Guests: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman, David Shuster, Clarence Page, Heidi Harris, Kevin Miller, Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: ... John McCain‘s latest effort to separate himself from President Bush backfire? And a controversial minister who backs McCain, an anti-Catholic, just renounced his anti-Catholic statements. Will it help? Will people believe him? Also, couldn‘t there be a spoiler in the general election, a Republican version of Ralph Nader? We‘ll look at that in the “Politics Fix.”
And the late night jokes at Hillary Clinton‘s expense just won‘t quit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, “TONIGHT” SHOW: Hillary Clinton said she will not give up. She will go to the convention and she will win. And then the bartender said, Ma‘am, it‘s 3:00 o‘clock. We‘re closing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that and more in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” And remember, Keith Olbermann joins me tonight for complete coverage of the West Virginia primary and beyond beginning at 6:00 PM Eastern tonight. MSNBC will be on the air live until all the way until 2:00 AM in the morning, so please join us, MSNBC, the obvious place for politics.
But first, West Virginia. Chuck Todd, political director for NBC News, Andrea Mitchell is in Charleston, West Virginia, covering the Clinton campaign, and Clarence Page is with “The Chicago Tribune.” Let‘s take a look now at the latest delegate count before we do a thing later because we want to put this all in perspective. Here it is, the latest delegate count, pledged, 1,591 for Obama, 1,426 for Clinton. Superdelegates, 283 and climbing for Obama, 275.5, whatever that means, for Hillary Clinton, 1,874 total delegates so far for Obama, 1,7017.5, again, for Senator Clinton.
Let me get to the context question, the scorecard. Does this affect it tonight, what happens in West Virginia? Does it stay in West Virginia?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It probably stays in West Virginia. You know, barring her winning probably 100 percent of the vote, you know, it‘s probably going to stay in West Virginia. She‘s going to net maybe 12 delegates tonight, so you won‘t see a major change there.
Look, I think they will argue if they are able to net nearly 200,000 in popular vote—it‘s possible. Tonight they could win by 30 points, 30, 35 points and they would net almost 200,000 votes, and...
MATTHEWS: Not counting Puerto Rico. Among the 50 states and D.C., the ones who participate in presidential elections, can the Clinton team catch the Obama team in popular vote by the beginning of June?
TODD: Only if they count Michigan.
MATTHEWS: But then...
TODD: Only if they count Michigan...
MATTHEWS: But she was the only name on the ballot.
TODD: Correct. And that‘s the only way...
TODD: ... to do it. But still, if she eliminates it—it‘s—the irony here is it‘s actually—we could end up in a tie in the popular vote, at some point, if you count Florida and you don‘t really count Michigan.
MATTHEWS: Without counting Puerto Rico.
TODD: And without counting Puerto Rico.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go right—well, that is fascinating. That—is that the stakes they‘re looking at down there in Charleston, Andrea, that they‘re hoping to catch Barack in popular vote, if not in elected delegates?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Chris, they‘re trying to redefine the terms. They will define what the popular vote is. They will count Michigan. They will count Florida. They will count Puerto Rico. No one else may, but that is the argument they‘re going to make. That‘s an argument that she will be making in her home in Washington tomorrow, depending on what the vote is tonight, to supporters, to superdelegates. They want to stop this process, freeze the process and say, Look, we won in Appalachia, we‘re going to win next week in Kentucky, and he can‘t win here, and you can‘t have a Democratic nominee or a presumptive nominee who can‘t win these kinds of states because every Democrat who has won has won West Virginia. It‘s that important.
MATTHEWS: Is she still trying to beat Barack Obama, Andrea?
MITCHELL: She‘s still trying to beat him with this win tonight, if that‘s what happens tonight. After this, she‘s clearly going to have to recalibrate. If this isn‘t persuasive, if it doesn‘t squeeze the superdelegates or bring converts to her side, and it‘s very unlikely, as you and Chuck know, that that would happen, then She‘s got to calibrate how to gracefully exit. You‘ve already seen a big change in tone.
MITCHELL: She‘s not attacking him any longer.
MITCHELL: She‘s not hitting him hard. You know, she‘s being much more graceful out here on the campaign.
MATTHEWS: But you know, when you read the text—I‘m not there like you are, but when you read the text, she‘s still saying he can‘t win the voters he needs.
MITCHELL: She‘s not saying that as overtly. She‘s certainly not saying what she said, admittedly mistakenly, to “USA Today” last week.
MITCHELL: That she knows, has admitted, has acknowledged, not directly, but through her people, was a big mistake. It was the wrong tone.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s watch her now, and then you analyze this. Come out of this outside (ph) and tell me what you think of what she‘s saying here in context. Here‘s Senator Clinton last night in West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe this election should be about solutions, not speeches, about results, not rhetoric. I offer a lifetime of experience that I think equips me to begin to do the work that awaits. But I can‘t do it without your help. I am asking you to support me tomorrow. This may be the most important vote you‘ve ever cast. Bring everybody you know! Bring them out to vote! Let‘s have a huge vote, West Virginia! Let‘s show the world that West Virginia knows what kind of president we need!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, she said he‘s an empty suit right there.
MITCHELL: She—that is not rough campaigning, when you talk about a Democratic primary in a Democratic state like this. She‘s basically trying to run up the vote, and I don‘t think that anybody could really quibble...
