updated 2/15/2008 11:59:18 AM ET 2008-02-15T16:59:18

Guests: Susan Rice, Hilary Rosen, Bill Press

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  In dire need of good news, the Clinton campaign got a little bit this afternoon.  The results are finally in from New Mexico where Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of that state‘s caucuses, adding another delegate to her total.  The new poll also shows Mrs. Clinton ahead of Barack Obama by big margins in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Will her leads in those must-win states hold up? 

Welcome to the show. 

Latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Clinton with a 21-point advantage in the March 4th Ohio contest and 16-point lead in Pennsylvania where the vote occurs April 22nd.  Today her campaign turned its focus to Obama‘s rhetoric.  Mrs. Clinton said the contest is between the power of speeches, presumably his, against the power of solutions, assuredly hers. 

In a moment Hilary Rosen and Bill Press join us to analyze Hillary Clinton‘s electoral challenger and her big-state strategy.  Can the Clintons craft another comeback now that Hillary Clinton undeniably is the underdog? 

And what are Barack Obama‘s chances of closing out the Democratic race any time soon?  The Illinois senator‘s policy was described today as shameless plagiarism by, of all people, the John McCain campaign.  They accused Obama of ripping off the economic plan of Hillary Clinton.  The Clinton campaign now has the luxury of having only to quote John McCain to attack Obama. 

Can Barack Obama‘s campaign weather assaults on two fronts and still maintain his remarkable momentum?  His senior advisor Susan Rice joins us in a moment. 

And the acrimonious campaign between John McCain and Mitt Romney officially is behind the Republican Party. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, FMR. ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  I am honored today to give my full support to Senator McCain‘s candidacy for the presidency of the United States.  I‘m officially endorsing his candidacy.  And today I‘m asking my delegates to vote for Senator McCain at the convention. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The former Massachusetts governor who branded Senator McCain a liberal during the primary apparently is over it.  Will Romney supporters and his delegates fall in line behind the new standard bearer?  Pat Buchanan joins us for a minute for a conservative view of the Romney endorsement and its affect on McCain‘s quest to secure support from the Republican base. 

We begin today with the Democrats and the fresh—freshly minted frontrunner, Barack Obama, and the scrutiny that comes with that.  Joining me now is senior advisor to the Obama campaign, Susan Rice. 

Susan, thanks for coming on. 

SUSAN RICE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR:  Good to be with you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So you heard this.  Bill Clinton says it‘s about whether you choose the power of speeches over the power of solutions.  Hillary Clinton says, quote, “there‘s a big difference between my opponent, me and Senator Obama.  I‘m in the solutions business, my opponent is in the promises business.” 

RICE:  That‘s a cute line.  I guess when you‘re down, you flail and you attack.  Barack Obama has put out a large quantity of solutions to deal with the issues that matter most to the American people.  Yesterday, he laid out and recapped his economic policy focusing on mortgage relief, on job creation, on middle class and working class tax relief.  These are the issues that the American people really care about.  This is the basis upon which the voters will decide, not on the basis of scurrilous attacks from Senator Clinton or from John McCain, quote amusingly who hasn‘t put out an economic plan at all, it seems, today. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s interesting.  McCain‘s take on Barack Obama‘s economic plan is kind of clever, if you think about it politically.  He is saying that Obama, who has this kind of strong appeal among moderates and independents, is actually cribbing this stuff from Hillary Clinton.  In other words, he‘s a status liberal just as she is. 

RICE:  It would be good if he read what Barack Obama said and maybe even went back and look at when he began to lay out his economic policy, which was all throughout last year.  He didn‘t crib anything from Hillary Clinton.  But we continue to wait for John McCain to recognize that we are in an economic crisis and that we need mortgage relief, that we need to create new jobs. 

He is really, by his own admission, said that he is not—doesn‘t know much about economics, not really interested in it.  So before he criticizes either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, it will be nice to know what he will do. 

CARLSON:  Let me ask you a philosophical question since the president was accused of never talking policy.  I‘m no economist myself, but I just wonder, again, on a philosophical level, why it‘s just for taxpayers to pick up the slack when people who entered into voluntary agreements with mortgage lenders can‘t or don‘t pay. 

RICE:  Well, Barack Obama‘s view is when you have a mortgage crisis and foreclosure faces families that went into these agreements honestly, legitimately, and didn‘t—weren‘t given full information, and often the mortgage companies have been very manipulative and deceptive, those people do deserve relief. 

But for those who flipped their homes and who are trying to make a buck out of the process, they shouldn‘t be relieved.  So he makes that distinction where Senator Clinton doesn‘t make it as clearly. 

CARLSON:  What about—I mean, it seems to me if you‘re mad at lenders for ripping people off, you really can‘t beat the credit card companies.  I mean they charge interest levels that are way higher than any mortgage ever in any country.  Why shouldn‘t the federal government step in and say, you know, your family is crushed by credit card debt, we‘re going to erase that debt. 

RICE:  Well, you‘re getting me into economic policy and my field is foreign policy.  But let me just say this, Tucker.  I think credit card debt and credit card interest rates are certainly a problem that Barack Obama has identified and addressed in his comprehensive economic plan.  But he‘s also focused on a range of issues because it‘s not just the debt crisis, it‘s the longer-term challenge of health care, of education, of research and development, creating jobs for the future.  And that‘s why he‘s focused on green economy and green jobs. 

