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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, August 15th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Jennifer Donahue, Jonathan Martin, Lloyd Doggett, Dee Dee Myers

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The Republican shake-and-bake.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off
tonight: The final three. What just happened? Has the door just closed on
the GOP field? Bachmann`s a winner. Perry`s in. Pawlenty`s out. The
others, do they really matter? No. We`re down to the eastern conference
champion, Mitt Romney, and the western conference contenders, Perry and
Michele Bachmann. While some Republicans are still pining for Chris
Christie, it looks like we have a three-person contest. The cake looks

So who is this guy, Rick Perry? Is he this year`s Bobby Kennedy,
someone who shakes up the race and threatens to take it all, or is he the
latest version of Fred Thompson or Wes Clark, flameouts whose first day is
their best?

A Tea Party takeover of the GOP by Bachmann or Perry may just be what
President Obama needs. He comes off the worst week of his presidency in
terms of politics with his approval rating in the daily Gallup tracking
poll now at 41 percent. In fact, yesterday it was down to 39 percent. I
think that`s an Obama low. He hits the campaign trail today, of course,
with town hall stops in Minnesota, ending up in Iowa. The question is,
will the president keep trying to compromise with Republicans, or is he
ready to offer the public something they will buy but the Republicans

And, Raise my taxes, please. That`s what Warren Buffett wrote in
today`s "New York Times." In a piece entitled "Stop coddling the super-
rich," the billionaire Buffett makes it clear that it`s time the wealthy
sacrificed for the good of country and stopped being coddled by Congress.
Funny, that`s just what President Obama`s been saying all along.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with what has become of the Republican
Party, a Tea Party with a Perry on top.

We start with the Republican field as it is. Howard Fineman --
couldn`t ask for a better guy to have on tonight -- MSNBC political analyst
and Huffington Post Media Group editorial director, and political analyst
Jennifer Donahue is back. You know, you`re in the campaign season! Public
policy fellow at the Eisenhower Institute.

Now, I have a proposition I`m going to end with tonight. I`m going to
start with it. But let`s go to the news here. Here`s Rick Perry in Iowa
today taking a swipe at President Obama. This guy throws haymakers. Let`s


president of the United States to do something. He`s coming into Iowa here
in a little bit, and I`m asking him to do something. He says he`s on a
listening tour, so I`m going to talk to him.


PERRY: And here`s what I`m going to say to him. Mr. President, you
need to free up the employers of this country to create jobs!


MATTHEWS: What is that, post-traumatic Bush disorder? What are we
looking at, Howard? I`m hearing those jeans (ph) disappearing over the
horizon there, the good, old Southern drawl, healthy, western, windswept.
He`s got bales of hay there!

just came back from Iowa and I can tell you that Rick Perry is made for the
ultra-retail politics of a place like Iowa. His organization skills remain
to be seen, but as a retail politician...

MATTHEWS: Explain that word to the public.

FINEMAN: Well, retail politician means...

MATTHEWS: Meet and greet.

FINEMAN: ... person-to-person, eye-to-eye. You know, he doesn`t say,
I`m going to tell them, he said, Imanna -- Imanna tell him something`, and
that`s going to translate. And he`s very approachable. He`s very
emotional, firm handshake, look in the eye. Great at that kind of stuff.

Michele Bachmann, I can tell you, is a superb organizer -- with a lot
of women, by the way, running her organization...

MATTHEWS: Interesting.

FINEMAN: ... women who come out of the traditional "family values"
thing. But Perry is a tremendous guy on the stump. He really is.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me -- I have no idea what my friend, Jennifer
Donahue, is going to say, so I`m going to ask you a wide-open question. Is
this cake baked? In other words, are we looking at the field right now?
We`re not sitting there saying, Will big Chris Christie come in the field?
Will Jeb Bush come riding in? Will Haley Barbour? Will Mitch Daniels? Is
that over with?

We`re past the pre-season. It`s now these three people we`re looking
at, with the hot guy on the road there, the cowpoke, Rick Perry looking
pretty good right now, Michele Bachmann having the only "W" next to her
name. She`s actually won one now, the straw poll this weekend. And of
course, Mitt Romney is the old Republican Party, perhaps tired old
Republican Party.

Is that the big three and the only three right now?

and it`s the only three, Chris. I think what you have is Perry coming in
so strong that it`s his to lose. Romney a very, very beleaguered front-
runner who`s had months of a wide-open campaign to prove that he can do a
what Howard just described, which is a little bit of handshaking and a
little bit of eye contact, and Romney showing that he`s about as robotic as
Al Gore was. I think Michele Bachmann is also a very good retail
campaigner, also very organized.

But I talked to a Republican strategist and very big donor today who`s
supporting Perry. And while we were talking for about an hour, his phone
didn`t stop ringing.


DONAHUE: It was Pawlenty supporters, it was Bachmann supporters, it
was Romney supporters, and it was money coming in. He can match Romney
dollar for dollar, no matter how much money Romney spends. It is over for
Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: OK. You`re looking down the road. I love your projection
here. Howard, that`s a smoll (ph) production (ph).


MATTHEWS: You`re doing this -- the regular street corner, what`s it
called, shoe leather reporting, can`t go that far yet. You`d be ruining
the entire year.


MATTHEWS: But let me ask you about that speculation that she just
(INAUDIBLE) as a projection. Could it be that Obama is the luckiest
politician in history? The luckiest.


