updated 1/11/2008 11:17:59 AM ET 2008-01-11T16:17:59

Guests: John Harris, Betty McCollum, Steve McMahon, Bob Franken

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Bill Richardson has more experience than any Democratic presidential candidate and what did it get him?  Richardson is quitting the race today. 

John Kerry has the notorious experience of losing the ‘04 election to George W. Bush and he‘s backing the less-experienced frontrunner, Barack Obama. 

Welcome to the show. 

Senator Kerry was in South Carolina today, a state he lost in the Democratic primary and the 2004 general election.  There he endorsed Obama for president.  Not only is Kerry‘s pick a slap at his former running mate John Edwards, as well as to Hillary Clinton, it raises the question, with endorsements like that, who needs opponents?  Is Kerry‘s not the kiss of death for Obama? 

And as Hillary Clinton ride through New Hampshire momentum and more human tact for Nevada, South Carolina and super-duper Tuesday, Obama may adjust his approach.  Having won among women in Iowa, he lost that vote badly this week.  Can the Obama campaign prevent a gender split and regain equal footing among female voters? 

We‘ll be joined in a minute by congresswoman and Obama supporter Betty McCollum. 

Also today, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney set their sights on Tuesday‘s Michigan primary.  It‘s a state whose economy often suffers in the tech base economy.  Romney‘s got a home state advantage there of sorts, having grown up in the state.  McCain has momentum, but Huckabee has a populous economic vision.  Could that give him the ultimate edge in Michigan?  We‘ll analyze the next big Republican contest coming up. 

We begin with the Democrats and the ongoing race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Joining me now an Obama supporter, Congresswoman Betty McCollum. 

Thanks for coming on.  I appreciate it. 

REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM (D-MN), OBAMA SUPPORTER:  Well, thank you for inviting me. 

CARLSON:  So Obama‘s appeal to women, weaker than we thought.  Is that the lesson from New Hampshire it seems like. 

MCCOLLUM:  Well, Senator Obama had basically the same percentage among women in Iowa as he did in New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  Huh.  Well, he—but he lost by more than 10 points to Hillary Clinton.  That obviously made the difference.  Is there going to be a retooling of the Obama message to women going into the later states? 

MCCOLLUM:  Well, Senator Obama has been consistent in his message of wanting to provide an opportunity for health care, for making sure that America looks forward in the future for a better opportunity for everyone, men, women, children, young and old. 

CARLSON:  And yet it‘s clear that the Clinton campaign saw an opening on the gender question.  There were targeted mailings right before the election this Tuesday from the Clinton campaign attacking Obama for the weakness of his support of abortion.  They singled out partial birth abortion saying he was not enthusiastic enough about protecting the right of women to have partial birth abortions.  Is he enthusiastic about protecting their right?  Was that a fair attack? 

MCCOLLUM:  I did not see that mailing at all and I do know that in a straw poll that was done by, I believe, it was Planned Parenthood, that a lot of people thought his stance for protecting for a woman‘s right to choose was a good stance and they were satisfied with his decision. 

CARLSON:  Huh.  So that—as far as you know, he is a firm supporter of the right to partial birth abortion. 

MCCOLLUM:  I‘m not familiar with the piece that you were referring to.  I‘m supporting Senator Obama because I do know that being with him in Iowa, I saw so many people so excited, with so much enthusiasm about this country having a new generation of leaders, and the issues that he spoke to that they cared about dealing with the economy, with access to higher education.  The crowds were very excited about his leadership for America in the future. 

CARLSON:  Well, I mean, do you think it‘s tougher for him going on into February 5th to engage Hillary Clinton directly?  I mean there‘s a lot of evidence anecdotal but I think some statistical that the perception she was being beat up on by the press, and to some extent by his campaign, angered people mostly female voters into supporting Hillary Clinton.  I mean can he take her on without driving people to his opponent? 

MCCOLLUM:  Well, we are so fortunate to have in Senator Obama a candidate who wants to talk about what he visions for America, what America can be.  When we focus on making sure that everyone has access to education, how America can be a stronger nation when people are not worried about how to afford health care, and how we can be moving so much farther in what we can do to make ourselves less energy dependent.  So those are the issues he‘s talking about.  That‘s been the focus of the campaign.  What Senator Obama thinks bringing America together, uniting Democrats, Republicans, independents, young and old all across America, bringing people together for a stronger America. 

CARLSON:  What do you think of this, some of the harshest attacks against Obama have come not from Hillary Clinton herself but from her surrogates?  The latest comes from the attorney general of the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who says this on a radio, quote, “You can‘t shuck and jive at a press conference.  All those moves you can make with the press don‘t work when you‘re in someone‘s living room.”  “You can‘t shuck and jive.”  What do you think of that? 

MCCOLLUM:  I‘m sure that Governor—Attorney General Cuomo being from New York is going to be supportive of Senator Clinton.  And I have no comment on what he chooses to say.  I‘m focused on talking to voters about what I see is an enthusiastic campaign. 

CARLSON:  Right.  Well. 

MCCOLLUM:  .for new leadership. 

CARLSON:  The campaign—the Obama campaign today with much fanfare announced the endorsement of Senator John Kerry.  They‘re doing it in South Carolina.  Kerry lost South Carolina in the primary and the general election.  How does that help getting his endorsement? 

