updated 4/23/2008 10:52:41 AM ET 2008-04-23T14:52:41

Guests: Tucker Carlson, Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Perry Bacon, Kiki McLean, Jan Schakowsky, Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  East is east and west is west, and there the twain shall meet.  I‘m talking Pennsylvania politics.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  In the six weeks since voters in Mississippi went to the polls, we‘ve lived through the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama‘s speech on race, that Obama “bitter” remark about small towns in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton‘s bogus Bosnia sniper attack, and the debate over the ABC debate last week.  Tonight, finally, voters in Pennsylvania, east and west, are having their say.

Believe it or not, this is the 45th contest of the Democratic campaign, and we‘ll have it all covered tonight, from the last-minute Bill Clinton oddity about playing the race card, which we‘ll talk about, to, of course, the expectations game tonight.  We‘ll also tell you what to look for tonight, how to watch the results the way the pros do.  We‘ll give you a “Smart Viewer‘s Guide,” if you will, to the Pennsylvania primary.  We‘ll even have early exit polls for you in this hour.

Also, is it possible that after all this time, we might actually see an Obama/Clinton or a Clinton/Obama ticket?  Is it possible the candidates could be forced into this arranged marriage, and would it help win voters come November?

And are you ready to rumble?  No, that‘s not exactly Hillary and Obama going at it on “WWE Monday Night Raw,” but both candidates approved this message.

And remember, Keith Olbermann will join me in an hour for complete coverage of the Pennsylvania primary results.  That‘s at 6:00 o‘clock, right after HARDBALL.

But first: Polls in Pennsylvania close in less than three hours, so let‘s bring in Chuck Todd, the political director of NBC News, Perry Bacon of “The Washington Post”—you see him there—and MSNBC senior Washington—well, campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson.

Gentlemen, I want to get to the point here.  Let‘s look at the numbers right now of how we‘re going into tonight.  Here they are.  Senator Obama leads Senator Clinton in elected delegates by 166.  He leads her in total delegates by 141.  Keep an eye on those numbers throughout the night.  Senator Obama leads Senator Clinton in the total popular vote cast so far in primaries and caucuses by 700,000.

And here‘s what‘s coming after Pennsylvania, just to know what‘s left in this season, Guam on May 3, Indiana and North Carolina on May 6 -- that‘s two weeks from tonight—West Virginia a week after that, Kentucky and Oregon the following week, Puerto Rico on June 1, and then Montana and South Dakota to end it up on the third of June.

Let‘s talk about it right now.  I just don‘t know how we—I‘ve said this before, that this is the only event of competition in American life where you have the playoffs first and then the regular season.  This is not a playoff fight in Pennsylvania tonight.  It‘s one of the many games that are being fought between these two candidates, Barack and Hillary.  What‘s its significance, in terms of the numbers we just looked at?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  It‘s like an elimination game. 

Obama could eliminate her if he somehow won tonight, but she gets to go on.  It‘s as if in a seven-game series and we‘re sitting (ph) in and he‘s up 3 games to 1, and she keeps trying to win to sort of force the game 6 and then force a game 7.

So the question is—she‘s got to win.  And can she win big, where she starts changing minds of the superdelegates and the trajectory of the race?  And to do that, it means that he has to somehow look like he has lost ground from the last time we saw him tested in a place like Pennsylvania, which was Ohio.

MATTHEWS:  What would be an eruptive (ph) number, a number almost like an appeals court, that would say, Throw out the previous trial result, the verdict, we‘ve got to go with a whole new trial for her to be the nominee.  What would it take her to do tonight to force that kind of rethinking?

TODD:  Under that circumstance, something closer to the 20s, 15 to 20, and I think everybody‘s going, Whoa, this guy now has real electability issues, clearly, and we would look inside the numbers.  Clearly, he struggled appealing to working class...

MATTHEWS:  And that would be a license for the superdelegates to overrule previous votes.

TODD:  Absolutely.  But she would have to continue the trend.  Don‘t forget, Obama will make the argument in that circumstance, Hey, she had all the mechanics behind her.  Let‘s see what she does two weeks later in North Carolina and Indiana.  But the burden of proof suddenly shifts to Obama to have to start to prove that he can win in a place like Indiana.

MATTHEWS:  Perry Carlson (SIC), I‘m asking here, what will change the game?  We‘ve used the phrase “game changer.” Is it up there in the double digits to say to the voters—the superdelegates who are watching the voters, I should say—You can erase the blackboard and start over again because this guy got slam-banged in Pennsylvania?

PERRY BACON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  I don‘t think we‘re ever going to see

I think, more importantly, like what Chuck said, if Hillary wins by 20 percent, she‘ll also start closing that delegate gap some, and the popular vote gap some, too.  I think that‘s as important to watch, as well.  A huge win by her of 20 points would, like, you know, help her make the case for her candidacy to the superdelegates, she won the most votes overall.  I think anything below—you know, anything in the 10 to 15 zone, you know, means she won, but Obama might win two states in two weeks, when Indiana and North Carolina vote on May 6.

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, what do you think?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  We‘re talking numbers.  What will change...

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure...

MATTHEWS:  ... the game tonight?

CARLSON:  She—look, the audience here is not the voters, it‘s not even the superdelegates, it‘s you and Dan Balz and Adam Nagourney and Brit Hume.  It‘s the press.  I mean, she needs to change the narrative that, you know, she is capable of enduring, going all the way, that she‘s better off for the Democratic Party in November.

