updated 2/1/2008 11:59:41 AM ET 2008-02-01T16:59:41

Guests: Dee Dee Myers, Joe Trippi, Terry Jeffrey, Shelly Cohen, Chrystia Freeland, Deroy Murdock, Jim VandeHei

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Five days to the Super Bowl, five days to Super-Duper Tuesday -- 24 states, count them, all vote on the same day, a tsunami of politics.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome to HARDBALL.  John McCain‘s grip on the Republican nomination is getting tighter by the minute.  Today he picked up the endorsement of the most popular Republican who can‘t run for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:   He‘s a great American hero and an extraordinary leader.  And this is why I‘m endorsing him to be our next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  McCain and Mitt Romney battled over timetables in a debate last night.  Was McCain fighting fair?  Was Romney right to call dirty tricks?  HARDBALL‘s David Shuster will be here with the facts in a moment.

And which states are the ones to watch for Super Tuesday?  We‘ll Mapquest it with NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

Plus, a new national poll shows a tightening race—I mean a tight race now—between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama nationwide.  What does it mean for Super Tuesday, when Democrats in 22 states cast their votes?  We‘ll talk to two top strategists about the fight to the finish between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Also tonight: Can John McCain bring true-blue conservatives into his camp?  Can they put their differences aside in order to keep a Republican in the White House?

And all that and more later, in our “Politics Fix.”  But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster is here to deliver the truth and nothing but about last night‘s biggest fight, which I happen to have loved.

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, as you pointed out, the biggest, most contentious part of the debate last night came related to an attack that John McCain has leveled at Mitt Romney over Iraq.  First, here‘s John McCain from this past Saturday in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I understand that Governor Romney has changed his position again, as he has on several other issues.  But my friends, I was there.  He said that he wanted a timetable for withdrawal.  That would have meant disaster.  That would have meant that al Qaeda would now be telling the world that they defeated the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  McCain also went on to say that Romney wanted to wave a white flag and withdraw, the way Hillary Clinton did.  But Romney has never said anything like that.  And last night, Romney accused McCain of dirty tricks.  Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have never, ever supported a specific timetable for exit from Iraq, and it‘s offensive to me that someone would suggest that I have.

By the way, raising it a few days before the Florida primary, when there was very little time for me to correct the record, sort of falls on the kind of dirty tricks that I found Ronald Reagan would have found to be reprehensible.

(APPLAUSE, CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator McCain, tough words.

MCCAIN:  Well, of course, he said he wanted timetable.  “Timetables” was the buzzword for withdrawal.

ROMNEY:  Why don‘t you use the whole quote, Senator?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY:  Why do you insist on not using the actual quote?

MCCAIN:  The actual quote is...

ROMNEY:  That‘s not what I said.

MCCAIN:  ... We don‘t want to lay in the weeds until they leave. That is the actual quote, and I‘m sure...

ROMNEY:  What does it mean?

MCCAIN:  ... fact checkers...

ROMNEY:  What does that mean?

MCCAIN:  It means a timetable until we leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator, let me—let me—let me...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me jump in because the quote that I have...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY:  It‘s not fair.  Is it not fair to have the person who‘s being accused of having a position he doesn‘t have be the expert on what his position is?  How is it that you‘re the expert on my position when my position has been very clear?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  So who was telling the truth on the issue of whether Romney supported timetables or not?  Well, here‘s what Romney told ABC last April.  Quote, “There‘s no question that the president, President Bush, and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn‘t be for public pronouncement.  You don‘t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you‘re going to be gone.”

In other words, when McCain says that Romney supported public timetables, that is false.  Romney did not—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, David Shuster.

Just five days before Super Tuesday, let‘s talk about which states look good for each candidate.  Chuck Todd is NBC News political director.  Chuck, so you imagine...

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  ... you‘re the head right now or the chief campaign adviser to John McCain, and John McCain‘s head, as well.  You‘re in the heads of—in a couple minutes, in the head of Romney and his chief adviser.

Let‘s start with the states you think are good.  I want to read them off.  You are going to be commenting here.  Let‘s take a look at the Republicans.  John McCain‘s best bets for Tuesday, Super Tuesday, are, obviously, his home state of Arizona—there it is over there to the Southwest.  And then look up to those Northeastern states, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut.

Here‘s Governor Romney‘s best bets for Tuesday, as we see it here at NBC—Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, West Virginia over there to the east, Alaska, Colorado, Utah and Massachusetts, where, of course, he was governor.

And now for Governor Huckabee‘s best bet for Tuesday, well, it comes

down to his home state of Arkansas.  What about the toss-ups?  Well, they

include the big enchilada, California, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri

or Missouri, depending where you are—Oklahoma and Tennessee.  You know that east/west thing with Missouri and Missouri.  Let me ask you about...

TODD:  It is.  It is.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about this question, then.  You‘re McCain.  Does he have enough power in those states you‘ve identified for NBC as winners for him, perhaps—Arizona and New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut?  Does that pack enough punch to blow this thing wide open?

