updated 2/12/2008 11:25:17 AM ET 2008-02-12T16:25:17

Guests: Katherine Klem, Rob Russo, Kevin James, Joe Klein, Jill Zuckman, Willie Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Five for five for Obama.  The beat goes on.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Five for five.  Senator Barack Obama won big over the weekend, taking the contests in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington state, Maine and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  And a shake-up in the Clinton camp.  Campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle has stepped down from her post and was quickly replaced by Hillary Clinton‘s former chief of staff, Maggie Williams.  On the Republican side challenger Mike Huckabee beat John McCain in Louisiana and Kansas.

Tomorrow, voters in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. vote.  The latest polls show Barack Obama ahead in all three contests.  And on the Republican side, John McCain is leading Huckabee in Maryland and Virginia.

Polls show young people are engaged in this election, but will young people actually come out and vote?  We‘ll talk to two activist college students about the Democratic contest.

And conservative radio talk show hosts are slamming GOP frontrunner John McCain.  Why do some folks on the right think McCain is so wrong for the Republican Party?  We‘ll dig into this later in the show.

But we begin tonight by looking at the two races with NBC News political director Chuck Todd and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, who‘s covering the Clinton campaign.  Let‘s go to a big one here.  Andrea, your thoughts.  Five for five this weekend.  It seems like things happen over weekends that seem to benefit Barack Obama, in the smallest, most interesting caucus states, especially.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the Clinton people would tell you it‘s because they are caucus states.  In fact, the candidate herself said today that her husband had lost these kinds of caucus states.  So she‘s saying not to worry, that they have primaries coming up ahead.  They are looking to Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio March 4, Pennsylvania on April 22, which you know well favors her more heavily...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... than him.  But obviously, they have a momentum concern.  So what they‘re doing now is really lobbying hard to superdelegates, trying to pile up those superdelegates who are not affiliated or not selected as a matter of the voting in any particular start, trying to develop a lead there to counteract the momentum that he is now developing.

I was told by Tom Daschle, who is, you know, wrangling superdelegates for Obama today, that Bill Clinton has not only called every one, but he had just gotten off the phone—Daschle had—with a superdelegate that Bill Clinton had called for 50 minutes while this poor superdelegate was in the car wash.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  This is getting serious.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look—go to Chuck with that question.  Five for five.  What does that do to the momentum?  Because as Andrea says, President Clinton and Senator Clinton are out there retailing the superdelegates, trying to woo them over with past favors, future favors, old friendships, whatever, whatever loyalties will work.  Whereas in this strange ether out there, this sort of movement towards Barack—it comes back once in a while, it moves forward, it moves back a bit, moves forward, moves back a bit.  That seems to be what‘s going on in these caucuses.

Why are the Obama people so successful with these caucuses?  We can‘t say it‘s African-Americans exclusively anymore.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  No, I think it‘s a couple reasons.  One is they have the resources to organize in these states.  You know, I mean, when you look at the money issue, the Clinton campaign had to make choices.  And they decided, you know what, they were going to focus on the primary states.  That‘s where the big delegate-rich areas were, and that‘s what they were going to do.  Obama had the luxury of a little extra money.

But there‘s another thing about, I think, these caucuses, and I think we‘re seeing this, is that the enthusiasm level that Obama supporters have for Obama seems to trump that of what Clinton supporters have for Clinton.  And I think that at a caucus, that could become contagious, and that that‘s what helps propel him from small victories in these caucuses to what looks like very large victories.

I mean, I think Maine, apparently, is a case in point, a state that I think a lot of folks thought would be a little bit closer.  I don‘t think I want to totally buy into the Obama spin that they thought they were going to lose Maine, but I think they thought it was going to be a little more competitive.  And you know, I think that that‘s what you‘re seeing, is it‘s the enthusiasm gap with Obama‘s core supporters versus Clinton‘s core supporters.

MITCHELL:  And let me just say, Chris, one other thing.  There is an issue of working class versus professional, in that the Clinton people are correct when they say that union people, people who have shift jobs cannot just show up at 2:00 in the afternoon or 3:00 in the afternoon for a caucus, the way some other people can take the time off.

TODD:  But it used to be...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good argument.  But also, both of you, it seems to me that activists are—we‘ve all grown up with this.  Activists are the ones who are very comfortable going to a caucus-type situation...

MITCHELL:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and voting out loud in front of their peers.  A particular kind of person would do that.  Don‘t the Clintons find it dismaying, both of them, especially Senator Clinton, that people they‘ve known forever, the party activists who‘ve been voting for Clintons for many elections, have gone south on them—Andrea.

MITCHELL:  Well, sure.  But if you look at the demographic breakdown of her support, her support are largely among people who make less than $50,000 a year and who are older.  These are not, you know, most likely the people who are...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You‘re right.

MITCHELL:  ... going to come.  Some of the older people, but some of the people who are less educated, less advantaged, the you know, high school and under-educated people who are her core supporters are not as likely to be—you know, to persuade a jury, which is basically what a caucus is.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go—let me go—start with Chuck on this and go to Andrea.  Let‘s talk about the shake-up and put it in honest terms.  When your campaign manager, who is usually the big-picture person, who sees the whole campaign—where to spend money, how much on TV, where to spend the candidate‘s time, really think strategically about the campaign—is that the role that Patti Solis Doyle, who just retired as chief—as the campaign manager—was that her role, or was she sort of the manager of the campaign who sort of made sure everybody did their job?  What kind of a role was she actually playing, Chuck?