MITCHELL: No one from the Obama camp has quibbled with what she said here last night.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, as you cover this campaign—thanks for joining us (INAUDIBLE) -- is this a campaign that‘s still going on? Is this one of those situations in an NFL game, where they‘re just going through the plays and downing the ball? Is this still a game?
CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Well, I think they are trying to run up the score on the Hillary Clinton side right now, and the polls indicate that Democrats are not really pushing her off the board yet (INAUDIBLE) Obama supporters. So she seems to have license to keep on campaigning. That speech she gave, that excerpt that you just played, indicates how she‘s really refined her line here and her stump speech, and still talking about this is the most important vote you‘ve ever given. It‘s not like it‘s going to change (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s good stuff. That‘s “Get out the vote” talk, which is professional.
Let‘s take a look now at the latest “Washington Post”/ABC poll numbers. They are fascinating because they get to the very question of electability, which is, I think, Senator Clinton‘s toughest argument to make, and best one, perhaps, so far. But look at this, 62 percent of Democrats tell pollsters right now they think Obama has a better chance to win in November, 26 percent say Clinton, Chuck, 49 percent think Obama‘s the stronger leader, 42 percent say Clinton. On the question of who‘s got more experience, they throw it to Clinton.
But on that question of electability, which leads the poll there, electability, that‘s always been Hillary‘s classic argument—and maybe it‘s implicit in terms of ethnicity, but she says I can win, he can‘t. That poll says he can win.
TODD: Well, I thin what this is a response to is this—this poll was taken after North Carolina and Indiana and this bandwagon effect that took place, where he was basically—he declared himself the presumptive nominee. He didn‘t use that language, but others did. And I think that cumulative effect, you‘re seeing Democrats starting to rally around the idea that Obama‘s their standard bearer, so they‘re going to say he‘s the most electable.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Clinton—Andrea, this question of electability jumps out of the box like a jack-in-the-box for Democrats. They madly want to win this election in November. They will not think like the old left, which was, November doesn‘t count in D.C. How do they win with this guy, or how does she help him win, or does she still think she can stop him because only she can win?
MITCHELL: I think that she does help him win, but not yet. I think by, at the very earliest next week, after Kentucky, and perhaps more likely not until after June 3, they come together, and there will be some, you know, picture, a tableau of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama. There will be a unity moment. You saw them shaking hands briefly on the Senate floor today. They took time off from campaigning...
MITCHELL: ... both of them, to go back to the Senate to vote for something that was critical to organized labor. This was a vote on a bill which would give the police and firemen the ability to unionize, not to strike but to unionize, a very big labor vote. So they both went back to Washington, did that, and then went back on the campaign.
But importantly, he went to Missouri. He‘s bypassing, ceding West Virginia to her. He went to Missouri, which is a battleground state. She‘s here, as you say, to celebrate a victory which should be a big victory. Now, if something happens—and we‘ve had surprises throughout this campaign—if, for instance, her supporters decide to stay home, that it‘s all over, that the conventional wisdom has declared her out and she doesn‘t get a big vote here today, then it really would be over. And then you might see something dramatic happen tomorrow in Washington, or the next day.
MATTHEWS: Clarence, I‘m looking at tonight and I‘m looking at next Tuesday night and I‘m looking at three states, a trifecta still. She could win two of them. She could win tonight. She could win in Kentucky. She could lose in Oregon. Does that give her the sort of the moral timing to quit?
PAGE: Well, Obama seems to already be conceding that pretty much he‘s already conceded West Virginia. He‘s indicated he‘s going to win Oregon. He really is trying to remove any element of surprise here for future Hillary Clinton victories.
As I mentioned earlier, Democrats and Obama supporters don‘t seem to be in a hurry to push her out of the game because they want her to be a friend. They want her to campaign for Obama after what appears to be his inevitable nomination occurs. So as graceful as one can make Hillary Clinton‘s exit, the better, as far as the Obama side is concerned, it appears.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Andrea. Andrea, you were surmising the other night—I can‘t remember. We‘re on the morning and at night, both you and I. Trying to tell what time of day is like “Ladyhawk.” When are we on? But let me ask you this. Do you have a sense...
MITCHELL: ... spend all of our time together.
MATTHEWS: I know. Do you have a sense that they‘re still thinking about a fairly early exit from this thing, the Clinton people?
MITCHELL: I think that now, she has told them, despite what some of her supporters want, that she wants to stay through June 3. She wants to see a resolution of Michigan and Florida.
MITCHELL: That is a top demand, and she wants to see that. That is being compromised (ph). Very interesting pictures from the Senate floor today. You saw that he was meeting with Carl Levin, who is the organizer, along with Debbie Dingell, of the whole Michigan scheduling deal. And he also went over to Diane Feinstein, who had expressed some doubts, this an early Clinton supporter, and she was beginning to waver last week. Clinton was surrounded by her people. There was such a choreography of interests as they were mixing and mingling among those superdelegates, their fellow senators on the floor, Ben Nelson—Bill Nelson, rather, from Florida. So there was a lot of Florida/Michigan action going on on the floor.
They want to resolve Michigan and Florida, the Clinton team, and then go on and finish the voting. If they were to get some sort of satisfaction, I could see them ending before Puerto Rico. But at this point, they would say why not just go another two weeks? It‘s not hurting anybody.
