updated 5/22/2008 11:20:20 AM ET 2008-05-22T15:20:20

Guests: Jennifer Palmieri, Jenny Backus, Mike Barnicle, Joan Walsh,

Michelle Bernard, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Pam Iorio

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  McCain starts picking his VP.  Who‘s it going to be?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  We have some breaking news about a possible running mate for John McCain.  Late this afternoon, “The New York Times” reported on its Web site that McCain will meet on Friday—that‘s two days from now—with two Republican governors who have been mentioned as possible running mates, Charlie Crist of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.  More on that in just a minute.

Also, another primary night, another split doubleheader, but this one raises intriguing questions.  Hillary Clinton clobbered Barack Obama in Kentucky by winning 72 percent of the white vote.  That‘s 72 percent.  So does that mean Obama can‘t win white votes?  Well, not necessarily.  In Oregon yesterday, Obama scored a solid win by, you guessed it, winning over white voters, 57 percent of them.  So what‘s going on here?  We‘ll try to break down yesterday‘s voting and tell what you it all may mean—may all mean for November.

Also, the question everyone‘s asking today: What does Hillary Clinton want?  And we mean that in a very tangible sense.  What does she want out of this political situation right now?  Hillary says she‘s staying in the race, but the numbers don‘t add up.  So does she want to be vice president, secretary of state, president in four years, president some day?  We‘re going to be asking two Democratic insiders about that one to try to get the answer.

And speaking of Hillary Clinton, we also followed Obama to Florida today to make the point that the state should not be punished for violating Democratic Party rules, what she said was merely a technicality.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Some say that counting Florida and Michigan would be changing the rules.  I say that not counting Florida and Michigan is changing a central governing rule of this country.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  Whenever we can understand the clear intent of the voters, their votes should be counted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Also, what will Ted Kennedy‘s major priority be when he‘s back in the U.S. Senate?  We‘re going to look at that in the “Politics Fix” tonight.  And in the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” the perfect campaign surrogate, a parrot.

But first, the breaking news about John McCain‘s possible running mate.  Norah O‘Donnell is MSNBC chief Washington correspondent and soothsayer.  Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst.  And CNBC‘s John Harwood writes for “The New York Times.”  I‘m kidding.  The fact is, we‘re all soothsayers right now because John McCain has decided, apparently, to start interviewing potential candidates for VP.  Charles Crist, the very popular new governor of Florida, Bobby Jindal, who comes from Indian heritage, from a South Asian background, the first one—he‘s the first generation in this country.  And of course, we‘re also hearing that Mitt Romney is on the short list to be visiting the presumed nominee this weekend.

So Norah, you‘re first.  Do we read these as the kind of things I grew up with, which is every time somebody gets a presidential nomination, they begin interviewing a wide swath of people to make them all feel good but not to pick?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  Well, there‘s no doubt that Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, and Governor Charlie Crist of Florida are two of the most popular Republican governors in this country.  They are well liked.  They are stars in the party.  And so he should meet with them.

But it‘s unlikely that he would pick either of those governors, I think, as vice president.  I think this is the beginning of a process by McCain to sort of get to know and talk to these governors.  He‘s going to need them for...

MATTHEWS:  Too green.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re too green.

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, he‘s going to...

MATTHEWS:  Too brand-new.

O‘DONNELL:  He‘s going to need these governors for state operations.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  He‘s going to need their fundraising lists to help raise money.  So this is part of the process.  He should be doing this at this point.  I don‘t think we should read too much into it that these guys now are at the top of the list.

MATTHEWS:  John, do you agree that they are mainly for charm here, he‘s charming them up, he‘s schmoozing, he‘s not picking yet?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, I agree this is the charm phase of the campaign, of the veep selection campaign, and he‘s not picking anybody yet.  But I take Jindal‘s chances a little bit more seriously than Norah does.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

HARWOOD:  I think this could be a long-shot pick by a candidate who needs a long shot.  He needs to swing for the fence.  John McCain, when you look at the fundamentals of this election, Chris, is behind the eightball in terms of an unpopular president, an economy that voters don‘t feel good about, a war that‘s unpopular.  He may need to do something to shake up the dynamic.

He‘s running reasonably close to Barack Obama now, but it‘s possible that after the Democratic race sorts itself out, Obama could open up a lead, and Jindal would be a bold pick to try to answer that post-racial appeal of Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS:  Wow!  Let‘s to go...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Pat Buchanan.  I want to run these three names by you, Pat, and get your unmitigated response—Charlie Crist of Florida, bachelor, Bobby Jindal from South Asian heritage, and Mitt Romney, LDS, Mormon.  What do you make?  Any one of these three guys for real?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think he would consider all of them.  My guess is he‘s going to win Florida by himself.  And Charlie Crist, of course, would seal it, but McCain will win it by himself.  Jindal is a tremendously popular figure with conservatives.  He‘s a traditionalist Catholic, Chris.  But I just don‘t see McCain going to Louisiana.  I agree with Norah on that.  I think Romney is somewhat more likely because I think McCain is going to go north.