MATTHEWS: Because instead of having to defend himself from the
middle, he now goes against a hard-righter?

FINEMAN: OK, what always...

MATTHEWS: A hard-righter.

FINEMAN: What annoys me about you is that you always say what I`m
thinking before I write it.


MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: That`s why I`m here, but...

FINEMAN: President Obama is unlucky in the economic circumstances
that he`s facing...


FINEMAN: ... although that`s what helped get him elected --
economically unlucky, politically lucky because as I see it here -- and
Jennifer, I`m not sure I would...

MATTHEWS: Lucky at cards, unlucky at love!

FINEMAN: I`m not sure I would make the bold prediction Jennifer`s
making about Mitt Romney. He`s got smart people and he`s -- you know, he`s
got some staying power, perhaps. But Rick Perry is in exactly the right
place. He can go to his right with Tea Party and the evangelical
Christians because of the background that -- his background that you talked

MATTHEWS: It`s real.

FINEMAN: ... but he can also talk about being a governor, being a
decision-maker, being a job creator, which is more in Mitt Romney`s space.
So Romney`s the one in the -- I mean, excuse me, Perry`s the one in the


FINEMAN: ... actually, where...

MATTHEWS: Look at him!

FINEMAN: ... strategically, which is the place to be. He can do the
retail stuff, but as Jennifer says, he`s going to be raking in money. I
think he`s going to get a lot of the people who endorsed Tim Pawlenty in
Iowa. Tim Pawlenty did it the traditional way, collecting endorsements
from mayors and Republican state committeemen, and so on.

Most of those people I think won`t go to Romney because they could
have gone to Romney before. Now they`re likely to go, most of them, to
Perry, only a few of them to Bachmann.

MATTHEWS: Here`s Rick Perry this weekend making clear he`s very much
anti-Washington. Let`s listen. This guy, basically -- I`ve never heard
anybody talk quite like this. Let`s listen.


PERRY: America is not broken, Washington, D.C., is broken!

I promise you this. I`ll work every day to try to make Washington,
D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can!



MATTHEWS: Well, that is -- that is -- it`s not (INAUDIBLE) the era of
big government`s over, he`s saying the era of government is over, Jennifer.
This is strong stuff.


MATTHEWS: If he can go as far right as that, as to say, Let`s get rid
of the government, basically, let`s get rid of Washington, basically, if he
can go all the way and hug that right-wing corner, that mean`s nobody`s to
his right, including Bachmann. That means the Republican Party is safe for
the Tea Party.

Does this mean -- I`m listening to you a minute ago -- take a minute -
- has the Tea Party taken over the Republican Party and Romney`s not in the
party anymore.

DONAHUE: I believe the Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party,
and we saw evidence of that in 2010, when the Tea Party took over the
Republican Party in Washington. What Perry is failing to talk about is
that the Tea Party is right of where the electorate is. And so what you`re
likely to have, as you were sort of alluding to, is a really weak candidate
in Romney, who probably cannot beat Obama anyway, but a too far right
candidate in Perry, and not quite as far right at Bachmann in this

And the Republican strategists I talked to today said that there have
been assurances up and down the line that Perry will not do what Bachmann
is doing. He`s not going to talk about abortion, God and guns. He`s going
to talk about jobs and the economy, and he`s going to stay away from what
they called the crazy talk. But I think, still, in the general election,
you have...

MATTHEWS: Hasn`t he already been there? Hasn`t he already lost his
virginity in that area by saying he`s talking about secession from the

DONAHUE: Not in New Hampshire, Chris...

MATTHEWS: How do you erase that from the record?

DONAHUE: They`re going to love that in New Hampshire. People here
want to secede. I think Perry is talking...


DONAHUE: On that message I think he`s talking to Libertarians. He`s
taking Ron Paul`s 10 percent. He`s taking some of Bachmann`s 10, 15
percent. I think he`s taking some of that Libertarian perspective and
pulling it right in. And I don`t think that`s so far from where the
Republican Party is right now.


MATTHEWS: Jennifer, I think you`d be a great running mate. I look at
(INAUDIBLE) you up there in New Hampshire, perfect...




FINEMAN: Let me ask Jennifer a question. You know New Hampshire as
well as anybody. Can Rick Perry beat Barack Obama in the general election
in New Hampshire?

DONAHUE: Yes. I think people here are so frustrated -- and
unemployment is not as high in New Hampshire as it is in the rest of
country, but people here are so anxious about the economy, working two
jobs, unemployed, underemployed, that I think Barack Obama is in very, very
serious danger even in a state like New Hampshire, which he carried easily
last time.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at Michele Bachmann, who did win the Iowa
straw poll. Here she is. She says the political tide is turning in her
direction. Let`s listen.


now, the fire! They`ve recognized that Obama can be beat!

People saw there`s a movement. She`s speaking for me. She`s fighting
for me. I can trust this woman. She`s not a politician. That`s the
difference because, you see, I`m a real person!


MATTHEWS: This is how far right the Republican Party`s going. As you
write brilliantly, as always, Howard, here it is -- and Jennifer respond to
this after Howard. He said the Republican Party`s got some new
commandments. There are 10 of them. It`s the decalogue again. But here
are just five of them. Thou shall not raise any taxes. Thou shalt pass a
constitutional amendment to making abortion illegal. Thou shalt pass a
constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a
woman. Thou shalt repeal "Obama care." Thou shalt repeal the Dodd-Frank
banking regulation act.


