updated 4/24/2008 11:08:33 AM ET 2008-04-24T15:08:33

Guests: David Gregory, John Harwood, Michelle Bernard, Rachel Maddow, Jay Carney 

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, she‘s back.  Hillary Clinton still in this race, taking the fight to North Carolina and Indiana as critics question why Obama cannot close the sale.  When will this race be over?  The RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. 

Welcome to the RACE.  I‘m David Gregory.  You have found the stop for the fast pace, the bottom line, and every point of view in the room.  On this program, every day is game day and we have a lot to pore over tonight. 

Ahead, inside the Clinton Pennsylvania win and what it means for this race moving forward.  We‘re going to break now the numbers. “Inside the War Room” we will look at the two states ahead now.  Who will win, where and why?  North Carolina and Indiana.  The big debate tonight as well, does Clinton now have her best case yet to these superdelegates?  It‘s all about electability. 

The bedrock of the program, as you know, a panel that comes to play.  And with us tonight, MSNBC political analyst and the host of the “Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow; CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent John Harwood; TIME magazine‘s Washington bureau chief Jay Carney; and MSNBC political analyst, president of the Independent Women‘s Forum, Michelle Bernard. 

We begin, as we do every night, with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day, it‘s the “Headline.” I‘ll begin here tonight, my “Headline,” what it takes.  Hillary Clinton may talk about winning by the numbers, but her real goal now is to win the argument.  Her contention?  Obama is not a viable candidate for the fall.  This is what she told Matt Lauer today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The delegates, all of them, have to make up their minds who they think is our stronger candidate.  I believe that in the last month, I have demonstrated a real strength, as certainly verified last night by the results and the kind of strength that delegates have to look at.  Because after all, they have to exercise independent judgment as to who they think is a better candidate to win. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  So critics will say Clinton is only in at this point to destroy Obama.  She will counter she‘s in it to prove his fundamental weakness and save the party from defeat in November.  His only effective answer, to win, to actually win primaries.  His test, act like a true front-runner and put her away. 

By June he may outlast Clinton, may outspend her and persuade superdelegates to side with him, game over.  But will he overcome doubt in the party?  Particularly doubts about whether he can build the kind of coalition that will win for the Democrats in November.  Only capturing the White House will put those doubts to rest.  That‘s my “Headline.” 

Jay Carney, your headline tonight the day after Pennsylvania? 

JAY CARNEY, TIME MAGAZINE:  David, my headline today is that John McCain, not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton was the real winner of the Democratic presidential—Pennsylvania Primary, rather.  And the reason is that John McCain was an unlikely Republican nominee when he emerged from the field, having won states with pluralities and not majorities, not having enjoyed the support of some of the basic base of his party. 

And in this period, since he wrapped up the Republican nomination and the Democrats have been at each other with, you know, throwing kitchen sinks and knives and baseball bats at one another, John McCain has slowly but surely improved his fundraising, restored his relations with his party which is key, and begun an effort to reach out to voters in the rest of the country that don‘t usually look to Republicans in presidential races. 

So there‘s no question in my mind, and I know the McCain campaign shares this view, he‘s the winner of this prolonged Democratic fight. 

GREGORY:  And he‘s looking to extend his electoral map come the fall. 

All right.  Jay, thanks a lot. 

John Harwood, hit me with your “Headline” tonight.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  David, my “Headline” is, it‘s the religion stupid.  We have paid a lot attention to women, older voters, blue collar whites, but it was Catholics who really turned out in huge numbers and did Hillary Clinton a huge favor last night.  They were more than a third of the vote in Pennsylvania.  They voted for Hillary Clinton by more than 2-1. 

Now Barack Obama‘s campaign says they have tried a lot of outreach to Catholics and have made some progress.  They‘re looking for some demographic relief in these upcoming states.  Catholics are less than 10 percent of the vote in North Carolina, and only 20 percent in Indiana, David. 

GREGORY:  John, what‘s going on?  Why is he losing them? 

HARWOOD:  They‘re culturally conservative voters.  These are the kind of people whom “bittergate” was likely to have affected.  Remember, what he talked about was people being frustrated by their economic circumstances and clinging to religion.  There are a lot of Catholics—culturally conservative Catholics, a week, by the way after the pope visited the United States, who might not have like those remarks very much. 

GREGORY:  So they are key in states like Michigan, in states like Pennsylvania, right?

HARWOOD:  And in states like Ohio, they were a quarter of the vote in Ohio.  But she did just as well in Pennsylvania with Catholics as she did in the state of Ohio.  Obama‘s heavy spending, David, had reduced some of his margins of defeat with other groups like older voters.  He made some progress there.  But Catholics held strong for Hillary Clinton. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Michelle, your headline tonight? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  David, my headline tonight is that last night‘s win by Senator Clinton had absolutely nothing to do with Pennsylvania, it‘s all about 2012.  My reason for stating this is pretty simple.  Conventional wisdom tells us that assuming that the Democrats follow their own rules during this election cycle, it is a mathematical certainty that Senator Clinton cannot win the general nomination unless the superdelegates of her party decide to basically ignore the person who has won the majority of the votes, ignore the person who has won the majority of the states and ignore the person who has the vast number of elected delegates. 

