Guest: Jon Meacham, Chuck Todd
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This is the week both candidates entered the final stretch of the campaign. Both jockeying for the lead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry was recently asked how September 11 had changed him. And he replied this, “it did not change me much at all,” end quote.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not using the most trained military in the world that was hungry and itching to avenge us for what happened in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, that was a colossal failure of leadership!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This was the week the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll put the horserace neck-and-neck at 48 percent apiece. The Pew poll has it tied at 47 percent. AP has Kerry leading 49-46. And the Meris poll has Bush over Kerry 48-47. All agree too close to call.
And this was the week that both campaigns announced they‘re bringing in their superstars, former president Bill Clinton, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger leave the gate in the final lap of this race. But will they outpace the candidates? That‘s right. We have the numbers, the inside line. We‘re covering the horserace and we‘re off.
MATTHEWS: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL, “The Horserace.” Your best guide to the presidential finish line, now just over a week away. The reporters of NBC News have teamed up with the HARDBALL election team to give the weekly line on the presidential election. Plus, key state and local races. Our trifecta tonight, the top three political stories of the week, from Kelly O‘Donnell, who‘s covering Senator John Kerry, Andrea Mitchell, with a report on political stars, president Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, hitting the campaign trail for their candidates. We begin with NBC News correspondent Bob Kur at the White House—Bob.
BOB KUR, NBC NEWS: Well, Chris, it is an interesting end to this week. You can tell it is getting closer. The crowds are bigger, the attacks are getting sharper, and you start to hear even what sound like some of the closing themes perhaps for the president. But let me preface it this way. The main issue for the president, he is still saying that it is the war on terror and the war in Iraq. He is telling the crowds that they are voting at a time of war and at a time of ongoing threat. But when he wraps up his speeches now, Chris, he is sounding or trying to sound a little like Ronald Reagan with a good dose of optimism. He even talks a little bit like Martin Luther King. He is saying we‘ve gone through a lot together in the last four years, we‘ve climbed the mountain top, we can see the valley below. Who‘d have though we‘d hear this from George W. Bush?
MATTHEWS: Is that desperation, is that whistling in the graveyard, or past the graveyard or does he have some internal polls that show that he is moving up, rather than seeming to be moving a bit down lately.
KUR: There is still a little concern, Chris. But you can tell that there is a little bit of, some people would call it, pride in their stride. You said his attitude. They are feeling pretty good about this. But then they‘re hedging their bets as well. Because as you know, they have a strategy with the electoral vote where he‘s campaigning hard in the upper Midwest, just to offset possible losses that we‘re hearing about in states like Ohio and possibly others.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that the president hasn‘t spent much time lately in Ohio, has been concentrating this past week heavily in Pennsylvania?
KUR: There are Republicans that are clearly worried about that and there are Democrats who are sort of gleeful about it. But the fact is, what the White House is saying about it and what the campaign is saying about it is that he fully intends to stump very, very hard in Ohio over the next few days.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Bob Kur at the White House. NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell has been traveling with John Kerry and has this report—Kelly.
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, senior Kerry advisers like to call this part of the campaign their closing argument. Most specifically trying to reach those swing voters, trying to show that John Kerry could be a credible alternative to the president.
In making that closing argument, whether it‘s national security or the economy, increasingly we are hearing Senator Kerry use this sort of language, as your president, when I am president, trying to make voters more comfortable with that idea.
He‘s been talking about national security, continuing to make that challenge, saying that the country has been on a wrong course. That‘s the issue they really must get at, to drive up the wrong direction sentiment among voters because they believe that is really the ultimate way to win.
He‘s also been trying to work on his regular guy credentials. The campaign has had him out hunting for goose. He‘s also been watching sports events and we‘re told he will be in some lighter venues to give people a chance to see him as that regular guy.
That‘s important because Senator Kerry has not been doing as well among women and they are also trying to make some improvement among white male voters. That is something we‘ll be seeing more of. Expect more rallies in the final week to come, fewer speeches, but all of it trying to say that this is a case about making a change, an argument for a new direction. I‘m Kelly O‘Donnell from Milwaukee, Wisconsin for “The Horserace.”
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Kelly. Both presidential campaigns announced they‘re bringing out their superstars in the final days of the campaign. Former president Bill Clinton will appear at a rally with Senator Kerry on Monday in Philadelphia and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to campaign with President Bush in Ohio next weekend. NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell joins us now with more.
