updated 2/12/2008 11:32:26 AM ET 2008-02-12T16:32:26

NORAH O’DONNELL, HOST:  Good evening.  I’m Norah O’Donnell.  And welcome to MSNBC’s coverage of yet another big Saturday in the fight for the White House, with contests in Nebraska, Washington state, Louisiana and Kansas. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O’DONNELL (voice-over):  The big question for the Democrats: can Barack Obama continue to cut into Hillary Clinton’s already narrow delegate lead?

While John McCain flies high as the presumptive Republican nominee, the Democrats fighting to face him mix respect for his service with a call for change. 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If our nominee is running against someone’s record, the legendary background of John McCain, and think about this, because if we pick a nominee we expect to win, we cannot take four more years of more of the same. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I honor John McCain’s half century of service to this country.  And—and, you know, he has done some heroic stuff, but his basic proposals are to perpetuate the failed Bush domestic policies and the failed Bush foreign policies. 

O’DONNELL:  As the Democrats crisscross the country in a fight for delegates, Mike Huckabee, the only Republican still challenging McCain, acknowledges he is behind and is counting on something more. 

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Folks, I didn’t major in math.  I majored in miracles and I still believe in those, too. 

O’DONNELL:  NBC News and MSNBC have all of today’s events covered coast to coast.  NBC’s Lee Cowan with the Democrats, MSNBC’s Alex Witt with the latest from the exit polls, NBC political director Chuck Todd with the battle for delegates, and our panel, Eugene Robinson, Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow.  Our Saturday night election coverage begins now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O’DONNELL:  Tonight it is an incredibly close contest on the Democratic side, and Barack Obama hopes that by Wednesday next week, he will pull even with Hillary Clinton in the fight for delegates. 

But first, we already have a result on the Republican side tonight.  In Kansas former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is the winner.  He beats John McCain in Kansas there by a sizeable margin. 

There are primaries today on both sides, Democrat and Republican in Louisiana.  Polls closed there at 9 p.m. Eastern.  Both parties are also holding caucuses in Washington state today.  And Democrats are holding caucuses in Nebraska.  And we’re going to get results from them soon, when the parties count them, and tell us. 

But we begin tonight with NBC News political director Chuck Todd. 

Hi there, Chuck. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Hello, Norah. 

O’DONNELL:  Let’s set the stage.  How big of a night is it tonight for the Democrats?

TODD:  Well, you know, when you total up the number of delegates that are up tonight, it actually outnumbers the entire amount of delegates that were up in the month of January: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada combined.  So it’s—and now this is a delegate fight.  So this is a big night. 

And the question is going to be not, you know, who wins the—you know, who wins these individual states, but who’s going to have—who’s going to have gained the most delegates tonight? 

Obviously, Obama thinks he’s going to win more delegates tonight than Clinton.  The question is how many more is he going to get?  They’d like to net 30 out of tonight.  There are about 180 that are up.  They’re hoping to have a—gain another 30 delegates on her.  When you throw in her supers, she has about a 60-delegate lead.  They think they can cut that lead in half tonight and going into Chesapeake Tuesday, which would give them a lot of momentum. 

O’DONNELL:  What about this analysis that was leaked by the Obama campaign or was discovered by a news organization from the Obama campaign? 

Her strategy is, generally speaking, is to win in the big states.  And she hopes to do well in the coming primaries, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

He wants to do better in some of the smaller and medium-sized states.  And he’s got to win in states like Washington state tonight, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, in order to combat any big wins that she may have in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. 

Is that how—how you see it?

TODD:  Absolutely.  I mean, you can just do it on the number of states he’s already won versus hers.  Assuming he does sweep the three tonight, as he expects and as the Clinton campaign expects, that’s 18 state victories for Obama to just ten for Clinton. 

But of course, the delegate fight is basically even, with her narrowly ahead because of super delegates.  So that just shows you that she is winning these bigger state delegations.  At some point, Obama has got to crack that code. 

O’DONNELL:  Yes.

TODD:  Yes, you know, as far as the delegate count is concerned, he can lose Ohio narrowly, Texas narrowly, Pennsylvania narrowly and be just fine.  But is that a perception that he wants? 

She’s going to have the talking point, if she wins those three states.  She’ll be able to say, “I’ve won eight of the ten largest states,” you know?  “That—isn’t what you want out of your Democratic nominee?” 

He’s going to sit there and say, “Well, I’ve won the most states.”  Notice, he has said that; he’s talked about that.  “Hey, I’m going to”—you know, shouldn’t the nominee be the person that wins the most states and the most votes?

O’DONNELL:  So we keep doing this, Chuck.  We keep talking about how close it is.  I mean, they are virtually tied, and we keep going to more and more primaries, and they stay virtually tied.  What breaks this?  I mean, what do you see breaking any tie that makes a difference? 

TODD:  Well, the thing is, they’re both going after one—you know, if Obama could somehow get highly-educated women away from Clinton, or if she could somehow start luring lower-income white men away from him.  I mean, that seems to be the two—of their two sort of constituencies, her most vulnerable is probably high—highly-educated women, and her most vulnerable to lose to her is blue-collar men, white men that he’s been doing well with lately with in a lot of these polls. 

So the question is which one of them will grab the other?  And will one of them, you know, win somewhere?  I mean, if Obama somehow did win, you know, both Ohio and Texas, that would be a knockout blow and I think the Clinton folks know that. 

But if she’s able to sort of—to start picking off.  Maybe it starts in Wisconsin.  Maybe it starts in Virginia this Tuesday.  If she could put together a couple of wins that she wasn’t supposed to do and then backs it up with a huge win on sort of Junior Tuesday on March 4, Junior Super Tuesday, then maybe that’s what breaks this. 

But I tell you, every time—you know, most elections do have that point where things break.  I happen to think that maybe the national polls might do it.  If there is a perception that grows that maybe she starts pulling away, or he starts polling better against McCain and that gets consistent, and that gets consistent for a long time, well, I think that’s going to have an effect on the super delegates.  And maybe we’ll start seeing more of them break. 

O’DONNELL:  But Junior Super Tuesday is new to me, so I love it. 

TODD:  Hey, we’re always trying to name things here. 

O’DONNELL:  We’re always trying to name them.

TODD:  Naming things.

O’DONNELL:  Chesapeake, that’s right.  What’s today called?

TODD:  Super Saturday, right?  I don’t know. 

O’DONNELL:  Super Saturday.  That’s right, Super Saturday.

TODD:  You can call them our Fab Five.  We were calling them Fab Five our first read, so...

O’DONNELL:  Our Fab Five and then Chesapeake Tuesday, of course, next Tuesday. 

Chuck Todd, you’re staying with us throughout our coverage.  Thank you so much. 

TODD:  All right.

O’DONNELL:  And we go to NBC’s Lee Cowan, who is at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia, where tonight those there will hear from both Hillary Clinton and Barack—Barack Obama, I should say.  They will speak tonight.  We’re going to bring those speeches to you live right here on MSNBC.

And Lee, what is the mood among the two campaigns tonight?

LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think it’s—it’s sort of the expectations game to some extent, Norah.  I think the Hillary Clinton campaign has been saying for the past couple of days that they do expect Barack Obama to do very well tonight.  They think he’s going to do fine. 

Everything sort of favors him tonight.  He does well in very caucus states, which would be Washington and Nebraska.  Louisiana, they think he’ll do very well because of the African-American vote.  The affluent voters, better educated voters in Seattle, for example, also favor him.  So they think he’s going to have a big night.

But as Chuck was saying, what they’re hoping to do is do well enough in these states that he’s not going to pull away too far.  That he may do well, may win all these three states but that she’ll be able to get just enough delegates that she can keep—keep that margin pretty close.  And that’s the plan, anyway, the hope. 

O’DONNELL:  And what has been the argument on both, from both campaigns today as they have out on the trail?  Once again, a question about who would be better to take on John McCain in November?

COWAN:  That’s exactly it, Norah, I mean, from both sides.  That’s pretty much all you heard today, was the regular stump speech and then peppered with—with the argument about who is more electable against John McCain, presuming now that he is, in fact, going to be the presumptive nominee. 

Hillary Clinton saying she can go toe to toe with him on every issue there is.  Barack Obama, however, saying that he offers a real clear distinction from John McCain, especially when it comes to the war in Iraq. 

So that’s their big talking point today, is not so much focusing on each other, but who’s going to go ahead and do better in November. 

O’DONNELL:  All right, Lee Cowan there.  And I know we’ll return to you and watch those speeches, as well.  Thank you so much. 

And of course, the polls close in Louisiana at 9 Eastern.  We’re going to be tracking the mood of Louisiana voters all night long in our exit polling, and for that we go to MSNBC’s Alex Witt. 

Hi there, Alex. 

ALEX WITT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Isn’t this usually your gig, Norah?

O’DONNELL:  That is.  I’m excited to hear what the numbers are.  I haven’t gotten a chance to look yet. 

WITT:  OK, well, then I’m going to bring it to you.  So everyone, welcome.  This is the state’s first national vote since Hurricane Katrina, when such a large portion of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast population was uprooted.  So right now we’re getting our very first look at the voters who cast the ballots in the Democratic primary and just what mattered to them today. 

So for these Democrats, as for the Democrats in all the contests so far, the issue that they felt was the most important was the economy, no surprise.  Nearly half the Democratic voters, 46 percent, chose the economy as the No. 1 issue. 

About three in ten are coming out saying that Iraq was most important, the rest choosing health care.  Now, their view of the economy is very negative.  Look at these numbers: nine out of ten voters in this Democratic primary said the economy was in bad shape. 

As we noted, the state went through Hurricane Katrina, so we asked voters about that.  Forty-four percent of these voters said their family had suffered severe hardship in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, a number of those voters report they have yet to even recover from the disaster. 

However, more than half of those who responded, 55 percent, said they had not suffered any severe hardship.  Important to note that this exit poll suggests that Democrats voting today have slightly higher incomes than the primary voters did in 2004.  Sixty percent say, you know, they’re better off; they’re holding their own financially.  Fifteen percent say they’re actually getting ahead.  So this could be considered a higher income group in these early polls. 

Anyway, the polls in Louisiana, they’re going to be closing in a bit less than an hour, about 45 minutes or so.  And we’re going to get a look then at just who Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were able to attract to their side.  So we’ll get you those numbers, if that’s OK with you, Norah.

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Thank you very much, Alex. 

WITT:  You’re welcome. 

O’DONNELL:  And we have our all-star panel tonight: MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, “The Washington Post’s” Eugene Robinson and in Manchester, New Hampshire, Air America’s Rachel Maddow, who is also an analyst for us.  Welcome to all. 

We have got a really exciting night ahead and already some of the results on the Republican side.  Pat Buchanan, Kansas, big story.  Mike Huckabee has won a big victory in a conservative state.  He trounced John McCain.  How significant is that story?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST:  It’s a caucus state, and he beat McCain almost three-to-one.  He had a terrific rally out there.  I talked to Huckabee’s manager.  Had 1,500 people and McCain had 250. 

What this says, Norah, is the Republican base, the conservative base of the party, the activists who go to caucuses are unreconciled to the idea of John McCain as nominee.  Now that Mitt Romney dropped out, they’re all gravitating, or a great number of them seem to be gravitating to Huckabee, which is a smart strategy on his part.  Because if he stays in for, say, a month more, he will get more delegates maybe and more votes than Mitt Romney, and he will appear as the runner-up, and maybe the prospective conservative nominee down the road.  But he’s got to watch being too hard on McCain and too rough on him, because down the road he might be waiting for a call from John and a date. 

O’DONNELL:  That’s right.  So what’s really the strategy here?  I love Mike Huckabee.  He says, “I didn’t major in math, but...”

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  “I majored in miracles.”

O’DONNELL:  “I majored in miracles.”

ROBINSON:  That’s right. 

O’DONNELL:  And he needs a miracle to win the Republican nomination.  So what’s he doing still in this fight?

ROBINSON:  If you got a prize for the best lines of the campaign, I think Huckabee, you know, by miles.  You know, I—he can’t expect to win the nomination at this point.  Mathematically, it’s essentially impossible for him to do it.  So as Pat said, he either is setting himself up or attempting himself to get a phone call from McCain at some point, or perhaps for, you know, another run later on.

But it is fascinating to see the Republican Party behaving this way, behaving more like the Democratic Party.  The Republican Party is supposed—I thought was supposed to get in line.  Well, McCain went there yesterday.  All the grandees are saying, “Get in line.”  And the party in Kansas said, “What part of we don’t like McCain do you not understand?”

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, you heard Pat make a very interesting point about what happened in Kansas and the conservatives.  We’ve also got a contest next week near here in Virginia, the Chesapeake primary, which many people also view as a bellwether, because there’s a large number of evangelicals in that state.  What will tell us about the fracturing in the Republican Party?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, I think that Kansas should be seen as a real shot across the bow, just as that little West Virginia primary was a shot across the bow in Huckabee’s favor on Super Tuesday night. 

I mean, these Kansas caucus-goers today, there wasn’t any early voting.  There wasn’t any reflection of things that were going on at some other point in the campaign.  They went today, and they caucused today.  And they said, “We know that John McCain is being described not only as the presumptive front-runner, but as the all-button nominee, and we don’t care.  We are going with Mike Huckabee.” 

We may see that in Virginia, as well.  You know, if I were Mike Huckabee I wouldn’t get out of this race either.  Something happens to John McCain he looks like the last man standing, and meanwhile, he gets to be this great vehicle for all of this conservative discontent with McCain. 

BUCHANAN:  But look what happened at the CPAC.  President Bush went there and, in effect, said it’s about time to rally behind our conservative nominee, my boy, McCain.  Romney dropped out—what is it two days ago now.  Romney won the straw poll.  A dead man beat McCain in the straw poll at the CPAC conference.

ROBINSON:  “None of the above” won the straw poll. 

BUCHANAN:  Don’t make us...

MADDOW:  You’re even giving McCain too much credit.  You’re giving McCain even too much credit for CPAC.  Bush never mentioned his name in his speech.  He just referred vaguely to some nominee that might be a good idea. 

I mean, McCain no love at CPAC.  He got booed.  Even after...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, he wanted—the president wanted to get out of there without being booed.  That’s why he mentioned our conservative nominee and God bless America!  And so everybody can feel OK now.  That’s a great idea.

O’DONNELL:  All right.

ROBINSON:  By the way, thanks, Mr. President, for leaving the party in such great shape.  Thank you so much.  We appreciate it. 

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Well, the panel is staying with us.  We are expecting to hear from Hillary Clinton.  She’s going to be speaking at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia.  We will have live coverage of that when it happens, plus more of our exit polling and all the results, straight ahead.

You are watching MSNBC’s live DECISION 2008 coverage.  We’re back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  And we have some results for you here on MSNBC.  We are projecting that Barack Obama is the winner of the Nebraska caucuses.  So put one under the win column for Barack Obama tonight. 

And you can see there, some of the vote totals as they begin to sort of trickle in at 73 percent reporting.  This, of course, was a caucus in Nebraska. 

And Barack Obama has done better in caucuses.  Hillary Clinton acknowledged that yesterday.  She thinks that her kind of voters may not have time to show up at an appointed caucus.

But also as have been pointed out by Chuck Todd, Barack Obama does better in part because of resources.  He is playing in a lot of these states with more offices, more money, more ads, et cetera. 

And we also want to point out to our viewers that we are expecting to hear from Hillary Clinton.  She is expected to take the stage at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia.  We can show you live pictures of that. 

And we’re also going to be—it’s going to be quite a night there.  We’ll hear from Barack Obama.  That’s, of course, former governor, Doug Wilder that is addressing the crowd there.  So you can imagine, with primaries next week in Virginia, there are going to be courting of the voters at this big dinner tonight, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  We’re going to have them on MSNBC. 

We’re back with our panel: Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson and Rachel Maddow.  Welcome back to all. 

Any reaction to the wins of Barack Obama in the Nebraska caucuses, Eugene?

ROBINSON:  No, it would have been a surprise had he not won the Nebraska caucus.  As you said, he does very well in caucus states, and he has offices everywhere.  He has people everywhere.  He is able to blanket the country, basically, with staff and with ads. 

O’DONNELL:  Because of money?

ROBINSON:  Because of money.  He’s got—he’s got all the money he would ever hope to have to run a campaign. 

BUCHANAN:  I don’t think it’s just money.  Look who Barack Obama does well with.  He does well with the highly-educated professorate.  He does well with liberals; he does well with African-Americans. 

And what is the gut issue in the Democratic Party?  It is the war, and he’s got a position of clarity: “I was against it from the beginning.”  And I think these are the movers—these are the people who come out to caucuses, just like those right-wingers in Kansas come out to the Republican caucuses, and their concern’s immigration. 

I think that’s why he’s—the smaller the vote there, the greater what intensity means.  And I think he’s got greater intensity among his per capita than Hillary Rodham Clinton does.  Her big strength...

MADDOW:  I think...

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead.  Go ahead, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I was just going to say, I don’t see how the line on Barack Obama can continue to be that he is popular among liberals and African-Americans, and that’s his—that’s the groups that are voting for him. 

I mean, the thing that’s most notable about Barack Obama’s wins thus far is that he keeps winning red states.  And in addition, the idea that he’s only winning caucuses because turnout is low.  Democrats are blowing out their turnout records in every state they go into.  You can’t say it’s just a tiny number of people who are turning out, and that explains his wins. 

O’DONNELL:  But Rachel, what about the argument that Hillary Clinton made in Washington state just the other day, when he was endorsed by the nurses’ union?  And she said because of caucus rules where you have to show up at an appointed time, if you’re a nurse you’ve got to—you’ve got a shift that runs all day.  And maybe you can’t show up for that time in the caucuses, that that disadvantages her base?

MADDOW:  Hillary Clinton needs to come up with an argument for why she keeps losing caucuses, why she keeps loses procedures in which neighbors and friends and people who live in the same precincts with each other talks about their votes.  Because she does keep losing them. 

The idea that it’s suppressed voter turnout because people have work conflicts is not a great argument for her, because Democratic turnout is off the charts in all of these states.  In the caucus states, in the primary states and the Democratic primaries it’s enormous. 

BUCHANAN:  Rachel, let me respond to that. 

O’DONNELL:  Pat...

BUCHANAN:  Look, where is Hillary—where is Hillary doing very well?  We saw today in “The New York Times” among Catholics she’s winning 2-1.  Now, Catholics and ethnics are Reagan Democrats.  They’re the group Nixon went after, the group Reagan got.  They’re in the center and on the moderate left. 