So that being said, we know Senator Clinton is a very smart woman and I think that it would behoove her to continue to bloody up Senator Barack Obama, get John McCain in office in 2008 so that her chances in 2012 are good.  If Barack Obama.

GREGORY:  It makes sense going forward, but I still think that she has got an argument in her own mind and in her own heart, which is a buyer‘s remorse argument against Obama that actually prevails before this contest is done.  Rachel, you‘re up, your headline tonight.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  My headline tonight is that John McCain has tried to put the kibosh on a Jeremiah Wright anti-Obama ad in North Carolina.  I think we‘ve actually got a clip from that ad here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  For 20 years Barack Obama sat in his pew listening to his pastor. 

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST:  And then wants us to sing “God Bless America”?  No, no, no, not God bless America!  God damn America!  That‘s in the Bible!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now Bev Perdue and Richard Moore endorsed Barack Obama.  They should know better.  He‘s just too extreme for North Carolina. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The North Carolina Republican Party sponsored this ad opposing Bev Perdue and Richard Moore for North Carolina governor. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  John McCain today proactively weighed in with the North Carolina GOP and asked them not to run that ad.  North Carolina GOP responded by saying, whatever, we‘re going to run it anyway.  John McCain therefore gets the benefit of the high road, of being seen to try to put the kibosh on this.  And of course, it will hurt Barack Obama when it runs in North Carolina. 

GREGORY:  This is not—it‘s certainly going to come up again, Rachel, whether it‘s North Carolina or somewhere else.  Is this a lasting political tactic on the part of McCain? 

MADDOW:  I think McCain recognizes that there are some political points to be gained, particularly with independents and with people for whom that Obama no politics as usual message is resonating, and this certainly gives him those points.  The fact that the ads are going to run anyway means it is actually a win-win for him instead of just a simple win. 

GREGORY:  All right.  We have a lot more to get to in the program.  With Pennsylvania now behind us, our focus, we‘ll turn to Indiana and North Carolina.  We‘ll see who has got the advantage as we look ahead.  The RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Show me the money.  Who has got more of it in the bank, who has got more IOUs?  How many millions has Hillary Clinton raked in since last night?  You‘re going to want to know that number, just how much money will even matter as we go forward?  That‘s a factor as well.  All of that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to the RACE. “Inside the War Room” we go now. 

These ‘08 campaigns, look at the strategies and look at the states ahead.  And back with us tonight, all-star panel Rachel Maddow, John Harwood, Jay Carney, and Michelle Bernard. 

First, we want to look inside North Carolina, May 6th, and the numbers that are important here.  Look at the latest polling coming out of the state.  This is an Obama advantage state if you look at the numbers.  He‘s up in The L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, 47-34. 

Jay Carney, you love to look at the polls here.  This is his kind of state, a huge African-American population, younger, also allows independents to vote.  He looks good there, do you think?

CARNEY:  Yes, I think all the numbers work to his advantage there.  I mean, what we‘ve seen in this rather interesting dynamic, the states that Obama has tended to be strong in and win are either states that are predominantly and overwhelmingly white with almost no African-Americans, states like Iowa and—or the states with more than 17 to 20 percent African-Americans. 

So North Carolina fits that bill, and as you mentioned, independents can vote, it‘s younger than Pennsylvania.  I think he should win it going away, and if he doesn‘t, that‘s a very, very bad sign for Barack Obama. 

GREGORY:  So Rachel Maddow, Hillary Clinton, does she face the same kind of test that Obama did in Pennsylvania, which is how close can she get? 

MADDOW:  Bingo, this is the exact mirror of Pennsylvania, because just as much as Pennsylvania was designed for Hillary Clinton to win it, North Carolina is designed for Barack Obama to win it.  So we‘re going to be back in the same situation in more ways than one two weeks from now talking about how big a margin he has to win by in order for that to be seen as decisive.  Expect most of the attention to be on Indiana for that reason.

GREGORY:  John, let‘s talk about all-stars here.  Elizabeth Edwards, is she in the game?  There has some talk about her showing up with Hillary Clinton as she has been waiting whether John Edwards endorses in this race.  Does Elizabeth get out there first? 

HARWOOD:  Certainly she could.  She has been speaking favorably of Hillary Clinton‘s approach to health care, criticizing Barack Obama for not having that mandate.  So I think there are some signs that you could have one of those advance guard things by the spouse. 

You know, we have seen that in Iowa.  The governor of Iowa will hold back in a Democratic caucus contest, but his wife will come out and endorse.  Christie Vilsack did that a couple of years ago for John Kerry.  And so we could see that happen again. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me talk about Indiana now, this is a different state.  A little bit more like Pennsylvania in the demographic makeup, also borders Illinois.  Sweet spot again for Barack Obama, he has won all those states that are bordering Illinois so far.  Look at the latest numbers.  If you look at the polling that we‘ve got out of Indiana, and it looks like this, a lot tighter there, L.A. Times/Bloomberg 40-35, Obama has the advantage. 

