updated 1/7/2008 1:08:22 PM ET 2008-01-07T18:08:22

Guests: John Edwards, Dana Milbank, E. J. Dionne, Tom O‘Neill

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Which of these stories will you be talking about?  Tomorrow, Barack and roll.  After the thundering started the Iowa caucuses, Senator Obama hits New Hampshire where the demographics he won in Iowa are even more demographers.

John Edwards, with a lady or the tiger scenario, placing ahead of Hillary Clinton can be a victory.  Finishing behind Obama, cannot be.  Senator Edwards joins us tonight.

And from third place, Senator Clinton goes to the state that started her husband‘s comeback 16 years ago.  Didn‘t do well in the opener?  Announced that next Tuesday is another opener.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is a new day.  This is a new state.  This is a primary election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans as Mike Huckabee dusts his field.  Why is the Republican hierarchy dusting him?  Are they all headed for a repeat of 1964 and the Goldwater-Rockefeller split?  And his lead in the polls in New Hampshire, now lost to John McCain.  What on earth did Mitt Romney mean today by this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This election, this presidential election, I think has underscored underneath it several times.  We want change.  And it‘s not change in the White House so much, as change in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So you are saying we should keep George Bush there forever?  (INAUDIBLE) back, doesn‘t know the difference between the constitution and the declaration of independence.

Roger Clemens, to testify to Congress about steroids?  A cop sends Britney Spears to the hospital for observation.  The judge says, she losses visitation with her kids.  A self-proclaimed rival with Larry Birkhead for the late Anna Nicole Smith, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, apparently doesn‘t like that photo of Paris Hilton with Birkhead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you don‘t (INAUDIBLE) takes anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Evidently, anybody but you Sparky.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Friday, January 4th.  305 days until the 2008 presidential election.  And tonight, a unique moment for the campaign fort, Democratic caucuses and Republican straw voting in Iowa with stirring and even historic outcomes, especially for Barack Obama bringing with them to those winners and other candidates the sweet smell of success and finality and even a whiff of inevitability with only 54 more primaries, caucuses, and conventions between tonight and a month from tomorrow.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Iowa, your mileage may vary.  With the flying political circuses of both parties having headed to New Hampshire, John Edwards joins us momentarily.  First, the headlines of this day.  The staggering 12 percent of all Iowa residents have presumably gotten home from the caucuses.  12 percent when the pre-vote numbers turnaround were six or eight, the Republican turnout was up, but their total crowd was only roughly equal to the Democratic increase from 2004.  And some clever insight from the Internet combining Democratic and Republican voting as if it had been an actual head-to-head vote, roughly 356,000 total Iowa voters.

Obama got 24.5 percent of all of them.  Edwards, 20.5 percent. 

Clinton, 19.8 percent.  Huckabee, the Republican winner, 11.4 percent.  Confined to their own parties, here again is how the candidates actually fared.  Governor Huckabee handily defeating Governor Romney by a nine-point margin, 34 to 25 percent among Republicans.  Three other candidates not appearing in new picture.  Senator Thompson and McCain at 13 percent.  Ron Paul with 10 percent.

Among the Democrats, Senator Obama easily winning a race that was thought to have been real close, 38 percent.  Eight points over Senator Edwards.  Nine points ahead of Senator Clinton.  The arcane math of the Iowa caucuses possibly obscuring just how large Senator Obama‘s victory really was.  If it had been an actual primary, the only Democrat‘s margin of victory might have been per one estimate 15 to 20 points.  But numbers like that, it‘s a wonder Senator Clinton had any appetite today.  But on the menu at the gala dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire, pizza, hold the anchovies, heavy on the revisionism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I was never a front-runner of any significance in Iowa.  Iowa, I knew, was always going to be hard for me.  It has a lot of difficulties that I knew were there in terms of my candidacy.  Both of my two leading opponents, one had been there for years; the other is from a neighboring state.  You know, so I feel that we executed what we thought was the limit of what we could produce in Iowa under the circumstances that we were facing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The excuses are not new.  Senator Clinton having started to spin them three weeks ago today, bracing against the possibility of a third place finish in a race that she had been leading throughout the fall.

