updated 3/10/2008 10:58:01 AM ET 2008-03-10T14:58:01

Guests: John Harwood, Robert Brady, Jennifer Donahue, Dick Polman, Perry Bacon, Gerri Peev, Eugene Robinson, Ron Brownstein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash!

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

What a night.  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  So why did the Clinton campaign accuse Barack Obama of being Ken Starr?  And why did a Barack Obama adviser resign after some trash talk about Senator Clinton?  The story broke last night.  An unpaid foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign was quoted in a Scottish newspaper calling Senator Clinton “a monster.”  It didn‘t take long for the Clinton campaign to react.  It called for Samantha Power, a Harvard professor, to be fired.  And shortly after that, Power resigned.  In a moment, we‘ll have some more on the Democratic race, which has gotten messier, perhaps—and this is tactical—to the advantage of Senator Clinton.

Also: Would Barack Obama really get a lot of Republican votes?  We‘ll see how some people are saying that John McCain might win over even more Democrats to his side.

Plus: They‘re taking the fight to Philly, and Clinton and Obama campaigns are fighting for the endorsement of city ward leaders in Philadelphia.  This Pennsylvania campaign is getting red hot fast.  We‘re going to talk about the battle of Pennsylvania.  (INAUDIBLE) it‘s the hottest battle in Pennsylvania since Gettysburg.

Anyway, but the next stop on the campaign trail is Wyoming.  Tomorrow the candidates are saddled up out there in the West as the Democratic voters in Wyoming get set to caucus tomorrow afternoon.  We‘re going to have a special weekend edition of HARDBALL.  I‘ll be here tomorrow night in this chair at 7:00 PM Eastern time with the results.  We should have them during that hour.  That‘s the plan.  And look forward also to the Mississippi primary that‘s coming up on Tuesday.  This situation of these primaries and caucuses is not stopping.  But of course, we‘re headed toward April 22 and that big one in Pennsylvania.

But we begin tonight with the heat in the Democratic battle and the comments by Obama adviser Samantha Power, who told a Scottish reporter that she thought Senator Clinton is “a monster.”  Gerri Peeve is the reporter for the Scottish newspaper aptly named “The Scotsman.”  Thank you, Gerri, for joining us from overseas.

Let me give you the quote from your piece, and then you can explain the context, Gerri.  Here‘s what you report, that Samantha Power, who works for the Barack Obama presidential campaign, told your newspaper, “The Scotsman,” quote, “In Ohio, they are obsessed, and Hillary‘s going to town on it because she knows Ohio‘s the only place she can win.  She is a monster, too.  Well, that‘s off the record.  She is stooping to anything,” close quote.

So tell us how all that happened, if you can, Gerri.

GERRI PEEV, “THE SCOTSMAN”:  Sure.  I was interviewing Samantha Power about her book and about Barack Obama‘s foreign policy.  She volunteered some information about how she thought the campaign was going.  In the middle of our interview, she‘d taken a phone call from a fellow economics adviser to the campaign, and apparently, he‘d had a rough day.  This was Monday afternoon GMT time.  So she came back and said, Well, we‘ve had a really bad day in Ohio.  And I said, Why?  What happened?  And she told me.

Now, she waited several minutes before the—or several seconds, I should say, before the tape recorder was switched on, and as far as I was concerned, we were pretty clear from the moment the interview started that it was on the record.  She made the comment about Hillary Clinton being a monster, laughed and said, That‘s off the record.  She immediately tried to withdraw that comment. and then went on speaking.

MATTHEWS:  What does your stylebook say about the decisions about when to quote people?  I mean, when you cover politics—you cover politics, right?

PEEV:  That‘s correct.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, politics...

PEEV:  My stylebook...

MATTHEWS:  Explain.  I‘m trying to get the context of this and your rules of engagement here.  It seems like in politics that I‘ve known over the years, there‘s a lot of what we call in sports “trash talk.”  You dump on the other side and you get in bad moods.  You especially do that.  It happens all the time.

I‘ve never really seen it quoted with such drama.  Your piece made “The Drudge Report” here.  It led the news in America this morning on our number one morning program on this network and anywhere, the “Today” show.  It‘s a bombshell of a story, at least for today.  It led to the resignation of this academic person in the campaign all because of the use of the word “monster.”

Is this something that you ordinarily would report or what?  How do you think about these things?

PEEV:  I established pretty early on before the interview begins whether or not it‘s on or off the record.  As far as I‘m concerned, if you‘re in public life and you‘re conducting an on-the-record interview with a journalist, if you make a controversial remark and then try and withdraw it, it‘s too late.  I never went into this to try and cost Miss Powell her job.  That‘s been the sad side effect, frankly, of that.  Who knows, she‘ll probably be rehabilitated at some stage further down the line.  She seems very, very talented and intelligent.

However, it would have been a dereliction of duty had I not reported the drama and the quotes that she gave me, particularly as it was on the record.  It was only after she made the “monster” quote that she said...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I heard you.

PEEV:  ... that particular remark, “monster,” was off the record.  She didn‘t wait for agreement, we just kept talking.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know the ground rules.  And by the way, everybody watching who might be inclined to call somebody a monster or anything worse, you can‘t say “off the record” after you‘ve said it.  You have to establish ground rules and they have to be mutually agreed upon by you and the journalist, right, Gerri?

PEEV:  I would agree with that.  I would say that‘s fair.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, thank you very much for coming on tonight from over there.  Thank you very much for staying up late tonight for coming on, Gerri Peev from “The Scotsman.”

