updated 4/28/2008 10:40:37 AM ET 2008-04-28T14:40:37

Guests: Mary Thompson, David Shuster, Tucker Carlson, Michelle Bernard, Hilary Rosen, Rich Masters, Chrystia Freeland, Jonathan Martin, Chris Cillizza, Todd Harris, Michael Feldman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Is Bill Clinton trying to destroy Barack Obama‘s hopes for November?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Author Toni Morrison once dubbed him the first black president, but now Bill Clinton is getting slammed by one of the most influential African-American leaders in the country.  South Carolina congressman James Clyburn told “The New York Times” that most African-Americans believe the Clintons, quote, “are committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win.”  That means killing his chances, even if he wins the Democratic nomination.  Clyburn went on to call some of Clinton‘s recent comments on race “bizarre and strange” and predicted he could cause permanent damage between the Clintons and the African-American community.  More on this in just a minute.

Also, here‘s the common wisdom, that the long Democratic campaign is costing the Democrats time, money and voters and will hurt them in the fall.  Here‘s a counter-theory, that the long Democratic campaign is generating money, enthusiasm and new voters and will help them in the fall.  We‘ll talk about that argument also tonight.

Plus, the generation gap is back.  Polls show that if you‘re a Democrat under 40 -- 45, you‘re for Barack Obama, probably.  If you‘re over 45, you‘re probably for Hillary Clinton.  Why is that?  And what could that mean in November?  We‘ll try to figure out the battle of the ages later in tonight‘s program.

And we‘ve got the latest polls from Indiana.  We‘ll have all the new numbers coming up in the “Politics Fix” tonight.  And did Rush Limbaugh really say he‘s hoping for riots at the Democratic convention in Denver?  More on that hot one later.

But we begin tonight with Congressman Clyburn‘s brutal criticism of the Clintons.  Tucker Carlson is the senior campaign correspondent for MSNBC.  Michelle Bernard‘s an MSNBC political analyst and the president of the Independent Women‘s Voice.

Here is the quote, “The New York Times” report out today, quote, “Mr.

Clyburn said Mr. Clinton‘s conduct in this campaign had caused what might

be an irreparable breach between Mr. Clinton and an African-American

constituency that once revered him.”  Quote—and this is Mr. Clyburn, the

congressman from South Carolina, who is the third-ranking Democrat in the

House of Representatives—quote, “‘When he was going through his

impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the

bar,‘ Mr. Clyburn said. ‘I think black folks feel strongly that this is a

strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation.‘  Mr. Clyburn

added that there appeared to be an almost unanimous view among African-

Americans that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were ‘committed to doing everything

they possibly can to damage Obama‘”—and here‘s the key line—“‘to a

point that he could never win.‘”

Tucker, strong words.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  I think he‘s—

I think he‘s absolutely—I think he‘s absolutely right.  He‘s not overstating the help that the Clintons got from African-American voters.  Clinton never would have been president.  No Democrat gets elected president without the support of black voters, and Bill Clinton particularly, who never won a majority of the popular vote in either race, and who I think would have been out of office had it not been for their support.  I think he‘s absolutely right there.

And I do think that Clinton—I‘m not sure that he‘s trying to damage Obama irreparably, but he is a trapped animal.  He is fighting for his third term and...

MATTHEWS:  But Clyburn says he is.

CARLSON:  And he‘s totally right.

MATTHEWS:  Clyburn—Mr. Clyburn is accusing the Clintons, Bill Clinton in particular, of trying to do a scorched-earth strategy that even if Barack can—does win the nomination and beats Hillary Clinton, he will then lose the general, so that the Clintons can come back and win next time.

MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: 

That has been, you know, my theory all along, that—we know that it is a mathematical certainty, assuming the Democrats follow their own rules, that Hillary Clinton cannot get enough elected delegates to be the general nominee.  So I keep believing, and I think many people believe, Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2012.  How can she run in 2012?  By destroying Barack Obama.  If Obama is elected president, if he‘s the nominee and he‘s elected president, chances are, he will be in office for two terms.  And by 2016, she will be too old to be elected president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think he said this, Jim Clyburn, a long-time neutral in this whole race, very respected in the African-American, especially in South Carolina, and in the Congress?  Why would he come out now and blast Bill Clinton and say, You‘re trying to destroy our guy, even if he wins the nomination?  You still want to kill him.

BERNARD:  Well, I think he is expressing the sentiment, probably, of a lot of African-Americans nationwide, regardless of socioeconomic status.  These are the rumblings that you are hearing in the African-American population.  Also, it is two weeks before the Indiana and the North Carolina primaries.  These are do-or-die primaries for Barack Obama, regardless of the math, simply because of public opinion.  People are getting scared.  People are feeling, you know, in the—African-Americans who support his candidacy are feeling sort of deflated by what has happened.

CARLSON:  But can I just say that that Toni Morrison statement in “The New Yorker”—more has been made of that—the foundation of that is pretty thin.  He was never a black president.  He was a fleshy white guy.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  I mean, let‘s be—I‘m not attacking him!

BERNARD:  No, I...

CARLSON:  I‘m just saying the idea that Bill Clinton was somehow black and everybody in the press has been parroting this for 10 years...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know that‘s the over-the-top way to explain it.  He had great chemistry with the black community.

