updated 1/3/2008 12:08:06 PM ET 2008-01-03T17:08:06

Guests: John Norris, A.B. Stoddard, Jim Vandehei, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Mudcat Saunders

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  The American political circus pulls into Des Moines about a year ago and the big show is finally upon us. 

Welcome to Iowa where everyone but Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani continues to cram for tomorrow‘s final exam.  Where it all winds up remains anybody‘s guess at this hour. 

The latest “Des Moines Register” presidential poll shows Huckabee atop the Republican field, and Barack Obama the first among Democrats.  Both men boast leads greater than the margin of error in those polls.  We‘ll discuss the Republican side in just a few minutes. 

But we begin with the Democrat and the “Des Moines Register‘s” frontrunner du jour.  He is Barack Obama.  Joining me now is Obama campaign adviser John Norris, along with John Kerry‘s Iowa state director in ‘04, which was a good place to be, I guess. 

So I went out to the dinner last night with a number of guys from the Edwards campaign who spent maybe an hour and a half attacking this “Des Moines Register” poll and saying 40 percent independents in it.  It‘s ludicrous.  You know, this does not reflect the state of play.  Will you defend this poll? 

JOHN NORRIS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISOR:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean I think it‘s real.  I mean, their—it reflects the attitude amongst Iowans and Americans.  I mean independents and Republicans want change, too.  So I anticipate a big turnout, and I think a portion of that will be independents.  And I don‘t think that‘s any surprise to anyone except if you get bad numbers you want to try and dispel the poll.  But we‘re seeing it on the ground.  You know, you can‘t just rely on the polls.  And I sensed it on the ground.  The poll kind of validated what I thought was happening.  We saw it four years ago with John Kerry. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

NORRIS:  Towards the end, you saw bigger crowds, more intensity. 

We‘ve seen that the last several days with... 

CARLSON:  But you also saw four years ago the reverse of John Kerry‘s experience, which was that of Howard Dean‘s who was puffed up by everybody in the press as essentially the nominee.  He comes in third, totally destroyed by that because the expectations—his performance fell so far short of that.  Are you worried at all now that Barack Obama is being touted as the frontrunner?  If he were to come in second that would be devastating. 

NORRIS:  I think there‘s two fundamental differences between the Dean campaign of ‘04 and the Obama campaign.  Number one it‘s based on hope not anger.  Number two is we have an extremely tight organization.  We‘ve checked and double checked our 1s and 2s, the people who sign the support or told you they‘re going to support Barack Obama and they‘re turning out tomorrow night. 

Do you think there was—the AP had a poll today out saying that something like 40 percent of all Democrats said they were, in the last three days leading up to tomorrow, keeping their minds open, were willing to change their minds about whom they were going to caucus for tomorrow night.  Do you think any late deciding Democrats are going to go to Hillary? 

NORRIS:  I think they‘ll—I think everyone will get a little bit of late-time Democrats.  And I think Hillary will probably get the least amount.  She‘s been the most known all along.  I think if she were going to get a wave of support it would have happened much sooner than now.  And so I don‘t think there‘s a wave coming her way at the end.  I think in the end, Obama seems to be winning the argument that he can bring about the most change in this country.  And so because of that I think he‘ll get the strongest wave at the end, if you will.  What you‘re seeing right now. 

CARLSON:  There‘s a radio spot playing in Iowa, I heard it a couple times today, it‘s an Obama ad attacking Hillary Clinton‘s health care plan for its mandatory health insurance.  He almost takes a libertarian stand in the ad and says, look, you shouldn‘t be punished for not buying health insurance.  Is Obama secret libertarian in favor of free choice for people? 

NORRIS:  What I think it is is recognizing the difference.  It‘s a legitimate policy difference between the Edwards and Clinton health care plan which is a government mandate that you have to buy insurance.  Obama‘s plan recognizes that it isn‘t people don‘t want insurance, isn‘t the reason they don‘t have it, they can‘t afford it.  So his address is cost.  And if you make it affordable people will have access to it and we‘ll get people covered in this country and... 

CARLSON:  What if people don‘t want it?  What if people decide, you know, I don‘t want to health insurance?  Is that going to be allowed under President Obama? 

NORRIS:  Well—yes, I think you can‘t—he doesn‘t believe you can force people to do something.  But you address the real problem which is people can‘t afford it.  And you make it affordable for folks.  And that‘s what people need, is health insurance they can afford. 

CARLSON:  So Benazir Bhutto gets killed, OK?  So I‘m watching this from home, I‘m your average Iowa voter.  I don‘t know a ton about Pakistan.  But I know it‘s a dangerous country with nuclear weapons and I know that she was a political leader in that country and that country is less stable because of her assassination. 

I look over at the candidates and say I like Barack Obama but holy smokes, what does he know about Pakistan or South Asia or the world for that matter?  It makes me nervous by voting for him.  Have you seen that among voters? 

NORRIS:  No, I haven‘t.  I mean I think everyone‘s concerned about our standing in the world and our foreign policy.  But there‘s a real confidence in Barack Obama represents an ability to bring people together. 

To start a new course in our foreign policy that listens to people and

talks to our friends and our adversaries.  People want that engagement as

he related to, you know, like John Kennedy said, you can‘t fear negotiate -

you can negotiate out of fear but you can‘t fear to negotiate. 

So people want a leader like Barack Obama who can take our country in a different direction, engage in a worldwide conversation about how we end war, the Iraq war, and how we stop terrorists through interactional cooperation. 