MATTHEWS: Chuck, just to be simple here, which I like to be, why don‘t the Barack people say, We‘re going to win this thing, we‘ve got the numbers and the elected delegates. We‘ll give 50 percent of the delegates ratification for the convention, and they‘ll get 50 percent, as the rules apply. We‘ll pro-rate those delegates according to how Hillary did in Michigan We‘ll take non-committed votes. We‘ll take our percentage of the share down in Florida. And we‘ll do it, get it over with. It‘s not going to affect the results, and give her what she wants.
TODD: Well, not only that, I mean, the Obama campaign...
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they do it?
TODD: ... already signed off on the 69-59 compromise. And I think—in Michigan, which is—right now, as is, it would be about 73-55. The Clinton campaign is sticking to their guns. They want full seating of Florida and Michigan. And until the Rules Committee decides...
MATTHEWS: You mean not 50 percent.
TODD: Correct. Until the Rules Committee...
MATTHEWS: But the rules say 50 percent.
TODD: Well, the rules haven‘t said anything yet, and the Rules Committee—I mean, it‘s—look, you saw Terry McAuliffe on Sunday on “Meet the Press” seem to almost admit that a 50 percent cut was coming. You could almost—you know, he sort of acknowledged it. He almost said that, Look, this is what it would be. It‘s what he would have done had he been chairman...
MATTHEWS: If they don‘t go by the rules, they‘re not going to even have rules next time.
TODD: So the 50 percent cut—look, DNC wants to punish Florida and Michigan. Obama would give everything right now...
TODD: ... if he could.
TODD: But the DNC still wants their pound of flesh.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a rationale for Hillary to stay in the race. And by the way, Hillary‘s staying in the race tonight—I think we all agree, Clarence and Andrea and Chuck, that staying in tonight‘s a favor for Barack Obama because she‘d win tonight even if she dropped out.
TODD: You don‘t want to lose to somebody who‘s not running.
TODD: That‘s embarrassing.
MATTHEWS: Yes. So she‘s carrying...
MATTHEWS: ... for Obama tonight...
TODD: ... easier to get whipped.
MATTHEWS: ... in a very strange, unintended way. Anyway...
TODD: It‘s a lot easier to get whipped.
MATTHEWS: ... thank you. I love weirdness. Anyway, thank you, Andrea Mitchell. “Take me home, mountain mama,” Hillary Clinton‘s theme song tonight. West Virginia will embrace Hillary Clinton.
And don‘t forget our live coverage of the West Virginia primary starts
under way right away—it gets under way right away at 6:00 o‘clock tonight. We‘ll have results by 7:30. Then we‘re going to talk about what it means and where this thing‘s headed. Will Hillary be a running mate or ruining mate? Will her intentions be good if she joins the ticket, or will they be destructive? That‘s a hot question if you‘re a Barack Obama person.
Coming up: As Hillary Clinton looks for a victory tonight, Barack Obama has moved on to the big November battleground states. He‘s going to be in Missouri tonight, a state he did carry, to celebrate the fact he did win one of those big swing states before tonight.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. While, Clinton is expected to win West Virginia, Hillary Clinton by double digits tonight, Barack Obama‘s turning his attention to the general election, as you‘ll see tonight. Today he was in the battleground state of Missouri. He‘s going to be there tonight for his statement tonight, probably. We‘re going to have him live tonight. And tomorrow, he‘s on to Michigan, and next week, he‘ll be campaigning in Florida. Can he steal Clinton‘s thunder by finding a resolution to the delegate impasse in Michigan and Florida?
“Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is with me. Andrea Mitchell is sticking with us. She‘s down there in Charleston. There she is at the campaign.
Let‘s start with Barack Obama‘s campaign. No matter what he says about tonight, he needs regular people in this country to vote for him, OK? And the majority of people in this country are white regular people. It‘s a fact. It‘s not an ethnic argument, it‘s just a fact. You can‘t win a presidential election if you give away all the Reagan Democrats. If you give them all away, people—culturally conservative Democrats, you‘re going to lose. So how‘s he get them back? And what‘s he doing tonight to get them back?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my sense of it is, while it might not work in West Virginia, he has quietly organized very well in Kentucky. I was talking to some of my friends down there. He‘s got 16 offices all around the state of Kentucky. And I think one of the things he‘s going to try to do is exceed expectations next week. Kentucky‘s got Louisville. It‘s got Lexington...
MATTHEWS: You‘re a Louisville guy, aren‘t you?
FINEMAN: Yes. It‘s a different kettle of fish than West Virginia, and I think he‘s going to try to exceed expectations there to answer some of the criticisms that people have made...
MATTHEWS: So he could come off next Tuesday night with a win in Oregon...
FINEMAN: And a BTE in Kentucky.
MATTHEWS: ... and a pretty good showing—a pretty good showing...
FINEMAN: That‘s what they‘re doing.
MATTHEWS: And that would be the night he‘d want to claim victory.
FINEMAN: That‘s what they‘re going for.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, do you see that? Is this a Hillary victory tonight but perhaps a short-lived experience with greatness tonight, that next week, it‘ll be a bad weekend again?
MITCHELL: Yes, and that was the argument of a lot of Clinton supporters, people very close to her, who said, you know, Declare victory after West Virginia and gracefully get out because you‘re not going to win it. The numbers aren‘t there. Just today, Roy Romer, former, you know, co-chairman of the Bill Clinton 1996 reelection campaign, former Democratic national chairman, came out and not only endorsed Obama but just said the math controls and she can‘t be the nominee. The nomination is his.
