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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, March 8, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Michael Steele, Howard Fineman, Mark Halperin,
Veronica De La Cruz, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Gail Davenport, Jennifer Donahue, Danny

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mitt the mystic (ph).

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington again. Leading
off tonight: Faking it. Here`s Mitt Romney`s problem. He`s not a movement
conservative, he just plays one on TV. And that`s why he can`t close the
deal with Republicans. He`s got the most votes, won the most states,
snagged the most delegates and raised the most money, but the enthusiasm
gap keeps growing. And it may be about to get worse with a string of
primaries in unfriendly territory.

Rising gas prices may be the biggest threat to President Obama`s
reelection. So why are some Republicans arguing that the president wants
to see the price go up? Does that make any sense? We`ll let the HARDBALL
"Strategists" figure that one out.

Plus, if Republicans won`t stop going after contraception, Democrats
won`t stop benefiting from it. Eight Democrats, all women, walked out
yesterday when the Georgia senate voted to restrict access to contraception
and abortion. And one of them joins us tonight, one of those senators down

And two questions. Why is Rick Santorum worried about Guam, and why
is he already in damage control mode out in those islands? Check out the
"Sideshow" tonight.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with how a president proves he`s a
man of the people and willing to take on big business.

We begin with Mitt Romney`s authenticity problem, and he`s certainly
got one. Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican National Committee
for years--


MATTHEWS: -- and Howard Fineman is editorial director of the
HuffingtonPost, which has only been around for years.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, both are MSNBC--


MATTHEWS: -- political analysts. Gentlemen -- let`s start with the
pro, the inside man, if you will, the once and future leader of the
Republican Party perhaps, dare we say.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this guy. Howard, you got -- what was
the great quote of the day? There`s always one quote of the day from

Well -- well, he was talking to a Birmingham, Alabama, radio station this
morning about his prospects in the South, and he said, Well, I realize I`m
playing a bit of an away game.


FINEMAN: And that was very -- that was very sporting -- that was
sporting of him.

MATTHEWS: Yes, like, in other words, when he goes South--


FINEMAN: -- to call the South, It`s a bit of an away game, is -- is
kind of giving away all too honestly what his problem is. This is a
Southern-based modern Republican Party--


STEELE: And Reagan would say, There you go again.

MATTHEWS: How come every night -- good try there. Why does he always
do this? Why does he always act--

STEELE: I don`t know. I don`t know.


STEELE: He`s not feeling it. I just -- I -- there`s something about
him that the switch turns off, the mouth opens, and this comes out. I
don`t know how you now go into Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas and make the
argument that, I`m one of you, when this is considered an away game.
You`re not even part of my home team. I mean, it makes no--

MATTHEWS: Well, one thing you know, every sportscaster in that part
of the country now knows this line. They heard it within minutes.

STEELE: Yes. Oh, yes.

FINEMAN: And it`s all too revealing, in a way -- not only does he
view it as foreign territory, but also, it shows his kind of mechanical
view of the whole thing. In other words, he`s got a map -- he`s got a map
of the country. He`s strong here, he`s not strong there. The balance
sheet looks good here. It doesn`t look good there.

This is a takeover guy. I wrote a piece saying he`s doing a hostile
takeover of the Republican Party, a leveraged buyout of the Republican
Party. You look at the spreadsheets. You got good assets here, you got
bad assets there. That`s the way he views it.

STEELE: And the problem he has -- I mean, I know what they`re doing
now. They`re trying to get everybody out of the race so they don`t have to
deal with the real numbers. He`s got a big numbers problem.

If you take the most favorable number of delegates for him, 404 to
415, that`s still going to leave him well short of what he needs to get to
1,144. And with language like this right now, going into these Southern
states, it`s not going to help him win, even -- even if you give him all --
give him all eight remaining winner-take-all states, he`s still going to be
649 short.

MATTHEWS: You`re going to love this. You know, I was the Peace Corps
in Africa. You know what I always remember, the British guys, the ex-pats
over there. They`ll do any kind of field work during the day, as long as
they got home at night. That`s Romney. (INAUDIBLE) get back to the safe
preserve. He`ll do away games all day long.

Well, anyway, in his "Washington Post" column making the same point --
by the way, the column by E.J. Dionne was headlined today -- the headline
writer wrote, "The tolerable candidate."

And here`s what E.J. wrote. "His campaign" -- that`s Romney`s -- "is
part John McCain, part Michael Dukakis and part Richard Nixon. He`s
neither a natural politician nor a comfortable spokesman for an
increasingly ideological, evangelical Southern and enraged political
coalition. Romney`s a man of flexible views from the Northeast, a Mormon
who wins votes from the least religious sectors of his party, a rather
satisfied man who has to announce that he`s angry because he doesn`t look


MATTHEWS: Hey, look. I`m really angry.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Michael--


MATTHEWS: -- treasure trove about your party here. Tell me -- this
guy is like -- why are they nominating a guy who`s the worst possible fit,
the ultimately misfit?

STEELE: Because unfortunately, there has not been the sort of
galvanizing around one of the other individuals to the point where they can
push, you know, someone like Romney aside and really move forward with a
Gingrich or a Santorum. That just hasn`t happened.

