updated 5/8/2008 10:59:58 AM ET 2008-05-08T14:59:58

Guests:  Jonathan Alter, Craig Crawford, Lisa Caputo, Nancy Keenan, Lawrence O‘Donnell

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Growing pressure on Hillary Clinton to quit the race.  Tim Russert has the daunting numbers that has some asking, “Will she get out?”

Then: What about Hillary for vice president?  Does Obama need her to unify Democrats?

Jonathan Alter, Lisa Caputo, and Lawrence O‘Donnell weigh in.

Plus: While, Obama had some trouble with white women voters, what were those women think of John McCain‘s promise to appoint Supreme Court justices who will almost certainly overturn Roe v. Wade?

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone and welcome to the show.

We‘re coming to you live from Washington, D.C. tonight.  The question: Will she get out?  After getting blown out in North Carolina last night and just eking out a narrow victory in Indiana, there‘s now a renewed call for Hillary Clinton to start moving toward an exit strategy.

Even George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee, a Clinton supporter, announced he‘s urging her to drop out and then he switched to Obama.  And we‘re now learning Clinton had to loan her campaign another $6 million just to move forward.  But if she campaigned in West Virginia, she sure sounded like she was saying she‘s in it for the long haul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m staying in this race until there‘s a nominee.  And I, obviously, am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee.  That is what I‘ve done.  That‘s what I‘m continuing to do.

I believe that I‘m the stronger candidate against Senator McCain and I believe I would be the best president among the three of us running.  So, we will continue to contest these elections and move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She may believe she‘s the party‘s best hope in November.  We‘ll get the breakdown with Tim Russert in just a minute.  But as long as she doesn‘t go completely negative in the remaining weeks of the race, is there really any need to have her scurrying for the exit now?

Here now: “Newsweek‘s” Jonathan Alter; former press secretary for Hillary Clinton and senior adviser to her campaign, Lisa Caputo; and political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell.

All right.  So, Jonathan, look—weeks ago, you were calling for Hillary Clinton to get out of this race and now even more people are calling for her to get out of the race.  But I ask you again, even though there‘s more evidence now, does she need to get out now, today, tomorrow?

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK:  No.  I mean, I never said that she had to get out of the race.  I always said it was perfectly fine for her to play through to the end.  The question is about her legacy, her reputation, her place in history and whether she wants to go down classy or go down in a way that will hurt her and look angry and unsportsmanlike.

So, a lot of it is about her tone, Dan, going forward.  If she takes the high road with Barack Obama and reserves her punches for John McCain, it‘s fine for her to stay in.  If she wants to go after Obama in the next month and try to take him down or take him out, there will be hell to pay in the Democratic Party and it would be a stupid approach on her part.

ABRAMS:  Lisa, it sure sounded like Hillary Clinton saying - I‘m in, I‘m not getting out.  Is that a fair reading?

LISA CAPUTO, SENIOR CLINTON ADVISER:  Yes, it‘s a fair reading.  I think she feels clearly that the process should play itself out, that there are more states, and there are more votes to be cast, and has made it very clear that every state and every American in the process who‘s a Democrat ought to have a role to play in terms of voting.  I think, secondly, she wants to play out the Michigan-Florida scenario which will go to the rules committee on May 31st.

So, we‘re looking at another, I don‘t know, three weeks or so until June 3rd.  And then, we‘ll see where things stand particularly as it relates to the popular vote.

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, you‘re hearing from a top Clinton folks that they are planning an exit strategy?

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, POLITICAL ANALYST:  They do have an exit strategy, Dan, and what you left out of that film clip was the question.  The question was to Hillary Clinton: Will you stay in to the convention?  She‘s very specifically avoided saying yes or no to the convention.  So, if you listen to the whole thing, it does sound like the winding down of this campaign.

I‘ve spoken to senior campaign official who has told me that the end strategy is June 15th, which is to say they intend to stay in, collect as many votes and as many delegates as they can, fighting exactly the kind of campaign that Jonathan Alter wants them to run, and then give no more than a week or so.  His words were “a week or so” to make their case to the superdelegates.  He assured me that we would have a nominee by June 15th.  If the Clinton campaign is only going to allow a week to make their case to the superdelegates, what they‘re saying is: We will be surrendering because that case cannot be made in a week.

CAPUTO:  You know, Dan...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lisa, go ahead.

CAPUTO:  Just to jump in there to what Lawrence is saying, a lot the superdelegates have been called today by various news organization, and one in particular noted of out of the 80 uncommitted superdelegates, the majority of them are not willing to commit one way or the other until this thing plays out which ends on June 3rd.  So, I don‘t think this will go to the floor of the convention.  I do think it will be resolved before then absolutely.  But I think that the superdelegates are in play here and a lot of them, the majority of them are going to stay uncommitted until this plays out.

