Guest: Jon Meacham, Jennifer Granholm
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to MSNBC‘s coverage of the last presidential debate here in Tempe, Arizona. We‘re broadcasting live from Arizona State University. Take a look around you at this beautiful campus. We‘re joined by students, faculty, political activists, good old neighbors of the campus. We have special reports from “NBC NEWS” anchor Tom Brokaw and NBC Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “MEET THE PRESS,” Tim Russert.
Plus, reports from the spin room. From MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing and HARDBALL‘s election correspondent David Schuster from back in Washington. If you want to get in your last word in our debate tonight, you can vote online after it is over. MSNBC is taking a survey of who you say won tonight. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) indicates where voters stand but also how the political parties are mobilizing the vote online. Go to HARDBALL.com. Our live report will open at 10:30. That‘s when you get to vote, 10:30 Eastern following the debate. One hour before the great debate, let‘s to go my panel right now.
From “NBC NEWS,” Andrea Mitchell. He said very sternly. MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan. Jon Meacham, managing editor of “NEWSWEEK,” and Patrick Buchanan, political analyst for MSNBC. The pitchforks are out here.
Let me start with the proposition. A simple one. Everything we heard tonight so far in the hour before was that John Kerry has to fill in the blanks before President Bush gets to do it. In other words, define the that that you‘re offering over the this we have today before the president can describe it in colorful cultural terms. First of all, Pat, give us a cultural portrait of a Kerry administration as this administration would like to us see it.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think what you‘re going to get is the traditional power sweep of the Republicans tonight which is to portray John Kerry as a tax and spend Massachusetts liberal who is weak on defense and who is culturally very far of the left and outside the main stream of the nation on guns, on right to life, on gay rights, and those issues. But I think you‘ve got to watch how you do that. The president does. And I would like to see the president frankly—this has been a visionless campaign. I think the president ought to climb the mountain at least in the last half-hour and give up a vision of where we‘re going in the second Bush administration. I think Kerry has the same problem.
MATTHEWS: So use the old Pennsylvania tactic of kick them below the belt in the first half-hour, and while they‘re defending themselves, you talk about the future of the country.
You let them have it and then climb the mountain and say stop this negativity.
MATTHEWS: Jon Meacham, your thoughts about—I do think and I proposed this, that Kerry has the most to lose, the most to win tonight because we know who the president is. And he has three weeks after this to clean up any mistakes he made tonight. Whereas John Kerry may be out to lunch if he blows it tonight.
JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”: I think that‘s right. I think this is the rubber match. And whoever comes out of it will have 18 days of narrow casting to clean up whatever might happen. But given that this is a broadcast, and really the last chance they have to talk together at once to the country, it is usually important. I tend to think that if Pat is right, and Bush sings the same old song, so to speak, that we‘ve been hearing since ‘64, ‘68, I think that‘s dangerous...
MATTHEWS: You mean the trouble on river city side. We‘ve got trouble in River City. It rhymes with “T,” (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for “P.”
MEACHAM: As long as there‘s an “L” in there, yes. I think the liberal, liberal, liberal seems a little tinny (ph) these days. I think it is a more serious time. I think people understand that. I think Bush, if he simply...
MATTHEWS: OK, you want to slow down in Tennessee, the people down there that don‘t usually get engaged politically. Let‘s talk about the people who feel animated by the modern culture. They don‘t even like broadcast television. Do you think they share your sensitivity on that? Are they saying, here‘s one guy I really don‘t want to be president. I‘m going to go out there and vote against this John Kerry liberal?
MEACHAM: They‘re not. But it is also not in play because of guns and God and a couple of other issues. But if you‘re talking about Ohio and Pennsylvania, if you‘re talking about Iowa then it is a different thing. I think Florida is different that way and I think clearly we‘ve seen in Missouri, with both candidates...
MATTHEWS: Excuse me, Jon. There are people out there who hear the word liberal and it is like fire.
MEACHAM: It is like fire. But it is not anyone who is going to be persuaded one way or the other by this debate. That‘s what I think.
MATTHEWS: Let me bring in Joe Scarborough because you‘re down there in Pensacola at home, Joe with your back problem. And I wish you well, buddy. Let me ask you this, do you think the word liberal still works with certain people, it will electrify certain voters, get them out to vote against Kerry?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: I don‘t think so. I think specific—I think specific votes do that. It‘s so interesting. You and I love this. Everybody that‘s on the panel, we love this. This is the great pageantry of American politics. People will be talking about this debate down the road. People from New York to L.A. are looking at this.
But the campaigns could not care less what people in New York and California think. They‘re looking at Ohio. This chess game now, it comes down to how does it sell in Ohio where right now they‘re dead even. How does it sell in Pennsylvania where Rasmussen has them dead even? How does it sell in Iowa where John Kerry has moved ahead by three points? How is it going to sell in Wisconsin?
That‘s why when you hear George W. Bush coming out talking about guns, talking about God, talking about gays, talking about some of these social issues that may make people cringe in suburbs, George W. Bush doesn‘t care so much. They understand that tomorrow, the only thing that matters is, is their ground game ready to go? Are they ready to get their forces energized for the last 20 days. It doesn‘t matter who wins on points tonight. It doesn‘t matter who loses. Faux pas don‘t even matter. The only thing that matters about these debates, and we‘ll be talking about it 20 years from now is the fact that John Kerry saved his campaign in the first debate by reenergizing his base. Bush did the same thing in the second debate.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, is George W. Bush the go-to guy for guns, God and gays? Is it that simple?
