updated 5/8/2008 10:59:24 AM ET 2008-05-08T14:59:24

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, Mike Viqueira, Bob Herbert, Michelle Bernard, Ron Brownstein, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Holding hands at midnight—the Clintons still seducing the superdelegates. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL. 

After last night‘s big win by Barack Obama in North Carolina, and Hillary Clinton skin-of-her-teeth win in Indiana, the political world seemed to agree that the Clinton campaign was in big, big trouble. 

Take, for instance, what columnist Thomas Edsall wrote today in “The Huffington Post”—quote—“In the universe of political cliches, she is on life support, her oxygen choked off, her knees buckling, unable to stanch the bleeding, down for an eight count, on the ropes, praying for the bell to ring, desperate to get her wind back.”

So, what happened today?  Today, Hillary Clinton was having none of that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m staying in this race until there is a nominee.  And I obviously am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Tonight, we‘re going to look at the race from all angles, from the delegate count, to the popular vote, to the drip, drip, drip of superdelegates to Obama.  Where is this all going to go from here? 

And deal or no deal?  Reports out today say that the Obama camp might be ready to cut a deal with the Democrats in Michigan.  We will get the straight scoop from the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. 

And you knew he would claim credit, no matter what happened yesterday.  But Rush Limbaugh himself said today that Hillary Clinton‘s victory in Indiana yesterday shows that his Operation Chaos, which gets Republicans to vote for Hillary, is working.  We will look at that in the “Politics Fix.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE GRAVEL (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (singing):  I‘m not a YouTube celebrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Do you even sing R&B?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Mike Ravel.  And what in the world is a former presidential candidate doing in a video with Obama Girl?  Well, you just saw it.  We‘re going to show you the rest of that.  We will try to unravel that little mystery in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”  What a duo. 

But, first, the Democratic race. 

Chuck Todd is political director for NBC News.  Bob Herbert is a columnist for “The New York Times.”  And NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has been covering the Clinton campaign. 

You know, I work with the best team in television on politics.  I mean, everybody else has their bragging rights. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But I have got to tell you, if it wasn‘t—if it wasn‘t working here, I would be calling up—you are unbelievable, sir.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You are unbelievable.  I feel like Captain Kirk sometimes and you‘re Mr. Spock.  And all I have to do is say, Mr. Spock...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... whether these are compliments or not.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  These are compliments, because, in the middle of the night, I‘m trying—I like to go back and find out—in the middle of the night, I need reality checks.  In the middle of all the arguments and discussions, I want some hard numbers. 

Hillary Clinton, this morning, morning after, maybe three or four hours sleep, Bill Clinton, three or four hours sleep, what is in their head right now?  Do we know?

And I‘m going to ask Andrea, because you were on the plane with them before they went to bed last night. 

TODD:  Well, look, I mean, it is a standard thing for all of us to put the Clintons on the couch.  This is what we have done for 16 years.  So, it is what‘s going to happen to them a lot. 

I think that they are—want to see how bad the next 48 hours are for them.  How many campaign obituaries are going to get written?  How many more Tom Edsall columns are going to get written over the next 48 hours?

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to look at the headlines, by the way...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... in one minute here.

TODD:  Yes.  Can they withstand that a little bit?  They are going to see if there is some money that they can raise. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Can they raise a little bit of money? 

And then they also want to see, how bad is it with some of their key supporters on the Hill?  We‘re already finding out by, you know, Dianne Feinstein, somebody who was never that—never, at all, somebody you would identify as shaky as far as Clinton is concerned.  And she is telling our folks and saying, hey, I want to know what the plan is. 

MATTHEWS:  She‘s saying to Hillary Clinton, show cause for staying in this race, basically.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  They want a rationale for staying in the race.  And it is not only Dianne Feinstein.  It‘s other senators and House members. 

Now, there was supposed to be a meeting with superdelegates, uncommitted superdelegates, tonight with Hillary Clinton.  Barack Obama is flying in tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Whitehaven, on her house—over on her house over here on Embassy Row, right? 

MITCHELL:  Well, they were talking about Whitehaven.  And then there was also talk of a hotel off the Hill.  There have been a couple of locations.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re on the Hill apparently all over the place talking to delegates late this afternoon.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Everyone is talking. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, I called this holding hands at midnight.  It seems to me like they‘re just, hold hands.  Don‘t run away.  Don‘t be running away to Barack. 

MITCHELL:  Trying to get some—trying to get some people to switch over, trying to get some undeclared, uncommitted to come over to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Why would somebody switch to Senator Clinton today? 

I mean, Heath Shuler, the former quarterback of the Redskins, switched.  I‘m not sure what that is about.  But...

TODD:  He didn‘t switch.  He basically...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He signed up.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... that district.

MITCHELL:  He followed his district in North Carolina.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  That‘s safe.

MATTHEWS:  But why would anybody—let me—let me go think -- 2:00 last night—you and I were on “MORNING JOE” about 40 hours ago this morning, when we took a break.

I decided that my hotel room last night was so expensive per hour.  I couldn‘t believe it, because I was only there for like three hours.   

MITCHELL:  We never got to our hotel room. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You were talking to the Clintons at 2:00 this morning. 

MITCHELL:  Well, we were talking to the Clinton people. 