It hasn`t happened from the very beginning. And I think there are a
lot of reasons for that because the party, in many respects, is still
trying to figure out what ground it wants to stand on going forward. It`s
not just about this election, but it`s about a lot of elections coming up.

FINEMAN: I don`t think it`s entirely that. I think if you look at
the exit polls in Ohio and if you talk to voters, as I did in Ohio, even
the ones who are for Rick Santorum strongly said to me, If it comes down to
it, I`ll support Mitt Romney in the fall.

And also, the exit polls showed that even those conservative voters
tended to see Mitt Romney as the strongest candidate in the fall. So some
of what E.J. said about how Mitt Romney is a man of flexible views from the
Northeast might play better in the general election, if he gets there, and-

MATTHEWS: But they`re outsourcing.

FINEMAN: And some Republican voters are aware of that.

MATTHEWS: But they`re outsourcing. In other words, none of us can
win -- we being the conservative Republican Party--

FINEMAN: Yes. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: -- so let`s (INAUDIBLE) one of these moderate types that
might sell.

FINEMAN: Well, I`m saying there are some voters who are thinking that
way. There are some who--


MATTHEWS: But here`s the problem. Let`s get to a couple -- I think
he`s got about three problems working against him. One is his personality.
He`s not really a politician. He`s a business guy, and probably a good
one. We know they made a quarter billion bucks. He must be good at
something in the money world.

Number two, he did "Obama care." So let`s get to this. "Obama care"
is his bagram (ph). His aides made the case today that math was on his
side, however. He`s a business guy here. And that would take, quote, "An
act of God" -- this sounds like the Titanic guys talk like this -- "An act
of God" for Santorum or Gingrich to get the nomination.

In "The New York Times" today, Alex Castellanos, a former Romney
adviser, said this. Quote, "You can`t treat this like a math equation,
however. Your job as a candidate is to inspire people to join something
greater than themselves. What is Mitt asking people to be part of?"

Howard, that`s the question. The "lift of a driving dream," something
bigger than yourself. Most candidates find that, if they`re going to win.

FINEMAN: Well, he hasn`t found it yet. So as you say, his spinners,
who had every -- reporters in yesterday to go over the math, they`re making
the inevitability argument. They`re saying, Hey, this guy has got the
money and the machine and the discipline and the toughness and the
nastiness, by the way, to go up against President Barack Obama. That`s why
you should be for him.

That`s not the "lift of a driving dream." And Alex -- Alex
Castellanos, who was with Romney last time, has publicly lamented, as has
Mike Murphy and others who have worked with Romney in the past, that there
are good things about Mitt Romney as a person, as a story that just haven`t
gotten out there.

MATTHEWS: Is it because he`s been trying so hard to pretend he`s
someone he`s not, that he`s failed to let even any evidence of who he is--

STEELE: I think that`s dead on. I think it`s less Romney pretending
than others trying to fashion him to be something that he`s not. And he
needs to just be who he is.

You`re exactly right. Coming off of this rough economy for a lot of
folks, they are looking for that motivation, that inspiration. And this is
not about Republicans or Democrats, red or blue. This is just an American
problem right now. People want to feel inspired.

And that is -- that`s an advantage to Obama, as you saw in the speech
that he gave last week, where he`s, you know, using this very lifting
language and this very motivation -- I`m fighting for you. I did what I
did because I`m with you.

Romney needs to strike that tone, but he has to be comfortable with it

FINEMAN: Well, it`s hard to make hard-headed economic stewardship
seem like the "lift of a driving dream."


FINEMAN: But that`s what they pay the consultants the big money for.


FINEMAN: They`ve got to figure out how to make refashioning American
industry and the American economy in the 21st century seem like an exciting


FINEMAN: It`s not impossible.

MATTHEWS: We`ve all been in politics.

FINEMAN: Yes. It`s not impossible.

MATTHEWS: You look for the genuine article. It`s the oldest phrase
in politics, the genuine article. And he`s not.

Campaigning in Alabama today, Rick Santorum said the reason he decided
to run was because of Romney`s history with health care in Massachusetts.
And this is the second problem about him, not just his lack of a political
personality, his history as having been a political moderate with health
care, the very heart of the Democratic -- of the vulnerability as far as
the Republicans are concerned. Let`s watch.


care" is, in fact, the death nail (ph) for freedom. That`s why it must be


SANTORUM: I looked at the field. Good people all. But I looked
particularly at the favorite in this race, the one who was the -- going to
be the eventual nominee, the one that the inevitability (INAUDIBLE) And I
kept looking at this huge problem, which is on the biggest issue that this
country confronts right now. The "eventual nominee," in quotes, is
singularly the worst person to make that case to the American people.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s putting the nail on the head, Michael.

STEELE: It`s putting the nail on the head, but listen to -- listen to
that voice. Listen to how he draws you into that conversation. You may
disagree with him on a whole host of things, but you`re sitting there, in
that moment, you`re going, Wow. OK, talk. Tell me more.


STEELE: And that`s the piece that`s missing (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: That indictment, Howard, of the front-runner -- the front-
runner is pretty authentic.

FINEMAN: Yes, well--


FINEMAN: Yes, it is. And there are two reasons why with the voters.
Number one, with evangelical voters and conservative Catholics and so on,
they look at the health care law as an invasion of their religious liberty.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party types, the secular Tea Party types look at the
health care law and see runaway spending and runaway government. So it`s a
powerful appeal.

