updated 2/5/2008 11:47:02 AM ET 2008-02-05T16:47:02

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter, Eugene Robinson, Dana Milbank

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The Patriots were favored, too.  Obama 49, Clinton 46.  Opinion Research for CNN, Keith number: 9.5.  Obama: 41, Clinton: 41, CBS, Keith number: 19.  Clinton: 45, Obama: 44, Gallup, Keith number: 10.  The Super Tuesday so close now the Obama camp is lowering expectations.  The candidates, after three ifs and a then about New Jersey, not so much lowering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We will win all across this nation on Tuesday.  We will win the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Win or lose: Senator Clinton‘s already losing her voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, if you‘re ready for change, I am ready to lead and with your help we will make history tomorrow.  Thank you all so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The new math of Super Tuesday: Why your landslide over

here is worth less than my squeaker over here.  The Republicans continue do

the lemmings bet and the cliff is looming.  John McCain loses his temper

and he worries me says, Senator Cochran.  And the candidate himself -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know the difference between a lawyer and a catfish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  OK.  And McCain becomes a victim in Worst Persons. 

Comedian Rush Limbaugh on a prospective McCain ticket with Senator Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO ANCHOR:  Lindsey Graham certainly close enough to him to die of anal poisoning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As evidence by that, you think we‘re stupid?  Fifty-eight percent of the British think Sherlock Holmes really existed, and 23 percent think Winston Churchill did not.  And as the candidates race to claim something of the greatest Super Bowl ever, well, sir, too bad nobody started to tell you about the Giants and them fourth quarter comebacks say, six weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Eli Manning has eight of them already with three games to go in his fourth season.  There could yet come a day Eli Manning is the grand old man of NFL quarterbacks.  The greatest Giant of them all and we look back at the first hint.  All those fourth quarter comebacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening, this is Monday February, 4th, 274 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Twenty years ago, not a single state had cast a single vote in a presidential primary by the 5th of February, and no Super Bowl have ever been played later than January 31st, yet tomorrow is Super Bowl parade day, Super Tuesday and just for good measure: Fat Tuesday.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: An epic Democratic race across 22 states apparently tightening so quickly that the camps of both candidates are tonight tamping down expectations.  Senator Obama campaigning this afternoon in New Jersey at the Meadowlands complex hope (ph) happens to be the home of the Super Bowl championship New York Giants.  Coincidence, actually scheduled no later than Saturday.  The senator is saying, quote, “Sometimes the underdog pulls it out.  You can‘t always believe the pundits and prognosticators.”  But is he the underdog tonight or the favorite?  By the end of his speech the Illinois Democrat raising qualified expectations about his own campaign, higher still.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If you want to keep the dream alive for those who still hunger for justice and still thirst for opportunity, then, I promise you this, we will not just win here in New Jersey.  We will win all across this nation on Tuesday.  We will win the nomination.  We will win the general election.  And you and I together, we will change this country and we will change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today‘s change, a surprising endorsement for Senator Obama from the actor, Robert de Niro.  Even the Secret Service agents were said to be excited.  You stumping for me?  You stumping for me?

Senator Clinton meanwhile, as if she had claimed - found her voice during a New Hampshire primary battle today, she seemed to have lost it anew back on the campaign trail in New England.  No insult meant.  The term is used literally.  The senator‘s voice giving out at a campaign event at Yale.  It comes and goes, she said, sipping water to control the cough.  The same might be said of her lead in the national polls, Senator Clinton losing ground to Senator Obama in a new Gallup poll.  For “USA Today,” the two now virtually tied 45 percent, 44 percent, our Keith number: 10 percent.  Similar snapshots across the board: CBS News, Clinton: 41, Obama:

41 percent, the Keith number: 19 percent.  Opinion Research for CNN: Obama:

49 percent, Clinton: 46, Keith number: 9.5.  By the time Senator Clinton hit Worcester, Massachusetts this afternoon, a Kennedy country, she was again losing her voice and again borrowing her rival‘s message of change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I believe with all my heart that America‘s best days are ahead of us.   And if we are determined to chart that new course there is no stopping us.  So, are you ready for change?  Are you ready for the kind of future you deserve to have?  Well, if you‘re ready for change, I am ready to lead and with your help we will make history tomorrow.  Thank you all so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Possibly, the big history we made at California will look there in depth in a second.

First: Let‘s call upon our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine.  He‘s joining us tonight from Hartford.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Big answer first.  Who is the Democratic favorite to have the most productive day tomorrow or is there no favorite?

