updated 1/31/2008 2:11:53 PM ET 2008-01-31T19:11:53

Guests: Margaret Carlson, Ron Brownstein, John Harris, Trent Lott, John Breaux, John Heilemann, Faye Wattleton, Ed Schultz

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  No more Rudy Tuesday.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  What a week it has been, and it‘s only Wednesday.  In today‘s big political news, John Edwards is out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But who will he endorse?  And how soon?  The clock‘s ticking.

And in an hour, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani will quit the race endorse—we know who it is—John McCain, in California.  Last night, Senator McCain beat Mitt Romney with 36 percent of the vote, establishing himself as the clear frontrunner on the Republican side.  Tonight, the remaining Republicans debate at the Reagan library out in California, and I‘ll host our post-debate coverage starting at 10:00 PM Eastern.  More on the developments in the Republican race in a moment.

On the Democratic side, today in New Orleans, John Edwards ended his race where he began it, the place where he began 6he whole thing, by the way, in fact, the very place, the 9th Ward.  The question now is who will Edwards endorse and when, and just as important, is it going to be tomorrow, perhaps for a big news day right before the debate?  And will it matter?  How much help can he give Barack Obama, or if it‘s Hillary Clinton, here?  And who gets the most votes, by the way, coming up on Tuesday, when 22 states are going to vote?

And what‘s wrong with this picture?  Some people say it shows Obama snubbing Hillary.  Others say, Get over it—in fact, Move on.  But first the Democrats—joining me to talk about the Democrats, our major political development, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell of NBC, Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg, and Ron Brownstein from the Atlantic Media.

Ron, let‘s start with you.  It seems to me that the big question is when and who.  Is it a who question?  Will Edwards definitely, if he does endorse, endorse Barack?

RON BROWNSTEIN, ATLANTIC MEDIA GROUP:  Well, I think if he was going to endorse, he‘d be more likely to endorse Obama.  I‘m not sure John Edwards‘s personal endorsement is that significant.  I think it‘s—a more interesting and important question is what happens with the unions that had been supporting him, particularly those Service Employee International Union affiliates that had been behind him?  He has an endorsement in California from the SEIU.  They are the most politically potent union probably in the state.  Barack Obama needs help in California.  Could they move between...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... now and Tuesday?  Pretty difficult to change gears after you‘ve been pumping up John Edwards for several months.  But nonetheless, I think that to me, more than what he does personally...

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t unions...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... once they endorse, have to re-endorse, or else they‘re left flat-footed with no purpose?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, but it‘s also...

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t they have to say...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  It‘s also difficult if you‘ve been spending months telling your members, This is the guy, to say, Oh, no, wait a minute, that‘s the guy.  So, you know, I don‘t know where that goes, but...

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not their fault.  He dropped out of the race.  I mean, there is an explanation, you know?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  Fortunately, they can say, Oh, well, Obama or Clinton, if they decide to do that, has taken up the poverty cudgel better...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) a little difference between Obama or Clinton. 

OK, go ahead.

CARLSON:  (INAUDIBLE) taken up the poverty fight more earnestly than the other.  I mean, Obama gave a full-fledged speech...

MATTHEWS:  On poverty today.

CARLSON:  ... on poverty in honor of Edwards...

BROWNSTEIN:  You know...

CARLSON:  ... and Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, gave a statement, but the statement...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN:  A union like the SEIU, one consideration is looking at what happened to the culinary workers, a heavily Latino union in Nevada that endorsed Barack Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  ... and saw a lot of Latinos vote for Hillary Clinton.  If you‘re the SEIU, I‘m sure you want the same thing.  They may decide to just sort of stay out and—and...

MATTHEWS:  Andrea Mitchell, let me get your thoughts in here...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... about this John Edwards.  It seems like everybody out there today is poor-mouthing—literally.  They‘re all talking about poverty, which is a good thing, I think—just a judgment on my part.  But they‘re all now singing this song of John Edwards, even though it didn‘t work for him.  I notice they‘ve all started what you might call the Edwards primary to get Edwards‘s endorsement.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  And it may not come.  I mean, he may decide that the effectiveness—because you could measure the effectiveness.  And if he throws it one way or the other and that person wins or loses, he really has no clout left.  He is not a player.  But if he can argue that he has persuaded them both to adopt his cause, his language, that he has moved the party to the left, he has made it more populist, then he can say, Look at me, I accomplished something.  Elizabeth and I didn‘t do this for nothing.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Here he is—by the way, proving that point, that very point you make of influencing the other candidates, here‘s Senator Obama talking about Edwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  John has spent a lifetime fighting to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the struggling, and at a time when our politics is too focused on who‘s up and who‘s down, he consistently made us focus on who matters.  John and Elizabeth Edwards believe deeply that two Americans can become—that the two Americas can become one.  And their campaign may have ended, but this cause lives on for all of us who believe that we can achieve one America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Which reminds me my favorite question of who‘s up and who‘s down.  Anyway, here‘s Hillary Clinton on Senator Edwards, another voice for him as he leaves the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I want to start by expressing my appreciation and admiration to Senator Edwards, to Elizabeth, and to their family for their years of public service and advocacy on behalf of those who needed a champion.  And particularly during the campaign, he has made poverty a centerpiece of his candidacy, and it needs to be on the top of the list of American priorities.