So with that facing her, if she came out of West Virginia, as is expected tonight, with a big victory, she could declare victory tomorrow, the next day, and gracefully get out. That was the argument. I talked to Joe Manchin, the governor here, who is uncommitted. He‘s the head of the Democratic Governors Association, Chris and Howard, and he said, Look, Barack Obama‘s going to have a hard time, but he can do it, but he‘s going to have a hard time in the fall against John McCain in this state because they don‘t know him. He hasn‘t campaigned here. He bypassed this state pretty much, except for three appearances, and he‘s got to...
MATTHEWS: OK, we just lost Andrea. But that‘s the question.
We all know, watching presidential elections, that, in the end, it‘s not about New York and California. It‘s not about the big states. It‘s about those states in the middle...
MATTHEWS: ... the ones like Missouri, that decide everything.
FINEMAN: Yes. And I think...
MATTHEWS: The ones that went for Eisenhower one year and Stevenson for the next. They do weird things like that.
FINEMAN: Well, Obama‘s acknowledging that by being in Missouri. In other words, that‘s Missouri in the eastern part of the state, Missouri in the southwestern part. That‘s—even they—it‘s even a swing state in the way it‘s pronounced, you know?
FINEMAN: So, that is key.
I think the Obama campaign is looking at an Electoral College map that they think is going to be different. They‘re not convinced that that seam along the Ohio River, the sort of Appalachia to Ohio area, is going to be as pivotal.
But, if it isn‘t, I don‘t know where else is. They‘re saying Virginia. They‘re saying Louisiana. They‘re saying they spread the field and so forth. I think they risk putting those people off at their peril. And that‘s why, I‘m told, in Kentucky, at least, even though he‘s not spending a lot of time, they have got a big field operation going there.
FINEMAN: And they want to try to answer questions by—asked by people like you.
FINEMAN: What about those Reagan Democrats? What about them?
You know what I see? I can see an election now that will—is all—first of all, unseeable from this point...
MATTHEWS: ... but, right now, looks like Barack Obama, based on the polling, could win a big popular vote in November and lose the Electoral College, because he doesn‘t win these critical states, like West Virginia.
FINEMAN: Well, I will tell you—yes.
MATTHEWS: And he loses a heartbreaker in Missouri or Virginia, where he comes close.
FINEMAN: Although, Chris, I got to tell you, the Obama campaign has been masterful at the micro-strategy of politics.
They so outmaneuvered the Clinton people in terms of the caucuses and understanding the rules, the name of the game. These are not dumb people. They know it‘s 270 that is required. Their targeting in the primaries and caucuses was superb. David Plouffe‘s list, his printout, basically held true primary and caucus by primary and caucus. I wouldn‘t underestimate these people‘s ability to figure out a rout. They may know...
MATTHEWS: Can I give you the counterargument?
FINEMAN: They may know some things we don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: They have got problems in Florida...
MATTHEWS: ... because McCain‘s a pretty good candidate down there.
MATTHEWS: And Charlie Crist is going to deliver like hell for him fabulously.
FINEMAN: I agree. I agree.
MATTHEWS: Michigan has got racial polarization, because the state is now—the city council in Detroit is going to dump the mayor. The governor is being involved, racial polarization like we have never seen.
Pennsylvania was not a success for Barack Obama.
FINEMAN: No, it was not.
MATTHEWS: Ohio was not a success for Barack Obama.
And here‘s West Virginia tonight, not going to be a success. He‘s going to suffer a knockout tonight in West Virginia.
And the question is, can a Democrat win without the core of Pennsylvania and Ohio? Can it with without—he win without winning those swing states of Florida and Michigan?
FINEMAN: Well, he...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know how—if Michigan becomes a swing state, you got a problem right there.
FINEMAN: I agree.
He obviously can‘t win by losing all four. I think they think they‘re going to when able to recover in places like Ohio and Michigan. I don‘t know. We will see. He‘s got—he doesn‘t have much time.
FINEMAN: He doesn‘t have much time, and he‘s got a lot of work to do. I think he was too cute by half in skipping—essentially skipping West Virginia and Kentucky.
MATTHEWS: I know, letting her have it.
MATTHEWS: You know, Hillary—I mean, Andrea—Andrea, this whole question, if Hillary Clinton goes down there and rolls up the score, as she ought to, because it‘s a state she can do well in, the Barack Obama dissing of that state, not even going in there to fight the primary, is that going to hurt him in the general if he‘s the nominee?
MITCHELL: Well, that‘s what Joe Manchin, the governor, was concerned about, that people here need to size him up. He said, these are hardworking people, but they have a Ph.D. in life and in human nature. And they want to see you. They want to have dinner with you. They want to break bread with you.
MITCHELL: They want to get to know what motivates you.
MITCHELL: And that is what he wants to see.
MATTHEWS: I agree. Well, I think he‘s right. I think, being an African-American, it‘s all the more important to get in there and show who you are, introduce yourself as a person, not as an identity group...
FINEMAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: ... but as a human being, and connect with people. I think that‘s still going to be his challenge. Playing pool, not a bad start. But it‘s not what most people play. People with play pool these days.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Guys who have pool rooms in their house in the basement.
You know what those tables cost?
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Howard Fineman, thank you, Andrea Mitchell.