WOLFFE:  You know, there really isn‘t a favorite anymore and if you look at the trajectory over the last couple of weeks, that‘s a pretty extraordinary development.  These polls are evenly balanced.  You can find polls that put Obama up.  Of course, national polls that put—many more polls that put Clinton up.  But it‘s interestingly impossible to tell.  We‘ve seen favorites before of Obama coming out of Iowa, Clinton coming out of Nevada, and it‘s all stopped suddenly.  So, you‘ve got to be a brave person to predict the favorite right now.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Predict retroactively.  Is there any way that before that Kennedy endorsement last week that Senator Clinton would have had to spend the day before Super Tuesday campaigning in Massachusetts and Connecticut?

WOLFFE:  You know, these battlegrounds really tell you a lot about what the campaigns are thinking, what they‘re fearing, and there are many Hillary Clinton supporters I know who are worried, deeply troubled by the pace in with which Barack Obama has caught them up.  And, yes, those territories, those states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, were some of the strongest places that Hillary Clinton laid out the foundations of her campaign.  It wasn‘t so long ago that Clinton was up 20, 30 points in Connecticut.  Massachusetts was the Clintons best state through the ‘90s.  So, that‘s the tremendous performance from Obama but of course, we just don‘t know how these late breaking voters is again will fallout in the next 24 hours.

OLBERMANN:  And of course, that changes the entirety of the expectation game not just for her but also the Obama campaign.  Are they once again perhaps on some sort of dangerous ground because Senator Obama is expected to perform tomorrow better than he was expected to perform last week or last month?  To some degree, has he lost his underdog status already?

WOLFFE:  You know, I don‘t think he has.  But the speed with which this is moving really does make your head spin and they are trying—the Obama campaign are trying to tamp down expectations here.  But really they have still a hill to climb.  And take a look at California, for instance, it would still be an upset for him to win in California.  It would still be a problem for the Clinton campaign to lose in California.  In actual fact, the delegate count is probably going to be split pretty evenly between these two campaigns.  But there‘s a psychological element to winning especially some of these big states.  And that‘s what they‘re all playing around with, with the expectations.

OBLERMANN:  When we‘re down to opposite members of the same marriage-endorsing opposite candidates in this as we‘ve seen twice with the Rangels and we‘ll get to in the moment, the Schwarzeneggers.  Obviously, the Schwarzeneggers, this half, the male side of that went for a Republican.  What happened, the endorsements are obviously important.  What happened to a Bill Richardson endorsement?  We know he watched the Super Bowl with Mr.  Clinton yesterday.  What happened to Senator Edwards?  Are there chances of those endorsements to come through now likely after Super Tuesday?

WOLFFE:  Yes, they are likely after.  But remember, if you‘re a big endorsement and you‘re out there, this race is going to go on for another month.  You want to have the attention lavished on you.  Maybe it‘s a bargaining chip.  You‘re looking for a better job in the next administration.  So, the attention is going to be welcomed for these people.  But in the end, unless they‘re going to look really sort of calculating about which way the wind blows, they‘re going to have to come out in the next month or so and that‘s going to be a big thing because remember, look at the impact the Kennedy endorsement had.  It can really shift a dynamic of a very finely balanced race.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and Newsweek in the Hartford, New Britain Bristol, Connecticut metroplex tonight.  Thank you, sir.

WOLLFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As Senator Clinton was covering New England, her husband, the former president made last-minute spend the days on 3,000 miles to the west, making last minute appeals to California voters where some 441 delegates are on the line.  If Robert de Niro was today‘s surprise, celebrity endorsement for Senator Clinton‘s opponent, Senator Obama, and yesterday was Stevie Wonder appearing at a rally at UCLA‘s Pauley pavilion.  Polls tightening in California, Clinton: 43 percent, Obama: 43 percent, Keith number: 13.4 in the latest Zogby poll for Reuters and C-SPAN.  The surprise endorsement in California, perhaps the greatest impact might come from the one that came from Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, niece of President Kennedy and both Senators Kennedy, joining BFF Oprah Winfrey at the same UCLA event after an introduction from Michelle Obama.  Ms. Shriver, apparently wavered until the last minute telling the audience she had not decided until that morning, arriving straight from her daughter‘s equestrian event, no make, her hair unbrushed.  California‘s first lady likening Senator Obama to the Golden State itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY OF CALIFORNIA:  And the more I thought about it, I thought if Barack Obama was a state, he‘d be California.  I mean, think about it.  That‘s right.  I mean, think about it.  Think about it.  Diverse, open, smart, independent, bucks tradition, innovative, inspiring, dreamer, leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBLERMANN:  Let‘s bring in our own Jonathan Alter if he wishes to follow that.  He‘s of course senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine.  Jon, good evening.  Well, we‘ll skip the imagery for a moment, now, how Governor Schwarzenegger feels after hearing his wife said that about some other guy from the other party.  But the polls, the Shriver endorsement, the star festival out there for Obama.  I have this - there‘s no reason for it question last week, was California in play.  Is California in play tonight?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Oh, very much.  But, you know, it‘s not likely that Obama is going to win there.  I mean, it‘s pretty stacked against him and the Clintons have been out there so many times, literally hundreds of time.  If you go back far enough, there is a tremendous positive feeling about the Clintons there.  There are tremendous number of Latino voters with whom Hillary is very strong.  It‘s 60 percent women.  That‘s Hillary‘s base.  So, they can cut into her base.  In this event with Maria Shriver and Caroline Kennedy and Oprah—that really was very effective in cutting into her base - but let‘s remember that the odds still favor the Clintons out there.

