updated 6/6/2008 11:24:32 AM ET 2008-06-06T15:24:32

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Dan Balz, Margaret Carlson, Jonathan Alter, Margaret Carlson, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Jonathan Allen, Chrystia Freeland, Perry Bacon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The big concession.  The big endorsement. 

Saturday‘s big event.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Hillary Clinton over and out.  The news broke last night Hillary Clinton is suspending her campaign and endorsing Senator Barack Obama this Saturday.  The question now, Did she jump or was she pushed?  Today some of her staunchest supporters, New York lawmakers, came out with a group endorsement of Senator Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK:  --outstanding candidate, and in our collective opinion, he has won the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But even out of the race, Senator Clinton is casting a huge shadow.  What will she say at her big event on Saturday?  Will she offer her complete support for Barack Obama, or will she continue to try to exert maximum influence on his campaign?  Will she give a call to arms to women voters?

And on the general election, Obama is campaigning in Virginia today.  Meanwhile, John McCain was back in Florida raising money.  Later, we talk to two top political strategists about the November battleground states and where each candidate hopes to pick up votes.

In the “Politics Fix“ tonight: Whether Barack Obama picks Hillary or not, can he wait to decide?  Can he decide on her later or against her, or does he have to act right away?  That‘s the big question tonight, the timing.  And on the HARDBALL “Sideshow,“ a very familiar face to TV viewers tells Barack Obama, You‘re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it.

But we begin with the end of the Clinton campaign.  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has been covering the campaign.  Dan Balz writes for “The Washington Post.”  Dan, I liked your story today, the big one.  Give me a sense of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday—Tuesday night, the planning.  Was there a Hillary plan not to endorse Tuesday night?

DAN BALZ, “WASHINGTON POST“:  As far as I understood, there was never a plan to either concede or definitely endorse on Tuesday night.  I think that they always saw Tuesday night as her last moment as a real candidate, that she would then go private, as she has done the last couple of days.  As described to us early on in the week, she was going to make some calls.  They were hoping to find as much time as they possibly could to do that, within limits.

I think people in the campaign and around her knew that they had to make a signal sometime in the middle of the week and that by the end of the week, her campaign had to be over.  And I think that‘s the timetable that‘s played out.  But I think that the pressure they got, particularly after her speech on Tuesday night, may have forced her to move a little bit more rapidly or assertively than she may have been planning to or hoping to.

MATTHEWS:  Is you‘re reporting—Andrea‘s with me right now, Andrea Mitchell from NBC, Dan—is your reporting, I think it was the other night, that she was perhaps thinking of holding out until next week at one point.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I think she felt that she could hold out until next week.  They didn‘t want to rush this through.  She wanted to get maximum leverage.  In their thinking, they would have more leverage if they got e-mails.  You heard her in her speech call out for e-mails.  And she put out an e-mail alert to all of her supporters—

MATTHEWS:  Why?

MITCHELL:  Send in a message of support for Hillary Clinton.  And if you clicked on that Web site and clicked on that message, there‘s really only a way—a window to click, I support Hillary, fight on.  She really wanted to go into whatever bargaining she did with Barack Obama—

MATTHEWS:  Is there a bargaining going on now?  And over what?

MITCHELL:  No.  There are conversations going on about the donor base and some of the other roles, but not what you would call bargaining because they are not in any position to bargain.  They got forced out of this campaign precipitously by their own supporters.

MATTHEWS:  OK, the plan was next week.  They have to do it Saturday. 

“The Wall Street Journal“ reports today, quote, “Some in the Clinton

camp also noted a possible deal breaker for a party unity ticket.  Bill

Clinton may balk at releasing records of his business dealings and big

donors to his presidential library.  Referring to a potential vice

presidential slot for Senator Clinton, a senior Obama adviser says,“

quote, “The more this gets vetted, the less likely it becomes.“

I guess we‘re ahead of schedule here, but let me ask you, Dan Balz, is this VP thing really in the picture, or is this question about moving up her decision to endorse and concede a separate question?

BALZ:  I think they‘re separate in some ways, Chris.  I think that the Obama campaign, what they are trying to do is make clear—and they did this yesterday when they put out the list of people who are going to run the process.  They want to make clear that this is a process, that it is not a quick decision, that it is not a hasty decision and that it is not a decision that‘s simply is a question of will they take Hillary Clinton or will they not take Hillary Clinton.  They want to make this an elongated process to take the pressure off themselves to have to make a quick decision for her.

And as you could see, today, her campaign and she moved to try to take a little of the pressure off of him.  Her campaign put out a statement today from her saying, Look, this is Senator Obama‘s decision and his decision alone.  And nobody speaks for me about the vice presidency, which is to say the people who are putting out the idea that I want to be or that they‘re doing petition drives or that they‘re, as Bob Johnson of BET did yesterday, sent a letter to Jim Clyburn, the congressman from South Carolina, saying the black caucus ought to endorse this ticket—she basically said today, Look, I‘m speaking for myself on this and nobody else.  And don‘t listen to what other people are saying.  So I think both sides have tried to create more space than it looked like there was 24 hours ago.

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  I think she‘s been behaving in the last 24 hours very friendly towards the Barack Obama campaign.  I thought her statement—well, check me on this—to AIPAC yesterday was the kind of endorsement, the kind of commendation that‘s been so necessary for him for months now with the Jewish community.  And she just did it with such forthright directness.

