updated 4/27/2007 11:45:59 AM ET 2007-04-27T15:45:59

Guests: Elizabeth Edwards, Lynn Sweet, Eugene Robinson, James Clyburn, James Gilliard, Sam Prioleau

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Live from South Carolina State University, the home of the Bulldogs, for the first presidential debate, the “HARDBALL College Tour.”

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  In just two hours, eight Democrats will be here, right here in Orangeburg, South Carolina, for the first presidential debate for 2008 here on MSNBC.  Tonight, sitting next to me, to my left, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  And also South Carolina‘s great alumnus, South Carolina State‘s great alumnus, Congressman Jim Clyburn, one of the top Democrats in the Congress.  And also tonight in this first hour, NBC newsman and long-time anchor Tom Brokaw.

But first our very special guest, Elizabeth Edwards.  This is so inspiring!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  This is so great!  This is so great!  This may be the greatest, the greatest university band in North America!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make?  You know about this stuff.  You know about this place, right?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF DEM. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN EDWARDS: 

That‘s the marching 101 (ph).

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Now, John Edwards is from South Carolina originally, right?

EDWARDS:  John was born in Seneca, South Carolina.

MATTHEWS:  Did I have to remind you of that?

EDWARDS:  No, no.  No.  John was born in Seneca, South Carolina, lived all over the state at different times, moving from mill town to mill town.  We drove through a few of those towns today.  They‘re hurting a little bit.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a real basic question, as the wife of a candidate, one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination in all the polls.  What difference does it make between having a Democratic president or a Republican president?  What‘s the difference?

EDWARDS:  It makes an enormous difference in the priorities.  What we‘ve seen in the Republican administration—not just this Republican administration but Republican administrations in the past—is we‘ve seen increased deficits happen every time.  It‘s almost like if you charted it, it‘s amazing that it happens.  I think partly it happens because the priorities are different in the administration.

I know that an administration that was led by a Democrat like John would have his priorities doing something about climate change, doing something about getting us out of Iraq, doing something about poverty, about civil liberties and civil rights.  These things are not on the list at all for the Republican Party and haven‘t been.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask everybody in the crowd, do you think Hurricane Katrina was handled well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No!

MATTHEWS:  How would John Edwards or Barack Obama or Senator Clinton or one of the other Democrats have handled Katrina differently than President Bush?

EDWARDS:  Well, one of the things—I can‘t speak for any of the other senators.  One of the things that John said that he would definitely do differently is that he would have had whoever was in charge, who would be somebody competent and skilled in this area, not a horse trainer or, you know, a horse contest fellow, but get somebody who really knew what they were doing.  And every single day, not, you know, once every month or so, every single day, that man or woman would have to come in front of him and say, What did you accomplish yesterday in moving us the right direction?  You‘d have to be—you have to have a hands-on president who cares about what‘s happening, sees what‘s happening.

The other thing, of course, is that it‘s not just what you do after a catastrophe, it‘s what you do before the catastrophe.  And in that case, we have a lot of steps we need to take.

MATTHEWS:  Did everybody notice how President Bush came to Virginia Tech almost right away?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes!

MATTHEWS:  And did you notice he didn‘t come to New Orleans for a while?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes!

MATTHEWS:  Why?

EDWARDS:  I can‘t explain why.  I can‘t explain why...

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was a message, wasn‘t it?

EDWARDS:  I mean, there is perhaps a message in a lot of things.  I mean, we‘re here at one of the great historically black colleges and universities in this country, and what we see oftentimes is that issues that involve African-Americans in this country do not get the same amount of attention.  And it‘s in government things.  I mean, we heard—I remember after Elizabeth Smart was—the terrible abduction of Elizabeth Smart and how much attention that got, this lovely, really quite beautiful blond harpist got a lot of attention.

MATTHEWS:  Is that why it got attention?

EDWARDS:  I think she was very attractive.  She played well in the media.  There were African-American children also abducted at the same time who got none of the same attention.  This wasn‘t a pretty picture in Katrina.  It was a very ugly picture.  And instead, you go to Virginia Tech, and it‘s a beautiful campus like this is, and the story involved a lot of people who were sort of moving up in society, instead of the people who were held down by society.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about Katrina.  Would John Edwards, your husband, have shown up?  Would he have shown up in a helicopter?  Would he have come in there?  I want to have a picture in my head of how he might—if he would have handled differently than President Bush.  Would he have been there the first couple of days at the convention center?  Would he have waited?  Would he have come in later?  How would he have handled it differently?  You‘re here as his spokesperson.