CARLSON:  Look, I‘m not in any way saying that Hillary Clinton sipping tea with the wives of 82 prime ministers makes her, you know, a great foreign policy leader. 

NORRIS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  But I do think that the argument you just made sounds a little bit like the argument Bush made in 2000, which was, “No, I don‘t have a lot of experience internationally, but I‘m a decent person with good instincts,” and that turned out, in the view of many people, including me, not to be enough. 

NORRIS:  He may have made that argument.  But he didn‘t do it.  I mean that‘s the fundamental. 

CARLSON:  So you‘re saying it‘s a valid argument but he didn‘t live up to it? 

NORRIS:  Yes, I think Barack Obama will be tough with our adversaries throughout the world and throughout terrorism.  But he also will engage our adversaries in conversation and tell them exactly where America is, argue from a position of strength, and that‘s the kind of engagement people are looking for.  We aren‘t scared to talk to our adversaries.  In fact, that‘s how real change can occur. 

CARLSON:  So if you guys do win tomorrow, what do you expect to happen to your standing in New Hampshire?  Will we immediately see a bump in the polls in the next primary state? 

NORRIS:  I think so.  Particularly, you know, we see these numbers coming out of Iowa where a number of independents participate and Republicans who support Barack Obama.  That‘s what New Hampshire is like.  I mean no party voters, independent voters in New Hampshire are looking for someone to bring this country together.  I think they will be energized and it will validate to them that Barack Obama is the choice for change in America. 

CARLSON:  So lightning strikes, he comes in third, what happens then? 

NORRIS:  We take our message to New Hampshire.  I still think this country (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  You keep going? 

NORRIS:  Yes, absolutely. 

CARLSON:  John Norris. 

NORRIS:  And you know we have the organization to do it, too. 

CARLSON:  All right.  We‘ll see. 

NORRIS:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  I appreciate you coming on.  Thank you very much, good luck. 

NORRIS:  All right, thanks. 

CARLSON:  What‘s going on with Mike Huckabee?  He announced to the press that he wouldn‘t run his attack ad against Mitt Romney and then he showed the press that ad.  Crazy or sophisticated? 

And the John McCain campaign has spent the last eight months near the jaws of defeat.  Could tomorrow represent the retrieval of victory? 

This is MSNBC live from Des Moines, Iowa.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  John McCain is gaining steam.  He‘s running third in Iowa.  He‘s a frontrunner in New Hampshire.  Is he coming back?  This show will be with him tomorrow in New Hampshire as he hears the caucus results. 

Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  The race for first place in Iowa on the Republican side remains tight.  The “Des Moines Register” poll sees Mike Huckabee leading. 

We‘re in Des Moines tonight at Java Joe‘s coffee shop. 

All the candidates in the state, Huckabee has attracted the most attention possibly in the last couple of days.  He announced that he won‘t run an attack ad against Mitt Romney, then he showed it to the press.  And then today he split for California to appear on the “Tonight Show” tonight. 

Was it a wise move?  Here to tell us is MSNBC political analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, welcome. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thank you, Tucker.  Glad to be here. 

CARLSON:  So here are the numbers.  Here‘s the DMR poll, the very controversial “Des Moines Register” poll.  Huckabee out in front at 32 percent, Romney 26, McCain 13, Ron Paul tied with Fred Thompson for 9 percent.  Rudy Giuliani, who apparently is still running for president, at 5 percent. 

Do you expect these numbers to hold? 

BUCHANAN:  No. 

CARLSON:  Why? 

BUCHANAN:  First of all, I think Huckabee is—I don‘t think Huckabee is going to win by seven points.  I think it‘s much closer than that.  I think Romney‘s got a superior organization.  Huckabee‘s motivates people and energizes them better.  And some of the people will come out on their own.  But I think in terms of organization, he doesn‘t have it.  And secondly the way the campaign‘s been sort of erratic in the final days, that tells me the internals are telling him something‘s not working. 

CARLSON:  So you think it‘s erratic.  Well, just to give an example, Jonathan Martin of “The Politico” has a sort of an amazing piece today that explains the back story behind Huckabee‘s decision not to run the attack ad against Romney.  And in this piece he says that Huckabee basically announced to his staff—Ed Rollins is. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  .running his campaign—moments before this press availability that, “No I‘m not going negative.”  He hadn‘t consulted the staff, apparently. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  That tells you that this is a campaign in disarray? 

BUCHANAN:  No, it tells me he‘s got up to the line of scrimmage, looked over, he called, he doesn‘t like the defense, time-out and calls an audible.  OK?  And so I think he changed it.  I think the thing seems to have been handled so badly tells me this is exactly what happened.  They worked on it.  He was tipped off, “We‘re going to take Romney down.”  And he did it on “Meet the Press.”  And then he does his ad, and he starts thinking and people are calling him, “Don‘t do it, Governor, don‘t go negative.  Take a high road.  You can still win.  This is going to cost you.”  And he switched.  And then he went out there and he says, if you want to see the ad, take a look at it.  I know it sounds totally cynical but I think it was a guy that changed his mind in midstream. 

CARLSON:  It—I must say, if you read the text of the ad, nothing in it strikes me as untrue or unfair, frankly. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s been saying—that‘s what he said (INAUDIBLE) exactly true. 

CARLSON:  Like most negative ads. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s right. 

CARLSON:  People attack them but they‘re actually pretty honest.  What do you make of this decision to go back, go to L.A. tonight and talk to Leno? 