MATTHEWS: Talk about an odd -- what`s wrong with this picture? They
say they like the Founding Fathers, Jennifer, they just don`t like anything
they wrote!


MATTHEWS: So I guess the question is, how much are they going to
amend? They certainly want to start with Obama. So in all seriousness, is
this a track where you just want to veer to the right, safest place to be?

DONAHUE: It`s the only place left, Chris. I think the Republican
Party overcorrected when they nominated McCain. And they were trying so
hard to get away from Bush and anything that Bush represented that they
picked someone who couldn`t get the momentum and couldn`t get the


DONAHUE: It was like Bob Dole all over again, when Bob Dole was sort
of given the nomination because he was the last man standing, because
people were familiar with him. But he had no chance in `96.

And I think if you were to give it to Romney, he`d have a tough time
getting the enthusiasm behind him. When you`re a Republican base
candidate, you`ve got a much better chance at getting the kind of momentum
and the kind of crowds out that you need.

FINEMAN: Chris, when you talk to...

MATTHEWS: Jennifer, you are so strong. I have never heard you so
brilliant. You`re either brilliantly wrong or brilliantly right.


MATTHEWS: But brilliantly something.

DONAHUE: We`ll see!

MATTHEWS: Nobody`s going to doubt what you said tonight. This is
Mark (SIC) Perry`s to lose -- I mean, Rick Perry`s to lose. He`s going to
win this thing. Romney`s yesterday. Bachmann can`t keep up with this guy.
It`s all about the right. No more pretending down the middle. The
Republican Party`s the conservative Tea Party, and that`s the way it
stands. It`s going to stand that way next November. Did I get you right?.

DONAHUE: You got me right.

MATTHEWS: Howard, your response?

FINEMAN: All I can say is, as far as Romney`s concerned, when you
talk to their people, they give you all kinds of tactical reasons why
Romney`s still in a good position, like, you know, he`s behind, but all
the other cars...


FINEMAN: ... going to crash and this kind of thing.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

FINEMAN: They`re not talking about why he`s so great and why he`s
going to bust through. They`re talking about why the other people ahead of

MATTHEWS: He`s not the guy...

FINEMAN: ... are going to crash and burn.

MATTHEWS: ... to shoot the moon, is he.

FINEMAN: You know what I`m saying?

MATTHEWS: I know. Let me ask you -- now that you`re so hot and I`ve
built you up, Jennifer, all the way here -- now you`re on the top of the
game here...


MATTHEWS: Who, based upon any reporting that you`ve had your hands
on, does the White House fear of this trio?

DONAHUE: They fear Perry the most because Bachmann doesn`t have
experience. She has the same knock on her that Obama himself had. She has
no executive experience. That`s a problem in a general election.


DONAHUE: She`s a very formidable candidate, though. But it`s Perry`s
to lose.


MATTHEWS: Who do they fear most? Can you report?

FINEMAN: I -- well, here`s what I will say. Rick Perry on paper is
perfect for this Republican Party, as Jennifer`s been describing it.

MATTHEWS: How about for next November?

FINEMAN: But we don`t know what his record`s going to look like after
it`s closely examined and re-examined by his opponents, by the national
press corps and by the Democrats. He may have a lot of explaining to do.
And if he can go from what he`s like on paper to defending it, then he`s
got a real good shot.

MATTHEWS: I`ll you one thing. Any reporter in America can write
anything about Rick Perry right now that tells us who he is will be in the
front page in the paper tomorrow.

FINEMAN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: This is one hot story right now. Thank you, Howard
Fineman. Boy, you`re good tonight, Jennifer Donahue, up there, the
Eisenhower Institute. Thank you for joining us. We need you back here.

Coming up, much more on what kind of candidate Rick Perry will do. I
want to get to the inside of this guy. We`ve seen the profile, let`s look
inside the guy. What`s the story on Rick Perry? Can he wrest the
Republican nomination from Mitt, or will he flame out like, well, Fred
Thompson. Let`s stop -- poor Fred Thompson. He`s a good guy. But he`s

That`s ahead on HARDBALL. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s one indication of Rick Perry`s strength. The
smart money at Dublin`s Intrade betting house likes him. The Texas
governor`s now given a 39 percent chance to win the Republican nomination
against the field. Mitt Romney, who long had best odds for the field, is
now down to 31. Below him, Michele Bachmann`s just under 7 percent. So
looks like those two guys are in the lead.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Texas governor Rick Perry, the
hottest guy around, his announcement this weekend that he`s running for
president added a jolt to the Republican field, I`d say. Take a look at
part of his campaign`s first video. People say it`s great. Here it is
from his Web site.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Record debt and the president`s refusal to control
spending led to our nation`s credit rating being downgraded for the first
time in history.

But hope is on the horizon, not the empty rhetoric of hope, but a
record that gives us hope. That leader, Rick Perry, America`s jobs

Rick Perry learned the values of hard work, patriotism and faith in

As the son of tenant farmers in Paint Creek, Texas, he wore the
uniform of our country as an Air Force captain, piloting C-130 aircraft
around the globe before returning to the family farm, marrying his high
school sweetheart, Anita, and starting a family.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s hard to beat that one. Anyway, how appealing is
Rick Perry nationally? And is he now the candidate to beat? For that
we`re joined right now by Politico`s Jonathan Martin, one of the smartest
guys around.