If I were—we‘ve been talking about the Appalachians, the white working class, people like that.  I think McCain should try to go for someone who can help him seal the Hillary Democrats and take them away from Barack Obama, someone in one of those states that‘s got those people.  So I would think that these folks—these folks, I think, Romney would be the most likely, but I think he‘s not certain at all.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Romney looks good from—I‘m looking at it.  Let me just weigh in here.  I think Romney makes perfect sense, if you figure there are states where Barack Obama won‘t win.  And almost obviously, those are the states where the LDS background of Romney wouldn‘t be a problem.  In other words, people will vote for their ticket, even if they have problems about his religion because they‘re going to vote against Barack Obama.

But in the states that are up in the air, those northern industrial states, where they don‘t really know what a Mormon is, to be quite blunt about it—they have no animosity towards or familiarity with that religion—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio.  I agree.  I think Michigan is a pick-up for the Republicans.  And remember Lee Atwater used to say, Pat—

I know you remember this.  He‘d say, Find a state the other side knows that it needs and yank it away from them, pull their heart out...

BUCHANAN:  You can bet, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... and then they know they‘re finished.  If you take Michigan away from the Democrats and you have a shot at Pennsylvania, well, an even better shot at Ohio, it seems to me you‘ve beaten them already with Romney.

BUCHANAN:  If you can—I would poll McCain/Romney in Michigan secretly, if I were McCain, because Romney beating there, the name is golden up there.  Governor Romney‘s still remembered by older folks.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

BUCHANAN:  He‘s a very attractive figure.  I think that‘s right, Chris.  You got to ask, though, Romney is—Romney is—has—doesn‘t have yet any bonding, however, with working folks.  He wasn‘t able to do that.  But I agree with you, if he could give you Michigan, you got to put him right at or near the top of the list.

HARWOOD:  Chris, let me ask you as a devil‘s advocate, though, if John McCain‘s overall message is “Straight talk express”...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HARWOOD:  ... I‘m the guy who will tell you the truth, tell you what I really think, and if the rap on Mitt Romney in the primary campaign, from John McCain no less, was that the guy‘s a little bit of a phony, that he changes around his positions in order...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HARWOOD:  ... to pander to voters, isn‘t that a fundamental conflict that‘s going to be difficult to get past?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but his new job description is that of parrot, isn‘t it?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not a human being.

We‘re going go right now—we‘re going to talk about a parrot later.  By the way, we‘ve got a parrot on the “Sideshow” tonight that is a perfect surrogate for one of the candidates.  I mean, he doesn‘t screw it up.  He gets it right every time, as a parrot should.

Now the Democrats—here‘s Senator Obama today in Tampa, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We are at the threshold of being able to obtain this nomination.  But I know that this has been a long contest, and so there are people who are concerned that, golly, you know, the Clinton people might not vote for the Obama people.  The Obama people are mad at the Clinton people.  Maybe they‘re going to be divided.  The party‘s going to be—let me—let me tell you something.  First of all, Senator Clinton has run an outstanding campaign, and she deserves our admiration and our respect because she has set the standard.  She has broken through barriers and will open up opportunities for a lot of people, including my two young daughters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the charm and that‘s the wooing.  Here‘s Senator Clinton coming back with a different view of the universe in Boca Raton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  We believe the outcome of our elections should be determined by the will of the people, nothing more, nothing less.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  And we believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will.  We believe it today, just as we believed it back in 2000 when right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren‘t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner.  The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear.  If any votes aren‘t counted, the will of the people isn‘t realized and our democracy is diminished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a hell of a statement, Norah, to just simply state as a fact that in Florida, Al Gore got more votes than George W.  Bush.  I mean, that is speculative, at best.  But anyway, put that aside.  Let‘s talk about the fight here.  Hillary‘s got votes to deliver, people that vote for her in Oregon—I‘m sorry, even in Oregon, and certainly in Kentucky yesterday, and certainly West Virginia, certainly in Pennsylvania and Ohio, that aren‘t voting for Barack Obama.  Talk about that.

O‘DONNELL:  We had this fascinating doubleheader last night, Kentucky and Oregon, two states (INAUDIBLE) where nine out of ten voters are white.  But other than that, they couldn‘t be more different—Oregon one of he most liberal states in the country, Kentucky one of the most conservative states in the country.  And then that white vote, how it split so differently, Hillary winning 72 percent of the white vote in Kentucky, Barack Obama winning 57 percent of the white vote in Oregon.

Bottom line, what we learned last night, Barack Obama does not have a problem with the white working class, an inherent Democratic problem.  It‘s actually more geographic.  And because we‘ve had a lot of states voting in the Appalachia region, we see he does have a problem with the white working class there.  But he has won whites in states like Oregon, Wisconsin and Iowa.  And I think it is important to point that out because a lot of our analysis, and I think a lot of the rhetoric in this campaign has been, White people won‘t vote for Barack Obama.

People like to see things in black and white.  That is not true.  He wouldn‘t have gotten this far unless whites were voting for him.  He does have a problem in some of these Appalachian states.

