updated 5/15/2008 10:01:47 AM ET 2008-05-15T14:01:47

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hey, breaking tonight: Former Democratic presidential, John Edwards has just endorsed Barack Obama for president.  Edwards had avoided picking sides for months but this evening, he joined Obama at the rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The reason I am here tonight is because the Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

EDWARDS:  There is one man—there is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership, there is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change that you have to build from the ground up.  There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two.  And that man is Barack Obama.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

EDWARDS:  This is not going to be easy.  It‘s going to be the fight of our lives.  But we‘re ready because we know that this election is about something bigger than the tired out hateful politics of the past.  This election is about taking down these walls that divide us so that we can see what‘s possible, what‘s possible that one America that we can build together.  Barack Obama understands that to his core.

This is our moment.  This is our time to take down these walls, to close our divide and build one America that we all believe in.  If you want that, if you believe in that, and join me in helping send Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because we believe that in our America.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

EDWARDS:  Because what all of us believe, what all of us believe is in this America that we love so much—no matter who you are, no matter who your family is, and no matter what the color of your skin, none of those things will control your destiny.  And that that one America that I‘ve talked about is not only possible but it will be achieved under President Barack Obama starting in January of 2009.  Thank you.  God bless you.  I‘m honored to be here with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And this comes on the heels of NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsing Obama today and Obama picking up 2.5 more superdelegates while Clinton picked up one.  So, the question, of course: What does this really mean?

Here now: Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the Huffington Post; Lynn Sweet, columnist for the “Chicago Sun-Times”; and MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford.  Joining us on the phone, former Edwards campaign adviser:

Mudcat Saunders.

All right.  First I go to you, Craig, how big a deal is this?

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think Edwards could be a big help to Obama in Kentucky.  The timing here was impeccable to step on the 41-point loss Obama suffered in West Virginia.

But it also raises—puts the focus on Kentucky next week where Obama is behind, if he can narrow that gap and have his victory speech in Oregon also that same night Oregon votes.  That will be good for Obama.  But not if he gets a big blowout like in West Virginia.

So, I think Edwards comes in to the picture just in time—if Edwards actually goes to Kentucky and campaigns.

ABRAMS:  Well, Let me ask you about that, Lynn.  I mean, people talk about these endorsements as being such a big deal and you covered politics a long time and yet you see when Ted Kennedy for example, endorsed Obama in Massachusetts, didn‘t seem to make that much of a difference.  I mean, do these endorsements, I don‘t mean it‘s just about Obama, in general, do you think endorsements mean that much?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  Ted Kennedy wasn‘t designed to help land Massachusetts in the Obama column, his name worth is helping, it was helping in superdelegates.  I think that‘s the point of John Edwards right now.  Kentucky is Hillary Clinton‘s probable last stand, last best place to have a big blowout to try and slow down the process.

John Edwards‘ worth right now is to just try and get the superdelegates or undeclared to go public, it‘s the big push that the Obama is on right now—lock it up through superdelegates, that‘s what they need more than the vote.  So, that if he does get stumped again in the Kentucky vote it just won‘t matter.

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff, look—you basically declared this thing over already.  So, I assume that you don‘t think it matters much, right?

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST EDITOR:  Exactly.  I mean, that‘s to me been the most comical thing about the thing was Clinton camp‘s reaction - they were like, yes, it‘s a blow but we think we can overcome it, they‘re acting like it still matters.  This isn‘t the final nail in the coffin, this is dirt thrown on the coffin that‘s already in the grave.

ABRAMS:  Let me play a piece - this is speaking of the Clinton‘s response, Terry McAuliffe on the Edwards endorsement just minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN:  People are going to endorse and they‘re going to come out.  But I think more importantly than anybody endorsing is what happened last night in West Virginia when Hillary Clinton won, as they say, the biggest turnout in West Virginia history and she won by 41 points.  That is the voters making a determination of who should be the nominee of the Democrat Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mudcat Saunders, what as a practical matter, can John Edwards do?  Can he bring out the blue-collar vote, will they now say—oh, my goodness, John Edwards is supporting Barack Obama so I will, too?

MUDCAT SAUNDERS, FMR. EDWARDS CAMPAIGN ADVISOR (through phone):  Well, you know, I agree with Craig on the fact that the timing of this was just impeccable.  Craig, of course, is from Kentucky and I‘m from south West Virginia and, you know, I think both of us understand the power of the culture.  And you know, there‘s been an awful lot made, you know, that Barack Obama‘s rise—I‘ve seen some things (INAUDIBLE) to me as the southern Appalachian boy, you know, people saying things about West Virginia people.

But, you know, Barack Obama made a decision to—decision to allow Hillary Clinton to brand herself as anti-trade and pro-gun.  Now, how that happened, I‘ll never know.

