updated 2/19/2008 10:33:27 AM ET 2008-02-19T15:33:27

Guests: Ron Brownstein, Hilary Rosen, Ed Schultz, Todd Harris, Susan Paige, John Harwood

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Showtime.  Clinton can win.  Obama can win. 

Who will?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Senator Hillary Clinton is facing must-win states in Texas and Ohio in the weeks ahead.  Tonight we‘ll talk about a roadmap to victory for the Democratic candidate.  Let‘s pretend we‘re in the voice—we‘re the voice, actually, in the car of Neverlost, one of those GPS systems.  What would we be telling her to do to win this thing?

And speaking of what to do, what do we do with those Florida and Michigan delegates, where none of the delegates have been awarded to either Clinton or Obama?  Should there be new contests, a new formula, a new set of caucuses, what, or else a smoke-filled room, which I think a lot of people are very worried about?

And John McCain‘s campaign is getting another endorsement.  Former president George Bush will give McCain his presidential stamp of approval.  So why can‘t all the Republicans just get along?  We‘ll dig into the GOP contest later.

We begin, however, with the Neverlost guide for Senator Clinton.  Chuck Todd is political director for NBC News, Ron Brownstein‘s from “The National Journal,” and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell have been covering the Clinton campaign.  I‘m going to start with Andrea.  Imagine you‘re one of the mellifluous voices in the car, giving you directions to an unknown destination, except it says “Win” at the end of it.  Give me some early directions to Senator Clinton to get her to victory.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, she‘s clearly got to do Texas and Ohio.  But I think there could be a real circuit-breaker if she could pull something off in Wisconsin.  That could slow Him down.  That said, she‘s got to do Texas and Ohio.  James Carville said if she doesn‘t win one or the other—if she doesn‘t win both of those it‘s over.  And then, of course, on to Pennsylvania.

In between, she‘s got possibilities.  She could do well in Kentucky.  She could pick up something in Indiana.  But she‘s got to start running the board and raising money as she goes.  By the way, the Clinton people say that they have been raising money on line, a million dollars a day over the last 14 days, $14 million.  They say they are now competitive in terms of the money.

MATTHEWS:  Can we check that?  Is there any way to check that, Chuck Todd?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  No, there‘s not.  I mean, look, both campaigns do these Internet campaigns, and you know, the Obama people really have been trying to raise an eyebrow on what—on these Clinton numbers because their argument is that they‘ve never done this before, all of a sudden, they‘re raising $1 million a day.  But the fact  is—here‘s how we know, she‘s matched him dollar for dollar on TV in Texas, Ohio and Wisconsin.  So...

MATTHEWS:  So effectively, she has the money.

TODD:  ... as long as—that‘s how you get double-checked.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s showing us the money.

Let me go—let me go to Ron Brownstein, again with the question of what‘s that car telling us, that Mapquest car telling us?  You go to—she wins—everybody says she‘s got to win Ohio and Texas.  And then it seems to me she has to begin to look forward to Pennsylvania.  And all that time, she has to be trying to freeze the superdelegates from shifting away from her.

RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Right.  Well, the first thing is she has to win Ohio and Texas.  I think everybody agrees.  If you look at what‘s been happening at the elite level of the Democratic Party since the voting began, the endorsement movement, first with those centrists in January and now with more liberal elements in February, has all been toward Obama.  And if they have, I think, a crack in the armor that an Ohio or Texas defeat might provide, I think you would see movement en masse.  I mean, the SEIU endorsement today, Moveon recently...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) or something.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... yes, Moveon.org, Ted Kennedy, David Obey.  I mean, it‘s a long list on the left and a long list in the center.  She obviously has to stop that.

But I think your basic point is right.  She has to figure out a way both to start winning states and to start then constructing an argument.  Now, Chuck‘s done some pretty impressive math to suggest how difficult...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... it‘s going to be for her to overcome him in a delegate—pledged delegate lead by the end, which suggests that even under the best scenario, which would be winning Ohio, Texas, winning Pennsylvania, which is within her reach—I mean, all of these are states that she can win...

MATTHEWS:  She can win the three.

BROWNSTEIN:  She could win the three.  Texas is pretty precariously balanced, but all three of them lean, at least, in her direction.  Under the best of circumstances, she ultimately will have to convince superdelegates to—in all likelihood, to go over—to reverse a pledged delegate lead for him, even a small one.  And that will require, in effect, her building an argument along the way that she‘s better prepared for the general election.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea and gentlemen, here‘s the latest polling coming out.  It‘s not as good a polling as we could have, but it‘s what‘s available in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  The Texas Credit Union League has a poll of Texas Democrats.  Senator Clinton leads there 49 to 41.  That‘s the most recent of these polls.  That was taken sort of before and just after the most recent Potomac primaries this Tuesday.  So it was Monday-through-Wednesday poll.  Here‘s the Quinnipiac poll.  It was taken before the Potomac primaries.  That  shows her comfortably ahead 21 points in Ohio.  The poll of Quinnipiac in Pennsylvania is again a big one, a 16-point advantage.

Andrea, I don‘t think we can go by those numbers much longer.  We‘re going to have to get some fresh numbers.

MITCHELL:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But that shows what she started with in those states in terms of constituency groups and power with the political community and just name ID.

MITCHELL:  Yes, the difference is that when he has time, which he now has because this is not as compressed a calendar—when he has time to be on the ground in a state, he seems to pick up, rather than lose.  So he‘s now got time in Ohio, in Texas and potentially in Pennsylvania to start narrowing that lead.  It‘s unlikely that she can expand on that lead.  She‘s got to hang onto it.  So as Chuck has calculated better than any of us, she won‘t come with a huge delegate advantage, but she does have to win.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, I say, I mean, there has been enormous stability in the way—in this race in the way different groups have voted.  You know, he has been winning African-Americans.  The margin is growing.  He has been winning upscale whites.  She has been winning downscale non-college whites and Latinos.  Even in Virginia and Maryland, states where she did very poorly, she won non-college whites.

