updated 4/4/2008 11:15:30 AM ET 2008-04-04T15:15:30

Guests: Jill Zuckman, Chris Cillizza, Michelle Bernard, Arlen Specter, Michael Smerconish, E. Steven Collins

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Can the Clintons stop the stampede?  Can they keep their herd of superdelegates from heading to Obama?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Did Senator Hillary Clinton really tell Governor Bill Richardson that Barack Obama can‘t win in November?  What were her exact words and what was the meaning of those words?  We‘re going to get into what‘s really going on inside the campaigns in a minute.

Plus, Pennsylvania politics.  Last night, we hosted a “HARDBALL College Tour” with Barack Obama.  On April 15, our HARDBALL tour goes to Villanova with special guest Senator John McCain.  We‘re still hoping to host Hillary Clinton up there in Pennsylvania.

Question.  So did Barack Obama help himself last night with his HARDBALL appearance for that full hour?  We‘ll talk to two Philly radio talk show hosts and hear what the people have been saying up there.  And that phone is ringing again at 3:00 AM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s 3:00 AM and your children are safe and asleep.  But there‘s a phone ringing in the White House.  And this time, the crisis is economic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So why do people keep calling Hillary Clinton at 3:00 o‘clock in the morning?  Doesn‘t she keep day hours?  Both Clinton and John McCain have new 3:00 AM ads out right now.  We‘re going to take a look at what they have to say.

And in the “Politics Fix” tonight, the drip, drip drip of superdelegates to Obama continues.  At what point might a trickle become a flood?

But we begin with the way the Clintons are spinning that Bill Richardson endorsement of Barack Obama.  “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has been covering the Clinton campaign.

OK, what do we know?  What do we really know about this conversation?  For some reason, it keeps coming back the Clintons are festering over the wound of losing Bill Richardson.  They‘re accusing him of high treason.  The word, however, has leaked out, true or false, that in getting the word from Bill Richardson that he was going to endorse Barack Obama, Hillary put a little perhaps poison in there and said, He ain‘t going to win in November.  What do we know about that conversation?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  That is what she has reportedly told not just Richardson but other people.  That is what Bill Clinton has certainly told superdelegates, that he can‘t win.  And the implication is that he can‘t win because people won‘t vote for him.  And there are certainly—many people say, people I‘ve interviewed, that there is a racial subtext to this.

MATTHEWS:  That the message was strong innuendo, Howard.  It was primordial.  It got to not just the minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but all the possible connotations of the black church, the black background, the whole thing.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, put it this way.  I think maybe there‘s a little more oomph and urgency to private phone conversations in which the Clintons say Obama can‘t win.  Maybe in the old days, they were saying, You know what?  He doesn‘t have enough experience.  We‘re in wartime.  It‘s post-9/11.  He doesn‘t have the commander-in-chief-iness he needs.  Or they may say he‘s too green, he doesn‘t have any legislative background.  But now, with all of what‘s happened in the last few weeks, when they say that, it has more urgency to it.  And they don‘t have to utter the words.  That‘s the point.  But if they say flatly he can‘t win—see, in politics...

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re trying—let me try to give an inflection.  You know as well as I know, Bill, he is not going to get elected president of the United States.

FINEMAN:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  Or words to that effect.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  He‘s not—or he can‘t—it‘s the difference between he‘s not going to win and he can‘t win...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... her description of what happened.  Take a look at what Senator Clinton said today when asked about that very difficult conversation that‘s been described that way, where Bill Richardson, their long-time friend, who was appointed twice to cabinet positions by President Clinton, told her the bad news that he‘s going to go ahead and endorse Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you tell Governor Richardson Barack Obama can‘t win?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, we have been going back and forth in this campaign about who said what to whom.  And let me say this about that.  I don‘t talk about private conversations, but I have consistently made the case that I can win because I believe I can win.  And you know, sometimes people draw the conclusion I‘m saying somebody else can‘t win.  I can win.  I know I can win.  That‘s why I do this every day.  And that‘s what my campaign is about.  I‘m in it to win it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you heard that.  Here‘s Governor Richardson, what he wrote in “The Washington Post” earlier this week.  Quote, “I do indeed owe President Clinton for the extraordinary opportunities he gave me to serve him and this country.  And nobody worked harder for him or served him more loyally during some very difficult times than I did.  Carville”—he‘s talking about James Carville—“and others say that I owe President Clinton‘s wife my endorsement because he, the president, gave me two jobs.  Would someone who worked for James Carville then owe his wife, Mary Matalin, similar loyalty in her professional pursuits?”

Obviously, there‘s a discordance there.  She‘s a Republican.

MITCHELL:  She‘s a Republican, so—you know, I think often, when we talk about what the message delivered is, the message received, it‘s the inference that people, as Howard was just describing, draw from, you know, saying, He can‘t win.  You know, there are silent signals.  They don‘t have to say it outright.

MATTHEWS:  When did you—I first heard this account, that there was some real nasty inference in that conversation, right afterwards.  The word got out that Bill obviously told people, Governor Richardson, that she in the nastiest possible way said, This guy ain‘t going to win.