OLBERMANN:  Was that event sort of symbolic of all of these in the entire campaign?  I mean, look, you‘ve got the last-minute decision.  It‘s split Kennedy family dynamics.  Robert Kennedy, Jr. is on the air at least in New York with ads for Hillary Clinton.  So, we have that branch going over in the other direction.  They‘re a split Schwarzenegger family dynamics.  The drama of both of these announcements, so hers today, and Senator Kennedy last week, does this pretty much sum up the entirety?  Is this sort of symbolism for this entire Democratic race right now?

ALTER:  Strange bedfellows.

OBLERMANN:  Yes, something like that.

ALTER:  The Maria Shriver endorsement is particularly important out there.  She‘s a popular first lady and I think in that sound byte we‘d just saw, she‘s summed up the way California sees itself.  California likes to think of itself as living in the future, being on the cutting edge and they do have a weakness for things that are nearing (ph).  So, it may be that you know, they caught a comet by the tail on this and that could pull Obama through. That‘s what making this (INUADIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  What is a win for him there?  It is a number of delegates, it is a percentage of the vote, it is an actual I carried the state 51-49 or any one of the above?

ALTER:  Any one of the above.  They will spin it whatever ways it‘s most favorable to them.  Because he was so far behind and he is not expected to win, a loss for her there as James Carville, her biggest supporter you know, said on THE TODAY SHOW yesterday, would be very serious.  A loss for Obama wouldn‘t be.  Because overall, Super Tuesday is going to be a mush ball.  You know, when, nobody is going to come out with enough delegates to be nominated.  Hillary Clinton thought she would put Obama away on Super Tuesday.  It ain‘t going to happen.  It‘s on to the next round and the one after that.  The likelihood of this going for months and months and being decided by superdelegates I think is considerable at this point.

OLBERMANN:  Are woman are key in California and presumably everywhere but this was the quote from Governor Schwarzenegger chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, who‘s not a Kennedy, but is a Democrat and a Clinton supporter.  She worked with your colleague, Kevin Boswell (ph), there is a time honored truth that women are our own worst critics, women are held to a higher sometimes impossible standard in politics, in business, in media, in life especially by other women.  Is that a Clinton surrogate trying to guilt trip women wanting who want to vote for Obama?

ALTER:  That would be a yes.  But you know, what happened in New Hampshire was I think is women understandably felt like they didn‘t want to see Hillary Clinton humiliated.  If she‘d lost New Hampshire big that would have been it for her.  And they have enough respect and admiration for her that they didn‘t want to see that happen.  That‘s not really in play right now.  You know, she‘s not in danger of being humiliated.  She‘s just in danger of being beat.  I mean, the history is not really on her side here because there is not a strong history of women voting for other women strictly on the basis of gender.  There almost no elections that have been determined on that basis.  And then, they also have these two women governors and a woman senator who are you know, doing ads all over Super Tuesday states trying to say, look, you don‘t have to you know, necessarily go for Hillary if you are a woman.  So, that‘s the Obama campaign‘s effort to cut into Hillary‘s base.  Of course, the Clinton folks are making an effort to cut into Obama‘s base with young people and African-Americans.   And what so fun about this, Keith, is that it is so multifaceted, there are so many dimensions.  Even in California alone, you have 51 congressional districts.  You have to have a PhD in math to figure out how the delegate selection process is going to play out.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I bombed out in math in the 12th grade which we‘re going to address in the next segment.  Not my math history but the problems that we have tomorrow.  It is like one of those old editions of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” where a guy comes out has 50 different plates spinning on top of poles to try to figure out what‘s going to happen tomorrow.  So, it should be more than interesting.  Jon Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, as always, thanks for coming in.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OBLERMANN:  And be sure to tune into MSNBC for complete coverage of all the results and headlines from Super Tuesday.  I will be anchoring alongside Chris Matthews, Lester Holt with our exit pollings and our usual cast of thousands, our primetime coverage kicks off at 6:00 eastern, 3:00 pacific.

