updated 1/17/2007 11:55:02 AM ET 2007-01-17T16:55:02

Guests: Lynn Sweet, Eugene Robinson, Stan Brand, Jim VandeHei, Susan Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  A week ago it was will he or won‘t he?  No longer.  Barack Obama said today he will make the big announcement February 10, the Saturday after the Super Bowl.  Can Obama announcing this early catch and overtake Hillary before the April debates?  Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews and welcome to HARDBALL.

The galloping horse of history only rides by once, and today, Senator Barack Obama jumped on and hopes to ride it all the way to the White House.  Senator Obama, a top Democratic contender moving rapidly up in the polls, announced his presidential exploratory committee on his Web site this morning with stunning candor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  Running for the presidency is a profound decision, a decision no one should make on the basis of media hype or personal ambition alone. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Very few politicians even admit to personal ambition, much less in their first step in a run for the White House.  Obama is taking on Democratic frontrunner Senator Hillary Clinton who will hold a press conference on her trip to Iraq tomorrow afternoon at 3:00.  Can Obama‘s youthful energy and optimism eclipse Hillary‘s discipline and caution? 

And the violence continues in Iraq.  A roadside bomb killed four U.S.  soldiers today, and explosions outside of Baghdad University killed 65 Iraqis today, wounding over 130 people.  More on this later. 

Plus, the criminal trial of Scooter Libby, confidante of Vice President Dick Cheney, has begun.  We‘ll talk to HARDBALL‘s David Shuster from the courthouse later. 

But first, picking the next president.  We‘re joined now by MSNBC political analyst Patrick Buchanan, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, and “Chicago Sun-Times” Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet. 

Pat Buchanan, your sense?  You have been there as a candidate.  Right out of the chute, he is saying I‘m going to announce right after the Super Bowl. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think Barack Obama moves right into the front line of Democratic candidates, probably second only to Hillary Rodham Clinton.  He has got a lot of things going for him, Chris.  One of them would be summed up by the phrase John Lindsay used in 1965.  He is fresh and they are tired. 

He‘s going to run out from—he‘s going to announce out in Springfield, Illinois.  He‘s going to run against Washington even though he‘s a senator from Washington.  I think he is a blank slate. 

His problem is that his adversaries, not only in the Democratic Party, but the Republican opposition research, which must be nervous about him, will be filling in those blanks even as we speak.  And as you go into the spring, they will be trying to define him for the American people before he defines himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Lynn Sweet, you cover him for the “Chicago Sun-Times.”  What is there in his personal history or record—his voting record that would turn off the regular Democratic voter?  Forget Pat‘s crowd, the Republicans and the other people, the conservatives.  The people who vote in primaries, is there anything this guy has said, done, or stood for that could cause him trouble? 

LYNN SWEET, “CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”:  The only thing, there is an upcoming

or could be a road bump, could be a bigger deal, and that is what he will do on any kind of congressional resolution that would stop sending money to President Bush in order to send troops. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He voted with the crowd that wants to stop the money for the war, would that hurt him? 

SWEET:  Probably.  Well, it might hurt him in a primary. 

MATTHEWS:  With whom?

SWEET:  At least it would cause confusion if the Democratic primary activists, as they often are, are the more liberal wing of the party. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, then they would like him more. 

SWEET:  No, no, he is probably going to vote against.  I‘m guessing. 

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  He was undecided.  He was undecided.  He is hesitating already.  He was undecided as of this weekend what he would do. 

MATTHEWS:  So he votes—even if he votes with Hillary or to the right of Hillary, it hurts him? 

SWEET:  No, because I think that right now Hillary and Obama might be very similar as this evolves.  Clearly, Edwards is moving to the left.  And Edwards had what I thought was putting down a dare almost. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, but the main point you‘re making is the danger for him is he might have to take a vote which is taken as a pro-war vote. 

SWEET:  Yes, or disappointing the people who put him in office because when he campaigned he campaigned against that famous $87 billion. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s see how he votes there. 

Let me go to Eugene Robinson.  Do you see any speed bumps, any real obstacles, to the growing success of this guy?  Let me just give you an interesting number.  A CBS poll just came out last week.  It‘s fascinating.  It didn‘t tell you who is going to win or anything or who is leading or anything like that.  It just asked a couple of questions. 

How many people still have questions about a certain candidate?  Only three percent of the general electorate has any curiosity about Hillary Clinton.  They‘ve already made up their minds.  They‘re for or against her, whatever.  We know the numbers roughly, a little more for than against.   

But, they asked her about Obama, and 47 percent—almost half the people—want to know more about this guy.  Does that suggest he‘s smart in coming out early, giving them plenty of time to look at him? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST” COLUMNIST:  That‘s what it would suggest to me.  I think it‘s very smart to get out and, as Pat said, start defining himself before others define him. 

I think that‘s really the only thing that could hurt him at this point, is if others—if other candidates or circumstances, such as the vote on the Iraq war, are allowed to define him in ways that he would choose not to be defined.  But as of right now, he gets to write the story and... 

SWEET:  No, well, with all due respect, I think it‘s just beginning.  We are more than a year away from the first vote.  And this is going to be a—you know, a marathon, not the sprint.  And he‘s going to be weighed in a different way right now.  It‘s also a big money marathon that‘s starting already because this is going to be a super-expensive -- $50 million, $60 million, $70 million. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he untouchable, to use the Chicago expression from the old, bad days of the ‘30s?  Would Hillary Clinton be able to punch—hit him with a Sunday punch like she might somebody else like Bush? 

SWEET:  Well, remember, it‘s not just Hillary.  If we‘re talking about the punches, there‘s plenty of Democratic candidates out there.  I don‘t think Senator Clinton...

MATTHEWS:  Are they ready to take a punch at a guy like Obama?

