updated 4/27/2007 11:48:30 AM ET 2007-04-27T15:48:30

Guests: Stephanie Cutter, Joe Erwin, Eugene Robinson, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Al Sharpton, Mudcat Saunders, Howard Wolfson, Lee Bandy

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Joining you live today from the campus of South Carolina State University.  We‘re about three hours from the first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary debate. 

It will be happening at 7:00 tonight on this campus, a historically black university, in Orangeburg, South Carolina. 

As of right now, we‘re 263 days from the caucuses in the state of Iowa.  That‘s the first voting in the primary season.  It is apt to be a short season this year, and it all begins today. 

This is the first time all the Democratic nominees or would-be nominees for president are going to be in the same place on the same stage in just about three hours from now. 

We are joined by “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, who, as it turns out, grew up about, what, 100 yards away, 1,000 feet away, something like that? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes, 1,000 feet away, something like that. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I grew up here in Orangeburg.  This is the most amazing thing, really. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Why is it here?  Why Orangeburg?  Why this university? 

ROBINSON:  You know, Orangeburg is a really interesting community. 

When I was growing up here in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s, the part of Orangeburg I knew was really kind of a college town, two historically black colleges here.  Most of the adults I knew were associated with one or the other college. 

White Orangeburg was more of an agricultural community.  There was a

very strict racial divide.  You know, I remember we would go shopping

downtown.  And my mother went to the shoe store and took me along when I

was a little kid.  We always would go in the back door.  And I never quite

you know, it took me a while to realize why we had to go in the back door, and other people came in the front door, and that sort of thing. 

That was—it was this kind of community. 

CARLSON:  So, if you were a candidate, if you were a Democrat coming down to Orangeburg, trying to win the support of the people who live here, what would you say?  All candidates tailor their remarks to the audience they are speaking before. 

ROBINSON:  Mm-hmm. 

CARLSON:  But what would you say to win over South Carolina voters in particular? 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, first of all, if I‘m a Democratic primary candidate, I realize that half—about the primary vote—votes will be cast by African-Americans. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  I would keep that in mind. 

But, then, I would give my spiel.  I would basically give my regular spiel.  I might talk a bit more about race and issues of equality.  But the issues that concern African-Americans are basically the issues that concern the rest of the country. 

I mean, people here are concerned about the war.  They are concerned about jobs, economic issues.  They are concerned about the schools.  Health care is a major issue here.  And people here are going to be—are going to be listening to hear what the candidates have to say about these kinds of bread-and-butter issues. 

CARLSON:  Well, these candidates spend—in this year, spend a lot of their time talking about Iraq.  There‘s virtual agreement, at least on the surface, among the Democrats that we need to leave Iraq...

ROBINSON:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... as soon as we possibly can.

ROBINSON:  Right. 

CARLSON:  There are variations, shades of gray, but, mostly, this is the “Let‘s get out of Iraq” caucus.

This state, I think, has the highest rated military service of any state, maybe the most retired veterans.

ROBINSON:  Certainly very high.

CARLSON:  It‘s certainly up there.  That‘s exactly right. 

And this—in fact, this university, a spokesman for it was telling me earlier today, I think there is something like 40 U.S. Army colonels serving right now who graduated from where we‘re sitting right here. 

Do they need to tailor their remarks about Iraq keeping that in mind? 

ROBINSON:  I don‘t think so. 

I mean, I think the war has become unpopular throughout the country. 

And, you know, I don‘t think you have to pull punches on—on Iraq here.  I do think, if I were a candidate, I would want to talk about some more domestic issues. 

And I think the audience here—they really have two audiences they are talking to, don‘t they?  They have the local audience and the national audience.  I think the local audience would want to hear, you know, some specifics from the candidates about domestic issues that are really very important, and...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  The dynamic between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is going to be the one that I think everyone is watching tonight.

(CROSSTALK) 

CARLSON:  They are standing next to one another.  They will be at 7:00 on stage.

If you‘re Barack Obama, I think everyone agrees it‘s tough attacking Hillary.  Nobody looks good doing it.  It doesn‘t help.  How do you handle Hillary Clinton, as a matter of tone? 

ROBINSON:  You know, I don‘t know. 

I think there is an aesthetic problem if you come across as too tough or too strident.

CARLSON:  Beating up on the woman. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  I was here a couple of months ago, when Obama made an appearance at Claflin University, which is right across the fence behind us. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  He was quite warmly received here. 

And, as a matter of fact, I think, before that appearance, a lot of people I talked to were very interested in John Edwards‘ candidacy, and really thought that he was—he was going to, you know, potentially win this primary.  I‘m hearing less of that this time. 

I‘m hearing Hillary and Barack, basically. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  And I think, you know, if I were in the Edwards campaign, I could be a bit concerned about that. 

I don‘t think Obama has to tailor his message or his tone that much. 

He is usually pretty good at that. 

CARLSON:  Does it—I mean, we will talk more about it later in the show.  We are going to have someone from the Edwards campaign on, Mudcat Saunders.

But I think the average Northerner, looking at this, says, well, gee, you know, John Edwards was born in this state.  He has got a Southern accent. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  A much more authentic accent than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  It feels that way.  Well, I don‘t know.  Mrs. Clinton, I think, is from deepest Alabama.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  We know that from the way she has been talking lately.