For Super Tuesday, as Jon suggested, do the math.  First time a television network has ever asked you to bring a calculator with you to watch our election coverage.  We will walk you through the numbers and to hear the lunatic fringe taught, his numbers are 666.  A nationwide plead today, to not vote for John McCain on Super Tuesday tomorrow.  Are the Republicans preparing to commit party suicide?  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It will be the closest thing this nation has ever seen to a national presidential primary.  It will make all we have seen on the primary season thus far look like the last time you and your class elected hall monitors in the second grade.

Meantime: Republican rebellion, the fury against John McCain from comedian, Rush Limbaugh and the lunatic fringe now degrading into discussions of quote, “Back stabbing” and quote, “Anal poisoning,” unquote.  Is part of the GOP held bent for a third party candidate?  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Math: Hard.  Winner-take-all: Easy.  General election:

Easy.  Democratic primaries with delegates awarded proportionately by district - that‘s trigonometry.  On our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN:

Super Tuesday requires us to give you a super walk through about all this but one promise, there will not be a quiz.  In most of the 22 states with Democratic primaries and caucuses tomorrow, 35 percent of each state‘s delegates are apportioned based on the statewide popular vote.  It doesn‘t matter where you cast it.  It doesn‘t matter where it‘s counted.  But the remainder: 65 percent of the delegates are awarded based on the vote within each Congressional district and that means, anomalies can result like Clinton winning the popular vote in a given state but actually receiving fewer delegates than Obama which as we saw actually happened in the Nevada caucuses.  And to that, the issue of bonus delegates which our own David Shuster will explain presently.  On the Republican side: Nine states are winner-take-all; making a lopsided victory for one candidate, presumably, the guy on the left, possible, even likely.  We‘ll turn now to MSNBC correspondent, David Shuster, he‘s in Chicago tonight.  David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, we begin by explaining the delegates on the Democratic side are proportioned essentially in line with the popular vote, but there are important caveats like bonus delegates not to be confused with superdelegates.  Alright, what the hell are bonus delegates?

SHUSTER:  Well, you start, Keith, with the idea that there are 153 delegates up for grabs here in Illinois, 370 in California.  And as you mentioned, they are apportioned by Congressional district.  What gets so confusing and when you get in to bonus areas is that Congressional districts may have three delegates in play.  Here in Chicago, for example, there are a couple of Congressional districts where there are eight.  So, imagine the scenario in a Congressional district with three delegates at stake.  If I‘m the candidate, I get 51 percent and you‘re my rival, you get 49.  Under that scenario, I get two delegates and you get one.  There is no dividing a delegate in half.  Now, imagine a Congressional district that‘s slightly larger with four delegates at stake.  Again, same breakdown 51 for me, 49 to you, there you have the split two to two.  But imagine if the split is much bigger.  Suppose, I get 62 percent, you get 38 percent.  A 24-point spread.  The vagaries of the math are such that even under that 24 points spread, the delegates with four at stake are still politic two to two, because to get into this bonus area that we are talking about, you‘re talking about 63 percent of the popular vote.  If I break 63 percent then, that is when you start getting bonus delegates.  Out of four at stake I would get three, you would get one.  Now, imagine a Congressional district where there are five at stake.  Again, if it‘s close, 51 to 49 in a popular vote, three delegates will go to winner, the loser would get two.  So, again, to break into this bonus area, you‘re talking of breaking past the 63 percent threshold or in some cases 65 percent in order to pick up that extra delegate.

OLBERMANN:  And, thus, superdelegates would become even more vital to a certain candidate in this construction of mathematics?

SHUSTER:  Yes.  That‘s right, Keith.  Because assuming that the delegate count is roughly the same.  Suppose it‘s only a difference of between 50 to 75 or 100 at the end of tomorrow night.  Keep in mind, there are nearly 800 superdelegates, these are elected Democrats, these are party officials.  They can do whatever they want.  They can make up their mind right before the convention.  They can change their mind.  And that‘s 40 percent, 40 percent of the total that somebody needs to win the nomination.  So, for example, suppose Hillary Clinton gets 500 of the 800 superdelegates and Barack Obama gets 300.  That is a 200-delegate spread.  That is significant when you‘re talking about the elected delegates tomorrow being within 50 or 75 or 100.

