updated 5/15/2008 10:00:20 AM ET 2008-05-15T14:00:20

Guests: Ron Allen, Pat Buchanan, Mike Barnicle, Lee Cowan, Jill Zuckman, Roger Simon, David Shuster, Chris Van Hollen, David Corn, Michelle Bernard, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Hillary Clinton‘s view of the universe.  Will the world she inhabits permit defeat?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Well, Hillary Clinton supporters last night made it very clear where they stand after her huge victory in West Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s not over!  It‘s not over!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not over!  It‘s not over!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s not over!  It‘s not over!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not over, and it‘s not over for her, either.  But what happens now?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The bottom line is this.  The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Senator Clinton huddled with her staff in Washington today, and we‘re all trying to read the tea leaves.  Does she plan to go all the way to the convention in Denver in late August?  And should Barack Obama be worried more than he‘s been worried?  What started out as a campaign problem with white working class-voters in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio has turned into a disaster in West Virginia.  Does Barack Obama have a bigger problem than we first thought?  And if so, is there anything he can do to fix it?

Also, that thud you heard last night coming from Mississippi was Republican congressional hopes for a fall victory.  It looks like a Democrat has won a House seat down there that has been Republican for years.  That‘s the third such switch from Republican to Democrat in three special elections so far.  Are we looking at another Democratic landslide in the fall?  And what could this mean for the presidential race?

Plus, tonight in the “Politics Fix”‘ The latest threat to Republican hopes in the fall may come from within, from the very own version of Ralph Nader.  And what one Clinton volunteer wished she hadn‘t said about West Virginians, especially since it was caught on tape.  We‘ll that have tale of the tape in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first, Hillary Clinton‘s big win in West Virginia, and it was a big win.  NBC‘s Ron Allen join us.  A huge win, to me.  It must have come as a thump to the Barack Obama forces to lose all those people in a state that used to be a Democratic state.  What‘s it mean to Hillary?

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s uncertain what it means to Hillary.  I think it means that she can really make a strong case to the superdelegates that she can win these voters.  Now, whether or not that gets her the nomination I think is another question.  Maybe gets her to be the vice president, which is something that I go back and forth on and a lot of people go back and forth on.  It also, I think, highlights that Barack Obama perhaps does have a problem with this particular constituency and he needs to do something about it.

MATTHEWS:  Is that acting, all that we just saw, the pointing into the crowds to people she knows?  I heard (INAUDIBLE) the press (INAUDIBLE) Dana Milbank at “The Washington Post” says she‘s pointing at some guy she just walked in the door with.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This whole exuberance, this wide-eyed and thrill—is the

I‘m not knocking it, but is this great political acting we‘re watching here?

ALLEN:  Probably.  There are probably people out there that she does know, and yes, you know, she...

MATTHEWS:  I mean...

ALLEN:  She can step off a plane and wave, and of course, there‘s nothing but cameras down there.  And as you well know, a lot of this is theater, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, what about the overall exhibits of last night?  I‘m not going to put down any political skills.  Every one of them use them.  But the notion that she really is very close to either overtaking Barack Obama or in a very tight race with him—is that theatrical?  Is that imaginary?

ALLEN:  Well, if you do the math, it seems to be because we all know the rules, proportional distribution of delegates, so on and so forth.  But I—but I do think—and this what you find beyond Washington when you‘re out there, that there is a real passion for this woman.  The other night before the West Virginia primary, we walked into a college gym and there were maybe 5,000 people.  And the place was really rocking.  And she doesn‘t often get crowds like that.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ALLEN:  But when she does, you really feel it.  And there is a lot of passion.  There is a lot of support.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve seen those crowds.  I saw them in New Hampshire and other where—let me ask you this.  Do those people, when you interview them and you get a chance to weigh into those crowds, do they know the numbers (INAUDIBLE) or do they live in a separate universe with Senator Clinton, where the numbers that we get from Chuck Todd and Tim Russert and others...

ALLEN:  No, they don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  ... don‘t click?

ALLEN:  Nobody parses the number like that.  People think it‘s close.  They see it as close.  They think anything can happen.  You know, the whole gas tax holiday is another example of how I think the insiders saw it one way.  They knew it was not going to happen on Capitol Hill.  But out there in the real world, people were just, you know, dying to see this happen.  Everybody said the same thing, almost, We got to do something.

So yes, I don‘t think people parse the numbers and the delegate math.  They just think it‘s a close race.  She tells them that, and people believe it.  And you know, in some ways, it is a close race.

MATTHEWS:  I found myself almost believing it last night, thinking—

Senator Clinton is a very smart person, a very skilled political figure.  And I watched her last night in an almost gleeful manner.  I kept thinking, Is there something she knows that all the people keeping the numbers don‘t know?

Let‘s look at more of Senator Clinton last night at that amazing victory in Charleston, West Virginia, last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  There are some who have wanted to cut this race short.

(BOOS)

CLINTON:  They say, Give up.  It‘s too hard.  The mountain is too high.