TODD:  Well, I think a couple different (INAUDIBLE) I mean, I think when you look at Clinton campaigns past, the campaign manager has always been as much a COO...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  ... chief operating officer, as anything else.  And I think she was in charge of making the trains run on time, knowing what everybody was doing.  Was she the chief strategist?  I think Mark Penn...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... is still the chief strategist and...

MATTHEWS:  He still is.

TODD:  ... and still is, and did—the chief message guy.  And I think that a lot of these duties in Clinton world are little more split up than maybe in some traditional campaigns.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what—and then I want to go to you, Andrea.  What good does it do to change people who are managing the campaign if the strategy was wrong?  If—when you read between the lines of all the coverage today—and you know firsthand what‘s going on first hand in reporting this—that if the strategy was wrong, if there wasn‘t enough big thinking, big ideas in the campaign, it was simply a sort of a well-managed, very impressive campaign but didn‘t have a big notion behind it, that would seem to be Mark Penn‘s failing, not Patti Solis Doyle‘s failing.

MITCHELL:  You mean, perhaps too many microtrends?  Look, I think that the real challenge here is someone close enough to Hillary Clinton, with enough weight, enough real gravitas, like Maggie Williams...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... who can perhaps supersede Mark Penn—I mean, a lot of this is insider stuff, but someone who has been with her so long now—not that Patti Solis Doyle wasn‘t, but Maggie Williams was chief of staff back in the White House...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

MITCHELL:  ... when...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... people watching right now.  Will you hear a difference in this campaign in the next two weeks?  Will it begin to sound like a bigger glang (ph)...

MITCHELL:  Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... a bigger gong for change?  Will it have that powerful bong sound of a campaign that seems to have a message, rather than just a very impressive piece of work?  Will it seem to say change?

MITCHELL:  You‘ve already seen—you‘ve already heard more rhetorical lift...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  ... in the last couple of days.  You‘ve already seen that move.

TODD:  And I also think, Chris, that with Maggie, she‘s going to feel more comfortable challenging Penn.  I think that in the beginning, Patti Solis Doyle didn‘t have—she was put into a position where she was already sort of having to referee fights that...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  You know, it was a tough place—it was a tough place for her to be put into.  I don‘t think Maggie Williams is going to have any trouble telling Mark Penn something...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  ... or disagreeing with him.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the new polls for the Potomac primaries tomorrow.  The new Mason-Dixon poll of Virginia has Obama ahead of Senator Clinton by 16 points.  Let‘s take a look at the other polls.  Let‘s keep moving on the polls this weekend.  On the Mason-Dixon poll of Maryland, which, of course, is on the other side of the Potomac, has Obama beating Hillary by 18 points, both substantial advantages.

Andrea, I know people aren‘t saying this, but I wonder if this isn‘t a result not just of sort of the cosmic factors out there, the zeitgeist for change, but that Ted Kennedy gave his big speech over here at American University in this media market and had such a big impact here, probably a bigger impact than he had in Massachusetts or California.

MITCHELL:  Well, possibly, although it‘s really hard to say because so far, Kennedy‘s endorsement hasn‘t translated the way some of us might have thought it would.  So I‘m not prepared to go quite there.

But look, she‘s got, you know, the support of the governor in Maryland.  He‘s got the support of the governor in Virginia.  They‘ve sort of divided themselves up.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  You‘ve got a large African-American community in both states.  You also have upscale people in both states, who have been, as you saw in Connecticut and some other states, more supportive of Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton.  So demographically, these states seem to fit him, and of course, the District of Columbia, with Mayor Fenty supporting him.

TODD:  Look, Chris, it‘s a perfect storm for Obama, of two states.  You couldn‘t ask for two better electorates for him because it is a mix of that.  And these are fairly large states.  I mean, Virginia—Virginia‘s going to be one where he‘s going to—if he wins it decisively, it‘s going to be a good talking point for him.  He doesn‘t have a lot of large states in his pocket yet...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... Missouri and Illinois and Georgia being the three most prominent.  Having this one will be a big deal to him.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  That‘s why it‘s surprising that the Clinton campaign hasn‘t contested Virginia a little bit more...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... because there are parts of Virginia that are very much like Tennessee still.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the delegate county.  The current delegate count has—these are pledged delegates—has Obama with 943 delegates and Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton with 895.  When you include delegates that have yet to be allocated, Obama has an estimate of 1,021 to 1,025, and Senator Clinton has 950 to 954.  Based upon info provided by the campaigns, Obama has 176 pledged superdelegates, and Senator Clinton has 261 pledged superdelegates.  When you add these numbers up, it‘s pretty much a close call.

Is that how you see it, Andrea, pretty much even here between the two of them right now?

MITCHELL:  Yes, I think it is pretty much even, but depending on the margins tomorrow, he could come out on Wednesday morning for the first time with a hard count delegate lead.  So far, she‘s been ahead in that.  And it could have an influence on some of the superdelegates.  We‘ve known that those kinds of elected officials and party insiders can be fickle.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

MITCHELL:  They can be swayed by momentum.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Chuck.

TODD:  And it pushes national polls.  It could really push national polls.  I mean, I think if he comes out with—if he nets 20 delegates tomorrow, that probably will put him ahead in the hard count, in everybody‘s hard count, no matter how you factor in the superdelegates.  That kind of momentum going into Wisconsin and Hawaii, and if he sweeps those, that‘s going to have an—it‘s just going to have one of those weird effects on just national polling.