Andrea, this is so exciting. The former president is going to emerge almost like the character in the New Testament, Lazarus. We haven‘t seen this guy in weeks. It‘s going to be a big story.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEW CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, his quadruple bypass surgery was on September 6. He was supposed to be out on the campaign trail, the Kerry people had hoped, last week. He is their super weapon. They had hoped to use him in the final two weeks of the campaign in battleground states, particularly in places like Pennsylvania where he can rally the urban vote, the African-American vote and reach people in a visceral way that John Kerry has not been able to, frankly.
But he was not feeling as well as they had hoped, as well as he had hoped. This will be the first time that Bill Clinton comes out. There has been a lot of expectations and anticipation about how he is and there is a lot of sympathy vote for him right now. He is at the peak of his popularity. So they‘re hoping that he will be effective first in Philadelphia on Monday and if he is well enough, then to go west to Nevada, New Mexico and they hope to Florida before the campaign is over.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, having grown up in Philadelphia, you having covered in Philadelphia for so many years locally and nationally it‘s interesting they‘re going to have the rally at the corner of Broad and Chestnuts, that big downtown rally corner where all the big events in the past, Hubert Humphrey and John Kennedy, I think everybody campaigns there. A big suburban crowd coming into town at lunch hour, they all work in Philadelphia. Is this a plan to do well not just with downtown but basically try to grab the collar counties?
MITCHELL: Absolutely and those five counties around Philadelphia as you know so well are critical. Al Gore did very well in those counties. They have recently seen a big upsurge in new registration in of all places Buck County and it‘s gone more Democrat than Republican. This would be a very interesting development. So, if they can come out of Philadelphia as Ed Rendell, the governor told you, with 335, 350,000 vote plurality, then they believe they can carry the state. They have to do very well in Philadelphia and also try to hold it—hold their own against Republicans in that collar, the five counties around Philadelphia in order to offset the very heavily Republican central part of Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about further plans for the president. There‘s been buzz lately about him possibly going—Bill Clinton going to Nevada, going to New Mexico. If that happens, I‘m just trying to spec this out, is that to keep him away from the Bible Belt, the areas of the country like southern Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, places where there are a lot of cultural conservatives who don‘t really like what the president did when he was in office?
MITCHELL: Well, it is. But it‘s really to use him where he is most advantageous to them tactically. They think that he‘s always been popular in New Mexico, not only with Hispanic Americans and he‘s always had a really strong connection to Nevada. They think they can win those two states and Ohio, by the way, you know, there‘s so much spin out there. Karl Rove is telling people that the reason why the president hasn‘t been to Ohio is because they know from their own internal pollings they‘re doing so well there.
The Kerry Democrats, of course, say the reason he hasn‘t been there is that Kerry has pulled ahead and they know now he‘s not likely to get Ohio. But I think that Ohio still is in play but it is trending Kerry and George Bush has to roll something out there. That is why they‘re going to bring, of course, you‘ve mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger there. Schwarzenegger is powerful with the male vote, obviously, in Ohio. But he might turn off that evangelical vote in Ohio and the Christian conservatives who don‘t like the fact that he stands for gay rights.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Andrea Mitchell. By the way, HARDBALL will be in Philadelphia Monday. It‘s our big day in Philly. I‘m going home to cover president Clinton‘s return to the campaign trail.
Up next, NBC‘s Ron Allen traveled to the battleground state of Florida, the third candidate in this race, Ralph Nader.
And later, could Bush and Kerry share the same blue blood? NBC‘s correspondent Charles Sabine has the story. As we go to break, we‘re looking at Democracy Plaza in New York‘s Rockefeller Center where we‘ll be broadcasting on election night. You‘re watching “The Horserace” only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome back to “The Horserace,” a weekly look at the biggest stories of this presidential campaign.
Now, making your vote count. Early voting in selected states has already raised some red flags on potential legal issues surrounding this election. NBC‘s Chip Reid joins me now for the latest on the legal challenges already under way—Chip.
CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, four years ago, we all recall there were hundreds of lawyers involved in that Florida recount. Well, this year, the numbers are vastly larger, and they‘re already busy, fighting it out in court and on the ground.
REID (voice-over): In classrooms across the country, volunteer lawyers are learning how to protect the rights of voters at the polls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the last defense. You are what helps a voter, what empowers a voter to have their vote cast and counted.
REID: It is part of a massive efforts by Democrat who hope to have 10,000 lawyers ready to serve in battleground states by Election Day. Most will be poll monitors, and with early voting already under way in dozens of states, including Florida, volunteer lawyers are already watching.
