updated 5/6/2008 10:57:01 AM ET 2008-05-06T14:57:01

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Tucker Carlson, Norah O‘Donnell, Laura Schwartz, Jeff Gardere, Christian Lininger

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Obama and Clinton campaigning until the very end, including their final round of interviews.  So, how they‘d do?

We‘ll get the scope from our all star panel: Tucker Carlson, Lawrence O‘Donnell, and Laura Schwartz.

And: What do Clinton and Obama each needs to do to really declare victory?

NBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell joins us with a close look at each state.

And: The gas tax front and center.  Clinton and Obama now releasing attack ads.  We‘re On Their Trail, who gets the cheap shot, misstatement or blunder call of the night.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the show.

First up tonight: The key votes in North Carolina and Indiana begin tomorrow morning.  Votes that could provide a knockout punch for Obama or give Clinton new firepower, 187 delegates up for grabs, a big win for either could mean big trouble for the other.  Today, both are making last minute appeals to voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Don‘t buy into this electability argument.  You know, go with who you think best represents your vision of where America needs to go.  And if you do that, I‘m absolutely confident that that person will win.  I think this is our opportunity to make a clean break from the past.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am asking for your help tomorrow.  I believe that we have—we have everything at stake in this election.  I am running because I think with all of my heart that I am best prepared to be the president and I‘m the stronger candidate to take on John McCain in the fall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Earlier today, Clinton and Obama faced off in a series of TV interviews.  So, how did they do?  Our panel will weigh in.

First, both did everything possible to be seen as the underdog going into tomorrow‘s vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “EARLY SHOW”/CBS)

HARRY SMITH, CBS HOST:  Tell me how important tomorrow is to you and your campaign.

OBAMA:  Well, you know, every state has been important, every contest has been important and obviously, Indiana and North Carolina are a couple of big states that I think represent what people are worried about all across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”/ABC)

CLINTON:  I never make prediction but we‘re working hard in both.  We started out so far behind, and clearly have made up some ground.  But, you know, you never know until people vote.  These two states, you know, everyone predicted including Senator Obama‘s campaign that he would handily win both.  I started out very far behind in both.  And we‘ve made up some ground.  We‘ll see what happens tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Just that depends on how you define started.

Joining me now: Political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell; MSNBC chief campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson; and Democratic strategist, Laura Schwartz.

All right.  Lawrence, so, look, the expectations game is crucial here because - look, we have a pretty good sense of what‘s going to happen tomorrow, you can‘t be certain, someone could get a sweep, but in all likelihood, it‘s going to be Clinton winning in Indiana and Obama winning in North Carolina.  And then the question becomes, OK, who won as a result of that and you see both of them trying to downplay it.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, in that scenario, Obama wins especially if he wins by 10 points or more in North Carolina.  You know, she talks about the—Obama was always expected to win Indiana.  That‘s exactly the opposite.  He was expected to lose until very recently when he started to close there.  But this could end up as a status quo Tuesday night when all of the dust clears.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but, Tucker, I‘m not sure how it‘s an Obama win if they split the states.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC CHIEF CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I mean, he should put this away.  I mean, if he‘s, you know, if he‘s the all powerful front-runner and he has essentially the entire party establishment behind him, certainly the intelligentsia is a part of the affluent sectors of the party are completely behind him, he ought to put it away.  I think if—and I think he will win North Carolina tomorrow.

If he loses North Carolina tomorrow, Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee, will be the nominee I predict at that point.  That will signal a collapse of the Obama campaign.  I‘m not predicting that will happen, but if it does, that will terrify the superdelegates, you‘ll see panic and mass hysteria among superdelegates, they will look at the Obama campaign and say, “You can‘t pull it off, I‘m now give it to Hillary.”

ABRAMS:  Laura, you agree?

LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I think if Barack Obama would lose in North Carolina, it would definitely show that the Reverend Wright controversy did weigh in and weigh in strongly.  But I think he will take North Carolina, the internal of both campaigns are showing, perhaps Hillary up seven, maybe 10 in Indiana, and Obama, fairly in North Carolina.

But really, I think, if he can win by seven to 10, it will show that he weathered the Reverend Wright storm because this is the first real state that we‘ve had since the controversy and he tried to quell it last week.  He‘s gotten a lot of accolades for that.  Now, whether or not the press and pundits turn into votes at the polls, we will find out tomorrow.

ABRAMS:  Well, I think Tucker is right to bring up the superdelegates because in the end, this is all going to come down to them.  Whatever way, however you cut this, it‘s going to come down to the superdelegates.  And here, it‘s both Clinton and Obama talking about the superdelegates in dueling interviews.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”/NBC)

MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC HOST:  Say you do win Indiana and perhaps win North Carolina or come close in North Carolina, there are only six matches left, six primaries, highly unlikely you‘ll ever catch Senator Obama in terms of pledged delegates.  So, it‘s going to come down to the superdelegates, how do you convince them to support you if you don‘t have more pledged delegates than Senator Obama?

CLINTON:  Well, Meredith, right now, I have more popular vote which I think is another very important indicator of our strength going into general election.

