updated 2/14/2008 1:12:40 PM ET 2008-02-14T18:12:40

Guests: Joan Walsh, Gov. Ed Rendell, Max Kellerman, Lisa Caputo, Willie Brown, Michelle Bernard, Margaret Carlson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Eight in a row.  Can Obama keep it rolling?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Make no mistake, the Democrats now have a frontrunner.  Senator Barack Obama won Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., last night, not just beating Hillary Clinton but beating her among the very groups that she had been dominating.  What‘s more, the smart money says his winning streak will continue in Wisconsin and Hawaii next week.  So how will the Clinton campaign stop Obama?  Put another way, can the Clinton campaign stop Obama?  We‘ll ask one of the smartest people in politics, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who‘s on Senator Clinton‘s side on this fight.

Plus, John McCain also had a perfect night last night, sweeping Mike Huckabee in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.  Is this Republican race really over?

Plus: It was one of the most extraordinary scenes on Capitol Hill in some time, Roger Clemens saying he never took performance-enhancing drugs, and his trainer saying, Oh, yes, you did, Roger, and I gave them to you.  Well, one thing we know, someone between the two of these guys is lying.

And as always, we‘ll have our panel of experts tonight and the “Politics Fix.”  But we begin with last night‘s primaries right here in this region.  “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst, and Joan Walsh is the editor-in-chief of Salon.com.  Thank you both for joining us.

I want you to take a look at the delegate count as it stands right now.  Nationally, according to NBC‘s election unit, Obama has the lead among pledged delegates, 1078 to 969.  When you add in NBC‘s best estimates about delegates yet to be counted and superdelegates, the total number of delegates for Obama is 1,313 and 1,273 for Clinton, not that far apart.

Joan, you start.  Is he ahead really?  Is this finally Obama in the lead?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  He is ahead, really, Chris.  He is in the lead  Now, his campaign is a little bit more aggressive than the NBC numbers with the delegates, but everybody‘s numbers that I‘ve looked at shows him in the lead.

And I think it‘s going to be very interesting from here on in.  I sat and watched—I always watch MSNBC‘s Super Tuesday coverage, and all day long, Obama, Michelle Obama, my friend, Susan Rice (ph), a couple of other surrogates, the message yesterday was, No, he is not the frontrunner.  Well, I think they woke up this morning and they have to say he is the frontrunner.

And that carries momentum.  He could do very well in these future contests.  He probably will in Hawaii, certainly, and Wisconsin.  But we all know, the three of us sitting here in the media, that being the frontrunner means you face more potshots.  He faced John McCain last night, not only Hillary Clinton.

So he‘s got some—there‘s some worry in being the frontrunner.  It‘s absolutely his status right now.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You agree Howard, is he the frontrunner?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Sure, he‘s the frontrunner.  There‘s no doubt about it.  He‘s got not only momentum, he‘s got money.  He‘s got a rationale.  He‘s got a terrific ground game which has been underestimated.  The quality of his campaign, in terms of execution, is superb.

And he has the leading rationale for Democrats who are desperate for change.  On the question of change, he wins going away, and that is a higher priority for Democratic voters, based on the exit polls, than experience.  So if it‘s change versus experience, that‘s how he‘s winning.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the ways to count this.  We counted the delegates so far.  Let‘s take a look at the popular vote in this election (INAUDIBLE) this is the total vote cast from all the state primaries and caucuses combined.  Again, Obama leads by about 700,000 votes.

Joan, I think that‘s going to matter at some point because if Obama finds himself losing in the superdelegate race, where the big shots get to weigh in, it may be harder for the Clinton forces to say that‘s fair unless they win the popular vote.  Then they can say, At least we got most of the votes, if we didn‘t get most of the pledged delegates.

WALSH:  Right.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  But if they lose both pledged delegates and popular vote and then claim victory, that might be hard to sell to the people.

WALSH:  I think you‘re right, Chris.  I think that for the period when they seemed to have a popular vote edge, that argument might have carried.  If they‘re trailing in both, it‘s going to be—it‘s going to be difficult to make that case.

But you know, Obama is saying that the popular—that the superdelegates should trail the vote, should go with their states.  David Axelrod suggested, Well, they should vote their conscience and what‘s best for the party.  I think if this stays close, Chris—and it may not, but if it stays close, there are going to be all kinds of interesting permutations in the way different surrogates and different candidates decide the superdelegates should cast their vote.  So we‘ve still got...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  This is almost as crazy—this is almost as crazy as it might turn out to be if we ever went to the House of Representatives in Constitution, where you don‘t know whether...

WALSH:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  ... the House members will vote their state, vote their party, vote what.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Howard?

FINEMAN:  Well, this is why the objective of the Clinton campaign right now is to keep their—how much they‘re trailing in pledged delegates to as small a number as possible.  If they can keep it down to 30 or 40, they think they can make all those arguments for superdelegates.  If they trail by 100 or 200 superdelegates, they realize that, morally and politically, they‘re not going to be able to carry the day.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When was that last time you‘ve been to a strobe light event?  I think the ‘60s.

