updated 7/1/2008 12:31:46 PM ET 2008-07-01T16:31:46

Guest: Margaret Carlson, Ron Brownstein, Jennifer Palmieri, Jenny Backus, Reihan Salam, Jennifer Donahue, Lynn Sweet, Wayne Slater, Mike Barnicle, Sharon Epperson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Barack and his veep versus McCain and his veep.  Let‘s play doubles.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Tonight, name that veep.  Will Obama pick Hillary or does he need a strong foreign policy/military type?  Will McCain pick a VP who has strong ties to Christian conservatives or a powerhouse from one of the battleground states he needs to win?  Veepstakes in just a minute.

Plus: The economy is actually killing working-class Americans who are struggling with high gas prices and tumbling home prices, rising health care and education costs.  Which candidate will win the hearts, minds and votes of the working class?  That debate in a moment.

And two for the road.  On Friday, Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned together for the first time.  Obama has promised to help pay off Clinton‘s campaign debt and she‘s promised to campaign heartily for him, but will Clinton‘s hard-core supporters unite behind Obama if Hillary‘s not on the ticket?  More later.

Plus, we‘ll dig into the latest battleground polls and take a look at the electoral map with our roundtable in the “Politics Fix.”  And in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight, an attempt to make Barack Obama and John McCain more equal.

But we begin with name that veep.  Margaret Carlson‘s a columnist for Bloomberg and “The National Journal‘s” Ron Brownstein is political director for the Atlantic Media.

Well, we had to all come out of this last Friday thinking, well, maybe, since they seemed right together, as we would say—as a grandmother would say, They look right together—in a political sense, Ron Brownstein, is there now a chance that Hillary Clinton might be selected, having warmed up Barack, to be on his ticket?

RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  Well, I think there‘s always a chance.  Look, I think we can say two things about this.  Barack Obama, and probably even more his staff, do not want to pick Hillary Clinton as their vice presidential nominee, but that may not be the decisive factor.  We have lots of examples, whether it‘s John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George Bush or Bob Dole and Jack Kemp, who‘d spent the previous 20 years arguing, where sometimes you have to pick somebody you don‘t want.

And I think if Barack Obama is in a situation in August where it appears that Hillary Clinton gives him his best chance to win, he will have to look at her very seriously, whether he wants to or not.  I think the key, though, is if he stays ahead in the polls, it‘s less likely because they‘re less likely to feel that they need her, and I think they only pick her if they feel that they need to.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s assume he believes there‘s a Bradley effect, that a lot of people he might assume are saying they‘re going to vote for him but he knows those polls are inflated right now.  Does Hillary Clinton hurt him in the new states—Montana, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, perhaps Virginia and North Carolina—in a way that matters, or does she just help him in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and Florida?  In other words, does her help to him get offset by her hurt to him?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  Right.  Well, you put your finger on something.  She may roll up the amount in already blue states and states that could be blue, while not helping in the states that he‘s going for, the new states he‘s going for.  So maybe it‘s a wash there because you don‘t really care about doing better in New York.  You don‘t want to do better than you need to do.

On the other hand, after—I never thought I would think this—but I thought that the picture of Obama and Hillary together was like Bill Clinton and Al Gore.  When you saw it...

MATTHEWS:  It works.

CARLSON:  ... it looks better than you thought it could.

BROWNSTEIN:  Can I just have one...

MATTHEWS:  Does it look like it seemed to protect America?

CARLSON:  Yes.

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.  It looked like a stronger—I just have one exception.  If Hillary Clinton can help you specifically win enough waitress moms, downscale women to win Ohio, which Barack Obama I think will have trouble doing on his own, that by itself might be enough to make him president.

MATTHEWS:  That‘ll take...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  If Obama can win Ohio, he‘s almost certainly going to be president.  If Hillary Clinton is the one who can tip you over that, it‘s a strong argument for her.

MATTHEWS:  You are so smart!

BROWNSTEIN:  But I think they will...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  But I think they will resist...

MATTHEWS:  ... so smart.

BROWNSTEIN:  They will resist—I don‘t think they want to do this.  I think they will—but of course, I think you will do it if you have to do it.  And right now, they don‘t feel like they have to, but we‘ll see in a few weeks.

MATTHEWS:  He locks in Pennsylvania if he puts her on the ticket, and he gets a good shot at Ohio and he locks in New Jersey.  Does he have a shot with Hillary in Florida, and southern Florida especially?

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes, potentially, I mean, but Florida is tough.  Florida is a good McCain state, with a lot of seniors.  He‘s a reasonable candidate voter—he‘s a reasonable candidate for those I-4 suburbanites from Tampa up to Orlando.  So that‘s tough.  And they don‘t need Florida.  If—you know, look...

MATTHEWS:  Democrats don‘t need...

BROWNSTEIN:  You know, Democrats—Florida is a kind of making the rubble bounce (ph) state for the Democrats.  If they win Florida, they probably already won.

MATTHEWS:  I think Hillary makes the most sense right now because I do think it‘s going to be close.

Let‘s take a look at a guy who everybody likes.  He‘s very likable and he‘s Hispanic.  He has an interesting background, Mexican mother, a lot of background, American Indian, the whole thing.  Here he is, Bill Richardson.  What do you make of this guy?  Very, very attractive—maybe I just like the guy, I don‘t know.  Does he make sense on the ticket?

CARLSON:  He‘s very likable, but you talk about him as a category, rather than a person...

MATTHEWS:  Well, because...

CARLSON:  ... that he fits...

MATTHEWS:  Because that‘s salient if you have...

CARLSON:  He fits the...

MATTHEWS:  ... an African-American frontrunner.