FINEMAN:  Also, other people have been saying that.  I don‘t know whether the Clintons had said that perhaps even before then because their allies all over town and all over the country have been making that case in one way or another, especially in recent weeks, especially post-Jeremiah Wright.  They‘ve said—and the big difference in politics between saying he won‘t win and saying he can‘t win because if you say he can‘t, you‘re saying that there‘s something inherent in his candidacy...

MATTHEWS:  No matter what he does, no matter how good his...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  ... politics is about the possible, not about the absolute.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re talking about a situation like Al Smith couldn‘t win in ‘28, one of those things, right?

FINEMAN:  Possibly.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this about the more strategic—perhaps the other strategy involved.  My suspicion has been everything‘s about the future in politics.  It‘s not about revenge.  Nobody can afford revenge.  If the Clintons are upset because Bill Richardson has gone over and back after his Super Bowl, sitting around and having lunch with Bill Clinton, watching the Super Bowl...

MITCHELL:  President Clinton invited himself.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, after all that warming up and charm offensive, he still goes over and votes for—and endorses the guy who never gave him a job, Barack Obama, they want to send a message, the Clintons, Don‘t have any more of these treasonable offenses.  Aren‘t they really saying when they whack this guy again and again and again and Carville does it, they‘re talking to the superdelegates, Don‘t go do it, we‘re going to attack you as treasonable?

MITCHELL:  Sure.  But they‘re also sending a message directly.  I mean, some of it is—you know, sometimes...

MATTHEWS:  We‘re mad at your.

MITCHELL:  ... it is what it is.  We‘re really ticked off.

MATTHEWS:  Still?

FINEMAN:  Chris, Chris...

MITCHELL:  Still?  Oh, forever.

FINEMAN:  They‘re exposing their own weakness by doing this.  What angered Bill Clinton is that Richardson had promised not to endorse anybody.  And Clinton thought that was a decent half-way position.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  He goes out to the Super Bowl.

MATTHEWS:  They froze him.

FINEMAN:  They thought they‘d frozen him.  If you saw those pictures of Bill Clinton sitting in the living room there with Bill Richardson, you know, the thought balloon over Clinton‘s head was...

MITCHELL:  What am I doing here?

FINEMAN:  ... What am I doing here, even if he did invite himself.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  The Clintons thought they bought his silence, or that at least he would have the, quote, “decency,” in their view, to remain silent.  They felt it‘s betrayal that he went the other way.  And you have to get inside the minds of Clintons here.  I‘ve been talking to a lot of their people in the last day or so.  Over there in Arlington, Virginia, they think they‘re being treated unfairly.  They think...

MATTHEWS:  By whom?

FINEMAN:  By everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  And this is a decent point that they make because—and I

think this is true.  If Barack Obama were ahead—or if Hillary were ahead

by 150, 160 delegates...

MITCHELL:  (INAUDIBLE) her.

FINEMAN:  No, wait a minute.  If she were ahead in the popular vote by two or three points and the Clintons were pounding the table and demanding that Barack Obama get out of the race, you imagine what Barack Obama‘s people would be saying.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  So they steel themselves and fuel their anger and resentment

I‘m talking about the Clinton people—with that kind of thinking.  And that‘s what‘s going on over there.

MATTHEWS:  You know, when you‘re out with them, like I was in Philadelphia, and watch Senator Clinton handle very deftly a press conference the other day—I was with Ron Allen, watching her do her thing very effectively, very confidently.  And then you look at the numbers.  You listen to Chuck Todd and you go through all the NBC numbers, the objective facts.  And then you go to an Obama thing, like I was with last night, hosting him.  These are different worlds they live in.  I mean, there‘s Hillaryland, which is a world in which the labor guys are cheering her on.  Gerry McIntee is beating the drum.  Everything is dynamite.  We‘re in this race to the end.  It‘s close as hell.  Then you look at the numbers, everybody says she can‘t catch him.  Where‘s reality here?

MITCHELL:  The reality is that they each have their own reality, and those are the two realities that are going to continue to exist as parallel universes...

MATTHEWS:  Until?

MITCHELL:  ... until it‘s over.  It ain‘t going to be over until it‘s over because the Hillary people believe passionately that anything can happen.  They‘ve seen it...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you a question.  Come June, after Puerto Rico, if Senator Clinton hasn‘t caught Barack Obama in elected delegates—and last night on the show, by the way, in the “College Tour” at West Chester University, Barack Obama I think made big news.  He said, I will have earned it in the eyes of the superdelegates if I get most delegates elected to me.  At that point, do they coalesce around him and say, OK, he won, or do they hold back and say, We‘re going to wait and see Hillary Clinton quit, which she doesn‘t intend to do?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Are they going to wait for her to call the buzzer?

FINEMAN:  It‘s hard to know.  First of all, I disagree slightly with Andrea because—and I know the Clintons‘ mentality not as well as she does.  But I think if she only pulls out a very narrow victory in Pennsylvania...

MATTHEWS:  Like?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t know.  I hate to use...

MATTHEWS:  Five points?

FINEMAN:  ... arbitrary things—five points, whatever.  If it‘s seen by the world...

MATTHEWS:  As below the spread.