VIEIRA:  So, would that be your argument then?

CLINTON:  We‘re following the rules that—well, you know, let‘s wait and see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “EARLY SHOW”/CBS)

JULIE CHEN, CBS HOST:  If you don‘t win convincingly tomorrow, how will you argue to the superdelegates who are up for grabs that you are more electable than Senator Obama?

CLINTON:  Well, first of all, we‘re going to wait and see what happens tomorrow.  I never make predictions, and every time we‘re on the brink of an election, I‘m always asked this and I think it‘s time people start asking my opponent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN MORNING”/CNN)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST:  If after this entire primary process, and you leading in the popular voter, the number of contests won, and pledged delegate, if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, how will you feel personally about that?

OBAMA:  John, I‘m not going to speculate on that because I intend to win.  That‘s why I‘m here.

ROBERTS:  But should it happen, how would you feel?

OBAMA:  John, you know, the day before two important elections, the last thing I‘m thinking about are superdelegates.  What I‘m thinking about are the folks that I‘m out there fighting for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  How would you feel?  He‘d be disappointed, OK?  I mean, how would you feel?  Of course, he‘s not going to be happy about it, all right?  John, come on.

But here‘s the real question, Lawrence, if you layout the numbers since Super Tuesday, talking about superdelegates, Barack Obama has gained 88 superdelegates since Super Tuesday.  Hillary Clinton has gained just 13.  And so, why is that?  I mean, why has he continued to gain superdelegates even though she‘s been perceived as having done pretty well?

O‘DONNELL:  Because the most important number in this campaign is Hillary‘s negative.  Hillary has the highest negative rating of anyone who‘s ever run for president.  She also has the highest negative rating of anyone within the Democratic Party within Democratic Party officials and obviously, within her Senate colleagues.

I mean, it‘s stunning to me that her Senate colleagues have deserted her the way they have to Obama.  They didn‘t have to do that, they could have all sat on the fence, they didn‘t.  And so, that, you know, it‘s - they‘re looking at the general election, Hillary‘s negative rating going into the general election is prohibited.

ABRAMS:  See, I don‘t know, Tucker, I‘m not convinced that, I think, it‘s actually just the opposite.  That they‘re looking at not the general election, looking at the primary and they‘re saying—how would we explain it to all the voters that somehow we are going to, quote, “change the rules and overturn the will of the people,” however you want to phrase the term, it seems to me that‘s the great problem that the Clinton camp has.

CARLSON:  Well, the whole point of the superdelegates is to overturn the will of the people.  That‘s why they have this aristocratic house of lords type system in first place.  But look, here‘s the argument Hillary is going to make and I think it‘s a pretty compelling one.  I‘m not voting for her but it‘s a good argument.

She‘s saying she‘s winning swing voters on the Democratic side.  Obama‘s constituencies are African-American voters, and affluent well-educated white liberals, they‘re not voting Republican under any circumstances.  Hillary‘s constituencies are Hispanic voters and working class whites.  They could vote for Obama but they seem to be voting for Hillary.  And all the exit polls show that.

So, she is actually by those numbers, much better position against John McCain in the fall.  That‘s the argument.  By the way, the superdelegates are not bound by law to vote for Obama.   That‘s just a pledge they make, they can change their mind.  They have before and they may, again.

ABRAMS:  Laura, why is Obama gaining so many more superdelegates than Clinton?

SCHWARTZ:  I can‘t tell you.  I think a lot of these superdelegates, especially those on the ballot, down ballot as we call it, see not only, see really technically ahead in the popular vote contrary to what Senator Clinton was saying, and again, I‘m independent in the Democratic column, I‘m not supporting either right now publicly but really when it comes down to it, he‘s also raised a tremendous amount of money.

He‘s got a tremendous amount of new voters.  He‘s got a tremendous amount of independents and those, sort of down ballot superdelegates are looking at that to combine with the popular vote.  He‘s won more contests, I think it‘s 31 to 15, that‘s what they‘re looking at right now as far as the superdelegates.

Now, I don‘t think we‘ll see a landslide of superdelegates going either way if they split these states but it might keep them in the fence for a little while longer.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, let me ask you this.  I want to play the sound from the gas tax this morning a minute but, Lawrence, isn‘t that - I mean, you say that the reason the superdelegates are going for Obama is because he‘s more electable.  But isn‘t it just the - I mean, aren‘t they going for him because the party seems to be going for him now and it‘s actually not an evaluation of, quote, “electability” at all?

O‘DONNELL:  No, it isn‘t and they care about who‘s on the top of ticket, and some of them, by the way, don‘t expect Obama to win their state, they just expect him to do better and not bring out the intense negativity that follows Hillary.  There‘s an incredible energy that Republicans bring to trying to defeat Hillary Clinton that they are betting will not bringing to the Obama campaign.

ABRAMS:  All right.  This is the gas tax which is been a huge fight between Obama and Clinton.  Here they are dueling over it this morning again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I know that Senator Obama doesn‘t agree with me.  I know Senator McCain is willing to lift the gas tax but not pay for it.  I‘m willing to figure out a way to get the gas tax paid this summer out of the record profits of the oil companies (INAUDIBLE), I‘m trying to stand up to the oil companies which is something we need to do.

