updated 2/7/2008 1:13:44 PM ET 2008-02-07T18:13:44

Guests: Mike Huckabee, Rogers Simon, Faye Wattleton, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Obama‘s caught up to Hillary, but can he pass her?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  The aftermath -- 24 states went to the polls yesterday and let‘s look at what happened.  First to the Democrats, where Barack Obama fought Hillary Clinton to a draw.  Hillary Clinton‘s most vital success was holding onto California.  She also did well in the Northeast, with wins in her home state of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, home of Obama supporter Ted Kennedy.  Clinton also picked up Arkansas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

But Barack Obama won victories in a number of states that NBC had deemed toss-ups beforehand, the battleground state of Missouri, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Delaware.  He took home wins in Georgia, Minnesota, Alabama, North Dakota, Alaska, Kansas, Idaho and his home state of Illinois for a total of 13 states victories and Hillary‘s 8.  Well, that is a comparison.  New Mexico, by the way, is still yet to be decided, so it‘s 13 to 8 on the Democratic side, with Obama winning the most states, basically a draw in delegates yesterday.

So where do we stand in delegates?  Well, NBC projects that so far—and you may want a pencil for this—Clinton won a handful more delegates last night than Obama, but our estimate is that when all the delegates are allocated, Obama will have won 840-849 delegates last night—that‘s a range of 840 to 849 -- and that Clinton will have won 829 to 830 -- 858 delegates, an incredibly close finish.  By the way, you need over 2,000 delegates to win this thing, to win the nomination.  And there are still over 1,400 delegates up for grabs, so this campaign has just begun, really.  We‘re nowhere near the halfway mark.

On the Republican side, John McCain dominated the big states but failed to lock up his party‘s nomination.  He did win New York and California, Connecticut, Delaware, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, plus his home state of Arizona.  Mitt Romney picked up Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, plus his home state of Massachusetts.  But here comes Mike Huckabee with a real show of Southern strength.  In addition to his native Arkansas, he won Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the border state of West Virginia.

NBC‘s Republican delegate total so far, McCain 720, Romney 256, Huckabee 194.  You need, by the way, 1,191 delegates to win the Republican nomination.  And there are still 1,313 delegates up for grabs in the remaining Republican contests.

Here to dig into this amazingly tight Democratic race—we‘ll start with that—is NBC‘s David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell.  Andrea, I have to ask you, it does look like a draw.  It looks like they each have their areas of strength, and nobody seems to be giving in and nobody seems to be actually winning this thing yet.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It is the most incredible scenario.  If you had made this up, if you wrote this in a novel, no one could believe it.  He‘s got more money.  That is a big deal.  She now acknowledges that she loaned herself $5 million.  This is the first time she‘s done this for the campaign, $5 million last month just to try to be competitive with him because he raised an astonishing $32 million.

MATTHEWS:  This is the first time she‘s dug into her own pocket, correct?

MITCHELL:  Exactly.  Now, $32 million in January was three times what she raised.  He is just raising money.  He has got the momentum of a movement.  And people are really putting up cash for him.  And this is what gives him an advantage, plus the calendar.  The next couple of races are in places that are normally more friendly to him.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe, Andrea, that money counts?  I mean, everybody says so and they try to figure out how to—it translates into more TV time, more travel time.  What else does it give you?  Street money?  Do they still spend street money out there?

MITCHELL:  Sure they do.  And you‘ve got coming up D.C., Maryland and Virginia...

MATTHEWS:  Street money opportunities.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Baltimore and D.C. are old-time cities.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  So you can spend money getting people to the polls.  Let me bring in David Gregory on this.  It‘s the same question.  I guess when we so casually talk about money in campaigns, I‘m not sure everybody gets it.  Do you also agree with—do you agree with Andrea that the money advantage is significant here?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I think it‘s significant both because of what it reflects and what it does for you down the line.  What it reflects is enthusiasm that continues to grow for Barack Obama.  The more people get to know him, the more they want to give to him.  There‘s an excitement factor, an enthusiasm.  He draws on that in these caucus states going forward.  He draws on it in states coming up on the calendar, where there‘s large African-American populations coming out to vote, and because it gives him staying power down the line for a protracted fight.  He has the ability to fight this war of attrition.

MATTHEWS:  So let‘s go to another question.  We began on that.  I want you to pick up on that.  We talked money.  He seems to be ahead, she has to draw on her private resources.  She may have to do it again and again.  Let‘s talk about the schedule ahead.  I just know because we all work in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland—it‘s called the Chesapeake primary.  It seems to me that he would have an advantage in D.C., with its large African-American population.  He would have something of an advantage in Virginia.  Is Maryland the big fight?

MITCHELL:  And in Maryland, I think he also has an advantage.  He really does.  There‘s a lot of African-American voters and also upscale white voters, like Connecticut, more—you know, more...

MATTHEWS:  Montgomery County.

MITCHELL:  ... closely aligned with that—and PG County, Prince George‘s County outside of Washington.  You also have caucuses.  He‘s done much better than she has in caucuses.  He‘s got Louisiana this weekend, which is a primary, but then there are caucuses in Nebraska and in Washington state.  Those could also be...

