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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, January 27, 2012

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, David Corn, Tyler Mathisen, Susan Page, Susan Milligan, Melinda Henneberger, Lynn Sweet, Patrick Gaspard, Ron Reagan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Newt fails to shine in the Sunshine state.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Boynton Beach, Florida. I`m
leading off tonight with trading places. If Newt Gingrich loses the
Republican nomination, we`re going to look back at last night`s debate as
the reason why. Mitt Romney, not Gingrich, was the aggressor from the
start, sparring and punching and looking more like Newt than Newt himself.
Mitt floored Newt with this one.


know that sounds like an enormous revelation, but have you checked your own
investments? You also have investments in mutual funds that also invest in
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.




MATTHEWS: Have you checked own investments? What a line! And Newt
had no answer. Mitt`s performance last night once again makes him the
favorite to win Florida next Tuesday, and for now, the favorite to win the

But it wasn`t all good news for Romney. He seems to have some trouble
with telling the truth, basic stuff like when he said all his investments
are held by a blind trust. Not necessarily. Or when he defended his vote
for Paul Tsongas with this forever changing answer he gave last night.

Well, tonight, Mitt Romney meets the truth squad. And you`ve got
doubt -- no doubt heard that Newt Gingrich made this absurd claim about
President Obama last night.


you`re for European socialism and Saul Alinsky radicalism, you`re with
Barack Obama.


MATTHEWS: Saul Alinsky radicalism. Do the Republicans who spew that
sort of stuff -- I`m talking about Newt Gingrich here -- have a clue who
the guy was? Do the voters? We`ve got the file on Alinsky tonight, a man
whose message has been admired by conservative icon William F. Buckley, Tea
Party leader Dick Armey, and guess who, Mitt Romney`s own dad.

Plus, the more Newt and Mitt duke it out, the better it is for
President Obama. He`s got a new spring in his step right now, you may have
noticed, and one reason why is the fight we`re all watching on the right.

And Newt gets an endorsement he could do without from prison, from, as
we say, inside. And that`s in the "Sideshow" tonight.

We begin with Mitt Romney`s strong debate performance last night on
CNN. Howard Fineman`s an MSNBC political analyst and the Huffington Post
Media Group editorial director. And Susan Page is the Washington bureau
chief for "USA Today."

Howard, your sense last night -- I want you to look, first of all, at
these two polls, two new polls out just today that show the race in Florida
turning strongly for Romney. Take a look. Both the latest Sunshine State
News poll and the Quinnipiac poll have Romney ahead by 9 percentage points.
In one poll, he`s at 40, the other at 38.

Your sense of why he`s -- or rather why Mitt -- why Newt is losing,
why Mitt is winning?

Well, Mitt Romney came last night to do what he had to do. He was the new,
combat-ready, up-armored Mitt Romney, and he gave Newt Gingrich`s tactics
right back at him. Mitt Romney was well prepared with attack lines. He
was well prepared with defense lines. He was in Newt`s face the whole
time. And it really had the feel of a bully being confronted by a guy who
was ready for it.

But there are other things that had happened before that, Newt
Gingrich saying that he`d have Sarah Palin in his administration, bad and
scared the establishment types, Marco Rubio attacking Newt Gingrich for an
ad that he`d had on, Newt Gingrich talking about colonizing the moon. And
Romney had a great line ready for that, saying if anybody in his
administration had come to him with an idea like colonizing the moon, he`d
be fired. And that got as big an applause line as the other sound bite you
just showed.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at one of (INAUDIBLE) you
mentioned, his worst moment from last night`s debate. Gingrich was asked
by the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, our colleague, about a Spanish-language
radio ad his campaign made and has since taken off the air. The ad calls
Mitt Romney anti-immigrant. You got it? Anti-immigrant. Well, Mitt
Romney seized the opportunity to go aggressively after Gingrich. Let`s
watch it.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN, MODERATOR: Is he still the most anti-immigrant

FINEMAN: I think of the four of us, yes.

ROMNEY: Mr. Speaker, I`m not anti-immigrant. My father was born in
Mexico. My wife`s father was born in Wales. They came to this country.
The idea that I`m anti-immigrant is repulsive. Don`t use a term like that!
I think you should apologize for it. And I think you should recognize that
having differences of opinions on issues does not justify labeling people
with highly-charged epithets.



MATTHEWS: Susan Page, even when he gets made like that, in anger he
uses terms like "highly-charged epithets."


MATTHEWS: But I guess he won that round pretty clearly. I mean,
that`s a gentleman`s way of saying "You`re lying about me," I guess. But
what do you make of that very strong -- as Howard puts it, he came very
formally, as always, but very in control of the other guy, like a
bullfighter who`s learned how to play the bull.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": And to show a little emotion.

MATTHEWS: Or the bully.

PAGE: You know, one of the raps on Mitt Romney is he doesn`t reveal
very much of himself and he`s kind of a stiff guy. But that wasn`t the
case in that answer. And you know, luckily for Mitt Romney, that was the
first question out of the box last night on immigration. He was able to
turn to this attack on Newt Gingrich that I`m sure would have been planned.
I`m sure it`d been rehearsed. But it came off as strong. And Newt
Gingrich, who ought have expected an exchange very much like this, did not
seem prepared to come back at him.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`ve always said, or I`ve said a lot over the years,
I think that the greatest debate tactic or tactic in politics is the attack
from a defensive position. People tend to root for people who are
defending their reputations.

