updated 11/19/2007 10:50:11 AM ET 2007-11-19T15:50:11

Guests: Linda Douglass, Holly Bailey, Jonathan Capehart, Craig Crawford, John Neffinger, Mark Green, Ed Schultz

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Hillary boxes her way out of a corner, but can she stop the Obama boom?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL from San Francisco.

Last night, the Democratic presidential candidates went at it with canned lines and cutting criticism.  Frontrunner Hillary Clinton changed strategy from, I‘m a girl, don‘t you boys gang up on me, to, I‘m the toughest candidate, and I can take and throw a punch.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am happy to be here tonight, and this pantsuit is asbestos tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  So I am aware that some people say that, but I think that the American people know where I‘ve stood for 35 years.

JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans, but when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush-Cheney and the neocons on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Clinton I think is a capable politician and I think that she has run a terrific campaign.  But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions.

CLINTON:  I don‘t mind taking hits on my record, on issues.  But when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it‘s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So was it a real political debate with some real spontaneous reaction from one to the other, or was it a scripted and rehearsed sitcom?  NBC‘s chief White House correspondent David Gregory joins us from the White House, and Linda Douglass is a contributing editor for “National Journal.”  David and Linda, I want you to look at this first exchange involving Hillary Clinton in her new battle regalia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Well, I hear what Senator Obama‘s saying, and he talks a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong positions.  But when it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that.  His plan would leave 15 million Americans out.

OBAMA:  Let‘s talk about health care right now because the fact of the matter is—the fact of the matter is that I do provide universal health care.  The only difference between Senator Clinton‘s health care plan and mine is that she thinks the problem for people without health care is that nobody has mandated, forced them to get health care in the United States.

CLINTON:  Wolf, I cannot let that go unanswered.  You know, the most important thing here is to level with the American people.  Senator Obama‘s health care plan does not cover everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  David Gregory, you‘ve been watching this as much as I have. 

I sensed a brand-new Hillary last night, someone who wants to mix it up.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think that‘s it.  I mean, I think she made the decision to go after her opponents by name specifically and to take them on.  Heretofore, the idea has been, I‘m going to stay above the fray, I‘m the frontrunner, I want to create an aura of inevitability, and therefore I don‘t engage one on one.

The dynamics of the race have changed.  She is really talking about Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and not just looking at the national picture.  And in Iowa, this is a three-person race, so she‘s got to single out those opponents and try to take them down.  I think that‘s what she‘s trying to do, and really dictate the terms of the debate, Chris, on her terms, to try to keep control of it.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Linda Douglass.  Linda, it seems like David‘s saying two things that I agree on.  One, she wants to look tougher and get control of the affair and also to make her opponents pay a price.  She wants to hurt them with the primary and caucus voters right up front.

LINDA DOUGLASS, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  And number three—I would agree with all of that, but number three, then, is to do it in a dignified way, where she seems to be talking about an issue, contrasting on an issue.

If you listen to what she said to Obama, she was really going after one of his great strengths, which is he‘s running as a candidate who has political courage.  He‘s the guy who can stand up in front of the Detroit auto makers and tell them that they‘ve got to make more fuel-efficient cars.  It‘s an argument he‘s been using against her, and she turned that around on him, but she did it in the context of what she said were flaws in his health care plan, so it didn‘t seem like a personal attack.  It was very down the middle.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to get more into those secondary characteristics and the body language, but first let‘s continue with the substantive thing, as you suggest.  Here‘s another tiff.  This is between Edwards and Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS:  Senator Clinton says she will end the war.  She also says she will continue to keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.  She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans.  But when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush-Cheney and the neocons on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

On the issue of Social Security—on the issue of Social Security, she said standing beside me on a stage that she would not do anything about the cap on Social Security taxes, and she has said privately to people, because it‘s been reported in the press, that, in fact, she would consider raising that cap.  And the most important issue is she says she will bring change to Washington while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged and is corrupt, corrupted against the interests of most Americans.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN, MODERATOR:  Turkey and Iran and everything else...

CLINTON:  Well, Wolf, I‘ve just been personally attacked again...

BLITZER:  Senator Clinton...

CLINTON:  ... and I have to...

BLITZER:  ... I‘ll let you respond because...

CLINTON:  Thank you.

BLITZER:  ... there was a direct charge made against you.

CLINTON:  I don‘t mind taking hits on my record, on issues.  But when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it‘s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook because what I—what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for.  I have been active for 35 years.  The American people know where I stand.

You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again.  When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn‘t for universal health care.  I‘m glad he is now.  But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges I think really detracts from what we‘re trying to do here tonight.  We need to put forth a positive agenda for America...

BLITZER:  All right...

CLINTON:  ... telling people what we‘re going to do...