SWEET:  They‘re never going to let him do his—yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  If they‘re going—look, Chris, either—they‘ve got to define—look, they‘re all of them—except for Hillary Clinton, they are all—he blocks out the sun for these people, and they have got to define him. 

MATTHEWS:  Because he‘s the un-Hillary. 

BUCHANAN:  He is a non-Hillary.  He is attractive, he‘s articulate, and the media love him right now.  So you have got to get him defined, and the way the Republicans and Democrats would do it is you define him to the left.  Now, that may not hurt him in some primaries, but it will say he is not electable. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, not a single Democrat lost an election last year.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You guys keep thinking you can get hurt by going left in the Democratic Party.  How do you get hurt?

SWEET:  He‘s not going there.

BUCHANAN:  You get hurt because it makes you look unelectable in the general.  That‘s what killed Dean. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I see. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what you do.

SWEET:  Yes, but remember where we‘re starting at.  Gentlemen, where we‘re starting at right now but...

MATTHEWS:  Eugene, would you...

SWEET:  ... Barack Obama will never be more popular—is as popular today as any Democratic figure right now. 

MATTHEWS:  You think so?  Well, what about the 47 percent who want to know more about him?  Why do you think they won‘t like him? 

SWEET:  That doesn‘t—I‘m saying he is very popular now.  He himself probably knows—he knows this.  That‘s why he is doing it.  He is peaking.  He could peak again, Chris.  Just because people don‘t know about him, doesn‘t mean, you know—it‘s his job to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘ve got to tell you, I‘m reading his statement today.  I assume he wrote it.  I have been reading his books.  He‘s the only politician I know who can write—the only one who can write.  You write, Pat.  You write.  Everybody at this table writes. 

It‘s rare to find a politician who can write, but not only that, he writes with honesty.  He admits the fact that personal ambition plays some role in running for president.  You won‘t get that out of many other candidates, that honesty. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, he does say it‘s a costly—and he is really candid on the war.  But in others, you know...

MATTHEWS:  He said we should never have waged this war, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  ... this is the politics.  Exactly.  But where are the politics of change and progress?  That is mush.  They are going to define him by forcing him to take positions on issues...

MATTHEWS:  Name a position that can hurt him. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  How about amnesty on immigration?  That can hurt you with a hard-core, Democrat—blue-collar Democrats.  It‘s an 80 percent position. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, good point.

BUCHANAN:  I would drive him to the wall on that.  Guns.  If he‘s going to come out for more gun control here, fine, that helps him with the left. 

MATTHEWS:  I would think guns would hurt him too. 

BUCHANAN:  Guns would hurt him too.

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t you think being schooled in Illinois politics, he knows how to walk the line on the Second Amendment? 

SWEET:  But one of the things that you know is, look, he‘s not announcing in Chicago, just deliberately to get away from all the—whatever Chicago might mean to you.  Look at the joke you just used.  Untouchables.  He doesn‘t want to go in Chicago and have everyone say that. 

He‘s going to stand around and...

MATTHEWS:  Because they think machine guns or what? 

SWEET:  He‘s going to go to the land of Lincoln, he‘s going to go to Springfield...

MATTHEWS:  Springfield?

SWEET:  ... where he started his career as a state senator.  And he‘s going to—you know, if you have stories where Abraham Lincoln‘s name isn‘t mentioned in it, I would pay someone.  It‘s not going to happen.  You need comparisons.

MATTHEWS:  Eugene, let‘s talk about—let‘s look at the politics.  I mean, you look at the Democratic Party, the base in the Republican Party is a code for Christian conservatives.  The base of the Democratic Party is a code for African-Americans. 

Let‘s face it.  Big city people, urban Americans are working people, some poor.  It‘s about some middle class.  It‘s a code for that group of people.  How can people who are African-American not be thrilled by the fact here‘s a real shot.  This is the first real shot. 

ROBINSON:  Well, I think you have to look at how the established black leadership will initially react and how people will initially react. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they will be jealous, won‘t they?  They‘ll be jealous, the big guys. 

ROBINSON:  Initially, sure, because they have been toiling in the vineyards lo these many years, and here comes this superstar to rocket to prominence and a real legitimate shot you know, as of now, of a nomination. 

But, you know, I mean, I don‘t think Barack Obama is Bambi, you know?  I don‘t think he is some total naive who is unaware of the way politics is practiced.  And I think he will reach out to the right people.  I think they will see interests that maybe coincide with his.  So I think over time, that‘s not necessarily going to be a problem for him. 

SWEET:  Of which he has plenty of right now.

ROBINSON:  Exactly, yes.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about the problem—you know, I watched this with Jesse Jackson, a man who has played a big role in history.  And because he doesn‘t hold elective office, he has to pull these stunts.  He has to show up at rallies.  He has to go where there is trouble, fish in troubled waters. 

Will Barack Obama, Gene, have to spend a lot of time between now and next year, when the primary caucuses are held, coming up with stunts to keep himself in the news?  That‘s what I would worry about. 

ROBINSON:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  You would have to make news and that‘s always dangerous. 

ROBINSON:  Well, that‘s possible, you know, and from the Senate, I mean, you know, which... 

MATTHEWS:  The Senate is boring.

ROBINSON:  ... as had been pointed out, it‘s not the greatest place to run from.  So that‘s potentially a problem, but there is such interest in the guy right now, well, you know, and he can talk. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, here‘s what he‘s got to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Let him finish.

BUCHANAN:  All right.

ROBINSON:  Not only can he talk and write, but he can inspire people in an interesting way. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Here‘s what he‘s got to do.  He‘s very charismatic.  He goes out there—the first time you‘re out there, you get 1,700 reporters.  Then you get 900 the next time. 

MATTHEWS:  There are that many left?

BUCHANAN:  Yes, then you go up to New Hampshire and there‘s nobody at the airport waiting for you.  And then you go—you‘ve got to go on these local TV shows.  and, Chris, they up—are down the line issue after issue after issue—“Define, are you on this side or that side?” 