TODD:  You know, it‘s close because the amazing thing about those—of his base states is all of them are winner-take-all primaries.  So he‘s going to start 234 new delegates automatically.  They‘re almost automatic bets.  By the way, he has Rudy Giuliani to thank for this because Giuliani got the law changed in the New York Republican primary.  New York used to be a congressional district delegate...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  ... now it‘s a winner-take-all, so literally just, I mean, handed him an extra 70 delegates or so.  So he starts out 234 delegates right off the bat.  We haven‘t even gotten to California, where he leads, Chris.  That‘s a congressional—they deliver the delegates by congressional district, winner take all.  So I mean, even if Romney makes a huge play there, at best he‘s only going to get about, you know, a third or more of the delegates out of California.  So McCain will probably get somewhere between 50 to 65 percent of the delegates out of there.

The way things are going—Missouri is a winner-take-all.  Mike Huckabee, sitting in this race, taking 15 percent of the—you know, getting that strong evangelical vote in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia—well, that‘s just going to move a bunch of delegates McCain‘s way.  He‘s going to get 600 minimum, maybe gets to 700 or 800, if this sort of momentum continues, because those caucus states, these states that we‘ve identified as Romney‘s good states, a lot of them aren‘t even technically giving out delegates that day.  It‘s sort of a guide to when they do give out the delegates.

MATTHEWS:  I see.

TODD:  So Romney‘s got a big delegate problem right now.

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re Romney, just to finish this off, how do you keep yourself in public contention?

TODD:  He needs—I would say he needs to do a couple—obviously, he‘s got to twin both Massachusetts and Utah.  And Massachusetts, Chris, this isn‘t going to be easy for him.  John McCain won the Massachusetts primary against George Bush in 2000.  Massachusetts Republicans are like New Hampshire Republicans.  They‘re like Connecticut Republicans.  These aren‘t these new—you know, the—these Massachusetts Republicans probably wouldn‘t support this Mitt Romney for governor if he were running this conservatively, like he—in 2002, when he ran for governor.

So Massachusetts—he‘s got to be very careful there that he doesn‘t,

you know, only get out with a narrow victory.  But putting that aside, a

win in Tennessee for Romney, a win in Missouri, maybe doing—getting it

really close in California, where there‘s more of an even split on

delegates—that‘s what keeps him in this game, not just sort of

rhetorically so that it gets just another pint of blood to keep going, but

truly would get him in this game because then maybe you dry up Huckabee.  I

mean, that‘s the thing he‘s got to hope for is that not only does he win a

few of these states—Missouri, Tennessee, maybe Illinois, sort of that

being where Romney should focus his efforts—but then hope that the

Huckabee thing fades to the point where he can‘t be a factor anymore.  And

then when he goes on to February 12 or February 19 in Wisconsin, he‘s got -

he can really have a two-man contest with McCain.

MATTHEWS:  What are the odds—well, let‘s take a look at Governor Schwarzenegger and he said today.  It‘s a powerful endorsement, obviously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARZENEGGER:  He has incredible credentials on national security, and of course, he‘s a fantastic, outstanding public servant.  He‘s a great American hero and an extraordinary leader.  This is why I‘m endorsing him to be our next president of the United States.  So let‘s hear it for Senator McCain.  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, great endorsement.  Chuck Todd is going to be staying with us.  In a moment, we‘ll discuss the states that matter for the Democrats.  Wait until you hear this fight that‘s coming up on Super Tuesday for those 22 states that Senator Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are going to be fighting over.

We‘ll also talk to Joe Trippi, late of the Edwards campaign—he was the real spark plug over there until a day ago—and Dee Dee Myers, who knows all about the Clintons.

And later: Will the conservative base support the maverick McCain?  That‘s still in question.  The establishment‘s heading to McCain.  How about the heart-and-soul people?

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back to the look at the Democratic map.  We‘re going to do a little map search here, Mapquest with NBC News political director Chuck Todd.  And I want to get started with that right away.

By the way, here‘s Hillary Clinton‘s best bets.  I‘m going to read them off, then you analyze.  Here‘s her best bets.  These are no surprise, if you think about the sort of nature of the party for Super Tuesday.  They include her own adopted state of New York, the big state of California, New Jersey, which is in the New York media market and the Philadelphia media market, Arkansas, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

Barack Obama‘s best bets for Tuesday are—this is so wild, this list, a lot of these are caucus states—Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Georgia, Alabama, and his home state of Illinois, of course.  And the toss-ups—Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri or Missouri, New Mexico, Tennessee and Utah.

Chuck, you‘re such an expert.  I‘ve come to grow so fond of your brain and your talent.  What is the running theme that advertised (ph) that explains Hillary‘s strength in the country, relatively, and what explains Barack‘s strengths, relatively?

TODD:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Is there a theme there?

TODD:  Well, I mean, you know, we can really simplify it and go, you know, the beer-drinking states versus where there‘s a lot of Starbucks or a lot of lattes being ordered.  That‘s why, for instance, Connecticut—and you and I were having fun with this today.  Connecticut is so fascinating, I think, because it literally is about 50 percent working class Democrats and about 50 percent white wine, latte-drinking Democrats, so...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but Dunkin‘ Donuts people do keep up with the Starbucks crowd up there, from what I know.  When I stop in the highway, it‘s at a Dunkin‘ Donuts.  When I‘m in town, it might be a Starbucks.  It might be.