In past debates, of course, Newt Gingrich was always able to score
points simply by going after the media, whoever was with them there from
the media. Last night, he had Wolf Blitzer to tangle with, and he lost.
Take a look at what happened to him when he went after Blitzer when Blitzer
asked Newt whether he was satisfied with the transparency -- that`s the
word Wolf used -- about Mitt Romney`s tax returns, which have been given
out now for those two years, which the governor released earlier this week.

Let`s watch this back-and-forth, which had become a losing battle for
the media. Here`s Wolf standing up for his craft against, well, a guy
who`s trying to bully him.


GINGRICH: This is a nonsense question.


GINGRICH: How about if the four of us agree for the rest of the
evening we`ll actually talk about...

BLITZER: But Mr. Speaker...

GINGRICH: ... issues that relate to governing America?

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this this week, and you
said that he lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank
accounts. I didn`t say that. You did.

FINEMAN: I did. And I`m perfectly happy to say that on an interview
on some TV show, but this is a national debate where you have a chance to
get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.

BLITZER: But if you make a serious accusation against Governor

GINGRICH: I simply suggested...

BLITZER: ... you need to explain that.


GINGRICH: You want to try again?


GINGRICH: I mean...

ROMNEY: Wouldn`t it be nice if people didn`t make accusations
somewhere else that they weren`t willing to defend here?



BLITZER: All right...


MATTHEWS: Boy, coup de grace, Howard, coup de grace.

FINEMAN: Kaboom. Kaboom. There was -- the important thing was not
only that Wolf Blitzer stood his ground, and I think correctly so, even
though he knew boos were going to come, but that Mitt Romney, again, well
schooled and well prepared for this debate, essentially sided with Wolf
Blitzer, and at the same time called Newt Gingrich out as a bully, saying,
If you`re going to say that off the air -- off the stage, I want you to say
it to my face. And that was -- that showed me -- that exchange showed me
just how well prepared and determined Mitt Romney was in this debate.

MATTHEWS: Chilling (ph) stuff. I mean, great battle -- battle motion
(ph) there and battle action there.


MATTHEWS: By the way, Susan, you`re the real -- you`re a real pro as
a journalist. George Will once told me years ago, the great columnist,
that as a columnist and opinion writer, you have to (INAUDIBLE) writing
about sports or anything, you have to be willing to walk through the locker
room after you`ve written a tough column on the team. That`s part of the
job. And boy, Wolf walked through the lion`s den last night.

PAGE: He did. And you know, one other thing that was working in Mitt
Romney`s favor was that some of the audience was with him. You know, one
of the things that has given Mitt -- given Newt Gingrich a lot of energy,
especially in that big South Carolina debate a week ago Monday that helped
him so much, was that the crowd was with him and that boosted Newt Gingrich
and it made -- it changed the dynamic of that debate.

In the debate last night, the crowd wasn`t entirely with Mitt Romney,
but some of it was, and that helped.

FINEMAN: Yes, to the point -- to the point...

MATTHEWS: What about the...


MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead.


FINEMAN: Go ahead, Chris.

MATTHEWS: What about the point that he had, the charge made by Newt
since the debate last night that the audience was stacked...


MATTHEWS: ... in favor of establishment politicians by the state

FINEMAN: Yes. Well, I wrote about that last night. It was the -- in
this case, the partner was the Republican Party of the state, a pretty
establishment group in Florida. But what`s good for, you know, the goose
is good for the gander here. I mean, Newt was insisting that there be an


FINEMAN: He said, I want an audience. If he was going to insist on
the audience, what do you think the Romney crowd was going to try to do?
So Newt went from being a -- you know, from being a triumphant character to
being a crybaby here. He just suffered from the same tactics that for --
either advertently or inadvertently, Newt benefited from before.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t expect that the amen chorus would be from the
high church.


MATTHEWS: Here was another heated moment, by the way, between Romney
and Gingrich after the topic turned to Gingrich`s role at Freddie Mac.
Gingrich tried to land a blow against Romney, but Romney turned it around.
Let`s watch.


GINGRICH: We began digging in after Monday night because, frankly,
I`d had about enough of this. We discovered to our shock Governor Romney
owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Governor Romney made a
million dollars off of selling some of that.

ROMNEY: First of all, my investments are not made by me. My
investments for the last 10 years have been in a blind trust managed by a
trustee. There are bonds that the investor has held through mutual funds.
And Mr. Speaker, I know that sounds like an enormous revelation, but have
you checked your own investments? You also have investments in mutual
funds that also invest in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: All right...



MATTHEWS: Susan, that was one of the great -- I assume, as Howard
pointed out, and you agreed, these -- a lot of this stuff is set up ahead
of time. But what a resounding punch that was to the jaw.

PAGE: And you know, it showed how well prepared Mitt Romney was in
terms of opposition research and how Newt Gingrich was not prepared...


