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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, August 27th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

August 27, 2012

Guests: Todd Santos, Newt Gingrich, Erin McPike

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: It`s getting dampa in Tampa!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Tampa.

"Let Me Start" with this Republican convention here in Tampa. I came
down here with one thought in mind, that this could be the game changer for
Mitt Romney. Here comes Romney`s chance to show his human side. I`ve seen
it done before, in 1988, for example, when George Bush, Sr., came into the
Superdome in New Orleans and gave the speech of his life. It certainly got
to me. It must have gotten to the country.

But here I am in Tampa, hearing a message that troubles me as an
American. It started with that joke, so-called, the Republican candidate
told Friday about no one having asked him for his birth certificate. Now,
here`s a guy, born to a famous family, the Romneys, raised in wealth and
position, knocking a guy born with none of his advantages, who`s had to
weather the endless ethnic attack that he`s not a natural-born American.

Imagine the president of the United States having to produce his
papers, just to prove he`s in office legitimately. And that`s how funny
this birther thing has gotten. Then I put it together with this new Romney
TV ad attacking Romney for -- Obama, rather, for passing out welfare

And just to rub it in, to ensure that no one missed the point, did you
catch Romney following it up by saying this was Obama`s effort to excite
and shore up his base, passing out welfare checks? His base.

I`ve lived through other politicians talking like this. It`s not been
good for America in the past, it`s not going to be good now. Welfare
queens, young bucks buying booze with food stamps -- I know the images that
presidential candidates have used in the past. So let`s get back to his
compassionate side, Mr. Romney, and you`re not doing it yet.

But we begin with Tropical Storm Isaac. It`s already postponed the
convention by a day -- that`s tonight -- and now threatens the Gulf Coast
to cross over to New Orleans.

Todd Santos is with the Weather Channel. Todd, size up what we`re
facing here in North America.

TODD SANTOS, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: All right, Chris. You know, we`re
talking about a system that has a very large wind field, especially
referring to, let`s say, the tropical storm-force winds at the moment.

Still a tropical storm. We just received the latest advisory from the
National Hurricane Center. It came in at 70 miles per hour, as far as the
sustained winds with this system. There`s a look at the current stats with
that. It`s moving towards the northwest at 12 miles per hour.

We do expect to see the system actually slow down a little bit in
forward speed. That may compound some of the effects along the north
central Gulf Coast.

Again, Tampa kind of dodging a bullet with that westward shift in the
track, though still in line for some potential severe thunderstorms today,
again into tomorrow.

But there`s a look at the folks that really need to be on alert with
this, especially in and around New Orleans, not just concerning, again, the
central portion of the cone.

But keep in mind, we`re talking about at least, again, a category 2
storm, if not potentially stronger than that, as it makes landfall. Keep
in mind also, as you slow a storm down, it has a better chance of seeing
some development as you go through the next couple of days.

So as far as where the system is headed after that, pushing up towards
the Mississippi Valley right now, still a lot of uncertainty with that
piece of the track. But we do expect this to be increasing to hurricane
strength as we go through the next couple of days.

Storm surge will be one of the bigger issues, especially with a system
that has that big of a, again, wind field, 6 to 12 feet in and around the
Biloxi area, New Orleans, as well, some slightly smaller numbers down
towards Pensacola. Also, the power outage potential with this system is
quite large to go along with that.

So Chris, again, as far as Tampa is concerned, you guys, I think this
is now on the closest approach, and again, moving away from the area, but
we could still see some showers and thunderstorms as a result into

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Todd Santos.

Michael Steele, of course, was chairman of the Republican National
Committee, the man who actually brought them down to Tampa in hurricane
season. Howard Fineman is editorial director for the Huffington Post Media
Group. Both are, of course, MSNBC political analysts.

What made you think...

that, Chris!

MATTHEWS: ... that this was a good time of year to come to Tampa?

STEELE: Because this is a great place to have a convention. These
are great people. They`re putting on a great event for us. And look, you
take all of that into consideration, even as you`ve noted -- and before, in
2008, we were in Minnesota. We had an issue with a hurricane here in the
Gulf region. We stopped the convention.

So you know, the country`s going to do what the country needs to do at
the right time, in the right moment, but it doesn`t impact the convention.
We`re going to go on with a great convention. And thank you, Tampa, for
having us!


MATTHEWS: What a politician! What a politician. (INAUDIBLE) just to
keep it on that level of lightness, Howard, why is it that we go to the
coldest places in America for the primaries in the middle of winter, why do
we go to that meat locker up in Iowa -- it`s always so cold there, and New
Hampshire -- then when it gets to the hottest, shvitziest part of the year,
when it`s sweaty and hot down here, we come down to Tampa or Atlanta or
someplace like that? What`s the thinking?


I just remember driving through a blinding snowstorm in Iowa from one event
to another.

MATTHEWS: To here.

FINEMAN: Yes. On balance, I`d rather be here.

MATTHEWS: OK, I like it here, too.

Let`s talk about this campaign. It`s gotten pretty nasty right now.
I brought up this -- I`ll keep talking about it tonight. Michael, you`re
the chair -- former chair of the party. Why do -- why is this candidate
talking about things like welfare?

By the way, Mitt Romney defended his campaign`s welfare ad by saying
this. It was factually an erroneous ad. He says President Obama would
drop work requirements for welfare recipients. In truth, the HHS directive
allows states more latitude in welfare, but it insists that states improve
employment outcomes, not reduce them.

Romney says Obama`s decision was a political move. He told "USA
Today`s" Susan Page, who`s on this program a lot, quote, "There`s no
question in my mind that the president`s action in this regard was
calculated to build support for him among people he wants to have excited
about his reelection, just as so many of the things he`s done were designed
to try to shore up his base. And weakening the work requirement in welfare
is an enormous mistake."