BLITZER:  Senator Edwards, we‘re going to give you...

CLINTON:  ... when we get the chance to go back to the White House!

BLITZER:  ... a chance in a second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know what I saw, David, there?  A highly scripted, brilliant performance by Hillary Clinton that hit all three bells.  First of all, she used the word “mud” twice, making Edwards look like the bad guy, which worked later on.

GREGORY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Number two, she hit him for flip-flops with regard to his positions on issues.  And third, that audience was clearly cued, clearly prompted in that regard to give her a big applause.  And a couple other times you could tell that the labor audience out there was ready to attack anybody else on behalf of Hillary.  But tell me how you saw her orchestrating this thing, if you did.

GREGORY:  Right.  I think there was another really important point, and you see a contrast there.  John Edwards is making an argument that there has to be fundamental change in Washington, to sort of blow up the system and anybody who‘s attached to it.  And what she‘s saying is, No, there‘s a different way to approach this.  What we want to change is George Bush.  That‘s the kind of change that we want, but we don‘t want to forget that the country is still in a kind of post-9/11 security mindset and that we as Democrats have an opportunity to grow our party and reach more people and actually win.  Let‘s not detract from that.

So what I thought was—I mean, people I don‘t think are going to remember the intricacies on health care policy.  What they are going to remember is this idea that she‘s making an argument that, We have a chance here to win, let‘s not get down in the mud so much that we detract from our ability to actually win.  And that again is an example of her dictating the flow of how she wants the conversation to go.

MATTHEWS:  And also, Linda, it seems like she‘s saying, Let‘s not call for change if change is too unsettling to people.  Let‘s offer a modification or a smarter version of Bush.  She does offer herself as somewhat of a modification of Bush, not a direct or radical alternative.

DOUGLASS:  Well, she‘s been running as a competent candidate, the pragmatic candidate, the candidate who will pull all the sides together and get them to talk, not in the way that Barack Obama says, where he‘s more of a sort of conciliator, but as somebody who‘s seasoned in the ways of Washington so that she can finally get the government to move forward again.

And the other thing I thought that was interesting about that exchange was there was a competition for button pushing with the Democratic audience.  You have John Edwards saying the word “neocon.”  You have Hillary Clinton saying “mud slinging like a Republican.”  And she probably won the button-pushing contest.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back to that.  David—David, you‘re ready to go.  Let‘s talk about the canned lines from last night.  Let‘s take a look at a series of canned lines from last night that clearly were written ahead of time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I am happy to be here tonight, and this pantsuit is asbestos tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  so I am aware that some people say that, but I think that the American people know where I‘ve stood for 35 years.

EDWARDS:  She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans, but when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush-Cheney and the neocons on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

OBAMA:  Senator Clinton I think is a capable politician and I think that she has run a terrific campaign.  But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions.

CLINTON:  I don‘t mind taking hits on my record, on issues.  But when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it‘s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Linda and David, you know what I hear?  I want you to compare notes with me.  When I heard “asbestos,” I heard Mandy Grunwald, her top consultant, who‘s a woman.  When I heard “mud,” I heard clearly Mark Penn.  When I heard “neocons,” I clearly heard Joe Trippi working for John Edwards.  When I heard this other—what was the last one there, oh, “capable politician.”

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Was that David Axelrod really speaking there through—channeling through Obama?  David, I know you‘re not as cynical as I am, but I keep hearing the voices of the consultants, not the candidates.

GREGORY:  Well, you know, but that‘s an interesting point and I think that that‘s right.  And I don‘t know that these debates have yielded real personal insight moments, where you really get a sense of personality, and maybe it‘s because there‘s too many candidates on the stage.

But I do think that these debates, for voters, are about some of these gut-check responses, about how they make you as a voter feel.  And so I do think that any kind of canned line sort of detracts from that.  I give Hillary credit on this score.  Remember her line to Campbell, our old colleague, when she said, Well, when you say this is an all-boys club, what do you mean?  And she just sort of looked at her and said, Now, Campbell.  You know, I mean, that‘s speaking to a lot of women.  That‘s more of a genuine moment.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GREGORY:  You know what I mean?  But I think some of these other...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s spontaneity?  You think that‘s the real thing, the genuine article, when you see that?

GREGORY:  Yes, that one struck me as more genuine than some of these others.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to you, Linda.  I guess I‘ve watched this for so many years, but I do hear the personalities of the other people here.  It‘s not just the personalities on stage, it‘s these other personalities.  I don‘t think John Edwards ever used the word “neocon” until he met Joe Trippi.  I mean, I just hear—when I hear “asbestos pantsuit,” first of all, no male adviser would ever recommend any joke about a woman‘s garb.  It takes another woman to do it.  So I‘m thinking Mandy.  I‘m just trying to figure this thing out, but that pantsuit line was so clearly a canned line.