One other really interesting point that we uncovered last night.  In a state like Kentucky, a third of the voters said if Barack Obama—these are Democrats—if Barack Obama was the nominee, they‘ll vote for John McCain.  They‘ll cross over.  There‘s the graphic right there.  So we decided to look at, Well, what was it in 2004?  Well, in fact, in 2004, a third of the Democrats actually crossed over and voted for Bush over Kerry.

What does that mean?  That means you have Democrats anyway in Kentucky who cross over and vote for the Republican.  It‘s not necessarily an anti-Obama vote.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s just these are very conservative Democrats in Kentucky.  The same thing was true in West Virginia.  And that‘s important in this analysis, I think, as well, talking about whether—how divided, if at all, this party is.

MATTHEWS:  John, I thought that was very amazing last night when Norah came up with that.  I‘d been watching all night, thinking I‘d seen it all, and all of a sudden, I realized the cultural antipathy they feel towards perhaps elitist candidates, as they see them, whether it‘s John Kerry or it‘s Barack Obama, is not really ethnic as much as it‘s attitudinal.  They think they‘re elitists.

HARWOOD:  Absolutely.  And the other side of what Norah‘s talking about is you look at the national match-ups.  Remember, we‘re talking about Democratic primaries here, Democratic primary voters.  You look at the national polls, Barack Obama is either even with John McCain or ahead of John McCain.  A Reuters poll came out today, Barack Obama leading John McCain among Catholics, among union households, among...

MATTHEWS:  So why—why do people...

HARWOOD:  ... people under $35,000 a year...

MATTHEWS:  ... vote differently in a Gallup poll nationally than they seem to be voting in these states in the heartland, like...

HARWOOD:  Because it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  ... Democrats.  It is not a general election test.  The most recent “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll, Barack Obama leading John McCain by 11 points in the Midwest.

MATTHEWS:  Pat, what is it, elitism, race, class?  How do you put it together in these states like—as Norah‘s talking about, the big dichotomy between Oregon, a liberal state, and Kentucky, a conservative state, where the whites vote differently?

BUCHANAN:  These folks in Appalachia, these are God and country people.  They are culture and values people.  As Jim Webb said this morning, the folks out there, the Anglo-Saxon folks, the Scotch-Irish folks out there, they really believe that they‘ve gotten the short end of the stick in society and all these programs and all the rest of it.  They‘ve been trending Republican for decades right now.

O‘DONNELL:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  They like George Bush.  George Bush was an evangelical Christian.  He‘s born again.  He‘s socially conservative.  He‘s unlike his dad.  I‘ll bet his dad didn‘t do that well down there in these regions, except that Dukakis was not wanted in those regions.  That‘s who these folks...

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  ... are Pat Buchanan Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they‘re Scotch-Irish.

BUCHANAN:  Scotch-Irish!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They‘re Stonewall Jackson types.

BUCHANAN:  They love—Stonewall Jackson is their greatest hero.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  As we look at these numbers, I think it‘s so important, too, in trying to discern—it is less determinative, your race and how you vote...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  ... than it is your income level and your education level.  The less educated are voting for Hillary Clinton.  Those making under $50,000 are more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.  And as Pat Buchanan is talking about, in Appalachia, they are voting with their pocketbook.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  And it is true across the board that those who say the economy is more important do like Hillary Clinton...

MATTHEWS:  But the flip side...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  ... more than Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS:  ... of what you say, Norah, is not good news.  I mean, if the best you can say about Barack Obama is he‘s as bad as all the other elitist Democrats who happened to have been white, in the eyes of these people, right?

O‘DONNELL:  I think that—listen, I don‘t like to sort of say that voters have made up their mind (INAUDIBLE) about someone is an elitist or that—whatever it may be.  This is a continuum, this campaign, and there hasn‘t yet been a debate between the eventual Democratic nominee and John McCain on economic issues.

HARWOOD:  Obama is running ahead in the national polls.

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if he has enough time to get to know people so they make a judgment about him as a human being...

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s the key point.

MATTHEWS:  ... and where they don‘t just look at the profile of a well-to-do, well-educated guy from the big city.  Pat?

BUCHANAN:  Chris, I think he—if I were he, frankly, privately, I would write off Kentucky.  I would write off West Virginia.  You can‘t write off Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan.  But I would take...

MATTHEWS:  You sure can‘t.

BUCHANAN:  ... a look at those states that we can‘t get and go after the ones we can.  As Barry Goldwater said and didn‘t do it, You go hunting where the ducks are.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I tell you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I tell you, Pat, I am looking at Mitt Romney dead seriously, and I‘m looking at the Democrats having to counterprogram.  They may need Hillary Clinton on that ticket to offset the value to the Republicans of Mitt Romney.  It‘s so fascinating, this battle, picking the right person to defeat the other right person.

Thank you, Norah O‘Donnell.  Great stuff.  I learned something last night.  John—I don‘t know if I liked learning something, but did I learn something.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I like knowing stuff.  Anyway, thank you, John Harwood. 

