updated 3/27/2008 10:15:54 AM ET 2008-03-27T14:15:54

DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  I‘m David Gregory. 

The pressure is mounting for Hillary Clinton to give up her bid for the nomination.  But both she and Bill Clinton insist tonight they are still in it to win it as the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. 

Welcome to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  Straight ahead this hour the fast pace, the “Smart Take,” and every point of view in the room  The bedrock of the program, a panel that comes to play. 

And with us tonight, Rachel Maddow, host of her own show on “Air America,” Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek,” senior White House correspondent, and Eugene Robinson, “Washington Post” columnist, all three MSNBC political analysts.  Also with us tonight, “Morning Joe” himself, the host of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough. 

We begin as we do every night with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day, “The Headlines.” 

Straight out to you, Joe Scarborough, what do you see tonight? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE” HOST:  I‘ll tell you what.  It‘s—the pressure is going to continue to build for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race.  The reason why, of course, collapsing poll numbers.  Not just with Hillary Clinton, but more importantly, which I‘m sure we‘re going to hear throughout this show, the fact that Democrats are getting more divided by the day and there are a lot of people who are supporting Hillary Clinton in this primary process who are now saying they are not going to support Barack Obama. 

It‘s getting too divisive for the Democratic leaders.  There are a lot of superdelegates that are getting nervous.  And a lot of people were concerned yesterday with Hillary Clinton going there on Reverend Wright.  They‘re believing that she‘s dividing this party.  Barack Obama may be the uniter.  They‘re going to push her to get out. 

GREGORY:  But Joe, who. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s the headline today but she‘s not going to do it. 

GREGORY:  Right.  All right.  We‘re going to go into that as well, as we just mentioned it at the top of the program.  But who‘s going to actually lead this charge within the party?  We don‘t see superdelegates breaking in a huge way yet.  We see pundits, other commentators weighing in questioning the math.  Who within the party steps up? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, of course, right now there just isn‘t anybody strong enough in the party to push Bill Clinton, who‘s really the senior statesman of the Democratic Party. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .and his wife off the cliff. 

Hillary Clinton, let‘s face it, if she doesn‘t become president of the United States, chances are very good she‘s going to be running the Senate for the Democratic Party for years to come.  She also could be a president four years from now if Barack Obama loses.  So there‘s nobody strong enough right now to get the Clintons out.  It comes down to math.  It‘s going to take an awful lot of superdelegates lining up for Barack Obama to convince Hillary Clinton she needs to leave. 

I just don‘t think she‘s going to do it. 

GREGORY:  Rachel Maddow, you‘re up.  What‘s your headlines tonight? 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Let choirs of angels sing, let the clouds parts, I agree with Joe for once.  I think Joe‘s exactly right.  The big headline of the day is that if it comes down to McCain versus Obama in the end, more than a quarter of Hillary Clinton supporters say they would vote for John McCain over Barack Obama. 

Wow.  That‘s the concrete bottom line number that tells us the real toll of this incredibly hard fought, incredibly long and, yes, incredibly divisive contest.  I think a lot of Democrats are looking at that number today and saying. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

MADDOW:  .ugh, let‘s get this thing over with. 

GREGORY:  But who are these voters?  Who—which part of the coalition believes that, do you think? 

MADDOW:  Every American who does not want John McCain to be president is looking at the number and saying ugh.  I think the way this gets resolved. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

MADDOW:  I think there will be on. 

GREGORY:  No, but I‘m saying, who is it within Hillary Clinton‘s support base that is saying that they would not support Barack Obama? 

MADDOW:  Oh I see. 

GREGORY:  Is it women?  Is it working class voters?  Who is it?  Older voters? 

MADDOW:  I mean I think it‘s any of her supporters who are susceptible

to the kinds of attacks, the kinds of messages that Barack Obama does not

deserve to be president, that he‘s not suited to be president, that there‘s

he‘s fundamentally unpresidential and unprepared.  Those sorts of attacks take away supporters who might say they would support him if Clinton, their first choice. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s what I was saying last week.  Again, it‘s the white blue-collar Republican voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  There‘s a lot of resentment there for what happened last week.  They‘re breaking away from Barack Obama and you have a lot of very progressive women who think that Barack Obama is getting really a free pass by the media and that Hillary Clinton is getting beaten up unfairly.  They believe that all along. 

MADDOW:  I think when you‘re looking at a number as high as 28 percent, I don‘t think you can say it‘s Pennsylvania and Ohio blue-collar, white (INAUDIBLE) women.  I think that‘s a lot of people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no.  I‘m saying that‘s nationwide.  I mean, that is your blue-collar voter making less than $50,000 that‘s been on Hillary Clinton‘s side for the most part.  But now there‘s a bleeding, they‘re saying we‘re just not coming back. 

GREGORY:  All right.  A lot more of this ahead. 

Richard Wolffe, welcome.  Are you—you‘re in Satellite City, Canada tonight apparently behind you, or you‘re an extra on the set of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  Anyway, what‘s your headline tonight? 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  My headline, voters for McCain make money not war.  Listen, John McCain may have started out his presidential campaign at a time when the war was riding high in sense of voters concern.  Just since the start of the year, it‘s the economy, stupid.  If you cannot find a better way to talk about the economy than that speech yesterday, which I think fell flat, maybe good to say you‘re not pandering on the housing crisis. 