And you and I know that these issues are what is behind all the partisanship in this town, the profound, deep disagreements.  And this is what‘s going to define him. 

MATTHEWS:  He could be—you could check me on this—he could be the walking, talking Democratic platform from what I hear from the guy.  He is so mainstream on all the issues.  They had him speak at the Democratic Convention last time because he is Mr. Democrat.  Where‘s he going to shatter—where‘s he going to challenge the basic Democrat conventional wisdom?  He doesn‘t seem to have interesting, new ideas that way. 

BUCHANAN:  No, he doesn‘t.  But OK, there‘s another issue.  What is he going to do about—the big issue that Edwards has got is the trade jobs issue.  What is he going to say when you come up for fast track authority and all these things?  He‘s got to start taking stands.  I mean, his speech at the convention was, you know, “It‘s not red America, not blue America.”  Everybody can applaud that. 

WHEN:  When I look at all those other guys running against him, all those white guys, I don‘t know where all those guys stand either. 

We‘ll be right back with our panel: Buchanan, Sweet and Robinson. 

What a law firm.

And later, the first day of Scooter Libby‘s trial.  I can‘t wait for

that one to get going.  What are we going to find out during these several

six weeks of trial coming up about how the Bush administration may have confected the case for war in Iraq.  Lots of meat in there, I think. 

HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will be reporting for us tonight from the courthouse.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, what will Scooter Libby‘s trial tell us about how the Bush administration made the case for war?  What will Vice President Cheney tell us? 

When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS:  Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence that we can‘t tackle the big problems that demand solutions.  And that‘s what we have to change first. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL with our guests Lynn Sweet, who‘s the Washington bureau chief of the “Chicago Sun-Times”; MSNBC‘s political analysts, but he‘s more than that, Pat Buchanan; and “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson. 

Gene, it‘s interesting that he‘s offering himself up not as the first African-American or the first guy with a white mother and an African father, any of that sort of obvious ethnic stuff.  He‘s running as almost a Perot, a Ross Perot or maybe a Michael Bloomberg already.  It looks like he‘s trying to co-opt a third party candidate by saying he‘s running against politics. 

ROBINSON:  Right.  He‘s not running against politics.  He‘s running above politics.  He‘s transcending politics and kind of bringing, you know, red and blue together and, you know—it‘s brilliant because as of now, it‘s working really, really well for him.  So I don‘t see why he would change that at this point and kind of—you know, until forced get down into the nit and grit of his position on, you know, whether you build a seven foot fence or a 15 foot fence along the Arizona border. 

MATTHEWS:  ... let me ask you this.  What‘s he got to lose?  I mean, we all sit around and ponder this.  What‘s he got to lose?

BUCHANAN:  Go, go.  Exactly, let me say this...          

MATTHEWS:  ... “Go” to him, but you got nothing to lose, don‘t wait until you‘re 10 years or eight years older, your neck‘s thicker and you‘re carrying an extra 35 pounds, you‘ve lost all your hair.  Why does he want to wait for that, you know? 

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s the thing.  Look...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re laughing. 

This is what the guy has to deal with, you know. 

BUCHANAN:  ... you denounce the influence of money and influence in politics, he‘s going to raise a lot of money and people are going to look down the list and say, “You denounced money in politics and you got a thousand—this guy‘s raising money...”

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s going to say this? 

BUCHANAN:  Some journalists are going to say it... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... working off the same list.

BUCHANAN:  Well, then people will get this out there, and they‘ll have to answer it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  (INAUDIBLE) have some fun here.

Lynn Sweet, female, I ask you this as a male asking a female.  So we‘re starting to play right now. 

SWEET:  Are we doing—is this a Venus-Mars question? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I haven‘t seen the movie test, so let me ask you this.

Could it be that the appeal of Obama is not that people want the new flavor of the month or that they would try something ethnically to feel better about this country—which, I think we would all feel better about a big development on the racial front—but that they don‘t like Hillary.  They think she‘s yesterday‘s tomatoes.  They‘re tired of her.  They don‘t want to go back to the old sitcom.  They don‘t want to go back to Bill and Hill in the White House again.  They don‘t want to go through it again.

And this is a way of saying, “He‘s—“ what did you say, Pat?

You quoted the Lindsey (ph) line, the David Garth line. 

BUCHANAN:  He is fresh and they are tired. 

SWEET:  This a generation...

MATTHEWS:  Is this a way of saying, “Hillary‘s yesterday, I want to try something new”? 

SWEET:  Let‘s not make it personal on Hillary because...

MATTHEWS:  Why not?

SWEET:  ... I don‘t want to at the moment. 

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL. 

SWEET:  Because I have a better and harder point to make.  And that‘s one that‘s creating and impacting all of us as we‘re getting older.  And they‘re young.  Barack Obama is younger.  He‘s probably the youngest one in the field right now...

MATTHEWS:  Ergo?

SWEET:  Ergo, this is a generational election, Pat.  And even if Hillary Rodham Clinton decides not to run—I think she is going to run—that‘s what‘s here.  It‘s not—he‘s not running...

MATTHEWS:  Well, is she part of the older or the new generation?

SWEET:  We‘re all the older generation.

MATTHEWS:  So, nobody‘s part of us?

SWEET:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  She is also—let me say to you—Hillary—there is a huge...

MATTHEWS:  She looks great there, by the way.  She doesn‘t look too old.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, but there‘s a huge anti-non-Hillary coalition...

SWEET:  Chris, that‘s terrible—you‘re terrible...

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t say she‘s yesterday‘s tomatoes.  I‘m just wondering politically...

SWEET:  Chris, it‘s generational.  And that‘s the point...

MATTHEWS:  I think she‘s been around too long politically, maybe for some people. 

SWEET:  Look, you can‘t deny that Clintons have a history here.  And she‘s going to have to run against her own history or her husband‘s history and his administration and everything else. 