ABRAMS:  And Jonathan, they could end this tomorrow.  I mean, if the superdelegates they want to come forward and say that the best thing for the party is to end this now, they can come out in a big block and say—you know what, Hillary Clinton, we‘re not going to go for you and they could end it.

ALTER:  Yes.  And I don‘t think they‘ll do that unless she continues attacking Barack Obama.  At that point, I think, there would be a cascade of superdelegates later on this month.  So, I think the likelihood is that she does take the high road, the superdelegates stay uncommitted until the beginning of June, and then you do see a coming together of the party.

But we shouldn‘t be confused by some of the chops (ph) that‘s getting thrown up right now about Michigan and Florida.  Even if you give Michigan and Florida to Clinton, she still will not win this popular vote and she certainly is not going to win the pledged delegate vote, everybody believes on that.  So, in some ways—Michigan and Florida are increasingly irrelevant to this.  They will eventually be seated at the convention, but they‘re out of reach for now (ph).

ABRAMS:  The numbers are crucial, and Jonathan, you‘re talking about the numbers and who better to get a breakdown of the numbers than from Tim Russert.  Here‘s Tim breaking down the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Senator Obama, he has won 1,588 elected delegates, 260 superdelegates, a total of 1,848.  Senator Clinton, as you can see, 1,422; 273 supers, a total of 1,695.5.  You need 2,025.  That means Obama is 177 short, Clinton is 327.5.

Where do they come from, Brian?  Here‘s the list that Andrea talked about.  These are the remaining six contests: West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota - all of them next month, a total of 217 elected delegates.

What do the candidates have to do to be nominated?  There‘s the 217 that I talked about.  There are 261.5 remaining superdelegates.  Obama, he needs 37 percent of those, Brian.  Clinton, she needs 69 percent.  That‘s why, absent a complete collapse in the Obama campaign or an act of God, this race is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Lisa Caputo, I mean, the numbers do seem pretty daunting for Hillary Clinton.

CAPUTO:  Look, there‘s no question that the numbers are daunting and no one can quarrel with the facts there.  But I think it‘s fair to say anything can happen in a presidential campaign.  We all know that.  We saw what happened just over the past couple of weeks with Reverend Wright.  That came out of left field, I know people in the Obama campaign were completely caught flat-footed.  I think the Clinton campaign was also surprised.

So, you never know what can happen in a presidential campaign.  A shoe can drop, who knows.  So, I think that‘s why she is playing this out.  She‘s also going to play it out because, I think, it puts her in a position, certainly, to have any kind of leverage she might choose to have in terms of a negotiation for what she might want coming out of it.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, is that not—you use the words before unsportsmanlike and not classy, do you view that as unsportsmanlike and not classy?

ALTER:  No, I think, you know, look—she‘s perfectly entitled to stay in.  But, you know, I heard a Clinton person saying that the narrative that they want to have take hold is that Barack Obama is unelectable.  If they try to pedal that with surrogates or whomever...

O‘DONNELL:  They‘re not—they‘re not pushing it.

ALTER:  They‘re going to have a problem.  And I they‘re weighing that today.  How hard to push on that point.  As for...

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think they‘re going to push at all on that.

ALTER:  Well, that‘s good to hear.  As for something cataclysmic happening, it‘s always possible.  I think Tim had it exactly right.  But the...

O‘DONNELL:  Clinton campaign has taken the high road today.  The way Hillary campaigned today was not only helpful to her and restoring her position in the Democratic Party, her popular position, but it was also helpful to Barack Obama.  She needs to stay in here through the rest of these elections so that she can ease her supporters into the notion of what is now mathematically inevitable the way Tim outlined it.  And she did a great job of that today, campaigning in a completely positive way.  Obama will obviously do the same thing.

Both sides are very bitter right now about the other side.  If Hillary had dropped out today, it would have hurt Obama badly because her supporters would have been left with nothing but bitterness.  This is going to be a gradual exit, it‘s going to be a graceful exit and the way she campaign today is a perfect model of how to do it.

CAPUTO:  You know, Dan, what Lawrence is saying, I think is very poignant.  The Clinton campaign sent out last night a “thank you” to all supporters who helped her eke out the win in Indiana.  It wasn‘t a call to raise money, it wasn‘t, you know, rally now and send your money in.  It was a sheer thank you.

I think Lawrence raises an excellent point, which is both of these campaigns have enthusiastic die-hard supporters and that‘s in large measure why this really needs to play out.  Look at the turnout.  Democratic turnout is at record highs, people are engaged.  It‘s great for the process.  So, I think that‘s what is at play here.

