updated 8/9/2006 11:39:57 AM ET 2006-08-09T15:39:57

Guests: Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont, Rick Klein, Jeff Sonnenfeld, Jim Dean, Jay Dedapper, Chuck Todd, Maxine Waters, Andy Pergam

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The most important election results since Bush beat Kerry.  Iraq attack in the Nutmeg State.  The Connecticut Senate Democratic primary.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  We have a crowd outside.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to a special edition, election edition of HARDBALL broadcasting live from WVIT in New Have, Connecticut, for the most important political race in the country is being fought tonight.  Everyone in politics is watching this election, all around the world. 

Just six years ago, Senator Joe Lieberman was at the pinnacle of his political career, when Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore picked him to be his running mate.  Tonight, Lieberman stands to lose it all to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont, a political rookie, as Connecticut voters go to the polls in the Democratic Senate primary. 

The issue mainly is Iraq.  And tonight‘s race could set the tone for decision 2006. 

Earlier today, I caught up with Senator Lieberman on the campaign trail. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Whatever happens today, are you a profile in courage?  Have you always voted your conscience?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  I leave that to others to decide, but I have 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, there you have it, what could be the key question of this campaign.  I asked the senator—it was very noisy there—whether it was the job of the U.S. senator to follow the will of the people or to follow his own conscience and try to convince the people to go along with him.  He answered to the second answer. 

In one hour, in less than one hour, the polls will close and we‘ll keep you up to date all night long until we have a winner tonight in Connecticut.  Go to MSNBC.com for a special net cast with election results and analysis.  This is one race worth losing sleep over.  So stay up late tonight and join us for our post-election coverage, and you will see me at 10:00 on the West Coast, 1:00 on the East Coast.  It may take that long to get the full count tonight.  For decision 2006 election special, with all the numbers tonight and all the analysis. 

In a moment, my interview with challenger Ned Lamont.  But first, we go to NBC‘s Chip Reid with the latest on the race.  Chip, which way is this election going? 

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS:  Chris, if I knew that, I would be in Las Vegas right now, not here.  Nobody knows.  This is the room where Joe Lieberman will come—well, he‘s going to come either way, but this will be a raucous celebration if he wins, it will be a very sad occasion if he does not. 

And as you said, it‘s going to take a while.  The polls close in about an hour.  Then after that, the small towns will start to dribble in with their results.  The big cities probably not until 10:00 or even later.  It could be 11:00, even midnight, before we know who won this thing.  And then, all those questions we have been asking all day, if Lieberman does win—excuse me, does lose, does he run as an independent and possibly tear the party apart. 

You can bet there is going to be enormous pressure from Democrats all over Connecticut and nationally trying to convince him not to do that.  If you lose, you lose.  That‘s what primaries are for.  But there are a lot of other people who say he can easily win, they believe easily, that race if he runs as an independent, because he will get a lot of the Democrats, huge number of independents here in Connecticut, and he‘ll get moderate Republicans who have been supporting him for years. 

So it‘s going to be very hard for him to say, no, I‘m not going to run as an independent, because everybody is telling me not to, when he knows in his heart that he could win.  So if he does lose, it is going to be a really interesting decision on his part and it could take a while—Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I heard from an unimpeachable source tonight that he is going to run no matter what happens today.  But we‘ll have to hear him say that.

Let me ask you, Chip, is there any way right now to gauge how many of the Democrats who support Joe Lieberman today will do so even if he loses the Democratic primary? 

REID:  Well, it has been a relatively small number of people who have

said absolutely, I am with him no matter what.  You know, even the Clintons

Bill Clinton had that big event here recently in Hartford where he came out and supported Joe Lieberman, and at first it looked like Hillary and Bill were going to split, that Hillary was going to not support him if he lost and Bill was going to support him.  Bill said no, I‘m doing what Hillary is doing. 

And it‘s clear now that they‘re not—the big question now is are they going to go that next step and are they going to go privately to him and say, Joe, you lost, you can‘t tear this party apart, you can‘t run as an independent.  Primaries mean something.  If a Democrat wins the primary, that should be the Democratic candidate in the fall.  So there are going to be a lot of tough decisions by a lot of people here.  And as you said, that unimpeachable source, I have an idea of who that source might be, said he‘s going to run, but there are a lot of people who are going to try to change his mind if he does lose. 

Now, you know, he may end up pulling this thing out, but it will be a stunning victory if he does. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with your assessment.  Thank you very much, Chip Reid, who‘s covering this for NBC News.

Now let‘s bring in “The Boston Globe‘s” Rick Klein, who is covering the race from Hartford, up there in Hartford.  Rick, give me a sense, have you filed yet tonight for “The Globe” for tomorrow? 