God knows if there‘s anything else out there. 

But keep this in mind: as we spend this time trying to analyze this, that the Barack Obama phenomenon is a generational thing because a lot of the people who I think are attracted to him weren‘t around to study these early Clinton years. 

MATTHEWS:  ... kids like ours, without giving my kids‘ political identity away, they think he‘s great, so...

BUCHANAN:  Forty-five percent of the Democratic Party does not want Hillary and he walks right into the middle of that because he‘s fresh.  It does not...

MATTHEWS:  Eugene Robinson, do you think he might be the beneficiary of being seen as an antidote to Hillary, an alternative to Hillary, not so much what he is but what he‘s not? 

ROBINSON:  I think absolutely.  I really think that‘s true.  And, I mean, you hear anecdotally from—not just in the polls, but anecdotally from, you know, friends and acquaintances around the country who are much more skeptical than I am, for example, that Hillary Clinton could ever be elected president.  They think that she‘s unelectable and thus look toward Obama...

MATTHEWS:  Let me give my vote on that, Gene.  believe she‘s very electable in the general election.  I think next year we could have a war that‘s still going on, we could have an economic recession, we could have a very disappointed electorate with the Republican Party.  And Hillary Clinton could walk in there and win it, maybe not a big victory.  But I think we‘re ready for a change next year, and whoever‘s the change candidate next is going to be in the cat-bird seat.

I want to come back and talk about the near future, which is that they got Jim Webb—the Democrats have picked the anti-war warrior Jim Webb, the guy who took down George Allen, to be the response to the State of the Union next week.  What an exciting—talk about a focused response.  He‘s going to talk about the tough stuff.

We‘ll be right back with Lynn Sweet, Pat Buchanan and Gene Robinson. 

Up next, by the way, a look at President Bush‘s State of the Union address.  That‘s what we‘re going to talk about.  He‘s going to give it one week from tonight, for the first time to a Democratic Congress with Jim Webb responding.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL with our guests Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief of the “Chicago Sun-Times”, MSNBC‘s political analyst Pat Buchanan, and “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson. 

I have to start with one point.  Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton is going to be back from Iraq. 

What are you chuckling about, Gene? 

She‘s going to be back from Iraq.  She‘s going to give a presser tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the afternoon to talk about—and she‘s going to be, I assume, hit with a thousand questions about the man we‘ve been talking about. 

ROBINSON:  I guess, you know, she‘s going to be asked about Obama, but it‘s going to be real—the really interesting thing is what is she going to say about Iraq?  And how—how is her position going to evolve?

MATTHEWS:  Which way is she going to go?

ROBINSON:  Which way is she going to go?  Is she going to say, you know, “Let‘s do it.  This is still a war we can win,” or “This is what we ought to do,” or is she going to continue kind of distancing herself?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  How about the option that she comes back—how about if she comes back as a technocrat with all kinds of technical details, talking about Petraeus and how she respects him and how she‘s going to be monitoring the situation?  The same old safe, perhaps legitimate positioning she‘s famous or infamous for, Pat Buchanan, if she does that. 

BUCHANAN:  I think she‘s going to come back against the surge very strongly. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I do.  I think she‘s going to be against the surge, say it‘s not the right way to go to success.  And I don‘t think she...

MATTHEWS:  After one day over there?

BUCHANAN:  Yes.  I don‘t think she‘s going to come back and do a McCain.  I mean, I think that would be a real mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you might be right; you might be wrong.  I like the assertive statement.  Do you agree, Lynn?

SWEET:  She‘s back—it‘s not like she‘s returning to Washington today.  And she‘s going to tomorrow, if I predict, she will, after her fact finding hours there, she‘s going to say that this president‘s plan isn‘t workable.  But you won‘t pin her down. 

MATTHEWS:  Did I hear you laughing again, Gene?  Do you find the idea that she‘s on a fact-finding mission a joke, a dodge?  What do you see it as?

ROBINSON:  She‘s a really quick study. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ROBINSON:  She‘s really a quick study.  And she, you know, on the ground for, you know, five or six hours.  And she got it.  Now, you know, the surge is clearly wrong.  So...

SWEET:  Right.  And look, none of these visits are very long.  You know, Senator Obama went to Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Did she really do this?  Stomp on the president‘s plan to...

SWEET:  I think—I think that we‘ll see that no one—that she won‘t take a position either, Chris, on any impending legislation that has to do with money because she is smart enough, as is Obama, to wait to see how things play out before they... 

MATTHEWS:  So you take the position that she‘ll go anti-war on this trip or not?

SWEET:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  She‘ll go anti-war?

SWEET:  She‘s going to be anti-increase troops. 

BUCHANAN:  She will say no surge, but she will have ideas that ought to be followed through which are different than the surge. 

MATTHEWS:  Because she doesn‘t want to be seen as an anti-war person. 

BUCHANAN:  She doesn‘t want to be seen as someone who just is no, no, no. 

SWEET:  You wonder...

BUCHANAN:  She‘s got ideas for success in the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this a smart November strategy for her?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s a necessary strategy.

SWEET:  You want to be—to be seen as somebody who is solution oriented. 

MATTHEWS:  You said that she has to be cautious now?

SWEET:  You want to be solution oriented.  And not just saying don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Gene, you think she has to, no matter what she says, somehow position herself in a way that she can be Margaret Thatcher-ish come November, 2008?

ROBINSON:  Maybe, you know.  But the thing is if she doesn‘t go all the way to something like phased withdrawal or set a timetable or something like that, she really is way to the right of her party.  And that‘s where her party is right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, see, anyway, let me ask you about Jim Webb. 

You start, Gene.

Jim Webb, a famous guy, written a lot of books, some of them with some dirty stories in them we discovered during the campaign.  Didn‘t hurt him a bit.  Jim Webb is the new senator from Virginia from the Old Dominion, Pat‘s territory.  He‘s going to be the Democratic respondent against the president of the United States.  Boy, that‘s powerful stuff to put a military guy up against the president. 

