updated 4/22/2008 10:54:48 AM ET 2008-04-22T14:54:48

Guests: Jonathan Alter, Rachel Maddow, Michelle Bernard

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Ann Curry‘s interview with Barack Obama where he talks about why he will still win the nomination even if loses tomorrow in Pennsylvania.

Our all-star panel: Pat Buchanan, Jonathan Alter, and Rachel Maddow, are here.

And: Why might Obama not deliver the knockout punch in Philadelphia? 

We head to Philadelphia to HARDBALL‘s Chris Matthews who is with us.

Plus: Last week, Karl Rove fired off an angry letter to me, tonight my not quite as angry response as we continue our investigation into whether politics is behind the prosecution of a prominent Democrat.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Breaking tonight: NBC‘s Ann Curry has just interviewed both presidential candidates.  Senator Clinton resorts to playing the gender card.  We will play that in a moment.

But first: Senator Obama saying tonight, that a loss tomorrow in Pennsylvania is far from fatal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN CURRY, NBC HOST:  After outspending Senator Clinton two to one, it appears you will lose in Pennsylvania.  So, what does that say about your ability to win in November?

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It doesn‘t say much because the fact is that, you know, my approval ratings here in Pennsylvania among Democrats are extraordinarily high.

CURRY:  Why is it that you have been unable to win these big diverse states with really a motherload of electoral votes?

OBAMA:  Now, hold on a second.  Now, If anybody thinks that I‘ll lose New York or California in the general election, there‘s no chance of that happening.  That‘s just, you know, I think spin on the part of Senator Clinton‘s campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The full interview will air tomorrow morning on the TODAY show tomorrow morning.

Joining me now: three of the best MSNBC political analysts: Air America‘s Rachel Maddow, “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter, and Pat Buchanan.

All right.  Rachel, I mean, the question was: Why have you been unable to win the big states?  And he‘s saying, “Look, that‘s Clinton‘s spin.”  Is it Clinton spin?

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Honestly, what we‘ve seen in the big states is big voter turnout, big Democratic voter registration, and voters having a hard time deciding between the two candidates or in some cases, deciding they‘d rather have Senator Clinton than Senator Obama.  That doesn‘t say that Obama couldn‘t win those in the general.  I think on the bare facts here, he‘s right.

ABRAMS:  Pat, is he glossing over an issue here?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think he‘s glossing over a bit.  He will win California and New York, but the real question: If he can‘t beat Hillary Clinton when he‘s the front-runner and now outspent her two to one, he can‘t win Pennsylvania; can he take it away from John McCain?  Can he win Michigan and can he win Ohio when he lost that to Hillary Clinton?

I think there‘s some doubts raised in the minds of superdelegates and Democrats everywhere.  But I agree with Barack Obama, he‘s still the front-runner even if he loses tomorrow.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan?

JONATHAN ALTER, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Yes, you know, he is having trouble closing the sale, but that doesn‘t necessarily mean that he‘s a weak candidate.

ABRAMS:  But why is that Jonathan?  I mean, and we‘ll talk about this later with Chris Matthews, but why is it that when it seems pretty clear that the candidate is going to be Barack Obama, you‘ve got this big state, Pennsylvania, which seems to be saying, we‘re still going to go for Hillary Clinton?

ALTER:  Because in terms of demographics, Dan, it‘s just tailored-made for Hillary Clinton.  It‘s the second oldest state in the country and that‘s her demographic—that over 50 crowd, those are her voters.  It‘s also only about 15 percent African-American which is on the low side in Democratic primaries.  It has a lot of—in terms of cultural issues, those voters tend to favor Hillary.  So, if you went in to a laboratory and tried to design almost a perfect Hillary Clinton state, where, by the way, her father comes from, you would come up with Pennsylvania.

ABRAMS:  And I got to tell you, it seems Barack Obama almost conceding there, I mean, that he expects to lose but they both want to set the expectations as low as possible.

All right.  Hillary Clinton‘s comment, this again, to Anne Curry only hours to go, I found this to be fascinating, that once again it sure sounds like she‘s suggesting she‘s being treated differently because she‘s a woman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It is like Ginger

Rogers and Fred Astaire.  You know, I have to do everything Fred does only

backwards and in high heels.  The most pervasive form of discrimination in

the world, no matter what the ethnicity, the race, the religion of the

people who live in any society is discrimination against women.  That is a

-

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  As the sole woman on the panel, Rachel.  I must begin with you.

MADDOW:  Allow me to be the white lady in the room here.

Listen, I think that Barack Obama is going to have voters vote against him because of his race and John McCain is going to have voters vote against him because of his age and Hillary Clinton is going to have voters vote against her because of her gender.  That is absolutely true.

ABRAMS:  So, a fair comment for Clinton to make?

MADDOW:  It is not necessarily a fair comment to make because I don‘t think that is the generic dynamic that explains where she is in the race.  I think it is one thing among many.  And I‘m certainly will tell you that sexism is real and you see certainly in the types of criticisms that are labeled against her that a male candidate wouldn‘t get.  But it is not the defining feature of her candidacy.

