updated 3/7/2008 12:16:48 PM ET 2008-03-07T17:16:48

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Undecided: Three of four primaries to Clinton, at least 48 percent of the delegates to Obama and six morning shows apiece.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think, voters want this race to go on, because they, you know, are now really concerned about who can best go against Senator McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The campaign that last month said it was not about momentum, it was about delegates, now says it‘s not about delegates, it‘s about momentum.  It‘s all changed, except the delegate lead only changed by 15, with that number likely to drop on the final big single night of the campaign.

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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Clinton barely dented the delegate count yesterday.

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OLBERMANN:  How can the Democrats resolve this democratically?

Richard Wolffe on how the Clinton campaign staves off disaster.  Eugene Robinson on whether it can do it again without getting dirtier and if Obama has to follow into the mud.  Chuck Todd by the numbers and what might be whole new numbers to be sung in Florida and Michigan.  And Jonathan Alter on the most unlikely, most tantalizing prospect of them all—not he or she, but he and she or she and he.

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CLINTON:  Well, that may, you know, be where this is headed.

OBAMA:  I think it is very premature to start talking about a joint ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Obama figures in Worst Persons.  NBC News cannot continually openly rout for one candidate and there is a backlash of the press treatment of Barack Obama.

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BILL O‘REILLY, TV HOST:  Thank you very much.  You are a good guy.  We like you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, good point, Sparky.

And: John McCain‘s moment in the sun: The endorsement from President Bush at the White House.  Where the hell is he?  McCain was late?

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PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  Let‘s start over, play like it never happened, OK?

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OLBERMANN:  Your administration—oh, just the arrival ceremony, you almost had a deal.

All of that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera):  Good evening, this is Wednesday, March 5th, 244 days until the 2008 presidential election.  Hillary Clinton snatches victory from Ohio and Texas from the jaws of defeat, after almost snatching the defeat from the jaws of victory, and what did she win exactly?  The Democratic voters saw his shadow last night, so she and we all get seven weeks in Pennsylvania.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: And after negative campaigning earned her that reprieve, itself a subset of the 12 weeks until the caucus in Puerto Rico, how many of that dozen will be dirty?  Make a note that day one of week one in the cycle relatively dirt-free, Senator Clinton spending the day in Washington, her spokesman Doug Hattaway were looking ahead to April 22, declaring, quote, “Pennsylvania is the new Iowa.”

The senator‘s daughter, Chelsea, today, is emphasizing that fact by campaigning in Philadelphia is the new Des Moines.  And round of morning show appearances, Senator Clinton is showing signs of staying in the race until Denver is the new Miami Beach, Circa 1972, again, making the case that superdelegates should be allowed to decide the nomination no matter who wins the popular vote.

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CLINTON:  This campaign is evolving.  New questions are being raised.  New challenges are being put to my opponent.  Superdelegates are supposed to take all of that information on board and they‘re supposed to be exercising the judgment that people would have exercised if this information and challenges that had been available several months ago.

That‘s why we have superdelegates.  Superdelegates were put into the process about 35 or 36 years ago for a purpose.  That‘s the way the rules are, and that‘s the way I think it should be played out and I know that as we move through these next contests with some more very important states like Pennsylvania, you know, the voters have said by more than two to one, they want this to go on and they want to go on because they want to make sure we pick the nominee who is best able to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The Obama campaign meanwhile stepping up its rhetoric.  Campaign manager David Plouffe is calling Hillary Clinton, quote, “The most secretive politician in America today.”  On the plane back to Chicago from Texas, the candidate himself is focusing on his still significant lead in the delegate count.

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OBAMA:  The delegate count is essentially unchanged from where it was yesterday.  And so now, we go to Wyoming and Mississippi, and we think we will do well this week.  We feel that there is a strong possibility that we gain substantially more delegates out of Wyoming and Mississippi than Senator Clinton gained last night.  And so, and so, we will continue to build our delegate lead.

We will continue to campaign in every state.  We will not be cherry picking which states we deem important because our attitude is that every state is important.  And, you know, by taking that approach, and I‘m pretty confident that we will end up with more delegates having won more states, won more primaries, won more caucuses and have more of the popular vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  None of which maybe enough.  Senator Clinton is moving ahead of Senator Obama in the Gallup daily tracking poll among voters coast-to-coast 48 to 44.  Yesterday, they had been tied, the Keith number, no opinion plus margin with error is 10 percent.  This three-day average reflects Democratic attitudes before the outcome of last night‘s primaries were known, any impact for victories there might have, will be reflected in tomorrow‘s numbers.

