updated 6/13/2008 2:01:58 PM ET 2008-06-13T18:01:58

Guests:  Pat Buchanan, Tonya Acker, Brad Blakeman, Julie Roginsky, Jim Moret

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: The chair of the Republican National Committee suggests they are about to get ugly with attacks on Obama.  And John McCain says he‘s powerless to stop it.

And: The Supreme Court rejects a key part of Bush-style justice.  The real loser may be John McCain.

We‘ve got a great panel here to debate it all.

Plus: New polls from battle ground states, Obama v. McCain, who won and lost today.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone, welcome to the show.  We‘re coming to you tonight live from Los Angeles.

Today, the Republican National Committee admits it‘s going to go dirty.  The GOP Chair Mike Duncan is telling reporters they plan to link Obama with controversial figures from his past.  He dodged the question on whether they planned to use Reverend Wright in ads.

This as John McCain tells the “Boston Herald” he can‘t control attacks against Obama saying, quote, “I can‘t be a referee of every spot run on television.”

And he certainly can‘t referee the home team over at FOX News labeling Michelle Obama yesterday Barack‘s “baby mama.”  A phrase used to refer to unwed mothers

Just in time, Obama launches a myth-busting Web site today, called FightTheSmears.com, an attempt to face Internet rumors.  With Obama leading in the latest polls no matter what anyone says, isn‘t it clear the Republican-McCain strategy is going to go ugly early?

Here now: MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan; political analyst, Tonya Acker; Republican strategist, Brad Blakeman; and Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky.

Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Tonya, you‘re here with me in Los Angeles, let me start with you.  Do you think that the fact that the head of the Republican National Committee is talking about linking Obama to these figures from his past, to Rezko, to Ayers, to others, is that a sign of weakness in the McCain camp?

TONYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think it‘s absolutely a sign of weakness.

Look—when you‘ve got a president who‘s at historic lows, when you‘ve got a country, 85 percent of which has said that they think it‘s going in the wrong direction, when you‘ve got an economy in a shambles, and all can you do is talk about who Senator Obama sat on boards with, and, you know, what this short—the consequences of this inappropriate land deal, which with Rezko which, by the way, Senator Obama says that he regrets, you know, I think they have nothing else to go to.

ABRAMS:  Here, Pat Buchanan, the Republican National Committee Chair Robert “Mike” Duncan saying, “I think associations are fair game.  I‘d like to talk about Rezko in Chicago.  I‘d like to talk about William Ayers.”

Is this a reflection of the fact that McCain is now down in the polls, or is this just politics as usual?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  This is politics as usual and it‘s going to be—this is the theme of the presidential campaign, Dan, “by their friends shall you know them.”  The country does not know Barack Obama and the Republicans are going to define him as having one foot in a very radical camp where Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright, and Father Pfleger, and all the rest of them reside.

And the second is, that he is sort of immature and young and he‘s not qualified to lead the United States in a time of war as commander in chief.  It is perfectly legitimate politics and the House (ph), we just heard a second ago, are telling me, that it may work.

ABRAMS:  Julie, he also said the Republican National Committee chair also said when asked if he‘s going to use Reverend Wright in ads, “Why at this point would I answer a question like that?  It‘s not my intent.  I have no intent, and will not make race a part of this campaign.  I‘ll say it that way.”

To me the translation is, here‘s another way of saying it—we‘re absolutely going to use Reverend Wright but we‘re not going to use the word race.

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Oh, by the way Reverend Wright is black and so is Barack Obama.  You know, this is such a typically beltway undermining inside baseball thing.  I‘d got to say—look, gas is at $4, you know, it‘s impossible, gas is at $4.  You‘ve got a war in Iraq going on that has no end in sight, the economy is in shambles.

And they‘re talking about Rezko and they‘re talking Wright?  How about talking about something the American people actually care about?  No wonder McCain is down in the polls.

ABRAMS:  But look, but we know, Julie—look, the bottom line is, I think, it‘s the reverse.  The bottom line is, people know these attack ads work and John McCain is behind in the polls and that‘s why I think that Obama is smart in setting up this Web site that says, we‘re going to respond to each and every one of these attacks.

ROGINSKY:  Sure.  He doesn‘t want to be swiftboated, that‘s obvious.  I mean, look, he‘s learned from John Kerry.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Hey, Dan—look, John McCain isn‘t behind in the polls, he should be behind by 16 points, he‘s behind after Barack Obama locked up the nomination by six points.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Was John McCain way ahead in the polls when he won the nomination because if I recall correctly, he hasn‘t been way ahead in the polls by six points at any point?

BLAKEMAN:  He hasn‘t, but we‘ve seen the historic battle between the Democrats which sucked the oxygen out of the air for 16 months.  The fact of the matter is -

ABRAMS:  But wait, Brad, guys like you -

BLAKEMAN:  He should be ahead by 16 points and he‘s not.

ABRAMS:  Guys like you, Brad—wait a second.  Guys like you wanted the Democratic fight to continue because supposedly it was so bad for—it was supposedly so bad for the Democrats, right?

BLAKEMAN:  It was bad for the Democrats.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Now that it‘s over, you‘re saying—oh, they‘re actually getting a bump because they were fighting for so long, right?