RICK KLEIN, THE BOSTON GLOBE:  Yes.  My first edition story says they‘re going to be going into the night counting these votes, and that‘s all we can know right now.  And I was out on the trail today, I saw both Lieberman and Lamont in action, and both sides say the right things, express the right confidence.  You talk to voters, you hear a little bit on both sides.  They‘ll say, you know, there is a large range of issues out there that will decide this race, but Iraq is number one. 

MATTHEWS:  What have you told your desk about when you can give them the headline for tomorrow‘s newspaper? 

KLEIN:  I wish I knew that.  I think, you know, 11:00 may sound about reasonable, about the time we‘ll know.  The problem will be some of the larger cities, when they come in, and frankly, if it is overwhelming in one direction or the other, we can know sooner rather than later. 

MATTHEWS:  How are you calibrating—and let me try to give you—because I know you have to budget out these stories and sort of block them out earlier in the day to try to figure out how to put them together.  If Lieberman loses by about five points, does that suggest he is in good shape to win the general and will clearly run?  If he loses by over 10, does that mean he may have to question even his deepest commitment to run as a third-party candidate? 

KLEIN:  Yes, I think that‘s the biggest question tonight, is what the margin is going to be, if he does indeed lose.  A close loss, and he can say to the Democratic powers that be, look, I could have beat this guy if he didn‘t spend all of his own money in this race and he was more than a one-issue candidate.  But if this is a blowout, if we‘re talking about 10 or 15 points, he is going to be hard-pressed to make the case that he can survive in a general election, and frankly the party probably won‘t want to deal with the bloody nature of that general election, given what‘s at stake in this year‘s congressional elections in Connecticut and elsewhere. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what are all the other Democrats—you know, local legislators, local party chairs, people that get out the vote, do all the work in the party, what do they do if they support Joe in the primary, he loses in the primary substantially, are they expected to bolt their own party and back him in the general?  That‘s so unusual. 

KLEIN:  It is.  The problem is, I mean, there is two things that come into conflict every once in a while.  One is, you typically support incumbents.  The other is, you typically support the party‘s nominee.  Usually that‘s the same person.  When it‘s not, there‘s a problem.  There will be a unity event tomorrow morning in Hartford of the Democratic Party, the Connecticut Democratic Party, that will feature Joe Lieberman if he is the nominee and will not feature him if he‘s not.  It will be interesting to see if some of the state legislature people show up, if Chris Dodd, the other senator from Connecticut, who is a strong supporter of Lieberman‘s, shows up to that rally, and exactly where all the institutional support is.  And of course, how strong the support is.  Because you can say I am supporting the Democratic nominee, but if you never say a word or do anything for Ned Lamont, you‘re not really supporting him.

MATTHEWS:  That suggests that he has to split his crowd tonight.  He has to accept defeat if he does lose tonight, and make a big statement, a rallying call to run in the general tomorrow, because what if Chris Dodd is standing next to him when he says—his fellow senator, Democrat, and he says I‘m going to run even though I lost, what is Dodd supposed to do?  Smirk, frown, laugh, what? 

KLEIN:  It reminds me of that Tom Harkin in the background of the Howard Dean scream speech in Iowa, looking a little uncomfortable up on the stage, and it is an uncomfortable position for a lot of Democrats to be in tonight.  Certainly there are a lot of people in the party who would rather this whole thing is settled tonight one way or the other.  But Joe Lieberman is determined about this, and he has a—he certainly has a core group of supporters, both in Connecticut and elsewhere, that want to see him reelected to the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  And as I said, I‘ve got an unimpeachable source he is going to run no matter what happens tonight. 

Thank you very much, Rick Klein.

Earlier tonight, I spoke with Lieberman‘s challenger, Ned Lamont.  Let‘s take a listen to a man you may not have seen before, the man who‘s leading the polls up here in the Democratic senatorial primary.

(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?

NED LAMONT (D), CT SENATE CANDIDATE:  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 stick to the issues and that was very favorable for us.

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?

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 forthright position against the war?

LAMONT:  Ask her.

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 have 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:  We are joined right now by Tucker Carlson, our colleague here at MSNBC, the host of “TUCKER” on MSNBC; and by Chuck Todd, editor in chief of “The Hotline.”  First, my colleague.  You have been watching this with some interest, I think, Tucker.  What do you think, first of all, the results?  And what do you think will be the impact? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “TUCKER:  I mean, I think it is the greatest race of the year by far, not because it‘s the only race of the year so far, but because it is the most meaningful one.  I mean, this is a race that you cannot to personality or ticks or foibles or peccadillos.  You can‘t say this guy had more money. 