So basically, you sort of take these strengths and you apply them to the underlying demographics of these states as we go toward them, and it tells you that Ohio is a state where 60 percent of the white vote is non-college.  There is a big black vote, but on balance, that kind of lean towards her.  Texas is a state, though, that is much more closely balanced, Chris.  There are slightly more non-college than college whites.  There are slightly more Latinos than African-Americans.  They‘re both—her groups are slightly bigger than his, but the operative word there is “slightly.”  And if he can change the electorate a little bit, that is—that could be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... take a look at one of these polls, and you answer this, Chuck.  Every time I look at the exit polls the night of an election, I‘m stunned by it because only about 1 in 6 Americans has a full four-year college degree, and yet up to 60 percent of the Democratic vote—every week, I look at it—says 56, 58, somewhere around 60 sometimes.  That‘s not a very representative sample of Democratic voters, but yet you‘re saying the working class guy or woman who hasn‘t got a full four years of college behind them will help Hillary.  But they‘re not voting as much.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Obama‘s vote is more motivated.  I mean, that‘s been the key to this election.

MATTHEWS:  The better educated people seem to be dominating...

TODD:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... what‘s always been called the “people‘s party.”

TODD:  Right.  But her...

MATTHEWS:  The regular people‘s party.

TODD:  But her potential amount of support—her pool of voters has always been bigger in most of these states, probably...

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they show?

TODD:  That‘s been a motivational issue.

MATTHEWS:  Well...

TODD:  And that goes to—I think that goes to some of the problems of just Clinton as a candidate.  She hasn‘t connected.  She hasn‘t motivated.  However, look, this is no longer—for her, this is no longer...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s give her a shot.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton, today, and Barack Obama, Senator Obama, both talking today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, there‘s a big difference between making speeches and offering solutions.  And what we need to be doing in America today...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  ... is offering solutions to the problems that the people of Ohio and our country face.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  She said, well, you know, Obama is a talker, but he‘s not a doer.  This is the argument that‘s been made, you know, that—I think she said, you know, speeches don‘t put food on the table.  Speeches don‘t help you deal with all those energy bills.  Speeches don‘t help you get a job.  Well, she‘s absolutely right.  Speeches don‘t.  And that‘s why I‘ve spent 20 years as a community organizer and as a legislator and as a Civil Rights lawyer and as a United States senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of that one?  That seems to me the turn of the court (ph).  That seems to be what we‘re going to be talking about, somebody giving speeches about how speeches aren‘t important, somebody else saying, yes, I‘m giving a speech to prove that I can do things like—other things besides give speeches.  This is an amazing conversation.

TODD:  Yes, no, and the fact is, political campaigns are theater, and he‘s won—and he‘s, you know, won—he‘s winning the theater war.  He‘s winning.  He is better theater than she is.  And that‘s been her problem.

MATTHEWS:  What does she have to do, Senator Clinton to do, Habitat for Humanity?

TODD:  No, I think what she has to do...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... be seen building houses?

TODD:  No, I think the case she can make, if she sweeps these big three states and she starts—and she wins in West Virginia and she wins in Kentucky, is that she can make the argument to the superdelegates and say this, Look, I‘m winning these down-scale white voters.  Obama may not win them in the general...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me—let me...

TODD:  ... and you know what?  They could go to John McCain.  These are regular Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me...

TODD:  ... who are voting...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I have a new way of looking at this.  I‘ve watched the press.  I‘ve watched the way we cover things.  We‘re quite fickle in terms of...

BROWNSTEIN:  You think?

MATTHEWS:  ... who‘s winning this thing.  Yes, I think.  Andrea, if we all wake up—or if I go to bed the night of March 4 and wake up on the morning of March 5, would headlines in the big newspapers...

MITCHELL:  I don‘t think you‘re going to—you‘re not going to bed March 4.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK, well...

MITCHELL:  You‘ll be up all night.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, when we do get—how about when the sun comes up, we‘ll see headlines that say, perhaps, Hillary sweeps doubleheader, she carries Ohio and Texas.  Won‘t all those superdelegates at that point freeze in their tracks, remain committed, if they are, to the Clintons, and everybody else will stop slipping and sliding toward the other fellow?  Won‘t that happen...

MITCHELL:  I think the one area...

MATTHEWS:  ... just perforce (ph) those events?

MITCHELL:  It depends on how Texas comes out.  It depends on what the African-American vote is there because she‘s got a real problem now with the African-American members of Congress, with the people who may follow the way John Lewis is tipping.  They are seeing their own districts and they‘re worried about their own survival, and they are seeing what is now clearly an historic candidacy that has been validated by being successful in Virginia, in all sorts of places around the country...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  ... in Idaho, so they‘re beginning to see that they have to get on board.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MITCHELL:  And I‘m not sure that her successes on March 4, if she is successful, will stop that defection.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, I think your basic point, though, is right.  I mean, as we said, I mean, the movement this year has been very much toward him at the elite level, whether it‘s elected officials or institutions, Moveon.  SEIU today, you know, one of the most potent political...

MATTHEWS:  But not an elite crowd.  These are...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  No, but I mean sort of, like, among the party leadership.  Now, if she can win Ohio and Texas, she can probably slow that down.  But can she completely reverse it?  Ultimately, she needs a series of results in these primaries that allows her to create a counter-argument, as Chuck was suggesting, to the superdelegates about why she would be a better general election nominee.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BROWNSTEIN:  And that—and you know, and there are a variety of—there are a variety of arguments she can make—I‘m winning the big states, I‘m winning the down-scale voters.

But you know, the problem is, is that a lot of the superdelegates are reaching the opposite conclusion, I mean, looking at the polling of Obama versus McCain versus Hillary, Clinton versus McCain, they are seeing his success with independents, and that is pulling them further in the direct in that the results are taking them in the first place.