BUCHANAN:  I talked to Ed this morning and he told me we‘re going to L.A. to be on, and I was astonished, frankly because, it isn‘t what I would do.  If I had him, I would have Huckabee, I would be out there, hit all the corners of this state, all the major spots where he‘s got support.  Energize him.  Get out to the caucuses.  I don‘t think you can do that on Jay Leno and it‘s a big, national hit.  Maybe 100,000, 200,000 Iowans will see it.  I don‘t know if that will motivate him as well as you can hitting every major media market in a big rally of all your major people. 

CARLSON:  Well, apparently “Access Hollywood” is reporting right now that Hillary Clinton is going to do David Letterman in New York tonight. 

BUCHANAN:  She‘s going to do it? 

CARLSON:  That is what is being reported right now, that Hillary Clinton—it is not clear whether she‘s going to be doing it by satellite from Des Moines or she‘s going to go New York. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, if you can do it by satellite from Des Moines, do it.  But she‘d be right in the studio, well, after the day is over, flying—I don‘t know when the guy tapes it.  That would be less than a trip to the coast I think for a Republican. 

CARLSON:  I‘m just hearing, it is confirmed.  She is, in fact—she is. 

BUCHANAN:  She‘s in New York? 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton is doing David Letterman.  Now this is a strategy that kind of late. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  It‘s tape-to-live, I‘m just hearing this right now.  This is a strategy that did not work out well for Fred Thompson who, of course, skipped a Republican debate to go. 

BUCHANAN:  To announce the thing, yes.  Hillary, I don‘t know.  Huckabee‘s the one, as I say, Huckabee I think should be hitting all these spots around the state because I think Romney‘s hammering him with his ads and I think they‘re having an impact and I think he ought to energize his base.  I would not have gone.  Maybe tomorrow night he‘ll roll in by 10 points, everybody will say, “We saw you on Leno.”  But I would not have done it.  You know? 

CARLSON:  McCain third in this poll at 13.  Half of Romney.  There is this sense and maybe again is coming from the press, has Chuck Todd said on an earlier, “The press loves McCain.” 

BUCHANAN:  They love McCain. 

CARLSON:  Maybe they‘re puffing up McCain again.  But to me, it feels like something more.  You think it is? 

BUCHANAN:  No.  Not here.  I don‘t think it is. 

CARLSON:  Not here. 

BUCHANAN:  I think he‘s come out here because that‘s where he gets his media for New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  He wants Huckabee to win here and then he‘s watched—he‘s got to beat Romney in New Hampshire.  However, let me tell you something, I talked to a guy today who knows, and he was with Tancredo and he‘s not bad.  He said keep your eye for number three on Ron Paul. 

CARLSON:  I believe that. 

BUCHANAN:  Ron Paul shows four points behind right there, right?  He said they‘re coming. 

CARLSON:  Ron Paul is tied with Fred Thompson. 

BUCHANAN:  He said they‘ve got people from all over the country, they‘re coming in, they‘re standing on street corners.  He said some of them because it‘s same-day registration are going to the caucuses.  And they can come in in the state and do it.  He says some of them are doing that.  Now I said, are you sure you can do that?  And he said, “Yes, I think they can.”  But he said they‘re all over the state.  The guy‘s working.  He‘s never seen such energy and fire.  I tell you what, I will bet Ron Paul beats two of the former three. 

CARLSON:  Oh, there‘s no question about it. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s going to knock—you know what‘s an outrage?  That FOX News are not going to allow him in the debate in New Hampshire.  Suppose he beats Fred Thompson and beats Giuliani and then they keep him out of the debate in New Hampshire? 

CARLSON:  This is a man who raised more money in one day than anybody in the history of American politics. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  And he‘s a phenomenon in the campaign.  Maybe he‘s not going to win it but he belongs on the stage. 

CARLSON:  Of course, he does. 

BUCHANAN:  And frankly, if he does well here in Iowa, I predict they‘ll have to open up the stage. 

CARLSON:  Keeping Ron Paul off the air is just another way to increase his popularity. 

In one sentence, was it wise for Giuliani—I mean for Huckabee to make fun or appear to make fun of George W. Bush without reading the national intelligence estimate? 

BUCHANAN:  For George Bush for not reading it? 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  I didn‘t even see that. 

CARLSON:  Huckabee said essentially, “I didn‘t read it, you know you caught me.” 

BUCHANAN:  George Bush didn‘t? 

CARLSON:  But George Bush didn‘t read it for four years. 

BUCHANAN:  He said Bush didn‘t read it? 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s not true.  If that‘s true he‘s got a good issue. 

CARLSON:  He does.  Pat Buchanan.  Thanks, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  You caught me, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Sorry. 

John McCain‘s presidential campaign was nearly written off just a few months ago.  Now he‘s running third place in at least one Iowa poll.  Another poll shows him leading in the state of New Hampshire.  Did we write his obit too early? 

Plus Dennis Kucinich, congressman from Ohio, tells his supporters to switch their votes to Obama if he doesn‘t get what he needs in tomorrow‘s caucuses.  Would that percentage of voters help push Obama to a victory here? 

You‘re watching MSNBC live from Des Moines. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Tomorrow‘s caucuses here in Iowa will, among other things, read the pulse of the once moribund John McCain campaign.  One popular school of thought is that a strong third place finish here in Iowa would make McCain very dangerous next week in New Hampshire for the primaries there and potentially for the rest of the primary season. 