CARLSON:  He fits these roles.  But remember, John Kerry fit the categories, a Democrat with—been a Vietnam hero, who could appeal to the military, et cetera.  So you need to choose a person.  And by the way, the one person that the Clintons would object to most might be Bill Richardson.

MATTHEWS:  Ha!

CARLSON:  They‘re furious with Bill Richardson.

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, as Margaret said, I mean, he fits a lot of—he‘s a governor of a swing state.  He‘s got national security credentials.  But I wonder if he might be the Wesley Clark of 2008.  He might have been more attractive if he hadn‘t run.  He was not a great candidate on many days.  I mean, he certainly had his moments...

MATTHEWS:  He wasn‘t organized.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... but he was—he did not—and Wesley Clark would have been more attractive for John Kerry as a running mate if he hadn‘t run, and I wonder if Bill Richardson may have put himself in...

MATTHEWS:  I also...

BROWNSTEIN:  ... something of the same situation.

MATTHEWS:  ... doubt his willingness to really be tough on the opponent.  I‘m not sure he‘s one of those people who would be really tough on McCain.  Somebody has to bring McCain down to size.

Let‘s take a look at a woman candidate here, a very popular governor of Kansas, a red state, Kathleen Sebelius.  Her dad was governor of Ohio, John Gilligan.  What do you make of that?  Is this going to offend the Hillary people, to pick another woman when everybody thought, on the Hillary side, it was her turn, Hillary‘s turn?

BROWNSTEIN:  I think she‘s a very strong contender here.  I mean, if you‘re Obama, your fundamental choice in this is whether you pick someone to balance the ticket who‘s strong where you‘re weak, or as Clinton did with Gore, you pick someone to reinforce your message.  And if he goes to reinforce his message, I think the obvious choice are some of these red state Democrats who have a history of working across party lines, which is the core promise at the center of the Obama campaign.  And Kathleen Sebelius, as a Democrat who has thrived in Kansas, I think could be very attractive to him as a way of underscoring the fundamental, you know, essence of his message.

MATTHEWS:  What will happen to the working women who were hot for Hillary?  Will they say, OK, we‘ll take Sebelius, or will they say, No, that‘s an embarrassment, that‘s a shot at our person?

CARLSON:  I think that—I think it‘s a stick in the eye of those people.  If you‘re going to choose a woman, I think you‘ve got to choose Hillary Clinton.  Otherwise, it‘s a straight-in-your-face insult.  Even though...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  She‘s got a lot...

CARLSON:  Sebelius is, like, one of the best governors in the country.  She‘s terrific.  However, this may not be the year for a woman other than Hillary.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Maybe she‘ll be attorney general or something.  Let‘s take a look at Sam Nunn...

BROWNSTEIN:  Don‘t write her off yet.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, not because—because you just did.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to Sam Nunn here, sort of an eminence grise, an expert on foreign policy, defense matters experience, ex-senator from Georgia.  Is he too old, late 60s?  Is he going to make Barack look too young or what?

BROWNSTEIN:  He‘s a category, I think.  There is that issue.  I think age is a big issue with Nunn, if only implicitly, and probably more than implicitly, the Barack Obama campaign is going to highlight the age difference between Barack Obama and McCain, the widest in American history between two nominees.  With Sam Nunn, who‘s, you know, roughly in that same ballpark as McCain, one heartbeat away, I think it is—it might cloud that message somewhat.

But look, I mean, I think the fundamental other choice that Obama faces, either reinforce with a red state Democrat or even conceivably a Bloomberg, or find someone to balance.  And if you balance, you‘re looking for someone who‘s strong on national security.  If not Sam Nunn, some people are talking about General Jim Jones.  I mean, there are a variety of names who could fit in this category, and I think he will look at this broad category very seriously.

MATTHEWS:  A national security person.

BROWNSTEIN:  A national security person, a balance the ticket, as opposed to a reinforce the ticket.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re such a...

CARLSON:  And you might...

MATTHEWS:  Nunn is not too popular in the gay community...

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... not that it‘s a huge community, but it is a problem.

CARLSON:  Not at all, and it‘s a fund-raising community.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  He might not want to lose it.  And also...

MATTHEWS:  Because he was—he was very tough on gays in the military.

CARLSON:  It makes Georgia possible.

MATTHEWS:  He does?

CARLSON:  Yes.  Sam Nunn, does.

BROWNSTEIN:  Maybe.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  You think?

BROWNSTEIN:   Georgia is a reach.  I mean, Georgia‘s a reach with or without Sam Nunn.  I think if he picks...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s...

BROWNSTEIN:  If you pick Nunn, you‘re looking for a broad national...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘ve done Hillary Clinton.  We‘ve done Bill Richardson and we‘ve done Kathleen Sebelius, Sam Nunn.  Now let‘s go to Chris Dodd, who ran in the primaries for president, didn‘t do well, certainly a senior senator, been around a long time.  What do you make of this possibility, Ron Brownstein?

BROWNSTEIN:  I‘m not really sure what it adds.  I think Chris Dodd, you know, was a surprisingly—he surprised a lot of people by how effective a candidate he was.  He was articulate.  I mean, he carried himself well.  But you know, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, it doesn‘t really get you executive experience, it doesn‘t get you outside of Washington.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) Connecticut.

BROWNSTEIN:  It doesn‘t get you—look, if you‘re not going to win Connecticut with Barack Obama, then you‘ve got bigger problems than worrying about who your veep‘s going to be.

MATTHEWS:  Margaret?

CARLSON:  He‘s such an appealing—he‘s a natural.  He is a political natural, and that helps.

MATTHEWS:  You and I just like him.

CARLSON:  Well, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go now to McCain‘s potential running mates, to keep it even here, starting with former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.  Again, a chance to poach, to take away from the Democrats a state they need to win.  If they take away Pennsylvania from the Democrats, can the Democrats win?