ABRAMS:  Let me come back to the Edwards thing though.  I mean, why did it take him, do you think, so long to make this decision?

SAUNDERS:  Well, I think because it was such an important decision.  And you know, John doesn‘t take it lightly.  You know, I had some people call me today and say, you know, his timing could have been better for him.  You know, I don‘t think that you look the endorser, you look at the endorsee‘s time and with Hillary getting blown up last night, I mean, he knocked the wind plum (ph) out of her sails.

But get back to what Edwards can do.

ABRAMS:  You mean the other way around.

SAUNDERS:  What he‘s been talking is he can get Barack Obama - help get Barack Obama in a position to where he can navigate the culture.  I don‘t think.

ABRAMS:  But you have to understand - but let me ask you this question.  You say get him in a position where he can navigate the culture.  I mean, it would be kind of stunning, would it not, if he didn‘t already have people on his staff could help him navigate the culture in Kentucky?  I mean, right?

SEKOFF:  Dan, isn‘t this more of an indication that the power players just want to wrap it up?

ABRAMS:  I think that‘s right.

SEKOFF:  I mean, I think that‘s what we‘re seeing there is that they don‘t want this thing to go on, so, this is what we‘re seeing—that‘s why we‘re seeing the superdelegates going to Obama quickly.  And that‘s what we‘re seeing here.

ABRAMS:  I think that‘s right.  Do you disagree, Craig?

CRAWFORD:  I think if it‘s over as people are saying, then we start talking about the general election.  And that is one thing West Virginia suggests is that that was an ominous sign for Barack Obama as Mudcat mentioned, the ability to navigate the culture.

And I‘ll tell you, Dan, be prepared to be stunned because I don‘t think the Obama campaign has a very good idea how to campaign for these voters and someone like John Edwards can help them learn.

(CROSSTALK)

SWEET:  In a very, very short term, John Edwards is still insurance to getting the primary—it is in Obama‘s interest to get the primary over sooner than later.  That‘s their goal now.  Then they can navigate, Craig, what you‘re talking about in the long term.  But they first need to get this done.

And as Hillary Clinton said, the best way to get it down is just to beat her.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on.

SAUNDERS:  If she thinks this thing is not done, she‘s a moron.  I mean, I probably get hit on the Internet tomorrow, but Hillary Clinton is dead chick walking and she has been for a while.

SWEET:  Mudcat, you have such a way of saying things.

ABRAMS:  But that brings up an interesting point, and it was a—a really good debate tonight between Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews on HARDBALL about this issue of Kentucky, about West Virginia and the Edwards endorsement.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL”)

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It‘s really a test for Barack.  He‘s going to go into Kentucky, he‘s not going to avoid it, he‘s got the big endorsement here.  He really ought to come in there and be able, frankly, as the front-runner for the nomination, the presumptive nominee, we all say, we‘ve all crowned him.

If he goes in there and gets walloped by her again, that‘s going to raise the West Virginia questions: What‘s the matter with this guy and white America?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST OF “HARDBALL”:  Those questions were raised 400 years ago, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  We‘ve been calling the white folks in West Virginia—the uneducated, they‘re half educated.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not calling them anything bad.  I‘m saying they don‘t like Barack Obama is all I‘m saying.

BUCHANAN:  Maybe they want this gal.  Maybe they like her like they did in Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wow.  All right, it was a fascinating debate.  But Craig, what do you make of it?  And what do you make of Pat‘s point?

CRAWFORD:  Well, I think, you know—I had the same little dustup with Chris myself on MORNING JOE this week.  And I do think there is a problem among these voters with Obama that goes beyond race.  I actually think Hillary might have beaten John Kerry by something like 41 points if the same situation in West Virginia.

There may be some racial element to it, but these are—let‘s remember, Obama didn‘t go try to win those votes.  He made basically one appearance in West Virginia.

So, I don‘t think they felt like he cared very much about them.  And this is—the thing I don‘t understand about where we are, the Obama camp and many of their friendly pundits are saying, “It‘s over, it‘s over.”  And I guess it is.

But what I can‘t understand is that if it‘s over, then it‘s over.  And why don‘t we start analyzing this on the basis of what it looks like for the general election?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Roy Sekoff, final thought.  I‘ve got to wrap it up here.

SEKOFF:  That‘s what‘s going to be significant, I think, about Oregon.  You know, it‘s white, it‘s predominantly working class, it has less of an income than the people in Ohio.  And I think that Obama is going to do very well there.  It would be a nice book end, he wins Iowa, he wins Oregon and then I think that dispels a lot of the problems.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Thanks to the panel.  The panel - a lot of are you going to coming back.

Coming up, another big boost for Obama, proof that the “Reverend Wright” smear tactic might not work against him after all—a big win for Democrats in the Mississippi race where the GOP tried to use Obama and Reverend Wright against the Democrats.

