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Wednesday, Nov. 3rd, 2010

Guests: John Heilemann, David Corn, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Steve King, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The president says “I feel bad.”

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, still up in New York. 

And leading off tonight: Shellacking.  That‘s what President Obama

called what happened to Democrats last night.  Roughly 60 -- what, 65 seats

I can‘t read that -- 65 seats in the House, at least six in the Senate, and I believe 11 statehouses went from Democrat to Republican.  President Obama called it a shellacking, as I said, and conceded today that voters were unhappy with the economy and with his own failure to change the way Washington works.

But the president also said the Republican tax cuts alone won‘t solve the problem.  Can he turn things around, as Bill Clinton did after 1994?  That‘s our top story, of course, tonight.

The biggest story of the campaign was the rise of the Tea Party.  Did they help Republicans win with the House?  Did they cost the GOP the Senate?  Can they go from throwing tantrums, perhaps, or protesting simply to governing?  Can they go from protesting to governing?  That is our big question.

And what can we expect from the Republicans now?  They work with President Obama or just work to get him out of the presidency?

Plus, candidates, start your engines.  The 2012 presidential race obviously begins now.  We‘re going to look at the Republicans who are already eying the starting gate.

“Let Me Finish” tonight with some words of encouragement for President Obama.

Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and a senior political editor of The Huffington Post and John Heilemann is a contributing editor for “New York” magazine.

Howard, it is so great to work with you last night because you were doing the reporting last night—


MATTHEWS:  No, you were really doing it.  You were working the phones, working your contacts, which are first-rate.  I just want to ask you about that situation.  Was there a big surprise as the evening developed of how bad it was, up around mid-60s now, we‘re estimating at NBC, the House seats lost, up around six with the Senate, will still some not quite clear—is that worse or about what people expected as the day arrived yesterday?

FINEMAN:  Well, Chris, I think, privately—and I did some reporting on this for The Huffington Post about it—last Saturday, I talked to two really senior political consultants here in Washington, one a pollster of 30 years‘ standing, the other a media consultant of 30 years‘ standing, really solid people I‘ve known for decades.  And they—I said, What‘s your guess?  And they both, independently of each other, said 70 seats.


FINEMAN:  And I was—I was shocked, and I ended up reporting it for the Web site.  And that was a little high in terms of public statements, but privately, I think a lot of people—and they had to be the people inside the White House, including David Axelrod, who talked to those same people I was talking to—had to be bracing for the worst, certainly on the House side, keeping their fingers crossed on the Senate.  They lucked out in the Senate because of the Tea Party, as you mentioned at the top.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I just—the next time somebody says to me, I don‘t believe in polls, I‘m going to tell them, Pay attention!



MATTHEWS:  They‘re very good.  In the Senate, by the way, NBC News now reports a big winner, we‘re calling it an apparent winner in Colorado—this has been very close.  A lot of people have their heart in this race—

Michael Bennet, the appointed senator, is expected to win that seat he was appointed to.  Right now, we‘re saying apparently.  It‘s very close.

By the way, Democrats retain control of 50 -- 50 seats plus two independents, that‘s 52, basically, for their caucus.  Two races are still to be called, Washington state, and of course, Alaska where it looks like a Republican or—well, a Republican is going to win that, the way it‘s going.

In the governors‘ races, Republicans are up at 29, and four races still to be called.  Republicans had a huge night in terms of the governorships, flipped 10 statehouses from blue to red, including big ones like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, a lot of governors moving to the Republican side.

Here‘s President Obama today in his press conference.  He called it at 1:00 o‘clock.  It had been called before the election results came in.  He was ready with this statement, something of a concession speech, I think you‘d call it.  Let‘s listen to the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think it‘s important to point out, as well, that, you know, a couple of great communicators, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were standing at this podium two years into their presidency, getting very similar questions because, you know, the economy wasn‘t working the way it needed to be, and there were a whole range of factors that made people concerned that maybe the party in power wasn‘t listening to them.  You know, this is something that I think every president needs to go through.  I‘m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night.



MATTHEWS:  You know, I—you know, I kept thinking, watching him, John Heilemann and also Howard—I kept thinking of people taking poise lessons when they‘re young women and young men, where you walk with the book on your head and you don‘t—you don‘t show any kind of nervousness or anything.  It seemed like most—the most important thing he was doing today was keeping his poise, not showing any shellshock.

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  It‘s true.  And you know, it‘s

interesting because, you know, I was in that room when Bill Clinton gave

that—that—his press conference after 1994.  And Bill Clinton—we

think of Obama in some ways being as an inferior political performer to

Bill Clinton.  Bill Clinton was much worse in 1994.  That was the press

conference when he kind of plaintively said the president is still relevant



HEILEMANN:  -- and seemed helpless, by stating that, seemed to expressed his selflessness.

I actually think Obama, compared to that performance, did pretty well today and was—and was, you know, sufficiently contrite, reaching out in the ways he had to reach out.  I mean, he could have—you know, by—sure, a lot of people in the press would have liked him to show some greater degree of emotion.  But you know, in fact, in terms of poise, which was actually really important today, he did a really good job.