BROWNSTEIN:  Almost impossible, I think.  Very hard for the Democrats to win if they can‘t...

MATTHEWS:  This is the old Atwater strategy, take away...

BROWNSTEIN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  ... some state that the other side knows they need.

BROWNSTEIN:  Ridge would be a high-risk, high-reward choice.  I mean, it really would be an offensive kind of—not any kind of, you know, offensive, it would be like, rather than defensive, kind of choice by McCain because it would allow him to really put pressure on Democrats in a state that he believes he has a real chance to take away.

On the other hand, McCain has had a tumultuous relationship throughout his entire career with Republican right, the Christian conservatives in particular, and they do not like Tom Ridge.  So would he risk...

MATTHEWS:  What would he lose?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, he would risk the enthusiasm and kind of...

MATTHEWS:  What state would he actually lose?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, it‘s a good question.  I mean, you could imagine Georgia or North Carolina, if enough people stayed home, if Obama can get close enough with a big enough black turnout.  But Ridge would be kind of a roll-the-dice choice that would be—you know, it would be a bold stroke, but I wonder if McCain feels like he‘s in a strong enough position in the party to really undertake something like that.

CARLSON:  We could have the battle of the governor stars.  We could have then Obama choosing Governor Ed Rendell.

MATTHEWS:  One guy I‘ve been looking at here, John Thune.  He won an interesting race.  He beat Tom Daschle, the head of the Democratic Party in the Senate.  He lost a narrow race to Tim Johnson before that, but handled that loss so well, he came back like gangbusters.  Youth, looks good, tall Western.  Doe she make sense, from South Dakota?

BROWNSTEIN:  The last part is the problem, right?  I mean, if you‘re a Republican, then South Dakota is a kind of strange place to worry about reinforcing.  Yes, he‘s young, but he‘s sort of—he‘s of Washington.  And you got to think that McCain may have a preference for a governor who‘s outside of Washington.  But yes, he fits some of the categories.

CARLSON:  Right.  I mean, you get the—maybe you get two Dakotas.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s the woman option here.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is a heavyweight politically from Texas.  On the choice issue, she‘s somewhere in the middle, a bit murky on that question.  Some people say she‘s pro-choice.  I don‘t think she describes herself that way, but definitely a moderate on that issue.  Perhaps headed towards the governor‘s chair down there at this point, right?

CARLSON:  McCain could use murky on pro-life/pro-choice.  He...

MATTHEWS:  It‘d be good for him.

CARLSON:  I think he almost can‘t take Tom Ridge because he would lose his ardent followers, but he could take somebody like Kay Bailey Hutchinson.  It would take—it would take some of those women over that are still angry that could easily go over because they say, Oh, look at Republicans taking a woman.  And she‘s—not that they‘re going to lose Texas, but she‘s strong in the Southwest.

BROWNSTEIN:  And—and—but she has indicated—you know, so far, she‘s been very, you know, dismissive of the idea and has strongly suggested that she did not...

MATTHEWS:  I think she wants to be governor.  I think that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look a Mark Sanford of South Carolina, another state the Republicans can‘t lose, no matter who runs on the ticket, basically.  Does that make any sense?

BROWNSTEIN:  Well, I think Sanford fits some of the categories that McCain needs.  He‘s younger.  We‘ll more in tune with—he‘s more well liked by conservatives and he‘s more well-versed on domestic issues.  But there are other governors, like Pawlenty from Minnesota, who fit those same categories and also add being from a state that‘s truly in play.  So I sort of see him as filling some of the boxes that McCain probably needs, but there are others who may be ahead of the queue in front of him on those...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the reason—just to go into Pawlenty here, why would you pick somebody from Minnesota, if you‘re the Republican candidate?

BROWNSTEIN:  Because it‘s a state the Democrats have won but narrowly in the last couple of cycles.  And it‘s—you know, it‘s not at the very top tier of blue states that McCain is targeting, but it may be in that next tier and...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think...

BROWNSTEIN:  ... and South Carolina is one...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... sounds right?

BROWNSTEIN:  I think McCain/Pawlenty has a certain logic.  I see...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  I think Romney has a kind of logic, too, in the same way we were talking about Hillary Clinton, where you may not want to pick him, but you may find...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BROWNSTEIN:  ... that he is the most useful to pick.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take Haley Barbour, a familiar face in Washington.  He looked very good during the flood in Katrina, seemed to handle his state clean-up incredibly well, came off great.  Does he make sense?

CARLSON:  He did do that well, but he‘s, like, the antithesis of McCain.  I mean, talk about having lobbyists on your staff, that‘s what Barbour was.  Sanford is like Gore for Clinton.  He enhances, it‘s a synthesis, because Sanford is McCain.  I mean, he‘s against spending.  He was against earmarks.  But I think Barbour spends sends the wrong...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CARLSON:  ... pro-lobbying message.

MATTHEWS:  ...(INAUDIBLE), Margaret, who‘s the best bet to be the running mate for Barack Obama?  You won‘t be held to this.

CARLSON:  After—I‘m taken up by the drama of Friday, so let me say...

BROWNSTEIN:  Wow!

CARLSON:  ... Hillary Clinton for the moment.

MATTHEWS:  Best bet of all.  Against the field, that makes sense. 

Against the field.  Against the field.

BROWNSTEIN:  I think Sebelius is a good choice.

MATTHEWS:  Against the field, best bet.  How about other—you stay with you (ph) on the Republicans.  Who‘s the best bet right now, as we go into July?

BROWNSTEIN:  Pawlenty slightly over Romney.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE)

CARLSON:  I think Romney, in the end.  I think it‘ll be a very practical choice.

BROWNSTEIN:  One or the other, yes.