The Republican runner-up, Willard Mitt Romney, not so much making excuses as simply not making sense with the new talking point for his campaign.  The former governor of Massachusetts claiming multiple times, that although Americans want change in Washington, they do not want it at the most famous address in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  This election, this presidential election, I think, has underscored underneath it several times.  We want change.  And it‘s not change in the White House so much, as change in Washington.  They want Washington to finally deal with the problems that America faces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Did they move the White House or something?  Governor Huckabee, by comparison, singing a happy tune or at least strumming one in the Granite State today.  His campaign reporting having raised half million dollars in the last 24 hours.  And while the new Democratic front-runner, Senator Obama, was greeted there like a rock star.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In four days‘ time, we have a chance to move beyond the bitterness and the partisanship and the anger that has characterized Washington for so long, to end the political strategy that says it‘s all about tearing your opponent down, as opposed to building the country up.  It‘s an opportunity for us to try to bring factions together, to stretch a progressive agenda from red states to blue states, because I am interested in being the president of the United States of America.  That‘s why I‘m running for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And we‘re fortunate enough to have more than a sound bite from the second place finisher in the Democratic race in Iowa, Former Senator John Edwards joining us from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Senator, great thanks for some of your time tonight.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One big-picture question before we get to you and your campaign in New Hampshire.  At least 236,000 went to the Democratic caucuses last night.  90 percent plus jumped from 2004 which was, as you obviously recall, a pretty activist kind of year itself.  For you, for Senator Obama, for Senator Clinton, is that number the ultimate headline from Iowa, and if so, what does it portend?

EDWARDS:  I see a different headline, Keith.  I think the headline is the two change candidates won in the status quo was rejected.

OLBERMANN:  One of my old colleagues, Glen Eiffel, was just on PBS saying that you might be framing the remainder of the New Hampshire campaign in terms of a two-person candidacy, two-person campaign, yourself and Senator Obama.  Did we just hear that, and if that‘s the case, what is the differential as you see it, between yourself and the senator from Illinois?

EDWARDS:  Well, I think what you saw happen in Iowa, Keith, was there were two candidates who had $100 million each and one who was grossly outspent there.  And I managed to beat Senator Clinton narrowly, but I managed to beat her.  And finished second to Senator Obama, who outspent me four or five times in Iowa.  And what it means, I think, in practical terms is the things that I‘m fighting for, the middle class jobs, doing something about the corporate power stranglehold on our Democracy, it resonates with people.  People care about it.

So I think now, to get to your question, I think now voters in New Hampshire who are—don‘t like to be told what to do and who are very independent-minded, I think they‘ll see this as a change primary, and they have the difference between Senator Obama and myself, the two change candidates.  Senator Obama has a more—he‘s a good man, but he has a more philosophical and academic approach, and I think we have a battle on our hands against these entrenched powers like oil companies and drug companies.

OLBERMANN:  Clearly whatever we heard last night, we even heard it to some degree with Mr. Huckabee on the Republican side.  That word “change” seems to be the early front-runner for theme for the entirety of this campaign right through to the general election in November.  With that Democratic turnout last night, do you think there is an opportunity here to get that change, no matter who gets the nomination, and is there some requirement among all of you in this campaign right now to make sure that the others are sufficiently protected to go into November undamaged and with the entire movement, if you will, behind him or her?

EDWARDS:  I think our responsibility is different than that, Keith.  I think our responsibility is to ensure we‘re not just using the political rhetoric of change, but that we‘re actually deadly serious about it.  I just told you, Senator Obama is a change candidate.  I mean, by any measure, and so am I.  We have very different views about how we should bring that change, which I just talked about.  I think Senator Clinton is different.  I think she is the status quo.  And I think that‘s what voters in Iowa saw.

And I think what‘s more important than the three of us is all we act now, listened to your conversation about the Republicans.  It just makes me laugh listening to them talking about change.  But between the three of us, I think the most important thing is that we nominate a candidate—and I think it‘s either myself or Senator Obama—who will actually fight for the change that we need.  And that the country needs change.  It‘s not personal to any of us.  It‘s what America needs.  That‘s what this cause is about.

OLBERMANN:  Again, specifically to your campaign, with all respects to my colleagues on our coverage last night, and I said this, a couple of times during it, I didn‘t understand the conventional wisdom last night.  I don‘t understand it now.  If you finish second in Iowa with more support from the previous national front-runner who dropped from first to third, many of the pundits, many of the so-called experts, are describing you as being in trouble rather than Senator Clinton.  Do you know why that is?

EDWARDS:  I have absolutely no idea.  I think they‘ve been in love with the idea of this being just between the two of them all along, and I‘ve been battling, sort of making my—I‘m the underdog, Keith.  I have been for a long time.  Nobody—everybody expected me to get wiped out in Iowa.  I mean, they saw the millions of dollars that was being spent.  And what matters here—I‘ll go back to this—what matters is the people of Iowa, the caucusgoers, rose up and said, we‘re with this guy.  We like what he‘s doing.  We‘re in it with him.

And I think the same thing is going to happen right here in New Hampshire.  And people like you make a difference.  You know, it‘s the reality of politics that as long as my voice is being heard and I‘m speaking on behalf of all of the millions of Americans who seems like they have no voice whatsoever, I‘ve got a great chance in New Hampshire and in all the subsequent states.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Give me your specific to this.  Your assessment of where politics and issues most clearly intersected for you in Iowa.  Obviously, the big word is change, but inside that word, what one issue do you think most contributed to your finishing second in Iowa?