No, this is a race about ideas.  It‘s a race about the single most important issue, not just of this year, but of this generation.  Right, 100 years from now, Iraq will be, you know, the event that merits a chapter in the history books, nothing else.  And race is about Iraq.  It‘s great for that reason. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you on that, obviously.  I think it‘s great, too, because it is a choice and I love people having to make a grown-up choice about something.  Why is this so rare?  Is this because we are all gerrymandered to death and we‘re all on blue and red states and nothing ever gets decided? 

CARLSON:  Totally.  Well, it‘s the perfect storm though, because, actually, Joe Lieberman conspired to make this that kind of race by his own principle.  I mean, I‘m fervently against the war in Iraq, but I admire Joe Lieberman for standing up—most of the time, up until very recently—for what he believes. 

He was for the war, for ideologically—like, for good reasons, according to him.  I mean, he thought it through and he made the case, out in the open.  He didn‘t hide his beliefs.  Good for him and he‘s paying for it.  I think the whole thing is honorable and above board, as far as I‘m concerned. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Chuck Todd.  Is this going to go down in history along those lines, as a profile in courage where a senator took a hawkish position in a dovish state and took the consequences, fair and square? 

CHUCK TODD, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  I think history will always write it that way.  I think it‘s more complicated than that.  I think we are seeing in some ways when we have seen other incumbent senators lose in primaries after 18, 24 and 30 year stints in office, it‘s usually because they have become stale, they‘ve become out of touch. 

And that, I think, is something we don‘t talk enough about with this race, is that, you know, Lieberman stopped being a Connecticut senator once he became the running mate in 2000.  He started becoming a Washington senator, literally a United States senator, not a Connecticut senator.  And I think that we forget that sometimes.  And that‘s the other half of the story, is that this is just another incumbent. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m hearing that, by the way, up here, Chuck.  You are not telling me something I haven‘t heard yet today.  Let me ask you this.  Is this another case of William Fulbright or one of these big-shots?  Frank Church? 

TODD:  That‘s exactly what it is.

MATTHEWS:  Big time senator? 

TODD:  You know, Yarborough—I mean, this is how Lloyd Benson got into office.  I mean, this is exactly how—this is how southern Democratic primaries for the Senate used to happen all the time.  And, you know, these incumbents would get stale and old, and it would be a little more generational.  The one thing this lacks, is this isn‘t a generational fight, the way that a lot of those old primaries in the south were. 

MATTHEWS:  And let me ask you, have you gotten the reporting before this of people being ticked of at his like not going to parties and meetings he was supposed to go to, he got tired to going to, not being familiar enough with state legislators, the usual things you do after 19 years?  You lose touch.  Have you heard that is the case with Senator Joe Lieberman? 

TODD:  That‘s what you‘d hear.  It‘s sort of the Iraq thing was sort of the trigger in order to get the good challenger.  But then when it was clear that Lamont was viable, then it became sort of like, OK, well, what has Joe Lieberman done for Connecticut?  You know, do they go to Chris Dodd when they need something, or do they go to Joe Lieberman? 

And I think what happened was they realized they kept going to Chris Dodd all the time, that he was sort of like that awkward Ted Kennedy-John Kerry relationship where for years you‘d have Massachusetts Democrats complaining that, geez, Kerry always comes around every six years looking for help.  Kennedy always comes around every six weeks wanting to know if he can help. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think it comes to that when you get tired of going to those meetings back home.  Maybe he should pick up another line of work if that‘s the case.  We‘ll see tonight.  Thank you very much, Chuck Todd. 

Tucker, it‘s great to see you back safely from the Middle East.  I watched you.  What a gutsy play you worked over there.  Great work over there.   

CARLSON:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters from California all the way here to Connecticut to campaign for the challenger.  What an unusual move. 

Plus, we‘ll go out to our crowd back here in New Haven—it is a pretty day up here today, a pretty evening—and find out what they have to say about a race in their own backyard.  Look at these people.  I love them up here.

And a reminder, at 1:00 a.m. tonight, not too late if you‘re ...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Here we are.  We are outside (inaudible). 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  The Yale University is over there somewhere, but we are with the people here of New Haven.  (inaudible) to have with me one of the real activists in this campaign, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.  As they used to say, Los Angeles.  Let me ask you why you‘re here? 

