updated 8/9/2006 11:37:41 AM ET 2006-08-09T15:37:41

Guests: Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont, Mike Barnicle, Sean Smith, Harold Schaitberger, Al Sharpton, Chris Cillizza

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Showtime.  Tonight on the American political stage, it‘s hawk versus dove, the Iraq war was right versus the Iraq war was wrong.  Tonight we hear it from the people.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.  We‘re live tonight in New Haven, Connecticut, center stage today, for our decision 2006 coverage.  Joe Lieberman championed the Iraq war, he supported congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.  He got hugs and kisses from George W. Bush.  Will Ned Lamont make Lieberman the first establishment casualty of an unpopular war?  Only one state gets to choose, as the rest of the country watches.  Polls show that voters across the country aren‘t happy with incumbents.  It‘s as bad as 1994 when Republicans ousted Democrats from power, after 40 years of control.  The polls are still opened up here for a couple more hours.  Let‘s get out and vote.  In a moment, my interviews with both candidates today, but we begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Ironically, it was six years ago today when Al Gore picked Joe Lieberman as his vice-presidential running mate.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  Al Gore, I thank you for making this miracle possible for me and breaking this barrier for the rest of America forever. 

SHUSTER:  At the time, Lieberman was one of the most respected politicians in the country, a Democratic hawk who supported mainstream cultural values and collegiality.

LIEBERMAN:  I have tried hard in my career to call them as I see them and work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done.

SHUSTER:  But just six years later, Lieberman finds himself in the fight for his political life.

LIEBERMAN:  A lot of national forces have come in here to try to make a point by defeating me and it‘s a point that deals with their power in the Democratic Party.

SHUSTER:  And today, Lieberman‘s campaign accused liberal activists and bloggers of taking down his campaign Web site.

SEAN SMITH, LIEBERMAN CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON:  In the Lamont campaign, Ned Lamont specifically should categorically denounce these kind of dirty tricks and he should order his supporters or whoever is behind this to cease and desist immediately.

SHUSTER:  The Lamont campaign told Chris Matthews they were not involved.

LESLIE DUPONT, LAMONT CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON:  We had nothing whatsoever to do with it.  We condemn it and we hope his Web site is up as quickly as possible.

SHUSTER:  The charges were just the latest spat in what has been a long and bitter fight between Democrats on the left and Democrats in the middle.  The main issue has been Lieberman‘s support for the Iraq war.  Challenger Ned Lamont, a political millionaire newcomer, rode a rising tide of anger against Lieberman that intensified after Lieberman rejected Democratic calls for the beginning of a troop withdrawal.

NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT SENATE CANDIDATE:  I think things are getting worse over there and having our troops stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war is not making the situation better.

SHUSTER:  Lieberman was also ridiculed for being cozy with the Bush administration.  Opponents seized upon this presidential kiss from the 2005 2005 State of the Union.

LAMONT:  Senator Lieberman, if you won‘t challenge President Bush in his failed agenda, I will.

SHUSTER:  And to hammer Lieberman even further, Lamont ran a flurry of television ads suggesting that Lieberman and President Bush were one and the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Acts like George W. Bush, it‘s certainly not a Connecticut Democrat.

SHUSTER:  Political analysts say the campaign reflects the political trend that has been building for years.

KEITH POOLE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO:  It‘s taken decades, but the political parties have been taken over by the extremes in each party.

SHUSTER:  Connecticut Democrats say Lieberman faced another liability, having lost touch with voters who sent him to Washington in the first place.  Still, others maintain that in liberal Connecticut, there is still some lingering resentment over Lieberman‘s public criticism of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

LIEBERMAN:  Such behavior is not just inappropriate, it is immoral.

SHUSTER:  Clinton and Lieberman have known each other for 36 years and a few weeks ago in one of the most intriguing events of the campaign, Clinton urged voters to support Joe Lieberman.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Go out and elect Joe Lieberman.  He‘s earned it, he‘s been a good Democrat, he‘s a good man and he‘ll do you proud.

SHUSTER:  And in the end, Lieberman tried to turn one of his main problems in the campaign into a virtue.

LIEBERMAN:  I‘m one of the senators who is able to reach across the partisan divide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUSTER:  But getting your supporters to the polls is more challenging when your Web site goes down.  This afternoon, Connecticut‘s attorney general promised an investigation.  For weeks this race has underscored the passions over the Iraq war and the central role Iraq will play in the coming midterm elections.  The question now is will Democrats stay with Joe Lieberman or throw him overboard for Ned Lamont?  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

MATTHEWS:  Exciting stuff up here.  Thank you, David Shuster.  Earlier today, I spoke with incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman, now in the political fight of his life.  Let‘s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Whatever happens today, are you a profile in courage?

LIEBERMAN:  I leave that to others to decide, but I was always tried to do what I believe is right.  And sometimes people disagree with you.  I have to tell you this, I know I‘ve taken some tough stands on the war that not everybody agrees with.  But I‘ve also taken some tough controversial stands based on my belief when it came to the rights of working people or women‘s rights or the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, or to protect the environment and that‘s why all those groups are supporting me.