And I think that—honestly, I think the timing of the announcement of the campaign manager switch was actually pretty smart by the Clintons because now it gives an excuse as to why they‘re going to have this losing streak.  We‘re in the midst of retooling.  Give us a little time.  And it buys them time to March 4 with their donors and with their key supporters, and probably at least freezes the superdelegate because the thing with a bandwagon like this, that Obama is in the midst of creating, is that it could shake lose some more superdelegates.

MITCHELL:  One other thing...

MATTHEWS:  They still have to make the campaign about a big idea.  That‘s what James Carville said to me years ago when I asked him, How do you win a campaign in ‘92, and he said, It‘s basically—he said it with his Louisiana accent—big ideas.  Big ideas.  Doesn‘t Hillary Clinton need some big ideas to beat Barack Obama?

MITCHELL:  She also needs some wins.  And a campaign official, a top official said, We no longer have any margin of error.  We have to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  I think that‘s the trifecta.  They may win all three.  It looks like they‘re ahead in all three.  Andrea, you and I are going to be watching that Pennsylvania one.

MITCHELL:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  That could be the capper for Hillary, for Senator Clinton.  It could be the capper for Obama.  But I‘m telling you, Hillary‘s ahead there now.  She‘s got the pols and she‘s got the working people, the older people.  Everything is perfect for her in Pennsylvania.  And I‘m not setting her up, it‘s just a fact.  That‘s perfect for her, that state.

Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.

MITCHELL:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  Join us live at 7:00 Eastern tonight for the HARDBALL “Power Rankings.”  It‘s Monday.  We got the rankings for you.  Who‘s got the best chance of winning the White House?

Up next, tomorrow‘s Potomac primaries.  It‘s a new round in the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Who‘s going to win the young vote?  We‘ve got a couple of them coming here to talk fir the first time on HARDBALL.  We‘re going to the youth to hear if they‘re going to vote tomorrow.

And later, why some conservatives—wow! -- still don‘t trust John McCain.

You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  A party needs to be energized as we all know.  And one of the reasons why we lost the 2006 election, which is a fact, is because of out of control spending, which dispirited our base.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is what we have been hoping for, praying for, working for, marching for.  the Civil Rights movement, the women‘s rights movement, there it is.  It could not be more symbolically exemplified.  And it is a great honor to be making this race, to be part of making history.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have now won on the Atlantic coast.  We‘ve  won in the Gulf coast.  We‘ve won on the Pacific coast.  And we won in between those coasts!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘ve seen record numbers of young people getting involved in this election.  They‘re not only holding up signs, they‘re also showing up to vote.  On the eve of what we call the Potomac primaries here in the Washington, D.C., area—actually, I‘m in New York right now—Maryland and Virginia, can college students really make the difference?

Well, here to fight on behalf of their candidates are two smart—I assume—impassioned—I know—college students, Katherine Klem, who goes to the great UVA of Thomas Jefferson fame, and of course, the beautifully-named George Washington University student and senior, Rob Russo.  God, you both look ready to talk, so I want to start with Katherine Klem, who hails from Kentucky but studies at the UVA, the University of Virginia.  And you‘re for Barack.  Give me 10 to 20 seconds on why he‘s so great.

KATHERINE KLEM, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA STUDENT, OBAMA SUPPORTER:  Oh, he‘s awesome.  First of all, young people know that this Bush administration has honestly been a joke.  And what we‘re looking for right now is honestly somebody who‘s going to have the judgment, who‘s going to be right on day one.  He‘s also electable.  He‘s going to be able to bring in young people but also Republicans.  You know, I think 500-some Republicans actually switched party affiliation in Colorado last Tuesday to go for Obama.  So he has the right judgment, and he‘s also going to make it.  He can bring the American people along.

MATTHEWS:  Rob, your 10 to 20 on Senator Clinton.

ROB RUSSO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV. STUDENT, CLINTON SUPPORTER:  All right.  Well, you know, I think this is a very, very important election.  It‘s an historic election, and we‘re being offered a real choice.  I think, you know, the question we all have to ask ourselves is, Who is ready to be president?  Who will be the best president?  And in my judgment, I think that‘s Hillary Clinton.

You know, she has over 35 years of experience.  She‘s tested.  She‘s strong.  She‘s ready to take command on day one, ready to end the war in Iraq, ready to fix this economy, ready to provide a real universal health care plan.  You know, Senator Obama‘s plan leaves 15 million people out.  Her plan won‘t.  You know, so these are just some of the very important policy differences between them.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to the...

RUSSO:  And I think she can get it done.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to—I‘m going to make you work here on HARDBALL, now, young people.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re on HARDBALL, Katherine, and you‘re first.  I want one word why you‘re for Obama.  One word.  Put it on a bumper sticker.  Give me that word.

KLEM:  Chris, you are tough!

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going to pass to the other guy if you don‘t do this.

KLEM:  Substance.

MATTHEWS:  Substance.  OK, what‘s your one word for Senator Clinton?  I think she grabbed your word ahead of you.  She preempted you on substance.  What do you think?  That‘s a Hillary word, I would have thought.  But what‘s your word?

RUSSO:  I would say ready.  You know, she‘s ready to take command. 

She‘s ready to be president.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the biggest problem with Obama, as far as you‘re concerned, Rob?

RUSSO:  Well, you know, I think...

MATTHEWS:  One word.

