updated 2/8/2008 12:20:14 PM ET 2008-02-08T17:20:14

Guests: Frank Donatelli, Bill Press, Bob Franken, Doug Schoen

DAVID SHUSTER, GUEST HOST:  Mitt Romney is now leaving John McCain one step closer to the Republican presidential nomination. 

Good evening, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster, in for Tucker Carlson. 

And what a day this has been. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I entered this race

I entered this race because I love America.  And because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Coming up this hour, we will get reaction to Mitt Romney‘s withdrawal.  We will also examine a highly controversial remark Romney made today in his speech. 

Meanwhile, John McCain also spoke at that conservative conference.  Attendees were urged not to boo McCain and they complied at least at the beginning.  Then McCain spoke about immigration. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  On the issue of illegal immigration, a position which. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  For his part, McCain then offered this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I‘ve also always believed like you in the wisdom of Ronald Reagan who wanted and warned, in an address to this conference in 1975, he said a political party cannot be all things to all people.  It must represent certain fundamental beliefs, which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  And while McCain invoke Ronald Reagan today, Rush Limbaugh today spoke about Mike Huckabee and urged McCain to put Huckabee on the ticket to start healing the rift with the conservative movement especially in the south.  This hour we will show you what Limbaugh said and get reaction from the McCain camp. 

Also this hour, the Democrats.  Hillary Clinton challenges Barack Obama to five one-on-one debates in the midst of a massive fundraising week for both campaigns.  And later Chelsea Clinton is working more aggressively on her mother‘s behalf.  Why then is Chelsea off limits to reporters? 

But we begin this hour with developments at that conservative conference today in Washington.  Let‘s bring in senior adviser to John McCain and former Reagan White House political director Frank Donatelli.  Frank is coming to us straight from the CPAC convention where he has spent the day hearing all the speeches. 

And Frank, thanks for joining us. 

FRANK DONATELLI, SENIOR ADVISOR TO JOHN MCCAIN:  Hi, David.  How are you? 

SHUSTER:  Good.  Frank, I want to start by playing part of what Romney said today.  Watch this. 

He said, if I fight on in my campaign all the way to the convention I would force a launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win.  And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror. 

Frank, does John McCain believe that Democrats want to surrender to terror? 

DONATELLI:  I think what he said many times, David, is that there are major differences between his approach in Iraq and his opponents‘, that his opponents, when they‘re asked about Iraq, they‘ll give you a date by which Americans will get out.  McCain‘s. 

SHUSTER:  Oh yes.  I‘m not disputing that, Frank.  But as far as what Mitt Romney said today, that Democrats are—want to surrender to terror.  John McCain doesn‘t believe that, does he? 

DONATELLI:  Look, all of our opponents are honorable people.  We have a strong difference of opinion on Iraq and how to fight the war on terror.  And we believe that our plan, which is to be stronger in being successful in Iraq is the superior way to go.  But we have great respect for all of our opponents. 

SHUSTER:  You talked about great respect and that they are all honorable so I want to play for you a McCain ad that was running just as of yesterday in the Washington, D.C. market.  Here‘s the ad.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

MCCAIN:  I‘m John McCain and I approved this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mitt Romney on Ronald Reagan. 

ROMNEY:  Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. 

I‘m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mitt Romney was against Ronald Reagan before he was for him. 

ROMNEY:  Yes, I voted in the Democratic primary when I was running in ‘94.  I wasn‘t trying to return to Reagan-Bush. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If we can‘t trust Mitt Romney on Ronald Reagan, how can we trust him to lead America? 

ROMNEY:  I‘m not running as the Republican view or a continuation of Republican value. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Hey, Frank, if Mitt Romney is honorable today, then why were you running that ad blasting him for his comments about Ronald Reagan yesterday? 

DONATELLI:  It was a very tough campaign.  I think we were on the receiving end, I think, of a lot more negative commercials than we put on ourselves.  But look, there were differences.  That‘s what campaigns are about, David.  They are about highlighting differences.  We had some differences on approach, on some issues with all of our opponents.  But at the same time it was never in doubt that the things that united all of the Republican candidates running this time, including Governor Huckabee, who is still in the race, there are many more things that unite us, including fighting the war on terror and being successful in Iraq than divide us. 

So we‘re on a different phase of the campaign right now.  I thought that it was a very gracious statement by Governor Romney today.  He did speak with Senator McCain and they did say they would speak again in the future.  So I think we‘re well on our way toward bringing together Republicans of all persuasions if we‘re fortunate to be the nominee. 

SHUSTER:  Let‘s talk about Mike Huckabee.  Mike Huckabee, of course, continues.  He still, I suppose, mathematically could get the nomination.  Any problem with Mike Huckabee staying in this race for a couple more weeks? 