TODD:  Right.  Right.  So, I mean, you know, that‘s—you know, and of course, always with the added caveat with Obama has always been, Well, here‘s somebody that can mix the—you know, that upscale Democratic primary voter with African-Americans, and therefore create a potential majority coalition in the Democratic Party.  That‘s what makes his candidacy different than Gary Hart or Paul Tsongas or Bill Bradley and why I think we think this things so much more up for grabs than this would be if this were going on sort of Democratic primaries of historical past, so...

And that‘s what brings—probably brings me back to California and what‘s going on there.  What‘s been interesting is that Hillary Clinton is going to spend the next two-and-a-half days in California.  She‘s camping out there.  Barack Obama is going to be there tonight for the debate and then he leaves.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  You know?  And the thing is, is that they seem to have made the

calculation that they‘re going to get 45 percent in California, no matter

what.  If they spend more time there, maybe they get 51 percent, but what

does that get them?  Obviously, if they could win it, they would love to,

but they think that somehow they only could get to 47 or 48, maybe not—

they‘re not quite—they need more time to win over Hispanics.  So

instead, they‘ll take the 44, take that 55/45 delegate split, approximately

maybe they do better than that, maybe they outperform their number a little bit on delegates—and then try to win more states...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  ... so they have that talking point going to them.  So they‘re going—for instance, his schedule already—he‘s going to New Mexico and he‘s going to Missouri.  He really wants to win Missouri, I think, more than anything.  If there were any state out there I‘d pick where the winner is going to have that—just that perception thing going for them, it‘s Missouri—or Missouri—because, frankly, I think that Obama‘s going to carry Missouri and Clinton‘s going to carry Missouri.  And the question is, how many votes are in each one?  And you know, they‘ll split the delegates out of there 50/50.  That‘s not going to be the issue.  But who‘s 51/49?  That‘ll be interesting.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to our experts.  Chuck, thanks a lot for that.  And by the way, we‘ll be seeing a lot of Chuck and hearing from him throughout the big fight between now and Tuesday night.

Here‘s a pair of professionals to talk about the Clinton/Obama fight.  Dee Dee Myers is a former Clinton—actually, presidential press secretary in the White House, and Joe Trippi, a former, until very recently, a former senior adviser for the Edwards campaign.

You come fresh from the field, sir.

JOE TRIPPI, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO EDWARDS CAMPAIGN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The field of battle.

TRIPPI:  I don‘t know how fresh.

MATTHEWS:  I know, but let‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look, by the way, at the newest Gallup poll.  What does this tell us?  The newest Gallup poll—I guess this‘ll be in “USA Today” tomorrow.  Only 4 points separate these two frontrunners now.  Look at that, Hillary Clinton 43, Obama 39.  But yet, if you look at how it‘s tightening since a month—you know, since November, it‘s really something.  I think those numbers are backwards, by the way.  They got the January and November wrong.  No, I‘m sorry, now it‘s correct.  That‘s one month, and it‘s now 4 and it was 20.  So he‘s gone from 20 behind...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... to 4 behind.  What do you make of that, Dee Dee?

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER PRES. CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 

Well, obviously, if that‘s to be believed, Senator Obama has tremendous momentum.  The victory in South Carolina, the Kennedy endorsement and I think some discomfort with President Clinton‘s performance...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MYERS:  ... in the weeks and days leading up to South Carolina have made a lot of Democrats step back and take another look.  And I think—in addition, I think Senator Kennedy has given—given other Democratic leaders, members of Congress and others, the imprimatur to endorse Obama.  I think a lot of people were keeping their powder dry.  Now we‘ve seen a lot of people coming forward and endorsing Obama.

MATTHEWS:  Because of Kennedy?

MYERS:  I think he gives a lot of people cover.  And they feel like if Senator Kennedy can jump in...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, it‘s great to have a Catholic on the show that pronounced the word imprimatur correctly.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not imprimatur or any of that stuff, it‘s imprimatur. 

Go ahead.

TRIPPI:  I think Kennedy‘s endorsement—endorsements don‘t usually matter in these things, but this one really, really matters.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me why the Kennedy magic still holds after all these years, 40-some years since the Kennedy presidency.

TRIPPI:  He‘s a liberal lion in the party, I mean, and I think he‘s—he‘s highly regarded.  I mean, I think people revere him as one of the best senators ever in the party and...

MYERS:  And that‘s part of the key, is that he‘s such a revered senator.  When he says Obama is ready...

TRIPPI:  Right.

MYERS:  ... people listen.

TRIPPI:  That mattered.  I think his ability to reach out to Latinos and Hispanics make a difference there, particularly in California.  It matters a lot.  And I think in Massachusetts—I don‘t think that Massachusetts is necessarily not up for grabs right now.  I know he‘s coming on there.  That would be shocker, if Obama could somehow win there or...

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  ... Kennedy, he has—he has Senator Kerry and the governor, Deval Patrick, as well.  So he has a lot (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but suppose Senator Clinton wins in Massachusetts.  Doesn‘t that break the heart of the Obama campaign, that she can pluck victory right from a state where he‘s got all the endorsements?