And to what degree did negative advertising impact last night‘s numbers?  Just in case you don‘t know what I‘m talking about, let‘s play the commercial again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  It‘s 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and at home and asleep, but there is a phone call in the White House and it‘s ringing.  Your vote will decide who answers that call.  Who do you want answering that phone?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  OK.  We played the wrong tape I think, maybe not.

We‘ll bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Satire notwithstanding, 61 percent of people who voted in the Texas poll and decided in the last three days, voted for Senator Clinton, does that mean that attacking Obama worked for her?

WOLFFE:  Well, it means you can‘t survive three bad days of news cycles and expect your numbers to stay the same.  You know, it wasn‘t just the attacks.  It was the inadequate response that the Obama campaign flubbed its way through and that clearly had an impact.

But this was a tactical victory for the Clintons and not a strategic one.  The delegate count is pretty much unchanged and the Clintons have run out or are quickly running out of states where they can close this gap.  And at the end of the day, it really isn‘t about winning states, it‘s about delegates.

OLBERMANN:  There is another element, too, of course, and those states and which are important and which can make a difference.  The Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway declared today, Pennsylvania is the new Iowa.  When it comes to how we got here might a large reason why be because the Clinton campaign largely unchallenged by the media, largely unchallenged by the Obama campaign, set the agenda for which states are seen as the bellwethers in the nominating process and which were not?

WOLFFE:  Yes, they have been supremely successful at setting expectations here.  And in the early phase, that‘s important.  Some states are significant because of momentum, but there is no effort for anyone to take the momentum at this stage, because there are not enough delegates really in play for Senator Clinton to close the gap.

And I think, honestly, frankly speaking, the media has fallen into a real hole here, not so much of the Clintons making, but of our own making.  We like to go through election night calling the states as if this is a general election and it‘s a winner-take-all, it‘s not.  It makes the great TV, but what really matters is the delegate count.  So, we are calling these races on basis of who wins in overall state and it‘s frankly misleading.  It doesn‘t tell you who is progressing in the march towards the nomination.

OLBERMANN:  And something else that might be misleading here, this Limbaugh effect in Texas as it‘s been described.  Eight percent of Senator Clinton‘s support in the Lone Star State came from Republicans who voted for her after the talk show comedian ordered his listeners to vote for her in that state because he believes she should be easier the beat.  The “Dallas Morning News” backed that up with some of its conversation with voters in Texas.  Is this one of the real dangers of open primaries when the Republican nomination is already been decided, what amounts to sabotage and even though the Democrats may have proposed this in other quarters in other Republican primaries as well?

WOLFFE:  Right.  Well, you know, there is a danger of that clearly, but there are also opportunities for the party to build, depending of course whether or not this is sabotage or whether, actually, the candidates are pulling in the independents and Republicans.  You know, it‘s hard for Obama supporters to criticize the Clintons for attracting these kinds of support whether genuine or not, when they have relied on those supporters elsewhere.

OLBERMANN:  And in the postmortem about last night phase, should we also be concluding here that the Obama campaign could have handled the “O, Canada, o, NAFTA” problem a lot better than it did?

WOLFFE:  Yes, no question about it.  The communications operation really dropped the ball there, they needed to have “a come to Jesus” meeting with these economic advisers.  But more than that, they really needed the candidate himself, to go out there and say, it doesn‘t matter what the Canadian government thought and one adviser said on that, but what matters is what I say about my policy.  I‘m the candidate and I‘m going to be the nominee.

And he didn‘t assert himself to close down this debate at an early enough stage.  That‘s why it dragged on.  That‘s a problem for him and his campaign, and they need to fix that and fix that quick.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and of “Newsweek”.  As always, Richard, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OBLERMANN:  With the better understanding of how we got here, the question ahead: Where do we go from here?  For that, let‘s turn to our own Eugene Robinson, associate editor and columnist for “The Washington Post”.  Gene, good evening again.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, there seems to be a link between the ghost busters‘ ad and Senator Clinton‘s survival at least in Texas last night.  Is that the start of the slime or is there a law of diminishing returns that applies, and if so, when does it apply?

ROBINSON:  Well, let‘s see.  Hillary Clinton loses 11 contests in a row and then wins three of four—yes, I have a hunch we‘re going to see more of it.  It‘s, you know, something worked.  Something got this campaign moving again, built some excitement, and so, sure.

I think we‘re going to see attacks left and right, more of the kind of “kitchen sink” approach.  And the Obama campaign is going to have to get a lot better at dealing with this sort of barrage of random attacks.

