updated 4/17/2008 10:26:08 AM ET 2008-04-17T14:26:08

Guest: John Baer

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  In Pennsylvania, Obama‘s holding on, but he‘s also not moving up.  Hillary‘s also stuck.  So when will the undecideds make their move?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  It‘s been five days since Barack Obama‘s so-called “bitter” comments came out, and we still don‘t know how they‘re playing in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  What we do know is that Hillary Clinton is hanging onto her lead, but there‘s also evidence in a new poll of the public‘s view of her.  Her negatives, as we say in the business, are going way up.

Plus: If you watched TV at all today, you couldn‘t have missed this.  Pope Benedict is in Washington.  There are 65 million Catholics in the United States.  How are they going to vote in November?  We‘ll talk to two former altar boys—they don‘t look like it, do they—Pat Buchanan and Mike Barnicle.

And last night, Senator John McCain played HARDBALL on our “College Tour” at Villanova.  He had a lot to say about Iraq and Iran, among other things.  And tonight, Senator Joe Biden has a lot to say in response.  He‘s tough!  We‘ll hear from him, the Senator from Delaware, in just a few minutes.  Plus: Does John McCain have a litmus test for a running mate?  We‘ll take look at that in our “Politics Fix” tonight.

We‘ll also tell why you Hillary Clinton may want to get Bruce Springsteen off of her iPod.

But first, a closer look at the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Chuck Todd is NBC News‘s political director and John Baer‘s a political columnist for “The Philadelphia Daily News.”  Thank you, John, for joining us.

Let‘s start with Chuck Todd.  You know, if you look at all these numbers—let‘s look at the latest Pennsylvania numbers.  They‘ve just come in now.  The “LA Times”/Bloomberg poll has Clinton leading by 5, look at that, 46-41.  The Franklin and Marshall poll is at 46-40.  The Strategic Vision, which is a Republican poll, has got it 49-40.

What strikes me, gentlemen, is that Barack cannot break 40.  He‘s stuck down there around 40.  Why?  Is that a problem?  If he runs into Tuesday night at midnight, we‘re counting the votes, and he‘s only up to about 42 or 43, this is a blow-out.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  The fluctuation is her number on all of these polls.  And look, there‘s a lot of bad polling going on in Pennsylvania, but all of them do seem to agree on this Obama number.  It is really tight in that 39-to-42 range.  And so you just wonder.  She planted the seed of doubt on him.  So the question now...

MATTHEWS:  She could get a 200,000-vote plurality, if that‘s the case.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... if he stays down in those numbers...

TODD:  But what do we know about large undecideds close to an election?  Large undecideds mean turnout goes down, not up.  Now, that would be something different than we‘ve seen in any other primary.  So I would just throw out that caution flag.  When there are large chunks of undecided, normally, in an election that‘s less than a week away, you have to start wondering, are there certain voting groups who maybe are turned off to both of them now, that just don‘t show up?

That may be, actually, what Clinton is trying to do, drive up his negatives a little bit.  Yes, she know she‘s driving up...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  ... her own negatives, but try to turn off new voters, try to turn off—and new voter are his voters.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m talking there, John Baer, about a possible sweep by Hillary of up to almost 300,000 votes.  If she holds to these number, what, 57-43 -- if she‘s got a 14-point spread coming out of Pennsylvania, that could almost cut by a third, at least, the popular vote lead that Barack has right now nationwide.

JOHN BAER, “PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS”:  Well, no question, Chris.  But I mean, the thing that has intrigued me throughout this campaign is polling of younger people.  I just don‘t know.  I‘ve talked to a number of national pollsters.  I‘m sure you have, as well.  I just don‘t know how accurate we are in polling younger people.

MATTHEWS:  You think we may have the wrong sample out there, we‘re not sampling among the younger?

BAER:  I think if you think about it, they have no land lines.  You

can‘t poll on cell phones.  And the new registration numbers in

Pennsylvania, which are extraordinary, show that the age group—and this

is the first time Pennsylvania has been able to categorize new registered

voters, all registered voters, by age.  And what we saw was from 18 to 34 -

and for me, 34 is still young.  That now makes up 26 percent of the Democratic vote for next week.  If that group hasn‘t been accurately polled, we might be in for a surprise on Tuesday.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a variable.  Let look at a problem for Senator Clinton here.  The “Washington Post” poll asked Democrats to pick between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama on several key questions.  Obama beat Clinton on “honesty” by 23 points.  This is among Democrats.  Clinton won on “stronger leader” question by 5 points.  He was asked—they were asked who has a better shot of winning in November.  Obama won by 31.  We can look at those other ones, problems, change, and all that.  No surprise there.  He‘s the change candidate, the honest candidate.

He‘s the winner, Chuck.

TODD:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  The superdelegates want to know who the winner is.  Look at that 31.  Hold that number up there, 31.  She‘s got experience all the way down the line.  We know that.  She‘s got much longer experience in public life than he has.  He‘s a first-termer.  But look at the numbers there for electable.  That‘s the one that would grab the superdelegates, I think.

TODD:  I think that, too.  And that‘s been the problem.  And boy, this “Post” poll showed it in spades.  And that is, yes, she has risen his negatives.  Yes, she has raised questions about his electability.  But she has not improved the questions people already had about her.  These superdelegates, at the end of the day, the ones that are sitting there undecided, they‘re not with her because they had doubts about her electability.  That‘s why they‘re not with her, moreso than...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... any other reason.  And so, OK, you can prove doubts on his, but as one undecided superdelegate told me earlier this week, We have the two most unelectable candidates that we picked from our field, short of Mike Gravel...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... and Dennis Kucinich.

