Video: Gaming the System
updated 2/27/2006 11:47:01 AM ET 2006-02-27T16:47:01

South Dakota conservatives know how to get their day in court.  The state legislature passed a sweeping unprecedented bill to ban almost all abortions.

But observe the gamesmanship, legislators knew that liberal groups would sue to overturn the bill, kicking it up all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.  When that happens, the country will find out what it got when it signed up for John Roberts and Samuel Alito. 

Is this clever conservative strategy?  And will abortion be front and center in the 06 midterms? 

The ‘Hardball’ hotshots, Tucker Carlson, Rita Cosby and Joe Scarborough joined Chris Matthews on Friday to debate the issue.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, ‘HARDBALL’:  Let me go right down to Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, ‘SITUATION’:  I think the South Dakota voters have a right to decide whether they want abortion in their state.  However, I think as a political strategy, you know, you have got to do the math.  The Supreme Court has two reliably anti-Roe vs. Wade votes on it, Scalia and Thomas.  It has two people whose votes we don't know, and then it has five members who are for Roe vs. Wade.

So even if the two new Supreme Court justices are adamantly opposed to Roe vs. Wade, Roe vs. Wade moves not an inch.  So in perfect circumstances for the pro-lifers, the court takes up this case and the two new guys vote the way they want them to vote, we're still at the status quo, so I'm not exactly sure what this accomplishes. 

I do know that the NARAL and pro-choice groups like that don't want you to know.  They want you to think that, you know, Alito and Roberts are going to swing Roe vs. Wade, but that's just not true. 

MATTHEWS:  That fills the coffers.

Let me go to Rita.  Does this alert the ears of the pro-choicers out there?  Do their antennae go up and do they begin to worry about this election even and vote Democrat with more enthusiasm than they normally would? 

RITA COSBY, HOST, ‘LIVE AND DIRECT’:  Absolutely.  I think it's going to rally folks definitely to the polls.  We talked about this a few weeks ago when we heard about, you know, of course Alito and Roberts getting on we said right away this is going to be the issue, as Tucker puts his head up there.  This is going to be the issue.  I had to give Tucker a little cameo.

This is clearly going to be the issue.  So I think for that reason, this is the rally that they always dreamed about.  But as Tucker points out, you have got five who basically say they support Roe vs. Wade.  But you can see the slowly chipping away, slowly chipping away central issue for the court. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you to respond to my bet, Joe, being a political guy.  I think that Roberts will not vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade.  I think Alito might. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, ‘SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY’:  Well, I'll take it a step further.  You have got to have four justices voting to allow cert for them to even hear the case.  John Roberts wants Roe vs. Wade to be overturned, but he wants it overturned the way South Dakota is doing it.  He wants it bit by bit. 

I don't think the Supreme Court will see the South Dakota case.  Instead, he's going to chip away with his partial birth abortion ban that they took up last week, and you will see five justices agreeing for the first time with Kennedy being the deciding vote, agreeing for the first time that states and the federal government can outlaw a specific abortion. 

That's going to be the big news front and center.  It will be partial birth abortion.  John Roberts is way too smart to try to knock down Roe vs. Wade in one fell swoop. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I agree completely.  I think you are dead right.

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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