(BOOS)

CLINTON:  But here in West Virginia, you know a thing or two about rough roads to the top of the mountain.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, again, these opposition figures she talks about.  Barack Obama has not called for her to withdraw.  I guess—is she talking about Nancy Pelosi?  The media seems to love this circus, from what I can tell.  I‘m speaking for my brethren.  Everybody loves this close race.  Who wants it to end besides Barack Obama‘s people, who seem to want...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  ... the media who‘ve been saying, Get out.  You know, you read the same stuff that we do, that I do.  You know, there are a lot of editorials and that‘s the tone of them.  The naysayers and the pundits, as she called them...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ALLEN:  ... they‘re bad guys.  But yes, she plays well to a crowd.  I thought that speech was very—you know, it was very unusual, too.  And you asked earlier—there was no speech writer who came in to do this, they said, or they wouldn‘t concede it.  This was the same team that normally does this.  But it was different.  It was different in tone.  It was more like a lecture, I thought, to the superdelegates.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  You wrote that on your blog.

ALLEN:  More that than victory rally and all that.  It was very precise...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Ron.  Last question to you.  Is there an inner core of Hillaryland, wherein it even is more penetrated, it‘s deeper in than, say, oh, Ann Lewis, deeper in than, say, Howard Wolfson, deeper in than Terry, where people around her just say, You‘re always right, Hillary.  You‘re always right.  You‘re going to win.  You‘re going to win.  You‘re going to win.  Is it Sid Blumenthal??  Is it Susan Thomases?  Who‘s in that inner circle that keeps telling her, You‘re winning?  Or am I imagining this?

ALLEN:  I think the tightest person in the circle is Bill Clinton.  And they‘re—yes, they‘re probably telling her she‘s winning, but she‘s not—you know, she‘s a very bright, smart woman.  She know what‘s going on.  To some extent, this is about more than just her running for president because there‘s a whole movement of people out there who support her in her own right now.  And that‘s something that I think has really changed...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She has legions of supporters.

ALLEN:  She does, and the party has to deal with that.

MATTHEWS:  And she has to decide where to lead them at some point, if she can‘t lead them to the White House her.  Anyway, thank you, Ron.  It‘s great.  What an assignment you got.

Let‘s bring in—I mean, it‘s hard to read this thing sometimes—let‘s bring in MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan and Mike Barnicle to talk about what Hillary wants.  And I guess, gentlemen, starting with you, Pat Buchanan—

Hillary Clinton looked like a woman with a mission last night, in fact, a mission she was succeeding with.  I just couldn‘t read any defeat in her eyes last night.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You know, I think Hillary Clinton is a leader not only of a women‘s movement but a great cause.  She sees herself at the head of an army that may, if it gets lucky, win this battle, but if it doesn‘t, it will be a great lost cause.  I don‘t think she‘s looking at mundane things, Chris.  I think behind her is some measure of hope that maybe, maybe something can happen that will turn around what appears to be an inexorable lost cause but a very close one.  So I think that‘s the woman we saw up there last night.  There was hope in those eyes.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I wonder.  I just wonder whether it‘s based on something we don‘t know—Mike.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, first of all, this bonding of Pat and Hillary...

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  ... as I‘ve witnessed, is just a wonderfully refreshing thing to experience.  But you know, Chris, and certainly Pat knows, there is an isolation within every candidacy, whether it‘s running for town selectman, or in this case, for the presidency of the United States.  So that might account for some of Hillary Clinton‘s physical appearance in the light of the numbers, which every independent analyst says are horrific for her to climb.

But there‘s also something else, I think, going on here.  And it is, if you consider where this woman was six months ago—ahead in every imaginable poll, hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank, a primary system seemingly geared to her winning it all on Super Tuesday because she was the most widely known and the most well-funded candidate—and to see such a precipitous fall, she might now be standing up, and God love her if she is doing this, for her own pride, her own dignity.  And as Willy Loman would say, attention must be paid to this woman.  That might be what is behind this right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

BUCHANAN:  Chris, I was...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  ... with Ronald Reagan in 1976.  I knew—I mean, I wasn‘t, you know, part of his entourage, but I was behind him and I was at the convention with him.  I knew he was going to lose, but I‘ll tell you this.  You know when the roll call came, I saw hard-core right-wingers out there crying their eyes out when they had to have known this was all over.

A lot of these folks with Hillary, these women especially, I think, You go, girl!  I think they‘ve got a real hope this can be done.  And it doesn‘t look to us, when we look at it hard-headed, like it can be done.  But she‘s leading them, and I think she‘s leading them in a very good way.  I think when it come to an end, she‘s going to realize that it‘s over and you‘ve got to bring these two giant armies together.  But right now, I think maybe she does think this deus ex machina is going to come in...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  ... and somehow save this.

MATTHEWS:  Something‘s going to happen here, the alley-oop play, I call it.  She gets the ball to the basket but somebody puts it in, or some event does.

Here‘s Senator Clinton last night talking about unity, which is the turn in the speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  ... until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard.  I want to commend Senator Obama and his supporters.  This continues to be a hard-fought race from one end of our country to the other.  And yes, we‘ve had a few dust-ups along the way, but our commitment to bring America new leadership that will renew America‘s promise means that we have always stood together on what is most important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ron Allen, this is just amazing.  And you watch this day to day.  But here‘s what I find, trying to figure this thing out.  It‘s one thing to say you‘re going to stay in the race a little bit longer.  The speech last night sounded like she was going to stay in this race a lot longer, not three more weeks.  And the confetti and the pointing to people, all the theatrics—Redman Walsh (ph), good work on the confetti, by the way—all this work of campaign moonshinery, if you want to call it, all as if she‘s going for the long haul.  We‘re talking maybe a two, three-week, more like, campaign, but she talked like, I‘m going for a year here, all the way to Denver.