PAGE: ... even with opposition research his own campaign had done
because as soon as that line came out of Mitt Romney`s mouth, we were all
getting e-mails from the Gingrich campaign pointing out that during the
1994 Senate race in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney had derided the idea that a
blind trust absolved you of any responsibility for what that trustee would
do. That was a point Newt Gingrich could have made in response to the
attack from Mitt Romney, but he didn`t.

FINEMAN: Well, he was too busy...

MATTHEWS: I think he was tired, but we`ll get -- he was just tired,
wasn`t he? He was just tired.

Here`s Romney`s worst moment of the night, his worst moment of the
debate. It didn`t come at the hands of Gingrich, but rather at the hands
of Rick Santorum, the third man in this fight. The former Pennsylvania
senator put Romney on the defensive over his Massachusetts health care

Let`s watch a real ideological attack here from Santorum.


Governor Romney just said is that government-run, top-down medicine is
working pretty well in Massachusetts and he supports it! Now, think about
what that means going up against Barack Obama, who you`re going to claim,
Well, top-down government-run medicine on the federal level doesn`t work
and we should repeal it, and he`s going to say, Wait a minute, Governor.
You just said that top-down government-run medicine in Massachusetts works

ROMNEY: If someone doesn`t have insurance, then we have to care for
them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said no more. No more
free riders. We`re insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the
insurance or help pay for your care.

SANTORUM: Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy
health care?

ROMNEY: Everyone has a requirement to either by health care or pay
the state for the cost of providing them free care.


MATTHEWS: Boy, that is the -- you know, I think, you know, in a
perfect world, Susan Page and Howard, the president of the United States,
President Obama, would hire Newt Gingrich -- I`m sorry, Mitt Romney to
explain his health care plan because that is a perfect rendition, a perfect
explanation, a Republican explanation of what Obama`s tried to do here with
health care, get everybody to take personal responsibility so they don`t
end up as freeloaders on somebody else`s health care plan.

PAGE: You know, and Rick Santorum has been good in these debates from
the start. Early debates, he didn`t get much time to speak when there was
a big crowd. Now that it`s down to four people, he gets more time.


PAGE: He was (INAUDIBLE) Now, he doesn`t have the -- I think the
money to run the kind of ads, have the kind of organization in Florida
that`s going to make him very competitive there, but he looked good last
night. It may indicate maybe he`s going to stay in the race. And I think
that every vote Rick Santorum gets is a vote from Newt Gingrich. I mean, I
think it`s helpful for Mitt Romney for Santorum to be doing well.

FINEMAN: I agree with Susan. And as I scored the bout, on his own
terms, I gave it to Rick Santorum. I think Rick Santorum did a tremendous
amount for himself last night. As Susan says, it may not matter in the
end, but I thought he was excellent. And if he was trying out for the role
of vice presidential candidate and an attack dog-designate, I thought he
did a very good job.


MATTHEWS: That`s another way of trying out. I`ve been thinking he`s
been going for that job for a couple weeks now...


MATTHEWS: ... but boy, I agree with your thinking again. Howard once
again figured it out. It looks like this is a battle of two guys against
one right now, with Santorum running implicitly for VP because every vote
he grabs is probably a Newt Gingrich would-be vote.

Anyway, thank you. What a great night of television last night.
There`s going to be a lot more of this between now and Tuesday. Howard
Fineman and Susan Page, we`re looking forward to the Florida debate --
actually, the Florida fight down here Tuesday night.

Coming up: It wasn`t all good for Mitt Romney at last night`s debate.
He had a problem, it seems, with, well, stretching the truth, finding the
truth, telling the truth. We`re going to get to that when we return.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: If the presidential election this November does comes down
to Florida, Mitt Romney`s in far better shape to beat President Obama than
Newt Gingrich is. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard." According to a
new Quinnipiac poll, Romney runs even with President Obama in Florida right
now, 45-45, while Gingrich trails badly. The president`s lead over Newt is
at 11 right now, 50 to 39.

Look at these numbers from the New York -- new Suffolk poll just out.
Romney actually leads the president in Florida by 5, 47-42, while Gingrich
loses to Obama by 9, 49 to 40. So it looks like if Romney gets on the
ballot as president, look out down here, President Obama.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It may have been a good, very
good debate overall for Mitt Romney last night, but he had a few missteps,
like stretching the truth a bit, which may come back to haunt this guy.

Joining me now to talk about that and what we`re generously calling
Romney`s fibs are MSNBC political contributor David Corn, who`s also the
Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" -- "fibs" not one of your usual
words there, David, huh? -- and Susan Milligan, a contributing editor at
"U.S. News & World Report." We`re saying it nicely because "lie" is a
terrible word.

Let`s take a look at what happened when Newt Gingrich called Mitt
Romney out for voting for Democrat Paul Tsongas back in `92 in that
Massachusetts presidential primary. Here it goes.


GINGRICH: In `92, he was donating to Democrats for Congress and voted
for Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary.

ROMNEY: I`ve never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican
on the ballot. And in my state of Massachusetts, you could register as an
independent and go vote in which either primary happens to be very
interesting. And any chance I got to vote against Bill Clinton or Ted
Kennedy, I took. And I am...