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA:  I‘m here because I‘m supporting Ned Lamont.  I think he is the most exciting candidate I have seen for many years, and I love his stand on the issues, particularly against this war in Iraq.  I‘m the chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus in the Congress of the United States.  I have been trying to get my caucus to come out in opposition to this war.  I can‘t get Democrats to do it.  I can‘t get my caucus to do it.  And here‘s a man who had the courage to stand up against an 18-year incumbent and say I‘m against this war, bring our troops home, stop spending our money in Iraq, let‘s have a change in Washington, D.C.

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this, somewhere in my vast reading of the newspapers, I came across some history between yourself and Joe Lieberman.

WATERS:  Yes, yes, yes.

MATTHEWS:  What was that history?

WATERS:  Well, as you know, at the 2000 convention in Los Angeles, I challenged him about his position on affirmative action.  His statements had been that he did not support giving preference to anybody, and affirmative action is not about that.  It is about allowing people who are qualified to have equal access to opportunity.  And so I forced him up against the wall on that.  He said he changed his mind, but I‘m suspicious. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he waffle? 

WATERS:  Yes, he did.  As he‘s waffled on a number of issues.

MATTHEWS:  Where is he on the war? 

WATERS:  He is absolutely supportive of our troops staying in Iraq.  He supports President Bush.  They are friends.  They are tied to the hips on this war. 

MATTHEWS:  No, aren‘t they tied to the lips?  Tell me what you think.  I mean, Al Gore and Tipper had this long prolonged embrace we saw on TV, looked a little interesting at the time there. 

WATERS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this sort of “Godfather” kiss that—well, it wasn‘t exactly like Michael Corleone and Fredo, but what do you make of that little smackaroo on the Senate—on the House floor that day? 

WATERS:  I think that was the greatest symbol of their friendship and their relationship and the fact that they get along so well.  He should have ducked. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What did you say? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that kiss was representative of telling the Democratic Party to kiss off, and that he didn‘t care what we were really about, and that he was willing to support a war monger like George W. Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you vote today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I did not.  I‘m from Massachusetts.  I...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask everybody here, are there any Lieberman people here? 

(CHEERS)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What did you think about what the congresswoman just said? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I think this election should be about Connecticut.  He is our state senator.  He has delivered for Connecticut for 18 years.  He has saved our Groton sub base, and he has a proven track record, and I don‘t want to lose that to a one-trick pony from Greenwich that—I‘ll tell you what... 

MATTHEWS:  No, not that I‘m from Greenwich, but what does that mean when you say from Greenwich? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, last time we voted for a millionaire from Greenwich, it was a governor named Lowell Weicker.  And the only thing we got from him was a state income tax. 

MATTHEWS:  You raise...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely.  I‘m proud to be, and so is Joe Lieberman, delivers for us. 

MATTHEWS:  How many here secretly like—secretly really do in their gut like class politics?  How many really like it?  How many like to go after rich people just for fun? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is New Haven Yankee country or Sox country? 

(CHEERING)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask—you know, you know, this is the most important primary in the country.  Let me ask you what the reverberations will be of tonight‘s primary contest all around the world? 

WATERS:  Well, as you have said earlier today, people are watching this race all around the world.  At first, I thought it was just in this country.  I know how important it was here, but you are absolutely right.  People want to know whether or not the people can decide where they want to go on this war.  People are watching us.  This war has been prolonged.  They are in a civil war over there.  Our soldiers are at risk, 2,500 dead, over 20,000 seriously injured.  What do the people think?  Will the people come out and support Ned Lamont, because he‘s against this war? 

MATTHEWS:  You know the name of this show? 

WATERS:  What is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  HARDBALL!

MATTHEWS:  It‘s called HARDBALL.  So I‘m going to ask you a question. 

Dianne Feinstein, I think, my favorite senator from California...

WATERS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... voted for the war. 

WATERS:  Yes.  She‘s wrong.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you dump her?  You‘re trying to dump the guy back here.  Why don‘t you dump the person in your own state?  Before you come back here, why don‘t you do the dirty business out there? 

WATERS:  Well, let me tell you what‘s important about this race.  It is very seldom when you have all of the pieces come together.  First of all, you had someone with the courage to stand up and oppose the 18-year incumbent, and you had someone that was embraced by the progressive wing of this party, by the bloggers and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t you get somebody to run against Feinstein out in California?  Why don‘t you start the ball rolling here?

WATERS:  And he was willing to spend his own resources to do it.  Very seldom do we have someone with that kind of profile who have the wherewithal and the resources to get it done.  Everything came together around this race.  This is important.  And Mr. Lieberman is the symbol of everything that‘s wrong with the Democratic Party, and Ned Lamont is what‘s right with the Democratic Party, what we should be. 