But really, even then, she can‘t win.  He has to lose.  He‘s got to reveal some kind of fatal flaw over the next months.  His campaign really needs to blow up for her to get anywhere.  He just has too much, by my reading of the numbers anyway...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  He‘s just got too much momentum.  What she‘s doing, basically, is drawing it out, drawing it out, hoping that something awful will befall the Obama campaign.  And you know, it might.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The boss of the Philadelphia city machine, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Philadelphia, told me yesterday on local television that if Barack Obama wins the most elected delegates by the end of this process, and it looks like he will almost inevitably do that, he cannot be denied the nomination.  I found that very newsworthy.

Let go now to something really strange that happened in the last two days involving the former president, Bill Clinton.  Listen to what he said on WHYY, on radio in Philadelphia on Monday.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I had a story on “Morning Edition” this morning which talked about how Philadelphia‘s black political leaders came out early in support of Senator Clinton. but several had switched.  And one was quoted as saying the turning point for her was during the South Carolina primary, when you referenced Jesse Jackson in what she interpreted at marginalizing Obama as the black candidate.  I mean, do you think that was a mistake, and would you do that again?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No.  I think that they placed the race card on me.  And we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And now listen to Bill Clinton on NBC‘s Mike Memoli, what he said to our embed, our reporter today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS:  ... yesterday, when you said that the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?

CLINTON:  When did I say that, and to whom did I say it?

MEMOLI:  On WHYY radio yesterday.

CLINTON:  No, no, no, no.  That‘s not what I said.  You always follow me around and play these little games, and I‘m not going to play your games today.  This is a day about election day.  Go back and see what the question was and what my answer what.  You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today.  Have a nice day.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON:  Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON:  I said what I said.  You can go back and look at the interview.  And if you‘d be real honest, you will also report what the question was and what the answer was.  I‘m not helping you.

(CROSSTALK)

MEMOLI:  (INAUDIBLE) Jesse Jackson to Barack Obama on the day of the South Carolina primary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you very much...

CLINTON:  And I pointed out that I did not do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, my daughter was a congressional page and...

CLINTON:  And then I complimented them both, and that Jesse Jackson took no offense on it.  And I called myself.  I said, Did you find this offensive?  And he said no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we call that in Philadelphia “atty-tood”—I think I pronounced it right in the old way, “atty-tood,” because there‘s the president‘s attitude.  His problem is that we have a tape of what he said yesterday, and it‘s exactly what our embed, our reporter said he said, even though he denied it categorically.

Let‘s listen again to what the president said on WHYY radio because he had said it yesterday.  Let‘s hear what he said on Monday, the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I had a story on “Morning Edition” this morning which talked about how Philadelphia‘s black political leaders came out early in support of Senator Clinton. but several had switched.  And one was quoted as saying the turning point for her was during the South Carolina primary, when you referenced Jesse Jackson in what she interpreted at marginalizing Obama as the black candidate.  I mean, do you think that was a mistake, and would you do that again?

CLINTON:  No.  I think that they placed the race card on me.  And we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what to say, except that the president, the former president of the United States, just denied what was undeniable.

TODD:  Well, look...

MATTHEWS:  Is there explanation for why he said that—what he didn‘t say when he did say it?

TODD:  He has been personally offended at this idea that he‘s been couched as somehow been turned into a racist.  That‘s what he believes has happened to him, and he‘s bitter about it and he‘s angry about it.  And I think we saw a little bit of that anger about that today.  Clinton campaign was pushing back heavily, saying he‘s referencing this memo that he‘s talking about.  There‘s a couple of memos...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but—you‘re right.  You‘re getting involved in a complicated Clinton explanation.  I just want to ask you...

TODD:  This was a straight-up...

MATTHEWS:  Let me go—let me go back to you again.  Did the president or did he not say on radio in Philadelphia yesterday that the Obama campaign played the race card against him?  Yes, he did.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And then this morning, talking to our reporter, he denied having said that.  I‘m just going to the fact here, not the argument.

TODD:  He did.  But if you parse what he said to our reporter, you can make the argument he said, Well, no, no, no, I didn‘t say it that way.  You‘re mischaracterizing it.  So he‘s—I think he left himself wiggle room there.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m not sure he built the usual escape hatch that Bill Clinton likes to build.  Let me go to Perry Bacon.  He said that the Obama campaign played the race card, and then he said today he didn‘t say that, when, in fact, we have the tape of him saying so.  How do you defend the Clinton argument here?

BACON:  I don‘t know how defensible (INAUDIBLE) you know, I agree with Chuck.  He‘s very frustrated about this.  He‘s been—he and his wife have both been very frustrated that they‘ve been criticized and they believe betrayed as racists for what he said down there.  I think that he‘s just very frustrated about that, and he‘s been frustrated about that for a long time now.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Tucker Carlson.  How do you explain the disconnect between what Bill Clinton sees as recent memory and the tape recording shows to be recent events?

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s not surprising to anybody who‘s covered in Clinton in the past—obviously, a lot of talents, a lot of strengths, good president in some ways, but this is consistent with his public behavior for a very long time, going way back to Arkansas.  I spoke yesterday just to a very close friend of his, who said what we already know, which is he‘s not just angry but seething with anger.  And I think that comes out.