Are we on the verge of one the great political comebacks of all time? 

Joining us now associate editor of “The Hill” newspaper, A.B.

Stoddard, and “The Politico‘s” executive editor Jim Vandehei. 

Welcome to you both. 

So Jim, do you believe that it is realistic to expect that John McCain third place finish tomorrow night in Iowa? 

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO EXECUTIVE EDITOR:  Certainly.  If you look at the trends in the polls it‘s completely plausible that he could.  And I think that would be a huge story.  I think it would be one of the big stories coming out of Iowa.  If you look back six months ago we were all writing John McCain off.  There was so much turmoil and dissension inside of his campaign.  Conservatives hated him because of immigration and campaign finance reform and we weren‘t even paying much attention to him. 

And now suddenly you look at the national polls, he‘s right up there with the frontrunners.  You look at New Hampshire, he‘s winning in a lot of polls, and now you see him creeping up in Iowa.  You put those three factors together and you‘ve got yourself a real comeback, and if he can actually start to prove that he could win in a place or finish third in Iowa and win in a place in New Hampshire, he can start to make the argument, “Listen, you may not like me on all the issues but I‘m the most electable.  I‘m the one who could actually beat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama so you better take a second look.” 

That could be a pretty powerful message. 

CARLSON:  Yes, I mean it‘s starting to make sense as an argument. 

A.B. Stoddard, you have made the argument that this is a realistic possibility for a long time even those long months when everyone laughed at you.  Everyone but me I think. 

Here‘s the latest Suffolk University poll out of New Hampshire.  It‘s got McCain at 31, Romney at 25, Giuliani at 14, Huckabee 9, Ron Paul 8, Fred Thompson 2. 

I‘m struck by Giuliani and Thompson, two of the people we‘ve spent the most breath talking about over the last year completely eclipsed by the man we‘ve written off John McCain.  Amazing. 

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”:  I still think that if you look at Mitt Romney‘s organization in New Hampshire there could be a real problem for John McCain.  I think Barack Obama could spoil it for John McCain.  I think he‘s poised to make a comeback in New Hampshire if he comes back at all.  But I think that there‘s still—we don‘t know what‘s going to happen in terms of independents who are against the war, coming out for Barack Obama and traditional Republicans rallying behind Mitt Romney. 

CARLSON:  Well, that is—I think that‘s a very solid point.  If tomorrow night in Iowa Barack Obama wins, that will increase the drama of the Democratic race sufficient I think to draw the interest of a lot of independents, and even some moderate Republicans who‘d be voting McCain in New Hampshire. 

I want to put up Jim, a new attack ad by McCain aimed at Mitt Romney on the question of national security.  Take a look at this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The following is a Mitt Romney issue alert.  Mitt Romney says the next president doesn‘t need foreign policy experience.  Here he is in his own words. 

MITT ROMNEY ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  If we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is he serious?  We live in a dangerous world.  And these are serious times.  America needs a president who is serious about foreign policy.  John McCain is the one man prepared to lead America in a time of crisis. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I‘m John McCain, and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Jim, it‘s kind of hard to argue the substance of that.  McCain, of course, has a lot more foreign policy experience than Mitt Romney, to say the least.  Is there evidence so that voters care?  I mean Iraq seems to have dropped off the roster of issues motivating people to vote this month. 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Is that actually going to move people to support McCain over Romney? 

VANDEHEI:  It absolutely could.  And here‘s why, Tucker.  If you look at those same polls, Republicans, much more than Democrats, care a lot about terrorism.  They still care a lot about the Iraq war.  And they care a lot about electability. 

Remember when we were talking about Rudy Giuliani being the flavor of the month we were talking about, yes, you know, he‘s not with conservatives on abortion and gay rights, but he‘s seen as a strong leader on terrorism.  If John McCain can make a similar argument that, “I am most electable, I‘m the guy who can fight terrorism, I‘m the guy who can win the war in Iraq,” and make that argument, “because of that I can win the election,” I think you can get some Republicans to forgive his sins. 

As you know, Tucker, if you talk to Republicans, their loathing of McCain—a lot of those grassroots conservatives, their loathing of McCain is much different than their loathing of other candidates, however.  They really don‘t like McCain.  They hate him because of campaign finance reform.  They felt like that was anathema to everything Republicans stand for.  And they really, really soured on him after the immigration debate because he put so much emphasis on a pathway to citizenship instead of just securing the border and that‘s when he had his downfall. 

So the question is: can he overcome those two huge liabilities with a real heavy emphasis on security? 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Those were the same—let me just say those are the same grassroots Republicans that sat by and said nothing as the Bush administration and the Republican Congress passed the prescription drug benefits, expanding entitlements for the first time in a generation, bringing us closer to bankruptcy.  Where were they when that happened?  Are they really conservative?  I don‘t think so.  We‘ll be right back. 

In the meantime, Hillary Clinton running a tight race in Iowa right now where even a victory may not be considered a true victory.  Would she even better off if she skipped Iowa all together? 

Plus, John Edwards has a chance to win tomorrow night in Iowa.  But what if he doesn‘t win?  Are his chances for winning the nomination over at that point?  We‘ll talk to someone from his campaign coming up. 

We‘re live from Des Moines. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, dissecting the Democratic race in the state of Iowa.  Who‘s got the best shot of winning and which candidate stands to lose the most? 