MITCHELL:  But at the point that she—

MATTHEWS:  And then again today, to shut down Bob Johnson and say, I don‘t want anybody running some campaign for VP for me.  It‘s up to him who he picks.

MITCHELL:  At the point that she did that statement at AIPAC, she was still thinking that she had more time.  It was—she came backstage afterwards, and he, then, Obama, said it‘ll be in a matter of weeks.  We‘ll get this all sorted out in the coming weeks.  At that stage, she then went and heard from Charlie Rangel and all the others and was forced to do it more quickly.

But Barack Obama has just spoken on the plane to reporters traveling with him.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  He‘s just landed at Dulles.  And he very emphatically said, I‘m going to do this at a time of my choosing—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

MITCHELL:  --slowly.  I‘m keeping my own counsel.  When you hear anything about this, it will not be authoritative.  The next words you hear from my campaign, which has been remarkably disciplined—the next word you hear from my campaign about this will be when I announce a selection.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Dan Balz on the question of the Clintons and their perhaps out-of-synch political behavior this year, the sense that they had the nomination early, they would have it by February 4, the fact that the Democratic Party was still the Clinton party, which was upset by all the superdelegate behavior of the last several months, since May 6-- they‘ve been surprised, according to your reporting and others.  They haven‘t quite understood the changing nature, perhaps the facile, fickle nature of politics.  They haven‘t quite gotten it yet.

Are they still off base in terms of understanding how they should have handled Tuesday night, this whole week, Dan Balz?

MITCHELL:  Chris, I wish I knew the answer to that.  It‘s a great question.  You would have to think they would believe, at this point, that they did mishandle Tuesday night.  The idea that, as they liked to say that day, this is her night—you know, it was Barack Obama‘s night.  It was the night that he clinched the nomination.

But you know, I liken this to Robert Kennedy in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was president and was trying to figure out whether to pick Kennedy or not as his vice president.  Kennedy is a separate—was a separate force within the party.  Senator Clinton is, in some ways, a separate force within the party, not the dominant one, as it turns out, but nonetheless, has a strong following, many loyalists, and has to be dealt with differently than another—you know, another politician would.

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

BALZ:  That‘s the difficulty that Senator Obama will have whether he chooses her or not.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Bobby Kennedy, according to all the books—and I think I‘ve read every one of them, as well as all of you guys have—he seemed to have wanted it in ‘64.  They hadn‘t gotten to fighting over the war in Vietnam by then.  The war hadn‘t kicked up yet.  We hadn‘t had the escalation.  But this time around, does Hillary Clinton want the VP job?  Does she actually want to be vice president and subservient to the guy she‘s been fighting now for two years?

MITCHELL:  I think so.  I think—

MATTHEWS:  Really?

MITCHELL:  --Hillary is—

MATTHEWS:  Does she understand job is not community property—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  --that she would have to basically take—I hate to say this—accept obedience?

MITCHELL:  Well, she would understand it better than anyone because she supplanted Al Gore on many of the agenda—

MATTHEWS:  She big-footed him.

MITCHELL:  --in 1993.  So she knows how a close circle in the White House can really exclude a vice president better than anyone alive.  But you know, it is second to the president.  And it gives you a whole—she could do health care.  She—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does she see herself—now, this is where I get into trouble.  Does she see herself as an incipient Dick Cheney, in other words, a VP that‘s sort of a super-VP with a big staff, 60 (ph) legislative assistants, foreign policy, intel, control of intel, where she‘s a better Washington expert than Barack, and therefore has the upper hand even inside the institution of the White House, the way Cheney seems to have sometimes?

MITCHELL:  Perhaps.  Perhaps, yes.  I mean, it would presumptuous for me to say—

MATTHEWS:  Well, he would never accept a deal like that!

MITCHELL:  No.

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  But you know, I don‘t think one should discount the attractiveness of the position of vice president—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  --from her end, you‘re right.  Dan Balz, does your sense and reporting tell you that Barack Obama would understand that if he did offer it to Hillary Clinton, that he would be sharing the power, really, with her?

BALZ:  Well, I think that if Barack Obama were to offer it to her, it would be under very explicit terms in which he would demand the upper hand on these kinds of things.  So I mean, I think that‘s one of the things that makes it so difficult.  You can imagine this as an extraordinarily complicated set of negotiations.

It reminds me a little bit of 1980, when—you know, when you had Reagan and Ford negotiating over a co-presidency—

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

BALZ:  --and ultimately, you couldn‘t do that.  And I think everybody understands that, you know, there has to be a president and then there‘s a vice president.  And this negotiation, if it were ever to take place, would also certainly have to involve the role of Bill Clinton, and that makes it even more difficult and tougher to pull off.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it neater for him to pick the guy he‘s with today, Mark Warner, get him out of that Senate race, try to pick up Virginia, try to go to the new states with an entrepreneur, a brand-new politician who sort of looks right with him and really turn the page?  We‘re looking at the picture right now.  I‘m still taken with the smartest move Bill Clinton ever made, which was to put Gore on his ticket with him, somebody from his region, somebody from his generation and academic background.  What do you think, Dan Balz?  Do you dare venture into this territory of saying that this might—I don‘t know who the “great mentioner is.“  I guess it‘s still Broder, and you, I guess, share that title.  But is this something that the great mentioner ought to be doing, saying Warner?