DONATELLI:  You know, that‘s entirely up to him.  He and Senator McCain have a very good relationship.  They‘ve managed to campaign together in a lot of states.  And they have difference of opinion on some issues, but it‘s always been a respectful disagreement.  And he has every right to continue if that‘s what he wants to do.  And we‘re focused right now on trying to accumulate the necessary delegates as quickly as possible so that we can become the nominee. 

SHUSTER:  Mike Huckabee got some praise today from Rush Limbaugh, who, as you know, has suggested that McCain does not represent his view of the Republican Party.  And there was Rush Limbaugh today praising Mike Huckabee. 

And he said, “Republicans cannot win the White House, cannot win a presidential race without winning himself.  And McCain demonstrated he can‘t do that unless he puts the Huckster on the ticket as the veep.” 

What‘s your reaction, what‘s the McCain campaign reaction to this blatant suggestion that Mike Huckabee ought to be John McCain‘s running mate? 

DONATELLI:  Well, I‘m delighted that Rush has changed his mind on Mike Huckabee.  You know, he was critical of him for many months.  Maybe he‘ll change his opinion on us and give Senator McCain a little benefit of the doubt in the near future. 

Again, Governor Huckabee has a strong following.  He‘s still running for the nomination.  He and Senator McCain have a very, very good relationship.  I don‘t think we‘re in any position right now to be talking about who‘s going to be vice president because we don‘t have the presidential nomination yet. 

SHUSTER:  But would you acknowledge that John McCain does have some work to do in the evangelical community, especially in some of these southern states that Mike Huckabee won on Tuesday night? 

DONATELLI:  I would acknowledge we have a ways to go before we can bring together all elements of the party.  I would just note that, you know, Senator McCain did win South Carolina.  He did win Florida, both of which were heavily contested by the other candidates.  So he is not without strength in the south either. 

However, I do agree that right now it‘s the time when we want to spend the next few weeks or few months, whatever it takes, to bring all elements of the Republican Party together because we‘re going to need everyone pushing in the right direction.  We‘re going to have a tough campaign this fall. 

SHUSTER:  Frank Donatelli is helping the McCain campaign. 

Frank, thank you very much for coming in.  Always a pleasure to see you. 

DONATELLI:  OK, Davis.  Thanks. 

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome. 

The renaissance of John McCain‘s political career appears complete today.  Can he rally the entire Republican Party, as Frank said, to his cause in November?  And could Mike Huckabee help him do it? 

And the Hillary Clinton campaign says that Barack Obama is now the establishment candidate.  Can the wife of the former president of the United States get anyone to believe that? 

This is MSNBC, the place for politics. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  All of you who worked so hard in the support of the millions of people in our party who supported Governor Romney, I congratulate you.  You did a fine job.  And you are welcome to join my campaign. 

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Just yesterday his staff was saying that, you know, he was in it for the long haul.  And so I was somewhat surprised that he did what he did today.  But obviously it narrows the field and I think gives people a much clearer and more concise choice than they have had. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That was Mike Huckabee seeming to take one more shot at Mitt Romney suggesting Romney said something yesterday that was different from what he said today.  And of course, before that John McCain today in Washington both, of course, reacting to Mitt Romney‘s departure from the presidential campaign.  Joining us now for analysis, our nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press and online columnist Bob Franken. 

And Bill, that was a shot by Mike Huckabee, wasn‘t it? 

BILL PRESS, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO HOST:  It was a shot.  Yes, and I don‘t know why he would take a shot like that.  But you know, as far as I‘m concerned, whatever Mike Huckabee does now, whatever he says now was almost unimportant or meaningless, David.  John McCain is going to be the nominee of the party.  Mike Huckabee can continue or not continue, he‘s out of the race. 

SHUSTER:  And Bob, the Republicans now, even with Mike Huckabee in, they are playing patty cake with some of the stuff that Mike Huckabee has been saying about John McCain today about, simply, oh well that‘s the Washington establishment, I‘m not part of the Washington establishment, compared to the brawl on the Democratic side.  So fair to say that this does give a big advantage to the Republicans right now. 

BOB FRANKEN, ONLINE COLUMNIST:  Well, one would think, although I think everybody here is missing the point.  The departure of Mitt Romney clears the way not for John McCain but Ron Paul.  It‘s obvious.  That‘s the little known surge.  But assuming that Ron Paul falters, John McCain has his own big, big, big job ahead.  He has antagonized over the years so many members of his fellow Republican Party, and now he‘s got to pretend that he didn‘t really mean it.  So we‘ve got a dose of it today when he went before the conservatives and said, I am one of you. 

And there are any number of people out there who are saying we‘ll just see about that.  As you know, there are some people who consider him to be Satan in the conservative movement.  But John McCain is basically trying to say, hey, folks, I‘m not really Satan. 

SHUSTER:  You know, there was a lot of red meat at the speech today by John McCain.  But there was even more I thought for conservatives from Mitt Romney.  And I want to play this sound bite where there‘s Mitt Romney talking about what would happen, what would go wrong for the Republicans if he stayed in this race. 