Anyway, here‘s Barack Obama today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s a Washington where politicians like John McCain and Hillary Clinton voted for a war in Iraq that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  ... a war that is costing us thousands of precious lives and billions of dollars a week that could have been used to rebuild crumbling schools and bridges, roads and buildings, that could have been invested in job training and child care and making health care affordable or putting college within reach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you love the way they‘re starting to shoot at each other politically?  They‘re now—Senator McCain last night didn‘t seem quite the gentleman as he went after Obama, did he.

FINEMAN:  Well, what happened last night after they both swept the Chesapeake primaries, they basically touched gloves in the center of the ring and started fighting.  That‘s exactly...

MATTHEWS:  Platitudes!  Don‘t you think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... knocking down this guy...

WALSH:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  ... who‘s known for his oratory, just dispensing platitudes to the audience and then taking them in, like the little fools that might be.  I mean, that—knocking platitudes knocks the audience, too, doesn‘t it, if people seem to like those platitudes?

WALSH:  It does a little bit.  But you know, what I thought was interesting is when Hillary Clinton does that, she‘s still paying for the “false hopes” line.  She sounds like a mean lady.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  When John McCain does it, he gets to be the tough old man.  That‘s going to cut both ways.  But he gets to sound like the voice of reason, and you know, it could carry a little bit better...

MATTHEWS:  So Jack Kennedy...

WALSH:  ... with John McCain saying that.

MATTHEWS:  Joan, Jack Kennedy‘s theme song was “High Hopes.”  Will John McCain‘s be, “Don‘t get your hopes up”?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So far this year, Senator McCain (SIC) has done better than Senator Obama among white—among women, among white voters, older voters and lower income people.  But look at Virginia last night, the Old Dominion.  Here are the exit polls.  On gender, Obama beat Clinton roughly 3 to 2 among women.  On race—I think we should say ethnicity—but race, Obama beat among white voters, or won among white voters.  On age, Obama beat Clinton by 10 points among those older voters, over 65, that always have gone to Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton.  On income, Obama beat  Clinton by 25 points among those making less than $50,000 which has always been another group, Howard.

So the groups that I was watching last night, people that make less than $50,000, which is about half the country, at least, and people who are over 65, which is a big chunk of the voters, went for Obama.  Usually—in fact, they may well go again in the older states, Pennsylvania and Ohio...

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s what the Clinton...

WALSH:  That‘s the question.

FINEMAN:  ... campaign is desperately hoping because they‘re hoping the profile in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania of Democratic voters has a lot of those core Democrats, especially women, working women, that will come out and support Hillary.  But Virginia was a rout.  If Obama can replicate the demographics of his victory in Virginia in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, he‘s going to just blow her out on...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Well, then she‘s out.

MATTHEWS:  ... tactics because everything is trend, Joan, except what happens.  Everything‘s a trend...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... until something happens, and then—so it seems to me Senator Clinton is wisely pushing for debates.  She‘s already got one scheduled with us in Ohio on the 26th of February.  She‘s got one scheduled with, I think, CNN right before that, the week before that.  She now wants...

WALSH:  She wants one in Wisconsin.

MATTHEWS:  ... one in Wisconsin.

OK, what‘s the theory—the trouble with a debate, as I argued last night, is it‘s not really a debate like in high school or college.  You don‘t, like, debate with each other.  You stand there with some tough moderators—some of them are tough—asking questions.  In other words, it‘s like a public press conference.  So you‘re exposed to all the ticklish questions you don‘t like to answer, like...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... When are you going to put our your tax returns, things like that.  Why would Senator Clinton want to expose herself to that kind of inquiry?

WALSH:  I think that‘s a good question, but I think the answer is she does well in that format, Chris.  She really has.  Now, there are new questions that she‘d have to face.  She‘s had a campaign shake-up.  It could be uncomfortable for her.  But she‘s shown a real capacity to turn those questions back around, to get...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, she has.

WALSH:  ... voters on her side, to get sympathy for when she‘s in a tough corner, but also to show that—you know, that mastery, that wonkishness that has been reassuring in certain states to voters concerned about economic issues.  So I think...

MATTHEWS:  She always looks comfortable on the issues.  She seems to know...

WALSH:  She does.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right, Joan, she knows the issues.  But...

WALSH:  She does.

MATTHEWS:  ... sometimes this other guy, Barack, seems to ask that cloying (ph) question about the war vote.  He‘s being gentle and gentlemanly, and he just sticks that thing in there, you know?  But how do these debates help Senator Clinton?  She must think they do.  She wants (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN:  Well...

WALSH:  They have.

FINEMAN:  She needs to stand on the stage with him or sit on the stage with him, make the comparison that she thinks is a helpful one—in some ways, it is.  And I think also, she has no choice, in whatever way she can manage to do it, but to go after him in these debates.

MATTHEWS:  And then she has to hit him.

FINEMAN:  She‘s got to hit him.  Now, she‘s got to figure out a way to do it that serves her advantage.  And it‘s difficult when you have a negative rating that she does that‘s still in the 40s...

MATTHEWS:  Remember how...

WALSH:  Right.

FINEMAN:  ... but she‘s got to do it.

MATTHEWS:  I love it!