ALLEN:  But don‘t you have to—you have to—don‘t you have to convince your supporters of that?  Don‘t you have to convince your donors of that?  Don‘t you have to really put on a show, regardless, even if you‘re going to drop out tomorrow?  It‘s been amazing to me how some of these campaigns just—you wake up the next morning, and they‘ve fallen off the edge of a cliff.  And I‘ve covered a couple in this cycle, Romney and Huckabee...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  Yes.  But I think that the important thing is that, as Pat said, I think, it‘s really a movement.  There‘s something out there that‘s different from when this started.  And you know, again, even if she doesn‘t become the nominee, there is a power out there.  There is something out there that‘s Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Hillary Clinton, Ron, talking, and gentlemen, talking to NBC‘s Brian William about the chance we‘ll have a brokered convention to watch come Denver late in August.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”:  Senator, what is the chance that the Democrats go into their convention without a clear nominee?  Are we still going to be talking about this at the convention?

CLINTON:  I think we‘ll have a nominee.  I really believe that.  But again, we‘ll know a lot more on June 4.  And maybe I just have more patience than the average person these days, but for me, it‘s a privilege and a joy to travel around our country, to make my case to people from one coast to the other, and to continue to,  you know, work as hard as I can to win this nomination.  And that‘s what I intend to do, and you know, we‘ll get to June the 4th after the last votes are cast on June the 3rd, and I think we‘ll have a better idea about where we stand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re on live television.  I just heard through my ear that John Edwards—we‘ve been waiting this for a long time.  I want to go around the door (ph) here with everybody, around the horn.  Ron Allen, the endorsement of John Edwards—it‘s imminent.  It‘s happening right now.  For Barack Obama.

ALLEN:  It‘s certainly, you know, great news for Barack Obama.  There‘s a couple things that could happen over the next few days, and that could just sort of nail the whole thing down, not just a big endorsement like that but getting the majority of pledged delegates after Kentucky and Oregon next week, the superdelegates...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... I believe, 18 more delegates.  This guy...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  Exactly.  He‘s—we were doing the math before I came up here.  Well, I wasn‘t, but some people were.  He‘s very close to that majority, very close to that majority of pledged delegates.

MATTHEWS:  So he‘ll reach it probably next Tuesday in Oregon.

ALLEN:  Yes, if not sooner.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, with the superdelegates joining in.  That‘s right.

ALLEN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, we‘ve got finally—the snow cone has melted, or whatever.  He‘s finally moved.  I don‘t know where that reference came.  But the North Carolina man, there he is, John Edwards, who really had a good chance, a lot of people thought, to be the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, except he came up against Hillary Clinton.  And the anti-Hillary vote divided between him and Barack Obama to Barack‘s favor—Mike Barnicle.

BARNICLE:  I just think, given the math of the situation, he‘s just one more number, a bigger bold-faced number, considering who he is.  Can he help anywhere down the road?  Can he help in Kentucky?  Can he help in Oregon?  We‘re going to find that out, I guess, within the next few days.  But right now, might be too little, too late for him personally but not for Barack Obama, certainly.

BUCHANAN:  For Edwards...

MATTHEWS:  Well, we got a confirmation, Pat.  It is a fact.  He is endorsing Barack Obama for president, John Edwards.

BUCHANAN:  I think Mike is right, the train has left the station.  I don‘t think it‘s all that important.  I don‘t think it‘s going to change Oregon or Kentucky in any way.  This thing is set.  These two armies are headed down toward that convention.  Chris, I think we all agree Barack‘s going to go in there with more delegates, as of now.  So I don‘t think it changes anything.  It might have...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute, wait a minute, Pat.  Not so fast.  You‘re saying that neither one will have the requisite majority, that they‘ll to have battle it out in the first roll call?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think what‘s going to happen is Hillary‘s going to do this.  We know how the thing‘s going to play out through Puerto Rico.  She could have the most—total most votes, if you include Puerto Rico.  I think they‘ll have the battle.  I think they‘ll have Michigan and Florida settled in some way or another.  I think the superdelegates will be falling in.  My guess is you will have a nominee before you reach the convention...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  ... that the superdelegates will decide...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Pat, you are falling for the Clinton view of the universe...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  No, I think Obama will go into the convention...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... talking about popular votes.

BUCHANAN:  Carter will...

MATTHEWS:  And you are using the lingo of Hillary and Terry McAuliffe.

BUCHANAN:  Look—look, I‘m telling you, I think Obama will go into the convention, like Ford did, with enough delegates to win it on the first ballot.  But I think she will go right to the convention in second place, OK?

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that she‘ll still be a candidate come August?

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  I hate to predict.  I—she said we‘ll know a lot more June 4.  I‘ll take her at her word.  Terry McAuliffe...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... was on last night.  She didn‘t think so.  Terry McAuliffe has been signaling a decision will be made in June, in terms of...