Jon, I`m building you up now. We just heard Jennifer -- Jennifer
Donahue, a friend of mine...


MATTHEWS: ... whose last name eluded me for a second there. Jennifer
Donahue really knows New Hampshire. She thinks he can not only win Iowa,
beating Bachmann, but go to New Hampshire and beat the local guy up there,
Mitt Romney, and begin to take this thing away fast. Your assessment as
one of the hot, young track touts in this business?

MARTIN: Well, I spent last night with Governor Perry and Michele
Bachmann out in Waterloo. I spent all this morning with Governor Perry at
the Iowa state fair, Chris, one of those must-do`s...


MARTIN: ... for any GOP hopeful, or for really any White House
hopeful. And he has got remarkable retail skills. This is somebody who
does not need to be taught how to do campaigning Iowa-style. He sort of
exudes Texas in a way that would almost put George W. Bush to shame.

I actually asked Governor Perry today, Chris, I said, What`s the
biggest contrast between you and President Bush? And he said, He went to
Yale, I went to A&M. And I`ll tell you...

MATTHEWS: Oh, he`s an Aggie!

MARTIN: ... that showed in his -- and that showed in his stumping
today, I mean, talking to folks about, you know, pigs in Texas, and about
farming a ranch in Texas, talking about college football. He`s got the
skills that are necessary to campaign here in Iowa.

The question to me is, can he take the scrutiny? We know he can do
the retail side, Chris, but what happens when he`s got to do the, you know,
debates, when the first wave of tough stories comes out? He`s never been
on the national stage before.

Texas campaigning is no walk in the park, but nothing can quite prep
you for the scrutiny that comes, Chris, on the national stage. So I think
the next 30 days are going to be crucial for him. But no question he`s off
to a fantastic start here in Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Well, part of the governor`s message this weekend has been
about his record, of course, down in Texas on job growth. That`s all he
talks about. He`s the jobs governor.

Let`s watch Rick Perry today as you described him in Iowa. Let`s
watch it on tape.


the jobs created in -- in America from June of 2009 until the present were
created in Texas. I know how to create jobs.


PERRY: You let the private sector -- free them up from overtaxation,
free them up from over-regulation, free them up from overlitigation. Then,
government, get out of the way. Let the private sector do what the private
sector knows how to do.


MATTHEWS: Well, critics are already going after his record in Texas.

In "The New York Times" today...

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... Paul Krugman called the so-called Texas miracle a myth.

He wrote -- quote -- "What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap
labor and less important weak regulation can attract jobs from other
states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is, well,

MARTIN: Well, that`s not...

MATTHEWS: "The point is that arguing from this experience that
depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would
create more jobs, that involves a fallacy of composition. Every state
can`t lure jobs away from every other state."

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, there is an argument that makes sense, but what do
you make of it, Jonathan?

MARTIN: It`s not going to dent him in a GOP primary, Chris.

This is the message that you`re going to hear from Mitt Romney against
Rick Perry. And we`re starting to actually hear it already in the last 24
hours. The first part of it is, Rick Perry does not have the private
sector job-creating experience that I have, and the second part of it is,
this is someone who is a career politician. He`s a political lifer at time
when the public is at a sort of maximum state of antipathy towards the
political class.

And you heard Romney today in New Hampshire sort of sounding that
note. Now, I asked Perry about it today walking around the state fair, and
he said, that`s not the case. When he got out of the air force, he came
back to his family`s cotton farm and helped run the cotton farm. And he
said, just because I didn`t work at Bain Capital doesn`t mean I don`t have
private sector experience.


MARTIN: So, Chris, this race is taking off in a hurry out here in

MATTHEWS: By the way, couldn`t at some point Perry make the point,
last thought from me to you, John, that the reason you were in the private
sector is because you didn`t have a chance in hell of getting reelected
governor of Massachusetts and everybody in the state knows it; that`s why
you went into the private sector again?

Just a thought. Thank you, Jonathan. Great reporting from...

MARTIN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... from -- from Iowa. He was with him all day.

For more on Rick Perry`s record down in Texas, we`re joined right now
by United States Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas.

You know, we all want to know what you know, Congressman. How good a
pol is this guy?

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: Chris, he is a fellow who is a little
big for his boots. He`s got a pretty inflated view of himself. I think it
will be more inflated after hearing your show this afternoon.

He is a very strong politician. I have known him since 1984, when he
first ran, but his claim that he can perform miracles here in the economy
in Texas is something that doesn`t hold up to careful scrutiny.

MATTHEWS: So have I said that`s too nice about him? Correct me.

DOGGETT: Oh, you haven`t said anything too nice about him. His
substantive views, his ability to leapfrog Michele Bachmann or anyone else
to the right, he will move as far right, he will be as disagreeable as
possible to win those Republican primary voters.

I`m hoping we have a strategy for the fall, because I don`t think
those extreme views will appeal to suburban voters, even to some
Republicans. And I think he will...

MATTHEWS: How tough do you think he can be against Obama? Now, he
landed a real haymaker this weekend -- it`s about the military -- where
made it basically sound like there was something wrong essentially and
personally with the president.