BERNARD:  He did.  He did.  But it‘s ironic because if you look back at it, Bill Clinton has always been—his strategy while he was president, he was always to the right of the African-Americans, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  But African-Americans were bedazzled by him.  There was Lani Guinier.  The African-American population forgot about it.  A lot of the members of Congressional Black Caucus disagreed with him on Welfare reform.  Well, he signed that bill anyway.  There was the infamous “Sister Souljah” moment.  But African-Americans have stood by him through thick and thin, and I would assume that any black Democrat right now has just said, We‘re finished with this.

MATTHEWS:  How about that retarded guy he executed on the to the way to the White House.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Ricky Ray Rector.

MATTHEWS:  Never forgot that baby, when he went back home and executed the guy, who had no mental capacity.  And that‘s liberal?  Or that‘s a Democrat?

CARLSON:  Took time out from his busy schedule to go have the guy killed.  No, yes, I mean, that‘s absolutely right.  And I have to say, I mean, Bill Clinton has a very long history of playing the race card, just in the other direction...

BERNARD:  Yes.

CARLSON:  ... but he has implied time and again that his opponents are motivated by racism.  And even when they weren‘t, when it was clearly, demonstrably unfair, he has said it.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, he did stand up for Affirmative Action in principle.  I just say that.

CARLSON:  OK, but that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  A lot of other people would have buckled.

CARLSON:  No, but he—but in so doing, he implied that people who were against Affirmative Action were against it because they didn‘t like black people, and that‘s an outrageous thing to say.  That‘s just not fair.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s listen to Senator Obama today, his reaction today to what Congressman Clyburn told “The New York Times.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I never believe in irreparable breaches.  I‘m a big believer in reconciliation and redemption.  You know, so, look, this has been a fierce contest.  I am confident, I‘ve said repeatedly, that come August, there are going to be a whole bunch of people standing on the stage with a lot of balloons and stuff, confetti raining down on the head of the Democratic nominee, and people are going to be excited about taking on John McCain in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think the question—let‘s ask a real political question, Tucker Carlson here.  Is there going to be a dream ticket of these two after all this mud?

CARLSON:  If she were to get the nomination, I think she would be obliged to ask him, and I think that she would.  I...

MATTHEWS:  Explain.

CARLSON:  Well, because, I mean, he holds the key to a constituency without which she cannot be elected, and that is black voters.  And...

MATTHEWS:  How can she win the nomination, even if she has his backing, if she gets it without the elected delegates?

CARLSON:  Because can win the popular vote.  And I—and I really—

I—because, look, the truth is, he can‘t get enough elected delegates himself, pledged delegates himself.  Neither one can.  So she can make the argument that the popular vote is what matters, and I...

MATTHEWS:  You mean counting Michigan and Florida.

CARLSON:  That is exactly right.  And she actually has a better argument.  I‘m far from endorsing her.  I‘m just saying, rhetorically, she‘s got a better argument.  Let the people speak.  Let their voice be heard.  That‘s a Democratic argument.  And I‘m just saying if she were...

MATTHEWS:  Except that the only problem with that—and I agree with you about Florida potentially, but Michigan, the other candidates didn‘t have their name on the ballot.

CARLSON:  Well, but her argument is, We will pay for a real election, one in which everyone...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I proposed last night—and I‘m not exactly a party king maker, but I said, Look, Barack ought to (INAUDIBLE) and say—apart from all this bad language back and forth, just say, Look—tell me what you think of this—you know, I will get all my supporters to back a new vote in Florida and in Michigan.  We‘ll get it done in mid-June, if we can.  And at the end of all that, I only ask for one commitment.  If we‘re going to have more primaries, I want them to count.  I want the one who wins the most elected delegates to be the nominee of the party.  If you‘re going to make some changes in the party rules, I‘ll (INAUDIBLE) but I want these primaries to count.  Don‘t tell me we‘re going to have two more primaries and they‘re not going to decide who the nominee is.

It seems to me that would be a good bargaining position for him.

BERNARD:  It‘s a good bargaining position, but Hillary Clinton will never abide by that because what happens if she loses?

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve just explained it.

BERNARD:  She‘ll never abide by it.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s why Bill Clinton, when he plays golf, I‘m told, makes innumerable mulligans.

BERNARD:  Hey...

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t like scorecards.

BERNARD:  Yes, but actually...

MATTHEWS:  Because they can strain him.

CARLSON:  But what everyone‘s forgetting is, it works!  It doesn‘t always work, but it often works.  And the Clintons have an insight that most of us don‘t have, which is perseverance pays off in the end.

MATTHEWS:  And people don‘t remember.

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.  They forget it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Memory is so short, you can say anything, and two months later...

CARLSON:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... people forget it.  And Bill Clinton, when he was governor, the last time he ran for governor of Arkansas, he promised the people publicly he would not run for president.  After winning that last term as governor, he went around and publicly got the people‘s permission.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He got their permission.  So he can always—the Clinton attitude is pretty clear.  Win now, fix it later.

BERNARD:  Well, here‘s my advice...

MATTHEWS:  Because you know why?  The public usually says, OK, fix it later, like he said when he got in trouble with Monica.  He quite clearly said, as he told Jim Lehrer, if I‘d told the truth about that relationship at the time it occurred, I would have been bounced out of office.

CARLSON:  Well, victory is self-justifying.

MATTHEWS:  Because I—because later on, people said, OK, things have tempered down, and people had gotten calm about it.  And they saw it perhaps in perspective.  He was free to go on.