BUCHANAN:  My guess is she...

MATTHEWS:  ... that all the delegates will move in June.  Pat, you think they won‘t move enough to...

BUCHANAN:  No, I think...

MATTHEWS:  ... give him a majority.

BUCHANAN:  I think he‘ll move—maybe move even to give him the majority.  I think she will suspend her campaign, not attack him, but I think she will hold her endorsement, would be my guess—that‘s what I would do—because she‘s got the whip hand.  He‘ll have to come to her.  Hold it...

MATTHEWS:  She suspends...

BUCHANAN:  ... until you get to the convention.

MATTHEWS:  That is—Michael, as the Irish would say, that‘s an act of begrudgement if she suspends.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Either you support a guy, or you don‘t.  You don‘t say, I‘m going to suspend.  It looks like he‘s won.  What do you think, Michael?

BUCHANAN:  I‘m going on a vacation.

BARNICLE:  You know, Ron would certainly know much more about this than I would.  But if you listen to the clips that we repeatedly play, that you just played, Chris, that we‘ve been listening to for the past 24 hours, from last night—if you listen to her response to Brian Williams in the interview this afternoon, you can sort of hear her saying, I think, in a way, Lookit, I know I have been a disappointment as a candidate.  I know my campaign has disappointed me.  I‘m not going to disappoint you in these waning days of what‘s left...

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

BARNICLE:  ... in my campaign.

MATTHEWS:  You are—you are magnificent, Michael.  I‘m not sure she said that...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN:  I thought there was a lot of that in the speech last night, too.  I thought there was.  There were times when she said things like, I will support the nominee.

BUCHANAN:  Oh, I think she will.

ALLEN:  You remember?  And she was very clear about that and I...

MATTHEWS:  I thought she was saying there‘s a lot of blame to go around for the failure of my campaign, and none of it‘s coming to me.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  You are awful!

ALLEN:  I have to get  back on the bus, so I‘m not going to agree with that!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Ron Allen.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan, Mike Barnicle.

Coming up: Will the endorsement of John Edwards help Barack Obama win working-class voters?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

John Edwards, the presidential candidate, has now endorsed Barack Obama for president.  And after Hillary‘s landslide victory in West Virginia, especially among white working-class voters, will the Edwards endorsement help Obama? 

NBC‘s Lee Cowan is out there in Grand Rapids at the Obama rally.  He joins us now by phone. 

Lee, how big a role is he going to play in this campaign? 

LEE COWAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think it is hard to tell, Chris. 

I mean, we‘re not even at the rally.  We‘re on our—we‘re actually on the bus on the way to the rally.  And the campaign just confirmed for everybody that—that Edwards was in fact going to endorse tonight. 

I think there‘s so much question, though, as you have been talking about, did he wait too long?  Does this really have that much of an impact?  I think they‘re certainly hoping that he would be able to help with a lot of those—those—those white working-class voters that he‘s been having a hard time with. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COWAN:  But just how much of role he‘s going to play and how much it‘s really going to help, is it too late, now that it‘s pretty much settled?  I think it‘s—it is hard to tell. 

MATTHEWS:  I was impressed that he got 7 percent yesterday in a race that he had completely dropped out of in West Virginia. 

COWAN:  You know, certainly the campaign isn‘t happy about that at all. 

I think you saw yesterday they didn‘t pay any attention to it.  You saw the event last night, which was about as far from a victory rally as you can get.  So, I think that this certainly does serve to help take attention away from that loss yesterday.  People can start focusing on this.  It is a little good news for the campaign, as they‘re out here campaigning in these general election states. 

So, it does take the focus away from that loss.  But they‘re still looking forward to—to Oregon.  I think they‘re looking forward to North Dakota as well, even though they know that she‘s probably going to take Kentucky. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Lee Cowan, who is with the Barack Obama campaign. 

Roger Simon is chief political columnist for “The Politico.”  And Jill Zuckman is with “The Chicago Tribune.”

Jill, you first. 

This looks like it may be a little of help in a tough week. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE CHICAGO

TRIBUNE”:  A tough week for Senator Obama? 

I—I don‘t think it is so tough.  Every day, he is rolling out more superdelegates for him.  I mean, it was a nice night for Senator Clinton yesterday.  But I think Senator Obama is moving on towards the general election. 

And it is nice that he has got John Edwards, but it probably would have been nicer if he had endorsed before Ohio or before North Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t it cause trouble when you‘re losing almost two-thirds of the white voters in primary after primary? 

ZUCKMAN:  Look, he—his campaign has to be concerned about what is going to happen in West Virginia. 

MATTHEWS:  Among Democratic white people, not just as a group. 

ZUCKMAN:  Right, absolutely, but that has been an issue for a long time. 

MATTHEWS:  Roger.

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM:  A lot of those voters will come back to him. 

I mean, we shouldn‘t confuse the primary with the general election.  Just because Hillary Clinton won West Virginia by 40 points, an extremely impressive victory, doesn‘t mean she is going to—would carry West Virginia in November if she were the nominee.  It doesn‘t necessarily mean that Barack Obama is going to lose it in November if he is the nominee, although I suspect both Democrats will probably lose it in November. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s an old Hillary argument, because he‘s been rolling up the score the states Democrats never win in generals, all those Western states. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  But he also has won some swing states. 