PATRICK SCOTT, LAWYER: We‘re here to help assure that people who are properly registered will get to vote.
REID: The lawyers can‘t coach voters, but they may answer questions about the law and file objections if they believe the rules have been violated.
The Democrats also plan to have six so-called SWAT teams, experienced litigators, ready to deploy by private jet to Election Day trouble spots.
Critics say so many lawyers will only increase the odds of turning this election into another courtroom drama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the election that defines our generation.
REID: But Steve Zack (ph), head of the Democrats‘ Florida legal team, says it‘s better to get legal problems ironed out now than after Election Day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t think anyone in this country, anyone in this country really wants to see this decided again by the courts or the lawyers. That is not the purpose of an election. The purpose of an election is to elect the president by the citizens.
REID: Lawyers for the Bush campaign are also preparing for the possibility of another round of legal combat.
BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN FLORIDA LEGAL DIRECTOR: I think there will be litigation. I think there will probably be lawsuits filed after the election. There probably will be issues that arise during the election that we can‘t even foresee now.
REID: Some election watchdogs worry that with so many lawyers looking for problems and with the race so tight in many battleground states, there could be more problems this year than there were four years ago.
DOUG CHAPIN, ELECTIONLINE.ORG: Yes, we could have a Florida times three, five, or six in the weeks following Election Day.
REID: Chapin, who is with the nonpartisan group, ElectionLine.org, says that is the nightmare scenario, and he believes it is unlikely. But as we all learned four years ago, when elections are close and there is a lot on the line, nightmares can happen—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chip. The also-ran in this horserace is Ralph Nader. NBC‘s Ron Allen followed the candidate in Florida this week, and joins us now from the beautiful and educational Democracy Plaza at Rockefeller Center in New York, where we are going to be broadcasting from election night. Ron, what‘s Nader up to, anyway?
RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, he is out there, and he is determined. His support is way down from four years ago, it‘s even down from just a few months ago, to about 1 percent, maybe 1.5 percent in some big state, specifically Florida, where we ran into him yesterday. You‘ll remember that he pulled some 97,000 votes in Florida four years ago, a state that of course everyone recalls was decided by just 537 votes.
The question you ask of Ralph Nader, of course is why are you doing this when you obviously can‘t win, and because he‘s been under so much pressure, particularly by Democrats, to get out of the race. There‘s also been a lot of pressure from some of his former supporters to get out of the race, because they think he is going to be a spoiler for Kerry. There are exit polls back in 2000 that showed that were Nader not in the race, his voters would have gone to Al Gore by a margin of 2-1.
Nader dismisses all that. He says this is about principle, he says it‘s about trying to reform a corrupt political system. He says it‘s about trying to beat down essentially political parties and candidates who are beholden to big money interest and not for the American people.
As you know, Ralph Nader is a man of principle. He is going to stay in the race, and his supporters and Democrats are particularly concerned about close elections where he could make a difference. He is on the ballot in about 35 states, Florida, he‘s also fighting to get on the ballot in four more states, in particular Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he has been denied access so far. Other state like Iowa, Minnesota, he is also on the ballot. The concern, of course, is that if the numbers are small, he could make a difference—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Ron, you spoke with Ralph Nader and asked him about the accusations by many that he is helping out the Republicans by staying in this race. Let‘s take a look at his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everyone has failed from the outside for decades, including ourselves. You have to be inside. You have to be ready to deny votes, especially in close races, to the two parties. You have to be ready to bring a young generation in that‘s skilled in political reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Ron, that sounds like he is admitting what he‘s doing. He says you have to be able to deny votes. That sounds like he really does want to hurt the Democrats.
ALLEN: Well, he says he takes equally from Republicans and Democrats. There was a poll that suggested that he may be correct in that at this point in the political campaign. The problem that pollsters have is that neither supporters, the number of supporters is so small you can‘t really poll them. One group did a poll of 1,000 voters. Nader‘s 1 percent is about 150 people. They say they‘re not a monolithic group. They move back and forth, and it is really a difficult thing to pin down.
But the most telling analysis was down after 2000, when again, by a 2-1 margin, Nader‘s voters would have gone to Al Gore. Another poll done this year said that Nader‘s voters were, again, 2-1 Democrats to Republicans.
He, though, just denies all of this. He says it is the Democrats‘ fault if they can‘t beat George Bush. Ironically, he also says that the lesser of the two evils, the worst of the two evils would be George Bush. So people actually asked him, why don‘t you fight with John Kerry?