BALZ:  Well, you know, there are a lot of people who mention, and most of the people who mention turn out to be wrong in the end.

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

BALZ:  Mark Warner, obviously, is somebody who will get a good look, but there are two other politicians in Virginia who also might, Senator Jim Webb and Governor Tim Kaine.  Tim Kaine was one of the early supporters of Barack Obama, a very attractive person—

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

BALZ:  --a governor, rather than a senator.  So you know, there are lots of people who will deserve a look.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

MITCHELL:  And Mark Warner—

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t resist.  Warner‘s better.  Warner‘s a business guy, a self-made business guy.  I‘m sorry.  This is—this is my pundit coming out of me.  He makes a lot of sense.  Go ahead.

MITCHELL:  He‘s a lock on the Senate seat.  Look at all the people—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re going to get that Senate seat anyway.  They can find somebody else.

MITCHELL:  Look at all those people—

MATTHEWS:  Get Miranda (ph) to run for that Senate seat.  Give Miranda a Senate seat.

Anyway, thank you both.  I think we‘re up in the air now.  But Hillary—last question.  I have a sense Hillary Clinton is not going to give a fadeout speech on Saturday.  It‘s going to be a “crie de guerre,“ a call to arms.  She‘s referring now to the invisible Democrats, the 18 million who voted for her.  Will she do a Helen Reddy speech, and “I am woman“ speech, something like 18 million invisible Democrats, don‘t forget them, some phrase like the New Frontier?

MITCHELL:  Yeah, but she—

MATTHEWS:  Something big.

MITCHELL:  She now knows she has got to make it explicit and emphatic.  She‘s got to go after John McCain.  She‘s got to do party unity.  She‘s got to embrace Barack Obama in every possible way.

MATTHEWS:  Not a last salvo from her campaign.

MITCHELL:  No, but she is suspending.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Dan, you think she might go for one last salvo of, “I am woman,“ this campaign has aroused women, that kind of thing?

BALZ:  Well, I think she will do some of that.  I think she will do everything that Andrea suggests.  She will—she will—she will be very loyal.  She will give a strong endorsement.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BALZ:  She will go after McCain.  But I think also she‘s not going to fade away.  She‘s going to be a presence at the convention, no matter what happens.  She will be a presence after that.  I mean, she is—she is a large figure politically in this country and will continue to be one.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BALZ:  The question is, What‘s her role going to be?

MATTHEWS:  She will not go gently into that good night.  Andrea Mitchell—

MITCHELL:  And why should she?  Why should she?

MATTHEWS:  I would never recommend that.  And you have now endorsed the fact that she won‘t, which is perfectly consistent with what reality is going to be.  She‘s going to give a barn-burner on Saturday!  Anyway, Andrea Mitchell, Dan Balz.

Coming up: Will Hillary Clinton pay a price politically for the way she handled those final days of her campaign?  In fact, Tuesday night seems to be some pushback coming with that.  We‘ll see.  And what does she have to do Saturday when she officially bows out of the race?  I think a lot of things—endorse, concede, and give a hell of a speech.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Well, is Hillary Clinton trying to upstage the Democratic nominee for president?  Is she trying to show some muscle at this point, or is she simply showing a lack of grace?  These are theories.  But will her decisions in the last few days since Tuesday night affect her chances of joining Barack Obama on the ticket, should he have that in mind?

Here to talk about it are Bloomberg‘s Margaret Carlson and “Newsweek‘s“ Jonathan Alter.  Both of you are great writers.

Margaret, you say in your column for Bloomberg today that what Hillary wants—she wants love!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And she wants this love in the form of victory.  Can‘t have it.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  Well, that‘s Foid‘s (ph) question.  And it‘s—love and winning are mixed up for the Clintons, and yes, that‘s definitely what she wants.  Question is, had she been gracious, would she have gotten more attention?  The answer‘s probably no, and therefore, being gracious is taken off the table and—and—

MATTHEWS:  So good guys finish last.

CARLSON:  --steaming forward is—

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  So you think it—

CARLSON:  --what they do.

MATTHEWS:  --might have been a smart move for her to be a little bit awkward Tuesday night in not endorsing, not conceding, so that it does give her this whole week right up until Sunday, really.  She‘ll own the press until Sunday.

CARLSON:  Well, the positive side of that, according to her people, is, well, when she does come around, it means more to her supporters.  It means something.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Jon, I have this theory that Hillary Clinton is actually very easy to read right now.  She didn‘t want to lose but she couldn‘t avoid losing, but she didn‘t want to quit and she could avoid quitting.  So her way of sticking in there is staying in there even a couple days past the dignified notion of what it is because she doesn‘t want to look like Al Gore.  She doesn‘t want to look like she‘s too dignified, she‘s too good loser.

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK“:  I think it‘s a good theory.  I mean, she missed an opportunity to have an electrifying moment that would have been remembered as a great peace of political theater.  If she had walked out onto the stage with Barack Obama in St. Paul, Minnesota, can you imagine how electrifying that would be?  Chelsea with the Obama kids.  You know, it would have given the Democratic Party such a charge.  It would have been tremendously gracious and unifying.