DOUGLASS:  You‘re absolutely right that that would come from Mandy because that is a line that has to do with a woman able to sort of poke fun at herself for wearing pantsuits all the time.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DOUGLASS:  That‘s the thing that is often said about Hillary Clinton.  But there‘s always a line like this that a consultant tries to get the candidate to say.  I‘m thinking of the last debate, where Barack Obama was saying that he felt like Rocky Balboa.  These lines, these comedic lines, are very hard to pull off.  The asbestos line made the audience probably wonder, Now, what is it that asbestos does exactly?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Right!  Exactly!

DOUGLASS:  Is it heat?  Is it impact?  And the only one who‘s really pulled off a good line like that, I think, was Joe Biden in the last debate, where he talked about Rudy Giuliani and a noun and a verb and 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DOUGLASS:  Joe Biden can deliver those lines, but they‘re hard to deliver.

MATTHEWS:  And then he had it shoved back at him by Rudy, who reminded him of the plagiarism problem...

GREGORY:  But you know, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... the last time he ran.

GREGORY:  Chris, there are other spontaneous moments that maybe don‘t play well, or maybe they do, like a lot of attention has been given to Barack Obama not answering this immigration question in a very fluid way about driver‘s license.  But look, that‘s who he is.  He‘s not going to win you on yes or no questions.  He needs some open playing field to unwind a little bit.  That‘s his presentation.

I think people are going to look at that and say, yes, I like that.  I want a more thoughtful response to something.  So sometimes what we may look at and say, Oh, it didn‘t really—it wasn‘t really crisp, that seems to be the standard here, is what was a crisp reply, even as (ph) you hear from the Clinton camp, it‘s not necessarily what everybody wants.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make, David, of the—of the people—somebody, it seems, in the Clinton operation, Hillary Clinton‘s operation, in the high command position, keeps issuing bulletins on what they think of the moderator, depending on who the moderator is.  They went after the moderator in Philadelphia, Tim Russert.  Now they‘re giving little Brownie points to Wolf Blitzer this time.  It seems like they‘re—I think you said they‘re really trying to set the terms of this whole campaign, including who gives up the four and five-point ratings for the moderators.

GREGORY:  Yes, and I think that—I think that that runs the risk for showing disrespect for the process and disrespect for journalists.  We may not have a lot anyway in certain quarters.  But it‘s too much management of the process, too much attempt to try to form public opinion based on the process instead of just worry about performing.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I agree.  I think there‘s also, David and Linda—I think—Linda first.  I think if you look at the Hillary Clinton operation, here‘s an amazingly gifted politician who gets better all the time, Hillary Clinton, but yet she seems to go too far planting questions.  Clearly, the audience is triggered to give certain kinds of boos to the other guys, especially Edwards, the other night.  So much of this having—somebody call up “The Drudge Report” and say what they think of the moderator, depending on how well they did that night—so much control here.  Will the voters care?

DOUGLASS:  Well, I think the voters will care if it‘s really revealed if you actually can see the hands of the puppeteer behind this operation, if you can actually trace the planted question.  And there was a very—there was a pretty line—a good line of following that one through.

The booing was very interesting last night.  It wasn‘t just John Edwards.  Barack Obama was also booed.  He was sort of startled.  When he compared her to Mitt Romney...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

DOUGLASS:  ... they immediately booed.

GREGORY:  Right.

DOUGLASS:  And there certainly is going to be a question whether that was spontaneous.  Did they not—is it actually now risky...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Can I vote?

DOUGLASS:  ... to attack Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  Can I vote?  Anybody who boos on Peruvian trade deals and has some—enough emotion to boo that one clearly was prepped.  Why would you boo about Peruvian trade in Nevada?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you.  Great guests.  Thank you very much, David, as always.  Thank you, Linda Douglass.

Coming up: How did the candidates do last night?  Well, we‘re going to analyze their body language.  We‘re going to the non-verbal now.  We do everything here on HARDBALL.  We do the total overhaul.  We detail these cars.  Anyway, we‘ll be right back.  And later, we‘re going to go back and talk about Hillary Clinton, how she came out swinging again because it‘s fascinating to watch this debate—a new Hillary, the fighting Hillary, “I‘m your girl.”  Let‘s watch more of that when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Sometimes it‘s not what the candidates actually say but how they say it, their body language, their secondary characteristics, the tone of their voice.  John Neffinger is a communications analyst.  His clients are mostly businesspeople, but he also coaches some Democratic candidates running for office, and he watched the debate last night.

John, you‘re a young guy, but I love what you do.

