updated 5/15/2008 10:00:55 AM ET 2008-05-15T14:00:55

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Michael Smerconish, Gene Robinson, Ed Schultz, John Edwards

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, Edwards to endorse Obama. He‘ll do it from Michigan, this hour. We‘ll exam in, dissect and bring it to you live as THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on.

Welcome to THE RACE. I‘m David Gregory. Happy to have you here. Your stop for the fast paced, the bottom line, every point of view in the room.  And tonight, breaking news, John Edwards to endorse Barack Obama in the next few minutes, from Michigan, where Obama is making a campaign stop. You will see it here live, on THE RACE.

We‘ll discuss it from all the angles one after Hillary Clinton‘s big win in West Virginia. Also, tonight excerpts from Brian Williams interview with Senator Clinton. And well game all of it out inside the war room. 

A little bit of breaking news, here, as we look at this live picture, where this event will happen in Grand Rapids. NBC News has learned that Edwards called Clinton in advance to give her word of the impending endorsement. I‘m told by the Obama campaign all this came down last night, that Obama and Edwards were in touch with one another. One source close to Clinton pointed, that unlike Bill Richardson, there was advance word to the Clinton campaign from John Edwards. It‘s a sign of just how bitter those two campaigns are, but how it‘s a warmer relationship between Edwards and Clinton.

So, the endorsement coming up, we‘ve got it from all angles. The bedrock of this program, as you know, a panel that comes to play. And with us tonight, Michael Smerconish, radio talk show host on WPHT in Philadelphia and columnist for both “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and “The Daily News”; Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America radio; and an MSNBC political analyst, Gene Robinson, is here columnist and associate editor for “The Washington Post”; also and MSNBC political analyst.  And joining us tonight, Ed Schultz, host of the nationally syndicated “Ed Schultz Show”.

We begin as we do, every night, with everyone‘s take on the most important political story of the day, it‘s the headline.

I‘ll begin here tonight. There is only one headline on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOSUE tonight, that is the endorsement of John Edwards for Barack Obama. Lots of takes, lots of questions. I begin with this: Why so late?  Why is John Edwards doing it now? And does it impact—the ultimate impact it will have on the campaign? Everybody will take a shot at this tonight. 

Rachel Maddow, your take on what is going to be playing out in front of us here in the next few minutes, live on MSNBC?

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW:  I think the timing at this point is to John Edwards advantage. Because even though there are no king makers in democratic politics, the fact that he waited so late I think made this endorsement more important.

If there‘s going to be any decisive endorsement, it‘s going to be Edwards‘ endorsement, waiting until this late. I don‘t think it‘s—I think it‘s possible to overstate the importance of this, because I still don‘t think Democratic voters follow endorsements blindly. But the fact that this came on the same day, that NARAL the abortion rights group, also endorsed Obama, that is a stinging double whammy for Clinton.

GREGORY:  Right.  And, Smerconish, your take on this tonight?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, COLUMNIST:  I think that in the face of her really cleaning his clock in West Virginia, this is going to fuel the perception of inevitability. In other words, David, I don‘t think that the value is so much in terms of organization, or states that you can point to that you now say, Aha, Senator Obama will be competitive because he received this endorsement. But I think that it fuels the perception that he is in the driver‘s seat despite what happened in West Virginia. That‘s been the benefit of superdelegates. Tomorrow, will be interesting today to see who now follows suit.

GREGORY:  It is interesting that Edwards has been on the sidelines. He has been one of those key figures in the party who knew that he could have some impact on bringing this to a close. So, does the endorsement begin to do that?  That‘s your point?

SMERCONISH:  That is my point. And I think that perhaps it starts that process with just a couple of races yet to go. 

GREGORY:  All right, we are monitoring, of course, the decision and endorsement that we‘ll get from John Edwards from Barack Obama. You‘ll see it here in the next few minutes, from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Gene Robinson, your headline, your take on this big headline tonight?

GENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  My take is that the sound we‘re about to hear is the sound of a door closing. I think that‘s what the Edwards endorsement does.

Rachel is right. The NARAL endorsement is also important. But Edwards was the most important active figure in the Democratic Party, I think, who had not yet endorsed. I think his timing is deliberate. It does come after West Virginia, where Obama got his clock cleaned with Edwards‘ people. It comes before Kentucky where Obama has a chance to perhaps do better with white, working-class voters. So, I think it‘s a big, big  day for Obama.

GREGORY:  Ed Shultz, you know, there are a couple of important points here. One is that after winning West Virginia big, for Hillary Clinton‘s rationale, for her argument to really be accepted, she would have needed a super delegate to come out and say you know what she‘s right. I‘ve been on the fence but I agree. He can‘t win this thing.  I‘m prepared to step up for Hillary Clinton. That didn‘t happen today. In fact, it‘s the opposite.  It‘s John Edwards now creating a new headline that overshadows West Virginia.