So you know, in the end, you‘ve got to carry out the oath with your right hand in the air and your left hand on the bible to do what you think is really best to uphold the principles of the Constitution and to protect your country.

MATTHEWS:  That goes back to the basic belief in representative government.  Do you believe in the Edmund Burke elite?  No, you know what I mean.  The Burkean belief that you must stand for what you believe and hope that people will agree with you?

LIEBERMAN:  Absolutely.  I think ultimately the people want to you do what you think is right, even if they disagree with you some of the time.  Particularly if they know you‘re working your heart out for them.  That‘s why in the end, I feel people coming back to me in this primary and why I think we‘re going to win tonight.  Thank you, Chris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Well that was in your face.  I also caught up with Senate challenger Ned Lamont.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Ned Lamont, you‘re challenging an 18-year incumbent senator in the hottest race in the country this year.  Do you feel that you ran the best campaign you could?

LAMONT:  I do.  It was a good campaign.  Everybody asked me, what would do you different and I can‘t think of anything I would do different.  We stuck to the issues.  I think the issues were on our side, people fundamentally want to change in Washington D.C.  The people of Connecticut think that stay the course is not a winning strategy in Iraq.  They want to start bringing our troops home.  They want to start investing that money back in the United States of America, so I would stick to the issues and that was very favorable for us.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re on every night on HARDBALL covering the war in Iraq and the bad news of it of an incipient civil war over there, the difficulties of our troops taking fire every day.  The emerging, rather the continuing struggle in the Middle East and the northern country of Israel.  Could it be that the backdrop of that horror has been helpful to your insurgency here in the United States?

LAMONT:  I think what we are reminded is the invasion of Iraq did nothing for America‘s security, destabilized the Middle East, did nothing for Israel‘s security.  And here we are for the 130,000 troops stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war and what‘s going on?  Iran has been emboldened, Israel is more vulnerable, Hezbollah are launching rockets into Israel.

MATTHEWS:  If you were to win the general election and to go into the United States Senate, what would do you about the war in Iraq?

LAMONT:  I think the people of Connecticut have said loud and clear, it‘s time for us to start bringing our troops home and I think that will resonate with the November elections and that would mean by early next year, we could have a resolution, we start bringing our troops home.

MATTHEWS:  If you beat Joe Lieberman tonight in the Democratic primary

in Connecticut and you beat him by any margin, do you believe that you can

talk him out of running as an Independent?

s

LAMONT:  I don‘t think that‘s for me to talk him out of anything, but I‘ve said I‘m following the rules of the Democratic primary, I‘m going to support the winner of the primary and my hunch is there‘s going to be an awful lot of Democrats around the state and elsewhere who are suggesting maybe that‘s what the senator should do as well.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that Chris Dodd, the senior senator from Connecticut, will play a role in any power brokering to try to reduce the Democratic division here and have only one candidate with Democratic support, that means you?

LAMONT:  I would hope so.

MATTHEWS:  You hope he would come in and talk Joe out of running as a third party?

LAMONT:  Look, that‘s his call to make. 

MATTHEWS:  But you‘d like him to do it, right?

LAMONT:  I think it would be better for the Democratic Party.  I think we should be united going forward.  Look, this campaign, we‘ve got close to 30,000 Democrats that have registered in the last four months alone.  That‘s a lot in a state like this.  We‘ve got folks who are getting off the couches, coming off the sidelines, getting involved in this race and I think it‘s important that on August 9th, we be unified and go forward together.

MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton campaigned for Joe Lieberman in the primary.  Whatever happens in the primary, do you believe that the winner of the primary, if it‘s you, would you go and call for Bill Clinton to campaign for you in the general?

LAMONT:  Absolutely.  I think he was a good president.  I don‘t think in a heartbeat he would have had a unilateral invasion of Iraq and I would be proud to have him come back to the state.

MATTHEWS:  Would the victory of Ned Lamont scare Hillary Clinton into taking a more north right position against the war?

LAMONT:  Ask her.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the news of this afternoon.  We were caught by surprise when late this afternoon, the Lieberman campaign Web site shut down.  There were sort of test patterns basically there now.  They‘re unable to send e-mail, they‘re unable to conduct their get out the vote campaign.  They blame it on unseen forces that they believe—or say they believe you could control by condemning that effort to jeopardize or rather to sabotage their machinery, their election machinery.  What do you say to whoever did sabotage their machinery?

LAMONT:  Look, we don‘t know anything about it.  If anybody‘s out there actually sabotaging something, we told them to top doing that.  But for him to jump to conclusions that it has something to do with this campaign is just false.  He‘s had a lot of false charges all along in this campaign, and here‘s another one.

MATTHEWS:  Is it a false charge for him to say that you could control whoever did it? 

LAMONT:  Absolutely.  There are thousands of bloggers out there.  I guess he is implying that maybe one of these bloggers has something to do with that.  These are independent agents out there.  But we have no idea why his site crashed, and if there‘s somebody responsible for it, stop it. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the pajamaheddin (ph), the people that basically have made tremendous inroads in—

LAMONT:  Who?  The pajamaheddin?