FINEMAN:  If she says that he‘s not ready, that he‘s an empty suit in certain ways, that he‘s inspirational but not substantive, she‘s got to say it and prove it.  She‘s got to.

MATTHEWS:  OK, remember the great old thing in 1984, where Gary Hart was doing great in the primaries, and Walter Mondale, who was a bit old-school and not very much of a TV guy—good guy, not a TV guy—there is such a person.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Yes, a lot of them.

MATTHEWS:  He said—he was taught—Joan, he was taught what was called “the pivot,” the 45-degree this, to look at Gary Hart—they had to teach him to do this.  And then they taught him to pronounce the following phrase, “Where‘s the beef?”  And he had—Beckel had to rehearse him.  And he turned like this and said to Gary Hart, “Where‘s the beef?”  And Hart tried to shake him loose, but he was trained not to let him loose.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Senator Clinton will have to do something, a set piece like that, to turn on Barack Obama, You talk good, young man, what do you know about Title 20?  You know, something like that.  Is that going to work?

WALSH:  I think it‘s health care.  I think it‘s grilling him on, you know, what‘s not universal about his plan.  I think, you know, she‘s starting to hit him on either he‘s copying her programs for the economy or he‘s not going far enough.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  I think she gets him—you know, she tries to get him into some of those wonkish debates.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  She tries to paint him as somebody who‘s not—he‘s a great liberal, of course—don‘t get me wrong—but who hasn‘t gone as far as she has in certain kind of economic programs and bread-and-butter programs...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Excuse me, Joan.  Doesn‘t she have to really whack him?

WALSH:  You know, there‘s a limit to...

MATTHEWS:  Catch him off base?

WALSH:  Yes, she has to hope to do it, but there‘s a limit to how nasty she can be.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  There‘s also a limit to how rehearsed she can be because when she comes off rehearsed and staged, that doesn‘t work for her, either.  So it‘s very tough.  I don‘t mean to say if she gets these debates, she wins them and the race turns around.  I think it‘s a risky strategy.  But from what we‘ve all seen—and you know, the three of us over at the Dartmouth debate together—from what we‘ve all seen, she does well in that format and she wants to have a few more shots at him.

MATTHEWS:  I knew Robert Kennedy.  Robert Kennedy was my hero.  You‘re no Robert Kennedy.

WALSH:  Right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Howard Fineman.  And thank you, Joan Walsh. 

It‘s always great.

Coming up: Now that Obama‘s taken the delegate lead, and he‘s also got the popular vote lead, what does Senator Clinton need to do to catch up to this guy?  After going 0 for 8, by the way.  She‘s lost 8 in a row.  It could be a tough road back to victory.  But we‘re looking ahead to Ohio.  We‘re looking ahead to Texas, and then, of course, my home state, the Keystone State.  We‘ll be joined, by the way, by two Clinton supporters in a moment here, Senator—actually Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and former Hillary press secretary—Hillary Clinton press secretary, Lisa Caputo, is going to be coming in a little later tonight.  Ed Rendell‘s going to talk about some of the things he‘s been saying in the last 24 hours.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There‘s a great saying in Texas—you‘ve all heard it—all hat and no cattle.  Well, after seven years of George Bush, we need a lot less hat and a lot more cattle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell is supporting Senator Hillary Clinton for president.  He made some comments the other day—or actually, last week—to the editorial board of “The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.”  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  ... conservative whites here, and I think probably some whites here who are not ready for an African-American candidate.  I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann been the identical candidate that he was—well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking—but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so.  I think there was that factor there, yes.  And that exists.  But on the other hand, that‘s counterbalanced by Obama‘s ability to bring new voters into the electoral pool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Governor Rendell.  I guess—was it the way this was excerpted that caused the stir?  Because that sounds like an unexceptional analysis of—I mean, 5 points difference, rather than the whole race?  Anyway, you make your account here.

RENDELL:  Of course.  Well, first of all, Chris, it happened in the context of an editorial board interview, where I was pushing for support on our education funding, the largest increase in education funding in Pennsylvania history, and our own state economic stimulus program.  It was about an hour-and-15-minute interview.  They asked me almost as I was walking out the door, how do I handicap the presidential race?  And I went over what I thought the assets and the weaknesses of both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama were.

And to somehow have a columnist construe that as I was trying to inject race into the campaign—well, first of all, nothing I said would have helped Senator Clinton.  If anything, it would have created sympathy for Senator Obama, number one.  But number two, if I was going to do it, I wouldn‘t have done it to six people in a room that didn‘t have any windows.  I would have picked a larger forum.

It‘s ridiculous, and it‘s symptomatic of, I think, the media‘s obsession with race.  I think until we get to the point where white candidates can criticize African-American candidates on issues and vice versa and no one say, Oh, they‘re being racist—until we get to that point, we haven‘t made it all the way.

We‘ve made remarkable progress.  You saw in Philadelphia, Chris, your old home town, Mike Nutter won the white vote in his primary election against several decent white candidates.  People are changing.  In my election, 94 percent of African-Americans in Philadelphia voted for me over a very good-looking, well-spoken, charismatic African-American candidate.  So...

MATTHEWS:  And he had a hell of a running mate, too.  He had a great running mate.