FINEMAN:  ... below the spread, if it‘s a narrow victory, I think there will be right after that enormous pressure on her because Mark Penn and all the Clinton strategists have said Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... who is so cagey.  The governor who‘s backing Hillary is saying, This thing‘s going to shrink by the date of April 22.

MITCHELL:  He‘s already changing that.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s changing it, bringing it in, so if it‘s more than 3 points, he‘ll say, Oh, it unshrunk.

MITCHELL:  I think they‘re in it through Indiana.  I do.

MATTHEWS:  Yes?  OK.

MITCHELL:  I think that even if they win narrowly in Pennsylvania, if they lose, you know, Indiana and North Carolina, then clearly, the pressure becomes enormous after...

MATTHEWS:  See, both...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s leave our viewers with this part of the show with some positive aspect.  There‘ll be closure on this campaign by the mid part of June.

MITCHELL:  I think so.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll know who has won...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  ... unless she wins all three.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  (INAUDIBLE) decent victory margin in Pennsylvania, wins Indiana and North Carolina, then it ain‘t over.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK.  Well said.  Thank you, Howard Fineman.  We can‘t disagree on that one.  Andrea Mitchell.

Coming up: Does Obama have what it takes to win Pennsylvania Democrats, especially after last night?  What‘s the reaction on the airwaves to our hour last night, which was repeated twice last night?  Lots of Pennsylvania opportunity to catch Barack in action.  What was the impact with the voters?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Michael Smerconish and E. Steven Collins are both radio talk show hosts in Philadelphia.  They were there last night at West Chester University for the big “College Tour” with Senator Obama.

Let me start right now by showing you what I think is a pretty good question to start with, gentlemen.  I want to know what the reaction was to what he says here, Barack Obama, in the Philadelphia area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is the real difference in out you would get us out of Iraq from the way Senator Clinton would get us out?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, first of all, I think it does bear mentioning that Senator Clinton voted for the war.  And I say that not because it is something that‘s in the past, but it points to judgment in the future.  I think Senator Clinton was much more cautious.  She got swept up in the arguments that were made by the Bush administration.  And I think that what you want in the next president who has confidence and judgment to move in a different direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So Michael, what was the overall reaction in the area on your show this morning?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, he made no mistakes, and he looked good and he sounded good.  I mean, the feeling in that fieldhouse at West Chester last night was more along the lines of a Final Four game than it was, you know, political discourse, and that‘s because of the magnetism that this guy has.  I mean, I felt like I was at a college pep rally.

What I like about that answer, Chris, is that he combines it with saying that our resources have been diverted in Iraq from a battle that should be taking place in Afghanistan or in Pakistan.  And what I think he‘s doing is showing his bona fides among white males, white Democratic males who are looking for a tough guy on national defense.  And the way he overcomes this issue of wanting to get over Iraq, to the extent that makes him look weak on defense, is he reminds the country we still haven‘t found bin Laden.  And I got to tell you, that scores points with someone like me.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s good strategic thinking.  I mean, maybe I‘ve overthought (ph) him, but it sounds right.  E. Steven, your thoughts on last night‘s performance overall, what the impact was with your listeners?

E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I am 100 percent sure it resonated so loud and clear that Barack Obama can handle a big question, a 3:00 AM call, because past the excitement of the moment—and it was truly an exciting—I thought it was like a moment in political history to sit there with all those young people.  There were some people behind me and they were just talking about how well he was communicating and framing his questions—the responses to your questions, Chris.  It was really done well.

But beyond all that, he also wove into his discussion the need to take those dollars that we‘re spending over there and to give those students scholarship money, if they give community service.  He talked to them and he talked to America.  And he was deliberate.  He specifically said the reason we‘re there is because this administration hasn‘t—did not really think it through.  And what I got from it was that he was very deliberate in thinking all of this through.  And it came across, and I thought it was just splendid.  It was incredible, insightful.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the jobs issue, which is a hot issue in Pennsylvania, which has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs under the Bush administration.  I asked him, Will we ever get back to the day that I grew up, where you could get a job at a big plant making airplanes or subway cars or whatever right out of high school?  Here was his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  A lot of people believe you can‘t reproduce those jobs, we‘re going to have to go to high tech or something.  Can you honestly do what Mitt Romney did in Michigan and say we‘re going to get those jobs back?

OBAMA:  I‘m not sure that the same jobs are going to be back.  But I think we can produce good jobs that pay good wages and good benefits.  I mean, here‘s how we do it.  First of all, we‘ve got to stabilize the housing market because right now, even businesses with good track records, good credit are having trouble getting financing to expand and invest because the financial markets are all screwed up.  The only way we deal with that is to make sure that people aren‘t having their homes foreclosed on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The big question, Michael, is can he connect to the average person out there, perhaps in his 30s, 40s or 50s, of whatever ethnic background, looking for a job?

SMERCONISH:  Well, and he‘s on the air today.  It‘s kind of funny because you asked that question yesterday, and I‘ve not seen the new spot, but I got a news release today from the Obama campaign that said they‘re now on with a new television commercial saying that there have been any number of promises made by any number of politicians over the last many decades relative to these jobs and whether they‘re coming back.  So maybe he‘s taking a cue from you and trying to hit it head on.