OLBERMANN:  Now that we understand that this is more complicated than basketball or football salary caps, what kind of strategic risks have the campaigns had to take given the complexity of the math about awarding delegates and particularly, the Clinton campaign, their decision to put less resources - little resources even in the seven caucus states, was that a wise one?

SHUSTER:  Well, the Clinton had to make some tough choices because they are now getting trounced financially in terms of the money that‘s being raised by the Obama campaign.  So, they‘ve got to some difficulty choices they‘ve had to make.  Obama can put his resources all over the place.  Barack Obama is expected and has done better in the sort of the caucus environment.  So, look for him to do well with the caucuses tomorrow.  The thing is though with the caucuses is that the delegate math is much more predictable for the Clinton campaign.  So, they‘re essentially putting their risks in some of these primary states with the idea that they can pick up delegates a lot easier in the states where the math is complicated than in some caucus states where Barack Obama is expected to do well and the Clinton campaign has a pretty good idea of how well he‘s going to do and how poorly she may do.

OLBERMANN:  And just to throw some numbers on the fire, all we know about the Clintons and money raising in January is that they were more than $10 million, they won‘t say how much.  MSNBC‘s David Shuster at Chicago, we will talk to you tomorrow night.  Great thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Knock, knock.  Who‘s there?  Orange.  Orange who?  Orange

you glad comedian Rush Limbaugh just made his third reference to anal

poisoning in the last 13 months?  This time about two Republican senators

But first: The latest headlines breaking from the administration‘s 50 other scandals—Bushed.

Number three: Wrong war-gate.  Did you know there was also a surge in Afghanistan last year?  According to the international stabilization force in Afghanistan, attacks on American and international troops there up between 20 and 33 percent from 2006.

Number two: Commission-gate.  Another nugget falls out of the previews of Philip Shenon‘s book on the 9/11 Commission.  As national security adviser prior to 9/11, Shenon writes of Condoleezza Rice, quote, “Whatever her job title, Rice seemed uninterested in actually advising the president.  And instead, she wanted to be his closest confidante, specifically on foreign policy, and to simply translate his words into action.”  Ew.  Just ew.

And number one: Civil liberties-gate.  No matter how paranoid you may get about Mr. Bush infringing on your privacy by speeches used of terrorism threats, there‘s always the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board established by the 9/11 Commission to look out for you.  Except the terms of the original members of that board expired last Wednesday and so far, the president hasn‘t nominated anybody to replace them.  That‘s right.  The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has no members.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On this date 100 years ago Gordon Frazier was born. He is not a household name in American journalism, but he should be. He was a World War II correspondent for ABC; he was the first news report, all-star news in 1951 and being one of the creators of the landmark NBC news report.  It was Frazier who was the guy who did the on camera announcing at the first public demonstration of TV at the New York‘s World‘s Fair in 1939.  For some reason the guy presiding over it got all the publicity. That was President Roosevelt.

Let‘s play “Oddball.” We begin in Italy where hundreds of people gather every year to reenact the overthrow of an evil 12th century nobleman who didn‘t like oranges. They also throw hundreds of oranges at each other.  The tradition dates back to 1930 when the local girls would throw arranges at the local boys to get their attention. Because nothing says I love you quite like getting smacked in the head with a pound of pulpy goo. Plus the added bonus of citric acid in your eye. Ow, ow, ow.

To London, where this guy, Raymond Green, was just found guilty of stealing nearly $500,000 from his 97-year-old mother, left her penniless.  He spent it all on himself and his wife Simone. Simone was found not guilty, but she bolted from the courthouse anyway and went literally hiding from the cameras. She resorted to the head-on approach. Up close and personal. The camera man thus getting the rare experience of understanding how Tom Brady felt last night.

John McCain under attack by Fox noise and by Rick Santorum and by comedian Rush Limbaugh. The idea the Republicans could split into two parties this fall no longer seems like science fiction.

You were the life of your Super Bowl Party, right, because you told your friends what I said about Eli Manning and those fourth quarter comebacks and you didn‘t trust me? These stories ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three best persons in the world. No. 3: Best blooper from the Associate Press report on the $150,750 contract that Johan Santana signed with the New York Mets.  It represents the second highest annual salary, but only the fourth highest overall contract or package given to any big leaguer.

Quote, “the only player with larger packages are”—sorry. I‘m skipping the rest of that sentence.

                Number two, best decaying educational system, England‘s. Surprised it

is not ours? They have more history to get wrong.  58 percent of Britons

say in a survey Sherlock Holmes actually existed, even though he didn‘t. 