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s—I think Romney makes perfect sense.  He can threaten in Pennsylvania.  He can get you Michigan.  He causes all—and in the states where his LDS religion...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN:  ... can help you in Michigan.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he can get you Pennsylvania maybe.  But where his LDS religion might be a problem, they‘re going to win those states anyway.  Thank you, Ron Brownstein—this is HARDBALL—Margaret Carlson.

Coming up: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have hit the campaign trail together, but can Obama win over loyal Clinton supporters?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Now that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met with their fund-raisers in private and had their first joint campaign appearance there in Unity, New Hampshire, last Friday, will the Clinton hold-outs support Obama?  And will both Bill and Hillary hit that campaign trail hard for Obama?

Jenny Backus is a Democratic strategist and Jennifer Palmieri is a former John Edwards adviser.  She‘s now with the Center for American Progress.  Jenny, thanks for joining us.  Thank you, Jennifer.

It seems to me that they‘ve gotten together tactilely.  They‘re together, they‘re holding each other, they‘re patting each other on the back, kissing each other, the whole routine.  Is this the kind of tactile, vivid connection that will bring women who support Hillary aboard?

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes.  I mean, you‘ve already seen that start to happen inside the polls.  I mean, the average person out there that was a Hillary supporter has started to move towards Obama.  And pictures like this that are going to—that have run all weekend and that are going to keep running into the sort of slow 4th of July period, are going to start to reinforce.  When they see her next to him, it‘s like she‘s giving them permission to leave her camp and come together.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s his job?  It seems to me, he has to get out there and start saying the right things.  What are they?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, I think that he has—you know, there‘s, like, sort of degrees (ph) that he‘s worried about, right?  There‘s 18 million that voted for her.  He wants them to support him.  Largely, they have already made (ph) that.  But you want to make it easy for them.  You want to make them feel good about it.  So there‘s that.

Then he wants her financial supporters and he wants her organizers, right?  Her organizers, in particular, are really important.  And you know, so—and I think that he‘s—he‘ll get a lot of those people, some of those people you will never convince to be enthusiastic about him.  But beyond that, I‘m not really sure what—what he needs more from her.  I would not be surprised—unless she‘s the running mate, which I think is unlikely, I would not be surprised if we never saw them together again.

BACKUS:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  What?

PALMIERI:  I would not be surprised if we ever saw them together again.  I mean, he needs to be—he needs to show that he‘s independent, right?  He‘s—you know, I think that you want everyone to feel good about how this process is going, unite the party, and I think it‘s going on from before they even dropped out, right?  She stopped attacking him.  He stopped attacking her.  And that—you know, and I think that even in the past, you know, three-and-a-half weeks it‘s been since she dropped out, you see her staff who said, I‘m never going to work for him, they‘re are moving his way.  And so I just—I think that...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  I don‘t think that he needs her as much anymore.  I agree with that point.

PALMIERI:  Right.

BACKUS:  And I think what he did with his unity thing when he did is really important, because one thing that Gore did wrong was do that “60 Minutes” interview the night before he announces his campaign in 2000, for people who remember that.

And he telegraphed that, oh, Bill Clinton is going to be a problem for me.

PALMIERI:  Right. 

BACKUS:  So, then he stepped on his own announcement for the rest of the time. 

He—Barack Obama crossed that bridge.  He said, here‘s Hillary and I together.  We like each other.  You will see one or two more events out there.  I don‘t think you‘re going to see daily—daily connections. 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  ... he can‘t—there‘s not much more she can do for him. 

I don‘t think that... 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  I don‘t think a working-class voters in Chillicothe, Ohio, is going to say, because Hillary showed up here with him, I‘m going to vote for him.  I think he has to convince people. 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  I disagree.  I think Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have the last name Clinton.  And the thing that—the best positive thing that they have left is the economy. 

And in places where the economy matters, in Chillicothe, Ohio, in smaller towns, he needs more female surrogates out there.  Claire McCaskill has done an amazing job.  Sebelius does a pretty good job.  Hillary Clinton is a good surrogate.

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t...

BACKUS:  Well-timed, I think she could work well for him. 

MATTHEWS:  I was thinking, don‘t the Clintons still represent the Democratic Party?  And don‘t they have to give...

PALMIERI:  Apparently not. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t they have to give Barack Obama the OK and say, he is the Democratic candidate; the other guy, McCain, is the wrong candidate from the Democratic perspective?

PALMIERI:  Sure.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t—don‘t they have to—do they have to go around and say to everybody who voted for them? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He won the primary. 

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  I mean, we haven‘t seen President Clinton, you know, do that in a big way yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PALMIERI:  I think it‘s actually—I think he‘s in an awkward position, because you don‘t want to do something until you‘re really asked to do it.

And if he was running around talking about Obama, everybody would say, why are you doing that?  This isn‘t about you.  So, I think he‘s in a difficult position.  But I think that they need to give their stamp of approval.  And I think they would be very effective for Senate candidates and House candidates. 

I just don‘t think that—that people who are concerned about Obama are going to be convinced just because she shows up... 

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  Oh, I agree with that point.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI:  I think he‘s going to have to...

(CROSSTALK)

BACKUS:  But I think, running, you need as many surrogates as you can get.

But I think Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton don‘t represent the Democratic Party anymore.  I think that was what this primary was all about.  People like them.  They‘re important parts of the primary, but it‘s not their party anymore.  It‘s Barack Obama‘s party. 

Now, Barack Obama has to say there is room for the Clintons in this party and the people that the Clintons stood up for.  And I think the most important thing...

PALMIERI:  And people like us, who worked for the Clintons.

BACKUS:  Right.  Exactly. 

(LAUGHTER)

BACKUS:  But the most important thing that he needs to do is to do an event with Bill Clinton fast, because the longer that event is held out there, the more that the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What does he have to do?  Does he have to make sure that—it seems to me, if I were Bill Clinton, the first thing I would want him to do is come to see me, on the phone or in person.  Let it be known we‘re talking in a kind of serious way. 