She wasn‘t gracious and unifying enough to do that.  When I suggested it to one senior Democrat over the weekend, that that would be the smart play for her, he totally agreed but said their anger has clouded their judgment.  They just weren‘t thinking straight in the last couple of days.

MATTHEWS:  Are they angry the way you get angry when your wedding is rained on or you get a disease, and just life is unfair or—is it directed or is it just general anger?

ALTER:  You know, the Clintons—

MATTHEWS:  Is it anger at the superdelegate?  Forget the fact that they‘re mad at the media—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  --because, generally, if you lose, you‘re always mad at the media.  But I‘ve been reading a lot that they‘re very angry at the big shots, that they counted on backing them because they ran the party all those years.

ALTER:  Right.  That‘s right.  You got to remember the Clintons have a lot of great qualities, but they also have some qualities that are rather deplorable, and one of them is a self-pity that we‘ve seen now for 15 years, a sense of entitlement and self-pity.  And this has caught up and bitten them, I think, in this case.  I mean, they—they never should have misread that situation with superdelegates.  They‘re been losing the superdelegates for weeks.  Many of the superdelegates basically endorsed her early on with a hammer over their heads. 

You‘ve got to remember how tough they were through all of 2007.  They said, you‘re either with us or you‘re against us.  This train is leaving the station.  You know, February 1st, 2007, you‘d better get on it. 

That‘s the kind of thing Terry McAuliffe was saying to these people.  So they got on the train, but they weren‘t happy about it, you know?  And there was a lot of built-up resentment within the Democratic Party and on Capitol Hill.  And you really saw that in the last couple of days. 

It was total unanimity, even for people like Charlie Rangel, who convinced her to run for the Senate in the first place, got her in politics.  He said, this was ungracious, wrong, stupid if you want to be vice president, and you‘ve got to get out pronto. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think, Margaret, a lot of this anger that you see in the big-name politicians, the fact that they haven‘t fallen in love with the Clintons, a lot of people like Tommy Menino, the mayor of Boston, and Ed Rendell, they‘re very thankful to Clinton for the money he gave him as president.  You know the pilot programs, but they like all of that. 

But yet, is it—if you look at every poll in every state, people with four years of college, the people with educations have turned off the Clintons.  It‘s like they said, we watched enough with Marc Rich, we put up with Monica, we put up with the fundraising in the Lincoln Bedroom, we put up with all of the overt Clintonism, just too much of this whatever. 

And they said now is our time to say good-bye.  It just seems like it‘s not just that they were pro-Barack, but every time you poll people that have had four years of college education, they said no to the Clintons. 

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  Well, as Jonathan says, people were hit over their heads.  The moment they saw an alternative, they wanted to go.  They wanted to leave this because the cumulative effect of the Clintons has been to actually demoralize and dispirit people about politics. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the Congress was overwhelmingly Democrat when the Clintons came in.  By the time they left, it was overwhelmingly Republican.  That would be a reading.

CARLSON:  And yesterday.

MATTHEWS:  . wouldn‘t it be, on their success?

CARLSON:  And yesterday what was happening on the Hill was that here are these people that were with Clinton, saw the Clintons putting the well being of the Clintons before the well being of having a Democrat in the White House, and they reacted. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, Margaret.  You grew up in Pennsylvania.  Do we still have Ed Rendell here?  Because he‘s the ultimate Clinton loyalist, and look at what he had to say, Ed Rendell. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  There‘s no bargaining.  You don‘t bargain with the presidential nominee, even if you‘re Hillary Clinton and you have 18 million votes, you don‘t bargain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And he‘s the guy who was really her campaign manager in Pennsylvania.  Jon, Jonathan? 

ALTER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, it seems to me if there ever was a loyalist who really blossomed—and she blossomed like E.T. during that campaign.  She lit up campaigning with Ed Rendell.  She ran the best.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The best campaign of the whole season with Pennsylvania, and here‘s the guy saying, don‘t be out there diddling out here, bargaining with the guy who just beat you over who he should pick as V.P. 

ALTER:  Absolutely.  Because as Charlie Rangel was saying, like Ed Rendell, these guys come out of local politics.  It‘s politics 101.  You don‘t jam the nominee of your party, hold them up. 

I thought what Hilary Rosen said on your show the other night was great.  She‘s a Democrat, she‘s not a bargaining chip, you know?  And to misread this is so fundamental.  And it shows that their political chops have just been—which were wonderful for so many years, their instincts, have been completely atrophied by the emotions of the moment. 

Now I‘m sympathetic about—it‘s very hard to lose.  You know this, Chris, in politics, it can be very disorienting to lose.  And you can lose your judgment.  But they have not handled themselves well in the last three days and her chances have gone from unlikely to extremely unlikely of being vice president. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTER:  All of this talk about, will she go on the ticket?  It‘s very unlikely. 

MATTHEWS:  Dick Nixon—Richard Nixon, whatever his faults, was a smart politician.  He used to say, never make a big decision after a big loss or a big victory.  Margaret?  Got to cool it for a while. 

CARLSON:  Right.  I mean, you can win half the vote and lose?  You know, that—that you know in politics.  And by the way, you don‘t get to choose to lose, if you‘ve lost... 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Al Gore won more than half the votes and he.

CARLSON:  More than half and.

MATTHEWS:  . lost.  Anyway.