MCCOLLUM: Well, Senator Kerry is a—has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.  And Senator Obama, one of the reasons why I find him such a good candidate to be supporting is his opposition to the war in Iraq.  I didn‘t vote for the war in Iraq and I think he showed great judgment in speaking out against it early on. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Democratic from Minnesota.  I appreciate it.  Congresswoman, thanks for coming on. 

MCCOLLUM:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton‘s emotions helped seal her win in New Hampshire this week.  Will we see more tears on the campaign trail from her and others? 

Plus, John McCain and Joe Lieberman marked the one-year anniversary of the troop surge in Iraq.  They say it is working now.  Are they right?  And if so, will McCain benefit?  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton chokes up on the campaign trail and it a pays off.  Can she weep her way to the nomination?  We‘ll tell you.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  She‘s gone from tears to cheers after a big win in New Hampshire this week.  But will women across the country continue to come to Hillary‘s defense? 

Joining me now online columnist Bob Franken and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. 

Welcome to you both.  Do you think Obama is shucking and jiving as Andrew Cuomo says? 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, that‘s not the way I would have put it. 

CARLSON:  OK.  I just want to—you know, this is reality check here.  OK. 

Right. 

MCMAHON:  I thought, by the way, your last guest was—or the guest who spoke about it previously on Chris‘s show was very restrained and polite. 

CARLSON:  About Andrew Cuomo‘s remarks? 

MCMAHON:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  You know, I give people the benefit of the doubt.  I don‘t think

when people have truly ugly feelings they rarely express them in public. 

And I‘m willing to give Andrew Cuomo the benefit of the doubt (INAUDIBLE). 

BOB FRANKEN, ONLINE COLUMNIST:  Are we objecting to the term shucking and jiving? 

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure.  We‘re also. 

FRANKEN:  Well, you know, George Carlin, in one of the few routines that I can quote on television, years ago did something about these white Irish kids on the block.  All of them... 

Hey, hey, hey, now.  Now you‘re talking about me.  Come on now. 

FRANKEN:  OK.  Now I‘m really in trouble.  But anyway, you know, they‘re out there high-fiving and they‘re doing all the black things and it was funny.  And his point was is that it‘s always been hip for white people to pretend they‘re black.  And I think it was in that spirit that he was using the term shucking and jiving.  My guess is he had no idea. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not—you know what?  I‘m not even going to dare to psychoanalyze what Andrew Cuomo might be... 

FRANKEN:  All I‘m saying is he‘s the white bread trying to pretend he was something. 

When you‘re a Democratic elected official and when you represent everybody in the state of New York, you ought to be more careful in that. 

CARLSON:  Especially since the Democrats are just total fascists about language.  Say one thing wrong and you‘ve got to be fired.  I can‘t believe you said that.  I mean talk about the language police.  I don‘t know.  I would get—I mean I like Obama but I‘m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

FRANKEN:  But we‘re being the language police here.  I mean I don‘t even know if this is worth talking about. 

CARLSON:  You‘re may be right.  I want to get your response to something that—something that is worth talking about.  Jesse Jackson Jr., superior guy, I think, much more impressive than his dad, had something interesting to say about Hillary‘s teary interlude.  Here it is.  Jesse Jackson Jr., congressman from Illinois. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JESSE JACKSON JUNIOR (D), ILLINOIS:  We saw something very clever in the last week of this campaign coming out of Iowa, going into New Hampshire.  We saw a sensitivity factor, something that Mrs. Clinton has not been able to do with voters that she tried in New Hampshire.  Not in response to voters—not in response to Katrina, not in response to other issues that have devastated the American people, the war in Iraq, we saw tears in response to her appearance.  So her appearance brought her to tears but not Hurricane Katrina. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  I think this is a fascinating and very smart point.  Too little has been said about why she was crying.  She was crying because her campaign was failing.  Those are tears of self-pity.  They weren‘t tears on behalf of the American people, were they?  Jesse Jackson Jr. was right. 

Well, first of all, again, and I‘ll be equal opportunity here. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  I think Jesse Jackson Jr. should have articulated it in a different way.  I think it‘s really important in a race where there‘s an African-American candidate for white people and black people not to engage in language that tends to inflame or exacerbate what might already be underneath the surface so... 

CARLSON:  I agree 100 percent. 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think the reference to Katrina is a reference that most -

that Africans. 

CARLSON:  Like it was an exclusively black tragedy? 

MCMAHON:  Well. 

CARLSON:  That‘s like—that whole myth is one of the most ludicrous things in American politics. 

MCMAHON:  Well, that was what‘s on television.  That‘s what people saw so it‘s not really—it‘s a reality that people believe. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  ..is, I mean—and there‘s no question that. 

CARLSON:  I guess people are (INAUDIBLE) so—yes, I think you‘re right. 

It‘s such a stupid... 

FRANKEN:  Tucker, I still can‘t get past—still can‘t get past wondering if she showed her human side after they vetted it through focus groups. 

MCMAHON:  Oh, come on.  Come on. 

FRANKEN:  I mean does that make me a bad person? 

CARLSON:  No.  I think it probably makes you someone who‘s covered the Clintons for a while. 

FRANKEN:  Well, it‘s somebody who‘s covered politics for a while and knows how this game is played now.  And Steve, it is a game that you play and it is a game that has really, if you don‘t mind my saying so, more market research than anything. 