One other observation.  I think he links the economic difficulty with the expenditures that are taking place in Iraq.  I heard him say to you, Chris, you know, reminding people how much money we‘re spending over there and saying that‘s money that could be used on our infrastructure.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SMERCONISH:  In fact, you gave him a layout on I-95.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SMERCONISH:  He didn‘t take it.  But you were making reference to the fact that I-95, the infrastructure had to be closed in Philadelphia, and he was saying, We ought to be rebuilding our roads and our bridges.

MATTHEWS:  The (INAUDIBLE) stuff is falling down in America from age and misrepair, failure to repair, not because of bombing raids, but it‘s the same result.

Here—I want you to look at this, Steven.  This is—E. Steven.  This is Senator Obama on that question—I said, What would you do if you were president at 3:00 o‘clock in the morning, your national security adviser woke you up and said there are some hijacked commercial jets headed toward the capitol?  Here was his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Here‘s the important thing about that 3:00 a.m. phone call.  What you want is somebody who is, first of all, going to get all the facts and gather up good intelligence.  The second thing you want is somebody who is able to analyze the situation, the costs and benefits of action. 

And one of the things that we know this president didn‘t do is to weigh the costs of going into Iraq vs. the potential benefits of it.  We want somebody who is going to be decisive.  And I won‘t hesitate to strike against somebody who would do us harm, if that‘s what is required. 

But the most important thing that you need is somebody who is going to exercise good judgment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Let me stick this last one in here, right now, E. Steven, before you respond.

Here is a question I put to him.  And I was little nervous to ask him. 

But I said, what is it like to be a black kid with a white mother? 

Here‘s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What it‘s like to be a black kid with a white mom? 

OBAMA:  Well, I tell you what.  It is part of what America is about. 

You know, we‘re a melting pot. 

And the...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

OBAMA:  What it—what I think it did for me was to give me a perspective that maybe is broader on some of the misunderstandings that people go through, but also an appreciation of everybody‘s cultures. 

It is not just the fact that I have a black dad and a white mom.  It‘s, I have got a sister who is half Indonesian, who is married to a Chinese Canadian. 

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  I have got a niece who looks like, you know, she‘s all mixed up. 

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  And, you know, so when you get our family together—I have said this before.  I wrote a book.  I have got family members that look like Margaret Thatcher.  I have got family members that look like Bernie Mac. 

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  You know?  And, so what it does—what it means is, I—I‘m not going to engage in stereotypes about people, because you never know where people are coming from. 

And I really have learned to believe that everybody has common values and common ideals.  And, especially here in America, everybody wants the same thing.  They want a good job.  They want to take care of their families.  They want health care they can afford.  They want to be able to send their kids to college, retire with dignity and respect. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s an amazing thing, E. Steven, to be there, like you and I were last night, that mixed crowd, those appreciative faces and him taking on the trickiest question in American life: race.

COLLINS:  Well, I—first of all, I have got to compliment you on the way in which you phrased that, to allow him an opportunity to really clear the air. 

You know, he went back, Michael, on the sports radio station this—this morning to basically clear the air.  He is so amazing to me, to listen to him, and to understand that he could have given you, on the Iraq question, a pat answer, a strong military, you know, spot, and he gave us an opportunity to kind of walk around in his intellect, to see he would think it through...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COLLINS:  ... that judgment matters, and that the young people there got an opportunity to understand his thinking process, which I have got to believe, with this C-minus administration, we didn‘t get the first time around. 

And here we are, as he pointed out, seven—five years into this, possibly seven, 100, or 100, and look at the expense of it in human life.  Two hundred, almost, Pennsylvanians have died in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael—I have got to go to Michael for last thoughts about yesterday.  What do you think was the impact of last night?

SMERCONISH:  All right. 

Well, here was the critical question from my standpoint.  You asked him what my callers wish I had asked him, which is, why didn‘t you walk out the door relative to Reverend Wright?

And, you know, something interesting has gone on here, Chris. 

COLLINS:  He didn‘t back down. 

SMERCONISH:  The gap in—the gap in Pennsylvania has narrowed in the aftermath of the Reverend Wright controversy. 

So, I put out to callers today, which was worse, Hillary misremembering relative to Bosnia, or Barack Obama and his association with Reverend Wright? 

Overwhelmingly, my callers said that they held Hillary more accountable for what she said on that landing tarmac than they do Barack Obama for Reverend Wright. 

In other words, is it possible that Pennsylvania has narrowed because of Bosnia, and that, in the end, this Wright situation...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  ... ends up being a zero or perhaps a net plus? 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SMERCONISH:  I mean, Bob Casey said he was drawn to Barack Obama because of the way he handled it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COLLINS:  Don‘t you think that most people, once they understand the historic reference of a black church and their pastor and the fire and brimstone, they‘re going to put that in perspective, listen to what he‘s saying...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  Well, I think it‘s the word of a surrogate vs. the words of a principal.  We‘re going to hold you accountable for your words, you know, Senator Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Gentlemen, the thing I will always remember is, last night, I was looking for my daughter in the crowd.  And I kept saying, where‘s my daughter?  And the—catch the mood of the night.  These African-American young women, college students, every time I looked into the crowd, and I would say, “Where my daughter?” they would raise their hand and said: “I‘m here.  I‘m here.”