EDWARDS:  John would have been there immediately.  That is—I mean, it‘s his style to be there immediately.  He did the same thing when we had flooding and hurricanes in eastern North Carolina that took out—there was an historically black town, Princeton, or near Princeton—actually (INAUDIBLE) -- that got taken out.  John went immediately there to see what was happening, so that when he was getting reports about progress, he would have a personal point of reference to know what was going on.

The other thing he would do is he wouldn‘t have gone to Mississippi and all around New Orleans, he would have gone straight to where the problem was, if only to you see the problem firsthand.  And what‘s more, John has been there time and again.  He got young people from colleges all over the country, over 800 young people, to spend their spring break last year in New Orleans, working on schools.

MATTHEWS:  How—Elizabeth, how does John Edwards compete in the excitement competition?

How many people here are for Hillary Clinton?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  How many here are for Barack Obama?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  How do you compete against the possibility of the first African-American president, the real possibility—the real possibility of the first woman president?  How do you compete against that historic excitement with John Edwards?

EDWARDS:  Well, you didn‘t ask how many people...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  How many people here are for Edwards?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS:  I am not worried at all about the excitement factor.  One of the things that we have—we have experience at this now.  If you lived through 2004, you heard morning, noon and night, Howard Dean, Howard Dean, Howard Dean.  Howard Dean has all the excitement.  You all remember this.  But the truth of the matter is, when it came down to actually making the decision, people decided who it was they thought both represented their best hope to get a Democratic president and the people who had actual policies that would address the problems they were facing.

MATTHEWS:  When do people get past the excitement and simply go with who they think can win?  When does that happen in this election, with all these primaries so early?  Will they decide in December, at Christmastime?  Is that when they‘ll say, Now we‘re going to pick a winner?  Is that when they decide?

EDWARDS:  Well, you know, in 1988, it was the beginning of December, when Dick Gephardt was in last place, he was in single digits in Iowa.  And yet he won the Iowa caucuses a few weeks later.  People make their decisions in a very full race like this very late.

But I want to say something to people who are making their decision, including people who have made their decisions...

MATTHEWS:  How many people here are going to vote?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Who‘s not going to vote?  Go ahead.  So you got a lot of voters here.  You have a whole county here.

EDWARDS:  But I hope that you‘re not just saying you‘re going to vote but that you‘re actually registered to vote.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS:  That wasn‘t quite as loud a yell.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure they‘re all 18.  Is everybody 18 here?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS:  What‘s going to happen in this process is people are going to make a decision based on the policies.  I honestly think that when you decide—when you‘re out there and you say, I‘m deciding to run for president, you ought to know why it is you‘re running.  You ought to have policies that you support.  You ought to have a reason why you‘re running.  And I‘m confident about John because he‘s done that.  Some of the other candidates...

MATTHEWS:  Let me try something here.

EDWARDS:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  How many people here know about their parents enough to know whether you have health insurance at home?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  How many don‘t have health insurance?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  I think more than that, that I would guess, because about 40 million or 50 million people in this country don‘t have health insurance.

EDWARDS:  And worse, when you get out of college and you‘re no longer able to be on your parents‘ health insurance, then you‘re really going to be in hot water, as our daughter, when she got out of college, had exactly the same problem, not covered buy our insurance again, so...

MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do about health insurance?

EDWARDS:  So which of these candidates that you all support has a universal health care plan?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Hillary had one first.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  How are you feeling?

EDWARDS:  I‘m feeling great.

MATTHEWS:  You look great.

EDWARDS:  How are you feeling?

MATTHEWS:  I am skinny and I‘m better.

EDWARDS:  I‘m skinnier.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re getting good reports and all?

EDWARDS:  I am.

MATTHEWS:  We love you, you know.

EDWARDS:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You know?  And you‘ve got that face that locks so cherubic, you know?

Elizabeth Edwards, the best spokesperson you could have for a candidate.  We‘ll be back.  She‘s been with us.  She‘s be with us again here at South Carolina State University, with the greatest marching band in the world!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back at South Carolina State University.  Everybody here is making me happy.  I don‘t know what it is.  I‘m happy!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Question to Elizabeth Edwards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How‘re you doing?