Michelle, who do you like here and why? 

BERNARD:  Well, I‘ve got to tell you, I‘m thinking that this is going to be a very close race.  In that race, the numbers are looking good for Barack Obama in Indiana right now.  But if—also, if I were him, I would be thinking it‘s a little bit too close for comfort.  He has got to get in there and he has got to—he has really got to campaign hard. 

In Indiana, you have a very small minority population, the median household income is about $40,000 per year, you don‘t have an extraordinarily high number of college graduates, even though you do have a lot of people who have graduated from high school.  But those people tend to vote for Hillary Clinton. 

If we see another Jeremiah Wright problem, elitist problem or a lot of negative campaign ads by Hillary Clinton, it could cost him some points in Indiana.  He has got to work very hard in that state. 

GREGORY:  All right.  So.

HARWOOD:  Though, Michelle, you do have that home cooking in the Chicago media market for Barack Obama. 

GREGORY:  He is well known.  All right.  But, Jay Carney, break it down for me.  You‘re Hillary Clinton, you‘ve got some momentum now, how do you come in there and win Indiana?  You have got Evan Bayh, you have got a lot of big institutional figures, politically on your side already. 

CARNEY:  Well, you‘ve got to work the Evan Bayh connection as hard as you can.  You have to build the message of that she has effectively established in Pennsylvania that I am more like you, I can speak for you, I‘ll represent you, I‘ll fight for you with working class Democrats. 

And, you know, if she beats him in Indiana, I think this is real trouble for Obama because then she can justifiably say that she has genuine momentum right as the race is being turned over to the superdelegates.  So I think this is the closest thing we have had since Iowa and New Hampshire to a single state decisive race.  And as goes Indiana, could really decide how this race turns out. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me keep moving here.  Let me talk about the money.  The Clinton camp says they are now on a roll, that they are on track to raise, wait for it, $10 million since she was declared the winner last night in Pennsylvania.  That money comes from 50,000 new donors, according to the campaign. 

It claims it has been their biggest fundraising day since their campaign started.  And while Obama spent record amounts in Pennsylvania, he still leads her in primary fundraising with around $40 million still in the bank.  According to recent reports, camp Clinton has disclosed over $10 million in debt, while the Obama camp is sitting on over $600,000 in unpaid bills. 

Look, Rachel, this is still an uneven playing field.  He has got more money.  She has got some money to spend now as he goes into these two contests.

MADDOW:  That‘s right, this may be the biggest number of the night in terms of overall importance.  There‘s an electability argument to be made about Hillary Clinton, if she starts off this next phase of the primary season in debt.  Simply being able to say her debt is cleared is going to take away an argument—I think a powerful argument to the superdelegates from the Obama camp. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  What does it mean, John Harwood, that she has got all of this money?

HARWOOD:  Well, look, following the laws of this race so far, candidates do better when they‘re in trouble, financially speaking.  So if she raised 10, he probably raised 40. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARWOOD:  Look, Barack Obama is going to have more money than her.  I do not think money is going to be decisive in this race.  You cannot knock somebody out with 2-1 television advertising who is as well known and as resilient as Hillary Clinton.  She‘s going to be able to get her message out.  And the onus really is, as we have been talking about, on Barack Obama to step up and show that he can win one of these level playing field contests, Indiana is that state. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Got to get another break in here.  Coming up, our own Tim Russert on Hillary Clinton‘s favorite subject, it‘s not math.  “Smart Takes” coming right up on the RACE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Time for “Smart Takes,” the smart reads of the day that we‘ve been looking through all day long, and the panel is going to comment on them now.  We‘ll go through these quickly and get around the horn with the panel. 

First up tonight, Dick Morris, he argued that Clinton‘s win was about older voters in Pennsylvania who prefer the old style, the establishment pols, fine.  But Indiana and North Carolina allow independents, he says, to vote and are younger.  Bottom line, advantage Obama. 

To the quote board. “And then,” he writes, “after the votes are counted in all of the primaries, look at the gang of four, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and John Edwards,” he says, “to join together and issue a challenge to the superdelegates, make up your minds.” 

John Harwood, the argument being that if he prevails—if Obama does, in Indiana and North Carolina, that‘s it, you put to it the superdelegates and say, let‘s end this? 

HARWOOD:  Well, look, that‘s the attitude of the entire party establishment.  Howard Dean has been calling on them to make a quick decision.  None of these party leaders can make either of these candidates get out.  But what they can do is get delegates to get off the fence, push them to get off the fence, and then the mathematics becomes irresistible if one candidate or the other can stand up and say, I‘ve got the votes for the nomination, that‘s the day that Hillary Clinton would get out if Barack Obama can do that. 

GREGORY:  Unless she can win this argument with the superdelegates, which is a viability argument, an electability argument, which is really all she has got left.