She’s winning among white folks, especially in the south.  Now African-Americans, where Barack Obama won something like 86 percent, they’re not swing voters.  The white voters and in the south and places like that, they are swing voters. 

Hispanic voters, she’s beating him 2-1.  They are potential swing voters.  They’ll move somewhat.  So these are the groups that Hillary’s getting in the center and on the moderate left, who McCain can reach.  Now no Republican I know...

MADDOW:  But Pat...

BUCHANAN:  ... except Richard Nixon got more than 10 percent of the African-American vote. 

O’DONNELL:  What about that Gene?

MADDOW:  Pat, let me just—let me just—just one point, maybe...

O’DONNELL:  Go ahead. 

MADDOW:  Let me just make one quick point.  I’m sorry.  And I know it’s awkward, because I’m not on set with you guys, and I wish I was. 

But the facts at hand here—the facts at hand here are that Barack Obama just won the Nebraska caucuses with something like 69 percent of the vote.  You can’t write that off as a black vote. 

BUCHANAN:  The operative word is “caucus.”  The operative word is “caucus.” 

MADDOW:  Caucus.

BUCHANAN:  Look at the big primary states. 

ROBINSON:  You know amazingly, neither of you is wrong.  But—but what Obama is—what Obama has been doing is bringing a lot of new voters into not just caucuses but primaries, as well.  He’s bringing and creating excitement and political involvement where it did not before exist.  That is really one of, I think, his great strengths of this as a candidate. 

Hillary Clinton, to a certain extent, has done that among some groups of women, as well.  I think he’s done it to a greater extent.  That explains some of the margin that we’re seeing.

But you are not wrong in—in positing that Barack Obama needs to start attracting some of the more blue-collar voters in some of the big states.

BUCHANAN:  If he’s going to win the general election. 

ROBINSON:  And some of the kind of traditional more ethnic enclaves. 

BUCHANAN:  If he’s going to win a general election.

ROBINSON:  If he’s going to win primaries.

O’DONNELL:  As Chuck said at the top of our show, he is going to have to start peeling away women from Senator Clinton in order to do better, that she still—of course, there’s a big gender gap in her favor.  And we know that women make up the majority of the Democratic primary base. 

BUCHANAN:  He’s doing fine among African-American women.  It’s the white women that he’s got to start peeling away, quite frankly. And the Hispanic women. 

Look at this ethnically, ideologically, in terms of intensity, you know, liberal/conservative, all these things.  And if you break it down that way, Obama is, if you will, running down the left lane of the Democratic Party and rolling, and she’s going down sort of the center left lane and they’re even.  But if you get to a general election, it’s Hillary’s voters who can move. 

ROBINSON:  Well, but...

MADDOW:  Pat, in what—in what kind of a world?  In what kind of a world do Idaho and Nebraska represent the left lane?  I just don’t see it.  There’s no sense—there’s no sense in saying it’s a victory.  There’s no sense in these...

BUCHANAN:  There are Marxists in these premises (ph), too.

MADDOW:  All right.  Sorry. 

O’DONNELL:  You’re all a fabulous panel.  We’re all coming back. 

We’re awaiting two big speeches tonight from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  They’re going to be speaking at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia.  We’re going to have those live. 

And just to remind everybody, we do have a projected winner, and that is Barack Obama, in the Nebraska caucuses.  We’re talking about that earlier. 

Mike Huckabee won in Kansas. 

We’re going to have more results, coming up right here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  Results tonight here on MSNBC.  Barack Obama the projected winner in the Nebraska Democratic caucuses.  On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee the winner in the Kansas Republican caucuses. 

Let’s take a look at those numbers from Kansas and just how well he’s doing there. 

We’ll bring in our political director, Chuck Todd. 

And this was a big win for Mike Huckabee.  He won pretty handily in Kansas.  How significant is that, Chuck?

TODD:  Well, look, rhetorically it’s great for him.  He can say, particularly if he’s somehow added on another, got another state tonight or something like that, or is able to win something sooner.  So he can, you know, just when everybody’s trying to get him out of the race he says, “Whoa, hey, I won something, and it’s not a southern state.” 

Of course the problem is Kansas’s Republican Party is very similar to Iowa’s.  Got a huge evangelical base to it, and he obviously was able to tap into it. 

He’s still got to figure out how to win—win in a place that doesn’t have a large chunk of evangelicals.   I happen to think that Virginia is sort of a potential for him to step out of it.  Sure, it has a large evangelical base but it also is very metropolitan, has the northeastern feel.  If he somehow upset McCain there, then maybe he’s on to something, but mathematically Norah, you go through the numbers on the delegates. 

The problem Huckabee had is that suddenly the republican race goes from winner-take-all in a number of states like we saw on February 5th to some proportional awarding of delegates.  It means John McCain could fall on his face and continue to wrack up delegates and probably wrack up enough to win by the end of the primary season.  He’s right when he says he needs a miracle.  He needs a delegate miracle. 

O’DONNELL:  As you point out even in a miracle, even if John McCain were to fall flat on his face, he could still get enough delegates since he’s already at over 700.  So what is Mike Huckabee doing by staying in this contest, Chuck? What do you think?

TODD:  Well look, I think he’s playing for respectability, playing for the second spot.  He wants to say he finished second.  There is, you know, he can sit here and say you know what? Look, John McCain hasn’t been tested in a one on one yet in a one on one situation and we’re going to see that in Virginia.  We’re going to see that in Maryland. 

More importantly let’s see what happens in Texas.  I think you will see, you know, in the way I’ve done the delegate math I’m guessing that McCain will get the official number of delegates he needs for a nomination on March 4th on our junior Super Tuesday as we decided to call it tonight, that he will get it on March 4th, after Ohio and Texas vote.  For Huckabee’s sake, you know, why not say I’m staying in until he’s mathematically got the number.  And you know, maybe he doesn’t get it by March 4th and then suddenly maybe we’ll start hearing whispers. 

O’DONNELL:  Let me pose an interesting question.  Virginia, next week on Chesapeake Tuesday, what if Huckabee wins, and then what if, as you point out, on junior Tuesday, March 4th, which is Texas, Huckabee wins or Huckabee does very well? Don’t we have an issue, then, for the Republican Party, which is that it becomes embarrassing for the man who is the front-runner, that he’s being beaten in some of these states by Mike Huckabee, and then it starts to allow the press to continue to write stories about oh, McCain can’t unite the conservatives, et cetera, et cetera?

TODD:  Right.  No, I think that this is the great fear and why if you’re John McCain you don’t take Huckabee lightly and more importantly you try to put him in way.  You try to make sure you put a good campaign together in Virginia and you certainly make sure that, when you win and if you win in Texas, that you win substantially, because you don’t want those stories written.  The scenario outlined reminds me a lot of what happened in the democratic side in 1992.  You had a very weak front-runner in Bill Clinton at moments in March and April.  He had gotten through everything.  He chased out all the big opponents and just Jerry brown was sitting there and all of the sudden, April rolled around and may rolled around and he started winning some primaries. 

Jerry Brown I think beat Clinton in Connecticut, and you had a lot of democrats going, uh-oh, are we in trouble? Our front-runner, sure he’s going to have enough delegates.  He’s going to be the nominee but are we in trouble here, what do we do? I think it really, it hurt—the only thing that helped Clinton get out of that rut was Ross Perot.  Ross Perot served as this distraction for us in the media.  We didn’t cover how closely and how badly Clinton was doing at that time and I think that that’s what McCain has to fear.  He doesn’t want to be this weak front-runner that can barely get by an under-funded candidate like Mike Huckabee. 

O’DONNELL:  An interesting point, Chuck Todd.  Thank you very much. 

We’ll return to our panel.  Pat, what about that, that it becomes a problem for the Republican Party with Mike Huckabee staying in and racking up victories?

BUCHANAN:  If Huckabee begins racking up victories he’s going to get a phone call from somebody close to McCain and the phone call will not be about the VP.  The phone call is if you don’t get of here and keep this up you are out of consideration.  What I would do if I were Huckabee I would say we’re going ahead, because Huckabee is running—

O’DONNELL:  Because I want to be VP!

BUCHANAN:  No, because you always walk in with strength.  You don’t walk in with a promise.  You walk in with strength.  Secondly, Huckabee is not just running against McCain.  He’s running against Romney.  Romney was just about designated the next conservative leader at CPAC.  Huckabee is the only candidate on MSNBC, CNN, Fox, the networks the next month.  If he can rack up victories all of the sudden, Romney is like Rudy who dropped out of the first five primaries, was in the dark and Huckabee rolls through and then he comes out and can be the credible second—I mean the first runner up to McCain at the convention.  He gets the prime time speech on the first night and he builds from there.  The stronger you are, the better the shot as VP. 

ROBINSON:  Doesn’t there pose a problem for the republican party if you have Huckabee beating the presumptive nominee, in some primaries, it suggests that conservatives still are not reconciled.  It suggests that the party will not go into this—

BUCHANAN:  That’s right, if McCain ran a one on one with a solid conservative candidate now he would have lost the nomination.  He won it because the conservatives were split. 

O’DONNELL:  Huckabee is out about campaigning.  He is not slowing down.  He’s being dogged by the questions if he’s quitting the race.  Here’s what he had to say about it today.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE :  I know that there is some speculation that I might come here today to announce that I would be getting out of the race.  But I want to make sure you understand, am I quitting? Well, let’s get that settled right now.  No.  I’m not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, he’s betting on a miracle.  He is planning to go forward.  How does this affect the contest?

MADDOW:  Well, we might be reading too much into Mike Huckabee.  We might be reading too much high-level strategy into this.  If you think about it on a base human level, what could Mike Huckabee be doing right now in the rest of his life that’s more fun than what he’s doing right now? He has never been a national figure before.  He’s never gotten invited to be in all of the late night TV shows.  He gets to play bass on network TV.  The writer’s strike might be ending which might give him less gigs for getting on “Leno” and stuff but he’s having the time of his life.  He’s never been a national figure before. 

I’ll disagree with Pat a strong conservative candidate would have obviously be beating McCain at this point.  All of the conservative candidates fell by the wayside, all of the conservative issues have fallen by the wayside in terms of playing a decisive role in the republican primaries.  The conservative wing of the Republican Party doesn’t know who they want to support.  We get this laugh a minute guy who likes to be in the spotlight.  He doesn’t owe anything to anybody in the rest of the party and he’ll stay in the spotlight as long as it’s still fun. 

O’DONNELL:  I love it.  It does make the race continue to be very interesting with Mike Huckabee in there but the democrats for the most part believe that John McCain is going to be the nominee, and on the campaign trail today, we heard Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talking about who would be better to take on John McCain.  Take a listen to what they had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON:  Because remember, it appears as though the republicans will nominate Senator McCain, and he will be a formidable candidate on national security, national defense.  I disagree with him, but you know that we’ve got to nominate someone who can stand there on that stage and take on the republicans when it comes to national security and national defense and protecting our nation and our interests around the world. 

OBAMA:  It is going to be a lot easier for me to have the debate with John McCain than Senator Clinton because she supported the war.  So you know, John McCain won’t be able to say that I supported the war in Iraq, because I didn’t.  He won’t be able to say that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt when he was beating the war drum against Iran, because I haven’t given him support on that the way Senator Clinton did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL:  And there you have the two of them and I was just raising the question while they were talking, to our panel, you might have seen me there, there was just a poll out the other day, these two candidates are talking about who is better to take on John McCain, that Barack Obama would beat John McCain, and this Hillary Clinton was about even with John McCain in that race.  Who would be better to run against John McCain, do we know?

ROBINSON:  A lot of the rest of the democratic contest, I think.  You know, every stump speech is going to have something about that issue, that’s going to be an issue in the campaign, who would best beat him.  You know, I think Obama makes a good argument in that he has demonstrated this ability to appeal kind of, to independents, and he hopes to some republicans, and the polls seemed to bear that out.  The poll, at least the recent poll we saw.  Earlier polls had had it more or less even in terms of the way they do against McCain but the most recent one we saw had Obama with an advantage.  The experience question is the one that would be tough for Obama to answer. 

O’DONNELL:  Pat?

BUCHANAN:  I think Hillary would run a stronger race.  I generally believe that if Obama gets nominated they’re going to tear him apart because of his—he’s got to—he’s the most liberal voting record in the United States senate.  Republicans know how to run against those candidates. 

MADDOW:  Oh, Pat …

BUCHANAN:  Hold it Rachel.  I can feel your breath coming through on this.  On national security on the war, Obama was against it from the beginning.  He’s got a clear record but McCain, that’s all he’s got to run on.  McCain actually really cares about it.  Immigration is almost off the table, and on that issue, national security, and we’re going to stay and fight and there’s going to be no white flag of surrender, that is perfectly tailored to go after Obama’s case, who says we’re coming out, like it or not.  So you’ve got that issue right there and frankly for republicans, that’s about the one issue they’ve got, since McCain has pretty much thrown immigration off the table. 

ROBINSON:  There are a couple of problems in that McCain promises more wars. 

BUCHANAN:  One hundred years in Iraq, he’ll have to back off from that a little bit, I think. 

ROBINSON:  I don’t think that’s what the American people want. 

O’DONNELL:  What about the argument, Rachel.  I mean Barack Obama says that he presents a clearer contrast with John McCain on the war because Barack Obama has made his point.  He opposed the war from the beginning.  John McCain has supported this war.  He has said that it was mismanaged but he of course was one of the strong supporters of the surge and said he might be there for another 100 years. 

MADDOW:  Sure.  I mean Barack Obama would want the contest about Iraq the decision to go in, in the first place.  John McCain and Hillary Clinton would like to make the discussion about Iraq, what to do now, how to get out and whether or not to get out.  But you know when Pat mentioned and you heard me scratching and clawing from over here about it, when Pat mentioned this idea that Barack Obama is the most liberal senator, has the most liberal voting record in the senate, that’s from a “National Journal” ranking conveniently in 2004 said John Kerry was the most liberal senator.  Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist senator, should be suing the “National Journal” because they keep deciding the democratic presidential candidate is more liberal even than he.  If that’s the only thing they’ve got to throw at him that’s ridiculous. 

O’DONNELL:  If they make that argument and Barack Obama makes that argument about well I was opposed to the war from the beginning, what can McCain say back to that? What would McCain say back to that?

BUCHANAN:  He would go right at him and say we thought he had the weapons.  He wasn’t a threat.  You don’t understand foreign policy.  You don’t understand Islamo-fascism.  This is folly.  If the democrats want to beat the republicans you go after him on the economy.  The economy’s going to be in terrible shape.  McCain says I don’t know anything about the economy.  I’m reading Greenspan’s book.  Go after him on that.  Why would you get into a fight with John McCain on national security, for heaven’s sakes?

ROBINSON:  I think Obama will go after him on the economy, if he gets the nomination.  But you know, that argument about we thought he had the weapons of mass destruction so we had to start this elective war, that has not flown with the public.  That has not flown with the United States people. 

O’DONNELL:  The American people do not buy that. 

BUCHANAN:  You’ve got the country in Iraq.  They think of the war as a mistake.  They probably want out.  So make a defensive position that we are going out, but responsibly if you’re a democrat, and good heavens, it’s the economy, stupid.  Why would you fight on defense and weapons systems and stuff like that with McCain?

O’DONNELL:  We have seen in all of our exit polling, the economy is the number one issue.  We’ll have much more with our panel plus those newest numbers from the exit polling in Louisiana where the polls will be closed in under 20 minutes. 

Also, Hillary Clinton’s motorcade has arrived at the Jefferson Jackson dinner and we are going to have her speech coming up right here on MSNBC.  This is our live coverage of Decision 2008. 

And we have one more result for you here before we go to our break.  Barack Obama is the projected winner now in the Washington State caucuses.  That means two wins for him not only in Washington but also in Nebraska tonight.  I had received an email earlier in the night from the Clinton campaign pointing out that Barack Obama would probably do well in these states and they point out he has spent more money on ads in those states so again, another result, our Washington caucus winner Barack Obama.  Eugene Robinson, a huge surprise tonight or how significant is this? 

ROBINSON:  Not a huge surprise but the state with the most delegates at stake for the democrats tonight and it’s about delegates at this point.  It’s interesting of course you got that email.  There’s probably one you know coming out about now.  This is a big surprise and we really thought we were behind there all along and Hillary Clinton had a lead there of 20 points a couple of months ago.  So you know it’s spin, spin, spin.  It’s all about expectations.

BUCHANAN:  But still a very good day.  I mean if he can win – I mean I don’t know Louisiana I think he’s anticipated to win that, is he not?  I mean they’ve got a large African American vote.  If he wins three of the night I think you’ve got to say …

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Obama sweeps three.

O’DONNELL:  That’s an important headline.  We’ve talked about it a lot.

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  Headlines are important.

O’DONNELL:  When Hillary Clinton competed in Michigan and Florida she wanted those big headlines even though they were not awarding delegates in that state.

Rachel, what about the significance? You just said it is important.  Of course, Hillary Clinton had been endorsed by the two women in that state, Senators Patty Murray of course and the other female senator of the state and Barack Obama was endorsed by Christine Cantwell and Christine Gregoire, the governor of that state endorsed Barack Obama.  So the elected officials, they are split. 

MADDOW:  Yes, the endorsements there are interesting because they are split.  We’ve got a female governor who’s a democrat and two female senators who are also democrats in Washington State.  The Christine Gregoire gubernatorial endorsement of Obama came very recently.  It came just in the last few minutes essentially before those caucuses.  The senators’ endorsements came much earlier on.  Washington state was important for the democrats, important for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to see if those women voters who were maybe voting for feminist reasons voting for her as a woman leader who were not ohm just looking at the policy differences between them.  Oh, there we go. 

O’DONNELL:  And I just want to point out, my apologies to you, we mentioned Hillary Clinton had just arrived there at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Virginia.  We are going to listen to her speech live there.  They play the music, and we have just reported that Washington state caucuses have gone for Barack Obama, as well as Nebraska has gone for him, so two wins so far tonight for Barack Obama, and next week is Tuesday when Virginia votes.  Let’s listen to Senator Hillary Clinton. 

H. CLINTON:  That sounds so good! Let me ask you something?  Are you ready to take back the white house and take back our country? Well, so am I and I am so ready to see Virginia in the winning democratic column in November!