EDWARDS:  I‘m doing OK.  How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What role will young kids play in this election?

EDWARDS:  Actually, it‘s really important that young people be involved in this election because the future that we‘re trying to plan right now, when we‘re talking about global warming or as we were talking about, universal health care, we‘re talking about fixing the education system—all these things are really important.  And if they don‘t express themselves and make certain that their voice is heard, then people who may not have their interests at heart are going to take care of it.

Now, a lot of times people think global warming is some problem that‘s going to—dealing with people who are just young and nobody old.  In truth, it‘s an emergency we need to deal with right now.  But it‘s young people who are driving that issue.  I mean, I...

MATTHEWS:  Will global warming happen sooner down South than up North?

EDWARDS:  Today in particular, you mean?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It‘s hot!

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS:  You‘re here on a college campus.  I went to college in the ‘60s, and it was through college campuses that the great movement, you know, the movement against the Vietnam war, the movement for Civil Rights in this country—it happened on college campuses.  You all can make things happen.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Next.  Next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How‘re you doing, Ms. Edwards?

EDWARDS:  I‘m doing great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Great.  If your husband, Senator John Edwards, becomes president, after he serves his term, would you ever consider running for the presidency, like Hillary Clinton?

EDWARDS:  Absolutely not.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Come on!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why not?

EDWARDS:  Let‘s see.  John‘s—I‘m 57.  I would be 58 -- no, 59 when John was sworn in.  After eight years, I‘m now 67.  I‘m whatever, I‘m 67, wanting to put my feet up then, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All right.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s still younger than McCain.  Just kidding, John!

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello, Mrs. Edwards.  I‘m Sharita (ph).

EDWARDS:  Hey, Sharita.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My question is, How do you feel about the recent pay gaps between men and women, especially in their same field?

EDWARDS:  You know, that was—yesterday was I think a lot of attention paid to equal payday because that was the day women had to work all that time to make up the gap that they have.  What are we, it‘s 83 cents on the dollar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right.

EDWARDS:  And women also work in more minimum-wage jobs.  So we can—some of it we can correct in terms of women being able to support their families by moving—by increasing the minimum wage.  But it‘s unacceptable.  This is not an issue that happened today.  When I was in college in the 1960s, this was still the issue, and we‘re still fighting it.

MATTHEWS:  How do you change it?

EDWARDS:  You change it by having leadership who actually cares about it and makes it an important issue.  Now, John has a working wife, a daughter about to go out into the real world, and she‘s—thank you so much.

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS:  And so these are going to be—he‘s going to hear this stuff at home, too.

MATTHEWS:  I can imagine.  (INAUDIBLE) Elizabeth Edwards.  Look at her!  Isn‘t it great that she‘s looking good?  It‘s great to have her here.

We‘re at South Carolina State University, the most amazing, exciting place in the world.  Tonight we‘re going to have the very first debate among the Democrats.  They‘re all going to debate tonight.

Come right back for more HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s College Tour from South Carolina State University.  We‘re about an hour-and-a-half now from the first-in-the-country Democratic presidential candidates debate on MSNBC. 

We‘re joined by “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, Lynn Sweet of “The Chicago Sun-Times.”

We begin, of course, with “The Washington Post”‘s Eugene Robinson, who is coming home to the—you grew up right around here, right? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes.  I grew up in Orangeburg.  I grew up about 1,000 yards in that direction. 

I went to elementary school, the building—a building that stood right next to this gymnasium, where the band is playing. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, working in D.C. must be like working in the Klondike, it‘s so hot down here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Did you notice the temperature rising when we got out of the car today? 

ROBINSON:  I sure did.  It‘s—this is normal.  This is good.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it like in August down here? 

ROBINSON:  Oh, it‘s—you don‘t want to know.  You don‘t want to know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But let me ask you about...

ROBINSON:  But I think you do want to have a band every day.  I think you really need to have a band.

MATTHEWS:  It is great.  This may be the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean,, I played in my high school band.  And I carried an instrument.  Let‘s put it that way. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I played the French horn.  But these guys all look like they all play professionally. 

Look, let me ask you about this debate tonight.  Let‘s do it—let‘s do sports.  This is basically—we should be wearing blazers, OK? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Who has to throw the long ball tonight of whatever sports metaphor?  Who really has to get in the game? 

Lynn Sweet, you want to go? 