JOHN NEFFINGER, COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you‘ve figured this stuff out.  Let‘s take a look—or you take a look at this Obama and Hillary exchange from last night.

NEFFINGER:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  ... the kind of coverage that I do.  And I provide a health care tax credit under my American health choices plan so that every American will be able to afford the health care.  I open up the congressional plan.  But there‘s a big difference...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER:  One at a time.

OBAMA:  No, I understand.  But look, I‘m not going to...

BLITZER:  Senator Obama, we‘re going to have a lot more...

OBAMA:  Hillary, states...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA:  ... states that she wants—she states where (ph) she wants to mandate health care coverage, but she‘s not garnishing people‘s wages to make sure that they have it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER:  All right...

CLINTON:  ... not mandate the kind of coverage that I do.  And I provide a health care tax credit under my American health choices plan so that every American...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she had that ringer out in the audience apparently singing her tune...

NEFFINGER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and going after Obama.  But let‘s talk about their performances there.  Does Hillary look good in this procedure (ph) of now attacking her opponents like one of the boys?

NEFFINGER:  She‘s looking good, yes, absolutely.  And there‘s a very interesting thing going on between the two of them.  It is very interesting.  They keep putting them right next to each other.  And so Barack is looking at Wolf when he‘s doing the questioning.  You can see him kind of look over to his right in the direction of Hillary, but he doesn‘t want to make eye contact with her. 

There‘s this interesting game of chicken going on with her looking at him and him not really wanting to look back at her. 

MATTHEWS:  So who wins on that visual exchange?  I did notice her, she‘s not obviously as tall as Barack Obama is.  Does that put her at a disadvantage when they are placed?  It made Barack look so much closer to her, by the way, the fact that he‘s so much taller than her.  Did he enter her space in an aggressive, rude fashion last night? 

NEFFINGER:  Yes.  There is very interesting issue there.  There was one point where he turns towards her and as soon as he‘s turning towards her, he‘s looming over her just because he is so much taller than she is.  And there are a little bit of shades of the Rick Lazio debate, the guy who Hillary beat to become a New York senator. 

In one debate he had approached her podium and that was a physical confrontation to actually walk up to her and that was seen as very rude.  It‘s something a gentleman does not do.  So something that Barack had to be very careful about when he does turn in her direction, so he doesn‘t seem too aggressive. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hope we can look at that sexy of him in a minute, coming in close, because see, he‘s standing behind his lectern right now, but at one point he clearly moved out of his box, moved over toward her and loomed over her.  And she was like, it‘s David and Goliath. 

NEFFINGER:  Yes, just a little bit.  He turned, he looked that way and there was a bad moment for him.  I think he realized that, though, because he turned back.  He said, yes, that‘s not feeling right.  And he was wise to do that, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense he‘s not sure of his advisers, that he‘ll take their cues and their promptings, but at some point he just pulls back and that always weakens a candidate when they don‘t trust the advice they‘re getting? 

NEFFINGER:  This is the game within the game.  Yes, I can only imagine tat there are a lot of different voices going on in his head right now.  Hillary on the other hand, seems very comfortable, very composed.  You know, whatever she may or may not be thinking about, particular canned lines, she‘s making pretty much what she‘s doing her own, which is why you see her respond in the moment with the line about her Wellesley speech, thinking, you know, just in a little spontaneous way, she‘s actually there. 

Whereas he, yes, doesn‘t look so comfortable there.  He does not look happy to be there. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  He doesn‘t like debating.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton reacting to the attacks on her. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t mind taking hits on my record on issues.  But when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it‘s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook, because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for. 

I have been active for 35 years.  The American people know where I stand.  You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again.  When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn‘t for universal health care.  I‘m glad he is now. 

But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges I think really detracts from what we‘re trying to do here tonight.  We need to put forth a positive agenda for America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I hear the sharp notes there coming out of her mouth.  Is that bad for her?  You know, like in piano music, the notes seem a half a note too sharp.  And is that going to hurt? 

NEFFINGER:  There‘s a little bit of that going on.  Whenever she raises her voice, there‘s a danger that she starts to sound a little bit shrill.  But her whole body language and tone of voice there was basically saying, give me a break.  That was her basic message there. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think it was working.  Let‘s take a look at another one.  This is where she glares at the other guys.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  . is straight answers to tough questions.  And that.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  . corrupted against the interests.

OBAMA:  .. don‘t feel that Washington is listening to them.  And what I want to do in this campaign.

. a trillion dollar tax cut on the middle class... 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, look at her now.  Look at that posture there, John. 

NEFFINGER:  Right, right. 

MATTHEWS:  Again, it is a height difference.  There is a certain way of looking at these guys.  I guess there‘s no way of avoiding it, but boy, it looks judgmental, let‘s put it that way.  Look at the eyes when they pop open, like Jimmy Carter.  Every once in a while those guys totally wide.