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It was that kind of mood. 

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS:  It was magnificent, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The spirit last night of those kids.

COLLINS:  It was a great show.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much...

COLLINS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  ... my buddies Michael Smerconish and E. Steven Collins. 

Up next:  March money madness is in full swing.  And you won‘t believe the amount of money being raised by Barack and by Hillary.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out in politics? 

Well, John McCain just picked up an interesting endorsement.  Heidi Montag, start of MTV‘s “The Hills,” told “Us Weekly”—quote—“I‘m voting for John McCain.  I‘m a Republican, and McCain has a lot of experience.”

Well, believe it or not, John McCain responded—and/or pandered -- -

quote—“I‘m honored to have Heidi‘s support.  And I want to assure her that I never miss an episode of ‘The Hills,‘ especially since the new season started.”

How do you campaign for president full time and still get to sit around watching an MTV show on the young crowd out in Hollywood? 

I‘m impressed, Senator.

Stealing Bill Clinton‘s thunder?  Bill Clinton may be something of a rock star in Democratic circles, but, yesterday, team Obama managed one-up him with a real rock star. 

While Bill was stumping for his wife in Indiana, word began to spread about Indiana University around the campus, that the Obama campaign was about to give away free tickets to a Dave Matthews concert for Barack. 

Hundreds of students sprinted to line up, register, and get their seats for the big show this Sunday. 

As far as I‘m concerned, anything that gets kids involved in this country‘s politics is a good thing. 

As you may well remember, George Bush had no love for former French President Jacques Chirac.  Remember the unfortunate days of freedom fries?  Now, that was telling him.  Well, President Bush apparently has nothing but affection for the current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, you know, the one married to beautiful former model Carla Bruni. 

At a NATO meeting in Bucharest today, President Bush said that, when Sarkozy visited the U.S., it was like the latest incarnation of Elvis.

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.

One thing you can say about Barack Obama fans, they put their money where their mouth is, literally. The average Obama donation in March was $96, not a huge fat-cat kind of number.  And that is what makes it great.  As you know, in political fund-raising, the smaller the average gift, the more people are giving. 

So, get a load of this incredible figure.  How many people, individuals, separate people, have donated money to the Obama campaign so far? -- 1,276,000.  That‘s not a few groups of fat cats.  That‘s a lot of people -- 1,276,000 people have given cash to Barack Obama, an amazing number—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

And we will an even get closer look at some incredible new money numbers with David Shuster in the next segment.

Up next: campaign—campaign ad wars ramp up—lots of ads out there.  It seems it‘s always 3:00 in the morning in these TV ads.  This campaign is getting dark. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.” 

Stock managing small gains after Merrill Lynch says it has sufficient capital to weather the credit crisis.  The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 20 points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each added just about two. 

The day got off to a tough start with news first-time jobless claims soared by a larger-than-expected 38,000 last week.  Now Wall Street is bracing for tomorrow morning‘s March employment report. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified on Capitol Hill for the second straight day, defending the Fed-facilitated rescue of Bear Stearns.  He said the investment bank‘s failure could have had serious consequences for the economy. 

Oil prices slipped, falling $1 in New York, closing at $103.83 a barrel.

And ATA Airlines filed for bankruptcy and shut down, this after losing a key military contract.  On Monday, Aloha Airlines closed shop, after filing for bankruptcy.

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

In the battle for campaign cash, chalk up another victory for Barack Obama.  Figures released just today showed he raised—these numbers are amazing -- $40 million last month, and that widens his financial advantage over Hillary Clinton, who raised $20 million, which is a hell of a lot of money for somebody coming in second place so far.

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has the report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is our moment. 

This is our time. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The Obama campaign announcement that they raised more than $40 million follows a record $55 five million haul in February.  The fund-raising figure is another blow to the Clinton campaign, which today tried to downplay the news. 

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  We knew that he was going to outraise us.  He has outraised us over the last several months.

SHUSTER:  Late today, Clinton sources told NBC News the Clinton campaign raised $20 million in March, or about half Obama‘s total. 

It all means that, headed towards the final stretch of primary contests...

OBAMA:  Thanks.  Thank you, guys.

SHUSTER:  ... the Obama campaign has far more money to spend on everything from organization, to voter registration drives, to signs, to television ads. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

OBAMA:  I‘m Barack Obama, and I approve this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  At the moment, Obama is running twice as many ads as Clinton in Pennsylvania, and Obama is running ads in North Carolina and Indiana, states where Clinton is not yet on the air. 

The latest commercials from both candidates, though, contain misleading statements. 

First, in this Obama ad, he suggests he‘s in a better political position to tackle high gas prices. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

OBAMA:  Since the gas lines of the ‘70s, Democrats and Republicans have talked about energy independence.  But nothing has changed, except, now, Exxon is making $40 billion a year, and we‘re paying $3.50 for gas. 

I‘m Barack Obama.  I don‘t take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  It is true Obama does not take money from oil companies, but no presidential, Senate, or House candidate does.  Federal law has prohibited corporations from contributing directly to federal candidates for the last 100 years. 