But, once again, we‘re not talking about the general election.  In the general election, he‘s doing fine in poll with those voters that we say he can‘t win.  In voters—he win every income group against John McCain except those voters making $100,000 or more. 

And I doubt any Democrat is going to win those kind of voters.  His campaign is constantly on the phone saying, you guys are looking at the wrong metrics.  Look at the general election and see how he does against John McCain.  He is doing just fine against John McCain.  And he‘s got this thing wrapped up against Hillary.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Let me be more blunt here, Jill and Roger. 

ZUCKMAN:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  We looked at the exit polls last night.  And everybody did.  In West Virginia, there was a lot more public evidence of race as being a factor, in a state that‘s overwhelmingly white, where people were voting against Barack Obama and mentioning race. 

ZUCKMAN:  It was brutal.

MATTHEWS:  First time it has been so dramatic. 

ZUCKMAN:  Absolutely.  It was brutal. 

It is clearly something that the campaign is going to have to confront for the general election. 

But I think most people expect, at this point, that he is going to be the nominee.  And I think the McCain campaign is happy about that, because, with him as the nominee, I think it gives John McCain a better shot in places like West Virginia, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Florida. 

They feel pretty good about it.  But he is just going to have to work on that.  And maybe Senator Clinton will be somebody who will help him with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the question about her role, because I think

you have to consider the possibility that, when she went out there and said

and Bill did in his own way—this is tribal voting pattern going on here, and sort of giving it something of a license.  Let‘s be honest about it.

You start talking about white—hardworking white workers and whatever, you start using lingo like that as a way of explaining a problem, you‘re basically identifying with the problem.  You‘re basically saying, well, obviously, they have to—he‘s got a problem, not that voters have a problem. 

It is like there‘s some—do you know what I mean?  It‘s like, he can‘t get whites.  Therefore, whites are voting the way they ought to vote.  And he has got to live with the fact they won‘t vote for him.  But isn‘t that licensing racial voting? 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  But every time we say that whites are not going to vote for him because he is black, I always get e-mails saying, well, why don‘t you ever say some blacks are going to vote for him because he is black?  What about the opposite side of the coin? 

Tactically speaking, Barack Obama has said, if he is on the ticket, if he is the top of the ticket, he will increase black voter registration in Southern states to such a degree that he will take Southern states that normally would be out of reach to the Democratic nominee.  And that replaces a lot of other states. 

He can afford to lose West Virginia, with its five electoral votes, if he is going to win Georgia, if he‘s going to win North Carolina, if he‘s going to win Louisiana. 

MATTHEWS:  Those are giant ifs. 

SIMON:  Big ifs, because it‘s really hard to do that voter registration in those numbers. 

ZUCKMAN:  But maybe—maybe places like Colorado.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I think we‘re going to, unfortunately, be talking about this ethnic or racial factor for the rest of this campaign. 

Thank you, Roger Simon, great writer. 

Thank you, Jill, great writer. 

Up next:  Word is out that President Bush does a spot-on imitation of the movie villain in “Austin Powers.” 

Plus, we will play the embarrassing voice-mail left by a Clinton campaign volunteer in West Virginia.  It‘s all coming up on the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s something, isn‘t it?

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Eliot‘s mess—more news out today on the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.  He was caught back in March for frequenting a prostitution ring, in case you hadn‘t heard.  Well, today, 32-year-old Temeka Rachelle Lewis, the chief booker of the operation, pleaded guilty to conspiracy relating to prostitution and money-laundering.  That makes her the first of four defendants involved in the case to face the judge. 

Eliot Spitzer himself has not been charged. 

An embarrassment of riches—the Clinton campaign apologized to Julie Corvo, a West Virginia woman, after her answering machine picked up some choice words from a campaign volunteer.  The campaign worker, unable to get Corvo to answer her phone, unintentionally left this little sugarplum for the hoped-for contributor. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi.  Hello?  This is crazy.  This person has just hung up.  Maybe they think it‘s a bill collector.  I bet it is.  West Virginians are poor.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Whoa.  Corvo told our NBC affiliate in West Virginia that she is not poor, she does not have bill collectors calling her, and she resents the stereotype. 

Well, you have to ask, though, if someone doesn‘t like being visited with a stereotype, why are they putting this whole thing out for us to think about?

Anyway, next, evidence of why might not want to have your vote based on which candidate you would rather have a beer with. 

Here‘s part of “The Politico”‘s interview with President Bush. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO.COM:  Speaking of impressions, our friend, Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” said you do a great impression of Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers.”

(LAUGHTER)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That‘s awfully—you mean this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MYERS, ACTOR:  Why make trillions when we could make billions? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  God, I don‘t know what to say.

What‘s sadder, that we have a president known for doing “Austin Powers” impressions or that it doesn‘t surprise us anymore? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And now it is time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

There‘s one presidential candidate, who despite hanging in the race for a while, despite doing lots of TV interviews, hasn‘t played a hugely important role in this election.  But that could be changing. 