EDWARDS:  I think—I don‘t think it was an issue, Keith.  I think it was people—they saw us personally.  They could see the difference between somebody like myself who takes this cause very personally and who they know, deep inside, will fight for it every day that I‘m president of the United States, versus somebody who talks about it, for whom it‘s more of a political issue.  And they know that when the hard times come, the politicians are going to do the political thing.

And I think they can see the difference.  When they see you in their living rooms and in their town squares.  And I think that‘s what happened in Iowa.  And I think the same thing is going to happen in New Hampshire.

OLBERMANN:  Senator John Edwards, it should be some 72 hours in New Hampshire.  Good luck with it and again, our thanks for your time tonight, sir.

EDWARDS:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For the 72 hours and counting analysis for Senator Edwards and his rivals with the polls opening at Dixville Notch as midnight strikes Monday.  Let‘s turn now to our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post.”  Author of the newly released book “Homo Politicus.”  We spent last night among caucusgoers in the 70th precinct in Des Moines and survived to join us.  Good evening, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Well look, we just heard this.  That‘s a two-person campaign in Senator Edwards‘ estimation.  The two change candidates.  Give me your immediate reaction, hearing sort of political campaign change on the fly, as we just did.

MILBANK:  Well, I mean, I think that‘s what Senator Edwards has to say right now.  He is in a bit of a tight spot because he had invested five years of his life in Iowa.  So he really needed to get a big pop out of that.  But certainly everybody‘s talking about change.  We, in fact, started a little changeometer running when Barack Obama talks.  We were up to 35 and utterance is a change in a single speech, but there is something to it, and that has a lot to do with Mike Huckabee‘s success as well and a lot of this anti-Clinton vote.

OLBERMANN:  And I know everybody wants to use that word “change.”  What about this other word, “turnout”?  The dense drew 91 percent more than 2004, and as historic as Obama‘s win is, and obviously it is on so many different levels, does this actually imply the country is so angry at George Bush and this administration and taking it out on the GOP that the Democrat can count on, if they don‘t damage each other too much, that kind of support in November?  Is that what we‘re seeing maybe at the long end of this tunnel?

MILBANK:  Yes, and I think we‘ve got to give President Bush some credit now.  Eight years after promising to be a uniter and not a divider, he has, in fact, finally united the country.  And that does have a lot to do with this huge turnout.  We keep huge turnout in perspective.  12 percent of the eligible voters is not huge by any measure, but it‘s still large by traditional standards.  The Republican candidates are just not firing people up as Barack Obama might say, which brings voters to the Democratic side.

The real interesting thing to watch, as has been discussed quite a bit, is this children‘s crusade here.  Young people in a 20 to 30 voting, as large numbers as the elderly, which is really extraordinary, if they can keep that up and it goes to the Democratic side, this almost means that even a Dennis Kucinich-type could get through.  But let‘s not get carried away.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Parse something for me.  Senator Clinton‘s claim today, I feel we executed what we thought was the limit of what we could produce in Iowa under the circumstances that we were facing.

Wouldn‘t those circumstances have been all the money and all the people on the ground that money could buy?  You were in the caucus room last night.  What other kind of challenges was she facing?  Was she challenged to a duel?  Was she challenged to NFL replay challenge?  What am I missing here?

MILBANK:  It was a stampede in the caucus room, I saw.  It was over from the very beginning there.  And I must say, it‘s hard to predict what will happen in New Hampshire, but we see the same things.  Obama‘s reception at the airport hangar this morning, more than 1,000 people over at the Clinton event, a couple of hundred people.  So, you see that going on here.

I think what Clinton‘s statement is actually, a very frank acknowledgment, and the truth is she didn‘t do anything disastrously wrong here.  What‘s happened is people have just said, you know what?  We don‘t like Hillary Clinton which is a very tough thing, obviously for her, but for her campaign to confront right now.

OLBERMANN:  And to the winner, I was the wet blanket on the coverage last night, in part because it seemed to me that some of the exuberance about Obama was predicated on thinking this was a total surprise out of nowhere, as if no matter what the polls had said, no matter what people had heard from him, he was actually going to finish with 2 percent of the vote or something like that.

But having said that, there was a sound clip tonight from one of his caucusgoers who said, simply, you know, of course I voted for him, he‘s a man of change.  You may need to throw the wet blanket on me here.  But are parts of the Obama thing beginning to remind you of the early reaction to JFK or Robert Kennedy, or is that too over the top?

MILBANK:  Well, it‘s not necessarily.  I, too, have been skeptic about this.  But you know, hanging out with the Obama campaign and with the supporters around there, you are seeing elements of almost a fanatical devotion out there, people waiting in extraordinarily long lines to see him.  Now, JFK may be a bit far at this point.  What we definitely know is that he‘s not Howard Dean, and that‘s significant.  You know, he still could be a Jimmy Carter coming out of the Iowa caucuses, but he could be a JFK.