However, Obama has received more than $213,000 in contributions from individuals who work for or whose spouses work for companies in the oil and gas industry.  It‘s not as much as the $306,000 Hillary Clinton has received, but it‘s still a substantial amount. 

As for Hillary Clinton‘s ad, this one focuses on the economy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  It‘s 3:00 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep.  But there‘s a phone call in the White House. And, this time, the crisis is economic: home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering.  John McCain just said the government shouldn‘t take really action in the housing crisis.  He would let the phone keep ringing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  But recently released Clinton White House documents offer no evidence that Hillary Clinton was ever intimately involved in managing economic policy. 

Meanwhile, John McCain is responding to Clinton with this Internet ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering.  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama just said they would solve the problem by raising your taxes, more money out of your pocket.  John McCain has a better plan: 

Grow jobs, grow our economy, not grow Washington. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER (on camera):  But Democrats say McCain‘s plan lacks detail, and they argue his restrained approach to the economy is wrong. 

In the meantime, the battle rages on between Obama and Clinton.  And trailing in the pledged delegates and in the popular vote, now Clinton is also clearly behind financially. 

I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

I love that Clinton ad where she says—or the voice-over says, and, this time, the 3:00 a.m. call was on economics, as if there actually had been a call earlier, when, in fact, that earlier call was, in fact, something on an earlier commercial. 

It‘s like—I think it‘s termed postmodern. 

Anyway, we go now to Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, author of the very impressive new book, “Never Give in: Battling Cancer in the U.S. Senate.”

Senator, I want to ask you two questions on Pennsylvania, then several questions on your impressive book.

The first one is, is this fight between—I know it‘s hard to step back from this—this fight between Hillary and Obama in Pennsylvania, is this softening up the Democrats for the general? 

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER:  I

think it does, to some extent, Chris, but not a whole lot. 

Post-Labor Day, it‘s a new game.  And, at the convention, you will see a wild embrace between Barack and Hillary, whichever one is the winner. 

MATTHEWS:  What to you make of the senators—Senator McCain‘s Iraq position?  It‘s been interpreted, overinterpreted, perhaps misinterpreted.  He talks about a military presence of lasting perhaps 100 years, if there are no casualties, even wounded, when, in fact, that is not exactly the reality over there.  It‘s hard to imagine a soldier living a—you know, a whole troop of soldiers getting through a year without any wounds, much less KIAs.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do you interpret his policy?

SPECTER:  Well, Chris, I don‘t think he ever intended to mean that there would be fighting there for 100 years. 

I think it‘s sort of like U.S. presence in South Korea.  We‘re still there, although the Korean War ended more than 50 years ago, but just a security assurance, not—not in the fighting context. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that we can be speaking about the fighting ending over there at some point, and then thinking about the next 50 years or 100 years after that?  Is there something in the scenario that you see out there in Iraq where the fighting will stop, that they will stop blowing us up with these IEDs? 

SPECTER:  Well, we have to get some political activity by the Iraqis.  They have to come together.  They have to utilize their oil revenues to pay their own way.  Until there‘s some political activity by the Iraqis, military action—action alone is not going to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to tell you, Senator, that I am so impressed by your book.  I read it in the galleys.  And it‘s an amazing book. 

SPECTER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Your ability to deal with hardship, you‘re like Job.  You have been through all these tests of your ability, your spirit.  Your spirit always seems to overcome whatever gets thrown at you. 

Can you give any advice to the other mortals out there about how to deal with brain tumors, how to deal with cancer of any kind?

SPECTER:  Well, in this book, “Never Give In,” I wrote about how I dealt with Hodgkins cancer.  The essence of it is to stay on the job, stay at work.  I‘m a squash player.  I drag myself out of bed and play squash.  I was chairing the Judiciary Committee, tough battles on Roberts and Alito, and I stayed on the job. 

I also talk, Chris, about some mis-diagnoses.  I was once diagnosed with Lou Gherig‘s Disease, which is a fatal illness.  They were wrong.  A doctor once gave me three to six weeks to live on a malignant brain tumor.  He was wrong.  So I write about that in this book, “Never Give In,” and the lesson is, get a second opinion.  Don‘t lose heart. 

When I told my constituents about my problem, I said I‘ve beat two brain tumors, double bypass surgery, tough political opponents, and I‘m going to beat this too.  Chris, in the book I also tell people about how people respond to you.  And there‘s a picture in the book about being at the White House and shaking hands with the president; and if you can see the picture I‘m bald as a billiard ball. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s got the longest reach, senator.  He‘s like he‘s keeping you at arm‘s length there. 

SPECTER:  That‘s the point.  The point is that I speculate on what he was thinking.  Maybe it was Arlen Specter doesn‘t look good; I don‘t know whether he‘s going to make it.  He might have been thinking, he‘s the chairman; I guess I‘ve got to shake his hand.  Or perhaps he‘s thinking, they say it isn‘t contagious, but who in the hell knows? 