MATTHEWS:  ... let‘s not be totally nihilistic from the Democratic

side.  Let‘s go to this question.  To you, John.  It seems to me the number

sort of he CW, the conventional wisdom about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,, is that, Oh, Barack Obama could win this election with 55 percent.  He could lose it with 45 percent.  He could do a blowout either way.  But Hillary Clinton‘s sort of a predictable 48 percenter.  She‘ll get just short of a majority and she‘ll lose.  And therefore, people like John McCain would rather run against Hillary.  Is that still the conventional wisdom?  Is it your wisdom?

BAER:  I think it is the conventional wisdom.  And we have seen evidence in Pennsylvania of the kind of thing that was rumored earlier in the campaign, which is Republicans changing their registration in order to vote.  As you know, in Pennsylvania, you have to be a Democrat to vote in the primary.  There has been evidence that that‘s happened in Pennsylvania.  The Republicans...

MATTHEWS:  To do what?

BAER:  ... have gone over...

MATTHEWS:  You mean strategic voting?

BAER:  ... have gone over—strategic voting and vote for Hillary to get her on the ballot because they do believe...

MATTHEWS:  You mean dittoheads.  Dittoheads.

BAER:  Dittoheads.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Do you realize—what kind of a klutz do you have to be to take orders on how to vote from Rush Limbaugh and to change your party identity so that you can vote against—for somebody...

BAER:  Look, I mean, I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  ... to screw the other party?

BAER:  I don‘t think that that...

MATTHEWS:  What have these people got to do?  They have a lot of free time, I‘ll tell you that.

BAER:  I just think it‘s a very marginal vote.  It may be just a couple of percentage points.  But there is some evidence that it‘s gone on.

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a lot more evidence in my world of people switching over because they like one of the other candidates or they don‘t like one of the other Democratic candidates, not that they‘re doing it to confuse the pollsters or confuse the results.  Do you think there‘s more people out there to confuse the result...

BAER:  Oh, absolutely—absolutely not.  Absolutely not.  I think that the big—the big—you have hundred of thousands of new voters in Pennsylvania over the ‘06 election...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAER:  ... over the—over the last general, over the—over the primary, the last presidential primary.  And the vast majority of them, there‘s no doubt...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BAER:  ... in my mind, have changed because they like Senator Obama.

MATTHEWS:  Because they believe in something.  How much is Operation Chaos‘s influence in the election?  Is it a small part of the registration drive going on in Pennsylvania?

TODD:  I think this is a small part because if you look at where we saw Republicans spike in support for Clinton, it showed up in a couple of exit polls, Mississippi and Texas.  That‘s Southerners.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  We‘ve only seen—Clinton has done well with crossovers in the South among Republican crossovers.

MATTHEWS:  You mean for devastating—for chaotic purpose.

TODD:  No, not for chaotic purposes, I think for purposes of that she‘s the candidate that, you know, they‘re going to be picking between...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they want to pick the easy Democrat.

TODD:  No, I think they voted—they crossed over because they think a Democrat‘s going to win, so they want to pick the Democrat they‘re more comfortable with.  I think there are more people in the South doing that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m talking about this Rush Limbaugh thing.  He says...

TODD:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  ... pick Hillary because it‘ll screw things up.

TODD:  That is crazy.  Do you know how many times campaigns have tried to do that?  You know, you hear about a lot of times in different states.  Oh, no, pick—you know, send out activists to—it just doesn‘t work.  I don‘t buy...

MATTHEWS:  But John, you say...

TODD:  I don‘t buy a vote...

MATTHEWS:  John, you say there are people out there...

TODD:  I don‘t buy it at all.

MATTHEWS:  ... trying to confuse the Democrats by getting them to pick the wrong win.

BAER:  Well, and I also said that it‘s just a marginal number, just a small percent.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAER:  But there has been some evidence.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BAER:  And you know as well as I do, Pennsylvania has an awful lot of very conservative counties in the middle of the state, and I‘ve seen some anecdotal evidence that that‘s going on.  Will it make a difference?  Probably not.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, the middle of the state has some conservatives.

Let‘s take a look at this response from all voters, not just Democrats.  Asked—this is nationwide.  Asked if Senator Clinton is “honest and trustworthy”—now, these number are bad for her -- 39 percent say she‘s honest and trustworthy, 58 percent say she‘s not.  And that‘s, of course—look at that drop.  She was seen as more honest than dishonest back two years ago.  Now she‘s seen as more dishonest than honest.

Chuck, it seems to me you don‘t want to come out of a campaign seen as dishonest.

TODD:  Well, this goes back to the fundamental disagreements that a lot of folks inside the Clintons‘ world had with Mark Penn.  Mark Penn‘s initial strategy...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s made her dishonest?

TODD:  No.  He decided to have her focus on issues and not worry about her own personal ratings.  She had -- 52-42 in “honest, trustworthy” isn‘t that great going into a campaign.  Her negatives were not that low when she started this campaign, and there were a lot of folks who were advocating, Humanize her.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  She needs to make—in the words of one, she needs to make people want to root for her again, want to get behind her...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... want to cheer her on.  Instead, they talked about cherry picking issues and...