MCMAHON:  There‘s a lot of market research.  But there was not—I don‘t believe that there was market research that went into that.  Let me just say what I think was going on.  You know because you‘ve been out there on the campaign trail, so have you, Tucker, these people are exhausted. 

CARLSON:  Yes, they are. 

MCMAHON:  They haven‘t had any sleep for weeks.  And they flew all flight.  And then they get there, and there‘s bad news.  And everybody‘s telling the journalists. 

CARLSON:  I give her—I totally give her a pass on that.  What I—OK. 

I will absolutely—you know, I‘ll agree with you there. 

MCMAHON:  OK. 

CARLSON:  For the sake of argument.  Here‘s what‘s so interesting, though, is her description of the affect of that moment on the body of politics.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton on FOX explaining the deeper meaning of that moment of emotion.  Here she is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Maybe it‘s a little more challenging for a woman in this position, because obviously we know what, you know, people will say.  But maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I mean, if there‘s a more grandiose statement that‘s been uttered on this continent in the last century, I don‘t know what it is.  “I‘ve liberated women to be human beings.” 

MCMAHON:  Well, but hold on a second.  Remember. 

CARLSON:  God, what has paved the road?  Isn‘t that enough? 

MCMAHON:  Do you remember—Tucker, you‘re old enough to remember this. 

Do you remember what happened both when Ed Muskie cried. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCMAHON:  .and when Pat Schroeder cried.  It wasn‘t good for either one of them.  But Hillary cried, it actually helped her campaign.  I don‘t think it was—I think it was a personal moment that had a political impact.  I don‘t think it was designed.  I don‘t think it was intended.  I think she was tired and she probably was a little bumped out. 

CARLSON:  Ed Schroeder would have been embarrassed for what she did in 1987. 

FRANKEN:  OK.  Look.  Let‘s be equal. 

CARLSON:  Just for the record.  But “I‘m a liberator of all women”?

FRANKEN:  Let‘s be equal opportunity here.  I mean this is so gender neutral that today Mitt Romney had tears in his eyes when somebody asked about his father.  And of course. 

MCMAHON:  And that‘s just because it worked.  That‘s because it worked. 

FRANKEN:  Exactly.  That‘s what I have to wonder so I‘m an equal opportunity cynic here. 

CARLSON:  No.  No.  Mitt Romney has cried to my counting three other times before this. 

MCMAHON:  He‘s a crybaby. 

CARLSON:  And every single time, I have said the same thing. 

MCMAHON:  Crybaby.  This is why. 

CARLSON:  .which was, “Suck it up, son, stop crying in public.  There‘s something unseemly about it.” 

MCMAHON:  I‘m so retro. 

CARLSON:  No, but you don‘t—you are not amazed by this?  “I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings.” 

FRANKEN:  You know what she hasn‘t liberated?  It was reporters like us spending so much time talking about it.  Who. 

CARLSON:  But when you have a presidential candidate who makes a claim about these almost meta-physical, supernatural powers she has to allow women, most of them are kind of living their lives by themselves, without her help at all, and quite happy doing so, claiming that she‘s liberating all women.  If I were a woman, I would be offended. 

FRANKEN:  Well, why would you be offended when in New Hampshire that might have made the difference? 

CARLSON:  If some dude got up there and said, “You know, what I have done is liberated men to be who they really are,” I would say, “Back off, pal.  You don‘t speak for me.  I‘m kind of happy being a male without your help.”  That‘s what I would do.  Maybe that‘s why I‘m voting for Ron Paul because I‘m not interested in being helped by people I‘ve never met. 

All right.  We will be right back. 

Rudy Giuliani hits the airwaves in Florida reminding voters that he‘s still in the race and is still a contender.  But has he waited too long?  Do you remember who he is? 

Plus whatever happened to Fred Thompson?  We‘ve got his latest campaign schedule and answers to that question all coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GIULIANI CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With pundits handicapping the campaign like the Super Bowl it‘s easy to lose sight of what‘s at stake.  An economy in peril, a country at war, a future uncertain.  The media loves process, talking heads love chatter, but Florida has a chance to turn down the noise and show the world that leadership is what really matters. 

RUDY GIULIANI ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I‘m Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  A new ad from Rudy Giuliani reminding Florida voters not to believe what they see on the news as if this Tuesday didn‘t remind them already.  At the moment, Giuliani is prepping for tonight‘s Republican debate in South Carolina hoping that a strong showing there will propel him to victory in Florida and then the nomination. 

Wishful thinking?  After what happened in New Hampshire this week, is anything possible? 

Here once again online columnist Bob Franken and the great Steve McMahon, a famed Democratic strategist. 

Bob, I was quick last week to say this is an absurd strategy, it‘s never worked before, ignoring the early contest for the late ones, you missed the momentum, no one remembers your name.  I‘m sort of rattled sufficiently after Tuesday to think maybe this isn‘t such a stupid strategy. 

FRANKEN:  I think about all week and know for sure that he‘s not going to win in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

CARLSON:  Yes, we do know that. 

FRANKEN:  Yes, we do know that.  And after that, I am totally confused.  And I realize this is heresy for a reporter to admit.  But I don‘t think any of us has a handle on this.  And when somebody stops me and says, “Bob, who do you think is going to win,” I get embarrassed.  I have no idea. 