OLBERMANN:  Jimmy Carter got elected president on that.  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and “The Washington Post.”  Great thanks, Dana.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And a correction on behalf of MSNBC and NBC news from our Iowa coverage last, our network desk was contacted at roughly 11:30 eastern time by an individual identifying himself as, Alex Colvin, the press secretary to Democratic president candidate former senator Mike Gravel, who said that the candidate would be dropping out of the presidential race after the Iowa caucus results were finalized.

NBC News double checked the source.  Believe it had verified the caller who was he said he was, and the information was passed up to Chris Matthews and me and I read it on the air.  Mr. Colvin denies he was the individual who placed that phone call and the Gravel campaign insists its candidate is not withdrawing, thus my apologies to Mr. Gravel and to you on behalf of MSNBC and NBC News for the mistake.

Senator Obama almost swept the independents on Iowa.  45 percent of New Hampshire, independent.  Could he be in the process of putting this all away quickly?

Same phrase, different context.  Britney spears in the hospital for observation.  And tonight, her visitation rights with her kids suspended.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  More independents among the Democrats, more upper income Democrats, more women Democrats.  Barack Obama scored among all three demographics in Iowa.  Well, he now feasts on the larger supplies of them available in New Hampshire.

And St. Rudy of 9/11 versus Bill O and worst ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Mere hours after the Iowa caucuses reported in.  Candidates started to flee.  Most had only one destination in mind, New Hampshire.  Our fourth story on the countdown tonight, the granite state stakes.  The latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby tracking poll with Hillary Clinton in the lead in New Hampshire 32 percent, to Obama‘s 26, John Edwards‘ 20 percent.  While John McCain had vaulted Mitt Romney 34 to 30, Mike Huckabee trailing at 10, but all that polling was done before Huckabee and Obama swept the board in Iowa last night.  And the very same people, who gave Obama his victory there, could win him New Hampshire as well.

Independents which he won by a 2-1 margin over Clinton in Iowa constitute 45 percent of the electorate in New Hampshire.  At least they did in 2004, while older voters who Clinton won more of, and women who rather who voted more for Obama than Clinton made up 54 percent of the electorate in 2004.  Older voters who Clinton won more of last night made up only 11 percent of the electorate four years ago in the Granite State.

The stats not looking so favorable either for the current GOP leader Mike Huckabee.  Evangelical Christians, who accounted for 60 percent of all Republican caucusgoers in Iowa last night, do not have nearly as large a stronghold in New Hampshire.  But his win could prove be fatal to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney‘s campaign, which had always counted on a strong showing in both Iowa and New Hampshire to help propel him to nomination.  To help handicap the next hurdle, we‘re joined by our own Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent from “Newsweek” magazine who is in Manchester tonight.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the Republicans in a moment, but first, Mr.  Obama.  According to the entrance polls, he won independents, liberals, voters between 17 and 44, voters with incomes above $75,000, and there are more of those types of voters in New Hampshire than there are in Iowa.  Have we been underestimating his chance to close this whole thing out quickly?  Is there a reasonable chance he could blow it out of the tub, given that after New Hampshire, the next big one is South Carolina?

WOLFFE:  I think we‘ve been underestimating him for some time, actually.  And think of the scope of that appeal that he can hold on to liberal voters and also reach out and win independent voters, which as you rightly point out, is so heavily prevalent in New Hampshire.  So, he both get the partisans and the nonpartisans, and that‘s quite some feat.

But look, New Hampshire would be a huge victory, certainly the Obama campaign thinks this is actually more favorable to reign here in New Hampshire than they had in Iowa.  But the Clinton campaign is not going to roll over and play dead.  It is still the opening shot.  And they have a couple more chances to stop him in his tracks before they get to February 5th.

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, I saw an Obama staffer quoted on “Politico” today saying they‘re bracing for some kind of attack ad from Clinton in the next couple of days, before the vote in New Hampshire on Tuesday.  Is that likely?  Is it smart?

WOLFFE:  You know, there is no pretty way to really come back for the Clinton campaign now.  You know, the smart question is about where do they make their stand and what the tone is of this attack.  You know, it‘s very difficult balance.  One thing is to attack Republicans, to turn up the heat on Republicans as Hillary Clinton used to say.

But it‘s another thing to do it against a fellow Democrat.  So you have to be very careful, very sensitive whether it comes from the candidate, how you put it on there with an ad.  But more importantly is the timing.  Do they go for South Carolina and make their stand there or do they go straight to California, New York, the big states on February 5th?  That‘s a really critical decision.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Among the Republicans, Richard, Romney was banking on a win in Iowa.  McCain has been backing on New Hampshire from the start of this.  Does that follow, then, what the conclusion that you would seem to draw at first sight that it‘s make or break on Tuesday for both of them?