HARWOOD:  Yes.  Now—but she does have a chance with that argument.  It‘s not a crazy argument.  Some of these things on the edge about who has the more popular votes, all that is only important in as much as it influence what superdelegates do.  But they are free to make a decision and take the best interests of the party in mind.  That‘s legit.  They don‘t need to be reflexively following the popular vote if they think it‘s wrong for the party. 

GREGORY:  All right.  We keep going around the horn here.  Our second “Smart Take” tonight, the editorial page of The New York Times slamming Clinton‘s campaign for “taking the low road” in Pennsylvania. 

Here it is: “The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contest that preceded it.  It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity for which she is mostly responsible does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the ‘08 election. 

Rachel, comment.

MADDOW:  I think that The New York Times has about as much chance of shutting down negative tactics in this campaign as Howard Dean does of pushing one of the candidates out of the race.  It‘s just not going to happen.  The only thing that‘s going to make a difference here is the superdelegates. 

I think what we should be watching for is for the superdelegates—the uncommitted ones, to lose their anonymity.  To the extent that any of them have constituencies, I think you‘re going to start to see a push from the liberal blog world and among the activists to out the undecided superdelegates and to force them at the local level to declare themselves so this race will be over. 

GREGORY:  Yes.  Michelle, real quick, you know, Joe Scarborough on this program says, look, this hasn‘t been so mean and nasty, what has she done but created questions about whether Obama is viable and has the experience, has the chops to take on the job?

BERNARD:  Well, and I‘ve got to tell you, the last ad she did, I have heard a lot of criticism about it, but I thought it was a very effective ad, different people have different ideas about who she was reaching out to.  But security moms, they put George Bush in the White House in 2004, they did it in 2000.  That‘s who she reached out to in Ohio and Pennsylvania and it worked in both states.  It was not over the top negative. 

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  It worked against Max Cleland, works against Obama too.  It‘s so ugly.

GREGORY:  All right.  Let‘s get to the third “Smart Take.” This is important, the AP Ron Fournier lists the five key reasons why Obama can‘t close the deal and they are: race, working class voters, friends in trouble like Reverend Wright, inexperience, and mettle. 

Jay Carney, zero in on working class voters and why that matters. 

CARNEY:  Well, Because you cannot win plausibly as a Democratic candidate in a general election without not a majority of working class blue collar voters, but a sizable plurality.  And you can‘t win in states like Pennsylvania, which a Democrat has to win to win the White House.  You can‘t win states like Ohio, which a Democrat might need to win to win the White House, as we saw with John Kerry, unless he can pick up states elsewhere. 

It‘s a problem across the country for Obama and while he can argue that sure, New York and California, Massachusetts, he‘ll have no problems there, those are states that Hillary won, the working class voter problem is a problem in states that could decide the election. 

GREGORY:  John Harwood, he has not demonstrated, outside of Wisconsin, where he won, I believe, non-college educated whites, that he has been able to replicate that in other states. 

HARWOOD:  Exactly.  He did have some substantial margins among various constituencies that he had been weak on later in Maryland and Virginia.  But again, those blowout elections were the aberrations in this cycle.  I think Ron Fournier‘s take is very smart, as usual. 

I would rank, of those factors, inexperience as number one.  And it is in fact legitimate for Hillary Clinton to make an experienced commander-in-chief argument against him.  And the other is race, and they may play together a little bit.  The race may deepen the doubts of some people about his inexperience in stepping into the job. 

GREGORY:  Let me get the sound bite in from our leader—MEET THE PRESS moderator and Washington bureau chief Tim Russert on the “TODAY” show this morning.  And he is talking about essentially what Hillary Clinton‘s strongest subject will be, what her strongest argument will be.  Listen to Tim. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  The math is not her most important subject.  She likes psychology.  She can‘t beat Obama in math.  He‘s going to have more delegates and more cumulative popular vote, not counting Florida and Michigan, which no one is going to do. 

But psychology, she wants to get into the heads of these delegates and say, I‘m a tougher candidate against John McCain.  I can win the big states.  Don‘t feel obligated to vote for Obama.  You can switch and vote for me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Michelle, take 10 seconds here.  Why not give up her claim to the popular vote and just make it about his viability? 

BERNARD:  Well, that‘s absolutely what she should do because for anyone who is a reasonable person, and there are a lot of people out there, people know that Florida and Michigan are not going to count.  You cannot count the votes of those two states. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Got to go.  Be right back after this.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  We are bringing you a second special edition of the War Room tonight.  This round, we‘ll break down the exit polling out of Pennsylvania.  It‘s very interesting. 

Back with us, MSNBC political analyst and host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America, Rachel Maddow, cNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, “Time Magazine‘s” Washington bureau chief Jay Carney and MSNBC political analyst, president of the Independent Women‘s Forum, Michelle Bernard. 

First up, as Jay noted earlier, the real winner last night may be John McCain and not Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania.  According to exit polls, look at this, 43 percent of Clinton voters still say they‘ll stay home or vote for McCain if Obama is the nominee in the fall.  Is this a real threat?  And will this persuade super delegates to support Clinton?  Jay, pick up on that thought.  What do you say? 