The brass, however, of him to say after going on tape twice comparing Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson, a political figure with whom he has nothing in common other than the color of his skin, nothing else—after doing that in public, claiming that the Obama people are the one who are playing the race card is almost unbelievable.  I mean, most people—normal people don‘t have that much chutzpah.  They couldn‘t summon it.  They couldn‘t say that with a straight face.  He not only says it but believes it.  It‘s remarkable.

MATTHEWS:  Whenever he puts that finger up, I‘m always suspicious as to the veracity of his about to say statement because he did deny what he had said before when the tape recording, the Memorex tap recording, revealed the truth.  What do you think?

TODD:  Well, I‘ll just say this on this race card stuff.  The fact is, both campaigns have tried to subtly get—use race in a way that has been advantageous to them, just very subtle ways behind the scenes.  Both campaigns have done it.  And what they do is they get into this game of gotcha, going, Aha, publicly, So you‘re playing the race card, you know, either the Obama campaign to the Clintons, or the Clinton campaign to the Obama campaign.

And the fact is, they both have tried to use it to their advantage.  Obama‘s campaign has stoked the fires.  When they think they‘ve caught Bill Clinton doing something, like something like this, they will stoke the fire, See, we told you he‘d play this race card whenever he could.  And then the Clinton campaign will say, No, look what they‘re doing behind the scenes.  And oh, by the way, maybe this guy has electability issues.  So both of them are playing it, and neither side is innocent here.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s amazing to watch.  I thought—I thought we did catch him there denying the undeniable, but apparently, it‘s more complicated in the mind and the soul of the Clintons, anyway.

Here‘s Senator Obama making his comment in Pittsburgh today, reacting to that back-and-forth between Bill and the memory of Bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So former president Clinton dismissed my victory in South Carolina as being similar to Jesse Jackson, and he‘s suggesting that somehow I had something to do with it?  OK.  Well, you better ask him what he meant by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA:  I have no idea what he meant.  These were words that came out of his mouth, not words that came out of mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did the campaign have some kind of plan, or were there memos that (INAUDIBLE) place card on you?

OBAMA:  Was there something that we had a plan to get him to say, that my campaign was like Jesse Jackson‘s?  You know, I don‘t know what he‘s referring to, unfortunately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, in all fairness, it seems to me that Barack Obama doesn‘t want race to be an issue in this campaign.

TODD:  No, he doesn‘t, but that doesn‘t mean that his campaign hasn‘t wanted to try to punish the Clinton campaign whenever they believe they‘ve used it in a way that was trying to get votes one way or the other.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Perry, we‘re going to be looking tonight at Pennsylvania and see what ethnic factor there is in this campaign.  It‘s always there in American life.  We‘re going to see how large it looms.  Any sense of how this will be covered tonight by you and others, the issue of how people vote, how they say they‘re going to vote, how it may be moved—they may be voting for ethnic reasons or it may be a factor with them?

BACON:  I think we‘re all going to look at the exit polls and see what they say about sort of—sort of union voters, working class voters (INAUDIBLE) prove that there‘s any racial (INAUDIBLE) there.  But there‘s always been—there‘s a gap between—you know, African-Americans vote for Obama in large numbers.  He‘s losing the white vote in a lot of states.  I think it‘s interesting to see what the numbers are.  Some of the early polls showed in some of these sort of more rural areas of the state, he was losing 70 to 30 to Hillary Clinton.  So I think we‘ll look to see, you know, if that—it that—the gap between he and working class voters is such that it might have electability problems for him in the general election.

MATTHEWS:  I was at out at a rally of his Saturday, covering it, up on the Main Line of Philadelphia, out in the Montgomery County area.  And I‘d say it was a very diverse crowd, mostly white, very diverse, men and women, different ages.  I thought it was an amazing—sort of the faces of Benetton, if you will.  It was a very wide open crowd.  So we‘ll see how the voting actually comes back tonight in terms of those lines.

Let‘s take a look—we‘ll be right back with Chuck Todd, with Tucker Carlson.  And by the way, I‘m thanking you three.  Thank you, Perry.  Perry (INAUDIBLE) go off and write for “The Washington Post.”  Tucker Carlson, thank you for coming.

Coming up, the “Smart Viewer‘s Guide” to tonight‘s primary.  We‘re going to try to tell you how the pros are looking at this thing tonight.  By the way, the difference between the pros and everybody watching right now is getting to be very narrow.  There are no experts when it comes to this campaign.  It is highly unpredictable.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The polls Pennsylvania close in less than three hours now.  And for the “Smart Viewer‘s Guide” to what to look for tonight, let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman.  I love Howard Fineman.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  How many years have we been doing this together?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  A lot.

MATTHEWS:  It is amazing.  I think we (INAUDIBLE) Abbott and Costello, or something.  I don‘t know what we are.  But I...

FINEMAN:  Philly and Pittsburgh.

MATTHEWS:  I love—that‘s—well, let‘s talk about that.  That‘s a great launching pad.  I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to county chairs in the eastern part of the state, going out to Lancaster and York and Reading and up to Scranton.  And there seems to be a lot of, they say, chipping away by Barack Obama.  He‘s doing well in those areas.  It‘ll be polka dot.  You never know where he‘s going to do well.

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s hardly the James Carville view of Pennsylvania.

FINEMAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not -- - it‘s very sophisticated and complicated.  The western part of the state is economically depressed outside of Pittsburgh, the southwest.  Tell me about the difference between east and west.