Joining us right now, let‘s bring in some political people from this side of the Atlantic, Eugene Robinson, columnist for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell.

This, of course, comes in our context, Norah, of a campaign that‘s gotten to be, and some believe because of tactics, to become much closer, we should say very much in close quarters, this campaign now.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  A knife fight, as some have said.  And you know, this started to some degree when Howard Wolfson, who is Clinton‘s campaign manager, compared Barack Obama to Ken Starr for demanding the tax records of the Clintons.  Now we hear that Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a monster.

This is the kind of heated rhetoric that Democratic Party leaders are not very happy about because it means there‘s a distraction from what are the very serious issues this country is facing, a war in Iraq that‘s gone on and on, terrible economic news, with people suffering, people losing their homes because of a mortgage crisis.  And you essentially have two kids in a playground essentially calling each other names back and forth, or their campaign surrogates calling each other names back and forth.

MATTHEWS:  But is there a difference between a tactical—this person who‘s an academic, who didn‘t know the rules about backgrounding—and by the way, I hope all academics now know the rules...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... and Howard Wolfson, who‘s basically operating in a campaign manner of saying, Look, we‘re going to call him Ken Starr because he‘s asking them for stuff we‘d rather not have to release, but we‘re going to get something out of this by—you want to pick up on this, Gene?  We‘re going to get something out of this.  We‘re going to make them pay for this.  Sure, we‘ll put out those tax returns, but in the process of doing something we didn‘t want to do, we‘re going to make them look like the bad guys.  That‘s tactical.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Yes.  Well, what tactical is—

Samantha Power makes the error, and so the other side pounces on it and makes a big deal of it.  And that‘s perfectly fair and...

MATTHEWS:  She quits, and then she makes the point.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Their point has been—let me ask you about this Canadian thing.  It started, actually—there‘s another piece of this, which Senator Clinton alluded to today in her statement.  She said this was disturbing that this academic, this Harvard professor, used the word “monster” because it suggested that there was out of—off-the-record conversations going on, obviously not successfully off the record in this case, with foreign reporters and foreign diplomats, alluding to the talk we had earlier in the week about a NAFTA conversation.

Oh, by the way, here‘s Senator Clinton reacting to the resignation of Samantha Power.  Let‘s hear the senator talk about it in her way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think Senator Obama did the right thing, but I think it‘s important to look at what she and his other advisers say behind closed doors, particularly when they‘re talking to foreign governments and foreign press.  It raises disturbing questions about what the real planning and policy positions inside the Obama campaign happen to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So somebody off the cuff, hoping it‘s off the record, calls her a “monster,” and all of a sudden, we‘re talking international conspiracy theories.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, it‘s not just that.  It‘s not just that.  They took this opening, if you will, and then lashed out not only on the NAFTA thing but also Clinton‘s foreign policy team, led by Jamie Rubin, held a conference call today, said that the Obama team has a foreign policy team like amateur hour because Samantha Power also made some comments to the BBC about a withdrawal date on Iraq.  And they‘re saying, Oh, now, Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Irresponsibility is another thing.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Right.  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  So kick them when they‘re down.  And the Clinton campaign is playing hard-nosed politics.

MATTHEWS:  Let me try one thing.  They took a hit this week they probably should have because (INAUDIBLE) Senator Obama, Gene, went through Ohio playing the game they‘re all playing, which is, We hate NAFTA, we‘re going to get rid of it the minute we get in there, five minutes in, we‘re going to get rid of the thing.  And we all know this is nuance.  We all know that there‘s a positive aspect to free trade, especially in Texas, and that they‘re not going to just dump NAFTA, especially with Canada, where we win the fight—we win the trade issue.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Right.  It‘s good.

ROBINSON:  But it turns out that Senator Clinton‘s own people were up there sending the wink and nod, We‘re not really going to get rid of it, the same way that the Barack people were doing, so there‘s complete—I hate the word hypocrisy perhaps here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, it sounds like a moral indictment.  It is not a moral indictment, it‘s just a statement of the way things are done.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  Yes.  There‘s a wonderful word in Spanish, “aprovechan (ph),” you know, to take advantage of—you know, of an opportunity, and that‘s what—that‘s what the Clinton side does very well.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... in basketball, we call it the “fake foul.”

ROBINSON:  You know, what the—what it looks like the Obama side needs is, like, a Howard Wolfson kind of...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  ... to jump in and do that.

O‘DONNELL:  That is the dilemma.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they have a real tough communications director like Howard Wolfson, who can—boy, is he tough.  I had him over.  I had a nice chat with him the other day.  He‘s tough and he hits hard.  And you hit a little bit, he hits back 10 to 1.  They don‘t have surrogates.  Why isn‘t Ted Kennedy responding to this Samantha Power issue?  Why is it always Obama?  Is it an ego thing where he has to do it, or he doesn‘t know how to do this thing with surrogates and staffers?

O‘DONNELL:  Obama was asked today about it, and he said, I don‘t want to get into a knife fight.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  It was interesting that he used the words because those are the words that David Brooks used in “The New York Times” in one of his columns, saying, Obama—all Obama has is hope, and if he runs a campaign where he abandons that hope, who does Obama the man become?

MATTHEWS:  OK...

O‘DONNELL:  But that‘s the dilemma for him.  You‘re absolutely right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... conservative columnist who is once again holding him up to a standard that nobody can meet.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But he has to defend himself.