MITCHELL:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to our game.  Let‘s go to the game we do in the air, the way we cover things, the news.  Next Tuesday night, Wisconsin, if it goes for Obama, right, more adrenaline in that campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If there‘s a debate—we have a CNN debate...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... it should not be a big win.  Just so you know, it should not be a big win.  If it is, then—then something broke.  Then something...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... then you‘ve got a CNN debate next week, and then you‘ve got the MS debate the week after that, right, three events.  Which is of the three is likely to shift the terrain—the momentum away from Barack, if any of them?

TODD:  I think it starts with Wisconsin.  I think that, you know, he has—the hype about him winning Wisconsin—and when you look at Wisconsin‘s demographics—and yes, this is a state that somehow sends Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold to the United States Senate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  You know, I‘m always fascinated that there are two Jewish Democratic senators from Wisconsin.  There are not a lot of Jews in Wisconsin.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  But this is a state that‘s 89 percent white.  This is a state that has a lot of down-scale voters—Green Bay, lacrosse, beer-drinking Democrats, Pabst-drinking Democrats, actually—PBR—got to get it right.  And you know, it‘s a place she should do well.  I think they‘ve made a mistake by not spending as much time...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  I agree.  The demographics of the state are such that she should be competitive there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... an upset for her, a close call?

TODD:  No, a win.

MATTHEWS:  She has to win?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, I think a win—or I think—I think, at this point, a close call would be seen as beginning to turn the tide.  But you know, there‘s only so many moral victories you can have when...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... or claim victory?  If she loses by a couple points, will she have a rally?

BROWNSTEIN:  I think she will claim victory, and she will argue that she‘s holding her share of the party, which is now going to speak with a loud voice in Ohio and Texas.

TODD:  Big problem, particularly if she can prove in the exit polls that she won Democrats but lost the primary because Wisconsin, same-day registration state.

MATTHEWS:  Will she be able to hold a press conference or a speech next Tuesday night to announce some kind of victory, Andrea, if she gets anything (INAUDIBLE) she has to claim a victory—have to be a victory?

MITCHELL:  It has to be a victory.  It has to be a real victory.  Look, the debates have been good for her.  She‘s done well in them, and I think that that can be...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  ... somewhat of a game changer down the road.  But I think what she has to do is be able to make an argument down at the end of the road, after June 7, let‘s say, that if she‘s not ahead in pledged delegates, she can‘t hope to do this just with superdelegates.  She‘s got to be able to have the raw popular vote on her side, or else people will say, We were robbed.  She will not have the moral...

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re hearing that from Nancy Pelosi.  The speaker of the House is saying the same thing.  As go the people, so go the superdelegates.  Thank you very much, R on Brownstein.  Thank you, Chuck Todd.  Thank you, my colleague, Andrea Mitchell.

And by the way, I‘m doing some blogging these days.  Check out my blog about how the Clintons have been to be able to—have been able to get themselves out of difficult situations before.  They are at their best when they‘re down.  Let‘s go to our Web site.  It‘s called Hardblogger.msnbc.com.

Coming up: Hillary Clinton is pushing hard to make Florida and Michigan count, but can the rules of the game be changed to their advantage at this point in the game?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I understand that, you know, Senator Clinton periodically, when she‘s feeling down, launches attacks and—as a way of, you know, trying to boost her—boost her appeal.  But I think, you know, this kind of gamesmanship is not what the American people are looking for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I am thrilled to have had this vote of confidence that you have given me today, and I promise you I will do everything I can to make sure not only are Florida‘s Democratic delegates seated, but Florida is in the winning column for the Democrats at 2008!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Senator Clinton claiming victory in Florida back in January, a month ago, despite the fact that the state was denied its delegates after it broke party rules by moving up its primary date.  Her campaign is now pushing to count the votes from both Florida and Michigan, which also broke the rules.  But why?

Hilary Rosen is a Democratic strategist and Hillary supporter, and Ed Schultz is a radio talk show host who I think has been pretty tough on Hillary Clinton.

Let me start with you, to give you the best opportunity—you can look at me, Hilary.  I‘m here.  I‘m not electronic.

Why should they change the rules?  I mean, it‘s almost like, Never mind.  I mean, if the rules were these state delegates don‘t count, they can‘t vote at the convention because they weren‘t supposed to break the rules, they did break the rules, they threw it in the face of the Democratic National Committee, and now Senator Clinton says, Because I won, I want them to count.

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  You know, I might be the only one in America here who thinks that Florida and Michigan are actually different.  I mean, Florida, the Democrats didn‘t decide to move their primary.  You know, the Republican legislature imposed that on the Democrats in Florida.  Whereas in Michigan, you know, led by Senator Levin, they, you know, openly broke the rules.  So I think there‘s actually a better argument to seat the Florida Democrats than there is Michigan‘s.

MATTHEWS:  And what‘s the argument if they were told—the voters were told that it doesn‘t count and the candidates were told it doesn‘t count, and then afterwards, when the count comes in for Senator Clinton, we‘re all told it does count?  How is that fair?

ROSEN:  Well, it‘s only fair because both of them were on the ballot, and so, you know, they had an equal chance at winning that state.  But I don‘t think that either one of them kind of are doing very well with the DNC rules this week.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s...

ROSEN:  You know, Senator Obama doesn‘t want—wants to change the superdelegate rules...

MATTHEWS:  OK, well...

ROSEN:  ... and Senator Clinton wants to change the Michigan rules.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Does he actually...

ROSEN:  I think they‘re a little...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I think they‘re a little inconsistent. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he actually want to change the rules or he just wants the superdelegates to vote the way the party voters voted? 

ROMANS:  Well, the superdelegates are legitimate delegates.  They were always configured to be that way.  And, so, to say that somehow they should be subservient to the other delegates was not how it was originally configured. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Ed Schultz, about this fight.  Should campaigns be able to gain votes in primaries which were declared outlaw before they were held? 

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Chris, you have got the got Democratic Party, and then you have got the Clinton party.  See, they have got their set of rules over here. 