BLAKEMAN:  No.  He got no bump, as what I‘m saying, he should be ahead by 16 points.  The fact is, the Democratic Party is fractured.  Blue-collar workers are now on the side lines saying that they‘ll take an interest in McCain.  The fact of the matter is Hillary got 18 million votes and was in contention right up to the end winning primaries on the very last day.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, the problem here for Barack Obama is this—he did get a bit of a bump.  He had a great week last week.  Hillary, I thought, gave a terrific speech, full endorsement.  So, he bumps up to six points ahead when the Democratic Party is probably 15 points ahead of Republicans, people are saying—what‘s the matter with Barack Obama.  And Republicans know what‘s the matter with him.

As they said in West Virginia, the only thing we know about that guy is his pastor is Reverend Wright.  Of course, the Republicans are going to use these connections.

ROGINSKY:  Dan, could I say this to Pat and to Brad?

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

ROGINSKY:  Barack Obama had had a very contentious Democratic primary.  While that was going on for the past two months, John McCain has gotten absolutely free ride and he is still down in the polls.   The reason for that is because the Republican Party is failing and everybody knows that John McCain is just another third Bush term.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t disagree with you.  I don‘t think McCain is an extremely strong candidate.

ROGINSKY:  He‘s a very good (ph) candidate.

BUCHANAN:  Twenty-five percent of the GOP is unhappy but he‘s running awful close to your guy.

ABRAMS:  I want to bring it back to the attacks though.  I mean, and a very interesting note today, Mark Penn who was, of course, working on the Hillary Clinton campaign, did an interview today where he said, “I really wanted to question Obama as early as possible.  I started down that road.  President Clinton took on Iraq back-and-forth.  But the rest of the campaign didn‘t want to tackle Iraq.”

Basically, Tonya, Mark Penn is saying he wanted to go after Obama harder.  Is there any concern on the part of Democrats that now the McCain camp is going to take the words of Mark Penn and say - geez, maybe he‘s right, maybe we need to go after Obama harder earlier?

ACKER:  I don‘t think that this RNC and McCain campaign needs to take directions from Mark Penn about how to campaign negatively and hard.

ABRAMS:  But will they?

ACKER:  Of course, they will.  Of course, they will.  But here‘s the thing, a (INAUDIBLE) they need to be careful.  John McCain, for all of his maverick status, for all his war hero status, he‘s got his own skeletons in his own closet and he and the RNC need to be careful.  He may not be able to play a referee, but if he wants to start going deeply down the association road -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Pat, what about that point?  Pat, let me ask you this—Pat, should John McCain—you hang on one second.  Pat, should John McCain have come out and been more aggressive in saying, look—he was the one who was saying before we‘re not going to go negative, et cetera and now he‘s saying—well, you know, what do you want me to do?  I can‘t control everything?

I mean, he is backing off a little bit, isn‘t he?

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  Well, Dan, I‘ve told all along, the only way the Republicans can win this when the whole country wants to throw the Republicans out, is raise questions, raise doubts about the alternative, just like the Democrats did with Reagan in 1980.  And they‘re going to do it and they‘re going to use these associations and they‘re going to use his statements, his elitism.  They‘re going to use a fact he‘s exotic.  And that‘s what‘s going to happen and McCain -

ABRAMS:  Wait.

ACKER:  Exotic?  What is exotic mean?  What‘s exotic?  Is exotic code for black?  I don‘t understand what exotic means.

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Here‘s what it means.  Listen.  Exotic is code for somebody who talks to people in Pennsylvania as though they‘re some stupid tribe holding on to their Bibles, guns, and bigotries and telling that to a bunch of people in San Francisco behind closed doors.

ACKER:  Come on, Pat, you can do better than that.  You can do better than that.  There‘s no question.

ABRAMS:  Hang on, one at a time.  Tonya, go ahead.  Hang on, Brad.  I‘m going to let Tonya go and then I let you get in.

ACKER:  We can revisits ad nauseum the wisdom of whether or not Barack Obama should made the unfortunate comment about people being bitter.  I think he admits that with the statement, we all know that.  But the notion that he is somehow exotic, that he‘s so different from the rest of America, I mean, I just have to take issue with that.  He‘s really—he‘s browner than a lot of America but he‘s really not that different.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But is that the strategy, Pat?  Wait, let me ask you, Pat, is the strategy to use code words, I mean is the strategy going to be to use words like exotic where people say—well, I guess he wasn‘t saying that he‘s bad, but boy, that sounds kinds of funny to use these words in the hope that they are going to stick?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I mean, I don‘t know what—what you mean code words?  Barack Obama made these statements.  It tells you where he is coming from.  He‘s coming out of the left.  He doesn‘t understand Middle America.  He‘s like the guys in the Harvard faculty lounge.  They don‘t know anything about their country.  They sit up there and talk to one another.

ROGINSKY:  Wait a second.  Pat, listen, Barack Obama is as American as you and I are and these code words for exotic is exactly that.  You‘re trying to paint him as some sort of a strange outsider.

BLAKEMAN:  What about your code word?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.