MATTHEWS:  Apparently that‘s a nickname for the people who are bloggers, who are basically—they get up in the morning, they got an impulse, they hit the—they read the papers on line and then they bang out a powerful message that alerts the troops and everybody talks and chats back and forth and they have really energized each other.  What impact do you think the people in the blogging operations have for you? 

LAMONT:  I‘ll tell you, early on, Chris, it was really helpful.  I mean, we had, sort of, the established media came, they said, three-term incumbent, millions in the bank, can‘t be done, nice knowing you, Ned, hope things work out.  Didn‘t see them again.  And all of a sudden I would say, Look, I‘m going to go to Naples Pizza and see who wants to talk about the war and talk about the issues, and then these local blogs would say, Look, I don‘t know much about Ned Lamont, but I know a heck of a lot about Joe Lieberman, so why don‘t you head over to Naples Pizza right around the corner and hear what Lamont has to say. 

Instead of having 25 people, we‘d have 125 people.  That‘s how we started a pretty good dialogue here in the state.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s fair to morph Joe Lieberman, 18-year Democrat, into George W. Bush?  Is that fair to morph him? 

LAMONT:  I do, because he went to the well of the Senate, right when we had the Reed-Levin amendment that would have us start taking our troops out of Iraq, he took Republican talking time and he stood up and he took those points and said the Democrats are wrong, they‘re undermining the president, they‘re undermining the war effort.  And he sounded an awful lot like George Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Should he refused the kiss from the president? 

LAMONT:  I would have preferred a respectful handshake, but everybody communicates their own way. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, will you cooperate in this investigation, should it be undertaken by Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general, into who sabotaged the election machinery of Joe Lieberman today? 

LAMONT:  Well, we‘ll cooperate with anybody.  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to win tonight? 

LAMONT:  I think we are.  I think the people of Connecticut are ready for a change, they‘re ready for a change of course.  They don‘t want to stay the course in Iraq and they want to start investing here in the United States of America.  That‘s what I hear.

MATTHEWS:  Will you support the winner of the Democratic primary, whoever it is? 

LAMONT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Will Joe Lieberman? 

LAMONT:  I hope so. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  I can now report, based on an unimpeachable source up here in Connecticut, that no matter what the results tonight, Joe Lieberman will conduct a third-party campaign if he does not win the nomination of his own party. 

Coming up, we‘ll hear from Joe Lieberman‘s campaign manager.

And a reminder—we‘ll he have another live edition of HARDBALL at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight and then at 1:00 a.m. Eastern, which of course is 10:00 p.m. on the Pacific Coast, on Decision 2006, as it continues our coverage of the Connecticut results.  We‘ll know by then—we‘ll know late tonight who wins this big one here in Connecticut.

From New Haven, it‘s Chris Matthews.  And go to hardball.msnbc.com tonight for a live netcast.  You‘re watching HARDBALL‘s coverage of the Connecticut primary up here in Connecticut, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re here in New Haven, Connecticut, of course, surrounded by students—look at them out side there.  We‘re inside the window here. 

Joining me now is Sean Smith.  He‘s the campaign manager for Senator Joe Lieberman.  Sean, thank you very much for joining us. 

SEAN SMITH, LIEBERMAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  My pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this race.  Why is this race even a problem for a three-term senator?  Senators get renominated with impunity across the country, term after term after term.  Why does Joe Lieberman have a problem in Connecticut? 

SMITH:  Well, look, he took a position on the Iraq war that was not shared by most of the Connecticut Democrats.  He knew that it would probably cause this primary challenge—he‘s known it for a while.  But he didn‘t take the position that he did for political reasons, he took it because he believed it was the right thing to do for Connecticut and America. 

The other side has been playing politics with this, distorting his record, distorting his relationship to George Bush and Democrats, and has put him in a dog fight here. 

MATTHEWS:  Has Joe Lieberman kept touch with Connecticut for the last six years?  Has he kept touch? 

SMITH:  Yeah, I think—

MATTHEWS:  Is he proud of his record of meeting the concerns of people, going to parties, going to things he‘s invited to, showing up at all those boring things politicians have to go to.  Has he got a good record at doing that the last six years? 

SMITH:  Absolutely.  I don‘t think he would call it boring to save 31,000 jobs at the sub base in New London, he‘s very proud of that.  He‘s very proud of his work to save the Long Island Sound, help it get cleaned up.  He‘s very proud of his work all across Connecticut with local communities, bringing home federal dollars for transportation projects, for schools, for community centers, for non-profits, for cities.  And you know, he really has delivered for the people of Connecticut.  That‘s why this race is getting close.  At the very end, voters are asking themselves, as this gets closer, they‘re realizing that the stakes are so high, do they really want to give up on someone who has fought so long and so hard for them and so successfully for the last 18 years?

MATTHEWS:  So Sean, if he gets reelected, renominated tonight, reelected in November, you‘re promising me that he will perform about the same over the next six years as he‘s performed for his constituents in the last six years.  He‘ll be just as in touch with the people of Connecticut the next six years as he‘s been in touch with them the last six years? 