OLBERMANN:  And Obama has also promised, I mean, without details some sort of response which has not been his ball game at all to this point.  Is it as stark as these, you know, these scare ads, does he have to come up with, you know, a scare ad about the phone ringing at the Hillary White House at 3:00 a.m. and the person at the other end of the line asking for Bill or—or is it stuff like they did today, which is attacking Clintons for not releasing their tax records, for creating that point again?

ROBINSON:  I don‘t think we‘re going to go to the Bill phone call at 3:00 a.m.

OLBERMANN:  Why not?

ROBINSON:  Well, we may get there eventually, but I think for now, they‘re going to go to the tax returns and look, you know, that is a could be a fertile area of inquiry if you want to look into, you know, Bill Clinton‘s business dealings since leaving office and consulting and speaking and all of that, I mean, they file a joint tax return that, you know, Hillary Clinton has not released it.

You know, that‘s one issue, but I think that there is one potential danger for Obama, in that he, you know, he, his bread and butter is the change message which he delivers so well, and in one thing I think that he would rather be doing than attacking is developing a version of that change message that speaks to blue collar, white voters.  He has not quite shown them the magic yet.  That others have perceived.  And I think that he would rather be working on that.

OLBERMANN:  Well, speaking of working, his phrase today was working the refs.  I mean, he actually came out and complain about the media, and you know, for those of us with origins in sports, there‘s a funny thing about working the refs.  No ref will ever admit this, but if he feels like he‘s been worked, he tends to look for an opportunity to eject the player who is working him.

They‘d now both complain about the refs.  They both worked the refs and some of us here have been experienced of being worked as if we were the refs here.  Is either of them now likelier to be a media target?  Is there actually any kind of truth to any of the paranoia about this from either camp?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I guess that we‘ve teed both of them up, right, and one more tee, and they‘re out.  You know, I think, what we saw was a cycle.  A kind of almost natural progression, Obama was new and he had this exciting message, he had to cover the message.  Hillary Clinton we knew and we also, you know, she‘s been around for a while.

Then, everyone kind of turned on Obama and said: Who is this guy anyway?  I think that we may be beyond that.  I think that they are both going to take their lumps now from the likes of us, and that‘s probably as it should be.

OLBERMANN:  The question that I—another forum which I asked Richard Wolffe is, whoever defines which of the remaining states are the big ones, you know, Pennsylvania is the new Iowa, do they become the ones who get to announce we‘ve won and the other guy lost?

ROBINSON:  In a word, no.  It can‘t be, because in the end, it really is about delegates.  And the question is: Are the superdelegates at the end of the day when Obama ends up with a lead in pledge delegates which seems extremely likely, no matter what happens in Pennsylvania, or any of the, you know, realistically in any of the other states, are the superdelegates going to choose Clinton instead, because they think she‘s a better candidate or because of loyalty to the Clintons or because she said so?

I mean, that‘s kind of the only question that there is out there, and this kind of, you know, Pennsylvania is a new Iowa, and did anyone tell that, you know, to the people in Philadelphia?  I don‘t think they want to be the new Des Moines.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  No offense to Ohio, but how to get the campaign started in the wrong foot.  People in any state saying, no, no, you‘re actually more like the people in some other state.  It‘s a beautiful thing.  Eugene Robinson of MSNBC and “The Washington Post”, it‘s always a pleasure, sir.  Thank you.

ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One more campaign note: Courtesy of Dana Milbank, our friend at the Washington Post who‘d be with us later.  Every campaign experiences ups and downs, but this was ridiculous, unexpected turbulence hit Hillary Clinton‘s plane as it hit Columbus, Ohio last night.  Beer cans sent rolling through the galley, Dana reported, flight attendants shouting, people standing in the aisles hitting the deck, and the number one passenger, the senator is reported to have slept through it.

She doesn‘t want him answering the Ghostbuster hotline in the middle of the night, but there she wants him as a vice president and more intriguingly, did she suggest that she might be his?

And if you‘re wondering if John McCain might be at all hesitant about accepting the endorsement of President Bush, he showed up late to the White House today for it.  You know, many psychologists believe there are no accidents.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  The broad idea reflects genius, settles everything, and is amendable to at least one of the candidates‘ name: Clinton and Obama on the Democratic ticket.  Whose name goes first?  That might be a holdup, renewed talk tonight of a dream team.

And later in Worst Persons: Bill O denies global warming and after sucking up to Barack Obama, complains that the media is sucking up to Barack Obama.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Last night‘s results not only kept the Democratic race alive, they ignited a new speculation that the best ticket and the best solution to the many potholes suddenly evident on the Democratic horizon might incorporate both historic candidates.  Speculation, of course, often fails to address that tricky side question of who would get the top billing and the white building and the cool plane and who would be left conceivably marking time until 2016?