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if Tuzla...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... and I wonder if standing around with a shot and a beer is a little more creepy to people than positive.  They wonder what it‘s (INAUDIBLE).

Let‘s take a look here at Senator Clinton‘s ads she‘s running in Pennsylvania and see if it makes your point, Chuck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Hillary Clinton, and I approved this message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Barack Obama said that people in small town cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was very insulted by Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It just shows how out of touch Barack Obama is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m not clinging to my faith out of frustration or bitterness.  I find that my faith is very uplifting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The good people of Pennsylvania deserve a lot better than what Barack Obama said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hillary does understand the citizens of Pennsylvania better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hillary Clinton has been fighting for people like us her whole life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think that last guy voted in jersey.  Anyway, let me—the guy with the beard.  Let me ask you, John, do you think that ad works?

BAER:  I really don‘t, Chris.  I mean, I think that ad is the kind of ad that David Garth (ph) was making 30 years ago.  And it is very emblematic and representative of the kind of politics that Senator Obama has been fighting against and that Senator Clinton seem to be clinging to.  I think the numbers that you‘re seeing in Pennsylvania, if the impact of those remarks—look, I mean, he made a mistake in trying to be a sociologist instead of a candidate, but it‘s not as if he said that, you know, Pennsylvania hunters opened the—laid down sniper fire during his bus tour.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAER:  I mean, it wasn‘t a lie, it was a misspeak.  And so I‘m not sure that this thing is playing as well in Pennsylvania.  This is a media-driven thing.  The national media is much more—particularly mainstream national broadcast media, is much more interested in how these remarks are parsed and taken them apart...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAER:  ... and seeing what they mean than actual voters.  Voters have enough problems to worry about, the price of gas, their kids‘ college tuitions.  I just don‘t think that this is going to have...

MATTHEWS:  You mean you haven‘t been able...

BAER:  ... a big impact.

MATTHEWS:  Jim Burn out in Pittsburgh the other night was telling me -

he‘s the Allegheny County Democratic chair.  He said that it‘s on the radio, on KDKA out there, the big radio station.  Relentlessly, that‘s what people are talking about.  And you say that‘s not the case.

BAER:  Well, I mean, as—Chris, you know that western Pennsylvania and eastern Pennsylvania are two different places, two different states, literally.  I have no doubt that she‘s going to do very well in western Pennsylvania...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BAER:  ...  Particularly in those southwest counties.

MATTHEWS:  I think so.

BAER:  And I have no doubt that it‘s going to play a lot better out there than everywhere else.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at this.  I want Chuck to respond to this one.  Here‘s the Obama response to the Hillary Clinton shot at him for what he said about people being bitter and clinging to their guns and religion when times are rough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Across Pennsylvania, families are struggling.  What‘s Hillary Clinton‘s answer?  The same old politics, misleading negative ads.  The truth?  It‘s Barack Obama who‘s taken on the oil companies, worked to strip away their tax breaks as they run up record profits and demanded higher gas mileage standards.  And Obama is the only candidate who doesn‘t take a dime from oil company PACs or lobbyists.  And that‘s change we can believe in.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, there‘s another ad there we got to show later in the show that shows him responding to Hillary attacking him over the “bitter” remarks.

TODD:  Well, it is why Clinton took so long to actually go negative on Obama.  You know, it was funny.  This is the first week of the campaign—we‘ve been through 42 primaries or caucuses.  This is the first week of the campaign where there is more negative TV ad traffic on in a state right now between Clinton and Obama than there is positive.  For the longest time, the Clinton campaign feared going negative against him because of the way he can respond, which is always, Oh, that‘s the old politics, that‘s what I‘m running against.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  So it had played into—the idea was it played into his message.  But look, I think that she went negative with the man on the street ad because man on the street is usually the safest way to go negative on somebody because it‘s not in her own voice.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  It puts it in other people‘s voices.  They can usually work a little bit better, and they‘re seen as softer negatives.  It doesn‘t look like you‘re using a sledgehammer...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, it doesn‘t seem like soap commercials.  I mean, those people sound like they‘re saying what they believe.  They‘re aren‘t actors.  These aren‘t dramatizations.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  These are real people.

TODD:  Right.  And that‘s always...

MATTHEWS:  Even though one of them I think voted in New Jersey.  Anyway, thank you very much, Chuck Todd.  Thank you, John, for joining the show.  We hope to have you back...

BAER:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  ... from “The Philadelphia Daily News,” the people paper.

Coming up: Pope Benedict met with President Bush at the White House today.  How will he affect Catholic voters?  Well, I wouldn‘t think he would affect voters at all.  But I think the Catholic vote‘s going to have a big impact on this election.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE BENEDICT XVI:  God bless America.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Sure beats Jeremiah Wright, doesn‘t it?  Anyway, God bless America  beats, God damn America.  Anyway, that‘s HARDBALL.  That, of course, was Pope Benedict XVI today at the White House.  The pope‘s visit put a—well, there‘s a little fun there—puts a spotlight on Catholics in the country, and now we‘ll put a focus on the Catholic vote.

Let‘s talk secular Catholic politics.  Joining me are two fellow ex-altar boys, Pat Buchanan and Mike Barnicle.  Michael, can you do the Suscipiat right now, if I ask you to?