But does it matter?  I mean, do you need to sound regional to win a region anymore? 

ROBINSON:  No.  I don‘t think you should try. 

CARLSON:  You certainly shouldn‘t try.  There‘s no doubt about that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  You certainly shouldn‘t try.  I don‘t think you need to, no.  I think you need to—it‘s your issues.  It‘s what you have to say. 

CARLSON:  That‘s—I think that‘s right. 

We‘re joined now by the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Joe Erwin.

Mr. Erwin, thanks for coming on. 

JOE ERWIN, CHAIRMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  You‘re welcome. 

Good to be here. 

CARLSON:  If you pull back, is there a certain irony in the Democrats coming to this state?  It seems a little bit like the Republicans going to Massachusetts, the Democrats going to Utah.  I mean, is there any chance a Democrat could win in a national election here?  It hasn‘t happened in 30 years.  For real, could it happen? 

ERWIN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  How?

ERWIN:  But it has to start somewhere.  And, you know, you probably don‘t change history like that in a single cycle. 

But I think it‘s like (INAUDIBLE).  And you have got to take on, as a party, the willingness to compete anywhere. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ERWIN:  This used to be a Democratic region.  It changed because of white flight from the Democratic Party, largely. 

And now what we‘re seeing is, we‘re seeing new people in the contest.  We‘re seeing people of color.  We‘re seeing women.  And I think—and Democrats getting excited again. 

So, I think there is going to be a chance.  Is it an upset chance?  Probably.  But you have got to start somewhere.  And I think the DNC, in investing in my team down here in South Carolina, made a good choice. 

CARLSON:  Well, it seems to me, in order to reverse a trend, you have to understand what caused the trend in the first place.  What is it about the brand of the Democratic Party, the generic brand, that was so unappealing to Southern whites, as you said? 

ERWIN:  Well, I think it was the civil rights movement and a feeling among a lot of white people who didn‘t understand and weren‘t used to living in an integrated society that they didn‘t understand that the civil rights legislation was about making things better for everybody. 

Look, my parents—this is just a fact—my parents left the Democratic Party because of race in the ‘60s.  And now I have seen it come full circle.  My mom, who became a Republican—my dad died young—but my mom has been a Republican for probably a quarter-of-a-century or more.  You know who she is fascinated by right now? 

CARLSON:  Barack Obama.

ERWIN:  Barack Obama. 

ROBINSON:  Barack Obama.

CARLSON:  Right. 

ERWIN:  Now, she may vote Republican. 

Mom, if you‘re watching, I don‘t want to say you‘re voting for Barack Obama.

CARLSON:  Well, why is it that so many—just quickly, tell me, why so many Republicans fascinated by Barack Obama?  They are not necessarily going to vote for him, but they don‘t hate him.  Why is that? 

ERWIN:  You know, I don‘t know the answer, but here is what I suspect. 

He just seems real.  He seems like an honest person, a breath of fresh air in American politics.  And we haven‘t had a lot of fresh faces in a while, for him to come out of—and just a buzz and an excitement, a charisma, if you will.  It reminds me of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  He has a very inclusive way of... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  No, he does.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  And he seems like a decent guy, too. 

Joe Erwin, thanks a lot. 

(CROSSTALK)

ERWIN:  You‘re welcome. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... right here.

We will be back in just a minute. 

In the age of YouTube, every candidate wants to avoid the unthinkable, a painful gaffe on stage.  Will it happen?  We will tell you what will happen should it tonight at 7:00.

We will be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  There‘s a live debate coming up at 7:00, about two hours and 45 minutes from now.  It could make or break any of these candidates.  We have got a long list of suggestions as to what they should and what they shouldn‘t.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1992)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Admiral Stockdale, your opening statement, please, sir.

JAMES STOCKDALE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Who am I?  Why am I here? 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Why am I here? 

We know why we‘re here.  We‘re on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  It‘s going to be the site of the first debate of this season. 

The Democrats, those who would be the nominee, meet here tonight at 7:00 p.m.—a live debate, orchestrated by Brian Williams of NBC. 

Today, Joe Biden of Delaware officially opened an office right here in Orangeburg, making the point that the candidate who wins this state‘s primary, wins the South Carolina primary, will be the nominee of the Democratic Party.  That‘s how much pressure is on tonight‘s debate. 

Will they screw it up or won‘t they? 

Joining us now, Stephanie Cutter.  She was communications director for the John Kerry presidential campaign.  Stephanie is also one of the South Carolina‘s Democratic Party‘s organizers of tonight‘s debate. 

We‘re also joined by Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post.” 

Welcome to you both. 

It‘s the oldest question in the book, Stephanie.  What do they need to do?  Hillary Clinton, she is leading.

Actually, even before I finish asking the question, let‘s—I want to

put up on the screen where we stand today with the polls.  Here‘s the

latest Zogby poll from South Carolina:  Who would you vote for?  Hillary

Clinton, 33 percent.  That‘s down two points in a week.  Barack Obama at 26

that‘s up five points in a week.  The trend is his friend.  Hillary Clinton, does she have something to prove tonight? 