CARLSON: Matt Bai has a smart piece, Steve, on “The New York Times” site today and he says this about Giuliani strategy, quote, “If Mr. Giuliani‘s strategy was to hang back until February, letting other candidates give the victory speeches and raise the money, you‘d think that he would have made a real effort to at least stay in the national media during the early primaries so the country wouldn‘t forget he existed,” which seems to me a point kind of hard to argue with.  If he has—I mean why wouldn‘t he have been doing earned media, at least making noises, “I‘m still here.” 

MCMAHON:  Matt Bai is a very smart man and he‘s absolutely right.  The problem that Rudy Giuliani has is he‘s not really relevant to the race.  The race is kind of going on around him in different states and he pops up every now and then but he doesn‘t pop for long enough to really remind people that he‘s there or why they might have liked him when they might have liked him.  You know he‘s—he actually made more trips and spent more money on advertising in New Hampshire than almost any other candidate.  It didn‘t do him any good. 

CARLSON:  Do you think there‘s a master plan here?  I mean do you think that Giuliani people are working out a vision the rest of us aren‘t privy to?  Or there‘s (INAUDIBLE). 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think both Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani decided early on that they were going to be national candidacies, they‘re going to run national campaigns.  And Rudy Giuliani has stuck to that plan.  I think Hillary Clinton decided, for whatever reason, that in order to really be a national candidate, she had to go compete in the early states. And I think that was a smart strategy.  I mean she‘s in a much better position to get the nomination right now than Rudy Giuliani is, and they started with really exactly the same strategy. 

CARLSON:  So here‘s the scenario, Bob.  New Hampshire, Iowa done.  Going into Nevada and South Carolina.  The other candidates, Huckabee, McCain, Romney essentially destroy each other.  It‘s a demolition derby and everyone is either destroyed or weakened by the end, and then Giuliani kind of stands up and says, “Hey, Republicans, remember me?”  You know, “I‘m the father figure you‘ve been longing for.” 

FRANKEN:  That‘s the Fred Thompson strategy. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

FRANKEN:  Or Ron Paul.  I mean, you know, I think the chewing up and spitting out strategy has some potential to it.  If Huckabee and McCain and Romney really do a number on each other, maybe there is somebody who‘s going to come roaring in.  Or there are those other two words and that would be Bloomberg.  That‘s two words. 

CARLSON:  Here‘s the thing.  It seems to me, one of the lessons that we have spent no time talking about from Iowa is religious conservatives still exist, they can still be mobilized, they still make a difference.  They were sort of written off at the very beginning.  The party is changing, Giuliani is the new standard bearer, “Hey, you evangelicals, hush, be quiet.  We don‘t care about you.”  You have to care about them now and they‘re not voting Giuliani. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  And you know they don‘t exist in the numbers that they did in Iowa. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

MCMAHON:  I think six out of every 10 caucus attendance on the Republican side were evangelicals.  I think it goes down significantly as you get into those bigger states. 

CARLSON:  It does. 

MCMAHON:  But you‘re absolutely right.  They are a factor and they‘re not voting for Rudy Giuliani.  I mean he‘s got a number of problems.  The other problem that he have—as I believe, is I‘m guessing now, that after so many months out of the spotlight, a campaign—it‘s a national campaign that has a burn rate of a national campaign has got to be running low on money.  And February 5th is a place where if you‘ve got to get up off the mat and make yourself relevant again, you‘ve got to have money for television, you‘ve got to have money for a campaign.  It‘s going to be difficult for him to get back in this thing. 

CARLSON:  Especially if McCain is the guy left standing. 

FRANKEN:  Well, exactly.  All of this is conventional wisdom.  We don‘t know what the dynamics are going to be. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

FRANKEN:  We don‘t know whether McCain‘s comeback is going to continue.  Remember, he travels by bus, not by airplane, to a great degree.  And all of these personal characteristics may mean something.  We also don‘t know the true power of the so-called Republican base, just how widespread it is.  We‘re going to be finding that out, too. 

CARLSON:  What do you mean true power of the Republicans? 

FRANKEN:  The true power of conservative religious Republican base.  How much does that still speak for the party?  And that‘s Mike Huckabee‘s constituents. 

CARLSON:  Well, it seems to me in a divided field, you don‘t need to have very many of any one group to be the deciding factor. 

FRANKEN:  But there are more groups out there than just the religious conservatives as Mike Huckabee is finding out.  As we watched Chris Matthews earlier, you have the social conservatives, you have the fiscal conservatives.  They really have a real hard time with Mike Huckabee.  So we don‘t know how all this is going to all play out.  We also don‘t know how the war in Iraq is going to continue to play our and how that‘s going to affect John McCain‘s candidacy. 

CARLSON:  If you had to bet right now, I think you bet McCain, wouldn‘t you? 

FRANKEN:  I certainly would. 

CARLSON:  Would you? 

MCMAHON:  Yes, I think yes. 

FRANKEN:  But I‘ve been wrong with every bet so far. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

MCMAHON:  Yes, that can change as we‘ve seen. 

CARLSON:  Senator John Kerry throws his support behind Barack Obama.  Yes, it sounds like a big deal.  After all, he was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 meaning he‘s still technically the leader of that party.  What does his endorsement really mean? 

Plus Madonna has a ton of money and can be as frivolous as she wants.  But does she really want to spend $10,000 a month on bottled water?  Looks that way. 