MATTHEWS:  Did you get a sense, Howard, that he was responding to what he saw out on the stump?  Because out on the stump, he was mainly giving speeches, as he prepared to give them, he wasn‘t so much interacting with people.  Do you think he was candid today in saying he‘d learned something from the voters as he campaigned these last weeks?

FINEMAN:  Oh, I think he has.  But it‘s totally different from his nostalgic depiction, and an accurate one, of the year he spent, I think he said, running around in Iowa.


FINEMAN:  I mean, in Iowa, when he ran—and that‘s really where he won the presidency, in my view.  That was the seminal thing.


FINEMAN:  He really did get to know the people out there and be liked by the people out there.  And like anybody else, Barack Obama likes to be liked.

It‘s really hard.  You can‘t imagine—we can‘t possibly imagine what it‘s like, number one, to win the presidency, and then to stand in Grant Park the way he stood, looking out on that scene when he won two years ago, and then to be administered this kind of schooling, this kind of rejection, which is really of pretty historic proportions, Chris.  You have to go all the way back in time to have a new president be sort of hammered in this way.

yes, I think he learned a lot.  But not directly.  He learned it by the sheer force of the country coming in on him last night as he watched the election returns.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not a very felicitous comparison, but I think Hoover, ‘29, came pretty quick.  He had come in in March of ‘29, and the crash hit him pretty hard.  This was the crash going on when he came in, of course, and it‘s kept it somewhat murky.  Because the economic decline occurred as he was coming into office, the Republicans have been able to keep it murky and somewhat all blamed on him, whereas the luck of Franklin Roosevelt, I keep reminding myself, was that he had come in after there clearly had been a Great Depression in progress.

FINEMAN:  Although, Chris—although, Chris, the exit polls showed that—that—the question was in our exit polls, Whom do you blame most for our current economic condition?  Our current economic condition?


FINEMAN:  And the number one entity we blame is Wall Street, according to the exit polls, according to the voters who voted yesterday.  Number two was George W. Bush.  And number three, by a considerable margin, was Barack Obama.  But I think if you ask the question, How do you think he‘s doing at getting us out of the current economic situation—obviously, as President Obama himself said today, progress has been painfully slow—


FINEMAN:  -- and that‘s why—that‘s why the results were as we saw them.

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s also putting a good face on it.  People don‘t think it‘s happening.  I think that‘s a more—isn‘t that true?  Do people think we‘re slowly getting out of this or not getting out of this?

HEILEMANN:  They‘re not feeling it at all.

FINEMAN:  Right.

HEILEMANN:  And it seems like this is the biggest problem is that in the process of the last 20 months, I think President Obama did a lot of things that were necessary to stave off a Great Depression.  At the same time, he managed to appear to ordinary people to be simultaneously too much in favor of big government and too soft on big business.  To Howard‘s point about Wall Street, people think he coddled Wall Street—

FINEMAN:  Right.

HEILEMANN:  -- and nothing they have felt has changed in the real economy.  That‘s just a bad mixture.  That‘s a bad brew.

FINEMAN:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  In other words, people don‘t like Wall Street.  They don‘t like the government.  He looks like he‘s looking out for both.

Let‘s take look at him, and then I want ask you what I think is my question, I‘ve been working on it all afternoon, what I think is missing in all this.  Here‘s more President Obama today on where voters are feeling as he has followed it himself.  Let‘s listen to him.


OBAMA:  What is absolutely true is that with all that stuff coming at

folks fast and furious—a recovery package, what we had to do with

respect to the banks, what we had to do with respect to the auto companies

I think people started looking at all this, and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people‘s lives than they were accustomed to.  Now, the reason was, it was an emergency situation.


MATTHEWS:  You know, I think the people wanted to see him to respond to the election last night by action, not more words.  I think he has spoken a lot, guys, in the last couple weeks, and to the point where people aren‘t listening anymore, and I‘m not sure they‘re listening today, Howard and John.  I‘ll start with you, Howard.  I don‘t think they‘re going to hear him today.  I think he said a lot of good things today, maybe all the right things.

They want to see action.  They want him to respond to what they did at the voting booth by doing something, a cabinet shake-up, a major shift or upgrade in who he has in his White House staff, a real chief operating officer coming in, upgrading Hillary to secretary of defense, action that shows across the board, he knows he needs a better administration.  And he didn‘t even suggest today he had a schedule or even an intention of making any changes whatever.  I think that is a missed opportunity.  Your thoughts?

FINEMAN:  Well, I agree, it was—and this is a problem with Barack Obama.  He‘s an intellectual.  It was entirely too analytical, standing outside, looking at it, not to mention the fact that what he actually said was kind of devastating, because he said, Well, people were worried there was too much government, but then the president didn‘t mention either the health care plan or the whole cap-and-trade environmental thing.

To me—I know he was poised, but to me, it felt kind of kind of rudderless there.  If not rudderless, there was no wind.  There was nothing moving in any direction there for the reason that you say.  And I thought, actually, poised though he was, he seemed, frankly, to me just a little bit lost right now.  I think there‘s no direction there.  There‘s no movement, and that‘s a bad place to be in as a president on the day after the kind of results you saw last night.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the people want to see him do something different?