 

STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER KERRY CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  I

don‘t think she has anything to prove.  I don‘t think any of the (OFF-MIKE) I think, at the bare minimum (OFF-MIKE) They need to hold it steady.  The non-front-runners is where the real chance (OFF-MIKE)

CARLSON:  All right. 

We‘re—everything you said was worth hearing, but nobody heard it, because your mike is down.  We are going to fix it in mere seconds. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Here is my question to you, Gene. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Does Hillary Clinton have anywhere to go?  Do you get the feeling—and when I—I was on the plane this morning with a bunch of political people.  And the consensus on the U.S. Air flight, anyway, was—and I agree with this—she has peaked. 

It‘s hard to see how Hillary Clinton gets more popular.  She has universal name recognition.  Can she go higher from here?  And, if so, how? 

ROBINSON:  Oh, sure, she can.  I mean, you can‘t—you might peak. 

You theoretically could peak this early. 

But you haven‘t necessarily peaked this early, if you—if you are up and you start to drift down.  I mean, you can—you can come back.  It‘s still quite early, even given this front-loaded primary schedule, and the fact that, by February 5 of next year, we will doubtless know the nominee. 

Even given all that, sure, she has time to come back.  Number one, her

her opponents, her major rivals, could screw up in some way.  Barack Obama could make a mistake. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  John Edwards could make a mistake, and Hillary Clinton could be the last woman standing. 

CARLSON:  For Barack Obama, Stephanie—and I think we‘re coming back into live audio world here—for Barack Obama, is it a question of showing that you are experienced enough, that you have the right temperament?  I mean, the guy has only been in the Senate for two years. 

CUTTER:  Yes.  Well, I think that‘s a question that he may get tonight, either from one of the moderate... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Do you think people care? 

CUTTER:  Yes, I think people care. 

I don‘t think there‘s a particular concern about him.  But, you know, he‘s got a lot of those details to fill in.  And there‘s plenty of time to do that.  And they particularly care because we‘re in the middle of a war in Iraq, and we have got all of these pressures at home.  They are looking for a president to lead us in a new direction.

CARLSON:  If you were advising him—and maybe you are secretly—I don‘t know.

You‘re not? 

CUTTER:  No.

CARLSON:  Good.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Let‘s say you were.  Would you suggest that he highlight his differences on the war with Hillary Clinton?  Why not call her out on that?  You say you‘re anti-war, Mrs. Clinton, but, holy smokes, you voted for the thing. 

CUTTER:  Well, you know, it‘s interesting. 

First of all, Barack Obama doesn‘t need my advice.  But it‘s interesting you bring that up, because, when you really look at the candidates, there is very little difference between them on Iraq. 

CARLSON:  That‘s right. 

CUTTER:  So, it‘s going to be hard...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I mean, one difference is, she voted for it; he didn‘t. 

ROBINSON:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Should he say that, remind us? 

ROBINSON:  Well, I actually think he should not.  I think that that fact is out there.  Everyone knows his—he was not in a position to vote for it. 

But, nonetheless, he was an opponent of the war when it started. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  You know, when you look at their current positions about what to do now, they aren‘t that far apart, as Stephanie said.  And, so, I think—you know, I think the them that “We Democrats are united in opposition to President Bush‘s policy on the war” is what you will hear tonight, I think, basically. 

CUTTER:  But what you could hear on Iraq is—you know, the—the Senate just passed the supplemental today.

CARLSON:  Right. 

CUTTER:  And it will get sent to the president probably on the anniversary of “Missouri Accomplished.”

What happens after the veto?  What should Democrats do then?  Because I think that‘s where you could hear...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Do you think they would get into that level?  I wonder, does the average person watching at home follow the debate sufficiently to kind of follow along with that conversation? 

CUTTER:  Yes, I mean, I think, when it comes to a presidential veto over war funding, they do.  And I think that‘s a real opening for John Edwards. 

CARLSON:  Do you think it‘s smart—you get a sense there is almost a gentleman‘s agreement at the early debates that everyone is polite, and, we‘re in this together, and our common enemy is the president...

ROBINSON:  Right. 

CARLSON:  ... not one another. 

But that‘s not true.  Their enemy is one another.  There can only be one nominee, right?

(LAUGHTER)

CUTTER:  And whoever goes negative first pays a price.

CARLSON:  Does he?  You think so?

CUTTER:  Oh, yes, definitely.

This early on, once you start going negative, it‘s hard to break that mold. 

CARLSON:  Boy, I admire the guy who goes negative first. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Do you think that is true?

ROBINSON:  Well, I don‘t think it makes sense for anybody to go hyper-negative at this point, because Hillary Clinton can only lose tonight, I think.  Barack Obama, in a sense, can only lose tonight.  He has been doing so well. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  How could he have done better?  You know, he came from nowhere to be, you know, catching Hillary Clinton in the polls. 

John Edwards maybe could be a bit more aggressive.  And the lower tier of candidates would like to get noticed.  But I don‘t think the way to get noticed is necessarily to try to take down Hillary or Barack.  I think that would be bad. 

CARLSON:  No.  That‘s like—and, Stephanie, finally, you have been with candidates.  You were certainly with John Kerry before debates.  You think of these people as unflappable.  They do this every day.  But they don‘t do it every day.  They don‘t have debates like this every day.

CUTTER:  No.