And tonight after Clinton‘s huge West Virginia win, isn‘t that further proof that Hillary Clinton should be Obama‘s pick for vice president?  I know.  I lot of you think—no way.  We‘ll debate that.

Plus: Congress and White House employees not paying their taxes, in fact, more than a $1 billion worth of unpaid taxes from federal employees.  Another reason Why America hates Washington coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Government employees not paying for their own salaries.  IRS says over there‘s 171,000 federal employees owed a total of $1.23 billion in taxes in October of 2007.  Among the deadbeats: about 430 employees of the House of Representatives, more than 210 Senate workers, and nearly 38 employed by the president.

Don‘t these people know who pays their checks?  Federal employees dodging Uncle Sam: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

Coming up: Last night, a Democrat wins a Mississippi congressional election despite efforts to link him to Reverend Wright.  Does it show the “Wright” smear won‘t work in November?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Hillary Clinton won a huge victory in West Virginia last night.  But an election hundreds of miles away may have been even more telling for November.

In Mississippi, Democrats score an upset victory in a special congressional election, a district President Bush won by 25 points in 2004.  The Democrat, Travis Childers won by eight points.  What makes this really interesting is that the GOP tried to link the Democrat with Senator Obama and Reverend Wright.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, GOP CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER:  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)

ABRAMS:  Republicans even dispatched Dick Cheney from his bunker to campaign.  The victory marks the third straight special election pick-up for Democrats in three months of what were Republican seats.  But is this a sign that efforts to smear Democrats with Reverend Wright won‘t work in November?  Barack Obama said, “Yes.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They did everything they could.  They could - you know, they ran ads with my face on it and they said, “Oh, you look at this, you know, a former liberal, you know, his former pastor said offensive things.”  I mean, they were trying to do every trick in the book to try to scare folks in Mississippi.

And it didn‘t work.  And the reason it didn‘t work is because the American people know we need a new direction in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff and Craig Crawford are back with us along with Republican strategist, Andrea Tantaros.

All right.  Roy, does this tell us that the Reverend Wright smear won‘t work?

SEKOFF:  Yes.  I think this really shows us how weak the GOP hand is.  Look, they can‘t run on the record.  Eighty-two percent of the people think that we‘re headed in the wrong direction.

ABRAMS:  But I‘m asking specifically about the Reverend Wright smear, does this show that trying to smear a candidate with Reverend Wright is not as powerful a tool as some might have thought as an attack ad?

SEKOFF:  Sure.  I mean, you know, they went with Wright, they went with Pelosi, they went with Reid, none of it worked.  So, I think, clearly, it puts them in a very tight corner.

ABRAMS:  Andrea?

ANDREA TANTOROS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I mean, I think that the reason that this went the other way had little to do with Reverend Wright.  I think it had to do with the fact that the Republican that was running offered no compelling reason to vote for himself and the Democrats acted more like a Republican than the Republican did.

ABRAMS:  But this is district where the Republican shouldn‘t have to do almost anything.  I mean, right?  I mean, this is one of those where the Republican can be just a Republican and win.

TANTOROS:  But this should be.

CRAWFORD:  But, Dan, I was.

TANTOROS:  (INAUDIBLE) for Republicans.  And I will say this, they have lost focus, they have lost their message.  My party has gotten away from what it stands for.  But the fact that the Democrat won because he was stood on a pro-gun, pro-life stance, tell me something.  He acted more like the Republican than the Republicans did.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but this is what Democrats in the south do a lot of the time.

Craig Crawford, I want to read you this quote, and I‘m going to let you respond.  This is in GOP House leadership aide said to Politico before the election, “If we don‘t win in Mississippi, I think you‘re going to see a lot of people running around here looking for windows to jump out of.”

So, the question is, that‘s I think why they tried the Reverend Wright smear here: Does it show us anything about what will happen in November?

CRAWFORD:  As far as the Reverend Wright case goes, I don‘t know that we can read too much in this particular election nationwide because, as was mentioned, this was a Democrat who was pro-gun, pro-life, very conservative, very well known in the district, the businessman—who people also didn‘t connect with Obama, didn‘t find it reasonable to connect him to Obama.  He had been publicly disassociated himself from Obama.  And Obama wasn‘t asked to go there and campaign for him on notice (ph).

So, I think it‘s a stretch for Obama or anyone else to read too much into that.

SEKOFF:  Well, but they did try to nationalize it, right, Dan?  I mean, they brought in Cheney, Huckabee came in there, they ran on Reid, they ran on Pelosi, that‘s the strategy and it failed miserably.  I mean, you‘ve got to look the (INAUDIBLE), right?