But look, the snapshot today of Democrats today and tomorrow talking about the economy, John McCain talking in his pretty down beat way about the war, that‘s the snapshot of the general election.  And he‘s not where the general population is in terms of what voters are saying.  It‘s the economy. 

GREGORY:  And it‘s also a question of empathy over policy to basically come out and say the government is going to keep hands off here, is that what voters want to hear right now? 

WOLFFE:  Right.  That‘s absolutely true.  People want a solution.  And it may be great conservative principles for him.  But he does not need to prove his conservative principles anymore, he is the GOP nominee.  And so really, what‘s he doing?  He would gone from I-feel-your-pain to I-refuse-to-pander. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Gene, what‘s your headline tonight? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The war, in fact, is coming back, and coming back as a political issue in this campaign.  This offensive that‘s going on now in Iraq, what‘s basically happening is the Iraqi government, with backing from U.S. forces, is trying to take down the Mehdi Army, the biggest Shiite militia, especially entrenched in Basra, second largest city in Iraq.  There are pitched battles.  This could get extremely ugly.  This could define the future course of the war in Iraq at least through the election. 

And so we may not be talking about it now.  We‘re going to talk about it soon.  I think unfortunately for John McCain, I‘m not sure that his position on the war, which is essentially stay the course, is what‘s going to come out looking like the best thing to do to most voters.  And to take place. 

GREGORY:  All right.  But Gene, what‘s his trip wire on what makes it a bigger issue?  Is it have to be a spike in the violence?  Do you think people are really engaged in the dynamics of the split within the Mehdi Army? 

ROBINSON:  There is a spike in the violence.  We‘re seeing a spike in the violence.  We‘ve seen a spike in U.S. deaths.  We‘ve seen a spike in civilian deaths.  And the story is making its way back toward the front pages as rockets rain down on the green zone, which has been peaceful for months now. 

Baghdad is—you know, streets are empty again in Baghdad because people are fearful.  Basra, by all reports, is a war zone right now.  This is serious and we better pay attention. 

MADDOW:  David, I would just add politically that I think it really matters to John McCain, too, that when he gave his long-awaited Iraq speech.  His—what he said was, hey, shops are open, normal life is returning, things are getting better in Iraq, and it was so incongruous with today‘s headlines from Iraq.  I think that‘s got to hurt him just in terms of how in touch with reality he seems. 

GREGORY:  Is the danger, Joe Scarborough, that the Republicans, namely John McCain, gets into an argument with Democrats about whether there really is success in Iraq because of the surge? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why, I—right now I don‘t think a lot of Americans are going to be focused, like you said, with splits within the Mehdi Army.  Violence has spiked over the last couple of weeks.  But you know, Americans have actually been—have proven themselves to be adept at moving with the issues on the ground.  And of course, you‘ve seen the polls move over the past couple of months.  Iraq hasn‘t played a big role from Iowa forward. 

I think unless you have a Mehdi Army explosion over the next month or two, I just don‘t think it‘s going to be as big of an issue as it was in 2006.  And the reason why is outsider right now has a reason to fight against the Mehdi Army going after American troops because right now he‘s the most popular politician in Iraq.  If he can call for new elections peacefully, he‘s the guy that‘s going to be running the country, the ballot box, and not behind General Petraeus. 

GREGORY:  Quick (INAUDIBLE), Eugene. 

ROBINSON:  Unfortunately he‘s not in control of all his commanders. 

They know very well how to get the attention of the American people. 

Unfortunately it‘s killing American soldiers. 

GREGORY:  Right.  All right.

ROBINSON:  And they know how to do that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But he‘s got Petraeus, he‘s got Petraeus to deal with. 

It‘s not the Rumsfeld Defense Department anymore. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Coming up, Bill Clinton takes a shot at everyone calling for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race.  Yes, he is back. 

And later in the show, it‘s your turn to play with the panel.  You can call us 212-790-2299.  The e-mail address on your screen, Race08@msnbc.com

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  You might heard Barack Obama released his tax returns dating back to 2000.  They have been examined with a fine tooth comb.  So what do they tell us? 

Stick around, you‘ll find out. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back now in time to head “Inside the War Rooms” of the campaigns where we get a closer look at their strategies and weigh in on what is working and what isn‘t.  Back with us, Rachel Maddow, Richard Wolffe, Gene Robinson and Joe Scarborough. 

First up tonight, Bill Clinton back on the trail today, taking those gloves off again, launching this veiled attack at camp Obama. 

Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  If a politician doesn‘t want to get beat up, he shouldn‘t run for office.  If a football player doesn‘t want to get tackled, or want a risk of an occasional risk, he shouldn‘t put the pads on.  Let‘s just saddle up and have an argument.  What‘s the matter with that?  That‘s what America‘s about, right? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Richard Wolffe, this is—this is Bill Clinton saying this is not really hardball here.  This is in the confines of a pretty normal argument in a campaign.  No? 