CARNEY:  Well, I think the numbers are exaggerated.  People‘s emotions are running high.  If you support Obama and you saw Hillary Clinton win last night., you‘re pretty upset about it.  Vice versa; if you supported Hillary, you‘re happy.  You might say you won‘t support Barack Obama in the fall if he‘s the nominee. 

I think those numbers—I think the party will unify.  I think that Democrat will come around their nominee when that nominee is chosen.  But it has to be complete.  Even if it‘s four or five percent or six percent of these would-be Democrats who are crossing over to vote for John McCain, that could be instrumental in delivering the White House back to the Republicans. 

So this is a worry.  Although I think the numbers we‘re seeing right now are reflective of the passions of the moment. 

GREGORY:  But Michelle, is there not an opportunity with working class white voters particularly, the core of the Democratic base, might they be susceptible to the McCain argument.  He has cross over appeal.  He may come off in many ways as a more moderate Republican.  He may have aspects of his values and so on and credentials that may appeal to them. 

BERNARD:  John McCain is the maverick.  He is an independent.  He is just the type of candidate that, quote unquote, Reagan Democrats would absolutely be attracted to.  And the problem within the Democratic party is that regardless of who the nominee is, you‘re asking people to either cross over gender lines or to cross over racial lines.  And for some people, that could be quite difficult, particularly when all we‘re talking about is gender and race, and we‘re not really talking about the policies of either of the candidates. 

I expect that you will see a lot of working class white voters just say they‘re tired of it and they‘re going to stay home at the polls or they‘re going to vote for Senator McCain. 

(CROSS TALK)

HARWOOD:  He will lose downscale working class whites to John McCain, but he‘s going to gain upscale moderate Republicans from John McCain Over issues like social issues, issues like the war in Iraq. 

MADDOW:  It should also—

GREGORY:  I want to keep it moving here.  We got a lot to get to tonight.  Moving on, when asked who fought a fair fight, 68 percent of voters leaving the polls said Hillary Clinton made unfair attacks on Obama, while half said Obama unfairly attacked Clinton.  This is the highest we have seen of these negative numbers since South Carolina.  Does it constrain Clinton moving forward?  Will she have to dial back the negativity? 

Rachel, does she make Obama look like more of a victim here as he moves forward? 

MADDOW:  This statistic is only interesting as an exit poll.  It doesn‘t seem to affect how people vote.  People don‘t seem to be voting against candidates who they say see as throwing too much slime.  I would just say, factually, it should be noted that we‘re not necessarily asking anybody to cross gender lines in order to vote for Hillary Clinton.  A majority of the electorate is female in this country, particularly on the Democratic side. 

It should also be noted that Barack Obama improved among white working class voters and among white men, as compared to his performance in Ohio.  So some of the statistics don‘t necessarily fit the story line today, in terms of how Obama is doing on the trend lines. 

GREGORY:  It may be improvements, but he‘s still showing a consistent problem.  This is still a big area where he needs more improvement than he demonstrated last night. 

MADDOW:  But it‘s going the right direction, not the wrong direction for him. 

GREGORY:  That‘s why Indiana is such an important proving ground for him, right? 

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right. 

GREGORY:  How important was race to voters in Pennsylvania?  I thought this was interesting.  Even though only 16 percent of white voters said race was important, and 83 percent said race was not important, the exit polls reveals that indeed race was a factor in the Pennsylvania battle ground among white voters; 66 percent of white women, 56 percent of white men cast their vote for Clinton, compared to 87 percent of black women and 93 percent of black men who voted for Obama.  And worth noting, only seven percent of black men voted for Clinton. 

Jay, what do you make of it? 

CARNEY:  I think this is very serious.  I think that—there was a point in this race, in this Democratic primary, where it looked as though your gender or being a female was more of an obstacle in getting to the White House than being an African-American.  And I think what these numbers are showing us, as they showed us in Ohio, that race remains, you know, under the surface, a huge issue in terms of how people are going to vote.  And what‘s, I think, a little potentially frightening about these exit polls is that it‘s probably likely that a lot of people for whom race did play a role in how they cast their vote would not tell exit pollsters that fact, because they would want to hide it. 

So I think that, you know, we don‘t know what the ultimate impact, if Barack Obama is the nominee, what his race—you know, what the impact of his race will be on how people will vote.  We know that it will hurt him in some areas.  It will help him in others.  It will certainly completely energize the African-American vote and it will energize certain segments of the white vote. 

I think these numbers are big and it‘s definitely a worry if Obama is the nominee in the fall. 

GREGORY:  Let me move on.  Finally, white Catholics made up more than a third of Pennsylvania voters yesterday.  Hillary Clinton cleaned up in this demographic, taking home 71 percent of the white Catholic vote, compared to Obama‘s 29 percent.  The larger meaning here, are these Reagan Democrats that could go to McCain.  Michelle, this becomes a coalition question.  And Hillary Clinton‘s real argument is here that I should be able to make a subjective argument, since neither one of us is going to get to the magic number.  And part of that subjective argument is what kind of coalition can I put together in states that are going to matter? 