PALMIERI:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And come out of there with, this guy is no racist, I mean, minimal. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t he have to exonerate him of that charge, as a minimum? 

BACKUS:  I think Bill Clinton needs Barack Obama more than Barack Obama needs Bill Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  Well, no, but doesn‘t he need to have him to do that? 

BACKUS:  They have mutual things that they need from each other, absolutely. 

But the first way I would use Bill Clinton is on the economy.  I would do a summit on the economy.  I would bring in big leaders.  And I would have Bill Clinton talk about the economy and the difference between the Bush way and the McCain way and the Barack Obama way. 

PALMIERI:  I think an interesting bridge from the Clintons to the Obamas might be through Ted Kennedy.

If—I think that if Clinton—if President Clinton didn‘t just meet with Barack Obama, but he met with Ted Kennedy, and I think that that would show—obviously, they were very hurt when Kennedy went for Obama, but they are sort of—and since Caroline Kennedy is so involved in the Obama campaign, that could be a good way to link this all up. 

BACKUS:  Or Chelsea.  Chelsea is the other way that I think you could do it, too. 

PALMIERI:  That‘s a good idea. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a strange kind of sitcom.  It‘s not even a sitcom. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a soap opera. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re waiting to see, what does—what will Brad do? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s one of these characters from a soap opera.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What will—is Brad unhappy?  What‘s going on between those two? 

It‘s different territory for me, but I think it is the key.  I think we‘re right on target.  The Clintons have got to get on this wagon, or this wagon is not going to make it. 

PALMIERI:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think. 

Anyway, Jennifer Palmieri, Jenny Backus. 

Up next: a decision that levels the playing field between Barack Obama and John McCain this fall.  That‘s next on the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Howard Wolfson was a loyal and tough spokesman for Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign.  He was instrumental in the campaign‘s choices, you know, who to give a cover story to, who not to, whether to give a cover story to “Vogue” magazine, for example.

Well, in a recent interview with “Women‘s Wear Daily,” Vogue‘s Julia Reed says—quote—“Let me just say it‘s not the most fun thing in the world to have breakfast a million times with Howard Wolfson” She said, “The man is the most charmless human beings on the planet, and I‘m sitting there sucking up to him.”

So, why did the big Clinton feature story not—go away?  Why wasn‘t there a “Vogue” story on the Clintons?  Well, Reed said she was told the campaign already had the women‘s vote in the bag.  She said Wolfson told her—quote—“We thought we were going to be in a bigger dogfight.  We don‘t need you anymore.”  Well, this, Julie Reed recalled, was the night before the Iowa caucuses, that big caucus fight that Hillary lost, and, with it, her big chance for the nomination. 

Reed called Hillary spokesman Wolfson an idiot for not having given Hillary that big “Vogue” interview before she lost that caucus. 

Anyway, I never blame the staffer for decisions that were invariably made by the politician at the top.  Hillary Clinton decided whether she wanted to do a “Vogue” interview. 

McClatchy News reports that the Commission on Presidential Debates wants Senators Obama and McCain to sit during two of their three debates this fall.  What, they too tired?  Why not put them in recliner chairs?  They are going to sit, instead of stand? 

Anyway, at 6‘1“, Obama would have a clear height advantage over the 5‘9“ McCain if they were standing side by side.  The debates—by the way, the debates are usually done that way.

Anyway, debates should be toe-to-toe, I think, face-to-face, issue-to-issue, not sitting around like a couple of club members chatting over their weekend plans. 

Now it‘s time to “Name That Veep.”

We talked about a bunch of names earlier, but here is one that no one should take out of the list.  And the guy has a shot.  This freshman senator shocked the political world when he knocked out a really red Republican in 2006.  He‘s a veteran, an author, a former Republican, and he served as President Ronald Reagan‘s Navy secretary. 

He may not have many years in the Senate, but he‘s a major voice on the Iraq war.  His military background and experience could be just what Barack Obama needs.  Plus, he might help Barack Obama put a new Southern state into play.  The guy is tough.  After all, his 2004 book was called “Born Fighting.” 

So, who is he?  Virginia U.S. Senator Jim Webb. And now it‘s time for tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.”  John McCain has a new TV commercial on the air.  It‘s called “Purpose.” 

Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  John McCain will call America to our next national purpose, energy security, a comprehensive bipartisan plan to lower prices at the pump, reduce dependence on foreign oil through domestic drilling, and champion energy alternatives for better choices and lower costs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Sounds like a good plan.  There‘s one detail they don‘t include in the commercial: when McCain thinks we can get the job done. 

The press release announcing the ad has the answer—quote—“The ad highlights the Lexington Project, John McCain‘s comprehensive to achieve strategic energy independence by the year 2025.”

And that is tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number,” the year 2025.  That is when John McCain thinks our country can achieve what he calls strategic energy independence, 17 years from now, not exactly immediate comfort for the prospect of those paying $5 a gallon for gas -- 2025, tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.”

Up next:  They are the working-class white voters Hillary won and

Barack didn‘t.  Can Obama win over the regular folks against John McCain/

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARON EPPERSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Sharon Epperson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.” 

Stocks closed mixed.  The Dow gained 3.5 points.  The S&P 500 was up one.  And the Nasdaq fell 22.  Oil shot to another record high, above $143 a barrel today, before retreating on signs of weaker demand and a stronger dollar.  Crude settled at $140 even, 21 cents off Friday‘s close.

Chrysler says it‘s closing a minivan plant in Saint Louis and cutting production at other plants, this as soaring fuel costs wipe out most of the demand for vans, SUVs and other gas-guzzling large vehicles. 