TRIPPI:  (INAUDIBLE) down there, so far down, Chris.  I mean, he was -

I don‘t think there was any chance of Obama winning Massachusetts.  All of a sudden, it looks like it could be in play.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch your guy being paid tribute to, John Edwards, by one of the surviving top candidates, Barack Obama, today in Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is our country.  That‘s why we have to address the issue of poverty.  I congratulate John Edwards for his outstanding race and the way in which he identified the forgotten America, that forgotten America that I worked in as a community organizer, that forgotten America that I represented as a Civil Rights attorney, that forgotten America that I fought for as a state legislator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Franklin Roosevelt‘s phrase, “forgotten America.”

Let me ask you about the clout of the Clintons and the charisma of the Kennedys and the charisma of Barack Obama.  Measure the two.  The Clintons have a lot to credit to draw on in the bank, a lot of old friendships.  AS president, he could do favors for mayors, for congresspeople.  I hear that he keeps calling people up and saying, remember what I did for you?  Remember...

MYERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Remember what I—and he has a chit list somewhere of what he owes—people owe him.  That‘s powerful stuff. 

MYERS:  Well, yes.  And I think people do—it‘s not just sort of the relationship of words.  These are relationships of deeds that Bill Clinton has built over many, many, many years, not just as president, but even before he was president.  As governor, he was out helping people, trying to build a national party.  Those—but—but...

MATTHEWS:  Does he have a good memory, Bill Clinton? 

MYERS:  Yes.  Yes.  He has a tremendous memory.  And I don‘t mean for slights necessarily.

MATTHEWS:  I mean for big memory.

MYERS:  He just remembers everything. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, if he got somebody a new 100,000 acres for their college campus or something, whatever he got, they would remember it?

MYERS:  He just remembers—he remembers a lot of details.  That‘s why he‘s great at policy.  It‘s why he‘s great at politics. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, what would he be like on the phone, Dee Dee? 

Was it, hey, Bill, how you doing?  Remember that time?  I know you needed me then.  I need you now.

How would he do it? 

MYERS:  Yes.  Yes.  He might—he might—he might say, look, I need you.  And we have been friends a long time together.  We have worked on a lot of projects together.  Remember the time we got this done, we got that done?

I think he always approaches it from a sort of we got it done together.  But I think the implications are clear.  And I think, when he says, I need you, people listen.  But it‘s important to remember that Bill Clinton is extremely popular in the Democratic base.  But I think a lot of Democrats have complicated feelings about him.  They‘re sort of proud of his accomplishments, but it‘s not just all on the side of ledger.

MATTHEWS:  I know what you‘re saying.  It‘s positive and it‘s complicated and it‘s whatever. 

TRIPPI:  I just want to...

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about John Edwards.  Is he going to endorse? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will he endorse Obama?

TRIPPI:  You know, I think I will let him speak to that.  But I think the one thing he has—no, I will. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think he will? 

TRIPPI:  He—I don‘t—I really don‘t know.  I think—I think—look, I think what he‘s done is he led this party.  I mean, when you look at who was first on all these policies...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, health care was good for him. 

TRIPPI:  Health care, the first one with an economic stimulus package.

I mean, on every—just about everything out there, global warming, he led.  And I think, you know, now Barack Obama moving over or even harder on the...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, he‘s lip-synching him.

TRIPPI:  Lip-synching him on the economic stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TRIPPI:  I think both candidates—you are going to see both candidates doing that going into February 5.  I think that‘s a testament to who he is for. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, who does he like personally?  Does he like Hillary or does he like Obama? 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  Look, he‘s been up there with both of these candidates. 

He...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can we have a beer afterwards and we will work this thing out? 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  No, I‘m not going to speak for him. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

TRIPPI:  I think he went to New Orleans yesterday because he wanted to put one more time front and center the issue of poverty.  And I think that was what he chose to go out doing. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  I think it speaks to who he was, the kind of campaign he ran.  And I think that you‘re going to see, I think, him continue to lead on those things. 

I think, I will tell you what.  I don‘t think there‘s a more coveted endorsement out there right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TRIPPI:  They are both going to want his endorsement.  And I think it will—when you look at what‘s going on in the national polls and how tight this thing is getting, it‘s going to make a big difference. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I know he will think it‘s below him, because he

has ran for president and he‘s been a senator.  But if I think about the

labor movement, and how it‘s had its problems—and you care about it, too

you have cared about it the last 20, 30 years.

Since the ‘40s, it‘s had a hard time organizing people.  If we had a really good secretary of labor in this country, that fought for labor rights, I mean, situs picketing, all this card check neutrality, all the things Democrats say they are for, a really strong secretary of labor, the labor movement might benefit and have a rebound. 

I think it‘s a job, with all his money, he can afford to take four years.  It would be an unbelievable—if he got offered the job. 

TRIPPI:  Well, no one, I think, was out there...