Barack Obama may be doing well in Republican states that he‘s unlikely to carry in the fall, but look at the coalition that I‘m putting together versus what he‘s putting together in states like Pennsylvania.  He could lose a state like Pennsylvania against John McCain if he‘s losing so badly among Catholic voters.  Catholic voters saying, I think only 60 percent would vote for Obama in a general election if he was up against McCain.  Big red flag there? 

BERNARD:  It is a red flag.  But also, one of the other things that we need to talk about is that as the campaign goes on and the negatives of both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton continue to escalate in opinion polls and general election polls, Senator McCain‘s numbers are going through the roof.  And quite frankly, in a match up between Senator McCain and Senator Clinton, Senator McCain wins.  Same thing, at least for the time being—and again, it‘s a snapshot in time.  But same thing in a match up between McCain and Senator Obama. 

GREGORY:  But he‘s not facing a whole lot of scrutiny right now.  He‘s getting a smooth ride.  He‘s doing his own thin while everybody focuses on the Democrats. 

HARWOOD:  This is going to change big-time once we get a general election going.  One other thing I think we need to point out is we‘re talking about a Democratic primary here; the white Catholics that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would have to worry about most in the general elections are not the ones who show up for a Democratic primary.  The fact that you lose a particular constituency in the primary, does not necessarily mean you‘re not going to get healthy with them in the fall in the general. 

GREGORY:  We‘re going to take another break here.  What does Hillary Clinton have to do to persuade super delegates to side with her.  We‘re coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to THE RACE, I‘m David Gregory.  Time now for the big questions of this race as it moves forward.  Still with us, Rachel Maddow, John Harwood, Jay Carney and Michelle Bernard.

First up, Hillary Clinton‘s race for the Democratic nomination rolls on even though she has virtually no chance of overtaking Barack Obama in pledged delegates.  The end game is not different.  But the Clinton campaign insists this race is not about the math.  In an interview on “MORNING JOE,” Clinton expanded on that argument, claiming to have won the most votes total, and pointing out what she sees as flaws in the pledged delegate metric. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  If you count, actually, the votes I got in Michigan, I now have been given more votes than anybody ever running for president in a Democratic primary. 

The votes that I got yesterday in Pennsylvania really represent a lot more votes per delegate than some of the smaller states that, frankly, we‘re not going to win in the fall.  So delegates have to take all of that into account.  How do we get to 270 electoral votes? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  A lot there.  The first question today, what is Hillary Clinton‘s best hope for persuading super delegates?  Rachel, let me start with you.  This issue with Florida and Michigan we‘re going to take up in just a moment.  But she‘s making a different argument about her coalition.  What do you say?

MADDOW:  She‘s making an argument that‘s involved really doing a big back bend over the rules.  You really have to get into some very gymnastic positions in order to portray this as if she is winning.  She is not winning.  Barack Obama is still winning, but she‘s not allowing him to finish it.  And so, therefore, she‘s raising questions about whether or not he really is going to be the choice or whether there‘s going to be some buyer‘s remorse.  That‘s it on the bare facts. 

CARNEY:  David, if I may, she‘s not bending over—the rules actually say that if a nominee—if a candidate cannot reach that 2025 delegate mark and therefore become the nominee, then it‘s up to the super delegates to decide and the super delegates can decide however they want. 

MADDOW:  She‘s not saying that.  She‘s saying, I‘ve got the popular vote.  I have won more votes than anybody else.

CARNEY:  I think that‘s a mistake.  And I think in the end her more persuasive argument is one that follows the rules.  The rules say—the program was designed in this way.  The question is not whether the super delegates should or should not, you know, just go—vote based on how the popular vote and the delegate count, the pledged delegate count played out, and overturn the will of the people.  The question is whether or not—do they have the intestinal fortitude to do that, because they‘re so convinced that Hillary Clinton would be a better nominee.  That we‘ll have to see.  They‘re certainly within their rights to do it. 

GREGORY:  They are within their rights.  This is the ultimate question; if there is buyer‘s remorse and you do have somebody who‘s ahead on all the points, on all the metrics that you‘re supposed to play by, do these elected delegates have the ability to then say, I‘m going to overturn the will of the people in my state by saying that, no, she is the better candidate?  That that‘s what the system is designed to do, but has there really ever been a test of the system where they have done anything other than go with the will of the people, Michelle? 

BERNARD:  No, we are in uncharted territory in every stretch of the imagination in this race.  Not all of the super delegates are elected officials, but a lot of them are.  And for the people who want to be re-elected, it‘s of the utmost importance that they do what their constituents want them to do. 

(CROSS TALK)

MADDOW:  I don‘t think there‘s any one solid unimpeachable argument for how the super delegates should decide.  I think the big issue in the Democratic party right now is when they will decide and how they can be forced to place their trust now rather than later.  

GREGORY:  It‘s a question not just of when they decide, but on an actual argument of who is really strongest.  And you do have a long campaign here, where Barack Obama was particularly strong, and you can argue that on points, he wrapped this thing up after Super Tuesday with those 11 straight contests.  But now he‘s gotten cold. 