ABRAMS:  So, I want to know then, what did Nancy Pelosi mean when she said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  But a win is a win; a win is a win.  Let‘s just call it what it is.  And the—I believe that the races must continue.  That people should all have the opportunity to speak as long as two candidates wish to compete in those primaries and caucuses and that in a few weeks, we will be on our way to nominating the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Lawrence, a win is a win.  I mean, you‘re not and we‘re not even quite hearing that from the Clinton camp, although, you know, they‘re saying it, they‘re murmuring about it, they‘re laying out in some letters.  But actually—can we read anything into that from Pelosi?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, you can read into it that Nancy Pelosi has been having the same kind of conversations with the Clinton campaign that I have been having.  She‘s being very gracious to that campaign now.  She should be.  I think Hillary Clinton made Barack Obama a much better candidate.

I think as the came campaign sits today, if Barack Obama is going to be the nominee, he owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Clinton campaign for teaching him how to be a nominee.  I mean, this is, at this point, a positive process especially if Hillary Clinton maintains the tone that she established today which have every indication she‘s going to do.

ABRAMS:  Lisa, is the campaign down?  I mean, are there a lot of people - a lot of people were commenting that Bill Clinton looked kind of depressed as Hillary Clinton spoke yesterday.  Is there a sense that this is the end within the campaign?

CAPUTO:  Well, I‘ll say this, what I have observed and knowing so many of my friends in this campaign is the sheer grit of the candidate.  I mean it‘s really remarkable how she has just shown the true grits over the past several months since, you know, hitting a trouble point coming out of Super Tuesday and having to change, making some stuff changes and then running low on money.

And I think, finally the campaign got it right when it came to the former president which was to deploy him into the small towns and into the second tier and third tier media markets.  That was a brilliant move and, I think, a very effective use of the former president.  I think he just was plain tired last night.  The campaign, inside the campaign, they remain pretty resolved to fight, you know—to fight.

They‘re fighters because it‘s stemming from the candidate herself.  They believe in the process and they feel every state should have a right to have their say in this and then we‘ll see where we are.

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  The panel is going to stick around.

Coming up: Does Obama need to pick Clinton as his vice president?  And some of the strongest calls for Clinton to quit are coming from the top political reporters and pundits?  Is that a problem or their duty?

Plus: Missing White House e-mails from the beginning of Iraq war.  That‘s coming up on Why America Hates Washington in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The White House admitting it‘s missing months of e-mails from the beginning of the Iraq war.  The independent research group, the National Security Archive sued the Bush administration in 2007 to obtain backup e-mails after more than 5 million administration messages were apparently deleted from White House computers.  But in a court filing released this week, White House reps say there aren‘t even any backups for e-mails deleted in the weeks surrounding the invasion in Iraq.

The Bush administration apparently burying crucial records from the Iraq war: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.  We‘re back with the question: Should Hillary Clinton—could Hillary Clinton become Obama‘s running mate?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAROLD FORD, JR., (D) FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Does an Obama Clinton ticket unite this party, erase or address some of the concerns that Barack has to have and his campaign has to be concerned about when it comes to attracting white middle class, white working class voters.  And as Hillary Clinton answer for that ticket, I think, it‘s a question that he‘s going to have to answer and we in party are going to have to begin to think very seriously about as we seek to unite and put our strongest foot forward for the fall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Former Congressman Harold Ford suggesting that a joint ticket might be what exactly what Obama needs to win in the general election.

In exit polls from North Carolina last night, 47 percent of Clinton supporters said that if she doesn‘t get the nomination, they‘ll vote for McCain or sit it out.  In Indiana, that number jumps to more than half of Clinton supporters who said they would rather vote for McCain or stay home rather than vote for Obama.

So, will he really consider it?  Would she take it?

That‘s the question, so, Lisa Caputo, would she consider it?

CAPUTO:  Oh, well (INAUDIBLE) just way to give me the loaded question.  You‘re throwing me such a hypothetical.  So, let me answer the hypothetical because the race is not over.

And I know we‘re going to get to that question from (ph) all the media but let me say this.  I was with Harold Ford last night and we were talking about this and I think there is something to be said for the uniting of the party around these two individuals.  I mean, there‘s no question, this has been so intensely competitive.  Both have supporters that are literally devout in how they feel in their following of each of their candidates.

And I think when you think about what Hillary Clinton has in terms of what she‘s brought to the table in the way of support, older voters, women, Catholics as Harold Ford mentioned, the working class blue-collar workers—those are key constituencies the Democrats have to have.  She‘s also won those battleground states.  Senator Obama has won the smaller states, he‘s won a lot of them.  So, bringing that together would be enormous and I think an unstoppable ticket.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Craig, when I hear Lisa Caputo talk like that—that she says to me, and I‘m going to read between the lines and she said (ph), tell me I‘m reading too much into it, but when Lisa Caputo says that to me, that makes me think—Wow, Hillary Clinton would very seriously consider this.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Sure, especially if she could cut the same deal Cheney got.  How‘s that?  I can see Hillary as the Democratic Dick Cheney back there in the White House and causing trouble.