O‘DONNELL:  We were having this discussion earlier, but what‘s happening now and what happened the past week which led to perhaps Clinton‘s victories in Ohio and Texas is that the Clinton campaign is dominating the message and so they headlines, and that means they‘re on the offense.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk about what they want him to do.  It‘s not

just that they‘re very effective, and they were going into Ohio and Texas -

boom, boom, boom, boom.  So all you see when you watch the newspapers or read the papers and watch television is him getting hit.  He‘s getting smashed back and forth.  But they get him to start punching back in a reactive way.  I once had somebody say to me, Don‘t react.  React is the worst thing you can do.  Can he elegantly...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How can he handle this and maintain his sort of Fred Astaire elegance?

ROBINSON:  Well, surrogates.  I mean, you know, surrogates, and he can

and then he, you know, stays above it all.  And he doesn‘t want to, you know, get down to that level.

MATTHEWS:  How do we score this thing, Norah, if we‘re just looking at it—a daily newspaper kind of reporting this.

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  There‘s Samantha Power.  She quits.  That makes Senator Clinton‘s case.  She must have—and by the way, Senator Clinton didn‘t say to Samantha Power, Quit.  She said, I‘m glad that Senator Obama did this.  He stuck it...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, they are were very good at close quarters, and I wonder if Obama is good at this kind of street fight.

O‘DONNELL:  There are two ways to look at this.  Clinton benefits because people like the fighter in her and people like that she‘s fighting for this job.  The flip side to that is that some people may look at it and say she‘s returning to the dirty, old school of politics, and that‘s why they like Barack Obama.  There‘s two ways that can play.

MATTHEWS:  You mean they might even think she‘s a monster.  Ha!

ROBINSON:  But the monster thing is...

O‘DONNELL:  So that—but the Clinton campaign has clearly decided that with her fighting, that that benefits her...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... what works.  She‘s been winning these two big primaries to a large extent because the people who decided in the last four or five days before the election went to her.  So what she was doing was effective.  And the other side can call her names, but in fact, it‘s working.

ROBINSON:  Put “monster” in context of—you know, I was correspondent in London for a couple of years.  There‘s—and there‘s a great tradition of this in English politics.  It was an argument between Dennis Healey and Jeffrey Howe (ph).  I think it was Healey who uttered the famous line, Being criticized by Jeffrey Howe is like being savaged by a dead sheep.  Now, can you imagine?  Could you say that in American politics?

MATTHEWS:  They‘re so much better...

ROBINSON:  It‘s a wonderful line.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) our language.  Anyway, thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.  Thank you, Gene Robinson.

Coming up: If Barack Obama manages to beat Hillary Clinton—well, he is beating her to the Democratic nomination so far—how will he do against John McCain?  Will Obama or McCain appeal more to crossover voters?  By the way, he‘s beating McCain by about 12 points right now, but a lot more people are switching to the Democratic side—or the Republican side, it turns out, than the other way around in such a match-up.  Anyway, a new report bucks the conventional wisdom on this one.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I want to thank all of you here, all the Republicans, independents and independent-thinking Democrats.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Sometimes they whisper to me when I‘m shaking hand (INAUDIBLE)  Barack, I‘m a Republican.  But I support you.  And I say, That‘s great.  Come on board.  You want to be on the change train!  That‘s what we‘re building here in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Obviously, Obama makes a point of talking to Republicans, talking to defecting Republicans (INAUDIBLE) defecting to him at his rallies, and Senator McCain speaks of courting Reagan Democrats, those Democrats that voted for Ronald Reagan.

But who wins the battle when it comes to the battle of the crossovers?  A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that in the McCain/Obama match-up, 8 percent of Republicans go for Obama, they switch over to the Democratic side, where McCain wins over 14 percent of Democrats.  A little more go to him.  And when it comes to white Democrats—I love the way we do this now -- 20 percent defect to McCain, then again, Obama beats McCain by 12 points overall.

Ron Brownstein is with “The National Journal” and John Harwood is CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent.  He‘s also with “The New York Times.”  Let me start with you, Ron.  It seems to me that we have to look at about three different things here.  Who wins the match-up between these guys?  And Barack still wins handily by double digits.  Then who wins the battle of the match-ups, of the crossovers.  Who is that?

RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Well, you have, basically—if you look at Obama versus McCain and compare it to Clinton versus McCain, Obama—with Obama, there‘s more crossover in both directions.  He wins more Republican votes than Clinton does, but he also loses more Democrats to McCain, especially downscale Democrats.  And the last piece of this is that Obama usually runs better among independents against McCain than Clinton does.

MATTHEWS:  So those people voting for Senator Clinton in Ohio are going to vote for McCain, some of them.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, right now—it‘s funny you mention Ohio.  A Quinnipiac University poll a couple weeks ago in Ohio, Barack Obama was winning 77 percent of Democrats against John McCain.  Hillary Clinton was winning 87 percent of Democrats against John McCain.  Pennsylvania, they polled the state, a general election polling, Barack Obama was winning 13 percent of Republicans against McCain.  Clinton was only winning 6 percent.  But if you look at Democrats, McCain gets 15 percent of the Democrats against Obama, only 9 percent against Clinton.

Clinton is a more traditional party-line kind of vote, whereas Obama cuts into the Republican vote with many of these upscale, well-educated voters that he‘s getting in the primaries, but continues, at least in this early polling, to suffer defections among those white, downscale Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... who have not been voting for him in the primary.  And at least in some of these early polls, those patterns are projecting forward into the general election.  You get a much more fluid situation with Obama...