SMITH:  You know what, I think it‘s even more critical that Joe Lieberman is reelected heading into the next six years.  America and Connecticut are facing some very tough times ahead with the national security, with the rising cost of gasoline and home heating oil, health care, job creation, and you know, it‘s not time to put someone in the United States Senate that only has a couple of years experience down in Greenwich. 

Joe Lieberman has been there for 18 years, he‘s won, he‘s delivered for the people of Connecticut.  We‘re facing some pretty tough times coming up.  I don‘t think it‘s time to kick this guy out. 

MATTHEWS:  But you haven‘t answered my question.  Is he going to be consistent the next six years, we‘re going to get the same Joe Lieberman level of support for concerns back home, the same participation in community events that we‘ve gotten from Joe Lieberman the last six years?  You‘re going to say, We‘re going to be as good as the last six years, and that‘s good enough? 

SMITH:  I think we‘ll be better.  I think Joe Lieberman has gotten better as a United States senator.  I think he‘s gotten better at his job of representing the people of Connecticut ever since he ran for the state Senate in 1970 when Bill Clinton campaigned for him, through his job as attorney general, and his last 18 years in the Senate. 

I think he‘s continued to get better, his seniority is producing more and more for the people of Connecticut.  And, yes, I think he‘s going to continue to deliver, and really, you know, deliver for the people of Connecticut. 

MATTHEWS:  He will you be able to deliver the Joe Lieberman vote tonight? 

SMITH:  Will I be? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SMITH:  Not when I‘m talking to you.  But yes, we‘re going to get out the vote tonight.  We have a very robust get out the vote operation, the likes of which Connecticut has never seen before.  We have got thousands of people on the street.  We‘re going door to door, we‘re turning out to vote.

We had this issue earlier today that you‘ve reported on and talked about.  A lot of people were wondering who was out there trying to deny them the right to vote, deny them the chance to participate. 

We‘ve done our best to communicate back to them and let them know that polls are still open until 8:00 p.m.  Don‘t let anyone intimidate you.  Don‘t let anyone take away your right to vote.  Show up tonight and help Joe Lieberman get across the finish line.  It‘s going to be a great night.

MATTHEWS:  Sean, I heard that no matter what happens tonight in the Democratic primary, your boss, your candidate, Joe Lieberman, the three-term senator, will run as a third party candidate.  He will be on the ballot in November, no matter what the Democrats say tonight in the primary.  Can you confirm that? 

SMITH:  Well, there‘s two-and-a-half hours until the polls close in the Democratic primary.  That‘s our focus.  That‘s been our focus from the beginning.  Joe Lieberman could have run as an independent a long time ago if he wanted to.  He wants to be the Democratic nominee.  I believe he‘s going to. 

MATTHEWS:  But he will be on the ballot no matter what happens tonight, is that correct? 

SMITH:  We‘ll find out.  He‘s going to be the Democratic nominee and beyond that, we‘ll see what happens. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much.  It‘s great to have you on, Sean Smith, campaign manager for Joe Lieberman. 

SMITH:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to hear from U.S. Congressman Maxine Waters from California.  She‘s been up here working, stomping, for Lamont during this campaign.  She‘ll be at the 7:00 p.m. show. 

Up next, HARDBALL hits the streets and talks to the people out there in New Haven, Connecticut.  We have students from Yale, and Southern Connecticut State.

Plus, firefighters for Lieberman, and we‘ll hear what they have to say about this race next when we come back. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back out here in New Haven, Connecticut.  It‘s a beautiful day up here, no humidity, right everybody? 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m here with Mike Barnicle from Massachusetts, but he‘s very close by.  Mike, who is going to win this thing tonight? 

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC HOST:  I would guess that Ned Lamont will win. 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got some firefighters here.  Just a minute, do you agree or disagree with Mr. Barnicle? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I disagree completely.  That was his guess and my confidence is that our current senator is going to remain senator. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re confidence. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m confident.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a very carefully worded phrase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I saw the ...

MATTHEWS:  Is he going to win or lose? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s going to win.  He‘s going to win just like that—we don‘t need change from the ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes we do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ...fellow that‘s been doing great for the last several years.

MATTHEWS:  OK, how many here think it was a smart idea to go into Iraq?  How many think it was a terrible idea? 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are we voting for the war or are we voting for a senator that‘s going to be there for the next six years, hopefully after the war is long done?

MATTHEWS:  Where are you on the war? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Impeach Bush!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t like the war, I don‘t like losing men over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go fight the war!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But I do like the fact that ...

MATTHEWS:  If you voted in the U.S. Senate, how would you have voted on the war? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would have voted with the information we had, but where we are today is where we are today and if we just said, it‘s dishonest for anybody to say that we can leave tomorrow, that‘s dishonest and disingenuous. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you a ringer?  Are you a firefighter?  You sound like an announcer on television.  You have a trained broadcast voice.  Don‘t give me this.  He‘s a ringer!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I don‘t.  I tell you what, not only is it dishonest to say we can get out tomorrow, but how about the majority of Democrats that said we should go to war when we went to war?  It‘s dishonest to say a guy that was in business would have left. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re in medical school, a medical school, not a worker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I agree with the trained professional.  I think that we should have never gone to war, but given the information that they were given that they were privy to, they had to vote in favor of it, but knowing what we know now, it‘s a total loser and you can‘t throw one guy out, Joe Lieberman.