WOLFFE:  Yes, it really is here.  And Mitt Romney has the biggest challenge of all because he‘s already taken one beating.  This is supposed to be much easier for him because of the overreacting media markets between Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  And so it really is make or break for him.  He spent so much money, put so much time and effort here.  And, you know, I don‘t mean to say that they‘re the same kind of candidate, but Romney and Clinton both suffer from similar problems, which is what do they stand for?  He‘s got to get some consistency to be able to re-establish his identity here in New Hampshire.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, the topic of Rudy Giuliani still in Florida, having finished behind Ron Paul in Iowa and currently fourth place or nearly about that in the New Hampshire polling.  The national front-runner status, is that essentially a nice little sort of parting gift, a home version of the presidency gain—game, rather, if he doesn‘t get to at least third in New Hampshire?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  You‘ve got to wonder if he just doesn‘t like the cold weather up here.  I mean, the idea that you can hold your breath all the way to Florida, you know, can end up leaving a candidate suffocated.  Those national polls, as Hillary Clinton has found, can be very fickle because people aren‘t paying attention.  The numbers swing around all over the place.

He‘s actually got to do more than just, you know, come in fourth or fifth.  An honorable fifth.  He really has to get some points up on the board because he actually did campaign in Iowa, and he has been campaigning here.  So he‘s got to do better than some distant fourth.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek” in Manchester.  As I said, for Senator Edwards, it will be a big weekend.  Enjoy it if you can.  Thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And then there‘s the GOP in turnout.  Does Iowa prestige Democrats swapping Republicans when it counts?  And why have so many conservative (INAUDIBLE) not said I heart Huckabee in the last 24 hours?

Also, why bother with primaries if we‘ve got this guy?  The official warlock of Mexico has his prediction for the U.S. 2008 presidential election.  Get a pencil, next on COUNTDOWN.

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KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  OK, missed it by a day because of the elections but on January 3rd, 1939, hockey legend Bobby “The Golden Jet” Hull was born in Ontario.  He scored 913 career goals.  But, perhaps, more impressively, he answered a question I put to him in the final year of his career about his heyday with the Chicago Black Hawks by making as disturbing a reply as I have ever heard, quote: “Oh, never mind the past.  We‘re here in the future now.”  To this day, it still scares me.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

Speaking of which, we begin in Mexico City, never mind Iowa, never mind New Hampshire, this is Antonio Vasquez, a man who is neither of the past nor the future.  Mexico‘s self-proclaimed grand warlock who has called a news conference because he says he knows who will be the next president of the United States. 

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ANTONIO VASQUEZ, MEXICO‘S SELF-PROCLAIMED GRAND WARLOCK (through translator):  I tell you that the Democrats will win the U. S. presidency.  And as the candidate of the Democrats and I said this four years ago, some of you should have written it down: Hillary Clinton will be the next president. 

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  And then, we hear him asking, “Why is nobody writing this down?”  Se¤or Vasquez also forecast that Central America will be destroyed in a great hurricane and, after several rolls of his 12-sided die, the grand warlock also predicted he will get his first date this year with a woman. 

To Glendale, Arizona, site of this week‘s fiesta bowl between West Virginia University and the University of Oklahoma, the mountaineers steamrollered the favored schooners 48-28.  The real beauty would not be found in a box score but rather on the sidelines, credit the production team for catching this one and to the many internets for preserving it.  Let‘s watch. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER:  There‘s a big miss.  Boy, they shouldn‘t let those two guys sit together.  At least keep them in that order.

OLBERMANN:  From Dingle Berry to Huckabee.  Why after a grass-roots triumph by an evangelical, the Republican shamans are dumping all over this guy.

And, if you have waged on the evening of January 3rd for the day they finally had to send the ambulance for Britney Spears, you won the pool.  These stories ahead but, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “best persons in the world”. 

Number three, best revisionism: Senator John McCain, speaking in New Hampshire, asked about President Bush, saying we may stay in Iraq for 50 years, McCain interrupted and said, “Make it 100,” and analogized it to the U. S. presidency—presence, rather—in say, Korea.  In November, Charlie Rose had asked him if we‘d still have troops there in 20 or 25 years and McCain had replied, “I don‘t think so.  I can see an American presence for a while but America eventually withdraws.” 

Number two, best reason not to trust technology: an unnamed driver was instructed by his GPS device to make a right turn in Bedford Hills, New York, probably found himself stuck on railroad tracks with a commuter train heading towards him.  He got out.  Nobody was injured but his car was destroyed and Tom-Tom was crushed-crushed. 

And number one, best invitation: Roger Clemens asked to testify to the House Oversight Committee on the 16th, along with the man who says he injected Clemens with testosterone and steroids.  Clemens insists to “60 Minutes”, that it was vitamin B12 and lidocaine.  Clemens reportedly says he will go if they promise only Mike Wallace gets to ask the questions. 

(Singing) Come on now and testify, testify, testify.  Come on up and testify...