In our fourth story tonight: Whose dream team is the dream ticket?  After breaking her losing streak last night, this morning, Senator Clinton pushed the door open, the widest it‘s been yet to the prospect of a Clinton/Obama ticket when she was told, some Ohio voters wanted to see them run together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Well, that may, you know, be where this is headed, but of course, we have to decide who‘s on the top of the ticket.  And I think that the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Later in the day, Senator Obama got to respond to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Senator Clinton was asked about the possibility of a joint ticket, she said, that‘s where she sees this to be headed, although it‘s not clear she acknowledged who would be on top.  Are you any more open to that now than you were a few weeks back?

OBAMA:  You know, we are just focused on winning this nomination.  That‘s my focus, and, you know, I have said before, I respect Senator Clinton as a public servant.  She is a tenacious opponent.  I think, it is very premature to start talking about a joint ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In fact, a dream ticket might be more than premature, but a nightmare for either or both of these candidates who have said to harbor little in a way of mutual admiration, and while Clinton is maybe open to “Vice President Obama”, the Politico Web site reports, Democratic strategists say, he is likely less interested in “Vice President Clinton”, because unlike him, she cannot bring tens of thousands of loyal new young supporters to the voting booth in November.

With me now is MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, also of course, senior editor at “Newsweek”.  Good evening, Jon.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, this is a long shot, obviously, from the beginning.  Is it likelier after last night‘s results because both campaigns maybe looking for solutions to these, you know, series of icebergs that maybe ahead for either both of them and for the party?

ALTER:  I think it is a little bit more likelier than it was in the past because if you get to June, and regulation ends, season ends, and one of the candidates, likely Obama, because he does have a very strong lead now in the pledged delegates, doesn‘t have enough to get over the top and does have to get those superdelegates, you could see some of the superdelegates pushing him to put senator Clinton on the ticket.  I don‘t really see it the other way around.  I understand why Hillary Clinton would raise the issue, because she wants people to vote for her on the two for the price of one line, but I don‘t really see that happening.

OLBERMANN:  Could something like this make for the proverbial secret backroom deal now?  You can make a trade, no more negative ads, let the voters decide on the merits of the equation, leader at the finish line is the P and the winner is the V.P.?

ALTER:  So, you‘re suggesting the candidates would make a no more negative ads, pledged that is about as likely as Bill Clinton entering a monastery.  I think, I‘d just, I don‘t see it happening.  It‘s a great idea, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.  Thank you for that.

ALTER:  But I don‘t quite see it happening.  The reason that some kind of deal could emerge is because the vice presidency is worth so much more than it used to be.  Remember Lyndon Johnson in 1960, he was the Senate majority leader, really powerful.  Everybody was sure he would never take the vice presidency and he took it.

And those are the days when it was worth of former Vice President Garner said, a bucket of warm piss but when it changed to spit, he complained to a reporter who changed it for his family, to a newspaper that he was a panty waist (ph) for changing the line.  But the job is worth a lot more now than it used to be.  So, this it could take place.

OLBERMANN:  Well, that of course, I mean, as you pointed out, why Clinton would see value in “Vice President Obama” is pretty obvious.  He brings in an extraordinary new, what you need most in politics, not getting the other guy‘s voters necessarily, but these new voters will do just fine, but what does, what would V.P. mean for her if she would seem less likely a candidate to succeed him eight years hence, just in terms of the age factor being more relevant to her than it is to him, would she have to be given forgive the expression “Cheney-esque” (ph) hours?

ALTER:  I‘m sure that she would want it to be a very meaningful role and considering the bad chemistry between these two candidates right now, that might be a little harder to work out than it was for Bush and Cheney.

OLBERMANN:  Which begs that point, how could she possibly say, she would, you know, certainly, she‘s certainly seemed to be warm to the idea of “Vice President Obama” and it makes a great deal of logical sense, but she has just campaign, she may have just saved her campaign or at least stopped its death at this point, by saying, you know, he‘s not ready to become commander-in-chief, but I‘d welcome him on the ticket?  There is a disconnect there that one would think the Republicans might make something up later on.

ALTER:  That‘s a really good point, because the first question that anybody asks about a vice president is: Is he or she ready to step in?  And if you basically have been running a whole campaign with 3:00 a.m., you know, telephone ads saying that your opponent is not ready, that might be a little bit tough.  On the other hand, in the past, people have squared the circle on these things.  Remember when George Bush called Ronald Reagan‘s economics - voodoo economics and Reagan put him on the ticket anyway.

