over, the Republicans will feel some responsibility, whereas they have been completely irresponsible the last two years.
MATTHEWS: But the Republicans—you‘re right. They basically blocked everything the president tried to do and forced him to the left, forced him to bring left-wing or center-left coalitions without any help from the center-right.
Didn‘t they win the argument? I mean, it‘s brutal politics, but they won, I guess, on the argument, because they made him look lefty.
CARTER: Well, that‘s true.
And I was forced in the other direction, as you know, because Ted Kennedy took away the very liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
CARTER: And I had to—and got extraordinary, good support from the Republicans while I was in office, and we had a very high batting average, as you know.
Well, what do you make of this? What is there—there‘s just something fundamentally wrong with the Democratic coalition, that, if you‘re a centrist Democrat like you, a moderate—you‘re a progressive to some extent, but basically a moderate. Is the left always going to be a thorn in the side of the center-left or moderate Democratic president?
CARTER: Well, I think the attrition rate has been even greater among the moderate Republicans. And now the hard-right, very conservative, fundamentalist Republicans are taking over. And any moderate Republican is very likely to be on his way out of the House or Senate.
CARTER: So, I think that that‘s what‘s happening. And the reason is that we have had such a tremendous infusion of enormous sums of money into the campaign chest of the candidates for Congress, the Senate and presidency.
And so now we are inundated with negative advertising that kind of takes over and it polarizes everything, because the best avenue to success is to destroy the character and reputation of your opponent, and that animosity or distrust carries over into Washington and also generates very hard-line blue and red states in the country.
MATTHEWS: Well, what you think of these Tea Party people? Mr. President, I look at a lot of them as, they‘re not all crazies. They‘re regular people, a lot of middle-middle-class people.
MATTHEWS: They‘re very religious. They‘re churchgoing people, like yourself.
And I wonder, do they know that they‘re being backed by big corporations and all this conservative money at the top?
CARTER: The ones that know it deny it. And, obviously, the Tea Party movement has been completely financed—almost completely financed by hard-right oligarchs who want to prevent the oil companies and major corporations from having to pay their share of taxes or to comply with environmental laws.
CARTER: And so the Tea Party movement has been suborned by these very right-wing people who don‘t give a darn about low-class working people, but just want to feather their own nests.
MATTHEWS: I wish they knew that.
Let me ask you this. Do you think for sure that Barack Obama, the president, has made up his mind to run for reelection? Last question.
CARTER: No, I don‘t know. I don‘t—I don‘t have any relationship with Barack Obama in talking about his future plans.
My hope is that he will prevail. And I believe that the next two years might be even better for him, because he will have at least one body in the Congress of the United States that has to have some responsibility to the public, that is—be the House of Representatives.
CARTER: Hopefully, it won‘t be the Senate as well.
But, with that responsibility, it would be quite a change in the total irresponsible action that the Republicans have assumed the first two years. But I think it will let Obama go directly to the people more and to plant his—his staff, his flag among the people, like Harry Truman did in 1948, when he won the presidency, reelection, because he characterized the Congress as a do-nothing Congress.
I think Obama has that chance now, which he didn‘t have before with a Democratic majority in both houses.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me pay tribute to your—to your diary, Mr. President. It‘s clear for me, even reading a bit of it, that you had no help from speechwriters, that this...
MATTHEWS: ... that no one got in your way. This was pure Jimmy Carter.
MATTHEWS: And anybody who wants to know what you really think, all they have to do is read this book, the “White House Diary” of Jimmy Carter.
Thank you, Mr. President. It was an honor to serve you and it was an honor to have you on tonight. Thanks for coming on.
CARTER: Best wishes, Chris. Thank you.
Up next: Why has a Democrat running for governor told President Obama
and these are his words, not mine—to shove it? That‘s up in Rhode—
Rhode Island. Wait until you hear this guy. Check out the “Sideshow” straight ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: Hell hath no fury. Frank Caprio, the Democrat running for Rhode Island governor, said through his campaign last week that he would welcome President Obama‘s endorsement.
Well, yesterday, ahead of the president‘s visit up there, the White House announced it wouldn‘t be endorsing a candidate in that race.
Caprio, to put it lightly, didn‘t take the news well.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FRANK CAPRIO (D), RHODE ISLAND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I never asked for President Obama‘s endorsement.
He can take his endorsement and really shove it, as far as I‘m concerned.