NEFFINGER:  You‘re going way back before my time I‘m afraid, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me tell you, Jimmy Carter said the—I worked for the guy.  The oddest times his eyes would go popping wide open.  And there she was doing it.  Is that to say like raising her eyebrows, like, are you really saying that? 

NEFFINGER:  That‘s exactly right, Chris.  It‘s, oh, really?  You don‘t say?  And saying—basically tapping her foot until she gets a chance to come back at him.  This glaring that has been going on, that was actually relatively mild in a sense.  You see a lot of this kind of stuff, just really icy stares when they‘re doing their back and forth.  It‘s very, very interesting, because what that is, that is essentially nonverbally saying, I dare you to say that to my face. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow. 

NEFFINGER:  And you see a lot of that, because she‘s very good with that very harsh glare when she does that and she has done this for the last couple of debates.  Folks are very reluctant to turn and look at her.

MATTHEWS:  You talking to me?  It‘s like Robert De Niro, right?

NEFFINGER:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  You talking to me? 

NEFFINGER:  Yes, it‘s a “go ahead, make my day” kind of thing, right?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Thank you very much.  You‘re great.  We‘ll have you back again and again, sir.  John Neffinger. 

NEFFINGER:  You bet.  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  So what else is new out there?  There‘s a new poll out in Iowa where Obama and Edwards say they must win, and those numbers couldn‘t be closer.  You‘ll understand last night‘s debate all the better when you see how close these numbers are in that first big test, which is no more than one full month away, an I-away.  It‘s coming up when HARDBALL continues.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  So what else is new out there?  Well, a new Iowa poll from KCCI TV shows Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a battle, 27 percent for Hillary, 25 percent for Obama with Edwards not far behind at 21 percent.  Back in July, Edwards was leading the pack with 27 percent, followed by Clinton at 22 and Obama at 16. 

Now there you see it, a 9-point rise for Obama since the summer.  A 5-point rise for Hillary and a 6-point drop for Edwards.  By the way, Edwards is spending today picketing with the Writers Guild out in Southern California.  He‘s running as the union guy in this Democratic race. 

Next, the country‘s Roman Catholic bishops have released a voting guide for Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” In 2004, the last time the bishops said that abortion was non-negotiable when it comes to picking candidates.  But the times they are a-changing. 

This time around, the bishops are easing their hard-line language, the guide says:  “There may be times when a Catholic, who rejects a candidate‘s unacceptable position, may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.” Go, Rudy. 

Plus, earlier this week, we talked about Tom Tancredo‘s hot new TV ad. 

Well, it turns out that actor Danny DeVito was watching us the other night.  He said it reminded him, Danny DeVito, of a movie he did 25 years ago called the “Selling of Vince D‘Angelo.” Let‘s take look a look at Tom Tancredo and his ad, and then look at the fictional ad involving Danny DeVito as Vince D‘Angelo. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  Crimes of violence have almost doubled in New Jersey last year.  There is a robbery every two-and-a-half minutes, a mugging every six minutes, a murder every 43 minutes.  And what is your senator doing about it?  Nothing. 

(DOG BARKING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But there is one man who cares.  He wants to make the streets safe again for our children.  His name is Vince D‘Angelo.  So on November 4th, vote for Vince D‘Angelo for United States Senator.  Before it‘s too late. 

The preceding paid for by the Citizens for D‘Angelo Committee. 

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Hi, I‘m Tom Tancredo, and I approve this message, because someone needs to say it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs.  Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil.  Jihadists who froth with hate here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia.  The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to protect our borders against those who come to kill. 

(EXPLOSION)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Danny DeVito, Tom Tancredo owes you money. 

Anyway, finally, Senator John Kerry wrote a letter today to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth back T. Boone Pickens, accepting his challenge to give $1 million to the person who proves wrong a single fact asserted by that group in the last campaign.  Kerry does not seek the million dollars for himself, but rather for the Paralyzed Veterans of America to help veterans returned how from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Well, interesting to see how that one turns out.  We‘ll be right back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  At MSNBC‘s presidential debate last month in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton dealt a blow to her campaign when she waffled on the issue of whether driver‘s licenses should be granted to illegal immigrants. 

But when she was asked the same question last night, Hillary replied with a solid and simple no.  And it was Senator Obama who had trouble answering the question.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Do you support or oppose driver‘s licenses for illegal immigrants? 

OBAMA:  I am not proposing that that‘s what we do.  What I‘m saying is that we can‘t be—no, no, no.  Look, I have already said, I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver‘s licenses at the state level can make that happen.  But what I also know, Wolf, is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it. 