TANTOROS:  What does it say when the Democrat in the race literally ran from the endorsement of Barack Obama?  Are congressional Democrats going to do this if he‘s at the top of the ticket?  Not exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  This is a ticket-splitting country.  This is a part of the world that‘s known for ticket-splitting.  Democrats are very accustomed to voting for Democrats for Congress and state local races, and Republicans in the presidential races.  I really think it‘s a stretch to say too much about the national impact on this.

ABRAMS:  Fine.  Let‘s assume that all of you are right, right?  That this is still a conservative district, right—where the Democrat had to run effectively as a very conservative Democrat—fine.  But they tried the Reverend Wright smear, they still tried it, they tried to link the Democrat to Obama and to Reverend Wright and it didn‘t work.  It didn‘t work.

TANTOROS:  You‘re right.

CRAWFORD:  There could have been a - there could have been a backlash, I mean, about ¼ of voters in this district are African-American, there‘s probably backlash there.  You know, Democrats tried some ads attacking the Republican claiming that he wanted to put up a statue of the KKK founder which wasn‘t true, as an effort by Democrats to stir up votes against the Republican, among African-Americans.  So, there was a lot going on in this race beyond Wright.

ABRAMS:  Final thought, Andrea.  Is it going to make people - is it going to make Republicans think twice about using Reverend Wright as an attack ad?

TANTOROS:  Well, absolutely and how they use Reverend Wright as an attack ad.  I think in the national stage, if they‘re going after Barack Obama, it‘s a question of his credibility.  Why did he embrace Reverend Wright when it was politically expedient?  And why did he distance himself when it was politically expedient?

ABRAMS:  You would think is that such a powerful argument that it would have some impact.

TANTOROS:  But how would it?  They were trying to link the Democrat with no connection to Barack Obama.  I mean, a direct connection to Barack Obama is one thing, but trying to link Childers to Barack Obama.  If Republicans are going to do that, they better think twice, it‘s not going to work.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Thanks to my panel.  Coming up.

CRAWFORD:  That‘s just too many degrees of separation there.

TANTOROS:  Exactly.

CRAWFORD:  I mean, the degrees of separation are just too many. 

Wright is going to hurt Obama and probably no one else if he hurts anyone.

ABRAMS:  All right. The panel is going to come back.

Coming up, may not of the inside D.C. media pundits may not think it‘s a good idea, I know.  But hasn‘t Hillary Clinton earned the spot as V.P.?  Isn‘t this about winning in November, not who certain Obama supporters like better?  We‘ll debate it.

And Barbara Walters does a disturbing impression.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  Your e-mails are in the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  We‘re back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: After “60 Minute‘s” great Morley Safer criticized FOX‘s Sean Hannity, FOX pollster, Frank Luntz apparently saw an opportunity to stuck up to Hannity but also offered what sure sounded like a disturbing prognostication about Safer‘s life span.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY & COLMES‘. FOX NEWS)

FRANK LUNTZ, FOX POLLSTER:  You‘re doing a lot better than Morley Safer‘s doing right now, Sean.  You got 40 years to go, he‘s lucky if he‘s even got 40 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s nice, Frank.

Next up: CNN‘s Campbell Brown is showing why we love her—she can correct herself and do it with class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CNN ELECTION CENTER”/MONDAY)

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN HOST:  And he said he must, quote, “start wearing the flag laple pin.  Sorry—what did I say?  Laple pin, lapel, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Finally: What you‘re about to see is the ultimate sign that Barbara Walters is grand dame of television news.  On CNN she had the confidence to do what only Barbara could get away with.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”/CNN/MONDAY)

BARBARA WALTERS, GUEST:  Hello, Larry.  Who is this, Larry?

LARRY KING, SHOW HOST:  Senor Wences.

WALTERS:  Senor Wences.

KING:  It‘s all right.

WALTERS:  And there was a - I‘m afraid.  (INAUDIBLE).  And there was a man in the box, remember?  Open the box.  Close the box.  Open the box.  Close the box.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Only Barbara.

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site: Verdict.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box.

Up next: Hasn‘t Hillary Clinton earned the right to be Obama‘s V.P.?  And despite the fact that many Obama supporters don‘t want her, isn‘t the real question: Will she help Obama win?  We‘ll debate it.

And later: Karl Rove is still refusing to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the possible political prosecution of the former Democratic governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman.  Congressman Wexler from that committee and Governor Siegelman will be here live.

Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Breaking tonight, just hours ago, former presidential candidate John Edwards officially endorsed Barack Obama after refusing to pick sides for more than four months.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND

BARACK OBAMA SUPPORTER:  There is one man that knows how to create the change - the lasting change that you have to build in the ground up.  There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two, and that man is Barack Obama. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now on the phone is NBC‘s Lee Cowan who is covering the Obama campaign and has just arrived in Chicago.  Lee, thanks for joining us.  All right, look, everyone has been talking about this campaign as basically a done deal, that Obama is going to win.  So how much does an Edwards endorsement matter?   