There seems to be a lot of animosity between Nader and Kerry. For example, Nader was telling me a story that he said that he—when he was running into trouble getting on ballots in some states, he felt that the Democratic Party was really trying to thwart him. He called John Kerry, he said, more than two dozen times to try and get some help; Kerry never called him back. You know, they had a meeting back in May, I think it was, where Nader said that Kerry is very presidential. That good will seems to have disappeared, and some just think that Nader is bitter towards both parties and is content to be the spoiler—Chris.
MATTHEWS: All right, thank you very much, Ron Allen, from Democracy Plaza.
Up next, David Shuster and the latest volley in the ad war. You‘re watching “The Horserace” on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m John Edwards, and what democracy means to me is that people in this country, all people, get to decide what‘s going to happen in America, not just a few.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Both the campaigns and the special interest groups are bombarding the airwaves with political ads, most of them negative, going into the final stretch of the race. HARDBALL‘s election correspondent David Shuster is on the ad watch.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, critics are complaining that these final commercials are over the top. But the themes will sound familiar: Republicans are ridiculing John Kerry as a flip-flopper, Democrats are saying the president misled the nation and is detached from reality.
(voice-over): To go with John Kerry‘s rhetoric about the president:
KERRY: ...abused the faith of the American people and the trust of a commander-in-chief.
SHUSTER: The independent group Moveon.org is releasing what it calls the secret weapon. The group‘s final campaign commercial starts with a president speaking at this black tie dinner last March.
BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.
Nope. No weapons over there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother died in Baghdad on April 29. I watched President Bush make a joke looking around for weapons of mass destruction. My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction.
ANNOUNCER: Over 1,000 troops like Ryan have died in Iraq, yet there never were any weapons. George Bush, He just doesn‘t get it.
SHUSTER: Moveon, which plans to run the ad in these 10 battleground states, has poll-tested the commercial and says it‘s especially effective with undecided voters. But those voters are also getting bombarded by ads from Republican organizations, including the Club for Growth.
Following the president‘s lead:
BUSH: Here is what he said. I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
SHUSTER: John Kerry is being ridiculed.
ANNOUNCER: There‘s nothing wrong with making a decision and then changing your mind. But if you never commit to what you believe in, who will ever commit to you? John Kerry has changed his mind on all these important issues. Now there‘s nothing wrong with a little indecision, as long as your job doesn‘t involve any responsibility.
SHUSTER: In addition to the independent groups, both presidential campaigns are now running their best poll-tested ads, though these ads are more traditional.
ANNOUNCER: Even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America‘s intelligence operations by $6 billion.
SHUSTER: That figure, though, is wrong. Furthermore, in 1995, the Republican congressional leadership voted to cut intelligence by $1 billion a year.
The Kerry campaign, meanwhile, is hitting the president with this:
ANNOUNCER: The real Bush agenda? Cutting Social Security.
SHUSTER: But the president does not have an agenda to cut Social Security, only a plan to help younger workers invest in private accounts.
SHUSTER: In any case, as you can tell from some of the clips, the independent organizations may have an edge with these final round of commercials, because experts say that with so many commercials filling the airwaves, voters may tend to tune out everything except those commercials that strike them as particularly unique or particularly hard hitting—
MATTHEWS: David, what are the bloggers out there, the people running Web sites, what are they saying about all these ads, back and forth?
SHUSTER: Well, Chris, We put the two ads, a very funny ads and more serious ads talking about the president‘s joke and the woman whose brother was killed in Baghdad. We put those side by side on our blog and we got most people suggesting that a serious ads is going to be more effective, that the country is not in a real joke mood, although most people suggested that that funny ads of John Kerry being a flip-flopper was perhaps the funniest of this campaign.
But a lot of people suggested that that‘s not going to have as much staying power, especially with women. That the idea that when you have somebody come on camera and say, look, I know somebody who died, that sort of more serious message has more gravitas, stays with people longer than something that may entertain them for 30 seconds.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I forgot about the presidential joke at that press dinner. I guess, it doesn‘t sound as funny outside the context of a fun-fun dinner. Anyway, thank you very much, David Shuster.
Check out our blogging site, Hardblogger by going to Hardball.MSNBC.com.
Up next, MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing with a report from battleground New Mexico.
And NBC‘s Charles Sabine from London with a report that shows that George Bush and John Kerry might be closer in this race than they think. You‘re watching HARDBALL: “The Horserace,” only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “The Horserace.”