So he has a plan that is designed immediately to deal with the need for economic stimulus, at the same time having a long-term plan to create growth and jobs and make that growth sustainable and beneficiary—beneficial to a wide swath of Americans, working Americans who haven‘t benefited. 

CARLSON:  Well, for a foreign policy advisor, that was pretty good, I thought. 

Back to the ugliness of politics.  Here‘s the Quinnipiac poll most recent out of Pennsylvania, and it surprises me.  Hillary Clinton—theoretical match-up, Hillary Clinton versus John McCain, Hillary beats him by six points.  Barack Obama versus John McCain, Obama beats McCain by one point. 

Are you surprised?  I mean all the talk about Obama being the frontrunner, he‘s on this roll.  Why do Pennsylvania voters think that Hillary will do a better job against McCain? 

RICE:  Well, I can‘t speak for Pennsylvania voters.  But we can say is that there have been a series of national polls that have done the match-up between Obama and McCain and Clinton and McCain, and in each of those Obama has beaten McCain decisively by a far larger margin than Hillary Clinton.  In fact, in four of the six most recent polls, Hillary Clinton didn‘t defeat John McCain in a head to head match-up. 

So I think the state to state things will vary.  Obviously, Barack Obama has not yet had an opportunity to spend a good deal of time in Pennsylvania.  He will before the April 22nd primary.  And what we‘ve seen consistently in all of these states is the more time Obama can spend there, the more he‘s known by the people, the more exposure voters get and the more they see that he has the hard nosed solutions to their challenges, whether health care, education, ending the war in Iraq.  They move to him. 

So I look forward to watching.  We‘ll see what happens in Pennsylvania, Ohio and, of course, Texas.  But Barack Obama is going to campaign hard.  He‘s going to work for every vote.  He has been the underdog to date and he‘ll continue to be, but he‘ll fight for every vote and we‘re very hopeful. 

CARLSON:  Susan rice of the Obama campaign.  I can promise you Republicans rather ran against Hillary, for whatever that‘s worth. 

Thanks for joining us.  I appreciate it. 

RICE:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  She thought she‘d have it all wrapped up on Super Tuesday. 

Now Hillary Clinton says the goalposts have moved to another state, Texas. 

Will it work? 

Then aides say Nancy Pelosi is considering endorsing Barack Obama.  But she may be afraid that would make it difficult to do her job.  What will she do?  Can she remain neutral?  Can she not choose a side? 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN‘S LARRY KING LIVE)

LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  James, if Hillary loses Texas or Ohio, is it over? 

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes. 

KING:  Simply put. 

CARVILLE:  Yes.  She has to win Texas and Ohio. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Like Rudy Giuliani did in Florida, Hillary Clinton appears to have staked her presidential future on big but distant electoral prizes, namely Ohio and Texas, on March 4th.  Today she‘s polling well in both states but she will conceivably have endured 10 straight losses before she gets there.  It‘s a strategy somewhere between traditional state-by-state battle and a complete “Hail Mary.”  And the central question of the campaign now is whether it‘s going to work. 

Joining us now Democratic strategist, MSNBC political analyst Hilary Rosen and nationally syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press. 

Before we go further, I said earlier in the week, I believe, that this

the primary schedule, which I think has hurt Hillary Clinton, that was ironic because that was designed by Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic Party, who called me today to correct me, as she should have, and say that, in fact, he thinks the system is bad for democracy, the schedule, and it was Howard Dean who did that.  And so I apologize for blaming Terry McAuliffe for the primary schedule. 

HILARY ROSEN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  As opposed to Howard Dean. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying that.  I‘m just saying.  So Hilary, you‘ve been a fan of Hillary‘s for a while.  Everyone is calling it over. 

ROSEN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Are they premature? 

ROSEN:  Totally premature.  It‘s interesting also because it‘s true she needs to win the big states, Texas and Ohio.  But she—they announced, I think it was yesterday, that they are actually going to compete in every single state between now.  There are. 

CARLSON:  Meaning Hawaii and Wisconsin. 

ROSEN:  There 17 states left to vote.  And the Clinton campaign is actually opening an office in every single state because they have a shot at getting significant amount of delegates.  They‘ll win a couple of those, and she won the New Mexico caucus today.  So I do think every time somebody counts her out they manage to—the voters manage to say, you know what, not so fast, we actually like what she stands for. 

CARLSON:  Well, there‘s something in—I mean there clearly something in that, Bill.  I will believe until I die that the New Hampshire was a reaction partly against the press pounding on Hillary Clinton.  I certainly joined in that.  But that voters said, you know, they are being mean to her, we‘re rallying to her side. 

Do you think that could happen again? 

BILL PRESS, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO HOST:  Absolutely, yes.  And there are a couple of other factors here.  And by the way, I think the whole primary system is a mess and I hope we can redo the whole thing.  I also find it stunning that the Clinton campaign really had a strategy going up to Super Tuesday and not much beyond then because they thought they were going to put it away.  Obviously, they didn‘t.  They are scrambling to catch up. 