LEE COWAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think it‘s interesting.  I mean the senator just came back and chatted with us briefly on the flight back to Chicago.  He thinks he‘s going to help a lot.  I mean, look, you know, the fact that this - what happened in Michigan was I don‘t think any accident.  He needs those white blue collar voters if he‘s going to win in a state like Michigan in the general election.  And I think he thinks a lot of the followers of John Edwards are very loyal and he thinks that that will actually help him out quite a bit.  

ABRAMS:  What did he say specifically?   Can you tell us exactly what Sen. Obama said about this? 

COWAN:  Well, you know, he said he doesn‘t really know what put John Edwards over the edge.  They had been talking for quite some time.  The last conversation they had was last night when John Edwards called him and said, “Look.  I think I‘m going to come out and support you.”  And this was the end of several conversations, the senator said.  But he wasn‘t really sure what put him over the edge. 

They talked about the poverty initiatives that John Edwards made, sort of the centerpiece of this campaign, something that Barack Obama said he plans to continue on focusing on in his campaign as well as his presidency.  But in terms of the specific, you know, was it certain issue?   Was it the math for Hillary Clinton?   What was it?  He said he just wasn‘t sure. 

When we asked him point blank, “Look, a lot of people have said you look pretty good up there as a ticket.  Is that a possibility?”  His response was, you know, “We‘ll (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anybody‘s short list.”  It‘s not something he specifically asked John Edwards about but something he would certainly consider but with the caveat, that it‘s a little premature, because he‘s still got some fight left to do before he‘s the actual nominee.

ABRAMS:  NBC‘s Lee Cowan, thanks very much.  That is the question we‘re going to be talking about now.  Moving on now, why wouldn‘t Barack Obama choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate?  I know, the pundits and some Obama supporters love to say, “It will never happen.  She runs contrary to the message of change.  The fight between them has been too bitter.”  I get it. 

But to me, the only Obama question should be, would she help him win?  Clinton‘s tidal wave victory in West Virginia last night may not have done much to shake up the race, basically, the foregone conclusion that she‘s got virtually no chance of winning.  But doesn‘t her overwhelming support among working class voters and women further demonstrate how valuable she could be as Obama‘s VP?   Obama managed to dodge questions of a unity ticket recently.  Sen. Clinton spoke to NBC‘s Brian Williams about it just hours ago.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Senator, could you make an argument that you and Sen. Obama are better together? 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I know a lot of people are making that argument.  I‘m not entertaining it yet because I‘m still focused on getting the nomination.  But I know that once we have a nominee, we‘re going to have a unified Democratic Party.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I know.  Obama supporters can‘t stand the idea -many of them

of Hillary Clinton on the ticket.  But shouldn‘t they just swallow their pride?  Still with us is Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post”; Lynn Sweet from the “Chicago Sun Times”; and MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford. 

All right.  Roy, I know how much you disdain Hillary Clinton.  I mean last night, on “Huffington Post,” you guys buried her big win in West Virginia.  It was like she just won, you guys had like a little item of that.  I get it.  But if you thought that it could help Obama win, I still think you‘d say no Hillary.  

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON TIMES”:  No, that‘s not true at all.  Dan, I‘m not a Hillary hater at all.  I just think that she would kill the brand.  Here‘s what it‘s like.  You know those Apple commercials where you‘ve got the Apple guy and you‘ve got PC guy, well, this would be like the Apple guy coming out going, “You know, all that stuff I‘ve been saying about how different we are, forget about it.  You can get an Apple in your office and a PC at your house.”  It‘s not going to work, Dan.  It kills the brand.  

ABRAMS:  But the problem is, for me, with that argument, Craig - that‘s basically to me the same thing as saying Obama supporters don‘t like Hillary Clinton.  I mean it‘s saying, well, you know, he has been the brand of change.  I get it.  That doesn‘t change if he makes Hillary Clinton his vice president.  He‘s still at the top of the ticket.  

CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, that‘s up to Obama.  I mean, you know, this campaign, they - you know, it was Hillary Clinton claiming she was invincible so Obama had no choice but to run hard against her. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CRAWFORD:  Going back to the original video, where, you know, the woman was smashing the video screen of Hillary‘s image.  I always thought that was the metaphor for the whole Obama campaign, at least, in its approach to Clinton.  And we heard the boos in the audience ...

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.

CRAWFORD ... at the Obama rally tonight when John Edwards endorsed - and mentioned Hillary Clinton‘s name, they started booing.  I mean it would be up to Obama to fix that if he did choose her as a running mate.  

SEKOFF:  But Dan, there are specific reasons, right?  I mean she has very high negatives, she muddies the waters on Iraq, which is the strongest issue against McCain.  And she‘s not from a swing state.  So there‘s a lot of practical reasons.  It‘s not about ...