VIEIRA:  Let me talk to you about this suspending the gas tax because there‘s probably no economist that says that it is a good policy unless if you‘re asked, if you could name a single credible economist who supports you, and you said this, you said, “I‘m not going to put in my lot with economists,” you called that elite opinion.  So, were you saying if you were president, you would not seek the counsel of any economists?

CLINTON:  Oh, no, of course not, Meredith.  But you know, I know very well that they‘re worried about if not being paid for it.  But I have proposed a way to pay for it.

VIEIRA:  But they‘re saying it‘s not a good idea and that is what (INAUDIBLE), they‘re saying it‘s not, I guess politics.

CLINTON:  No, I disagree with that.

OBAMA:  There‘s not a single economist or editorial that I‘ve read that says this is a good idea.  And the reason is because it‘s not being honest with the American people.  People don‘t need symbolic relief, they need real relief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, Tucker, without getting too into the weeds here, I mean, this is a little bit of pandering, isn‘t it from Hillary Clinton?  I mean, come on.

CARLSON:  It‘s a little bit of pandering.  I love that—economist, elite opinions.  Do you feel the same way about doctors?  I guess they‘re saying (ph).  But neither one is telling the truth.  The reason we have high gas prices in part is because China and India were very poor countries, they no longer are, they‘re using much more petroleum that they used to, that‘s supply and demand.  You don‘t need an economist to tell you that.

But the truth is, having watched a lot of campaign, the panderer wins a lot of time.  Pandering works, that‘s why it‘s popular.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence is nodding.  Lawrence, the panderer wins.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, if Hillary wins Indiana tomorrow, it will be because of this pandering which is the wildest one in the history of Clinton pandering.  There‘s not a single person who has asked Hillary Clinton a question about this who remembers or know that Bill Clinton raised the gasoline tax a nickel.  So, for 15 years, everybody in Indiana has been giving Bill Clinton a nickel on every gallon and for three months Hillary Clinton is saying, “I‘m going to relax 18 cents for three months,” after hitting you a nickel a gallon for 15 years.

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to hit the gas tax later on the show.  Everyone is going to stay with us.

Coming up: The big question: What will it take for Obama or Clinton to really declare victory tomorrow?

Norah O‘Donnell takes a close look at both North Carolina and Indiana.

And the folks who brought us “Barocky” are back with “Empire Strikes Barack.”  Yes, that is Hillary Clinton in the rule of Darth Vader.

Plus: Private contractors in Iraq under fire, accused of stealing from U.S. troops, even running a prostitution ring.  The military allegedly awarding billion dollar contracts to companies of questionable employees:

Another reason Why America Hates Washington, coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The military awarding billion dollar contracts to companies whose employees allegedly stole from U.S. troops and even ran a prostitution ring in Iraq.  Whistleblowers from KBR and a subcontractor of DynCorp said they witnessed employees cheat marines out of ice then trade their loot for DVDs and CDs.  They reported employees stealing refrigerators and rocket launchers and ammo from U.S. troops and they said palaces were looted with the art work and rug sold on eBay.

But there‘s more, whistleblowers told a Senate committee last week, a manager used an armored car to transport prostitutes to U.S. contractors.  The manager‘s co-worker was left to use an unsecured for a legitimate mission, they said, and was killed.  The military awarding multibillion dollar contracts to alleged thieves, thugs and pimps: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

When we come back, what it will take to declare victory in tomorrow‘s big primary?  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Who would have thought that Indiana and North Carolina would mean so much in this Democratic battle?  The question tonight: How are the candidates really doing and what will it take to declare victory tomorrow?

NBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell joins us with some answers.  Norah?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Dan, we‘re hours away from what really is the last big primary day.  At stake in Indiana and North Carolina are 187 total delegates.  That‘s almost half of all of the remaining delegates left.  So, tomorrow‘s outcome to be huge for Hillary Clinton, a game-changer or it could mean game over.

Let‘s start first with Indiana and what we‘ll be looking for in the Hoosier State.  The latest poll shows Clinton leading Obama by a small margin, just six points.  Now, the key for Obama is the northwest part of the state, and places like Gary with its overwhelming black population which should be a stronghold for Obama.  But because the proximity to Illinois, many residents are in the Chicago media market which had wall to wall coverage of the Reverend Wright controversy and that could hurt Obama.

As for Clinton, her stronghold maybe the northeast, where there‘s these large Catholic population, South Bend is where Notre Dame is, and another potential stronghold is the more conservative southern part of the state.  You know, Indiana is an open primary but Republicans and independents can vote.

Open primaries have benefited Obama in the past, but there‘s also this Rush Limbaugh wild card, you know, he‘s been pushing this so-called “Operation: Chaos,” urging Republicans to vote for Clinton to keep this Democratic battle ongoing.