ROMNEY: I have voted -- I have always voted for a Republican any time
there was a Republican on the ballot.


MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to David Corn. Now, the number -- the
number of excuses he`s given for voting for Tsongas back in `92 have varied
dramatically. I personally believer he voted for Tsongas because he`s a
more moderate Democrat, maybe he thought a more thoughtful Democrat than
Clinton. But the idea that he`s now saying that he voted for him in order
to screw the Democrats through some kind of complicated strategic voting,
even though he was claiming to be an independent, doesn`t pass the smell

Your thoughts, David.

in 1992, this was not when Bill Clinton was president. This was a primary
and Bill Clinton was seen also as being of the DLC, the conservative wing.
He was a Southern governor of the Democratic Party. So it wasn`t like Mitt
was rushing to the barricades to stop liberalism from, you know, grabbing
the throat of Washington, D.C.


CORN: So you`re right, it doesn`t add up. You know, you have to say.
Newt Gingrich accusing Mitt Romney of being a liar or a fibber is little
bit like Donald Trump calling someone self-absorbed. So I mean, it`s kind
of a fair fight, you have to say, in this regard on the debate last night.

MATTHEWS: Susan, you`re up there. You know the -- you`re using (ph)
"The Globe." You know about this guy.

I personally think he was a moderate Democrat, moderate Republican,
somewhere on the 50-yard line. And now he is trying to deny what he was.
Mitt Romney was never a right-winger. He was a moderate, somewhere in the
middle, who would have liked Tsongas, because you and I know, Susan,
Tsongas was for things like entitlement reform, going after the excesses
Social Security, where it`s paying away too much money.


MATTHEWS: He was trying to fix the system.

Why doesn`t he brag for once about who he was, a moderate thoughtful
voter trying to do something intelligent for Tsongas? Now he runs away
from it.

MILLIGAN: Well, throughout this entire campaign, he`s run away from a
lot of his more moderate past.

One of the more charitable explanations for that is that this is
someone who comes from the business world. He`s accused to kind of
accommodating the product for the consumer, and maybe he`s accommodating
himself, the product, for the electoral consumer.

But he`s been trying to do this for the entire campaign. I don`t know
why he just didn`t say something like, look, Tsongas was the home state
guy. I was just standing up for him in the primary, but certainly in the
general election, I voted for the Republican. I don`t know why he didn`t
just say that and be done with it.

But just this reinforces what I think his greatest weakness is here.
And I do think that these little missteps, which would mean nothing for
someone else, are more potent because they kind of reinforce what people`s
deepest concern about Governor Romney is.

MATTHEWS: I don`t get why you don`t occasionally admit you do

In another moment last night that may come to haunt Romney, he denied
having knowledge about running this Spanish radio ad in which he distorts
actually a quote from Newt Gingrich. Let`s listen. Why does he deny
everything, this guy? Here it is.


WOLF BLITZER, MODERATOR: You had an ad running saying that Speaker
Gingrich called Spanish "the language of the ghetto."

What do you mean by that?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven`t seen the ad, so
I`m sorry. I don`t get to see all the TV ads. Did he say that?

BLITZER: Did you say that?


ROMNEY: I doubt that`s my ad, but we`ll take a look and find out.


MATTHEWS: Well, I didn`t see the ad. I doubt that was my ad.

Well, there he was talking away, he didn`t have anything to do with
it. And here he is in the ad, the ad in Spanish with translation. Pay
close attention to the tag line at the end.


NARRATOR (through translator): And Reagan definitely would have never
offended us, Hispanics, as Gingrich did by saying that Spanish is the
language of the ghetto. Now, searching for votes, Gingrich wants to change
history but the facts speak for themselves.

NARRATOR (through translator): Paid for by Romney for President,

ROMNEY (through translator): I am Mitt Romney. I am running for
President and I approve this message.



MATTHEWS: Susan, I recognize that voice.



MILLIGAN: The accent needs some work.

CORN: How many takes did they have to do to get that line at the end
of the ad? That`s what I want to know.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s not get distracted by the quality of his other
language there. I know his French is better, but -- just kidding. That
gets in trouble on the Republican side.

You`re allowed to speak Spanish, but not French. But is this about
he`s denying that he ever saw the ad when he just taped the ad? If he went
to the trouble of saying it in Spanish, we have to assume he remembers that
he did an ad in Spanish. This is the one.

MILLIGAN: Chris, that`s an oops moment worthy of being in a Rick
Perry support group. It just really -- it`s so much worse than not being
able to remember the third agency you want to eliminate.

How could he possibly get up there and say, oh, was that my ad? I
didn`t see that ad -- when he clearly -- he must have spent some time
working on the Spanish or having someone work with him on the Spanish for


CORN: Maybe they got a voice impersonator.

But this is not the first time that he`s done this. Remember, during
the Iowa campaign, he was accused about the super PAC ads. He goes, I have
never seen those ads, and then he described what was right about them. He
has done this before.