ABRAMS:  What do you make of that?

CRAWFORD:  Maybe he could put her in charge of the search committee.  How‘s that?

ABRAMS:  What do you think of ticket?

CRAWFORD:  I think, I wrote a column in January saying that the more bitter this campaign got, the more they would have to run together, in other words, a shotgun wedding.

I think because of the supporters getting so polarized, and some of the hatred almost, back-and-forth that I see on my own blog.  I got Obama and Clinton supporters coming on in the comments, they‘re just bashing each other.  Obama people calling the Clinton people racist, and, you know, all this stuff going back and forth.

These candidates are going to have to heal that and that should be one way to do it, I believe.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told “The Boston Globe” back in March, “I think that the Clinton administration has fairly ruled that out by proclaiming that Senator McCain would be a better commander-in-chief than Obama.”

ALTER:  Well, you know, that is as Ronald Zeigler (ph) said during Watergate—inoperative.  So, I think you could see this happen.  I don‘t think it‘s likely but it is possible.

You could also have a situation where Hillary wants to be asked and then even though the Obama people clearly don‘t want to pick her, they‘d rather pick a Clinton supporter like Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, and that if she wants to be asked, they might have to ask her.

And then what could happen is a situation like in 1960, when Lyndon Johnson wanted to be asked and Bobby Kennedy thought that he was going to say no, and then he ended up saying yes.  I mean, the hoping was a big mess and that could happen.

ABRAMS:  Well, here‘s Bill Clinton in March, and you know, at the time she had a better shot, I think, than she does today.  But he sure seemed to think it might be a good idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  People are watching this race and they‘re wondering, if I win, he wins, I win, he wins.  It‘s so close.  And I think that says a lot about how excited and passionate our supporters are, and how intense so many Americans are to really taking their country back.  But I can assure you as I have said on many occasions, that no matter what happens—I will work for the nominee of the Democratic Party because we must win in November.

(APPLAUSE)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  If you can unite the energy and new people that he‘s brought in and you can - and the people and these vast swaths of small town and rural America that she has carried overwhelmingly, if you had those two things together, she thinks (ph) it would be hard to beat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But when he said- when he was talking about Obama as V.P. though, wasn‘t he, Craig?

(LAUGHTER)

CRAWFORD:  Yes, he mentioned on rural America, you know, there‘s two groups to think about here for Obama to think about is that is that “Reagan Democrats,” she‘s proven some appeal there.  Who thought that would happen at the beginning of this campaign.  But also, you got to remember women.  I mean, I think older women, white women in particular but older women, this is the last time in their lives they believe, I‘ve talked to so many, they believe that the last chance in their lifetime to see a woman president.  This means something to them.

ABRAMS:  But Jonathan, I mean, look, you know—does the vice president really make that much of a difference?  When we look at 2004 and the Kerry-Edwards ticket couldn‘t even carry North Carolina.  So, I mean—if Clinton gets the V.P. nod, will she be able to bring in all of those people who have become her base?

ALTER:  First of all, that‘s only a base within the Democratic Party.  It doesn‘t tell you about her strength, you know, with independent voters and voter who‘s don‘t vote in primaries.  You know, Bill Clinton is seen as being this champion of the white working class.  He received 41 percent of the white working class vote when he ran for president.  Most of them went for Perot, you know.  There isn‘t a huge history here of them necessarily that for rural America -

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  That was an open primary in Indiana.  There are a lot of crossover voters.  Those weren‘t just Democrats in there for Hillary Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  No.  That was split about in half between Clinton - Republicans were split in half between Clinton and Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Everyone staying.

Coming up: Obama now way ahead but still short of the delegates needed to close the deal.  So, is it fair that many in the media are calling it game set and match?

And one of my favorite supermodels was on “Good Morning, America” with environmental tips and facts about recycling, but even if her head is in the right place her math ain‘t so good.  Next on Beat the Press.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at media hypocrisy, agenda, and the amusing perils of live TV.

First up: One of my favorites supermodels and I have lots of them.  Cindy Crawford was on “Good Morning, America” with tips on how to become more environmentally conscious, she even had some facts about recycling bottles ready to go.  But no one ever said the supermodels were math majors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re like 50 billion (ph) (INAUDIBLE), 50 billion (ph).

CINDY CRAWFORD, SUPERMODEL:  And only 52 percent are recycled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, that‘s just incredible.

CRAWFORD:  So, that‘s like 38 billion that aren‘t recycled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  So, 38 isn‘t quite 50 percent of 50, but it‘s in the ballpark.