MATTHEWS: I think he has three problems going South this week. He`s
going to Mississippi, Alabama, Guam, whatever, but he`s going to those two
deep South states. He`s not going to--

FINEMAN: Hawaii.




MATTHEWS: What`s the most southern state of the union? It`s Hawaii.


MATTHEWS: OK. We know these things. OK. First one is he`s not a
political personality. He doesn`t know how to connect with people. You
can put him through rope line after rope line, he doesn`t connect with
anybody out there.

Number two, he`s got health care behind him. He did the very thing
they run against as almost the devil. And third is LDS, is religion. I
don`t like talking about religion, but I look at the numbers of last week`s
-- this week`s -- seems like 100 years ago. We worked all night that
night, Tuesday night. He can`t get above 28 percent in the South, in any
of the states he`s been fighting for.

STEELE: And that`s why he has a big numbers problem going into this
convention. And that`s why you will not see Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum
or Ron Paul step out of this thing until it is done in Tampa because the
numbers don`t add up for Romney no matter how you cut it.

MATTHEWS: And somebody else could win.

STEELE: Someone else could win.

MATTHEWS: Howard? Somebody else could win?

FINEMAN: I think he`s going to finish with the most of everything, as
you said.

MATTHEWS: A plurality.

FINEMAN: He`ll have a plurality, but I don`t think he`ll have 1,114

MATTHEWS: We might have -- ladies and gentlemen, we might be having
the first political convention in over 60 years, since Eisenhower and --
and Taft.

Michael Steele, Howard Fineman, great guys.

Coming up: Should Newt Gingrich get out of the way? Is he the road
hog in this race? The "Strategists" will be here. I`m calling him the
road hog. Newt, you`re a road hog.

You`re watching HARDBALL, by the way -- if Newt`s watching, you`re a
road hog -- only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Well, Newt Gingrich did win his home state of Georgia on
super-Tuesday this week, but it has -- it was among one of the weakest home
state victories by any Republican presidential candidate since 1972.
Gingrich won just 47.2 percent of the vote in Georgia.

And according to the University of Minnesota`s "Smart Politics"
report, that ties John McCain, actually, in 2008 for the lowest vote tally
in a home state win. And it`s among the weakest home state performances
since 1972. The only other major Republican presidential candidates who
didn`t win a majority in their home state were George Herbert Walker Bush
in 1980 and Pat Robertson in Virginia in 1988. Both Bush and Robertson
ended up losing, by the way.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We got some more pros here, two
top political strategists here tonight to debate two key issues facing the
upcoming election. First, personnel. Who should be running in this race?
Newt Gingrich is facing calls for him to get out of the race, get off the
road, and allow Rick Santorum to take on Romney one on one. Will the last
(ph) past (ph) Tuesday`s Southern primaries be an opportunity to prove it
and maybe get Newt out for good?

Then number two, of course, the one affecting everybody today as they
drive to and from work, gas prices, poses a real threat to President
Obama`s reelection. We always blame the incumbent for bad pricing.

And these questions, we turn to our HARDBALL "Strategists," I
mentioned before the geniuses here, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican
Todd Harris. Gentlemen, let`s try to be analytical a little bit, but I
know you`re partisan.

Todd Harris, why doesn`t Newt Gingrich get the heck out of the way?
Will he get out of the way if he loses both Mississippi and Alabama?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don`t think that he will. And
one of the probably two key reasons. Number one is ego. As long as he`s
in the race--



HARRIS: You think? He has compared himself to Moses, after all. As
long as he`s in the race, he has some amount of a platform to talk about
issues that are important to him.

And number two, because of this arcane change in the way that
delegates are allocated in Republican primaries now, where every state
prior to April 1st allocates at least some portion of their delegates on a
proportional basis -- so as long as you are not getting just completely
shellacked in all of these states, you`re going to continue to--

MATTHEWS: To what effect?

HARRIS: Well, because when you go to the convention, you have--

MATTHEWS: Then what?

HARRIS: Because you have some standing then, whether it`s--


MATTHEWS: Ego and standing. Is there any way -- first of all, Romney
wants him in, so he`s not going to pay him off. Is there anything Gingrich
can -- or Santorum can give him to please, please get him out of the race
so he can take on Romney one on one and have at least a chance to beat
Romney at this point?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he might be able to give
him something like the vice presidency or secretary of state or something

MATTHEWS: He can offer that.

MCMAHON: -- that would--

MATTHEWS: If he wins.

MCMAHON: That would take care of Newt`s ego. I mean, I think Todd`s
right, though, about the whole game was to stay in through the proportional
representation states, try to get hot for all the winner-take-all states.

The Romney campaign likes to tell everybody that these other two guys
don`t have the delegates and can`t get the delegates going into the
convention to be the nominee. But what they don`t tell you is neither can
Mitt Romney because he`s not going to have the delegates.


MCMAHON: He`s going to have to depend on super-delegates, like--

MATTHEWS: I`m watching (INAUDIBLE) march towards next Tuesday. We`re
going to be covering it again like we cover every one of these. And I`m
watching the Southern states, where I think it`s fair to say that Romney`s
not going to win either one. It`s going to be one of these two guys. And
Romney hasn`t been able to get above 28 percent anywhere in the South yet.