But the Clintons always do best when they are down and out.  Just when we count them out, we‘ve seen it with Bill, we‘ve seen it with her before, they come bouncing back.  It is certainly in—it‘s uphill but it‘s certainly in the cards for her to win this. 

ROSEN:  How, I mean, I think something else is working. 

PRESS:  She needs big, big in Texas, big in Ohio. 

CARLSON:  But how screwed up is her campaign, Hilary?  I mean this is someone who‘s running as able to lead from day one with great management skills.  You have the “Wall Street Journal” page one today describing a fight between Mandy Grunwald, her ad maker, and Mark Penn, her strategist, screaming at each other, people running away because it‘s too acrimonious. 

I mean are they melting down?  It kind of sounds like it. 

ROSEN:  Well, I‘m—if they didn‘t disagree with each other occasionally, I think, we‘d worry just as much.  So I really don‘t know.  I don‘t think they‘re melting down.  They‘ve got a new political director, Guy Cecil, who‘s got his act together. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  They are organized, very well organized, I think, in Texas and Ohio.  They have moved into Wisconsin.  So I do think that they now know that this is a ground game. 

PRESS:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  Whereas before they were playing a different kind of game.  But I think that actually Senator Clinton has something else working for her right now, which is that, you know, the Republicans, and particularly John McCain is so convinced that Barack Obama is the guy he‘s going to face so he‘s starting to beat him up a little bit. 

And so that, I think, actually gives Hillary Clinton some voice.  It says all of a sudden that whatever she‘s saying, you know, people are going to listen to.  And somebody else is kind of beating up on her opponent in addition to what they are doing. 

CARLSON:  Well, McCain was beating up on. 

ROSEN:  And I think that‘s useful for her. 

CARLSON:  McCain was beating up on Obama today by tying Obama to Hillary Clinton. 

ROSEN:  No, no, no.  He was going after him on rhetoric, that this guy is full of rhetoric and not. 

PRESS:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  .and not enough substance.  And that is actually a theme that, you know, I think you‘re seeing the Clinton campaign do some over the next couple of days as well. 

PRESS:  And McCain, I don‘t mean to put words in his mouth, but basically saying that it‘s all inspiration and inspiration is fine but where‘s the beef?  (INAUDIBLE) 

CARLSON:  But also, where‘s the evidence that voters care?  And I‘m not saying that they shouldn‘t care, I think they ought to care, it ought to matter what people believe. 

ROSEN:  Substance. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t see any evidence that people are interested in pie charts.  It seems to me they‘re buying the Obama product without knowing what‘s in it and they don‘t care. 

PRESS:  Well, I must say that I think we have a president now that people bought because they liked him and they didn‘t buy him because of his ten-point plans. 

CARLSON:  Sure. 

PRESS:  And look what we got.  So I think you‘re on to something.  It is a question to what extent people really look for the policies behind the inspiration.  At the same time I think the experience argument that Hillary uses, it‘s got to be change plus experience is a powerful one.  If she can sell that message, but I think she‘s got to do it now.  She‘s got to go after Barack Obama and say, as she seems to be doing today, look, speeches are fine but where is the stuff?  Where is the substance? 

CARLSON:  Yes, but. 

ROSEN:  I also think something that—and he‘ll get his chance, you know, as it‘s coming down to the wire and these two are neck-and-neck, all of a sudden it‘s not so much about—voters really want to know what‘s going on.  They really want to figure out how to make this decision.  And it seems to me that that gives them a chance.  They‘re going to have at least two debates.  If Senator Clinton gets her way, they will have three debates at least. 

And I think that people will begin to see them more and more often side by side.  You know, substance could just end up meaning more. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I must say, I mean, I follow this stuff for a living, I‘ve been paying close attention.  I really know almost nothing about Hillary Clinton‘s experience during the Clinton years.  Or they haven‘t released those documents?  I don‘t know what she was doing for eight years.  I mean I would like to know.  I want to know.  I‘d take Hillary in her word.  I want to know what her experience is. 

ROSEN:  That‘s awfully in the interest (INAUDIBLE) right now.  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Thank you.  Yes.  I‘m a journalist. 

Mitt Romney put aside his differences with John McCain today.  So can we expect to see the two of them hitting the campaign trail together soon?  It‘s hard to imagine but could it happen? 

John Edwards meanwhile could be backing Hillary Clinton for president.  Is that the price of admission into a future Cabinet or is it more heartfelt than that?  We‘ll tell you in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  In the thick of the fight it‘s easy to lose sight of your opponent‘s finer qualities.  But the truth of the matter is, and in the case of Senator McCain, I could never quite do that.  Even when the contest was close and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent.  And this is a man capable of leading our country in a dangerous hour. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Wait a second, wasn‘t it Mitt Romney who said McCain was a liberal Democrat who knew nothing about the economy, who was wrong on taxes and just about everything else?  This may be the place for politics, but politics is certainly the place for strange bedfellows.  The question is: did McCain really want Romney‘s support?  How significant is that support?  And what will Romney get in return, if anything? 

Joining us now to answer those questions, we are proud to have MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, I thought they were gracious to one another and it‘s always impressive in politics to see people supplicate their true feelings for a greater cause.  Will Romney get something in return?  And how much does this help McCain? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t think Mitt Romney asked for anything.  Mitt Romney is a nice guy and he‘s class act.  And I think his people called Romney and said we‘d like you to come aboard and I think Romney did the right think. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  It is a very class act thing to do.  Puts real pressure now on Huckabee, what are you doing out there, you know, when this thing is really over with now?  And so I think it‘s a good thing for Romney to do. 