I am delighted and honored to be here with you this evening.  I want to thank delegate Jennifer McClellan for not only that introduction, but her commitment to public service and leadership.  And it is a special treat to be here with Governor Tim Kaine and former Governor Mark Warner.  Current Richmond mayor and former governor, Doug Wilder, I want to thank you so much for sending Jim Webb to the senate.  And I hope he will soon be joined by the next Senator Warner from the state of Virginia.  And I want to acknowledge your congressional delegation, congressman Moran and Scott and Voucher and the executive director of the party, Amy Reger, who has done a wonderful job at this huge Jefferson Jackson Day dinner. 

Now, let me ask you for a moment to imagine that it is finally January 20th, 2009.  Someone is standing on the steps of the capitol, will place his or her hand on the bible, and be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.  Our path tonight is to make sure that president is a democrat.  Because after seven long years of George W. Bush …

CROWD:  Boo!

CLINTON:  Seven years of incompetence, corruption and cronyism, seven years of government of the few, by the few, and for the few, the next president will face tremendous challenges. 

As the president walks in to the oval office, waiting there will be two wars, an economy in trouble, the health care crisis, the energy crisis, all of the problems that I hear about every day from people across America.  People who whispered to me about the mortgages they can’t afford, the medical bills that wiped out their life savings, the tuition bills that cut short their children’s dream; people who work the day shift, and the night shift, because they want the world for their children; people whose names don’t make the headlines, but who have always written America’s story. 

It’s about the woman who grabbed my hand and told me her insurance company wouldn’t pay for the treatments her child needed.  It’s about the man who asked me, what to do after his job was shipped overseas, and he was told to train his replacement.  It’s about the couple, so determined to send their daughter to college, they mortgaged their home with a sub-prime mortgage and now may lose that as well.  It’s about the dedicated government employees who stopped me and tell me that they are working hard, despite the all-out assaults on government workers by this administration. 

You know, for me, politics isn’t a game.  It’s not about who’s up or who’s down.  It’s about your lives, your families and your futures, and isn’t it about time you had a president who brought your voice and your values to your white house? This election is also about all those Americans who want to seize this moment, to build the kind of future that we know awaits. 

It’s about teachers determined to see their students succeed in this new century, and—and young people, hungry for opportunities their parents never dreamed of.  It’s about the businesses and the unions, training people for green collared jobs, the high wage, high skill, clean energy jobs of the future! It’s about the scientists and researchers who want to do stem cell research and find treatments and cures for devastating diseases.  It’s about our contractors and construction workers who want to rebuild America, from the bridges in Minnesota to the levees in New Orleans.  It’s about our men and women who wear the uniform of our country, who deserve a commander in chief who knows they are magnificent, but that force should be used as a last resort, not a first resort. 

For seven long years, we have neither addressed our problems nor seized our opportunities.  We have tried it President Bush’s way.  Concentrate wealth, horde power, disregard science, shred the constitution, smear the center, impugn patriotism, go alone in the world wherever you can, and cooperate only when you have to.  And now, with Senator McCain as the likely republican nominee, the republicans have chosen more of the same.  President Bush has already put his stamp of approval on Senator McCain’s conservative credentials, and I am sure that will help. 

Now, I understand there are some people who say they can’t tell the difference between me and George Bush.  Well, I don’t think anyone here believes that the republicans are confusing me and George Bush.  And certainly having fought George Bush every day for the last seven years, I will be among those most happy to finally see the moving van leaving the White House.  Now voters certainly won’t have any problem seeing the differences.  Senator McCain wants to keep troops in Iraq for 50 to 100 years.  I will start bringing them home within 60 days of becoming president of our country. 

Senator McCain has admitted he doesn’t understand the economy.  I have a strategy to end the housing crisis, create five million new clean energy jobs and rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class again.  And one thing we know for sure is that Senator McCain won’t deliver universal health care.  In fact, I am the only candidate left in this race, democratic or republican, with a health care plan to cover every single man, woman and child.  Because you see, I believe health care is a fundamental human right, and a moral obligation of the United States of America, finally to achieve for our people. 

If I’m your nominee, you’ll never have to worry that I’ll be knocked out of the ring, because I do have the strength and experience to lead this country, and I am ready to go toe to toe with Senator McCain, whenever, and wherever he desires.  I am ready to make the case for the Democratic Party, from universal health care to making it clear that once again, America is open for business in the rest of the world, the era of cowboy diplomacy will be over!

I am ready, I am ready to make your case, because your voices are the change we seek, and together, we will take back the white house and take back America, because I see an America where our economy works for everyone, not just those at the top, where our prosperity is shared, and we create good jobs that stay right here in the United States.  I see an America where we stand up to the oil companies and the oil-producing countries, where we do launch a clean energy revolution, and finally confront our climate crisis.  I am well aware that we cannot get serious about our energy policy and our security, our environment and our economy until the two oil men leave the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  People uninsured, more than 950,000, right here in Virginia alone, is a disgrace, and we don’t just provide health care for some people or most people, but for everyone with no one left out.  I see an America where we have schools worthy of our children, starting with pre-kindergarten and I know how passionate Governor Kaine has been advocating for pre-kindergarten programs right here in the Commonwealth.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  And I see an America where college is affordable again for hard working families and students.  I see an America where, when young men and women sign up to serve our country; we sign up to serve them, too.  An America with a 21st century G. I. Bill of Rights to help our veterans, go to college, buy a home and start their own businesses.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  I see an America respected around the world again, where we reach out to our allies to confront our shared challenges from global terrorism to global warming, to global epidemics.  That is the America we will build together, an America where the next generation is always better off than the last. 

That has been the work of my life.  It’s why I started my career fighting for abused and neglected children, children who had drawn the short straw in life, because I believe all of our children deserve the chance to fulfill their own God-given potential.  This nation gave me every opportunity, and I believe we can do the same for every child. 

It’s a matter of living up to the ideals that our founders, many of them Virginians, set forth more than 200 years ago that we are all created equal, all entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  Now, neither Senator Obama nor I nor many of you in this room were fully included in that original vision, but it was the beginning of an extraordinary journey, a journey rooted in our ideals, when our laws were not, a movement of men and women in each generation who led us through uncharted territory, to higher ground.  The abolitionists, like Harriett Tubman, who told the people she led to freedom, if you are tired, keep going.  If you are scared, keep going.  If you are hungry, keep going.  If you want to taste freedom, keep going. 

The audacious women and a few brave men who gathered at Seneca Falls, New York, back in 1848 demanding their rights, including the right to vote.  It took more than 70 years of struggle and ridicule, and grinding hard work, and only one of them lived long enough to see women cast their first ballot.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  The progressives who met the inequities of a new age with a new spirit of reform.  You know, back in the progressive era, even the Republicans understood that we were all in this together, and then, we had so much progress during the 20th century. 

And as men and women marched and picketed, as they faced dogs and tear gas, as they risked their lives, they did so because they looked into the eyes of their children, and they saw the promise of a better future, and they decided to just keep going.  Because of them, my generation grew up taking for granted that women could vote, because of them, my daughter’s generation took for granted that children of all colors would attend school together, because of them, Virginia made history, becoming the first state in America to elect an African-American governor, Governor Wilder. 

Because of them, Senator Obama and I share this stage today, and because of them and because of you, less than a year from now, one of us will take the oath of office, and children today and for future generations will take it for granted that a woman or an African-American can be president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  That - that is the genius of our Constitution.  It was crafted to expand as our hearts do, allowing each generation to lead us closer to that more perfect union.  That is America’s purpose.  That is our purpose as Democrats, and our mission in this election, to build a nation that is more inclusive, more equal, more fair, more free, and more just. 

That work is never finished, but we get better as we go, always striving to heed the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, the words that give voice to America’s embrace, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Lady Liberty has overlooked the New York harbor through wars and depression, and through the dark day of September 11th.  A constant reminder that here in America, we face our challenges and embrace all of our people. 

So today, we say with one voice, give us the child who wants to learn.  Give us the people in need of work.  Give us the veterans who need our care.  Give us this economy to rebuild and this war to end.  Give us this nation to lift, this world to lead, this moment to seize. 

I know we’re ready, and I need your help.  I need your involvement and participation, starting tonight.  Together, we can make history.  Come join me.  Come to my Web site, Hillaryclinton.com.  Be part of this campaign.  Work until Tuesday, when Virginia holds its primary, because it’s not me you’re working for.  It is you.  It is your future, your family’s, and your beloved country.  We have an opportunity together to make history, but not just to change who lives in the White House, but to change our hearts, to change our attitudes, to once again know that there isn’t anything America can’t do if we start acting like Americans. 

So please, join this campaign.  Be part of making history, and giving us back the country we love, to be proud of again, and to make progress toward that more perfect union.  Thank you and God bless you, and God bless America!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORAH O’DONNELL, HOST, DECISION 2008:  And that is Hillary Clinton before a crowd in Virginia there, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, of course.  Virginia is going to be voting on what is being called Chesapeake Tuesday or the Chesapeake primary, where Virginia, Maryland and D.C. go out to vote. 

We’re going to hear from Barack Obama in about an hour from now.  I want to show you some results that have come in while we were listening to Senator Clinton. 

First, the polls are now closed in Louisiana, and on the Democratic side, the race is too early to call, with Obama leading Clinton by a substantial margin, according to the exit polls.  On the Republican side, the race is too close to call between John McCain and Mike Huckabee.  And earlier, it was Barack Obama the projected winner in the Nebraska caucuses.  He won over Senator Clinton by what is a very wide margin. 

Also, results tonight from Washington State, Barack Obama, again, the projected winner over Hillary Clinton, also by a large margin.  And on the Republican side, Mike Huckabee is beating John McCain in the Kansas Republican caucuses.  So, as the results keep rolling in here to MSNBC, we will bring them to you live. 

We want to go to NBC’s Lee Cowan at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia, where it’s very loud and where Hillary Clinton just spoke and Obama will speak about an hour from now.  Lee, tell us about Senator Clinton’s speech.

LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS - RICHMOND, VIRGINIA:  Well, I think first of all on the results, I don’t think any of those results tonight necessarily surprise the Hillary Clinton campaign.  She’s been saying for some time that she thought that these states really favored Barack Obama.  He does much better in caucuses typically than she has.  You know, she thought that the African-American vote in Louisiana would help him.  She thought the more affluent voters in Seattle, Washington would certainly help him there. 

So, I don’t think any necessarily big surprises, but what you heard today in this speech tonight here at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner I think was very similar to what we’ve heard for the past several days.  She must have mentioned John McCain’s name by our count almost a dozen times in this speech. 

And when she does reference Barack Obama, it’s not so much as a rival as it is a person who shares the stage essentially in this historic election.  She talks about the fact that in this election, you certainly have the choice between either a woman or the first African-American.  That brought lots of tears on both sides.  In fact, it was the first time that it brought people to their feet on both sides.  We happen to be in front of the Obama side of the auditorium and the Hillary folks are scattered on the other side.  But that was one of those moments in an effort I think to unify the party to some extent that really brought both camps to their feet, Norah.

O’DONNELL:  Lee, were you surprised that Hillary Clinton did not use this occasion to draw more distinctions with her chief rival, Barack Obama?

COWAN:  Well, you know, she hasn’t even been doing that a lot on the stump, lately.  I mean, she does in certain types of settings, but I think this is one of those occasions I think where both these candidates see it as a larger speech, I think, to the party faithful, something that they can sort of rise above some of the specifics of the race and talk more about where the party is going in general and certainly, trying to focus more on the election in November.

O’DONNELL:  And lee, I know you do a lot of traveling with the Obama campaign.  How much time does Barack Obama spend drawing distinctions with Hillary Clinton in stump speeches?

COWAN:  Well, it’s about the same, I would say.  I don’t think he draws any more distinction with her than she draws with him necessarily.  I think when it comes to the health care proposals; she’s been bringing that up a lot lately on the stump.  He says, the clear distinction is, you know, between the mandated health care that she wants and his plan, which is slightly different than a mandate, so, those kinds of distinctions he brings up—the policy distinctions.  He certainly brings up the war but lately these days, when he talks about Iraq and actually, neither one talk about Iraq, they focus those attentions more on John McCain than they do each other.

O’DONNELL:  All right, Lee Cowan there in Richmond, Virginia, before a noisy crowd.  And Lee, we’ll come back to you because we are expecting to hear from Barack Obama in about an hour from now.

NBC news political director, Chuck Todd is also with us.  And Chuck, since we last talked we’ve seen a number of results come in, Lee mentioned it, not a huge surprise from the Hillary Clinton campaign, that Barack Obama has done well, and the projected winner in the Washington State caucuses, and also, of course, Louisiana, we are saying it is too early to call in that particular race but the exit polls showing that Barack has a lead in those exit polls.  What does it mean for Obama’s campaign if he wins in these three states?  Washington State, Nebraska and Louisiana, what does it mean if he wins big?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, I’ll tell you right now, the Obama folks are giddy about Washington and Nebraska, not because that they won.  They knew that they were going to win.  They do well in these caucuses but they think they’ll get a bigger delegate hall out of both states combined than they expected. 

One of the talking points that they’ve been trying to push around tonight is they may net more delegates just out of those two states than Hillary Clinton did out of New Jersey and Massachusetts for instance on Super Tuesday, to pick out two states that Obama happened to lose on Super Tuesday.  So, if he could net 30 just out of those two, and he nets another say, you know, seven, eight, nine, 10, we don’t know yet, Louisiana, frankly, is probably going to be a state Obama could win big, and yet, not net that many delegates out of it because some of Obama’s vote is packed into a couple of just a few Congressional districts. 

We saw this phenomenon on Super Tuesday.  Alabama, a state that Obama won quite handily, frankly, but because of the way the party allocates delegates by Congressional district, Hillary Clinton did really well in some of the Congressional districts that did not have a lot of African-Americans in it and Obama only ended up winning two more delegates out of the state than she did.  So, they did need to rack up their big delegate totals tonight in Washington and in Nebraska an the Obama folks think they’ve done it and think they may get as high as 30.  We’ll see.

O’DONNELL:  So, that is significant, because we have seen that in Nebraska, he apparently won with 70 percent support, I’m reading from the Associated Press in Washington State with 67 percent support.  So, that means more delegates than perhaps they have predicted. 

Let me ask you though about the spin war that’s sort of already gotten out on them (ph).  I’m looking at my e-mail 6:08 p.m.  I had gotten an e-mail from the Clinton campaign which I know you got, too, that said listen, these three states tonight, Obama had already predicted that he would win by a large margin.  The Clinton campaign pointing out he’s been on the air with television ads that they spent more than $300,000 in Louisiana, that Obama spent $190,000 more in Nebraska and $175,000 more in Washington State.  What is it the Clinton campaign pointing those out?  Why didn’t the Clinton campaign spend more money in those states?

TODD:  Well, it’s interesting.  Look, there’s two reasons.  Look, reason number one is resources.  If they had the resources to do it, they’d have been in all of these caucus states.  They had to make a decision as far as resources were concerned and they decided to focus on the bigger states on Super Tuesday, decided to focus on the bigger states coming up on what we’re now calling apparently junior Super Tuesday, right, on March 4th and you know, so that’s one reason. 

Reason number two is their vote is a working class Democratic vote.  Well, these caucuses are dominated by affluent Democrats—activist Democrats and that’s where Obama has dominated.  That is the voting group he does well with, upper income, highly-educated Democratic voters, that’s where he dominates, and in these caucuses particularly in Washington State, you know, that is your average Democratic caucus-goer is going to have a degree and a half, and probably a six-figure income.

O’DONNELL:  Chuck, on that question of resources, also just got an e-mail from the Clinton campaign that they’ve now raised $10 million from 100,000 donors since Super Tuesday, this of course, following the news that she had loaned her own campaign $5 million.  Are they catching up in the resources war or is this an impressive haul but has she caught up to Barack Obama?

TODD:  Well, it does appear, I mean, you’re not hearing the same numbers out of Obama.  I’m sure, you know, he’s always been a good online fund-raiser and the fact she’s coming close to being one to one with him online, at least according to what the Clinton folks are putting out, that’s a big deal. 

You know, they have not—they did not cultivate a small donor base.  That is another thing that, you know, they just made a decision to go with big donors in 2007 because they thought, maybe they could get enough of them and freeze out Obama and make it so that he couldn’t catch up.  Obama had to do a two - you know, Obama didn’t cultivate a small donor base because he thought it would be great to have a small donor base.  He did it because he didn’t think there were enough big donors out there that were going to be left after Clinton gobbled them all up.  So, he had to go this route. 

Now, it’s turning out to pay off.  He’s sort of a financial printing press, you know.  He just turns it on, it’s like a spigot and money just pours in.  She needed to do this, you know, the fact that they’ve been able to build the small donor base potentially as fast as they have is very impressive and frankly, it probably only means this thing is just, you know, we’re going to stay in this, even fight. 

The delegate numbers tonight, I’m starting to do the math.  I mean, he could be, you throw in the superdelegates that both of them claim, and he’s going to be within, say 30 to 35, counting this, you know, even she had about a 90 super delegate lead just among superdelegates.  He had been leading among pledge but doesn’t have that big of a lead among pledged, so, he’d been—the overall total, put him about 65 delegates behind.  Well, he may cut that total in half tonight and who knows what happens on Tuesday.

O’DONNELL:  Chuck, we want to see those calculations.

TODD:  I’m getting there, I promise.

O’DONNELL:  We want to see your white erase board.

TODD:  No, no.  Tim’s got the white erase board.  We already agreed, I can’t touch the erase board.  I’ll be—I can be the high-tech guy.  He said I can do that.

O’DONNELL:  All right, well, thank you so much, Chuck, who is more on math than I guess miracles.  He’s our math guy, of course, our political director.  Thank you, Chuck.

And up next: We’re going to have the latest from our Louisiana exit polling on that Republican race, which is too close to call between John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

Plus: We’ll follow the Democratic race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and we’ll be joined by the Republican governor and the Democratic lieutenant governor of Louisiana.  Polls have just closed in Louisiana.  You’re watching MSNBC’s live coverage of DECISION 2008.  We’re going to have more right here on MSNBC in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  Welcome back to MSNBC’s live coverage of DECISION 2008.  In Louisiana, it is still too early to call between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  But Obama has a substantial lead according to the exit polls.  On the Republican side, the race is too close to call between John McCain and Mike Huckabee in that contest.  So, let’s get more from our exit polling on the Republican race and MSNBC’s Alex Witt.  Hi, there, Alex.  What have we learned?