ABRAMS:  Pat, fair for us to have lower—on the screen there, Clinton plays the gender card.  It sure sounded like it to me.

BUCHANAN:  I think it is.  Look, Hillary Clinton may lose some votes because she‘s a woman, but she will gain far more because she was a sister, that she won New Hampshire and came roaring back when the ladies came out for her and same is true of Barack Obama.  He‘s going to roll through Philadelphia and carry 85 to 90 percent of the African-American vote because he‘s black and he‘s going to lose some votes in that state because he‘s black.

So, look, there are pros and cons and all through politics of—why did Romney do well in Utah and so badly in the Deep South?  Religion.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, are you troubled by this comment?

ALTER:  Here‘s the problem for Hillary.  It‘s perfectly fine for her to say all this what she says about women globally is absolutely true.  The problem is sisterhood doesn‘t work.  It got her over the finish line barely in New Hampshire.

But when they design this campaign, they really thought that women would vote for Hillary in such disproportionate numbers that they couldn‘t be stopped to the nomination.  And that hasn‘t turned out to be the case.  And in fact, it has never been the case in state races either.  Women do not vote for women just because somebody is a woman.  They make a more complex.

MADDOW:  They do it marginally but not massively.

ABRAMS:  Sister Rachel—I love that, a sister.  I mean, sister.

MADDOW:  I‘ve got a lot of aunts who are nuns.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m just saying, but “Sister Rachel,” I mean, are you bothered by this?  I mean, does it kind of frustrate you?

MADDOW:  Does it bother me to Hillary Clinton using the arguments?

ABRAMS:  Yes, to her saying that I have to do everything that much better, that I have the deck stacked against me.

MADDOW:  I - no, in general that does not bother me, but I‘ll tell you.  It‘s because to be a pioneer, to be first at something, you do have to be better than everybody who is not of that pioneer status.

ABRAMS:  Two pioneers though and, I mean.

MADDOW:  We‘ve got three pioneers.  I mean, the age thing is not a joke, it‘s a real and it‘s a real prejudice that McCain is going to be up against.  It‘s a lot harder to argue against than the gender and race card.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to play this ad that Clinton has just put out, which, you know, we‘ve talked about these fear issues coming up before.  This, I think, is worse than anything that we‘ve seen so far.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  It‘s the toughest job in the world.

You need to be ready for anything, especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis.  Harry Truman said it best:

“If you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Who do you think has what it takes?

CLINTON:  I‘m Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pat Buchanan, explain it to me, I wasn‘t really bothered by that previous ad about the 3:00 a.m., who‘s going to be able to answer the call.  There‘s something about this one with the images, the visual images that bothers me more.

BUCHANAN:  Well, I‘m not bothered by it.  What she‘s saying is: it‘s a dangerous world.  We live in dangerous times and terrible things can happen.  And in effect, I‘m an experienced hand and I know what I‘m doing and I‘d been there.  And by the way, this other fellow hasn‘t been there.

I think it‘s - I mean, it‘s a tough ad.  But I‘ve got no problem with it.  It‘s not the daisy girl.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan?

ALTER:  I‘m totally with Pat.  I thought it was totally fair game.  I think it‘s a good way for her to close.  She‘s going back into her strength which is experience that you can trust her in a crisis because she‘s already been in the White House—all of those familiar themes.  They haven‘t won the nomination for her but as they say in Chicago politics, you dance with the one who brung you.

ABRAMS:  Barack Obama said: “It‘s ironic that she would borrow the president‘s tactics in her own campaign and invoke bin Laden to score political points.”

MADDOW:  The difference here is what Pat and Jonathan are reading into this ad is that she‘s making a case, making argument about her own experience and against Barack Obama‘s experience.  She‘s not actually making those.  What she‘s doing is saying, be afraid of the stock market crash and Pearl Harbor and Cuban missile crisis and gas rationing, and 9/11.

And when you feel that fear, think of me.  There‘s no argument against anybody or for anybody.  It‘s just, think of that thing and think of me.

ABRAMS:  I think that‘s—actually, I think that‘s OK.  What bothers

me is the visual aspect of it.  To me, there‘s a different when you start

showing those pictures that says -

MADDOW:  Yes.  But that‘s what I‘m saying though.  There‘s no

argument.  She‘s just trying to evoke the feeling of fear and feeling of

actual and loathing -

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  When you feel afraid, think of me.  That‘s what (INAUDIBLE) for Democratic leadership.

BUCHANAN:  If you live in a dangerous and threatening world and we do, I‘m your girl.  What is wrong with that?

ALTER:  There‘s nothing wrong with it, the problem is.

MADDOW:  She‘s saying, when you feel afraid, think of me.  That‘s George W. Bush.  That ought not be a Democrat.

BUCHANAN:  Why did it work for Bush, why can‘t it work for Hillary?

ALTER:  Because it doesn‘t work.

MADDOW:  Because Republicans and Democrats are different.

ALTER:  The main thing is it doesn‘t work, that‘s who we‘ve learned already through all these primaries.  That‘s why we‘re here.  That‘s why the front-runner has stumbled  because even though it‘s her best bet since that sort of whole campaign was about, what we‘ve learned this year is that people do tend to vote their hopes more than their fears.