Look, he wants a future in the Republican Party. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  He wants to lead the conservative movement.  He does not hurt himself in the least by doing this. 

CARLSON:  I agree, I agree with that completely.  This is about four years from now.  I. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  And it‘s about helping out, too, I think.  And frankly, you know, I think that—I mean here we are only in the middle of February but they are coming together.  The Republican Party is really coming together behind McCain.  Certainly there in the House they are doing it.  There are a lot of senators who gagged, have gone ahead and done it.  Some conservatives have come aboard and others like Rush are out there saying, I‘m helping McCain. 

CARLSON:  I love that.  That‘s really the boldest turnaround I‘ve ever seen. 

BUCHANAN:  And there‘s a point there.  If I kick him, moderates will think he‘s a good fellow. 

CARLSON:  See, it‘s all part of my master plan.  I‘ve savaged John McCain but I was doing that for his own sake. 

BUCHANAN:  Master plan I don‘t go with. 

CARLSON:  That is really a remarkable explanation. 

So what about Huckabee?  Why is he still there?  And at what point will people who matter start to resent him? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think if he goes to the Cayman Islands, they‘re going to resent him, Tucker, can you believe that? 

CARLSON:  Do you really think so? 

BUCHANAN:  Oh, yes, I think a buck-raking tour to the Cayman Islands suggest a lack of seriousness.  I—if he‘d won and I wanted him to win, frankly, to keep it alive and to keep it energized and to say the conservatives really do not want this just yet.  But now he‘s gone to the Cayman Islands for a big fee day down there. 

My guess is if he starts losing states by really large amounts, let‘s

or 65, 75 percent for McCain, and you go above that, I think you get out at that point. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I mean I never begrudge a man‘s right to make a living. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Giving speeches or anything within the bounds of the law. 

BUCHANAN:  What don‘t they leave that speech to you or me? 

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.  But we‘ll forego the 25 grand, take a personal loan, max out your Amex. 

BUCHANAN:  Sure. 

CARLSON:  For only a little while left. 

BUCHANAN:  You can make plenty of money making speeches.  I mean Washington speaker (INAUDIBLE) is probably on the phone right now.

CARLSON:  So is—I mean is that kind of a deal killer for the McCain campaign?  I mean was there ever a possibility, do you think, that McCain would choose Huckabee as his running mate. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, there was a possibility, I think, but it would only be if the base were so outraged it wasn‘t going to vote for him, and you had to put the base together. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  I think the best thing for McCain is, look, I‘m going to carry Mississippi, I‘m going to carry Arkansas, if I‘m not it‘s all over.  So I‘m going to carry those, and I‘m going to forget those.  And we‘re going after Ohio, we‘re going go after Michigan, and we‘re going to go after some states, we can get out of Barack Obama‘s base or Hillary‘s base.  And that‘s what I would look. 

Frankly, I would, you know, I don‘t want to make any recommendation to McCain.  He isn‘t going to listen to me anyhow.  But Romney, if he could help you bring Michigan, it would certainly help you with the conservatives.  You don‘t need any help in Utah.  And so I think Romney might not be a bad candidate to look at because I think he had a pretty good campaign.  He won 11 states.  And if he can help you in Michigan, I would think he might be someone to consider. 

I don‘t—I look out there, Tucker, do you see anyone else?  I mean they mentioned Mark Sanford.  You can‘t take Mark Sanford in South Carolina when you‘ve got Lindsey Graham down there going to the wall for you. 

So that‘s what—I would look at Romney frankly. 

CARLSON:  Do you think we‘re going to see Romney out, whether he‘s chosen or not, out there actively promoting John McCain? 

BUCHANAN:  I do.  Listen, that‘s what Richard Nixon did for Goldwater. 

He campaigned in more states for Goldwater, I think, than Goldwater did.  He went out there, did the work, he sweated, he did the same thing in ‘66, and by the time ‘68 comes around, four and five to one county chairman are for Richard Nixon. 

CARLSON:  Very, very interesting.  I agree with everything you‘ve said, especially the point you made. 

BUCHANAN: Except the Rush thing, huh? 

CARLSON:  No, but I do think. 

BUCHANAN:  I do think. 

CARLSON:  .that Romney has a long-term plan. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, he does.  Yes. 

CARLSON:  .within the Republican Party. 

BUCHANAN:  And so does Huckabee, and that‘s why Huckabee is—that‘s why Huckabee would be well advised to take a good look at it right now, and see whether it‘s diminishing returns. 

CARLSON:  Right.  They‘ll go out—you don‘t want to be the guest who lingers too long. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CARLSON:  Pat Buchanan, thank you very much. 

BUCHANAN:  OK. 

CARLSON:  Ahead, the endorsement game.  Who can we expect the first female speaker of the House to get behind for president?  How much does her endorsement matter? 