ALEX WITT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, hello, once again to you, Norah.  And this may be part of why we’re having trouble figuring out all the details of this and why it’s so close.  It’s because it has been a week of major changes in the Republican race for the nomination with Mitt Romney suspending his campaign, giving John McCain the clear front-runner status, and then, Mike Huckabee making it very clear himself that he has no intention at all of dropping out. 

So, one thing that we wanted to look at in Louisiana’s Republican primary was exactly when these voters made up their minds and what we are finding is that about 20 percent of them made up their minds in the past three days and that is of course, keep in mind, after the Super Tuesday primaries and after Mitt Romney’s decision. 

So, when they decided who to vote for, what were they looking for, in this we found that for 21 percent, the key quality was someone who says what he believes, 20 percent wanted someone with experience, however, the most important quality was a person who shares their values. 

In fact, nearly half of these voters, 47 percent chose that as the key candidate quality.  Now, in this contest, we see that evangelicals, a very important voting block within the Republican Party certainly, they represented half of the voters today, as compared to other southern states where we see that Louisiana Catholics were a much more important factor, accounting for a full 29 percent of those who cast balance lots in this GOP primary. 

Now, as for the most important issue, a third named the economy.  However, there’s terrorism, illegal immigration, Iraq, as you see, pretty much even as a split for second place with about 20 percent, maybe 21 percent of the vote there and finally, we see that this is a strongly conservative electorate, Norah.  Rather 71 percent of them identify themselves as being conservative, so, there you have that.  So, we’re going to see as tonight goes on, Norah, just who these voters decide to choose as their candidate for the Republican Party but last week it was something like what -- 46/25.  I mean, it’s just very, very early.  The returns are coming in right now.

O’DONNELL:  All right, Alex Witt, very, very interesting.  Thank you.  And so, let’s go to our panel on those particular exit polls.  Pat, I was struck there, half of them evangelicals.  This is a conservative electorate on the Republican side in Louisiana.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Louisiana is really a divided state.  You go north into the protestant Huey Long area, Shreveport over to Monroe, mon-row (ph) as they call it.  It’s very protestant but then, you come south into the Cajun Country and toward New Orleans and it’s heavily catholic.  That’s right.  I would expect Huckabee to do well up there in the north and McCain to do better down in the south, quite frankly, because it looks like a very tight race right now.

O’DONNELL:  What does it say, given that we’ve already had the results out of Kansas, where Mike Huckabee beat John McCain, and in Louisiana, where it’s very, very close—too close for us to call here at NBC News?  Is that a warning sign for McCain?

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST:  Right, you know, I think it’s a warning sign for the party and the party’s going to want to do something about this before it goes much further, because it is a rejection of the presumptive nominee but a sizeable chunk of committed activist Republicans, the Republican base, that you really need -

BUCHANAN:  They said, if Huckabee got out, Romney could win, now, Romney got out and Huckabee seems to be moving ahead.  What that tells you is, there always was a huge anti-McCain vote and now it’s coalescing around Mike Huckabee, and he’s the beneficiary of it.

O’DONNELL:  Well, is it they are coalescing or we’re talking about conservative electorates, very conservative electorate in Kansas and a very conservative electorate -- 70 percent identifying themselves as conservative in Louisiana.  That’s more conservative than some of the other, I remember, exit polling we’ve seen even in some of the other states.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, once you get out of the northeast corridor and things I get (ph), the Republican Party is a conservative party, a very conservative party and conservatives are usually favorite.  I mean, the Bush-McCain race, I mean, McCain had all those credentials, he was more on his prime and George Bush beat him because the conservatives rallied to him.

ROBINSON:  And it’s hard to see that segment of the vote is anything but in anybody but McCain kind of vote.  Because one would assume a lot of those votes would have gone to Mitt Romney, for example a couple weeks ago.

O’DONNELL:  Rachel is that going to be the headline tomorrow—that Huckabee surprises again that McCain has been hurt?  I’m reading the Associated Press wire.  I was struck by this, they say, “John McCain flunked his first ballot test since becoming the Republican nominee”, in part because he lost Kansas.  That’s not a good thing.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I mean if the headlines are responsible tomorrow, what they should probably say is Huckabee lives and Republicans still aren’t turning out.  I mean, if you look at the Kansas turnout today compared to the Democrats in Kansas, they didn’t vote on the same days.  We’ve already had the Democrats turnout. 

Today was the Republicans.  The Republican turnout was about half what the Democratic turnout was, in Kansas.  So, yes, they’re voting against the guy who everybody is saying is going to get the nomination.  It’s the presumptive nominee.  They’re voting for a guy who everybody is telling them has no chance of getting the nomination, but mostly, they’re just not voting.  The Republican electorate is depressed both literally and figuratively.

O’DONNELL:  All right.  The panel is staying with us as we continue to track up both races in Louisiana.  When we return, Louisiana’s Republican governor and Democratic lieutenant governor will join us live.  You are watching MSNBC’s live coverage of DECISION 2008.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  And tonight we are watching two very interesting races in Louisiana.  On the Democratic side, the race is too early to call, with Obama leading Clinton by a substantial margin in the exit polls.  On the Republican side, the race is too close to call between John McCain and Mike Huckabee. 

Earlier, in the Democratic caucuses in Washington State, it was Barack Obama the projected winner over Hillary Clinton.  In the Nebraska caucuses, Senator Obama won by a wide margin over Senator Clinton.  And in the Kansas Republican caucuses, it was Mike Huckabee beating John McCain. 

And tonight we’re joined now by Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana. 

Governor, thank you so much for joining us. 

LT. GOV. MITCH LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA:  It’s great to be with you.  Thank you so much for having me. 

O’DONNELL:  Absolutely. 

Well, we’re looking forward for the results out of Louisiana, as we just reported.  It’s too close to call there between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 

Who did you vote for? 

LANDRIEU:  Well I’m not going to tell you who I voted for because I haven’t endorsed either candidate yet.  But what I can say is that most of the exit polls are reflecting that Obama will probably win Louisiana. 

And I was hearing, you know, some of the panel a little bit before.  Louisiana generally trends more conservative in national elections.  In the last five presidential races in the general election, the Republicans won five, the Democrats won three.  President Clinton won both times, as did President Carter.  But other times, Louisiana trends a little bit more conservative in national elections, which may explain some of the results today, at least on the Republican side as well. 

O’DONNELL:  Governor, your sister, Senator Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat well known in that state, is facing a very tough re-election.  Is that why neither of you are willing to say who you voted for, or endorsing either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?  Why won’t you say? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, no, not necessarily.  One of the reasons why many of us are staying neutral now is because we feel like the area, because of the Gulf Coast recovery, what the needs are, Katrina moving forward, we really want the new candidates to come forward and tell us what they’re going to do, what their ideas are about how to actually continue to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.  And we’d really like to foster another presidential debate in that area to discuss that, and I think many of us are thinking along the same lines and are just not yet prepared because we want to be in a position to help make that happen

O’DONNELL:  Let me ask you—in May, 2006, Chris Matthews asked you, “What do you think of Hillary Clinton as a future president?”  And you said, “She’s not going to make it.”

Do you still think that? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, what I was responding to was whether or not she could in the general election win in Louisiana.  I said at that time, and I just repeated it a minute ago, the state tends to trend that way.  That’s not to say that it can’t be done.  I mean, the conventional wisdom in this campaign has really been up-ended. 

O’DONNELL:  Well, then let me ask you, could Barack Obama win Louisiana in a general election? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, that’s a very interesting question.  Again, what I was reflecting on is the trends in Louisiana in the national elections. 

I certainly think that anything is winnable and anything is possible, but if you look at the past elections, five out of the last eight have trended Republican.  This, again, has been a really interesting race.  Both of these individuals have been fierce competitors.  I assume if John McCain is going to be the nominee on the Republican side, he would be very competitive in Louisiana, too. 

The state is really a 50/50 state.  And it depends on the candidate, it depends on the time, it depends on really the environment that we find ourselves in. 

Of course this one is a very uncertain environment, and most predictions that people have made have not come to pass.  So, you know, we’ll see how it shakes out. 

O’DONNELL:  Well, Governor, let me press you on that.  The exit polling is showing that half of those casting their ballots in the Democratic caucus were black.  Of course, African-Americans have favored Obama in earlier of the primaries. 

Why would that not suggest that he would also draw a large number of African-Americans in a general contest and put a state like Louisiana in play? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, he may very well be able to.  I think that we’re seeing a phenomena that we have not seen before.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, in Louisiana, as you said, half of the votes are African-American, a very large African-American turnout.  And, of course, I think that is going to help move the numbers in Senator Obama’s favor tonight. 

He’s also getting good crossover vote.  And I think Louisiana’s going to follow the pattern of a number of other southern states that have voted in the last couple of weeks. 

How that then amps up into the general election I think is really an uncertain thing.  And I don’t think we know that yet.  Remember, we have nine months before the general election, and there have been so many changes between now and then. 

He has certainly performed in fantastic ways across the entire country.  He continues to draw larger crowds, continues to raise more money.  And, you know, it’s very unpredictable at this point.  He’s still in the game.  I think many, many months ago people thought this was going to be over, and of course we now know that that’s not so. 

O’DONNELL:  Right.  We’ve got a race on our hands, you pointed out. 

Let me ask you about one other thing that I found interesting according to exit polling.  One in seven Democratic voters and about one in 10 Republicans said Hurricane Katrina had caused their families severe hardship from which they have not recovered. 

What do you make of those numbers? 

LANDRIEU:  Well, there’s no question about that.  I mean, it surprises me that they’re in, in fact, so low. 

O’DONNELL:  Yes.  That’s what surprised me. 

LANDRIEU:  One of the messages that both the governor—yes—that both the governor and I are going to try to talk to—to speak to the nation about is the fact that New Orleans right now and the Gulf Coast region is in fact what I would call the most immediate laboratory of democracy that this nation has.  In other words, every issue that affects this country is being dealt with on the ground today in New Orleans, whether it’s health care, immigration, whether we’re talking about emergency operation response, transportation.

Whatever those things are, we’re dealing with those.  And that’s one of the reasons why we thought it was really important to have these candidates come back down and to talk not just about the recovery in New Orleans, but why—but about why the things in New Orleans are important to the rest of the nation, because the same things are happening all over the place. 

There was just an engineering study by civil engineers that said the infrastructure in this country is crumbling.  We know that the Corps of Engineers has now indicated that over 126 levees around the country are compromised.  We know about the emergency operation response and we know the impact on national security. 

So we really would like them to come back down and talk about what is happening in the New Orleans area and why it’s important to the rest of the country.  And that would be, I think, just a wonderful way to engender some more debate into the campaign. 

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu.  We appreciate your time. 

LANDRIEU:  It was great to be with you.  Thanks for having me. 

O’DONNELL:  Thank you.

And we’re back with our panel.  And we’re talking about Louisiana, which, at this point, too close to call.  But the exit polling shows Barack Obama with a substantial lead. 

Eugene, what about what the lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu, was saying there about Louisiana?  I mean, we kind of called him on his words there about what he had said about Hillary Clinton, but he seemed to waiver a bit when I asked him whether Barack Obama could put that state in play in the general election. 

ROBINSON:  Well, that’s a—that is a big question.  We don’t know. 

I suspect a lot of different forces would be at play in a state like Louisiana if Obama were the nominee.  One thing that would be a factor is this kind of at least attempted and perhaps real cross-party appeal that he has. 

He speaks in a way that disagrees with conservatives without kind of demonizing them.  It’s an embracing kind of rhetoric that he has.  And I think that might—that might appeal to some people.

I think if Obama were the nominee in a state like Louisiana, then inevitably we’d be talking about race as well.  And we’d want to look, for example, at these exit polls, at other indices, to see what his prospects would be like in a state that does have a non-white governor now. 

O’DONNELL:  Yes, Bobby Jindal, who we are going to be talking to... 

ROBINSON:  Basically the first in the South since reconstruction almost, except for Doug Wilder.

O’DONNELL:  Very interesting, yes. 

And on that note, we are going to return with our panel.  We’re also going to return with the Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.  He will join us here on MSNBC live.

This is our coverage of “Decision 2008.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  And welcome back to MSNBC’s continuing coverage of “Decision 2008.”

We continue to watch the returns in Louisiana.  And in the Democratic race, yes, it’s still too early to call, with Obama leading Clinton in the exit polling.  And on the Republican race, it’s also too close to call between McCain and Huckabee. 

So you’re going to have to stay with us here on MSNBC to get—to get these results.

And I know that Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana who joins us now from Baton Rouge, is also excited to find out these results when we report them here on MSNBC.

Governor, great to have you on.  Thank you so much for joining us. 

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA:  Good evening.  Thank you for having me. 

O’DONNELL:  I asked the lieutenant governor this.  I hope you don’t mind me asking you.  Who did you vote for? 

JINDAL:  You know, we purposely didn’t endorse in the primary.  I wanted to encourage everybody to come down here and see for themselves. 

I will tell you, on the Republican side, both the leading candidates have very strong attributes that resonate in Louisiana.  First of all, Senator McCain’s fiscal conservatism is very attractive to voters down here, his national security credentials. 

Governor Huckabee appeals to a lot of social conservatives.  He has taken on the cultural issues of our day.  Being governor of nearby Arkansas has also helped him.  During Katrina he was known to cut through the rules to help our people. 

You may remember then Governor Clinton—then President Clinton carried Louisiana twice in part because of its proximity.  We were comfortable knowing our next door neighbor.  We voted for then Governor Bush twice for the same—partly for some of those same reasons as well. 

O’DONNELL:  Governor Jindal, people who follow politics know who you are.  I just want to point out to our viewers who may not know about you, you were just elected just in October of this past year.  The first non-white governor of Louisiana since reconstruction elected.  You are the first elected Indian-American governor in U.S. history, as well as the second Asian-American governor to serve in the United States. 

I’ve read a little bit about what you said about some of the candidates, that you had a soft place for Mitt Romney, but we know he’s out of the race.  You said McCain is a principled figure and you never get the sense he’s trying to appease you, kiss up to you for your vote. 

So can I guess that you voted for McCain today? 

JINDAL:  Well, like I said, I told the voters of Louisiana I was not going to get involved while there’s still a primary going on.  So my wife and I did go and vote today.  We encouraged everybody to vote.  But we’re not endorsing, we’re not telling people who we’re supporting. 

You know, I believe that voters can decide for themselves.  I will say, though, that I’m glad there’s national attention on Louisiana, on our delegates. 

There was some concern the election may have been over by the time we voted.  It’s a good thing for us that it’s not. 

We’ve got important issues in front of the country.  Certainly recovery, but not only recovery. 

I heard our lieutenant governor talk before, and I agree with him.  There are issues in Louisiana concerning health care and economic development that are common to the country.  We’ll have our first special session tomorrow declaring war and corruption.  I think a lot of the issues we’re tackling in Louisiana are very important for our country as well. 

O’DONNELL:  Governor, I have to ask you -- 50 percent of the voters describe themselves as evangelicals on the Republican side, 29 percent of them Catholics—do you think that there are doubts, especially in the northern part of the state, about McCain’s conservative credentials? 

JINDAL:  Well, I know a lot of conservatives, myself included, disagree with the senator on a variety of issues.  But there are two areas...

O’DONNELL:  What issues?

JINDAL:  ... which he’s remained steadfast.  Well, certainly, you know, I disagreed with his vote against the present tax cuts.  I disagreed with some of his previous positions on illegal immigration.  I’ve certainly disagreed with some of his previous positions on judicial nominations.

But having said all that, certainly I’ve always respected the senator for being steadfast in his opposition to out-of-control government spending.  He’s been a long-time champion against earmarks, even before there was a bridge to nowhere.  One of the reasons I think Republicans lost the majority in Congress in the midterm elections was that they didn’t display the fiscal discipline that voters expected. 

Secondly, the senator has certainly got a distinguished record when it comes to international foreign relations, when it comes to our nation’s defense.  He has been steadfast in the war on terrorism. 

And I meant what I said, he’s a principled man.  I haven’t always agreed with him, but you do get the sense that, when he takes a position, he sticks with it, whether it’s popular or not. 

O’DONNELL:  Governor, you know what Governor Huckabee has said, that he didn’t major in math, he majored in miracles.  And that’s the only way he’s going to win this Republican nomination, but he’s sticking in it, nevertheless. 

I want to ask you about which Democrat do you think would be tougher to beat for a Republican nominee? 

JINDAL:  Well, look, I’ll let the political pundits figure out which one is the tougher.  I will say about both the Democratic contenders—Senator Obama has been certainly inspirational, charismatic.  I completely understand why many of the commentators describe him as Kennedyesque and say that he has got an appeal that transcends party and racial lines. 

I don’t agree with a lot of his positions.  He’s certainly more liberal than I am on taxes and many social issues.  But he is an engaging person.  I met with him one-on-one.  He’s very genuine, he’s charismatic.  And you can see that...

(CROSSTALK)

O’DONNELL:  So is it harder for the Republican Party to beat someone like that, or is it harder to beat someone like Hillary Clinton? 

JINDAL:  You know, from our stand—and look, Senator Clinton is a very smart, very professional, very competent, very accomplished senator, very accomplished person in her own right.  Again, I disagree with many of her positions, especially on taxes and government, involving health care.

Speaking of the state of Louisiana, I think that the voters in Louisiana are going to look on the stands on the issues.  We’re generally a moderate, a conservative state.  It’s going to matter to us which candidate is going to keep our taxes low, which candidate is going to rebuild our levees, which candidate is going to rebuild our coast, which candidate is going to keep our country safe and rebuild the economy. 

O’DONNELL:  I’m just curious, Governor, why—I’m just curious, Governor, why you don’t want to go there.  I’ve seen that you’ve publicly praised Obama, and I know you’re politically a very smart man.  And I’m just curious why you wouldn’t say, oh, it would be easier to beat Hillary Clinton, or, you know, we’re worried about Barack Obama because he has crossover appeal to Independents and to some Republicans, et cetera. 

JINDAL:  Well, you know, I think at the end of the day it’s very fashionable to try to handicap these races, but the reality is I think voters decide them on the issues.  I mean (AUDIO GAP).

I think what voters are really looking for is, who’s being honest with them, who’s being  authentic with them, and who do they agree with the most?  I think Louisiana tends to be a moderate to conservative state.  I think we’ll probably vote for the more conservative candidate in the general election. 

But I think each of these candidates brings tremendous strength to the table.  Even though I’m a lifelong Republican, I think there are many traits to admire in both the Democratic candidates.  I’ll probably end up voting for a Republican candidate for president, but I still think, having said that...

O’DONNELL:  Probably?  You said “I probably will.” Probably? 