And I‘m very pleased that he in his announcement just a few minutes ago talked about how we are all, as Democrats, going to work to make sure that poverty remains on the agenda, to do everything we can during this campaign and then once we take back the White House to address the needs of people who are invisible, as I‘ve been saying through my campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ron, this big question abides now.  If John Edwards just passes into the sunlight and watches all these candidacies to see who is most attentive to his populist creed, it probably helps Hillary, doesn‘t it?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, you know, I think John Edwards‘s vote has been surprisingly flat outside of Iowa.  In Iowa, he did have a downscale tilt that hurt Hillary because he was competing for the same votes.  Barack Obama, as we talked about many times...

MATTHEWS:  Working...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  ... working white people.  Barack Obama has run better with college-educated voters, post-graduate voters, more affluent voters.  But outside of Iowa, Edwards has been remarkably flat.  He tends to draw a little more from men than women.  And since Hillary Clinton relies more on women than men, that might help Obama a little.  But by and large, despite the very populist message, he really doesn‘t tilt downscale.  So you got to look at his voters so far, there‘s no reason to assume that they would break in any disproportionate way for Obama or Clinton, I think regardless of what John Edwards said.  I don‘t think candidates really control voters once they leave the race.  The question is how the voters‘ profile match up with the other candidates and...

MATTHEWS:  Right, and when...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  It‘s pretty flat.

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re watching TV or reading the papers the next couple days and you‘ve been an Edwards supporter through thick and thin, and you hear somebody talk that sounds like him, you might go with I mean.  Although it seems to me that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

CARLSON:  My unscientific view is that those voters who are for Hillary are ardent Hillary voters.

MATTHEWS:  And those who aren‘t?

CARLSON:  Those who aren‘t, aren‘t, and that those will then—more will go to Obama.

BROWNSTEIN:  From a message point of view, in some ways, Edwards is closer to Clinton in the last few months.  I mean, we talked about poverty, but the core of his argument from Iowa on has been that Barack Obama was pursuing a “fantasy”—that was his word—that you could have reconciliation, reach across party lines and negotiate with interests.  He wants a fighter, and in many ways, Hillary Clinton has been closer, in some ways to her own detriment in this campaign to that view of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think those two points, Andrea, first of all, that Obama

(SIC) is a man who recognized that life is pugilistic, that you have to be

combative, you got to take on the people with power, whether it‘s the

insurance companies or the drug companies.  It isn‘t a matter of all

getting together, it‘s  a question of taking on the good fight.  And

secondly, his focus on people with needs.  I know he does it from a

somewhat, I‘m above helping people below me, and maybe Hillary‘s better at

saying, I‘m one of you and I‘m helping you because I care about your cause

women with needs, working people with needs, and to be blunt about it, white people—does he bring something to Hillary by just getting out of the race?

MITCHELL:  I think he does bring something to Hillary by getting out of the race.  Clearly, it happened in Iowa and in South Carolina, where he certainly drew the white vote that she otherwise would have had, according to the exit polls, according to every measure.

That said, Obama‘s stepping it up.  In today‘s rally, which was enormous, by the way, whether by accident or design, he pivoted much more quickly.  His comment came at this huge rally and it came within minutes.  She was at, obviously, a less—with less impact at a news conference, a brief news conference in Arkansas.  But he did it immediately, and he also went after Hillary Clinton.  He talked about not wanting to take the bridge back to the 20th Century.  That is a direct reference to the “bridge to the 21st century” and Bill Clinton.  And also, by the way, in her remarks...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  ... with you last night and again today, she was explicitly asked about her husband, and this was interesting, about whether he was reined in.  And she said, Everyone in the campaign knows what they need to do, that I‘m in charge of this campaign, you know, that this campaign is my campaign...

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t that strong and direct?

MITCHELL:  Oh, my gosh!

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t that so direct with me?  I thought I was asking a tough question, because it involves a relationship, obviously, a martial relationship, but she said, No, the reason he‘s giving shorter speeches, the reason he‘s on message, the reason he‘s disciplined is I‘m doing it to him.  I‘m (INAUDIBLE) enough to do it.  And it was so direct on her part to say...

MITCHELL:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... I‘m the boss...

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  ... and he‘s my—he‘s one of the guys working for me here.

MITCHELL:  You know, the fact that John McCain won and that Rudy is dropping out overwhelmed all of that, you know, so we didn‘t focus enough on what she said.  But that interview with you last night was really startling.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Ron Brownstein on that.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, look, I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Bill because we haven‘t gotten into him yet.  He is the other player out here, probably the most important surrogate in American history, political history.  He‘s out there.  Is he now—there was an old expression in Pennsylvania, which I cannot quote directly because it‘s television, but it had something to do with hitting the other side really hard in the beginning of the campaign.  I think Andrea knows.  She‘s covered up there.  And then while they‘re—they‘re holding onto their—their—their wound, you talk about the future of Pennsylvania.

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  So the first half is negative, second half is positive, and you look good at the end as people go to vote, while the other guy‘s, like, laying on the ground.  Andrea knows how this works.

Now, Bill Clinton, having administered his punishment to Barack, having ghettoized him, some people think, marginalized him as a minority, now he can resort—now he can go up to the higher plane and talk about the America we all want.

CARLSON:  Yes.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, look...