We are on the plane.  At 2:00 this morning, we land—or 1:45, we land.  And, all of a sudden, all their BlackBerrys go off.  They start hearing what Tim Russert said on your program...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right. 

MITCHELL:  ... and what he said talking to you guys about, it‘s over. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough.  And we will share the blame.  A lot of people were saying, if you look at the hard numbers...

MITCHELL:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... it is very hard to see the future for the Clinton campaign. 

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

So, they all huddle in the front.  And they decide, we have got to do something.  And she decides.  I mean, this is guts football.  Bill Clinton had already flown to Chappaqua.  So, this is Hillary Clinton and team, her aides, flying back to Washington. 

And she decides, let‘s to go West Virginia.  They already have...

MATTHEWS:  What do they got, two planes, one for him and one for her? 

MITCHELL:  Well, he has his own plane, I guess. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just kidding. 

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  I don‘t know. 

No, he had a plane that he had taken to North Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I see.

MITCHELL:  Remember, he was doing the North Carolina thing.  And she was flying back on the press plane, which is... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, they are energy conservationists.  I mean, if you‘re going to fly in one plane, you could you save a few gallons. 

MITCHELL:  But the amazing thing is, she makes the call right away.  We have got to go to West Virginia.  And they had other plans to perhaps sleep, get some rest today.  Instead, she‘s off to campaign.  She was up first thing this morning.  She was talking to Terry McAuliffe at 7:45 this morning.  I didn‘t get back until 3:00 to start “The Today Show” program, writing “The Today Show.” 

But she didn‘t get any sleep.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Terry was on laughing gas last night.

Bob Herbert, you come in.

Last night, when we started our coverage of what was a very long evening last night that began pretty good, it looked like, a victory for Hillary Clinton in Indiana, a substantial victory.  That faded throughout the evening to practically scratch by the end of the night. 

Terry McAuliffe says, although they weren‘t—he wouldn‘t talk to me about numbers.  Now, they‘re still not ready to talk about delegate count or even population or popular vote.  But he said, we‘re ahead on this amorphous thing called momentum. 

Well, they aren‘t.  Even the amorphous claim victory is gone now.  What do you think they‘re up to today?  It seems like, last night, they were solemn.  Today, they‘re defiant. 

BOB HERBERT, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, they‘re trying to revive a campaign that has flatlined, Chris. 

The campaign basically cratered when—as the polls closed, everybody called North Carolina for Obama.  And, while, you know, a lot of people were paying attention to Indiana last night, really, the action was North Carolina.  She needed to win both to maintain a viable candidacy.  And not only did she not win North Carolina; she got blown out. 

So, I assume that what they‘re doing now is, you know, they‘re trying desperately to figure out some kind of way that she could snatch this nomination.  But, you know, everybody in the country is looking for a way.  And no one has come up with one.  I mean, I just really think it is over. 

MATTHEWS:  I kept thinking last night, everybody, that, if it weren‘t for the Jeremiah Wright mess of the last two weeks, of two weeks of unlimited, unending, relentless bad publicity, he would have won both. 

TODD:  And it would have ended it. 

No, I had people on the—Obama folks had been telling me for two months, this campaign ends on May 6.  They always believed.  They looked at that date on the calendar. 

MATTHEWS:  But they didn‘t know what was coming.

TODD:  And, then, obviously the Reverend Wright thing happened, and it shook...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, let‘s go with some numbers and then respond to these numbers.

The numbers break down like this.  The pledged delegates right now, Obama leads Clinton 1,588 to 1,422.  Look at them up them.  Hold those numbers up there.  That‘s the difference right now.  And, then, of course, we have got superdelegates.  And, among the superdelegates, Clinton leads Obama narrowly.  The total is Obama leading 1,848 to 1,695.5. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Chuck—I mean, Andrea.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Andrea?

MITCHELL:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  How do you beat—how do you change those numbers?

MITCHELL:  There aren‘t enough races left to come up a difference, even with Florida and Michigan counted, which they won‘t be fully counted, so even if they get a deal out of May 31, out of the rule committees of the DNC.  I think that...

MATTHEWS:  So, in other words, it is time for a deal, because it won‘t make any difference?

MITCHELL:  It is time for a deal. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MITCHELL:  But I think the other interesting thing is the gas tax proposal. 

I think, if you look at the exit polling, he did better on economics.  And that‘s the only metric that we have to judge how people viewed the gas tax proposal.  I think that it hurt her.  And it also...

MATTHEWS:  They thought she was a sharpie on that issue, right?

MITCHELL:  It also changed the...

MATTHEWS:  I saw those numbers, too. 

Bob, every time we have looked at a poll for five months now, Hillary Clinton has had a decided edge among people who are deciding this election on the basis of economics.  After her week of selling that thing about a holiday for gas, the federal gas tax this summer, it is down to basically even.  She lost her edge on her number-one issue. 

Did people see through or believe they were seeing through a gimmick? 

HERBERT:  Oh, I think they did, Chris, because she couldn‘t come but with one economist who said that her position on that issue made sense. 

But another thing happened.  That gas tax issue kind of energized Barack, who really looked flat, even depressed at times, leading up to the last two primaries.  And, then, it also helped take the Reverend Wright story off the front pages and off of the television, so... 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that helped everybody. 