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘ve been working my way east from Pittsburgh on the phone and on the Blackberry and...

MATTHEWS:  As you should.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  What I hear is—what I hear is there‘s a strong turnout for Clinton in Pittsburgh.  And there‘s strong turnout in some of those surrounding counties.  The key is not just Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.  But the real economic problems now are not so much in Allegheny County, which is doing pretty well, but in those surrounding counties, such as Washington and Greene, places where those old mill towns—where the mills...

MATTHEWS:  McKeesport.

FINEMAN:  ... where the mills are gone and...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  ... towns are bankrupt.  They can‘t even afford police and fire protection.  And I think there‘s pretty good turnout in those places, and I think it‘s going to be pretty strong, according to the people I talked to in those areas, for Clinton.  So, that‘s going to be the bastion for—for Hillary Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Jack Murtha country, right?

FINEMAN:  That‘s Murtha country, all the way east to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Murtha is from.

And Pennsylvania provides such an amazing contrast of geography and demographics, and go on down the line. 

MATTHEWS:  When does Pennsylvania become Midwestern?  When does it sort of join the Big 10 in more ways than just the football team? 

FINEMAN:  Well, as long as you mentioned the Big 10, probably around Happy Valley, probably around State College, which is where Penn State is. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right in the middle of the state. 

FINEMAN:  And now Penn State is part of the Big 10. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  Didn‘t used to be.  And that really does go into the basement of the Ohio River and the Great Lakes.  It‘s totally different from Philadelphia in the east.

MATTHEWS:  More culturally conservative, more pro-life, more economically depressed now, largely.

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about age, the second thing besides geography to look for tonight.  I‘m looking at the break point.  It‘s 45 now.  If you‘re over 45, you‘re probably for Hillary, under 45, probably for Obama. 

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s almost mathematically precise.  In primary after primary, caucus after caucus, that‘s the way it‘s broken down.  Hillary gets the older—in terms of age, Hillary gets the older vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Actually, 50.  I think it‘s 50 now. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  And you could even go higher.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  But don‘t forget, the older people turn out and vote in greater percentage.

Now, Obama goes from place to place, turning up these enormous crowds.  I think he had 35,000 people in eastern Pennsylvania in the suburbs the other day, by any political standards, enormous, absolutely enormous. 

MATTHEWS:  Thirty-five thousand Independence Hall.  Unbelievable.

FINEMAN:  Thirty-five thousand. 

MATTHEWS:  And then we had 5,000 out in the suburbs, where I was. 

Let me ask you about the other facto, as you said, new voters.  This is the battle.  I was talking to a county chair last night.  The people that—and this was a pro-Hillary person.  The regular voters, she called them, the constant voters, are for Hillary, the one who vote every two years.

FINEMAN:  They are.  How enthusiastic they are, we don‘t know, although especially among women, and among some union members, they are very enthusiastic for Hillary Clinton.

And the—what‘s left of the machine—and there still is a machine in Pennsylvania.  It‘s run by Ed Rendell out of Philadelphia.  And the guys in Pittsburgh, the people in Pittsburgh, in the Democratic machine respond to Rendell, because Rendell has done a tremendous job of getting state money into the west. 

Rendell has made it his business as governor to honor the west, in a way Philadelphia guys don‘t always do.  And they are paying him back with loyalty and enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  And, also, education‘s another break point, right?

FINEMAN:  No question.  The higher up you go, college educated and above, it‘s Obama, big time.  High school education or less, Clinton, big time.  It‘s a tremendous gulf.

MATTHEWS:  So, we can bet, if you‘re African-American and you‘re from Philadelphia, and you have four years of college, you‘re probably an Obama voter. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And, if you‘re under 45 or 50, you‘re definitely...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And, if you‘re over 50, and you‘re a from, and you‘re from western Pennsylvania, and you‘re blue-collar, you‘re probably for...

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... Hillary Clinton. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  But race is a factor, too.  And it‘s been a factor in every primary.  And I know Bill Clinton is mad about it in one way or another.  It‘s an explosive issue.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he won‘t be mad about it if he wins. 

FINEMAN:  It‘s an explosive issue. 

MATTHEWS:  If Hillary wins big.

FINEMAN:  It‘s an explosive issue.

But, in contest after contest, especially after South Carolina...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  ... Obama has solidified the African-American vote, to a degree that nobody else has, even Jesse Jackson, arguably.

MATTHEWS:  Well, how come, when you go to a crowd, whether it‘s in Independence Hall or it‘s out in the burbs, the crowds are overwhelmingly white...

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and, if you look at the totals for Barack Obama across the country in these 45 contests, it‘s two or three to one white?

FINEMAN:  No question about it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  But, within the African-American community, after he did well in Iowa, after he showed that he could win white votes...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  ... he—and he solidified the African-American vote, as no other Democrat has.  And that gives him the freedom and the movement to go into the suburbs and try to put that coalition together.

He‘s put it together racially. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  No question he‘s put it together racially.  But there are divides on age, on education, on—on working status, on geography, that he has to overcome if he‘s going to be the nominee successfully. 

MATTHEWS:  Question, the old Peace Corps question, the glass half-full or half-empty.  If Barack Obama gets 45 percent of the vote tonight, if he‘s able to convince culturally conservative westerners included to do that well statewide, has he won?  Or does he have to actually beat—beat Hillary Clinton to win? 