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Adeam (ph) quilitificat (ph) omnipotenta (ph)...

(LAUGHTER)

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  That‘s not it!

MATTHEWS:  That wasn‘t the Suscipiat!  Oh, he can‘t...

BUCHANAN:  Suscipiat...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Yes, we can do it.

MATTHEWS:  ... start it...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s see if we can finish it.  Thank you, gentlemen.  You‘ve established your bona fides to talk about the Catholic vote.  What is the Catholic vote, Mike Barnicle?  It isn‘t like a vote, like—for example, if you‘re a Jewish voter, probably you care about Israel.  That‘s a safe bet.  You have one key concern.  I can‘t think of other groups that make it that simple.  But clearly, if you‘re African-American, you care about Civil Rights.  You care about certain programs of the federal government.  That‘s a generalization but probably true.  You‘re more progressive.  But Catholics, where would you put them?  Is there a squirrel (ph) box or a rabbit hole you can put them in politically?

BARNICLE:  No, I don‘t think so, Chris.  I think what we do in the media is, because of our obsession with polls and label, that we have labeled the fact that there is a Catholic vote.  There—a quarter of this country are people who were born and baptized Catholic, not that they any longer practice the faith.  But the church has become so diverse, it‘s the most diverse church in this land, people have myriad interests.  And they don‘t vote as Catholics, they vote on issues like health care.  They vote on issues like, you know, social reform.  Depending on where they live, they vote differently.  But they don‘t vote as a bloc.

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear the applause last night, gentlemen, when John McCain said he was pro-life at Villanova?  It was thunderous.

BUCHANAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  From all those young kids, 20 years old, roughly, all bright-eyed and young and all gung-ho on that issue of conservative belief, traditional belief on the value of life and opposition to abortion.  It was powerful.

BUCHANAN:  A lot of younger Catholics are turning very pro-life and turning, if you will, against the values of the Baby Boomer generation, the values of their parents, and they‘re turning traditional on that.  I would basically agree with Mike, except in Pennsylvania, which is an old state, older Catholics, very socially conservative, patriotic.  If you‘ve been in the Marine Corps, it‘s 10 points in your favor.  They do believe in the—in sort of the old welfare state, the New Deal welfare state...

MATTHEWS:  The basics.

BUCHANAN:  The basics.  But if you get out in what they consider exotic—you know, the gay rights, abortion on demand—that‘s a negative for you up there, and with older folks.  And frankly, there‘s a Catholic sensibility.  Now, Obama is a tremendous speaker, but his is the speech of a Protestant pulpit.  It‘s not the Catholic pulpit we know.  And so there‘s a little bit of a cultural distance there.  And Hillary Clinton, if you set aside her social issues that are to the left, is pretty much in the mainstream of that community politically and—politically, I would say.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at these numbers.  You know, the “Time” magazine poll came out, and it had a number on it of where Catholics stood on the issue of this election in Pennsylvania next Tuesday.

And I asked T.J. Rooney, the chairman of the party, to tell me what the percentage of Catholic votes were going for Hillary Clinton, and he nailed it.  Just, he knew it in his head before he even got his hands on the poll.  He said 65 percent.  And that‘s exactly what it is in the “TIME” poll he had not seen yet.  So, there is a perception among the people working in the party in Pennsylvania that Hillary Clinton does have a grab for two-thirds of the Catholic vote, at least right now. 

BARNICLE:  Well, Chris, sure.

MATTHEWS:  What is it about? 

BARNICLE:  Surely.

And back to what Pat just said, I just left Philadelphia yesterday.  It‘s a terrific city.  My God, it is so underrated as a city.  It‘s such a huge, sprawling, diverse diversity.  You fall in love with it within a couple hours of being there.  But it is a place like Boston...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Paris.  It‘s Paris. 

BARNICLE:  ... like—where they identify where you‘re from by parish. 

MATTHEWS:  It is better than San Francisco.  It is the most beautiful city. 

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I am—people with me yesterday, as we drove out the parkway, out to the art museum... 

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... out to the river, it is the most spectacular downtown. 

It has its poor areas, but it is the most spectacular downtown there is. 

I‘m telling you.  People don‘t believe it until they see it. 

BARNICLE:  But you know, Chris, better than most, that varying neighborhoods that you go to, in south Philadelphia and north Philadelphia, they identify themselves by parish.  But they would identify more readily with a Hillary Clinton candidacy, I think, for myriad reasons, having less to do with their religious faith than the fact that their traditions are Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy.

She means health care to them.  She means economic issues.  They‘re not religious issues. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Obama, on the other hand, has the cadence that comes—Pat is right—from a Protestant pulpit.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BARNICLE:  ... from a Southern Protestant pulpit. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He has got another problem.  He has got another problem, Barack.  And he has inspired me, I have made it clear on this program and elsewhere. 

But there is something he can‘t do, which I don‘t understand why he can‘t do it.  He can‘t walk into a dinette with five or six guys there, white guys, in some case.  He can‘t just shake hands and hang out.  He doesn‘t seem to, hey, you know, how are the Eagles doing?  Or—how are the Phils doing?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t seem to know how to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Charlie Rangel could do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  And there are black leaders up there that can do that. 

But he is very much Columbia and Harvard Law and all the rest of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, in the North, Catholic ethnics, they also are ethnics.  They are German.  They are Irish.  They are Italian.  They are Polish.  They‘re Slovakian.  They are the Reagan Democrats in the North.  And they are union guys.  They like unions.