The battleground is shrinking as we go into the final days of the presidential race and the battle for five electoral votes in New Mexico may be the closest of any race in the country.
MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing has this report from the field.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s a Western wildcards, New Mexico. Al Gore won here by just 366 votes in 2000, closer than Florida, and it‘s shaping up to be that close again. Senator John Kerry has an advantage here; 50 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 32 percent Republican, 15 percent independent.
But there is a wild card. Roughly 150,000 more people have registered to vote this year alone. With a base of just one million registered voters, that is a 15 percent increase.
BRIAN SANDEROFF, RESEARCH AND POLLING, INC.: We‘re not sure how they‘re going to vote, but they could make a difference because they are such an unknown quantity.
JANSING: The new voters tend to be young and they tend to register as independents.
MICHAEL COLEMAN, “ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL”: I think that is one of the things that makes the election season so fascinating, because you have all these new people getting ready to participate in this process and they‘re not tipping their hand.
JANSING: What is known is that one-third of the newly registered voters are Hispanic. Traditionally, Hispanics are liberal on economic issues, but conservative on social issues.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Senator Kerry has appealed to Hispanics. He has spent a lot of time in this state, a lot of retailing. I believe his issues of education, health care, job creation are playing well.
JANSING: But George Bush won a third of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and now the GOP is aiming for 40 percent.
COLEMAN: This year, George Bush has a greater opportunity to pick up some of the Hispanic vote because of international relations, because of what‘s happening in Iraq and on terrorism. Hispanics in New Mexico tend to be very patriotic.
JANSING: But with registration over, the ground game turns to all-important turnout.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m a volunteer with Kerry for president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m a volunteer calling on behalf of President Bush and the Republican ticket.
JANSING: At Bush-Cheney headquarters in Albuquerque, volunteers come into make phone calls before they go to work in the morning. The campaign says there is one volunteer for every 25 Bush voters in the state.
DANNY DIAZ, BUSH-CHENEY ‘04 SPOKESMAN: We‘ve made almost 500,000 volunteer phone calls. We‘ve knocked on over 25,000 doors. You know, we have over 13,000 volunteers in the state committed to the president.
JANSING: And it will continue through November 2 in this bellwether state. Since 1912, New Mexico voters have disagreed with the nation in the popular vote just once.
I‘m Chris Jansing for “The Horserace.”
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chris.
President George Bush and Senator John Kerry have a lot of things in common. They both went to New England boarding schools, Bush to Andover, Kerry to St. Paul‘s. They both went to Yale. They were both in the selective and secretive Skull & Bones fraternity at Yale. And they‘re both running for president.
But NBC‘s Charles Sabine joins us now to tell us it could be all relative—Charles.
CHARLES SABINE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, relative indeed, Chris.
Both George W. Bush and John Kerry have, like all presidential candidates, been very keen to promote themselves as family men and emphasize just how much their relatives mean to them. Well, they may be surprised to hear just who their extended family includes.
SABINE (voice-over): Messing (ph), 50 miles east of London, boasts a centuries-old legacy that sets it apart from other English villages, the ancestral home of a U.S. president.
(on camera): So, some five generations of Bushes would have been baptized, married, and buried in this church?
ROGER CARTER, LOCAL HISTORIAN: Yes. Yes. This is what we think. And, indeed, one of Reynold Bush, the guy who emigrated from Messing, one of his forbearers was churchwarden here.
SABINE (voice-over): The local records office backs up the claims, showing that Reynold Bush of Massachusetts was born in Messing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixteen-hundred.
SABINE: In the village pub, the family tree that connects Reynold Bush with the presidential dynasty is hung proudly in, you guessed it, the George Bush Bar. And the local church reveals Bush Sr.‘s recognition of the ancestral link, including a flag that once flew over the White House.
(on camera): But less than 20 miles from Messing lies the town of Whitford (ph), and evidence here of a local aristocrat called Edmund Reade, born 27 years earlier than Reynold Bush. Now, he provides an intriguing link between the president and another descendant of the Pilgrims that left this county for the New World almost 400 years ago.
KATHERINE SCHOLFIELD, ESSEX COUNTY RECORDS OFFICE: This is the parish register for Whitford, the very first register.
SABINE: From 1538.
Edmund Reade was baptized May the 23rd in the year 1563.
SABINE (voice-over): A man, it appears, of substance later in life, who the records show was often asked for his signature.
SCHOLFIELD: Somebody might ask to witness your will because he was somebody you wanted to be in with.
SABINE: Almost a local politician, really.
SCHOLFIELD: One could almost argue that, yes.