An adviser to the pro-Santorum super-PAC wrote yesterday, quote,
"Based on his electoral performance last night and his out-of-step record,
it is time for Newt Gingrich to exit the Republican nominating process.
With Gingrich exiting the race, it would be a true head-to-head race and
conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent
conservative like, well, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney."

This is really frustrating me. This is really frustrating me because
I want to see a fight where you can actually turn on the television and
watch a decent battle election night between one of two guys, each of whom
still has a chance to be the nominee of the Republican Party. That`s what
you ought to get.

At some point, the effective runoff we always want in politics -- will
we ever get one, the runoff between the two top contenders? Are we ever
going to get one this race?

MCMAHON: So here`s the possibility. If Newt Gingrich can control the
few delegates -- if he gets 300 or 400 delegates over the course of this
and he can control those delegates going into the first ballot, if Mitt
Romney doesn`t have a majority and Newt Gingrich can deliver his delegates
-- I mean, stranger things have happened, not in the last 60 years but--

MATTHEWS: OK, so in other words, he`s hanging on to be able to the
kingmaker for Romney.

HARRIS: That`s not going to -- Mitt is going to get the required
delegates to get over the 1,144 needed. That`s going to happen. He`s
hanging onto these delegates because it keeps him relevant and--


HARRIS: -- and you know, he can broker this for some--


MATTHEWS: Here`s Santorum who`s obviously -- he`s got better control
of his emotions than I would have at this time. Here`s Santorum himself.
He doesn`t actually call for Gingrich to get out of the race, but here`s
how he handles it. Actually, it`s the one time this whole race he`s shown
some sort of fine sort of human irony. And here`s Rick Santorum making his


knowledge. Let`s just put it that way. I have been very, very clear about
my position on this.

I`m not saying I don`t want him to get out. If he wants to get out,
I`m all for him getting out. But I`m all for Mitt Romney getting out. I`m
for everything getting out. I wish President Obama would just hand me the
thing, but that`s not going to happen.


MATTHEWS: That`s pretty nice. Isn`t it human? He`s telling the
truth. I want them all out of the race so I can be president.

MCMAHON: He`s occasionally human.

I`ll tell you what. From Rick Santorum`s perspective, any outcome
here is good because he gets the nomination if he`s really lucky. And if
he`s not, he sort of goes into 2016 as the front-runner...

MATTHEWS: No. Are we already looking ahead?


MCMAHON: Here`s what happens. If Mitt Romney loses, the
conservatives are all going to say if we had nominated someone with a spine
and with conservative principles, we would have beaten Obama. We need to
do that next time.


MATTHEWS: Is that credible? Does Santorum have another fight in him?

MCMAHON: He`s 48 years old.

HARRIS: I don`t think so. The bench -- for every complaint that
there has been about 2012, the 2016 bench for Republicans is very deep.


MATTHEWS: I think Santorum has been the most heroic -- I don`t agree
with him on most -- but I think he has been the most heroic candidate in
this race. He`s walked in there with a hand like two threes in his hand.

And he`s up against the richest, best-looking guy with the perfect
family, with the perfect anything, whose turn it is. And he`s been
fighting this guy pretty heroically, sort of Haile Selassie against the
Italian army. How is that?


MATTHEWS: Anyway according to AAA -- AAA, of course they follow these
things. The national average now for a gallon of gas regular -- you can
check this yourself on the way home tonight -- is $3.76, getting up close
to $4 for regular. That`s up 24 cents from a year ago, 28 cents higher
than just a month ago. It`s spiking.

How does Obama deal with the fact if this continues to go up, they are
saying we are looking at $5?

MCMAHON: Well, substantively, there`s nothing he can do because a
president can`t control prices. But politically and symbolically there`s a
lot of stuff he could do. He could for instance unleash the Strategic
Petroleum Reserves, which won`t make any difference, but it will look like
he cares.


MATTHEWS: Is that a responsible thing to do? Isn`t that for when we
have like an international war?

MCMAHON: It`s been done five or six or eight times in the last 10

The other thing he could is he could suspend the federal gas tax for a
period of time. It would take Congress to act. The Republicans wouldn`t
want to do it. The president would be on the side of the middle class. It
would be smart politically, but it would add to the deficit.

MATTHEWS: Here`s your guy Newt Gingrich going at him on this. And
one thing Newt is a great opportunist. He can look at that gas pump and
see what the opportunity is. And here he is jumping on it.


the price of this is by dramatically expanding supply. This is real. This
isn`t a fairy. It`s not a fantasy. It`s not a fund-raiser in San
Francisco. It is the way the American people fill their cars and fill
their trucks. They deserve a president who pays attention to reality and
tries to help them with reality.


MATTHEWS: Isn`t it sweet of the guy saying it`s not a fairy in San
Francisco? Isn`t that nice of him the way he put those words together?


MATTHEWS: The way he puts thing together, isn`t he a sweetheart?

Anyway, my thought about him. By the way, there`s a job for him. I
used to pump gas at a couple gas stations. It`s a good pastime. You get a
little tan and it gets pretty nice out there. You meet a lot of people.
Maybe that`s what he should be doing instead of wasting our time running
for president.

HARRIS: He will be doing something come September.