SCHULTZ:  Well, you have to look at what John Edwards brings to the table. With Democrats, tremendous credibility. He‘s going to help out with the unions. He has tremendous passion on the stump. If he works as hard for Barack Obama as he did when he was running, this is really going to be a shot in the arm for Barack Obama. And it really could put him over the top.

And I think it makes it doubly tough for Senator Clinton to go out and say, well, let‘s see, Bill Richardson didn‘t endorse me. Chris Dodd, didn‘t endorsement, and neither did John Edwards, but Democrats you should be voting for me. I think there‘s a lot of water that‘s come over the dam right now and I think the flood gates are going to be open from here on out.

This will send a message to a lot of other superdelegates. And it‘s time to make the move and end this process. I think that he has tremendous credibility and passion on the stump. If he works hard, this is really going to really help Barack.

GREGORY:  All right, we‘ve heard our opening headlines then on this breaking event on “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE,” MSNBC. 

In a few minutes‘ time, John Edwards will endorse Barack Obama from Grand Rapids, Michigan. A campaign rally there, we‘re told Barack Obama will make the introduction, then Edwards has the floor for a big endorsement. They are warming up the crowd. Those are the opening headlines. We‘re going to go inside the War Room, here, as our breaking news coverage of the Edwards endorsement continues here on THE RACE. Don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

GREGORY:  Breaking news here on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. John Edwards is about to endorse Barack Obama in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at a campaign stop for Obama, there.

A big headline, what‘s the impact? We examine it all and bring it to you live as THE RACE returns, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

GREGORY:  We‘re back on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE covering breaking news here. We‘re going to take you live to Grand Rapids, Michigan. We are awaiting the endorsement of John Edwards of Barack Obama. It will happen in the next few minutes. And you will see it here, live, on THE RACE, at a campaign event there.

It‘s one of the endorsements that Obama has been waiting for. It comes after a big win for Hillary Clinton in West Virginia. Her campaign manager Terry McAuliffe has reacted. Edwards called Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe came out and said the endorsement is not as important as the win in West Virginia. You might expect him to say that. He makes the point that, “We‘re ahead in the popular vote. Close in delegates and it is now up to the voters.”

We‘re going to be hearing more of those comments as they become available, but the comments we‘re waiting for are John Edwards‘ comments and Barack Obama‘s. We want to go inside the war rooms of all of these campaigns, including inside the war room with John Edwards and this endorsement.

Back with us, Michael Smerconish, Rachel Maddow, Gene Robinson, and Ed Schultz.

Rachel, let me start with you. Most specific impact here, as we talk about this endorsement, inside Obama‘s war room, where does this help? Why the decision to bring him out now?

MADDOW:  I was thinking during the break about how much it would be great to know whether Obama knew it was coming and held it until the day after the West Virginia primary. If the Obama campaign knew this endorsement was coming, and they held it, kept it in their back pocket, kept it quiet all day, until the late afternoon, and are announcing it now, before the end of the first new cycle, that Hillary Clinton benefits from after West Virginia.

GREGORY:  Sure.

MADDOW:  That‘s a brilliant tactical move.

GREGORY:  On a night, by the way—on a night when she did blanket interviews with the networks.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.

GREGORY:  That will play on the evening news and on cable.

MADDOW:  Yes. And she earned all of that media with that huge win in West Virginia. Actually, this is the way to take the wind out of an opponent‘s sails.  It may have been serendipitous. It may be that, you know, that John Edwards called them at noon and said that I‘m ready to do this.  But if they knew it, and they held it and kept it this quiet, it‘s a brilliant campaign move.

GREGORY:  Gene, you‘re inside Obama‘s war room.  You have a problem with white working-class voters, John Edwards does what for you?

ROBINSON:  You‘re happy to have John Edwards. You‘re happy to be able to send him a place like Kentucky, where, you know with his Southern accent, and his charm—and more important, his energy. John Edwards is a terrific campaigner on the stump. He arrives at every campaign event looking as if he just stepped off the pages of “Men‘s Vogue”. With the shirt that‘s white and bright, and the jeans are creased and the blazer looks great and the hair is all in place. He has this tremendous energy.

That, combined with, as Ed mentioned, his union connections and support and his general popularity in the party, think makes him a really powerful weapon that Obama can deploy.

GREGORY:  Hey, Ed are we looking at a ticket here? Are we looking at a vice presidential pick?  Who‘s going to be on stage with Obama tonight?