Look, this isn‘t going to play well with Democrats in Florida or in Michigan.  The best-case scenario here is to have a do-over.  Pick a primary, pick a caucus, but do the thing over.  I find it hard to believe that Hillary Clinton can run around, say that she‘s been advocating for people‘s rights for 35 years, but now all of a sudden, when she‘s behind, she wants to disenfranchise a bunch of voters. 

Let‘s have it all over again.  That‘s the best thing for the party...

MATTHEWS:  Well...

SCHULTZ:  ... because I‘m afraid—I‘m afraid that the party‘s going to have to deal with this down the road in future years. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  They are going to keep breaking the rules, knowing that the party will give them back their delegates. 

Well, when asked about the possibility of a do-over primary in either Florida and Michigan or both, Senator Clinton said—quote—“A second primary would be obviously very expensive.  I don‘t know who is going to pay for it.”

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: “The 1.7 million people who voted thought they were voting in a primary.  They wanted their votes and their voices to be heard.  I hope we are going to work this out, but I don‘t want to see Michigan and Florida Democrats be disenfranchised.”

Ed? 

SCHULTZ:  If you have a do-over in Florida, you put the Republicans on the sideline and you don‘t let them influence anything.  If you do a do-over in Michigan, you make a statement that the Democratic Party has got rules and everybody‘s got to play by it. 

I think it‘s interesting how Obama has taken the high road.  He‘s not over there complaining.  He‘s trying to win this thing by the rules.  And Hillary‘s trying to put it in her favor. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCHULTZ:  You know, if I was behind, I would probably do the same thing.

ROSEN:  Well, he‘s complaining about something different. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go for this.  Let‘s try to finish up here on Michigan.  Should Michigan have a do-over?  Should it have a caucus?  Or should the ballots count—be counted...

ROSEN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... even though nobody—the only name on the ballot out there was Senator Clinton, and maybe Kucinich, but none of the other candidates were on? 

ROSEN:  I mean, I think the problem is, is that it‘s hard to make the people of Michigan pay for what essentially was kind of a Democratic leadership decision and mistake.

SCHULTZ:  So?

ROSEN:  And, so, how they end up doing that. 

I think that we have got kind of a weak party chairman right now.  And he‘s not saying what he thinks ought to happen.  And I think, if there was, you know, might be a revolt or maybe they are just waiting until the end of this to talk about it.  But I...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t the only reason we‘re talking about both these states counting, when they weren‘t supposed to count, is, it looks pretty desperate for the Clinton organization right now?  They‘re going to need these votes to win.

ROSEN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Is that fair, mathematically?

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely.

ROSEN:  No, I think—it‘s only fair if you don‘t put the superdelegates in the mix.  But they were always in the mix. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  And, so, the other campaign doesn‘t want the superdelegates to be in the mix.  So, it‘s pretty fair to say that they‘re pretty equal.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SCHULTZ:  You don‘t want it to go to the superdelegates.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a pro-Clinton voice here, Bob Kerrey, who is also hard to predict.  He‘s a former senator from Nebraska, currently president of the New School in New York. 

He quote—here‘s what he said: “You don‘t change the rules in the middle of the game, period, no new vote and no new caucuses either.  Just stick to the rules that they agreed to.”

Well, that sounds like Catholic school.  That sounds like, you got the rules, you follow them, and stop all the loose talk about, well, we think we might enforce the rules or we will change them. 

How do you—isn‘t there a law in the Constitution that says—a provision that says no ex post facto laws? 

ROSEN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  You can‘t change the law; you can‘t address situations after the fact with law; you got to live with it? 

ROSEN:  You know, there‘s—there‘s—if everybody was just playing nice, maybe it would be different.  But I don‘t think either campaign sees the other campaign as actually playing fair about this. 

So, you have got these kind of two pots of delegates, and both of them are advocating different changes.  One, you have got the Florida/Michigan delegates, and you have got the superdelegates.  And it seems to me that there ought to be some grownup in the room saying, let‘s make everybody follow the rules, and let‘s deal with this the right way. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is running the most honest campaign, Obama or the Clintons? 

SCHULTZ:  Hillary—there‘s somebody who is trying to change the rules, and then there‘s somebody who doesn‘t want to change the rules.

ROSEN:  Well, I don‘t think either one of them are being dishonest. 

I think they‘re both just looking for a favor, what works for their—for their interests. 

BLITZER:  What do you think, Ed?  Do you think Obama is clean as a whistle on this? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  No.  I think you have got one candidate trying to change the rules, and you got one candidate trying to abide by the rules.  I mean, why didn‘t...

ROSEN:  Ed, how do you explain the Obama message on the superdelegates? 

SCHULTZ:  Barack Obama was asked not to go into Michigan.  Why does Hillary Clinton want to disenfranchise a bunch of voters?  Why not do a do-over with everybody on the ballot and everybody knows what‘s going on?  She‘s behind, and this is her fire wall tactic.  And I think it‘s wrong. 

And I think it‘s going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, answer that question.  It‘s not a rhetorical question. 

Why not do a do-over, have a real election that is certified by the party? 

ROSEN:  Well, I—I actually don‘t think that‘s such a bad idea.  It‘s just tough for everybody.  And it means that we‘re going to be, you know, dragging this thing out longer. 

But I don‘t—I think this sort of slamming that Ed is doing about the Obama...

SCHULTZ:  No, it will give you a conclusion.

ROSEN:  ... the Clinton campaign is silly, because neither campaign is

likes the DNC rules right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Is—is Senator Obama going to stick to his pledge he made a while back that he‘s going to take federal money in the general and not use private money, Ed?  Is he going to stick to that promise?

SCHULTZ:  If he doesn‘t, he will get some blowback on it.  That‘s for sure.  I don‘t think he can go back on anything this late in the game.

MATTHEWS:  How about from you?  Are you going to condemn him for breaking his promise?  Are you going to hit him for breaking his promise? 

SCHULTZ:  Pardon me?

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to hit him for breaking his promise?   

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely I would.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Good.