ROBINSON:  It is.  He‘s a great weapon, I think, for the Democrats to

you know, to have in their arsenal now.  It‘s kind of amazing that they‘re going to use him in what—what I think is such an appropriate role so quickly, because, you know, he‘s got credibility on these military issues.  He‘s already had this run-in with Bush at the White House over the war, so there is this tension. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, where he told him that...

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  The president asked him how his boy was doing.  He said get out, bring them home.  And he didn‘t like that at all.  That‘s right.

BUCHANAN:  He will give the Democratic Party real credibility when he comes out against the president‘s position on Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Who did you vote for in that race, Allen or Webb?  Where did you come out on that?

BUCHANAN:  I can‘t recall, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s taking the Hillary position. 

Lynn Sweet, will Jim Webb be a credible respondent to the president, do you think?

SWEET:  Brilliant central casting.  He‘ll carry out the message, and he will be a new face. 

MATTHEWS:  Billy Mitchell?

SWEET:  Something different.  Most of America never heard of him.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SWEET:  They‘ll see him State of the Union.  But his credentials, somehow he‘ll lay them out quickly so people know who he is.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SWEET:  That he wore his son‘s boots during the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

SWEET:  And that‘s going to be a big deal.  And it‘s just brilliant casting, because they put the right person at the right point. 

MATTHEWS:  I think all three networks are going to give this guy the time.  That‘s my bet tonight.  Because I don‘t think they can‘t say you‘re not giving it to the guy whose kid‘s over there fighting. 

Anyway, thank you, Lynn Sweet.

Thank you, Gene Robinson.

Thank you, Pat Buchanan. 

Up next, what are you going to find out in the Scooter Libby trial that started today?  Had jury selection today.  What will Vice President Cheney have to say in the trial?  He‘s going to testify.  David Shuster has a report tonight coming here quickly from the courthouse.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK REPORT)

MATTHEWS:  Spooky music to match the people, I guess.  Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Jury selection began today in the trial against Vice President Cheney‘s former chief of staff, his confidant, Scooter Libby, who‘s accused of lying and obstructing justice by federal prosecutors.  Also lying to the grand jury about the leaking of CIA officer Valerie Plame‘s identity. 

Vice President Cheney is expected to be a key witness for the defense, which would mark the first time ever a sitting vice president testifies in a criminal case. 

HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is live at the D.C. federal courthouse with more on today‘s events. 

David, exciting times in Washington. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, Chris.  Absolutely.  I mean, it was such a fascinating process that began today.  And even on this, the very first day of jury selection, the contours and the strategy in this case became quite clear. 

Scooter Libby‘s attorneys were going to be making the argument that Scooter Libby‘s memory was faulty, that when he testified under oath that he learned about the identity of a CIA operative from reporters, that this was a mistake but that it was an innocent mistake. 

So in their questioning of the perspective jurors today, they asked repeatedly about memory and about whether these prospective jurors believe you can make mistakes with your memory.

The prosecutors, their main argument, of course, is going to be that Scooter Libby deliberately lied to the FBI and to the grand jury in order to thwart the investigation into the CIA leak. 

The way it worked this morning is that the judge, Judge Reggie Walton, he brought 100 members of this jury pool into this courtroom and gave them all the questionnaire and took them through the questionnaire, questions like what do they know about this case; do they have any strong feelings about the Bush administration that would prevent them from judging this case fairly?  One other question, what are their concerns about the war?  Would that prevent them from judging this case fairly?

And then one by one, the judge started bringing them in individually to the witness stand and following up with some of the questions. 

So far, they‘ve managed to get through nine perspective jurors.  Three of them were excused for cause, meaning that they said they could not judge the case fairly for one reason or the other. 

But the six that remained that make it to the second round, they will now be part of this pool that the judge hopes to expand to 36, so that by the end of the week when the attorneys and both sides can strike some of the jurors, they will still be left with the 12 jurors and the four alternates. 

Among those who are still part of this second pool now includes a government lobbyist, a Federal Trade Commission lawyer, a former opera singer, and a woman who cleans apartments at the Watergate and said the only person she really knows about in this case is Condoleezza Rice, who apparently lives in the building. 

Interestingly enough, Chris, the defense tried to strike this apartment cleaner from the jury pool, because she had said that she thinks that President Bush is harsh and that “I think he should bring the troops home from Iraq.”  But the judge then followed up with this prospective juror, and the juror said, “Look, I can put aside my feelings about the war in order to judge the case fairly.” 

And the judge said, “OK, you‘ve met the threshold.  We‘re going to keep you for now”—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, David Shuster.

You can read all about what‘s going on inside the courtroom in David‘s blog on our web site, HARDBALL.MSNBC.com. 

Stan Brand is a former counsel for the House of Representatives.

You know this stuff.  D.C. juries.  They—we just had Pat Buchanan here who was somewhat related to the whole problem back with Nixon, by being there.  He said that those guys all got convicted.  D.C. juries are very tough on Republican politicians. 

STAN BRAND, FORMER COUNSEL, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  Well, I think they‘re tough on anybody they think has committed a crime.  I mean, they don‘t bring any predisposition to the government. 

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t?  This town is notoriously Democrat. 

BRAND:  Yes, they are Democratic jurors, but I will tell you, having just had a trial down there, these people are able to separate their own views from what the issues in the case are. 

MATTHEWS:  What about when a political big shot of either party shows up in the defense box?  Do they have an attitude?  A lot of them working people; they‘re not all rich people.  Do they have an attitude towards big shots in Washington, the guys who drive around in limousines and stuff?

BRAND:  Not unless they think they committed a crime.  I think they bring a healthy...

MATTHEWS:  You are such a healthy believer in the jury system. 