Not only is John Edwards now endorsing Barack Obama, but, last night, he showed real signs of life at the ballot box.  What percentage of West Virginia Democratic primary voters went for John Edwards, who is not even running anymore?  A whopping 7 percent.  I‘m sure being Southern and—let‘s face it—in some cases, just being white didn‘t hurt. 

That‘s if you look at the exit poll confessions about the role that race apparently played in the voting West Virginia -- 7 percent for John Edwards, tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  A Democrat wins a House seat in a staunchly Republican district down in Mississippi.  And it is the third Republican House seat that has fallen to a Democrat this year.  What does that mean for John McCain‘s chances in November?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rising on better-than-expected inflation news and a drop in oil prices—the Dow Jones industrials gaining 66 points, the S&P 500 up about five, the Nasdaq up a point-and-a-half.

Inflation pressures easing in April, despite the biggest jump in food prices in 18 years.  Consumer prices edging up a smaller-than-expect two-tenths-of-a-percent. 

Meantime, oil prices easing today following a report U.S. inventories rose last week.  Crude fell $1.58 in New York, closing at $124.22 a barrel. 

Well, the AAA reports the national average for regular unleaded gas jumped 2.5 cents overnight to a new record high of $3.75 a gallon.

And more bad news on the home front: foreclosures filings surging 65 percent in April, compared to a year ago.  It‘s the highest monthly total on record—Yahoo! shares surging about 2 percent after hours.  Icahn is launching a proxy fight there. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

While so much of the political world is focused on Obama vs. Clinton, and McCain, of course, Democrats scored a huge upset victory in special congressional election last night in Mississippi.  It reinforces the GOP fears that Republican may be facing a political tsunami this fall in House and Senate races. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us live, right across the desk from me here. 

David, what is going on?  Three in a row. 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Three in a row.

And, Chris, today, across Washington, Republicans in Congress and Republican Party leaders were in shock today.  This district, this election was in northern Mississippi, in a district that Republicans had held for 13 years.  And it was a district that President Bush carried in 2004 by 25 points. 

But, last night, Democrat Travis Childers, who is a local courthouse official, beat the Republican, Greg Davis, a local mayor, 54-46.  Republicans had worked desperately to try to win this race, even sending Dick Cheney to the district to campaign. 

But the enthusiasm for the Democrat in the race was unstoppable. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRAVIS CHILDERS (D), MISSISSIPPI CONGRESSMAN-ELECT:  What I did have was the endorsement of the good working people of north Mississippi. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CHILDERS:  That‘s what we had.  And that‘s what we wanted. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CHILDERS:  That‘s all we ever wanted.  They can have all the big guns. 

I will take you any time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG DAVIS ®, FORMER MISSISSIPPI CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE:  Let me start off by saying, he may have won the battle, but the war is not over.  And, come November, we‘re going to take this to victory. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Now, Childers, the one you first saw, is a conservative Democrat. 

So, the Republican, Davis, and other Republicans tried to attack him by linking him to Barack Obama.  The idea was to try to peel away white voters from the Democrat. 

Here‘s one of the ads that was run. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR:  Travis Childers endorsed by liberal Barack Obama.  Obama says Childers will put progress before politics.  But when Obama‘s pastor cursed America, blaming us for 9/11, Childers said nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  That Republican ad, which Childers met with a response, it may have done the GOP more harm than good, because the district is about 25 percent African-American.  But African-American turnout was energized last night.  And they turned out in record numbers. 

The result last night could portend a horrible environment for Republicans this fall.  Republican Representatives John Boehner and Tom Cole, who are in charge of GOP elections in the House, they said today, they were deeply disappointed by the results and highly concerned. 

A few Republican said today that Boehner and Cole deserve some of the blame.  Other Republicans say, the problem is President Bush, who has a disapproval rating of 82 percent, the highest disapproval rating of any president in modern history. 

In any case, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, today offered this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  We won because we had great candidates who are true representatives of their districts and we look forward to welcoming Mr. Travis Childers to the Congress. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Polls universally show that voters across the country are extremely pessimistic about the direction of the country.  Right now, voters are taking it out on the party that controls the White House, the Republicans.  As you said, Chris, this is the third straight special election in which Democrats have won in a district that was a very strong Republican district. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  I guess that strategy needs to be readjusted.  David Shuster, thank you for joining us.  Let‘s bring in now the winner of this whole fight.  That‘s U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.  He happens to be my Congressman.  Congressman Van Hollen, let me ask you this question: what is your secret formula, just say Bush? 

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Bush has a lot to do with it.  This was a day of reckoning for the Republican congressional candidates and the Bush administration‘s record.  They threw everything they had at this race.  They sent Dick Cheney down there on Monday to try to get out the vote.  What they discovered was that Dick Cheney is as dangerous to Republican candidates as he is to his hunting partners.  And I think what you‘re seeing is a Republican policies over the last seven years catching up with lots of their candidates. 

We had a terrific candidate.  We had a candidate who reflected the values and priorities of that district. He‘s an independent-minded individual, Travis Childers.  In addition to that, though, you have the sense throughout the county—These are now three special elections where the Republican party is just out of touch with the every day concerns of working people in this country.  And that‘s catching up with them. 