WOLFFE:  Yes, I guess he is.  But two points.  First of all, some of Hillary Clinton‘s lowest moments in this campaign have been when her husband is out doing this kind of thing.  Secondly, wasn‘t it just yesterday that the Clinton campaign demanded that General McPeak step down for saying nasty things about Hillary Clinton?  Wasn‘t it the Clinton campaign wanted Samantha Power to step down. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

WOLFFE:  .because she called Hillary Clinton a monster.  Come on, guys.  If you want to play hardball, don‘t complain when the other side does that kind of thing. 

GREGORY:  Joe, does this work? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, first of all, I agree with Bill Clinton 100 percent.  I mean look at the campaigns that Bill Clinton ran as governor in Arkansas.  Look at the campaign he ran in ‘92 and ‘96.  This guy got mauled by the Republican Party, by the press, and he just kept on going.  What Barack Obama is putting up with is child‘s play compared to what most politicians running for president put up with.  I mean look back at. 

GREGORY:  But. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Look back at McCain in 2000.  He didn‘t go around whining. 

GREGORY:  Right.  Right.  But Rachel, but I hear something else going on here.  I think there‘s a taunt here, which is let‘s have an argument.  The Clinton campaign wants the debate, they want to mix it up.  It seems to be their hope of Obama‘s deconstruction here, whereas they would cast it as he wants to coast here, that he‘s got a big lead. 

MADDOW:  Which sounds tough until you realized that it‘s actually the candidate‘s spouse who‘s the taunting.  It‘s not—it sometimes takes away from your political toughness to invite somebody up and take a shot at you when it‘s not actually you who‘s saying that.  Bill Clinton is the twofer here.  He is the one who can throw stuff like this out, who can absorb some of the blows, who can take some of the criticisms for the hardship stuff.  Michelle Obama is not playing that kind of role in this campaign.  And so even though it may look like toughness, I do think it‘s a bit disingenuous. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Moving on, Barack Obama. 

ROBINSON:  But there‘s a really simple principle here, though. 

GREGORY:  Go ahead, Gene. 

ROBINSON:  A really simple principle here.  If you‘re behind you want to fight. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  If you‘re ahead you don‘t want to fight.  And that‘s what‘s happening. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Moving on, Barack Obama has released his tax return after days of being hounded by the Clinton campaign to do it.  The returns date back to 2000 and show a huge spike in donations to charities including Jeremiah Wright‘s church in Chicago from just over 2000 in ‘04 to over $77,000 in 2005. 

Question now, will this (INAUDIBLE) more calls for Clinton to release her own tax returns? 

Richard Wolffe, we do see he‘s getting ready to run for the president, as he is boosting his contributions to charities.  Do we see anything else? 

WOLFFE:  Not really.  I mean that‘s what‘s interesting about this in some ways is that, you vet the guy and there‘s no huge story there.  But it does make a mark it in the sand about his openness and, of course, puts pressure on Hillary Clinton because they know there is a big story out there in terms of the finances of the Clinton‘s post presidency.  Where did they get their money from because they have used it in this campaign? 

So it‘s a neat pivot, they say, look, we‘ve got clean hands, what about the other side? 

GREGORY:  Right.  The truth is, Joe Scarborough, that the Clinton, not only Hillary Clinton but Bill Clinton have a much longer record to scrutinize here in terms of contributions, all the contributions as well to the Clinton library. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, no doubt about it.  And of course, that‘s something that I suspect we‘re not going to be seeing until after Hillary Clinton‘s campaign is over.  But as far as the tax returns go, I just think it‘s a non-story for the most part.  These tax returns being released usually are.  I think Americans expect politicians and public figures at this level to make pretty good money.  The only thing t—you know, the only thing that they have to worry about is if people scrutinize how much money he gave to Reverend Wright. 

GREGORY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .because that keeps that story in the news. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Finally tonight, the Clinton camp is hammering home the message inside their war room that she is still in it to win it, laying out their case in a press release listening to series of myths and facts. 

Among the myths, the quote boars says, the myth, the delegate math works decisively against Hillary.  But they claim the fact is that the delegate math reflects an extremely close race that either candidate can win.  They went further to say, quote, “The math is actually very simple with hundreds of delegates still uncommitted neither candidate has reached the number of delegates required to secure the nomination and either candidate can reach the required number in the coming weeks and months.  That is indisputable.” 

Rachel, what is also indisputable is that she would really have to change the dynamic in this campaign and win something on the order of 70 percent of the rest of the delegates.  That is hard math. 

MADDOW:  The real realistic way to put this is that neither candidate can win with the remaining state-based contest.  Neither candidate can win without the superdelegates.  The question for Democrats is not whether or not they want the superdelegates to decide this, the superdelegates are going to decide this, gross as that may seem to a lot of Democratic voters.  And so therefore we should stop worrying about the ethics of that.  We‘re faced with that now.  And the real question on the people, when should the superdelegates decide?  Do we wait until Denver or do we force them to do some sort of superdelegate primary sometime more soon like in June, which has been proposed by the governor of Tennessee? 

GREGORY:  But Richard, is there anything beyond rhetoric here in saying, no, there really is a path to victory here that‘s real, that is actual arithmetic? 