SCHULTZ:  If he goes on record saying one thing, you can‘t switch. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, he can‘t pull a Hillary and say, hey, what do you say we change the rules in Michigan?  What‘s that going to do for him?

MATTHEWS:  Pull a Hillary?  That‘s—anyway thank you, Hilary Rosen. 

ROSEN:  I want him break that pledge, because the Republicans will kill us, because John McCain broke his.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Ed Schultz. 

Up next—up next:  Hillary Clinton looks to turn her campaign around with a new populist message. 

I think he is going to stick with the general election. 

Will it work in Wisconsin? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

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

Well, with John McCain on top with the Republicans, it looks like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may not have the rationale he wanted to make a third-party run for president.  With Romney or Huckabee as the nominee of the Republican Party, Bloomberg might have had an opening up the middle.  But the lack of an opening hasn‘t stopped the New Yorker from blowing his horn up in Harlem. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG ®, MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  And they want to send out a check to everybody to stimulate the economy.  I suppose it won‘t hurt the economy, but it‘s, in many senses, like giving a drink to an alcoholic. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Does that mean people will want more checks from Washington? 

Remember when President Bush said he was able to get a sense of Vladimir Putin‘s soul?  Well, last month Hillary knocked that comment, saying—quote—“I could have told him, the president, that Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent.  By definition, he doesn‘t have a soul.”

Well, Putin was asked about Hillary Clinton‘s dis at a press conference yesterday, to which Putin replied—quote—“At a minimum, a head of state should have a head.”  That wasn‘t lost in translation. 

Here‘s some wild politics for you.  You know Kwame Fitzpatrick—rather, Kilpatrick, who is Detroit‘s popular charismatic mayor, who got himself in some trouble for romantic text-messaging? 

Well, it turns out that one of his aides just filed a police report that City Council president pro tem, Monica Conyers—she‘s the wife of U.S. Congressman John Conyers—quote—“threatened to get a gun and shoot him” at a city pension board meeting. 

Well.

Now to “30 Rock.”  Actor Alec Baldwin, who plays the NBC boss on the show, just told “The New York Daily News” that Jack Donaghy, the guy he plays on “30 Rock,” would be drinking and sobbing right now because his candidate, Rudy Giuliani, has been forced out of the presidential race. 

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

As you know by now, the Democratic nomination fight will be decided to some extent by those so-called superdelegates, who can vote any way they want, Clinton or Obama.  But these superdelegates are also political people.  And, as tides turn, as momentum builds and shifts, so do their votes. 

The proof is in tonight‘s “Big Number.”  Since Super Tuesday, Obama has gained 13 superdelegates.  Senator Clinton has lost three.  That means a net gain for Obama of 16 superdelegates since Super Tuesday -- 16, that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”  

Up next;  Former President George Bush is set to endorse John McCain. 

Are the Republicans finally uniting behind their man? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks closing mostly lower this Friday, with the Dow Jones industrials falling 28 points.  But, for the week, the Dow was up 166 points.  The S&P 500 gained just a point on the day, while the Nasdaq dropped 10. 

Dragging down stocks was word that factory output was flat in January.  That‘s the worst showing in three months.  Meantime, consumer confidence fell to the lowest level in 16 years. 

Wal-Mart has picked Sony‘s Blu-ray high-definition format and will phase out Toshiba‘s HD-DVD format by June.  The announcement came days after Netflix announced it will carry rentals only in the Blu-ray format.  There are now reports that Toshiba could soon pull the plug on HD-DVD. 

And oil inched up four cents today in New York‘s trading session, closing at $95.50 a barrel. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, it‘s not about the math.  It‘s about the message.  And the fact is, if nobody gets 1,191 delegates before the convention, it goes to the convention. 

That‘s happened before.  It used to happen all the time that way.  Now, if he gets 1,191, you know, then I will look at it again.  But nobody has that yet. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That‘s Mike Huckabee campaigning in Wisconsin today.  He won‘t be deterred, apparently.  And, on Monday morning, John McCain will get the endorsement, by the way—that‘s coming up right after this weekend—of former President George Bush.  But will it help with conservatives? 

Joe Watkins, an MSNBC political analyst, and former White House aide to President Bush 41. 

You worked for the guy. 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I did.

MATTHEWS:  And Todd Harris was John McCain‘s national spokesman during his 2000 presidential run, and worked on Fred Thompson‘s 2008. 

Boy, you can pick the winners, don‘t you? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Joe Watkins. 

Joe, sir, you worked with President Bush I.  Will his endorsement carry some oomph?

REVEREND JOE WATKINS, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It will.

MATTHEWS:  Or will it be just another establishment claim for a guy who has establishment support, but not grassroots right-wing support? 

WATKINS:  Well, this is a time for Republicans to come together.  Republicans need to come together right now behind the nominee.  And that nominee is going to be John McCain. 

And I thought—I thought, Chris, that—that, when Romney pledged his delegates to John McCain, that that kind of put him, if not over the top, very close to the top.  I don‘t know what Mike Huckabee‘s talking about. 

Huckabee is a good guy, but he needs to get out of the race like yesterday and get behind John McCain, as President George Herbert Walker Bush is going to do next week. 

MATTHEWS:  Todd, can Romney deliver his delegates to McCain, or is it just a verbal, gee whiz, I hope you guys vote for McCain? 

HARRIS:  I think he can probably deliver most of them.  And you see, with President Bush, with the endorsement on Monday, you are starting to see every single faction of the party rallying around John McCain. 

MATTHEWS:  Except radio land. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  Well, we will get to them. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  But, you know, you have got my old boss Fred Thompson who has endorsed him.  Jeb Bush has endorsed him.  You have got conservatives John Cornyn in Texas, Mitch McConnell.  These are not moderate Republicans you have got now.

WATKINS:  Jack Kemp.  Gary Bauer. 

HARRIS:  Yes, Jack Kemp.  You have got now former President Bush, who...

WATKINS:  Gary Bauer, Jack Kemp, big names. 