BLAKEMAN:  What about your code words?

ABRAMS:  All right.  Brad - -hang on one second everyone.  Go ahead, Brad.

BLAKEMAN:  Your code word is about McCain‘s age.  He‘s confused.

ROGINSKY:  I think McCain has the right to run.

BLAKEMAN:  Come on.

ROGINSKY:  Wait a second.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait, Brad.

BLAKEMAN:  Let me take the mystery out of it.

ABRAMS:  Wait, hang on.  Julie, I want to let Brad finish.  Brad, we‘re going to get back to this issue of the “confuse,” et cetera.  We‘re going to get back to that later in the program.  But do you think, look, this conversation—I got to tell you, Brad—says to me that this is going to get ugly and it‘s going to get ugly early.  Fair?

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, and let me take the mystery out of it.  Of course, we‘re going to go negative because the negatives are there to exploit.  Even Barack Obama said it‘s fair game to talk about his minister.  He said it and he has to be.

And as Pat correctly pointed out, the guy is an empty suit, he has no record.  So, you have to go with what you have and these associations which are indefensible.  So, yes, they‘re going to be exploited.  They‘re going to be used.  And just like the other side, they‘re going to go negative, too.

ROGINSKY:  And let me just say this about what Brad just said.  You guys can continue to talk about Rezko and Wright, and whoever you want—well, you‘re profoundly misunderstanding is in 2008, Americans are frustrated.  They‘re sick and tired.  They‘re struggling with their pocketbook.  They‘re struggling with the war.

And you keep focusing - well, let me just finished, you keep on the associations and we‘ll keep focusing on the issues Americans really care about and (INAUDIBLE).

BUCHANAN:  And why don‘t you run your little campaign and let us run ours.  You run your little campaign and we‘ll run ours.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGINSKY:  Great.  And you know what, I think, our campaign—that‘s great.  I think our campaign is a little more -

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Everyone is staying with us.  Everyone is staying.

Coming up: A big day on the trail.  Who won and who lost today?

And the Supreme Court issues a strong rebuke of the Bush administration, ruling that Guantanamo detainees should have access to the U.S. justice system.  John McCain says he‘s concerned with the ruling.  Could that defense of the Bush policies come back to haunt him?

And first few battle ground state polls are out since Clinton left the race.  Good news for Barack Obama in several states but not everywhere.

Plus: FEMA getting rid of millions of dollars of supplies for hurricane Katrina victims even though many of them still need them.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: FEMA getting rid of $85 million worth of supplies for hurricane Katrina victims when some of the victims still need them.  FEMA said they were spending more than $1 million a year to store caps (ph), first aid kits, camp stoves, and cleaners in their warehouses.  So, after two years, they decided to just give the stuff away to other federal and local agencies outside the storm struck region.

But community groups say thousands displaced by Katrina still need the supplies and FEMA says they started clearing out the goods only after state officials told them they didn‘t need them.  The problem: no one trusts FEMA anymore.  It‘s another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with Win, Lose, or Draw.  Senator McCain siding with President Bush on a major Supreme Court decision from today, will it hurt him?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

Obama and McCain traded big punches today on the campaign trail.  One of the questions is McCain‘s age becoming an issue?  And what a new poll says about whose ahead in key battle ground states?  Who won and who lost today.  We‘ve got some answers tonight in a special Win, Lose, or Draw edition of On Their Trail.

All of our panelists are back.

First up: McCain and Obama on opposite sides of a major Supreme Court ruling today.  The court voting five to four that Guantanamo Bay detainees should be able to make their case in U.S. federal courts.  The ruling is yet another legal rebuke of the Bush administration.

President Bush today said he doesn‘t agree with the ruling and McCain has been trying to distance himself from the president on a number of issues, sure sounded a lot like Bush on this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  I haven‘t had a chance to read the opinion yet and it obviously concerns me.  These are unlawful combatants.  They are not American citizens and I think that we should pay attention to Justice Roberts‘ opinion in this decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Justice Robert was a Bush appointee who dissented from the majority.

Now, Obama on the other hand applauded the decision and took a swipe at McCain in the process, saying, quote, “Today‘s Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values.  The court‘s decision is a rejection of the Bush administration‘s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo yet another failed policy supported by John McCain.”

Brad Blakeman, are you concerned at all when any time John McCain is linked with President Bush on a controversial issue, looking at it from the campaign perspective?

BLAKEMAN:  Not at all.  This is a huge win for John McCain.  Our base is on fire by this decision and it brings home something that John McCain is going to stress as he‘s running for president and that is the next president will have the ability, most likely, to nominate some Supreme Court justices.

And do we want justices who rule like the dissent in this case?  You bet we do.  We don‘t want to give constitutional rights to combatants who kill Americans.  They shouldn‘t have the same rights you and I do.  And that‘s going to be a big plus for John McCain.

ABRAMS:  Pat, I‘ve got to tell you, I think, in 2000, these issues, particularly the sort of social issues that dominated much of the campaign in 2004, the Supreme Court became a rallying point for the right.