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What I feel about this issue is that the people of Connecticut haven‘t been offered an adequate alternative in Ned Lamont.  Ned Lamont says that we were wrong to go into Iraq.  But that‘s not sufficient.  He hasn‘t offered a concrete plan as to what we should do.  He said that we shouldn‘t have gone, but we can‘t go back into the past and not go.  He hasn‘t offered us a plan, an alternative plan. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with this very interesting debate here on the sidewalks of New Haven.  (inaudible) Lamont versus Lieberman.  The results coming in today on HARDBALL.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back in New Haven, Connecticut with NBC 30, our NBC affiliate.  Let me ask you about technical questions.  We are trying to figure out tonight who is going to win this thing.  We‘re going to all know, apparently, I‘ve been told we‘ll undoubtedly have a very good number by after midnight tonight, 100 percent returns by the time we get on at 1:00 with our hour-long special.  What do you hear about the returns today, about the show ups?

ANDY PERGAM, WVIT-TV:  People have been going to the polls like crazy and it has been absolutely, it‘s been off the charts according to the secretary of state‘s office.  They have seen—they‘re expecting almost 50 percent turnout, which is almost double what they normally get at primaries.

MATTHEWS:  Who does that help?

PERGAM:  That‘s a good question.  The Lamont people have been out there and the anti-war people and pro-war people have been out there.  What everyone‘s been saying though is that helps Lieberman.  The more people that get out there, it helps Lieberman more..

MATTHEWS:  So he‘s the sunshine Superman, right?

PERGAM:  That‘s what they‘re saying, right?

MATTHEWS:  What do you make?  What does your history tell you about turnout?  Does it help the regulars or does it help the activists?

WATERS:  Well I think that—well I think it‘s almost 30,000 people who have switched to vote in this election will help Ned Lamont.  Some of them are Independent, some of them are from the Republican Party, anti-war.  They want to get out of this war in Iraq and I think he has helped by a large turnout, Ned Lamont is.

MATTHEWS:  Well I can only go by body language, I thought that Lamont was maybe just a very cool guy.  But he very—he had no sweat on him.  I couldn‘t believe.  You‘ve been through elections...

WATERS:  Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... Back when you had to get into Congress.  Have you ever seen a guy as cool as this guy, Lamont?  He has no sweat.  He‘s acting like he has done this a million times, no mistakes, and where as Joe looks like he is under a lot of pressure tonight.

PERGAM:  And that‘s what we‘ve heard a lot from a lot of people, that he has looked like he has gone through this and it‘s been a struggle, and that‘s what everyone‘s been saying.  But we‘re also hearing that they are definitely going to keep running and he will keep running throughout.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to stay in this race, I have that from, as I have said, an unimpeachable source.  Let me tell you, we‘re going to be on MSNBC.com tonight with reports throughout the evening, with netcast.  We‘re going to be doing that.  We‘re going to be back at 1:00 in the morning, which is only 10:00 on the West Coast, with a full report, the full analysis with all the numbers from the “Associated Press.”  We are not going to get a full count, people tell me until midnight, East Coast time, but we‘re going to give you the best count there is at 1:00 a.m.  Stay with us throughout the evening on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Everybody is here and we are still here.  We‘re at New Haven and it‘s still this interesting crowd here.  Let‘s go now to a couple of guests we have.  James Dean, not the James Dean, not Jimmy Dean of sausage fame, but how do you call yourself, Jim Dean?

JIM DEAN, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA:  Jim Dean, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Jim Dean, brother of?

DEAN:  Howard.

MATTHEWS:  Any relation?

DEAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Political relation?

DEAN:  Well I work for Democracy for America and he works for the Democratic National Committee.

MATTHEWS:  You sound like the same person.  You‘ve got that same—can you do that scream?

DEAN:  No.  I‘ve lost my voice, I‘ve been screaming for five days on this campaign, so I don‘t have a voice left.

MATTHEWS:  And we‘ve got Mike Barnicle with us.  I want to ask you both about the—why did you come into this—do you live here?

DEAN:  Yes, I live in Fairfield, but we‘re an organization that is a network of over 700 groups around the country, about six or seven of them in Connecticut.  They were really into this race.  They really wanted us to come in and support him.  I wanted to spend some time at home, so that‘s how it worked out and we think Ned‘s a great candidate and we got into this race early in about May.

MATTHEWS:  Did you think it was going to come down to a possibly victory tonight over an incumbent senator?  Senators never get defeated.  They absolutely never get defeated by their own party.  This is such—I think you have to go back to Fulbright in Arkansas for something like this, or Frank Church out in—somewhere out west.