ANDREA MITCHELL, “NBC NEWS”: It is that simple. He‘s also going to give—it relates to God. He will give John Kerry ample opportunity tonight to clean up what he said about abortion. To make it a little more explicit. He will return to that issue because they think that Kerry stumbled on it. Not adequately explaining how a practicing Catholic could still be for a woman‘s right to choose...
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, more than half the Catholics in this country are stumbling on the issue, trying to find reconciliation between their liberal views about human rights in this country, and their moral views.
MITCHELL: The point was that John Kerry didn‘t explain it cleanly.
And what they‘re going to try to do is stick him with that issue again.
And Kerry is ready with a response.
MATTHEWS: We should say like this isn‘t Spain. We don‘t dictate moral behavior in this country.
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: How about, I‘m pro-choice? That might cover it.
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s afraid to say that. We learned early that the president‘s position on choice is not what you think it. Nicolle Devenish came on a moment ago, she‘s very well spoken and she said the president is not for outlawing abortion. He is for somewhere down the road when the country is ready for it, to abide by that ruling.
MITCHELL: That‘s a softening of his position.
MATTHEWS: That is her position. And I think it is what the president has said before. He is not doing what the Catholic Church for example would like to see done. A ban on abortion.
MEACHAM: One of the great formulations in modern American politics was Clinton‘s safe, legal, and rare because it spoke the language of values without dictating. And that is exactly...
MATTHEWS: It appealed to liberal Catholics.
MEACHAM: It appealed to liberal Protestants and there are a lot of liberal Protestants and moderate Catholics because as you say, most American Catholics do not follow the Vatican at all.
BUCHANAN: Chris, immigration is a—immigration, borders, illegal aliens, amnesty, red hot issue. I would not be surprised to see that raised here tonight. You have a proposition...
MATTHEWS: Speaking of borders. Do you expect to see any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on that issue tonight by either candidate? I talked to the governor of this state. She said it is a red hot issue. The federal government is doing nothing about illegal immigration in this state. And you know that neither one of these guys is going to address it tonight.
BUCHANAN: They‘re foolish because this is not only an issue now in the southwest. It is in the Carolinas. It is all over the country.
MATTHEWS: Pat, it‘s your issue. It‘s not these candidates‘ issue. I haven‘t heard one of these candidates raise the issue.
BUCHANAN: It is a people‘s issue.
SCARBOROUGH: Chris, I was just going to say, though, the reason this issue is not going to come up tonight is because neither candidate has had the guts to step forward and say, let‘s enforce the law. Let‘s enforce the law that Congress has already passed. Both of them are pandering to Hispanic voters. I think they cynically believe that if they turn a blind eye to all the law-breaking that‘s going on along the borders, that somehow it‘s going to win them votes. So, no. That‘s not an issue tonight.
I want to say one more thing, though, about—we were talking about gods and guns and gays. And you brought up abortion. Chris, think how much social issues have moved 10 years ago. 10 years ago, Democratic candidates would always talk about gun control. They don‘t do it anymore.
Al Gore was cowed away from it in 2000, because of the very things I was talking about earlier. He was worried about West Virginia. He was worried with Western Pennsylvania. That‘s why you‘re going to hear John Kerry talking about—remember that last question he had on abortion in the last debate? And he just sort of muddled his way through it. For a Democrat, ironically, the country may be getting more liberal on these social issues, but in these swing states, they seem to be getting more conservative on guns, on abortion, on gays, on other issues like that.
And that‘s why you have Democrats that seem to be walking through minefields on these very explosive hot button issues.
MATTHEWS: Joe, Joe, I think everyone would agree on the issue of guns, which is easier to rule on, because it‘s not so complicated. I‘ve heard no Democrats running for tough gun control. He‘s right. And I think it is because of the lesson of the last election.
If you just study the key states right up and down the spine of the country, all the Congress people in those states vote against Brady-type bills and assault weapon bans. They‘re all pro gun. They know their districts. And so I can imagine the candidates, even in Michigan, John Dingel is pro gun. But I think Al Gore lost his own state, probably, right because of the gun issue.
MEACHAM: I don‘t think there‘s any question that it was the assault weapons ban and the sense that he was for registration and licensing that cost him his own state, and therefore, cost him the elections.
MITCHELL: And one of the things about the immigration issue, is that the Democrats aren‘t telegraphing this. They pulled their ads from here. The Democrats think Arizona is still in play. And they‘re doing everything they can. They think it‘s within 5, they can do it.
But other than that, the Republicans say that the undecided is down to 3 percent. And for that 3 percent...
BUCHANAN: On guns and things like that—some of these are called, simply voting issues, where say 50 or 60 percent might disagree with you. But the 20 percent that believe in it, will go out and vote on that issue alone. When you fool around with taking away their gun rights and these people don‘t care about anything else. That‘s it.
MATTHEWS: It is a voting issue much my brother is a pro gun guy. He
watches every candidate based on his position on guns. He saw a picture
the other day of a picture of Kerry walking around with a rifle. And my
brother wrote at the bottom of it, yes! That‘s what they think of that
BUCHANAN: Remember Tom with that elephant gun in his final days?
MATTHEWS: It is a simple issue. Thank you, Joe, buddy. Get better down there.
Coming up we‘re going to talk to the governor of the key swing state of Michigan, Democrat, Jennifer Granholm. You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the last presidential debate, live from Arizona State University on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the last presidential debate. It‘s here in Arizona State University in just about 45 minutes. We have as our guest right now Michigan governor, and Kerry supporter, Jennifer Granholm. She joins us right now. Governor, thank you for joining us.
You know, you have all the credentials to be a president of the United States. You are a Harvard Law Review, you‘re on the Dating Game, you were attorney general of your state.
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM, (D) MICHIGAN: Every president should be on the Dating Game.