MATTHEWS:  Can he do that?  Can he pull that off and we‘ll forgive him?

BROWNSTEIN:  I think the—to some extent, that they‘ve—they‘ve done damage to Obama and damage to themselves over the last several weeks and...

MATTHEWS:  What will remain two weeks from now?

BROWNSTEIN:  I think—I actually think both.  I mean, they put Obama off of his game, but I think that Clinton has resurfaced many—both Clintons have resurfaced many of the things that Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... don‘t like about them.  Now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is he (INAUDIBLE) playing triple or double-A ball?  Has he been sent out to smaller villages and hamlets...

BROWNSTEIN:  It sure feels that way.

MATTHEWS:  ... it takes a village for Bill?  Go find a village for him!  I mean, it‘s—I heard he‘s got (INAUDIBLE) that always bothers people when you say this—smaller cities.

BROWNSTEIN:  Smaller markets.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BROWNSTEIN:  Look, I mean, by and large—by and large, Democrats have positive feelings and memories about the Clinton years.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BROWNSTEIN:  The one thing many of them don‘t like was a sense there was unending political warfare.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROWNSTEIN:  And what she has done through this kind of relentless assault, and what he has done, in some ways, even more, is bring those images back.  And I think it could hurt them in a place where it could really hurt...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  ... which are those better—even if they stop.  I think those better-educated women...

CARLSON:  No, they will never...

BROWNSTEIN:  ... were the loosest piece of her coalition...

CARLSON:  I—I don‘t think...

BROWNSTEIN:  ... could be affected by this.

CARLSON:  I don‘t think the Bill Clinton display will be forgotten.  And the Clintons together, when you‘re thinking of them as one, remind you of what you did not like about the Clinton administration.  Whereas when they‘re separate, especially with Hillary out there, you think, Oh, it—well, it could be a new day.

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  You know, you got to take the blue plate special in this business.  You take them all, the good, the bad and ever—anyway, thank you, all, Ron Brownstein.  Thank you, Margaret.  Oh, Andrea, as always, thank you, and thanks for the salute to our interview last night.  I like that.

Coming up: It‘s the Romney-McCain showdown for the Republican nomination.  That‘s basically down to two people, too.  But will conservatives rally around a maverick like McCain?  Will party regulars—that‘s my question—go along with an irregular like McCain?  Up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Rudy Giuliani‘s Florida gamble was a bust.  Now he‘s backing John McCain as McCain gains Republican establishment support by the minute.

Joe Scarborough‘s the host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE.”  John Harris is the editor-in-chief of “Politico.”  He‘s having a big part in the debate tonight.

Joe, I want you to start here.  First of all, why did Rudy endorse McCain?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “MORNING JOE”:  Well, I think you‘ve said it all along.  Most of these candidates feel like they have a lot more to do with anybody than with Mitt Romney.  They just...

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t like him.

SCARBOROUGH:  They do not like him.  “The New York Times” has talked about that.  There‘s a feeling that this guy is too perfect.  He‘s got the perfect wife.  He‘s got the perfect sons.  He‘s got all the money.  And I think the money especially breeds the resentment.  He earned an awful lot of money in the private sector, and while they‘re out there schlepping around, trying to call for $1,000 here, $2,000 there, Mitt Romney has the ability to just write a check.  And of course, there‘s resentment about that.

MATTHEWS:  I love it!  Joe, you‘ve once again demonstrated my faith in human nature.  The two strongest emotions in politics are jealousy and fear.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go—you either want what the other guy has, or you fear that he wants it from you and might just get it.

Let‘s go—let‘s go to John Harris.  John, tonight in the debate, what‘s the role of Rudy Giuliani in this debate?  Will he be sort of the figure that doesn‘t appear on stage but haunts it on behalf of McCain?

JOHN HARRIS, “POLITICO”:  Well, he‘s going to be in this room where I‘m speaking to you right now in just I think 45 minutes or so Chris, and he really is giving a very well-timed endorsement to McCain.  He‘s giving this McCain candidacy a sense of inevitability.  And I think it does help in the big Northeastern states, where the—to the extent that there was a bloc of Giuliani voters, that‘s where they were, New York, New Jersey.  So it‘s very well-timed.

MATTHEWS:  Who gave permission—who gave permission for the Reagan library to be used for an endorsement, not for a debate, but and endorsement of one candidate of another?  How did that happen?

HARRIS:  I hope you‘re not asking for tax purposes, Chris.  It wasn‘t (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘d like to know how it happened...

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  Well, you know, of course, Giuliani was going to be here.  He was going to be participating in this debate until this morning.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  So he has a pass.

HARRIS:  It‘s an obvious locale.  The spin room is here.  Every reporter, political reporter in the country is here.

MATTHEWS:  I see.

HARRIS:  I can‘t really think of any more logical place to have it.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Chris, if I can just say very quickly, I don‘t know what impact the Giuliani endorsement has.  Rudy Giuliani was getting 4, 5, 6 percentage points absolutely everywhere.  He got beaten badly everywhere except in Florida, and that‘s the one place he campaigned forever and he still couldn‘t still get in a strong second.

The third person that matters in race, other than Romney and McCain, is Mike Huckabee.  He‘s the guy who for Romney‘s sake needs to get out of this race, or else it‘s going to be him splitting up Huckabee...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Huckabee and Romney splitting up the conservative vote and giving it to McCain.