Plus politics at the pulpit.  A Mike Huckabee supporter is under investigation, apparently, for endorsing the former Arkansas governor on church letterhead?  Details coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

CARLSON:  As a the race for the Democratic nomination wares on, the number of key endorsements dwindles.  There aren‘t many left.  But still available are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former candidate John Edwards of North Carolina.  ABC reports that Edwards is seriously considering getting behind Mrs. Clinton, while the “New York Post” says that Speaker Pelosi is considering endorsing Barack Obama.  What would the practical and symbolic affects of either endorsement be? 

Here to tell us, Democratic strategist and NBC political analyst Hillary Rosen, and nationally syndicated talk show radio host Bill Press.  So, if speaker of the House, Bill, is leaking, as she appears to be, the fact that her heart is with Obama, why not just come out and endorse Obama. 

PRESS:  If that‘s the way she‘s leaning.  I checked with her office today.  Her offices says, absolutely no way, no how, the “New York Post” is blowing smoke.  But I do have to say, she‘s the most powerful woman in the country.  If she were to endorse Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton I think her endorsement would be huge.  I don‘t think it‘s going to happen. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t think it‘s going to happen.  John Edwards, Hillary

I mean, John Edwards is a smart guy, been around politics not that long, but ten years or so.  Why hasn‘t he endorsed?  It seems to me he doesn‘t gain anything by not endorsing. 

ROSEN:  I think, unlike Speaker Pelosi, who I totally agree with Bill on, Edwards has everything to gain by endorsing and nothing to lose by doing it.  I think—I can only attribute this to friends who have talked to John Edwards in the last two weeks, to he‘s really not sure who to endorse.  He‘s really looking at who is going to be most focused on the issues he really feels like he brought out in the open, the issues of poverty and middle class economic issues. 

You know, I think that Senator Clinton is working really hard for his endorsement.  I think Senator Obama is working really hard to stop an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. 

CARLSON:  On policy questions they‘re basically the same, in my view.  I think it would be much smarter politically to endorse Hillary Clinton.  I don‘t even know anybody who hasn‘t endorsed Barack Obama in the last week.  Everybody has.  To come out for Hillary now, you could get something for that. 

PRESS:  I was just going to say that.  I think there‘s a much greater advantage to John Edwards, given that the two of them are both great candidates, to endorse Hillary Clinton than to endorse Barack Obama.  He would just be part of a crowd with Barack Obama.  Right now, Hillary Clinton needs John Edwards, and he could practically write his ticket. 

The other thing, remember that debate, I always thought Edwards and Obama were like joined at the hip until that last debate where there were just the three of them, and Edwards went after Obama on two issues, one on the health care.  He said, Obama, no, you can‘t have your health care be voluntary.  It‘s not going to work.  The second thing, all those present votes in the U.S. Senate, Edwards said basically that was cowardly.  When you‘re in the U.S. Senate, you‘ve got to vote yes or no.  You can‘t duck.  I thought, you know, that showed—

ROSEN:  Health care, in particular, John Edwards was the first candidate to actually come out with that. 

CARLSON:  He and Hillary are both—

ROSEN:  That is weighing on him pretty heavily. 

CARLSON:  They are for forcing you.  They are not for choice.  They want you to buy health insurance or they will punish you.  They are going to punish you. 

PRESS:  They want universal coverage.

CARLSON:  You can use whatever Orwellian euphemism you want, but the fact is, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are both for taking the freedom of choice away out of health care.  You must buy heath insurance, buddy.

ROSEN:  But it is true that Senator Clinton has focused much more on the economic issues than Senator Obama.  Therefore, it would make natural policy sense for Edwards to go there.  I think Bill is right, as a practical matter, it would mean more politically to Senator Clinton than it would mean to Senator Obama. 

CARLSON:  But how Machiavellian of John Edwards?  I‘m not going to beat up on John Edwards.  The Edwards era is over.  But it seems to me, endorse the person you agree with most.  He hasn‘t needed two weeks to figure that out.  He‘s looking for some sort of advantage.  I think that‘s discouraging. 

PRESS:  Play it, baby.  Milk every little advantage you can out of it. 

That‘s what the game‘s all about. 

CARLSON:  Link Chafee, the former Republican senator from Rhode Island, son of the famed Republican Senator John Chafee, has now come out for Barack Obama.  Amazing. 

ROSEN:  Not really. 

PRESS:  I might add, my wife‘s cousin.  I like Link Chafee a lot.  By the way, the whole endorsement question, I have to say—Teddy Kennedy and Maria Shriver proved to us that endorsements don‘t mean beans for most people.  I don‘t think Link Chafee is going to mean that much to Barack Obama.  I just want to say this, if Link Chafee had become a Democrat and changed parties before he ran for re-election, he would still be in the United States Senate. 

CARLSON:  That was my exact point.  That‘s why I said, amazing.  It‘s amazing to me that he‘s coming out and saying this now, when Sheldon Whitehouse would not be the senator from Rhode Island if had done that a year ago.  

PRESS:  Lincoln would have kept his seat if he had been a Democrat. 

CARLSON:  Link Chafee, no one ever accused him of being a brilliant strategist.  Right. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  There is still this debate—and I think it‘s about to get much more acrimonious—about Michigan and Florida.  We‘ve been talking about this for two weeks.  The Hillary campaign basically came out and said, if it comes down to it, we think they should have a voice.  It‘s absolutely against the rules.  All parties agree.  How can they do this? 