(LAUGHTER)

JINDAL:  We want to see what the final choices are.  But I will say this—I think it’s important in today’s politics—you know, I hate what’s happened in D.C...

O’DONNELL:  Yes.

JINDAL:  ... where it really has become so partisan and so much about tearing each other down.  I think as Republican governor I should be able to say, look, there are things I admire about Senator Clinton, Senator Obama.  And again, I disagree with some of their core positions, but I think it’s—I think it’s good for the country that Senator Obama can bring people together, that he can transcend. 

I think that’s good for the entire election, that he can hopefully shift the debate.  I still think he’s too liberal on taxes and many other issues, but I think it’s good that we have an inspiring figure in this election. 

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Governor Jindal, very, very interesting.  Thanks so much for joining us. 

JINDAL:  Thank you for having me on the show tonight. 

O’DONNELL:  Absolutely.  We’re delighted to have you.

And we’re back with our panel.

And Pat Buchanan, obviously he’s a rising political star.  We’ve heard many people say that about...

BUCHANAN:  He’s terrific.

O’DONNELL:  ... Bobby Jindal.  And very interesting comment though he said about—about Barack Obama. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, the truth is, Barack Obama has been a phenomenon.  He is charismatic.  He’s articulate, he’s inspired people. 

We were talking in Bangor, Maine.  You get 7,000 people out.  I mean, only Billy Graham used to do stuff like that.  It is terrific.

But again, you know, we talked about...

O’DONNELL:  Then why can’t he seal the deal? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I’ll tell you.  What we were talking about earlier, let me tell you, look at the polls.  Seventy percent of the white vote went for Hillary, and Barack Obama got barely one-fourth of the white vote. 

O’DONNELL:  This is in Louisiana. 

BUCHANAN:  Louisiana.  And he beat her four or five to one among the African-American vote.  It’s the same thing.  And among the post-graduate—people who did post-graduate work, Obama rolls. 

O’DONNELL:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  It is...

O’DONNELL:  Well, let me ask this question.  I want to get Rachel involved in this, too, that what we’re seeing is a party divided among—on race and gender.  And I don’t mean that the party’s divided that they may ultimately come together, but the way they are voting, we see some very interesting divisions about which demographics in the Democratic Party are favoring either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. 

True? 

ROBINSON:  Well, broadly speaking...

MADDOW:  No, not true? 

O’DONNELL:  OK.  Well, let’s get Rachel—Rachel, go ahead.  Yes. 

MADDOW:  True in some states and not in others.  There aren’t simple answers to these questions.  I mean, that would make sense if we weren’t talking about putting in Barack Obama’s victory category the states of Utah and Nebraska and Idaho and Iowa, and all of these other white-dominated states where he’s not only winning but winning handily. 

Yes, the racial stratification in the electorate, for example, today in Louisiana appears to be strong.  And in South Carolina it appears to be strong.  But that’s not—you can’t tell the story that simply and also explain why he’s winning all of these all-white states. 

ROBINSON:  No, that’s true.  I mean, it doesn’t tell the whole story. 

You know, you could—you could take that same set of data and you could ask whether it says something about the South, rather than about the, you know, Democratic Party writ large.  For example, you saw less complete polarization in some of the other states that you had. 

(CROSSTALK)

O’DONNELL:  Rachel makes a good point, and the point that she’s making is that it’s not that Barack Obama’s winning because only African Americans are voting and whites are not voting for him.  In South Carolina, we saw he won the white vote among those under 30. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, but what he did—what he did in South Carolina, as I recall, he won—was it something like 86 percent of the African-American vote.  Then he comes in with about 24 percent of the white vote and he wins. 

Hillary Clinton is picking up on this very argument.  Look what she’s saying.  “I’m actually drawing from voters a Democrat needs to draw from to establish a strong lead against McCain.  Voters making less than $50,000 -- Latinos, women, which has always been part of the Democratic nominee’s base,” she said, “I have every confidence we can win back the voters that Senator Obama has been attracting.”

In other words, I can get his voters.  He’s not shown he’s been able to get my voters.  And that’s a fair comment. 

O’DONNELL:  That’s exactly the argument she’s making. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

ROBINSON:  Well, if that’s her argument, that he—I think the Obama camp would argue, yes, but, I am getting my voters and she’s not getting them.  So he can make the same argument in a general election. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let me ask you this...

ROBINSON:  White Democrats, for example, or female Democrats who are supporting Hillary Clinton, are as likely to come to his side as the African-American or other Democrats—college-educated Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, look at this map, states won by Barack Obama, and tonight’s victories by Barack Obama—Washington State, Nebraska.  Louisiana is too close to call, but he has a lead there, according to the exit polls. 

What does it say about where he’s drawing voters from, and what does it say about the fact that Hillary has won in the big states?  She points out, listen, I won California, I won New York.  She wants to win Texas and Ohio.  She says she won Florida even though the delegates don’t count. 

MADDOW:  She’s—Hillary Clinton has shown an incredible opportunity, an incredible ability against a very strong opponent to turn out the Democratic base and to mobilize traditional Democratic voters.  But this gets into electability in the general election match-up against John McCain.  And if McCain isn’t going to get the conservative base, he needs the Independents.  If Obama will take those Independents from him, that’s a very powerful electability argument. 

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Rachel maddow, thank you. 

The panel is staying with us.  And coming up in the next hour, we will hear from Senator Obama at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Virginia.  We already heard from Hillary Clinton.

And we’re going to continue to follow the returns coming in from Louisiana.  That’s right, too early to call. 

We’ll be back after this.

NORAH O’DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening.  I’m Norah O’Donnell.  It is now 10:00 p.m. in the east; 9:00 p.m. in Louisiana where the polls have been closed for an hour.  On the democratic side, the race is too early to call with Obama leading Clinton in the exit polls.  On the republican side, the race is too close to call between John McCain and Mike Huckabee.  Earlier in the democratic caucuses in Washington State, it was Barack Obama, the projected winner over Hillary Clinton.  In the Nebraska caucuses, Senator Obama won by a wide margin over Senator Clinton.  And in the Kansas republican caucuses, it was Mike Huckabee beating John McCain there.  Let’s begin by bringing in NBC News political director, Chuck Todd.  Hi there, Chuck. 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Hello, Norah. 

O’DONNELL:  I know you are doing the delegate math. 

TODD:  I am. 

O’DONNELL:  Let’s start first with these wins by Barack Obama by sizable margins.  Does it make a big difference that these victories were large?

TODD:  In Washington State I think it can.  That victory was bigger than they expected.  One split I have seen has it as high as 55 delegates, 55-23, maybe it ends up 52-26, but it’s a big split and he’s going to net quite a few delegates out of there, 24, 25. 

In Nebraska, say 24 delegates and he is going to have almost a two to one.  My math said 15 to 9 he is going to get 15 delegates.  The Obama folks may think they get 16.  I think there is a rounding issue I have or they have.  But still, they may net over 30 delegates just out of those two states.  Never mind a net, you know, a netting 30 new delegates and gaining on Senator Clinton.  In fact, the new totals if you throw in super delegates, if you throw in everything we think we know since Super Tuesday, just an estimate, the ranges I have Senator Clinton 1,175 to 1,185, I’m giving myself a little margin of error there, with Obama 1,144 to 1,154.  That is a difference of 30 to 40 delegates.  Not counting Louisiana, we haven’t even gone through that, and Chesapeake Tuesday.  That does count the super delegates that each campaign claims.  That is the high end of the number.  There are other reports of super delegate numbers that are lower.  Other news organizations do these things in different ways.  This is using their best case scenario in super delegates.  That is how close this delegate fight is. 

O’DONNELL:  OK.  Your delegate estimate includes the super delegates who are the party big wigs, elected officials who get a say.  You have Hillary Clinton ahead including those at this point. 

TODD:  Correct because Obama has been ahead on pledge delegates and he’s going to remain ahead on the pledge delegates, delegates that have been earned but victories or have been earned in the primaries or caucuses.  You can earn them obviously if you lose.  It is the super delegates that give Senator Clinton her narrow lead. 

O’DONNELL:  OK.  Let’s forecast and talk about the strategy of each campaign.  Barack Obama wins in Washington, Nebraska and Louisiana tonight which the Clinton campaign had said Barack Obama predicted he would have the lead in those states and win.  Then we have Chesapeake Tuesday, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. handicap that.  If Barack Obama wins those, can Hillary Clinton catch up by winning Texas and Ohio and then Pennsylvania?

TODD:  Oh, look, absolutely.  Rhetorically Obama will have a nice talking point if he either wins five—don’t forget Maine tomorrow.  Maine is actually one of the few caucus states that the Clinton people feel they have a good shot at winning.  Let’s not forget Maine.  It’s a Sunday.  Five of the next six, if Obama wins them he will say, hey, I have won 20 states to date and assuming the District of Columbia as well.  She has won 11.  That is almost a two to one state margin. 

Now of course, it is not states that nominate but delegates.  She has won some big delegate prizes, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, et cetera.  So I mean, that is how it stays close.  Going forward delegate wise this is a very important point, will he take—will he have the lead on delegates even counting super delegates going into March 4? That is an important milestone for the Obama campaign.  They really want to get there.  They may be just short. And there it is.

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Chuck Todd, my apologizes.  We have a call here.  NBC News is projecting that Barack Obama is the winner in Louisiana.  The exit polls had shown him with the lead.  We are now predicting that Barack Obama has won Louisiana.  That means a sweep tonight, Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington State, I don’t know yet about the Virgin Islands.  I do know, Chuck Todd, three delegates in the Virgin Islands which I’m sure you know as well.  It is a sweep for Barack Obama tonight.  There you can see a map of the United States in blue, the states that Barack Obama has done.  I don’t want to force you on the numbers right now, Chuck.  Pat Buchanan just wanted a clarification on just the pledged delegates.  Barack Obama is ahead according to your numbers, correct?

TODD:  Yes, just pledged delegates Obama is ahead.  Somewhere between 900 -- 960 to 970.  I’m going to do the math since Pat will make me do that to her 900 delegates.  So on pledge delegates, he’s going to be ahead.  It’s the supers that put her ahead. 

And by the way, we are keeping track of the Virgin Islands, doing our best.  My understanding is so far it looks like Obama may get two delegates out of there to Clinton’s one.  They are hoping for a sweep.  We’ll see. 

O’DONNELL:  I know you and I will both volunteer if there are any voting irregularities in the Virgin Islands. 

TODD:  Puerto Rico. 

O’DONNELL:  I know. 

TODD:  That’s the last primary of the season.  55 delegates I think. 

O’DONNELL:  And it’s June 4th.  Is that right?

TODD:  June 7th? I’m going to say it counts for a whole week. I’m going to try to make it a whole week with that.

O’DONNELL:  I’m in agreement.  Chuck Todd, thank you very much.  I know someone who wants to come with us to Puerto Rico.  That is Lee Cowan.  The piano, yes, and Lee Cowan, who’s been covering both democrats tonight at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Richmond, Virginia.  We have it all planned out, Lee.  But I understand Barack Obama is expected to speak there in a few moments?

LEE COWAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  He should.  He is expected to speak here at about 10:15 eastern so in just a short time here.  He comes in here obviously now with all three of these wins under his belt, feeling good.  It is unclear if he is going to talk about these wins tonight.  It may not necessarily be the venue to talk about it here at this speech.  This seems to be something that is a larger picture than coming in and specifically talking about wins and losses.  I don’t know whether we’ll actually hear him talking about those wins.  He certainly is coming in with a good feeling tonight. 

O’DONNELL:  Let me ask you, you are right.  Hillary Clinton in her speech did not reference any of the primaries that were voting today.  We now know and have called here at NBC News that Barack Obama won those three primaries tonight.  I’m just reading from the Associated Press that says the crowd greeted her enthusiastically but was largely supportive of her rival, chants of Obama rang through the hall as she made her way off stage.  Could you tell that from your vantage point?

COWAN:  Yeah.  Definitely.  There is a definitely large Barack Obama contingent, especially where we are standing.  Not that there isn’t a large Hillary Clinton contingent but it’s a young, more enthusiastic crowd, a louder crowd.  You can definitely feel the presence in the hall.  That’s for sure. 

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Lee Cowan and we will be returning to that room in Richmond, Virginia, when Barack Obama comes to the stage.  He is expected in just about seven minutes from now, at about 10:15 eastern time. 

Let’s bring back in our panel.  We have just called Louisiana here at NBC News for Barack Obamaas the winner.  That means a sweep tonight.  How important is that?

PAT BUCHANAN:  This is not only—this is very important.  He will get great headlines out of it and he gets momentum but more important, what Chuck said, he has a good lead, a strong lead in pledged delegates which means delegates from voting.  People went out and voted.  The idea that Hillary Clinton can come in second in pledged delegates after voting and have the supers come in and take the nomination away from him, that is a formula for Chicago 1968.  Because, look, we just heard what you just said about the emotion and enthusiasm in the hall in Richmond and there is no doubt who’s got the energy and fire with these crowds.  You frustrate those crowds, if he won the pledged delegates, I think it is a hard thing to do. 

EUGENE ROBINSON:  That is a hard posture for the Democratic Party to go into a general election with. 

BUCHANAN:  I’ll say. 

ROBINSON:  What you’d end up in that scenario, we don’t know if it will happen, but you end up with a party, half the party disaffected. 

BUCHANAN:  Obama’s people will say this is another Florida.  We have Scalia deciding this things.  The super delegates. 

O’DONNELL:  That is why there is discussion about a quote-unquote redo in Michigan and Florida to have those delegates count there. 

ROBINSON:  The key to this may be—these super delegates are elected officials, party big wigs, professional politicians.  They have worked out the scenario.  They know the position they are going to be in and whatever ties they may have to the Clinton family or to Obama or whatever I think they have to take into account as politicians would which way the wind is blowing when the convention comes. 

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, what is this that went on  today and there was a war of words between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Essentially Obama suggesting the super delegates from a state be bound by the results of that state.  And Hillary Clinton responded by saying I don’t think that’s the way it works.  Super delegates should be independent of that.  If that is the way he feels I will take the votes of Senator John Kerry and Senator Ted Kennedy because of course, she won Massachusetts.  I mean, we’ve got something going on here. 

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  It was a good repose. 

O’DONNELL:  It was, indeed.  The average American voter may look at this and say who are these super delegates and what does that mean? Are we heading for a nightmare scenario in the Democratic Party?

MADDOW:  If it comes down to the super delegates I think we have pitch forks and tortures in the streets. 

O’DONNELL:  Pat knows about pitch forks.  Pat knows about pitch forks. 

MADDOW:  That’s right.  It is no secret and that is why I think the democratic elders, I don’t think they will let it happen.  I think they will make sure that doesn’t happen at the convention because they know how divisive it will be. 

O’DONNELL:  All right.  Rachel Maddow, thank you.  We’re going to go to a break and when we come back, we go live to Richmond, Virginia, and the Jefferson Jackson dinner where Barack Obama is expected to speak in less than five minutes from now at 10:15.  We’ll have it live for you, the entire speech, on MSNBC.  He is also the big winner in sweeping contests in Louisiana, Washington State and Nebraska by large margins in some cases. 

You’re watching MSNBC’s live Decision 2008 coverage.  We’re right back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  Welcome back.  Barack Obama swept all three democratic contests today; Washington State, Nebraska and Louisiana.  Let’s get more now on our exit polling on how Obama did it in Louisiana.  For that we go to Alex Witt.  Hi there, Alex.

ALEX WITT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello once again to you, Norah.  Indeed, we can see everyone from these exit polls just why Barack Obama was able to sail to victory in the Louisiana democratic primary with a crushing win in his core constituency.  His support became very clear from the large percentage of African Americans who cast their votes in this contest. 

The electorate was made up of 46 percent white voters, 49 percent black voters there and among African-American voters Obama’s support was about as high as it has been anywhere so far this season.  82 percent cast a vote for him.  He also received 26 percent of the white vote.  Hillary Clinton was the choice for 70 percent of the white voters.  Her margin in the white vote was less than Obama’s margin in the black vote.  While it doesn’t appear that the choice coalesced around racial lines, voters did not feel this was the case when they cast their votes.  They say, the vast majority of them say, 74 percent say the race of the candidate was not a factor in their vote today.  Significantly one in four democrats, 24 percent say the race of the democrat factored into their vote. 

Barack Obama has established himself as a political leader who can bring people together.  His image as a uniter is coming through.  54 percent of democratic primary voters think Obama is the best candidate to unite this country.  Just 44 percent are seeing Hillary Clinton as more of a uniter. 

Now Norah I want you and your esteemed panel to chew this over, an interesting fact, John Kerry, the white establishment candidate from up north in Massachusetts, he was able to pull off a full 83 percent of the black vote.  I just found that very interesting when we’ve got Obama 82 percent.  John Kerry 83 percent the last go round. 

O’DONNELL:  Very, very interesting.  Thank you.  All right.  Thank you, Alex. 

And we should remind our viewers, of course, we are expecting to hear from Barack Obama on stage at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia any moment now.  You can see that is the governor of the state, Tim Kean, a democrat who won by attracting a number of republican voters.  He has endorsed Barack Obama.  He is going to be introducing Barack Obama. 

Let’s reintroduce our panel.  Of course, Eugene Robinson, Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow is joining us as well. 

Let’s talk about this sweep for Barack Obama tonight in these three states.  Eugene, what does Hillary Clinton have to do as we look ahead to the future contests, Chesapeake primary, Virginia, which is what we are talking about tonight, Maryland and District of Columbia.  There are other contests and junior Tuesday as Chuck Todd calls it, Texas, Ohio, which could be key as well. 

ROBINSON:  Well, from what we understand, Hillary Clinton could go to Texas as soon as Tuesday night.  So, you know, I think from here Hillary Clinton might try to still you know kind of nip one of the states, perhaps Virginia Tuesday, it is doubtful she is going to win Maryland or the District of Columbia.  Virginia is the larger prize.  She maybe could do that.  If not, it looks like she is going to go straight to Texas to junior Ssuper Tuesday and that is the biggest prize left on the board.  I mean, it’s—

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, I still can’t get over.  I mean we are witnessing the most historic election.  I mean, we have an open seat first of all which is we don’t have a president or vice president running.  We have now I think 29 of the 50 states have voted.  We have states that have never felt like they have had a say in a primary have a say.  This thing just keeps going on into Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania.  And as Chuck Todd said, we might all have to go to Puerto Rico in June. 