47 percent believe Eleanor Rigby from the Beatles song was real, and 23

percent believe that the Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a fictional

character.

No. 1 best interplanetary image: NASA‘s Mar‘s explorer “Spirit.” There may or may not be life on Mars, but the Explorer has discovered a big smiley face, 134 miles across. Some suggesting this is proof there was life there once.  As the dying civilization spent its last breath building a large smiley face so we‘d all know they were there, and to say to us through millions of years and millions and millions of miles of space, have a nice day! 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The most shrill voice defending President Bush is now telling his listeners they must not vote for John McCain tomorrow on Super Tuesday. Our third story tonight what does he do if McCain wins anyway?  What do those shrill elected Republican voices do, like teenagers buying a ticket for “Friday the 13th.” They are simply imaging the horror of the possibility of a presidency of John Sidney McCain III.

Well much has been made of his bipartisanship, those who work with him, Republican senators have till now been sparing in their praise, quote a lot of people would have to recalibrate their attitudes toward John.” Senator Robert Bennett. “John was very rough in the sand box. He hasn‘t built up a lot of goodwill” from former Senator Rick Santorum. And last week‘s seeming to the McCain‘s propensity for f-bombs, “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” And perhaps most terrifying of all his jokes, this one today just after praising South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham‘s work as a navy lawyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:   You know the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a scum sucking bottom dweller, the other is a fish. And so there goes the lawyer vote again. But thank you all for, I thank all of you for being here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I thank Eugene Robinson, “Washington Post” columnist and associated editor for being here and following that. It is good to see you in the flesh.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The temper allegation that was mad in there is that the one that is actually of substance?

ROBINSON:  I think that is the one we ought to be concerned about. You don‘t want the guy with the finger on the button to have a temper problem.  You don‘t want the button anywhere near him. We ought to listen to that an evaluate what his colleagues in the senate say.

OLBERMANN:  Is that a temper, temper or is that a Joe Biden detonates and pulls everything back together temper? Is that a long lasting thing?

ROBINSON:  There are grudges against John McCain that have lasted a long time and he seems to have held some grudges a long time. It is more enduring than a flash point and it is all over.

OLBERMANN:  Why this ferocious backlash against him? A, he might be their nominee. It looks like 50 percent of the party‘s strong men are opposed to him. Are they thinking going Teddy Roosevelt? George H.W. Bush is going to come out of retirement and run for president? And if he likes to sing, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. What could they ask for more than that?

ROBINSON:  You would think that would be enough. I think most of his detractors will come around. They are Republicans. They will eventually get in line. They will swallow hard. Some may not. He is not, in their view, been a reliable Republican. People forget that he was critical of George Bush, sided with the Democrats a number of times during the first five or six years of the Bush administration. He has positions on campaign finance and a bunch of other issues that are just anathema to the Republican base.  Some of them just don‘t like the guy.

OLBERMANN:  On one of those issues that did not register with McCain like say the economy. No matter what he is saying about I never really said. He said I don‘t understand the economy.

ROBINSON:  He said it.

OLBERMANN:  Who would set those agendas in a McCain administration?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, that is a very good question. I can‘t imagine he wants a Democratic-controlled Congress to set the agenda on all those issues. You look at his campaign Website, he does have positions on issues, for example, global warming. He thinks it is real. He thinks it is a problem. But is he really going to engage in these issues? He keeps saying he is going to reach across the fence and work with Democrats. Maybe we should take him at his word.

OLBERMANN:  He has done that already with one ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman. But he has him; he has Rudy Giuliani who has Democratic tendencies that they never cleaned out of him. What would a McCain cabinet look like especially if somehow the Republicans went and boycotted him and ran some loser third party candidate of their own?

ROBINSON:  Well, I don‘t think they are going to do that but I think number one, a McCain candidate could be weird. He goes around talking about these titans of industry, for example. The guy who founded FedEx and Wal-Mart and UPS. He is big on delivery companies and keeps making the analogy, the example he uses is FEMA didn‘t know where it trailers were going. FedEx knows where every package is so we ought to get some of those guys in and run it. He thinks it absolutely positively has to get there overnight and he is going to make it happen.

OLBERMANN:  My dear friends your refund check will be there in three days or you get your money back. Eugene Robinson, of the “Washington Post” we will see you across the street for Super Tuesday coverage tomorrow night.

ROBINSON:  I‘m in training right now.

OLBERMANN:   Meanwhile, in Super Bowl coverage, Giants say to Patriots, I drink your milk shake. I drink it up.