MSNBC has the scoop coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come the Democratic presidential contender drops out of the race.  Is Fred Thompson next?  One year after the beginning of the surge, Iraq is still a campaign issue, though.  Maybe not in ways you‘d expect.  We‘ll tell you what that all means in just a minute but first here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(NEWSBREAK)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Barack Obama can be, will be, and should be the next president of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Barack Obama may or may not be the next president of the United States.  He may not even be the next Democratic nominee.  The question is whether the endorsement of the most recent Democratic nominee who wasn‘t the next president of the United States, John Kerry, will help him.  Do Democratic voters really want to remember 2004. 

Back with us, online columnist Bob Franken and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.  Steve, the most telling line of that entire speech, John Kerry announcing his endorsement of Obama, is this, listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  There are other candidates in this race, with whom I have worked and who I respect.  They are terrific public servants.  And each of them could be president tomorrow and each would fight to take this country in the right direction. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  There are other candidates in this race with whom I have worked, including one who I chose as my vice presidential nominee.  How cold blooded is that?  Shouldn‘t he at least acknowledge the man he told America is the most qualified vice presidential candidate. 

MCMAHON:  I think he just did. 

CARLSON:  Why didn‘t he—

MCMAHON:  And he wanted to make sure that you didn‘t miss it.  There it is. 

CARLSON:  Even by the standards of politic, come on, he didn‘t need to do this right now.  He could wait until Edwards dropped out. 

MCMAHON:  I don‘t think it‘s any secret that John Edwards and John Kerry don‘t speak much these days. 

CARLSON:  I believed John Kerry when he got up in 2004 and said, if something were to happen to me, this man would make a great president. 

MCMAHON:  He said today that there are other candidates in the race. 

I presume he had to be talking about John Edwards. 

CARLSON:  You‘re making me cynical about politics.  What can you believe these days? 

FRANKEN:  My favorite part was the Edwards‘ response.  It was, our country and our party is stronger because of John‘s service and I respect his decision.  You‘ve lived in the south.  I‘ve lived in the south.  You remember those expressions, well, ain‘t that nice, well bless your heart, which rally meant that you should be condemned to hell.  The other one is like employer who has just fired somebody and says, I wish them the best, which means that I hope he gets run over by a truck.  I sort of think that‘s what Edwards is saying in his southern way. 

CARLSON:  How big a deal is this?  It‘s not like John Kerry has a natural base in South Carolina.  He wasn‘t terribly popular there, as I remember.  He‘s also, I think, to some extent unfairly, but a figure of ridicule within the Democratic party.  Democrats have contempt for him and what he did. 

FRANKEN:  I wonder whether the Hillary Clinton people are not having a toast tonight to John Kerry, sort of a thank you.  I think that he was somewhat discredited by the time that the race was over. 

CARLSON:  I personally think Kerry took more grief—he lost to an incumbent president during war.  I think he was probably overly blamed.  He still was a pretty lame candidate, we all agree.  Is this the kiss of death. 

MCMAHON:  No, let me tell you why this matters.  First of all, it‘s a soft repudiation of John Edwards in a state that he carried in the last Democratic primary for president.  I think that‘s significant. 

I think probably the most significant thing, though, is the fact that John Kerry arrives at this show with a database that has two or three million names on it of people who have given money to a Democratic presidential campaign before.  And I presume—and I‘ve read that he‘s going to turn that database effectively over to Barack Obama.  As this primary moves from New Hampshire to the “Nightly News” and where the money to buy time on the evening news is very, very important, the ability to raise it quickly with small donors online is something that is absolutely political gold. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think—Obama has more money.  He‘s like Mike Bloomberg.  He can‘t spend all the money he‘s got. 

MCMAHON:  He now has the ability with these Kerry donors, to the extent he doesn‘t have these people—

CARLSON:  In your heart, you look at this and say—

MCMAHON:  The other thing you‘ve heard already from some people is he brings in new people.  He brings in young people.  But are any of the establishment folks with him.  John Kerry is the establishment and has been for a long time.  He‘s now with Barack Obama.  So, he begins to address that question. 

CARLSON:  Bob, there was a long time debate settled today, the question, does experience trump newness or hope, which is more important?  Which is more important.  We learned today with Bill Richardson dropping out that voters don‘t care anything about experience.  They don‘t care.  You had Biden, Chris Dodd, and now Bill Richardson, all of whom are more experienced by a factor of five than anybody else running, all of them got asterisks and dropped out.  So now we know.   

FRANKEN:  Didn‘t you just mention the names of the vice presidential candidates.  But that‘s when it might matter.  For better or worse, the experienced man is the one that got the vice presidency under George W Bush.  These guys, the three of them you mentioned, have now put themselves in the position where they have to be considered the front runners for the number two job.  Whether they want it or not—

CARLSON:  But here you have a guy who‘s a governor, former cabinet secretary, former congressman, famous diplomat, got a cheery disposition, bilingual. 

FRANKEN:  He was able to overcome all that and still -- 

CARLSON:  I‘m still baffled by the voters reaction to Bill Richardson, which essentially they are non-plussed.  Why is that?

MCMAHON:  They are voters.  There‘s an old saying in fishing that the bait has to taste good to the fish, not the fisherman, or the dog food has to taste good to the dogs.  And I think the dogs out there, who are the voters, just weren‘t interested in the dog food he was serving up. 