MATTHEWS:  But each of these candidates in their own way, Rudy Giuliani by endorsing McCain and getting out and Huckabee by staying in—are both serving the purposes of John McCain, is that right?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  There‘s no doubt about it.  And it‘s—you know, this is—you‘ve had interesting teaming up throughout the entire process.  In Iowa, you had John McCain saying great things about Mike Huckabee because it would hurt Mitt Romney.  In South Carolina, though, you had Fred Thompson teaming up with John McCain against Mike Huckabee.

And again, but now we‘re in this final stage where you‘ve got these two guys that are going to bring in all of the conservative votes or most of the conservative votes, and then you‘re going to have John McCain in the center, center-left on a lot of issues, who‘s going to be carrying it away.  So yes, this is what Mitt Romney has to fight this next week.  Every state that he would win naturally that is a state that Huckabee‘s going to do well in next Super Tuesday.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s amazing because I keep hearing, gentlemen, that McCain can possibly carry 19 of the 21 states next Tuesday.  But here‘s the antithesis of that.  Here‘s one of the ads that‘s running out there.  It‘s an anti-McCain ad by a conservative group called Citizens United.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  One candidate voted against the Bush tax cuts, both times, and pushed more restrictions on gun owners‘ rights.  The same candidate joined Ted Kennedy to sponsor amnesty for illegals and was even mentioned as a running mate with John Kerry.

Hillary Clinton?  No.  John McCain.  John McCain, surprisingly liberal. 

Citizens United Political Victory Fund is responsible for the contents of this ad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  How strong a voice is that, John Harris? 

HARRIS:  Well, look, it is the argument, Chris, that Romney himself has been trying to land.  He has hit these exact same points punch after punch after punch, but none of those punches have landed.

I think it is a reflection of Romney‘s weakness, that he is seen as an opportunist on some of these same issues. 

My colleague at “Politico,” Jonathan Martin, has said, look, McCain‘s victory may be as much a reflection of Romney‘s weakness as it is McCain‘s strength. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HARRIS:  Romney is making his case, but it is just not resonating. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Rush Limbaugh today hitting McCain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Senator Clinton has been able to cobble together enough votes to win in a few states.  Fine.  He deserves credit for that.

But to pretend that Senator McCain is the choice of conservatives, when exit poll data from every primary state show just the opposite—he is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment.  And that distinction is key. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Why is that key, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, it is key because the Republican establishment supported Gerald Ford in 1976.  The Republican establishment supported Bob Dole in 1996.  The Republican establishment can support whoever they want to support.

But, unless you have the conservative movement behind the candidate, that candidate always loses, starting back in 1980, in most Senate races and congressional races also.  Conservatives—and you know what?  I—last night, Chris—I said it last night, as people kept saying, well, conservatives are starting to get around John McCain.  They are not. 

You look at the exit polling, Mitt Romney won the very conservative voters going away, the very conservative and somewhat conservative. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He is making a sell that he began making a long time ago.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The irony is that, if you look at the internal polls, he is just now starting to make the sell with conservative voters that he is their man.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The question is whether it is too little too late. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

He is fighting the three R‘s, John.  He‘s fighting, well, certainly Rush Limbaugh, but also the right, the regulars, and radio.  It seems like he has taken on the three R‘s on the right.  The question is, can he overcome them and win a nomination that is worth something.

John, last question.

HARRIS:  Well, there is never going—there is never going to be enthusiasm.  Joe is exactly right.  There‘s never going to be conservative enthusiasm for John McCain.

What he has got to count on is the Democratic opponent creating that enthusiasm.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HARRIS:  So—and if it‘s Hillary Clinton, that would be a powerful force to unite conservatives, them those who are pretty lukewarm about John McCain. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we will see, won‘t we?

Anyway, thank you very much, Joe Scarborough and John Harris.

John Harris is out there at that debate.

HARRIS:  Good talking to you.

We will be coming on after that debate tonight for an hour program of HARDBALL, talking about who won that debate, because it is down basically to Romney and to McCain. 

Up next:  Hillary Clinton gets an endorsement from a past icon.

And, later, what is in stake for the remaining Republican candidates in their debate tonight?  That is my question before and after the debate tonight. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The responsibility of leadership doesn‘t end with a single campaign.  If you believe in a cause, it goes on, and you continue to fight for it.  And we will. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out there in the world of politics? 

Well, Hillary Clinton got a boost in Little Rock, Arkansas, from a guy known as Belvis, short for Black Elvis.  He is 39-year-old Dwayne Turner, a supervisor at a rib joint who moonlights as the King. 

Here it comes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DWAYNE TURNER, ELVIS IMPERSONATOR (singing):  Well, one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, go, go, Hillary, go.

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, first Chuck Norris came out for Huckabee.  Then Sly Stallone, Sylvester himself, came out for McCain. 

Now it is Hulk Hogan for Barack Obama.  Here it comes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”:  Will Hulk Hogan be endorsing for president this year?  

HULK HOGAN, ENTERTAINER:  If I had to step out and say who I really believe in that catches my ear that makes sense, that really could make a change, I would say Obama, you know, because...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

HOGAN:  He seems like the real deal.  So, I don‘t read anything into it, except what the guy is all about.  And I think he is really the only choice. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  God, that guy has aged well. 