Why is he saying the president is trying to get more welfare
recipients to vote for him by making it easier to get welfare checks? Is
that not ethnically charged?

STEELE: It`s not -- I don`t think it`s as ethnically charged as
you`re alluding to, Chris. But I think that there is the fact that it`s
been documented, at the beginning of this administration`s term, they did
weaken those rules, generally, with respect to the states encouraging them
in terms of the number of people they had on their rolls.

They`ve now gone to the HHS and said, Look, we want to make this a
part of the law, we`re going to amend the law to allow, without
congressional approval, by the way, to do this. And so...


MATTHEWS: ... erroneous. Everybody checking this out have said it`s

FINEMAN: Couple things. First of all, a number of Republican
governors, including at one point earlier on, in an earlier incarnation,
Governor Mitt Romney, asked for more leeway in enforcing the "workfare"
rules that went in originally with Bill Clinton in the deal that was done
in 1996. That`s number one.

Number two, it doesn`t abolish -- there`s nothing that the president
said, no order that the president gave abolished the requirement that
people work and study -- often it`s studying -- for welfare. Nothing said
that. And the ad is just flat-out wrong on the facts.

STEELE: But Howard, on the facts...

FINEMAN: The nuance to it, in real life...


FINEMAN: No, the ad itself...

MATTHEWS: He gets people to study...

FINEMAN: The ad itself...

STEELE: Right.

FINEMAN: ... says that Barack Obama, basically, as Chris translated
it, you know, wants to give away welfare checks. That`s not what the
president proposed. And it`s not what he -- what states asked him for
permission to do.

STEELE: OK, giving away the welfare checks, that`s your
interpretation of it. But the reality...

FINEMAN: Even the ad itself, Mike. The ad itself says...

STEELE: But the fact of the matter is...


STEELE: ... the loosening of these rules...

FINEMAN: They`re not loosening. Loosening is not the right word.

STEELE: Giving more leeway. That`s loosening the rules.

FINEMAN: No, it`s not. It`s asking them to be creative...


FINEMAN: It`s asking them to be creative...

STEELE: ... the definition of the term "work."

MATTHEWS: OK, the whole idea...

FINEMAN: The ad`s wrong.

MATTHEWS: The ad`s wrong. Every single person who`s looked at the

FINEMAN: The ad is wrong.

MATTHEWS: And I want to know why they`re running an ad like this.
Why would you run an ad like this...

STEELE: Because it`s part of...

MATTHEWS: ... attacking welfare recipients and saying the president`s
playing to his base.

STEELE: They`re not attacking -- they`re not...

MATTHEWS: Well, what does Romney mean?

STEELE: They`re not attacking welfare recipients. They`re attacking
the policy...


STEELE: ... that lessens the requirements that have been in place for
over 20 years.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a political question, Mr. Chairman.

STEELE: Close to 20 years.

MATTHEWS: Why is he accusing the president of doing this to excite
and energize his base?

STEELE: Why is he...

MATTHEWS: Why did Romney say that just recently? He just said it
over the weekend. He`s doing this -- he`s making it easier to get a
welfare check because that`s the way to excite his base.

STEELE: Well, yes, again...

MATTHEWS: Do you want me to read them to you again?

STEELE: I got it. I got it. I know what he said.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you get?

STEELE: What I get is that this administration, whether it`s on gay
marriage, whether it`s with the Hispanic vote, for three years did nothing
with, all right...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, stay on the welfare...


STEELE: But I`m just -- but I`m just saying. Again, going to those -
- those baseline constituencies and talking in terms that, you know, they
understand, it gets them excited. That`s what the...


MATTHEWS: Let`s talk to, Howard, about who hears the dog whistle
because I heard it.


MATTHEWS: You have some information about it.

STEELE: But your interpretation of the dog whistle is your

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) another interpretation.

FINEMAN: Here`s what I know. I know that everybody, Democrat and
Republican, campaign and non-campaign, has been focus-grouping like crazy
among undecided, working class white women...

STEELE: Right.

FINEMAN: ... especially in places like Ohio. But -- in every swing
state. And what I`m told is that the Republicans found, to their surprise,
over recent weeks that the welfare ad really worked with those women.

Now, they were surprised because women don`t as often respond on the
welfare issue, but at a time when everybody`s strapped, when everybody`s
struggling, old resentments resurface. That`s my interpretation of what`s

STEELE: But that`s an interpretation...

FINEMAN: No, wait a minute. The Romney people saw that, and they`re
defending and using and driving with money an ad that every fair -- every
fair analyst, every fact checker from the -- every fact checker has said is
just factually wrong.

STEELE: An ad -- an ad, Howard, that you just sat here and admitted
that white women -- that part of that focus group, agreed with. So...

MATTHEWS: But it`s a dishonest ad they agree with.


FINEMAN: The ad itself is straightforward.

STEELE: How does a -- where`s a 30-year-old white woman who agrees
with this ad gets this old vestige of -- I assume you`re talking racism
here, and that`s not what this ad is about.

FINEMAN: Yes, well...

STEELE: I mean, that`s an easy leap for you guys to make...


MATTHEWS: Let me just go back to what Romney said. He didn`t do it
on tape. It`s just quotated (SIC) here -- or quoted here with Susan Page.
"There`s no question in mind (SIC) that the president`s action in this
regard was calculated to build support for him among people he wants to
have excited about his reelection, just as so many of the things he`s done
were designed to try to shore up his base. And weakening the work
requirement in welfare is an enormous mistake."

He is saying that Obama did this to get welfare recipients to vote for
him! That`s what Romney said. What do you make of that?


MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s why the president did it, whatever...