Thank you, Pat Buchanan.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up—well, it‘s an exposure of ignorance, actually.  Coming up: Hillary Clinton‘s victory in Kentucky was largely overshadowed by Obama winning a majority of the votes, elected delegates, nationally.  That was the big news last night.  So what does Senator Clinton do now?  That is the greatest question in American politics.  What will Senator Clinton do?  What does she want?  What will she take?  What is the plan?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  With Hillary Clinton‘s continued strong showing with working-class white voters in the old industrial states, and of course, yesterday in Appalachia, is she the obvious choice to be running mate for Barack Obama?  As HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports, the speculation over what some consider a dream ticket, others consider a nightmare ticket, is building.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both campaigned today in Florida, the intrigue over them running together was in overdrive.  Why?  In part, because of a couple of lines from both candidates last night.  Obama praised Clinton lavishly.

OBAMA:  But we all admire her courage and her commitment and her perseverance.  And no matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age.  And for that, we are grateful to her.

SHUSTER:  Then Obama spoke of the millions of votes cast for himself and for Clinton. 

OBAMA:  More than anything, we need this unity and this energy in the months to come. 

SHUSTER:  If unity and energy are more important than anything, Clinton supporters point out, how could Obama not offer her the slot? 

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The Democrats must take back the White House...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  ... and end Republican rule.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  For Clinton‘s part last night, there was this. 

CLINTON:  Our party will have a tough choice to make.  Who is ready to lead our party at the top of our ticket? 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  But could that imply the bottom of the ticket is an easy choice, and that Clinton believes it should go to the runner-up?  The speculation of a potential Obama-Clinton pairing has been building for weeks. 

Earlier this month, Clinton sharply changed her tone towards Obama, speaking about him in positive terms, as she kept her campaign going. 

CLINTON:  We‘re going to finish this nominating contest, which we will do. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  Then we will have a nominee.  And we will have a unified Democratic Party.  And we will stand together.  And we will defeat John McCain in November and go on to the White House. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

SHUSTER:  It is not clear if Clinton would really want to be Barack Obama‘s running mate or that Obama would want her. 

Many Democrats say the pairing will never happen because of bad blood between the campaigns and because of concerns that Obama and Clinton would have to spend crucial time this summer and fall explaining away comments like this.

OBAMA:  Leading Democrats, including one of my opponents, Senator Clinton, echoed the erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. 

CLINTON:  I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House.  I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House.  And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  Still, based on the exit polls, huge groups of Clinton and Obama supporters say they cannot fathom supporting the other in the fall. 

So, whether Barack Obama is driven by fear or necessity or a desire for unity, he almost certainly has to at least consider putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket.  The question is, should he go any further and actually offer her the slot? 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David.

Let‘s bring in now former John Edwards adviser Jennifer Palmieri, and Jenny Backus, Democratic consultant who is now not taking either side here. 

I always love to—I know everybody is rooting for somebody.  I don‘t care what you say. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Am I wrong?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Everybody roots. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I just wonder how the Democrats can deal with this, because Hillary Clinton has run a very tough campaign, almost beating Barack Obama, maybe will end up getting more votes than him, by saying he is not ready to be president.  He is not ready on day one. 

How could she then go out and root for him, be his chief booster and running mate, between now and general election time?  How can she change colors so fast? 

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, first of all, because she thinks that he‘s going to be better than John McCain, and also because this is what happens in each election. 

Each election, there is a primary.  There‘s people who are on opposite sides.  And they come together. 

MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t you get whiplash listening to her two points of view?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And it is two points of view.

PALMIERI:  That one clip that you showed is probably the worst thing that was said... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  All he has is a speech going for him. 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  ... that she said.

But I don‘t feel like this is irreparable.  And I fell that, in the past week, actually, since you saw Edwards get on stage in Grand Rapids and say these great things about Hillary through boos, Obama does it every day now.  There‘s no more boos.  She does it when she‘s talking about Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PALMIERI:  And I just—I feel that, even the past week, there‘s been some unifying. 

MATTHEWS:  So...

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, there‘s a difference between unity and whether or not she gets on the ticket. 

I mean, right now, I think you have both of these candidates doing everything they can for their viability.  All metrics of viability, pretty much, for Hillary to get the nomination, delegates, popular vote, all that, haven‘t worked.

But she still has a political future.  And that‘s the viability that her campaign is focusing on right now.  So, in order to have the strongest political future inside the party, to either queue herself up for ‘12 or what I think may be more likely, going back into the Senate, and, at some point, taking a leadership role there...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BACKUS:  ... she has to show that she is a good trooper and that she is still a good Democrat. 

So, that is—I think unity will happen.  I personally don‘t think the ticket will happen. 

PALMIERI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you? 

PALMIERI:  Yes, I don‘t think it will happen.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about...

PALMIERI:  If she‘s going back into the White House, she wants to sit...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the salvage value?  What will she trade in, all these votes she‘s been able to get?  As I said, perhaps most of the voters will vote for her in this process. 

What does she trade that in for?  Goodwill for next time if he loses, a lifetime in the Senate, like Ted Kennedy has had, some position in the administration should Barack win, or the V.P. job?

BACKUS:  There‘s other things that I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  Let‘s run through.  That was a pretty long list. 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  But there‘s other things that I was going to add.  There‘s also short-term things, convention speaking slot.  What happens where her delegates get slated?  There‘s the short-term political things, the debt reduction, that matter...