MATTHEWS:  So, what are their values?  What are their values? 

BUCHANAN:  Their values are very traditional in terms of family, raising kids to be good and straight and true. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  Kids will get in trouble, but you know they are going to come out all right and they are going to have a big family. 

MATTHEWS:  Well...

BUCHANAN:  All these things that we all grew up with. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, what‘s interesting that—I have obviously paid attention to this all my life, the political nature of the Catholic vote, if you will. 

The funny thing about the Catholic vote—this lighting here is a little wacky today.  I think we‘re getting gas-lighted here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—remember that phrase.  You‘re going nuts because the lights keep going off. 

Let me ask you, Mike Barnicle, Reagan seemed like a Catholic, even though he was raised as a Protestant, even though his father was Catholic.  In many ways, people like Jack Kemp come off as Catholics, in a way.  Is McCain one of them?  Is he down the road going to do well in that way? 

BARNICLE:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  John McCain absolutely comes off as one of them, Irish Catholic working-class hero. 

But the Irish Catholics, the Catholics in general, Polish Catholics, German Catholics, they have—they have migrated.  It used to be, when I was growing up, we knew who Cardinal Gibbons was.  We knew how much of a foundation of the Catholic faith, we thought, was the American labor movement.  That‘s gone now. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Catholics today are working in hedge funds.  They‘re writing insurance policies, rather than great novels. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Name an Irish politician—name an Irish congressman from a big city.  I think there‘s one left, Bob Brady. 

BARNICLE:  Bob Brady.  He was unbelievable the other night, Chris. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There used to be six Irish Catholic congressmen from Philadelphia as recently as the 1950s. 

BARNICLE:  I saw Brady the other night up in...

MATTHEWS:  Times have changed, gentlemen.  We have lost power in the cities. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  But you know what?  Reagan, what we said is—the reason Reagan did so well with Catholics is, he thought he went to Notre Dame and played for Knute Rockne. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was slightly dangerous, when you think you did that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  At least he knew he didn‘t have any sniper fire there. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Pat Buchanan, Barnicle, the altar boys. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... got to brush up on your Latin, guys. 

Up next:  Someone on the campaign trail got caught cooking the books, sort of. 

Plus, guess who Bruce Springsteen is backing as a presidential candidate?  It‘s all coming up here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIIFED MALE:  I‘m sure that you saw Hillary Clinton one of your Democratic opponents Hillary Clinton drinking whisky shots with some potential voters.  I was wondering if you thought she was finally resorting to hitting the sauce because of some unfavorable polling and I was also wondering if you would care to join me for a shot after this.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® AZ:  I did not see the clip, but I certainly heard about it.  And whatever makes Senator Clinton happy is .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That was from last night at Villanova.  Welcome to

HARDBALL.

So what else is out there new in politics?  Well, cooking the books.  Until yesterday morning perusers of John McCain‘s campaign Web site could read Cindy McCain‘s favorite recipes.  One for ah tuna and another for passion fruit mousse and another for falle (ph) pasta with turkey sausage.  The only problem?  They were all lifted verbatim from the Food Network.  Another recipe bore a striking resemblance to one of chef Rachael Ray‘s dishes.

By the middle of Tuesday the campaign had taken down the recipes, blaming an intern for plagiarizing the recipes.  A spokesman for John McCain said, quote, “The intern has been dealt with, but we are assured she was not tortured.  John McCain opposes torture.”

Last week we reported right here that Senator Orin Hatch known for composing music had written a song expressly for John McCain‘s campaign.  I can report that we have for you tonight, an audio recording of Senator Orin Hatch‘s ditty entitled “Together Forever.”  Without further ado, here‘s it is.

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  I will be singing it on the pillow tonight.  Anyway, Senator Hatch‘s office said he quote, “wrote this up tempo song to appeal to youth.”

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL big number tonight, the man called the Boss just boosted Barack.  Bruce Springsteen officially endorsed Barack Obama on his Web site today, even taking the time to defending Obama over those bitter comments out in San Francisco at the fund-raiser.

When it comes to politics, Bruce obviously puts his time and energy where his heart is.  In how many cities did Bruce Springsteen perform with the move on.org during the Kerry campaign back in 2004?  Thirty three cities Bruce Springsteen campaigned in., 33 cities performing for John Kerry.  He will probably do as many for Barack Obama.  Unfortunately for Hillary she may have to replace the song she likes to use in her rallies, “The Rising.”  Guess who wrote and performed it?  Bruce Springsteen.  Tonight‘s big number, 33.

Up next, last night Senator John McCain played HARDBALL on our college tour at Villanova.  We will have a recap and get a response from Democratic Senator Joe Biden from neighboring Delaware.  You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Hello, I‘m Milissa Rehberger. 

Here‘s what‘s happening.

Minutes ago Pope Benedict XVI finished addressing bishops at the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington.  He told them they must heal the suffering caused be clergy sex abuse and he also said the scandal has been very badly handled by the church.  That is the harshest criticism yet of the bishops themselves.  The pope is now answering questions from the bishops gathered there.

When he is finished he will return to the Vatican embassy in Washington where he is staying and tomorrow morning he will celebrate mass at the Washington Nationals new ballpark.