(CROSS TALK) 

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second.  Roy, here‘s my problem with that argument.  You‘re the same person and people who say the whole paradigm has changed, that the whole swing states issue isn‘t as important because Obama is a different kind of candidate. 

But now, when it comes to Hillary Clinton, you don‘t like that argument so much anymore.  So now, swing states become the question again.  

SEKOFF:  Maybe, whether you pick it on.  Traditionally, it‘s you fill the gap.  She doesn‘t fill the gaps like on foreign policy. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So what does this say?

SEKOFF:  And it‘s not a geographic issue.  So I want to know exactly, what you‘re saying is why should they? 

ABRAMS:  How about this? 

SEKOFF:  Gender.

ABRAMS:  How about the fact that 55 percent of Democrats say they want Hillary as the vice president?  That‘s number one.  Number two is the fact in exit poll after exit poll - let me go to Lynn Sweet on this - in exit poll after exit poll, it has been demonstrated that Barack Obama has a problem with certain working class voters.  And whether Hillary Clinton could bring them over or not, I don‘t know.  But it would seem to me that she has to be the first person for him to look at. 

LYNN SWEET, “CHICAGO SUN TIMES”:  First - but, remember here, Dan and the gang, there‘s going to be a lot of people to look at.  This is a business decision.  It‘s not personal between Obama and Clinton.  It will be personal for their supporters.  That‘s why you‘re going to hear a lot about reconciliation very soon.  You don‘t know if she‘s the best until you really get, you know, the lists out and work through the people. 

One quick point, the Obama campaign telegraphed how it will approach the general.  They just knew they needed to get to 2,000 whatever delegates to win.  They don‘t care where they get them from.  In the general campaign, they want to get to 200 and so in the electoral vote.  They don‘t care where they come from.  

ABRAMS:  Lynn, I‘m not convinced that it‘s true.  I mean I know that that should be the way.  It should be a business decision.  It should be a question of who can help us most.  I believe and you - look, you‘ve been following the Obama campaign very closely.  I believe that they might not pick Hillary Clinton even if she was the best pick because so many people in that campaign despise her. 

SWEET:  But that would be a factor.  See, when look, that‘s part of

the business decision.  If Obama didn‘t feel comfortable, he has a big

instinct here.  He‘s going to go - it‘s got to be somebody that he can put

his arm around physically, because he‘s a touchy-feely kind of guy, and do

it.  So it‘s like a business decision -

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But don‘t you have to kind of suck it up and say who is going to help us more?  

SEKOFF:  Is that 55 percent, Dan, not going to vote if it‘s Jim Webb. 

Is that 55 percent not going to vote if it‘s John Edwards?  No, I mean -

(CROSS TALK)

SWEET:  Dan, let me just make a quick point here.  

(CROSS TALK) 

CRAWFORD:  You know what?  We haven‘t mentioned gender here. 

ABRAMS:  Craig -

CRAWFORD:  I think gender has to be considered here.  We talked so much about race in this campaign.  But there are women out there who have become very passionate about Hillary, older women in particular, who see really this as their last opportunity to see a woman president in their lifetime ...  

SWEET:  Right.  So, of course you get -

CRAWFORD:  ... and they‘ve become very attached to her. 

SWEET:  Craig - that‘s why she gets consideration.  

CRAWFORD:  And I don‘t think we talked a lot about them.  You know, what if they threaten to riot it then (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Lynn Sweet -

(CROSS TALK)

Craig, let me Lynn respond.  Go ahead.

SWEET:  It‘s an exquisite equation and calculation to balance everything that we‘ve talked about.  It‘s the political.  It‘s the geography.  It‘s balancing age, race and gender and you know, this big blue collar gap he has.  But of course she‘s on the list, but until you really think about other people that may be as good as she or even better, you know, it‘s this to how we compare it.  You just don‘t go in one line here.  

CRAWFORD:  I‘m just saying that you got her - I think they‘ve got to remember they cannot go into a convention.  Hillary Clinton is still going to have, what, almost 2,000 delegates no matter what happens on the floor of that convention.  And if they feel like she‘s been dissed and not treated respectfully, even though she‘s not the running mate they are going to have a messy convention.  

ABRAMS:  But Craig, you know - that‘s true.  But Craig, look.  They‘ll work out a deal.  They‘ll give her a fake offer, and she‘ll say, “Oh, you know, I‘ve decided I don‘t really want it,” et cetera.  But look, the bottom line here is that I think that Hillary Clinton has made a very good argument as to why she should at least get the offer. 

And I am guessing that there‘s no way she‘s going to get it because too many people in the Obama campaign, not because of business, because they just don‘t like her.  So we‘re going to stay on top of the story as we continue to watch this.  And I‘m going to continue to challenge the Obama supporters to give me specific reasons why they don‘t want Hillary on the ticket as Roy has done tonight.  Thanks, Roy Sekoff, Lynn Sweet and Craig Crawford.  Appreciate it.  