CARLSON:  Not a tasty candidate.  You could ask this same question, and I have many times, about one of the most impressive candidates on the Republican side, who‘s also doing nothing, Fred Thompson.  I got by e-mail today his bus tour schedule.  And here it is; it says for planning purposes only.  I don‘t know if I‘m supposed to use this on the air, but I can‘t control myself. 

There are three events on this schedule.  The first is an interview on Fox at 8:15.  The second is an interview with Sean Hannity at 3:15.  And the third is the debate at 9:00 pm in Myrtle Beach. 

MCMAHON:  Fox, Fox, and Fox.  Right?

CARLSON:  I love Fred Thompson.  I think he‘s a great guy.  I‘m not mocking him.  But there are no actual events on this event schedule. 

FRANKEN:  I think for Fred Thompson, this is an exhausting schedule.  The one thing he has not been able to do is shake the perception that he is frankly lazy.  And perhaps the reason for that is that he‘s lazy. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not put off by that.  I don‘t mind a lazy president.  I don‘t mind a president with limited ambitions.  I don‘t mind a president who doesn‘t have plans for me and my family, wants to let me raise my own kids.  I‘m the only person in America who finds that appealing, apparently. 

MCMAHON:  There may be other people.  I think there were several hundred people in New Hampshire who found it appealing, two thousand maybe. 

CARLSON:  Unbelievable.  So John McCain and Senator Lieberman, now an independent, formerly Democrat, have an op-ed today making the case—this is the one-year anniversary of President Bush‘s surge of new troops into Iraq—making the case that this has been a success to some great extent and that it helps John McCain.  And I think, and I have opposed the war for a long time, they are right. 

FRANKEN:  Certainly, the surge has gone better than the critics thought. 

CARLSON:  Than anyone thought. 

FRANKEN:  But the question is, has it gone as well as is necessary to somehow extricate the United States honorably from Iraq.  Now, there‘s certainly no surprise that John McCain and his new running mate, Joe Lieberman, would write this op-ed in the “Wall Street Journal.”  It‘s the I told you so op-ed. 

But to use a cliche you‘re never supposed to use in television news, only time will tell.  The story is not over yet on the impact the surge is going to ultimately have. 

CARLSON:  You‘re right but it‘s still an amazing story.  The surge that was scoffed at by a lot of people, including, at times, me, very dissatisfied with the war—I thought, come on, more troops there.  If you‘re measuring it by this question, has it made Iraq or Baghdad more stable, less violent, it‘s a success, period.  Why have we not noticed this? 

MCMAHON:  I think we have noticed it.  If your measuring stick is has it made Baghdad less violent, sure it has.  But remember why they went.  They didn‘t go just to make Baghdad less violent.  They went to create an environment in which a political solution would become possible.  I don‘t think we‘re any closer to that goal today than we were when the surge started. 

And the surge, which was only supposed to last 60 to 90 days, is now  a year old.  The question is, at what point do we decide that we‘re not really going to solve the problems over there and we need to bring our troops home.  I think the American people have made that decision already.  John McCain gave us a nice little contrast when he said, the other day in New Hampshire, that he‘d be willing to leave troops there for 100 years and we‘ll have that debate next year. 

CARLSON:  I think McCain is not that we‘re necessarily going to solve the problems, but that we‘re not going to exacerbate them by letting chaos reign. 

MCMAHON:  Tucker, you have to agree that the goals always seem to change with this administration.  And it‘s now—

CARLSON:  I‘m not defending the administration.  I‘m merely saying -- 

MCMAHON:  -- the main reason why you needed to stop the violence, so that you could have that.  They are not even talking about that. 

CARLSON:  I‘m against nation building in any of its forms.  I‘m merely saying, if someone said to you a year ago, will a presidential candidate who comes out in favor of more troops in Iraq benefit from that position over the next year, you would have said, stop smoking pot, it‘s hurting. 

FRANKEN:  And that, I think, is what the impact is here.  John McCain can lay claim to the point of view that he‘s not a fair weather candidate, that he is somebody who does not test the winds, that he‘s not somebody who relies on expedience.  That‘s, I think, going to be his campaign message.  It‘s one thus far that‘s worked for him. 

CARLSON:  You want to see a fascinating political ad, fascinating, Mike Huckabee in Michigan, very conservative on the social issues, on gun control, a real Second Amendment guy, big pro-lifer.  Yet he‘s running this ad in Michigan.  It‘s fascinating.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When you grow up and life is a struggle you have a whole different understanding of what most people are going through.  We‘re losing manufacturing jobs.  Home owners face a credit crisis.  High fuel costs are spiraling and families are hurting.  I cut taxes, built highways, reformed health care and education, and achieved record job growth. 

I‘m Mike Huckabee and I approved this message because I believe most Americans want their next president to remind them of the guy they worked with, not the guy who laid them off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying I agree with that.  I‘m saying that if Mike Huckabee weren‘t a Baptist preacher, the press would anoint him the next Bill Clinton.  That is a very sophisticated message, and I think potentially very effective, for a Republican.  Are you struck by that?   

MCMAHON:  Absolutely.  In fact, I think if you closed your eyes, you could imagine John Edwards saying almost everything. 

CARLSON:  But not as artfully and not as believably. 