RUSSO:  One word?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RUSSO:  You are tough, Chris.

KLEM:  Let‘s hear it!  Come on!

MATTHEWS:  No, well, I‘m trying to make you think hard.  Anybody can use a lot of words and talking points.  I want you to use your own word and come up with a really good one.

RUSSO:  Yes.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Why is Hillary Clinton—I‘m sorry, why is this guy we‘re looking at right now not the right guy to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, Rob Russo?

RUSSO:  Well, you know...

MATTHEWS:  One word.

RUSSO:  I‘ll just say—one word.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RUSSO:  You know, Chris, you‘re going to harp on this. 

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSO:  I think, you know, it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, three words. 

RUSSO:  .. it‘s a lot of rhetoric.  That‘s all we hear from Senator Obama.  It‘s a lot of rhetoric. 

MATTHEWS:  Rhetoric is the right word. 

RUSSO:  I want someone who has experience.

MATTHEWS:  You have handled it—you have dealt with it brilliantly.

Rhetoric is a great word. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your one-word problem with Senator Clinton, Katherine? 

KLEM:  Stale. 

(LAUGHTER)

KLEM:  Super stale.

RUSSO:  Oh, come on.  Stale?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re great.  You could work in the business.  You belong in the...

KLEM:  You bet.  I just saw Clinton talk.  And even she admits...

MATTHEWS:  Give you guys jobs at “The New York Daily News.”  I think you could handle the bumpers right up front.

But I‘m going to give you a little longer time, as we conclude this brilliant, fast-paced thing here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  When you bring it home to somebody 20, 25 years old right now, even 18 years old, a college student, give me a bread-and-butter issue that matters to students and why they will vote.  Give me it.  I‘m not going to give you the selection of issues. 

Give me a bread-and-butter issue that matters to you, Rob? 

RUSSO:  Health care, absolutely.  I keep on coming back to it, because it really is the key question in this campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Next question.

RUSSO:  Which candidate is going to offer a universal health care plan?

MATTHEWS:  Katherine, give me the thing that matters to you in college, as a student.

RUSSO:  Senator Obama, he does not have a plan.

Absolutely.  I think it definitely applies.

KLEM:  Yes, what matters to me...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Katherine.

KLEM:  What matters to me, Chris, is how much these politicians are sleeping around with different companies. 

RUSSO:  Oh, sleeping around?

KLEM:  I mean, whether you look at health care, you look at Iraq with no-bid contracts, you look at any number of issues, and campaign finance reform is going to be critical to actually getting anything done. 

Look, Obama has actually been walking the talk.  We talked so much about his rhetoric.  Where‘s Clinton been?  She‘s been taking money from drug, tobacco, oil companies.  And she publicly defends the... 

RUSSO:  For over 35 years, she‘s been—she‘s been a leader.

MATTHEWS:  What was your last retort to that, Rob?  You got a shot to defend against that.  What was it?

RUSSO:  Oh, absolutely. 

This whole lobbyist argument, I think, is silly.  The truth is that Senator Obama takes money from state senators—rather, from state lobbyists.  And he takes money from the same people who employ these lobbyists.

KLEM:  But he‘s going to be running a federal government. 

RUSSO:  So, let‘s focus on the real issues.  And the real issues are the economy, health care, ending the war in Iraq, which Hillary will do... 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  All right.  Fine. 

RUSSO:  On any number of these things...

(CROSSTALK)

KLEM:  Yes, if she even gets into office.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m surprised—I‘m surprised, Katherine, you never mentioned Iraq.  But...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSO:  She‘s ready to be president.  She‘s more experienced. 

MATTHEWS:  ... change in Iraq would have been the more interesting words.

But thank you.  It‘s up to you guys.  Thank you. 

KLEM:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I hope everybody votes. 

RUSSO:  Thank you so much, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Bang the door on the dorm, every door in the dorm tonight. 

Get them out to vote tomorrow.

RUSSO:  Absolutely.

KLEM:  I will just say this.  Nobody can unite Republicans like a Clinton, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

RUSSO:  Oh, come on. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you are...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSO:  That‘s a GOP line.  You guys have done a very good job of co-opting the GOP talking points. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, guys.  Thank you very much, Katherine Klem of the UVA. 

KLEM:  Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  And thank you very much, Rob Russo of the George Washington University.

RUSSO:  Thanks so much, Chris.  It‘s an honor.

MATTHEWS:  Great schools, both.  Thank you. 

Up next:  Barack Obama swept Hillary Clinton in four states this weekend, plus the U.S. Virgin islands.  And now he‘s beaten Bill as well in a smaller, perhaps, area of competition, but an interesting one if you‘re something of a writer and talker. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The national media tried to say, well, the election is over and the nomination is all secured. 

Someone forgot to tell me that, because I decided that, until somebody gets 1,191 delegates, by the rules that have been designed by the very party bosses who now want to shut it down, they said that‘s what it took to win. 

Ladies and gentlemen, until somebody gets that, we are in this race for you and for every other conservative American. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

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

Well, Barack Obama‘s been called a rock star politician.  Last night, he was simply a rock star, sort of.  Obama‘s weekend clean sweep not only included five electoral victories, but the Grammy Awards too.  Obama took home the award for best spoken word album, beating out, yes, Bill Clinton and his book on philanthropy. 

Here‘s a taste. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE AUDACITY OF HOPE”)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And, sometimes, someone will grab my hand and tell me that they have great hopes for me, but that they‘re worried that Washington is going to change me, and I will end up just like all the rest of the people in power.  “Please stay who you are,” they will tell me.  “Please don‘t disappoint us.”