And Hollywood is counting down to a possible actors strike.  The current contract for the Screen Actors Guild, the largest union representing actors, expires after midnight tonight.  And there‘s still no new agreement. 

For now, SAG‘s president says the union is not considering a strike, but some film sets have been shut down just in case. 

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

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, who will win the working-class vote this election, Barack Obama or John McCain?  Mike Barnicle is an MSNBC political analysts.  And Reihan Salam is the associate director at “The Atlantic” and author of the great new book called “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.” 

Reihan, I want you to tell me how the Republican Party can win the working stiff, the regular person who makes a regular income. 

REIHAN SALAM, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, “THE ATLANTIC”:  Well, what you need to do is address the anxieties, the cost of living, and particularly with regard to health care. 

Republicans are always trying to talk about the issues where they‘re strong, national security, terrorism.  And they try to pretend like other issues don‘t exist.  And that is a big, big mistake.  They need to talk about them and they need offer serious comprehensive answers to those needs. 

MATTHEWS:  So, how do Republicans talk about national health care, when they don‘t believe in it? 

SALAM:  Look, it‘s not about socializing the system.  It‘s not about pouring money into a broken system.  It‘s about creating a new system from the ground up that works for families.

And the way do you that is by putting more skin in the game.  The way you do that is by making sure that the corruption and collusion that defines the medical industry right now is rooted out.  And you take care of the catastrophic costs, the times when, if you have a sick kid, and, you know, your family goes bankrupt.  That is insanity.  And Republicans should oppose that, because that is something that goes against family values.  It‘s as simple as that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Mike Barnicle, how do the Democrats grab hold of that vote?  I‘m looking at the Catholic vote right now.  It is a stunning number, Michael.  Barack Obama is losing to John McCain 57 percent to 43 percent.  Look at the split, a 14-point spread there among Catholics in America headed towards the Republican Party this time. 

MIKE BARNICLE, NBC ANALYST:  Well, you know, it‘s a—it‘s a long, complex question, Chris. 

I mean, the Democrats have been losing Catholics and working-class people since John Mitchell and Richard Nixon took them away from the Democratic Party, basically, with the law and order campaign in ‘68. 

Reihan is right.  I mean, the Democrats have to address what I call the fear factor among middle-class working-class people, Irish Catholics included among them.  They have to address the fact that the definitions of life have changed for so many working-class people.  They feel that the Democratic Party cares more about gay rights than they do their economic rights. 

Their factories have closed.  Their kids can‘t live in the home towns that they grew up in.  They can‘t afford things because of the crippling nature of the economy.  And now, coupled with the gasoline prices surging beyond belief, Barack Obama and the Democrats have to talk to these people.  He has to convince them that he understands the economic fears that they live with, the cultural fears that surround them, stemming from school busing, college tuitions, everything.  And he‘s got to talk directly to them and let them know that he understands them, Irish Catholics included. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me take you—a simple point for both of you.  I want to throw this ball out as a jump ball. 

Reihan, if you ask people what bugs them right now, it‘s the cash out of their pocket.  Working people have to drive further to work than executives do.

SALAM:  Oh, yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Executives either have a condo downtown, or they live near where they work.  People have to drive a long distance around this part of the country. 

How do you tell the person they‘re not going to have to fill the tank two or three times a week, or whatever, with $5 gas by the time next year rolls around? 

SALAM:  Look, this is why John McCain is in a very tight spot, because when you look at his reformer message, his reformer message is all about things that resonate with “The New York Times” editorial board.  It‘s about global warming or campaign finance regulation.  It‘s not about the pocketbook issues. 

So, when he is talking about gas, when he is talking about offshore drilling, suddenly, eureka, he has found something that has really connected with people.  Now, whether or not that is a real long-term solution is another question. 

But I think that that is going to be one way.  And that‘s—you know, they found that has given them a lot of juice with working-class voters.  But, again, is it a real plan?  I‘m not so sure. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think, Michael, I like to think of myself as environmental as anybody, but the times are tough.  I wonder, if you put this up to plebiscite nationally, should we drill wherever we can find gas, wouldn‘t people say yes, including the Arctic Circle? 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Chris, they would be drilling in Secaucus, New Jersey, if they thought it was going to be a quick-term seclusion. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  One of the most dangerous elements—and it‘s a high-wire act for Barack Obama—and he has been walking it, sort of, and he might fall off it—is McCain‘s gas tax holiday proposal. 

Bogus?  Fine.  Short-term solution?  No problem understanding that. 

But politicians have got to be very, very careful when they tell people living right at the margin, right at the edge, that $30 a week isn‘t a whole lot of money.  It‘s a huge amount of money for a lot of people in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

I thought Hillary won on that issue, didn‘t she, Reihan?  I mean, it sounds like a pander, but, sometimes, people who are in trouble need somebody to pander to them.  I mean, do what they need. 

SALAM:  I think there is definitely something to that.  Again, 30 bucks a week makes a big difference, but look at health care insurance premiums.  That‘s a huge issue.  Look at the price of housing.  You look at the consumer confidence, which is all-time lows right now.  This is rough very stuff.  I think Mike is right to say that Barack Obama is shrewd.  He understands that this stuff matters.  And he wants to communicate.  He wants to connect, but I‘m not sure he is going to be able to pull it off. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, they just had—our friend Peter Hart just had a focus group in York, Pennsylvania, Michael and Reihan, where he asked people who should carry the American flag into the Olympic Stadium in Beijing; nine out of 10 said John McCain.  This is a cultural question which affects regular people.  How does Barack get the flag away from John McCain?  Can he? 

SALAM:  Mike, you want to take a crack at that? 

BARNICLE:  Yes.  Well, it‘s difficult for him.  A lot of people—you were just citing the numbers, the disparity, Irish Catholics for McCain, Irish Catholics for Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Actually all Catholics.  You just assumed it was Irish, but that‘s all right. 