Next up: It seems these days, even on FOX News—some Republicans don‘t like to admit that they are Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN COLMES, FOX HOST:  Republican Pollster Frank Luntz.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  I‘m back to being a Republican now.

COLMES:  That‘s what it said, I‘m just reading, you know.  Are you Republican?

LUNTZ:  Well, you read pretty well.

COLMES:  Are you?

LUNTZ:  I‘m - my registration still holds.

COLMES:  OK, that‘s it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Frank, why so defensive?

Finally: Thank goodness, CNN has political whiz, Jack Cafferty on Monday after John King said Hillary Clinton has to start wining big in order to win the Democratic nomination, Wolf Blitzer tossed it back over to Jack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Let‘s check back with Jack for the Cafferty File.  Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  What did he say, she can‘t just win, she has to start winning big.

WOLF:  In the remaining contest.

CAFFERTY:  Yes, and I understand.  That‘s the point we‘ve been making here in the “Cafferty File” for some time now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wow, Jack and his crack team has been saying that Clinton needs to win big.  That is a novel (ph) concept and that is why they are the best political team on television.

Up next: Hillary Clinton is down but not out yet.  Is the media counting her out too soon?

And later: Teflon John.  John McCain tells conservatives he‘ll pick the most conservative of judges if he‘s president, i.e. Supreme Court justice who would almost certainly overturn Rove v. Wade.  So why are people only talking about Barack Obama having issues with women voters?  Coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  North Carolina goes big for Obama.  Clinton barely holds on in Indiana.  But in Washington, D.C., expectations are everything, momentum is king and Hillary Clinton needed a big night, not near survival, to continue the fight.  That led many of the top D.C. reporters and pundits to call the fight last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This nomination fight is over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think there is an increasing presumption tonight that Obama is going to end up as the Democratic nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Watching Chelsea tonight there on the replay, you could see the anguish in her face.  You know, I think the Clinton people know the game is almost up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think basically, Maggie, this race is over.  The question is, does this demolition derby continue on?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The tabloids in New York City signaling the end for their senator as well.  “The New York Post” headline, quote, “Toast!”  The “Daily News,” “Hil needs a miracle.” 

But is it fair for the media to call the fight now?  Back with us is political analyst, Craig Crawford from “CQ.com,” and Lisa Caputo and Jonathan Alter.

All right.  What do you think, Craig?  Fair?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I didn‘t sign the media death warrant for John McCain last summer and I‘m not going to sign this one where there are enough superdelegates out there.  It‘s an improbable path; it‘s just not an impossible path, it seems. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think they are overstating?

CRAWFORD:  I do.  I mean, first of all, I don‘t understand why it‘s our job to call races.  It‘s like a referee saying the game‘s over before it‘s over.  I don‘t know why that‘s our duty that some seem to think.  But that‘s okay.  That‘s a valid choice for others.  I just wait for the voters.  I wait for 50 plus one. 

ABRAMS:  But Jonathan, isn‘t there some level of perspective that journalists, pundits, prognosticators - whatever they are - are supposed to provide?

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  You would think so.  I mean, personally, I used in my “Newsweek.com” column, nearly over.  You know, you always want to leave a little bit of room in case Obama self-immolates, you know, which is conceivable.  But I think the better way to do it is - You know, there‘s nothing wrong if you‘re an analyst to put some odds on it.  And when the odds go, you know, down to one percent ...

ABRAMS:  Yes?

ALTER:  ... or something, that does convey to the viewers that this thing is winding down and that they shouldn‘t believe spin.  It makes it sound like, you know, Hillary Clinton is still in the hunt because there is so much spin.  Part of what we do need to do in the media -

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Hang on one second, because Jonathan was about to say because she‘s not in the hunt anymore and stopped himself.  But really, I mean - But look, I agree.  Look, I don‘t thing it‘s a big deal.  I‘ve been one of the people who‘s been saying I think the media has been unfair to Hillary Clinton in the past.  In this particular case, I don‘t think so.  I think this, Lisa Caputo, is a fair assessment of the situation now, which is that she is basically finished.

LISA CAPUTO, SENIOR CLINTON ADVISER:  Well, I think, Dan, you‘ve got to look at this in the whole context of the campaign.  And I think that‘s really something to think about.  It‘s almost like you‘re reporting the exit polls before the votes are cast.  And we all know the networks and everyone is held to a very tight standard on that.  It‘s not done anymore. 