So watch this now, I want to get your reaction on the other side. 

Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  If I fight out of my campaign all the way to the convention, I want you to know I‘ve given this a lot of thought, I‘d forestall the launch of a national campaign.  And frankly I‘d be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win.  Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Aiding a surrender to terror.  Bob Franken, I have this theory that that is where this general election eventually is going to go, that John McCain will adopt similar language to please conservatives and the Democrats will come back and say oh, no, you guys are aiding terror by taking your troops to Iraq and taking the ball off of Afghanistan.  Is that where this is all going? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I think I‘ll tell you where it‘s going.  I think for the Democrats, there are going to be three little words, George W. Bush.  And John McCain who has spent much of the last several years being a thorn in the side of President Bush is going to have to run in his party.  So this is going to all be very interesting. 

SHUSTER:  And yet, Bill Press, I know that you secretly admire John McCain. 

PRESS:  Well, look, I used to be a McCainiac back in 2000, but I think John McCain has changed a lot of his stripes.  I just want to say about Mitt Romney. 

SHUSTER:  Sure. 

PRESS:  And David, first, I am the most disappointed guy on the planet because when I read this morning that Mitt Romney was paying $1.6 million per delegate, I volunteered to be a Romney delegate at the convention and, you know, he dropped out before I even had that opportunity. 

But I thought he was really disingenuous when he dropped out and said he was dropping out because of the war.  Nobody believes that.  The only war that caused him to drop out is his war with John McCain.  And he knew he was losing it and didn‘t want to waste any money on a losing operation so he got out. 

And by the way, if the war was a real issue, why didn‘t he endorse John McCain when he got out?  He didn‘t do that. 

SHUSTER:  And he certainly seems to think a lot more of his campaign than certainly the Republican Party did.  But it does seem like this is just a setup by Mitt Romney, and perhaps also by Mike Huckabee, for 2012. 

PRESS:  Absolutely.  Yes.  Absolutely.  I‘d just have to say I thought from a political point of view, I think this was a business decision for Romney.  He didn‘t want to waste any more money and a political decision.  He‘ll get a lot of goodwill about getting out of the way.  He‘s looking at 2012.  And he‘ll give the old man this run.  He‘ll think he thinks he‘ll lose and he‘ll be ready in 2012. 

SHUSTER:  And Bob Franken, in the battle for goodwill between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, where do things stand? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I don‘t think there was very much goodwill between the two of them.  And it‘s certainly interesting.  The answer is, is that Mike Huckabee has generated some goodwill because of his personality.  But at some point people are going to have to decide on his electability and I think that that‘s pretty much been decided.  The interesting thing about Mitt Romney in 2012 is that, what political professionals will tell you, is that he had a superb organization but he was a lousy candidate.  And I think that they‘re going to be very dubious about giving him another chance. 

SHUSTER:  Bob Franken and Bill Press are staying with us. 

And coming up, as Senator Clinton dips into her own bank account to fund her campaign, Senator Obama raises more than $7 million in the 36 hours since Super Tuesday.  How important is Obama‘s cash advantage? 

And Chelsea Clinton is out on the campaign trail for her mom.  And she went so far as to check in with the ladies from “The View,” except for one.  Stay tuned for the videotape evidence. 

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Bad news and good for Hillary Clinton‘s campaign funding.  She made the Romneyian move of donating $5 million to the cause.  But reports say that some of her senior staff are working for free.  On the other hand, online fundraising by her campaign finally caught fire after a solid Super Tuesday. 

Barack Obama meanwhile continues to raise money like no other.  $7 million since Tuesday night on his way to another $30 million month.  In a year when John McCain was flying coach and Mitt Romney‘s $50 million saw him step aside today, how much does money really matter? 

Back with us are nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press and online columnist Bob Franken. 

And Bob, answer the question.  What is going on with all this fundraising on the Democratic side right now?  What happened? 

FRANKEN:  Well, we have a race.  We have tremendous amount of interest.  We have people who have very strong opinions and so in the case of Hillary Clinton loaning her own campaign $5 million.  This is one case where at least we know the source of money for the Clinton campaign, which makes it a little bit different anyway. 

SHUSTER:  And Bill, the argument earlier this week was that Barack Obama will win a war of attrition because he can grind down Hillary Clinton, her donors are maxes out.  They‘re the traditional establishment Democrats.  And yet this online fundraising that she‘s had the last couple of days suggested, no, there is some sort of support, a sort of surge for Hillary Clinton among average folks. 

PRESS:  Well, you know, I‘ve been around the Clintons for 10 or 12 years now.  I never thought I would see the day, David, when the Clintons would run out of money or when the Clintons would be beat in the money category.  I think it‘s astounding that Barack Obama raised $32 million in January and she raised $13 million.  That‘s why she wrote that check.  You know, candidates don‘t write checks just because they love giving away their own money.