Anyway, now to former New York Mayor Ed Koch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED KOCH, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  How am I doing? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, when it comes to Rudy dropping out of the race, here‘s how he‘s doing.  What does Koch really think? 

Well, here is your answer from the mayor himself, from His Honor.  He says it is he—Ed Koch is certain that the Florida outcome—love this line -- -- quote—“will drive a stake through Giuliani‘s heart.  The beast is dead.” 

That‘s how one mayor of New York talks about a successor.  Anyway, talk about bad blood. 

And the latest issue of “The New Republic” has a great illustration on its cover, I think, sort of a Norman Rockwell pictures that features a fine TV shot of your HARDBALL man himself.

Where is that picture?  It‘s up there on the right.  Why didn‘t they blow—there he is.  Blow it up.

Anyway, if you look at the TV monitor in the diner, there I am.  Must be a classy diner. 

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” today. 

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton received the most votes in Florida, as we know, a state in which the candidates agreed not to campaign, a state with no delegates right now.

Well, now the Clinton campaign wants Florida‘s delegates to count.  In a tight delegate race, which seems increasingly likely, those phantom Florida delegates could decide the Democratic nominee and ultimately the presidency.  How many delegates are at stake that we didn‘t think were at stake?  Two hundred and 10, 210 delegates that could put Hillary Clinton over the top, thanks to Florida, a state that was not supposed to count. 

Well, tonight‘s “Big Number,” you heard it tonight, 216. 

Up next:  What is at stake for the Republican candidates in tonight‘s debate?  And what is at stake for Super Tuesday? 

You are watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

And a Fed rate cut fizzled, and the Dow industrials finished down 37 points.  The S&P 500 fell six points, and the Nasdaq lost nine points. 

The Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate another half-point, to 3 percent.  That follows a three-quarters-of-a-point cut just eight days ago. 

And it also followed news that economic growth slowed in the final quarter of last year to an annual rate of just six-tenths-of-a-percent.

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Now we look at what is at stake for the four remaining contenders in the presidential race, top contenders, with former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott and former Louisiana Senator John Breaux, now incorporated into an organization called?

TRENT LOTT ®, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Breaux-Lott.

MATTHEWS:  Breaux-Lott.com, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Let‘s go, Senator Lott.  Let‘s look at your guy, John McCain.  You have endorsed him. What is at stake for him in the debate tonight at the Reagan Library?

LOTT:  I think he has got to build on what happened in Florida.

He did a good job last night.  I think he has got to keep calm.  He‘s got to talk about the issues that people care about.  He has got to continue to talk about the importance of peace and security, the war on terror.

But he also has got to put a little more emphasis, I think, on the economy, make it clear that he has worked in that area, he knows what is important about that, and what he would like to do.  And I think he also has to—you know, he‘s got to remember to be a happy warrior for our country.  If he will—if he will do those things, I think he will be fine. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Senator Breaux, about Romney, because Romney has the money, the family, the good looks.  He‘s got everything going for him, except he doesn‘t have enough delegates, and he keeps losing lately.  What does he do? 

JOHN BREAUX (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  He has got to keep on doing it, but doing it a lot better. 

I mean, he got off message in Florida.  I think McCain was very successful in getting him to talk about the war, instead of the economy.  The biggest issue right now...

MATTHEWS:  By denying that he was for a timetable?

BREAUX:  That‘s exactly right.  And he kept just saying, I didn‘t say that.  I didn‘t say that.

But then you put enough doubt in the people, it took him off of message.  He has got to get back on an economic management message if he‘s going to continue to try to be successful. 

MATTHEWS:  We looked—we looked at the exit polls.  And people who care about Iraq the most voted for McCain. 

BREAUX:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Interesting.

LOTT:  Overwhelmingly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about—I know you don‘t care, but let‘s attack about Senator Clinton, your recent colleague.  She is up against the Kennedy magic this week.  Caroline is out campaigning out there with Barack today in California.  Teddy is aboard, lots of stuff going on out there. 

LOTT:  Well, Obama has got personality.  I listened to him give his speech after the victory the other night.  And, as I turned off the TV to go to sleep, I said to my wife and son, this guy is good.  He could really get on a roll. 

But I do think that the Kennedy endorsement, while, in the media and in Washington, that is given huge play...

MATTHEWS:  It worked for us. 

LOTT:  ... that ain‘t necessarily all good. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Why is that bad in the Democratic Party?  Come on.   

LOTT:  Well, OK, for the nomination.  But I am still—I‘m already looking over the horizon here.  I am looking at—I think Hillary...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.  OK.

LOTT:  ... is going be the nominee.  And then you have got a general election.  If—but, you know, I don‘t think it is—in long term, necessarily helps Obama.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Breaux? 

BREAUX:  Hillary has got to get one more candidate to drop out. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BREAUX:  OK?  But—you know, and I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Edwards dropped out.  Who would she want to drop out now? 

BREAUX:  Obama. 

(LAUGHTER)

BREAUX:  No, I think that what...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Edwards will make a move?  Having watched him in this campaign, will he make a move and endorse Barack?  Will Edwards do that? 

(CROSSTALK)

BREAUX:  I think the tendency is that he is probably going to end up with Obama.  But I think...