CARLSON:  Are they nervous? 

CUTTER:  Well, I would imagine they probably are.  They are.

But I think that, if you look at who is going to be standing up there tonight, they are all pretty good orators and debaters. 

CARLSON:  Well, they are.  They are the best in the country, actually...

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER:  They are.  So...

CARLSON:  ... at this sort of thing.

CUTTER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Have you ever had a candidate say to you, you know what, I‘m nervous?

CUTTER:  Absolutely. 

CARLSON:  Really?  What do you say? 

CUTTER:  I would be, too. 

CARLSON:  Oh.  You don‘t say, knock it off; toughen up?

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER:  No.

And, when you‘re nervous, that‘s when your adrenaline flows.  And that‘s when, generally, you‘re at your best. 

CARLSON:  I think that‘s—that‘s very wise.  That‘s one of the truths about performing. 

Thank you both very much. 

Coming up:  A lot is at stake.  Doris Kearns Goodwin joins us right after the break to tell us, how does this compare to other Democratic debates?

And then the Reverend Al Sharpton.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That‘s what the question in this campaign is about.  It‘s not only what‘s your philosophy and what‘s your position on issues, but can you get things done?  And I believe I can. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Welcome back to the campus of South Carolina State University here in Orangeburg, South Carolina. 

The debate about two and a half hours from now, 7 p.m. Eastern.  All the Democratic contenders on one stage.  Every time we have a debate like this, the question arises: who will look presidential and who won‘t?  The better question is what exactly does it mean to look presidential?

Joining us now, NBC historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, joining us from Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Doris, thanks for coming on.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, NBC HISTORIAN:  Hi, Tucker.  Thank you.  I‘m glad to be here. 

CARLSON:  How do—how do you—thanks.  How do you go about looking presidential?

GOODWIN:  Well, I think what we‘re going to be looking for tonight are clues to the temperament and the personality of these characters.  I mean, for example, we‘re looking for who respects his rivals, unlike Gore, when he was smirking and sighing when the other guy was talking. 

CARLSON:  Right.

GOODWIN:  We‘re going to look at who has energy, who seems to be enjoying the process, you know, unlike Bush looking at his watch. 

We‘re going to look about who can deflect criticism well, as Reagan did brilliantly when he talked about his age and Mondale‘s inexperience. 

You go on to see who‘s self-confident versus who‘s arrogant, who seems natural as opposed to who is over-programmed. 

There are clues to temperament, because they‘re all going to be together tonight for the first time, even though it‘s the beginning of a long and bumpy road. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a tough one: how to be lively and assertive without being too aggressive and boorish.  I mean, that‘s a fine line. 

Do you think that—you mentioned the famous Bush at the watch and Gore sighing—do you think we read too much into the body language of the candidates on stage, or is that fair?

GOODWIN:  Well, I think it probably sometimes reflects who they are, and sometimes it doesn‘t.  I mean, I think Nixon‘s shiftiness and his—you know, his nervousness during that 1960 campaign reflected something inside of him. 

Sometimes it can be just an—you know, an unhappy facial tick, which may not be fair to do. 

CARLSON:  Yes.

GOODWIN:  I think the interesting thing for us tonight, however, is that there‘s going to be probably not enough spontaneity.  They‘re so worried about making a mistake and a gaffe, which we‘ve seen in the last couple of months, that it‘s almost like they‘re going to be having a big fat girdle on them.  And then maybe the whole idea and the fun of the debate will be lessened if they do that. 

So they‘ve got to take a chance.  They‘ve got to be a little aggressive like you said.  But there is that fine line between saying something stupid and seeming too programmed. 

CARLSON:  And they‘re going to have Hillary Clinton there, which is—this is different.  I mean, she is a woman, and that doesn‘t matter in some ways, but it does matter in others.  And I wonder if it changes the tactics of the other candidates.  Can they come out and call her out on things?  Or will they look overbearing and rude if they try that?

GOODWIN:  I think that‘s another fine line they‘re going to have to go over.  But I think as time goes by, they‘re going to have to treat her as one of the guys.  Because if she is the frontrunner, they‘re going to have to subtly try and, you know, knock her down a little bit without appearing overaggressive. 

But you‘re right, then is it, “Oh, that guy is taking care of that woman again”?

CARLSON:  Yes.

GOODWIN:  But in the long run, they‘re all going to have to be one of the guys. 

CARLSON:  If you‘re Barack Obama and you feared that questions would soon be raised about your relative youth and inexperience, how would you project stateliness, presidential qualities that are so hard to describe?  What would you do?

GOODWIN:  Well, I think what he has to be talking about is that what seems to have going for him right now is that he has a connection with the American people and the places that he‘s gone.  And that he‘ll be drawing on that as experience for what he will bring into his temperament and character in the presidency. 

You know, he may get a question, the answer of which he may not know, because he‘s not had that long senatorial experience that the other ones have.  And maybe he should just say, you know, “I will have a better thought for what my program should be for that problem.  I‘m still learning it.  I‘m talking to people.  And I will get back to you.”  Instead of trying to come out with some seven-point program that will not sound as if it‘s been thought through in depth. 