MATTHEWS:  I think labor would be an amazing thing.  Don‘t give it to some second-rater.  Give the labor portfolio to a heavyweight.  That would be so powerful to Democrats. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  No one was out there fighting harder for working people and labor than John Edwards did. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I think it would an amazing decision by Hillary or Obama to do that.  I would love to see a strong secretary of labor. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It would be so great. 

MYERS:  He‘s left—I mean, losing a presidential campaign is really hard.  But I think he left himself in a very classy position. 

And I think it was reflected in the fact that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were talking about poverty today. 

TRIPPI:  Right. 

MYERS:  They both want his endorsement.

TRIPPI:  Exactly. 

MYERS:  And they are both willing to talk about his issues.  And that‘s a credit to him.

TRIPPI:  And I think that‘s—he‘s going to keep pushing that.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  And I think he is going to use that as a leverage to continue to move them more on the issues, not about him personally...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TRIPPI:  ... not the job that you‘re talking about, but how does he continue to make a difference for people.  That‘s what he did in his campaign.

MATTHEWS:  And we have got homeless in every big city in this country, right in front of our face. 

TRIPPI:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Dee Dee Myers.

Thank you, Joe Trippi. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the guy.

(LAUGHTER)

TRIPPI:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  You will find another horse to mount because you are the greatest rider in history. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Who went to die in Florida?  Who likes pistachio nuts and sliced jalapenos?  And who had a big presence in last night‘s Republican debate, without ever actually being in the room? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”:  Giuliani said he‘s going to stay active.  He said he will endorse John McCain, whereas Edwards surprised everyone by saying he will endorse Herbal Essences Fruit Fusion...

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL:  ... volumizing shampoo.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

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

Well, my friend Margaret Carlson displayed the sentiments of many a reporter today with her lead sentence for Bloomberg news, under the headline, “Rudy Exits With a Temper, Mean Streak in Check.”

She writes, “Like millions of New Yorkers, Rudy Giuliani chose to die in Florida.”

Whew.

Now to some snack news.  What energy food do Hillary and Barack like to eat on the trail?  According to a South Carolina restaurateur who often catered their planes, Obama also always requested pistachio nuts and a pack of Orbit gum.  For Hillary Clinton, it was always a thermos of chicken noodle soup and a side of sliced jalapenos. 

Where does Hollywood‘s leading liberal lady stand on the 2008 presidential election?  Well, there she is.  Actress Susan Sarandon, a great actor, tells “TIME” magazine—quote—“There‘s absolutely no reason why a woman shouldn‘t be in that office, the Oval Office, but I‘m not sure about this woman.”

That‘s a surprise.                 

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

Anyone who watched the Republican presidential debate last night held at the Reagan Presidential Library couldn‘t help but notice a certain word, a certain reference, a certain name mentioned over and over again.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ronald Reagan would say lower taxes. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ronald Reagan came with an unshakable set of principles. 

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What Ronald Reagan would do. 

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ronald Reagan. 

ROMNEY:  Ronald Reagan. 

MCCAIN:  Ronald Reagan.

HUCKABEE:  Ronald Reagan.

MCCAIN:  Ronald Reagan. 

ROMNEY:  Ronald Reagan would...

Ronald Reagan would...

Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan.

I think Ronald Reagan would have found to be reprehensible. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like an old typewriter.  That‘s right.  Ronald Reagan dominated last night‘s debate.  How many times did the candidates the 40th president of the United States?  Forty-two times.  That means, every two minutes, they invoked the man who built that house out there, that library, and who rode that plane behind them so many years with glory -- 42 mentions of Ronald Reagan. 

Tonight‘s “Big Number,” that‘s what it was.

Anyway, up next: the conservative base and John McCain.  Will this marriage work? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rallying in the last hour of the day, despite news of a spike in unemployment claims last week and a slowdown in consumer spending in December. 

The Dow Jones industrials surged 207 points, the broad market S&P 500 up 22.  And tech stocks saw a 41-point gain on the Nasdaq. 

After the closing bell, Google reported quarterly earnings that fell short of analyst estimates.  In the after-hours session, Google shares are down 6 percent.                 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA:  Now, talking about a great future, this is the very reason why I am endorsing Senator McCain to be the next president of the United States, because I am interested in a great future.  And I think that Senator McCain has proven over and over again that he is reaching across the aisle in order to get things done. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Amazing guy. 

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That‘s Governor—California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course, endorsing John McCain today.  He joins Texas Governor Rick Perry, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and, of course, former competitor former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, all endorsing McCain.  Will these establishment endorsements sway voters, particularly those conservatives who doubt McCain‘s conservative bona fides? 

Well, Terry Jeffrey is an expert.  He‘s a real conservative, a conservative syndicated columnist and editor in chief of CNSNews.com, which stands for Cybercast News Service.  Shelly Cohen is editorial page editor of “The Boston—Boston Herald,” which has endorsed John McCain. 

That was a joke.  That‘s how you talk up there. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Shelly first.  You guys endorsed—just to get our cards on the table, you folks—in fact, you are the boss in deciding this—have endorsed, I believe, John McCain; is that right? 

SHELLY COHEN, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE BOSTON HERALD”:  Yes, we certainly did, way back before the New Hampshire primary. 

MATTHEWS:  But you are a conservative newspaper; am I right? 