MATTHEWS: Pumping gas is an admirable thing to do. Go to Jersey, you
have to work there. You`re not allowed to pump it yourself up there.

You`re laughing, don`t you -- what`s the president do? What`s your
party saying about gas prices?

HARRIS: Look, I think the president`s position is absurd. He`s
talking about the Strategic Reserve.


MCMAHON: I was actually talking about that. He wasn`t.

HARRIS: No, the president has talked about it. He`s talked about
increasing the imports from Brazil. They have gone to the Saudis and said
we need you to increase your exports, so we can increase supply.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute.


MATTHEWS: I`m getting an epiphany here. Didn`t your crowd promise if
we invaded Iraq and took over that country, we`d get all that free gasoline
and oil?


MATTHEWS: It would be the greatest. All your guys were saying -- all
your intellectuals in your party, all the neocons were saying let`s take
Iraq and get free gas.

HARRIS: Didn`t the president say what we need to do is get serious
about alternative energy in 2008?


HARRIS: No, no, in 2008, he said we need a president who will get
serious about alternative energy.


HARRIS: Yes, in Solyndra, as we have seen, all these huge giveaways.

You either believe in supply and demand, or you don`t. It`s absurd to
suggest that there`s nothing we can do to increase our domestic production
of energy. It is absurd. We have 13 percent of our offshore -- of
offshore lands that are subject to production right now, 13 percent. He`s
nixed the Keystone pipeline. We have had a 44 percent decrease in...


MATTHEWS: I`m tired of it.


MATTHEWS: Let`s put it straight. First of all, Todd, you`re wrong.
Every gallon of gas that is pumped anywhere near the United States goes on
the world gasoline market. It doesn`t become ours. The Chinese can buy it
faster than we can.


HARRIS: And it creates jobs in this country.

MATTHEWS: It doesn`t create gas, lower prices.

HARRIS: It creates jobs. And Canada can either sell its gas to the
Chinese, which is what they`re going to do now, or they can put it...


MCMAHON: There`s been more domestic energy production in the last two
years than at any time in the last 10 years.

HARRIS: On private land. On federal land, it`s gone down because of
all of these regulations.

MCMAHON: The United States of America is producing more energy...


MATTHEWS: All I know is that your crowd sold us into that war in Iraq
and the big promise was cheap gas.


MATTHEWS: Now you can keep laughing about it all you want. That was
the big argument, jobs, jobs, jobs. Every time there`s a war in the Middle
East, your guys say cheap gas if we win. We haven`t got nothing out of the
war in Iraq, nothing, except death.

Anyway, thank you, Todd Harris, who is dead wrong on the gas issue,
because he`s one of the guys who wants us to fight these wars to get cheap

HARRIS: That`s absurd. That`s actually insulting.


HARRIS: That is absurd. It`s absurd you would make a comment like


MCMAHON: Were you against the war in Iraq?

HARRIS: I was against the war in Iraq.


HARRIS: I didn`t support the war in Iraq. I was against it from day

MCMAHON: You and Howard Dean.


MATTHEWS: He`s one of the two Republicans that opposed the war.

Thank you then. I do take it back. I didn`t realize that. I thought
you were for the hawkish position on Iraq.


MATTHEWS: But your candidates were.

HARRIS: Look, you asked my personal...


HARRIS: I didn`t support it.

MATTHEWS: OK. His candidates were.

Thank you, Steve McMahon. Your candidates were against the war.
Thank you.

No, I`m afraid they were for it, actually.

MCMAHON: Howard Dean?

MATTHEWS: He`s on the right side.

Thank you.

Rick Santorum, he finds himself in damage control right now. We`re
going to talk about Guam because apparently he said some terrible things
about Guam recently and now he`s trying to get their delegate votes.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


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

First up, Super Tuesday was to be Mitt Romney`s night to get the
nomination wrapped up. Recall "The Colbert Report"`s countdown to loving
Mitt clock. And then came Wednesday morning.

Here`s what happened to that Colbert countdown.


to loving Mitt clock.

Oh, no, two minutes and 45 seconds. Really?


COLBERT: Just play the pundits telling me that he`s the inevitable

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No knockout blow for Mitt Romney on Super Tuesday
in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney not waking up this morning with the
clear front-runner.


COLBERT: Romney did not close the deal last night. I have got more
time. Oh, God, I have to stop the clock before it goes off. I know. I`ll
just hit the snooze button.


COLBERT: Yes. Yes. OK. Four more days. That puts off my accepting
Mitt until Saturday`s primaries in Wyoming, Guam, and the Virgin Islands,
the big three.



MATTHEWS: Wow. I think Tuesday was the last of those countdowns, at
least for awhile.

Next up, the all-important Guam caucus, just mentioned. Yes, both
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are reaching out to the island`s Republican
leaders and Santorum is already in damage control out there. Why? Let`s
go back to January of this year and Santorum`s plan for banishing judges he
considers too liberal.


SANTORUM: I want to be responsible. I want to be respectful of the
Constitution because there is a provision that judges are appointed for

Now maybe we can create a court that puts them in Guam or something
like that and keep their life appointments and appoint a whole bunch of new
judges to two different circuits.


MATTHEWS: Send liberal judges to Guam? Didn`t we use to say Timbuktu
or somewhere when talked about a far-off place we never expected to visit?