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Remember this video from Martin Luther King Day, in which a sleepy Bill Clinton dosed off at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church up in Harlem?

Well, catch this photo in today‘s “Washington Post” of Bill Clinton at a church in Bowie, Maryland, as young Terrance Hare (ph), who gave the altar prayer, grabs his own shuteye.  Look at that guy.  He‘s out cold. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Guess this.  “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere—Panettiere

18 years old, tells us—tells “U.S. Weekly”—rather, “Us Weekly,” that she‘s not yet prepared to say which candidate she‘s backing. 

I love this comment.  “I had a conversation with Barack Obama,” she said.  “I‘m waiting to hear from Hillary Clinton.”  Talk about political retail.  Everybody wants a personal interview.

Don‘t expect a Vice President Sam Brownback any time soon.  Of the five states in which the socially conservative Kansas senator campaigned for John McCain, how many did McCain win?  None. 

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

This presidential campaign isn‘t only about us.  It‘s also about our place in the world.  On the Republican side, of course, there‘s been lots of talk about illegal immigration.  It‘s played such a big role in this race.  And, on the Democratic side, look how Barack Obama‘s international background has really appealed to young voters. 

In other words, our country and our place in the world is changing. 

And tonight‘s big number hammers it home.  By the year 2025 -- not too far

off—how many Americans will be foreign-born?  The answer, one in seven -

one in seven foreign-born Americans.  That‘s 14 percent of us, by 2025 -- tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  He‘s all about—all but locked up the Republican nomination, so why is John McCain losing to Mike Huckabee in these primaries?  Why are conservatives not rallying behind McCain?  That‘s coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks starting the week on a positive note, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining nearly 58 points, the S&P 500 up almost eight, the Nasdaq up 15 points. 

Oil prices surged after event Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to halt sales to the U.S. over an intensifying legal battle between his country and ExxonMobil.  Crude gained $1.82 in New York‘s trading session, closing at $93.59 a barrel. 

Yahoo! officially rejected Microsoft‘s $54 billion takeover bid as too low.  Microsoft offered $31 a share on February 1.  And many analysts believe that Microsoft will now raise its bid to at least $35 a share. 

And it will be the first change in the Dow 30 components in nearly four years.  Bank of America and Chevron will replace Honeywell and Altria Group, better known by its former name, Philip Morris.  The changes take effect a week from tomorrow. 

And if your BlackBerry isn‘t working, you‘re not alone.  Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, reported a critical severity outage in North America. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We have a lot of work to do to unite the party.  Our party is dispirited because of spending and corruption, as we all know.  And we have got to reenergize our base.  And, also, primaries are tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That‘s John McCain today in Annapolis, Maryland, acknowledging that uniting the Republican Party will be tough, as he put it.  And Mike Huckabee won‘t make it any easier. 

Here Mike Huckabee is today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE:  The conservative base of the Republican Party is really very, very critical to us getting elected in November.  And, if the conservative base of the Republican Party doesn‘t feel like they‘re being represented or heard, I think we will have a very difficult time in November.  That‘s why we need to keep this election going. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Will the conservative base actually embrace John McCain? 

I‘m joined by conservative radio talk show host Kevin James and also by the host, my colleague, of MSNBC‘s “HARD”—well, MSNBC‘s “TUCKER,” Tucker Carlson. 

I keep thinking about myself. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Kevin, let me ask you this question. 

What‘s your biggest beef—name it, one word—with John McCain, if you can, one word. 

KEVIN JAMES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, it‘s two words.  It‘s illegal immigration, Chris, illegal immigration. 

John McCain not only took that amnesty bill.  He wanted to pass it through in the dark of night, an old Howard Cosell term.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

JAMES:  All right?

And, so, that‘s a consistent, a very, very—and he—not only one summer, but two, summer ‘06, summer ‘07.  And, when we got into the—into the details of that comprehensive immigration reform bill, and we saw the reason he wanted to do it at the dark of night.  It was disgusting.  It was offensive to people in the United States, both conservative and liberal, on both sides.

But it really angered the conservatives the most.  That‘s the reason that there‘s that old video of John McCain strolling through whatever airport it was carrying his own bags.  It looked like the end of the McCain campaign.  And, look, the one thing you have got to give him is resilience.  He stuck it out.  And now look where he is today.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to Tucker on that. 

Your view.  Was it—was it illegal immigration and his position for a more liberal bill that caused him his decline and—and anger still from the right? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “TUCKER”:  Well, there‘s no doubt that made conservatives mad, and I think legitimately.  But that‘s not the genesis of it.  Of course, he was supporting the Bush position.  And Bush has taken very little grief, relatively speaking, from the right.  Bush always gets a pass from conservatives.  Bush...

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES:  Not on my show, he doesn‘t. 

CARLSON:  Well, he may not, but I‘m saying that the organized conservative groups in Washington, many of whom have gotten rich being official conservatives, have supported Bush from day one, almost no matter what he does, or didn‘t do.  He didn‘t veto a spending bill.  They didn‘t care, or they didn‘t say much about it. 

I think—and I have always thought—that the problem with McCain -

and, yes, he‘s too liberal on a number of issues for the Republican base, for me, for that matter—but the real problem is, he doesn‘t show deference to the leaders of the conservative movement.  He gives them the finger.  And they hate him for it. 