We should take a look at this. This is a SOT from this weekend. It`s
comment this weekend. It raised some eyebrows. Let`s watch this right
now. It`s a video of the governor in Waterloo, Iowa, last night taking a
very strong swipe at the president`s role as commander in chief. Let`s


PERRY: One of the reasons, one of the powerful reasons that I`m
running for the presidency of the United States is to make sure that every
young man and woman who puts on the uniform of this country respects highly
the president of the United States.



MATTHEWS: Now, what`s that about?

DOGGETT: Well, Chris, it`s about the fact that Republicans,
especially primary voters, have never accepted President Obama.

They have -- we probably have never had a president whose had less
respect than this president. After all, he is the president who did away
with Osama bin Laden. He didn`t just talk about it. He acted.

Rick Perry is just promoting the disrespect for our president. I
don`t agree with the president myself on every single issue, but the
suggestion that he is not serving at a very effective commander in chief
with the respect of all the people in our armed services is outrageous.

MATTHEWS: But it really strikes me as -- as cutting very close to the
awful tribalism, rMD-BO_birtherism, if you will, that there`s something
ethnically wrong. You don`t know it`s exactly what he`s saying, but, darn
it, that is what it comes across as, a guy who says he`s somehow

DOGGETT: I think it -- it`s very much the birther movement, just a
new phase, not accepting a president who has worked from day one to try to
bring people together, but every time he reaches out across the aisle with
people that were elected to be disagreeable, he just gets kicked.

That`s why a number of us have been saying, Mr. President, keep
reaching out, but stand firm for these principles that are so important,
like Medicare and Social Security, that Rick Perry has suggested are just a
crumbling example of the New Deal...


DOGGETT: ... and would reject.

MATTHEWS: He`s the most right-wing guy I have seen around.

Anyway, thank you very much, Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

DOGGETT: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Great for your expertise from Texas.

Up next, it`s clear Michele Bachmann is looking over her shoulder now
at Governor Perry. Who wouldn`t? She`s tweaked her campaign message over
it`s weekend and now she is a job-creator. She`s trying to be him now --
always a mistake in politics.

Bachmann in her own words coming up in the "Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

First up, this one`s a real whopper. A new voter I.D. bill is set to
take effect in Texas next year that will require citizens to present
specific forms identification in order to cast their ballot on Election Day
next November. On the list for these appropriate forms of I.D. are, of
course, driver`s license, passports, citizenship papers, and, yes,
concealed handgun license as well.

How about Veterans Affairs I.D. cards? Well, here`s what the state`s
director of the secretary of state`s election division had to say about --
earlier this month. This is what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, several folks asked yesterday, would a
veterans card work? So somebody who`s been in the military and has been
issued a VA card and has their photo, would that work? The answer is no.


MATTHEWS: Wow. Really? These are people who have spent a portion of
their lives at least dedicated to protecting and serving the country,
perhaps even risking their lives. And they could be turned away when they
show up to vote on Friday?

On Friday, rather, a spokesman for the secretary of state finally
responded to the inevitable backlash by saying, "Right now, our office has
not issued a final determination on that."

Well, I the looks like a real slow backpedal there.

Anyway, up next, politics aside, what do Michele Bachmann, Mitt
Romney, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman all have in common? Well, before you
say not a whole lot, let`s listen to what Tom Brokaw summed up as their


three people who now seem to be the front-runners at a very, very early
stage of the process. They all have good hair.


BROKAW: That is the best Republican hair I have seen in a long time.


BROKAW: When you think about that, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and
Michele Bachmann, and then if you throw in Jon Huntsman, I mean, you have
got a quartet of hair like -- the likes of which we haven`t seen...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do resent their hair.


MATTHEWS: Anchormen and presidential candidates, do then have the
same job requirements?

Anyway, and now for the "Big Number."

Michele Bachmann made the rounds on Sunday morning television, of
course, this weekend talking points in hand. Over the course of five --
count them -- five morning interviews, Bachmann positioned herself as a
successful business owner and -- here`s a new one -- a job-creator.

Suffice it to say that the issue came up more than once.


I started and own a successful company.

My husband and I also started our own successful company.

My husband and I started a successful company.

My husband and I also started our own company. We have a successful

My husband and I also started our own successful company.

As a job-creator myself...

We`re job-creators.

We`re job-creators.



MATTHEWS: Well, how many times did Michele Bachmann call attention to
her status as a business owner and job-creator in the course of one Sunday
morning? Nine times. And why does Bachmann say she deserves the new title
of job-creator? Because -- quote -- "She understands how high taxes
destroy jobs.

Gotcha. That`s the powerful statement. And that`s tonight`s "Big

Up next: President Obama kicks off his reelection campaign with a bus
tour through the Midwest. But with a Gallup approval rating hovering
around 40 percent and no in there plan -- and no out there plan to put
Americans back to work, doesn`t he need to have something more in his

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


EAMON JAVERS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Eamon Javers. And here is what
is happening.

Today`s heavy trading turned last week`s havoc on Wall Street into a
distant memory. The Dow closed up about 213 points, the S&P up 25, Nasdaq
up about 47. And with that, all three indexes completely erased last
week`s losses. Today`s bump was fueled in part by some big M&A news,
including word that Google is picking up Motorola Mobility for about $12.5

Bank of America stock jumped, too, this after the company said it
plans to exit the credit card business in Canada and Europe. And despite
overall gains, last week`s volatility left behind battle scars, investors
pulling out of mutual funds en masse, hoping to reduce the level of risk in
their portfolios.