And a short time ago Senator Barack Obama released his 2007 tax returns and they show he earned $4.2 million with nearly $4 million of that coming from the profits of his two books and they also showed the senator paid $1.4 million in federal taxes and made charitable contributions of $240,000.  By comparisons the Clintons reported $20 million in income last year with nearly half come for example the former president‘s speeches.  Now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Senator John McCain was our guest last night at the college tour at Villanova.  What a night it was.  Those kids were great and he was pretty impressive last night.  Here was David Shuster reporting on the headlines of what came out on the big night at Villanova.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  John McCain!

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Escorted in by Villanova‘s mascot in front of the largest crowd John McCain has had in this campaign, the presumptive nominee embraced the raucous HARDBALL college tour.  And McCain made news.  Until yesterday former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania had been widely viewed as a potential McCain running mate, but perhaps no more.  The reason?  Ridge supports abortion rights.

MATTHEWS:  Would you put somebody on the ticket like that on that one issue, would that stop him?

MCCAIN:  I don‘t know if it would stop them, but it would be difficult.

MATTHEWS:  Why that one issue?  Why is there that one litmus test issue?

MCCAIN:  I‘m not saying that would be, but I am saying it‘s basically the respect and cherishing of the right of the unborn is one of the fundamental principles of my party.

SHUSTER:  One of the big foreign policy issues hanging over the 2008 campaign involves Iran.  McCain pledged to keep Iran from having nuclear weapons and with this he signaled that he might take action early in his presidency.

MCCAIN:  The Iranians are close to in the view of many people of reaching a, quote, tipping point at least in the technology that they have and they have reached such a point in developing it that it is inevitable that they do develop a nuclear weapon.

SHUSTER:  In terms of the 2008 general election itself, McCain said he and the Democratic nominee should work together to stop independent attack ads.

ANNOUNCER:  They are the men who served with John Kerry in Vietnam.

SHUSTER:  Four years ago, a group trying to help President Bush ran these swift boat ads against John Kerry.

MATTHEWS:  Would you sit down with the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, Hillary and Barack and agree there will be no outside attacks by either side and you will tell your people and condemn any attack like a swift boating and you will agree up front as you get the nomination?  Would you do that?

MCCAIN:  I would love to do that.

SHUSTER:  But McCain also made clear he will continue to insist that Barack Obama stay in the public financing system for the general election as he promised.  Obama‘s record haul in the primaries has the Obama campaign thinking otherwise.

MCCAIN:  Senator Obama a year ago signed a piece of paper said if the Republican nominee would take the public financing he would to.

MATTHEWS:  Right, are you going to hold him to that if he gets the nomination?

MCCAIN:  Well, he is now .

MATTHEWS:  Will you hold him to it?

MCCAIN:  I have been trying to hold him to it.

SHUSTER:  Campaign financing is not exactly a headline grabbing issue, but it could help McCain tarnish the image of Obama‘s political purity.  In the meantime, McCain is already mindful of general election swing states as evidenced by his eager participation in the HARDBALL college tour in Pennsylvania.  I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Great report by Shuster there.  That was big news last night and I think he caught it all.  Anyway, Senator Joe Biden blasted Senator McCain at a speech in Georgetown yesterday.  He is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and joins us now.  Senator Biden, do you still believe, well, let‘s look at you and I want to give you a chance to look at yourself and what you and said the other day and see if you want to back it up.  The fight is up between you and McCain.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He said you are joined at the hip with the administration on the future of Iraq policy.

Joined at the hip?

MCCAIN:  Why should I be surprised that or not surprised that Joe Biden in the year 2008 would be disagreeing with me.  Look, I have open and honest discussions with Joe Biden and they are respectful ones.  He‘s a fine man.  We have a fundamental difference of opinion about what we should be doing from their as we have for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There you have it.  He didn‘t exactly say he wasn‘t joined at the hip, but he said you were wrong.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) DE:  Well, first of all, he said I wanted to divide Iraq.  You know, Chris, I‘ve been on your programs many times, that‘s not what I want to do.  I want a system and the vast majority of foreign policy specialists are saying that I‘m right and that a federal system is the only way out.  Look, John is say great guy.  I think John has great integrity and he truly is a personal friend.  I know we say that in politics but we both mean it and evidence the fact that he said that he would go after swift boaters.  I believe him.  John‘ll make a deal, John‘ll make a deal.

And that‘s one of the things I admire about him.  But there are two big things he disagrees on and why the foreign policy of Bush would continue at the frond front end.  One, he has this myopic view, in my view, Chris, that terrorism dictates every policy and as a consequence of that, terror is real and it‘s a method, but manageable and in the meantime what it does, all the major issues that are going to shape the 21st century are off the table with Bush and off the table with John so far because they are focused on that.

Secondly on Iraq.  He talks about the consequences of leaving.  He doesn‘t talk about the consequences of staying.  The consequence of staying by every major expert are not defensible.  We don‘t have one combat battalion left in the whole United States military to deal with any emergencies as we keep this kind of stature and this kind of commitment in Iraq.  John‘s view is exactly where President Bush‘s is now.

Last point, I‘ll admit I have been in rooms with John McCain at I and John has been hollering at Rumsfeld louder than I would.  He thinks the war was a disaster, but where they are right now as John truly believes that somehow you can eliminate all Iranian influence in Iraq and that if we left, al Qaeda would grow instead of shrink.  I think he is dead wrong about the consequences of drawing down and he never talks about the even more dire consequences of staying.