SCHULTZ:  Well, there‘s been an awful lot of talk, David, in the last 24 hours about Hillary Clinton possibly being vice president. But, I think we have to give Barack Obama a lot of credit here. I think he‘s run his campaign like a business. Very calculated. He‘s been very resourceful where he‘s had to be. He knew he wasn‘t going to win West Virginia, so why spend a lot of time there? Why spend a lot of resources there? Come out with John Edwards the day after the results of West Virginia, take the news cycle back and get people talking about your momentum again.

Tonight, people are going to talk about Barack Obama‘s momentum.  Because it really negates any kind of gain that Senator Clinton had in West Virginia. I think it‘s a brilliant move. This guy can manage.

GREGORY:  We‘re waiting for Edwards and Obama to come to out on the stage. We‘ll see it here live.

Smerc, take this on. We‘re inside the war room here, Hillary Clinton, what does she do to blunt the impact of this endorsement?

SMERCONISH:  Well, we all know what she doesn‘t do.  She doesn‘t fold the tent, because she‘s never folding the tent. I‘ve given up trying to prognosticate when she gets out of this thing.  She‘s in it through June 3 and finishes out these contests. If it‘s in the Clinton playbook, she‘ll probably show up in Kentucky tomorrow even more determined to beat Barack Obama in a Southern state.

I‘m drawing some significance from the fact that this announcement is about to take place in Michigan. I‘m fully cognizant of the fact that Barack Obama was already scheduled to be in Michigan. But you know, David, there‘s no magic to them doing this today other than to overshadow what happened in West Virginia.

And isn‘t it interesting that Senator Obama is treating West Virginia as if it never happened. In other words, to the extent that there was a concession speech, I‘m unaware of it. He‘s spending time in swing states for the fall.

GREGORY:  Right.

SMERCONISH:  He‘s been in Missouri. He‘s in Michigan.

GREGORY:  Absolutely right.

SMERCONISH:  He‘s focused on John McCain.

GREGORY:  And, Gene, Michigan is what he wants to put in play here, as a swing state, a place where he thinks he‘s got opportunity.  It‘s also a place where McCain thinks he‘s got some real opportunity.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely. It‘s smart of Obama to be in Michigan now.  Also, the deal—the question of the Michigan delegation is going to have to be resolved at some point before the convention. It‘s very smart of him to be there. I think it‘s a smart place to make this announcement.

In terms of ignoring or pretending West Virginia didn‘t happen, that takes a page out of the Clinton playbook.

GREGORY:  Right.

ROBINSON:  And it‘s actually a much older political playbook. If you lose, don‘t make a big deal about it. Move on to the next thing. Obama has done that today in a very, very big way, snagging the biggest endorsement that there was out there.

GREGORY:  Let me interrupt you for just a second, because I want to give our viewers the breaking developments as they happen here. We have some latest reporting off the Associate Press wire that I want to read.  I also want our producers to get our superdelegates scoreboard up here.

Remember, Edwards has 18 delegates pledged to him. He could recommend they go to Obama. If they follow him I want to see how that looks on the math.  So, take a look at the math there. You see the pledged delegate total, superdelegates. Obama has  1,886.5.  And then you get 18. So, you get to—so, again, if they all were to go, you can see the total there, that gets him a lot closer to the ultimate number.

Here‘s what AP is reporting here. When he made his decision Edwards didn‘t even tell many of his former top advisors because he wanted to make sure that he personally talked to Clinton to give her news, said a source close to him.  Edwards‘ wife, Elizabeth, who has said she thinks Clinton has a superior health care plan, did not travel with him to Michigan and is not part of this endorsement.

David “Mudcat” Saunders, the AP piece goes on, the chief advisor for Edwards on rural affairs during the campaign, said the timing of the endorsement couldn‘t be better given Obama‘s resounding loss in West Virginia. This is a quote, “For Obama, I think ought to kiss Johnny Edwards on his lips to kill this 41-point loss.”  He added, the story is not going to be the 41-point loss, it‘s going to be the Edwards‘ endorsement.

Rachel, first up. The fact that Mrs. Edwards is not here, a lot of speculation was she was for Hillary Clinton. What do you make of it?

MADDOW:  People have been reading that into everything down to their body language when you ask them about these subjects.  It is not inconceivable in this craziest of all Democratic primaries that tomorrow the big story will be that Elizabeth Edwards endorses Hillary Clinton. It‘s not impossible that that could happen, although I wouldn‘t want to be spending Thanksgiving at the Edwards‘ this year, if it does. 

I honestly think, on the issue of whether or not this means a vice presidential choice for John Edwards, I don‘t think that Barack Obama will be looking that direction. I think Democrats tend to think, been there, done that.  But in terms of the value of this endorsement, it‘s certainly shutting off the good news out of West Virginia for Clinton.  This is important.