MATTHEWS:  Does Joe agree with what you just said? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he does. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In his private life, you better believe he does. 

MATTHEWS:  But does he say so in public? 

MATTHEWS:  He said so this weekend. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He says—well does he? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said so this weekend, and he said, listen, we can‘t just pull the troops out tomorrow.  We need honest ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Has he ever said it was a mistake for you to vote that way the way that they did? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Has the other group of senators said it was a mistake that day?  No, they‘ve said it later on. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who‘s running for the Senate in the primary today? 

Not those other people, Joe Lieberman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where was Ned Lamont?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m writing the vote for Joe Lieberman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good I agree. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I bet you that‘s killing him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I understand and agree, and I wish you‘d come out and agree.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you this.  Has Joe Lieberman been a good senator?  Forget the war for one second? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, yes.  Oh yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s endorsed by Sean Hannity.  He‘s endorsed by Ann Coulter.  I‘m the guy who made the button, Chris.  Here, I can talk.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what‘s wrong with being endorsed by—let me ask a stupid question of you.  What‘s wrong with being endorsed—I‘m feel like a setup.  What‘s wrong with being endorsed by Sean Hannity? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Too far on the right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sean Hannity is a hater.  You know it, I know it. 

Ann Coulter is a hater.  You know it, I know it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re not voting for Ann Coulter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s also endorsed Chris Shays.  My God.  The only people who endorse Lieberman are Republican!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s also endorsed by Chris Dodd.  He‘s also endorsed by Bill Clinton, he‘s also endorsed by the Connecticut Democratic Party.  Where is that endorsement? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said if he lose it, he‘s going to ...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Chris, who is Ned Lamont?  Who is he? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Over here.  Over here.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are the Democratic Party.  Once this primary is over, the party has spoken. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.  I agree. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Now, let me ask that.  Let me bring that to a vote.  Should Democrats decide who the Democratic candidate is? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What do you say, sir? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What I say is that the senator is running for the Democratic position, and we believe and hope that he‘ll get it. 

MATTHEWS:  If he loses the support of the Democratic Party in the primary, should he still run against the Democratic Party? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think he is going to have to make that decision, not me. 

MATTHEWS:  What would you recommend?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have to say the IFF has stood by its people regardless of party.  We‘ve stood by Republicans and Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Will your international endorse someone against the Democratic nominee in this state? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think you‘re going to have to ask the general president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, could you imagine the International Labor Union backing a candidate against the Democratic candidate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We support the best candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how will you decide that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The best candidate, and what we do is we go by the history of what Joe Lieberman has done for us, with protection.

MATTHEWS:  Suppose the Democratic Party rejects him tonight.  Will your international union, the firefighters continue to endorse him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our union will endorse the best candidate.

MATTHEWS:  Blah blah blah. 

BARNICLE:  You know I‘m curious, how many of you people have voted or plan to vote today?

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Uh-oh, we found one.  Why didn‘t you vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not a Democrat.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m a Republican, I‘m a Republican.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Just kidding.  Anybody here not vote and have a reason for not voting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All we need is experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I used to be a Democrat, but I dropped out of the party when the party moved to the right.

MATTHEWS:  So what are you now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right now I‘m a registered Independent.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re to the left of the party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Anybody else here to the left of the Democratic Party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.  I like this guy.  Here we go.  What do you have to say?  Why don‘t you—you‘re with Ned Lamont. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am, yes.  And I think I voted for Fred Harrison in ‘76, I voted for Jesse Jackson, I voted for Jerry Brown.  I think that the Democratic Party is actually not to the left of the Democratic Party, it‘s the Democratic Party, which should be what we all believe in.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re going to come back and here from the boss, the international president of the firefighters, Harold Schaitberger.  We‘re also going to hear from Maxine Waters from southern California, who has been out here campaigning for Ned Lamont.  Big fight coming up here.  We‘ll be right back with HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, direct from the all American city in the all American state of Connecticut where Senator Joe Lieberman, one his party‘s nominee for vice president is now fighting for his political life.  It‘s one primary election in just one state, but it could have tremendous implications for races all across the country this year. 

Let‘s go now to NBC‘s Chip Reid in Hartford.  Chip, your sense of the battle today from that city?

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, my sense, I tell you, we are getting such a conflicting bunch of points of view.  First of all, there‘s supposed to be this overwhelming number of people going to the polls.  We‘ve been to a few polling places today.  It‘s been drips and drabs showing up.

Joe Lieberman, who was supposed to just be on fire campaigning today, canceled his last two events.  What does that mean?  I‘m not sure.  And then of course you had this battle, I think it‘s kind of a tempest in a teapot, but still, it was really ugly today and showed how tense things are when the Lieberman‘s campaign Web site went down, they blamed the Lamont people. 

Not only did they blame them, they filed charges or at least attempted to file charges to get an investigation against them.  So a lot of strange stuff going on, but I think what you mentioned a moment ago is the really important thing here.  It‘s not what‘s happening at this very moment, it‘s what‘s been happening for weeks or even months here, this building crescendo of people upset about Joe Lieberman‘s support of the war and no matter how this campaign goes, that means something, no matter who wins, there is significance in the fact that a very large number of people, at least for a period of time, maybe not today, maybe they did, we‘ll see, but for a period of time, turned against Joe Lieberman because of his support of the war and that is something that certainly could be repeated across the country. 