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”:  Biden, Chris Dodd have—and Bill Richardson have the most pressure to do something special, without looking nasty, because then it will be backfire.

MATTHEWS:  Do they have to engage the leaders? 

SWEET:  No, too risky.  They don‘t have to.  They could use humor, or they could have some incredible announcement to make about something.  Engaging is risky.  They might not want to take the risk. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do they go for the three-pointer? 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I want to mix my metaphors. 

FINEMAN:  No,, go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  Three-pointer, or are they going to the basket?

FINEMAN:  I agree about Richardson, Dodd, and Biden.  And they are making a big effort to get ready for doing just that. 

I think, if you‘re the front-runners, if you‘re people like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards, you want to show that you deserve your status. 

Hillary has got to show up.  She just can‘t mail it in.  Obama has got to show substantive knowledge of issues, because that‘s the way people are coming at him.  And John Edwards has to show his connection to rural America, which is the way he began his campaign years ago. 

We‘re in a rural area right here.  And he has got to show that connection.  So, that‘s what they have to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Gene? 

ROBINSON:  I basically agree. 

I think John Edwards has basically—I think John Edwards has to throw a long ball tonight, basically, in some ways, even more than...

MATTHEWS:  Because he needs an excitement factor, doesn‘t he?

ROBINSON:  He—well, he needs to stay in that upper tier.  He‘s lagging a bit.  I mean, look, he raised a gazillion dollars.  But everybody else raised two gazillion dollars. 

He needs to stay in that upper tier.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will he take on Hillary on the war?  Will he—let me just ask you, because I love to rip the scab off.  Is he just going to say, Hillary Clinton, I was wrong voting for the war; you won‘t say you were wrong; you‘re part of the problem? 

Will he take it to her?  You want to have a residual force in that country.  You don‘t want a pullout.

Is he willing to really draw the difference?

ROBINSON:  No, I don‘t think he will say that.  I think he—I think he—I expect him to be tougher in tone than maybe any other candidate. 

One thing I noticed, the last time I was here, more people were talking to me about Edwards than are talking to me about him now.  And there‘s a sense that...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s fading?

ROBINSON:  Well, there‘s a sense that people who were—who wanted to be really interested in his candidacy before are now maybe wanting to be interested in Hillary and Barack. 

MATTHEWS:  Do the Democrats have history on their mind right now?  Are they in that romantic—I happen to like the romantic part of politics.  Are they, the Democrats, in a romantic mood right now, where they want to do something really historic...

SWEET:  I don‘t think tonight...

MATTHEWS:  ... and pick an African-American guy for president?

SWEET:  I...

MATTHEWS:  Or a woman? 

SWEET:  I think tonight—in terms of tonight, I don‘t know—think that‘s what it‘s about, making history.  I think it‘s not messing up. 

And, in terms of this Iraq thing, I don‘t think anyone is going to go after them, well, the front-runners or top—second-tier, because that‘s what Dennis Kucinich is going to do.  And they will do it for him, or at least...

MATTHEWS:  You mean he‘s going to attack? 

SWEET:  He has nothing to lose.  He is here, basically, on his anti-war mission.  And he‘s the one who I would expect would point to everyone, especially the senators, and say, you‘re in the wrong place. 

So, I would calculate, if I were the front-runners...

FINEMAN:  Chris, that‘s...

SWEET:  ... that I would let him do that. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s where the conflict comes in. 

I—I think Democrats are in a romantic mood.  I know, having come down here and as a reporter for 20 years, that the story years ago was the rise of white evangelical Christians upstate.  Now you have got the focus on African-Americans and rural people downstate.  That‘s a huge difference.  And that puts people in a romantic mood. 

But the other part of the equation is, Democrats all want to end the war in Iraq.  I think the first third of this debate, at least, if not more, is going to be about Iraq, because, don‘t forget, today, the Senate voted as the House had voted. 

This is all taking place with the surround of the war.  These Democrats want that war over.  And they are going to be picking not just on romance, but on somebody they think has—can actually win the election for the purpose of ending the war. 

MATTHEWS:  Can Hillary Clinton look anti-war before a Democratic crowd down here, an African-American crowd, if you will, and then go back and brief “The New York Times” in a more hawkish manner? 

FINEMAN:  Well, here‘s the problem.

MATTHEWS:  Can she keep doing that? 