MADDOW:  You can argue that the super delegates should decide based on who they think is the best candidate.  You can argue that they should decide based on how their constituents voted, or who got the most popular vote, or who has the momentum, or who won the most states.  They‘re all cogent arguments to make for how they should make up their minds. 

HARWOOD:  Hey David, Barack Obama is not going to look so cold if he wins half the remaining states, which he is likely to do. 

GREGORY:  Quick comment, Jay, and then let me get to number two.

CARNEY:  I was going to say that the super delegates will also have to decide about the future of the party.  They may believe in their heart of hearts that Hillary Clinton or a certain portion of them would be the better nominee in November.  But choosing her over Obama, who will have won more votes and more pledged delegates, could create a fissure within the Democratic party that could destroy the convention and maybe render the party so weak that it would have no chance in November. 

So the consequences of that decision would be huge. 

GREGORY:  All right, talking about destroying the party, the fight over Florida.  Next up, unlike Michigan, both Clinton and Obama‘s names were on the ballot.  And even though the DNC said before the vote it would not count the results, more than 1.7 million Florida Democrats went to the polls.  The result, Hillary Clinton got 50 percent of the vote and a net gain of about 300,000 votes, which she includes when comparing her popular vote total to Barack Obama. 

The second question today, is it fair to count the popular vote in Florida?  Rachel? 

MADDOW:  I don‘t feel like it is.  I feel like Florida ran a rogue primary, I felt like if Florida wants to do something within the Democratic party rules, then they can participate in the Democratic party process.  It may not feel like it is a fair system, but it is actually a system and to change the rules after the votes have already been cast, seems to be patently unfair. 

GREGORY:  John Harwood, let‘s talk about what our reporting tells us.  I talked to somebody high in the party today who said this goes to the credentials committee.  That‘s June 27, if I‘m not mistaken, and the logical scenario here is that the delegates get seated in a way where they don‘t determine the outcome.  So they may split the delegates up.  Maybe it‘s even 50 plus one in favor of Hillary Clinton, but nothing that‘s determinative so that they don‘t basically award bad behavior here on the part of Florida. 

HARWOOD:  That‘s by far the likeliest scenario.  They‘re going to split the delegates.  As for counting the votes; the votes don‘t count in any official way, other than in the argumentation that the candidates made.  All the political professionals know that the votes were cast.  But political pros also know there was no campaign.  So that is not likely to sway many super delegates. 

GREGORY:  Jay, what do you say? 

CARNEY:  I agree with John and I think it‘s irrelevant, really, how many votes she got.  It‘s part of her psychological argument.  It will be part of her argument that she would be able to put Florida in play and Barack Obama may not be able to.  But it makes no difference in the outcome. 

GREGORY:  But this is the ultimate problem and this is what, Rachel, you were getting at before; she feels she needs to make an argument based on the math because of how difficult it would be to say against a nominee who has won on points, and who has captured the votes, no, no, you should deny him because, really, he‘s not the most qualified candidate.  Trust me, I know.  That‘s a difficult argument to make. 

MADDOW:  It‘s a difficult argument to make.  It‘s like getting to the pennant race at the end of the Major League Baseball season and say, you know what, we‘re actually going to go back and count some of the Spring Training games because we played great.  You just can‘t do that.  When people played those games, when people cast those votes, they knew that they weren‘t going to be part of the subtotal. 

HARWOOD:  If you can‘t stand the heat, get out of that super delegate kitchen.

GREGORY:  Let me move on to question number three; Hillary Clinton says that she is the better candidate because she has won big blue states, California, New York, Pennsylvania.  Barack Obama says it‘s a mute point.  He told NBC‘s Ann Curry, either Democrat will carry the blue states in November.  But he is the only one who can change the electoral map. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If anybody thinks that I‘ll lose New York or California in the general election, there‘s no chance of that happening.  We will be able to mobilize Democrats in Ohio, in New York, in California, but also in Virginia and Colorado and a host of other states that Senator Clinton would not be able to put into play. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Third question then, does the Pennsylvania result really suggest trouble for Barack Obama in November?  Jay, you were talking about this before the show.  Take it. 

CARNEY:  It does.  You notice he didn‘t mention Pennsylvania, which is a key state, and Ohio is important too.  One thing I want to say, because I did say that the Pennsylvania primary, the winner of that was John McCain.  I have said a lot about how Obama is a weaker general election candidate than he appeared to be.  However, John McCain is the heir to George W.  Bush, who currently has 28 percent approval ratings in the polls.  You have a country that is telling pollsters that by 81 the country is going in the wrong direction. 

There are huge institutional advantages for the Democratic party here.  No matter how good a Republican nominee John McCain might be, no matter how many places he can reach out in the electoral map, he could be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of anti-Bush, anti-Republican feelings. 

GREGORY:  John Harwood, I‘ve got 20 seconds here, but I want to talk states.  If Obama doesn‘t win Pennsylvania in the fall, can he win Virginia?  How does he get to the White House without Pennsylvania? 