COHEN:  Yes, so identified in last night‘s debate as a very conservative newspaper.  We are anti-tax.

MATTHEWS:  Fairly so?  Fairly so?

COHEN:  Excuse me? 

MATTHEWS:  You really are conservative? 

COHEN:  Absolutely honest and true.  We‘re anti-tax.  We‘re pro-life.  We are pro-defense.  We have been pro-surge.  So, it doesn‘t get much more conservative than that, and especially in a blue state like Massachusetts. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have hit the list, except for immigration reform. 

What else? 

COHEN:  Well, let‘s—let‘s let our...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Campaign reform, campaign spending reform, all the—all the things that drive the conservatives crazy about John McCain. 

COHEN:  Well, let‘s clarify our position on immigration. 

We‘re right up there with “The Wall Street Journal” wing of the party that sees immigration, legal immigration, and safe borders as critical to the growth of American business. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.   

COHEN:  McCain-Feingold, I don‘t know that it‘s ever been a good, solid conservative position to be in favor of corruption.  So, yes, we were in favor of McCain-Feingold, too. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Here‘s Governor Romney attacking John McCain.  This is a new announcement today.  Here it comes, the latest in the fight. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  Every independent voice I have seen has pointed out that what he‘s done is disingenuous and not honorable. 

I think it‘s a mistake on his part.  I think I made that clear last night.  He‘s a fine person, but I think this was a major mistake.  Had he a question about this, he could have raised it any time between April and now.  But to raise it outside of a debate and to do it in a way...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s talking about Nixon tricks there.  I think we heard this last night, dirty tricks, now the reference to President Nixon. 

Is that going to hurt McCain with conservatives, to be called Nixonian? 

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE:  No.

But I think, actually, what he did to Romney in the debate last night will hurt him somewhat, because, you know, Chris, it actually reminded me of Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina debate, the way she characterized what Barack Obama had said about Ronald Reagan to the Reno paper. 

You know, her husband had said it before, but she jumped in, in the debate and said she read the transcript.  She reiterated it.  Anybody who looked at it honestly knew that Obama was making an intellectually honest bit of historical political analysis.  He wasn‘t endorsing Reagan.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this gotcha politics, where you take some old text, and you point to it—let me start with Shelly, because you write an editorial page.

Somebody—one of the candidates, instead of arguing an issue, finds some old document, some old statement they think embarrasses the other guy or the other woman, and then they ream it at them over and over again—ram it at them last night.

I mean, McCain was a Gila monster last night going after Romney with this thing. 

COHEN:  Well, you should...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is this the new politics, the documentary politics?  Is that where we‘re at right now, the biblical exegesis of what somebody said three, four, five years ago? 

COHEN:  Well, there‘s plenty of blame to go around.

If you are privy to the Romney press shop press releases that we get e-mailed to us practically on an hourly basis, the Romney campaign stands guilty of exactly the same kind of thing, and has been at this steadily for months and months and months. 

I don‘t like it.  I‘m sure the McCain campaign doesn‘t much like it.  When—and, when someone has a legislative record, you know, given your experience in the Congress, you know how those things can be twisted. 

So, a lot of twisting is being done on both sides.  I‘m not even sure that that breaks along liberal-conservative lines. 

MATTHEWS:  Hmm. 

JEFFREY:  But, look, Chris, I wish we had a much...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to figure this out, because it seems to me that all the big shots in the Republican Party are finally coming around.  It takes time.  I heard the other day from somebody, there‘s a lot of conservative Republicans are recognizing it‘s going to be McCain. 

And, yet, he‘s got to deal with radio, Rush Limbaugh.  He‘s got to deal with the cultural right.  And he‘s got to deal with the regulars in the party who do the work on Election Day.  McCain still seems to have a big job ahead of him in convincing the inside of the party, not just the top.  Is that true? 

JEFFREY:  I think Rush Limbaugh has done a great job of sticking up for conservatives principles and what conservatives in places where John McCain has been on the other side. 

I was thinking about it today, Chris, why is it that conservatives are so antagonistic against John McCain?  It‘s for this reason; you know, politicians define themselves and movements define themselves by what they fight for.  And almost every single major fight of the last eight or nine years, John McCain was on the other side.  On taxes, he fought against the Bush tax cuts, called them a tax cut for the rich. 

On judges, he said he was for Bush‘s conservative appellate court judges, but he was leader of the Gang of 14, helped the Democrats filibuster those.  On immigration—

MATTHEWS:  Helped them filibuster?   

JEFFREY:  Yes, he did.  He helped them maintain the filibuster on George Bush‘s judges.  On the pro-life cause, he voted for federal funding for embryo killing stem cell research.  When he ran against George Bush in 2000, he opposed the Republican pro-life plank. 

On the Marriage Amendment, he voted against cloture and was against the Federal Marriage Amendment.  And on free speech, which talk radio uses more than anyone else perhaps, he was the guy—

MATTHEWS:  Free speech meaning how much money you can spend in a campaign.

JEFFREY:  It‘s one thing to say we have a problem with corporate interests having inordinate influence on Congress.  I probably agree with John McCain on that.  It‘s another to say that independent groups cannot educate voters about the record of politicians when then go up for reelection.  He made it illegal. 