HERBERT:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  ... subject.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I promised everybody. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... in Indiana.  One thing I think we forget is, Reverend Wright, I think, was going to hurt—I always thought was going to hurt Obama more in North Carolina.

There is an argument to be made it may have oddly helped him there a little bit, because it ended up intensifying the African-American turnout. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Somewhere out of this race, Bob and everybody, there‘s going to be some good studies about Northern and Southern white attitudes towards Obama, and how they‘re different, because we all grew up, all of us understood there is a difference in, if you will, prejudice. 

There is a different kind of it.  There‘s—and it has to do with a different attitude because of history being different in those parts of the country. 

MITCHELL:  Well, Ron Allen of NBC today asked Hillary Clinton, how can you argue that you‘re more electable when, in North Carolina, the black vote went 92 percent for Barack Obama, and she was in single digits?

TODD:  That‘s Republican numbers... 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Exactly. 

And how can you be the Democratic nominee? 

And she said, well, I think whoever the nominee is, is going to be recapture those votes. 

But that is not self-evident.  And he was arguing on the plane last night, when we were flying back, talking to the Clinton aides, and again to the candidate herself down in West Virginia, you‘re writing off the African-American vote.  You‘re saying that it is not necessary, that you‘re more electable, even though you‘re not getting any votes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think sending Bill Clinton down there to go to white areas only was a mistake. 

Here‘s a sampling, everybody.  And you can respond to this, Bob, since you‘re in the newspaper business.  Here‘s a sampling of today‘s headlines. 

These are funny, if you‘re not for Hillary Clinton.  I mean, they‘re not funny if you‘re a supporter here, obviously.

“The New York Post”: “Toast.”  Are they cruel in New York, or what? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: “The New York Daily News”: “Hill Needs a Miracle.”

“The L.A. Times”: “Obama Cruises, Clinton Cringes”—or “Clings.” 

“The Indianapolis Star”: “Clinton Barely.”

“The Raleigh News and Observer”: “Obama Barrels Past Clinton in N.C.”

It must have been fun writing headlines last night if you were an Obama supporter, Bob.

HERBERT:  Having worked for a tabloid on a long time, that is—on a big story, that‘s the best way to get it summed up.  And “Toast” does it in one word. 

But I would like to get one more thought on the point that you were making about the differences in racial attitudes.  I think it is true about differences in different parts of the country.  But I think, when you look back on this race, the real story, the real divide is going to be a generational divide, people over a certain age.  I don‘t know what it is, whether it is 50 or 45 or whatever, much more concerned about race and ethnic issues, Jeremiah Wright, people who are younger, much less concerned with that.  They really want a change, and they‘re overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. 

TODD:  I had a very smart friend of mine say to me today, in looking at North Carolina‘s results and Pennsylvania‘s results, Pennsylvania was an election of folks that were thinking about yesterday.  North Carolina was sort of a future vote, that that is the future, a tomorrow-type vote, a tomorrow-type of electorate that would you see, and you would—in just comparing the two, and that, if you believe that about Obama and this generational thing, picking up on what Bob said, then—then that‘s sort of Obama‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Ladies and gentlemen, we‘re looking at the amazing power of educational institutions like UNC and N.C. State, and NCCU, and Duke to take a state. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It is chilling—and take a state into the future just by force of great leadership. 

They did it down there.  It‘s unbelievable.  I went to school down there.  You could feel it in the air. 

Anyway, Chuck Todd stays with us.  Bob Herbert and Andrea, they all stay with us. 

You should—we should talk, when this campaign is over, about how some states have moved forward, like North Carolina has. 

And coming up:  What case can Hillary Clinton make to undecided superdelegates?  She‘s holding hands at midnight.  I mean it.  It‘s seduction.  They‘re still trying to hold these people.  And they‘re ready to jump, even Dianne Feinstein, George McGovern, their original hero, where they worked together on his campaign.  They‘re moving over to Barack slowly. 

This is—what are the Clintons going to do now?  We will be back and talk about what they do tomorrow and the next day.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up:  With Obama holding a commanding lead now, is he ready to make a deal on those uncounted delegates in Florida and Michigan?

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with NBC News political director Chuck Todd, who I pay tribute to again, New York columnist, my favorite columnist these days.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you and Margaret what‘s-her-name is my favorite, what‘s her name at “The Wall Street Journal.” 

HERBERT:  Oh, you‘re talking about Margaret Carlson? 

MATTHEWS:  No, the other...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  Peggy Noonan?

MATTHEWS:  Peggy Noonan.  Peggy Noonan.  You have different views, but I like you.  They‘re my two best right now.

And let me go—and we have Andrea Mitchell here, who is the stalwart, who was with the plane last night, when they went in separate airplanes.  There‘s a story, the Clintons. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know, two—look, here‘s the story.

MITCHELL:  Different destinations.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look, guys.  You can start, Bob, because I know you like body language, like I do.  Let‘s watch this. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s President—let‘s try to imagine.  Use your mind‘s eye from last night.

Here‘s President Clinton last night standing behind Senator Clinton.  His face is red from—he‘s one of these guys like me who gets sun and then gets totally red from the sun.  And he‘s been out there working for her.  And he just—he‘s just smiling there.  But a good part of the speech—I wish we could show it—he‘s very—there he is—very somber, very calm. 

You know, he look resigned last night, like he had gotten something from Harold Ickes or one of the number guys, and he knew the story, and it was over. 