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL:  He did.  That was—for all of you viewers, that was Chris‘s brother.  But understand, we‘re improving.  And Senator Obama is helping the dialogue because he‘s obviously starting to transcend some of those old voting patterns.  But by the way, it exists for Hillary Clinton.  There are men in my state and I believe elsewhere who say, I don‘t want a woman as commander-in-chief.

So they‘re all predispositions.  And I have a habit that‘s plagued me for my 31 years in politics, I answer the questions and I answer it honestly.  And they asked me, and I answered it honestly.  But for this to be a big brouhaha and for somehow thinking I was trying to help Senator Clinton—neither she nor I would want anything like this.  And I went through a whole year running against Lynn Swann, and not once did anybody suggest that either Lynn or I or our running mates injected race into the campaign.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think it‘s an acute analysis—it‘s a very acute analysis about a 17-point spread instead of a 22-point spread because of an ethnic difference is to me a very surgical statement.  And by the way, you offset it by saying Barack is a hell of a lot more charismatic than Lynn Swann, certainly a better speaker, I mean, with a big message, a really big message.

RENDELL:  He‘s got a better message.  He‘s got a better message.

MATTHEWS:  That Swann didn‘t have.  Swann didn‘t have a rationale...

RENDELL:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... like this guy.  Right?

RENDELL:  Right.  I mean, look...

MATTHEWS:  Well, say so!

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL:  ... Barack has a great—well, Senator Obama has a great rationale for bringing the country together.  And I think that is good.

And I think it‘s everyone.  Whether it is Senator Clinton or Senator McCain, they have to bring us together, because we are sick and tired of the partisan politics as usual in D.C.  But once you get us together, where are you going to take us? 

And that is why I am for Hillary Clinton.  I invite you, Chris, because I know what a substance guy you are, go on Hillary‘s Web site and read her economic development plan.  It is the best I have ever seen.  And I have been working with presidential candidates for 30 years, better, much better than Bill Clinton‘s was.  It gets the connection between education and our competitiveness economically in the global marketplace.  That is why people should be for Hillary Clinton, not because of—of race or gender or any of that stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about Pennsylvania, because it is fascinating. 

I know you know it as well as anybody in the world.  Pennsylvania has been accused of being Pittsburgh and Philly and Alabama in the middle.  James Carville calls it that.  Is that a fair statement, that it‘s very conservative in the middle?

RENDELL:  No, certainly not in a Democratic primary. 

For example, take Lancaster.  It‘s one of the biggest Republican counties in the country, the biggest margin.  But the Democrats there are very progressive and very liberal.  So, that would be, I think, a good county for Barack Obama. 

Take Philadelphia—well, Philadelphia because of its—of its demographics, Senator Obama is going to do well there, but so is Senator Clinton.  She has some great support.  People in Philadelphia...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RENDELL:  ... and the region remember the Clinton years very fondly, because of all of the things they did to help the city.

And in the Philadelphia suburbs, that is where I think the real battleground is going to be, as it is in most presidential general elections, because I think Hillary Clinton, if she campaigns correctly, and if she gets her message across, can contend for those suburbanites in Philadelphia that she has not been winning in places like Virginia and Maryland. 

MATTHEWS:  When the Democratic voters picks up his or her ballot on

April 22 in Pennsylvania, will it say on the official Democratic ballot

that is handed out, that tells you how to vote, will it list Hillary

Clinton or Barack Obama, or neither?  Will there be an endorsed candidate

by city committee in Philadelphia? 

RENDELL:  Well, I don‘t know what city committee in Philadelphia will do, but state committee, we have agreed to be scrupulously neutral on this throughout the state.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RENDELL:  And state committee will not be supporting either candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.  Well, that is interesting. 

Thank you very much, Governor.

RENDELL:  I will.  I will, but state committee won‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  I knew where you were—I knew where you were on this, and I am glad we put the whole thing on.  It was a very acute analysis.

I realize I have learned the hard way myself, you talk about gender, you talk about anything this time around, and it cuts much sharper than it ever did before, because we have...

RENDELL:  It does.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL:  But—but we have to grow and mature as a country about these issues, Chris.  It is vitally important.  And so does the media. 

MATTHEWS:  I am trying to learn that, as you are, sir.  And you have learned once again the difficulty of dealing with media. 

Thank you very much, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. 

RENDELL:  And telling the truth. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Well, the truth hurts. 

Anyway, Lisa Caputo joins us right now.  She‘s the former press secretary to first lady Hillary Clinton.  She now serves as a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign.

Well, nothing tricky coming out of you these days.  So, let‘s talk about the fight.  Is Senator Clinton going to contest Wisconsin next Tuesday with all that she has? 

LISA CAPUTO, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR HILLARY CLINTON:  I think she‘s going to contest it.  I don‘t know the level to which she will contest it, but certainly they‘re up on the air with an ad challenging Senator Obama to debate.  She has been out there calling for it personally in her speeches. 

She is going out there this weekend.  Chelsea Clinton has been out there campaigning on college campuses.  Senator Clinton went in via satellite and did a bunch of television interviews locally.  So, they are going for it, for sure. 