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s hard to say, Chris.  But I think, at some point, he‘s got to show he can close. 

In other words, he is the front-runner.  He has the money.  He has the delegates.  He had the momentum.  Arguably, he still does.  They‘re doling out one superdelegate per day, almost like one card per day out of the Obama camp. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.   

FINEMAN:  But he‘s got to close the thing out at some point.  He‘s got to close it out. 

MATTHEWS:  Just remember...

FINEMAN:  If he doesn‘t close it out in Pennsylvania, he‘s got to close it out somewhere before Denver.

MATTHEWS:  Just remember, Pittsburgh Billy Conn tried to knock out Joe Louis in the last round.  They called him a dumb Irishman for that.

Just kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, we will be right back. 

FINEMAN:  A good friend.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, you‘re the best. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next: caught on tape, a wrestling match between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  You don‘t want to miss this one.  This is pretty funny. 

And, remember, Keith Olbermann and I will be working together all night tonight for the complete coverage of the Pennsylvania primary from 6:00 until midnight, right after HARDBALL.  Keith and I will be showing you what we have to show all through the night.

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out there in politics on this Election Day in my home state of Pennsylvania? 

As we reported yesterday, the presidential candidates appeared on a WWE wrestling show.  The show is called “Monday Night Raw.”  And we have got the video.  Let‘s look at it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MONDAY NIGHT RAW”)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This election is starting to feel a lot like king of the ring.  The only difference, the last man standing may just be a woman. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  With all the forces of division and distraction that have stopped us from making progress for the American people, I have got one question, do you smell what Barack is cooking? 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And what you going to do when John McCain and all his McCainiacs run wild on you? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And, as you see right there, the tough talk was followed by a real-life wrestling match between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama impersonators.  Imitating life—is this art imitating life?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of that? 

Anyway, speaking of late-night comedy, here‘s Barack Obama on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on the very eve of the Pennsylvania primary. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Sir, we are concerned that, ultimately, at the end of the day, if you‘re fortunate enough to get the Democratic nomination, fortunate enough to become president of the United States, will you pull a bait and switch, sir, and enslave the white race? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Is that your plan? 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  And if it is your plan...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

STEWART:  I—be honest.  Tell us now. 

OBAMA:  The—that...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  That is not our plan, Jon. 

But—but I think your—your paranoia might make you suitable as a debate moderator. 

STEWART:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We will see later tonight if that imagined fear of Jon Stewart‘s is a joke or deadly real. 

Now to the man with wings on his feet.  President Bush is known to move with the music on occasion.  Last year, he did it with Malarian Awareness Day.  That‘s Malaria Awareness Day.  There he is.

Then, earlier this year, on a trip to Liberia, he tried catching the groove with the president of that African country.  He also did a short routine at the White House while waiting for John McCain to show up before that presidential endorsement ceremony. 

And now here‘s President Bush dancing in New Orleans yesterday at an event with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada.  He wasn‘t the only man dancing yesterday, though.

Here‘s John McCain meeting with some quilters in Gee‘s Bend, Alabama. 

Check out McCain‘s expression.  Geez.

Anyway, now to some wondrous money news.  Julie Nixon Eisenhower, daughter of former President Richard Nixon, and a personal favorite of mine, is supporting—wait for this—Barack Obama.  She‘s apparently giving the maximum contribution to his campaign, $2,300 from Julie Nixon Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

You may remember that, back in February, Susan Eisenhower, who is the granddaughter of President Eisenhower, wrote an op-ed column in “The Washington Post” explaining why she was backing Barack as well. 

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

It‘s become tradition.  Where there‘s a big contest that day, what do the candidates do?  They hit the morning talk shows. 

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I am not going to make predictions about how I‘m going to do in Pennsylvania. 

OBAMA:  And I think we will do very well here in Pennsylvania. 

CLINTON:  I don‘t have to have anything, except to win. 

OBAMA:  We‘re the underdogs here.  I think she has got to be heavily favored to win. 

CLINTON:  Well, I have to win. 

OBAMA:  Hopefully, we will do well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, those are the talking points.  How many total appearances did Barack and Hillary make this morning?  Six.  That‘s all the network shows, also known as the—we call the full Ginsburg, a term that came about after Monica Lewinsky‘s lawyer, William Ginsburg, pulled off a similar feat in 19 -- he hit every single Sunday show.

Six—tonight‘s “Big Number.”  They‘re hitting all the bases.

Up next:  After a long primary battle, would a Democratic ticket with both Hillary and Barack on it be a winner?  And would those two contenders even agree to sit together as candidates, or run together?  That‘s next. 

You‘re watching it.  We‘re going to talk about, perhaps, well, strange bedfellows.  You have got to call it that.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELISSA LEE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Melissa Lee with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks sank, as oil surged near $120 a barrel.  The Dow Jones industrials fell 104 points, the S&P 500 down 12.  And the Nasdaq dropped 31. 

Oil shot up $1.89 in New York today, closing at yet another record high of $119.37.  Oil is now up 24 percent so far this year.

After the closing well, Yahoo! reporting first-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates.  The company also dramatically increased its second-quarter and full-year outlooks.  The question, will all this force Microsoft to raise its $44 billion takeover offer for Yahoo!?  In after-hours trading, Yahoo! shares are up fractionally. 