MADDOW:  Right, which wouldn’t be so bad at all.  That is why I think one of the big headlines tonight which was strategic of the Clinton campaign to do this tonight is when they announced they raised there $10 million more since Super Tuesday.  Today is Saturday.  Super Tuesday was this week so for them to put out we raised $10 million announcement they are not going anywhere.  They know this going take a long time.  It makes money that much more important. Over the course of the past week or ten days the common wisdom is Obama had a huge monetary advantage over Clinton.  While Obama will get the headlines because of his sweep, deservedly so, Hillary Clinton has a real shot at Maine tomorrow.  Jim Webb’s endorsement is still dangling out there somewhere for Virginia heading into Tuesday.  That would be a big prize for her.  She has this great financial news.  This race looks great for Obama tonight but they are still both absolutely still in it. 

O’DONNELL:  Well and Rachel, just so you know, the Associated Press is reporting that Barack Obama won the Virgin Islands tonight.  We don’t know if he won two of the three delegates.  He wanted a clean sweep we understand I guess in the Virgin Islands. 

Again, just to my point, we have places that have never had a say before in a primary that have a big say.  We have the democratic candidates fighting tooth and nail in every state and as you pointed out, Eugene Robinson, we’ve got these contests on Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. and Hillary Clinton is going to be in Texas three weeks before Texas votes.  She wants that state. 

ROBINSON:  One can predict she will go to Texas that night if she thinks she is going to lose all three of those primaries.  It is fascinating how states that don’t usually come into play are coming into play.  Here in the Washington area we usually aren’t the epicenter of primary politics yet this year—

O’DONNELL:  This means the Democratic Party is stronger than the Republican Party because they campaigned in these places, the turnout has been higher than the republicans have turned out.  That means the democrats will be stronger in the general election. 

BUCHANAN:  No doubt about it.  The democratic turnout has been in some states twice what the republicans had.  The republicans had a terrific race.  That points to bad news for November.  The economy points to bad news for November and the war points to bad news for November and Bush points to bad news for November at 30 percent.  You wonder why McCain is running even or ahead.  So I think this is the only thing they can hold.  I’ll tell you, I think getting back to the pledged delegates.  If Obama wins the pledged delegates and we get down to super delegates or bringing Florida back into play and giving the delegates to Hillary because she did well or Michigan, you are going to have a real firestorm at your hands at the aim time the super delegates are going to have themselves can Barack win a general election? They are going to have a hellish decision on their hands. 

O’DONNELL:  Just want to reference for our viewers, show those pictures again from Richmond, Virginia, the Jefferson Jackson dinner, the governor of the state is speaking but Barack Obama is expected on stage any moment. 

MADDOW:  Can I make one note about the speeches tonight? 

O’DONNELL:  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  Hillary Clinton gave a bang-up speech.  I mean we heard that speech in its entirety.  She doesn’t get credit for her or terry particularly in comparison to Barack Obama.  Her speech tonight was not just a good speech, but well delivered, inspirational, moral high ground, I would be the first woman president.  The kind of speech that a lot of commentators and people who is have not made up their minds, it is a speech a lot of people have been waiting for from Hillary Clinton tonight.  I don’t think we should let that moment go unnoticed.  We should expect something great from Obama but Clinton did her best tonight. 

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, what about what Lee Cowan pointed out that she did not draw distinctions with Barack Obama, her chief rival but rather talked about how historic it is to have the first potential woman president or African-American president and that got the crowd going. 

MADDOW:  Absolutely.  I mean Barack Obama inspires people in the way he talks about the country.  She also needs to be inspirational and insert her place as the historical first, the first woman to make it this far in order to inspire women voters and people who would feel happier about their country knowing that we are a country that could elect a woman.  She needs to get up to that inspirational higher ground sometimes.  Tonight she did it for the first time.  She had nice words for the governor of Virginia who is introducing Barack Obama and a prominent endorser of Senator Obama.  That is moral high ground, unify the party, feel good stuff. 

O’DONNELL:  I guess that’s important but the question comes up and the Clinton campaign makes the argument his record has not been examined.  It has been when Bill Clinton has raised it and Hillary Clinton has raised it there is a further examination of his record.  Why not do that on the stump?

BUCHANAN:  They won’t do it.  Look, she has to be very gingerly in how she deals with Barack Obama.  She wants these folks in November to come to her if she is nominated.  Secondly, his positions on the left wing of the Democratic Party are popular with the base of the Democratic Party. 

O’DONNELL:  Does it make it easier that John McCain is now the nominee because she is can say against John McCain we need someone with more experience, et cetera, that she can set up that contrast?

ROBINSON:  She can’t say that as long as the polling shows Obama doing better against McCain than Hillary Clinton. 

O’DONNELL:  We have those polling numbers which shows it would be Cincinnati tied between Barack Obama and John McCain but that McCain would beat Hillary by five points.  The Clinton advisers say that is because Obama is not as well known.  She has high negatives because as she says I have been beaten up for years. 

BUCHANAN:  Dukasis had a 17-point lead.  By Labor Day it was an eight-point deficit.  25 point turn around.  That is what the republicans are lying in the weeds and waiting to do to Barack Obama. 

O’DONNELL:  Tear him to pieces. 

BUCHANAN:  Tear him to pieces. 

MADDOW:  What is worrying about the McCain/Obama match up, McCain doesn’t have much higher to go.  Conservatives are not going to convert.  And republicans have had a million opportunities to elect John McCain.  He has been running since Lincoln.  But his numbers are not going to go much higher.  In order to beat Barack Obama they have to go so hard negative on Barack Obama rather than building up McCain.  Maybe slightly different dynamics with Hillary Clinton.  We are a 50/50 country.  I think it is going to be close no matter who it is. 

BUCHANAN:  Given the Bush record you are going to have to go negative here. 

O’DONNELL:  Let’s listen in now because Barack Obama is coming to the stage just endorsed by the democratic governor of that state Tim Kaine.  Let’s get a sense of some of the music in the room. 

We are watching Barack Obama.  This is what you are calling working the rope line there.  Before he comes to the stage, according to the Associated Press, there were chants of Obama that rang through the halls even as Senator Clinton walked off stage.  Lee Cowan, our correspondent, says there are a large number of Obama supporters who packed this dinner in Virginia. 

Virginia is a key contest.  Next Tuesday when Virginia votes along with Maryland and the District of Columbia which is known as the Chesapeake primary.  We are going to see these candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigning just around the nation’s capital over the next several days and it is on to big states that are known as Junior Tuesday.  There are other states in between there as well. 

You see Barack Obama shaking the hand of Governor Tim Kaine, who has endorsed him in that state.  We’ll see whether that endorsement is able to deliver the state to Barack Obama. 

And let’s listen to the senator. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, Virginia.  Thank you.  Thank you, Virginia.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Well, thank you so much. 

It’s good to be back.  It’s good to be back in Virginia.  To my great friend and one of my national co-chairs, Tim Kaine, you have one of the finest governors and one of the finest people in public office right here.  Give a big round of applause for Tim Kaine.  To one of the best governors of the past who will soon one of the best United States senators of the future give it up for Mark Warner.  We are so proud of the work he’s done.  I’m looking forward to being on the ticket with Mark Warner.  I want to just hang on to his coat tails here in Virginia.  He is outstanding.  I want to thank my great friend and great supporter, not only a wonderful governor but now the mayor of this great city, Doug Wilder.  Give Doug Wilder a great round of applause. 

To somebody who has already shown himself to be an outstanding senator but also somebody with a conscience, somebody with convictions and somebody who has the courage of his convictions, he’s not here tonight but I want you to know I’m so proud to be serving with United States Senator Jim Webb.  Give Jim Webb a big round of applause.  I want to thank the congressman of this district, a great friend, Bobby Scott, a great supporter.  I want to thank Jim Moran from northern Virginia, a wonderful congressman and a great friend.  Rick Boucher (ph), who is not here, I commend him for all the outstanding work he is doing.  To Dick Cramwall (ph) the Democratic Party chairman and to Amy Reagor (ph), congratulations, Amy, on all the great work that you have been doing.  I know you are going to be missed, but we appreciate your service to the great state of—great commonwealth of Virginia. 

It is—it has been—it has been one year since we began this campaign for the presidency on the steps of the old state capitol in Springfield, Illinois, just me and about 15,000 of my closest friends.  At the time there weren’t too many who imagined we’d be standing where we are today.  I knew—I knew I wouldn’t necessarily be Washington’s favorite candidate.  I knew we wouldn’t get all the big donors or all the endorsements right off the bat.  I knew that I’d be the underdog in every contest from January to June.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy. 

But then something started to happen.  As we met people in their living rooms and on their farms and churches and town hall meetings and VFW halls, they all started to tell a similar story about the state of our politics today.  Whether they’re young or old, black or white, Latino or Asian, Democrat, independent or Republican, the message is the same.  We are tired of being disappointed by our politics.  We are tired of being let down.  We’re tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change when everyone goes back to Washington because the lobbyists write another check or because politicians start worrying about how they’ll win the next election, instead of why they should win the next election or because they focus on who is up and who is down, instead of who matters, whether we are lifting our children up, whether we’re supporting our seniors, whether we are doing right by our veterans. 

While Washington is consumed with the same drama and divisions and distraction, another family puts up a “for sale” sign in their front yard.  Another factory shuts its doors forever. Another mother declares bankruptcy because she couldn’t pay her child’s medical bills and another soldier waves goodbye as he leaves on another tour of duty in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And it goes on and on and on and on and we become cynical.  We conclude this is the best we can do.  We turn away from politics.  Our standards become lower.  But in this election at this moment, Americans are standing up all across the country to say, not this time, not this year.  The stakes are too high and the challenges are too great to play the same old Washington games with the same old Washington players and expect a different result.  People want to turn the page.  They want to write a new chapter in American history.  And today -

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And today the voters from the west coast to the Gulf coast to the heart of America stood up to say, yes, we can.  We won in Louisiana.  We won in Nebraska.  We won in Washington State.  We won north; we won south; we won in between.  And I believe that we can win Virginia on Tuesday if you’re ready to stand for change. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CROWD:  Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: Now, I understand that some of the excitement doesn’t have to do with me.  I know that whatever else happens, whatever twists and turns this campaign may take when you go into that polling place next November, the name George Bush won’t be on the ballot.  And that makes everybody pretty cheerful.  Everybody’s happy about that.  The name of my cousin Dick Cheney won’t be on the ballot.  That was embarrassing when that news came out.  When they do these genealogical surveys, you want to be related to somebody cool.  So—but his name won’t be on the ballot. 

So each of us running for the Democratic nomination agrees on one thing that the other party does not, that the next president must end the disastrous policies of George W. Bush.  No more Scooter Libby justice, no more Browny (ph) incompetence.  No more Karl Rove politics.  We are going to have a different kind of politics here in America.  We all agree on that.  Both Senator Clinton and I have put forth detailed plans and good ideas that would do just that.  And I’ve said before and I say again, Senator Clinton was my friend before this race started.  She will be my friend after this race started.  We are going to be unified as Democrats whoever the nominee to make sure that we bring an end to the failed policies of George W. Bush.  That we can guarantee. 

But I am running for president because I believe that to actually make that happen, to make this time different from all the rest, we need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and, yes, Republicans who are disillusioned with our current course together to get things done.  That is how we are going to win this election.  That is how we will win in Virginia.  And that is how we will change this country when I am president of the United States of America. 

This week—this week we found out that the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party will be Senator John McCain.  Now, I believe John McCain is a good man and he is a genuine American hero and we honor his half century of service to this nation.  But understand that in this campaign, this year, he has made the decision to embrace the failed policies of George Bush’s Washington.  He speaks of a 100-year war in Iraq.  He sees another on the horizon with Iran.  He once opposed George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest few who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them.  He said they were too expensive and unwise, that we should never cut taxes for the wealthy at a time of war.  He was absolutely right then, but somewhere along the line the wheels came off the straight talk express because he now supports the very same tax cuts he voted against.  That is what happens when you spend too long in Washington.  Politicians end up not saying what they mean and they don’t mean what they say and that is why in this election, our party can’t stand for business as usual in Washington. 

The Democratic Party must stand for change.  Not change of a slogan, not change of a bumper sticker but change we can believe in.  That is what this campaign is all about.  This fall—this fall we owe the American people a real choice, a choice between debating John McCain, about who has the most experience in Washington or debating him about who is most likely to change Washington because that’s a debate that we can win.  It’s a choice between debating John McCain about lobbying reform with a nominee who has taken more money from lobbyists than he has or doing it with a campaign that hasn’t taken a dime of their money because we’ve been funded by you, the American people. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

It’s a choice between taking on John McCain with Republicans and independents who are already united against us or running against him with a campaign that is uniting Americans of all parties around a common purpose.  There is a reason why the last six polls in a row show that I’m the strongest candidate against John McCain because I have done better among independents in almost every single contest we’ve had.  That is why we have won more red states and swing states that the next Democratic nominee needs to win in November.  We need to win.  America needs us to win.  Virginia Democrats know how important this is.  That’s how Mark Warner won this state.  That is how Tim Kean won this state. That is how Jim Webb won this state and if I’m your nominee, that’s how I will win this state. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CROWD:  Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

OBAMA: We are here, we are here, we are here to make clear that this election is not between regions or religions or gender.  It is not about rich versus poor or young versus old.  It is not about black versus white.  It is about the past versus the future.  The Republicans in Washington are already running on the politics of yesterday which is why our party must be the party of tomorrow.  And that is the party I intend to lead as president of the United States of America. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I know what it takes to pass health care reform because I’ve done it, not by demonizing anyone who disagrees with me, but by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to provide health insurance to 150,000 children and parents in Illinois and when I am president of the United States, we are going to pass universal health care, not in 20 years, not in 10 years, but by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  Senator Ted Kennedy recently said he wouldn’t have endorsed me if he didn’t believe passionately that I will fight for universal health care as president and he knows a little something about health care.  My plan would bring premiums down for the typical family by $2,500 per year. We would ban insurance companies from excluding people from coverage because of preexisting conditions.  We would allow every American to get the same health care I have as a member of Congress. 

And I know—and I know that Senator Clinton likes to point out the difference between our health care plans.  There is a real difference here because Senator Clinton has said that the only way to provide universal health care is to say that we will go after your wages if you don’t buy health care.  Well I believe the reason people don’t have health care isn’t because they don’t want to buy it.  It is because they can’t afford it.  And that is why my plan does more to reduce costs than any other plan out there.  That’s how we’re going to make sure that every single American has the health care that they need and we are going to do it by the end of my first term. 

It’s also time to bring the cost of living down for working families who are struggling in this economy like never before.  They’re facing rising costs and falling wages.  We owe it to them to end the Bush-McCain tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent and put a tax cut into the pockets of families who really need them.  That is what I did in Illinois when I brought Democrats and Republicans together to provide millions of dollars of tax relief for working families and the working poor.  That is the kind of tax relief I intend to pride when I am president of the United States of America. 

I will end the tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas and give middle class tax breaks to 95 percent of working Americans and home owners who are struggling and seniors who deserve to retire with dignity and respect.  I won’t wait another 10 years to raise the minimum wage in this country.  I will raise it to keep pace with inflation every year because I believe that if you work in this country, you should not be poor.  That is a basic principle of fairness in the United States of America and I will uphold it when I am president. 

It’s time to give every child everywhere a world-class education from the day they are born until the day they graduate from college.  I’m only here today because somebody somewhere gave my father a ticket to come study in America, because somebody gave my mother the opportunity to go to graduate school.  Because even though we didn’t have much growing up, I got scholarships to go to some of the best schools in this country.  That’s the chance I believe that every child in America should have and when I am president, we are going to give every child the best education we have to offer.  We are going to invest in early childhood education to close the achievement gap.  We are not just going to talk about how great teachers are, we will reward them for their greatness by giving them higher salaries and giving them more support. 

We will maintain the highest standards for our kids because our children have to be able to compete in that global economy that Mark Warner talked about.  But we also have to make sure we are not having teachers teach to the test because I want our students learning art and music and science and poetry and all the things that make an education worthwhile. 

And I don’t know about you, but I think it is time we made college affordable.  I’m going to have a $4,000 tuition credit for every student, $4,000 for every student every year so they are not loaded up with debt before they graduate but it won’t come for free.  Students, young people, you will have to give back in national service.  You’ll have to work at a homeless shelter for a few hours or a veteran’s home or join the Peace Corps.  Join the Foreign Service.  We will invest in you, you will invest in America.  Together we will march forward and go into the 21st century when I’m president of the United States. 

CROWD:  Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: When I am president this party will be the party that finally makes sure our sons and daughters don’t grow up in a century where our economy is weighed down by our addiction to oil, our foreign policy is held hostage to the whim of dictators, our planet passes the moment of no return.  When I called for higher fuel efficiency standards, I didn’t do it in front of some environmental group in California.  I did it in front of the automakers in Detroit.  I have to admit the room was really quiet.  Nobody clapped.  But we need—that’s OK because we need leadership that will tell the American people not just what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.  We’ll tell the American people the truth. We will be honest with them and that is the kind of president I intend to be. 

I will set the goal of 80 percent reductions in carbon emissions by 2050 and we will meet it with higher fuel standards and new investments in renewable fuels that will create millions of new jobs and entire new industries right here in the United States of America. 

And finally, it is time to turn the page on eight years of a foreign policy that has made us less safe and less respected in the world.  I am looking forward to having a debate with John McCain about foreign policy. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

...because if I am the nominee, the American people will have a clear choice.  John McCain will not be able to say that I supported the war in Iraq.  He won’t be able to say that I supported giving George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran.  He won’t be able to say that I followed the Bush-Cheney doctrine of not talking to leaders that we don’t like, not talking to countries we don’t like because I recall what John F. Kennedy said.  He said we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.  Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries and tell them where America stands.  And that is what I intend to do as president of the United States of America. 

I will end this war in Iraq.  I will bring our troops home, but I will also end the mindset that got us into war.  We have been engulfed by a politics of fear for too long where 9/11 is used as a way to scare votes instead of a way to bring us together around a common purpose to defeat a common enemy.  That will change when I am president. 

So Democrats, this is our moment.  This is our time for change.  This is our party.  The Democratic Party has always been at its best when we led not by polls, but by principles, not by calculation but by conviction, when we summoned the entire nation around a higher purpose, a common purpose.  We are the party of Jefferson who wrote the words that we are still trying to heed, that all of us are created equal, that all of us deserve the chance to pursue our happiness.  We are the party of Jackson who took back the White House for the people of this country. We’re the party of the man who overcame his own disability to tell us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself, who faced down fascism and liberated a continent from tyranny.  We are the party of a young president who asked us what we could do for our country and challenged us to do it.  That is who we are. 