Up next, Karl Rove still refusing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about his role in the possible political prosecution of Alabama‘s former Democratic governor.  The committee cited this program in their request.  Now, Congressman Robert Wexler from that committee and former Gov. Don Siegelman are with us live.  

And a volcano dormant for months suddenly erupts.  “Reality Bites,” coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight, a stunning new video of one of Italy‘s most active volcanoes erupting, the southeast crater of Sicily‘s Mt. Etna spewed lava and ash overnight.  The volcano has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Italy.  So far, there is no threat to the public.  We‘ll be right back.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight, the House Judiciary Committee rejected Karl Rove‘s offer to respond in writing rather than testify under oath and in person about the case of convicted Democrat, Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama.  I‘ll ask Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, a senior member on that committee, about whether they will now follow through with a threat to subpoena Rove to testify.  And Gov. Siegelman, recently released from the Federal Prison pending an appeal is also here. 

But first, some background on the case. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice over):  Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was a rare breed, a popular Democratic governor in a red state from 1998 to 2002.  After narrowly losing his reelection bid, he was planning a political come back just a year later.  That‘s when Alabama prosecutor stepped in, bringing federal corruption charges against him, charges that were quickly thrown out. 

Then, just over a year later, they went after him again.  This time, he was convicted but just on seven of 32 charges.  The judge imposed a seven-year prison sentence effective that day. 

Then, this Republican came forward and claimed she had heard leading Alabama Republicans talk of Rove‘s involvement in the case.  

DANA JILL SIMPSON, REPUBLICAN OPERATIVE:  Bill Canary said that he was going to get his girls to take care of Don Siegelman.

Bill Canary was an old friend of Karl Rove.  And Simpson claimed that she heard conversations linking Rove and Canary to a campaign to bring down Siegelman.  Her account is now being challenged by Rove and others.  But it is not just Simpson who‘s expressed concerns about this case.  Fifty-two former state attorneys general - Democrats and Republicans - have demanded that congress investigate. 

Now, the House Judiciary Committee has stepped in and wants Rove to testify about these allegations.  Last month, Rove‘s attorney, Robert Luskin told us, Rove would testify if subpoenaed.  But Luskin later said Rove would only speak to the committee and only if it was not transcribed and not under oath.  Now, Luskin is saying Rove would respond in writing to the committee.  But again, thus far, refusing to testify under oath. 

Siegelman is now free on bond after an appeals court stepped in March, ruling his legal team raised, quote, “substantial questions of law or fact.”

(END VIDEOTAPE)  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Congressman Wexler, let me ask you now, the time has passed.  You said you are giving Robert Luskin, the attorney for Karl Rove, until May the 12th to voluntarily testify.  They basically said no.  Are you going to subpoena Rove? 

CONGRESSMAN ROBERT WEXLER (D), SENIOR MEMBER, HOUSE JUDICIARY

COMMITTEE:  Well, we would much prefer that Mr. Rove voluntarily agree to appear before the House Judiciary Committee as would any other American citizen.  But my view is, if he refuses to come voluntarily, we must first subpoena him.  And if he refuses to honor the subpoena, the full House of Representatives must hold Mr. Rove in contempt of congress. 

And then we must ask the attorney general to enforce the contempt of congress subpoena or citation.  And if the attorney general refuses to do so - what Mr. Mukasey said previously before the Judiciary Committee that he would, then I believe reluctantly, we need to literally uphold the checks and balances that this administration has so abused.  And then we need to go the extraordinary step of issuing an inherent contempt of congress.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me just tell you this, all right?  Because you know his lawyer has been claiming that we took his comments out of context.  He has said that he never basically said that he was going to testify if subpoenaed. Let me be very clear, OK?  Because we‘ve read this on the program before.  I want to read you the E-mail exchange we had with Robert Luskin, the attorney for Karl Rove.  So there‘s no ambiguity.  On April 7th, at 4:00, we asked him, “Will your client, Karl Rove, consider testifying under oath about the Siegelman case? 

He responded at 4:24, “I‘m not sure I understand the question; whether or not there is an investigation and whether or not he is asked to testify are not matters that are within his control. 

We responded at 4:59, “Sorry.  Let me be more clear.  Will Karl Rove agree to testify if Congress issues a subpoena to him as part of the investigation into the Siegelman case?” 

He responded two hours later, “Sure.  Although it seems to me that the question is somewhat offensive.  It assumes he has something to hide, even though Gov. Siegelman‘s uncorroborated assertions aside - there‘s literally no credible evidence whatsoever to substantiate his charges.  I would hope that you‘d get around to mentioning that fact.”