BLITZER:  But—because this is the kind of question that is sort of available for a yes or no answer, either you support it or you oppose it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, did Hillary Clinton regain her footing last night at his expense, at Obama‘s expense?  Ed Schultz is a radio talk show host, is on the show oftentimes.  And our friend Mark Green is president of Air America Radio.  He is also author “Losing Our Democracy.”

Mark, you first, did Hillary regain her battle stars last night? 

MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Clearly.  I agree with you, Chris, and so many of the commentators that she lost it in Philadelphia based on small atmospherics, licking lips, how uncomfortable you look, a blank stare. 

Last night, however it happened, she was calm, composed, counterpuncher.  And on the issue of licenses for undocumented immigrants, by the way, the reason she was waffling last week and Obama was trying to explain his way out of it this week, this is a hard issue.  It‘s not a simple yes/no issue.  But yesterday clearly she.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was to Hillary.

GREEN:  . was decisive.

MATTHEWS:  It is to Hillary, though.  Excuse me, Mark.  It‘s a yes or no.  She gave us a no. 

GREEN:  Correct.  She figured out a clear answer and Obama was thoughtful and professorial, which doesn‘t work in sound bite cable news America. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ed Schultz, it seems to me Hillary got a big helping hand coming into this debate last night in Vegas because the big guy who placed his bets on her was Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York who took -- who fell on his sword this week and said, OK, I‘m pulling back my plan to give documentation to people that don‘t have it legally. 

Clearly, Spitzer gave her the biggest break going into this debate. 

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, I think he set the table for her, Chris.  But I think all this post mortem of this debate about how wonderful Hillary is, is a bridge too far.  I think it‘s a sad day when a candidate has to start saying , well, it‘s mudslinging if you point out my voting record is.  That was not a highlight for Hillary Clinton last night. 

And I really think that the driver‘s license thing, it took her two weeks to get it right.  The big issue here is that Obama, I think, stumbled on something that he should not have stumbled on. 

But I don‘t think it was a big victory for Hillary Clinton last night.  She wasn‘t head and shoulders above anybody else.  I mean, I thought that John Edwards was very clear and concise.  What about the performance of Biden and Richardson last night?  I thought they were tremendous. 

But CNN and especially Wolf, I think they were bending over for Hillary big time last night. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why would Wolf have an interest in Hillary‘s success? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think she‘s the media buzz, I mean, she‘s the high profile person. 

GREEN:  May I agree with Ed in part, my talk show colleague?  When he said, what about the others?  The fact is, unlike some jerk who is ahead and some heroic person who is behind, the people running for president on the Democratic side are so incredibly fluent, experienced.  Any of these candidates—the leading trial lawyers on his feet in America, one of the youngest impressive talents in Obama, a person steeply versed and well articulate like Hillary Clinton—

By the way, I agree, I think Biden and Kucinich had some of the most concise lines in the little time they had.  But Ed, I do have to disagree with you on whether Clinton came back.  The reason everybody—first of all, she beat expectations, which were lowered in Philadelphia.  But she don‘t just whine about mud being thrown on her record.  That would have been a mistake.  But when John Edwards—he made a very risky move.  He said that she‘s a corporate Democrat, part of a corrupt and rigged system, which is a taco short of saying she‘s corrupt.  That‘s risky.  And the crowd reacted. 

SCHULTZ:  No, I don‘t think it is.  I don‘t think it‘s risky at all, Mark.  I tell you what, John Edwards is the change agent.  And every time he uses the word corruption and every time he uses the word about Washington being bad and wrong and everything else, nobody interrupts him.  Nobody says no, that‘s not true.  He is speaking truth to power and Hillary Clinton does take money from Rupert Murdoch. 

Now you, Mark, and I are progressive talkers.  If there‘s a nemesis out there for left wing radio in this country, it is Rupert Murdoch. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute, wait a minute, let‘s document that.  Ed, document it, what money did Hillary Clinton take from the Murdoch empire?  From News Corp or from what, who?

SCHULTZ:  Well, in the summer of ‘06, Rupert Murdoch held a fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton.  Now,  I have to wonder, as a liberal talker, Hillary, why are you doing that when Rupert Murdoch is out there trying to kill the format.  I got a problem with that.  And that‘s what John Edwards is talking about when he‘s talking about corporate interests and lobbying.  Whose side are you on?  And every time Edwards talks about the corruption in Washington, nobody corrects him. 

This is what the people want.  This is why it‘s a close race.  He‘s not getting the media coverage everybody else is. 