BRAND:  Because I‘ve seen it.  I‘ve seen it.  Now the rap when we were up on the Hill, Charlie Diggs, you remember the former African-American congressman who was indicted was well, he was going to get a pass.  He was convicted on 25 counts. 

You know, John Hinckley was never going to get past muster with an insanity defense.  The jury agreed with that.  D.C. juries are notorious for following the instructions...

MATTHEWS:  All right.  Let me—first was the Twinkie defense.  Now we have the thinking defense. 

BRAND:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  He was so busy involved with big issues of our time, saving the world, that Scooter Libby forgot that he didn‘t hear from somebody, a journalist when, in fact, he didn‘t, but he said he did.  It‘s not that he had a bad memory.  He remembered something and swore to it that never happened, apparently, according to the prosecutor. 

BRAND:  Yes.  Contrary to what seven other witnesses are going to testify to. 

MATTHEWS:  How can you say you had a bad memory but you remembered something and swore to it that didn‘t happen?  How can that be an accident?

BRAND:  I think he can get away with only so much on the “I was the too busy” defense.  Because what he does when he does that is he opens the door for Patrick Fitzgerald to come in and say you were so busy, but you were obsessed with this.  You were fixated with Joe Wilson.  You and your boss and other people in the administration. 

MATTHEWS:  They were.  They were.  It was obvious to anybody who works in this business that they were. 

BRAND:  Right.  And that will be the prosecution‘s door opener to try to show that the—the jury that, well, this was not just a run of the mill subject for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask—let me ask you about the vice president.  The vice president gets a bad rap.  Maybe he gets it here, but he certainly gets it on “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” in the cartoon version, the people there.  Darrell Hammond‘s portrayal of him as this curl-lipped bad guy. 

Is that his image?  Is that his image among regular people that might be in this jury pool?  Do they think he‘s the bad guy or he‘s this eminent, this sophisticated warrior of big public policy?

BRAND:  My guess is that the average juror doesn‘t bring any bias one way or the other. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

BRAND:  That he will come in with the mantle of the vice-presidency. 

And again, remember, this is a narrow case.  The question here for Vice President Cheney is going to be does he know Scooter Libby from the defense side?

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not coming in as a character witness.  He‘s coming in

as a guy who‘s denying that he lied.  And a lot of people believe that Dick

that Scooter Libby lied, if you will, to protect the boss. 

BRAND:  Right.  But that‘s not technically an issue in the case.  What the vice president‘s going to testify to, in effect, is that Scooter Libby was a hard-working public, you know, servant and did a good job.  He‘s not going to know what was in Scooter Libby‘s mind. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you a tough question.  We know that a lot of top journalists, including Tim Russert of this network, are going to testify.  Is that going to be the big, dramatic, sort of Perry Mason moment, when somebody like Russert testifies or when Libby gets on the stand?  When do you think the trial will turn?  Like the O.J. moment with the gloves—although I just thought they fit, you know, he said they didn‘t fit.  You know, and that‘s what sort of turned the jury around, or getting the case of Mark Fuhrman about his racist remarks.

BRAND:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s going to turn this case?

BRAND:  These aren‘t like murder cases.  These are, you know, white-collar cases.  They tend to be more nuanced.  I think the two times when things could turn is when Libby himself testifies and the jury...

MATTHEWS:  Whether they like him or not.

BRAND:  Whether they like him, whether he‘s credible, whether they think that what he‘s saying holds up.  And when the journalists testify, and according to...

MATTHEWS:  A lot of them—Matt Cooper—a lot of these guys are very credible people. 

BRAND:  And according to the grand jury testimony, nail him to the wall and say, “We never told him any such thing.” 

MATTHEWS:  But also—yes, and what about the people that he apparently talked to, allegedly, in the prosecution indictment?  That he actually evidenced the fact by the way—in conversations that he knew all about this Valerie Plame long before he had this conversation. 

BRAND:  Those people will be big witnesses.  They won‘t be the kind of marquee witnesses that Tim Russert... 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Why is it going to take six weeks?  I don‘t mind it stretching out; pleasurable events are fine if they last forever.  But why six weeks of testimony on both sides of the case that involves whether he lied or not? 

BRAND:  Yes, because there are some complexities here.  You have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.  And he has the right to put on a defense. 

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s better, Fitzpatrick or Wells, the defense attorney?  Who‘s going to be tougher in this case?  Who would you like on your side if you were in trouble?

BRAND:  I‘ve tried two cases with Ted Wells.  There‘s nobody better in front of a jury than Ted Wells. 

MATTHEWS:  A Holy Cross guy, actually.

BRAND:  Yes.  A fabulous, fabulous trial attorney. 

Patrick Fitzgerald, on the other hand, is a hard-nosed guy.  And I would think he‘s got one of the toughest reputations in the entire federal system. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the fact that Wells is African-American was one reason why he was picked for a D.C. jury? 

BRAND:  No, because...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t? 

BRAND:  No, I really don‘t.  I think the reason Ted Wells was picked is because he‘s a trial lawyer par excellence and he relates to juries of all kinds. 

MATTHEWS:  Do juries in D.C. like a straight arrow like Fitzgerald, who‘s like almost like a character out of—I don‘t know.  He‘s a Gothic, sort of, “I‘m clean, I don‘t do anything wrong, I don‘t like people that do things wrong, who lie to me.”  Are they going to like a person like that, who‘s really righteous?  Or are they going to like a regular guy—apparently, Ted Wells will be the guy, as you say, will connect with them as people.  Do they like righteousness in D.C. juries? 

BRAND:  Not too much.  You‘ve got to be careful as the government that you don‘t come off as overbearingly righteous because I think that tends to undercut you.  I think Fitzgerald—the strength of his case is I don‘t think he has to do that.  I think he just has to lay it out and play it straight. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to see a deal about three weeks into the trial? 

BRAND:  I don‘t think so. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think that the defense is going to drop its defense and say, “Come on, we‘ll take a year”?