CARLSON:  Right.  You really think people—if somebody is honest like that?  Really, you think—I know you‘re a decent person.  You would respect someone who did that.  But you think your average voter would say, “You know what?  I admire his honesty for admitting he doesn‘t know”?  You really think so? 

GOODWIN:  Here‘s the question.  I think the average voter would admire that.  But I don‘t know if the press would let him get away with it.  It might be the headlines the next day: “Barack does not know X, Y, or Z.”  So maybe my advice is not well taken. 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re 100 percent right in that prediction. 

Doris Kearns Goodwin from Minneapolis.  Thanks a lot. 

GOODWIN:  You‘re welcome, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  The rural vote, the black vote.  Two important elements Democrats running for president will have to capture or at least attempt to.  How do they win them?

Joining us next, the Reverend Al Sharpton, focus of the now famous Sharpton Primary and Mudcat Saunders, rural voting expert of the John Edwards for president campaign.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We‘re on the campus of South Carolina State University here in Orangeburg. 

South Carolina is an unusual state for a number of demographic reasons.  About 30 percent of the population here is African-American.  That‘s almost 2.5 times the national average. 

How do the candidates win that vote?  We‘ll tell you when we come back, but first here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(STOCK REPORT)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

Whenever more than one political consultant gathers in one place, you hear the same conversation: America broken down into ever more smaller demographic groups.  The black vote, the rural vote, elderly women, elderly men, people under 25. 

The first two, however—black voters, rural voters—are particularly concerns for the Democrats running for the nomination for president this year and of particular concern to those running in this state, South Carolina.  Lots of black voters here, lots of rural voters. 

How do Democrats win them?  To tell us, we‘re joined by Al Sharpton, all of a sudden, one of the single most important figures in the Democratic primary, though he‘s not running for president again this time.  And Mudcat Saunders, an expert on the rural vote, who is advising John Edwards for president. 

Welcome to you both. 

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  Thank you. 

MUDCAT SAUNDERS, JOHN EDWARDS FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So Reverend, do we overstate the difference between black voters and white voters or Hispanic voters?  I mean, are the concerns of black voters in South Carolina really all that different from the concerns of voters anywhere?

SHARPTON:  There are differences and there are similarities.  I think that, in some ways, the fact that there‘s still a disparity in health care services and education services and there‘s still a lot of profiling based on race, that gives us particular concern. 

Within the broader concerns of education and health care, and the war is a concern of everyone. 

So I think that one of the things I learned when I ran in ‘04 is that you have to talk both.  You‘ve got to talk to the general concerns and the specific concerns.  I ran with no money.  I mean, I don‘t think I spent $10,000 and got 10 percent of the vote. 

CARLSON:  I was with you that night in this state, actually. 

SHARPTON:  A lot of—a lot of that was because I related to a base.  I wouldn‘t suggest anybody else try that.  I think these guys have a lot more money, and they‘re going to have to address the specific concerns without sacrificing the broader concerns. 

CARLSON:  so who is doing the best job so far?  And who are you going to wind up endorsing?  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd.

SHARPTON:  I haven‘t decided.  I mean, all of them should visit the National Action Network and convince them.

CARLSON:  Who do you like best? 

SHARPTON:  It‘s not about who you like.  I think what‘s wrong with this race is that we‘re running it like it‘s “American Idol”: who waves the best, who smiles the best, rather than who stands for something.  I think tonight starts the American public seeing the issues of substance. 

I said at my own convention, I‘m glad John Edwards talks about poverty.  He really brought that in.  He went to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and announced his campaign.  I‘m glad Hillary Clinton talked about health, and I think that‘s important.  I‘m glad Kucinich on the war.  I‘m glad that Barack has raised some specific points.  We‘re finally getting to substance.  And I think that that‘s going to make it or lose it. 

Last time, Tucker, in ‘04 at this time, everybody thought Howard Dean was the nominee.  He‘d raised the most money.  He was on the cover of all the magazines. 

CARLSON:  That‘s true.  That‘s true.

SHARPTON:  And it didn‘t happen that way.  So I would not tell people to bet on who you guys tell him to. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think it wasn‘t just us guys.  It was Democratic primary voters who had not yet come to their senses and were supporting Howard Dean. 

Mudcat, Democrats have just had it handed to them in the South since

Jimmy Carter got elected in ‘76.  Why exactly have southern voters fallen -

it‘s a question I asked a minute ago.  I still don‘t know the answer. 

Why did they fall out of love with Democrats?  And what can you do?

SAUNDERS:  We‘re right at the place here where it all started.  With wedge politics in 1980 being outlawed (ph).  I mean, without question, that‘s what did it. 

I mean, you know, I think it‘s fading.  I think it‘s faded quickly.  And you know, as Democrats, we‘ve done a poor job of fighting these lies, these wedges that were introduced in 1980. 

CARLSON:  You can‘t blame Lee Atwater for Al Gore losing his own state in 2000. 

SAUNDERS:  Well, I think you could—the way that wedge politics were introduced, the politics of hate.  I mean, it‘s like the term welfare clinic.  I mean, very few Democrats, other than, you know, Reverend Sharpton here have stood up and said this is a huge lie. 

CARLSON:  So Southern voters are so stupid that they believed those lies long after Lee Atwater died?