My theory, Chris, is that he thinks that he`s a stand-up guy, that he
does everything right. He was raised well. And he`s a gentleman. And
when his campaign does this other stuff, he creates some sort of
psychological distance between himself and what is going on in his name.
So his first impulse is I could not have done that. Oh, maybe I did.


MATTHEWS: It doesn`t seem like me.

Here`s another one. Here again is Mitt Romney last night in what was
a good overall performance, we thought, in response here in fact to
Gingrich. But listen closely to his answer. Once again, he steps into the
weeds of, well, dishonesty.


GINGRICH: Governor Romney owns shares of both Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac. Governor Romney made a million dollars off of selling some of that.

ROMNEY: My investments are not made by me. My investments for the
last 10 years have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee.


MATTHEWS: Well, first of all, a lot of voters may have trouble simply
sympathizing with anybody so wealthy as to have a blind trust.

And the Associated Press fact-checker came up with this, Romney`s
statement. And they found this -- quote -- "Not all of his investments
have been in a blind trust. Romney`s personal financial disclosure forms
show he owned between $250,000 and $500,000 in a federated government
obligation fund which contained mutual fund notes of politically sensitive
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. An addendum to Romney`s disclosure forms say
that certain assets including that federated fund were outside the scope of
his blind trust."

So there you have it, David, where it`s clear according to the
Associated Press, he did have investments in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae,
which are the issue of dispute here, and they were not in any blind trust.
They were open to his involvement and knowledge.

CORN: Chris, this is the big issue. And it`s kind of puzzling,
because he`s had many years to think about this.

Mitt Romney and his campaign can`t figure out how he should talk about
his own wealth, whether it`s his taxes or his holdings. He should just get
up and say, listen, I have done well. I have a gazillion dollars. I don`t
even know how many. And I have people who manage these funds for me. Some
are in a blind trust. Some are not. I don`t know what goes on. And if
you tell me there`s Freddie Mac money in there, I will tell them to get rid
of it because I don`t want it anymore if I had it.

And that`s how he should handle this. But every time we get to this
issue, he somehow muffs it. It`s kind of perplexing.

MATTHEWS: Yes, last word, quickly, Susan, 10 seconds. Why can`t he
talk about his money?

MILLIGAN: Because he`s setting himself up to be the poster child for
the 1 percent in a general election. That`s why.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s doing a good job.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Susan Milligan. Have a
nice weekend.

Up next, Newt Gingrich picks up the jailhouse endorsement of former
Congressman Duke Cunningham, who is doing time for bribery. Well, I guess
you get endorsements where you can get them. That`s probably not one that
he`s hoping to get anyway.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now to the "Sideshow."

First up: Talk about extra baggage. Newt Gingrich has clinched
another endorsement, but hold the celebration. It`s ex-Congressman Duke
Cunningham, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence right now for his
involvement in a federal bribery case.

Being inside hasn`t stopped Cunningham from keeping up with the
debates. And he`s now reaching out to Newt -- quote -- "Newt, a voice out
of the past, down, but not out and still fighting. First, I do not want
anything from you, but have been watching the debates. I have 80 percent
of the inmates that would vote for you. They might not be able to vote,
but they have extended their extended families will."

Of all the former colleagues Gingrich could win an endorsement from,
this one obviously takes the cake.

I personally don`t hold a grudge against anyone who has paid their
debt to society, as Cunningham is right now.

Anyway, next up, amateur hour. That`s right. At last night`s debate,
one subject in particular was more a moment of comic relief than nasty back
and forth. The topic? Newt`s promise to voters that by the end of his
second presidential term in the White House, there will be an American
colony on the moon.

Well, let`s hear what two of his rivals had to say about the plan last


ROMNEY: I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive
come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to
put a colony on the moon, I would say, "You`re fired."

should go to the moon. I think we maybe should send some politicians up
there at times.



MATTHEWS: Well, by now, you would think Romney would be steering
clear of the words you`re fired. I guess that lunar colony talk brought
him back to the dark side.

And now for a fact check. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer drew some
scrutiny this week for that tense encounter she had with President Obama
when the president arrived in Arizona.

Well, Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona came on HARDBALL
last night and had this to say about Brewer`s record and popularity in her
home state.


REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: She came in the same time Barack
Obama did. The state in Arizona was among the worst hit with the housing
crisis. We were 47th in job creation. She has balanced the budget. She
is universally loved in Arizona.


MATTHEWS: Well, universally loved, really? Where does Brewer`s
approval stand in Arizona?

Well, in this November`s PPP poll, 49 percent disapproved of Brewer`s
performance; 42 percent approved. So, to quote the song, when it comes to
the Arizona governor, love is not all around her.

And now for the "Big Number" of the night. Remember when President
Obama went musical at New York City`s Apollo Theater last week?


love with you.



MATTHEWS: Well, thanks to the president, that Al Green hit is making
a comeback, a big one actually. How much did weekly sales of the 1970s hit
surge by the end of this last week? -- 490 percent. Talk about a sales
bump. As for the president`s singing, Al Green said he nailed it.

A 490 percent increase in sales of "Let`s Stay Together," that`s
tonight`s "Big Number."