We had one of the worst floods in the history of the United States a few months back, and President Obama didn‘t even do a flyover of Rhode Island, like President Bush did when New Orleans had their problems. He ignored us. And now he‘s coming into Rhode Island and treating us like an ATM machine.
So, what I‘m saying to President Obama very clearly is, I will wear as a badge of honor and a badge of courage that he doesn‘t want to endorse me as a Democrat.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Remember, that race does include independent candidate Lincoln Chafee, who served in the Senate with the president as a moderate Republican and was early to endorse Obama‘s presidential bid. Chafee has pulled ahead in that race for next Tuesday. I guess the president has a memory.
Next, you can add Carl Paladino to the list of candidates caught inflating their military service. Paladino‘s campaign manager has stated that Paladino served six months of active duty at Fort Bliss in command of 250 soldiers training for Vietnam, well, statements that were later echoed in a “New York Times” profile.
Well, “The New York Post” then decided to look into Paladino‘s military record. Its report, Paladino served half that amount of time, just three months of active duty, and never trained anybody.
Paladino was—was dealt another blow this weekend when his hometown paper, “The Buffalo News,” endorsed Andrew Cuomo. Their reasoning, Paladino doesn‘t have the temperamental balance—I love that word, balance—to serve as governor. In other words, he‘s unbalanced.
Now to the “Big Number.”
Meg Whitman of California, Rick Scott of Florida, and Linda McMahon of Connecticut have all this big personal money made in business to fund their candidacies. All in all, how much have they all spent together? Wow—
243 million bucks, the three of them spent.
Rick Scott, Meg Whitman, and Linda McMahon pour 250 million bucks into their campaigns—tonight‘s “Money can‘t buy you love” “Big Number.”
Up next: The energy of the Tea Party might help vault Sarah Palin to the Republican nomination in 2012. Who knows. And one keen observer says that she may not be able to beat President Obama in a one-on-one, but she might be able to bring in somebody like Mike Bloomberg as a third-party candidate, a third alternative.
That‘s ahead. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing modestly higher on a weaker dollar, the Dow climbing 31 points, the S&P adding two-and-a-half, and the Nasdaq moving 11 points higher. The falling dollar boosting materials and commodities, Dow industrials and transports also nearing new highs today.
Airline stocks continuing to soar on strong earnings and a rosy outlook for the industry, but financials started out the week struggling on continuing fallout from the foreclosure crisis.
And that is it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide. It‘s back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
In an upcoming “New York” magazine cover, John Heilemann reports the Sarah Palin presidential run is not longer just a possibly. It‘s a probability—quote—“Among two dozen senior strategists and operatives with whom I have spoken in recent days, there is a growing consensus that Palin is running or setting herself up to run. All agreed that her entry would radically and fundamentally transform the race. Most averred that, if she steps into the fray, she stands a reasonable chance of claiming the Republican prize. Indeed, more than one argued that she is already the de facto front-runner.”
Joining us right now is the writer himself, “New York” magazine John Heilemann, co-author of “Game Change,” the big book on the last election. And also joining us, The Daily Beast‘s Shushannah Walshe.
John Heilemann, I think you‘re making a lot of noise with this piece. And, basically, you set up this Rube Goldberg solution. If Sarah Palin runs and looks like she‘s heading toward the nomination, then Mike Bloomberg jumps in to grab all those suburban moderate Republican votes and tries to win down the middle. Is that your assumption?
JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK”: Yes. Well, I think it‘s a three-part thing, and each of—putting it all together, it might seem a little implausible. But if you think about piece of it, it makes a lot of sense.
As you—the part—the piece of the article you just read, Chris, I think a lot of people now in the Republican Party who are professional, in the game of politics professionally, think that she‘s going to run. That‘s the first part.
The second part is, could she win the Republican nomination? Well, she‘s—the thing you read there about her being the de facto front-runner, she‘s going to be—if the Republican nomination fight looks like one one—a two-bracket fight between an anti-establishment bracket and an establishment bracket, she‘s pretty much guaranteed to be the finalist on the anti-establishment side.
HEILEMANN: And with the energy of the Tea Party, she might get the nomination.
And the thing that Mike Bloomberg looked for in 2008 and is going to look for again in 2012 is what the people around him call wide goalposts. And if she is the nominee, it‘s pretty likely—not guaranteed, but pretty likely—he will get in. And then we‘re in kind of unchartered territory.