It would seem to me that this time around, it is simply a real potential problem for John McCain among the very voters that you‘ve talked about, which are the Reagan Democrats, a lot of women in particular, who are going to say—I don‘t want John McCain picking the next Supreme Court justice.  Aren‘t you worried about that?

BUCHANAN:  No, I‘m not.  I think, I agree with Brad.  This is the best news McCain‘s had in a long time.  You‘ve got five liberal justices on the Supreme Court said enemy combatants and POWs who are terrorists, have the same rights as American citizens.  That‘s preposterous.

ABRAMS:  But Pat, they don‘t have the same rights.  That‘s not what the court said.  The court said -

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Well, this is, look, what it does—it rallies the base.  It says the Supreme Court, we‘ve got four justices and we need one more, with McCain, we‘ve got a chance, with Obama we‘ve got no chance.  The fact that Obama is coming out for rights for enemy terrorists caught in battle with those people under the Geneva Convention can be shot is ridiculous.

ABRAMS:  Tonya—hang on one second.  Tonya, you‘re a lawyer.

ACKER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Look - the bottom line is, that if people misread the opinion, it could help McCain.  But if they actually read the opinion and you see that McCain, even on just the issue of—hey, we‘re not saying to get the same rights as Americans, all we‘re saying is they can effectively appeal, they can effectively come to the courts and say—hey, I want to be heard.

ACKER:  Right.  And even more importantly, it‘s interesting that Pat and Brad want to make this some decision by this liberal court.

ABRAMS:  It‘s a great point.

ACKER:  Anthony Kennedy, Justice Kennedy who authored this opinion is the appointee of Ronald Reagan.  He‘s a Reagan justice.

ABRAMS:  But now, when the far right talks, somehow, Anthony Kennedy has become one of those liberals.

ACKER:  He‘s now this raving liberal.  He‘s a raving liberal which is completely contrary to the jurisprudence of the court.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Dan, do you believe German POWs in World War II should have had access to American courts?  That‘s insane.

ABRAMS:  Pat -

BLAKEMAN:  It is insane.

ABRAMS:  The bottom—Pat, here‘s the reason it‘s different.  Go ahead, Julie.

ROGINSKY:  Well, let me just say this, you know, yes, believe it or not, Pat, I think the Constitution should not be suspended for any body.

BUCHANAN:  POWs.  This is not a game, it‘s a war.

BLAKEMAN:  That‘s why we have the Geneva Convention.

ROGINSKY:  Wait a second.  They should have the right—which, by the way, the Bush administration has chosen to ignore time and time again, I love how the Geneva Convention (INAUDIBLE).

BLAKEMAN:  But Geneva Convention is not good enough for these guys?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGINSKY:  It‘s not good enough for George Bush.  I can‘t believe the Republicans are bringing the Geneva Convention.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  I want to read from a great philosopher who I think, is important to this discussion who said, “I do believe that every human being deserves a right to have their case decided, either to put them on trial for their crimes or to release them.”  That same philosopher said, “I‘d close Guantanamo Bay and I‘d move those prisoners to Fort Leavenworth.  And I‘d proceed with the tribunals.”

That great philosopher was John McCain.

So, I‘m not really certain, you know, how McCain today can sort of still talk about his concern.  I think the best answer John McCain gave was I didn‘t read the opinion.  If I was John McCain I wouldn‘t read the opinion.  I would keep saying the same thing again and again, which is—I didn‘t read the opinion and I don‘t want to talk about it.

BLAKEMAN:  It‘s the best thing that ever happened to us today.

ROGINSKY:  Yes, to your base, Brad, but not to the independent voters you‘re trying to attract.

BUCHANAN:  The Reagan Democrats will stand with John McCain.

BLAKEMAN:  Absolutely.

BUCHANAN:  The liberal Republicans might be gone.

ABRAMS:  We‘ve got two to two on this.  I‘m going to call it a lose for McCain.  I think this is a bad reason for McCain to link himself to Bush.

BUCHANAN:  Why are we smiling?

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  From a political perspective, it is McCain and Bush—McCain and Bush.  Everyone is with us.

ROGINSKY:  On every major issue, by the way.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: The fists are flying on the campaign trail and we‘re continuing with the “who won and who the lost.”  For first time tonight, we‘re getting a look at polls from several key states, some good news for Obama but not in one major Democratic stronghold.

Plus: As a FOX News commentator lectures about how attacks on Michelle Obama must now be cheap shots or gratuitous, must not be cheap shot or gratuitous.  Her gratuitous cheap shot attack on Michelle Obama is quoted on the bottom of the screen.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

Your VERDICT, e-mail us at: “mailto:Verdict@msnbc.com” Verdict@msnbc.com.  Your e-mails are in the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.

We‘re coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: On FOX News, during a segment about Michelle Obama and potential attacks against her, FOX News analyst, Michelle Malkin made this argument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICA‘S ELECTION HQ”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

MICHELLE MALKIN, FOX NEWS ANALYST:  Where backlash would come if this people make gratuitous and cheap shots at her that have nothing to do with the substance of what she‘s saying and so far -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wait, stop.  Look at the lower part of the screen, “Malkin calls Michelle Obama, Obama‘s bitter half.”  Isn‘t that a cheap shot that has nothing to do with the substance of what she‘s saying?