Up next, it‘s the HARDBALL “Sideshow”: more brutal late-night joke at the expense of Senator Clinton. Plus, what do the voters have to say about whether Barack Obama should pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate, or, as I‘m suggesting, possibly ruining mate? You have got to be careful in this business who you get in bed with. That‘s the “Big Number.” It‘s coming up next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the “Sideshow.”
As we have been noticing, the longer Hillary stays in this race for president, the meaner the late-night humor.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: Hillary‘s people said it‘s not over until the fat lady sings, to which Bill said, “There‘s a fat lady?”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: If you look at this historically, it‘s not that difficult to believe that Hillary would still be campaigning. Listen to this. Once a year, once a year, in his basement, Al Gore gives a State of the Union address.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, when it comes to Al Gore, it is well remembered how he bowed out of the race in 2000 with grace. Some die-hard Democrats, of course, wish he hadn‘t.
Don‘t expect any dishing from Cindy McCain any time soon. Last night, Cindy signed a contract with Viking Press to write her memoir, including marriage details, her thoughts on family, and her experiences out on the campaign trail.
But now she‘s pulling the plug on the project. Why the about-face? Well, she says the demands of campaigning make it too tough to write a book. Well, just as likely, her motive, no candidate wants to invite even more scrutiny as the general election fight begins.
Next, a showdown today on the Senate floor, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama greeted each other before a couple of energy and gas votes and a vote on union rights. It‘s a special talent, by the way, of politicians to be able to separate the politics from the personal, or at least try to do it.
As Hillary mulls the prospects of being a senator for years to come, that V.P. slot might be looking interesting right now.
Details about Oliver Stone‘s George W. Bush movie, titled “M”—or, rather, “W,” leaking in today‘s “New York Post.” And, from all the earlier signs, it looks like typical Oliver Stone ridiculousness. Apparently, in one scene, George Bush asks Paul Wolfowitz, his deputy defense secretary, “Wolfowitz, you got any Maalox on you? And, while you‘re at it, trim those ear hairs.”
In another scene, Karl Rove says to President Bush: “Before you speak, come to me first. I will tell you what to say.”
Look, I‘m no fan of Oliver Stone when it comes to getting even the most basic facts straight in his movies, but I can‘t believe even he would use those kinds of lines in a movie.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”
We have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what‘s wrong—what‘s actually going on inside Hillary Clinton‘s head. Does she want to be vice president, or doesn‘t she? Well, the voters have some clear thoughts on what they want Barack Obama to do on that subject.
According to a brand-new “USA Today”/Gallup poll, what percentage of Americans would like Obama to pick Hillary Clinton as his running mate? Get this, a majority, 55 percent, a solid majority, 55 percent of Democrats want Hillary Clinton to be the vice presidential running mate of Barack Obama. Of course, it‘s the people who don‘t want her on the ticket that he better keep his mind on—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: John Hagee, that controversial minister who backs John McCain, has publicly renounced his anti-Catholic sentiment, sort of. Is it going to help McCain‘s campaign?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closing mixed today, the Dow Jones industrials falling 44 points, the S&P 500 down just a fraction, and the Nasdaq was up six points.
Oil prices rebounding today, gaining back most of yesterday‘s losses.
Crude rose $1.57, closing at $125.80 a barrel.
Retail sales showing unexpected strength in April, outside of the auto sector. Excluding cars, sales posted a surprise gain of a five-tenths of a percent.
And in a speech in Georgia, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, the credit crisis is not over. He warned, the fundamental sources of financial strains must be addressed, and added, the process is likely to take some time.
And CNBC has reported, Carl Icahn is considering launching a proxy fight for Yahoo!, in hopes of getting the company sold to Microsoft. Earlier this month, Microsoft abandoned its bid to buy Yahoo!, after Yahoo! balked at the price.
That‘s from it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As the Democrats fight over the economy and health care, the presidential candidate who is talking the most right now about environmental issues is John McCain.
And if you listened to talk radio at all this week, you know that
McCain‘s plan to tackle global warming is not sitting well with
conservatives, at least some of them. In fact, it would be an
understatement to say that conservatives are merely angry—merely angry -
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has the report.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As John McCain led an environmental roundtable today in Washington State...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every chance you get, plant another tree.
SHUSTER: ... conservative talk radio was hammering him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I have not faced a situation where a major Republican presidential candidate sounds just like a liberal Democrat. This—this—this is embarrassing, and it is frightening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: If McCain was hoping to distance himself from President Bush, the newspaper headlines today show he has succeeded. But it‘s coming with a cost.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “MARK LEVIN SHOW”)
MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Nobody can call themselves a conservative, then back the kind of plan that John McCain has proposed. And I‘m not going to talk in loose generalities, like all the rest of the hosts.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SHUSTER: Yesterday, in Oregon, McCain delivered the biggest environmental speech so far in his campaign.
MCCAIN: We need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world.
SHUSTER: Many conservatives insist, global warming is not manmade. McCain not only believes it is. But he proposed the United States set a cap on emissions and give tradable credits to companies that are below the limit.
MCCAIN: This is the proposal I will submit to Congress if I‘m elected president, a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy.
SHUSTER: But cap-and-trade, for some conservatives, means killing the free market.