HERBERT:  Who..

MATTHEWS:  Bob.

MITCHELL:  I think...

HERBERT:  Who understands this stuff in the United States of America better than Bill Clinton?  I mean, he is a master of it.  I mean, he didn‘t have to hear anything from Harold Ickes. 

He—he knows.  It is in every pore of his body.  And, you know, that‘s why I think, today, they‘re trying to hunt down a miracle.  I don‘t think the miracle is there, but I think Bill Clinton understood last night, when he was standing there on the podium.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t they have to find another Jeremiah Wright?  Isn‘t—for all this, isn‘t this just a delaying game, hoping for an outside event? 

HERBERT:  They need an—they need—they need an atom bomb to fall and knock Obama‘s candidacy completely out of the water.  That‘s their only way forward that I can imagine. 

MATTHEWS:  Andrea.

MITCHELL:  And, you know, she announced today that they have—she has loaned herself another $6.4 million.  That means almost $11.5 million. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s real money, isn‘t it?  You have got to get it back at some point. 

MITCHELL:  That‘s more money than she earned from all of her books and her Senate salary.  So now she‘s into their joint assets.  She can go up to $25 million in those—those assets.  But, you know, now it is getting serious.  And some people would say she is sending bad money after good—good money after bad.  What‘s the phrase? 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an old phrase. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re sending good money after bad.  I love that phrase, It‘s so old-time. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  But I will tell you, the announcement of a loan—the announcement of the loan—and here‘s what I don‘t understand, is, how did it leak out?  I mean, I guess part of it, it leaked out because you can start following—wondering, where were they getting the money to do this stuff?

MITCHELL:  They thought that the loan would—they thought that announcing the loan would get more people to contribute, as it did last time. 

TODD:  Because they might as well have waited until May 20 on this, because what the loan—the announcement of the loan did is, it took—if you were trying to make the best case for her from last night and say, hey, it was a split decision, look, she won a state that touched Illinois. 

MITCHELL:  May 20 would be too...

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  ... too late.

TODD:  That‘s right. 

The problem was, the loan made it seem like, oh, wow, they are on life support.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about reality, Bob first, and then—then you, Andrea, and then—and then Chuck. 

If nothing outside happens, no thunderstrike, no act of God, no massive intervention from other forces, just looking at the numbers and what is coming up in these events in the next—between now and the first week in June, is there any way on earth that, by the numbers, by the metrics of Hillary Clinton can catch Barack Obama and overtake him and win the nomination?

HERBERT:  None.  And what‘s going to happen is you‘re going to continue to see superdelegates moving towards Barack Obama.  It‘s going to be obvious to all and sundry that this thing is over.  And the danger for Hillary is that she starts to look like, you know, a spoilsport and a loser.  I mean, there‘s just going to be a tide building against her the longer she hangs out there.

I think that Obama is going to be conciliatory.  He does want to make a deal with the two other delegations.  He‘s going to say nice things about the Clintons because he really doesn‘t have to do much, at this point.  I mean, the raw numbers are just going to take over.

MITCHELL:  I think she is going to find—I think she‘s going to reach that conclusion herself, partly because I think a delegation of friends and supporters are going to go to her.  They‘re talking amongst themselves today.  They‘re all examining these returns and they‘re looking for whoever‘s going to play who‘s gotten Barry Goldwater to go to the White House and...

MATTHEWS:  Like Nixon.

MITCHELL:  Like they did to Nixon.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think she‘s going to have to come out and look for her plane and see a giant pumpkin there and realize that midnight has struck?

MITCHELL:  No.  I think, in fact, that she will know when the time is right.  It‘ll be Bill Clinton...

MATTHEWS:  That was a joke, by the way.

MITCHELL:  I know.  It will be Bill Clinton himself and Harold Ickes and others.  The closest people to her will come and...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re allowed to do that.

MITCHELL:  And they—they absolutely are.  And they will say, you know, We‘ve had a good fight...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will they go into stasis?  Will they go into what is called an inactive campaign, waiting for lightning to strike?  Will do that number that people do in politics?

TODD:  Well, I think that you do it because you don‘t—there‘s no reason to release your delegates.  But I think she still wants on this ticket.  And I think that how she conducts herself over the next...

MATTHEWS:  To what effect?  With what motive does she want on the ticket?

TODD:  To be vice president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  To live in the vice president‘s house for eight years under Barack Obama?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You really believe she wants that job?

TODD:  I think that she wants on this ticket, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... when you go this far...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... any way to report whether she really wants to be number two, having been number two for all those years with Bill?

MITCHELL:  I think she wants to be number one, and I don‘t think she wants...

MATTHEWS:  Would she rather wait for one than go for two?

MITCHELL:  And by the way, I don‘t think that—I don‘t think that he would take it.  I don‘t think that she fits what he...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... and that is the most significant thing about the victory yesterday...

MATTHEWS:  Bob Herbert, your thought.  Will she take number two with a good heart and root for him and do everything she can to get him elected president and serve...

HERBERT:  I think she might take number two if Barack was, you know, trying strongly to make the case.  But I agree the others.  I don‘t think that he wants her to be number two.

MITCHELL:  I think she will campaign her heart out for him, though.  I think she really sees that that is the rehabilitation, to help elect him...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... I think it‘s her way—look, he doesn‘t have to even offer it to her anymore.  There was a time where I thought he may get put into a position where he was going to be forced to offer it.