BARNICLE:  There are others? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, there are others.  Lots of them!

BARNICLE:  A lot of—a lot of people are under the impression that John McCain is Irish and Catholic.  That happens to be one component of his attraction I think to a certain segment of the voters.  Barack Obama can‘t get that flag away from him.  He can help carry the flag with him, but he can‘t take it away from John McCain. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike Barnicle and Reihan Salaam.  We will have you back to talk more about your book.  It‘s making a lot of noise.  I‘m told a lot of Republican senators are reading your book. 

Up next, is Barack Obama‘s best bet win the White House to pick Hillary as his running mate?  This is back in the game, this question.  The politics—look at them together.  You know, I‘m not sure I hear—well, we‘ll see.  You vote with your hearts right now.  Think about this.  Is this going on here as a political union?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight‘s round table, Lynn Sweet of the “Chicago Sun Times,” Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and Wayne Slater of the “Dallas Morning News.”  I want to go to Lynn, who has been covering these people for years.  You‘ve been covering Barack years now, as many years as you can cover a new kid on the block.  Do you think, based on the evidence of last Friday, when they appeared together—Barack seemed to be so openly politically charming, in terms of the way he spoke of her, spoke about her, behaved with her, sat there, all the body language there with that drink of water there to act so casually.  He knows how to do it.  Is he, in any way, thinking about her as a running mate?

LYNN SWEET, “THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES”:  I think the performance Friday meant—I didn‘t think they were really thinking of it.  But I kind of thought that picture was so appealing that people inside their camp, if they haven‘t been taken it seriously, they have to after Friday, to at least put it back on the maybe possibility. 

MATTHEWS:  What is wrong with the possibility, Wayne, of them simply saying we have a way to become president.  You‘re David Axelrod and the other people in Chicago.  Here is the way to do it.  Take all of the Kerry votes, hold on to New Hampshire and pick up Ohio and go home and be the president of the United States?  Because we can do that with Hillary.  What is wrong with doing it that way?  Keep it simple, stupid. 

WAYNE SLATER, “THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS”:  It is.  It‘s a compelling argument.  Part of the problem I think is—maybe not the dominant argument is: sure, you invite Hillary in for Sunday dinner.  But you know what happens?  You have the crazy uncle and that is Bill.  God knows what he is going to say on the rope line. 

MATTHEWS:  Can‘t you have a prenup?  I‘m going to try to get Jennifer here because she is so smart.  Let‘s assume that everybody is wrong here, but they do decide to go with the Hillary Clinton as the running mate.  Let‘s stipulate that, as lawyers say.  How do you deal with this third opinion party, Bill Clinton?  Whatever you want to call it.  I get in trouble by using marital terms, I won‘t.  This other being here.  What do you do with them? 

JENNIFER DONAHUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS:  This larger than life person. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you make him a special trade rep?  Do you give him a specific job, saying no more dealings in the former stands, no more business relations around the world, no more raising money for the library.  All you can do is this job or what?  Or take Hillary‘s job in the U.S.  Senate in New York, which would be a brilliant move if he could get elected. 

DONAHUE:  It would be.  I don‘t see this as a viable scenario, quote frankly.  I think Bill Clinton is an enormous figure and he can‘t be put in a box.  I think Hillary Clinton herself is a enormous figure and can‘t be put in the vice presidential box.  But there is a bigger reason.  If Obama wants to win New Hampshire, let‘s remember who is the favorite son here.  It‘s not—or daughter.  It‘s not Hillary Clinton.  She won by two points, a little bit by default, because McCain took the lion‘s share of the independent voters. 

This is McCain‘s state to lose, not Hillary Clinton‘s state to lose.  And, yes, if Al Gore had won New Hampshire in 2000, he would have been the 41st president. 

MATTHEWS:  Barack doesn‘t need New Hampshire if he picks up Ohio. 

DONAHUE:  He needs Virginia. 

MATTHEWS:  No, he doesn‘t need any of those states.  You‘re wrong, Jennifer.  All he needs is what Al Gore won and add Ohio and he wins.  In fact, take away New Hampshire, add Ohio and he still wins. 

DONAHUE:  You‘re right about that. 

SWEET:  If I may say, that is the strong position Barack Obama is in now, polls be darned.  If he just keeps the Kerry/Gore states and he has a lot of ways, as David Plouffe—that was his briefing this week.  But his numbers make sense.  Obama has many options, many pathways.  He is not a slave to one or two key battle ground states.  That gives him a little more room to maneuver here. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s assume the Bradley affect.  Let‘s assume a lot of those votes for him in the polling aren‘t going to show up come November.  Let me go back to Wayne.  They don‘t show up, some of those votes, whether in Pennsylvania or Ohio; they don‘t show up.  Doesn‘t he, Barack Obama, need the comfort factor, the experience factor, the familiarity factor of a Clinton on the ticket with him to bring those people along in those older states?  I guess I‘m becoming a champion here.  I‘m getting a lot of resistance here about Hillary Clinton from you folks. 

SWEET:  Well, no.  Hold on.  I said they need to rethink it.  I never thought that it was real super-serious anyway, whatever stage they are in.  I just think, when you look at how this looked—no one else --  

DONAHUE:  Here are McCain‘s chances historically of winning this election, one in five.  OK?  Obama doesn‘t need to make a geographic decision.  Obama‘s a young man.  He‘s 46 years old.  He‘s not a commander in chief.  He needs a commander in chief.  This is a not time where the geography as his pick outweighs the strength of the other side of his ticket. That‘s why I say Jim Webb, Sam Nunn, Mark Warner, if he weren‘t running for Senate in Virginia, someone with economic gravitas and a commander in chief personality to win those male voters over. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it better though to take a woman like Hillary Clinton, a person like Hillary Clinton, who‘s been vetted through her entire being, rather than take a chance on a mystery man like Webb, have to go through weeks of the press going through his laundry, looking for trouble? 