MCMAHON:  I disagree with that. 

CARLSON:  Huckabee is at that level.  He is a political talent.  You may hate him but he‘s good. 

MCMAHON:  One thing that I believe has been consistent among people who have done well this year is that voters are desperately seeking authenticity.  It‘s why John McCain is doing well.  It‘s why Hillary Clinton did well in New Hampshire, because she was a human being for a change.  It‘s why Barack Obama was doing well for a while.  It‘s why Mike Huckabee is doing well. 

Frankly, to the extent John Edwards is doing well with his group of voters, it‘s why he‘s doing well.  This is an ad that could have been run by the Edwards campaign or the Huckabee campaign, but it‘s an ad that goes right at people‘s economic insecurities in Michigan. 

CARLSON:  He‘s not in favor of the trans-gendered amendment.  He‘s a traditional guy on the social issues.  I think working class voters are going to look at him and say I‘m for that. 

FRANKEN:  That is an astounding ad.  You think about it, vote for the person who reminds you of the one you work with, not the one who laid you off.  If Mitt Romney was Homer Simpson, he‘d be going, Doh!  That was a real shot. 

MCMAHON:  He‘s crying. 

CARLSON:  You can‘t have Mitt Romney‘s economic positions and be for that.  Thank you both very much.  I appreciate it. 

Barack Obama was expected to win New Hampshire, of course.  That‘s what we thought.  How did we get it wrong?  Is it because the press are blinded by their passionate love for Barack Obama. 

Plus, could the press be wrong about another major news story, reports out today that Pamela Anderson is pregnant and leaving her husband of three months.  Thank God Bill Wolff is here to sort out the details next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Two days ago just about everybody with a press pass was absolutely convinced Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee.  Two days later we‘re wondering how he blew that so badly.  Joining now is someone who has thought deeply about this question, the editor in chief of “The Politico,” John Harris.  John, welcome. 

JOHN HARRIS, “THE POLITICO”:  Hi, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  How much—you wrote a really smart piece on this today.  How much of the problem here was the fact the press was blinded by affection for Obama? 

HARRIS:  I think that was, Tucker, really a secondary cause.  In the article Jim Vandehei and I wrote in “Politico,” we did put that as one of the causes.  The big cause obviously is that the polls were telling us this was inevitable.  The polls blew it, which caused us to blow it. 

You can say it wasn‘t fundamentally our fault.  But I do think, in general, political reporters are too infatuated with polls.  We don‘t keep enough detachment from them.  We don‘t recognize that one, polls can change.  Two, in a highly concentrated event like New Hampshire, our very presence and the frenzy we can create ends up influencing the story. 

In this case, I think a lot of the Hillary support was in part because they sensed that the media and the political world in general was piling on and that increased sympathy for her, particularly among women.  Anyway, it was a bad performance.  We made something seem inevitable and obviously it wasn‘t inevitable. 

CARLSON:  Why should we rely less on polls.  A lot of the time they are predictive.  The “Des Moines Register” poll, that all the campaigns were all unhappy about and tried to tell us was BS, turned out to be correct.  Most polls kind of point you in the right direction. 

HARRIS:  They might but you in the right direction, but you don‘t have to anticipate the result and extrapolate from it, and then go even one beyond and say, since Obama‘s victory in New Hampshire is inevitable, it‘s virtually guaranteed he‘s going to win South Carolina, and then Hillary Clinton will be zero and three, and how can she possibly win the nomination starting out zero and three. 

Really a great tendency to get ahead of the story and then even ahead of that. 

CARLSON:  It reminds me of that week during the second term of Bill Clinton when around Washington the word was gone by Friday, President Gore. 

HARRIS:  Absolutely. 

CARLSON:  What‘s the appeal of Obama to journalists, do you think? 

HARRIS:  Well, there is no question that a lot of journalists—Brian Williams with NBC even mentioned this—some of his own people at NBC felt they were too—were infatuated by Obama.  He got some heat from that.  I certainly understood the comment.  I‘ve noticed it with reporters.  I feel like maybe they need to go through detox after they come back from time with Obama. 

He‘s obviously a good politician.  It‘s an inspiring message that he‘s preaching.  I don‘t think it‘s our job to necessarily jump on the bandwagon as cheerleaders.  Some reporters have been so powerfully drawn to the strength of Obama‘s message and the skill of delivering it that it warps their judgment. 

CARLSON:  There‘s no question.  I think it‘s wrong for straight news reporters to take sides absolutely.  But it‘s still there.  It‘s real.  You can feel it.  It‘s obvious.  My question, is it a reaction to Obama and his message, or is it a reaction against Hillary Clinton, her husband, the whole complicated past of the Clinton years or both. 

HARRIS:  I think it might be a little of both.  Again, Tucker, this isn‘t like an old scale indictment of reporters.  Most reporters, as you know, work hard to detach themselves from their personal feelings, to report what they see. rMD+IN_rMDNM_ But I do think that there‘s a narrative that‘s easy for reporters to embrace because the Clintons—you know, frankly a lot of reporters sort of resented the controlling, what they saw as contrived nature of the Clinton campaign.  So when they saw that campaign seeming to fail, there was something kind of appealing about that narrative and they jumped on it, again, too quickly. 