MATTHEWS:  You know what I think?  I think Hillary Clinton is like the woman I‘m married to, that she‘ll always say there‘s a better parking space up further on.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t go for this one.  Don‘t take number two if you can get number one.  She‘s going to still go for number one.  That‘s my metaphor for tonight...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... waiting for a better parking space!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... I do respect her ability to keep the ambition going.  Anyway, Chuck Todd, Bob Herbert—one of my two favorite columnists, along with Peggy Noonan...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... and Andrea Mitchell.

Up next, “Obama girl” is back, and she has a new suitor, in the old sense of the word, in the form of—you won‘t believe it—Mike Gravel!  There he is.  Look at this guy.  That‘s next on the “Sideshow.”  There he is.  Oh, a marriage made in heaven.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”  What‘s Rudolph Giuliani been up to lately?  Well, it turn out he‘s been lending his political talents to Ukraine.  He‘s now helping heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko get elected mayor of Kiev.  Klitschko, who‘s known locally as “Dr. Iron First,” has hired Giuliani Partners to design a strategy for fighting corruption.  Well, it‘s good to see that other countries are outsourcing their work to us.

Domestic disputes.  State Senator Vincent Fumo of Pennsylvania has an interesting response to a bill that would change the state‘s constitution to explicitly ban same-sex marriage.  If gay marriage is such a threat to marriage, Senator Fumo argues, what about divorce?  Isn‘t that an even greater threat to marriage?  So the senator has proposed a bill banning divorce in Pennsylvania altogether.  Fumo, who‘s facing a multi-count criminal indictment for corruption may be simply having some fun, I think, and scoring some points as he awaits trial come September.

I don‘t even know what to make of this one, this item.  I guess we‘ll just let it speak for itself.  Here‘s “Obama girl” in a video that‘s just hit the Internet.  It features long-time former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE GRAVEL (D), FORMER ALASKA SENATOR (SINGING):  I‘m not a YouTube celebrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING):  Do you even sing harmony?

GRAVEL (SINGING):  I‘m seeking the presidency.  You should drop your crush on Obama.  You ought to know that you‘re off the chain (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING):  And so you want me on your campaign.

GRAVEL (SINGING):  I‘ve got 62 years in this political game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING):  Well, I dig all (INAUDIBLE) but I‘ve got a crush on Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He has a lot of faith in public life, doesn‘t he.  Gravel, you may remember, told me that he had been, quote, “hiding under a rock” in those 27 years since he left the Senate.

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.  As the Democrats rally around Barack Obama and figure out how and when to end the Democratic fight, John McCain continues to rally his troops and build up his campaign.  His schedule tonight proves it.  Where will John McCain be dining tonight?  Well, with Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, and a group of $100,000-a-head bundlers.  Those are people that put a lot of other contributors together.  How much is McCain expecting to raise at this event tonight?  Get ready for this one -- 7 million bucks, all in one night, the biggest political fundraising event ever.  Pretty good night for John McCain.  He is out there doing it, raising money, while the Democrats are still fighting -- $7 million, tonight‘s “Big Number,” and it‘s all going to John McCain‘s campaign.

Up next: With Hillary Clinton‘s options in this campaign dwindling, what about Michigan and Florida?  Is Obama ready to make a deal?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CNBC MARKET WRAP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Senator Clinton is in Washington today, back from that narrow win in Indiana and the loss in North Carolina today.  She met with superdelegates.  She just had a meeting, by the way, at the Democratic National Committee.  NBC‘s Mike Viqueira was over there and he joins us now by phone with the report—Mike.

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Chris, I‘m standing outside the Democratic National Committee in southwest, just south of the Capitol.  Senator Clinton did emerge 10, 15 minutes ago.  She said she that had met with a number of members of Congress and others, talking about Florida, talking about Michigan, once again emphasizing the importance of seating delegates from those two states.

As we know, her fading hopes do hang on whether or not some arrangement can be made to seat those delegates in a way that‘s in her favor.  She did not take a question about whether she met with Chairman Dean.  Of course, that meeting coming up on May 31 of the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC to address just that problem.  She did not address the question, when we asked her whether or not she had won any new endorsements today.

I can tell you, Chris, after talking to Democratic members of Congress all day on the House side, the tipping point after Indiana that a lot of people were looking for in terms of superdelegates doesn‘t appear to be here yet.  Haven‘t seen a lot of movement.  Obama has picked up—Senator Obama has picked up some superdelegates, about four across the country.

Ironically, Senator Clinton picked up one.  Heath Shuler, conservative member, a freshman from western North Carolina, said he‘s going to vote along with his district.  Last night, his district voted for Hillary Clinton.  Brad Ellsworth...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

VIQUEIRA:  ... from the bloody eighth in Indiana says if it come down to the convention—his district voted for Hillary Clinton, and if it comes down to the convention, as a superdelegate, he will vote for her, too.  So a lot of movement here in Washington.  No breaking news in terms of a mass wave of superdelegates yet, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Mike Viqueira over at the Democratic National Committee with Senator Clinton, right now with a shrinking shot at the nomination.