MATTHEWS:  Well, doesn‘t he have to do it before Super Tuesday to have any clout?

BREAUX:  Sure.  I mean, if he‘s going to have an endorsement, he‘s got to be timely.  And it would be timely before.

But I think what Hillary has to do—and there‘s been so much experience vs. change—she has to combine the two.  She has the experience to make the right change.  She has learned.  She‘s been there.  She‘s made mistakes.  She has learned from those mistakes, like in health care.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BREAUX:  It is not a question of just making changes, having the experience to make the right change.

And Obama has to say, look, you know, it is—we need new people to address the old problems.  Don‘t send the same people back.

And that is the debate. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That is what Romney said last night.  It sounds like he and Barack are on the same—by the way, have you ever met a candidate like Romney, who is so quick to pick up on what is working that day?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He is like a nightclub comic who hears a joke and tells the joke. 

I mean, he is now saying, if you do the same thing and expect different results, you are going to blow it.  That is Barack‘s line.  He says, this guy will say anything to get elected.  That‘s McCain‘s line.

He just...

LOTT:  Politicians—there‘s no license or prohibition on stealing each other‘s lines.  If you can take it, improve on it, go for it. 

(LAUGHTER)

BREAUX:  Of course, that is one of the raps that he has on him, though.  He has changed so many different times.

LOTT:  Yes, he has.

(CROSSTALK)

BREAUX:  Sort of going with the wind.  And at some point that doesn‘t work anymore. 

LOTT:  He is good.  The question is, do some of the people out there, the real people, the people that Huckabee talks about, do they think maybe he is too good?

MATTHEWS:  Who is that? 

LOTT:  Romney. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question, having been a professional politician since you were working for Colmer (ph) back 100,000 years ago, an old Dixiecrat.

BREAUX:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And you were elected as a House member way back when.

Do you—when you look at politicians, do you like look at them and judge them as pros, like, now, that is a good line, or that guy is slipping around there, or that guy is in trouble?  How do you look at it as a pro, Senator Breaux? 

BREAUX:  Oh, yes.  Well, some of them are amateurs.  We have all done this.  We have looked at some our people and colleagues as, how in the world did that person ever get elected? 

(LAUGHTER)

BREAUX:  He could never win in my state.  And then you make the same positive comments and say, look, that guy could get elected in Louisiana.  That‘s an ultimate compliment. 

LOTT:  But, as a old vote counter, whip, in the House and the Senate, one of the things I learned to do is watch their eyes. 

MATTHEWS:  The candidates?

LOTT:  The candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  And what do you see? 

LOTT:  Quite often, their eyes are denying what their lips are saying, because, if their eyes are cold or there‘s—you can just tell whether they really believe in it.

MATTHEWS:  So, you can do a lie-detector test in your head just watching these people?

LOTT:  I think so. 

BREAUX:  Well, you got to be liked to be a successful...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the old—how do you know a politician is lying? 

His mouth is moving.

LOTT:  That‘s right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I wouldn‘t say that here.  But...

(LAUGHTER)

BREAUX:  Yes.  I mean, you have to be liked. 

LOTT:  Sure.

BREAUX:  You have to be believable to be successful.  You can be the greatest technocrat in the world, but, if people don‘t like you, you cannot go be a success as an elected official.  You don‘t get elected.

LOTT:  But that is what happening with Barack.

MATTHEWS:  But can you fake that, Senator? 

BREAUX:  You can‘t affect likability.  It comes through. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed the amount of smiling that Rudy Giuliani had to do?  His cheeks hurt.  I mean, for the last six months, he‘s out there doing what he never does, smiling constantly.

(CROSSTALK)    

MATTHEWS:  But you notice him before he comes on the air?  Like, we watch people they come on.  We‘re checking them out in the view here.  He is not smiling.

(LAUGHTER)

BREAUX:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  But, you know, that is one thing that is helping Barack, I think.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

LOTT:  He is likable.  His personality is good.

And there is a certain amount of—and I shouldn‘t be saying this, because we may still face him in the general election.

MATTHEWS:  May still.

LOTT:  There‘s a certain amount of authenticity about him. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Did he snub Hillary on the floor of the State of the Union the other night? 

I want an honest answer, nonpartisan answer.

BREAUX:  No.  I mean, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you sure?  Because I think he might have done it. 

BREAUX:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Well, if you‘re two feet away from somebody you‘re running against, and you just got Teddy, the other person, two feet away from you, and you don‘t ever say hi...

BREAUX:  Yes, but if you are talking to somebody else, that could easily happen on the floor.  I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.  It‘s not in his interest.

MATTHEWS:  If you missed your biggest contributor the first pass, wouldn‘t you go back again?

BREAUX:  I‘d make a second pass. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  If he wanted to say hello—Now, Hillary‘s saying—we‘ll talk about this later in the show.  She said, I extended my hand and he didn‘t reach for it.  I don‘t know if that is literal or metaphorical or what.  She actually says now, like in an old movie, an old British comedy, she put her hand out and he didn‘t take it. 

LOTT:  I thought Kennedy took her hand when she stuck it out.  That is who she was shaking hands with.  And Barack said he was talking to Claire McCaskill. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think she might be right on this one.  But now the National Organization of Women is taking this up as a cause celeb.  Give me a break. 