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OLBERMANN:  Warning against the worship of false gods, the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, predicted that those who “sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”  Our number three story tonight: rich Republicans who won elections for decades by sowing the wind of religious conservatives today are reaping a whirlwind named Huckabee and they do not appear to be happy about it.  Huckabee‘s rout last night, opening a rift between religious Republicans and rich ones.  Millionaire conservative patron Richard Vigory last night called Huckabee‘s win bad news, labeling Huckabee a Christian Socialist because his economic policies fall somewhere to the left of screw the poor.  Vigory wrote, quote, “in the 1970s, we conservatives had two legs on our stool, economic responsibility and a strong national defense but that wasn‘t enough to win many elections, it wasn‘t until we added the third leg to our social issues that conservatives were able to win elections consistently.  Huckabee would saw off the economic leg. 

To prevent that, millionaire Rush Limbaugh attacked Huckabee‘s conservative credentials earlier this weekend and Lil‘ Limbaugh David, addressed so-called conservative values and lumped Huckabee in among, quote, “those who don‘t fully understand them or who are committed to their defeat.”  Fixed news today came right out and said did populism win and America lose in Iowa?  Non-millionaire Huckabee makes no secret of his opposition to the rich-wingers of his party, former pastor running an openly populist campaign that characterized his race as a chance for main street triumph over wall street, even defending his spending as governor of Arkansas because it was working people who reaped that windfall. 

Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” columnist E. J.  Dionne, also senior fellow at the Brookings Institution joining us tonight from Manchester, New Hampshire.  Good evening, E. J.

E. J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST:  Good to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  What if Huckabee wins the nomination or remains one of the leaders in the next month or two?  Do we get a replay of  ‘64 when the Republicans split between the conservative icon Barry Goldwater and the moderate Rockefeller Republicans when they booed Rocky at the convention?

DIONNE:  Well, what you have now is a fight among, perhaps, 57 varieties of conservatives.  I think what you‘re seeing is a splintering of the conservative movement that Ronald Reagan pulled together, that George Bush held together for a while.  But because of the failures in the Bush presidency and for other reasons, they‘re all flying apart.  And I think your set-up piece said it absolutely right: Mike Huckabee, someone who does not fit the mold of what people expect of a Christian conservative, who just falls into line with the Republican leadership on basic economic issues. 

And I think what you saw in Iowa were a lot of rank-and-file Christian conservatives rejecting the advice of national conservative Christian leaders who had played the old game with the Republican party, of people like Pat Robertson who endorsed Giuliani.  Instead, he had the grass-roots group, people like the organization of home-schoolers.  And it‘s a real problem for the Republicans.  It‘s not clear to me that white evangelicals are suddenly going to veer to the left.  But these are folks who have strong moral convictions and, for a lot of them, and Huckabee seems to be one of them, that includes caring about poor people. 

OLBERMANN:  Mr.  Goldwater who we invoked there openly—hated might be too strong a word—but he was not fond of the religious right.  But Mr.  Vigory said conservatives had used them to win elections.  “Used” might be the operative phrase there.  Does the rich-wing opposition to Huckabee bring us to a point where the religious right is no longer going to settle just for the election year‘s lip service and demand something close to a theocratic party within the Republican framework or outside of it?

DIONNE:  You know, I went to a lot of Huckabee rallies.  I don‘t think the rank-and-file Christian conservatives, a lot more conservative than I am for sure, but I don‘t think most of them are theocratic.  But I do think that they look at these Republicans who have fought a lot harder for capital gains tax cuts and tax cuts on the inheritances of the wealthy than they have on a lot of their issues.  I once debated a Christian right leader, and I said, you know, I‘ll defend your right to base your conclusions on your religious beliefs as long as you will show me where Jesus said we have to cut the capital gains tax.  I‘ve never been able to find that in the New Testament.  And I think Huckabee is driving home this contradiction that‘s always existed within the conservative coalition, but has really come to the fore in this campaign. 

OLBERMANN:  George Bush and Karl Rove‘s GOP had argued that Jesus loved the free market.  Huckabee clearly believed Jesus had this streak of socialism.  Could this whiplash cleave religious voters away from the party entirely?  Is that still a prospect out there especially given Huckabee‘s lack of interest in the past hot-button issues like abortions and gay rights?

DIONNE:  Well, Jesus did clear the money-changers out of the temple and that sounds an awful lot like Huckabee‘s Wall Street-to-Washington corridor that he talks about.  I don‘t think right evangelicals are going to shift massively to the left.  I do think there‘s a real forment going on out there in the evangelical community.  People like Rick Warren, one of the most popular leaders of the evangelical movement, who is talking a lot about aids in Africa, the importance of—for Christians—to address poverty, have people like Rich Sizic, at the National Association of Evangelicals, who says that stewardship of the earth, caring about the environment is a biblical value, and so he‘s been in the forefront in talking about global warming.  I think a lot of things are happening in that community.  And Mike Huckabee has become a visible symbol of that format. 