MATTHEWS:  They weren‘t four years ago.  Let‘s take a look at this.  Congressman, in each of the districts that has held special elections this spring, President Bush won handily back four years ago.  In the Illinois 14th, President Bush won 55 percent in 2004.  The Republican candidate lost the special election this year, getting only 47.5 percent of the vote. 

In Louisiana, the sixth district, President Bush got 59 percent of the vote back four years ago.  The Republican lost a special election this year, getting only 46 percent of the vote.  The pattern holds again in Mississippi yesterday.  In the first district, Bush got 62 percent four years ago.  Yesterday, the Republicans only got 46. 

So can you continue this pattern, Congressman, across the country?  Where you‘ll knock—by this rate, you‘ll knock out the entire Republican congress.  If you can win in Mississippi and Louisiana, you can win Denny Hastert‘s seat, the former Speaker‘s seat in Illinois, where can‘t you win? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, this suggest that there is no place in America that is safe for Republican candidates who continue to run in the Bush-Cheney mold.  I think that their effort to try and say John McCain offers a different kind of alternative is going to fall flat, because he of course represents a continuation of Bush policies on Iraq and the economy, the fundamental issues. 

What this says, and these three special elections say, is that we can compete anywhere in this country.  After Illinois, the Republicans tried to write it off.  They said that was a one-shot wonder.  After Louisiana, they said, there are special circumstances.  And in all these cases, they‘ve tried to throw their candidates under the bus.  They‘ve said, well, we have flawed candidates. 

After Mississippi, they need to look at the fact that they have failed policies of the Bush administration that are dragging these guys down.  They say no to new ideas.  They veto good idea from the new Democratic Congress.  And they‘re supporting the status quo.  That is not a recipe for success. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, US Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  Up next, John Edwards endorses Barack Obama.  Will that help Obama win over blue collar voters?  Can‘t hurt.  The politics fix next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Our round table tonight, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, David Corn of “Mother Jones,” and Joan Walsh of Salon. 

Joan, we‘ll start with you.  Put it together.  Last night, Hillary Clinton won in West Virginia.  Tonight, big news, perhaps bigger news, John Edwards has endorsed Barack Obama. 

JOAN WALSH, “SALON”:  Well, it would have been nice if he had done it Monday and then maybe Obama could have carried the seven percent of the vote that Edwards got, not even being in the race.  That was a little bit weird. 

You know, Chris, I think it is interesting.  I think it is significant.  I am not going to downplay it.  I don‘t really know that it does anything to the electoral map.  What I would look at in the next couple of days is whether this is a symbol or a signal that other super delegates, other major Democrats are starting to feel like, hey, she might be hurting Obama by staying in the race and we would really like her to get out.  I don‘t know if that will work, but it is possible other people will come over to the Edwards side. 

He was saying for a while, you know, the party will need party leaders to heal this breach and bring people together.  That was part of why he was staying neutral. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re either looking at stock footage or we‘re looking at the coldest place in America.  I don‘t know where that is.  They‘re all wearing top coats.  You can‘t see this.  It‘s funny.  Somebody dug up—they wanted to get a picture of the two of them together.  They went way back to November.  Let‘s take a look. 

David Corn, the significance of John Edwards coming out.  We‘ve been hearing about their family dispute over this.  We hear all this buzz about Elizabeth wanted to go with Hillary.  He wanted to go with Barack.  The family has reached a consensus, apparently. 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  I don‘t even think he‘s a super delegate, so it is not one more vote for Barack Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  He has 18 delegates. 

CORN:  Yes, but it is part of a trend here.  You had Roy Romer the other day, who was a former DNC chairman, coming out.  I think party elders are basically gingerly saying it is time for you to go to Hillary Clinton.  This is the only way they can signal it. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there a sahedrin (ph) somewhere of party elders with beards?  Where are these elders meeting?

CORN:  That‘s the problem.  There is no committee. 

MATTHEWS:  There is no leaders.  Are there any elders even?

CORN:  They just do it independently.  But if enough people do it, it just shows that the tide is turning or that it has turned.  And she can go out for another three weeks, but not if she is not getting the backing of insiders. 

MATTHEWS:  Dutch Masters cigar box with all the basters of the cloth hall, when they‘re deciding these.  Where are these people meeting in some room somewhere? 

CORN:  “The Da Vinci Code.” 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder where these elders are meeting.  Michelle, your thoughts on the recruitment of John Edwards to the Barack campaign. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE:  I don‘t know how much it will help Senator Obama with votes.  But I think it is the symbol.  It is a white male coming out, the all elusive white male coming out and saying, I like you.  I support you.  I mean, Senator Obama has had some problem with getting his populist message out there.  He is continuing to have a problem reaching out to people who are poverty stricken.  John Edwards had a dedicated base and maybe those people would begin—

MATTHEWS:  He is perfect for this.  Not that he has a huge constituency, but if you think if about working people who don‘t have college degrees—that seem to be the way we talk these days.  Joan, you first, if you look at the subset—we‘re doing so stratifying in this country.  I hate it.  But we know have hard working white people.  We also have people without college degrees, who I guess are hard working white people.  I guess there are hard working black people who don‘t have college degrees.  That would be reasonable. 

WALSH:  I think there are lots of hard working people. 

MATTHEWS:  We have all these socio-metric overlays here.  But John Edwards, where does he help? 