Now, Chris, there‘s another big issue here, which is who does this hurt, Democrats or Republicans?  You—Democrats of course say, hey, Democrats are fired up about the war, that means we‘re going to kill the Republicans in November.  Republicans say no, you guys are so hopelessly divided, it‘s going to take you very vulnerable because it makes you look weak on national security.  So all I know is we have a lot to talk about between now and November.  Plenty from this to keep us busy.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Chip Reid who is up in Hartford, Connecticut.  We‘re down in New Haven.  We go now to a Lamont supporter, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Lieberman supporter Harold Schaitberger, whose president of the International Firefighters.  Harold, I want to go to you first.  We‘ve been talking to some of your men down here, I‘m sure you‘ve got some women floating around here as well.  Why are you standing with Joe Lieberman? 

HAROLD SCHAITBERGER, INTERNATIONAL FIREFIGHTERS:  Well, it‘s really simple.  Joe Lieberman has been supporting firefighters since his days in the state Senate in 1970.  Joe Lieberman understands what this country needs in order to secure their homeland, protect our neighborhoods, protect our community.

And our firefighters being on the front lines every day, doing just that.  He stood with us on issues, he stood with the labor movement on issues, whether it‘s minimum wage, whether it‘s tax cuts for the, you know, middle class, whether it‘s eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy, whether it‘s protecting Social Security or Medicare or protecting our pension plan. 

Joe Lieberman has a solid track record of supporting us, and that‘s what we do.  When somebody supports us, we stand with them.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Maxine Waters.  thank you for joining us, you‘re from California, what took you all the way across its country to campaign for Ned Lamont—I‘m sorry, we‘ve got Al Sharpton, it was a last-minute change.  Reverend Al Sharpton, what brings you into Connecticut to fight for Ned Lamont? 

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  Well I think that it is clear that the central issue of this time is the Iraqi war, and Joe Lieberman has supported this war from the beginning.  He stood by the president all the way through, during the presidential primaries where he and I debated, he was adamantly in support of the president.  And, Chris, I think that you can‘t divorce the fact that Joe Lieberman, who‘s been pro-war, who has been pro-voucher, pro-privatization—this man was even publicly considered to be a cabinet member of the Bush administration. 

So when Joe Lieberman called and asked me would I support him, I had to deal with my conscience.  Not only could I not support him, after finding out the real stands and the background of Ned Lamont, I decided to come to Connecticut, but not for Joe, but for Ned Lamont, who I think is standing for what we need stood for. 

In terms of national security, we‘re at the fifth anniversary almost of 9/11, where I live, in New York, and bin Laden is still at large.  This administration failed us on national security, and Joe Lieberman supported them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me get back to President Schaitberger.  Your rank and file, how do they—how many are up here in Connecticut?  What kind of clout do you have as an international in this state?

SCHAITBERGER:  We have thousands of members in Connecticut and they‘ve been working for quite sometime.  I was up there stumping with Joe a couple of weeks ago, making visits all across the state and we have firefighters all across that state, in every community and every city, that are out there making sure the citizens that are voting understand what Joe Lieberman stands for. 

And, Chris, quite frankly, with all due respect to the good reverend, Joe Lieberman understands exactly what happened on 9/11, and Joe Lieberman has had a track record since that horrific day where we lost 343 of our own to know what this country needs to protect its communities and to protect our homeland, and to make sure that our first responders have what they need to do a tough job that our citizens expect them to do. 

SHARPTON:  Well in all due respect, we lost—may I respond to that?

MATTHEWS:  Reverend Sharpton, I want to get in here one second.  OK, go ahead.  You go ahead.

SHARPTON:  I want to respond to that.

MATTHEWS:  I want to—I can‘t tell from your words—go ahead, you sir.

SHARPTON:  We lost 3,000 people that day, sir, and we lost 3,000 people, 300 and some odd firefighters, who I worked very close with in New York.  And let me tell you, sir, to me, to go after who did not attack us, and the person that is still attacking us is at large is a failed and flawed policy. 

And I think that this president and Joe Lieberman failed us, and as one that lives in New York and that works with firefighters and others that lost their lives there, I don‘t know how anyone can say not going after who went after us is any way but a wayward and backward policy. 

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, Reverend, don‘t put words in my mouth.  I didn‘t indicate at all that I supported not going after Osama bin Laden.

SHARPTON:  No, I‘m talking about the president and I‘m talking about Senator Lieberman.  I didn‘t know you were running.  I‘m talking about Senator Lieberman and I‘m talking about the president.  I‘m not talking about you, sir.  I didn‘t know that you were a candidate in this race. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you ...

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, I know that our support counts and I know that you‘re referring to those that would provide support to Joe Lieberman.  This race isn‘t a race about the president.  That will occur in another two-and-a-half years.  But this is a race, as you‘ve invoked, about whether or not ...