FINEMAN:  Here‘s the problem for Hillary is that they are dying in the Hillary camp to say:  Wait a minute.  Barack Obama was against the war as a candidate, but then he didn‘t come with a sense of urgency to Congress.  He voted for various war appropriations. 

I‘m saying they are in a defensive mood.  They are not thinking so much about how to defend her record as they are, I think, itching for the opportunity to attack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  They are trying to say...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... he‘s no better than we are? 

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s one way you could put it.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  But they don‘t want to say that.  They would rather have...

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  They would rather have somebody else in the debate say it. 

MATTHEWS:  Lynn?  Lynn?

SWEET:  I think they want someone else to say it.  I think that what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I get you.  They would like to have Kucinich blame both of them for being hawks. 

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  Right, because that is what he is going to do.

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  He‘s going to do it, because you don‘t want to look nasty.  You don‘t want to look negative.  This is a Democratic debate.  You don‘t want to be the one to be accused of driving this into disunity. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there—hey, thank you, guys.

Thanks, Gene, as always. 

ROBINSON:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s good to be in your territory here. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You grew up here, local guy. 

Lynn Sweet, thank you, from Chicago.  Thanks for being here. 

Howard, as always, we will see you after the debate, a long time tonight.  We are going to be sitting here when the weather gets cooler tonight. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  Up next: NBC‘s Tom Brokaw. 

You‘re watching the HARDBALL College Tour, live from South Carolina State University, on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC.com “Market Wrap.”

Strong earnings put the Dow in record territory yet again today.  The blue chips eked out a 15-point gain, but it was enough to put it at a record close of 13105.  The S&P 500 closed down a point—the Nasdaq up by 6.5.

Computer giant Microsoft released its quarterly earnings, posting better-than-expected results, thanks to sales of its Windows Vista operating system and Office 2007 software.

And Ford Motor company pared some losses today—the company posting a first-quarter net loss of $282 million, big improvement over last year‘s more-than-$1-billion loss.

And first-time jobless claims shrank by the biggest margin in nearly two months last week, another sign of some strength there in the jobs market.

And U.S. Airways admits its customer service could be better.  So, the carrier is adding about 1,000 jobs to give things a boost.  The new hires will include 80 newly created positions for monitoring flight schedules and helping passengers who miss their connections.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to the HARDBALL College Tour in Orangeburg, South Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL‘s College Tour from South Carolina State University...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

MATTHEWS:  ... where the first-in-the-country Democratic presidential candidates are going to meet tonight here on MSNBC for an hour-and-a-half of debate.  They are all going to be here. 

Joining me right now is an expert in debates, especially these early debates, NBC News‘ Tom Brokaw.

Tom, I have gone over the tapes.  I have watched you debate these guys in the beginning.  How important are these early get-togethers of candidates? 

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  Well, I think that they are more important for us and more important for their political handlers. 

The country, by all accounts, still not—is not paying as much attention as we are to all of this. 

In the early rounds, obviously, you don‘t want to make a mistake from which you cannot recover, and that‘s always the peril on an occasion such as this. 

At the same time, there are, for people...

MATTHEWS:  What about—what...

BROKAW:  Well, I was going to say, for people who are a little farther back in the pack, it‘s a chance for them to move up smartly.  Someone like Chris Dodd, for example, who is a very skilled politician, handles himself well in improvisational situations, maybe he could have a good night. 

But all the attention, clearly, will be on the relationship between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two people originally from Illinois—she is now from New York, obviously—who are the front-runners. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the scorecard?  Is it the print—print reporters who note the impressiveness of, say, a second-tier candidate, like a Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson, where they get some attention in the press?  What is the scorecard on who wins these things? 

BROKAW:  No, I think tonight, obviously, Chris, because this is the first time that we have seen Senator Obama and Senator Clinton on the same stage going after each other, tone will be very important.  People will want to see if he, in fact, has the stuff to stand up against this very formidable array. 

And a lot of the attention will be focused on him from the other candidates, as well, because they have got to stop the freight train that he has now got going across the political landscape, or at least slow it up a little bit. 

So, the danger for Barack Obama will be is that he will not look like he is up to the job.  I suspect that won‘t be the case, because he has become very practiced in these kinds of appearances.  It‘s a crowded stage.  Not everyone will have a lot of time to either answer as fully as they may like to or to get no trouble, unless they just do something completely unexpected and catastrophic. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you expect the other candidates to take on Hillary? 