And they are deploying their resources accordingly to make sure that they can deploy the right kind of balance into Texas and Ohio at the same time. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Senator Clinton last night in Texas. 

Here she is making a big appeal to, I think, Latina voters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Texas

needs a president who actually understands what it is going to take to turn

the economy around, to get us universal health care, to save hardworking

Americans‘ homes from foreclosure at the abusive practices of the mortgage

companies

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Very detailed.  Is that going to be the approach of—

Barack Obama gives this sweeping oratory about change.  Senator Clinton seems to be more programmatic.  Is that going to work in this fight in these upcoming states? 

CAPUTO:  Well, you know, Chris, I think what you are now seeing is the Clinton campaign pivoting to changing the message slightly.  Senator Obama going out with the change message, but now Senator Clinton pivoting to the solution message. 

So, it is change vs. solution.  And that is why you see her getting very detailed on her economic plans.  That‘s why you saw the campaign come out today, countering Senator Obama when he came out with his economic policy, saying, hey, wait a minute.  You are coming out with policies that Senator Clinton introduced earlier in the cycle.

So she is going to challenge him on the specifics.  That is why the campaigns want debates. 

MATTHEWS:  Is Senator Clinton contending that she can get a majority in the Senate, where Senator Obama can‘t; she can get something passed with 60 that he can‘t?  I mean, really, that‘s what it comes down to.  You have to pass these bills.  You can‘t do it by fiat.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPUTO:  That is true. 

I think what she is saying is she knows how to legislate, that governing is different from campaigning, and that she knows the right kinds of buttons to push in Washington to get things done.  She knows how to work on both sides of the aisles to effect change. 

And, so, I think, yes, she is saying that she is the one who is more competent on day one to actually govern and legislate. 

MATTHEWS:  Look at that kid.  That reminds me of when I was kid, the “Cisco Kid” costume the kid has got on, the old days, the big, huge, pretty sombrero. 

Anyway, thank you, Lisa Caputo, for coming on again tonight.

CAPUTO:  My pleasure, Chris.  Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: what proof Barack Obama and John McCain are gearing up for a November fight against each other.  Let‘s take a look at why they are already looking at each other next in the “Big Number.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out there in politics?  Well, remember when crack is whack?  Remember that phrase, crack is whack?  Well, in 1980s, that was the campaign to fight the crack epidemic here in the U.S., especially in the cities. 

Back then, Senator Joe Biden helped draft tough laws mandating harsher penalties for possession of crack than for powder cocaine.  Because of that legislation, it currently takes 100 times more cocaine than crack to trigger the mandatory five- to 10-year prison sentence.

Well, now, after more than 20 years, Senator Biden says he was wrong. 

Here‘s what he said: “I am part of the problem I have been trying to solve since then, because I think the disparity is way out of line.”

The big issue, as many people know, crack is a problem in poor black communities.  Cocaine is a problem in rich white communities.  The law, most smart people think, should treat everyone the same. 

Soldiers in Iraq have to fight incoming fire and IEDs.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates only has to fight ice.  And this time, the ice won.  It turns out Gates slipped and fell on an icy step at his house in D.C., breaking his right shoulder in the process.  He was treated at the National Naval Medical Center.  There he is.

MATTHEWS:  Is Rush Limbaugh actually John McCain‘s best buddy secretly, his saving grace, his biggest booster?  Sort of, at least according to Rush himself. 

Here he is, the man on the radio. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  If I really wanted to torpedo McCain, I would endorse him.  If I wanted to torpedo McCain, because that would send the independents and liberals that are going to vote for him running away faster than anything. 

What people don‘t realize is, I am doing McCain the biggest favor could be done for him by staying out of this.  If I endorsed him thoroughly, with passion, that would end the independents and moderates, because they so despise me and they so hate me. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  I like the way he lowered his voice there.  “They so despise me.”

Anyway, still, something tells me that John McCain right now would gladly like nothing more than a Rush Limbaugh big, fat endorsement. 

When you watch the 2008 Olympic Games, don‘t expect this kind of magic. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  E.T. phone home. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That is “E.T.,” of course.

Yes, Steven Spielberg, who had signed on as an artistic director to the Games, has announced that he is pulling out altogether as a protest against China‘s—they‘re the host—complicity in the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Africa.  Hollywood celebrities, including Spielberg, have been outspoken against China for supplying money and weapons that have helped fuel that horrific conflict over there. 

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

It‘s a preview of coming attractions.  Not only are John McCain and Barack Obama front-runners now for their respective nominations, but they are already treating each other exactly that way.

For proof, you need look no further than their victory speeches last night, where both launched a number of barbs at each other. 

Here is a taste. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired for 100 years in Iraq. 

(BOOING)

OBAMA:  One hundred years, which is reason enough not to give him four years in the White House. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  To encourage a country with only rhetoric, rather than sound and proven ideas, that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope; it is a platitude.

OBAMA:  But somewhere along the road to the Republican nomination, the Straight Talk Express lost its wheels. 

MCCAIN:  When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest ambition, and that all glory was self-glory. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, how many total barbs did McCain and Obama sling at each other?  Well, by our count, 11 total attacks fired between the two front-runners already for the presidency—tonight‘s “Big Number,” 11. 