BERNARD:  My advice for the Clinton campaign—I took a look at a study today done by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.  It‘s a black think tank here in town.  In the last election, John Kerry won in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan because of the black vote.  So if Representative Clyburn is correct, she‘s got serious trouble in all those states if she cannot repair the damage that has been done with black voters.

MATTHEWS:  But didn‘t win the Carolinas, John Kerry.

BERNARD:  Well, he got a higher percentage of the vote in the Carolinas because of—compared to Gore four years earlier.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Tucker Carlson.  I know because the Democrats, when they start carrying both Carolinas, they don‘t have to worry about Pennsylvania anymore!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Tucker Carlson.  Thank you, Michelle Bernard.

And a programming note.  Congressman Clyburn will be on “COUNTDOWN” tonight with Keith Olbermann.

Coming up.  As the Democratic fight drags on, is it good or bad for the party?  This is the hot question.  Is all this Sturm und Drang and all this Gotterdammerung politics, to use another German word—is it good or bad for the Democrats?  A lot of people think it‘s just bad, but we‘re going to have that argument when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The Democrats‘ prolonged nomination battle means Obama and Clinton have to spend enormous amounts of money and time in states in which they have slim chances of winning come November.  Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana and South Dakota all went decidedly Republican in the last presidential race president.  Only Oregon, which has its Democratic primary May 20, went for Kerry back in 2004.

In addition to the time and money that‘s been spent, there‘s the toll in bruising nomination fights—what it takes to the candidates themselves, and the party, how it hurts both candidates in terms of their favorability ratings that we‘re looking at all the time.

Given all this, could it be possible that the Democratic nominee will be actually stronger for all this primary fighting, or will he be decimated by that ?  That‘s the good and the bad questions.  Mike Feldman‘s a Democratic strategist who worked for the Gore campaign in 2000.  Todd Harris is a Republican strategist who worked for John McCain in 2000.  Gentlemen, thank you both.

Todd Harris, are you chuckling over the Democrat‘s fight, this intramural battle that never seems to end?

(LAUGHTER)

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  It‘s an...

MATTHEWS:  Are you happy to see the blood and the scarring?

HARRIS:  Oh, I‘m thrilled.  I‘m about to become a Hillary donor myself.  I want to keep this—I mean, why stop at the convention?

MATTHEWS:  Are you part of Rush Limbaugh‘s “operation chaos”?

HARRIS:  I‘m not sure I want a riot...

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  I do want this thing to go on as long as...

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t...

HARRIS:  ... possible.

MATTHEWS:  Can I say it with the right warble? (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  How Rush talks.  What do you make of this?  Look at the chuckle worthy (ph) coming out this guy.  He‘s loving this!

MICHAEL FELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I think he‘s going to get a call from Terry McAuliffe two minutes after we walk out of here.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  For all we know, they‘re in common—they‘re in cahoots, you know, Republicans and Hillary, to keep it going.

FELDMAN:  Seriously, let‘s—let‘s take a look at...

MATTHEWS:  You guys do want Hillary in November, don‘t you.

HARRIS:  You know what?  At this point...

MATTHEWS:  You know you want her!

HARRIS:  No, no, no.  At this point, I‘m willing to take either one of them because both of them are going to limp into the general election.  This fight is bringing up both of their negatives to levels that they haven‘t seen a very long time.  It‘s ripping apart the Democratic Party.  The segment you just had talking about Representative Clyburn saying, you know, African-Americans will never forgive Bill Clinton, forcing them, as you just said, to spend time in states they have no chance of winning this November...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a Christmas turkey for you guys, isn‘t it!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s all—it‘s all, what do you call it, all glazed up for your enjoyment.  Yes, sir, Michael.

FELDMAN:  Well, look...

MATTHEWS:  Is he right?

FELDMAN:  Well, he‘s right about one thing.  If we ran our party like a corporation—like Todd‘s party—and we had it all wrapped up...

HARRIS:  Yes, with winners and losers.

FELDMAN:  ... and it‘s all wrapped up (INAUDIBLE) sure, that would be great.  There is an up side this, OK?  These candidates are finely tuning their skills.  Their campaigns are in the heat of battle.  They are building general election-scale operations in a lot of states...

MATTHEWS:  OK, well, let‘s assume, for example, just to make an assumption—suppose Barack wins.  Is he better off than he was two months ago, when he was winning all those primaries?

FELDMAN:  Yes.  He‘s get better off because of the 300,000 new voters we‘ve registered in Pennsylvania.

HARRIS:  No.  Look what the Pennsylvania primary did to the narrative of this race.  Barack Obama went into Pennsylvania, as, like, this savior, this juggernaut who was going to energize new voters, bring all this hope and enthusiasm to the process.  He limped out of Pennsylvania as a candidate that everyone—“The New York Times” on the front page is speculating, Can this guy get blue-collar white voters?  Like, is this guy a lemon come November?  The entire narrative has been changed, all because of Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS:  Did Hillary give license to working people to vote against Barack in the general, if he‘s the nominee?

FELDMAN:  No, I don‘t think she did.  Look, there aren‘t many voters who aren‘t going to quickly come together behind the nominee, no matter who he or she is.  At the end of the day, they‘re going to have a lot more support behind them.  They‘re going to have a lot more new voters behind them.  And the money that  they‘re raising, a half a billion dollars—I mean, Senator McCain raised $15 million in March.  I think both Democratic campaigns raised close to $60 million.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... some of the Hillary ads against Barack in the general, if he wins?

HARRIS:  Some of them are pretty good.