The First Amendment was designed to protect political speech.  He made political speech in one context illegal. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Shelley for an equal riff on why he‘s conservative, because you did earlier mention that he‘s against political corruption.  He‘s for McCain-Feingold.  Run through some other areas where you believe he‘s a bona fide conservative. 

COHEN:  Well, certainly Pro-life.  The Marriage Amendment, which Terry mentioned, there are solid conservatives, and we consider ourselves among them, who don‘t believe in messing around with the constitution for every issue that comes down the pike.  That‘s a solid conservative position. 

He has a state‘s rights position on a number of issues, including the pro-life positions.  You don‘t dictate to states what you want to do.  And, quite frankly, he was in favor of many of those judicial appointments and he was instrumental in breaking that filibuster, not in carrying on that filibuster.  That‘s an outrageous misstatement of the truth. 

JEFFREY:  Wait a minute.  He was in favor of maintaining a rule that would allow the Democrats to require a 60-vote majority to get a Bush appellate court judge confirmed.  The constitution only—

COHEN:  Did those judges get through? 

JEFFREY:  Look, any conservative who was fighting for those judges, and I was one of them, Chris, we knew that John McCain was effectively on the other side.  In fact, it‘s a standard M.O. for John McCain to rhetorically take the conservative position and effectively help the other side in the battle. 

And on pro-life, John McCain not only says it‘s OK to do medical research that you kill a human embryo, he wants to tax Americans to have the federal government pay for medical researchers who kill human embryos. 

(CROSS TALK)

COHEN:  Have you examined Mitt Romney‘s position on stem cell research?  There has been never been a more tortured position on stem cell research. 

JEFFREY:  I agree with you. 

COHEN:  The bottom line is, actually, conservatives really do want to retain the White House.  And I think some in the movement really need to examine their positions with regard to that issue. 

MATTHEWS:  I hear a difference among the conservative movement.  In fact, there‘s a lot of differences, obviously.  But there‘s the old libertarian idea, less government the better, the Barry Goldwater rule.  Then there‘s the new moral view, which is it‘s the role of government to enforce morality.  You‘re in that crowd.  She‘s in the other.   

JEFFREY:  That‘s not right.  I would say that my views, of all these candidates, on most issues, I share Ron Paul‘s views.  I believe in the Constitution.  I believe in small government. 

(CROSS TALK)

JEFFREY:  I disagree with Ron Paul on his foreign policy.  I think it‘s too simplistic.  But he‘s a lot closer to what traditionally conservatives have believed.  And I think if you ask the most other Republicans candidates on most of the discrete individual issues, they say, yes, I agree with Ron Paul. 

Another one, John McCain said he‘s in favor of small government.  He voted for George Bush‘s No Child Left Behind Act.  That‘s not states‘ rights.  That‘s intruding the federal government into education, a place where the federal government has no Constitution role. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Terry.  It‘s great to have you back.  Thank you, Shelly.  I want to have you on more often.  I like the “Boston Herald.”  I read it every day of the summer when I‘m up there. 

COHEN:  I‘ll have to do better on the accent next time.  Sorry about that, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Boston.  Up next, the politics fix. this is HARDBALL—

HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Here‘s what a lot of people want to know, can you control him? 

CLINTON:  Oh, of course.  You know, there‘s only one president at a time. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “Newsweek Magazine” says this week, flatly, if you‘re elected, it will be a co-presidency. 

CLINTON:  Well, that is not the case. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, maybe it‘s a good idea. 

CLINTON:  Well, no, it‘s not.  I learned that.  I learned that the hard way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, welcome back to HARDBALL.   Time now for our politics fix.  Deroy Murdock writes for the “National Review” online.  Jim VandeHei is with Politico.com.  And Chrystia Freeland is with the “Financial Times of London.”

Let me take a look as some things here.  Let‘s take a look at this.  Here‘s what Hillary said the other night when I asked her about the way Bill Clinton seems to be evolving in his role in this campaign. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, everybody noticed today that President Clinton was very effective, very disciplined, very on message, limited his time when he spoke to about exactly 30 minutes.  Everything seemed to be along the lines that you just described.  Have you got it all reined in? 

CLINTON:  Well, Chris, it‘s my campaign and I take responsibility for my campaign and I‘ve made it very clear to everyone, you know, that we‘re going to stay focused on the agenda that I‘ve set forth for America.  We‘re going to keep talking about the specific plans that I have, because I want to be held accountable. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Deroy, let‘s talk about that.  You were pushing—let‘s see, just to get this official, you were pushing Rudy Giuliani, right, until recently? 

DEROY MURDOCK, “THE NATIONAL REVIEW”:  Pretty much until about 8:00 on Tuesday night, as a matter of fact.   

MATTHEWS:  OK, just for perfect disclosure.  Deroy, let me ask you about Bill Clinton‘s role in this campaign.  It was very busy for a couple weeks.  He seems to have disappeared from the headlines.  Is that going to make people forgive and forget his role of the two weeks before right now? 