You know she had to do it to stay alive.  So, yes, she‘s raised $4 million online in the last two days.  Barack Obama has raised $7 million in the last two days.  And he has small donors he can keep going back to again and again and she‘s going to the big heavy donors.  I think it‘s a sign of trouble for the Clinton campaign.  She may have to write another check and so may Bill. 

SHUSTER:  And Obama seems to know that he‘s got the upper hand.  I want to play a sound bite for you.  This is Barack Obama on his campaign plane today talking about all the money that‘s flowing into his campaign.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I‘ll be honest, you know, we have—one of the things that I‘m very proud of in this campaign is how our organizing on the ground has ended up meeting our fundraising so that I‘m not having to devote enormous amounts of time to fundraising, although I did have to do that earlier in the race.  At this point, though, in January we had four or five fundraisers, I think.  And most of the money that we‘re raising now is coming online from people who are strong supporters of us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  And Bill, you‘d think with all the money that the Obama campaign has they can do something better than having reporters have to stick out their hands with their little tape-recorders.  Put a microphone on the plane.  But any case, explain what the money goes for. 

PRESS:  Well, the money goes for that plane, number one.  The money goes for television advertising.  And that‘s the real big thing.  And then money goes for the staff.  And the money goes for opening headquarters.  Barack Obama has opened 10 headquarters in Texas, all right?  He had headquarters all over Connecticut, all over Massachusetts, didn‘t help him much in Massachusetts. 

But you know, David, I have to say, we‘ve also seen this year - this is a year of ups and downs.  We‘ve seen this year that money doesn‘t necessarily mean everything.  Look at John McCain last summer.  Look at Mike Huckabee in Iowa.  So, you know, the money—you need the money but money alone won‘t get you there is what I‘m trying to say. 

SHUSTER:  And Bob, I want to ask a question about—I‘ve been dying as a journalist to go to some of those people who gave money to Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. 

Take a look at this graphic.  This is money spent per delegate by our calculation.  Mitt Romney, $654,000 per delegate.  Rudy Giuliani $48 million per delegate because, of course, he only got one. 

Have you talked to any of these people who gave money to either of these two campaigns and what are they saying? 

FRANKEN:  Probably wouldn‘t be something you could say on family television.  But there‘s another one that I find interesting in the case of Mitt Romney.  He spent $40 million of his own money and he got a little over four million votes when all was said and done.  So Mitt Romney himself spent $10 or so for every vote.  If I were him, I‘d feel a little bit cheated, too. 

SHUSTER:  But what is it that keeps people, in general - I mean, you‘ve, you know, you‘ve covered enough campaigns and met enough fundraisers, Bob, and what is it that keeps them giving money election after election when the odds are against their guy getting the nomination? 

FRANKEN:  Well, the real pros make sure that they give to all of the candidates.  And you have people who sincerely believe that their candidate is the best person to bring good government back.  And there are people who have some sort of connection to the candidates.  So there are a number of reasons why the big money people give the contributions they do.  And I differentiate that from the people on the Internet, for instance, the small contributors who really believe in the cause.  People with the big bucks realize that if they‘re going to keep that money, they got to make sure that they spread the wealth a little bit for the candidates. 

SHUSTER:  And Bill, back to the original point, this war of attrition that the Democrats are engaged in, fair to say that this is a big advantage to Barack Obama.  He‘s been advertising the nine states that are coming up next.  Hillary only started advertising in a couple of them today.  The money will take you to the caucus states where you can organize, as you mentioned. 

How does, I mean, how does Hillary Clinton climb this hill? 

PRESS:  You know, some people are saying that she won on Super Tuesday and that she‘s got the advantage right now, David.  I see it a little differently.  I mean I make the analogy with the Super Bowl.  The Patriots were favored, you know, but they lost.  And at the halftime, right, Patriots were ahead by not by much.  And you looked at that underdog and said, boy, they ran a hell of a first half. 

So I think looking where we are right now at halftime in the Democratic primary, looking ahead to what‘s coming up, I think Barack Obama is probably going to run the table in February.  The Clinton campaign told reporters that today.  They don‘t really expect to win any of the primaries or caucuses in February.  So they‘re banking everything on Texas and Ohio in March. 

So I think it‘s dead even right now but I‘d give a slight advantage to Barack Obama looking at the calendar. 

SHUSTER:  And the money is going to dry up for the Clintons in the - over the next couple of weeks if they‘re essentially suggesting that they‘re not going to win until Texas or Ohio. 

But in any case, Bill Press and Bob Franken are staying with us.  And I got to say, it always makes me a little nervous when politicians spend money the way they do in this campaign.  Mike Huckabee has won the money primary, as far as I‘m concerned.  Look how far he has gone on so little. 

But in any case, for the Democratic delegate race, at flat footed tie looking like it‘s going to stay that way.  Will this man broker the deal to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?  Howard Dean seems to think so. 

And Paris Hilton makes it to Harvard.  Did she luck out on her second try at the SATs?  And will she able to get B-minuses without doing the homework? 

Answers ahead on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”:  The phone rings and who is it?  “Hi, this is Chelsea Clinton.”  I said, really?  Then I get a call from you five minutes later. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ring, ring.  Hello. 

BEHAR:  Hi, this is Chelsea Clinton. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Like hi, this is Chelsea Clinton.  What you doing now?  She‘s like, you know, well, I‘m really proud of my mom.  I‘m like, talk up.  I can‘t hear you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  For most of the Bill Clinton presidency, then teenager Chelsea Clinton remained out of political life.  Political opponents like Mike Huckabee have credited the Clintons for raising such a poised and self-possessed young woman.  Now just shy of her 28th birthday, Chelsea is out and about on her mom‘s behalf, campaigning in Nebraska as Saturday‘s caucuses approach. 

What is the Chelsea factor?  Here again are nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press and online columnist Bob Franken.  Bill, there‘s just something a little bit unseemly to me that Chelsea is out there calling up celebrities saying, support my mom, and apparently she‘s also calling these Super Delegates. 

PRESS:  Hey, she‘s working for her mom.  What‘s unseemly about that?  During the last campaign, the Bush twins were out working for their dad.  I think it‘s great.  I think she‘s grown up in a political family.  She‘s got politics in her blood.  She loves her mom.  She thinks she would make a great president. 

SHUSTER:  Doesn‘t it seem like Chelsea is being pimped out in some weird sort of way? 

PRESS:  No.  If she didn‘t want to be there, she wouldn‘t be there.  Give Chelsea a break.  I think it‘s great.  Again, Michelle Obama is out there for her husband.  What‘s the big deal? 

SHUSTER:  Here is the big deal.  I will give Chelsea Clinton a break when she sits down and gives an interview to somebody like Bob Franken.  If she wants to do all this stuff, she should face the questions. 

PRESS:  Oh, yes, did Oprah give an interview to Bob Franken?  Did Caroline Kennedy give an interview to Bob Franken?  Come on?

SHUSTER:  Let‘s ask Bob Franken. 

FRANKEN:  No, and I‘m feeling very left out here.  To be very honest with you, I would think it would be much more remarkable if Chelsea Clinton came out for Barack Obama.  Of course she would be out there campaigning for her parents.  They seem to have a nice relationship.  And why not?  Of course, what is really at the base of all this is the discussion about Obama and his young support.  He is leading what we can cynically call a children‘s army with his message of change and a generational change and all that, not bad for a guy who is almost 50 years old. 

But apparently the strategy is that she can go out there and neutralize it.  More power to her. 

SHUSTER:  I say more power to her.  But I also think that the collective Washington media, which has respectively these sort of unwritten rules of staying away from Chelsea, not asking her questions, that is now out the window.  It‘s now fair game, that when you and I, Bob and Bill, when we see Chelsea out there at these campaign events, there‘s nothing wrong with going up to her with a microphone and saying, OK, which Super Delegates did you call. 

FRANKEN:  One teensy weensy problem, she has Secret Service protection.  So it gets a little bit dicey. 

SHUSTER:  The logistics are complicated. 

PRESS:  David, I would just say, you can ask her a question, but she doesn‘t have to answer. 

SHUSTER:  All right.  Let‘s turn to Barack Obama.  A couple of stories today that suggested there‘s a certain burden of expectations now that are on the Obama campaign.  Bob, is that fair? 

FRANKEN:  I think it is fair.  But right now, it‘s sort of been neutralized.  What you have is a campaign up for grabs in everybody‘s perception.  It‘s interesting because here you have the Clinton people saying that they expect to lose the next couple of primaries and caucuses and all that.  They are playing the expectations game.  They are hoping that if they win any of them, they can say, hey, hey, we pulled a big upset. 

The same is true in reverse when we get to some of the big states that Senator Clinton is expected to win.  This is all part of the game that‘s being played.  Everybody sort of bad mouths his side in the hopes they can pull off some sort of upset, quote, unquote, or some sort of unexpected victory. 

SHUSTER:  Bill, maybe some benefit for the Clintons.  Obviously, Bill Clinton always performed the best when his back was up against the wall. 

PRESS:  Right.  In the expectations game, I have to tell you, I think we raised the expectations for Barack Obama.  We see the huge crowds at the rallies and we automatically translate that into votes.  And it doesn‘t necessarily happen. 

But I also think the Obama campaign raises the expectations.  David, last Friday I walked into the NBC studios and ran into a couple of our friends I won‘t name, who were on the air, who were so excited because they had this message from the Obama campaign that their polling showed them within two points of winning California, and moving up and closing in.  They were putting that word out there, leading us to believe he was going to carry California.  When, it didn‘t happen, it didn‘t go so well for them. 

So Bob is right, everybody plays the expectations game.  Usually the best way to play it is lower the expectations. 

SHUSTER:  One guy who is playing expectations is Howard Dean, who was asked about a brokered convention.  Howard Dean said, quote, I think we will have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April.  But if we don‘t, then we‘re going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of arrangement, because I don‘t think we can afford to have a brokered convention.  That would not be good news for either party. 

So, Bob, what sort of arrangement is he talking about? 

FRANKEN:  This is a man who is doing some real wishful thinking.  I think from his party‘s point of view, a brokered convention would be a disaster.  It would leave such a bad taste, particularly when you have two candidates, each of whom represents a demographic group, looking at this as a chance to finally overcome history‘s oppression and achieve the highest office in the land.  If there is any sort of brokered convention where one feels that he has been given a raw deal or she has been given a raw deal, I think that could alienate a huge amount of the party‘s support. 

SHUSTER:  Bill, go ahead.

PRESS:  What we‘re talking about here is that Hillary and Barack Obama are basically tied in the delegates, and so then the Super Delegates, who are the party pooh-bahs—I used to be one when I was a member of the DNC.  There are 796 of them.  They would throw their weight behind one or the other.  Look, that‘s not a brokered convention.  That‘s a stacked convention.  That‘s Tammany Hall.  That‘s party bosses deciding.  That would be horrible for the party.  I don‘t blame Howard Dean for wanting to avoid it. 

SHUSTER:  Bill, what‘s to keep one of the Super Delegates, like yourself, for example, when you were one—if you had the same situation, wouldn‘t you go to either the Clinton or Obama campaigns and say, OK, I‘m wavering between you to; what can you offer me.  I really like France.  I‘d like to be the ambassador in Paris.  What‘s wrong with that? 

PRESS:  That‘s exactly why you don‘t want it to happen.  I‘ll tell you what‘s wrong with it, because they haven‘t been elected by anybody.  They are just there because they have a position, like they are a member of the Democratic National Committee, or they‘re a former party chair.  They are not part of the grass roots.  They‘re not part of the democracy, with a small D, that elected all the rest of the delegates. 

SHUSTER:  One of the things that could break this logjam, I suppose, would be if there were some more debates.  The Clinton campaign has invited Barack Obama to participate in five debates over the next couple of weeks.  The Obama campaign is saying, we‘ll see.  Smart politics by the Obama campaign, they don‘t need the debates, right? 

FRANKEN:  They don‘t, but I think that that really is an indicator of where the Clinton people believe they are.  When you need debates, then what you need is some sort of positive coverage, the hope of positive coverage.  By the way, one of the things I‘ve always liked about Bill Press is he‘s one of the few people I know that uses the word pooh-bah. 

SHUSTER:  Bill, at what point does the pressure increase on Barack Obama to agree to some debates. 

PRESS:  First, I understand why Hillary is doing this.  She‘s done very well in the debates.  On a couple of debates, it looked like Barack Obama was asleep.  When you‘ve got maybe a little advantage, why agree to the debates.  But I think he‘s going to have to end up agreeing to at least a couple of them, maybe not five more.  Otherwise, it just looks like he‘s afraid to get on stage with her. 

SHUSTER:  I want to bring this back around before we let you guys go to where we started this hour.  That is with Mitt Romney.  I just sense there‘s still some incredible tension, for all the goodwill that‘s out there, from the McCain campaign and Mike Huckabee.  I want to show you the statement that Mike Huckabee‘s campaign issued when they heard the news Mitt Romney is getting out.  Again, this is in Governor Huckabee‘s name.  It says, quote, “I wish Mitt and his family all the best.  Over the past year, Mitt and his entire family have sacrificed a lot during the course of his campaign.  For that we should be appreciative of their service and dedication.” 

In other words, we appreciate the fact his family sacrificed and that‘s it.  Bill Press, isn‘t that Mike Huckabee sticking it to him one more time? 

PRESS:  I guess the preacher can‘t resist sticking it to him one more time.  David, the real story is—we don‘t have time to really develop this.  John McCain has a big gap he‘s got to cross.  It‘s a big challenge.  When you‘ve got Tom Delay saying I‘ll never vote for him, James Dobson saying, I‘ll never vote for him, it‘s going to be tough to get the conservatives to rally behind him.  It‘s not automatic. 

SHUSTER:  Bob, as far as what Rush Limbaugh suggested, that Mike Huckabee should be McCain‘s running mate, what do you think? 

FRANKEN:  Actually, I think there‘s going to be quite a little battle, quite a bit of maneuvering to decide who is the running mate.  You have the likes of Ann Coulter saying that thinks maybe she would support Hillary Rodham Clinton.  What I think McCain might want to consider is a McCain/Coulter ticket. 

SHUSTER:  Oh god.  We‘re cutting you off, Bob Franken.  That‘s it.  You‘re gone, out of here.  Seriously, Bob Franken and Bill Press, thank you very much.  It‘s great having you here. 

PRESS:  All right, good.  See you Bob.   

SHUSTER:  So where has Bill Clinton been in the never ending political battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?  The former president has been noticeably absent.  Has somebody put a muzzle on the greatest politician of this generation? 

And the woman known as Obama Girl participated in Super Tuesday but what exactly did she participate in?  Internet related political news is ahead.  This is MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Since the fall, both the Republican and Democrat races for the presidency have seen dramatic shifts and conflicts, unexpected development and gripping political action.  Today‘s withdrawal by Mitt Romney, the delegate tie between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton‘s evolving roll in the process are all landmarks in the greatest race in modern history.  Why would one of the smartest men in politics announce the beginning of the end of the two-party system and what are the implications of his theory? 

Well, let‘s ask him.  Joining us now is author of “Declaring Independence, the Beginning of The End of The Two-Party System,” Doug Schoen.  Do you still believe, Doug, that it‘s over? 

DOUG SCHOEN, AUTHOR, “DECLARING INDEPENDENCE”:  I‘m not saying it‘s over.  I‘m saying it‘s beginning to end.  We‘re seeing that the fastest growing group in American politics are independents.  What independents and weak Democrats and weak Republicans are looking for are centrist politics, the kind of arguments that John McCain, who has emerged today, and Barack Obama have been featuring in their campaigns. 

SHUSTER:  But can‘t these independents—let‘s put it this way, can‘t these candidates then stay within the party system, because essentially that‘s what John McCain and Barack Obama are proving, right? 

SCHOEN:  They can.  But what we‘ve seen is so much disaffection in the electorate, so much division and so much back and forth in the primaries that what I think voters are saying is, we‘re really frustrated, angry.  We want alternative politics.  The party system can barely accommodate the frustration people feel. 

SHUSTER:  You used to work, maybe still do, with Michael Bloomberg. 

SCHOEN:  I worked with him in the past, don‘t work with him now. 

SHUSTER:  OK, but fair to say the idea of a Bloomberg candidacy is out the window? 

SCHOEN:  I don‘t think it‘s fair to say.  I think Mike Bloomberg is looking at the situation pretty carefully. 

SHUSTER:  Let me rephrase that, a successful third party candidacy. 

SCHOEN:  I don‘t think so.  I think there‘s so much frustration out there with the party system, with the way government operates, that with a stimulus package that passed today that‘s arguably not going to do that much to avoid a recession, with 80 percent in the “Washington Post” poll saying that they don‘t think the stimulus package will do much to solve the major problems facing the country, there‘s a desire for somebody like Bloomberg. 

SHUSTER:  Why would he get in looking up and seeing John McCain‘s going to be the Republican nominee.  You‘re not talking about a traditional ideologue.  You‘re talking about a maverick of the kind that Mike Bloomberg has fashioned himself to be.  

SCHOEN:  Right now, John McCain‘s running as a traditional conservative.  He made that clear today.  He made it clear in his advertising.  Mitt Romney has made no secret of the fact that he‘s not comfortable with John McCain and certainly Mike Huckabee, at this point, is still in the race.  The Republican party is divided and they have no real champion of the major issue facing the country. 

SHUSTER:  Doug, you‘re friends with the Clintons.  Where is Bill Clinton? 

SCHOEN:  I think they made a decision that since Hillary Clinton is running for president that they could use him arguably more strategically than he was used before. 

SHUSTER:  Isn‘t that a nice way of saying maybe Bill Clinton over-stepped his bounds with some of the comments he made?  You can be very diplomatic.  You can let loose here if you want. 

SCHOEN:  I appreciate that.  But I think Bill Clinton is the best politician I‘ve seen, probably you‘ve seen as well.  I think they realize that using him in a more targeted and focused way than campaigning full time in South Carolina will produce better benefits for Hillary. 

SHUSTER:  What do you make of Hillary Clinton having to spend five million dollars of her own money? 

SCHOEN:  Campaigns have become ridiculously expensive.  She doesn‘t have the pool of small donors Barack Obama does.  She saw a shortfall in her revenue that now has apparently been made up.  John Kerry put six million dollars into his campaign at a critical juncture.  I think she realized she had to do the same thing. 

SHUSTER:  That would suggest an inherent weakness compared to what Barack Obama has got. 

SCHOEN:  Different funding source.  She‘s dealing with high-dollar donors.  He‘s dealing with more small dollar donors.  She‘s raised seven million dollars since Super Tuesday.  The reports I get suggests her fund raising is going very well. 

SHUSTER:  But Obama raised 32 million dollars in January.  He‘s on course for 30 million dollars this month.  So, yes, maybe Hillary is doing well since Tuesday, but Obama‘s fund raising is phenomenal. 