ABRAMS:  Hillary Clinton talked about this on COUNTDOWN in the last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  That ad is about leadership and I obviously believe I do have the leadership, experience and qualities to become the president and the commander-in-chief.  Nothing at all that is in any way inappropriate in saying: Look, presidents face the unexpected all of the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean, Jonathan, nothing inappropriate.  Do you agree with that?

ALTER:  I don‘t—as I said, I don‘t think there‘s anything inappropriate with the ad.  All I‘m saying is as Bill Clinton has been saying for many years: “In the end, people vote about their future,” that ad was all about the past and they do tend to vote their hopes over their fears unless you‘re in kind of a 9/11 situation.

MADDOW:  I think when you scare people, they tend to vote Republican. 

And that‘s why this is a John McCain ad in terms of its effect more than.

ABRAMS:  Pat, your final word, I have to wrap it up quick.

BUCHANAN:  I think it says you can trust me in grave times and I don‘t thing you can trust that other fellow, can you?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jon, Rachel, and Pat, thanks.

Coming up: Pennsylvania‘s own Chris Matthews joins us.  Why does he think Clinton is still ahead if she has so little a chance of winning the nom mason?

And: John McCain is now saying it was a mistake to solicit an endorsement from that controversial pastor, but then says, “You know what, though, I‘m glad to have him on board.”  The guy called the Catholic Church, quote, “the great whore.”  Tonight in Win, Lose or Draw.

Plus: The Bush administration doesn‘t want White House visitor logs to be released, challenging a court ruling.  The Bush administration is trying to hide into from the American people again.

Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The White House forgetting it‘s the people‘s house and not the private property of President George W. Bush.

The Bush administration wants to keep visitor logs to the White House and Vice President Cheney‘s residence secret.  Sighting a law that let‘s the executive branch seek advice privately, a federal judge has ordered the documents‘ release and now the administration is appealing.  The president and vice president are trying to hide their visitors from the public:

Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Coming up: Why Obama behind in Pennsylvania, but he‘s the likely nominee.  How does that work?  Pennsylvania‘s own Chris Matthews joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  More now on the big Pennsylvania primary tomorrow, a “must win” for Hillary Clinton and a really must win big for her.  But the question tonight: Why is she still leading in Pennsylvania considering how remote her chances are of winning the nomination, yet, she remains ahead of Barack Obama in the latest polls?

The MSNBC Poll has her leading by five points.  Quinnipiac University Poll has her up by seven.  Suffolk University has her up by 10.

But unfortunately for Clinton, Obama currently has 1,417 pledged

delegates to Clinton‘s 1,251, an advantage of 166 delegates.  He leads her

by nearly 700,000 in the popular vote.

So, why are Pennsylvania Democrats not likely voting for the candidate who will almost certainly be their party‘s nominee?

There‘s one person I‘d want to talk to about it, it‘s this man.  The man from Pennsylvania, host of HARDBALL: Chris Matthews.

What is the answer, sir?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST OF “HARDBALL”:  Well, Hillary Clinton has done a very good job in the last three weeks, of making herself into a Pennsylvanian.  Just as she did in Arkansas, made herself a southern accented, a southern woman just as she became a Yankee fan and a New Yorker.

She‘s become in the last several weeks, a Scranton daughter, someone who grew up in Scranton, spent her summers there, her father played for Penn state, her brother played for Penn state, she drinks shots and beers.  She talks about being raised with a gun, of going to church, the whole routine of being a local girl.  In fact, somebody said to me in Philadelphia the other day, she‘s the home town girl.  They know how to do it.

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t there some recognition, Chris, that her chances of winning the nomination are extremely remote?

MATTHEWS:  I would think intellectually that has sunk in to everyone of the counties in Pennsylvania.  But I‘m not sure it has.  And secondly, it could just be that the voters know that she probably can‘t win but they want to push sort of a mute button on it.  They want to stop the process a little bit and give her a shot or it will slow down Barack.  I think a lot of her vote is anti-Barack, definitely more cautious, more conservative.

If you look at the parts of the state where she‘s doing well, it‘s Western Pennsylvania.  It‘s it‘s the (inaudible) counties around Pittsburgh.  It‘s where people are much more culturally conservative.  And where she‘s not doing well, where Barack is doing well, sophisticated suburban counties around Philadelphia where they read the “New York Times,” where they keep up with Broadway plays, where they know what‘s going on nationally.  They‘re very sophisticated, lots of college degrees.  That‘s where Barack is doing well.

But he‘s also doing well in communities like that, like Lancaster, Reading, York, and I think he‘s holding his own up in Scranton.  So, if you just had to do it simply, eastern part of the state, Barack is doing well.  Younger people under 50, he‘s doing well.  Older parts of the state, western part—Hillary.

ABRAMS:  So, the new polling question is going to be: Do you know when Kevin Federline was last on Broadway?

MATTHEWS:  Or something like that.  My question is: How old are you?  Because if you‘re over 45 or over 50, you‘re probably with Hillary.  If you‘re under, and by the way, if you have a cellphone and don‘t have a landline, I don‘t thing the pollsters are getting to you.