And throughout this whole campaign there has been such a build to each race.  And you know, first Obama was out unless he did X.  Then Hillary is out unless she does Y.  And a big build up, you know, Super Tuesday, that was obvious.  Then it was all about Texas, all about Ohio, all about Pennsylvania, all about Indiana.  Look at Hillary Clinton won Indiana.  Everybody said Indiana is a tie breaker and now here we are having -

(CROSS TALK)

CRAWFORD:  Where is the public service in the media telling the voters it‘s over?  What are we, trying to save the voters of West Virginia time on Tuesday so they don‘t have to go vote?

ABRAMS:  Actually what they‘re doing - they‘re giving you an honest assessment. 

ALTER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  I think what viewers want is they say, “Look.  Give it to me straight, Dan.  Tell me what -“

CRAWFORD:  What you stated the as a fact when no one has -

ABRAMS:  No one is saying it‘s a fact.  I mean -

CRAWFORD:  Well, when you‘re over - when you‘re saying it‘s over.

               

ALTER:  Craig, why mislead people into believing that it‘s not very close to being over.  I don‘t use the absolute “over.”  But you want to signal -

CRAWFORD:  That‘s what I heard in some of those clips (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

You want to signal to the viewers and the readers that this thing is winding down and anything else is misleading.

CRAWFORD:  “It‘s over” is a lot more than “It‘s winding down.”

CAPUTO:  You know what?  So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you‘re closing out the possibility that anything could happen.  There are still states to cast votes.

ALTER:  Very, very few, Lisa.

ABRAMS:  But Lisa -

CAPUTO:  But still, it‘s not right and fair to the process, I don‘t think.

ABRAMS:  But Lisa, the states are not the issue, anymore.  I mean let‘s be practical here as we talk about the numbers.  There are more uncommitted superdelegates at this point ...

CAPUTO:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... than there are pledged delegates in states available.  So the real issue here, the practical issue is whether these superdelegates think ...

CAPUTO:  Yes, but you know ...

ABRAMS:  ... and people like Jonathan Alter and Craig Crawford and all of these people are talking to superdelegates and saying, “You know what, there‘s no way we‘re going to come along now.”  They can say, “Look, this is what the reporting is basically showing which is it‘s over.” 

CAPUTO:  Right.  But Dan, why are the superdelegates holding out, the ones that are uncommitted? 

ABRAMS:  Exactly.

CAPUTO:  Why are they holding out?  And all the superdelegates have said - so have both candidates - that the superdelegates should go with the will of the people which is the popular vote.  So let the process play out and the media have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the possibility ...

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Hang on.

ALTER:  The caucus states aren‘t even counted in the popular vote.  That not what the superdelegates are saying.  Most of them are saying ...

CAPUTO:  That‘s exactly what both candidates have said. 

ALTER:  No.  That‘s not - popular vote is something that has been put forward by the Clinton campaign.  Most of the superdelegates say that they will go with the winner of the elected delegates, the primary and caucus process.

CAPUTO:  But the Obama campaign has said the same thing.

ALTER:  And by the way the even the popular vote thing is now drifting out of the realm of the possible very, very rapidly. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

ALTER:  So what we‘re trying to avoid asking ...

CRAWFORD:  Only the superdelegates can end this.  I mean the superdelegates want to come out and hold a press conference and tell us who they‘re for.  They can end it tomorrow. 

ALTER:  They don‘t want to for a good reason.

CAPUTO:  They don‘t want to do that.

CRAWFORD:  Well, that‘s their problem. 

ALTER:  For a good reason.  They want to let people ...

CRAWFORD:  But I‘m not going to say they can divine what they‘re saying. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you about these headlines, all right, Craig, because you‘ve been critical.  I mean, “The Washington Post,” “All Over But the Shouting.”  “Chicago Tribune,” “Clinton May Have Nine Lives, But She‘s Down for the Count.”  “Time” magazine, “Clinton‘s Faltering Case for Staying In.”  Fair? 

CRAWFORD:  Down for the count?  Faltering? 

ABRAMS:  Those are OK?

CRAWFORD:  I mean my quibble is with factual statements that it‘s over. 

ALTER:  I agree with that. 

CRAWFORD:  That‘s the phrasing that bugs me.

ABRAMS:  But when I - look.  When I say it‘s over ...

ALTER:  Very, very close to being over is something.

ABRAMS:  But again, I mean we‘re being such sticklers here.  The point is, that we can say it‘s over and not mean it as fact when you‘re talking about analysts and pundits and when Jonathan Alter comes on and says, “Look, it‘s over.”  It means this is what Jonathan Alter thinks.  He thinks it‘s over. 

CRAWFORD:  You know, I was saying that everybody said this about McCain. 

CAPUTO:  Dan, you know what ...

CRAWFORD:  You know, I was serious about that point last summer.  Everyone said this about McCain. 

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  I want to make sure Lisa gets the final world.  Lisa.