CARLSON:  . lost.

MATTHEWS:  Hey, guys, it‘s a tough business.  Margaret—it‘s better to cover it than to be in it.  And Margaret Carlson, Jonathan Alter. 

Up next, the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” a little relief tonight.  What are we supposed to make of this fist-pumping?  You like this?  I need a name for that.  Watch this, here it comes.  Here it comes.  That‘s next on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”  We‘re going to examine that little moment. 

Plus, an Obama/Clinton ticket, is it inevitable?  Not if Obama‘s supporters get their way.  Wait until you catch this “Big Number” tonight.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Love that merry-go-round.  Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” Politicians are quick to boast about the strength of their families.  But they‘re not always quick with the old PDA, you know, public displays of affection.  Well, you may have missed it, but here‘s Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, with a celebratory fist pump.  It‘s also known as a dap (ph).

After he clinched the Democratic nomination this week, it was a fist bump of victory, and of course, of love, which brings to mind a different display of love, one from eight years ago when Al Gore and wife Tipper took to the stage at the Democratic Convention in L.A.  Let‘s watch this one. 

(VIDEO CLIP OF AL & TIPPER GORE MAKING OUT)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that may have been a tad too close, despite my like and respect for both of those folks.  By the way, that went on forever in real life.  It looked a little too much like Tom Cruise dancing on the couch. 

Not to sound like Jerry Seinfeld, but what‘s the deal with political wives moonlighting as TV talk show hosts?  First, it was Laura Bush, guest hosting on the “TODAY” show, then it was Cindy McCain who sat in with Whoopi and the rest of the ladies on “The View,” and now Michelle Obama is having her turn. 

It turns out she‘s also going to guest host on “The View” on June 18th after telling producers there she wanted the same opportunity as Cindy McCain.  Next thing you know, they‘ll be showing up on C-SPAN 2. 

Well, it would be funny if it weren‘t a little bit scary.  Today‘s edition of Roll Call, that‘s Capitol Hill‘s newspaper, reports that among the many reference books on the shelf of the House Homeland Security Committee‘s Democratic staff conference room is this one, quote: “The Complete Idiot‘s Guide to National Security.”

I wonder on what page of that “Complete Idiot‘s Guide to National Security” it suggests that invading and occupying an Arab country and in engaging in an indefinite occupation was a smart move. 

Have you heard of George Zimmer?  I know you‘ve seen him and heard him.  He‘s the founder and CEO of Men‘s Wearhouse.  You know, this guy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ZIMMER, FOUNDER & CEO, MEN‘S WEARHOUSE:  Rent from MW Tux or any Men‘s Warehouse, you‘re going to like the way you look.  I guarantee it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Five packs a day voice there.  Anyway, well, it turns out that he thinks Barack Obama should donate his expensive Zegna suits and go for the Men‘s Warehouse collection instead.  Those Men‘s Wearhouse commercials, by the way, are so persuasive it just might work.

And now, it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.” Will he or won‘t he?  That is the question.  I‘m talking about—of course, about whether or not Barack Obama will pick Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential running mate.  Well, a new Pew Research poll shows that Obama‘s supporters have a clear opinion on that topic. 

What percentage of Obama fans reject the idea of a Clinton on the ticket?  Fifty-four percent say no way, that‘s a majority.  And it‘s up from 46 percent earlier this spring.  That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number,” 54 percent say no way to put Hillary on the ticket. 

Up next, can Obama stretch the field and put red states in play against McCain?  Can he enlarge the Democrat map? 

And which candidate would look stronger if they held weekly town meetings?  That‘s what McCain is pushing for.  You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(FINANCIAL NEWSBREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Both presidential candidates visit battleground states today.  Don‘t you love that, the martial arts aspect of this?  Anyway, John McCain spoke to Florida‘s newspaper editors, looking to make inroads in that hotly contested state.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Not only is Florida probably going to play, again, a key role in determination of the next president of the United States, and by the way, I just watched “Recount” for those of you that like to.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN:  Those of you who like to take a trip down memory lane.  One of the more interesting times in America‘s history, truly. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And Barack Obama campaigned in Virginia today with Senate candidate Mark Warner, Governor Tim Kaine, and Senator Jim Webb.  Here‘s what he said today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There are good, hard working, decent generous people in beautiful towns all throughout this region.  But Washington hasn‘t been listening to you and hasn‘t been paying attention to you. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  And I‘m here to let you know that I‘m going to be paying attention and I‘m going a be listening and we‘re going to make life better right here in Southwest Virginia. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So who will win the battle for the battlegrounds?  And how will Obama‘s money machine get him across the line?  Steve McMahon is a Democratic media consultant.  And Todd Harris is a former McCain spokesman. 

I‘ve had this thing in my head that Hillary Clinton would do OK, wouldn‘t quite make 50 percent in the general, though that is obviously fluid.  But I‘ve always had this sense about Barack Obama in the general election coming up this November—I‘ve had this for a couple of years, he‘ll either get 45 percent and get wiped out or he‘ll pull the biggest upset in history and win like Roosevelt, 55 percent. 

If he does that 55 percent it‘s because he solved a number of problems between now and November.  Now let‘s talk about a small problem in terms of population, but definitely matters in terms of Florida and it matters in terms of Pennsylvania. 