GREGORY:  Right.  All right, Ed Schultz, take this on. Go inside the Edwards war room, what‘s left of it now. He‘s in a new kind of campaign mode, even though he‘s out of the race. Why does he make this decision?

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think he makes this decision because he‘s always been a party guy. John Edwards spent four years in Iowa, trying to get the deal done and he came in second. He was a hard fighter, a tireless campaigner. He‘s a cause guy. He‘s got the poverty organization going now.  I think he‘s going to connect with probably a group of Americans that have kind of gone with Senator Clinton, the working class, and this is going to help him, Obama, in that regard.

I don‘t think there‘s any real agenda on the part of John Edwards to advance himself politically with this endorsement. I know we talked earlier about, you know, is the VP thing in play. I think John is really committed to helping people. He‘s really committed to poverty and making a difference, his initiative that he‘s got planned.  I mean, he‘s got the next 10 years of his life mapped out. I think he feels that Barack can bring change.

Just remember, when John Edwards was on the stump, he used the word change more than anybody else. In all of the debates, he used the word change more than anybody else. He wants to be the change agent. It was Barack Obama who had the long-lasting power in that regard of vernacular. I just think that Edwards feel a lot more connected to Barack Obama and what he wants to do with Washington as opposed to Senator Clinton.

GREGORY:  Gene, the delegate map. I just talked about it; 18 delegates for John Edwards that could swing over to Obama. What‘s the impact?

ROBINSON:  Well, it‘s not—we don‘t know that all 18 would automatically go to Obama. But it puts him—what, you know, potentially 18 delegates closer. That would get him up to 2004.5 or something like that?  So, then that leaves him just 20 delegates short. I mean you could imagine enough superdelegates, you know, trickling across—or committing themselves to.

GREGORY:  Right.

ROBINSON:  So we could soon be saying, it looks like mathematically, he has it wrapped up. At least according to the number we have all been working with. As you know, Hillary Clinton—her campaign has now attempted to change the number by throwing in Florida and Michigan, and saying, well, you need 2200 delegates, and change.

GREGORY:  Remember this, the plan from Obama world was to—in effect

declare victory after Oregon because the delegate count.

ROBINSON:  Yes.

GREGORY:  He would be kind of over the top, in the sense that he would have the majority. The Edwards delegates, were they to swing to Obama, would put him within 10 delegates of a pledged majority.

Rachel, it kind of tightens up that end game a little bit.  Does it impact Hillary Clinton‘s thinking at all?

MADDOW:  I think it does. Because I think that if this had not happened, I think next Tuesday would have been another big day for Hillary Clinton. Even if Barack Obama, on that night, had gone over the pledged delegate majority number, it would be a bad night for him to announce that he‘d won the nomination, because he would be dragging this Kentucky loss, this likely Kentucky loss with him. It would have made it not a great night for him to make that announcement.

If he can make the announcement that he‘s won the majority of pledged delegates before the expected Kentucky loss, he can do it cleanly. That essentially makes next Tuesday not a story, regardless of what happens.  Because Obama will have essentially already declared. So, if he can cross that number with the Edwards delegates before then, it‘s a very, very big deal about when and whether the race can end.

(CROSS TALK) 

SCHULTZ:  You know, David, if I could jump in here. 

It‘s going to be interesting to see how aggressive John Edwards is with this endorsement. Is John Edwards going to call superdelegates? Is John Edwards going to really get on the stump and bust it the way he did when he was out campaigning? I think behind the scenes this guy could really have an impact.

ROBINSON:  That‘s absolutely true. If he gets out there in a way that some of the other big-name Obama surrogates, frankly, have not gotten out there, to really beat the bushes for votes and superdelegates. You know, and Edwards is really good at this.

GREGORY:  Let me ask you this question, Smerc, why—and where was John Edwards when Obama needed him, Pennsylvania, Ohio, where he could have taken the poverty message, really made it work for Obama. It says to me, there was calculation here on the Edwards side that may have something to do with the views of his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, or other factors, some disaffection with Obama and his policies?

SMERCONISH:  Well, I‘m glad you asked me. I‘m afraid I have a more cynical take than my friend Ed Schultz, who sees it as a policy matter, and generated with the best of intentions and motives.

Frankly, it‘s the last opportunity to for Senator Edwards to play king maker in this role. Maybe he saw that opportunity eclipsing him.  Maybe he wanted to see which way the wind was going to blow when we were back in the Pennsylvania primary era. Now, it‘s last chance, because this thing is about to play itself out one way or another.