MATTHEWS:  OK, to recap the numbers, McCain does better in the crossovers versus—versus Barack.

BROWNSTEIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But with Hillary, there aren‘t many crossovers.

BROWNSTEIN:  Either way.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  John, let me ask you about independents.  Independents, how do they do?  Because they seem to be a big bloc of voters everywhere maybe except Pennsylvania.

JOHN HARWOOD, SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: 

Well, independents is—has been an Obama constituency against Hillary Clinton. 

And he will do well with independents against John McCain in the fall.  But keep in mind, we‘re talking about how it looks right now.  I was just on the phone with a Democratic Senate strategist, who was pointing out, if you poll right now especially in some of the so-called red states, Obama will poll better. 

But that‘s where he is with his negatives right now.  What is he going to be in September or October?  That‘s more of a question mark for Democrats. 

BROWNSTEIN:  That is absolutely true.  This is a static picture. 

Part of the challenge for Democrats and the superdelegates, trying to figure out who which one of these candidates is stronger in the general, is projecting it forward through an actual campaign and what each one of these would look like after four months of argument. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Pennsylvania.

After six weeks of these people batting each other pretty hard—and it doesn‘t matter who started it, if they are batting each other—is either one of them going to be as strong as they are now facing John McCain next fall? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or are they both going to get weaker? 

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, you know, the history is, it could go either way, depending on how much damage they do to each other.  If they really...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how can you look better in six or seven weeks? 

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, because you will be dominating—you will be continuing to dominate the news.  That‘s the one disadvantage for McCain.

He is going to be off on the side.  The Democrats are dominating the news.  And the fact is, that ABC/”Washington Post” poll that came out this week did show both of them beating McCain by a bigger margin than before, despite the kind of intensity of the primary, because they are the ones in the headlines every day. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  And if you‘re the nominee...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree, on balance, it‘s better to be in the action, even if you‘re getting beat up? 

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  No.  It depends on the tenor of the thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is getting pretty rough. 

HARWOOD:  Well, we‘re at a hinge point right now.

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  And it could get much worse.  A lot of Democrats are getting very concerned about that.  The House and Senate leadership are worried about it.  And so are candidates on the ground trying to run competitive House and Senate races, as well as rank-and-file of the party. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what I see in Pennsylvania.  If this gets to be either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama in the general, the appeal of McCain is not so much conservative or Bushite.  It‘s military. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes, it is.

MATTHEWS:  Americans, traditionally, when in doubt, go to somebody sort of military, I mean, whether it‘s Ike or it‘s General Grant or it‘s William Henry Harrison or it‘s Zachary Taylor.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You go to somebody who has strength. 

Now, here‘s—and, by the way, the most credible institution in America today is the military.  It‘s not us. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look.

Here‘s Senator McCain said—what he said to “The New York Times” when asked—well, they asked him about an old report where he said he never had a conversation with John Kerry about his running mate. 

Now, this is the—the little side thing.  We‘re going to get into this.  This is like that firefight this morning over Samantha Power and whether she should have said that Hillary Clinton is a monster.  Apparently, they decided she shouldn‘t have said that.  She‘s out of the campaign. 

Let‘s take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Everybody knows that, that I had a conversation.  There‘s no living American in Washington that knows that.  There‘s no one.

And you know it, too. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  So—no, you know it.  You know it.  So, I don‘t know—even know why you asked.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  No, you do know it.  You do know it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  I don‘t know what you read or heard of or.  And I don‘t know the circumstances.  Maybe in May of ‘04, I hadn‘t had a conversation. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  I don‘t know, but it‘s well known that I had the conversation.  It was absolutely well known by everyone.  So, do you have another question on another issue? 

QUESTION:  Well, can I ask you when the conversation was? 

MCCAIN:  No, no, because it‘s—the issue is closed as far as I‘m concerned.  Everybody knows it.  Everybody knows it in America. 

QUESTION:  Can you describe the conversation? 

MCCAIN:  Pardon me? 

QUESTION:  Can you describe the conversation? 

MCCAIN:  No, of course, not.  I don‘t describe private conversations. 

QUESTION:  OK.  Can I ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  Why should I?  Then there‘s no such thing as a private conversation, is there, if you have a private conversation with someone and then come and tell you?  I don‘t know that that‘s a private conversation.  I think that‘s a public conversation. 

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  Can I ask you about your—why you‘re so angry? 

MCCAIN:  Pardon me? 

QUESTION:  Never mind.  Never mind. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN:  I mean, I mean, it‘s well known.  Everybody knows.  It‘s been well chronicled 1,000 times that John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate. 

QUESTION:  Right. 

MCCAIN:  And I said categorically no, under no circumstances.  That‘s all very well known. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the sound wasn‘t great there.  We‘re picking up conversations we never picked up before.  Obviously, that was a conversation picked up on an airplane between Senator John McCain, who is the Republican nominee, and Elisabeth Bumiller, who we all know very well from “The New York Times,” where he‘s taking her on, basically, because she said, did you ever have a conversation with John Kerry about joining his ticket back in ‘04?

And he said, I had a private conversation. 

And that gets to a great ethical question.  If you have a private conversation as a public figure, are you entitled to say, I never talked to him about joining his ticket, John? 

I mean, what are the rules here? 