HARRIS:  And I think all of this, I think what it‘s going to do, every single time one of these conservatives gets behind John McCain, it adds one more pound of pressure to Mike Huckabee to get out of this race. 

Huckabee went from a nobody to sort of a curiosity, to a giant-slayer.  And, if he doesn‘t do the right thing soon, he‘s going to be viewed, I think, at the end of this campaign as a bit of a spoiler.  And I‘m not sure that‘s the future he wants to have. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you guys are on the same page.

Joe, it seems to me you both agree that he ought to get out of the race. 

WATKINS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But, if you‘re him, he‘s having the time of his life.  And the minute he‘s out of the race, he‘s back to being somebody we never heard of again. 

(LAUGHTER)

WATKINS:  Well, he can collect great fees for his speeches.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me, everybody says how tough public life is. 

Oh, it‘s so brutal.  But nobody wants to give it up, have you noticed? 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  Well, when you can take a weekend and go to the Caymans, it‘s not that tough. 

WATKINS:  That‘s right. 

(LAUGHTER)

WATKINS:  And grab some cash for a speech, I mean, that‘s a good life. 

I mean, obviously, he wants to grab—keep grabbing some delegates, so that he can have some—some chips to bargain with.  But, at the end of the day, he can‘t win.  Mike—Senator McCain is going to be the party‘s nominee.  And, really, the longer that Huckabee stays in the race, the longer he‘s a distraction.  So, he really needs to step aside and—and pledge his delegates to Senator McCain. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I‘m thinking?  And you guys are Republicans.  Tell me if I‘m right or wrong.  I think John McCain wants a running mate who won‘t cause a distraction to him, because he knows he‘s going to be the issue.  He has to be the—the old man of the party, with the tremendous war record and veteran status and all that.

He will want somebody who is not a social conservative, because he doesn‘t want to have to talk about abortion and gay rights and gay marriage and all that the whole campaign, because that will turn off the suburbs.  He will want somebody who is fiscal conservative, like him, who wants to cut spending, who has got a good record on economics, and a Southerner to help buckle down the South. 

I say it‘s Sanford of South Carolina.  Am I right or wrong? 

HARRIS:  I think you‘re—well...

MATTHEWS:  Well, am I right or wrong?  I want a prediction here. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  I‘m—the minute Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani, I got out of the prediction game. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  So...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I can‘t get out of it.  I‘m sitting here.

HARRIS:  All right.  Here‘s a name for you, John Kasich, former congressman from Ohio, chairman of the House Budget Committee, popular among every single aspect of the conservative stool, as Mitt Romney talked about, and someone who is...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the guy who works for FOX, right?

HARRIS:  He‘s wildly popular in Ohio. 

MATTHEWS:  He works for FOX. 

WATKINS:  Wrong network.  Wrong network.

HARRIS:  He‘s thinking of running for governor of Ohio. 

WATKINS:  Chris, you‘re right.

HARRIS:  He may be the next—may be the next governor of Ohio. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I like him.

WATKINS:  Good guy, wrong network.

MATTHEWS:  But I just want to know, don‘t you need—doesn‘t John McCain need an executive as his running mate?  Doesn‘t he need a Southerner, like—I‘m going back to this, Joe.  You know the party.  Wouldn‘t he better off with a good Southern executive? 

WATKINS:  Maybe a southern governor, a southern chief executive might be good, somebody who has great credentials, but is not going to overshadow John McCain.  John McCain‘s not easy to be overshadowed, anyway, but somebody that has the good quiet conservative credentials, not somebody that wears it on his or her sleeve, but somebody who is strong, well regarded in the party, yet still has the chief credentials to take over if ever need. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed that Charlie Crist, whose career has zoomed—he‘s only been governor a year or so.  I moderated the debate down there.  Charlie Crist, well, he keeps the tan, doesn‘t he?  The guy looks like he‘s an advertisement for Florida vacationing.  He looks like a charmer.  He seems like a guy who has a lot of personal appeal.  He‘s immensely popular in Florida. 

WATKINS:  He‘s tanned, rested and ready.  Tan, rested and ready. 

MATTHEWS:  I think Nixon was the first guy that they said it about.  I wouldn‘t be so sure.  Let me go to you, Joe, on this question of radio land.  There‘s no doubt that people are spending two to three hours a day in their car in many states right now.  We have traffic worse than it‘s ever been.  We are not going to build any new highways quickly.  You‘re stuck out there on that highway.  You spend a lot of time listening to—I listen to oldies from the ‘60s, but a lot of people listen to conservative radio on the radio. 

These people—Laura Ingraham is very effective in the morning.  She‘s risen very quickly in that world, very quickly, as I said.  You have got people like Rush Limbaugh, who are institutions from, what, 12:00 in the afternoon to 3:00 in the afternoon, traveling sales people all listen to him.  He‘s sort of their support group out there.  You know, are they going to be important come the end of the summer, when the Republicans meet in September in St. Paul?  Are they going to be important to trying to build the party unity?  Joe? 

WATKINS:  What they do, of course, is they provide tremendous leverage

for conservatives around the country.  Now, no conservative is necessarily

most conservatives are not going to follow what Rush Limbaugh said and vote for Barack Obama, you know.  Nor are they going to do what others have suggested, like vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.  That‘s not going to happen at the end of the day. 

And I think that Hillary Rodham Clinton, even more so than Barack Obama, ends up being somebody who galvanizes Republicans, who brings conservatives back to the table to vote for John McCain, and in big numbers, by the way.  But at the end of the day, they are used, I think, for the most part as leverage for Republicans, and I think they‘ll come back home as well by the time the convention this summer. 

MATTHEWS:  I love the way you call her Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Do you know that she doesn‘t go by that anymore?  Senator Clinton goes by Senator Clinton, Senator Hillary.  But you guys use it as a way to remind us of the past, don‘t you?  Isn‘t that what you are doing here, the resonance of the past. 

WATKINS:  We want to keep the past alive. 