MATTHEWS:  If he were elected president, he has a 50-50 shot if you look at the polls against whoever he runs.  Do you think he will take us out of Iraq in force or will we still at the end of to eight years have 140,000 troops fighting the special groups and the Shia militia, the Sunni insurgents, the criminals, the Kurdish rebels?  Will we still be fighting everybody in the country?

BIDEN:  Look, I am going to get in trouble with my Democratic friends for saying this.  I know John‘s heart and he hates war and he would try to get us out, he would try to figure it out, but I think his desire and his fixation on the notion that somehow if we leave, al Qaeda grows when most experts think it would atrophy.  I thinks if we leave, the influence of Iran would exponentially increase instead of causing a problem.  I think those two things may cause him to stay.

And you heard what your analyst before you said and I think you said.  That John McCain might consider taking us against Iran in the first year of his administration.  I hope to God that‘s not true.  But it‘s possible.  The answer is, Chris, I don‘t think he has any idea how we would begin to drawdown.  That‘s the problem.  That‘s the problem and staying is a disaster.  Remember I asked Ryan Crocker, the ambassador, when he testified with General Petraeus.  I said if you could eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq or you could eliminate it in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where would you eliminate it?  And he said well, clearly Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Guess what, Chris?  Our ISAF commander, the General McNeil, the guy that heads up our forces in Afghanistan says hey look, I need 10,000 more troops to deal with Afghanistan and the Taliban.  I can‘t get them because we are keeping this force structure in Iraq.

These guys have got to make some hard choices and I‘m afraid John will make the wrong choices.  I believe Hillary and Barack would make the right choices on those points.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got a new poll out tonight, senator, that says overwhelmingly the Democratic Party believes Barack Obama will have a better chance of beating McCain than Hillary Clinton would.  Is that your thought?

BIDEN:  No.  I‘m not prepared to make that judgment yet.  I think - that‘s changed, as you know, we have gone back and forth and two weeks ago you‘re reading polls showing John McCain beating Barack by a larger percentage than he was beating Hillary and now it changed.  The answer is that may be true, but I think it‘s too early to make that judgment.  I think it‘s going to be a big deal to determine what happens in your home state and my native state of Pennsylvania and where that takes us.

MATTHEWS:  Deep down, do you believe you are a better candidate in a general election situation against a Republican than either of these two people and you Joe Biden would stand a better chance next November than either Hillary or Barack?  Deep down.

BIDEN:  I‘m out of the race, Chris.  I‘m out of the race.

MATTHEWS:  No answer.  I didn‘t hear an answer.  Thank you Senator Joe Biden.

Up next, your politics fix is coming up.  This is HARDBALL only on

MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  After you became aware of his inflammatory remarks did you discuss them with him, the tone and the content and if so can you tell us what you said and whether your comments had any effect.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) IL:  I will be honest with you.  I did not become aware of them until I started running for president.  And at that point, yes, I had conversations with him.  In which I shared with him my deep concern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and time now for the politics fix.  April Ryan is with the American Urban Radio Network.  Clarence Page is with the “Chicago Tribune,” he is a columnist and Chrystia Freeland is U.S.  Managing editor of the “Financial Times,” I want to start with Clarence on this.

You heard the concern there from that woman in that meeting with the Jewish leaders in Philadelphia today.  They are concerned obviously about the Reverend Wright from Chicago.  You are out there.  You know Chicago.  Is that a good enough answer for people concerned about that particular theme of Reverend Wright?

CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  It will be good enough in Chicago, but the rest of the country doesn‘t know Barack Obama as well.  So he is going to have to face what I call the Farrakhan test which many black politicians who are cross-overs have to face where he gets asked, what do you think about Farrakhan, what do you think about everybody who knows Farrakhan including in his case his minister.  And so that‘s something that has popped up and hasn‘t had a measurably negative impact yet, but it‘s something that members of the Jewish community are concerned about.

MATTHEWS:  Chrystia Freeland, there is also concerned I hear from people in the Jewish community.  People that normally vote Democrat, let‘s be blunt about it, who may not do that this time because Barack Obama has Brzezinski as an advisor.  He comes with the name Hussein right in middle of his name.  Not an Islamic last name, but he has a background in that part of the world, in Indonesia, also from his stepfather and his father in that part of the world.  He‘s a stranger and that‘s never a good thing to be from the Jewish point of view to be a completely unknown product.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, “FINANCIAL TIMES”:  I think you are absolutely right and there some people in the Jewish community and not all.  I think there a lot of people in the Jewish community who are very supportive of Barack Obama but there is this concern and it‘s interesting that it‘s not about things that Senator Obama has said, but it is based on two things.  People he is associated with as Clarence said, the Farrakhan test.  And also this question of he doesn‘t have that much of a track record and hasn‘t been a figure in national politics for that long.

So I do think he has some work to do to reassure people for whom the Israel issue is a decisive one.

MATTHEWS:  I spent all Sunday with a Jewish group outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County.  Almost everybody is well off people.  The country club, well off people, all Barack Obama.

PAGE:  I will say, by the way, AIPAC gives him a good rating, the American Israel Political Action (SIC) .

MATTHEWS:  For his voting record.