HARWOOD:  I think it would be very difficult for him to get to the White House without Pennsylvania, but I also think it‘s very unlikely that he would lose Pennsylvania.  He lost the Pennsylvania Democratic primary.  His point about the states like New York and California is exactly right.  They‘re very blue.  It‘s a tougher call in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, but I still think you cannot assume that Barack Obama cannot win those states. 

GREGORY:  Got to take a break.  Predictions from the panel coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Final moments here on THE RACE.  We spent the hour dissecting the Pennsylvania primary results and looking ahead to the upcoming Indiana and North Carolina primaries.  Now it‘s time to really crank up the pressure and get our panel to give us their predictions.  Still with us, Rachel, John, Jay and Michelle.  Michelle, you‘re up first. 

BERNARD:  David, my prediction is that North Carolina is going to be an Obama landslide and that the Clinton camp is going to play the race card.  I think we‘ll continue to see the one issue that will not go away during this campaign.  We saw it in South Carolina.  We saw it in Mississippi.  And that is when Senator Obama wins in states where you have significant African-American populations, we hear from the Clinton camp that those states don‘t really matter and, you know, what we are to anticipate from that is that they don‘t matter is because it‘s the African-American vote. 

So poo-poo, just the same way as they‘re poo-pooing his win in the smaller states and saying, well we won the big states.  Those are the only states that matter. 

GREGORY:  That‘s how they‘ll do it or do you see some other way?

BERNARD:  I think that‘s exactly what we will see.  I don‘t think it will come from Senator Clinton.  I think Bill Clinton will continue to implode.  It will likely come from him or somebody else in the Clinton camp.  These—they will ignore a win in North Carolina as if it didn‘t happen, because the vote will probably come from a large number of African-Americans. 

GREGORY:  If he runs up a big toting, he could close the gap on the popular vote that she gained from Pennsylvania.  Rachel, you‘re prediction tonight? 

MADDOW:  My prediction tonight is that John McCain has a big uneasy day tomorrow, as John Hagee‘s endorsement haunts him in New Orleans.  Pastor John Hagee has endorsed John McCain.  McCain says he‘s happy for the endorsement.  He has distance himself from Hagee‘s claim that the Catholic church is the great whore.  He has not distanced himself from Hagee‘s other controversial claims like this next one.  We‘ve got sound.  This is from Hagee speaking on NPR in September of 2006.  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV JOHN HAGEE, MCCAIN SUPPORTER:  I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to god and they were recipients of the judgment of god for that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Hagee‘s opinion about why New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina.  He went so far as to reiterate and underscore that opinion yesterday on right wing talk radio.  John McCain has refused to discuss those comments thus far.  Expect them to come home and hit him tomorrow when he is in New Orleans. 

GREGORY:  How much scrutiny does he get over time about Hagee or does it fitter away? 

MADDOW:  This has been a slow burn story.  He has only had to address it once in the national media with George Stephanopoulos this past week.  Stephanopoulos let him get away with saying that the endorsement was both a mistake and something that he was happy about.  He has faced almost no scrutiny on this in the media.  I think tomorrow, that might change. 

GREGORY:  He has gotten questions about this.  That was not the only place he got questions about this.  I know a couple of months ago he got it in a press conference as well.  He has been asked about it, but it hasn‘t stuck just yet. 

John, what do you see on the horizon? 

HARWOOD:  What I see, David, is Godly Indianapolis will become the new Des Moines.  Just like Iowa early in the process, Indiana is going to be the staging ground for the Democratic race over the next two weeks and Barack Obama has a real chance to end it by beating Hillary Clinton there.  He‘s going to out-spend her badly, just as he did in Pennsylvania.  But unlike Pennsylvania, he starts out slightly ahead. 

GREGORY:  He starts out ahead.  It took him a long time, but he made up ground in Pennsylvania, certainly not enough, but he did make up the ground.  Starting ahead here could be a big difference? 

HARWOOD:  Exactly, this is not as demographically daunting a state for Barack Obama.  He does have that nearby his home state advantage there.  This is a level playing field and a real test, must win for Hillary Clinton.  Barack Obama has a chance for that knockout punch. 

GREGORY:  Jay, what do you see coming? 

CARNEY:  David, my prediction Is that Barack Obama will return to the high road.  As you know, in the weekend leading up to the Pennsylvania primary, Obama sort of rolled up his sleeves, put on the gloves and started going negative against Hillary Clinton, to a degree that he had not in the past, both in his television ads and in his public presentations.  What we saw in the exit polls was that the late breakers in the Pennsylvania primary broke towards Hillary.  I think two out of three did. 

The lesson learned from that by the Obama campaign was that going negative, especially by the candidate himself, undermines his very brand.  Obama is supposed to be selling himself as someone who can transcend politics as usual, who wants to get away from the gutter sniping of the past.  So I think we‘ll see him do that. 

GREGORY:  All right, thanks a lot to a great panel.  That‘s going to do it for THE RACE for tonight.  Tomorrow is a new day and we‘re back here 6:00 pm Eastern time on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  Have a good evening.  Stay tuned, MSNBC is next with “HARDBALL.”

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

END   

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