BRAND:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there will be a pardon at the end of this case? 

BRAND:  No.  I think that a pardon...

MATTHEWS:  Dick Cheney will let this guy swing if he goes down? 

BRAND:  I think it‘s what our old boss Tip O‘Neill said to Jerry Ford, “You pardon this guy, you ruined your presidential chances.” 

I think if Bush pardons this guy, he has doomed the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think there might be a deal between Cheney and Scooter, that he protects Cheney and Cheney protects him later?

BRAND:  I don‘t think so.  And I don‘t know that there‘s anything to protect him on in the context of this case. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m looking at all the politics here. 

Thank you. 

I don‘t know.  It‘s a mystery to me, but it‘s a delightful mystery. 

Thank you, Stan Brand.

Coming up next, Barack Obama enters the starting gate for the presidential election of 2008.  Will voters who want to know more about him like what they eventually hear?  Half the country wants to know more about Barack Obama.  Are they going to like what they hear? 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Now that Barack Obama is planning to run, in fact, it looks like he is running, can he catch Hillary? 

Susan Page is the Washington bureau chief for “USA Today”. 

Is that the biggest paper in the country now? 

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”:  It is, indeed. 

MATTHEWS:  And Jim Vandehei is executive editor of the new online and print operation, “The Politico”. 

I see him over at the—where are you, Jim?  Where are you now? 

JIM VANDEHEI, “THE POLITICO”:  You know what?  I have your wife‘s old office over here, Chris, in Rosslyn.  And we‘ll soon—eventually, we‘ll take over “USA Today” as the world‘s biggest paper.  (INAUDIBLE) start small.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a very spiffy office, I recall. 

Let me ask you, Jim, you started here, this Libby trial.  It‘s a real Washington show trial, six weeks of big names and names being dropped all over the place, right? 

VANDEHEI:  Absolutely.  I mean, you‘ve got all the media stars, whether it‘s a Woodward or a Russert.  You‘ve got everybody in the administration, you know, up to the vice president of the United States.  I mean, it has all those elements. 

You and I have been talking about this for the last couple of years.  I mean, it really is sort of a sexy trial despite the fact that it comes down to one person who‘s no longer in government and whether they lied as part of a—as part of an alleged cover-up a long time ago. 

I think this is really going to resonate because it‘s interesting for people because there are so many people who feel like the administration was dishonest. 

And there‘s so many—I mean, you look at this jury selection today.  Look at the questions that were asked.  They tried very hard to find a jury pool that does not like President Bush because the only way that Libby can survive in this trial is if they can get people that don‘t just hate bush and want to take it out on somebody. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe they‘re going to hate Libby once they get to know him.  Who knows? 

Susan Page, what do you think?  This is a trial about, you know, not nuance—did the guy or did he not lie under oath?  It isn‘t the most complicated thing in the world on the facts.

PAGE:  Chris, it is a hard thing to prove, what‘s inside somebody‘s mind. 

MATTHEWS:  But the lying doesn‘t have to be proved—the motive doesn‘t have to be proved.  Just he did it. 

PAGE:  If he says, “I forgot, I was mistaken”—that‘s clearly his line of defense. 

MATTHEWS:  Six times he evidenced in conversation he knew one thing. 

All right? 

PAGE:  The...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, does your memory fail you this way?  Do you remember things that didn‘t happen and swear to them under oath?  I can forget a lot.  I can‘t tell you what I said three secretaries ago, but I wouldn‘t swear I said something if I didn‘t say it, would I? 

PAGE:  You know, I‘m not saying he‘s got an easy defense.  What I‘m saying his defense is he‘s a busy guy, he deals with a lot of important issues.  But I do think, picking up on something Jim said, that it‘s not hard to find a jury in D.C. that does not like President Bush and Vice President Cheney  because it‘s—I‘ve been on a jury in D.C.  I bet maybe you have, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it fun? 

PAGE:  It was interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s hard for journalists to get impanelled.  They usually suspect that you‘re either—that you know too much, so the defense attorneys never want to put you on.

PAGE:  They didn‘t seem to feel that way about me, so...

MATTHEWS:  How did you vote?

PAGE:  I voted to convict.  We convicted. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?  Hang ‘em high. 

What do you think of this?  Six weeks of this, what‘s it going to tell us about the vice president?  Is he going to be able to get away with that sort of corporate board room manner of his, where he says, “Well, we now know”—you know, that sort of soft-spoken thing he does—or is he going to be—really be in a box when Fitzgerald goes after him? 

PAGE:  I think he may get a very tough cross-examination.  I mean, it is going to be—if you talk about the big moments of the trial, surely—while Tim Russert is an important guy, surely it‘s the interrogation of the vice president that is going to capture our attention. 

MATTHEWS:  Can he come in there, Jim, and portray himself as some sort of character witness, when as many people believe, as you know, and probably the prosecutor, that Scooter didn‘t tell the full truth to the prosecutors and the grand jury because he was looking out for the boss? 

VANDEHEI:  Well, don‘t underestimate the vice president.  As you know, we have seen him in debates and we‘ve seen him at forums.  He‘s a sharp guy, and I‘m sure he is going to be able to comport himself fine.  And he‘s going to be able to handle Fitzgerald. 

Will it be tense?  Certainly it will be tense, because Vice President Cheney was intimately involved with defending the weapons of mass destruction argument with Scooter Libby.  And you know, there was some talk early on that Fitzgerald had his eye on Cheney.  I‘m sure it‘s going to be tense. 

But the vice president is a very seasoned politician, a very seasoned in Washington ways.  He‘s going to be able to handle himself.  I do think that that is going to be probably the most interesting and most tense moment of this trial, though there is always surprises in these.  Who knows who else pops up and what happens when journalists are on the stand and people are pressed?  I think it‘s those things that we don‘t expect that I think will be most interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hope the trial, being a non-lawyer and always pointing that out, is clear.  I hope at the end of this, Susan, will we have clarity?  Will we know whether this guy perjured himself or not?  Will we have a clear answer from the jury or from the trial itself? 