WALSH:  I think he does help.  I think Michelle said something very smart.  When John Edwards dropped out of the race, something interesting happened.  I think that Hillary Clinton is the one who really assimilated much more of the John Edwards message.  She began to sound like John Edwards, whereas Obama continued with his very ethereal message about change and the process and changing Washington.  She is the one who has really been talking to people‘s bread and butter, kitchen table concerns. 

So I think there has been a lot of divisive talk about race in this.  Certainly there is racism.  But I don‘t think it is mainly racism.  I think if Obama can learn from the Edwards pitch and appeal, he will do better. 

CORN:  Let‘s also remember, the economy became more of an issue after Edwards dropped.  It was bad timing for John Edwards.  But also, we‘re talking about—

MATTHEWS:  Edwards left during three dollar gas.   

CORN:  We‘re talking about an intra-party fight now.  In the fall, it will be any Democrat versus John McCain.  And any Democrat is more populist than John McCain.  Yes, I think having Edwards on his side is going to help Barack Obama.  But while Hillary has out-populist Barack Obama in the primaries, John McCain will not be able to do that to Barack Obama in the general election. 

Having Edwards by his side certainly might help a bit.  But I think Barack Obama is going to have a better economic argument and a better argument on the war when it comes to the fall.

MATTHEWS:  Joan, I meet a lot of women my age—I‘ve said this a thousand time.  I do keep meeting them.  I meet them everywhere.  Everywhere I go in public.  They have a problem with the pundits, including me.  They‘re very pro-Hillary.  They‘re very committed to women getting an opportunity, in some cases, missed throughout their lives, and we all know the history of that.  Women have been prejudiced against at the job and things like that. 

They do have a cause hear that I‘m not sure Barack Obama is ready to champion.  Is he?  Even with the help of John Edwards, is he ready to be the feminist leader, the man who says women‘s opportunities have to be expanded and championed?  Is he that guy? 

WALSH:  I think he is.  I think he is that guy.  I think he has said that.  I think John McCain is now saddled with opposing legislation making equal pay lawsuits easier.  He has talked—he really hurt himself with that.  I think Obama has better policies.  Obama hurt himself today though, or yesterday, by calling a female reporter sweetie and not answering her question. 

So Obama really does need to watch a certain glibness in his tone. 

And I think he will have to work to get a lot of the Hillary base to him. 

But I think most of that female base will come. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow!  We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Michelle Bernard—we were—David Corn -

I used the teleprompter here effectively.  Joan Walsh, thank you for coming back.  Michelle Bernard and David Corn from “Mother Jones.”  It seems to me that a Democratic candidate ought to be able to appeal to the Democrats, the people who vote Democrat no matter who the candidate is.  People want Social Security.  They want public education.  They want health care.  They don‘t like the oil industry, sort of the basics, the blocking and tackling of running as a Democratic candidate.  Barack Obama, can he learn something from John Edwards and Hillary Clinton here?  Joan?

WALSH:  Yes, I think he can.  He is amazingly smart.  He is a fast learner.  I think he does need to kind of pick up on just a more populist way of talking about the problems people are facing in the economy.  I think it is also kind of interesting to look at the one big difference in this race, which is on the health care proposals, where Hillary has the more populist, progressive plan.  And Obama did make a choice to kind of triangulate, to use an old term, to go after independents and not come out with a mandate.  Independents don‘t like mandates. 

There are some choices that he‘s made along the way to appeal to the center.  They may pay off in the general election, but I think they have hurt him with some working class voters.  He‘s quite liberal, but they don‘t necessarily trust him on bread and butter issues.  I think he can get better on that.  I think he already has. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that‘s where he might compromise?  I‘ve been trying to figure out where he can throw her something of his support, where he‘s willing to give her an escape hatch.  If he were to come out and say, I like Hillary.  I‘m willing to go along with Hillary‘s plan.  We mandate young people to participate in health care to help older and less healthy people.  Wouldn‘t that be a way he could show a tip of the hat to her as she leaves the campaign?

CORN:  I think the best he could do is say that he would seriously consider it.  After all the fighting that‘s been done, after winning, he can‘t turn around and say, I was wrong about that.  That was the only policy dispute they had.  Like Joan, I like populist Democrats better than non-populist Democrats, but the Republican brand may be so terrible and so tarnished now that the us versus them populism may not have -- 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, will John Edwards campaign side by side in Kentucky this week, starting off the rest of the campaign, the last big fight?  Will he try to help Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in Kentucky, with a big push, a big John Edwards push in Kentucky to help him win? 

BERNARD:  No. 

CORN:  I think Obama‘s looking at the general election already. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Joan?  Will John Edwards become his traveling side kick to help him with white working class people? 

WALSH:  Why else would he endorse now?  That just went without saying for me.  I think he could help him in Kentucky.  I would assume that he‘s going on the road, but I don‘t have any information. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s a new buddy movie coming here in the next week or so, on the road.  Thank you, Michelle Bernard, David Corn, Joan Walsh.  Join us again in one hour at 7:00 Eastern for much more on the endorsement of John Edwards, a live show coming back of HARDBALL at 7:00 with this big endorsement news.  John Edwards is on the Obama express.  Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.

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

END   

www.voxant.com) ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,