MATTHEWS:  Her personal debt reduction.

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  ... right now. 

And then there is long term that you said.  I think it is more about making sure that Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton‘s legacy is somewhat restored.  It took a hit in this race.  I mean, I worked for the DNC when Bill Clinton was there.  I defended Bill Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  Does this mean, Tuesday night, he gets to speak and she gets to speak, rather than Monday night, or he does Monday night, and she does Tuesday night? 

BACKUS:  I think those are the kinds of things that eventually they‘re start to have the...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BACKUS:  It‘s not—they‘re not there now, but that‘s, I think, what we‘re looking at.

MATTHEWS:  Because I figure the broadcast nets—we‘re going to be on right through every night.  And I expect the broadcast nets, the three of them, are probably going to give it like one hour each Monday and Tuesday.

So, it seems to me they will want to get in those slots, right?  They want to get on 10:00 East Coast time, probably Bill on Monday, she on Tuesday night, right?  That‘s what they want, is the biggest, highest...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But is that it, after all this Sturm und Drang? 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  She wants to be—she wants to be the president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

PALMIERI:  There‘s nothing that Barack Obama can give her—there‘s nothing that he can give her that she wants. 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  There‘s not.

MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, if Hillary—if Barack Obama wins this November, will Hillary ever be president?  That‘s the question I ask.  And does she know that? 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  I think that—I don‘t have a sense—it doesn‘t feel to me that she feels like there is another run in this, that like 2012 is a viable... 

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t think she‘s going to do it again?

PALMIERI:  I don‘t—it doesn‘t feel like it to me. 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  I think they‘re not going to rule out that option.  I think, though, that...

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  ... rule it out, but...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you the tough question again.

If he wins the presidency, Barack Obama, is she finished as a president? 

BACKUS:  No.  She can run in 2012, after he...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, he‘s president.

BACKUS:  No, two terms, 2016.  She can run.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... in 2016?

BACKUS:  Right. 

PALMIERI:  Yes.  I don‘t really see that...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  ... but if she wants to. 

But I think that that‘s why she has got different options to consider. 

PALMIERI:  I think she would be an excellent governor of New York. 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  She has—like Jennifer says, she has every option in the world.  Hillary Clinton wants to walk out of this nomination as strong as possible, for a lot of reasons.  Short term, if something happens to Obama, she wants to be the—she wants to be the rescuer.  If he doesn‘t win, she wants to be the front-runner. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me ask you about this tricky question.  And it is not gender at all.  It‘s just politics.  Who has to make the move?  Does Hillary have to let the word go forth to Barack Obama and his people that she‘s—she would like the job or that she would accept it?  Or does he have to make the offer before she says whether she will take it or not?  It‘s fascinating to me.

BACKUS:  I think it is a hypothetical question, because it‘s not going to happen. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s try someone who does believe.

If it is going to happen, does she have to let the word go to him: 

Look, if he offers it, I‘m going for it?  Because the last—or does he want to be able do say, I offered it to her and she didn‘t want it?  Does he win that way? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does he win that way? 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  He can‘t—he has to be prepared for her to accept.  You can‘t offer to it her.  I mean, that‘s what happened with LBJ, right?  They thought he wasn‘t going to accept.  You have to be prepared...

MATTHEWS:  You think that would hurt him?

PALMIERI:  You have to be prepared for the—I don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying it would hurt him if he were to offer it to her and she were to turn him down?  You‘re sure of that?

PALMIERI:  No, I don‘t think it would hurt him.  I just think that you have to be prepared.  I don‘t think you can offer it and assume that she‘s going to say no. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PALMIERI:  I think it is a delicate thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know, in a way, that would really be very clever politics.  If he thought she didn‘t want it, offer it to her. 

PALMIERI:  Sure.

BACKUS:  I think he has to consider it.  I don‘t think he has to offer it.  I think that will pass the test in the party. 

Hillary‘s support—I don‘t think she wants it either.  So, it‘s sort of—it is a hypothetical discussion.  But to honor what Hillary Clinton has done—and Barack said this in his speeches—you have to put her on the—she is on everybody‘s natural short list for vice president, I mean, even if she didn‘t run. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, last morning, the morning after the election this year, Hillary is on the ticket.  Imagine that.  Is she happy that she wins with him and she is number two and he is number one, or is she happy that they lost, because then she can run for president next time?

PALMIERI:  I think you never like to wake up on Wednesday morning having lost.  So, I would think she want to have won.

BACKUS:  She would—if she gets on the ticket, she will be 100 percent for the candidate. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jennifer Palmieri and Jenny Backus.

Up next: the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”  It‘s going to be funny tonight, and the story of one Obama supporter who, you could say, is fairly birdbrained.  Wait until you hear this one.

You‘re watching HARDBALL—there he is, called Smokey.  It‘s a parrot, a perfect surrogate.

HARDBALL coming back in a second.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

And there is nothing more sideshow than our first item on the list.  Take a look at Smokey the parrot, who has been trained to vigorously advocate for his presidential candidate of choice. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMOKEY THE PARROT:  Obama.  Yes, we can.  Yes, we can.  Yes, we can. 