STEELE: I don`t know why the president did it. I know that`s the
effect of what the presidents done.


STEELE: ... in the sense that it does -- it does galvanize within
certain communities a response.

MATTHEWS: Sure does. OK, let me take...

STEELE: Clearly, it`s galvanized a response with you two.

MATTHEWS: Well, because I grew up with it. You grew up with it
personally. I`m just watching it.

STEELE: Absolutely. No, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK. It`s not -- it`s not a Southern issue.

STEELE: The law has worked since 1996, Chris. Why do we need to
change it now?

MATTHEWS: Because the governors have asked for more liberalism in the
way they -- you know why? Because sometimes training has something to do
with getting a job. And if they can get somebody to go to school...

FINEMAN: The ultimate objective is to get these -- get people who are
on welfare into good work environments.

STEELE: Absolutely.

FINEMAN: And even a lot of Republican governors have said, Let`s work
with that and see how we can improve it. I think the problem is, in our
discussion, was the word "loosening." The problem with the ad is that the
ad itself says that the president wants to get rid of and has "quietly"
gotten rid of all work requirements in welfare. That`s not true. It`s
just not true.

MATTHEWS: OK. Look, I think all this stuff is aimed at one goal, and
that`s to move the white working class over to the Republican candidate.
And I think it`s rotten. But that`s all right. We`ll move on.

In an interview with the Associated Press today, President Obama said
Romney has embraced the extreme positions of House Republicans. Let`s


positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with the positions
that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually
believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some
of the things that he has talked about.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to the -- what I thought would be the
optimistic view of what this election`s -- this wonderful convention down
here is going to be about. I`ve seen it done before. I saw George Bush,
Sr., do it, where a president can come out of his shell, a candidate, and
really embrace the American people in a way that he hadn`t been able to do

Let`s face it, Thursday night, whatever the weather, he`s going to
speak to the American people, Romney. Do you think he -- how would he cut
through the problem he`s had, this sort of opaque personality, this
distance he`s had from most people? How does he do it?

STEELE: I think...

MATTHEWS: Will he try?

STEELE: No, I think, absolutely, he will try. And I think the way
it`s going to be set up is, you`re going to have those voices leading into
his speech on Thursday night that begins to craft that image, to create
that image so that you begin to see that other side.


STEELE: And I think -- I think of all the speeches between now and
his, is Ann Romney`s. I think she will have the greatest moment to really
kind of get us inside that relationship a little bit, to show us a little
bit of that side of (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Howard, what do you make of that?

FINEMAN: Well, what I make of it is that the American people have
serious doubts about re-hiring President Obama as the economic steward of
the economy, and the economy is the number one issue. In that sense, the
election is there for the taking for Mitt Romney.


FINEMAN: But the only way Mitt Romney can do it is to prove that --
to tell people what`s inside of himself, not just as a guy with a
spreadsheet, but as a guy with a heart.

STEELE: Agreed.

FINEMAN: And if he can do that, not only at the convention, but
thereafter -- look at the current polls -- he`s got a chance to pull this
off. It`s there for the taking for him if he can do it. But instead,
they`ve been running a totally negative campaign.

MATTHEWS: I think he should take the high road. I disagree with you
on the facts. We`ll talk later. And I think that he can run the high road
if he changes his mind right now. Michael Steele, thanks for joining us,
as always. And thanks for the weather. And Howard Fineman, thank you.

Coming up from the Republican national convention here in Tampa, the
man who had hoped to be giving the acceptance speech, Newt Gingrich, is
going to talk. We`re going to ask Newt about this racial dog whistle and
this Romney dishonest ad campaign.

Also, this Republican Party wants to show one face to its supporters
and another to a national audience here on television. That`s why Michele
and W. and Sarah and the Donald aren`t really going to be speaking here.

And conventions have become an indispensable four days of free
advertising for presidential candidates. How seriously might the Romney
campaign be damaged if Isaac shortens this one, reduces to it a day or two?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this Tampa convention, what it can be
and what it shouldn`t be.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, nine months ago, my next
guest stood between Mitt Romney and the Republican nomination, only to be
taken down in Iowa with a brutal barrage of super-PAC ads. Since then, the
two have made up, and Newt Gingrich is here in Tampa this week, leading
Newt You (ph), a set of workshops for Republican delegates. And he and his
wife, Callista, are set to speak Thursday evening during a tribute to
Ronald Reagan.

Welcome, Mr. Speaker. You certainly engineered an excellent speaking


MATTHEWS: You`ve got a crew of wild people here.


MATTHEWS: He`s going to pay for beer afterwards. Free beers on Newt!

OK, you`ve engaged in what I consider very problematic rhetoric on the
campaign trail. When you accuse Obama, the president, of being a "food
stamp president," and everybody gets into the birther fun, and there`s a --
I don`t even know what game that Donald Trump`s going to pull this week.
He says he wants to go on the offensive with the birther talk.

Do you have a problem, thinking back on it, of having used ethnic
politics, with terms like "food stamp president"?

GINGRICH: Look, I find your assumption so absurd that it`s hard to
answer your question.


GINGRICH: But let me take the birther thing for a second.


GINGRICH: What Mitt Romney did the other day -- people say, Oh, you
ought to relax, you ought to be a little bit lighter. So he tells a joke.
Now, it happens to be a joke which serves him in a totally different way
that you`re calculating. It reminds everybody in Michigan that he was born
in Michigan, he`s a Michigander.


GINGRICH: And the poll that came out this morning, he closed a 5-
point gap in Michigan.

MATTHEWS: Well, how does that justify the use of that reference to
birther talk, when birther talk has been poison...

GINGRICH: It was a throwaway line.

MATTHEWS: Throwaway line?

GINGRICH: It`s part of the common culture.