We will have more on the presidential race in the politics fix. 

That‘s coming up.

But up next, the main event tonight and today in Washington.  Superstar pitcher Roger Clemens gets grilled on Capitol Hill today as Congress investigates steroids in baseball.  A little break from the campaign here to see what really happened in Washington today.  Look at this stuff. 

We will be right back, with Roger Clemens testifying against a guy who is totally, totally disagreeing with him. 

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rallying for the third day in a row, there Dow Jones industrials soaring 178 points, the S&P 500 up 18 points, while the Nasdaq tacked on 53. 

Today‘s rally prompted by a surprising rebound in retail sales in January, following a dismal December.  The three-tenths-of-a-percent increase eased concerns that the economy has already slipped into a recession. 

Meantime, President Bush signing the economic stimulus package.  Most American households will get rebates between $300 and $1,200.  Checks are due to start going out in Early may. 

And “The Wall Street Journal” reports Yahoo! is in talks with Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp., aimed at helping Yahoo! find off rejected Microsoft‘s unsolicited takeover bid.  Yahoo! rejected Microsoft‘s original $44.6 billion offer as too low. 

Oil rose 49 cents in New York, closing at $93.27 a barrel. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER CLEMENS, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER:  I‘m not saying Senator Mitchell‘s report is entirely wrong.  I am saying Brian McNamee‘s statements about me are wrong.  Let me be clear:  I have never taken steroids or HGH. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The presidential candidates may have taken center stage last night, but today the drama centered on the showdown between Congress and superstar pitcher Roger Clemens.  The legendary baseball player denied taking steroids, as his accuser, Brian McNamee, sat just two seats away from him and testified that he did indeed inject Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs. 

For more on today‘s events, let‘s turn to Max Kellerman, who is the host of “The Max Kellerman Show” on ESPN Radio.

Max, who do you believe? 

MAX KELLERMAN, ESPN RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  McNamee.

I mean, this was set up incredibly dramatically.  Generally, these things don‘t turn out to be as dramatic as they appear heading into it.  But Congressman Waxman, I thought, did an excellent job of stating what was going on and saying, someone here ain‘t telling the truth, and we are here to find out who that is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s listen to McNamee right now, the accuser.  Here he is, the trainer, saying what he saw, what he did. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN MCNAMEE, FORMER PERSONAL TRAINER TO ROGER CLEMENS:  During the time that I worked with Roger Clemens, I injected him on numerous occasions with steroids and human growth hormone.  I also injected Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch with HGH. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Clemens‘s defense, his denial?

You know, in politics, we have learned a long time ago that, when people say the defendant—or, rather, the accuser‘s charges are not quite accurate or are not accurate, it means like 90 percent is true, but 10 is not. 

What he is quibbling about in his moral reservation here, or whatever game he is playing? 

KELLERMAN:  Roger Clemens? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KELLERMAN:  I think Clemens made the unfortunate choice to try to protect his reputation when all this broke, and, in so doing, has actually hurt his reputation.

Clemens—I think a lot of the reason people like me and a lot of people in the news media now who cover this stuff believe that Clemens is guilty is not so much from what we are hearing from McNamee, who is not the most credible witness in the world, but basically the way he has come off in public.

On “60 Minutes,” he seemed evasive.  The taped conversation with McNamee seemed—seemed less than honest.  And his testimony today seemed less than honest. 

It reminds me of the reason I think a lot of people thought that O.J.  did it, ultimately.  It wasn‘t the forensic evidence and the DNA, it‘s that the guy left essentially a confessional suicide note and drove off.  It‘s that kind of public display, that kind of behavior that has led people to conclude, like me, that Clemens is not telling the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look this exchange between Congressman Cummings, that‘s Elijah Cummings, and Roger Clemens, on what Andy Pettitte, a former Yankee, had to say about his former teammate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:  In his deposition, Mr. Pettitte told the committee he had a conservation with you in 1999 or 2000 in which you admitted that you used Human Growth Hormones.  Is this true? 

CLEMENS:  It is not. 

CUMMINGS:  So you did not tell Mr. Pettitte that you used Human Growth Hormones? 

CLEMENS:  I did not. 

CUMMINGS:  But at the same time, you just said that he is a very honest fellow, is that right? 

CLEMENS:  I believe Andy to be a very honest fellow, yes. 

CUMMINGS:  Mr. Clemens, I am reminding you that you are under oath.  Mr. Clemens, do you think that Mr. Pettitte was lying when he told the committee that you admitted using Human Growth Hormones? 

CLEMENS:  Mr. Congressman, Andy Pettitte is my friend.  He will be my

he was my friend before this.  He will be my friend after this.  And again, I think Andy has misheard. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  How do you square this circle here, Max? 

KELLERMAN:  Listen, Andy Pettitte -- 

MATTHEWS:  Friendship and completely 180 testimony. 

KELLERMAN:  Yes, Andy Pettitte made the decision when all this broke -

the opposite decision of Clemens.  He thought to protect my reputation, I‘m going to get out in front of this.  Keep in mind, Pettitte came out first and yes, I did do Human Growth Hormone twice, twice.  Both times I was caught for it in the Mitchell Report.  Those are the only two times I did.  He has since taken that back and added additional times that he juiced, quote, unquote.