OLBERMANN:  E. J. Dionne of “The Washington Post” and the Brookings Institution.  Thanks, E. J.  Have a good weekend in Manchester. 

DIONNE:  It‘s great to be with you.  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Take care.  Comic relief.  This photograph sends Zsa Zsa Gabor‘s husband into on-camera fits.  It‘s worth your time.

And talk about Pavlov and his dog.  Rudy Giuliani, he is asked about how he did in Iowa, he answers about 9/11.  Where else but “Worst Persons” next on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Beaking Britney Spears news.  She has lost the rights to see her kids for at least ten days.  And in “Worst”, Rudy Giuliani compares the Iowa caucuses to 9/11.  Fox Business Channel ratings are in and they are smaller than we thought and Bill O. can‘t tell his Constitution from his Declaration of Independence.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s number two story, a brief look at the world of celebrity and entertainment beginning with a large dose of sour grapes and a friendly warning to Paris Hilton: watch out for crazy uncles.  You will recall that Ms. Hilton and Larry Birkhead made headlines when they partied together in Las Vegas last weekend.  Birkhead confirmed, of course, as the man who fathered the late Anna Nicole Smith‘s baby, but Ms. Hilton‘s step-uncle, Freddy von Anhalt, also claimed he fathered that child.  Of course, he was asked what he thought about Paris Hilton hanging out with the man whose DNA trumped his. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FREDDY VON ANHALT, PARIS HILTON‘S STEP-UNCLE:  That‘s wonderful.  I mean, you know, if you know Paris Hilton, you know she takes anybody. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Were you disappointed that Paris wasn‘t yours?

VON ANHALT:  She has to look around and take anybody because she‘s getting older, you know?  She‘s not that young anymore.  So, Paris Hilton has to be careful.  She has to be very careful.  Careful with her looks, you know.  Once you get to a certain age, you have to get what you get. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Would you date her?

VON ANHALT:  Paris Hilton?  Who is Paris Hilton?  She is not a beautiful-looking girl.  I like beautiful woman.  I don‘t like Paris Hilton. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  All right, thank you.  We appreciate that. 

VON ANHALT:  And furthermore, she‘s not rich anymore.  Her grandfather gave all the money to charity.  Now she has a couple of millions, that‘s all, a couple of million to spend in five years, it‘s over. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He‘s out on the streets.  A fortune and famer fleeting in the Hilton family.  So is marriage to another tabloid icon, Pamela Anderson.  Wow, she lasted two months with Rick Solomon before filing for divorce in mid-December then had a change of heart, rescinded the summons over Christmas, even blogged how they were working things out just before the new year.  So, you guessed it, usmagazine.com says she has filed for divorce again a few hours after that blog post. 

The cops, the doctors, the ambulance, everybody but the visiting nurse association shows up.  We‘ll try to sort out the Britney Spears custodial incident drama, including the breaking news about the kids.

That‘s ahead but, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World”.  The bronze tonight to Rudy Giuliani after his rollicking four percent finish in Iowa last night, “The New York Daily News” asked him if he was worried.  Quote, “None of this worries me.  September 11th, there were times where I was worried.”  Does the term self-caricature mean anything to you? Self-caricature means nothing to me.  September 11th, on the other hand...

The runner-up, Bill O.  We know he doesn‘t know the difference between a falafel and a loofah or between World War II Nazi war criminals and their American victims.  But he doesn‘t know the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?  In his book, “Kids Are Americans, Too,” Bill O. opined, quote, “for openers, the Constitution guarantees all of us in a famous phrase, ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness‘.”  For openers, that famous phrase is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.  Bill O. was called on this fabulous error by a kid.  He had the nerve to read the letter on the air and turn it into a plug.  And when the girl named Courtney Young asked, “Isn‘t that from the Declaration of Independence?”

He replied, “Another excellent question, Courtney.  The reason the Constitution was forged was to assure new American citizens the right to free life and access to pursue happiness in his or her own way.  The Declaration was the statement.  The Constitution, the instrument.”  No.  No, bonehead.  The Declaration was the thing that had “life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in it.  The Constitution was the thing that didn‘t.  Just say “oops” and get out. 

But our winner, Roger Ales of Fox noise and the Fox going out of business channel.  Ratings data has leaked.  The supposed challenge to CNBC has, in its first two months on the air, averaged 6,300 viewers during the day, 15,000 in primetime.  That‘s about how many people as attended the sheep and wool festival at Rhinebeck, New York, last October.  The day fixed business launched, October 15th, Mr. Ales told the network staffers, quote, “I‘m not interested in anything short of a revolution.”  Well, sir, judging by the ratings, your revolution will not be televised.  Roger Ales of the Fox going out of business channel.  Today‘s “worst person in the world!”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We have literally just signed off MSNBC‘s Iowa coverage last night when the story broke shooting variable electricity across the newsroom.  Five minutes early and I would have had to ask Pat Buchanan, what do you make of it, Britney Spears taken away in an ambulance with police in her driveway and a smile on her face?  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN today, something else reportedly taken away, her visitation rights with her kids.  A few hours before this new twist, Spears pulls paparazzi or plus paparazzi plus ambulance, spears was supposed to return the kids to the custody of Kevin Federline via his bodyguards.  When she failed to do that, police were called to the scene by which time she had locked herself in her bedroom suite with one of the children.  Spears did not emerge until about three hours later, reportedly. 