BROKAW:  You know, that‘s going to be interesting to see.  I—my own

my own belief is that they are going to have to aim a little bit more at Barack Obama these days, because he has a lot of momentum that we‘re all talking about at this point.  And they will want to test him, to see if he has, as “The Economist” put it recently in one of its cover headlines, “Where‘s the Beef, Senator Obama?”  They will be asking him about that tonight.

This is the first time that we have seen him on a stage with Hillary and all the other candidates. 

Yes, I‘m sure that they will go after her some on the war.  But, at the same time, there are a lot of Democrats who are running for president and who are still in the party who believed at the time that it may not have been the greatest idea in the world, but they were at least for it. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about a guy—let‘s take another second-tier candidate.  And I know they don‘t like that phrase, but they are not really the front-runners. 

Bill Richardson, with his very impressive resume, can he go out there tonight and hope that he gets his turn where he just is impressive; he doesn‘t take on the leaders; he simply seeks to impress observers with his own weight?  Can he do that without tagging the front-runners? 

BROKAW:  Yes, I think that he can. 

I think an awful lot of what people will be looking for tonight is, how do their minds work?  They are not looking for their nine-point program on health care at this stage or how they are going to reform Social Security.  Or, for that matter, they are not looking for a detailed plan on how we get the troops out of Iraq or when do we declare victory and how do you define victory.

These early debates, these early rounds are really about tone, as much as anything else, a commanding presence, and a likability.  You know, we—we don‘t elect presidents that we don‘t like, for the most part.  And, so, people will be watching all of that tonight. 

I mean, the most memorable debate that I can remember, in terms of you could just see the fortunes of the other candidates change very quickly, was that memorable debate in New Hampshire, when Ronald Reagan had lost Iowa, came into New Hampshire.  George Bush had the big mo‘, as he described it.  That‘s Bush 41. 

And then Ronald Reagan arrived on stage with all those other candidates, wanted to include them in the debate.  And George Bush 41 didn‘t rise to the occasion and say, well, of course, these are all friends of mine; bring them here. 

He turned it over to the moderator.  And, when the moderator tried to turn off the microphone, we all remember what Ronald Reagan said, you know, “I paid for this microphone.”

(CROSSTALK)

BROKAW:  And David Broder turned to me and said, “This has just changed this race.”  And it did. 

But we were only a couple—about a week away from the New Hampshire primary at that point.  We‘re a long way away now from the opening gun. 

MATTHEWS:  Having moderated a number of these debates over the years, how much spontaneity is there?  And how much of these are set pieces?

When you describe great moments, like Bentsen‘s or even Reagan‘s, how many of them are prescribed ahead of times, written up by people like Roger Ailes, and how many of them are truly spontaneous, do you think? 

BROKAW:  Well, it‘s a mix, really.

You know, part of Brian‘s challenge tonight, or any moderator‘s challenge, is to try to get at that authentic moment.  And it‘s not easy to do.  They all have a message that they want to get across here tonight, either in terms of their appearance or on a specific issue. 

And my guess is that most of them will hope tonight that they can get out of there unbloodied and that they will leave behind a broad, good impression of who they are and where they want to take the country.  There will be some moments when there will be some spontaneous interaction between them. 

I remember doing a debate when Howard Dean clearly was the frontrunner and had a lot of momentum going, and all of the other candidates just turned on him, on his stand on Medicare and a couple of other issues, and you could begin to see that his campaign then was going to either come unraveled—or it certainly was under assault, and those were real spontaneous moments. 

And in the end, I do think that it probably damaged him because he became everyone else‘s favorite target. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this is going to be a big moment for Barack?  What‘s your hunch?  I mean, I hate to put you out on a limb here, but do you think Barack is going to do it tonight?  He is certainly effective in front of a big audience.  Can he do that kind of solo act that we have seen him do so well, with nine or so people around him? 

BROKAW:  You know, Chris, with all due respect, I always feel that on these occasions, at this moment, we‘re a lot like the sportswriters before the Super Bowl who think that they know what‘s going to happen, and then the kickoff happens, and the game takes an entirely different pattern. 

Look, he‘s very practiced.  Everybody on that stage knows that.  Even his critics in the Democratic Party, who have other candidates that they are supporting, say he‘s the real deal.  And part of being the real deal is that he‘s so at ease with himself and has such command of the language and a general command of what it is that he believes. 