Meantime, more bad news from the home front.  Sales of existing homes fell 2 percent in March.  The median price of homes sold also fell 7.7 percent from a year ago. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to HARDBALL with Chris Matthews. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Once the Democratic race is finally settle settled, if that day ever comes, could either Clinton or Obama accept the vice presidential slot?  Given the tenor of the campaign lately—and I mean, by lately, the last couple of days—it seems like this would be a strange-bedfellows situation. 

But there is a precedent for pairings like this.  In 1960, of course, John Kennedy put aside any animosity he had towards Johnson, who, of course, had put word that Kennedy had Addison‘s disease, which, of course, was true.  And he gave him the vice presidential slot.  And it worked well for both of them.  Johnson helped Kennedy in the South, particularly in Texas. 

And, in 1980, Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush teamed up after a hard-fought primary fight between the two of them.  And, of course, they put it together, even though George Bush had accused the president, in that case Reagan, of practicing voodoo economics.  That, too, was a winning pair.

In 2004, after battling John Edwards for the nomination, John Kerry chose Edwards as his running mate.  That was a bad move.  And, by the way, he never even carried his own state of North Carolina for the Kerry ticket.  That was not a successful pairing.

So, could Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama put aside their differences, which are growing, and come together on a Democratic ticket and possibly win against John McCain and whoever he picks come November?

Joining me right to talk about that is Clinton campaigner Kiki McLean and Obama campaign national chair, co-chair, U.S. Congressman   Jan Schakowsky.

Congresswoman, I have to ask you, can you envision on the platform in Denver come the last week in August two people on that stage together, Barack and Hillary, or Hillary and Barack? 

(CROSSTALK)

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, I would imagine that both candidates at this point would say the difference would hinge on who‘s at the top of the ticket to even consider it.  And I think both of them would say it‘s premature to say that right now. 

You know, we‘re in a—we‘re locked in a battle right now for the nomination, I believe, that will be Barack Obama, who is ahead by any measure.  But I think he has a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton, but he‘s not thinking about that now. 

MATTHEWS:  Could Hillary Clinton carry Illinois without Barack on the ticket?

SCHAKOWSKY:  Oh, Hillary Clinton could carry Illinois, certainly. 

She‘s from Illinois.  From my district is where she grew up.  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  God, she‘s from everywhere.  I thought she was from Scranton. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t keep track of this, Scranton, Arkansas, Chappaqua.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This is like a railroad schedule that she‘s from.

SCHAKOWSKY:  It pays to move, you know?

MATTHEWS:  Kiki McLean, let me ask you the wide-open question.  Can you envision a pairing of these two political dynamos? 

KIKI MCLEAN, SENIOR CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  I can envision folks being up on the stage to support one another. 

But the congresswoman and I agree on a lot tonight, which you might not expect on Pennsylvania primary evening.  And that is, it‘s way too early for that. 

You know, Chris, I was fortunate enough to be the spokesperson for Joe Lieberman as the vice presidential running mate to Al Gore.  I was also fortunate enough to travel with the Gores when Vice President Gore was traveling as the—Clinton‘s running mate.

And your setup story here was very important.  And it was this great respect candidates have for one another and their work that will be very important to picking that person.

But we‘re nowhere ready to pick who Senator Clinton‘s running mate will be when she‘s the nominee.  It‘s the one place the congresswoman and I disagree tonight.  I happen to believe it will be Hillary Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How come you did such a good job with Gore as a running mate and such a terrible job with Lieberman?  He wouldn‘t even criticize Cheney.  He looked like he was trying to join Cheney‘s club. 

MCLEAN:  You know what?  I think Joe Lieberman did a great job.  And, as I recall...

MATTHEWS:  He was a terrible running mate.  Terrible. 

MCLEAN:  Oh, Chris, Chris, I think you‘re...

MATTHEWS:  Terrible.

MCLEAN:  I think you‘re really—I think you...

MATTHEWS:  He delivered not a single state for the ticket. 

MCLEAN:  You—you know what, Chris?

MATTHEWS:  He did not help Al Gore carry a single state.  Name a state he helped him with. 

MCLEAN:  I think we‘ve won the election.  I think most Americans will tell you that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman got the election.  I think he put Florida in play before it even became a controversy.  I think Joe Lieberman was a terrific running mate.  He and Al Gore had a lot of respect for one another‘s history and their work together.  They won that election. 

MATTHEWS:  A flat out disaster that one was.  Gore was a great one.  Let me go back to Congresswoman Schakowsky.  You can have a good pairing and a bad pairing.  Edwards was useless on the ticket for John Kerry.  Lieberman was useless, but Al Gore was fabulous in helping Bill Clinton carry the south and the country.  How do you put together a good ticket?  Is this the ticket we should be looking at? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, I think that Kiki is right.  I‘m not among those who think that this battle that‘s going on right now is going to damage the Democrats, and that the only way that we can put it together would be to have the two of them on the tickets.  They will be, as Kiki said—they‘re going to both be on the stage and we‘re going to win.  I think it‘s going to be Barack at the top.  We‘re going to win this race in November. 

I‘m looking forward to the point where the Democrats, where Barack can begin to point at John McCain.  And I‘m just worried that the longer that this does go on in a negative way, particularly from the Clinton side towards Barack, that it‘s going to be harder and harder.  I‘m really sorry that it has taken a turn this way. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that? 