MATTHEWS: Yes? Do you think it`s funny that the president had to
show his papers to shut down the birther talk, that he had to go to Hawaii
and get his documents released? Do you think that was funny?

GINGRICH: I think that it is bizarre that people think that it is a
challenge to be able to say, I was born there, here`s my birth certificate.
What the -- what`s the big deal?

MATTHEWS: Because it hasn`t stopped, because we got members of your
caucus, the Republican caucus, like Louie Gohmert, and these people that
keep talking it up.

GINGRICH: But Romney -- Romney was making -- by any reasonable
standard, he was making what`s called a joke.

MATTHEWS: First one he ever told.

birther talk, when birther talk has been poisonous?

GINGRICH: It was a throwaway line.

MATTHEWS: Throwaway line?

GINGRICH: It`s part of the common culture.

MATTHEWS: Yes? You think it`s funny that the president had to show
his papers to shut down the birther talk, that he had to go to Hawaii and
get his documents released? Do you think that was funny?

GINGRICH: I think that it is bizarre that people think that it is a
challenge to be able to say, I was born there, here`s my birth certificate.

What`s the -- what`s the big deal?

MATTHEWS: Because it hasn`t stopped. Because we have got members of
your caucus, the Republican Caucus, like Louie Gohmert and these people
that keep talking it up.

GINGRICH: But Romney -- Romney was making -- by any reasonable
standard, he was making what`s called a joke.

MATTHEWS: First one he ever told.

GINGRICH: And it was a joke which actually -- now, he just said...


MATTHEWS: OK, let`s listen to Romney. Here`s Mitt Romney telling a
joke,if it is a joke. Listen to it. There certainly was a punch to it.


this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann
was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born in Harper Hospital.

No one`s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this
is the place that we were born and raised.




MATTHEWS: You know, it`s amazing how -- you know how African-
Americans generally, at least the people who have e-mailed me in the last
couple of hours today, how they react to this? Do you understand they have
a reaction? They think this is racial talk, that this whole thing about
welfare cheats is just relentless stuff, it`s never-ending?


GINGRICH: I think there are a lot of people in America who listen to
people like you, who tell them all day...


MATTHEWS: Oh, I`m alerting them to this?

GINGRICH: ... who tell them all day, every day...


MATTHEWS: Oh, so it`s my influence on them?

GINGRICH: You just had a panel where the guy who was black was
telling the two guys who are white they were nuts.




And the two guys who are white are going, gee, why are you not more
sensitive to being black? I think Michael Steele knows he`s black. I
don`t think this is a great shock to him.


MATTHEWS: But you can laugh about it, but you don`t think that you
have used it in the past? What`s a food stamp president?

GINGRICH: A food stamp president is a guy whose policies are so
destructive that he creates the longest unemployment since the Great

MATTHEWS: Why food stamps?

GINGRICH: And he puts more people on food stamps, most of them white,
than anybody else.

Why do you assume food stamp refers to black?


GINGRICH: What kind of racist thinking do you have?


MATTHEWS: Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why. Let me tell you


GINGRICH: Wait a second.


GINGRICH: ... being a racist because you assume...



MATTHEWS: Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why.

Because from the beginning of paying attention to politics, Ronald
Reagan would talk about the welfare queen, who was African-American. He`d
talk about the young buck waiting in line...

GINGRICH: He didn`t say that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he did. He talked about the welfare queen out in

GINGRICH: Who was African-American?


GINGRICH: I don`t believe he ever used the term who was African-

MATTHEWS: No, he didn`t say it. He didn`t have to. He also talked


MATTHEWS: How about the young buck waiting in line for food stamps to
buy booze with?

This is a history we have here. And this lingo is so clear to every
African-American watching right now.


GINGRICH: So we`re not allowed to tell the truth about food stamps?


MATTHEWS: You sit here and chuckle about it, as if it`s not a game
you`re playing.

GINGRICH: No. Wait a second. We`re not allowed to talk about food
stamps because your sensibility tells us that 35 years ago...

MATTHEWS: Oh, no, Newt, Newt, Newt, Newt...


GINGRICH: Give me a break.

MATTHEWS: You have got that diabolic smile of yours. And I know you
-- you think you`re winning here, but everybody out there who`s black or
white knows exactly the game that`s being played here.

GINGRICH: No, but here`s the game. You have the worst president...


MATTHEWS: Oh, that`s your -- that`s your shot?

GINGRICH: No, wait a second.

Economically, we put up a chart today at Newt University, which people
can get at, that shows every recession since World War


GINGRICH: All of them are up here, except one. The Obama depression
is down here.


GINGRICH: Now, is that a racist...


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Romney and what he said the other day.

Why would Romney say that Obama is reducing the requirements, the work
requirements for welfare checks to excite and energize his base?

GINGRICH: Because...


MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Why would he do that? Why -
- what does that mean?

GINGRICH: It means that liberals who hate the work requirement, the
101 Democrats...

MATTHEWS: Who are the liberals who hate the requirement?

GINGRICH: The 101 Democrats who voted against it in 1996.

MATTHEWS: I thought it was Bill Clinton that signed that bill.


GINGRICH: That`s right.

And when he -- and when he said he would sign it, half the Democrats
in the House voted no. Obama was against it after Clinton said he would
sign it.

MATTHEWS: So what`s your point?


GINGRICH: My point is...


MATTHEWS: You think people, most Americans are against the work

GINGRICH: I don`t think poor people noticed it, because I don`t think
that`s in their functionality.

But I think liberals loved it. I think liberals thought, that`s
right, let`s go back to dependency. Why are we requiring poor people to
work when...


MATTHEWS: Why would anybody like dependency?

GINGRICH: You tell me.