I really think that‘s what it is on some—how else explain their semi-enthusiasm for Rudy Giuliani, who was a genuine liberal on a bunch of different issues?  But that was OK with a lot of them because he kowtowed.  And McCain doesn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you rather have Hillary Clinton...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... who has a more liberal position, on abortion—on immigration than Senator Clinton, be president? 

Kevin? 

JAMES:  Well, look, the question on whether or not Hillary Clinton is

Ann Coulter makes a pretty good argument when you talk about comparing the two on illegal immigration. 

Yes, Hillary Clinton supported that amnesty bill, but John McCain was

the one who partnered with Kennedy to ram it through.  John McCain was the

was the pioneer, was the architect of it.  Hillary Clinton wasn‘t. 

And if—if—what conservatives want, look, we‘re concerned that, if John McCain gets in there and pushes these liberal policies, then we‘re going to be blamed for those liberal policies, and we might see liberal rule for 30 years. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

JAMES:  That‘s one argument. 

Will they support Hillary Clinton at the end?  No, I don‘t think so. 

I don‘t think so at all, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Who will you vote for? 

JAMES:  Because, at the end...

MATTHEWS:  Who would you vote for, Kevin, if you had to choose—well, you might have to—between Senator Clinton and Senator McCain?  Who would you vote for?

JAMES:  Yes, I might have—let me tell what I‘m telling my audience right now.

MATTHEWS:  Who would you vote for?  Who would you vote for? 

JAMES:  I don‘t know.  I—I—I would lean—let me tell you who‘s available to get my vote. 

John McCain is available.  I—my vote is available to John McCain.  All right?  I don‘t know—with Hillary Clinton, I would likely just stay home and vote that—and, when I say stay home, I don‘t mean stay home from the election.  I mean I would stay home from the presidential race. 

John McCain can get my vote, but, to do so, he‘s got to negotiate with us on what we want, all right?  And he‘s—he made a good first step with his CPAC speech.  That was a good first step.  But he‘s got an opportunity right now.  He is arguably the most powerful senator in the U.S. Senate right now as the heir apparent to this nomination. 

He can do something with Duncan Hunter and Mary Fallin right now on moving the Secure Fence Act along.  He can do that today.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you think the fences—you‘re with Pat on this, then. 

You believe in the fence, right? 

JAMES:  Well, I prefer to call it a wall. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re for the wall.  You think that‘s the solution? 

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES:  That‘s the first step to the solution.  It‘s the first step.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you guys on the right—why don‘t you guys on the right get serious that, as long as there‘s a job waiting for somebody on this side of that wall you want to build, they‘re going to find a way to get here?  Why don‘t you put in jail people that hire people illegally? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking you.  If you really want to stop it...

JAMES:  That‘s wrong, too.

I have got to—I have got to—look, that‘s where you have to start.  The reason, Chris—I would love to arrest the American employers.  That‘s 10 years and a $250,000 fine per illegal employee.  And you know what?  You don‘t even need that many prosecutors and task force agents.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t they do it? 

JAMES:  Just a few, and word will get out.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they enforce the law?

JAMES:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  That‘s exactly what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that Republican policy, basically, to keep business happy?

JAMES:  Oh, come on. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking. 

JAMES:  You just said it‘s a Republican policy.  Yes, it is.  But the Democrats aren‘t any better. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

JAMES:  We want someone to be better.

MATTHEWS:  Who was saying—I think both sides are playing a game here. 

JAMES:  We have a shot.

They are.

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, let me ask you, do you think this is the issue? 

And I‘m looking at Jeb Bush today...

CARLSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... who everybody seems to like.  I find him a very popular fellow.  Everybody seems to like him. 

CARLSON:  Yes, he is.

MATTHEWS:  Gary Bauer speaks for as far right as you can get, generally.  Is this coming into line slowly, but painfully, for John McCain? 

CARLSON:  Oh, there‘s no question.  I mean, John McCain will be the nominee. 

The interesting question, I think, is, how will these next couple of primary cycles, when he‘s running against somebody, at least in name, Mike Huckabee, how will it affect him?  How will it affect his views of the conservative movement? 

I mean, the goal for conservatives, I guess, is to make John McCain more conservative.  That‘s why Huckabee is staying in.  But will it in fact alienate McCain?  Will it so irritate him?  Because, with McCain—I think this is the truth—a lot of things are very personal with him.  He sees things in personal terms.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  I mean, you noticed this when Bob Dole got attacked by Mitt Romney.  He said, “Bob Dole is a good man.”

Will this make John McCain angry and more liberal, or will it convince him of the need to genuinely change his conservatives and align them more to the right of his party?  I don‘t know the answer to that, but that‘s what I‘ll be watching. 

MATTHEWS:  James, who‘s the best candidate for president on the conservative side of things, Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who is still in this race, or John McCain?  If you could make either man president tomorrow, or at least the Republican nominee, which one would it be? 

JAMES:  I‘m going to have to say John McCain because of electability, Chris, because of electability. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a reasonable man after all.  Thank you very much, Kevin James—by the way, you‘re right about illegal immigration.  But the problem is not to send 12 million people home.  It‘s to stop the guy coming over tonight illegally. 

JAMES:  Chris, I didn‘t say.  Did you hear me say that?  I did not say send them home. 

MATTHEWS:  It gets wrapped up in that whole thing about amnesty.  The bottom line is, we‘ve got to live with who‘s here and we‘ve got to live with the future, and nobody seems serious about putting people in jail for hiring people illegally. 