A police spokesman saying she appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance.  One tabloid said the blood test came back clean.  Authorities will not confirm reports Spears is under the medical detention known as a 5150 hold used to prevent a patient from harming themselves or others.  The children were evidently unharmed and, after today‘s emergency custody hearing, Ms. Spears has now lost the visitation rights, sole legal and physical custody of the children awarded to Mr. Federline, at least until the hearing on Monday the 14th.  Also of note, Spears reportedly showed up for a scheduled deposition yesterday 90 minutes late and stayed for just 14 minutes.  Try and figure out with the senior editor of “In Touch Weekly”, Tom O‘Neill.  Tom, good evening.

TOM O‘NEILL, SENIOR EDITOR, IN TOUCH WEEKLY:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, cutting through the legalese, is the assumption here that she threatened to kill herself or hurt herself?

O‘NEILL:  Yes to both but also that she was a danger to other people, too, meaning, that little boy, Jaden, one-year-old, was in behind that locked door with her, he ended up going to the hospital at 1:00 in the morning.  They feared for his life and safety. 

OLBERMANN:  Anything done to the kids or just one of these sort of  standoff situations?

O‘NEILL:  It was—you mean when they took the boy to the hospital, you mean back at the house?

OLBERMANN:  Obviously the one led to the other.  What happened at the house?

O‘NEILL:  Well, 7:00 was the tradeoff time when K-Fed‘s bodyguard was supposed to pick up the children.  The court monitor was there with him.  They went in, Britney put up a big fight.  The court monitor grabbed the eldest boy, put him in the car.  She went back for little Jaden.  At that point, Britney locked herself in and then they called the cops, then the three-hour standoff.  At one point, a mental evaluator was brought in.  The police finally went through the door which means, I‘m sure, they broke down the door.  Then she was strapped to the gurney, hauled away and the little boy was taken to the hospital after midnight, too. 

OLBERMANN:  So, she‘s where at last word, still in the hospital?

O‘NEILL:  Yes.  Here‘s the good news.  Happy new year, Keith O. and America.  Britney Spears is locked up. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh God...

O‘NEILL:  What a perfect way to begin 2008.  But she‘s finally being evaluated by mental health experts and by people looking for drug abuse that we‘ve all suspected before and she can‘t run away from these interrogations or these drug tests this time. 

OLBERMANN:  And the status of the kids is what?  Because, this has been reported as she‘s lost custody.  She didn‘t have custody, correct?

O‘NEILL:  Right, she didn‘t have custody but she had visitation rights.  Those have been taken away until January 14th when the next court hearing will be.  The kids now are back in Tarzana with daddy.  I‘d like to say they‘re safe with K-Fed, but they‘re with K-Fed. 

OLBERMANN:  You never know, some people step up under these crises and other people step out.  I mean, do we have any better clue here about what‘s actually been happening to this woman?  I mean, there seems to have been some sort of divide crossed on this one where a lot of it‘s been funny to this point.  This does not seem funny in the slightest.  It‘s such a cliche to talk about self-destructive behavior or there‘s a plea for help, but you get a dime‘s worth of psychological training and you‘d have to ask, can she no longer handle, does she no longer want to handle being Britney famous Spears?

O‘NEILL:  Oh, no, Keith.  I think it‘s the opposite.  I think she wanted to show us that she was Britney famous Spears.  You can‘t take my kids away from me.  And what happened this time is she did it in front of the cops and she did it in front of mental health authorities instead of the paparazzi, instead of TMZ cameras.  And this time, they said, “You know what?  You‘re going to lockdown, honey.  We‘re finally going to see what‘s up with you.”

OLBERMANN:  So, has there been any confirmation of any of this coming out from her people?  What are her people doing other than hanging on to her?

O‘NEILL:  She has no people left.  She just lost a third attorney since September.  Her former assistant is now off doing her own reality show for e-network.  Mom says to “Access Hollywood”, “Let‘s pray for her.”  Her dad went there after midnight last night.  Nobody‘s in charge of Britney anymore except these doctors and let‘s hope they find out what‘s wrong and do the right thing. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, when it comes down to that, I guess she‘s in the best hands she‘s been in for a while.  Tom O‘Neill of “In Touch Weekly”, great thanks.  Have a great weekend.

O‘NEILL:  You, too.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,710th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  See you tomorrow, I hope, on “Football Night In America” even though we‘re starting in the afternoon.  Good night and good luck.

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

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