And talk radio has been on fire.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “MARK LEVIN SHOW”)
LEVIN: I mean, my God, if you don‘t speak out now, when are you going to speak out? He talks about our children and future generations. This is a man who won‘t allow drilling in this country. This is a man who won‘t allow refining in this country. This is a man who is going to set back our industries by decades. They want to drag us back to 1990. You heard it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SHUSTER: McCain has long supported environmental protections, and his campaign is betting the loss of conservatives on this will be far outweighed by the new support he gains from Democrats and independents.
It‘s why McCain even took a swipe at President Bush for failing to make progress on the Kyoto global climate treaty.
MCCAIN: I will not accept the same dead end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto. The United States will lead, and will lead with a different approach.
SHUSTER: Still, the backlash against McCain and his governmental solution has been fierce.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “MARK LEVIN SHOW”)
LEVIN: Millions of bureaucrats who don‘t have the foggiest idea what they‘re doing and these political hacks—how does John McCain‘s service in the military and 24 years in Congress make him an expert on this? It doesn‘t. And he‘s not. It‘s all gibberish.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SHUSTER (on camera): McCain has tangled with conservatives before, most notably on taxes, immigration, and campaign finance reform.
The irony with global warming is that McCain is also taking fire, now, from environmentalists, who argue his proposals would be too little, too late.
I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
Joining me right now is radio talk show host Heidi Harris out in Vegas, and Kevin Miller, who is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Gentleman and lady, thank you very much for joining us.
I want to show you a side—here‘s—not to do too much self-advertising, not that there‘s anything wrong with it, but here‘s a question. I want you to respond to this, Heidi. This is what I put to John McCain, to put it all in perspective. Politics, not substance, we‘re talking here tonight. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me go—here we go, the tough one. And it is tough. Right now, President Bush has a favorability, as of today, of 28 percent in the polls, the Gallup poll.
How will you be different than President Bush?
MCCAIN: Well, I think that there‘s many philosophies and views and vision that we share for America. There are other areas, specific areas, in which we are in disagreement.
What‘s an area of disagreement? Climate change. Climate change. I believe that climate change is real. I think we have to act...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Heidi, so it‘s not going to be a third Bush term on climate change, is it?
HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, it‘s going to be worse.
Even the Democrats are probably going be disgusted with this. I‘m furious. As a conservative, I‘m really disgusted with this. I don‘t understand why he‘s so focused on climate change.
And you know the thing that gets me, Chris, about it is, even if we capped all the emissions in America, if it‘s a global world, which we keep hearing about, and we all share the same atmosphere, it‘s not going to matter, because China doesn‘t care what they put in the atmosphere. So, there‘s no solution that John McCain is providing at all.
MATTHEWS: But we do share the same atmosphere. That‘s not the argument, is it?
HARRIS: No, but if the ultimate goal is to clean up the atmosphere, the entire Earth, it‘s not going to be helped if we cap things, because a lot of companies here will send more products overseas to be built. So China will be putting all the same stuff in the atmosphere. It‘s not going to get better.
MATTHEWS: Same question. I want to put this to Kevin. Here‘s a real political look at this. Is this an area where John McCain can gain by separating himself from President Bush?
MILLER: Chris, you are exactly right. The Democrats say this is the third Bush term. We‘re seeing McCain differentiate himself from the president, talk about global change, going after the oil companies. This is a brilliant move politically. Heidi may be mad. Mark may be mad. Rush may be mad. They‘re not going anywhere. You think John McCain is bad? Barack Obama is going be bad. Hillary Clinton is going to be much worse.
McCain is trying to balance the pro-business GOP along with the social conservatives. Look for him to give them the VP, but this is a brilliant move politically.
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s trying, Heidi, to convince Republicans in the suburbs, the east, especially, around Detroit, around Philly, around New York, where they‘re really trying to win those states—if not New York, definitely Pennsylvania, Cleveland. Those suburban areas are pro-green. The kids are telling their parents to vote for Barack. What McCain is doing here is tell your kids you‘re voting for McCain. Isn‘t that what he‘s doing here? Isn‘t that the politics?
HARRIS: Here‘s the ultimate thing; Republicans never get credit for going over to the left. This happens all the time. They try to pander to the left—
MATTHEWS: You think climate change is an ideological issue?
HARRIS: Absolutely. Absolutely, I do. I don‘t think you, as a Republican, ever get credit for trying to lean to the left. Then they blast you—
MATTHEWS: There are lot of corporations, Heidi—You have a right to your opinion. You‘re good at this. But I‘ve got to tell you something, there are a lot of U.S. corporations which are hardly lefty, who believe that being green is smart. They think it‘s the right policy.
HARRIS: Listen, I don‘t want the earth to be dirty, believe me. But I also don‘t believe that mankind, and my SUV that I‘m going to get in to as soon as I leave here, is polluting the Earth to the point where I‘m going to destroy the Earth.
MATTHEWS: No, not single handedly, but by the thousands maybe. Get yourself a smart card and we‘ll ride around together. Let me go now to the serious question. I happen to be Roman Catholic. I am Roman Catholic. I am a little concerned, to put it lightly, about this guy Hagee down in Texas. Here‘s what he said on this issue about that. Here‘s Senator McCain, asked if he‘s comfortable with Hagee‘s endorsement. Here‘s his response, the senator‘s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Look, as I said many time, I accepted his endorsement. I didn‘t endorse everything that he said. The point is that—the fact that he has made an apology, I think, is very helpful. Whenever someone apologizes for something they did wrong, then I think that that‘s a laudable thing to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you and your campaign involved in any way in brokering that apology today from Hagee to Donahue?