We might have a surprise tomorrow.  I don‘t know.  It seems like that‘s the real problem.  How do you poll a guy or woman who doesn‘t have a land phone?  How do you poll them?

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Let me play a piece of sound from Howard Wolfson of the Clinton camp.  I want you to react to it.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  If he does not win after having outspent us so dramatically, it will once again raise very serious questions among voters and superdelegates about whether or not Senator Obama can win the big swing states that any Democrat would have to win in November.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wait, aren‘t we changing what the definition of win is there?  I mean, he‘s talking about winning in the primary and equating that with winning in the general election.

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.  He doesn‘t have to beat Hillary Clinton in the general.  He has to beat a Republican and states that shifting, just in the past few months, 300,000 votes to the Democrats.  The whole tilt of this state is towards the Democrats.  A democrat, brand X Democrat should win here in November.  Maybe Hillary has a little better shot, maybe not.  Some argument that she wins here, therefore, he can‘t win in November, is a hard argument to make.

ABRAMS:  Well, some of the Clinton supporters though, and you describe them more culturally conservative, et cetera, and we look at the numbers, we look at hunters and the bowlers and gun owners.  They did this poll about the beer drinkers, et cetera, that they are overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.  Are those people who will defect?

MATTHEWS:  And she‘ll pick up some Republicans as well.  Some of those four-year college people, some of the people in the suburban counties who are pro-choice.  John McCain is pro-life, pro-war.  He is not the perfect fit for Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania had a problem with this war.  It is not simply down the line.  We have a pro-choice Republican senator, Arlen Specter.  We‘d just had a pro-choice Republican governor, Tom Ridge.  They are very skeptical about the war, all of the people in this state.

I don‘t think John McCain is a perfect fit by any means.  Barack Obama is a new comer, who knows?  But the idea that he can‘t beat John McCain here, that‘ a stretch of an argument.

ABRAMS:  You know, I was interested that the beer drinkers, they were tied.  That in the hunters, she wins; in the bowlers, she wins; and the gun owners, she wins, but the beer drinkers, no, that‘s a race to the finish.

MATTHEWS:  There is always a danger in causality Mr. Attorney, and you know from the courtroom, you can‘t argue because she drank beer once on television, that that‘s why she‘s getting the beer drinkers.  There are other sociometric overlays that work here, sir.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Real quick, what‘s the storyline tomorrow when they leave?

MATTHEWS:  Eight points—I think eight points is the over-under.  If she gets a victory of less than eight, I think she‘s going to have a hard time arguing that she should stay in this race.

However, I‘m completely consistent on this, if tomorrow night she gets nine or 10 or double digits, I‘m going to give her the biggest woohoo because she deserves it.  She would have won a big election up here.  But she can‘t call it a victory winning five or six or seven up here.  She‘s got to get at least an eight, and that‘s a win for her and I think that‘s based upon all of the expectations going into this race.

ABRAMS:  And you predicted double digits on this program before, so -

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think that can change.  I think Barack has had a very good five days.  I think he had a terrible mid-week last week because of his comments and the debate, he was terrible in.  But I‘ll tell you one thing, he‘s had a very good weekend, I think the numbers are coming up nationally, and Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are part of the nation.

Look at those Gallup Polls, they‘d jumped up over the weekend, I think people felt perhaps that Hillary overdid it with the shots in beers.  Maybe.

ABRAMS:  Chris Matthews, go have a shot.  Go have a beer.

MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t think but thank you.

ABRAMS:  Good to see you.  HARDBALL‘s Chris Matthews, thank you.

Coming up: Clinton attacks Obama for saying that McCain would likely be a better president than Bush.  Wasn‘t Clinton the one who said McCain had enough experience while Obama didn‘t?  Our Win, Lose or Draw edition of On Their Trail is coming up.

And a Michael Dukakis is moment, courtesy of the folks over at FOX News. 

Not a tank this time but a big gun.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us: verdict@msnbc.com. Your emails during the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.

We‘re coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.

First up: CNN‘s Ali Velshi was reporting this afternoon in Philadelphia, to preview tomorrow‘s primary and the so-called best political team on television, offered up this keen insight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN REPORTER:  We have numbers out, Jim, talking about how close this race is but there‘s still a spread.  There‘s still - it‘s too early to call, Jim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right, Ali.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Do you think it‘s too early to call?  You mean because Pennsylvania Democrats don‘t vote until tomorrow.  The best political team on television.

Next up: This Michael Dukakis moment, sort of, brought to you courtesy of FOX News Reporter Marianne Silber in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE SILBER, FOX NEWS REPORTER:  Done.  Wow, that is incredible.  It‘s the first time I‘ve ever done anything like that.  Done.  And earlier, actually I hit the target.  This time I wasn‘t so lucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, it looks as though it‘s first time she‘d ever done that.  She looks a lot better than Dukakis did, too.

Finally: We‘re learning about the type of folks the FOX Business Channel hires to be contributors like investment banker, John Layfield, who developed a berry-flavored drink that he claims is an all natural “sexual endurance drink” for men.  I have never tried it, I swear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LAYFIELD, TV CONTRIBUTOR:  I‘m John Layfield, known and loved the world over. I am bringing to you, all of you, what the locals call a love potion.  Hey, we‘re not responsible for your standards.  We‘re just responsible for a good time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, it‘s so easy to make fun of him, Layfield is also a 6‘6”, 290-pound pro-wrestler.  So, I think we‘ll just leave it at that, shall we?