ROSEN:  Well, because of course we do think everybody should have a voice.  It would be wrong to say, nobody should have a voice.  I think the thing they are struggling with, to start over in either Michigan or Florida and have a caucus would terribly disadvantage the Clinton campaign.  To keep it as it is disadvantages the Obama campaign.  I don‘t see any scenario under which the Democratic committee can resolve this other than to just put it away. 

CARLSON:  You think so?  So you don‘t think it‘s possible—a lot of people did vote.  Now, a lot of people didn‘t vote because they knew the votes wouldn‘t count.  But a lot of people did vote.  Millions of people voted. 

ROSEN:  Florida, in particular, where everyone was on the ballot, seems to me, a much fairer shot.   You could punish Florida by taking away some delegates, by not giving as big a percentage to Senator Clinton.  But you know, both candidates campaigned equally less in Florida than they did anywhere else.  Michigan, I think, has to be off the ballot.  But Florida you could make a case. 

CARLSON:  How disorganized.  Consider a party that would almost go out of its way to alienate one of the most important—the state that gave the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000.  I have an idea, let‘s tell Florida their votes don‘t count.  Who thought this up and is he still working there? 

PRESS:  I think it was crazy to disenfranchise both delegations.  Here is what I find interesting, the Clinton campaign says count Michigan and Florida, but don‘t—break the rules there.  But keep the rules for the super delegates and let them do what they want.  The Obama campaign is saying, don‘t count Michigan and Florida, but break the rules on the super delegates.  They can‘t have it the both ways.  The rules apply in both cases or they apply in neither case. 

CARLSON:  That‘s not true.  Here is the difference.  The rules governing the super delegates apply to individuals, who have freedom of choice.  Those individuals can decide as one, a woman named Roz Samuels (ph) did apparently today, and said, I was a super delegate for Hillary.  Now I‘m a super delegate for Obama.  The voters of Florida and Michigan don‘t get to say.  They can‘t make those individual—

ROSEN:  But Bill is right.  The Obama campaign is trying to make the super delegates feel as though they don‘t have any discretion. 

PRESS:  Exactly. 

CARLSON:  They do have some discretion? 

ROSEN:  I believe they have total discretion and they should have total discretion.  They are party workers.  They are not insiders.  These are the people who stuff the envelopes and do the work and have just as much right to have that delegate vote as anybody else.  The message of the Obama campaign is no, those votes are not legitimate.  I think the point Bill is making is right, which is probably neither campaign can have this both ways. 

CARLSON:  It‘s very foolish of the Obama people to say that, very foolish, because, in fact, I believe—I spoke to a super delegate pledged to Mrs. Clinton this morning, who I think would be probably open—I don‘t know—but possibly open to switching over to Obama.  I bet there area a lot of them who would, especially elected officials.  They are under pressure from their constituencies.  Why would the Obama campaign argue that they shouldn‘t be able to change their mind. 

PRESS:  I hate to say this for friends in Florida and Michigan.  I think the better solution of the two is probably to stick by the rules with Michigan and Florida and then let the super delegates be super delegates and they vote for the person that they think is most likely to win the White House.  It‘s either going to be Hillary or Barack Obama. 

CARLSON:  Here is the question, Hillary; should a party that designed a system this ludicrous be in charge of the federal government?  This is deranged.  This is like something out of medieval—

ROSEN:  You would be in this situation in the Republican party just as easily. 

CARLSON:  No, because they have winner take all primaries.  The winner wins. 

ROSEN:  The party that designed—our biggest mistake is giving Iowa and New Hampshire this sort of constant front runner status and then being this third rail of politics that no one will ever take on.  It has so frustrated a state like Michigan, that has really substantial economic issues and problems well beyond any discussion that ever takes place in New Hampshire and Iowa, that I think they felt desperate.  And a party that does that ought to rethink the whole strategy. 

They did front load a bunch of other primaries.  That‘s why we got to the Super Tuesday, so more states would count early on. 

CARLSON:  Why would the Democratic party punish the good people of Michigan and the even gooder (sic) people of Florida? 

PRESS:  The Republican party punished both states as well. 

CARLSON:  I‘m sure. 

PRESS:  Because they moved their primaries up both.  Again, I think it was a dumb thing, but both parties did it. 

CARLSON:  I can‘t believe I‘m going to defend the DNC, but actually, it was the candidates themselves that pledged not to campaign. 

CARLSON:  It‘s all very—Can I get your quick opinion on one thing very quickly?  Mike Huckabee, supporter of his, an ordained minister, endorsed Mike Huckabee on letter head from his church.  The IRS is now saying, this is a violation of his tax exempt status as a member of the clergy.  Could there be a movement afoot to take tax exempt status away from churches and from schools and from basically everybody else who has it, and make us all equal.  Wouldn‘t that solve of a lot of problems.  Why should churches not pay taxes?  Why should anybody not pay taxes?  Can we revisit this or is this just too far out for anybody? 

ROSEN:  If Mike Huckabee becomes president, we‘ll never revisit it.  A third rail of politics again.  Does it make policy sense that everybody equally pays taxes?  No.  Schools and churches and non-profit organizations have a different economic structure than businesses. 