GREGORY:  I think that‘s a good point and it‘s interesting because I was wondering, well, why not do it around North Carolina? I mean a John Edwards‘ endorsement before North Carolina, Obama could have said, yeah, thanks, I think I‘m OK without it. I think I‘m going to muddle through North Carolina without the but John Edwards break. Today, it‘s a much different matter.

SCHULTZ:  Particularly, if your report was accurate, that the deal was cut last night.

GREGORY:  Yes, yes.

ROBINSON:  It feels like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence to me.  It feels like that‘s the role that Edwards wanted to play.  The math is inexorable. Obama is going to win the nomination. This is a chance for Edwards to be the one who puts the period at the end of the sentence and says it‘s a done deal. That may be the biggest influence he can have over this campaign, at this point.

MADDOW:  There‘s also this very important media circus—

SCHULTZ:  I‘ll tell you another thing he‘s going to have is the fact that the—

GREGORY:  Hold on.

MADDOW:  Just one quick one thought.

GREGORY:  Rachel, go ahead.

MADDOW:  There‘s this important media narrative that Obama keeps running up against, which is that he can‘t win working-class, white voters.  We saw this really important, I think, really, interesting Quinnipiac poll that came out today, which said that in head-to-head match ups, Obama and Clinton lose working-class white voters to John McCain by exactly the same margin. They both lose to McCain that demographic group by 7 points. 

Now, spinning somebody on the specifics of the math and the margin in one poll is a much less emotionally satisfying rebuttal to that media narrative than putting up John Edwards and saying, “John Edwards, the working-class son of a mill worker, Southern accent, white guy in the race, who got 7 points last night in West Virginia, is on my team.” That‘s a visible emotionally satisfying, visible way to make that case without having to get into the math—which also makes the same case, but isn‘t as fun to talk about.

GREGORY:  Go ahead, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think that John Edwards isn‘t going to be alone in this endorsement. I think he‘s going to bring people with him.  The United Steel Workers have not endorsed Obama. They have not endorsed Hillary Clinton. They have kept their powder dry.  John Edwards has been their guy.  I can guarantee, I‘m close to the unions, they are not going to sit on the sidelines. They have money. They have boots on the ground. They have infrastructure.  They are strong in Ohio, the Steel Workers. They‘re strong in Michigan. They‘re strong in Pennsylvania. So, I think you‘re going to see a few days of a ripple effect on John Edwards‘ endorsement here tonight.

GREGORY:  All right, we are—

MADDOW:  It‘s interesting—

GREGORY:  Go ahead, Rachel.  Go ahead.

MADDOW:  I was just going to say, it‘s interesting to think about what really affects Hillary Clinton‘s thinking at this point.

GREGORY:  Yeah.

MADDOW:  Because she‘s not been making math-based decisions. We know that—I‘ve been making the case that it‘s essentially post-rational for her to stay in the race anyway.  And so, looking at all the mathematical straightforward ways that Edwards helps Obama in this case may not be the right way to think about it.

I go back again to that NARAL endorsement today. Hillary Clinton, listens to people who are important to her, who have demonstrated loyalty to her and who have been with her from the beginning.  To lose the mainstay of the abortion rights movement, in NARAL.  Unanimously their endorsement, their PAC endorsement was unanimous for Obama today. That may be more of an emotionally moving loss to Hillary Clinton than this endorsement of from Edwards. Just because I think her endorsement with Edwards was political, whereas her relationship with the abortion rights movement is personal.

GREGORY:  Right, right.

All right, I‘m going to take a quick break here. We have concluded our kind of initial foray into this.  Our headline is going inside the war room, looking at the tactics of this decision.

We‘re waiting for John Edwards to appear with Barack Obama in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a battleground state for the fall. Barack Obama is thinking about the fall and talking about the fall campaign against John McCain. No doubt we‘ll hear about that tonight. We‘re just moments away from this endorsement. We‘re going to have it live for you here on the race. We‘ll take a quick break and come right back.  Don‘t turn the channel, you won‘t miss a thing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  I‘m David Gregory. 

Happy to have you.  Special edition tonight; we‘re covering breaking news.  John Edwards has endorsed Barack Obama and it‘s going to happen in a matter of moments from Grand Rapids, Michigan, a campaign event for Obama.  The two will appear together, this time not at a debate, because they are unified.  This will be an endorsement for Obama and a big one, one day after he got clobbered in West Virginia.  A day when Hillary Clinton spent her time making a big publicity round, doing interviews with all the networks, talking about the victory, talking about her perseverance in this race. 

Now, it‘s Barack Obama who‘s taken the spotlight back from her to announce this John Edwards endorsement.  It comes at a time when there are a lot of questions surrounding Obama.  Yes, he‘s moving towards the nomination, clinching that nomination.  But how will he do in the fall against John McCain, when he has obvious problems with working class Democrats, who have chosen Hillary Clinton over him now repeatedly from Pennsylvania to Ohio and in dramatic fashion West Virginia.  A growing problem that perhaps John Edwards can speak to. 