MCLEAN:  Do I agree with what?  That it‘s taken a hard turn?  I think there are legitimate issues being debated in Pennsylvania, as there were in Ohio and Texas, about national security, about the economy, and who‘s best able and prepared to deal with those issues from the leadership role as president.  I think that‘s a good debate to have and a legitimate one.  I think millions of Americans agree because they want to see this process play out.  They want all those voices heard from. 

After tonight, Chris, after you have to actually pack up and leave your home state tonight, we still have nine races to go through and we‘re going to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s exciting stuff.  I just wonder whether the Democrats, for those who care about the Democrat party‘s fortunes come November—one thing I heard from a lot of county chairs in Pennsylvania the last couple days, polling them, Kiki—I know you keep in touch with them.  So do you, congresswoman.  They are afraid that the Democrats may blow this election in November, an election they really believe they should win because of the war in Iraq, because of the economy and the need for health care. 

They‘re afraid this fight, this intramural fight between the two candidates is going to hurt them come the fall. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCHAKOWSKY:  Let me say, you know, the Clinton campaign is acting like these negative ads are some sort of a public service announcement, so that they show that Barack Obama can really take the heat.  Let‘s be clear, these ads are designed to destroy Barack Obama, to try to suggest he can‘t be a commander in chief, that he‘s unelectable.  I think that‘s reprehensible.  Bill Clinton, himself, said you should go with the candidate who appeals to your hopes and not your fears.  That‘s one of his laws, Clinton‘s laws of politics.  I agree with Bill Clinton about that. 

The candidate of hope is Barack Obama. 

MCLEAN:  I actually think tough primaries are good for us in the general election.  I think Bill Bradley‘s challenge to Vice President Gore made him a better candidate in the general election. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Let‘s talk about health care then. 

MCLEAN:  I actually believe that when you have two candidates who are engaged on the issues—listen, Senator Clinton‘s ad has really been about the reality that we face.  We are in tough times.  We have two wars going.  Me have an economy that is about to fail us.  We‘ve got to talk about who‘s really ready. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  This ad is right out of Karl Rove‘s playbook. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  The question is, of course, for Hillary Clinton, does she want Barack Obama to be the ultimate winner in November if wins the nomination?  I guess that‘s the question on the table right now.  We‘ll see in the next couple weeks whether Hillary Clinton wants Barack to win the general if he wins the nomination. 

MCLEAN:  I think Hillary Clinton wants Hillary Clinton to win the general when she‘s the nominee of the party, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  But does she want him to win if he wins the nomination to be the president? 

MCLEAN:  She has answered that question.  She‘s going to work her heart out to make sure it‘s a Democrat who wins in November.  That means—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the great question; does Hillary Clinton want Barack to be president for the next eight years if she can‘t be?  That‘s an open question the American people are trying to get the answer to.  Kiki McLean, thank you for giving me your answer.  U.S. Congresswoman Janet Schakowsky, thank you for joining us. 

Up next, the first look at the Pennsylvania exit polls.  What are people telling the exit pollsters?  Norah O‘Donnell is going to come back with that.  Remember, Keith Olbermann and I will be getting together for our six-hour coverage of the Pennsylvania primary tonight and all the results through Midnight.  That‘s at 6:00, right after HARDBALL.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For a look at the latest exiting poll in Pennsylvania, let‘s turn to MSNBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell. 

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, good evening.  Well, you know, Pennsylvania is a state that might seem tailor made for Hillary Clinton, with an older population, many working class white voters.  There is a wild card in this election that some think may help Barack Obama.  Since January 1st, about 300,000 new voters have registered as Democrats.  Here‘s what our exit polls are telling about them: in fact, 86 percent of the voters had been registered Democrats prior to this year.  But about 13 percent this year are new voters; six percent had not declared a party, four percent, interestingly, had been registered Republicans but switched their registration, and three percent were not registered at all. 

In fact, 35 percent of these new voters are located in Philadelphia, in nearby counties, and with the large African-American population in the city and many well-educated affluent voters in these suburbs, this is actually one part of the Keystone State that might be called Obama country.  Twenty six percent came from the central T.  Twenty percent are from the Pittsburgh area.  And 18 percent came from the northeast. 

As for the age of these voters; 10 percent of those voting so far today are under 30 years old.  That compares with 27 percent who are seniors age 65 and older. 

What about, Chris, that army of undecided that we keep hearing about?  Well, today, what we‘re seeing is that 17 percent of the primary voters made up their mind in the last three days, 17 percent in the last three days.  In the past, most of these voters have gone for Hillary Clinton.  We‘ll see when the polls close which way those late deciders cast their ballots. 

That‘s going to be an interesting thing to watch. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.  Those numbers are fascinating.  Now to the politics fix and the round table, with MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post, and MSNBC contributor Rachel Maddow.  Tonight, Pat, I‘ve never seen more focus on the spread.  It‘s almost like a big football game, but it is, I must insist, a regular season game.  This is not a Super Bowl.  What‘s the importance of the spread? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It‘s like we‘ve all got a huge amount of money on it, Chris.  The spread is very important.  Hillary‘s got to win. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you take the points? 

BUCHANAN:  Hillary has got to win it to keep going.  If she wins it by a very small margin, I think she‘s got real problems and Barack will have closed the gap.  If she wins it by eight say 15 points, something like that, there be a real question mark over whether Barack Obama can win the general.  It will not stop what seems inevitable, which is unless something intervenes, Barack Obama is going be the nominee. 