SHARPTON:  No, it‘s about supporting the president.  This is about the president. 

SCHAITBERGER:  ... we‘re going to support our homeland, and whether or not we have a senator that has an 18-year track record, in supporting working men and women, and supporting this labor movement, and supporting what is really needed by middle class America and supporting what we need in order to secure our homeland and protect our neighborhoods. 

SHARPTON:  Well, I don‘t think that ...

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got to ask Mr. Schaitberger one question because I‘ve been thinking about it as I listen to you speak.  Do you believe that going into Iraq, placing 130,000, 140,000 American troops in Iraq, the casualties we‘ve taken, et cetera, et cetera, the almost 20,000 wounded, the 15,000 dead Iraqis, has that made America safer here in hour homeland? 

SCHAITBERGER:  Chris, the execution of this war has, unfortunately, been terrible.  And the basis for going to war, we all know how many good and committed and honest members of the Congress supported it on flawed information and supported it on bad intelligence. 

And the war is absolutely a horrific thing that we‘re all dealing with, but this race, quite frankly, is focusing on 18 years of service, not just one issue, but a career of support, you know, a career of representing a constituency in a state and also the citizens across this country, on many great issues that the Democratic Party has been embracing for decades. 

SHARPTON:  I think, Chris, that that is where I differ with him.  First of all, I do not think that you could say that this is just the misleading of Democrats in Congress.  Joe Lieberman stayed with this policy when it was clear that information was flawed, when it was clear it was false.  He debated it all throughout 2004.  He stayed with this president until now. 

Secondly, you know, I come out of the civil rights movement.  In the late ‘60s, Martin Luther King was faced with a dilemma.  Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of ‘65, Open Housing of ‘66, war on poverty of ‘67, even the Civil Rights Act of ‘64, but Martin Luther King said despite your good record, I cannot support you in an unjustified war. 

What they‘re asking us to do is to do what King wouldn‘t do—forget the war and look at what Joe used to do.  What Joe used to do he got reelected for.  What he‘s done now, he should be defeated for. 

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, I think you should judge someone on the whole of their life. 

SHARPTON:  I think that‘s why we have elections every six years, sir.

MATTHEWS:  One last question, Mr. President, will you support Mr.  Sharpton—I‘m sorry.  Mr. Schaitberger, will you support Joe Lieberman in the general election if he loses the Democratic primary? 

SCHAITBERGER:  Joe Lieberman has earned the support of the firefighters and our international union, and regardless of the label that he may carry, he‘ll be the same Joe Lieberman tomorrow that he was yesterday and for the last 18 years, and we stand with those that stand with us. 

MATTHEWS:  Even if he loses the Democratic nomination? 

SCHAITBERGER:  Joe Lieberman is running for reelection in November. 

We‘ll be supporting Joe Lieberman. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.  Reverend Al Sharpton ...

SHARPTON:  Well, I think that it‘s clear we‘re not talking about Democrats, we‘re talking about people that support a policy.  And I think that policy is wrong and should be defeated tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, I think you both for joining us tonight.

SCHAITBERGER:  Well, my union doesn‘t support the party.  My union supports candidates.

SHARPTON:  Good.  I support policy.  That policy is wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Mr. Schaitberger.  Thanks for joining us from Chicago, and thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton from New York. 

SCHAITBERGER:  U.S. Congressman Maxine Waters will be with us at 7:00 tonight.  I prematurely announced her arrival. 

Up next, what will tonight‘s election say about these big Congressional elections this fall?  Could it be doomsday for incumbents, if it‘s doomsday for Joe Lieberman?  And more from our great crowd here.  They‘re the stars of tonight‘s show.  Look at these guys.  That guy I swear is an anchorman somewhere.  Only on HARDBALL, MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Hi, I‘m out here back here in New Haven.  Beautiful day in New Haven, the weather‘s let up, the humidity has disappeared.  It‘s like Nantucket.  What‘s going on here?  Anyway, I‘ve got here Chris Cillizza of  the washingtonpost.com, right?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  You‘ve got it.

MATTHEWS:  And I‘ve got Mike Barnicle from the “Herald.”  Let me ask you guys a question.  If Joe Lieberman were in good shape at home, would he face such a dangerous threat to his tenure here?

CILLIZZA:  I think that...

MATTHEWS:  ... Is there another problem besides the war?

CILLIZZA:  What‘s happened is that the war typifies for a lot of people the problem and the problem is they feel like Joe Lieberman doesn‘t listen to them, that he‘s lost touch with them in some real way, shape or form, whether it‘s constituent service, whether it‘s that he‘s a little bit sanctimonious, a little holier than thou.

MATTHEWS:  I hear from a very high authority in the state who knows what he‘s talking about.  The word he used was they‘re pissed.

CILLIZZA:  Right, and you know what, what‘s happened is that this is the issue that has gotten them to rally around him and there‘s a candidate  who‘s funded with money, Ned Lamont.

MATTHEWS:  Mike, has this guy broke the old Tip O‘Neill rule, all politics is local?