DONAHUE:  Her vetting didn‘t get her far.  Her vetting showed that as a candidate, she‘s really good at going negative.  That doesn‘t seem to be the mood of the electorate this cycle.  Look at it.  People rejected it.  It seemed to go too far.  She‘s a terrific person.  She‘s a very smart person.  I don‘t think she‘s the right pick for Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll see.  I think more of her as a pick having watched them on Friday than I did before.  Maybe I‘m easily moved.  Maybe I‘m a softy, but I saw a ticket.  We‘ll be right back.  I mean that.  You‘re laughing at me.  I am.  I‘m taken with this.  I want peace and prosperity.  We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  I want Lynn Sweet to begin this.  Barack Obama doesn‘t have a long track record as a defender of this country.  He‘s a new kid on the block.  He‘s not seen as a man of the right.  He has to prove himself ideologically, because he‘s against a war.  I think he risks having a problem with national security as long as he takes the position he‘s taken, if something goes bad between now and election day.  I think Charles Black is right.  I think if we get hit before the election, that does help the more conservative party, the more national security party.  Doesn‘t he have to do something about that in terms of picking a VP? 

SWEET:  Yes.  I think that when you look at this VP thing, it will be unhinged from geography.  It will be part chemistry, part whoever fills the resume gaps.  I think there‘s other ways for Obama to fill that resume gap.  It‘s one that you mentioned, in other ways than the VP choice.  He could start having higher profile military people around him, people who somebody might have heard of, the Wes Clarks of the world.  There‘s other ways—

MATTHEWS:  Military cabinet around.

SWEET:  Sure, have them come out.  He had some in the primary.  But they haven‘t been seen in a long time.  

MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton did that, Jennifer, with Bill Crowe, remember that, the former chief of Naval operations.  He was the chairman of the joint chiefs.  Let me take a look at a number to make your point for you. 

DONAHUE:  OK. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m glad to do it.  When it comes to protecting the United States against terrorism, McCain leads.  Look at this number everybody, 20 point spread.  That‘s dramatic.  If you look at what happened in that last election of 2004, many people believed that the reason George Bush, despite all the problems with him, was able to win re-election by a couple million votes was national security.  Let Jennifer jump in here because it‘s your point. 

DONAHUE:  I totally think that you laid it out better than I ever could have, because the thing is, when Kerry picked Edwards, he wasn‘t picking a commander in chief.  Kerry himself had been undermined by the Swift Boat attack.  People didn‘t trust his judgment.  I think that‘s all that Obama needs, frankly.

And I will say another thing.  Hillary Clinton has a little problem with her war vote.  That doesn‘t mean that that‘s a negator for her.  But on the other hand, yesterday, the other day in New Hampshire, on Thursday last week, senators—Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen and Michelle Obama, the loudest applause they got were about the war in Iraq.  People want the troops him.  That shouldn‘t be confused with terrorism, which I think McCain does win hands down. 

MATTHEWS:  So the anti-war position still works? 

DONAHUE:  Yes, strongly. 

MATTHEWS:  Wayne, this question of national security issue.  Does Barack Obama have—I think Hillary has bolstered herself as a bit of a hawk.  I think the plus for her in that war vote is she was basically supportive of the president in the beginning, regardless of how things turned out, no matter how he used the authority.  She supported giving him the authority.  She‘s covered a bit here.  What do you think?  Does the Democratic party need a hawk on the ticket, someone with real credentials as a GI? 

SLATER:  Some credential.  I think Jennifer is exactly right.  Hillary Clinton‘s vote for the war is not as effective on the Democratic moderate side, where the people say, we want to get out of this war.  Divide the question, as Jennifer just did, between terrorism, which favors McCain, and getting out of the war itself, which favors Barack Obama.  So I think you look at the people like Webb, but also even an Evan Bayh.  It‘s a very attractive ticket.  Let‘s talk about here in Texas, Chet Edwards.  Representative Chet Edwards represents a giant military base.  That‘s right.  He got Nancy Pelosi‘s vote. 

MATTHEWS:  You think Texas is in play? 

SLATER:  Texas is not in play. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SWEET:  One quick point here.  The “Time Magazine” poll on Iraq said that half the people, 48 percent, for McCain, to Obama‘s 38 percent, trusted McCain to handle the war in Iraq, although most of the people believe the war was wrong to invade. 

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean? 

SWEET:  That‘s a tricky field.  Then it goes to the stewardship of the war.  Obama can talk about his plan for phase withdrawal.  McCain can talk about his.  It‘s more of a level playing field then, Chris, because if both candidates are starting to talk about the stewardship of the war, and McCain is perceived as a better steward of the war that no one wanted -- 

MATTHEWS:  That can be trashed, can‘t it?  If you‘re McCain, aren‘t you vulnerable to the charge he wants a very long term occupation over there and that‘s not very popular.

SWEET:  That‘s how I think the Obama people have been a little over-heated on what he said.  That‘s true.  There is the point is that there‘s all kinds of ways to play this. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I want to thank everybody.  Go ahead, your thoughts, Jennifer?

DONAHUE:  I want to add that McCain is not—if McCain is viewed as a neo-con who wants to go in and do anything domino like in the Middle East, that associates him with Bush.  If he can make this just Iraq, he regains credibility on that issue.   

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s never forget, by the way; this guy is ready to move against Iran.  We had George Will sitting in that seat the other day, saying, if you vote for him, you‘ve got a war in Iran.  Anyway, Lynn Sweet, Jennifer Donahue and Wayne Slater.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for 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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