MCCAIN: I certainly wasn‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we all know that Hagee referred to the Catholic Church, which is quite large in America, as a giant whore or whatever. Today, he said I want to express my deep regret to any comments that Catholics have found hurtful. Kevin, I think it‘s hard not to take offense at that, not found hurtful. It sounds so soft and passive. I would think if you called somebody a whore, their church a whore, you would have a reaction stronger than that.
MILLER: I agree with you, Chris. As a fellow Roman Catholic, this has been quite a bit of contention on KTK, where you have people going back and forth, comparing Reverend Wright to Reverend Hagee. John McCain continues to inoculate himself from Reverend Hagee by distancing himself. The big difference is, John McCain got the endorsement, denounced it, distanced himself, where Barack Obama continues to have to answer the questions about Reverend Wright.
You‘re right, as a Catholic, particularly here in Pennsylvania, people are concerned about Hagee.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t understand this, Heidi, how you can say something, when you‘re told by somebody around you, be careful, you‘ve just done something to hurt your candidate you‘re endorsed, so take some of the edge off. His way of taking the edge off, this guy, Pastor Hagee, is to say, I want to express my deep regret for any comments—any comments, not like the one I made, that Catholics—that‘s like mistakes were made, may have found hurtful.
Excuse me, why didn‘t he just say, your church and I have different philosophical and theological views, a Protestant church, a more fundamentalist church like my own has different views of how we read the bible and look at oral tradition. There‘s certainly not a difference between the devil and God on these issue. I take it back.
Instead, he said if you found it hurtful, you know, move on. What do you think of that one?
HARRIS: It‘s never worse than when somebody says, if you were offended, I apologize. Either he believes that or he doesn‘t believe it. If he believes it, he should stick to it. If he doesn‘t believe it, he shouldn‘t give us a half-hearted apology. I‘m not Catholic, but he shouldn‘t.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not about what we are, it‘s about the way we think we ought to fight in this country. Bill Donahue, who has made himself Mr. Catholic in this country—I don‘t know who appointed the guy this job. He seems like—he looks like the right type. Bill Donahue said is was OK with him. Bill‘s probably OK with McCain, just guessing. Bill, if I‘m wrong about that, if you‘re not with McCain, let me know. Anyway, you look like a McCain guy.
Thank you, Heidi Harris, as always. Thank you, Kevin Miller.
Up next, the politics fix. Why does Barack Obama continue having trouble winning—I hate using this word—white working class voters? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and our politics fix. Tonight, round table, we‘ve got the heavy weights, MSNBC political analyst, Patrick J. Buchanan, Eugene Robinson and Rachel Maddow, who all will be with us throughout the evening tonight, as we cover the West Virginia primary, which is right up there with one of the great Hitchcock movies, I think, of all times. I mean, if Barack wins tonight, that is a switch.
I don‘t want to take anything off Senator Clinton. She is out there campaigning like mad. I want to ask you all, tonight‘s result, Hillary Clinton will claim victory. Barack will be in Missouri, claiming he won Missouri. Pat, you first. Where do we go from here?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the real question we‘re going to find out is how strong is the resistance to Barack Obama in West Virginia, and what kind of message are West Virginians sending to the country with the size of the vote they have and with what they say? Is it a meaningful thing, in terms of November? Barack Obama‘s got this nomination locked up. This will say, West Virginia is Hillary Clinton country.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: I think what we‘re going to be looking for tonight is actually the overall turnout, because it is important to get people for the Democratic party, It‘s important to get people out there voting for a candidate with a D next to their name. The overall registration, the early voting is important. The turnout is going to matter. The margin is going to matter.
MATTHEWS: OK, going to Pat‘s point. If she rolls it up two to one or something, what does that mean?
MADDOW: Well, Bill Clinton, unfortunately, did something wrong in the lead up to West Virginia when he said that she could win by 70 or 80 points. By having even mentioned that once, it makes a 30 point win—
MATTHEWS: Did he stay out of West Virginia?
BUCHANAN: No, he was right down there.
MADDOW: He‘s been in every small town in America in the last three weeks.
ROBINSON: Here‘s what we‘re going to learn tonight: I suspect we‘re going to learn that if Barack Obama were running in the fall against Bill and Hillary Clinton, he probably would lose. But I don‘t think we‘re going to necessarily learn a lot about his prospects in West Virginia.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to substance for a seconds here. Daily Kos had a great posting yesterday about the fact that even though Barack would do badly in West Virginia tonight, that he better recognize that those are his true constituents, working people, poor people in some cases, illiterate people in some much smaller cases. Those people need a break. They‘re beyond, in some cases, the digital divide. They don‘t have the breaks of a lot of suburban kids have, who have all the advantages of money. He ought to be talking to those people as his people.
BUCHANAN: He should have gone out there and say, look, I know you folks may not be for me and maybe not going to vote for me, but I am for you. I know what your problems are in West Virginia. I‘m going to deal with them whether you vote for me now or vote fore me in November, because you‘re Americans. You are the ones that really got the problems that government ought to be dealing with, not the guys up in Wall Street. Why didn‘t he do it?
MADDOW: I think it‘s a strange decision that he‘s not going to give a speech tonight. At least, that‘s the indication, that Hillary Clinton will be speaking, and he will not.
MATTHEWS: Something from Missouri, maybe.