Also, I‘ll be looking to see, you know, what happens with white working class voter who do not have a college degree.  How do they break?  The “National Journal” says Obama has lost the white working class vote in 26 of the 29 contest so far.

OK.  Now, let‘s turn to North Carolina where many of the shifting demographics in that state favor Obama.  The latest poll shows Obama leading Clinton their by eight points.  There are lots of new residents flowing into the state including younger voters, also, 40 percent of the vote could be from African-American voters which have favored Obama overwhelmingly.

But we‘re also going to be closely watching the suburban vote, in places like Charlotte, where remember, Clinton overperformed in the Pennsylvania primary in many of these suburban areas.  Also, if Clinton does well around the city of Raleigh and the Research Triangle which should be an Obama stronghold, that could suggest that Clinton is doing well in the state.

And then, there‘s also this so-called Bill Clinton factor or some people call it the “bubba factor,” you know, he‘s been dispatched to the southern counties on the border, with South Carolina, and the mountainous west, does he drive up turnout for his wife?  We‘ll be watching that closely.

And then, finally, Dan, you know, the Obama campaign has long predicted that they would win both Indiana and North Carolina.  If he loses both of those states, Clinton is going to take this fight to the convention and she may be helped by the next two contests next week.  Those contest—

West Virginia and Kentucky.  In those states, there are high numbers of rural, white, older and low income voters, and those kinds of voters have favored Clinton in these past elections.  Dan?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Thanks, Norah.

All right.  Tucker Carlson, for Clinton to win North Carolina, it would be a huge victory for her if she wins North Carolina and Indiana and walks away with two victories, what does she need to do to win in North Carolina?

CARLSON:  You know, it‘s not clear to me that it‘s possible.  I mean, you got it, just based on previous trends in the last several months, Obama will win upwards of 90 percent of the black vote in North Carolina, which is, as Norah says is 40 percent of the Democratic turnout.  And so, that would basically mean that not a single non-black voter turns out for Barack Obama tomorrow.  It‘s pretty tough.

And that‘s why, if that were to happen, the Hillary campaign would take it, that would just be the sign right there that Obama had collapsed.  But the number that, I think, everybody—and I mean by everybody I mean every superdelegate, is going to be looking at this how many white voters does Obama peel away.  Because nobody wants to say it out loud but let‘s - you know, it‘s still a majority white country.  You‘ve got to win those voters to become president.  And if they‘re not voting for Barack Obama because of Reverend Wright, or their biases, or for whatever reason, it‘s a huge problem.  It‘s a huge problem in the fall.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, will it be perceived as a huge problem?  I mean, do

you agree with Tucker‘s analysis that if he does again lose the white vote

the white working class vote badly that it will be seen as a real loss for Obama?

O‘DONNELL:  It will be perceived that way and it won‘t actually be that way because most of those voters would vote for Obama in the general election just as most of the black voters would vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.  No one is going to perceive it as a big setback for Hillary Clinton if she doesn‘t peel black voters away from Barack Obama.  This conversation has been a one way street for months.

The punditocracy has made it incumbent on Obama alone to pull white voters away from Hillary Clinton.  And there‘s absolutely no notion that Hillary Clinton needs to do better with black voters, and I don‘t think either one of them need to do that because either one of them as the nominee will be able to pick up those voters in the fall.

ABRAMS:  Yes, all right.  We‘ll just see.  Our panel is going to stay with us.

Coming up: The Clinton campaign tries to slam Obama‘s position on guns but the guns from this ad, actually it does not exist.  We‘re On Their Trail tonight with the misstatements, cheap shots and blunders.

And CNN is telling viewers what they are about to see is not true.  It‘s an Internet hoax and then they played it any way and they did analysis.  That‘s coming up from the self-proclaimed most trusted name in news.  Beat the Press is next.

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

We‘re back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: In the self-described most trusted name in news, CNN warned viewers they are about to play what they believe to be an Internet hoax about Mickey Kantor, an adviser to Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  What you‘re about to see is not true.  Let me repeat.  What you‘re about to see is not true.  It is a hoax and a lot of people who are watching it will think it‘s true.  It‘s not.  We‘re going to say it one more time, it‘s not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, why are you playing it?

And then, they even had analysis of the untrue hoax clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How would you like to a worthless white (INAUDIBLE)?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So, let me get this straight.  They think it‘s a hoax, that it‘s not true, and so they play it any way, and then analyzed why they should have never played it in the first place?

Next up: CNN resident blowhard Lou Dobbs is interviewing the president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund and apparently, Lou thought they were better buddies than he‘s guest is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST:  We‘re friends, don‘t kid anybody here.  You and I have gotten along very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ve gotten along very well, but that‘s about it, Lou, go ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Finally: “New York Times” included the FOX News show we like to call “Hannity & Company” as a hint in it‘s crossword puzzle on Thursday, and it‘s long ignored co-host Alan Colmes talked about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN COLMES, FOX HOST:  I guess with all your news that‘s fit to print, right?  Well, at least fit to print as a clue in “The New York Times” crossword puzzle, take a look at this, found in today‘s “New York Times,” it reads, “opinionated Hannity and others.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The answer, sadly, had nothing to do with co-host Alan Colmes.  The answer was Sean‘s.  Yet another tough blow for off-forgotten Alan Colmes.