That announcement coming in the next couple of minutes.  We‘ll carry here live.  In the meantime, I mentioned the fact that Hillary Clinton sat down with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams earlier today and spoke about the math and her future in the race.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  People who haven‘t been along with you on the campaign trail or watched it, say, on C-Span, may not have a good feel for the number of times in the average day your supporters do come up to you, those who believe in you absolutely passionately, and tell you to keep going, tell you not to get out.  But with the math against you in all of those categories, a lot of people are wondering—some of them out of complete frustration—why stay in.  Is it an act of god or an emergency of some sort that you are counting on? 

CLINTON:  No, it‘s because I believe I would be the stronger candidate.  We‘re near the end of what‘s been a long process.  I don‘t believe in quitting.  I don‘t believe in being pushed out.  I feel I have a bond with the nearly 17 million people who have voted for me and the millions more who have expressed support for me or contributed to me or come out to see me. 

I think that having a nominee is something we will get to.  We‘re not going to miss that opportunity.  We will have a nominee, but only after everyone has had a chance to vote. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  We‘re back, looking live at Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Obama will be endorsed by John Edwards in a matter of moments.  Ed Schultz, you have talked to John Edwards.  You have interviewed him many times.  Give us your take on what‘s behind this endorsement and what it means to Obama. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, it means a lot to John Edwards, because he doesn‘t just go off and do things like this.  This is very calculated.  He‘s very serious about it.  Many times during the debate he told the American people that this was personal.  He wants to change Washington, change the culture of Washington.  And he is going to go with a candidate who he think is best positioned to do that. 

I don‘t think that Barack Obama and John Edwards are the absolute best of friends.  In fact, I think deep down inside, David, that John Edwards probably thinks that if Barack Obama had never gotten into this, he could have taken out Hillary Clinton and won the nomination.  I‘ve always thought that, talking to John Edwards.  I‘ve always sensed that his belief in himself and his belief in his campaign was so genuine and so to the point, and he just saw the writing on the wall. 

I think it means a lot to Barack because of the kind of person that John Edwards is.  He has tremendous credibility with Democrats.  One more thing I should throw out here tonight that we haven‘t mentioned, he can raise money.  This is going to make it doubly tough on the Clinton camp to raise money with all of these big name former candidates going in with Barack Obama. 

GREGORY:  Rachel Maddow, take a different tact here and look at this from the point of view—we‘re hearing an introduction, but when we see Obama, we‘ll stop talking and bring this all to our viewers live. 

This may have had more impact, more resonance if it happened sooner. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t think so.  I think that whether it‘s because of the goodness of his heart, his clear strategic thinking, or his Machiavellian self-interest, all of those things can point to making the endorsement as late as possible.  You want to make the person who makes the decisive endorsement, not the person who joins the crowd of endorsers.

SMERCONISH:  Hey, David.  Can I make a point quickly? 

GREGORY:  Yes, Smerc.  Go ahead. 

SMERCONISH:  The old advance man in me wants everybody to just look at their watch where it‘s 6:30-ish in the east.  This is blowing Hillary Clinton right off the evening news cast.  Good thing you showed that Brian Williams interview, because otherwise it might not ever see the light of day. 

GREGORY:  I will say this, though, just to be a little bit tactical about this, it might have been better for them if they had actually started when they advertised, at about 6:20.  The later this goes, people could actually watch—I want to read something as we‘re awaiting this.  This is from the Associate Press.  Edwards has 19 pledged delegates won in three states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Most of those delegates have already been selected, meaning they are technically free to support whomever they choose at the party‘s national convention, regardless of the Edwards endorsement. 

I think the NBC News count from our political director Chuck Todd is 18 pledged delegates.  Again, Gene Robinson, it‘s a question of whether they all agree to swing toward Obama.  At this stage, it‘s important because Obama wants to make the argument that once he‘s over the top, in terms of having a majority of those pledged delegates, he wants to call this game over. 

ROBINSON:  Right, he wants to call it over.  But I have always thought that the Obama campaign has to be careful about how they go about calling this over.  The one thing that hurts them or potentially hurts them is offending Hillary Clinton supporters by seeming to shove her out of the race, off the playing field in a kind of unseemly way, in perhaps, a sexist way.  So, I think—and now that he‘s that much closer—and it could be 18 delegates closer.  It certainly could be the major part of those 18.  I assume a decent number of those people could be union folks, for example, unions that have endorsed Edwards and probably will be happy to get aboard the Obama train. 