And all eyes are now on Europe, where, tomorrow, German Chancellor
Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are expected to meet to
talk about the Eurozone debt crisis. The results of that brainstorming
session could no doubt affect trading here at home -- now back to HARDBALL.


President Obama is on the stump today, of course, making the first
stops of his bus tour in Michele Bachmann`s backyard of Minnesota and in
Iowa tonight. On Wednesday, he will be in his home state of Illinois.

The president hits the road with his approval rating not in great
shape. The daily tracking poll out of Gallup, of course, the one we always
watch, is at 41. But it hit an all-time low for him this weekend of 39
percent. I don`t know why it bounced back on Sunday night, but it did, to
41 percent.

Town halls are fine, but the president needs to do, I think, more.
He`s going to have to take on the Republicans and come up with a real jobs
programs of his own, I think. That`s my premise.

Joining me right now to challenge me, perhaps, Dee Dee Myers is former
press secretary of President of the United States Bill Clinton, first-ever
woman press secretary. I think that still counts as a hall of famer issue.
And political analyst Michael Steele, who was a guy I voted for a few times
for something or other, lieutenant governor.


MATTHEWS: You were lieutenant governor and you ran for the Senate.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go.

I know I voted for you for senator, but for a lot of good reasons.


MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me go to this -- this whole question of the
president and a road trip. I will be tough. And you know I like Obama,
but it seems like something Pawlenty would have done, a bus trip, Dee Dee,
with -- what`s he doing on this bus trip?

first of all, he`s getting out of Washington...


MYERS: ... which after the bloodbath we just lived through with the
debt ceiling debacle, which was a pox on all their houses, it gets him out
of Washington and back out among actual people.

And I think that`s important. I think I would much rather see him out
there listening, instead of talking, instead of scolding, listening to
people, hearing their stories. It`s not the same as coming up with a
solution, but it`s a heck of a lot better than staying in Washington in the
middle of the fight.

MATTHEWS: But it`s one thing for Senator Clinton when she was a
candidate, as first lady, for senator for New York to go on a listening

Here`s the guy who has been president of the United States for three
years. To go listen to people?

MYERS: Yes. Don`t you think it`s more important now than ever?

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m asking. It doesn`t seem to be the right move
right now. It seems actions would be more appropriate.

MYERS: Oh, I think it`s -- well, there`s no action going to happen.
The Congress is out. And there`s no consensus anyway.

I`m with Chris on this one.

I think that this doesn`t get him where he needs to be. I think if he
got on a bus with a piece of paper, a document or something he can go and
put in front of those town hall participants, say, this is where I need the
Congress to go over the next year, this is where I need the country to be,
a year from now, it would be a very different conversation than going out
and, as we saw today with the kickoff, saying the same thing over and over

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s -- here he is, Michael. Let`s hear, and Dee

Here`s the president in Minnesota earlier today talking about how to
get people back to work and blaming Congress for being too partisan. Let`s
listen to the president.


Congress right now could start putting folks to work rebuilding

We could be rebuilding roads and bridges...


OBAMA: ... and schools and parks all across America.

Let`s give tax credits to companies that are hiring our veterans and
let`s put them back to work.

There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now. What
is needed is action on the part of Congress, a willingness to put the
partisan games aside and say, "We`re going to do what`s right for the


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: So, is this a pregame for him to call for a
real jobs bill? That`s what I`m asking you, Dee Dee, or this just talk?

don`t have --

MATTHEWS: If he comes off the road trip with no proposition, with no
proposal, is it a failure? The road trip?

MYERS: No. I don`t -- look, I think Michael`s right. It would be
better if he had a big proposal that he was going out to sell. But I think
it`s better --

MATTHEWS: No, I said, he comes back to the road with nothing.

MYERS: Look, he`s going have to come up with something for the fall.
And they said repeatedly that they will. If they don`t, that would be a
big disappointment.

But I don`t think there is -- I think given he doesn`t have a policy
right now and there`s no consensus to get anything done, to go out there
and at least communicate with people and listen to them is better than
doing nothing.

MATTHEWS: OK. It baffles me. I`m all politics.

Michael, I talked to Rachel Maddow, my colleague here, my successful
colleague, I might say. When we`re talking about the fact to use a little
jujitsu in politics.


MATTHEWS: Go to the Republican records. Check the records of every
job proposal they end recommended in theirs district.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Every one of them has pushed some kind of project they
want funded and fund it. Take their stuff.

This is Rachel`s idea. Take their stuff and -- Michele Bachmann
wanted 3,000 jobs for bridge building. Well, give her her bridge. There
you have your jobs program. Your party wouldn`t say no, would it?

STEELE: No, they wouldn`t say no.

MYERS: They`ve been -- it`s kind of --


STEELE: That`s the point. Everybody has skin in this game to some
degree. He`s not playing at that level. He`s still on the thinking he can
convince you with a good speech, good talking point, and America`s like,
show me some papers, show me what you`re going to do.

I think the president`s made a big mistake here, certainly with some
like Perry coming into this race. He better get his game on quick because
Perry is not going to sit back and wait for him to come up with a plan
before laying out a --

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at Perry. He`s already taking his
case to the president. We got him here blaming the president in his
montage. Let`s watch.

OK. We don`t have it yet, but there was a montage here.


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. It`s my fault.