HEILEMANN:  I think people do want to see him do something different, although I think it‘s hard to start to do that until there‘s something to press up against.  I mean, we again—people in their minds romanticize the Bill Clinton pivot.  They think Clinton, you know, after ‘94, he learned his lesson.  He shifted to the center.  He cooperated with Republicans.  He signed a balanced budget.  He signed Welfare reform, and he was back in everybody‘s good graces.

MATTHEWS:  But he also pushed Carville aside and Stephanopoulos aside


HEILEMANN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  -- and brought in Dick Morris for better or worse.

HEILEMANN:  But that was happening secretly for six months.  It wasn‘t for a full year with Clinton—


HEILEMANN:  -- until the—until he had the clash with Gingrich, the government was shut down, all that stuff happened in ‘95 before Clinton really found his way back in early ‘96.  And it might take Obama a little time, and he might have to take the gauge of these Republicans.  How are they going to play it?  How does he move against them?  What actually kind of unfolds—

MATTHEWS:  You mean let them make the first move?

HEILEMANN:  Well, yes, I mean, and see—

MATTHEWS:  Dangerous.

HEILEMANN:  Are they—are they ready to deal or—

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at what Boehner wants to do, or at least the way he‘s going to hit him hard.  Here he is, John Boehner, the Speaker-to-be, also today.  Let‘s listen.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  The American people spoke, and I think it‘s pretty clear that the Obama/Pelosi agenda is being rejected by the American people.  They want—as I said last night, they want the president to change course, and I think it‘s change course, we will.  I think it‘s a mandate for Washington to reduce the size of government and continue our fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.


MATTHEWS:  Obama/Pelosi agenda.  Aren‘t you supposed to not say bad of the past—of the dead?  I mean, he beat Pelosi and he‘s still stomping on her political grave here.  What do you make of the gentlemanly conduct there, or lack of it?

HEILEMANN:  It‘s too bad he is not going to have her kick around anymore, right?

MATTHEWS:  It sounds he still likes to do this.  What do you make, Howard, ungentlemanly or what?

FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t think there is any gentlemanliness left anywhere.  Don‘t forget, John McCain, Senator John McCain, in order to try to prove his bona fides to the right, was out campaigning against Democratic senators in their state, face up against Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray.  That kind of stuff never used to be done.


FINEMAN:  You never did that in the Senate.  Mitch McConnell uttered something that you never used to say if you were leader of the opposition party, that you want the president you‘re up against to lose.  You know, you might have thought that, but you never said it.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.  You‘re right.

FINEMAN:  Now they say now there‘s no comity.  There‘s no, you know, cooperation.  It‘s a different situation.  I mean, John‘s absolutely right about how it took Clinton a long time to test the opposition, and so on.  There still was a middle—political middle in the country at that time.

I was just looking at a study of the new Republican freshmen coming in, the Tea Party House Republicans.  They make Ronald Reagan look like Nelson Rockefeller.  I mean, there‘s—they are—and there‘s nobody left in the middle because the Blue Dogs are mostly gone.  There are, of course, no moderate Republicans, none of that—there‘s no sort of, like, batting in the middle.  There‘s no—there‘s nothing to soften the blow in the middle anymore at all.

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if they still get that week of orientation at Harvard, the sort of—


MATTHEWS:  I wonder if they even show up for that kind of a thing. 

They don‘t want to get ruined.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you Howard.  Thank you, John.

Up next: Tea Party energy powered Republicans to a big victory in the House, but did it cost them the Senate?  Well, both could be true.  We‘re going to look at the effect of the Tea Party and whether it helped or hurt Republicans, bottom line it—we‘re going to bottom line the Tea Party when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, the Republicans knocked off some real leaders in the House of Representatives, Democratic leaders, on the way to their rough—roughly 65-seat pick-up, including three committee chairmen, 17-term congressman Ike Skelton, an old friend of mine, who lost in Missouri, 18-term congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota and 14-term congressman John Spratt of South Carolina, the long-time Budget chairman, all went down to defeat, as did Pennsylvania‘s Paul Kanjorski, another veteran seeking his 14th term.

Republicans flipped five Democratic-held seats each in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  They picked up five in each of those states, four seats in New York and three more in both Florida and Virginia.  All over the East, they‘re picking up seats as they were losing some of those big battles for Senate, still—still winning even on the East Coast, states where Barack Obama won two years ago, they‘re still winning seats today.

Anyway, HARDBALL back after this.



RAND PAUL (R-KY), SENATOR-ELECT:  Eleven 11 percent of the people approve what is going on in Congress!  But tonight, there‘s a Tea Party tidal wave, and we‘re sending a message to them!



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  That‘s newly elected Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who led the wave of Tea Party candidates who ran this mid-term cycle.  And even those who didn‘t win made clear they won‘t be ignored.  Here‘s Delaware‘s Christine O‘Donnell after losing last night.


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL (R-DE), SENATE CANDIDATE:  The Republican Party will never be the same, and that‘s good thing.  Our voices were heard and we‘re not going to be quiet now.


MATTHEWS:  And here‘s a real big number.  In the House and Senate combined, there will be 118 Tea Party-backed candidates.  What that will that mean for the power shift in Washington?

Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine and writes for

Let me go to David, first of all.