JAMES:  They‘ll go home on their own if you enforce the law. 

MATTHEWS:  You and I would climb that wall no matter how high it was if a job was on the other side for our family. 

JAMES:  If it‘s 40 feet—you show me the illegal alien carrying a 41 foot ladder.  

MATTHEWS:  I‘d buy a plane and fly in here.  I‘d take a boat.  I‘d go to France first and come in the top.  You know you can‘t keep people out if there‘s a job here. 

JAMES:  Without a wall, deportations are worthless.  Deportations are worthless without a wall.  At least our deportations will haves some credibility. 

MATTHEWS:  I just don‘t want to ruin the scenery.  Anyway, thank you very much Kevin James, Tucker Carlson.  Up next, on the eve of the Potomac primaries, we‘ve got the politics fix close to home, the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  It is a great honor to be making this race, to be part of making history.  One of us will make history.  We both already have.  But one of us will go on to make history as a Democratic nominee.  The real question is who will change the country?  And who will give us the leadership we so desperately need at this moment in our nation‘s history?  I obviously believe the answer to that is me, or I would not be going through this campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight, what a round table, “Time Magazine‘s” Joe Klein, Jill Zuckman of the “Chicago Tribune,” and the great former mayor of San Francisco, former speaker of the California House, former everything in California, author of the book, “Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times,” Willie Brown.  Look at that.  Look at that style setter.  What—he‘s bringing back the Fedora there.  Sir, thank you for joining us. 

Let‘s talk about national politics here.  We‘ve got a new poll out now, an Associated Press poll just in today.  It‘s got Clinton at 46, Barack Obama at 41, very close, getting within the margin.  I want Mayor Brown, what do you think of that? 

WILLIE BROWN, FMR. MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  I think that poll‘s probably wrong.  I think Mr. Obama is probably better than 46 percent to 41 percent at the moment.  After all, he knocked off three contests over the weekend, two caucuses and one direct vote.  I think he‘ll knock off two more. 

MATTHEWS:  He knocked off Maine too.  He won in Maine. 

BROWN:  He won in Maine yesterday and I think he‘ll win on Tuesday.  So he‘s kind of running the board.  I think the poll trends go in the direction of Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Of winners?  Winning wins? 

BROWN:  It‘s amazing how suddenly you become the guy when you‘re winning.  Ask McCain; he was that way a few months ago and then he went right in the tank. 

MATTHEWS:  Jill Zuckman, do you accept the serial theory of this campaign that winning leads to winning, or is each flip of the coin an independent variable, subject only to the chances of that day?  I wonder which you‘ll say. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Well, Chris, I think we‘ve seen that this whole theory of momentum has not worked very well.  Obama won Iowa, Clinton won New Hampshire, people are trading back and forth.  Huckabee won Iowa, McCain won New Hampshire, then went on to lose in Michigan.  Every time they thought they had a chance for momentum, it eluded them.  Now I think it‘s all over, but for the fat lady. 

But I just have a hard time getting excited about these national polls because right now we‘re in a state-by-state race.  And it really depends on what happens next. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just going—Joe, I‘m trying to figure out whether the atmospherics have changed.  You do get a sense that a lot happens out there in the middle of the night when nothing‘s happening.  The country‘s in the process of making up its mind.  Even when there‘s no parades, no rallies, no debates, aren‘t they out there thinking?  It seems like Barack moves a few steps forward, moves a step backwards, moves a few steps forward, moves a step backward in an interesting almost pendulum, but he tends to move forward. 

JOE KLEIN, “TIME MAGAZINE”:  Yes, I think that, if anything, I think we in the media are undervaluing these caucus victories that Obama had over the weekend.  Yes, he‘s expected to do better in caucuses because he has more ginned up supporters, but he clobbered Hillary Clinton in Nebraska.  He clobbered her in Washington State.  He clobbered her in Maine.  That means something.  That means that his campaign is better organized at this point and more on point than Clinton‘s campaign is. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—

KLEIN:  Which is not to say that he‘s not going to have problems going down the road. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I find it hard to explain that all of a sudden up in Maine, where they thought it would be in doubt, he wins.  Tomorrow, Mr.  Mayor, you talk about Washington, D.C., heavily black city.  He may well win that just ethnically.  But look at Virginia and look at Maryland.  People are now talking, based upon the polls we show tonight, he could sweep the trifecta here tomorrow. 

BROWN:  He could, very easily.  And I would think that Hillary‘s chance will be in Ohio, Texas, and possibly Pennsylvania.  I don‘t think, however, his win in the trifecta, as you declared, and as Joe said on the caucuses and in Maine—I don‘t think that is necessarily decisive and I think your first guest and her comments about what happens with these national polls is absolutely correct. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the one question of electability.  It keeps popping into our conversation.  Let‘s look at the latest AP, again, the poll that just came out today.  This matches Obama up with McCain.  It matches Senator Clinton up with McCain.  It‘s got Obama up by six if they match up.  Look at it now.  It may mean nothing, but there it is.  And then you match up Senator Clinton with Senator McCain and it‘s about even at 46, 45 percent.  Mr. Mayor, your thoughts? 

BROWN:  I think whichever Democrat gets the nomination is going to win the presidency.  I don‘t think the Republicans can hang this time around after eight years of really terrible leadership with George Bush.  Those polls—

MATTHEWS:  They disagree with you.  You get the sense that they‘re euchring (ph) Hillary, they want Senator Clinton.  Come on, give us Senator Clinton.  Do you think they‘re up to that?  Just asking you as a games-man.   