Next up: It seems like there‘s some internal unrest over at CNN, here‘s Wolf Blitzer trying to get his panel to discuss the “New York Times” article about a Clinton enemy list.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SITUATION ROOM”/CNN/WEDNESDAY)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  What do you think about this so-called enemy‘s list, Jack?

JACK JAFFERTY, CNN HOST:  With all due respect, why are we still talking about the Clintons?  She‘s no longer running for president.  That campaign is over.  He‘s no longer president of the United States.  Who cares? I don‘t care, let‘s move on.  That was last week‘s news.

BLITZER:  All right, Jeff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think this is actually much ado about very little.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS: Then, a little over 10 minutes later, it continued.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER:  We‘ve got some new poll of poll numbers -

CAFFERTY:  You know these polls don‘t mean anything this time of year.

BLITZER:  So, you‘re pooh-poohing the polls.

CAFFERTY:  Yes, they don‘t mean anything.

BLITZER:  I mean, they mean something for us because we‘ve got to do nine minutes here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The most fractured political team on television.

Finally: A little over a month ago, a FOX News production assistant told John McCain on the press line that she‘s voted for him and that he was going to win.  She was fired.

Well, last night, another FOX employee did something very similar but I‘m guessing, he won‘t get the hook.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY & COLMES”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  A lot of the attacking is going to be done by surrogates.  Well, I mean -

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  People like me.

GIULIANI:  Right.  (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  When a production assistant admits she supports McCain she gets fired, when a primetime host says it—it‘s just what they do.

Up next: We‘re On Their Trail.  Brands new polls are out tonight showing some surprising results in key battleground states.  Obama is ahead in Iowa, a red state in 2004.  Win, Lose, or Draw, including allegations that the Obama team is playing the age card.  Who won today?  We‘ll tell you.

Then, it was 14 years ago today, that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered in Los Angeles leading to the most famous infamous bronco chase in history.  We‘ll look back at NBC‘s coverage from that day, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Welcome back.  John McCain is asked today if he thinks the Obama camp is playing the age card against him.  And brand-new polls, just out, have some pretty surprising results for Obama and McCain in key battle ground states. 

We‘re continuing our “Win, Lose or Draw” edition of “On Their Trail.”  On the first issue that we did, I thought McCain had lost, we had a two to two split on that one. 

Still with us is MSNBC chief political analyst, Pat Buchanan; we got Democratic strategist Tanya Acker and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman; and Democratic Julie Roginsky. 

First, are some Obama supporters making reference to McCain‘s age in their attacks?  Brad asked about this before.  Yesterday after McCain set a time table for withdrawal from Iraq, is, quote, “not too important.”  Obama supporters went after him using particular words.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), OBAMA SUPPORTER:  John McCain simply doesn‘t understand it.  That he confuses who Iran is training.  He confuses what the makeup of Al-Qaeda is.  

SUSAN RICE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR:  A real disturbing, even disconcerting pattern of confusing the basic facts and reality.  

KERRY:  It is unbelievably by out of touch and inconsistent with the needs and concerns of Americans and particularly the families of the troops who are over there.  

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Some on the right saying those are code words.  Today, McCain was asked if he thinks the Obama camp is playing the age card.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Sen. Kerry also said you were confused on the issue.  Do you think he‘s taking a shot at your age?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESUMPTIVE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE:  All I can say is as far as your second question is concerned, obviously I‘m disappointed in a comment like that.  On first issue, this is why we need town hall meetings.  This is why we need to go to the American people and stand before them and have them ask the questions and us give the answers.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Julie, confused, out of touch.  Are those code words for old?

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  No.  And by the way, I think the age issue should not be an issue.  Confused is because he confuses basic facts that any American who reads the newspaper on a daily basis would know, if he were 25, I‘d still say he‘s confused.  To confuse that the Iraqis - the Al-Qaeda - That Iran is training Al-Qaeda when one is a Shia nation and other is Sunni organization. 

To confuse Al-Qaeda-Mesopotamia being linked to Osama Bin Laden when they are not, that confusion that has nothing to do with age.  He just doesn‘t know the facts very well.  That is kind of scary for me, not because of how old he is, which is - he‘s got every right to run, but because he doesn‘t know the facts via newspapers.

ABRAMS:  Brad.  Here‘s Brad.  I promised Brad a chance to get on this issue.  Go ahead, Brad.

BRAD BLAKEMAN:  These are code words.  The American people know it for what it is.  The fact that all these surrogates are parroting the same words, come on, you can‘t with a straight face, say they are not trying to make age a factor.  And let me say this, Barack Obama, the young upstart challenged John McCain to a debate anywhere, any time, any place.  John McCain tonight called his bluff in New York and where was Barack Obama?  Nowhere to be found.  What‘s he afraid of, the old guy? 

ROGINSKY:  I don‘t think age is an issue, Brad.  I really don‘t.

BLAKEMAN:  Well, you‘re making it an issue.

ROGINSKY:  I‘m not making it an issue at all.  I‘m saying that he should know the facts.

ABRAMS:  Let me let Tanya - Go ahead.