FELDMAN:  No, nothing that these two...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  See?  They‘re already—they‘re already—now, are you guys going to quote Hillary when you go after Barack, if he‘s the nominee?

HARRIS:  Of course.

MATTHEWS:  See?

HARRIS:  And you know what?  49.5 percent of all Democrats will say, You know what?  I agree with what Hillary Clinton said.  The Democratic Party is split so evenly down the middle that whatever candidate they pick, we‘re going to be able to use the words of the one who didn‘t win against the other one.  In a huge chunk of the Democratic Party, that‘s going to resonate.

FELDMAN:  Nothing these two campaigns are throwing at each other is even close to what Todd and his party are going to throw at them in the fall.  They‘ll be better prepared for it.  Let me tell you what else.  Eighty-two percent of the American people think we‘re headed in the wrong direction.  On the number one and number two issues that are going to face the electorate in the fall, OK, the economy and the Iraq war, the Democratic Party is in the right place.  And unfortunately, Senator McCain is disinterested in the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  There is not a state...

FELDMAN:  And he‘s in the wrong place on Iraq.

HARRIS:  There‘s not a state in this country that has been harder hit by the economy than Michigan.  The FXMRA (ph) polls last week in Michigan, John McCain beating both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  People in Michigan know something about economic hardship.  They‘re backing John McCain.

MATTHEWS:  Is it possible, though, while you chuckle here (INAUDIBLE) Is it possible that the Democrats‘ fight for Indiana, just to take a case, could end up giving them Indiana in the general for all the effort they‘re fighting now?  I mean, if one of them wins big or makes the point, comes off as good, they could take on McCain in Indiana.  The polling we have shows that, basically, that the Democrat—Obama, if he‘s the nominee, is way up over McCain in Indiana right now.

HARRIS:  I think if Indiana plays out the same way Pennsylvania did, where you‘ve got these ads about, you know, who‘s going be ready to be president, who isn‘t, who isn‘t, that‘s not going to help the Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Nice work, Mike.  Good work, Todd.

Anyway, up next: Keep your eye on Mike Huckabee.  He‘s back in the news again today.  We‘ll tell you why Huckabee‘s back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new in politics? 

Well, how will John McCain distance himself from an increasingly unpopular President Bush, whose job approval now rests at 28 percent, while McCain still maintains his loyalty to the Republican Party? 

Well, it turns out by criticizing Bush—now, this is an easy one—on his mishandling of Hurricane Katrina.  Here he is in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In all candor, if I had been president of the United States, I would have ordered the plane landed at the nearest Air Force base, and I would have been over here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, a great president would have arrived in New Orleans on Marine One—that‘s the presidential helicopter—with crates of water bottles and stood there in front of the Convention Center with all those desperate faces, handing out water to the people that needed it. 

Rush would love to see a riot.  It may come as little surprise radio host Rush Limbaugh is daylight dreaming of a fight at the Democratic National Convention this August is Denver.  Riots, he said, would ensure the country turns off the Democrats. 

Here he is. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  We need as many ignorant Americans to wake up and find out exactly who the modern-day Democrat Party is, as dominated by the far left in this country.  We need that be seen. 

Now, I am not inspiring or inciting riots.  I‘m dreaming. 

(singing):  I‘m dreaming of a riot in Denver. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  I love that.  I‘m dreaming of a wild riot in Denver.  Rush Limbaugh, what a romantic.

Still hot for Huckabee?  He may not be starring on late-night sketches these days, but don‘t take your eye off Mike Huckabee just yet.  It‘s far from impossible right now that John McCain would tap him for his ticket. 

Here‘s McCain in Arkansas with Huckabee today when asked whether he might tap him for V.P. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Governor Huckabee got the votes of millions of Republican voters.  And that‘s a very important part of any election process.  And I will rely on him for a lot of things.  And I think he has greater service to render to this nation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What this, schmoozing with McCain?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, greater service to render this nation?  Hmm.  Keep in mind that, in Tuesday‘s Pennsylvania primary, Huckabee, who‘s not even running anymore, won more than 11 percent of the Republican vote in Pennsylvania this week, third to Ron Paul, the Libertarian, and John McCain himself. 

Speaking of possible V.P.s, Fred Thompson says he wouldn‘t accept it.  In the same interview, Thompson took time to respond to the continued buzz about the alleged temper of John McCain. 

Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I have read those stories.  And he‘s acknowledged, you know, he‘s got a temper, unlike the rest of us. 

Another interesting thing about it is—is that they‘re usually with his peers, his colleagues.  It‘s not a staffer.  It‘s not somebody that can‘t defend themselves.  It‘s another big boy who can defend themselves.  And they go at it on points that John thinks are important.  I don‘t think that‘s a—I don‘t think that‘s a bad thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Interesting distinction.

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

And it‘s a bleak one to leave you with for the weekend.  Unfortunately, it‘s no surprise that the economy isn‘t strong.  If you fill up your gas tank regularly, you know that all too well.  But, today, a consumer confidence survey from the University of Michigan—they‘re the ones that do it all the time—shows just how bad people think things are right now. 

According to that Michigan survey of consumer confidence, when was the last time that consumer confidence was this low?  Nineteen eighty-two.  That‘s 26 years ago -- 1982, the last time consumers thought things were this bad, tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Up next:  Tell me how old you are, and I will tell you who you will probably vote for.  The relevance of age in the Democratic race—when HARDBALL comes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks closing mixed, as oil prices surged once again.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained almost 43 points.  The S&P 500 picked up nine.  But the Nasdaq lost six.  For the week, all three major indices were up less than 1 percent. 