Anyway, up next, Newt Gingrich loves to call President Obama a Saul
Alinsky radical, but who was Saul Alinsky? And do the Republicans who lap
this stuff up even know what they are talking about? That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


"Market Wrap."

The Dow Jones industrials gave back 74 today, the S&P 500 down two.
Nasdaq was up 11. One of the factors weighing on stocks today, fourth-
quarter GDP figures showing the economy expanded at a 2.8 percent annual
rate. That is the fastest pace in nearly two years, but it was below
forecast. And it didn`t put investors in a buying mood.

Shares of Ford down 4 percent following its latest earnings report.
The automaker said high commodity cost, poor performance in international
markets, especially Europe, took a bite out of profits, which were lower
than expected.

And the long wait may finally be over. Facebook could file its highly
anticipated IPO as early as Wednesday, according to "The Wall Street
Journal." The paper says Morgan Stanley will likely be the lead
underwriter of that coveted deal. If projections are correct, the
valuation could be -- get this -- as high as $100 billion. That would make
it one of the biggest IPOs in American history.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In just this past week alone, if you listened to Newt Gingrich, you
heard the name of one man repeated again and again, Saul Alinsky.


GINGRICH: The debate we`re going to have with President Obama over
the next eight or nine months, the outlining of the two Americas, the
America of the Declaration of Independence and the America of Saul Alinsky.

To clearly take Barack Obama on at every level, take him on, on
values, where he`s a Saul Alinsky radical.

But the centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is America
exceptionalism vs. the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.


GINGRICH: He draws his from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers and
people who don`t like the classical America.

He represents a big government, Saul Alinsky, radical vision of an
American future.

The values that he believes in, the Saul Alinsky radicalism.

If you`re for European socialism and Saul Alinsky radicalism, you`re
with Barack Obama.


MATTHEWS: Well, Saul Alinsky was a community organizer who helped the
poor and disenfranchised organize so that they could better their lives.
And he laid out this process in his most famous book, "Rules for Radicals:
A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals." That was the book`s full

The book was published in 1971. And Alinsky died in 1972. So why is
he in the political bloodstream right now?

Melinda Henneberger is a political reporter for "The Washington Post"
and anchors the blog "She the People." Lynn Sweet covers politics for "The
Chicago Sun-Times."

Ladies, thank you so much for coming on.

I have been wanting to get this straight. William F. Buckley,
godfather of the conservative movement, said Alinsky is very close to being
a organizational genius. FreedomWorks leader, the Tea Party group run by
Dick Armey, gives Alinsky`s book to its top leadership members to study. A
spokesman for FreedomWorks said this: "His tactics when it comes to
grassroots organizing are incredibly effective."

And this photo, by the way, shows George Romney, Mitt`s father,
meeting with Alinsky in September `67 two months after the Detroit riots.
And in it, George Romney -- in the biography he says, in "Romney`s Way,"
the elder Romney is quoted as saying to his white allies, "I think you
ought to listen to Alinsky."

Well, this is so fascinating, Melinda. I always thought of Alinsky as
not as left-wing zealot, zealous ideologue, certainly no Trotsky, no real


MATTHEWS: And yet just sort of a guy that people like -- Nick Von
Hoffman worked for him, my friend -- helped poor people organize so they
could have voice, just like the Tea Party does on the right.

HENNEBERGER: Well, you know, I mean, I think he was a leftist. He
was influenced by the father of Italian communism, Antonio Gramsci. But
his goals and everything he laid out in this book "Rules for Radicals"
really were to take the power away from the haves and give it to the have-

I think the reason you hear conservatives who`ve obviously studied
this work very closely, praising it is that it`s so effective. What he
says in these 13 rules that he lays out, he says, "Ridicule is man`s most
potent weapon." Well, you know, you don`t hear Barack Obama using
ridicule. You do, though, hear Newt Gingrich using ridicule to pretty good

Another one of his rules is a good strategy is a strategy your people
enjoy, which, you know, Alinsky loved to have the big, outrageous
demonstrations and tactics., like, one of his favorites was when he had
people dump garbage on the property of someone who had not, an official in
Chicago who had not been responsive to garbage pickup.

You know, is that Barack Obama? No. He does things like urge people
to call their member of Congress.


HENNEBERGER: Again, when he says, I think Alinsky`s biggest rule,
number 13, is to freeze it, polarize it, convince people that all the
devils are on one side. All the angels are on the other.

That`s the exact opposite of Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: Well, Lynn Sweet -- right, Barack Obama does not live in a
manekeyian (ph) world where all the other guys in the other side are bad
guys and all the people on his side are angels.

Lynn Sweet, you cover Chicago politics. Again, I think Melinda
nailed it. The people who used Alinsky`s tough tactics of organization
and politics are the right who make everybody on the left or center-left
evil. Not just different in terms of their judgments.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO-SUN TIMES: Absolutely. I think Newt, who says
he`s an historian, needs to do some more research here. Saul Alinsky had -
- never wanted to overthrow the system. He wanted to change it so that
everybody had a fair shake. He didn`t want to destroy the table. He
wanted everybody to have a seat on it, Chris.

And that`s what he did in his earliest days of organizing in Chicago.