MATTHEWS: You‘re governor. You‘re a very attractive person, obviously. Everybody can see that, not that it matters. Would you like to see the constitution changed so that someone such as yourself could be president of the United States?
GRANHOLM: I am not interested. But I do think that because we are a country of immigrants, and this is a bit of an anachronistic part of the Constitution, I think that why not allow somebody run for president who has lived here for 35 years? But fortunately, this time, we have a presidential candidate in John Kerry who was born here who has our values and who will fight for jobs. And I‘m very excited about this debate tonight.
MATTHEWS: OK. Just to finish the point that I raised, if the constitution were changed so that could you run for president, would you?
MATTHEWS: That‘s kind of boring! That‘s a boring answer. Let‘s go...
GRANHOLM: I‘m sorry!
MATTHEWS: The gun issue in the state of Michigan, tonight the president will have a chance to raise some very tricky issues. One of them is gun ownership, the second amendment to the constitution. Do you believe your candidate has a problem on that issue to the point where he has to keep walking around carrying his shotgun?
GRANHOLM: No. Well, as you know, he is a lifelong hunter. So it is not something that has to be fabricated. In our state, because we are a hunting state, a state that really values that tradition, it is an important issue. But for example, the blue collar workers, the U.A.W. have all been very, very strongly in support of Kerry. Have made it very clear that he is supportive of gun rights. And that should not be an issue.
What is an issue for us is jobs. The fact, for example, Chris, yesterday that John Snow said that job loss is a myth is unbelievable in our state when real people have lost lots of work. So that‘s what the debate should be about, not these ancillary issues which are, I‘m sure, going to be raised by the president tonight.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s been said that if a guy in Michigan gets a little overtime and he‘s making some money, first of all, he buys a gun, then he buys a boat, then he starts voting Republican. Does that mean if times are rough like that, he‘s going to vote Democrat?
GRANHOLM: I think the vast majority of working people in Michigan, especially those who have lost their jobs, are going to vote for John Kerry. John Kerry has a plan. It is very specific. George Bush has a record. It, too, is specific and it is abysmal. And for us, this is real.
I‘ve been going around the state doing these economic round tables with real citizens. There‘s such an anger, Chris, that I can‘t even begin to describe it, with healthcare costs increasing 64 percent since this president took office. Everybody has said, the largest number of jobs lost in the past 72 years. And nobody to fight for trade, for balanced trade. So, this is a real issue for us.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about cars and the fuel that fuels them. John Kerry said he wants to end our dependence on Mideast oil. I‘m all for that. Who isn‘t? He also says we are not going to go to ANWR. We‘re not going to go up to the Arctic and take oil from up there. Where is he going to get the oil?
GRANHOLM: What he‘s going to do is...
MATTHEWS: To run our cars?
GRANHOLM: No, no, he‘s going to create the technology so that we don‘t—we are not dependent on foreign oil. And we just got in our fleet, 10 hybrid vehicles yesterday, manufactured by Ford Motor Company. Those are the kinds of cars that will be the 21st century cars. They are not going to require us to spend $2 a gallon on gasoline, because they are so fuel-efficient. Those vehicles should be made in the United States, in Michigan. The technology is there. John Kerry is going to incent those plants to be building it, and the research and development to be done in the U.S. That‘s exactly the kind of incentive that we need to create those 21st century jobs.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re confident there will be enough gasoline to fuel the cars made in Detroit? Even though...
GRANHOLM: The cars—I was going to say, Chris, the cars made in Detroit today run on gasoline, yes. But they are phasing into hybrid vehicles, fuel cell vehicles. These are the energy-efficient vehicles that people will be demanding. The market will require that we have energy-efficient vehicles in the 21st century, because of the price of oil. It is going to be driven by consumers.
So both sides are—we will have vehicles that will be responsive to an energy-efficient need that America will have. And of course, we make the best cars in the world. People will be riding them, driving them, SUVs and the like. And they‘re going to be the ones that are most in demand worldwide as well. So I think Kerry‘s plan to convert these factories into fuel-efficient factories is just exactly where we need to be.
MATTHEWS: Do you think—last question, Governor, and this is a tricky question to give a straight answer to, or a simple answer. Maybe you don‘t have one. Do you think the United States was right or wrong in going to war in Iraq?
GRANHOLM: I think the U.S. was wrong in going the way that it did. We relied on wrong information. And the president needs to understand that he made a mistake and admit that he made a mistake. You cannot continue to go down the path in a wrong-headed fashion and not even admit that you have made an error in judgment, which has caused this entire mess to occur. We need someone who is going to recognize that and get us out.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the administration‘s philosophy that we should use our military and economic might to turn Arab countries into democracies? Do you buy that basic philosophy? Forget the WMD, the connection to 9/11. Do you buy the basic philosophy of this administration, that we can use our might to turn Arab countries into democracies?
GRANHOLM: And so who is going to be going over there to turn Arab countries into democracies? How many countries would we take, would be taking the offense on? How thin are we going to spread our military? How many young people, men and women, are we going to put at risk? And how audacious is it for us to insist that we are the country that everybody else should model? This is a great country, and democracy is wonderful. But we should be responding if we are attacked. We should not be proactively going out to countries who have not attacked us when we would be putting American lives at risk. That‘s my personal opinion.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, I love it. Thank you very much. Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. It‘s great having you on.
We‘re back with our panel right now. Pat Buchanan, she sounds like you‘re (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you like.
BUCHANAN: I agree with everything she said at the end. We have got to defend ourselves. We have to go over and take care of people that attack us. But as for us practicing a form of democratic imperialism, where we‘re going to go over and impose our views and values and reorient other societies, that is Wilsonianism on steroids, and it is going to end in tragedy. I agree with her this war was a blunder.