So that the voracity of Andy Pettitte‘s testimony should come into question.  And yet, nobody is questioning it, not even Roger Clemens, nor any of the Congresspeople, who essentially acted as defense prosecutors cross-examining McNamee.  None of them have touched Pettitte. 

MATTHEWS:  Max, can Roger Clemens still make the hall? 

KELLERMAN:  Yes, I think he can, because the question as to when he started to using illegal performance enhancers, the start date, at that point, he was already a borderline hall of famer.  And I think they that—you know, it is not as though the longevity of the second half of his career is the only reason he is getting in. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the first time Charlie Hustle started gambling?  Wasn‘t he already of the quality to be in the hall when he started gambling? 

KELLERMAN:  And I believe Charlie Hustle should be in the Hall of Fame. I think Shoeless Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame, Chris.  I guess if the question is will he make the Hall of Fame, maybe not --  

MATTHEWS:  I want you up on the bench when I get in trouble.  Thank you, sir.  You are a baseball fan.  Thank you Max Kellerman, because a lot of my friends are fans.  They put the best players in the Hall. 

Up next, the politics fix.  We will crunch the numbers from last night and the delegate strategy Hillary Clinton needs to use to beat Barack at this point.  She has to catch up now.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If John McCain wants to debate the specifics of how well the economy has worked for ordinary families over the last seven years, that is a debate that I am happy to have. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politic fix.  Our round table tonight, Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg, Michelle Bernard of the Independent Women‘s Voice, and Willie Brown, the famed, iconic, legendary former mayor of San Francisco, former speaker of the California House, and the author of the new book, selling like hot cakes, “Basic Brown, My Lives in Our Times.”

Let‘s take a look right of—let‘s take a look at what we heard last night.  During our coverage last night, Arnold Garcia, a columnist with the “Austin American Statesman” offered what he thought was a snapshot of what Texans are thinking about with the regard to the upcoming race between Obama and Clinton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD GARCIA, “AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN”:  Texas Democrats are going to stick with the Democratic nominee.  I did however hear a most remarkable thing with one of the guys I play golf with on Sunday.  He said, man, I am all for Obama.  I am with him 100 percent, but if he doesn‘t win the nomination, I‘m going to go with John McCain.  And the poor man is being treated for whip-lash. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Mr. Mayor?  By the way, that guy looks like Bob Dylan these days.  Go ahead.  

WILLIE BROWN, FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR:  I think that‘s a reaction that‘s happening in many places throughout the country.  The Obama situation is a phenomenon and you just can‘t measure it any of the traditional political evaluative tools.  It doesn‘t fit. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE:  I have to tell you, I saw a strategy memo today that Mark Penn sent out to Hillary Clinton‘s supporters this afternoon and it was fascinating.  They have completely given up on the African-American vote.  It‘s our strength is with white women.  They‘ve given up on black women, too.  Hispanic women, this is what they say; change begins on March 4th.  Our strengths are with white women and with Hispanics; Ohio and Texas is where change will begin.  It was absolutely fascinating. 

MATTHEWS:  So they have skip Wisconsin next week? 

BERNARD:  So they‘ve completely skipped Wisconsin.  They‘ve completely skipped Ohio.  They‘re concentrating on white women and Latinos in Ohio and in Texas.  Her issues, they say that will resonate with the voters, are job creation, Social Security and health care.  It was sort of a plea to stay with us.  We can do this.  She will be strong on fund-raising even though everything else on the record shows that she is not strong on fund-raising, at least right now, and I would not be that confident. 

I think what happened in Virginia last night is showing that there is a hemorrhaging of her base, and Barack Obama is now appealing to people that we historically thought she was strong with. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that is true, Margaret, older people, people over 60 voted as a group now in Virginia yesterday for Barack Obama.  They had been with Hillary Clinton.  Same with people under 50,000 dollars a year, which is an awful lot of people, if not half the country make less than 50,000 a year, and they are now voting with Barack Obama.  What is up?  Is this moving or is that just a hiccup on her way to the greatness land?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS:  Well, what is striking about the Mark Penn memo—

MATTHEWS:  That is a phrase of mine, by the way. 

CARLSON:  And a good one.  I should have remarked more upon it.  Hillary risks—Senator Clinton risks becoming invisible over these next couple weeks.  Three weeks is an eternity.  And how long can you go saying any race I don‘t win doesn‘t count.  That is not a good strategy and the memo from Mark Penn seems to say that they are doing everything the same, except that they now realize they won‘t get the African-American vote.  Well, really? 

But these other voters—remember the roll of the dice comment, Chris, from President Clinton?  People over 60, the most cautious people in the world, afraid of breaking hips, are saying, hey, I am going to roll the dice. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  You know, it is interesting Senator Clinton, you know, she is not big on apologies.  That may be a strength of hers.  She never apologized for the war vote.  She is not big on congratulations either last night.  She lost the trifecta last not, just went right through it to the get the speech last night, and acted like it never ever happened.  Maybe that‘s smart politics.  Do you think, Mr. Mayor, not acknowledging --  

CARLSON:  You‘re right.  If you‘re not going to acknowledge defeat, don‘t give a concession speech. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it doesn‘t happen if you wish it away, like Tinkerbell or one of those things. 