I think he uses the word Alinsky not because it sounds Jewish name,
it sounds like a Jewish name and it is. I think he uses it to sort of
suggest Trotsky. I think he wants it to sound like a name, all right, you
never really heard this guy, but he sounds like Trotsky, he sounds like
some commie.

SWEET: Well, here`s another thing --

MATTHEWS: I don`t think 90 percent or 99 percent of the people here
who say Saul Alinsky have no knowledge of the guy, but it sounds like
trouble politically.

SWEET: I have some people --


SWEET: I was just in South Carolina, Chris, and I did ask people
because he had been using this. And I talked to people. I was in his
election night hotel. And he used, you know, you did the bite from there.
I said, you know who Saul Alinsky is? People don`t know.

I want to add one more thing. Saul Alinsky also sound -- organizing
sounds like union, conservatives, conservative candidates, Newt Gingrich
are not union friendly. That`s another reason.

I just want to point out that Alinsky -- Newt is more like Alinsky
right now more than anyone else. Anti-establishment, populist.


SWEET: Alinsky got his start in Chicago --

MATTHEWS: Lynn, here`s your point made beautifully by Newt himself.
He has trained his anger on what he calls the elites of Washington and New
York, attacking Alinsky would prove of. You know, making the other side
the all powerful evils. Let`s listen.


concerned about jobs, about medical costs, about the everyday parts of life
and who feel that the elites in Washington and New York and have no
understanding, no care, no concern, no reliability and, in fact, do not
represented them at all.


MATTHEWS: Melinda, you write about how Alinsky`s tactic was to rub
raw the anger and the resentments of people disenfranchised. It sounds
like Newt knows how to do it.

HENNEBERGER: Exactly. In the beginning, you think, you know, what
could be more elite than bringing up, as you say, the name of this obscure
guy. That somebody heard in a seminar. Although, it`s not new for a lot
of conservatives to hear about Saul Alinsky because people like Rush
Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have been talking about Saul Alinsky for awhile.
So people who are really into movement conservativism actually have heard
this before.

MATTHEWS: I put it right up with food stamp president. I`m much
tougher than you guys. I think he uses code --


HENNEBERGER: It`s a great use of ridicule, too.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Melinda, thank you so much. And, Lynn -- we have
to go. I`m sorry. I`m sorry.

Melinda Henneberger and Lynn Sweet, we can talk about Saul Alinsky

Up next, how the fight on the right between Newt Gingrich and Mitt
Romney is actually making President Obama stronger. I think we can agree
on this one.

And tonight after the show, I`ll be signing copies of my book "Jack
Kennedy: Elusive Hero" down here at the Barnes & Noble at Palm Beach
Gardens. Hope you can see you there. By the way, anybody could come in
Palm Beach Gardens, the Barnes & Noble.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: President Obama wrapped up his three-day post-State of the
Union swing in Michigan today. He`s polling strong in that state.

Let`s go back to the scoreboard right now. According to the new
"Detroit Free Press" poll, Obama leads Mitt Romney -- who was born in
Michigan, of course -- by eight points, 48 to 40. The president inching
his way towards 50 percent in that state. Two months ago, Obama`s lead was
only 46-41. We`ll have more on how the Republican fight is making
President Obama stronger, in just a minute.



here because somebody somewhere down the road decided we`re going to think
not just about ourselves, but about the future. Now, it`s our turn to
leave an America that`s built to last.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Republicans may be battling it out for the nomination, but one person
seemingly with the wind on this back is President Obama with his wind at
his back. Here he is in an interview last night with Diane Sawyer of ABC.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Nine months, 11 days until Election Day.
Are you going to win?


SAWYER: How much do you want it?

OBAMA: Badly. Because I think the country needs it.


MATTHEWS: Well, he`s looking and feeling confident there, just as he
was in the State of the Union address earlier this week and speeches now
across the country since then.

Can he keep his mo going through November? That`s a hot question.

Patrick Gaspard served as the White House political director. Now,
he`s with the DNC as executive director.

And Ron Reagan is a political commentator and author of "My Father at

I want to start with Patrick. We haven`t had you on for a while.

Patrick, tell me about the president and when you begin what we call
the kick. Has he begun his kick? The part where you really try to put it

to go. It`s definitely been a good week for our president. While Newt
Gingrich has been off orbiting the moon and Mitt Romney is content with
just orbiting the truth, Barack Obama has been having an honest
conversation with the American people about the kind of economy that we
have to build, an economy built on American manufacturing, clean energy,
enhancing the skills of all of our workers, and also reinstituting this
basic sense of American -- the American value that if you work hard, play
by the rules, you are going to get rewarded in this society and have
economic security for a time to come.

So, it`s been a good week. You saw the great energetic crowds in
Michigan, in Nevada where the president --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know, that`s all official. Patrick, that`s all
good. I accept all of that.

But what about you as a political guy watching this thing. When you
are watching these debates the last of couple of weeks, what is your
feelings about it when you watch the Republican Party? So many right
wingers, so much right wing rhetoric, so much over the top -- what`s that
going to do to the voter, the independent voter come next fall? That kind
of rhetoric we`re getting from -- you heard about the moon and all of that
stuff. How does that affect the independent voter?