So he‘s not coming in there as an untried rookie.  He has been out on the hustings a long time.  And he has been asked some very tough questions in New Hampshire and here in New York and in Iowa where he has been raising some money and introducing himself to the candidates. 

So you know, it‘s pretty hard for me to think that he won‘t be very well prepared for tonight.  But so will Hillary Clinton and so will Bill Richardson and so will Chris Dodd and the others.  These are all practiced politicians at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it should be great tonight.  Thanks for that pre-game from Tom Brokaw.  It‘s great to have you on.  Tom will join Keith Olbermann and myself in the next hour as we continue to get ready for the first Democratic debate for the presidential campaign of 2008. 

We begin—in fact, we return right now to South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn when we come back, a South Carolina State alumnus.  This is HARDBALL, the “College Tour” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back here pre-gaming the big debate tonight for the Democrats.  Stay with us.  Back in a moment from South Carolina State University.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Democrats are set to debate tonight here in South Carolina.  At South Carolina State, they call this place State.  In an hour and 15 minutes, we‘re going to see some fireworks tonight.  Right now I‘m joined by a man who is one of the great men of this area, House Democratic whip, I love that word, whip, James Clyburn.  He is an alumnus of State. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)        

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  Thank you, thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have done the world a favor, bringing us down here.  And I know you were instrumental.

CLYBURN:  Thank you very much. 

MATTHEWS:  . in having this happen down here at South Carolina State University.  Why did you think it was important for the Democrats to debate here? 

CLYBURN:  Well, as you know, South Carolina is a state that is in transition in so many ways, and here on this campus 39 years ago, at the same time the event was occurring at Kent State, we had a very unfortunate circumstance occur here.  The whole world focused on Kent State.  Very few people focused on South Carolina State. 

And we have been in sort of a funk ever since.  I thought that this debate would be a great way for us to turn the page and move forward into the future with a new beginning here in Orangeburg and at State. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me about Delano Middleton and Henry Smith and the other fellow.  Why did they get killed by the police? 

CLYBURN:  Well, there was an argument over public accommodations, and of course here on this campus one night while those demonstrations were taking place, February of 1968, a confrontation occurred.  Nobody understands exactly why the gunfire broke out, but it did.  And when it was all over, there were a bunch of injuries and three students were dead. 

And so this sort of launched us into that funk.  This community of Orangeburg that I spent a lot of time in when I was a kid.  My father pastored here when I was a kid.  I spent a lot of time on this campus as a child growing up.  I grew up, wanted to go no place but South Carolina State.  And so I felt that it was time for us to break out of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Thirty-nine years ago.

CLYBURN:  Thirty-nine years ago.

MATTHEWS:  . Sam Hammond was the other fellow.  Well, anyway, we have a little surprise for you because we know you‘re a veteran of the civil rights movement.  And we have a couple of people joining us right now.  Two gentlemen who spent a lot of time with you while you were a student here at State, South Carolina State University.  Here is James Gilliard and Sam Prioleau, who were two of your classmates. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLYBURN:  Hey, Sam. 

SAMUEL PRIOLEAU, CLYBURN COLLEGE CLASSMATE:  How are you doing? 

CLYBURN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Gilliard, thank you. 

JAMES GILLIARD, CLYBURN COLLEGE CLASSMATE:  How are you doing, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  I want you to talk about this fellow here, what kind of a student he was.  He had a nickname back then, didn‘t he? 

GILLIARD:  Yes.  He had a couple of nicknames. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What was the good one? 

GILLIARD:  The good one was “Senator.” 

MATTHEWS:  Senator.

GILLIARD:  Yes.  Sometimes we called him “Sen.” 

MATTHEWS:  Why is that? 

GILLIARD:  Because he was a diplomat a long time ago.  He was a brewing congressman a long time ago. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he have the political bug back then? 

GILLIARD:  Yes, he did. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Sam Prioleau, tell me about the civil rights movement and this guy, tear-gassing and all that stuff? 

PRIOLEAU:  Well, the civil rights movement, Clyburn was one of the leaders on our campus.  And when we went down to demonstrate, Clyburn was the leader and one day we went down Russell Street.  The policemen watered us down.  After they watered us down, they handcuffed him, and put him in the car to lock him up because we were demonstrating going down to Woolworth to try to get a sandwich. 

MATTHEWS:  What year was that, do you remember? 