MATTHEWS: Why would he run if he—Jimmy Carter is saying tonight on our show that he can‘t win. If he can‘t win 270 electoral votes, why would he run?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think there would be a couple different possibilities there.
I mean, one is that he thinks that he has a more optimistic sense of his ability to draw from both the Democratic side and the Republican side than some analysts do. He might—he might come to the conclusion, looking at it, that there are some red states where he could take enough away from Palin to actually win those states.
And the second possibility, I suppose, is that if nobody gets a—if nobody gets an Electoral College majority and it goes to the House, that Bloomberg would think that the Republicans in the House would be reasonable enough to put him in charge, rather than put Sarah Palin in charge.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he‘s not looking at the—well, I‘m going to go to Shushannah on this, because here‘s the problem.
The problem is that, if neither candidate for the presidency, or none of the three in this case, Bloomberg, the president, or, in that case, that scenario, Sarah Palin—all three run. It‘s Palin, Bloomberg, Obama.
If none of them gets 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives doesn‘t decide it. Members of the House of Representatives get to vote state by state, with each state getting one vote. Now, the way this country is divided, electorally, the Republicans generally have over 25 states, because that‘s the way the small states vote. They‘re Republican.
So, if it does go to the House, it would go to a Republican and it would be run by conservative Republican states that wouldn‘t like Bloomberg. There is a chance here that Palin could be elected president by a conservative majority among states each getting one vote in the House. It is possible.
SUSHANNAH WALSHE, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: And it‘s really interesting and that‘s what John pointed out his article. I think that even without the Bloomberg equation, that she could win. I think it would be difficult. I think that her leaving the governorship is really her Achilles heel.
But, you‘re right. I mean, if it goes to the House of Representatives, and if many of her mama and papa grizzlies win next Tuesday, and I don‘t think that she‘s backing people in and that she‘s thinking at will that she‘s planned it out, as in John‘s article, but I think that she probably read it today and said, hey, it‘s pretty good, it‘s great that I backed all these people.
I mean, obviously, not all will win next Tuesday, but it‘s going to help her if this scenario that John described does happen.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s the whole question. You‘re making a pretty easy argument to make. I never thought of it before, John. It isn‘t hard at all to imagine that Bloomberg steals some of these Democratic states, a handful of them.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Right.
MATTHEWS: And if he steals a handful of Democratic states, that denies either party the chance to get 270, probably. Probably.
MATTHEWS: And basically, look at that map, there it is. Basically, Heilemann brings up an intriguing scenario. Let‘s take a look at the Bloomberg candidates.
Here‘s what could happen with the electoral map, look at—quote, “Bloomberg, especially with the help of his billions, could stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and California. Combine that with a strong enough showing on a few other states, in the industrial Northeast, you could deny Obama those states. And with Palin holding the fire engine red states of the South, the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary win.
Assuming you could still remember the basics from American government 101, you will now know it‘s up to the House of Representatives where you get each state getting one vote.”
And that is thing, though, the weird thing about this is—we haven‘t had the House of Representatives pick a president since, what, way back in the 19th century. What do we make of this?
John, your thoughts.
HEILEMANN: As I said, it‘s—you know, look, on some level, it‘s a crazy scenario. But as I said, if you take it apart, you can kind of find yourself getting there.
And I do want to stress—I mean, Bloomberg, I think, would—in this circumstance, he would be looking for a scenario not just where Palin was the Republican nominee, but if you‘re looking for a situation where Obama was considerably weaker than he is today. If Obama at 45 percent or 44 percent approval in 2012 -- Bloomberg‘s not going to see that in a path.
But if Obama‘s down in the high 30s, which, if the economy continues to be stagnant or if it gets worse, could be the case, Bloomberg would, I think, try to make the argument—not just in those states that you mentioned, but in some of the paler red states, that‘s he‘s the only one who has the economic confidence to get the country out of economic morass.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s the bad part of your story. If he runs and all he does is take away votes from Barack Obama and delivers this to the Republican Party. And the way it would work is, if you have two candidates knocking the incumbent, him and the Republican candidate, whacking away at Obama, for two years, he would bring down Obama and turn it over to the Republicans. And I‘m not sure—is that—is that what Michael Bloomberg wants to do, John Heilemann?
HEILEMANN: I don‘t think that‘s what he wants to do, but again, I mean, I think he would only—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what John Anderson did to Carter.