HARWOOD:  No.  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  Can‘t you just say I never had a public conversation with him, so I‘m not going to tell you about it? 

HARWOOD:  Well, if that‘s what you say.  If you say I never—I never had a public conversation, fine. 

But I think the standard that those of us in the press hold candidates to is whether they are truthful.  And, so, if you get a question and you deny something, and then it later turns out to have been true, I think it‘s fair game to talk about it. 

MATTHEWS:  But, if he doesn‘t deny it, he admits it. 

HARWOOD:  Correct. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So there‘s no such thing as a private conversation. 

HARWOOD:  Well, depends on how what how the reporter gets to ask the question. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  And if they know enough to ask the question, you‘re kind of stuck. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you are.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  It‘s a reminder we‘re going to be living with these people for a long time, these nominees.  We‘re going to be in the living rooms every day with a degree of intensity we have never seen before.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  And how they wear is going to be important in November. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  And as a bookend with his attempt to walk out in the Rose Garden with George W. Bush, begin pulling the Republican base behind him, he doesn‘t—the topic of his flirtation or non-flirtation with John Kerry is not exactly what he wants to talk about. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, apparently not. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But I think you agreed—we agreed there, if you have a private conversation with somebody, and somebody knows what you talked about, you can‘t hide.  You‘re dead. 

HARWOOD:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  You‘re—you‘re not obliged to come out and—and announce it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HARWOOD:  But if somebody asks you...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  Privacy is...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  ... fleeting concept in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  I think Bill Clinton taught us that one.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Ron Brownstein and John Harwood.

Up next: a “Big Number.” that could be big news on the campaign trail and big trouble for the Republicans. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Now it‘s time for the offbeat part of this show.  What else is new in politics? 

Well, Mike Huckabee dropped out of the Republican race Tuesday night, but check out Ron Paul on this video. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Though victory in the conventional political sense is not available in the presidential race, many victories have been achieved due to your hard work and enthusiasm.  For that, I am deeply grateful and encouraged. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For a time, he seemed like the Lone Ranger out there.  The Texas congressman kept riding on, getting an impressive reputation out in the country, including among young people, who like his libertarian philosophy. 

But, this afternoon, a spokesman said that Ron Paul, who just won renomination to Congress, is reining in his presidential campaign. 

As we all know, Tuesday night, Senator John McCain achieved his dream of a lifetime.  He won enough delegates to become the presumptive Republican nominee for president. 

McCain went to the White House the next day.  President Bush invited him for a celebratory lunch before endorsing him.  And what did the president serve for lunch?  Champagne and caviar?  Surf and turf?  Nope.  Hot dogs.  Hot dogs.  Can you picture this?

Bush says to the White House chef, listen, this is a huge day for John

McCain.  He just won the Republican nomination to replace me.  He‘s been

eating junk food on the campaign trail, so let‘s make something real

special.  I got it.  Let‘s steam up a couple of hot dogs and throw in some

some pretzels maybe. 

Anyway, finally, the “Big Number” tonight—exit polls consistently show that Americans are worried about the economy, that people are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, their life savings.  And, today, the Labor Department released its February job report.

Tonight‘s “Big Number”—it‘s a bad one -- 63,000.  That‘s how many jobs were lost in the February month that just left us, in February, 63,000 jobs lost, the biggest number in five years, 63,000, tonight‘s big and, I must say, bad number. 

Up next: the Philadelphia story.  Bill Clinton comes to town to try to win over the ward leaders in my hometown.  They‘re meeting at City Committee.  Wouldn‘t you have loved to be there in that back room?  I would have loved to have been there.  We will find out what happened. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

More big stock losses following a bleak jobs report this Friday.  The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 146 points and fell below that key 12000 psychological level on the Dow.  It‘s the lowest closing since October of 2006. 

For the week, the Dow lost more than 370 points.  The S&P 500 fell almost 11 points today, and the Nasdaq dropped eight on Friday. 

The economy lost 63,000 jobs in February.  Chris was just telling you that‘s the biggest monthly decline in five years.  It‘s also the second straight month that the economy has lost jobs. 

Americans increased their borrowing in January as well, relying heavily on credit cards to make purchases.  Consumer credit soared in January at nearly double December‘s rate. 

And oil traded at another record high of $106.54 a barrel, before retreating.  Crude closed in the New York‘s session at $105.15 a barrel, down 32 cents on the day. 

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

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Well, today, in Philadelphia, there was some old-style politicking, and, right in the thick of it, President Bill Clinton.  He met with the Philadelphia ward leaders, working to convince them to support his wife.  The Obama campaign sent Congressman Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran and freshman congressman from Bucks County into the fight. 

We‘re going to talk to him in a moment. 

But joining me right now is the chairman of the City Committee in Philadelphia, U.S. Congressman Bob Brady. 

Congressman Brady, thank you for joining us. 

Give us a sense.  That meeting was closed to the press.  What was it like for Bill Clinton to speak for, what, an hour-and-a-quarter, to be followed by the Barack spokesman, Murphy? 

REP. ROBERT BRADY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, President Clinton was entertaining, charming, witty.  Everybody was glad to have him there.  Everybody was glad to see him.  He looked well.  And he was as good as he could ever be. 

MATTHEWS:  What was his big—can you remember, what was his main force?  Was it political or was it policy?  What was the pitch that is the strongest case for Senator Clinton to be the nominee from—well, from the Philadelphia Democratic Party, to start with? 