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site at VERDICT.msnbc.com, and leave us a tip in the box.

Up next: The Win, Lose, or Draw edition.  Tonight, controversial filmmaker Michael Moore endorses Barack Obama.  But does he really want that endorsement?

And later: Karl Rove wrote an angry five-page letter denouncing me over the way we covered allegations that he pressured prosecutors to go out to Alabama‘s former Democratic governor.  He released his letter to the media Friday.

Tonight: My response to Karl Rove.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Obama under attack from the Clinton camp tonight for praising John McCain.  And Clinton‘s biggest supporter in Pennsylvania now being linked to Louis Farrakhan. 

With the Pennsylvania primary now less than 10 hours away, it‘s time for an important “Win, Lose or Draw” edition of “On Their Trail.”  Here now, MSNBC political analyst, Michelle Bernard.  She‘s the president of the Independent Women‘s Forum.  Still with us, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow. 

First up, Obama stumping in Pennsylvania over the weekend, committing the sin of suggesting a John McCain presidency wouldn‘t be as bad as President Bush.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You have a real choice in this election.  Either Democrat would have better than John McCain, but all three of us would be better than George Bush. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Clinton wasted no time jumping all over this one.  Here‘s what she told a group of Pennsylvania voters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need a nominee who will take on John McCain, not cheer on John McCain, and I will be that nominee.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, that might be fair except for the fact Clinton herself praised McCain last month.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I have a lifetime of experience I will bring to the White House.  I know Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House.  And Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, Pat, you can‘t have it both ways, can you? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, you can.  Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.  Let me say this, I think Barack Obama‘s statement helps him.  You know why?  Because his best asset he‘s a gracious guy.  He throws a compliment across the line.  It‘s like somebody going into the Super Bowl saying, “You know, we‘re playing Brady and the Patriots, that‘s the greatest team in history.  It‘s an honor for us to be in the game.”  It does him well.  That‘s Barack‘s best quality.  

ABRAMS:  Michelle?

MICHELLE BERNARD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Hey, this is a lose for Sen.  Clinton because the videotape, Dan, will always get you.  Like you just said a little while ago, you can‘t have this both ways.  And that videotape will be replayed over and over again where Sen. Clinton is setting herself and Sen. McCain up as the people with most experience.  So I‘d say that it‘s a lose for Sen. Clinton tonight and she will probably regret saying it.  

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST; AIR AMERICA RADIO:  I‘m with Michelle on this one.  

ABRAMS:  Intellectual consistency has not been a great strength on the campaign. 

MADDOW:  Well, intellectual consistency or just knowing what you said before.  I mean, it‘s knowing you have to follow a complex argument. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m ruling this a lose for Clinton in our first call of the night. 

Next up, from the “Do you really want me” endorsement file.  From that song.  Controversial film maker Michael Moore has endorsed Barack Obama.  Moore writing on his blog today, quote, “Over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being nearly disappointing to downright disgusting.  I guess the debate last week was the final straw.  So if you live in Pennsylvania, can you do me a favor?  Can you please cast my vote - and yours - on Tuesday for Sen. Barack Obama. 

But Rachel does that actually help?

MADDOW:  I think so. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

MADDOW:  I mean I think among - in the Democratic field, sure.  The guy who made “Sicko,” the guy who made “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the guy who‘s been - sure, demonized by the right, but so has MoveOn.org.  Both Move On and Michael Moore and some of these other groups still - Code Pinky, then, have been demonized by the right.  But they stalled a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the Democratic side. 

ABRAMS:  But, Pat, there‘s not a single person I can imagine who is going to vote for Hillary Clinton who will now say, “You know, Michael Moore is supporting” - and I think - I actually ...

MADDOW:  I don‘t think that‘s right.  I don‘t think that‘s right.

ABRAMS:  I think anyone who loves Michael Moore is already voting for Obama.  

BUCHANAN:  I think the Republicans that love this endorsement are quite happy with it.  All we need now is Heisman trophy winner O.J.  endorsing Obama.  

MADDOW:  No.  I know that Michael Moore has become a figure of ridicule in the mainstream media and on the right.  But you know what?  People ...

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  There‘s no question he‘s got a following.  I mean, no question about it.  But isn‘t that following the same people who are already voting for Barack Obama? 

MADDOW:  Not necessarily. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

MADDOW:  I think - I mean if you look at who he thinks the following

is I mean he‘s the man from Flint, right?  I mean -

ABRAMS:  I know what he thinks.  

MADDOW:  Right.  But, I mean, his documentary about - “Sicko,” for example, is not a documentary about, as Pat would say, the professoriate.  It‘s about working people.  And I do think that Michael Moore, while ridiculed - why you can‘t take the smile off your face why you‘re talking about him.  

ABRAMS:  I‘m about to call it a lose, though.  I‘m giving you a clue, I‘m calling this a lose for Obama. 

(CROSS TALK)

Michelle?

BERNARD:  I‘m calling this a draw tonight.  I think Rachel said it perfectly that when said it‘s who Michael Moore thinks his supporters are.  I think this could hurt Barack Obama with Reagan Democrats and with independents whose vote he has done at courting.  But quite frankly, I also cannot imagine that anyone is going to vote for Barack Obama because Michael Moore said, “Hey, he‘s my man.”  

ABRAMS:  I am going to rule this a lose for Obama.  It certainly doesn‘t hurt him, I don‘t think, in the Democratic Party.  There, it‘s a draw.  But you know Republicans are chopping at the bit to call Obama a Michael Moore Democrat in the general election.  

ABRAMS:  Next up, the battle over controversial minister Louis Farrakhan somehow continues.  He became an issue during last week‘s debate.  Clinton mentioned Farrakhan again because Obama‘s former pastor Jeremiah Wright has connections to Farrakhan.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  As leaders, we have a choice who we associate with and who we apparently give some kind of feel of approval too.  And I think it wasn‘t only the specific remarks but you know, some of the relationships with Rev. Farrakhan.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The problem, today video service of Clinton‘s biggest backer in Pennsylvania, Gov. Ed Rendell, standing on the stage with and praising Farrakhan and the nation of Islam back in 1997.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA:  And next, I‘d like to thank the nation of Islam here in Philadelphia.  Thank you for what you stand for and for what you stand for all of the good it does to so many people in Philadelphia.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, I‘ve got a smile on my face again, Rachel.  It

wasn‘t just over Michael Moore, you know.  I mean -

MADDOW:  Guilt by association is always going to come back and bite you.  You‘re going to go after him on the Weather Underground stuff.  Well, guess who Clinton commuted the sentences of in 2001 - President Clinton? 

You‘re going to go after him on Farrakhan, there‘s the Ed Rendell tape.  Similarly, Barack Obama going after Hillary Clinton for taking money from all these unpopular industries.  Well, we can find people from those industries that gave Barack Obama money too.  Guilt by association is a stupid political tactic unless you are a newborn running for office.  

ABRAMS:  I have to move on to this one.  I‘m going to call this one a quick lose for Clinton only because she tried to raise Farrakhan as an issue at last week‘s debate. 

Next up, John McCain running in circles yesterday, trying to deal with his own pastor problem.  McCain sought the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee who once called Catholicism the great whore.  Shortly after hammering Obama on his relationship with Rev. Wright, McCain was asked about Hagee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC‘S “THIS WEEK”:  Your own campaign acknowledged you should have done a better job of vetting ...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oh, sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  ... Pastor Hagee. 

MCCAIN:  Oh, sure. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So what was it a mistake to solicit and accept his endorsement?  

MCCAIN:  Oh, probably. 

(CROSS TALK)

MCCAIN:  I‘m glad to have his endorsement.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, it was a mistake to accept Hagee‘s endorsement, yet he‘s glad to have it.  Michelle, that doesn‘t sound like straight talk to me.  

BERNARD:  I‘ve got to tell you the straight talk express lost a wheel on that comment with George Stephanopoulos over the weekend.  That‘s a lose for Sen. McCain.  You can‘t have it both ways.  I understand what he‘s trying to do. 

Earlier, when he denounced or renunciated (ph) Rev. Hagee, and I can‘t remember which one it was that he did.  You know, conservative commentators said that this was terrible, that he threw him under the bus.  And then, there are other people, moderates in particular, who felt that he was going after the conservative vote.  But the bottom line is the videotape will get you every time and you can‘t have it both ways.  

ABRAMS:  Pat?

BUCHANAN:  I think it hurts McCain.  Look, no doubt about it, Hagee has enormous support in the Jewish community.  He‘s a virtual leader of the Jewish-Christian coalition.  He comes to Washington every year.  He‘s a friend, I believe of ...

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  I think he‘s got a lot of support in the sort of fundamentalist, Jewish - I mean I don‘t know if there is such a thing.

(CROSS TALK)

BUCHANAN:  It‘s just Goldfield bible people, but let me say this.   Politically, McCain is going to be hurt by it because it‘s going to come bang back.  They‘re going to say how can you be accepting the endorsement and denounce what he did?  Isn‘t that what Obama did with his Rev. Wright?  There‘s no difference.

ABRAMS:  Down as a lose for McCain.  A lose.  Up next, we continue Win, Lose or Draw.  Obama and Clinton having a different kind of fight online starring in their own YouTube video.  Obama as fighter Rocky Balboa, and Clinton as opponent Apollo Creed. 

And last week, Karl Rove released his angry five-page letter to me over how we covered the case against the former Democratic governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman.  Coming up next, my response to Rove. 

Plus, “Reality Bites,” President Bush dancing, again in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, President Bush may be lagging in the polls but he‘s determined to kick up his heels.  Today, with little encouragement, he busted a move as a jazz band introduced him in at the Free Trade Summit in New Orleans.  You can tell that we‘ve added this music. 

In fact, the commander-in-chief has danced before.  There were these moves during a White House event last year and of course, this little tap dance number outside the White House while waiting to endorse McCain.  Dancing.  Be right back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Obama and Clinton now starring in a new YouTube sensation called “Baracky.”  The mock movie casts Obama as the underdog fighter Rocky Balboa and Clinton as his opponent, Apollo Creed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  There have been periods of time in her history where a president inspired the American people to do better.  Part of what the people are looking for right now is somebody who‘s going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we‘ve seen in Washington.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ACTOR:  This lucky (UNINTELLIGIBLE) does not have the skill to last five minutes in the ring with me.  

CLINTON:  This is very personal for me.  This is certainly about me and about me being a woman.   I found my own voice.  

OBAMA:  Our movement is real and change is coming to America. 

CLINTON:  I‘m not just running on a promise of change.  I‘m running on 35 years of change.  I have a lifetime of experience.  Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.  

OBAMA:  Are you serious? 

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), BARACK OBAMA SUPPORTER:  It‘s now time for a new generation of leadership.  Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time.  We are the ones we‘ve been waiting for.  Yes we can!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Even - I mean, look.  Pat, this seems to - We‘re playing “Win, Lose or Draw,” even this seems to be a win for Obama.  I mean he‘s portrayed as the winner in this, kind of. 

BUCHANAN:  It is a very funny good ad.  But I think of him as the really polished Apollo Creed, you know, sipping the coffee.  And Hillary is the one that‘s the underdog now, fighting back, the scrapper, you know, the shot and beer girl and all that stuff there.  Dan, don‘t you think so? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Well, you know, there was this moment when Hillary started playing the “Rocky” theme song at her campaign event and everything.  And as a person reporting that and talking about that, there was this really awkward story that you didn‘t want to tell that went along with that, which is that Rocky lost.  “Yo, Adrian” was not a great moment in Rocky‘s career.  So it‘s kind of nice to see her as Apollo Creed in this.   Apollo wins.

ABRAMS:  Michelle, final word.

BERNARD:  Well, real interesting.  I think this is a great ad.  But if you‘ll notice, Barack Obama actually plays the white Rocky Balboa and Sen.  Clinton ends up playing the black Apollo Creed. 

MADDOW:  Right.

BERNARD:  And I don‘t know.  Very inconsistent.  Very interesting, and I actually think this is a win for Sen. Obama.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘ve got to do this.  I‘ve got to ask everyone for a prediction on the Pennsylvania primary tomorrow.  How much - I don‘t think anyone is going to predict Obama is going to win it.  But Rachel?  How much do you think ...

MADDOW:  I will predict what the politicians will do.  If Hillary Clinton loses by one vote, she‘s out of the race.  If she wins by one vote, she stays in it.  

ABRAMS:  All right, Pat.  Are you willing to make an actual prediction on the primary results? 

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  As I said on an earlier show, coalminer‘s daughter wins.  Going away.

ABRAMS:  By how much.  

BUCHANAN:  Six to 12.  

ABRAMS:  It‘s a nice range there. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Michelle? 

BERNARD:  Hillary the hunter wins by six points, but overall, it‘s still a win for Obama because he closed the lead from 20 points a month ago.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m going to predict Hillary by nine.  We shall

see.  I guess -

BUCHANAN:  She‘ll run away.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We shall see.  Let‘s move on from the Apollo

Creed.  Give us the final score tonight.  What‘s the final score?  Let‘s up

do we have the final score card on the - win, lose Obama had one of each;

Clinton, two loses; McCain one lose. 

Michelle Bernard, Pat Buchanan, Rachel Maddow, thanks a lot.  

BERNARD:  Thanks, Dan.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

BUCHANAN:  Thank you.  

ABRAMS:  Time now for a “Bush League Justice” update.  For months, I‘ve been raising questions on this show about the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, and asking whether politics played a role in the Democrat‘s prosecution and whether high level GOP operatives, including Karl Rove, were involved. 

Last week, now Fox News analyst Rove fired off a five-page angry letter to me complaining that our coverage, quote, “raised questions” about my journalistic standards, then accusing me of repeating my, quote, “fondest desires rather than focusing on evidence.”  He distributed that letter to the press on Friday. 

Today, at 12:30 p.m., I sent his lawyer my response, part of which I will share with you in a moment.  But first, some background on the Siegelman case. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was a rare breed, a popular Democratic governor in a red state from 1998 to 2002.  After narrowly losing the reelection bid, he was preparing a political comeback just a year later.  That‘s when Alabama prosecutor stepped in bringing federal corruption charges against him, charges that were quickly thrown out. 

Then, just over a year later, they went after him again.  This time, he was convicted.  But just on seven of 32 charges.  The judge imposed this seven-year prison sentence effective that day.  Then, this Republican came forward and claimed she had heard leading Alabama Republicans talk of Rove‘s involvement in the case.  

DANA JILL SIMPSON, GOP OPERATIVE:  Bill Canary said that he was going to get his girls to take care of Don Siegelman. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Bill Canary was an old friend of Karl Rove.  And Simpson claimed under oath that she heard conversations linking Rove and Canary to a campaign to bring down Siegelman.  