MATTHEWS: Can I put you down for Kerry or for Bush?
BUCHANAN: That doesn‘t mean I‘m going to vote for John Kerry, Chris.
It is a non sequitur. That does not follow.
MATTHEWS: I thought it was a perfectly logical conclusion, but go ahead, Andrea.
MITCHELL: You know, Governor Granholm was right on the Democratic message today, on a number points. But particularly, they are going after Treasury Secretary John Snow...
MATTHEWS: What about that quote today?
MITCHELL: Well, the quote had to do with whether or not it was a myth that there has been a job loss. And the distinction between the household survey and the payroll survey, which is far more technical than you want to get. But it is a dispute among economists as to which is the more accurate survey. In the payroll survey, the job recovery is 585,000. In the household survey, it‘s 1.6 million.
Still, the Democrats say the payroll survey is more accurate, and still not enough to keep pace with the numbers of people in the population.
MATTHEWS: Has any survey suggested the growth in the number of jobs in this country in the last four years?
MITCHELL: Not in the private sector, but according to Snow, you have, if you look at the household survey. So it is a statistical dispute. But Kerry is absolutely primed to go after the president on this tonight.
MATTHEWS: And the political significance of this statement is what, in terms of this election?
MITCHELL: Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t want to hear that unemployment or underemployment is a myth.
MITCHELL: Yes. This gets back to what Bush 41, the father Bush did, against Bill Clinton in 1992, not feeling the pain of those who are either underemployed or unemployed.
MEACHAM: Well, the other side of that is by creating a statistical battle that‘s hard to puzzle out what‘s true and what‘s not, what‘s accurate and what‘s not, is politically, they just throw up a bunch of dust, and no one‘s—and if you‘re not directly affected by unemployment, you sort of look at it and go, well, maybe the Democrats are overstating it.
REAGAN: That‘s the key. But in Ohio, a lot of people are affected by unemployment. And when they hear words like myth and mirage...
MITCHELL: And Snow said it in Ohio.
MATTHEWS: No attempt to correct or clean it up in the last couple of hours?
MITCHELL: No, and you know, he‘s being technically accurate.
BUCHANAN: It is not only, though, how many are unemployed. It is the anxiety that is created by the neighbors. Joe is out of work. And this outsourcing. Most of the outsourcing hasn‘t really occurred. But an awful lot of people are frightened to death when they hear white-collar job are going overseas and things like that.
This anxiety in the economy I think is probably as much or more of a problem than exactly how many are out of work. Those guys are already decided.
MATTHEWS: Remember, Pat, how they used to say that don‘t worry about losing the manufacturing segment; the services segment is going to bolster it.
BUCHANAN: Oh, yeah, the knowledge sector.
MATTHEWS: And now, when you want to get your computer fixed, you have got to go around the world on the telephone to get it fixed.
BUCHANAN: Exactly. Radiologists, people are doing accounting overseas. And they‘re studying, you know, charts. Your—you know, when you go in and get your X-rays and all this, all this stuff is being done overseas, and can be done for one-tenth the cost. There are very bright people in India, India, Bangladesh. And this is what is coming.
MEACHAM: But the political question, it seems to me, is are we at the point where John Kerry can say what Reagan said in 1980? That a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose your job, and recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his job. Can Kerry say that plausibly about George W. Bush?
MATTHEWS: ... economy, tell me if I‘m wrong, it‘s somewhere in the middle between bad and good. It is very hard to say...
BUCHANAN: There are good numbers. There are good numbers out there. Profits are out there. We‘re doing well in growth. 3.5 percent for something like 12 quarters.
REAGAN: ... wages.
MATTHEWS: You know why it‘s better to talk about Iraq? Because it‘s clearer.
Anyway, up next, NBC‘s Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert. And tomorrow, HARDBALL hits the campaign trail. We‘re going to be interviewing John Edwards out on the trail in the Midwest. We‘re going to be catching up with Senator Edwards on his campaign bush, at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night. You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the last presidential debate, live from Arizona State University on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the last presidential debate. It‘s going to happen here in Tempe, Arizona, at Arizona State University. We‘re now about 30 minutes away from the last presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry.
And right now, we‘re joined by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw and NBC Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert.
Tom and Tim—Tom, does the Brokaw rule apply tonight again, that we won‘t know who won tonight for at least a couple of days?
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: Well, it‘s always the Brokaw rule.
But, Chris, as you have always proven to us, you‘re free to make up your own rules and everyone else can as well. I just think that the voters like to chew this over a little bit. They‘ll watch tonight. They‘ll have a discussion in the barroom or the living room or wherever they‘re gathered and then they‘ll think about it some more tomorrow. And they‘ll compare notes with their friends.
And then, in a couple days, probably over the weekend, they‘ll come to some conclusions about what happened. They‘ll listen to what we have to say and they‘ll respond to the sound bites that we use repeatedly again and again and again. And we‘ll see if we‘ll move the needle after tonight.
But I always think it is a perilous business and to some degree inappropriate for to us come out at the end and say, OK, here‘s the winner, here‘s the loser, because it really is the call of the voters to do that.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, I think, Chris, we will have a pretty good sense as to the way both men fare based on the reaction of their handlers immediately afterwards.
After the first debate, the Kerry people were doing cartwheels and the Bush people were saying, we did OK, we did OK. The second debate, both giving high-fives since they were still in the match. The thing I‘m going to watch most for tonight is how each of these candidates try to go after the woman vote. It is critical to John Kerry. He needs a 10-point bump advantage with women in order to overtake George Bush‘s advantage with men.