BREAUX:  Big mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a little overdoing.  These people will overdo everything, I think.  I better be careful.  Sometimes they do things just right. 

Anyway, thank you.  These guys, Senator Trent Lott, formally of Mississippi, and John Breaux, formally of Louisiana. 

Up next, was it a snub or not?  More on the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I like that ad.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for our politics fix.  Faye Wattleton is the president of the Center for the Advancement For Women.  Ed Schultz is a radio talk show host.  John Heilemann, another man hard to figure, is with “New York Magazine.” 

Let‘s take a look at a photograph that has gotten a lot of attention and noise.  It‘s from the State of the Union.  They are allowed to now take pictures on the floor of the Senate or the House.  Look at what is going on here.  The reporters are asked Obama whether he was here—hold this picture up there—intentionally snubbing Senator Clinton or not.

Here is what he said, Senator Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  You know, I mean I was surprised by sort of the reports this morning.  Claire, you know, there was a photograph in the Times about me sort of turning away.  I was turning away because Claire asked me a question as Senator Kennedy was reaching forward.  And the—you know, Senator Clinton and I have had very cordial relations off the floor and on the floor. 

I waved at her as we were coming into the—as I was coming into the Senate chamber before we walked over last night.  I think that there is just a lot of more tea leaf reading going on here than I think people are suggesting. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is what Senator Clinton said about it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Well, I reached my hand out in friendship and unity, and my hand is still reaching out, and I look forward to shaking his hand some time soon. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And then there is this photo, which shows Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy conferring while looking over at Hillary.  The “New York Post” called it a stair down.  Here is what the head of the National Organization for Women in New York said about it; quote, “in general, they have been disrespectful”—I think that is Kennedy and Obama—“and I that women voters are going to get very tired of seeing that.”

She also accused Kennedy and Obama of passive aggressive behavior during the State of the Union.  I want to go to Faye Wattleton, because she is a woman.  And I want to know what you think.  Do you think this is much ado, or is this an appropriate response to a real snub? 

FAYE WATTLETON, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN:  Well, I think all of this conversation reminds me of an often repeated Richard Pryor quote that says, are you going to believe me or are you going to believe your lying eyes?  I think that we are seeing imagery that is very important, and the candidates certainly know that imagery is really very powerful, and then in the—

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe it was a snub, Faye?  Do you believe there was a snub or not? 

WATTLETON:  Well, I would think that, looking at the pictures, yes, it does look as though Mr. Obama is looking away.  After all, Senator Clinton was in bright red and she was standing very close by.  And even if she didn‘t extend her hand to him, he certainly could have made the attempt to extend his hand to her. 

This is a candidate who has said over and over again, we must rise above partisan politics.  In this case, we must rise above the hard white light of debate and presidential campaigning, and come together around issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, by the way, originally I think that line was Groucho Marx, but Pryor probably used it.  I am a old Groucho Marx fan.  I love the line.  Is it lying eyes?  Do we see in this picture, Ed Schultz, a snub?  Let‘s not deny it.

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I don‘t think it‘s a snub.  I think you have two high profile people who are after the biggest job on the face of the Earth. 

MATTHEWS:  And therefore? 

SCHULTZ:  And therefore, they are in competition. 

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, one snubs the other. 

SCHULTZ:  As soon as you start to talk to her or she starts to talk to him, you open up the 24-hour news cycle; OK, what was said?  What do they really mean to one another?  The safe play for Obama is not to say anything.  Here we are talking about a picture. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, John Heilemann, what do you think of this picture?  Is it lying eyes or is it the truth?  Can we go by the picture? 

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”:  God, I have no idea what to say about the picture.  But I do know this; both of the candidates dislike each other a lot.  So whether or not there was actually a snub or not, there is a truth that‘s revealed here that I think anyone who has followed this campaign closely over the last month already knows. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Faye, about the National Organization for Women.  Why does this become a gender issue, if its just an issue of bad manners by somebody, if it is that. 

WATTLETON:  Well, I think it is a gender issue because of the candidates.  We have unprecedented—unprecedented cast of characters, a woman, an African-Americans and others who have departed the race.  And I think it, by its very nature, is going to raise the tensions beneath the surface.

MATTHEWS:  But let‘s be fair.  If Hillary Clinton had snubbed --  let me use her word, if she had snubbed Barack Obama, would that be anti-black? 

WATTLETON:  Well, you know, when Mrs. Clinton did have an answer or a situation with that around the Martin Luther King comment.  I don‘t believe for a minute that Senator Clinton intended to characterize Martin Luther King‘s work as any less important than it was.  It was seminal in this country‘s history.  But Mr. Johnson needed to pass the legislation. 

And yet, Mr. Obama said her comment was unfortunate.  So I think that both of them need to get back to the issues to talk to the American people about the specifics. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Ed Schultz, your thoughts?  Is this too much identity politics, where every snub, even the smallest—and I think it was a snub—but the smallest lack of manners or coldness—by the way, we don‘t know if 50 times down the hallway they snubbed each other.  We don‘t know.  We didn‘t see.  Is everything an identity issue?  Is everything race, gender, ethnicity. 