Yes, we can.  Obama.  Yes, we can.  Yes, we can. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Obama.  Yes, we can—finally someone who is sticking to the talking points. 

As I have noticed on the “Sideshow” before, the longer Hillary Clinton stays in this race, the more brutal, it seems, the late-night jokes are getting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  The federal governor has pulled American students out of the international competition that compares math students.  They say, these days, there is less emphasis on math. 

Yes, especially in the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

(LAUGHTER)

LENO:  Exactly. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  Hillary has a backup plan.  First, nothing but superdelegates.  Remember when we heard all about the superdelegates?  Going to be all about the superdelegates.

Well, now she has another backup plan to get the White House.  She‘s going to marry John McCain. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Once you become the running joke, the joke just keeps running. 

Does Eliot Spitzer watch “Law & Order”?  Well, let‘s put it this way.  If he doesn‘t, this isn‘t a good night to start.  The season finale just happens to feature a storyline about a governor and a sex scandal.  But actor Sam Waterston, who has appeared right here on HARDBALL, says you shouldn‘t read too much into it—quote—quote—“I shouldn‘t say we‘re doing the Eliot Spitzer story.  I should say we‘re doing a story about a politician who gets into trouble because of sexual questions involving prostitution.”

Whatever happened to, “Any connection between the story and actual people is purely coincidental”?

Now to a new feature in the “Sideshow.”  It is called, what does Hillary Clinton really want?  We will be putting that question to our guests and presenting with you a daily updated tally of the various options. 

Based upon our interviews so far with guests booked on the show today, here‘s how it looks so far.  Four say she wants to be Obama‘s V.P.  One says she just wants to be president, period, whenever that might happen.  One says she wants to be president exactly in 2012.  One says attorney general.  And one says governor of New York. 

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

Even though Barack Obama has nearly locked up the Democratic nomination, he can‘t ignore that a huge chunk of the party still passionately supports Hillary Clinton.  And even though her prospects look grim right now, her backers are still willing to put their money where their heart is. 

Is it because they think she has a shot?  Is it because it‘s a gesture of protest?  In either case, April turned out to be Hillary‘s second best fund-raising month to date.  How much did she raise?  Twenty-two million dollars this last month.  That‘s about two-thirds of what Obama brought in.  But given the outlook, it is truly impressive—tonight‘s “Big Number,” $22 million. 

Up next: Florida, Florida, Florida.  Both Democrats campaigned in the Sunshine State today.  And, as Barack Obama looks ahead to the general election, Hillary Clinton is looking forward to getting those Florida delegates seated.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks plunging, as oil prices soar again, the Dow Jones industrials tumbling 227 points, the S&P falling 22, and the Nasdaq dropping 44 -- oil surging $4.19 in New York, closing at another record of $133.17 a barrel, before hitting $134 after-hours. 

And with record-high fuel prices, American Airlines announced layoffs possibly of thousands of worker, cutting domestic flights, and starting to charge $15 for the first checked bag. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigned, both of them, in Florida today.  And Clinton hammered home to Florida voters that she will fight to get their primary votes counted. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  We know the road to a Democratic White House runs right through Florida and Michigan. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  If we care about winning those states in November, we need to count your votes now.  If Democrats send the message that we don‘t fully value your votes, we know Senator McCain and the Republicans will be more than happy to have them. 

The Republicans will make a simple and compelling argument.  Why should Florida and Michigan voters trust the Democratic Party to look out for you when they won‘t even listen to you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Joining me now, Florida U.S. Congresswoman and Clinton campaign national chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

And Pam Iorio - is it Iorio?

MAYOR PAM IORIO, TAMPA, FL:  Iorio.

MATTHEWS:  Iorio, an Obama supporter and more importantly, mayor of Tampa, Florida.  Mayor, I have to start with you.  You‘re new on the block here.  It seem to me that Florida and Michigan broke the rules.  And instead of paying for breaking the rules, they‘ve become a cause celebre for Hillary Clinton.  Something to help her look better for having broken the rules.  How does that square with reality?

IORIO:  Well, I think that the mess over the delegates was poorly handled from the beginning.  The Democratic Party after this election is going to have to totally regroup and figure out a way to revamp the primary process.  It is ridiculous to constantly put the emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire when you have a state like Florida which is a microcosm of the entire nation, and then they get punished for something because of a set of rules.  It doesn‘t make any sense.

But at this point, our focus needs to be on the November election, focus on the nominee who I believe will be Senator Obama and let‘s work to win Florida in November.  That has got to be the focus, not focusing on the rules and what went wrong many months ago when these rules were set and it doesn‘t make any sense to Florida voters.  The rules that everyone agreed to.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, is there anyway to cut a deal here to end this?  And I question, do the Clinton people want to deal with this do they want to keep this open sore that keeps the whole campaign process until Denver?