The Jewish vote, you want to talk about that, because there he was down in Florida today, McCain, talking to the intellectual leaders of the newspapers.  And there they both were the other day at AIPAC, the American Israeli Political Action Committee. 

TODD HARRIS, FORMER MCCAIN SPOKESMAN:  Obama has continually polled about 10 points behind among Jewish voters from where he has been with his overall vote total.  He does have significant problems in South Florida with Jewish votes.  But there are actually five states, Chris, five battleground states. 

You mentioned two of them.  But also add Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada that have larger Jewish populations than the victory margin of either Kerry or Bush in 2004.  So a state like Nevada, which is not viewed as, you know, a particularly Jewish state, but there are still 80,000 Jewish... 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s if everybody who is Jewish votes as a bloc. 

HARRIS:  But you don‘t have to move a lot of voters in some of these really critical swing states. 

MATTHEWS:  Is—your point is, is it open?  Are the Republicans making a run at the Jewish vote?  Obviously they are.

HARRIS:  Yes.  Absolutely.  There‘s no question.  I mean, I don‘t think that.

MATTHEWS:  Because—tougher Middle East policy. 

HARRIS:  I don‘t think.

MATTHEWS:  . to put it bluntly.

HARRIS:  I don‘t think it will win a majority, but you know, you shave off—you know, Bush won about 22 percent.  If McCain can get to 30, 35 percent... 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  OK.  That affects.

HARRIS:  . real difference.

MATTHEWS:  But I hear Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, obviously, and then Florida, South Florida. 

HARRIS:  Yes—but, and watch—as Obama moves to start courting those Jewish voters, watch how that affects him in Michigan with the huge Arab population. 

MATTHEWS:  I know, OK.  Well, let.

HARRIS:  . which is significantly supporting Obama right now.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re trying to kill this guy, aren‘t you?  All right. 

Let me ask you.

HARRIS:  Of course I am.

MATTHEWS:  I know, you‘re (INAUDIBLE).  Let me ask you, it seems to me that Hillary Clinton did him a wonderful favor yesterday before AIPAC. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes, I think.

MATTHEWS:  That was a strong endorsement.

MCMAHON:  Yes, yes.  And the Democrats and the Jewish voters are going to fall in line.  The last poll that I saw, by the way, had Barack Obama running about 7 points among Jewish voters below where Senator Clinton was running.  So he‘s not starting this in a very bad position at all. 

You mentioned battleground states and who is campaigning where.  You know, it‘s interesting, Rumsfeld used to talk about the old Europe.  John McCain is in the old battleground.  It‘s Florida.  Barack Obama today is in Virginia.  That‘s not a state that has been open to Democrats historically.  They think Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, states like that where there‘s a large independent vote, where there‘s a large African-American vote, are going to come into play. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me bring that up, because I think Mark Warner probably should be his running mate.  But let me start with this, if you‘re a Republican, which you are, so we can speculate clearly here, where are you most vulnerable? 

I‘m going to give you three regions of the country.  We talked about the ethnic vote, the Jewish vote.  Is it the—sort of the cowboy states, Montana, the Dakotas way out West where they normally—they have been voting heavily for Barack in these primaries. 

Is it the Southwest, we have  a lot of Hispanics and also a lot of New Yorkers and other kinds of people have moved out to Nevada, you‘ve got New Mexico, you‘ve got Colorado, a lot of immigrants from the rest of the country.  Or is it the South, as you say, Virginia? 

Where would you be most—where would you put up the biggest defense right now?  Where would you build your wall (INAUDIBLE)?

HARRIS:  The cowboy states that you talk about, let‘s remember that Obama won caucuses in these states.  This is 4,000 people showing up.  I hardly think that‘s a ground swell of support for him in these areas. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not worried about losing Montana, the Dakotas and the other states? 

HARRIS:  In the south west—

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that?  Do you believe those states out west in the mountains—

MCMAHON:  They‘re going to be very, very difficult.  I do think that the mid-Rocky states, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the south west. 

MCMAHON:  Go to the Southwest, and Colorado, New Mexico are states where Republicans, frankly, have had a big advantage.  They don‘t have a big advantage anymore.  If someone like Bill Richardson‘s on the ticket, he fixes his problem with Hispanic voters.  He gets national security chops that Bill Richardson has.  There are a lot of different ways that Senator Obama can spread the playing field. 

Remember, he‘ll have three or four or five times as much money as John McCain.  So in places like Georgia or North Carolina, which we were just talking about, if he can spread the field, make McCain have to defend and play defense where he shouldn‘t have to, and spend money, it‘s going be a very, very difficult—

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at a map right now.  We have the advantage of television going for us now.  Let‘s hold that picture up there.  If you look at those western states, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada—Nevada has a different shade to it.  You put those three states together—you‘ve got Colorado.  I‘m looking at Colorado.  I‘m looking at Nevada, looking at—got to learn my states again.  There‘s Utah, Nevada.  Do you think you‘re worried about Nevada? 

HARRIS:  No, look, this is home turf for McCain.  Yes, significant immigrant populations moving into this area, but remember, John McCain‘s position on the immigration bill; he took on his own party, fought Republicans. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m getting—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Todd, you‘re looking at me with a great smile, telling me Republicans have no danger in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, despite the unhappiness -- 

HARRIS:  I didn‘t so no danger.  What I said—look, this is a year where everyone says Republicans are going to get wiped out across the board.  What I‘m saying is that we‘re going to have—we have a compelling candidate who is going a compete effectively in all of the traditional—

MATTHEWS:  Who is your candidate?