After falling sharply yesterday, oil prices rebounded.  Crude gained $2.46 in New York, closing at $118.52 a barrel.  Gasoline prices also continue to rise.  The AAA reports the national average for regular unleaded jumped another two cents overnight, to a record of almost $3.58 a gallon. 

Meantime, consumer confidence has dropped to a 26-year low.  That‘s according to the University of Michigan survey for April.  The same survey shows nine out of 10 consumers think the U.S. economy is already in a recession. 

And the dollar gained against the euro for the third straight day. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Out of all the Democratic contests that are left, the Indiana primary in 10 days appears to be the last one where the race is dead even.  So, the Hoosier State is getting a lot of attention from both Clinton and Obama.  And their campaigns are noticing the growing age gap of their supporters and are trying to figure out what it all means. 

Well, we‘re going to find out right now from HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster. 

Here‘s his report. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The last time Barack Obama campaigned in Bloomington, Indiana, he dropped by Indiana University‘s Little 500. 

The intramural bicycle races were the inspiration years ago for the Oscar Award-winning movie “Breaking Away.” 

(MUSIC)

SHUSTER:  And I.U. students have always billed this as the world‘s greatest college weekend.  To them, Obama‘s surprise visit was validation and it created a frenzy that overshadowed the race itself. 

Later, on Kirkwood Avenue, Obama was liked a pied piper, with students pouring into the streets and celebrating.  Residents said it was as if Indiana had won another basketball championship. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  This afternoon, Hillary Clinton had her own stop on the I.U.  campus at the very home of those basketball teams, Indiana‘s Assembly Hall. 

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Today, I am thrilled to bring my campaign to this university. 

SHUSTER:  There were students in attendance, but this was an older audience with a lot of I.U. faculty and staff, and there were policy prescriptions from Clinton, not college comradery. 

CLINTON:  I came out several years ago with a strategic energy fund. 

SHUSTER:  The visits to I.U. underscore the deep demographic divide. 

Obama is popular with younger voters. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Hey, guys.  What‘s going on? 

SHUSTER:  Clinton attracts older voters.  In the Pennsylvania primary this week, voters 44 and younger went for Obama over Clinton 55 percent to 45.  Voters 45 and older went 59 percent for Clinton and 41 for Obama. 

Older voters usually show up in much higher numbers.  And, in Pennsylvania, it was 2-1. 

OBAMA:  Our problem has less to do with white working-class voters.  In fact, the problem is, is that, to the extent there is a problem, is, is that older voters are very loyal to Senator Clinton. 

SHUSTER:  They have been loyal throughout most of the campaign.  But, in the Iowa caucuses, for example, the number of younger voters was way up.  And that gave rocket fuel to Obama‘s dramatic victory. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

OBAMA:  Thank you. 

SHUSTER:  So, what does it mean for the battles still to come?  In Indiana, Democrats, on average, tend to be younger than those in Pennsylvania.  And the college communities in Bloomington, Terre Haute, Indianapolis, West Lafayette, and South Bend could have a big impact. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We pray for you daily.

CLINTON:  I need your prayers. 

SHUSTER:  For the general election, Democrats have been steadily increasing the party‘s share of younger voters for the past eight years.  And another surge could be crucial. 

(on camera):  For now, though, it‘s all about the primaries.  And, in Indiana, of course, the one thing that has always united the young and the old is basketball.  And, so, this weekend, Barack Obama is playing a three-on-three game against Indiana students, and hoping that, with Hoosier voters of every age, it will score. 

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David. 

Hilary Rosen is a Hillary supporter and the political director of the Web site Huffington Post.  And Rich Masters is an Obama supporter who has worked in Senate Democratic politics.

I have got to you, Hilary, old pal, do you like being in that older age bloc politically?

MATTHEWS:  Is that what goes on here?  I mean, have you—and now if you—people say—well, Caroline Kennedy says, my kids got me to be for Barack.  Bob Casey says, my kids got me to be for Barack.

I don‘t know anybody who says, my kids got me to be for Hillary.  It seems to be, my grandmother reminded me that I‘m a woman and I‘m trying to make it in this world. 

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  It is a big deal if—the first time you‘re going to potentially vote for a president who is younger than you.  That‘s a big transition in life, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Once you get past the baseball teams, by the way, that‘s your first thing...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... when you realize you‘re older than anybody on the Yankees. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  That‘s the ultimate disaster.

I think that I was actually surprised that Hillary Clinton got 44 percent of the youth vote.  He‘s obviously younger.  He‘s obviously...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are we going cosmetic here?  Are you daring to say, because he‘s young? 

ROSEN:  Oh, yes, absolutely.

You know, the—the thing is, on these issues, these candidates aren‘t terribly different.  But he has a way to talk that engages people in politics for the first time.  She‘s not doing that.  She‘s saying, tell me what your problems are. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  A lot of college kids don‘t even know what their problems are. 

They‘re just trying to figure out where they fit into the world. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  And I think Obama actually projects that.

MATTHEWS:  I think—let me try that by you, Richard.

I think there‘s three ways to look at this race.  We can talk about race, but let‘s do it some other day.  We already did enough of that tonight.  One is, are you happy with the word change, really happy with it, or do you sort of like the way some things are, like, well, the way you are, perhaps.