HEILEMANN: I think he would only—I think he would only run if he saw a way, if he saw a way to winning it for himself. I think that‘s the case. It‘s always been his—
MATTHEWS: That‘s fair. If he thinks he can win, he should run. If he can‘t win, he shouldn‘t run. That‘s what I think. That‘s my judgment. I should be giving it a (INAUDIBLE) just here on the show.
Sushannah, your thoughts, last thought.
WALSHE: I agree in the way that John described it in his article, that if Bloomberg thought he wouldn‘t win, he wouldn‘t get into it. And, really, John also said this in his article, that it isn‘t that farfetched. In 2008, they floated the idea also that, you know, Bloomberg definitely explored it. So, it‘s not that crazy that he will explore it again.
And if he does have two people—and as John said, the goal posts are pretty wide between a Palin and Obama, I definitely see him getting in.
But I agree, he wouldn‘t get in if he thinks that he couldn‘t get in. And he has a lot of money, too, to back himself up.
I‘m agree with you, John, it‘s great piece. You know why your premise is smart. I‘ve never seen the two political parties less popular.
MATTHEWS: And the Republican sweep next Tuesday, it‘s not because anybody likes them.
Thank you, John Heilemann, and congratulations on a great new piece.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Sushannah Walshe, thank you for joining us, from “The Daily Beast.”
WALSHE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the midyear air wars. We‘ll have the latest political ads coming. They‘re always fun to watch. These are the closer ads.
They‘re fascinating because you can tell by watching them who‘s winning and who‘s losing. The nastier ads is the person who‘s losing.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s President Obama‘s closing argument against the Republicans. He made it late today in Rhode Island. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They voted against these ideas again and again. They talk a good game about tax cuts and giving entrepreneurs the freedom to succeed when, in fact, they also voted against tax cuts for the middle class. They voted against tax breaks for companies creating jobs here in the United States. It‘s just plain politics. You know, if you‘re going to talk a big game, then you need to deliver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A tough talk from the president here.
HARDBALL back after this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With just a week to go, eight days to go, actually, the candidates are making their final arguments with the voters and why the voters should give them their vote, often using ads with the—what do they tell us? Well, they tell us a lot about the state of the race.
Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst.
And “New York Times‘” Sam Tanenhaus joins us. He‘s the author of “The Death of Conservatism,” now out on paperback.
Let me go to this first ad because it‘s Meg Whitman. And she‘s obviously been rocked a bit by these new poll numbers, showing her double-digit behind Jerry Brown.
Let‘s hear her appeal. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
MEG WHITMAN ®, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I know that many of you see this election as an unhappy choice between a longtime politician with no plan for the future and a billionaire with no government experience.
Well, let me tell you my story. My husband and I came here as newlyweds. We raised our family here and the California dream came true for me in ways that I never could have imagined.
Now, I‘m running for governor to restore the California dream for everyone. I‘m not a career politician or a Hollywood star. I‘m from Silicon Valley, where I created thousands of jobs at eBay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, after months of kicking the opponent as hard as she can, she goes sweet and lovely, peaches and cream. Will that work, Sam Tanenhaus? Will people buy this sweetness after all of this rough play of the last couple of months?
SAM TANENHAUS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what surprises me, Chris, is -
this is the ad that we‘re getting at the end of her campaign? What did she spend $140 million or something? And she‘s now introducing herself and her biography. It looks a little desperate to me.
Also, you know, this question of business versus government. You know that‘s kind of the big issue on the table now.
TANENHAUS: You have a populist electorate that isn‘t so happy with either one, and she‘s putting herself in one camp. I don‘t know about this one.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with you. Here‘s Harry Reid, by the way.
Boy, does this guy need a closing argument?
Let‘s listen to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader out in Nevada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: Sharron Angle is reckless, radical and extreme.
JAN JONES, HARRAH‘S ENTERTAINMENT: Electing Sharron Angle would cost thousands of jobs.
LARRY RUVO, SOUTHERN WINE & SPIRITS: She will be the knockout punch for Nevada‘s economy.
CHRIS BROOKS, DIRECTOR, RENEWABLE ENERGY: Sharron Angle supports tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. That‘s just crazy.
NARRATOR: There‘s a better choice. Harry Reid is saving thousands of jobs.
JIM MURREN, CEO, MGM RESORTS: Let‘s start with the fact that I‘m a Republican. There is nobody that‘s done more for the state.
BROOKS: We need the majority leader.