OLBERMANN:  Also, I mean, basically speaking, the “are you ready question” is nonsense to begin with.  I mean, if it is, if it‘s seniority, then, the Democrats don‘t have to run anybody, because McCain has been in the Senate since the early 80s.  You can just do it on that basis, that it‘s over for Hillary Clinton, too.  She‘s almost as much a rookie in this area as Obama is.

So if it is just a scare tactic, and you‘re the person announcing the scare tactic, you can then say at some point, he is ready now.  You know, he is ready at six months under my tutelage, he‘ll be ready, so, you know, don‘t worry about it.  I mean, it‘s just, since it‘s nonsense, can you dismiss it as nonsense later or do you look like a fool for doing that?

ALTER:  You might be able to do that, in that what happens in the primaries sometimes, you know, becomes a distant memory by the middle of the summer.  You know, we are in dog years now.  We‘re like every week is equivalent of a month.  So, a lot of what‘s going on right now might seem like ancient history by the middle of the summer.

OLBERMANN:  Well, seven weeks to Pennsylvania, it‘s only eight weeks since Iowa, which explains everything in terms of the chronology.

Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  It‘s always a pleasure to see you, sir.  Thanks.

ALTER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Sports term for a 100, cricket fans mean this when they call it a sticky wicket.

And what a night in Worsts, two Bill O‘s plus Glenn Beck asking if Obama is the anti-Christ.

All ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Four hundred and fifty years ago today, smoking was introduced to Europe.  Spanish explorers who had found the Aztecs of Mexico smoking crushed tobacco leaves in corn husks sent some back with an emissary who had been commissioned by King Philip of Spain to report on the products of the new world.  Supposedly it was on this day, March 5th, 1558, that Francisco Fernandez brought plants and seeds onto Spanish soil and that was pretty much it. 

By the way, he was Dr. Francisco Fernandez and the last message we had from him was that the Seventh Circle is of Hell was not as hot as you would think.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin on the cricket pitch and 2008‘s bumper crop of streaker wackiness continues to pour in.  This is in Brisbane, Australia.  A naked guy interrupting the cricket match and then the cricket match interrupts the naked guy.  And down goes the streaker right on his lead (ph) spingoogly (ph).  The local broadcast of the match showed nothing but this slo-mo version of the impact, but I think that is all you really need to see. 

Now, to New Delhi in India where everything is just rolling along.  This is a group of farmers protesting a law that allows banks to dispose of defaulters‘ securities in order to recover lost money.  They are doing this by rolling around, some of them half naked in the street.  That will show those government fat cats.  As puzzled bystanders and police looked on, and few things remained clear at this demonstration.  One, the farmers are clearly upset with the questionable legislation.  Two, some farmers are better at rolling than others are.  And three, some farmers skipped the whole rolling thing and just made signs. 

Back to the real fun, the delicate Democratic delegate demographics and what to do about Florida and Michigan, all with Chuck Todd.  And was that about John McCain—what was that about John McCain getting a boost because the Democrats are keeping everybody waiting?  He was late to the White House for Bush‘s endorsement! 

These stories ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three “Best Persons in the World.” Number three, best irony, Melanie Morgan, lunatic fringe radio host, fired by her station in San Francisco.  The borderline who said and yesterday reiterated that the editor of The New York Times should be “sent to the gas chamber.” She says her show was a ratings and financial success.  They say her show was a ratings and financial success, but she says they fired her because of an economic meltdown at the station which usually does not happen if even just one of your hosts is a ratings and financial success.  Bye, bye half-baked lady!

Number two, best news, Bobby Mercer, since 1965, a player, coach, executive, announcer, and resident best person in the building for the New York Yankees recovered amazingly last year from brain cancer.  Last week they found a dark spot on his brain during an MRI and everybody held their breath.  Diagnosis today, it is only scar tissue.  Amen, Bobby. 

And number one, best 3,500-year-old toxicology report.  Benny Shanon, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently concluded in a study published this week that when Moses was high on Mount Sinai listening to God deliver his Ten Commandments, Moses was high on Mount Sinai listening to God deliver his Ten Commandments.  Shanon suggests Moses may have been taking mind-altering narcotics that were an important part of the Israelites religious rites in the Biblical times.  Talk about burning the bush. 

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OLBERMANN:  If last night‘s split results mean neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton can clinch the nomination based on delegates alone anymore, then this is a job for superdelegates.  In our third story tonight, they may not come to the rescue until the very last minute, superdelegates in a moment, but first, because we are talking messed up elections, Florida, and this year anyway, Michigan. 