MURDOCK:  They may overlook some of it a little bit through Super Tuesday.  But are they going to keep this man locked up in a cave somewhere until November.  And assuming that Hillary Clinton is the nominee and she‘s elected, is she going to keep him locked up in the situation room for four years or eight years? 

He‘s a big guy.  He‘s like a real life version of Baby Huey, and I think it‘s going to be very difficult to keep a guy with that much of an outsized personality under control.  And I think you will have Bubba eruptions, if you will.  I think it will be very hard for them to keep him on a short leash.  It certainly didn‘t work when he was president.  I don‘t think it would work very well with him as first gentleman. 

MATTHEWS:  I haven‘t heard so many animal references since I can remember.  Joan Walsh, from San Francisco—not Joan Walsh, Chrystia Freeland, I‘m sorry to keep changing this.  What do you think about this new Bill, which is the silent Bill of the last couple days? 

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, “FINANCIAL TIMES”:  I think it‘s a reaction to the damage that they‘ve seen that the very loquacious Bill did prior to that moment.  And I think it‘s going to be pretty hard to undo that damage.  You know, for one thing, I think seeing Bill Clinton so active reminded people that there is a constitutional idea called term limits, and those term limits are there for a reason.  And that sort of warm, fuzzy feeling that the Democratic base may have had that it would be great to have Bill back in the White House was maybe not such a good idea. 

I think the other problem for Hillary Clinton with having Bill having been so visible is it pointed to a really tricky thing about her presentation of being the candidate of experience.  And that is that so much of her experience is based on being the First Lady.  And people have to ask, what kind of experience is that really? 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, going after the Clintons.  It was a veiled shot, but discernible. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I know it is tempting after another president named George Bush—this is our second one now—and so I know it‘s tempting to simply turn back the clock, to look backwards and try to build a bridge back to the 20th century. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Jim VandeHei, the impact statement as we go into Super Tuesday of Bill Clinton? 

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM:  I think, clearly, using him so aggressively before backfired.  That‘s no doubt about it.  That‘s why they are trying to quiet him down.  Think about this, if we went into a general election; if he‘s this divisive inside the Democratic nominating process, imagine it in a general election, where there are so many people, especially those independent and swing voters, who are uncomfortable with the Clintons, especially when they think of the Clintons from the 1990s. 

So, the key for Clinton has always been use Bill Clinton effectively.  He can serve as a great surrogate.  He can go out and rally different constituencies.  The problem is the guy is a political animal and he‘s got his very own stern feelings about things.  And when he starts popping off, he grabs headlines, big headlines, especially from the national press corps and that can hurt him. 

I really think it probably played into a little bit of why Kennedy was so aggressive in his endorsement of Obama.  I think at the end of the day, Ted Kennedy always planned on endorsing him.  But the fact that he came out with the thunderous speech saying, you know what, this is a good kind of change.  It sort of took a couple of backhanded slaps at the Clintons.  I think it played into the psychology of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Deroy, do you think Bill Clinton will be a bigger problem if they do reach the general, if Senator Clinton wins the nomination? 

MURDOCK:  I sure do, because right now you have Hillary Clinton there with Obama; Edwards, of course, just disappeared yesterday.  But come the fall, if she‘s the nominee, it will just be Hillary Clinton and whoever the Republicans nominate.  So it‘s going to be 24/7 just the Republican, Hillary Clinton if it‘s her and her husband, and it will be almost three people on stage, if you will. 

He‘s such a big personality.  He‘s so well known.  He‘s extremely gregarious.  And unless they have him sitting down in a studio reading from a teleprompter, he‘s going to ad-lib.  He‘s going to say whatever comes up and pops in into his head.  And as we‘ve seen over the last few weeks, that stuff is very often off script and distracting, and the kind of thing that got Al Sharpton, of all people to say—as an outspoken person, even Al Sharpton said, I know when to be quiet, and suggested that it was time for Bill Clinton to be quiet.  So when somebody talks so much that Sharpton says, you‘ve got to cool, the you have someone who has a bit of a loose-mouth problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Chrystia, this is the conundrum here, the complication, if you ask most people, especially Democrats, if Bill Clinton were constitutionally allowed to run again, there were no term limits, if he could run again this time, most people, I think, on the Democratic side—

Bill Clinton would win the nomination easily.  He would win the general election. 

However, up against all this static we‘re talking about right now, how does it make sense?  If he‘d be a great nominee for the party and perhaps an easily elected president, why is he a bad spouse?  Why is he not helpful there in that role? 

FREELAND:  Well, I think because being the spouse is not an elected office, nor is being the son, for that matter.  And I do think this issue of dynasty and the idea that that establishment, that celebrity that that gives you, that extra boost into the political process, I think people are starting to see that that‘s sort of a problem and that one of the advantaging of term limits is you have a new person, but also a new group of people coming into office.  I think that‘s something that Ted Kennedy alluded to.  And I think that‘s a powerful idea. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I wish we had more time.  We have to go.  I‘m sorry, we‘ve got a short night tonight.  I‘m sorry, Jim, we should have more time with somebody like you.  But sorry Jim VandeHei of “Politico,” Deroy Murdock.  Thank you Chrystia Freeland.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  See you then.

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

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