SABINE: We know that there were two daughters.
SABINE: Elizabeth and Margaret. Elizabeth is mentioned here.
SABINE: And they, as far as you understand...
SCHOLFIELD: Emigrated to America.
SABINE: Emigrated to the United States.
SABINE (voice-over): Once in the Americas, Edmund Reade‘s daughters married into two powerful New England families, the Winthropes and the Lakes, the same two families that ultimately begot the presidential candidates fighting this election.
(on camera): All of which means that George W. Bush and John Kerry are cousins, albeit ninth cousins twice removed, but nevertheless, both descended from the same Edmund Reade, a man of some local influence in this county four centuries ago.
(voice-over): Back in the George Bush Bar, the regulars don‘t believe the revelation that John Kerry also has local ancestry will change their allegiance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personal opinion is, it would probably be Bush.
SABINE: But for the rest of the county, there is the knowledge now that whatever the result of the election, the next president may come to check his roots. But maybe there‘s no rush.
SABINE: So, will the discovery of the two candidates‘ ancestral links draw them closer together? Well, in the words of Phyllis Diller, Chris, remember, blood is not only thicker than water. It‘s much more difficult to get off the carpet—Chris.
MATTHEWS: Charles, thank you for that witticism.
Let me ask you about the betting odds. We checked with you a couple of weeks ago. How do they stand now between Bush and Kerry in London?
SABINE: Well, just in the last few hours, Chris, the odds at Ladbrokes, which is the biggest bookmaker in the world, have changed to reflect a significant shift in betting patterns in favor of a Republican win.
The Republicans are now 1-2 favorites, with the Democrats out to 6-4. Now, just a week ago, John Kerry had come in to 5-4, a dramatic shift from the odds at the beginning of the month when the Democrats were 7-4. That move all because of the effects of the TV debates. Ladbrokes had been sure that the momentum would continue to go with the Democrats, but they have been so deluged with bets on the Republicans, they say, that they‘ve been forced to shorten those odds to a point where, if you bet $100 on George Bush now, you would only make 50 profit.
But still, the money is going on them. The bookmakers tell me this election has already attracted more than twice as much betting as any other in the past—Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Charles Sabine in London.
MSNBC‘s political correspondent Priya David and Tom Llamas are traveling with the vice presidential candidates. Here are some highlights from the vice presidential trail this week.
PRIYA DAVID, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Priya David traveling with Vice President Cheney‘s campaign.
The vice president has become increasingly personal in his attacks on Senator Kerry. For example, this week, when the senator went goose hunting, the vice president took the opportunity to mock the senator, saying that his new camo jacket was an October disguise, but that he couldn‘t hide the fact that he votes against gun owners at nearly every turn.
The president also spoke against John Kerry‘s hunting trip, but it was the vice president‘s comments that had more weight and were the stronger and more biting comments.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow sportsmen, this cover-up isn‘t going to work.
DAVID: The vice president has also changed his speech slightly. The attacks on John Kerry now make up a majority of his speech, while the war on terror and global terrorism are slightly diminished, while they are still an important point.
The vice president ends tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, and then heads out West to New Mexico and Colorado. After that, just nine quick days as they sprint towards the election finish line.
I‘m Priya David traveling with Vice President Cheney‘s campaign for “The Horserace.”
TOM LLAMAS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: With less than two weeks before the election, Senator John Edwards intends to carry the national message across battleground states, while also being the campaign‘s toughest soldier in the war of words with the Bush-Cheney campaign.
(voice-over): As President Bush prepared to deliver a major terrorism speech on Monday, Senator Edwards launched a preemptive strike from Fort Myers, Florida.
The Democratic vice presidential nominee likened the president to a con man for trying to deceive the American people into believing only the current administration can fight an aggressive war on terror.
With Osama bin Laden still on the loose, Edwards said President Bush‘s
· quote—“failed actions speak much louder than his words”—end quote.
The early strike is part of a larger campaign strategy to keep Senator Edwards delivering the counterpunch, so running mate Senator John Kerry can stay above the fray.
Also this week, get out the early vote. The North Carolina senator traveled throughout battleground states, where early voting has already started, telling supporters, don‘t wait until November, vote now. In Iowa City, Edwards was introduced by one Hawkeye who voted early this week, casting her first vote for Kerry-Edwards.
And in stops throughout Florida, Senator Edwards told Democrats to organize, bring friends to the polls and vote early, because he says Republicans are already trying to block votes.
(on camera): Next week, expect to see Senator John Edwards split his time between Midwest battleground states Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, while also campaigning here in Florida.
And top campaign officials say Senator Edwards has not given up on his home state of North Carolina. The last time a Democrat won a presidential race there was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Edwards is planning at least one stop to the Tarheel State before the election.
Traveling with the Edwards campaign, I‘m Tom Llamas for “The Horserace.”
MATTHEWS: Coming up, “Newsweek” Jon Meacham on new polls showing the races between Senator Kerry and President Bush is as close as ever heading into the final days of the campaign—when “The Horserace” returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to “The Horserace.”
Joining me now for an analysis of this week‘s poll is Jon Meacham, managing editor of “Newsweek” and author of “Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship,” now out in paperback.
Jon, before we get to the polls, let‘s talk about the flap between Pat Robertson and President George Bush. Robertson remembers the president saying something about how he didn‘t expect any opposition once we entered Baghdad.
JON MEACHAM, “NEWSWEEK”: Right. He apparently—they apparently had a very, I guess, come-to-Jesus conversation, not to be too flip about it.
MEACHAM: In which the president expressed great confidence about what was going to happen in Iraq and apparently said, according to Reverend Robertson‘s memory, that there would be no casualties, which actually the campaign hasn‘t exactly denied. they simply said that Robertson must have misunderstood.
But it is a very interesting kind of moment, because it confirms, I think, for true believers on the Bush side that the president is being vouched for in many ways by Robertson. And I think, for swing voters, it could be a very kind of disturbing thing, because you don‘t want a president who seems to be conversing or being that far out of reality.
MATTHEWS: Well, the president was off base, as were many of us. But the fact is that what about the fight between these two men, a man of the Christian right and a man of the political right? Is this going to hurt the president within that world?
MEACHAM: I don‘t think it hurts him within the evangelical community.
I do think, however, if you are looking at this, or in the “Newsweek” poll, we have about 11 percent undecided. I think if people are still undecided at this point and they‘re looking at all kinds of factors, the idea that the president was saying to Robertson, God is with us in a way that is not going to cost us human lives I think could make someone in the middle rather uneasy.
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems so many of the president‘s counselors, the Iraqi National Congress, their people that had influence within our Defense Department, the people in the Defense Department itself, that he had a lot of counsel, didn‘t he, the president, that we would have, once we got control of the city militarily, we would have little opposition.
It wasn‘t just a fluke conversation with Pat Robertson. This is once more evidence that the president was being led to believe once we won militarily over there in that lightning strike, we were going to be OK.
MEACHAM: That‘s right. But I‘m just talking about in a very narrow political sense, if you introduce Pat Robertson, George Bush saying we‘re not going to have many casualties, and you‘re looking at this race, at this point, still undecided, which is still hard to believe in many ways, I just don‘t think this cuts for the president.
MATTHEWS: OK, Pat Robertson, by the way, issued a statement addressing his comments.
“During my appearance on CNN‘s ‘Paula Zahn‘ show yesterday”—that‘s his statement—“I began and ended with my warm endorsement and praise of President Bush. President Bush is a great leader and I‘m 100 in favor of his reelection. I emphatically stated that I believe the blessing of heaven is upon him. And I am persuaded that he will win this election and prevail in the war against terror in order to keep America safe from her avowed enemies.”
Now to the polls. Let‘s talk about these polls. The week‘s numbers have the race neck-and-neck. It couldn‘t be tighter. NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll has them at 48 percent each. The new Pew poll has them at 47 each, both dead even. In the “New York Times”/CBS News poll, President Bush is ahead by one point. The AP poll has Kerry ahead by three points, and the latest Zogby tracking poll has the president ahead by two.
Have you ever seen anything like this, Jon?
If you love politics, this is the greatest 10 days ahead you can possibly imagine. Basically, it is 1968. It‘s like Humphrey closing in on Nixon. It‘s like Stevenson-Eisenhower. The headline in “The New York Times” the day before the Election Day in 1952 was, survey has it too close to call. So, you have got this amazing, history-making race. This is going to be a race we look back on forever.
MATTHEWS: Let me put you on the spot here, Jon. You are the editor. Tell me if you can‘t answer this. Who is moving further, who is moving better right now, Bush or Kerry?
MEACHAM: I think Senator Kerry is, because...
MEACHAM: From what I can tell.
There is an interesting number in the “Newsweek” poll from last weekend, if I may, which I don‘t think got a lot of attention.
MEACHAM: There is 11 percent undecided. Within that 11 percent, 17 percent of them are Republicans, but 37 percent of them are Democrats. So, simply on party affiliation, if the Democrats come home within that slice, you could be looking at Kerry getting even a bigger nudge in these last 10 days or so.
And it is going to get very ugly, I think. History tells us that things tighten and it gets to be more of a knife fight the closer it gets.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. The closer it is, the wilder it is.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Jon Meacham.
And if you want to read a chapter from Jon Meacham‘s book “Franklin and Winston”—it‘s one of the best books I‘ve ever read—it is available exclusively at the HARDBALL Web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com.
Up next, Chuck Todd, editor in chief “The Hotline,” talks about the shrinking number of too-close-to-call states.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with “The Horserace.”
Joining me now to talk about the big five battleground states is Chuck Todd, editor in chief of “The Hotline.”
Chuck, what are the five?
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”: Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico.
Those are the five that neither party could say with a straight face that they have a significant lead in. And sitting at 5 ½, at least the Bush campaign would argue, is Pennsylvania. But I‘ve talked to a lot of people and it really is sitting there at No. 6. And the guts and everybody says that, at the end of the day, it probably is going to stay in Kerry‘s column.
MATTHEWS: Given all you know, where the states have been roughly decided already and the ones yet to be decided, who‘s got the tougher road ahead to win 270?
TODD: You know, the irony is that it might be President Bush. If you do give Pennsylvania to Kerry—and I don‘t think the Bush campaign would at all want to see that—and it, in fact, it feels like they‘re trying to do anything they can to get it back in play—Bush actually has the tougher road, because he can‘t do this without Florida, while Kerry could put together a road, if he keeps Pennsylvania in his column, he can do this without Florida or he could do it in an either/or situation.
But Bush can‘t. Bush could win four out of those five, Chris, and not have one of them Florida, and be stuck at 269. And that‘s a problem. And I think the Bush campaign realizes it. I think that‘s why they‘re doing everything they can to add Pennsylvania events, because Pennsylvania is worth one more magical electoral vote than Ohio is. And then they could figure out how to get to 270 if they could get Pennsylvania in play.
MATTHEWS: Let me run a simple scenario by you. Basically, John Kerry wins the Gore states, with the exception of, say, a 10-pointer like Wisconsin or Minnesota or Iowa, I suppose, one of those Midwestern states in the North up there.
MATTHEWS: He picks up New Hampshire. He picks up Ohio. He wins.
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: It‘s that simple?
MATTHEWS: It sounds simple. I just want to ask you if it is that simple.
TODD: Well, it‘s one of those things, it‘s not that simple. He can‘t afford to be trading Iowa and Wisconsin just for Ohio.
MATTHEWS: Can‘t do both. It has to be one.
TODD: And so he needs to get Wisconsin. I think, that‘s why they realize they‘ve got to save Wisconsin. They almost—they‘re not ready to give up on Iowa, but they realize Iowa is becoming a real problem. And if they have to choose between giving up Iowa and giving up Wisconsin, the Kerry folks are going to give up Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Well, then they‘re in trouble.
Then, if they win Philadelphia—I mean, they will hold Pennsylvania, they hold everything else that Gore won, they pick New Hampshire and Ohio, they have to pick up one other state. What is the mostly pickup if they lose Wisconsin or they lose Iowa even?
TODD: Well, I think then you go down to Florida. And that‘s where they are starting to feel better.
The intangibles in a weird way break in Kerry‘s way when it comes to Florida. These hurricanes, all four of them, all of the most affected counties were Republican counties. South Florida was spared. And that‘s Kerry‘s base. You don‘t have Elian Gonzalez this year, which really kept the Cuban very much united around Bush.
TODD: That‘s not there this time. And there is some evidence that Kerry‘s making inroads with the Cubans. And suddenly, the African-American turnout, a lot of people believe it‘s going to be an unbelievable number that even pollsters aren‘t catching at this.
And throw in the fact that this time, the Kerry campaign has an absentee ballot program in Florida that they did not have last time, that the Bush campaign crushed them with, and suddenly you say, well, all the intangibles are Florida. So, Florida seems to be their better shot.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve learned a lot. Thank you very much, Chuck Todd.
That‘s it for HARDBALL: “The Horserace.” Catch us again this weekend Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern and Sunday at noon. And tune into HARDBALL 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday for our coverage of former President Clinton‘s first campaign stop for Senator Kerry in my hometown of Philadelphia.
And for all of us at MSNBC, I‘m Chris Matthews.
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