That declaration of victory can‘t be crowing and jumping up and down on the grave. 

MADDOW:  Gene and David, I would just say one thing to watch for tonight will be is—to see if John Edwards actually makes the case for Hillary Clinton leaving the race.  You don‘t ever have to say Hillary Clinton‘s name in order to make that case.  You just have to say the Democratic party needs a nominee now.  John McCain is giving speeches on the environment.  John McCain‘s got a head start.  Every divided convention has produced a losing Democratic candidate in modern history. 

If he makes the case that process wise the nomination race needs to be over now, that will mark an important turning point. 

ROBINSON:  I think we see Obama. 

GREGORY:  Let me just highlight this.  Barack Obama arriving at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  This is where he will be endorsed by John Edwards.  It will happen in a matter of moments.  Obama will introduce Edwards and Edwards will endorse Obama.  It is 38 past the hour in the East, and as Smerc pointed out just a moment ago, this is a big effort to really stomp on Hillary Clinton‘s victory, and all of the discussion and all of the analysis of what that victory would mean for her staying in the race.  More analysis from us to come.  Here‘s Barack Obama. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you.  Thank you, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

I am fired up.  I am fired up!  I am fired up to be in Michigan.  I‘m fired up to be in Grand Rapids.  Look at this crowd.  It‘s unbelievable.  I am so grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here.  I know that we didn‘t have a chance to campaign here during the primary and I felt bad about it.  I didn‘t have the chance to talk to you guys about the issues.  I felt guilty about not campaigning. 

And so as a consequence, I decided that I would try to give you something special.  I decided that on my first full day of campaigning in Michigan that I wouldn‘t be fooling around.  I wasn‘t going to just do the same old thing. 

I decided that I was going to bring out one of the greatest leaders we have in the Democratic party.  Please give it up for my friend John Edwards. 

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you.  Thank you.  So, so—the question is—thank you, thank you.  The question is, what am I doing here?  You know, I was promised a jet ski.  I hadn‘t gotten it yet. 

I am proud to be here with all of you, proud to be in Michigan, proud to be in Grand Rapids.  During the course of this presidential campaign, I‘ve gotten to know the candidates and the top candidates very, very well.  We have all been out speaking about the causes that are near and dear to our hearts as Democrats.  Now, we are here, down to two amazing candidates. 

Before I get too far, I want to take just a minute and say a word about my friend and your friend, Senator Hillary Clinton. 

In the past—in the past few weeks—I‘ve got past few months and past few weeks, I‘ve gotten to know Senator Clinton very well.  We have talked.  We have met in North Carolina.  We talked about the things that she cares about that every single one of you care about.  About the men and women in this country who don‘t have health care, about the children who don‘t have health care, about the men and women in America who just want to have a decent job and go to work. 

We have talked about our own children, our own families.  And what I‘ve learned, during that time—I‘ve gotten to know her very well—is that she believes with every fiber of our being that America can be a better place and that we need change to make America what it‘s capable of being. 

I want to tell you, and I know this is hard to understand, sometimes, but it is very, very hard to get up every day and do what she‘s done.  It is hard to go out there and fight and speak up when the odds turn against you.  What she has shown is strength and character, and what drives her is something that every single one of us can and should appreciate. 

She cares deeply about the working people in this country.  She cares about the families who are losing everything because somebody got sick.  She cares about our men and woman putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This tenacity has shown her strength and her determination.  She‘s a woman who, in my judgment, is made of steel.  And she‘s a leader in this country not because of her husband, but because of what she has done, because of speaking out, because of standing up. 

And we, when this nomination battle is over—and it will be over soon—brothers and sisters—Brothers and sisters, we must come together as Democrats and in the fall stand-up for what matters for the future of America to make America what it needs to be.  And we are a stronger party because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat.  We are a stronger country because of her years of public service.  And we‘re going to have a stronger presidential nominee in the fall because of her work. 

Now, what brought all of us here is the profound—

What brought all of us together is the profound belief that we can change this country, that there are servicemen and women in Iraq who can come home, starting today, that our kids deserve to go to better schools than we went to, that we can run our cars on something other than oil, that we have good jobs that can fill these empty factories, and that the anxiety that all our people face every day can change when we finally make two Americas one America for every single one of us. 

This is why you are here.  You are here because of the hope that you carry in your heart to make this country better.  We have so much work to do in America, because all across America there are walls.  There are walls dividing the way things are and the one America that all of us want to see.  In fact, there‘s a wall around Washington D.C.  The American people are today on the outside of that wall.  On the inside are the big corporations and the lobbyists who are working to protect a system that takes care of them. 