Because we‘re talking about domestic issues, we‘re talking about health care, the economy, abortion perhaps, stem cell research, and also because there‘s a baseball game that may draw male viewers on another channel, this may be a really unique opportunity for John Kerry to focus on those female voters. And look for George W. Bush not to yield on that, because he knows, if he can keep it close, he can also be reelected.
BROKAW: I think, in that same vein, that part of John Kerry‘s charge here tonight is to be more likable, if you will, to appeal not just to the women voters on the issues that are of concern to them, but make them feel that he is their friend and their champion in office, somebody that they‘re comfortable with.
This state is a very good example. John Kerry was up considerably among women in Arizona at the end of the Democratic Convention in early August in Boston. And then the Republicans put national security and homeland security on the agenda and boom. In Arizona alone, George Bush‘s number went way up among women. Now, I know that you‘ve been talking today to the governor of the state, Janet Napolitano, and she said that‘s going back some.
And what John Kerry has to do tonight is, not just in Arizona, but in other places, try to pull them back down to him. And the president, on the other hand, has to look those women in the eye and say, look, it‘s your family‘s security that I‘m worried about. And I‘m going to protect you first.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe it‘s the women vote as a factor, but have you noticed, gentlemen, that every time there‘s a debate of the last three—it certainly helps for all three—and every time there was a poll taken afterwards, a day or two later, within 24 hours, there was always a stronger Democratic direction to that poll.
For example, after the first debate, it was overwhelmingly viewed by the public out there in the objective polling that John Kerry had won dramatically. Then, even after that vice presidential debate, when most people thought that—around the punditry business—that the vice president had cleaned the other guy‘s clock, even then, the public said no, it was pretty close.
And then on Friday night, when there was a lot of opinion around this table and other tables like it, that John Kerry had had a very bad night and that President Bush had had a very good night, again the polls came in 65-40 for Kerry. Do you sense this means anything, that it always seems to lean over to the opposition, that people want change?
BROKAW: Well, I think I would probably like to separate myself from the consensus of your table last Friday night.
MATTHEWS: You did.
BROKAW: I did not think that it was a clean one for the president at that time. I really did think that they fought pretty close to a draw, that each of them had very strong moments during course of that debate. And, at the end of it, I wasn‘t surprised that in fact, that the voters came to the conclusions that they did.
One of the things you have to keep in mind with the president, especially Tim and I have been talking about it a lot, even among his supporters and admirers, they keep saying they want a different second term. They want him to change things. And that‘s a tricky piece for him, which is to defend his current policies, but to say I am going to offer you something new and more hopeful in the second term.
RUSSERT: And, Chris, as you know, traditionally, undecided voters, if they‘re not sold on the incumbent by now, they break disproportionately for the challenger.
RUSSERT: At least that‘s been the conventional wisdom.
The White House, the Bush people believe that, in the end, they‘re going to opt for strength and security and continuity. I don‘t know. That‘s a huge roll to take, because if I were the president running for reelection, I would want to be going into the last week of the election above 50 percent.
MATTHEWS: Tom and Tim—Tom, you said something earlier that was...
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
BROKAW: I was just explaining that Janet Brown is introducing the people behind us here tonight. This is a kind of the warmup session before Bob Schieffer comes on and tells everybody what the rules are and so on.
But I‘m sorry. Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: Tom, you have looked at a lot of these debates. You have looked at a lot of these debates over the years. And I wanted to ask you, you said something very inspirational about an hour ago about why people watch. They‘re not watching, I think you suggested, it certainly seems obvious, to make up their minds. They‘ve made up their minds.
What is it that draws the American people to the TV set tonight, maybe up to 50, 60 million? What are they going to watch for? What is their motive?
BROKAW: You know, I think—and I‘ve said this repeatedly in the last three months, Chris—that more than any other election that I‘ve covered since 1968, I think people have a lot of questions and a lot of profound concerns about what is going on in the world.
We‘ve been at war before, but never a war quite like this one against this kind of an enemy, not just in Iraq, but in the subcontinent and throughout the Islamic world. And has it been overstated by the president? Or is it a greater threat than even he is telling us?
The rules to the economy have changed a lot. It used to be about whether the old plant was going to be able to hire some more people. Does the old plant now moved to China or does it move to South America somewhere? So I think a lot of people are concerned this time around to a greater depth than they have been at any time that I can remember since 1968, when it seemed like the world was coming apart at that time.
RUSSERT: But, you know, since the beginning of man, we‘ve always wanted to go to the town square and come together and listen to the people who want to lead us.
And this is inspiring. When you have so much interest, I cannot—you cannot. Anyone, Tom, all of us, when you walk down the street, get on an airplane, people want to talk about this election and what is at stake. And the fact that they‘re gather around the fireplace, if you will, tonight, and go to work tomorrow and talk about government and politics, it‘s—nothing better.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a great American night. Thank you very much, Tom and Tim. We‘ll check back with you after the debate.
Let‘s go back to the panel for a second.
That‘s a very inspiring note there. And I share it. I think Tom and Tim—and Tom, when he said that, I really do think this is an America—this isn‘t all coming together to agree. This is all coming together to argue it over a bit, not viciously, but seriously—Ron Reagan.
REAGAN: People are unsatisfied, I think. People wouldn‘t be so invested in this election if they thought, you know, everything is going pretty well. Things are OK. No problem.
People are on edge. Whether they like Bush or they like Kerry, there‘s still a sense that things aren‘t quite right here.
MITCHELL: And point of personal privilege, if you go to the tape, I didn‘t agree on the consensus on Friday night.