MATTHEWS: Well, you tell me. You just said they like dependency.

GINGRICH: Marvin Olasky wrote a brilliant book called "The Tragedy of
American Compassion," in which he outlined step by step the degree to which
the left dislikes requiring people to work.


We just had Howard Fineman on the show, who talked about how white
working women are responding so well to this ad, as dishonest as it is. Do
you think they might be noticing that?

GINGRICH: What is this editorial, as dishonest as it is?

MATTHEWS: Because every editorial, every fact-checking group in
America, every single one of them I checked has said this ad is dishonest.
PolitiFact, all the newspapers have gone through it. You know it`s

GINGRICH: I don`t think it`s dishonest. I helped write the bill.


MATTHEWS: No, that they got rid of the work requirement. Who is
getting rid of the work requirement?

GINGRICH: The Obama administration.

MATTHEWS: You`re a perfect spokesman. You`re a perfect spokesman.

GINGRICH: No. Wait a second, Matthews. Why would they have a waiver
if they`re not going to use the waiver?

MATTHEWS: Because to get education as part of getting back in the
work force.


MATTHEWS: No, because sometimes it`s smarter to put a person into
school, so they can get a job.

GINGRICH: You`re allowed to put them in school. That`s not a

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what they did.

OK. Let me ask about this convention. When are you speaking,

GINGRICH: Well, I`m speaking -- first of all, I have...

MATTHEWS: What time of night?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I have got two hours a day for the next
four days.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but with your school.


GINGRICH: Newt University.


GINGRICH: And Callista and I are speaking Thursday evening. I don`t
know the exact time, because frankly with having canceled Monday night,
they`re shaping it. But we`re doing a tribute to Ronald Reagan.

And since we did a movie on Reagan, we feel it`s a pretty logical
thing for us to do.

MATTHEWS: What changed your mind about Mitt Romney?

GINGRICH: Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: It`s easy. My choice for my children and my grandchildren
and my country is Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. To me, as a conservative,
that eliminates everything.

MATTHEWS: So whatever justifies the means? The means justifies the
ends. The ends justifies the means.


GINGRICH: No. If you think -- you won`t agree with this. I think
the reelection of Barack Obama is a disaster for this country.

MATTHEWS: And what about...

GINGRICH: And I think that Romney is far better for this country...


MATTHEWS: What do you want Romney to say Thursday night that you
haven`t heard him say yet?

GINGRICH: I accept the nomination.


MATTHEWS: Let`s put on your political hat, which is generally on your
head, Mr. Speaker.


MATTHEWS: Tell me how he turns that middle Thursday night?

GINGRICH: I -- look, I don`t think Mitt Romney should play games
about trying to be somebody he`s not.

MATTHEWS: Which would be what? What would be playing a game?

GINGRICH: Here`s the choice. People say he`s got to show his human
side, he`s got to -- look, here`s the choice.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know that.

GINGRICH: Say, here`s a simple choice for America. You have got a
terrifically fun guy as president, who would be great to have a beer with,
but he`s a plumber who can`t fix the plumbing, and the house is getting
wetter and wetter every day. You have got a guy...


MATTHEWS: How do you know this new plumber of yours is going to come
over when you call him?

GINGRICH: Because you have got a guy who has a tradition of turning
things around, in business, in the Winter Olympics, as governor.

And he`s coming in and he`s saying, OK, I have got a management
personality. I`m actually kind of a CEO. But, by the way, we`re going to
have 4 percent economic growth, we`re going to create millions of jobs, the
country is going to be better off, and we`re going to have energy
independence for America.

MATTHEWS: So what`s his problem? Why isn`t he winning big?

GINGRICH: I think he will be by November.


Well, I think we have a challenge here. The question is, I think
you`re right about the plumber. The question people have is, is he going
to come over when I need him?

Anyway, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS: That is a problem.

We will be right back from Tampa, the site of the Republican

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



MATTHEWS: This is what I love to do, talk to people, and actually

I`m going to listen to these people.

So we`re down here in Tampa. Where are you from and what do you

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m from Tampa. Welcome to Tampa, Mr. Matthews.
I saw you this morning, loved you on "MORNING JOE." We`re going to reelect
President Obama.


MATTHEWS: Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Thaddeus Raisler (ph). And this is my
hometown. So, I`m excited to be here for whoever wins.

MATTHEWS: Oh, good for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nelson (ph) from Tampa, Florida. Definitely an


MATTHEWS: Do you love this weather?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re happy to have the Republicans here.


MATTHEWS: OK. Good. Bring some money in, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nadia (ph) from Tampa. Obama!

MATTHEWS: Oh, gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glenn Goodman from Tampa, IM Events. We have got
some business that my wife and I have worked hard to build.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We appreciate it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dave Trout (ph) from Michigan, and all politics is
local, just like Tip used to say. And the folks locally aren`t doing well,

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Duke Marquis (ph) (INAUDIBLE) city.

And I wonder how Romney`s going to rule when everybody in the Senate
goes against him, just like they went against Obama.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will see. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drew Floyd (ph), Lakeland. What is a liberal?

MATTHEWS: What`s your answer?


MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. I know where you stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m Ann (ph) from Lakeland.

And I loved you on "MORNING JOE" this morning. That was...


MATTHEWS: Well, aren`t you nice?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m Mike from the University of Florida. And all
of the college students are going for Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I`m Maggie (ph) from Tampa. I`m for Obama,
but happy to have the RNC here in Tampa.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m from Tampa and we`re for Obama all the way.

MATTHEWS: Are there any Republicans here? We had one out of six.


MATTHEWS: Come here, come here. This guy. This guy`s a Ron Paul
man. Tell me about Ron Paul, why you`re mad he didn`t get to speak this

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn`t only get to speak, but his delegates
aren`t getting seated. The party`s changing rules and not even...