PRIOLEAU:  That was 1959 or 1960. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRIOLEAU:  Sixty-nine. 

MATTHEWS:  So Woolworth was segregated then.  You couldn‘t eat at the lunch counter? 

PRIOLEAU:  No, you could not eat at the lunch counter.  So they put him in the back of the car and he said to me, said Sam, take the leadership and take the group on downtown.  And I said, OK, I will do.  So I started marching down.  And there was about a group of about 50 or 100 students behind me. 

And when we got to the doors of the Woolworth, there was a policeman there seemed like he was designed as big as an oak tree.  He must have been 6‘8”, 300 pounds.  And he said, OK, come on, you‘re going to jail with us right now.  And I said, no way, I‘m not going to jail today.  No way.  I‘m not being locked up today. 

But my job was to come back to the campus and conjure up some money so that all the kids that they had locked up in the picket fence down there, we could buy food to feed them. 

MATTHEWS:  So you are both heroes of the movement. 

PRIOLEAU:  Yes, definitely. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an amazing war story.  Let‘s talk about the toga party now.  Ha!

CLYBURN:  The toga party?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let‘s take a look at the toga party.  We have got a

picture here of this gentleman to my left, the distinguished leader of the

Congress.  Here he is in fun—more fun days looking like Julius Caesar

himself.  There he is.  What memories does that bring back?  A little less

from the sublime to the ridiculous here? 

CLYBURN:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING)

CLYBURN:  That was from one of the plays I did.  I did a number of plays.

MATTHEWS:  What was this play?  Was this “Julius Caesar”?  It is “Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene ii.  Do you remember the lines? 

CLYBURN:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Who were you?  Were you Brutus? 

CLYBURN:  I was never Brutus.  See that thing on my head?  Julius Caesar.  I‘m always the one that gets betrayed. 

MATTHEWS:  You were Caesar?  Oh, no. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Et tu, Brutus. 

CLYBURN:  Yes.  I have got something for you though. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

CLYBURN:  I want you to have great memories of here.  We‘re going to give Chris Matthews—we‘re going to make him a great Bulldog. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  When we return, my colleague Keith Olbermann, is going to join us, because we‘re going to be co-anchoring tonight as we get ready for the “first in the country” presidential debate moderated by our own Brian Williams tonight.  I will be over—it will be over in an hour from now.  Stay tuned right here at South Carolina State University where Jim Clyburn went!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Back on the HARDBALL “College Tour” in South Carolina State University where tonight the Democratic presidential candidates face off in their first big debate.  With me now for our coverage tonight before and after the debate, pre- and post-game, my colleague Keith Olbermann. 

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN”:  Good to be with you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It is always great. 

OLBERMANN:  And if you don‘t the stakes already here, if you don‘t already know the possibilities, they are endless.  We need to fasten our seatbelts I think tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think that was—who was the actress that said that? 

OLBERMANN:  Bette Davis in “All About Eve.” 

MATTHEWS:  Bette Davis.  Fasten your seatbelts.  Because do you believe that the other candidates are going to take a shot at the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, here is that dynamic, do you want to bloody the other contenders now?  Do you want to hand the Republicans something to run against, whoever wins this battle long term?  How do you battle that against your own needs in terms of what you need to do to get the nomination? 

MATTHEWS:  What about the fact that 60 percent of the people watching who are voting are women, and to have all of these guys gang up on a woman candidate, what that would look like? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  That—there is a new dynamic.  We think about all of the symbolic meanings of having the contenders being from parts of the populous that have not been represented before.  We don‘t think of the practical ones.  What is that going to look like if you make a woman candidate look bad?  If you seem to be ganging up on a minority candidate.  It has a.

MATTHEWS:  Solidarity.  It creates solidarity among women, among African-Americans, right?

OLBERMANN:  One would assume that.  But what does it create within a party then?  I mean, what do you do?  Do these Democrats have to—in terms of looking to 2008, do they all have to sign a no-beat-up pledge?  Are they all going to come out of this unbloodied?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have never heard of the Democrats having an eleventh commandment like the Republicans.  You know, they do say ill of their opponents. 

Anyway, I want to thank everyone here at South Carolina State University.  What a great place.  The Democratic debate begins now in just one hour tonight.  Right now, stay with Keith and me for a full hour of coverage as we get ready for the “first in the country” Democratic presidential debate.

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

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