MATTHEWS:  So he could have a good run for the next couple of weeks.

MITCHELL:  I don‘t see where she beats him in the next couple weeks, perhaps Maryland, as you say.  Then, of course, Texas and Ohio, huge primary states.

MATTHEWS:  March 4.

MITCHELL:  March 4, and Pennsylvania April 22, which...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it funny?  It‘s going back to—David, it‘s going back to the old states with the old political systems.  Philadelphia, for example, I happen to know, still has a machine run by Bob Brady (ph).  I dislike the name of it, but it‘s still an old-style political machine.  And you‘ve got a lot of big names in Philly and Pennsylvania politics, starting with Rendell at the top, the governor, all loyal as hell to Hillary Clinton.  Is this going to be the battle of the high-tech Internet Web site money-raising against the old street corner ward leader, basically?

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  Well, I just have this image of it going to Pennsylvania, and between you and Andrea, it‘s going to be the Super Bowl.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m in heaven, of course!

GREGORY:  I mean, you guys will analyze it to death.

MATTHEWS:  It gives me a chance to go live in Philly for a couple days...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  The new mayor has endorsed Hillary Clinton, an African-American man...

MATTHEWS:  The mayor of Scranton, Doherty (ph), Tommy Leonard (ph), my old friend, one of the big Clinton people, they‘re all—Pennsylvania people have lined up.  I don‘t know where Chaka Fatah is yet, but I mean, I guess—oh, he‘s with—he‘s with—he‘s with Barack.

GREGORY:  But Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... backed him for mayor.  Yes.  Go ahead.  I love this stuff.

GREGORY:  But isn‘t the big question here—you know, we have this fight between an insurgent campaign even—however you characterize him now (INAUDIBLE) who‘s got momentum and who‘s the underdog or what.  But it‘s an insurgent campaign on the scene.  The Clinton brand is strong.  It‘s well known.  It‘s well established.  We saw that play out on Super Tuesday.  So you have this dynamic, and you have a party that is totally undecided about what it wants to be and who it wants to lead it.

MITCHELL:  And in fact, Evan Bayh, supporting Hillary Clinton, said today on MSNBC that this could be a brokered convention.  Well, tonight Howard Dean, the party chairman, told New York One that if there is no frontrunner by the end of these primaries, he is going to call them together and knock heads because he says that they cannot afford the kind of fight at a convention that would help the Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) do what?  What will he do?

MITCHELL:  He says he‘ll force one of them to back out.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about the problem that may confront Senator Clinton.  If she continues to basically face a draw with Barack Obama among elected delegates, and we get then later on in this season, later into the spring, and the word gets out, especially to African-Americans and to other people in this movement that David describes with Barack, that although the elected delegates are about roughly even, these super-delegates, these strange people in the shadows, are going to give it to Hillary Clinton.  Won‘t that cause an uproar, Andrea?

MITCHELL:  It will be mayhem.  It‘ll be the McGovern...

MATTHEWS:  Mayhem.

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  You know, it will be—it will be a revolution, and the party will fracture.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  It‘s the best thing that could happen to John McCain, if he is the putative nominee.

MATTHEWS:  Have you thought about this, David, that if you—if the thing gets decided by people—not in smoke-filled rooms because you can‘t smoke in hotels anymore, most of them—but they do get away...

MITCHELL:  Sounds like you‘ve tried.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t need—well, you used to be able to—and they go in the back room, and all of a sudden, these guys who are going out to vote—you know, we got people voting never voted in their lives.  Then they find out their vote isn‘t as important as somebody off stage.

GREGORY:  Right.  There‘s a couple things.  There‘s that scenario.  There‘s the idea that I asked you about earlier on MSNBC, which are they moving inexorably toward a situation where they have to be on the same ticket...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

GREGORY:  ... and split this thing between them?

MATTHEWS:  Having asked the question, David Gregory, straight reporter, objective person of all sorts, how do we answer a question like that without looking into the personal character of a Hillary Clinton, her willingness to say, I won this thing 51-49, I won it.

GREGORY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Jefferson says if you win by one vote, that‘s a democracy.  You have to live with it.  I don‘t have to recognize proportionality when it comes to the vice presidency.

GREGORY:  Well, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t have to give away half this job.

GREGORY:  It reminds me of—you know, the Clinton people will tell you they‘ve spent a lot of time analyzing how the Bush campaign in 2000 and 2004 did things.  And I remember well in 2001, Dick Cheney and George Bush said, Doesn‘t matter the margin is, it‘s full speed ahead.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  But what about when you win a party nomination, though, David?  I‘ll ask Andrea.

GREGORY:  Right (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  You win this nomination, everybody looks up and says, Well, it looks to me, under the spirit of the reform rules of the 1970s, you ought to split the job up.  It ought to be president for the top person, number two person gets V.P.

MITCHELL:  First of all, you‘ve got to factor in how much these two people dislike each other and how angry...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have to factor it in.

MITCHELL:  ... these campaigns are at each other.

MATTHEWS:  But the people don‘t know that.  We don‘t know that.