Senator Clinton desperately wants her wins in Michigan and Florida to count in the nomination fight.  The question is, would including Michigan and Florida really make any difference for her?  Would it help her win or not, or is this just something to talk about, a conversation point for her to keep her in the race?  Let‘s get the answer from David Shuster in this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As Hillary Clinton campaigned today in West Virginia...

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I hope next Tuesday, you will give me a chance to be your president.

SHUSTER:  Her staff continued to insist she can still win the nomination if Florida and Michigan are allowed to count.

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  This is a country of 50 states.  All of them should be represented.  We won significant victories in both Florida and Michigan.  We believe that the delegations from those states ought to be seated.

SHUSTER:  The early scheduling of both primaries broke Democratic Party rules.  So last fall, Clinton and Obama agreed the results would not count.  They also agreed not to campaign in either state, and in Michigan, Obama‘s name was not on the ballot.  In Michigan, Clinton beat “uncommitted” 55 percent to 40 percent.  And on primary day in Florida,  Clinton beat Obama 50 to 33.  But now...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you so much. 

Thank you, North Carolina.  Thank you.

SHUSTER:  ... Obama‘s overall primary lead is so large that including Florida and Michigan would likely not matter.  First, the elected or pledged delegate count.  If Florida and Michigan are seated, as the Clinton campaign wants, Clinton would net 50.  However, that would still leave her 110 behind Obama overall.  To catch up, Clinton would have to win 75 percent of the elected delegates in the remaining states.  Clinton has not come close to that margin of victory in any state so far.

In the popular vote, if Florida and Michigan are included, Clinton can only catch up Obama by winning West Virginia and Kentucky by 20 points and then by staying within 10 points of Obama in each state where he is favored, Oregon, South Dakota and Montana.  All of this assumes the Democratic National Committee does not punish Florida or Michigan in any fashion.

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN:  You got to respect the voters—the wishes of the 48 states and the voters in the 48 states that did the right thing and followed the rules and did respect the early states of Nevada and South Carolina and New Hampshire and Iowa.

SHUSTER:  According to Democratic Party sources, negotiations with the Clinton and Obama campaigns have already started.

CLINTON:  I think that there are a number of ways to resolve this, but it does need to be resolved and it needs to be resolved in an equitable way.

SHUSTER (on camera):  Democratic officials say the most likely deal would involve seating Florida‘s delegates based on the primary vote and seating Michigan after splitting the Michigan delegates 50/50.  In other words, Clinton‘s math for catching Obama with the help of Florida and Michigan would go from extremely difficult to virtually impossible.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.  Mark Brewer is chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.  Mr. Brewer, how do we solve this problem and get it behind us, get the delegates from your state and Florida sent to the convention?

MARK BREWER, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC Party CHAIR:  I think the only way to solve this is to negotiate, as we‘ve been negotiating, with the campaigns and reach some kind of amicable resolution that they, the DNC and we can live with.

MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently, one negotiation would split the delegation with 128 between the two candidates.  The other would give 73, a majority of them, to Clinton.  Why don‘t you just pare that in half and go with the numbers, stop all the talk?  Somewhere between...

(CROSSTALK)

BREWER:  ... one possibility.

MATTHEWS:  Well...

BREWER:  That‘s right.  The Clinton campaign has said they want to see seat 73-55.  Obama has said 64-64.  I think there‘s room to move there.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I was thinking of a deal.  Let me ask you what you think of it.  I thought the best thing to do would be for the Obama people to offer the Clinton people the following deal.  We‘ll agree to your way of looking at this.  You get to have either another vote in these states or you get the lion‘s share of the delegates in those two states on the condition that at the end of the primary and caucus season, the candidate with the most delegates wins, the most elected delegates, because if you‘re going to change the rules to allow these two states, including yours, to get credit for even those who broke the rules, as you did in your case, why can‘t we change the rules to make it elected delegates decide who wins this thing, and end all this talk about superdelegates.  Why don‘t they do that? 

BREWER:  I think again, Chris, the important thing is that whatever is done is agreed to between the campaigns so that we are seated.  Michigan is going to be a battle ground state this fall.  You can‘t win the White House without carrying Michigan if you‘re a Democrat.  We need to be part of that convention or else we‘re going to create an obstacle for us in the fall will. 

MATTHEWS:  Who win in Michigan, if it is McCain and Romney on one side and some combination of Clinton and Barack on the other?  One on top, the other on top.  Who wins that fight? 

BREWER:  I think it is a very competitive race.  I think it‘s a very competitive race.  McCain was here campaigning today.  This will be a battle ground state this fall.  We can‘t take it for granted.  That‘s why it‘s so important that this be resolved in an amicable way so that we can move forward into the general election. 

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me you have a Democrat governor, Democratic congress-people, Democratic senators and then you‘re running against bad time.  It seems to me, the Republican come in with a new team like McCain and Romney, especially Romney, and look like the new kids on the block against the Democratic party that could be blamed for the economy in Michigan.  Couldn‘t it? 

BREWER:  They can try. 

MATTHEWS:  Am I being too much the devil‘s advocate for you? 

BREWER:  No, no.  McCain has won primary elections here.  He beat George Bush here in 2000.  You had a very competitive primary last winter.  This is not a state to be taken for granted when it comes to the Democratic side.  We‘ve won four in a row, but they‘ve all been very close.  We expect that to happen again this fall. 