Needs—I think you have leapt on to the truth there.  I think older people have health needs, retirement needs, pension needs.  They have other members of the family they worry about.  Hillary talks directly to them.  Barack talks to the dreams perhaps of people, not their needs.

RICH MASTERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I think you‘re absolutely right. 

And to quote Bill Clinton, I mean, when you—when you look at people that are talking about voting for me because of your fear or someone who wants to vote for your hope, vote for your hope.  And, you know, I think that‘s what Barack Obama has been able to bring to this campaign. 

And, you know, from a generational aspect, too, I mean, you know, the one reason, I think, older voters gravitate toward Clinton is, they remember, like, Hilary, you and I do, the great years of the Clinton administration, from ‘92, until George Bush took over.  And I think there‘s a lot of fond memories—rightly no, by the way. 

But what Barack Obama is bringing is, I think, if you look at the millennials, those core groups of people who are in college right now, they want something different.  You know, I think that neither party is really satisfying their needs. 

And Barack Obama almost transcends party in some ways.  And I think that‘s one of the reasons you have seen a lot of young people in Iowa and now also in Indiana, as well, kind of gravitate toward that campaign, because they want to see something new and fresh and different.  I mean, this is the Internet—this is a group that grew up watching—the Internet, you didn‘t have to log on for these guys. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I wonder...

MASTERS:  I mean, the Internet is something they didn‘t just invent, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  The reason I love this crosscut, both of you, is that it seems like, no matter what the community you‘re talking about, if you‘re talking about Catholics, Jews, gays, whatever community you look at, youth seems to be with Barack, right? 

ROSEN:  Yes, but you should—you should remember something, which—and I think that‘s right for now. 

But Howard Dean had the entire young population when he was running for—in the Democratic primary.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  And, yet, John Kerry had the highest youth turnout of any Democratic president, including Bill Clinton, in 2004. 

So, I—you know, I just don‘t buy this notion of people saying, well, you know, if Hillary‘s the nominee, we‘re going to lose all these young people who have come into the process. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You think they will get—they will adapt to it, if things change?

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN:  I think that, once they engage in the process, they‘re engaged.  And that‘s a good thing.  And, if Obama‘s done that, that‘s a good thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to the old people for this, Rich, why old people tend to resist Barack.

MASTERS:  Thanks, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  No, I mean it.  And me, too. 

But I‘m just trying to figure out—you know, my family‘s all over the place.  I don‘t think I‘m very—I‘m representative only in the sense that my family back home is all over the place in this politics.  With Hillary, one of my sisters-in-law loves Hillary, will probably vote for McCain if she doesn‘t win the nomination.  She‘s totally with Hillary.

Then you have got some people that surprised me.  They‘re with Barack.  The younger people in the family tend to be Barack, but it‘s a mixture.  I have got another sister-in-law who is voting against Bill Clinton coming back to the White House...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... and therefore voted for Barack, just because she didn‘t want him back, you know, stalking around the East Wing or whatever wing he‘s going to live in or operate in, or whatever you say. 

What do you think? 

MASTERS:  Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Why are older people so—why did we see in Pennsylvania -

for example, my crowd, Roman Catholics, I thought it was a monolithic movement toward Hillary until I found out in the polling today an article that explained that, for people who are Roman Catholic and under 45, there‘s no differential from other groups. 

It‘s only the older Catholics who are more pronouncedly pro-Hillary.

MASTERS:  I think you‘re absolutely right, Chris.  I think this is—the question we have to is, where do we go after this is all said and done?  I do think—I‘m one of these people—I‘m a Barack Obama supporter.  I wish the election were over tomorrow, and we could move on to attacking John McCain and focusing in on his record.  You know, I think we‘re all going to come together. 

I do think that Senator Clinton‘s bar is much more difficult.  I think in the general election, I do think that older voters who have voted on the economy and who have serious needs—I mean, Chris, you talked about the needs voters and a lot of the older voters are needs voters.  The worry that I have is if Barack Obama is not the nominee, what does happen to these young voters?  I mean, many of them are very young, idealistic, and this is—they‘re first-time voters.  It‘s difficult.  It‘s a different bar. 

I think it‘s much more difficult for Hillary Clinton to appeal to those younger voters than it will be for Barack Obama to appeal to the older voters. 

MATTHEWS:  Torture this, quickly, if you can.

ROSEN:  I think that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is going to win the young vote against John McCain.  He is talking about a war that will strain our resources so much that the fear of the draft will come back.  That‘s what happened, remember, with John Kerry a little bit in 2004.  The fear of the draft will be the single biggest motivator for young people, and the economy, second, but—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the word that brings the word need to young people.  Thank you very much, Hillary Rosen.  It‘s great to have you on.  Rich Masters, thank you, sir.  Up next, the end of another big political week.  We‘re going to break it down in the politics fix.  Not a good week for Barack Obama.  On NBC this Saturday morning, the moderator of “Meet The Press” Tim Russert will be talking to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean. 

Tim‘s going to find out how he plans to bring this thing to an end, if that‘s imaginable.  This is HARDBALL, only MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Our round table tonight, Chrystia Freeland of the “Financial Times of London,” Chris Cillizza of the “Washington Post” and Jonathan Martin of the Politico.  Let‘s take a look at a hot new poll; the “Indianapolis Star” poll has Obama over Clinton by three points now.  For the general election, “Indianapolis Star” poll has Obama over McCain by eight points.  Look at that 49, 41 and has Clinton and McCain tied at 46.  That‘s relatively good news for Obama.  What do you make by this, Jonathan?