MITCHELL:  And I don‘t see either one of them—well, you know, who knows.  But I don‘t see...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  ... second scenario.

MATTHEWS:  ... go back to the old saw—I hate to do history, but we all know this history, so I can do it.  Let‘s share.  Back when John Kennedy won the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles against Lyndon Johnson, when he thought all he had to do was line up the senators and he could get the nomination, he sent out John Connally, his buddy, to go out and spread the word that John Kennedy had Addison‘s disease, which is a very terminal, dangerous disease.  If you don‘t get—if you don‘t get steroids, OK?  So Kennedy‘s taking steroids to stay alive.  He puts that story out in the street in Los Angeles.  It‘s true, of course.

MITCHELL:  At the convention.

MATTHEWS:  And the Kennedy people deny it, of course, but it was true.  Kennedy was taking those drugs to survive all those years.  And yet he still picked Johnson as his running mate and made John Connally secretary of the Navy.  So who says we can‘t cut deals?

MITCHELL:  You‘re right.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s more hardball than anything we‘ve seen in this campaign.

MITCHELL:  But I think there‘s something different about the—I mean, that was a case where the challenger, the upstart, the parvenu, Kennedy, was choosing the old dog, LBJ.

MATTHEWS:  Ah!

MITCHELL:  This could be—what I am positing is the opposite.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) new kid or hard to pick the new kid...

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  But could I ask a different question?

MATTHEWS:  ... because he wants it next.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, David?

GREGORY:  Chris, I just think there‘s a different question before we get to that stage of the convention where we‘re brokering deals and that kind of thing, which is, is there a possibility that the base—that each of their, you know, their base of support, white liberal men and African-Americans for Obama, women and Latinos, and you know, downscale whites for Hillary Clinton—can they be picked off, one by the other?

I mean, is there that opportunity where voters are starting to recognize on the Democratic side that they‘re going to be making really decisive decisions that the party‘s at loggerheads...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a nice way to do it.

GREGORY:  I mean, that‘s what you have to wonder now, as now you get into a situation where they‘re not—it‘s not a blitzkrieg across 22 states.  Now they have some time to spend in these states.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the big challenge, of course, for Barack Obama is to try to get more women.  And the numbers are not that far apart.  I was astounded, for all this talk about gender wars, it‘s a 6-point difference among women.  It‘s a bit higher among men now, which I find interesting.  I don‘t know how the black-white ratio works there.  But among women—women are looking at this thing pretty coldly, and they‘re going, Well, who do I want?  I mean, it‘s interesting.

MITCHELL:  It‘s more generational among women, the older women going one place, the younger women going another.  He did do better...

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t you explain the other day that people have to decide to vote for their mother or their daughter?  It‘s so fascinating, the way people are looking at it.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  I love this anthropology!  But the trouble is, guys, there‘s only one chance for an African-American in maybe the next X many years.  There‘s only one chance for a woman in the next X many years.  And so this sort of a zero-sum—it‘s the sad part of it.

MITCHELL:  That‘s—you know, Bill Clinton said at the AME church in Los Angeles Sunday, in his kind of kinder, gentler mode, about the choices that people have to make.  He said, You know, my whole life, I‘ve wanted to see a black candidate for president.  My whole life, I‘ve wanted to see a female.  And now the good Lord is playing games with my head.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like “Sophie‘s Choice.”  This is really—it‘s not that brutal, but God, it‘s like that.

MITCHELL:  But people are going to feel cheated, you‘re absolutely right.  African-Americans who see this extraordinary moment in history, women who feel the same way are going to feel cheated, angry.  And the risk for the Democratic Party is staying home.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, and ending up with a Republican they didn‘t want—neither one of those communities wanted.  Hey, great to have you on.  The pros are on tonight.  Thank you very much.  In fact, you‘re staying on, I just found out.  Andrea Mitchell by popular demand is staying, and so is David Gregory.

We‘ll be right back and talk about the Republicans, who also have an amazing situation developing.  We‘ll be back with more HARDBALL to talk about who‘s winning this thing?  Is McCain winning it, or is he just sort of winning it but he can‘t quite put it away?  And how about Huckabee?  He looks like he‘s Mr. Number Two now.  Does he have to get on the ticket?  Are we watching the formation of tickets out here in the primary season itself?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am as confident tonight as I have ever been that we can succeed in November by uniting our party in our determination to keep our country safe, proud, prosperous and free, and by again making a persuasive case to independents and those enlightened members of the other party that the great Ronald Reagan claimed for our party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, a reach for Reagan Democrats.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  John McCain strengthened his frontrunner status by winning eight states last night.  It was a very bad night for Mitt Romney, who lost California to McCain.  The big surprise of the night was Mike Huckabee sweeping the South.  What does that mean for the Republican ticket?

We‘re back with NBC‘s David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell and joined by MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  I want you to lead the way here, Pat.  I‘ve always sensed that you favored Mitt Romney, but now he looks like he‘s gone.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, he‘s got a lot more delegates than Huckabee does.  But I agree with you that it looks to me like John McCain—it would almost take celestial intervention to stop his nomination run right now.  I tend to agree with that, and he‘s going to roll—I mean, he can—he‘s got an open field right in front of him, and I don‘t see anything or anybody stopping him right now.