GREEN:  As we say in Jewish politics, you‘re engaging in gelt (ph) by association.  Gelt being Yiddish for money.  Look, you basically—someone give you money, you take the it unless they‘re a convicted felon, Norman Hsu.  When I ran for office, I accepted money except from tobacco companies.  And I could make a unique distinction about tobacco companies.  So to attack Hillary Clinton has implicitly corrupt because she‘s taking money—

SCHULTZ:  It‘s not attacking, Mark.  It‘s her voting record.  It‘s her voting record on Iraq.  It‘s her voting record on Iran.  And that‘s not mud slinging.  I think Hillary made a mistake last night by saying that the boys were mud slinging.  I don‘t believe that at all.  I don‘t think it‘s going to play well in the Midwest. 

GREEN:  I‘m neutral in this race, but you can‘t say someone is a corrupt Democrat on Iraq since Biden and Edwards themselves voted as she did, not as you and I would have.  Using the word corrupt and rigged in the same sentence as Hillary Clinton ran the risk of the audience booing and chiding him and they did. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  I love being on this show on a Friday afternoon with two fellows who share me in the quest for purity and perfection.  Some day we‘re going to find it.  Anyway, thank you, Ed Schultz, and thank you, Mark Green. 

First Hillary; now Barack.  It was almost like Barack Obama was channeling Hillary last night when he was asked whether he supports giving driver‘s licenses to illegal immigrants.  So just how many words did he use to answer that yes or no question?  That‘s our big number tonight.  Stay tuned.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

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MATTHEWS:  Time now for the HARDBALL big number of the night that tells a big story.  Tonight, our big number, 190.  That‘s the number of words Barack Obama used last night to answer whether or not he supports driver‘s licenses for illegal immigrants.  Hillary Clinton tried to fix her meandering and flip-flopping up in the Philadelphia debate a couple weeks ago, used just one word, no.  Here‘s Obama‘s effort. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety.  That was my intention.  And—but I have to make sure people understand the problem we have here is not driver‘s licenses.  Undocumented workers don‘t come here to drive.  They don‘t go—they‘re not coming here to go to the In and Out Burger. 

That‘s not the reason they‘re here.  They‘re here to work.  So, instead of being distracted by what has now become a wedge issue, let‘s focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration has done nothing about. 

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Assuming there isn‘t going to be comprehensive immigration reform, do you support or oppose driver‘s licenses for illegal immigrants? 

OBAMA:  I am not proposing that that‘s what we do.  What I‘m saying is that we can‘t be—no, no, no, look, I have already said I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver‘s licenses at the state level can what that happen.  But what I also—but what I also know, Wolf, is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it. 

BLITZER:  Senator Obama, yes or no? 

OBAMA:  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There you have it.  So Hillary busted loose from the trap and Obama looked a bit bamboozled last night; 190, the number of words it took him to answer that question.  Let‘s go right now for more on our big number and the debate—let‘s go to our round table tonight.  It‘s Craig Crawford, MSNBC political analyst, Holly Bailey, who is with “Newsweek,” and Jonathan Capehart who is with the “Washington Post.”

I want to go to Craig.  You‘ve been following politics for a number of years.  Has Hillary turned the corner from her don‘t hit me I‘m a girl, to I‘m one of the boys, I can take you guys on? 

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, I‘ve been struck in this campaign how little we actually talk about gender.  The only time we do is when she brings it up.  She‘s gotten around the corner on the whole question of can a woman be elected, at lest for now.  And when she brings up gender, I think she does it very effectively.  Playing the gender card, if that‘s what it is, is not really a bad idea.  She is a woman, after all.  This would be historic, the first woman president. 

MATTHEWS:  But does it help her to claim that that‘s some kind of an attack line by the other people running against her?

CRAWFORD:  I think she made it clear she‘s not saying that they‘re not attacking her because she‘s a woman, but because she‘s ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  No, she said that last night.  She said that last night. 

Do you think she was saying that before last night? 

CRAWFORD:  Yes, she‘s used this line before in the stump speech.  I heard her say it in Iowa last week.  So I think this is—you know, any time she brings up gender, the result is everybody says, she‘s playing the gender card and it‘s something manipulative about it.  But she has every right to bring up her gender.  It‘s a factor in this race.  And if he she does it in the context of talking about those that are attacking her, we can interpret it that way, that it‘s the boys against the girls.  After all, that‘s what it looks like.

MATTHEWS:  Holly, let me go beyond and look at cases.  She did do things like—and they‘re very memorable—like what was it that gave me the experience of dealing with evil men.  She has made careful and familiar use of the notion that she‘s in there against the bad boys club. 

HOLLY BAILEY, “NEWSWEEK”:  Absolutely.  I‘m sorry.

MATTHEWS:  Your turn Holly. 