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO:  I was struck by his lead in the general election.  I think it‘s very good news. 

MATTHEWS:  Does that auger well for the primary as well? 

MARTIN:  Absolutely.  Also, Chris, it does this, it raises Obama‘s expectations.  He now cannot try and spin away a loss in Indiana.  He‘s now got a credible poll. 

MATTHEWS:  He needs to win a close one. 

MARTIN:  He has a credible poll showing him in the lead. 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I was going to say, Chris, it feels like every race we‘ve had in the last couple months, March 4th, Ohio and Texas, this past week in Pennsylvania, is a must win for her.  If she doesn‘t win, it‘s all over.  At some point, it‘s interesting, Indiana may be a must win for both of them, in that she may not be able to continue credibly if she loses, but Obama has to shut this idea down that these manufacturers—

MATTHEWS:  He hasn‘t won a big one since—he hasn‘t won the white vote, to be blunt about it, since February 19th

CILLIZZA:  I mean, at some point, he has to say, you have to put up or shut up.  You have to show results.  You have to win a state on the economy. 

MATTHEWS:  We are on the same page here.  Chrystia Freeland, the question is, is this a must win for both candidates at this point? 

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, “FINANCIAL TIMES”:  Actually, no, because I think that even if we see Senator Clinton running faster, we have to remember that this has been a marathon, and what we‘re seeing is maybe the final sprint.  But the fact that Senator Obama has been so far ahead so long, I don‘t think, actually, the math is the same for the two of them.  I think for her to credibly win the nomination, she has to do incredibly well in all of these races.  Even if she does that, it‘s hard to see her winning either the popular vote or the pledged delegations. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at the purse here.  Let‘s pretend this is a battle, a bicycle race in Indiana, or a car race, the Indianapolis 500.  What‘s the purse?  For Barack, I believe the purse is as follows: if he hold North Carolina and wins Indiana, people say that will release a huge number of super delegates from the House of representatives who will announce a couple days later, within that 24 hour period, they‘re going to make a move to him.  This could be the cracking of the ice. 

MARTIN:  You mentioned, Chris, because it shows he can win white voters in a manufacturing state. 

MATTHEWS:  What will be the consequence to winning this nomination?

MARTIN:  He will then get super delegates in the weeks after that, and the losses he will have in West Virginia and Kentucky won‘t look quite as bad.  If he loses Indian—

MATTHEWS:  OK, so that‘s the purse.  Doe you agree for the purse for him?  What does he win if he wins Indianapolis? 

CILLIZZA:  If he wins Indiana, I think her case, her path, which is already extremely narrow to the nomination, it‘s based much less on math, which Chrystia is making the point of, and more on perception.  Her key is not math.  She‘s not going to over-take him in the pledged delegate.  Unless you count Florida and Michigan, she‘s not overtaking him in the popular vote.  It‘s doubt.  It‘s the question of, can you make the case to super delegates, OK, nominate this guy, but say bye-bye to Ohio, maybe say bye-bye to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida.  That‘s the case. 

MATTHEWS:  Chrystia, to respond to what you said about the fact he won so many before, and this is the last sprint of the race, how about this metaphor: suppose he‘s a horse that just sprained his leg and you can see him struggling out there.  Doesn‘t that mean he loses the race? 

FREELAND:  Are you suggesting, Chris, it‘s time to shoot the horse because he sprained his ankle?

MATTHEWS:  No, but it might be time to pick another candidate for president, is what I‘m suggesting, if I were a super delegate. 

FREELAND:  That is certainly what the Hillary Clinton campaign has been suggesting.  I agree with Chris that their angle is to talk about perception and to try get away from the hard numbers behind it.  I‘m just arguing, at the end of the day, at the convention, it‘s going to be very, very hard to persuade the super delegates, to persuade the Democratic party to go with the candidate who doesn‘t have some mathematical, some analytical argument. 

MATTHEWS:  But he hasn‘t carried the white vote since February 19th, Chrystia, February 19th

FREELAND:  Is there a rule in the Democratic party that only white votes count? 

MATTHEWS:  No, but they are the majority ethnic group in America.  If you keep losing them so dramatically, it does suggest you going to have a problem in the general election. 

FREELAND:  That may well be.  That may well be. 

CILLIZZA:  You know, Chris, I think one thing is fascinating—this isn‘t my idea.  It‘s Charlie Cook, a guy I used to work for, idea.  He said it‘s too little, too late.  The problem for Senator Clinton is places like Ohio and Pennsylvania that have pointed to the potential problems that Barack Obama‘s, in terms of courting the white vote, have come too late. 

Chrystia‘s right, he‘s already—Barack Obama is already ahead by enough that it probably doesn‘t matter from a math perspective.  We‘re now getting these doubts. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of smart people like Charlie Cooke, Elizabeth Drew, have written in the Politico and written in the “National Journal” in the last couple hours today that this is over for Hillary Clinton.  They are very—the perception is if she can win upsets in Indiana, she can shake the whole thing loose and get the super delegates to freeze.  We‘ll be right back with the round table and more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  We‘ve got to talk about Mike Huckabee.  He‘s former pastor, of course, former presidential candidate, who a lot of people in this business, meaning you and I watching this show and paying to the campaign, liked a lot.  Here he is talking about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It can be a little bit presumptuous to ever assume that just because the pastor says something in the pulpit, everybody in the pew agrees with it.  That‘s rarely the case.  Influential, sure.  Necessarily transferable?  Usually not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Not transferable; if you don‘t like the Reverend Wright‘s, Jeremiah‘s, if you will, don‘t hold it against Barack Obama.  Your thoughts on that, Chrystia Freeland?  You probably met—talked to Huckabee a lot in this campaign. 