Do they want a deal?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ, (D) FL:  I totally agree with Pam whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for.  She‘s doing a great job as mayor of Tampa.  The primary process needs to be revamped.  With all due respect, Pam, you know, if we‘re focusing on November, then the whole point of insisting on Florida‘s delegation being seat at the convention is so the Democratic Party doesn‘t show disrespect for our state.  You know better than anyone as the former supervisor of elections in Hillsboro County, that we have very raw nerves left over from the 2000 recount.  We are very sensitive in Florida about getting our votes counted.  And Barack Obama said absolutely nothing today when he spoke to 15,000 Floridians in your home town.  About getting our delegation seated.  That‘s unacceptable.

We can‘t expect to be successful and win Florida in November if we show disrespect, if our potential nominee shows disrespect for Florida‘s voters.  It‘s just unacceptable.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t you say all that back when the candidates didn‘t campaign down there, congresswoman?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  (Inaudible)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, isn‘t this a little late?  Hillary Clinton didn‘t campaign in Florida.  Neither did Barack Obama.  You didn‘t really have a primary fight down there.  And now you‘re trying to claim it as legitimate.  You never had campaigns in that state.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  There were 1.75 million voters .

MATTHEWS:  I know they voted but nobody ...

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  It doesn‘t matter if they didn‘t campaign.

MATTHEWS:  They were told not to campaign by the national party.  They were told not to campaign.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  No, they were not.  With all due respect, they were not told not to campaign by the national party.  The decision by the candidates not to campaign in Florida was their own.  They signed a pledge to the four early states that had nothing to do with the DNC‘s decision.

MATTHEWS:  So they made a pledge not to do it and they didn‘t campaign down there.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  That‘s right.  That‘s different than the rules.

MATTHEWS:  And you, they consider that a legitimate campaign.  The fact that nobody showed up.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  This is 2008.  In 2008, voters get their information about candidates from the internet.  From television, from newspapers, from all kind of different communications.  This is not 1865 when we had Lincoln-Douglas standing on apple boxes debating town to town.  People get their information differently.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask the mayor.  Was that a fair campaign where nobody showed up?

IORIO:  You know, Chris, I was at the rally today.  There were 20,000 very enthusiastic voters.  I don‘t think any of them felt that they were disrespected.  Certainly we hope that this works out in some way.  That people get half the delegates or whatever the group agrees to.  But that‘s not really the point going forward.  Senator Obama gave a futuristic talk about where this country need to go and how we all need to get together and solve the issues of our nation.  And that was what his speech was today.  And I can tell that you people were wildly enthusiastic.  And the point is to get behind the nominee.  Focus on November.  And then after this election is over, the Democratic Party needs to blow up its current process and start over.

And there is no way in the world that Florida should be treated the way it has been treated in this primary process.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  Pam, can I ask you a question?

IORIO:  That‘s about as old-fashioned at $2 gallon gasoline.  We need to be—wherever we are in the process, our votes need to count.  And we have to stop this kind of internal rule game that only a few people participate in.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  On May 31st, the party leader will get together.  Give me a solution, congresswoman.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  My preferred solution is that our entire delegation gets seated based on the votes cast on January 29th.  We had a record turnout.  That‘s really the right thing to do.  There are varying degrees of the way you can seat us.  Some people say you can seat half the delegation.  Others say you can seat our delegation with half a vote each.  But at the end of the day, the delegation needs to be seated based on the votes that were cast.  The voters in Florida did not break the rules, Chris.  They followed the rules.  Our Florida law .

MATTHEWS:  Madam Mayor, what is your solution?  The congresswoman‘s solution is act like it was totally legitimate.  Legitimize the vote, count it.  What would you do?

IORIO:  On the Republican side, they said take half the delegates.  There didn‘t seem to be a brouhaha on the Republican side.  Maybe what we do is we seat half the delegates and focus on the future and reforming the process because the process totally went astray this time.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  I totally agree.  We need to reform the process.

IORIO:  That‘s what we need to do.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio.

Up next, does Barack Obama need to take Hillary Clinton as his running mate right now?  Some people think it is beginning to look like he has no choice.  He needs to carry states where only he has done well.  Is that his ticket to win, by the way?  The only way to win Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, to offset the threat of a McCain-Romney ticket?  The politics fix is straight ahead.  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.

Our roundtable tonight, MSNBC political analyst Michael Barnicle and Michelle Bernard and Salon‘s Joan Walsh.

I‘d like to talk with Mike first of all here.  I want to talk a little about Ted Kennedy.  We watched him get in that car this afternoon.  The SUV.  He looked OK, heading back to work.  He is going to go back to the Senate while he gets these tests.  He is back to work for a while.  We‘ll see what the prognosis leads to.  But what do you make of his priorities now that he has a critical situation facing him?  And the rest of his life, I guess.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yeah.  The rest of his life.  That‘s very aptly put.  I think you‘re going to see an even more passionate advocate for the poor.  An even a more passionate advocate for educational programs, G.I. benefits, college tuition.

You‘re going to see an even more passionate advocate against the war in Iraq.  I don‘t think there will be a wasted moment or a wasted tone of voice from Ted Kennedy on the floor of the United States Senate or anywhere else for as long as he rides this terrible disease out.