CARLSON:  This forces people to lie.  All sorts of churches are involved in politics, almost all on the left, the vast majority on the left.  But it could be on the right.  It doesn‘t matter.  They have to lie about it. 

ROSEN:  You didn‘t just say that, did you? 

CARLSON:  I absolutely said it.

ROSEN:  The majority of the political activity in the churches is on the left? 

CARLSON:  Absolutely.

ROSEN:  There‘s no analysis that agrees with that.  Maybe four Episcopal churches do that. 

CARLSON:  Every Episcopal church. 

PRESS:  Hillary is right. 

(CROSS TALK) 

PRESS:  Compared to the religious right, the religious left almost doesn‘t exist.  On your point, look, I‘m not running for anything, so I‘ll say it.  It is the biggest rip off in the tax structure today that the churches get a free ride.  They are some of the richest institutions in the country.  They don‘t pay taxes at all.  They really hurt communities.  I think we definitely ought to take a look at it, starting with, might I add, Scientology, which owns half of Los Angeles and which isn‘t a real church to begin with. 

CARLSON:  You said that.  I didn‘t.  I don‘t want snakes in my mailbox.  Bill Press, on that note, Hillary Rosen, thank you both very much.  I appreciate it. 

Is he the last man standing?  Mike Huckabee shows no signs of backing down even as his two most serious competitors joined forces today.  What now for Mike Huckabee?  We‘ll Talk to a senior campaign adviser coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Mike Huckabee says he‘s got to make a living, baby needs new shoes.  He took a detour from the campaign trail, or is doing so, to the Cayman Islands.  He‘s being paid for a speech there.  Now that Romney endorsed John McCain, will Huckabee continue his run, because, as he says, he‘s got nothing else to do, except maybe position himself for another run four years from now. 

Earlier today, I had a chance to speak with senior adviser to the Huckabee campaign, former Arkansas Senator Tim Hutchinson. 

Senator, thanks for coming on. 

TIM HUTCHINSON, FMR. ARKANSAS SENATOR:  Hi Tucker, good to be on. 

CARLSON:  Had you all made a play for Romney‘s endorsement? 

HUTCHINSON:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think there‘s any specific outreach to Governor Romney on his endorsement, no. 

CARLSON:  How come?  He has some delegates that he could have given to you all that would have helped.  Why not try to get those? 

HUTCHINSON:  I don‘t know that there was a lot of optimism that, given the kind of tension that existed during the campaign, that that was something that was likely to high pressure.  I think it caught everybody a little surprised that Governor Romney made the decision to endorse Senator McCain, given the kind of things he said about McCain during the course of the campaign. 

CARLSON:  That is a very honest answer.  There was a lot of what looked to me like, and I believe it was personal acrimony between Romney and virtually everybody else.  What does it make you think that Romney turned around today and endorsed John McCain. 

HUTCHINSON:  I didn‘t hear his exact comments.  I don‘t know what he has said.  I think that those delegates, you have to wonder what they are thinking right now.  Presumably, many of them chose Governor Romney because they thought he was the most conservative choice.  I think surely they must wonder right now.  And I think the impact on the race is—you‘ve got to wait to see exactly what those delegates do and what they are thinking and what they say about this endorsement. 

CARLSON:  There was a news story today that indicated that former Governor Huckabee is going to take a break from campaigning and leave the country to give a paid speech.  Do you think that‘s a wise idea. 

HUTCHINSON:  I‘m sure he‘d rather stay in Wisconsin and campaign, but I certainly appreciate the fact that he has to make a living, and that he had made a long-term commitment to make this speech.  Unlike Senator McCain and other candidates who are in Congress and have an on-going salary, even though they are not making many votes these days, Governor Huckabee doesn‘t have that luxury.  I certainly appreciate the fact he‘s got to make a living. 

CARLSON:  So do I.  I wouldn‘t begrudge any man that right.  But it gave rise to the inevitable suggestion that the whole purpose of his campaign is to raise his profile and his speaker fees. 

HUTCHINSON:  I think he‘s got a high enough profile.  If you look at the schedule he has in Wisconsin, the number of events that he has, it would be very hard to question his dedication to this race.  He‘s certainly not ramping anything down.  He‘s going full bore on it.  Certainly, it‘s uphill.  He knows it‘s uphill.  It got a little steeper today with this endorsement.

But what Governor Huckabee has to have is a couple of wins.  He‘s got to pull an upset, whether it‘s in Wisconsin, Ohio or Texas.  These winner take all states gives you an opportunity to do some catching up in a hurry, but you‘ve got to win them. 

CARLSON:  Tell me two ways Governor Huckabee is distinctly better than John McCain as a potential president. 

HUTCHINSON:  There‘s obviously some very deep policy differences, differences on McCain/Feingold, on campaign finance reform, difference on the Human Life Amendment to the Constitution.  I think stylistically there‘s a generational difference.  There is, just in my mind, no greater political communicator alive today than Governor Mike Huckabee.  Tremendous communicator, relates and connects with people, and empathizes with working people like no other Republican since Ronald Reagan.  I think our party needs that desperately. 

CARLSON:  He‘s a great speaker.  I think, whether you agree with him or not, you have to concede with that.  We spoke earlier this week about efforts by party elders, such as they exist, to get Governor Huckabee to drop out of the race.  Give me an update.  Have you received other calls from McCain supporters saying, come on, get out. 