WOLFFE:  No, it‘s rhetoric.  It‘s the department of voodoo math.  Look, the pledged delegates are the way we assess the will of the people in these races.  There are all sorts of caucus states that we still don‘t know where the popular vote is.  So we can argue out percentages of this or that or the other.  He has 150-odd lead in pledge delegates, that‘s 10 percent more than Hillary Clinton has.  It‘s a significant measure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We?  You said that how we decide it?  If that‘s the way we decided it—if that‘s the way the Democratic Party decided it, then they wouldn‘t have superdelegates.  That‘s the thing. 

Let me tell you what we love to do.  We in the media love to tell everybody which we have been telling everybody for months that the numbers don‘t add up for Hillary Clinton. 

WOLFFE:  So, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  She can‘t get enough delegates by Denver.  Well, guess what, the numbers don‘t add up for Barack Obama but we don‘t tell that side of the story, do we? 

WOLFFE:  No, we don‘t.  That happens to be the rules of the Democratic Party, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The superdelegates are the rules of the Democratic Party. 

WOLFFE:  And the pledge delegates. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And they can get any way they want. 

WOLFFE:  The pledge delegates are how people assess the votes of the people, the voters, what else is there? 

SCARBOROUGH:  There are superdelegates.  And if the superdelegates decide between now and Denver, which I hate to remind people but my god, that is months and months away, that Barack Obama cannot win because of things that happened after Pennsylvania, in May, June, July, that is a lifetime.  Harold McMillan said a week in politics is a lifetime.  We‘ve got months and months and months. 

GREGORY:  And let me jump in here to get in a break. 

Coming up there is—is there more to the Clinton campaign‘s aggressive tactics than just a plain wanting to beat Obama to the White House?  Plus Hillary Clinton stands to learn something from Al Gore.  Really?  Remember, he‘s the one who invented the Internet or did he?  It‘s all ahead on our “Smart Takes.”  Don‘t go away. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back tonight on the RACE we have combed the Internet, read the newspapers, read every blog and column, and we‘re bringing you tonight the smartest takes of the ‘08 race.  Here again, Rachel, Richard, Eugene and Joe. 

First up tonight, “New York Times” columnist Maureen Dowd wonders if the Clinton camp is already preparing for 2012.

Let‘s go to the quote board. 

“Some Clinton loyalist,” she writes, “are wondering aloud if the win-at all-cost strategy of Hillary and Bill is designed to rough up Obama so badly and leave the party so riven with Obama—that Obama will lose in November to McCain.  If McCain only served one term Hillary would have one last shot.  On Election Day in 2012, she‘d be 65.” 

Gene Robinson, “Smart Take” to you? 

ROBINSON:  You know, it‘s a smart analysis.  I love Maureen‘s analysis of the race.  It‘s always got, you know, a level of good old snark that I can never quite get to.  But, you know, that would be kind of perhaps apparent victory for Hillary Clinton, I mean, if she transparently tries to trash Barack Obama to the point where he can‘t win.  I don‘t think the party, you know, is going to look kindly on that in four years assuming he lost. 

You know—look, they have every reason, legitimate reason to go at each other within reason until we get to the convention.  If after the convention he‘s the nominee and she either trashes him or doesn‘t support the ticket, you know, fully and energetically, I think she looks really bad in the eyes of many Democrats. 

GREGORY:  Our second “Smart Take” tonight, Slate.com‘s Christopher Hitchens says Obama saw the Jeremiah Wright controversy coming from a mile away but instead chose to hedge his bets. 

Let‘s go to the quote board. 

“Senator Obama,” he writes, “has long known perfectly well, in other words, that he‘d one day have to put some daylight between himself and a big mouth Farrakhan fan.  But he felt he needed his south side Chicago base in the meantime so he coldly decided to double-cross that bridge when he came to it.  And now we are supposed to marvel at the silky success of the maneuver.” 

The argument here, Joe, it‘s pretty in your face, the idea that he needed him politically and he‘d have to ride it out until it become a real political problem. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  And what Hitchens did, I thought, pretty well in Slate is he went through Obama‘s statements a year ago, six months ago, statements from Reverend Wright when Reverend Wright said that he had talked to Barack Obama, who told him, hey, the further along this gets, chances are good, the more I‘m going to have to distance myself from you.  Wright says he understood that.  But also you have Barack Obama telling Reverend Wright, his spiritual adviser that he was too hot to touch when he made his announcement, didn‘t want him giving the invocation. 

So again, Hitchens does a pretty good job dissecting this and the history of it to help us explain how the same preacher that helped Barack Obama get elected to the state Senate then the U.S. Senate became a hindrance and that Barack Obama saw all of this coming a mile away. 

GREGORY:  Richard, the question is, is there a pivot—another pivot in Barack Obama‘s future here on Wright?  Does he have to move even farther away from him? 

WOLFFE:  No, I don‘t think so.  They‘ve gone through this as much as they want to.  What he wants to do now is talk about, obviously, race and racial politics.  But one point about what everyone‘s positions as a sort of political relationship between these two guys with one extraordinary exception.  You know, we have the book that Barack Obama wrote before he entered politics.  And in it we see the whole history of his first relationship with Jeremiah Wright.  It wasn‘t political. 