We‘ll tell you in just a minute.  But first here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(MSNBC UP TO THE MINUTE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I‘m not running for president to put Band-Aids on our problems.  I‘m running to solve them.  You‘ve welcomed me into your hearts and your homes and I thank you.  The stories you‘ve shared will always stay with me.  Parents juggling jobs to pay for college for their kids, soldiers‘ families praying for safe return, all the men and women across this state who have whispered their health care problems to me, bills they can‘t pay, parents they can‘t afford to care for, insurance companies who refuse to help. 

I know you‘ve waited a long time for a president who could hear you and see you, and I would like to be that president.  So I ask you to caucus for me tomorrow.  Put on your coats and call up a friend, and help me change America.  If you stand with me for one night, I will stand up for you every day as your president.  I‘ll work my heart out to bring the country we love the new beginning it needs.  And I will be ready to start on day one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Hillary Clinton‘s closing argument in her case to be Iowa‘s choice for the Democratic nomination.  Her rivals made their own cases.  We‘ll have those, too. 

And to analyze the final arguments in the unpredictability of the vast undecided vote here, and it is vast, we welcome again associate editor of “The Hill” A.B. Stoddard and “The Politico‘s” executive editor Jim Vandehei. 

A.B., I went this morning to the Methodist Church in Indianola, Iowa to listen to Senator Clinton talk and she was, as she always is, fluent, not a single um, poised, clearly intelligent and wholly uninspiring.  And she went about explaining her brand of soft socialism.  The audience sort of clapped tepidly.  Not a lot of excitement.  Is this—does the populism thing work for her, do you think? 

STODDARD:  I think Hillary Clinton‘s going to do very well in Iowa.  I like her two-minute message that she taped.  She sounds nice and warm and accessible.  Her voice is hoarse, which I think actually works for her.  It‘s better than when she screams like she does at her debates.  I think she got her husband out over the weekend to buffer her experience argument.  They used a little Dick Cheney fear factor about the state of the world and what could be coming for the next president.  They‘re kind of selling this co-presidency again. 

And I think, if you look in the “Des Moines Register” poll at all of the undecided voters who still could change their minds before tomorrow night, there‘s a good possibility that they‘re going to buy what the Clintons are selling at the last minute and go with her. 

CARLSON:  Jim, there‘s a really interesting piece in your paper this morning by Roger Simon that quotes—deputy campaign manager to the Hillary campaign several months ago saying we probably ought not even to run in Iowa. 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

CARLSON:  And then he quotes Hillary Clinton as complaining about the sexism of Iowans.  This is a state that‘s never had a female governor, never had a female member of Congress. 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

CARLSON:  .and saying there‘s got to be something to that, you know.  She‘s essentially saying, and Simon is saying, maybe this just isn‘t her state.  Should she have run here? 

VANDEHEI:  Oh, I think so.  I understood the debate back then because the question is would she sell better in New Hampshire and other states and should she concentrate her resources and therefore set expectations elsewhere?  I think her decision to compete was probably a wise one because I do think—I agree with A.B., she‘ll probably do pretty well tomorrow, you finish first or second.  If she does that I think she could consider that a victory.  The problem for her will be if she would finish third. 

You know, you‘ve got Edwards, Obama and Hillary Clinton so close in all these polls.  It is conceivable that she could finish third.  I do think that would be very, very damaging to her candidacy because the narrative then that we‘d all be talking about tomorrow, or two days from now on your program would be that Hillary Clinton could not even finish a first or second in a state she spent so much money and so much time in.  But so far, I think most people are pretty impressed with her organizational talents in Iowa.  And the question, and where I might differ a little bit with A.B. is, you know, oh, you know, this nice, soft tone that she uses in this closing argument. 

That‘s not how Democrats are feeling.  Democrats are angry.  They want somebody who embodies what they feel.  And they‘re sick of Bush.  They‘re sick of the war.  They‘re sick of the economy.  And they want someone who‘s going to fight for change.  And the question is, those independents who are swinging around at the end of the day, do they go with sort of safe and ready, which is Hillary Clinton‘s argument?  Or do they go with someone who is angry and ready to shake things up which is sort of the Obama-Edwards line.  Not clear which way they‘ll fall. 

CARLSON:  But I mean, A.B., let‘s say she does come in third tomorrow, which I think is unlikely, but let‘s say second or maybe even third, can‘t she at that point argue look, this is a sexist state.  I told you all along.  It‘s cold, it‘s too white, it‘s unrepresentative of the rest of America and they still love me in Boca and that just sets up a new narrative of her as the comeback kid? 

STODDARD:  You know, I think if anyone can come back it would be Hillary Clinton.  I think that it would be a mistake for her to say it‘s a sexist state.  And I think if Barack Obama takes number one or number two with an Edwards victory that, I don‘t know, everyone can spin off and Barack Obama jumps in to New Hampshire, it‘s a big problem for Hillary Clinton. 

I think if Barack Obama becomes a winner on Friday, not just Barack Obama the candidate, but a winner, the one who won over her, either one or two showing, it‘s going to be a huge problem for her, and she‘ll have to find a new narrative in the next couple days and in the next few contests to come back from that. 

CARLSON:  Well, maybe she shouldn‘t, Jim, have run as the inevitability candidate in the first place.  Maybe because once you‘re not inevitable, what do you have? 