SAUNDERS:  It has nothing to do with being stupid.  It has to do with

yes, we voted against our economic self-interests.  Once Democrats get through the culture, they win every time.  That is a fact. 

We have voted against our own economic self-interests because there‘s a powerful force that has drawn us away, and that‘s called culture.  And the lack of understanding of some people of our culture and our affection for God, for instance, here in the South, our affection for our hunting sports and our Second Amendment, the fact that that has just, you know, been set aside.

CARLSON:  Yes.

SAUNDERS:  And we can‘t get to the message of the Democratic Party.  If we get to the message of the Democratic Party, of social justice and economic fairness, we win all the time. 

CARLSON:  But Rev, for many years, from the ‘70s up until recently, you heard Democrats pounding the right for involving religious figures in politics.  They would say Jerry Falwell is implying that God is on the sign of the Republicans. 

Doesn‘t it make you nauseous, given that, to see Democrats here in the South campaigning in churches, putting preachers on the payroll, doing exactly the same thing they‘ve criticized Republicans for doing all those years?

SHARPTON:  I never knew when Democrats didn‘t campaign in churches and when they didn‘t.  I‘ll deal with ministers.  You‘ve had some Democrats opposed to that.  Bill Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96...

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.

SHARPTON:  ... used preachers.  I don‘t think that that‘s anything new.  And there‘s a reason for it.  There are a lot of people there, a lot of voters there. 

I think what is obnoxious is to see Republicans that say it makes sense for McCain to go to Falwell.

CARLSON:  Wait a second.

SHARPTON:  It makes sense for Giuliani to go to Pat Robertson.  Well, why don‘t they talk to people like Al Sharpton on the Democratic side?  I think we have to have an even playing field across the board. 

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  Hillary Clinton, her campaign said point blank, “We put a preacher on the payroll.  We have—a minister in this state is advising us through his public relations company.” 

Don‘t you think it makes it pretty difficult to preach to your congregation—I‘m asking you this as a preacher, as an unaligned man of God when you are essentially on the payroll of a political campaign?

SHARPTON:  Well, first of all, I think that anyone knows that they probably monitor it.  And I‘m sure he doesn‘t make a partisan sermon. 

If he has a business and, in fact, is operating in that business as a consultant, what is wrong with that, as long as it‘s publicly disclosed?

If you‘re telling me that they had done something to hide it, then you‘d have a point.  They were very open with it.  The people at—his church was very open with it.  So what‘s the problem?  They disclosed it.  There was nothing subtle; there was no subterfuge. 

I‘m concerned when we see...

CARLSON:  Just because something is revealed doesn‘t mean it‘s right.

SHARPTON:  No, but it was revealed because they filed it and made it public.  On the Republican side, we see all kind of roundabout ways to act like there is no connection. 

They were very open with it.  And I think that‘s very fair.  And I think that is very open. 

CARLSON:  Now, Mudcat, for years, you know, the cliche has been Democrats lose the South because they‘re out of touch culturally.  And for reasons you just explained, I thought, pretty well.

They‘re elitists.  Right?  They are—you know, they‘re Harvard educated, Hollywood sycophants, basically.  Right?  They‘re the kind of people who get $400 haircuts. 

Now John Edwards, it turns out, got a couple $400 haircuts.  Doesn‘t that put him in that category all of a sudden?

SAUNDERS:  Well, I‘m not concerned about John getting a $400 haircut.  What I‘m concerned is about the haircut and a shave he is going to give to corporate America, to these people who screwed my people out here in rural America.  That‘s what I am concerned about.  And.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  You don‘t think that a $400 haircut strikes most people here as kind of an elitist thing to do? 

SAUNDERS:  Like I said, I could care less what somebody does, who they hire as a barber.  I mean, it has got nothing—it‘s just like what the rev here just said.  You know, it‘s not about fluff, it‘s about who is best for America. 

And we‘re sitting here in rural America right now, Tucker.  And you know, all of the polling data points to the same thing.  And that‘s it.  At the Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Kentucky, just did a poll.  And it showed that 38 percent of Rural America, of which 40 percent of it is North—is South Carolina, and they are black rural Americans and white rural Americans, 38 percent of them say their number one issue is economic fairness or lack thereof. 

CARLSON:  I believe that.

SAUNDERS:  And with 11 percent saying Iraq.  And in the case of my candidate, it‘s why I‘m there, because the guy is from the culture, he understands the culture, he understands the plight of his own people. 

SHARPTON:  I haven‘t endorsed anybody, but I‘m not worried about Edwards‘ haircut.  I‘m worried about the shampoo Bush has made us give the rich in this country.  We‘re paying for that.  We‘re not paying for Edwards‘ haircut. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m going to have to stop before we get some more hair metaphors. 

SHARPTON:  . massaging rich corporate America with.

CARLSON:  We‘re deep into the personal grooming part of the program. 

Thank you.  The Reverend Al Sharpton, Mudcat Saunders, thank you both. 

Coming up, Hillary Clinton is still the frontrunner in this race.  The focus of most of the night‘s attention, that‘s my prediction.  Joining us next, her senior adviser, Howard Wolfson.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton.  The very name sets off strong reaction across this country.  We‘ll be joined in just a moment by her senior adviser, Howard Wolfson.  Stay tuned from that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1988

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR VICE PRESIDENT:  I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. 