You know, I‘m stunned last night.  I saw a number of very strong-minded and strong-winded, I must say, concession speeches.  Carl Paladino brought a baseball bat.  He was going to beat up anybody who got in his way.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to talk about him later in the “Sideshow,” where he belongs.

And then Christine O‘Donnell laid down the law as what her—her triumphant opponent has to do.  I mean, it used to be you had a little humility when you lost.  Now there‘s some humility when you win, but the losers are giving the orders.  This is weird. 

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, these guys all deserve segments in your “Sideshow.” 

I mean, there is the Tea Party side that has succeeded and had serious candidates.  Some of them were not Tea Party candidates, per se.  Marco Rubio down in Florida, the Tea Party kind of adopted him, but he was a rising Republican conservative star to begin with. 

And Rand Paul, you know, was an activist who had a hard-fought campaign in Kentucky.  He did well.  But, if you look at Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, the two—the two folks that you just mentioned, and those are Tea Party candidates who didn‘t really do that well. 

I think the Tea Party probably had more impact in a way in the House races in just giving general energy to this conservative Republican push.  And as we know from the chart you just showed, there are dozens, if not scores, of new House Republicans coming into town who are conservative, Tea Party whatever, but they‘re going to pull the caucus to the right and make it, I think, challenging for the House and Senate Republican leadership. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is one of their stars, Marco Rubio.


MATTHEWS:  Pat, I want you to respond, because he is your guy—



MATTHEWS:  -- after we listen to his victory speech last night.  Here is Marco Rubio. 


MARCO RUBIO ®, FLORIDA SENATOR-ELECT:  We make a great mistake if we believe that, tonight, these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party.  What they are is a second chance, a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago. 



MATTHEWS:  Pat, there you have—there you have it—there you have, Rubio winning there. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you have this, beating off the governor of—beating the governor of Florida, and as well as the—as the Democratic, Kendrick Meek, a strong victory down there.

Pat, you have been with him since day one, I must say, long, all the way back to before Crist made his—his race and made his run, rather, when it looked like he could win.  You were always with Rubio. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, Chris, I have always believed that the Republican Party, as Bush left it, could not have beaten the Democrats like this—this year.  They might have gotten a few seats.

But I think the Tea Party is the vital component now of the Republican Party, certainly of its victory.  Now, we have talked about Boehner.  You have got to ask yourself, Boehner is basically a conservative.  By conviction and belief, he is closer to the Tea Party than he is to Pelosi and the president of the United States, and also by self-interests, by political self-interests. 

He has got to align himself with the driving force inside his party that really gave him those 65 seats.  So, that tells me where John Boehner is going.  He is going to be leader of the Republican/Tea Party.  And he is going to be ready to do battle, I think, with the White House. 

And just take one issue, Chris, Social Security.  If you‘re going to, you know, let‘s say, take it up to 68, 69 years old, you might get Republican support.  You won‘t be able to raise taxes for Social Security reform, because the Tea Party will hold the Republican Party back, and the Democratic left will not let you cut benefits.  I think we are really looking at gridlock. 

CORN:  I think there are a lot of people in the Tea Party, which skews older, who may not be that interested either in raising the age of Social Security or taking a chunk out of Medicare. 

I mean, Boehner is, you know, I think, foremost a politician, more than an ideologue.  But yet he‘s going to have to deal with these people coming in on the Senate side. 

Lawrence O‘Donnell last night again and again and again raised the issue of Rand Paul on his own, which he might be able to do, stopping the raising of voting to—to let the debt ceiling go up, which could bankrupt the country and trigger a global economic crisis.

MATTHEWS:  That is if he filibusters a debt ceiling. 

BUCHANAN:  He won‘t do that. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s—why would he do that?  What would be the purpose?


MATTHEWS:  He would eventually have to give up.  I mean, why would you filibuster something you eventually would have to concede anyway? 


MATTHEWS:  What would be the point of it?  He couldn‘t stop the government from operating.

CORN:  Well, he believes in it.  He says—


MATTHEWS:  No, but he couldn‘t filibuster it permanently, so he would end up having to give up. 

CORN:  Well, he says he believes in this. 


MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re missing my—


MATTHEWS:  Look, you are arguing an argument, David, that doesn‘t work here. 


MATTHEWS:  You can‘t filibuster a debt ceiling, because, eventually, you have to concede and let it go up. 

CORN:  Well, I think you are right.  But there is a lot of extremism within the Tea Party.


CORN:  And then—and I think it is going to be difficult for the leaders to manage.  And they‘re going to have to make some -- 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s lighten this up.


BUCHANAN:  Let me say something, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Let me say something.

David just used the word extremism.  These people have been called every single name you can think of.  Harry Reid started off in the summer of 2009 saying they are evil-mongers.  Nancy Pelosi called them un-American. 

These people and their leaders have been trashed—


BUCHANAN:  -- as though they don‘t even belong in politics by the media and by the culture. 


CORN:  These are the some people—


BUCHANAN:  And this is one of the reasons, quite frankly—let me finish—this is one of the reasons these people are so alienated from regular politics.  They have their own movement, their own cause.  Right now, the Republican Party is their instrument. 


CORN:  And they have their own set of facts and their own demagoguery. 

So, they—




BUCHANAN:  Call them names. 