Just today, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Republican, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Democratic Clinton supporter, released a joint statement calling on both of their national parties to seat their state delegates even though both states were told beforehand that moving up their primaries in violation of the rules would cost the delegates their seats. 

Tonight, both states‘ members of Congress also met to explore ways out of their respective messes.  The possibilities, their votes don‘t count, the states hold do-overs, or the national parties say rules, schmules, come on in. 

This morning, with Barack Obama now leading Hillary Clinton 1,355 delegates to 1.213 by the NBC count, both were asked to weigh in.  And considering that both states went for Clinton, the replies held very few surprises indeed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think Florida and Michigan should count, and obviously it is not for me or anyone to make these decisions for the people Michigan and Florida.  It is up to them.  But I have long said that they should not be the victims of the unfortunate consequences of, you know, some of these, you know, rule changes that the people of Florida, for example, had nothing to do with. 

They were dragged into this by the Republican governor and the Republican legislature.  You know, again, I don‘t think that a Democrat can turn his or her back on Florida.  So yes, I think that Michigan and Florida should count.  How we get to them counting is really up to the people and the leadership of those two states. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Clinton not overly precise there.  The convention‘s credentials committee ultimately deciding who gets seats this summer.  Barack Obama, however, not precisely answering the question when asked whether he supports do-overs. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think that we have played by whatever rules the DNC has put forward, the Democratic National Committee.  And we will continue to play by those rules.  And whatever the rules are, we think we will do well. 

OLBERMANN:  And even if Florida and Michigan do get in, their votes might not be enough, which brings us to the superdelegates.  The nation‘s top-ranking Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying today: “There are still many voters unheard from yet, now is not the time for anybody to weigh in.” 

With all of that settled, let‘s turn now to the political director of MSNBC and NBC News, the man The New York Times calls “our designated driver,” Chuck Todd. 

Good evening, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Whatever that means, right? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I am not sure.  But what exactly does the map look like tonight to your presumably sober eyes? 

TODD:  Well, I mean, not much change.  It looks like at best Senator Clinton is going to have netted approximately eight delegates, maybe 10 and therefore she will not really have cut his lead that much.  It was about a little over 150.  Now it will be a little under 150.  After Saturday and Tuesday, Wyoming and Mississippi, it is actually going to be probably closer to 160.  So we are still talking about these same percentages, Keith, 62 percent for Clinton to figure out how to get that pledged delegate lead back. 

If you throw in all of the delegates together, there are 990 delegates left both in superdelegates and in pledged delegates to be earned.  Obama needs just 46 percent to get to his magic number of 2,025.  She needs 56 percent of those, but that includes—if she doesn‘t win, then suddenly she needs a lot more of them to be superdelegates to come over to her side. 

OLBERMANN:  Right.  And again, that is averages so that counting the ones that Obama is probably going to win, she needs to do something closer to the 70 percent in the states that—where she is going to win to balance it out. 

TODD:  As it—correct. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  But now Florida and Michigan, I think we may be seeing where they want to go—or where the DNC, anyway, wants to go with this.  Howard Dean issued this statement at dinner time tonight.  There is an operative part, let me quote it, it is a little lengthy, but bear with me. “As we have said all along,” he writes, “we strongly encourage the Michigan and Florida state parties to follow the rules so today‘s public overtures are good news.  The rules which were agreed to by the full DNC, including representatives from Florida and Michigan months ago allow for two options.

“First, either state can choose to resubmit a plan and run a party process to select delegates to the convention.  Second, they can wait until this summer and appeal to the convention credential committee.  The Democratic nominee will be determined in accordance with party rules.  And out of respect for the presidential campaigns and the states that did not violate party rules, we are not going to change the rules in the middle of the game.”

Am I drawing the right inference that Dean would support new votes, but whatever happens, the key ingredients is he and everybody else in the Democratic hierarchy has to be able to say, well, we didn‘t change any rules. 

TODD:  Right.  No, absolutely.  The question is how out front will Chairman Dean get on this?  He is basically inviting the Michigan Democrats and Florida Democrats to resubmit.  That is what I have been told privately.  That is what Michigan folks have been told privately, Florida.  They have been begged to submit a new plan.  Maybe it will be a caucus or a “firehouse primary” in Michigan. 