Up next: Obama and Clinton out with new attack ads on the eve of the primary.  She‘s going after him on the gas taxes.  He says her plan is the same old politics.

We‘re On Their Trail tonight, separating fact from fiction and misstatements and blunders.

And later: New details tonight about the man who confessed to imprisoning his own daughter for 24 years, repeatedly raping here, and fathering seven of her children.  It turns out, he started building the bunker when his daughter was just 12.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  We‘re now just hours away from the polls opening in North Carolina and Indiana.  It‘s time for an all important “On Their Trail,” assessing the candidates‘ biggest misstatements, cheap shots and blunders on the eve of tomorrow‘s crucial primaries. 

Still with us to help separate fact from fiction, MSNBC chief campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson; Democratic strategist Laura Schwartz; and political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

First up, the eve of tomorrow‘s primaries is usually a time the candidates go positive.  But both Clinton and Obama releasing new negative ads today.  The Clinton camp making a last minute push to paint Obama as out of touch in this new ad running both Indiana and North Carolina. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OVER:  What‘s happened to Barack Obama? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right now, we‘re living paycheck to paycheck.  

VOICE OVER:  He‘s attacking Hillary‘s plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn‘t have one.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The price of gas going up.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s hard to fill up the tank.  

VOICE OVER:  Hillary wants the oil companies to pay for the gas tax this summer so you don‘t have to.  Barack Obama wants to you keep paying, $8 billion in all.  Hillary is the one who gets it.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hillary Clinton is the candidate who‘s going to fight for working people.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Within hours of that ad being released, the Obama camp fought back releasing an attack ad of their own.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OVER:  The war that should never have been waged.  An economy in turmoil.  Record prices at the pump.  America held hostage to foreign oil.  And what does Hillary Clinton offer us?  More of the same old negative politics. 

Her hometown newspaper says she is taking the low road.  Her attacks do nothing but harm.  The same old Washington politics won‘t fix our problems.  We need honest answers and a president we can trust.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Honest answers, Laura Schwartz.  I mean that seems to be a

reference to the gas tax.  I mean, look, not only is Clinton supporting

this gas tax that I think most people look at it, view as pure pandering.  But she puts out an attack ad on Obama about the fact that he doesn‘t support it. 

LAURA SCHWARTZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  She‘s just hoping there‘s a few people out there that could see through what she‘s doing.  I have to say I‘m very disappointed in this track.  You know, they tried to get the oil companies paying tax last year.  It didn‘t happen.  George Bush is not going to sign this.  It really saves, minimally, per person, $28 over the course of the summer. 

I think this is it.  If you can see through this, I think Barack Obama was right in coming back and launching an ad right away.  But yes, I mean negativity sometimes works though, Dan.  That‘s the set target.

ABRAMS:  But it does - But Tucker, it does take great gall to propose this very controversial proposal about this gas tax.  And then, you know, on the eve of these primaries in Indiana and North Carolina go after Obama saying he doesn‘t have a plan about the gas tax.  

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC CHIEF CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the whole point of Hillary Clinton is she has gall.  That‘s the whole point.  She is the toughest person in the world. 

SCHWARTZ:  Fighter.

CARLSON:  She embodies chutzpah.  The amazing thing about the contrast between these two spots.  The Hillary ad could have been made against the Hillary herself by Republicans in 1990s - the elitist, they‘re out of touch with America.  She‘s not a lunch bucket candidate that Obama ad, I‘m sorry to say, plays exactly to type.  It quotes “The New York Times.”  It makes abstract arguments.  It is aimed at the NPR set.  So each one of these ads is aimed at the candidate‘s own base.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m going to call this a cheap shot on the part of the Clinton camp as we evaluate the misstatements, cheap shots and blunders. 

Next up, the Clinton camp out with a new mailer in Indiana attacking Obama‘s stance on gun control.  It asked, quote, “Where does Barack Obama really stand on guns?”  Then goes on to point out that he favored a ban on the possession of hand guns in 1996 until the group of donors, the people in small towns, quote, “cling to guns.”  The problem, in the Clinton camp‘s effort to slam Obama, they feature a gun on the front of the mailer that apparently - do we have it?  Doesn‘t exist. 

According to “Politico.com,” the image of that gun was reversed for the mailing, making it a non-existent left-handed model of the Mauser 66 rifle.  I‘m going to go to you in a second, Lawrence.  But Tucker, you‘re a sportsman.  You know guns.  Is that obvious to anyone who knows guns that that gun doesn‘t exist? 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I mean I‘m left handed so it‘s obvious to me.  But it‘s a Mauser and the obvious point is it‘s a double trigger rifle. 

They‘re very - I mean that‘s an esoteric, expensive collector‘s gun.  Look, the truth is liberals hate guns.  They‘ll try and take your guns away.  Everybody knows that.  Both of these candidates don‘t believe in the Second Amendment as interpreted by reasonable people.  They are both gun grabbers.  This is like a ludicrous argument. 