MATTHEWS:  There are no more Southern states, are there.  It seems to me...

BUCHANAN:  Mississippi.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s about it.  But basically, Mike Huckabee has maxed out in using his advantage among Southerners.

BUCHANAN:  He‘s about maxed out, yes.  And he would like to do his deal.  Frankly, Huckabee, what he would like would be the impossible, is now to see Romney run—get so many delegates that Romney and McCain are tied but can‘t go over the top.  And then everybody comes to Mike Huckabee and says, Mike, will you give me your delegates...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  ... and he makes his request.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, let‘s talk money again because we talked about Hillary Clinton throwing in $5 million of her own money in a race where she‘s really falling behind, in her case, to Barack Obama.

MITCHELL:  It‘s an extraordinary number...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a heck of a check to cash.

MITCHELL:  She‘s raised more than $100 million, and still is loaning herself $5 million.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a woman who was making very little money for most of her life, and all of a sudden, she‘s writing a check for $5 million?

MITCHELL:  Her books.  Those books really sold.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

MITCHELL:  Huge.

MATTHEWS:  I envy them.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about...

MITCHELL:  We all envy them!

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this guy, Mitt Romney.  Is he able to keep going by writing checks?

MITCHELL:  Oh, sure, if he wants to.  The question is whether it‘s the right decision.  I mean, he is a, you know, smart businessman, we‘re told, Bain Capital, brilliant investor.  He knows when not to pour bad money—you know, good money after bad.

MATTHEWS:  Well, does he know it‘s now?

MITCHELL:  I don‘t know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  David, anything to report on whether Romney, who always looks great, who is always gung-ho, he‘s always look like he‘s ready to right—ready to fight.

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You can never tell he is losing, but is he? 

GREGORY:  Well, he is clearly losing.  And there is certainly a reassessment going on, even though there are some close to him who maintain that there‘s all kinds of scenarios where they do well.  And they make a pitch to the conservative gathering, CPAC gathering, in Washington here tomorrow.

But I spoke to a top Republican today who said, you can‘t be the conservative alternative if you can‘t win the conservative Southern states.  And that is the reality.  He is positing himself as the conservative alternative to John McCain, except he is not that guy.  That guy is Mike Huckabee. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he make a profound...

GREGORY:  He‘s the one who has actually won.

MATTHEWS:  Pat, you know all about this from your family.

But did he make just a profound mistake in thinking that a Mormon guy could win in the Bible Belt?  Just to be blunt, wasn‘t that a mistake in his business plan?

BUCHANAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Shouldn‘t he have gone moderate and tried to pick up the states that McCain and, before him, Giuliani was competing for? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  He wouldn‘t have gone anywhere in Iowa as a moderate or in New Hampshire as a moderate. 

I think he did the right thing.  And his one strategy—we mentioned Mississippi.  Huckabee can pick that up.  But I think what Romney may be thinking of is, if he stays on for four more weeks into Texas and Ohio, he emerges then as the number-two man and the leader of the conservatives against McCain, shouldering out Huckabee, and he‘s clearly that figure for the future, if he is looking at four years from now.

GREGORY:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  That makes sense.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  It would cost a lot of money to do it, but it would make sense to me.  He will go to CPAC.

And I would say, then, he would suspend the campaign, go to the convention, don‘t ask for a thing, except for a major speech.  Let them vet your speech.

MATTHEWS:  So, it is a 2012 -- it‘s a 2012 strategy? 

BUCHANAN:  I would go with a 2012 strategy.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  And, if something intervenes and happens to McCain, be there as the guy. 

MITCHELL:  Do you notice how extraordinary—extraordinary that, when you asked your question, perfectly rational question, did he make a mistake playing the conservative, rather than going liberal, and changing his whole persona?

MATTHEWS:  Like he wore—he wore the wrong dress to the party. 

MITCHELL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  I mean, you can‘t change your principles that way.  Hello?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that is what we are talking about, of course. 

MITCHELL:  Right.  Of course. 

MATTHEWS:  David, the question now is where it looks like.  If you had to look at this thing with cold calculation, what is left on the table for Mitt Romney, except to win a few more states, take a losing position against McCain, at some point, turn over your sword?

GREGORY:  Well, that is—I mean, I think you just have to look at it objectively and say that it is very difficult for him, ask, where is it that he actually wins, and is there—is there a pathway toward the nomination, or is there a scenario that—that Pat outlines?

And you spent a little bit more time talking about Mike Huckabee, which—who you will be talking to later on, to find out, what is his role in the party, not just questions about whether he gets on the ticket, but what kind of imprint does he put on the policy platform? 

But, even there, you get into a difficult question about John McCain, who we know and have covered.  Is this a guy who now wants to tack to the right to unite the party?  He was out today saying, about his conservative critics, including the talk show critics, that it would be nice if they would just calm down a little bit. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GREGORY:  That doesn‘t sound like a guy who wants to start tacking to the right, for a lot of reasons, including that he did that once, the beginning of this campaign, and it didn‘t work. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s going to run—I agree.  He is not going to—he is not going to move over and accommodate or appease, because it looks like he has got the nomination wrapped up. 