I wanted to read that to you just so there‘s no ambiguity here.  That was the entirety of my exchange with him.  It sounds to me like he was saying he would testify if subpoenaed. 

WEXLER:  Well, the truth is, Dan, you‘ve done an excellent job of investigative reporting in this matter and that is what he said.  But even beyond your discussion, no American citizen has the right to ignore a congressional subpoena.  Not Karl Rove, not anyone else.  

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Gov. Siegelman.  Gov. Siegelman, what are the questions that you want Representative Wexler and others to ask of Karl Rove? 

FMR. GOV. DON SIEGELMAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA:  Well, I think they need to ask whether or not Karl Rove had discussions with anyone regarding the political impact of a prosecution of Don Siegelman.  You know, this case was brought to trial one month before the Democratic primary.  I don‘t think that was an accident either. 

I do want to commend the congressman and Chairman Conyers for the excellent job that they have done in pressing this issue forward.  But Karl Rove and this administration have thumbed their nose at congress.  They have clearly engaged in systemic and calculated abuses of power relating not just to the abuse of Department of Justice but to other areas of importance to the American people.  And congress, rightfully so, should press Karl Rove to come and testify under oath and answer these questions. 

ABRAMS:  And let me just read you the three - Karl Rove wrote me a nasty letter about our coverage of both.  And they know that I wrote him a letter back asking him a series of questions that I thought he needed to answer.  I asked him, “Did you speak to your friend Bill Canary or anyone in Alabama about anything relating to the Siegelman case?  Did you ever ask anyone else to communicate with any official in the Justice Department about the Siegelman case.  Have you never talked to the White House - you say you‘ve never talked to the White House about the case.  If that‘s true, why would executive privilege apply,” as he claims? 

I assume Congressman Wexler you‘ve got the series of questions ready to go to ask Karl Rove? 

WEXLER:  We do, and Gov. Siegelman is correct.  What we are witnessing is a pattern of abuse of power by the Bush administration.  It happened when they fired several U.S. attorneys for political reasons, and Mr.  Bolten and Ms. Miers refused to testify before congress. 

Now, it‘s happening with the issue of torture.  We have asked, subpoenaed the vice president‘s Chief of Staff to come before congress to answer whether or not the administration illegally ordered the use of torture.  It‘s time for congress to stand up and get answers.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Gov. Siegelman, what else can - is there something else we can do in connection with this investigation?  I mean what else can the media do? 

SIEGELMAN:  Well, I think that you‘re doing everything you can do.  But other outlets of the media - national media - need to remind congress that they are our only hope, that there are three branches of government.  And congress has to stand up and speak out for the people of this country.  This - I heard Congressman Wexler say this, this is the time and this is the moment for congress to stand up and be counted on this issue.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  And again, I‘ve said this before, I have to tell you and I know that Gov. Siegelman, is not going to love to hear me say this.  But to me, the issue of whether they prosecuted him because he‘s a Democrat is far more important to this country than the actual guilt or innocence, which a jury resolved and Gov. Siegelman and I can talk about that another time. 

SIEGELMAN:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  But the bottom line is, that if he was prosecuted because he‘s a Democrat, that, in and of itself, is an issue.  Congressman Wexler, Gov. Siegelman, thanks very much for coming on.  We appreciate it.  

WEXLER:  Thank you.

SIEGELMAN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  We‘ll be right back with tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” and the P.O.‘d  Box” - your E-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  We are short on time, so just our big loser, NBA superstar LeBron James, the day after Mother‘s Day, he was spotted yelling at his mom, Gloria Jane, to sit down in the game after she got up to defend her boy who she thought got a particularly rough foul.  Let‘s hope he got her an additional Mother‘s Day present after that performance. 

Our big winner of the day, polar bears.  After years of declining population worldwide, today, the Interior Department named them to the endangered species list the first animal to be named specifically because its habitat is threatened by global warming.  Two-thirds of the world‘s polar bears are predicted to disappear in the next 50 years because of the decline in Arctic Sea ice.

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  First up, most of you did not seem to like the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket.  You‘re P.O.‘d at me for saying that he‘s got to at least offer it to her. 

Louise writes, “How can anyone possibly suggest that it would be anything less than disastrous for Barack Obama to select HRC as his VP?  That totally defies the basic tenet of his campaign which is all about change.”

Marty writes, “Are you kidding?  To win and sell your soul?  No way!”

Look, Marty and everyone else, I think you are more concerned about, quote, “selling your soul” than about defeating John McCain. 

Finally, a lot of great feedback about our after-hours coverage last night.  We were covering the political coverage. 

S.L. Wade writes, “The show done tie-less and with a jazz band was fabulous!  What a relief to see what a well-produced and informative show can be serious and relaxed, witty, stylish, intelligent and,” the great definition of this program, cool. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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