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Brad, did you mean to describe him as the young exotic upstart perhaps?  Look, you know, he did confuse facts.  John McCain did confuse facts and I don‘t know of another word that might be less ageist where there might be -

(CROSS TALK)

ACKER:  Excuse me, one second.  He confused key elements of our war in Iraq and what is accomplished in Iraq - 

BLAKEMAN:  But he had and opportunity to -

ACKER:  And seemed not to care - and he seemed not to care when the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to come home.  So if we can‘t criticize that -

BLAKEMAN:  But he had an opportunity tonight to confront John McCain.  Where is he?

ACKER:  If we can‘t -

ABRAMS:  Wait, let him respond.  Yes, go ahead.

BLAKEMAN:  Where is he?

ABRAMS:  Brad, but look - this whole issue - the question I want to focus on here is - Pat, look, as probably the elder statesman on this particular panel, all right -

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST:  All right.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you - I mean, you‘re the one who very often said that certain political attacks are fair game.  I mean McCain has made mistakes.  He has confused issues.  Do you think they are intentionally using words to make him seem old?  

BUCHANAN:  No.  They‘re using words to make him seem senile.  They‘re making him seen ga-ga.  They‘re making it look like poor Uncle Johnny is losing his marbles.  He‘s confused.  He gets things mixed up.  That‘s what this is, That‘s what those are code words for.  We all know it.  

ROGINSKY:  But Pat, he is confused, not because of his age, but because he obviously doesn‘t read the newspaper like the rest of us do.

BUCHANAN:  He did not.  His position - I don‘t agree with his position about keeping peace-keeping troops in Iraq for a long period, but that‘s clearly what he was saying.  He wasn‘t saying fighting troops in a battle.  He was saying we‘re going to keep them in there as we do in Korea. 

ROGINSKY:  Pat.  Pat -

BUCHANAN:  They are trying to say the guy is senile. 

ROGINSKY:  Pat -

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to call this one a draw.  It was a dumb thing for McCain to say in first place, this thing about - that they all went after him about, not too important.  But the Obama camp needs to be careful with the words they use.  Out of touch, to me, seems legitimate.  “Confused” gets a little closer.  When they start using the words like “senile,” and “dementia,” then they are in trouble. 

Next up, Republicans smell blood in the water when it comes to Obama‘s VP vetting team.  Yesterday, they helped out Obama vetter Jim Johnson.  Today, they‘ve got their sights set squarely on fellow vetter Eric Holder.  The issue, Holder was Bill Clinton‘s former deputy attorney general and helped secure a controversial pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich.  The RNC even ran the screaming headline on t Web site today, “Obama‘s Disgraceful Duo: VP Search Team Reflects Candidate‘s Affinity for Sweetheart Deals.” 

All right.  Tanya, look.  This is a potential problem.  I mean it only is a potential problem because everything in politics is a snow ball, right?  I mean when you have Johnson out yesterday and Holder - this is nothing new on Holder.  I mean this is an issue from almost 10 years ago.  But potential problem?

ACKER:  I think not.  Look, there‘s an appearance issue here perhaps.  But at the end of the day -at the end of the day, there‘s a big difference between conflict of interest - there‘s a big difference between a conflict of interest and having made a bad decision in the past.  There‘s no evidence that Eric Holder personally benefited from the encouraged of Rich‘s pardon and there‘s certainly no evidence that Holder is using his influence with Sen. Obama.  

BUCHANAN:  Come on, Dan.  This pardon of Marc Rich stank to high heaven.  There are contributions going back and forth and all of a sudden, this guy gets a blanket pardon, a fugitive from justice?  

ABRAMS:  All right, Pat.  Let‘s agree on that for a moment.  Let‘s say that Marc - let‘s assume that the Marc Rich pardon was a mistake.  Can you judge that stick then -

BUCHANAN:  I think it was worse than a mistake.  It stinks.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Whatever you want to call it.  Whatever you want to call it.  All right.  So let‘s assume that it was stinky.  It was a mistake.  It was whatever you want to call it.  Now - but can you get that to stick on Obama because Holder was part of a team of people.  Holder had testified about this.  He had said it sounds like he was leaning towards a pardon but not like, A, this was ultimately decision or B, that he was some great Marc Rich defender?

BUCHANAN:  Well, here‘s what happened.  The exotic kid didn‘t vet the vetter.  That‘s exactly what happened.  And look, he got two out of his first three.  I think Caroline Kennedy is clean, but these other two got problems. 

BLAKEMAN:  Yes.

ROGINSKY:  This is why I still don‘t miss living in Washington.  This is such an inside the Beltway.  Eric Holder, Marc Rich?  I mean, again, this is John McCain who said two years ago that he thinks Dick Cheney would make a great cabinet member.  So I‘ll take -

BLAKEMAN:  So why did you throw Jim Johnson under the bus then?  Why didn‘t you stick with the guy?  You knew he was no good.  

ROGINSKY:  Why did I stick with the guy?  This is a game of distraction.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to -

BLAKEMAN:  Wait a second, Dan.  Obama is the guy of change, yet some things never change as cronyism, bring the old guys back.  