I`m just thinking, the whole thing -- it looks to me like if Perry is
not afraid. Here it is now. This is what Perry`s been saying.


need to free up the employers of this country to create jobs. Get rid of
the regulations that are stifling jobs in America.

President Obama`s policies are failing the economy. We took the biggest
punch to the gut this week that we have seen in our economy.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He seems to be more intent
on trying to save his job than to try to create jobs for the American


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a great sort of character study. Isn`t it?
I mean, you got him going mad about -- acting like a country boy dropping
his jeans and then Palin -- Bachmann who`s got that passion of hers, and
then you got Romney.

Anyway -- ha!


MATTHEWS: It`s always -- it looks to me like this campaign for the
re-election of the president is going to begin now. It`s coming into Labor
Day. It looks like we`re ahead of schedule.

For a campaign that was slow to start, Michael, it looks like this
battle between -- looks to be increasingly the front-runner, Rick Perry,
against the president.

STEELE: Absolutely. And you`re going to begin to see within the
GOP, those donors who are sitting on the sideline, particularly those who
can bundle the cash, beginning to filter into the Perry lineup. You`re
going to have sigh think a step-up in the game by Mitt Romney but he knows
now there`s a lot more pressure on his heels.

And Bachmann still has the X factor. She`s not going to back away.

And among all three of them is the president.

MYERS: Which is that they`re not running against each other.
They`re all running against Obama.

STEELE: Exactly.

MYERS: Which is a very difficult situation for the president because
he has this constant barrage of negative attacks. They`re not going to be
-- you know, usually, the president gets to skirt along for a while --


MYERS: Right, while the wannabes mix it up and carry their part.
And instead, they`re all focusing their fire on him.

MATTHEWS: Well, eventually, in the next couple, is going to go
against each there and decide who it is.

MYERS: We`ll see.

MATTHEWS: Doesn`t Bachmann have to attack Perry? Doesn`t Perry have
to attack Bachmann?

STEELE: That will take care of itself, but trust me, there`s going
to be enough incoming Obama between now and when that happens that they can
afford to take that time.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`d rather talk about jobs because that`s all I care
about right now. But I can`t avoid politics right now.

Michael, you`re the expert. Has your party increasingly come under
the control of the Tea Party? Meaning, it looks there`s three possible
candidates right now. Perry, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, he`s the
hot guy right now; Michele Bachmann, who just won the first campaign event;
the Ames straw poll, and, of course, Romney, who`s been the front-runner in
all the polls.

Only one of the three is not a Tea Party person?

STEELE: Yes. I mean, I think that there`s a great influence by the
Tea Party. But, again, remember, the Tea Party disaffected Republicans.
They are folks who`ve been outside the party going back to the last days of

So, now, they`ve come back in with a strong message. The party`s
adopted that message. Everyone wants to say they`re one in the same. They
are not, because, remember, these are the same folks who would take out a
Republican in a primary just as soon --


MATTHEWS: I`m not reading it clearly. Can Romney still claim to be
a Tea Party person?

STEELE: Yes, I think he can. In his Romney-esque way, yes.

MYERS: Name one position he`s taken on in the Tea Party`s -- Romney,
he hasn`t. So

MATTHEWS: We went through the new Decalogue, the new "10
commandments" that Howard came up with, what they believed in, he signed on
to pretty much all of them.

MYERS: Right. Exactly, so


STEELE: In Romney-esque way.

MATTHEWS: Willing and able to be a Tea Party or he lose his job.

Anyway, thank you, Dee Dee Myers. Thank you, Michael Steele.

Up next, Warren Buffett says tax the rich. He says he`s tired of
being coddled by Congress and that the wealthy like him can afford to pay
their fair sure. Well, that`s a lot in his case.

This is a HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Now that Tim Pawlenty`s out of the Republican race, the
Minnesota Republican Party wants Pawlenty, him, to run for Senate next year
against Klobuchar, the very popular incumbent. Pawlenty has ruled that out
and he has another chance in the Senate around, of course, in 2014 when he
could run against Al Franken when his term`s up. The governorship is also
up in `14 if Pawlenty wants his old job back.

I think he`s probably thinking more about Franken.

One job Pawlenty says he doesn`t want is vice president. The reason
he says that because he probably wants it. If you say you want it you`re
not likely to get it.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Billionaire Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in history
certainly in America, says that nearly $7 million he paid in federal taxes
last year isn`t enough.

He wrote a "New York Times" op-ed column today entitled "Stop
Coddling the Super Rich," which read in part, "Our leaders have asked for
shared sacrifice. But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked
with my mega rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They,
too, were left untouched.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-
friendly Congress. It`s time for our government to get serious about
shared sacrifice."

Well, it sounds a lot like what President Obama has been saying. But
can he get it done with the Tea Party that refuses to budge on taxes,

Eugene Robinson is Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post." You know, he is also an MSNBC political analyst, of

Gene, what do you make of that? I don`t know how people react.
People even with a lot of money or some money or very little money, how
they react to a guy who has a godly level of money saying, tax me more.

yes, OK. Sure. Warren Buffet should pay more and Bill Gates should pay
more and Larry Ellison should pay more. And, you know, the billionaires
have to pay more.

MATTHEWS: So I don`t have to pay anymore.

ROBINSON: And so should -- and I think this the point, the hedge
fund guys, for example, who pay 15 percent instead of the higher income tax
rate that you and I pay.