HUTCHINSON:  No, I think that effort probably went public yesterday when the McCain camp had a press conference and went through the math.  That was their public expression that they wish Governor Huckabee would drop out of the race.  But the same—Mike has been very consistent from the beginning that he wants to give a choice.  He wants to give a voice to those who have not voted in these primaries.  Until Senator McCain has 1,191, it hasn‘t really changed.  He still desires to speak for a cause he believes passionately in. 

CARLSON:  Senator Hutchinson, thanks for coming on.  I appreciate it. 

HUTCHINSON:  Thanks, Tucker.  Good visiting. 

CARLSON:  If it‘s Obama versus McCain in the general election, what to expect?  Will it be a knock down, drag gout, or will it be a kinder gentler campaign, as some are predicting?  We‘ll tell you in a minute.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MCKINNON, MCCAIN SENIOR ADVISER:  I met Barack Obama.  I read his book.  I like him a great deal.  I disagree with him on very fundamental issues.  But, as I said, I think it would be a great race for the country.  I would simply be uncomfortable being in a campaign that would be inevitably attacking Barack Obama.  It would be uncomfortable for me and I think it would be bad for the McCain campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Put down your dukes.  That was Mark McKinnon, the head ad maker of the McCain campaign, saying that if Obama is the nominee, that‘s it.  He‘s out.  He doesn‘t want to be mean to Barack Obama and neither does anyone else.  Barack Obama has had almost no negative ads run against him.  Apparently, Hillary Clinton has one on the air.  That would be the first negative ad, by some counts, ever run against Barack Obama. 

How mean will this campaign be coming up in the fall?  To answer that question, Bill Press, Hillary Rosen, stand by.  Hillary, at some point, if you‘re running against Barack Obama, you have to engage him.  Don‘t you?

ROSEN:  I think Mark‘s comment tells us something, which is that he knows that it will get nasty and that the Republican operatives that he has hung around with for the last year actually won‘t hold back on Barack Obama.  And I think this notion that somehow it‘s going to be a different kind of campaign with the Republicans if it‘s Obama as opposed to Hillary is nonsense.  I think the Republicans will go after either Democrat full bore.  Obama is going to get just as—

CARLSON:  I disagree for this reason; McCain can be very tough.  I‘ve seen McCain do things that were harsh, in some cases I thought unfair, including against Mitt Romney.  There are places McCain won‘t go.  I really do believe that.  I don‘t think that‘s just hype.  He‘s not always a straight talker, but he‘s straighter than most people.  If he did something really savage and you Senator McCain, look at this ad.  This is disgusting.  I think he would be embarrassed and pull it.  I really do.  I‘m not shilling for the guy.  I know him and I believe that.

PRESS:  First of all, the way politics works today, there are other groups that can do that.  The 527s will do it.  McCain will be above it all.  I think you‘re right about John McCain.

ROSEN:  A week later, he will say, I pulled that ad.  It will be there.  It wasn‘t George Bush who funded the Swift Boat ad.  It was an independent group. 

CARLSON:  Can I be the only person out of 300 million Americans to point out, yet again, that the Swift Boat ads were completely legitimate, run by people who had served with John Kerry in the military, guys who had more time in than him.  They were legitimate.  No one agrees with me. 

PRESS:  Ask Bill Ruud of the “Chicago Tribune,” who served with John Kerry, who was his platoon commander on the PT, who says they were total, total lies. 

CARLSON:  Many people disagree.  I‘m just saying, it wasn‘t just a bunch of right wing political hacks, they were actually veterans who had served in the Mekong Delta. 

ROSEN:  It was funded by the right wing political hacks, who went and found a couple of guys. 

CARLSON:  These were real guys with a real point of view.  I can‘t believe we‘re arguing about this.

(CROSS TALK)

ROSEN:  The answer is, they will do it to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. 

CARLSON:  And they will do it back. 

PRESS:  Come back in to 2008.  This is going to be a rough and tumble campaign.  There‘s no doubt about it.  I think the contrast is going to be very real.  Number one, it‘s going to be a contrast between—if it‘s Barack Obama—doing a 46-year-old young guy and a 72-year-old veteran, if you will, of Washington, D.C.  If elections are about the future, I think that‘s a big contrast.  But John McCain is going to make it on terrorism, on the war on terror, on surrender, on white flag, and it‘s going to be mean.   

CARLSON:  If there is any sort of security incident in this country or abroad that brings America‘s attention back to the looming threat of these crazies who hate us, can Barack Obama break through that?  I don‘t see that. 

ROSEN:  I actually think that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will beat John McCain.  I think it‘s though, even though terrorism and national security will be looming in people‘s minds, I don‘t think people will say that the solutions that John McCain has supported are making us safer.  The fact that we are still in Iraq with as much threat in Iraq and surrounding, it just makes no sense that people are going to say, fine, but those answers are the wrong answers. 

PRESS:  We‘ll be there 100 years. 

CARLSON:  Bill Press, Hillary Rosen, thank you both very much.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll be back here tomorrow night, as always.  Up next, stay tuned for Chris.  Have a great night.  Happy Valentine‘s Day.

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

END   

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

Transcripts

Watch Tucker each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,