CORN:  They talk about death panels that don‘t exist.  They come to the Capitol and they shout Nazis.  They can‘t—Nazis about the Democrats.  If that is not extreme, Pat, then you define for me what extremism --. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  I want to stop this.


MATTHEWS:  I just know the first member of the Congress to talk about her colleagues being un-American was Michele Bachmann of Minnesota on this program, when she said she wanted the media to conduct an investigation of the Democratic side of the aisle for un-American thinking and activity. 

Well, let‘s take a look at our interview last night.  It was kind of lighthearted, people say.  So, you guys decide if this is lighthearted or not. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  This is my interview with Congresswoman Bachmann last night.  Let‘s listen. 


MATTHEWS:  Will you use the subpoena power to do what you said on my program you would do, investigate the Democratic members of Congress for un-American activities?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Well, I think the first thing we‘re going to do is try and set the economy in order, because jobs is the big issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you want to investigate the Democratic members of Congress for un-American thinking?

BACHMANN:  Well, the plan that I have been talking about all through this election is really four things. 

And I would encourage the new Republican leadership to take this on as the agenda in 2011. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you hypnotized?  Has someone put you under a—a trance tonight, that you give me the same answer no matter what question I put to you? 

BACHMANN:  I think—I think the American people are the ones that finally are speaking tonight.  We‘re coming out of our trance.


MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t know.  That was a strange conversation.  I didn‘t plan to accuse her of being under hypnosis.

But it did seem odd.  Pat, I know these people are schooled in the

fact of answering questions with their own prepared material, but four or

five times, it was as if she couldn‘t hear me, and she was coming out with

with this, the prepared statement.  Maybe she wasn‘t under hypnosis, but she was acting it. 

But she was the one that actually did call on us to use our powers as media people to investigate Democrats for un-American activities.  I don‘t think she is familiar with HUAC, or the whole history of that House committee.  But you are and I am. 


CORN:  Yes, Pat is.


BUCHANAN:  I have no problem with it. 


BUCHANAN:  Hey, Chris, but here is the thing.  You know what?  She feels you were asking her a gotcha question.  You were raising something where she did make a mistake.  I was right on the show, came on after her.

And I said I defend what she says, but not that.  And she feels you are using this one moment and you‘re—to embarrass her.  She is going to ignore your gotcha question.  She is going to make her case through MSNBC.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And she‘s going to stick it right back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s fine. 

BUCHANAN:  They look upon—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s fair enough. 

BUCHANAN:  They look upon—they look upon the media, frankly us, as adversaries and opponents, whom you score off of and you realize they are on the other side.  That‘s what the Tea Party folks feel. 

CORN:  And they don‘t—but, also, they don‘t want to take honest questions. 


CORN:  She said that.  They‘re saying—you know, how many Tea Party Republicans have you had on in the last couple of weeks?


CORN:  And you ask them, OK, you want to raise—you want to keep the taxes low on—on—on the—on the well-to-do, that is going to add almost $1 trillion to the deficit.  How are you going to pay for that? 

How many honest answers have you gotten from them?  Chris, you have been trying to do that for how many weeks now?

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, now—now you are saying they are just dishonest people.  You‘ve—look, you‘ve—


CORN:  No, I‘m saying that they are not—they are not talking honestly about questions put toward them. 



MATTHEWS:  I thought we would do this in a lighthearted fashion. 


BUCHANAN:  I thought so, too, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Patrick—Patrick, use your good offices and get Congresswoman Bachmann on the program any time she will come on.  I—I think she is a delightful guest. 


MATTHEWS:  And it‘s always great opportunity to meet with her. 

Anyway, Pat Buchanan, David Corn, I stick to my theory about hypnosis. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, still ahead:  The 2010 is behind us.  Let‘s take a look at the contenders for 2012.  It really is starting now.  Everyone forgets Barack Obama announced for president just a few months from now two years ago.  This is the cycle.  It has begun, 2012.

Some Republicans already eying the starting gate, we know who they are.  I think Haley Barbour is pretty clearly looking at that door. 

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  With the midterm election in the books now, the fight for the 2012 election can begin.  With—which Republicans are going to step up to take on President Obama?  Who has got the best shot to win?  Our strategists next.

And later:  What will Republican do now that they have won control of the House of Representatives, which controls all tax policy, all spending basically, all everything, and the—and the subpoena power? 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks bouncing back in a big way after the Fed‘s announcement on quantitative easing, the Dow adding 26 points, after being down more than 100 points this afternoon, the S&P up four, the Nasdaq moving six points higher. 

The Federal Reserve announcing plans today to buy $600 billion worth of Treasury bonds, a bit more than Wall Street expected, still hardly a surprise here.  This move was mostly priced into the market already. 

GM announced the terms of its upcoming IPO.  It will offer $13 billion worth of stock starting around $26 a share, and it‘s forecasting profits in its first full year of operations. 

Solar energy companies, they were standouts today, after California voters approved aggressive targets for renewable energy in the Golden State. 

And shares of media giant News Corp. and wireless chipmaker Qualcomm are soaring after-hours on better-than-expected quarterly earnings delivered after the closing bell. 