MATTHEWS:  I know, the past is prologue, as they say, at the National Archives.  Thank you very much, gentlemen.  Thank you, Joe.  Thank you Todd Harris.  Maybe we get a winner one these days, Todd. 

Up next, it‘s a dogfight in Wisconsin.  Is Tuesday the day that Senator Clinton gets back in the game, gets back to rebound?  We‘ll talk about that.  She must win states to win the nomination.  Her side is saying that.  People like Carville are saying that.  You can‘t claim victory now, unless you win.  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Our round table tonight, Susan Paige of “USA Today,” John Harwood of cNBC and the “New York Times.”  and that‘s enough, I guess.  that‘s all we have here.  That‘s all we need, two brains here. 

Let me ask you about this.  Do these union endorsements still mean something, John, this 1.9 million Service Employee Unions.  They work as attendants in hospitals.  They are day care—they‘re nurses.  I guess they‘re general—not registered nurses, the other kind of nurses?  What are these people, do they count? 

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC ANCHOR:  I think it matters.  Although I would have to say, I think it would probably matter more if they‘d endorsed Hillary than Barack Obama.  He‘s got so much energy and grassroots organization on the ground already.  This is additive, but I‘m not sure how much of a difference it makes him.  Remember SEIU endorsed him, as did MoveOn.org, just before the Super Tuesday primaries and he lost by ten points. 

SUSAN PAIGE, “USA TODAY”:  It goes to the very voters that are the core of Hillary Clinton‘s support.  

MATTHEWS:  Working people. 

PAIGE:  Working people, blue-collar people, down-scale Democrats.  It gives Barack Obama a big entree with these voters, who he needs to get more support from to unite the party, and to show—and to defeat Hillary Clinton in Texas and Ohio. 

MATTHEWS:  This is his town and he has it already, right?  He‘s got the college guys.  Look at the numbers of these folks.  Don‘t you find it amazing in America, where about one in six people have a four-year college education, and every time I look a it, it‘s between 55 and 60 percent of the Democratic primary voter is a college graduate of four years of college.  That‘s a rarity in America still, no matter what anybody thinks.  Is that—

PAIGE:  But the bulk of the party are people that don‘t have a college degree. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are they not voting?  Why are the Hillary potential voters not voting? 

PAIGE:  Because they are not as energized as the Barack Obama voters. 

But they are pretty energized. 

HARWOOD:  They are going to count in the general election, for sure.

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to count in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, the three states that matter the most? 

HARWOOD:  Yes, they are going to count.   

MATTHEWS:  Will they show up or will we still get 55 percent college graduates in these polls. 

HARWOOD:  I think it depends on the fight you‘ll see from Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.  One of the positive things that happened for her in the last couple of days is she‘s indicated she‘s not just going to take a pass on Wisconsin.  She‘s go there to fight. 

MATTHEWS:  Tomorrow, Saturday she‘s going there, right? 

HARWOOD:  She‘s going there Saturday.  She‘s going to spend the whole weekend and she‘s also advertising in a very tough way against Barack Obama, criticizing him for not debating.  So, she she‘s showing spunk that she didn‘t show over the last week. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s because people have learned in this campaign—We learned it all from Rudy Giuliani.  You are not a Casey at the Bat and you let the two pitches go by, and swing on the third. 

PAIGE:  And also, Wisconsin should be a state reasonably friendly to Hillary Clinton.  There‘s not a justification for her to just skip it.  It‘s got a lot of down-scale Democrats and blue-collar workers and—

HARWOOD:  And low African American population. 

PAIGE:  That‘s right.  Why shouldn‘t she compete there?  She has successfully lowered expectations in Wisconsin. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean Wisconsin is not just Madison, like we all think.  We all think of it as the campus, the left wing, the activists students from back in the 1960‘s. 

HARWOOD:  Green Bay and Sheboygan (ph) and Racine—

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s also the campus, the state that blew Johnson out of the saddle back in ‘68, Wisconsin. 

HARWOOD:  That‘s right, and the Obama people think they have an advantage with the anti-war constituency, which is still powerful there.  But nevertheless, if you look at Wisconsin—if she gets blown out in Wisconsin, why should anybody think she‘s going to be a whole lot more competitive in Ohio?  She doesn‘t want to create the impression that she‘s sliding down. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, I love your front-page coverage.  I have been paying tribute to it.  At the press club—the former women‘s press club, I was saying, nothing impresses me more than the main line, the main bar reporters, the big, long pieces you have to write every day on deadline.  You have to have them in right when the events occur. 

PAIGE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m always amazed how you guys get it done so fast and so perfect.  Of course, you have somebody back at the desk that‘s doing something to help the copy.  

HARWOOD:  No, it‘s all Susan. 

PAIGE:  And we‘re watching TV. 

MATTHEWS:  I know, because that‘s real primary data.  You can use anything you hear on television as if you did the interview, right?  I like that.  I like that. 

Let me ask you about this, when you report that late at night for “USA Today”—when I was with Tiffany‘s, you guys had the latest deadline.  I loved it.  You could get something to you by 9:30.  Now they are all later, right?  What‘s your latest deadline after a primary? 

PAIGE:  Oh, 12:30. 

MATTHEWS:  So you got the fabulous potential here to give us the news. 

If Hillary wins the state in Wisconsin, boffo, right? 

PAIGE:  Big. 

MATTHEWS:  Boffo news.  Huge news.  If Hillary holds it within five or so points, is that boffo win?  Is that moral victory or is it Obama wins, Hillary close. 

PAIGE:  I think it‘s closer than expected. 

HARWOOD:  I totally agree.  It puts the breaks on the notion—

MATTHEWS:  Will the headlines be Hillary makes it close in Wisconsin, like a positive thing for her? 

HARWOOD:  Yes. 

PAIGE:  Or Obama/Clinton close in Wisconsin.  You probably want the winner in the headline, too. 

MATTHEWS:  By 12:30 in the morning you‘ll have the winner probably. 