ABRAMS:  By reasonable people.  Lawrence -

CARLSON:  It‘s true.

ABRAMS:  Well, look.  We‘ll debate the Second Amendment another time, Tucker.  But Lawrence, on this issue of this ad, how big a mistake - is this a little thing?  Big deal?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t think it will hurt her at all.  She has a big margin among people voting for Democrats in the primaries who favored gun rights.  So they don‘t expect her to get the kind of thing right.  But I think she is demonstrating - what she is demonstrating is that there probably is a difference between Obama and Clinton on guns which is, in office, Hillary Clinton would not pursue any real form of gun control and Obama might.  

ABRAMS:  Or at least, that‘s what she‘s saying at this point.  

SCHWARTZ:  Well, I know that, Dan ...

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Laura.  Yes.

SCHWARTZ:  There‘s this memo out there saying, “Use elitist whenever you can.  Isn‘t this like the elitist European gun?  Because honestly, it‘s not even an American made.  It was a total blunder by the campaign.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Everyone ruling this one a Clinton blunder. 

As we move on our score card, Clinton now has two.  It‘s not a good night, so far.  Next up, Clinton has made a habit of attacking John McCain on Iraq while out on the campaign trail, specifically hammering him for wanting to stay in Iraq for 100 years.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I respect Sen.  McCain and his service to our nation but he has the wrong ideas about America.  He looks at the hole that George Bush has dug us into and says, “Give me a bigger shovel.”  On Iraq, he would do more of the same.  He‘s willing to keep troops in Iraq up to 100 years.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That attack refers to an answer McCain gave where he explained that it‘s not about the amount of years we‘re in Iraq, but about limiting American casualties.  He compared it to creating Europe, a position Clinton has criticized. 

But now, this Clinton quote, from “Face the Nation 2005” has emerged, quote, “Sen. McCain made the point earlier today which I agree with, and that is it‘s not so much a question of time when it comes to American military presence for the average American; I include myself in this.  But it is a question of casualties.  We‘ve been in South Korea for 50 years.  We‘ve been in Europe for 50 plus. 

I mean, Laura, that seems to me to be almost exactly the comment that John McCain made that he‘s getting so much criticism for. 

SCHWARTZ:  And you better believe that the Republicans are going to use that at every debate if she‘s the nominee, in every advertising if she‘s the nominee.  She actually has a very smart communications team.  When you do opposition research on your opponent, you have to also do it on yourself so you know everything your candidate has said.  They could have easily, knowing what she said, build a foundation for why she transitioned now to call for a timeline ...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SCHWARTZ:  To call for the withdrawal of the brigades every month after she gets into office.  But they didn‘t and this can be used again.  The worst thing you can do in the campaign is let your own words work against you and this is one of those categories. 

ABRAMS:  I mean - but you know what, Tucker?  Sometimes it doesn‘t - you made this point before about the gall.  Do they care? 

CARLSON:  No.  I mean, look.  I‘m amazed that Iraq isn‘t at the center of this campaign either way, anyway you slice it.  And the truth is, all three candidates are going to keep armed Americans, that is Americans with guns pointed at Iraqis in Iraq for an indefinite period of time.  They have all admitted that.  You know, they argue about the details but they are all on the same page, fundamentally.  And that gets lost in all this.  That‘s just the truth.  

ABRAMS:  I want to move on - You agree, Lawrence? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think there‘s a big difference, Dan, between 100 years and 50 years.  Come on there‘s a 50-year difference there.  That‘s huge.  That‘s huge.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clinton gets another blunder.  It‘s a rough night. 

Do you remember the YouTube video “Barocky,” that portrayed Obama as “Rocky Balboa” and Clinton as Apollo Creed?  Well, the makers of that video are out with a new one called, “The Empire Strikes Barack.”  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is a defining moment in our history.  Our nation is at war and our planet is in peril.  Even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide.  

CLINTON:  Sen. Obama‘s remarks are elitist and they‘re out of touch.  

OBAMA:  No, I‘m in touch.  I know exactly what‘s going on.  People are fed up.  They‘re angry and they‘re frustrated and they‘re bitter and they want to see a change in Washington. 

CLIVE REVILL, ACTOR:  We have a new enemy.

OBAMA:  I‘m here to tell you the truth.  

REVILL:  He could destroy us.

DAVID PROWSE, ACTOR:  Don‘t underestimate the force.  Don‘t make them destroy you.  

CLINTON:  Some people say yes, we can.  But that doesn‘t mean we will.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Most Democratic voters think Hillary Clinton went too far.  

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I can‘t shake it.  

PROWSE:  Stay in attack formation.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  About two-thirds say she attacked unfairly.  

CLINTON:  People say, “I wish I could vote for both of you.”  

PROWSE:  Join me.  We can end this destructive conflict.  

MARK HAMILL, ACTOR:  I‘ll never join you -

OBAMA:  You and I will change this country and change the world.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, it‘s funny.  But Tucker, the bottom line is that this kind of stuff infects the public sentiment and is bad for Hillary Clinton and unfair.