BROWN:  Well, it is always good to tell people, oh, yes, I lost, but I will take the next one.  And you have to do it with a great degree of confidence.  I don‘t think at this stage of the game Hillary Clinton can mount that evidence of confidence, because, believe me, it is like Al Gore when he was in a free fall and reached back to grab Tony Coelho.  At this moment, Hillary Clinton‘s campaign is in total and complete disarray.  And I can tell you, it is very difficult when it is like that for you to put on a happy face. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, at the end of crepe hanging here.  From now on, how does Hillary get back in the race?  I see the strength she has, organized labor.  She has women.  Go ahead, Margaret, you first. 

CARLSON:  No, she can reverse the slide among women just as she did in New Hampshire because women are sensitive to sympathy for an underdog, her being under-appreciated and over-worked, the things she played on in New Hampshire.  And if, you know, men move this too far—there is only one left.  But remember Edwards and Obama gang up on her.  There could be a backlash of sympathy and suddenly women are back. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  I heard comeback.  I think Greta Van Susteren—I get up early this morning about five, I heard comeback from Clinton for the first time.  I knew the word was coming.  At 5:00 in the morning I heard it.  Yes.

BERNARD:  I don‘t buy that.  She has cried twice.  I don‘t think women are going to buy that.  But what I do believe though is if she is going to come back, she has to come back strong.  She has to appeal to all voters.  And she has to win Ohio.  She has to win Texas. 

MATTHEWS:  But you said that memo said she has already narrowed her base to a group of people. 

BERNARD:  She has narrowed her base and she has to open it up.  I think the strategy is wrong, wrong, wrong. 

MATTHEWS:  Mayor, this guy never lost an election in his life.  Let him talk.  Did you ever lose anything? 

BROWN:  I lost only the first one. 

MATTHEWS:  And that was—

BROWN:  I didn‘t do the count.  Every one I have won since then, I have been participating in the count. 

MATTHEWS:  We have to take the break mayor.  When we come back, I want you to tell me, as if you are the guy in the room, not Mark Penn, not Mandy Grunwald, none of those people in the room, not Wolfson.  You are in the room.  You like the way I said that, Wolfson?  You are in the room and you‘re talking to Hillary Clinton.  We‘re going to get her people to call.  Please tell the people at the Clinton headquarters to tune in now.  Mayor Willie Brown is about to tell them how to win this thing.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back with the round table for the politics fix.  And is it a fix tonight, because Mr. Mayor himself is going to tell the Clinton people how to pull this thing off and come from behind.  Sir. 

BROWN:  She‘s totally wrong about the business of two cry, you‘re out.  Hillary needs to make sure she let‘s the whole world know that she needs assistance.  The idea that an underdog is there.  That‘s why you have had so many changes in who, in fact, is considered the front-runner.  The day you‘re considered the front-runner is the day you begin to erode unless you‘re very smart. 

Hillary has Ohio available.  Hillary has Pennsylvania available. 

Hillary has Texas available.  Hillary has Michigan and Florida available.  Accommodation of all of those at the right numbers puts her back in the game.  By the way, Huckabee proves you can do it on food stamps. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Margaret, can Senator Clinton win on supplication, seeking assistance as the underdog.  Will that be the winning tag, rather than being pompous, or a front runner, or I‘m entitled, to say, I‘m not entitled, I‘m asking.  Will that work? 

CARLSON:  I agree that being the over-dog is a hazardous place to be.  Hillary‘s problem has long been that she can‘t possibly be seen to be a supplicant.  We know she has a brain.  We don‘t know she has a heart because she doesn‘t want to show it.  It seems weak to her.  She‘s spent the last couple of years showing how tough she is. 

I don‘t know that—It would be like combing your hair in a wind tunnel.  How do you make this personality switch right now?  She did look vulnerable, but that‘s because she was so tired in New Hampshire.  My prescription, Willie, would be just be tired.  When she‘s tired, she‘s more vulnerable and shows she‘s reaching out to people. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, do you believe that it‘s about looking like you‘re a woman of need yourself?  Because that‘s the clientele she sought politically, women with needs, who need minimum wage, who need a break with health care, need child support, need good public education.  That‘s the audience she‘s going after, not the elite college crowd. 

BERNARD:  That‘s the audience she‘s going after, but that‘s also Barack Obama‘s message.  That‘s the problem.  He has a message of hope and some people only have hope to live on.  So they are both going to be battling for the exact same people. 

MATTHEWS:  You have moved as we have spoken in these recent weeks. 

You are moving.  I sense movement here.  Yes, Mr. Mayor? 

BROWN:  I would tell you this, Chris, in spite of what Margaret said, I don‘t think it‘s Hillary changing her personality.  I really think that‘s who Hillary is.  That‘s who she was when she worked with the Children‘s Defense Fund.  That‘s who she is.  Believe me, she should let the world know she is not the successful Ivy League—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the one you meet when you‘re in the room with her. 

Anyway, thank you for the panel.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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

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