But Andrea says we‘ll be real late at night there. 

HARWOOD:  Susan is right, Obama is going to get a headline if he wins, but if Hillary Clinton comes within five points, that changes the story line that we‘ve been seeing unfold. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose the headline is a clean win for Obama; does that add to the momentum going into two weeks hence, when we have—

PAIGE:  Absolutely.  And she‘s got to win and she‘s got to win both of them. 

MATTHEWS:  So as goes Wisconsin, so maybe goes Texas and Ohio. 

PAIGE:  Maybe.  Or as goes—Obama wins big in Wisconsin, it‘s Hillary‘s last stand, Hillary‘s last chance in Texas and Ohio and she needs to win both of them.  I think that‘s it. 

HARWOOD:  It would be very deflating for her people in both Ohio and Texas if she loses big in Wisconsin, after having made a big effort. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s what I think might happen.  I‘m just guessing.  I don‘t know how to predict this anymore, but I‘ll predict what my brain says.  Always do the surprising thing, Hillary makes it close in Wisconsin, and Barack Obama win a debate, the CNN debate, for example, or the MSNBC debate the week after next.  Can he win a debate if he decides to? 

PAIGE:  He knows a lot and he has great rhetoric, but debates showcase what Hillary Clinton has going for her, which is knowledge of specifics, kind of depth of knowledge, particular programs.  I mean, she really—the debate program shines a spotlight on what she does best. 

HARWOOD:  He can do well enough in a debate.  And remember, she‘s the one who has to change the dynamic now.  She doesn‘t need just another performance like she‘s had in the previous debates.  She needs to go after him. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just thinking knockout.  He may go for the knockout. 

PAIGE:  She needs a stumble.  She needs him to stumble in some way for her --  

MATTHEWS:  I think she‘ll try to concoct a magic moment in that debate at CNN, some moment we‘ll remember, like I won‘t use my opponent‘s age and inexperience against him, or something like that, or you‘re no Jack Kennedy.  Where‘s the beef for Mondale. 

When we come back we‘ll talk to the round table again.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table and the politics fix.  Let‘s take a look at what John McCain heads into today.  Now, here‘s how it started.  There was an arrangement well back, several months ago that John McCain and Barack Obama, if they were the winners of their party‘s nomination, if, they would stick to federal financing of the campaign.  They wouldn‘t bring a lot of outside cash into the competition come the fall.  Here is what Senator McCain said about that hoped-for deal right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  It was very clear to me that Senator Obama had agreed to having public financing of the general election campaign if I did the same thing.  I made the commitment to the American people that if I were the nominee of my party, I would go the route of public financing.  I expect Senator Obama to keep his word to the American people as well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking about, of course, if you take the federal money—that‘s your option—you get about 75 million dollars, but you can‘t take any outside money, at least not for the campaign.  You can take what‘s called soft money.  John is this something that‘s significant to the voter, do you think, the fact that it looks like Obama may be hedging on his commitment here? 

HARWOOD:  I think less significant to voters than people following and covering the campaign.  I think Barack Obama if he does back off that commitment now that we‘ve seen he has a very powerful fund raising Ferrari behind him—I think he‘s going to pay a price for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Because it will make people suspect his word—

PAIGE:  It‘s not honorable.  He said he wasn‘t going to do it, and now he changes his mind. 

MATTHEWS:  All we know about him is what he says he will be like.  We don‘t have a lot record on him. 

PAIGE:  Also, he presents himself as a different kind of politician, not the same old calculating kind of politician who would say, then it made sense for me, but now obviously, since I can raise so much money, why would I keep that promise. 

HARWOOD:  It would be analogous to saying why would Hillary Clinton for saying she wants the Michigan and Florida seated at the convention when everyone agreed they weren‘t going to compete. 

PAIGE:  It‘s a weapon that John McCain can use over and over and over again.  It‘s not clear—I think it‘s still possible Barack Obama keeps his promise. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a great opportunity.  Everybody us asking this question as they go to bed, go out drinking tonight or whatever they‘re doing this Friday night; if this election is close among those who are pledged delegates, people who are voted on, if it‘s within 20 or something, will the Super Delegates, so called, simply vote the way they want to vote or will they feel compelled to go with the technical winner of the pledged votes?  In other words, if Hillary Clinton wins by say 20 votes among the elected delegates, does anybody feel they have to be bound by that? 

PAIGE:  I think if it‘s essentially a tie, no, they don‘t feel like they have to go with the one that‘s marginally ahead.  You might want to also look at who wins the popular vote in these set of contests.  That would be a second measure for the will of the people, if that‘s what Democratic Super Delegates were trying to look at. 

HARWOOD:  Look, I think if it‘s as close as 20 votes, I think they will do exactly what they want.  After all, these Super Delegates were created—

MATTHEWS:  To check on the power of the people. 

HARWOOD:  To exercise their own judgment. 

MATTHEWS:  How about if it‘s a wipe out, say 100, 200 delegate strength for one of the candidates. 

PAIGE:  I think the Super Delegates go with the pledged delegates. 

MATTHEWS:  How do we know what the marker is?

HARWOOD:  They‘re also going to take a look at what the vote was in their state or their district. 

MATTHEWS:  A major politician called me today, one of those off the record conversations.  It was a he.  He said, don‘t get all focused on the Super Delegates, they will go with the vote. 

HARWOOD:  Again, I think it‘s how close.  I talked to Ely Paris (ph) of MoveOn.org.  They are trying to pressure Super Delegates not to commit.  He‘s saying, it‘s not just if you have one more delegate than the other person, that the Super Delegates ought to go that way.  But we‘ll know it when we see it, if it‘s close or not.   

MATTHEWS:  If there‘s a landslide, the delegates will go with that.  Thank you Susan Paige.  Thank you John Harwood.  Join us again Monday at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for HARDBALL and on Tuesday join me and Keith Olbermann again for live coverage of the Wisconsin primary, beginning at 9:00 p.m.  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.

ND   

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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