MATTHEWS:  You think there will be a deal cut by May 20, do you think, in your party to give Michigan its credential? 

BREWER:  I think it is important that an agreement be reached.  I wouldn‘t want to post any artificial deadline on it, as long as it is done by the convention so we can be full participants. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think John McCain would be smart to put Mitt Romney on the ticket with him to carry Michigan, if you were on the other side?  Would that be a smart move? 

BREWER:  I think that might help him somewhat here.  Might be a negative elsewhere in the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think he is thinking seriously about your state.  He wants pick off your state and pick off Pennsylvania and hold on to Ohio and win the whole thing.  If he does it with Romney, he doesn‘t have to worry about the south.  They won‘t vote for Barack Obama, because there is a Mormon on the other ticket. 

Thank you, Mark Brewer.  Up next, Hillary Clinton vows to stay in the race but for how long?  To what effect?  What is she getting out of this fight?  Just getting Michigan and Florida recognized; is that what it is all about at this point?  The politics fix will answer that intriguing question when we come back.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I am tempted to tell super delegates to pick Obama, because I now believe that he would be the weakest of the Democrat nominees.  If I were to go that way, this would be a landmark decision for Operation Chaos.  Up until now, Operation Chaos has not picked a candidate of the Democrat side.  We have successfully created chaos.  We‘ve done our part to expose Obama through our support of Operation Chaos, effectively using the Clinton campaign as our foil and Obama and the Democrat party are the weaker for it.  Every objective has been met and surpassed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Our round table tonight, Ron Brownstein of the “National Journal,” MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, and Joan Walsh of Salon. 

Joan, I‘m staggered to see Rush Limbaugh bragging about his power.  I didn‘t expect that today.  He has an argument that he has—I‘m being ironic.  He says that he moved enough Republicans in that open primary in Indiana to move over and vote for Hillary to basically give her success there last night in a narrow vote. 

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  I think it is ridiculous, Chris.  Of course Rush is going to brag about his influence.  But, you know, apparently the Republican cross-over vote was about 10 percent, according to MSNBC‘s number, and Hillary won 54-46.  You could say that‘s some Rush Limbaugh tampering.  You could also say that Republicans are the people who, maybe a few months ago, might have taken Obama seriously.  They‘re the most likely to be hurt by the Reverend Wright and Bitter-gate flaps, which didn‘t seem to hurt him in other ways. 

I think there is no way to measure Rush‘s impact.  Why try? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Michelle, it seem to me that people went there for two reason, to vote for Barack or vote for her for totally different reason.  But how many of them do you think voted maliciously and mischievously to hurt the Democratic operation? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S FORUM:  You know, I really believe the American people are a lot smarter than this.  I got an e-mail from the Obama campaign saying they thought the Limbaugh affect was about seven percent of the electorate.  I find it very hard to believe that any sensible human being is going to go vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama because Rush Limbaugh or anyone else—

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear you me last night? 

BERNARD:  I did hear you.

MATTHEWS:  Anybody who does that should be ashamed of how they‘re using the vote.  How about this idea, Ron: if you vote for Hillary Clinton to hurt the Democrats, you get a holiday in your federal tax for gas this summer?  Wouldn‘t that put that together?  You don‘t have to pay your gas if you vote for Hillary to screw the Democrats. 

RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  You would think, if it was really an organized effort on the part—it probably had some impact.  I mean, everything has an impact when a race is this close.  If it was an organized effort on the part of the voters, you would not have seen the distribution as close to 50-50. 

MATTHEWS:  There are still a lot of people, Joan, who are Republican -

and I can say what I want.  I‘ll probably get in trouble for saying what I think about it.  But there are Republican who did come over to vote for Barack Obama for the same reason a lot of Democrats voted for him. 

WALSH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Aim being too idealistic here to suggest Republicans are as taken with his appeal as Democrats?

BROWNSTEIN:  Probably not as many as there once were.  As this race has gone on, all the candidates are being seen in a more partisan manner by voters.  The unfavorability ratings for Obama is going up among Republicans, for McCain among Democrats, for Clinton—We‘re sort of going back into the expected corners. 

MATTHEWS:  That is the story of my life watching politics.  You find somebody, you get excited about them.  You see something in their profile, Michelle.  You like the way they‘re running.  They seem to represent something really good and glistening.  You get excited about them.  And then week after week, you learn they‘re not as good as you thought.  Is that what growing up is? 

BERNARD:  That‘s what growing up is.  We realize that we‘re human and not every political candidate—

MATTHEWS:  We want heroes!

BROWNSTEIN:  One thing that‘s different, even at this point in the race, both Obama and McCain still have very strong favorability ratios among independent voters.  They‘re both popular figure in the center.  If the general election is about them, there is the potential—now all the outside forces are arrayed in a way that kind of goes toward the slash and burn.  There is the potential that both of them could speak to the middle of the country in a manner that we haven‘t seen in recent elections. 

MATTHEWS:  Dorothy Wicken (ph) of the “New Yorker” pointed out, in her piece about two weeks ago in “Talk of the Town,” in “New Yorker Magazine,” that the two candidates who have offered themselves up as civil politicians, who have conducted civil campaigns that have not been negative or nasty in any way are John McCain and Barack Obama.  And our system has kicked them up to the top.  What do you make of that? 