And, finally, a distant memory. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
commemorated the 40-year anniversary of former President Nixon`s historic
trip to China with a recollection of how she followed the events of the
trip. Let`s listen.


in 1972. I was a poor law student. I did not own a television set.

But I was not about to miss history being made, so I rented one, a
portable model with those rabbit ears. I lugged it back to my apartment
and tuned it in every night to watch scenes of a country that had been
blocked from view for my entire life.


MATTHEWS: Of course, two years later, Hillary was advising the House
Judiciary Committee on the proper procedures for impeaching that president
who went to China, President Nixon.

Up next, we will talk to one of the eight state senators in Georgia
who walked out the other day when the Georgia Senate voted to restrict
access to contraception and abortion.

Well, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


your CNBC "Market Wrap."

The Dow gained 71, the S&P adds 13, and the Nasdaq rises 35 on relief
about Greece`s bond swap deal. On the economic front, applications for
first-time jobless claims unexpectedly rose by 8,000 last week. And,
meantime, job cuts fell 3.3 percent last week, according to outplacement
firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. And shares of McDonald`s ended down 3
percent after the fast-food giant reported weaker-than-expected February

I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- and now back to HARDBALL.


In the Georgia State Senate today, eight women, all Democrats, walked
off the Senate chamber yesterday to protest the Republican Party`s passage
of two bills that would limit women`s access to contraception and abortion.
There they are walking out of the chamber.

One bills says that employees of the religious institutions -- or of
religious institutions have no right to demand their insurance company pay
for contraceptions, as the federal health care law would require. And the
other, the one that prompted the walk, that bans abortion coverage under
the state employees` health care plan.

So there are example of efforts at both the state and national level
to put burdens on women seeking health care. And it`s dominating politics
at a time when many people considered these issues settled and wanted to
talk about the economy.

Well, state Senator Gail Davenport -- there she is -- I think I saw
you leaving yesterday there, Senator -- and then Jennifer Donahue is
generally quite smart on all such issues. She`s with The Huffington Post.
She`s a contributor and a fellow at the great Eisenhower Institute up at
Gettysburg College.

Senator Davenport, take your time because this is an issue that keeps
bounding back into the front pages across the country nationally and at
that state level. Why did you walk out of the Senate chamber to which you
have been elected?

GAIL DAVENPORT (D), GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Well, thank you very much,

And we walked out basically because we felt it was an attack on women,
on women women`s rights. There are 56 senators in Georgia -- 47 of them
are men. Nine are women, one in the majority party and eight in the
minority party. And we just felt that we had enough yesterday.

We had those two bills there. One was engrossed, which meant that we
couldn`t put an amendment on Senate Bill 438. And these were state
employees. And that meant we couldn`t put an amendment to say that if you
are raped or a victim of incest, that you cannot get with your doctor and
have an abortion.

Now, we just felt that that exemption should have been in there. And
our voices were silenced yesterday. And we felt for all the women of
Georgia we needed to speak up and we needed to say something.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the way things have...


MATTHEWS: Yes, the way things have been. This is sort of like most
people say under the law, the federal government can`t fund abortion, but
it`s legal. We all know it`s legal.

We also know that contraception is a fact of life for a lot of
families and single people going way back to the `50s, whenever -- actually
early `60s, when you could get abortion -- rather, you could get
contraception pills, birth control pills.

Let me go over here just a bit to Jennifer to get you into this.

Is this something that`s just going to keep percolating up right
through the year, this focus on something we thought was settled, abortion
rights and obviously the need for contraception, Jennifer?

percent of the American public is happy with the status quo as it relates
to birth control and abortion.

But on the fringes of both parties, you see a lot of advocacy going on
partly because of this prolonged nominating process in the GOP, where
Santorum is moving the discussion to the right and wants to and Romney is
being forced to the right on that issue as well.


DONAHUE: So I think what you`re seeing is a real disconnect between
voters and their leaders on these issues.

And Senator Davenport and others were really exercising what most
Americans believe, actually. So this is sort of a two-pronged process,
where you`re seeing voters disconnected with what their leaders are doing.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think fluoridation of water might be the next
debate we`re going to have around here, go back to the `50s all the way.

Well, the Republican Party`s efforts to limit women`s access to
contraception have left some Republican women uneasy. Republican Senator
Olympia Snowe, for example, bucked her party and voted against the Blunt
amendment on that issue. Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski says she regrets
her vote supporting the Blunt Amendment.

And a Republican New York assemblywoman who is retiring after more
than two decades in politics says the current GOP presidential field would
take women back decades.

Let`s listen to that assemblywoman from New York state.


ASW. TERESA SAYWARD (R), NEW YORK: I do not have a favorite in the
presidential race. If I had to vote today, I`d vote for Obama.


SAYWARD: Because I truly think that the candidates that are out
there today on the Republican side would take women back decades.


MATTHEWS: Senator Davenport, when you talk to your colleagues, I
assume you have occasional conversations in the cloakroom both among
Democrats and certain maybe occasionally across the aisle, what do they say
is the reason they are bringing up these hot, these social issues like
contraception? Which I thought was a cold issue at this point. And, of
course, abortion rights. Why are they doing this?