DEAN:  Well, I wasn‘t sure where this was going to go, but I knew the debate itself would get people fired up.  And certainly if you look at all these folks out in New Haven tonight that are really involved, it‘s an August primary in Connecticut, 28,000 voters have registered as Democrats to be involved.

This is what democracy is all about, Chris.  I‘m really just thrilled about that and in many respects, that was really what I wanted out of this campaign, for the voters to try to take control of this whole issue of Iraq and a lot of the other things that Ned‘s been running on.

MATTHEWS:  Well Mike Barnicle, we‘re talking about democracy here and how we have primaries in the United States and the big word tonight is that even if he loses the Democratic primary, Joe Lieberman is going to run in general.  What does that say about his commitment to democracy or is that just another form of democracy?

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well I suppose that‘s the way he‘ll define it.  There‘s going to be enormous pressure on him, though.  I mean, if he does lose the primary this evening, nearly everyone who has been in here for him over the last month—Jim, you‘ve seen them all, I mean, president, former President Clinton—they are all going to be on the phone tomorrow, you know that, Chris, urging him to withdraw. 

I have been impressed by a couple of things in the few times I have been down here, and we have been down here in New Haven today.  One is the extent, the depth of the feeling toward the war.  The other is, I think Lieberman himself has become an issue in this state over the years.  I think a lot of people, especially elected officials, selectmen, some mayors in small towns, feel that he has big-leagued the state over the past five or six years.  Since he‘s been on the national ticket, he became a national senator, and they want the baby booklets and they want the bridges and they want the fire departments and the new hydrants and the crosscut sidewalks, and he hasn‘t been paying attention to business.  You can do it if you are Teddy Kennedy, with a great staff and taking care of business all the time in Massachusetts.  I don‘t think he has done that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the great senators we‘ve had who have been, as you put it, big leaguing?  I mean, Pat Moynihan was my hero in New York, and yet he was—he never left Manhattan, and look, he was extremely popular.  What does that tell you? 

BARNICLE:  You know, this tells me—and I don‘t know this for a fact and I might be wrong about the sense that Lieberman has big-leagued a lot of people or the feeling that he has big-leagued a lot of people—it might come down to simple staff work, you know, that the guy can go to Los Angeles, he can go to Cairo, he can go to London, he can go to Davos, but he better have a staff that is going to be talking to the mayor of Hartford or Plainfield, Connecticut about local issues.  And there‘s a sense I get from just talking to a handful of local officials that he has fluttered away from that job. 

MATTHEWS:  Dare I suggest, does Ned Lamont seem like the kind of guy that would like to show up at a lot of local meetings? 

BARNICLE:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he seem like the guy that can‘t wait to go to the next Elks convention? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Knights of Columbus.  Come on.

BARNICLE:  He is basically Mr. Pepper ridge Farm right (inaudible).  I mean, you know that.  He‘s going to...

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you want to get rid of a guy because he‘s tired of going to meetings, and you replace him with a guy that wouldn‘t show up at some of these (inaudible)... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘ll go to the Elks.  He‘ll go to Moose Lodge.  He‘ll show up—he‘ll fit right in, right? 

DEAN:  Irregardless of where he‘s from, he is that kind of personality.  He has that kind of personality, engaging affable guy that‘s pretty comfortable almost in any setting that he‘s with, with any folks from all shapes and stripes. 

MATTHEWS:  So you can say that if he wins the Senate race and he gets an invitation to show up for the 18th straight year for the Moose Lodge executive committee meeting, he‘s going to show up? 

DEAN:  Yes.  I really believe that he will.  I believe he is that kind of guy. 

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN:  I am.  I sense from his personality, he is a very affable person, again, and he enjoys this kind of stuff.  I didn‘t think—I did not know what would happen with Ned as a candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  He is going to join the Raccoon Lodge and the Knights of Columbus. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this.  But these are people that are complaining about something else.  They are saying he is not a regular enough pol.  He doesn‘t show up at the local stuff. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  Politics are politics and meetings are meetings.  And that‘s all very important.  I am not going to stand here and say that it isn‘t.  But I mean, getting our troops home in a timely fashion...

(CROSSTALK) 

MATTHEWS:  When is he going to get our troops home? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Give me a date.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And Lieberman‘s plan for stalling, how could you possibly say that better?

MATTHEWS:  When will our troops come home if you elect Lamont? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The sooner the better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As soon as possible. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nobody is trying to say there is, but the effort try to get them home as soon as possible is one that should be admired. 