It was an introduction to faith and to community and to a sense of belonging.  Now you can dismiss it all as the guy who got him into Chicago politics, but that really doesn‘t capture anything that was put into that first book.  So look, yes, there‘s a lot of politics going on right now.  But this relationship is a more complicated.  That big mistake, they never explained the relationship until now. 

MADDOW:  I would also just say. 

ROBINSON:  Now also. 

MADDOW:  Go ahead, Gene. 

ROBINSON:  I was going to say it‘s kind of moot at this point.  He is no longer the pastor of that church.  And so where is the relationship?  Does he come over to Obama‘s house every once in a while, they talk on the phone?  I‘m not sure we‘re going to know what the relationship is because it‘s no longer a public relationship. 

MADDOW:  I think it‘s also sort of a slanted look at Barack Obama‘s political history to say that he‘s need to kind of coddle his base on the south side of Chicago.  I mean don‘t forget that when Barack Obama won that Senate seat in Illinois he won by a very Castro-esque proportion of the vote.  It‘s not like he‘s had a real hard time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, actually he got blown out by Bobby Russ when he ran for him for the United States Congress. 

MADDOW:  And. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .when he was a member of that church.  What he said here. 

MADDOW:  And when he ran for Senate to get his current position and rise to national prominence against Alan Keyes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

MADDOW:  He got something like 400 percent of the vote.  Joe, come on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, of course, he did. 

MADDOW:  He‘s not had to fight to hold on to that constituency. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, actually, you know what?  He became a member of the church, and then he ran for United States Congress and he lost badly.  I find it very interesting that everybody here is willing to give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt.  And I‘m glad if we‘re willing to all do that now as reporters, journalists, commentators.  I wonder if we‘d be giving Hillary Clinton the same benefit of the doubt. 

MADDOW:  I‘m not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .and saying, oh, it‘s just all spiritual, there‘s nothing political involved in this. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me get in here.  When we come back, the question game, is the Monica Lewinsky scandal making its way into the ‘08 race after all? 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory.  This is our second week on the air.  Glad to have you here.  We have the panel that comes to play.  This is the part of the show when we take our three big questions of the campaign straight to them. 

Still with us, Rachel Maddow, host of her own show on Air America, Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek‘s” senior White House correspondent, Eugene Robinson, “Washington Post” columnist.  They are all MSNBC political analysts.  And “MORNING JOE” is here, too, the host of “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough. 

First up, Ron Fournier of the Associated Press hears echoes of Al Gore after Clinton came under fire yesterday for her Bosnia comments.  To the quote board, “polls show that voters wonder about Clinton‘s honesty and authenticity.  The Bosnia story plays to that character issue.  As former Vice President Al Gore could tell her, once the media and voters start doubting a candidate‘s integrity, every episode that fits that narrative gets blown out of proportion.  Gore never said he invented the Internet, but such nuance was lost on people who voted against him back in 2000.” 

Our first question tonight, does Senator Clinton have an authenticity problem?  Joe Scarborough?

SCARBOROUGH:  This doesn‘t seem to be an issue yet.  But Ron nailed the point.  The problem with Al Gore was he had a history of making exaggerated comments, suggesting he was more important than he really was.  So, in 2000, I think the press was almost hyper sensitive, over sensitive, to any possible exaggerations.  That hasn‘t really been the narrative against Hillary Clinton, until the last month or so regarding peace in Ireland and now this story about Bosnia. 

So, no, not a key issue.  If you have three or four more issues like this, perhaps it hurts. 

GREGORY:  What‘s interesting to me, Rachel Maddow, on the Bosnia question, yes, you can believe it was a misstatement.  But two points come rearing back; she said it more than once.  On several occasions she said this.  I had a viewer call today on my voice mail and say, how could you possibly get something like that wrong when you‘re traveling with your child.  You would never forget if with your child you came under fire. 

MADDOW:  But the story of political resonance, David, is whether or not these items, these individual news flashes, fit into a story that the media wants to tell.  That‘s what political resonance is.  Hillary Clinton seeming un-credible because of that issue doesn‘t fit into a larger narrative that the media wants to put her in.  It‘s not going to get repeated.  It‘s not going to be linked to—it‘s not going to be endlessly repeated and linked to lots of other stories. 

Case in point on the other side, John McCain with the al Qaeda Iran conflation.  He made that comment at least four different times, but because the media doesn‘t want to tell a story that John McCain isn‘t getting something right on foreign policy and terrorism, no matter how many times he restated it, it keeps getting dismissed as a gaffe.  It keeps getting written out of the story, because it doesn‘t resonate the way they want it to. 

GREGORY:  Let‘s move on.  There‘s clearly a toughness gene that runs in the Clinton family bloodline.  We‘re going to take a listen to Chelsea Clinton batting away a question about Monica Lewinsky. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER:  Wow, you‘re the first person that‘s ever asked me that question in the maybe 70 college campuses that I have now been to.  And I do not think that‘s any of your business.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  The question was about whether it hurt her authenticity, hurt her credibility, the Lewinsky Scandal hurt Hillary Clinton‘s credibility.  Most people would probably defend Chelsea Clinton‘s answer.  But this moment inspired question number two: has the Lewinsky episode colored the ‘08 race in some way?  Gene, is it in the background there, without talking about it? 