DAVENPORT: I think a lot of it deals with the health care --
affordable health care package. A lot of that is coming up now for this.
I think we should be talking about things for the American people. We
should be talking about jobs.

The Republican leadership has said that they want to deal with fiscal
responsibility and local control, but yet they are not doing anything to
get jobs for people. We`ve got to put people back to work. We have to get
jobs for people. We have to deal with this home mortgage foreclosure and
keep people in their homes through loan modifications.

Georgia is at the bottom of the scale for education. And this
Republican administration for the last two terms have done nothing for
education. What they have done is cut the resources for education.

So, we need to be doing things to get America back to work, putting
food on the table for America`s -- creating a good quality of life for

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you.


MATTHEWS: Yes, let me go back to Jennifer on the motive behind a lot
of this stuff, carping up here.

Let me ask you -- do you think what`s going on here is it`s not just
skirmishing over the old issue of abortion rights, but this is skirmishing
to try to really wear down, erode, if you will, as the court looks at it
this summer, the health care bill of President Obama -- the very heart of
this debate of the election for president.

Are they just working at and working at it different ways?

DONAHUE: I think they are working at it on the state level, and I think
they are seeing some traction. There`s so many states that have
legislation now that they are going through on these issues.

But I think it`s a backlash too. I mean, I think what you`re seeing
is a Republican Party that`s moved so far to the right that these issues
are totally acceptable to discuss, even in the times of economic distress.

And on the left, you see Democrats who actually also want to talk
about this issue because it`s a winning issue for Democrats.

MATTHEWS: It sure is.

DONAHUE: And it`s a losing issue for Republicans.

So I think you`re going to see this even during the general election.
I think this is going to be a big issue.

MATTHEWS: I can`t wait for Tampa. Imagine four or five nights out
of a heated convention hall down in Florida with Republican speaker after
speaker coming on and talking about birth control.

Anyway, thank you, State Senator Gail Davenport. Thank you so much
for coming on HARDBALL tonight. It`s an honor to have you on. And your
colleagues, a salute to all of them as well.

Jennifer Donahue, you`re smart on everything.

DAVENPORT: Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: Up next, "Game Change." A little fun right, the highly
anticipated HBO movie. I got to see it the other night twice. It is
fabulous -- based upon a fabulous book by Mark Halperin, our colleagues,
and other colleague John Heilemann.

It premiers Saturday, but I got to see it. It is unbelievable.

Halperin and the movie screen writer join us next.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Well, how is this? Democrats may not even run a candidate
for the Senate up there in Maine to replace Olympia Snowe. That`s because
popular former Governor Angus King, an independent, has gotten in the race.

King won`t say which party he`ll caucus. He`s socially liberal and
endorsed Barack Obama in 2008. But he also backed George W. in 2000. So,
Democrats hope King will caucus with them if he`s elected. And that`s why
they might not run a weaker candidate of their own and split the Democratic
moderate vote.

We`ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything you say goes national the instant you
say it.

JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS (as Sarah Palin): I am not your puppet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I admit that this is a dysfunctional campaign and
I`m doing my level best to help us win this election.


MATTHEWS: Wow. We`re back.

That`s "Game Change" -- the movie we have all been waiting for. The
HBO film is based on the best-selling book. It airs Saturday night and
premieres here tonight in Washington, at the Newseum.

And that`s where we find the book`s coauthor, Mark Halperin, of
course, the great Mark Halperin, the movie screenwriter, Danny Strong.

Danny, why did you decide to put the focus and actually meaning of
"Game Change" around Palin pick?

who was a bigger game changer than Palin. You know, there`s a lot of
really great stories in this book. It`s a fantastic book and there`s a lot
of great movies in it.

But we felt like the Palin story wasn`t just one of the best stories
in the book, but literally one of the greatest political stories of all
time. I mean, you have an individual who has never been on the national
stage, who overnight is thrust on to it right in the middle of a
presidential election. And it just seemed like this is it going to be a
very, very exciting movie.

MATTHEWS: You know, I watched it. It`s absolutely fabulous. I love
this movie. I`m probably going to watch 20 times in my lifetime. I`ve
already watched it twice.

Let me go back to Mark, my colleague.

Mark, I watched it last night with my son on a screening. I`ve got
to tell you. Two-thirds of the way through, I said I`m watching Sarah
Palin here. I`m not watching an actor play her. It`s really her.

How do you feel about it as a guy who was so close to this?

performance is fantastic and the filmmaking is fantastic.

Danny`s script has a lot of versatility (ph) to it. But the
techniques used in the film that contextualized her, people will se some
incredibly sophisticated filmmaking, particularly for a television movie
that really does get you lost in the picture. Lost in the story and the
characters makes you think you are watching John McCain and Sarah Palin
more than an ordinary movie. That`s one of the real magical things about

MATTHEWS: It is magical. Let`s go right now -- here`s another scene
from "Game Change," in which two members of the senior campaign staff of
John McCain, Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, are having a heated
exchange over Sarah Palin. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you interviewed her, didn`t you ask her
about national security? Foreign policy? Domestic policy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what did you ask her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- we talked about if she would back
John`s positions when they conflicted with hers or if she was prepared for
her life to change. There were no policy questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys didn`t grill her because you wanted it
to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn`t in charge of the vet, Nicole.