From worst person‘s comedian Rush Limbaugh has been driven out of his capsule. Him and John McCain and Lindsey Graham and what Limbaugh calls quote anal poisoning. Next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, today‘s worst persons in the world with a brief reminder. The Super Bowl is an omen for Super Tuesday. Among those making a prediction only  Senator Clinton even got it close to being right.

First, the bronze to Chris Wallace of “Fixed News” who is just hemorrhaging credibility now, interviewing Senator Clinton yesterday telling her how the Iraqis “have passed a law to allow some Sunnis back in the government. Clearly there are a lot of problems but why are you so determined to declare defeat”? I wish she would have answered, Chris, when did you start selling out to the Republicans. Also Chris you might want to keep on top of that news stuff. The law to allow at least some of the Sunnis back in the government, Iraqis says it will likely expel more Sunnis from government.

Just to prove that Wallace is an equal opportunity fraud his producers promised Senators Clinton and McCain they would not appear on the air simultaneously yesterday and then proceeded to trick them into doing so.  McCain especially furious about it.

The runner-up, Bill Bennett of CNN, apparently surprising those for whom he works for as an election analyst by donating the maximum legal amount $2,300 to the campaign of John McCain. Even though as recently as the day after last week‘s Republican debate he insisted he wasn‘t defending McCain on the air and said, I don‘t have a candidate. I haven‘t endorsed anybody. Just the $2,300 bucks. He probably just lost a bet.

Our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh, the self-confessed right wing water carrier, may soon run out of right wing, his campaign against John McCain going to screech like levels today demanding that his listeners not vote for him tomorrow, and insisting McCain‘s plan is to get even with Republicans for defeating him in South Carolina in 2000 plus this on-air remark that has half the Republicans enraged. Talking about possible McCain running mates, it is not going to be Lindsey Graham. He said of the South Carolina Republican Senator. Look, I may be wrong. I don‘t know. Lindsey Graham is certainly close enough to him to die of anal poisoning.

In the last 13 months this is comedian‘s third use of what appears to be this phrase he created “—consider the Limbaugh obsession with scatology. Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world! 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As the presidential candidates try to cash in on the Super Bowl excitement and Dana Milbank joins us in a moment to cash in on them cashing in. Our number one story, wow, what a game, nobody could have predicted that. Right? Who was that guy on the football show six weeks ago?  Now remember this. John Elway used to be overrated. Joe Montana wasn‘t worth spending a second round draft choice on, Brett Favre couldn‘t beat out Billy Joe Toliver for a back up job. The one thing is true of all of them even when their NFL careers were questionable things, is they engineered a lot of impressive comebacks.

In his first four seasons Elway managed to snatch victory in the fourth quarter 11 times, Favre did it nine times in his first four seasons.  Montana six. And Eli Manning who two weeks ago against the Bears looked as if he was about 35 seconds to losing his job to Jarrett Lorenzen, Eli Manning has eight of them already with three games to go in his fourth season. This could point to a quarterback in progress, a learning curve where you can‘t get the key into the lock until you scratch the door a dozen times.

If we pitched as hard as we do when we are not in trouble we wouldn‘t get in trouble in the first place. There could come a day when Eli Manning is the grand old man of NFL quarterbacks, the greatest giant of them all.  We look back at the first hint, all those fourth quarter comebacks. Uh-huh.

Just in case my point from December 16 was not specific enough, my official prediction, more than a week ago, Giants 27-21based on Eli Manning‘s ability to create fourth quarter comebacks. Comebacks. Plural.  Giants trailed 7-3 in the fourth and almost entirely through their own spotty execution and the first touchdown pass of the season by Manning to David Tyree, 10-7 New York. The Patriots actually functioned just long enough to go back for two minutes left and then Manning did it again.

The new nickname is Houdini; you missed me, hits Tyree on the numbers on his helmet. An impossible play to set up the game-winning toss to Plaxico Burress. Giants 17, not so undefeated Patriots 14, Manning now have 11 fourth quarter comebacks in four seasons. Probably should have been 24-10 or maybe 31-10.

And nice job by Fox. In the most watched Super Bowl game ever of giving us absolutely nothing on Tom Brady‘s ankle. He was so hurt I could see it from my house. He couldn‘t pivot his foot, he couldn‘t plant correctly and his throws were at least 10 percent shorter and 25 percent slower and they told me nothing about it.

Now to the politics of this. Willard Mitt Romney the former Massachusetts governor e-mailed Tom Brady this past Saturday, Brady who is not endorsing anybody responded kindly. Romney joked that he sent Brady some plays. Explaining why Brady was sacked five times.