That is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We just had a tough election.  We will have another in 2012.  I‘m not so naive as to sink—to think that everybody will put politics aside until then.  But I do hope to make progress on the very serious problems facing us right now. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.

That was, of course, President Obama today, this afternoon, in fact, mentioning 2012.

It‘s safe to say the Republican fight for the nomination is well under way—behind the scenes, of course.  And what is the winning strategy at this early stage to win the nomination, which is going to be worth a lot, I think, based on the polls? 

We‘re joined right now by our strategists, a Republican and a Democrat, the Republican being Todd Harris.

Congratulations, Todd, on Marco Rubio.  He has been all over the place.  Maybe he will be on the ticket.

And Steve McMahon.

By the way, is that a good response—a good response from you?  Are you saying you think Rubio will be a contender for V.P. on the Republican ticket this year? 




MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Would you like him to be on the ticket? 


MATTHEWS:  Would you push him that fast? 

HARRIS:  No.  No, he—


MATTHEWS:  You are holding back your pony, eh? 

HARRIS:  He will not be on the ticket.  That‘s for sure.


Let‘s take a look at the situation right now.  We got the exit polls right now, looking at these—the situation looking at 2012 right now.  Let‘s take a look at it now.  We have got there Romney out there as a favorite.  We have got Huckabee, and then Palin and then Gingrich.  This is for Iowa right now. 

Let me ask you.  The Iowa Republicans were actually polled on this.  New Hampshire Republicans were polled, Romney ahead up there.  He‘s the New England guy, of course, Palin, too, not bad for her, and then Huckabee and then down to Gingrich again. 

Then you look at South Carolina.  Look at Palin way up there again, Romney two, Huckabee three, and Gingrich at four—Gingrich always last. 

Let me go to a Republican on that.  Now, that is you, Todd. 

It seems to me that the pattern we predicted is still holding, which is that she should do very well the first time, have a little harder time, but not real hard time in New England—there‘s a lot of conservative there—and then really walk away with it in—in South Carolina. 

Do you see that as a scenario, if Palin were to enter? 

HARRIS:  I think, if the Iowa caucuses were tomorrow, that would probably be the scenario.  I think that she could be very strong there.  And she—she would have trouble in New Hampshire. 

But one of the things that we learned in this year‘s Republican primary race is that, almost without exception, whoever the candidates were who were up in the polls at the beginning of the race were the candidates that lost in the primary fight on Election Day. 

And so, you know, whether it‘s—here in Florida, whether it‘s Charlie Crist, or Mike Castle in Delaware, Steve Poizner out in California, the—being way out in front early in this environment is not necessarily a good thing. 

So, while Governor Romney, you know, his numbers look good, and Sarah Palin looks good in certain places, I‘m not sure right now that that‘s—that that means anything in terms of where we will be in two years. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Steve on that. 

That seems to me like, basically, the diagnosis there is that the country on the right is so angry at the establishment that, even if you are a front-runner in a poll, you begin to look like the establishment, and—and they are always going to root for the underdog. 

MCMAHON:  Well, I don‘t think Sarah—I don‘t think Sarah Palin is ever going to look like the Republican establishment, particularly after what she pulled off this year.  And based on Todd‘s answer, it sounds like he is supporting a different Republican in 2012 than one of the ones that are running.

But I‘m for Sarah Palin and I for one hope that the Republicans nominate her.  I hope she runs the table.  And I think that if you look at how popular she is among the base, she‘s got a pretty decent chance to run the table.  Remember, Mike Huckabee won Iowa last time.  It‘s a very conservative caucus state.  You get to New Hampshire where momentum really matters, a guy like Mitt Romney looks good in New England usually, but in a momentum state like New Hampshire, Sarah Palin could run right through.  And if she does that, she‘ll win South Carolina and be the nominee.

The Republicans had better stop her now if they think they‘re going to stop her because she‘s only going to get stronger.

MATTHEWS:  How do you beat her if she runs as, quote—and I don‘t mean this in a religious sense, I mean it in a political sense, because she‘s used this moniker of late, a Christian woman.  And she‘s the Christian woman running in the race, as if that makes her distinct from all the other candidates.  Is that a winning profile for her to assume?

MCMAHON:  Go ahead, Todd.


HARRIS:  It certainly is a winning profile with a certain demographic.  But remember, these primary fights are not mano-a-mano battles.  And so, if you have Sarah Palin who‘s making an over-appeal to Christian conservatives, but then you have—let‘s say someone like Jim DeMint were to run, he will make an extraordinarily credible pitch that same group of Christian conservatives.  So, in a multicandidate field, where you‘re playing three dimensional chess, there‘s just no way to game to out—

MATTHEWS:  I wonder.  You‘re missing my moment, she‘s the only woman and she‘s running as a Christian woman.  DeMint doesn‘t qualify that in that category.

MCMAHON:  That‘s exactly the point.  The distinction isn‘t that she‘s a Christian, because it will be a lot of those.  The distinction here is that she‘s a woman and that presumably won‘t be very many.