BAILEY:  Thank you.  She has brought it up.  She brought it up last night at the debate.  Her campaign has been bringing it up all week.  Bill Clinton, earlier this past week, brought it up again this past week.  So I think we‘re going to keep hearing.  And of course, as Craig said, it is a valid question.  But I have to wonder if they look at the polls in New Hampshire, where they saw her lead with men sort of plummet last week, and wonder if it‘s helping. 

MATTHEWS:  It may be like John F. Kennedy back in 1960, who clearly wanted all the votes of Roman Catholics, but didn‘t want to lose the votes of non-Roman Catholics.  So he wanted it both ways.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton trying to get it perhaps both ways again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Senator, if I can just ask you, what did you mean—what did you mean at Wellesley when you referred to the boys club? 

CLINTON:  Campbell.  Well, it is clear, I think, from women‘s experiences that, from time to time, there may be some impediments.  And it has been my goal over the course of my lifetime to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us, but has particularly been significant to me as a woman.  And to be able to aim for the highest, hardest glass ceiling is history making. 

Now, I‘m not running because I‘m a woman.  I‘m running because I think I‘m the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I just saw John Edwards‘ eyes close.  That was a painful moment for him, Jonathan, because I think he realized there that, no matter what anybody says, she‘s the first woman to really have a shot at the presidency.  She‘s ahead in the polls.  And she could well benefit from the fact she is of the female gender, because the majority of Democratic voters are women. 

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Right.  And you know what was great about that—about Senator Clinton‘s response to Campbell Brown, the first word she said was—the words she said were, now, Campbell.  It was a very familiar answer.  She‘s looking at Campbell Brown, basically, saying Campbell, how can you ask me that question?  Clearly you know what I meant by what I was saying. 

And it reminded me of the question that I asked Senator Obama at the gay and lesbian forum back in August, when I asked him, Senator Obama, how are you going to take the issue of homophobia in the black community.  Because, as you know, Senator Obama, there is a problem in the community.  He looked at me and he said, come on, man.  It‘s this familiarity.  It‘s why are you asking me this question, because you know the answer. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Appealing to the sympathy of the journalist, a dangerous proposition.  We‘ll be right back with the round table.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table.  Let‘s take a look at the new poll in Iowa; 27 percent for Hillary, 25 percent for Obama.  Edwards at 21.  You know, I‘m looking at how close that is, and I‘m wondering, Craig, you first—it seems to me the man holding all the power here is Edwards, because he has least to lose.  He‘s falling back in the pack from the numbers in July.  And he has the most to choose.  The most to lose and the most to chose.  He can say goes—least to lose.  He can say, I‘m going to attack Obama now and stop his forward advance, and maybe stop him in his tracks, at the risk of Hillary winning.  Or he could go after Hillary and let Obama pass her. 

Isn‘t it a lot of power in his hands, Edwards? 

CRAWFORD:  The trouble with that—I agree with you, but the trouble with that in Iowa is they don‘t like that negative stuff.  They‘re nice people out there. 

MATTHEWS:  I know, but that gives—what‘s his choice? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, I agree.  I don‘t think he has much choice other than to pull out endorse Obama.  Add up their numbers, Obama and Edwards, you can see—I actually think one of Hillary‘s real dangers here is she wants Edwards to stay in this game, and stay fairly strong.  She is really benefiting from the fact that she‘s got two rivals who are neck and neck, almost, and it keeps her out front. 

MATTHEWS:  So true.  Let‘s go to Holly on the same question.  How does this three-way circus work out.  It seems like somebody‘s going to lose, and the other two are going to be really close for the win in Iowa. 

BAILEY:  Absolutely.  It‘s basically a virtual three-way tie.  It‘s hard to see—with Edwards, it‘s hard to see him peeling off more support from Hillary.  He has to pull support from Obama somehow.  But, you know, I was out traveling actually with him on Wednesday, and he‘s stepping up his attacks.  He‘s becoming more aggressive by the day.  And again, you know, there‘s this concern that will he alienate any Iowa voters with this talk. 

CRAWFORD:  Can I just make a—

MATTHEWS:  I need Jonathan to have a shot here. 

CAPEHART:  Chris, you know, I think the problem that Edwards has is that he‘s coming off as the angry guy.  He‘s very aggressive.  He‘s very angry.  I think by now—I think he‘s already lost.  I think people are tuning him out, and finding to be someone who‘s not very constructive.  In that poll that we just saw, he‘s the one who‘s losing support. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he lost six points.  Looks like Obama is winning out there.  If nothing changes right now, it looks like he‘s on the way to winning in Iowa.  Anyway, thank you Craig Crawford, Holly Bailey of “Newsweek,” and Jonathan Capehart of the Post.  Join us Monday night at 5:00 and then again at 7:00 for a brand new Power Ranks.  We‘ll tell you who‘s got the gas in this race.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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