BRADY:  It was purely political, that is, that Hillary was the best person that he thought would be president of the United States and was the best qualified. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he say that she could do well in Pennsylvania, that she could beat McCain?  Did she—did he talk about the matchup with her—with him for the general in Pennsylvania in November? 

BRADY:  He—he thought that she would be—she would be the best person to—to beat McCain in the general election, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Did he take any shots at Barack Obama?  Did he talk about anything, the kinds of the stuff that‘s been coming out in the campaign about him being unprepared to meet a—to meet a crisis, anything like that? 

BRADY:  Not—not at all, just the opposite.  He praised Barack Obama, said that he was a very well-qualified person also to be president.  He just thought that Hillary would be best to serve the United States. 

But he—he said both of them would be great, and that the—this race and the way it‘s—the way it‘s shaping up is good for the—is good for the people and good for the Democratic Party, to have two strong candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  You have a lot of—in fact, probably about almost half your ward leaders are African-American, and your district has a lot of African-American voters in it, and constituents of yours, sir. 

Was that—was that a ticklish—ticklish issue for him today, to go into that City Committee headquarters and make a case against Barack Obama, with so many African-Americans in the room? 

BRADY:  No, not at all.  He didn‘t make a case against anybody.  He made a case for.  He made a case for Hillary Clinton.

And, again, he said that Barack was a qualified person and he thought that the two of them together are doing an excellent job on the campaign, all the money they‘re raising, all the—the fight that they‘re having, the campaigning against each other.  He thought it was good and it was great for the city of Philadelphia, for the United States. 

And he said that he was enjoying a great, interesting race. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the history of Philly in turning out.  Philly has always been the Democratic capital of Pennsylvania.  You have turned out—what were your majorities for, like, Jack Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, the last time around, John Kerry?  What are those numbers like?

BRADY:  They were 300,000, 350,000 majority.  And, for Kerry, we got 425,000 to 435,000, 445,000 majority for—for Kerry.  So, we do—our numbers overcome the rest of the part of the state that fall off on the Democratic side. 

MATTHEWS:  So, for a candidate to do well in Pennsylvania, they got to really win big in Philly?

BRADY:  When they win big in Philadelphia, it offsets the other numbers throughout the middle part of the state. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the—the role, as you see it of—you‘re not taking sides yet, are you, Mr. Chairman? 

BRADY:  Well, our ward leaders today decided to leave it open, to hold it open until we meet the candidates.  They are going to be in our backyard for six weeks.  They can certainly spend a half-hour with us, if we‘re so important. 

And both camps, both campaigns said that they would.  So, we‘re going to hear them.  We‘re going to hear Hillary herself.  We‘re going to Senator Barack Obama himself, and then possibly make a decision.  If not, we will leave it open.  Every ward leader can do what they think is best for their constituency. 

MATTHEWS:  What kind of a—kind of a vote does it take in City Committee to endorse?  Do you need two-thirds, or does a majority do it? 

BRADY:  No, a simple—a simple majority does it.  But we don‘t want to split each other. 

You know, Democrat is a family.  We‘re a family.  And we have a family squabble in our primary.  And the hardest part about my job is putting pieces back together for the general.  We‘re not the opposition.  The Republican Party is the opposition.  We need to be whole.  We need to do what we need to do on a primary day and not have anything, nothing spill over, no animosity spill over, that they won‘t support each other.  And that‘s just what we‘re going to do. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you worried about the appeal of John McCain, a military veteran, a guy who is a real military guy, who has sort of an interesting sort of middle-of-the-road touch to him?  Are you worried he might just pull an upset and carry Pennsylvania in November against the Democratic candidate, whoever it is? 

BRADY:  Not at all.  Whoever the Democratic nominee is, Senator Obama or Senator Clinton. will be success successful in the state of Pennsylvania and I also believe will be the next president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Bob Brady of Philadelphia, chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Committee. 

Joining me now is U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy, whose new book is called, “Taking The Hill, From Philly to Baghdad to the United States Congress.”  You young man, you had to go in there today.  I think you were David against Goliath, I would say fairly enough, or some other metaphor.  What was like it to follow Bill Clinton, one of the best spell binders, one of the best talkers, who has carried Philly himself a number of times, when you had to match up with him today on behalf of Barack Obama? 

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  They were some pretty big shoes to fill.  I just went in there, Chris, and I spoke my heart.  The reality is, today was a big win for the Barack Obama campaign.  The fact that the Clinton machine had their big ticket, President Clinton, going there seeking that endorsement and, at the end of the day, they did not endorse Hillary Clinton.  So, that‘s a big win for Barack Obama. 

But, you know, I like to highlight, Chairman Brady had it exactly right.  We‘re one Democratic family.  We need to make sure that the head of our family going into this election in November is our best chance, and I believe that‘s Barack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, listening to the chairman of the Philadelphia City Committee, Mr. Brady, I think he said when the candidates get before him, when they both show up, that there‘s a good chance there will be an endorsement of one or the other.  He wasn‘t sure on the factor, but he certainly thought it was a prospect. 

BRADY:  I think that the momentum that Barack Obama has established throughout the country, the fact that he‘s won most states, the fact that he has gotten this incredible amount of volunteers to join his campaign, so many people that have never been involved in politics before—and the most important part, Chris, is that Barack Obama is reaching across the aisle and getting a lot of independents and Republicans. 