BROWN:  No, I think they would rather have Senator Clinton than Barack Obama, but let me explain to you, either one of the two will win.  Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional caucus on the Democratic side won Congress back.  And they won it in districts they had no business winning.  I‘m telling you, Chris, for those of us, the observers, we don‘t exactly know where victories are going to come from, but they will be in spades, so to speak.  It will be well done. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s amazing what‘s going—

ZUCKMAN:  Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Jill, I‘ll start with you when we come back.  We‘ll be right back with the round table on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to the round table and do our politics.  First for Joe, let me ask you about this weird fight on the Republican side.  If you look at the numbers, it looks like John McCain will slowly close on the required majority number of delegates and win this fight for the Republican nomination.  That said, Huckabee doesn‘t seem to quit.  What‘s going on here? 

KLEIN:  Well, he‘s having fun.  And I think the rest of us are having fun watching him and he keeps on winning things.  So he probably won‘t drop out for a while.  What else does he have to do? 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m wondering, Jill, is he running on frequent flier points?  Is that what‘s paying for this campaign.  If you got money for coach and maybe a staffer, why quit? 

ZUCKMAN:  Frequent flier, hotel points.  I think he‘s got a lot of things stitching this campaign together.  His campaign has always been about him.  He‘s been the whole thing that‘s propelled him.  And if he can keep throwing out quips and one-liners and getting great press, than why stop now? 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s doing what Sharpton did last time around, just sort of entertain us and have a presence that‘s popular. 

BROWN:  Except it‘s different.  He‘s making an application for the vice presidency.  Sharpton was not. 

MATTHEWS:  You think? 

BROWN:  Yes.  I think he has tried his best to get himself in a position.  That‘s why he dumped Romney.  Once he got Romney out of the way, he‘s the only thing left. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s what he‘s doing here, he‘s auditioning, Joe? 

KLEIN:  Yes, but he‘s auditioning for something else, as well.  He‘s auditioning for movement hero.  He‘s raising money now from people on the evangelical wing of the party.  And there‘s plenty of room for lectures and books and all kinds of stuff as he becomes more and more famous. 

MATTHEWS:  Jill Zuckman, I‘ve got to ask you a tough question, Barack Obama‘s never really faced a tough general election, that I know of.  Chicago, he won that easily.  Is he really a strong general election candidate against John McCain as he seems in these polls? 

ZUCKMAN:  We don‘t know.  There‘s no way of knowing.  We don‘t know what the Democratic nominee is going to look like at the end of this primary race.  We don‘t know what each candidate is going to look like after they try to paint each other in the most unflattering light in a general election.  And he doesn‘t have a track record, so we don‘t know whether he can take a punch or throw a punch. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to cut you short today, mayor.  I‘ve got to read a eulogy.  Mayor Willie Brown, it‘s great to have you on.  Good luck with the book.  Come back and talk about the book. 

BROWN:  I will. 

MATTHEWS:  We want to talk about that book. 

Scott Fitzgerald, the great writer, said that there are no second acts in American life.  In the case of Tom Lantos, the second act of his life was that of a member of the U.S. Congress.  An expert on foreign policy and a fighter for human rights everywhere; a gentleman I knew very well with a distinguished European accent.  He was one of the intellectuals in what members of the Congress liked to call the people‘s House. 

I remember having lunch with Tom at the Library of Congress one quiet Friday when the House was out of session.  Tom visiting over there at the library.  I think he liked the academic environment of the Library of Congress.  He also had no airs about wanting to eat at some fancy Washington restaurants. 

A man with a big mind and a world of experience, tastes, and

curiosities, he lived modestly and had no need for the company of those of

greater wealth.  Tom once told me how he managed to both live on two coasts

he was a Congressman from northern California—and not become caught up in the wealth of those you find in the world of Washington and the U.S.  Congress.  Two reasons, he said; I survived the Holocaust; and I have a wife, Annette, who doesn‘t mind living like a grad student. 

About the Holocaust; a Hungarian Jew, Tom escaped capture by the Nazis not once, but twice.  He was saved by the courageous intervention of the legendary Raoul Wallenberg, that Swedish diplomat who saved thousands from the death camps. 

Tom came to America, gained his education, worked in business, and for Senator Joe Biden.  He won election to the U.S. Congress, the only survivor of the Holocaust to do so.  He had a wonderful hard heart and was a majestic American.  When he was asked to the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he didn‘t make a step.  He said, he first wanted to thank all those courageous men who had made the event possible, those brave soldiers who had fought in World War II, those Americans and British and Canadians who had stormed Normandy, fought their way up Italy and died in bombing raids over Germany itself.

He spoke of Harry Truman, who had held the line against Communist expansion in Europe, and of Dwight Eisenhower, who not only led the fight against Nazi Germany in Europe, but secured the peace in the decade afterwards here at home.  He said it was a final tribute to the brave American and allied soldiers who fought to bring down Hitler. 

Finally, he said, the liberation of Europe for which they fought and so many died had been won with the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

This morning, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and battler for human rights died, the last scene in one of the great second acts in American history. 

Join us again in one hour for the HARDBALL power rankings.  Don‘t forget, Keith Olbermann joins me live for our live coverage of the Potomac Primaries tomorrow night, beginning at 6:00 eastern.  Right now, it‘s time for “TUCKER.” 

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

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