REAGAN: And I didn‘t
MITCHELL: I thought that John Kerry actually did very well Friday night and it was pretty much a draw. But I think what Tim, Tom and you are suggesting is exactly...
MATTHEWS: ... sat around this table.
MITCHELL: Sometime it‘s difficult to get a word in.
MITCHELL: But, truly, I think what people are really hungering for is answers. And, clearly, a lot of people in this country don‘t think that they have answers from either side.
But, boy, the interest level is high. And you were talking about this earlier with your earlier panel. I think you‘re going to see a huge voter turnout.
MATTHEWS: And it is not just deciding who to vote for.
Look at this crowd here. There‘s nobody here that looks undecided to me, is there?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Who is here...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know what happened there.
BUCHANAN: I think the—I think Tom Brokaw made a very valid point.
The issue here is, quo vadimus, America?
MATTHEWS: Where are we going? BUCHANAN: Where are we going?
Folks have never known a time when their factories and plants went overseas. They don‘t know where we‘re going in Iraq with this war that Mr. Bush has got going. I think they don‘t know what this border, all these—what does 100 million Hispanics by the middle of the century mean for your country? I think folks want to know where their country is going, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to ask these people to vote when I get back. But I do think this is one of those great American nights. I‘m going to say it again, an amazing night. Here we are, not too many years after a national tragedy, and yet I think it is a clear-eyed country that is thinking about this election.
And they‘re thinking about the future and they‘re thinking about it without sentiment in many cases. They‘re just deciding, it seems to me.
MEACHAM: In that way, it is a little like 1944, which was Franklin Roosevelt‘s closest race. There was a serious debate about what the post World War should look like in the middle of a war; 1968 was within a point, which was a wartime election. And the challenger—the challenging party won in 1952.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
And those who say that this country cannot have a good debate during a war don‘t understand democracy.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve had a lot of them, as you know, Jon.
Up next, White House chief of staff Andy Card is going to join us.
You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the last presidential debate of this year, now just 20 minutes away, live from Arizona State University on MSNBC.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the last presidential debate.
MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is in the debate so-called spin room with White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.
Chris, take it away.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Chris.
Few people, few political insiders who know as well how important tonight might be.
Andrew Card, thanks for being with us.
ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It‘s good to be with you.
JANSING: Could this debate change the race?
CARD: Well, first of all, this debate will be important because the president will talk about his record and he‘ll highlight the fact that Senator Kerry has a record that he doesn‘t want to talk about. And it is a record that‘s not part of the mainstream.
In fact, I come from Massachusetts, so I park the car in Harvard Yard and a handful of people would understand me. But John Kerry is not even part of mainstream Massachusetts. He is to the left of the mainstream in Massachusetts, which says an awful lot.
JANSING: But the Kerry folks will say, it is the president who can‘t defend a record which they say is of job losses, of uninsured American, people who don‘t have health care.
CARD: Well, they have got to look at the reality.
The reality is, the president inherited a dot-com bust and a recession. And then we had the shock of September 11. And those two events created a job loss that was going to happen in this country. In fact, September 11, 2001, we lost a million jobs in three months. The president had to dig out of that hole. And he dug out of it by cutting taxes for everyone who pays taxes, creating a opportunities for small businesses to grow, so we could have more employment.
And for 13 consecutive months, we‘ve been adding jobs to this country.
In fact, we have got 1.9 million jobs. Our GDP is the envy of the world. And we‘re doing very well. All of the economic indicators are pointing in the right direction. But the president will not be happy until everyone who is looking for a job has a job. That‘s why he wants to make sure we have a good education system and a good system to make sure that people are trained for jobs that exist in the 21st century.
JANSING: Then why is this still a dead heat? Why do only 11 percent of undecided voters in the latest Zogby poll say they think the president should be reelected?
CARD: Every campaign that I‘ve been involved with closes as you get closer to the election. That‘s the nature of politics in this country. The president has a good track record. It‘s a track record of strong leadership, of resolve. He leads with the heart as well as the head.
And that makes a difference in this country. And John Kerry does not have a track record that reflects good, strong leadership.
JANSING: He was a stronger debater the second time when it was a town hall format, a little looser format. We‘re going back to behind the podium. What is he going to do tonight differently than he did the first time, when the polls moved so strongly for John Kerry?
CARD: Well, I think, first of all, the president won that first debate on message. He maybe didn‘t win it on style.
But being president is more than style. The second debate, the president was able to talk to real Americans. The questions came from them, not the talking heads on television. It came from real Americans. They were tough questions. The president answered those tough questions. He showed his character. He answered the questions with great confidence and leadership. And that‘s what makes the difference.
He‘s looking forward to standing behind that podium tonight because he has been standing as president for a long time and he does stand tall.
JANSING: You know, there was so much criticism about these debates, that they were too tightly structured. The first two debates did, however, show a very big chasm between these two candidates, very distinct positions on many of the issues. Is tonight in that sense of the American political process going at a race that is a dead heat a very big night?
CARD: Well, it is a big night, but it is not the do-all and end-all.
I hope we don‘t pick presidents based on kind of style points at a debate. We pick presidents on what their leadership record is and where they want to take the country and what kind of leadership they want to freeway world. And President Bush has a great track record of strong leadership that makes a difference in the world.
JANSING: Andrew Card, pleasure.
CARD: Thank you.
JANSING: Good luck to you tonight.
CARD: OK, Chris.
JANSING: Thanks very much. We appreciate it—Chris, back to you.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the panel.
I think it is not too hard to determine the theme of tonight‘s debate from the Republican side. The president is clearly, all anticipators and those on his team are making clear, including Ben Ginsberg on our panel, that the message tonight is John Kerry‘s 20-year voting record from the right.