PAGE:  I think we may have for the first time a better kind, a kind of clear sense of what was going on behind the scenes, in terms of trying to affect the public portrayal of what was going on. 

MATTHEWS:  Will we know that the vice president and his office had a vendetta against Joe Wilson and his wife?  Will we know that, or not?

PAGE:  Yes, I think there will probably be a lot of evidence along those lines.  And I think we‘ll have a much clearer sense than we do today, and that will be interesting. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, do you agree that we‘ll get as part of the prosecution presentation enough information to gather that when we read the paper each morning and watch these programs like this one, we will have a sense that there really was a prosecutorial attitude by the vice president of anyone who questioned his role, in fact indicted him for the role in selling the war to us, especially the nuclear piece of it? 

VANDEHEI:  I think there will be a little bit of nuance in that.  I

think you will certainly see a portrait of a White House that was literally

they are a pit bull in defending their argument for war.  Back then, his credibility rested on that.  They believed in that.  They pushed for it.  So yes, you‘re going to see that it wasn‘t just Wilson, that they went on every single aspect where they were—where they had their critics coming after them.  You know that‘s how this White House has always operated, especially back then, when they had their swagger.  Because that‘s when they would always push back, and push back vigorously. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to tell you something else: The vice president‘s office is the (inaudible) concourse of the paperwork going to the president like the State of the Union.  In this administration, it was the concourse of all intel.  The intel, the paperwork, the State of the Union text all went through Scooter Libby‘s desk.  That‘s why he is so important in this case.  Did he or did he not, under the orders or not under the orders of the vice president, distort the evidence that took us to war? 

We‘ll be right back with Susan Page and Jim VandeHei.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with the politicos, Jim VandeHei and “USA Today‘s” Susan Page.

Jim, those guys running for president against Hillary—I mean, the men running against her must be kicking themselves today.  They didn‘t know this was going to happen.  They never saw Obama coming, and here he is, announcing basically he‘s going to go for president today, and dominate the news for—all the way until February 10th, the day he is going to make it official.

VANDEHEI:  No, I mean, he has had great a great run for the last year.  He has had great press coverage, he‘s been on the cover of most magazines, been on Oprah.  Had just a ton of good exposure.  And now he had a good run.  Remember, Edwards did not have a good run out of the gate.  They thought they could do it earlier and get a nice splash—did not get that splash. 

But listen, the minute that Hillary steps into this race, we all know darn well that the spotlight will focus to her, and there is going to be a ton of focus on who is she, can she win, and just the dynamic of having another Clinton in this race.

Obama has a lot to overcome, like, yes, he‘s a dynamic speaker; yes, he‘s been sort of a media darling.  But listen, look what is happening around the world.  You have what‘s happening in Iraq, and you have this Iranian incursion into Iraq, you have the Chinese building up their military.  This is going to be a foreign policy/national security election.  It‘s going to be against that backdrop.  He has got to prove that he has some expertise in that area and that he can control national security and foreign policy. 

Yes, he had the right vote on the war for most Democrats, but I think it is going to take a lot more than that to be able to clear that next hurdle. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the possibility—the guy has already reached 20 percent in the polls and Hillary is down in the low 30s, that because of his announcement today, he moves up to the mid-20s, Hillary starts to creep below 30, they‘re even.  These are the two front runners.  Could he pass her by the debates in April? 

PAGE:  You know what he reminds me of a little...

MATTHEWS:  Can you answer that question, could he pass her?

PAGE:  Yes, he could, he could pass her, yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, because that could create a whole new—as we like to say these days—dynamic.  I love that word, dynamic.

PAGE:  But doesn‘t he remind you a little of Reagan?  I mean, like...

MATTHEWS:  Reminds me of Lindbergh and John F. Kennedy, skinny young guy.

PAGE:  When Reagan came on the scene with Republicans—and this is a point a professor at the University of New Haven said...

MATTHEWS:  Reagan was never young when he ran.

PAGE:  Reagan was never young.  But he came on the scene, and he was new and he didn‘t know that much, and people thought he wasn‘t qualified to be the governor of California, but people liked him.  And...

MATTHEWS:  You know what Roger Ailes calls that? 

PAGE:  What?

MATTHEWS:  The like factor. 

PAGE:  And it‘s powerful.  And you know, Hillary has—Hillary Clinton has experience...

MATTHEWS:  Does Hillary have the like factor? 

PAGE:  But I think she—she—I do not think she has the like factor, not in the way Barack Obama does. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim VandeHei, do you want to weigh in on that question?  Is Hillary likable?

VANDEHEI:  Hillary has a dislike factor.  I mean, look at those polls in Iowa.  There is certainly a big segment of society that is never going to vote for Hillary.  We have seen that in poll after poll for several years now. 

Yes, there is a lot of Democrats who are very enthusiastic about her, but it‘s going to be really hard to push her over that edge.  That‘s why a lot of Democrats feel like, yes, she has more money than anybody else, she has great organization, she has a lot of the intellectual infrastructure behind her, but there is an opening, and whether it‘s Obama or Edwards—remember, Edwards is sort of considered like the third-place candidate right now, but it‘s still early.  The guy has had—obviously has an interesting profile.  He was—ended up being beat last time around, was a candidate last time around, but he has a story, he has a narrative to his campaign. 

PAGE:  And of course, Obama makes Edwards look experienced, right? 

Because he had six whole years in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Hey, good luck to you, Jim.  My wife‘s office (inaudible) Jim VandeHei, politico, and Susan Page of the biggest newspaper in the country, “USA Today.”

Play HARDBALL with us again Wednesday.  Our guests will include freshman Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz.  He‘s ramrodding the charge against President Bush‘s escalation in Iraq.  Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

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