I show that picture of the president and me to tell people that if somebody in my position has it that they can take it.  I looked at myself in the mirror every day, Chris, and we were studying identity theft in the Judiciary Committee, considering legislation, and I thought that somebody had stolen my identity.  When people saw me—I bumped into Ed Rendell at a basketball game one night, and said how are you doing, Ed?  he looked at me and didn‘t know who I was. 

If people see that that happens to a guy in my position, they know they can take it too and come back fighting. 

MATTHEWS:  The name of the book is “Never Give In.”  It‘s written by one courageous guy, my own senator, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.  If you have anything like this threatening you or you worry about it threatening you, take the advice of this guy and stand up and go to work in the morning.  Start your day—what time to you play squash, senator. 

SPECTER:  I play squash at 6:30, but mostly the book tells about how to cope with it, how to fight it.  And I think that this experience that can help people if they read what happened to me. 

MATTHEWS:  I believe that‘s totally true, reading the book.  What a great book.  Thank you, “Never Give In,” a book by Arlen Specter. 

Up next, the politics fix.  The feud between the Clinton campaign and Governor Bill Richardson.  They‘re still beating that guy up.  I think it‘s an object lesson.  If you‘re a super delegate, do you want what happened to him to happen to you?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the politics fix, with our round table.  Michelle Bernard is an MSNBC political analyst, and president of the Independent Women‘s Voice.  Chris Cillizza, this young fellow in front of me, is the author of “The Fix”—he stole that name from us—the WashingtonPost.com.  Jill Zuckman is a national correspondent for the “Chicago Tribune.” 

Let‘s take a look at a question.  I raised a very tricky question last night, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  Of course I ripped the scab off last night.  That‘s what I do for a living.  I raised the issue with Barack Obama, how could he continue to go to that church, contributed 27,00 dollars in ‘05 and 06 to a reverend that he said was making controversial statements even back then.  Here‘s his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Why when you heard that, what you called, controversial language, why did you go back and give him 27,000 dollars in contribution to his church?  Why didn‘t you just say he‘s on a different side of this fight than I am?

OBAMA:  No, because I think that—what‘s happened is we took a loop out of—and compressed the most offensive things that a pastor said over the course of 30 years, and ran it over and over and over again.  There‘s that other 30 year.  I never heard him say those things that were in those clips. 

MATTHEWS:  You know the Republicans will bring it back. 

OBAMA:  Of course it will come back.  Of course the Republicans will bring it back.  The question is, what‘s actually going to make a difference in the lives of people right who are on the verge of losing their homes?  What‘s going to make a difference in their lives? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Chris Cillizza, I have to ask you about that, because he didn‘t want to talk too much about it.  He stuck to his guns.  He‘s not throwing his former pastor off the train.  He‘s somewhat going in the middle.  Can he stay in the middle on the guy?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I thinks problem for him is that Barack Obama wants to run a different kind of campaign.  He said that from the beginning.  That‘s all well and good.  But that doesn‘t mean that Hillary Clinton or John McCain are also bound to run that sort of campaign.  He says, you know, they ran a loop.  They compressed comments.  They absolutely did. 

This was not the full sermon.  This was three minutes of a sermon, snip-its here and there.  That‘s the way in which campaigns are conducted in this day and age.  Remember, John McCain saying bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. 

MATTHEWS:  Dan Quayle lost his career because of that Jack Kennedy line from Lloyd Benson.  George Allen from Virginia right here lost his career because of one word, Macaca.

CILLIZZA:  That‘s where I think he misunderstands us.  He can run whatever kind of campaign he likes and change the tone and not get into this loop and this condensing.  That doesn‘t mean the person he‘s running against will do that.  In fact, in the general election, I would assume they won‘t be doing that. 

MATTHEWS:  What impact will this have in Pennsylvania?  We‘re looking at the numbers close slightly.  I think the worst thing that can happen to him, Jill, is the numbers will begin to close and then wide open again, wide open two days before the primary. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  We‘ve got a lot of time between now and the primary, so anything can happen.  It doesn‘t appear that the Clinton campaign is talking about this publicly so much anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  Why aren‘t they putting the knife in on this? 

ZUCKMAN:  I think it‘s a delicate balance.  They cannot alienate a very important part of the Democratic base.  They can‘t alienate black voters, because whoever is the going to be the nominee in the fall will need to go back to those voters for their help.  I think the longer term issue is if he is the Democratic nominee, the Republicans will feel no compunction about using this, and it will have more resonance with the general electorate than it does with the Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, if I were running the campaign on Hillary‘s side, I would probably do the subterranean assault, with Harold Ickes spreading the word among the super delegates, and also find some way of getting this issue extended beyond the Tuzla question, which embarrasses her, somehow keeping this alive.  They haven‘t done it blatantly yet.  Does that tell you anything, that Hillary Clinton has not stuck the knife in this, in terms of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE:  I would assume that she has not stuck the knife in yet because there are pictures all over the Internet of Bill Clinton shaking the Reverend Jeremiah Wright‘s hand, and more likely than not, eventually, we‘ll see pictures of Hillary Clinton, during the tenure of her husband‘s presidency, either being with him or shaking his hand.  And quite frankly, after South Carolina, the damage that was done to the Clinton campaign with regard to African-American voters was fatal, and I think that although we will probably see her surrogates start talking about the issue again, I don‘t think she‘s going to do it directly. 