FREELAND:  I though that was actually a generous comment of his to make.  It underscores an interesting phenomenon that we‘re seeing, which is the potential political revival of Mike Huckabee.  There were some interesting comments from McCain that we had earlier, you know, suggesting that maybe Huckabee could be a good guy.  And that would certainly be a fascinating ticket, because all those problems—

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  You‘re so right.  If you just do deduction, if you take out Mitt Romney because of what happened in Texas a couple week weeks ago, that‘s a problem, even though they‘re a rogue element.  Mormons probably get blamed.  If you take out the pro-choicers, which I think he did on our show, certainly Tom Ridge he took him out by name, took out Rudy.  So who‘s left? 

(CROSS TALK) 

MATTHEWS:  I think you have a very good point. 

CILLIZZA:  Can I make one quick point about Huckabee?  Why I think it might not be and it was played in that clip?  That was an example of—what does the vice presidential do?  In a lot of time, he carries the negative message that the candidates doesn‘t want himself.  Is Mike Huckabee going to do that?  You saw in that—

MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re right.  You‘ve made the point.  He could be a Republican version of Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, who didn‘t do the job.  I personally think, for the Democratic side, Eddie Rendell is still the best, not as a knee capper, but he‘ll do a one, two, three on what‘s wrong with McCain effectively in the big states. 

MARTIN:  Chris, for Huckabee, this not about ‘08.  This is about 2012 or 2016.  Huckabee wants to run again for president.  He‘s laying the ground work right now. 

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like somebody else I know. 

MARTIN:  Who‘s that?

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton. 

FREELAND:  Absolutely. 

MARTIN:  There you go. 

MATTHEWS:  Chrystia, your thought on Hillary Clinton.  Is she, in fact, going to knock of Barack Obama in the general?  Is that the goal of the Clintons?  According to Jim Clyburn, who spoke out so forcefully to the “New York Times,” that‘s what the Clintons are up to, especially Bill, take this guy out so there‘s going to be a Democratic opening in 2012. 

FREELAND:  I certainly wouldn‘t claim to see inside Hillary Clinton‘s mind to her true motives, but I think, based on her track record, she is a person who never gives up.  So, I think that we would be really foolish if she is not elected president in 2008 -- we would be foolish to rule out the idea that she has hopes for 2012. 

MATTHEWS:  The only way those hopes can be realized is if Barack loses the general. 

FREELAND:  I mean I think that if that were the strategy, one would have to play it very, very carefully, because Hillary Clinton and the whole Clinton legacy could risk really being badly tarnished if that were the perception.  If the Democratic party felt they threw an election just so Hillary could have a chance at the White House, imagine what the fallout from that would be. 

MATTHEWS:  Point shaving has been done before. 

MARTIN:  If Obama loses this fall, and it‘s based upon some of these cultural issue, you can be darn sure a lot of Democrats will place the blame squarely at the feet of Bill and Hillary Clinton.  It will hurt her opportunities.

MATTHEWS:  Blame the Clintons for Barack losing the general?

MARTIN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  What about the I told you so factor? 

CILLIZZA:  For planting the seed, for putting the voice in it.  That said, I think this whole idea that a primary is somehow going to handicap the candidate in the general election—as far as I know, the McCain opposition research knows how to use Google.  They know how to use Lexis Nexus.  They‘re going to find these things anyway. 

I think the fact that it‘s prolonged doesn‘t necessarily mean anything than it‘s prolonged.  One other quick point about Hillary Clinton, though, and I think this is important; everyone knows that Barack Obama has a loyal and passionate following.  If you look at Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, Senator Clinton has a loyal and passionate following.  It‘s not as big, currently, as that of Barack Obama.  If she is not the nominee, there are going to be a lot of people out there agitating, especially if that nomination is open in 2012, that she should come back.

This is not a candidate without a country.  I think a lot of people tend to think she is. 

MATTHEWS:  The only relevance of that proposition is that Barack loses the general election.  Therefore, the Clintons know they have to croke him.  They have to end.  He has to lose.  I think—if you believe what Chrystia said, basically that Hillary Clinton is not going to stop until she‘s president, then part of that road to the presidency is making sure Barack doesn‘t win the general. 

CILLIZZA:  That‘s a hard proposition, Chris.  It‘s like Jonathan said, you have to subtly undercut without making the appearance of undercutting.  That‘s a very tough thing to do.  I think people like to give the Clintons credit for the ability to do almost anything in the political arena.  That might even test them.  

MARTIN:  Also, by now, there is some Clinton fatigue among Democratic grass roots.  If Obama loses this fall, it‘s going to be tough for her to come back in 2012.  Think about that, that will have been many years since Bill Clinton ran for president? 

CILLIZZA:  There was Gore fatigue in 2004, and by 2008 everybody was -

(CROSS TALK)

FREELAND:  2012 is a long way off. 

MATTHEWS:  Chrystia Freeland, thank you for your genius tonight.  I mean that.  I have no sarcasm, you‘re fabulous. 

FREELAND:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris, young man, you‘ve been excellent tonight.  Jonathan Martin, as well.  I‘m going to do my Ted Baxter.  Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.

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

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