MADDOW: The fact that he‘s not going to be in West Virginia, the candidates don‘t always stay in the state, especially when they know they‘re going to lose. It is a chance for him to give a speech, to, say, you know what, this is my big Democratic party speech. The Democratic party is for people who have to work for a living. The Republican party represents the interests of rich people.
MATTHEWS: We all agree?
ROBINSON: I think Pat‘s absolutely right. I think the campaign may have gotten some of that message. I think they might do it a little bit differently in Kentucky next week.
MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman was at this desk a half hour ago, and he said they‘ve got a plan, perhaps, for a surprise in Kentucky. It won‘t be like tonight. Next week will be a good week for Barack Obama, winning, perhaps, in Oregon, the state that‘s classic for him, and doing pretty well in Kentucky, a state that‘s more Hillary oriented.
BUCHANAN: Even if he loses, if he goes down there and runs gallant campaign, a friendly campaign, go out there into coal country, coal miner daughter country—
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the question: I‘m a big believer in rational voting, the reason we‘ve had voting in this country since 1788 without a break, the reason we don‘t have military coups, the reason why we believe in politics, even when you‘re running, Pat, the reason we believe in it is because it‘s rational. West Virginia has rational reasons for breaking with the national Democratic party. They‘re not all cultural.
Number one, coal, mountain-top mining, the fact that the Clintons came out against it and the Republicans are for it. The president‘s for it. The fact that Al Gore came out against, cutting out a top of a mountain with these big machines. That kind of mining is essential to the livelihood of those people. They don‘t like the Democrats position on it.
BUCHANAN: They don‘t like the Democrats‘ position on clean coal and these other things. They think coal is their future. They‘ve got an enormous amount of it. They see in the Congress of the United States, in the liberal wing of the Democratic party, total hostility.
MATTHEWS: Where are you on mountain-top mining?
BUCHANAN: I‘m not in favor of mountain-top mining, unless they put the top back on the mountain when they‘re done. That‘s what they weren‘t doing. They shave it right off.
MADDOW: There‘s two sets of interest with regard to the coal industry. Obviously, there‘s the health of the industry. Coal being very expensive is good for the economy of West Virginia, absolutely. The treatment of miners, and mining safety—
MATTHEWS: That‘s why mountain-top—Excuse me, Rachel. There‘s a conflict in your argument here. Deep mining is dangerous compared to mountain-top mining.
MADDOW: Mountain-top mining ruins the environment the people have to live in.
MATTHEWS: Are you more concerned with safety or environment?
MADDOW: I want both.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t have everything. You‘ve got to decide.
BUCHANAN: That‘s the problem with West Virginia for the party.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t have everything.
MADDOW: Miners‘ deaths, miners‘ unions, miners‘ safety, those issues matter to the people who have family members working in the mines.
MATTHEWS: You‘re going two miles down into the ground, and then you‘re going two miles over, it‘s going to be dangerous.
MADDOW: This is one of those things where government regulation, and government being well run matters and affects people --
MATTHEWS: Rachel, deep mining is always going to be dangerous to some extent.
ROBINSON: Coal or no coal, that‘s the bigger issue. West Virginia is definitely in favor of coal.
MATTHEWS: This is the issue. This is why people in West Virginia are not just turned off to big city ways or cultural change or anything, they‘re thinking, whose interests are carrying my interests? Do the Democrats have an interest in looking out for coal miners like me? Yes or no? How about guns? You may not think it‘s an important issue to people. It‘s not a cultural, issue, by the way. It‘s a rights issue to people, a Constitutional issue to them. Do the Democrats take a Second Amendment position which is not Second Amendment? That‘s the question you‘ve got to ask.
BUCHANAN: These are all the values issues.
MATTHEWS: You call them values—
BUCHANAN: These are god and country issues.
ROBINSON: In that, case, though, they ought to be Obama supporters. He‘s the only candidate I know of, at least the only Democrat, who said there is a Second Amendment right to individual gun ownership.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not just for the militia. Let me ask you all, is West Virginia in play in the general? If not, does that mean trouble for the Democrats? Pat?
BUCHANAN: We‘ll find out tonight.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean? How so?
BUCHANAN: If he loses by 35 points, if I were him, I wouldn‘t put money in there. I‘d go for Virginia instead of West Virginia. If he gets beat that bad, Chris, you don‘t put your resources in something that‘s that long a shot.
MATTHEWS: So Hillary can‘t deliver it for him if she joins him?
BUCHANAN: If she‘s on the ticket, then I‘d poll it. If I polled it and I was within five or ten of McCain, I‘d go in.
MATTHEWS: She‘d make her his mountain mama?
BUCHANAN: Mountain mama, yes.
MATTHEWS: Bring him home, West Virginia. Can Mountain Mama bring her home to West Virginia.
MADDOW: I think if 100,000 new Democrats are registered in West Virginia, then yes, it could be in play, no matter who the candidate is.
ROBINSON: I think West Virginia will not be a great state for Obama, but he should compete there anyhow.
MATTHEWS: I think for spiritual and moral reasons, Democrats should look out for regular people. Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan—according to the Daily Kos and according to me—Eugene Robinson, Rachel Maddow. We‘ll be seeing you guys tonight. We‘ll also see you in a moment, when our coverage, live coverage of the West Virginia primaries gets underway. Keith Olbermann, already in the room, will join me after a short break for results and analysis. This is MSNBC, the obvious place for politics.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET