CHUCK TODD, GUEST HOST: Pope Francis arrives in America. He`s coming to Congress. Is the pope going to play political HARDBALL? Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in New York, in for Chris Matthews. He`s attending the funeral of his Aunt Eleanor. We begin tonight with the historic scene just outside of Washington. Just hours ago at Joint Base Andrews, formerly known as Andrews Air Force Base, the pope landed in the United States for the first time. And this was the scene. The holy father was greeted by the president, the first lady, their children, the vice president, his grandchildren, and a host of dignitaries from around the country and from the Catholic church here in the United States. But buckle up because the next few days will be nothing short of a remarkable visit. This papal visit includes a meeting with the president at the White House, an address to a joint session of Congress, and yet another address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York later in the week. He`ll also hold a mass in Philadelphia and visit the largest prison in the City of Brotherly Love. Folks, if you look at that schedule, one thing is clear. This holy father is not afraid to dive into politics, not afraid to take sides on different issues. In fact, let`s meet this pope. Let`s meet his politics. This is a different image of a pope than we`re used to seeing here in America. Pope Francis talks differently, acts differently, and frankly, even dresses differently than his predecessors. He`s traded in the Vatican Mercedes for a Ford Fusion, or as we saw today, a Fiat. He says climate change is real. He also believes the Big Bang theory, and evolution is, too. He`s given priestly authority to forgive women who had an abortion. He`s washed the feet of convicts and Muslims. He`s made it cheaper and easier to get an annulment. And here`s what he said about homosexuality. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) POPE FRANCIS I: (SPEAKING IN ITALIAN) (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: And the pope even reportedly met with a transgendered man at his home after receiving a letter from him. In addition to that, he has weighed in on nearly every major policy debate that`s taken place in our politics in America, from condemning the ills of trickle-down economics to hailing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba. He actually was a back-channel mediator in that deal. He also supports the Iran nuclear deal. Pope Francis has notably sided more with the political left of late here in the U.S., and he`s also spoken emotionally and compassionately about the migrant crisis that`s taking places all across Europe. But this is a country and political system that also symbolizes many of the ills and excesses that he has denounced. For the 68 million Catholics here in America and for all of us that are tuning in, what message will he deliver during this historic visit? And how will it change our politics? Or will it? How will it impact the debate? I think everybody on both sides of the aisle is going to feel uncomfortable by something Pope Francis challenges them on this week. We`re going to kick off tonight`s special coverage of the pope in America with our own Luke Russert. He is outside the papal nuncio. It is the equivalent of the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. Hundreds have been gathering there since this afternoon. And Luke, I know you`ve been talking to these folks. Tell me about this crowd, tell me about how they`re feeling and whether we`ve yet to see any glimpses of him in the window. LUKE RUSSERT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chuck, I can tell you, when the pope arrived here, the crowd numbered in the hundreds. And they were loud, enthusiastic, and so grateful to see the pope, albeit it was for a few seconds when he came to the doorway dressed in his white robes, waved to Catholic school children who were in front of him. But people were able to make him out from the position where I am, which is about 50 yards away, across the street. Actually, I`m on Joe Biden`s front lawn, essentially, here at the U.S. Naval Observatory. And as far as what the crowd is, Chuck, I was really struck by how many children were here. A lot of parents brought their children. A lot of children sort of rushed up to the front of the fence and were just so happy for their moment with the pope. And you could also see that resonate with the parents themselves. The crowd was majority Latino. I spoke to a lot of them in Spanish. They came from places like Honduras, Salvador, even Argentina, Mexico. And a lot of them said that they felt this pope was theirs. And of course, that is something we`ve heard often, that the first pope from Latin America has really tried to connect outside of Europe, outside of the United States, the sort of traditional power centers of the Catholic church. That was very evident today from what I saw with this crowd. Now, there are still a few people here. I would say probably they number around 40 or 50, with the hope that maybe he comes to the window. This pope we know is sporadic. Maybe he goes across the street for a cup of warm milk and a chocolate chip cookie from Joe Biden or something. But we can also tell you, Chuck, when I spoke to a few, they`re going to be here at 4:00 in the morning to serenade him with traditional Spanish morning songs. So I hope the pope likes to be sung to at 4:00 AM. TODD: I was just going to say... RUSSERT: He`s certainly going to hear it by how many people we expect. TODD: He won`t be needing to set an alarm, although he may be dealing with jet lag, of course, and all that. Anyway, Luke Russert, well done. It was great, the spirit that you helped translate that we saw there earlier today. Good work, sir. I`m joined now by former RNC chairman Michael Steele -- he`s a devout Catholic -- NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell is at the White House. Need I say what Kelly O`Donnell is, our Irish Catholic friend there? (LAUGHTER) TODD: And Andrea Mitchell is in Washington. Andrea and I, of course, we`re going to be -- we`ve got our own -- our own faith that we`ll be dealing with as soon as the sun goes down, which we`re deciding goes down right at 8:01 tonight, right, Andrea? (LAUGHTER) ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. You got it! TODD: Kelly, let me start with you because I think the moment when we expect Pope Francis to potentially insert himself into our political debates, or impact our political debates, is when he does that speech to a joint session of Congress, where there`s anticipation on the left and right of what he might or might not say. What have you heard from the rank and file elected members of Congress of what they hope to hear on the left and what they hope to hear on the right? KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: And it will be notable, Chuck, because the holy father will be speaking in English for that speech. He will be using his native Spanish during other visits here while he`s in the United States. So that is notable to begin. There is a really strong sense of anticipation because in politics, tone can really matter. And there is something for both conservatives and liberals and those in the middle, when it comes to this holy father on issues. One thing we`ve been told is that senior leadership in both parties does not want this to look like or feel like the kind of State of the Union address where there is the jumping out of your seats and cheering and applause at predictably partisan lines. TODD: Right. O`DONNELL: They don`t want any of that. They want to see the holy father make his message known, have it received with some decorum, no shaking of hands as he`s coming in the door, that kind of thing. So I think it won`t have the political theater that it might otherwise have. But in terms of issues, talking about the environment, talking about the unborn, there are things that for the left and the right will push buttons that they will agree with, some they will not. And so this will be very significant. As you`ve pointed out on our coverage earlier in the day, both John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are Catholics. And Boehner, the speaker, has been trying for 20 years to get a pope to come address a joint session of Congress. So this is not a typical experience. There are lots of world leaders who come to the Hill and meet people and meet the members of Congress in small group settings, and occasionally these big addresses. But this will be different, a first on many levels -- Chuck. TODD: Very much. Andrea, I want to read you this quote from Politico today. It said here about the anticipation of the pope -- "Democrats are quietly gloating. Republicans are plainly nervous. The parties have essentially done a role reversal when it comes to their relationship with the Vatican. Republican Catholics seem to visibly squirm when asked about Francis`s latest ventures into the political arena. They`ve adopted the Democrats` previous posture -- show deference to their spiritual leader and downplay any political disagreements they have with them, or more succinctly, duck." And one thing that you were very well versed on, of course, was the role the pope played in Cuba in re-sparking this relationship, which, of course, has been politically divisive on Capitol Hill. MITCHELL: Well, indeed, he will, I think, try to gloss over that. And according to Anne Thompson and the conversations that they had on the flight from Cuba to the United States, when he did talk to reporters, he is on a pastoral mission. So his emphasis is going to be on family in Philadelphia, certainly, and on ways that people can bridge the divide. But clearly, he has a position on the Iran negotiations, which the Republicans, many of them, are not comfortable on -- most of them, in fact. There were no Republican votes certainly in the Senate for it. And he was certainly not comfortable with the U.S. position on Cuba until he became the mediator, really, for the NSC. And it was he who brought the two sides together and finally melded that into an agreement, including the trade for Allen Gross, for the return of the accused Cuban spies. So I think in the speech to Congress, he is really going to try to softpedal that. I think he will feel impelled to speak about the migrant crisis and the human suffering... TODD: Right. MITCHELL: ... caused by the civil war in Syria. TODD: Yes, I have no doubt. I think that`s going to be a bigger issue than perhaps folks are predicting. Michael Steele, Republicans today, Senate Republicans, whether it was timed on purpose or just coincidence, they had a major piece of anti- abortion legislation that failed. Democrats blocked it. It was the so- called 20-week bill about banning abortions after 20 weeks. Do -- are Republicans nervous that this pope isn`t going to push the life issue the way previous popes have? MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they are a little bit nervous about that. And I think they only have to look to the pope`s own rhetoric in that area, where he himself has emphasized that that is not all that we are about as Christians, as Catholics, that there are other issues that we also must concern ourselves with. So this vote was specifically timed, I believe, to sort of reemphasize the importance of this issue, at least politically, for the GOP. Whether or not the pope takes up that particular issue in his address to the Congress -- I doubt he will directly -- remains to be seen. But again, a lot of Republicans are concerned about it. Even on the climate change issue, you have one congressman, Republican congressman, saying he`s going to boycott, which I think is outright silly because you don`t know what the pope is going to say about the issue, per se. But again, those types of issues make the GOP nervous. And I`m a little bit surprised by it because I think if you listen to what the popes say, it`s consistent with the teachings of the church and consistent with the gospel, and there`s nothing to be nervous about there. TODD: You would think -- Michael, let me ask you this. You`re -- you know, you`re a devout Catholic. Is there a -- shouldn`t there -- isn`t there enthusiasm among conservative Catholics that there is now both parties sort of openly merging faith and policy? You know, some people are uncomfortable with that, period. And sometime, that`s been a divide between the two parties. But should there be more openness, even if they don`t agree with the way he`s doing it, that, Hey, here`s somebody that`s pushing the Democrats to embrace the idea of converging faith and politics more? STEELE: Well, you would think that would be the case, Chuck, because you step back from what the -- you know, what the pope has said publicly, from, you know, his initial comments about, Who am I to judge, to his more recent comments on the climate, he has not strayed way from church doctrine and church teaching. And so the fact that he`s able to bring both the left and right into this new space, I think, would be something that would be welcomed by both sides to begin the dialogue, the important dialogue, that translates into policy, that translates into, you know, legislation for those in legislatures around the country, to begin to consider that moral component, yes, but the underlying Christian value that he`s bringing to the conversation. TODD: Andrea, what is the one issue you think he could be influential on, and maybe even change the dynamic on Capitol Hill, even if it`s -- is it the refugee crisis? MITCHELL: Yes, it is. I think just the humanity of the suffering that is seen, the fact that he has called on everyone to bring people into their homes -- he`s got to be able to communicate that without it being a political issue. Now, there are four legislative days to work on all the budget crises. He`s not going to get involved in that, but boy, if he could change... TODD: Yes, we don`t need the pope getting involved in the government shutdown debate! MITCHELL: No, but boy, if he could change the tone on Capitol Hill, that, as you were referring to earlier, would be such a blessing, if I may say so, because they don`t communicate. And at least on this, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are agreed that they shouldn`t have the various members of Congress trying to grab him as he walks up the aisle. And they`ve agreed on comity, in the old-fashioned sense of that. TODD: Well, that`s good to hear. I think I think everybody`s going to be on their best behavior. Andrea Mitchell, Kelly O`Donnell, Michael Steele, thanks for kicking things off with our coverage this evening. And yes, Andrea, we have -- you and I have declared it`s not yet sundown. Coming up -- with Pope Francis here in America, Democrats and Republicans are hoping this visit will help them push some issues that they care about for Democrats. And it`s an aggressive plan to fight climate change. For Republicans, it`s abortion. We`re going to talk to senators from both sides of the aisle, Catholic senators from both sides of the aisle. Plus, we`ll get a live report on the extensive efforts to keep his holiness safe during his time in Washington, New York Philadelphia. And now that he`s out of the 2016 presidential race -- we`re going to tip our toes in politics a little bit on the show, as well today -- where does Scott Walker`s support, and more importantly, his campaign apparatus go now? And who stands to benefit the most from the Walker exit? And finally, the comments from Donald Trump and Ben Carson about Muslims shine a light on a very real issue here in America, Islamophobia, both in the race and in the country. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Hillary Clinton has announced her opposition to the Keystone pipeline. Here was the former secretary of state late this afternoon in Iowa. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. SEC. OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... be decided by now, and therefore I couldn`t tell you whether I agreed or I disagreed. But it hasn`t been decided, and I feel now I`ve got a responsibility to you and other voters who ask me about this. And I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is, a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and unfortunately, from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues. Therefore, I oppose it. And I oppose it because I don`t think... (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) CLINTON: I don`t think it`s in the best interests of what we need to do to combat climate change. (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: This issue has dogged Clinton for months, arguably years. And just last week, she warned the White House that she soon would be announcing her position. Her current chief rival, Bernie Sanders, has been a vocal opponent of the pipeline for months. And I can tell you this. When she was at State, it was widely assumed she wouldn`t stand in the way of the pipeline. So in some ways, this does feel like a switch now that we`re on the campaign trail. But she never went on the record either way at the time. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: And welcome back to HARDBALL. We`re back with more of tonight`s big story, the pope lands in America, specifically in Washington, D.C., and both Democrats and Republicans find themselves energized by the pope`s historic visit. They want to make it count. Republicans are making a major push on some social issues, like abortion, and Democrats have just unveiled an aggressive plan to combat climate change. But the big moment in Washington comes in just two days, when the pope will address a joint meeting of Congress. It is expected to be a highly personal and an emotional moment. We have two leading members of the Senate joining us tonight. Both, by the way, are practicing Roman Catholics. Senator John Hoeven is a Republican from North Dakota, but we begin with the Democratic senator from Washington state, Maria Cantwell. Senator Cantwell, welcome to HARDBALL. SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Good evening. TODD: And let me just ask you personally -- I`m planning to ask the same question -- what does the pope`s visit mean to you? What does this pope mean to you maybe differently than previous popes, or not? CANTWELL: Well, I just want to point out I was raised in a Catholic family. What I really like about this pope, though, is his Jesuit background, the Jesuits taking a pledge to focus on the poor and the less fortunate in our society. And I think that that`s what we have seen from this pope already. And one thing I like is, he`s also talked about our planet and what we need to do to protect our planet and Mother Earth. TODD: What do you hope to hear from him when he addresses Congress? CANTWELL: Well, I think he`s been outspoken on some of these issues about the impoverished and challenged, everything from immigration to making sure -- but I think this notion of thinking that we all need to work together to reduce CO2, that there are countries around the globe that basically are feeling the brunt of this, and have very little ability to deal with it, so countries like the United States and China, taking on this issue, like we did in this energy bill today, saying, this is the way we can move forward on clean energy. So, you know, I don`t expect the pope to, you know, endorse legislation, but I do expect him to help change minds about this issue. TODD: Today, there was a vote on an abortion bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks. Explain why you voted against it. CANTWELL: Well, this is an issue that is between a woman and her doctor. And I think that we have now had so many votes on the issue to defund Planned Parenthood, and, every time, we get close to a government shutdown. So this particular proposal, I want the choices of a woman`s health to be between her and her doctor. TODD: And what do you say -- and I say this -- I bring it up, but, obviously, this is a case where perhaps you don`t agree with the pope on this issue. And he may talk about this as well in front of Congress. What do you -- how do you address that, as a Catholic? CANTWELL: Well, you know, this pope -- this pope has made some statements showing great compassion on this issue of late. And I respect that. And, so, I don`t know what he will be addressing as far as Congress is concerned. But I think that the American people, just as they support moving forward on a cleaner energy strategy, even after all of this discussion, still support Planned Parenthood and think that women should have access to health care. And I think they`re probably a little tired of people shutting down government or saying we can`t move forward unless we defund Planned Parenthood. TODD: All right. Senator Cantwell, I`m going to leave it there. Senator, thanks for joining us on HARDBALL. Now I want to turn to the other side of the aisle, Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota. He`s a practicing Roman Catholic. Let me start with the same question I asked Senator Cantwell. What does this visit mean to you? What does this new pope mean to you? SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, Chuck, it`s historic. I think it`s inspirational. And we welcome him not only to Congress, but to our country. And, again, I hope that people will use this as an opportunity to really come together on -- in many different ways. But I think it`s inspirational. And I`m very much looking forward to it. TODD: Well, he`s going to have -- you heard Senator Cantwell. And I think Democrats hope that the message of climate change is something that - - that Republicans embrace more. His message on climate change, what do you make of it? And has it made you take a second look at some of his thoughts and when it comes to maybe your faith and the environment? HOEVEN: Well, I think we have differences of opinion in regard to climate change. The real issue, though, is what you do about not only producing energy in this country, but better environmental stewardship. And I work all the time on encouraging and finding ways to advance the investments that will help us deploy the new technologies that not only produce more energy, but do it with better environmental stewardship. TODD: Do you believe his -- his message on income inequality, is that something that you think, you know what, maybe we ought to address this differently? Does that have an impact? We know, on social issues, in the past, many Republicans have wanted the pope to have an impact. What about on some of these economic issues? HOEVEN: Right. Chuck, I think that`s a really good point. And that`s why I say I hope it helps bring people together. I think we want to -- we all want to help our fellow man. The issue is the underlying philosophy on how best to do it. And, again, I think that`s where we can come together with, I hope, good ideas that we can reach some consensus on and do what will help advance some of the things that the American people want us to address in a way that`s productive. TODD: All right. We`re going to have this moment of comedy on Thursday, where everybody is going to come together. And I think it`s going to be one of those nonpartisan or bipartisan moments that makes us all feel good, makes you guys in Congress feel good. He leaves, and you guys are going to be fighting about whether to keep the government open. It`s pretty clear the Senate is going to send a message that they`re not going to be able to shut down, defund Planned Parenthood, the way it`s going to work. What is your message to House Republicans once you send over legislation that won`t have defunding of Planned Parenthood? What is your message to them? Should they keep fighting this? Is it worth shutting the government down over? HOEVEN: Chuck, in fairness, I think you have to look at what we`re trying to do. The legislation that we`re advancing provides the funding for women`s health care. It`s just that it provides it to community health centers, rather than to Planned Parenthood. And I think that`s what`s getting lost in this debate. And I hope that people will focus on it and see that we`re providing the full amount of resources to health centers for women`s health. So, we`re making sure that women`s health is addressed. And I think that needs to be the focus, rather than jumping right by that and somehow saying, it`s shutting down government. TODD: Well, I understand that, but it`s not going to get through the Senate. I mean, Mitch McConnell has basically already said that. I know you guys are going to have the vote, do your best to get it. But, if this fight over -- is this fight over Planned Parenthood worth shutting down the government over? HOEVEN: I think that this is a debate that`s going to continue. And I think if we look at the underlying effort, and that is that we are funding women`s health, then, I think, long-term, we can win on this on the merits. TODD: All right, you said long-term, but is it worth having this shutdown showdown? HOEVEN: You know, again, I don`t think that we`re going to get into a government shutdown. But I still think we have to focus on the matter at hand. And that is not -- making sure that we`re not having government funding of abortion, but still funding women`s health. TODD: All right. Senator Hoeven, I will leave it there. I think I got you. I think you`re saying it`s not worth shutting the government down over. Is that a fair characterization? HOEVEN: Well, yes, we will -- we are trying to make sure the government is funded, but that the government is not funding abortion. TODD: Fair enough. Senator Hoeven, and, before that, Senator Cantwell, thank you both for coming on today. Appreciate it. HOEVEN: Thanks, Chuck. TODD: Up next: keeping the pontiff safe. Unprecedented security measures are in place, as you might imagine, as Pope Francis makes his three-city swing through the Northeast. We will tell you all about it. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Welcome back to HARDBALL. There, that was the pope arriving at the residence that he will be staying at for the next couple of nights. He will be spending two nights in Washington, D.C., on the first leg of his journey in this country. He`s staying at the residence of the papal nuncio. It`s basically the Vatican`s embassy to the United States, not technically an embassy, but that`s what - - the closest thing to it. The crowds have been gathering there since this afternoon. They got really big. They have shrunk a little bit. Our own Tom Costello there. And, Tom, obviously, the security issue in Washington, D.C., here in New York, there`s one as well, but, in Washington, they have shut down a huge thoroughfare, unprecedented security. How they doing? TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Massachusetts Avenue, anybody who`s ever come through Washington, driven up Embassy Row, you know that Mass. Ave is a major thoroughfare, and it`s essentially shut down for all northbound traffic. Just to give you a sense, this is, right now, the Nunciature behind me, this is, as you mentioned, essentially the Vatican embassy here in Washington. On this side, you have the Norwegian Embassy. On that side, you have got the Finish Embassy. And across the street, you have the vice president`s residence. So, he has a very good neighborhood to spend the night in. TODD: Yes. COSTELLO: And, as you would expect, he`s got tremendous security here. We had probably, I would guess, 500, 600 people here on the other side of the street when the pope arrived, mostly Hispanics, Spanish-speaking people, who were very excited that the pope was here. They were singing and they were praying and they were dancing. Entire families were here, playing the guitar. It was really, I must say, a very moving afternoon, with so many people, so many of the faithful here, to greet the pontiff as he arrived. For the most part, they have now spread out. They have left for the night. Occasionally, you might hear some people go by and yell off to the pope in Spanish or English, but, for the most part, the crowds have diminished. And it proves it will likely be a pretty quiet night here. But he has a very busy day ahead... TODD: Yes, he does. COSTELLO: ... meeting with the president in the morning. Then he goes to St. Matthew`s Cathedral for a meeting with U.S. bishops. He`s got downtime here in the afternoon. And then in the evening -- or, rather, late afternoon, he goes to the Basilica for mass. So, it will be a busy day tomorrow, and then we haven`t even talked about the next day and the next day. TODD: Absolutely. COSTELLO: It`s going to be a busy few days for this guy -- back to you. TODD: All right, Tom Costello, I appreciate it. And, of course, we learned from Luke earlier that he will be serenaded at 4:00 in the morning. So he`s going to have a big wakeup call. Kasie Hunt is at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of the Catholic University, where, as Tom just told you, Pope Francis will say mass tomorrow. Kasie, the scene at Catholic University, I know there`s been so much excitement on campus there for weeks about this visit. KASIE HUNT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: They have been preparing for this weeks, Chuck -- for this -- for -- excuse me -- for this for weeks. And you`re right. There are tens of thousands, literally, of chairs set up behind me that they put down one at a time in preparation for this mass. And this is a place that, while I don`t think we`re going to anticipate very many political issues cropping up here, we could easily see the pope go off-script. He is going to be in the Popemobile coming down the -- Michigan Avenue, not that far from here, before he enters the Basilica. They have got it crossed off with caution tape inside. He is going to walk outside, and then he will give a mass to the anticipated 25,000 people who are going to be here. They are going to do communion, but they`re only going to do bread for those people who are here. The only people who will be partaking in wine will be the clergy who are in attendance. But I think, at this point, we`re probably anticipating that -- you were talking some about the potential political implications of this visit. And while Jeb Bush and Columba Bush, his wife, are anticipated to be here in the audience, the sense here is that the politics will probably wait for that address to Congress on Thursday. TODD: I think so. Between the U.N. address and the congressional address, I think he`s got plenty of places to send those messages. I`m guessing this is about faith that we will see tomorrow night. HUNT: Right. TODD: Kasie Hunt, thanks very much. HUNT: Thanks, Chuck. TODD: Let me go specifically back into those security measures. They`re in place to guard Pope Francis during the six-day visit to this country. The pope is expected to draw millions of onlookers across three cities. He will be using an open vehicle for his public appearances that start tomorrow. In this case, of course, it`s known as the Popemobile. And, by the way, it`s not a Mercedes anymore. It`s a Jeep Wrangler. And much like the one he used in Ecuador this summer, it`s equipped only with a glass front and a roof. When asked about his decision to use an open vehicle last year, the pope simply told reporters: "It`s true that anything could happen. But let`s face it. At my age, I don`t have much to lose. It is in God`s hands." I`m joined now by NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams, because it is not in God`s hands, his security here. It is in the Secret Service`s hands. Pete, you have been reporting all day. The Secret Service, they`re very nervous about how open this pope is. PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: They are. They have gone to the Vatican. They have studied his movements. They have looked at videos. They have met with his security people. And it`s a balancing act. The pope wants to do what he wants to do. They have a mission to protect him. And it`s the same kind of struggle that political figures go through who are protected. But they can`t grab on to the pope the way they would the president, and hold him by the belt, that kind of thing. So it`s a new thing for the Secret Service, certainly not ever protecting a pope. They have done it before on previous visits, but all the open-air events in all these three cities, the trips in the Popemobile. So how do they do it? Well, for one thing, any time the pope is around really big crowds, including the parades where he`s in the Popemobile or the open-air masses, the crowd that`s there, even lining the streets, will have to go through magnetometers. They will be screened before they can even get there. So, that`s the first thing they can do. Second thing they can do, of course, is a massive police presence, a massive presence of local police in those three cities, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C... TODD: Right. WILLIAMS: ... and all-hands-on deck response from all sorts of federal agencies, from the Coast Guard to the FBI to the ATF and all the other three initial agencies that you can think of. All have a big role here. Traffic will be greatly restricted. That little car that the pope is riding in would be great for finding a parking place in Washington, if there were any places to park. (LAUGHTER) TODD: Right. WILLIAMS: But parking has been greatly restricted, traffic closed off. TODD: Right. WILLIAMS: And it will be kind of a moving thing as he goes around. Traffic will be closed off around the White House for many blocks, around the Capitol when he`s there, at the Basilica when he`s there, at St. Matthew`s when he`s there. And the same thing will be repeated in New York and Philadelphia. Philadelphia, of the three cities, probably presents the greatest challenge. They`re not as accustomed to these sorts of events as New York is... TODD: Right. WILLIAMS: ... although New York has its own hands full, with the pope coming and the president coming and the U.N. General Assembly, with 170 heads of states, all of whom have to be protected. TODD: Well, that`s right. New York and D.C., they know how to do this. It is Philly, as you mentioned, that I keep hearing is the -- you know, where everybody is a little more nervous. Anyway, Pete Williams, I know you are going to be busy this week as well. Thank you, sir. WILLIAMS: Yes, sir. TODD: Up next: And then there were 15. Can you name all 15 still, by the way? The Republican field did shrink by one, a surprising one. And with that development on Scott Walker, which one of Walker`s former rivals has the most to gain? This isn`t about percentages in the polls, folks. This is about staff and activists on the ground. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I will suspend my campaign immediately. I encourage other Republicans presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner. (END VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Scott Walker`s final request upon exiting the race yesterday was for his fellow Republican candidates to follow his lead, so that an alternative might emerge to face down Donald Trump. The timing of Walker`s decision came as a surprise to many, as political reports, many staffers learned of their impending unemployment on Twitter. A look at the Real Clear Politics polling average for Walker`s short- lived campaign shows everything you need to know about his boom and bust. Once considered a promising candidate and the Iowa front-runner was mostly downhill after he led the field briefly last April. Of course, the latest poll from yesterday showed a drop nationally less than 1 percent. Now, candidates like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and even Ted Cruz and frankly Carly Fiorina are hoping to inherit some of Walker`s former staff and key supporters. But when asked if he`ll seek Walker`s endorsement on FOX News yesterday, Donald Trump shrugged off the question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: Do you intend to ask him for his endorsement? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I don`t think so. I think he knows the different players. He`s probably got to -- don`t forget, I`m very much of an outsider and I think it`s probably a little bit tough for him to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Walker, of course, is now the second Republican to drop out of the race following another governor, a former governor in that case, Rick Perry, earlier this month. Both seem to have had learned a hard lesson about the 2016 cycle. If at first you don`t succeed, you don`t succeed. You don`t get a second look, at least with a field like this. I`m joined now by the roundtable this evening. Clarence Page, of course, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist from the "Chicago Tribune", Melinda Henneberger is a senior writer for "Bloomberg Politics", and Jonathan Allen is a political reporter with Vox. Jonathan, let me start with you on Walker fallout. Who`s going to stand to benefit the most? He had an extensive infrastructure in the early states. Forget -- we know he didn`t have a lot of support right now, but he had an infrastructure, let`s say you`re Carly Fiorina and you desperately need one, you could help her. Rubio needs help. Cruz may need help. Who benefits the most from Walker exiting on that front? JONATHAN ALLEN, VOX: Yes, there`s a huge walker implosion primary going on, in terms of his donors and that infrastructure that you were talking about, in terms of aides. I`m not sure and it doesn`t seem clear at this point that one person is going to benefit from it. I think that`s the problem on the Republican side right now, is no one knows who the establishment candidate against Trump is going to be. And if those people, those donors and those staffers divide among those other candidates, then Donald Trump ends up being the big winner of Scott Walker leaving the race. TODD: That`s an interesting way to put it. Speaking of Trump, Melinda and Clarence, I want you to take a listen to this. "60 Minutes" today released a clip. Scott Pelley interviewed Trump for "60 Minutes" this coming Sunday. But the clip they released is on an answer that they had tried to get from him and why Trump didn`t correct the anti-Muslim questioner at that event last Thursday. Here`s what Trump said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: It was a testing moment for a man running for president. TRUMP: I don`t think so. PELLEY: You never know when their coming. TRUMP: I don`t think so. PELLEY: But here you had a bigot that you could have slapped down -- TRUMP: You don`t know that. You don`t know that. I mean, he asked a question. You don`t know that he was a bigot. But, look -- PELLEY: A problem in this country and it`s Muslims? TRUMP: Well, let me ask you this. So, you said there`s a problem in this country and it`s Muslims, all right? I love the Muslims. I have many, many friends. People living in this building, Muslims. They`re phenomenal people. But like everything else, you have people where there are problems. Now, we can say, there are no problems with the Muslims. There`s no problem, there`s no terrorism, there`s no crime, there`s no anything, they didn`t knock down the World Trade Center. To the best of my knowledge, the people that knocked down the World Trade Center, you know where they -- they didn`t fly back to Sweden. (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: You know, Melinda, that to me is perhaps the debate that we should be having or the conversation we should be having is, there is a lot of Islamophobia in this country, and frankly the only thing many Americans see when it comes to Islam are the extremists. They don`t see day-to-day Muslims and this may contribute to it. MELINDA HENNEBERGER, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Well, I think this is very dangerous rhetoric and this conversation, if Donald Trump keeps talking about Mexican immigrants and Muslims, the way he has been, and, you know, Muslims the way Ben Carson has been, I wonder, to couple what you`re asking now with the question about what the fallout from Scott Walker is going to be, I think that the big benefactor are the one who`s going to inherit support and is going to win out of this is almost destined to be Marco Rubio, at this point, because the Republican Party is going to have to show that they`re not anti-immigrant. They`re not anti -- someone who looks different or who has a different faith or a different skin color. I really think that he is going to be coming in for a lot of second looks, as Walker is getting out, and as Trump keeps talking like this, and as Ben Carson keeps talking like this. TODD: Well, and, you know, Scott Walker was talking about looking for an optimistic message. Marco Rubio has probably arguably been the most optimistic of the candidates when you hear him talk. Clarence, this larger question here, Trump defended his comments by saying, hey, who was it that knocked down the World Trade Center? And it gets back to this larger question. There`s a strong case in here that the way Americans, what they see of Muslims, on the news every day, is only, basically, people that are perverting the religion and conducting terrorism. CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, that was what George W. Bush said to his credit, after 9/11. He stood with Islamic leaders, here in Washington, and said that those hijackers are perverting Islam. They are hijacking Islam. And that the -- that Islam is a religion of peace. That was a very strong statement, very important for him to make. And you remember a lot of the Islamophobic attacks we feared might happen didn`t happen for the most part after 9/11. Trump is just the opposite. He`s running a campaign against political correctness. He has told us so. We need to take that seriously. As a result, he is undermining the Republican message, which is to say that that racism is not a big problem, that Islamophobia is not a big problem. You notice how little they`ve mentioned it at all unless questioned during these debates about racial issues and all, even though polls show it ranking very high as a concern of the American people. And Trump is blowing that whole game now. He`s making the whole party look like it is harboring racism and Islamophobia, whatever else he may say. And a lot of people in the party are delighted that he`s flouting political correctness, which they see as a liberal conceit trying to sensor conservatives. So, we`ve got this shadow campaign going on here, Chuck. TODD: Very quickly, Melinda. HENNEBERGER: And it`s the way he`s defining political correctness. It`s not really political correctness. It`s really racism in some cases and just plain old good manners in others. And he`s just putting that label on it. TODD: Well, I`m going to do a pause here. All of you are coming back after the break. You`re sticking around. Up next, we`re going to try to tackle the top story of the day, the politics of the pope`s visit here. The first visit he`s made to the United States. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Ben Carson has been dealing with more questions over his statement to me on "Meet the Press" that he would not advocate a Muslim for president. Here he was at a press availability earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It seems to be hard for people to actually hear English and understand it. I said I would support anyone regardless of their background if, in fact, they embrace American values and our Constitution, and are willing to place that above their beliefs. (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Mitt Romney is now weighing in. Mitt Romney the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major party tweeted this last night: "Of course, no religious test for the presidency. Every faith adds to our national character." We`ll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: And we are back with the HARDBALL roundtable. Clarence, Melinda and Jonathan are all here. The politics of the pope`s visit, the impact it could have on Congress. Jonathan Allen, you spent time covering Congress. Talk about the anticipation where the pope could have some impact on this current Congress. ALLEN: Well, there`s anticipation and anxiety. I think there are times where Republicans are going to feel uncomfortable particularly when he`s talking about immigration and climate change, Republicans -- Democrats will feel uncomfortable when he talks about a culture of life, some of those issues. But the one place where I think he might be able to be some sway is talking about the refugee crisis, the international refugee crisis. And he doesn`t have to talk about it in specific terms, but this is something that crosses party lines. You`ve got humanitarians on the right. You`ve got humanitarians on left. And I think what you`ve got in this country, I`m not sure the public is ready to necessarily take in all those refugees. I think there`s been some hesitancy on the political level. And I think that`s a place where he can really make a difference. TODD: Hey, Melinda, David Maraniss said to me on Sunday he thought the pope was going to present quite the contrast to what we`ve seen on the political trail and in fact, that contrast could actually have a positive hangover on the campaign once it sort of resumes in the public consciousness. Do you buy that? HENNEBERGER: I don`t know if that`s true. If he means if it will have an effect on the campaign itself on the candidates themselves -- TODD: I think maybe the tone of the campaign a little bit perhaps is where he was going -- HENNEBERGER: I`m not sure I`m as optimistic as all that. But I just want to say how much I agree that the pope is most likely to move the needle on the refugee stuff. You know, when he has talked about this in the past, when he spoke in Europe saying every parish has as the Vatican has taken in two refugee families, every parish and every institution should take in a family, he said, I`m going to give you some advice. TODD: Right. HENNEBERGER: We know what we`re going to be judged on in the final judgment. Matthew 25 tells us. We`re going to be asked, did you help a refugee? And if you can say, yes, congratulations. You passed the test. I think that kind of rhetoric is really difficult to blow off from the pope. TODD: And, Clarence, very quickly, Bill Richardson made a point. He thought this pope could play a mediating role in a lot of world conflicts like he did with Cuba. PAGE: Exactly. We know this pope has been very public about supporting the Iran nuclear deal, for example. He sees us better off with it than without it. I think that`s an issue where he can bring some grassroots and change the tone in Washington at least a little bit. TODD: We`re always hopeful for a change in tone in Washington. Clarence Page, Melinda Henneberger, and Jonathan Allen, thank you all. HARDBALL will be back right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Chris Matthews will be back tomorrow. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. 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