WALSH:  Well, I would like to believe that.  But I‘m not sure it is entirely true.  I think the Obama campaign has done its share of negative advertising.  And even to point to that—we all got that e-mail from Bill Burton last night that the Limbaugh effect is why Hillary won Indiana.  I think there is a little bit of glorification of the Obama campaign as being beyond politics, and the same thing with John McCain. 

So I think it will be a tough race.  And we will see some negativity. 

I don‘t think we‘re beyond that. 

BERNARD:  I disagree.  I think that the Obama campaign has been playing politics, but I think that the negative ads that we‘ve seen coming out of this campaign have not been nearly as egregious and in your face as we what we saw coming out of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.  I think that resonates with voters. 

BROWNSTEIN:  General election will be different.  One issue is how the candidates act toward each other.  So far McCain has had more of an edge in the way he talks about Obama than vice versa.  McCain goes out of his way to say Obama has no experience.  There seem to be something slightly under his skin that about that.  Whatever the candidates do, you already see on the outside, the outside groups in this campaign, really going sharp.  Listen to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity every day talking about Obama.  Listen to the way the Democratic National Committee is talking about McCain. 

There is going to be plenty of sharp elbows in this general election, even if the candidates themselves try to adopt a somewhat more civil tone than we‘ve seen in other campaigns. 

MATTHEWS:  But most of the voters in Michigan, not the pundits or the talk jocks, but the voters thought among Republicans, that Barack Obama would be the tougher opponent.  These are regular people.  In Indiana, yes. 

BERNARD:  I think a lot of people feel that way.  And if you‘re—when we get into this, if Obama succeeds and is the Democratic nominee, it will be a very difficult race for John McCain to run against him for a lot of reason.  One, he is going to have to stay away from anyone who comes out and looks racist in their attacks on Obama.  He‘s going to have to stick to policy. 

And I think we‘re also going to see things like ageism.  There is a stark contrast between looking at John McCain standing up beside Barack Obama.  There will be a lot of factors. 

MATTHEWS:  That comes with the territory.  You look at him and make your judgment.  People aren‘t going to have say, I don‘t like the guy because he‘s old.  They‘re going to say, I like the guy because he‘s young.  We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  I want to get back to one more shot, the future of Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign as we finish the show.  I think it has a future.  It may be two weeks.  It may be two months or three months.  It has a future.  That I‘m absolutely sure of.  It may just go through May 20th.  It may go through to Oregon.  It may go all the way.  It may go into suspension.  I get the feeling there is a future to Hillary Clinton‘s presidential ambitions.  We‘ll be right back with HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  I want to ask quickly, Hillary‘s future. 

BERNARD:  She‘s looking for 2012.  I think if she has a chance at all, it is 2016 or governor of the state of New York. 

BROWNSTEIN:  She‘s built a coalition that represents almost exactly half the party.  She is a leader in the future however this turn out. 

MATTHEWS:  She won‘t give up on being president. 

BROWNSTEIN:  I don‘t know.  The way the modern system works, I think you get one bite of the apple.  There‘s so much coverage.  You‘re in the people‘s face for so long will.  It‘s really hard to come back. 

MATTHEWS:  But the Clintons always get two bites.  Look at Arkansas.  What do you think, Joan?  Has Hillary got a future as a presidential candidate after this round? 

WALSH:  I think she does potentially.  I think it is all going to be about the way the party comes back together and what—assuming Obama is the nominee, what she does to help him?  I was struck by Obama did a gracious and politically smart thing last night.  He said the party is going to come together whether I‘m the nominee or Senator Clinton is the nominee.  He knew last night his chances were much, much better that it would be him. 

The way he reaches out to her and the way she accepts that in the next few weeks are really going to tell the story both of his political future and hers. 

MATTHEWS:  She has an army, Joan.  You hang on here.  She has an army of people out there, women may age or older, women of her age or older, who are militant for her.  Not against anybody, necessarily, although that‘s become part of any campaign.  How does she control that army of people to her advantage in the next couple months? 

WALSH:  I think she can control it.  If she‘s treated well, she can bring those voters over to Obama, if that‘s the way it goes.  If she‘s treated badly—I think we‘ve seen something interesting in the last 24-hours.  The super delegates are quiet.  She‘s going on to West Virginia.  I think people want to treat her with respect. 

The other part of her coalition that I think none of us know what will happen is the white working class voters.  I think they too need signals from Obama and the Obama campaign that he heard the verdict in Pennsylvania, that he‘s talking more about meat and potatoes, lunch bucket, whatever condescending cliche.  I think he is doing that too, Chris.  I think he can do it, but I think those two parts of her coalition—if she‘s treated well and she‘s not hounded off the stage by people who think they are helping Obama, but are not, I think this can be handled with some grace and class. 

BROWNSTEIN:  Who is a swing voter is a different question in the general election then in the primary.  In the primary, college educated women like Hillary have been swing voters.  In the general election, it‘s the opposite.  It‘s those down-scale, white working class women that are key variable between the parties.  Obama is going to need help, whether from Clinton or somebody else, improving his performance among those security waitress moms, who really helped deliver the election to Bush in 2004. 

MATTHEWS:  When you‘re in this business, you meet them all the time.  They are strong for Hillary.  Ron Brownstein, thank you.  Michelle Bernard, thank you.  Joan Walsh, thank you.  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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