MITCHELL: Liberal voting record.
MATTHEWS: Liberal voting record.
REAGAN: Most liberal.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about what in that voting record that you think that the president will highlight tonight to hurt Kerry?
MITCHELL: Well, it will be votes on a variety of issues where they‘re spending money. Now...
MATTHEWS: The vote on the not voting for the Defense of Marriage Act?
MATTHEWS: He‘ll nail him on that.
Will he nail him voting for enough weapons systems?
MITCHELL: And taxes.
MATTHEWS: And not voting for any tax cuts.
MITCHELL: And weapons systems.
Now, Kerry‘s comeback will be that those weapons systems were cut even by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney when he was in the Bush Cabinet and also making the argument that George Bush, this George Bush, has not vetoed a single spending bill, that a Republican Congress is outspending and ballooning the deficit.
REAGAN: And quickly then make the turn to, but let‘s talk about the future, not the past, I think.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what Kerry
REAGAN: And get off his record.
MATTHEWS: But is it fair to say in a nonpartisan sense that John Kerry is not about to brag about his voting record in the United States Senate tonight?
REAGAN: I don‘t think he is going to spend a lot of time explaining 20 years of voting.
MATTHEWS: Is he proud of it or is he hiding it?
REAGAN: I don‘t know.
BUCHANAN: ... Massachusetts voting record. It‘s not middle America.
And that‘s all there is to it. He wants to win middle America tonight. And he‘s been voting his home state. Now he is in a big country. And I think one of the issues they‘re going to bring up is, he never met a tax hike he didn‘t like.
It seems to me there‘s going to be a two-level attack. It is going to about mammon and then it‘s going to be about God. Bush is going to hit him spending too much thank , for being a big-spending liberal, for never cutting taxes. And then he‘s going to shift to values.
MATTHEWS: Let me give you a bunch of topics. Yell out who wins if this topic comes up.
MATTHEWS: Gay marriage?
MITCHELL: Well, I don‘t know. You want to get those women mobilized.
Guns. Guns. Gun rights.
BUCHANAN: You have got to do it right, Chris. You can‘t come out I‘m in favor of assault weapons. You have got to talk about First Amendment, protecting the home and family.
MATTHEWS: Second Amendment, I believe it is.
BUCHANAN: Second Amendment, too.
BUCHANAN: You have got to do at it the right way.
BUCHANAN: For example, gay bashing will not go over well.
MATTHEWS: The gun issue generally helps the conservatives.
Gay marriage helps the conservatives, generally speaking. Abortion rights is a little bit hard to figure, because there are a lot of women and men who are very pro-choice.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to some issues. Taxes, who does that help?
Every time the word tax is mentioned tonight.
REAGAN: I‘m not so sure. I think you bring up the tax cuts and you bring up the deficit and I think that it could cut either way really.
MITCHELL: You mean fighting for middle-class Americans.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s to go some issues.
MATTHEWS: Stem cell. Chris Reeve
MITCHELL: John Kerry.
MITCHELL: And Michael J. Fox is going to be in the audience.
MATTHEWS: Here we have Teresa Heinz Kerry coming in. And I saw—and there‘s Laura Bush, of course, the first lady. And those are very nice entrances. What an interesting—I love this. This is great. This is real.
Look at that. They‘re close. I love it. There‘s John McCain, obviously and Cindy McCain.
Let me ask you, will these issues help Kerry?
MATTHEWS: Stem cells?
MITCHELL: On stem cells, Michael J. Fox is going to be in the audience. John Kerry is not prepared to bring up Chris Reeve. He doesn‘t want to seem to be exploiting it. But if it comes up naturally, obviously, he can talk about Chris Reeve.
MATTHEWS: Social Security, is that a winner on either side or the Democratic side?
REAGAN: I think that is one of those third-rail kind of things neither one of them really wants to touch, because nobody has got a plan for it.
MITCHELL: And they both pandered on it terribly.
MATTHEWS: And jobs? Who does jobs help?
MATTHEWS: It‘s interesting. I think you can figure out who is going to win tonight by the frequency at which their positive issues come up.
REAGAN: And don‘t forget the environment. Kerry.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be coming back with a full preview before the start of the debate.
And, don‘t forget, you can read Keith Olbermann‘s take on tonight‘s debate on Hardblogger, our election blog Web site. Just go to HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s live coverage of the last presidential debate this year between President Bush and John Kerry, set to begin in just over six minutes now. We‘re here with the panel.
Let me ask you, there is going to be a moderator tonight. His name is Bob Schieffer. I had him on HARDBALL the other night. He said he‘s going to be somewhat liberal in interpreting the rules, the way I think Charlie Gibson was forced to be liberal, when the president climbed over him over that almost disputed call there.
MATTHEWS: Iraq. My bet—well, let me ask you your bets. Do you think the candidate John Kerry will bring up the issue of Iraq tonight, even though it is about domestic policy?
MATTHEWS: Does he have to bring up and score
MITCHELL: It will come up in the context of, you‘re starving the homeland, you‘re starving health care, education and other domestic issues because of this misguided operation overseas. That‘s his view. That will be his spin.
MATTHEWS: Will the president, Andrea, say, that‘s outside the rules?
MITCHELL: No, because the president is going to bring up 9/11 and homeland security and be commander in chief.
REAGAN: He might even bring up Iraq.
REAGAN: I think he said in a speech just recently that he might want to insert Iraq into the debate himself.
MATTHEWS: On domestic issues.
MEACHAM: It‘s part of the fundamental Kerry critique that George Bush doesn‘t tell you the truth. He doesn‘t tell you the truth about jobs. He doesn‘t tell you the truth about taxes. He‘s not telling you the truth about Iraq. So, in that way, it will be part of this mosaic that Kerry is trying to sell.