CARLSON:  No, it‘s not bad. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.

CARLSON:  Are you kidding?

ABRAMS:  Darth Vader - Clinton.

CARLSON:  I think it helps here.  You want to win the presidential elections, sometimes, you have to harness dark forces, and she‘s willing to do that.  I think this increases her appeal among superdelegates.  

ABRAMS:  Laura? 

SCHWARTZ:  I want to know who is Princess Leia.  I was waiting for like John Edwards to come out with like the super duper, you know, Danish on other side. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

SCHWARTZ:  I think this is great.  You know, if people get involved, they get interested for different reasons.  A lot of people are watching this ...

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Tucker Carlson. 

O‘DONNELL:  This was made by liberal Democrats.  That‘s the attitude towards Hillary Clinton.  

ABRAMS:  Yes, I think that‘s the point.  All right.  Tucker Carlson, Laura Schwartz and Lawrence O‘Donnell.  Thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, “Reality Bites,” a volcano dormant for thousands of years is no longer sleeping, forcing thousands from their homes tonight. 

And he may have premeditated the imprisonment and rape of his daughter for years before he fathered seven children with her and kept them in prison in a bunker under his house.  There is new video of the confessed rapist living it up while his family was in prison.  We‘re back in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, a volcano in Chile considered to be dormant for thousands of years erupted over the weekend.  The Chaiten volcano spewed ash in the air and forced the evacuation of thousands from towns in southern Chile post the eruption.  So far, lots of dust, but no deaths reported.  We‘ll be right back.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Tonight, it seems the horrifying sex dungeon created by 73-year-old Josef Fritzl was long premeditated.  Fritzl imprisoned his daughter, Elisabeth, for 24 years.  Three of the seven kids he fathered with his daughter were also held in this windowless bunker you see here.  According to the Associated Press, Fritzl started building the dungeon when his daughter was just 12 but didn‘t imprison her until 18.  There are indications that Elisabeth was forced to help build the bunker.  Some of Fritzl‘s family members are speaking out as well.  Salma Siraj with our British partner ITV has the latest details.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SALMA SIRAJ, ITV CORRESPONDENT:  Yet more footage of Josef Fritzl sunning himself on holiday.  This was 15 years ago.  Back home, his imprisoned daughter Elisabeth had already given birth to four of his children.  The woman who filmed this remembered him as a helpful, funny guy.  Fritzl‘s sister-in-law, Christine, has different memories.  

“He was such a tyrant,” she says.  “He tolerated no dissent.  I was scared myself.  I did not feel confident to say anything in any form that could possibly offend him.”  Still Christine claims her sister Rosemarie, Fritzl‘s wife, had no idea he was involved in Elisabeth‘s disappearance.  

CHRISTINE R., JOSEF FRITZL‘S SISTER-IN-LAW (through a translator):  He was just as strict with Elisabeth as he was with each of his children.  There was nothing in particular that could lead to you say that he was more intimate with her.  The child never confided in anyone. 

SIRAJ:  But increasingly, police are questioning how readily people accepted Josef Fritzl‘s explanations about his daughter‘s disappearance and the arrival in his house of three of her children, Lisa, Monica and Alexander. 

Elisabeth and her children are not longer being held in that cellar prison, but they are still hidden away, this time for their own safety and well being at this clinic.  They are unlikely ever to lead normal lives.  The eldest daughter, Kirsten, may not survive at all.  Many people in this small community had suspicions about Josef Fritzl over the years, but did nothing.  Salma Siraj, ITV News.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me once again, clinical psychologist, Dr. Jeff Gardere and Christian Lininger, correspondent with Austrian Radio and TV. 

All right.  Christian, let me start with you.  We are also learning tonight about how meticulously he apparently planned security in the dungeon.  Tell us about it. 

CHRISTIAN LININGER, CORRESPONDENT, AUSTRIAN RADIO AND TV:  Yes, there were about eight doors, police has revealed today.  Eight doors which only had had the lock to these doors.  So you had to go through eight locked doors to get into this dungeon.  And the last doors were electronically secured and were basically something like thousand pounds heavy, so basically not possible to move for anybody.  

ABRAMS:  And he may have had had daughter inadvertently help him build it? 

LININGER:  Well, yes that‘s what we hear from police.  Apparently, his daughter helped him to bring in this heavy door.  She didn‘t know at that time that she was actually building her own jail.  And over the years, his daughter apparently also helped him dig out the additional rooms he built in this dungeon.  First, it was quite small, something like 300, 400 square foot.  He extended it.  He built additional rooms as there were more children.  And in the end, it was something like 600 square foot.  And apparently, his daughter helped him dig this with her own hands.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Doctor, his lawyer is now talking insanity.  I know that you used to be the chief psychologist for the Bureau of Prisons in New York.  Somebody asked you about this.  His lawyer is saying, “I believe that someone who is said to have committed such a crime is psychologically ill.  And if someone is psychologically ill, then they must be examined by an expert to determine whether the illness is so far progressed that they cannot be held responsible.”