NARRATOR: Replacing Senator Reid with Sharron Angle would be a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you‘ve got the establishment argument. Is that going to work in 2010?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You see, Chris, that‘s how you do an attack ad. You got a poor (ph) messenger who nobody likes in Nevada or very few people do. Keep him out in the ad. Get your business leaders, your casino owners, the people who even says he‘s a Republican to make the attack ad.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t believe me, believe them.
WOLFFE: Believe them and one‘s a Republican.
MATTHEWS: It‘s so establishment.
WOLFFE: But, yes, you know something? If you‘re worried about jobs and you‘re trying to make her out to be spooky, that‘s a pretty good ad.
Let‘s talk about this one, talk about an easy one. Here‘s a chippy from Chris Coons, his ad against his forlorn opponent Christine O‘Donnell. Let‘s listen to this one. This isn‘t even fair at this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: Christine O‘Donnell says a lot of strange things.
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I‘m not a witch. Evolution is a myth. Scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals, and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.
Now, she‘s attacking Chris Coons.
The truth is: Coons cut $130 million. Taxes in New Castle County are among the lowest in the region. Unlike Washington, Chris Coons balanced six budgets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is it OK to call zany “zany,” Sam? I mean, this is piling on. Wouldn‘t this be what do you call unnecessary roughness in a football game?
TANENHAUS: You know, that‘s a really clever ad, Chris, because it starts off with all of the crazy stuff, boils it down, does not mess with this whole separation of church and state issue—which is actually hard to parse, you know, literally in the Constitution, and then also pivots to just what Coons has does. So, it kind of reminds the voter there was reason you have to vote.
Here‘s a guy who‘s ahead. His concern is probably is complacency, will people go to the polls? He gives just them enough of Christine O‘Donnell so they‘ve got enough a reason to go out there and vote—really clever ad.
MATTHEWS: OK. Rod Serling making a comeback.
Here‘s Linda McMahon, the wrestling queen, going after her opponent, Dick Blumenthal. Here‘s part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
LINDA MCMAHON ®, CONNECTICUT SENATE CANDIDATE: People have said a lot of false things about me. I know it would happen. But I wanted you to know the truth about why I‘m running. I‘m running because I‘ve lived through some of the same hardships many of you are facing. I‘m running to be your voice, the voice of the working moms, stay-at-home moms, families, and small business owners who are struggling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Richard, will that work in elite Connecticut?
WOLFFE: You see, never mind the brainy mouse. That‘s actually a clone, sort of emerge between Meg Whitman—Meg Whitman and Christine O‘Donnell.
WOLFFE: She‘s you.
MATTHEWS: I love it because you could tell who‘s losing.
Thank you, Richard Wolffe.
Thank you, Sam Tanenhaus. His new book, the “Death of Conservatism,” now in the paperback.
When we return, let me finish with some of the things I‘ve been watching for the final days before the midterm elections.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the election coming up next week. I‘ll be talking in coming days about what‘s at stake. But, tonight, right now, I want to talk about the outlook.
It looks right now like the Democrats will lose the House. I say that because even in a decent year, they would lose perhaps 25 seats. Even if the jobless rate were down around 7 percent, not up around 10 percent. Even if President Obama‘s numbers were up around mid-50s, they would lose 25 seats.
Why? For the simple reason that the Democrats rode up the score in the last two elections. If you look at the swing states they picked up in 2006-2008, you can see the places, in the suburbs, in the rural areas where Republicans usually have the edge. They won those seats when people wanted to see a shift from Bush to Obama. Those seats would have reverted back to their usual partisan moorings even in normal times, and 10 percent unemployment and holding is not a normal time.
On the Senate side, it‘s a fact that the Democrats could lose that, too. I look at the races in Arkansas, in Indiana, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, and seeing not too difficult pickups for the Republicans. I look at Nevada, Illinois and Pennsylvania, and see the prospect for more wins by the Republicans—though somewhat more difficult. And then I look at West Virginia, the state of Washington, California, Colorado, and Connecticut, and I see the Republicans have a chance to win the whole Senate. They have to win 10 of those 12, but they can do it.
The simple fact is the tide is heading in Republican direction, but there will be exceptions where good people buck the tide. I‘ve seen it happen and I‘ve seen those people go on to buck the tide and lead impressive careers.
So, what does this all leave me with? Again, an admonition—even with a strong tide in one direction that may well change the control of Congress in both houses, the key vote is yours. You can help pick good, public officials. You can help keep bad ones from coming into office and becoming public officials. These are two powerful reasons to get out there and ignore the tide.
That‘s HARBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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