MATTHEWS:  When is soon as possible? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As soon as possible is, I mean...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s August.  When are they coming home?  Next August?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When is as soon as possible in a war we shouldn‘t have gone to in the first place? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  When do you want them home? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whenever we can do the job properly to maintain Iraq in a great democracy. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be right back.  Obviously, it‘s a hard time for a lot of people to give us a date here.  We‘re still waiting.  We will be right back with more HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL, live (inaudible).  If you are still out there watching our broadcast tonight, on election night, primary night, technically, in this big battle between Joe Lieberman and his challenger, Lamont. 

Let me go right now—the question is whether he is going to win or not.  Of course, a lot of people are talking about Lamont winning tonight, but let‘s check in right now with a local person.  WNBC‘s Jay Dedapper is covering the campaign at Lamont headquarters in Meriden, Connecticut.  Jay, what do you know today that you didn‘t know yesterday?

JAY DEDAPPER, WNBC-TV:  First of all, Meriden, just so we don‘t anger any of the Connecticut viewers.

What we know today that we didn‘t know yesterday I think is that Joe Lieberman for one feels like he has momentum and the Lamont campaign has over the last 48, 72 hours, seemed a little bit more entrenched, a little backed themselves up, been a little bit more difficult to deal with.  That‘s not unusual.  It could mean that they believe they are very far out front and don‘t need to talk to the media and that kind of thing.  But they had a couple of instances today and yesterday, a couple of specific examples where they seemed to kind of back away from dealing with the media. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean they are freezing the ball? 

DEDAPPER:  I‘m sorry.  I heard a lot of the cheering, but I didn‘t hear you.  What did you say?

MATTHEWS:  Are they freezing the ball?  It‘s what you do in a sports event.  If you are 10 points up, you hold the ball, you don‘t create any action, you keep it as low-key as possible, you sit on your lead. 

DEDAPPER:  I think that‘s—sure, I think that‘s somewhat what‘s happening.  They looked at the poll that was out on Friday that had been taken over six days, the previous week and into that weekend, and they were up by double digits.  And then they see a poll on Monday that was taken over the weekend—remember, weekend polls notoriously difficult to find those likely voters, and on that poll, they were only up by six. 

That being said, the Lieberman campaign clearly is trying very, very hard right now to show that they have momentum, to try and look like they have momentum, hoping that voters will turn out.  But I think there is one thing that is interesting, Chris, and that is we are on a Tuesday in August.  Who picked a Tuesday in August to have a primary, I don‘t know.  But who are the people who are going to show up and vote?  Normal primary voters typically tend to be older than regular voters, and summer on a Tuesday, when the families are out and they‘ve got their kids at camp or they‘ve got their kids at home and they got things to do, there is a question a lot of political analysts here have been asking, which is, is that going to actually increase the percentage of elderly voters or older voters in the primary pool?  If that happens, a lot of people think that probably benefits Lieberman.  So that‘s one thing to keep in mind. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know.  Anyway, thank you, Jay.  Thanks for the insight.  Thank you...

DEDAPPER:  I stumped you, Chris.  That doesn‘t happen very often.

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m just—I‘m listening.  I‘m listening.  It‘s election night.  I‘m listening.

Let‘s bring in Pat Buchanan.  He‘s an MSNBC political analyst.  And Jeff Sonnenfeld, who is a Connecticut political expert from Yale. 

Let me go right now to MSNBC.com‘s Tom Curry, on the phone.  Tom, what have you figured out today watching everything here up in Connecticut? 

TOM CURRY, MSNBC.COM:  I just got back from Waterbury, Connecticut, which, as you know, should be a bastion of strength for Lieberman.  That‘s where they brought in Bill Clinton two weeks ago to campaign with Lieberman.  And the things I‘m hearing from Democratic operatives there, that the turnout—the turnout in some precincts was pretty good, but there are some signs that should be worrisome for Lieberman, as far as absentee ballots, a lot fewer than usual, and a lot of elderly people in Waterbury vote by absentee ballot. 

I heard a report that voter turnout in some of the senior citizen housing complexes was not particularly good.  Lieberman has a real affinity with older voters, and I think if Waterbury lets him down, then he is really in a lot of trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you very much, Tom Curry from MSNBC.com.  And that, of course, conflicts with the report we just got from Jay Dedapper. 

Let‘s go right now to Pat Buchanan, an all-round expert at political opinion and does see a lot of truth in a lot of things we miss.  Pat, what do you see up here from down there? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think—it looks to me like the body language of Joe Lieberman, even he has got that six points now, the body language is not good from what I have been watching today.  But I will say this, Chris: if Joe Lieberman is beaten tonight, especially by eight or 10 points, I don‘t see how he goes on. 