MATTHEWS: But you`re a delegate, sir, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was elected a delegate in Oklahoma, but they
didn`t seat me, because the Republican Party changed the rules and ruled
against us.

MATTHEWS: Oh, OK, good, Ron Paul`s spokesman speaks out. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Amy (ph). I`m from Washington, D.C.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I live here in Tampa and I`m for Obama.

MATTHEWS: OK. We need some Republican voices here.

Any Republicans?


MATTHEWS: Yes, sir? You`re a delegate, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charles Krites (ph), Detroit, Michigan. I`m a
veteran. I want to end the war and bring our troops home.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... from Bahamas. Let`s keep politics clean.

MATTHEWS: OK. Last one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I`m Sheena (ph) from the Virgin Islands,
and I want to know, are the Republicans going to really take away the
women`s right to choose?

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you. Well, you keep asking. Thank you, all.
Thank you, all.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Ron Paul or Obama. They`re stealing the

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much.

There`s disparate voices here in Tampa. Luckily, the skies stopped
falling on us.

We will be right back in a minute.



SEEMA MODY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Seema Mody with your CNBC "Market

Markets were virtually flat most of the day, but selling picked up
late in the session. That left the Dow off 33. The S&P finished
unchanged, and the Nasdaq gained three. Apples shares rose nearly 2
percent after it won a patent suit against Samsung. It hit an all-time
high earlier, before falling back. And Tiffany`s shares soared more than 7
percent today, despite cutting fiscal year guidance. Investors took
comfort, though, in an upbeat holiday forecast.

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


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Our demographics are changing,
and we have to change not necessarily our core beliefs, but how we -- the
tone of our message and the message and intensity of it, for sure.

This is going to be a close election, but, long term, conservative
principles, if they`re to be successful and implemented, there has to be a
concerted effort to reach out to a much broader audience than we do today.



That was Jeb Bush, of course, speaking the hard truth, you might say,
on "Meet the Press" this past weekend.

The Republican Party has an image problem, one that is not helped by
the ridiculous comments by Senate candidate Todd Akin, of course, not to
mention the extreme abortion position likely to be in its platform this

So is the party trying to solve that problem in any meaningful way?
Of course not. Their solution seems to be their version of see no evil,
hear no evil. Keep some of the more troublemaking voices away from the
podium this week, that seems to be the strategy. The ceremony has been
truncated, thanks to the forecast, of course.

But even if the weather were perfect, here are some faces you wouldn`t
see in prime time this week, Tea Party leaders Sarah Palin and Michele
Bachmann, birther Donald Trump, who said he had to cancel his trip here,
and Congressman Allen West and Steve King. The party is trying to pave
over all the problems the Republican brand has. Will it work?

David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC
political analyst. And Erin McPike is a reporter for RealClearPolitics.

Thank you so much for joining me.

David, it seems that the -- it`s been cleaned up, the act. You have
got Ryan speaking. You have got Governor Christie speaking to the more
moderate Republicans. You have got Ryan speaking to the more
conservatives. You have got the candidate, and especially the candidate`s
wife, putting a more moderate position or moderate face on the party.

None of the people that most of us would call extremists are up there
on the platform, especially during network broadcast time.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is what we can call
the Soviet part of the campaign, when you start Photoshopping out of the
picture what had -- what`s been happening for the past year.

So when you have, you know, Michele Bachmann calling people un-
American, you know, she won`t be there. You know, you had this Republican
primary where you had -- you had Newt Gingrich earlier talking about food
stamps. We had Rick Santorum saying that this is about the end of liberty,
the end of freedom.

They were very, very extreme and strident voices. And Mitt Romney, if
he`s going to win, the conventional wisdom is he has to start making a play
for some of the voters in the middle. And yet that hasn`t happened yet.
Keeping the crazies off the platform maybe gives them an opening, but still
doesn`t really give them much of a case for the independents yet.

MATTHEWS: And let`s talk about some of the platform language.

Normally, you wouldn`t speak about the platforms. They`re boring.
But this time around, the platform is so tough. Look at the position on
abortion. It basically says give the rights of the 14th Amendment, the
ones we all enjoy as citizens, to the unborn child, right up to the point
of conception.

Now, that means you have got this personhood thing out there, which
means you`re basically outlawing abortion. This is strong language. I`m
not sure they want to get that in the front of the average middle-of-the-
road voter. Do you think?


MATTHEWS: Do they want that out there?

MCPIKE: But that`s why Mitt Romney didn`t really respond to that at
all, because he doesn`t want to create any kind of trouble with the base,
so that the base makes more noise about it.


MATTHEWS: How`s he hide from his own platform when the Democrats
throw it back at him?

CORN: What -- but what`s interesting is, you know, this happens all -
- time and time again. You have been covering this a long time.

The ideologues of the party -- it happens in the Democratic Party, too
-- often take control of the platform, and the candidate often says, go
ahead, platform doesn`t really matter to me. It`s what`s on the podium,
it`s what the cameras see, what they record that I care more about.

So here they are, keeping the crazies off, but letting the extremists
write the platform.

ERIC MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: And instead, they`re having
several names talk in prime-time like Condoleezza Rice and Brian Sandoval,
the governor of Nevada, both of whom are pro-choice Republicans. That is
the image that they want to project to a larger audience.

MATTHEWS: We`ll catch this stand your ground language under the Second
Amendment. We support the fundamental right to self-defense, wherever a
law-abiding citizen has the legal right to be. So they`re getting into
that, stand your ground.

Look at this. They want unlimited clips -- why would you make an
issue of unlimited clips in magazines in your guns? Not just certain kind
of firearms -- let me get Erin in here.