HARRIS:  Senator McCain, of course. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he a compelling candidate?

HARRIS:  Of course, he‘s a—

MATTHEWS:  Is the Republican party happy with him as the nominee? 

HARRIS:  With all do respect to every other candidate who ran, John McCain is absolutely the best person we could have nominated in this environment.  He‘s a reformer in a change environment, absolutely. 

MCMAHON:  He‘s good, isn‘t he? 

MATTHEWS:  No, I mean—I think you lost the election because he said you‘re not going to win out west, in the southwest; you‘re not going to win up in the cowboy country, the mountains up there, the Dakotas, Montana, where Barack‘s been doing so well in the primaries.  Let‘s go back to familiar territory. 

Here we are.  We‘re a few miles from northern Virginia here right now, a short 15-minute ride.  Steve, is that the happy hunting ground for the Democrats?  Virginia? 

MCMAHON:  Virginia, North Carolina, even Georgia; any place, by the way, where there‘s a significant African-American population, because, you know, the African-American vote tends to perform in a fairly stable way year after year after year.  You‘re not going to see that this year.  This is the first time you may see the African-American vote go up 15 or 20 or 25 percent in a lot of those states, where Democrats ride off. 

Barack Obama is running a 50-state strategy.  It sounds a little bit like Howard Dean.  But it‘s a 50-state strategy that is designed to bring in new voters, new people, new enthusiasm.  We didn‘t talk about independent voters.  It‘s the independent voters, frankly, who are going to put a lot of the states that we‘re talking about into play. 

MATTHEWS:  After asking you guys your information—I think I know as much as you do.  I think there‘s going to be some surprises and they‘re going be weird states this time.  It might be one of the Dakotas.  It might be Montana.  It might be out west.  They don‘t matter in terms of the electoral college.  I think it‘s very hard to figure.  This election is about ethnicity.  I‘ve noticed the working class up north has been very resistant to Barack Obama.  Hillary was right.  I don‘t like saying it, but there‘s been big resistance to him in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, right across the country. 

I think the south might be a better shot.  I think Virginia might be a better shot than some of these tricky states like Ohio.  We‘ll see.  Virginia—but if he loses Pennsylvania, he‘s lost the election.  

HARRIS:  If he loses Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s lost the election.  That‘s the base.  Steve McMahon, Todd Harris.  Up next, lots of time to talk about this between now and November.  The politics fix with Hillary Clinton dropping out.  What does Barack Obama need to do to ensure that her voters stick with him?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight, our round table, Jonathan Allen of “Congressional Quarterly,” Chrystia Freeland of the “Financial Times of London,” and Terry Bacon of the “Washington Post.”  You have a theory that Barack Obama has to get it his head whether he wants Hillary Clinton on the ticket or not and begin acting on that fairly soon. 

JONATHAN ALLEN, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  That‘s right.  He‘s not going to make an official declaration, if history is guide, until August.  It never happens but within a couple of weeks of the convention.  I think he has to make a decision whether he wants her or not.  If the answer is no, he needs to start telegraphing that now, start getting people used to the idea that it‘s not going to be her.  If it looks like he‘s toying with her for a long time and then chooses someone else, her people are going to upset.

MATTHEWS:  Chrystia, is that important, that he make a decision against her early, if it‘s going to be against, so that she doesn‘t twist slowly in the wind for two months?  

CHRYSTIA FREELAND,”THE FINANCIAL TIMES OF LONDON”:  I think treating her with dignity is important.  And the perception that he was toying with her would be very wrong.  Having said that, I think it‘s also really important whoever he picks that the perception be that this was a carefully, thoughtful process.  And the reason I think that is important is that, first of all, a danger in choosing Hillary is that Barack Obama has to not be perceived to have been forced to do it.  If he is too weak to stand up to demands about who he picks as vice president, is he strong enough to be president of the United States?  He has to be very careful about that. 

MATTHEWS:  So he has to wait a bit.  He can‘t do it like—he couldn‘t come out for Hillary this week, for example? 

FREELAND:  I think that would be a big mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Perry Bacon.  Sir, the same question to you.  Is there a timing question?  I sort of accept Jonathan‘s argument that if he‘s going to decide against her, don‘t let the steam build all summer for her, because then you‘re confronted with a couple weeks before the convention, depress half the party by saying, I know half you wanted Hillary, maybe more than half, I‘m not going to give her to you.  I‘m picking this other guy. 

PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I think that‘s true.  I think it might be an argument as well for picking someone earlier than two weeks before the convention.  Who knows if he‘ll do it or not.  An argument for picking get someone early is to end this—so you don‘t build up two months of will it be Hillary and will it not be Hillary, and so on.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you all—let go back to Jonathan here on this question of Hillary.  It seems to me this Saturday is a big day in the Democratic party, because Hillary Clinton has, it seems to me, three goals.  She has to concede.  She has to endorse.  And she has to make a statement, something really big, some really big cargo.  Is that right? 