GASPARD: Well, Chris, I think that you ran some of the poll numbers
earlier in this very show. We see that independents and moderates are
fleeing from Mitt Romney as he`s contorted himself to appeal to the extreme
right wing of the Tea Party and we know, of course, that with Newt
Gingrich`s talent for provocation, that`s turning off a lot of folks as
well. And it`s clear that there`s a divisiveness there that`s unappealing
to most American voters.

And I think that when the lights come on and one of them emerges as
the nominee, they are going to have a very, very difficult time tacking
away from all the promises and the commitments that they made to folks who
want to drag us back to all the policies that created the crisis we found
ourselves in in 2008.

MATTHEWS: I think that`s well said.

Ron, my buddy, you know what I can`t believe, I do believe, I`m just
being rhetorical. I can`t believe, I`m going to say it this way -- how
Romney, when he did something decent, and voted for someone who is quiet,
soft-spoken guy, perhaps non-charismatic guy like Paul Tsongas, who really
wanted to stick his neck out and fix things like Social Security and
Medicare, make the country better, fix our foreign policy, do the right
thing at the cost of some votes he got, with some real guts.

Here`s this guy walking away from that vote now saying, oh, that was just a
strategic vote to play some monkey business. I didn`t really mean I liked
Paul Tsongas.

This, I heard the cock crow three times with this guy. Why doesn`t
he at least stand up for the good stuff he does? Romney.

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Romney won`t even stand up
for his own health care plan. Listen, Barack Obama has some stuff cutting
against him here. There`s the economy, of course. There`s the
incandescent hatred for him on the right. There are people over there that
would vote for himler over Obama.

But that -- but he has some things going for him --

MATTHEWS: You`ll pay for that -- Ron, you`ll pay for that comment.
I`ll tell you what. The tweeters are out there right now.

REAGAN: Yes. Well, if Gingrich is --


MATTHEWS: You say they hate him so much -- yes.

REAGAN: Yes, never mind that. But anyway, they hate him so much,
the economy is bad.

But here`s what he`s got going for him: Romney and Gingrich. Look at
the last few debates here. Does anybody watching those debates think to
themselves, hey, these two guys, either one of them really belongs in the
Oval Office? They`ve been diminishing themselves steadily throughout the

Gingrich is a joke. And Romney, you got Mr. $57,000-A-Day man who
doesn`t seem to grateful for that. He just seems entitled.

MATTHEWS: You are so well -- by the way, he wants a tax break.

REAGAN: Yes, he does.

MATTHEWS: He makes more in a day than most people make in a year.
And he wants a break.

We`ll be right back. Patrick, we`ll have more from you and more from
Ron when we come back in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



OBAMA: Whoever wins the Republican primary is going to be a standard
bearer for a vision of the country that I don`t think reflects who we are.
I think the American people are going to make a judgment about who is
trying to bring the country together and who is dividing it.


MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Ron Reagan on that. I think these
candidates, especially the president are so well-advised to do that kind of
quiet interview rather just the pounding of the lectern. You know, it
comes across so well there, doesn`t he?

REAGAN: He does. He does. He comes across, as he often does, as
the grown-up in the room. And, you know, I know the Republicans want to
paint him as the divisive figure here. But look at the two Republican
candidates who are in the lead. What could be more divisive than that?

GASPARD: Well, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Patrick, the fact that Newt`s been able to survive -- let
me ask you. I want to give you an opportunity. I`ll tee this up for you,
if you will.

The fact that Newt Gingrich has done so well, he may be out of this
in two or three weeks but he`s in it for at least a while now. The fact he
can sell as a front-runner with the Republican electorate tells you how
angry they are, how -- maybe how over the top they are to their head to
head anger, to the point they can`t think right. Newt can`t possibly be
president, can he? I mean, by any standard?

GASPARD: Well, clearly, I expect that Barack Obama is going to
continue to be president after the November election.

But let`s be like real with one another here, Chris. The fact that
Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, before that Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain,
the fact they were viable contenders for the nomination is really basically
an indictment by the conservative branch of that party of Mitt Romney. He
just has an authenticity gap.

And folks on that side realize that not only is he disavowing what he
did in Massachusetts on health care. He hasn`t been truthful and
transparent about his taxes. He hasn`t been truthful on his record about a
woman`s right to choose, has been all over the place and extreme on
immigration and DREAM Act.


GASPARD: So, I think there`s an authenticity gap that`s making it
difficult for Mitt Romney to close the deal with Republicans.


MATTHEWS: Ron, to be fair, the president -- I don`t think people
believe he`s a right winger. The one thing saving Romney is people think
he`s B.S.-ing us. He really is a centrist.


REAGAN: That may save him in the general election.

GASPARD: If I could go just back to your question to Ron about how
the president looked in that interview last night. He looked thoughtful
because he is thoughtful. He`s a serious person. He cares passionately
about this country and wants to do the right thing for all Americans.

MATTHEWS: We have plenty of time to say that between now and

Patrick, please come back. Patrick Gaspard of the DNC. Ron Reagan,
my buddy.

That`s HARDBALL. Thanks for being with us. A good week for the
president, maybe one of his best.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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