We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second
Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines. Why do
they want to have unlimited clips? This is really -- and supporting the
right of state-issued concealed issue carry limits to cross state lines.
They want unlimited gun use.

MCPIKE: Remember that a lot of voters, throughout the Midwest, are
single-issue -- I shouldn`t say a lot. There are single-issue gun rights
voters in many Midwestern battleground states, and they are also trying to
appeal to them.

MATTHEWS: But they`re absolutists, these people.

MCPIKE: They are.

CORN: When you don`t put the more strident voices on the stage and
let them say what the base wants to hear, then you let them write the
platform. And you give the gun rights folks whatever they want. The
immigration stance is hard-core. The abortion, no exceptions.

And you just basically turn it over to the extremists. And you hope
that those independent voters out there only see the pictures.

MATTHEWS: OK, this goes back to you covering the campaign. You
cover it very well.

Let me ask you a question: reasonable people are putting in their
minds, is Romney the man of all the commitments he`s made, all the platform
language, or is he secretly a moderate, secretly a pragmatist? He`s had to
cut all these deals with the gun people and the hawks, but in his heart,
he`s a practical business guy.

At the same time, he appeals to the people on the right as the guy
who re. How is he? How does a voter know difference between the guy who
signed off on all this stuff and what he really is? Is there a difference?

MCPIKE: One thing we will know when he addresses the nation on
Thursday night is, what he believes. This is the first time he is speaking
to the entire country with his -- the largest audience. So hopefully, at
that point, we`ll see what his answers are. And if he has actually gotten

MATTHEWS: Do you think that will work? Is this a litmus test, what
he really believes?

CORN: There`s a story about Mitt Romney that to me says it all? You
know, in 1994, he wrote a letter saying, we need equal full rights for all
gay and lesbian Americans, full rights. And then he`s asked about it in
2007, he said, you have to consider who I was sending that letter to.

So I don`t -- deep down, I don`t know what`s there. I don`t know if
the speech will give us a clear indication. It will be written by his team
of mad men to do what they --

MATTHEWS: Give me an advertising men. Thank you. Not crazy people,

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Erin McPike and thank you, David Corn.

Up next, if this convention gets cut back to ad day or two, what will
the Romney be all about? Will it be damaged by a cut in half convention?
Maybe it will be helped by the P.R.

From Tampa, we`re here at the site of the Republican convention. We
don`t know when it`s going to start.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

With a tropical storm threatening to actually make landfall in New
Orleans tomorrow night, Republicans here in Tampa are debating how to move
forward with their convention. Republicans out here are concerned with the
optics, you might call it, of celebrating in Tampa while thousands of Gulf
Coast residents, real people, are being evacuated to save their lives, and
seeing their lives turned upside down, of course.

Turn in the memories of the botched Bush administration response to
Katrina, and you`re looking at a GOP convention that may have to cancel
more than just a few days of festivities. That`s a tough blow to a
presidential candidate who`s hoping to use this convention in Tampa to
introduce himself in a real way to the American people.

With me now is NBC`s David Gregory. He`s moderator, of course, of
"Meet the Press," and "Time" magazine columnist, Joe Klein.

David, what do you think? Or what can you report is going on in the
heads of the top Republican convention managers about the timing of this --
unfortunate timing of this hurricane, racing now through New Orleans. And
this convention, which is on schedule to reach its climax pretty much the
same time.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Well, you do have this conflict, Chris,
because you do have this incredible desire for as much time as they can

They`ve got a lot of work to do at this convention. You`ve outlined
it during the course of the program. Which is Romney introducing himself
in both a personal way, but also in a more policy prescriptive sort of way.

The people I`m talking to say they`ve got to be nimble. What they`re
really focused on are the big four -- Ann and Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and
Governor Chris Christie. So, those are the four key people. If they have
to, you know, basically back up and build up more prime-time in each of the
two nights, Wednesday and Thursday, they`ll do that. If tomorrow has to be
a day that`s curtailed some, they`re able to do that.

I mean, right now, I think they`re operating on the assumption that
whatever may be headed toward New Orleans won`t be so bad that it impacts
what they can or should do here. We simply don`t know. I mean, the Bobby
Jindal`s, Governor Jindal has pulled out of giving his convention speech,
we know. But again, right now, what they`re saying is, you know, fingers
crossed based on the forecast, and we just have to be nimble.

MATTHEWS: Well said. I think they`re, just to use TV language, I
think they might have heard they might be very concerned what they call the
split screen, where one-half of those people being evacuated, Joe Klein,
and the other half is the celebration, the people with the weird hats on
and all the fun stuff at most conventions, which is legitimate in most

JOE KLEIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, it might be time to get rid of all
those stupid, weird hats, period. They`re like 19th century paraphernalia.
And if the Republican Party -- if there`s a split screen, I`ll tell you,
Chris, there are a lot more weather junkies out there than there are
political junkies. And this storm may bring more viewers to the Republican
convention than might have been there otherwise.

MATTHEWS: They`ll be looking at the other side of the screen.

KLEIN: Right. If it`s a dignified convention that`s about serious
things -- I mean, you know, we over-think these things.

MATTHEWS: OK, you make a good point. What are the serious things?
David, you talk you report well, on this who in the Romney camp, has
someone told you what they`d like to be the overall impact come Friday and
those Sunday shows that they`d like imprinted in the American people`s
hearts and minds by next Sunday? What is it they`re trying to do?

GREGORY: You know, as I talk to Republicans in congress, Republicans
out around the country, they say look, if this is a battle of
personalities, Mitt Romney is probably not going to win. It`s got to be
about ideology and about policy, about results.

The Republicans I`m talking to say look for Mitt Romney to really
cast himself as a mechanic, the car mechanic who can fix things. He may
not be as eloquent, may not set the room on fire or excite everybody, but
he can get things done.