I don‘t think that there are going to be other Republican women who are going to step up.  Now, Michele Bachmann, who knows?  But I don‘t think there are going to be other credible Republican women who are going to step up in a field filled with white men and stand there and say, “I‘m only woman, I‘m the only Christian woman, take me down if you will.”  And—

MATTHEWS:  I think you are right.  That‘s why I said.  Let‘s go to Rudy.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Rudy, guys, because he always runs as a secular Republican.  He would be the perfect sort of bete noir (ph) for this.  So, let‘s take a look at Rudy Giuliani, what he said today.  He‘s back in the money.  I‘m not sure what Rudy is doing these days, but he‘s always talking around Republican nomination fights without being in one.

Let‘s listen.


RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER NYC MAYOR:  Let her run.  If she‘s as bad as you think, she will lose.  If she can really—if she can really make her case, she will—she will win.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”:  So, do you think she actually has a case?

GIULIANI:  Yes, sure she does.

GOLDBERG:  I would like to know what it is.

GIULIANI:  I don‘t want to get you all, you know, down on me.  But the reality is, she‘s got a hell of a lot more qualifications than Barack Obama did when he ran for president.



MATTHEWS:  What do you think of that?  Do you make that case, Todd, that hell of a lot better qualifications than President Obama when he ran for president two years ago?

HARRIS:  Look—

MATTHEWS:  You accept that?

HARRIS:  Regardless of what anyone thinks of Palin or Obama, if you‘re just looking at her resume now and his resume when he started running, they‘re not that dissimilar.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he wrote a box and she had showed no evidence of having read one.  There is a difference in I.Q. here.  I don‘t mean an I.Q., but sort of knowledge.  And knowledge is relevant, isn‘t it Todd?  Or is it irrelevant now?

Do the Republicans now contend that being an absolute know-nothing at some qualification for the presidency, if you can prove you don‘t know anything, had never been to New York, have never read any magazines, at least not glossy ones, does that sort of automatically establish you as credible, is that the new standard?

HARRIS:  Well, first of all, the question was about experience.  It wasn‘t about whether you‘d been to New York or not.  And I don‘t think that the people who are frustrated with the direction of the country really care one way or the other whether a candidate, you know—

MATTHEWS:  Has ever read anything.

HARRIS:  -- has read the right books, you know, that people on the East Coast think—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re are playing this game, too.


MATTHEWS:  The right books, you are playing this same game.  You are like—never mind.  This is the game.  This is the French fries game George W. taught you guys, make fun of anybody that might know a second language, make fun of anybody that did well in school.

HARRIS:  Hold on.  No.  No.  That‘s absurd.

MATTHEWS:  Of course it s.

HARRIS:  No, I‘m not making fun of any of those people.  What I‘m saying is, on a question of experience, her resume and Barack Obama‘s resume when he started running are not dissimilar.


HARRIS:  So, you know, you can argue whether you think one is smarter than the other or one had written a book, one is not, but on the pure question of elected experience, you know, they are not that far apart.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I just love this fact.  Let‘s get in the airplane with a guy that has never flown a plane.  Let‘s get in with a doctor that has never done an operation.  Let‘s go—geez, the standards right now—


HARRIS:  Chris, if the American people put such a premium on experience and John McCain would have beaten Barack Obama because he had a hell of a lot more governing experience than Obama did.  There are—there are things that are more important for the average voter.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, except he flipped so many times, I didn‘t know where he stood.

Go ahead.  Your thoughts.

MCMAHON:  There are two pieces to this, though.  The first is what kind of experience as a candidate have and the experience is usually an insight into what kind of knowledge do they have, what would they bring to the office, will they be up to the challenge.


MCMAHON:  Will they learn on the job?  And, frankly, it‘s the second test that she fails miserably, not the first test.  She‘s a smart woman.  She‘s obviously very verbal and she has done very, very well out there for herself.  She walked away from a pretty easy job.  Even though she can see Russia from her backyard, she doesn‘t seem to know much about foreign policy.  And those are the kinds of things that will get her in trouble.

Frankly, liberals making fun of her nor not reading books probably isn‘t going to get us very far, but liberals asking her questions about foreign policy and about domestic policy and about where she would cut and why are the kinds of things that are going to matter to Republican primary voters and ultimately, would matter a lot to general election voters.

MATTHEWS:  OK, fine.  Let me—Todd, nice try.  And nice try as well, you‘re supported this time by Steve McMahon.  I think you‘re both wrong.

Up next: after last night‘s historic victory, what will the Republicans do now?  Will they try to repeal health care?  Will they try to make the spending cuts?  They always talk about but can‘t tell which ones they will?

Last night, we kept trying to find out what they‘ll cut.  Will they overreach, like they did back under Newt?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  One of the things we have from yesterday is who voted yesterday and how they compared to the electorate back in 2008.  Yesterday‘s voters were older and whiter, if you will.  Twenty-three percent of the voters yesterday were over the age of 65.  In 2008, voters 65 and older made only up 15 percent.  They were whiter, of course, yesterday: 78 percent versus 74 percent two years ago.

And independents broke big for Republicans this time, 56 percent to 39 percent last time.  Independents went for Obama, by the way, 52 to 44.

So, all that we expected came to pass yesterday.

HARDBALL, back after this.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

Now that the Republicans have won control of the House of Representatives and have slimmed down the Democratic majority in the U.S.  Senate, what will be their top priorities?  Will they work to repeal health care, paralyze the White House with multiple investigations, and try to make Barack Obama one-term president?  What are they up to?