And, once he gets it, I think he will run as sort of a centrist conservative Republican, taking pretty much the base of the party for granted.  The Republicans will unite behind him, by and large, Chris.  It is the conservatives, I think, who will not unite behind him.  And I don‘t know how many will be with him, but a lot of them simply will stay against him. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there anybody he can stick on that ticket with him who could bring in the crowd you say is going to hold out? 

BUCHANAN:  I can‘t—I mean, I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Haley Barbour?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  No, why would he do that?  I mean, Haley is a good man and a good friend of mine.  You have got Mississippi. 

Frankly, if I were McCain, believing what he believes and the kind of guy he is, I would find, cold-bloodily, somebody who could get me Ohio or get me Michigan or get me California, which is a reach, or get me one of those states, and believe that the red states are going to for me, because Obama or Hillary ain‘t going to pick them up, and run the same kind of Bush-Kerry race, Bush-Gore race that was won, where you get half the country, the Southern half, basically, and you beat them with one extra state. 

MITCHELL:  Now, what kind of reception will John McCain is going to get when he goes to CPAC, to the Conservative Political Action Committee? 

BUCHANAN:  I think Romney will get a very good reception.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  I‘m sorry, McCain.

BUCHANAN:  I think McCain will get a mixed reception.

McCain is—in the 2001 CPAC convention, he was voted the least popular conservative going.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And the second least popular, you are looking at, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I am just thinking a Hillary-Obama race.  I know it would break all the rules, because it would be so different and so dramatic, but, looking at the Republican Party‘s disarray, it may be the one time in history that something like that would actually succeed. 

Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.

Thank you, Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory down in Washington.

We will have much more on the Republicans.  And we‘re going to talk to Mike Huckabee here on HARDBALL later in the show.

Up next, we know Mitt Romney has deep pockets, I think about $250 million in personal wealth, but they may not be deep enough for our “Big Number.”  We are going to talk about what it cost to get a delegate, if you are Mitt Romney. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out there on the campaign trail? 

Well, Mike Huckabee, who was hammered early in the campaign for being soft on crime, now has to contend with, well, another clemency problem.  In 2004, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee granted a communication to a fellow named Eugene Fields, a four-time DWI offender who had been sentenced to six years in prison.

On Tuesday, Super Tuesday, this Tuesday, Eugene Fields pleaded guilty to another drunken-driving charge.  We will talk to Governor Huckabee about that in a couple of minutes. 

Florida I love you.  You have warm weather, orange juice, Epcot Center.  But, when it comes to voting, why can‘t you get act together?  First, it was the debacle in 2000, replete with hanging chads—there he is—and recounts and all that.  Then, it was the Clinton campaign vowing to make Florida delegates count, despite the state‘s breaking Democratic Party rules and moving its primary up to January.

Now comes another Florida mess-up.  Election officials across the state are now reporting that hundreds of calls from voters came in of people who want to vote, and they want to know when they can vote in the Florida primary.  The problem, you all might recall, is that Florida already held its primary last week. 

In fact, “The Orlando Sentinel” reports that some Florida voters actually showed up to vote this Tuesday, Super Tuesday, thinking this was the day they are going to vote.

Well, there is a new musical out right now, a film coming to a computer near you.  It‘s called “Barackula - The Musical.”  And it uses Barack Obama‘s actual words to tell a story about Barack battling vampires back at Harvard Law School.  The creator calls it a political rock musical, sort of “Thriller” meets “Jesus Christ Superstar.” 

Here‘s a bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  The name is Barack Obama, just named president of Harvard Law‘s Review.  It should be a time of celebration, but my life is in danger.  My association with (INAUDIBLE) society that is after me won‘t let me go, won‘t let me be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Of course, it was a long night last night. 

Now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”  As you know, it is dark days for Mitt Romney‘s campaign.  Not only is John McCain beating him, but Mike Huckabee is as well.  Well, the big question for Romney right now is whether to start spending tens of millions more of his own money. 

A Republican strategist in today‘s “Washington Post” calculates that Romney has already spent $1.16 million per delegate.  Well, assuming he continues to spend, to succeed at that current rate and spend at the current rate, how much money would Romney have to spend if he wanted to win the nomination? -- $1.33 billion.  That is, of course, if nobody else was out there seeking delegates -- $1.33 billion, that tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next, Mike Huckabee is coming here.  He is the big winner down South last night, won a whole passel of Southern states. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

And stocks falling for a third straight day, the Dow industrials dropping 65 points, the S&P 500 losing 10, and the Nasdaq off 30 points.  The markets turned negative after a Federal Reserve official suggested rising inflation could prevent further interest rate cuts. 

After the closing bell, tech bellwether Cisco Systems reporting quarterly earnings that matched analyst estimates.

Meantime, Macy‘s says it will cut 2,300 jobs.

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back the HARDBALL. 

Mike Huckabee stormed the South last night, winning five states, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, and his native Arkansas. 

Governor, thank you for joining us. 

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Glad to be back.

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to comment about this guy named Eugene Fields who just got charged with drunken driving again, after he got his sentence commuted by you for similar charges back in the early part of this decade? 

HUCKABEE:  Well, other than it is just totally disgusting, he was released because of prison overcrowding.  He had served a year in prison.  And recommendations were that they thought he had been rehabilitated, a year in prison had probably gotten him where he was ready to get out.

And then he had another DWI.  And I was just disgusted.  I am even more disgusted by this.  I think the only key he ought see is the one-time one that gets him into prison and not let him out.  He should never touch a car key as long as he lives. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that is the problem with a lot of these cases.  They just keep doing it again. 

HUCKABEE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your victories.  A lot of people, pundits like myself, thought you would be kind of a blocking back for Senator McCain, that you would prevent Mitt from winning a number of states, and thereby provide a nice service to the senator from Arizona. 

In fact, you won all those states where you were a major factor. 

Where does that put you now, Governor? 

HUCKABEE:  I think it puts me in the race. 

And what is really important to note, Chris—and you are aware of this, following it, as you do, as closely—the states that I won are the states that a Republican has to win if he is going to be president on the Republican ticket.  You don‘t win the South, you don‘t get it.  You don‘t get West Virginia and Arkansas, those two swing states can make or break the entire presidential election.

So, the significance was not only that I won some states, but it‘s which states I won.  And that is what made it so very important last night. 

MATTHEWS:  That is so true, and, yet, the party seems more like a coalition party than ever.  The Democrats, as you know, growing up were more of a coalition party.

They had—they had Dixiecrats in the South in the old days.  They heard Northern liberals and, you know, people that didn‘t even like each other in the party, if they had ever met with each other. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And now the Republican parties has the rural part of the party, the evangelical-based party, in a sense, combined with some people who are just conservatives in the South. 

And then you have got that sort of mix in the suburbs, you know, where you have these moderate pro-choicers mixed in with some pro-lifers and people with different attitudes about guns than you might have.

And how do you project your strength from where you have demonstrated already into those areas where McCain does well?  I know not New York.  No Republican is going to carry New York.

HUCKABEE:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But how about Pennsylvania?  How about Ohio?  How about those kinds of states?  Can you win there? 

HUCKABEE:  Well, sure.  Those states are very pro-life.  They‘re pro-traditional marriage.

But they‘re also fiscally conservative states.  They want lower taxes. 

They want less government regulation.

I think what most Republicans want is as little as government as possible, but what we have, they want it to be competent.  They want it to actually perform and function.  And they want that government to reflect as much the values of the Wal-Mart crowd as the Wall Street crowd. 

And I think that is where the frustration and, in fact, some of the tension is coming from within the Republican ranks right now. 

MATTHEWS:  But, you know, I looked at the numbers.  You know, we study these exit polls.

It was interesting that John McCain in Florida, for example—and I think has some reach over to the more moderate Republicans, more than he admits to, in terms of his positions.  I mean, he says he‘s pro-life.  He votes pro-life.  But, yet, if you look at the voting in Florida, the pro-choice Republicans overwhelmingly voted for John McCain. 

How do you manage that in politics?  How do you get your political reach to go beyond your positions?  It seems to me that is how you win general elections.  You get people to vote for you who like you, trust you, even if though they don‘t agree with you on some things. 

HUCKABEE:  Well, and I think you just hit the magic word, is trust. 

People want to trust their president.  They really want to believe that, even if they disagree with him, that he‘s going to look into that camera lens from the Oval Office and he‘s going to tell them the truth. 

Americans have a right to know the truth, whether it is about the Iraq war, whether it is about their economy.  What they don‘t want is somebody trying to sell them something that they later find out to be total nonsense.  They just need to know that somebody has moral clarity in his own convictions and is going to be honest with them, even if it is bad news. 

We can handle bad news as Americans.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HUCKABEE:  What we can‘t handle is misinformation. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, everybody sort of figured you out over the months now.  You are kind of a populist conservative.  You‘ve got pretty strong positions on the Second Amendment.  You‘ve got pretty traditional views, in fact, very traditional views on the creation and things like that.  But Mitt Romney stands out there.  We are still talking tonight—I don‘t know if you caught the early part of the show.  I was simply suggesting it may have been smarter for him to position himself as a moderate Republican and tried for the votes that McCain has been able to get now and Giuliani failed to get.  And Andrea Mitchell asked the obvious question,  well, you don‘t just reposition yourself.  You have positions.  You have principles.

But we in the business of watching politicians have gotten used to people like Romney, who simply says I think I will wear a red dress tonight or a green dress, depending upon who else is wearing what at the party. 

HUCKABEE:  Well, I think one of the reasons that I am catching on with a lot of the voters, despite being outspent ten-to-one, is people know where I stand, and they know that these are not just preferences based on last night‘s poll numbers.  I have often said, Chris, I would rather lose an election than change my position when it comes to the sanctity of human life, as well as several other issues. 

If I were to gain the world and lose my own soul, what does it profit me?  Nothing.  You really can‘t even effectively govern if you have to wake up every morning and have somebody come in and give you a memo on what to believe today. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it is like in the movie “Man For All Seasons,” but for Wales.  You wouldn‘t do it for the vice presidency? 