CAPUTO:  If you recall, there was a massive tidal wave effect, you know.  It‘s over for Hillary Clinton unless she wins Pennsylvania.  I mean they were prejudging Pennsylvania before Pennsylvania even cast votes.  And I just think let the process play and report it objectively.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough.  Fair enough.  All right.  Look, it‘s an interesting discussion and that‘s why we have such good guests on to talk about it.

Craig, Lisa, Jonathan, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

CAPUTO:  Thank you.

CRAWFORD:  Thanks.

ALTER:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, John McCain‘s wife says his campaign in the fall will be very different than the battle between Obama and Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:  And none of this negative stuff, though.  You won‘t see it come out of our side at all because -

ANNE CURRY, “TODAY” SHOW:  None of the negative stuff will come out of your side?

C. MCCAIN:  My husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So does that mean McCain won‘t bring up the rev. Wright issue, for example, against Obama and what about all the political independent goons out there. 

And forget teaching your dog to fetch, teach your fish instead.  “Reality Bites” is coming up in 60 seconds.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, fish that do more tricks than Fido.  Yes, this fish plays soccer, football, basketball, fetch ring and can even do the limbo.  And their owner claims it took less than two months - two months to teach him these tricks.  The talents have earned one of the fish a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records and an appearance in a TV commercial.  Come on, two months?  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Well, Obama won big last night.  The one group he did not do well with once again was white women.  In North Carolina, Obama received only 33 percent of those voters while Clinton took 65 percent.  Many of the women said they wouldn‘t vote for Obama if he‘s the Democratic nominee. 

Do they know what John McCain was saying on the campaign trail while they were at the polls?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Federal judges today issue rulings and opinions on policy questions that should be decided democratically.  Assured the lifetime tenures, these judges show little regard for the authority of the president, congress and the states.  They display even less interest in the will of the people.  And the only remedy available to any of us is to find, nominate and confirm better judges. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Translation?  Judges who would overturn Roe versus Wade.  Now, isn‘t that going to be an issue that many those Hillary voting women will have a real problem with?  Won‘t the no-choice issue become a major factor in the general election?  And if so, can‘t this kind of McCain proclamation give Obama an opportunity to win over those women? 

Here now, Nancy Keenan, president of the NARAL Pro-choice America.  And back with us is Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter.  All right.  Nancy, is that going to do it?  They‘re going to come flocking to Obama when they realize that that‘s McCain‘s position?

NANCY KEENAN, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE ASSOCIATION:  I think absolutely they will.  And it‘s because he is neither a moderate nor a maverick.  And I think our job is to make sure that women and all voters across the country understand how John McCain is so anti-choice and I think women will come back and vote for whoever is the Democratic nominee.

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, is this going to be the sort of issue that will make or break a voter‘s choice?

ALTER:  For some women, it is.  And I agree that a lot of women will come back home to the Democratic Party.  They voted with the Democrats in the past.  There has been a huge gender gap for many years.  And I have every reason to expect that it would continue this year when Democrats make it clear through their advertising that if you elect John McCain, you‘re going to get, you know, anti-abortion justices on the Supreme Court ...

ABRAMS:  All right.

ALTER: ... and you might end up having to go and get a back alley abortion in the years ahead.

ABRAMS:  Nancy, he cited Alito and Roberts as justices that he respects and likes.  Sure, he likes Scalia and I‘m sure he likes Thomas as well.  If the court ends up with two more, let‘s say of those justices, that‘s it.

KEENAN:  It is.  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Roe versus Wade is done.

KEENAN:  That‘s right, and this is the code.  When he is talking to his base, he basically is telling them, “I will have a litmus test.”  And that litmus test for John McCain is to have justices that would overturn Roe versus Wade. 

When we talk about the women as well, let me speak, too.  There is another group here.  Pro-choice independent and Republican women will vote for the pro-choice candidate once they are very clear on how anti-choice John McCain is.

ABRAMS:  But Jonathan -

ALTER:  That I don‘t agree with actually, otherwise we would have had Democratic presidents in the last several cycles.  A lot of those pro-choice independents will vote for the Republican as they have in the past.

ABRAMS:  But the difference now - But Jonathan, we‘re in a different time now.  We‘re at the now at the point where - in the past, I remember, covering - Yes, I used to say, “You know what?  Roe versus Wade is still a number of justices away from getting overturned.  It‘s not there anymore.  It‘s one, or at the very most two, away from getting overturned.  That‘s what makes this different.

KEENAN:  Well, then, Jonathan -

ALTER:  Yes, but I‘m not sure they‘re going to get the urgency you that you convey on that comment out there in the campaign.  That‘s not a sure thing.  But what will happen is when McCain - he tried to give this speech when there was a lot of news on the Democratic side to kind of sneak it in to reassure his Republican base. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

ALTER:  That won‘t play in today‘s transparent political culture.   He will be questioned about that.  He will get squeezed on this when he tries to go away from his base.  He‘ll get hammered by them, and he could get sandwiched on this issue with a way that‘s harmful to the campaign.