MATTHEWS: But the president won‘t say, that just shows you can‘t stick to the rules?
MEACHAM: I don‘t think they‘ll get into an intramural thing.
MITCHELL: No. Nobody is going to
BUCHANAN: What he says is, look, Iraq and this whole war on terror is about security of the homeland, safety of the American people. That is the most important domestic issue. I‘m astonished Senator Kerry doesn‘t recognize that.
REAGAN: One of the ironic things, too, is the president is being told
that he needs to look more presidential. So quibbling about the rules I
MATTHEWS: Can we have a poll right now as to who is going to say Iraq first tonight?
MEACHAM: John Kerry.
MITCHELL: John Kerry.
I think we‘re agreed on that.
Let me ask everybody here.
MATTHEWS: Everybody, who thinks that the president will say the word Iraq first tonight or that Kerry will say it first? How many think the president will say the word Iraq first tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: I love it.
MATTHEWS: Just a minute. Just a minute. Just a minute. How many believe—separate question. How many believe that John Kerry will say the word Iraq first tonight?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Let me make it simpler. How many people here are rooting for Kerry tonight?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: How many are rooting for President Bush?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t have an applause meter.
Who won that, Pat?
BUCHANAN: Not Washington University, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Not Washington University.
BUCHANAN: Bush-Cheney I think was a little louder.
MATTHEWS: Bush-Cheney about 60-40. I think it is fair to say that we
can give it to the Bush-Cheney
REAGAN: The second option always wins, because they have a bar set
for them and they cheer over that bar. So whoever is asked second
REAGAN: ... always wins.
MATTHEWS: Is that old Ted Mack “Amateur Hour” rule? I think it is.
MITCHELL: Well, the great thing is that, in every campus we‘ve been to, you‘ve got so many kids coming out, so many young people who really care and are interested in what is happening and want to see this debate, want to get the answers.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think jocks are back watching the baseball game somewhere in the other part of the campus?
MITCHELL: Well, we have got little things on our backs.
MATTHEWS: I have to tell you, I‘m so happy to see that students, who have other issues and other things to worry about, are this excited. And I don‘t remember a time. Tom said not until ‘60 -- I think you have got to go back until 1960 when—Pat and I remember the skimmer hats. You had Nixon skimmer hats and you had Kennedy skimmer hats and they were on sale at every store and everybody had a button. And I think we‘re getting back to that now.
BUCHANAN: We‘re so close. We‘re so close, also.
MATTHEWS: One to one. And one point—I wrote about it, one point apart for—every single poll was one point apart. And everybody says, well, there‘s a margin of error of four or five. Yes. But I‘ve never seen a campaign where they‘re one point apart in so many polls.
MATTHEWS: And so I think tonight is going to be a great night for America.
MITCHELL: And we‘re down to 10 battleground states, according to everybody‘s calculations. They‘re the only states they‘re on the air.
BUCHANAN: Only four of those, interestingly enough, are red states, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and Florida. Six are blue states. That‘s one bit of good news that Bush has had lately, that six of the...
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘m looking for—I‘m looking for Senator Kerry to try to make a bid for this part of the country tonight, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada. I don‘t know how he‘ll do it. But I don‘t think he‘s going to win down South right now. He has got to look out West.
MITCHELL: New Mexico.
REAGAN: The environment.
BUCHANAN: If he goes
REAGAN: If you‘re out West, environment.
MATTHEWS: If he makes an environmental call tonight, it‘s for this part of the country.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I love those insights. I value them.
REAGAN: They‘re rare, but, occasionally, I have them.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the last presidential debate is just moments away.
It‘s 9:00 p.m. in the East right now and it‘s 6:00 p.m. here in Tempe, Arizona, where, in just a moment, the last presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry will begin here at Arizona State University.
We‘re here with our panel.
And I want to ask you all, do you expect a fast start by both candidates? Boy, their heads are moving now. This is a unanimous decision. They‘re going to start fast and they‘re going to keep—this is their last sprint, right?
MATTHEWS: This is kick time, as they say in racing, right?
MITCHELL: They want to control the ball. Each side wants to get—have more time on the ground. And they want to be aggressive and they want to punch through.
MATTHEWS: The headline tonight will be—anybody want to predict tomorrow morning‘s headline? Will it be, Bush scores on cultural issues?
REAGAN: Both candidates more aggressive in third debate might be a....
MATTHEWS: Sparks fly, that will be the easy headline.
MATTHEWS: They always write that one in the first edition—Pat.
BUCHANAN: Bush did so well last week by coming out of his corner smoking, as it were. I expect him to do that again. And I would think Mr. Kerry felt that his first answer was problematic. He‘ll be much tougher and sharper in his first answer, I‘ll bet, tonight.
MATTHEWS: Did you see the “USA Today” poll of the American public;
65-40 said Kerry won the debate? I was astonished, Pat.
REAGAN: I wasn‘t. Andrea and I weren‘t.
BUCHANAN: I think that spans after the debate‘s over, frankly. I think it was much closer in the original count. And I think people listened to all the commentators, say, well, I‘ll say Kerry.
MATTHEWS: Will John Kerry go for the home run tonight? Will he try to really just knock it out of the park? I mean, there‘s a risk in that.
Ron, you‘re hesitating.
REAGAN: I‘m not sure—well, I‘m not sure what you mean by home run.
MATTHEWS: I mean try to knock the guy out of the park, not the ball, the guy.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Bob Schieffer is set to begin the third presidential debate.
Let‘s get into it.
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