That is who we are.  I know sometimes when I talk like this people say, ah, he is so idealistic.  He is so naive.  He is a hope monger.  I have heard this criticism lately that I’m pedaling false hopes, that I need a reality check.  The notion is that somehow if you are realistic and your set your sights lower, that if you talk about hope, that somehow you must be passive and have your head in the clouds and just wait for things to happen to you. 

I have to remind people that is not what hope is.  It is true.  I talk about hope a lot.  I have to.  The odds of me being here aren’t very high.  I was born to a mother—I was born to a teen mom.  My dad left me when I was two.  I was raised by my single mom and my grandparents and they didn’t have a lot of money.  They didn’t have a lot of status.  They could give me love and education and hope.  So I do, I put hope on my signs.  I spoke about hope at the Democratic convention.  I wrote a book called “The Audacity of Hope.”  But I need to explain, people, hope is not blind optimism.  Hope is not ignorance of the challenges that lie before us. 

I know how hard it will be to provide health care to everybody.  The insurance and the drug companies aren’t going to give up their profits easily.  I know how hard it will be to change our energy policy.  ExxonMobil made $11 billion this past quarter.  I know how hard it is to alleviate poverty that has built up over generations.  I know how hard it is to make sure that we are lifting up our schools because it is not just going to involve teachers, not just going to involve administrators. It will involve parents and communities changing our mindset about our children. 

I know these things because I fought on the streets as a community organizer. I have fought in the courts as a civil rights attorney.  I have fought in the legislature and I have won some fights, but I have lost some, too.  I have seen good legislation die because good intentions were not enough because they weren’t fortified with political will or political power.  I have seen how this country’s judgment has been clouded sometimes by fear and division, how we’ve been made to be afraid of each other, afraid of immigrants, afraid of gays, afraid of people who don’t look like us.  I know how hard change is, but I also know this.  That nothing worthwhile in this country has ever happened except somebody somewhere was willing to hope. 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

That’s how this country was founded, by a group of patriots declaring independence against the mighty British empire.  Nobody gave them a chance.  That’s how slaves and abolitionists resisted (INAUDIBLE).  How a president was able to chart a course to ensure we would not remain half slave and half free.  That is how the greatest generation defeated fascism and lifted itself up out of a great depression.  That is how pioneers struck west.  That is how immigrants arrived from distant shores.  That is how woman won the right to vote. That’s how workers won the right to organize. That’s how young people traveled south to march and sit in and some died for freedom’s cause.  That’s what hope is.  That’s what hope is.  Virginia, that is what hope is. 

Imaging and then fighting for working for what did not seem possible before.  And this is our moment.  This is our chance.  There’s a moment in the life of every generation where that spirit of hopefulness has to come through, where we cast aside the fear and the doubt and the cynicism.  The cynicism that so often passes for wisdom but is actually just being afraid to reach for something higher.  Where we shed that and arm in arm, we decide we are going to remake this country, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, county by county, state by state.  Virginia, this is our moment.  This is our time and if you will stand with me on Tuesday, if you will vote for me on Tuesday, then we will not just win the primary in Virginia.  We will win this nomination and we will win the general election and you and I together we will transform this country and we will transform the world.  Thank you.  God bless you. 

O’DONNELL: And Barack Obama delivering a rousing speech there at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Virginia where he is hoping to win over the hearts of voters who vote on Tuesday after what has been a sweeping victory across many of the primary and caucus states today.  Washington State, Louisiana and Nebraska and the Democratic Party.  This was his speech in which he talked about hope, being the hope monger.  He said sometimes he is accused of.  He also did something different than what Senator Clinton did earlier when she spoke.  She did not use her speech this evening to draw contrast with her chief rival Barack Obama. 

Barack Obama did use his speech tonight to draw a contrast with Hillary Clinton on the issue of health care, where he specifically talked about that her plan would mandate universal health care coverage which is the difference between their two plans, a significant one that each candidate has talked about a great deal as even Senator Clinton has said that his plan would leave out 15 million Americans. And you can see there working the rope line at 11:00 on a Saturday night.

NORAH O’DONNELL, MSNBC:  And you can see there working the rope line.  At 11:00 on a Saturday night.  This is, I’m told, more than 5,000 people there in that room.  Somewhere on the first level they dined there and others up in the balcony to hear Hillary Clinton earlier in the night.  We carried that entire speech on MSNBC just as we carried Barack Obama’s speech.  It was a contrast, an opportunity to see these two candidates as they are in just neck and neck delegate race.  It is truly remarkable.  They are fighting this battle across the country.  I believe it is 29 states of the 50 states have voted already.  Remarkable. 

Eugene Robinson, the victories tonight, Louisiana, Washington State, Nebraska for Barack Obama.  A clean sweep across the board and this speech tonight in Virginia.  He’s got to be feeling pretty good.  He went into this speech feeling like he had done what he needed to do. 

EUGENE ROBINSON:  Take everything that is on the table.  You had a good night.  It was interesting.  The two speeches were very different in tone.  You know, I think he—his speech was the speech of a man who is—you know, really wants to win on Tuesday, number one, speaking to a Virginia audience.  And the primary is Tuesday.  I think he wanted to continue to sharpen those differences with Senator Clinton. 

O’DONNELL:  Gene, I have to point out, people listening to this, this is Big and Rich, I believe who is playing this song.  I traveled across the country in with George Bush in 2004.  This is the song George Bush closed every campaign rally with.  It is remarkable to me that Barack Obama uses this song. 

Rachel, I heard you laughing.  Want to make an observation on that? 

(CROSSTALK)

O’DONNELL:  Well, I know every word of this song because I have heard it a million times. 

RACHEL MADDOW:  It is a lovely song.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I’m a radio host on air America, a left wing talk networked and I have pilloried by the fact that I point out the similarities between Barack Obama’s campaign and George W. Bush’s campaign.  In the sense that he’s promising liberal policies—in Bush’s case—of putting them in moderate sounding language.  He is kind of an arguer by analogy.  He is an amorphous candidate who is supposed to give you a good feeling than specifics and brass tacks.  Those are stylistic similarities between both and Obama.  If that could be crystallized in them having the theme song I would feel vindicated even if my left wing audience tears me up. 

O’DONNELL:  I’ve heard some people make that same case, Rachel.

Let’s go to Lee Cowan who is there at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond, Virginia. 

Lee, you have heard many of Barack Obama’s speeches across the country?  Anything different about this speech that you noted. 

LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I think so much for him not talking about his big wins here tonight.  We didn’t think he would do that.  He did.  He talked about how he won not only in Washington, but Nebraska and Louisiana as well.  He talked about how he won in the south, he won in the north, he won in the west.  He said he had done better with Independents.  He said he did better in red states than Hillary Clinton. 

He brought up John McCain a host of times, especially on foreign policy, especially on other issues saying essentially John McCain is more of the same.  Something similar to what Hillary Clinton has been saying as well.  Both of them tonight, bringing up John McCain. 

You saw tonight someone who said what you and Chuck have been talking about all night, look how many states I have won.  If this streak continues, I will end up with more states and perhaps more delegates but at the very least more states, especially heading into this big Chesapeake primary on Tuesday—Norah? 

O’DONNELL:  One other thing I noticed, Lee, was he drew the distinction with Senator Clinton on the issue of health care.  He said the difference between my plan and Senator Clinton’s plan is she said she would go after your wages if you don’t buy health care.  Have you heard him be that direct in sort of challenging her plan and will this set up another debate about the difference in their health care plans? 

COWAN:  It will definitely set up another debate.  He has said that before, perhaps not as strong as that.  His issue with her plan is there is no enforcement.  If you are going to mandate health care for everybody what happens to the people who don’t get it?  And if those people decide not to get it, what do you do?  You have to go after them in some way if they don’t?  There has to be some kind of enforcement, his campaign says, if you are going to mandate it for everybody.  That is not something his plan does.  It does not mandate health care for everybody.  It allows it for people who want to get it, which is obviously most Americans. 

O’DONNELL:  One of the very salient differences between these two Democratic campaigns that many people may not know about or have noticed.

Lee Cowan there, a late evening in Richmond, Virginia, but clearly going to be the sight of a key primary next Tuesday.  Thanks, Lee. 

COWAN:  You bet. 

O’DONNELL:  NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd is with us. 

Chuck, we have just to set the table again, we have now three victories, well, we can say four because he also won the Virgin Islands, a clean sweep tonight.  How big of a victory is this for him? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  They are pretty happy about it because of the delegate haul they got.  Their campaign is claiming a net 45 out of the night.  My math has it a little less than that.  It is certainly bigger than the 25 to 35 range which I think both the Obama and Clinton campaign were counting on tonight.  So it was a pretty big win.  The Washington win was bigger than they expected.  Nebraska about what they expected and same with Louisiana.  It is what they needed.  It certainly gets them closer.  I mean, I have done a—my back of the envelope or all my chicken scratch here—it gives them a 60, getting close to a 60-delegate lead on pledged delegates. 

When you go to the total haul, you throw in the super delegates the two campaigns claim and I got a range of 1,200 to 1,210 for Senator Clinton to 1,175 to 1,185.  Approximately, my hard numbers have it 24-delegate lead for Senator Clinton going into Chesapeake Tuesday.  The good news for her is I don’t think he can get enough delegates out of Chesapeake Tuesday to pull even.  But it is going to be close. 

What will be interesting is will Obama start working some super delegates.  Will they start shaking the super delegate tree and say, hey, do you want to be there when I take the delegate lead on her?  Is that a way for him to lure super delegates? 

Meanwhile, you’ll have Senator Clinton and President Clinton over the next 24 to 48 hours saying we can’t lose this overall delegate lead.  Get on the bandwagon now.  Don’t let us lose this delegate lead. 

You’re going to see, because the pledged delegates, where everything stands now is so close and the Clinton campaign does not want to lose this delegate lead with the supers, that you are going to see some real behind the scenes back room maneuvering for super delegates over the next 48 hours. 

O’DONNELL:  This may be a key time to talk about Obama is ahead in the pledge delegates.  If you include the supers, she has a 24-delegate lead. 

TODD:  That’s right.  That’s approximate.  Plus or minus ten delegates.  I want to put a margin or error in there.

O’DONNELL:  Explain just how hard or easy it might be to get these super delegates to change their mind?  I mean, have they signed their name in blood to the campaigns. 

TODD:  No. 

O’DONNELL:  This is very—they could flip easily, right? 

TODD:  Super delegates could flip very easily.  If they publicly are willing to have their name on a list they give to “NBC News,” which is what the Clinton and Obama folks have done, given us their list.  Not all of them have done a press release.  It is a list they don’t mind us calling.  That is a pretty solid won if you go into the Iowa caucus rules of ones and twos.  You have to feel good about that. 

By the way, none of the delegates are signed to anything in blood that says they have to stick with their candidate.  You want to talk scary, even the pledged delegates don’t have to stay pledged.  It is not like they are going to get arrested on the floor of the Denver convention if they decide I’m voting Clinton instead of Obama.  And that’s what makes...

O’DONNELL:  Oh, don’t make this anymore complicated, Chuck.  We call them pledge. 

TODD:  We call them pledged because, God help us if we had to sit here and poll all 4,000 of these folks all the time to figure out where they stand.  These super delegates are elected officials, DNC members, people who look at the polls.  This idea—I really think at the end of the day the person ahead in the polls—the person who looks like they are the strongest candidate against John McCain is going to end up with the—and the person who has the delegate lead, and if that is the same person.  The problem is if that is not the same person, then I think the super delegates have a problem.  If the pledge delegate leader is the strongest against John McCain, the super delegates will all go in one direction.  These folks know how to read a poll. 

O’DONNELL:  Chuck Todd, you are brilliant for doing the math on a back of an envelope.  I know you are going to do more on “Meet the Press.”  Thank you for staying up with us. 

TODD:  You got it. 

O’DONNELL:  Let’s go to Lynn Sweet who covers Barack Obama for “The Chicago Sun-Times.” 

Lynn, you heard Barack Obama’s speech drawing comparisons with Hillary Clinton on health care and referencing what was a big win for the campaign this evening with that sweep in those three states. 

LYNN SWEET, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  Three states and Virgin Islands, too, Norah.  It’s really, tonight, is saying who is more electable against John McCain.  Hillary Clinton talked about McCain saying she could go toe to toe with him.  Obama citing polls saying he is the most electable.  That is the stage of the campaign we are on right now. 

O’DONNELL:  And where does the campaign go from now?  You have talked to them.  Their strategy in terms of the Chesapeake primary?  Does Barack Obama have to win Virginia and Maryland to offset potential big wins by Clinton in what is called junior Tuesday on March 4th in Texas and Ohio? 

SWEET:  I love these names, Potomac, Chesapeake, crab cake, primary north.  I do agree he needs to—they are pretty funny nicknames.  We need a better name than junior Tuesday.  I’m not sure what it might be.

But when you have Texas and Ohio coming up with all those delegates and a tie-breaker.  I do think and I agree with you Senator Obama needs this for insurance.  I think he has been in good shape on that.  There are signs that he will do well in the district and in these states.  Like I said, it is going to be so close you need every one you can get. 

O’DONNELL:  I was struck, Lynn, by another thing Barack Obama did today.  Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are now talking about John McCain and which of them would be the better Democrat to run against John McCain in November, the electability argument.  Tonight, Barack Obama talking about the Bush-McCain tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, drawing that distinction, even though, as we know, conservatives are mad at McCain because he voted against the tax cuts in the beginning.  McCain now supports extending those tax cuts.  They are putting those tax cuts around John McCain and now making it Bush-McCain.  In other words, that’s the beginning of that phraseology that the McCain administration would be a continuation of the Bush administration. 

SWEET:  And that is so interesting.  Words do matter in politics.  Nowhere more do we see it now that McCain has emerged as the nominee.  The speech that Obama and Clinton gave, she said some people say I am the same as George Bush.  And that is what you are going to be hearing—Bush-McCain.  During other times in other partisan wars that go on you would hear McCain-Kennedy.  Invoking Kennedy’s name that has all kinds of code.

So this is such a new phase we are in right now where you have a maverick label applied to McCain, now the Democrats want to take it back and turn it into what he hasn’t been able to do with his conservative colleagues.  Obama and Clinton want to make him into the conservative Republican that he hasn’t been able to convince Ann Coulter that he is. 

O’DONNELL:  Lynn Sweet from Richmond, Virginia, where we have heard from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tonight.  Thanks, Lynn. 

SWEET:  Thank you. 

O’DONNELL:  To recap, Barack Obama is the wig winner, sweeping contests in Louisiana, Washington State and Nebraska.  We are going to get more from the exit poll about how he did it next. 

And we are still waiting for the results in the Louisiana Republican primary where it is still too close to call.  This is a really interesting one.  John McCain, Mike Huckabee, still too close to call.  Mike Huckabee won Kansas tonight. 

You are watching MSNBC’s live “Decision 2008” coverage.  We’re back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We won in Louisiana.  We won in Nebraska.  We won in Washington State.  We won north.  We won south.  We won in between.  And I believe that we can win Virginia on Tuesday if you’re ready to stand for change. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL:  Decisive win for Barack Obama tonight.  Let’s get more on our exit polling.  For that we go to MSNBC’S Alex Witt. 

Hi there, Alex. 

ALEX WITT, MSNBC:  Hello once again, Norah.  Here’s apparently how he was able to do it.  He was able to win Louisiana’s Democratic primary with a clear victory in some major groups. 

Let’s take a look at this.  His best showing was among black voters with which he won 82 percent of the vote.  He also took 72 percent of the voters who want change, 58 percent of the college graduates.  Hillary Clinton was strong among those who value experience, getting 87 percent of that vote.  She pulled in 70 percent of the white vote, 63 percent of the seniors and 52 percent of the catholic vote. 

While Louisiana’s Democratic voters chose Obama tonight that is interesting because they would apparently be largely satisfied whether Obama or Clinton is the eventual nominee.  Our “NBC News” exit poll shows seven in ten would be satisfied with Clinton while 63 percent would be satisfied with Obama as the Democratic Party nominee. 

When you look more closely here among each candidate’s supporters, here’s where it gets interesting.  We see differences here.  It turns out half of Obama’s voters would be satisfied if Clinton is ultimately the nominee, half would not.  On the other side, Clinton’s voters find the opposition a bit sizable.  33 percent would be satisfied if Obama is the nominee while a full two-thirds would not. 

Norah, we are going to look at where these next Tuesday, the Potomac primaries.  Our prognosticators can talk about the Potomac primaries. 

O’DONNELL:  Yeah, the Chesapeake primaries, the crab cake primaries.  That is what Lynn Sweet called them. 

WITT:  I heard that.  Clever. 

O’DONNELL:  That’s an interesting one, and to weigh in on whether we should call it the Chesapeake primary or the crab cake primary.

A native of this area, Pat Buchanan.  

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Not any Chesapeake primary, that Chesapeake Bay is about 35 or 40 miles from D.C.  It is not on the bay.  It should be the Potomac primary.  It divides Virginia and Maryland and rolls right by D.C.

ROBINSON:  Or the beltway primary.  You could call it the beltway battle. 

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Nobody wants to be named after a freeway. 

(LAUGHTER)

O’DONNELL:  Let’s look forward at whatever you want to call it Tuesday, the next big set of contests, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.  Tonight, Barack Obama has had a clean sweep.  Does Hillary Clinton need a victory on Tuesday in order to get back in this game? 

BUCHANAN:  I really think she does.  I think it is a very big night for Barack Obama.  He won all four of them.  He’s got the headlines.  I don’t know if he has 35 net delegates or 40 delegates.  He is ahead in pledge delegates.  He is liable to win D.C. and Maryland.  Virginia is problematic for Hillary Clinton.  She better win that or she better win Maine tomorrow or he is on a roll, quite frankly. 

O’DONNELL:  Gene? 

ROBINSON:  Yeah.  I tend to agree she needs some sort of speed bump in the way of his momentum. 

It is an interesting thing.  Obama is on this roll where he keeps collecting states.  And recently, he is tending to do better in the delegate count than is initially projected.  This could be the result of very good staff work and targeting the Congressional districts.  But that delegate lead that she had is evaporating pretty fast. 