When you win a primary, the storm surge is unbelievable in terms of the media, “USA Today,” covers of magazines and enthusiasm in your people.  And how Joe Lieberman would get up, say, on Wednesday and say, OK, you guys, now we are going for the general—people will peel off from him.  The only question is how many.  And I don‘t know how a Democratic leader nationally can say, you know, we are going to go with Joe Lieberman when in an honest, open primary, the guy has been beaten, if that happens. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I hear from some people up here, too, Pat.  That‘s one part of the thinking up here, that once you see that guy tonight, Lamont up there, Ned Lamont, as a hero, a victor, standing behind that lantern like you did up in New Hampshire that time, it‘s very hard to sort of say, well, let‘s go back to the guy that lost and back him. 

On the other hand, there are so many independents up here, who—I‘m not sure—maybe, Pat, what do you think about an independent on the war issue?  Is there an independent on the war issue?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think this.  Look, there are independents and I think Joe Lieberman in static polls probably would have beaten Lamont right up to today.  But I think that surge, Democrats will leave Lieberman and join Lamont, if he wins, in droves.  And I think it will happen among independents, too.  They will say, look, the guy won this.  Let‘s take a look at this fellow.  We were with Joe.  He‘s a good man.  He lost.  It‘s time to move on.  I don‘t see any single gain, if Lieberman loses tonight, how he gains any votes.  The only question is how many he‘s going to lose among Republicans, independents and Democrats, if he loses tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  And all this against a backdrop of a very disheartening war in Iraq, which will be less heartening probably in three months from now than it is even today, and all those months that have passed between now and November, people will be getting very strong anti-war feelings. 

BUCHANAN:  If Lamont wins this thing, Chris, the anti-war movement, it will be like Gene McCarthy‘s 42 percent in New Hampshire in 1968.  He didn‘t win that.  LBJ was the write-in candidate who got 49.  But the dynamics of that—Bobby Kennedy was in the race in four days, and the dynamics all over the country—I think you‘ll see... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Very strong—I love the strategic thinking.  Thank you, Pat.  You‘re the best at it.  Thank you.

When we return, we will be back with the crowd here in New Haven, Connecticut as polls close in just a few minutes now.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, we are back here at New Haven.  It‘s getting time to—this guy is pushing Lieberman.  These people are pushing Lamont.  We‘ve got Jeff here, an expert.  Jeff, tell me about this race from an analytical point of view.  What have you learned?  What can you tell us about this race as it goes down to closing in just about three or four minutes? 

JEFF SONNENFELD, YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT:  Well, you‘ve got Yale candidates on both sides, like the last presidential election.  We can‘t lose.  But basically it‘s likely...

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s that kind of elite thinking that really bugs people, you know. 

SONNENFELD:  As Mike Barnicle said before, all politics is local.  So sort of pulling back on, of course, the wisdom of Boston.  And what we have here is basically a very disaffected population. 

MATTHEWS:  Does that mean angry?

SONNENFELD:  Well, people stay on too long.  Eighteen years.  We‘ve had problems with leaders in corporations staying on too long.  Problems here staying on too long, 18 years.  We‘ve fallen behind in federal earmarks.  We‘ve—the people who led governance reform, the heads of the FCC (ph) and others have said Joe is the greatest stumbling block to governance reform.  There are a lot more things than going on in Iraq.  It‘s not just a referendum on Iraq.  And being here in Connecticut, people can actually see, there is an awful lot of disappointment.  His own campaign manager says he is detached, falling out of touch with his own constituency.  That‘s come at a cost.  You know, he‘s talked about saving military jobs.  Why are they always on the chopping block if he has this influence?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s just the base closing thing.  Let me ask you this, if this was all true, three, four months ago, five or six year ago, how come it took Ned Lamont to make this thing happen, this close election?

SONNENFELD:  Well, you were joking about the Elks Club and the Moose Club—we‘re not trying to elect Fred Flintstone here.  We‘re trying to elect somebody—FDR wouldn‘t have been more comfortable, neither would JFK, neither would for that matter George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.  If we‘re trying to make wealth an issue, we would have thrown out some of our best politicians.

MATTHEWS:  I think that was—I agree with you.  That was a tough charge.  In the end, it‘s not going to work, apparently.

Let me tell you, Jeff Sonnenfeld, thank you.

Look, we‘re going to be on all night tonight on MSNBC, giving you the latest news on this.  We may not know until midnight.  We‘ll be back at 1:00 in the morning.  We‘ll also be doing a netcast on msnbc.com.  We‘re covering this election.  Keith is coming up right now.  I love Keith Olbermann, but we‘re going to be loving this election until it‘s over sometime around 2:00 in the morning.  We‘ll be here all night.  Thank you.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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