PAGE:  His voting record, exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to something else and I want April to start this.  This is another one of those issues of demographics and age and religion and ethnicity.  This one is about age.  Here‘s Congressman John Murtha, a man in his 70s criticizing John McCain, a man in his 70s for being too old to be president.  This is great stuff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D) PA:  One guy running about as old as me.  Let me tell you something it‘s no old man‘s job.  I mean, the campaign the stress and so forth.  He said I was too old for the job time one time because he disagreed with my policy.  He‘s the same age as you.  He said well, I‘m different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what regular people in Pennsylvania talk about.  You can‘t be more regular than Jack Murtha.  Here‘s McCain‘s response in an interview with my colleague, Andrea Mitchell tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  John, come out and campaign and see that the reason why I‘m the nominee in my party is because we out campaigned everybody.  He can only speak for himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is this, April?  “Grumpy Old Men III”?

APRIL RYAN, URBAN RADIO NETWORK:  It may be.  Murtha knows best.  They are both in their 70s.  Look, for real, Chris.  This is a matter of who is physically fit.  Running for the Oval Office is something that‘s not easy.  You are in town to town, day to day.  You are here once you get here.  It‘s a lot of stress.  You have seen presidents gray and they have got a lot of stress.  They are the world leader.  From sunup to sundown.  It‘s really something that you have to take into consideration.  Especially someone who is of the age of John McCain and who does have health issues.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s funny, Chrystia, because the last person to raise this issue besides Jack Murtha was Bill Clinton who just a few days ago said hey, Hillary Clinton made the comment at 11:00 at night and when you get 60, will you be all that sharp?  He was raising the issue that being 60 you are starting to lose it.  That was an odd comment by someone boosting her presidential campaign.

FREELAND:  I think Hillary Clinton has questions to ask about how effective her husband who we all thought was the greatest politician of his generation has been when campaigning for someone other than himself.

MATTHEWS:  Are you saying that Bill Clinton is losing—This is hilarious.  This whole question.  Clarence, we will get back to this.  You and I are the same age.  We are going to talk about this.  Everything, ethnicity, age, gender and everything is on the table this election.  Back with the round table for more of the politics fix in just a minute.  You‘re watching HARDALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We made news last night at the college.  John McCain will not run with a pro choice republican including one of the most representative, the most impressive of them, Tom Ridge.  Won‘t do it.  Chrystia?

FREELAND:  Yes, I thought you were going to play us that clip.

MATTHEWS:  We are going right to you on this.  What do you think that the Republican Party is now clearly and exclusively at the highest level of pro and no room for a team player like Tom Ridge or Rudy Giuliani or any other pro choice Republican apparently on the ticket?

FREELAND:  Well, I think that that really speaks to one of the issues that McCain and his team are worried about going into the general election which is Senator McCain who is a figure that has a lot of appeal to independent voters and has issues with the Republican base.  One of the things we have been seeing is him making a lot of effort to say to those people and evangelicals that he is with them.  I think if he were to choose a pro choice Republican as a running mate, that could exacerbate the problems he has with that group of voters.  That could be really important for him.

MATTHEWS:  Your thought?  April, it might kiss off California for him, make himself so clearly and exclusively pro life.

RYAN:  Well, here‘s the deal.  Many Republicans are very upset with John McCain.  They have been saying this from the on set.  This man, his history of voting is basically the right thing, but he doesn‘t talk or give the right language.  John McCain has got to really, really be careful on this abortion issue because he has to get someone to shore up the religious right and social conservatives.  He has to get someone who stands firm on being against abortion.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So now we know John McCain is going for Pennsylvania, he is going for Ohio, he is giving on California.

PAGE:  I wouldn‘t give up on California.  For one thing I don‘t think that choice has been a deciding issue in California but .

MATTHEWS:  You have to be choice.  No, but you have to be choice to carry California.

PAGE:  Number two.  They are going to grow—they are going to grow up among Democrats up there who are Hispanics who are heavily Catholic and heavily anti-choice.  I wouldn‘t kiss off California that quickly.

MATTHEWS:  You can carry California by being pro life?

PAGE:  I‘m not saying McCain is going to carry California against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I think those are bigger issues.

MATTHEWS:  But he could beat Mitt Romney out there.

PAGE:  Well, yeah.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you all.  I go back to Chrystia about this.  It seems to me he was making quite a statement with the speed with which he gave me that answer.  Tom Ridge is popular in Pennsylvania, former governor, former combat veteran in Vietnam, a very impressive guy with a clean record.  Clearly he is ready for a higher national office still.

And to just immediately say no way, this guy is difficult, I can‘t put him on the ticket.  Does this say the same thing about Rudy Giuliani?

FREELAND:  I think it does.  I think, Chris, you are right to be focusing on this issue.  It shows what a free ride John McCain is getting right now.  While the Democrats are busy fighting each other, they are really not in a position to point out issues like this and to be saying to those California voters, you might like the fact that John McCain is a maverick, you might like all things about his character, but do you want to vote for someone coming out very decisively, very intentionally as being anti-choice.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s interesting that the most successful Pennsylvania politicians recently, Arlen Specter and Tom Ridge are pro choice.

PAGE:  And it raises questions about just how important is that issue. 

It has been important to the Republican Party since 1980.

MATTHEWS:  April Ryan, thank you very much, Clarence, thank you, Chrystia Freeland.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern with more HARDBALL.  COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN starts right now.

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

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