O’DONNELL:  Rachel, we saw Chuck Todd do the math for us.  He had Hillary Clinton up by 24 delegates, including the super delegates.  Barack Obama is ahead on the pledged delegates.  This is remarkable.  I mean, I just can’t get over it.  These guys keep pace with each other after every single contest.  Answer that question that we’ve just been talking about here, where does Hillary have to do well next? 

MADDOW:  Well, I think that Maine is actually very important.  Maine is tomorrow.  It is a Sunday caucus, which is a little bit weird.  But it does mean it is happening in real time.  Those caucus-goers will head into the discussions with their neighbors and the other people who live in their precincts.  And they’re gong to know what happened tonight, in terms of these three states and the Virgin Islands going for Obama. 

Right now, it really is a tie.  It really, really, really is numerically a tie.  There is momentum and momentum is more amorphous.  It’s harder to pin down.  It feels like it is with Barack Obama.  Because of these wins, he will have additional momentum after Tuesday.  Hillary, this Maine contest tomorrow, while it seems like an anomaly, happening on Sunday and everything, turns out to be very important for Clinton. 

O’DONNELL:  Is it inevitable there has to be a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket? 

MADDOW:  I don’t think that it is inevitable.  Either one of them is going to be tempted into that because there is so much enthusiasm for both candidates. 

It is interesting, talking about those exit polls, we heard from Alex Clinton voters would not be satisfied with Barack Obama as the nominee.  That is the first dissatisfaction rating like that I have seen in a poll yet this season.  It might imply that voters are starting to see the two of them as so compatible. 

Neither is probably the ideal choice for the other one in terms of adding something to the ticket.  I don’t know if there is a perfect choice, but I don’t think we should expect that. 

BUCHANAN:  You know that is a very important point.  Barack Obama, 50 percent of his voters...

O’DONNELL:  In Louisiana. 

BUCHANAN:  ... would not like the idea of a Hillary Clinton nomination.  That suggests a reaction to the type of campaign that Bill and Hillary have conducted lately against Barack Obama. 

The other thing is more ominous.  The two-thirds of Hillary’s voters would not be satisfied with Barack Obama.  Frankly, looking at the racial numbers, that suggests that a lot of white voters do not want Barack Obama at the top of their ticket.  I can’t see any other conclusion you can reach. 

O’DONNELL:  That is in Louisiana.  I don’t know...

MADDOW:  We don’t know how those came down in terms of race, it has to be said.  That exit poll wasn’t split in terms of race.  We don’t know whether those were the voters who were saying they wouldn’t like Barack Obama. 

ROBINSON:  On that question, if you take what else we know about the exit poll, who voted for Obama, who voted for Clinton, you can come pretty close to that conclusion, actually, that because so few black voters actually voted for Hillary Clinton. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  And thus would be dissatisfied with potentially Obama. 

BUCHANAN:  That is a starting figure.  And could you imagine two-thirds of Republican voters saying—I know they don’t like McCain but you wouldn’t get two-thirds saying I won’t vote for John McCain.  You might get some.  That is a remarkable figure.

ROBINSON:  The thing that is squishy here is dissatisfied.  What does that mean?  Does that mean to a lot of people disappointed?  I wish the other one won.  Or does it mean something more dire? 

BUCHANAN:  Before this, you were getting, we like them both.  We like them both.  We’re really satisfied with both of them.

O’DONNELL:  We also saw, just as we saw on Super Tuesday, seven out of ten said they would be satisfied with Hillary or Barack Obama as the eventual nominee. 

The panelists staying with us.  We will have much more ahead right here on MSNBC, including we are waiting for the winner in the Louisiana Republican primary.  This is so interesting.  Still too close to call between McCain and Huckabee.  Of course, Huckabee has scored one victory tonight in Kansas.  The wires are saying that this was a big defeat for John McCain because he didn’t win in Kansas.  We’re going to have more straight ahead on MSNBC.  This is live coverage of “Decision 2008.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  President Bush has already put his stamp of approval on Senator McCain’s conservative credentials.  And I’m sure that will help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  Hillary Clinton is looking for a victory tomorrow in the Maine caucuses.  She was swept tonight as Barack Obama won in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington State. 

Here is Hillary Clinton earlier tonight at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond, Virginia. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  For seven long years we have neither addressed our problems, nor seized our opportunities.  We have tried it president Bush’s way—concentrate wealth, the house will be in order power, disregard science, shred the Constitution, smear dissenters, impugn patriots, go it alone in the world wherever you can and cooperate only when you have to.

And now, with Senator McCain as the likely Republican nominee, the Republicans have chosen more of the same.  President Bush has already put his stamp of approval on Senator McCain’s conservative credentials and I’m sure that will help.

Now I understand there are some people who say they can’t tell the difference between me and George Bush. Well, I don’t think anyone here believes that the Republicans are confusing me and George Bush. And certainly having fought George Bush every day for the last seven years I will be among those most happy to finally see the moving van leaving the White House.

[ cheers and applause ]

Now, voters certainly won’t have any problems seeing the differences. Senator McCain wants to keep troops in Iraq for 50 to 100 years. I will start bringing them home within 60 days of becoming president of our country. Senator McCain has admitted he doesn’t understand the economy. I have a strategy to end the housing crises, create five million new clean energy jobs and rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class again.

And one thing we know for sure is that Senator McCain won’t deliver universal health care. In fact, I am the only candidate left in this race, Democratic or Republican, with a health care plan to cover every single man, woman and child. [ cheers and applause ] Because, you see, I believe health care is a fundamental human right and a moral obligation of the United States of America finally to achieve for our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL:  And that was Hillary Clinton from earlier tonight. When we return, more from our exit polling from Louisiana and a look at the numbers in the Republican race in Louisiana, which, of course, still too close to call. Take a look at these numbers. I know Pat Buchanan is studying them very closely, 87 percent reporting. Huckabee with a two-point edge. Still too close to call at NBC News.  This is our coverage of DECISION 2008, more in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  We have got a lot of results to catch up on tonight. On the Democratic side, as we have been reporting it is a clean sweep tonight for Barack Obama. The Illinois senator is the projected winner in Louisiana with a double digit victory over Hillary Clinton. In Washington State, Senator Obama won by a significant margin over Senator Clinton in the caucuses there.

And another sizable victory for Obama in the Nebraska caucuses. The “Associated Press” reports Obama won in the Virgin Islands with 90 percent of the vote and on the Republican side the race is still too close to call in Louisiana between John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Look at those numbers, 89 percent of the precincts reporting. Huckabee leads with just over 2,000 votes. Earlier tonight in the Kansas Republican caucuses it was Mike Huckabee beating John McCain.

And we are back with the panel. We’ve got to talk about the Republicans. We have got it look like a race on our hands even though John McCain is supposed to be the presumptive Republican nominee. I’m looking at the lead of the “Associated Press” wires which says John McCain stumbled in the first election since becoming the apparent Republican nominee. Earlier wire said John McCain trounced in Kansas by Mike Huckabee. One other wire said he failed his first test as Republican nominee. Mike Huckabee is giving John McCain a run for his money in Louisiana. Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Nattering nabobs of negativity. Look, this is remarkable. Huckabee beat McCain by 20 points among the Protestants in Louisiana which would include evangelicals. McCain beat him by 25 points among Catholics. You have a religious divide in Louisiana. You probably had a geographical divide in north south as well. It shows the conservatives, we looked at the very conservative voters, overwhelmingly Huckabee. Conservatives split evenly. 

O’DONNELL:  And McCain wins the moderate.

BUCHANAN:   It looks like buyer’s remorse to a McCain nomination. Don’t do it yet. You have to give Huckabee credit. He has been very smart staying in. Romney’s votes are coming to him.

O’DONNELL:  Eugene is it buyer’s remorse or a continuation of what we saw in the other states and Huckabee’s votes are consolidated with Mitt Romney out of the race.

ROBINSON:  It could be a statement of discontent with the fact that McCain is the presumptive nominee. As we were saying during the break, Louisiana is kind of a unique state in some ways. It is an odd stew and so it is difficult to over generalize from Louisiana. But I think that point Pat made about conservatives you can make.

O’DONNELL:  Yeah.

ROBINSON:  I think you can -- 

O’DONNELL:  In fact, it is similar to what we saw in other states. The very conservative choosing him over McCain.

BUCHANAN:  Now the conservatives aren’t divided. They have one home to go to and it is Huckabee.

ROBINSON:  You have to say that Obama is the big winner and McCain is the big loser.

O’DONNELL:  Rachel doesn’t this make Virginia next Tuesday all the more important to watch, a bellwether, and a large number of evangelicals in that state. A key test for John McCain, I think Chuck Todd said earlier tonight, McCain has to win that and end the speculation about Huckabee and about this conservative angst with him.

MADDOW:  I think that is exactly right. The one key thing to watch for in Virginia is the turnout. Turnout is the sleeper issue so far explaining the Republican results. Republican voter turnout overall shrinks what is left is these die-hard voters who it turns aren’t listening to their so-called party leaders and so-called spokes models on talk radio.

They are doing their own thing and they are flying in the face of conventional Republican wisdom. They like Huck. They don’t necessarily like McCain but they like Mike Huckabee whether or not it is a vote against McCain. If the turnout is real small in Virginia Huckabee could have a good night there, too.

O’DONNELL:   He leads the charisma factor. He is getting the laugh lines whether the Colbert report or the late night shows.

BUCHANAN:  He should have a talk show.

O’DONNELL:  He may be panelist here on election night.

BUCHANAN:  He can win the entire course. McCain won South Carolina but he could take virtually the entire south. He is winning Border States. He did well in Kansas. He did well in Missouri. I don’t think he won Missouri.

ROBINSON:  No.

BUCHANAN:  He was very, very close. The south and the Border States. That is something.

MADDOW:  If he wins Louisiana. I would say also -- 

O’DONNELL:  Go ahead.

MADDOW:  Looking at the early returns so far from Washington he is not doing half bad in Washington. Washington voters don’t have to register by party. He is not far behind John McCain in Washington right now. If he does well there it will be hard to call him a niche candidate of the south.

BUCHANAN:  In that Republican Party in the state of Washington you have a very conservative party, very Christian and he would get them and they would go against McCain.

O’DONNELL:  Everyone assumes that McCain will be the Republican nominee because the math doesn’t add up for Mike Huckabee. Despite all this talk that we are having, I wasn’t a major in math, I was a major in miracles said Huckabee. He acknowledges he needs a miracle to win.

Interesting to talk about McCain if he is the nominee. Which Democrat would be the best to run against him? Clearly Democratic voters want to win the White House. A new “Time” Magazine poll out this week when it is a head to head with Hillary and McCain it is dead even 46, 46 percent. When it is Barack Obama against McCain he has a little bit of a lead, seven points. There you go.

BUCHANAN:  Here is the thing. The reason for this is Hillary bumps her head. She got 40, 45 something like that under no circumstances vote for her. Barack Obama I think right now has elasticity. He can get a huge majority. He can go the other way. The point Hillary keeps making is I’m getting the votes that Republicans can get and Barack’s votes are going to be ours in any event. It is a very powerful argument for professionals but obviously is not selling to the folks going out and voting.

ROBINSON:  Obama has a counterargument, which is I’m winning the states where we can get independents. Where we can get some Republicans.

BUCHANAN:  Do you think Barack Obama in a general can win South Carolina which he won two to one? 

ROBINSON:   No.

BUCHANAN:  Why not. It is a Republican state.

O’DONNELL:  Right.

ROBINSON:  Can he win Colorado? Can he compete in Nebraska? You know, some of these border and western states I think Obama should do very well.

BUCHANAN:  You have to get the Reagan Democrats.

MADDOW:  The Rocky Mountain States. Turnout is the sleeper issue, 19 states on Super Tuesday, were both Democrats and Republicans were voting in the same state. Democratic turnout was 73 percent higher than Republican turnout. In Kansas you had twice as many Democrats turn out than Republicans.

In Kansas. With those kinds of numbers, with that kind of Democratic tide you can’t tell me from here which states are going to be red and which states are going to be blue. There were Republicans for Obama who were making a lot of waves in the press in Washington out of those caucuses. He is speaking to people outside of the traditional Democratic test.

O’DONNELL:  Let me ask you about this tug of war going on with democrats. I spoke with democrats today, who are very involved in politics. I said by the way, who are you backing, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. He said my heart tells me Barack Obama. My head tells me Hillary Clinton. I said how does your wife feel? She feels the same way even though everybody she works for is for this person. Is that what is going on in the Democratic Party, their heart is for Barack Obama and their head for Hillary Clinton?

BUCHANAN:  I understand the heart easily. Why is the head for Hillary?

O’DONNELL:  Gene.

ROBINSON:   Well, I think that the argument would be you have the Clinton machine. Bill Clinton maybe the smartest politician around. You’ve got a system that has proven it knows how to win elections in this country.

O’DONNELL:  And the base is with her that is the suggestion --  

ROBINSON:   You’ve got the base. But more important the Clintons are going to fight, scratch, claw, and do whatever they need to do to win the election that is the head argument. The heart argument is it is obvious that the inspiration.

O’DONNELL:  We are going to talk more about the heart versus the head. Coming up, more with the panel when we return. New numbers, too, from our exit polling. You are watching MSNBC’s live coverage of DECISION 2008.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O’DONNELL:  Barack Obama is the winner in three states tonight a Virgin Islands. Here is what some of Senator Obama told  supporters tonight at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Richmond, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe John McCain is a good man and he is a genuine American hero and we honor his half century of service to this nation. But understand in this campaign, this year he has made the decision to embrace the failed policies of George Bush’s Washington. He speaks of a hundred-year war in Iraq. He sees another on the horizon with Iran. He once opposed George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest few who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them.

He said they were too expensive and unwise and we should never cut taxes for the wealthy at a time of war. Somewhere along the line the wheels came off the straight talk express because he now supports the very same tax cuts he voted against. This is what happens when you spend too long in Washington. Politicians end up not saying what they mean and they don’t mean what they say and that is why in this election our party can’t stand for business as usual in Washington. The Democratic Party must stand for change, not change of the slogan. Not change of the bumper sticker, but change we can believe in. That’s what this campaign is all about.

This fall, this fall we owe the American people a real choice. A choice between debating John McCain about who has the most experience in Washington or debating him about who is most likely to change Washington because that is a debate we can  win. It is a choice between debating  John McCain about lobbying reform with a nominee who has taken more money from lobbyists than he has or doing it with a  campaign who hasn’t take an dime of their money because we’ve been funded by you, the American people.

It is a choice between taking on John McCain between Republicans and independents who are united against us or running against him with a campaign that is uniting Americans of all parties around a common purpose. There is the reason why the last six polls in a row show why I’m the strongest candidate against John McCain because I have done better among independents in almost every single contest we’ve had. That is why we have won more red states and swing states that the next Democratic nominee needs to win in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’DONNELL:  That was Barack Obama tonight in Richmond. Of course, Virginia votes next Tuesday. Let’s go back to MSNBC’s Alex Witt with more from our exit poll on the Republican race. Hi there, Alex.

WITT:  Hi once again to you. Mike Huckabee and John McCain they are certainly neck and neck right now in the Louisiana primary. Our exit polls showing they are splitting many of the major groups, lets take a look at this. Conservatives was the largest block of the Republican voters today in Louisiana. Mike Huckabee is leading in that group with 51 percent of their votes. The votes cast for John McCain continue to show his weakness among conservatives while his strength is clear among the moderate segment of the party with 54 percent of that vote.

Evangelical’s more than half Republican voters a key voting bloc for Huckabee, their votes went strongly for him over McCain, 58 percent to 31 percent. But Catholics who represent a third of Republicans in Louisiana went solidly for McCain, 54 percent to 29 percent over Huckabee. There was a clear age gap in this race. Mike Huckabee won young voters by 21 points but John McCain won seniors by 12 points.

However keep this in mind; senior voters outnumbered the youngest voters two to one. As this entire vote counting continues it is going to come down to those voters right there in the middle, neither the youngest nor the oldest. They will be the key to this race.

O’DONNELL:  Alex Witt you are a rock star. You are on the air at 8:00 a.m. in the morning. Thanks for being with us.

WITT:  All right, thanks.

O’DONNELL:  Great information here, back with our panel. Everything Alex just reported so fascinating. In Louisiana which we are waiting to hear what is going on there, too close to call. This has been a strong showing by Mike Huckabee tonight. What will be written in tomorrow’s papers and will this only emboldened some of the conservatives on the right who may have tamped down some of their criticism after realizing that John McCain is the inevitable nominee?

BUCHANAN:  You saw it at the CPAC Convention. It thinks Huckabee if he had been in the race siphoning votes from Romney he would not be too warmly received.

O’DONNELL :  Why do conservatives like Mike Huckabee? I know he is a Baptist preacher, but he has a record of raising taxes.

BUCHANAN:  They would not have been as enthusiastic. He is now the only alternative to John McCain. I think they are going to move to him. In the head line tomorrow, Kansas and if he gets Louisiana and does a good showing in Washington a lot of them are going to say let’s go out and show them we don’t want McCain. He will get the benefit of that, angry conservatives and evangelicals as well.

O’DONNELL:  Rachel it has been kumbaya between John McCain and Mike Huckabee, they have directed their fire at Mitt Romney for so long. Huckabee said we are not going negative on John McCain. After the results tonight do you think the John McCain people will reassess whether they have to point out some differences with Mike Huckabee?

MADDOW:  It is complicated to think about whether or not Mike Huckabee helps or hurts McCain. It would be almost impossible for Huckabee to take the nomination away from McCain in terms of delegates. Does the fact that these are contestant race that Mike Huckabee isn’t saying nasty things about John McCain, meaning that it is a net gain for McCain because it keeps him in the news.  Where as if once McCain had sued it up and the Democrats hadn’t sued up their race the Republican race would be ignored. In some ways it is a benefit. Pat is so right to point to the question of whether or not conservatives and the Republican Party generally will shift to Huckabee as the anti-McCain candidate. They showed a slight willingness to do that at least among the conservative movement for—

O’DONNELL:  Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow we have you on this panel because we like you, but you are supposed to disagree with each other. Eugene say something different than them.

ROBINSON:  They are both wrong. They are both wrong. The Republican Party isn’t going to shift to Huckabee.

O’DONNELL:  All right.

ROBINSON:  This is one of those great lost causes. That you guys love.

O’DONNELL:  We have to wrap it up for the night. You have been wonderful. Thank you all very, very much. Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews are going to have live coverage of  the Chesapeake primary, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., that is Tuesday starting at 6:00 Eastern. I’m Norah O’Donnell, for my panel and everyone here at MSNBC News good night.

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