BARNICLE:  I think in a strange way he typifies it, Chris, because you can save all the jobs you want at the Groton boatyard, you can help the firefighters, he‘s done that over the years.  You can do all of that.  But there‘s an isolation that families feel when they bury boys coming back from Iraq and the sentiment here it‘s so strong, I can‘t believe he missed it, given this is the state Joe Duffy, the Vietnam War protests 1970, it‘s been thick in the air here for decades and he missed it.

MATTHEWS:  Why is a regular Joe, who seems to be empathetic.  He seems to connect with people, miss a statement and this waspy elite guy pick up on it?  How can he—how can Ned Lamont be more connected to the average working stiff than Joe Lieberman? 

CILLIZZA:  Well look, I think you see this all the time.  It‘s when guys haven‘t run in a real competitive election in a long time.  Their campaign machinery sort of atrophies.  They‘re not used to it.  It needs a little oil.

MATTHEWS:  Then he can‘t name the state legislators anymore.

CILLIZZA:  Exactly.  He doesn‘t know the state party.

MATTHEWS:  A knock heard today.  Have you heard that knock?

BARNICLE:  Yes...

MATTHEWS:  ... He can‘t name them.

BARNICLE:  Yes, but there‘s a lot of United States senators I think would have difficulty doing that.  I think what you just mentioned, the war in Iraq is an issue that brings Starbucks and Dunkin‘ Donuts together in this state and a lot of other states.

MATTHEWS:  So you subscribe to the Ed Markey from Massachusetts theory that you can track the Democratic vote if you simply go along the route of the Dunkin‘ Donuts?

BARNICLE:  Sit in your car and watch the people come in and out and talk to them, you can track any issue in America.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s better coffee, Starbucks or Dunkin‘ Donuts?

CILLIZZA:  Dunkin‘ Donuts.  I‘m a northeastern Connecticut native.

BARNICLE:  Dunkin‘ Donuts.

CILLIZZA:  Yes, come on.  If you‘re from the northeast...

MATTHEWS:  ... Come on, you yuppy.

BARNICLE:  Have you become a yuppy?

MATTHEWS:  No.  I will not accept that charge.  OK, let me have some fun here, it‘s getting late.  I want some predictions.  You write a column, you can make predictions.  Who is going to win tonight?

BARNICLE:  I think Lamont is going to win, but it‘s going to be a smaller margin.

MATTHEWS:  Would you say seven points?

BARNICLE:  No.  I think four points.  I think there‘s a lot of buyers remorse out there among older voters because of Lieberman‘s track record. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you trying his number seven—do you think it‘s seven points tonight?

CILLIZZA:  No, I think it‘s less than seven and if it‘s less than seven, I think we‘re going to see Joe Lieberman in November.

MATTHEWS:  Well let me tell you I can report tonight based on an unimpeachable source that Joe Lieberman will run in November no matter what happens tonight.  That‘s a news report.  That is a fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s so selfish.  This Democratic Party of

Connecticut is about more than just Joe Lieberman and if he does that, he‘s

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s about more than the war.  It‘s about more than one issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s about more than one issue.  You think somebody who is worth $250 million has your interests in mind?  You‘d better wake up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Democratic Party of this state sponsors Joe Lieberman.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you hear it here, there‘s a lot of strong voices here coming out.  We‘re going to have a real brawl here in about five minutes, just kidding.  But anyway, it‘s great to see democracy in action.  We‘re sewing it around the world, it‘s working here.  Look out Lieberman, look out Lamont, we‘ve got a real race tonight.  We‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you are looking at the crowd we have at here.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got a mixed crowd here.  How many are for Lieberman? 

How many are for Lamont?  We‘ve got a bunch of firefighters here.

Let me go to lady—and we‘re going to be back in an hour, by the way, no matter what I get caught up in this.  We‘ll be back in an hour with whatever we know.  We‘re going to get the polls closing at 8:00 tonight Eastern tonight.  We‘re going to be on at 1:00 in the morning.  We‘re going to try to give you the results as soon as we can get them tonight, but people tell me it‘s going to take a long time to get the numbers tonight, “Associated Press” is doing it.

Let me go right now to you and you, have something to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I do.  I‘m out here to support Ned Lamont. 

I hope a lot of people are.

MATTHEWS:  If it weren‘t for the Iraq war, I know that‘s a big one—if it weren‘t for the Iraq war, would you be for Lieberman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, because I‘ve been listening to what Ned has to say and I seem to think that he is for us.  I know you had that question before, why is he for the working person and I think that he‘s there.  I think that Lieberman has been on the side of Mr. Bush.  I didn‘t vote for that administration.

MATTHEWS:  Look at that look I‘m getting here.  I‘ve got to break from you for a second.  What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think Lieberman is going to win, I think so. 

And also my dad thinks you should run for president. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He wants you to run for president as soon as possible.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.  That gets me in trouble.  Anyway, we‘re going to come back at seven o‘clock tonight Eastern time with more demonstrations like that for me.  Just kidding.  Anyway, thank you for joining us.  We‘ll be back at seven with more stuff on this, a lot of talk, a lot of political insight and what it all means.  I think this is a big one up here.  We‘ll be right back.  Coming up now, it‘s “TUCKER.”  Thank you.  Actually, “TUCKER‘s” coming up.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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