ROBINSON: They pay, essentially 15 percent on what they earn, they
pay a lower percentage than --

MATTHEWS: This has been true a while.


MATTHEWS: -- doing this thing on Kennedy, working on my book. And
there it is, all this money that Kennedy was talking, Ben Bradley, your old
editor, saying, you know, this is an issue here. And can you now get to it
in the next term? Because he tried, he couldn`t on his term.

But this idea of a super rich and their super tax concessions and
their super deals, they don`t pay anything like a progressive rate.

Let`s take a look at Pat Buchanan though, taking the contrary view
here. Here he is -- he said he had this to say about Buffett on "MORNING
JOE" today. Let`s listen to Patrick.


these people come on -- you know, their big op-eds, all these admonitions.
Why don`t they set an example and set a check for $5 billion to the
government? He`s got about $40 billion. You know, you have a plan up
there, I talked to Howie Carr in Boston where the super rich could
contribute and extra amount and something like one tenth of 1 percent did

You get all this noise from these big rich folks. Let them send
checks and set an example instead of writing op-eds.


MATTHEWS: OK. There have you it. A reasonable proposal. Put your
money where your mouth is.

ROBINSON: Yes. I mean, let`s also keep in mind that Warren Buffet
has given away billions and billions of dollars, essentially giving away
his fortune and not passing it on to the next generation.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think Pat needs to be rejoinder and here`s the man
to do it. Here`s "Washington Post" columnist Steve Pearlstein. He`s one
of the smartest economic writers today.

He said in part, quote, "What started as a reasonable attempt at
political rebalancing turned into a jihad against all regulation, all taxes
and all government waged by right wing zealots who want to privatize
schools that educate your workers, cut back on basic research on which your
products are based, shut down regulatory agencies that protect you from
unscrupulous competitors and, of course, privatize the public
infrastructure that supports your supplies and your finished goods for

This isn`t just a tactic to brush back government. It`s a holy war
to destroy -- and one that is now out of your control."

I agree. All of my live life I have been surrounded by Republicans
and Democrats who don`t like taxes. Few people do. But it`s become a
religious crusade to get rid of taxes, government regulation.

And this guy, Rick Perry, is out there selling it like religion.

ROBINSON: Exactly. This is new. When you saw the debate last night
where all of the Republican candidates -- and this is before Perry got in,
but I`m sure he would have been --

MATTHEWS: There he is. There`s the picture. All with their hands
up like yes.

ROBINSON: They all raised their hands. They wouldn`t accept a 10-1
deal budget cuts to new revenue.

That, and I`ve never heard of such a thing and it`s hard to imagine
how you ever get to a balanced budget or even fiscal sanity if they are
going to take that attitude.

MATTHEWS: Well, I won`t wait for these guys like Buffett, as much as
I`m impressed by their wealth making, for them to take Pat`s advice and to
give us all the break by giving that $5 billion themselves. You know where
to write, the United States Treasury, Washington, D.C. I`m sure it`ll be

Your thought about Perry. You`re a political expert. I haven`t had
chance to. Is this guy really, the Perry on top of this cake right now?

ROBINSON: I think he is a formidable politician. He`s got
experience. He`s off like gang busters.

I -- you know, he immediately becomes a top tier candidate. And I
think at the White House, they are having to do recalibration today and to
think about, gee, maybe we will run against Perry instead of running
against Romney.

MATTHEWS: You`ve been an editor for many years, a top editor at "The
Post" -- you think the nation`s newspapers and big news organizations are
now going to send every nickel they have, sending young people out to go
and investigate this guy.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: I think there`s a tremendous amount of investigation of
this guy. He better be cleaned up as whistle. Time is coming. He`s
arrived. The time -- the march of time has begun.

ROBINSON: Well, it`s hot in here, you know?

MATTHEWS: If you don`t like the heat, stay out of kitchen, Governor.

Eugene Robinson, thank you, sir.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a Tea Party cake, with a Perry
on top.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with the joy of a cake getting
baked. This weekend, the Republican Party baked its cake. That cake is
now out there on display in the national window for all to see.

It`s got two layers, Bachmann and Romney and a Perry on top. All of
the fixins are off the table. Santorum`s not going to be the nominee. Nor
is it going to be Newt or any of the others. Pawlenty had to sweep -- just
to take himself out clean.

Now, the cake is baked. And only two layers, as I said -- and a
Perry on top. Perry -- look him up there, look at him up there and
realize, wow, what just happened?

This weekend, it all went from a party with the wrong ingredients or
not enough of the right ones to, hey, look that, cake with a Perry on top.
Doesn`t it look good?

So, here`s the story that that cake is telling us. Republican Party
is now two-thirds tea with Bachmann a winner in the Iowa straw poll -- the
only winner in anything so far -- and Perry looking every inch the winner.

This makes Romney the odd one out. He`s the only one that doesn`t
belong in this new political confection that hates anything to do with
healthcare, climate change, or even has room for somebody who once back
abortion rights -- someone who`s different in any way from the old time
religion, folks.

From here on out, it`s the battle of the months. It`s from here back
to Iowa then right to New Hampshire and South Carolina. We`ve got three in
this thing and nobody is being called to come in.

Something changed this weekend. The cake got baked. It`s all about
Romney and Bachmann and that Perry on top.

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

More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.


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