Guess who struggles every single day?  Working men and women in this country see this wall when they split their bills into two piles, one pay now, one pay later.  When they get bullied at work because they want to join a union.  When they see disappointment on the face of their son or daughter because they can no longer pay for that child to go college.  When their CEO gets a golden parachute and their job gets shipped over seas.  You know something about that here in Michigan.  When their wages drop and their kids go hungry. 

Guess who‘s doing just fine?  The insiders, the lobbyists, the special interests.  Our job, come January of next year, is to tear that wall down and give this government back to the American people. 

There is another wall that divides us.  It‘s the moral shame of 37 million of our own people who wake up in poverty every single day.  In a nation of our wealth, to have millions of Americans work every single day and still can‘t pay their electric bill and pay for their food at the same time.  There are mothers out there working two jobs every day to try to keep their kids from going to bed hungry. 

There are men and woman who have worked hard all their lives so that they can try to buy a home and they are living in a tent city because they got nowhere to go.  This is not OK.  And for eight long, long years, this wall has gotten taller.  Yesterday, I was in Philadelphia, and I was announcing an initiative to cut poverty in half in the next ten years.  And I am proud to say today that Barack Obama stands with me in this cause. 

We also have a wall that divides our two public school systems in America.  It is not OK that a child born into a wealthy family gets the best education in the world and a child born in a small town or the inner city barely gets by.  Their education is our education.  We are going to fix that system for them and make these schools work for everybody. 

How about health care?  Right?  The big drug companies, insurance companies, HMOs, the politicians who take their money, they‘re getting their way, and they love that wall, just the way it is today.  Well, it‘s going to be gone as soon as we create real and meaningful universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. 

There‘s also a wall that‘s divided our image in the world.  The America as the beacon of hope is behind that wall.  All the world sees now is a bully.  They see Iraq, Guantanamo, secret prisons and a government that argues that water-boarding is not torture.  This is not OK.  That wall has to come down for the sake of our ideals and our securities. 

We can change this.  We can change it.  Yes, we can.  If we stand together, we can change it. 

The reason I am here tonight is because the Democratic voters in America have made their choices, and so have I.  There is one man—there is one man who knows and understands that this is the 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‘s one man who knows in his heart that it‘s time to create one America, not two.  That man is Barack Obama. 

This is not—this is not going to be easy.  It‘s going to be the fight of our lives.  But we are ready.  We know this election is about something bigger than the tired old 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.

You know, as I have traveled this country, as I have learned from traveling this country, from talking to students like those that we took to New Orleans, who volunteer their Spring Break to go to New Orleans to work to help rebuild the city—a former Army captain that I met who served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, even after he was badly injured in a grenade attack.  I‘ll never forget a man I met named James Lowe (ph), who was born with a cleft palate that kept him from being able speak and he had no health care coverage and lived for 50 years in America, not able to speak because he had no health care. 

What I‘ve learned, what Barack Obama has learned, this campaign is about them.  It is about you.  It is about the people.  It‘s not about us.  That is what we are fighting for.  And it‘s about the one America we‘re going to build for them, one America where Main Street is strong, one America where struggling towns come back to life because we have finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil, one America—one America where the men and women who work the late shift, who get up at dawn to drive a two hour commute, and the young person who closes the store to save for college, they will actually be honored for that work. 

One America, where no child, no child goes to bed hungry, when we finally end the moral shame of 37 million Americans who wake up every day in poverty.  One America where we finally start tackling the real health care crisis in America.  One America with one public school system, where a boy in the city and a girl in the suburbs will wake up every day with an equal chance to a quality education. 

One America.  One America that rebuilds our moral authority in the real world, not just with our strength, but with our soul.  One America where the walls will fall when the war in Iraq ends in 2009 and our servicemen and women—our servicemen and women will come home to the heroes‘ welcome that they deserve. 

We will take care of our veterans.  We‘re going to get this part of the war right.  We will never again stand by while men and women who have worn the uniforms of the United States of America stand in line and have to wait for health care.  We will never stand by.  We will never stand by while 150,000 men and women who wore our uniform, veterans, go to sleep every night on grates and under bridges.  Not in our America.  Not in our America.  Not in our America when Barack Obama is president of the United States of America. 

You know, we‘ve been in this kind of place before.  In times of war, great depression, deep divisions that tore at the soul of this nation, we came together, and we went to work to make sure that we passed on a stronger and better country to our children.  We will meet this challenge again.  This is who we are.  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, join me in helping send

Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, because we believe in our America

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.  That one America that I have 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.  Thank you all. 

GREGORY:  John Edwards endorsing Barack Obama, saying Democratic voters have made their choice, so have I.  Our coverage continues with Barack Obama and analysis with Chris Matthews on “HARDBALL” right now.

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

END   

Watch Race for the White House each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,