ROGINSKY:  You want to talk about cronyism?  You want to talk about the people that John McCain surrounds himself with?

ACKER:  Why did Holder -

ABRAMS:  Look.  Look, here‘s - I‘ve got to wrap this up.  This is somewhere between a draw and a loss for Obama in my view.  Because the bottom line is - Here‘s the problem - because the problem - What did I just say, Pat?  I just said this is a - this is somewhere between a draw and a loss for Obama.  

BLAKEMAN:  No, it‘s a loss.  

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s not a clear loss it‘s really not.  Are you going to tell me that in a week from now anyone‘s going to be talking about Eric Holder?  In a week from now is anyone going to be talking about Eric Holder?

BUCHANAN:  Dan, one guy is under the bus and the other is headed there.  What are you talking about?

ROGINSKY:  You know what?  You guys can go sit on the RNC on the Hill ...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to move on.

ROGINSKY:  ... and talk about Eric Holder and Marc Rich, and again, it‘s bringing back full circle.  We‘ll talk about issues that people really care about it.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  

BUCHANAN:  All right.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Next up, do we have time for the polls?  Real quick.  Brand new polls tonight revealing surprising results in what could be key battle ground states in November, Iowa State, Bush-Kerry in 2004, Obama now leads McCain there by seven.  Next up, North Carolina, Kerry got blown out there by Bush in 2004, even with home state Sen. John Edwards on the ticket; McCain is winning right now but only by two.  Obama may have some reason to be concerned in Jersey, usually a solid Democratic state; he only leads there by six.  Then there‘s Wisconsin, a swing state narrowly carried in 2004; Obama holding a commanding 13-point lead there. 

Pat, look.  On the whole here, these numbers in these key states still looking good for Obama, right?  

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think Obama is going to win Iowa.  He ran a phenomenal campaign but McCain will take back New Hampshire and that will cancel it.  But the big problem is New Jersey, where back in those old industrial states with a high black population but awful lot of white working class folks.  He loses New Jersey, he loses the election.  He‘d want to be way ahead in New Jersey.  That‘s a deep blue state.  

ROGINSKY:  Can I chime in on this?  Because I‘ve actually done a lot of work in New Jersey.  New Jersey polls notoriously are closed through the summer and then you see the Democrats always pull away in the fall.  New Jersey has not voted Republican since 1988.  New Jersey is the bluest of all blue states, if McCain wins New Jersey, he wins 49 of 50 states.  He‘s not winning New Jersey.  

BUCHANAN:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I think as a whole - I‘ve got to wrap this up.  I think as a whole, the polls still in Obama‘s favor but these polls change all the time.  Great panel, good discussion, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, believe it or not, it was 14 years ago today that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed here in Los Angeles.  And then there was that infamous Bronco chase.  We‘ll look back at NBC‘s coverage from that day. 

And the “Guinness Book of World Record” holder for the world‘s fattest man is about to lose the title after dropping more than 500 pounds.  “Reality Bites” is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now time for “Reality Bites,” and it really does bite for this 43-year-old man.  But he‘s lost 550 pounds, still has several hundred more to go.  Manuel Uribe had earned a spot in the “Guinness Book of World Records” with a whopping weight of 1200 pounds.  But two years of steady dieting and exercise had helped him drown down to 700 pounds.  This way, he could be back on his feet in a couple of years.  We‘re rooting for you Manuel.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It is hard to believe it was 14 years ago today that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed to death outside Nicole‘s Los Angeles condo.  O.J. Simpson was charged and was allowed to turn himself in to the police.  But instead hopped into a white Bronco and hit the highway in what was an extraordinary moment watched by millions on national television.  Here‘s now a look back at part of NBC‘s live coverage of the incredible chase.  

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VOICE OVER:  This is a special report from NBC News.

LARRY CARROLL(ph), NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  I‘m Larry Carroll(ph) in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles County district attorney has just filed murder charges against Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and 25-year-old Ronald Goldman.  Simpson was seen leaving his Brentwood estate by automobile a short time ago.  He is expected to surrender to Los Angeles police for booking and arraignment shortly.  

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEW ANCHOR:  I‘m Tom Brokaw, NBC News in New York.  And you‘re looking at live television pictures at dusk in southern California.  The white Bronco that you see in the freeway going right on your screen contains O.J. Simpson, a fugitive at large charged with two counts of murder.  We believe it is being driven by his lifelong friend Al Cowlings and they are headed towards O.J. Simpson‘s old neighborhood in Brentwood.  We believe Simpson‘s mother is at his Brentwood estate. 

Earlier, Simpson told a police dispatcher that he had a gun to his head, that he would hurt himself but wanted to see his mother.  He‘s been on the run now almost eight hours since fleeing a home in the San Fernando Valley as police closed in on him to arrest him for two counts of brutal murder, his ex-wife and a young man.  Shortly after, he was told as well by his lawyer that he could face the death penalty. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR:  Look at the people.  There‘s the left hand turn on the Sunset Boulevard.  

BROKAW:  Yes.  You‘re looking at a Ford Bronco and O.J. Simpson is almost back home.  He‘s in that car.  We‘re told he has a gun, his mother is at his Brentwood estate and apparently, his lifelong friend Al Cowlings is driving him there, pursued by Los Angeles live television helicopters and most of the Los Angeles County sheriffs and California highway patrol units that are in the area. 