MATTHEWS:  Joan Walsh, your thoughts about this.  There he is, coming out of the hospital with Cara behind him - Caroline Kennedy and his son Patrick, and I think I saw Ted there, as well, his other son.  What do you make of this man‘s plans now?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COMN:  I can‘t judge his plans.  Certainly he has such a tremendous legacy it‘s a fighter for the poor.  And for labor and for everybody who has been excluded.  That if he wanted to retire, he would have his legacy he doesn‘t to have work but I expect him to work.  And I think he is probably spend some time devoting himself to electing a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress.

But that is really the only way at this point to get action on things like health care that are his priorities.  Because we do have gridlock at this point.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I would make one prediction.  I never forgot in Atlantic City, watching it on television.  I think I was in Ocean City nearby when Bobby Kennedy went to the podium of the Democratic convention in Atlantic City in 1964.  He gave that speech right from Romeo and Juliet.  I have to tell you.  That was one of the great moments in history of politics.  It we might see another one of those moment in Denver, at the beginning of August.

WALSH:  Definitely.

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think he will be here in Denver.  I think whatever he says about the Democratic Party will be a momentous occasion.  I also expect that we‘ll see him taking on the national debate on, about cancer.  You know, we played a lot of clips yesterday about the testimony and talks that he gave recently, dealing with the war against cancer.

And if there is a more—there probably could not be a better spokesperson for the nation really lodging a war.  We‘ve seen Nancy Brinker, the spokeswoman, breast cancer foundation.  Lance Armstrong and now Teddy Kennedy is in the right position to be a spokesperson on how we fight this battle.

MATTHEWS:  And it seem like—go ahead, Mike.  Your thoughts.

BARNICLE:  You know, it is very interesting that you recall that moment in Atlantic City in 1964 with the wave of emotion and the wave of applause that washed over Robert Kennedy that evening.  Just prior to his speaking.  And we all remember the speech.  At least those of us at a certain age.  And I think one of the key things in this political year of ours is Ted Kennedy‘s choice to endorse Barack Obama.  And you can indeed see him in Denver, giving a similar speech to that of Robert Kennedy in 1964.  Because the Obama endorsement from Ted Kennedy, I think embodied a lot.  I think Obama embodies a lot of what Edward Kennedy sees in the legacy of his family.  The thing that both his brothers tried to do.  The thing that he has fought to do.

MATTHEWS:  The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. 

We‘ll be right back with the roundtable for more of the politics fix. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix.

I have got to go to Jones Walsh.  Because you carry a torch for greatness.  You‘re such a passionate reporter.  What would Hillary Clinton want to do were she in charge of the western part of the universe?  Between now and August.  What would she like to do?  And she has enormous power.

WALSH:  You mean in terms of keeping her candidacy going?

MATTHEWS:  She could say, let me just speculate.  She could say, I want to be vice president and make it clear.  She could say, I don‘t want to be vice president and make it clear.  She could make it clear she‘s not too happy with the winner of this campaign, she is not happy with the way the nomination was decided.  She can call a protest.  She can do anything she wants.

WALSH:  She can do anything she wants.  And I don‘t speak for her.  I don‘t see her taking this to the convention.  But it‘s possible.  That was a feisty speech down in Florida.  So it is possible.  I see her playing out these last primaries and counting the votes and counting the money and taking calls from her supporters on June 4 before she makes a decision.  I don‘t think she wants to be vice president, particularly, Chris, but it‘s got to be something Obama considers and if he were to offer it to her, I think she would have to take it.  I don‘t think she‘s there yet.

MATTHEWS:  Suppose, Michael, she asked for all the powers, now held by Dick Cheney.  That kind of vice president.  That would be pretty attractive to a mortal.

BARNICLE:  It makes no sense for Barack Obama to offer her the vice presidency or to have her accept the vice presidency.  What that does, despite Senator Clinton‘s great abilities, despite her great following, it makes Barack Obama ordinary.  It makes him something he tried not to be throughout the course of his campaign.

If Senator Clinton was really thinking about the next two or three months, one of the things she might want to fly up to Hyannisport and talk to Ted Kennedy and ask Ted Kennedy what he learned from 1980.  How to lose and when to get out.

WALSH:  With all due respect, Mike, I think Obama is going to have to learn to be a little bit more ordinary.  He got another shellacking in Kentucky because he didn‘t campaign there.  Like they say about the lottery.  You can‘t win if you don‘t play.

BARNICLE:  He‘s not going to win there in November, either, Joan.

WALSH:  He‘s got an Appalachia problem .

BARNICLE:  All of this stuff, we treat like poor white people like lab rats in the media.

WALSH:  I‘m not doing that, Mike.

BARNICLE:  We talk about them as if we‘re anthropologists.Here‘s the deal for Barack Obama and those people.  If he goes to central Pennsylvania, Chris‘ home state this fall.  Ohio, all he has to do

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been a poor white person on occasion.  Thank you, Mike Barnicle. for looking out for me.

MATTHEWS:  Michelle Bernard and Joan Walsh.

Right now, it‘s time for THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE WITH DAVID

GREGORY.

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

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