Now, there are risks that come with that, but I think that everyone
is sort of gearing themselves towards going in that direction. And you`re
seeing it from Romney himself when he says I am who I am. You know, I`m a
data guy. You know, or rather Republican saying that he`s about metrics.

Some of it can sound cold and distant. And that may be the risk.
But I think that`s the direction they`re going. He`s got to be the guy who
can execute and accomplish where they would argue President Obama has not.

MATTHEWS: You know, they seem to be of two minds on this, because
the presidential candidate Romney has brought people to church with him.
That`s very unusual, I think, for him. Doing it the last few Sundays. He
is putting more of Ann out there publicly, the much more family portrait.
So, it seems like he`s still thinking maybe he can sell his personality,
his family life.

KLEIN: Well, I think they`re trying to do two or three different
things, touting (ph) each other. I mean, the more important message, and I
think David is absolutely right, most important message for Romney to get
across this week is it`s about jobs. It`s about the economy. It`s about I
can do this better than that other guy can.

However, he picked a vice president for whom it`s about Medicare.
It`s about abortion and social issues which kind of muddies that message.

Then the way they`ve used Ann Romney I think is unfortunate because
too often she`s had to be out there defending her husband on things like
tax returns rather than just being, you know, the advocate for him as human

MATTHEWS: David if you had to score this convention in advance and
say what would be a success here. Would it be Romney breaks through as a
person, that he convinces people that I may not have the personality you`re
looking for, the Bill Clinton type, feel your pain personality here, but
I`m the guy you need for this job? What would be a success? Somewhere

GREGORY: Well, I think it`s twofold and I agree with Joe. I think
he`s got to really show who he is. He`s a hard guy to get to know.
Whether it`s his faith which is a driving force in his life, his marriage,
the fact he`s a dad and a grandfather, and everything that means to him, I
think that`s got to come through.

I think that was one of the things I remember from the 2000
convention about George W. Bush that came through strongly. I think he`s
also got to demonstrate that he`s actually leading this Republican Party
rather than the other way around. I think that`s something that he`s been
struggling with.

And then again as we`ve been talking about there is a vision.
There`s a vision to get people back to work. He`s got to get back to the
terrain, that he ultimately wants to win, which is making people think
about the fact that so many people are out of work, who gives us the best
chance to get back on track?

You know, I`ve been talking to people in some swing states, some
Republicans, like in Ohio where there is a belief there are more undecided
voters than maybe we know about this in this base election. That`s who
he`s talking to. People who are softly committed, who are not ironclad in
their support for the president.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the question -- how does he address the
oldest question in politics? And politicians get in trouble like this all
the time. They talk to the room but it`s broadcast.

Here`s a guy that has to talk to people in the far fringe, the
birthers, the real hawks, the real pro-lifers to the point of
relentlessness, the people who don`t like marriage equality. How does he
talk to those strong views and still appeal to the country?

KLEIN: Well, I think he`s talked to the base to a fault. He`s never
had a voice for the vast middle. Now he has a situation where he`s being
denigrated by his own base.

Grover Norquist says he`s going to be an auto pen who`s just going to
sign this stuff --

MATTHEWS: Well, how about Donald Trump showing up here? He says
he`s going to show up some time this week with his birther stuff.

KLEIN: I`m not going there with Donald Trump. I don`t acknowledge
his political existence.

MATTHEWS: David, bottom line -- I don`t know if I got a bottom.
This is the strangest weather, I`ve got to say. When are they going to
stop having conventions this far South, this particular time of year? I
don`t know.

GREGORY: I like when you say smitzy (ph) on the air, by the way. I
like when you said that earlier in the program. I always like that. It`s
true. That is Tampa.

I just want to say quickly, I think this is his question of reaching
the middle of the electorate versus reaching the base of the electorate.
Is there -- do Republicans and Democrats, you know, political professionals
think it`s a fool`s errand to try to say to the American people, look, we
can get things done in Washington? Are people too cynical? Do they not
believe that Washington can do anything? Is it simply about ideological

It`s a very cynical outlook, that it`s just a ideological warfare and
we need to win as many seats in Congress as we can and we got to take the
White House so we can jam through the change we want. That`s what I`ll be
looking to see whether it`s that kind of message or it`s something that
would appeal to more to the middle of the electorate.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m going to talk about the high road and low road
when I come back. It`s going to be pretty tough.

David Gregory, thank you as always. Thank you, Joe Klein.

GREGORY: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: When we return, as I said, let me finish with the
convention here in Tampa what it can be at its best and what it shouldn`t
be and already smells like. This is the place for politics, Tampa.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. The Republicans could
win this election just on the arithmetic. You can argue that if they can`t
make something of an 8-plus jobless rate and all the under employment out
there, they shouldn`t be in the running.

The point is, we can mostly agree on this across the spectrum
politically, they shouldn`t do some of the stuff they`re doing on the eve
of this convention, desperate or not. Welfare cheats, food stamps, the
birther game is below a major political party, including and especially the
Party of Lincoln.

I don`t know why Romney hooked up with Donald Trump. I don`t know
why Trump himself is pushing the birther charge so hard. There ought to be
a conscience in this business. John McCain showed last time, I`ve got a
conscience -- he refused to play the ethnic card. This "he`s a Muslim"
charge and John McCain was losing when he refused to get down and dirty.

So why is Romney who seems ahead now and now face a huge chance to
pull ahead in his acceptance speech and in the three big primetime debate -
- why is he doing it? Why is he taking this shots at welfare people and
telling knee slappers about the birther sickness? That`s a question that
needs an answer. More importantly it`s a question we shouldn`t have to be
asking after what this country`s been through all these years.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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