He has been in touch with a police dispatcher.  He has said to the police dispatcher, “I could hurt myself.  I want to see my mother.”  There are people who are getting out of their cars.  All the overpasses have been jammed.  Many people who were told were sobbing; others are saying, “Go, O.J., go.”  There‘s an enormous amount of affection for this man.  But it must be remembered, he has been charged with two brutal murders under a special circumstances and he could face the death penalty.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE NEWS REPORTER:  There appear to be no barricades in front of the house.  This is it.  He has free access to drive down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NEWS REPORTER:  There‘s the ground shot on your right-hand side that is rocking in Ashford, and that is O.J. Simpson‘s house.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE NEWS REPORTER:  And there‘s someone in the doorway there.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NEWS REPORTER:  Let‘s watch.  Somebody is arguing with the driver.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE NEWS REPORTER:  Police officers in the doorway, at least three of them there.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NEWS REPORTER:  They‘re moving the gentleman back, whoever that was.  This is a very, very critical time.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE NEWS REPORTER:  Some sort of a negotiation going on in the doorway there.  The passenger of the Ford Bronco we‘ve been watching for several hours this afternoon.  It appears to be Al Cowlings, former teammate of O.J., discussing something with uniformed police officers in the doorway. 

I can tell you there‘s also a man there, shirt and tie, perhaps a detective at the scene.  But, again, the door is open to the Bronco and nobody else is getting out.  Flashers on sitting in the driveway there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NEWS REPORTER:  He has given up tonight.  The standoff which has been going on all day long has ended peacefully.  He still faces two counts of murder with complications.  He faces a trial that could lead to the death penalty if he‘s found guilty.  He continues to proclaim his innocence.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, Jim Moret, who anchored CNN‘s coverage the day of the Bronco chase and is now chief correspondent of the “Inside Edition.”  It‘s hard to believe it‘s 14 years ago, isn‘t it?  

JIM MORET, ANCHORED COVERAGE OF THE “BRONCO CHASE”:  I remember two guys, one young reporter from Court TV and me from CNN.  We both had black hair.  And who would have known, honestly?  

ABRAMS:  It changed the business.  This particular chase changed the news business?

MORET:  I think it did.  You know, I remember being ribbed by my colleagues at CNN in Washington, “How could you cover this?  This is a soap opera.”  And in fact it was.  It was a daily soap opera which ate into the actual soap opera business, if you can believe that. 

And it was some years later, not too long after, that the Washington reporters were covering the stain on a blue dress worn by an intern in the Oval Office.  I think news tastes changed.  I think expectations changed.  I think that the entire business -

ABRAMS:  Do you think coverage of this chase changed the way we cover politics?

MORET:  I do.  I absolutely do.  I think it changed the appetite for news, not just news but there was a prurient interest that was satisfied through this trial that I think has never been quintessence.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t think there‘s ever going to be - people always say this, the next O.J. - I don‘t think there will be another quote, “O.J. Simpson case.”

MORET:  You have to look back at this time.  You didn‘t have MSNBC.  You didn‘t have FOX NEWS.  There were two games in town as far as covering this trial, CNN and Court TV, and there wasn‘t this appetite.  You would never imagine that there would be several 24-hour news networks.  And look at the landscape today.  I think it‘s all different.  

ABRAMS:  Jim Moret, great to see you.

MORET:  Good to see you, too.

ABRAMS:  Up next, tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” and your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box,” coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser, MTV reality star and bisexual Tila Tequila, who seems to think her show in which both men and women compete for her affection is the reason that California Supreme Court recently overturned the state‘s ban on gay marriage. 

She said, quote, “It is because of me - I definitely think my show has helped the movement.  Before it came out, everyone was still a little apprehensive about same sex relationships.”

Yes, and porn star Mary Carey‘s gubernatorial run made the leading candidate more sympathetic to her platform of taxing breast implants. 

Loser - actress Katherine Heigl, who is withdrawing her name from contention for the Emmys this year because she says, the writing wasn‘t good enough on “Grey‘s Anatomy.”  She says it was, quote, “an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization.  Translation, she now thinks she‘s too big a movie star and wants off of “Grey‘s Anatomy.”

Our big loser, the State of New Jersey.  Now, we love the good people of the Garden State but do not envy them if CNN (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Lou Dobbs declares his candidacy to be that state‘s governor, which he reportedly is thinking of doing.  Dobbs lives there.  He says he has no comment but, quote, cannot say never to running for the state‘s top job.  Please say never.  

The winner of the day, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.  No, not because they are rich from the porn tape that they made, but because after years apart, “Rolling Stone” reports that the forces of the universe have brought these kindred spirits back together.  They really do deserve each other. 

I‘m sorry, we‘re out of time.  No time for the “P.O.‘d Box” tonight.  You can E-mail us though about the show at verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  The Web site is Verdict.MSNBC.com.  I‘ll be live here again in L.A. tomorrow night.  See you then.  Thanks for watching.

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

END   

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