MATTHEWS:  Eight to ten keeps in the air for Barack, but doesn‘t stop the train.   

BUCHANAN:  Eight to ten raises real questions on Barack. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the area, the DMZ area.  Do you accept that fact that if it‘s eight to ten -- 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, I don‘t.  If Hillary Clinton only wins by two or three points, I don‘t see her dropping out and saying, oh, I didn‘t win by a big enough margin. 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  The objective judgments is by the people watching this thing, the super delegates, the other people. 

MADDOW:  Only the super delegates, that‘s the only outcome that matters. 

MATTHEWS:  You think they will stick with her, even if she wins narrowly.   

MADDOW:  I think to the extent they‘re sticking with her now.  I mean, there‘s not a lot of super delegates pealing off and going to her. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Unless she wins by good double digits, by 12 or 15 or more, unless she does that, I say—

BUCHANAN:  Raising the bare a little too high, aren‘t you? 

ROBINSON:  I‘m not in charge of the bar.  No, but I think, unless she does that, it seems to me the super delegates, the trickle of super delegates that have been going to Obama, suddenly becomes more of a stream, I think, not necessarily a flood, but I think more.  There is this impatience among the super delegates and this desire to get this over with.  Unless she has a really big win, yes, there will be these nagging questions in the air. 

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s say it‘s ten points.  I think there‘s a huge question mark over whether Barack Obama can beat McCain in Pennsylvania in November.  I don‘t think it stops the super delegates from going to him.  I don‘t think it stops his nomination.  But I think there‘s some guys going to have a real feeling in the pit of their stomach. 

MATTHEWS:  You can bet the Republican party will target Pennsylvania.  They will hope to win it because they see a weakness on her part.  Isn‘t it fair to say—you start, Eugene—that some of the votes for Hillary Clinton are anti-Barack votes? 

ROBINSON:  Sure, some of the votes for Hillary Clinton are anti-Barack votes.  It is legitimate to have this concern that since, you know, McCain could be expected to appeal to some of these working class white male voters that we talk a lot about, more to them to say African-Americans, who are a Barack stronghold—it‘s reasonable to question whether Pennsylvania wouldn‘t be a really good state for the Republicans to try to target. 

MADDOW:  I mean, that‘s the big issue here; are the anti-Barack votes

when they are anti-Barack votes and they‘re not pro-Clinton votes, people voting against Barack Obama, aren‘t those people more likely to vote for John McCain anyway, when it comes down to it?  If they see Obama as too lefty, or not hawkish enough, or not white enough—if they see him as all of those things, isn‘t John McCain a better bet on all of those battles than Hillary Clinton? 

ROBINSON:  Are they really going to vote for Hillary Clinton? 

BUCHANAN:  It may be, Chris, anti-liberal.  A lot of folks in Pennsylvania -- 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s Hillary?

Hillary‘s always been seen by most people as a liberal. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what she‘s done very effectively.  She‘s come off as this gal who is fighting and scrappy, sort of a Marcy Kaptur type out there.  But there‘s a real anti-liberal vote in Pennsylvania. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s do this for a second.  I grew up in Philly, not the -

I realized in the last few weeks again how Philly is part of Pennsylvania.  It‘s not typical.  It‘s just not typical.  She has become the daughter of Scranton.  She‘s had a few addresses over the years, and one of them is clearly Scranton.  She did look a bit ridiculous with that shot and beer.  It didn‘t hurt her any. 

She grew up with a guy who taught her to use a gun.  Her father and brother played for Penn State.  She‘s really embedded herself in Pennsylvania effectively.  I watched that old campaign with Kennedy and Carter back in ‘80.  If you become a Pennsylvanian, you win.  She‘s done that. 

BUCHANAN:  She‘s come off as a real scrapper, getting up off the canvas.  The Rocky image—she is sort of a Rocky in this battle, because going in, Barack Obama was Apollo Creed.  He‘s going to win the whole thing.

MATTHEWS:  Do you feel yourself, your gut—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  It is funny—it is funny, neither candidate has had the brass to run up the steps of the art museum.  Nobody has the nerve.  It takes real nerve to pretend you are Rocky. 

MADDOW:  Especially because Rocky lost.  Rocky lost.  You would have to be a running as Apollo creed if you wanted to talk about winning this thing. 

MATTHEWS:  He won the second one. 

MADDOW:  That‘s not the one that—

(CROSS TALK)  

BUCHANAN:  He might not have won the margin of error, but Rocky won the fight.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get it straight.  I will remember.  He lost the first one in decision.  He went the distance.  Rocky won the second one against Apollo Creed.  Then he beat Mr. T.  He won second and third.  The Russian guy, he beat the fourth.  The fifth guy, he lost to the young guy, the young guy he helped train, the good guy.  He was three for two. 

MADDOW:  If we stick with Rocky One now—and not to play the gender and race here, but it just happens to work out that way with the plot—

Barack Obama wants to be Apollo Creed because he wants to win this.  But Hillary Clinton wants to be Adrienne, who gets called in at the last moment to join the ticket. 

MATTHEWS:  One of the great cries in history, when his eyes are closed and he yells, Adrienne.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan.  What an American group this is.  Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow.  Join us again in three minutes.  I‘ll be joined by Keith Olbermann for the MSNBC Pennsylvania primary primetime coverage.  This is MSNBC, the place for politics and Rocky.

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

END   

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