HUCKABEE:  Wouldn‘t do what? 

MATTHEWS:  Compromise your position? 

HUCKABEE:  You know, the thing is, I am not planning on being the vice president.  I know everybody keeps asking me that, but somebody once described vice president like that of the job of lieutenant governor, which I had for three years.  And the basic job of the lieutenant governor and the vice president is to be in the dark, out of the way, but all pumped up and ready to go in case somebody ever needs you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re doing well, governor.  Congratulation on all those victories yesterday, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.  Governor Huckabee won them all. 

Up next, how big is the gender issue in these voting decisions this year?  Are people still as gender conscious as they were, say, a month ago?  Interesting numbers we‘re looking at, not as big a difference as you would think.  We will get the politics fix in a moment.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Senator Clinton is a formidable opponent.  She has a familiar and well-appreciated name.  She has a political machine honed over two decades.  And so, from my perspective, this makes her the front-runner in every single contest. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  The round table this evening “The Politico‘s” Roger Simon, Joan Walsh of Salon, and Faye Wattleton, president for the Center for the Advancement of Women. 

Let‘s start with Roger.  And I want a cold turkey assessment, who is winning right now, Hillary or Barack? 

ROGER SIMON, “POLITICO”:  You aren‘t going to like my answer.  I hate to state the obvious, but sometimes we are forced to.  We have two really good candidates on the Democratic side.  One may be a little better with one demographic group.  One better is doing better with another.  One is better on the stump.  One is better on debates.  But the fact is they both have messages.  They both have appeals.  They both have strategies.  And when they get in front of Democratic voters, Democratic voters are splitting.  I see no reason to believe one of them is going to collapse before we get to the convention. 

MATTHEWS:  So if I were to give you a state-of-the-art hybrid American car, if there is one, a fabulous vehicle, and I‘m going to hand it to you at the end of this process if you guess it right, you still can‘t do it, Roger, you expert at politics you? 

SIMON:  No, I can‘t do it.  I think there is one troubling sign that didn‘t come from Super Tuesday, but came from today, which surprised me, and that is Hillary Clinton had to lend five million dollars to her own campaign, possessing the best fund raiser in the world, Terry McAuliffe, who could get blood from a stone, but he couldn‘t get five million dollars out of Democratic contributors.  That really surprises me. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine that conversation, Roger.  Senator, I think you will have to write the check. 

SIMON:  And they are not like the Romneys.  The Clintons don‘t have super wealth.  They put together money from books and speeches, but that is a lot of dough for them. 

MATTHEWS:  Same question to you at Salon, Joan, dear.  Let me to ask you this, if you had to bet, if you were given a brand new car of the highest hybrid quality, the most energy efficient, whatever, with all of the CAFE standards met ahead of time—I have to be politically correct here—who would you bet on? 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Oh, Chris, you are not Oprah.  You won‘t throw me the car keys.  I don‘t—I can‘t believe this.  So I can‘t go there.  I have to stick with Roger. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me what you know. 

WALSH:  Here is what I know.  Obama is doing much better than we thought among white voters.  He is clearly dominant among the African-Americans.  My question is, sitting in the state of California, does he understand a multi-racial diverse electorate.  I think he made key decisions that were not good in California.  I think the idea of throwing Teddy Kennedy out on the campaign trail and saying he is your secret weapon against Latinos is really old political thinking, and I think you saw the impact of that, in that he lost overwhelmingly with Latinos. 

I think women continue to be strong for her, and she has become the working class candidate, which, you know, that is befuddles some people.  So I think they both have strong bases.  I think that we are going to be having this conversation well into March. 

MATTHEWS:  Faye, you know about women‘s issues.  You are a pro.  But it seems to me, isn‘t that dramatic a difference.  It is 51-46 yesterday all across the country, women voters.  That is not a huge gap in thinking, 51 for Hillary and 46 for Obama.  That does not strike me as a dramatic lean or tilt? 

FAYE WATTLETON, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN:  Well, it reflects the entry of a lot of new voters into the mainstream of this campaign.  I think that it also reflects that people are really interested in the issues.  They really want the candidates to talk about the issues. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the gender thing, it doesn‘t seem like a slam dunk that if you are a woman, you vote for the woman. 

WATTLETON:  Well, our research at the center has indicated that women are not going to vote for Hillary just because she is a woman.  Being a women will be a factor, but she must come down on the issues in a way that women relate to.  And I think that class is also an issue here.  We should not overlook the intersection—

MATTHEWS:  Define that awful word we hate to use.  Does it mean how much you make a year? 

WATTLETON:  It means how much you make a year.  And clearly, the women who believes that Senator Clinton speaks to their issue are women who are in the lower-wage range.  Their marketplace is softening.  We saw that  in the reports off of Wall Street this week.  So there are a number of factors that are entering. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Roger, let me ask you about the issue of income, because we don‘t talk about it much, but what struck me looking through all the papers last night, sitting at this desk in the middle night was the high percentage of Democratic voters who have a full college degree.  I am amazed at that, because we know a small minority of Americans have a full four-year college degree.  It‘s about 20 or 30 -- 20 percent I would guess.  It is up there about 60 percent in a lot of the states, in Connecticut, and other states, Massachusetts, incredibly high percentage of people incredibly advantaged by higher education.  Does that mean it is a bad sample, that only the really well-educated people are voting in these and therefore, it is helping Barack? 