CARLSON:  Do you think the Obama people, have they told you or do you sense, they fear a backlash from the press, that there‘s going to be some kind of hangover to all this.  You know, three weeks from now he‘s going to come under withering scrutiny from the press corps.  Do they worry about that?  

HARRIS:  I haven‘t heard that from the Obama people.  I think what‘s more likely is that the more serious the campaign turns out to be, the more he can make a claim to be a front runner, or tied as one of two front runners.  He‘s going to get more serious scrutiny about his record and his past and his rhetoric than he did leading up to Iowa. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t think there‘s any question about that.  John Harris, editor in chief of “The Politico.”  I really appreciate that.  Thank you. 

HARRIS:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  The story about Britney Spears heading to the Big Apple has been busted, so where is the troubled pop tart going to unwind.  Our majorly messed up, former Mickey Mouse Club characters correspondent Bill Wolff has every sordid detail coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Now for the part of the show where we tell you about stories you would be embarrassed to admit you are interested in in polite company.  Frankly, you‘re interested.  Joining us, Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Well said, Tucker.  Thank you for that kind and accurate introduction.  I try to keep talking about why did the press get it wrong, who is going to win the presidency and what is the George Bush doing in the Mideast. 

We learned yesterday, Tucker, that the Associated Press agrees with us that Britney Spears‘ every move is also a big deal.  We have actual movement to report at this hour.  The media‘s life sustaining gossip rags were aflame this morning, Tucker, with news that Miss Spears and her new buddy, a paparazzo named Adnan (ph), had flown via private jet to New York City to escape her family, whom she feared might soon intervene to halt her over-documented downward spiral. 

But, the superfluous news machine had been duped.  TMZ.com reported this afternoon that Britney had, in fact, fled Los Angeles with Adnan but they had gone to Mexico, Tucker.  Now, most notable here is neither the trip nor the location, but the company she‘s keeping.  Britney is hanging out with a paparazzo, which is like a cobra hanging out with a mongoose, an imported product making time with protected terrorist, or a wide mouth bass buddying up with a barbed hook. 

You know what I‘m saying?  Britney is hanging out with a paparazzo, the world is upside down, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  That‘s pretty low, actually.  Leaving aside the barrier smashing that represents, bad choice. 

WOLFF:  Well, I don‘t judge.  Judge not, lest I be judged.  But I thought you‘d go for the fishing.  Did you get that, the barbed hook? 

CARLSON:  I love that.

WOLFF:  I‘ve been exactly twice but I know what a barbed hook is.  Now, there is also breaking Pamela Anderson gossip tonight, or at least there was this morning, which is close enough for our purposes.  Having filed and unfiled for divorce from husband, the epically indiscreet Rick Solomon, Miss Pam was widely reported this morning not only to be refiling for divorce, but also with child, that‘s right, pregnant, expecting. 

As Pam‘s constituency, which America‘s largest apolitical organization, sorted through the information and tried to make sense of such a down to Earth girl getting mixed up in such an unconventional arrangement, Miss Anderson herself appeared to deny some or all of the report on her website. 

Her posting read, simply, quote, no, end quote.  The instant analysis, she either denies she‘s refiling divorce, denies she‘s pregnant, denies both the divorce and the pregnancy, or she‘s simply answering some longing fan mail, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Pregnant, isn‘t she like 67 years old? 

WOLFF:  Sixty one, but she looks terrific. 

CARLSON:  Yes, she does.  No, she‘s older. 

WOLFF:  Well, she‘s 40 is what she is, Tucker.  I‘ve been keeping loose track of that although these many years.  Forty years old and I can attest, anything is possible, my friend.  Former American Madonna, Tucker, is in Indian on vacation with her husband, who will never be as famous as Sean Penn, and her children.  Today, she and her English accent and the husband stopped by an historic Afghan church in Mombai.  The crowd of onlookers watched as the once totally famous singer, provocateur, turned holy woman, got out of a mini van and she got back in it. 

But that‘s not the real Madonna news, Tucker.  I wouldn‘t waste your time.  The real Madonna news is that “In Touch Magazine,” which is never wrong, claims that Madonna spends 10,000 dollars per month on bottled Kabbalah water.  That‘s 120,000 dollars pre-tax per year to remain hydrated and mystically holy for one calendar year. 

CARLSON:  Wow. 

WOLFF:  I find that shocking, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  I‘m happy with Poland Spring.  I find it not so shocking but pretty nauseating. 

WOLFF:  New York City tap water, my friend, gets the job done, although certainly unholy. 

Now, there is public toilet news to report tonight.  Dateline, New York City at beautiful Madison Square Park, 23rd and 5th Avenue, where officials gathered today for a ceremonial first flush of the city‘s new pay per use, self-cleaning public rest rooms.  Just 25 cents American, visitors can experience stainless steel facilities, including a sink, a mirror, a hand drier, of course, a commode. 

Between each use, there‘s a 90 second self-cleaning feature, washes the floor and disinfects the toilet.  New York will eventually have 20 of these beauties across the city.  One note to remember, the door to the restroom pops open after 15 minutes, so if you think you‘re going to need longer than that, consult a doctor, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  You‘re telling me you can‘t live in one. 

WOLFF:  Well, you can live for 14 minutes and 59 seconds, then public territory, friend. 

CARLSON:  I love New York.  You have to make those things explicit.  Bill Wolff from New York.  Thanks Bill.  That does it for us.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night.  Thanks for watching, as always.  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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