VANDEHEI:  You‘re right.  And she‘s sort of meandered a little bit in what exactly her argument is.  It‘s been, you know, “I‘m the one who‘s ready to go from day one and I‘m the person who can shake it up and change things.  And I‘m the one who can offer a co-presidency.”  I think that confusion has played into this whole perception that the Clintons don‘t really know exactly what it is they stand for other than power.  And that has always hurt—it‘s always hurt the Clintons. 

You know, I just spent a little bit of time in Wisconsin and I talked to a lot of voters when I was there.  They don‘t like the Clintons.  So many of them are just uncomfortable with this idea of a co-presidency.  And when they see Bill Clinton they don‘t see somebody, oh, this is somebody who can help turn out the vote.  They‘re like what, another four years of that?  And I think she has to deal with that both in Iowa and in going forward in New Hampshire and these other states.  I think the most likely outcome coming out of tomorrow is just more confusion and uncertainty.  It‘s probably going to be very close on the Republican and Democratic side and we‘ll have to take this argument to New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  Now, A.B., Ralph Nader‘s come out and endorsed John Edwards. 

No real surprise there. 

STODDARD:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Ralph Nader is a sort of de facto leader of the anti-Clinton left, the group that sees the Clintons as sellouts and triangulaters and the rest. 

Is it possible that as the other second and third tier candidates on the Democratic side drop out that any of their supporters will go to Hillary?  Or are all their supporters by definition anti-Hillary-Democrats who will go to Obama or Edwards or whomever is left? 

STODDARD:  This is so interesting.  I howled when I saw the Ralph

Nader report, because, of course, you know, but for Ralph Nader‘s 90,000

votes in Florida, Al Gore would be president.  So it just was a crackup.  I

see Edwards as a huge spoiler for Barack Obama, actually.  I think that the

defiant support in Iowa for Edwards really gets in Barack Obama‘s way in taking over Hillary Clinton and winning first place.  We look at there‘s a Reuters poll now that shows Barack Obama is 22 percent choose Barack Obama as their second choice, 30 percent supporting the second tier choose John Edwards.  Hillary is at 15.  So all along we‘ve been believing that these Biden, Richardson, Dodd supporters are going to break Obama‘s way or Edwards way and not Hillary‘s. 

Sometimes now when I listen to Joe Biden talk I wonder if the Joe Biden supporters see that he doesn‘t amass 15 percent, don‘t they go with the most experienced candidate?  And is that Hillary Clinton?  So, it is going to be in the support of those second-tier candidates if this thing is decided. 

CARLSON:  There‘s no question about that. 

What do you—Jim, do you think it was wise of Mike Huckabee to pull his attack ads, as you guys reported in “The Politico” today, 150,000 dollars worth of radio, television and print ads pulled.  Was it smart of him to do that? 

VANDEHEI:  I thought it was just plain weird.  Just the whole way that they went about it.  The idea of calling a press conference and then saying you‘re not going to do a negative ad, but then showing the ad to members of the press corps that were there, who then sort of mocked at him and laughed at him and then wrote a bunch of stories mocking at him and laughing at him.  So it was not his finest moment and it plays into this whole sort of narrative: is he ready?  Is he really ready for this job? 

I think what we‘re discovering here for Huckabee is that the danger of surging so quickly, that you can‘t put together a campaign.  He doesn‘t have people doing research for him in a big communications shop to respond to all of these attacks.  So he‘s making up a lot of this as he goes.  And often if we put a call in to the campaign, it‘s him that calls back right away as opposed to this monstrosity of the Romney campaign where you could get a call from any one of several people because they has such a huge, sort of corporate-like structure.  And I think that has hurt Huckabee a little bit. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I don‘t—I‘d like him or anyone to explain to me what‘s wrong with saying in public why you‘re better than your opponent. 

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

CARLSON:  I mean there‘s nothing wrong with attack ads.  I wish someone would defend them other than me. 

Thank you both very much.  Jim, A.B., I appreciate it. 

VANDEHEI:  Have a good one. 

STODDARD:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants to be your choice for president.  But if that doesn‘t work out he‘s got another candidate whom he says ought to fill that post.  We‘ll tell you who it is up next.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich joins us live from New Hampshire to explain his latest campaign strategy, plus, his prediction on who will walk away a winner tomorrow in the state of Iowa. 

You‘re watching MSNBC live from Des Moines. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Congressman Dennis Kucinich is trying to win the Democratic nomination for president.  Then why is he asking his supporters to back Barack Obama?  We‘ll ask him in the flesh.  Next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Congressman Dennis Kucinich has run an unwavering presidential campaign against the Iraq war, in favor of labor unions, against free trade agreements, essentially traditional left-wing Democratic themes.  He‘s not getting front-running traction among the voters and yesterday he told his supporters to consider Barack Obama their second choice in tomorrow‘s Iowa caucuses. 

Here via satellite from Manchester, New Hampshire to explain the situation is the congressman himself from Cleveland, Dennis Kucinich. 

Congressman, we‘re honored to have you.  Thanks for coming on. 

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Tucker, happy new year.  Good to be with you. 

CARLSON:  Happy new year.  Thanks, Congressman. 

Why Barack Obama?  Why not Hillary Clinton?  She‘s fighting for you, she has told us time and again.  Why wouldn‘t you ask your supporters to make her their second choice? 

KUCINICH:  Well, you know, this is in Iowa-only decision and it relates to the second ballot.  It‘s not an endorsement.  But I am telling my supporters, who support me, because I‘m the only one running, you know, who stands for not for profit health care, who stands for getting out of Iraq now, who says no war against Iran, no troops in Pakistan, repeal the Patriot Act, and impeach, it‘s a vote courageously on that first ballot, vote—courageous vote the only vote worth casting, vote for me, and on the second ballot I told my supporters to—if we don‘t get the delegate threshold, to go with Barack Obama. 