ROBINSON:  Well, it‘s always in the background.  I don‘t think it‘s a huge issue right now.  It‘s not in the middle of the campaign.  It sounds to me from that clip, the interesting thing I draw from it is that Chelsea obviously has a bit of Bill in her, in the way she handled that question, to go after the question.  It‘s the first time anybody has—she didn‘t say this—but dared to ask me that question.  And I‘m not going to answer it. 

So I think most people would respect that, even though she is an adult, and she is a campaign surrogate at this point, and you expect to be able to ask those people whatever you want to ask them.  She‘s a daughter who went through a difficult time.  And I think people are going to respect that. 

GREGORY:  Richard, you know that opinions about Hillary Clinton, just as Bill Clinton, are, in fact, impacted by the Lewinsky episode, which most people know everything they want to know about. 

WOLFFE:  Sure they are.  Look, the media jumped on her White House records, Hillary‘s White House records.  One of the first things they looked for was what was she doing on the day of one of the trips with Lewinsky.  So this story is always going to be there.  It‘s part, for worse not better, the Clinton brand.  That does impact on the question of honesty and authenticity. 

Now, it‘s not a big point in this campaign, but it‘s in the back ground and it always will be with the Clintons. 

SCARBOROUGH:  For the record really quickly, as a Republican who was there during the scandal, Bill Clinton‘s ratings were like 50 percent when it started and 63 percent when he left office.  So the Clintons hope that Lewinsky is in the background.  It worked. 

GREGORY:  This just in, we always want to be about fresh information here on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  We have some fresh NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” polls to share with you.  First, the general standing among the Democrats; our latest poll shows Hillary Clinton tied with Barack Obama nationally.  Look at the numbers, 45 percent.  This is a two-point loss for Clinton in the past two weeks, along with a two-point gain for Barack Obama. 

Next, this next one breaks down their positive ratings, positive reaction to Clinton now stands at 37 percent, an eight point drop over the past two weeks.  Let‘s compare that to Barack Obama currently got a positive rating of 49 percent, down just two points in the past two weeks. 

You go to the negative ratings; Hillary Clinton‘s negative now 48 percent, a five-point gain in the past two weeks.  Barack Obama‘s negative rating 32 percent, that‘s up four points in the past two weeks. 

If you look at all of it, you look at the issue of Reverend Wright and all of this, Joe, what do you make? 

SCARBOROUGH:  The most stunning statistic is she‘s only got a 37 percent approval rating, but 45 percent of Democrats are voting for her.  What does that say about Barack Obama?  That would scare the hell out of me if I were running his campaign.  Again, a 37 percent approval rating for Hillary Clinton, and yet she‘s getting 45 percent of Democratic voters nationwide.  What does that say about the state of the Democratic party right now and their front-runner Barack Obama. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, you look at the Reverend Wright episode over the last couple of weeks; it‘s not had a huge impact that we can discern from this poll on negatives for Barack Obama. 

MADDOW:  Yes, that‘s right.  The big story here for me is just the resilience of Barack Obama.  He got hit really hard from a lot of different sides over the past few weeks, and he seems to be bouncing right back from that.  My principle in looking at negative campaigning on the Democratic side or the Republican side is that even though lots of pundits like to say that it‘s going to backfire on the person doing the negative campaigning, it‘s going to make the person who is throwing those—make the person who is throwing those punches look bad, it doesn‘t ever really manifest that way in the polls. 

So I think the real story is not that people are turning against Hillary.  It‘s that Obama seems to be bouncing back after all that. 

GREGORY:  Go ahead, gene.  Hold on.  My question here is: if you look at the positive and negative ratings, do you point to Obama‘s speech.  Did he get out of the thicket here with the speech and help keep his negative numbers in check? 

ROBINSON:  Yes, I think you can conclude a few things.  Number one, the speech seems to have done well.  It seems to have really helped him weather the storm.  One possibility is that when things get nasty and dirty, Obama has more teflon than Hillary Clinton does, and things stick to her.  So the controversy was really about him, but she ended up taking the hit. 

The other possibility is that some of this increase in her negative is coming from people who supported Obama, but who basically thought Hillary Clinton is OK.  She‘d be a fine nominee.  Maybe they don‘t think that anymore. 

GREGORY:  Final thought from Richard, what do you make of these numbers? 

WOLFFE:  Well, Democrats can‘t make a decision.  That‘s number one.  Number two, look, if this is the worst period that Obama has been through, and it has been hell for them on the Wright story, then—what people want to hear is what the candidates have to say.  They tune into it.  They tune into his speech.  He came out pretty well out of it, considering all that happened. 

Hillary Clinton on Bosnia, again, what do the candidates say?  That‘s what the voters are reacting to.  Not what the people around them, not what the noise chamber says. 

GREGORY:  Those are the fresh numbers here from our new poll.  Coming up, you get to play with the panel.  One viewer wants to know if we should expect a McCain/Clinton ticket in November.  It‘s the question.  Plus, it‘s almost prediction time.  If you‘re the Clinton campaign, you‘re going to want to hear what Richard has to say tonight.  Don‘t go away. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Back now and time to throw your hat into the ring.  We read your e-mails and listened to the voice mail.  It‘s time for you to play with the panel. 