OK.  He should be examined by an expert.  But it sounds almost like his lawyer is saying, just because he did this, he should be considered insane.  

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  Which is absolutely what he‘s supposed to do as an attorney.  But we know morally, it‘s absolutely wrong.  This is a guy, as you stated earlier, who premeditated the building of this bunker, had his daughter helping him, allegedly, because he knew what he was going to do with her so she could never tell anyone about it.  This guy had the premeditation.  He knew what he was doing.  He knew right from wrong, which is why he was so paranoid about putting all of these doors because if the secret ever came out, then of course, he would be expose. 

ABRAMS:  Christian, what‘s the standard in Austria for insanity? 

LININGER:  Well, it will be proved by court whether you apply for insanity.  Basically, for him it wouldn‘t make that much of a difference.  I mean he would be confined anyway.  The question is will he be confined to a normal jail or will he be confined to the psychiatric department or jail where he‘ll probably get medical treatment.  That‘s the difference, but basically, he‘ll be locked away.  

ABRAMS:  Doctor, I‘m going to ask you real quick about the head of the Criminal Investigations Unit.  They‘re already said, “It defies logical thinking (referring to his wife) that a woman who‘s had seven children with her husband would make it possible for him to have another relationship with his daughter and have another seven children.  And there‘s no question that‘s what most people think.”  

GARDERE:  Yes, absolutely.  And a lot of people are asking, how could the mother not know?  Well, she may not know because of the psychological battering.  We know that he‘s a tyrant.  The psychological oppression, and therefore, she has to be in denial because that‘s the only way that she can cope with the situation.  There‘s something called cognitive dissonance, where she cannot little with the duality that she may have been party to this by just being negligent as to what was going on in her home.  So even if she saw something, she had to deny it.  

ABRAMS:  Doctor, thanks very much.  Christian Lininger, thank you. 

Appreciate it.

GARDERE:  Thank you.

LININGER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the day‘s “Winners and Losers,” and your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser - Republican Congressman Vito Fossella, who had co-sponsored legislation to get tougher on drunk drivers, facing five days in jail and calls for him to resign after his DUI arrest last week. 

But now he‘s got a new problem that has landed him back on the front page of “The New York Daily News.”  The question - why was this woman, the first person, the married New York (UNINTELLIGIBLE) called to pick him up.  His chief of staff lived much closer. 

Loser- the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  Obama dumped him.  Now, he‘s being dumped on by others close to him.  A former parishoner now claims that when he and his wife went to the pastor for marriage counseling, Wright stole the man‘s wife.  Shortly after the couple split, Rev. Wright started dating Ramah Reed he‘s now married to. 

Also “Newsweek” reporting that Oprah left the church because she was uncomfortable with the sermons and feared he might damage her empire if she associated with him. 

But our big loser - Vice President Cheney, who said, last Friday, at a Republican fundraiser, quote, “When the history is written, it will be said this is a safer country and more hopeful world because George Bush was president.”  You have to wonder whether even Cheney - even Cheney - believes that now. 

Our big winner of the day, Prince Harry along with his British comrades received medals today for their service in Afghanistan.  Remember, Prince Harry had to basically sneak into Afghanistan to serve and only left after a Web site disclosed that he was there. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  First up, some of you went after me last week for saying I believe there will be nothing new to come out about the Clintons if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. 

Cheryl from Ohio, “You seriously believe that there are no new details to be released about the Clintons, now that their tax returns and millions of dollars have been reviewed by the public?  How can you say that?”

Fair point, Cheryl.  If Hillary is the nominee, I imagine we may learn some more details of the Clintons‘ finances.  But I was really referring to past investigations and the notion that there is anything still to be learned about Bill and Hillary‘s relationship.  

I asked my panel if the media was to blame for the Rev. Wright controversy.  Susan Petty from Honolulu has an interesting take, “The media is responsible, in the sense the mainstream media embraced Barack Obama so eagerly that they did not ask the questions or do the vetting that normally would accompany a new face on the political scene.” 

Sherri from Tampa, Florida, takes the position shared by more of

you, “I can‘t believe that you honestly asked whether or not the media is

to blame for thumping up the Wright story.  Um, hello!  The media watches

Wright‘s every move then watches what Barack does in response.  Then asks,

‘Did he do enough?‘”

Richard Cadena from Los Angeles, “You guys are driving and shaping this whole thing.  I just wish you guys were honest enough to admit that this is what sells newspapers.”

And many wrote and upset that VERDICT was replaced Friday with a taped special on last night‘s Rev. Wright controversy. 

James Dodd writes, “Why have the hate-filled rants of Hagee and Parsley and their connections to John McCain been given a free pass in the media.”

James, we have and we will continue to cover that.  That‘s why we have a segment called “Teflon John.”

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include the name and where you‘re from.  And remember, we‘ll see you right back here tomorrow night.  I will be anchoring from midnight to 2:00 a.m. on “AFTER HOURS PRIMARY SPECIAL,” Indiana and North Carolina.  Of course, the NBC coverage begins at 6:00 p.m.  See you then.

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

END   

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