SHUSTER:  That‘s absolutely right.  The Democratic party has gotten twice the level of participation as Republicans.  It is raising more money.  That‘s good news for the Democrats and good news for America. 

SHUSTER:  Doug Schoen, who is the author of “Declaring Independence.” 

We can put this away for four years, Doug. 

SCHOEN:  I don‘t think so.  I‘d much rather you read it now. 

SHUSTER:  OK, Doug, thanks for joining us. 

SCHOEN:  Appreciate it. 

SHUSTER:  Rosie O‘Donnell has made no secret for her love of beer.  So why has the former queen of not so nice given up the suds.  Bear and wine correspondent Bill Wolff has details.  This is MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Here is a little secret.  I had two really, really awful flights today.  What kept me going, seriously, was the opportunity to work with Bill Wolff. 

BILL WOLFF, MSNBC VICE PRESIDENT:  Is that right?  That‘s what kept you going?  You must have one hell of a suitcase, because you‘re here.  You‘re there, working all night, perfectly pressed, beautifully done. 

SHUSTER:  Chemicals. 

WOLFF:  Is that what it is?  Beautifully done.  You‘re into politics, covering politics, let‘s start with politics.  Political news, but not from the campaign trail where you‘ve been.  Political news from the Ward Commission Meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, David.  In the midst of pressing legislation about something having to do with life in Grand Rapids, commissioners were variously terrified and humored by the presence of a bat.  Yes, that was a bat.  The only mammal going naturally equipped to fly.  I read that on Wikipedia.

Fly it did, using it‘s sonar to avoid walls, tables and ward commissioners, until one brave public servant stepped up with his cardigan.  You‘ll see it soon.  And captured that bat unharmed.  The bat was unharmed.  there he goes.  See the cardigan.  He‘s waiting.  He‘s got guts.  The bat was unharmed in the capture, released into nature.  Will it continue to creep out humans? 

The heroic ward commissioner was also unharmed.  His next run for office bolstered by his brave service in the Grand Rapids community in the political process. 

SHUSTER:  Clarify something.  We saw a women covering her hair.  Is it an urban legend that if a bat gets in your hair, you have to shave off all the hair on your head. 

WOLFF:  I live in an urban area.  I have not heard that legend.  I‘m not in a position to dispute you.  It is a myth that they all eat your blood.  There are Twenty species, only three drink your blood.  They are all in central and south America.  Rest easy America.

Paris Hilton, David, was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, thought it is extremely unlikely she went to any good parties there, because she was at Harvard, where there are no good parties.  She was feted as the Harvard Lampoon‘s Woman of the Year.  Graciously accepting the honor, Miss Hilton compared the old school to her homeland, Los Angeles. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS HILTON, “THE SIMPLE LIFE”:  You have a Lamont Library.  We also have a Lamont Library, except it‘s a club in L.A. where celebs go, dance on tables and get crazy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFF:  Not a lot of that going on at Harvard.  No dancing on tables and going crazy, but not in a good way.  Dozens of people reportedly waited more than an hour for her autograph, to say hello.  She was not given an honorary doctorate for being famous for nothing, but it‘s not clear why she wasn‘t. 

SHUSTER:  Are you pleased that your alma mater gave her this award?

WOLFF:  I‘m thrilled, honored.  She‘s in good company.  I feel like we have a little more in common.  She‘s a dear girl, an inspiration to us all, proud moment for North America‘s oldest—second oldest university, William and Mary. 

In another blow to our consumer fueled economy, former actress, comedian, talk show host turned blogger Rosie O‘Donnell told her online audience that she has given up drinking beer.  She told a fan on Internet correspondence she shed some weight by giving up beer.  Pressed for her true decision-making process, she wrote, because I was drinking too much, because I didn‘t want to anymore, because it is hard to lose weight when drinking, because I never can have only one. 

Quote, she added, swearing off booze is not easy, but she says she feels better, David. 

SHUSTER:  You‘ve got to read this last one.  We‘ve got to hear this last one. 

WOLFF:  Quickly.  Finally, some telling political news, her close acquaintances know her as Amber Lee Ettinger.  To the rest of humanity, she‘s Obama Girl, the Youtube sensation who long ago announced and showed her devotion to Barack Obama.  According to the venerable “New York Times” Miss Ettinger or Miss Obama Girl was spotted taking in the election results Tuesday night in New York‘s Greenwich Village.  There she confessed she had not voted for Senator Obama or anyone else, because she was registered in New Jersey.  She was in Manhattan.  She wasn‘t feeling good and she couldn‘t schlep to Jersey to vote.  Obama girl doesn‘t vote for Obama.

SHUSTER:  I am so heart broken.  I placed my trust in Obama Girl. 

WOLFF:  Long ago.  It is a disillusioning moment.  American doesn‘t trust institutions, David, and Obama Girl is why. 

SHUSTER:  With your help, we will all recover.  Bill Wolff, thank you very much.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching everybody.  Up next, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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