CARLSON:  But, I understand that, but why Obama of all the candidates to choose from?  I mean John Edwards, I think you could make an argument that John Edwards‘s positions in a lot of cases are closer to yours than Barack Obama‘s are.  As I said Hillary Clinton is now a screaming populist fighting for us.  Why not them? 

KUCINICH:  Well, I would take issue with that.  But I would say that in encouraging a vote for Obama, you know, the first thing I‘m saying is I want people to vote for me on the first ballot.  But if I don‘t get the delegate threshold go with Barack Obama. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

KUCINICH:  I think he‘s a sincere candidate and I believe my supporters should consider him for the second ballot.  I‘m asking for that first ballot.  And I‘m sincerely contesting with him. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

KUCINICH:  .in New Hampshire for first ballot consideration. 

CARLSON:  There was a piece, I‘m sure you saw it this morning, Congressman, in “The New York Times,” about the caucuses themselves, and the story made the point that a lot of people can‘t participate in the caucuses, unlike a primary.  You have to be physically present in order to caucus.  You can‘t mail in your choice. 

KUCINICH:  Right. 

CARLSON:  So soldiers serving abroad who are residents of Iowa cannot participate, the sick cannot participate, people who have to baby-sit and have to work can‘t participate.  It‘s not a very Democratic system was the point of the article.  Do you agree?  Are the caucuses themselves flawed and should we change them? 

KUCINICH:  Well, you know, there are problems with caucuses.  But, you know, I‘m asking people, nevertheless, go with me on the first ballot, and Senator Obama on the second one.  But I will tell you this that in Iowa in particular it‘s been problematic because the Democratic Party there, I‘m not talking about the people of Iowa, God‘s people, the salt of the earth.  But you know what?  That Democratic Party in Iowa has tried to rig this game.  And that‘s problematic.  They actually have, I think, jeopardized Iowa‘s standings because of the way they‘ve handled it. 

But nevertheless, I think that the caucus system has some pluses, but you make a good point.  And that is what about soldiers?  What about people who are sick?  There has to be consideration for them.  And I think caucus procedures should consider that.  There has to be some way of making it possible for those who serve this country to be—to have their feelings felt in a caucus. 

Good point, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  But, wait a second.  The people running for president are making the case they‘re tough enough to stand up to al-Qaida.  You‘ve got to be a tough character to be president of the United States.  And if there‘s not one Democrat who will stand up to the Democratic Party of Iowa and say, this is an undemocratic, antiquated, ludicrous system that benefits you and you alone.  It doesn‘t actually help the population to have this intensely complicated system.  Nobody will say that to the party because everyone‘s afraid. 

KUCINICH:  Well, actually, I‘ve challenged the Iowa Democratic Party. 

And you can—you know, it‘s a matter of record. 

CARLSON:  Good for you. 

KUCINICH:  And I think there are flaws in the way that they‘re conducting their approach.  Matter of fact, tonight I‘m challenging the Texas Democratic Party, because they‘re trying to force a loyalty oath upon Democratic candidates which I think is unconstitutional.  You know, I‘m—if people want someone who‘s independent-minded and knows how to challenge party bosses then I‘m your candidate. 

CARLSON:  Well, truer words have never been spoken.  You are the independent candidate and you have never been afraid to challenge party bosses.  And some of us—even those of us who don‘t agree with you, Congressman, appreciate that about you.  I appreciate you coming on. 

Thanks a lot, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. 

KUCINICH:  Thank you, Tucker Carlson. 

CARLSON:  John Edwards is banking on a victory tomorrow night at the Iowa caucuses.  What if he doesn‘t win?  We‘ll talk to one of his key advisers, Mudcat Saunders standing by.  Next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JOHN EDWARDS CAMPAIGN AD)

DOUG BISHOP, BAXTER, IOWA RESIDENT:  I myself was a former Maytag employee.  I was laid off September of 2004.  And I was asked, “Would you and your family like to come up and meet Senator Edwards?  And this is something I‘ll never forget.  He grabbed my 7-year-old son by the hand, he dropped to one knee, and he looked him straight in the eye, and he said I‘m going to keep fighting for your daddy‘s job, I promise you that.” 

You know, that stuff sticks with you.  That‘s the kind of things we need in a leader in this country.  Not somebody that‘s going to go to a big fundraiser and say write me a check for $2300 and I‘ll let you know you have my support.  I want a guy that‘s going to sit down and look a 7-year-old kid in the eye and tell him I‘m going to fight for your dad‘s job.  That‘s what I want.  I‘m going to do my best to make sure that my children aren‘t the first generation of Americans that I can‘t look them in the eye and say you‘re going to have a better life than I had. 

And I think the person that‘s going to get that done is my friend and yours, Senator John Edwards. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was John Edwards‘s closing campaign statement to Iowa caucus goers as Edwards appears to put most of his political fate into their hands.  Where does this campaign stand tonight and where does it go in any event after tomorrow? 

Joining me with answers, Edwards campaign adviser Mudcat Saunders. 

Mudcat, welcome. 