My wife, for example, is a Republican.  She voted for George Bush twice.  And she is so excited about Barack and Michelle Obama to be the next president and first lady of our country. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is that guy standing on the top of that building behind you? 

BRADY:  Well, that‘s William Penn. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, that was a trick question.  If you got that wrong, you would have been in big trouble.  Hey, thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Patrick Murphy of Bucks County and a little bit of Philadelphia. 

BRADY:  That‘s right, mostly Philadelphia. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right. 

On the eve of the Democratic caucuses in Wyoming tomorrow night, we‘ve got the politics—by the way, we‘ll be on tomorrow night from 7:00 p.m.  to 8:00 Eastern time to give you the results of those Wyoming caucuses.  You know, Barack has been very good in the caucuses.  But we‘ll see if he can keep his string going.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight‘s round table, Perry Bacon of the “Washington Post,” Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and “Philadelphia Inquirer” reporter Dick Polman.  Thank you for joining us.  I want to start with Dick, because we just had the two Congressmen from Philadelphia, talking about the big face-off in City Committee today.  Who is going to get that endorsement from the Philadelphia Democratic Party, do you think, Dick? 

DICK POLMAN, “PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER”:  Well, if they endorse at all; they might stay neutral.  The problem they have is there‘s a big division.  You have maybe—you have wards, as you know, Chris, from northeast Philadelphia, south Philadelphia, predominantly white, not to put it in just race terms. 

MATTHEWS:  I understand the politic.  It doesn‘t offend me.  I under the ethnic nature of politics, yes.  So you think it might be an Obama endorsement.  No, there won‘t be an Obama?  There might be a Hillary or no endorsement? 

POLMAN:  Maybe it will be an Obama endorsement.  Philadelphia is going

to be a place where there will be a huge Obama vote.  And the problem with

you know, Congressman Brady was saying they want to stay neutral.  He‘s also the chairman.  His district is overwhelmingly African-American.  It‘s complicated.  You‘ve got West Philadelphia and Mayor Nutter, who is also a ward leader in West Philadelphia, and he‘s with Hillary. 

You‘ve also got—From what I hear, you got maybe 25 ward leaders who are inclined toward Hillary Clinton and maybe roughly the same number at this point inclined toward Obama.  You know, nothing official but that‘s what I hear.  I think the question really is, you know, does it matter?  I mean, ward leaders?  Does it matter?  This isn‘t like 1940, 1948 where everybody follows their ward leader. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I agree.  I think when it comes to president or mayor, you vote the person you want to have as mayor or president.  You don‘t listen to somebody who hands you a palm card or an official ballot.  Let‘s go right now to Perry.  I want to go to Perry Bacon, because we only have a couple minutes.  Perry, this trash talk, and that‘s my phrase for it, because it reminds me of infield chatter.  You know, she‘s a monster, he‘s Ken Starr.  Not all of it is official or tactical, but the fact that they‘re going back and forth on this, does it mean anything to the average person, the voter, you think?  Or does it mean anything to us as journalists? 

PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I think we‘ll cover it a lot.  It means a lot to us.  I‘m not sure.  We‘re talking about the Pennsylvania voters several weeks from now.  I‘m not sure if they‘ll recall this a few weeks from now.  So I think it won‘t mean a lot to the average voter.  I don‘t think the people in Wyoming are following very carefully the conference calls between the two campaigns where they criticize each other. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s hope they are not.  Let‘s go to Jennifer Donahue, who has been our favorite commentator for many months now, actually going back to a number of years ago. 

JENNIFER DONAHUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of it, this person, Samantha Power, who is not really a pol—she‘s an academic.  She makes a comment.  She tries to get it off the record.  It was untoward, let‘s agree.  She called the other candidate a monster.  I don‘t know what journalists generally—I think there‘s a lot of conversation that‘s a bit slangy.  That was acceptable in this kind of environment. 

Does it mean anything?  She had to quit.  I guess it means that. 

DONAHUE:  Well, you know, it means that.  I think what‘s happening right now is that Senator Clinton has less to loose by going negative.  So she‘s playing psychological warfare against Obama and his camp.  She can launch hand grenades because if Pennsylvania is, in fact, Ohio squared or quadrupled, she‘s favored to win it. 

So Obama and his camp are scurrying around.  They don‘t know how to go on defense.  They don‘t know whether they should hit back or take it.  In this power thing, they fired her before we could find out anything.  And I think Senator Clinton knows that.  She has him in a corner.  And she‘s punching hard, right? 

She‘s got him down.  Will he stay down ten seconds until she wins Pennsylvania?  Or will he find a way to step back up and make her look worse? 

MATTHEWS:  You know, we‘ve been here before, you know, Dick, with the Dukakis campaign.  I have a long political memory.  And I remember another guy who was a goo-goo, a good government type.  Every time something his campaign did, he would fire somebody.  Whether it was John Sasso for releasing that videotape showing that Joe Biden was mimicking a speech given by a British labor leader.  And he fired somebody for doing what I consider standard fare in politics, showing the other side is a fraud. 

Is Obama vulnerable for becoming too goody goody, and therefore becoming too weak? 