New York Senator Clinton and adopted Giants fan watched the game in Minnesota and told the Associated Press, Super Bowl, Super Tuesday, we have one down, let‘s get the other. This as her husband watched the game in New Mexico with the former Governor Bill Richardson, possibly asking Richardson for an endorsement and then would you please pass the guacamole.

And if you live in a Super Tuesday state between the ads featuring dancing lizards and floats, you saw an ad from Barack Obama who by the way, oops, backed the Patriots.

Joining me now Dana Milbank, author “Homo,” national political reporter at the “Washington Post” who did not have a rooting interest last night other than seeing a quality effort from Paula Abdul.

DANA MILBANK, “WASHINGTOB POST:”   It was disappointing.

OLBERMANN:  The debate all last week. Does a candidate spend $2 million, buy an ad nationwide. Obama didn‘t exactly do that. Did he do it creatively enough to stand out?

MILBANK:   No. He should have had Hillary Clinton‘s heart jumping out and running around. He didn‘t do that. But he did get away with it. All he spent was $250,000. It had the appearance of a big deal. We have a nice contrast. He had that and Hillary Clinton buying time on the Hallmark channel. So we have flashy and schmaltzy.

OLBERMANN:   I don‘t think the ratings were similar. I‘m just guessing. I think the net worth is probably different. Here is something I don‘t think anybody would have anticipated. The Giants‘ victory parade is tomorrow morning here in New York City. I speak as a native. There may be alcohol involved the rest of the day, possibly the rest of the week. In a very real sense it is possible that we will have low turnout at least in New York City? Will they affect Clinton or Obama in a New York primary?

MILBANK:  Well, anything is possible in theory. They have taken this seriously up in Boston assuming they would do it. The secretary of state was actually worried about this. John Kerry stepped in and said at least they won‘t have to worry about that down in New York because the Giants will never win. So the Kerry prognostication working as well as ever.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of this, he did get the Red Sox win in the World Series correct. Give him credit for that. New York and New Jersey where the Giants actually play their games are preoccupied this is the scene in midtown Manhattan, ordinarily a very quiet place at 10:30 on a Sunday night, there was hooting, hollering, car horns blaring. People yelling off the top of roof tops last night. I have never seen that before not even for the Yankees or anything else that has happened previously in sports. So you got New York and New Jersey preoccupied. Massachusetts and Connecticut are depressed. Is it seriously possible with as close a race as we are dealing with there may be a Super Bowl effect now in just two states here but in four states all total?

MILBANK:  Sure it is possible. I was up in Nathaniel Hall in Boston with McCain this morning. That was a depressed lethargic crowd that had nothing to do with the candidate. It means less in the Democratic race since you have this proportional situation. Presumably it will affect everybody evenly. A lot of these will be around here the “New York Daily News,”  “New York Post” crowd who might not be voting in high numbers.

OLBERMANN:  You never know. People come in from New Jersey and Connecticut. The Giants fans are what kind of Democrats? I don‘t know. I don‘t think we have polling for that. We will save it for tomorrow night.  But you mentioned McCain and Nathaniel Hall. Why did McCain not hit Romney on the Super Bowl prediction and B on annoying their quarterback? If you want a skate goat blame a politician for a football team losing the Super Bowl when they are suppose to be undefeated.

MILBANK:  And of course and as you mentioned he sent him the plays.  Change your position as frequently as possible. It didn‘t work out very well. McCain has a problem here. He bet against Rudy Giuliani so he was with the Patriots as well. Very strategic error. Big problem.

OLBERMANN:  Hillary Clinton closest to anybody getting it correct. I

guess Tom Brady was the flip-flopper in the literal sense because he kept -

a question about Richardson and Clinton watching the game together.

Political or do they just like football?

MILBANK:   These are two of the biggest eater of chips in the higher country.

OLBERMANN:  I forgot the third possibility.

The mention of the quarterback Tom Brady who was at one of Mr. Bush‘s State of the Union address, begs the question, is any Republican going to run on the records of Bush and Tom Brady?

MILBANK:  It would be tempting. Even after last night he has a .750 winning percentage, which is somewhat better than we have seen this political season.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, but last night that counts for at least two wins. It erases at least two wins. Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the “Washington Post.” We are told your colleague Gene Robinson predicted that the Giants would beat the Patriots. I didn‘t see that in the paper or anything.

That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,745th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. A final reminder. Please join me and Chris Matthews for MSNBC‘s prime time coverage of Super Tuesday. We begin at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific. When it is all over, is any bodies guess right now.  Although they are telling me 2:00 am. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck. 

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

END   

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