The Florida Democrats are the ones that are more stubborn here.  They don‘t want to do anything that isn‘t a brand new full-scale primary.  They can‘t afford to put it on.  Somebody has got to pay for it.  The governor—Republican governor teased that maybe he would support that idea, but the Republican state legislature is not going to go for that, so that is sort of the bind here.  But clearly, Dean wants two new contests. 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe Rudy Giuliani can get a new vote going in Florida and start that all over again.  The Clinton campaign‘s senior guy, Harold Ickes, reminded reporters today that even the pledged delegates, the regular ones, not the superdelegates, do not have to, in essence, honor their pledge.  They could sway.  Is that a wise move?  I mean, does it not again underscore the idea that the only way Senator Clinton can get this is to overrule the final score, which is exactly what the Supreme Court did to the Democrats in 2000? 

TODD:  Right, there didn‘t seem a reason to introduce that when, look, they are already going to go the superdelegate route, which is inside of the rules of the party.  Now is he technically right about these pledged delegates?  He is, but why introduce that idea. 

Instead, basically say, look, we are going to go up with our body of work and we are going to believe if we happen to win Pennsylvania that our body of work of Ohio, Pennsylvania and some of these other large population states will look better to these superdelegates who have to ultimately decide what they are going to do, than Obama‘s red state and sort of mid-level state victories like Virginia, Missouri, and Wisconsin. 

We will see.  It is a—these are two different resumes there.  But introducing this idea that, yes, you can overturn with pledged delegates, it is not good PR. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, it is the worst.  Chuck Todd, national political director for NBC News and MSNBC, thanks, as always, Chuck. 

TODD:  You got it, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  My very dear friends, I am very sorry I showed up late.  The president‘s endorsement, and kept him waiting, and made him do a tap dance like he was the opening act at a strip club while I was late. 

And in “Worst,” Bill-O says the truth about global warming is all guesswork.  So now you can see the fastball coming into my proverbial wheelhouse in slow motion.  What can I do with it?  That is next, this is COUNTDOWN my very dear friends. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  John McCain goes to White House for the president‘s endorsement and shows up late, with the president standing outside while the cameras were rolling.  Is it my birthday?  That is ahead, but first, time for our number two story, COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  And I don‘t want to go on a lynching party, unless...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The bronze to Glenn Beck, asking his guest, John McCain‘s pro-apocalypse televangelist, John Hagee: “They say, Glenn, you in the media, you have got to wake up, Barack Obama is making people faint and cry and everything else, and he is drawing people in.  There are people, and they said this about Bill Clinton, that actually believe he might be the antichrist.  Odds that Barack Obama is the antichrist? “ Why do you ask, Glenn?  Worried about somebody giving you competition? 

Our runner up, Bill-O answering letters from the only people dumber than he is, his viewers.  This one from Scott, asking if global warming is natural, not manmade?  “Who knows, Scott, it is all guesswork.” Yes, sir, Bill, for you, it is all guesswork.

To whit, our winner, Bill-O.  During “Fixed” News‘ election coverage last night, its third-place election coverage last night, thank you, viewer, saying of NBC News and MSNBC: “If they are going to be the Obama network, they should say that,” and adding, “there is a backlash against the gentle press treatment of Obama.” Let‘s see, Tim Russert asked him about Farrakhan, I slammed him saying her voters would vote for him, but his might not vote for her without adding, but I‘ll do my damnedest to get them to.  Who in the press could Bill be talking about being too gentle on Senator Obama? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  Can we have a word sometime?

OBAMA:  You know what?  Sometime.  How about after the primary? 

O‘REILLY:  All right.  All right, Senator.  Thank you very much.  You are a good guy, and we like you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You are a good guy and we like you.  Billy, you great big flaming fraud, you.  Bill “ORLY,” today‘s “Worst Person in the World!”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The day after the Republicans mathematically anoint their nominee, a traditional spike in any campaign, the formal endorsement of that nominee by the incumbent president, a second traditional spiking in any campaign.  The bonding of two former cutthroat enemies from same party at the very moment the other party consigns itself to as much as five months of throat-cutting, a third climactic spike in any campaign. 

And in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, the guy shows up late?  Seriously?  The OnStar in the car didn‘t work, Senator McCain?  They stopped giving the traffic reports on WTOP?  Mr. Bush, already to go, the first modern president to endorse his party‘s successor in person at front door of the White House, but McCain is late, so naturally the president starts doing a soft shoe and suggests starting the whole thing over again. 