POLMAN:  Yes.  Well, I think he‘s in a box a little bit right now because, you know, he has invited us to hold him to a higher standard. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

POLMAN:  He says I‘m not going to engage in this kind of old politics,

so I‘m going to fire anybody who does it.  And so, you know, it‘s like

basically—you know, Hillary can come at him, you know, with a knife and

and, you know, if he responds without a knife, he risks getting cut up. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  It‘s harder to defend yourself with a pillow.  Anyway, we‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  Although a pillow is better than nothing. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  This is a moment of historic celebration for America.  But you got to make a choice.  A lot of people wish they didn‘t have to.  I‘ve had people say, I wish I could vote for both of you.  Well, that might be possible someday. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table.  Perry, you know, the genius I think of the current Clinton campaign is creating the notion that this election is even right now, that she‘s not 150 votes shy of the other guy, that she doesn‘t face a campaign schedule which is not really beneficial to her at this point, perhaps with the exception of Pennsylvania.  It acts as if this thing just started, when, in fact, we‘re very mature in this process.  Perry? 

BACON:  She‘s doing a good job of spinning the fact that they‘re winning big states, even though Obama has won some big states and spinning it like it‘s a tie.  You‘re right, mathematically it‘s very difficult for her to catch up without the super delegates sort of picking her over Obama, functionally.  They have made a good argument. 

I think people still have a sense still that Obama is ahead and he has won the most votes, and he won 11 in a row for a while.  So I think people still have a sense that he‘s done pretty well and are in this competition. 

MATTHEWS:  Dick, when the people vote in Pennsylvania next month, are they aware that even if they vote fairly handily for Senator Clinton, like 55, 60 percent for her, that the numbers column isn‘t going to change that much on delegates? 

POLMAN:  Well, I think they‘re becoming aware of that.  I mean, they are learning—they never thought they had to learn it but now they are.  I think they‘re just going to vote the way they feel.  The thing about it is, I think what Hillary Clinton is counting on here—you know, she knows certainly that because of the way delegates are allocated, even if she wins big, it doesn‘t shift that many delegates and close the gap sufficiently. 

But I think what she‘s looking for here is to ring up the biggest possible popular-vote margin, in the hopes perhaps in the end of the primaries, even if she‘s trailing in the delegates, maybe she would be ahead in the popular vote, maybe that would be an argument for the super delegates. 

MATTHEWS:  You are a smart man.  You think like I do.  Because I really do believe that, although I think democracy should be the number of votes you get, there‘s two I ways to count.  There‘s the delegates, and there‘s the popular vote.  And if you throw in the super delegates, Jennifer, it is a reasonable case to make to the super delegates, hey, he got the most delegates, because he was very good with the caucuses, which aren‘t entirely Democratic.  Senator Clinton got the most popular votes; give it to her. 

If—if—if she wins the popular vote.  If she doesn‘t, the argument doesn‘t apply.  It doesn‘t lies there. 

BACON:  I think she‘ll also can make the case that she has won a lot of the swing states.  Go ahead. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Jennifer. 

DONAHUE:  I‘m sorry.  I think if she does make that case—I think she‘s right now setting up that case.  She‘s pounding on Obama.  She‘s trying to raise questions in the party bosses‘ minds, saying he‘s only got a pillow; what is he going to do with that pillow with John McCain, put it on his head, have a slumber party?  John McCain is a tough guy.  Only I can fight. 

She‘s going to try to make it so that Obama looks like a puppy dog and that only she could save this candidacy and maybe she would let her come with her, actually, and maybe she‘ll only even serve one term.  Maybe that would be the backroom deal.  Guess what, Barack, I do like you.  How about you to be my running mate and I step out in four years.  That‘s what I see. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, she‘s got maybe a pair in her hands in a poker game here, maybe two threes.  She‘s playing it brilliantly in terms of the bluff.  Perry, your thought about how the senator, who is really behind in this race, is able to create the illusion among the press—I don‘t think among me—but among the press generally that this is close right now. 

BACON:  I think she‘s going to argue, if she wins Pennsylvania, she‘ll say I won Pennsylvania; I won Ohio; I won Florida; and I won Michigan.  Of course, those last two are in real dispute as well.  She‘ll say, I‘m winning the big swing states that are the ones we need to win in November.  That‘s the case they‘re beginning to make as well.  For Obama to win, it would be helpful for him to say, I won a big swing state we‘ll need in November as well. 

It will be a big momentum shift of sorts whoever wins Pennsylvania in that sense as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Dick, what do you think of this, putting Barack in the caboose thing will work, this idea, oh, I have room for him on my ticket if you give it to me.  Is that a profoundly important message?  Who would that work with? 

POLMAN:  Maybe it‘s the signal to Barack‘s followers that perhaps even if she cuts him up successfully in the end, there‘s still going to be something for them to help unite the party.  It‘s kind of like she‘s playing good cop, bad cop a little bit with Obama.  She‘s putting him in the chair, throwing water all over him.  In the same token saying, I‘ll dress you up and take you with me at the same time. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s working.  I think she knows how to do it.  By the way, I heard a guy, both good cop and bad cop.  She acts like he just hit her as she‘s hitting him.  I‘m not saying I love it, but I do notice it.  Thank you, Perry Bacon, sir.  Thank you, Jennifer, as always, from way up there.  Where are you in New Hampshire? 

DONAHUE:  I‘m in Manchester.  Guess what, the snow is melting. 

MATTHEWS:  God.  I remember Wooster, Massachusetts in college.  I remember the spring came somewhere around May 15th.  Thank you, Dick Polman from the “Philadelphia Inquirer.”  Tomorrow night, join me at 7:00 Eastern for live coverage of the Democratic caucuses in Wyoming.  We‘re going out to Cheney country to look for the Democrats out there.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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