KEENAN:  Yes, Jonathan, let‘s be clear.  I think that when George Bush was running, people thought that Laura Bush was pro-choice and Barbara Bush was pro-choice.  And they didn‘t have to worry about George W. Bush.  In addition, he never blatantly called for overturning Roe versus Wade.  John McCain has, and I think that‘s something for pro-choice Republican and independent women.  They are going to see very clearly that they would vote for the pro-choice candidate.

ALTER:  I‘m not so sure Cindy McCain isn‘t pro-choice. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s talk of this. 

ALTER:  In 2008, McCain made it clear that in his heart, he‘s pro-choice and he‘s doing this for pandering reasons.  That was very, very clear.

ABRAMS:  Well, he‘s doing a darn good job of pandering if that‘s what he‘s doing.  Because he‘s scaring the dickens out of those of us who want more moderate justices from both sides and don‘t want the extremes. 

Here‘s Cindy McCain - this is a slightly different issue - on the issue of negative campaigning.  She just did an interview with Anne Curry from the “Today” show and here‘s what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C. MCCAIN:  I believe we‘re going to see a great debate which the American public deserves, more importantly.  And none of this negative stuff, though.  You won‘t see it come out of our side at all because -

ANNE CURRY, “TODAY” SHOW:  None of the negative stuff will come out of your side?

C. MCCAIN:  My husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all.

CURRY:  You‘re saying that the kind of campaigning we‘ve seen between the Democrats will not happen in the general election no matter who‘s picked?

C. MCCAIN:  There‘s no room for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK, Jonathan.  Enough wiggle room there?

ALTER:  Well, obviously, there will be, you know, some negative campaigning.  But I also think that Cindy McCain is on to something that it‘s very interesting that the presumptive nominees in both parties are the ones that took the highest road in the primaries.  I think both of them would like to run a more high-toned campaign.  I think it would be good for the country and good for them.  They can‘t control the independent expenditures, the so-called 527. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Right.  Right.

ALTER:  But I think within their own campaigns, it will be cleaner than we‘ve seen in a while.

ABRAMS:  And I would like to do a show every night just on which circuit court judges are being appointed and the debates that are going on in the Senate over them. 

Nancy Keenan and Jonathan Alter, thanks very much. 

KEENAN:  Thank you.

ALTER:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Lindsay Lohan, showing off another woman‘s $11,000 fur coat.  The woman says she swiped it.  That‘s not the coat.  John McCain showing some signs of weakness even in his own Republican primaries.  Or Britney Spears showing signs of pulling her life together.  Plus, you‘re E-mails.  We call it a “P.O.‘d Box.”  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 7th day of May, 2008.  Our first loser, John McCain.  According to results from yesterday‘s primaries, McCain is still having trouble winning over some Republican voters.  Even he has already sewn up the nomination, McCain won just 78 percent of the vote in Indiana and North Carolina 74 percent.  Four percent even chose no preference. 

Loser, Lindsay Lohan, accused by this woman of stealing her $11,000 mink coat.  According to these pictures in “The New York Post,” the redhead was caught red handed wearing Masha Markova‘s red fur around town moments after the coat went missing from the nightclub where the two women were partying.  After Markova saw published photos of Lohan parading out in the fur, she threatened to sue.  The coat was returned.  Now, Markova is seeking at least $10,000 for the, quote, “unauthorized rental.”  Please. 

Our big loser, Rush Limbaugh.  He vowed to weaken the Democrats with his “Operation Chaos,” calling on Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton causing mischief in the Democratic Party.  But the numbers from last night show that he didn‘t succeed.  And today, Rush flip-flopped saying his followers should actually vote for Obama. 

Our winner big winner of the day, Britney showing even more signs that she‘s pulling her life together.  Yesterday, a judge granted her more visitation time with her two sons which she was banned from seeing just four months ago.  She is apparently following an exercise routine and she just looks just marvelous. 

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  First up, last night, I hosted MSNBC‘s after-hours coverage of Indiana and North Carolina.  Many of you liked the format, especially the jazz band. 

Spencer Lord writes, “Loved the graphics, the jazz sax, the panel, the greased-lightning mind of Maddow, you without a tie.  Fantastic stuff.” 

But Chris McEwen writes, “You should feature your after-hours primary coverage in “Beat the Press,” if only for the over-the-top silliness.  Seriously, a lounge band? Come on.  You seemed to think it was pretty funny, too.”

Yes, I did, Chris.  So, it‘s kind of funny.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll see you tomorrow night.

END

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END   

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