ALLEN:  I think that‘s absolutely right.  This is her opportunity.  It‘s her moment to rally those 18 million people she talks about to her, and, at the same time, toward Barack Obama, toward the Democratic party.  That‘s what the party is going to expect.  It‘s what Obama is going to expect.  It has to be over the top or people are going to criticize her, like they did this Tuesday, for falling short of doing what‘s needed for the party. 

And, of course, if she wants to unify the party and Obama doesn‘t want her as the vice presidential pick, maybe she could say I‘m not interested.  I think that‘s what Obama would push for. 

MATTHEWS:  On a finer point, can she give an “I am woman,” sort of a Helen Reddy speech.  I know from what she‘s been saying—she‘s been talking about the invisible 18 million people that voted for her.  I‘m not sure they‘re invisible.  We watched them every night they won.  Every night they won a primary, we said she just thumped him again.  They‘re not invisible.  I think it‘s gender.  Is she going to give a sort of, “I am woman?”  Can she do that without really jamming him if he picks a male running mate, or he picks another woman running mate that comes as a criticism of her?

FREELAND:  Sure.  I mean, I actually think that one of the things people have been waiting for Hillary Clinton to do, which she hasn‘t done, is to give the speech on gender which Barack Obama gave on race.  If Hillary Clinton were to use Saturday to say, you know what?  One of the really surprising things about my campaign was it showed me the extent to which sexism is still an issue in America and it‘s an issue for a lot of women.  Here are some of my ideas on what we as a country need to do, and what I, in any capacity, look forward to working with Barack Obama to fix.  That would be a brilliant speech.  I don‘t know if she‘s going to deliver it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Perry, the problem with that—she can make an argument along those lines and probably do it quite effectively, but a lot of white men, in fact, the majority of them in state after state, voted for her.  Men voted for her as a majority. 

BACON:  I think to answer the question, look at their—Saturday will probably be a bad time to give that speech.  I think even her supporters were surprised at the tone of Tuesday.  I think Saturday will probably be a speech about why Barack Obama is a good candidate and why she likes him.  I think that may be a little too early for that kind of speech, to talk more about her candidacy and less about his.  I think her supporters are expecting it to be more about his candidacy and how she views it at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe she‘s going to throw the bouquet to him and support him that way?  Do you agree with that, Chrystia, that that speech‘s topic is going a be Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton? 

FREELAND:  I think that should be the speech‘s topic.  That should have been what she said on Tuesday night.  But just to return to your gender point, Chris, if Hillary did it right, she could say something about gender that meant men still voted for her.  That‘s been the thing Barack Obama‘s been trying to do quite successfully on race, is say things which are uniting of the country.  That‘s the kind of language that if Hillary Clinton were able to find about gender would make her really a transformative politician. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, most Democrats, most voters are women.  In fact, women are overwhelmingly the base of the Democratic party.  I‘ve got to come back with Jonathan and everyone else.  We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  What about these little town meetings that are coming up between John McCain and Barack Obama, this sort of Lincoln/Douglas thing, ten of them?  McCain wants them.  Why does he want them?  Will he get them?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix.  Let‘s start with Jonathan.  The interesting thing with John McCain, who is playing defense in this campaign—he‘s an incumbent.  This isn‘t a great time to be an incumbent.  He‘s calling for town meetings.  He‘s saying, lets get together, no moderators, no media.  Lets you and I get out there and tussle in ten different events starting now.  Is Barack going to bite? 

ALLEN:  I think he‘ll probably bite.  We will end up seeing something along these lines.  He‘s not going it to accept John McCain‘s challenge, because then you‘ve got John McCain reaching across the aisle, offering something to Obama and Obama going, OK, rubber stamp, you had a good idea. 

So, I think we‘re going to see a lot of negotiation over this.  My guess is we‘ll see something along these lines between the two candidates, because both of them have been talking about changing it up a little bit, new politics. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got one guy in his 70s, Perry, another guy in his mid-40s.  One guy in the perfect—he‘s still got the blush of youth about him.  The other guy shows the scars of battle, serving his country.  One guy is taller than the other guy, skinnier than the other guy, maybe looks better on the platform.  Why would John McCain want to share a platform with Barack Obama for the whole summer? 

BACON:  Well, based on Tuesday, I think this was a better forum than McCain giving a speech and Obama a speech afterwards—

MATTHEWS:  I know what you mean, Perry. 

BACON:  I think this is a much better—to be serious, I think this is a serious point.  The other point being that McCain does very well in town halls.  He responds to people very well.  It will make him look younger, more energetic, et cetera.  I think it‘s a good thing for him. 

MATTHEWS:  I got your point.  Let me let Chrystia—Chrystia, respond this, hot news coming in now.  Here‘s some tape of Barack Obama on his plane right now talking about picking a running mate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We have put together a committee.  We are going to be equally deliberative in how we move forward.  And we‘re not going to do it in the press and we‘re not going to do it through surrogates.  So the next time you hear from me about the vice presidential selection process will be when I have selected a vice president. 

And if you hear, you know, second-hand accounts, rumors, gossip about this election process, you can take it from me that it is wrong, because we‘re not going to be talking about it in the press. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a man taking control of his operation.  We‘re not going to hear soon.  We‘re not going to hear from anybody but him.  That‘s about the vice presidency.  That‘s the candidate speaking.  Jonathan Allen, Chrystia Freeland, and, of course, Perry Bacon from the Post.  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.

END   

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