SIMON:  I think more educated people tend to be primary voters and that tends to help Barack.  But I just don‘t get the feel from this election that demographics are destiny this time.  I think, not only as Faye suggested, do people vote for a multitude of reasons, but you have two candidates who get it in terms of putting together coalitions.  You don‘t need to get all of the college educated voters.  You don‘t need to get all of the women.  You don‘t need to get all of the male voters.  You don‘t need to get all the white voters.  You put together enough of each.  You get enough slices of the pie and you get to 51 percent, and you get to the convention.  I think that both of these candidates are very smart at coalition building. 

WATTLETON:  Well, I think that there is also the factor of momentum building.  We live in New York City, where the Giants won the World—the Super Bowl, and they are champions of the world, and they were, you know, dismissed as losers, but they kept at it and they kept at it and they built momentum.  And while Mrs. Clinton has the delegates, I think we need to look at the momentum, the environment that is being created, the enthusiasm for Mr. Obama‘s candidacy, and that is a factor that should also be calculated. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Joan on that point.  I am looking at a number—a month ago, it was 20 points separating these two candidates.  Now they are pretty much bunched. 

WALSH:  Well, OK, it depends.  Really your perspective on this race depends on where you start.  If you look back three months, there‘s no question that he has the momentum.  He has run a fabulous campaign.  But if you look back three days and you look at what we were preparing for with Zogby showing a big lead for Obama in California, I think it is possible to question where his momentum is going.  I am not saying it is over—

MATTHEWS:  He has bad Sundays. 

WALSH:  Yes, he has bad Sundays.  People who decided on the last day went for Hillary Clinton.  That makes her the giant. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Maybe we are looking at the common sense here.  Change is scary.  You try something completely new, a young guy who has only had four years, African-American, interesting background.  We don‘t really know a whole lot.  We like the cut of his jib.  We like so much about him.  But at the last minute, some percentage of people go, I don‘t know—We‘ll be right back with the round table.  More on the politics fix. 

This is fascinating stuff after Super Tuesday.  You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to the round table for more of the politics fix.  We‘re going to talk Republicans, but first look at this, the front page of today‘s “New York Post.”  It‘s a great newspaper, very sophisticated, I must say—“New York Observer,” by the way.  There is the title of it primary scream and that is a caricature of me.  I don‘t think it is the most flattering, but I love it. 

Anyway, let me go right now and talk about the Republican side.  You first, Roger.  This is the weird.  Is there anything John McCain can do to win this thing and convince cultural conservatives to stop voting for Mike Huckabee? 

SIMON:  I think McCain got the perfect result last night.  I think he got exactly what he wants.  He wants Huckabee in there to steal votes away from Mitt Romney.  John McCain got enough votes emerge—to cement his status as front-runner.  It gives Huckabee an excuse to stay in.  Huckabee can raise money.  He can make a good case for being vice president.  I mean, they were making that case before Huckabee won anything, and now Huckabee has won a swathe of states through the south. 

McCain knows that he doesn‘t have to satisfy every cultural conservative out there.  He just has to embrace them enough to say basically, he will give them conservative judges.  They should stop worrying him—they should stop worrying, as he said, and let him go on and put together a coalition that can beat the Democrats in November. 

MATTHEWS:  Faye, do you think McCain is going to be a credible alternative to middle of the road voters.  He has a great appeal among independents.  Will that actually happen in November? 

WATTLETON:  No, they don‘t trust him and I think that‘s why Mr.

Huckabee has made so much inroads. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m talking about independents. 

WATTLETON:  Independents are also attracted to Mr. McCain.  He seems to be moderate.  But he also does send less than moderate signals. 

MATTHEWS:  All I can tell you, Joan, I am so impressed with the fact that the pro-choice voters of Florida, Republicans, voted for the supposedly pro-life McCain.  I shouldn‘t say supposedly, the voting pro-lifer.  There‘s something about him that seems to appeal beyond his positions. 

WALSH:  I think that‘s true, but I think he‘s sort of a mirror image of Obama, in the sense that Obama won all these red states and McCain is winning the blue states.  That again leads conservatives not to trust him and not to think that he‘s really going to be able to assemble the base behind him. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the choice of states that will never vote Republican. 

WALSH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that weird?  Roger, is that symmetric with Barack? 

SIMON:  Barack Obama won South Carolina in the primary.  I guarantee, I don‘t think a Democrat is going to win South Carolina in the general election. 

WATTLETON:  I think what we can say about this election is that there is no predictability.  There are new people in the electorate, candidates we‘ve never seen before.  That is amazing. 

MATTHEWS:  Roger, Joan and Faye, thank you all for joining us in the politics fix.  We‘re coming up right now, “TUCKER.”

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

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