LLOYD BENTSEN, 1988 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR VICE PRESIDENT:  I served with Jack Kennedy.  I knew Jack Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine.  Senator, you‘re no Jack Kennedy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Senator, you are no Bill Clinton.  Will we hear that tonight?  Pretty good line.  We‘re joining you live from the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  Hillary Clinton still the frontrunner.  All eyes will be on her tonight.  That‘s my prediction.  Joining us now, her senior adviser, Howard Wolfson. 

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  Good to be here.

CARLSON:  (INAUDIBLE).  We were talking earlier about the difficulty the other candidates face in addressing and maybe even going after Senator Clinton on the stage.  It does seem like all who attack Hillary Clinton come out the worse for it.  Do you think that‘s true and is it an unfair advantage she has because of her sex do you think? 

WOLFSON:  I don‘t think it has anything to do with her gender.  I think that she is broadly popular in the Democratic Party.  And there my not be a huge advantage to attacking somebody who is well liked. 

But I think that may be true across the board.  You know, I don‘t think there is much incentive for any of the candidates tonight to really attack one another.  We may see some differences on issues here and there.  But I don‘t think we‘re going to see real fisticuffs up there. 

CARLSON:  I was amazed last month when Hillary Clinton came out, front page of The New York Times, and said pointblank—actually I was impressed, I‘ll be honest with you, and said, we will have to keep some unknown but fairly large number of ground troops in Iraq to safeguard our strategic interests in the region, including petroleum.  She said that.

WOLFSON:  Well, she didn‘t say “fairly large number,” but she did say that we would have to have a capacity in Iraq to ensure that al Qaeda does not re-form and regroup and gain strength, to ensure that the Kurds are not overrun as they were in the past. 

CARLSON:  Well, that is not a—you know, that‘s not a squad.  I mean, that‘s going to take thousands—minimum a thousand people to do that. 

WOLFSON:  I don‘t think we know what the numbers... 

CARLSON:  OK.  But it is this thing—I mean, that is not insignificant anyway.  Here is my question.  Almost nobody said anything about it.  This is an anti-war party in the middle of a primary about the war.  Why do you think none of the other candidates, none of whom have that position as far as I know—possibly Joe Biden does, but the others don‘t.   Barack Obama definitely does not.  Why haven‘t they gone after Hillary Clinton on that and do you think they will? 

WOLFSON:  I don‘t know whether they will.  I don‘t think that they have because it‘s my understanding that the bill that the Senate voted on today—the Democratic bill actually has in it a provision that essentially calls for just that.  That there should be a residual capacity left in the region to deal with the kinds of threats that I have outlined.  That is essentially the Democratic position. 

CARLSON:  So you‘re saying to me that when the other Democrats get up there and say, I‘m for withdrawing troops from Iraq now, yesterday, and some of them are not just Dennis Kucinich, but others are saying that, they are not really telling the truth, are they? 

WOLFSON:  Well, I will let them speak for themselves, but my

understanding of the legislation that the Democrats voted on today in the

Senate and in the House is that in that bill there is a provision that

provides for a capacity in Iraq to ensure that al Qaeda doesn‘t regroup and

re-form and get stronger and to deal with the protection of the Kurds,

among other things. 

CARLSON:  Should the U.S. government ensure that men and women are paid the same salaries for the work they do? 

WOLFSON:  I certainly think that the American people support a law that would ensure that men and women are paid equally for the same work. 

CARLSON:  So you want the federal government basically investigating all private businesses to make certain a woman who is doing just as much work as a man, gets paid just as much.  That‘s a massive enlargement of the federal role in American life. 

WOLFSON:  That sounds like basic fairness to me.  I mean, I think if you have a man.

CARLSON:  Oh, I think it is basic fairness.  But I‘m just saying, should the federal government enforce it?  And that is what you are saying Mrs. Clinton is for. 

WOLFSON:  I think we need federal legislation to ensure that people are not discriminated against in the workplace based on gender or anything else for that matter. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Howard Wolfson, thanks a lot. 

WOLFSON:  Good to be here. 

CARLSON:  Thank you. 

Up next, predictions.  Typically we avoid them.  Tonight we can‘t resist.  In a little more than two hours, the major Democratic candidates take the stage, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.  The first time ever gathered in one place.  You‘ll see it live on MSNBC.  What will happen?  We will tell you.  We will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1980 REPUBLICAN

CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT:  Next Tuesday, all of you will go to the polls, stand there in the polling place and make a decision.  I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We‘re here on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  The school marching band was just in full swing a moment ago.  Can‘t promise they won‘t start up in a second.  You‘ll enjoy it.  OK.  The debate a little more than two hours from now.  You‘re watching it tonight, your blood is up, you want to do something, respond, react in some way to what you are seeing on television, you can.  You can go to msnbc.com.  Here to tell us precisely what you can do, Lauren Vicary, she is political editor of msnbc.com. 

Lauren, what can I do if I‘m watching on msnbc.com? 

LAUREN VICARY, POLITICAL EDITOR, MSNBC.COM:  Well, the great thing is you can get as involved as you want to get or just skim the surface.  If you are one of those people that wants to get involved on message boards, you can.  You can respond to our bloggers like Chuck Todd and Mark Murray.  There are a lot of ways where can you vote. 