MUDCAT SAUNDERS, SENIOR EDWARDS CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST:  Hi, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Listen, the one thing we know about John Edwards, Mudcat, is he is an angry man.  We heard at the beginning of this show Barack Obama adviser say of his candidate, he represents the politics of hope, not of anger.  Why is your guy so angry? 

SAUNDERS:  I would like to say it‘s determination. 

CARLSON:  It‘s determination. 

SAUNDERS:  That‘s what I would like to say.  You know, it‘s—I get that question a lot about how John has made, you know, from 2004 until today.  He‘s moving every where.  It‘s still about, you know, what America and, you know, with economic disparity, moving at the pace that it‘s moving now, I mean, like in 1980, 1 percent of the people made 7 percent of the money.  Now they make about a quarter of the money.  And, you know, this message of social justice and economic fairness, it‘s right on cue with where Americans are today. 

I mean you look at last—the midterms of 2006, you know, my boy Jim Webb, lack of economic fairness, Clara McCaskill in Missouri, John Tester in Montana, Sherrod Brown in Ohio.  All of them won talking about the lack of economic fairness because it‘s real and it‘s affecting families.  (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  I was waiting and I‘m flying on a commercial flight tomorrow to New Hampshire.  I know that around this country there are trial lawyers flying in their G-Force wherever they want to go.  They‘re not waiting in line like I am, they‘re not dragging their bags in airports like I am.  Where‘s the fairness in the world when trial lawyers have their own planes and I don‘t? 

SAUNDERS:  Well, I can‘t really answer that question, you know.  A lot of people have airplanes.  Also the big corporations. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SAUNDERS:  .have airplanes as well and many of them.  But, you know, this argument, I think it‘s going to resonate, you know, with Iowans and people talking about, you know, where John Edwards is going to go from here.  I think you‘re going to see a surprise tomorrow night.  I don‘t think it‘s going to be a surprise to me.  I don‘t think it‘s going to be a surprise to the people of Iowa.  But what John Edwards does is he resonates in the heartland.  He has the values.  He has the roots.  He hasn‘t gotten above his race.  And I mean this is what we need in America right now. 

When I first went to work for John Edwards in 2001, Tucker, there were like 14,000 federal lobbyists in Washington.  Today, there‘s 35,000.  And they‘re not, you know, lobbying for these people out in the corn fields of Iowa.  And they‘re not lobbying for the people of the north country of New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  When you watch Hillary Clinton campaign in the final days of this contest, you hear her really striking notes that seem to be borrowed, if not stolen, from your guy, from John Edwards.  I mean she‘s now fighting for you.  She‘s going to stand up, she‘s going to be your surrogate brawler in the battle against special interests.  I mean you think she stole that stuff from your guy? 

SAUNDERS:  Well, I think with Senator Clinton I think you‘ve got to look at the money.  I mean where did she get her money?  And you know, I mean, I think if Senator Clinton doesn‘t win here, the conventional wisdom in politics is there‘s no fallback position to inevitability.  I think it‘s about electability is what I think it is.  And in all honesty, you know, Senator Clinton has more baggage, you know, than a circus train.  And she can‘t go into Virginia.  She can‘t go into Kentucky or Tennessee or West Virginia or North Carolina and win. 

CARLSON:  But if she gets the nomination, don‘t you think that almost all Edwards supporters like good little dutiful Democrats will take their orders from her and line up behind her candidacy? 

SAUNDERS:  I think that if Senator Clinton gets the nomination I think you‘ll see a situation similar to John Kerry in 2004 where the Democratic Party will once again try to thread a needle.  John Kerry conceded 227 electoral votes.  We most remember that.  That means that George W. Bush only had to get 43 electoral votes or 16 percent to reach the 270 need.  It‘s time we didn‘t thread the needle anymore as a party.  We need to become a national party once again and John Edwards fits the bill. 

CARLSON:  So you‘re essentially saying she‘s going to find it as tough to get elected as John Kerry. 

SAUNDERS:  Well, the only worry that Senator Clinton and, in my opinion, Senator Obama as well can win is to thread that needle. 

CARLSON:  How do you expect Edwards to do in New Hampshire? 

SAUNDERS:  You know, obviously, you know, if you look at all the factors, you know, politics, you can take money.  You can take organization, and momentum trumps them all.  You know, we need to run strong in Iowa.  We know that.  And of course, you know, the media‘s focus this—you know, on the rock stars, you know, mentalities, you know, of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  You know, if Democrats are about nominating a rock star, you know, why don‘t we nominate Bruce Springsteen? 

You know I think that we need to nominate somebody who can win and run

competitively throughout the south and throughout the heartland.  It makes

CARLSON:  John Cougar Mellencamp in town tonight for John Edwards. 

SAUNDERS:  And you‘re not going to make it because you‘re going to New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not going to make it.  I‘m going to be with John McCain.  That‘s true.  Give me your 10-second explanation for why John Cougar Mellencamp would be an Edwards man? 

SAUNDERS:  He‘s a blue-collar guy.  I mean he‘s always been a blue-collar guy and, you know, represents, you know, the same constituency as John Edwards, and that‘s the middle class all the way down to those guys who—and ladies who work for a living. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Mudcat Saunders of the Edwards campaign. 

Thanks, Mudcat.  I appreciate it. 

SAUNDERS:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  We will see you in New Hampshire and we‘re going to be in New Hampshire as of tomorrow afternoon with the John McCain for president campaign, which may surprise a lot of us.  So stay tuned. 

That does it for us for now.  We‘ll be back tomorrow.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris. 

Have a great night. 

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

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