SCHULTZ:  Not everything.  I didn‘t see the NAACP come out and be critical of Maxine Waters when she supported Hillary Clinton.  There is race and gender right there, and an organization that is just as active as NOW.  What is NOW doing going after Ted Kennedy?  Has there been anybody in the Senate who has been more of an advocate for women‘s rights and equal rights and civil rights.  Now, they are going after Ted.  He is one of their best allies.  They ought to apologize to him. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s like what are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes.  The other old expression, Faye, is what have you done for me lately.  John Heilemann, this is interesting, because it is group identity, writ large.  You make a shot when there is a woman candidate for president, a front-runner in this case, another top runner who is African-American, and it is—is this just going to be the environment we live in for the next six months; you take a shot at one of these folks, you are going after a whole community, gender. 

HEILEMANN:  I think that is exactly right.  You are in a situation now where, you know, back in Nevada, they tried to put the race and gender thing back in the bottle and tried to declare a truce.  But the truth is once you let that thing out of the box, the identity politics bogeyman, it is impossible to control it again. 

I do think that the reaction of the NOW people up in New York to the Kennedy endorsement, I agree, is just out of control.  I mean, this is not a candidate in Obama who is in any way against—anti-women‘s issues.  He has not been anti-choice.  Certainly, Kennedy has been one of the great champions of that cause.  He made a choice on the basis that had nothing to do with race or gender.  Now, they are all over him.  I think this is a terrible sign of the kind of politics we are going to look at, at least until this race is settled. 

WATTLETON:  First of all, I don‘t think that the NOW organization is not out of control.  I think they have every right to criticize our friends, as well as to oppose our enemies.  I think that it is really important to recognize that subtle imagery is very, very important and it sends significant messages.  And if we think that race and gender politics do not play a roll in getting presidents elected, I think we are living in a fantasy land.   

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can I be political and suggest a lot of times when this happens—I have no idea what happened here—people in these organizations who are loyal to particular candidates call the other people in the organizations.  They get them excited about something.  they call and say, why don‘t we do something.  Their real motive is for a candidate, but they use the guise of a cause.  Faye, don‘t you think that happens sometimes, that people who are active in organizations get the organizations to act in a way that helps one candidate?  Clearly, this is meant to hurt Barack Obama. 

WATTLETON:  Well, it is—

MATTHEWS:  Clearly. 

WATTLETON:  It is really important to recognize that non-profit organizations cannot get involved in electioneering.  But it is important to recognize that we all, as a part of the Democratic process, non-government organizations as well, can have a say and can say what we think about the candidates across the board. 

MATTHEWS:  It is a free country and it‘s a free country to examine motives, too. 

SCHULTZ:  They declared that Ted Kennedy had abandoned them.  That is absolutely ridiculous.  They should apologize. 

WATTLETON:  That is not what they declared. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes, they did. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s be accurate here.  We will be back with the round table.  Can we show the quote.  Do we have it ready?  Here it is: “women have just experiencing the ultimate betrayal.  Senator Kennedy‘s endorsement of Hillary Clinton‘s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard, the National Organization for Women.”

In other words, supporting anybody but Hillary is a knock at not just Hillary, but all women, is that right?  Is that what we are reading in this. 

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is strong language.  It is strong.  Maybe it‘s true, but it is awful strong.  We will be right back with the round table for more politics fix.  You are watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with the politics fix.  I have to go to Faye Wattleton, who I respect.  Faye, do you think that this was the right kind of language to come out against Ted Kennedy for backing, as the NOW organization in New York said, for backing, quote, Hillary Clinton‘s opponent? 

WATTLETON:  Well, they endorsed Hillary Clinton, so I‘m assuming that anyone who endorses her opponent they would find disagreeable.  The point of all this, however, is that I think that NOW and all organizations and all of us must call on the candidates to speak about issues that are important to win.  Whether he snubs her or doesn‘t snub her may be a signal, a very important imagery signal.  But the bottom line is, what are they going to do for women‘s issues?  What are they going to do about the economy as it affects women?  How are we going to have equal access to health care?  What are the issues about education and the children we want to bring into the world to have a better life. 

Those are the issues that women want to hear about.  Frankly, the landscape is pretty fluid for all these candidates.  We want to hear more.  We don‘t want to just hear coffee clutch.  We‘d like to hear major policy positions from all of them. 

MATTHEWS:  Ed Schultz?

SCHULTZ:  NOW is making almost a statement saying nobody else can address these issues except our organization, and she better be a woman.  I think they are excluding all others.  They almost come across as an extremist organization, instead of an advocacy organization. 

MATTHEWS:  Last word, John Heilemann, what do you think of this endorsement.  Is this the kind of thing that is going to get worn out?  It won‘t have much impact a while if it‘s clear the organization has already endorsed one candidate?  Does its shot at another candidate mean anything at some point? 

HEILEMANN:  Yes, I think these endorsements are pretty heavily devalued.  You‘ll notice that the national chapter of NOW slapped the New York chapter for doing this, because, as Faye was saying, the issues that surround women‘s issues are important issues.  but the way in which that endorsement was framed, it made it sound as though, per se, a woman candidate was better on women‘s issue than any male candidate.  I don‘t think that‘s effective strategy. 

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, lady, thank you.  Faye, thank you.  Ed, thank you.  John Heilemann, thank you.  Join us again at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for a special edition of HARDBALL, right after the last Republican debate before Super Tuesday.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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