Still with us Rachel Maddow, Richard Wolffe, Eugene Robinson and Joe Scarborough.  First up, Howie in Alaska says the gender and race debate is driving Democrats away from the party.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m from Anchorage, Alaska.  The way the Democratic party is arguing right now, I feel and everybody I know feels that they want to vote Republican just to get away from a racial or a gender-type situation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Rachel, it does underscore the point here that we are not debating issues at this point.  Every bit of debate on that appears to have occurred. 

MADDOW:  It does beg the question as to whether or not a white man has a race or gender.  Can you necessarily abandon either of those categories by just picking a white guy.  The problem on the Democratic side right now is that it‘s personal and petty and pointless and divisive.  It has no end game that comes up with a credible general election strategy for either Democratic candidate.  They have to end it and they have to start turning their attention to Mr. John McCain. 

GREGORY:  Jesse in Freeport says, the number of people changing party affiliation in Pennsylvania is only good news for Obama.  “In Pennsylvania, a record number of Republicans have changed to Democrats.  If anybody thinks that any of these Republicans are going to vote for Hillary, they are sadly mistaken.  It‘s common knowledge Republicans don‘t like Hillary Clinton.  So these Republicans who have changed their party are going to vote for Obama.”  Are these Obama-cans, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what, what‘s common knowledge right now is that a lot of Republicans don‘t like the Republican party.  There‘s been a growing disenchantment for years now.  Republicans haven‘t been acting like Republicans since they controlled Washington, D.C.  I think you‘re going to have a lot of Republicans bolting from their party to vote in a Pennsylvania primary that finally matters. 

This is the good news.  This is the silver lining for the Democratic party.  There‘s been a historic number of Democrats going out to vote in the caucus, in the primaries, a historic amount of money being raised.  Barack Obama has raised more money in February than John McCain has raised in the entire campaign.  The excitement is still on the Democratic party.  If they can put identity politics behind them, 2008 is going to be a huge year. 

MADDOW:  It would be great, of course, if they were raising all that money and not also spending a million and a half of it a day attacking each other. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The reason they can spend all that money is because the way Barack Obama is using the Internet.  He just goes to the Internet, pushes a button.  He‘s got to get a million contributors.  They give 25 dollars.  You‘re in pretty good shape. 

GREGORY:  You also—Rachel, you don‘t have people sitting on the sidelines.  To Joe‘s point, in Pennsylvania you have record turnout.  You pointed this out last night.  These are not people who are sitting out because they are turned off by the race.  They are still engaged. 

MADDOW:  That is still the silver lining.  I mean, the enthusiasm is still there.  But, at the same time, the warning signs are also there, like with this new Gallup Poll, where Democrats are saying they hate the other candidate so much they would vote for McCain instead, if their chosen candidate didn‘t win. 

We still have positive signs for Democrats over all, but the warning signs are getting louder and louder and louder. 

GREGORY:  The question, I think, Gene, is what about Obama supporters?  The numbers don‘t reflect this as well.  But Obama supporters could certainly be turned off if, all of a sudden, this dynamic changes and what they thought was a dynamic of him coasting to victory gets up ended. 

ROBINSON:  Sure, a lot of bad things could happen.  That‘s one of them from the Democratic party‘s stand point.  My suspicion is that unless something really awful happens between the two candidates, all-out kind of rip out his or her throat kind of warfare, I think most Democrats are going to come back to the Democratic nominee.  I don‘t actually believe they are going to vote for John McCain when the time comes, because they are going to be big issues, like health insurance, like the war, a bunch of issues on which there is a very stark disagreement. 

And so—now, if one in five voters for either side is saying that they are not going to vote for the other one—you know, I don‘t think it‘s going to be that.  Even if it goes down to one in ten, that could still be a problem.  There‘s going to be a lot of mending to do. 

GREGORY:  Moving on.  Michelle thinks she knows why the super delegates at this point are not flocking to Obama; “I think the super delegates are scared of the Clinton political machine.  If Barack was sitting in Hillary‘s shoes right now, there would super delegates coming out of thee wood work to endorse Obama.”  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  I think, really, the super delegates, just like a lot of people in the media, are afraid to bury Hillary Clinton politically because we remember what happened in New Hampshire.  We already buried her in New Hampshire and she came back and proved us all wrong.  Then we buried her before Super Tuesday and she came back and proved us all wrong.  Then we buried her again and then she came back with Texas and Ohio, proved us all wrong.  This is a woman that you dismiss at your own expense, at your own risk. 

GREGORY:  What I think is interesting about that, Richard, is you talk to top Obama advisors, and they will talk about all the private support among super delegates, but they can‘t get the flood gates to open.  Sure, they have had a lot of them come their way since Super Tuesday.  But they can‘t get the flood gates to open.  Why?  Because they are being told they don‘t yet see a clear winner. 

WOLFFE:  Sure they don‘t.  There are still primaries out there.  Getting some of these people, who are pretty scared about their own place in the party, their own political future, that‘s not easy thing to do.  Having said that, look at the flow of super delegates since Super Tuesday, massively in Obama‘s favor.  That‘s got to be worrying for the Clintons. 