MATTHEWS: Sarah Paulson is great in this movie.

Let me ask you that, Danny, the heart of my heart watching this movie
as a political guy was the existential reality of being a guy as, you know,
you get -- you aren`t responsible. You don`t make all the decisions that
lead to where you are. You make some of them. But you are stuck with who
you are. I kept thinking about Steve Schmidt`s character in this movie.
Look at him there. I can`t think of a better performance by Woody

It`s just unbelievable what he`s going through here. He`s stuck with
this candidate.

STRONG: Yes, yes. It`s a really profound moment for him. I mean,
he advocated for her at the very beginning of the film, you know? He`s a
person who believes that winning at all costs is necessary because the goal
is to win.

And he goes on this really profound journey where he comes to realize
that, you know, in the game of presidential politics, winning isn`t
everything. And that you need to make responsible choices. And that, you
know, the vice president needs to be able to govern as opposed to needs to
be able to an individual who is going to help you win.

And I think, you know, the art of Steve Schmidt is really what drew
Jay Roach and I to this story because it`s a really poetic art. I don`t
know when I watched his "60 Minutes" interview, seen someone in politics so
publicly regretful the way he was. And there`s a lot of poetry in that.

MATTHEWS: Oh, so much to him. Let me get back to Sarah Palin, which
everybody -- we have fights in our office about Sarah Palin. She has so
many supporters.

You know, Mark, this is not to be critical of her more than she`s
been criticized already. She comes off as publicly astute, smart, knows
how to take care of herself and knows how to put on a show, but doesn`t
know the stuff most people learn in high school, doesn`t know that Africa
isn`t a country. It`s a continent. Has no idea why North and South Korea
are what they are.

Was that your reporting?

HALPERIN: Well, certainly in our reporting, and as portrayed in the
movie, there were moments she was preparing for her initial interview with
ABC`s Charlie Gibson and then when she was preparing for the debate and the
Katie Couric interview, there was stuff she didn`t know and advisers felt
displaying that lack of knowledge would really hurt her.

But, again, it`s important to emphasize, Chris, the film also shows a
lot of stuff, puts her in a very favorable light.

And even the area where she was challenged to be able to perform in
the debates and interviews, remember -- she was picked with five days
notice that she might be on the ticket.


HALPERIN: They did it in such secrecy, there was no opportunity for
her to start to prepare. And she had to prepare for those interviews and
fill in the gaps in her knowledge while she was getting ready for a
convention speech --

MATTHEWS: I agree with you completely.

HALPERIN: -- and dealing with her family. She was in a really tough

MATTHEWS: And those questions were very sophisticated questions
about international finances and foreign policy. I would have had an
incredible challenge facing this. Most people would.


MATTHEWS: "Game Change" premieres tonight at The Newseum, and
Saturday night on HBO. You got to watch this if you care about American
politics, if you care about the country, you got to watch this. This is

Danny, fantastic.

STRONG: Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: As good as "Recount," which was fantastic. And if you
really want to learn about politics from the inside, watch this movie.

Mark Halperin, Danny Strong.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" about a president who took on big
business and showed the people he`s on their side, 50 years ago these days.
Right now, 50 years ago, Kennedy took on big steel. What a fight that was.

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

I`m speaking tonight at the Pratt Library up in Baltimore, about my
new book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero."

Fifty years ago this month, the 35th president had a bitter fight
with big business in this country. Worried about inflation, he`d cut a
deal with the steel industry that if he got the United Steelworkers to hold
back on their wage demands, U.S. Steel and its corporate rivals would hold
back on prices.

Well, having cut the deal he got word that the president of the U.S.
Steel, Roger Blough, wanted to come in and see him in the White House.
When the steel company executive showed up, he walked into the room with
the president and dropped a press release on the table announcing a big
increase in steel prices right there in Kennedy`s face.

And that`s when the trouble started. Recognizing the double cross,
Kennedy made clear what he was about to do was this. "Mr. Blough," Kennedy
told the steel company big shot, "What you are doing right now is in the
best of interest of your shareholders. I`m going to do everything in the
best interest of my shareholders, the people of the United States."

Kennedy knew at that moment the steel executive was screwing him,
that he was not only raising prices, he was doing it with impunity. He was
leaving Kennedy out there on a limb with labor.

Kennedy went into action. His brother Bobby went after the steel
executives in a way that -- well, let`s just put it this way -- they
couldn`t take the heat. Expense accounts were checked, night club expenses
were looked at, hotel bills -- anything that could embarrass the big men
who just thumbed their nose not just at the president and the workers, but
at their country. They were quite willing to drive up inflation if it
drove up their profits in the bargain.

Kennedy won that fight. Big steel buckled, pulling back its price
increase, accepting the terms of the deal -- the deal that it made. It
wasn`t pretty. It was barely legal, but Kennedy had shown some big shots
they weren`t dictators.

The bottom line here is this: this country likes to know it has a
president who cannot be bullied by big business or be pushed around by a
smaller group that thinks the boys in the boardroom are king and the rest
of the country just has to take it.

Well, Jack Kennedy used tough language in all this and you can read
about it in my book, and if I can`t say it here and even tougher tactics.
But people knew they had a guy on their side sitting behind that desk in
the Oval Office. So did big business.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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