Later after the delayed greeting and after a lunch of White House hot dogs, seriously, President Bush officially welcomed “my friend, John McCain, as the nominee of the Republican Party.” And in brief remarks, lauded the senator‘s resurgence, his toughness and compassion.  And the senator was complimentary to the president while also under repeated questioning laying the groundwork for why the president might not appear alongside him too often. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am very honored and humbled to have the opportunity to receive the endorsement of the president of the United States, a man who I have great admiration, respect and affection.  I intend to have as much possible campaigning events and together as is in keeping with the president‘s heavy schedule. 

I hope that the president will find time from his busy schedule to be out on the campaign trail with me...

... as much as his keeping with his busy schedule.

... as it fits into his busy schedule.

... in keeping with his schedule. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If you are scoring at home or even if you are alone, that was five times that McCain referenced the president‘s schedule, which is apparently busy and heavy, even though the president recently surpassed Ronald Reagan as the commander-in-chief who had logged the most vacation days according to CBS Radio. 

And President Bush, for his part, had a peculiar formula for how to help Senator McCain. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, if by showing up and endorsing him helps him or if I am against him and it helps him, either way, I want him to win.  But they are not going the be voting for me.  I have had my time in the Oval Office,  it has been a fabulous experience, by the way.

And if he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I will be glad to show up.  If he wants me to say—you know, I‘m not for him, I will.  Whatever he wants me to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Per his schedule, let‘s bring in Washington Post national political reporter, MSNBC political analyst Dana Milbank. 

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Thanks for fitting me into your busy schedule. 

OLBERMANN:  I do what I can at 56 minutes past.  So they made a deal on appearances here maybe?  McCain shows up late and Bush returns the favor by showing up infrequently? 

MILBANK:  Yes.  And I think that the soft shoe was no accident, as the debut of vaudeville that might occur.  What could happen here is McCain will do the things in public, send Bush off to deal with the donors.  He can do the toe-tapping there and raise money for the John McCain. 

That is where John McCain really needs him to raise money for him, needs him to solidify the base, does not need his pretty face, as the president puts it, out at a lot of rallies. 

OLBERMANN:  It is nice to see the cliches come true.  Political tap dancing, it‘s nice to see them actually happen.  This will not, however—even if it is all in private, it will not stop invocations of McCain/Bush, Bush/McCain, Senator Obama has already hit that theme a couple of times.  And today, a liberal group ad from the Campaign to Defend America, makes the point that Bush and McCain are the “McSame,” which is apparently the replacement for the ill-fated “John W. McCain.”

Today‘s moment in the sun exactly the sort boldfaced clincher that McCain‘s opponents are going to welcome? 

MILBANK:  Well, you know, normally, somebody goes over to the White House so they can have footage with the president to use in their ads.  This may be the first time when somebody has gone to the White House so that the footage could be used in other guy‘s ads. 

But that said, it—“McSame” is pretty good.  They used “McLame” against him in the primaries, but it is “McInsane” if you think that it is going to be easy to tie McCain to Bush.  They are going to do the best they can, but he is pretty slippery and he is going to be pretty clever at playing that maverick card. 

OLBERMANN:  Now we know you know everything, you had the Hillary Clinton story about turbulence and sleeping through it and how she was buckled in, do you have the real story on why he was late?  How?  How is that possible? 

MILBANK:  Well, maybe we are looking at this the wrong way, and that is that the president is just so congenitally early.  Maybe it was not his fault at all.  But, you know, I think it may have all just been done to give you this moment late in your show tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, if they are down to trying to influence the viewers of this show, we know that this administration is over.  Would this have happened if Senator Obama had emerged with a sweep last night, the continuing struggle between with the two Democrats give McCain just enough room to get sort of the Bush public stuff out of the way now? 

MILBANK:  You know, you would think so.  But John McCain doesn‘t think that way.  He is a real daredevil.  There is almost something of a death wish.  I remember even before the Florida Primary we were riding with him on the bus, and you really want President Bush with 30 percent approval out there campaigning for you?  And he said, absolutely, sure.

So he seems to get some idea in his head and stick with it as he did successfully over the past year with his Iraq strategy.  Now, “McSame” may be a bit of a different story, but who knows?  Maybe the president will be up to 70 percent support this time in October. 

OLBERMANN:  My God, if that happens then they will repeal the relevant amendment and he will run for a third turn, won‘t he?  If he gets 70 percent they will do something to get him back in the race?

MILBANK:  Absolutely, particularly if McCain is out for being born in the Panama Canal Zone. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Conspiracy theories for 100.  All right.  Dana Milbank of MSNBC and The Washington Post, great reporting as always, sir.  And great thanks. 

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,771st day since the declaration of the “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I have no idea why I‘ve suddenly started saying “all right” every other sentence.  I stopped myself just there.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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