SIEGELMAN:  The two girls that he was talking about - I had to ask who they were.  And he said it was Laura Canary and it was also Alice Martin, who are both United States attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Her account is now being challenged by Rove and others.  But Rove‘s long time friend and political confidant, Bill Canary, was married to a U.S. attorney whose office brought this round of charges.  But it‘s not just Simpson who‘s expressed concerns about this case.  Fifty-two former state attorneys general, Democrats and Republicans, have demanded that congress investigate. 

Then last month, an appeals court stepped in and released Siegelman while he appeals, saying his legal team raised, quote, “substantial questions” of law and fact.  Appearing on VERDICT earlier this month, Siegelman himself raised questions about one man in particular.  

DON SIEGELMAN (D), FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR:  Karl Rove‘s fingerprints are all over this case.  And you know, if you ask me, do we have the knife with his fingerprints on it?  No, but we‘ve got the glove and the glove fits.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  But Karl Rove has denied any involvement in the angry letter he wrote to me April 13th and released to the media last week.  Rove said, quote, “I certainly didn‘t meet with anyone at the Justice Department or either of the two U.S. attorneys in Alabama about investigating or indicting Siegelman.” 

I asked him to clarify, even if he didn‘t meet with anyone at Justice, did he discuss the case with any of them?  He went on to question, why even allow Dana Jill Simpson to appear on the program and accused me of failing to challenge Simpson or Siegelman.  In reality, of course, I challenged both. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You‘re not hinging this all, though, on Dana Jill Simpson, are you?  Because there have been a lot of people who have questioned, you know, how she could have been at certain meetings, how many times he actually met with people, where she was at that time, et cetera.  I mean, your allegation that Rove - you believe Rove is behind this, does not hinge entirely on entirely on the credibility of Dana Jill Simpson, does it? 

SIEGELMAN:  I believe that when you look at the totality of Rove‘s involvement in Alabama politics, we had investigators, we had assistant U.S. attorneys.  We had the U.S. attorney herself and we had representatives from the Public Integrity Division of the Department of Justice who were violating laws with impunity.  And I‘m saying that Karl Rove was definitely involved in this case.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  I had never suggested I know that to be true.  I don‘t.  In fact, I asked Siegelman about the fact that the jury, not Karl Rove, convicted him. 

But in my five page letter, I called for Rove to testify in front of congress, just as Miss Simpson had done.  Mr. Rove, I wrote, “You accuse me of diminishing the search for facts and evidence, yet thus far, you have refused to answer questions under oath or even from that would aid in that very search.”

“In the wake of the U.S. Attorney controversy,” I wrote, “and all of questions surrounding this case, it is more than fair to ask, - in fact, I would say it‘s my journalistic duty to ask whether Karl Rove had any role in instigating the prosecution of a prominent Alabama Democrat, given that you knew the players and in a state where you had significant political connections.  Rather than continuing a spin campaign against the media and me.  I hope you join me in attempting to restore faith in a hallmark of this nation.  Our apolitical Department of Justice now understandably and regrettably enveloped in a cloud of suspicion.” 

Once again, I invite Karl Rove to come on this program to discuss the case with me.  If you want to read the full text of my letter to Rove, please go to our Web site Verdict.MSNBC.com. 

Up next, your e-mails - we call it the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

ABRAMS:  We don‘t really have time for “Winners and Losers.”  I‘ll just tell you who they are.  First loser was, you know, Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus.  They found some photos of her wearing scanty clothes.  Prince William, using the helicopter for personal reasons.  “American Idol,” ratings down.  Winner was Danica Patrick, you know, first woman to win an Indy race. 

The “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  First up, last week, Karl Rove sent me that angry five-page letter blasting our coverage of the case against former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.  Some believe he was the victim of political prosecution. 

Bill Wong from New York writes, “You don‘t have any intention of any intention of answering Karl Rove‘s questions, do you?  You‘re a journalist so you don‘t have to justify your biased and misleading reporting.”

Bill, you‘re a little embarrassed now that I responded with that long letter?  Read it on the Web site.

Katie Foreman writes, “For some reason, you‘re the only journalist in cable news who understands the importance of the story, that‘s why Karl Rove went after you so forcefully.”

Marty from Tennessee, “Keep up the Siegelman investigation.  You are striking pay dirt when you get Rove to squirm like he did in that letter to you.”

And Kevin McCurry(ph) from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, “You owe Karl Rove and your viewers an apology.  Will you apologize.?”

Really, for what?  Allowing Gov. Siegelman the opportunity to state his opinion, an opportunity I also extend to Karl Rove.  Just the opposite, my friend.  I will stay on this story.  

Friday night, we brought you breaking news when Hillary Clinton was taped bashing Democratic activist group MoveOn.org in a closed door fundraiser.  They‘ve endorsed Obama. 

W.L. Sakowski, “Speaking as a member of MoveOn.org, for as long as there‘s been a MoveOn.org, I am still incensed that they would make such a decision, using the support that I‘ve given them to ‘support‘ one Democratic candidate over another.” 

And Mary Doering from East Peoria, Illinois, “Those of us who are not far left could care less if someone attacks MoveOn.org.”

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail about this show, verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  Tomorrow, we go to Pennsylvania.

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

END   

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