Just one point, Joe, we didn‘t bury Hillary Clinton.  People on TV might have, but the reporters didn‘t. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what, you are so great.  I‘m sorry that I mis-underestimated you or whatever George Bush would say.  Let me tell you something, everything I read, every political analyst I read the weekend before New Hampshire, said Hillary Clinton was facing her Waterloo.  Richard, if you didn‘t do it, and if “Newsweek” didn‘t do it, congratulations.  You were alone in the crowd. 

Richard, what I really want to know is what the hell is behind you, because it moves every time you move.  It‘s a blue blob.  Move to the left and right really quickly.  Please, Richard, move.  What is that?  It move with him. 

GREGORY:  He‘s hanging from a bridge. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Seriously, what is the blue thing behind him. 

GREGORY:  A finger on the pulse of the Canadians.  Our last e-mail tonight, Barry in Tennessee wants to know if the maverick will surprise everyone with his VP pick.  He writes, “with John McCain‘s past flirtation wit the Democratic nomination for VP in 2004, reports that he thought about leaving the Republicans possibly in ‘01, what is the likelihood that John McCain chose Hillary Clinton as his VP choice if Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee?”

That is some pretty creative thinking out there, Gene. 

ROBINSON:  I would say the likelihood is nil.  It makes my head hurt to try to think about another possible permutation. 

GREGORY:  It could become a talking point by tomorrow. 

ROBINSON:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you this, though, I would not be shocked if he named a guy that he dragged around the state of Florida in the first closed Republican primary he had to win, Joe Lieberman.  He takes him to Florida.  He takes him over to Israel.  It‘s a long shot, but I think John McCain is going to go for a very surprising pick. 

MADDOW:  A bipartisan pick between the Republican party and the Connecticut for Lieberman Party.  That would be very impressive. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It helps him in south Florida. 

GREGORY:  All right.  If you weren‘t heard from today, try again tomorrow.  You can play with our panel every week night here on MSNBC.  The e-mail, Race08@MSNBC.com, the phone lines open too, 212-790-2290. 

When we come back, prediction time.  Our panelists break out their crystal balls.  Rachel is talking Dems and super delegates.  What‘s that all about?  This is THE RACE on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back.  Prediction time from our panel.  They dig in, tell us what‘s ahead.  Let‘s begin right here tonight.  Richard, what do you see? 

WOLFFE:  My prediction, Hillary‘s hype on Pennsylvania will backfire.  Listen, in their understandable desire to make out that Pennsylvania is more important than, say, Wisconsin or Virginia, they have set expectations way too high for themselves.  They need a blow out win here.  Blow out wins, as defined by the Obama campaign, are 20 points plus.  That‘s their margin of victory in their blow outs.  It‘s going to be very hard, in spite of her big advantages in Pennsylvania, for Hillary Clinton to come close to that. 

GREGORY:  Anything within, what, 10 points considered a razor thin margin here? 

WOLFFE:  Look at the way people are talking about her strengths in Pennsylvania and his weaknesses.  If the Obama camp can hold her to a low single digit, they are going to say it‘s a morale victory, which won‘t be true, but it will be how they spin it. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, what‘s your prediction tonight. 

MADDOW:  I want to say to Richard that, of course, it‘s great to think about who might win that.  But the big picture is it won‘t matter who wins any of the remaining primaries or caucus.  That‘s where my predictions comes from.  I think that this week, if not tomorrow, very soon, Democrats seriously start considering the prospects of a super delegate primary. 

This was put forward and floated by the governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen.  It got a very complimentary treatment in “The Hill” newspaper in Washington today, which, of course, is a bit of a taste-maker newspaper for the Washington set.  I think the Democrats are going to start to realize they need to end this thing sooner than Denver. 

GREGORY:  Gene, what do you see? 

ROBINSON:  First, if you can get the super delegates to agree to a primary, you wouldn‘t have to have it, because they would all agree.  In any event, my prediction is that before they start telling any more old war stories, the Clinton campaign is going to bring out those old photo albums and look through and try to get a picture of what exactly happened.  I don‘t think—I know they don‘t want another episode like the Bosnia trip.  And I think they will be determined to avoid a repetition. 

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough, take our final 30 seconds.  What do you see? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m going to end where we began, with Rachel talking about that percentage poll, 28 percent.  That‘s an important number.  You‘re going to hear from the Clinton campaign.  They are going to be whispering it to super delegates.  That is the number of Democrats, the percentage of Democrats that break away from Barack Obama if he wins the nomination.  Cut that in half and it‘s still a huge loss to the Democratic party. 

Super delegates are going to be looking at this Gallup Poll.  They‘re going to see a party more divided than ever before, and they are going to see a party that is right now putting Barack Obama out front, despite the fact that he holds the fewest Democrats moving into the fall campaign with John McCain.  Bad news for Obama, good news for the Clinton campaign. 

GREGORY:  Joe thanks very much.  Thanks to a great panel.  I‘m David Gregory.  That does it for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  We‘ll be right back here tomorrow, 6:00 Eastern time.  Right now, “HARDBALL.”

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

END   

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