You can do it within the candidate application we have where you can go in and watch the videos and the clips and actually respond to it and say positives, negatives, whether you‘re undecided about the candidates.  All of this it is at politics.msnbc.com.  And you have absolutely everything you ever wanted to know about any of the candidates on their individual pages as well. 

CARLSON:  Can I blog? 

VICARY:  Yes.  Do you want to blog for us? 

CARLSON:  Good.  I will.  I‘m going to your—you have got me so excited.  Thank you.

VICARY:  Fantastic.  I would love it if you did.

CARLSON:  Thank you.

We want to welcome now Lee Bandy.  He is a columnist at The State newspaper and a long time political reporter here in the State of South Carolina. 

Lee, thanks for coming on. 

LEE BANDY, THE STATE:  Thank you very much.

CARLSON:  So which of these candidates do you think, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, who is most naturally in tune with the voters of the state, do you think? 

BANDY:  I think it would be hard to pick out one who is attuned to the state.  I think for the most part, South Carolina, the Democrats can go comfortably for any of the eight who are running.  I don‘t see any problems there. 

CARLSON:  How does—anti-war rhetoric, how is it received in this state which has so many veterans?  Do you think it makes South Carolina more anti-war or less?  More receptive to that or less receptive to that rhetoric? 

BANDY:  Well, as you mentioned, it is a key issue here in South Carolina.  I mean, we‘re a very patriotic state, and pro military, but people here are starting to grow weary of the war.  And I think it‘s reflected in Bush‘s popularity which has sunk to a new low here in South Carolina.  So it‘s an issue that works well right now for the Democrats, in my opinion. 

CARLSON:  I wonder why John Edwards, who is doing fine, I think he is

he is up above 20 in the new Zogby poll, but he is still in third place. 

He was born in this state.  He has a southern accent.  He is clearly in sync with the culture in some ways down here, why isn‘t he first or second do you think? 

BANDY:  That‘s a good question.  Of course, this is the only state he won four years ago. 

CARLSON:  That is right.

BANDY:  And he is running right now this third place.  Of course, his message is help the poor.  He still talks about the two Americas.  And that resonates quite well down here in the rural areas.  I mean, we have 46 counties here in South Carolina.  And I would say the Democrats make up—win most of those counties.  The only problem is those counties are small rural states where there are very little population.  So he has been under criticism lately for a $400 haircut. 

CARLSON:  Do you think that matters here?  I mean, do you think it‘s possible for his opponents to convince voters here that John Edwards is not a country boy from across the border in North Carolina, but in fact a Hollywood elitist? 

BANDY:  I don‘t know, how do you represent the poor—how do you serve the poor when you have a $400 haircut (INAUDIBLE) and put 20,000 square foot home—a mansion... 

CARLSON:  I think you‘re including the indoor squash court, though. 

(LAUGHTER)

BANDY:  Well, OK.  But anyway, I don‘t think that resonates that well out there with the poor, the people he is trying to reach. 

CARLSON:  Barack Obama, his numbers seem to be rising.  I think he is up 5 or 6 points from last week in the latest poll that we have.  Is that a trend? 

BANDY:  It could be.  I think one of the problems that Barack Obama has here in South Carolina is that he is still not well known in the black community, of all places.  And I think the more he is just getting—gets known in those areas of South Carolina, his numbers will increase.  But.

CARLSON:  Has he been down here in the state a lot? 

BANDY:  Yes, quite a bit.  I think the questions about Barack are, do we want to turn the presidency over to a 46-year-old person?  And his lack of experiences hurts him somewhat in South Carolina as well. 

CARLSON:  McCain finally.  McCain, of course, lost the South Carolina primary in 2000, effectively ending his quest for the presidency.  He is leading now in the polls among Republicans in the State of South Carolina.  Why is that?  Why is he beating Rudy Giuliani, who is leading in all sorts of other states, but McCain is leading here of all places.  Why? 

BANDY:  Well, I think they remember his fight in 2000 against Bush, and a lot of the evangelicals who opposed him back then are for him.  Although there are some who still don‘t like him or trust him at all.  But McCain, the interesting thing I find in South Carolina is the strength of Mayor Rudy. 

Rudy Giuliani is doing much better in South Carolina than I would expect.  I mean, here is a pro-choice, pro-gay rights candidate doing quite well in the Bible Belt.  And I don‘t know what that could mean down the road.  But right now, there is no comparison shopping at all. 

CARLSON:  It is interesting.  I heard someone say if --  Rudy Giuliani, of course, famously photographed in drag.  I heard someone say yesterday there are more pictures of Rudy wearing a dress than Hillary wearing a dress.  I don‘t know if that is true or not, but it is amazing in light of that, how well he is doing.  Lee Bandy, thanks very much. 

Lauren Vicary, I will blog up a storm.  Thank you for watching.  Joining you from the campus of South Carolina State University here in Orangeburg.  “HARDBALL College Tour” up next.  Just a little over two hours away from the debate itself, 7:00 p.m. Eastern time, tune in, see you later.

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

END   

Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license

is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may

not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or

internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall

user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may

infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights

or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes

of litigation.>

Transcripts

Watch Tucker each weeknight at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,