She cannot afford to lose anymore black voters, particularly before the North Carolina primary, and it‘s right around the corner.  Since she has told us that she‘s here until the end, she‘s Rocky Balboa, she‘s not going to try to lose anymore black votes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back and talk about what Senator Obama said last night at the round table—the college tour up at West Chester University with me, when I asked him, when‘s this thing going to be over?  He gave a very clear statement about winning the elected delegates and what that will mean to this campaign.  We‘ll be back with the round table and with Senator Obama‘s pronouncement last night.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table, with more of the politics fix.  I really tried to get to the heart of it with Senator Obama last night.  I asked her (sic) how we‘re going to decide this thing if he wins the most elected delegates. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is that the only legitimate result of this campaign, is the one who gets the most elected delegates is the nominee?  Could you imagine Senator Clinton being nominated in Denver at the last week of August, not having won the battle for elected delegates, and you would support her? 

OBAMA:  I‘m not going to worry about that right now.  What I want to do is make sure that I‘ve won as many contests as possible, won as many delegates as possible.  Then I‘ll let, you know, the Poobahs of the party make a decision in terms of how they want to deal with it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, that was a soft way of saying, better respect the moral victor here, the one who earns it. 

BERNARD:  Not just the moral victor, but he has really got to paint himself—anyone in his position actually should do so—as someone who is going to follow the rules, who is going to follow the rule of law, and who believes in process.  One of the things we have seen people talking about generally in the American public is the, quote unquote, Clinton shenanigans.  You know, the Clinton team agreed to what was going to happen in Florida and Michigan, if they decided to hold their primaries before they were supposed to, and then all of a sudden, when Senator Clinton is behind in the delegate votes, the rules don‘t apply to her any longer and Florida and Michigan—she believes or she‘s advocating now that those delegates now need to be seated. 

I think it was a very smart move on Obama‘s part to play it soft, and just say, I‘m not worried about that.  Let‘s just follow the process, follow the rules, and hope for a moral victory.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the Clinton plan?  Work hard to change the rules? 

ZUCKMAN:  Well, the Clinton plan is to talk about how there is a process and the super delegates are part of that process.  Those were the rules when everybody began.  I love how Senator Clinton refers to the super delegates as the Poobahs. 

MATTHEWS:  Who are Poobahs?  Is that an Indian term? 

CILLIZZA:  I heard it on “The Flinstones” I believe.  Just one point to add to Jill‘s point; if you talk privately—I‘ve done this—if you talk privately to the Clinton sort of advisory group, I think what they will tell you is what we need to do is we need to narrow that pledged delegate gap.  We have to get it down to a hundred or less.  We have to either narrow or overtake him in the popular vote. 

They don‘t think if things stand as they are today, on June 3rd, that they can make that argument.  The argument they will make is, if they can do both of those things, look, this is essentially a tie.  We‘re talking about one percent of the raw vote, one percent of the delegates.  That doesn‘t amount to a mandate.  That‘s the argument they‘re going to make against the Obama argument, which is, are you going to overturn pledged delegates?  Are you going to overturn the will of the people? 

ZUCKMAN:  They are making that argument now.  I mean, you talk to them, they‘re saying, this is less than one percent of the delegates.  This is virtually a tie. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me quote Jefferson again, Michelle, who said that “democracy is believing that a majority of one vote is as sacred as the unanimous vote.” 

BERNARD:  Every vote counts.  I am there with Jefferson myself, and I believe the Obama campaign, as well as the super delegates—and I think we‘re going to see it very high up at the DNC, with Howard Dean—they‘re going to continue to advocate for a moral vote, and let every vote count, and who ever wins the popular vote and has the majority of the delegates be a the victor. 

It‘s interesting; I saw a report today that Howard Dean has come up with this proposal where he‘s going to start asking the super delegates to start speaking publicly about who they will support in an attempt to bring this race to a close as soon as possible. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, Jill, that the super delegates can be cajoled into a stand in support of the elected delegate count sometime in June and get this over with? 

ZUCKMAN:  Actually, Chris, I think it‘s all going to fall into place naturally.  We‘re going to see a few more of these contests—

MATTHEWS:  A stampede of super delegates to follow the elected delegate total.

ZUCKMAN:  Exactly.  I think so.  I don‘t think that there will be a question.  I think it will probably be wrapped up in June. 

CILLIZZA:  Just to agree with Jill, I think that there are two ways this race ends somewhere close to June 3rd, when the primary process ends.  One is a stampede of super delegates.  The other is sometime between now and June 3rd, Senator Clinton runs out of the money to run the kind of --  

MATTHEWS:  She won 20 million last month.  That‘s a lot of money for someone in second place. 

CILLIZZA:  Two years ago, that would have been stunning, 20 million dollars in a month.  It‘s only in comparison.  She is not there yet, but I think that‘s the one possible hang up that might lead her to get out of the race. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s still a lot more debates to go.  There‘s a couple more debates coming up, one in Pennsylvania, one in North Carolina.  Lots more politics to come.  Michelle Bernard, thank you.  Thank you, Chris Cillizza.  Thank you, Jill Zuckman.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.

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

END   

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