Congressman Steve King is a Republican from Iowa.  And U.S.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a Democrat from Florida.

Mr. King, Congressman, thank you for joining us.  The last time, is the first goal to continue the Bush tax cuts or is it to go after the health care plan of President Obama?  What would you like to see as H.R.1?

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  I would—I would list H.R.1 and H.R.2 in this way, the 100 percent, complete, very clean, repeal-able Obamacare.  H.R.2 being extended into 2001 and ‘03 tax cuts in that order, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  So, health care be number one.  OK.

Let me go to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on that, would that be—

KING:  I would make that number one.

MATTHEWS:  Is that easier for you to fight or the other one?  What would one you rather see the Republicans, given the fact that‘s there‘s a rivalry aspect to this in the legislative process?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Well, I mean, my colleague is—was really a Tea Party Republican before.  It was cool to be one and—so, it‘s not surprising that that would be his H.R.1.

But I really don‘t think the message yesterday would—should be taken as H.R.1 being repealing health care reform.  The American people don‘t want to re-litigate that.  I don‘t think that American people want to see insurance companies back in the driver‘s seat.  They don‘t want to have insurance companies tell people that they‘re going to be dropped or denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.  They don‘t want to be told that their kids can‘t stay on their insurance until they‘re 26 years old.

And if that‘s the first debate that we have, then the Republicans have not gotten the message.  I think the message that we should take from yesterday, and certainly it was a strong one, is that they want us to focus in a laser-like way on jobs and the economy.

And I‘ll tell you another—another thing, Chris, is that they want us to focus on getting the banks to lend money again, because those are the ways that we‘re going to be able to get this economy moving at a pace that the American people expect.  And that‘s the message the Democrats should take.  We‘re going to be focusing on that.  We‘re going to hold the Republicans‘ feet to the fire.

And quite frankly, the party of no and the party of obstructionism now is going to be forced to decide whether they want to help us govern with President Obama in the White House and the Democrats in charge of the Senate, or if they‘re going to overreach, as you referred to.  And to be honest with you—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go with the president, both of you—

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s likely that they‘ll overreach.

MATTHEWS:  I think you both watched the president today where—I think the president offered the first sort of indication where he was headed.

Congressman, it seems to me what he wants to do is try to get the middle class tax cuts up to $250,000, but he‘s willing to negotiate the higher income levels to get that.

Would that be something that you folks on the Republicans‘ side might negotiate in this lame-duck session?  Some whereby—some plan whereby you got a short-term extension of the upper income in exchange of perhaps extension of below $250,000 -- is there any compromise there?

KING:  Well, I‘d say, first, I want to congratulate Debbie on a masterful job of spin today and I take us back to this.  If we can resolve the issue of the ‘01-‘03 tax cuts in a lame-duck session, then it only leaves one subject for H.R.1 and that‘s a repeal of Obamacare.

MATTHEWS:  So, you think there could be a compromise?

KING:  We may be able to work something out.  I want to get something done with the state tax.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me get a compromise.

KING:  I wouldn‘t say that I‘d be the guy that would lead on the compromise.  I would—I would want to look at these numbers and see what Democrats are willing to do.


KING:  And we have to make a decision then on whether better off to get passed the first of the year with newly seated members the Congress or whether the Democrats actually got the message.  It‘s interesting now they‘re talking about compromise and the president is talking about reaching a consensus.  He wasn‘t interested in that when they were force-feeding Obamacare.

This is a matter of—


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I didn‘t hear a whole lot of effort for the compromise for the other side either.  I know, I can see what‘s starting, Congressman, here.  I get the message.

Thank you, sir.  Steve King, a Tea Partier, nonpareil I think.

Anyway, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, thank you for joining us.

When we return, let me finish with some words of encouragement for this president.  You didn‘t hear anything from that, but I‘m going to give him some.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with my encouragement to the president.

The election results remind us all that democracy is a difficult form of government.  It is, as Winston Churchill once noted, the worst form of government except for all of the others that had been tried from time to time.

I‘m sure the president would have preferred a strong vote endorsement for his policies, his performance, himself.  He didn‘t get one.

What he got with what one person called a vengeance from the voters. 

In one of the great phrase of the campaign, “a real kick in the pants.”

People understand politics know you need to have fixed principles and grand purposes, but you also need to finesse to know when and how to put them into action.  That finesse is not only essential to success.  It‘s the essence of politics.

The next weeks and months will be the test of whether this president we elected with such hope will be able to master the difficult terrain ahead.  There are many Republicans who came to office with a single purpose: defeat Barack Obama.  There are others who are loyal to the country‘s best interests whether Obama gets defeated or not.

The president‘s challenge is to work his way to those approaches that will reach common ground with those Republicans and on those issues where he can.  It‘s not his challenge alone, but it is he, the president, who will need to make the kind of offer partisans on the other side will find it hardest to refuse, especially hard to refuse with the whole country watching.

The great challenge for the Republicans is to find someone who can beat Barack Obama in two years.

The great challenge for Obama is to find ways to make Republicans have to choose in the meantime between joining him or looking like creeps if they don‘t.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.




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